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Ibrahimovic relished silencing 'haters' during Man Utd spell

By Sports Desk May 02, 2022

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  • Orlando City v Los Angeles FC: Pareja seeking injection of confidence Orlando City v Los Angeles FC: Pareja seeking injection of confidence

    Oscar Pareja believes it is important for Orlando City to rediscover their self-confidence ahead of Saturday's clash with in-form Los Angeles FC at Inter&Co Stadium.

    The international break means Orlando have been out of action since a 1-0 defeat to the New York Red Bulls on June 2, their third straight game without a victory.

    While they sit a lowly 11th in the Eastern Conference standings with 17 points, LAFC are second in the West with 30 points after winning five in a row in MLS play.

    Asked about the value of having time off to reflect on their poor run, Pareja said: "It's important, because with the work we do, the intensity of how we do things is important.

    "We are optimistic after having a refresh when we needed it."

    On the challenge of facing LAFC, the Orlando coach added: "Many teams have challenges with players being away. We are professionals, we expect a team that is playing well.

    "But at the same time, it's a great opportunity for us to play well and raise our confidence, to get the points we need right now." 

    In all competitions, LAFC have won their last six matches without conceding, becoming the first team from MLS to ever accomplish that feat.

    Head coach Steve Cherundolo believes that achievement is the result of a team effort, saying: "I think the team is playing a mature, professional, complete 90 minutes.

    "Some teams have better defensive solutions against us so we don't have quite as many chances, but in every game we are creating chances and we are not giving up many chances.

    "Our collective defending is very good. You're seeing it all come together."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH 

    Orlando City – Nicolas Lodeiro 

    Lodeiro has been involved in nine goals in MLS play against Los Angeles (five goals, four assists, including playoffs). 

    Only Cristian Espinoza (15) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (11) have been involved in more versus them.

    Los Angeles FC – Denis Bouanga 

    Bouanga scored LAFC's goal in their 1-0 win over FC Dallas last time out on June 1. 

    The goal was Bouanga's 48th in all competitions since the start of last season, 16 more than any other MLS player in that time.

    MATCH PREDICTION – LOS ANGELES FC WIN

    LAFC are unbeaten in four all-time meetings with Orlando (two wins, two draws), though the Lions did eliminate them on penalties from the quarter-finals of MLS is Back in 2020.

    Orlando are winless in their last five home matches, drawing two and losing three while failing to net in each of their last three – they had only previously gone three home matches without netting in their second, third and fourth home MLS games back in 2015.

    LAFC, meanwhile, have won seven successive matches in all competitions, the last six of them to nil. They will fancy their chances of victory, even without home advantage.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Orlando City – 37.7%

    Los Angeles FC – 35.9%  

    Draw – 26.4%

  • Ito becomes first signing for Kompany at Bayern Ito becomes first signing for Kompany at Bayern

    Bayern Munich have announced the signing of Hiroki Ito from Stuttgart.

    The defender becomes the first signing under new head coach Vincent Kompany, signing a four-year contract to keep him at the club until 2028.

    Ito joined Stuttgart in 2021, on an initial loan from Japanese side Jubilo Iwata, before making the move permanent the following year.

    He made 97 appearances for Stuttgart in all competitions, including 29 in 2023-24, as he helped the club to a second-place finish in the Bundesliga and Champions League qualification.

    "It's a great honour for me to be able to play for one of the biggest clubs in the world," Ito told the club website.

    "Bayern is also a big name in Japan. I always gave my all for Stuttgart and am grateful to the club. Now I'm looking forward to the challenge in Munich and I want to play my part in FC Bayern winning lots of trophies.

    "It was time to take a new step, and for me, Bayern is the perfect club to do so."

    Bayern finished below Stuttgart in the Bundesliga last season in third, ending their run of 11 consecutive league titles, while falling at the semi-final hurdle in the Champions League.

  • Georgia ready to 'write a new page of history' at Euro 2024 - Kvaratskhelia Georgia ready to 'write a new page of history' at Euro 2024 - Kvaratskhelia

    Khvicha Kvaratskhelia says Georgia are ready to "leave our mark" and "write a new page of history" on their major international tournament debut at Euro 2024.

    Willy Sagnol's side, who qualified via the play-offs after beating former champions Greece on penalties, are the only debutants in Germany, where they commence their campaign against Turkiye on June 18.

    The Crusaders will also play Portugal and Czechia in Group F, with Kvaratskhelia insisting he and his team-mates are not appearing in the tournament just to make up the numbers.

    The Napoli winger, who helped the Partenopei to the 2022-23 Scudetto, scored four goals for Georgia during qualifying, in which he also completed the joint-most dribbles along with Belgium's Jeremy Doku (both 44).

    On being considered his nation's talisman, the 23-year-old said: "This is a very big responsibility, and I am grateful when my work is appreciated.

    "There are a lot of Georgian footballers who could become the best player of the country; every one of us tries to be a team, and individual success is less important to us at the moment.

    "We are very focused and will do our best to succeed. It's a pleasure for me to play at Euro 2024. These are unforgettable moments and emotions which we will remember for the rest of our lives.

    "It was the greatest dream of every Georgian to become a part of such an important tournament, and it was the happiest day for all of us when we achieved it.

    "But we didn't come here just to attend; we wish to leave our mark on Euro 2024, to write a new page of history. We will do our utmost for this. Our team is very focused and ready for this tournament."

    When they face Turkiye, Georgia will be aiming to become the fourth European Championship debutants since 2012 to win their maiden match at the finals after Ukraine (2012), Wales (2016) and Finland (2020).

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