NFL

Steelers' Watt lands on COVID-19 list

By Sports Desk November 29, 2021

The slumping Pittsburgh Steelers have been dealt a blow after placing star T.J. Watt on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Pittsburgh have been impacted by coronavirus this NFL season, with star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Minkah Fitzpatrick both missing time due to positive tests.

Steelers push rusher Watt is the latest to land on the COVID-19 list after returning from a one-week absence caused by knee and hip injuries in Sunday's 41-10 rout at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals.

Watt recorded just two combined tackles as the Steelers suffered their first season sweep at the hands of the Bengals since 2009, stretching their winless run to three games.

The three-time Pro Bowler, who has missed two games this season, is now likely to sit out Sunday's matchup against the Baltimore Ravens.

Pittsburgh's humbling defeat left the Steelers 5-5-1 but still within striking distance of the final AFC Wild Card spot, which is currently possessed by the Los Angeles Chargers, who defeated Watt's team 41-37 in Week 11.

The Steelers' final six games are all against playoff contenders. They face the Ravens twice and also have games with the Minnesota Vikings, Tennessee Titans, Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns.

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    Mikel Arteta hit back at Arsenal's critics following the postponement of Sunday's north London derby as he insisted "we did the right thing."

    The Gunners were due to make the short trip to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for a showdown with their fierce rivals, but the game was called off due to a lack of players available to Arteta.

    Arsenal were accused of exploiting the Premier League's rules, with the majority of players absent due to injury, suspension or Africa Cup of Nations duty.

    The club only one confirmed positive COVID-19 case at the time of lodging an application to get the derby called off, but the Premier League deemed they were unable to meet the required number of available players – 13 outfielders and a goalkeeper – despite their Under-23s having a squad of 16 for a game on Friday.

    Tottenham head coach Antonio Conte felt the decision to postpone the match was "very, very strange."

    Arsenal manager Arteta hit back on the eve of Thursday's EFL Cup semi-final second leg at home to Liverpool, which he expects to go ahead despite "issues that have not been resolved" in his squad.

    Asked what he thought about people saying Arsenal could have played the game, the Spaniard said: "We played against Forest [in the FA Cup] when we had 10 players out and we went to Liverpool and we had many players out.

    "We have done that and we have played with academy players when we already have the youngest squad in the league.

    "Tomorrow if we have everybody available as I suspect we will play the match because we want to play football."

    He added: "I think more than hate [being directed towards Arsenal] there is a lot of respect for Arsenal and that comes from the history of the club, how it's always acted and how it has always conducted itself.

    "We know we did the right thing. We worked with the Premier League and the FA to make that decision. If anything we've been very honest at least."

    Arteta stressed that it was "100 per cent guaranteed" that Arsenal did not have enough players to face Spurs.

    Asked if the criticism of the club could be used as a fuel to drive his team, Arteta said: "We will defend our club tooth and nail. We're not going to get anybody damaging our name or trying to spread lies."

    Arteta revealed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is back in London and has undergone tests after returning from the Africa Cup of Nations for medical reasons without playing a game.

    The Gabon striker had tested positive for COVID-19 on January 6 and was subsequently diagnosed with "heart lesions".

    Arteta said: "He's in London and going through some examinations because we haven't had any clarity from Gabon about why he came back.

    "So it's our obligation to make sure he's safe and in good condition. So far historically with what we've done with the player that's never been an issue."

    Aubameyang has not featured for Arsenal since December 6, having been stripped of the captaincy due to a breach of club rules.

    Arsenal and Liverpool played out a goalless draw in the first leg of their EFL Cup tie at Anfield, with Granit Xhaka seeing red in the first half.

  • Zverev: I hope my brother has not sold my Olympic gold on eBay Zverev: I hope my brother has not sold my Olympic gold on eBay

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    Zverev claimed arguably the biggest title of his career last year when claiming gold in Tokyo, adding that to his 2018 ATP Finals success – he went on to repeat that triumph at the year-end tournament in Turin.

    The German beat Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals at the Olympics before going on to defeat Karen Khachanov in straight sets to win the tournament.

    That made him the first German man to win a gold in the singles and first to win any medal since Tommy Haas got silver 21 years earlier.

    While some might tend to their gold medal on a daily basis, polishing it generously as it takes pride of place on the mantelpiece, it turns out Zverev has not actually seen his for a while.

    His older brother Mischa has had it for a few months, leaving the younger sibling not even sure if it is still in the family's possession.

    After beating Australian's John Millman to reach the third round of the Australian Open, Zverev was asked where he keeps his gold medal, to which he replied: "That's actually a good question because my brother took it for a media appearance.

    "He didn't give it back to me yet. I don't know where it is for the past five months. Hopefully he hasn't sold it on eBay or something."

    Zverev will presumably be a little more attentive to any silverware he claims in Melbourne this year, with the 24-year-old still chasing his first major.

    Seeded third this month, Zverev is certainly considered one of the favourites after an excellent 2021 in which he won six titles, more than anyone else on the ATP Tour.

    Zverev was initially on course to meet Djokovic in the semis, but the Serbian's absence means many will consider him the favourite to reach the showpiece from his side of the draw and he has made a solid start.

    After dispatching fellow German Daniel Altmaier, Zverev saw off the tricky Millman, a big-serving Australian who understandably had the crowd's backing on Rod Laver Arena, coming through both games in straight sets.

    "My tactic today was to hit the ball as slow as possible," he said. "That was my mindset going into the match, but hopefully I can hit it even harder next match and harder the next match after that.

    "I could really feel that you guys have been locked down for two years. I'm prepared that everybody will hate me after the match. It's quite accurate and that's my mindset.

    "I'll get a lot of boos and hopefully everybody will cheer against me. I'm kidding."

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    Carlo Ancelotti has reaffirmed there is no problem with Eden Hazard, who is finding Real Madrid game time hard to come by.

    Hazard was an unused substitute in both of Madrid's Supercopa de Espana matches last week in Saudi Araba, as Los Blancos went on to win their first trophy of Ancelotti's second spell in charge.

    The former Chelsea star, who turned 31 earlier in January, has endured an injury hit time at Santiago Bernabeu since his big-money move in 2019.

    While he has in the main avoided injuries so far this season, Hazard has only made eight starts across all competitions, with his game time totalling 724 minutes.

    Hazard has only completed a game on one occasion this season, having been subbed off in his other seven starts, and he has only assisted on two occasions from 27 chances created, failing to score himself.

    Per 90 minutes played, Hazard has had 66 touches, with eight in the opposition area.

    Vinicius Jr, who has excelled on the left flank – Hazard's preferred position – under Ancelotti, averages nine touches in the area per 90 minutes played, and he has featured 28 times this season in total.

    The Brazil international creates 2.2 chances per 90 minutes and he has been directly involved in 22 goals (15 goals, seven assists), second only to Karim Benzema in Madrid's squad (33 – 24 goals, nine assists).

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    "It is true that the two have had many setbacks due to injuries," Ancelotti told a news conference when asked about Hazard and Gareth Bale, who has played just 193 minutes across three appearances in 2021-22.

    "Hazard has been doing well from a physical point of view for a month and a half. I don't have to advise Hazard, he has the character and the experience to choose the best for him.

    "The quality of the two could have helped us more, but it's only been the first part of the season. Hopefully the second half can be better.

    "Nothing strange has happened between us, simply that there is competition and the coach, which is me, has to choose the best for each game. I try to be fair and choose the best. Sometimes you are very good and you don't play. I'm also talking about Nacho, [Dani] Ceballos, Isco, [Luka] Jovic.

    "Nothing has happened, only that there is competition in the team and I have to choose the best in each game. This affects many players, I can't deny it. Nothing has happened, he is training and waiting for the coach's call. I think he will be ready when it arrives."

    Asked if Hazard might be moved out this month, Ancelotti said: "At the moment he is still a Madrid player, he is training, focused... We have nothing else to think about."

    While Hazard did travel to Saudi Arabia for the Supercopa tournament, Bale instead remained in Madrid to work on his fitness, and Ancelotti said the Wales forward is available for Thursday's Copa del Rey meeting with Elche.

    "He will be in the squad and all those who are have the chance to play from the beginning or as a sub. It can also happen that they don't play," the Italian added.

    Thibaut Courtois will not be available due to a minor injury.

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