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Manchester United Transfer News: Ilkay Gundogan Shock, Latest on Angel Di Maria

Manchester United are reportedly insistent that they have no interest in signing Borussia Dortmund’s Ilkay Gundogan, despite recent rumours linking the Old Trafford club with the midfielder.

Dortmund have already confirmed that Gundogan will depart the club this summer, but the Express quotes “United sources” as insisting that the German “is not on their radar.”

The £20 million-rated Gundogan is certainly set for a move, though, with Dortmund’s chief executive, Hans-Joachim Watzke, recently revealing as much, per the Express:

Gundogan will be leaving Borussia Dortmund this summer. That is a fact. I am very confident we will see various clubs coming in for him. It has not been our intention to see him leave. It was his ambition to move clubs [this summer]. Therefore, we agreed. We will sell him.

Gundogan, 24, has been cited by many as an ideal long-term replacement for key deep-lying midfielder Michael Carrick at Old Trafford.

However, Bleacher Report’s Sam Tighe insists that not only is he not necessarily that kind of player—he is more of a box-to-box midfielder—but his form has been negatively affected by a lengthy injury:

Tighe makes a compelling case for why United boss Louis van Gaal should think carefully about pursuing Gundogan, and the latest reports suggest the Red Devils may not be interested after all.

Even if he does not move to Old Trafford, though, the highly rated midfielder will surely get a move to a top club.

Arsenal have been linked with him, per the Express, while German giants Bayern Munich are also reportedly circling, per Bild (via Bundesliga expert Clark Whitney):

United certainly need a long-term replacement for Carrick, as they have looked lost without the English midfielder in the team in recent times.

However, Gundogan, perhaps correctly, has seemingly not been earmarked as his obvious heir apparent at Old Trafford.

 

Scholes Backs Di Maria

United legend Paul Scholes believes Angel Di Maria should be given at least one more season at Old Trafford to prove his worth.

The Argentinian arrived in Manchester from Real Madrid last summer for a British-record £59.7 million fee, but he failed to set the Premier League alight in 2014-15—although he still provided 10 assists, per WhoScored.com.

Rumours have abounded that the Red Devils may cut their losses and let him go, with Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich both linked with a move for Di Maria, per Kevin Palmer of ESPN FC.

However, club hero Scholes believes United should keep him on despite his poor performances, especially with United returning to the Champions League next season, per the Independent: “The quality is there and I don’t think United can afford to lose him. They need that kind of player if they are to compete at the highest level in the Champions League. Let’s see what next season brings.”

Di Maria was one of Real’s best players in their Champions League-winning 2013-14 season and has all the qualities to become one of the best players in the world at United.

Football writer Andy Brassell believes Van Gaal should be building the team around the 27-year-old, which is not an overly bold claim for such an expensive player:

It would be somewhat ludicrous for United to offload Di Maria after just one season in which he has failed to adapt to Premier League football.

As Scholes notes, his experience will be vital in the Champions League next term, and an in-form Di Maria could also push United toward challenging for the Premier League title.

However, should PSG come in with a big enough offer, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Di Maria will be moved on, even though it could prove to be be a big mistake on United’s part.

Liverpool Transfer News: Christian Benteke Release Clause Revealed, Top Rumours

Liverpool have been given a boost in their pursuit of Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke after it was revealed the Belgian has a buy-out clause in his contract.

The Reds finished sixth in this season’s Premier League table—25 points back from champions Chelsea—and were hamstrung by a lack of goals and the poor form of their front men.

Boss Brendan Rodgers is in desperate need of a proven goalscorer in attack and Benteke is reportedly a realistic target for the summer transfer window, and his buy-out clause stands at an affordable £32.5 million, per Metro‘s Jamie Sanderson.

Villa boss Tim Sherwood has revealed the Birmingham outfit will be powerless to keep hold of their star striker should anyone meet the clause, per Dave Kidd in the Mirror:

There’s a buy-out clause in his contract so it would be impossible for us to stop him if he wanted to go but someone has got to meet that buy-out clause and if they don’t, then it’s not even going to be considered because we don’t want to lose him.

Benteke will hope to be on the scoresheet as Villa face Arsenal in Saturday’s FA Cup final following 12 goals in as many appearances since Sherwood’s instalment as manager at the club.

The 24-year-old has been consistently excellent for Villa since arriving from Genk in 2012, and Sherwood is unsurprisingly eager to keep him at Villa Park for at least one more season.

The former Tottenham boss believes Benteke could benefit from staying at Villa for another year ahead of the European Championships in 2016, after which he could get a move to Real Madrid, per Kidd:

I don’t think he should be moving clubs the year before a European Championship. The European Championship is a huge stage and a tournament, where you feel Belgium will be one of the favourites to win it – and playing for Aston Villa hasn’t hindered him being first choice for Belgium. So to stay here and score at the ratio he’s been scoring at since I took over, if he ends up with 25 or 30 goals, then goes to the Euros and has a great championship, then he is probably going to be playing for Real Madrid. If he scores 30 goals here next season, he can go the biggest club in the world – and the kid is that good. 

The lure of Liverpool will obviously be strong for Benteke given the Merseyside club’s storied history, and Rodgers would be well advised to go after him as the likes of Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert were dire in front of goal last season.

However, Benteke may do well to heed Sherwood’s advice, as he will not necessarily flourish in Rodgers’ setup, per Belgian football writer Kristoff Terreur:

The fact that Sherwood volunteered that Benteke could be on his way out of Villa this summer perhaps points to his resignation that he is indeed set to lose his star man.

Liverpool seems his most likely destination, and at £32.5 million, it would be a terrific piece of business given Benteke’s proven quality in English football.

 

Milner Move Likely, Dzeko Challenge

Liverpool look set for big changes this summer as they look to challenge for the title once again. Long-term skipper Steven Gerrard is already on his way out of Anfield with others set to follow, per Bleacher Report’s Alex Dimond:

Rodgers needs to add quality across the positions, and Manchester City midfielder James Milner is reportedly set for a free-transfer switch to Merseyside, per the Express (h/t Rhys Turrell in the Daily Star). 

Burnley striker Danny Ings is also out of contract in June and set to leave Turf Moor, with the Englishman reportedly favouring a move to Liverpool rather than Tottenham, per Mark Ogden in the Telegraph.

With Ings being under 24 years old, Burnley are entitled to compensation for the player despite his contract expiring.

Spurs are reportedly prepared to pay a whopping £12 million for the 22-year-old, per Sky Sports News HQ, potentially upsetting Liverpool’s pursuit of the forward:

The Reds face similar competition for another likely departing striker, Manchester City’s Edin Dzeko.

Dzeko is a target for the Reds, but Serie A side Roma are also reportedly interested, per the Mirror‘s David Anderson, and the Italian club’s participation in the Champions League next season could be a deciding factor for the Bosnian.

Rodgers faces a key summer in his bid to prove that he has what it takes to cut it at Liverpool having been criticised in the past for his transfer policy.

Benteke must surely be the top target as a lack of goals has been a significant problem for Liverpool of late, but Milner could also be a terrific buy given his experience and versatility. 

Kang, Marte, Polanco homer in Pirates’ 11-5 win vs Padres (Yahoo Sports)

Pittsburgh Pirates' Andrew McCutchen, left, celebrates with Starling Marte after Marte's two-run home run against San Diego Padres during the third inning in a baseball game Thursday, May 28, 2015, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Don Boomer)

An early home run barrage carried A.J. Burnett and the Pittsburgh Pirates to their seventh straight win, 11-5 against the San Diego Padres on Thursday night. Jung Ho Kang hit a three-run homer and Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco also went deep off Ian Kennedy in support of Burnett (5-1), who won his fifth straight start. Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker and Francisco Cervelli each had three of the Pirates’ 15 hits.


MotoGP Grand Prix of Italy 2015: Race Schedule, Live Stream and Top Riders

Valentino Rossi will be looking to extend his lead at the top of the MotoGP standings on home soil, as Round 6 of the 2015 campaign takes us to Mugello for the Italian Grand Prix.

The veteran Yamaha rider has enjoyed a blistering beginning to the season, enjoying podium finishes in all five races so far, including victories in Argentina and Qatar. At this juncture, the Italian’s closest rival is team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, who has finished first in the last two races.

Here’s a closer look at what the riders can expect from the Italian circuit, the men set to shine on race day and all the details you need on where to catch the action live.

All sessions are live on BT Sport and can be streamed through Watch BT Sport (UK).

 

Mugello Circuit

The Italian Grand Prix is one of the most intriguing on the calendar. The circuit is situated in Scarperia and is a 3.259-mile lap.

As we can see here, we were treated to an enthralling race last season, as reigning world champion Marc Marquez edged out Lorenzo by just 0.121 seconds:

Indeed, Mugello is tailored for high-octane racing, with a lot of high-speed corners and a sizeable straight ideal for plotting overtakes. Precision is also absolutely critical, especially through the opening corners, where the track is very compact.


Rossi Set for Mugello Adulation

The seven-time MotoGP winner has been back to his very best this season and holds a 15-point lead over Lorenzo at the top of the standings.

A thrilling win at the season opener in Qatar, when Rossi managed to edge out Andrea Dovizioso, seems to have rejuvenated the 36-year-old and heading into this race weekend, he’s been practically flawless.

As noted by Motorsport broadcaster Toby Moody, the Italian has given us so many highlights down the years:

Heading to the Tuscany track, Rossi will be desperate to put on a show in front of a raucous home crowd. Given this is the first time the Tavullia-born star will come to Mugello leading the world championship since 2008—a season in which he won his sixth of seven MotoGP titles—expect an extra edge from the home support.

The man most likely to challenge Rossi is set to be Lorenzo. After a tough beginning to the campaign, the Spaniard has won in style at Le Mans and Jerez; he’s also picked up victories in Italy in three of the last four seasons.

Alpinestars probably sum up his recent displays perfectly; the 28-year-old has been “sublime”:

Both Yamaha riders will also be readied for a reaction from the reigning world champion. Up to now, it’s been a difficult beginning to the season for Marquez, and after coasting to the title last season on the back of 10 consecutive wins from the first round, the Repsol Honda man will be aware he’s going to have to scrap hard to retain his crown.

Marquez is expecting his team to bounce back in style in Italy this weekend, however, per MotoGP.com:

We are very motivated after the weekend in Le Mans and arrive in Italy in good shape. We must work hard from Friday to find a good setup as Mugello is a complicated circuit, however, I like it and have good memories from my first victory in 2010.

We know Valentino will be very strong at his home race, Jorge and Dani have a good history there and Ducati were testing there just a few weeks ago, so we will have to be focused all weekend.

At this juncture, Honda aren’t quite ready to challenge the might of Yamaha, as was evident by Marquez’s fourth-place finish at the previous round in France. The Japanese team have introduced a new swing arm which should help them cope better with a technical Mugello circuit, but at this juncture third spot is the best Marquez is likely to muster.

It’d be the romantics’ dream to see Rossi, who has failed to win his home Grand Prix since 2008, take the chequered flag. But Lorenzo loves this circuit, and given his imperious recent form, expect the Spaniard to close the gap at the top with another peerless performance.

Red Sox 5, Rangers 1 – Reuters


Boston Herald
Red Sox 5, Rangers 1
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Erick Aybar Injury: Updates on Angels SS’s Hamstring and Return

Los Angeles Angels shortstop Erick Aybar left Thursday night’s game with the Detroit Tigers after suffering an injury.

Continue below for updates.


Aybar Injures Hamstring, Exits Game

Thursday, May 28

Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reported Aybar exited after injuring his hamstring, and Taylor Featherston entered the game to replace him at short. The team then confirmed that left hamstring tightness ended Aybar’s night prematurely.

He went 1-for-2 in the game with one run batted in and another run scored.

Entering Thursday, the 31-year-old was hitting .271 with 14 RBI and three stolen bases. He has started all 47 of the Angels’ games this year.

Featherston will likely take Aybar’s place in the lineup if the injury proves to be relatively minor, but should Aybar miss a lot of time, the Angels will likely look for a better replacement. Featherston is batting .045 with a .120 on-base percentage in 26 plate appearances.

Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register wrote that the team could call up Josh Rutledge from its Triple-A affiliate to provide a better offensive threat in place of Aybar.

There’s no reason to panic for Los Angeles, but losing Aybar certainly won’t help the team get back to and potentially stay over .500. 

Cash Money Artist Caskey Talks White Rappers Using The N-Word — “You Can’t Get Hung Up On Words”

Well that doesn’t exactly sound like “staying out of the debate.” Seeing as how the term doesn’t affect him, it’s not too shocking that he doesn’t care enough to really think about the dialogue behind using it.

What do you think?

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Scripps National Spelling Bee 2015 Results: Winners, Finalists and Funny Moments

Vanya Shivashankar and Gokul Venkatachalam are spelling machines who seemingly know the correct letter order for every word in the English language. There was simply no way to separate the two of them Thursday during the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee, and they naturally tied for the title.

There was no word they didn’t know, and they steamrolled their way to the co-championship.

ESPN Stats & Info noted this wasn’t the first time the event concluded with a tie: 

While both were more than deserving champions, Alejandro Zuniga of MLB.com had an amusing take on the outcome:

Here is a look at the 10 finalists, based on the order in which they were eliminated:

While the two co-champions dominated well into the evening, viewers didn’t have to wait long for the first eliminations. Both Sylvie Lamontagne (word: cerastes) and Siyona Mishra (word: hacek) misspelled words in the first round. However, there were plenty of early entertaining moments.

The event’s official Twitter account noted that Mishra had some fun before she was eliminated, while Joe Heim of the Washington Post noted that Venkatachalam got to imitate his idol, LeBron James:

Sports fans likely recognized one of the words that popped up after those first two eliminations. Tejas Muthusamy was asked to spell the word “billiken” and did so correctly. The billiken is the mascot for Saint Louis University, which prompted Ryan Ginn of Scout.com to share one of the statues on campus:

With mascot spelling out of the way, Paul Keaton, Tejas Muthusamy, Snehaa Kumar and Dev Jaiswal were eliminated during the middle portions of the spelling bee. Heim noted that Keaton’s exit was particularly surprising for those in attendance:

However, one of the big storylines was the elimination of Jaiswal. He quickly developed into a fan favorite thanks to his energetic spirit and overall enthusiasm during interviews and while spelling. The event noted that he drew quite the response, while Katie Nolan of Fox Sports couldn’t resist the opportunity to send him out with a play on words:

Jaiswal commented on his journey before the finals, telling Deborah Barfield Berry of the Clarion-Ledger: “I’ve blown my own mind. I’ll be happy wherever I place tonight. It’s just a great honor to be here.”

Jaiswal was even on stage during one of the more entertaining sentences of the evening, per BuzzFeed Sports:

The crowd was still recovering from the shock of Jaiswal’s exit when Siddharth Krishnakumar and Cole Shafer-Ray were eliminated. It set up the thrilling finals showdown between Shivashankar and Venkatachalam. First, Shafer-Ray’s elimination came with an amusing moment as he pulled away from his mother when she went in for a consolatory kiss.

SB Nation shared a highlight, while Johnny Ginter of Eleven Warriors shared a possible thought from Shafer-Ray:

Bleacher Report’s national lead writer Dan Levy set the stage for the final round after Shafer-Ray’s elimination:

Writer Jack McCallum provided some insight into the pressure in the room:

Pressure or not, Shivashankar and Venkatachalam delivered perfect spellings word after word. In fact, Venkatachalam even spelled the word “sprachgefuhl” right during the back-and-forth showdown between the two incredible spellers. If he was going to get that word right, there was really no hope for anything but a tie.

Heim put things perfectly:

In what was certainly an appropriate ending, the two spellers ended as co-champions when there simply were not enough championship-level words remaining. That’s right, the two spellers conquered every single available word.

French Open 2015 Results: Thursday Scores and Friday Bracket Predictions

It wasn’t an easy day for some of the big names, but the top seeds advanced Thursday at the 2015 French Open. World No. 1 Serena Williams dropped the first set against qualifier Anna-Lena Friedsam before righting the ship en route to a 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 win. 

The early struggles had to have some thinking about Williams’ second-round exit from last year’s French Open, but the future Hall of Famer didn’t lose her composure and took control of the match in the second set. She will have to clean up her game moving forward if she hopes to win her third French Open and 20th Grand Slam title.

She made a whopping 52 unforced errors in Thursday’s match. Against a more experienced player, Williams might not have survived Thursday’s scare.  

In a match that featured a little less drama, No. 1 Novak Djokovic handled Gilles Muller in straight sets, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4. Despite bad luck on plays like this one captured by the Roland Garros Twitter account, Djokovic powered past Muller.

Djokovic later took the light-hearted moment in stride as he acknowledged it via Twitter:

He’s now won 24 straight matches and continues to solidify himself as the favorite to win his first French Open, which would complete the career Grand Slam for him. He’s reached the final on two other occasions—including 2012 and 2014.

The results weren’t as great for all of the seeded players.

You can see the entire schedule, draw and all of the results at RolandGarros.com.

 

Thursday’s Upsets

Caroline Wozniacki Falls

In the biggest upset of the day, No. 5 Caroline Wozniacki fell to unseeded Julia Goerges 6-4, 7-6 (7-4). Wozniacki simply didn’t get enough from her service game during the match. She won just 55 percent of her first-service points and had no aces during the match.

Historically, she hasn’t played well at Roland Garros. This is the third time in as many years that she has bowed out before the third round. 

As for Goerges, the 26-year-old German came in ranked 68th in the world. Thursday’s win was a big one and has to give her some confidence heading into the third round.

 

Karolina Pliskova Edged

No. 12 Karolina Pliskova was also bitten by the upset bug Thursday. The 23-year-old Czechoslovakian couldn’t solve Andreea Mitu. The latter prevailed in a close, hard-fought and at times ugly match 2-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4.

The match featured a combined 83 unforced errors, but it was Mitu who would seize control during the second-set tiebreaker and carry the momentum through the third and deciding set. The Romanian-born Mitu came in ranked 99th in the world.

She will see her ranking rise after her showing at Roland Garros.

 

Looking Ahead to Friday’s Biggest Matches

Damir Dzumhur vs. No. 2 Roger Federer

With Djokovic’s current streak and Rafael Nadal’s struggles during this clay-court season, Roger Federer has flown under the radar about as much as a man with 17 Grand Slam titles can.

On Friday, he’ll continue his attempt to add an 18th title and his second-ever championship at Roland Garros. Damir Dzumhur will provide the opposition. The two men have never played against each other.

We know Federer’s accomplishments, but a closer look at Dzumhur’s resume shows that clay is his best surface. In fact, his 61-37 record on clay, per Wettpoint, is the only surface on which he has a winning percentage above .500 in his career.

That might create some hope, but overall, Dzumhur doesn’t fit the description of a player who is likely to upset Fed. A straight-sets win for Federer is likely.

 

No. 26 Samantha Stosur vs. No. 2 Maria Sharapova

In 13 head-to-head matches, Maria Sharapova holds an 9-2 edge over Samantha Stosur. The latter has never beaten her opponent on clay and hasn’t celebrated a win over the second-seeded Russian since 2012.

Sharapova is on a four-match win streak against Stosur, and all signs point to that streak hitting five on Friday.

 

No. 14 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Pablo Andujar

Before the tournament began, I tabbed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga as a sleeper threat to win this year’s French Open. The Frenchman will have the crowd firmly behind him in just about any match he plays, and he’s had some good moments at Roland Garros in the past.

He reached the semifinals in the tournament in 2013.

He’s only faced Pablo Andujar once in his career in 2013, but Tsonga won that meeting easily, 6-3, 6-2. It would be a major surprise if Andujar put up much more of a fight on Friday.

Tsonga should roll into the next round.