Bailey: Socceroos prepared for Saudis

Bailey Wright says Australia are ready for anything when they take on Saudi Arabia in a vital 2018 World Cup qualifier in Adelaide.

The defender insists there's no extra pressure on Ange Postecoglou's side, though.

Australia are unbeaten in their qualifying group but are in third spot, three points behind the second-placed Saudis.

If they beat Bert van Marwijk's team at Adelaide Oval on 8th June they would have every chance of securing a top-two finish that would take them through to the finals in Russia.

But anything less than a victory would leave the Socceroos almost certainly heading towards the third-place playoff.

Bailey said: "Pressure can be determined in many different ways, but when you're playing for your country every game's important. Every time you cross that white line you want to go out there and put in a performance and get the result."

The Socceroos have won two of their three home games so far in Group B, only dropping points in a 1-1 draw against leaders Japan last October in Melbourne.

Wright, who was on the bench for the 2-2 draw with the Saudis in Jeddah that same month, said the Socceroos hadn't been at their best in that game.

The visitors are expected to be conservative tactically in Adelaide and focus on the counter-attack.

Wright said: "They might sit in, they might come at us. Who knows, we'll prepare for everything.

"That's football. I'm sure these teams coming to Australia know it's not going to be easy."

Australia are 4/9 to beat Saudi Arabia, who are 13/2 with the draw 16/5.

The Socceroos are 6/1 to win 1-0.

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Defoe: I want to be in Russia

Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe says his ambition is to be involved for England at next summer's World Cup in Russia.

The 34-year-old is expected to leave the Black Cats this summer following their relegation to the Championship and admits he would prefer to remain in the top-flight.

Defoe scored 15 Premier League goals in 2016/17 and Gareth Southgate recalled him to the England squad for the first time since 2013 for the World Cup qualifier against Lithuania in March.

He scored in the 2-0 victory and is in the squad again for this month's matches against Scotland and France.

England are 7/10 to beat Scotland next weekend in a World Cup qualifier while Defoe is 6/4 to score at any time against Gordon Strachan's team.

He said: "I want to be in Russia, 100 per cent. If I continue scoring goals, then I believe the manager will take me. But obviously I've got to keep scoring.

"When you're scoring goals, let's be honest, clubs are going to want you. I've had a lot of interest. But I've got an idea where I'm going. When it comes to July everyone will know. I know where I want to go to kick on again. I don't want to stand still."

Lukaku urged to join Chelsea

Belgium international Thibaut Courtois hopes Everton striker Romelu Lukaku will decide to return to Chelsea this summer.

The 24-year-old was sent out on loan to West Brom and Everton during his time at Chelsea before moving to Goodison Park on a permanent basis three years ago for £28million.

In total he has scored 68 Premier League goals in 141 appearances for Everton and found the net 26 times in all competitions for Ronald Koeman's team in the season just ended.

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte is believed to be keen to tempt Lukaku back to Stamford Bridge as the future of Diego Costa remains uncertain while Michy Batshuayi failed to make a big impact in his first season in Engbland following last summer's arrival from Marseille.

Lukaku has turned down a contract extension at Everton, and Courtois said: "Romelu is a great player so if he decides to go to Chelsea or Chelsea decide to sign him, I would be happy to see him in the dressing room in July.

"I guess if it's the right offer he might go. It's up to him to decide."

Meanwhile, Courtois is keen to commit his own future to Chelsea, adding: "I am very happy and there is no doubt I will stay. My contract runs out in two years so, obviously, I need a new deal.

"It's important I finish the season well with the national team and then maybe Chelsea will speak with my agent. If it's a good deal I will be very happy to sign."

Chelsea are 10/3 to win the 2017/18 Premier League title outright and 1/4 to finish in the top four.

Wenger reveals Mahrez interest

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has revealed that he is interested in signing Riyad Mahrez who said recently that he wants to leave Leicester City this summer.

The 26-year-old Leicester City international was named the PFA Player of the Year and scored 17 league goals in 2015/16 as the Foxes won the Premier League title.

However, the 2016/17 campaign was less successful for Leicester, who finished in mid-table, and Mahrez, who only managed to find the net six times.

The Gunners will not be involved in the Champions League next term after finishing fifth in the Premier League but Wenger, who failed with a bid to sign Mahrez's team-mate Jamie Vardy last summer, said, of the Algerian: "We have not made a bid, but personally, I like the player, yes. I think he made a huge impact when they won the championship.

"Like everybody else at Leicester, this season has been more challenging, but it doesn't take away from his qualities.

"Have we made a bid for him? No. Not yet. No, we have not.

"When I say 'not yet' it means it could happen. It might not happen."

Arsenal can be backed at 12/1 to win the Premier League title in 2017/18 and at 1/1 to finish in the top four.

Jackett sees potential at Pompey

Kenny Jackett is keen to keep the momentum going at Portsmouth after being named as the new manager at Fratton Park.

Jackett succeeds Paul Cook who left Pompey earlier in the week to take charge of Wigan Athletic.

Cook led Portsmouth to the League Two title in 2016/17 and former Watford, Swansea City, Millwall and Wolves boss Jackett, who has penned a two-year deal with the club, has vowed to maintain the progress that has been made in the last 12 months.

He said: "I want to bring success to the club and build on what was achieved last season. The players are stepping up a level and will all be hungry to prove themselves in a higher division.

"I feel capable of responding to that and it really is a very exciting challenge for me. This is a fantastic club with a rich history, so I'm looking forward to pre-season and proving myself at Pompey.

"I want to play entertaining, exciting, attacking football. That's always the aim and it's something that's expected when you're at a big club."

Portsmouth are 11/4 to be promoted from League One in 2017/18, while Wigan are 3/1 to go up, Doncaster Rovers 8/1 and Rotherham United 6/1.

Zidane plays down favourites tag

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane insists there will be no pressure on his side when they face Juventus in the Champions League final.

Real are 5/6 to retain the crown they secured 12 months ago when they saw off city rivals Atletico in the final and clinching their 12th European Cup.

Former Juve star Zidane is looking forward to the clash in Cardiff after guiding Real to the La Liga title this term.

Juventus also won their domestic title this season and are 1/1 to win Saturday's evening's eagerly-anticipated encounter.

"There's not any pressure," Zidane said. "I think Real Madrid knows how to feed from pressure.

"You know what this club is and you know that everyone says we're favourites but there are no favourites in football. In a final there are no favourites, in one game many things can happen.

"Really in the long run we're not favourite, Juventus are not favourite. It's 50-50.

"But we're here and we're going to try to do everything possible to win."

Sergio Ramos can be backed at 8/1 to score at any time in the final while Real are available are 2/1 to keep a clean sheet in the match.

Get ready for a live betting thriller at Oracle!

NBA Finals Game 2

Cleveland Cavaliers @ Golden State Warriors (June 5, 08:00 GMT+8)

The Cleveland Cavaliers disappointed betting websites in the series opener of the NBA Finals, but don’t expect them to give the Golden State Warriors another easy game when they return to Oracle Arena for Game 2.

Sure enough, it’s difficult to ignore Golden State’s 22-point blowout win in Game 1; however, they didn’t play that great as well and they remain vulnerable even though betting odds back them to easily lift the Larry O’Brien trophy.

Thanks to Kevin Durant and Steph Curry, the Dubs survived even with Klay Thompson and Draymond Green playing poorly on the offensive end. Nonetheless, they won’t be able to keep winning if the two—particularly Thompson—continue to slump.

It’s also worrying that only KD and Curry reached the double-digit mark in the game despite recording 31 assists. The team even missed 15 shots from point-blank range (inside the restricted area) in the first half alone!

The Cavs, meanwhile, can play better, especially on the offence where they only made 34.9 percent of their shots. Their defence in transition sure is a problem and it will help them if they can prevent Durant and Curry from getting open looks, though what they need to improve first is their attack that they have been executing efficiently until their blowout loss.

Coach Tyronn Lue and the Wine and Gold can’t rely solely on LeBron James’ ability to make plays and score at the rim. They need Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving to play with more aggressiveness and the bench to step up if they want to level the series.

It will still be hard to beat the Warriors in front of their home fans – they are the best home team in the league for a reason – but I think the Cavs learned from their mistakes and should be able to play like their normal selves to give LeBron some shooting help.

Just like last year, this series has the signs of another clean sweep at Oracle Arena to start the series. However, given the handicap, the Cavs at +8.50 @ 2.00 seems like a risk worth taking.

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The day all eyes were on one man

France 5-0 Paraguay

Hands up if you expected France to run riot in Rennes?

For the star-studded Les Bleus to live up those pre-match betting odds and run out easy winners in this friendly?

Well, sports betting fans, Didier Deschamps men didn’t let you down.

Indeed, an early double treat for live betting backers of the hosts ensured this match was virtually over before it began.

Once Olivier Giroud (given the nod in the starting line-up to Alexandre Lacazette and Kylian Mbappe) had twice found the net inside the opening 13 minutes – converting crosses from Ousmane Dembele and Dimitri Payet – all the focus was not so much on the game but of one of the country’s stars.

Step forward one Antoine Griezmann, heavily linked with a big money move to Manchester United but, in the 24 hours before this match, that interest reportedly cooling.

Whether this is true, no-one from the club has confirmed, nor Griezmann.

Indeed, the reports may have stemmed from the news a transfer ban has been upheld on his club, preventing Atletico Madrid from registering new players this summer, making it unlikely the club will countenance any departures either.

If a potential move to England or a lucrative new deal with Atletico was on his mind who knows, but Griezmann remains a professional and this was evident in the 80 minutes he was on the pitch, capped off by a close range finish which rounded off the scoring.

Paraguay have a slim chance of qualifying for Russia next summer and coach Francisco Arce, who played here when the spirited South Americans were edged out in extra-time in the 1998 World Cup, deep down probably had limited hope of causing a shock.

This was their sixth defeat in eight matches and they rarely threatened as Giroud completed his hat-trick and substitute Moussa Sissoko added a fourth.

But this was a night when the focus was mainly on one man – and it wasn’t the hat-trick hero.

 

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Napoli stay suits Mertens

Dries Mertens says he is content at Napoli even though the likes of Barcelona and Chelsea have reportedly been keen to sign him.

The Belgium international scored 28 goals for the side from Naples in Serie A in 2016/17 and had no hesitation in penning a new contract with the club.

The 30-year-old, who joined Napoli from PSV Eindhoven in 2013, said: "Discussions on my contract were always going to happen, there was no real pressure.

"The Premier League is the best competition for me, but I am happy at Napoli.

"It is possible that Barca were interested, but I have not had any direct contact. After a season like that, I am super happy at my club. I didn't want to leave.

"There was also interest from Chelsea and other clubs, but, in my head, there was never any intention to change clubs."

Napoli finished third in the season just ended, behind champions Juventus and second-placed Roma. Atalanta came fourth and Lazio fifth, with AC Milan, Inter Milan, Fiorentina, Torino and Sampdoria completing the top ten.

Juventus are 19/20 to lift the Champions League trophy on Saturday while Belgium are 16/1 to win the 2018 World Cup.

China an option for Fellaini

Belgium international Marouane Fellaini has indicated that he could leave Manchester United this summer and move to the Chinese Super League.

Fellaini still has a year left to run on his Old Trafford contract but has not ruled out the possibility of leaving the Europa League and EFL Cup winners.

The 29-year-old moved to United from Everton four years ago and has had to deal with spells of criticism during his time with the club.

"In China? Why not?" Fellaini said. "I'm now a Manchester United player, but I do not rule out such a transfer in the future."

However, Fellaini is happy to be working under Jose Mourinho at United, saying of the former Chelsea and Real Madrid boss: "He knows how to use me and I play wherever he needs me.

"At the start of the season, I played as a number six, then as a number eight and then a number 10.

"He knows my qualities and knows how to use me. If he plays me, I will play there and give my best."

Fellaini is currently with the Belgium squad and they are 4/9 to beat Czech Republic in a friendly on Monday while they can be backed at 16/1 to win the 2018 World Cup.