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Football

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Philippe Coutinho inspired Liverpool to a comfortable 3-1 home win over Everton in the 228th Merseyside derby on Saturday to move provisionally up to third in the Premier League.

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Ben Gibson Middlesbrough defender gets England call-up1.jpg

 

Middlesbrough defender Ben Gibson has been called up to the England squad for the first time.

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Japan captain Makoto Hasebe has withdrawn from the squad for this week's World Cup qualifier against the United Arab Emirates, averting a potential standoff with his German club Eintracht Frankfurt over a knee problem.

The 33-year-old, who has been Japan skipper since 2010,arrived in the UAE late on Sunday despite his Bundesliga club saying he needed an operation on a knee injury sustained in a 3-0 defeat by Bayern Munich on March 11.

On Monday, though, the midfielder said he had traveled to join the squad with the blessing of Eintracht but would now go to Japan to get another diagnosis of the injury.

"There is a good chance I will go under the knife. I'll return to Japan for a third opinion with a trusted doctor," Hasebe told reporters in Al Ain according to Kyodo news.

"I'm leaving the team just before this crucial match and I feel really bad. Obviously, I am very disappointed and it has been a very difficult decision to make.

"But I don't think this will have too much of a negative impact on the team. I trust my team mates 100, 120 percent."

Japan are second in Group B of Asia's qualifying tournament for the Russia 2018 finals, level on points with Saudi Arabia and one ahead of third-placed Australia and the UAE. Only the top two teams are guaranteed to qualify for the finals.

KEY FIGURE

Hasebe has been a key figure for Japan for much of the last decade, helping the team win the 2011 Asian Cup and qualify for the 2010 and 2014 World Cups.

"Hasebe is a very strong captain for us," said coach Vahid Halilhodzic when he announced his squad last week. "Having a team without him in it is unthinkable."

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Argentina’s players, who have been arriving in Buenos Aires for World Cup qualifiers against Chile and Bolivia, are sticking to a decision dating back to November not to talk to the media.

Players, including the Manchester-based Sergio Aguero, Nicolas Otamendi, Marcos Rojo and Sergio Romero, did not speak to reporters awaiting their arrival at Ezeiza international airport on Monday.

Captain Lionel Messi, set to arrive on Tuesday with Barcelona team mate Javier Mascherano, will be picked up on the runway by a car that will whisk him off to the nearby Argentine FA training complex thereby avoiding reporters.

The squad were upset by a report in November that Ezequiel Lavezzi had been smoking marijuana at the complex where Argentina were preparing for a home tie against Colombia in San Juan.

After the 3-0 victory on Nov. 15, Messi read a statement to the media at a news conference attended by the whole squad in which they said they would not speak to reporters until further notice.

Argentina meet Chile at the River Plate stadium on Thursday in a match they must win to climb into the top four qualifying berths in the 10-nation South American group.

They are currently fifth on 19 points, a placing that would put them in an intercontinental playoff for a berth at the 2018 finals in Russia, a point behind Copa America holders Chile and Ecuador. Brazil are top on 27 and Uruguay second with 23.

Five days after the Chile game, Argentina visit second-bottom Bolivia at high altitude in La Paz where they have not won since 2005. They crashed to a 6-1 defeat under former coach Diego Maradona in 2009 but managed a 1-1 draw in 2013.

Argentina's Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta is injured and will miss both matches, while their Juventus striker Paulo Dybala is doubtful with a right leg injury, the AFA said.