Do or die for Liverpool; Johnny Sexton will be fit to face Bath

Morning Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the game with ‘The Irish Times’ sports team

Napoli players during a training session at Anfield last night. Photograph: Getty Images

Napoli players during a training session at Anfield last night. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Lucas Digne’s stoppage-time free-kick denied Watford a first victory since October in last night’s only Premier League fixture. The Everton defender’s goal made it 2-2, with Seamus Coleman earlier scoring an own goal as Watford scored twice in as many minutes to go ahead after Richarlison’s opener. Tonight, Everton’s Merseyside rivals, Liverpool host Napoli in a do or die Champions League clash. Liverpool have backed themselves into a corner in Europe once again as a consequence of losing three away games in a group for the first time - but a 1-0 win or victory by two goals at Anfield will guarantee them qualification for the knockout phase. Meanwhile Spurs travel to Barcelona knowing they have to match the result that Internazionale manage against PSV Eindhoven in Milan, which most people expect will be a win, to progress from Group B.

In his column this morning, Gerry Thornley explains how the Irish provinces will be aware of their slip-up history coming into this weekend’s Champions Cup repeat fixtures: “Most famously Ulster thrashed Leicester by 33-0 in Belfast in 2003-04 and a week later lost 49-7 to the same opponents in Welford Road. Two seasons later Leinster beat Bourgoin 53-7 at the RDS, and a week later lost 28-30, and three seasons on they followed up a 33-3 home win over Castres by losing 18-15 a week later.” Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster is ‘optimistic’ that outhalf Johnny Sexton will be fit to face Bath at the Aviva, after he limped off with a calf injury during last weekend’s win.

Jim McGuinness - the new head coach at American soccer team Charlotte Independence - believes the new gaelic football rules will impact upon Dublin’s bid for five in a row. The former Donegal manager, six years on now from guiding the county to only their second ever All-Ireland football title, believes the handpass and kickout changes will not suit Jim Gavin’s team, but they will adapt: “They are their two strongest things that the rules will impact on. That’s why you see the players coming out and saying that they don’t like the rules . . .”

The Lost Soul of Eamonn Magee by Paul Gibson - a book that was rejected by 13 different publishers – has won the Eir Irish Sports Book of the Year award for 2018. The life story of Belfast boxer Eamonn Magee, the book chronicles an extraordinary life and career in the teeth of The Troubles, pockmarked by alcohol, drugs, punishment beatings and the murder of his son Eamonn Jr.

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