The Morning Sports Briefing

Zidane takes the reins at Real Madrid, why Sean O’Brien could be a fine Irish captain and what to watch out for

Real Madrid’s new coach Zinedine Zidane embraces Real Madrid’s President Florentino Perez at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid. Photograph: Juan Medina/Reuters

Real Madrid’s new coach Zinedine Zidane embraces Real Madrid’s President Florentino Perez at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid. Photograph: Juan Medina/Reuters

 

Soccer

Real Madrid will go into 2016 under the tenure of Zinedine Zidane after the Bernabeu legend replaced Rafa Benitez who was last night sacked after just seven months at the helm.

Benitez, a lifelong Madrid fan had proven an unpopular selection as Carlo Ancelotti’s replacement last summer, yet despite a heavy defeat to Barcelona and a quite goal shy beginning to his time in charge, the club lie third in the table just four points of the top, as well as having eased into the last 16 of the Champions League. Recent 8-0 and 10-2 wins over Malmo of Sweden and Rayo Vallecano respectively looked to have eased the pressure on the Spaniard, but instead the club announced last night that current B team manager Zidane would be given the reins.

League Cup

Liverpool will again prepare without striker Daniel Sturridge for tonight’s League Cup semi-final first round tie with Stoke City. Manager Jurgen Klopp put the English international on an individual training programme after suffering a hamstring strain against Newcastle United in early December but after a recent minor setback the German insists that Sturridge will not be rushed back.

Manchester United’s playing style has been criticised by adidas chief executive Herbert Hainer, who agreed a EUR1 billion sponsorship deal with the club last year. He told the German media yesterday that; “we sell more jerseys than expected, the foreign share is 60 per cent. We are satisfied, even if the actual way of playing of Man Utd is not exactly that what we want to see.”

Rugby

Gerry Thornley believes that Sean O’Brien has the ingredients to be a fine Irish captain. Ireland have no shortage of candidates with Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell no longer around, and while Jamie Heaslip remains the most likely candidate, “O’Brien appears the likeliest to fulfil the role of a leader for whom the dictum ‘do as I do’ readily applies.”

Show jumping

Meanwhile Ireland will not have a show jumping team at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro following yesterday’s decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to dismiss the appeal brought by rider Cian O’Connor and Horse Sport Ireland.

In Aachen, a member of the arena party ran across the track as O’Connor was turning his mount Good Luck to the 11th fence in the team final. The horse hit the fence, incurring four faults which saw Ireland complete in seventh place on a converted score of 25.960 with Spain, on 25.580, narrowly securing the final Olympic qualifying slot in sixth.

What to watch out for

It’s day four of the second test between South Africa and England this morning in the cricket.

Sky Sports 2 from 8am

Liverpool versus Stoke kicks off at 8pm, the first leg being at the Britannia Stadium.

Sky Sports 1 from 7.30pm

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