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Eddie Howe has backed Newcastle United fans to become the club’s main weapon in their battle to climb the Premier League ranks.

The Magpies looked set to finish the season in and around the top-flight bottom three, but have dragged themselves out of trouble and now have an outside chance of sneaking into the top half on the final day of the season.

It’s been a remarkable turnaround from the rudderless club that started the campaign with Mike Ashley at the helm, Steve Bruce in the dugout, no wins in 14 games and fans becoming ever more disillusioned with their own club.

Fast forward seven months from the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia buyout and things couldn’t be more different.

St. James’ Park on Monday night, for the 2-0 victory over Arsenal, was the epitome of that. Awash with color, energy and noise, the famous old ground truly was an assault on the senses with the biggest ever display by fan-funded Wor Flags on show, owners showing their love for the club on the pitch and fans and players responding on a white-hot Tyneside evening.

Howe said: “That’s a huge weapon for us. We have to use as much as we can.

“We have to inspire our crowd, we have to have the supporters come to the ground desperate to see us play and desperate to know what’s going to happen in the match and almost guarantee a team that’s going all out to win the game by playing the way we want too.

“You saw that from the team (on Monday), we were very front foot but not just for fragmented sections of the game but near enough the whole match. An amazing physical effort from the players but a very high delivery of our tactical game plan as well. You have to compliment the group on that.”

For fans, the feeling is that Howe’s first six months at Newcastle could not have really gone any better. He was brought in primarily to save the club from the drop to the Championship, but has managed to do so while developing the side into a much more defensively sound and attractive attacking unit. As a result, Howe was nominated for the Premier League manager of the year, although he’s likely, and probably deservedly, set to be pipped at the post by Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp.

On progress, Howe said: “Of course it could have gone better in certain games and certain moments. When you look back as a whole, you’d have said this will be the outcome and this is how you’ll achieve safety in the division, certainly I would have been surprised if you told me that would happen.

“The group have risen in confidence levels through positive results and the feel of the stadium, they’ve responded to that. It’s been great to see and be part of.

“The group is very close. The dynamic is very good, the players not in the 25-man squad, the players that didn’t play regularly, have been incredibly supportive to the guys that have. There’s been healthy competition in the squad and a very good dynamic, which has certainly helped.”

Meanwhile, Howe has provided a fitness update of three Newcastle United first-team players ahead of their final game of the Premier League season on Sunday, at Burnley’s Turf Moor.

Fabian Schar was forced off midway through the second half of the Arsenal win due to a concussion, while Javier Manquillo and Chris Wood were absent from the squad altogether.

“Fabian, I think, is OK. He was taken off due to protocols,” said Howe. “He wanted to stay on but I think it was the right decision.”

“Manquillo has chicken pox, so that’s why he missed out. Chris Wood had a hip problem, which we hope isn’t too serious.”

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Murray falls in Washington opener while Halep, Pegula win

Three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray of Britain crashed out in the opening round of the ATP and WTA Washington Open on Monday, falling to Sweden’s Mikael Ymer.

The 35-year-old Scotsman fell to 115th-ranked Ymer 7-6 (10/8), 4-6, 6-1 after two hours and 50 minutes at the US Open tuneup tournament.

“I’m excited,” said Ymer, who saved four set points in the first set. “A lot left to do but it’s a very good start of the American swing.”

World number 50 Murray, the 2012 and 2016 Olympic champion, is trying to earn a seeding at the US Open, which he won a decade ago.

“It’s still possible,” Murray said. “I would just need to have a good run in Canada or Cincinnati really. It’s pretty straightforward if I was to make a quarterfinal or a semifinal, which right now — after a loss like that — doesn’t seem realistic.

“I do feel like if I play very well that I could do that. But I’ll need to certainly play better than I did today.”

Ymer, who lost his only career ATP final last August in Winston-Salem, will next face 15th seed Aslan Karatsev.

Ymer won 75 percent of his first-serve points, 49-of-65, and smashed 37 winners past Murray, who made only 25 with 35 unforced errors, five more than Ymer.

Murray had a set point in the 12th game of the first set but sent a backhand wide and Ymer held into a tiebreaker.

Murray had three more set points in the tiebreak but Ymer smashed two forehand winners and a forehand volley winner to pull level at 7-7, prompting Murray to toss his racquet in frustration. Ymer, 23, took the set on a backhand volley winner.

“Had chances in the first set to close that out,” Murray said. “Didn’t get it. Yeah, frustrating.”

While Murray clawed back to force a third set, Ymer raced to a 4-0 lead, they exchanged breaks on double faults and Ymer ended the match on a backhand crosscourt winner.

Murray said he will explore why he has had cramping issues in his past two matches when he often thrives in heat and humidity.

“I started cramping at the end of the first set, Murray said. “After that you’re just trying to find a way to get through the match.

“Need to have a little look at that with my team and maybe see why that is, make a few changes.”

Two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep, coming off a Wimbledon semifinal run, beat Spanish qualifier Cristina Bucsa 6-3, 7-5.

Simona Halep of Romania plays a shot against Cristina Bucsa of Spain during Day 3 of the Citi Open at Rock Creek Tennis Center on August 01, 2022 in Washington, DC. (AFP)

“Always the first round is difficult when you change the surface,” third seed Halep said. “I know it’s going to take time to make the game more solid.”

US top seed Jessica Pegula cruised 6-2, 6-2, over US wildcard Hailey Baptiste.

Pegula won the most recent WTA Washington event in 2019 after two missed years due to Covid-19.

“It definitely feels weird,” Pegula said. “It’s great to be back.”

Britain’s Kyle Edmund made a triumphant return to ATP singles after three left knee surgeries and a 20-month layoff by defeating Japanese qualifier Yosuke Watanuki 6-4, 7-6 (10/8).

Edmund, who next faces British 16th seed Daniel Evans, played in his first tour-level singles match since October 2020 at Vienna, a month before his first operation.

“I didn’t find it easy today,” said Edmund. “I hung in there and I got my reward in the end.”

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Man City, Liverpool renew title fight as Premier League clubs flex financial muscle

Premier League clubs have splashed an estimated £1 billion ($1.2 billion) in the arms race for new talent ahead of the start to the 2022/23 season on Friday, but champions Manchester City remain the side to beat.

After winning four league titles in five years, Pep Guardiola’s squad has been bolstered by the biggest name arrival of the summer in Erling Haaland.

The Norwegian had his choice of Europe’s top clubs after scoring 85 goals in 88 games for Borussia Dortmund and followed in the footsteps of his father Alf Inge — a former City captain — to the blue side of Manchester.

Haaland may have had a debut to forget as he missed a glaring opportunity toward the end of City’s 3-1 Community Shield defeat to Liverpool on Saturday, but Guardiola warned the pretenders to his side’s throne that “the goals will come.”

“There is no reason not to be confident,” added Guardiola. “What these guys have done, not just in the Premier League, but in the cups, the steps we have made in Europe and in many things.”

In a window of significant change at the Etihad, Argentine forward Julian Alvarez and England international midfielder Kalvin Phillips have also arrived.

But Guardiola has let plenty of experience go to Premier League rivals with Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko heading to Arsenal and Raheem Sterling joining Chelsea.

Liverpool are best placed to pounce on any slipping of City’s standards.

Jurgen Klopp’s side were denied a historic quadruple by the finest of margins last season as they were pipped to the title by a point and lost the Champions League final 1-0 to Real Madrid after winning the League and FA Cup.

The Reds have also refreshed their front line with the imposing presence of Darwin Nunez coming in to compensate for the loss of Sadio Mane to Bayern Munich.

Nunez did make an immediate impact in the Community Shield, winning a penalty and scoring to turn the game in Liverpool’s favor late in the game.

City and Liverpool have dominated English football for the past five years, but if there is to be a challenge from the chasing pack, it could come from Tottenham.

Ahead of Antonio Conte’s first full season in charge, the Italian has been heavily backed by the normally thrifty Spurs board with the signings of Richarlison, Yves Bissouma, Ivan Perisic, Djed Spence, Clement Lenglet and Fraser Forster.

Crucially, Tottenham have also retained the star duo of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min as they aim for a first league title in 62 years.

Arsenal have been in blistering pre-season form with Jesus on fire in thrashings of Chelsea and Sevilla.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel blasted his side as “not competitive” after losing 4-0 to the Gunners in Orlando and the Blues are a team in transition following Todd Boehly’s takeover.

There is also plenty of work ahead for new Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag with the uncertain future of Cristiano Ronaldo hanging over start of a new era for the Red Devils.

Amid the scale of big spending from English clubs, Newcastle have been surprisingly quiet in their first summer window since a takeover from the Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

The Magpies have spent just short of £60 million on Dutch defender Sven Botman, England goalkeeper Nick Pope and a permanent deal for left-back Matt Targett.

New boys Nottingham Forest have splashed over £70 million on 12 new signings in the two-time European champions’ first season back in the top flight for 23 years.

That sum does not even include a one-year deal for Jesse Lingard worth a reported £200,000-a-week after he joined on a free transfer from Manchester United.

Aston Villa’s transfer business is arguably the best example of the growing financial gulf between the Premier League and the rest of Europe.

French international midfielder Boubacar Kamara and Brazilian center-back Diego Carlos have turned their backs on Champions League football with Marseille and Sevilla respectively to join Steven Gerrard’s side, who finished 14th in the English top flight last season.

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Saudi Arabia is among the countries interested in hosting the 2026 Asian Cup for Women

The Asian Football Confederation said today, Monday, that Saudi Arabia, Australia, Jordan and Uzbekistan have expressed their interest in hosting the Asian Women’s Cup in 2026.
The AFC will now work with all competing member associations to deliver the necessary bid documents in accordance with established procedures.
Next year, the file of the winning country will be announced to organize the women’s championship, which the Asian Football Confederation praised for its increasing popularity, according to Agence France-Presse.
Previously, India hosted the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, which China won by expanding to 12 teams, up from just 8 before.
The AFC said the 2026 edition “is expected to build on the strong foundations of the tournament’s famous legacy”.

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