Zinedine Zidane confirms Karim Benzema WILL play in Sunday’s Madrid derby 

Real Madrid’s top scorer Karim Benzema is back for Sunday’s derby away to LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid, coach Zinedine Zidane said, no doubt hoping the striker can restore some attacking flair to the side, which has struggled for goals in his absence.

Benzema has been out since injuring a muscle after scoring in a 2-0 win over Valencia on February 14. 

Real have managed only one goal per game in the three matches he has missed, failing to score in the first half each time and relying on players such as Casemiro and Ferland Mendy to score instead.

Zinedine Zidane (left) said Karim Benzema (right) will return to play in the Madrid derby

Benzema is Real’s top scorer this season, responsible for 30 percent of the club’s goals so far 

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‘Karim will be with us tomorrow. We all know how important he is to us – he is vital to our system of play, especially when we have the ball,’ Zidane told a news conference ahead of Sunday’s game at Atletico.

‘He is a joy to watch and to coach. When he arrived here there was a lot of hype about him, and more than 10 years later we can all see the player he is and how he’s improved.’

Benzema was Real’s top scorer last season as they surged to the title and has been responsible for 30 percent of their goals in all competitions this season while providing five assists.

Eden Hazard has still not recovered from his latest injury setback, however, while captain Sergio Ramos and right back Dani Carvajal are also out.

Benzema (left) hasn’t played since injuring a muscle in Real’s 2-0 win over Valencia last month

Zidane’s side go into the derby third in the standings and five points behind Atletico while having played one game more, but he does not think the match will be decisive in the title race.

‘We are treating it like a final, like we do every game as we always want to win. But whatever happens we’re going to stay alive in the title race,’ he added.

Atletico will have right back Kieran Trippier back for the first time since January after he completed a ban for violating betting rules in England, and coach Diego Simeone said his return would bring more dynamism to his side.

‘He has been training this whole time and as you can imagine for a player who has trained and could not play, he is really looking forward to it,’ Simeone said.

The Argentine also said the match would not determine the title race, pointing to how Real and Barcelona have pulled themselves back into contention due to his side’s poor run of form in February.

Eden Hazard has not recovered from his latest injury setback and will miss out on the derby

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UFC 259: Israel Adesanya can join elite group of two-weight champions with win over Jan Blachowicz

Israel Adesanya is gunning for ‘champ champ’ status in his UFC 259 main event against light-heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz. 

The middleweight king is looking to win another belt that would put him in rarefied air and add to his legacy. 

He would be the fifth two-weight champion in the UFC, so which other stars have managed the feat and how did they do it? 

Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya will attempt to win another belt at UFC 259

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CONOR MCGREGOR

Featherweight champion – defeated Jose Aldo (2015)

Lightweight champion – defeated Eddie Alvarez (2016)

The original ‘champ champ’ and man who first coined the famous phrase that has now been adopted into MMA vernacular. 

Conor McGregor had already proved himself a superstar and the biggest draw in the UFC but his featherweight title win over Jose Aldo took it to another level. 

Could he live up to the talk? Would he actually be able to compete with the greatest 145-pound fighter in history?

Conor McGregor coined the phrase ‘champ champ’ and was the first to do it simultaneously

It took 13 seconds. McGregor was in peak ‘Mystic Mac’ form predicting that Aldo would overreach and become emotional, leaving himself open. 

In effectively the first exchange of the fight, Aldo did just that. McGregor, who had practised the move in the changing room before the fight, landed a flashing right hand and sent the Irish fans present into delirium.

But he wasn’t done there. McGregor has always tried to break new ground and fresh from his rematch win over Nate Diaz, accepted a fight for the lightweight title. 

He delivered the most spectacular performance of his career against Eddie Alvarez in New York. 

McGregor made a capable fighter look amateurish and some of his combinations were out of this world. 

The referee called a stop to it in the second round and the abiding memory is of McGregor sitting on top of the cage with a belt draped over each shoulder.  

McGregor is attempting to recreate the success he achieved four years ago 

  DANIEL CORMIER 

Light-heavyweight champion – defeated Anthony Johnson (2015)

Heavyweight champion – defeated Stipe Miocic (2018)

Daniel Cormier’s career is a peculiar one but nobody can take away the fact that he reigned supreme over the big boys for a period of time. 

His defeats by Jon Jones and loss in the trilogy against Stipe Miocic will haunt him but the American deserves to be remembered as more than a nearly-man. 

He won the vacant light-heavyweight title against Anthony Johnson after Jones was stripped of the belt for felony charges relating to a traffic accident in New Mexico. 

Cormier seized the opportunity and submitted Johnson in the second round. 

Daniel Cormier became the second two-weight UFC champion back in 2018 

He then went on to defend his crown against Alexander Gustafsson, Anderson Silva and Johnson again before he crossed paths with his nemesis, Jones. 

Jones won by TKO but the result ended up being overturned when he was found to have tested positive for turinabol, a banned substance. 

Cormier was therefore reinstated as champion and after a win over Volkan Oezdemir, moved up to take on the consensus greatest heavyweight of all time, Miocic. 

He scored a flash knockout in the second round to stun the heavyweight and become the second two-weight champion in UFC history.  

  AMANDA NUNES 

Women’s bantamweight champion – defeated Miesha Tate (2016)

Women’s featherweight champion – defeated Cris Cyborg (2018)

The greatest female MMA fighter of all time began an incredible title run with her rear-naked choke win over Miesha Tate five years ago. 

She dished out the savage first-round beating that put Ronda Rousey into retirement before overcoming Valentina Shevchenko and Raquel Pennington to underline her status as the best bantamweight in the world. 

Then the ‘Lioness’ went after some larger prey when she went for the featherweight belt. 

Amanda Nunes is the only female two-weight UFC champion in UFC history 

There were doubts about how she might fare against Cris Cyborg, the fearsome Brazilian with incredible power.

But Nunes brushed her aside with ease – mirroring the performance against Rousey by marching down her opponent and landing repeated thudding shots. 

Cyborg lasted just 51 seconds and Nunes became the UFC’s third two-weight champion, taking home a performance of the night bonus to boot.  

  HENRY CEJUDO   

Flyweight champion – defeated Demetrious Johnson (2017)

Bantamweight champion – defeated Marlon Moraes (2019) 

Cejudo is now retired, which in MMA terms means he’s just waiting for the right payday or opponent to return. 

But it is a great shame he chose to step away at the peak of his powers in such an exciting time for the flyweight and bantamweight divisions. 

His run of victories came after two hugely disappointing defeats. One was against Demetrious Johnson, who many consider to be among the greatest fighters ever.

The other came on the scorecards against Joseph Benavidez in a split decision after Cejudo was deducted a point for illegal use of elbows. 

Henry Cejudo has stepped away from the sport but his legacy as a ‘champ champ’ is in tact

Those losses lit a fire under the former Olympic wrestling champion. 

He exacted revenge over Johnson, two years after losing to him and followed up by defending the belt against Wilson Reis and Sergio Pettis.

With the scores 1-1, ‘Mighty Mouse’ and Cejudo shared the cage for a third time and again the champion won by split decision. 

After dispatching TJ Dillashaw in his next fight, Cejudo decided the time was right to step up to bantamweight and test himself against naturally bigger men. 

Nine seconds into the third round of his title showdown with Marlon Moraes, the referee stepped in to stop the punishment. 

The TKO win and extra strap around his waist made him the fourth fighter in UFC history to become ‘champ champ’. 

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Norwich 3-0 Luton: Canaries extend Championship lead to ten points with seventh straight league win

Death, tax, England batting collapses and Norwich City winning. The Canaries are turning what might have been a thrilling Championship title race into a procession.

This was a seventh consecutive victory, maintaining their canyon-like 10-point lead at the top of the table with eleven games remaining. The last time they achieved such a sequence, two seasons ago, they won promotion to the Premier League.

But Daniel Farke’s side are well beyond omens now. They’ve taken such an impressive grip on the division, its calculators at the ready to figure out when their elevation is mathematically secure. Sometime just after Easter probably, at this rate.

Norwich striker Teemu Pukki (centre) scored the opening goal after 12 minutes against Luton

Midfielder Todd Cantwell assisted the opener after clever work from Dimitris Giannoulis

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Teemu Pukki’s two goals and Todd Cantwell’s solo strike did for a Luton side who held the distinction of being one of the few in the Championship to have beaten Norwich this season.

Taking his personal tally to 20 for the season, Pukki offered the clinical touch to the creativity of Cantwell, Emiliano Buendia and others. Just as he has all season, really.

Pukki came close to a first hat-trick since Norwich’s memorable win over Newcastle at the start of last season with an audacious effort just before half-time. But Cantwell scored a fine third to remove any lingering doubt.

Luton are a solid mid-table side and started really strongly here but once behind, they had little answer to a Norwich side whose defensive solidity and game management is superior even to their last promotion season.

Farke insisted Norwich wouldn’t be enjoying their important midweek win over Brentford, saying that even with an impressive 73 points already on the board with 12 games left, there could be no complacency.

Pukki, in the running for the Championship Golden Boot, scored again just before half time

The opening exchanges here illustrated precisely what the German was guarding against. 

Encouraged by the knowledge they’d already got the better of Norwich twice this season – in the Carabao Cup back in September and the reverse league fixture in December – Luton fancied their chances in a shoot-out.

Inside the opening five minutes, George Moncur had stormed down the left and delivered a cross that James Collins stabbed wide at the near post.

Collins came even closer a few moments later. Cantwell was carelessly caught in possession by Luke Berry and Tom Ince slid a ball across the Norwich box. Collins, just about onside and on the slide, saw his effort bounce back off the post.

It was all Luton and even defender Matty Pearson chanced his arm from 25 yards, spinning and switching onto his right boot before flashing an effort uncomfortably close.

The Finnish striker pounced on the loose ball after Emi Buendia’s shot was initially blocked

Unfortunately, Luton’s bright opening only succeeded in angering the beast. Within seconds of Pearson’s chance, Norwich flicked a switch and led with their first attack.

A delightful move it was, too. Left-back Dimitrios Giannoulis moved the ball onto Lukas Rupp, surprisingly deployed in the No 10 role by Farke, and he slipped it to Cantwell.

His touch was divine, bringing the ball under his spell and he drove onwards to just outside the Luton box. His cut-back found Pukki infield and the Finn did the rest, a sweet rising finish high into the net for his 19th goal of the season.

The breakthrough handed Norwich a semblance of control and they dominated possession for the remainder of the half. It wasn’t exactly wave after wave of attack but there were some moves that were pleasing on the eye.

One sweeping attack saw Pukki find Cantwell and continue his run, taking a through pass from the Englishman and wrong-footing Pearson with a cut inside.

The goal was again at his mercy and Pukki aimed for the far corner, only to be denied by Simon Sluga’s outstretched hand.

Cantwell put the gloss on the win with a fine third from outside the penalty area after cutting in

But Pukki wouldn’t be denied and there was a distinct ‘game over’ feel when he netted again two minutes before the break. Cantwell threaded a pass into Rupp who touched on to Buendia just inside the Luton box. 

The Argentine fired for goal while being charged down by two defenders. The ball looped off them to the back post, where Pukki was sliding in to score despite Sluga’s best efforts.

And he almost completed his hat-trick in outrageous fashion in stoppage time. Buendia fed him the ball and Pukki improvised with an instinctive backheel flick – a scorpion kick, if you like – that was dropping in and Sluga had to turn over.

The consensus on Twitter was that Pukki could have won the FIFA Puskas Award for goal of the year had it found the net and it was hard to disagree.

The second-half was light on entertainment. Nathan Jones made a triple substitution on the hour in search of a route back but the fresh legs couldn’t provide the impetus needed.

And with 17 minutes left, Cantwell collected the ball wide on the left, was allowed to drift inside and found the bottom corner from the edge of the area. Get the champagne on ice.  

Norwich boss Daniel Farke saw his side end up winning their seventh league game in a row

Match Facts: Norwich v Luton

Norwich (4-2-3-1): Krul; Aarons, Hanley (c), Gibson, Giannoulis; Skipp, McLean (Idah 86); Buendia (Dowell 82), Rupp (Sorensen 78), Cantwell (Hernandez 78); Pukki (Hugill 82).

Substitutes not used: Barden (GK); Zimmermann, Tettey, Vrancic.

Goals: Pukki 12, 43, Cantwell 73.

Manager: Daniel Farke. 

Luton (4-1-2-1-2): Sluga; Cranie, Pearson (c), Naismith, Potts; Tunnicliffe; Dewsbury-Hall (Bree 78), Moncur (Ruddock 61); Berry (Clark 46); Ince (Cornick 61), Collins (Adebayo 61).

Substitutes not used: Shea (GK); Morrell, Nombe, Hylton.  

Manager: Nathan Jones.

Referee: David Webb (Lancashire). 

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