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Dream Team fly out of Nigeria on Monday

By Albert Akota

Nigeria U23 team, Dream Team VI, will fly out of the country for the All Africa Games on Monday, officials have announced.

The team, who are drawn in Group B alongside Ghana and Senegal after Egypt pulled out, will be made up of players from domestic league after overseas clubs refused to release players for the competition to be staged in Congo Brazzaville.

Only skipper Azubuike Okechukwu and Umar Aminu, who are both based in Turkey, have confirmed their availability for the tournament, while the European clubs of Godwin Saviour and Shehu Abdullahi have turned down the request of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) for the players to be released.

Dream Team under the tutelage of Coach Samson Siasia are expected to use this tournament to prepare for the Africa U23 Cup of Nations in Senegal in November, which will be the qualifying series for the 2016 Rio Olympics. 

Read more: Dream Team fly out of Nigeria on Monday

Pardew set to shock Chelsea at Stamford Bridge

Alan Pardew believes Chelsea is stronger than when they coasted to the Premier League title last season ahead of Crystal Palace’s trip to Stamford Bridge today.

Chelsea have made an indifferent start to the defence of their title, drawing at home to Swansea City before losing 3-0 at Manchester City and then winning 3-2 at West Brom last weekend. 

The champions were reduced to 10 men in two of those matches, with goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois dismissed against Swansea and Captain John Terry given his marching orders at The Hawthorns.

Pedro scored on his debut against Tony Pulis’ side following his move from Barcelona, while Jose Mourinho has also brought in the likes of Radamel Falcao and Baba Rahman.

Mourinho will be expecting his side to put on a show in what will be his 100th Premier League home game in charge and his 200th in total in the top tier.

Read more: Pardew set to shock Chelsea at Stamford Bridge

What Manchester City expect from Iheanacho

The quality of Kelechi Iheanacho’s pre-season performances for Manchester City, in which he delivered a series of outstanding displays full of attacking brilliance, saw the calls for him to be integrated into the first team this season grow louder. 

City’s pre season saw the team use a host of young players, all of whom impressed, yet it was the Nigerian who stole the show. 

Jason Denayer, a 20-year-old centre-back with international experience and a silverware-winning year with Celtic under his belt, looks incredibly assured and in need of more game time. Meanwhile, Marcos Lopes, fresh from a season-long loan at Lille, looks much more physically prepared than last time he was at City. 

But Iheanacho, 18, has something more that star quality so rare in a young footballer.

 His technique is sublime, he exudes the confidence to try exciting pieces of skill that so many wouldn’t and he displays intelligence and awareness in possession. It’s not often a player with such a seemingly complete skill set comes along.

He showed his quality in every pre-season game he played in. Against Roma, in particular, he shone, setting up Raheem Sterling for his first City goal with a beautifully lofted pass before an emphatic second-half finish showcased his calmness and ability in front of goal.

Pace, technical quality, great feet, vision and appreciation of space he appears to have everything he needs to carve out a great career. Despite his obvious array of talents, his path into the City first team will be far from easy.   

They have a squad of supremely talented players, particular in the attack. They have been the Premier League’s top scorers in both seasons Pellegrini has been at the club and have already bagged six in their opening two matches this season. 

Read more: What Manchester City expect from Iheanacho

Flores heads to Etihad with confidence

Watford head coach Quique Sanchez Flores insists his side will head to in-form Manchester City full of confidence for their Premier League clash.

City have looked in ominous form in their opening three fixtures, beating West Brom, Chelsea and Everton, scoring eight goals and conceding none in the process.

But newly promoted Watford have - in their own way - also made a solid start to life back in the top flight, drawing each of their three league matches so far.

Flores’ confidence may not be misplaced, either, with Watford having given City a real scare when they last visited the Etihad Stadium in the FA Cup in January 2014.

Read more: Flores heads to Etihad with confidence

South African government suspends Pistorius’ parole

South Africa Justice Minister, Michael Masutha, has suspended the parole granted to Oscar Pistorius, who was due to be released yesterday.

Masutha on Wednesday in Johannesburg referred the decision to release the athlete to the parole review board.

He said the Kgosi Mampuru II prison parole authorities had decided prematurely to release him.

Pistorius was sentenced in October to five years in prison for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

Masutha said the decision was taken when Pistorius was not even eligible to be considered for parole because he had not yet served 10 months.

He said under South African laws, convicts are eligible for parole after serving one-sixth of their sentence.

An official from the Kgosi Mampuru II prison said on condition of anonymity, that Pistorius’ good behaviour in prison was given as the justification to free him after 10 months.

Read more: South African government suspends Pistorius’ parole