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Arsenal and Chelsea ready for Europa League battle | News | Sport

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Chelsea face Arsenal in the Europa League final in the unfamiliar setting of Azerbaijan on Wednesday in what is likely to be Chelsea star Eden Hazard’s last match for the club before a rumoured move to Real Madrid.

The buildup to the all-English clash has been marred by the controversy surrounding UEFA’s choice of venue, with a London derby exported almost 5 000km to Azerbaijan’s capital Baku, by the Caspian Sea.

The match is the first course in a banquet of European finals dominated by England, with Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur contesting the Champions League showpiece in Madrid on Saturday.

However, there will not be much of an English atmosphere at the Baku Olympic Stadium when the match kicks off at 11:00pm (7pm GMT), with reportedly only around 6 000 tickets sold by the clubs for a ground which holds almost 70 000.

The distances and costs involved and the difficulty in getting to Baku have prevented more fans from travelling.

On the field, Arsenal are handicapped by the absence of Henrikh Mkhitaryan. He decided not to travel because of fears over his safety due to an ongoing political dispute between Azerbaijan and his home country, Armenia.

“It is not in my hands.
They have their reason to play here and I must respect this decision,” Arsenal coach Unai Emery said on Tuesday.

“Yes I prefer to play with our supporters here.
I’d prefer it if a lot of supporters from us and from Chelsea could come here from London, but it’s difficult.”

Chelsea’s preparations have been fraught, with rumours swirling that not only is Hazard leaving for Madrid but that coach Maurizio Sarri could go to coach-less Juventus.

The tension bubbled to the surface in a training session open to the media on Tuesday when Sarri stormed off the pitch at the Olympic Stadium with TV cameras capturing the moment when the Italian angrily tossed away his baseball cap as he headed for the tunnel shortly after David Luiz and Gonzalo Higuain had clashed.

Sarri had earlier refused the Juventus vacancy, saying: “I have a contract with Chelsea for two years.

“So, first of all I will speak with Chelsea but this is not the moment.”

He said winning the final would turn a “very good season” into a “wonderful” one. Some critics would argue however that a third-place Premier League finish 26 points adrift of champions Manchester City and a chance of winning Europe’s second-tier trophy is unsatisfactory for a club with Russian-backed Chelsea’s budget.

Emery has seemed far more serene although the stakes are certainly high for the Gunners. After finishing fifth in the Premier League, two points behind Chelsea in third and one point behind Tottenham, Arsenal have to win to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

“For a club like Arsenal we have to be in the Champions League. It’s an amazing and important game because we want to give us, the fans and the club the Champions League back,” said Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka.

Arsenal have not been in a European final since 2006 and have not won a continental trophy since lifting the Cup Winners’ Cup 25 years ago.

In Emery, though, they have a coach who won this competition three years running with Sevilla.

“All teams’ first objective is to play to win a title—I think that is the first objective, and then there is also the fact that it helps you to achieve the Champions League,” said Emery, the former PSG coach.

Night of farewells? 

Emery is still to win a major trophy, but he has already steered the Blues to a return to the Champions League and also took them to the League Cup final, where they lost on penalties to Manchester City.

Whatever happens to Hazard, it will definitely be the last game for Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech, who will retire afterwards at the age of 37. A Chelsea great who crossed London in 2015, Cech has been tipped for a return to Stamford Bridge in some capacity.

“I can speak about Petr Cech a lot, but above all he’s a great man, a great professional,” Emery said. “I want to do something important, with him playing or not playing.”

Bernd Leno is the other option in goal, while Chelsea are sweating on the fitness of key midfielder N’Golo Kante.

“Kante has a very little problem with his knee. The problem is the timing, but we are trying,” said Sarri.

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Government should not manage railways, says review

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Crowd of commuters at Waterloo Station in LondonImage copyright
PA

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Commuters delayed at Waterloo station

The man tasked with working out how to improve UK railways says a “fat controller” type figure, independent from government, should be in charge of day-to-day operations.

The former boss of British Airways, Keith Williams, said government involvement should be limited to overall policy and budget decisions.

But he said the Department for Transport should not manage the system.

His review of the rail system will be published this autumn.

The Fat Controller is a fictional character who manages the railways in Thomas the Tank Engine, the children’s television series based on the The Railway Series books.

Mr Williams said he also believed that, in the future, rail franchises should be underpinned by punctuality and other performance-related targets.

The government launched the review after passengers in northern and southern England experienced chaos over several weeks last summer following the introduction of a new timetable.

By December, punctuality across the country had dropped to a 13-year low.

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Getty Images

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Southern Trains has faced numerous strikes in recent years

In a BBC interview Mr Williams insisted the interests of passengers would shape every aspect of his work and that the creation of an individual or organisation with oversight of the entire rail system would be “key for regaining public trust.”

“Someone needs to be accountable to the public,” he said.

He is still to decide on what relationship the individual or organisation would have with government but he said Network Rail, the public company managing rail infrastructure, should not take on an overall managerial role.

The idea has echoes of the Strategic Rail Authority, a body which, from 2001 to 2006, provided “strategic direction” for the industry.

Mr Williams had already said that the current rail franchising model was finished, but he has now indicated that a franchise should last longer than the current average of seven to eight years.

Performance targets

He argues that if train companies were in charge of networks for more time they would have more incentive to invest.

As things stand, under a franchise agreement, a train company will make a series of commitments to the government which have to be delivered.

According to Mr Williams, a franchise should no longer be about “how many ticketing offices there are in a station”.

His team is looking into how franchises could focus instead on performance targets such as punctuality and whether or not services have the correct number of carriages – something which continues to be a problem for passengers in the north of England.

The rail review also looks set to recommend an overhaul of the complicated rail ticketing system, which has not been reformed since the mid-90s.

“Pay-as-you-go across regions and cities has been difficult to implement because of the fares system that exists today,” said Mr Williams.

He said a national system should be created to allow more third-party companies like thetrainline.com to improve the way people buy tickets.

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Amazon Warehouse Workers Around the World Are Striking For Prime Day

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Amazon workers around the world are going on strike today to bring attention to the working conditions they endure. “Some are arguing that buying from Amazon during Prime Day is akin to crossing a picket line,” reports Quartz. From the report: As the two-day bacchanal of discounted Amazon offerings begins, workers at its fulfillment centers around the U.S. continue to complain of extremely odious quotas, limited bathroom breaks, mandatory holiday shifts, and the need for pain medication just to get through their 10-hour work days.

The U.S.: Workers at a Shakopee, Minnesota fulfillment center will be walking out during a six-hour period that overlaps with the end of the facility’s morning shift and the start of its evening shift. There are about 1,500 full-time employees at the facility, according to the Daily Beast.

Germany: Hundreds of employees at seven facilities will be striking today and tomorrow, over longstanding issues with employee pay. âoeWhile Amazon holds a giant Prime-Day bargain hunt, employees are deprived of a living wage,â Orhan Akman, a representative from the German labor union Ver.di, said in a statement shared with Quartz.

The UK: The GMB trade union will be staging protests at Amazon facilities across the country. Some of the most shocking accounts issues of issues faced by Amazon warehouse workers have come out of the UK. One undercover writer said they witnessed co-workers urinating in bottles to avoid missing quotas by taking bathroom breaks.

Elsewhere in Europe: Workers in Spain and Poland will also be organizing demonstrations at Amazon facilities across their countries throughout the week. Here’s what Amazon had to say about the demonstrations and walkouts: “Events like Prime Day have become an opportunity for our critics, including unions, to raise awareness for their cause, in this case, increased membership dues. These groups are conjuring misinformation to work in their favor, when in fact we already offer the things they purport to be their cause — industry leading pay (full-time employees at our Shakopee facility make $16.25 – $20.80), benefits, and a safe workplace for our employees. We can only conclude that the people who plan to attend the event on Monday are simply not informed. If these groups — unions and the politicians they rally to their cause — really want to help the American worker, we encourage them to focus their energy on passing legislation for an increase in the federal minimum wage, because $7.25 is too low.”

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Ramaphosa files urgent court application against Public Protector – report

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President Cyril Ramaphosa has reportedly filed an urgent court application against the Public Protector.

He wants the court to declare that he had complied with remedial actions set out by Busisiwe Mkhwebane as she had directed in her recently released report into the pension payout of Ivan Pillay, the Mail&Gaurdian reports.

Mkhwebane, in her report, found that an early pension payment made to Pillay, when Pravin Gordhan was finance minister, was irregular.

Mail&Guardian reported that in his affidavit, Ramaphosa claims he had complied with Mkhwebanes’s orders.

The publication adds that the president says since the nature and timing of the disciplinary action was left to his discretion, the appropriate course was to await the outcome of the court case brought by Gordhan against Mkhwebane.

Last Wednesday Gordhan filed court papers in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria in an urgent bid to interdict Mkhwebane’s remedial actions surrounding the so-called “rogue unit”.

Pillay followed suit and filed an affidavit stating that he intends to pursue a review of findings against him in a Public Protector’s report he says detrimentally affects him.

The publication further reported that Ramaphosa said in the papers that he had informed Mkhwebane of an implementation plan as she had directed him to provide to her.

“I accept the binding nature of the Public Protector’s reports and remedial actions. I accept that the Report is under review but that this does not stay the implementation of the remedial action, in the absence of a court order,” the publication quoted Ramaphosa.

The presidency could not be reached for comment by News24 at time of publication.

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