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By Sports Desk March 30, 2020

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  • Khedira dreaming of Champions League success with Juventus Khedira dreaming of Champions League success with Juventus

    Sami Khedira believes he can realise a dream and win the Champions League with Juventus in the next few years.

    Juve have dominated Serie A with eight straight title wins, but their last success in Europe's premier club competition came in 1996.

    The Italian giants were in the last 16 this season – losing the first leg of their tie away at Lyon 1-0 – when the campaign was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    Khedira, who arrived at Juventus in 2015, said he wanted to help deliver the Champions League trophy to Turin.

    "I won almost everything, but winning is like a drug, if you don't win a title for one year, the next year you try to win all kinds of titles," he said on Instagram on Thursday.

    "My dream is to win the Champions League with Juventus. Almost three or four years ago, we were very close in the final against Real Madrid.

    "I think we can win this title with Juventus in the next few years. In my opinion, this is not just my dream, but also that of every Juventini."

    Khedira helped Madrid win the Champions League in 2014 among numerous other trophies with the LaLiga giants.

    A World Cup winner with Germany in the same year, the midfielder remembers his time in Madrid fondly.

    "It was awesome. I spent unforgettable moments there with many successes. We won all sorts of titles like the league, the cup, but also the Champions League," Khedira said.

    "We had a very strong team with very strong characters. That's why I will never forget this great time and I am still a big fan of this big club.

    "That's why: Hala Madrid!"

  • Griezmann: It'll be strange to play behind closed doors Griezmann: It'll be strange to play behind closed doors

    Barcelona forward Antoine Griezmann admitted it would be "very strange" to play behind closed doors.

    The LaLiga leaders will resume their season with a trip to Mallorca on June 13 amid the coronavirus pandemic, which led to the campaign being suspended in March.

    Griezmann said there was no doubt it would be unusual to play with no fans in attendance due to COVID-19.

    "The first game will be in Mallorca, but it will be very strange to play without an audience," he said during a conversation on Twitch on Thursday.

    "It will be the first time I have experienced something like this."

    With 11 games left to play in LaLiga, Barcelona hold a two-point lead over rivals Real Madrid.

    Griezmann, who has scored 14 goals in 37 games this season, said he made the most of family time during the suspension of the campaign.

    "I had never been so long stopped," he said.

    "Yes, it is true that during these days I was able to enjoy my children."

  • Orlando Bucks? NBA teams lose out on coveted home court with Disney restart plan Orlando Bucks? NBA teams lose out on coveted home court with Disney restart plan

    A trip to Orlando, Florida is overwhelmingly a more popular travel destination than Milwaukee, Wisconsin for most American families.

    NBA teams share that sentiment.

    The NBA has approved its return-to-play plan, which will send 22 teams to the Walt Disney Resort near Orlando. All the games and practices will take place at the Disney complex after the NBA's Board of Governors approved proposals for a restart from the coronavirus-enforced break.

    The teams invited to Florida are the 16 that held playoff spots when the season was halted on March 11, plus the six teams within six games of eighth place in both the Eastern and Western Conferences.

    While having all the games at one location terminates travel and should cut down on some fatigue, it will provide a new challenge – likely playing games in empty gyms without the noise of the crowd.

    A lack of crowd noise may be the biggest obstacle for the players, challenging their mettle. They will have to take part in crucial games and within these games, face critical possessions without getting any adrenaline rush from either the roar of the fans they would experience at their home arena or the chorus of boos from a hostile crowd when they are on the road.

    For the teams, they are now pretty much all on equal footing. Those that had been dominating for the right to earn home-court advantage for the playoffs no longer have such an advantage.

    When the season went on pause nearly three months ago, the Milwaukee Bucks owned the NBA's best record at 53-12. The Bucks are obviously an excellent team, boasting the league's highest-scoring offense behind reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, but some of their success stems from their ability to easily dispatch of foes when they visited Milwaukee.

    The Bucks have only lost two of their 30 games at Fiserv Forum since the calendar flipped to November. And both of those defeats came at the hands of West clubs – the Dallas Mavericks on December 16 and Denver Nuggets on January 31. They have gone 18-1 in Milwaukee against the East this season with the lone blemish coming in overtime to the Miami Heat in their home opener on October 26.

    By continuing to defend home court against East teams, the Bucks appeared to have a relatively clear path to reach the NBA Finals, but now their opponents will no longer be making that dreaded trip to Milwaukee. 

    Miami, meanwhile, is a hotter destination than Milwaukee – both literally and figuratively – and the Heat climbed to the top of the Southeast Division behind the strength of a 27-5 record in Miami – the third-best home record in the NBA.

    The Heat, however, no longer will have the luxury of welcoming visitors to South Beach and its nightlife, instead playing the rest of their games in the more family-friendly environment provided by Mickey Mouse.

    Only one team has compiled a better home record than the Bucks and Heat this season, and that has been perhaps one of the most perplexing teams of all time.

    The Philadelphia 76ers have gone 29-2 at home, but if the playoffs started today they would not be hosting a first-round series. Thanks to an inability to win on the road where they have gone 10-24, the Sixers are in sixth place in the East. 

    Philly has a .935 winning percentage at home and a .294 winning percentage on the road. That decrease of .641 in winning percentage from home to road is the largest difference since the NBA expanded to 14 teams in 1968-69. 

    Seeing as there has been no rational explanation as to how a team can play so well at home and so poorly on the road, it is anyone's guess how the Sixers will fare in Orlando.

    While teams will be missing out on having games at their own arenas and players will no longer have the creature comforts that come with home games, a handful of teams that are heading to Orlando had slightly better records on the road than at home before the season paused.

    Playing these games on neutral courts, likely without fans, in Orlando does not exactly correlate to playing road games in intense visiting arenas in front of raucous playoff crowds, but the Dallas Mavericks (plus-.077 winning percentage from road to home games), Los Angeles Lakers (plus-.071), New Orleans Pelicans (plus-.063), Phoenix Suns (plus-.062) and Oklahoma City Thunder (plus-.039) all have higher winning percentages on the road than at home.

    Of those five teams, only the Mavericks, Lakers and Thunder posted winning records both on the road and at home. 

    When the season went on pause, the only teams with road winning percentages over .700 were perhaps the three favourites to win the title – the Lakers (.813 road winning percentage), the Bucks (.735) and defending champions the Toronto Raptors (.719). 

    No big surprise, but the ability to win on the road and perform under pressure in adverse conditions bodes well for a team's championship aspirations. 

    While these will not be road games, they will certainly be adverse conditions. Likely the most obscure these players have ever experienced.

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