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Di Stefano, Zidane Back Mourinho after Madrid Loss

Former Real Madrid greats Alfredo di Stefano and Zinedine Zidane have come out in defense of coach Jose Mourinho following another disappointing loss to Barcelona.

Mourinho was widely criticized for his defensive tactics in Wednesday's 2-1 cup loss, which was exacerbated by Pepe's stamp on Lionel Messi's hand.

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Spurs Visit Vulnerable City as Title Race Heats up

Tottenham will look to take advantage of a Manchester City team going through its most vulnerable period of the season when the two new pretenders to the Premier League trophy meet Sunday in a pivotal match in the title race.

After moving to the top of the standings with a freescoring start to the season, City surrendered its unbeaten league record with a 2-1 loss at Chelsea on Dec. 12 and then stuttered over the holiday period.

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Ailing James Leads Heat over Lakers

Ailing LeBron James scored 31 points to lead the Miami Heat to a 98-87 NBA victory over Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Hours after he was sent home from the morning shoot-around because of flu-like symptoms, two-time NBA Most Valuable Player James rose to the occasion in the clash with the Lakers and their superstar.

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Azarenka into Round of 16 at Australian Open

Third-seeded Victoria Azarenka has advanced to the fourth round of the Australian Open, winning a matchup between champions of two warm-up tournaments when she beat Mona Barthel 6-2, 6-4 on Friday.

Azarenka, who beat four seeded players including French Open champion Li Na to win the Sydney International last week, has only lost eight games at Melbourne Park en route to the Round of 16.

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Federer, Nadal into 4th Round at Australian Open

Roger Federer made the most of his rare opportunities Friday against the fastest serve in tennis, cashing in with some classic returns in a 7-6 (6), 7-5, 6-3 win over Ivo Karlovic to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open.

The four-time Australian Open champion fended off Karlovic's set point in the tiebreaker with a return that brought the 6-foot-10 Croatian to the net, then lobbed just over him.

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Pepe Apologizes for Hand-Stamp on Messi

Real Madrid defender Pepe Thursday apologized for stamping on Barcelona striker Leo Messi's hand in their cup clash and said it was "unintentional", in comments published by his club.

"I was an unintentional act. All the same, if Messi was offended then I apologize to him," Pepe said in a statement published in Spanish on Real Madrid's website.

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Bayern Set to Welcome Back Schweinsteiger

German league leaders Bayern Munich look set to welcome back star midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger for Friday's clash against Borussia Moenchengladbach as the Bundesliga resumes after the winter break.

Germany star Schweinsteiger has been out since breaking his collarbone in the Champions League win over Napoli at the start of November, but despite sitting out training on Tuesday with a knee injury he is hopeful of playing.

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Djokovic, Murray Hit Top Form

Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray hit top gear on Thursday as Petra Kvitova was the only top seed to encounter difficulties at the Australian Open.

Men's favorite Djokovic, Murray and 13-time grand slam winner Serena Williams highlighted the yawning gap between tennis's best and the rest as they strolled into the third round unhindered at Melbourne Park.

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'No Ballerina' Williams Brings up 500 Wins

Five-time champion Serena Williams brushed off fears about her injured ankle Thursday as she sailed into the Australian Open's third round with her 500th career win.

The American 12th seed, who pulled out of this month's Brisbane International after rolling her ankle on court, fell awkwardly in the final game of her 6-0, 6-4 win against Czech opponent Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.

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Sharapova Dismisses Open Mismatches

Former world number one Maria Sharapova dismissed concerns over a series of mismatches at the Australian Open Thursday despite dropping just two games in her first two matches.

The 2008 champion blasted her way into the third round with a 6-0, 6-1 demolition of U.S. qualifier Jamie Hampton, in one of a number of crushing victories from the top women's players at this year's Open.

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