Ligue 1: Player of the Week: Stephy Mavididi

With Ligue 1 taking a break last weekend it was back to the Coupe de France. There were not many shocks and most of the Ligue 1 sides that you would expect to go through to the last 16 did so. Although one of the stand out shocks was Pau FC beating Bordeaux 3-2.

Our player of the week though goes to a young Englishman who has started his trade in foreign waters. Stephy Mavididi is only 21 and has spent his time on loan at such diverse clubs like Charlton, Preston North End and Juventus. Whilst most of Mavididi’s career at the Italian giants was with the under 23s he did play one game for the senior side. He has been a player constantly on loan and now he is with Ligue 1 side Dijon. This past weekend Dijon were involved in the cup and played fellow Ligue 1 side Nimes. With two Ligue 1 teams clashing there was no guarantee that Dijon would advance.

However Nimes ended up being no match for Dijon even though the game was only 1-0 to the hosts for the majority of the game. An incredible 4 goals though were scored in the last quarter of an hour and the match ended up with Dijon winning 5-0.

Mavididi was the central part of winning the game as the 21 year old scored not one but two goals. It would have given his confidence a massive boost. There were some other players who stood out this week such as Montpellier’s Andy Delort who also scored 2 goals, but Delort is more of a veteran of the game compared to Mavididi and it felt more impressive for the youngster to help his team reach the last 16.

So far Mavididi does not appear in the fantasy rankings being a last minute loan switch to the Ligue 1 side. He has only made 6 appearances for the club in the league so far and scored one goal. His best season remains for Juventus Under 23 side in the season 2018/19 when he managed 6 goals from 32 games.

It is clear that the player is still learning- he is no Kylian Mbappe for example. But what is interesting is all of the very different clubs he has played for so young into his career and that could well bode well for the future. Whilst some players can peak between 24-26 it could be true of him that he peaks a little later and shows the world’s game how good he can be into his 30s. For now Dijon will be happy that they have Mavididi on their books and they may just become the first club to believe in the player and sign him up on a permanent deal.

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Are Manchester City feeling the brunt of VAR?

With the Premier League having 2 games in the matter of a few days Manchester City, the champions could well be aggrieved about some of the decisions that have not gone their way. VAR has struck again and whilst the technology is getting decisions correct, there does seem to be fine margins and a lack of consistency.

This past weekend City made heavy weather at home once again to Crystal Palace. Palace had infamously beaten them 3-2 last season at the Etihad and with a little under 20 minutes to play on Saturday Palace were again winning this time it was 1-0 and whilst City dominated the game it looked as if they were going to have one of their frustrating days in front of the goal. And then there was a penalty….

The referee Graham Scott had no problem pointing to the spot and City looked saved. The incident occurred when Jairo Riedelwald in defence for Palace had handled the ball. Now this wasn’t an intentional hand ball and the ball had ricocheted from his own body- in other words there was nothing he could do. Common sense would have said no penalty. The referee who obviously saw it in real time said penalty. But when the decision went to VAR it was overturned and the decision was no penalty.

However rarely has VAR used common sense to when looking at decisions. It has gone straight for the rule book. So if  players knee is offside then VAR would go along with that, the same with handballs. There have been many examples of players handling the ball and goals being disallowed. West Ham’s last minute equaliser against Sheffield United. The ball came off of Declan Rice the Hammers player, he never meant it and there was no malice, but VAR ruled no goal, he had handled the ball.

And so when VAR did make the right decision in the City-Palace game it felt off. Where did the rule book go? All of a sudden City’s hopes were resting in what some one thought about said incident, and they thought no penalty. Another referee in the room could well have said penalty. So we come down now to a massive lack of consistency for all involved. City to their credit didn’t let the decision affect them and did score 2 goals through Sergio Aguero, but Palace scored again to add a sting to the tail as the match finished 2-2 and City slipped further behind league leaders Liverpool.

But the controversy did not stop there for Pep Guardiola’s team. In midweek City had to play Sheffield United. Again a must win game even if the title looks doomed for them. This time City were awarded a penalty, and no one was about to change their decision. The problem was in the actual penalty itself. Dean Henderson the Sheffield United goalkeeper was clearly off his line when Gabriel Jesus struck the ball and this looks like the only reason he saved it.

At the end of the day City won the game 1-0, had it finished 0-0 this story could well have exploded costing City another two points. The rules clearly state that the penalty would have to have been retaken. There was no intervention from VAR and the keeper was a long way off his line and prepared.

The problem is not really with VAR itself but the people who are using the technology. They are making the same old tired mistakes that officials were making without VAR, there is simply a total lack of consistency. It’s caught even the champions out and the worry is that it could play a vital role in the pressurised environment of the relegation battle.

Another batch of Premier League games, some great ones, good goals, incidents but five months into the new season and VAR is still the talking point. That’s fine as an after thought, but it is the main talking point, and surely no one who is in love with the game wants that?

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Coupe de France round up: PSG squeeze through, Bordeaux shocked

The round of 32 in the France’s main cup, the Coupe de France was the main focus this past weekend as Ligue 1 took a rest.

All eyes were on league champions PSG who had to travel to Lorient. Lorient are currently in 1st place in Ligue 2 and PSG of course top the standings in Ligue 1, so it made for an interesting match up. PSG coach Thomas Tuchel decided to have star players Kylian Mbappe and Neymar on the bench and he didn’t use them. The game was a very tight one which in the end PSG won 1-0 through a Pablo Sarabia header with just 10 minutes to go to break Lorient’s hearts. PSG will now face Pau FC in the last 16.

This will be a dream for Pau FC who are in the 3rd tier of French football, to be able to play against the mighty PSG for a chance in the quarter finals. It is everything Pau FC deserved after shocking another Ligue 1 team as they knocked out Bordeaux, winning 3-2 in what many have called one of the games of the round.

The match finished 2-2 and Pau FC won the game in extra time, there were 15,000 fans to see it and they have been drawn again at home to face PSG- put this in your calendars, the game takes place on January 29th.

Perhaps the game of the round though took place in Nantes where Lyon came to town and won an enthralling match 4-3. Lyon had found themselves 2-0 up in the first 10 minutes and at half time they were 3-1 up. Both teams revised their normal line ups but it was Lyon that showed more hunger in the end. Moussa Dembele who has arguably been one of Lyon’s better players this season seemingly put the game away when he made it 4-1. But Nantes were not completely done and a comeback looked on the cards after goals from Louza and Simon one in the 83rd minute and then another three minutes later. It was a very nervous last five minutes as Nantes pushed for a fourth goal but they couldn’t find it.

Elsewhere Strasbourg beat Angouleme 5-1 with Ludovic Ajorque getting on the score sheet once again though this was a penalty. Saint Etienne were involved in a very good game eventually beating Paris FC 3-2 away. Angers beat Rouen 4-1, Montpellier easily beat 5-0 with star striker Gaetan Laborde getting on the score sheet. Rennes won and Dijon put 5 goals past Nimes and Monaco squeezed through too.

Only the Bordeaux game was seen as a shock result, the last 16 games take place at the end of the month.

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Premier League: Game of the Weekend: Southampton 2-3 Wolves

The game of the weekend in the Premier League was surely between Southampton and Wolves, a match that produced 5 goals.

Southampton had been the team in form, it was only weeks ago that we were associating the club with relegation contenders but a flurry of great results and form saw them climb to mid table. They even reversed their 9-0 thrashing against Leicester to beat the Foxes at their home and the turnaround seemed complete. Helped greatly by striker Danny Ings who had scored 11 goals in the last 2 months, it seemed like the Saints would grab all three points again when they took on Wolves.

After 35 minutes of the game Southampton were going to pick up the three points, they were 2-0 up and cruising. Ings though had not been the hero of the day. The first goal was scored by Jan Bednarek and when twenty minutes later Shane Long had doubled their lead it looked inevitable that Southampton would win yet another game. The fans were in obvious joyous mood. Even though Long had made 2 assists this season that goal was the first of the campaign for him and he is much loved here and that mattered. Long earned 4 points from this game and for your fantasy team he can be purchased for 6.5m.

At half time Southampton went in 2-0 and the job looked pretty much done. But eight minutes after the second half whistle had sounded Pedro Neto made everyone think when he pulled one back. That was his 2nd goal of the season. Twelve minutes later the face of the game changed when Wolves were awarded a penalty and deadly striker Raul Jimenez slotted home and now it was 2-2 and now Southampton were on the back foot. Jimenez struck again on the 76th minute to give the win to the away side after being 2-0 down in an amazing comeback. That was also Jimenez’s 10th goal of the season and he has made a further 6 assists.

Interestingly enough Southampton did have 5 shots on target compared to Wolves’ 4 and every stat bar the final score and corners went to them. But going forward the home side were simply not clinical enough once they got the 2nd goal. This was perhaps evidenced in the fact that they had just 1 corner the whole game.

The highest performing player for Southampton in the game was Shane Long with 4 points, whilst goalkeeper Alex McCarthy suffered with shipping 3 goals and earned -4 points. For Wolves Raul Jimenez stood out with 8 points but there should be good mentions also for Adama Traore who assisted in a goal which earned him 4 points and Pedro Neto with 4 points also getting the first goal.

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Are Bayern Munich focusing more on the Champions League than the Bundesliga?

Bayern Munich and winning the Bundesliga seemingly goes hand in hand but this has been a difficult season for the German champions who have sacked Niko Kovac this season after a slow start.

His replacement has been Hans-Dieter Flick who made an immediate improvement where the club climbed from 4th and are now in 2nd place and from his first 11 games, Flick has won 9 of them. His win rate is an astounding 81%, and that has proven fans and pundits alike in Germany wrong. Indeed when Flick was appointed there was a surprise because he hasn’t managed a club side since Hoffenheim back in 2005.

So what was Flick doing in that 14 year gap? Well he was the assistant for the German national team which of course included winning the World Cup in 2014, so he has hardly been on an extended holiday.

Currently Bayern are four points behind surprise league leaders RB Leipzig and it seems only a matter of time before Bayern eclipse them, or will they?

There have been quite a few stories circulating in the German media that Bayern much like Manchester City in the Premier League want to focus more this season on winning the Champions League. Bayern have not captured Europe’s greatest prize since 2013 and there is a feeling in doing so the club will reestablish themselves as one of Europe’s great teams. That they are is always questionable to an impressionable youth one that now has less and less attention spans. Perhaps they don’t see past Real Madrid and Barcelona and Bayern will want to remind everyone of their status.

The German giants have of course advanced to the knockout stages of the competition and in their two group stage matches put 10 goals past Tottenham who also managed to qualify for the last 16.

Bayern will play Chelsea in the knock out rounds which, of course, will be a repeat of the 2012 final when Chelsea scrapped through on penalties. The league of course will be important for the club but the situation as it stands is that Flick can’t really lose. He has come in to pick up the pieces and a deep run in cups and maintaining 2nd place even if they don’t win the league shouldn’t affect his job this year.

The rallying cry has been led by Philippe Coutinho who said: “We want to do our best, survive the next round and win the Champions League at the end of course. I think we have the quality.”

So if Bayern drop more points in the league which could happen once the Champions League starts up again in a months time, don’t be surprised, there is a focus and it is not on the league title this year.

 

 

Is Pep Guardiola right to say that the league cup must end?

You’d have thought that if you’re club had won a certain competition two times from the last 3 years you wouldn’t be talking about ending it, but Pep Guardiola is right, the league cup must end.

Guardiola’s comments have come because of player fatigue and injuries not just to his own players but others also and he is blaming the fact that there is too much football. He was quick to point out the recent injuries to Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford which could mean both players will not be 100% fit for this summers Euro 2020 competition with England.

Guardiola said: “Eliminate competitions, take out this competition, so less games, less competitions, less teams, more quality, less quantity. People can live without football for a while. It’s too much. Start the season later after the summer. We have one game a week for a long time and then, after, we start having two or three in one week. In February it is one week, two weeks off. We have two games in two weeks then, after, we have 72 games in one week. It’s a little bit strange.”

The Manchester City manager made a great point about there being too much football. Football doesn’t really end anymore. With the season going on until the end of May, there are various ‘friendly’ competitions littered throughout the summer when major tournaments are not taking place. The introduction of the UEFA Nations League may be welcomed instead of friendly games but then again players become much more competitive in the hope of winning yet another trophy available to them.

The league cup started in 1960, so this year will be the 60th one and Manchester City ironically are the favourites to win again. They beat Manchester United 3-1 in the semi-final first leg and will face either Leicester or Aston Villa if they reach the final.

What is interesting is that in France the Coupe de la Ligue will be played for the final time this season. This is the equivalent cup to the league cup, which of course is now called the Carabao Cup because of sponsorship.

Guardiola’s comments may fall on deaf ears because the majority of clubs actually opt to play their second string sides in the league cup. This gives fringe players a chance to get game time and more experience. Guardiola has been known to play strong sides in the competition, some managers are simply wired that way to win all in front of them.

But the Spaniard does have a good point about there being too much football in the modern game overall. For now it seems that the league cup is very much here to stay.

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Edinson Cavani’s exit at PSG must be handled with care and respect

Finally it has happened, one of football’s most open secrets is now confirmed; PSG striker Edinson Cavani wants to leave the club.

The Uruguayan told PSG sporting director Leonardo on the eve of the clubs Coupe de France game against Lorient, which PSG won 1-0, although Cavani could not play because of injury.

In truth Cavani has wanted out of PSG for a few seasons now and maybe we can mark the moment he wanted to leave when Neymar joined from Barcelona. It took only a few games for the two players to be at logger heads with one another when in one game Cavani infamously took the ball from Neymar’s hands when PSG were awarded a penalty. After the incident the players played it all down, but really no one was fooled.

Before Neymar came, Cavani was the shark in the Paris waters, and then the Brazilian made the world record transfer fee. To add more insult to misery PSG also bought the brilliant Kylian Mbappe, and all of a sudden youth was taking over old. Because of recent set backs with injuries Cavani has gone down the pecking order with manager Thomas Tuchel and has found it hard to reclaim his place.

The problem is that Cavani now must displace what is being quickly known as the ‘fantastic four’. That is Neymar, Mbappe, Mauro Icardi and Angel Di Maria. Cavani sees no way out and simply wants to leave the club now. At the end of the day Cavani had done fantastic for PSG and has scored 198 goals in all competitions from 292 games. He is just two goals away from the magic 200. But if he gets his wish and is sold before the window on January 31st then he won’t make it.

At 32 Cavani still has another good couple of seasons in him if he stays fit and the rumours are that Atletico Madrid want him. Frank Lampard at Chelsea has also shown interest. Perhaps though Cavani’s future lies at Manchester United who have just lost the services of striker Marcus Rashford for at least the next two months.

What PSG do not want is Cavani’s inevitable exit to end with a bad taste in the mouth, after all the player should go down as a legend with the club having spent 7 seasons with the club. No body wants this to drag on and start to become controversial and it seems clear that the best result here would be to let Cavani leave the club. PSG do not need him now with the embarrassment of riches they have up front.

The question remains what will be Cavani’s next adventure and where will it take him?

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Best 11 Players of the Weekend in La Liga: Matchday 20

Barcelona won and Real Madrid also and the two giants of Spanish football remain locked in at the top on the same points. They now have an 8 point lead over 3rd placed Atletico Madrid who lost their 3rd game of the season. Let’s take a look at what players in La Liga performed the best in matchday 20.

Formation: 4-4-2

Goalkeeper: Marko Dmitrovic- Eibar

Many goalkeepers earned 7 points with clean sheets but it is Eibar’s Marko Dmitrovic who stood out. The reason being he made some vital saves and ended up keeping a clean sheet against Atletico Madrid, no mean feat at all. He now has 9 points and is valued at 6.5m.

Defender: Leandro Cabrera- Getafe

Leandro  Cabrera was brilliant as his side won 3-0 over Leganes and he earned 9 points, thus he kept a clean sheet and also he opened the scoring which would lead to the win. It was a perfect weekend for the defender who has 29 points and is valued at 5.5m.

Defender: Allan-Romeo Nyom- Getafe

Just like Cabrera, Nyom had a great weekend as part of the defence that kept a clean sheet and he also scored a goal. He only earned 8 points though as he was also booked in an eventful game. He is valued at 6m.

Defender: Damien Suarez- Getafe

Sticking with Getafe, Suarez earned 7 points as the club beat Leganes in a 3-0 game which was one sided. This was his 4th clean sheet this season and he now has  total of 14 points and is valued at 7.5m.

Defender: Samuel Umtiti- Barcelona

This was a very important game for Samuel Umtiti playing his first game for new Barcelona manager Quique Setien and only his 5th start of the season so there was a lot to prove as Barcelona won their game 1-0. Umtiti can be brought into your team for 7.5m.

Midfielder: Casemiro- Real Madrid

Real Madrid recorded a 2-1 win over Sevilla and Casemiro was brilliant in scoring 2 goals and he earned 7 points. It would have been more but he lost some through being booked near the end of the game. The player now has 25 points and is valued at 7.5m.

Midfielder: Sergio Canales- Real Betis

Sergio Canales earned 8 points from midfield as Real Betis beat Real Sociedad 3-0. Canales assisted in the opening goal and then scored the 3rd and final one to top off a great days work. He now has 15 points and is valued at 7.5m.

Midfielder: Joaquin Sanchez- Real Betis

Joaquin Sanchez was brilliant in midfield as Betis beat Sociedad 3-0. He helped the team keep a clean sheet, attacked well and he scored. It was his 7th goal of the season and he has been rather outstanding this term. He can be bought for 7.5m.

Midfielder: Arturo Vidal- Barcelona

Vidal held the line well and kept his head in what was a very close win for Barcelona as they won 1-0 over Granada. He also assisted Lionel Messi for Barcelona’s only goal of the game. Vidal has 34 points and is valued at 12.5m.

Striker: Ante Budimir- Mallorca

Ante Budimir earned a whopping 10 points at the weekend as his side beat Valencia 4-1 and Budimir had his game of the season. He scored 2 goals winning the game and assisted in the last goal. He has 8 goals now this season and can be brought into your team for 6.5m.

Striker: Lionel Messi- Barcelona

Lionel Messi is used to being in teams of the weekend, and he scored his sides only goal as Barca won 1-0. Messi was the difference once more and earned 4 points at the weekend. He now has 71 points and is in the lead of La Liga strikers by 13 points. It was Messi’s 14th goal of the season.

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Best 11 Players in the Premier League: Matchday 23

Liverpool gained again at the weekend when they won and 2nd placed Manchester City could only draw. 3rd place Leicester lost and 4th placed Chelsea also lost. It was simply total gain for Liverpool who have now moved 16 points clear at the top with a game in hand. We take a look below at the best performing players in the league this past weekend. Did you have any of them?

Formation: 4-4-2.

Goalkeeper: Alisson- Liverpool

The best goalkeeper in the Premier League picked up a massive 9 points and that is huge for his position. Liverpool beat rivals Manchester United 2-0 as Alisson kept his 7th clean sheet of the season. To put the icing on the cake the Brazilian assisted for Mohamed Salah’s goal. He has 49 points now and is 9 points clear of 2nd placed keeper Kasper Schmeichel. Alisson would cost 10m

Defender: Virgil van Dijk- Liverpool

Nine points were earned for Virgil van Dijk as Liverpool kept a clean sheet and the Dutchman also opened the scoring. He now has 59 points and is ranked in third place i the fantasy rankings for Premier League defenders.

Defender: Trent Alexander-Arnold -Liverpool

Keeping a clean sheet against Manchester United is no mean feat and Alexander-Arnold was at the heart of everything Liverpool did back there. It is his 9th clean sheet of the season and he is ranked No.1. for defenders in the Premier League. He is valued at 7m.

Defender: Isaac Hayden- Newcastle

The hero for Newcastle! The Magpies beat Chelsea 1-0 due to a last minute strike from Isaac Hayden. That topped off an amazing day for Hayden who also helped his team keep a clean sheet. Hayden is valued at just 2m and has 11 points so far.

Defender: Andrew Robertson- Liverpool

In defence Liverpool almost had a clean sweep. In getting a 2-0 win over old rivals Manchester United, the Reds had achieved a huge result which underlined just how good they have been this season. Robertson earned 5 points at the weekend and is valued at 7m which seems like a great bargain.

Midfielder: Mohamed Salah- Liverpool

The attacking midfielder Salah scored Liverpool’s second goal which confirmed the win over Manchester United, and more important for him ended a baron spell. The Egypt international now has 11 goals and 5 assists.

Midfielder: Jack Grealish- Aston Villa

Jack Grealish now has 38 points and his value of just 3.5m to buy looks like a steal. He scored a goal at the weekend too as his side drew 1-1 away to Brighton. Grealish has now scored 7 goals this season.

Midfielder: Jordan Henderson- Liverpool

Jordan Henderson is just getting better by each passing season and is the engine room in this fantastic Liverpool side. He only earned 2 points at the weekend but with many midfielders not performing so well, that was enough to make this team.

Midfielder: Ismaila Sarr- Watford

Ismaila Sarr has really stood out as one of the best players Watford have as they continue their fantastic recovery from what looked like certain relegation a month ago. Watford drew 0-0 against Tottenham. Sarr is valued at 7.5m and has 27 points so far.

Striker: Sergio Aguero- Manchester City

For the second week in a row Sergio Aguero tops the charts as one of the best strikers in the Premier League. He scored two goals and almost won the game for his club who were 1-0 down with 8 minutes to go against Crystal Palace. Aguero earned 8 points and he has now scored 15 goals this season.

Striker: Raul Jimenez- Wolves

Raul Jimenez is a real gem of a player at Wolves, and the club produced the best stunning comeback of the weekend. They were losing 2-0 to Southampton and won 3-2 and Jimenez grabbed two of those goals earning a nice 8 points. He has 50 altogether and can be added to your team for just 5.5m.

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Without Aubameyang Arsenal look like a very ordinary team

When Paul Tierney produced the red card which sent off Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang last weekend, Arsenal hearts would have sunk. The former Borussia Dortmund player has been far and away the most influential figure at the club in what has become a difficult couple of seasons for the Gunners.

When Aubameyang plays he usually scores and when he scores Arsenal usually walk away with points.

The challenge was a red card indeed, a foot above the players ankle and there is little doubt that Tierney gave the correct decision. With it being a straight red card it means that Aubameyang will miss 3 games in a row for the club. That starts this weekend when Arsenal take on Sheffield United at home. Aubameyang will also miss the game away to Chelsea at the end of the month and the 4th FA Cup tie at Bournemouth.

Aubameyang has been on so many occasions Arsenal’s one bright light, a genuine star for a club that used to have 11 on the pitch. This season he has scored 14 goals just under 50% of all of Arsenal’s league goals. He is on course to beat his personal league best of 22 goals which he recorded last season and in all competitions he has 57 goals from 91 appearances. A great return.

One could wonder where Arsenal would be in the league without the player and without his goals? Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe have not cut it in terms of goals and it’s fair to say without Aubameyang’s contribution Arsenal could well have 10 points less. If this was the case then the Gunners would be in the bottom three.

Mikel Arteta the Arsenal manager was right to say that his players need to step up in reference of Aubameyang missing. The former Arsenal player said: “Players have to step up. You know, when one of your big players is not there, they have to take responsibility. I’m sure when they’re not playing, they want a chance and they talk. It’s time to talk on the pitch, not outside. You come on there, you make the impact that he made and you sure me that you are as good as him or even better. You have the chance.

These were strong and direct words from Arteta who will surely be feeling the pressure after 1 win in his four games in charge of the Gunners, he went on to say. “It’s a big shame and a big loss for us, because as well we know Auba’s intention when he plays. But unfortunately he mistimed the tackle, he made a decision and we have to accept it. Auba has been around, he was very sad after the game. He was disappointed that he left the team with 10 men. It’s an action that is completely accidental in my opinion.”

How will Arsenal fare without the deadly striker? Could it yet be a blessing in disguise as the team are forced to make tactical changes, or will the misery for the club this season deepen? This weekend when they play Sheffield United at the Emirates will reveal that answer.

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