Lionel Messi’s supercharged genius the ideal antidote to grey World Cup | Barney Ronay

Argentina may look in a sorry state but their No 10 could offer something redemptive, a happy ending of sorts, a way of making Russia’s World Cup beautiful

I see a bad moon rising: I see trouble up ahead. Or if not quite trouble, then some interesting times this summer for the poor old beleaguered World Cup; and indeed for Lionel Messi in what is surely a last realistic shot at the ultimate prize for the most exhilarating footballer of the modern age.

Argentina’s travelling fans are still among the most vivid memories of the last tournament in Brazil, a sweaty, gleeful, Messi-worshipping horde from across the border that in the last few days before the final seemed to be coming up through the Rio drains and falling down from the trees, emerging in ever greater numbers from the Copacabana surf.

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Jordan Pickford has strong claim to be World Cup No 1, says Sam Allardyce

• Goalkeeper impressed on England duty against the Netherlands
• ‘He’s given Gareth a lot to think about,’ says Everton manager

Sam Allardyce believes Jordan Pickford has strengthened his claims to be England’s World Cup goalkeeper not only with an impressive display in the Netherlands but his performances throughout Everton’s difficult season.

Pickford has been one of Everton’s few transfer successes of last summer and enhanced his prospects of starting for Gareth Southgate’s team in Russia during England’s recent win in Amsterdam. The 24-year-old has conceded 50 Premier League goals in his debut season at Goodison Park but that statistic, Allardyce argues, reflects the team’s struggles and not the keeper’s form.

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Newcastle United v Huddersfield Town: match preview

The lesser spotted Islam Slimani is set to make his Newcastle debut at some point during this relegation battle featuring two of last season’s promoted sides. Algeria’s Slimani arrived on Tyneside for a £2m loan deal by private jet from Leicester in January but has been sidelined by a thigh injury. Expect Rafael Benítez to start him on the bench. Newcastle have enjoyed a break in Alicante and, by way of return, their manager has asked for an “early goal” and a “high-tempo start”. Louise Taylor

Saturday 3pm

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Everton v Manchester City: match preview

Everton are the only current Premier League team Pep Guardiola has not beaten as the Manchester City manager and there cannot be greater incentive to complete the set than the prize on the horizon that would follow a victory at Goodison Park. Three points will offer City the priceless opportunity of winning the Premier League title at home to Manchester United next weekend. It is an opportunity not to be wasted, although Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final at Liverpool may influence Guardiola’s selection. Sam Allardyce’s side are unbeaten at home since New Year’s Day. Andy Hunter

Saturday 5.30pm BT Sport 1

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Brighton & Hove Albion v Leicester City: match preview

Both sides can, to all intents and purposes, just go out and play although Leicester could conceivably wonder whether a kind-looking run of games can heave them into faint contention for sixth place. Chris Hughton does not quite see Brighton’s position that way and hopes their next two games against Huddersfield and Crystal Palace banish any lingering relegation concerns. The omens look good: they have won their past four home matches in all competitions and pack a far greater punch in attack than earlier in the season. Nick Ames

Saturday 3pm

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Manchester City must keep Raheem Sterling, says Pep Guardiola

• City to open negotiations on an improved deal at end of season
• ‘Maybe other clubs are now interested because he is playing so well’

Pep Guardiola has stressed the importance of Manchester City keeping hold of Raheem Sterling after the 23-year-old impressed again for England in midweek.

It is barely a year since the winger’s future at the Etihad appeared to be in doubt, but Guardiola is aware Sterling’s transformation this season into both a goalscorer and effective attacking threat will not have gone unnoticed. The former Liverpool player is already under contract until 2020, but it is understood City will open negotiations on an improved extension at the end of the season.

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West Bromwich Albion v Burnley: match preview

Burnley are one of only three sides to lose to West Brom in the league this season, a 1-0 win in August giving the visitors an improbable six points from six at that stage. Much has changed since and Burnley have a club-record 43 Premier League points while West Brom are 10 adrift of safety and all but relegated. “I kind of feel I owe this club,” said Alan Pardew, who has only one league win to his name since arriving at the Hawthorns in late November. “The results since I’ve been here should have been better and I’d like to come back next season with a squad that better reflects the way I play, with a bit more attacking prowess.” Burnley have won their last two games – Everton and West Ham – and with only 14 away goals conceded will be disappointed if they do not make it three in a row. Mark Tallentire

Saturday 3pm

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