Middletown High School South’s hockey team has stolen the thunder around town over the years, but Middletown High School North is making some noise this season in a 4-1 start.The Lions won their first four games, but they dropped a 5-1 loss to Freehold Township High School on Dec. 16 at Jersey Shore Arena in Wall when two starters were away with a travel team and the goalie suffered an injury.Prior to that, Middletown North rolled up a 21-8 goal-scoring margin while sweeping past Marlboro High School, Manalapan High School and Howell High School in a pair of victories over the traditionally strong Rebels.It’s not the level of competition a year ago, when Middletown North played the likes of powerhouses Red Bank Catholic High School and Brick Township High School while starting 1-3 and ending the season 7-14-1, but coach Matt Clemente sees some reassuring strides.“We were really young last year with five freshmen who played every game,” Clemente said. “We had no bench for them to learn. It was just, ‘Go out and play.’”“We’re looking forward to making noise in the Shore Conference. We’ve come out on fire,” said defenseman James Felice, one of the few seniors and one of three brothers on the team, along with sophomore Tim, a wing on the first line, and freshman Kevin, a backup forward. Sophomore Nick Kirch starts on defense with James.Five players graduated off last year’s team, including high-scoring Joe Dickinson, and the roster remains very young but a bit more experienced.How much they’ve grown will come to light this week when Middletown North plays Robbinsville High School on Dec. 19 at the Lawrenceville School and then a Dec. 23 game at 4 p.m. at Jersey Shore Arena against Christian Brothers Academy, Clemente’s alma mater before he went on to play junior hockey and then for Franklin Pierce College. Middletown North renews its Shore Conference A North rivalry with Middletown South at 6 p.m. on Jan. 6 at Jersey Shore Arena. Middletown South won last year’s games, first by a 6-3 score and then 13-4 at the Prudential Center. They may play again on Feb. 13 at the new arena in town, which is currently under construction and is nearing completion.“A lot of players have come into their own, like sophomore wing Tom Terranova and sophomore center Zach Gazette,” Clemente said. They’ll be on the second line with freshman Khristian Acosta, who Clemente said is one of the best shooters on the team.Joining Tim Felice on the first line is senior center Andrew Lipari, who leads the team with six goals, two of them shorthanded, and junior wing Scott Harker. They’ll look to make up for the loss of sophomore Craig Evans, the second leading scorer last season who is sidelined this season with a shoulder injury.“We’re getting scoring from everybody,” James Felice said. “The whole line is playing well together. And the freshmen are surprising.”Brendan Lipari, Andrew’s twin brother, is the goalkeeper. He had a .950 save percentage in the first four games. Penalty killing has been good, said Clemente, with only two shorthanded goals allowed in those first four games. The backup defensemen are senior Brad Bock and junior Jack Meyer, whose older brother, Rick, was a captain about four seasons ago and is playing in college these days with Manhattanville College.“It’s defense first. Lock it down and then the offense takes care of itself with the skills we have,” Clemente said. “The power play has really been clicking and that wins games. We’re very quick with a relentless forecheck and working the corners. It’s been pretty much a work in progress.”“It’s not the talent but how much work you put in and grinding out the wins,” the elder Felice said.Clemente only hopes that work in progress comes to full fruition soon. BY WAYNE WITKOWSKI Correspondent
Where did they go? Millions left Wuhan before quarantine PBA IMAGESNLEX averted disaster and delivered a homely victory for head coach Yeng Guiao with a 110-98 shocker over TNT in the PBA Philippine Cup Saturday at Angeles University Foundation Gym in Pampanga.The Road Warriors snapped a disastrous five-game losing streak and improved to 2-5 while the KaTropa saw its own two-game winning run stopped and slipped to 4-3 joining Phoenix in the third seed.ADVERTISEMENT Christian Standhardinger wins PBA Best Player award PLAY LIST 01:13Christian Standhardinger wins PBA Best Player award00:50Trending Articles01:52Phivolcs: Cloud seeding in ashfall affected areas needs study01:31Taiwan minister boards cruise ship turned away by Japan01:33WHO: ‘Global stocks of masks and respirators are now insufficient’01:01WHO: now 31,211 virus cases in China 102:02Vitamin C prevents but doesn’t cure diseases like coronavirus—medic03:07’HINDI PANG-SPORTS LANG!’03:03SILIP SA INTEL FUND Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. MOST READ Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next EDITORS’ PICK Shanghai officials reveal novel coronavirus transmission modes NLEX was holding off TNT comfortably in the early parts of the fourth quarter resting on a 93-87 lead courtesy of Sean Anthony’s layup.Jayson Castro, however, took over and capped off the KaTropa’s 7-0 run to give TNT a 94-93 lead at the 6:13 mark of the fourth quarter.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSGinebra teammates show love for SlaughterSPORTSFreddie Roach: Manny Pacquiao is my Muhammad AliSPORTSWe are youngThe Road Warriors would then retaliate and give Guiao, a native of Pampanga and was once the province Representative in the Philippine Congress, a show in the form of a 13-2 run that put them at 106-96 with 2:04 left in the game.Guiao said it was a welcome relief for them to take one against the title-contending KaTropa. Senators to proceed with review of VFA Smart hosts first 5G-powered esports exhibition match in PH We are young View comments Smart’s Siklab Saya: A multi-city approach to esports PH among economies most vulnerable to virus Chinese-manned vessel unsettles Bohol town Beermen still have a lot to improve, says Fajardo “It was a big relief to win after a five-game losing streak and it’s more special because we beat a title contender,” said Guiao. “But it’s just one win for us, it’s a long way for us but it’s a good start for the New Year.”Carlo Lastimosa had a game-high 22 points to lead the Road Warriors while Anthony had a 13-point, 13-rebound double-double.Eric Camson came off the bench to pitch in 12 points for NLEX while Kevin Alas had a dozen points also.Jayson Castro put up 17 points, seven assists, and five rebounds while Kris Rosales and Moala Tautuaa had 15 points apiece.ADVERTISEMENT Chinese-manned vessel unsettles Bohol town Ginebra teammates show love for Slaughter
China reports 17 new cases in viral pneumonia outbreak Pacman finding his groove Gerald: Just because I’ve been bashed doesn’t mean I’d stop working More Taal volcanic quakes recorded despite weaker eruptions LATEST STORIES Ai-Ai delas Alas on Jiro Manio: ‘Sana pinahalagahan niya ang naitulong ko’ Swing Out Sister back to PH this April Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next Tamaraws coach Olsen Racela, however, still feels there’s plenty of room for improvement for FEU.“Playing a team like NU is always a good opportunity to gauge where we are and we know we have a lot of things to work on before the UAAP begins,” said Racela.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSEnd of his agony? SC rules in favor of Espinosa, orders promoter heirs to pay boxing legendSPORTSMcGregor blasts Cerrone in 40 seconds in UFC returnSPORTSBreak new groundSan Beda, meanwhile, routed University of the East, 68-55, for its second victory. Trump’s impeachment defense, prosecutors dig in For Ina, portraying a zombie is like an ‘out-of-body experience’ MOST READ Duterte’s ‘soft heart’ could save ABS-CBN, says election lawyer Filipinos turn Taal Volcano ash, plastic trash into bricks PLAY LIST 01:40Filipinos turn Taal Volcano ash, plastic trash into bricks01:32Taal Volcano watch: Island fissures steaming, lake water receding02:14Carpio hits red carpet treatment for China Coast Guard02:56NCRPO pledges to donate P3.5 million to victims of Taal eruption00:56Heavy rain brings some relief in Australia02:37Calm moments allow Taal folks some respite End of his agony? SC rules in favor of Espinosa, orders promoter heirs to pay boxing legend Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.netFilipino-Canadian recruit RJ Ramirez showcased his mettle as Far Eastern University kept its sharp form to stun National U, 88-77, for its third straight victory in the Filoil Flying V Premier Cup.Ramirez gave the Tamaraws a huge lift with 15 points and five assists.ADVERTISEMENT Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. View comments
…to Father of the NationMarch 22, 2018 marks the centenary of the birth of Dr Cheddi Jagan. As part of the month-long series of activities commemorating the event, the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre (CJRC) had arranged with the Guyana Post Office Corporation (GPOC) to issue a commemorative stamp in the great man’s honour. Now, commemorative stamps are routinely issued by all countries to mark special events.In fact, right here in Guyana, the Post Office had issued the first one with a Guyanese face in 1970, when they featured PM Forbes Burnham. In 1976, it struck one for the St John’s Ambulance Brigade. Under the PPP, in 1993 it issued one to honour Adrian Thompson, the Guyanese mountaineer. The GPOC – now an autonomous agency – issued a stamp in 2003 to commemorate Guyana-Brazil relations. And in 2010, four stamps were issued to recognise the gold and diamond industry. The new PNC-led government saw the GPOC initiating a flurry of stamp-issuing: in 2015 on the Jubilee Independence, and in 2016 on villages etc.No one said anything when, in Feb., the Minister of Telecommunications, Ms Cathy Hughes, announced the stamp on Jagan would be issued in March. So it came as a shock to the CJRC when, with no stamp forthcoming on the day before Jagan’s birthday, they were told by Minister Hughes to check with the Ministry of the Presidency (MotP)!! But it didn’t surprise your Eyewitness.This PNC-led government has made clear by every one of its actions that it’s determined to rewrite the history of Guyana to erase all other contributions than those of the PNC. Especially those of the PPP, which refused to disappear between 1964 and 1992, and remains as a standing indictment of its pretentions. The MotP, in the voice of the President, issued a pathetic excuse that while it recognises Cheddi Jagan as one of the “founders of the Guyanese nation”, they’ll issue the stamp along with one for President Arthur Chung!! The stamp is a “national symbol”, and there must be “equity” in its issuance!!Now, we all know this is a piece of crock!! If the GPOC’s autonomous, how can the President unilaterally rescind its decision? His claim about the stamp being a “national symbol” is just insulting the intelligence of the Guyanese people. What’s different about the other commemorative stamps? Then President Chung wasn’t an EXECUTIVE President, like Jagan (and Burnham), but was merely a titular figure, acting on advice of the Prime Minister (Burnham). The offices were substantively DIFFERENT!The bottom line is: if and when a stamp is issued, the commemorative events on Jagan’s centenary would have passed, along with his birthday.This is just being petty and mean!…to Justice KennardIn another of its studied petty and mean-spirited actions, the President had also removed former Chancellor Kennard as head of the Police Complaints Authority (PCA), saying he was “too old”. Even as he traduced the Constitution to appoint a just-as-old (Chief?) Justice Patterson as GECOM’s Chair!! So the headless PCA’s been unable to investigate the tsunami of transgressions committed by the GPF, bemoaned even by the President and his Security Minister!The latest Police action drawing demands for an investigation was their killing of three men at the Georgetown seawall, after being accused of trailing a bank “withdrawer” to rob him. The silence of President Granger and his Security Minister is in stark contrast to a similar killing of a trio in 2013 at South Road.Then, with the PPP in office, Granger had reminded them that the DFC had recommended that PCA be given its own investigators to look into the Police killing persons from “depressed communities”. He said ultimately, the killings emanated from the “incompetence” of the Ministry!What says he now about Ramjattan?…to medical personnelThe new GHPC CEO complains that medical personnel at the GHPC don’t get any respect from patients and their relatives.Don’t the latter realise that, especially here, payback can be a b*tch??!!
In spite of several criticisms from various stakeholders in the society about its continued silence on the current political crisis gripping Guyana, the Caribbean Community (Caricom), up to press time, has not issued a single word regarding its position— more particularly on the APNU/AFC Government’s refusal to abide by the recent rulings of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) and the Constitution of Guyana in general.The decisions of the CCJ are clear regarding what happens after a no-confidence vote is passed against the Government. The expectation was that all parties involved would have genuinely played their part in ensuring that the country moves into elections, in keeping with the constitutional timelines for same.Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, himself— highly regarded as one of the region’s best thinkers— has expressed disappointment that the regional body was yet to issue a statement on the matter, given the fact that the CCJ is a regional organ and also headquartered right here in Guyana. During the consequential orders on July 12, the Government was reduced to that of a caretaker administration and urged to call elections in keeping within the constitutional deadline. With more than one month passing since the June 18 ruling was handed down, a date for elections has not been announced.It must be mentioned that Caricom had previously played a key role in helping to address previous political problems here. It could be recalled that Caricom was one of the first organisations that spoke out on the political situation in Guyana after the December 15, 1997 elections, which saw massive unrest and political instability in Georgetown. In fact, the then PPP/C Government had committed itself to facilitating every effort by Caricom to have a successful intervention of a high-level Goodwill Mission to mediate and find solutions to the crisis after the then Opposition PNC rejected the elections results. The Mission, comprising Barbadian Sir Henry Forde, Guyanese Sir Shridath Ramphal, and Grenadian Sir Alister McIntyre, succeeded in getting the then Opposition Leader and President to agree to a poll audit, among other things. More recently, Caricom also intervened in the political problems of Haiti and Venezuela when there were threats to democracy and the rule of law.As stated by one letter writer, disrespect of the chief laws by the coalition administration points to a threat to democracy, which must be addressed at all costs. The regional body’s silence in this case is, therefore, baffling. From the way it is playing out, the coalition Government will do all that it can to ensure that elections are dragged out for as long as possible. It is also clear that GECOM is operating as if it is not bothered at all about the CCJ rulings and the impact such rulings have on the electoral body, more particularly, its readiness to run-off elections within the constitutional timeline. As it is today (Saturday), GECOM is pushing ahead with its House-to-House Registration exercise in clear defiance of the CCJ orders and the Constitution.GECOM’s lawyer Stanley Marcus had told the CCJ on June 24 that GECOM must have House-to-House Registration and that the earliest a voters’ list will be ready is by December 25, 2019 – pushing elections, which ought to have been held since before March 21, 2019 – to next year. This was challenged after the Opposition insisted that a claims and objections period could fix the list in a shorter period of time to ensure that all voters are on the official voters’ list.GECOM must be aware that this house-to-house exercise will result in the constitutional deadline for elections not being met. It must also be aware that once the deadline is not, met the country will be plunged into a constitutional crisis, especially since the Opposition is maintaining that it will not be returning to Parliament to give the Government more time.The letter writer reminds us that the CCJ is a creation of Caricom, despite which countries may use it as their final Court. As such, Caricom must ensure that the CCJ is not being made ineffective. It must seek to ensure that the Court’s decisions are honoured and respected by all stakeholders. It is still not too late for Caricom to make its position known that it stands on the side of democracy and respect for the rule of law and start putting pressure on the Government here to abide by the CCJ orders and the Constitution of Guyana. If it does not take a firm stance, the regional body will be found lacking and will lose credibility to speak on matters of good governance and democracy and international best practices on constitutional matters.
Lionel Messi’s fine free-kick halved Barca’s arrears after the break.And the five-time World Player of the Year was inches away from a precious second away goal when he hit the post with the final kick of the game after Raul Garcia and Ander Iturraspe had been sent-off.“We struggled at the start,” admitted Barca boss Luis Enrique.“They used two counter-attacks to put together two good moves and get ahead.“In the second-half we concentrated more on what we could control, our play, and I think we did enough to deserve more, even taking into account Athletic’s numerical disadvantage.”Enrique started all three of his star strike force of Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar despite handing them an extended winter break which meant they only returned to training on Monday after two weeks off.This is the sixth time Barca and Athletic have been paired together in the Cup in nine seasons, including three finals.Barca have emerged victorious in all five previous occasions, but Athletic looked well on their way to reversing that run with two excellent goals midway through the first-half.Firstly, Aduriz stooped unmarked to head home Garcia’s cross and round off a fine team move on 25 minutes.– Alvarez homage –Then, in the midst of a homage to Athletic defender Yeray Alvarez who was recently diagnosed with testicular cancer, the hosts struck again when Williams smashed home a volley from Aduriz’s neat backheeled layoff.Alvarez was in the crowd and the club announced earlier on Thursday he will return to training in the next few weeks after undergoing successful surgery.“I think in the first-half we were much better than them,” Williams told GolTV.Barcelona’s midfielder Sergio Busquets (C) vies with Athletic Bilbao’s forward Inaki Williams Arthur during the Spanish Copa del Rey round of 16 first leg football match Athletic Club Bilbao VS FC Barcelona on January 5, 2017 © AFP / ANDER GILLENEA“The referee left us with nine men, but that is football and we have to suffer. We will go to the Camp Nou and do our best to reach the next round.”The match was then dogged by refereeing controversy as Aduriz escaped unpunished for an elbow on Samuel Umtiti.Barca were even more incensed in first-half stoppage time when David Fernandez Borbalan somehow failed to point to the spot when Neymar was chopped down by Borja Etxeita.Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba were all booked for taking their protests too far, whilst Messi also had to be restrained from confronting Borbalan as the players left the field for half-time.“The first-half ended in the worst way with a lot of cards on our part and the players upset at what we saw on the field,” added Enrique.Borbalan did come to Barca’s aid just after the break, though, when he adjudged Messi’s free-kick to have crossed the line despite Gorka Iraizoz’s best efforts in the Athletic goal.Iraizoz tipped over a dangerously dipping effort from Neymar as the pressure from the visitors built and the home side were reduced to nine men in their efforts to halt the Brazilian.Barcelona’s forward Neymar kicks the ball during the Spanish Copa del Rey round of 16 first leg football match Athletic Club Bilbao VS FC Barcelona on January 5, 2017 © AFP / ANDER GILLENEAGarcia and then Iturraspe had few complaints after seeing second yellow cards for late challenges on Neymar.More Messi magic nearly prevented Barca starting the year with defeat as he danced past two defenders before a desperate saving challenge from Mikel San Jose prevented the Argentine getting a shot off.And in the dying seconds Messi smashed a loose ball inside the area off the inside of the post.No side other than Real Madrid has eliminated Barca from the Cup since 2008 and the holders will remain confident of turning the tie around on home soil on Wednesday.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000Athletic Bilbao’s players celebrate after Athletic Bilbao’s forward Aritz Aduriz scored his team’s first goal during the Spanish Copa del Rey round of 16 first leg match against FC Barcelona at the San Mames stadium in Bilbao on January 5, 2017 © AFP / ANDER GILLENEAMADRID, Spain, Jan 6 – Athletic Bilbao held out with nine men to secure a first win over Barcelona in four years and carry a 2-1 lead into the second leg of their Copa del Rey last 16 tie on January 11.Two goals in three first-half minutes from Aritz Aduriz and Inaki Williams put the hosts in command.
1 Dejan Lovren Liverpool will be without defender Dejan Lovren for Sunday’s clash between England’s two most successful clubs.Jurgen Klopp had hoped the Croatian would be fit to face the Red Devils but Lovren is still recovering from the hamstring injury, which has kept him out since the Stoke game earlier this month.Forwards Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho and Divock Origi are all still on the treatment table and are likely to remain there until February.However, the Reds have been boosted by news that Jordan Ibe has recovered from his hamstring injury and is in the squad.In the away changing room, Louis van Gaal has confirmed that Michael Carrick is out of the game for Manchester United, having not featured since making his 400th appearance for the club against Swansea at the start of the month. Other than the Englishman, Van Gaal’s injury problems have eased up after the busy festive schedule, with the likes of Ashley Young and Matteo Darmian returning in recent weeks.Sunday’s game has probably come too soon for Bastian Schweinsteiger and Phil Jones, who are nearing a return, while long-term casualties Luke Shaw, Antonio Valencia and Marcos Rojo continue their rehabilitation.United fans may get to see Adnan Januzaj back in a red shirt for the first time since his return from Borussia Dortmund with the Belgian having a chance of making the bench after a full week of training. Liverpool v Man United is live on talkSPORT at 2.05pm on Sunday 17 January.
Los Angeles will receive $2.5 million to fight gangs as one of six U.S. cities tapped for a new Justice Department initiative, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Friday. Gonzales joined Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to unveil the plan at a U.S. Conference of Mayors summit on gangs in downtown Los Angeles. “In these six communities, gangs are shattering the hopes of young people who succumb to their false promises,” Gonzales said. Locally, the money will go toward programs and enforcement at three Southeast Los Angeles housing projects with famously intractable gang problems – Imperial Courts, Jordan Downs and Nickerson Gardens. “There’s an assumption that gangs are terribly organized cartels and hierarchically organized in the business of selling drugs, and all of that is nonsense,” he said. Beyond suppression efforts, the grants will provide $1 million to programs aimed at keeping young people out of gangs, while $500,000 will go toward transitional housing, job placement and substance abuse, and mental health treatment for reformed criminals released from prison. Police Chief William Bratton said he was still waiting for details of the new programs but that the department welcomes any help it can get. Speaking at one of the gang conference seminars, Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell said it is important for the LAPD to work with federal officials because a tendency to work alone undermined crime-fighting in the past. “We didn’t reach out and work with others to make use of the tools we had and as a result, we had escalating levels of violence, especially gang violence,” he said. Los Angeles spends millions of dollars a year on gang prevention and intervention efforts, but the effectiveness has been questioned by critics. As the city considers creating a new department headed by a single “gang czar,” it has hired the Advancement Project, a nonprofit run by civil-rights lawyer Connie Rice, to analyze the existing programs and draw a new road map. Rice attended Friday’s seminar and noted that Villaraigosa and Bratton are the first mayor and police chief in recent memory she has not sued. She said they are making progress, but that the city needs to complement law enforcement fixes with stronger youth and community development. “We have hot spots where paramedics can’t go in without a police escort and I can’t go in without the permission of the Grape Street Crips in city-owned property,” she said. The announcement of the anti-gang efforts marked the second meeting for Villaraigosa and Gonzales, two of the most prominent Latino political figures in the country. They first met to discuss public safety issues during one of the mayor’s trips to Washington, D.C. Villaraigosa is a former labor and civil-liberties activist and Gonzales is a trusted confidant of President George W. Bush, but despite their divergent politics, they referred Friday to shared humble origins. “The mayor and I know firsthand the consequences of making good decisions,” Gonzales said. “And we know there is no future in being a member of a gang.” Dan Laidman, (213) 978-0390 email@example.com 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREOregon Ducks football players get stuck on Disney ride during Rose Bowl event Villaraigosa visited Jordan Downs earlier this week to promote a new surveillance operation by the Los Angeles Police Department. “This is a community that’s vibrant and healthy, but a community that needs support,” Villaraigosa said of the city-owned projects that have recently seen a resurgence in deadly gang rivalries. Gonzales offered only a vague outline of the three-prong anti-gang initiative, which he touted as a “comprehensive” strategy. U.S. Attorney Debra Wong Yang said the $1 million law enforcement aspect of the program will help pay for investigating and prosecuting gang members under racketeering, narcotics and firearms statutes. Gang expert Malcolm Klein, an emeritus professor at the University of Southern California, said he is skeptical of the reliance on racketeering prosecutions.
Elsewhere, Hearts attacker Steven Naismith has revealed that he armoured himself against the flak he knew would head his way upon his return to Ibrox by getting his wife and kids to give him pelters around the house. A bust up in the depths of the tunnel may have the rugby world talking, but it’s a coming together on the pitch which dominates the weekend’s Scottish football headlines.Sam Cosgrove’s crunching challenge on Scott Brown saw the Aberdeen debutant given his marching orders and ensured both teams finished a fiery Pittodrie contest a man light.Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers damned Cosgrove’s “naughty” lunge, before turning his attention towards Shay Logan after the Dons defender kicked the ball at the stricken Hoops skipper.Keiran Tierney, who scored the champions’ second goal in the 2-0 win, believes Brown was lucky to avoid serious injury in the incident, while Dons manager Derek McInnes says he had no complaints about his new striker’s “moment of madness”.
Asked about Dembele’s return, Rodgers said: “It is a big boost for us.“He started the season fantastically well, in terms of his work and all the preparation, so he was unfortunate to pick up his injury.“But he has worked very hard to come back and he will take his place in the squad.”The Celtic boss said it would be too much for Dembele to start the match but confirmed he will be on the bench. Moussa Dembele should feature in Celtic’s vital Champions League qualifier against against AEK Athens.Brendan Rodgers has been encouraged by the progress the striker has made since he picked up a hamstring injury last month.And the Celtic manager said the return of the French U21 international has lifted his squad as they prepare to face the Greek champions.Rodgers also denied the transfer speculation surrounding Dedryck Boyata, who did not travel to Athens, will has affected the preparation for Tuesday’s match. Rodgers added: “He has looked very fit and strong in his rehabilitation and the beauty with Moussa is he wants to play and he wants to be involved.“I am sure at some point of the game he will play his part.”Last week’s match at Celtic Park ended in a 1-1 draw which means AEK Athens hold an away goal advantage for the second leg.Celtic’s bid to progress to the final play off for the lucrative Champions League groups stages has been overshadowed by speculation surrounding the future of Belgium international defender Boyata.The Scottish champions have already rejected an offer from Fulham for the centre-back after his displays for his country at the World Cup and Sevilla have been linked with a bid.And at the weekend his agent claimed Boyata was disappointed as promises made to him have not bee kept.When it was put to Rodgers that the headlines had been a distraction, he replied: “It is more sad than a distraction.“He is a player who we would have loved to have been here with us.“He has been with us these last couple of seasons and, of course, at this present time it would have been great to have had him here.“But he is not and we have to put the faith in the squad of players that want to be here and want to fight for the result.“That’s my focus really, on the players that we have.”When it was put to Rodgers that Boyata’s agent was playing hardball with the club he said the situation was an “internal matter”.The Celtic manager also expressed confidence that his team can go progress despite last week’s draw.Rodgers added: “We are not planning on going out.“We are planning on playing well enough to get a result.”