Senin, 31 Desember 2012

Premier League: Manchester City will not appeal against Samir Nasri's red card

Samir Nasri: Appeared to headbutt Sebastien Bassong

The France forward was sent off in the first half of the champions' 4-3 Premier League win at Carrow Road on Saturday following the incident with Bassong.

Manager Roberto Mancini was furious about the dismissal after the game and indicated that an appeal would be lodged.

But after further thought, the club have now announced there will not be a challenge.

Nasri will therefore be banned for three matches.

A statement from the club read: "The Football Association has confirmed that Samir Nasri will serve a three-match suspension, following his red card during the 4-3 win at Norwich on Saturday.

"Nasri will now miss the New Year's Day visit from Stoke City, the FA Cup tie with Watford (January 5) and the trip to Arsenal on January 13."

Wigan v Man Utd preview

Rafael: Expected to return from injury for United against Wigan

Phil Jones could also be available as United manager Sir Alex Ferguson once again prepares to rotate his squad.

Ferguson noted Michael Carrick was particularly tired after Saturday's win at West Brom, whilst top scorer Robin van Persie seems certain to be recalled.

The New Year's Day clash is expected to come too soon for Wigan's Antolin Alcaraz as he continues his recovery from a groin problem.

Antonio Lopez, Ben Watson, on-loan Arsenal winger Ryo Miyaichi and Albert Crusat are also absent with injury.

Both Ivan Ramis and Franco Di Santo are available for selection for the Latics after making their returns against Villa.

Jumat, 28 Desember 2012

Rafa won't rule out Reds return

Rafael Benitez: You never know what can happen in football

Interim Blues manager Benitez has been linked previously with a return to Anfield and will be a free agent again at the end of the season.

Sunday sees Benitez take a team to Merseyside for the first time since he was sacked by Liverpool two-and-a-half years ago when Chelsea visit Everton in the Premier League.

And asked if he could see himself returning to manage his former club one day, he said: "At the moment, I'm really pleased here.

"I want to keep winning and you never know what can happen in football.

"I have a very good relationship with the fans and the city but I'm a good professional and that means I will give 100% for this club."

Benitez's work ethic has helped him begin to rebuild his reputation as one of the most astute coaches around, the Spaniard having got Chelsea's campaign back on track in recent weeks.

However, his latest comments are unlikely to aid him in his quest to win over Chelsea fans who still see h im as the enemy due to his Liverpool connections.

He added ahead of Sunday's game at Goodison Park: "It is always something special when you go back to Liverpool.

"My connection with the city is very strong."

Those links continue, with Benitez's family home still on the Wirral near the city after he decided against relocating them when he joined Inter Milan or when he was appointed to the Chelsea hotseat.

He said: "When you have children, 10 and 14, they have their friends around and have been there for eight years so it is difficult to move the family and you have to do something for them.

"I have to move around on my own and then find a way to be there for Christmas dinner or whatever."

Liverpool have nosedived since sacking Benitez and are on their third manager in that time.

To compound matters, they have also been supplanted as the top team on Merseyside by Everton, who finished above them last season and ended the first half of the current campaign eight points clear of their neighbours.

However, Benitez was almost at pains to avoid discussing whether there had been a power shift in favour of David Moyes' men.

He said: "I cannot say this. What I can say is that Everton are doing well.

"I don't think it is fair for me to talk about one or the other one. I think it is fair for me to say that we are playing Everton and they are doing well.

"Moyes is doing a great job, they have good players and a good team spirit and it will be difficult for us."

Rodgers rejects Roy comparisons

Brendan Rodgers: Brushed off comparison with Roy Hodgson

Defeat at Stoke on Boxing Day meant the Northern Irishman has exactly the same points haul - 25 - from 19 league matches as that of the now England manager.

Hodgson did not make it past 20 league games as defeat at Blackburn in early January 2011 put an end to a difficult and much-criticised six months in charge.

Rodgers benefits from a position of greater strength as he was the choice of owners Fenway Sports Group in the summer and while his record may not be as good as predecessor Kenny Dalglish, he is working to a different set of objectives than those given to the Scot.

He is a long way from his position becoming under threat and insists progress has been made with plenty more to come.

"I don't think about them to be honest, it is not something I am overly worried about," he said of comparisons with Hodgson's record.

"I have been brought in here to do a job and the owners have been brilliant with me.

"The backing I've had from supporters has been incredible considering and that is the most important group really.

"They recognise what is going on, they understand like I would understand the frustration.

"Any comparisons I don't really focus on and it is difficult to compare the two groups because there is a lot of youthfulness in this group but yet still a lot of growth left in the team.

"There is a lot of progressing to do because we're 10th in the table and this is a club which wants to be at the very top but the only way you can do that is by reconstruction of the work and building the squad.

"That is what is going to take a bit of time. I always say it's like a good meal - I'm not a great cook but a good meal takes a wee bit of time but also to offer a good meal you need good ingredients.

"That is something we will do over time and hopefully put a nice meal on the table for supporters."

A deal for Chelsea forward Daniel Sturridge has virtually bee n done while the club are still pursuing Blackpool winger Tom Ince.

However, club sources told Press Association Sport "to treat as rubbish" comments by Birmingham chairman Peter Pannu suggesting the club were in talks with Liverpool over goalkeeper Jack Butland.

"I understand there are talks with Liverpool, I understand that Everton might be interested, Southampton gave me an offer in the past, I know not whether they want him," Pannu told the Birmingham Mail.

Speculation has linked Butland with a move to Anfield for weeks but earlier this month Rodgers stressed he was not looking for another goalkeeper in January.

Only a fortnight ago second-choice goalkeeper Brad Jones signed a new contract and while rumours persist about Jose Reina's future it seems inconceivable Rodgers would let him go in January, if at all.

"We certainly won't be able to do everything in January that would help us, but we'll be able to make some additions that will h elp the group," said the Reds boss.

"We can look forward to that and then review it again in the summer.

"There are very few names we have actually enquired about, but we're hoping we'll be able to do something in January pretty early on.

"We need that wee bit more experience, especially at the top end of the field.

"We're hopeful we can do that and then we'll see what else January can bring for us.

"We won't be spending a great deal of money. It'll be between January and the summer time that we can look at progressing the group and then hopefully go again."

Norwich v Man City preview

Roberto Mancini: Aiming to bounce back after the Boxing Day defeat that saw City

Norwich's talismanic striker Grant Holt returned to action against Chelsea following his hamstring injury and lasted the full 90 minutes.

Andrew Surman (knee), Ryan Bennett (knee) and John Ruddy (thigh) are all likely to be missing for the Canaries.

Mario Balotelli could still be absent due to a virus, but Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy could return, while a cut to the head will not force Pablo Zabaleta out of contention.

Aleksandar Kolarov and Maicon (both knee) are still out along with the long-term casualties of Micah Richards (knee) and Jack Rodwell (hamstring).

Rabu, 26 Desember 2012

Jon Walters scores twice as Stoke defeat Liverpool 3-1 in the Premier League

Kenwyne Jones celebrates in style after heading Stoke in front

The well-deserved success for Tony Pulis' men lifted them above their opponents to eighth in the Premier League table, with Brendan Rodgers' inconsistent visitors now down in 10th.

There was an explosive opening to the final top-flight encounter of a busy Boxing Day with Ryan Shawcross rightly penalised for pulling Luis Suarez shirt by referee Howard Webb with barely 30 seconds on the clock.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard took responsibility and made no mistake from 12 yards, firing low and hard into the bottom corner as the visitors picked up from where they left off having romped to a 4-0 weekend win over Fulham.

But Stoke were back on terms soon after as Martin Skrtel's costly slip in defence after a long ball forward allowed Walters to burst into the box and beat Reina with some style.

And the hosts were in front in the 12th minute as the Reds switched off badly at a corner, allowing Kenwyne Jones to advance to the far post b efore glancing a header home, with no marker or man on the upright in sight for Liverpool.

Reina then had to be at his best to tip over a searing drive from Matt Etherington, while Gerrard side-footed narrowly wide at the other end of the field after good work from Stewart Downing and Suso down the flank.

Suarez drilled in a low shot from a tight angle which Asmir Begovic did well to block at his near post and as the interval approached Reina was quickly off his line to smother Etherington's shot following a deep cross to the back post.

The Uruguay international then clipped the outside of Begovic's post with a scuffed shot at the start of the second period as Liverpool looked to get back on terms, only to find themselves further in arrears in the 49th minute.

Walters showed superb technique to chest down Jones' flick on after a long throw into the penalty area before firing a first-time volley beyond the despairing dive of Reina.

The Reds goalkeeper needed treatment after a nasty collision with Dean Whitehead in the 70th minute as they contested a low ball into the box, but was thankfully able to continue.

Rodgers' side pressed in a vain attempt to get back into the game in the closing stages, but often looked more likely to concede on the break than find a way past Begovic once again, with the Potters No.1 turning away a long-range effort from Gerrard in the last minute.

Selasa, 25 Desember 2012

Brendan Rodgers: No one can demand where they play at Liverpool

Brendan Rodgers: Expects to do some business early in January.

The Chelsea forward is expected to move to Anfield when the transfer window opens and had a medical on Merseyside on Sunday.

And it has been speculated that Sturridge may have a clause in his contract stipulating that he will always be played up front, having been consigned to the wing on occasion at Chelsea.

But Rodgers said at a Christmas Eve press conference: "You can keep writing and saying these things but no one will come into this club and demand where they play, that's for sure."

Asked if there was any more news to report on the prospective signing, Rodgers said: "Nothing will be complete until we've signed a player at the beginning of January.

"Once we've signed a player, I'll have no problem in speaking about who we've signed. But, until anything is done on paper, there is nothing to say.

"We'll always do our business privately and in the way we want to do it. As you've seen over the last number of weeks, there are always going to be things written about players, clubs and dealings.

"We're confident we can get some business done early in January, which will really help the squad. Until that happens, there is nothing really to add.

"We don't want to make many (additions) in January but the one or two we do, I think can make a difference and help us. If we can do that, I think we'll have a good second half to the season."

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Owen targets goal against Reds

Michael Owen: Could feature against former club

Stoke striker Michael Owen has plenty of happy memories from his time at Liverpool, but does not look back too fondly on the occasions he has played against them.

The former England international enjoyed the most prolific days of his career at Liverpool, where he came through the youth ranks.

Since leaving the Reds in 2004 though, he has failed to score a single goal against them and Owen admits he has rarely had much fun when being on the opposing team.

The 33-year-old will be hoping the trend changes on Boxing Day when the Potters host Liverpool in the Barclays Premier League, a game in which he could make his first Stoke appearance since October 27 having overcome a hamstring problem.

Owen - who departed Anfield for Real Madrid and moved on to Newcastle and Manchester United before joining Stoke this season - told Independent Sports News: "It is a strange feeling really playing against your old club, especially one where you were there for around 15 years.

"Liverpool are a big part of my life and career and I had some of the best times of my life at the club.

"So certainly I have happy memories. I have not been so happy playing against them since; I have never scored and not particularly enjoyed it."

Stoke, currently ninth in the table, head into the clash with eighth-placed Liverpool in fine form.

Tony Pulis' men are unbeaten in their last eight matches and Owen is optimistic they can keep the run going.

"I don't see any reason why not," Owen said. "We had a really tough start to the season and we picked up points against some of the big teams.

"Then we went into a period of games where you would look at them on paper and say we had a chance of picking up points, and we have duly done that.

"We are on a nice run of form. Every game is tough in the Premier League, but there is no reason why we can't continue it."

While a maiden top-10 Premier League f inish looks a realistic prospect and a European berth is not beyond the realms of possibility, Pulis has continually insisted he will focus on no other target than reaching 40 points.

Owen shares his manager's sentiments on the matter, adding: "I think our ambitions are probably still the same.

"First and foremost everyone wants to survive in the league, no matter what team you play for, so you want to hit that magic 40 points before you start dreaming about anything else.

"Then once you have done that, you want to finish the season as well as you can and get as high as you can.

"The club were in Europe last year (in the Europa League after reaching the 2011 FA Cup Final) and that was a fantastic achievement.

"We know that is possible, but first and foremost it is about getting to 40 points and then we'll reassess from there."

It remains to be seen whether another of Stoke's former Liverpool players, midfielder Charlie Adam, will be involved on Boxing Day after he missed Saturday's 0-0 draw at Tottenham having been granted compassionate leave following the death of his father.

Minggu, 23 Desember 2012

AC Milan have ruled out moves for Manchester City's Mario Balotelli and former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba

Silvio Berlusconi: Ruled out moves for Mario Balotelli and Didier Drogba

Fresh reports over the weekend suggested Milan were lining up a 20million move to bring former Inter Milan ace Balotelli back to Italy.

Balotelli's future at Manchester City has been the subject of speculation for some time with the 22-year-old finding himself out of favour at the Etihad Stadium.

Milan are thought to be in the market for striking reinforcements with Robinho and Alexandre Pato expected to move on in January, but Berlusconi is adamant Balotelli will not make the switch to the San Siro.

"I can assure you that Balotelli will not arrive," Berlusconi told Sky Sport Italia.

Berlusconi also ruled out a move for former Chelsea star Drogba despite being an admirer of the Ivory Coast international.

Drogba is seeking a move from Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua, but Berlusconi believes the 34-year-old is too expensive for the Rossoneri.

"Drogba? He is certainly a player we really like, but I think at that cost only the Arab ian and Russian clubs can afford him.

"Who will arrive in January? I cannot say...

"Each time I talk about a player, the cost increases. Anyway there will be young players with perspectives for the future."

Sabtu, 22 Desember 2012

Martin Jol: Fulham outclassed by Liverpool

Jol: Unhappy with performance

The Reds were untroubled as they cruised to victory with goals from Martin Skrtel, Steven Gerrard, Stewart Downing and Luis Suarez.

Jol conceded Fulham had let themselves down.

"We conceded cheap goals and then we played against ourselves because there were too many disappointments," said the Dutchman.

"Overall it wasn't good enough."

Fulham have now won just once in their last 10 matches and this was their second successive defeat.

Jol could be forgiven for looking anxiously over his shoulder, with just five points separating the Cottagers from the drop zone, but the Dutchman is confident his side will steer clear of trouble.

"We're on 20 points and we have a bit of a cushion," he said.

"We've had a lot of injury problems, but once those players are back we will be fine. We played some very good football before and I'm confident we will do that again.

"But there's no doubt that we have to pick up the points and do better than we did today.

"The next two games are very important. We've got Southampton and then Swansea City; both at home, but we need to show more conviction."

Rabu, 19 Desember 2012

Hillsborough verdicts are quashed

96 fans died at Hillsborough 23 years ago

The Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge and two other judges in London have ordered fresh inquests following an application by the Attorney General Dominic Grieve.

Earlier on Wednesday, a new police investigation into the 1989 disaster was announced by the Home Secretary.

Former Durham Chief Constable Jon Stoddart will lead the new inquiry, which will focus specifically on the 96 deaths of Liverpool fans at the FA Cup semi-final.

The move comes after a damning report from the Hillsborough independent panel laid bare a cover-up which attempted to shift the blame for the tragedy on to its victims.

Home Secretary Theresa May said: "I am determined to see a swift and thorough response to the findings of the Hillsborough Panel to deliver justice for the 96 football fans who died and the families who have fought so hard on their behalf."

Mr Stoddart will be able to recruit investigators and staff to his team, but he will not be allowed to emplo y officers or former officers with any prior connection to the Hillsborough disaster.

He is also unable to recruit any officers or former officers who worked in the West Midlands, South Yorkshire or Merseyside police forces.

Mr Stoddart will also work closely with the previously announced Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation into police conduct in the aftermath of the disaster.

He said: "I am aware of the great significance and personal responsibility which comes with leading this criminal investigation.

"My first priority is to meet with as many of the families as possible and to establish a working open relationship with them throughout the investigation.

"I have held a number of meetings already and have been struck by the families' humility and steadfast determination to see justice delivered for their loved ones.

"My role is to ensure that we determine exactly what happened in the lead-up to and on the d ay of the disaster and establish where any culpability lies."

More to follow...

Senin, 17 Desember 2012

Brian McDermott says Reading paid for first-half display as they lost to Arsenal

Brian McDermott: 'A lot of home games to come which will be defining for us&

The visitors were 3-0 up at the break after dominating the opening period and although Adam Le Fondre and Jimmy Kebe offered a glimmer of hope, there was to be no miraculous recovery.

"In the first half they played very well and we diddn't get close to them. We changed shape in the second half and got better, got two goals but the fifth killed the game," said McDermott.

"We could have got tighter in the first half. Their three midfield players were excellent, but the second half response was good from our point of view.

"That game won't shape our season. We've got a lot of home games to come which will be defining for us.

"We have to do better than we've done. We play Manchester City away, then we've got Swansea and West Ham at home, which we're looking forward to.

"But we can't look too far ahead, we've just got to keep going. We're doing everything in our power to make sure we're in this league next season.

"It's a strong p ossibility that we can get players in and we'll try to do that.

"We'll see what January brings. We all know it's a tough window but we've been planning for some time now and that's what we'll be looking to try and do."

Minggu, 16 Desember 2012

Premier League: Chris Brunt pleased to see West Brom pick up clean sheet against West Ham

The Baggies ended a run of three successive defeats against the Hammers on Sunday, but were forced to settle for a share of the spoils in a goalless draw.

Steve Clarke's side will be concerned at having gone three games without troubling the scorers, but club captain Brunt believes they are heading in the right direction.

He told Sky Sports: "I think we were a bit sloppy in the first half. In the second half we put them under a lot of pressure but couldn't break through.

"To be fair they defended pretty well and at certain points we did come close to getting a result. A point takes us off that losing streak we were on.

"(A clean sheet is) very welcome. We haven't had too many recently so credit to the back four and Boaz (Myhill) as well. He's come in (for the injured Ben Foster) and done very well having been on the wrong side of a few bad results.

"It's a good clean sheet and a good point but I think we were a bit disappointed not to take all three in the end."


A stalemate on home soil prevented West Brom from closing on the top four, but one of this season's surprise packages have still taken 27 points from 17 games - and Brunt is more than happy with that return.

"At the start of the season we would have snapped somebody's hand off for it but I think we should be kicking on," he added.

"But it was important to get something today and hopefully that can help us going into the Christmas period."

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Steve Clarke says West Brom's draw with West Ham was right result

Albion failed to score for a third successive game, although at least they halted a run of three straight defeats and maintained their place in the Premier League's top six.

Clarke said: "I thought a draw was just about the right result. We didn't quite do enough to get the three points.

"As the home team, the onus is on us to try and win it. We tried to win it but nothing really fell for us.

"We spoke before the game about defending well, to aim for the clean sheet, which we got, which is good, because we haven't had one for a while.

"That is one positive aspect. It does stop the run of defeats which is another positive aspect and it's another point towards the totals we are trying to achieve.

"But there are not many questions to ask on that game are there!?"

Clarke admitted he had made a mistake with his 4-4-2 formation in the opening 45 minutes.

He said: "Maybe it was my fault in the first half because we went 4-4-2 an d it didn't quite click.

"But when we moved back to our normal system second half (4-2-3-1) we looked a little more lively."

Rabu, 12 Desember 2012

Guthrie handed two-week fine

Danny Gurthrie: Refused to travel with Reading squad for the game at Sunderland

The midfielder has not featured for the Royals since the 1-0 defeat at Liverpool in October, and is believed to have reprimanded by the club for not making the trip to the Stadium of Light.

The Royals crashed to a 3-0 defeat on Wearside, their fourth loss on the bounce which leaves them 19th in the table and six points off safety.

Royals boss Brian McDermott confirmed afterwards that Guthrie had refused to travel and is planning on holding talks with the 25-year-old.

"He made a decision that his head wasn't right to travel," McDermott said.

"Everyone has got to be going in the same direction, that's really, really important for me as a group, and we have had that for a period of time.

"You have to put yourself up to be selected in each and every game, and that means every player.

"Any player has to be part of what we are about. We can't deviate from what we have been about over the last three years.

"We are very much a bout the group - we have to be. We all have to pull in the same direction. It's probably not a conversation for this evening, but it's something that we need to address in the week."

PFA backing five-game ban

Gordon Taylor: Backing five-match ban for racist abuse

The sanction is one of a number of proposals being discussed by the game's ruling bodies, but has yet to be agreed by the Football Association.

Chelsea skipper John Terry was given a four-match ban for racially abusing QPR defender Anton Ferdinand, while Liverpool's Luis Suarez received an eight-match suspension for his abuse of Patrice Evra.

The PFA said on their official Twitter feed: "The PFA have agreed proposals with @FA that 'racist abuse' should carry a minimum five-match ban."

PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor said: "We are not opposed to it. We want there to be some consistency and to illustrate the seriousness of our approach to this issue."

The PFA also want all players and managers coming to England from overseas to have "cultural lessons" to make them aware of rules on discrimination under proposals to tackle racism. Until now only apprentices have been given such courses.

Meanwhile, FA independent director Heather Rabb atts insists the game must to respond to damning criticism of the handling of the Terry and Suarez cases.

Kick It Out chairman Lord Herman Ouseley has claimed there is "very little morality" at the top clubs, a lack of leadership and "a moral vacuum" in the game.

Rabbatts, appointed as an independent board member earlier this year and a potential candidate to be the next FA chairman, said Ouseley had raised important issues.

She said: "The issues that Herman Ouseley is raising are hugely important issues for the whole game and it has to respond to these challenges.

"There are a number of members from different parts of the game being consulted and we all have to rise to the current challenge.

"Despite the huge progress that has been made in tackling discrimination there is a need for renewed energy."

Selasa, 11 Desember 2012

Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill saluted Steven Fletcher after 3-0 win over Reading

The Scotland international has made a quick recovery from an ankle problem and helped lift Sunderland out of the bottom three on the back of only their second home win of the season.

Fletcher scored the second goal of the game with an audacious flick from Danny Rose's cross in the 28th minute.

O'Neill said on Tuesday night: "Fletcher had done absolutely no work whatsoever. When you were talking to me yesterday, I genuinely wasn't sure that he could play in the game.

"He came out this morning just to do a bit of a loosener and thought he wanted to give it a go.

"I personally thought if he could see it to half-time and just slightly into the second half, he would do great for us.

"He has been terrific for us, really terrific. You just feel that he is likely to get you a goal in there.

"Danny Rose did very, very well, but when it came in, he turned it into a goal for us and it was great.

"I didn't want people starting to get carried away with it.

"I just want to try with all my might to put a team together here that not only can compete, but that a team that people would look forward to seeing play."

Sabtu, 08 Desember 2012

Chelsea boss Rafa Benitez writes open letter to Premier League club's suppporters

Rafa Benitez: Chelsea boss has written an open letter to the club's supporte

Benitez has endured a testing baptism to his time in the Blues hot-seat and has been jeered by some supporters unhappy with his appointment in the wake of Roberto Di Matteo's sacking.

The former Liverpool boss saw his new charges claim their first Premier League win under his tenure at the fourth attempt against Sunderland on Saturday just days after their Champions League defence was brought to a shuddering halt at the group stage.

The Spaniard has highlighted the relentless schedule of matches since his appointment, with the Sunderland game their fifth in a fortnight, and was keen to pay tribute to the Chelsea fans who have been in touch to offer their support.

Benitez told his personal website: "From the moment I accepted the offer to join Chelsea, my team and I have worked towards improving the results and getting the wins that we all want - no matter what hours we have to put in and the effort and sacrifice in order to achieve this.< /p>

"As you can imagine from what you may have seen, we have been immersed in the tasks ahead and since the change in my work situation it has been a cycle of training and matches with virtually no time to do anything else.

"My official presentation as Chelsea manger took place on Thursday November 21 and I came straight from Abu Dhabi where I was giving a lecture. We literally walked straight off the plane into running my first training session in Cobham. After two sessions we faced my first match in charge against Manchester City and then just a further two sessions before facing Fulham in a local derby.

"Two massive league commitments in just three days. We had a couple of conditioning workouts with referrals and then another London derby against West Ham United. We rested on Sunday and then the same timetable again, Nordsjaelland and then Sunderland.

"The team's win against the Danish side (6-1) was the biggest home win of the season for C helsea but was not enough for us to progress in the competition. The results of previous matches of the group stage and the results that occurred on the night in other games left us without options. We would have liked to be able to offer our fans another ending to this story, to offer our fans another Champions League win but we now look forward to the Europa League.

"We are now challenged with the Club World Championship in Japan and it will not be easy - I tell you this from the experience of two previous participations with differing results. This team is willing to give everything to try and return with a new title to bring home to the fans.

"But let's get back to why I am writing this letter and the basic purpose of trying to give a full account of my new situation and feelings before I seize this exciting new challenge of coaching at Chelsea FC. It is on that basis of the challenge I accepted the offer that was made. With the same faith, the same honesty , with the same loyalty and dedication I put into each of my previous projects.

"That said, thank you all for your support, to those who have sent messages, emails, letters... To those who have called, who have tried to contact by any means possible... To all, I sincerely thank you for your support. We're going to Japan right now to fight for the FIFA Club World Cup spurred on with all of your support."

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Selasa, 04 Desember 2012

Chelsea agree deal to sign Brazil defender Wallace from Fluminense

Wallace: Deal agreed to join Chelsea

The Blues have long been linked with the 5million-rated 18-year-old, who will officially become their player when the transfer window opens but remain with the Brazilian club until the end of the season on loan.

Chelsea reportedly already owned a 40% stake in the player as part of the deal that took Deco to Fluminense in 2010 and his capture swells the number of Brazilians at Stamford Bridge to five.

Wallace made his senior debut this year at the age of 17, going on to appear 18 times in the league for Fluminense's first team, helping them to the Brazilian league championship, the Rio State League and the Guanabara Cup.

A Brazil Under-20 international, he was part of the squad that won the South American Under-17 Championship last year, and helped his country to a fourth-placed finish at the World Cup in Mexico at the same level, playing alongside new Chelsea team-mate Lucas Piazon.

David Luiz, Ramires and Oscar are the other Brazilians at Stamford Bridge.

Senin, 03 Desember 2012

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew delighted to beat Wigan and end run of four successive league defeats

The Magpies started the evening seeking their first win in all competitions since 28 October and hovering two points above the drop zone.

But a brace by Demba Ba eased the pressure as they brushed the Latics aside 3-0, although their cause was aided by the disputed red card for Maynor Figueroa for a shoulder barge on Papiss Cisse.

Ba's subsequent penalty opened the scoring in the 13th minute and was the perfect tonic for a team struggling with form and injuries.

"It's been difficult for the players and staff," Pardew told Sky Sports. "We've had so many knocks with injuries - game after game - and it was nice to get a break and it was a break.

"We've had to work very hard for that win. It's been four defeats in a major football city and that puts a lot of pressure on us."

Shane Ferguson, winger Sammy Ameobi and, in particular, midfielder Vurnon Anita received most of the praise.

"It's been difficult for the young players, " Pardew added. "They've come in when the experienced players haven't been playing so well.

"Anita was outstanding. I have to pay credit to him. He hasn't seen too many wins at this club and he's been terrific and will be important for us. It's nice to see him play so well."

Pardew admitted the Europa League commitments had been a real headache with the congested fixture list, but insisted the tournament was still a good thing for the club.

"We've enjoyed it," he said. "These Thursday and Sunday games have made it very difficult though.

"However, we're looking forward to the second phase and hopefully give our fans some away trips and something to cheer about."

Rabu, 28 November 2012

Glen Johnson says Liverpool are not too dependent on Luis Suarez

Glen Johnson: Feels that Liverpool can cope without Luis Suarez

The Uruguay international has already scored 10 Premier League goals so far this season while no other Reds player has managed more than one.

The issue adds further weight to the impression that, if Suarez does not find the net, neither do Liverpool - as was the case at Swansea on Sunday when the Merseysiders were held to a goalless draw.

However, Johnson does not feel the Anfield giants are too dependent on their 22million front man.

"We are not relying on Suarez at all," said the 28-year-old. "Obviously he is our main striker, but we are not relying on him.

"It's everyone's job to get around him and try and score.

"You need a bit of luck in front of goal and on another day we might have had

two or three (against Swansea)."

Brendan Rodgers' side are now eight games unbeaten in the top flight having recorded four wins and four draws.

And Johnson believes the Reds have a solid base from which to climb the standin gs as they prepare to face Tottenham.

"We will keep going and if we do get that bit of luck it will be okay," added Johnson. "It is a big game (against Spurs) and hopefully we will pick up three points."

Selasa, 27 November 2012

Harry Redknapp says 0-0 draw at Sunderland is positive start to his reign

Redknapp was appointed on Saturday morning and left Mark Bowen in charge for the trip to Manchester United that afternoon, where they lost 3-1.

The trip to the Stadium of Light was the former Spurs manager's first in charge of Rangers, and he says there were plenty to make him believe that they can escape relegation.

"It was a good performance, there were a lot of positives tonight," he said.

"I feel more optimistic than I did on Saturday, I must be honest. I thought tonight was good for us.

"Confidence is key in anything you do. That's the key, I've got to keep encouraging them. It's no good knocking anybody. When you are bottom of the league your confidence is low.

"What you are relying on now - there's a group who have travelled all this way tonight from London to support the team and we've got to give them something to get behind.

"QPR reminds me of my time at Portsmouth. The fans were very similar, great supporters, same ti me of stadium - small stadium - and if they really get behind us on Saturday I think the team can respond.

"If think we can become difficult to beat at home. We've got to win some games obviously but we've got to make the home form count - and the fans will play a big part in that."

Sabtu, 24 November 2012

Paul Lambert praises Aston Villa display after 0-0 draw with Arsenal

Brett Holman: Villa's Australian star has a rare shot at goal during the 0-0

The point was enough to take Villa out of the Premier League's bottom three as Lambert watched on from the stands because of his one-match touchline ban.

Lambert said: "We've played the two Manchester clubs and Arsenal in back-to-back games and it's a tough thing mentally.

"But I thought we played really well. We were excellent and might have nicked it. We defended really strongly. We are playing really well.

"We are a young side which is growing together and the way we are playing, we are a threat."

Lambert defended his decision not to include fit-again striker Darren Bent amongst the 18 players selected to face Arsenal.

He said: "It is my choice. I thought the squad I went with could win us the game. I've got 25-26 players to think about.

"The most important thing is this football club and I pick a team and squad I think will do well."

Jumat, 23 November 2012

Harry Redknapp on brink of taking charge at QPR and looking forward to challenge

Harry Redknapp: Set to take charge of QPR

The 65-year-old is poised to take over the reins at Loftus Road after Mark Hughes was sacked on Friday morning, and is on the brink of agreeing a deal following a day of negotiations.

Rangers are four points adrift at the bottom of the table after failing to win any of their opening 12 matches but Redknapp, who has been out of work since leaving Tottenham in the summer, believes he can guide them to safety.

"I'm hopeful we can get it done tonight, there shouldn't be any problems," Redknapp told Sky Sports News.

"I fancy getting back into the Premier League. QPR is a good club, with great fans and a great atmosphere.

"I am looking forward to it. It's a big challenge. It will be a tough job to take on but I am up for the challenge.

"Mark Hughes is a top, top manager and a great guy as well. He was just unlucky and they just couldn't get the results they needed.

"I'm ready to give it a go now and see if I can change thei r fortunes around. But it won't be easy for sure.

"There's some good players there and I have obviously got to find a way of picking a team that can win some games. They have gone 12 games without a win so you couldn't have too many worse starts than that.

"It's going to be a tough job to keep them up but it's a challenge and I love a challenge. I am going to go in and give it my best shot and if it works it will be fantastic."

Hughes' assistants Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki will be in charge for Saturday's game at Manchester United, but Redknapp hopes to watch that match before taking over for Tuesday's trip to Sunderland.

He added: "I will travel up to Old Trafford probably on Saturday and just sit in the stand and watch the game.

"If everything gets sorted, and I'm sure it will, I'll be in Sunday morning, will have the team in training on Monday, then fly up to Sunderland."

Redknapp also revealed he hopes to have his f ormer Tottenham assistants Kevin Bond and Joe Jordan working alongside him at QPR.

Senin, 19 November 2012

Stoke manager Tony Pulis was content to settle for a point at West Ham

The Potters went ahead in the first half thanks to a brilliant set-piece which saw Jon Walters make a perfectly-timed run from the far post to convert Glenn Whelan's ball with a clinical finish.

But the Hammers came out fighting after the break and Joey O'Brien proved the unlikely hero as he prodded home Gary O'Neil's cross to level.

Pulis told Sky Sports: "It was chalk and cheese. Two halves, one for us and one for them, so I suppose a draw is a fair result.

"The worst thing that happened to us was half-time. I thought we played really well in the first half and if anything I was disappointed not to come in more than 1-0 up.

"But fair play to West Ham, when they get the early goal it's a fantastic place and stadium to play at. Their crowd really got behind them and we showed a lot of resilience in the second half.

"Give us credit first half, but I thought West Ham were very good second half. They pinned us back and our lads had to def end for their lives."

Pulis admitted his side had been working hard on the set-piece that led to Walters' goal and that they had also employed some questionable tactics.

He said: "We have worked on it for two or three days and never scored a goal in training doing it, but luckily tonight it went for us. It was a great ball in and a great finish from Jon Walters.

"I'm not supposed to say this but we blocked, we obstructed, a player. I'm not supposed to be that honest and say that."

On O'Brien's goal he added: "I have just seen their goal and it's touch and go whether it was offside. I suppose if you are playing at home you hope you get it, away from home sometimes you don't get it."

Police probe McClean threats

James McClean: Subjected to death threats

The 23-year-old was criticised for his decision not to wear a Remembrance Day poppy on his shirt during the Black Cats' 2-1 defeat at Everton last weekend.

The Republic of Ireland international subsequently received a mixed response from the travelling Sunderland supporters when he was introduced as a second-half substitute during yesterday's 3-1 victory at Fulham.

It is understood that threats have been directed towards McClean on Twitter, a social networking site which the player no longer uses, with police confirming on Sunday they are investigating.

A statement released by Northumbria Police read: "Police are carrying out inquiries following a third party report of threats made on social networking sites.

"Officers have spoken to Sunderland AFC and inquiries are ongoing."

After yesterday's game, Black Cats manager Martin O'Neill confirmed McClean had received death threats, and backed him to rise above any negative reaction from fans concerning his choice not to wear a poppy.

O'Neill said: "James will deal with it (the booing).

"I think it is to do with the issue last week, it's a free choice in this world.

"James has lived with a lot of things - he's getting death threats too now so that doesn't help."

Jumat, 16 November 2012

McDermott unaware of Dick talk

Brian McDermott: Saddened by Advocaat reports

The Royals lie 18th in the Premier League and have not yet won a game this season.

Reports in the Dutch press over the last week have linked Advocaat to McDermott's job, with Russian owner Anton Zingarevich reportedly interested in talking to the former Holland boss.

When asked if he was aware of the rumours, McDermott said: "(He is a) decent manager - I haven't actually (read anything).

"It is pretty sad to have conversations like this really I think - you have a bunch of people here absolutely trying their best to the nth degree at the club."

Advocaat's managerial record will be well known to Zingarevich as the 65-year-old has previously been in charge of Zenit St Petersburg and the Russia national side.

But McDermott did not want to comment on the speculation and was more concerned with preparing his side for Saturday's visit of Everton.

He said: "We have got six draws, which could have been different, and great staff. Sto ries like that are stories - that is all they are.

"It is completely out of my control and is nothing to do with football, nothing to do with what we have to do on Saturday. It is nothing to do with it - that is the only thing that I would want to talk about."

The 51-year-old McDermott again distanced the club from a January transfer window binge.

Zingarevich is reportedly keen on bringing in a host of big-name signings in the new year to help keep the club in the top flight, but McDermott still does not see that happening.

"It came across that we were going to sign 10 players but that isn't the case," the Royals boss said. "He (Zingarevich) said we were just looking at 10 different types of players.

"We are actually looking at loads of players because that is what we do. Ten different players coming in is not true and it is never going to happen - we haven't got a budget to sign 10 players.

"I don't see a massive change in policy he re unless I'm right in the middle of it."

Kamis, 15 November 2012

Tottenham midfielder Mousa Dembele will not return for Arsenal showdown

Mousa Dembele: Tottenham midfielder will not return in north London derby

The Belgian playmaker has missed Spurs' last eight matches with a niggling hip injury but had hoped to be fit in time for the Emirates Stadium clash.

Villas-Boas said he hoped the 25-year-old would not need surgery to rectify the problem but may still not be ready in time for next week's Europa League trip to Lazio.

Villas-Boas said: "Dembele does not have a chance, not for this game. There is a 50% chance he will be back for the Lazio game.

"I think surgery at the moment is out of the question, hopefully."

Villas-Boas also gave updates on Jermain Defoe, Kyle Walker and Aaron Lennon, who all suffered hamstring injuries in last week's 2-1 defeat to Manchester City, with the latter most likely to be ready to face the Gunners.

"They haven't trained with the team yet. They have had lighter sessions on their own," Villas-Boas said of the trio.

"We will have to see today how they return to see if there's any disturbance. L ennon had a scan yesterday, and it's fine on his hamstring."

Rabu, 14 November 2012

QPR star Esteban Granero calls on the side to end their 11-match Premier League losing streak against Southampton

Esteban Granero: Ready for 'massive' clash at home to Southampton

The west Londoners are currently sitting bottom of the Premier League table and without a victory in their opening 11 matches.

Mark Hughes' men hope to bring that run to an end when they welcome 19th-placed Saints to Loftus Road and Granero is aware of how important three pints would be.

"We know this is going to be massive for us," he told the club's official website.

"We play at home against one of our rivals. We know the supporters are with us and they deserve more than we are giving to them.

"All we can do is continue training hard and give everything on the pitch on Saturday."

Granero has also been quick to dismiss talk suggesting he could leave the club as soon as January.

"I believe the first win will change everything," he added. "We are doing the correct things and that is why I think it's going to be better for us very soon.

"The beginning has been a little bit tough but I am sure it is going t o get better soon.

"Am I happy here? Yes, more than ever. I came here for a challenge and this is what I have."

The former Real Madrid star added: "I wanted to face a big challenge with this club.

"It is a club with a lot of ambition and it wants to grow. I want to grow with it. Together we can move forward at the same time.

"I know the future is going to be good. Of course words mean nothing in football but I will say that we are training very hard for Saturday's game and we are ready."

Selasa, 13 November 2012

Chelsea's approach questioned after police drop Mark Clattenburg investigation

Peter Herbert: Chairman of the Society of Black Lawyers claims "football ca

Peter Herbert's organisation asked the Metropolitan Police to investigate whether there was a racially-aggravated element to the "inappropriate language" Clattenburg allegedly used to Blues midfielder John Obi Mikel during last month's game against Manchester United.

Chelsea lodged an official complaint with the Football Association, but neither the club nor Mikel went to the police with their claims and the investigation has now been dropped.

Herbert told Sky Sports News: "What seems to have happened is that although Chelsea made a report to the FA they've decided, in their infinite wisdom, not to submit the same papers to police.

"It appears on the face of it to be another example of the football industry seeking to sweep racism under the carpet.

"If there is anything we can do to put pressure on the victims concerned to go forward to the police with this matter, then we'll do that.

"It highlights the fact that football ca n not regulate itself and really, on this issue of race, always wants to take the path of least resistance."

Herbert believes a thorough police investigation would also be in the best interests of Clattenburg, who has not been charged with any offence and strongly denies any wrongdoing.

He said: "Given the publicity this engendered it's fair for all concerned, including the person who's alleged to have made the comment, that justice is seen to be done and it's not dealt with by the FA internally."

But a Chelsea official later told Sky Sports News the FA is the appropriate body to deal with the complaint, and its decision on whether to charge Clattenburg is expected by the end of the week.

Liverpool are chasing Anzhi Makhachkala striker Lacina Traore, according to his agent

Lacina Traore: A transfer target for Liverpool, according to his agent

Liverpool are widely thought to be in the market for a new striker when the transfer window reopens in January, with Brendan Rodgers short of attacking options at Anfield.

The Reds failed to bring in a replacement for Andy Carroll during the summer transfer window and with Fabio Borini injured Luis Suarez is the only recognised senior striker available to Rodgers.

Traore is now thought to be on Liverpool's radar after impressing for Anzhi against them in the Europa League clash last week.

The giant Ivory Coast hit-man scored the winning goal in last Thursday's Europa League tie and Traore's representative, Dmitry Selyuk, claims Liverpool are leading the race ahead of Udinese to sign the 22-year-old.

"Aside from Liverpool, Udinese are another on the list of clubs to have made contact about the purchase of Traore," Selyuk, told Izvestia.

"I'm afraid the Italian side won't be able to meet the player's valuation."

However, Selyuk claims Traore is in no rush to leave Anzhi for Liverpool.

"At the moment Lacina is happy with his situation at Anzhi," Selyuk added. "Not long ago he signed a new contract until June 2016.

"There's no reason for Traore to rush."

Sabtu, 10 November 2012

Sir Alex Ferguson says Manchester United comeback against Aston Villa 'magnificent'

Sir Alex Ferguson: Delighted with win at Villa Park

United won 3-2 at Villa Park, coming back from two goals behind to grab the win in the closing minutes through Javier Hernandez.

"Absolutely magnificent result for us, it is a magnificent game I must say that," Ferguson told Sky Sports.

"Aston Villa have done fantastic today, they have run their socks off, and you have to feel sorry for them the effort they put in, but we never gave in and hit the bar twice in the second half, but once we got the second goal we came alive and it was a fantastic game."

Ferguson admits his side were told at half-time they needed a big improvement, adding: "They were careless in the first half and there was no real tempo to the game, not a shot on goal and they had to improve on that and they did.

"We have put pressure on ourselves today but we came through it and that is a lesson that we really need to be better in defence.

"You admire the tenacity of the performance when they need to do it, t hey do it and the attacking play was terrific at times."

Ferguson was full of praise for Hernandez who came off the bench to claim the match ball.

"He does his natural thing, he is fantastic in the penalty box, his movement, his quickness and being in space has got him three goals today," he continued.

"I have said in the last weeks he is fresh after a good summer break and that has made the difference. When he came two years ago that is what we saw."

Ferguson admitted Hernandez was now set to start against Norwich City next week.

"When you score a hat-trick you pick yourself and I think he will be playing next week," he said.

Wayne Rooney went off late on and is now a doubt for England's friendly with Sweden with an ankle injury.

"He has an ankle knock, he has ice on it and we will see how he is tomorrow," he said.

Jack Wilshere has no plans to turn his back on Arsenal

Jack Wilshere: Determined to help bring success back to Arsenal

Since breaking through from the academy system at the Emirates into the first-team fold, Wilshere has been forced to watch on as key performers have headed for the exits - with the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie opting to move on.

It has been suggested that Wilshere could head the same direction unless Arsenal can prove that they are capable of challenging for top honours.

The England international insists he is prepared to play his part in bringing silverware back to the club, with the 20-year-old midfielder of the opinion that he is already in the 'perfect' place.

"I've been at this club for 10 years and to come through the academy at Hale End and break into the first team is a great story. It's a dream," Wilshere told the Daily Mail.

"To have my family 20 minutes from the training ground and an hour from the stadium is perfect for me.

"Cesc wanted to go home. Home for me is Arsenal. My family and friends are 20 minutes away. It's perfect."

Wilshere is also aware that he is still learning his trade, despite the expectation being placed on his young shoulders, and is convinced that Arsenal can help him to become a better player, and a winner.

He said: "I think I've played 39 games in the Premier League, which is nothing really when you look at players like Tony Adams and how many appearances they made.

Wilshere added: "Our ambition every year is to challenge for the Premier League title. If we didn't think we could do that, we would be underachieving.

"People might say we're a long way off - and the table doesn't lie, we are a few points behind - but we know what we have to do. We know we can't afford to drop points."

Jumat, 09 November 2012

Defender Rio Ferdinand says Manchester United won't get carried away despite season's bright start

Rio Ferdinand: Keeping his feet on the ground

United eased through from the Champions League group stages in midweek with two matches still to play, with the 33-year-old coming off the bench for only his 10th game of the season in the 3-1 at Braga.

It has been a marked improvement by Sir Alex Ferguson's men on their miserable show in the European competition last year and caps a stunning few weeks having also climbed to the top of the Premier League.

But a wary Ferdinand said: "We are in the position we want to be. I wouldn't say we are over-happy.

"We set our stall out at the beginning of the Champions League to make sure we qualify comfortably. We have done that with games to spare.

"But in the league, Christmas is when we really evaluate it. If we are in the same position then as we are now, we would say it is a good start to the season.

"But it is still too early to look at the league table and start singing and dancing."

After a frustrating spell with back problems, the former England captain is hopeful of a run of injury-free games alongside Johnny Evans with Nemanja Vidic still on the sidelines after knee surgery.

"I have not been speaking about my injuries over the past few months because there haven't been any," Ferdinand added.

"Over the last 18 months I have managed it really well. The club have helped

me. It is testament to the medical and science department that they have been

able to help me along.

"It means I have been playing consistently, week in, week out. If the manager needs me to play in the midweek games, that is fine as well.

"I am more than capable of doing that, as I have proved over the past 18


Rabu, 07 November 2012

Pep Guardiola's agent has refused to rule out a move to AC Milan

Pep Guardiola: Brother was at AC Milan on Tuesday

AC Milan moved quickly to issue a statement denying any contact between senior management and Guardiola's brother, Pere, who was spotted in the San Siro crowd for Milan's Champions League match against Malaga.

But Jose Maria Orobitg told radio station TMW on Wednesday: "Guardiola isn't going to Milan? Who told you that? I am Guardiola's manager, not his brother Pere.

"Anything is possible next year. I speak to (Milan vice-president Adriano) Galliani all the time, and when I speak to him he is very friendly. We have a good relationship. Who knows what will happen in the future?"

Guardiola is currently enjoying a sabbatical year in New York after guiding Barcelona to three Primera Division titles and two Champions League trophies in just four years.

"Milan is an option, as are Manchester City and Chelsea," Orobitg added. "Pep is listening to offers and evaluating them. But Guardiola will not coach this year. We'll talk about it in June."

Speculation has arisen concerning the managerial post at the San Siro given Massimiliano Allegri's poor start to the season, with the Rossoneri only able to hold Malaga to a 1-1 draw on Tuesday.

Orobitg added: "Why was his brother in Milan? Because he represents a lot of Malaga players, why is it strange that he would go and watch one of their games?

"The press talked about it like it was a special event. He just went to watch a game of football. He is also Luis Suarez's agent, but none of the papers talked about that."

A statement issued on Milan's website on Tuesday read: "AC Milan denies the occurrence of a presumed meeting between vice-president Adriano Galliani with family or agents of Mr Guardiola, following news stories that have emerged from several outlets."

Selasa, 06 November 2012

Wigan goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi has dismissed speculation linking him with a move to Liverpool

Ali Al Habsi: Played down talk linking him with a move to Liverpool

Reports over the weekend suggested Liverpool were lining up a move for Al Habsi as doubts continue to surround the long-term future of Pepe Reina.

Al Habsi has established himself as one of the best shot-stoppers in the Premier League since joining Wigan, initially on loan from Bolton, before making the move permanent in the summer of 2011.

The 30-year-old has dismissed the speculation and insists he is happy to stay at Wigan.

"I have said it many times before but I love this football club, I love the fans and I hope to give them much more," Al Habsi told the Wigan Evening Post.

"I heard about what was said at the weekend, but that kind of thing is not of any importance to me.

"I am very, very happy at Wigan - as has been the case since I first came here.

"I am doing well, my form is coming on with every game I play, and my confidence is very high.

"All I want to do is concentrate on my job here and to help the team, b ecause there is lots of work to be done."

Sabtu, 03 November 2012

Robert Mancini has shrugged off talk linking Pep Guardiola with Manchester City

Roberto Mancini: Unconcerned over speculation linking Guardiola with City job

The Spanish boss, who left Barca at the end of last season following a glittering four-year spell at the club, has been linked with a move to the reigning Premier League champions.

Mancini is already working alongside two former Barcelona men in new director of football Txiki Begiristain and chief executive Ferran Soriano, but he shrugged off speculation Guardiola could follow.

Mancini said of Begiristain: "I am very happy. He has a lot of experience with a top club like Barca. If we did well in the last two years, I think we can do better in the future.

"If people write that Txiki is here and maybe next year Guardiola will arrive or another manager, this is not my problem. I'm here, I want to continue to work well because I think we are ready to improve and build a stronger team."

Mancini insists he will retain control over City's signings despite Begiristain's appointment.

The Spaniard, who formerly held the same role at B arcelona, joined City last weekend, with the club announcing his role would include supporting the manager in player recruitment.

But the City boss expects Begiristain to fulfil the same role football administrator Brian Marwood has in previous transfer windows of completing the deals once targets have been identified.

Mancini said: "I want to decide which players we take, this is normal for every manager. I worked with Brian for three years, he was sporting director, I think Txiki will do the same job.

"I have my job and Txiki will have his job. I don't want to go to talk with other teams to buy players, this is not my job. Like every sporting director, he will talk with me before buying players."

Kamis, 01 November 2012

Pulis reveals pride in Stoke

Tony Pulis: Proud to manage Stoke

And nor has his determination to keep pushing the club forward.

The Staffordshire outfit, hovering just above the second tier relegation zone when Pulis was named boss on November 1 2002, are now in their fifth successive Premier League season, with appearances in the 2011 FA Cup final and last term's Europa League under their belts.

During his decade in charge - which is punctuated by a spell at Plymouth after he was dismissed by the Potters' Icelandic owners at the end of 2004-05, only to return a year later following Peter Coates' takeover - the Welshman has overseen a considerable transformation at the club.

His feelings towards Stoke remain unchanged, though, and for all he has achieved to date, Pulis is certainly not about to take his position for granted or ease up in his efforts to continue driving them onwards and upwards.

Speaking this afternoon at a press conference to preview Saturday's away league clash with Norwich, at which he was presented with a cake in recognition of his landmark, Pulis said: "It has been tough, but obviously I'm very proud of what we have done and achieved.

"I can remember sitting in the Waddington Suite (at the Britannia Stadium) on my first night with the Icelandic directors saying I was very proud to manage Stoke City, and I still am very proud to manage this football club.

"It has been a fantastic time here. It has had ups and downs and it is difficult - football clubs are not easy to manage.

"But I've enjoyed it, and I hope people will look back and feel I've played my part in what we've done over the last 10 years.

"It has been very, very good, but the biggest thing in life and in sport is that you can't rest on your laurels.

"You have got to keep driving forward and pushing forward. I know you are always three or four games away from taking a lot of stick, so you have to be on the front foot as much as you can.

"If you sit an d take slaps on the back and people saying well done, then you take your foot off the pedal.

"The Premier League is such a tough, tough league and it can all fall away so quickly."

Potters chairman Coates has hailed Pulis - who has guided Stoke to 12th, 11th, 13th and then last season 14th-placed finishes in the Premier League - as the club's greatest manager.

Coates told Stoke's official website: "He has done a remarkable job to establish the club in what is widely recognised as the most competitive league in the world, where the top teams and top players are world class.

"That is why I believe that he qualifies as our best-ever manager.

"Tony did well for us the first time around because he steadied the ship when we were facing relegation and he achieved it on a very modest budget.

"There was a time when I thought we would never get into the Premier League, but all that started to change when Tony came back (in 2006).

"He ha d a clear vision of what he wanted to achieve at the club and we have made incredible progress in a relatively short space of time."

Rabu, 31 Oktober 2012

Saints second string fall flat

Nigel Adkins: Pressure on

Nigel Adkins made 11 changes to his side for the Capital One Cup clash with Leeds, but was given very little food for thought as the Championship side secured a quarter-final berth with a 3-0 victory.

It was hard to list one Saints player who started the game and emerged with credit, with debutant substitute Lloyd Isgrove the only player to draw praise from his manager.

And, despite shouldering the blame for the loss on the basis of his decision to field a new side, Adkins did concede that those who played will have to carry the consequences as well.

"It was a poor result for us," he said.

"It was a very attacking formation on paper, but on the pitch you have got to go and produce it.

"You're playing for Southampton Football Club, so every game matters. We've got supporters who have travelled, and we've put a team out that I expected to win this game.

"I expect the players to go and perform, so there's obviously going to be c onsequences of the result and performance for many people.

"We've come out to win a game of football. On paper and in theory that was possible, but we haven't produced."

The Saints were hardly allowed to perform by an on-song Leeds, who followed up their third-round defeat of Everton with another top-flight scalp.

Michael Tonge got the ball rolling with a deserved first-half opener, before El-Hadji Diouf and Luciano Becchio's penalty wrapped things up inside the last three minutes.

Having sat on a one-goal lead for the best part of an hour, United should have been looking over their shoulders. It was anything but.

It took Saints until the 70th minute to register a shot at goal - even then it was well wide - as Leeds put their patchy league form behind them in a competition manager Neil Warnock is desperate to win.

"We have talked about getting as far as we can and if we get beat, we get beat," he said.

"I haven't really tried in the cup for a few years."

Warnock was referring to his Sheffield United side's run to the last four of both the FA and League Cups in 2003.

Since then he has shared Adkins' views on rotation, and had sympathy with his opposite number on Tuesday night.

"I've been in Nigel's position at QPR, where you wonder about your team and your Premier League position is more important financially," he said.

"It is a conundrum, but we can only beat who is put in front of us."

Leeds have been drawn at home in all four rounds so far and have a 12-1 aggregate score in their favour.

They are now just a win away from the semi-finals and Warnock is hoping for a meeting with local rivals Bradford.

"That would be nice," he said. "It's great that Bradford have got through, and what about Arsenal coming back like that (beating Reading 7-5, having been 4-0 down)? We have got to be fortunate with the draw."

Selasa, 30 Oktober 2012

Reds apologise for fan treatment

Ian Ayre: Issued written apology for Jen Chang's actions

Cummins, creator of fictional Twitter character and spoof football journalist Duncan Jenkins, met Chang in a Manchester restaurant after the latter suspected someone from inside the club was leaking information.

At that meeting Cummins assured Chang his source was actually second-hand details gleaned from the internet, however, he subsequently alleged in a blog Liverpool's communication chief had made a number of threats to him.

The club investigated the matter and Cummins has received a letter of apology from managing director Ian Ayre.

"Based on everything I have heard and seen, including information provided by the parties involved in the matter, I acknowledge some of the elements you highlight were not appropriate," said the letter, published by sportingintelligence.

"I would therefore like to apologise to you on behalf of Liverpool FC, for any upset and distress this caused you.

"Clearly it is not appropriate for me to comment on how the club is managing this internally, and I trust you understand this."

The club are making no further comment on the matter.

Rodgers: Suarez will stay in PL

Luis Suarez: Loves playing in England, says Brendan Rodgers

The Uruguay forward has had to endure plenty since his arrival from Ajax in January of 2011 and it shows no signs of easing just yet.

He was banned for eight matches last season after being found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra while the focus this campaign has been on his perceived diving.

Former Liverpool striker John Aldridge expressed his concern the 25-year-old could walk away from the club because of the hard time he gets from opposition managers and supporters but Rodgers rejected that.

"I think he loves playing in English football," said Rodgers of Suarez, who only signed a new long-term contract at the start of the season.

"I speak with Luis regularly and he loves the passion and excitement of the game over here.

"What he is is a player who is mentally very strong - as you can see from his time here the amount of stick he has taken.

"It is actually a driver for him. It really motiva tes him and he loves being at Liverpool: he loves the city, the club and the supporters so I can't see that (being forced out) happening."

Suarez answered his critics, and more pertinently David Moyes with a sarcastic dive at the Everton manager's feet after his deflected shot brought the opening goal in Sunday's Merseyside derby draw.

Rodgers has been impressed by the way the South American has shouldered the burden of being the club's only fit senior striker and insists it is an privilege to coach him.

"I thought he was outstanding (against Everton). He is a breath of fresh air with his enthusiasm," added the Northern Irishman.

"He is our only fit senior striker here and he was tireless against Reading and then we had to play a strong team against Anzi (in the Europa League).

"People maybe thought the condition of the team and him in particular would waver but the condition of the group, and particularly him up front, was amazing.

"He is a wonderful talent who will always provoke comments both positive and negative but the bottom line is he is a fantastic player.

"He scores goals and his goals to games ratio this season is fantastic.

"He is really inspirational for the group because he works hard every day and he is quality at that top end of the field: he genuinely is a world-class striker.

"It is a privilege to work with a player of that quality every day."

After three tough games Suarez is likely to be given the night off on Wednesday when Rodgers' former club Swansea visit in the Capital One Cup.

Liverpool, the defending champions, came through the last round with a 2-1 win at West Brom having fielded a team with an average age of 24 years 10 days, while seven of the 13 players used that night were under 22.

The Reds boss has admitted league performances are his priority and so the side he puts out in this competition will be shorn of first-team stars and Wednesday is no different.

But he intends to pay every respect to the club he left in the summer, insisting the close relationship he had with Swans chairman Huw Jenkins remains strong and that actually helped when he went back to buy midfielder Joe Allen.

"It improved the Allen deal as I was able to speak to Huw and ask if there was a market for Joe and he came back to me and told me there was a possibility he could be sold," he said.

"We became close both professionally and personally there and our relationship is still strong.

"Leaving there was sad but I knew I was coming to one of the biggest clubs in the world.

"We are not in contact as much - we would have spoken every day and had many great football conversations - but there is still that respect there and an admiration for the work they do.

"I always like to leave on good terms. There is no problem there.

"But we want to get through and nothing will get in the way of that.

"No sentiment gets in the way of wanting to progress to the next round."

Senin, 29 Oktober 2012

Striker Romelu Lukaku could return to Chelsea from West Bromwich Albion loan

Romelu Lukaku: Impressed and scored in West Brom's defeat at Newcastle

The Belgium striker delivered a superb display and a goal in Sunday's eventual defeat by Newcastle United at St James' Park.

But Roberto Di Matteo confirmed this week a clause exists in Lukaku's loan which allows the Chelsea boss to recall the forward from his loan spell once the transfer window reopens.

And Clarke said: "What happens in January happens in January. That's no concern of mine at this present time.

"Romelu has been a good substitute for us and he has been patient and every now and then you have to give him a chance to play."

Clarke will look forward to next weekend's clash with struggling Southampton in a confident mood despite back-to-back bad luck stories, with a late loss to Manchester City preceding their St James' Park heartache.

He added: "If the players continue to play in the same manner, we will be talking about good points and good victories most weeks, so that is what we have to build on and continue to look at.

"We have to take our frustration into our next game, which is Southampton at home next week. The players know they have played well and deserved to get a minimum of three points at Newcastle, if not three."

Michael Turner was pleased Aston Villa's Darren Bent started on the bench

Darren Bent: The England striker was again a substitute for Aston Villa

Bent was a second-half substitute in Saturday lunchtime's 1-1 draw at Villa Park after former City boss Paul Lambert had again preferred Christian Benteke.

And Turner, who scored Norwich's equaliser after Benteke had opened the scoring, was happy to see his former Sunderland team-mate, Bent, on the bench.

Turner said in the Daily Mirror: "It was pleasing for us to see Benty on the bench.

"He is a proven England international so Benteke is doing well to keep him out of the side. Benteke is a strong boy and very good in the air.

"We let him loose for the goal and he took it well, even though he didn't get the best connection on it.

"But you know what you are going to get from Benty. If you give him a chance, nine times out of 10 he will take it."

Sabtu, 27 Oktober 2012

Moyes: Suarez diving a worry

Moyes: Wants referee to be strong

And Moyes says that fans may start deserting the game if players continue trying to earn cheap free-kicks and penalties.

Jack Rodwell was sent off for a tackle on Suarez during Liverpool's win at Goodison Park last term and, although the red card was rescinded after video replays showed there was no contact, Moyes remains outraged about the incident.

Looking towards Sunday's game, he said: "I've got concerns about Suarez, yes, because he's got history and these people are very good at it.

"Last year was a dive, and the referee made a really poor decision that ruined the game after 15 minutes.

"It will turn the public and fans off football if they think people are conning their way to results. When you're out to manufacture results, supporters don't like it.

"Supporters don't like the idea of people going to ground too easily. Everyone who has ever played football, everyone who's been involved, would hate that. You'd be saying, 'Get up!'

"People who play football find it very hard to go along with. Retrospective viewing of diving is nearly more important than some of the other technology they are thinking about."

Kamis, 25 Oktober 2012

O'Neill: Cattermole needs to learn

Cattermole: Sent off seven times

The 24-year-old midfielder has spent the last month kicking his heels after being sent off for the seventh time in his senior career in the 2-0 Capital One Cup victory at MK Dons on September 25.

As a result, he has missed the Premier League fixtures against former club Wigan, Manchester City and Newcastle at a time when the Black Cats have struggled to find their best form.

He will be back in the fold for Saturday's difficult trip to Stoke with O'Neill happy to see him return, but rapidly losing patience with his captain's ability to incur the wrath of match officials.

Asked if Cattermole had been chastened by his latest spell on the sidelines, the manager replied: "You would naturally hope so.

"It's time out and you sit and watch games from the stand and feel as if you want to be involved, and you realise that you should be.

"I would like to think that maybe he would have learned a lesson - but it's happened to him before and he h as come back. I am hoping he can do because he's very important to us.

"Over those three games we missed what he gives us, which is that bit of extra drive, and as a captain he is very good, he is very good indeed.

"It really will be up to him as much as anything."

Cattermole's dismissal for an ugly lunge at MK Dons defender Adam Chicksen was his second since O'Neill's arrival on Wearside, with the first coming after the final whistle in last season's derby draw at Newcastle when he was red-carded after collecting a second booking for comments he made to referee Mike Dean.

The Sunderland boss has spoken repeatedly to him about his disciplinary problems, and while he continues to admire him as a player, he knows the former Middlesbrough man has to clean up his act.

O'Neill said: "We don't have a conversation every single day about it, but we talked at the time he was out.

"Obviously he was disappointed, but not half as disappointed as we were to know that he was missing from the games and through his own fault.

"Now if it had been something that we had been able to have looked at, and thought there were mitigating circumstances or something like that, then perhaps it might have been a different issue, but no.

"And yet the previous time he was sent off he was booked in the first couple of minutes of the game against Newcastle, but had a great game all together and was able to show that discipline, which was very, very important, particularly in that game.

"Then to come off at the end of the game and find out when I arrived in the dressing room that he had survived all of that and got himself sent off for speaking to the referee..."

Chelsea rubbish Terry rumours

John Terry: Linked with Valencia move

Spanish agent Francois Gallardo claimed on Thursday morning that Terry was mulling over a move to Valencia after deciding to leave Stamford Bridge.

"Valencia are negotiating, and I am involved in person," Gallardo told Radio Intereconomia. "The offer is on his table. The player is out of contract in June and will not renew there for several reasons at Chelsea and he wants to come to Spain.

"He asked to leave. It's real. This has been going on for 15 days and two meetings have already took place. I think he will accept."

The Blues were quick to rubbish the claims, however, with a club spokesman insisting the story is "nonsense."

Terry, who has 18 months left on his deal at Stamford Bridge, is currently serving a four-match ban for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand.

The former England skipper has played for the London club throughout his professional career.

Rabu, 24 Oktober 2012

Hiddink sees bright Reds future

Hiddink: Sure Liverpool can be successful once again

In 2008-09 - the season in which Hiddink spent a brief spell in charge of Chelsea - the Reds finished second in the Premier League, but they have subsequently only managed to come seventh, sixth and last term eighth.

They have made a mixed start to the current top-flight campaign which has yielded nine points from their opening eight fixtures, and Hiddink admits Liverpool are certainly a different prospect these days compared to the team his Blues side defeated over two legs in the Champions League quarter-finals.

However, as he prepares for another meeting with the Merseyside club, the Dutchman has spoken of his confidence that Liverpool will taste success again.

Reflecting on those past encounters, Hiddink - who is preparing his side to meet the Reds at Anfield for a Europa League clash on Thursday evening - said: "Of course, at that time they (Liverpool) had different players and were more leading in the Premier League.

"This season they have had a problematic start, but this is a huge institution - it will always recover.

"Liverpool will always resurrect and come up to the top where they belong."

Hiddink - who took Chelsea to an FA Cup triumph, the Champions League semi-finals and third place in the Premier League during his three-month stint with them - became Anzhi boss in early 2012 and the nouveaux riche club are currently leading both Europa League Group A and the Russian top-flight having lost only once in 21 games this term.

Liverpool, meanwhile, are third in the group and 12th in the Premier League, but Hiddink feels Brendan Rodgers' side are the favourites on Thursday.

"You have to realise that the Premier League is one of the leading leagues in the world of football," said Hiddink, who insists he was not approached by Liverpool about succeeding Rafael Benitez as their manager in 2010.

"Although Liverpool are not in the top three at this moment, they have some ex perienced players and they are going for this competition and looking to go further in Europe.

"They are favourites and not us. I think Liverpool are the favourites in this group."

Anzhi have former Barcelona and Inter Milan striker Samuel Eto'o in their squad for Thursday's game, but their ex-Chelsea and Real Madrid midfielder Lassana Diarra is injured.

Reina a Merseyside derby doubt

Reina: Picked up injury with Spain

Having picked up the injury on international duty with Spain, Reina missed the 1-0 Premier League home win over Reading on Saturday and will not feature in Thursday night's Europa League clash with Anzhi at Anfield.

The 30-year-old will be keen to be involved in the league trip to Everton on Sunday, and was quoted on Tuesday as saying he was "getting better, little by little" - although he added that he was prepared to be "patient".

However, Reina did not take part in the training session with the rest of the Liverpool squad which was open to cameras at Melwood on Wednesday morning, and asked how long the keeper was likely to be out of action for, Reds assistant manager Colin Pascoe said: "We are not quite sure at the moment.

"Hopefully not too long. He is doing his rehab at the moment and is working hard in training.

"So we will just have to assess him over the weekend and we will see then."

Brad Jones deputised for Reina in the Rea ding game and is set to do so again for the Anzhi contest.

Pascoe, meanwhile, is confident the Reds will not be distracted by thoughts of the Merseyside derby in Thursday's Europa League clash.

The Reds make the short trip to Goodison Park on Sunday knowing they will fall nine points behind Everton in the Premier League if they lose.

Before then there is a European assignment to be tackled with the visit to Anfield of Anzhi, the Russian outfit currently leading Group A after two rounds of fixtures.

Liverpool are third, and having been beaten at home by Udinese in their previous outing in the competition, they could do with bouncing back with a win to boost their qualification hopes.

That, according to Pascoe, is the only job the squad is concentrating on for the time being.

"With the next game, it is always the same," Pascoe said.

"The boys are looking forward to Anzhi.

"Everton against Liverpool is a massive game, but it hasn't been talked about and isn't being thought about at the moment.

"We are thinking just purely about the game tomorrow."

Anzhi - coached by Guus Hiddink - have several notable names among their ranks, including former Barcelona and Inter Milan striker Samuel Eto'o.

Jones is fully aware of Eto'o's threat, but says that given the calibre of players he has to contend with every day in training with Liverpool, he is not worried by the prospect of facing the Cameroon international.

"For me, playing against whoever, it doesn't particularly bother me which player it is - it is the same idea when you go out, which is that you don't want to concede goals," Jones said.

"Obviously Eto'o is a fantastic player and has been for a number of years, playing at the top.

"You know you are going to have to be on top of your game, but I have to do that every day with the likes of Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard anyway.

"It is just about maki ng sure you concentrate and do the right things."

Senin, 22 Oktober 2012

Lowton hopeful of improvement

Lowton: Villa yet to win on the road

Villa are yet to win on the road in the Premier League this season, and Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Fulham was their fourth in five outings to date.

Lowton told the club's official website: "We have to keep our belief. We are not playing badly. We have had very tough away games - St James' Park, White Hart Lane and Craven Cottage. We have gone to those places and played very well.

"It took a fantastic goal at Newcastle to peg us back. We should have gone ahead arguably against Tottenham, and we were fantastic up until 84 minutes against Fulham.

"It's tough to take because the performances are there. We are just not getting the results.

"Hopefully at home against Norwich (on Saturday), we can get the crowd right behind us and get at them from the off. We were fantastic at home against Swansea, so there's no reason why we can't replicate that."

Rabu, 17 Oktober 2012

Spurs snub Sherwood approach

Sherwood: Spurs refuse Blackburn permission

Blackburn are in the market for a new boss after taking the decision to part with Steve Kean's services.

Numerous names have been offered as possible candidates to fill the void, with Sherwood among them.

The 43-year-old spent seven successful years at Ewood Park during his playing days - captaining the club to Premier League title glory in 1995.

Sherwood has no managerial experience of which to speak, but he has been part of the coaching set-up at Tottenham since October 2008.

He has attempted to play down reports linking him with the Blackburn post, claiming he has 'a great job' already, but Rovers remain keen to hold talks.

They have, however, come up against strong resistance from Tottenham and face a race against time in their efforts to appoint a new boss before Saturday's Championship clash with Derby.

Selasa, 16 Oktober 2012

Torres: I was Chelsea outcast

Torres: Felt like he wasn't part of the team at Chelsea

The Spain striker endured a difficult spell following his 50million move from Liverpool in January 2011, finding himself on the fringes of the Blues team.

Torres revealed in an interview with El Pais that led to him becoming disenchanted with life at Stamford Bridge.

He told the Spanish newspaper: "Halfway through last season, I distanced myself from the values I had grown up with. I had team-mates who didn't care if the team won or lost because they were not playing. I never wanted to be like that - [But] one day I discovered that I was like them, that it didn't matter if we won or lost if I was not playing.

"I wasn't part of the group. I discovered that I was not happy because I had stopped being what I had always wanted to be. In the dressing room, you can never lose that group concept.

"But I learned to look at myself and to realise that the only person that can change is you. The only person who can say: 'You're making mistakes, you've got to do something' is you."

Torres, 28, feels the switch of management when Roberto di Matteo took over after Andre Villas-Boas' short tenure offered a fresh start.

"When we changed coach [and Roberto Di Matteo took over] it was a bit more similar [to Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez's style]. That had a good side to it, which was that I learned: I became a better player," he added.

"I can now do things that I was not able to before. You can be the player that your coach wants, but you're not the player that people expect you to be. I spoke to Steve Holland, the [Chelsea] assistant, a lot and we worked hard on it.

"I became more mature, I came to know myself better and became conscious of the fact that it depends on me.

"I learnt to be more self-critical, to understand everyone better and to accept the situation.

"I learnt that if we won it didn't matter that I hadn't played. I had to keep working.

"When I retire the only t hing that concerns me is that no-one can say that I was a bad team-mate or disrespectful or self-important."

Torres admits it was not a straightforward decision to leave Anfield, where he had become an important player after his 26.5million transfer from Atletico Madrid in July 2007.

"I owe Liverpool a huge amount. To the people, to the men in charge, to Benitez and his staff, to the city. Liverpool is a fundamental part of my life. They don't remember me that way, but time will change that," he said.

"I could not have chosen a better place to go when I left Atletico.

"My son is a Liverpool fan and he was already kicking a ball before he was one. He was born in the football city; he had no choice."

Torres added: "I decided to leave because I had to take a step forwards. It wasn't the best way to have gone, but nor were things exactly as they were sold [to people].

"One day the truth will come out. In a sporting sense, nothing was hap pening; a new project was needed. We talked about that - about growth."

Senin, 15 Oktober 2012

Distin hails stylish Everton

Distin: Enjoying Everton's style of football

The Toffees had the third meanest defence in the Premier League last season but have managed just one clean sheet in their last six games, drawing 2-2 at Wigan last time out.

It hasn't stopped them getting results as a more expansive approach sees Everton sitting fourth in the table and Distin is enjoying developments at Goodison Park.

"We're going to have to try and find different ways to play," the 34-year-old defender told the Liverpool Echo. "Sometimes we're going to be able to try and play a bit like Barcelona, and I got stick for saying that before.

"But I really believe that sometimes we do play some really good football. I'm not saying it's for the whole game but in spells it's amazing when Bainsey (Leighton Baines) and (Steven) Pienaar link-up.

"We've conceded a few lately but we're still doing OK at the back. People only remember the last goal we conceded or the one before but you have to look at the whole picture and how many the opposition conceded too.

"You play against top strikers. Look at Wigan - not a massive club with a lot of money but we still came up against two good strikers. That's the same week in week out. It's not just City, United and Chelsea.

"Can we do better? Yes - but I'm happy. We can never be perfect because perfection in football doesn't exist. For one or two games yes but only Arsenal went the whole season unbeaten and that only happened once.

"We just need to be consistent and keep scoring goals. Yes we want to be more settled at the back but if we're much more defensive, do we risk scoring less goals? That's the question. Can you have both?"

Minggu, 14 Oktober 2012

Rangel hails Swans new boys

Hernandez: Tipped to get better by Rangel

Michu and Chico have quickly established themselves as key players under Michael Laudrup following positive starts to the season, and Rangel expects Hernandez to make an impact as well.

"It can be very difficult sometimes for players to arrive in a foreign country and adapt quickly," he told the club's official website. "It's a totally different country and the style of football can take some time to get used to.

"But I think Michu, Chico and Pablo have settled in very quickly.

"Michu has already scored six goals this season, which is brilliant considering he's only played in eight games.

"Chico, like Michu, is already a big favourite with the supporters. He is learning to speak English to communicate more with the rest of the team, but I think he is settling in very well.

"Pablo, too, is quickly adapting into this team and the Premier League. Of course, he arrived later than Michu and Chico, but he is a quality player.

"He's a Spanish international, which says a lot about his quality, and I think he gives the manager even more options going forward.

"I think he will get better and better with every game he plays, and that's great news for us."

Sabtu, 13 Oktober 2012

Toon won't miss strike duo

Ba and Cisse: Won't be going to ANC

Senegal's visit of Ivory Coast was called off in controversial circumstances on Saturday, with the visitors leading 2-0 and 6-2 on aggregate.

The decision to award the visitors a penalty in the 76th minute, which Didier Drogba converted after his opener, sparked crowd trouble.

Objects were hurled onto the pitch and small fires were lit around the ground in Dakar to leave the home side facing disciplinary action.

"The match was halted and the Lions of Senegal will not qualify for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations," said the APS, Senegal's official news agency.

"Senegal will now incur a sanction from the Confederation of African Football (CAF)."

Newcastle are likley to be without Ivory Coast midfielder Cheick Tiote, while Arsenal could also lose Ivorian forward Gervinho to international duty at the tournament in South Africa. Manchester City face losing brothers Yaya and Kolo Toure and Wigan could be without striker Arouna Kone.

Ch elsea are set to lose John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses to Nigeria after both scored against Liberia to secure their country's place in the tournament.

Nigeria thrashed Liberia 6-1 on Saturday to claim a decisive 8-3 aggregate win and seal their qualification for the competition.

Mikel and Moses were both on target, with the latter grabbing a brace as the Super Eagles strolled to victory.

West Ham boss Sam Allardyce is set to lose summer signing Modibo Maiga to international duty with Mali after he scored to help his country claim a convincing 4-1 away win over Botswana, sealing a 7-1 aggregate victory and booking their spot in the finals.

Fulham's Mahamadou Diarra and Queens Park Rangers midfielder Samba Diakite could also be involved.

Uganda were left heartbroken after beating Zambia 1-0 to send the game into extra-time and penalties on an aggregate score of 1-1, only to lose 9-8 on spot-kicks to the reigning African champions.

Tunis ia advanced on away goals after a goalless draw at home to Sierra Leone left the aggregate score at 2-2, while Ghana beat Malawi 1-0 on Saturday to claim a 3-0 aggregate success.