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25 September 2008

Venables turns down Newcastle role

Terry Venables rejected the chance Thursday to step into the hotseat at troubled Newcastle, who have been managerless since Kevin Keegan's abrupt departure earlier this month.
With the club up for sale by owner Mike Ashley, Venables was reported to have been offered the chance to come in as a caretaker manager.
Venables confirmed to The Sun newspaper, for whom he writes a column, that he had been in talks with the St James' Park hierarchy.
But the newspaper's website later Thursday said that the 65-year-old had “turned down” Newcastle's plea to become stand-in boss amid uncertainty over the club's future.
Former England, Tottenham and Barcelona boss Venables was one of the leading candidates to become Newcastle manager when Bobby Robson was sacked in 2004, although the club's then-owners eventually plumped for Graeme Souness.
He also has experience of working in the north-east of England having helped Middlesbrough avoid relegation in 2002 after being brought in to help Bryan Robson manage the side.
A similar salvage operation is required at Newcastle, who are currently second from bottom of the Premier League and were dumped out of the League Cup on Wednesday night following a 2-1 defeat at home to Tottenham.
That match was watched by 20,577 people, the club's lowest crowd in 16 years, which will not have helped Ashley's hopes of a quick sale.
Consortiums from China and Nigeria are reported to be considering bids but there has been no indication that anyone is willing to meet Ashley's asking price of more than 400 million pounds.
Venables's last job was as a part-time assistant to former England boss Steve McClaren. That role came to an end when McClaren was sacked in November of last year following England's failure to reach Euro 2008.

Kaka, Robinho in, Ronaldinho out as Brazil squad named

There was no place for AC Milan's Ronaldinho on Thursday as Brazil coach Dunga named his 22-man squad for next month's 2010 World Cup qualifiers against Venezuela and Colombia.
Dunga called on Ronaldinho's club-mate Kaka, whose last game for his country was against Uruguay in November last year, and Manchester City's new wonder signings Jo and Robinho.
Despite appearing at the Beijing Olympics last month, where he scored two goals before Brazil were knocked out in the semi-finals, Dunga chose to leave Ronaldinho out.
“Ronaldinho has not had enough time to improve with his new club. He is missing rhythm,” said Dunga. “I have confidence in him, as do all Brazilians, and I hope he can become again the Ronaldinho that all the world knows.”
Brazil play Venezuela on October 12 then Colombia four days later.
Goalkeepers: Julio Cesar (Inter Milan/ITA), Doni (AS Roma/ITA)
Defenders: Maicon (Inter Milan/ITA), Daniel Alves (Barcelona/ESP), Lucio (Bayern Munich/GER), Juan (AS Roma/ITA), Thiago Silva (Fluminense), Alex (Chelsea/ENG), Kleber (Santos), Juan (Flamengo)
Midfielders: Gilberto Silva (Panathinaikos/GRE), Josue (Wolfsburg/GER), Lucas (Liverpool/ENG), Anderson (Manchester United/ENG), Elano (Manchester City/ENG), Kaka (AC Milan/ITA), Mancini (Inter Milan/ITA), Julio Baptista (AS Roma/ITA)
Strikers: Luis Fabiano (Sevilla/ESP), Jo (Manchester City/ENG), Pato (AC Milan/ITA), Robinho (Manchester City/ENG)

Great Dane Tips Gerrard For Derby Glory

And the former Danish international also tipped new-boy Robbie Keane to break his drought by finding the net at Goodison Park.

"Steven is always our key man," Molby told the club's official website.

"Last season Steven got substituted at Goodison which surprised many people so maybe for this game he will want to do something special. It would be nice for him to get his 100th goal for Liverpool in the derby.

"I also think Robbie Keane will be relishing the derby. Newspaper columns have been full with stories about his lack of goals so far, but if he starts on Saturday then what a great game to get your first goal in!

"I'm sure he will find the net sooner rather than later and Saturday would be perfect. Once he gets his first then he will get plenty of goals."


The Reds triumphed in the corresponding fixture last season, coming from behind to snatch a controversial 2-1 win. Dirk Kuyt scored both goals from the penalty spot, while at the other end Jamie Carragher was lucky not to concede a pair of spot-kicks in the dying minutes.

Everton will be eager to reverse the result this time around, and Molby is wary of the attacking talents at David Moyes' disposal.

"We will have to defend well and we know they have got excellent players going forward," the former Ajax midfielder said.

"(Mikel) Arteta is getting back to his best and (Tim) Cahill is scoring goals. Yakubu can be a handful and they have (Louis) Saha who is also a threat.

"Everton's problem this season and it has been a massive one, is their defending so hopefully we can take advantage of that."


Rafael Benitez's men come into the clash on the back of some scrappy performances, having drawn against Stoke City last weekend before edging past Crewe Alexandra in the Carling Cup midweek.

Star striker Fernando Torres is yet to reach full fitness or form after a hamstring injury, and Molby admitted Liverpool's forwards would have to be extra sharp against the Toffees.

He added: "We haven't found our scoring boots so far this season but I think Liverpool will shade this game and win 2-1."

Mike Maguire

23 September 2008

Sheffield United confirm victory over West Ham in Tevez case

West Ham could be set for a £30m payout after an independent FA tribunal ruled in Sheffield United's favour over the Carlos Tevez affair, and the Blades have not given up hope that as a result of today's ruling the Premier League may also be forced to take action.
"The Blades began their legal fight for reinstatement some 16 months ago, which also included an arbitration hearing against the Premier League," said United in a statement on their website. "This award could now pose a question as to what the Premier League will do." United refused to comment further on the matter when questioned by today and it is unclear what further action the Premier League could take, with reinstatement an impossibility, though a hefty windfall from West Ham now seems likely.
United's claim dates back to the 2006-07 season when Tevez played a major role in helping West Ham avoid relegation, at the expense of Neil Warnock's side. In April 2007 the Hammers were fined £5.5m by the Premier League for breaching the rules in relation to Tevez and Javier Mascherano, but were not docked any points. Tevez was cleared to play on for the Hammers, Mascherano having departed for Liverpool in January, and the Argentine striker scored the only goal of the game in West Ham's 1-0 win over Manchester United on the last day of the season, a result that ensured the club stayed in the top flight.
United lost an initial appeal against their relegation in the summer of 2007, but continued their fight in an FA tribunal. That tribunal has today ruled in their favour.
"I can confirm that both clubs have been notified of the ruling," said the United chairman, Kevin McCabe. "The arbitration panel has awarded in our favour. The matter is still legally in process so I do not wish to comment any further until we have completed that process."
Warnock, the Blades' manager during the club's season in the top flight, said today that he feels justice has been done. "I think everyone in the country knows this is the right verdict," he told Sky Sports News. "This justifies what Kevin McCabe has said all along: that we were hard done by, that it wasn't done legally and we were fighting for our rights. It was scandalous. It changed one or two lives and it shouldn't have happened. This verdict puts your faith back into the justice system."
The Daily Mail today suggests that United are demanding £30,396,897.32 from the London club, with £21,788,795 of that figure considered to be compensation for the loss of Premier League status. The rest of the sum is based on reduced transfer fees, season ticket sales, merchandising and "lost business opportunities".
"We have no doubt that West Ham would have secured at least three fewer points over the 2006-07 season if Carlos Tevez had not been playing for the club," reads the tribunal's judgment according to the Mail. "Indeed, we think it more likely than not on the evidence we heard that even over the final two games of the season West Ham would have achieved at least three points less overall without Mr Tevez. He played outstandingly well in the two wins West Ham secured in those last two games."
West Ham are believed to be considering an appeal, but because both clubs and the FA agreed to the tribunal it is unclear whether or not they have the right to do so.
"We need to digest the full findings of the arbitration panel and will consult our lawyers on the next steps we might take before making any further comment," a West Ham spokesman told the BBC.

Chelsea gamble on 'player with three lungs' to fill Essien void

Luiz Felipe Scolari expects to have Mineiro, a 33-year-old Brazilian midfielder, available for the Premier League game against Aston Villa a week on Sunday. Chelsea are set to sign the former Brazil international, who left Hertha Berlin in the summer, to provide backup in midfield after the injuries to Michael Essien and Deco.
"Mineiro is a player I need because I lost Essien for six months and only John Mikel Obi is there for us," Scolari said. "He won't play this week but maybe after 10 days he will play. He needs to play in the reserve team and needs some time but that is good for me because he gives me some options."
Arsène Wenger had considered a move for the Brazilian but after watching him in a behind-closed-doors friendly the Arsenal manager said this month that nothing would happen "at the moment". Birmingham were reportedly also interested in Mineiro, who was offered an extension to stay at Hertha last summer but felt the offer was not good enough. He made 36 Bundesliga appearances for Hertha Berlin, scoring twice in an 18-month spell.
Liverpool fans may remember him from their Club World Championship final in December 2005 when the midfielder scored the only goal of the game, beating Liverpool's offside trap and slotting calmly past José Reina, to win the trophy for Sao Paulo. He was a late call-up for Brazil in the build-up to the 2006 World Cup, replacing the Barcelona midfielder Edmilson who suffered a serious knee injury, but did not play in Germany.
A year later, however, he was Dunga's first choice in midfield together with Arsenal's Gilberto Silva - keeping Manchester United's Anderson on the bench - as Brazil won the 2007 Copa América in Venezuela. He is highly respected in Brazil and Scolari knows him well, having given him his first cap in 2001. His tireless running makes him an ideal back-up for Essien - who is unlikely to play again this year - and his coach at Sao Paulo, Muricy Ramalho, once said: "The guy is incredible. He runs so much at times it makes you wonder whether he has got three lungs, not two, like the rest of us."
Salomon Kalou has said that more goals will follow from him after he scored the equaliser against Manchester United on Sunday. "It's my first goal against Manchester United so I hope it is the start of a lot of goals and it has given me a lot of confidence," he said. "It is a good feeling to come off the bench and score."

18 September 2008

Van Der Sar's Draws On Positives

It is almost unheard of for an attack that consists of talent such as Carlos Tevez, Wayne Rooney, and Dimitar Berbatov would struggle to score in Manchester United's start to the season. In five games they have only found the net on three occasions, all in the Premier League.

Dutch goalkeeper Edwin Van der Sar - recently praised by Danish legend Peter Schmeichel for changing the Red Devils' fortunes on his arrival - believes that despite their inability to find goals, there is no need to be concerned, because if they carry on performing as they have been the goals will eventually arrive.

"It is a missed opportunity on one hand, but on the other hand we played well," he is quoted by Sky Sports as saying.

"After the disappointment from the weekend [against Liverpool], it was important to get the confidence back... I think we created enough chances to win the game easy."

Manchester United face another tricky task on Sunday as they travel to Stamford Bridge in an attempt to kick-start their own season by knocking Chelsea off their stride.

Alan Dawson

Wenger and Kolo wanted me to join Arsenal – Barcelona ace

Barcelona midfielder Toure Yaya has revealed that Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger and his brother Kolo wanted him to join the Gunners this summer.
But the 25-year-old midfielder insists he did not want to leave Barcelona, after only one season at the Spanish giants.
He told RAC-1 Radio: “Both Wenger and my brother told me in the summer that I should join Arsenal, but I told them that I am very happy at Barcelona
Toure is prepared to be patient and wait for his chance to break into the Barcelona team.
He added: “We cannot play with twelve. I am physically fit, but one must respect the coach’s decision. I am a professional and if I am not playing that I must be patient for the good of the team.
“When you pull on a Barça shirt you are representing one of the biggest clubs in the world and you have to win every game.
“The competition is good. We have two very good players for every position and that is crucial when you playing for the best team in the world.
“Now we have to play well and with real spirit. All the players are conscious that this season we have to win something.”
[Source: RAC-1 Radio]

Big Brother Milan Spy Players In Training

The Rossoneri have been a disaster during the first few games of the season, picking up back to back losses in the process.

Vice president Adriano Galliani has demanded answers and it seems as if coach Carlo Ancelotti is providing them, albeit on dvd.

Il Corriere Dello Sport claims the club have set up a number of state of the art cameras and equipment around their Milanello training ground in order to monitor their players levels of focus.

The equipment has been positioned above the pitch so that nothing is missed as the players are put under scrutiny.

Ancelotti will analyse the images alongside his staff and then he will use them to highlight where individual players are going wrong.

It’s a delicate moment at the club with a number of reports suggesting that Ancelotti’s time is running out on the bench.

This latest attempt to try and smooth over the bumpy road seems like a no nonsense way to get their best from his players.

No more laughing or joking around on the training ground then as the club toughens up its stance in light of the recent problems.  

Salvatore Landolina

Kalou prepared to leave Chelsea

Chelsea striker Salomon Kalou admits he is prepared to leave the Blues if he fails to get back into the starting line-up at Stamford Bridge.
Kalou has not started a single Premiership match this season, under new manager Luiz Felipe Scolari.
He told Setanta Sports: “Of course I practice hard to have opportunities, but the manager’s decisions must be respected, even if I’m here to play.
“It’s up to me to work twice as hard at training, and to be honest I try to give my best in order to improve my football and hopefully it’s going to pay off.
“I don’t know what my future consists of, the season is still long. It’s too early to take a decision right now.
“When a young player arrives at Chelsea he’s happy to learn, and then you can have the opportunity to grow in another club or in here.
“As a young player I am aware of the fact that I have to make the perfect choice and at some point of my career I’ll have to accept to fly with my own wings.”
The Cote D’Ivoire international joined Chelsea from Feyenoord in 2006 for an undisclosed fee.
[Source: Setanta Sports]

Gerrard Talks Up New Team Spirit

There is a great sense of pride surrounding Anfield at the moment. Not only do Liverpool share the top spot in the Premier League, but they have also been celebrating a historic win over bitter north west rivals Manchester United, and also a come from behind victory against Marseille.

Steven Gerrard thinks this is thanks, in no small part, to the ''togetherness'' in their camp. "The team was very confident after Saturday [Manchester United]. We don’t want to get carried away and start setting targets about winning things, we just want to stay on this run, work hard, and I’m sure the results will come," the Liverpool captain told the club's official website.
"Winning brings confidence, and I could sense we were going to get another positive result before the match with Marseille. The mentality in the changing room is very positive at the moment," he said.

"I certainly feel we are stronger than last year. It was disappointing to lose in the semi-final [in Europe] then, and we want to go all the way this time, but it’s important not to get carried away."
"We know we’re a fantastic side in Europe and it’s always difficult away from home. We didn’t play well in the second half but you could see the character and togetherness," the 28-year old added.
"We just don’t like getting beaten," he concluded.

15 September 2008

We Are Title Contenders - Gerrard

Liverpool’s, and in particular, Rafael Benitez’s woeful streak against arch nemesis Manchester United had looked set to continue at Anfield last Saturday when they went behind after just three minutes.
But the Merseysiders rallied to snatch a 2-1 victory thanks to a Wes Brown own goal and a Ryan Babel strike 13 minutes from time. And their captain Steven Gerrard was understandably delighted with the result, but even more so with the performance as he believes it now establishes his side as title contenders.
When you get a win against the best side in the league, you know it will put you in good stead for the future,” he said after the game.
“We realise it is only early in the season and of course it doesn’t mean we will go on and win the league.
“But we can now challenge the other top sides like United and Chelsea because they know we are capable of beating them. And we believe we will be in the hunt come March and April,” he emphasized.
The 28 year old also singled out fellow midfielder Xabi Alonso for special praise.
“It has been a very difficult time for him throughout the transfer window because he didn’t know if he was coming or going.
“But he got Man of the Match against United and that says a lot about him.”
KS Leong

Mourinho told West Ham to poach Clarke from Chelsea

Chelsea's determination to prevent their assistant first-team coach, Steve Clarke, from joining West Ham is likely to be strengthened after if emerged that Jose Mourinho had recommended the Scot to Gianfranco Zola, the new manager at Upton Park.
Mourinho and Clarke enjoyed a fruitful partnership during their three years at Stamford Bridge and the Portuguese has told Zola to make Clarke's appointment as his assistant a priority. Zola and Mourinho spoke on the phone shortly after the Italian was confirmed as Alan Curbishley's replacement on Thursday.
Zola played with Clarke during his seven-year spell at Chelsea but has no experience of him as a coach. So he turned to Mourinho, who promoted Clarke from youth-team coach to his assistant after becoming Chelsea's manager in June 2004. They won two Premier League titles, one FA Cup and two League Cups.
Mourinho, now at Internazionale, believes Zola would receive the same support and high-level coaching from Clarke as he enjoyed at Chelsea. Zola has told West Ham's chief executive, Scott Duxbury, to continue the pursuit of Clarke despite the feud it has created with his former employers.
News of Mourinho's intervention will no doubt infuriate Chelsea officials, who are making it as difficult as possible for Clarke to leave. The former full-back's resignation was rejected on Friday before Chelsea, having agreed over the weekend to allow the 45-year-old to move, informed West Ham it will cost them £5m.
That demand has bewildered the hierarchy at Upton Park because Clarke has just two years to run on his £600,000-a-year contract and has been marginalised at Chelsea since Mourinho departed. They also see it as disrespectful to a man who has given the club almost 20 years' service and wants a new challenge. West Ham are happy to pay compensation but are not willing to go higher than £1m and are prepared to take Chelsea to court.

Why Chelsea will win the Premier League

Before the season started I predicted that Chelsea would win the Premier League title. I should make it clear that I am writing this article prior to this weekend’s games and I may look a bit silly if Chelsea have lost 5-0 to new title contenders Manchester City.
There are several reasons why I think Chelsea will win the league and although I am going to explain them here, please don’t think for a second that I am a Chelsea fan. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I am just giving an objective opinion.
Petr Cech is still probably the best keeper in the world. He didn’t have a great season last year following his horrific head injury and a further nasty injury to his mouth seemed to set him back even further. A decidedly dodgy Euro 2008 saw him make a horrendous mistake that led to the Czech Republic being eliminated.
Despite all of that there are signs that he might be getting back to his best which is very, very good indeed. (If he made another horrendous mistake on Saturday I will accept all of the ridicule!)
Bosingwa seems to have settled in quickly and immediately solved one of the few problem areas that the side had last season. He looks to be a high quality player who can defend and get forward to get effect.
John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho are certainly a pairing that would challenge Ferdinand and Vidic as being the best central defensive partnership in the Premier League. They can both play a bit and they can both be no-nonsense defenders when the need arises.
Ashley Cole is a player who it is hard to like. I’ve read his autobiography and believe me, that doesn’t help! Having said that, he has the ability to be one of the best in the world in his position and if he can fully recapture his form he will complete a formidable looking back five.
Deco has settled in really well to life in the Premier League and goals in his first two matches were confirmation of that fact. I was one of the people who said that he might struggle to come to terms with the pace of the game in England. I am almost prepared to say that I was wrong. We’ll need to see a few more games yet but the signs are that he is going to be a superstar in the Premiership.
Frank Lampard is a man who has suffered more than his fair share of abuse over the years. Hated by the West Ham fans for, well I’m not sure really and hated by the England fans because, well I don’t know that either. Averaging over ten league goals a season from midfield for the last seven seasons. Sixty four international caps and fourteen international goals. Described by Jose Mourinho as follows; “Lamps is Lamps. When he plays well he is best in the game, when he plays bad, he is the second or the third best.” He’ll do for me.
Michael Ballack is still one of the worlds finest midfield men. He has dragged an average Germany team to the latter stages of the last couple of tournaments almost single handedly. Towards the end of last season he was starting to show that sort of inspirational form to the Chelsea followers.
Joe Cole is a bit of an enigma. He has an abundance of talent and skill but has failed to establish himself as an automatic starter under several managers. His time has finally come now and I expect him to be one of the stars of the season.
Didier Drogba is probably the forward that Premier League defenders would vote as the man they least like having to mark. He has strength, pace, skill, movement, ability in the air, he can shoot, dribble, pass and finish. Not a bad player really. Obviously I wish he wouldn’t fall over so much and cry quite so often during games but none the less, he is one of the best.
Nicolas Anelka is the exception to the rule. He is Chelsea’s version of Manchester United’s Darren Fletcher, Liverpool’s Dirk Kuyt and Arsenal’s Emmanuel Eboue. You just wonder how they get a place in such a great team.
Add to them the injured Michael Essien, undoubtedly one of the best players of his type in the world, young Scott Sinclair, maybe an even brighter prospect than Theo Walcott, Wayne Bridge, the second best English left back in the country, Carlo Cudicini, some would say the second best keeper in the country, Obi Mikel, Salomon Kalou, Paulo Ferreira, Alex, Belletti and Malouda, (ok, maybe not Malouda) and you have a pretty formidable squad.
Oh yes, there’s one person I forgot to mention. Luis Felipe Scolari. It’s early days, but he doesn’t seem to have done too much wrong yet does he?

FIFA boss expects successful World Cup in South Africa

FIFA president Sepp Blatter said Sunday he had no doubt that South Africa would host a successful World Cup, adding there was no 2010 plan B.
“The plan B is South Africa and the plan C is South Africa,” Blatter told a media briefing after meeting President Thabo Mbeki in Pretoria.
“We are informed and monitoring all the work and we have no doubt that when it comes to stadia, when it comes to the logistical organisation, that everything will be done.”
Blatter is heading a four-day FIFA delegation to South Africa to inspect venues and meet political leaders, including former president Nelson Mandela.
The cup would give South Africa, which has a high levels of violent crime, as a legacy of being identified as a safe country, he said.
“Most of the criticism now is that it is not secure (…) but you go to big cities anywhere in the world (…) tell me where you have 100 security? It does not exist.”
Both Blatter and Mbeki said a change of government in next year's elections would not affect the cup preparations.
“I'm saying quite firmly that we are on course with regard to meeting our obligations,” Mbeki said.
“It doesn't matter what happens here with regard to whatever the political challenges, this country will meet its commitments to FIFA to (…) ensure that we have a very successful 2010 FIFA soccer world cup. That will happen.”
Mbeki was responding to a question about a court judgment last week in which it was implied that his government had meddled in corruption charges brought against Jacob Zuma, tipped as South Africa's next president and whom Blatter will meet on his trip.
The court ruling led to widespread debate over Mbeki's future in weekend media.
Blatter said he had a special dedication and love for Africa, where football was “more than just kicking a ball.”
A World Cup in South Africa would show that Africans were able to host the FIFA event, he said. “It is justice to South Africa for what Africa has given to the world of football.”

Ronaldo confident of more personal awards this season

Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo believes he changed the game by scoring 31 goals from midfield in the Premier League last season to win the European Golden Boot award.
“With this Golden Boot I have changed football a little. Usually strikers won it and I’m a winger,” the Portugal international told La Gazzetta dello Sport after receiving the trophy at a ceremony in his native Madeira on Saturday.
Ronaldo said he is confident of winning the Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year prizes after inspiring United to the Champions League-Premier League double last term.
“The best candidate for the other prizes is Cristiano Ronaldo,” the 23-year-old said.
“To be honest, I think I have been the most consistent and the best. And over time I want to enter the book of the all-time best players.”
Ronaldo, who has been sidelined since undergoing surgery on his right ankle in July, said he does not fear a hostile reception at Old Trafford after making an unsuccessful request to be sold to Real Madrid in the close season.
“When I put on the (United) shirt, I give my all. And I’m already in the history of the club,” he said. “When I play again the fans will love me again.”
He also said it was unlikely he would move to Manchester City, after media reports linked him to a big money move to the cross-town rivals.
“No one knows my future, but I don’t see myself in the shirt of another Manchester team,” he said.

14 September 2008

Chelsea Chase ‘The New Theo Walcott’

According to the People, the Blues are preparing a £2 million offer for the teen who comes with a huge reputation despite his tender years.
Whilst Wolves will be desperate to keep hold of their hot prospect, they are unlikely to be able to resist an offer from Chelsea although it might take a record bid for a teenager to prise him away from Molineux.
Ismail’s searing pace and skill on the ball has earned him comparisons to Arsenal’s Theo Walcott. The young Gunner, who is four years older than the Wolves player, hit the headlines this week after scoring a hat-trick for England against Croatia.
Walcott, made his name at Southampton, becoming the youngest player even to pull on a Saints jersey when he appeared for the first team when he was just 16.
He spent two seasons at St Mary’s before Arsene Wenger snapped him up for an initial fee of £5 million, potentially rising to £12 million, a record at the time for a teenager.
The Wolves star, meanwhile, has been earning rave reviews for his performances in the Milk Cup which has brought him to the attention of scouts at Stamford Bridge.
The 15-year old was voted player of the tournament despite his side losing in the final of the competition. The Milk Cup is a prestigious under 16s tournament and clubs including Chelsea, Borussia Dortmund, Maccabi Tel Aviv all took part this year with Everton triumphing in the final 3-2.

13 September 2008

Super-sub Babel ends Liverpool´s Man Utd misery

Ryan Babel ended Liverpool's four-year wait for a league victory against Manchester United as Rafa Benitez's team fought back from a goal down to win 2-1 at Anfield on Saturday.
Carlos Tevez's third minute opener looked set to extend United's unbeaten run against their bitter rivals, but two defensive errors by the champions gifted Liverpool the victory before Nemanja Vidic was sent off for two bookings in the ninetieth minute, which will now rule him out next Sunday's clash with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
It had all started so well for United, with Dimitar Berbatov, making his United debut following his deadline day arrival from Tottenham, needing just three minutes to emphasise the qualities he will bring to Sir Alex Ferguson's squad.
The Bulgarian had already given an example of centre-forward abilities inside the opening minute when his shot from 12 yards was blocked by Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel. Skrtel appeared to block the shot with his trailing arm, but referee Howard Webb ruled out United's claims for a penalty.
Berbatov's presence did tee-up a United goal moments later, however, when he showed his awareness to pull the ball back to Tevez, who side-footed past goalkeeper Pepe Reina from 18 yards to score his second goal at Anfield in successive seasons.
With Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres both nursing slight injury problems on the substitutes' bench, Liverpool were without their two leading players as they attempted to overturn United's lead.
And the early signs were not good for Benitez's team as European champions United strutted around, looking likely to add to their lead before Liverpool could even get out of first gear.
But the home side managed to gain a foothold in the game with Javier Mascherano inspiring Liverpool with his energy and refusal to be overrun by United's powerful midfield.
The Argentinian was first to virtually every ball and he broke up United's momentum and allowed Liverpool to mount attacks of their own.
United rode their luck with Edwin van der Sar saving brilliantly from Dirk Kuyt, but the Dutch goalkeeper was at fault when Liverpool equalised on 26 minutes through Wes Brown's own goal.
Xabi Alonso's shot from 35 yards appeared harmless until it deflected off United defender Patrice Evra, but the ball should not have caused Van der Sar any serious problems.
But the veteran keeper over-stretched as he raced out to collect the ball and he could only palm the ball onto Brown's knees before seeing it bobble into the empty net.
To make matters worse for United, England midfielder Michael Carrick was then forced out of the game with an ankle injury following a challenge with Mascherano that resulted in him re-appearing in the dug-out after the break with the aid of crutches and a protective boot on his right foot.
Despite the absence of Gerrard and Torres, Liverpool grew in confidence in the second-half and they continued to push United back deep into their own territory.
But Irish forward Robbie Keane, still searching for his first Liverpool goal since his close season arrival from Spurs, failed to get behind the United defenders and it was United substitute Giggs that went closest to adding to the scoring with a 70th minute lob that was well saved by Reina.
Instead of winning the game for United, though, Giggs ultimately lost it for Ferguson's men when he allowed Mascherano to steal possession in the touchline in front of The Kop.
Giggs should have cleared, but Mascherano claimed the ball and squared to Babel, who netted from 12 yards to cap a dramatic Liverpool fightback.

Liverpool vs Manchester United

77min -  GOAL Ryan Babel gets the ball from Kuyt and blasts the ball home from 12 yards!
70 min - Ryan Giggs, on for Carrick, goes for the half-volley that nearly beats Reina!
56 min - Yossi Benayoun beats the United offside trap and glides in for the shot, but van der Sar blocks the ball with his face!
Halftime Report
Liverpool need Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard to put them over the top.
As potent as the Manchester United front line have been, they have failed to really test Reina in the Liverpool goal. The Red Devils are level due to some horrendous goalkeeping by van der Sar, with Liverpool putting the pressure on the Man United defence after the own goal.
Michael Carrick seems to be limping after an unexpected crunching tackle from Benayoun, with Man United set to bring on Owen Hargreaves if necessary.
27 min - GOAL Catastrophe for Man United as Van der Sar makes a hash of the cross, palming the ball to the shins of Wes Brown and conceding the own goal.
12 min - Van der Sar fumbles the cross and Dirk Kuyt nearly scores. Great block by the Man United defence.
3 min - GOAL Dimitar Berbatov pulls two defenders into the box and cuts back for a trailing Carlos Tevez who places the ball past a strandard Edwin van der Sar.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Skrtel, Carragher, Aurelio, Benayoun, Alonso, Mascherano, Riera, Kuyt, Keane

Subs: Cavalieri, Dossena, Hyypia, Gerrard, Torres, Babel, Ngog

Man United: Van der Sar, Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Rooney, Scholes, Carrick, Anderson, Tevez, Berbatov

Subs: Kuszczak, Nani, Evans, Hargreaves, O'Shea, Fletcher, Giggs

Referee: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire)

Fabio Capello The Greatest England Manager Since Steve McClaren

After his team's magnificent win in Croatia on Wednesday, England boss Fabio Capello is now being hailed as this country's greatest international manager since Steve McClaren.

England dealt the Croats a severe drubbing in the 4-1 victory, with pint-sized Arsenal youth Theo Walcott helping himself to a hat-trick in the process, and Capello's decision to play the Barack Obama lookalike has been seen as 'inspirational'.

Leaving David Beckham on the bench until five minutes from the end, and replacing John Terry with Matthew Upson to give the Chelsea captain a two-minute breather on 88 minutes, were also deemed, by the media, to be "masterful modern football management decisions not seen since the McClaren era".

Capello has led England to the very top of Group 6 with wins against, not only the brilliant Croats, but also fellow world giants, Andorra, who were brushed aside 2-0, after another sublime England performance that had many writers reaching for their dictionaries for new 'worst' superlatives.

England's next World Cup qualifying match is against the might of Kazakhstan at Wembley on October 11th, when, in the event of a home victory, Capello will be crowned as England's greatest-ever Italian coach, bar none.

Schalke fight fire with Fährmann

It will probably be the most spectacular debut in the Bundesliga this season. With a crowd of more than 80,000 expected for arguably the most famous derby in Germany, 19-year-old goalkeeper Ralf Fährmann will make his first appearance for FC Schalke 04 on Saturday at BV Borussia Dortmund's Westfalenstadion. Fans in Gelsenkirchen may be nervous, but not Fährmann. "This is great," he said. "I'm ready."
No choice
Top of the league after three games, Schalke have been hit by a series of goalkeeping blows. With first-choice Manuel Neuer just returning to training after a broken metatarsal, deputy Mathias Schober tore a muscle in his right calf earlier this week. Coach Fred Rutten has no option but to give Fährmann his baptism of fire. "On the one hand this is not good," Fährmann said, "because I don't want my team-mates to be injured. On the other hand it's something special to play in a derby like this. I have the chance to show what I'm capable of against Dortmund."
'Strong personality'
Fährmann has spent the international break with Germany's Under-21s, though he failed to feature in either of their UEFA European U21 Championship qualifiers – against Northern Ireland and Israel – hardly ideal preparation for the 132nd Ruhr derby. Nonetheless, the teenager believes he can handle the pressure. "I know this is a very special and important match for our supporters, and I know how excited they are," he said. "Everybody wants to win against Dortmund. I think I'm cool enough. I left home in Chemnitz when I was 14 to play football for Schalke. I have a strong and stable personality."
'Cool customer'
Rutten may have been forced to blood Fährmann, but the 45-year-old Dutchman – who arrived in the summer from FC Twente – is putting on a brave face. "I'm not nervous because he is playing," he said. "He is a cool customer." Dortmund have won only one of their last nine home matches against Schalke, and their task could be made harder by the presence of forward Jefferson Farfán, poised for a Bundesliga debut for the visitors following his move from PSV Eindhoven. Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp knows how much is at stake, even this early in the campaign: "It's a very special match, so I don't see why I should pretend it's not."

Scolari: Robinho worth huge price tag

Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari believes Robinho is worth every penny of the £32.4million Manchester City paid for the Brazilian - even though his bosses thought otherwise on transfer deadline day.
The former Real Madrid player is set to make his City debut this evening against the club that had been negotiating for weeks to buy him.
In the end Chelsea refused to meet Real's asking price and City - having just been taken over by the ultra-wealthy Abu Dhabi United Group - then astonished the world by securing his signature in next to no time.
Asked if City had paid too much, Scolari replied: "No. He's a very good player. If I have money to buy a fantastic house, I buy it."
Robinho was the one player Scolari wanted to bring to Stamford Bridge after his initial primary target, Portugal midfielder Deco, had been signed with relative ease from Barcelona.
But the Brazilian insisted he had played no part in the Robinho negotiations and was content to leave that role to chief executive Peter Kenyon.
He said: "It was a technical decision and when it is about money the board makes the decision. The coach needs to say, 'If I want this player, this is why.' If that didn't happen, the club would buy this or that.
"I am the coach and manager, but I have zero influence on money. It's a job for Peter, not me. My job is on the pitch and that's the way I work. For 27 years as a coach I've worked like that.
"Chelsea offered what they thought was correct but they didn't want to pay for what they thought wasn't correct for the club, the agent, the player.
"This is the correct philosophy for Chelsea. It's not because we have money or don't have money. We have one project and we follow that."
Just as Robinho had been close to joining Chelsea, Scolari revealed he might have been managing City, who had made an approach while he was still Portugal boss.
He said: "They came to Portugal and we discussed this. But, at the time, I said what I said to all clubs, Valencia and the others, that I needed time.
"I was Portugal coach and if I had had an agreement with the Portuguese president, I would have said yes.
"But when the president did say he would give me time to negotiate with other clubs, it was then that Chelsea came.
"They [City] had a big project. It was fantastic and if they follow it, maybe they will arrive as one of the 10 biggest clubs in the world. But now they are my opponents so I wish them all the best after Saturday, not on it."
Didier Drogba returns from a knee injury but midfielders Michael Essien and Michael Ballack are out.
Essien will be missing for at least six months and Scolari could take the unusual step of bringing in a loan player to fill the gap.
He said: "It is a problem and I'll try to solve it this week."

12 September 2008

Gerrard And Torres Fit To Play

The pair had sat out their respective nations' international fixtures last week amid concerns for their fitness. Torres had suffered a hamstring injury during the scoreless draw with Aston Villa two weeks ago, while Gerrard had an operation on his groin midweek.

Both had been deemed as extremely doubtful for this weekend's crunch clash in Liverpool, but have now offered Rafa Benitez a major boost.

The Liverpool manager is without a league win over United since taking the reins in 2004, but with his star duo set to feature, his chances may have increased.

Gerrard and Torres took part in a full training session this morning (Friday) at the club's Melwood training complex after recovering from their respective groin and hamstring injuries.

The England midfielder Gerrard was thought to have ruled himself out of contention for the key fixture, but has been deemed fit. Both are included in the match squad for tomorrow's game.

Rafa Benitez told the club's official website: "They are both much better. They came through a full training session this morning. It wasn't a very hard session, but they will both be in the squad. If they are in the squad then they can play.

"It's important for us to have these two players of quality who can change a game. I'm not surprised they are available because the medical staff have done a good job and the players have been working really hard with the physios to get fit."

Peter Staunton

Figo Inspires Me, Inter For The CL - Quaresma

Quaresma arrived at San Siro on the final day of the transfer window and he was brought in by Jose Mourinho to be Luis Figo’s successor when he decides to hang up his boots.
The former Porto man is delighted to have the opportunity of playing alongside his childhood hero and he believes that Inter can win both the Champions League and Scudetto this season.
"There was one player who I always used to try and copy when I was young and his name is Luis Figo," Quaresma told La Gazzetta Dello Sport.
"He is so impressive and I always used to tell myself that I wanted to be just like him one day. It has gone even better for me as now I am playing alongside him.
"Inter has some great players and we are trying to aim for the Champions League and Scudetto. I am thinking about where Inter can go rather than what I can achieve."
Quaresma is likely to make his Serie A debut for the Nerazzurri this weekend when Jose Mourinho’s men welcome Walter Zenga and his Catania side to San Siro.
The ‘Special One’ is looking for maximum points following the 1-1 draw with Sampdoria in week one but Catania will be no easy feat.
Salvatore Landolina

Scolari Claims He Turned Down City

Due to the multi-million pound takeover of  Manchester City by ADUG, this weekend's Premier League match-up between the Citizens and Chelsea has been dubbed the 'clash of the cash'.

The two richest sides in the Premier League, possibly in world football, meet at Eastlands in a game that promises to be intriguing.

The presence of Robinho in a light-blue shirt will be a cause of consternation for Chelsea fans; the Brazilian did everything but sign for the Stamford Bridge side this summer before accepting the offer of eye-watering wealth from the Abu Dhabi Investment Group.

However, one Manchester City target who did end up at Stamford Bridge this season is Luiz Felipe Scolari. The Chelsea boss has claimed that he was approached while still in charge of the Portugal national team by City with the intention of adding him as manager.

Mark Hughes is the current incumbent at the City of Manchester Stadium, but it could have been Scolari, according to the ex-Brazil manager.

In the wake of Sven Goran Eriksson's dismissal from Eastlands, the City board cast the net far and wide for a replacement. Talks were held with Scolari about the club's future, and terms were offered by the club.

Scolari described the offer as tempting, but decided against taking up the reins at Eastlands. He stated that a change of his circumstances led him to accept the offer of managing Chelsea in July, during Euro 2008.

He told Sky Sports News: "Yes, they offered it (the manager's job) to me. It was a very good offer but at that time I was with Portugal and I said I needed time to think. They came to Portugal and they talked to me about their ideas for the team in the next three or four years."

Peter Staunton

Podolski Closer To Exit Door

Lukas Podolski appears to have pulled a “Robinho” after declaring publicly last week that he is unhappy at Bayern Munich due to his lack of playing time on the pitch and he could now find himself spending even more time off it.
The 23 year old signed for the Bavarian giants back in 2006 and he has so far failed to nail down a regular first team place, despite being a near automatic first choice for his country.
His outburst is unlikely to change the situation at club level as head coach Jürgen Klinsmann continues to leave him on the bench in preference of Miroslav Klose and Luca Toni upfront.
And Klinsmann’s words during a press conference regarding the issue did not sound particularly too supportive of the player.
“Podolski has to compete with two giant strikers and he has yet to demonstrate that he is better than them,” he was quoted by Marca.
“To become a great player, like those two strikers, is a long process that requires time. And in Podolski case, we are talking about months, even years.
“It is an unpleasant situation for Lukas because he will never be happy being a substitute,” Klinsmann explained.
Real Madrid have been lined up as favourites to land the Polish-born star but with Manchester City also supposedly interested in the youngster, Los Merengues could lose out if they maintain their present stance not to sign any new players during the winter transfer period.
KS Leong

9 September 2008

City set to be thwarted as Kaká pledges future to Milan

Kaká has poured cold water on speculation that he could join Brazil team-mate Robinho at Manchester City by pledging his future to Milan.
Kaká, the reigning World Player of the Year, was linked with a move away from the San Siro this summer following Milan's failure to qualify for the Champions League, with Chelsea his rumoured destination.
However with City's new owners, the super-rich Abu Dhabi United Group (ADUG), determined to sign the cream of the world's talent, speculation has been rife that the Eastlands club - who achieved a major coup in beating Chelsea to Robinho's signature - could once again be about to frustrate Roman Abramovich in the transfer market.
Kaká, though, whose contract with Milan runs until 2013, insists that he remains committed to the club. "Before it was Real Madrid, now it's England that is in fashion," said the Brazil playmaker. "The market is like that, just as Milan make offers, other clubs make offers to Milan. But I will never ask to leave.
"I have always been treated well by [the club] executives and my rapport is excellent. Perhaps one day they may change their approach with respect to me but I don't see that happening. I will only leave if Milan decide to sell me or perhaps on the day when we no longer have the same objectives, and that day has not come."

West Ham trim their shortlist down to Zola

West Ham will seek to outflank Newcastle today by offering their vacant managerial position to Gianfranco Zola, having admitted that the Croatia coach, Slaven Bilic, is no longer under consideration for the role at Upton Park.
Zola has emerged as the London club's preferred candidate ahead of the former Italy coach Roberto Donadoni and, with personal terms having effectively been agreed, confirmation of his appointment as West Ham's first foreign manager could be made later today. Indeed, the club are already drawing up tentative plans to unveil the 42-year-old at the Boleyn Ground as early as Thursday ahead of the weekend trip to West Bromwich Albion.
Bilic's reluctance to break the terms of his contract with his national federation served to remove him from contention for the position created by Alan Curbishley's resignation last week. The 39-year-old had explored the possibility of continuing his role with the national team in tandem with duties at West Ham until January, when he would have served his notice with Croatia, in a last attempt to strike a compromise with his suitors, but the Premier League club were not prepared to be left with a part-time manager until the new year.
Instead, the Upton Park board insists it was left with two "incredibly strong candidates" on their two-man shortlist, comprising Zola and Donadoni, though the man recently voted Chelsea's greatest ever player was very much the favoured candidate. Zola was the only contender to be interviewed twice, first by the technical director, Gianluca Nani, and then by the chief executive, Scott Duxbury, and impressed both with his vision for West Ham under his stewardship.
Zola, currently coaching the Italy Under-21s alongside his former Chelsea team-mate Pierluigi Casiraghi, has indicated that his team would play the attacking, attractive brand of football long craved at Upton Park. The former Napoli and Parma playmaker may have too many connections with the west London rivals for comfort - he spent seven years as a player at Stamford Bridge and is still revered across the capital - but he boasts the charisma and enthusiasm sought for the role at the Boleyn Ground, and has been given a glowing reference by the Italian Football Federation to back up his credentials.
Those attributes were being digested by the West Ham chairman, Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, last night, Nani and Duxbury having reported back after a weekend of talks with the candidates, with the club's hierarchy aware that Newcastle had expressed an interest in luring the Italian to St James' Park. They are, however, confident that interest could be deflected given that Zola is understood to be reluctant to move to Tyneside, despite the fact that he remains good friends with the Newcastle executive director (football), Dennis Wise.
West Ham's board will meet again today and expect to be in a position to offer the job to their favoured candidate - personal terms had been discussed and as good as agreed with both Zola and Donadoni during the interview process - in the hope that Zola will be able to attend the game at the Hawthorns, with the team to be selected by the caretaker manager Kevin Keen.
By then, Bilic could just be contemplating what might have been. Duxbury and Nani decided against flying to Zagreb to speak with the Croat face to face, aware that the original favourite for the role is currently consumed with thoughts of defeating England in World Cup qualification tomorrow night. The complicated reality of trying to extricate Bilic from his contract ultimately proved impossible to resolve, particularly once the option of a part-time manager was quickly rejected.
The fourth candidate on West Ham's list, drawn up at the weekend, was the former Getafe manager Michael Laudrup. He had been expected to travel to London last night but has now accepted an 18-month contract to manage Spartak Moscow.

8 September 2008

Chasing Mutu Was A Waste Of Time - Conti

The Giallorossi were on the verge of signing the Romanian before the deal went up in smoke. Conti then played his part in wrapping up the transfers for Julio Baptista and Jeremy Menez and he is happy with the way the market turned out at Trigoria.

“Mutu? Seeing how things went, that situation was just a waste of time,” Conti told Il Messagero.

“Everything was in place for that deal but saying that we had our alternatives lined up and it all worked out well for us. We got the players we wanted and we are satisfied.

“Our philosophy here is to make sure that new and old players integrate well and make themselves always available.”

Conti also denied reports which claimed that the club had signed some players without the coach knowing.

“Every deal was done with all our consent. We have never done anything where the coach hasn’t been informed,” added Conti.

“There has always been a great relationship with Spalletti where there has been respect from both parties.

“Those who claim that the club made certain choices and the coach made others are simply lying.”

Roma have their eyes set on Champions League and Scudetto glory this season and the new arrivals are keen to impress and establish themselves in the Olimpico.

Salvatore Landolina

Kaká could join the City revolution

The world's number one footballer, Kaká, will consider joining Manchester City next summer if the newly enriched club achieve their initial target of Champions League qualification.
Since last Sunday, City have been under the control of the Abu Dhabi United Group (ADUG), a vehicle of a Middle East sovereign wealth fund whose representatives have promised to turn them into 'the biggest club in the world, bigger than both Real Madrid and Manchester United' by pursuing 'the biggest players in the world'.
Kaká, Fifa's current World Player of the Year, has been seeking an exit from AC Milan and thought he would be allowed to leave for Chelsea during the summer. Milan ultimately decided against selling the 26-year-old Brazilian, but he believes the club will sanction a 100m euros transfer in a year's time.
'Kaká would prefer a club like Chelsea, Real Madrid or Milan, but we never know,' Kaká's representative Diogo Kotscho told The Observer. 'This season Manchester City do not have a team to win the Champions League. Maybe next season they can get into that competition - they have the prospects to be good enough. What they need to have is a big project to win the Premier League and the Champions League. It's not just about Kaká, they will only get the very best players if they attain this level. It was the same with Chelsea a few years ago - they had to prove themselves too.
'I think Manchester City are headed in the right direction, but they have big work to do. It's no easy thing to reach the same level as the biggest clubs in the world, and it's not just about money - you have to spend it properly and build a great team. In two or three years they can be there if they do the right things.'
In their first 24 hours as City's owners ADUG lodged British record bids of more than £30m each for Tottenham's Dimitar Berbatov, Valencia's David Villa and Real Madrid's Robinho, forcing up Manchester United's expenditure on Berbatov and stealing Robinho from Chelsea's grasp. His acquisition was also intended to provide a star name with which to promote City in the Far East.
ADUG's takeover is also understood to have caught club officials off guard. In the days preceding City's purchase, new chief executive Garry Cook had said that though the club were seeking investment, they were not for sale. Instead, Thaksin Shinawatra accepted an offer of around £200m for a club whose expenditure he could no longer afford to service. The final price will not be settled until ADUG complete due diligence on the club's books and the deal could fall through if significant problems are uncovered.
Though Thaksin's price demands almost resulted in ADUG withdrawing from the purchase last Sunday, the former Thai prime minister could profit by as much as £80m for his 14 months as owner. Thaksin has been allowed to retain a 10 per cent stake in the company and an honorary position on the board.
ADUG forms part of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, a sovereign wealth fund managing an estimated $500bn worth of assets. Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan drove the move into Premier League football as a means of promoting the emirate abroad.
The contractors on Liverpool's postponed new stadium project have denied they are considering legal action against the club. Liverpool announced an indefinite delay on construction of the £300m Anfield replacement last month, blaming 'global market conditions' yet promising to investigate increasing the stadium's capacity by 13,000 seats to 73,000.
Liverpool have been able to begin only preliminary work on the site at Stanley Park, resulting in the European Union withdrawing grants to fund the regeneration of the surrounding area.
Though not specifically asked about the possibility of suing Liverpool over the delays, a spokesperson for contractors Laing O'Rourke said: 'Laing O'Rourke continues to work closely with Liverpool FC in order to achieve their ambitions of constructing the new football stadium. Laing O'Rourke further wishes to clarify that it has not considered legal action against Liverpool FC.'
Liverpool's American owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, face a January deadline for refinancing the £350m loan with which they have been running the club. A Dubai-based investment fund remain prepared to buy them out for around £500m, including that debt.

Torres: I Would Never Follow Robinho

The 22-year-old defender is still a fan of the Brazilian's talent but was not impressed with his actions since the end of last season and thinks that he was badly advised.

Madrid president Ramón Calderón blamed Robinho's advisor, Vagne Ribeiro, for holding a press conference where he said he wanted to leave and Torres stated that he could never have done that.

"I would never accept something like that. My dad and my uncle take care of my affairs -the latter is a lawyer-. That says it all," he told AS.

"I do not like commissions and the club knows my family will never treat this as business. I play for Real Madrid; what more could I ask for?

"Robinho is a great player, but we all have to row in the same direction."

Torres was still earning €30,000-per-year after he mhad made 20 first team appearances for Madrid and valued his place in the team more than worrying about a bigger contract.

"There is no merit in it. I value a quality lifestyle, not material things. I prefer to be close to my family, in my own city and on the team I love than to earn a lot of money," he continued.

"I signed for what they offered. I would have signed for even less. Money doesn't rule my life."

Torres was then outraged when asked whether he felt that Raúl was losing his touch and could no longer command a regular place in the first team.

"Of course he is not! He is the most natural guy I have ever met and the player who has given me the most advice. I'm sure he will help Real Madrid return to Cibeles this year."

Lucas Brown,

England driven by unfinished business, says captain Terry

ohn Terry, England's captain, has rallied his team-mates before Wednesday's daunting trip to Zagreb by insisting that they have "unfinished business" with Slaven Bilic's side as they attempt to become the first visiting team to win a qualifying tie in Croatia for 14 years.
The Croats have never been beaten in a European Championship or World Cup qualifier at home since they began competing as a nation in 1994, and the convincing 2-0 victory they inflicted on Steve McClaren's side in October 2007 still smarts. Bilic's team followed that up with the decisive 3-2 success at Wembley which cost the England coach his job and the nation a place at Euro 2008.
"I think we have got unfinished business with Croatia," Terry said, after the Croats eased past Kazakhstan at the Maksimir stadium to extend their unbeaten competitive home run to 35 matches. "This is a new campaign and we are going there to pick up three points. If we can get off to a good six-point start, we'll take that. We know it's going to be tough again but, hopefully, they will come at us a bit more than Andorra did.
"You just try and rise to the challenge whenever you go back to a ground where you have bad memories. We know it's difficult and we know they have not been beaten there for a long time. We have the same at Aston Villa with Chelsea - we have not won there for a few years and every year we go back to Villa Park and we know it's going to be difficult, but we try our hardest. We have to go there with a clean slate and not think about the last game there or the last game at Wembley."
England's medical staff will assess Terry's centre-back partner, Rio Ferdinand, who has been sidelined with a recurrence of a back injury and is in doubt for the Group Six match.
Fabio Capello must also decide whether to recall David Beckham to the starting line-up after describing Theo Walcott's performance against Andorra as "excellent". Beckham's experience could prove crucial at the intimidating Maksimir. "We've got experience in the squad, players who have played in some of the biggest games in the world," said the 33-year-old. "We've got that experience and we will need it on Wednesday."

Mourinho's TV Fury

The special one recently had pay per view television installed at his home in Como by TV Cabo, a Portuguese broadcaster.

The installation of a satellite dish and two decoders went well and the coach was all smiles but that changed when his first bill dropped through his letter box.

Mourinho’s TV deal wasn’t so special as the former Chelsea man noticed he was invoiced with an €18.600 statement.

The coach grabbed the phone and called up the company and it turned out that the problem was an error with the conversion rate from Swiss Francs to Euros.

The right amount was €6.400 but Mourinho was still furious with the company for making the mistake and he showed no signs of backing down.

The Nerazzurri man used his tactics to turn the result in his favour as he managed to blag a €700 discount for the troubles he went through. He then received a bill for €5,648.

Mourinho was adamant on getting his reduction but the sum he had to pay must have seemed like loose change considering he earns around €9m per season at San Siro according to reports.

Cesc: I Must Become More Complete

The Catalan playmaker had set up the goal for David Villa in la Furia Roja's 1-0 win in Murcia, but otherwise had a quiet game alongside Xavi and Marcos Senna.

Although he was angered by the change, when he was replaced by Xabi Alonso, Cesc recognised that it was probably a good thing that he was not pleased.

"The day that I am taken off and it does not annoy me is the day that I give up the game," he told reporters.

"The main thing is that we won and that we have start the new qualifying campaign with three points. It was not was and we had to work hard to find a way through their defence, but we did it."

Now Cesc has vowed to improve his game and become more defensive after also being withdrawn in the final of Euro 2008 when Spain had gone a goal up against Germany.

"They always change me when we are winning. That means that I have to improve defensively and become a more complete midfielder," he continued.

Finally, Cesc was praised for his link play with Villa for the winning goal, but he modestly stated that it was not he that had done the hard work,

"He made it appear even better because he scored a goal from angle that appeared to be impossible," he concluded.

Lucas Brown,

6 September 2008

Solskjaer Delighted With Berba Capture

Berbatov was signed in the final hour of the transfer window for a fee of £30.75m, putting an end to one of several drawn out transfers this summer.

Man United had to beat off stiff competition from city rivals Manchester City, who also put in a late bid for the 27-year-old.

The Bulgarian captain was Man United boss Sir Alex Ferguson’s major summer signing, and had been identified as a player the club wanted at the start of the summer.

Former Man United favourite and now coach with the club Solskjaer has hailed the Berbatov signing, believing that Ferguson has signed the right man.

Speaking to MUTV, Solskjaer said: “The saga lasted all summer but we were always confident we'd found the right one.

“I think he's the right one. His performances for Spurs have been great. I knew he was a good player when he played against us for Bayer Leverkusen.

“We're delighted we've got him.”

Despite Berbatov’s frequent sulks, and lack of effort on the pitch at Spurs, Solskjaer believes that Sir Alex is just the man that can handle Berbatov’s temperament and turn him into a club legend in the coming years.

The former Man United star added: “I've often wondered how he's done it, with all the internationals he's had.

“But he's always rotated people and I'm sure we'll see great performances from the front four again.”

Berbatov will have to wait until next week for his debut with United after the international break, when his new side take on Liverpool at Anfield next Saturday.

Spalletti: Good Luck Chelsea! Scolari: Arrivederci Roma!

The Giallorossi clash with the Blues on match day three of Europe’s elite club competition next month.

Spalletti has hailed ‘Big Phil’ and the Chelsea man repaid the compliments as both managers shared their excitement ahead of the big date. In true Scolari fashion they began by joking around before moving to the big talk.

“Good luck Chelsea,” said Spalletti, which then brought a reaction from Scolari who replied, “Arrivederci Roma.”

Both coaches then began speaking about Group A’s most anticipated fixture as they begin cranking up the tension.

“Scolari is a great man,” said Spalletti.

“It was so nice to be involved in the manager’s forum with all the other coaches and it has made me appreciate the human qualities of top tacticians like Scolari.

“He has won everything and when you speak to him about football you always learn something new.

“Chelsea are a great team and we have to work hard from now until October 22nd in order to go there and face them.

“Scolari’s team can be intimidating but we will go there with courage and the will to do well.”

It was then the Chelsea boss who spoke of Roma and he admits that he admires the Giallorossi and their coach.

“Roma are a team to be feared and Spalletti is an excellent coach,” said Scolari.

“I know Spalletti well and we are good friends. I like talking with him because he has humility amongst many other qualities.

“I have seen Roma play and you can tell the coach has interesting ideas and I believe they will go far.”

The Giallorossi have a poor record against English teams in the Champions League but they will be hoping their luck changes on October 22nd when they travel to Stamford Bridge in search of three points.

Silva Could Go Under The Knife

The 22 year old winger picked up an ankle injury while training with La Selección in midweek. He has already returned to Valencia to begin treatment after being ruled out of Spain’s World Cup qualifying double header.
Los Ché’s medical staff are keeping a close eye on Silva’s condition to make sure it is not an aggravation of an injury he suffered almost a year ago.
The club’s coaching staff, meanwhile, is reluctant to send him to the operating room straight away as it will rule the player out for a much longer period. However, they are also keen to avoid misdiagnosing their prized winger and risk having to endure a similar nightmare that their previous superstar, Vicente, had to go through.
As such, the team doctors will monitor the player’s situation over the next ten to fifteen days and if there’s no significant improvement, then they will intervene by recommending surgery.
Vicente, once described as one of the most technically gifted wingers in the world, suffered a spate of injuries – including a chronic ankle ailment – back in 2004 and his career has stalled ever since. He went on to publicly blame the club’s then medical staff for failing to treat him proper

Guardiola To Adopt Italian Method

New Barça boss, Guardiola, looks set to implement even more changes at the club following his sweeping transformations on and off the pitch during the pre-season.
The former captain wants his squad of players to form an even tighter bond with each other and to do that, he will adopt an approach that he picked up during his brief playing stint with Italian side, Brescia.
Pep is looking to isolate his players together for certain periods of time, away from the outside world and from the glares of the press and photographers. The first stage of his plan will be to make the players spend an hour together every morning for breakfast with a menu that will consist mainly of fruits and fibres and no more items from the local bakery.
The 37 year old coach will also be moving their usual training camp from La Masia to the club’s Sport City grounds, but it will first have to undergo slight modifications as he does not think it currently meets his required standards.
The Blaugrana brought in a total of five new players in the off-season while also promoting a number of their canteranos to the first team.
KS Leong

Cesc Says No To City

Cesc has given a pre-emptive response to any future advances cash-filled Manchester City may make for him by declaring that he will never join the Eastlands club.
The 21 year old Arsenal man, back in Spain for his country’s World Cup qualifiers told Barcelona-based daily Sport bluntly: "It would be suicidal for my career at my 21 years of age to move to City. It would make no sense."
The Citizens, currently owned by Abu Dhabi United Group, have already been linked to a number of the world’s biggest and best players including Ruud van Nistlerooy, Fernando Torres, Kaká and Gianluigi Buffon.

3 September 2008

United 'relaxed' over Manchester City's Dimitar Berbatov bid

In the corridors of power at Old Trafford they have never quite embraced the idea of Chelsea as a superpower, so it will require more than the imminent takeover of Manchester City by Arab billionaires to convince the Manchester United hierarchy that they have serious competition on their doorstep.
Sir Alex Ferguson referred obliquely yesterday to an “increasingly competitive game”, but while the United manager was as staggered as anyone by City's signing of Robinho for £34.2million before the transfer window closed on Monday, neither he nor anyone else at Old Trafford was unnerved by City's audacious attempt to steal Dimitar Berbatov from the clutches of their neighbours.
Ferguson's decision to collect the Bulgaria forward from Manchester airport may have been interpreted as a panic measure, but David Gill, the United chief executive, suggested that new money was never going to entice Berbatov towards City, rather than United.
“The takeover at City and the subsequent release of funds meant they were always going to be pretty active on the last day,” Gill said. “But the fact that the player had made it clear that he wanted to leave Tottenham to join Manchester United for playing ambitions was enough for us. He had talked about his desire to play in the Champions League and to join a club that was challenging for major honours, so we were relaxed about it.”
Nevertheless, United could not have expected their £30.75million signing of Berbatov, a club-record deal, to be overshadowed by developments at City. Two subsequent announcements from Old Trafford have struggled to make the same impact but Ferguson will hope that confirmation yesterday of Mike Phelan's appointment as assistant manager will bring stability and that Manucho Goncalves can provide cover for Berbatov and Wayne Rooney after finally receiving a work permit to start his United career.

Happy Pav: Bye Bye, Berba!

Berbatov completed a £31million switch to Manchester United just prior to the close of the transfer window, bringing an end to months of speculation and controversy.

The Bulgarian striker left White Hart Lane on less than amicable terms, as he essentially refused to play until the Spurs board agreed to let him move to Old Trafford.

The Lilywhites were reluctant to let the 27-year-old leave without first securing a replacement, but Pavlyuchenko's weekend arrival allowed the deal to go through.

And the Russian international will shed no tears at Berbatov's departure.

"I can’t really say anything about Berbatov leaving," he said in The Sun. "Let them all go then I’ll play. It’s good for me!"

Pavlyuchenko is also delighted to link up with Tottenham manager Juande Ramos, who has made no secret of the 26-year-old's central role in his grand plans.

"I’ve talked to Juande Ramos. He’s a nice man," the former Spartak Moscow striker added.

"He said he’s going to rely upon me. He played quite a big role in my transfer."

City's Arabs want promotion - for themselves

There are all sorts of ways of making a name for yourself, but, within the bounds of the law, few are more effective than buying an English football club. Who had heard of Roman Abramovich before he bought Chelsea, the Glazers before they snapped up Manchester United? Within hours of the latest takeover, the world is a lot wiser about Dr Sulaiman al-Fahim and his hopes for Abu Dhabi.
About £200 million, and rising, is a lot to spend on self-promotion, but how better to guarantee headlines from Manchester to Madras than buying a football club and then launching raids for the world's greatest players? Asked why yesterday - why England, why the Barclays Premier League, why City? - al-Fahim cut to the point: “Big exposure for the group and for the city [Abu Dhabi].”
He told The Times: “We want to create Abu Dhabi as the capital of sport and culture in the Middle East, to attract all the important events.”
Chess is his passion (he heads the Abu Dhabi federation), but do not underestimate the scale of his ambition. To become the sporting centre of the region, Abu Dhabi must keep pace with Dubai, its neighbouring emirate, which is putting together a £2 billion “Sports City” to host top football, cricket and, perhaps, the Olympic Games. Those aspirations will have been fired by the global exposure enjoyed by Beijing last month.
Now there are TWO ways to feed your fantasy

This is where we are at. Less than 20 years after Michael Knighton failed to scrape together the £20 million to buy Manchester United and the national game was blighted by hooliganism and atrocious stadiums, English football clubs are a prized part of the business portfolio for Russians, Americans, Arabs and, no doubt before long, the Chinese.
English clubs are investment opportunities for those seeking to make themselves even richer (the Glazers, Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr), those who want the ultimate executive toy (Abramovich), or men seeking to sell themselves as munificent benefactors. City have had two of the last in Thaksin Shinawatra and now al-Fahim.
Pursued by charges of corruption, and worse, Thaksin never convinced the British public. Some of the muck stuck to him and there were alarming stories in recent weeks of him running out of ready cash. That seems highly unlikely in the case of the Abu Dhabi United Group, whose investors include the al-Nahyan royal family of the United Arab Emirates, for whom al-Fahim is going to prove an entertaining front man.
Happy to interrupt a busy day of shifting billions for a chat on the phone yesterday, he took the opportunity to plug his television show, a Middle Eastern equivalent of The Apprentice, in which he is the tough-talking Sir Alan Sugar. The trailer shows him cruising around in a garish, yellow Lamborghini, intercut with shots of Western destinations such as Harrods and Hollywood. He is going to enjoy rubbing shoulders with the famous footballers he attracts to City.
Yesterday he willingly entered into speculation about who would be the next big-money arrival. “My favourite footballer? That is Ronaldinho,” he said. “Hopefully, we can bring him to Manchester.”
Then there was Cristiano Ronaldo, for whom he said that he is willing to break every transfer record by spending £135 million. “We have not bought the club just to sit on it,” he said.
Such excitable talk suggests that Mark Hughes may be manager of the team in name only, although al-Fahim was insistent yesterday that Hughes would have a significant say on purchases. Sorry to be cynical, but Abramovich's advisers said something similar.
Whether watching the football brings as much pleasure as hogging the headlines remains to be seen, with al-Fahim unable to guarantee that he would attend more than once a month. He will start with the home fixture a week on Saturday against Chelsea.
Whether he knows his Arshavins from his elbow is questionable, but a deep knowledge of football has never been a requirement of ownership, even in the days when it was local English businessmen who ran the boardroom.
Yesterday al-Fahim ticked off all the usual clichés - “the Premier League is the best in the world”, “Manchester City has a proud history”, “we want the fans to touch the trophy again” - but he and his fellow investors have not bought for long-term fulfilment, but for immediate impact. Patience may be in short supply, in inverse proportion to the splurging on brilliant Brazilians.