Monday, March 31, 2014

Real Betis 1-2 Malaga ; Hosts fall to late Malaga comeback

Malaga have dealt a major blow to Real Betis' survival hopes, scoring twice in the last six minutes to secure a 2-1 victory over La Liga's bottom club this evening.

The visitors almost took the lead in the 12th minute as Francisco Portillo latched on to a pass deep inside the area before drilling a low shot towards the bottom corner, but the keeper got down well to make a good save.

Betis took the lead right on the half-hour mark as Lorenzo Reyes was afforded time and space to shoot from just outside the box, firing his effort past Wilfredo Caballero.

The hosts had a chance to double their lead on the stroke of half time as Ruben Castro connected with a cross inside the area, but he couldn't steer his header on target.

Castro threatened again 10 minutes after the restart, beating the defence in the air once more before planting a header just wide of the post.

Malaga had a chance to equalise on the hour mark as Jesus Gamez hit a first-time shot from inside the area that flew narrowly past the upright.

Betis came close to all but sealing the points in the 66th minute when Leo Baptistao picked up the ball inside the area, but he couldn't keep his eventual shot down.

The visitors kept pushing for an equaliser and almost found it with a little over 15 minutes remaining as Juanmi fired a low effort towards the bottom corner, but Antonio Adan pushed it wide.

Juanmi was not to be denied next time, however, as he levelled things up for his side just six minutes from time with a close-range finish from Nordin Amrabat's through-ball.

The hosts almost regained the lead immediately afterwards when Alfred N'Diaye found himself in the opposition six-yard box, but Cabellero pulled off a fine save to keep the scores level.

It was Malaga who provided the late winner, however, as Sergi Darder broke Betis hearts with an 88th-minute strike moments after Roque Santa Cruz had also spurned a good chance.
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Cristian Chivu retires from football

Romanian defender Cristian Chivu has announced his retirement with immediate effect.

The 33-year-old had been unable to appear for Inter Milan this season because of a foot injury.

His contract at the San Siro was not due to expire until the summer, but the two parties have reached an agreement for it to be terminated early.

"After seven seasons, Inter and Cristian Chivu announce the mutual termination of the contract between the Romanian defender and the Nerazzurri," read a statement on the club's official website.

"The club wishes to thank Cristian for his great strength, loyalty and the key role he played in his years that will always be remembered as among some of the most glorious in Inter's history. Inter wishes to send a warm thanks to the player, as well as his wonderful family, for all he has done for the club."

It is now expected that the former Ajax and Roma player will become an agent.

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Claudio Ranieri hints at Dimitar Berbatov stay

Monaco coach Claudio Ranieri has suggested that the club could sign Dimitar Berbatov on a free transfer this summer.

The Bulgarian joined the Ligue 1 side from Fulham in January on a loan deal until the end of the season.

Ranieri has now hinted that the 33-year-old is eager to stay at the Stade Louis II.

"I don't know if he has become number one at Monaco but he is playing, scoring and getting assists," the Italian is quoted as saying by Sky Sports News. "Some show more fighting spirit in challenges but he is working more than before.

"He is important to us and I believe he wants to stay but we will talk about that later."

Berbatov has scored two goals in seven games for Monaco since arriving at the start of the year.

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Andy Carroll: 'We're safe from relegation'

West Ham United striker Andy Carroll has expressed his belief that his side are safe from relegation following their 2-1 victory over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light this evening.

Carroll opened the scoring after just nine minutes before setting up what proved to be the winner five minutes into the second half to give the Hammers a victory that lifts them 11 points clear of the relegation zone.

The 25-year-old insisted that he would still take things on a game-to-game basis but does not believe that his side will be dragged back into the relegation mire with just six matches left.

"It's a great feeling to win against a team like Sunderland but all that matters is the three points," Carroll told Sky Sports News.

"Personally I need to keep fit, keep involved and keep scoring goals. We need to take things as they come, the teams below us are picking up points but we're confident of staying in the Premier League and I think we're safe now."

While the Hammers are now 12 points from the bottom three, Sunderland remain in trouble, sitting in 19th place and four points adrift of safety.

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Kevin Nolan: 'We dealt with Sunderland well'

West Ham United skipper Kevin Nolan has expressed his belief that his side dealt with Sunderland well during this evening's Premier League encounter at the Stadium of Light.

The Hammers pulled off a valuable 2-1 victory to move 12 points clear of the Black Cats, although the introduction of Adam Johnson as a substitute in the 53rd minute sparked the hosts into life.

The winger scored his side's goal and created four more chances for the team, and Nolan acknowledged that his presence changed the match.

However, the 31-year-old midfielder believes that his side put in a good performance and attributed their improved form to a number of players returning from injury.

"I thought we dealt with them quite well, Adam Johnson made a fantastic impact when he came on but we dealt with him well," Nolan told Sky Sports News.

"It was a massive game for Sunderland, probably bigger for them than it was for us and we knew if we won we would go 12 points ahead of them. Tonight was all about us putting space between us and the bottom.

"We've had a massive injury list and we've dug in and with the camaraderie and what we've built up at the club we always knew we would start picking up points when we got some bodies back."

The win leaves West Ham 11th in the Premier League table, 11 points clear of the bottom three with six games to play.

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Gerardo Martino: 'We won't abandon playing style'

Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino has insisted that his side will not abandon their usual playing style when they take on Atletico Madrid in their Champions League quarter-final tie.

Atletico have been something of a surprise package in La Liga this season, currently leading the way by a point over Barca with just seven games remaining.

Tuesday's first leg at the Camp Nou will mark the fourth time that the two sides have met already this season, with each game so far ending in a draw, but Martino has insisted that they will stick to their usual game plan.

"The secret of the game will be to match Atletico in intensity so that they don't overcome us, and our biggest strength will be to play like Barca always do," Martino told reporters.

"If this team wasn't brave these boys wouldn't have been able to achieve everything they have done in the last few years, and this club wouldn't be where it is now. That requires bravery, and it's guaranteed, because very few teams play the same way we do. I can't imagine we'll spend the game running behind the ball, we can't forget that we are Barcelona.

"We will be careful we don't give the ball away and allow them to run into space on the counterattack. I don't think it will be an open game. We need to remember it's a two-legged tie played over 180 minutes. The last thing we need to do is play with desperation."

Atletico are bidding to progress past the quarter-finals of the competition for the first time since 1973-74, when they were beaten by Bayern Munich in the final.

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Granada 0-2 Levante ; Levante edge past Granada

Levante have boosted their chances of a top-half finish in La Liga courtesy of a 2-0 win over Granada this evening.

The visitors almost took the lead in the 25th minute as Andreas Ivanschitz fired an effort towards goal from the edge of the box, but his shot fizzed inches past the post.

Granada had a glorious chance to break the deadlock shortly after the half-hour mark when Youssef El Arabi was played through on goal, only for Keilor Navas to deny the striker.

Levante came close again with four minutes remaining in the half, but this time it was Roberto's chance to impress as he made a fine stop to deny Ruben Garcia's shot from inside the box.

Victor Casadesus was the next to threaten for the visitors, weaving in and out of a number of tackles before eventually seeing his shot well blocked.

They wouldn't have to wait too much longer for the opening goal, however, as David Navarro was in the right place just a minute later to capitalise on a loose ball and fire it past a helpless Roberto.

David Barral came close to doubling their advantage late on before the points were well and truly wrapped up in the 89th minute courtesy of a fine solo effort from Pedro Lopez.

Granada almost pulled a goal back immediately when Piti dragged a shot wide from the edge of the box, but the hosts could not recover and Levante picked up all three points.

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Sunderland 1-2 West Ham ; Hammers edge black Cats

Sunderland's survival hopes have taken another blow as they made it seven games without a win with a 2-1 loss at home to West Ham United this evening.

The hosts came close to taking the lead after just two minutes when Phil Bardsley's cross almost crept in at the far post, whistling just wide.

It was West Ham who broke the deadlock, however, as Andy Carroll rose highest inside the box to nod Mark Noble's corner past a helpless Vito Mannone.

Sunderland had a great chance to equalise within three minutes of going behind when Ki Sung-Yeung's shot deflected into the path of Lee Cattermole, who could only send a weak shot straight at the keeper despite having time and space.

The visitors came close to doubling their lead in the 19th minute as Noble fed the ball to Matthew Taylor, who squeezed a shot narrowly past the post.

The Black Cats began the second half brightly, with Connor Wickham dragging a shot just wide moments after seeing his initial effort well blocked.

However, the Hammers were soon two up as a long free kick was chested down by Carroll for Mohamed Diame, whose shot from the edge of the box deflected past Mannone.

It should have been game over shortly after the hour mark as Stewart Downing raced through on goal, but he saw his shot well saved with only the keeper to beat.

Sunderland took full advantage of that lay off, pulling a goal back just four minutes later as Craig Gardner fed a pass through to fellow substitute Adam Johnson, who curled his effort past Adrian and into the far corner.

They almost completed a quickfire comeback in the 68th minute as Ki's shot was fumbled by Adrian, who just about recovered in time to beat Wickham to the rebound.

The hosts threatened again two minutes later as Johnson picked out Fabio Borini inside the box, but the loanee striker could only slice his shot into the side-netting.

Sunderland continued to push for an equaliser in the closing stages and came close to getting it when a short corner was eventually rolled across the edge of the box for Marcos Alonso, who hammered a shot over the bar.

They had one last chance in stoppage time of the second half as Ignacio Scocco nodded over from Alonso's cross, but they couldn't conjure up a valuable equaliser, leaving Gus Poyet's men still four points from safety.

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Pep Guardiola hints at Manchester United offer

Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola has admitted that he may have been offered the chance to become Manchester United manager when he met Sir Alex Ferguson last season.

Guardiola had lunch with Ferguson five months before the Scot announced his retirement from football, prompting speculation that the former Barcelona boss had been offered the job during his 12-month sabbatical.

The 43-year-old will lead his Bayern side out at Old Trafford for the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final against David Moyes's United on Tuesday, and he admitted that any job offer may have been lost in translation.

"He invited me to a super restaurant. It was a friendly dinner, like always. He was so gentle and we spent a very good time together," Guardiola told reporters.

"My English is not so good and when Sir Alex spoke quickly I didn't understand him so maybe I didn't understand if I received an offer or not."

Current holders Bayern are bidding to become the first team to retain the trophy in the Champions League era.

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Manuel Neuer wary of Manchester United threat

Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer has insisted that his side will not underestimate Manchester United when they face each other in the Champions League quarter-final first leg tomorrow night.

United have struggled in their first season under David Moyes, sitting seventh in the Premier League and facing what many consider to be an impossible task of toppling Bayern in Europe.

However, Neuer noted that his side were overwhelming favourites to beat Chelsea in the 2012 final only to lose to the Blues, who finished sixth in the league that season, and he warned that United were capable of producing a similar shock.

"We just have to think back to two years ago. Chelsea who finished sixth and won the Champions League, unfortunately for us," Neuer told reporters.

"In the Premier League there have been a number of less than convincing performances but if you look in the Champions League they fought back at Olympiacos to win 3-0 at home and that shows there's a difference.

"If you look at the history of Manchester United, they are always a big side so there is no time of underestimating them."

Bayern manager Pep Guardiola has also warned against underestimating United, expressing his belief that the Red Devils are capable of beating his side.

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Pep Guardiola: 'Manchester United can beat Bayern Munich'

Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola has insisted that Manchester United are capable of beating his side in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Munich will travel to Old Trafford for the first leg of the tie tomorrow night as United look to salvage some success from a dismal first season under David Moyes.

However, despite his side's dominance both domestically and in Europe over the last two seasons, Guardiola believes that United still have the quality within their ranks to cause an upset.

"Last season Bayern won everything and this season we are over 20 points ahead of our opponents with seven matches to spare," Guardiola told reporters.

"But I know in the deep of my heart which team we are going to play against. Maybe they haven't had a good season in the league but when I see [Wayne] Rooney, [Nemanja] Vidic, Rio [Ferdinand], Chicharito [Javier Hernandez] and [Danny] Welbeck, I see very good players.

"I don't know why United haven't played well in the league, but over one game or two games, they can beat us."

United are currently languishing down in seventh in the Premier League table, while Bayern have already wrapped up the Bundesliga title and are yet to lose domestically this season.
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Livorno 2-2 Inter Milan ; Livorno come from two down to nick late draw against Inter Milan

Livorno have come from two goals down to rescue a point against Inter Milan this evening, scoring an 85th-minute equaliser to seal a 2-2 draw.

The hosts were first to threaten the opposition goal, doing so in the 16th minute when Emerson tested Samir Handanovic with a long-range free kick.

Inter's first decent sight of goal came shortly before the half-hour mark when Hernanes created space for himself to shoot from outside the box, firing an effort just past the post.

Hernanes was able to use that effort as a sighter in the 37th minute when he latched on to a knock down in the area, beating one defender inside the box before slamming the ball past the keeper.

The visitors came close again with just two minutes to go until the break as Zdravko Kuzmanovic drew a decent stop from Francesco Bardi with a 25-yard effort.

Bardi could do nothing about Inter's second, however, as Rodrigo Palacio was left unmarked at the back post to volley Jonathan's cross into the far corner right on the stroke of half time.

Palacio almost doubled his personal tally moments after the restart when he latched onto a pass inside the box, but this time the keeper was equal to his effort.

Livorno pulled a goal back in the 54th minute with a clever corner routine that saw Paulinho peel away from his man to fire Leandro Greco's low delivery past Handanovic.

Inter came close three times in quick succession with a little over 10 minutes of the match remaining as first Mauro Icardi and then Fredy Guarin saw efforts blocked, while the latter also turned a rebound wide.

The hosts almost levelled things up in the 82nd minute when Marco Benassi did well to create space for himself to shoot from range, but his effort flew narrowly over the bar.

They wouldn't have to wait much longer to restore parity, however, finding the equaliser with just five minutes remaining courtesy of a fine solo effort from Innocent Emeghara.

Neither side could find a winner in the closing stages as Inter missed the chance to close the gap on fourth, while Livorno moved one point closer to safety.
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Sunderland vs. West Ham United Preview

If Sunderland are to retain their Premier League status for another season, they need to start picking up positive results quickly.

Only Swansea City (three) have picked up fewer points from their last six outings than the Black Cats (four), which has left Gus Poyet's side entrenched within the relegation zone.

However, despite the defeat, there was reason for optimism during the 2-1 defeat to title-chasing Liverpool last time out. Poyet opted for a 3-5-2 formation at Anfield, but for West Ham United's visit to the Stadium of Light on Monday, the Uruguayan boss may well revert to the more usual 4-4-2 tactic.

Having impressed from the bench against Liverpool, Adam Johnson and Ki Sung-Yueng could be restored to the starting lineup, while Fabio Borini will almost certainly be recalled, having sat out the clash against the Reds due to the terms of his loan agreement.

Full-back Marcos Alonso should also return following a one-match suspension and Poyet may also keep faith with young striker Connor Wickham in the absence of the injured Steven Fletcher.

As for the visiting Hammers, all is not well among the Upton Park faithful. They were jeered off by supporters on Wednesday night even though they had beaten Hull City 2-1, with manager Sam Allardyce further angering fans by cupping his ear to the boos.

The East Londoners, who have won just three games away from home all term, go into the clash nine points better off than their hosts.

Centre-back James Collins limped off against Hull with an injury that could also rule him out on Wearside. If the Welsh international is not available, it's likely that he will be replaced by Wolverhampton Wanderers loanee Roger Johnson.

Sunderland have won 20 of their previous 41 home matches with West Ham, with the visitors collecting maximum points on 13 occasions.

Recent form

Sunderland: LLLDLL

West Ham: WWLLLW

Possible starting lineups

Sunderland: Mannone; Alonso, O'Shea, Brown, Bardsley; Colback, Bridcutt, Ki, Johnson; Borini, Wickham

West Ham: Adrian; Demel, Johnson, Tomkins, McCartney; Taylor, Diame, Noble, Nolan, Downing; Carroll

Sports Mole says: 1-1
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Victor Valdes out for seven months

A statement on Barcelona's official website has revealed that Spanish goalkeeper Victor Valdes will be out of action for the next seven months following knee surgery.

The veteran suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the 3-0 win over Celta Vigo last week, with subsequent tests revealing the extent of the damage.

"The Barca keeper has been operated on by doctors Ulrich Boenisch and Ricard Pruna in Augsburg (Germany) for the anterior cruciate ligament tear he suffered last week," the statement read.

"The knee's internal cartilage has been sewn up and the operation was concluded successfully. Valdes will be out of action for approximately seven months."

Valdes had been set to depart the Camp Nou on a free transfer in the summer, but his future is now unclear.

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Pedro fit for Atletico Madrid clash

Barcelona will reportedly have Pedro available for Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final first leg against Atletico Madrid despite concerns over an illness.

The Spanish attacker missed a training session for his club on Sunday with gastroenteritis, which is believed to have come on following the 1-0 win over Espaynol on Saturday.

However, according to Marca, Pedro is expected to be fit for the European tie at the Camp Nou, but could start on the bench as boss Gerardo Martino considers placing Andres Iniesta in a wide position.

The second leg will take place at the Vicente Calderon next week.
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Tim Howard eyes Arsenal revenge

Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard has admitted that wants revenge over Arsenal when the teams meet at Goodison Park in the Premier League on Sunday.

The Toffees were beaten 4-1 by the Gunners in the FA Cup quarter-finals earlier this month.

Howard now hopes that he and his teammates can turn the tables on Arsenal and put pressure on Arsene Wenger's side in the race for Champions League qualification.

"We are looking forward to playing Arsenal," he is quoted as saying by Sky Sports News.

"We still have a sour taste in our mouth about what happened at the Emirates in the FA Cup, so we will try and put that right at home.

"We're not favourites to finish fourth because the gap is still four points.

"It's in our hands because we have a game in hand and we have to play them, but they still have that four-point lead so it is difficult."

Everton have won their last five consecutive matches in the Premier League.
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David Moyes: "We have defensive issues"

David Moyes has conceded that he has to contend with "defensive issues" ahead of Manchester United's Champions League tie with Bayern Munich tomorrow night.

Vice-captain Patrice Evra is suspended, while right-back Rafael da Silva limped off during Saturday's 4-1 win over Aston Villa.

What's more, the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling have all missed recent matches through injury and with that in mind, Moyes has revealed that he will have make to alterations to his rearguard for the visit of Bayern.

"We have defensive issues, certainly. We will have to make one or two changes," the Scot told reporters.

Alexander Buttner and Antonio Valencia have been tipped to fill the full-back roles.
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Jugen Klopp: 'Real Madrid are favourites'

Borussia Dortmund boss Jurgen Klopp has conceded that Real Madrid are the favourites to emerge from their two-legged Champions League quarter-final tie.

Dortmund beat Los Blancos in the semi-finals of the competition last season, but Klopp believes that the Spanish side are stronger this time around.

"Real Madrid are the favourites. With our budget and our injury list there is no doubt we are the underdog of the tie," Klopp told reporters at a press conference.

"They have bought good players like Gareth Bale and Isco. They have tremendous strength in all areas and are a very complete team."

The first leg takes place at the Bernabeu on Wednesday.
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David Moyes defiant ahead of Bayern Munich tie

David Moyes has insisted that his Manchester United team are a match for any opponent.

The Red Devils take on Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals of the Champions League tomorrow night, with the German visitors regarded by many as the big favourites to advance through to the semi-finals of the competition.

However, Moyes believes that despite their poor Premier League form this season, United are "as good a side as any".

"We go into the game knowing, on our day, we're as good a side as any. We need to show it more often," he told reporters.

United have beaten Bayern just twice from their nine previous meetings.

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