Saturday, December 20, 2014

GOAL ZONE 'Predict'.......


English Premier League
13:45 Manchester City W-L (O2) Crystal Palace
16:00 Aston Villa L-W (O2) Manchester United
16:00 Hull City D-D (U3) Swansea City
16:00 Queens Park Rangers D-D (B/S O2) West Bromwich Albion
16:00 Southampton W-L (O2) Everton
16:00 Tottenham Hotspur W-L (U3) Burnley
16:00 West Ham United W-L (B/S U4) Leicester City

Italian Serie A
18:00 Sassuolo L-W (O1) Cesena
20:45 Roma W-L (U2) AC Milan

Spanish La Liga
16:00 Barcelona W-L (O4) Cordoba
18:00 Levante L-W (O2, U5)Real Sociedad
20:00 Eibae L-W (O2) Valencia
22:00 Rayo Vallecano D-D (U4)Espanyol

German Bundesliga
15:30 Augsburg L-W (U4) Borussia Moenchengladbach
15:30 Bayer Leverkusen W-L (O2) Eintracht Frankfurt
15:30 Schalke 04 L-W (B/S, O2) Hamburger SV
15:30 VfB Stuttgart W-L (O2) Paderborn
15:30 Werder Bremen L-W (B/S, O1) Borussia Dortmund
18:30 Wolfsburg W-L (U4) FC Cologne

French Ligue 1
17:00 Paris Saint Germain W-L (O2, U5) Montpellier
20:00 Caen L-W (U4) Bastia
20:00 Lorient D-D (B/S) Nantes
20:00 Metz L-W (U3) Monaco
20:00 Rennes D-D (O1) Reims
20:00 Toulouse W-L (O1) Guingamp

LEGEND :
O - Entire game to exceed particular number of goals (O1 - Over 1 goal)
U - Entire game not to exceed particular number of goals (U1 - Under 1 goal)
B/S - Both sides to score during the course of the entire game

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Manchester City VS Crystal Palace Preview

Manuel Pellegrini has Sergio Agüero, Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic all injured for this visit of Crystal Palace meaning the champions of England have no frontline striker available. The manager may field José Ángel Pozo in attack for a consecutive start as he is a forward by trade, or perhaps turn to James Milner, Samir Nasri or David Silva to knit the side together when moving forward. Pellegrini, though, can be delighted at being only three points behind Chelsea following their early season travails yet Neil Warnock’s Palace may prove awkward opposition. Jamie Jackson

Kick-off Saturday 12.45pm

Venue Etihad Stadium

Last season Man City 1 Crystal P 0

Live BT Sport 1

Referee P Dowd

This season G11, Y52, R2, 4.9 cards per game

Odds H 3-10 A 11-1 D 19-4


 Manchester City v Crystal Palace: probable starters in bold, contenders in light

Manchester City
Advertisement

Subs from Caballero, Sinclair, Wright, Sagna, Navas, Boyata, Fernando, Lampard, Kolarov, Jovetic

Doubtful Jovetic (match fitness)

Injured Agüero (knee, Jan), Dzeko (calf, Jan), Kompany (hamstring, Jan), Nastasic (thigh, unknown)

Suspended None

Form DWWWWW

Discipline Y37 R2

Leading scorer Agüero 14

Crystal Palace
Subs from Hennessey, Kettings, Zaha, Mariappa, Fryers, Delaney, Gayle, Johnson, Boateng, Bannan, Thomas

Doubtful Ledley (hip), Mariappa (knee), Zaha (ankle)

Injured Chamakh (hamstring, Jan)

Suspended None

Form LWDLDD

Discipline Y27 R3

Leading scorer Jedinak 5

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Raheem Sterling named 2014 European Golden Boy

Raheem Sterling has been named the 2014 European Golden Boy - an award given to the best youngster on the continent. 

The 20 year-old helped Liverpool come within a whisker of the Premier League title last season as they finished second behind Manchester City.

And he has also become an integral part of the England national set-up in 2014, playing during the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 European Championship qualifiers. 

Liverpool tweeted their congratulations to Sterling after he received the award on Friday

Although mainly being used wide on the right for the Reds throughout 2014, in recent weeks Sterling has been deployed as a central forward and scored twice in a magnificent display during Liverpool's 3-1 Capital One Cup quarter-final victory over Bournemouth on Wednesday. 

After receiving the accolade on Saturday, Sterling told Liverpoolfc.com: 'It's a great achievement to win such an award.

'It's a really happy feeling for me and my family, of course.

Brendan Rodgers updates on Balotelli and Sterling ahead of...

'Something I've always wanted to do is to work hard playing football and try to be recognised. I'm really grateful that people have shown me this recognition.

'It's down to hard work. I'm really happy that people are recognising that I'm trying to work hard and do my best for this football club. I'm really grateful for this award.'

Liverpool themselves tweeted a message of congratulations to Sterling.

It read: 'Congratulations @sterling31, who was today announced as the winner of the prestigious 2014 European Golden Boy award.' 

Manchester United's Luke Shaw, Everton's John Stones, Tottenham Hotspur's Eric Dier and Arsenal's Calum Chambers also joined Sterling on the 40-man shortlist, but the Liverpool forward has claimed the award. 

In all, there were 10 Premier League-based players nominated, with Chelsea's Kurt Zouma, United's Adnan Januzaj, Spurs' Nabil Bentaleb and Liverpool's Lazar Markovic and Divock Origi also put forward.

Ahead of Liverpool's key clash with Arsenal at Anfield on Sunday, Sterling added: 'There's always room for improvement. At this moment in time, I should have a few more goals, but I've not taken some of my chances. But I'm young and learning all the time.

'This award just shows that hard work gets you where you want to be, and that I'm on the right track for where I want to be in my career. Hopefully I can just keep working hard and try to take my game to the next level.'


PREVIOUS GOLDEN BOY WINNERS 
2003 - Rafael van der Vaart (Holland; Ajax)

2004 - Wayne Rooney (England; Everton)

2005 - Lionel Messi (Argentina; Barcelona)

2006 - Cesc Fabregas (Spain; Arsenal)

2007 - Sergio Aguero (Argentina; Atletico Madrid)

2008 - Anderson (Brazil; Manchester United)

2009 - Alexandre Pato (Brazil; AC Milan)

2010 - Mario Balotelli (Italy; Manchester City)

2011 - Mario Gotze (Germany; Borussia Dortmund)

2012 - Isco (Spain; Malaga)

2013 - Paul Pogba (France; Juventus) 

2014 - Raheem Sterling (England; Liverpool)

La Liga had five nominees, including former Everton loanee Gerard Deulofeu, as did Serie A, with the Bundesliga offering up six, Ligue 1 four and Eredivisie three. There were also seven players nominated from other European nations.


All nominees for the Golden Boy award must be under the age of 21 and play in one of the big European leagues. 

There have been 11 previous winners of the award since its inception in 2003 - when Italian newspaper Tuttosport originally created the prize and determined Dutchman Rafael van der Vaart to be Europe's next best thing.

Paul Pogba was voted last year's Golden Boy by journalists in Europe and Wayne Rooney is the only previous English winner (2004) before Sterling.

In order to determine the eventual winner, each of the 30 publications with a vote nominates five players from the shortlist and 10 points are awarded to their first choice, seven for their second, five for their third, three for their fourth and one for their fifth. 

Sterling was chosen by the journalists and becomes the first Reds player to win the award - although Mario Balotelli claimed the prize while at Manchester City in 2010.

ORIGINAL SHORTLIST OF 40 FOR THE 2014 EUROPEAN GOLDEN BOY AWARD 
Premier League (10 players): Kurt Zouma (Chelsea), Calum Chambers (Arsenal), Adnan Januzaj, Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Everton), Raheem Sterling, Lazar Markovic, Divock Origi (Liverpool), Nabil Bentaleb, Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur).

La Liga (five players): Saul Niguez (Atletico Madrid), Gerard Deulofeu (Sevilla), Aymeric Laporte (Athletic Bilbao), Sandro Ramirez, Munir El Haddai (Barcelona).

Serie A (five players): Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo), Mateo Kovacic (Inter), Bernardeschi Franco (Fiorentina), Kingsley Coman (Juventus), Keita Baldé Diao (Lazio).

Bundesliga (six players): Hakan Calhanoglu (Bayer Leverkusen), Matthias Ginter (Borussia Dortmund), Julian Green (Hamburg), Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Gianluca Gaudino (Bayern Munich), Maximilian Meyer (Schalke).

Ligue 1 (four players): Marquinhos, Adrien Rabiot (Paris Saint-Germain), Benjamin Mendy (Marseille), Lucas Ocampos (Monaco).

Eredivisie (three players): Tonny Vilhena (Feyenoord), Jetro Willems (PSV), Arkadiusz Milik (Ajax).

Other nominees (seven players): Oliver Torres (Porto), Bruma (Galatasaray), Gonzalez (Basel), Nikola Ninkovic (Partizan Belgrade), Luka Zahovic (Maribor), Dennis Praet, Alexander Mitrovic (Anderlecht).

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Roberto Soldado "ashamed" of Tottenham Hotspur form

Roberto Soldado has admitted that he is "ashamed" of himself for failing to scale the heights expected of him at Tottenham Hotspur.

Soldado joined Spurs for a then-club-record £26m in August 2013, but he has struggled to live up to his billing after scoring just seven Premier League goals in 16 months.

The Spaniard struck his first and only league goal this season in last month's 2-1 win over Everton, with the 29-year-old admitting that the relief almost drove him to tears.

The former Valencia hitman has paid tribute to the fans' unwavering support of him, however, and hopes to repay their faith when the 'goals start flowing'.

"From the first minute I'm involved, even before I've done anything, the fans show they believe in me, and I feel ashamed at not being able to satisfy them," he told the Evening Standard.

"It's hard when they sing. I hear them chanting my name and if I miss a chance, I feel bad. I can't thank them enough. I just hope I can reach the level they expect and take advantage of the great players around me.

"If only I knew that little something that's missing for me to find my form, really show my game and for the goals to start flowing."

Soldado has scored four times in all competitions this season.
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Manuel Pellegrini hopeful over James Milner contract extension

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini remains confident that midfielder James Milner will join Joe Hart in extending his current deal at the club.

Hart put pen to paper earlier today to extend his stay at the Etihad Stadium until 2019, becoming the sixth player to agree new terms this year.

However, fellow England international Milner has yet to have reached an agreement with the Citizens, with discussions still ongoing.

When asked if he believes the former Aston Villa star will commit to the club, Pellegrini remained relaxed by telling reporters: "I think so. There are some differences that can be arranged. We are talking with James.

"It is not easy for all the players to sign a new contract. There are a lot of things to talk, to decide, discuss. I hope finally James will sign his contract. The same as with Joe Hart - he wants to stay and the club wants to keep him."

Milner is in the final year of his contract and can therefore begin speaking to other sides in the New Year should he wish.
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Arsene Wenger warns Arsenal fans over Alexis Sanchez dip

Arsene Wenger has warned Arsenal fans to expect a less-effective Alexis Sanchez throughout the hectic Christmas period.

The Chilean has endeared himself to Gunners supporters for a series of energetic and match-winning performances following his £35m summer switch from Barcelona.

However, the 26-year-old is poised to endure the festive fixture pile-up in England's football calendar for the first time, having always enjoyed the luxury of a winter break in other countries.

Consequently, Wenger says that Sanchez - who has 14 goals this season - and other first-team players may "suffer physically" as a result of the rigorous demands.

"He benefited from the fact I didn't take him to Galatasaray," Wenger told reporters ahead of Sunday's trip to Liverpool. "He needed a little breather. It will have helped him.

"Players are used to a break over Christmas. The players from South America used to go home and in England they cannot do it.

"It's a shock for the system for everybody. Many of them suffer physically."

Arsenal have a total of four games between now and January 1.
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Michael Carrick: 'Manchester United keen on title

Michael Carrick has backed his Manchester United teammates to sustain their stellar form and claw themselves into contention for the Premier League title.

United thrashed Liverpool 3-0 at Old Trafford last weekend for what was their sixth successive victory to leave them eight points adrift of leaders Chelsea.

Manager Louis van Gaal was expected to deliver Champions League qualification at a bare minimum in his maiden season, but Carrick says that the Red Devils cannot settle for a top-four finish.

"I don't want to say we are going to win the league, but certainly at this point, it is what we are aiming to do," he told The Telegraph. "We are not just looking to be happy for top three or top four.

"We want to be looking, over Christmas and into January, to be up there and then taking it from there. But winning the league has to be the aim.

"At this stage of the season, we are exactly where I think we should be and talking to the lads, we have that mentality that we want, and expect, to be challenging. It's not a case of thinking that third is great because we have improved.We are looking past that and want to be challenging right up at the top."

United, who won just five points from a possible 15 at the beginning of the season, travel away to Aston Villa tomorrow afternoon.
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Paul Lambert: 'Ron Vlaar, Fabian Delph not for sale'

Paul Lambert has insisted that neither Ron Vlaar nor Fabian Delph will be leaving Aston Villa in January's transfer window.

The club's captain has been linked with a number of side's across Europe, while the midfielder is thought to be a target for Liverpool.

However, the manager told reporters: "They're not going anywhere. It's my says and they'll not go anywhere in January.

"Even if anybody came we'd never let them go cheap. The way January works is if somebody's worth something you may as well put another 15 zeros on the end of their valuation. It's inflated.

"I think they enjoy their football here. I've never really had that conversation with them, they've been really good, really professional about it and I have no issues at all."

Villa host Manchester United in the Premier League this weekend.
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Eliaquim Mangala: 'It is hard to adapt to English football'

Manchester City defender Eliaquim Mangala has admitted that he has had a tough time adjusting to the style of football in England.

The 23-year-old moved to Manuel Pellegrini's side from Porto in the summer in a deal worth £32m, and was thrown straight in action against Chelsea, where he impressed against Jose Mourinho's side.

However, Mangala endured a miserable afternoon against Hull City as he made several errors as he scored an own goal and conceded a penalty in his side's 4-2 win, while he was also sent off in his side's clash Southampton.

He told the Daily Mail: "I would say that playing against Chelsea back at the start wasn't particularly a typical English game, it's the sort of football I'm more used to. Roma, too, in the Champions League was a different style of football to the Premier League, so that was okay.

"But I must emphasise I'm still going through a settling-in period so coming up against teams like Hull and Palace this weekend and facing that typical English style, where it's a long ball, high balls, balls in the air, big physical battles, fighting for every ball, that is the stuff I'm going to take longer to get used to.

"Maybe that's harder for me than games against the big teams at the moment. I will improve and I will cope with that, but it's all about taking it stage by stage What I have got to aim at is consistency and having a good game every game rather than in-and-out performances. I am confident that will happen."

Mangala is expected to play for City in their game against Crystal Palace later today.
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Martin Peters: 'West Ham United can qualify for Champions League'

West Ham United legend Martin Peters believes that the club are more than capable of qualifying for the Champions League this season.

The Hammers have had an excellent start to their campaign, taking 28 points from their opening 16 matches, which sees them reside in the top four of the Premier League.

Peters, who won the World Cup with England in 1966, feels that Sam Allardyce has his team playing in the right way, and is adamant that his side have the ability to remain with the top clubs in the league until the end of the season.

He told The Mirror: "They have been great this season. Sam Allardyce has done well – he has bought some really good new players and done really well. They are doing the right things and are winning.

"They are really good to watch and knocking the ball around nicely. I enjoy watching them win. I can see them carrying on and finishing in the top four if they continue the way they are playing and scoring the goals.

"They are playing the team bottom of the league next so I just hope they don't take it for granted and think they are going to win easily. Over Christmas, they have got Arsenal and Chelsea, so they have got some tough games coming up, and they will tell us a lot, but they deserve to be fourth."

West Ham play Leicester City in their next top-flight outing later today.
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Romelu Lukaku: "People forget I'm still 21"

Everton striker Romelu Lukaku has reminded his critics that he is still a young player learning the game following his inconsistent start to the season.

The 21-year-old became the Toffees' record signing when he signed for the club in a £28m deal from Chelsea in the summer after his successful loan spell with Roberto Martinez's side in the last campaign.

However, the Belgium international struggled early in the season as he notched just two goals in the opening two months of the campaign, but has begun to find his form recently with three strikes in his last seven games.

Lukaku told The Mirror: "Sometimes I think people forget I'm still 21. They think I'm 25 or 26 because I've been around for a few seasons now.

"Sometimes, I look at Ross [Barkley] and think 'We're both young, but people don't realise that'. I'm still 21, sometimes mistakes happen - things happen because you don't have the right experience.

"If I keep improving like this, then when I'm 25 or 26, that's when there will be no excuses."

Lukaku is expected to be in action later today when Everton face Southampton.
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Manuel Pellegrini: 'Chelsea could slip up like Arsenal'

Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini has warned Chelsea that the race for the Premier League title is far from over.

City trail Jose Mourinho's men by three points after 16 matches this season, but pundits along with bookmaker Paddy Power have suggested that the crown is already secured for the Blues.

However, Pellegrini is adamant that his side are confident that they can still win the title following their exploits last season as they overhauled Arsenal, Liverpool and Mourinho's men to claim the top flight trophy.

He told reporters: "I think Arsenal last season had a very similar number of points as Chelsea have now. So we'll see what happens in the second half of the season and how many points you need to win.

"We don't know. Maybe Arsenal last season couldn't do it in the second half, but we don't know what Chelsea will do this year. I think that we must try and think about our team and not the others.

"We always believed that we could make up the points, because we had so many games to play. You never win a title in December. Maybe you can be the best team and winning all the games, but you don't know what will happen in the second half of the season."

City can join Chelsea on 39 points at the top of the table with a victory over Crystal Palace later today.
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Brendan Rodgers: 'It was a huge blow to lose out on Alexis Sanchez'

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has revealed that it was a huge blow for his side to miss out on the signing of Alexis Sanchez.

Both the Reds and Arsenal were interested in his signature from Barcelona in the summer, but the Chile international opted to move to the Gunners in a £32m deal.

Rodgers has conceded that Sanchez's decision was especially disappointing when Daniel Sturridge sustained an injury in August.

"Not to get him was obviously bitterly disappointing, because he was identified for us as someone who would have been a key signing and really just a roll-on to what we had with Luis Suarez," Rodgers told reporters.

"If you look at how I ask the teams to play, it is critical. Not just with the ball but the intensity with the pressing.

"When Daniel Sturridge was injured in August, I think everyone who knows football should hopefully be able to see that our game has become much deeper because of personnel."

Sanchez has scored 14 goals in 24 appearances in all competitions this season for Arsenal.
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Arsene Wenger: 'We offered Alexis Sanchez chance to develop as a player'

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has insisted that Alexis Sanchez chose to join the club because of the Gunners' playing style and scope for development.

Sanchez moved to North London from Barcelona in the summer for £35m, with Wenger saying that he told the Chilean that it would help him to develop the quality of his game.

"I just tried, like ever manager, to convince the player that you can help him to develop the quality of his game, that the way we play football would suit him and that's why I think he has chosen us in the end," said Wenger, according to the Daily Mail

"I think at the end of the day every great player has a choice to make. He chose us and we're very happy for that. I don't know why he has chosen us over anyone else but we're very happy that he has done that."

Sanchez has bagged nine goals in 15 Premier League appearances for Arsenal.
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Stephan Lichtsteiner agrees new contract at Juventus

Reported Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal target Stephan Lichtsteiner is said to be close to finalising a new contract offer at Juventus.

The 30-year-old was rumoured to be interested in making a move to the Premier League with his current deal due to expire at the end of the campaign.

However, reports in Italy claim that the wing-back has reached an agreement with Italian champions Juventus to extend his stay at the club for a further two years.

Lichtsteiner has won three league titles since joining the Old Lady from Lazio in 2011, while also being capped 70 times by Switzerland.
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Friday, December 19, 2014

AC Milan and Schalke prepare Nastasic bids

Both AC Milan and Schalke 04 could look to make January transfer bids for Manchester City defender Matija Nastasic, according to a report in the press. The centre-back has fallen down the pecking order at the Etihad following the purchase of Eliaquim Mangala, despite originally signing for the club on a five-year deal for a fee in the region of £12m back in 2012. It is thought that the Italian and German clubs are the main frontrunners in the race to land the young defender, with The Express suggesting that his services could be acquired for around £10m. Nastasic has featured only once this season for City in a competitive game and that came in a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Arsenal.
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southampton boss Ronald Koeman would have accepted 5th place

Southampton coach Ronald Koeman has said that he would have settled for being fifth-placed in December before the Premier League season began. The Saints have turned heads following an early string of impressive performances, but recent results against the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal have now seen them lose three of their last league matches. "Always you have to look until now," said Koeman, according to the Daily Mail. "If somebody said to me in the pre-season 'after the middle of December you are the fifth in the list' I would have said 'give me the paper and I will sign it now'. I understand the defeats because that's always the difference with players. They need confidence and sometimes now you see that. "I know my players, how they can play football, and it's difficult because of maybe freshness, maybe about more changes in the team. Confidence you can show them, you can tell them, The answer in always on the pitch Saturday at three o'clock and then you have to show it." The coastal club will be looking to bounce back when they face Everton at home on Saturday.
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Manchester United boss Louis Van Gaal wants more

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has said that he wants to see his team dominate more of their fixtures. The Dutchman's time at the club had originally got off to a shaky start, but a dramatic turnaround has seen the Reds win six Premier League games in a row to climb into third position in the table. "Yes, I am not only focused on results. That's the main importance [but] when I speak with Sir Alex he says, 'Not any problem, you have won'," said Van Gaal, according to The Guardian. "But for me it's also the performance that's very important because when you perform you shall win more and that's what I want to show to the fans and the players want to show that and I think also that the guarantee of wins is much bigger when we perform better. "For example the game against Hull City was a good game [a 3-0 win in November] and that I have said. We dominated 90 minutes and I want to see more games like that. And now there are too few games that we are dominating 90 minutes and that's a process." United travel to Villa Park on Saturday to face Paul Lambert's Aston Villa.
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jose Mourinho backs Eden Hazard to become club legend

Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho has challenged midfielder Eden Hazard to win titles and become a legend at Stamford Bridge, as the player edges towards a contract extension with the club. The 23-year-old Belgium international is rumoured to be preparing to sign a new lucrative contract, with Mourinho suggesting that the playmaker has the potential to write himself into the Blues' history books. "Hazard will sign a new contract. I've never been worried about it since I met his father and I knew about his intentions," said Mourinho, according to the Daily Mail. "After that it becomes a numbers situation which I'm more than happy to be out of. My club has always told me the situation will finish with a new contract. "I think he can become one of Chelsea's all-time greats but he has to win titles." Chelsea currently hold first position in the Premier League table on 39 points, with a three-point lead over chasers Manchester City.
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Jose Mourinho - "Chelsea MUST adapt"

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has insisted that his team must adapt to Stoke City's style of play to give themselves the best chance of victory on Monday night. Mourinho takes the West London outfit to the Britannia Stadium having witnessed them suffer a 3-2 defeat in the Potteries last season, but Mourinho is hopeful that his side have learned from their previous mistakes against Mark Hughes's team. The 51-year-old told reporters: "Sometimes you play well and lose - other times you don't play so well and win. Last season we played well against Stoke but made two mistakes that cost us the game. "We might be getting results but we have to go there and play our game. We know their qualities and will have to adapt to it. "If you know you will play against Peter Crouch and their defenders and you don't adapt, you are in trouble. They are a good and difficult side." Chelsea start the weekend three points clear of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table.
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Van Gaal coy over Falcao inclusion

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has indicated that striker Radamel Falcao is fit enough to feature in the starting lineup against Aston Villa. Falcao, who is on loan from Monaco, has started just three times since moving to Old Trafford during the summer transfer window, but Van Gaal has hinted that he is considering including the Colombian forward at Villa Park. The Dutchman told reporters: "He shows fitness in the training sessions, so maybe I shall select him for the bench, or maybe I shall select him for the lineup. Wait and see." Earlier this week, Falcao revealed that he is keen to sign a permanent deal with the club
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Arsenal prepare £26m Pedro bid

Arsenal are reportedly lining up a £26m bid to lure Barcelona winger Pedro to the Emirates Stadium in the New Year. The 27-year-old has scored six goals for the Catalan giants this season, although he is said to be growing restless having made just six league starts under Luis Enrique so far this season. It is claimed by The Express that long-time admirers Arsenal could offer the Spain international a route away from the club, where he will link up with former teammate Alexis Sanchez. Pedro was rumoured to have handed in a transfer request at the Camp Nou earlier this year, although in the wake of speculation linking him with a move to the Premier League, he vowed to continue fighting for his place.
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Eric Abidal to retire this weekend

Defender Eric Abidal has announced that he plans to retire form professional football at the end of this week. The 35-year-old, who currently plays for Greek side Olympiacos, was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2011, but the France international has managed to continue his career into his mid-thirties. However, at a press conference on Friday, Abidal told reporters: "I've taken the official decision to bring an end to my professional career. It's solely due to personal reasons. "I've always played at a good level. I thank the president for his support. I'm proud to have worn the Olympiacos shirt during my time here and I will always support them. "I want to say hank you to the coaches that I have had and to the medical staff who have helped me, because without them, I wouldn't be here now." During his career, Abidal has amassed 445 appearances as well as winning seven league titles and two Champions League trophies.
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"Bojan almost killed me" - Jose Mourinho

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has revealed that Bojan Krkic is "the only player that almost killed [him]" as his side prepares to travel to Stoke City next week. The Blues are looking to cement their position at the top of the Premier League table, but face a tough trip to play Mark Hughes's men at the Britannia, where youngster Bojan now plies his trade as a forward. "Bojan is the only player that almost killed me with a heart attack because, in the last minute of Barcelona vs. Inter in the semi-final of the Champions League, he scored an amazing goal," said Mourinho, according to ESPN. "But offside! And I looked to the other side and the linesman was saying 'offside'. He's the only one. Part of the joke... A very dangerous player, adapting well to the Premier League which is never easy for a striker. But every dangerous player." Chelsea lead the way in the domestic standings on 39 points, three clear of title-chasing Manchester City who occupy second place.
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Wenger has "huge respect" for Liverpool fans

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has revealed the "huge respect" that he holds for the Liverpool supporters. The Gunners manager takes his squad to Anfield on Sunday looking to avenge last season's 5-1 hammering, and Wenger has told reporters of how he admires the Reds fans. The Frenchman said: "I've a lot of respect for the crowd at Liverpool because they stand by their team and I remember one game at Liverpool we were winning 5-1 (in the League Cup) and they were chanting 'You'll Never Walk Alone'. "So it is one of the few grounds in the world that is a special combination of knowledge of the game and of support of their team and I have huge respect for that." Asked if last season's result will give him added motivation for the trip, Wenger added: "Every defeat leaves a scar in your heart." Arsenal are currently sixth in the Premier League.
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Koeman rules out Sneijder move

Southampton manager Ronald Koeman has ruled out a January move for Galatasaray's Wesley Sneijder on the grounds that the club could not afford to meet his wage demands. The Dutchman said that he was interested in signing his compatriot, but admitted that the Saints' financial limitations would prevent an agreement from being reached. "I am interested," FourFourTwo quotes Koeman as saying. "But we can't pay him. I know that because his agent is my agent." Previous reports suggest that several other Premier League clubs are interested in signing Sneijder, whose Galatasaray contract expires in the summer of 2016
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Adam Johnson want Newcastle Cup clash

Sunderland midfielder Adam Johnson had insisted that he is relishing the chance to take on Newcastle United in this weekend's Tyne-Wear derby. The 27-year-old, who made the move to the Stadium of Light from Manchester City in 2012, is yet to taste defeat against the Magpies. Despite having represented England on 12 occasions, as well as lifting the Premier League and FA Cup at club level, Johnson says that he still feels added pressure going into the local derby. "It is the intensity of the occasions you feel," he is quoted as saying by The Northern Echo. "You can feel that little bit more expectancy going into the game. There's a pressure. When you get onto the pitch, if you didn't know it was a derby, you can tell straight away. There is a completely different feeling. There is a tension. It is like a cup final. "Everything is just that little bit extra and you get that from the fans. They make it that way. They are nervous, they want to do well, but there's almost a fear attached to it as well. That's exactly what it is, fear; everyone wants to win it that badly. That is how I would probably describe it. "I don't have too many memories from before the games, it's more afterwards, when you've won, you realise you've done it, the music is turned up and you've won the game. You get on the bus and you can see everybody there is fuming. That's the best part! I think what made it more special over the last couple of seasons is that we really needed the points. We needed the wins regardless of whether it was the derby." Sunderland head into the clash at St James' Park on the back of a six-game winless run.
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Liverpool line up Delph as Gerrard successor

Liverpool have allegedly earmarked Aston Villa midfielder Fabian Delph as a potential successor to Steven Gerrard. England international Delph is out of contract at Villa Park this summer, and the Reds are the frontrunners for his signature, The Mirror reports. Although Liverpool are keen to keep Gerrard after his contract expires next summer, manager Brendan Rodgers is already said to be weighing up possible replacements for the 34-year-old. Villa boss Paul Lambert has been tipped to cash in on Delph and defender Ron Vlaar to prevent them from leaving on free transfers in January.
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"Handing in transfer request,a big mistake" - Christian Benteke

Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke has admitted that he made a mistake when he submitted a transfer request in 2013. The Belgium international made a u-turn and snubbed Tottenham Hotspur in favour of signing in a new contract at Villa Park in July of that year, and he insists that he has no regrets about his change of heart. "I don't have regrets about staying. Every choice I made I accept but I would not do the same mistake and everything that happened before," The Mirror quotes Benteke as saying. Benteke scored 23 goals in his debut season at Villa, and is keen to recapture his top form after returning from long-term injury and a ban.
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Javier Hernandez not leaving Real Madrid

The agent of Javier Hernandez has insisted that the out-of-favour Real Madrid striker will not be leaving the Santiago Bernabeu in January. The Mexico international has struggled for first-team opportunities in his season-long loan from Manchester United, prompting speculation that a winter exit is on the cards. "Sometimes the media speculate too much and assume situations," Eduardo Hernandez told AS. "He will not leave the club [in January]. "He is eager to play more minutes but he knows that hard work will open up more opportunities. He has his future ahead of him. "Real Madrid are a team full of impressive players and obviously to earn a spot is difficult, but Javier has a great quality in working hard, like he has since the first day, and this is his quality." Blancos boss Carlo Ancelotti recently claimed that the 26-year-old will get chances to shine, having played second fiddle to in-form Karim Benzema for much of the season. Hernandez has scored three times in seven La Liga appearances thus far.
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FIFA confirm 2018 World Cup final, opening match dates

FIFA says the 2018 World Cup final will be played on Sunday, July 15.
Confirming the tournament dates Friday, the FIFA Executive Committee agreed that the opening match will be played on a Thursday, June 14.
The 2018 World Cup officially kicks off next March, with the first of more than 800 qualifying matches. FIFA says it agreed that some preliminary-round matches will start then in the Asian and CONCACAF regions.
The main qualifying matches and groups will be drawn next July 25 in St. Petersburg.
FIFA also confirmed the June 17-July 2 dates for the 2017 Confederations Cup warm-up tournament.
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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Fan banned from grounds for tearing Koran

A football supporter who tore pages of the Koran during a game has been banned from every ground in England and Wales for three years. Middlesbrough fan Julie Phillips ripped up pages during her side's 2-2 draw away to Birmingham City last December, and police said she had caused or contributed to other acts of disorder. Phillips, who had already been given a lifetime ban from Middlesbrough's Riverside Stadium, claimed that she did not know the book was the Koran. Cleveland Police applied to the court for the 51-year-old to be banned from games as it was the latest of a number of incidents involving the Middlesbrough fan. The police revealed that Phillips had been arrested at another game after allegedly racially abusing a steward.
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Manchester United target Ivan Rakitic

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal is lining up a move for Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic, according to reports. The 26-year-old joined Luis Enrique's side from Sevilla for £14m in the summer, but has failed to impress this season and has been linked with a move to the Premier League. The Old Trafford club are understood to be lining up a £20m bid for Rakitic after Chelsea entered the race to sign long-term target Kevin Strootman. However, van Gaal will face competition for the Croatian's signature from rivals Manchester City, according to The Express. Rakitic has four goals in 20 appearances for Barcelona this season, but has been used sparingly by Enrique in recent weeks.
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Alex Song kneels to "King" Henry

West Ham United midfielder Alex Song has said that the football world will mourn the loss of "king" Thierry Henry following his retirement. The 37-year-old called time on his illustrious career on Tuesday as he gears up for a spell in media. Song, who played with Henry at Arsenal for a number of years, has now thanked the legendary Frenchman for having such a big impact on his career. "For me, I call him the King," he told the Daily Mail. "He was unbelievable. An amazing player and a great man. I knew him from when I was 17 and I learned a lot from him. Even now he'll say to me you need to this and do that. "So today, we miss a very big player. Not just here in England but in the world. Everybody knows his face. The things is did for football were good. "So I just like to say thank you to him for everything. 'I learned a lot from him, will always be his good friend and I am very happy for. I'd like to wish him all the best for 'the future in all that he wants to do. He achieved a lot of things in football. That's why I call him the King." Henry - also Arsenal's all-time record goalscorer with 228 goals - helped the Gunners to two Premier League titles and four FA Cups in his eight-year spell in North London.
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Crystal Palace to launch loan bid for Ashley Cole

Crystal Palace have reportedly made plans to launch a loan move for Roma defender Ashley Cole when the transfer window reopens next month. Former England full-back Cole joined the Serie A side after leaving Chelsea in the summer, but he has found himself on the bench for each of their last five games. According to the Daily Mail, Palace boss Neil Warnock is keen to bring in a new left-back, and the club are hoping to take advantage of the 33-year-old's struggles in the Italian capital. The report claims that Palace competed with Roma for Cole's services in the summer before former manager Tony Pulis left Selhurst Park. Cole's wages could prove to be a stumbling block as he is believed to be earning close to £80,000-a-week with Roma.
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Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho expecting quiet January

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has revealed that he has no plans on adding to his "very, very good" squad in the January transfer window. The Blues have enjoyed a fine start to the 2014-15 season and have only lost once from their 25 games in all competitions - a 2-1 defeat at Newcastle United earlier this month. Speaking after the 3-1 League Cup win over Derby County, which saw them qualify for the semi-final, the Portuguese insisted that he will not be active next month. "No. We have a short squad but we've got good players, some younger, some older, but the squad is very, very good," he told talkSPORT. "Our project is to start and finish the season with the same group of players, so there will be nobody to leave and nobody to come in either." The Premier League leaders remain in contention to win four trophies this season. Mourinho's side will kick off their FA Cup campaign against Watford next month, with a last-16 Champions League tie with Paris Saint-Germain to follow in February.
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Inter Milan rule out Mario Balotelli return

Inter Milan vice-president Javier Zanetti has said that a January swoop for misfiring Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli is not on the cards. The 24-year-old has endured a trying spell at Anfield since a £16m summer switch from AC Milan and has failed to score in his 10 Premier League appearances thus far. Consequently, a return to Italy next month has been mooted for the Italian - who began his career at Inter - but Zanetti says that the Nerazzurri will not be in the queue. "A Balotelli return? We all know Mario is a great player but I think it's difficult because he only just arrived at Liverpool," Zanetti, who played with Balotelli at Inter, told Sky Sport Italia. "In any case, after our game against Lazio we will hold meetings to see what we can do and what is needed in terms of the [transfer] market." Balotelli, who has scored twice in 14 appearances for the Reds, could be facing a two-game ban for posting an 'abusive and/or offensive' image on his Instagram account recently.
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Soldado, Adebayor to make way for Jackson Martinez

A report has claimed that Tottenham Hotspur will consider selling Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor to fund a move for Porto striker Jackson Martinez. Soldado's struggles at White Hart Lane since joining from Valencia last summer have continued this season, while Adebayor failed to hit his best form during an extended spell in the side earlier in the campaign. In recent weeks Spurs head coach Mauricio Pochettino has used Harry Kane, and the Argentine could be tempted to let Soldado and Adebayor leave if clubs match their valuation of the duo. According to reports in Portugal, Spurs are one of a number of clubs keen on signing Martinez, but they would find it difficult to agree a deal with Porto, who are believed to want £40m for the Colombian. Martinez's agent recently claimed that his client would not be leaving Porto in January.
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Thierry Henry keen to manage Arsenal

Arsenal Legend Thierry Henry has reiterated an ambition to manage the Gunners at some point in the future. The iconic striker hung up his boots at the age of 37 on Tuesday as the Frenchman now prepares to swap the field for a studio after signing up as a Sky Sports pundit. However, Henry has insisted that his long-term future is in the dugout, but he is under no illusions over the difficulty of earning what would be his "dream" job in North London. Asked if he harboured plans to lead Arsenal - where he scored a club-record 228 times in a highly-successful eight-year spell, Henry told The Telegraph. "That would be a dream come true but that's not how it works. You have to prove yourself first, you have to learn first. You need to be able to understand what it is to be a manager. "The plan is to start my badges and I guess Arsenal will help me. To pass your badges, you have to work closely with a club and I would like to think it is going to be Arsenal. You know I'm in London when you see me at Arsenal. "First and foremost, I don't know how or when, but everybody knows I would love to go back to Arsenal in some capacity. But I need to be equipped to go back. I want to learn the process, so I have to get my badges and what not. We will see what is going to happen." On Tuesday, Henry's former Arsenal teammate Ray Parlour tipped the ex-France international to enjoy a successful career in management.
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"I refuse to play mind games with Mourinho"

Laurent Blanc is refusing to get involved with Jose Mourinho's "mind games" after Paris Saint-Germain were drawn against Chelsea in Europe. Monday's last 16 Champions League draw pitted the English table-toppers with France's reigning champions - a repeat of last season's quarter-final - and the media latched on to Mourinho's pre-draw comments that he'd be happy to face PSG. Blanc, who has been in charge at Parc des Prince for a year and a half, was prickly when asked about his retort to the former Real Madrid and Inter boss. "Did Mourinho win the psychological battle? If he wins a point, it is because he's playing a game. I have no game to play mind games with Jose," the Frenchman told reporters. "We know him. We know him very well. [The media] like that, you like his quotes. That's it. He's very strong in this aspect but not only that.  "He had done the math as we did, I'm sure, and he knew the teams he could meet. He knows PSG was one of them and he thought: 'I will come with my little quote.'" "At the end of both games, we will be able to know if it was a good or a bad draw. The sure thing is that they are a great team, that's for sure. We know them well. "We still have memories of last year. We remember that game. I think they are stronger this year. It's going to be very interesting. We have to get ready. We still have time to prepare." PSG were knocked out of Europe by Chelsea last year on the away-goal rule after drawing winning 3-1 at Parc des Princes then losing 2-0 at Stamford Bridge.
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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Who is Thierry Henry?

If asked anytime in the next few years who Thierry Henry is, you meed not to say a word, because words may well not be able to properly describe in summary, the enormous magnitude, the presence of this individual brings to any gathering or team, so we saved you the stress.

The video below says it all...
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Thierry Henry's 10 greatest Arsenal moments

After Arsenal legend Thierry Henry announced his retirement from football, We take a look at ten of the greatest moments of his Gunners career.

HAT-TRICK AGAINST Liverpool, PREMIER LEAGUE 2004
Henry's superb hat-trick was even more impressive when taking into account the importance of this game against Liverpool. The Gunners had started the week on course to win the treble, but losses to Man United in the FA Cup and Chelsea in the Champions League had left Arsene Wenger's side with just the Premier League title to aim for. Unbeaten in the league going into the game, when Liverpool took a 2-1 lead in the first half it seemed Arsenal's season was beginning to unravel. Cue the ever reliable Henry, who stepped up to score three. The best of the bunch was a terrific surging run through the Liverpool defence, shrugging Jamie Carragher off the ball, then slipping past the panicking Reds defence before slotting past Jerzy Dudek, in what would become a defining moment of the Gunners' unbeaten season.

Henry also scored this belter against Liverpool in the FA Cup in 2006



GOAL AGAINST TOTTENHAM, PREMIER LEAGUE 2002
Not only was this goal one of the finest ever seen at the old Arsenal Stadium, it was also that much sweeter for coming against the Gunners' fierce local rivals Tottenham. Henry had scored only once in his previous seven games and the usually confident striker was, for once, lacking his va va voom. It only took 13 minutes on the pitch for the Frenchman's prodigious talent to reappear, however. Picking up the ball up inside Arsenal's own half in a sweeping counter-attack , he sprinted the length of the pitch leaving Spurs players  in his wake, to finish neatly past goalkeeper Kasey Keller. The famous knee-slide celebration in front of the Tottenham fans is now immortalised as a statue outside the Emirates Stadium.


HENRY INSPIRES INTER THUMPING, CHAMPIONS LEAGUE 2003
This was a brilliant night all round for Gooners at the San Siro, with Henry scoring twice as Arsenal put five past the Italian giants. Inter had beaten the Gunners 3-0 at Highbury, but their French striker played talisman in this brilliant 5-1 revenge win. Henry's second goal in the 81st minute was something special - he raced past the defence, beating Javier Zanetti and slipped the ball past Inter 'keeper Toldo from a tight angle. 



HAT-TRICK IN THE FINAL GAME AT HIGHBURY, PREMIER LEAGUE 2006
It was an emotional day as the Gunners waved goodbye to the Arsenal Stadium - better known as Highbury - their home since 1913. The match against Wigan nearly went dramatically wrong, however, as the travelling Lactics went 2-1 up, but Henry scored his ninth hat-trick for the club to salvage a wonderful send-off to the 93-year-old ground. The day was complete when news filtered through that Spurs had lost to West Ham, which meant the Gunners pipped their north London rivals to the final Champions League spot.


THIERRY STUNS THE BERNABEU, CHAMPIONS LEAGUE 2006
Never one to shy away from records, Henry helped Arsenal become the first English side to win at Real Madrid's Bernabeu Stadium. The Gunners were missing key players through injury, but went in at half-time pleased with the 0-0 scoreline. Two minutes after the break, Henry scored the stunning goal you can see below, as Arsenal beat Madrid to put one foot in the Champions League quarter-finals.


HELPING THE INVINCIBLES GO UNBEATEN, PREMIER LEAGUE 2003/04
Henry was the Premier League's leading goal scorer, netting 30 goals in Arsenal's amazing unbeaten season. Also notching up nine assists, it was arguably Henry's finest season for the Gunners and he was rewarded with PFA Player of the Year award, as well as the Golden Boot and a funny looking Barclaycard award...


SURPASSING IAN WRIGHT'S GOAL SCORING RECORD 
Henry broke Ian Wright's Arsenal goal scoring record during a Champions League match against Sparta Prague on October, 18 2005. After studying videos of Wright's finishing, Henry scored a brace (goals 185 and 186) to enter the record books as the Gunners' all-time leading goal scorer.


AMAZING GOAL AGAINST MAN UNITED, PREMIER LEAGUE 2000
Henry scored a spectacular volley against Man United in 2000 as he lifted the ball over the head of his fellow Frenchman Fabian Barthez.


HENRY SCORES THE WINNER AGAINST UNITED, PREMIER LEAGUE 2007
In their first season at the Emirates Stadium, the Gunners had been inconsistent. In a tight, brilliant match against Manchester United, however, Henry scored a last-minute headed winner to hand Arsenal a much-needed boost, helping their season get back on track and leaving Alex Ferguson fuming.


THE KING IS BACK, FA CUP 2011
After five years away from the club, Henry proved he still had the magic touch in an Arsenal shirt by scoring the winning goal against Leeds in a nervy FA Cup third round game. The striker made it 12 goals in 12 games against the Whites, but also added another to his Arsenal record goal tally, making it 227 in an Arsenal shirt and also making dreams come true for Gunners fans.

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Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers: 'Players need to stay together'

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes that togetherness is vital for the players if they are to successfully turn around their season.

The Reds came within two points of winning the Premier League title last season, but they now languish in 11th place after securing just two victories from their last eight games.

After failing to make the knockout rounds of the Champions League, the Merseyside outfit suffered a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Manchester United on Sunday.

"If you look at our record over the last 10 or 11 games, we haven't scored in a lot of them," Rodgers told the club's official website. "We've got to keep working, stay focused and make sure the group stays together, then take the confidence from our creativity into the game."

Tomorrow night, Liverpool will face Bournemouth away in the quarter-finals of the Capital One Cup.
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Wayne Rooney: 'Manchester United can win Premier League title'

Wayne Rooney has insisted that Manchester United can still win the Premier League title this season.

Louis van Gaal's side thumped Liverpool 3-0 at Old Trafford on Sunday for their sixth straight win to stay eight points adrift of leaders Chelsea.

Rooney has helped the Red Devils to five league titles in his 10-year spell at the club, and the 29-year-old feels that experience can help them bridge the gap at the top.

"I think we have to believe we can win the title," he told talkSPORT. "We are eight points behind and coming into a busy period.

"If we can win our games and the others have one bad result then there is nothing there. We have to keep winning our games and hopefully get back to the top and you never know.

"We have been here before but we have a lot of new players and this is where the experience of myself, Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher can rub off on the other players."

United, who won five points from their first five games, travel to Aston Villa on Saturday.
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Roberto Martinez: 'Ross Barkley is Everton's Michael Ballack'

Roberto Martinez has claimed that Everton midfielder Ross Barkley can be as influential for the Toffees as Michael Ballack was in his illustrious career.

The 21-year-old starred in Monday's 3-1 win at home to Queens Park Rangers, opening the scoring from 25 yards in an unfamiliar deeper role due to Gareth Barry's absence.

Asked if Barkley is worthy of comparisons with the legendary German, Martinez told the Daily Mail: "Yes, absolutely. How quickly he takes concepts on, his power and technical ability makes him special.

"He has played in the no 10 role, but in a deeper position he makes good decisions on the ball. It's good for him at his age to experiment in different roles.

"The work he has put in to training recently has been very impressive and he deserved that goal for wanting to take responsibility. It was a lesson in how a midfielder can execute a strike with such quality."

Ballack helped Chelsea and Bayern Munich to multiple league titles throughout a trophy-laden career that also saw him earn 98 caps for Germany.

Martinez's side sit 10th in the Premier League table ahead of facing Southampton at St Mary's on Saturday.
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Paris Saint-Germain to avenge "painful" Chelsea defeat

Marquinhos has warned Chelsea that Paris Saint-Germain are keen to avenge their "painful" Champions League elimination last season.

The French giants were minutes away from moving into the semi-final of the competition when Demba Ba struck late on to seal the Blues' progression on away goals.

Both clubs were paired in the last-16 stage this time around, and the PSG defender says that revenge is very much on the agenda.

"At this level, there are only great teams," Marquinhos told PSG TV. "We will train and work hard to prepare for the two games.

"Chelsea have already won the Champions League and is at the top of their championship. They will give everything to qualify.

"The elimination suffered last season was painful. We will build on this to avoid repeating the same mistakes."

Jose Mourinho's side travel to Parc de Princes for the first leg on February 17, before welcoming the Ligue 1 giants to Stamford Bridge for the conclusion on March 11.
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Alex Song admits he wants to stay at West Ham United

Alex Song has admitted that he wants to stay at West Ham United beyond his loan agreement.

The 27-year-old signed for the Hammers from Barcelona on a temporary deal in the summer, but the London club's owners have indicated that they want to seal a permanent contract for the midfielder.

It appears that Song is also keen to remain at the Premier League club and he has insisted that he has no regrets over making the move.

"I want to stay here," Song told a French newspaper, according to The Mirror. "There were offers on the table from clubs in Italy, France and Turkey. People ask me why I joined West Ham, but I don't regret it."

West Ham are currently fourth in the Premier League table, three points behind third-placed Manchester United.
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Wayne Rooney: 'David de Gea is the best keeper in the world'

Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney has hailed David de Gea as the "best keeper in the world" following his recent displays for the Red Devils.

The Spaniard put in an excellent performance to guide Louis van Gaal's men to victory over Liverpool as he made several crucial saves, and Rooney is adamant that the 24-year-old will only continue to improve at the club.

"He's the best keeper in the world," Rooney is quoted as saying by the Daily Mail. "He's shown great form and some of his saves are incredible.

"Edwin van der Sar had the best years of his career when he was with us in his late 30s so David has a great future ahead of him. If he keeps working hard the way he is, he will have many years at the top."

United are reportedly ready to offer De Gea a new contract with the club to secure his long-term future amid speculation linking him with a move away from Old Trafford.
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Arsenal legend Thierry Henry: 'I retire from football with no regrets'

Arsenal legend Thierry Henry has insisted that he has "no regrets" after deciding to hang up his boots after a 20-year playing career.

The 37-year-old was linked with a possible coaching role at Arsenal after leaving MLS side New York Red Bulls at the start of the month.

However, the Frenchman has opted to embark on a media career by joining Sky Sports as one of their football experts from 2015.

"It's hard to leave the game you love behind, but I'm at peace with what I've done in the game," Henry told Sky Sports News. "I've got no regrets."

The former France international, who scored 175 goals for Arsenal during an eight-year spell, also played for Monaco, Juventus and Barcelona.
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Everton line up Curtis Davies move

Everton are lining up a move for Hull City defender Curtis Davies, according to a report.

The 29-year-old has been linked with a move away from the Tigers after recently finding himself out of the Steve Bruce's starting eleven, although he was recalled to the team in their 2-0 defeat to Chelsea.

Davies is unhappy that he wasn't handed a new deal with the club in the summer after being voted their player of the season, and that has alerted the Toffees to a potential swoop in January, reports The Mirror.

Sunderland and Leicester City are also interested in the former Birmingham City man.
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Carlo Ancelotti aware of Cruz Azul threat

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti has insisted that his side will not underestimate Cruz Azul in the semi-finals of the Club World Cup.

The Spanish side will enter Tuesday's clash as the overwhelming favourites to advance to the final on Saturday.

However, Ancelotti has claimed that his team will "have to play a good game" if they are to make the final.

"They are a Mexican team with a lot of experience. I know the style of their play. All teams that reach the semi-finals are dangerous," Ancelotti told reporters.

"We have to play a good game. Cruz Azul play good football and they utilise the characteristics of the team."

Real Madrid have won their last 20 games in all competitions.
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Gary Neville: 'Manchester United have to tie up David de Gea future'

Gary Neville has insisted that Manchester United need to tie keeper David de Gea to a long-term deal at the club.

The Spaniard has established himself as one of the top keepers in world football due to his impressive displays at the Red Devils, which was highlighted in his match-winning performance against Liverpool on Sunday.

Neville is adamant that Louis van Gaal has to do everything in his power to ensure that the 24-year-old remains at Old Trafford for the foreseeable future.

He told Sky Sports News: "He's winning Manchester United match after match, which is what I would expect from a Manchester United goalkeeper. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said it was a performance he had not seen in 15 years of going to Old Trafford and I would agree with him.

"He has now become a great goalkeeper, a fantastic goalkeeper. Manchester United are ranked third in the league in the most errors leading to shots but in errors leading to goals they're the best in the league because their goalkeeper pulls them out of the mire every single time.

"It's fantastic performances, great goalkeeping and Manchester United have got to get this lad signed up because he's a big, big player for them now."

De Gea joined United in 2011 from Atletico Madrid.
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Thierry Henry announces retirement from football after a 20-year career

Arsenal legend Thierry Henry has announced his retirement from football after a 20-year career in the game.

The 37-year-old confirmed at the start of the month that he was leaving MLS side New York Red Bulls after scoring 52 goals in 133 games for the team.

Henry spent three years at Barcelona, but he is best known for his eight-year spell at Arsenal, where he played 258 games and scored 175 goals, making him the all-time leading goalscorer for the Gunners.

During his career, the former striker won a plethora of trophies, including the Premier League and FA Cup with Arsenal, the Champions League and La Liga with Barcelona, the French Ligue 1 at Monaco and the MLS Shield with the New York Red Bulls.

On the international stage with France, Henry has lifted the World Cup and the European Championship, and remains the nation's all-time leading goalscorer.

Now, the retired sportsman has switched his attention to media work and will join Sky Sports' punditry team from the start of 2015.

On his Facebook page, Henry wrote: "After 20 years in the game I have decided to retire from professional football. It has been an incredible journey and I would like to thank all the fans, team mates and individuals involved with AS Monaco, Juventus, Arsenal FC, FC Barcelona, the New York Red Bulls and of course the French National Team that have made my time in the game so special.

"It is now time for a different career path and I am pleased to say that I will be returning to London and joining Sky Sports. I will hopefully share some of the insights, observations and experiences I have learnt over the years with you guys.

"I have had some amazing memories (mostly good!) and a wonderful experience. I hope you have enjoyed watching as much as I have enjoyed taking part. See you on the other side..."

In terms of individual honours, Henry has won the Premier League Golden Boot four times, the European Golden boot twice and the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year at Arsenal three times.

The Frenchman is also a five-time winner of the French Player of the Year and two-time winner of the PFA Players' Player of the Year.
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Martin Montoya to join Juventus

Spanish defender Martin Montoya will reportedly leave Barcelona for Juventus when the January transfer window opens.

The right-back has been with Barca since 1999 – emerging through the club's youth system before making his first-team debut in the 2010-11 season.

However, the 23-year-old has struggled for football over the last 12 months and has made just one appearance this season.

According to talkSPORT, Juve have won the race for Montoya after agreeing terms with his current club.

Liverpool and Arsenal are also believed to be interested.
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Roma determined to keep Kevin Strootman

Roma general director Mauro Baldissoni has insisted that the club have no plans to sell Kevin Strootman when the transfer window opens in January.

Manchester United have been continually linked with a move for the Netherlands international since Louis van Gaal was installed as manager, but the Red Devils have never made a formal bid Strootman's signature.

Baldissoni told Radio Anch'Io Lo Sport: "Our [club] president [James Pallotta] has already spoken about this and he gets angry with the rumours that link him to Manchester United.

"Our policy is that of investing in players that have quality but have room for improvement. Kevin is a young player with experience, and we want to build our future with players like him."

The 24-year-old missed the World Cup in the summer due to a knee injury, which has limited him to playing just three matches for Roma this season.
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Cesc Fabregas: 'Chelsea are using me the right way'

Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas believes that his early success at the club is due to him being utilised in his best position by Jose Mourinho.

The 27-year-old joined the Blues in a summer switch from Barcelona, and has become an instant success at Stamford Bridge as he has notched 11 assists in 15 matches in the Premier League this season.

Fabregas feels that he wasn't played in his best position at the Catalan club, which led to inconsistent displays during his spell at the Camp Nou.

He told Chelsea's official magazine: "Where I am playing right now is the position I like the most because I feel I can dictate the play and I feel in control.

"At Barcelona, I was playing as a false nine, as a No.10, everything except what I felt was my best position, but I was feeling comfortable because we had a great team and great players, so it was going well."

Fabregas is expected to return to action for Chelsea against Derby County after missing their 2-0 win over Hull City last Saturday.
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Gilberto Silva reveals Arsenal approach

Arsenal legend Gilberto Silva has revealed that manager Arsene Wenger has asked him to return to the club in a coaching capacity.

The Brazilian midfielder, an ever-present in the Gunners' famous 'Invincible' season a decade ago, claims that Wenger is keen to re-sign him as a coach.

In an interview with Globo Esporte, the 38-year-old - who has not yet retired - said: "I have had an invitation, yes.

"Anything is possible, it makes me happy when you have these invitations, people see you with a different profile, you can contribute.

"It makes me happy and motivated, and it makes me want to learn from others, seek knowledge and develop my own style."

Gilberto left Arsenal in 2008 after six years in North London to join Greek giants Panathanikos, before returning to his homeland with spells at Gremio and Atletico Mineiro. He is currently without a club.

Last month, Wenger said that he would also welcome the club's all-time leading goalscorer Thierry Henry to take a place on his coaching staff.
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Abdoulaye Ba to return to Porto

Rayo Vallecano are reportedly preparing to terminate the loan spell of Abdoulaye Ba, who joined the club from Porto this summer.

The 23-year-old has been a dependable performer on the field, but it is understood that off-the-field matters have disrupted his time in Madrid.

Ba did not travel with Rayo for their La Liga clash against Valencia at the weekend after failing to comply with the club's travel arrangements and according to Inside Spanish Football, Rayo want to terminate the loan.

The centre-back is believed to have trained apart from the first-team squad on Monday.
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Bayern Munich consider move for Liverpool's Raheem Sterling

Bayern Munich will reportedly launch a bid for Liverpool star Raheem Sterling if they fail in their pursuit of Borussia Dortmund's Marco Reus.

Doubts have been raised over Sterling's future at Anfield as he is yet to sign a new contract believed to be worth around £70,000 a week.

According to Bild, Bayern manager Pep Guardiola has told his brother Pere, who works as Luis Suarez's agent, to open talks with Sterling as he is beginning to lose patience with Reus, who is said to have doubts about switching to the Allianz Arena.

Sterling, who turned 20 last week, is believed to have also attracted interest from Real Madrid.
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Monday, December 15, 2014

Luis Enrique: 'Manchester City tie will be tough'

Barcelona boss Luis Enrique has branded Manchester City "a tough and complicated rival" after the two sides were paired together in the last-16 stage of the Champions League.

The clash between the champions of England and Catalan outfit is one of the standout meetings in this season's draw, but Enrique is confident that his side will advance.

"They will be a tough and complicated rival. In principal, one of the toughest in the draw and an aspirant to winning the Champions League," Enrique told reporters at a press conference.

"We'll have to analyse our rival in detail and bearing in mind the tie is in February, that many things can change. Right now they look a dangerous opponent, although maybe later things will be different. When the time comes, we'll evaluate them fully."

City have made the knockout stage of the Champions League for the first time in their history.
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Philipp Lahm expects Bayern Munich to progress in Champions League

Bayern Munich captain Philipp Lahm has revealed that he expects the team to beat Shakhtar Donetsk in the last 16 of the Champions League.

The Germans, who have won the competition five times, were drawn against the Ukrainians on Monday.

Lahm has insisted that Shakhtar will be difficult opponents for Bayern, but the defender is confident that his side will progress.

"Donetsk are certainly dangerous opponents, but despite that, we have to make the next round," he told the club's official website. "Bayern's minimum target is always the quarter-finals."

Bayern are currently nine points clear at the top of the Bundesliga table thanks to an unbeaten start to the season.
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Tomas Rosicky mocks Robin van Persie, Manchester United's European absence

Arsenal midfielder Tomas Rosicky opted to take a little dig at Manchester United ahead of this morning's Champions League round-of-16 draw in Nyon.

The Czech Republic international posted an image on Instagram of a card saying 'NOT MAN UNITED' in reference to the North-West outfit's failure to qualify for the elite competition after finishing seventh in the Premier League last season.

Rosicky also opted to tag Robin van Persie, who signed for United from Arsenal back in 2012, in the photo on social media.

Arsenal were dealt a relatively kind round-of-16 fate when they drew Monaco and escaped the likes of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
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Wesley Sneijder eager to leave Galatasaray

Wesley Sneijder has reportedly informed Galatasaray that he is keen to leave the club during next month's transfer window.

The Turkish outfit are also said to be open to prospect of parting company with the Dutch international in a bid to ease their ongoing financial problems.

As a result, the 30-year-old's representatives have already informed potential suitors, including Manchester United and Southampton, of his desire to move on, according to the Daily Mail.

Both United and the Saints are managed by Dutchmen, which is believed to make joining either of those Premier League teams an attractive proposition to Sneijder.

If either of those clubs were to take advantage of the playmaker's supposed availability, it is thought that his Turkish employers would demand around £9m for his services.
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UEFA Champions League round of 16 draw: Five talking points

Earlier today, the draw for the first knockout round of this season's Champions League took place in Nyon.

With the majority of Europe's biggest clubs still involved in the competition, it was always going to conjure up some interesting encounters.

Here,We have picked five of the biggest talking points to have arisen from the eight fixtures.

1. Wenger's Monaco reunion
There will have been many Arsenal's fans that watched the draw through the cracks in their fingers. After all, in the last two campaigns, the Gunners have been pitted against, and subsequently eliminated by, Bayern Munich. A third recent meeting with the German champions looked a major possibility as the draw progressed, but it was arguably Arsene Wenger's dream opponents that the North Londoners will face.

Prior to making a name for himself in the Premier League, Wenger had a seven-year spell in charge of Monaco during the 1980s and 1990s. His stint at the Stade Louis II included one Ligue 1 title and one Coupe de France, as well as the signing of players such as Glenn Hoddle and George Weah. Under his management, Monaco also reached the semi-finals of the Champions League.

Fast-forward to the present day and while Monaco may have won their group, they scored only four goals and conceded one. It's certainly a winnable tie for Wenger's Arsenal. What's more, going deep in the Champions League could appease some of the Gunners faithful that have called for Wenger to stand down. 

2. Luiz back at the Bridge
Jose Mourinho may not have been the biggest admirer of David Luiz's ability, yet the wild-haired Brazilian was a major favourite at Stamford Bridge. But, despite having helped Chelsea to win the Champions League, Europa League and FA Cup, Mourinho discarded the defender during the summer, with Paris Saint-Germain said to have parted with an eye-watering £50m to sign him.

Ironically, when these two sides met in the quarter-finals of the competition last season, Luiz, playing in Chelsea colours, scored an own goal as the home side won the first leg in Paris 3-1. However, Mourinho's charges rallied in the return meeting in West London and went on to advance through to the last four thanks to a late goal from Demba Ba, which sealed a 3-3 aggregate scoreline, meaning that Chelsea won on the away goals rule. Will Luiz be on the winning side again this time around?

3. City looking for Barca revenge
After two botched attempts, Manchester City reached the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time in their history last term. It was there that they met a Lionel Messi-inspired Barcelona, who ran out 4-1 victors over both legs.

Today's draw has provided Manuel Pellegrini's side with an almost immediate opportunity to gain some revenge for that comprehensive defeat. The bookmakers understandably regard Barca as the favourites, but with four group matches played, City looked doomed. However, unanticipated wins over Bayern Munich and Roma saw the English champions through, sparking the theory that this could be the year that City finally make a major impact on Europe's biggest club competition.

While City's progression was not as dramatic, Liverpool benefited greatly from defying the odds to qualify for the knockout stages in December 2004. Of course, to stand any realistic chance of toppling the Catalans, Pellegrini will need the likes of Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure all fit and on top form.

4. 1997 finalists meet again
When Karl-Heinz Riedle paired Juventus with Borussia Dortmund, a knowing smile occupied his lips. Indeed, the 49-year-old scored twice when the German outfit defeated their Italian counterparts during the 1997 final in Munich. It was a result viewed at the time as an upset, largely because Juve were the holders and included the likes of Alessandro del Piero, Zinedine Zidane and Didier Deschamps within their squad. The teams also contested the 1993 UEFA Cup final, with Juve winning through 6-1 on aggregate.

At present, the clubs are experiencing mixed fortunes. Juventus have won the last three Serie A titles and they lead the way again, but Dortmund are facing up to the prospect of a relegation scrap. By the time that this fixture comes around in February, no doubt Jurgen Klopp, providing that he remains in charges, will be hoping that his side are in much better shape.

5. Holders have one foot in last eight
None of the sides that finished runners-up wanted to face Real Madrid. Sadly for Schalke 04, it was they who drew the short straw. There would have been an audible groan at the Veltins-Arena as they reflected upon their meeting against the defending champions at the same stage last year. On aggregate, Madrid won 9-2, thanks in part to an emphatic 6-1 victory in Germany. Of those nine goals, Cristiano Ronaldo scored four of them.

Los Blancos will be only too aware that no side has retained the Champions League in its current guise, but they will be confident that this tie against Schalke has provided them with a routine route into the quarter-finals.

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