Saturday, February 28, 2015

League Cup Final: Chelsea vs Tottenham Hotspur Preview

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho will hand a start to Ramires for the League Cup final with Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday afternoon.

With Nemanja Matic serving a two-match ban and John Obi Mikel still sidelined, the Brazilian will be included as the Blues eye silverware for the first time this season.

Mourinho must also decide between Petr Cech and Thibaut Courtois, while Kurt Zouma could get the nod to partner John Terry in defence.

Chelsea haven't suffered defeat since their shock 4-2 loss to Bradford City, but Mourinho will be keen to improve on the three wins and three draws recorded since that game.

The Blues will be eyeing revenge after they suffered a 5-3 defeat to their London rivals at White Hart Lane on New Year's Day.

Spurs head into the match having failed to win in their last four outings, and head coach Mauricio Pochettino will be eager to restore a bit of belief at the club.

Their exit to Fiorentina in the Europa League followed a last-gasp point at home to West Ham United, a result that has left the team in seventh place in the Premier League table.

Pochettino will recall striker Harry Kane while Michel Vorm should be selected in goal, but the Argentine has selection dilemmas in the centre of defence and on the left flank.

Eric Dier and Fazio are in contention to partner Jan Vertonghen, while Pochettino must decide between Andros Townsend and Christian Eriksen further forward.

Spurs last won the League Cup when defeating Chelsea 2-1 in the final in 2008 thanks to goals from Dimitar Berbatov and Jonathan Woodgate.

Kick Off Time - 16:00HRS

Venue Wembley Stadium

Referee A Taylor

Odds Chelsea 7-10 Tottenham 5-1


 Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur: probable starters in bold, contenders in light.

Chelsea
Subs from Blackman, Cech, Aké, Christensen, Zouma, Filipe Luís, Cuadrado, Loftus-Cheek, Brown, Rémy, Drogba

Doubtful None

Injured Mikel (knee, 4 Mar)

Suspended Matic (first of two)

Form DDWWDW

Discipline Y61 R3

Leading scorer Costa 17

Tottenham Hotspur
Subs from Friedel, Vorm, Yedlin, Fazio, Kaboul, Davies, Stambouli, Capoue, Dembélé, Paulinho, Lamela, Chiriches, Adebayor, Soldado

Doubtful None

Injured None

Suspended None

Form LDDLWW

Discipline Y70 R3

Leading scorer Kane 24


Read More »

GOAL ZONE 'Predict'


English - Premier League February 28
13:45 West Ham United L-W Crystal Palace
16:00 Burnley L-W Swansea City
16:00 Manchester United W-L Sunderland
16:00 Newcastle United D-D Aston Villa
16:00 Stoke City W-L Hull City
16:00 West Bromwich Albion L-W Southampton

Italian - Serie A February 28
20:45 ChievoVerona L-W AC Milan

Spanish - Liga BBVA February 28
16:00 Granada L-W Barcelona
18:00 Rayo Vallecano D-D Levante
20:00 Almeria L-W Deportivo La Coruna
22:00 Malaga W-L Getafe

German - Bundesliga February 28
15:30 Bayer Leverkusen L-W Freiburg
15:30 Borussia Dortmund L-W Schalke 04
15:30 Hannover 96 D-D VfB Stuttgart
15:30 Hertha Berlin W-L Augsburg
15:30 Hoffenheim W-L Mainz 05
18:30 Eintracht Frankfurt L-W Hamburger SV

French - Ligue 1 February 28
16:00 Lille D-D Lyon
20:00 Bordeaux L-W Reims
20:00 Lens L-W Rennes
20:00 Lorient D-D Bastia
20:00 Metz L-W Evian Thonon Gaillard
20:00 Toulouse L-W Saint Etienne

Read More »

Manchester United VS Sunderland Preview

Robin van Persie’s ankle injury offers Radamel Falcao another chance to impress in attack after an underwhelming spell so far at Manchester United. He is likely to be partnered in attack by James Wilson, who has, arguably, outshone his more illustrious – and considerably higher paid – team-mate this season. Sunderland, with one win from their past 10 league games, need at least a point on Saturday to guarantee they will not be sucked into the bottom three.

Kick-off Saturday 3pm

Venue Old Trafford

Last season Man Utd 0 Sunderland 1

Referee R East

This season G10, Y41, R1, 4.30 cards per game

Odds H 4-11 A 10-1 D 9-2


Manchester United v Sunderland: probable starters in bold, contenders in light.
Manchester Utd


Subs from Lindegaard, Valdés, Vermijl, Thorpe, Pereira, Da Silva, Mata, Blackett, Carrick, Valencia, Herrera, Januzaj

Doubtful Carrick (calf)

Injured Van Persie (ankle, Apr)

Suspended None

Form LWWDWL

Discipline Y52 R4

Leading scorer Van Persie 10

Sunderland
Subs from Mannone, Van Aanholt, Coates, Bridcutt, Gómez, Buckley, Fletcher, Graham, Agnew, Honeyman

Doubtful None

Injured Jones (ankle, 7 Mar), Rodwell (groin, 7 Mar), Giaccherini (ankle, Aug)

Suspended None

Form LLWDLD

Discipline Y66 R1

Leading scorers Fletcher, Johnson 4

Read More »

Granada vs. Barcelona Preview

Barcelona must turn their attention to their domestic form this weekend just a few days after taking a big step towards securing a place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

A trip to Granada awaits Luis Enrique's side, who returned to form with an impressive performance in the meeting with Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday evening.

Luis Suarez's brace handed Barcelona a 2-1 victory in the first leg of their last-16 tie, but it could have been even better had Lionel Messi managed to beat Joe Hart with his stoppage-time penalty.

However, the result would have surely come as a relief to Enrique after his side's shock 1-0 loss to Malaga at Camp Nou last Saturday.

That defeat ended a run of 11 successive victories in all competitions, and it also allowed Real Madrid to extend their advantage to four points at the top of the table.

Enrique will be fully aware that another slip-up could hand the title to Real, and another winning run is crucial ahead of next month's second El Clasico of the season.

Changes are likely after the trip to Manchester in midweek, with Xavi and Jeremy Mathieu both pushing for recalls, while Claudio Bravo is set to replace Marc-Andre ter Stegen in goal.



An upset seems unlikely, but Granada would take huge confidence from a positive result as they continue their battle to avoid relegation.

Abel Resino's side are currently 19th, four points from safety, and they have only managed to record one win from 14 games in all competitions since the start of December.

Granada's season took another disappointing turn last weekend as Levante scored twice late on to secure victory in a vital game between two of the league's struggling sides.

Red cards to both Adrian Colunga and Youssef El Arabi mean that they will both miss the visit of Barcelona, and Resino will be forced into an attacking reshuffle as a result.

Granada:

Recent form: LDWLDL

Possible starting lineup: Olazabal, Nyom, Mainz, Babin, Foulquier, Marquez, Bangoura, Iturra, Carlos, El Riki, Isaac

Barcelona:

Form in La Liga: WWWWWL
Form in all competitions: WWWWLW

Possible starting lineup: Bravo; Alves, Mathieu, Mascherano, Alba; Busquets, Iniesta, Xavi; Neymar, Messi, Suarez

Read More »

Stoke City vs. Hull City Preview

Hull City will travel to Stoke City on Saturday afternoon much more comfortable with their Premier League position than they were at the start of the month.

The Tigers have picked up seven points from a possible nine in three February matches, against a team challenging for the title and two of their relegation rivals.

This form has seen them climb to 15th in the table and four points clear of danger ahead of their trip to the Britannia Stadium, where they have never won a top-flight game.

January signing Dame N'Doye has proven the catalyst for this improvement, netting in both the wins over Aston Villa and Queens Park Rangers.

Steve Bruce's deadline day spent in France securing a £3m deal for the unknown Senegalese striker is now looking to be a worthwhile piece of business.

Mohamed Diame had a similar impact upon his arrival at the KC Stadium, scoring four times in his first five games for the club before a knee injury stopped him in his tracks.

N'Doye's compatriot has not played since December 3, but is hopeful of making his return in the next couple of weeks to boost Hull's survival chances. James Chester and Robert Snodgrass remain long-term absentees.



Having chopped and changed throughout the campaign, Bruce now appears to have settled on a 3-5-2 formation and should see no reason to begin tinkering again now that his side are starting to find some rhythm.

An unchanged side would mean another start for Paul McShane ahead of club captain Curtis Davies at the back, and only places on the bench for Gaston Ramirez, Abel Hernandez, Sone Aluko and Andrew Robertson.

Stoke too could name the same lineup which started last weekend's come-from-behind 2-1 win over Aston Villa, where Victor Moses scored a last-ditch winner from the penalty spot after Mame Biram Diouf had earlier equalised.

Despite Geoff Cameron returning from suspension, Phil Bardsley should keep his place at right-back in an ever-changing defence which has been glued together by Bayer Leverkusen loanee Philipp Wollscheid in recent weeks.

Injuries to captain Ryan Shawcross, Marc Muniesa, Erik Pieters and Marc Wilson, the latter two of whom have now returned, has put extra pressure on the January signing and manager Mark Hughes feels that he has coped admirably.

The mid-table Potters are short of full strength further up the field as well, with Bojan and Peter Odemwingie still sidelined. Jonathan Walters is expected to be given the nod to lead the line, although Peter Crouch is waiting in the wings.

The two teams shared the spoils in August's 1-1 draw, in which Chester was sent off for Hull in the first half.

Stoke:

Form in Premier League: LWWDLW
Form in all competitions: WWDLLW

Possible starting lineup: Begovic; Bardsley, Wollschied, Wilson, Pieters; N'Zonzi, Whelan; Moses, Ireland, Diouf; Walters

Hull:

Form in Premier League: LLLDWW
Form in all competitions: LLLDWW

Possible starting lineup: McGregor; McShane, Bruce, Dawson; Elmohamady, Huddlestone, Livermore, Meyler, Brady; Jelavic, N'Doye
Read More »

West Bromwich Albion vs. Southampton Preview

Two sides in need of the points for different reasons meet in the Premier League on Saturday as West Bromwich Albion entertain Southampton at The Hawthorns.

The Baggies are looking to continue their rise away from relegation trouble under Tony Pulis, having lost just one of 10 games since the Welshman's appointment.

A 0-0 draw at Sunderland last weekend was another positive result for Albion as they took a point on the road against one of the teams around them in the table.

Southampton, meanwhile, have defied the odds and critics to stay firmly in the top-four race, although a 2-0 defeat at home to Liverpool on Sunday meant that they finished the weekend outside of the Champions League places.

The Saints continue to lead the way in terms of defensive solidity, having conceded only 19 times in the league this season, but goals at the other end have dried up recently, with only one in their last four matches.

Sadio Mane was the scorer of that goal - a stoppage-time winner against Queens Park Rangers at the start of February - but was dropped for Liverpool because he turned up "25-30 minutes" late for the pre-match meal.

With Graziano Pelle without a Premier League goal in 2014 and Jay Rodriguez still sidelined, Ronald Koeman needs all the firepower that he can get and will likely recall Senegalese winger Mane at the expense of Filip Djuricic.

Morgan Schneiderlin and Ryan Bertrand are ready to return after injury and suspension, and Toby Alderweireld, who has not played since January 11, is also nearing a comeback as Koeman's ranks approach full capacity.



While the Belgian works his way back to match sharpness, Maya Yoshida should again deputise. Matt Targett and Steven Davis, who was taken off at half time against the Reds with a knock, are those who are likely to make way.

Pulis bolstered his midfield for the trip to Sunderland as both Craig Gardner and James Morrison were selected to support the central pair, but the flair of Stephane Sessegnon may get the nod now that they are back on home soil.

Victor Anichebe is West Brom's only injury worry, but he would nevertheless be unlikely to dislodge Brown Ideye or Saido Berahino, who have six goals between them in Albion's four-match unbeaten run, in the two-man attack.

Long-serving defender Jonas Olsson, who has only featured on five occasions this season and not since September because of injury, was back on the bench last weekend and should be included in the squad at The Hawthorns.

Southampton are unbeaten in three games against the Baggies, including August's 0-0 draw at St Mary's.

West Brom:

Form in Premier League: WDLDWD
Form in all competitions: WLDWWD

Possible starting lineup: Foster; Dawson, McAuley, Lescott, Brunt; Sessegnon, Yacob, Fletcher, Morrison; Berahino, Ideye

Southampton:

Form in Premier League: WWLWDL
Form in all competitions: WLLWDL

Possible starting lineup: Forster; Clyne, Yoshida, Fonte, Bertrand; Schneiderlin, Wanyama, Ward-Prowse; Elia, Mane, Pelle

Read More »

Burnley vs. Swansea City Preview

Two teams who ruffled Premier League feathers last weekend meet at Turf Moor on Saturday as Burnley entertain Swansea City.

Both sides stunned the Premier League's elite as Swansea beat Manchester United and the Clarets rallied to draw 1-1 at the home of leaders Chelsea.

The Swans fell behind at the Liberty Stadium before goals from Ki Sung-yueng and Bafetimbi Gomis secured them their first ever league double over United.

They remained ninth in the table despite the result and are probably too far behind to resurrect their challenge on the European places.

However, victory against a United side who had previously only lost once in 19 games is evidence that Garry Monk's men are not going to allow their season to peter out.

Burnley's brave display at Stamford Bridge has been overshadowed by the incident involving Ashley Barnes and Nemanja Matic which resulted in the Serbian being sent off.

Matic reacted furiously to a tackle from Barnes, shoving his opponent to the ground, but much of the post-match critique was aimed at the Clarets striker for his original challenge, described as 'career-threatening' by Jose Mourinho.

Sean Dyche has defended Barnes with a detailed explanation of his version of events and insisted that he does not need taking out of the spotlight ahead of the reverse fixture of Swansea's 1-0 victory in August.



Replacing him with Wales international Sam Vokes, who has been waiting patiently to reform his prolific strike partnership with Danny Ings since returning from a long-term injury, is an option worth consideration.

Consistent team selection is one of the reasons why the relegation favourites have avoided falling adrift and therefore Dyche could again name an unchanged side to the one which earned a valuable point against the Blues.

Only goal difference separates them from safety, and the likes of Stephen Ward and Matt Taylor are returning to fitness to help their cause. Dean Marney is out for the rest of the season, though, and so Michael Kightly will start.

Monk too may intend to stick with the same starting XI, with Gomis leading the line and Gylfi Sigurdsson accommodated in a wide role ahead of Nathan Dyer and Jefferson Montero, both of whom are useful substitutes.

January signings Kyle Naughton and Jack Cork have settled in immediately at Swansea and have already established themselves in a team which lists central defender Kyle Bartley as its only injury absentee.

Burnley have only won one of their last 10 league games, but will climb out of the bottom three with victory.

Burnley:

Form in Premier League: WLLDLD
Form in all competitions: LLLDLD

Possible starting lineup: Heaton; Trippier, Keane, Shackell, Mee; Boyd, Arfield, Jones, Kightly; Barnes, Ings

Swansea:

Form in Premier League: DLWDLW
Form in all competitions: LLWDLW

Possible starting lineup: Fabianski; Naughton, Fernandez, Williams, Taylor; Cork, Ki; Routledge, Shevley; Sigurdsson; Gomis
Read More »

Borussia Dortmund vs. Schalke 04 Preview

Borussia Dortmund have the chance to continue their resurgence in the Bundesliga when they host fierce rivals Schalke 04 in the Revierderby on Saturday afternoon.

A disastrous first half of the season was followed by a disappointing start to 2015, but Jurgen Klopp has finally produced a response to guide his side to three successive league wins for the first team this season.

In a campaign in which no side in the bottom half of the table appears to be safe from relegation, that run has seen Dortmund climb up to 12th, and they could move into the top half if results go their way this weekend.

However, all eyes will be on Signal Iduna Park as the two sets of supporters prepare for one of the biggest days of the season, and Klopp could respond to Tuesday's 1-0 defeat to Champions League rivals Juventus by making a few changes.

Despite impressing in the Bundesliga recently, Shinji Kagawa was named as a substitute in Turin and he could be set for a recall, but the hosts will be without Lukasz Piszczek, who has been ruled out for six weeks with an ankle injury.

Schalke have received a boost in their preparations for the match with the news that Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has recovered from bruising to his shin to make himself available for selection following his domestic suspension.

Roberto Di Matteo's side are without a win in three games in all competitions, but recent history suggests that the visitors can make the trip full of confidence.

Schalke have lost just one of their last seven league games at Dortmund's home, and recorded a 2-1 victory in the reverse fixture back in September.

Dortmund:

Form in Bundesliga: LDLWWW
Form in all competitions: DLWWWL

Possible starting lineup: Weidenfeller, Ginter, Sokratis, Hummels, Schmelzer, Gundogan, Sahin, Kagawa, Reus, Aubameyang, Ramos

Schalke:

Form in Bundesliga: DWDWLD
Form in all competitions: WDWLLD

Possible starting lineup: Wellenreuther, Barnetta, Howedes, Matip, Nastasic, Fuchs, Neustädter, Hoger, Meyer, Choupo-Moting, Huntelaar
Read More »

West Ham United vs. Crystal Palace Preview

West Ham United play the second of four successive London derbies when they host Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Saturday lunchtime.

The Hammers drew 2-2 with Tottenham Hotspur last weekend and have capital giants Chelsea and Arsenal to come at the beginning of next month.

Only a 96th-minute equaliser denied them victory at White Hart Lane, with Harry Kane converting the rebound of his Adrian-saved penalty.

Conceding stoppage-time goals is hampering West Ham's European push as they also saw three points slip through their fingers against Manchester United a fortnight ago.

Three consecutive top-flight draws mean that the Hammers are now winless in five games in all competitions and five points off the pace in the race for Europe.

With Chelsea and Arsenal coming up, now is not the time for them to be losing form and a couple more barren weeks would see them condemned to a mid-table finish that would likely spell the end of Sam Allardyce's hopes of getting a new contract at the end of the season.

Results have not quite been going Palace's way of late either, but Alan Pardew is undeterred and admitted after the 2-1 loss to Arsenal last weekend that he had never been so fulfilled by a defeat in his 16-year managerial career.

The Eagles were unfortunate to be down 2-0 at half time as Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud scored against the run of play, and Glenn Murray nearly salvaged them a point when he hit the post moments after his late reply.



On-loan striker Yaya Sanogo was ineligible for the game at Selhurst Park, but comes back into the reckoning here and could start as the centre-forward with both Marouane Chamakh and Fraizer Campbell carrying knocks.

Yannick Bolasie should also return to the lineup after a lively cameo off the bench against the Gunners. Wilfried Zaha was less impressive and could pay for his frustrating lack of end product with his place in the team at Upton Park.

Pardew has a selection dilemma in midfield, with both captain Mile Jedinak and James McArthur back to full fitness to compete with the likes of Joe Ledley and £5m signing Jordon Mutch for positions in the centre of the field.

Allardyce has fewer options to choose from so should stick with an unchanged side, with Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho forming the strike partnership despite the Ecuadorian being without a league goal since November.

Carlton Cole picked up a hamstring strain as a substitute against Spurs and joins Andy Carroll in the treatment room. Morgan Amalfitano is serving the last game of his three-match suspension and thus is also unavailable.

Academy graduate Mark Noble, who made his West Ham debut when Pardew was manager at the Boleyn Ground, extended his contract with the club this week and will skipper them from a diamond-midfield formation.

Palace could go eight points clear of the relegation zone if they can win at the Hammers for the second time in a row.

West Ham:

Form in Premier League: DWLDDD
Form in all competitions: WLDDLD

Possible starting lineup: Adrian; Jenkinson, Tomkins, Reid, Cresswell; Song, Kouyate, Noble; Downing; Sakho, Valencia

Palace:

Form in Premier League: WWLWDL
Form in all competitions: WLWDLL

Possible starting lineup: Speroni; Ward, Dann, Hangeland, Souare; Bolasie, Jedinak, Ledley, Puncheon; Gayle, Sanogo
Read More »

Newcastle United vs. Aston Villa Preview

Tim Sherwood will be hoping to take advantage of a fragile Newcastle United side and pick up his first points as Aston Villa manager on Saturday afternoon.

The former Tottenham Hotspur head coach's first official game in charge ended in defeat as Stoke City overturned Scott Sinclair's opener to win 2-1 at Villa Park.

The manner of the loss would have been as painful as the result for Sherwood as captain Ron Vlaar was sent off in the process of conceding a stoppage-time penalty which Victor Moses converted for the visitors.

The 46-year-old was typically honest in his post-match assessment, admitting that his job with Villa is going to be a "work in progress" - not ideal when the Premier League ever-presents sit 19th in the table.

Quickly renewing confidence in a team that has lost six top-flight games on the bounce and is winless in 11 is perhaps Sherwood's biggest task, but at least Villa's opponents this weekend will be feeling equally low.

Newcastle were flattened 5-0 by Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium last Saturday, self-destructing from minute one as Vurnon Anita's mistake gifted the champions the penalty which started the emphatic rout.

The result marked John Carver's first defeat since being confirmed as interim manager until the end of the season, and the Geordie local has demanded an instant response from his team against Villa at St James' Park.

Anita may pay for his error with his place in midfield, but Carver's freedom to make sweeping changes is restricted by a lengthy absentee list which includes Cheick Tiote, Siem de Jong, Paul Dummett and the suspended Jack Colback.

Daryl Janmaat is expected to shake off a niggle sustained against City to continue at right-back, and Remy Cabella could also be included in the squad after making progress in his recovery from an ankle ligament concern.

A central-midfield shortage may mean that Moussa Sissoko is asked to protect the back four alongside Mehdi Abeid, with Sammy Ameobi or Gabriel Obertan possible beneficiaries as a slot on the wing becomes open.



Sherwood is not one to panic and could stick with the same side, other than two enforced changes at the back, with Vlaar now suspended and Kieran Richardson a major doubt having been forced off in the Potters defeat.

Philippe Senderos and Nathan Baker are also unavailable in defence, but Jores Okore and Aly Cissokho were both regulars under former boss Paul Lambert and should be competent deputies on Tyneside.

Facing the centre-half partnership of Fabricio Coloccini and Mike Williamson, who have leaked four goals or more four times when paired together this season, could be the opportunity that Christian Benteke needs to rediscover his form.

Sinclair and Carles Gil are likely to be tasked with providing the Belgian striker with the service to add to his disappointing three-goal haul this campaign. Ashley Westwood and Tom Cleverley will have to make do with the bench again.

When both were under different management, the two clubs played out a 0-0 draw at Villa Park in August.

Newcastle:

Form in Premier League: LLWDDL
Form in all competitions: LLWDDL

Possible starting lineup: Krul; Janmaat, Coloccini, Williamson, Haidara; Abeid, Sissoko; Gouffran, Perez, Ameobi; Cisse

Villa:

Form in Premier League: LLLLLL
Form in all competitions: WLLLWL

Possible starting lineup: Guzan; Hutton, Okore, Clark, Cissokho; Sinclair, Sanchez, Delph, Gil; Agbonlahor, Benteke

Read More »

Louis van Gaal: 'Lack of goalscorer is hurting us in title race'

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has conceded that his side are not contention for the Premier League title because of their lack of a prolific goalscorer.

Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney have scored 10 and nine goals respectively in the top flight this season, while Radamel Falcao has notched just four strikes for the Red Devils.

Van Gaal feels that their lack of goals compared to that of Chelsea's Diego Costa and Manchester City's Sergio Aguero is one of the reasons why they have fallen behind the top two in the Premier League.

He told reporters: "It is true because I cannot deny it. Robin van Persie cannot deny it, Falcao cannot deny it and Rooney - but he is not playing there so much any more.

"But we cannot deny that at this moment we don't have a striker who scores 20 goals in the season."

Van Gaal confirmed that Van Persie has been ruled out for the next few weeks with an ankle injury sustained in their defeat to Swansea City.
Read More »

Olivier Giroud "embarrassed" by miss against Monaco

Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud has admitted that he is embarrassed about his miss against Monaco in the Champions League, a game that the Gunners lost 3-1 at home.

Arsene Wenger hopes that the French striker is not affected by the criticism, after the 28-year-old missed several clear chances in their first-leg tie with the Ligue 1 club.

The Gunners now face a tough away trip to the Stade Louis II, with Giroud conceding the defeat was 'tough to take'.

"I am not a better or worse player than three days ago; it is just about confidence and keeping [strong]," he told the club's official website.

"I am really hurting, more than disappointed. It has been embarrassing for me but I have never given up in my career and sometimes I have had tough games like that before.

"It was difficult because nothing went right; everything was tough for me. I tried to keep focused but I understood why the boss wanted to substitute me. It was not my day."

The Frenchman is likely to retain his place for Arsenal's home fixture against Everton on Sunday.
Read More »

Southampton boss Ronald Koeman ready for season-defining week

Ronald Koeman has admitted that Southampton's next two Premier League matches could define their season.

The Saints travel to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday before hosting Crystal Palace in midweek as they look to keep pace in the race for the Champions League.

A 2-0 defeat at home to Liverpool last weekend saw them drop out of the top four, but Koeman still feels that they are well-equipped to maintain their challenge if they can rediscover their goalscoring touch after three blanks in four games.

"We will play a lot for our chances for a high position in the table in the next two games. We have to realise that," he told reporters.

"We have to be prepared for that. I think we're doing well, if you go back to the game against Liverpool, we played well.

"We deserved much more than we got. Now it's about being more effective. That's maybe the question at the moment. We're not effective enough to score and to win games. [But] the total feel of the team? I am happy."

Take a look at Sports Mole's assessment of the fiercely-contesed top-four race.
Read More »

Jose Mourinho: 'League Cup final most important of my career'

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has revealed that Sunday's League Cup final against Tottenham Hotspur is the 'most important' of his career so far.

Mourinho's side are currently in the running for the treble, as the lead the Premier League and remain in Europe's elite competition.

However, despite winning three Champions League finals, the Portuguese manager insists that Sunday's final is the most important of his career.

"This cup final is the most important of my career. More important than the Champions League finals. More important than all the other cups I've ever played before," the 52-year-old told the press.

"Do I look stupid? It's just because it's the next one.

"The others are in the club museum. My medals are somewhere at home, I don't know where ... but the most important game of my career is always the next one."

Mourinho will be without Nemanja Matic after his three-match ban was reduced by one but will still miss Sunday's final against Spurs.
Read More »

Arsenal, Manchester United 'miss out on Valencia's Jose Luis Gaya'

Arsenal and Manchester United have reportedly been told that Valencia will not be selling teenage sensation Jose Luis Gaya this summer.

Since establishing himself in the first team at the Mestalla this season, Gaya's form for Los Che has seen with linked with the Premier League duo.

The Gunners were even linked with a possible move for the youngster in the January transfer window, prior to the capture of Gabriel Paulista, but Valencia president Amadeo Salvo insisted that the left back is not for sale.

"Valencia fight for their rights as it has always done. The player is not for sale and we will not negotiate," Salvo is quoted by AS as saying.

"There is no price for it. His intention is to stay and he will continue with us."

Valencia are currently level on points with Atletico Madrid following their victory over Cordoba last weekend.
Read More »

Brendan Rodgers: 'We are managing Daniel Sturridge's fitness'

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has revealed that the club are being "careful" with Daniel Sturridge's fitness after he recently returned from a five-month layoff.

Sturridge was substituted with 15 minutes remaining of extra time against Besiktas on Thursday night, but Rodgers has insisted that his withdrawal was precautionary and the England international is available for Sunday's clash with Manchester City.

The 42-year-old told reporters: "We have to manage Daniel. He had given everything in the game. It's maybe easier to look from the outside and think that he would continue to play but this is a player who is coming back from five months out injured. He's gaining his fitness in the games.

"We have to be really, really careful that he doesn't break down because Daniel's history shows that. We have to try to manage that the best way that we can and there has been very little training between the games because you have to play, recover and play again.

"He had given everything and there was no more in his legs. We just needed to take him off to prevent an injury while he was very tired."

Sturridge has scored twice in eight appearances in all competitions since January 31.
Read More »

Manuel Pellegrini: 'Vincent Kompany is still great'

Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini has defended the form of his captain Vincent Kompany.

The 28-year-old made two costly mistakes for the Citizens in their 2-1 defeat to Barcelona in the Champions League as his errors allowed Luis Suarez to strike twice in the first half at the Etihad Stadium.

However, Pellegrini has backed the Belgium international to bounce back in his side's next few matches, starting against Liverpool on Sunday.

He told reporters: "Vincent is an experienced player with a strong character. He must receive the criticism that everyone receives when our team doesn't have the performance that everyone hopes for.

"I think it's not a problem for him, I am sure that he will have a strong reaction."

When asked if Kompany was still among Europe's best defenders, Pellegrini added: "I think he is a great player."

Kompany has made 25 appearances for City in all competitions this season.
Read More »

Atletico Madrid 'to sell Mario Mandzukic, Arda Turan'

Atletico Madrid reportedly ready to offload Mario Mandzukic and Arda Turan to finance a bid for Paris Saint-Germain striker Edinson Cavani.

Mandzukic has scored 12 times

However, the Daily Star claims that the Croat forward will be sold at the end of the season, while Turkey international Arda Turan will also be shown the door at the Vicente Calderon.

While, Manchester United were heavily linked with a move for Cavani earlier this month, it is thought that the Spanish champions could utilise the Uruguayan's relationship with Atleti defender and fellow countryman Diego Godin.

If the Champions League finalists step up their pursuit of Cavani, it is likely to cost the club around £45m to prise him away from PSG.

Mandzukic is rumoured to be valued at around £32m and has been linked Arsenal and Manchester City in the past, while £20m-rated Turan is said to be unhappy with life in the Spanish capital.
Read More »

John Terry: 'League Cup win could start trophy surge'

Chelsea captain John Terry believes a victory in the final of the Capital One Cup could start a surge of success for the club.

Jose Mourinho's first trophy win with the Blues was in the competition back in the 2004-5 season, and the silverware prompted further triumphs in the Premier League with two titles, along with a second League Cup and the FA Cup in 2007.

He told reporters: "The 2005 win was the first one for the team which made a big impact through all the squad, it set us on our way. It gave us a taste of what we wanted and we wanted it more, I think it brought the squad closer together.

"With that in mind this could be the first one for all of us - the manager is right, we have got to out and win trophies to put us right up there. Like everyone I felt something different when the manager came in. It was a different mentality, everything was about winning. He made that clear from day one.

"That rippled through the whole squad, through the academy, through the whole club really, and he has continued that, he has brought that back again this time. A lot of people write this competition off but for me it is huge and we look back on that 2004-5 season, it had a huge impact on our confidence and momentum."

Chelsea face off against Tottenham Hotspur in the League Cup Final at Wembley on Sunday.
Read More »

Arjen Robben: 'Manuel Neuer was the key against Koln'

Arjen Robben has praised goalkeeper Manuel Neuer as 'the key' in their 4-1 victory over FC Koln on Friday night.

Bayern led the match by two goals early on, thanks to strikes from Franck Ribery and Bastian Schweinsteiger and the league leaders looked likely to go on to pick up all three points.

Koln's Anthony Ujah replied for the visitors just before half time and had the chance to equalise shortly after the restart, only to be stopped by Neuer, who pulled off several saves to keep the score 2-1.

Bayern went on to win the match, with the Dutch winger insisting that his German teammate was the key in the victory.

"It was a bit weird today," Robben said, according to Goal.com.

"We started so well but then in the last 10 minutes of the first half we became a bit slower."

Bayern extend their lead at the top of the table to 11 points, with Wolfsburg still to play their game in hand.
Read More »

Manchester United 'not giving up on Marquinhos deal'

Manchester United are reportedly refusing to throw in the towel in their pursuit of Paris Saint-Germain defender Marquinhos.

The Red Devils have regularly been linked with move for the 20-year-old, with Adnan Januzai mooted in a possible swap deal.

According to the Daily Mail, PSG are reluctant to sell the player and view the centre-back as a mainstay of their backline.

It is thought that United are not put off by Les Parisiens' position on Marquinhos and the club may even try with a summer bid, having failed to land the defender almost two years ago.

However, if United were to make an offer in excess of the £40m reportedly paid by Manchester City for Eliaquim Mangala, that still might not be enough for the French champions to agree a sale.

PSG return to Champions League action next Wednesday when they face Premier League leaders Chelsea, with the tie poised at 1-1 following the first leg at the Parc Des Princes almost a fortnight ago.
Read More »

Manchester United's David de Gea slams Louis van Gaal bust-up as "lies"

Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea has rejected rumours that he and manager Louis van Gaal are not on speaking terms.

Reports emerged in Spain earlier this week claiming that the shot-stopper and the Dutchman have not spoken for months, which has fuelled speculation surrounding De Gea's future.

The 24-year-old has been heavily linked with a move to Real Madrid, but other media outlets have suggested that the goalkeeper is close to agreeing a new deal at Old Trafford.

In response to the rumours that he has fallen out with Van Gaal, De Gea told MUTV: "Everything that has been written in the press about us not getting on is a lie. We both want the best for the club and the team, and the stories are complete lies."

United are currently fourth in the Premier League table, with a one-point cushion above fifth-placed Southampton.
Read More »

Mauricio Pochettino has no problem with selection decisions

Tottenham Hotspur boss Mauricio Pochettino has insisted that he will have no problems leaving players out of his starting lineup for the Capital One Cup final against Chelsea.

Spurs crashed out of the Europa League on Thursday with a 2-0 defeat to Fiorentina as they extended their winless run in all competitions to four matches.

Pochettino has admitted that he doesn't mind being unpopular with his squad by making difficult choices with his selection policy for the clash at Wembley.

He told reporters: "Always it is a difficult moment. Players want to play always and in all competitions. Every time you pick the starting XI or the squad of 18 it is always difficult to communicate to the players who are not in the squad.

"But this is football, this is our job and us and the players need to understand always about my decision. In each game and every game I take a decision and analyse which is the best side to pick. It's not a different rule for the final.

"The players, like on the first day, need to understand that I am the boss. I decide the squad, I decide the starting XI and I decide who plays and who does not. It is true that it is a final and an important game but the players need to accept my decision."

Spurs last won the League Cup back in 2008 under Juande Ramos.
Read More »

Luis Enrique hits out at English media

Barcelona boss Luis Enrique has hit out at the English media for launching a campaign against Luis Suarez, after the striker was accused for allegedly attempting to bite Martin Demichelis.

The incident occurred in Barca's 2-1 win over Manchester City in the Champions League, after Demichelis had put his hand near Suarez's throat.

The Uruguayan recently criticised the British press for trying to 'cause trouble' and his manager has stood by him.

"Unfortunately it's something normal in some parts of the world to have these sort of campaigns against somebody," Enrique said, according to Goal.com.

"Suarez already knows he will always be watched, even he has said many times that he made a mistake.

"We have seen this kind of campaigns against players, president, supporters."

Suarez has previously been banned three times in his career for biting, with his last punishment lasting more than four months after he bit Italy's Giorgio Chiellini during the World Cup last year.
Read More »

Marquinhos takes pleasure from Manchester United interest

Paris Saint-Germain defender Marquinhos has revealed that he takes pleasure from the reported interest shown by Manchester United.

The Brazilian defender is competing for a place in the PSG starting lineup, with countrymen David Luiz and Thiago Silva occupying the centre half positions.

Marquinhos is being heavily linked with a summer move to the Red Devils but the 20-year-old is 'validated' by the interest but is also reassured by PSG's current stance on rejecting negotiations for him.

"I'm calm, concentrated. I leave all this to my agent," Marquinhos told L'Equipe.

"Before, PSG refused to begin negotiations. They have shut the door. I see this as something to take confidence from.

"It proves PSG count on me but, to be honest, it gives me pleasure to see Manchester United are interested in me. It's validating."

Marquinhos completed his move from Roma to PSG in 2013 for a reported fee of £27m in a five-year deal
Read More »

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Bayer Leverkusen vs. Atletico Madrid Preview

Bayer Leverkusen will welcome Atletico Madrid to Germany on Tuesday looking to win a last-16 tie in the Champions League for the first time.

The Bundesliga outfit reached the final of the competition in 2002, but that was when the tournament included a second group stage and since then, it has been a struggle for the German club in the latter stages.

Leverkusen have won three of their last four home games in the Champions League, but lost their last four two-legged ties against Spanish opposition.

In terms of their progression to this particular stage of the competition, Leverkusen finished second behind Monaco in Group C. In what was widely considered the weakest group, they won three of their six matches, drawing once and losing twice in the process.

They have also struggled for consistency in their domestic league this season, with 33 points from 22 games leaving them in sixth position.

Atletico, meanwhile, are bidding to reach the quarter-finals of the European Cup for the seventh time. The Spanish side made it to the final of last season's competition, but were beaten in extra time by Real Madrid.

Atletico's away record against Bundesliga clubs is won five, drawn three and lost seven, but they have won five and lost just one of their nine away Champions League matches since September 2013.

Diego Simeone's side, who currently sit third in La Liga, made it to this stage of the competition by topping Group A with 13 points.

The home side will be without the services of Omer Toprak through suspension, while Robbie Kruse and Lars Bender are both expected to miss out. Head coach Roger Schmidt has no new fresh injury concerns, however, with Karim Bellarabi and Heung-Min Son both fit to start.

Spanish midfielder Koke is still on the sidelines for Atletico, meanwhile, but Simeone otherwise has a full complement of players. Raul Garcia is expected to come into the XI, while Antoine Griezmann and Mario Mandzukic will continue their partnership in attack.

The last time that these two sides met was in the group stages of the 2010-11 Europa League, with both matches ending in 1-1 draws.

Leverkusen:

Form in CL: LWWWLD
Form in all competitions: DDWLLD

Possible starting lineup: Leno; Castro, Reinartz, Papadopoulos, Wendell; Brandt, Calhanoglu, Rolfes, Bellarabi; Son, Drmic

Atletico:

Form in CL: LWWWWD
Form in all competitions: WLWWLW

Possible starting lineup: Oblak; Juanfran, Godin, Miranda, Siqueira; Gabi, Tiago, Garcia; Turan, Mandzukic, Griezmann
Read More »

Arsenal vs. Monaco Preview

In years gone by, Arsenal have been punished for their failure to top their Champions League group by being drawn with the likes of Bayern Munich and Barcelona in the first knockout round of the competition.

However, this time around, the Gunners, who finished second to Borussia Dortmund, have been dealt a more favourable tie in the form of Ligue 1 outfit Monaco.

It's something of a romantic draw for Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, who managed Monaco between 1987 and 1994, totally transforming what had been an ailing club in the process.

In signing the likes of Glenn Hoddle and George Weah, Wenger was able to guide Monaco to their first Ligue 1 title and Coupe de France triumph in six years.

On Wednesday, the 65-year-old will come up against his former employers for the first time since he departed for Japan.

In terms of team selection, Wenger is likely to be without the injured midfield duo of Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, which could well tempt the Frenchman to stick with the same side that started Saturday's 2-1 win over Crystal Palace.

As far as the opposition are concerned, there is likely to be one familiar face among the Monaco ranks, with Dimitar Berbatov expected to start.

During his stint in the Premier League with Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and Fulham, the Bulgarian frontman found the net on three occasions against Arsenal.

The North Londoners do not have an overly positive home record against French clubs, having only won half of their 10 matches.

In contrast, Monaco, who are currently fourth in France's top flight, have traditionally done well during their trips across the Channel, with just one defeat coming from five encounters.

Arsenal:

Form in Champions League: LWWDWW
Form in all competitions: WWLWWW

Possible starting lineup: Ospina; Chambers, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Cazorla; Ozil, Sanchez, Welbeck; Giroud

Monaco:

Form in Champions League: WDDLWW
Form in all competitions: WDDLWW

Possible starting lineup: Subasic; Fabinho, Wallace, Abdennour, Kurzawa; Toulalan, Kondogbia; Moutinho, Martial, Carrasco; Berbatov
Read More »

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Juventus VS Borussia Dortmund Preview

Juventus have been waiting 18 years to gain revenge on Borussia Dortmund. Heading into the Champions League final between the two sides back in 1997, Juve were the big favourites to prosper, but they lost 3-1 to a Karl-Heinz Riedle-inspired Dortmund in Munich. Tomorrow evening, they meet for the first time since that night in the opening leg of their last-16 clash, which is being played in Turin. As far as domestic matters are concerned, the season to date could not have gone much differently for the clubs. Juventus are well on their way to winning a fourth straight Serie A title, while Borussia Dortmund have spent the last few months dangerously flirting with the Bundesliga's relegation places. To Dortmund's credit, their form has improved since their return to action from the winter break, with three wins being recorded on the bounce. In terms of team selection, Jurgen Klopp, who guided BVB to the final of the competition in 2013, will be without versatile midfielder Kevin Grosskreutz because of a hamstring injury. However, talisman Marco Reus is fully fit, while former Juve centre-forward Ciro Immobile and centre-back Mats Hummels could both return to the starting lineup. Meanwhile, Juve head coach Massimiliano Allegri may be tempted into handing recalls to Stephan Lichtsteiner, Patrice Evra and Arturo Vidal following their omissions last time out. In total, the Italian champions have played host to German clubs on 21 occasions, from which they have won 14 and lost on five occasions. Juventus: Form in Champions League: WLLWWD Form in all competitions: WWDWDW Possible starting lineup: Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Chiellini, Bonucci, Evra; Pirlo, Marchisio, Pogba; Pereyra; Llorente, Tevez Dortmund: Form in Champions League: WWWWLD Form in all competitions: LDLWWW Possible starting lineup: Weidenfeller; Piszczek, Subotic, Hummels, Schmelzer; Sahin, Kagawa, Gundogan, Reus; Immobile, Aubameyang
Read More »

Manchester City VS Barcelona Preview

In a repeat of last season's fixture at this stage of the competition, Manchester City will tackle Barcelona in the last 16 of the Champions League, with the first leg to be held at the Etihad on Tuesday evening. Barcelona won 4-1 on aggregate last term, with their two-legged affair the first time that the two teams had ever met in European competition. Barca are by far the more experienced at this stage of the competition, however, with the Spanish club in the last 16 for the 11th time in a row, while this is just City's second appearance in the knockout stages. City remarkably beat Bayern Munich and Roma in their final two Group E fixtures to qualify for the round-of-16, but their 3-2 win over Bayern on matchday five was just their third win in their last 10 European home matches. That said, City have lost just one of their five home games against Spanish clubs. Barcelona, meanwhile, are pursuing their eighth successive quarter-final appearance. The Catalan outfit lost at Paris Saint-Germain in the group stages, but eventually finished top of Group F after beating the French side at home. Luis Enrique's side have won 11 of their last 12 matches in all competitions, but will enter the match off the back of a surprise 1-0 defeat at home to Malaga at the weekend. That reverse left them four points behind Real Madrid in the race for the La Liga title. Barca have the best defensive record in Spain this season, however, which has put to bed some criticisms of their defence. The home side will be without the services of key midfielder Yaya Toure, who is suspended, while James Milner is also an injury doubt. January signing Wilfried Bony is pushing for his first start, but Edin Dzeko is expected to feature alongside Sergio Aguero in attack after scoring twice in their 5-0 win over Newcastle United at the weekend. Enrique, meanwhile, left Javier Mascherano and Ivan Rakitic out of his XI for Saturday's league defeat against Malaga, but both are expected to return to the side. Marc-Andre ter Stegen will start between the sticks, while Luis Suarez will return to England for the first time since leaving Liverpool last summer. Man City: Form in CL: LDDLWW Form in all competitions: LLDDWW Possible starting lineup: Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Mangala, Clichy; Fernando, Fernandinho; Silva, Aguero, Nasri; Dzeko Barcelona: Form in CL: WLWWWW Form in all competitions: WWWWWL Possible starting lineup: Ter Stegen; Alves, Mascherano, Pique, Alba; Rakitic, Iniesta, Busquets; Neymar, Messi, Suarez Kick Off Time - 20:45HRS
Read More »

Premier League in numbers: Week 26

Aston Villa 1-2 Stoke City
Villa loanee Scott Sinclair scored for the first time since he found the net as a Swansea player in August 2012.

However, his goal could not stop new Villa boss Tim Sherwood losing his first game in charge of the club.

Visiting Stoke are unbeaten from their last five trips to Villa Park in the Premier League.

Chelsea 1-1 Burnley
Blues right-back Branislav Ivanovic scored for the fourth time in six appearances in all competitions.

Up the other end, Ben Mee's header was just the second goal from a corner that Chelsea have conceded this season.

The Clarets have won just two of their last 32 Premier League away matches, losing 24.

Crystal Palace 1-2 Arsenal
French international Olivier Giroud scored his 50th goal for Arsenal in all competitions.

It was also the striker's fifth goal in his last seven outings for the Gunners.

For hosting Palace, Glenn Murray found the net for the first time in the Premier League since May 2014.

Hull City 2-1 Queens Park Rangers
January signing Dame N'Doye has now scored two and assisted another two goals for the Tigers.

Meanwhile, QPR midfielder Joey Barton received the ninth red card of his career for hitting out at Tom Huddlestone.

Despite the defeat, Charlie Austin scored his 14th goal of the campaign for the R's.

Sunderland 0-0 West Bromwich Albion
The hosting Black Cats have drawn 13 of their 26 encounters this season, which is a Premier League record.

In fact, Sunderland have won just two of their last 15 matches at the Stadium of Light, losing six times.

West Brom have lost just one of the nine games that Tony Pulis has taken charge of.

Swansea City 2-1 Manchester United
Louis van Gaal's Man United conceded more than one goal in a game for the first time in 18 Premier League encounters.

Up the other end, Wayne Rooney recorded his first shot on target in the Premier League since the turn of the year.

The Swans have won three of their last four meetings against the Red Devils in all competitions.

Manchester City 5-0 Newcastle United
City playmaker David Silva took his Premier League goals tally to nine, which is his best return in a single season.

His two-goal contribution also helped City to record their first victory at the Etihad Stadium since January 4.

The Magpies have lost their last 11 Premier League meetings with the Citizens.

Tottenham Hotspur 2-2 West Ham United
Hosting Spurs have picked up 16 points from losing positions this season, which is more than any other Premier League club.

Harry Kane, who scored the stoppage-time equaliser, has fired in 24 goals in all competitions this season.

Meanwhile, the visiting Hammers have scored a Premier League-high 15 headed goals this term.

Everton 2-2 Leicester City
Despite the late equaliser, Everton are without a victory in front of their own supporters at Goodison Park since December 15.

Of Steven Naismith's last 11 goals, eight of them have been scored on Merseyside.

Romelu Lukaku had a total of nine shots against Leicester, but none of them were on target.

Southampton 0-2 Liverpool
The Reds have claimed 17 Premier League points in 2015, which is two more than any other club.

Up the other end of the pitch, Liverpool have kept five successive away clean sheets in the league for the first time since 1985.

The defeat means that the Saints have won just one of their last five matches in all competitions.

Read More »

Samir Nasri: 'Manchester City must make Champions League history'

Samir Nasri has claimed that Manchester City need to 'create history' for the sake of their fans by knocking Barcelona out of the Champions League.

The Blaugrana make the trip to the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday evening for the first leg of the glamorous tie.

Nasri told BBC Sport ahead of the match: "We have had a lot of success in the Premier League so fans are really passionate.

"In the Champions League we need to create our history to have this special relationship with the fans, and I think a game like Barcelona can be a big victory between us and the fans in the competition."

Luis Enrique's charges beat City 4-1 on aggregate at the same stage of last year's competition.
Read More »

Liverpool aim to sign Alvaro Morata this summer

Liverpool have made the signing of Juventus striker Alvaro Morata their number one priority this summer, according to reports.

The 22-year-old only joined the Serie A side from Real Madrid last summer, but he has struggled to adapt to life in Italy so far and has just six goals for his new team.

Spanish website fichajes say that Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is keen to avoid another striker crisis like the one they have had this season, when they struggled to find a regular goalscorer in the absence of Daniel Sturridge.

However, a deal for Morata is not straight forward as Arsenal are reportedly interested and Real Madrid are said to have a £25m buy-back clause.

Morata has two international caps for Spain.

Read More »

Former Arsenal star Emmanuel Petit criticises current Gunners team

Former Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Petit has criticised his former club by saying they are "not killers", ahead of their Champions League tie with Monaco tomorrow.

Petit played for Arsenal under current manager Arsene Wenger from 1997-2000, and he believes that he and his former teammates knew how to win big matches better than Wenger's current stars.

He told the Mirror: "You have to remember the defence that we had. You could rely on Seaman, Adams, Keown, etc. We knew how to travel. When we had to play, we knew how to do that too. I remember one away game at Wimbledon where Tony Adams came to say to me: 'Today, Manu, forget the football. It's war'. We knew how to adapt because we only wanted one thing: to win.

"Let's say that the Barcelona of keeping the ball has overtaken that style. But today, you have to be more direct and pragmatic. You see that with Germany or Real Madrid. Arsenal have very pretty players but there are not 'killers' in this team. At that time, we were tough, we did not play to look good."

Arsenal host Monaco at the Emirates Stadium in the first leg of their last-16 tie.
Read More »

Ex-Sunderland boss Peter Reid offers advice to Gus Poyet

Former Sunderland manager Peter Reid has told Gus Poyet that his side should be playing a more direct style of football.

The current Black Cats boss has come under fire from some supporters following a run of just one win from six games.

Reid, who managed Sunderland between 1995 and 2002, believes that the team should be looking to score more goals.

"I think they need to try and play more direct – with players like [Connor] Wickham and Steven Fletcher, they need to mix it up a bit," Reid told talkSPORT.

"Get the ball out wide and get an early cross into the box."

Sunderland are currently 16th in the Premier League.
Read More »

Pat Nevin slams "warped" FA system following Ashley Barnes escape

Former Chelsea winger Pat Nevin has admitted that he is in a "state of shock" after the Football Association decided not to take retrospective action against Burnley's Ashley Barnes.

The 25-year-old has been at the centre of controversy after he committed a dangerous tackle on Nemanja Matic during his side's 1-1 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Despite the severity of the challenge, Barnes went unpunished on the field and referee Martin Atkinson instead sent off Matic for his angry reaction to the tackle.

After it was confirmed that Barnes would not face retrospective action, Nevin wrote on Chelsea's official website: "I am currently in a state of shock that we now find Nemanja is expected to serve a three-match ban while his assailant is to get off scot free.

"The statement and ruling from the FA was beyond belief for someone who has played the game. For a shove to illicit three games and a potentially career-damaging 'tackle' to get not so much as a slap on the wrist shows a broken system, or a deliberately warped system, and it also shows a gross unfairness that seems to regularly affect Chelsea more than anyone else."

The FA stated that because the referee had seen the incident, a suspension cannot be enforced.
Read More »

Arsenal set to release Brooklyn Beckham

Brooklyn Beckham is set to be released by Arsenal's academy, according to reports.

The 15-year-old was called up to play for the club's under-18 side earlier this month, and is said to be a talented right midfielder, like his father, David Beckham.

However, the Daily Mail reports that Beckham has failed to land a two-year scholarship with the North London club, although they believe that he has the ability to have a professional career elsewhere.

Beckham's two younger brothers, Romeo and Cruz, are also on the books at the club's academy.
Read More »

FIFA tas force recommends Qatar 2022 to be played in November, December

The FIFA task force has officially recommended that Qatar 2022 should be played in November and December in order to avoid the soaring temperatures in the summer.

The regular June to July dates of a World Cup campaign have been questioned with regards to the Qatar bid due to the danger that the heat could cause to players and spectators.

Overnight, reports emerged claiming that chair of the task force Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa had ruled out a summer tournament, and now it has been confirmed, but is yet to be ratified.

The recommendation, which also includes the prospect of the tournament being shortened by a few days, will be put to FIFA's executive committee next month.

Should the World Cup dates change for the Qatar tournament, the English Premier League will be seriously impacted as the season runs from August to May.
Read More »

Southampton boss Ronald Koeman: 'Louis van Gaal's players fear him'

Southampton manager Ronald Koeman has criticised Louis van Gaal's style of management by claiming that he 'causes clashes' with his players because he "thinks he knows everything".

Koeman worked as Van Gaal's assistant at Barcelona around 16 years ago and the pair eventually fell out over a dispute.

Now, the duo are managing in the Premier League, but Koeman has suggested that Van Gaal's approach could cause problems in the Manchester United camp.

"When you bring Van Gaal in the house, you bring in quality, but you also bring in someone who thinks he knows everything, and that will cause clashes," The Mirror quotes Koeman as saying. "There is a big difference between him and and me as managers. I was his assistant at Barcelona after the World Cup in 1998.

"I learned a lot of things from him, but the way he handles his players is totally different from the way I work. I don't put as much pressure on the shoulder of players.

"When you have Van Gaal in charge, it is a fact that there is fear in his team. The players have a fear for Mr Van Gaal. That is not always good."

Just one point separates the two clubs in the league table, with United fourth and Southampton fifth.
Read More »

Manchester City's Pablo Zabaleta 'not speaking' to Barcelona star Lionel Messi

Manchester City's Pablo Zabaleta has revealed that he has temporarily cut contact with Argentina teammate Lionel Messi ahead of tonight's Champions League last-16 clash against Barcelona.

The two sides will meet for a second consecutive year in the knockout phase of the tournament, but Zabaleta has not spoken to Messi since the draw was made.

"No, we haven't spoken because there is nothing to say," the Daily Star quotes Zabaleta as saying. "I'm just going to see him on Tuesday.

"I always wish the best to Messi, but once the game starts, we are friends no more. We have know each other for a long time, but once you play these games for 90 minutes you are not friends."

City will host the first leg at the Etihad stadium this evening.
Read More »

Harry Redknapp targets return to management next season

Harry Redknapp has revealed that he hopes to return to management next season after leaving Queens Park Rangers following a two-year spell.

The 67-year-old resigned from his role earlier this month, citing double knee surgery as his reason for departing.

Now, Redknapp, who has managed Bournemouth, West Ham United, Portsmouth, Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur, has outlined plans to return.

"I'll be looking to get back in next season," Redknapp told Sky Sports News. "I'll be looking to work somewhere. I've got nothing else in my life, really.

"I still feel as good as I've ever felt. My knee will be sorted in a week or two and then I'll be ready to go again - looking forward to that."

Chris Ramsey has been installed as Redknapp's replacement at QPR until the end of the season.
Read More »

Southampton boss Ronald Koeman: 'Louis van Gaal's players fear him'

Southampton manager Ronald Koeman has criticised Louis van Gaal's style of management by claiming that he 'causes clashes' with his players because he "thinks he knows everything".

Koeman worked as Van Gaal's assistant at Barcelona around 16 years ago and the pair eventually fell out over a dispute.

Now, the duo are managing in the Premier League, but Koeman has suggested that Van Gaal's approach could cause problems in the Manchester United camp.

"When you bring Van Gaal in the house, you bring in quality, but you also bring in someone who thinks he knows everything, and that will cause clashes," The Mirror quotes Koeman as saying. "There is a big difference between him and and me as managers. I was his assistant at Barcelona after the World Cup in 1998.

"I learned a lot of things from him, but the way he handles his players is totally different from the way I work. I don't put as much pressure on the shoulder of players.

"When you have Van Gaal in charge, it is a fact that there is fear in his team. The players have a fear for Mr Van Gaal. That is not always good."

Just one point separates the two clubs in the league table, with United fourth and Southampton fifth.
Read More »

Lukas Podolski: 'My career could be over in two years' time'

Inter Milan loanee Lukas Podolski has claimed that his career 'could be over' in two years' time and that his future is not motivated by money.

The German international is on loan at the San Siro from Arsenal until the end of the season, but has failed to score for the Serie A outfit so far.

Podolski told the Gazzetta dello Sport: "What motivates me? The pleasure of being in contact with the football.

"In two years it could all be over and I don't want to waste a single day. I don't do this for money."

Podolski was omitted from the Nerazzurri's Europa League squad in place of fellow newcomer Xherdan Shaqiri.
Read More »

Phil Jagielka denies Everton are in a relegation battle

Everton defender Phil Jagielka believes that his side are not yet in a relegation battle, despite a poor run of form in the Premier League.

Sunday's 2-2 draw with Leicester City means that the Merseyside club have won just one of their last ten league games, and they sit just six points clear of the relegation zone.

The centre-back told reporters: "As much as we are aware of the predicament we are in, we don't see ourselves as being in the relegation battle at the moment It wouldn't take a lot to put us in there, a few bad results for us, a few good results for the teams around us and we will drop into that battle.

"But as it stands at the moment if we keep performing okay, get back to keeping clean sheets and keep grinding out results, then hopefully the league will take care of itself. Then we can look forward to the European games because there is something special to go for there. But the first thing that has to be prioritised is the Premier League because we are not in a good position at all.

"It is definitely not a case of not being fired up [for the league] or anything like that. You can see the disappointed faces in the dressing room and that is purely because we felt we let ourselves down [against Leicester]."

Everton's next league game is away at Arsenal on Sunday.
Read More »

Joe Allen: 'Liverpool better without Luis Suarez'

Joe Allen is convinced that Liverpool have become a better team since selling talisman Luis Suarez to Barcelona in the summer.

The Uruguayan scooped double Player of the Year awards after his 31-goal season last term helped the Reds finish within one point of the Premier League title.

With Daniel Sturridge - who netted 24 goals last season - also missing through injury, Liverpool endured a stuttering start to the campaign after picking up £75m for Suarez.

However, Brendan Rodgers's side have lost just one of their last 14 league outings, and Allen says that the team have learned to cope without the South American hitman.

"At the start of the year we talked about how losing Suarez was going to have an affect but now we have overcome that," he is quoted as saying by Sky Sports News.

"It took us a little bit of time to overcome that, because the injury problems we had were not ideal.

"We are certainly back up to that level and, if anything, with the different system we play this season we might even have taken a step forward."

Liverpool sit sixth in the Premier League table, two points adrift of the top four.
Read More »

Juan Mata eyes "crucial" Champions League spot

Juan Mata has warned his Manchester United teammates that they cannot afford to let Champions League qualification slip through their fingers this season.

The Red Devils suffered a hiccup in their pursuit of a top-four finish after losing 2-1 to Swansea City on Saturday to leave them fourth by a point.

With an FA Cup quarter-final tie with Arsenal in March, along with Premier League clashes with Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, Mata admits that it could prove a season-defining month for United.

"Obviously it's crucial for us to get into the top four at the end of the Premier League season," the Spaniard told Sky Sports News.

"Right now, we are facing a crucial moment in the Premier League. Obviously the last 10 games are very important and we also have the FA Cup tie against Arsenal.

It will be difficult but I think we have to do it because it is an important moment and we have to perform."

United shelled out some £150m on transfers during the summer in what was the second most expensive spending spree in football history.

Angel Di Maria, Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind all arrived on permanent deals, while Radamel Falcao joined in a big-money season-long loan from AS Monaco.
Read More »

Swansea City director describes Louis van Gaal as an "arrogant b******"

Swansea City director John van Zweden has hit out at Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal by describing him as an "arrogant bastard".

The wallpaper tycoon made the comments following the Welsh outfit's 2-1 victory over the Red Devils at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday.

Van Zweden tweeted: "Dear Louis. Sleep well mate 6 points and The double. @SwansOfficial @ManUtd 2-1 again!!! #easy."

According to The Mirror, the businessman also reacted to Van Gaal's comments that United were the best team in the Premier League following just one defeat in 19 games, by saying: "Yes, and I find him an arrogant bastard."

Southampton manager Ronald Koeman has also been critical of his fellow Dutchman by claiming that his players fear him.
Read More »

Ray Clemence praises Liverpool's Simon Mignolet for return to form

Former Liverpool goalkeeper Ray Clemence believes that Simon Mignolet "deserves credit" for returning to form following a slump that raised questions over his long-term Anfield future.

The Belgian international was dropped by manager Brendan Rodgers in December, but due to a thigh injury suffered by Brad Jones, Mignolet swiftly returned and has improved in between the sticks.

Since coming back into the first XI, the 26-year-old has kept seven clean sheets and conceded just 10 goals.

In an interview with the Liverpool Echo, Clemence said: "Simon deserves great credit for how he has turned things around. He's making vital saves and helping his team win matches. It just shows what a difference confidence makes. He had a tough time earlier in the season.

"After being left out he had the bonus of coming back into the team earlier than he would have expected after Brad Jones got injured. Since returning to the team he has got better and better."

Liverpool are currently sixth in the Premier League table, two points below fourth-placed Manchester United.
Read More »