Sunday, March 29, 2015

South Africa VS Nigeria Preview

The Super Eagles have a great record against the hosts but will be looking for revenge after draws last year prevented them from reaching the Afcon finals in 2015

South Africa coach Shakes Mashaba expects to face a "bitter" Nigeria side bent on revenge when they face off in Nelspruit on Sunday.

South Africa have a poor record against Nigeria, with only one solitary victory in an international friendly in 2004 to show from their last 11 matches against the Super Eagles. 

However, Bafana Bafana held the Nigerians to two draws during qualification for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, results that helped to eliminate the then-African champions from the competition in the preliminary stages.

And these results have Mashaba believing that the visitors will be looking for payback at the Mbombela Stadium.

"Of course the Nigerians are still feeling bitter after knocking them out," Mashaba told reporters. "To them, it's payback time. Of course they still want to show us that they are still the best when comes to football in Africa."

Mashaba also called on supporters to come to the stadium to cheer on South Africa as they seek to break their 10-year winless streak against the Super Eagles.

"There is history between the two nations and a great rivalry," the coach continued. "We want to win that match at all cost and we need South Africans to come in their large numbers. We need your support, South Africa.

"In our recent matches against Nigeria, we drew in both matches. In the second qualifier, we came close to securing a victory. The players are hungry but we need supporters to pack Mbombela and really make it difficult for them."

While Mashaba's men warmed up for this fixture with a 3-1 win over Swaziland in midweek, Nigeria will be smarting after losing 1-0 at home to an unfancied Ugandan side, who spoilt Eagles captain Vincent Enyeama's 100th international cap.

The loss prompted a furious response from Nigeria football association (NFF) president Amaju Pinnick, who warned the country's top stars that they must be ready to give everything for the team or stay away entirely.

"We are supposed to be celebrating with Vincent Enyeama on his 100th cap but your poor performance has ruined the party and Nigerians are very angry," Pinnick told the squad.

"When next you receive an invitation letter to come represent Nigeria, you have a critical decision to make: accept it only if you believe you are in the frame of mind to give your everything or decline if you do not feel that way.

"The camp of the national team would no longer welcome average players or good players with poor attitude."
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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Cristiano Ronaldo goal celebration to be investigated

The Spanish league has revealed that it will be investigating Cristiano Ronaldo's goal celebration following Real Madrid's defeat to Barcelona in the El Clasico match at Camp Nou at the weekend.

The Portuguese international scored an equaliser in the clash, which ended in a 2-1 defeat for the European champions, between the top two sides in La Liga, before appearing to urge the home supporters to calm down.

A statement from league president Javier Tabas said: "We have to be careful with provocative gestures by a player or conduct that could incite violence among spectators. It must be sanctioned, from a fine up to a suspension. We will look into it."

Ronaldo has scored 42 goals in 40 appearances for Real Madrid so far this season.
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Iwan Roberts urges Gareth Bale to return to England

Former Wales international Iwan Roberts has urged Real Madrid star Gareth Bale to return to the Premier League.

The winger has endured a difficult second season in La Liga and came under fire following his side's 2-1 defeat to bitter rivals Barcelona at the weekend.

Ex-Tottenham Hotspur man Bale was criticised in the Spanish media in the wake of the El Clasico reverse and his car was later set upon by angry supporters.

Roberts, who earned 15 caps for Wales during his playing career, believes that Bale should return to England where supporters "appreciate" him.

"If he is still getting the stick he has been getting over the last four or five months now, then he should come to somewhere that people appreciate him; to somewhere where the fans realise how hard you work for the side and the quality you bring to a side," The Mirror quotes the ex-Norwich City man as saying.

"I think if he keeps getting treated the way he is by some of the supporters and the media over there, he will want to prove a lot of people wrong. He has got a strong mentality and only time will tell but he doesn't deserve the treatment he has been getting.

"I do think he gets harshly treated in the Bernabeu - maybe it will take for Gareth to move away [for it to stop]."

Bale has been linked with Manchester United and Manchester City of late.
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Chelsea scouting Felipe Anderson

Chelsea have reportedly added Lazio attacking midfielder Felipe Anderson to a list of potential transfer targets ahead of the summer window.

Anderson's fine form in Serie A this season is believed to have attracted interest from a number of clubs across Europe, and Manchester United scouts were reported to have watched the Brazilian score both goals in the 2-0 win over Hellas Verona on the weekend.

However, the Evening Standard claims that Chelsea have had representatives at two of Lazio's recent games in an attempt to take a closer look at the 21-year-old.

Despite the rumours, Anderson recently signed a new contract with the cub to extend his deal to 2020, and Lazio are likely to demand close to £30m for his services.

The Brazil Under-21 international joined Lazio from Santos in the summer of 2013.
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Arsenal handed 'triple fitness boost' ahead of Liverpool clash

Arsenal have been handed a triple fitness boost ahead of their crunch Premier League clash with Liverpool in a fortnight's time.

Jack Wilshere, Mathieu Debuchy and Mikel Arteta have returned to training and could feature against the Reds on April 4, according to the Daily Mail.

All three players were long-term absentees through injury, with Wilshere missing the last four months due to ankle surgery and Arteta last featuring in November 2014.

Debuchy has been missing since early January with a shoulder injury.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is also said to be in contention to face Liverpool as he nears full fitness following an hamstring problem, although he could be rested until Arsenal's meeting with Burnley the following week.
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Raheem Sterling to skip England friendly against Italy

England winger Raheem Sterling will play no part in the international friendly against Italy next week after being granted leave to return to club side Liverpool, according to reports.

The 20-year-old is understood to have been playing through the pain of a toe injury in recent weeks, requiring regular injections to participate in matches.

Sterling will be available for Friday's Euro 2016 qualifier against Lithuania, but The Guardian reports that he has been given permission to miss the friendly in Turin four days later.

Manager Roy Hodgson earlier admitted that he was expecting "one or two" more withdrawals from his side before the Italy match, with James Milner, Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines among those struggling with injuries.

Sterling will become the third Liverpool player to pull out of the initial squad following the withdrawals of Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana, while Fraser Forster and Luke Shaw have also been ruled out.

Hodgson has been at loggerheads with Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers already this season after Sturridge picked up an injury on international duty that sidelined him for a large chunk of the campaign.

Sterling also courted controversy at international level last year by asking to be left out of the starting lineup due to fatigue.
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Jose Mourinho: 'Chelsea in strong position to win Premier League'

Jose Mourinho has admitted that Chelsea will only have themselves to blame if they fail to go on and win the Premier League title this season.

The Blues opened up a six-point gap on nearest rivals Manchester City on the weekend with a 3-2 victory over Hull City at the KC Stadium.

Boasting a game in hand on the chasing pack, Mourinho admits that Chelsea find themselves in the "best position" they have been in all season with just nine games to go.

"We are in the best position since the beginning of the season," the Portuguese told the club's official website. "The maximum lead we had was eight points but when we had eight points we were speaking about 20 matches to go.

"Now we have six points with one match in hand and with 24 possible points for our opponents to win."

Following the two-week international break, Chelsea continue their title charge when they play host to Stoke City at Stamford Bridge.
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Arsenal 'preparing £12m summer bid for Chris Smalling'

Arsenal are reportedly planning to table a £12m bid for Manchester United defender Chris Smalling this summer.

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has renewed his interest in the centre-back amid reports that the Red Devils are undecided about whether to offer him a new contract, according to The Telegraph.

Smalling has 12 months remaining on his current deal, while United boss Louis van Gaal is reportedly keen to recruit another centre-back in the summer.

The former Fulham man could be frozen out at Old Trafford if Van Gaal lands long-term transfer target Mats Hummels of Borussia Dortmund.

Arsenal missed out on Smalling's signature in 2010 when he joined United from Fulham in a £10m deal.
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Aaron Ramsey underlines importance of Francis Coquelin

Aaron Ramsey has paid tribute to Francis Coquelin for playing a key role in Arsenal's impressive Premier League form.

Since returning from a loan spell at Charlton Athletic, Coquelin has been given the responsibility of providing protection for the Gunners defence, and Ramsey believes that the creative players in the squad are benefiting from the Frenchman's performances.

"He's been really good," the Welshman told the club's website. "He's very aggressive and doesn't give the opposition much time on the ball, and that's why he wins so many tackles. Then he wins the ball and makes us tick over.

"It's been really good to see his development this year, he's had a superb couple of months now so hopefully he can continue that.

"It is quite comforting knowing that one of the midfielders is behind you in position, thinking more defensively. It is something that he does really well."

Arsenal have lost just one of their last 11 Premier League games.
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Juan Cuadrado: 'I need to be patient'

Juan Cuadrado has admitted that he needs time to adapt to playing in the Premier League following his move to Chelsea earlier this year.

The Colombia international joined Jose Mourinho's side for £26.1m during January's transfer window, but he has featured just four times in the league since his arrival at the London club.

The midfielder told Win Sport: "I am happy. I am adapting to the city, the game and the new teammates. After a change a player needs to be patient. I have just started. I need to work hard and when the chance arrives be ready for it with the help of God.

"Mourinho has impacted me [for good]. He is an excellent person. With the media, during the interviews, he is a different person but with the players is like a father.

"The Premier League is a little bit different [to Serie A]. The transition from defence to attack is very fast. But the Colombian players are ready for it. We must be patient and with time you will see the results."

Cuadrado moved to Chelsea after six years playing in Italy with Udinese and Fiorentina.
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Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain interested in Petr Cech

Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain are rumoured to be among the frontrunners to sign Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech this summer.

The European giants are ready to challenge Arsenal in the race to snap up the veteran shot-stopper, reports The Sun.

The 32-year-old has made just 14 appearances in all competitions this season due to Thibaut Courtois's emergence as Chelsea's first-choice goalkeeper.

Recent reports suggest that the Czech Republic international is ready to leave Stamford Bridge in search of first-team football elsewhere.

Cech has won 14 major hours with Chelsea since joining the club from French outfit Rennes in 2012.
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Joaquin rules out Fiorentina exit

Fiorentina winger Joaquin has insisted that he has no intention of leaving the club to return to La Liga in the summer.

The 33-year-old is a key player in Vincenzo Montella's side, and with one year still remaining on his contract, he claims that his immediate future lies with the Viola as they continue their bid for Champions League qualification.

"Will I return to Spain? I have a contract for another season with Fiorentina have no reason to leave," Joaquin told reporters. "It is a marvellous city and my family is very happy here. We want to qualify for the Champions League.

"It'll be a fight to the end with Roma, Lazio, Napoli and Sampdoria, but we really believe in our chances."

Fiorentina are currently sixth in Serie A, six points behind third-placed Lazio in the battle for a place in the Champions League.
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Roberto Mancini: "I didn't know it was going to be so hard"

Roberto Mancini has revealed that he is surprised by how difficult his second spell in charge of Inter Milan has been.

Inter have won just five Serie A games since Mancini returned to the San Siro in November, and despite conceding that some of the problems have been unexpected, he is keen to remain patient as he looks to turn the club into title challengers once again.

"When I arrived I thought it would be difficult, but I didn't know it was going to be so hard," the former Manchester City boss told Tuttosport.

"But my first Inter team had a complete squad; this is different. [Sir Alex] Ferguson worked for seven years to create his Manchester masterpiece. Inter maybe don't need seven but Inter will need a bit of time and patience.

"I'm not a magician. We have to work hard, while in Italy you want everything immediately. However, we have to start again from scratch."

Inter are currently ninth in Serie A, 10 points outside the Europa League qualifying places.
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Paddy McNair keen to continue progress at Manchester United

Paddy McNair has admitted that he needs to improve quickly if he is to play regularly for Manchester United.

The arrival of Louis van Gaal has offered the 19-year-old the opportunity to break into the first-team squad this season, but he is fully aware that the pressure is on him to continue making progress at Old Trafford.

"It's been great and I love playing under the manager and all the staff," McNair told MUTV.

"He has helped me a lot. I just think I need to improve on everything because the standard is so high to maintain a place at Manchester United.

"It's very hard and I've got to keep working."

McNair, who has made 14 appearances for United this season, is expected to make his debut for Northern Ireland against Scotland on Wednesday.
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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Barcelona vs. Real Madrid Preview

Barcelona boss Luis Enrique will be hoping that striker Lionel Messi can continue his masterful form when his side host Real Madrid in El Clasico on Sunday night.

Messi earned widespread plaudits for his performance against Manchester City in midweek as he helped the Catalan giants progress through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

That victory continued the club's recent fine form in all competitions, with nine wins being recorded from their last 10 La Liga fixtures to move a point clear of Real in the standings

Enrique will be without midfielder Sergio Busquets, who is still nursing an ankle injury, but Claudio Bravo will return in place of Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Real head into the contest having enjoyed a seven-day break after their 2-0 win over Levante, the first in the league in three matches.

That result was vital ahead of their trip to Camp Nou, but coach Carlo Ancelotti will be aware of the importance of this fixture, with defeat resulting in a four-point deficit and perhaps moving him closer to the exit door in the summer.

Winger Gareth Bale netted twice last weekend to silence his doubters for the time being, but the Welsh international needs a big performance against the club's arch rivals.

Midfielder Toni Kroos could be recalled to the starting lineup in place of Lucas Silva, but Raphael Varane is likely to have to make do with a place on the substitutes' bench.


Form in La Liga: WWLWWW
Form in all competitions: WWWWWW

Possible starting lineup: Bravo; Alves, Pique, Mathieu, Alba; Mascherano, Iniesta, Rakitic; Neymar, Messi, Suarez

Real Madrid:

Form in La Liga: LWWDLW
Form in all competitions: WWDLLW

Possible starting lineup: Navas; Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo; Kroos, Modric, Isco; Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo

Kick Off Time - 21:00HRS
Read More »

Christian Eriksen to turn down move to Paris Saint-Germain

Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Christian Eriksen is expected to turn down a lucrative move to Paris Saint-Germain, according to reports.

The Danish playmaker has shone at White Hart Lane this season, scoring 11 goals to prompt talk of a summer move to a European heavyweight.

The Mirror claims that Eriksen is one of PSG's top summer targets, but the 23-year-old has instructed his agent to inform them that he is not interested in leaving Spurs as he is settled in London.

Eriksen joined Spurs from Ajax in 2013 and has since scored 21 goals in 76 games.
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Simon Mignolet: 'Liverpool axing made me stronger'

Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has admitted that he returned "stronger" following his axing by manager Brendan Rodgers earlier this season.

The 27-year-old was dropped to the bench "indefinitely" prior to his side's Premier League meeting against Manchester United in December due to a string of disappointing performances between the sticks.

However, an injury to stand-in stopper Brad Jones paved the way for Mignolet to return, and he has grabbed the chance by both hands to help the Reds go unbeaten in the top flight in their last 13 outings.

Speaking ahead of the reverse meeting against arch-rivals United this afternoon, the Belgian told "At that time, it gave me a chance to reflect on my game, something you don't really have the chance to when you are playing two games a week.

"You are going in from the game, then after the game you are thinking about recovery, you are analysing the last performance and preparing for the next performance.

"You don't really have the chance to think about things to improve, and that gave me the chance – it was only two weeks because of the injury to Brad – it gave me the time to sit down with the coaches and the gaffer, reflect on a couple of occasions, took me out of it a bit to come back stronger."

Mignolet has kept 12 clean sheets in his 27 appearances for Liverpool this season in all competitions.
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Louis van Gaal reveals Liverpool talks

Louis van Gaal has revealed that he once held talks with Liverpool over becoming their manager.

The Dutchman, who will take his Manchester United side to Anfield this afternoon, was linked with the Liverpool job ahead of Brendan Rodgers's appointment in 2012.

"It was flattering, it is always pleasing to be contacted by a leading club, and Liverpool have a very good record in history," BT Sport quotes the manager as saying.

"But I am the coach of United now, I can only speak about Liverpool as an opponent. It is not so interesting any more, it is in the past.

"It was the same with Tottenham last week. I have spoken to a lot of clubs but it is not good for Liverpool, Tottenham or for me to reopen things that are in the past."

Van Gaal confirmed earlier this week that his job with United will be his last as a manager.
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Manchester City 'plan Pep Guardiola talks'

Manchester City will reportedly delay making a decision over manager Manuel Pellegrini's future while they attempt to lure Pep Guardiola to the club.

The Chilean has failed to match the title-winning highs of his maiden campaign at the Etihad Stadium, which has led to widespread speculation that he could be on his way should the Citizens find a suitable replacement.

Bayern Munich boss Guardiola, who is contracted to the Bavarian giants until the end of next season, is said to be the leading candidate to take the reins at City if he is willing to cut short his current £20m-a-year deal.

A report in The Express claims that, should the Premier League champions be able to tempt the former Barcelona manager into jumping ship, then Pellegrini will be shown the exit door this summer.

Guardiola has previously worked alongside City chiefs Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano during his time in charge at the Camp Nou, which the club hope will help to persuade him to take over.
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Liverpool VS Manchester United Preview

The fierce rivalry will have an added edge at Anfield with both teams in pursuit of a top-four finish, possibly at the other’s expense, and Liverpool looking to avenge December’s 3-0 defeat at Old Trafford. That result left Brendan Rodgers’ team 10th in the table and 10 points behind United but their recovery has been outstanding, with 33 points taken from the last 39 available. Louis van Gaal’s men must maintain the impressive shown form against Spurs last Sunday or risk being overtaken.

Kick-off Sunday 1.30pm

Venue Anfield

Last season Liverpool 1 Man Utd 0

Referee M Atkinson

This season G24, Y96, R5, 4.2 cards per game

Odds H 11-10 A 12-5 D 13-5

 Liverpool v Manchester United. Illustration: Guardian

Subs from Ward, Johnson, Lovren, Touré, Markovic, Manquillo, Gerrard, Lucas, Balotelli, Lambert, Borini, Williams

Doubtful None

Injured Ibe (knee, 4 Apr), Flanagan (knee, 4 Apr), José Enrique (knee, unknown), Jones (thigh, unknown)

Suspended None


Discipline Y53 R1

Leading scorers Sterling, Gerrard 6

Manchester United
Subs from Valdés, Lindegaard, Vermijl, Amos, Thorpe, Pereira, Blackett, Rojo, McNair, Blind, Falcao, Da Silva, Shaw, Di María, Januzaj, wilson

Doubtful Rojo (groin), Shaw (hamstring), Wilson (hamstring)

Injured Van Persie (ankle, 4 Apr)

Suspended Evans (third of six)


Discipline Y54 R4

Leading scorer Rooney 11

Read More »

Hull City VS Chelsea Preview

José Mourinho knows that with a six-point lead, a game in hand, and faltering rivals the title should be a formality. But the home draws with Southampton and Burnley and the European exit to PSG have exposed some hitherto unnoticed flaws. Chelsea need to show they are not flagging on Sunday, but Hull, just three points above the relegation places, cannot afford to be obliging hosts.

Kick-off Sunday 4pm

Venue KC Stadium

Last season Hull 0 Chelsea 2

Referee M Oliver

This season G21, Y74, R5, 3.8 cards per game

Odds H 8-1 A 1-2 D 17-5

 Hull City v Chelsea: probable starters in bold, contenders in light. Photograph: Guardian
Hull City

Subs from Harper, Jakupovic, Figueroa, Davies, Aluko, Quinn, Sagbo, Dudgeon, Leniha, Watson

Doubtful None

Injured Diamé (knee, 4 Apr), Chester (shoulder, 4 Apr), Rosenior (hamstring, 4 Apr), Jelavic (knee, May), Snodgrass (knee, May), Brady (groin, unknown)

Suspended Huddlestone (first of two)


Discipline Y60 R5

Leading scorer Jelavic 8

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

Doubtful None

Injured Mikel (knee, 4 Apr)

Suspended None


Discipline Y53 R3

Leading scorer Costa 18

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Juventus 'open Radamel Falcao talks with Monaco'

Juventus have reportedly begun negotiations with AS Monaco in a bid to seal a move for Colombian striker Radamel Falcao.

Falcao joined Manchester United in a lucrative loan deal last summer, with a view to a £43m permanent switch at the end of this season.

However, worries over Falcao's fitness and the fact that he has only scored four goals for the Red Devils will mean that the club will not be taking up that option, according to the Daily Mail.

That has opened up the opportunity for Juve to move for the ex-Atletico Madrid frontman as they look to recruit two new strikers.

Former United attacker Carlos Tevez has only a year left on his current contract and is unlikely to sign another while Fernando Llorente is also expected to leave the Italian champions in the summer.

The Bianconeri are expected to bid for Palermo striker Paulo Dybala as well as Falcao, who has been included in United's squad for their trip to face bitter rivals Liverpool on Sunday afternoon.
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Manchester United 'sanction £60m Paul Pogba bid'

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has put midfielder Paul Pogba at the top of his summer wish list, according to reports.

Pogba left United as a teenager in 2012 to join Juventus and has gone on to become one of the best midfielders in the world.

The Telegraph reports that United will sanction a £60m move for the Frenchman this summer, as they prepare for another window of big spending.

The same source claims that Van Gaal wants a new right-sided centre-back, a right-back, a central midfielder and a striker in an outlay which is expected to exceed £150m.

Pogba has also been linked with Chelsea, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid.
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Luis Enrique: 'There's no favourite for El Clasico'

Luis Enrique has insisted that neither side is favourite for this evening's El Clasico match between Barcelona and Real Madrid in La Liga.

The Catalan side recently moved back above their rivals to regain the lead in the Spanish top flight, but the Madrid side clinched a 3-1 win in their meeting at the Bernabeu earlier this season.

"It's an important game but not a decisive one," BBC Sport quotes the Barcelona manager as saying.

"These games are certainly different to any others. They are our eternal rivals. There's also our head-to-head goal difference to bear in mind.

"There are no clear favourites in games like these. But playing in front of our own fans always gives us that extra boost. This is a nice chance to put some space between us."

Barcelona are just a point above Real in the table ahead of this match.

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Louis van Gaal interested in Manchester United contract extension

Louis van Gaal has admitted that he would consider signing a contract extension with Manchester United if they were to offer him a new deal.

The Dutchman is still in the first year of a three-season contract with the Old Trafford club, and revealed earlier this week that this will be his last post in football management.

However, the 63-year-old told The Telegraph: "There could be five years still to go. I can extend my contract. I have promised my wife, but you never know.

"I've signed for three years because in three years you can build up something. The club agreed with that. I don't know what how I shall react in the circumstances. When Manchester United ask me to extend, then I shall decide. But this is my last club."

Van Gaal's side face Liverpool at Anfield in the Premier League this afternoon.
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Everton 'move early for Andre Ayew'

Everton manager Roberto Martinez has reportedly travelled to France in a bid to lure Marseille winger Andre Ayew to Goodison Park.

The Ghanaian international's contract with the Ligue 1 club is set to run out at the end of season, and with no new deal in sight, Ayew looks set to be snapped by another European outfit.

However, The People claims that Martinez has looked to steal a march on his rivals for the midfielder's signature by meeting with Ayew personally to try to seal the move.

It is thought that Martinez is keen to add wide options to his squad, with Kevin Mirallas apparently heading for a summer exit, while Steven Pienaar has struggled to recapture his best form for the Toffees.

However, Ayew's reported £3m-a-year contract demands could hinder Everton hopes of signing the player, who is also attracting interest from Roma.
Read More »

West Ham United rekindle Emmanuel Adebayor interest

West Ham United will reportedly make a fresh bid to Tottenham Hotspur striker Emmanuel Adebayor.

The Hammers were heavily linked with a January swoop for the Togo international, but Spurs are thought to have vetoed the move at the 11th hour as East London club were a direct competitors for a Champions League place.

However, The Mirror claims that West Ham's slide down the Premier League table in recent weeks has led to the Tottenham board becoming more relaxed about Adebayor moving to their local rivals.

The ex-Arsenal and Manchester City forward, whose contract is set to expire at the end of next season, is said to be keen to remain in the capital.

West Ham are also understood to be looking for Spurs to subsidise the player's £100,000-a-week salary, in order for a possible loan move to go ahead.
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Roy Hodgson: 'I told Arsene Wenger to sign Danny Welbeck'

England manager Roy Hodgson has revealed that he encouraged Arsene Wenger to take Danny Welbeck last summer.

The 24-year-old left boyhood club Manchester United last August to sign for Arsenal in a £16m deadline-day deal.

However, Hodgson has admitted that he tried to convince Wenger to sign the forward, prior to the deal going through.

He told reporters: "I speak to him very often. We spoke of course before he signed him and I was singing Danny's praises, so I'm delighted Arsene has seen that my judgment wasn't wrong and that he shares that judgment.

"We [England] like Danny very much. We've always shown faith in Danny. Many times he was selected by me when he wasn't actually playing for Manchester United. He's sometimes not even been on the bench and yet still we've selected him because we think he's got the qualities required.

"And what he really needs now is the faith of his manager, which he's obviously got from Arsene, to get more games and then I think we'll see more and more performances from him that we've been lucky enough to see with England."

Hodgson gave a first England call up to Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane for the internationals with Lithuania and Italy at the end of March.
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Ben Foster undergoes cruciate knee ligament surgery

West Bromwich Albion have confirmed that Ben Foster will be out for six months after undergoing surgery to reconstruct the cruciate knee ligaments in his left knee.

The goalkeeper was forced off in the team's defeat to Stoke City earlier this month, and was initially expected to miss just four weeks with a cartilage problem, but surgery revealed that the damage was more extensive that first thought.

The club's director of performance, Dr Mark Gillett, told the team's website: "Ben is in good spirits despite this obvious disappointment to him, he's already talking about his 'rehab' and wanting to get started on it immediately.

"But he has had a cruciate reconstruction of his left knee following the injury against Stoke and he will be out for six months."

Boaz Myhill started the team's game against Manchester City yesterday, with under-21s keeper Jack Rose on the bench.
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Angel di Maria 'wants to leave Manchester United'

Angel di Maria has reportedly told his representatives that he wants to leave Manchester United at the end of the season.

The Argentine attacker became the club's record signing last summer in a £60m deal, but has struggled to adjust to life in the North West.

According to the Daily Mail, Di Maria did not want to join the Red Devils in the first place and is keen to force a way out of Old Trafford this summer, with his value plummeting to around £30m.

Paris Saint-Germain are thought to retain an interest in the former Real Madrid star, and were even believed to have lined up a deal last summer, but couldn't complete the transfer because of Financial Fair Play regulations.

Furthermore, Di Maria desire to move to Les Parisiens could see Edinson Cavani move in the opposite direction, although a player-plus-cash deal is deemed unlikely given the number of agents involved in such an agreement.
Read More »

Arsene Wenger pleased with Arsenal's "mental quality"

Arsene Wenger has praised the "mental quality" of his Arsenal players following their win over Newcastle United at St James's Park in the Premier League this weekend.

The Gunners opened up a two-goal lead in the first half before holding on for a 2-1 win after the home side fought back in the second half.

The manager told the club's website: "[I am pleased with] the spirit of the team and the mental quality of the players. They are outstanding guys and it's a pleasure to see how they behave and a credit to the club as well to see that quality on the behavioural front and the desire to do well.

"I was very pleased with the resilience because it shows qualities that are important such as solidarity, the fact that we refuse to give in and on that front I think we did very well.

"We're a stronger team today than we were in September and that's down to the focus of the whole club, of the whole staff and the quality of work the whole staff puts in. Let's hope we can go from strength to strength now until the end of the season."

The result keeps Arsenal third in the table, just four points behind league leaders Chelsea.
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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Newcastle United VS Arsenal Preview

If life at Newcastle United remains one of football’s most enduring serial dramas, the latest plot-line has assumed a distinctly medical tone with assorted injuries leaving John Carver selecting from a skeleton squad. Aware of Papiss Cissé and Fabricio Coloccini’s suspensions, Arsène Wenger will sense an opportunity for Arsenal to mitigate their midweek Champions League disappointment against Monaco by continuing to conclude the League campaign in convincing style. Holland’s Daryl Janmaat, one of Carver’s two available senior defenders, will relocate from right-back to replace Coloccini at centre-half.

Kick-off Saturday 3pm

Venue St James’ Park

Last season Newcastle 0 Arsenal 1

Referee M Jones

This season G15, Y43, R2, 3.0 cards per game

Odds H 5-1 A 8-13 D 3-1

 Newcastle United v Arsenal: probable starters in bold, contenders in light. Photograph: Guardian
Newcastle United

Subs from Elliot, Woodman, Gutiérrez, R Taylor, Armstrong, Gouffran, Satka, Sterry, Kemen

Doubtful R Taylor (knee), Elliot (hip/thigh)

Injured Aarons (hamstring, 4 Apr), Haïdara (knee, 4 Apr), Abeid (thigh, 4 Apr), Dummett (knee, May) Tioté (knee, Aug), S Taylor (achilles, Oct), De Jong (collapsed lung, unknown)

Suspended Cissé (second of seven), Coloccini (first of three)


Discipline Y54 R4

Top scorer Cissé 11

Subs from Szczesny, Martínez, Gibbs, Chambers, Gabriel, Flamini, Ramsey, Rosicky, Gnabry, Walcott, Akpom

Doubtful None

Injured Arteta (calf/ankle, 4 Apr), Oxlade-Chamberlain (hamstring, 4 Apr), Debuchy (shoulder, 11 Apr), Wilshere (ankle, 11 Apr), Diaby (muscular, unknown)

Suspended None


Discipline Y61 R2

Leading scorer Sánchez 13

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Manchester City VS West Brom Preview

After the midweek travails in Catalonia that ended Manchester City’s Champions League dreams at the hands of Barcelona for a second successive year, West Brom’s visit allows Manuel Pellegrini’s beleaguered team to get back on track. That is the hope, of course. But with a record of three wins in their last 12 outings, City’s confidence is low and Albion are sure to make this an awkward early kick-off for the champions.

Kick-off Saturday 12.45pm

Venue Etihad Stadium

Last season Man City 3 WBA 1

Referee N Swarbrick

This season G17, Y72, R1, 4.3 cards per game

Odds H 1-3 A 11-1 D 9-2

 Manchester City v West Bromwich Albion: probable starters in bold, contenders in light. Photograph: Guardian
Manchester City
Subs from Caballero, Wright, Boyata, Kolarov, Pozo, Dzeko, Jovetic, Lampard, Sagna, Mangala, Navas

Doubtful Kolarov (knock)

Injured Touré (achilles, 4 Apr), Milner (knee, 4 Apr)

Suspended None


Discipline Y62 R2

Leading scorer Agüero 17

West Bromwich Albion
Subs from Rose, Mulumbu, Wisdom, Baird, Anichebe, Davidson, Pocognoli, Gamboa, Nabi, Roofe

Doubtful None

Injured McManaman (ankle, 4 Apr), Foster (knee, 18 Apr)

Suspended Yacob (last of two), Brunt (one match)


Discipline Y50 R1

Leading scorer Berahino 12

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Sunderland 'eyeing Liverpool defender Tiago Ilori'

Sunderland are reportedly considering a move for Liverpool defender Tiago Ilori at the end of the season.

Ilori joined the Reds from Sporting Lisbon almost two years ago, but is yet to make a first-team appearance for the Merseyside outfit.

After spending last season on loan at Granada, the Portugal Under-21 defender has caught the eye of Sunderland during a stint at Bordeaux.

According to the Sunderland Echo, the Black Cats sent scouts to watch the 22-year-old in action in Bordeaux's 3-2 win against Paris Saint-Germain.

However, Sunderland are expected to face competition for Ilori from Real Sociedad, who are also thought to have had the London-born player watched last weekend.
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Javier Pastore: 'Keep having a go at Zlatan Ibrahimovic'

Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Javier Pastore has urged Zlatan Ibrahimovic's critics to 'keep having a go at him', as the Argentine believes that it is the perfect motivational tool for the Swede.

The 33-year-old striker scored a hat-trick in PSG's 3-1 win over Lorient on Friday night, answering criticism after recent performances against Chelsea and Bordeaux in the past two weeks.

Ibrahimovic received a red card in PSG's Champions League tie with Chelsea and recently went on a foul-mouthed rant after his side's 3-2 loss to Bordeaux, forcing him to apologise in a statement a few hours afterwards.

However, the Sweden international has bounced back and has now scored six goals in three games, with his teammate believing that the criticism he is getting fuels him.

"It is true that Zlatan has been criticised but I do not mind if you continue to speak ill of him, so that he will keep scoring three goals!" Pastore said, according to

"The international break will do us some good before all the cup matches we have coming up."

PSG go top of Ligue 1 after their 3-1 victory but have a game in hand over their title rivals, who play on Saturday.
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Tony Pulis: 'Manuel Pellegrini under immense pressure'

West Bromwich Albion boss Tony Pulis has insisted that he is not surprised by the criticism Manuel Pellegrini is receiving, due to the immense pressure there is on Manchester City to succeed.

After being knocked out of the Champions League in midweek to Barcelona, City now sit six points behind Chelsea in the league with a trophiless season becoming a real possibility.

However, the Chilean revealed that he is "not concerned" about his future.

Pulis's side face Pellegrini's team this Saturday and the 57-year-old believes that expectations on his opponents is high.

"This is a world league now, not just a league in England. All over the world there are supporters following the Premier League," Pulis told Sky Sports News.

"There are a lot of fair-weather supporters as you know. Abroad there is a generation of supporters who have just started watching the Premier League. That new generation, 99.9% will pick a team that's been successful.

"So Man City need to be successful over the next four or five years to get a generation of supporters, like Liverpool did, like Man United did. They need the generations to support them for all sorts of reasons, it's money in the bank for them."

West Brom travel to the Etihad for their Saturday afternoon kickoff, with a victory for the Midlands side potentially pushing them up to 11th.
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Emre Can: 'I'm doing a good job for Liverpool'

Emre Can believes that he is doing a good job for Liverpool since becoming a regular fixture in the first team.

The German star joined the Reds from Bayer Leverkusen last summer, but initially struggled to break into Brendan Rodgers's side.

However, the 21-year-old has said that he was keen to earn his place in the team rather than "make a big fuss" about being dropped early in the campaign.

He told the Daily Mail: "I was injured at the beginning of the season and then played against Chelsea [in November]. Then I was out of the team until December when I came on [at half time] against Burnley.

"My attitude was not to moan or make a big fuss about it but to keep calm and work hard so that when I got the chance against Burnley I could break into the side. I feel very good feel I have the trust of the manager. I believe I'm doing a good job and that is why I am playing. I'm happy."

Liverpool can move into the top four in the Premier League table by beating bitter rivals Manchester United on Sunday.
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Laurent Blanc unhappy with Paris Saint-Germain's finishing

Paris Saint-Germain manager Laurent Blanc has revealed that he is disappointed with his side's finishing skills, despite having scored three times in the 3-1 victory over Lorient to go top of Ligue 1.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a hat-trick on the night, converting a penalty in each half.

However, Blanc appears unimpressed with his side's attacking abilities after a host of chances were wasted throughout the match.

"We had 11 chances in this game. Eleven! You tell me there were three goals but two of them were penalties," the 49-year-old told reporters in a press conference.

"We can't always say the keeper has had a great game, even when that is true. We have to work on that. We had some demons resurface in the defensive areas, especially when we didn't have the ball.

"The three points is the most important thing but I do not think we did all that was necessary to have a simpler game."

PSG currently top the French league but have played a game more than their title rivals, who still have a game in hand.
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Pele praises Wayne Rooney ahead of Liverpool, Manchester United clash

Brazil great Pele has praised England and Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney ahead of the Red Devils' clash with Liverpool on Sunday, saying that the player 'would be in his team'.

The World Cup-winning striker will be attending this Sunday's Premier League fixture and, despite refusing to be drawn on who he would like to win, Pele was full of praise for Rooney.

"Rooney to me is one of the players who is excellent for the team," Pele told Sky Sports News.

"He has patience, guts, and he plays nice football. If I have to select for my team, he will be in my team."

Rooney isn't the only English striker that Pele has been admiring, as Harry Kane has also caught the eye of the footballing icon, who described the 21-year-old as "excellent".
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Louis van Gaal: 'Wayne Rooney fine with playing at Anfield'

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal has insisted that Wayne Rooney does not suffer from a "mental block" when it comes to playing at Anfield.

The England striker has only scored once at Liverpool's ground, and that was over 10 years ago on his first appearance for United in Merseyside.

The Dutchman believes that playing away to the Red Devils' fierce rivals would be the perfect time to score and end debates over his mental strength.

"I don't think that Wayne has a [mental] block, he's a very experienced player," Van Gaal told Sky Sports News.

"He has played on all the grounds in the world, so I don't think that he shall be influenced by the fans at the stadium, or something like that.

"It's strange but it can be like this, and I hope I can change it with Wayne."

United have won once in their last seven visits to Anfield and will be looking to maintain their top-four status as the two sides lock horns this Sunday.
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Atletico Madrid coach Oscar Ortego admits interest in signing Edinson Cavani

Atletico Madrid coach Oscar Ortega has admitted that the reigning Spanish champions are interested in signing Edinson Cavani from Paris Saint-Germain in the summer.

After failing to score in his last eight league appearances, the Uruguayan is being linked with a move away from France, with compatriot Diego Forlan claiming that the 28-year-old would be "perfect" for Atletico.

Ortega, one of Diego Simeone's coaching staff, has revealed that the club are showing interest in signing the attacker.

According to, when asked about signing Cavani in an interview, Ortega said: "Yes, there is [interest] and I would love to be able to sign him. For us, and for him, too."

Cavani is also being linked with a move to Juventus, as several clubs reportedly enquire about his availability.
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Arsene Wenger: 'Referees deserve more respect'

Arsene Wenger has insisted that match officials need 'more respect' and believes that he needs to behave better when it comes to referees.

Referees have become a hot topic as of late in the footballing world, after Chelsea players were seen surrounding official Bjorn Kuipers after Zlatan Ibrahimovic's red-card offence on Oscar in their Champions League tie.

The Arsenal boss believes that the problem should be tackled collectively and admitsthat he will have to curb his behaviour on the touchline.

"With the team I don't think we have had too much of that problem, we have never been reproached for doing it, but I question myself on my individual behaviour, that is true, because I am sometimes keen to as well," Wenger told Sky Sports News.

"We want everybody to be respected and the referees are part of everybody. You want players to be ready to fight for each other. But how far has that to go in the behaviour? You have to draw a line somewhere, you cannot go after every decision of the referee.

"Sometimes it helps you to get your frustration out, but I don't think it is right, honestly. That doesn't mean I don't do it. I do. I have looked back on the tape sometimes, and even sometimes at half time I think 'come on, stop that, my friend', and then I think in the second half I will not say a word to him any more."

Arsenal come up against Newcastle United at St James' Park this Sunday, as they look to secure a top-four finish this season.
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Manchester United 'lead race to complete Roberto Firmino signing'

Manchester United are reportedly leading the race to sign Hoffenheim star Roberto Firmino this summer.

The 23-year-old has also been linked with a move to Premier League rivals Liverpool and Arsenal in the past few months, although Louis van Gaal is said to have lined up a big-money move for the Brazil international.

The Metro claims that a bid of around £18.6m will be made for the youngster's services, which Van Gaal hopes will be enough to fend off interest from elsewhere.

Firmino, widely regarded as one of the hottest properties in European football, has scored six goals and assisted a further seven in 25 Bundesliga games for Hoffenheim this season.
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Tottenham Hotspur weighing up Kevin Wimmer move

Tottenham Hotspur are apparently contemplating a move for FC Koln defender Kevin Wimmer as they begin to formulate their summer transfer plans.

Spurs targeted the 22-year-old Austrian in January but abandoned their pursuit after they failed to offload either club captain Younes Kaboul or Vlad Chiriches.

Both Kaboul and Chiriches will be up for sale again at the end of the season as Mauricio Pochettino looks to replace them with a centre-back who is a better fit within his young and hungry squad.

Sky Sports News claims that Wimmer has caught the eye of the Spurs manager during his 25 Bundesliga appearances this season and that the Premier League club are weighing up a fresh move for him.

Reports in Germany earlier this week claimed that Tottenham had already had a bid accepted and reached an agreement over personal terms with Wimmer, but those suggestions are believed to be premature.
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Jose Mourinho: "Confrontational leadership" style has been shelved this season

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has insisted that his players remain fully motivated heading into the final weeks of the season, despite their Champions League campaign recently coming to an abrupt end.

The Blues are on course to lifting the Premier League title for the first time in five years this season having built up a six-point advantage at the top of the table with a game in hand to spare over their closest challengers.

At times this year Mourinho has rallied against officials, claiming that there is a "campaign" against his side to stop them winning the league.

However, the Portuguese has made clear that he has not been forced to get tough with any of his current squad ahead of the end-of-season run-in.

"Confrontational leadership is when you are ready to provoke your players to try to create some confidence," he is quoted as saying by "Criticise a player in the media. Criticise a player in front of you and try to provoke a reaction from him of of anger, of not being happy with his manager, of trying to show I'm not right.

"The intention is to bring out the best in them. At this moment, I don't think I need to do that because things are going in the direction I want. This season I don't need confrontational leadership. Last season I felt I needed it at times. I didn't think there were many of them that were ready.

"This season I don't need that because everything is going in relation to the team and players. On motivational terms and responsibility terms, I am happy with them. Obviously, you can say you lost in the Champions League or you lost to Bradford City. But generally the way they work and behave, their motivations, the way they react to negative or positive moments, it is all going well."

Chelsea are back in action tomorrow afternoon when they take on Hull City at the KC Stadium.
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Pele hails "excellent" Harry Kane

Tottenham Hotspur hitman Harry Kane appears to have been given the seal of approval by football icon Pele, who hailed the "excellent" youngster.

The 21-year-old has emerged as arguably Spurs' most influential player this term after netting 26 times in what has proven a remarkable breakthrough season.

Kane has seen his talismanic form rewarded by England boss Roy Hodgson, who handed him a first call-up to the senior side for games with Lithuania and Italy later this month.

Three-time World Cup winner Pele has now weighed in on the starlet's evolution, but warned that he must remain humble as his profile continues to grow.

"I think he is an excellent player, he could be a good one for the English team," the legendary Brazilian told reporters at a promotional event in London.

"First of all, he has to take care of his physical condition. I used to say, 'God give me the gift to play football, to do something', but you must always be in good shape.

"That is one thing, and tell him never think he can be the best. Always he has something to learn. That is my advice."

Kane will look to edge closer to the 30-goal mark when he and the Lilywhites face Leicester City at White Hart Lane tomorrow.
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Jose Mourinho predicts "nice and quiet" summer at Chelsea

Jose Mourinho has claimed that he expects Chelsea to be "nice and quiet" in the summer transfer market.

The Blues have been linked with moves for Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba and Atletico Madrid's Koke, but Mourinho has insisted that he is happy with his squad.

The Portuguese has, however, suggested that their recruitment policy in the next window will be dictated by who leaves the club, with left-back Filipe Luis and striker Loic Remy having been tipped for exits this week.

He is quoted by Sky Sports News as saying: "Our transfer policy doesn't need a lot of funds, because we don't need a lot of things. We like our squad, we like our players and with a couple of exceptions we have a young squad.

"And once more, I think our transfer policy will be nice and quiet and will also be a consequence of the players we sell and the funds we make from the players we sell. I think we are getting great credibility from the players we sell, because we sell good players. So let's see what happens. But at this moment if you ask me am I happy with the players I have here, I am happy with the squad I have.

"If you ask me 'you say zero movement in and out', I say I don't believe because we always want to improve and there are always a couple of changes to be made. But nothing really important. I am not worried about funds because they are fine."

Chelsea completed the £23m signing of Colombian international winger Juan Cuadrado from Fiorentina in January.
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Manuel Pellegrini takes responsibility for Manchester City shortcomings

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini has defended his team's recent poor form by suggesting that this season has not been a complete "disaster".

The 61-year-old has come under intense criticism in recent weeks having seen his side exit the Champions League with defeat against Barcelona at the last-16 stage, as well as losing pace with leaders Chelsea in the Premier League title race.

While Pellegrini accepts the full blame for the Citizens' shortcomings this term, he insists that there is still plenty to play for between now and the end of the campaign.

"I think that always it will be my responsibility because I always choose the starting XI, I choose the squad and I choose the way we like to play," he is quoted as saying by BT Sport.

"I have a very good relationship with the players, always they try to give their best and we are not doing as bad as everyone has tried to demonstrate this year. We can do better - especially in both cups, that was not good for our team - but I don't think I have anything to complain about.

"Second position in a whole year I don't think is a disaster. We are not in eighth, ninth or 10th. Only Chelsea have done better than our team. We will try at least to keep second position and pressure Chelsea in the next nine games."

City return to action this afternoon when they play host to West Bromwich Albion at the Etihad Stadium, looking to claw back the six-point deficit on pacesetters Chelsea.
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Luciano Vietto 'might leave Villarreal this summer'

Liverpool target Luciano Vietto could leave Villarreal this summer, according to his agent.

Vietto has been the subject of intense speculation linking him with a move to Anfield, while Manchester United are also thought to have shown an interest in the 21-year-old.

However, the Argentine forward's agent Jorge Cyterszpiler has hinted that a move away from the Yellow Submarine is possible.

"He might leave in the summer. It is normal that the best clubs in the world are after him," Cyterszpiler is quoted as saying by

"If big clubs make an offer, we need to talk. The offer must be very good, not only for us but also for Villarreal."

Reports in Spain have claimed that Liverpool have made Vietto a "priority" target for this summer's transfer window, while La Liga giants Barcelona and Real Madrid have also been mooted as possible destinations for the frontman.
Read More »

Atletico Madrid coach Oscar Ortego admits interest in signing Edinson Cavani

Atletico Madrid coach Oscar Ortega has admitted that the reigning Spanish champions are interested in signing Edinson Cavani from Paris Saint-Germain in the summer.

After failing to score in his last eight league appearances, the Uruguayan is being linked with a move away from France, with compatriot Diego Forlan claiming that the 28-year-old would be "perfect" for Atletico.

Ortega, one of Diego Simeone's coaching staff, has revealed that the club are showing interest in signing the attacker.

According to, when asked about signing Cavani in an interview, Ortega said: "Yes, there is [interest] and I would love to be able to sign him. For us, and for him, too."

Cavani is also being linked with a move to Juventus, as several clubs reportedly enquire about his availability.
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Victor Moses rejected Chelsea return

Nigerian winger Victor Moses reportedly rejected a return to Chelsea in January after Jose Mourinho attempted to recall the attacker.

The Blues manager is rumoured to have wanted to terminate the season-long loan Moses has with Stoke City and bring him back to strengthen his title-chasing squad.

However, the 24-year-old turned down the offer and decided to stick with the Potters for more first-team action, according to The Telegraph.

Mourinho eventually signed Juan Cuadrado, who has gone on to make six appearances since his move from Fiorentina in January.

The Colombian's move will now mean more competition for Moses on the wing once his loan spell finishes, but the Nigeria international is likely to leave Stamford Bridge permanently in the summer.
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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Borussia Dortmund vs. Juventus Preview

Borussia Dortmund welcome Juventus to the Westfalenstadion on Wednesday knowing that a 1-0 victory over Massimiliano Allegri's men would be enough to see them through to the quarter-final stages of the Champions League.

Juve hold a slight advantage in the two-legged encounter following a slender 2-1 victory at home to Jurgen Klopp and his charges back in late February.

The Italian side know that any form of draw would give them safe passage, with an away goal making it a little more difficult for the North Rhine-Westphalian club.

Dortmund have enjoyed an important resurgence in 2015 and have managed to lift themselves from probable relegation to a safely-placed position in the middle of the German top flight.

The Germans have slightly faltered on the domestic front in their last two Bundesliga games, with Dortmund drawing blanks in two scoreless draws against Hamburger SV and FC Koln respectively.

Juventus are currently cruising at the summit of the Serie A standings, with a monumental 14-point gap separating the Old Lady and second-placed Roma.

The Italian outfit find themselves in fairly good form, having won their last two Serie A matches by one goal against Palermo and Sassuolo, but they were also recently knocked out of the Coppa Italia by Fiorentina.

Dortmund may not be too put off by the task in hand come Wednesday, given that Juve have only managed to notch wins by a one-goal margin over the course of their last six matches.

What could appeal to Klopp even more is the fact that Allegri's men have conceded at least one goal in four of those last six fixtures, meaning that if Dortmund can defend well enough then progression will be no impossible task. Die Borussen have also kept four clean sheets in six matches across all competitions.

Dortmund are expected to be missing both Kevin Grosskreutz and Lukasz Piszczek through injury, potentially leaving Oliver Kirch and Sokratis Papastathopoulos to battle it out for a place in the right full-back position.

Nuri Sahin was also missing for the German club at the weekend and he could miss out again on Wednesday. Ciro Immobile could start up top instead of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Shinji Kagawa and Kevin Kampl providing options in midfield.

As for Juventus, Paul Pogba's league suspension at the weekend means that he should be in good shape for the clash, while both Arturo Vidal and Alvaro Morata got some form of a rest against Palermo.

Allegri may decide not to rush Andrea Pirlo back from his calf knock, especially given Roberto Pereyra's performance in the first leg in Turin.

Borussia Dortmund:

Form in Champions League: WWWLDL
Form in all competitions: WLWWDD

Possible starting lineup: Weidenfeller; Kirch, Subotic, Hummels, Schmelzer; Kehl, Gundogan; Reus, Kagawa, Mkhitaryan; Immobile


Form in Champions League: LLWWDW
Form in all competitions: WWDLWW

Possible starting lineup: Buffon; Bonucci, Chiellini, Lichtsteiner, Evra; Marchisio, Pereyra, Pgoba; Vidal; Morata, Tevez

Kick Off Time - 20:45HRS
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Barcelona vs. Manchester City Preview

Manchester City travel to the Camp Nou in the last 16 of the Champions League knowing that they must score at least two goals to progress past Barcelona into the quarter-final stages.

A brace from Luis Suarez gave Luis Enrique's men the advantage after the first leg at the Etihad, with Sergio Aguero grabbing a lifeline with a solitary effort to leave Manuel Pellegrini hoping for something special in Catalonia.

The Chilean boss goes into this fixture under increasing pressure following his side's recent dismal showing in the Premier League. Problems for the Sky Blues were highlighted on Saturday evening when they were undone by Burnley, who grabbed a 1-0 victory at Turf Moor.

The current league champions were fairly impressive in February until they fell to Barcelona, which was then followed by a devastating loss to Liverpool at Anfield. As it stands, now only one point separates Pellegrini's men and a resurgent third-placed Arsenal.

City's coach goes into the game knowing that some fans would welcome a move away from the team's 4-4-2 system, which could potentially see both Samir Nasri and James Milner come back into the fold.

Things could not be more different for Barcelona as they have won all of their last six games across all competitions, with victories coming in La Liga, the Champions League and the Copa del Rey.

The Catalans currently lead the league table and claimed a comfortable 2-0 away win over Eibar at the weekend to build from an impressive 6-1 victory over Rayo Vallecano the week before.

Statistics show that Barca are clear favourites to progress on Wednesday, with Enrique's charges claiming five straight wins in the tournament. The Spanish side have also scored at least two goals in their last six games in the showpiece.

When observing head-to-head history, the La Liga outfit are dominant too. Barcelona have beaten City in every one of their last three matches, bagging at least two goals in each of those meetings.

City will most likely be boosted by the return of Yaya Toure from suspension, but they will be without the suspended Gael Clichy, who was sent off in the first leg in England. As mentioned, Milner and Nasri could return if Pellegrini decides to change from his much-criticised 4-4-2 setup.

As for Barcelona, Sergio Busquets and Thomas Vermaelen remain the only absentees. Wednesday's hosts could welcome back both Dani Alves and Jordi Alba, who sat out at the weekend due to league suspensions. Enrique also had the chance to rest Javier Mascherano, Andres Iniesta and Xavi against Eibar, and they could all feature against City.


Form in Champions League: LWWWWW
Form in all competitions: LWWWWW

Possible starting lineup: Bravo; Montoya, Bartra, Pique, Adriano; Roberto, Rakitic, Rafinha; Messi, Suarez, Neymar

Manchester City:

Form in Champions League: DDLWWL
Form in all competitions: WWLLWL

Possible starting lineup: Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Mangala, Kolarov; Milner, Navas, Fernandinho, Toure, Silva; Aguero

Kick Off Time - 20:45HRS

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Howard Webb to select Premier League referees

Howard Webb has been appointed the select group performance director for the refereeing body Professional Game Match Officials Limited.

The 43-year-old will pick officials for Premier League games after being promoted from technical director.

Webb retired from refereeing in August 2014 following a 25-year career.

The former policeman officiated both the World Cup final and the Champions League final in 2010.
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West Bromwich Albion striker Brown Ideye earns Nigeria recall

West Bromwich Albion striker Brown Ideye has been rewarded for his recent form courtesy of a recall to the Nigeria squad.

The 26-year-old, who represented his country at the 2013 Confederations Cup, had recently fallen out of a favour with previous head coach Stephen Keshi.

However, having scored five goals in his last eight outings for the Baggies, the 24-capped forward has been included in the squad for this month's friendly matches against Bolivia and South Africa.

"So happy to be back with the National team," he tweeted yesterday evening.

Ideye joined West Brom from Dynamo Kyiv last summer for £10m.
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Manchester City open talks with Kevin de Bruyne's agent

Manchester City have reportedly contacted the agent of Wolfsburg's Kevin de Bruyne regarding a possible return to the Premier League.

The reigning English champions have previously been linked with the 23-year-old, who left Chelsea for Germany in 2014 after failing to earn a regular spot at Stamford Bridge over a two-year spell.

According to Belgium newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws, City's director of football Txiki Begiristain has opened talks with De Bruyne's representatives and will watch the player in Thursday's Europa League meeting against Inter Milan.

It is believed that Wolfsburg are keen to keep hold of the player, but Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich are also reportedly prepared to test the club's resolve.

De Bruyne has scored 15 goals and made 21 assists in 33 games for Wolfsburg this season.
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Arsene Wenger: 'Arsenal better off in Europa League'

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has conceded that his side may have been better off finishing third in their group to contest the latter stages of the Europa League rather than the Champions League.

The Gunners crashed out in the last 16 of Europe's premier club competition for the fifth consecutive season last night, being eliminated by Monaco on away goals despite a 2-0 victory in the second leg.

Arsenal have not featured in the secondary UEFA tournament since the 1999-2000 season, but Wenger admitted that his side would stand more chance of lifting silverware should they fail to reach the Champions League knockout stages.

When asked whether he was unhappy at Arsenal's repeated exits in the first knockout round, Wenger told reporters: "Yes, but sometimes we have been beaten by opponents who were in the final.

"Perhaps it would be better not to go out like this and make the Europa League, we would be more likely to win."

Wenger also claimed that Monaco didn't deserve to progress, having failed to have a single shot on target during the second leg.
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Per Mertesacker: 'Arsenal a long way from winning Champions League'

Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker has admitted that his team are a long way from winning the Champions League following their exit from the competition at the hands of AS Monaco last night.

The Gunners almost created Champions League history at the Stade Louis II, but fell a goal short in their quest to overturn a 3-1 deficit from the first leg.

Mertesacker acknowledged that his side lacked the "mental level" needed on the big stage at the Emirates last month, which ultimately cost them a place in the quarter-finals.

"It is difficult after such a performance like that to think, 'yeah, we missed that,'" the German defender told the London Evening Standard.

"In the first game, we didn't have that mental level you need to compete at the highest level. That was missing but you could see last night how good we are as a team and how well organised we can be.

"We need to consider that every day in training and in games. That is why we are so far away from winning the Champions League."

Arsenal have now been knocked out in the last 16 of Europe's premier club competition five years in a row.
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Arsene Wenger: 'Monaco don't deserve quarter-final place'

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has expressed his belief that AS Monaco did not deserve to progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions League last night.

Leonardo Jardim's side won the first leg of their last-16 tie with Arsenal 3-1 at the Emirates in February but were forced to hang on in the return meeting at the Stade Louis II on Tuesday night.

The hosts didn't manage a single shot on target during the second leg, but Arsenal fell just short on the night as they were eliminated on away goals despite a 2-0 victory.

Asked if Monaco deserved to progress, Wenger told reporters: "I don't believe so. If you look at the number of shots on target they had you will be surprised. Every defeat hurts but we didn't lose."

Wenger also angered his Monaco counterpart Jardim by not shaking his hand at the end of the match.
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Manchester United's Ashley Young: 'We all wanted to impress Louis van Gaal'

Ashley Young believes that a number of Manchester United players have "improved" since Louis van Gaal arrived at the club as manager.

Last summer, the Dutchman replaced David Moyes, who spent less than 10 months in the Old Trafford hotseat after the team dropped to seventh in the Premier League under his leadership.

This season, Van Gaal has had his critics, but the Red Devils are currently fourth in the table and just two points behind second-placed Manchester City.

"There are obviously players in the team who have improved," Young told United's official website. "When the manager asked us to do a job at the start of the season, he was honest and truthful in what he wanted to do.

"We all wanted to impress, especially when he came in during pre-season as a new manager. Everybody wants to do well and we've kicked on from there. We've now come down to the business end of the season and this is where it is vitally important to pick up points until the end."

On Sunday, United will travel to Anfield to take on arch rivals Liverpool, who are just two points behind them in the league standings.
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Hristo Stoichkov: 'Real Madrid should sell Cristiano Ronaldo'

Barcelona legend Hristo Stoichkov believes that Real Madrid should sell Cristiano Ronaldo this summer if the price is right.

The two-time Ballon d'Or winner appears to be growing unsettled at the Bernabeu following jeers from home supporters during the weekend victory over Levante on the back of a turbulent few weeks for the club.

Manchester United have been strongly linked with their former forward in the past, and Stoichkov has tipped Madrid to offload Ronaldo at the end of the campaign should a high enough bid be made.

"You would have to ask Florentino [Perez] about Ronaldo's future," he is quoted as saying by the Daily Mail. "Sooner or later he will be sold by the president.

"Football is like that but it depends on the president. I don't know if he needs the money; if he does then it is a good moment to sell him."

Ronaldo has scored 41 goals in 39 appearances for Los Blancos in all competitions this season.
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Brendan Rodgers: "Confidence is high" in Liverpool camp

Brendan Rodgers has insisted that the only way is up for his in-form Liverpool side following a fifth league win on the bounce.

The Reds overcame Swansea City 1-0 at the Liberty Stadium on Monday night to maintain their recent impressive form, closing within two points of fourth-placed Manchester United in the process.

Following a slow start to the campaign, Liverpool are now in a strong position to oust their great rivals for a place in next season's Champions League, with the two set to face off at Anfield this weekend.

"It's step by step," Rodgers told club's official website. "It was always going to be a process for us. We were so far behind and to be looking to make up the points was just going to take time.

"But we've put ourselves in a really good position now with nine games to go; the consistency and confidence of the team is really high."

Liverpool's last league defeat came back in December against United at Old Trafford.
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Leighton Baines "desperate" for Everton to reach final eight of Europa League

Everton left-back Leighton Baines believes that it would be "massive" for the club to reach the quarter-finals of the Europa League.

The Toffees have struggled in the Premier League this season, but they have shone in Europe as they prepare to take on Dynamo Kiev in Ukraine for the second leg of their last-16 tie.

Roberto Martinez's side have a 2-1 advantage from the first leg at Goodison Park, but Baines is wary of their opponents' away goal.

"It would be massive and there would be some big names in the hat so we are desperate to a part of the draw and be in the mix," Baines told the Liverpool Echo.

"There are some real good teams left in the competition. We know we have a big task in front of us and it is really in the balance with them having the away goal but I fancy us."

In the league, Everton are just six points above the relegation zone.
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Manchester United to use Angel di Maria sale to fund Gareth Bale move

Manchester United are reportedly ready to offload Angel di Maria this summer in a bid to fund a move for Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale.

The Argentina international made a positive start to life at Old Trafford following a £60m switch from the Spanish giants, although having failed to impress in the second half of the campaign it is claimed that Louis van Gaal is willing to allow the British-record signing to move on.

That could pave the way for United to cough up the large sum required to land Bale, who is also thought to be on a hefty £300,000-a-week contract at Madrid.

Van Gaal refused to rule out a move for the Welshman earlier this week, and the Daily Star suggests that the wheels are now in motion to allow the move to go through ahead of next season.

Paris Saint-Germain are among those to have previously been linked with Di Maria, although it is unknown whether they are willing to reignite their interest should he be placed on the transfer market.

Bale, who has come under fire from Los Blancos supporters in recent weeks due to his perceived greediness on the ball, scored both goals as the European champions eased past Levante 2-0 last weekend.
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