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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Iniesta happy to secure home second leg

Andres Iniesta expressed the importance of Barcelona securing home advantage in the second leg of their UEFA Champions League last-16 tie.

Luis Enrique's side secured their progress as winners of Group F with a 3-1 over Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday, ensuring they will face one of the group runners-up in the knockout stages.

As per UEFA rules, all pool winners are drawn away from home in the opening leg, something which Iniesta believes will work to Barca's advantage when they return to Camp Nou for the second half of the tie.

"I really do prefer the second leg at home," he told the club's official website.
"I know that there are teams who will go away for the return game and get a result, but I prefer to play that second match at home, with the fans helping us get through."

Iniesta has recently been restored to the starting XI after recovering from a calf injury, and the midfielder believes he is gradually getting back into top gear.

"I've been off for a while and now I just have to keep feeling better and better and getting the rhythm back into my game so that I can move forward," he said.

"I don't know what stage the side is at, but if we want to fight for every title, we have to continue to grow as a team.

"We are on a good run of results and we are improving our performances.
"That's what we work for in training and that's why we keep working to prepare for the next challenge."

Pochettino will not rush Adebayor back

Tottenham coach Mauricio Pochettino has told Emmanuel Adebayor to take as much time as he needs to sort out his off-field problems.

The Togo international was granted a leave of absence on Wednesday with Tottenham releasing a statement saying the striker was allowed to return home for "personal reasons", with reports suggesting a family member has been taken ill.

It is not known how much action the 30-year-old will miss, but he definitely sits out Thursday's UEFA Europa League tie with Besiktas and is unlikely to return in time to face Swansea City in the Premier League on Sunday.
And Pochettino will not rush the former Manchester City man back to White Hart Lane.

"I hope he sorts his problems. I don't know how long [he will be out] but we hope he will stay with us next week to train," he said.
"When you have a problem, your mind is not quite [right]. It is difficult to give your best.

"I have always told you that players are human. Family is important. They need to fix when family matters happen. You need to sort it. If not, it is difficult to give the best.
"It is important that he takes time, sorts out the problem and when he is back is ready to train and available."

Adebayor has fallen down the pecking order behind Harry Kane and Roberto Soldado in recent weeks after scoring just two goals in 12 appearances across all competitions this season.

Pellegrini salutes City form after Rome triumph

Manuel Pellegrini believes Manchester City are back on top form after they beat Roma 2-0 to reach the UEFA Champions League knockout stages.
City failed to win any of their opening four matches in Europe's elite club competition this season, while patchy form in the Premier League saw the defending champions fall behind pacesetters Chelsea.

But a dramatic 3-2 victory over group winners Bayern Munich on matchday five in Group E has acted as a catalyst for Pellegrini's men, who had cut Chelsea's advantage to three points domestically before second-half goals from Samir Nasri and Pablo Zabaleta secured three points and the second qualification spot in the Italian capital.

"We did it in the same way we have been playing in the last three weeks," Pellegrini told Sky Sports after overseeing City's triumph at the Stadio Olimpico.
"We've recovered our normal performance - we are making good pressing, we are playing well with the ball.

"So I think we are similar to the team that won the title last year.
"We are a solid team and we are recovering the ball in the correct way, in the correct moment - all the team working together without the ball and after that all the team playing with the ball.
"Before this game I had a lot of trust in what we could do against Roma here.

"I talked with the players before the game. I think against Roma in Manchester we played the worst game of the season maybe.
"Playing the worst game of the season, we drew [1-1]. So we were absolutely sure that, playing the way we were playing the last three weeks, we would win today and we did."
City prevailed in Rome despite the absences of top scorer Sergio Aguero, captain Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure, while David Silva only returned to action as a second-half substitute following more than a month on the sidelines with knee ligament damage.

Pellegrini paid tribute to a fine all-round team performance, which he felt countered suggestions that Aguero's sensational form this season has cast City as something of a one-man team.
"I said yesterday that I don't want to complain about the players who are not in our team," he added.

"You must decide to play without Kompany, without Yaya Toure, without Silva, without Aguero.
"It is difficult but you can play exactly the same without [those players].

"I think that this team deserves a little more credit than maybe the press always give us - because we are just Sergio but now Sergio is not playing, the team qualified and we played well in Europe the same way we do in the Premier League."

Athletic block out La Liga disappointment to book Europa League place

Ernesto Valverde felt Athletic Bilbao's win against BATE achieved more than simply securing their place in the UEFA Europa League.
Qualification from UEFA Champions League Group H was impossible for both clubs before their meeting at San Mames on Wednesday, but Athletic needed just a draw to extend their continental campaign into Europe's second-tier competition.

BATE required all three points, but despite frustrating their hosts for 47 minutes were eventually undone by goals from Mikel San Jose and Markel Susaeta.
Valverde was pleased with the result and revealed part of his side's motivation was to begin to wash away the memory of Saturday's home defeat against Cordoba in La Liga.

"Our goal was to win for many reasons, to be seeded, to win in San Mames, to take away the bad taste of another day in the [Spanish] league," Valverde told the club's official website.
"We thought they would not come here to attack.

"We are in the Europa League and we want to get as far as possible."
Valverde went on to reveal why he did not select regulars Iker Muniain and Aritz Aduriz.
"Muniain was okay, it was a technical decision," said Valverde.

"Markel [Susaeta] and Ibai Gomez are important players for us, they can give us many things.
"Aduriz was not 100 per cent, Guillermo [Hernandez] has also been pretty good, he has just lacked goals."

Silva bemoans sloppy start

Sporting Lisbon coach Marco Silva bemoaned his side's start after they lost 3-1 at Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League.
Sporting's defeat - coupled with Schalke's 1-0 win at Maribor, also on Wednesday - eliminated the Portuguese side from the competition.

That disappointed Silva, who clearly felt his side had done enough to reach the last 16 of the Champions League.
"We did everything in all six matches to go through to the next stage," Silva said.
"We knew this was always going to be a very complicated match and there were times when we were not as aggressive as we should have been.

"We did not start the match the way we wanted and the way a match like this demands.
"We deserved to be in the next phase for all we did in this group stage, but that did not happen and now we will have to follow our path in another competition."

Sporting captain and goalkeeper Rui Patricio acknowledged he was upset with the result but that his team could be confident about a strong UEFA Europa League campaign.
Sporting drop into Europe's second-tier competition after finishing third in Group G, four points ahead of Maribor.

"We gave everything but we were not able to get the point we needed to go through to the next phase," Patricio said.
"This is football. Now we head to the Europa League to give our best.

"We go out of the Champions League with our heads held high.
"We are sad with this result but we will go to the Europa League searching for wins."

Garcia claims fortune favoured Man City

Roma coach Rudi Garcia felt luck was against his team as a 2-0 loss to Manchester City ended their UEFA Champions League campaign.
The hosts faded after a promising start to the decisive Group E clash, where City midfielder Samir Nasri clattered home a 25-yard strike via the inside of the post with an hour played.

Roma's Kostas Manolas saw his header tipped onto the post by visiting goalkeeper Joe Hart before Pablo Zabaleta struck four minutes from time to ensure the Premier League powerhouse progressed in second place behind group winners Bayern Munich.

"We knew even without some players that City were strong and they proved it," Garcia told Mediaset after the match, before identifying Nasri and Manolas' respective efforts as being key to the outcome.
"It was a very balanced game and you need luck too, so tonight fortune chose its team with those two uprights. I do think we could've scored and done something more in this game.

"Manchester City have more experience and maturity at this level, whereas we are learning and need to improve some elements. We also need some even stronger players if we are to reach teams of that level.

"We should've made more of our opening half-hour, when we had City on the ropes. Similarly, you can't allow a player like Nasri to shoot undisturbed from distance.
"They are not the Premier League holders for nothing. I am really disappointed for the lads, as it was possible to do better and qualify, but it shows us the steps we still need to climb in order to be among Europe's top clubs."

Roma's continental season will continue in the UEFA Europa League in 2015, and Garcia is ready to prioritise Serie A ahead of Europe's second-tier competition.
"If we want to play the Champions League again, then we need a great Serie A campaign," he said.

"We have the Europa League now, which is an international tournament, but the league remains our main objective."

Hecking eyes ´huge´ success

Wolfsburg coach Dieter Hecking said progressing in the UEFA Europa League would be a "huge" achievement by his team.
The Bundesliga side, who sit second in the league, need a draw at Lille on Thursday to secure their place in the knockout stages.

Hecking is eyeing what he said would be a massive achievement - advancing behind Everton in Group H.
"They are two different competitions [the Bundesliga and UEFA Europa League]," he said.

"Since we started our group I've said it again and again - we have a very hard group and to pass it would be huge for us.

"But tomorrow's game has nothing do to with the Bundesliga.
"So first there is the Bundesliga where we are in a good position. And the second thing is the Europa League and we have the chance to turn it into a story of success as well.

"You have to separate both competitions."
A loss for Wolfsburg and they are out, with Lille joining them on seven points but ahead on head-to-head record.
Hecking said his team understood the importance of the game.

"I want to pass that challenge with my team, but I didn't change anything in comparison to the Bundesliga matches, I don't think any special measures will be necessary," he said.
"The team knows the character of the game and the more we point that out the bigger problem it will be for the team."