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eindeutiger Gewinner.. Die genaue Anzahl


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."

Robben highlights CSKA negativity

Arjen Robben highlighted a negative approach from CSKA Moscow as they slipped to a meek UEFA Champions League elimination at Bayern Munich.
The Russian side needed to match Manchester City's result at Roma to guarantee a spot in the last 16, while victory would have taken them through in the event of a draw at the Stadio Olimpico.

However, CSKA failed to impose themselves on Bayern at the Allianz Arena, and succumbed to a 3-0 defeat which eliminates them from European competition for the season.

Thomas Muller's first-half penalty and late goals from Sebastian Rode and Mario Gotze helped the Bavarian side ease through with five victories from their six Group E fixtures.

While naturally delighted to win, Robben was quick to point out CSKA's curious apparent unwillingness to press on and look for a vital win.
"Moscow weren't at all positive, they pulled everyone back and waited to hit us on the break," he said.

"We had total control over the game.
"If we'd seen our moves through to the end a little better in the second half, we'd have scored a couple more goals. But it was fun.

"It was a tough group but all credit to the team because we’ve done well."

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Phelan questions Van Gaal´s methods

Former Manchester United assistant Mike Phelan believes a change in approach under Louis van Gaal is behind the club's injury crisis.
Van Gaal's squad has been ravaged by injury during this season but they have managed to win five straight games to sit third in the Premier League.

Phelan said Van Gaal's decision to change former fitness coach Tony Strudwick's role and alter the club's training were behind the injuries.
"What's happened is a continuation of the same players getting injured all the time, so you have to look to the reasons why," he told the International Business Times UK.

"I think Manchester United changed their thoughts on the fitness regime, they looked at it a little bit differently.
"Tony Strudwick, who was operating as head of sports science, was involved day to day with the first team. He understood the ins and outs of how to keep players fit, how to keep them ready for competition. Then suddenly they moved him sideways and did something completely different. That may have had an effect. That one area has changed.

"They've brought in new people with a different way of doing things. The intensity of training may be one thing - it may be too intense, or not intense enough - but obviously slight changes have been made with the present way of doing things.

 "I would have thought [the squad] is big enough at Manchester United, because they can go out and get players in, but obviously they keep breaking down and they don't seem to be getting any better. They seem to get one back and lose another two."
Phelan backed former Netherlands coach Van Gaal to adapt and start learning what his players could handle.

The likes of Angel di Maria, Radamel Falcao, Michael Carrick and Phil Jones have spent time on the sidelines due to injury.
"He knows now roughly the intensity of the Premier League and what his players can produce," he said.

"He's been at the highest level, working with the highest players, in different countries.
"It's just a case of maybe understanding the specific requirements of players, individual players, where they need to be at certain times in order to perform. He's got enough staff there to sort that out."

Monaco´s success ´important for French football´ - Jardim

Monaco's progression in the UEFA Champions League was a breakthrough moment for French football, according to coach Leonardo Jardim.
The club from the principality on the Mediterranean coast secured a berth in the Champions League's round of 16 on Tuesday, overcoming Zenit 2-0 to clinch top spot in Group C ahead of Bayer Leverkusen, the Russian outfit and Benfica.

Jardim clearly took some satisfaction in proving Monaco's critics wrong with his team having won their last two matches in Group C to storm to the top of the standings.
The win saw two French clubs - Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain - reach the last 16, the first time that has happened since the 2011-12 season when Marseille and Lyon progressed.

"This qualification is important for me, but more so for the team, the principality and French football," Jardim told after the win over Zenit.
"Two French teams have qualified for the last 16, which is rare. And remember, in August, Monaco were regarded as the worst team in the group.

"Revenge? No, but I am happy because we reached our objective.
"The team gave a frank response to the critics, and especially to people in France who said at the start of the season that we weren't up to the level needed to qualify."
Having lost key players Radamel Falcao (on loan at Manchester United) and James Rodriguez (Real Madrid) before the season, Monaco have struggled to match their success of last campaign, where they pushed PSG for the Ligue 1 title.

Jardim has come in for criticism in France in his first season in charge of the club - as they sit seventh in Ligue 1, 12 points behind leaders Marseille.
But the Portuguese coach played down any stress he has felt over the past six months.
"We finished first because we got more points than the other teams. It is deserved, we were the best team," the 40-year-old said.

"This will not change Monaco's season. Monaco's season changed in August.
"This match will give the team more confidence. It is a victory first and foremost for the players, and then for the coach.
"When you arrive in a new country it is difficult. But over these six matches we have succeeded in finishing first in our group where there were quality teams with great coaches."

Roma confirmed for International Champions Cup

Serie A giants Roma have been confirmed as the third and final side to play in next year’s International Champions Cup at the MCG.
Roma, currently second in the league, join European champions Real Madrid and Premier League winners Manchester City in a super-powered tournament from July 18-24.
The news was confirmed via the ICC on Twitter on Wednesday.

A report in the Herald Sun on Wednesday revealed Roma are likely to kick-off the tournament against Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and their Real team-mates on July 18.
The Italians would back up and play Manchester City three days later before Manuel Pellegrini's men take on Real to close the event on July 24.

It is understood the event organisers - Nine Live and TLA Worldwide - have signed a four-year deal to host the ICC in Australia.
It could see clubs likes Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Juventus, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Arsenal head Down Under in coming years.

It was believed Inter Milan would be the third side to take part in the tournament but organisers decided to go with Roma.

The Roma side contains Italian legend Francesco Totti, who scored the famous penalty which knocked Australia out of the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
Perth Glory teenager Daniel De Silva will also be a part of the Roma squad next season after he was signed by the club earlier this year before being loaned back to the A-League club.

Hamzaoglu ´hopeful´ despite Galatasaray loss

Galatasaray coach Hamza Hamzaoglu was pleased with his players, despite Tuesday's 4-1 loss at home to Arsenal.
The Turkish side's dismal UEFA Champions League Group D campaign - that resulted in just one point - came to an end at the Turk Telekom Arena as Lukas Podolski and Aaron Ramsey ran rampant in Istanbul.

Galatasaray - bottom of the group - found themselves three goals adrift inside the first half-hour, with Podolski's third-minute opener and Ramsey's brace virtually ending the match as a contest.
Dutch star Wesley Sneijder netted a consolation goal for Galatasaray two minutes from the end, but

Podolski restored the visitors' three-goal buffer in the second minute of injury time.
Tuesday's defeat left Galatasaray winless through the group stage but Hamzaoglu was happy with how his team responded in the second half.

"We conceded an early goal which upset our balance and led to us not playing well," Hamzaoglu said afterwards.
"In the second half we played better and became the dominant team. We struggled to find the goal we needed, however.

"Although we lost, the display in the second half makes us hopeful. I am pleased with my players and thank the fans who came to support us."
Hamzaoglu added: "We want to improve as a group, work harder and aim to become stronger.
"We would like to be successful in the league and the cup. We don't want to let the fans dow

Hasi predicts Anderlecht success

Anderlecht coach Besnik Hasi urged his team to build on their finish to the UEFA Champions League group stage throughout the rest of the season.

The Belgian champions went undefeated across their final three matches in Group D, coming from three goals down to draw 3-3 at Arsenal and defeating Galatasaray 2-0, before clinching a late 1-1 draw away to Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday.

After Ciro Immobile gave Dortmund the lead just before the hour-mark with a sharply-taken goal, Aleksandar Mitrovic clinched a share of the points for the visitors in the 84th minute, heading Anthony Vanden Borre's cross home at the back post.
Anderlecht sit third in the Belgian Pro League after 18 rounds, having slipped behind Club Brugge and Kortrijk over the past three weeks, but Hasi is confident his team can win silverware this season if they maintain their Champions League form in other competitions.

"Tonight I expected my lads to make up [for poor league performances] and that's what they did," Hasi said, according to
"It was important to make amends but now we have to confirm this good performance against less glamorous opposition.

"If we continue like this, we can still go places this season."
Anderlecht have lost on the road at mid-table clubs Mouscron-Peruwelz and Sporting Charleroi in their past three league fixtures, while they were held to a 2-2 draw at home by rivals Club Brugge.

But with a Belgian Cup quarter-final first leg coming up next week, plus the UEFA Europa League, which Anderlecht qualified for after finishing third in Group D of the Champions League, Hasi is excited about what could happen in 2014-15.
"This Champions League campaign has been extraordinarily positive, I want to congratulate my players on it," the Albanian said.

"It has showcased our football, something we last had at Anderlecht in 2000-01. We must not forget that we have one of the youngest sides in the Champions League and at times we were able to play refreshing attacking football.
"Now we wait to see who the draw pits us against in the UEFA Europa League but first we will focus on the Belgian Pro League."

Allegri: Juve will grow in confidence

Massimiliano Allegri is sure Juventus will grow in confidence after securing their place in the UEFA Champions League knockout stages.
The Serie A champions played out a 0-0 draw with Spanish counterparts Atletico Madrid in Turin on Tuesday and the point was enough to secure second in Group A.

It marks a return to the last 16 for Juve, who were eliminated at the group stages in the 2013-14 Champions League campaign.
Head coach Allegri believes there are four teams that are currently a cut above the rest in Europe's premier competition, but feels that his side are capable of competing with the elite.

"[Finishing second] means Juve will take on one of the group winners in the next phase of the competition," he told Sky Sport Italia.
"The level of European teams is three or four who are far above the rest - Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Chelsea.

"The rest of us are battling and we are aware of our qualities.
"We can slowly improve our self-confidence and I think we have played a good group with undeserved away defeats in Athens [against Olympiacos] and Madrid."

Monday, December 8, 2014

Van Gaal: Lucky United must improve

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal conceded his team were fortunate to claim a 2-1 Premier League win at Southampton.
Robin van Persie capitalised on defensive lapses from the home team in each half to help United chalk up a fifth consecutive victory despite a ragged display.

And Van Gaal, whose team now lie third in the table, refused to let his compatriot's goals mask his concerns surrounding United’s general play.
He told Sky Sports: "We lost the ball too easily in the first half, I think. We didn't have good positional play.

"The only chances that Southampton created were when we lost the ball. That was not good, despite our good result. We got a present from Southampton
"We needed confidence on the ball, which we didn't have - I said that at half-time.
"I think Southampton played better than Manchester United but we were the lucky guys.

"I want them to show the confidence that we have shown on the training ground - this week we have trained fantastically.
"But I I didn't see it on the matchday and that’s the most important hour. You have to show yourself on the matchday."
One player certainly lacking in fortune was United defender Paddy McNair.

The 19-year-old endured a torrid time under first-half pressure from Southampton and Van Gaal replaced him with midfielder Ander Herrera in the 39th minute.
Van Gaal conceded it was a tough decision to make but maintained he was looking out for McNair's best interests.

He added: "He had not any confidence. He had already given three big chances away.
"It's very disappointing for me and also for Paddy but I had to because as a manager I am responsible [for the] win.

"After the change we played a little bit better. Of course it is tough but it is also in his best interests.
"I have made a lot of [early] changes and all the boys can survive. It is only one moment in their lifetime."

Koeman rues Southampton errors in United loss

Ronald Koeman said his Southampton team created their own downfall in the 2-1 Premier League defeat to Manchester United.
Robin van Persie was the beneficiary of some generous Southampton defending on Monday night, scoring a goal in each half to extend United's winning run to five matches.

But Louis van Gaal's team found themselves on the back foot for long periods at St Mary's.
Graziano Pelle scored his 10th goal of the season to equalise in the 31st minute but they slumped to their third loss in nine days, after Van Persie reinstated United's lead in the 71st minute.
"We did everything, we created chances. But we also did mistakes," Koeman told a news conference.
"Maybe they [United] did more mistakes than we did but they have players who handle those kind of mistakes and that was the difference today.

"I said to my players, we lost not against Man United tonight; we lost by ourselves."
Koeman felt Van Persie's second goal had a debilitating effect on his team as they struggled to make a convincing case for a second equaliser.

"It is always difficult because you are the better team and you have to fight again against 2-1 down," he said.
"After that moment we didn't play well but thats the difference. At this level details make the difference in football."

Despite their recent slump, Southampton remain fifth in the Premier League and Koeman is committed to the style of play that has brought success to the south coast club over recent months.
"I like to see my team playing football in the way that we've started this season,” he added.
"If we lose or we win, that's our way of playing because I believe in that way of playing even now when we've lost the last three games.

"City were the much better team but we deserved more against Arsenal, we deserve much more tonight but we did mistakes.
"If you give players like Van Persie those kind of mistakes, he will punish you - he will punish you for sure."

Van Gaal lauds two-goal hero Van Persie

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal praised Robin van Persie's display in the 2-1 win over Southampton.
Van Persie scored a goal in each half on Monday, with the help of some Southampton defensive errors, to secure a fifth consecutive victory and move United up to third in the Premier League table.

It was a largely disjointed display and Van Gaal acknowledged that many of his players under-performed, although this number did not include Dutch countryman Van Persie.

"Not only the goals are telling something about Robin van Persie," Van Gaal told his post-match press conference.

"It think also his [overall] performance - he was one of three players on the pitch for Manchester United who were good or maybe very good.
"He had a great influence on the result so I'm very positive. Until now it is his best performance [this season].

"The second goal was not so easy because the ball is coming for his right foot but he makes it with his left foot. It is a nice touch."
Although he would not name the other two players he earmarked for praise alongside Van Persie, Van Gaal was clear that he expects far higher quality team performances from United.

"They were not good. There is a range, of course, between good and bad but they were not good
"Normally you have six, seven or eight who are good and three players who are in that [bad] range.

"Too many players were not good, I believe."
"It's fantastic to be third in the table but I had hoped that we'd do that with a better performance because tonight we were the lucky team."

Carroll: West Ham can win Premier League title

Andy Carroll sees no reason why West Ham cannot win the Premier League title this season.
West Ham are flying high in the Premier League, sitting fourth in the table after upstaging 10-man Swansea City 3-1 at Upton Park on Sunday.

Towering English striker Carroll was on target twice as West Ham won their third consecutive league match to move within nine points of leaders Chelsea.
While many believe West Ham will drop off the pace over the Christmas period, Carroll said he believes the London club can mount a sensational title challenge and go all the way.

"I think there is no limit, we can go all the way to the top," the 25-year-old said.
"We have a great squad and I can't say we are going to give up, now we are in the top four. We have got a great team and we can go all the way.

"I think with the team we have got and the manager [Sam Allardyce], the way he is playing and coaching everyone, it is fantastic and I don't think we will be giving up at all."

Mihajlovic: No fear of Juventus

Sampdoria coach Sinisa Mihajlovic claimed his team has nothing to fear of triple reigning champions Juventus next week.

Juventus will host Sampdoria on Sunday - the only two teams in Serie A with just one defeat this season - and Mihajlovic reckons his side can compete with the Turin giants after moving into the top four.
Mihajlovic's men won 3-1 at Hellas Verona on Monday with Sampdoria's front three of Eder, Stefano Koaka and Manolo Gabbiadini shining for the Genoa-based team.
It was Sampdoria's first win away from home this season, while it was also the first time they have won at Hellas' Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi in 45 years, and Mihajlovic hopes that breakthrough victory will help them build throughout the campaign.
"It's an important victory for us," Mihajlovic told Sky Sport Italia.
"It's our first away win, on a ground where we hadn't won since 1969.

"Like Juventus, we've only lost once, although we could have done better.
"We're happy with the result and we look forward to the next game with Juventus. I always demand more, because I know this team can do more.
"We've deserved to win in all the games we've won, and we should even probably have four or five points more in other games, which we couldn't close out.

"Today I'm happy with the result and being fourth in the league."
Eder opened the scoring from the spot in the 28th minute and although the home side equalised before half-time through Luca Toni, Sampdoria were not to be denied.

Okaka put the visitors back in front in the 57th minute, getting his head to Gabbiadini's cross, while the latter wrapped up the points five minutes later, tapping in from Eder's centre.
While Sampdoria have triumphed away to Juventus as recently as two seasons ago, that is their only road win against next week's opposition since 2005.

Juventus lead Serie A with 35 points after drawing 0-0 with Fiorentina on Friday, while Sampdoria (26 points) are fourth, one behind third-placed Genoa, and one ahead of fifth-placed Napoli.

Hutton hopes pressure has eased on Lambert

Aston Villa right-back Alan Hutton is hopeful successive wins has helped ease the pressure on under-fire manager Paul Lambert.
Lambert appeared to be on borrowed time as Villa went through a nine-match winless streak in the Premier League, which included six consecutive defeats.

But Hutton's match-minute winner at home to Leicester City on Sunday saw Villa claim back-to-back victories.
Villa are now five games unbeaten and occupy 11th spot in the standings, a run of form Hutton hopes will help ease the fan's frustrations.

"I hope it has eased the pressure on him – we've got a lot of hard games out of the way," said Hutton, who was labelled as the "best right-back" in the Premier League by Lambert following Sunday's triumph.

"I understand the fans' frustrations. They come and want to see you winning and playing good football but we're are five unbeaten now and we want to keep getting better and better.

"If you look at our squad, when we have everyone fit, we rival most teams. Players like Fabian Delph and Ron Vlaar are coming back so we'll have good competition for places.
"I don't see why we can't push up a few more places in the league."

Guardiola assists Japan rugby team

Japan rugby national team coach Eddie Jones has sought assistance from Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola ahead of next year's Rugby World Cup.
Former Australia coach Jones steered Japan to an eighth consecutive World Cup appearance after defeating Hong Kong in the final of the Asian Five Nations in May.

Japan have been placed in Pool B alongside South Africa, Samoa, Scotland and United States.
And Jones has switched codes to help Japan's World Cup bid, working closely with two-time UEFA Champions League-winner Guardiola to improve his team's tactical awareness.

"I watched Bayern train and had a really good meeting with the head coach and I really think we can improve greatly with adjustments in the way we train," he said.
"He is the best soccer coach in the world and you always want to learn from the best.
"The main thing we learned this year was that we have to be tactically more flexible. We need to react to situations on the field and make adjustments to the way we play.

"The soccer approach is called tactical periodisation, in which everything is done in preparation for the game and in order to be tactically aware."
Jones added: "Rugby and soccer are very similar in that you always want to move the ball into space and Bayern Munich and his previous team Barcelona played the most fantastic passing game you have ever seen.

"The principles are exactly the same. The very best soccer teams vary their depth and formation in order to make the most of the space. So when you get the chance to learn from the best it's a fantastic opportunity."

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Ligue 1 Preview: PSG´s Motta hoping to ´learn´ from Marseille

Thiago Motta believes Paris Saint-Germain can learn from Ligue 1 leaders Marseille in their quest for a third successive league title.
PSG are only a point behind Marseille as they prepare to host Nantes at the Parc des Princes on Saturday.

But despite their unbeaten start to the 2014-15 Ligue 1 campaign after 16 matches, PSG have come in for heavy criticism this season.
Many believe the capital club have gone backwards under coach Laurent Blanc, whose future has been cast into doubt as a result.

Italian midfielder Motta, who played the full 90 minutes as PSG were held to a 1-1 draw by Lille on Wednesday, conceded the reigning champions were "better" last season.
The 32-year-old also pointed out Marcelo Bielsa's Marseille as an example, highlighting their collective work ethic on the pitch.

"The way we had possession of the ball was so much different last season. Yes, we had a lot of the ball, but we knew exactly what we wanted to do with it and what we needed to do with it to put our opponents in danger," Motta told The Ligue 1 show.
"With or without the ball we were playing more as a team. We were more compact. We would all give that little bit extra to help our teammates on the pitch.

"At times, certainly not always but at times, that effort has been missing from our game this year."
Motta added: "When you watch Marseille you can see that the first defender on the pitch is [striker Andre-Pierre] Gignac. He gives so much for the team.

"They might not have a player at the same level as, say an [Zlatan]Ibrahimovic, but they're a real team and they showed us that when we played them earlier this season.

"Maybe PSG can learn a thing or two from them in that regard to help us improve."
Marseille will be out to maintain their lead at the summit when they conclude the Ligue 1 round at home Metz on Sunday.
Lyon are hot on the trail of Marseille and PSG after grinding out a dramatic 2-1 win over Reims on Thursday.

Ligue 1's joint-leading goalscorer Alexandre Lacazette (11) was the hero, netting the winning goal in the 90th minute.
Lacazette's last-gasp goal helped Lyon close to within five points of Marseille ahead of their trip to Evian TG on Sunday, much to the "relief" of coach Hubert Fournier, who said he had "lost hope of winning because we thought we had missed our chance".
Saint-Etienne (29 points), Rennes and Bordeaux (both level on 28 points) are both at home on Saturday.

Fourth-placed Saint-Etienne - who were 2-0 winners against Montpellier midweek - welcome cellar-dwelling Bastia to the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard.
Rennes entertain Montpellier as they attempt to extend their winning streak to five matches, while lowly Lorient travel to Bordeaux.

In other fixtures, third-bottom Caen and fellow strugglers Nice go head-to-head on Saturday.
Monaco, who returned to form against Lens during the week, kick-off the round at Toulouse on Friday.
Out-of-form Lille - winless in 11 games in all competitions - make the trip to Lens for the Derby du Nord on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Reims and Guingamp are also in action on the same day.

Paraguay appoint Diaz as coach

Paraguay appointed former River Plate boss Ramon Diaz as their new coach on Thursday.
Diaz - who stood down from his role at River after guiding the Argentine Primera Division giants to the title in May - has signed a four-year deal with the South American nation.

The 54-year-old Argentinian takes over from caretaker Victor Genes, who was put in charge temporarily following Gerardo Pelusso's sacking in June 2013.
"I must first thank all the people of Paraguay, leaders, able to manage and represent such an important country," Diaz said on Thursday.

"The coaching staff is the same that accompanied me in River Plate, with which I am working forever. For me and my coaching staff is a major challenge where the first thing we look for is the prestige.

"Football is very dynamic and we are very pleased to have completed this negotiation to work for the future.
"It is the America's Cup, you have to qualify for the World Cup and there are high expectations for this opportunity."

Diaz added: "It is one of the biggest challenges of my career, because when you get to this level and it has the responsibility to manage something of a country is the most important thing that touched me in the last period, despite having gained much in Argentina.

"This is a big challenge for me and my staff. We believe we are trained to do and why thanked the President of the APF, all their leaders. We will give our best so that everything goes well."

Diaz's first match in charge is scheduled for June 13, when Paraguay face Argentina in the opening game of their Copa America campaign.

Irvine does not fear West Brom sack

West Brom coach Alan Irvine is bullish about his future at The Hawthorns, insisting he does not fear the sack.
Irvine is the latest Premier League boss to be put under the spotlight following West Brom's run of four consecutive defeats.
West Brom chairman Jeremy Peace met with Irvine after Tuesdays' 2-1 loss at home to West Ham left the club hovering just a point the relegation zone.
But Irvine - 14 matches into his first senior coaching role at Premier League level - said he still has the full support of West Brom's hierarchy.
"I spoke to the chairman after training but not about that [job] and he didn't speak to me about that. He was great. I went to see him about a completely different matter," Irvine said in the lead up to Saturday's trip to Hull City.
"We spent 15 minutes just chatting over different things and he was great, as he has been all of the time. I'm really grateful for the support he's given me.
"I understand the way things are in this job. There's a short-term culture nowadays and, if it's not Alan Pardew getting stick, as he was six or seven weeks ago, it's somebody else.
"If it's me at this time, hopefully I will be able to get to the situation Alan is in because it wasn't that long ago I was at Stoke hearing people calling for his head.
"They are such fine margins. We are not too far away from getting good results.
"I don't think anybody who has been at the last two games can think we are miles away from getting a good result. We need some goals."
Irvine added: "I have certainly been there at the start of the season when it was very much on me and people were questioning the appointment.
"We came through that and everybody thought I was great, but I said at that time that if we lost a few games then they would probably think I was hopeless again."

Forster: Southampton remain confident

Belief is still high within the Southampton squad despite a three-game winless streak, according to goalkeeper Fraser Forster.
Southampton crashed to back-to-back defeats after losing 1-0 at Arsenal on Wednesday.
Consecutive losses has seen Ronald Koeman's men slip to third in the Premier League standings, just a point clear of Manchester United after of Monday's clash with Louis van Gaal's men at St Mary's.

However, Forster is adamant Southampton's togetherness will see the club return to winning ways.
"It was very disappointing, but we take the positives and we move on," Forster said of Southampton's defeat against Arsenal.

"They've got top quality players. From back to front we worked hard and all did our best for the team, but were probably just missing that little bit of luck that you need in football.
"Obviously, it was cruel to concede late on, but there was a lot we could take from the game and if we play like that on Monday night at home it will be a very good game.

"We'll be full of confidence. We can take so many positives from the game at Arsenal and if we can play like that against a lot of teams we will pick up points.
"It's just important we believe in ourselves. The manager does.

"We're so together as a club that it's frightening. It's just important that we hold our heads up high and move on."
History is against Southampton, who have not beaten United in 10 fixtures in all competitions.

Forlan: Japanese footballers do not care

Diego Forlan has slammed his Cerezo Osaka team-mates for not taking J.League survival seriously, and claimed he wants out of the club.
Forlan has six months remaining on his contract with Cerezo but it appears unlikely he will stay in Japan following his scathing comments to El Observador TV on Thursday.

The 35-year-old striker has barely played in the J.League since Yuji Okuma - Cerezo's third coach of the 2014 season - took over on September 8 and looks ready to leave after relegation was confirmed on Saturday.

"Nobody from [Cerezo] has spoken with me about my contract since we were relegated," Forlan said, as translated by Football Channel Asia.
"I want to go to a team that wants me."

When the 35-year-old signed with Cerezo at the start of the 2014 campaign, the Osaka-based club became instant favourites for the J.League title but after scoring six goals in his first 11 games, Forlan and his team's fortunes started to fade.

Cerezo picked up just 16 points in 13 games before the J.League's World Cup break and during that recess, the club sacked coach Ranko Popovic.

In came Marco Pezzaiuoli but Cerezo claimed just four draws during the German's nine-match tenure before Cerezo's former youth coach Okuma was promoted to the top job.

Under Okuma, Cerezo have won three J.League fixtures but were sent to the second division last week when they lost 4-1 to Kashima Antlers.

"[Japanese players] don't understand the significance of relegation because fans don't pressure them," Forlan said.
"There's no pressure for them to win or lose.
"It was strange to know that we had been relegated and see [my team-mates] laughing during training the next day."
Despite hardly playing since August, Forlan is likely to finish the season as Cerezo's top scorer as he has seven goals with one match remaining - two ahead of Kenyu Sugimoto and Cacau.

"I was frustrated because Okuma didn't allow me to help in the last three months," Forlan said.
"He always had an excuse to keep me from playing, saying that he wanted to defend more than attack.

"He clearly didn't bench me for poor form, because then he'd have to bench the entire team."
Forlan, who has been linked with a move to Penarol in the Uruguayan media, believes Japanese football needs more passion if they are to take the next step.

"[Japan] take football as a science when it's not," he said.
"They do things without an objective. Japanese people are very naive in some aspects.
"When Hotaru [Yamaguchi] and [Yoichiro] Kakitani said they wanted to bring the World Cup to Japan, neither of them believed it. They only said it because that's what people wanted to hear."

PFA reject Howard´s work permit claims

England's Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) rejected Tim Howard's claim Brad Friedel attempted to block his work permit in 2003.
Howard has claimed in his soon-to-be published book 'The Keeper' that fellow American Friedel attempted to "sabotage" his move to Manchester United from the New York MetroStars by refusing to endorse the younger goalkeeper's work permit application.
But in an interview on Wednesday, Friedel demanded an apology, arguing Howard's claims were "complete garbage".
Friedel claimed he had been contacted by Howard's representatives to sign a letter supporting the then 24-year-old's application but was forced to make some changes because it was "full of exaggerations".
"It said that I had been in direct competition with Tim Howard for the starting job on the US national team for the last two years, when anyone who follows soccer knew it was between Kasey [Keller] and I," Friedel told ESPN FC.

"Yes, I refused to sign that. We got the letter and said 'We have to change this, because this isn't true'.
"We made our changes and sent it back. They didn't like what I was going to sign so they didn't use it. And that was the end of the matter."

Howard's book includes allegations that Friedel contacted the PFA, telling them not to give Howard a work permit but PFA CEO Gordon Taylor rejected that claim on Thursday.
"With regard to the appeal by Manchester United on behalf of Tim Howard, which was successful, we have been asked to confirm that the PFA did not receive any correspondence from Brad Friedel in opposition of Tim Howard's work permit application," he said in a statement released on the PFA's website.

Howard went on to make 45 Premier League appearances with United over three seasons before joining Everton, where he remains, having played 311 games in England's top tier for the Merseyside club.

Friedel, 43, remains on the books at Tottenham, although he is their number two goalkeeper behind Hugo Lloris, with the veteran having played over 400 Premier League matches during stints at White Hart Lane, as well as with Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers and Liverpool.

Pardew braced for Sissoko swoopers

Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew is expecting January interest in midfielder Moussa Sissoko.
Sissoko returns from suspension for Newcastle's hosting of Chelsea in the early kick-off on Saturday, after being sent-off in their 1-0 loss at West Ham.
The France international extended Newcastle's winning streak to six matches - in all competitions - the week prior with the winner against Queens Park Rangers, before turning villain in the loss at Upton Park.

Sissoko is well-known to upcoming opponents Chelsea, having scored a stunning brace on his home debut for Newcastle against the Londoners in February 2013 - to see Pardew's men come from behind and post a 3-2 win.

And the former Southampton boss said he would not be surprised if Sissoko was pursued by, or sold to, a powerhouse club in the transfer window.

"We have not had contact from anybody else or heard from anybody else, but I take the point [he could be a target]," Pardew said, as reported by the Daily Mail.
"He is playing for a club where big clubs have come before and taken players away. I understand that so therefore, I guess, he is a player they will be looking at.

"That's all I can say because he has been terrific for us."
Sissoko, who has seven Premier League goals to his name, has improved since his blistering arrival on the St James' Park arena, according to Pardew.

"He is only a young player, 25, and he has already got 27 national caps for France. This is a guy who could win 50, 60 or 70 caps for France," added Pardew.
"He is a powerful player and he is better player now than he was back then.

"Don't get me wrong, he had a great day then [on his home debut] but he is better now and that is because he has more experience and a better knowledge of the Premier League.
"He has technically improved, without a doubt."

Wright-Phillips named Red Bulls´ designated player

MLS Golden Boot winner Bradley Wright-Phillips has become New York Red Bulls' new designated player following Thierry Henry's departure.
The Red Bulls announced on Wednesday that Englishman Wright-Phillips - who topped the scoring charts with 27 regular-season goals - will be handed a new and improved deal after French veteran

Henry ended his four-and-a-half year stay in New York.
Henry's exit after New York narrowly missed out on a spot in the MLS Cup final freed up the designated player position and the Red Bulls wasted little time rewarding 29-year-old Wright-Phillips, who netted 31 goals in all competitions and lost out to Los Angeles Galaxy captain Robbie Keane for the 2014 Most Valuable Player award on Wednesday.
MLS' Designated Player Rule allows teams to sign a player outside of the salary cap.

"Following his outstanding performances in 2014, which produced 31 goals in all competitions, the club has decided to make Bradley Wright-Phillips a MLS Designated Player," said New York Red Bulls Sporting Director Andy Roxburgh.
"Bradley is not only a prolific goal scorer, he is an excellent professional and a great team player who will be a big asset to the club in the coming seasons."
Wright-Phillips has scored 28 MLS goals in 39 games since joining from Brentford in 2013.

Sunderland could not stop Aguero, Poyet admits

Gus Poyet admitted Sunderland were undone by the class of Sergio Aguero in Wednesday's 4-1 Premier League defeat to Manchester City.
Sunderland had beaten champions City 1-0 in each of their previous four top-flight encounters at the Stadium of Light and threatened another upset on home turf when Connor Wickham opened the scoring in fortuitous circumstances in the 19th minute.

However, Manuel Pellegrini's men quickly turned on the style and the majestic Aguero equalised with a superb solo goal before rounding off the comeback with a cool finish in the 71st minute after Stevan Jovetic and Pablo Zabaleta had also scored.

"We started the game very well but we gave too many options to City to attack," head coach Poyet told BBC Sport.
"We didn't have the time to improve technically after taking the lead because they equalised so soon with a superb goal. When you have players like Aguero, they can do something from nothing."
Poyet also believes his team showed elements of fatigue from Saturday's spirited 0-0 draw with Premier League leaders Chelsea.

"It was very difficult especially after the effort on Saturday," he added on the club's official website. "I decided not to change too many players and we started well in the first 20 minutes of the game, but it was tough and they were better than us.

"Sometimes you cannot complain too much - they were quicker and they were better technically.
"[City's] quality is why they are where they are and why they play to win titles. That is why sometimes as a manager you dream about having a player who can do something on his own, so you can give him the ball and he will create something on his own to score.

"City have this but we need to be realistic and we cannot always be at the same level as the top teams, so it is a disappointing result but we need to accept it."

Friedel wants apology from Howard

Brad Friedel has demanded an apology from Tim Howard after claims made in the Everton goalkeeper's new autobiography.
In his soon-to-be published book "The Keeper", Howard said that fellow American Friedel refused to endorse his work permit application in an attempt to "sabotage" his move to Manchester United from the New York MetroStars in 2003.

Howard said in his autobiography: "The legal team at Manchester United...told me that Brad hadn't merely refused to sign a statement on my behalf, he had actively tried to block my transfer.
"He'd written to the appeals committee suggesting that I shouldn't be given a work permit at all."

However, Friedel strongly hit back in an interview with ESPN FC on Wednesday.
The former United States international keeper quashed Howard's comments and said he wants an apology from the 35-year-old Everton shotstopper.
"It's complete garbage," the 43-year-old said in a phone interview from England.

"To be honest with you, all we're looking for is an apology.
"We can't get the book reprinted. I'm not looking for monetary gain. I just want an apology.
"There is no letter. I never sabotaged and I never stood in the way of Tim Howard getting a work permit. This is ludicrous."

Friedel admitted that he did not sign Howard's work permit application as the letter was not accurate.
The Tottenham veteran said the application claimed that Howard was in direct competition with Friedel for the number one spot at international level, which was not the case.

"The letter was full of exaggerations that the people on the PFA [Professional Footballers Association] and appeals committee would have seen through," Friedel added.
"It said that I had been in direct competition with Tim Howard for the starting job on the US national team for the last two years, when anyone who follows soccer knew it was between Kasey [Keller] and I.

"Yes, I refused to sign that. We got the letter and said 'We have to change this, because this isn't true.
"We made our changes and sent it back. They didn't like what I was going to sign so they didn't use it. And that was the end of the matter."

Koeman rues injury record after narrow defeat

Southampton boss Ronald Koeman felt his side's luck with injuries was a big factor as they fell to a late 1-0 Premier League loss at Arsenal
Koeman's men were denied a battling point a minute from time as Alexis Sanchez's close-range finish finally broke their stubborn resistance at the Emirates.
Southampton goalkeeper Fraser Forster certainly did not deserve to lose and saved well from Danny Welbeck in an even first half.

His second-half performance really caught the eye though, as he single-handedly kept his side in the game when they were pushed further and further back. He saved superbly to deny Welbeck and Olivier Giroud before being finally beaten.

Despite losing back-to-back league games for the first time this season, Koeman felt the injury luck his side had during the game was the difference between the sides.

Both Jack Cork and Dusan Tadic had to be substituted before the end, while Toby Alderweireld left the pitch minutes before Arsenal's breakthrough, but Southampton had used all their substitutions and Koeman was in no doubt how important that was.
Koeman said via Southampton's official Twitter account: "I think we had a good reaction after last Sunday.

"I think our ball possession was much better than last Sunday. We controlled the game. I think we had some good opportunities, the best of the first half off Graziano.
"Ok after one hour it was more difficult. They had some changes in their attack and it was more difficult but Fraser was outstanding today in the second half.

"The difference was after that we were unlucky after our third change in the team because we had to change Toby and continue with 10 and I think in my opinion that was the difference between Arsenal and us today."

Koeman's side remain in third place and showed plenty to suggest that they can compete with the elite sides in the league.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Mourinho delighted with Chelsea depth

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho was quick to talk up his side's strength in depth after their 3-0 win over Tottenham.
Missing the suspended Diego Costa - who has netted 11 goals in as many Premier League matches this season - Chelsea were still convincing winners at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, despite a slow start.

 Eden Hazard and Didier Drogba, the latter leading the line in place of Costa, scored in the first half before substitute Loic Remy capped the win 17 minutes from time.

When jokingly asked if his side still needed Costa at his post-match press conference, Mourinho responded: "We need [him]. But I think our mentality is the right mentality.
"We don't have a player, we don't cry about it. We give confidence to the others and the others responded in the best way.

"Obviously he [Drogba] did very well, Remy the same. I think I prefer to speak about the team, [though], in a very difficult match in a very good Tottenham.
"Against a Tottenham that was better than us in the first 20 minutes. And the team was able to face a difficult moment, to be stable, to score and after that, to manage the game in the best way.

"[It was an] important victory against a very good team."
When pressed for further comment on Drogba - who also set up Hazard's opener - Mourinho was quick to praise the Chelsea legend.

But instead of lauding his performance, Mourinho wanted to highlight his attitude and enthusiasm to the Chelsea cause.
"Yes. It's remarkable [what Drogba can do at 36]," he added.
"First of all, he is a team player. After that, he is one of these 'old-days' mentality [players].

"Not selfish, not vain…[he is a] humble guy, plays for the team, fights for the team. Fantastic.
"Because when he is on the bench and he comes to play the last couple of minutes because the team needs somebody to hold the ball, because the team needs somebody to help in defensive set-pieces, he does that with the same enthusiasm, with the same spirit as he starts against a game against Tottenham Hotspur. Brilliant."

When asked about Drogba's future, Mourinho was unsure beyond this season - but added that he wanted him to stay.

The Portuguese boss also clarified any fears over an injury to Gary Cahill, who suffered an early head knock before being substituted at half-time. Cahill was not concussed, according to Mourinho.

Lille are improving - Girard

Coach Rene Girard claimed Lille's draw with Paris Saint-Germain indicates his team's lowly league position is not deserved.

While Lille's winless run in all competitions stretched to 11 games on Wednesday, after they were forced to come from behind to draw 1-1 with PSG, Girard praised his team's performance after a tough couple of months, including three trips in the UEFA Europa League.
Lille have not won since September but moved up to 15th in Ligue 1 after claiming a point against the French champions.

 "About us, I believe we do not deserve our current place in the standings," Girard said.
"We had a bad patch with an overloaded schedule and the accumulated fatigue. I know this group is much better than that and there will be better days."

But Girard made it clear Lille's work is far from complete with the Derby du Nord versus Lens coming up on Sunday.
Lens sit in the relegation zone but are just three points behind Lille, which should ensure the derby is a hard-fought encounter.
"Beware, this is a draw, it's not over," the 60-year-old said.

"[Coming up] is a derby on Sunday, which will be a real cup tie."
PSG hit the front in the 29th minute at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy when Edinson Cavani finished off Ezequiel Lavezzi's cross.

But a mistake from PSG goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu ensured Lille would claim a draw with the Italian parrying David Rozehnal's header into the net three minutes before half-time.
Girard was thrilled to see Lille earn something from a game where they edged the goal-scoring opportunities 15 to 10.

"I am very pleased with the behaviour of my team," he said.
"The boys needed to be rewarded for their efforts, even though we sometimes had a difficult time in the game.
"But it was Paris opposite, not [just] anyone."

Barcelona´s intensity impresses Luis Enrique

Barcelona coach Luis Enrique hailed his team's intensity after they cruised past Huesca 4-0 in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday.

A free-kick from Ivan Rakitic in the 12th minute got Barcelona underway at Huesca's Estadio El Alcoraz before Andres Iniesta and Pedro also scored before half-time, while Rafinha's 71st-minute strike wrapped up the first-leg victory.

With a number of younger players in the starting line-up, including Douglas Pereira, Marc Bartra and Sergi Samper, Luis Enrique paid tribute to Barcelona's professionalism and commitment against their Segunda B opposition.

"These games can become difficult," he said.
"Even though the pitch was in perfect state to play in, sometimes the opponents are more motivated than we are.

"But I think that we were really intense and we played a really serious game.
"I think in the first half we decided the tie and in the second half we were a bit more up and down but you can understand that."

Barcelona will host the second leg on December 16, while their next match will be the Derbi Barceloni against Espanyol on Sunday.

We deserved more - Hughes

Mark Hughes felt Stoke City were unlucky to leave Old Trafford with a 2-1 Premier League defeat to Manchester United.
Juan Mata grabbed the winner for United, his goal coming after Steven N'Zonzi had cancelled out an early opener from Marouane Fellaini.
Stoke did not give in, though, and were denied thrice in injury time as David De Gea produced two world-class saves to thwart Mame Biram Diouf and Marko Arnautovic late on, before Ashley Young's goal-line clearance earned United the points.
And despite his side struggling for a foothold over the remainder of the game, Hughes suggested his men deserved at least a point.
He said: "I think we deserved more on the balance of play. I thought we were very much in the game, certainly in the first half.

"We picked ourselves up after the disappointment of conceding early on and scored a really good equaliser.
"We were really encouraged at half-time because we felt there were rewards for us.

"In recent times, Stoke teams have come here and asked to be beaten but we didn't do that."
Hughes was also frustrated by the nature of the winner, with Mata's free-kick evading everybody and flying into the corner.

The Stoke boss felt the flag should have been raised for offside against Marcos Rojo, who initially claimed to have glanced the ball home.
Hughes added: "We were disappointed with the second goal because we think it was clearly offside.
"The lad Rojo is clearly interfering with play so the referee and the assistant should have cancelled that out.

"But we didn't allow it to affect us and we picked ourselves up. The saves at the end were unbelievable and it summed up our luck at the moment."
The win was United's fourth in a row, yet Hughes still feels the club he represented as a player are a long way from the form showed in their glory years under Sir Alex Ferguson.
He said: "This was never a game where we were consistently under pressure, like past visits here.

"I don't think United are at that level at the moment, but they have got the time and resources to get there."

Lambert: No Keane row

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert denied a falling out with players was behind Roy Keane's decision to quit the club.
Keane surprisingly stood down as assistant manager at Villa Park last week, just five months into the role.

The former Sunderland and Ipswich Town boss cited difficultly between combining his Villa role with his position as Republic of Ireland assistant manager to Martin O'Neill.

However, there have been reports that Keane was involved in a training-ground row with senior players at the club.

But Lambert stressed that was not the case after Villa's 1-0 win at Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Tuesday.

"There's absolutely no problem whatsoever he has a lot of commitments with Ireland," Lambert said.
"He's never had a break from going away from Ireland or with Aston Villa. Contrary to reports there was no bust-up, no arguing, nothing like that.

"I thank him for his time, coming to work with me in that spell.
"I spoke to him before the Burnley game and after the Burnley game and our relationship is the same. I want to put that to bed."

Henry unsure about future

French star Thierry Henry remains coy on his future plans after ending his four-and-a-half year stay at the New York Red Bulls.
The former Arsenal attacker, 37, announced he was leaving MLS on Monday, just days after the Red Bulls bowed out of the play-offs.

Henry has been linked with a return to Arsenal, but refused to divulge what was next - as he was still unsure about retirement.
"The decision was pretty easy for me," he said.

"I still don't know about retirement, but I knew, here, it was going to be my last game. But I didn't want to talk about it [because of the play-offs].
"At the end of the day, I don't like to talk about myself in that way, so I'll let you guys do the talking.

All I can assure you is that, although at times it wasn't enough, I always tried my best."
Henry, who joined the Red Bulls in 2010, ended up scoring 51 league goals for New York.
He said the plan was always to leave after four-and-a-half years, and also talked up the quality of MLS.

"Like I said, I didn't want to put the focus on me when we're trying to make the play-offs. That's never been my way of seeing things," Henry said.
"I was always going to leave after four-and-a-half years, that was always going to be the case, like I said, and that was never going to change.

"I had a blast, it wasn't easy at times. It was difficult at the beginning for me, personally. Then after I embraced the league, I knew what the league was all about and I embraced New York too.

"I'm not shy to say whatever I want to say, I never shy away from things like that. I guess the New York crowd usually like that, they let you know too when they don't like you, I don't mind that, I didn't mind that.

"That's the way it is, that's something you need to understand. Like I said so many times, people do think that this league is easy. This league is not easy at all.

"If you come here at a late stage in your career and you're not ready to perform or you think that it's an easy thing and you can just come here and perform, it's not an easy one."

Warnock: Dann ´should have kicked it over the stand´

Crystal Palace manager Neil Warnock lambasted his defence, for their concession of the decisive goal in their 1-0 loss to Aston Villa.
Christian Benteke scored what turned out to be the winner in the 32nd minute at Selhurst Park, robbing centre-back Scott Dann of possession on the left sideline before storming on goal and finishing from outside the penalty area.

Dann, 27, is into his eighth season of playing in either the Premier League or Championship, but Warnock still said he had a lesson to learn out of Benteke's goal.
"I think he [Dann] should have kicked it over the stand and not be ashamed to do it," Warnock said.
Warnock also conceded Dann's partner in the centre of defence also should have closed down the dangerous Benteke's space.

"There were two or three things, though, I thought Brede could have come out [quicker] but it's the decisions we make and you stand or fall," the former QPR boss said.
"Unfortunately for Scott, who's probably been our best player defensive wise, it's a cruel punishment.
"But hopefully you learn from that you can't score in Row Z, can you?"

Returning Gerrard ´outstanding´, says Rodgers

Brendan Rodgers praised Steven Gerrard after the Liverpool captain made a goal-scoring return to the starting line-up at Leicester City.
Gerrard only featured from the bench in Saturday's battling 1-0 Premier League win over Stoke City at Anfield and the 34-year-old's patchy form this season has been a matter for debate amid an unresolved contract situation.

But the former England skipper returned to the Liverpool starting line-up in an advanced midfield role at the King Power Stadium, scoring the vital second goal in a 3-1 triumph.

"He was outstanding tonight," Rodgers told LFCTV.
"I think as a manager and a player you can never win. Steven's not 24, he's 34 years of age so I have to manage the game-time carefully so that he has the big impact and he's effective in the game for us.

"He understands that... he plays tonight - he had a breather at the weekend and you could see the freshness in his legs and his running.

"The goal he got, he showed great composure, so it was a very good performance by Steven and a very good team performance."
Rodgers' men were forced to battle back from behind against the Premier League's bottom club following Simon Mignolet's unfortunate own goal.

Adam Lallana fired a 26th-minute equaliser and Gerrard was on target nine minutes into the second half, leaving Jordan Henderson to seal the points after Leicester defender Wes Morgan was sent off in the 63rd minute for a professional foul on Rickie Lambert.

"Leicester only lost once here all season [in the Premier League before Tuesday] and they've played some very good sides at home," Rodgers said.
"For us to come away with a 3-1 [win], we've had to work hard and we've had to dig deep at times.
"I felt that if we defended a little better and a bit higher in the second half we could go on and win the game.

"[In the] second half, we pressed the game better and looked a real threat going forward."
Rodgers was also pleased to identify a change in attitude from his players following their limp 3-1 loss at Crystal Palace in November.

"The players battled really, really well. You have to earn the right to play football," he said.
"I think after Palace we recognised that that's important. The players who are in there at the moment; they're fighting, they're working and they're getting the results.
"Bit by bit, we'll climb our way up the table again."

Real´s Jese thankful for support

Jese Rodriguez expressed his gratitude towards all involved with Real Madrid after making his long-awaited return on Tuesday.
After missing almost nine months due to a right cruciate ligament injury suffered against Schalke in the UEFA Champions League in March, Jese made a goal-scoring return to the pitch as Real routed Cornella 5-0 in the Copa del Rey round of 32.

The 21-year-old came off the bench in the second half and completed the scoring with 13 minutes remaining to give Real a 9-1 aggregate win at The Santiago Bernabeu.
And Jese was quick to thank the club, team-mates and fans for their support during his rehabilitation.

"It has been many months of suffering," the Spaniard said afterwards.
"Everyone has helped me a lot, the fans, the president, my team-mates. The fans love me a lot and I love them too.

"You go through a difficult time when you're out, because it's many months away from the pitch. I have to keep on working to improve physically.
"I missed being with the team and scoring goals. I dedicate this to the fans, because they have supported me a lot, and to the doctors and physios."

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Benitez blames referee Rocchi, hails Napoli´s unbeaten run

Napoli coach Rafael Benitez lamented an "off day" from referee Gianluca Rocchi in their 1-1 Serie A draw at Sampdoria on Monday.

The Spanish tactician oversaw a brave performance from his Naples-based side, as they equalised with 10 men in stoppage time to extend their unbeaten streak to 10 league matches.
Sampdoria led at the Stadio Comunale Luigi Ferraris in Genoa with Eder's fine finish in the 57th minute, and were looking good value for the three points when Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly was dismissed in the 84th minute.
Benitez claimed Napoli deserved their equaliser - a buried header from substitute Daniel Zapata - and said he felt Rocchi did not perform to the Italian top-flight's standard.
"I think we had two or three clear chances to score in the first half despite not playing particularly well, while in the second half Napoli controlled the game and conceded against the run of play," Benitez told Sky Sport Italia.

"Without talking about incidents, everyone has an off day and we can say someone [Rocchi] had an off day today."

Benitez said given the changes to his injury-plagued team, preserving their unbeaten run - and denying Sampdoria a win that would have seen them replace Napoli in third spot - was a sign of their progression this season.

"We lost Michu, [Lorenzo] Insigne, today [Dries] Mertens returned and [Jonathan] De Guzman still has problems with his neck," Benitez said.
"The team is unbeaten in 10 games, so in the circumstances I'd call that positive.

"We knew from the start this could be a difficult season. We know our strengths and where we have to improve.
"I am optimistic for the future, but the team has to look at individual objectives in every game and not look forward to other fixtures or the table."

Benitez said he was pleased his side continued to attack at the death, despite being a man down.
"Sampdoria pressed us, played a very physical game and it was not easy, but even with 10 men we attacked to score and had more possession," he said.

"The first half performance may well be down to Samp, who pressed us all over the park.
"The game seemed to be under control until the goal, which I think was avoidable."

Noble: Players can´t complain about busy fixture

West Ham midfielder Mark Noble believes players should have no complaints about the busy Christmas fixture.
Complaints have already come from managers Louis van Gaal and Ronald Koeman as the Premier League prepares for a busy December.

West Ham play six games in the final month of the year, beginning with Tuesday's trip to West Brom.
But Noble, 27, said the sport needed to be kept in perspective during the festive period.
"You think about soldiers out in Afghanistan or Iraq and they are not with their families and they are getting bullets fired at them whereas we are playing in the Premier League," he said.

"You have got to put it in perspective really.
"It is hard if you have got family and kids and you have to leave them on Christmas Day to go and train but listen, we are a small minority of lucky players.

"We have obviously worked hard for this, but we are lucky enough to have the ability to play in the Premier League.
"You have to take the good with the bad and if you have to play over Christmas you have to. We have a good life and playing football over Christmas is not the worst thing in the world."

Noble refuses to get carried away with West Ham's good start to the season, with Sam Allardyce's men sitting fifth in the table.

He said there was still a long way to go, and the evenness of the league made it difficult to predict.
"If we can keep going the way we are going, who knows? But the league is so tight. To think, we are only 10 points from the bottom," Noble said.

"Everyone keeps beating everyone and that shows you the quality of the Premier League. we have to just keep winning games and take it game by game."

Hands off Bony - Monk

Raiding clubs will have to pay an "astronomical fee" to snatch Wilfried Bony from Swansea City, according to manager Garry Monk.
Bony - who has scored more goals in the Premier League in 2014 than any other player, and has notched six in 13 games this season - has been widely linked with a move to the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham over the past six months.

But having watched Bony score in successive games, Monk is under no illusions how important the striker is to his team, ahead of their clash with QPR on Tuesday.

Monk insisted Swansea have no reason to sell any of their players, while warning any clubs interested in Bony that the Welsh outfit would have to be offered much more than the £12million they paid for the Ivory Coast international last year to let him go.

"It would take an astronomical fee for him [Bony] to go anywhere," Monk said on Monday.
"We are not a selling club, we don't need to sell.

"We are very much committed with our players and they are committed to us and that's how we move on."

Monk has been thrilled with Bony's dedication in training, since taking over at the Liberty Stadium in February.

The 35-year-old manager believes Bony's success since arriving in Britain (32 goals in all competitions) is easy to understand.
"He works very hard on his finishing and his fitness, so all credit to him and long may it continue," he said.

Chelsea want to become the new Invincibles - Matic

Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic wants to see the unbeaten Premier League leaders become "the new Invincibles".
Jose Mourinho's men have been the standout side this season, unbeaten through 13 league games and six points clear at the top.
After their 0-0 draw at Sunderland on Saturday, Chelsea remain on track to emulate the unbeaten 2003-04 Arsenal side.
Matic admitted there is added pressure with that record on the line, but said his side were welcoming it.

"We are in a determined mood and there is more pressure for us because we want to go through the season unbeaten. We want to be the new Invincibles," he told The Mirror.

"I want to win every game if possible. People can say the unbeaten record is putting more pressure on us. But I would rather have it this way because winning is never boring.
"When you win, training feels better and so does playing matches. I don't know if we are better than the Chelsea team who won the title 10 years ago, but we know our qualities and we are a stylish team."

But Matic is wary of what could happen with a defeat, having been part of the 2012-13 Benfica team that lost one game and finished second to Porto.

Benfica were beaten 2-1 at Porto in their penultimate league game, and ended up finishing second to their rivals.

"[At Benfica] we lost the title, the Europa League and the Portuguese Cup in two weeks. These things happen maybe once in a thousand years," Matic said.

"But it shows what can happen and it's a lesson for Chelsea. It shows you can never be certain of anything in football. If we want to win the Premier League, we must continue playing like this in every game - right until the end.

"Even if we are still top and unbeaten with two games to go, we must not believe we have won it. We must not stop until the title is ours. We must keep going until it is definitely won.

"Benfica is an example that anything can happen in the end. And in England, there are a lot of teams who can beat you and stop you from winning the title. We must fight and at Chelsea I believe we are ready for that."

Ancelotti implores LFP to act on fan violence

Carlo Ancelotti called for La Liga to replicate the Premier League's stance on hooliganism, after the death of a Deportivo La Coruna fan.
The National Professional Football League (LFP) attempted to postpone Deportivo's fixture with Atletico Madrid on Sunday, following violent clashes between the two sets of fans in the Spanish capital.

The result of the violence was one fatality and reports of 11 more people injured.
Real Madrid boss Ancelotti - who has coached in Serie A, the Premier League and Ligue 1 - said the
LFP needed to emulate strategies in place elsewhere in Europe, notably England, to cease fans from fighting prior to fixtures.

"I had already experienced this in the past, in Italy," Ancelotti said.

"Today is a very sad day as this is something everybody hopes will never happen. It is key that we all censor violence in sport, violence in football and violence in general.

"We all need to work together to try to prevent this happening again in the future.
"I have experienced managing in England and I think they have done a lot there to eliminate this shame from their football. They have done a very good job.

"They had terrible experiences with hooligans and by working together and implementing strict rules they solved this problem.
"I think both Spanish football and football in general should follow their lead and do the same so we can get rid of this shame."

Ancelotti claimed powerhouse clubs Barcelona and Real had taken measures to restrict certain people from entering their stadium, and also hailed the French league's stance.
"I haven't been here for a long time but I think Real Madrid have worked very hard," Ancelotti said.

"I think this club is a good example to follow, as well as Barcelona, since they did the same thing last year ['radicals' aren't allowed in the stadium].
"I think clubs can do a lot to prevent this from happening, they are doing a great job in France for example.

"Radical groups should be banned. A fan doesn't need a group to be a fan."

Bielsa plays down title talk

Marseille coach Marcelo Bielsa insists it is too early to start talking about his team winning the Ligue 1 title.

The Argentine's high-flying side are a point clear of Paris Saint-Germain at the top of the table, ahead of Tuesday's trip to Lorient.
Asked why he did not want to talk about the title, Bielsa said it was simply too early.

"No, not superstition," he told a news conference.
"More because football offers so many examples where this has been done and it ended badly. It's hard to talk about hunting the title when there is still 23 games to play."

Laurent Blanc's PSG have been favourites for the title from the outset but they sit second despite being the league's only unbeaten side.
Marseille defender Jeremy Morel said his side's target was to stay at the top and believes his team are playing better than PSG.

"We will not hide. We are first in Ligue 1 and our goal is to stay there," he said.
"The only match of PSG I watched, it was against Marseille.

"From what I read or hear, Paris has not been playing well, but they are still behind us, a small point behind.
"We're playing well. We're taking points as well but we are only one point ahead of Paris.

"We will do the sums at the end of the championship. But for the team, for the fans, it's always better to see a team that plays well."

Monday, December 1, 2014

We were lucky - Busquets

A delighted Sergio Busquets conceded Barcelona were lucky to come away with a dramatic 1-0 win at Valencia on Sunday.
The midfielder scrambled in a 94th-minute winner from close range to see Barca to their victory at the Mestalla.

Busquets, who netted after Neymar's header was kept out by Diego Alves, said Luis Enrique's men were lucky to get their late chance.

"We were very fortunate to get that chance in the last minute. It makes us feel delighted after a very hard struggle," Busquets told television reporters.
"We knew it was going to be difficult and it certainly was, but we kept fighting until the end."

The goal was Busquets' first in La Liga since September 2013, when he struck against Real Sociedad.
Barca's win lifted them to within two points of leaders Real Madrid, and Busquets said it was an important victory.

"In this league you could say a draw is never a good result," he said.
"But obviously at the end of the day when you come here and attack as much as we have done in the closing minute.

"Diego made an amazing save against Neymar and fortunately the ball fell for me and I was able to put it into the back of the net."

Martinez bemoans unlucky loss at Tottenham

Everton manager Roberto Martinez did not believe the 2-1 Premier League defeat at Tottenham was a fair reflection of his team's efforts.
Fresh from completing the scoring in Thursday night's impressive 2-0 UEFA Europa League win at

Wolfsburg, Kevin Mirallas gave Everton the lead after 15 minutes with a spectacular long-range strike.

Christian Eriksen brought Tottenham level before Roberto Soldado's strike in the first minute of first-half injury time handed Martinez's men a first defeat in nine matches across all competitions.
"We're really disappointed because I don't think the players deserved to finish with that empty feeling at the end,"  he told reporters.

"We started the game really brightly, we scored a magnificent goal, which is the hardest thing in football - scoring that first goal away from home.
"I did feel at that point we could have just killed the game and gone for the second goal but we couldn't really find that rhythm. Then the game went into a little bit of a strange moment where Spurs ended up hitting the back of the net twice in a fortunate manner.

"You'd then think that Spurs were going to come out, dictate things and take the game away from us, but it wasn't the case.
"We reacted extremely well, we had to be expansive, we had to put in a lot of effort, and I thought the performance in the second half put us in good positions, and we should have taken advantage.

"But, overall, I'm pleased with the performance, because it's not an easy place to come and the energy levels that we showed, the commitment, even some phases of our football were really, really good. It's a tough scoreline to take when I didn't think our performance deserved that."

Martinez was unhappy with referee Michael Oliver's decision not to give an 89th-minute penalty when Romelu Lukaku's header struck Federico Fazio's arm, but insisted the responsibility for the defeat lay ultimately with his players.

"I'll never blame a decision like that for not getting a result, it happens, it's part of the game," he added.

"But I'm disappointed because Michael Oliver is a really good referee and when the ball contacted the arm he wasn't in an obstructed view and I think it should have been spotted. It was a real shame.
"I would never blame a third party for us not getting a result, though. We should be good enough to come to White Hart Lane and get a result."

Pochettino hopes Soldado goal will restore confidence

Tottenham head coach Mauricio Pochettino hopes to see Roberto Soldado's confidence return following the 2-1 win over Everton.
Former Valencia striker Soldado was without a Premier League goal since March, but fired what proved to be the winner on Sunday at the end of a pulsating first half at White Hart Lane.
Tottenham were facing the prospect of a third consecutive league loss at home after Kevin Mirallas fired a spectacular 15th-minute opener before Christian Eriksen restored parity six minutes later.

"You need to give confidence to the player to keep working hard," Pochettino said when discussing Soldado's display at his post-match press conference.
"It has not been easy for him but you need to motivate the player - it is always frustrating for a striker who does not score.

"He scored and he is happy, he is more free because he feels the pressure.
"It is important for the team that the striker scores goals."
Pochettino's team offered the clearest demonstration so far this season that they are adapting to his methods against Everton, with much of their high-tempo, high-pressing performance during the first hour of the match recalling Southampton's fine displays under the Argentinian.

"Our mentality and our spirit were fantastic," he said.
"This is what we want. We need to keep this feeling. It is impossible always to win but with the spirit and mentality we showed, it will be easier to win games.

"Everton have a very good squad and for us it is not only three points, it is a little bit more than three points.
"It is important to grow and build on the victory."