Monday, February 25, 2013

Pepe plots Barca plight

Real Madrid defender Pepe says they must play as a team to beat Barcelona in the second leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final on Tuesday.
The Spanish giants are tied at 1-1 after the first leg at the Bernabeu in which 19-year old Raphael Varane cancelled out Cesc Fabregas's opener for Barcelona.

Pepe believes French centre back Varane can become one of the best defenders in the world.

"He (Varane) is a really down to earth guy with tremendous quality," the Portugal international said.

"At beginning of the season I said that within two years he is going to be one of the best central defenders in the world. He has helped us a lot in games and can get even better.

Looking ahead to Tuesday's return leg at Camp Nou, Pepe called on his side to show unity against the formidable Catalans.

"We have to play as a team, like we always try to do in every game," he said.

"If we play as a team we'll definitely have a great chance of getting through the round.

"As I've said before the chances we have involve playing as a team. We have to be faithful to our style of play and do everything the manager asks of us.

Pepe struggled to pick a winner from the other Copa del Rey semi-final tie, which Atletico Madrid lead 2-1 from Sevilla.

"I think that this match will be decided by details as Sevilla and Atletico are two very good sides," Pepe said.

"May the best team win and meet Madrid in the final."

Roura reeling at Mallecano appointment

Barcelona assistant coach Jordi Roura has slammed referee Alberto Undiano Mallecano ahead of their Copa del Rey clash with Real Madrid.Mallecano took charge of Barcelona's only La Liga defeat this season at Real Sociedad, and will officiate again for the semi-final second leg at Camp Nou on Tuesday.

He also refereed the 2011 Copa del Rey final between Real and Barca, won by Madrid, and the Barca assistant expressed his disappointment at the decision.

"He (Mallecano) is the referee we have for tomorrow, we can't do anything about that," Roura said.

"We are not supposed to judge whether he is a good or a bad referee, but it is a fact that with him our stats are worse than with anyone else. There's no need to go further: our only league defeat was with this referee.

"And, obviously, we all still have fresh in our memory the permissiveness he showed in the last cup final we played against Madrid. We are aware of that, so we can only wish him luck.

"The best thing that can happen to a referee is to be completely unnoticed and that his decisions don't mark the game result."

Roura condemned some of Real's tackling in the 1-1 first leg draw at the Bernabeu back in January.

Despite the luxury of an away goal, Roura doesn't believe Barca are favourites to reach the final even though they will host the second leg.

"Obviously I prefer to play this match in Camp Nou because we are going to be with our fans and that always helps a lot," he said.

"But in this sort of matches to talk about who is favourite is very difficult as they are used to be very tough ones. In the end little things will decide everything

Giggs eyeing 1000th senior appearance

Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs said Sir Alex Ferguson has a selection quandary for the Champions League clash against Real Madrid.
The 39-year-old made his 999th appearance in United's victory away to QPR on Saturday, and capped a fine individual performance with his second league goal of the campaign.

Giggs came on for the final 26 minutes of the first-leg 1-1 draw at Bernabeu two weeks ago, but has hinted at his desire to start the all-important return tie next Tuesday.

"It is a headache for the manager but a good one," Giggs told reporters.

"We are not looking too far ahead and we are not getting too excited."

On the game, Giggs believes squad rotation is crucial to keep the team's momentum intact.

He continued: "We are in good form and the manager has a big squad to choose from, which allows him to chop and change and that is all you can ask for at this stage.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Osaze warns Keshi to watch his back

Osaze warns Keshi to watch his back West Brom striker Osaze Odemwingie has warned coach Stephen Keshi he could soon be sacked even after leading Nigeria to AFCON glory. "A coach the country is praising now will one day be sacked and to his achievements they will say: only one cup? I beg." Odemwingie tweeted. "Too much corruption in sports these days. Because of few sportsmen who cheat now doping control went from urine to blood test." Interestingly, Osaze had a public row with Keshi just before the Nations Cup in South Africa when the coach sensationally axed him from the Eagles. Osaze also said his commitment to his club affected his relationship with former Eagles coach Samson Siasia. "Very little thing made me fall out with ex-Eagles coach Siasia, and that's club commitment. And that commitment was questioned after," Odemwingie tweeted. "What did that teach me? You only a good guy and professional when you score and give your teams what they want. They throw us out after." He added: "When I give all my heart and effort to a team and get overlooked after, how could I possibly be happy? Same in Eagles. Same in WBA. "Well praised and most criticised at the same time. Something is wrong somewhere. And I bet it’s not in my attitude. I believe in transparency.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Tottenham forward Gareth Bale says Cristiano Ronaldo is a more 'complete footballer' than Barcelona's Lionel Messi. The in-form Spurs attacker, who is rumoured to be a transfer target for both Real Madrid and Bayern Munich this summer, has scored 13 Premier League goals so far this season. Asked the question "Messi or Ronaldo?" by Life's a Pitch, Bale revealed his admiration for Los Blancos' star. "For me, personally, I'd say Ronaldo," the 23-year-old Welshman responded. "He's got the whole package. He's strong, he's powerful, he's pacey, can head the ball, strike the ball. Obviously, you can't say anything bad about Messi, but for the all-round complete footballer, I'd say Cristiano Ronaldo." The comments are likely to be taken as a welcome sign by Real Madrid that the Wales international would relish the chance to link up with Ronaldo. According to reports, Los Merengues are expected to challenge Bayern for his signature at the end of the season in a move thought to potentially be worth around 50 million euros. By then, Bayern will be managed by Messi's former Barcelona coach, Pep Guardiola, who is said to also have a great interest in bringing Bale to the Bavarian outfit.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Messi headlines star-studded Argentina

latan Ibrahimovic will come up against Lionel Messi as Sweden entertain Argentina in Solna on Wednesday. Ibrahimovic and Messi are widely regarded as two of the world's best forwards and both are in the midst of stellar seasons. Sweden's Ibrahimovic has scored 22 goals in 27 appearances for French leaders Paris Saint-Germain, while Argentina's Messi has netted a whopping 39 goals in 29 games for Spanish giants Barcelona. Both teams have named experienced squads for the clash, with Sweden expected to turn to Genoa's Andreas Granqvist and West Bromwich Albion's Jonas Olsson in hope of stopping Messi. Argentina will field a host of established stars, including Messi, Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuain and Manchester City's Sergio Aguero, to compliment the likes of Cristian Ansaldi and Walter Montillo, who have two caps apiece. Elsewhere, Portugal will seek a return to form against Ecuador in Guimaraes following a string of underwhelming results. Portugal, who trail Group F leaders Russia by five points in European World Cup qualifying, were held to a 1-1 draw against Gabon last time out. Meanwhile, the Czech Republic will be without goalkeeper Petr Cech when they meet Turkey in Manisa. Cech injured his finger in Chelsea's English Premier League clash with Newcastle United at the weekend and will be replaced by Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk's Jan Lastuvka in goal. In other friendly matches, Australia will continue their preparations for a crucial World Cup qualifier against Oman when they take on Romania in Malaga. Scotland entertain Estonia in Aberdeen, while Austria travel to Swansea to face Wales and Ireland host Poland in Dublin. Macedonia take on Denmark in Skopje, Switzerland travel to Greece, while Japan are up against Latvia in Kobe. Albania and Georgia clash in Tirana, Malta face an uphill battle against Northern Ireland, and Belgium meet Slovakia in Brugge. Croatia take on South Korea in London, while Russia are up against Iceland and Belarus tackle Hungary in Belek.
Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari is excited by the potential partnership of starlet Neymar and Ronaldinho as they prepare to face England. The 2014 World Cup hosts take on Roy Hodgson's men at Wembley on Wednesday, with Scolari set to take charge for the first time since being
in November. Despite Neymar and Ronaldinho potentially starting up front for Brazil, Scolari said the duo would be treated no differently. "For me it's no different having a 21 year-old Neymar and a 32 year-old Ronaldinho. I expect the same from them as everybody else in my team," he said on Tuesday. "Just because they have all the talent in the world they should behave on the field in the way I want them to, especially when they play for our national team." Atletico Mineiro attacker Ronaldinho believes it is only a matter of time before Neymar becomes the best player in the world. "Neymar today is among the best players in the world. I am really happy to play with him again. No doubt that he will be the best player in the world one day," he said. Ronaldinho will earn his 100th cap for Brazil and said he did not see himself as 'the dad of the group'. The 2005 Ballon d'Or winner believes his country are capable of winning the World Cup and hopes his experience can help. "All the players have great quality, but this mix is really important, players with experience and young players," Ronaldinho said. "I am one of the most experienced and will help in every way I can. I will try to do my best until the World Cup and I hope I can help with my experience. "And with this team, Brazil has a real chance to be champions in the World Cup." Brazil and Queens Park Rangers goalkeeper Julio Cesar said he had a 'big opportunity' to taste success with the national team. "I thought a lot before coming to England, but it was designed. I left Inter Milan in a bad situation. My goal was achieved, which was to return to national team," he said. "There's still one year and five months until the World Cup in Brazil and we all know that there will be big pressure. I think I still have a page open in the Brazilian national team, my story is not over yet and I have a big opportunity."

Monday, February 4, 2013 Redknapp says QPR's January signings do not represent a financial risk to the relegation-threatened side.
Under chairman Tony Fernandes the Rs have spent heavily in each of the past four transfer windows yet still find themselves rooted to the bottom of the Premier League, six points from safety, prompting concerns over the club's financial health in the event of demotion.

Redknapp, however, insisted that QPR's position has improved since he was appointed as manager in November with the club unbeaten since New Year, recording goalless draws against Tottenham and Manchester City and an away win at Chelsea.

"You look at the games we have had since the turn of the year and you'd take the points that we've got. We gave everything. I can't get any more out of the players," he said.

"The club has invested but they'll get their money back. I haven't brought players in here that we can't give away."

The deadline-day arrival of Anzhi Makhachkala centre-back Chris Samba for 12.5 million pounds raised eyebrows due to a lack of match fitness and a reported 100,000 pounds-a-week salary.

But Redknapp dismissed these concerns, as well as similar fears over seven million pounds striker Loic Remy who missed Saturday’s draw against Norwich with a groin injury.

"If things don't go well and they want to get 12m pounds for Samba then they will do - not a danger," he said.

"Samba should be playing for a top-four team. I was trying to sign him for all the years that I was at Tottenham. He is quick as lightning, strong in the air and he can play.

"When I was at Tottenham we put a ball behind Samba (then at Blackburn), and Gareth Bale ran on to it. Samba matched him stride for stride and then pinched the ball off him.

"He's lightning quick. He is a monster of a player, the full ticket.

"Remy, for seven million pounds, I don't think he's a problem either. If he scores a couple of goals, then he's 12m pounds. Tottenham tried to buy him for 18m pounds last year."

QPR have scored just 18 goals this season - the fewest in the Premier League - and Adel Taarabt’s missed penalty on Saturday saw the club settle for a point home to Norwich in the west London side's third goalless draw in five matches.

Redknapp insists, however, he had not wished to retain striker Djibril Cisse, who joined Qatari club Al-Gharafa on loan during January.

"I would have let him go earlier. I had to wait for the window to open," he said.

Buffon happy with classy Juve

Juventus captain Gianluigi Buffon was pleased with his side's performance in their 2-1 Serie A win over Chievo on Sunday.
Alessandro Matri and Stephan Lichtsteiner bagged first-half goals for Juve, who withstood a Chievo fight-back in the second half to claim an important victory.

The win saw the Turin-based club remain three points clear at the top of the league, while Lazio and Inter Milan – third and fourth respectively – both lost.

Although Napoli are just one win behind Juventus, Buffon's side are already nine points clear of Lazio and 12 of Inter.

The goalkeeper was happy with the victory, which was the club's first in four matches in all competitions.

"We were good because we managed the game well," Buffon said.

"We weren't too worried that we had to win at any cost from the first minute, but instead preferred to play our game. We had good possession.

"We didn't give them much, both in the first and second half and we created some important chances to close the match."

"Even if it was only by one goal...we beat them."

New signing Nicolas Anelka was an unused substitute in the victory.

But the Frenchman – who counts PSG, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea among his former clubs – is sure to make an impact after arriving from Chinese Super League outfit Shanghai Shenhua.

Buffon is looking forward to Anelka's contributions and believes he could be a big player in the club's title run-in.

"(Nicolas) Anelka has great qualities and experience, because he's a player used to important events," he said.

"He also has enthusiasm because when a player leaves Europe for one or more years as he did and he then has the chance to come back and play for a top team like Juventus it could be a great challenge for him. He could be very helpful here."