Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Falcao to fight to bitter end to make World Cup

Falcao to fight to bitter end to make World Cup

Last Updated: Tuesday, January 28, 2014, 04:12
Lisbon: Colombian international striker Radamel Falcao said on Monday he would do everything in his power to recover from his serious knee injury in time for the World Cup finals in June.

The 27-year-old -- who has yet to appear at world football`s showpiece tournament -- ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during his side Monaco`s 3-0 win in the French Cup over amateur side Chasselay last Wednesday.

However, Falcao, who underwent an operation on Saturday in Oporto, Portugal, said he would draw on the slight hope he had been given by the surgeon that he would be fit for the finals in Brazil.

"They told me there was a slim chance of me being fit for the World Cup finals and I am going to cling to that hope," he said at a press conference in the city where he first made his name in European football for Porto.

"I am convinced that everything will go well.

"I feel that I will have to expend all my energy every day to be fit."

Falcao, who played for Porto from 2009-11 before moving to Spanish outfit Atletico Madrid and then a big money move to Ligue 1 title contenders Monaco at the start of this season, will undergo three weeks of rehabilitation treatment at his former club and will also pursue a course of treatment in a hyperbaric chamber.

Falcao`s importance to Colombia -- who are drawn in Group C at the World Cup with Ivory Coast, Greece and Japan -- is impossible to over-estimate as he scored a third of their 27 qualifying goals. ------------

Swansea sign French striker David Ngog

Swansea sign French striker David Ngog

Last Updated: Tuesday, January 28, 2014, 18:36
Swansea sign French striker David Ngog
London: Swansea City have completed the signing of French striker David Ngog from Bolton Wanderers, the Premier League club said on Monday.

The former Paris St Germain and Liverpool forward has joined Swansea for an undisclosed fee until the end of the season.

"It`s a delight for me," Ngog told the Swansea website. "I think Swansea are a very good club. They have shown over the last couple of years that they are a good Premier League side.

"Swansea are a team who like to keep the ball and play good football. The manager (Michael Laudrup) was obviously a top player and as a manager he has proven he is very good as well. It will be really interesting to work with him."

Swansea have slipped to 15th in the Premier League table and have been short of attacking options since losing last season`s leading scorer Michu to injury last month.

Ngog could make his debut in the home league game against fellow strugglers Fulham on Tuesday.

The 24-year-old Ngog, who scored 19 goals in 94 games during his three years at Liverpool, joined Championship club Bolton for 4.0 million pounds in 2011.
Reuters ------------------

Balotelli fined for gesture at Cagliari fans

Balotelli fined for gesture at Cagliari fans

Last Updated: Tuesday, January 28, 2014, 10:27
Balotelli fined for gesture at Cagliari fans
Maverick striker Mario Balotelli has been fined 10,000 euros for making a provocative gesture to rival Cagliari supporters after scoring against them in AC Milan`s 2-1 win on Sunday.

Serie A`s disciplinary tribunal said Balotelli had "angered the crowd with a provocative and insulting gesture" after claiming the equaliser from a free kick.

Balotelli was also booked for the eighth time this season over the incident and will miss Milan`s next league game at home to Torino through accumulated yellow cards.

The 23-year-old has already served a three-match ban this season after being sent off for insulting match officials at the end of the game at home to Napoli.

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said on Monday that Balotelli needed love and would eventually learn from his mistakes.

"Balotelli will learn," Prandelli told reporters. "He will need a lot of love, he is a guy who we give a lot to and is important for Milan."

The AC Milan forward added to his long list of misdemeanours on Sunday when he was booked for making what Italian media described as a vulgar gesture with his hand to Cagliari supporters after scoring in his side`s 2-1 win.

He was booked for the incident and then got into an altercation with Cagliari defenders.

Prandelli, who has dropped Balotelli in the past for misbehaving with his club, said he was encouraged by comments from new Milan coach Clarence Seedorf.

"Seedorf has used the right words with Balotelli," said Prandelli. "I`m sure that with his help we can get the best out of Mario."
Reuters -----------------

No place for egos in Bayern's title march

No place for egos in Bayern's title march

Last Updated: Tuesday, January 28, 2014, 12:18
No place for egos in Bayern`s title march
Munich: Captain Philipp Lahm has said there is no room for egos in Bayern Munich`s squad as they bid to go 13 points clear in the Bundesliga at Stuttgart on Wednesday.

Pep Guardiola`s Bayern take on strugglers VfB Stuttgart in a re-arranged league fixture looking to extend their record unbeaten run to 43 matches.

Guardiola clamped down on any complacency by dropping top-scorer Mario Mandzukic for Friday`s 2-0 win at Borussia Moenchengladbach for poor performances in training.

Lahm has said Bayern`s star-studded squad can expect a few more tough-luck stories to come in the following weeks in their quest for a 24th league title.

"We have an enormous squad and when everyone is fit, there will be more hard-luck cases for those not involved," said Lahm.

"I don`t judge the other players.

"The coach chooses the team, we have to accept that and stand behind his decision."

One of the stars who will definitely not feature at 12th-placed Stuttgart is Germany midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger who has an inflamed knee ligament.

The 29-year-old had surgery for an ankle injury late last year, but aggravated a knee ligament in the winter training camp in Doha.

Bayern insist there is no risk of Schweinsteiger missing June`s World Cup in Brazil, but Guardiola wants his midfield general back as soon as possible.

"This is a problem for us and for him. We need him and so does the national team. I hope he will be back as soon as possible," said Guardiola.

Having last lost in the Bundesliga in October 2012, it would be a major shock if Bayern stumble in Stuttgart.

Stuttgart coach Thomas Schneider insists "it`s a bonus game", while captain Christian Gentner sees it as "probably our easiest match", so low are the expectations on the hosts.

"Perhaps it`s better if we don`t look at the table at the moment and concentrate on the game," said attacking midfielder Alexandru Maxim referring to the 28 points that separate Bayern Munich and Stuttgart.

With five defeats in their last seven games, Stuttgart are looking to bounce back from consecutive defeats and try and sew some doubt in the Bayern players minds over the ultimate destination of the title.

However, Bayern`s three main rivals need all the help they can get from other teams, as they hardly helped their cause in collectively picking up a combined total of just one league point over the weekend.

Guardiola`s side by contrast is showing no sign of dropping points.

They are on course to break their own record last season for the earliest title win when they were confirmed champions in April with six games to spare.

"This is a huge opportunity to extend our lead," said Lahm.

"Then it would be hard to catch us. We wouldn`t be against winning the championship title early." -------------------

Rodgers & Gerrard salute Sturridge after Liverpool rout Everton

Rodgers & Gerrard salute Sturridge after Liverpool rout Everton

Rodgers & Gerrard salute Sturridge after Liverpool rout Everton

The striker missed a penalty that would have seen him complete his hat-trick and was disappointed to be substituted, but his boss and captain were delighted with his contribution

Brendan Rodgers and Steven Gerrard hailed Daniel Strurridge after the striker scored twice in the 4-0 Merseyside derby victory over Everton at Anfield.
The England man netted two goals is as many minutes to put the result beyond doubt before half-time, with Gerrard having opened the scoring with a header from a corner.
After Luis Suarez had added a fourth on the break, Sturridge was given the opportunity to score a hat-trick from the penalty spot but blazed his effort into the Kop.
He showed his frustration at missing the spot-kick and then at being taken off with around 20 minutes to go, but Rodgers was keen to focus attention on the forward's all-action display.
“It was a brilliant individual performance from Daniel," the Reds boss told reporters. "His two finishes were sublime and he was outstanding in the game.
"He’s always a threat, he can score in every single game he plays in and normally does. He was outstanding in the game."
Sturridge was clearly upset at being replaced, but insisted after the match that he was annoyed at his own performance rather than his withdrawal, and Rodgers says that it was much ado about nothing.
“He was just still frustrated after the penalty," the Irishman explained. "He apologised to the group.

"You shouldn't disrespect anyone, in particular the supporters and your team-mates. But he hasn’t done that, he was just frustrated and was desperate to get on the scoresheet again.”
The former Swansea boss was also keen to highlight the influence of Gerrard, after the Liverpool captain scored his eighth goal in Merseyside derbies and offered Sturridge the chance to take the penalty to seal his hat-trick.
“His influence in these games is wonderful. He organises the team and scored a goal. He’s such a generous man.

"A local guy in a derby, to give away a penalty [to Sturridge] shows the mark of the man that he is. He led the team and was outstanding.”
Gerrard himself admitted that he was the one who urged Sturridge to take the spot-kick.

"I'll take responsibility for that, I've scored a hat-trick against Everton and wanted Daniel to experience that feeling," he told BT Sport.

"Daniel was magnificent, he absolutely destroyed them first half and the third goal killed Everton, it knocked the stuffing out of them.  "Then we knew we could hit them on the break and it worked a treat." -----------------

Watzke: Dortmund could cope with Gundogan departure

Watzke: Dortmund could cope with Gundogan departure

Watzke: Dortmund could cope with Gundogan departure

Die Schwarzgelben official Hans-Joachim Watzke hopes the Germany international will stay at Signal Iduna Park but dismissed fears the team would fall to pieces without him

Borussia Dortmund do not want to sell Ilkay Gundogan but CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke insists the club could cope without the midfielder.

The Germany international has been linked with the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United, though any potential move is expected to occur in the summer, given the 23-year-old is currently out with a long-term back injury.

With interest in Gundogan swelling, Watzke expressed his desire to keep hold of the player but insisted that it would not spell disaster for Die Schwarzgelben if they sold him.

"Of course you're always trying to keep your top players, this is completely normal and we want to extend Ilkay's contract," he told Sky Sport News. "But you also have to see a sale as an opportunity.

"In 2011, we lost Nuri Sahin, who was the Bundesliga player of the year and we recovered.

"Ideally, we manage it so that only one top player goes again this year, namely Robert Lewandowski."

The Pole had signed a pre-contract agreement to join Bayern Munich at the end of the season on a free transfer, just a year after the Bavarians paid €37 million to lure Mario Gotze away from Signal Iduna Park. -------------------------

Everton drubbing shows Liverpool are serious title contenders

Everton drubbing shows Liverpool are serious title contenders
Tuesday's thrashing of their Merseyside rivals leaves Brendan Rodgers' men fourth, six points off Arsenal and with many of their main rivals still yet to visit Anfield

By Liam Twomey

The last time Liverpool produced a performance of such breathtaking incision, pace and ruthlessness to destroy Tottenham 5-0 at White Hart Lane in December, Andre Villas-Boas was swiftly relieved of his duties the following morning. One suspects Roberto Martinez will avoid a similar fate, but the affable Spaniard will take little solace in that fact as he contemplates Tuesday’s humiliation at Anfield.

None of the pre-match signs suggested Liverpool’s biggest Merseyside derby victory since 1982 was likely. Everton had lost just twice in the Premier League this season – an obligatory defeat to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium in October and a freakish home loss to Sunderland on Boxing Day – and were unbeaten in six. The last time they had conceded four goals in a match was in April 2012, when David Moyes scuppered Sir Alex Ferguson's title hopes by snatching a 4-4 draw at Old Trafford.

Brendan Rodgers’ men were also in good form but playing catch-up after successive festive defeats to City and Chelsea had seen them slip from the top of the Premier League, and the failure to sign Basel winger Mohamed Salah – coupled with Manchester United’s €45 million capture of Juan Mata – had raised doubts over their ability to sustain a top-four charge.

On this evidence, however, it will take more than Chelsea’s two-time player of year to keep Moyes in the Champions League next season.

In derby matches, fierce and scrappy as they usually are, set pieces can often prove crucial. All three of Liverpool’s goals at Goodison Park in November came from dead-ball situations and Martinez will surely be bitterly disappointed that Steven Gerrard was allowed to rise unmarked to head home Luis Suarez’s delivery from the left on 21 minutes.

He now has eight goals in Merseyside derbies in the Premier League era, two more than Robbie Fowler. No one in red has punished Everton more regularly.

With Liverpool in front, the buzzing quartet of Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho were always likely to find the space to shine, and so it proved.

Sturridge twice raced in behind to beat Tim Howard before the break, his second goal a stunning combination of timing, body coordination and flawless technique. Suarez’s peerless form this season allowed Rodgers to give his other star striker time to heal properly from the ankle injury he picked up in November, and he has scored five goals in four matches since his return.

It should have been six and would have been, had the 24-year-old not provided further evidence to suggest that penalty shootout heartache awaits England once again in Brazil this summer. His reaction to the miss was to lapse into the selfish, self-defeating habits that undermined his efforts at Chelsea, and Rodgers wisely withdrew him on 72 minutes.

In between, Suarez found the net again – his 23rd goal in just 21 appearances since returning from suspension. The Uruguayan shows no sign of abandoning the form which has established him as the most dangerous striker on the planet this season, but what will please Rodgers most is that the likes of Sturridge, Coutinho and Sterling remain just as inspired.

It was inevitably a sobering night for Martinez, and one which necessarily casts Everton's top-four charge in a significantly less flattering light.

It is increasingly obvious that, for all their qualities, the Toffees lack the depth of their rivals in almost every position. Antolin Alcaraz conjured memories of his worst Wigan excesses in the absence of Sylvain Distin, while the withdrawal of Romelu Lukaku through injury on 25 minutes deprived the visitors of almost any attacking threat, even if the Belgian has scored just once in his last 10 games. Much now rests on the adaptation of giant Ivorian Lacina Traore.

For Rodgers, though, there is plenty of cause for optimism. Liverpool are perfectly placed to break back into the Champions League – the minimum required to keep Suarez – but they can realistically aim even higher. Only six points separate them from Premier League leaders Arsenal and with the Gunners, Tottenham, City and Chelsea still to come to Anfield, a title tilt is anything but out of the question. ------------

Martinez fears long lay-off for Everton loanee Lukaku

Martinez fears long lay-off for Everton loanee Lukaku

Martinez fears long lay-off for Everton loanee Lukaku

The striker was stretchered from the field following a collision with Gareth Barry during the Toffees demoralising 4-0 loss to Liverpool at Anfield

Everton have suffered another injury blow after Romelu Lukaku suffered suspected ankle ligament damage in Tuesday's Merseyside derby.

The on-loan Chelsea striker reportedly left Anfield with his ankle in a cast after colliding with team-mate Gareth Barry as Steven Gerrard headed the opening goal in a 4-0 victory for Liverpool.

Everton lost left-back Bryan Oviedo to a double fracture of his left leg in the FA Cup win at Stevenage on Saturday and boss Roberto Martinez fears Lukaku also looks set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

"It does not look good for Romelu Lukaku, he picked up a bad injury. It was that type of night when everything went against us," the Spaniard told reporters.

Daniel Sturridge scored two goals in as many first-half minutes after Gerrard had opened the scoring.

Luis Suarez added a fourth goal early in the second half and Sturridge wasted a chance to complete his hat-trick when missed a penalty after Tim Howard had upended Raheem Sterling.

Martinez talked up Everton's chances of securing their first win at Anfield since 1999 in the build-up to the game, but he was left puzzled by his side's display as they were put to the sword by their city rivals.

"For different reasons we could not maintain the normal intensity, we became exposed and were naive. We gave the ball away far too easily," he added.

"We wanted to perform so well for the fans and we have been terrific all season. We need to bounce back straight away and perform in the manner we did before." --------------

Chelsea's champion self-belief inspires Lampard

Chelsea's champion self-belief inspires Lampard

Last Updated: Tuesday, January 28, 2014, 12:41
Chelsea`s champion self-belief inspires Lampard
London: Frank Lampard believes there is a growing self-belief within the Chelsea squad ahead of their London derby against his former club West Ham in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

Chelsea lie third in the division, currently two points behind leaders Arsenal, who could increase their advantage if they win away to Southampton on Tuesday.

But the Blues` seventh consecutive victory in all competitions -- a 1-0 victory against Stoke last weekend in the fourth round of the FA Cup thanks to Oscar`s match-winner -- has enhanced the ever-increasing confidence at Stamford Bridge.

And Lampard, who skippered the team against the Potters, insists his team-mates, who have not lost at home under Jose Mourinho in a remarkable 72 fixtures, are developing the mentality required to win silverware come the end of the season.

"There`s a good feeling around the place," said Chelsea midfielder Lampard.

"With the manager coming back it probably took a while for him to get his points across but, in the last couple of months we`ve found that mentality and feeling in the dressing room where we`re going out there with more confidence.

"We have to keep that up because the minute you drop that the results will turn, so we need to keep at it and carry on this form.

"As a team, we were all at it against Stoke and we were disappointed not to be two or three up at half-time because we would have cruised it. But at 1-0, you have to keep on your guard all the way."

Following the derby showdown with relegation-threatened West Ham, Chelsea will test their title credentials with the trip to Manchester City, presently second, on Monday.

Chelsea will have to deal quickly with life after Juan Mata, who joined Manchester United in a £37.1 million ($61.2m, 44.8 million euros) deal last weekend -- a club record signing for faltering champions United.

But while Lampard was full of praise for his former team-mate, the England international said Chelsea had the quality to cope without the Spaniard.

"Juan Mata`s an absolutely fantastic player and, more than that, he`s a great lad, so I wish him all the best personally," Lampard said.

"The difficult thing here is that there are so many brilliant players.

"Oscar`s been fantastic this season, as has Hazard. Willian`s shown it as well and we`ve got so many riches in that position, but you need performances like the one we got from Oscar and his free-kick was top drawer."

Chelsea have scored 43 goals in the Premier League but the Hammers are averaging one goal a game from their 22 matches so far this term.

"We need somebody in that box to be productive and to start scoring goals, someone who only needs one or two chances," said West Ham manager Sam Allardyce. "At the moment we are needing six or seven.

"You have got to try and see light at the end of the tunnel and stay positive.

"The re-introduction of Andy Carroll and with the (signing) of Marco (Borriello) now, it should bring a bit more optimism to everyone at West Ham -- the fact that these players are coming back and that new players have signed on.

"There are some big games coming up and if we start to get on a bit of a roll, which is an undefeated run to begin with because not losing games is critical for us now, then hopefully we will start producing more goals and victories.

"We are top of the league in terms of quality crosses which suggests our finishing has been our Achilles heel this season."
AFP ------------------------

Injury-hit Borussia Dortmund eyeing move before transfer deadline

Injury-hit Borussia Dortmund eyeing move before transfer deadline

Last Updated: Tuesday, January 28, 2014, 18:13
Injury-hit Borussia Dortmund eyeing move before transfer deadline
Borussia Dortmund could make a late move in the January transfer window after midfielder Jakub Blaszczykowski became the latest addition to their growing injury list.

The Poland captain tore cruciate knee ligaments at the weekend and will be out for the rest of the season, joining Mats Hummels, Ilkay Guendogan and Neven Subotic on the sidelines.

"We have discussed this internally and are looking at the market," Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke told Die Welt newspaper.

"I do not want to rule out that we will be active in the transfer market after Blaszczykowski`s injury."

With Dortmund facing Zenit St Petersburg in the Champions League last 16 next month, last season`s runners-up need to boost their resources in midfield.

"We know the transfer options in the window are rather limited," Dortmund sports director Michael Zorc told reporters. "Which club would want to part with a good player in mid-season?"

The 2011 and 2012 champions have struggled in the Bundesliga and are 14 points behind leaders Bayern Munich in third place.

Dortmund will be 17 points behind if Bayern beat VfB Stuttgart in a rescheduled game on Wednesday.

Coach Juergen Klopp has had to reshuffle his defence and midfield repeatedly this season, throwing youngsters Erik Durm, Marian Sarr and Jonas Hofmann in at the deep end.

Klopp now has only 21-year-old Hofmann and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as options on the right wing with the team busy in three competitions.


Dortmund, who will lose striker Robert Lewandowski to Bayern next season, have picked up two points in four league games and only one point from their last four home matches in the Bundesliga.

The only publicly-traded club in Germany posted a record turnover of 305 million euros in 2012/13, less than a decade after being on the brink of bankruptcy.

Among the players Dortmund would love to re-sign is Manchester United`s Shinji Kagawa.

The Japan forward played for them from 2010-12, winning two league titles and one German Cup.

Kagawa has failed to earn a regular starting spot at United and will be pushed further down the pecking order after the signing of Juan Mata from Chelsea at the weekend.

"We know the qualities of Shinji and his immense contribution in the years he played for us. But he is currently a Manchester United player," said Zorc.
Reuters -------------------

Jese strike sees Real Madrid into Cup semis

Jese strike sees Real Madrid into Cup semis

Last Updated: Wednesday, January 29, 2014, 05:00
Jese strike sees Real Madrid into Cup semis
Real Madrid eased into the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey with a 1-0 win over Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday to progress 2-0 on aggregate.

Jese Rodriguez got the only goal of the game after just eight minutes as he confidently slotted home Xabi Alonso`s ball over the top of the Espanyol defence.

Espanyol keeper Kiko Casilla managed to keep the score down as he frustrated Cristiano Ronaldo on a number of occasions.

However, it was to no avail as the visitors couldn`t find a way through and ended with 10 men after Victor Sanchez was sent off late on for two bookable offences.

Real will now face Atletico Madrid or Athletic Bilbao in the last four with city rivals Atletico taking a 1-0 advantage into their second leg against the Basques on Wednesday.

Real boss Carlo Ancelotti had insisted at his pre-match press conference that, despite leading 1-0 from the first leg, he would name his strongest available side.

However, he made seven changes from the side that started the 2-0 win over Granada at the weekend with the injured Gareth Bale one of those to drop out.

The change in personnel didn`t affect the hosts in the early stages, though, as Jese fired them in front after being found by a fine long-range ball by Alonso.

Casilla could have done better on the goal, but he more than redeemed himself for the rest of the half as he made a series of saves, most notably from Ronaldo and Angel di Maria.
The visitors began to provide a threat of their own towards the end of the half and Pizzi was unlucky to see his sweetly-struck volley fly over the bar a minute before the break.

Casilla denied Ronaldo once more with another excellent stop at the beginning of the second period.

However, it was his almost namesake Iker Casillas who made the headlines in the second half as he broke a club record by passing 11 hours of football without conceding a goal.

And any doubt over the result of the tie was ended when Sanchez was shown a second yellow card for handball 13 minutes from time.
AFP ---------------------

Netherlands to play Wales in friendly

Netherlands to play Wales in friendly

Last Updated: Wednesday, January 29, 2014, 03:50
The Netherlands will tackle Wales in a friendly match in Amsterdam in June, the Football Association of Wales revealed on Tuesday.

Louis van Gaal`s Dutch side will use the fixture, scheduled to be played at the Amsterdam Arena on June 4, as part of their preparations for the World Cup in Brazil.

The Netherlands have been drawn alongside Chile, Australia and reigning world and European champions Spain at the World Cup, which begins on June 12.

Wales, who have not qualified for the World Cup, and Holland last met in a friendly game in Rotterdam prior to the 2008 European Championship, with the hosts winning 2-0.
Reuters ---------------------

Nigeria - Ghana Preview: Old passions rekindled in quest of a final ticket

Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi

Nigeria - Ghana Preview: Old passions rekindled in quest of a final ticket

Two countries intensely familiar with each other cross swords once more at the semi-final stage of the 2014 CHAN. Who wins?
Traditional rivals Ghana and Nigeria contest an all-west African semi-final at the ongoing African Nations Championships on Wednesday in what promises to be a high-octane thriller.
Nigeria's debut at the CHAN has been somewhat underwhelming, although Stephen Keshi's team have won all but one game, namely, a 2-1 loss to Mali in their Group A opener. In front of goal, the Super Eagles have been absolutely prolific, firing in goals at will. Twice at the tournament, Nigeria have put four past their opponents - the latest coming in a rousing comeback from three goals down against Morocco in the quarter-finals stage - and have racked up a total of 12 strikes.
At the other end, though, Nigeria have disappointed, letting in eight goals and giving little promise of improving in that regard.
It is hard to imagine the Black Stars exploiting Nigeria's defensive frailties, however, if the Ghanaians' own attacking deficiencies are anything to go by.
Ghana, in quest of a second appearance in a CHAN finale, has recorded just a goal in each of their four games in South Africa but have been more than impressive in preventing the opposition from scoring, having conceded only once.
Local Black Stars trainer Maxwell Konadu would be eager to have injured stars Godfred Saka, Kwabena Adusei and Sulley Mohammed return to shore up an already well-knit unit.
With each side's fortes and weaknesses almost perfectly balancing the other's, this could prove no ordinary game between these eternally feuding regional cousins. -----------------

Italy forward Rossi to be fit for World Cup

Italy forward Rossi to be fit for World Cup

Italy forward Rossi to be fit for World Cup

It had been feared that the striker would miss his country's trip to Brazil, but he should be in a position to make his comeback from a knee injury at the end of March

Fiorentina forward Giuseppe Rossi should be available to represent Italy at the World Cup after being cleared to return to action in two months.

It had been initially feared that the 26-year-old had ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament for a third time when he was forced off in the Viola's Serie A clash with Livorno on January 5.

Rossi was first ruled out for six weeks before a secondary prognosis suggested he could be out of action for far longer, putting his World Cup hopes in jeopardy. However, Fiorentina were able to issue a positive injury update on their prolific striker on Tuesday.

"Giuseppe Rossi has recently completed a follow-up visit from knee surgeon specialist Richard Steadman," read a club statement. "He has shown good stability of his recently injured knee.

"The player will continue his fitness rehabilitation, which we expect to take two months."

The news will be a huge relief to Rossi, who is expected to be a prominent member of Cesare Prandelli's Azzurri squad for this summer's World Cup in Brazil. ---------------

Wenger hints at late Arsenal arrival amid Draxler links

Wenger hints at late Arsenal arrival amid Draxler links

Wenger hints at late Arsenal arrival amid Draxler links

The Frenchman indicated that the Gunners, who are long-time admirers of the 20-year-old Germany international, could make a move before deadline day

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has hinted that he is still hopeful of completing a last-minute deal in the January transfer window.

As exclusively revealed by Goal on January 11, the Gunners have been weighing up a big-money move for Schalke star Julian Draxler.

When asked by reporters whether to expect any arrivals before the transfer deadline, the Frenchman replied: "I hope we have something to tell you."

The 64-year-old was speaking after the club's 2-2 draw with Southampton, a result that could see them slip to third place in the Premier League should both Manchester City and Chelsea win on Wednesday.

However, Wenger was still satisfied with a point in a hard-fought game which, at one stage, they looked like they could lose.

"They have difficult games as well and we took at least a point," he reasoned. "It's not enough but considering the situation at half-time [Arsenal were 1-0 down], we have to be content with it.

"I don't want to look for any excuses: they played at higher pace. In the first half we didn't play well. In the second half it was a very good football game. We've shown character and resilience."

There was more bad news for the north London club as returning midfielder Aaron Ramsey suffered a fresh thigh injury that could keep him out for another six weeks. -------------

'I'm not smiling & happy' - Moyes demands more despite Mata-inspired victory

'I'm not smiling & happy' - Moyes demands more despite Mata-inspired victory
The €45 million signing made an encouraging debut for the Red Devils at Old Trafford on Tuesday night but the Scot says there is still much room for improvement from his troops

David Moyes insists Manchester United "still have a long way to go" following their morale-boosting 2-0 win over Cardiff City.

Robin van Persie, making his first appearance since December 10 following a thigh injury, put the Red Devils in front after six minutes of play at Old Trafford before Ashley Young’s effort after the break wrapped up the victory.

The Premier League champions remain six points behind fourth-placed Liverpool, and Moyes is keen for his squad to improve further in their bid to secure Champions League football.

"Don't think because I have won tonight I'm smiling and happy. With the vision I have got for the club we have got a long way to go," the Scot told reporters.

Juan Mata made his debut following his €45 million move from Chelsea, while Wayne Rooney returned from a groin problem to make an appearance off the bench against Cardiff.

But Moyes maintains the England striker and Van Persie will remain as a strike partnership in the wake of Mata’s arrival.

"I can play him [Mata] in any role. Left or right allows me to keep the Robin and Wayne partnership. I'm quite comfortable with that," said the United boss. -------------

Jose Mourinho says "no champagne" this season

Jose Mourinho says "no champagne" this season

Last Updated: Tuesday, January 28, 2014, 23:53
Jose Mourinho says
LONDON: Chelsea will be more equipped to challenge for the Premier League title next season but will push Arsenal and Manchester City all the way in this campaign, manager Jose Mourinho said on Tuesday.

Mourinho`s side should maintain the pressure on the top two when they host struggling West Ham United on Wednesday although the Portuguese is playing down his side`s hopes of finishing above them in May.

"The chance of champagne in the future is good but not this season," he told a news conference on Tuesday while marking his 51st birthday two days late by sharing some bubbly with reporters.

"We have to try to keep our good form going and let things happen naturally. Our main objective this season is to build a team.

"I can imagine next season we are going to be really strong. This season we are in the competitions and we always want to win."

Third-placed Chelsea, who have sold Spain midfielder Juan Mata to Manchester United and brought in Egyptian youngster Mohamed Salah from Swiss team Basel in the last week, are one point behind City and two adrift of Arsenal.

Chelsea travel to City on Monday and Mourinho says it is vital the Blues stay in touch by beating a West Ham side desperately trying to avoid relegation.

"We need to play against City with something to play for, not 10 points behind, and we should be one or two points from them," Mourinho said.


"I see a difficult match against West Ham. New players, fewer injuries, time to work and rest after a difficult Christmas period."

Chelsea will again be without injured striker Fernando Torres but Mourinho believes Samuel Eto`o is hitting top form after his recent hat-trick in the 3-1 victory over Manchester United.

"Samuel`s contribution to the quality of the team is very high and he is playing very well," the manager said before adding that he would not rule out a new deal for the Cameroonian next season.

Salah will not feature against West Ham but fellow new recruit Nemanja Matic could occupy one of the two holding roles in midfield.

Neither can play in the Champions League this season and Mourinho said they are ones for the future.

"At the moment we have a 21-player squad which is exactly the number we want to have," he explained.

"With the natural improvement every big club has of bringing in one or two players, we are signing players for the future so I think we are doing well."
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Arsenal midfielder Ramsey suffers injury setback

Arsenal midfielder Ramsey suffers injury setback

Last Updated: Wednesday, January 29, 2014, 09:48
Arsenal midfielder Ramsey suffers injury setback
London: Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey has suffered a setback in his recovery from a thigh injury, manager Arsene Wenger told reporters after the Premier League leaders were held to a 2-2 draw at Southampton on Tuesday.

"Aaron Ramsey is out for longer than we expected because he had a little setback in training yesterday (Monday). So I couldn`t bring him here," Wenger was quoted as saying on the club`s website (

"It`s the same muscle he did a bit again so we have to be cautious this time. Hopefully he`s not out too long but he won`t be available for Sunday`s game (at home to Crystal Palace)."

Wales international Ramsey, whose eight league goals earlier this season helped Arsenal reach the top of the table, hobbled off with the injury in the 3-1 victory at West Ham United on Boxing Day.

Arsenal must also cope without French midfielder Mathieu Flamini, who faces a four-match suspension having already been banned this season, after being shown a red card by referee Lee Mason for a two-footed tackle on Morgan Schneiderlin.

"To me it looked harsh. He got the ball. At some stage you have all the feet off the ground, when you want to run you need to put your feet off the ground," said Wenger.

"If you say every time a guy who makes a two-footed tackle it is a red card, he deserves a red card. If you say, `Was it a violent tackle?`, I`d say no because he played the ball. But the referee made this decision and we have to cope with it."


Arsenal could have moved four points clear with a win at Southampton but were pegged back by Adam Lallana`s second-half equaliser after Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla had given the visitors the lead following Jose Fonte`s early strike.

The London side`s slip up opens the way for Manchester City and Chelsea, two and three points behind in second and third place respectively, to take over at the top on Wednesday.

Free-scoring City visit fellow in-form side Tottenham Hotspur while Chelsea host struggling West Ham United.

"You want the three points in every game but it is a difficult place Southampton," said a philosophical Wenger. "When you look at our overall record it can happen that sometimes away from home you can take only one point.

"I think in the first half Southampton played very well and we didn`t play well. Southampton deserved the lead at halftime. In the second half I felt we played well.

"We have shown a lot of character and resilience to respond to what happened to us in the first half (going behind).

"Overall I`d say it`s a difficult point but a fair one. I wouldn`t say it was a very, very bad performance, I think it was a very good football game and Southampton deserved some credit."
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Arsenal held at Saints, Liverpool thrash Everton

Arsenal held at Saints, Liverpool thrash Everton

Last Updated: Wednesday, January 29, 2014, 11:48
Arsenal held at Saints, Liverpool thrash Everton
London: Arsenal`s wings were clipped in a 2-2 draw at Southampton as they missed a chance to soar four points clear in the Premier League title race while Liverpool thrashed Everton and Manchester United beat Cardiff on Tuesday.

With Manchester City and Chelsea playing on Wednesday, Arsenal could have stolen a march on their rivals but, like their team bus that was late arriving after getting stuck in traffic, they struggled to move out of second gear.

Arsene Wenger`s side started slowly and were caught out by Jose Fonte`s early goal and Adam Lallana`s second-half equaliser either side of strikes from Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla.

There was no sluggishness about Liverpool, whose 15-year home hoodoo over rivals Everton continued with Daniel Sturridge scoring twice in a 4-0 win, while Dutchman Robin van Persie came back with a bang as Manchester United eased past Cardiff 2-0.

Arsenal, who had Mathieu Flamini sent off 10 minutes from time, are two points ahead of Manchester City and three above Chelsea but could drop to third if their rivals win on Wednesday at Tottenham Hotspur and home to West Ham United respectively.

"They have difficult games as well and we took at least a point," said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. "It`s not enough but, considering the situation at halftime (when Arsenal were losing 1-0), we have to be content with it."

Fourth-placed Liverpool revived their own faint title hopes with their biggest win over Everton since 1982 and now sit six points behind Arsenal, and four ahead of their Merseyside rivals, while United stay seventh a further six points adrift.

It is not often Arsenal find themselves chasing possession, but Southampton gave the leaders the run-around in the first half and deservedly took the lead after 21 minutes.

Luke Shaw curled in a delightful cross from the left wing to pick out Fonte at the far post and he headed home.


Wenger`s halftime team talk rallied his side and they were swiftly level after the restart with Giroud backheeling past Artur Boruc after turning on a Bacary Sagna cross before Cazorla buried a low shot to put them ahead four minutes later.

But they could not close the game out and Lallana turned in a Jay Rodriguez cross to level before French midfielder Flamini was given his marching orders for a rash challenge.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard powered in a 21st minute header to open the scoring at Anfield but it was Sturridge who took the game away from their Merseyside rivals, showcasing his finishing talents before Luis Suarez completed the rout.

Sturridge struck twice in two minutes past the half-hour just as Everton seemed to be gaining a foothold in the match, yet both his goals would have left Everton manager Roberto Martinez scratching his head at his side`s shoddy defending.

Midfielder Philippe Coutinho sent Sturridge racing through unchecked to fire left-footed past Tim Howard for his first goal while the England forward`s second came from a hopeful long ball.

Sturridge looked disorientated when Kolo Toure`s punt upfield found its way through to him as Everton pushed up for offside, but he regained his bearings to swivel and lob a smart finish past the advancing Howard and into the net.

He blotted his copy book somewhat by scooping a penalty over the bar in the second half after Suarez had run half the length of the pitch and calmly finished to make it 4-0, taking his league tally to 23 for the season to equal last term`s total.

After Liverpool had been overrun for periods of their 2-2 draw with Aston Villa in their last home game with Suarez and Sturridge together up front, manager Brendan Rodgers admitted it was uncertain whether he would repeat the experiment.


"It was a gamble to go with two strikers but that`s the reason we took the risk. We got four goals and could have had six or seven. It was a brilliant demonstration of how to play under pressure," he said.

With record signing Juan Mata making his debut for Manchester United after joining from Chelsea last week, the champions enjoyed a double boost as Van Persie made his first appearance since December 10 after injury.

He marked the occasion with the first goal before Ashley Young wrapped up the points to leave Cardiff bottom after a painful, if warmly applauded, return to Old Trafford for City`s new manager and former United forward Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Mata had a part to play in United`s opener, giving the home fans a taste of his playmaking abilities with a raking crossfield ball to start the move from which Van Persie found the net at the second attempt with a close-range header.

Perhaps inspired by Mata`s arrival, Young found some of his old form to cut in from the left, beat two men and rifle home from distance.

Mid-table Swansea City won 2-0 at home to lowly Fulham to record their first league victory since December 4, while Norwich City and Newcastle United drew 0-0 at Carrow Road with City`s Bradley Johnson and United`s Loic Remy sent off after a clash.

Crystal Palace moved five points clear of the relegation zone with a 1-0 win at home to Hull City.
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Real ease past Espanyol into King's Cup semis

Real ease past Espanyol into King's Cup semis

Last Updated: Wednesday, January 29, 2014, 11:43
Madrid: Real Madrid set up a King`s Cup semi-final against holders Atletico Madrid or Athletic Bilbao when they beat Espanyol 1-0 in their quarter-final, second leg on Tuesday for a 2-0 aggregate success.

Real lost 2-1 to Atletico at their own Bernabeu stadium in last year`s final and will be keen to avenge that bitter defeat, which meant they ended the season without any silverware, if they face their city rivals in the last four.

Atletico have a 1-0 advantage over Bilbao from last week`s first leg at the Calderon and play at the Basque club`s new San Mames arena on Wednesday.

Real were quickly into their stride on a chilly night in the Spanish capital and their Spain playmaker Xabi Alonso unlocked the Espanyol defence with a magisterial seventh-minute pass.

Forward Jese sped clear before clipping a clinical effort into the net past goalkeeper Kiko Casilla from a tight angle.

Casilla made several fine saves to deny Cristiano Ronaldo but any faint hope Espanyol had of getting back into the tie disappeared when midfielder Victor Sanchez earned a second yellow card and was sent off 13 minutes from time.

Real keeper and captain Iker Casillas barely touched the ball and Carlo Ancelotti`s side have now gone eight matches without conceding a goal, a club record.


Casillas also set a new club best of 682 minutes without conceding a goal, overtaking the record set by Paco Buyo, who played for Real in the late 1980s and 1990s.

Real have come into form in recent weeks but have some difficult games coming up, including Sunday`s La Liga visit to fourth-placed Bilbao and the two-legged Cup semi-final which takes place next week and the week after.

"It`s a very tough calendar for us but I think we are on the right path," centre back Nacho Fernandez told reporters.

"It`s key that we are keeping so many clean sheets," added the 24-year-old, whose younger brother Alex featured in midfield for Espanyol.

"We knew that we were playing against the best club in the world and it would be very tough," Alex, who played with Nacho in Real`s B team before joining Espanyol, told Canal Plus.

"We gave a good account of ourselves and now we have to focus on the league," he added with Espanyol in mid-table.

On the other side of the draw, record King`s Cup winners Barcelona have a 4-1 advantage when they host Levante at the Nou Camp on Wednesday and would play Real Sociedad or third-tier Racing Santander in the semi-finals.

Sociedad are 3-1 up thanks to their victory in San Sebastian last week and the Santander players have threatened to boycott Thursday`s return in protest over unpaid wages.
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