Apr 27, 2011

Neuer: United move never on

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In the wake of his impressive performance in Schalke's 2-0 defeat to Manchester United on Tuesday night, Manuel Neuer says that moving to Old Trafford was "never an option" for him.

Only an excellent display from the Schalke goalkeeper kept the scoreline respectable in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final as Neuer underlined just why he is rated as one of Europe's best in his position.

The Germany international has already announced that he will leave Schalke at the end of the season with reports suggesting that a move to Bayern Munich has been agreed.

Bayern president Uli Hoeness confirmed on Wednesday that the club would soon start negotiations for Neuer, whose contract runs out next year, but insisted they would not pay through the nose.

"We have up till now not had any negotiations,'' Hoeness told TZ. "That will now be addressed. We want Manuel, and where there's a will there's a way. But Schalke cannot now demand an astronomical price.''

Sir Alex Ferguson, who said Neuer's performance was one of the best he had witnessed against United in 21 years at the club, has also expressed his belief that the goalkeeper is poised to move to the Allianz Arena.

While it is believed United were also interested in Neuer, the player himself says a move to the Premier League was never a realistic possibility.

"Manchester United was never an option for me. I will focus now on my performances and my team, all the other things don't matter at the moment," Neuer told Sky Germany.

In an interview with Schalke's official website, Neuer also reacted to Ferguson's praise. He said: "Of course it's nice to hear things like that. But we have lost 2-0 and that irritates me very much."

Regarding Schalke's performance, Neuer regretted his side's failure to replicate their remarkable win over reigning champions Inter in the quarter-finals.

"We played with too much respect in the beginning," Neuer said. "We knew of course that Manchester [United] are a big team but Inter were too. Today we wasn't as strong as the quarter-final. We weren't compact enough.

"The fans know we've done a big thing in reaching the semis. But this doesn't count in such a match, you want to win there. Maybe it would have been better to have an away match first."

Schalke forward Raul, scorer of a record 71 Champions League goals, has not entirely abandoned hope ahead of the second leg.

"In the return leg, everything is possible. We do not know what will happen, a penalty to us, a sending off for them. Nothing is impossible in football," Raul said.

"We expected a different result, another outcome to the game but we are still happy because we played to our level. The problem was that Manchester [United] played at another level.

"The only regrets we have are that we did not create enough scoring chances and that we conceded two goals in two minutes. Reaching the semi-finals for this club has given the supporters a great sense of pride. We tried everything, the fans realise this, and we were warmly applauded after the game."



Ireland's season ended by injury

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Ireland has been restricted to just two appearances due to injury Newcastle United have confirmed midfielder Stephen Ireland will miss the remainder of the Premier League season with an ankle injury.

The 24-year-old has made only two substitute appearances since his January loan move from Aston Villa.

Ireland, a former Republic of Ireland international, arrived at St James' Park with a knee injury that delayed his debut for the club.

He then suffered a thigh injury on his return to training in March.

Since joining Aston Villa as part of the undisclosed deal that saw James Milner move to Manchester City in August, Ireland has endured a difficult campaign punctuated by loss of form and injury.

His debut for Villa, coincidentally a 6-0 defeat by Newcastle in August, was one of only 12 outings under then-boss Kevin MacDonald and his successor Gerard Houllier, five of which came as a substitute.

Continue reading the main story Manchester City: 2005-2010 - 276 games, 23 goalsAston Villa: 2010-present - 14 games, 0 goalsNewcastle United: 2010 (Loan) - 2 games, 0 goals

Houllier had initially insisted the Cork-born player would remain at Villa Park after the January transfer window, but then changed his mind when Ireland requested to leave the Midlands in December.

Newcastle were successful in completing a deal until the end of current campaign during the January transfer window, despite concerns regarding his fitness.

However injuries continued to plague Ireland, who was also forced to apologise for being photographed at a nightclub the evening before March's 4-0 defeat by Stoke City.

His recent substitute appearances suggested the playmaker could make an impression on Tyneside, but this latest setback could have ended hopes of a permanent move to Newcastle during the summer.



Real Madrid Boss Jose Mourinho Promises Not To Buy Chelsea Striker Didier Drogba

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Former Chelsea manager will raid the Stamford Bridge playing squad.

Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho says he will not try to entice Chelsea striker Didier Drogba away from Stamford Bridge.

Mourinho insists he would not try to take Drogba away from Chelsea.

“I do not want Drogba, Real Madrid do not need to go for him,” said Mourinho.

“Everyone knows the relationship I have with Drogba.

“But everybody also knows the relationship that I have with [Chelsea owner] owner Roman) Abramovich and Chelsea.

“Therefore if it were true that Chelsea wants to sell him I would be one of the first to know because we have got a very direct, friendly relationship and they have told me nothing.”

“So I think that Didier is going to stay where he has to stay, where he has made history.”

Despite a bout of malaria that severely affected his form, and Fernando Torres finally breaking his duck, Didier Drogba has clearly been the best Chelsea striker this season.

However, if Torres continues to gradually take his place in the team, perhaps he will consider moving on.

Then, perhaps, Mourinho will be waiting.



Fergie - Giggs is amazing

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Giggs: Praised by Ferguson after helping to inspire United to a 2-0 semi-final first-leg win over Schalke

Sir Alex Ferguson has labelled Ryan Giggs as 'amazing' after hailing Manchester United's 2-0 win away to Schalke as one of their best performances in Europe.

United took a giant stride towards reaching next month's UEFA Champions League final at Wembley after second-half goals from Giggs and Wayne Rooney secured a comfortable success in Gelsenkirchen.

Giggs was pulling the strings from a central midfield role and the 37-year-old could easily have scored a hat-trick before breaking the deadlock midway through the second half.

The Welshman has agreed a contract to play on for the Red Devils next season and Ferguson is amazed by Giggs' longevity at the highest level.

"It is strange because Ryan's peak years seem to have lasted so long," said Ferguson.

"You would think, at 37, he would be showing signs of waning. I don't see any evidence of that.

"We look after him in terms of rest before games but when he gets that freshness he doesn't show any sign of fatiguing at all. He is an amazing man."

"We look after him in terms of rest before games but when he gets that freshness he doesn't show any sign of fatiguing at all. He is an amazing man."
Sir Alex Ferguson on Ryan Giggs Quotes of the week

Only Schalke goalkeeper Manuel Neuer prevented United from building an even more commanding first-leg advantage, while the clean sheet ensured Ferguson's side have not conceded a goal away from home in Europe this season.

With a final showdown against Barcelona or Real Madrid now seemingly on the horizon, Ferguson ranked the display against Schalke on a par with his team's best in the Champions League.

The United boss added: "Overall I was delighted. It was a top performance.

"We have had some fantastic performances in Europe during my time.

"Juventus in Juventus in 1999 obviously will always be high on the list but this certainly ranks as one of the best."



Arsenal Ready to Make Record Breaking Move for £22.5m Real Madrid Striker Karim Benzema

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Emirates boss hopes to lure Bernabeu star to North London.

Arsenal are ready to make a significant bid for Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema this summer as Arsene Wenger looks to improve his side’s striking options. The French international has long been a target of the North London club and the Gunners boss will hope that the lure of regular first team football may tempt the former Lyon striker.

The 23 year old Bernabeu star is very much a back up player and though he initially failed to make the most of his run in the first team, that came as a result of long term injury to Argentine Gonzalo Higuain, a run of good form has led to the Real Madrid man netting 22 goals this season.

However Jose Mourinho has made it abundantly clear that he will be looking to refresh his attacking options with a move to sign another striker which will in turn leave Benzema once again warming the bench and could lead to the powerful forward looking to leave the Spanish giants.

Arsenal have had to rely heavily on Robin Van Persie for firepower over the past couple of seasons and injury concerns plague the Dutch international who has missed more games than he has started during his seven years at the club. New signing Marouane Chamakh started the season brightly but has looked well off the pace since Christmas and back up alternatives Nicklas Bendtner and Carlos Vela are tipped to leave the club at the end of the season.

Whilst Arsene Wenger is known for being something of a spendthrift after six seasons without tangible success or silverware, the Frenchman is ready to make big name moves to help appease the star players he has at the club who are looking for a statement of intent in the form of established star signings this summer.

Real Madrid be looking for at least €25m (£22.5m) for Benzema and whilst that would represent a trasnfer record fee for Arsenal it is still some way below the €41m paid to Lyon for the young striker just under two years ago and a seemingly fair fee for a player of his age and potential.



Chelsea And Manchester City Boosted By Wonderkid Striker Agent’s Words

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Romelu Lukaku could yet move to Stamford Bridge or Eastlands.

Anderlecht’s young striking sensation Romelu Lukaku is headed for the Premier League, says one of the Continent’s best-known football agents.

The Belgium international is wanted by a whole host of top European clubs after shining in both the Belgium Jupiter League, as well as in the Champions League, with the 17 year old being likened to Chelsea’s Ivory Coast international front man Didier Drogba by many experts in the game.

And, it is the Premier League champions who are believed to be the player’s most likely next port of call after he leaves Anderlecht, most probably this summer, and super-agent Fabrizio Ferrari feels that the forward would be a great success in the English top flight.

“Juventus are interested in Lukaku but Anderlecht say they will sell him in the summer to a club in the Premier League, at his request, because he believes his characteristics are most suited to the Premier League,” Ferrari told Italian newspaper Tuttosport.

SOURCE: Sportingo

Romelu Lukaku has been linked with practically every major European football club, but the hysteria surrounding the Belgium international wonderkid has subsided somewhat since the January transfer window.

A loss of form and a series of niggly injuries have halted his progress somewhat, but for a 17 year-old that has to be expected.

The trouble for Lukaku is that he has been thrust into the limelight from such an early age – even having his own reality TV series – that he has not been able to grow gradually into a great player like his peers.

The likes of Jack Wilshere and Cesc Fabregas at Arsenal, and even Wayne Rooney at Everton have had their appearances managed so expectation does not shoot through the roof.

Rooney was almost a regular for England before he was for Everton, with David Moyes doing his best to shield him even though he was ready.

Lukaku though was the top goalscorer in the entire Belgian Pro League at the age of 16, making it near impossible for his manager to leave him out.

He looks on course to beat his tally this season (though he is 4th in the top scorers at present).

There is no reason he cannot be the great player he is projected to become at a top club, and with Anderlecht believed to have lowered their asking price from £30m, perhaps Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich or his Manchester City counterpart Sheikh Mansour will renew their interest.



Odemwingie Not Going To Be Sold Unless A Team Overbids

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According to Christopher Lepkowski at the Birmingham Mail, West Bromwich do not plan on selling top striker Peter Odemwingie unless they receive a monster offer. Manager Roy Hodgson said,

“He’s a good player and we would like to keep him here … Whether we receive any offers or not, who can say? But I’m not sure there’s an awful lot of money around … Certainly we wouldn’t be looking to get rid of him so it would have to be the type of offer you can’t refuse and we know what top front players cost in the market.

“I’m not suggesting £50 million (paid by Chelsea for Fernando Torres) but they certainly cost top money, so it would be a question of what teams are out there with that sort of money to spend and whether Peter Odemwingie is the type of player they are looking for, so there are a lots of ifs and buts.

“I don’t take a lot of notice of the Juventus thing. Any agent in the world can always drum up an Italian club … When I was at Inter there wasn’t a day that went by when there weren’t 10 players we were supposedly signing … It would have run into thousands over two years.

“When I hear about Juventus I just shrug my shoulders. If you’re an English journalists thinking ‘who can I link him with?’ Inter and Juventus are always good bets … Peter seems perfectly happy here and he’s a joy to work and I think he has enjoyed his time here … I don’t think he’s looking to take the first opportunity to get out of the club.”



Liverpool Plot Summer Move to Sign £10m Rated QPR Playmaker Adel Taarabt

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Anfield Director of Football targets former Tottenham starlet.

Liverpool are reportedly lining up a move to sign QPR star Adel Taarabt this summer. The Moroccan international has been a big hit since his arrival from Tottenham and is now being trailed by a number of Premier League sides but the links between the 21 year old and Anfield director of football Damien Comolli may give the Merseyside club the edge in the chase for the playmaker’s signature.

Comolli is keen on bringing the former White Hart Lane starlet to Anfield and was the man who brought the young attacker to White Hart Lane in 2007 and is more than aware of what the talented youngster is capable of.

Having more or less secured promotion to the top tier QPR boss Neil Warnock must now try to keep Adel Taarabt at Loftus Road but that may be a tough task given that as well as interest from Liverpool the likes of Newcastle United and a plethora of Serie A side’s have taken a shine to the former Lens man.

Liverpool are looking to bring in more creative talent to their midfield and also have an eye for youthful signings with good sell on value and Adel Taarabt may helpfully fulfil all those criteria. Thus far this season the 21 year old has scored 18 goals and assisted another 15 and was named the Football League Player of the Year as a result.

£10m rated Taarabt can either play in the hole behind the strikers or on either wing and given that the likes of Joe Cole, Maxi, Milan Jovanovic and to a lesser extent, make-shift wide man Dirk Kuyt, have all failed to consistently make an impact, a move for the attacking midfielder would make a great deal of sense.



Arsenal Agree to £35m Sale of Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona

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But will Nou Camp side pay the asking price for the Emirates Stadium skipper?

ARSENAL are ready to reluctantly sell Cesc Fabregas for £35million.
Arsene Wenger is unlikely to stand in the Spaniard’s way after persuading him not to leave last season for his beloved Barcelona.

Arsenal insiders are convinced this will be Fabregas’ last season at the Emirates despite having four years of his £120,000-a-week contract to run.

The Spain international is disillusioned with the club’s failure to lift a trophy since 2005.

Boss Wenger knows it will be virtually impossible to convince the ambitious Fabregas, 23, to prolong his stay. He was bitterly disappointed when Arsenal refused a £29m offer from Barcelona last summer.

Wenger convinced him to have one last crack at leading Arsenal’s young team to glory but they have fallen short again and Fabregas voiced his growing frustration in an interview in Spain.

A club insider said: “There is a feeling Cesc has gone as far as he can with Arsenal.

“He has been with us eight years and believes he has shown great loyalty.

“The team will finish the season empty-handed again and he fears that situation will not change.”


There is no doubting that Cesc Fabregas has not been at this best this term and that another season without silverware will have ramifications on the Spaniard’s state of mind, but are Arsenal ready to sell their captain? Wouldn’t such a sale admit their shortcomings? Arsene Wenger has stated in recent press conferences that he plans no major player sales so not sure if there is much to this story other than a ‘club insider’ who could of course be totally fictitious.

Cesc has been continually linked with a return to the Nou Camp over the past few seasons and perhaps the most pertinent question to ask in relation to such interest would be “where exactly would Fabregas fit into Guardiola’s plans?”.

Given that it would be next to impossible to play Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Fabregas in the same midfield perhaps any move to sign the Arsenal captain would occur only when Xavi was nearing retirement, which doesn’t seem imminent.

Wenger also reportedly faces a challenge to keep other big names players with the likes of Robin Van Persie, Gael Clichy, Andrei Arshavin and Samir Nasri all strongly linked with moves away from North London. There is a sense that this summer will be a big one for the Gunners and most supporters will be looking to see their club buy established players whilst keeping those in the squad who have something to offer.



Liverpool to Make Shock Move to Sign £8m Newcastle United Midfielder Joey Barton

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Anfield boss Kenny Dalglish plans another St James’ Park raid.

Liverpool are keeping tabs on Joey Barton’s contract situation at Newcastle, skysports.com understands.

Barton’s future at Newcastle has been the subject of speculation with the midfielder yet to agree a new deal at St James’ Park.

The news has alerted a number of clubs to Barton’s possible availability with both Aston Villa and West Ham credited with an interest in the former Manchester City man in the January transfer window.

Now Liverpool are believed to be tracking Barton following his superb season for Newcastle this term.

With Barton entering the final 12 months of his contract at Newcastle this summer, the midfielder would be an attractive proposition for Liverpool as he could be available for a cut-price fee.

The 28-year-old has been Newcastle’s standout performer this season on their return to the Premier League and he is widely expected to scoop the club’s Player of the Season award.

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish is thought to be drawing up his list of transfer targets and Barton could figure on it due to his success in linking up with Reds striker Andy Carroll while the pair were together at Newcastle.

Barton was the provider of eight of Carroll’s goals at Newcastle this season prior to his move to Anfield in January and Dalglish could look to reunite the pair as he tries to get the best out of his £35million signing next season.

SOURCE: Sky Sports

Alan Pardew is trying his hardest to keep Newcastle United’s top talent from following Andy Carroll out the door with the likes of Jose Enrique, Jonas Gutierrez and even Kevin Nolan being linked with moves away from St James’ Park so news that Joey Barton is now a Liverpool target will be treated with concern.

The troubled midfielder has been in excellent form this season and has helped to correct a reputation that was in danger of leading the former Man City man to remembered chiefly for his off field antics. The 28 year old is apparently an £8m target of Kenny Dalglish who appears to be wanting to add more creativity to his midfield.

The vast improvement shown by the likes of Lucas, Dirk Kuyt and Raul Meireles in recent months have helped to push the Merseyside club back up the table and the good form shown by Luis Suarez has helped to deliver an end product up front but now Dalglish wants to add playmaker Barton into the mix.

There appears to be a concern among Newcastle United players and supporters that owner Mike Ashley will not be putting his hands in his pockets this summer to help boost a fairly small squad. Alan Pardew is hoping that he will be handed a decent chunk of the £35m made from the sale of Andy Carroll to Liverpool.

The sale of the England international left the North-East club having to cope with the fairly limited abilities of Peter Lovenkrands, Shola Ameobi, Shefki Kuqi and Leon Best up front and to be fair to that hard working quartet, none of these strikers are prolific.

Merseyside born Barton would be something of a controversial signing, not least because he is still well remembered for his horror tackle on Liverpool hero Xabi Alonso a couple of seasons ago.



Arsenal To Speak To Nasri, Clichy About New Deals In Summer

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According to the Telegraph, Arsenal are expected to hold contract talks with midfielder Samir Nasri and defender Gael Clichy during the summer. Wenger said,

“We are talking to Nasri and his agent already and we have the same situation with Clichy … We have agreed to speak about it during the summer.

“The players have the opportunity here to do it in their own way, with their own philosophy, with their own togetherness … When you sign a contract for four or five years, you are committed through your contract to win trophies with the club where you sign.

“It is in no contract that if you do not win a trophy the first year, you can leave.”



Chelsea Owner Wants Guus Hiddink to Make Blues Return With Marco Van Basten as Coach

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Stamford Bridge set for managerial shake-up?

According to well-placed sources, Abramovich is still hoping to persuade Guus Hiddink to replace Ancelotti this summer even though the 64 year-old has made it clear he does not intend to walk out as the coach of Turkey. “Let’s wait and see what happens,” one source said yesterday about Hiddink’s prospects.
It is believed that Abramovich may wait until after Turkey’s Euro 2012 qualifier away to Belgium on June 3, two weeks after the end of the Premier League season, before making a move.
Turkey are still hopeful of qualifying for the November play-offs, which would prohibit Hiddink’s chances of taking the Chelsea job, but if they were to fail, the Dutchman may become available immediately.
It is understood that Abramovich believes he has a good chance of employing Hiddink, who he has always regarded as the ideal manager for the club and who enjoyed a brief but successful period as caretaker after Luiz Felipe Scolari was sacked in Feb 2009.
It could be that Hiddink moves to Chelsea as manager for a short time with a younger coach groomed to take over. That has led to the possible recruitment of Marco van Basten or even Gianfranco Zola.

SOURCE: Daily Telegraph

Despite Gianfranco Zola’s cult status with Chelsea supporters it seems far more likely that a ‘dream ticket’ of Guus Hiddink and Marco Van Basten would be the type of partnership that would suit Blues owner Roman Abramovich.

Stamford Bridge boss Carlo Ancelotti seems in grave danger of being axed this summer, despite a resurgence in form that has led to the West London side being the only genuine contenders to Man United for the Premier League crown.

There is a great deal of speculation that the Italian may return to Roma where he enjoyed a glittering playing career and where Vincenzo Montella is currently in place as caretaker boss and not doing such a great job. It seems that this summer may see something of a shake-up on the field of play as well with rumours abound that some of the club’s old guard may be on their way out.

The likes of Florent Malouda, Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka have all been linked with Chelsea exit’s.



Liverpool Joined By Juventus And AC Milan In Midfielder Transfer Merry Go Round

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Alberto Aquilani’s transfer away from Liverpool is becoming more and more complicated.

AC Milan have joined the chase for Liverpool midfielder Alberto Aquilani.

The 26-year-old remains hopeful of securing a permanent switch to Juventus, having impressed during a season-long loan spell back in his homeland.

But Serie A leaders Milan have entered the race for Aquilani as a replacement for playmaker Andrea Pirlo who himself is expected to join Juve on a free transfer this summer.

Chelsea, Real Madrid and Aquilani’s boyhood club Roma all lead the chase with Juve for Pirlo, which could spell an end to any plans to keep the Liverpool man at the Stadio Olimpico.

SOURCE: Click Liverpool

The future of Liverpool midfielder Alberto Aquilani has long been up in the air.

Juventus have had the Italy international on loan for the season, and although they have been happy with his performances, they are unwilling to pay the price previously agreed with the Anfield club to gain his services on a permanent basis.

Now though, the transfer has taken another twist.

AC Milan have entered the race for Aquilani to replace the departing Andrea Pirlo, who will go to Juventus.

Could the AC Milan interest mean Liverpool get the money they are hoping for?



Stoke wait on Etherington fitness

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Etherington was in agony as he went down in the first half Stoke winger Matthew Etherington faces a race against time to be fit for the FA Cup final on 14 May after a scan revealed he had torn his hamstring.

The 29-year-old suffered the injury 30 minutes into the 3-0 win over Wolves on Tuesday and was then carried off injured.

Stoke play Manchester City in the Wembley final and assistant boss Dave Kemp refused to rule Etherington out.

"The club will do everything they can to get him fit," said Kemp.

Etherington hopes to appear in his second FA Cup final having played for West Ham in their heartbreaking defeat by Liverpool.

The Hammers were on the way to a 3-2 victory before Steven Gerrard's last-minute equaliser took the game into extra time. Liverpool eventually won on penalties.

"It's not good news but it all depends on how he treats it and if he can recover," Kemp told BBC Radio Stoke after Etherington's scan on Wednesday.

"He is disappointed, but as long as there is hope, there is a chance."

Etherington has been a key member of Stoke's FA Cup run, scoring in the semi-final, to help send the Potters into the final.

And Stoke manager Tony Pulis is in no doubt how vital Etherington is to his side.

After Tuesday's game Pulis told BBC Radio 5 live: "Everyone has their fingers crossed. We will do our best to try to get him on the pitch because he is important to us.

"It's a game that we'll desperately want him to play and it's a game that Matt will desperately want to play.

"We will go to every measure we possibly can as a football club to give him the best opportunity."

Meanwhile, forward Ricardo Fuller is also a doubt for the final against Manchester City, having suffered an Achilles problem in Saturday's 1-1 draw at Aston Villa.

"It's a bad blow for us," added Pulis. "If you look at the squad and the size of the club, we need our top players to be fit for us to be at our best.

"We are not Manchester City, we have not got multi-millionaires standing around waiting for their chances.

"This is a bread and butter football club, the players work very hard and we need everyone fit."

Stoke midfielder Rory Delap added: "It didn't look good after the game. We are all devastated if it is what everyone thinks it is.

"You never know with the scan but we are all thinking of him and we know how devastated he is.

"He's been a big part of this club and it will be devastating if Ricardo misses the final."



Wary Evra warns against second leg 'disaster'

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Patrice Evra knows at first hand the damage complacency could do to Manchester United's bid to reach the Champions League final and he has warned his team-mates to avoid a "disaster".

Only a heavy defeat to Schalke at Old Trafford next week can end their hopes of playing in a third final in four years after their 2-0 win over the German side in Gelsenkirchen on Tuesday night.

It seems highly unlikely yet Evra knows the improbable can sometimes turn out to be possible, as his own career shows.

"In football you never know,'' the France defender said. "I remember playing for Monaco in the 2004 quarter-final and we played in the Bernabeu against Real Madrid and lost 4-2. Real thought they were going into the semi-final. They thought they were there already. But in the second leg we won 3-1 and went through.''

Evra believes that tie provides a valuable lesson and will ensure his team-mates do not get too far ahead of themselves and start dreaming of a Wembley date with either a Real Madrid side containing United old boy Cristiano Ronaldo or Barcelona, who gave them a footballing lesson during the 2009 final in Rome.

"We have to be as professional next week as we were last night and keep going,'' Evra said. "We have to win at Old Trafford. But I must say if we don't go through to the final now then it would be a disaster for Man United.''

Providing United retain the same mentality, Evra is certain they will make it. Certainly, there was little evidence last night of a team capable of going to Old Trafford and making a game of it, even if the 5-2 win at Inter Milan in the previous round shows what Schalke are capable of.

"We just have to do our job,'' Evra said. "We are very near to the final now but we have to complete the task we have started. I am not surprised we did well and the game was one-sided because we showed Schalke so much respect. We respected them a lot. Before the game we just said we play the semi-final and that it didn't matter who our opponents were. That was important in playing the way we did.''



Liverpool to Splash Out £35m On Brand New Centre Back Pairing: Dalglish to Build New Anfield Generation

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Anfield boss keen on talented defensive duo.

KENNY DALGLISH’S Liverpool are lining up a £15m summer move for Blackburn starlet Phil Jones.

Kenny Dalglish and director of football Damien Comolli watched the centre-back face Manchester City on Monday.

The club are searching for a top-class defender to strengthen the Anfield squad and Jones, 19, would provide perfect cover for Jamie Carragher, 33. (Daily Star)

Tottenham and Liverpool are in a straight shootout for Bolton defender Gary Cahill.

The England centre-half has been linked with moves to every side in the top five, with Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal also said to be in the running.

But Harry Redknapp and Kenny Dalglish are believed to be the only two managers chasing the £15million-rated 25-year-old. (Daily Mirror)

As Kenny Dalglish looks to put together transfer plans this summer he appears to have one eye on the homegrown regulations and is seemingly seeking to pick up talented English stars who can help in his attempts to build for a bright future.

The Liverpool boss is likely to be well backed in the transfer market by the club’s owners and FSG (Fenway Sports Group) are keen that the Anfield manager looks to bring in young players with great potential and good sell on value and this defensive pair meet those criteria.

Phil Jones has shown maturity beyond his years and is now a regular in the Blackburn Rovers first team and given that the Ewood Park side has struggled since Sam Allardyce was sacked the teenager may well be tempted by the prospect of a move to Merseyside, and clearly if the Lancashire club avoid the drop then the chances of a move increase significantly.

Gary Cahill could be a harder nut to crack. The England international is wanted by a number of big clubs and the good season that the Trotters have had may make it harder to sign the former Aston Villa man, however the financial problems that Bolton reportedly find themselves in may mean they have to sell their prized asset but are apparently looking to get at least £20m for the determined centre back.

Liverpool currently have a lack of strength in depth in the central defensive area and given the ages of Jamie Carragher and Sotirios Kyrgiakos, 33 and 31 respectively, and the injury concerns over Daniel Agger, it makes great sense to bring in reinforcements.



Ferguson: One of our best ever performances

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Sir Alex Ferguson has hailed Manchester United's dominant 2-0 win at Schalke as one of the club's finest European performances under his lengthy stewardship.

A stunning display by Schalke goalkeeper Manuel Neuer kept the semi-final tie alive ahead of the return leg at Old Trafford but the German side will need to produce an incredible turnaround to take advantage of his heroics based on the flow of Tuesday night's clash.

United's ineffective finishing, which left them scoreless until Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney struck in quick succession midway through the second half, could be the only criticism of an impressive outing. United's defence largely restricted Schalke to hopeful long-range attempts as Ferguson's team became the first side to complete an entire set of Champions League away games without conceding a goal.

"The concentration issue is important away from home in Europe,'' Ferguson said. "It is a different tempo at times and requires really good concentration. Credit to the players. They have shown that throughout the campaign. But over the past two or three years we have got a way of playing in Europe away from home. It requires some experience of course. The most important thing is to have confidence in possession of the ball."

There has been much discussion about how the current United squad stacks up against some of Ferguson's other groups, with the success of the current crop widely put down more to their collective mentality and their manager's expert rotation than the showy superstars of previous eras.

That argument aside, Ferguson was convinced his current team produced a European performance to match any other in his time at Old Trafford.

"Overall I was delighted. It was a top performance. We have had some fantastic performances in Europe during my time. Juventus in Juventus in 1999 obviously will always be high on the list but this certainly ranks as one of the best.''

Schalke coach Ralf Rangnick could only reflect on a disastrous night for his team, with only Neuer emerging with any real credit, even in the coach's eyes.

"We started quite well. Then it all went wrong,'' he said. "We gave them too much space and could have been behind by three goals at half-time if it had not been for Manuel Neuer. He is the best goalkeeper in the world but you don't need this performance to confirm that. If you see his development over the last few years he is absolutely top class.

"But for the goals, we just stood around and watched. You can't do that. We are not going to capitulate though. Manchester United have a better chance to reach the final but strange things happen in football. However, we do need to improve.''



Roy Hogdson Looking To Bring In New Faces This Summer

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According to ESPN Soccernet, West Bromwich boss Roy Hodgson admitted that he would like to make several signings this summer. Hodgson said,

”I think we need to make some improvements to the squad if we do stay up. We need to be looking very carefully at how we are going to improve this squad … We are running on a reasonably small squad of players. We are asking an awful lot of inexperienced players who are getting better all the time. But if we want to have a good Premier League campaign next season, it is very important we sign several players in the summer that will really help us.

”It will also take some of the burden away from the Youssuf Mulumbus and Peter Odemwingies who, you must remember, are in their first season in the Premier League.”



Real v Barcelona preview

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After verbal jousting, analysis of the 'psychological edge' and quotes from Albert Einstein, Real Madrid and Barcelona will meet for the third time in the space of 11 days on Wednesday night.

The Bernabeu will play host to the first leg of a UEFA Champions League semi-final El Clasico which has all the ingredients to meet the expectations and hype surrounding the build-up.

Jose Mourinho's Real have emerged in the eyes of some as favourites to secure an aggregate win and book a place at Wembley after holding Barcelona to a draw in La Liga and defeating Pep Guardiola's team in the Copa del Rey final earlier in April.

But Mourinho has been attempting to cast his side as underdogs and, at the same time, has been playing his usual mind games in a bid to unsettle Guardiola, who seems to have uncharacteristically risen to the bait.

Whether the spat, Mourinho accusing Guardiola of complaining about referees, has in fact distracted the latter to an extent other than a few words and finger wagging at a press conference remains to be seen, but to spectators it has added an extra bit of needle to the contest.

Real's manager has been at his best in public preparation for the European visit of domestic rivals Barcelona, playing down his side's chances, adding pressure on the opposition and revealing that he has been referencing Einstein quotes regarding the importance of willpower.

Mourinho will also be boosted by the knowledge that Real have twice eliminated Barcelona at the semi-final stage before going on to win the competition, most recently nine years ago and prior to that in 1960.

The former Chelsea and Inter Milan manager, who won the Champions League with Inter last season having knocked out Guardiola's Barcelona in the semis, also takes his team into the midweek fixture on the back of a thumping 6-3 league win at Valencia on Saturday.

Real, though, will be missing Sami Khedira through injury and Lassana Diarra is likely to provide cover, while Fernando Gago is also unavailable due to a fitness problem.

The hero from the quarter-final win over Tottenham, Emmanuel Adebayor, is expected to be back in contention after a groin complaint and Angel Di Maria is also in the squad following his recovery from a bruised knee.

Following his side's win at Osasuna on Saturday, Guardiola has spoken of his concern that Real are in 'their form of the season' and he will also be hampered by the fact that one of his star men, Andres Iniesta (calf), will be absent in the Spanish capital.

In contrast, both captain Carles Puyol and Gabriel Milito have returned to training in the wake of injury scares, but Adriano is facing four weeks of rehabilitation for a torn thigh muscle.



Apr 25, 2011

Cohen kills off Arsenal hopes

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Man of the Match: Daniel Sturridge. His touch and vision posed a big threat in and out of the box, making two great chances for Lee before pouncing for the opening goal.
Moment of the Match: Tamir Cohen's emotional tribute to his late father after scoring the last-gasp winner which dashed Arsenal's title hopes.
Save of the Match: Wojciech Szczesny's block to deny Chung-Yong Lee from close range in the first half.
Miss of the Match: Samir Nasri had a great chance to put Arsenal in front when clean through with 20 minutes left but he fired too close to Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Talking Point: How much longer should Arsene Wenger be given at Arsenal? Are his players chokers or simply just not good enough?Arsenal's title hopes are now surely over after Tamir Cohen's late winner gave Bolton a 2-1 victory at the Reebok Stadium.

Daniel Sturridge gave the hosts a deserved 38th-minute lead, although Gary Cahill's initial effort may have crossed the line first.

The visitors, who needed to win to close the gap on league leaders Manchester United, looked set to go 2-0 down when Sturridge won a penalty just 30 seconds into the second half.

But Kevin Davies' tame effort was saved by Wojciech Szczesny and just a minute later Robin van Persie amazingly drew Arsenal level with a well-worked equaliser.

The Gunners then spurned a host of chances to go in front, with Samir Nasri the biggest culprit, before Bolton sub Cohen headed home from Matt Taylor's 90th-minute corner.

The Israeli midfielder then removed his shirt to reveal a picture of his late father Avi, the former Liverpool player who died in December following a motorcycle accident, before breaking down in tears.

That left Arsenal's title bid in tatters, as although they host United next Sunday, they are now nine points adrift of the Red Devils with four games left. Now only second-placed Chelsea have any realistic hope of denying United the Premier League crown.

The first half was a familiar story for Arsenal fans, with Arsene Wenger's men bossing possession but struggling to create clear-cut opportunities, while Bolton's more direct approach paid dividends.

Theo Walcott saw a shot parried by Jussi Jaaskelainen early on and Nasri's follow-up effort was blocked by a combination of Cahill and Zat Knight.

The Gunners' pace looked to be their greatest threat and from a quick break, Cesc Fabregas forced Jaaskelainen to turn a 25-yard effort round the post.

Bolton were giving as good as they got, though, and they probably should have been ahead in the 24th minute when Sturridge caught the Arsenal defence napping with a superb through ball for Lee Chung-yong but he flicked the ball inside for Taylor and Alex Song cleared the danger when Lee should have gone alone.

The Korean midfielder had another golden chance in the 37th minute, with Sturridge again the architect courtesy of a lovely chip into the box from the right, but Szczesny blocked Lee's shot.

There was no denying Bolton from the resulting corner, though, as Lee's delivery was headed goalwards by Cahill and, although Nasri blocked it at the far post, Sturridge was on hand to convert a diving header from barely two yards for his seventh goal in nine games for Bolton.

Fabregas almost levelled things before the break but his 20-yard drive cannoned off a post with Jaaskelainen well beaten, and things got worse moments after the restart.

Sturridge's neat turn took him past Johan Djourou and referee Mike Jones pointed to the penalty spot when the on-loan Chelsea striker went down under pressure from Djourou.

It was perhaps a harsh decision but the Gunners will have felt justice was done when Bolton skipper Kevin Davies dinked a tame effort down the middle and Szczesny easily blocked the spot-kick.

Then barely a minute later, Van Persie picked up the ball on the right and played a one-two with Fabregas before sweeping the ball into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.

It was the seventh successive away game in which the Dutch striker had scored, setting a new Premier League record.

Nasri then ran on to Van Persie's superb through-ball in the 65th minute to go clean through but Jaaskelainen made himself big to block Nasri's shot, with Cahill tracking back to block Nasri's second effort from a wide angle.

Nasri would have had another glorious chance within a minute had he latched onto a knock-down by sub Marouane Chamakh, before the Frenchman snatched at another effort down the right when he had time to control.

Bolton defended superbly as Arsenal pressed and it was the hosts who created the clear-cut chance Arsenal craved when Johan Elmander got in behind Djourou down the right to charge into the box before seeing his shot turned wide by Szczesny.

And Djourou was at fault again from the resulting corner as Cohen got in front of the Swiss centre-back to head Taylor's corner home at the near post.

Cohen broke down in tears as he was mobbed by his team-mates but it was Arsenal who were left distraught moments later as Jones blew the final whistle.



Liverpool Boss Plans £35m Triple Premier League Swoop: Dalglish Targets Aston Villa, Birmingham City and Blackpool Stars

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Anfield boss lines up trio of new additions.

Liverpool are planning a triple Premier League swoop as they look to improve his Anfield squad this summer. The club’s new owners are ready to hand boss Kenny Dalglish significant funds and the Scot will make moves to sign Blackpool playmaker Charlie Adam, Birmingham City defender Scott Dann and Aston Villa winger Stewart Downing.

Dalglish is hoping to add more natural wide options to his attack having seen the likes of Maxi, Milan Jovanovic and Joe Cole fail to make an impact and will therefore look to lure England international Downing to Merseyside and given the poor season the Midlands club have had this season could help to tempt the former Middlesbrough man to make a move to Liverpool.

Kenny Dalglish is also keen to beef up his defensive options and given that Sotirios Kyrgiakos and Jamie Carragher are both over 30 and that Daniel Agger is plagued with knocks a move to bring in further central defensive options makes a great deal of sense and the Liverpool manager has identified Scott Dann as a potential target.

The 24 year old England hopeful has been sidelined with a hamstring injury since January and has for the past season and a half formed a solid partnership with Roger Johnson and the Liverpool born defender would surely be tempted by a move to his home-town club.

The third target on Dalglish’s radar is Blackpool playmaker Charlie Adam who is likely to leave Bloomfield Road this summer regardless of whether the Tangerines avoid the drop but Liverpool will have to fight the likes of Aston Villa and Tottenham who are also both keen on the Scottish international.



Manchester United Plan Shock Move to Sign Barcelona Midfielder Javier Mascherano

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Nou Camp star linked with Old Trafford move.

Manchester United are reportedly interested in signing Barcelona midfielder Javier Mascherano. The former Liverpool man has failed to secure a regular spot in the Nou Camp starting eleven and was even used as a makeshift centre back in the Copa Del Rey Final and could be interested in a Premier League return.

Mascherano has barely featured in Pep Guardiola’s first eleven as young Spanish international Sergio Busquets continues to impress at the heart of the Barcelona midfield, this has led to the battler feeling frustrated on the bench, a situation the San Lorenzo born star has not experienced in his career.

The tigerish midfielder has started just 14 games for Barcelona this season, six of those in the Copa Del Rey, and may well be tempted by the chance of a move to the Premier League table toppers, regardless of the fact they are the arch rivals of his former side.

Ferguson has been linked with moves to bring a new defensive force into the centre of his midfield, not least because Owen Hargreaves seems no nearer to ending his injury woes. A move for Mascherano may appear at first surprising given his previous stint at Anfield, but his proven record at Premier League level will greatly interest the Old Trafford boss.

Barcelona paid £22m to sign Mascherano last summer and Pep Guardiola may be willing to offload the 26 year old to help balance the books. The Catalan giants are reportedly experiencing some financial problems and if a suitable offer was made then perhaps the La Liga champions would consider selling the Argentine international.



Ferguson ready to end German hoodoo

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Sir Alex Ferguson insists Manchester United are ready to end their run of Champions League exits at the hands of German clubs, as the Premier League leaders prepare to face Schalke in this season's semi-final first leg on Tuesday.

Ferguson's side have suffered knockout defeats against Bayern Munich (twice), Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen in recent memory - with the latter two both ending United's Champions League dream at the semi-final stage, in 1997 and 2002 respectively.

Most recently, Bayern knocked United out of last season's competition en route to the final, triumphing on away goals after winning 2-1 in Munich and losing 3-2 at Old Trafford.

United do, of course, also have fond memories of facing German opposition having beaten Bayern in dramatic circumstances in the 1999 final, while they also defeated Wolfsburg home and away last season.

And Ferguson believes United are fully equipped to exorcise their German knockout demons when they line up against Ralf Ragnick's Schalke at Veltins Arena on Tuesday.

"We've not had a great record against Bayern from the 99 season. We drew twice in the group stages and beat them in the final," Ferguson said.

"We were very unlucky against Leverkusen, we should have seen them off and we were very unlucky against Dortmund but you can't always be unlucky and sometimes it'll change for you. The German teams have always had that resilience and determination about them and that will be exactly the same on Tuesday night.

"We're going into this game with far more experience than we have in previous years and our record away from home in the last few years has been terrific."

Schalke's line will be led by three-time European Cup winner Raul, who recently revealed that United were interested in his services when his time at Real Madrid was drawing to a close last summer.

And Ferguson confirmed that he had considered signing the veteran Spain striker, who is the Champions Laague's all-time leading scorer in the Champions League with 71 goals.

"We spoke to his agent or his agent spoke to us and we were a little bit tempted because you said to yourself 'He's not too old that he can't score a goal in the Premier League," Ferguson said.

"His time at Real had come to an end after a fantastic career but players like that always find something in terms of ambition, they don't just wither away, and at his age he had plenty to do, plenty to offer.

"It would have been [a Henrik Larsson-type signing]. You get opportunities with experience like that like we did with Michael Owen and Michael Owen has been a fantastic professional here. They bring value to the team, bring experience and I think if I didn't have Michael Owen I might have been tempted.

"Raul is Raul and you've got to be careful in the last third of the field because he's still got the intelligence and a fantastic goal record. It's 71 in the Champions League? Bloody hell, I hope it stays that way for the next three weeks."



Rafa Benitez Wants to Be the Next Chelsea Manager

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Former Liverpool boss keen on Stamford Bridge post.

Rafael Benítez will express an interest in managing Chelsea if Roman Abramovich, as anticipated, opts to part company with Carlo Ancelotti this summer.

The Spaniard, who spent six years at Liverpool and claimed the 2005 European Cup, has been out of work since being sacked by Internazionale in December after a disappointing six-month spell at San Siro. He has since returned to live on Merseyside and last week publicly expressed an interest in returning to management in the Premier League.

Chelsea would offer him an attractive opportunity at a club competing in the Champions League – the Londoners still harbour some hopes of retaining their league title – and the 51-year-old is understood to be keen to be considered should Ancelotti’s two-year period in charge end next month. Abramovich and the club’s chief executive, Ron Gourlay, will be aware of his interest but will not make a decision on the Italian’s future before the end of the current campaign.

Benítez would represent a high-calibre candidate for the position given his availability and desire to work in England – “If I have good offers from abroad it will be OK, but my priority is to return to the Premier league,” he said earlier this month – with his relationship with Fernando Torres, whom he originally signed for Liverpool from Atlético Madrid, being a further attraction.

SOURCE: Guardian

Rafa Benitez appears to be linked with a plethora of ‘soon to be vacant’ posts from Aston Villa to West Ham and all points between. If Roman Abramovich does decide to axe Carlo Ancelotti, which would be a very harsh decision to make given the Italian led the West London club to the domestic double in his first season in charge, then perhaps the former Liverpool boss will be a potential replacement.

Clearly the Spaniard did not have the best of times at Inter Milan but the 51 year old is still a manager with a proven track record and perhaps most attractively has a good success rate in the Champions League, which appears to be a crown that the Russian billionaire desperately wants to secure.

Benitez may have struggled in his final season at Anfield but overall must be judged as a success at the Merseyside club and of course he was a huge hit in La Liga, leading Valencia to two Spanish titles and that may be why some have even linked Rafa with the Real Madrid job if Jose Mourinho is relieved of the position.



Lamps tips Torres to triumph

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Frank Lampard believes Fernando Torres will start to show his true colours now that he is off the mark.

The £50million striker finally broke his scoring duck for Chelsea on Saturday when he notched in a 3-0 victory over West Ham.

The Spaniard had gone more than 15 hours without a goal for club and country prior to that strike, with an uncharacteristic drought rocking his confidence.

The sense of relief around Stamford Bridge when he netted against the Hammers was almost tangible, with his jubilant team-mates as pleased to see Torres on target as the Blues' expectant fan base.

"It was always going to be a matter of time and I think now you're going to see him fly, whether it be the last few games of this season or next season."
Frank Lampard Quotes of the week

Lampard was among those to join in the celebrations and he is confident that Chelsea's costly frontman will now shake off his shackles and justify his hefty price tag.

"A world-class striker comes with a massive price tag," said Lampard, who opened the scoring against the Hammers.

"You can't change quality and you can't change a world-class player. We've seen it with him in his career and nothing changes.

"He's a quiet lad, he's not opened his mouth. If he's been on the bench, he's come on and not said anything.

"It was always going to be a matter of time and I think now you're going to see him fly, whether it be the last few games of this season or next season."

Torres' long-awaited effort helped to keep Chelsea's title hopes alive, with the club six points adrift of league leaders Manchester United with four games of the season remaining.

It would be some achievement for the Blues to pip the Red Devils to the post, but Lampard believes anything is still possible - especially as Carlo Ancelotti's still have to go to Old Trafford.

He said: "We can only win the title if we win all our games and Manchester United drop points.

"They're in the driving seat and we can only do what we can do and that includes going to Manchester United.

"We've got a huge game against Tottenham next week. If we can win that then Manchester United might slip up against Arsenal. Then we can do it.

"We've got to keep our heads straight and keep doing our own thing."



Tottenham Boss Confirms Didier Drogba Interest

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White Hart Lane boss wants Stamford Bridge striker.

Harry Redknapp believes Tottenham need to bolster their squad regardless of whether or not they finish fourth, and has not ruled out a swoop for Didier Drogba.

Spurs’ coffers have been boosted considerably since they qualified for the UEFA Champions League at the end of last season, but they are fighting to make it through to the next edition of Europe’s premier club competition.

There have been suggestions that chairman Daniel Levy may not be able to sanction big-money bids if Tottenham do not secure a top-four finish, but the manager maintains that it would be a backward step to have a quiet transfer window.

Tottenham have been linked with a move for Drogba, whose future at Chelsea has been the subject of discussion since Fernando Torres’ arrival in January.

Redknapp admits he is an admirer of the Ivory Coast international and does not know whether something might happen in the summer, although he does not want to say too much at this point.

“Drogba is still a fantastic player, who knows,” he said. “It’s up to Chelsea what they do, he’s been a great player for them.

“He’s a fantastic centre-forward. Power, strength, he’s got everything and he scores goals as well.

“He plays for Chelsea and until they decide otherwise, you can’t speculate about his future.” (Sky Sports)

Clearly any manger would be interested in Didier Drogba, after all he was the Premier League’s top scorer last term and has recently raised his game and returned near to that form after replacing faltering Fernando Torres up front.

Carlo Ancelotti may well consider letting the 33 year old Ivory Coast man go as he looks to make long term plans but it seems far more likely that the former Marseille man would either return to France or perhaps move to La Liga where his former boss Jose Mourinho is apparently considering bringing the sharp shooter to Real Madrid.

Redknapp does however need to resolve his failing strike force having seen Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Robbie Keane all fail to inspire.



Bolton crush Arsenal title hopes

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Arsenal's Premier League title challenge is all but over after they lost to a last-minute goal at Bolton.

The Gunners were below par in the first half and trailed at half-time to Daniel Sturridge's header following a corner.

Early in the second half, Wojciech Szczesny saved a Kevin Davies penalty and a minute later Robin van Persie slotted in an equaliser for Arsenal.

The visitors had enough chances to win the match but were left shocked by Tamir Cohen's poignant late header.

The substitute celebrated his match-winning goal by revealing a t-shirt in honour of his late father Avi (a former Liverpool player), who died after a motorbike accident in December.

But while Cohen's sentiment was touching, Arsenal will be left with litttle reason to lift their mood.

Title chances now minimal - Wenger

After wins for league leaders Manchester United and rejuvenated challengers Chelsea on Saturday, the equation was a simple one for Arsenal: win, or essentially wave goodbye to this year's title challenge and their last remaining hopes of silverware.

Three points here would have left the Gunners knowing that victory over United at the Emirates next Sunday would have taken them to within three points of the leaders, but they now trail Sir Alex Ferguson's men by nine points with only 12 to play for.

Having spent much of the season as United's closest challengers for the league, Arsenal now face a battle to secure second place in the table, with Chelsea holding a three-point lead and a superior goal difference over them.

There was a time, not long ago, when Arsenal's performances at the Reebok represented a central tenet of the argument that Arsene Wenger's side were a soft touch.

Three successive victories at the Reebok in a run of eight straight wins in total over Bolton prior to Sunday had helped them to hit back at accusations of their physical fallibility.

But doubts remain about the Gunners' mental strength, which was further fuelled by their sacrificing of a two-goal lead in last Wednesday's 3-3 draw at north London rivals Tottenham, and will now come under the severest scrutiny.

Yet a victory in Lancashire would not have flattered Arsenal. They fashioned enough chances in the second half alone to comfortably win the game. The fact that they did not, when you suspect their title rivals would have, is telling.

Samir Nasri will be wondering how he did not score with two clear opportunities in the second half, firstly when Jussi Jaaskelainen saved his shot after he had been released by Van Persie, and then when the Frenchman failed to connect with a header back across the box to him from substitute Marouane Chamakh.

However, the visitors had only themselves to blame for being in such a frantic second-half state.

They had plenty of possession before the break, but too often let themselves down by over-playing in the final third, and often lacked focus in defence.

This gave encouragement to a Bolton side determined to make amends for their FA Cup semi-final hammering at the hands of Stoke last Sunday.

The clearest goalscoring chances in the first half were fashioned by the home side.

Coyle delighted with turnaround in form

Midway through the half, Sturridge split the Gunners defence with a pinpoint pass to unleash Chung-Yong Lee, but inexplicably the midfielder opted for an elaborate flick pass to Davies and Song was able to intercept and clear.

Minutes later, Johan Djourou's mistake gave Matthew Taylor a clear shooting opportunity, but Szczesny was able to save the 20-yard angled drive low down.

It was no surprise when Wanderers opened the scoring, seven minutes before the break, and it was equally predictable that the in-form Sturridge would get the goal.

Gary Cahill's header from a corner was blocked on the line by Nasri and Sturrdidge was first to react, nodding in his seventh goal in nine games since joining on loan from Chelsea.

In the first minute of the second half the 21-year-old made another major contribution, falling under the challenge of Djourou for a penalty.

However, Szczesny was able to save Davies' poorly taken spot-kick with his legs to keep alive Arsenal's hopes of victory.

These were raised further when, a minute later, Van Persie fed Fabregas in the box and then ran on to the Spaniard's lay off to side-foot in an equaliser.

This prompted a 40-minute siege of the Bolton goal, but a second away goal refused to come.

Instead Arsenal's growing desperation left them increasingly vulnerable at the back, and Bolton capitalised when Lee's corner was headed home by Cohen.



Wenger left deflated after late defeat

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Arsene Wenger has accepted Arsenal have little chance of winning the title now as they sit nine points behind Manchester United with four games to play.

Arsenal fell behind to a Daniel Sturridge goal in the first half, but the game looked to be turning in their favour after the break when Kevin Davies missed a penalty before Robin van Persie levelled the scores.

However, the Gunners were unable to take their chances and were punished late on when Tamir Cohen headed home the winner for Bolton.

"It's hard to lose a game like that," Wenger told Sky Sports. "We gave everything. Our attitude was fantastic. We were 1-0 down and had chances to win it.

"We have to give as much as we can until the last game, but of course the chances are minimal now. The players fought very hard and the players are disappointed."

It was another frustrating match for Arsenal, whose form since the Carling Cup final defeat to Birmingham has cost them dear.

Over the last week, Arsenal have conceded leads to both Liverpool and Tottenham but, despite this latest setback, Wenger is not considering drastic changes.

"I feel this week we could have taken nine points and we have taken two," he said. "We do not have to change our way of playing.

"I feel we have to be more mature in some situations when we are looking too frail. If you look at the way we dropped points it makes it even more frustrating."

Bolton boss Owen Coyle said the victory was important as the players felt the need to make amends for the 5-0 FA Cup semi-final defeat to Stoke in their last outing.

"The boys have been magnificent all season," he said. "We had one terrible, horrible day last week when everything that could go wrong went wrong.

"We didn't feel great about ourselves and that will stay with me till the day I die, but today I think everybody has seen the true Bolton.

"Every one of them worked their socks off. I'm absolutely delighted to get the late winner."

Sturridge added: "We're just delighted to come out here and work hard. After last week's result we wanted to come here and show the fans we had the passion.

"A lot of fans were very unhappy with last week - we did this for the fans today."

After his winner, Cohen unveiled a T-shirt bearing an image of his father, Avi, who died in December after a motorbike accident.

"I came on to protect the 1-1," Cohen said. "I am very happy to score this goal - it's been a very emotional season for me. I am happy we won and collected another three points."



Liverpool Plan Ambitious £9m Arsenal Star Bid

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Anfield outfit keen on Emirates Stadium left back.

Liverpool are reportedly planning an ambitious move to sign Arsenal left back Gael Clichy. Contract talks between the French international and the North London club have broken down and with one year left year on his Gunners deal Anfield director of football Damien Comolli is hoping to lure the 25 year old to Merseyside.

The left back area has been something of a problem this season with Paul Konchesky starting the season as first choice before being loaned out to Nottingham Forest after failing to impress. Emiliano Insua is also out on loan and injury to Fabio Aurelio has led to the emergence of teenager Jack Robinson as a player with a great deal of potential, however Kenny Dalglish is still looking for a player to fill the hole.

After eight years at Arsenal Clichy is reportedly considering his future and given that Arsene Wenger has ready made replacements in England international Kieran Gibbs and Armand Traore the French boss may be willing to allow the former Cannes man to leave.

Liverpool may find it hard to convince Clichy to move to a club who is unlikely to offer Champions League football for next term but having seen the sharp upturn in fortunes under Dalglish and the fact that the club is under new ownership, seemingly eager to bring in big names, a move to Anfield may tempt the Toulouse born full back.

Liverpool will be looking to strengthen their squad following the big money signings of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll in January and a fee for Clichy would be significantly decreased by the fact that in one year he could leave for nothing.



Comolli: Stats dictate Liverpool transfer policy

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Liverpool director of football Damien Comolli has revealed that the club place a big emphasis on stats when indentifying transfer targets and highlighted the positive attributes of potential signing Blaise Matuidi.

Comolli has been at Anfield since Fenway Sports Group took control of the club in November and is responsible for the club's transfer policy.

The Frenchman was behind the sale of Fernando Torres and signings of Andrew Carroll and Luis Suarez in January and he insists that the players' respective stats were influential in the club's decision to allow the Spanish striker join Chelsea.

"When you find yourself handling three of the biggest transfers in English football history in the last days of the market, precise figures allow you not to do that blind," Comolli said. "You have to act quickly. For Luis, I asked scouts to make inquiries in Holland.

"I looked at his stats over the last three years - especially the number of matches played. We are going in the right direction of players who don't get injured. We are going to take more and more account of the health of a player in the future. It costs so much having players who don't play.

"With Luis, we took account of the number of decisive passes, his performances against the big teams, against the little ones, in Europe, the difference between his goals scored at home and away."

And Comolli revealed that the club are interested in St Etienne midfielder Matuidi after being impressed by his qualities, supported by statistical analysis.

"In France, all the figures prove that the player who wins the most possession at the feet of his opponents is Blaise Matuidi," Comolli told the News of the World. "That is an extraordinary strong point. When the team plays high, it means a goal chance."



West Ham Linked With Shock Move to Sign Newcastle United Captain Kevin Nolan

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St James’ Park skipper linked with highly unlikely move to Upton Park.

NEWCASTLE skipper Kevin Nolan could be a shock summer target for West Ham United.

The Toon midfielder has been watched by the Hammers and will be in their sights if they can escape relegation.

Scouser Nolan – club top scorer this season with 12 goals – has two years left on his contract and is in talks with the Magpies over a new deal.

SOURCE: Daily Star

Really can’t see this happening. Why would Newcastle United skipper Kevin Nolan, who has been in fine form for the Magpies ever since he arrived at the club two and a bit years ago, leave St James’ Park for West Ham? It is fairly likely that the Hammers will be in the Championship next term but even if they do escape the drop it would still make little or no sense for the former Bolton man to leave for the East London strugglers.

Of course Nolan will hope that owner Mike Ashley puts his hands in his pockets to bring in some much needed additions to Alan Pardew’s side and he will also hope that the likes of Jose Enrique, Jonas Gutierrez and Joey Barton all stick with the Toon Army this summer, but even if the England hopeful did have plans to leave Newcastle United, and I severely doubt he would, why would he join the club that is currently bottom of the table?

Avram Grant has his work cut out over the next month or so, the Israeli has four games to keep his side up or face the sack if he fails to avoid the drop. West Ham have suffered in recent weeks after a decent run of form looked like it would see the Hammers avoid the drop, that slump coincided with the loss of mercurial skipper Scott Parker and any hope of beating relegation to the Championship will depend very much on whether the England international can recover from injury to help his side find their feet.



Apr 24, 2011

Hibernian 1-1 St Mirren

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Craig Dargo's penalty gave St Mirren a draw with Hibernian that edges his side closer to safety from relegation in the Scottish Premier League.

Hibs went ahead when Akpo Sodje fired into the corner of the net after 26 minutes from a Derek Riordan pass.

Liam Miller missed a good chance for Hibs before Dargo equalised after Victor Palsson fouled Paul McGowan.

Sodje and St Mirren's Gareth Wardlaw squandered second-half chances, but neither side could find a winner.

And the point moves the Buddies 10 points clear of bottom side Hamilton Accies, who face Aberdeen on Monday.

Lee Mair, Hugh Murray and Kenny McLean had come into St Mirren's starting line-up, with Aaron Mooy and Paddy Cregg dropping to the bench and John Potter ruled out through suspension.

Hibs made one change from the side that lost 2-1 to Accies last Sunday, with Martin Scott starting in place of Ricardo Vaz Te.

Despite the shock of being on the wrong end of Hamilton's first win since October, Hibs started the better, with Riordan and Liam Miller twice shooting on goal.

Mark Brown saved as McLean attempted to control a long cross-field pass as the visitors threatened on occasion to open up the hosts' defence, without producing the clinical ball.

Palsson was booked for a lunge on Jim Goodwin in the centre circle, a challenge that angered the Buddies midfielder.

Hibs then struck on the break when Riordan played through strike partner Sodje to tuck into the bottom right corner beyond Paul Gallacher.

It was the striker's third goal in three games and fifth since moving to Easter Road from Charlton in January.

Riordan then combined neatly with Callum Booth to tee up Miller, who should have done better than fire over from 12 yards.

Referee Alan Muir then pointed to the spot after a clumsy challenge by Palsson on McGowan.

The Hibs midfielder escaped a second yellow card, but Dargo stepped up and sent Brown the wrong way from the spot.

McLean shot wide from long range soon after for Saints, who would have been pleased, if a little fortunate, to reach the interval level.

Palsson was replaced with Ian Murray after 56 minutes and could not resist a parting word with Goodwin - justifying manager Colin Calderwood's change for fear of being reduced to 10 men.

Sodje evaded Darren McGregor on the right side of Saints' box but could not find a clinical touch.

Gareth Wardlaw found the target with a powerful header at the other end, but it was straight at goalkeeper Brown.



Manchester United Striker Dimitar Berbatov to Make Sensational £8m Tottenham Return?

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Old Trafford striker on his way back to White Hart Lane?

Dimitar Berbatov could make a sensational return to Tottenham in a cut-price deal this summer.

The Bulgarian striker will have just one year left on his Manchester United contract at the end of the season – and talks over a new deal have so far stalled.

That has alerted Spurs, who sold Berbatov to United three years ago for £30 million.

United face the threat of losing the hit-man on a free transfer if they allow his contract to run down and expire in June 2012.

And with Berbatov now 30, it ­appears United will not offer him more than a one-year extension.

If United and the player cannot reach agreement, they can take the option to sell him rather than lose him on a free.

Spurs would not want to pay more than £8m for the striker – and that would represent a smart move by chairman Daniel Levy. Spurs orginally bought Berbatov for £10.9m from Bayer Leverkusen in 2006. He played 102 games for Spurs, scoring 46 goals, before his move to Old Trafford in 2008.

SOURCE: Daily Mirror

Talk of a return to North London for Dimitar Berbatov is growing and if the Man United striker continues to bench warm then it would appear that the chances of the Bulgarian leaving Old Trafford will significantly increase as clearly a 30 year old goalscorer in the form of his life does not want to be out of the first team picture for too long.

Clearly Sir Alex Ferguson is thinking about the long term and given the great form that Mexican youngster Javier Hernandez has shown this season it is clearly a plan that appears to be working. The Man United boss believes that as a strike pairing Chicharito and Wayne Rooney offer his side best option and whilst clearly that may confuse some given that Berbatov is the Premier League’s top scorer, the Scot is sitting pretty at the top of the Premier League and in the semi-finals of the Champions League so clearly he knows what he is doing.

Harry Redknapp has not been happy with the goals return from his current quartet of Roman Pavlyuchenko, Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe and Robbie Keane although oddly enough these strikers seem to have less trouble in Champions League duty, and a move for added fire-power appears very high up on the White Hart Lane boss’s wish-list.

Would Man United allow Berbatov to leave for such a small fee though? Even with a year left on his contract, he is worth far more, surely?



Mancini - We will get respect

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Mancini: City are ready to claim first trophy in 35 years

Roberto Mancini reckons Sir Alex Ferguson will now have to give Manchester City the respect they deserve.

"He now knows that we are a big club because he is a very clever man. He understands football very well. He knows that Manchester City has changed a lot over the last year"
Roberto Mancini Quotes of the week

Manchester City edged past United in the recent FA Cup semi-finals and now stand on the verge of claiming their first trophy in 35 years.

During Ferguson's 25-year tenure in charge at Old Trafford, he has highlighted Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea as their greatest rivals.

The rivalry between the two Manchester clubs was heightened when Carlos Tevez was poached by City from their neighbours, which City fans celebrated deliriously.

Their reaction prompted some cutting remarks from Ferguson but Mancini feels their recent cup win will force the Scotsman to change his opinion of them.

"Sir Alex Ferguson offered me his congratulations after the game at Wembley and that was very important and kind," said the Manchester City chief.

"He now knows that we are a big club because he is a very clever man. He understands football very well. He knows that Manchester City has changed a lot over the last year.

"I don't know what he has said about our club in the past, but if you want to arrive at the top there is only one way - and that is to work very hard.

"The only way that you can change the mentality of a club is to win and that means working hard over a long period of time.

"It is impossible to bring a winning mentality to a club in one month or even six months. Of course, we need to work even more but we are getting better - and he knows that."



Liverpool to Sell Eight and Sign Up to 11 New Player In £85m Shake Up

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Anfield side set for major overhaul.

Liverpool director of football Damien Comolli to lead the way in bid to refresh the playing staff at Anfield
Liverpool are planning a radical overhaul of their squad this summer with a source at the club revealing that they are planning “up to 22 deals” in and out of the club.

Director of Football Damien Comolli has been working since his appointment to identify priority targets and will receive support from the club’s owners, the Fenway Sports Group, this summer as the club seek to build a squad capable of getting back into the Champions League.
Kenny Dalglish, who is hoping to remain as manager, has spoken of the need to complement the club’s emerging talent with investment and it is understood that Comolli and his scouting team located two or three targets for each position they want to strengthen.
Most of these are aged between 19 and 24 as the club wants to invest in players whose talent can be developed and whose value will increase.
Rennes winger Sylvain Marveaux is expected to be the first signing when the window opens on June 1.
The club are being described as “a long way down the road” to securing the Bosman free transfer of the former France Under-21 international.

Liverpool are looking at further reinforcements in the wide areas, another striker, a left-back and cover at centre back. If enough players can be sold, there could be as many as 11 signings.
The club are working on trying to set up deals for the players out on loan – Paul Konchesky, Alberto Aquilani, Philipp Degen, Nabir El Zhar and Emiliano Insua – while there has also been interest in David Ngog, Sotirios Kyrgiakos and Milan Jovanovic, all of whom are for sale.

SOURCE: Daily Telegraph

Life under Kenny Dalglish continues to be bright with the caretaker boss, who will surely be handed a permanent deal this summer, continuing to get the most out of his fairly average squad, a squad the Anfield boss is keen to freshen up with significant moves in the transfer market this summer.

It seems like a lifetime ago that Roy Hodgson was presiding over multiple failures at the Liverpool helm and whilst the former Fulham boss is doing a great job at West Brom it did seem that he was the wrong person at the wrong time and his brief reign as boss of the Merseyside giants was as dismal as it was depressing for the club’s supporters who had probably wanted Kenny Dalglish all along.

New strike pairing Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll have more than ably exorcised the ghost of Fernando Torres, who finally ended his goal drought yesterday, and the likes of Lucas and Raul Meireles have also improved dramatically in recent months.

The air of enthusiasm and confidence in the future is further exemplified by the impressive displays from youngsters Martin Kelly (before he got injured), John Flanagan and Jack Robinson and Dalglish and director of football Damien Comolli are keen to invest transfer funds handed to them by Fenway Sports Group this summer.

Liverpool are reportedly looking for new wingers with the likes of Sylvain Marveaux, Ashley Young and Stewart Downing strongly linked with possible moves to the club. Dalglish also seems very keen on bringing in Charlie Adam from Blackpool but one wonders where exactly the Scottish international would fit into the current set-up.

There also appears a need to beef up the centre of the Liverpool defence and to that end there has been much speculation that Bolton’s Gary Cahill is Dalglish’s first choice to resolve that issue. It seems the up turn in form has also helped to dispel the notion that big names could leave with Pepe Reina apparently keen to stay at the club and Dirk Kuyt putting pen to paper on a lucrative new deal.

The future seems bright at Anfield and an assault on the top four next season seems very likely.



McGregor stars in Old Firm draw

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Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor produced a superb penalty save to give the reigning champions a draw with Celtic and keep the title race alive.

Steven Davis was ruled to have fouled Anthony Stokes, but McGregor pushed Georgios Samaras's late spot-kick wide.

The sides kept a lid on a potentially feisty derby during a lively first half that nevertheless produced few chances.

Rangers' Kyle Lafferty flashed a header wide after the break, while McGregor also thwarted Daniel Majstorovic.

And the Scotland goalkeeper's penalty save prevented Celtic securing a victory that would have sent them to the top of the Scottish Premier League by two points with a game in hand.

The build-up to the game had been overshadowed by parcel bombs sent to Celtic manager Neil Lennon and two other prominent fans.

Walter Smith went into his final Old Firm game as Rangers manager hoping to even up the scores with Celtic having won three and lost two of the previous Glasgow derbies this season.

But an even game that ended both sides' five-match winning run concluded with Lennon the happier of the managers as his side will now win the title if they win all five of their remaining fixtures.

Smith had returned to the line-up that overcame Celtic in the Co-operative Insurance Cup final, with the exception of McGregor being preferred to Neil Alexander in goal.

That meant Gregg Wylde coming in for Kyle Hutton, but the Celtic midfield provided the bigger pre-match surprise.

Joe Ledley, who was expected to miss out through injury, and Ki Sung-Yueng were preferred to Kris Commons, who scored two goals in midweek against Kilmarnock, and James Forrest.

Samaras, who had caused Rangers problems in earlier encounters, was chosen ahead of Stokes up front.

However, it was Rangers on the front foot in the early stages as Ibrox shuddered in a cauldron of noise produced by both sets of fans, with Wylde and Davis delivering dangerous crosses into a Celtic box nervously patrolled by punch-happy goalkeeper Fraser Forster.

Ledley had claims for a penalty correctly waved away by referee Craig Thomson after running into Steven Whittaker.

Rangers, though, were first to threaten and a Maurice Edu shot deflected a foot wide off Charlie Mulgrew.

The first flashpoint came after 22 minutes, with a spot of mutual shoving from Samaras and David Weir, but a yellow card each calmed what can so often be volatile proceedings.

Scott Brown had Celtic's first effort on goal with a low drive from 20 yards that curled a few yards wide after Mark Wilson dispossessed Davis.

Steven Naismith wildly sliced wide from 12 yards at the other end when found in the clear at the far post by a long Sasa Papac diagonal ball as the first half deteriorated into a midfield war of attrition.

Weir had the first chance of the second half but headed over from 14 yards after climbing well to meet a Davis corner, while Daniel Majstorovic did well to deflect a Naismith drive wide.

Kyle Lafferty squandered a great chance to give Rangers the lead when he beat Mulgrew to a Wylde cross to the front post, but the forward flashed his header just wide.

Celtic responded and a 22-yard Beram Kayal drive flew inches wide then McGregor produced a breathtaking finger-tip save to deflect a close-range Majstorovic header for a corner.

Lafferty flashed a free-kick wide of the far post, while Naismith fired across the face of goal and narrowly past from the edge of the box.

McGregor did well to tip an Emilio Izaguirre chip over the crossbar after the full-back had stepped inside Whittaker.

It looked like Celtic would secure the victory when Thomson pointed to the spot after 83 minutes.

The decision looked harsh, with Davis at most being guilty of obstruction, but McGregor was on hand to save the day for a Rangers side who remain top by a point.

Stokes went down again in the box in the dying seconds under a John Fleck challenge, but this time Thomson booked the substitute for diving.