Thursday, April 10, 2014

Champions League Team of the Week: Robben, Reus and Schurrle the stars

Champions League Team of the Week: Robben, Reus and Schurrle the stars 
Atletico Madrid hero Koke and Borussia Dortmund starlet Milos Jojic also feature in our select XI from the final last-four encounters.
 Eight became four in the Champions League this week as Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid joined Real Madrid and Chelsea in Friday's semi-final draw.

There were heroes in all four quarter-final second-leg clashes as dramatic comebacks and intense physical battles took centre stage, and the very best are rewarded with a place in our team of the week.

In goal, Borussia Dortmund's Roman Weidenfeller gets the nod, with the German stopping Angel Di Maria's early penalty before later denying Gareth Bale to keep his side's hopes of a comeback alive for much of Tuesday's match.

Philipp Lahm starts at right-back in our selection following another calm and collected showing in both defence and midfield for Bayern, while team-mate Dante also features after shackling Danny Welbeck in his return to the side. Gary Cahill was in exemplary form for Chelsea as they pulled off a stunning 2-0 win over Paris Saint-Germain and Filipe Luis kept Lionel Messi quiet on the right flank as Atletico proved too much for Barcelona.

In the centre of midfield, Atleti's match-winner Koke earns a place after hitting an early winner and pressing superbly against the Barca midfield throughout; he partners Dortmund's rising star Milos Jojic, whose quality showing belied his age in the win over Madrid.

Andre Schurrle - who replaced the injured Eden Hazard on Tuesday and set Chelsea on their way with an instinctive poacher's finish in the first half against PSG - starts on the right wing, while Arjen Robbenfeatures on the opposite side following his inspirational showing in the comeback win over Manchester United. 

Marco Reus - who scored both goals at Signal Iduna Park to take BVB close to forcing extra-time against Madrid - fills the central attacking slot behind Atleti striker David Villa, who spearheads the side after harrying the Barca defence all night at the Vicente Calderon - his performance inches away from perfection after he was twice denied by the woodwork.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

World Cup woe for Simunic as Fifa rejects appeal against 10-match ban

The 36-year-old was sanctioned by the game's governing body for using a chant associated with a far-right political party after his country's play-off win over Iceland
Croatia defender Josip Simunic will miss this summer's World Cup finals after his appeal against a 10-match ban for “discriminatory behaviour” was rejected by Fifa.

In the wake of his nation's play-off victory over Iceland in Zagreb last November, the 36-year-old addressed the crowd with a microphone, saying: "For the homeland". In response to Simunic's call, the fans replied: "Ready!"

The call was used by the far-right Croatian rulers the Ustashas, who took a pro-Nazi stance during World War II before being dissolved in May 1945.

Simunic appealed against the severity of the sanction but the world governing body on Wednesday upheld the original ruling.

Croatia have been drawn against Brazil, Cameroon and Mexico in Group A of the World Cup and will contest the opening game against the hosts on June 12 in Sao Paulo.
Tottenham boss Sherwood bites back at Van Gaal The Spurs manager has dismissed the Netherlands coach's latest quotes and has also moved to play down the Londoners' interest in Dnipro winger Yevhen Konoplyanka
By Greg Stobart in Lisbon

Tottenham manager Tim Sherwood has taken a dig at Louis van Gaal for "shouting loud enough" about his interest in taking over at White Hart Lane after the World Cup.
4/1Tottenham are 4/1 with Paddy Power to beat Benfica on Thursday

Van Gaal has been strongly linked with the Spurs job and on Wednesday reaffirmed his desire to manage at a "top team in the Premier League" when he steps down as Netherlands coach after the World Cup.

But Sherwood dismissed the 62-year-old’s claims in his pre-match press conference ahead of the second leg of Tottenham's Europa League tie against Benfica.

"He's obviously destined to want to manage in England," said Sherwood. 

"He's got a good track record and he's a good manager. I'm sure he'll get his opportunity - he's been shouting loud enough for it.

"My future's out of my hands. I believe I'll be here next year. I'm planning for next season. The players are playing for their futures."

Sherwood also moved to play down claims from Dnipro president Ihor Kolomoyskyi that Spurs are 'perhaps close to signing a contract' for winger Yevhen Konoplyanka, who almost joined Liverpool in January.

"He's obviously a player who's been linked with the club because he's a good player," Sherwood continued. "He's certainly one who's being talked about, but there's nothing definitive. 

"I think we have to make sure we see a lot more of these guys before they come in, not just the highlights because we've got to make sure we do our recruitment job on them."

Pressed over whether the club were pushing forward with a deal for Konoplyanka, Sherwood added: "Not at the moment.

"Nobody else will come in here unless I sanction it. You can't work any other way. 

"The manager has got to work with the players so, unless he gets the players he wants, it's always going to be an uphill task. He will always have the excuse of 'well they're not my players'."
Martino and Messi going nowhere, insists FausThe Spanish champions' vice president has denied rumours the coach may be set for a summer exit and believes that their prize asset will retire in Catalunya
Barcelona vice-president Javier Faus has denied rumours linking coach Gerardo Martino with a summer exit from the club.

Reports last week suggested the former Paraguay coach could be set to leave Camp Nou at the end of the current campaign, less than 12 months after succeeding Tito Vilanova in the dugout.

But Faus claims the 51-year-old Argentine - who led Newell's Old Boys to the league title - is not considering a move elsewhere.

"The club has spoken with him and he says he has not talked to anybody," Faus told television programmeEls matins.

"He seems to be keen and the club is certainly eager for him to continue. The people who have to work with him on a daily basis think he is very focused."

The Blaugrana executive also reassured fans that he believed Lionel Messi would never leave the club.

"I hope the fans don't worry about [Messi leaving] as we are all convinced that he will retire in a Barca shirt."

While he believes any key exits are unlikely, Barca have already been linked with a number of summer reinforcements and Faus says the club are in a strong position to add to a squad that requires only minor additions.

"Barca are in a position to meet any investment that the club secretary requires," he said. "But this team still has a lot to give, it's a young squad that just needs a few extra players."

Barcelona sit third in La Liga after two defeats in their last four outings, a point behind second-placed Atletico Madrid and four off leaders Real Madrid, who they face on Sunday at Santiago Bernabeu.

"We must fight to death," Faus said of the upcoming Clasico. "Winning at the Bernabeu would be very important. Even a draw would leave the situation quite open."
Amelia: AC Milan have to start from scratchThe Rossoneri goalkeeper is desperate to recover from their recent poor form and believes that, despite their recent protests, the fans can help inspire a turnaround
AC Milan goalkeeper Marco Amelia has warned his team-mates they will have to go back to basics if they wish to turn their fortunes around.

The Rossoneri are on a run of three straight league defeats and currently languish way down in 11th place in Serie A, appearing on course to finish outside the top six for the first time this century.

And Amelia believes they must rebuild from the ground up as they prepare for a trip to Lazio this weekend.

"We have to start from scratch, by taking to the pitch with an even more determined attitude and to avoid making things difficult," he told Milan Channel.

"Unfortunately some of these difficulties have been with us for a long time and even from last summer. They haven't been resolved and they've remained for the whole season. 

"The current atmosphere isn't an ideal one and that's an issue. It's normal that we're criticised, but it's down to us to change those opinions. Milan are a team with values."

That atmosphere has been exacerbated by vocal criticism from the club's fans, which Amelia is taking as a positive.

"The fans are clever and profound people. They were positive with their criticisms. They're encouraging us to move on. The value of our fans isn't in doubt. 

"They will never abandon us, because they know Milan needs them and they're a vital part of the club's success."


  • David de Gea

    David de Gea

    One of few players to emerge from the mauling against Liverpool with credit and delivered yet again for his side, pulling off an unbelievable pair of saves to deny both Fuster and Dominguez. A fine showing
  • Rafael


    Reckless in going to ground early on and found himself out of position on more than one occasion as the visitors attacked on the break. Attacked the right wing at will.
  • Patrice Evra

    Patrice Evra

    Typically got forward to support Welbeck on the left flank but picked up a booking for a foul on Valdez, ruling himself out of United's next tie.
  • Phil Jones

    Phil Jones

    Was lucky that Perez skied over early on after being completely outpaced by Campbell. Was given little to do in the second half by the visitors.
  • Rio Ferdinand

    Rio Ferdinand

    Has lost his regular spot in the side but proved he can still be dominant at the back. Held the line well and looked to play the ball out from defence. A solid effort.
  • Ryan Giggs

    Ryan Giggs

    Started in the centre of midfield after a controversial couple of days and didn't take long to show his class, setting Welbeck away with a stunning ball and playing the pass that led to Van Persie's penalty. Dictated the game from the middle.
  • Michael Carrick

    Michael Carrick

    Maintained his place in the side after struggling against Liverpool and kept hold of the ball well with some neat and tidy passing, if not quite anything explosive. Booked.
  • Antonio Valencia

    Antonio Valencia

    Replaced the ineligible Juan Mata to start on the right and picked up a nasty injury to his eye after colliding with Joel Campbell. Played on and worked hard before being replaced by Young in the latter stages.
  • Wayne Rooney

    Wayne Rooney

    Looked in the mood from the off and found plenty of space down the right. Had a 20th minute header pushed onto the post by Roberto but bounced back to deliver the assist for Van Persie's second. Linked up well with his firing strike partner.
  • Danny Welbeck

    Danny Welbeck

    Madee his first start since January but showed no signs of rust early on, winning a dangerous free-kick on the edge of the area with a direct run. Full of pace and never stopped working for the hosts before coming off for Fletcher late on.
  • Robin van Persie

    Robin van Persie

    Has been out of form in recent weeks but well and truly delivered when it mattered with an outstanding hat-trick. Broke the deadlock from the penalty spot before ruthlessly making it 2-0 just before half time. Sent his side through with a fine free-kick before picking up a worrying knock late on.


  • Ashley Young

    Ashley Young

    Replaced Valencia with less than quarter of an hour remaining.
  • Marouane Fellaini

    Marouane Fellaini

    Given a late run out shortly before injury time.
  • Darren Fletcher

    Darren Fletcher

    Came on late for Welbeck.
  • Roberto


    The Spanish keeper has impressed in the Champions League this term and pulled out a fine stop to push Rooney's header onto the post 20 minutes in. Also saved a bullet header from Evra but stood motionless for Van Persie's crucial third.
  • Jose Holebas

    Jose Holebas

    One of the more experienced men for the visitors but foolishly brought down Van Persie to concede a penalty midway through the first half. Struggled.
  • Konstantinos Manolas

    Konstantinos Manolas

    The highly-rated youngster picked up an early yellow card after bringing down Welbeck on the edge of the area and looked a little overawed by the occasion throughout, giving away the free-kick that led to Van Persie's third.
  • Marcano


    Struggled to contain Van Persie, with the Dutchman's intelligent movement a constant pain for the visiting side. Strong in the air, however.
  • Giannis Maniatis

    Giannis Maniatis

    Was a powerful presence for the visiting side, breaking up the play as United entered the final third. Muscled a number of players off the ball at crucial moments.
  • Delvin Ndinga

    Delvin Ndinga

    Typically sat deep in midfield and, alongside Maniatis, looked to use his strength to break up United's build-up play. Did little with possession.
  • Hernán Pérez

    Hernán Pérez

    Caused United all sorts of problems in the first leg and should have broken the deadlock on the 16th minute, but somehow blazed over from less than 10 yards after fine work from Campbell. Hooked off after less than an hour.
  • David Fuster

    David Fuster

    The veteran midfielder was stunned to see De Gea stop his header and perhaps deserved a goal for some superb early attacking intent. Kept the ball well.
  • Leandro Salino

    Leandro Salino

    Showed an impressive turn of pace on the right flank but did very little with the ball in an advanced position. Disappointing from the Brazilian.
  • Joel Campbell

    Joel Campbell

    Scored a stunner in the first leg in Athens and was a menace to the United defence, nearly securing the breakthrough after skinning Jones in the area. Worked incredibly hard on his own up front.
  • Alejandro Domínguez

    Alejandro Domínguez

    Picked up a booking after just over 10 minutes for a cynical slide on Valencia to break up a United counter. Was kept out by a stunning De Gea save on a frustrating evening for the skilful Argentine.


  • Haedo Valdéz

    Haedo Valdéz

    Provided a threat after replacing Perez, running with the ball at his feet and securing a free-kick.
  • Nikolaos Vergos

    Nikolaos Vergos

    Came on in the closing stages as the visitors chased the game.