Rafa: Three points, stats the key

first_img Chelsea are bidding to consolidate their place in the top four and a Champions League qualifying spot by winning their game in-hand over Tottenham. Benitez said: “I haven’t wasted any second thinking about how many (points) we need. It’s just the next three points. I’m just thinking about the next game. I don’t waste time when you have so many games. You cannot be doing numbers all the time. It depends on the other teams.” Press Association Spurs and Chelsea play at Stamford Bridge on May 8 in what could effectively be a Champions League play-off. But Benitez, who takes Chelsea to his former club Liverpool in another key game on Sunday, anticipates the race to the top four will continue until the final day of the campaign. He said: “Hopefully we can be there. I don’t know who will be with us. The league will go until the end of the season. Hopefully I am wrong and we will be qualified before (then), but I think it will be until the end of the season.” Experience is key at this stage of the season, and Benitez added: “The head makes the difference. At the end of the season it’s more important to be strong mentally and approach every game with the belief you can win.” Chelsea have players with the requisite experience. Frank Lampard and captain John Terry are expected to return at Craven Cottage, having been unused substitutes in Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final loss to Manchester City. Midfielder Lampard could be in the final months of his Chelsea career, with his contract expiring and the prospects of an extension uncertain, and is three short of overtaking Bobby Tambling as the club’s record goalscorer. “The main thing is the team,” said Benitez of Lampard, who last scored against West Ham. “I would like to see Frank breaking the record, for sure. (But) if I pick him it’s because I think that he’s a good player. I’m sure he can score goals. Hopefully he can score more than two and then he will break the record.” center_img Rafael Benitez normally likes statistics, but the Chelsea interim boss has had no time for numbers ahead of tonight’s west London derby at Fulham where three Barclays Premier League points is all that matters.last_img read more

Kiss puts faith in youth

first_img Press Association Ireland interim coach Les Kiss has handed debuts to Robbie Henshaw and Stuart Olding for the match against the United States Eagles – with three new faces ready to win their first caps off the bench. The Australian has put his faith in youth by making Connacht youngster Henshaw a full international at 19, meaning he becomes the fourth teenager to play for Ireland in the professional age after Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald and Rhys Ruddock. Kiss has opted for Leinster fly-half Ian Madigan ahead of Ulster’s Paddy Jackson in Saturday’s Houston contest, with the 24-year-old making his first start in the number 10 jersey for his province. center_img Olding, meanwhile, is handed his first cap after just 15 appearances for Ulster and is just three months older than Henshaw. The Belfast Harlequins man finished the season “like a train” according to Kiss, who hands over the reins to Joe Schmidt at the end of this tour to the USA and Canada. The New Zealander arrives in Houston on Friday night and will watch from the stands at the BBVA Compass Stadium as Ireland take on a United States side with all their available big guns in the starting line-up. Coach Mike Tolkin includes Saracens’ Chris Wyles at full-back, while Northampton’s Samu Manoa is joined by Stade Francais’ Scott Lavalla and captain Todd Clever in a formidable back-row. Kiss expects a physical game from the Americans, who will fancy their chances against an Irish side with just 115 caps between them. He said: “We’ve watched upwards of six or seven games they’ve played. One recently and the rest more than a year ago. “They’re an impressive side over the last six or seven games. Mike Tolkin has come in and expanded on what Eddie was doing and there is a lot to like about the physicality of their game. They have got players like Todd Clever, Samu Manoa, (Louis) Stanfill, who is a handy lock, and Lavalla. They’re physical characters.” Ireland team: R Henshaw (Connacht); F McFadden (Leinster), D Cave (Ulster), S Olding (Ulster), S Zebo (Munster); I Madigan (Leinster), I Boss (Leinster); D Kilcoyne (Munster), R Strauss (Leinster), M Ross (Leinster); M McCarthy (Leinster), D Toner (Leinster); I Henderson (Ulster), C Henry (Ulster), P O’Mahony (captain, Munster). Replacements: M Sherry (Munster), J Hagan (London Irish), T Court (Ulster), D Tuohy (Ulster), T O’Donnell (Munster), P Marshall (Ulster), P Jackson (Ulster), F Jones (Munster). last_img read more

Hilario extends Chelsea stay

first_img “It feels really good to sign a new contract for another year at the club, I’m very proud,” Hilario told chelseafc.com. “I’m really pleased to be part of this great squad and I’m looking forward to working once again with Jose Mourinho.” The goalkeeper, who has made 39 appearances for Chelsea, is one of four goalkeepers in Mourinho’s squad, alongside Petr Cech, Mark Schwarzer and Jamal Blackman. Hilario made his debut against Barcelona in October 2006, keeping a clean sheet in a 1-0 Champions League win. The Blues confirmed the new deal for the 37-year-old, who signed in May 2006 under Jose Mourinho after leaving Nacional, following a period of uncertainty over his status. Hilario was named on Chelsea’s list of released players at the end of the 2012-13 Barclays Premier League season, but this week travelled to the United States for the club’s pre-season tour as part of a 25-man squad. Portuguese goalkeeper Henrique Hilario has signed a one-year contract at Chelsea to take his spell at Stamford Bridge into a seventh season.center_img Press Associationlast_img read more

Schmeichel has faith in Moyes

first_img The Scot is facing criticism with his team seventh in the Barclays Premier League, out of the FA Cup and trailing after the first leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final – but Schmeichel expects them to come good. The Dane, a member of the United side that ended a 26-year wait for a league title in 1993, told Press Association Sport: “Any football club, any person, any human being alive goes through adversity. “The art of living life is to recover from that and respond to any challenges being thrown at you. “This football club is living proof of that. Whatever is thrown at it, it always bounces back, it always recovers. “We were in the team that hadn’t won the championship for so many years. “It was really difficult to get over the line for the first time but eventually we got there. “That had taken 26 years – but the club is in a different place now. The players have not become bad players overnight and I like the manager. “We have just gone through an unfortunate spell and I am sure we will recover.” Schmeichel was speaking at Old Trafford at a promotional event for the club’s new global spirits partner, Aperol. United have announced a new sponsorship agreement with the Italian brand which will run until the end of the 2016-17 season. Schmeichel was joined by former team-mate Denis Irwin, who also feels United’s luck will turn soon. United host Swansea this weekend in a repeat of last week’s FA Cup third-round tie, which the Welsh side won 2-1. Irwin, who won seven titles with United, said: “It is a big game. “We have obviously been through a tough time in the last month or so but you just feel, as David Moyes says, we need a little bit of luck to go our way and we can get up and running again. “There is no doubt it has been a tough month and we need to start winning. “We are obviously in a battle to get as many points as possible. “It is difficult to put a target on where we can go from here but the main thing is to start winning again and get up and running.” Schmeichel has no doubt the club will ride through their present difficulties. The champions have lost their last three matches, compounding a tough start to life this season under new manager David Moyes. Former Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel believes talk of a crisis at Old Trafford is overblown. Press Associationlast_img read more

McCall hails superb Saracens

first_img He said: “It was reckless but there was no intent and I think the TMO got it correct. It was frustrating as their player was clearly on the wrong side of the ruck.” Following White’s departure, Saracens added a third try on the stroke of half-time through Schalk Brits to open up a 18-6 lead at the break. The Aviva Premiership leaders then ran away with it in the second period, outscoring their opponents 46-0. Lam said of his side’s showing: “We know they are a top Premiership side but we were very disappointing as we missed tackles and dropped passes.” Those sentiments were echoed by Connacht full-back Gavin Duffy, who said: “I thought these days were behind us but today we were pulled round and bullied. The scoreboard doesn’t lie and it was a really poor day for us.” Saracens now face a difficult away trip in the quarter-finals but McCall was still optimistic. “We are not a top two or three European side but we are a top eight team. We can step up and learn from defeats at Clermont and Toulouse and can win away,” said McCall, who also allayed any fears about Owen Farrell. The England fly-half lasted only eight minutes as a second-half replacement for Charlie Hodgson before leaving the field but McCall said: “He had a nasty cut to the side of the head but he will be okay.” McCall said: “There were some outstanding individual performances, Alex has been very good over the past two months but today he was unbelievable as he looks much quicker. “Strettle is playing as well as ever and Ashton’s finish for his first try was something special.” McCall was also pleased with his side’s overall performance at Allianz Park, which he said “has been coming for some time”. It might have been an even more convincing victory for the hosts had Connacht prop Nathan White been sent off in the first half, as McCall believes should have happened. With Saracens only leading 13-6 just before half-time, White was sent to the sin-bin for stamping on Brad Barritt. White appeared to make contact with Barritt’s face and McCall was in no doubt that the front-rower should have been dismissed. “I’m glad they remained with 15 players but it was a red card as it was exactly the same as last night (Ian Evans being dismissed for the Ospreys in Dublin). Fortunately Brad wasn’t injured but that shouldn’t be a determining factor,” said McCall. Connacht coach Pat Lam disagreed with McCall’s assessment of the incident, though. Sarries ran in 11 tries in the victory with David Strettle notching a hat-trick and Chris Ashton adding another two as McCall’s men qualified as one of the best two runners-up having finished behind Toulouse in Group Three. It was an impressive all-round showing from Saracens but Goode was the star of the piece with a display that McCall acknowledged was something else. Press Association Saracens head coach Mark McCall heaped glowing praise on his side after seeing them thrash Connacht 64-6 to seal their spot in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals, while describing full-back Alex Goode’s performance as “unbelievable”.last_img read more

Moyes right man – Pallister

first_img Little wonder some observers have started to question Moyes’ suitability to replace Sir Alex Ferguson, even if most match-going fans are sticking with the Scot for now. Pallister is too, having been convinced Moyes was the right man to inherit one of the biggest jobs in the game, even if he had never won a major trophy. And, once Moyes gets in the men he wants to strengthen his squad, the former United defender is confident he will prove it. Speaking at the launch of the 2014 FA Community Awards, presented by McDonald’s, Pallister said: “He will get it right. “I can understand why people are writing Manchester United off but I am not going to change my mind. “For me David Moyes was the right man to take over the job. I still think that. “You have to give him time to understand what the club is all about. “Sir Alex Ferguson said you have to give him time. Everybody understood that. Press Association Gary Pallister insists Manchester United got it right by appointing David Moyes as manager. “A big transition is taking place. It is not something that is going to happen overnight.” Indeed, Pallister has not given up on United’s clinching a top-four spot, especially since the club record £37.1million arrival of Juan Mata. “Mata is a great signing,” said Pallister. “He will have a terrific career at Manchester United. “I am sure once he gets used to the new players and they get used to him, they will create a lot more chances than they have done previously. “It hasn’t gone to plan so far but there are still enough games left to make it a good season. “We have every chance of getting a top-four slot and a good game coming up against Olympiacos in a few weeks with a great chance of getting through to the following rounds of the Champions League. “Then in the summer I think he will buy more players. “Manchester United will be back. I am certain of that, vying at the top of the league and looking for trophies.” However, Pallister does acknowledge this season’s problems are a new experience for an entire generation of United fans, who have known nothing but success. He does though. For when the 48-year-old signed for the club from Middlesbrough in 1989, they were in the middle of what would have been their worst season since they were relegated had it not been for that 1990 FA Cup win, after which Ferguson enjoyed so much success. “I remember my first year at Manchester United,” said Pallister. “At one stage we were a defeat away from going into the relegation zone. “We got so much stick for being the size of club we were and not winning the championship for 26 years. “The the senior professionals, Bryan Robson and Mal Donaghy, told the young lads to keep doing their jobs and it would come right. “Ryan Giggs was one of those young lads then. Now he will be imparting that same experience to people like Adnan Januzaj, Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley.” United are enduring a desperate campaign, crashing out of both domestic cup competitions in surprising circumstances and suffering their eighth Premier League defeat of the season at Stoke on Saturday. That result has left the Red Devils seven points adrift of fourth-placed Liverpool, with their chance of qualifying for next season’s Champions League fading fast. last_img read more

Suarez hit with four-month ban

first_img “The player Luis Suarez is prohibited from entering the confines of any stadium in which the representative team of Uruguay is playing while he has to serve the nine-match suspension. “The player Luis Suarez is ordered to pay a fine in the amount of 100,000 Swiss Francs.” Claudio Sulser, the chairman of the FIFA disciplinary committee, said the panel had taken into account all the factors in the case. Sulser said: “Such behaviour cannot be tolerated on any football pitch, and in particular not at a FIFA World Cup when the eyes of millions of people are on the stars on the field. “The disciplinary committee took into account all the factors of the case and the degree of Mr Suarez’s guilt in accordance with the relevant provisions of the code. The decision comes into force as soon it is communicated.” FIFA said the ban would not prevent any potential transfer if Liverpool decided to sell last season’s player of the year. Liverpool are biding their time before deciding their next move. “Liverpool Football Club will wait until we have seen and had time to review the FIFA Disciplinary Committee report before making any further comment,” said a statement from chief executive Ian Ayre. The four-month ban would prevent Suarez playing club football for Liverpool but he and the Uruguay FA are able to appeal against the sanctions. However, even if the appeal is lodged and the process is under way he will not be able play in any matches. A statement from FIFA read: “The player Luis Suarez is to be suspended for nine official matches. The first match of this suspension is to be served in the upcoming FIFA World Cup fixture between Colombia and Uruguay on June 28, 2014. The remaining match suspensions shall be served in Uruguay’s next FIFA World Cup match(es), as long as the team (remains in the competition), and/or in the representative team’s subsequent official matches. “The player Luis Suarez is banned from taking part in any kind of football-related activity (administrative, sports or any other) for a period of four months.” FIFA’s statement continued: “A stadium ban is pronounced against the player Luis Suarez in accordance with article 21 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code as follows: the player Luis Suarez is prohibited from entering the confines of any stadium during the period of the ban. “The player Luis Suarez is prohibited from entering the confines of any stadium in which the representative team of Uruguay is playing while he has to serve the nine-match suspension. “The player Luis Suarez is ordered to pay a fine in the amount of 100,000 Swiss Francs.” FIFA’s statement continued: “A stadium ban is pronounced against the player Luis Suarez in accordance with article 21 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code as follows: the player Luis Suarez is prohibited from entering the confines of any stadium during the period of the ban. The Uruguay forward will play no further part in the World Cup in Brazil after his attack on Chiellini during his side’s final group game on Tuesday, a 1-0 Uruguay win which saw them progress at Italy’s expense. FIFA confirmed the news at its daily briefing in Rio de Janeiro. The player has also been fined 100,000 Swiss francs (just under £66,000). Press Association Luis Suarez has been given a nine-game international ban and a four-month suspension from all football for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini.last_img read more

Oscar not leaving Blues

first_imgOscar has told French media that he has had contact with Paris St Germain this summer but has no plans to leave Chelsea. The 22-year-old Brazilian is the latest Stamford Bridge star to be linked to PSG, with Eden Hazard heavily rumoured to have been high on Laurent Blanc’s summer wishlist before he confirmed his commitment to Chelsea. Fellow Brazilian David Luiz also recently sealed a big-money move to the French capital. Press Associationcenter_img Oscar, who has played a key role for the hosts in the World Cup so far, has now followed in the footsteps of Hazard in publicly declaring he wants to stay at the London club. “I had contact with PSG, it’s true but it did not go further,” he is quoted as saying by L’Equipe. “The next season, I will stay at Chelsea.” last_img read more

Buckley completes Sunderland move

first_img The former Rochdale and Watford player spent three years at Brighton and made more than 70 appearances under Poyet, scoring 16 goals. He travelled to the north-east on Wednesday to undergo a medical after the Seagulls accepted an offer understood to be in the region of £2.5million. Buckley could be handed his Sunderland debut at West Brom on Saturday as the new Barclays Premier League season gets under way. He is the latest man to arrive at the Stadium of Light in a major rebuilding programme undertaken by sporting director Lee Congerton and the head coach this summer. The midfielder follows Jack Rodwell, Costel Pantilimon, Jordi Gomez, Billy Jones, Patrick van Aanholt and Santiago Vergini to Wearside, and Poyet will hope his arrival is not the last with a little more than a fortnight of the transfer window remaining. He remains very much on the trail of Liverpool’s Fabio Borini, for whom the Black Cats have had a sizable bid accepted. The Italian has indicated his desire to remain at Anfield and fight for his place despite his successful season on loan at Sunderland last term. However, Poyet is confident he can persuade him to return to Wearside and play a key part in what he hopes will be a significant improvement on the struggles of the last campaign. The club has other targets too as it attempts to address the folly of last summer’s scattergun recruitment drive under then boss Paolo di Canio and director of football Roberto de Fanti. The 24-year-old Brighton winger joined the Black Cats for an undisclosed fee on Thursday, signing a three-year deal. Buckley played under Poyet during his spell in charge on the south coast and was a target in January when the Uruguayan returned to his former club to snap up fellow midfielder Liam Bridcutt. Sunderland head coach Gus Poyet has finally got his man after successfully ending his lengthy pursuit of Brighton midfielder Will Buckley. center_img Press Associationlast_img read more

Falcao completes Old Trafford move

first_img Press Association Despite details of the move emerging early in the day, United had to have an extension past the 11pm deadline to ensure the necessary documents were correctly filed with the Premier League. They eventually announced Falcao’s signing, which has an option to make the move permanent, at 1.30am, a deal which took United’s summer spending past £150million. Manchester United had to work late into the night to finalise the signing of Monaco striker Radamel Falcao but eventually completed a season-long loan for the Colombian. Van Gaal also needed reinforcements in defence after the loss of key personnel over the summer and they confirmed £14million Ajax defender Danny Blind had signed a four-year contract. “Louis van Gaal is a tremendously talented coach, I have worked with him at Ajax and also for the Netherlands national team and I cannot wait to work with him at the biggest club in the world,” the Holland international told manutd.com. United’s rebuilding has already seen them acquire midfielder Ander Herrera, defenders Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo and British-record signing Angel di Maria. Tom Cleverley looked to be moving to Aston Villa and then his preferred destination of Everton but the latter could not meet United’s asking price. However, United duo Nick Powell and Tom Lawrence both moved to Leicester on loan and permanent deals respectively while Michael Keane joined Burnley on a four-month temporary deal. In his first interview as a United player, Falcao told MUTV it was a dream come true for him to play in the Premier League and predicted a “great” season for the new-look Red Devils. The former Atletico Madrid hitman said of his move: “I t was a very long day. It was hard, difficult. We were waiting until the last minute but I didn’t lose my faith. Now I want to say thank you to God for this. I’m very happy. “For me, it was a dream to play in the Premier League. I always wanted to be here because this league is very good, it has very good teams and Manchester United is the best team in England. Everything is perfect for me.” He added of this new side: “We have very top players. I admire them. I want to meet them for the first time. I am sure that this season will be great for us.” By that time, Arsenal had confirmed United striker Danny Welbeck had joined them, for a reported fee of £16million, after Falcao’s arrival made his chances of regular first-team football even more remote. And the presence of the Colombia international at the club’s training complex late on Monday also spelled the end for Javier Hernandez, who earlier in the day joined Real Madrid on loan with a view to a permanent move. United will pay Monaco between £5million and £6million for Falcao and will cover his wages, although they insist reports they will pay the 28-year-old almost £350,000 a week are wide of the mark. The delay on confirming a deal which had been in the pipeline all day sparked rumours Falcao had failed a medical on the serious knee injury which kept him out of the World Cup but United insisted throughout that was not true. “I am delighted Radamel has joined us on loan this season,” said manager Louis van Gaal. “He is one of the most prolific goalscorers in the game. “His appearance-to-goal ratio speaks for itself and, when a player of this calibre becomes available, it is an opportunity not to be missed.” Van Gaal will hope he can kick-start a stuttering beginning to the season which has seen United take just two points from three Premier League matches, scoring only two goals, without even taking into account their embarrassing Capital One Cup exit to League One MK Dons. last_img read more