Spurs sign Russia striker Pavlyuchenko

Tottenham reached an agreement to sign Russia striker Roman Pavlyuchenko from Spartak Moscow.

Pavlyuchenko arrived in England on Friday for a medical and negotiations over personal terms and the deal was sealed on Saturday.

“We are delighted to announce that we have reached agreement with Spartak Moscow for the transfer of Roman Pavlyuchenko to the Club,” a statement on Tottenham's website confirmed.

The fee paid by Tottenham has not been disclosed but it is understood to be around 14 million pounds (17 million euros) and the move could pave the way for Dimitar Berbatov to leave Spurs for Manchester United.

Pavlyuchenko will not feature when Spurs take on Chelsea on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Real Zaragoza president Agapito Iglesias is reported to be in London to discuss the possible transfer of Diego Milito and Sergio Garcia from the Spanish club to Spurs.

Sun 31 August, 2008
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Old Firm debuts for new signings

Celtic and Rangers go head-to-head for the first time this season at Parkhead on Sunday with both teams expected to hand derby debuts to some of their new summer signings.

The sides go into the game with Celtic topping the Scottish Premier League on goal difference from their fiercest rivals.

With a two-week international break following the match both teams will want a win to give their fans early season bragging rights.

The Old Firm have been busy in the transfer market lately with Rangers bringing in Pedro Mendes, Maurice Edu and Steven Davis for a new look midfield. Rivals Celtic have added former player Shaun Maloney and central defender Glenn Loovens to the squad which won the SPL last season.

Former Portsmouth player Pedro Mendes is likely to play a key part for Rangers on Sunday and the Portugese playmaker is targeting three points from his first Old Firm derby.

“People always tell you about games against Celtic but I think you probably need to play in one to really live it,” Mendes said.

“They are special fixtures for the supporters and I really hope I get the chance to take part and that my team-mates and I do as well as possible.

“I have enjoyed my time in Scotland so far and everything is going well, both on and off the pitch.

“The lads in the squad have been fantastic and my family are here so I am happy with life as I'm playing well too.”

Mendes added: “We will work hard and make sure we are ready for Celtic. I can only speak about how we've done since I joined Rangers but I think we have done well.

“Based on the last couple of performances, I think the team is improving and we just need to keep looking to do that. Now I'm looking for three points against Celtic.”

Celtic have some injury worries going into the game with strikers Scott McDonald and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink facing late fitness tests.

However, Greek forward Georgios Samaras is full of confidence following his double against Falkirk last weekend.

“It was a good performance against Falkirk and sets us up mentally for the Rangers game,” Samaras said. “I played three times against Rangers last season and the atmosphere at both Celtic Park and Ibrox is fantastic.

“For me it is one of the best derbies in the world and I'm just really glad I'm part of this. I'm very happy here and the team's confidence will be up ahead of the Rangers game.

“Whether I score against Falkirk or Rangers it's a goal and it helps my team. The most important thing is just to win the three points.”

Sun 31 August, 2008
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Ronaldo on track September return from injury

Cristiano Ronaldo believes he could be back playing for Manchester United by the end of September after completing his recovery from ankle surgery.

The Portuguese winger went under the knife in July following the Euro 2008 tournamment and initial forecasts were that he could be out of action until late October and possibly November.

But Ronaldo, who scored 42 goals last season to fire United to the Premier League title and Champions League, has been told his rehabilitation is ahead of schedule and he is on track for an early return to action.

“I am feeling fine. I am feeling really good and my recovery is going well,” the 23-year-old said.

“I am more than happy with my progress and I hope to be back playing for United by the end of September – that is my target and it is a realistic one.

“It has been frustrating to miss the start of the Premier League season but I am pleased with my rehabilitation and, hopefully, I'll be ready soon.”

Sun 31 August, 2008
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Di Michele desperate to join Roma

Torino forward David Di Michele has admitted he is desperate to join Roma.

Di Michele told Radio Incontro: “The more time goes on, the less likely it is I’ll be able to complete the move, but never say never in football.

“If there was a chance, then obviously I’d love to come to Roma. It is a lifelong dream, as I am a Roma fan from the city.

“I’d have no problem coming there to be fourth choice, seeing as at Torino there are already four forwards for three places.

“Roma would also give me the opportunity to play in the Champions League. If it meant coming to Roma, I’d even play as a goalkeeper!”

The 32 year old forward also played under Roma boss Luciano Spalletti at Udinese.

[Source: Radio Incontro]

Sun 31 August, 2008
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Owen on the move?

It is reported that Michael Owen could be the next player to leave Newcastle as he seems certain to reject a new contract that would mean him taking a £1 million-a-year pay cut.

With twenty-nine year old Owen being available for free at the end of this season it is believed that Newcastle could be prepared to let him go for as little as £2 million.

The news could interest Manchester United or Tottenham depending on the outcome of the Dimitar Berbatov saga.

(Source – Sunday Mirror and Mail on Sunday)

Sun 31 August, 2008
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Robinho to make his feelings public

Real Madrid’s Robinho has called a news conference for this morning at 11.00 British time when he is expected to repeat his demand to be allowed to move to Chelsea.

Club president Ramon Calderon says quite clearly that Robinho will be staying at Madrid, but Robinho insists he is still negotiating with Chelsea.

Calderon said, ‘He’s going to stay here, I’m saying that, he’s a good boy, just badly advised.’

(Source – Spanish daily ABC).

Sun 31 August, 2008
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Arsenal show what they can do and shut me up at the same time!

OK Arsenal fans, you win. I was given a torrid time by you all yesterday when I said that there were tough times ahead for your club. I pointed out that the last thing Arsene Wenger needed right now was a game against a resurgent Newcastle side.

With my immensely knowledgeable prediction of pending doom and gloom for the Gunners still fresh in the mind they went on to produce a performance of such quality in the 3-0 victory at The Emirates that any football supporter, other than a Newcastle fan of course, couldn’t have failed to have enjoyed watching them play.

The trademark passing and movement that Arsenal produced, all done at great pace, was at times simply breathtaking. Whereas often in the past, the flowing football Arsenal are known for hasn’t always had an end product, they did find the net three times and could have had many more.

Newcastle were not quite at full strength and they did create one or two decent chances of their own, but they were utterly blown away and brushed aside by a team who for the first time this season looked more than capable of maintaining a challenge for the Premier League title.

With Gallas and Toure looking more like the competent partnership that we saw early last season than the less than competent partnership we saw towards the end, Fabregas and Nasri looking like they have played together for years and a now fully fit Van Persie sharing the attacking threat with the excellent Adebayor, Arsenal suddenly looked like the team Wenger wants them to be and believes they can be.

“I’m very pleased with the performance, both offensively and defensively. It was a complete one, there was great balance in the team, with movement. Apart from at the start of the second half, we were always in control and played the game we love, and showed the way we can play. The improvement comes from a completely different attitude.”

There is no doubt that Wenger and his players gave a resounding answer to the critics who have been suggesting that they haven’t got what it will take to do well this season.

Elsewhere in the Premier League yesterday there were other notable performances. Wigan produced a 5-0 win at newly promoted Hull City. Wigan had not picked up a point from their opening two games and although they played well and scored some good goals, the result will send a major Derby County like warning to those at Hull City. The fact is that Wigan had no more scoring opportunities than Hull did, but the clinical way the chances were put away was a stark warning to all the promoted sides about what is needed at this level.

At Upton Park, Blackburn manager Paul Ince didn’t get the predicted shower of abuse from the West Ham fans. The game turned out to be a triumph for West Ham manager Alan Curbishley who is currently possibly a man more disliked by the West Ham fans than Paul Ince, as the home side ran out winners 4-1. The scoreline was very flattering to the Hammers and two of their goals came in stoppage time at the end of the game.

Portsmouth got their season up and running with a 3-0 win at Everton, for who another fifth placed finish this season looks to be a bit of a tall order. There were signs during the game that Peter Crouch and Jermaine Defoe may be beginning to establish some sort of partnership. If they do, Pompey will definitely be a force to be reckoned with.

Stoke City defended with ten men for well over half the game at Middlesbrough after Amdy Faye was sent off for what we can generously call a clumsy lunge. They very nearly managed to escape with a point but late Tuncay strike gave the home side a deserved 2-1 win.

At the Reebok, West Brom picked up their first point of the season in a 0-0 draw with Bolton. It wasn’t a pretty game but both sides could have won it and will feel that they should have done.

So what have we learned from those games? Well, in truth, not much more than we already knew. The only change for me was that Arsenal have re-established themselves as a top four team. I know that you Gooners never had any doubts, but to the neutral observer it did look as though cracks on and off the pitch were starting to appear. They couldn’t have responded to that suggestion in any better way than they did yesterday.

Sun 31 August, 2008
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Cristiano RonaldoÂ’s return set

It has been revealed here that the Manchester UnitedÂ’s winger Cristiano Ronaldo will more than likely be ready for action by the end of September and not later that was previously expected.

Since his ankle surgery in July he has made quick progress and his rehabilitation has gone without any incident. That, according to Ronaldo, is in despite the rumours that he had suffered a setback and will only be ready by November.

The twenty three year old Portuguese winger added in an interview with News Of The World that he was also in very good mental and physical condition and that, at this stage, would be in the line up to face Bolton Wanderers in four weeks time on 27 September 2008.

Sun 31 August, 2008
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Redknapp backs Defoe´s England claims

Harry Redknapp insists Jermain Defoe is in the right shape to perform for England in the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers after his two-goal display fired Portsmouth to a 3-0 win at Everton.

Former Spurs hitman Defoe underlined his claims for a place in Fabio Capello's starting 11 with his impressive performance at Goodison Park on Saturday, which also saw Glen Johnson net for Pompey before keeper David James kept out a Yakubu penalty.

With England boss Capello still searching for the right formula up-front ahead of the September qualifiers against Andorra and Croatia, Pompey manager Redknapp claimed that Defoe has proven his worth.

Redknapp said: “I don't know what Capello will want to do because he has people like Wayne Rooney available as well, but I'd expect to see Jermain in the squad.

“He was really sharp. I've been waiting for him to come good, so it was nice to see him playing well and scoring a couple of goals.

“Both him and Crouchy are claiming the third goal, when Peter headed it in after it bounced down from the crossbar, but I think it was already over the line.

“Jermain was unbelievable when he arrived from Spurs last year and he was on fire, but he missed out on the FA Cup run because he was cup-tied. He is a fantastic little player, though. He can score goals and he has great ability and confidence, but those two goals will be good for him.

“All we need now is for Crouchy to get off the mark and then we can really go forward. Him and Defoe are a 'big un and little un,' so they should work really well as a partnership.”

Portsmouth's win ended a six-game Premier League losing streak and Redknapp admitted it was crucial for his team to get off the mark.

He said: “Our first two games have been so tough. We didn't play well at Chelsea, but they are so strong at home, and then we lost to Manchester United, so it was very important that we didn't go into the international break without a win.

“Against Chelsea, United and Everton last season, we picked up just one point from the same fixtures, so we are already better off than we were last year.”

Everton's defeat, their second at home this season, highlighted their threadbare squad. Manager David Moyes has yet to spend on new players this season, despite adding four new faces in midweek, including the Manchester United striker Louis Saha.

And with the transfer window closing on Monday, Moyes admits that he needs new blood quickly to arrest Everton's slump.

Moyes said: “Saha won't be finalised until Monday now, but I am going to try to get some more players in. We are lacking quality at the moment and we need more players because we aren't ready to win Premier League games at the moment.

“We have Phil Jagielka, a centre-back, playing in midfield and Jack Rodwell who is just 17. James Vaughan is playing up front for us, but he still needs about a month of games in the reserves.

“Those aren't necessarily the ones that are letting us down, though. There are some big players in the team who are not performing as well as they should be.

“It was poor defending on our part today — very basic errors. You always expect Peter Crouch to win his flick-ons, but what I can't take is five players standing around Jermain Defoe when he scores.”

Sun 31 August, 2008
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Barry saga casts shadow over Villa Park clash

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez will lock horns with Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill on Sunday for the first time since the angry fall out over the future of Gareth Barry.

Had things gone to plan for Benitez, he would be taking a Liverpool team that included Barry to face O'Neill at Villa Park.

Instead, after four months of bitter wranglings over the proposed transfer, the England midfielder will line-up for Villa having staged an about-turn and pledged his future to the midlands club for another season.

The public row between Benitez and O'Neill has simmered throughout the close season and the Liverpool manager admits the relationship now appears broken beyond repair.

And while the Spaniard insists his focus now rests solely on the game and his side's attempt to extend their impressive start to the season, there is no doubt the Barry affair provides an intriguing backdrop to the clash.

“Do I have a good relationship with Martin O'Neill? I don't think so,” Benitez said. “But of course I will shake his hand, I am a calm man and I do not have any problems with him about that.

“I had a good relationship with Martin O'Neill before this summer, and I was surprised at what has been said but I insist that I have not spoken to him since April.

“But I do not believe there will be any problem shaking hands, we can do it.”

Barry, who had declared his desire to join Liverpool and compete in the Champions League, will undoubtedly find himself the centre of attention during the game.

The Villa captain was booed by his own fans during the club's pre-season friendlies but insists there is no risk of him experiencing any split loyalties.

“I am 100 percent for Villa,” Barry said. “That's all I'll be doing. That won't be strange at all.

“I've spoken to the manager and I've no problem giving 100 percent for Aston Villa, and that will be starting against Liverpool on Sunday.

“All I can do is give 100 percent for the club. That is all the fans will want to see anyway. I am sure that will be enough.”

Having held onto Barry, O'Neill will hope to inflict a second embarrassment on his opposite number by inflicting a first defeat of the season on Benitez's side while at the same time boosting his own side's indifferent start to the campaign.

While Liverpool have managed to scrape single goal victories against Sunderland and Middlesbrough despite playing poorly, Villa suffered a shock defeat last week at Premier League newcomers Stoke.

The visitors' cause will not be helped by the absence of Steven Gerrard who underwent surgery on a groin problem this week that will keep him out of Engalnd's World Cup qualifiers double-header against Andorra and Croatia.

And the impact of having to play extra time in the midweek Champions League clash with Standard Liege could have an impact on Liverpool's level of fitness.

But Villa have been in Europe too, easing their way past FH Hafnarfjordur in midweek although they will undoubtedly be boosted by the arrival of James Milner from Newcastle this week.

Milner said: “This is a club on the way up and things have got better and better every season since I was last here.

“It's an exciting time to be here. This is a great place to be now.”

Sun 31 August, 2008
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