Standard lose to Charleroi

Standard de Liege could well end the week in third place following a surprising 1-2 defeat by Charleroi Sport Club on Friday.

Standard began the day in shared first place with Club Brugge, who did have a slightly better goal record.

Yajour put Charleroi in the lead on 33 minutes but Nicaise equalised shortly before the interval. Charleroi would take the points though, with a dramatic 89th-minute winner from Habibou.

Standard risk being surpassed by Anderlecht, who face Germinal Beerschot on Sunday. Leaders Brugge host KV Kortrijk a day earlier.

Fri 31 October, 2008
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Leverkusen beat Wolfsburg to take lead

Bayer Leverkusen have taken the lead in the Bundesliga, at least temporarily, with a 2-0 win over VfL Wolfsburg on Friday.

Leverkusen were the dominant side throughout the game as Wolfsburg focused on defense, and the home side got their reward through Swiss Tranquilo Barnetta in the 56th minute.

And another nine minutes later, Bayer got a second as Kießling headed home from a Barnetta corner kick.

As a result, Bayer are the new leaders in the Bundesliga but might lose their top spot again when Hoffenheim host Karlsruhe on Saturday.

Fri 31 October, 2008
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UEFA reduces Atletico ban to one-match without fans

European football's governing body UEFA has reduced Atletico Madrid's two-match stadium ban to just one-match played behind closed doors, the Spanish first division club said on Friday.

Atletico will therefore have to play their next Champions League home match — against PSV Eindhoven on November 26 — without any spectators in their Vicente Calderon stadium.

The punishment comes after misbehaviour by fans during their October 1 Champions League fixture against Marseille.

However Atletico coach Javier Aguirre will have to purge a two-match ban himself and the club must pay a fine of 150,000 euros.

Fri 31 October, 2008
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Maradona to go on European scouting trip

New Argentina coach Diego Maradona will set off on a European scouting tour this weekend, an Argentinian football federation source said Friday.

The former Barcelona and Napoli star will return to the countries he played his club football in, as well as heading to Germany, to assess the Argentinian players there.

Maradona makes his managerial debut in a friendly against Scotland in Glasgow on November 19, followed by a match with France in Marseille next February.

On Thursday, the new coach told a press conference: “I am travelling to England on Saturday to watch (Carlos) Tevez and (Javier) Mascherano play. And in Scotland I am going to make my coaching debut.”

Mascherano's club boss, Liverpool's Rafael Benitez, on Friday welcomed Maradona's plans to come to England, saying he would roll out the red carpet.

“Diego will be very welcome to come to our training ground next week, and to see the match. Maybe I can persuade him to take a few free-kicks!”

Maradona was confirmed as the new coach on Monday to replace Alfio Basile, who resigned after a World Cup qualifying defeat to Chile left them trailing group leaders Paraguay.

Fri 31 October, 2008
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Ballack remains as Germany captain: Loew

Chelsea star Michael Ballack will remain as Germany captain despite his criticism of Joachim Loew, the national coach Loew announced.

Ballack had flown from London to Frankfurt on Thursday to apologise directly to Loew for a newspaper interview last week in which he said the coach should show his senior players more loyalty and respect after veteran midfielder Torsten Frings was dropped.

Ballack, 32, apologised last weekend in a press release, but Loew insisted the Chelsea midfielder fly to the German Football Federation (DFB) offices in Frankfurt to meet face-to-face on Thursday and explain his comments.

Munich newspaper Abendzeitung claimed on Thursday that Ballack was set to resign as Germany captain, but remain in the team with Bayern Munich defender Philipp Lahm taking over as captain.

“Michael Ballack will remain as captain,” Loew said however on Friday after the German football fraternity had been waiting eagerly for a decision since much earlier in the day.

It seemed Loew had wanted to take his time on making this important decision for a team which under-performed at Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland during the summer.

“Even a captain has to respect the rules,” added Loew. “He (Ballack) knows he can discuss an internal situation at any time. But all the sporting and selection decisions will in the final analysis be taken by our team of coaches and I made that known to Michael without the slightest trace of ambiguity.”

Ballack, who has played 89 times for Germany, said: “I understand that it was not appropriate for me to express myself in public and I am sorry that that gave the impression that I wanted to criticise Loew in his role as coach. I told him I was sorry.”

Ballack, who was named captain by former coach Jurgen Klinsmann in August 2004 to succeed keeper Oliver Kahn, had already said he was sorry last week but Loew still wanted a meeting with him before taking a decision on his future.

Many football observers apparently believed Loew had little choice but to keep Ballack in his role as skipper.

Legendary German player Franz Beckenbauer summed up that feeling by saying: “Ballack is the best player we have at the moment, the only one of real world class. He has become a really good captain these last few years. A coach cannot do without such a player.”

With less than two years to go to the World Cup in South Africa, Ballack is seen generally as a key figure in their attempt to regain the glory days of their 1990 World Cup victory.

Germany's next match is a November 19 friendly against England in Berlin.

Fri 31 October, 2008
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Mourinho sidelines ´unprofessional´ Adriano

Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho has sidelined Brazilian striker Adriano ahead of the Serie A match away to Reggina because of a lack of professionalism.

The Italian media recently reported that Mourinho was angry with Adriano staying out socialising following last Sunday's disappointing 0-0 draw with Genoa.

The next morning the troubled Brazilian, who returned to Brazil last season to reboost his physique and his morale, is reported to have turned up late for training.

Mourinho subsequently left Adriano out of the team which drew 0-0 with Fiorentina on Wednesday, and on Friday the former Chelsea boss said he would not tolerate any player's unprofessional approach.

“In the last few months if there's someone who has tried to take care of him, not only as a coach but also as a colleague, it's definitely me,” Mourinho said Friday.

“But there comes a time, especially when you are in charge of a group of 29 players, that you can no longer afford to give someone special treatment or more liberties than any of the others.

“In my opinion, the principle of the group is fundamental. The players have to know that.”

During last Sunday's scoreless draw with Genoa, Adriano, 26, was conspicuous by his anonymity as a striker.

Mourinho added: “If someone were to ask me if I had a use for Adriano in our match tomorrow, I would say yes, but for me respecting the rules of being a professional is more important.”

This latest setback for Adriano comes only weeks after he said Mourinho, who took over at Inter at the start of the season, had given him back the joy of playing football.

Fri 31 October, 2008
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´Senile´ Ferguson cool over Calderon ´hot air´

Sir Alex Ferguson's dispute with Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon escalated on Friday as the Manchester United manager responded to the latest insult to come from Spain.

Calderon used a Madrid-based newspaper sympathetic to his club to describe Ferguson as “senile”, after the United manager referred to Real's historic links with former Spanish dictator Franco.

Relations between what are, arguably, the two biggest football clubs in the world have been strained in the wake of Real's summer pursuit of United winger Cristiano Ronaldo.

And while Ferguson claimed he did not want to become embroiled in a war of words with his bitter rival on Friday, he could not resist a short, sharp response.

“He has a few strange things to say every week,” said Ferguson of Calderon.

“There is a lot of hot air comes out of that man and I'm not going to get involved in it.

“I think he is very disappointed not to get Ronaldo and I'm delighted to say he is still here. I'll keep saying that.”

Ferguson had kinder words, however, for another international football figure as he responded to reports that Diego Maradona is expected in Manchester – possibly as early as Saturday when United take on Hull City in the Premiership – to check on the form of United forward Carlos Tevez.

Maradona, Argentina's national team coach in waiting, is reportedly eager to check on Tevez's form at the first available opportunity and he is assured a warm welcome from Ferguson.

“We have had no application for the game from the Argentine FA and Carlos hasn't heard anything,” said Ferguson.

“But I think he will be an inspirational figure to the team. He is bringing in (Carlos) Bilardo as his assistant and the experience of Bilardo will be good for Maradona.

“Listening to Tevez talk, all the players are delighted, Carlos is over the moon that Maradona is on board so it can work.”

United's Wayne Rooney has also found himself in the spotlight this week and the centre of controversy after kissing the badge on his United shirt in response to abuse from Everton fans in last weekend's draw at Goodison Park.

Rooney had been cautioned by referee Alan Wiley for a challenge on Mikel Arteta and was immediately substituted by Ferguson who was fearful he would be sent off.

Ferguson, however, has not forgiven Wiley for his handling off the matter.

“What damage did he do? The booking itself was the most ridiculous booking.

“I read about Alan Wiley phoning David Moyes to apologise for the penalty kick he disallowed in the Everton game against Stoke. When you see that booking, you would think he would be on the phone to apologise for it.

“It put us under pressure because one tackle from Wayne – and the boy does tackle, he's a committed player – and he would have been sent off. The crowd would have got at the referee and it would have been difficult for him.”

Fri 31 October, 2008
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Scolari targets revenge over Keane

Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari has warned Sunderland boss Roy Keane that he will be out for revenge at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Scolari is still haunted by the painful memory of Keane’s winning goal for Manchester United against his Palmeiras team in the World Club Championship in Tokyo in 1999.

The Brazilian was desperate for a first victory in the annual clash between the champions of Europe and South America, but Keane left him empty-handed and now he has a chance to make amends when the Black Cats visit west London this weekend.

“Keane was a fantastic player but he killed me one time when Manchester United played against Palmeiras in Tokyo,” Scolari said.

“I remember this very well. (Ryan) Giggs crossed and Keane scored the goal at the far post. It is in my mind. Maybe on Saturday I have a chance to win a game against Keane.”

Although Scolari is determined to make Keane pay for that defeat in Japan, he is a firm admirer of his counterpart’s managerial skills and expects him to be a thorn in his side on Saturday.

“He worked with many coaches and they gave good lessons for him. He is intelligent and has a good future,” Scolari said.

“It will be the same as the other clubs. They will come here and be tight at the back. They will make many counter-attacks and they have good players for this.

“We might have only three or four opportunities maximum and if we don’t get one goal it will be difficult.”

After the disappointment of losing their 86-match unbeaten run at Stamford Bridge against Liverpool last weekend, Chelsea bounced back with an emphatic win at Hull in midweek.

Scolari has studied the number of points amassed by Manchester United and Chelsea during their title triumphs over the last five seasons and believes his side are on course to meet the total required to be kings of English football.

Scolari won’t divulge the target but he admitted Chelsea’s tally of 23 points from their first 10 matches is just one point short of his desired total at this stage.

“I’m happy because we played seven or eight games very well. In my opinion we are only one point different from what I thought we would have,” Scolari said.

“I thought we would have 24 and we have 23 but I am happy with my players because they try to do their best in every game.

“I have the statistics of the last five championships in England. I have a number of points and I follow this because it is my first time in England. I know the number and the players know the number.”

Chelsea trail leaders Liverpool by three points but Scolari has warned Anfield boss Rafa Benitez that it won’t be a two-horse race for the title.

“I don’t think it’s just us and Liverpool. Manchester United, Arsenal, Aston Villa (will be involved),” he said.

“Villa are only three points behind us. After 30 games we will see but before no. One day we lost two points, then another club will lose two points.”

Scolari is boosted by Didier Drogba’s return to the squad after a month out with a knee injury.

The Ivory Coast striker is likely to be on the bench, while Joe Cole should be fit despite limping off at Hull.

Ricardo Carvalho is sidelined for a month after suffering a hamstring injury against the Tigers.

Fri 31 October, 2008
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Inter: out Adriano e Cruz

Nell’Inter che deve ritrovare la vittoria domani sera a Reggio Calabria non ci sara’ ancora Adriano, tenuto in ‘castigo’ da Mourinho. ”Adriano ovviamente sarebbe importante – afferma il tecnico – ma piu’ importante ancora e’ il rispetto per il gruppo e per la societa”. Niente da fare anche per Cruz: l’argentino si e’ allenato a parte per risentimento muscolare, e la sua mancata convocazione e’ dovuta, almeno ufficialmente, a indisponibilita’.

Fri 31 October, 2008
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Benitez backs Maradona to make good

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is relishing the prospect of new Argentina boss Diego Maradona’s visit to England next week.

Maradona is due in the UK from Sunday to meet Liverpool’s Javier Masherano and Manchester United’s Carlos Tevez and may take in Liverpool’s home Champions League tie with Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.

Benitez said: “I talked to Mascherano about Maradona’s appointment, he is delighted. And I have also spoken with the Argentina federation, and everything is okay for Diego to come to Liverpool.

“Everybody will have the chance to talk, and to discuss the future for Javier and the national team.”

Benitez believes Maradona was the right choice to lead the Argentine national team.

“Nobody can every doubt the quality of Maradona as a player, but I think he will do well as a manager.

“He will find that it is different as a manager, but he has a technical director with plenty of experience and they are trying to bring in some ex-players who have experience as managers to help him.

“That sort of staff around him will make it easier, he will have plenty of help and it will be a very interesting situation.”

He added: “I know when Javier was told about the appointment he was excited, and very pleased.

“I do not know whether Maradona will be here for the Madrid game, but I suppose it is possible. There are several good Argentinians in their squad for him to see.

“Diego will be very welcome to come to our training ground next week, and to see the match. Maybe I can persuade him to take a few free-kicks!”

Benitez is a huge fan of Maradona, who also attended Liverpool’s famous Champions League final victory over AC Milan in Istanbul in 2005.

Benitez said: “We are about the same age, he had a great impact on me as a player. I watched him when he was at Napoli and Barcelona. He was absolutely amazing in Naples.

“You talk to the people there and they tell you he is `God’ which just underlines what everybody knows, he was a fantastic player. “I think it is an exciting appointment. If he has the right people around him it will be really good for Argentina.”

Fri 31 October, 2008
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