Scots hopeful on McManus as Burley mulls keeper

Scotland boss George Burley will make last-minute decisions on whether to draft Celtic captain Stephen McManus and Sunderland goalkeeper Craig Gordon into his starting XI for Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier against Iceland.

McManus missed the 3-0 defeat by Holland in Amsterdam on Saturday with an ankle injury and his absence from his usual centreback slot was felt as the Dutch scored their first two goals from crosses.

Those goals also put the spotlight on Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor’s performance and increased the chances of a recall for Gordon, who had been Scotland’s first choice until last week.

Burley said he could not be sure that McManus would be ready to come in for Wolves defender Christophe Berra.

“Stephen’s trained for the last two days,” the manager reported. “He had a slight reaction after yesterday but he’s trained again today and he’s a lot happier with it.”

The manager added: “Christophe Berra did very well in Amsterdam, but Stephen’s a great competitor, experienced at international level, so I’ll be speaking to him and then deciding tomorrow.”

Burley refused to be drawn on his goalkeeping dilemma. “I’ve got to make decisions about every position in the team and that will be told to the players tomorrow.”

Tottenham right-back Alan Hutton, who came off the bench in Amsterdam, is certain to start his first match for either club or country in five months after Burnley defender Graham Alexander was ruled out with a hamstring problem.

“I said before the Dutch game I was surprised how Alan’s fitness levels had come on,” Burley said. “But he has done a lot of work, he’s trained well and came on and did well against Holland, so he’s into consideration.

“Unfortunately, Graham Alexander was feeling his hamstring today, so I think we can rule him out for tomorrow’s game.”

With Holland running away with group nine, Scotland are involved in a four-way battle with Iceland, Norway and Macedonia for second place and the chance to qualify for the finals in South Africa next year via the play-offs.

Burley’s side have already beaten the Icelanders away.

Tue 31 March, 2009
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France draft Mavuba for injured Diaby

France on Tuesday drafted Rio Mavuba of Lille to replace Arsenal midfielder Abou Diaby, who withdrew with a hip problem ahead of Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania at Stade de France.

France are out to do the double over the Baltic side after their 1-0 win in Kaunus last Saturday to smooth their path to South Africa 2010.

A win will see Raymond Domenech’s side can leapfrog the over-achieving 52nd ranked team in the world and move into second place in Group Seven.

That would set up Les Bleus nicely for their September encounter with group leaders Serbia, who are on 12 points compared to France’s seven with the 1998 winners and 2006 finalists enjoying a game in hand.

The absence of Diaby is a headache for Domenech, already missing Jeremy Toulalan as the Lyon midfielder is suspended after picking up his second yellow card in Kaunas following the one he received in last October’s 2-2 draw with Romania.

As well as the inexperienced Mavuba, France could also call on Bordeaux’s Alou Diarra to work alongside Lassana Diarra with Toulalan unavailable.

Mavuba has won six caps but last appeared two years ago in a friendly win over Austria.

Revised France squad

Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Lyon), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Cedric Carrasso (Toulouse)

Defenders: Gael Clichy (Arsenal/ENG), Rod Fanni (Rennes), William Gallas (Arsenal/ENG), Philippe Mexes (Roma/ITA), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal/ENG), Sebastien Squillaci (Sevilla/ESP), Patrice Evra (Manchester United/ENG), Adil Rami (Lille)

Midfielders: Alou Diarra (Bordeaux), Lassana Diarra (Real Madrid/ESP), Yoann Gourcuff (Bordeaux), Samir Nasri (Arsenal/ENG), Jeremy Toulalan (Lyon), Rio Mavuba (Lille), Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich/GER)

Forwards: Guillaume Hoarau (PSG), Karim Benzema (Lyon), Jimmy Briand (Rennes), Thierry Henry (Barcelona/ESP), Andre-Pierre Gignac (Toulouse)

Tue 31 March, 2009
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Bent blow for England

England’s attacking options for Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier against Ukraine looked set to be further reduced after Darren Bent limped out of training on the eve of the match.

Tottenham forward Bent had been a late call-up to the squad after Emile Heskey and Carlton Cole suffered injuries in Saturday’s 4-0 friendly win over Slovakia.

But his involvement with the national squad lasted only a few minutes before he was forced to head for the treatment room.

There was better news for head coach Fabio Capello on the fitness of Rio Ferdinand, who appeared to be training normally after missing the Slovakia match with a back strain.

Shaun Wright-Phillips, who missed Saturday’s game with an ankle injury, was also able to train, as was Peter Crouch, who was substituted as a precaution late on in the Slovakia match.

With four stright wins in group six, England will be in a very strong position to reach next year’s finals in South Africa if they can beat Ukraine, the only team they have yet to face.

Tue 31 March, 2009
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Samba urges Givet to stay

Blackburn Rovers ace Chris Samba has urged Gael Givet to turn his loan spell at the club into a permanent deal.

Givet is currently on loan from French giants Marseille.

“Gael has been very good since coming here,” Samba told the Lancashire Evening Telegraph. “It does take time to settle into The Premier League but Gael has done it very quickly, quicker than anyone expected.

“It feels like he is part of the club already and I think he has played very well for us. He is a good defender.

“The supporters do like him and I think they would like him to sign for Blackburn. I also think Gael would love to sign but first of all we all have to concentrate on staying up.”

[Source: Lancashire Evening Telegraph]

Tue 31 March, 2009
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Panucci could sign new Roma deal

Christian Panucci’s agent Fabio Parisi has admitted the 35-year-old defender could still extend his contract with Roma.

Panucci was frozen out of the side at one time this season after refusing the role of a substitute in a game against Napoli.

“It’s too early to talk about Panucci’s future,” agent Fabio Parisi told RomaGiallorossa.com.

“I can’t rule out anything at the moment. We have not agreed terms with other clubs, even though the player could do it since he will become a free agent.

“And I can’t rule out an extension with Roma. Everything is fine now and it showed during the last match when Panucci wore the captain’s armband.

“We’ll see at the end of the season. I don’t think his decision will be dependent on the Giallorossi qualifying for the Champions League.”

[Source: RomaGiallorossa.com]

Tue 31 March, 2009
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Leonardo could become AC Milan coach

Former Brazilian world champion Leonardo has refused to rule out replacing Carlo Ancelotti as head coach at AC Milan.

Leonardo is currently sporting director with the Rossoneri, but has hinted he would be interested in a new role at the club.

“Coaching Milan? Anything is possible,” Leonardo told the Corriere dello Sport.

“My relationship with the club is extraordinary and I am very satisfied with what I do.

“I believe that anything is possible, bit decisions have to be taken with calm.

“Today, Carlo Ancelotti is the one who manages and I have an excellent relationship with him.

“But I have no idea of what the future holds [...].”

[Source: Corriere dello Sport]

Tue 31 March, 2009
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Beckham the best paid among footballers

France Football has compiled a list of the highest earners in football today and David Beckham, currently on loan at AC Milan from the LA Galaxy, tops the list. The England star is joined by club-mates Kaka and Ronaldinho.

Meanwhile, Barcelona’s Lionel Messi comes in second place and Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo is also included. Three English internationals in Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard, and John Terry round out the top ten.

1. David Beckham (Milan): € 32.4 million
2. Lionel Messi (Barcelona): 28.6 million
3. Ronaldinho (Milan): 19.6 million
4. Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United): 18.3 million
5. Thierry Henry (Barcelona): 17 million
6. Kaka (Milan): 15.1 million
7. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Inter): 14 million
8. Wayne Rooney (Manchester United): 13.5 million
9. Frank Lampard (Chelsea): 13 million
10. John Terry (Chelsea): 11.7 million

Tue 31 March, 2009
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Herta to buy Voronin if they reach a CL place

Hertha Berlin have let it be known that an agreement is in place that will see Liverpool loanee Andriy Voronin join them on a permanent basis – but only if Champions League football is assured for next term.

Hertha president Werner Gegenbauer told SID, “We cannot go through with a transfer unless we have extra funds from the Champions League, so it depends on whether or not we qualify”.

“We can give and receive no promise, but we have to wait and see what happens at the end of the season.”

Tue 31 March, 2009
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Armenia sack coach Poulsen

The Armenian football federation announced on Tuesday their decision to sack national manager Jan Poulsen after a 2-2 home draw with Estonia in the 2010 World Cup qualifying match.

The 63-year-old Poulsen took over Armenia’s national side in January 2009, but in the qualifiers to date, his side have suffered four defeats and just the one draw against Estonia.

Tue 31 March, 2009
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Shevchenko targets at least a draw at Wembley

Andriy Shevchenko believes he still has the sharpness and bite in front of goal to discomfort England at Wembley despite failing to reignite his career back at Milan after his desperate two-year spell in the Premier League with Chelsea.

“I don’t think the lack of playing practice has ever had an influence on my game in the national team,” said Shevchenko, who has 39 goals from 85 appearances for Ukraine. “Hopefully, this time will be the same. Someone told me about the 40th goal, but getting a good result in the game against England is more important than my own statistics. A successful result in this match will give us a good chance to qualify for the World Cup for a second time”.

Tue 31 March, 2009
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