Bayern´s Beckenbauer drops Rikjaard hint

As the quest to replace Jurgen Klinsmann continues, Bayern Munich president Franz Beckenbauer said Wednesday Dutchman Frank Rijkaard is a possible candidate as future coach of the German giants.

Klinsmann was sacked as Bayern coach on Monday after only ten months in charge following a string of poor results with former Munich trainer Jupp Heynckes taking over as caretaker coach for the remaining five league games.

And the 46-year-old Rijkaard, who won the Champions League crown in 2006 with Barcelona, is without a club having been sacked by the Spaniards at the end of last season.

Brazil’s Luiz Felipe Scolari, Italy’s Roberto Mancini, German Bernd Schuster and Hamburg’s ex-Tottenham coach Martin Jol have also all been touted in the German media as possibilities to coach Bayern next season.

“One solution would be Rijkaard, he doesn’t have a contract at the moment,” admitted Beckenbauer on German broadcaster Premiere.

“It is still a little early to talk about this, but, of course, one must think about possibilities.

“We have to look into who would fit at Bayern and then make our decision.”

Beckenbauer, who has captained and coached Germany to World Cup success, effectively ruled out both Chelsea caretaker coach Guus Hiddink and Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger as possibilities.

“I value him over all others, but he will leave Chelsea to concentrate on the Russian team,” said Beckenbauer about Hiddink.

“He won’t take his place at Bayern.”

And Beckenbauer doubted Wenger would want to leave Arsenal, who he has coached since 1996, having turned the north London club into consistent contenders for the Champions League title.

“Naturally he is an option, but we will not get him,” said Beckenbauer.

“He has developed the side in England and will not want to leave.”

Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has said they expect to name the new coach within the next six weeks.

Wed 29 April, 2009
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Bremen no problem for Jol

Hamburg coach Martin Jol is relishing facing Bundesliga rivals Werder Bremen in Thursday’s UEFA Cup semi-final despite the heartbreak of losing to them on penalties in the German Cup last week.

Goalkeeper Tim Wiese was Bremen’s hero in Hamburg when he broke home fans’ hearts with three consecutive saves in the penalty shoot-out to hand his side a 3-1 victory on spot kicks in the German Cup semi-final.

And with Hamburg fourth in the Bundesliga, while Bremen languish in 10th, Jol is not bothered by last week’s cup defeat at the hands of Bremen or the 2-0 upset at Dortmund in the league last Saturday.

“We have played well in two games against Werder so far this season,” said former Tottenham boss Jol.

“We beat them in the Bundesliga and drew in the German Cup (the game finished 1-1 after extra-time).”

The fact that Hamburg lost on penalties does not concern Jol who is convinced his side can come through both the impending two-legged UEFA Cup matches.

“It is the end of April and we are still near the top of the Bundesliga table.

“Bremen are in tenth place. Should things be the other way round, we would have a problem.”

Bremen are in the German Cup final on May 30 at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium where they will face Bayer Leverkusen, but their cup form has been one of the few things their fans have had to cheer about this season.

And until Hamburg lost the second leg of their quarter-final 2-1 at Manchester City to go through 4-3 on aggregate, Jol’s side had a fine record of five wins in six games, scoring 12 and conceding only three goals.

And both sides know plenty about each other: “We know them and they know us, so there’s nothing new there,” said Jol.

Hamburg are without top scorer Mladen Petric for the trip to Bremen, he had eight stitches removed from the gashed shin he received in last week’s defeat to Bremen, but the Weserstadion tie comes to early for the Croatian.

He will be out for another ten days, but it is hoped he will be fit for the second leg at Hamburg’s HSH Nordbank Arena a week later.

Germany defender Marcell Jansen was also ruled out on Wednesday with a rib injury he picked up in last week’s Bremen game and will not travel with the team.

For Bremen, the only key injury concern is the fitness of captain Frank Baumann who has missed the 3-2 win over Bochum last weekend, but is expected to have shaken off a knock to be fit in time.

Wed 29 April, 2009
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Gerets will leave Marseille

Marseille coach Eric Gerets insists he will leave the club at the end of the season.

Gerets has helped move Marseille to the top of Ligue 1, but has had a poor relationship with club owner Robert Louis-Dreyfus.

The club owner wanted to wait until the summer to offer Gerets a new deal.

“Despite my work, there was a lack of gratitude and most of all a lack of trust,” Gerets.

“If I had been offered a new two-year contract with the same wage or a little bit more before the end of March, I would have signed immediately.

“He (Louis-Dreyfus) would have sent a strong message if he had told me as soon as January he wanted me to stay, while we were fourth in the league.”

[Source: Sky Sports News]

Wed 29 April, 2009
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Elano wants new City deal

Brazilian playmaker Elano admits he is keen on signing a new contract with Manchester City.

Elano joined City from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2007 and after an impressive first season at the club, the midfielder has struggled a bit this season.

“This is the end of my second season with City and if it were up to me I would be sat around a table discussing a contract extension right now,” Elano told the official Manchester City magazine.

“I would love to renew my contract at City and remain here for a long time.

“I love England and I enjoy living in Manchester. I am very happy here.”

[Source: Official Manchester City magazine]

Wed 29 April, 2009
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Webb admits mistake

Referee Howard Webb has admitted he did a mistake when he awarded Manchester United a penalty in their victory over Tottenham on Saturday.

Tottenham had a 2-0 lead but that changed when Webb decided to award United a penalty and the match ended in a 5-2 victory to the Red Devils.

“I’ve looked at it again and I think it was a mistake but we make these decisions honestly,” Webb conceded. “It’s not always easy to see the way the play pans out from pitch level.

“I could see the Manchester United player touch the ball and saw him get clattered by the goalkeeper but didn’t see the extra deviation from the goalkeeper’s fingers touching the ball.

“I’m disappointed as I always strive for perfection. I’ll look at the tape in detail later in the week and try to avoid it happening again in the future.

“I never want to have a negative impact on a game and I get no pleasure from not reaching the high standards we set ourselves. But show me a man who’s never made a mistake and I’ll show you a man who’s done nothing.”

[Source: Sky Sports News]

Wed 29 April, 2009
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Arsenal confident class of 2009 will come of age

Kolo Toure believes the youthful current crop of Arsenal stars can emulate the battle-hardened class of 2006 and book their ticket to this season’s Champions League final.

The Gunners face Manchester United in the first leg of their semi-final at Old Trafford on Wednesday with Toure the only survivor from the ‘Invincibles’ squad that went through the 2003-04 Premier League campaign unbeaten.

That squad, constructed around the French trio of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires, broke up after the 2006 Champions League final defeat by Barcelona but Toure believes the north London club is once again on the verge of something special.

“True we lost Thierry Henry, but Emmanuel Adebayor is playing really well; we lost Robert Pires, but we have Samir Nasri,” the Ivory Coast defender said.

“All those players have been replaced. The good thing about this team is we have a lot of young players who want to show they have the quality.

“I remember that a team like Ajax – nobody was expecting them to win, but they won (in 1995) and had a really young team as well.”

Arsenal will miss the creative edge provided by top-scorer Robin van Persie, who is ruled out by a groin injury, and cup-tied Russian playmaker Andrey Arshavin.

But they will take heart from the fact that they have already beaten United this season (2-1 at the Emirates in November) and by the current form of captain Cesc Fabregas, who has been revelling in the role of a deep-lying forward akin to that in which Steven Gerrard has thrived at Liverpool this season.

The brace Fabregas claimed against Middlesbrough on Sunday were his first goals since October and Toure is confident the Spaniard’s guile, combined with the presence of Adebayor and the pace of Theo Walcott, will pose the holders problems. The key, he believes, will be matching their offensive contribution with equal vigour in defence.

“We know when we play football against Manchester United, they struggle a lot,” Toure argued. “They’re are a really good team going forward, but, like us, at the back they have conceded a few goals.

“We have the same type of team – we both like to play, but sometimes you can be caught out at the back. The team that will win will be the one which defends the best.”

United’s performance against Tottenham at the weekend would not have reassured their fans on that score, although their forwards more than compensation as they turned a 2-0 defict into a 5-2 victory.

The half-time introduction of Carlos Tevez proved critical and the Argentinian forward will hope to have earned a starting slot in a United side that looks certain to see Ryan Giggs make his 800th appearance for the club.

The veteran was rested for the Spurs match and is relishing the prospect of another high-stakes showdown with Arsenal, against whom he scored the goal of his career in the 1999 FA Cup semi-final.

“They don’t come bigger than that – a Champions League semi-final at Old Trafford,” said the newly-crowned players’ Player of the Year. “I can’t wait.

“But I’m more interested in beating Arsenal rather than the 800th appearance. They are things I’ll look back upon when I finish and I’ll be proud. But first and foremost, hopefully I’ll be celebrating with a good result.”

Toure could have former United defender Mikael Silvestre as his centreback partner at Old Trafford but the French defender has only a 50-50 chance of playing against his old club because of a back spasm while the daunting task of containing Cristiano Ronaldo looks set to fall to teenager Kieran Gibbs, as regular left-back Gael Clichy has his own back problem.

“Kieran is intelligent and I think he is going to perform very well on Wednesday,” Toure said. “But it is not only about him, it is about all the players. If we are focused and defend together, then nobody can beat us.”

The performance of United’s left-back, Patrice Evra, could be just as critical. The Frenchman was given a torrid time by Aaron Lennon on Saturday and Arsenal supporters will expect to see Walcott test him in similar fashion.

John O’Shea’s experience should ensure he gets the nod at right-back ahead of Brazilian teenager Rafael.

Wed 29 April, 2009
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Team ´Mine Survivors´ shoots on target in Lebanon

Survivor and footballer Hassan Hourani refused to change his life even though he had a leg amputated after he stepped on a cluster bomb in southern Lebanon.

“My family makes a living from planting tobacco. I was helping my dad harvest the crops in our village when I stepped on a cluster bomb,” Hourani said as his football team trained on a sunny spring afternoon.

“I lost my right leg and hand,” the 19-year-old said, without emotion.

An artificial limb has not stopped him from pursuing his studies or his passion for football. Twice a week, Hourani, a striker, joins 17 other squad members for a gruelling three-hour training session in the port city of Sidon.

Like Hourani, the rest of the team are all cluster bomb and landmine survivors, maimed by ordnance left behind in south Lebanon or other regions during and since the 1975-1990 civil war.

On April 4, International Mines Awareness Day, the Mine Survivors, as the team is called, squared off against Western ambassadors, including Britain’s Mary Frances Guy, Aud Lise Norheim of Norway, and Australian Lyndall Sachs.

The Mine Survivors in their red-and-white shirts won 2-1.

“The football team was set up to help cluster bomb victims reintegrate into society and to put the spotlight on condemning the use of such bombs, which are internationally prohibited,” said Zeina Assi, who heads the Lebanese Welfare Association for the Handicapped.

The association partially funds the team, while Its programme for cluster bomb victims was established by Nabih Berri, Lebanon’s parliament speaker and a native of the south.

The programme itself is funded by the Norwegian embassy, which also provides prosthetic limbs which are especially designed for athletes, said Assi.

“This is a real challenge for these young men who are trying to transform their disability into energy so that they can, one day, prove themselves on international football pitches,” she added.

The programme changed the life of Mahmud Nimir, a 28-year-old farmer.

“After I lost my leg in 1997, I felt lonely all the time and I used to despair,” Nimir said. “Today, I can’t tell you how happy I feel, training like any other young man, and to hear the people in the stands applaud me.”

Team captain Hussein Ghandur, 28, also lost a leg in 1998 but that did not stop him from competing in athletics meetings in Algeria and Morocco in 2000 and bringing home gold medals.

“The Mines Survivor team is the first of its kind in the Middle East,” he proudly told AFP.

Large swathes of south Lebanon, where a majority of the population lives off farming, is riddled with mines and unexploded ordnance left over from decades of violence, Israeli occupation and attacks.

The United Nations estimates that Israel dropped one million cluster bombs in villages and fields in south Lebanon during its 34-day war with the Shiite militant movement Hezbollah in July-August 2006 alone.

Human Rights Watch, however, says Israel rained as many as 4.6 million cluster munitions across southern Lebanon in at least 962 separate air and artillery strikes, most of them over the final three days of that war.

The UN demining organisation says that 40 percent remain unexploded.

About 300 civilians have been killed or maimed by cluster bombs since 2006, according to the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre, with children — who mistake the bomblets for toys — accounting for most of the victims.

In Lebanon, the 2006 war itself killed more than 1,200 people, almost all civilians.

Cluster munitions contain hundreds of tiny bomblets which shower a wide area when they explode. But they do not always explode on impact, making them as deadly as anti-personnel landmines banned by a 1997 UN convention.

Israel also left landmines behind after it withdrew from south Lebanon in May 2000 following a 22-year occupation. It has refused to hand over maps locating the fields despite repeated requests by international groups.

Wed 29 April, 2009
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Guardiola slams Chelsea´s negative, physical tactics

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola reacted angrily at what he saw as the referee’s leniency towards English side Chelsea’s physical approach in their 0-0 Champions League semi-final first leg match.

Chelsea went away with mission accomplished after they stood firm against a barrage from Barcelona at the Camp Nou and become the first side this season in the competition to stop Barca from scoring at home.

As expected Barca took the game to Chelsea and enjoyed the vast majority of the possession but they were unable to find a way through to goal for the first time at home this season in the competition.

Petr Cech made a couple of important blocks from Samuel Eto’o and substitute Alexandr Hleb but too often they were restricted to strikes from distance.

“It is difficult to play against a team which doesn’t want to play football,” stormed 37-year-old Guardiola, who has worked wonders with the side since replacing the sacked Frank Rijkaard for this season.

“It was a game in which Chelsea had five defenders and the ball was always Cech to (Didier) Drogba and then backwards and forwards again.

“The result was fair, though, because neither side scored but there is something wrong when we ended up with the same number of yellow cards as they did and yet they committed 20 fouls compared to seven,” added the former Barcelona and Spain playmaker.

Guardiola, who cleared out stars such as Deco and Ronaldinho last summer, believed that German star Michael Ballack was fortunate to have remained on the pitch.

“Chelsea played very physically and I thought it was scandalous that (Michael) Ballack did not receive a second yellow card for a foul on (Andres) Iniesta on the edge of the area,” said Guardiola.

“That is something you would expect in any normal game during the season and it is these small details which did not go our way which will end up deciding the tie.

“Referees need to take an overall look at games and if that had happened then he would have seen that we were not the team which was fouling and we were looking to play football.

“Anyone looking at the match will know there was only one team looking to attack, we were always looking for a goal but Chelsea are a good side who have been together for a long time and won trophies.

“We now have to go to Stamford Bridge, play the football we always play and try and win.”

The Barca players were similarly forthright with Xavi Hernandez complaining: “so that is what the English call fair play,” while Toure Yaya also hit out at Chelsea’s tackling.

“It was a difficult game and some of their tackles were outrageous while we would just touch a player and there would be a free-kick or a booking. We now have to go there (Stamford Bridge) and get a win, the tie is still not decided,” said Toure, who was one of those booked.

Barca were also dealt a blow with the news that centre-half Rafa Marquez is set to miss the rest of the season after picking up what appears to be a serious knee injury. His replacement Carles Puyol will also be absent from the return leg through suspension after accumulating his third yellow card.

Eto’o, who it has been denied is subject to a 40million pound bid from Manchester City, said that there was hope for Barcelona as playing at home Chelsea will now have to come out and attack.

“We had all the chances,” said the Cameroon marksman.

“I would imagine they won’t be able to play in the second leg like they did tonight by sitting back in their half.

“We will see how they are going to approach it. We will try and score the goal that we need to get us to the final.”

Chelsea coach Guus Hiddink, though, praised the character of his players for the way they stood firm and prevented Barca’s star-studded forward line from scoring.

“This was a good result but the tie is not decided yet and we have another very hard game ahead of us. It was not an easy match to play and we will have to improve in some areas for the next game but overall I am happy as we defended very well,” said Hiddink, who won the what was then the European Cup as coach of PSV Eindhoven in 1988.

“Barca keep the ball very well and so it meant we had to defend a lot but we defended very well and I have to praise (John) Terry for his courage. They put us under a lot of pressure but we never yielded and we managed to neutralise the threat from (Lionel) Messi.”

Chelsea skipper Terry conceded that Barcelona had had the majority of the chances but was delighted to have come away with the draw.

“We stayed very tight at the back,” said Terry, whose missed penalty in last year’s final handed victory to Manchester United.

“It was a fantastic performance and to not concede a goal is delightful. Hopefully going back to the Bridge we can use that to our advantage.”

Wed 29 April, 2009
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Champions League Semi-Final: Barcelona 0-0 Chelsea

Last night saw Chelsea and Barcelona play the first leg of their fourth meeting in the Champions League since 2000. Prior to this tie, Barcelona were ahead of Chelsea by two wins to one.

This game was eagerly awaited as the experienced Guus Hiddink pitted his wits against the inexperienced Pep Guardiola.

Threat

The big fear for Chelsea was whether they would be able to deal with Barcelona’s attacking threat. After conceding four goals at home to Liverpool in the last round, the thought of facing Eto’o, Henry and Messi can hardly have been an appealing one.

Remarkably, the Barcelona trio have scored more goals between them this season than the entire Chelsea team have! Henry has bagged twenty-four, Eto’o thirty-two and the mercurial Lionel Messi, thirty-four.

Suspended

The biggest threat was likely to be Lionel Messi, especially as Chelsea were without the suspended Ashley Cole. Chelsea coach Guus Hiddink was confident that Jose Bosingwa could keep the Barcelona winger quiet.

“I have full confidence Bosingwa can do the job on Tuesday. We have some more options, but if he is doing well he can do the job.”

Hiddink was very well aware of the threat Barcelona posed to his side,

“If you go to a double man-marking system and focus too much on that you forget there are other big players that can do the damage. A lot of teams have shown that it is very difficult to stop them. The front line is world class, Henry has class and experience and Samuel Eto’o I had as a young player at Real Madrid when he was 17. At that time he was already impressive and then he got titles and experience.”

Despite the genuine threat that Barcelona possess, Hiddink insisted that Chelsea would also be looking to attack,

“Both teams have the style to attack when they can. Chelsea is not a team with a strategy to sit back and wait until something happens. The team is showing a lot of initiative. It is more or less an open clash between two teams who like to go forward.”

This was not a ‘one-way appreciation society’ and Guardiola was also very well aware of the threat posed by Chelsea,

“I am very impressed with Chelsea, they are a powerful team and a lot stronger than us, so we must keep hold of the ball and make the difference at home. Our intention is to play our usual style which means attacking while at the same time making sure that we do not concede a goal. I saw in Chelsea’s game against Liverpool the danger they pose in the air especially from Drogba and so we have to be careful to concede as few free-kicks and corners as possible. Chelsea have more to their game though than just power and if you let them play then they can create a lot of danger with footballers who can run 20 or 30 yards with a ball and we just have to be aware of that. We have played other teams though that have a similar approach to Chelsea so we do know what to expect.”

So, were the two managers right to be concerned about the other?

Well, you may wonder why so much of this article is dedicated to what people thought was going to happen. The reason is that when the game finally took place after all the build up, nothing actually happened.

Nasty looking knee injury for Marquez, booking and suspension for Puyol. Great chances for Henry, Bojan and Hleb for Barcelona and Ballack and Drogba for Chelsea. Barcelona attacked a lot and Chelsea defended a lot. There you go, that’s a full report of the proceedings!

One team

Watching a game where only one team is trying to win is never particularly enjoyable. Whatever Hiddink said before the game, his side were definitely not in the game at all as an attacking side, although arguably the two best chances did fall to them.

Whatever we all say about the brilliance of Barcelona, their pretty football rarely looked particularly threatening.

Disappointment

All in all this game was a major disappointment and whilst the second leg is beautifully poised with neither team having much of an advantage, for two of the best teams in the world, this was a turgid affair.

I just hope that Manchester United and Arsenal can produce something more entertaining tonight.

Wed 29 April, 2009
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Webb holds his hands up over United penalty

Top English referee Howard Webb conceded on Tuesday he had been wrong to award English Premier League leaders Manchester United a crucial penalty against Spurs last Saturday.

Spurs were leading 2-0 at the time when Webb – who only last week was appointed referee for May’s FA Cup final – pointed to the spot after judging Spurs ‘keeper Heurelho Gomes to have fouled Michael Carrick.

That proved to be the turning point as Spurs folded completely to end up on the wrong end of a 5-2 defeat.

“I’ve looked at it again and I think it was a mistake but we make these decisions honestly,” said the 37-year-old, who last year received death threats from Polish fans for awarding Euro 2008 co-hosts Austria a late penalty in their group game which they converted to force a 1-1 draw.

“It’s not always easy to see the way the play pans out from pitch level,” he told the BBC.

“I could see the Manchester United player touch the ball and saw him get clattered by the goalkeeper but didn’t see the extra deviation from the goalkeeper’s fingers touching the ball.

“I’m disappointed as I always strive for perfection. I’ll look at the tape in detail later in the week and try to avoid it happening again in the future.

“I never want to have a negative impact on a game and I get no pleasure from not reaching the high standards we set ourselves.

“But show me a man who’s never made a mistake and I’ll show you a man who’s done nothing.”

Webb admitted in January he had experienced the lowest moment of his career when during the Birmingham Wolves FA Cup third round tie he inadvertently deflected a pass by Birmingham’s Radhi Jaidi to Wolves striker Andy Keogh which led to Sam Vokes scoring – Wolves won the match 2-0.

“You want the world to swallow you up at that moment,” he said at the time.

Wed 29 April, 2009
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