Gignac can’t wait for Marseille clash

Toulouse forward Andre-Pierre Gignac admits his side’s clash with Marseille on Saturday will be a “special” affair for him.

Gignac was born in Martigues, a town close to Marseille, so the game carries an extra significance for the 23-year-old.

“It’s always been a special match for me,” he told France Football.

“All my friends and family will be there, and the Velodrome has a strange magic.”

Although Marseille are fifth in Ligue 1 and Toulouse lie 11th, Gignac is in confident mood.

“Last season I scored a double [in Marseille] and I also scored the winning goal for Lorient three years ago,” he said.

“I have never lost against OM – and I don’t think I will this weekend.”

Gignac has scored just twice in 10 games this season, although he has been troubled by a groin injury.

“We are taking preventative measures and are doing everything for this little annoyance to disappear permanently,” he said.

“It’s on track. Not so long ago I even had trouble walking. Now I have no pain – not when I walk or when I run or when I strike the ball.”

Toulouse will be looking to extend their two-game winning streak after victories at home to Paris St Germain and at Lens.

Marseille return to Ligue 1 action after their previous game with PSG was cancelled because of swine flu.

Rival fans were injured in clashes in Marseille on Sunday after the game was postponed thanks to an outbreak of the virus at the capital club.

Marseille coach Didier Deschamps is happy with the decision to rearrange the game for November 20.

“Early January was totally rejected because I have four players involved in the African Cup of Nations,” he told reporters.

“Then there was Sunday, November 22, but that was out of the question because it was three days before a decisive match in Milan.

“Then came the proposal for Friday 20. That date allows us to have all our players available.”

Sat 31 Oct, 2009
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Mancini and Inter come to 8m-euro settlement

Inter Milan have finally come to a settlement with former coach Roberto Mancini, the club said on Saturday.

Mancini was sacked by Inter in May 2008, when he was replaced by Portuguese Jose Mourinho, despite having led Inter to three titles in a row.

However, as is often the case in Italy, the sacked coach remained on the club’s payroll as they attempted to avoid coughing up a huge pay-off.

Had Macini found alternative employment in the meantime, he would have had to quit his contract at Inter in order to take up a new coaching position.

However, now the two parties have come to a deal rumoured to be worth eight million euros that liberates Mancini to seek a new club.

“F.C. Internazionale has reached a mutual agreement with Roberto Mancini for the resloution of his sporting contract,” said a brief Inter statement on their website.

According to Italian press reports, Mancini has been paid eight million euros to severe ties with Inter on a contrat worth 14 million euros that had more than two years still to run.

He is now expected to be in the running to replace Manuel Pallegrini as Real Madrid boss, should the under pressure Chilean be ousted from the Bernabeu hot-seat.

Mancini won three Serie A crowns in his four seasons at the San Siro, ending a painful 18-year wait for the scudetto in the blue half of Milan.

But the first of those only came after both Juventus and AC Milan were punished for match-fixing and it was widely felt that Inter won the title more by default than through their own merit.

Those punishments, that saw the previously dominant Juventus relegated to Serie B and lose many of their star players and ushered in a period of decline for Milan, changed the power-structure in Serie A with Inter emerging as the only ‘big club’ over the subsequent couple of years with only cash-strapped AS Roma capable of putting up a fight with Inter on the field.

Despite three titles in a row Mancini paid for his failure to take Inter into the latter stages of the Champions League.

Sat 31 Oct, 2009
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Trapattoni names squad to face France

Giovanni Trapattoni has left both Steven Reid and Andy Reid out of the Republic of Ireland squad for the World Cup play-off with France next month.

While, Sunderland winger Andy Reid has been repeatedly omitted from the Italian’s squad, despite his rejuvenated club form, Steven Reid is the surprise exclusion after his return from fitness.

Earlier this month, Trapattoni questioned the Blackburn midfielder’s ability to recover from his long-term injury problems, prompting an angry reaction from Rovers boss Sam Allardyce.

However, Reid went some way to proving his fitness by playing 70 minutes in the 5-2 win over Peterborough on Tuesday, getting his name on the scoresheet via the penalty spot in the process.

The performance was not enough to win over Republic boss Trapattoni, however, and Reid joins his namesake Andy, Steve Finnan and Clinton Morrison as the big-name exclusions from the 25-man squad.

After an unbeaten Group 8 qualifying campaign, Republic begin the two-legged play-off at Croke Park on 14th November with the return meeting at the Stade de France four days later.

Trapattoni has persistently picked the same set of players for his qualifiers where possible and has once again rejected the chance to bring fresh options into the squad.

He said: “We performed strongly throughout the qualifying group stages.

“We were undefeated in all 10 games and this is a reflection of how we have played and also the mental strength of this team.

“France have a strong squad but we go into this play-off knowing that we are only 180 minutes away from qualifying for the World Cup.”

Full Squad:

Goalkeepers: Shay Given (Man City), Kieren Westwood (Coventry), Joe Murphy (Scunthorpe)

Defenders: John O’Shea (Man Utd), Richard Dunne (Aston Villa), Stephen Kelly (Fulham), Kevin Kilbane (Hull), Eddie Nolan (Preston), Sean St Ledger (Preston, on loan at Middlesbrough) Paul McShane (Hull), Darren O’Dea (Celtic, on loan at Reading)

Midfielders: Aiden McGeady (Celtic), Damien Duff (Fulham), Darron Gibson (Man Utd), Glenn Whelan (Stoke), Keith Andrews (Blackburn), Liam Miller (Hibernian), Stephen Hunt (Hull), Andy Keogh (Wolverhampton), Liam Lawrence (Stoke)

Strikers: Kevin Doyle (Wolverhampton), Robbie Keane (Tottenham), Shane Long (Reading), Leon Best (Coventry), Anthony Stokes (Hibernian)

Sat 31 Oct, 2009
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“Redknapp is the right man for the Spurs but they still don’t pose a serious threat” – Arsene Wenge

Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger was all praises for Harry Redknapp but refuses all claims that Tottenham are ready to overtake their rivals in the Premier League.

Wenger claims that Tottenham will continue to improve with Redknapp at the helm.

“Have Tottenham found the right man to lead them? Yes, I think so,” says Wenger, as quoted by the Press Association.

“He has shown through his experience and his intelligence that he can do it.

“Stability is an important part in success in football but it’s not easy to manage because no chairman would tell you the opposite.

“Every chairman wants stability so it’s not easy to manage if you look at the Premier League there are not many managers that stay there a long time so that means it’s not easy to achieve.”

However, he totally disapproves Captain Robbie Keane’s claim of Tottenham being ready to take over the Gunners.

“I don’t share that opinion. How do you measure the dimension of a club? Or success exactly.”

“So if you look at success historically, they have a lot of work to do. We have been 12 consecutive years in the Champions League so once they have done that they can say, of course, that they are similar,” Wenger tells Mirror Football.

“They have the potential, the supporters, they are a big club. But what comes next is the consistency of achievement. At the moment nobody would deny that Arsenal is in front of them.”

Gunner’s coach agrees that the Spurs are determined but he insist his side will maintain their victory and overhaul them.

“Tottenham are a big club, they invest massive money every year, why should they not be a threat? But we have always managed to get in front of them.”

Tottenham have not finished ahead of Arsenal in the Premier League since Wenger took over and have not beaten Arsenal in the Premier League in 10 years.

Sat 31 Oct, 2009
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“Inexperienced Arsenal won’t win the Premier League ” – Redknapp

Tottenham coach Harry Redknapp belives the Gunners cannot stand up to the experience of Chelsea or Manchester United and will fail in the Premier League title race.

The Spurs coach has wound up the Arsenal camp ahead of Saturday’s derby clash at the Emirates stating they lack experience and hope to replace them in the Premier League table.
“I think Arsenal are potential winners but personally I don’t think they will win it, that’s only my opinion,” says Redknapp.

”I’m not writing them off, they’ve got a good chance. But I think the winners will come from Chelsea or Manchester United. That’s how I see it personally, I’ve been wrong a million times before, I could well be wrong but I see those two.”

Redknapp believes the Wenger’s players are still not competent enough of facing Chelsea or United.

“They’re not an experienced team; it’s still a young team, a fantastic young team,” he added.

“Chelsea and Man United, they have the players who have been there and done it all. They were a part of the full course in the championship race and that’s where I think the winners will come from. And Liverpool, I’m not writing them off but I do fancy one of the two.”

Spurs last beat Arsenal in the league ten years ago back in November 1999. They also drew both league games against each other last season, the first being the infamous 4-4 draw back in October.

With key players Aaron Lennon, Luka Modric and Jermain Defoe missing for the trip to the Emirates, Redknapp will be calling on Peter Crouch and ex-Arsenal midfielderDavid Bentley to come into the side and cause problems against a Gunners defence which has leaked 13 goals in nine games this season.

Sat 31 Oct, 2009
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McLeish entertained by derby rivals

Alex McLeish admits he has been entertained by the verbal battle between Sunday’s opponents Manchester City and Manchester United this season.

But he believes big-spending City still have work to do in their attempt to eventually overhaul the Red Devils as the number one team in Manchester given the pedigree of Sir Alex Ferguson’s side over many years.

McLeish, who played under Ferguson when he was in charge at Aberdeen, said: “City and United like to wind each other up and it has been quite entertaining to read the situation in the press.

“City had a dig at United with the Carlos Tevez poster and Sir Alex has responded. It is all part of this wonderful, crazy game of football.”

McLeish is not sure City can usurp United’s position as number one in Manchester.

“You had better ask Mark Hughes that but United have a pedigree of being champions and City are trying to get close to the feeling United have,” he said.

“The proof of the pudding will be if City win something.”

McLeish also feels there should be respect on both sides after recent incidents involving fans and players, two of them resulting in City duo Craig Bellamy and Emmanuel Adebayor hitting the headlines.

The former Scotland boss said: “The players can get dog’s abuse and the minute a player reacts he is getting into trouble, not only with the footballing authorities but also the police.

“When I was at Rangers, before every game with Celtic we always got a letter reminding the players about their behaviour.

“There should be a bit of respect on both sides. The banter is all part of the game but, when it comes to filthy abuse it can become difficult for an individual.

“Some individuals have to show their emotions. Adebayor did it and apologised. Bellamy did it and he apologised. But they are big characters.”

McLeish accepts the mentality of some people wanting big-spending City to fail is part and parcel of football.

He said: “I know what football is like. I’ve got a hard enough job myself without thinking about Manchester City.

“I know there is jealousy out there – not just for Manchester City but even for me. Some people want to see me fail. Some people are right behind me. It is just part and parcel of football.

“The little guy wants to see the big guy fail and Mark Hughes will be aware of that talk going on and will probably use it as a weapon for his advantage.”

McLeish is working closely with City’s new assistant chairman of football Sammy Yu in trying to bring new players to Birmingham in the January transfer window.

He said: “I have got to forge a close relationship with Sammy and so far that is working pretty well.

“We are looking at a lot of different players and now we have to produce a short list of people we definitely want to bring to the club.

“That is not something that will happen in a couple of days. But if it is a player that can enhance the team, we will try and get them to the club.”

Birmingham left-back Gregory Vignal is back in contention to face City after overcoming a hamstring problem.

But he may have to be content with a place amongst the substitutes given the impressive form of Liam Ridgewell who has been converted from a central defender into the full-back role.

Winger Keith Fahey is again doubtful because of an ankle problem.

Sat 31 Oct, 2009
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The derby capital of the world

Buenos Aires DerbyThe capital city of top flight derbies is not London, Madrid or Milan. The international capital of the derby match is the birthplace of one of the greatest footballers ever, Buenos Aires. Current Argentina manager Diego Maradona was born in Buenos Aires and the city is close to his heart.

The Argentine capital currently contains 13 clubs in the Argentinian top flight. Considering the league has 20 teams that’s amazing. There can be up to three derbies a weekend, which in most cases are fiercely contested affair.

The most fierecest rivalry

The most fiercest of rivalries is that of working class Boca Juniors and Millionarios of River Plate. Both clubs got their names from the dock area of Boca, where they started out in the early 1900’s

River got their name from packing boxes and Boca got their kit colours from a Swedish national flag  on the side of a ship. The derby between the two giants is called the Superclassico. However the derby between River and Boca isn’t the only big derby in the city.

Racing club and Indepediente were founded around the same time as the two other giants of the Argentinian game. The two sides stadiums are just 200 yards apart. The Avellaneda is the second biggest derby in the city. There is also the Clasico del Barrio which is the derby between Huracan and San Lorenzo.

Amazing record

The top five clubs in the city River Plate, Boca Juniors, San Lorenzo, Racing Club and Independiente between them won every championship till 1967, when the league was restructured. River and Boca have dominated the top flight in recent years. However this season they are struggling in the current Torneo Apertura. Boca are in 9th and River are 13th. Although Buenos Aires based Banfield, San Lorenzo, Velez Sarsfield and Independiente are all still in with a chance of topping the league.

Passionate fans

The rivalries in Buenos Aires sometimes explode in to violence. Like other derbies in the world the passions run high on derby day. The Superclassico has been listed by the Observer in the fifty sporting events you must do before you die.

The derby is made famous by the intense support shown by both sets of supporters and some say its the biggest derby game in the world. The old fashioned stadiums El Monumental of River Plate and La Bombonera of Boca only add to the atmosphere. The two grounds have also been used for Argentinian national matches.

Famous players

Lots of famous names have graced these derbies over the years. The great Diego Maradona has appeared for his lifelong club Boca Juniors and another Argentine legend Daniel Passarella captained River in hard fought encounters. In more recent years the likes of former Argentianian internationals Ariel Ortega and Hernan Crespo have helped River to victories.

Is the Superclasico the biggest derby in the world?

There are many big derbies all over the world. There’s big competition from the Manchester derby, Merseyside derby and the London derbies in England and Milan derby in Italy and then there’s many more big derbies around the world. However I think the people of Buenos Aires may just have the best claim for the loudest and most colourful derby in the world but biggest derby in the world you decide for yourself.

Sat 31 Oct, 2009
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Allardyce backs physical challenges

Blackburn Rovers manager Sam Allardyce has warned that efforts to clamp down on the physical side of English football could prove disastrous.

Tackling has been under the spotlight again in recent weeks after Birmingham defender Liam Ridgewell’s controversial challenge on Theo Walcott, which left the Arsenal and England winger with a knee injury that is likely to keep him out of action for a month.

Although match official Lee Probert did not award a free-kick at the time, former referee Dermot Gallagher has since suggested that such robust challenges are “outlawed” and have no place in the modern game.

But Allardyce, whose team play Manchester United at Old Trafford on Saturday evening, believes that tough tackling is a vital ingredient in the success of the Premier League.

“This is a physical contact game and fans love the commitment,” Allardyce said.

“You take that commitment away and you haven’t got a product. If you don’t have a product, you don’t have the money that you have got, you don’t have the worldwide recognition – you will destroy the game.

“(That is) irrespective of what other managers might say. The big managers will say, yes, let’s outlaw it, because they don’t want their big stars tackled, but it is a big part of the game – the fans love it, the whole of the world loves it.

“I’m a bit passionate about it, because it has become a game for pansies to be honest with you.”

Allardyce dismissed Gallagher’s comments as “nonsense”, arguing that a player should never give anything but 100% commitment when tackling.

“When I see Dermot Gallagher justifying that Ridgewell’s tackle against Theo Walcott should be outlawed, then I want the Football Association and the referees to justify to me how Ridgewell can tackle without making contact,” Allardyce said.

“Does he put a 60% challenge in? Does he put a 25% challenge in so it’s not quite as fierce? No – its absolute nonsense, what he (Gallagher) is talking about.

“If you go for a tackle, you go for a tackle. The tackle takes the ball and your impetus takes you through the player.

“There’s nothing you can do about that. You can’t start asking a player to be weighing up what pace he is running at or whether he should slow down before he does it. It’s a complete nonsense.”

Allardyce will be looking for a battling performance this evening from his Blackburn team, who go into the match having not picked up a point for nine consecutive away fixtures in the league.

“It’s about the mentality of the players and we have to have the same desire to compete against the opposition away from home as we do at home,” Allardyce said.

“We just seem to stand off the opposition, whereas at home, we are all over them like a rash.

“That’s what you need away perhaps even more than at home. It is a big concern for me, the staff and the players.

Sat 31 Oct, 2009
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Ronaldo wants Rooney at Bernabeu

Real Madrid winger Cristiano Ronaldo believes his former Manchester United team-mate Wayne Rooney should follow him to the Santiago Bernabéu.

Ronaldo, who left Old Trafford in the summer for a record £80million fee to complete a dream move to the Spanish giants, has impressed with Madrid scoring nine goals in seven games before suffering an ankle injury which has kept him on the sidelines for the past month.

And while he admits Rooney is unlikely to leave England any time soon, the Portuguese winger believes the 24-year-old would fit in at the Bernabeu.

“Wayne would be a sensation out here. I think we could do with Rooney to help us out,” Ronaldo told The Sun.

“He would be brilliant if he came. This is the ideal place for the world’s best players and there’s little doubt he is one of them.

“Wayne has all the skill and determination you need to make a fine career here.

“He has shown just how good he is over the last few years in England.

“And there’s no doubt he would be the same sort of player in Spain. It would be lovely to see him here one day at Real Madrid.

“I realise it would take a lot for him to move from England.

“He loves the country, he loves Manchester and he is a Liverpool boy. And United is a good club for him. But you never know what could happen in the future.”

Sat 31 Oct, 2009
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No spitting rule in Romania amid swine flu fears

The Romanian Football League on Saturday called on players not to spit pitchside amid fears of potentially spreading swine flu.

“Following information linked to the spread of the H1N1 virus the League is recommending that officials of top flight clubs ask players and technical staff no longer to spit on the grass nor expel water used to rinse out their mouths,” the statement said.

“We suggest that coaches unable to desist (from spitting) wear a protective medical mask,” the League went on, adding, with a hint of irony, that they could also use a sealable receptacle for expelled saliva.

The League statement came at the end of a week which saw Romanian health authorities order the first school closure in the country after discovering 20 cases of swine flu among pupils in the northeastern town of Iasi.

More than 400 swine flu cases have been registered in Romania, none fatal.

Swine flu has become an increasing concern in football with last week’s French first division clash between Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille postponed after three Parisian players were diagnosed with the ailment.

Saturday’s second division French rugby match between Lyon OU and Tarbes was also called off after five Tarbes players were diagnosed as showing symptoms. Top flight side Castres had two matches postponed earlier in the season.

Spanish second division team Real Betis requested on Thursday that its game Sunday be postponed after 13 players became sick with the virus, which has also hit English Premier League sides Blackburn Rovers and Bolton.

However, UEFA said on Friday that European matches would go ahead as scheduled as long as clubs had sufficient fit players, barring any major logistical problem for local authorities.

The body made the statement ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League match between Dynamo Kiev and Inter Milan in the Ukrainian capital.

Ukraine had earlier confirmed its first swine flu deaths, prompting Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to order schools and cinemas closed and ban public gatherings for three weeks to contain the spread of the virus.

Sat 31 Oct, 2009
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