Ramsey undergoes surgery after horror leg break

Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey has undergone surgery after breaking his right leg in two places in his side’s 3-1 Premier League victory at Stoke, the club announced on Sunday.

The 19-year-old Wales international was stretchered off after being fouled by Stoke centre-back Ryan Shawcross in the second half of the game on Saturday. Shawcross was promptly sent off and left the field in tears.

“During yesterday?s match against Stoke City, Aaron Ramsey sustained fractures to the tibia and fibula in his right leg. Yesterday evening he underwent surgery,” read a statement on the Arsenal website.

“The operation successfully reduced the fractures and whilst it is too soon to state an exact timescale for recovery, Aaron will certainly miss the remainder of this season.

“Our thoughts are with Aaron at this time and everyone at the club wishes him all the best in making as speedy a return to action as possible.”

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who saw Croatian striker Eduardo sustain a similar injury in a game at Birmingham in February 2008, said Shawcross’s tackle was “not acceptable”.

But Shawcross was robustly defended by both his coach Tony Pulis and his team-mates and later released a statement expressing his sympathy.

“There was absolutely no malice in the challenge,” said the 22-year-old former Manchester United trainee, who received his first call-up to the England squad for next week’s friendly with Egypt shortly after the game.

“I would never go out to hurt a fellow professional. I am deeply upset that Aaron has suffered such a bad injury and my thoughts are with him.

“I would like to send him my best wishes too for a speedy recovery.”

Ramsey, who joined Arsenal from Cardiff City in June 2008, has been withdrawn from the Wales squad to face Sweden in a friendly game in Swansea on Wednesday.

He had made 29 appearances for Arsenal in all competitions this season, scoring four goals.

Sun 28 February, 2010
RSS Feed

France coach worried by successor appointment

France coach Raymond Domenech said on Sunday that the decision to name his successor prior to this summer’s World Cup could have a disruptive effect on his team.

“Everything that comes from outside can disrupt, undermine and create weaknesses that could prove harmful during a long competition,” he told French TV station TF1.

“For one match, no, but for one month, with substitutes who won’t play or who will only play a bit, it could be complicated and it could create tension. But I’ve got nothing to say about it, I’ll deal with it when it happens.”

The World Cup begins on June 11, with the final to take place on July 11.

France, who only qualified after beating the Republic of Ireland in the European zone play-offs, have been drawn in a group alongside Mexico, Uruguay and the hosts, South Africa.

The president of the French Football Federation, Jean-Pierre Escalettes, has announced that France’s next coach will be named in late April or May.

Some members of the France squad, including Arsenal centre-back William Gallas and Chelsea midfielder Florent Malouda, have already expressed reservations about the decision to name Domenech’s successor before the start of the World Cup.

Domenech has proved a divisive figure during his time at the helm of the French national team since his appointment in 2004.

He led Les Bleus to a surprise runners-up finish at the 2006 World Cup, having persuaded iconic midfielder Zinedine Zidane to cut short his international retirement, but oversaw a disappointing group-stage exit at Euro 2008.

Sun 28 February, 2010
RSS Feed

Ferguson: Owen may start ahead of Rooney

(GSM) – Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson may start Michael Owen in this afternoon’s Carling Cup final ahead of Wayne Rooney. Ferguson also said he believes it is not too late for the striker to force his way into Fabio Capello’s World Cup plans.

Ferguson is happy with Owen after the England striker came on as a substitute for Manchester United in midweek and scored a goal against West Ham.

“He has done well here, he has been a success,” Ferguson says. “He’s a great professional, he’s never missed a training session, his performances in training have been very good, and I think he has improved as a footballer in his time here.

“His general knowledge of the game is better, so is his linking play, and for the first time in his career he is getting used to coming on as a sub. I think he’s enjoying being a part of it here and he’ll definitely be here next season because I have absolutely no intention of letting him go. The only problem Owen has got at the moment is Wayne Rooney. We’re getting incredible performances from Rooney at the moment, and Michael has come here at a time when another striker, and sometimes the only one we use, is on the rise.”

Ferguson wants to change a few faces of his team in order to field fresh legs in United’s Champions League clash against Milan.

“The Carling Cup final selection will be a little bit trickier because I’m going to have to make two or three changes. Wembley is a tiring pitch – it’s a tiring occasion, actually. And you have to think there’s a possibility of extra time. I’m looking at Owen as a possible change. He took his goal against West Ham well, timing his run between defenders. If you watch it again you’ll notice that he stops and goes again to make sure he stays onside. It was a typical Owen goal, and the more he shows he can still do that the more chance he has got of joining up with England again. I know that’s at the back of his mind.” said the Red Devils’ boss

Owen has stated on various occasions that representing England at the World Cup is his priority and Ferguson understands that it has been hard for the striker as he has not been playing regularly. However, Ferguson still thinks Owen has the time to prove his credentials and go to South Africa with Capello’s England squad.

“It’s going to be difficult for Fabio to pick him when he’s not been playing regularly, I understand that completely,” Ferguson says. “I was hoping he would get more regular games so that he could put his England credentials right in front of Fabio, though it hasn’t worked out that way. But there’s still three months of the season left and you would still think that a player of his ability has it in him to grasp a chance.

“Getting used to playing as sub may be an advantage in the long term. Even though he’s not figuring a lot for us, he’s still the one player you would want on your bench if you need to make a change with 15 minutes to go in a World Cup quarter-final. That has to be in your thinking. It’s going to be difficult for him to get to South Africa I know, it’s a big ask to pick a player who is not playing, but I don’t need to tell Fabio how to do his job. He’s an experienced manager who knows what he wants and he knows what striking options are available.”

Sun 28 February, 2010
RSS Feed

Abbiati: Milan will win Scudetto

(GSM) – Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati believes Milan will eventually overtake Serie A leaders Inter. Abbiati told Tuttosport his side are ready to claim their 18th Scudetto.

The Rossoneri are four points behind their city rivals after their midweek win at Fiorentina. The Italian ‘keeper is convinced Milan can win the Scudetto this season.

“I’m sure Milan will win the Scudetto,” he said

“This season reminds me of that which led to the title we won in 1999 with [Alberto] Zaccheroni as our boss.”

Milan won the Serie A ahead of Lazio in 1998-99 although they were seven points behind the Biancocelesti in March and Abbiati feels that history is repeating itself this season.

Sun 28 February, 2010
RSS Feed

O’Neill not thinking of United post

(GSM) – Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill says he has never thought of succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson as Manchester United manager. O’Neill, along with a host of other managers, has been linked with the United job when the 68-year-old Scot steps down.

Papers have spoken about possible candidates for the Old Trafford hot-seat with Jose Mourinho and Steve Bruce among the names mentioned to take. However, O’Neill says he has never thought of the idea becoming United manager.

O’Neill said, “I’ve never thought about that at all, not for one second, not even way back when I was at Celtic.

“I think Sir Alex will decide, and I would think in about the year 2033 when he thinks to himself, ‘yeah, I think that Champions League has gone past me for the final time’, then I will have departed this earth long before him – because I’ve got a lot more worries.

“It’s never really bothered me. And of course there’s always somebody coming up, somebody whose name is relevant at the time.”

O’Neill, who celebrates his 58th birthday on Monday, says that anyone who replaces Ferguson would have a very tough job.

He added: “For anybody it would be absolutely an impossible job to succeed him. What can you do? Win the Premier League 10 times? You’d still be just starting out against him.

“I know Brian Clough went to Leeds and said he could win it better but he only lasted 44 days and to be honest, it wasn’t his most inspiring moment.”

Interestingly, O’Neill’s Aston Villa meet Manchester United at Wembley on Sunday in the Carling Cup final.

Sun 28 February, 2010
RSS Feed

Pompey boss has a point to prove

Avram Grant blasted the English Premier League for docking nine points from beleaguered Portsmouth and vowed to carry on fighting to keep the club alive.

The Pompey boss said he had spent his entire life battling for justice and was therefore fuming about the south coast club’s impending points deduction for entering administration.

The Israeli said he had no idea if he was still being paid to manage the top flight’s bottom side but pledged to fight on regardless.

“Football should be decided on the pitch. Not in the courts, not in the Premier League offices, but on the pitch,” Grant insisted.

“Of course we should not be docked nine points. All my life I have been fighting for justice and in the interests of fair play, we need football to be decided on the field.”

Portsmouth’s administrator Andrew Andronikou has pledged to cut costs to the bone, leaving few people feeling safe in their jobs.

“I cannot promise anything, other than as long as I am here then I will fight for the city and the club because it’s the right thing to do,” insisted Grant.

“If I was going to walk away I would have done it in January when everything that should have happened didn’t and then things became even worse.

“So I will try to help this club and city as much as I can.”

Asked whether he was still being paid, the former Chelsea boss replied: “To be honest, I don’t know”.

“I’m a football manager and I want to deal with football problems, I don’t want to deal with other problems,” Grant said.

“Of course I could never have predicted what has happened, not even in my dreams.

“I thought we had a position on the pitch we could handle, that we could do something.

“But then I started to doubt the situation when 100 percent of the things I was promised didn’t come, and then it became worse and worse and then administration.

“Now I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, never mind next season.”

Portsmouth put their administration woes on hold on Saturday with a 2-1 win over Burnley in a relegation clash at Turf Moor between the English Premier League’s bottom two sides.

The visitors, a day after becoming the first Premier League side to plunge into administration, earned their second away win in the league in 16 months.

However, the victory hardly eased rock-bottom Pompey’s relegation fears. They are five points from safety — but effectively 14 once the deduction comes in.

French striker Frederic Piquionne – on loan from French giants Lyon – put Pompey ahead in the 25th minute.

Burnley equalised six minutes later when Northern Ireland striker Martin Paterson lobbed England goalkeeper David James with an impressive chip.

Clarets captain Clarke Carlisle then gave away two penalties.

Portsmouth midfielder Jamie O’Hara missed the first in the 56th minute but French midfielder Hassan Yebda scored his effort in the 76th to give Pompey victory.

Portuguese international defender Ricardo Rocha was sent off in injury time, his second red card in two appearances.

Burnley manager Brian Laws vented his frustration over the defeat.

“We have shot ourselves in the foot. We gave two really poor penalties away and the second one in particular was inexplicable,” he said.

“To give Portsmouth the three points is devastating. The captain has to hold his hands up and take the blame for that. He’s absolutely devastated but there’s no hiding place.”

Sun 28 February, 2010
RSS Feed

Carling Cup final – Aston Villa v Manchester United

O'Neill and Ferguson

O'Neill and Ferguson

This afternoon sees the first English domestic final as Aston Villa and Manchester United take to the field at Wembley in the Carling Cup final. The game between two of the best teams in the country should provide a worthy spectacle.

Injury

Villa have had some illness and injury concerns but they seem to be fading. Stiliyan Petrov has recovered from a virus and Emile Heskey and James Collins should also be fit to start.

United will be without Anderson, who is unlikely to play again this season and Rio Ferdinand who has suffered a recurrence of his back problem. Nani is suspended and Ryan Giggs is still missing.

Holders

United go into the game as the Carling Cup holders and they will be confident of retaining the trophy against a team who haven’t won anything for fourteen years. In the last twenty-six games between the two teams United have lost only once. That fact may be frightening to Villa, but the fact that the one victory came at Old Trafford as recently as December, will mean that Villa will not lack self belief.

Villa have won the various versions of the Carling Cup on five occasions. They won it in 1961 when it was contested for the first time and now appear in the fiftieth final. Their last win, however, was fourteen years ago when they beat Leeds and they have never before been to the new Wembley.

Contrast

In total contrast to that, United have been to the new Wembley seven times and in the fourteen years since Villa won a major trophy, United have won fifteen! On the positive side for Villa, United have failed to win any of their seven games at the new Wembley without needing penalty kicks to do so.

Sir Alex Ferguson had used fringe players and youth players in the early rounds of the competition but he brought in the ‘big guns’ for the semi-final against Manchester City. He will certainly go with a strong team today as he will be keen to add to his trophy haul.

Strong

Aston Villa have played fairly strong sides throughout the tournament but reserve keeper Brad Guzan may be unlucky to be replaced by Brad Friedel after playing in every other round.

Both sides have exciting attacking players with Manchester United looking to Wayne Rooney to continue his great season. He is in the form of his life and will be very keen to show what he can do on the biggest stage.

Talent

Villa have exciting English talent too with the likes of Gabby Agbonlahor, Ashley Young and James Milner. The pace with which they attack and the great delivery they have from set plays will undoubtedly give United plenty of problems.

The great strength of Manchester United, however, is to soak up any pressure applied by the opposition and then hit them with quick and direct counter attacking play. They will hope that Villa do come at them but I suspect that Villa will also sit back and look to hit United on the counter.

Experience

If that happens, one of the two sides will have to take the game by the scruff of the neck and I fully expect that to be Manchester United who will try to take full advantage of their greater experience of playing in such important matches.

Very often these types of games are something of a disappointment but I have a feeling that this one might be quite entertaining.

SoccerNews prediction: Villa 1-2 United

Sun 28 February, 2010
RSS Feed

Petrov determined to avoid re-run of final nightmares

Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov believes his team can ambush Manchester United’s plans to successfully defend a major cup for the first time when the two clubs meet in Sunday’s League Cup final.

The Bulgarian midfielder thinks team-mates like Gabriel Agbonlahor, Ashley Young and James Milner are ready to come of age while he himself is desperate to eradicate the painful memory of a 2003 UEFA Cup final defeat to Porto during his time at Celtic.

Now reunited with the then-Celtic boss Martin O’Neill at Villa, Petrov is determined to lead Villa to what would be their first major trophy since they won this competition in 1996.

“It’ll be the biggest day of my club career,” Petrov said.

“It’s a massive game for this club, for the players, for the fans and I hope at the end of it we can all be happy.

“We don’t just want to be passengers there, just to go and enjoy it, without winning it. We will put up a massive fight and we will do our best to win it.

“The only way you enjoy it is by winning. I have been there with Celtic and I know how it is when you lose. When I lost in Seville, people said to me ‘at least you went and enjoyed it’. That just wasn’t the case.

“To be honest, I was still having bad dreams about it nights afterwards.”

The key to Sunday’s final could be the battle between Wayne Rooney and Villa centre-back Richard Dunne, both of whom have adapted to significant changes in their personal circumstances with superb seasons for their respective employers.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure for Real Madrid has resulted in Rooney being recast as an out-and-out striker and he has responded with 27 goals, while Dunne’s superb form has embarrassed Manchester City for having allowed him to leave for Villa.

Villa defender Stephen Warnock believes Rooney has, this season, joined Lionel Messi and Ronaldo on a level that puts them above every other player on the planet.

But he has faith in the ability of Dunne and his fellow centre-back James Collins to keep him under lock and key.

“You could argue all night about who is the best out of him, Messi and Ronaldo but Rooney is one of those players you want to watch,” Warnock said.

“He has got all the ability in the world. I’ve been lucky to train with him with England and realise how good he is.

“Richard and James have got a tough task ahead of them — but Rooney will find it tough to do much against those two as well.

“They are two of the best defenders in the league on form and have been fantastic all season.”

At the other end, the pace and trickery of Agbonlahor and Young could test the resilience of a United defence that will definitely be without Rio Ferdinand and may also be missing Nemanja Vidic.

It was Agbonlahor who scored the winner when the sides met in the league at Old Trafford in December.

United are also without influential veteran Ryan Giggs, who is recovering from a broken arm, and Brazilian midfielder Anderson, who has been ruled out until next season after rupturing the cruciate ligament in his knee.

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson admitted he was torn between naming his strongest available side and keeping faith with the younger group of players who performed well up to the semi-final win over local rivals Manchester City.

“I’m thinking about the younger ones to give them that smell (of success),” Ferguson said.

“There are two or three that come into that category, like Darron Gibson, Jonny Evans and Rafael. They obviously have to be considered. But it would be nice to win the cup having got to Wembley and got through those semi-final ties against City. You want to get to the final and do well.”

Ferguson also has a dilemma over who to play in goal, with Ben Foster, the hero of last season’s penalty shootout win over Tottenham, having impressed in the mid-week win over West Ham after coming in for the rested Edwin van der Sar.

Sun 28 February, 2010
RSS Feed

Virus-hit Spurs seek to further fourth-place credentials

Tottenham have been in contention for a top four finish all season but on Friday were given an unwanted reminder of the last time they were on course for Champions League qualification and fell agonisingly short at the final hurdle.

In May 2006 they had to do better than local rivals Arsenal on the final day to finish fourth but lost against West Ham after a virus swept through the squad and had to settle for UEFA Cup football instead.

It was a similar scenario this week, with at least two first team players complaining of sickness and all those affected being banned from the club’s Essex training base for 48 hours ahead of Sunday’s home game with Everton.

Manager Harry Redknapp confirmed that defender Vedrun Corluka, the Croatia international, and Honduras midfielder Wilson Palacios had been affected by the bug, although neither has yet been ruled out of the lunchtime fixture.

“We have had a virus problem at the training ground and we’ve closed it down,” he said.

“We are going to train there but everything else is off limits – the offices and the cafeteria. There will be no food or anything.

“We had a few down with it the other day – Corluka had the virus and Palacios was not feeling great with it either – and it has swept through the Academy. There is about 18 who work there or the kids who have all got it so the doctor decided we couldn’t use it.

“It hasn’t disrupted us, we are still training as normal and hopefully no-one else gets it but there have been so many other people who have gone down with it. It is certainly spreading.”

Tottenham are currently in fourth place having beaten Wigan in the Premier League last weekend and also knocked Bolton out of the FA Cup in midweek, with Russia international Roman Pavlyuchenko scoring twice in both games.

Everton were beaten 3-0 at Sporting Lisbon on Thursday to drop out of the Europa League but have begun to enjoy life in the Premier League once more.

Key players have been returning from lengthy injury lay-offs, with Manchester United and Chelsea beaten in the last two games and only one defeat – the 1-0 loss to Liverpool – recorded since the end of November.

Indeed, victory at White Hart Lane would put Everton five points behind Tottenham with a game in hand.

“It wasn’t long ago that we were third or fourth off bottom,” manager David Moyes reflected.

“We will try to get as high as we can, but we’re coming from a long way behind. We’ve got some big games coming up – it’s Tottenham next – and we’ll just try to keep moving up the table.”

Everton striker Louis Saha will be the visitors’ main goal threat and the former Manchester United forward has been called up to the France squad for the first time since 2006 after his 15 goals put him in contention for a World Cup place.

Sun 28 February, 2010
RSS Feed

Skrtel blow hits Liverpool hard

Liverpool’s hopes of continuing their assault on a fourth-placed finish at the expense of Blackburn Rovers at Anfield on Sunday have suffered a huge setback with the news that Martin Skrtel has suffered a broken foot and could miss the remainder of the season.

Skrtel broke a metatarsal in his right foot during his side’s midweek Europa League victory in Romania when scans revealed the news Benitez must have been dreading.

The setback has not only taken the shine off Liverpool’s progress in Europe, but come at a time when Benitez’s side are enjoying their best and most successful form of what has been an otherwise difficult campaign.

Liverpool have lost just one of their last nine games in all competitions to ensure they have kept pace with Manchester City and Tottenham in the battle to secure that coveted fourth place finish in the Premier League.

Now Benitez and his players must re-group once again in the wake of Skrtel’s absence and find a way to put the disappointment behind them when Blackburn visit Merseyside looking to cause an upset by securing a rare away win.

The challenge is nothing new to Liverpool, who have found themselves on quite a roller coaster ride since August and Benitez is convinced his players can keep winning the games put in front of them, not least because Fernando Torres is back to full fitness once again following a hamstring injury.

Glen Johnson has returned to full training following a knee operation but the game will come too soon for the England defender.

Benitez said: “We were really disappointed after the game because it was a good result (in Europe) but then we had the bad news about Martin.

“He’s had x-rays and they confirmed he has a broken metatarsal. We have to check over the next couple of days how long it will take to recover.

“Glen is doing well. He is training with the team. I was watching him and he was quite sharp, but Sunday will be too soon.

“We have got to try and keep winning games, doing our best and you never know – we might be able to win the trophy. We know it has not been a good season, but all teams go through periods like we have.

“You just have to carry on, keep working hard and move forward. This is a different and difficult situation but we have to manage and the attitude of the players has been fantastic. It was great to see the way they reacted to going out of the Champions League.”

Blackburn have won just one league game on their travels this season and nothing would give Sam Allardyce more pleasure than to secure another one at the home of one of his bitterest rivals in Benitez.

The duo have endured a frosty relationship ever since Allardyce was in charge at Bolton and Allardyce believes it is only a matter of time before his side claim a win on their travels.

Allardyce, who will be without injured captain Ryan Nelsen but welcomes back Chris Samba from suspension, said: “It is not so much about cracking the away form as cracking the results. I think the form has been good on occasions.

“We have had some disasters like Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal away where we have been dreadful and I remember them vividly.

“But some of the performances were really well worthy of the victories we were looking for. Unfortunately the longer it goes on the harder it is to clinch.

“Anfield is a major venue and a big place to try to get a win, but we will try our best. We are in good form and have got a lot of confidence in the place at the moment.

“If we are technically and tactically right, and there is perhaps a little fatigue from Liverpool, we may come away with something.”

Sun 28 February, 2010
RSS Feed