I don´t like Italian football, says Mourinho

Jose Mourinho sparked speculation about his future on Tuesday on the eve of his side Inter Milan’s Champions League quarter-final clash with CSKA Moscow by declaring he was unhappy with Italian football.

The charismatic but unpredictable Portuguese coach, who previously managed English Premier League giants Chelsea and guided Porto to the 2004 Champions League trophy, told Sky Sports that he did not like Italian football.

“It is a simple situation, I am very happy” said the 47-year-old, who is in his second season with Inter.

“I am happy at Inter, but unhappy with Italian football.

“I always speak with my heart but if I spoke with my heart now about Serie A I would be suspended.”

Mourinho, who has not enamoured himself with the Italian football authorities earning himself four touchline bans, made it clear why he was unhappy.

“Because I do not like it (Italian football) and because they don’t like me.”

Mourinho – who earlier on Tuesday had held his first press conference with the Italian media for six weeks – has made it no secret he would love a return to English football which he left when sacked by Chelsea in 2007 after a successful three year spell there.

Tue 30 March, 2010
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Star striker Wayne Rooney injured

With just over two months until the World Cup, England’s star striker Wayne Rooney sustained an ankle injury on Tuesday at the end of Manchester United’s Champions League clash with Bayern Munich.

Rooney, one of the world’s top players this season with a stunning 34 goals for United, hobbled off from the Allianz Arena in Munich following a clash with German international striker Mario Gomez.

The injury is not just bad news for England, but also for club side United who face title challengers Chelsea in the Premier League on Saturday.

The injury capped a disappointing evening for United, who led for long periods of their Champions League quarter-final first leg before being stunned by two late goals from the German giants.

Rooney sustained an injury a few months before the previous World Cup in 2006, and, while he played, he had a disappointing tournament.

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said: “He’s got a kick in the ankle, we’ll just have to see tomorrow (Wednesday). Let’s hope it’s not too serious. He may be doubtful for Saturday. It’s too early to say.

“He’s being treated by our medics at the moment. We’ll see what it’s like tomorrow.”

Tue 30 March, 2010
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Wenger won´t change Arsenal style for Barca clash

Arsene Wenger insists Arsenal will stick to their purist principles when they take on Barcelona in Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final first leg.

Reigning champions Barcelona are well established as the most eye-catching team in Europe after Lionel Messi, Xavi, Thierry Henry and company produced a series of dazzling displays en route to the treble last season.

Even teams with the quality of Chelsea and Manchester United opted for a cautious gameplan when they met Pep Guardiola’s side in the Champions League.

But those attempts to subdue the Catalans’ attacking instincts ended in failure and Arsenal manager Wenger believes changing tactics would be a mistake because his players function best when they are allowed to express themselves.

“The best way target is to first win the game. Is the ugly way the best way to win? That is where you have to convince me,” Wenger said.

“I believe the most efficient way is to play good football and not to kick the ball in the stand, because there is no goal there, the goal is on the pitch.

“We will try to play the way we are used to – you cannot change that from one match to the next, but we do want to be efficient with our game.

Wenger acknowledges that Barca possess some of the finest players in the world, but he insists Arsenal can shock the pundits who make the Spanish champions favourites to go through to the semi-finals.

“If we produce the best performance we can we can beat any side in the world,” Wenger said.

“I don’t deny their quality. They have an exceptional team but I think that we are an exceptional team as well and the form of the day, the desire, the belief, how much we play for each other will make the difference.

“We have of course to cancel their strengths but they will have the same problem. So it is how much we believe in our strengths that can make the difference on the day.”

Even playing the first leg at home doesn’t faze Wenger, who claims Arsenal will have established a significant advantage if they avoid conceding an away goal at the Emirates Stadium.

“I am not too bothered (about playing the first leg at home) because statistically it doesn’t have a big meaning when you look at the teams who qualify. I just believe you need 180 minutes at the top level against a team like Barcelona,” Wenger said.

“And of course you want at home to keep a cleansheet. The weight of an away goal in the European Cup is enormous. So for us to have a good defensive performance and a team of that offensive power will be important.”

One of the most intriguing sub-plots of the tie is Thierry Henry’s first return to Arsenal since the French forward left for Barca in 2007.

Henry is still worshipped by Arsenal’s fans following his eight-year spell in north London and Wenger will be happy for him to be given a warm welcome – as long as the players don’t follow suit once the match starts.

“He is still a threat because he is an exceptional talent and a ery intelligent talent as well,” Wenger said.

“We are happy to see him back at the Emirates and he will get the warm welcome that he deserves and when the game starts it will be a quarter-final of the Champions League where we will give everything to beat him.”

After losing to Barca in the 2006 Champions League final, Arsenal have plenty of motivation to cause an upset and Wenger can’t wait to pit his wits against such world-class opposition.

“The last time we played against Barcelona was in the final and it was a one off. This time certainly the tactics will have a bigger part to play,” Wenger added.

Tue 30 March, 2010
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Last-minute Bayern stun United in Champions League

Bayern Munich scored a goal in time added on by Ivica Olic to stun Manchester United 2-1 in their Champions League quarter-final first leg on Tuesday, in a match with shades of their famous clash in 1999.

The match was eagerly anticipated as a re-run of the famous thrilling Champions League final in 1999 when two dramatic goals right at the end of the game took the trophy to Old Trafford in a devastating blow to the Germans.

This time, United struck right at the beginning of the match, with England striker Wayne Rooney latching on to a deflected free-kick and smashing home a close-range volley for his 34th goal of the season with only 66 seconds played.

But after this disastrous start, the home side began to stroke the ball around with confidence, with French international playmaker Franck Ribery running the show in midfield and Bayern generally dominating possession.

Bayern were left to rue a golden opportunity half way through the first period as Olic somehow missed from about a yard out completely unmarked in front of goal.

Rooney missed a gilt-edged chance of his own in front of goal before the end of an open and entertaining first half which produced only one goal but could have seen a half-dozen as both teams concentrated on attacking football.

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson called on his side to step up their effort in the second half but it was the home side who started the brighter with several shots on goal in the first few minutes of the second period.

Dutchman Edwin van der Sar was by far the busiest of the two goalkeepers as Bayern pressed hard for an equaliser. However, Rooney continued to terrorise the German defence with his pace as United looked to hit them on the break.

With just over a quarter of an hour remaining and the German side still enjoying the lion’s share of possession, Bayern coach Louis van Gaal threw on German international striker Mario Gomez in a bid to snatch a late goal.

And the ploy worked almost immediately.

After a deliberate handball by veteran defender Gary Neville, a long-range free-kick from Ribery deflected off Rooney past a helpless van der Sar to give the Germans something to take back to Old Trafford.

During a frantic last 10 minutes, United defender Nemanja Vidic clattered the bar and Gomez forced van der Sar into a last-ditch save during injury time.

But the Dutchman was helpless as Olic weaved his way through the United defence and slotted home in the second minute of injury time.

As a further blow to Ferguson and England, Rooney hobbled off the pitch at full time after a clash with Gomez.

The English side came into the clash in stunning form, having won their last seven games, including a 4-0 thumping of Italian giants AC Milan and a satisfying 2-1 defeat of fierce rivals Liverpool at home.

Coming in to the quarter-final clash, the Reds were undefeated in their last 17 European encounters, a point made forcefully by coach Sir Alex Ferguson before the game.

In contrast, Bayern’s recent form has been poor, with rare back-to-back league defeats knocking them off the top of the Bundesliga.

The four-time European champions have also been less than convincing in Europe, needing a hefty dose of luck to squeeze past Italian outfit Fiorentina.

Tue 30 March, 2010
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Advantage Lyon Champions League battle of France

Lyon took control of their all-French Champions League quarter-final with Bordeaux after securing a 3-1 win in an entertaining first leg here on Tuesday.

The visitors turned in an improved second-half showing after going in 2-1 down at the break but a Lisandro Lopez penalty in the 77th minute gave Claude Puel’s side a two-goal cushion ahead of the return leg on April 7.

Lisandro – who will miss the return leg after being booked – had put Lyon ahead in the 10th minute but Bordeaux, who lost 3-1 to Marseille in the League Cup final on Saturday, levelled shortly afterwards via a trademark header from Marouane Chamakh.

Michel Bastos restored Lyon’s lead and Lisandro’s spotkick means Laurent Blanc’s French champions must win by two clear goals at the Stade Chaban-Delmas next week if they are to turn the tie around.

Lyon took the lead in innocuous circumstances, when a high ball forward was poorly cleared by Bordeaux centre-back Michael Ciani, allowing Mathieu Bodmer to fire across goal for Lisandro to tap home.

Bordeaux’s response was immediate and they drew level barely four minutes later, after Yoann Gourcuff cut inside his man on the right and bent in a fine left-footed cross that Chamakh converted with Cris floundering.

Any expectations of a cagey opening were subsequently blown away as both teams poured forward in search of a goal.

Cesar Delgado fired straight at Cedric Carrasso in the Bordeaux goal after haring onto a long pass from Bastos, and when the visitors broke, Yoan Gouffran drew a sharp save from Hugo Lloris with a smart backheel flick.

Chamakh then headed narrowly wide after Lloris failed to claim a cross from the left but Bordeaux’s usually rock-solid defence looked atypically nervous in the absence of suspended holding midfielder Alou Diarra and injured centre-back Marc Planus, and Lyon readily looked to exploit their hesitancy.

The home side re-took the lead in the 32nd minute.

An enterprising run from Miralem Pjanic took the Bosnian into space on the left and when his cross was misjudged by Bordeaux left-back Benoit Tremoulinas, Bastos cut inside before drilling the ball across Carrasso and in.

A frenetic first half gave way to a more cautious second period and as Lyon’s level dropped, so Bordeaux began to assert themselves.

Lloris reacted magnificently to palm the ball away after Chamakh threw himself at a right-wing cross just beyond the hour-mark and the Moroccan then drew a more comfortable save from the French number one with a 12-yard header.

Bordeaux were spending more and more time in Lyon’s half and when Jean Makoun found himself with the chance to extend Lyon’s lead after being deftly picked out by Lisandro, his close-range shot was smothered by Carrasso.

The visitors came inches away from a tie-turning equaliser with 20 minutes remaining when Wendel cracked a volley against the Lyon crossbar.

There were 76 minutes on the clock when Mathieu Chalme was penalised for blocking Aly Cissokho’s shot with a flailing hand inside the Bordeaux area.

Referee Felix Brych pointed to the spot and Lisandro out-witted Carrasso to take Lyon to within 45 minutes of their first ever Champions League semi-final.

Substitute Sidney Govou could have added further gloss to the result, but his volley flashed inches wide of the right-hand upright, while Makoun had a late header cleared off the line by Tremoulinas.

Tue 30 March, 2010
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Quick report: Olympique Lyon 3-1 Girondins Bordeaux

(GSM) – The Champions League quarter final clash between French rivals Olympique Lyon and Girondins Bordeaux may well be decided in the former’s favor after a 3-1 win in Tuesday’s first leg.

Ten minutes had passed in Lyon when the hosts went ahead through Liandro, who netted from close range after Mathieu Bodmer fired across the face of the goal.

But the home side’s lead would not last as Bordeaux levelled four minutes later. Yoann Gourcuff beat Jeremy Toulalan on the wing and crossed in for Marouane Chamakh to head in from about six meters.

Lyon kept their cool however and restored their lead in the 32nd minute as Michel Bastos converted a left-winged cross from Miralem Pjanic for 2-1.

And the home side went on to extend their lead in the 77th minute. Bordeaux’ Chalmé handled the ball in the penalty area and Lisandro sent the keeper the wrong way to convert the following spot kick.

Tue 30 March, 2010
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Quick Report: Bayern Munich 2-1 Manchester United

(GSM) – Bayern Munich are a step closer to the semi finals of the Champions League after a 2-1 win over Manchester United in the quarter finals first leg. Ivica Olic scored the decider in added time.

Just a little over a minute had been played in Munich when Manchester United took the lead with Wayne Rooney converting a right-winged free kick from Nani.

In the remainder of the first half, it was mostly Bayern to attack but the Germans had difficulties getting past United’s defense. The Premiership outfit seemed dangerous on the break and forced Bayern to create more space in the back.

But it was Bayern to score the equaliser in the 77th minute. A free kick from Franck Ribery was significantly deflected by the wall and flew into the left corner of the goal with keeper Van der Sar only able to watch.

United almost restored their lead six minutes later when Nemanja Vidic headed onto the crossbar from a corner kick.

And Bayern could have decided the match in the first minute of added time when Mario Gomez forced Van der Sar to make a great save.

But that winning goal did come in the 92nd minute as Ivica Olic collected the ball in the penalty area, dribbled away from the defenders and found space to blast it past the keeper for 2-1.

Tue 30 March, 2010
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Greek league angry at talk of state funding suspension

Greece’s top flight Super League on Tuesday angrily responded to a comment made by General Secretary for Sports Panayiotis Bitaxis that funding through the state-owned gambling company would be suspended if violence continues to plague the sport.

A statement by the Super League described the comment by Bitaxis made at a press conference Monday as ‘economic blackmail and unlawful’.

“The problem cannot be solved by the league alone, nor the 16 team members, if there is no co-operation with the police, the state authorities, the organized club supporters and all those involved in the matches,” the statement said.

“Instead of further co-operation, the state is looking to economically blackmail us with the proposal to suspend the co-operation between the Super League and (the state gambling company) OPAP as mentioned by the general secretary.”

The league said it is doing everything possible to combat violence at football matches and that it gave out fines of 1,950,000 euros last season alone which was double that of the previous campaign.

“We invite Mr. Bitaxis to reconsider his position and continue the dialogue with the main objective to stop the violence,” the statement said.

President of the Greek Football Federation (EPO) Sophocles Pilavios said in a statement on Tuesday that the federation will suggest new measures for the new season at its general assembly meeting in June but called on the state “to also look to its own responsibilities and its own actions. We all have our responsibilities.

“Greek citizens are feeling enraged and frustrated at having to watch championships that lack credibility and were the law of the jungle and blind violence rules,” Bitaxis said on Monday.

He said OPAP pays 23 million euros in sponsorship to the Super League annually and another 9 million goes to second and third division clubs.

Bitaxis warned that the state would not release any more funds if the violence continued.

Tue 30 March, 2010
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Guardiola wants Barcelona to go for the kill

Barcelona coach Josep Guardiola insists his side will try to wrap up their Champions League quarter-final clash against Arsenal before the first leg is over.

With the decisive second leg still to come on home turf at the Nou Camp next week, many teams would opt for a cautious approach against a team with Arsenal’s commitment to attacking play.

But Guardiola knows Barca’s reputation for winning in style must be upheld whatever the potential risks and he will send out his team with the intention of taking complete control of the tie right from the start.

“They will be playing to their strengths and we will play to ours,” Guardiola said on Tuesday. “We know scoring an away goal is very important so we will have an attacking intention and defend in an aggressive manner, in the nicest sense of the word.

“We will be playing against a team who are phenomenal. When they play this style of football it is something that people enjoy.

“They use the ball well even though they play in a very intense league. They are a daring team, they change positions and have dynamic players.

“But we will be very careful and play together. We are going to try to win the match.”

If Guardiola is true to his attacking principles, it could be good news for Thierry Henry as he prepares for an emotional return to his former club.

Henry has struggled to hold down a regular place in Barca’s starting line-up this season, but Guardiola could be tempted to use him on the left wing in place of youngster Pedro Rodriguez.

Guardiola acknowledged it will be a special occasion for Henry whether he starts or not.

“He is a player who still has Arsenal in his heart but I will have to see who plays on Wednesday,” he said. “He is ready to play and I am sure he will do a good match because he is a very experienced player.

“He is returning home but the most important thing is to do a good job for the club.”

Guardiola is confident that Barca can cope without midfield lynchpin Andres Iniesta, who is ruled out after suffering a thigh injury in the win at Real Mallorca over the weekend.

“Iniesta is a very important player. He can play in different positions, keeps the ball better than anyone else and is very smart. But we had Xavi injured before and still played well. That is part of football,” Guardiola said.

Guardiola also insists Arsenal would still be a potent force even if Cesc Fabregas, the Gunners captain and former Barca youth product, is unable to recover from a knee injury in time to play.

Fabregas missed training on Tuesday as he tries to shake off the injury sustained in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Birmingham and Wenger plans to give him until the last minute to prove his fitness.

“If Mr Wenger says that Cesc might not play he will have his reasons. I believe him,” he said.

“I know Cesc is a very good player. He is a very dynamic player and is always moving around. Since he was little he was always a good finisher.

“But without him they still beat Porto 5-0. They have three or four dynamic players who play in the same position.”

Tue 30 March, 2010
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Mourinho stokes fires ahead of CSKA clash

Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho on Tuesday questioned CSKA Moscow’s right to still be in the Champions League ahead of their quarter-final, first leg clash at the San Siro on Wednesday.

CSKA defenders Aleksei Berezutski and Sergei Ignashevich were both previsionally suspended after they tested positive for a banned substance following their group match away to Manchester United in November.

They were later found to have taken a cold medicine that had not been reported by the club’s doctors and they were retroactively given one-game bans (which they had already served).

They were let off harsher punishment as UEFA accepted that club doctors had made a technical mistake.

But Mourinho questioned the legitimacy of the club’s continued participation in the competition.

“There’s something grey about CSKA’s progress in the Champions League. If two players go to an anti-doping control and a substance is found that’s not allowed in the Champions League, there’s something grey,” he said.

The controversial former Chelsea boss was speaking to the press for the first time since the last round of this comeptition.

He has boycotted the Italian media for the last six league matches since he was banned for three games after making a handcuffs gesture to TV cameras against Sampdoria in February.

It was the fourth time he had received a touchline ban since arriving in Italy but Mourinho explained his silence was merely to allow him to do his job.

“My press silence is doing me good because it allows me to sit on the bench and that’s important for me,” he explained.

“I’ve always said that a coach does not win a match from the bench but it allows him to stay close to his players and that’s where I want to be.

“Not speaking about Italy or the Italian league allows me to sit on the bench, and no I don’t want to risk that,” he said in answer to a question about whether or not he would end his boycott.

And Mourinho added fuel to the fire of speculation that this will be his last season in Italy by admitting he retains an affinity for English football.

“I miss English football and English football misses me, there’s no doubt about that, but right now I’m thinking only about Inter,” he added.

“At Inter I’m very busy with the league, the Italian Cup and the Champions League. These occupy all my thoughts, preparing games and analysing them.”

Looking ahead to Wednesday’s game, Mourinho said he expected the Russians to keep things tight and lamented the fact that the second leg will be played in the Russian capital on an artificial pitch.

“If people think CSKA are not a team at the same level as a Barcelona or a Chelsea, they are nonetheless a very difficult team,” he said.

“I expect a closed game, very defensive, which will need the highest level of concentration.

“I would have much prefered to play the first game in Moscow. The synthetic pitch will also be difficult for us in the second leg.”

Inter also have some selection difficulties with Thiago Motta and Lucio suspended but even so there will be no return to the team for teenage forward Mario Balotelli, frozen out for the last six games due to discipline issues.

But Cameroon forward Samuel Eto’o insisted he will not be missed.

“Mario is one of us, he’s 19 and I like him a lot. But in this situation we have to think about the group.

“I like him a lot but he knows what he has to do to be welcomed back into the group. Tomorrow we won’t miss him.”

It is believed Balotelli must apologise to Mourinho and the rest of the squad before he will be selected again, something he evidently has not done.

CSKA coach Leonid Slutsky insisted that Inter are the favourites.

“They’re one of the best teams in Europe and are the favourites, also for the Italian championship,” he said.

“I saw their game against AS Roma (a 2-1 defeat on Saturday) and they seemed to me to be a very strong team.

“We are aware of their quality and the number of attacking players at Mourinho’s disposal but we’re here to do our best.”

Tue 30 March, 2010
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