Two French league games fall victim to rain

Two French first division games were postponed on Sunday, with Marseille’s match at home to Rennes and Bordeaux’s trip to Monaco both falling victim to torrential rain.

The Marseille-Rennes match, originally scheduled to take place on Saturday evening, was initially postponed until 1700 local time (1600GMT) on Sunday, but a pitch inspection on Sunday afternoon found that the Stade Velodrome pitch was still waterlogged.

“In the interests of precaution, the safety of the players is of primary importance,” said match referee Fredy Fautrel.

With torrential rain widespread across southern France, Monaco’s home game with Bordeaux, which was scheduled to kick off at 1700 local time on Sunday, was also called off after the Stade Louis II pitch was deemed unplayable.

Rennes went into the weekend with a one-point lead over Marseille at the top of Ligue 1, but Brest’s 2-0 victory at home to Saint-Etienne on Saturday allowed them to go two points clear at the top of the standings.

Brest, promoted from the second division last season, are now guaranteed to remain on top of the standings until next weekend’s fixtures.

Montpellier, currently sixth, will climb to second if they win at home to seventh-placed Paris Saint-Germain in Sunday’s late game.

Sun 31 October, 2010
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Lazio open four-point lead at Serie A ahead of derby

Lazio earned a hard-fought 1-0 win at Palermo on Sunday to open up a four-point lead at the top of Serie A ahead of next weekend’s Rome derby.

Brazilian centre-back Andre Dias scored the only goal of the game with a somewhat fortunate volley to condemn the lacklustre Sicilians to defeat and dent their own Champions League aspirations.

Lazio lead champions Inter Milan by four points with AC Milan a single point further back in third.

Inter won 1-0 at Genoa on Friday night while Milan were downed 2-1 at home by fourth-placed Juventus on Saturday.

After this latest victory, Lazio’s seventh in nine games this season, it would be hard to argue that they are not genuine title contenders.

It was also the perfect preparation for next weekend’s derby against Roma, who beat Lecce 2-0 on Saturday but had captain Francesco Totti dismissed, meaning he will miss the Lazio game.

Although Palermo played some pretty football, they lacked cutting instinct in the first half.

A mistake by Giuseppe Biava handed Josip Ilicic the ball just outside the area, he fed Javier Pastore but the Argentine’s finish was weak.

The hosts created several other shooting opportunities from distance but never troubled Fernando Muslera, with Ilicic, Mauricio Pinilla and Pastore again trying their luck with speculative efforts.

The only chance of real note in the first period fell to Lazio, who duly took the lead.

Christian Ledesma swung a free-kick over from the right and Dias lost his marker Cesare Bovo before shinning a volley into the top corner to give Salvatore Sirigu no chance in the Palermo goal.

There was more of the same slow-paced action in the second half until the 65th minute when finally the hosts seriously threatened.

Pinilla hit an acrobatic volley goalwards that Muslera saved one-handed before Stefan Radu charged down Pastore’s follow-up.

But still they failed to put sustained pressure on their opponents and Lazio’s Mauro Zarate knocked a free-kick over the wall but Sirigu was well placed to save.

Biava then received his marching orders for a second booking and Lazio were forced to try and hold on.

Eight minutes from time substitute Massimo Maccarone met a Pastore cross with his head but couldn’t direct the ball either side of Muslera.

Palermo’s attacks started to get frantic in the final five minutes with Muslera tipping a powerful Pinilla header onto the bar and then parrying a fierce near post shot from Mattia Cassani.

Sun 31 October, 2010
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Marseille-Rennes postponed again due to rain

Marseille announced on Sunday that their French first division game at home to Rennes would have to be postponed again, after persistent heavy rain in the region continued overnight.

The match, originally scheduled to take place on Saturday evening, was initially postponed until 1700 local time (1600GMT) on Sunday, but a pitch inspection on Sunday afternoon found that the Stade Velodrome pitch was still waterlogged.

Rennes went into the weekend with a one-point lead over Marseille at the top of Ligue 1, but Brest’s 2-0 victory at home to Saint-Etienne on Saturday allowed them to go two points clear at the top of the standings.

Brest, promoted from the second division last season, are now guaranteed to remain on top of the standings until next weekend’s fixtures.

Montpellier, currently sixth, will climb to second if they win at home to seventh-placed Paris Saint-Germain in Sunday’s late game.

Sun 31 October, 2010
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Ranieri defends irrate Totti after red card

Roma coach Claudio Ranieri once again sprang to the defence of his captain Francesco Totti who could have landed himself in hot water for a furious reaction to being sent-off.

Totti got involved in an altercation with Lecce’s Ruben Olivera as Mirko Vucinic was scoring Roma’s second goal in a 2-0 victory on Saturday that put them back into the top half of Serie A.

TV cameras didn’t capture what Totti did but having been tripped up by Olivera, he apparently pushed the Uruguayan.

Referee Andrea Gervasoni showed both players a straight red card, meaning Totti will now miss next weekend’s Rome derby against league leaders Lazio.

The 34-year-old reacted by, in the words of La Gazzetta dello Sport, “losing his head” and he was seen charging after Olivera as the pair made there way down the tunnel.

Several people, including bodyguards, were needed to restrain Totti.

But Ranieri preferred to focus on what he considered was an unfair dismissal.

“The sending off was absurd, I hope the TV images will exonerate him,” said Ranieri.

“Now we will be missing our captain for the derby, that means we will be playing for him.

“His reaction was excessive because he felt, as we all did, that the sending off was unfair.

“The referee should have managed the situation differently, the dismissal seemed extremely harsh.”

It is not the first time Totti has been involved in controversial incidents in a brilliant, but at times chequered, career.

Having spent his whole career with Roma he is their record goalscorer and most capped player of all time, while he sits sixth on the Serie A all-time scoring list.

But he has been involved in some unsavoury incidents such as during the 2004 European Championships when he was sent off for spitting at Denmark’s Christian Poulsen.

He was back in the spotlight for the wrong reasons during last season’s Italian Cup final in which he was dismissed late on after wildly kicking out at Inter Milan’s Mario Balotelli.

The young Italian of Ghanaian origin then accused Totti of having also racially abused him while Totti claimed it was Balotelli who had insulted him for his Roman origins.

Earlier this season, Totti criticised his coach following Roma’s 2-0 loss at Bayern Munich in the Champions League, claiming the team was playing in a defensive fashion, reminiscent of the unpopular catenaccio style.

Although Totti remains an icon for Roma fans, there has long been a debate in football circles as to whether he still warrants a place in the team now that he is well into his 30s.

Sun 31 October, 2010
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´I´m almost German´ jokes Bayern´s Ribery

Bayern Munich’s France midfielder Franck Ribery admitted Sunday he feels ‘almost German’ and is glad he has extended his contract with the Bavarian giants until 2015.

“I am almost German now,” joked Ribery, who has bought a house in Munich’s suburbs, in German daily Bild.

The 27-year-old signed an extension in May to keep him with Bayern until 2015, just after the scandal broke which saw Ribery reportedly admitting having sex with an under-age prostitute, but claims he did not know her age.

Ribery has been out with an ankle injury since September 21, but is expected to return to first-team football soon for last season’s Champions League finallists.

“Extending my contract with Bayern was the right decision. They are a great club on the international stage and at the same time they are a real family club,” said Ribery.

Ribery said he hopes to play next weekend for the first time in six weeks when Bayern travel to face bottom side Borussia Moenchengladbach in the Bundesliga.

“I still have confidence in my body and I hope it was my last injury of the season,” he said.

Ribery also said he hopes Germany star Bastian Schweinsteiger, whose contract expires in June 2012, will stay at Bayern.

“I really hope that he will extend his contract, he has become a world-class player,” said Ribery with Bayern set to face Romanian side Cluj in the Champions League on Wednesday looking for their fourth straight league win.

“Players like him are very important for us to go even further in Europe.”

Sun 31 October, 2010
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Del Piero aims at 200 after breaking record

Juventus striker Alessandro Del Piero has set his sights on scoring 200 league goals for Juventus after becoming their outright top marksman of all time.

Del Piero bagged his 179th Serie A goal in the 2-1 defeat of AC Milan on Saturday night, his strike proving to be the winner.

In so doing he overtook Giampiero Boniperti’s previous mark of 178 Serie A strikes for the Old Lady of Turin — he had equalled the record on October 17 against Lecce.

“Now my aim is to arrive at 200 goals, you should always set yourself new objectives,” said Del Piero.

“These are special nights where the team celebrates. It’s always worth three points, nothing more, but there’s a special taste to winning at Milan.”

Del Piero, who turns 36 in just over a week, has been at Juve since 1993 but his current contract runs out at the end of the season.

He is remaining calm about the future with no guarantees that he will be offered a new one.

“It would be great to finish like this with a performance and a goal like this but I want to go on,” he said.

“I have a great relationship with the club, we’ll talk about (the contract) calmly, it’s not a priority.”

Given Juve’s injury problems, coach Luigi Delneri was understandably delighted with the result.

Already shorn of seven first teamers, he lost Giorgio Chiellini in the warm-up and both Paolo De Ceglie and Jorge Martinez during the game, forcing him to play right-winger Simone Pepe at left-back in the second half.

“I got the response from a group that works hard, those who don’t play are always committed and the results you can see on the pitch,” he said.

“I’m very happy with the performance of my players, as I’ve always said, Juve shouldn’t depend on one player but on how we play.

“At times we played well, at times we struggled but we fought for every ball and that’s vital to do well in the league.

“Our attitude was fantastic but we can’t be contented with that, we’ll keep progressing every Sunday but we’ve reclaimed an important position.”

Juventus moved up to fourth in Serie A, their highest position since the turn of the year when they gradually dropped down from second to last season’s seventh placed finish.

And Delneri believes they are even capable of challenging for the title.

“We want to be protagonists in the title race, we don’t set ourselves limits,” he said.

Fabio Quagliarella opened the scoring with a header from De Ceglie’s cross before Del Piero doubled the advantage by finishing crisply after Mohamed Sissoko had seemed to have wasted a glorious opportunity.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s late header gave Milan hope but they could not find an equaliser.

Coach Massimiliano Allegri said that unlike their Champions League defeat to Real Madrid, they deserved better this time.

“Up until Juve took the lead they hadn’t even passed the halfway line once, they were just defending,” he complained.

“Maybe we rushed a bit too much in trying to stretch the game but we didn’t deserve to lose.

“In Madrid we deserved to lose but this time, no. We have to accept the defeat with serenity and I believe we’ll be fighting for the title right to the end.

Milan now sit third in Serie A, a point behind champions Inter Milan in second and a pair of points above Juventus in fourth.

Lazio still lead the scudetto race after their positive start to the season.

Sun 31 October, 2010
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Manchester City fail to deliver what the owners demand

Where does he go from here?

Played ten, won five, drawn two, lost three. Goals scored thirteen, goals conceded ten. Points seventeen. League position, fourth.

Pleased

Most fans would be reasonably pleased if their team’s record looked like that come the beginning of November. You’d maybe be a bit disappointed that you hadn’t been able to pick up a point in a couple of those three defeats and you’d maybe worry that a return of thirteen goals in ten games was not going to be good enough in the long run.

Overall though, you’d be pretty satisfied with the start you had made.

Pretty satisfied that is, unless you had spent £126 million during the summer to bring in six players, taking the total sum of the transfers sanctioned by the Abu Dhabi United Group owners since their arrival two years ago, to £325.5 million.

Forget

Let us not forget that the season prior to the new owners coming in had seen Manchester City finish in a very creditable ninth place under Sven Goran Eriksson and you can see that the progress made to this point, in comparison to the money spent and the two changes of manager, doesn’t seem to be particularly impressive.

Yesterday, City went to Wolves in a game that they had to win if they were to be serious about challenging the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United for the Premier League title. Wolves were sitting second from bottom in the table with just one win to their name all season and that had come on the opening day against the only team currently below them in the league.

Abject

What transpired was a fairly abject performance by City, described by manager Roberto Mancini as their worst performance of the season. The final score of 2-1 to Wolves was certainly a fair reflection of the game and a fair reflection of the fact that money cannot guarantee success.

City took the lead in the game through a penalty by Emmanuel Adebayor but were then deservedly pegged back and beaten. Adebayor had a very public falling out with team-mate Vincent Kompany on the pitch and the whole picture was one of a group of very expensively assembled players thrown together with little thought for team spirit and cohesiveness.

Honest

Mancini was honest in his assessment of the game, which was their second defeat in a row,

“We only played for the first 25 minutes. Then we stopped playing and Wolves deserved to win. It’s the worst game we’ve played. We must regroup and understand why this happened. This was the sort of game you have to win if you want to challenge for the title. You must play all games at 115%. I must understand very quickly why this happened. But the season is long, we started it very well and there is time to recover.”

A look at Mancini’s record shows you that he is a top manager. However, a look at Sven Goran Eriksson’s record tells you the same and a look at Mark Hughes’ shows that he isn’t too shabby either! The owners have unrealistically expected an immediate return for their huge (ridiculous?) investment and their patience may well start to be tested again very soon.

Meanwhile, the other three top clubs all won their games. Arsenal and Chelsea both played lowly teams who need to be beaten if you want the league, just as City did. Neither of them did it in style and both left it until the last ten minutes. The difference between them and City? They won the game.

Sun 31 October, 2010
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I now know who Javier Hernandez is!

When I heard Manchester United were signing a young Mexican striker called Javier Hernandez I thought Javier who?

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson paid a fee in the region of £7million and I was surprised to be honest.

Unknown

I don’t know whether it was my lack of knowledge of North American football or the fact that little was known about ‘Chicharito’ that made me question Fergie’s wisdom (rather unwisely).

Since then he has impressed at the World Cup and impressed in his short Manchester United career. He is starting to look like a real bargain.

Cult

The youngster has almost become a cult hero overnight. Manchester United was in need of a hero after Wayne Rooney threw his dummy out of the pram. He is a young player who has immense potential, who is capable of producing moments of brilliance like his back-header against Stoke last weekend.

Natural

Javier Hernandez is a natural finisher. He is a very different sort of striker to the others currently at Old Trafford. He combines pace and natural finishing ability. He may not have the technical ability of Wayne Rooney or Dimitar Berbatov but he has his own strengths.

Although it’s still early in his Manchester United career he reminds me of former-United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. He looks to have the same striking instincts as the Norwegian and with Solskjaer on the United coaching staff I’m sure he will be able to help with his development.

The 22 year-old striker also works hard for the team. He obviously has to develop his game but Manchester United is one of the best clubs in the world at turning youngsters into world-class players.

Doubts

Hernandez’s father Javier Hernandez senior was a Mexican international striker but stated that he had doubts over his son making it as a professional footballer.  Maybe this has had a positive motivational effect on the youngster.

He has not only proved his dad wrong by making it as a professional football but is playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world.

Chance

With Wayne Rooney set to be sidelined for up to five weeks according to reports, Hernandez will have the chance to impress even further. If he impresses I can see him keeping the England star out of the United team.

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson doesn’t pay attention to reputations and Rooney could find himself sitting on the bench not having to earn his massive wage packet.

Generation

Javier Hernandez could be part of a golden generation for the Mexican national side. The youngsters coming into the full national team are full of promise.

The likes of Carlos Vela and Giovani Dos Santos along with Hernandez are the great hopes of Mexican football and it’s hoped that the national side can now make a real impact in big tournaments.

They impressed in South Africa and with slightly more experience the team could be a real threat to the established international powers.

Potential

At 22 years-old Hernandez has a lot of time to improve. He has all the attributes to become a top player at the top level of football. It’s now down to him how good he becomes. Having seen him play in recent weeks for United I’m sure he will go on to great things for both club and country.

Is Javier Hernandez being hyped up too much?

Sun 31 October, 2010
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City confident of landing Torres

Manchester City have set Fernando Torres as their prime target with the Spaniard currently unsettled at Anfield.

The City officials have been in contact with the player’s representatives as they want to be informed of every offer tabled for the Spain international, so they could outbid all the rivals for Torres’ signature.

A source close to Torres said: “They are willing to pay one pound more than the best offer that comes in for Fernando.

“City want to prepare a new project with Torres as their main star. Next season they want to make sure they are fighting for the Premier League title from the first moment again.”

The Spaniard seems to have had enough with Liverpool and is widely tipped to leave Anfield, be it in January or next summer, but City face a stiff competition for the player with Manchester United and Barcelona also keen on the Spaniard.

[Source: The People]

Sun 31 October, 2010
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Fergie rules out January spending

Sir Alex Ferguson is adamant Manchester United won’t be bringing new players in January despite Wayne Rooney’s request for new signings.

Sir Alex Ferguson made it clear who was the boss yesterday by saying United wouldn’t be buying new players in January.

“We won’t be buying in January, definitely not,” said Ferguson, “You are limited because there are hundreds of players cup-tied for European football.

“There will be five months of the season left and we will be getting a new player back in February with Antonio Valencia returning from injury, and maybe another in Owen Hargreaves. With the squad I’ve got, I don’t see any reason for us to buy anyone.

“There has always been money to spend but it doesn’t necessarily mean there will be more transfer activity than normal in the summer. We will buy what we need to buy. We know what we need.

“There is always this issue if Van der Sar, Scholes, Giggs or Neville were to retire but we’ve been aware of that for two or three years and we are well ahead of that. We know exactly what we have to do.”

[Source: Daily Mail]

Sun 31 October, 2010
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