Kaka´s return to produce Real magic

Real Madrid winger Pedro Leon believes the return from injury of star striker Kaka will be a momentous boost for the La Liga giants.

The Brazilian goal sneak has been out of action for five months after having surgery on his left knee, but a successful return to the training track has put him into contention for Monday’s derby against Getafe, or the club’s Copa del Rey meeting with Levante on Thursday.

Leon believes the one-time Ballon d’Or winner will show no signs of rustiness upon his competitive return.

“Kaka is proving to be a great player. We get along very well and I’m sure he will bring us many glory days because, after all, Kaka is Kaka,” Leon told the club’s official site.

Leon said the build up to their clash against local rivals Getafe is incomparable to any other pre-match.

“Training today was incredible. I had never been in a session attended by so many people. We thank the fans for their support and we ask them to continue supporting us. We are proud to have gathered 5000 people on the stands today. I hope we can thank them by winning a title at the end of the campaign,” the Spaniard said.

Leon assured fans at the Bernabeu that his allegiances with Getafe will not come into play when they take to the pitch on Monday.

“Everyone knows I am a Getafe Club Member and follower, and I always want them to win except against Real Madrid. It will be another match we should win and I hope we take three points on Monday,” he said.

Fri 31 Dec, 2010
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Kuwait smash Zambia in friendly

Kuwait scored four first-half goals as they hammered Zambia 4-0 on Friday, while Saudi Arabia and Korea DPR also won.

In a round of international friendlies, Kuwait ensured they will enter the 2011 Asian Cup finals with plenty of confidence after a superb performance.

A 14-minute hot streak saw all four goals scored, with striker Yousef Naser opening the scoring after 19 minutes.

Fahad Al Enezi was on hand to double the lead two minutes later, and unbelievably Zambia had conceded three goals in six minutes when Bader Al Motawaa got his name on the scoresheet.

The demolition job was completed by Al Enezi who completed his double after 33 minutes.

Kuwait eased off in the second half, content with their big victory, but well aware that their quality of opponents will improve during the Asian Cup after being grouped with Qatar, China and Uzbekistan.

Saudi Arabia bounced back from a loss against Iraq with an impressive performance to topple Bahrain 1-0.

Strikers Yasser Al Qahtani and Nasser Al Shamrani proved difficult to handle in the first half, with Al Qahtani guilty of missing the half’s best chance when Bahrain goalkeeper Abbas Ahmed saved his 12th minute shot.

Bahrain were much improved in the second half and could have taken the lead on several occasions before Saudi substitute Osama Haousawi’s 65th minute header found the back of the net, thanks to build-up work from Nayef Hazzazi.

In the day’s other match, Qatar’s five-match unbeaten streak was finally ended by a stubborn Korea DPR side, who produced a 1-0 win away from home.

Fri 31 Dec, 2010
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New owners for Charlton

League One club Charlton Athletic have been taken over by businessmen Michael Slater and Tony Jimenez.

Slater and Jiminez’s company CAFC Holdings Limited took control of the club on Friday after purchasing it for an undisclosed amount, with lawyer and businessman Slater to become the club’s new chairman.

Jiminez will also sit on the board, along with outgoing chairman Richard Murray and former chief executive Peter Varney.

Charlton are currently third in League One after being relegated first from the Premier League in 2007 and then the Championship in 2009.

And while Slater said the takeover was good news for the club, he urged fans not to get ahead of themselves.

“We are delighted to have taken control of Charlton,” Slater told the club’s official website.

“The club has a long and proud history and has an incredibly loyal fanbase.”

“I’d like to pay tribute to Richard Murray, who took on a huge financial responsibility last summer when he saved the club from almost certain administration while he sought new investment.”

“Today’s acquisition brings much-needed financial stability to the club. Our plan is to run the club on a sensible financial footing and develop a commercial plan to ensure we make progress on and off the pitch to meet the expectation of the fans.”

“What we won’t do is create unrealistic pie-in-the-sky expectations.”

“We will always live within our means and, with a sound commercial approach and the run of the ball on the pitch, our aim is to make steady upward progress and bring success to The Valley.”

Charlton drew 1-1 with league-leaders Brighton at the Withdean Stadium on Wednesday and now trail their opponent by four points on the table, with Sheffield Wednesday in second place ahead of the Addicks on goal difference.

Fri 31 Dec, 2010
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Wolves looking up

Confidence is at an all time high at Wolverhampton ahead of their must-win trip to fellow strugglers West Ham on Saturday.

The Midlands side pulled off a shock 1-0 victory against Liverpool at Anfield on Wednesday night and manager Mick McCarthy is looking to use this result to propel his relegation-threatened team up the table.

“It’s been a huge lift for all of us,” McCarthy said.

“I keep saying the players have a good spirit but when you’ve won it’s better. Our spirits are all higher, and not just the players, everybody in Wolverhampton.”

“It gives you confidence and self belief that you can go and win away from home. It was a really good performance. It’s a real boost for everybody.”

The bottom of the table clash is a must win for both sides and McCarthy knows the Hammers, currently bottom of the table, will be stiff opposition.

“West Ham have played well in the last few games. I watched them against Everton and I thought they were excellent against Fulham,” McCarthy said.

“Last season at West Ham was our best away performance and for that reason the West Ham players will be up for it even more.”

“But if we play like we did at Anfield then we’ve got every chance.”

With Wolves 19th on the table, the former Sunderland boss knows his team will have to fight to survive this season.

But McCarthy is confident his players have the quality to avoid relegation to the Championship.

“We’re still in the relegation positions and we’ve got to out of there,” he said. “The team is scrapping for it and no-one is giving up here.”

Fri 31 Dec, 2010
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Houllier unfazed by pressure

Gerard Houllier shook off the pressure mounting on him and insisted Aston Villa would soon be making a move up the table.

Houllier took over at Villa Park after Martin O’Neill’s sudden resignation on the eve of the season, but so far has failed to inspire the team, who lie 15th on the Premier League table.

But the Frenchman said the club would band together during this tough time and were not worried about outside opinions.

“I knew there would be pressure and there is more pressure and the feeling is not the same when you don’t win games,” said Houllier.

“The club is a unit, the chairman, the staff, medical people, everyone seems to get together.”

The return of players from injury and an improvement from the members of the squad dropped for footballing reasons should make a real difference to the team that faces Chelsea on Sunday.

“The positive thing is a lot of players are gradually coming out of injury and starting to play,” Houllier said.

“The good news is that the treatment rooms are nearly empty. Ashley Young, who we missed for the last two games, should be okay for this weekend.”

After a poor game at Liverpool and a reported training ground bust-up, Richard Dunne missed the last three games and was not in the squad for the last two.

He will be back for the Chelsea game, but fellow Irishman Stephen Ireland will have to wait for his opportunity.

Striker John Carew will also be back in a Villa shirt shortly.

“They are out of the team only on footballing reasons,” Houllier said. “They weren’t performing at times.”

“John said he needed more training to come back to his best level – he is fighting hard to come back to that level. The rest is a matter of choice, but Dunne seems better as well.”

Houllier accepts Villa are one of twelve or so teams in a relegation fight.

“It is very funny because you win two games and suddenly you are near Europe again and but you lose two and you are in the battle for relegation,” he said.

Fri 31 Dec, 2010
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Rooney: I was wrong

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney has admitted he was wrong to question the club’s ambitions going forward.

Rooney, 25, stunned the football world when he handed in a transfer request at Old Trafford in October after his contract talks broke down.

The former Everton striker said the club’s failure to sign big-name players and a lack of ambition was reason behind his decision as speculation ran wild as to where Rooney would head.

But just four days later, the issue was smoothed over and Rooney had signed a new five-year deal.

“I went to see the manager and David Gill and asked them for answers,” Rooney told MUTV.

“Now I realise it has nothing to do with me but I wanted to make sure it was the right thing for me to do. I got the answers in the end but looking back it was probably wrong of me to do that.”

Rooney said a visit from 30 fans to his home, although alarming, made him understand the reaction to his comments, but he denied he would have signed for arch-rivals, Manchester City.

“I looked out and saw 30 blokes with their hoods up. I wasn’t going to invite them in for tea,” Rooney said.

“I understood some of the fans were disappointed and felt let down. But it was just one of those things I had to get right. Thankfully I have sorted it out now. I have made the right decision and made myself happy.”

“But I didn’t even think about where I was going to go. There was no way I would have gone to Manchester City and there was more chance of me going to City than Liverpool.”

Rooney also signalled his intent to become a manager once his playing career finishes, but said he was determined to earn his stripes.

“I would like to be a manager. That would be my ambition when I finish playing,” Rooney said.

“You see the players who have played for Sir Alex and gone on to be good managers. I am hoping to do that one day. But I wouldn’t like to follow the manager here, or start at an Everton or Manchester United.”

“I want to learn something about the lower leagues and build a reputation that way rather than just jumping into a big club.”

“It is not right if someone goes in and gets a big job with no experience. There are managers who have worked for years trying to get that.”

Fri 31 Dec, 2010
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Spurs in five-way race for the title

Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp believes the quest to win the Premier League title is now a five-horse race.

The north London club have gone eight league games unbeaten and have enjoyed a memorable festive period having recorded back-to-back wins over Aston Villa and Newcastle.

Spurs are now just five points behind leaders Manchester United and can move back into the top four if they manage to beat Fulham at White Hart Lane on New Year’s Day.

Redknapp has no doubts that his squad have the quality to challenge for the title, but knows they will face stiff competition from United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal if they are to come out on top.

“Liverpool could come with a run but you do see five teams fighting for the top four,” Redknapp said.

“The players have done great and have been fantastic. It has been a good run for us and looks to me like there are five teams pushing for the Champions League places and we are right amongst that. That’s where we want to be and even higher if we can.”

“We’re on a good run. Last year we had the pressure of getting into the Champions League and we coped with that.”

“Winning the title is very difficult but we’re there, it’s open, it’s the most open championship for years. Everyone is finding it hard this year.”

William Gallas will return against Fulham having missed the last three weeks with a hamstring injury, but Younes Kaboul and Jermain Defoe are ruled out through suspension.

And although Redknapp admits he is happy with the squad at his disposal, he revealed he has been told by chairman Daniel Levy he has money to spend in the January transfer window if he wants to bring in some big-name players.

The Tottenham manager has been linked with moves for Scott Parker and David Beckham, but he insists he will only do business in the market if the players are better than the ones he has already got.

“We have good players getting better. Bale and Modric have been incredible and we have got Van der Vaart now,” Redknapp said. “Those players are not for sale. So the club is going forward all the time.”

“If we found the right player the owner would like me to spend his money and buy somebody who could make the difference.”

Fri 31 Dec, 2010
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Grant: Wolves should be bottom

West Ham Manager Avram Grant says Wolves should be bottom of the Premier League ahead of the pair’s clash at Upton Park on Saturday.

West Ham were denied all three points when the two sides met at Molineux in October after Frederic Piquionne’s late goal was harshly ruled out for hand-ball.

And Grant believes that decision was the only reason West Ham, and not Mick McCarthy’s Wolves, were sitting at the foot of the Premier League table.

“Wolves would now be three points behind us if the referee’s decision had been good,” Grant said. “It was one of our best games in Wolves so we want to win.”

Grant said he has told the players to stop being scared of what happens if they lose, but instead concentrate on what would happen if they were to emerge victorious in front of their home fans.

“I think that when we are at home and we have the momentum, even if we are playing against a good team, our target is to win the game,” Grant said.

“I don’t think like this, I think that all the games are big games. Three months ago people were saying every game would be a big game.”

Grant could choose to recall defenders Danny Gabbidon and Tal Ben Haim after resting both in midweek.

Midfielders Thomas Hitzlsperger (thigh), Jack Collison (knee)and Kieron Dyer (thigh) are all unavailable while defenders Manuel da Costa (ankle) and Herita Ilunga (thigh) are also ruled out.

Fri 31 Dec, 2010
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No new buys for Ferguson

Manchester United do not need to make any signings in the January transfer window according to manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

He said they would ‘definitely not’ be making any inclusions during the transfer period and the squad they use to travel to West Brom on New Year’s Day is already strong enough.

There will, however, be movement in the other direction, with 19-year-old Italian forward Federico Macheda heading out on loan to gain experience.

United will again be without midfield ace Paul Scholes for the West Brom match as Ferguson has told the 35-year-old to rest for a few weeks.

The Red Devils could only manage a draw at Birmingham in midweek and could desperately do with his presence to beef up the midfield on Saturday.

Ferguson said: “Paul had a little recurrence of the groin injury. We just told him to have a complete break, which is what he has done.”

“Hopefully that break will get rid of the injury problem through rest and we will have him back training sometime next week.”

United have scored 10 goals in their last three visits to West Brom, but Ferguson said they have been a different prospect altogether since rejoining the Premier League this season.

“We expect a tough game on Saturday. West Brom have been a refreshing team this season – they play the right way and have a good threat,” Ferguson said.

“Their goal tally has been very good this season, particularly away from home. So we know it won’t be easy.”

Ferguson promised to make changes to the side and suggested Portuguese winger Nani (hip) could return to the fold.

Fri 31 Dec, 2010
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Prediction: Sunderland vs Blackburn

31st December 2010

Sunderland are the latest team to have been shocked by amazing Blackpool side, with the match against Blackburn the perfect opportunity for a return to winning ways. Rovers pulled a shock themselves, having beaten high-flying West Brom at the Hawthorns, but miracles don’t happen every day as Blackburn will learn the hard way.

Sunderland have been one of the overachievers this season and they are on the right way to become a genuine top 6 side. The team managed to build on the performances from last season and showed a lot of promise this term, especially against the title contenders. Their record against bottom table sides could be a lot better, making this a good opportunity for that to change. Sunderland did lose to Blackpool last time out, despite having 32 shots on goal as opposed to Blackpool’s 9, but they had largely outplayed the Tangerines and another performance like that will certainly bring them victory against Blackburn. Steve Bruce has won last five home games against Blackburn and the trend looks likely to continue even though the boss still has some selection worries. Cattermole, Gyan and Onuoha are all doubtful, whereas Campbell, Turner, Carson and Mensah are out injured.

Blackburn are another team exceeding expectations this season, although there are fears the sacking of Sam Allardyce would have a negative effect on Rovers. Big Sam’s successor, Steve Kean has just recorded his first win as head coach, with Blackburn beating West Brom away from home, so he could be forgiven for feeling confident before the trip to Sunderland. However, I am still not convinced Rovers are anything more than relegation strugglers and Sunderland could prove too much for them to handle. Before the West Brom game, Blackburn lost three straight away matches, conceding 13 goals in the process, which clearly shows Rovers are hardly the worst travelers in the Premiership. On top of that, the visitors will be missing several important players in Kalinic, Salgado, Jones, Andrews, Grella and N’Zonzi, while Christopher Samba remains a major injury doubt.


Sunderland were extremely unlucky not to have beaten Blackpool and everything suggests the Black Cats will make that right in this match. Blackburn showed some improvement to beat West Bromwich but with so many absentees and a poor away record, Rovers have so many things going against them, so I am prepared to back Sunderland to win this clash.

Verdict: Home win Sunderland (1)

Best Odds: 10/11

Bookmaker: Paddy Power

Fri 31 Dec, 2010
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