Arsenal join race for Pepe Reina

Arsenal are pondering a summer swoop for Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina, according to Daily Star.

The Spanish keeper could be on the way out of Anfield after stating that he wanted to play Champions League football next season.

The 28-year-old has been heavily linked with a move to Manchester United, but the latest reports suggest he could go to Arsenal instead.

The Gunners have been keeping tabs on Reina for quite a while and they are looking for a new keeper at the moment.

Youngster Wojciech Szczesny has been in fine form this season and the Pole has until the end of the season to convince Wenger that he has what it takes to become Arsenal’s number one.

If he fails to do so, Wenger will probably make a move for want-away Reina, with Liverpool reportedly asking £20 million for the experienced keeper.

Sun 27 February, 2011
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Premier League: Manchester City 1 Fulham 1

Fulham manager Mark Hughes exacted a small amount of revenge for his Eastlands sacking with a draw against Champions League chasing Manchester City.

The Welshman, who was dumped by the Blues 14 months ago, saw his side fight back to earn a point and ease their relegation worries.

Mario Balotelli had given City the lead with a superb strike midway through the first half but Damien Duff finished off a neat Fulham move just after the break.

The Blues were short of creativity with playmaker David Silva ruled out with an ankle injury along with defender Vincent Kompany.

Roberto Mancini retained the three-pronged attack of Carlos Tevez, Balotelli and Edin Dzeko but they received little supply.

The Blues had plenty of early possession but struggled to break the Cottagers down with Balotelli going closest but failing to hit the target from two Aleksander Kolarov corners.

Fulham responded with two long-range efforts – Danny Murphy blasting just over the bar before Moussa Dembele brought a comfortable diving save from Joe Hart.

But the breakthrough came in the 26th minute when Balotelli exchanged passes with Tevez before shrugging off Murphy to fire a low 22-yard drive past Mark Schwarzer, which even drew a mini arms-wide celebration from the Italian.

Fulham pulled level two minutes after the break when Andy Johnson found space down the right and fired in a low cross that Duff tapped in at the far post.

Balotelli should have put City back in front five minutes later but fluffed his shot wide from six yards after Pablo Zabaleta’s pull-back.

Tevez then scuffed another chance that Schwarzer tipped wide before Kolarov brought another good save from the Australian with a dipping volley from 20 yards.

Fulham almost stole all three points late on but Clint Dempsey’s header was off target.

Sun 27 February, 2011
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Benfica to break the bank for Argentine hotshot

Benfica are looking to make Eduardo Salvio their most expensive signing ever, according to Record.

The Argentina forward is currently on loan at La Luz from Atletico Madrid and Eagles have the option of making the transfer permanent for €15 million.

After the player largely impressed during the last two months at La Luz, Benfica chiefs are seriously thinking about matching the transfer clause, which would make Salvio the most expensive signing in club’s history.

The Argentine struggled to make an impact during the first few months at the club, but has recently established himself as a starter, with the Eagles now hoping to keep him at the club.

They have until 31st May to buy out his contract and everything suggests they will exercise the purchase option.

The 20-year-old has been in impressive form in the second part of the season and he scored against both Sporting and Stuttgart last week.

Sun 27 February, 2011
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Serie A wrap: Udinese thrash Palermo

Udinese’s push for Champions League football gathered steam on Sunday with a crushing 7-0 away win at Palermo.

Antonio Di Natale scored a hat-trick to bring his season tally to 21 Serie A goals, but even he was outdone by Chilean winger Alexis Sanchez who scored four in the rout, as Udinese climbed to within a point of fourth-placed Lazio.

Palermo finished the match with nine men after midfielder Armin Bacinovic was sent off five minutes before half-time and defender Matteo Darmian saw red on the hour mark.

Lazio failed to make up any ground on the top three, after an Andre Dias own goal five minuted before the break saw them suffer a 1-0 loss at Cagliari, and Roma remain in sixth place after relinquishing a two-goal lead at home in their 2-2 draw with lowly Parma.

Roma caretaker boss Vincenzo Montella was looking for a win in his first home game in charge, but a brace from Parma striker Amauri wiped out first-half strikes from Francesco Totti – making his 600th appearance for Roma – and Brazilian defender Juan.

Cesena had a Luis Jimenez goal to thank for their 1-0 win at home over Chievo Verona, and Catania came from behind to beat Genoa 2-1 at home.

Antonio Floro Flores handed the visitors the lead in the 19th minute, but second-half goals to Maxi Lopez and Gonzalo Bergessio lifted Catania to an important win in a fiery encounter that saw Domenico Criscito and Flores ordered off for Genoa, and Blazej Augustyn dismissed for Catania.

Brescia played out a 2-2 draw with Lecce at the Stadio Mario Rigamonti, and Bari needed a late equaliser from Abdelkader Ghezzal to claim a point in their 1-1 draw at home with Fiorentina.

Sun 27 February, 2011
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Eredivisie wrap: Twente miss golden chance

Dutch champions Twente failed to capitalise on a 0-0 stalemate between Ajax and PSV Eindhoven on Sunday, losing 1-0 at AZ Alkmaar.

With league leaders PSV held to a goalless draw at home by third-placed Ajax, Twente could have drawn level with PSV on 54 points had they won at the Almaarderhout.

But instead they remain second, three points behind PSV, after an own goal from Theo Janssen on 26 minutes handed Alkmaar all three points in a spiteful affair that saw Twente defender Douglas Franco and Alkmaar’s Nick Viergever sent off in separate incidents.

Elsewhere on Sunday, Feyenoord climbed to 13th and stretched their unbeaten run to four games after a marvellous display from 20-year-old winger Georginio Wijnaldum in their 5-1 win over fourth-placed FC Groningen.

Wijnaldum scored four goals, two from the penalty spot, before Ron Vlaar added a fifth three minutes from time to seal an emphatic win for the hosts as they continue to put some breathing space between themselves and the drop zone after a nightmarish start to the season.

Sun 27 February, 2011
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Premier League: West Ham 3 Liverpool 1

West Ham secured a vital victory in their battle to avoid relegation thanks to goals from Scott Parker, Demba Ba and Carlton Cole.

Liverpool’s recent resurgence was checked with a stunning display from Avram Grant’s men, who are now only in the bottom three on goal difference.

Glen Johnson pulled one back to make it 2-1 in the final minutes but Cole settled it with a late third goal.

West Ham went into the match looking to build on last week’s heroic draw at West Brom, keenly aware a result against Liverpool would give them renewed hope in their battle to stay in the Premier League.

Parker’s half time team talk inspired the fightback that day and he backed up his words with actions on the pitch, scoring an impressive opener after 21 minutes.

Having exchanged passes with Thomas Hitzlsperger, the West Ham captain brilliantly flicked the ball past Pepe Reina’s grasp to give West Ham the lead.

The hosts got the second goal their first half display deserved when Ba headed home Gary O’Neill’s cross in stoppage time.

Ba, who seems to have settled well in east London, angled his header perfectly to leave Reina with no chance.

Ba almost added another on 52 minutes when his rasping drive just crept past the post while Luis Suarez brought a fine save out of Rob Green on the hour.

Liverpool finally started to wake up as the match entered the final 20 minutes and Steven Gerrard’s powerful effort stung Green’s palms.

Johnson then poked home Luis Suarez’s cross to set up a tense finale but Cole blasted home in the final minute to end hope of a Liverpool comeback.

Sun 27 February, 2011
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Dean Richards a big loss to the football world

Yesterday we had the sad news of former-Tottenham defender Dean Richards passing away at the age of just 36 years of age.

It came as a complete shock to a lot of people in football and Dean will be a big loss to the football world.

Illness

Richards had fought a long battle against serious illness and unfortunately finally lost it yesterday.

A statement on the Bradford City website read: “The football club are truly devastated to hear of the death of former Bradford City fans’ favourite Dean Richards.”

Popular

He was a popular character and is acknowledged as a nice guy within the game. From reading the tributes on fans forums and websites he wasn’t just popular with the fans of clubs he played for either.

It speaks volumes for the man that fans of the likes of Chelsea, Fulham and even Arsenal have left tributes for the defender on various websites.

Career

Dean Richards started his career at boyhood team Bradford City. He moved to Wolves for £1.85million in 1995 and four years later he moved to Southampton. And two years later he made the biggest move of his career to Tottenham for £8.1million.

His Tottenham career ended prematurely as he was forced to retire at the age of just 30 after he suffered from headaches and dizzy spells. Richards however did return to his home-town club Bradford in 2007 as a part-time youth coach. I’m sure a role he would have been well suited to.

Talented

People considered him to be a rough and tough defender but he was much underrated and was probably unfortunate never to win an international cap. He gave his all for every club he played for and loved the game.

Unfortunately he never really fulfilled his potential during his career because of persistent injury problems. It was a shame but he still enjoyed a good career within the game. He is fondly remembered by everybody who had the pleasure to watch him play.

United

It’s times like these that show just how the football world can pull together as one. Club allegiances are put to one side as everybody unites to salute a popular professional footballer, who was taken before his time.

He was always a player who I liked watching and even though he never played for my team I still appreciated his talent as a player.

Condolences

I would just like to say from everybody at Soccernews our thoughts are with Dean’s friends and family at this difficult time. Dean will be sorely missed and never forgotten. Football has lost a great player and a nice guy, Rest in Peace Dean.

Sun 27 February, 2011
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A-League: Adelaide Utd 2 Gold Coast Utd 3

Shane Smeltz’s double spurred Gold Coast United on to a dramatic 3-2 elimination final win over Adelaide United at Hindmarsh Stadium.

Sunday’s win ensures the Gold Coast have now set up a meeting with Central Coast Mariners for a chance to play Brisbane Roar in the A-League grand final.

The visitors took the lead at in the first half before coming from behind in the second after the Reds had gone in front with goals from Sergio van Dijk and Matthew Leckie.

Smeltz almost opened the scoring midway through the first half when Reds defender Dario Bodrusic failed to clear a long ball out of defence.

The Croatian was unable to get his foot to the clearance and Smeltz ran onto the pass before strolling past Bodrusic and firing low from inside the box in search of the bottom corner.

While Reds goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic was equal to the task then, he could do little about the New Zealand international’s next effort.

On 38 minutes, the Gold Coast striker received the ball with his back to goal, turned, took a touch and lost his defender before blasting a 30m shot past the out-stretched Galekovic.

Slory was replaced five minutes before the break after picking up an injury in a challenge and Matthew Leckie came on and made an immediate impact with his explosive pace.

The Young Socceroo – destined for Germany having signed a deal at Borussia Moenchengladbach – helped set up van Dijk in the dying stages of the half but his shot flashed past the post.

GCU could have doubled their advantage just after half time when Dino Djulbic got his head to the ball from a set piece, but the defender’s header bounced off the post and Galekovic was forced to slap the ball away from danger.

The Reds grabbed an equaliser from the penalty spot in the 54th minute when van Dijk was fouled in the box by Bas van den Brink after a Cassio corner.

Van Dijk stepped up and converted the spot kick, with Adelaide taking the lead 10 minutes later when Leckie pounced on the rebound after Moss had saved Cassio’s shot.

A minute later, the visitors scored a dramatic equaliser when former Adelaide striker Bruce Djite headed into an empty net.

Smeltz got on the end of the cross and his close-range header was saved by Galekovic but only into the path of Djite, who did not miss with the goal at his mercy.

And with 10 minutes remaining, GCU stole a dramatic third goal when substitute Joel Porter was brought down in the area by Nigel Boogaard.

Smeltz had to take his spot kick twice after an infringement on the edge of the area, but it mattered little as he secured the victory for Gold Coast.

Sun 27 February, 2011
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Premier League: Newcastle 1 Bolton 1

Goals for a former Wanderers hero and the club’s latest star were the highlights Newcastle’s entertaining 1-1 draw with Bolton on Saturday.

One-time Bolton favourite Kevin Nolan may well have struck against his former club but it was the Lancashire club’s new Messiah Daniel Sturridge who secured a draw with his fourth goal in as many games.

Nolan is loved in Bolton after making more than 300 appearances in more than 10 years, but there was no question of split allegiance for the Newcastle captain as he opened the scoring with the hosts’ first real sight of goal in the 12th minute.

The visitors had enjoyed a bright start and might have gone ahead before Nolan’s deft, glancing header after 12 minutes, following a neat cross from Cheik Tiote, who signed a six-and-a-half-year deal at the club this week.

If Bolton were dominant before the goal, Nolan’s header signalled a complete turn of the tide, with Owen Coyle’s side struggling to get near their opponents.

They needed some heroic defending from the central defensive partnership of Gary Cahill and David Wheater, who both flung themselves in front of Leon Best’s effort from eight yards.

Best went close again two minutes later with a towering header which flashed just wide.

But with every missed opportunity, Bolton seemed to grow in confidence and Johan Elmander almost grabbed an equaliser with a snap-shot on the half-hour mark.

They were level eight minutes later, thanks to in-form Sturridge, on loan from Chelsea, who raced through Newcastle’s static defence and finished clinically.

Ryan Taylor was making only his second Premier League appearance of the season because of Joey Barton’s injury, but his afternoon lasted just 54 minutes after a rash tackle on Elmander earned him a straight red card.

Unsurprisingly, Newcastle struggled to rediscover their rhythm, with any further chances at a premium for the home side.

But they almost snatched a winner with a minute left on the clock, Jussi Jaaskelainen making a smart stop when Best did well to dig out a cross from the by-line.

After the ball hit Paul Robinson on the chest, Jaaskelainen somehow managed to stop it rolling over the line.

Sun 27 February, 2011
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Prediction: Sampdoria vs Inter

27th February 2011

Sampdoria are struggling for form lately and they enter the match low on confidence, but seeing they are still not completely safe the Doriani have got to try and get something from this game. Inter, on the other hand, are going strong in Serie A and they are hoping to further decrease the gap behind title rivals with three points from Marassi.

With impressive Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini in the side, Sampdoria looked like they could even enter the race for European places, following some attractive showings in the first part of the season, but everything changed when president Ricardo Garrone decided to sell the star duo. Samp thus lost both their main creative outlet and the top scorer, so it is little wonder Mimmo Di Carlo’s side now sit in 14th place. The club did sign them replacements in Federico Macheda, Massimo Maccarone and Jonathan Biabiany, but having scored just one league goal between them, they are clearly yet to prove their worth to the team. Sampdoria are going through a very rough patch at the moment, having lost five out of last seven games and they certainly don’t look capable of matching a very good Inter side. The hosts will be without Fernando Tissone, Franco Semioli and Nicola Pozzi, which only adds to the worries.

Inter were always going to have problems to repeat the success they had achieved last season, but nobody could expect such poor showings under Rafa Benitez. Nonetheless, his departure and the arrival of Leonardo proved to be a real blessing for the Neroazzurri, who would soon start to play to their potential and return to the right track. Winning all but two league games under Leonardo, Inter quickly returned to the title race and they now have a great chance to close the gap behind title rivals Milan and Napoli, before the two teams play each other on Monday. The Neroazzurri ended the good run of results as they lost the Champions League clash against Bayern, but their performance was pretty good, nevertheless, and the players are eager to show they didn’t deserve to lose the game. Boss Leonardo has major selection problems at the moment, with Ranochia, Cambiasso, Milito, Samuel and Maicon all unavailable, although Giampaolo Pazzini returns to the side.

Conclusion

Sampdoria largely struggle at the moment and they don’t look capable of beating much weaker sides than Inter. The Neroazzurri are playing well at the moment and you shouldn’t expect the unlucky defeat to Inter to have a destabilizing effect. All things considered, away win looks like one of the best football predictions this weekend.

Verdict: Away win Inter (2)

Best Odds: 21/20

Bookmaker:
Victor Chandler

Sun 27 February, 2011
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