Seedorf: Leonardo no issue in derby

AC Milan midfielder Clarence Seedorf insists the team will not be distracted when they tackle the Inter Milan side of former coach Leonardo.

Serie A leaders Milan meet cross-city rivals Inter – second on the Serie A table – in an all-important derby clash on Saturday.

Of added significance is the fact that Inter will be lead by Brazilian manager Leonardo, who coached Milan last season.

But Dutch veteran Seedorf is confident the squad will not be deterred by the sight of the Milan favourite on the opposition bench.

“We will play against the players, not against Leonardo,” Seedorf said.

“I wish him good luck as I wish good luck to everyone.”

Milan – aiming to win the Scudetto for first time since 2004 – top the table by just two points ahead of Inter, who have claimed the last five championship titles.

“I think Inter Milan deserves respect, but AC Milan too for what we’ve done this season up to now,” Seedorf said.

“We must keep looking for the respect and possibly increasing it by playing a great match. A great match by a great team and great group (of players).”

“In my whole career I’ve always thought it is important to have class on the pitch, any moment, really any moment.”

“We need facts, and not words and we know how to do it.”

Thu 31 March, 2011
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Champions League qualification crucial for Bayern

This season Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich have endured an awful season by their high standards.

The Bavarian giants are currently fourth in the German top flight, seven points behind second place Bayer Leverkusen.

Second

Germany currently only has two automatic Champions League spots and a place in the Champions League play-offs.

Finishing in the top two of the Bundesliga is imperative for the German giants. As striker Mario Gomez admitted the Bayern players don’t fancy a trip to Bulgaria to play in front of 3,000 fans.

Bayer Leverkusen, as I have mentioned in previous articles seem to get an attack of nerves just when they look set to be successful. Ironically Bayer are managed by Bayern-bound head coach Jupp Heynckes but look to be in pole position to clinch the automatic Champions League spot.

Leverkusen have enjoyed another good season and if they can avoid their annual end of season collapse then they should be able to clinch one of the automatic Champions League spots. However it’s unlikely that they can catch runaway leaders Borussia Dortmund at the top of the Bundesliga.

The Bundesliga surprise package Hannover 96 are currently third two points ahead of Bayern. Bayern will be confident that they can leapfrog the minnows into third place.

Underachieving

Bayern Munich should have performed far better than they have this season with the players they have in their squad. Unfortunately even the biggest clubs struggle when their star players pick up injuries.

Bayern star wingers Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben have been missing from the side through injury for large periods of the season. If the pair had been fit then maybe the season wouldn’t have been the struggle it has been.

Bayern had a lot to live up to following last season’s fantastic campaign, as Bayern won a domestic treble and also got to the final of the Champions League. It would have been near impossible for Bayern to have been as successful as last season.

Future

Bayern will be looking to secure Champions League football for next season with ex-head coach Jupp Heynckes returning to the club from second place Bayer Leverkusen. Heynckes won two Bundesliga titles in his first spell at Bayern and he will be hoping that when he arrives the club are in the best possible shape.

He will inherit a squad from Louis Van Gaal full of underperforming international players. The current Bayern squad will need to impress between now and the end of the season if they are to be in Heynckes plans for next season.

I can see Heynckes having a full overhaul of his squad. If reports are to be believed Heynckes could raid his former club for some of their top players.

Reputation

For now though current boss Louis Van Gaal has the task of trying to ensure the club make the Champions League and retain their reputation as one of the biggest clubs in Europe. No doubt next season the Bavarian club will enjoy a better season because by Bayern’s standards it couldn’t really get any worse.

Can Bayern secure an automatic Champions League spot in the Bundesliga?

Thu 31 March, 2011
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Grant laments bad timing

West Ham manager Avram Grant is angry last week’s international break came when his team had finally hit a good run of form.

Grant’s men spent long periods of the season slumped at the foot of the Premier League table but a recent upturn in fortunes has seen West Ham haul themselves out of the relegation zone.

Before the international break West Ham had suffered just one defeat in six league games but the side could have lost that momentum going into Saturday’s match against Manchester United.

Grant said: “We wanted to play last Saturday because we were on a good run.”

“We had good momentum but this is how the fixtures have worked out and we are looking forward to the game on Saturday.”

“International breaks are not good for the clubs because there are so many Premier League players in international teams. We need to respect the way the fixtures are.”

“From our point of view things are good because it looks like everybody is fit but with West Ham you never know.”

Influential midfielder Scott Parker impressed in England’s 2-0 victory over Wales on Saturday – a mature performance just days after the death of his father. Grant was full of praise for the 30-year-old’s attitude.

He said: “He is a good lad, a positive lad who is good for the team. Scott Parker is maybe the best midfielder in the league this season.”

“He is doing a job that some other players don’t like to do so much. I am pleased he has been recognised by England because he has deserved that for a while.”

West Ham will be without goalkeeper Peter Kurucz (knee) and midfielders Jack Collison (knee) and Junior Stanislas (groin).

Thu 31 March, 2011
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Coyle unfazed by injury plague

Bolton manager Owen Coyle is not fazed by the club’s mounting injury problems as he looks to end the season in a Europa League spot.

Coyle will be missing a host of first team regulars when he takes his seventh-placed side to Birmingham at the weekend, with Mark Davis, Sam Ricketts and Stuart Holden all on the sidelines.

However the 44-year-old Scot believes possible replacements Fabrice Muamba and Tamir Cohen can use this opportunity to stake a claim for a permanent place in the starting line-up.

“We’ve shown before when we’ve picked up serious injuries that the lads can cope with it,” said Coyle

“What it does is allow somebody to step into the fray and show their quality.”

Midfielder Holden’s absence, with cruciate ligament damage, is arguably Bolton’s biggest blow and he has only returned to club action this season after a long spell out with a broken leg.

However Coyle is confident the 25-year-old will come back stronger from the setback which has ruled him out for six months.

“Stuart is obviously disappointed by what has happened to him, and what happened to him last year when he had a broken leg.”

“He managed to bounce back at the very end of the season to go to the World Cup so he knows how difficult it can be when you’re injured.”

“But he has such a positive mindset and we encourage him in that to make sure, when he comes back, he comes back bigger and better. He did that the last time and he will again.”

“He’s set for a glittering career, so, as disappointing as it is for him now, I’ve told him he’s got to look at the bigger picture and know he’s got so much to look forward to.”

Coyle had better news this week in the shape of Gary Cahill, who shone on his first senior start for England in Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Ghana, and his manager is sure it will not be his last.

“People have said he looked like a top player, that’s because he is a top player,” Coyle continued.

“What England need are players at the back to pass the ball out to them, and there will be none better at that than Gary Cahill, because he’s so comfortable on the ball.”

Thu 31 March, 2011
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Bierhoff calls for investment in youth

Germany general manager Oliver Bierhoff thinks greater emphasis should be placed on developing youth players at national level.

Bierhoff, who netted 37 goals in 70 appearances for his country during a distinguished career, also thinks football federations and leagues should work together to develop the national team.

“I think it’s important to have a philosophy and long term strategy,” Bierhoff said.

“Obviously there is short term interests – you have to win the next game, you have to stay in the league.”

“But you have to see in the long run and I think if you invest in the youth section and you give them a good education technically and physically then you have a wider choice for the coaches for the first team to put some young players in.”

The 42-year-old also believes that leagues and federations should be closely linked in the process of helping young players develop.

“A good national team is also good for the clubs and good performances for the clubs is also good for the national team,” he said.

“I think you have to oblige the clubs to invest a certain amount of money every year into this education. Then you have to have the courage to let these players play in the league.”

Thu 31 March, 2011
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Flagging Valencia look to end slump

La Liga outfit Valencia are looking to end their form slump with victory over Getafe on Saturday.

The club have been training all week in the lead-up to the match, despite a threatened strike over TV rights being a real possibility for this weekend’s fixture.

But the strike was blocked and the match will go ahead as planned, providing a terrific opportunity for Valencia to return to form.

Unai Emery’s side have lost three of their last four matches and slipped to fourth in the league in a disappointing last month for the club.

But they should return to the winners’ list against a Getafe side who have won just one of their last 14 matches in all competitions.

The reverse fixture was won by Valencia 2-0 back in November at the Mestalla.

Thu 31 March, 2011
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Robson recovering after surgery

Former England captain Bryan Robson says he is recovering well after an operation to remove a tumour from his throat.

The 54-year-old former Manchester United midfielder, who is current boss of the Thailand national team, said the cancer was discovered a few weeks ago after he had experienced a sore throat and swollen glands.

But after an operation to remove the mass, and with a course of radiotherapy to come, Robson is confident of making a full recovery.

“I thought I had a sore throat about three to four weeks ago, and all of a sudden, glands were starting to swell,” Robson told Omnisport.

“When I went to the hospital just to get a check up they put a torch down the throat and said: ‘Look Mr Robson I think that’s a tumour you’ve got there and not the swollen glands’, so it came as a little bit of a shock because you don’t expect that.”

“The hospitals over there are terrific in Thailand.”

“This was on the Monday and by the Thursday they took the tumour out. That was successful, the operation, they did tests and everything.”

“What it’s boiled down to now is that it’s isolated to the throat, that’s a good thing, and I need five weeks of radiotherapy so that’s good news after the initial bad news.”

Thu 31 March, 2011
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Pinto delight at Barca extension

Veteran Barcelona goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto says he is delighted to have signed a one-year contract extension with the Catalan giants.

The 35-year-old, who deputises for Barca number one Victor Valdes, inked a new deal with the Spanish champions on Wednesday, a contract that should see him remain at the Nou Camp until the end of next season.

Pinto arrived at Barcelona in January 2008, and after a five-month loan spell from his parent club Celta Vigo – where he spent a decade – he was offered a permanent deal in May 2008.

“I’m very happy because this is where I wanted to be,” Pinto said, revealing he had his heart set on a permanent deal from the moment he arrived on loan.

“I came for six months, but my mind was already focused on carrying on,” he said.

“I am happy here and my family too, and when that happens you can’t ever consider anything but to carry on.”

“I’m happy to prove myself on the pitch, because sometimes what you do to help the team in training and not in games is not easily seen.”

“I am very happy because I feel valued and I can contribute both on and off the pitch.”

Thu 31 March, 2011
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Scottish FA demand apology

The Scottish Football Association have asked for an apology from their Brazilian counterparts over allegations of racism from Scottish fans.

Brazilian starlet Neymar, who scored both goals in his country’s 2-0 friendly win over the Scots at London’s Emirates Stadium on Sunday, claimed he was racially abused by Scottish supporters during the match.

Neymar was jeered repeatedly by Scotland fans and a banana was thrown onto the playing arena.

But earlier this week it was revealed that the banana was in fact thrown by a teenage German tourist sitting with Brazilian supporters.

With no Scottish supporters found to have been involved in the incident, SFA chief executive Stewart Regan has written to the Brazilian Football Federation to request an apology after the character of Scottish football fans had been called into question.

“It is very disappointing that this episode threatened to overshadow an entertaining match, played amidst a real carnival atmosphere created by supporters of both teams,” Regan said.

“Scotland and Brazil have played many times over the years, each time in a colourful and friendly environment, and we feel that it’s necessary to draw a line under Sunday’s events.”

“Scotland’s supporters were genuinely upset and annoyed that the unfounded allegations levelled against them threatened to sully their reputation as fair, good-humoured and respectful spectators.”

“As the matter has been resolved, and Scotland supporters cleared of any involvement, we felt it was only right that we acted on behalf of our supporters to request an apology either from the player involved, or the Brazilian FA.”

Thu 31 March, 2011
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Football the benchmark, says tennis chief

The chief executive of the All-England Club says tennis can learn from football in its quest for popularity.

The man who holds the position, Ian Ritchie, believes that tennis can look at how football has taken the world by storm and hope to replicate that.

“I think there is a lot to learn from being exposed to the general activities in football as well as tennis,” Ritchie told Omnisport at the Soccerex European Forum in Manchester on Thursday.

“I think there is a great crossover (between football and tennis) about how things work.”

“The main issue is about how you get a spectator experience working, what are you doing with your sponsors, how is your broadcast arrangements working. All of those are pretty common.”

The All-England Club hosts the annual Wimbledon Championships, one of four tennis grand slams.

Thu 31 March, 2011
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