Allegri: ´We haven´t won anything yet´

AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri insists securing the Serie A title with victory over Bologna on Sunday is no formality.

Milan top the table by eight points with four matches remaining and can wrap up the Scudetto with a win at the San Siro.

Bologna, on a run of three consecutive defeats, have been given little chance of delaying what will be Milan’s first league championship success since 2004.

Nevertheless, Allegri has cautioned against complacency ahead the potentially decisive match.

“We are facing Bologna, who are not yet mathematically safe and desperately need the points,” Allegri said.

“They’ll come here with the bit between their teeth and must not be underestimated. We haven’t won anything yet.”

“I don’t like the atmosphere that has built up around the team this week. There is too much pressure.”

Striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and midfielder Mark van Bommel are suspended for Milan, while Alexandre Pato, Gennaro Gattuso and Pippo Inzaghi are all missing through injury.

Sat 30 April, 2011
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Chinese Super League wrap: Beijing move to third

Beijing Guoan went third on the Chinese Super League table with a 3-0 win at Nanchang Hengyuan on Saturday, while Shaanxi were held.

Beijing, who finished an agonising two points shy of the AFC Champions League places last season, maintained their strong start by routing Nanchang in a bright second half.

Portuguese import Roberto scored his first goal in a Beijing shirt on 33 minutes, a prelude for what was to come after the break.

Honduras international Walter Martinez picked up his second goal in as many games in the 70th minute, before midfielder Wang Changqing added the finishing touches with a 90th-minute sealer.

Beijing move to third place, one point behind Guangzhou and two points off leaders Hangzhou Lucheng after five games.

Elsewhere, Shaanxi Chanba faltered at home to Changchun Yatai, settling for a 1-1 draw after both clubs made early inroads.

Changchun striker Zhang Wenzhao opened the visitors’ account with a goal in the 12th minute, one that was matched by former Zilina attacker Tomas Oravec 10 minutes later.

In other results, Qingdao Jonoon bounced back from consecutive defeats to edge Dalian Shide 2-1 in a thriller at Qingdao Tiantai Stadium.

Qingdao, who escaped relegation by the skin of their teeth last season, rocketed to a two-goal lead by the 55th minute thanks to a brace by Brazilian attacker Eber.

Bulgarian striker Martin Kamburov kept it interesting by pegging one back for Dalian in the 70th minute.

Finally, Jiangsu Sainty and Henan Construction fought out a 1-1 draw at the Nanjing Olympic Sports Center.

China international Zhao Peng put Henan ahead in the 11th minute, a lead that would last only seven minutes before on-loan Adelaide United striker Bruce Djite found the net.

Sat 30 April, 2011
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Why don’t Los Ches fans love Unai Emery?

Valencia are in third place of La Liga and look set to confirm a place in the Champions League for next season.

Los Ches have been outstanding this season, despite their 6-3 home mauling to Real Madrid last weekend.

Boss

Even after the season their side have had Los Ches fans are still questioning boss Unai Emery’s approach.

They have at times accused their boss of using defensive tactics and going out to avoid defeat rather than going out to win but he’s not the only La Liga boss who uses this approach (Jose Mourinho).

Solid

What Valencia have been this season is very solid. That isn’t a bad thing to be but it means that you are often referred to as a defensive or unattractive side to watch. Valencia however are not unattractive to watch at all.

Valencia do have lots of flair players and are far from boring. The likes of Juan Mata, Pablo Hernandez and Joaquin are all capable of producing moments of brilliance. That’s not even mentioning the enigma that is Ever Banega.

Inconsistent

The players mentioned above are frustratingly inconsistent and Los Ches fans lay the blame at Emery door for their poor displays. Valencia fans have seen what these players can do but they just don’t produce the goods on a regular enough basis.

I don’t think Emery can be blamed for the form of these players. These are players who have been inconsistent throughout their career. I think Emery has done well to get what he has out of this bunch of Prima Donnas.

Problems

The Valencia boss has had to contend with the likes of Ever Banega, Miguel and Mehmet Topal all having off the field problems. Banega at times didn’t even show an interest in playing football and was more concerned about living the high life.

The Argentinean has got talent but it’s wasted because of his inability to avoid the local clubs and bars. I don’t know if there is a manager in the world who could get this lads head straight and on football.

Finances

Not only has he had to contend with player problems but also financial problems. Last summer the club had to sell their two star names David Villa and David Silva. The pair were for so long the heartbeat of the Los Ches team and it seemed this season would be one of transition.

However instead of transition the club have managed to get into the Champions League spots and a lot of credit should go to Emery.

He brought in the likes of strikers Roberto Soldado and Aritz Aduriz, who have turned out to be superb buys. Emery also brought in Argentinean midfielder Tino Costa who has proved one of the clubs better performers this season.

Doubts

Even if the Los Ches do as expected and qualify for the Champions League Emery’s future as boss of the club could be in doubt. The fans views are taken very seriously by the Valencia hierarchy and Emery is definitely not a crowd favourite.

Valencia are a big club but they are currently miles behind the giants of Spanish football Barcelona and Real Madrid. The fans have to realise that he has done a good solid job in difficult circumstances.

I just hope when Valencia confirm their place in the Champions League that Unai Emery gets the praise that he really does deserve. Knowing the nature of Spanish football fans though he probably won’t!

Should Unai Emery be given a new Valencia contract?

Sat 30 April, 2011
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J-League champions Nagoya win first match

Reigning J-League champions Nagoya Grampus finally got off the mark with a 2-0 win over Kawasaki Frontale on Saturday.

Veteran striker Keiji Tamada put a brace past Kawasaki goalkeeper Rikihiro Sugiyama, scoring in the 33rd and 82nd minutes to lift Nagoya to their first win of the fledgling season.

The reigning champions are now 10th with four points, having drawn with Yokohama F Marinos and fallen at Urawa Red Diamonds.

Elsewhere, Jubilo Iwata and Sanfrecce Hiroshima maintained their unbeaten starts with a 1-1 draw at the Yamaha Stadium.

Japan international Tadanari Lee put Hiroshima ahead from the penalty spot in the 68th minute, but five minutes later Iwata striker Hidetaka Kanazono found the net to level the match.

Hiroshima lie fifth in the standings with five points after three games, the same tally accrued by Iwata back in seventh.

Sat 30 April, 2011
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FA react to QPR points deduction claims

The Football Association has denied making any media comments about Queens Park Rangers’ possible point deduction.

The Sun reported on Thursday that QPR, the Championship leaders, will face a 15-point deduction over the 2009 signing of Argentine Alejandro Faurlin – a penalty that will put them in the thick of a play-off race.

The Faurlin case has been under investigation since September, when it came to light QPR had asked for permission to buy out a third party that owned the midfielder.

The Football League introduced measures to prevent third-part ownership of players after the Carlos Tevez saga, which took two years to resolve after he helped West Ham avoid relegation in 2006-07 while owned by a third party.

The Sun article quoted an ‘FA source’ as saying: “There’s no question QPR have broken the rules. They know it as well. The only debate is what to do about it.”

“If they aren’t found guilty you might as well scrap the rules about third-party owners.”

But now the FA has moved to distance itself from the piece, saying it made no comments to the paper.

“The FA wishes to make clear it dissociates itself from an article in The Sun newspaper,” the FA said in a statement.

“Any alleged FA source is not speaking on behalf of the FA.”

The hearing on Faurlin’s acquisition begins on Tuesday with the verdict set to be delivered on Friday.

Sat 30 April, 2011
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Holloway talks up survival and beyond

Blackpool boss Ian Holloway believes his side could be set for a long and prosperous stay in the top flight should they avoid the drop this season.

Speaking ahead of their crunch home clash with Stoke on Saturday, Holloway said surviving a first season in the English Premier League was a monumental challenge for newly promoted clubs.

“The first season is never an easy journey, but just look at the team we are playing today,” Holloway said.

“Stoke came up to the Premier League three years ago and you can see how they have grown each year.”

“But even they struggled in their first season.”

“Basically you just have to try to stay up your first year and then take it from there. You build the best you can.”

“Stoke are in the FA Cup final now, which is marvellous, and shows what can be done.”

Blackpool have captured the imagination of football lovers this term, with a bold attacking style of play that has been fantastic to watch.

But Holloway’s squad has started to feel the pinch as the season wore on, and they are now 17th with just goal difference keeping them out of the drop zone.

Nevertheless, Holloway is proud of what his men have achieved so far this season.

“It was always going to be tough,” Holloway said. “But I think the club has risen to the challenge.”

“What we’ve achieved in this short period of time is incredible.”

Holloway said that despite the pressure of Premier League management, he would not trade jobs with anybody.

“I am not scared at all by the last four games, and I think we can get the points we need,” he said.

“I am still loving my job and relishing the next few weeks. How could I not enjoy it?”

“I get to play football manager for real, instead of sat at home on my computer talking to my mates.”

Sat 30 April, 2011
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Carragher earns legend status at Liverpool

Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher reaches another milestone in his Anfield career on Sunday.

Carragher will make his 665th appearance for Liverpool against Newcastle United, moving equal second with Ray Clemence and Emlyn Hughes in the list of all-time appearances.

Only Ian Callaghan, on 857, will be ahead of the 33-year-old, who made his Liverpool debut in 1997.

The upcoming honour has earned special praise from his manager Kenny Dalglish.

“Carra has been a fantastic servant to this football club,” Dalglish said.

“He’s filled in loyally and comfortably in many positions and he’s someone who has been very pleased to be associated with Liverpool and we’re pleased to be associated with him.”

Carragher has already passed Ian Rush, Phil Neal, Tommy Smith and Bruce Grobbelaar after making 34 appearances this campaign, and Dalglish believes he deserves to be mentioned among such legendary Anfield names.

“Talent is a good starting point,” Dalglish said.

“Starting in the first team at 18 is another good starting point and not picking up too many injuries helps, but the most important thing is his ability and his desire and commitment to this football club.”

Carragher has captained the side recently in Steven Gerrard’s absence, and his form has helped in Liverpool’s upsurge, which has seen them take 27 points from their last 14 games.

Sat 30 April, 2011
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South America backs Blatter for four more years

FIFA president Sepp Blatter is confident of winning another four-year term as the organisation’s chief.

Blatter’s leadership is being challenged by Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed bin Hammam, with the election on June 1.

Speaking from the Paraguay headquarters of CONMEBOL – the South American Football Confederation – the 75-year-old Swiss national said he was positive his proven track record in control of FIFA would see him at the helm for another term.

“Sure, I’m confident. I don’t need to make a lot of promises,” Blatter told Reuters.

“I’m not interested in what he (bin Hammam) is doing. I have my programme, it’s 36 years I’ve been serving FIFA.”

“(Bin Hammam) came into the FIFA executive committee in 1996, so he was part of the construction of today’s FIFA. You need to ask him why he wants to change that construction.”

Blatter, who was in the region to gather support for his bid, said he would be able to count on the support of South American football chiefs, insisting the mood in the region had not changed much since his election to the role in 1998.

“It was CONMEBOL that already in January or February 1998 made a declaration that the 10 countries of CONMEBOL were fully behind Sepp Blatter,” he said.

“Therefore, I’m fully confident that they are still in the same mood. I don’t know why they shouldn’t be.”

Argentine football boss Julio Grondona confirmed the region was behind Blatter.

“South America is unanimously and resoundingly committed to supporting the candidacy of Joseph Blatter for another period as president of FIFA, there’s no doubt in this regard,” Grondona said.

“That’s how we started in 1998 and that’s how we want to continue for the good of world football.”

Sat 30 April, 2011
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Prediction: Chelsea vs Tottenham

30th April 2011

There is no doubt that this London derby will be an exciting affair, especially taking into account the importance a win would have on the outcome of teams’ season. Chelsea have returned to the title race and they can put extra pressure on United with three points from this match, whereas Spurs have got to win at Stamford Bridge in order to keep their Champions League hopes alive.

This has been a pretty strange season for Chelsea since the Blues started the league campaign in great style, making everyone believe they will easily win the league title, then they entered a very poor run that saw them drop out of the title race, and now, after winning four straight games the Blues are back in the hunt for the Premiership trophy. Carlo Ancelotti’s side have shown a massive improvement of late and they have got to be considered favourites against struggling Tottenham, even if they have won just one of their last seven meetings against Spurs. With Fernando Torres finally ending the scoring drought and Didier Drogba back to his best, the Blues have got a new quality up front, with the run of three three-goal wins the perfect proof. Seeing that Michael Essien, Alex and Ramires recovered from injury, Carlo Ancelotti will have full squad to choose from, which is another reason to back Chelsea in this game.

Harry Redknapp has done a great job with Spurs, taking them to first top 4 finish and the Champions League semi-finals, and he is on the good road to turn Tottenham into genuine title contenders, but it still looks as though Spurs will not be able to finish this season on a high. The current poor run of results and the fact Tottenham have won just one out of last ten games is the obvious result of the draining Champions League campaign and it is the European exploits that are likely to cost the team another top 4 finish. Given the state the team are in as well as the absence of several important players, it is highly unlikely that Spurs will be able to stop high-flying Chelsea from winning this game with the game at Stamford Bridge likely to end Tottenham’s Champions League hopes. Spurs are definitely without Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Alan Hutton, Wilson Palacios and Bongani Khumalo, whereas Vedran Corluka, Ledley King, Tom Huddlestone and Jonathan Woodgate remain doubtful.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that Chelsea face a difficult task against very motivated Tottenham side, but looking at teams’ form and their recent performances, I cannot look past the Blues here. They are expected to win this game and put extra pressure on United before the leaders face Arsenal at the Emirates.

Verdict: Home win Chelsea (1)

Best Odds: 8/15

Bookmaker: Paddy Power

Sat 30 April, 2011
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Prediction: Blackburn vs Bolton

30th April 2011

This is a must win game for relegation threatened Blackburn following the home defeat to Manchester City, and with Rovers sitting just outside the relegation zone, the pressure will be solely on them. Bolton are out of contention for the European places after they were beaten 3:0 in midweek by Fulham, but they definitely have the quality to get something from this game.

Blackburn chiefs made a shocking decision to sack manager Sam Allardyce midway through the season and they are still paying the price for it. Not even Jose Mourinho could have done a better job with average Blackburn side than Big Sam, so it is little wonder that Rovers have started to struggle shortly after Steve Kean took over. Having taken just four points from last ten league games, Rovers slipped into the danger zone and with just four games to go they sit one point clear of the relegation zone, meaning the victory against Bolton would be priceless for the hosts. However, beating Trotters will by no means be a walk in the park since not only is Blackburn playing without confidence at the moment, but they also miss quite a few first team regulars, which only adds to the worries. Steven Nzonzi returns to the side from a three-match ban, but Junior Hoilett and Roque Santa Cruz are both doubtful with hamstring problems, whereas David Dunn, Vince Grella and Ryan Nelsen are out injured.

Bolton fans have every reason to celebrate Owen Coyle after what he has done with the team this season and they can only hope the former Burnley man stays at Reebok for as long as possible. Before Owen Coyle, the Trotters were one of the worst travelers in the Premiership, while they often struggled to beat bottom table sides at home, but they are now a real force to be reckoned with at Reebok and have also improved their away performances a great deal. The midweek defeat to Fulham ended Bolton’s European hopes, but the Trotters will, nonetheless, try to finish the season on a high and pick up as many points as possible from the remaining four games. Unlike Blackburn, they will be under no pressure in this match, which is likely to result in another good performance, although certain selection problems could make the task a bit more difficult. Mark Davies, Daniel Sturridge and Gretar Steinsson are all doubtful, while Sean Davis, Stuart Holden and Sam Ricketts remain long-term casualties.

Conclusion

Blackburn desperately need three points to boost their survival chances, but the hosts face a difficult task against very good Bolton side. The Trotters have suffered a small dip in form of late, but I still believe they can escape Ewood with one point in their pockets.

Verdict: Draw (X)

Best Odds: 5/2

Bookmaker: Victor Chandler

Sat 30 April, 2011
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