Valencia know score, says Emery

Valencia manager Unai Emery is well aware of the importance of his side’s Champions League clash with Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday.

Valencia need a victory over their Bundesliga opponents at the Mestalla to keep any hopes of progression out of Group E, which they share with Genk and Chelsea.

Emery knows the situation that faces his side, and also the strengths of visiting Leverkusen after losing 2-1 to Robin Dutt’s men on October 19 at BayArena.

“They have the capacity of being very offensive or very defensive. Since they go through with a tie they could be defensive in the beginning and be strong with that approach,” he said.

“We have to know how to penetrate their defence if they decide to play like that and we have to be patient. The match can change, they are also very good at counter-attacking, while on defence so at any moment if they want to score and win the match, they can be very offensive.”

“We have to be smart enough to read this and play accordingly. It will be a long 90-minute game because the game can change drastically a few times.

“We are expecting everything because, if we think they are only going to do one thing, they can change and catch us unprepared.”

Valencia striker Roberto Soldado said his team-mates have been treating the match ‘as if it were a final’, and has every confidence they will succeed.

“Yes, it’s true that tomorrow we can only play to win, as if it were a final. That’s how we’ve approached this match and we are conscious of its importance and we are sure that we are going to achieve a positive result,” he said.

“We are very confident in our own ability, and we think that (Tuesday) will be a great day for us because we are convinced that we will achieve victory.”

Mon 31 Oct, 2011
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Premier League: Stoke City 1 Newcastle United 3

Newcastle United moved up third place in the English Premier League after Demba Ba came back to haunt Stoke City with a Halloween hat-trick.

The Senegalese striker failed a medical for the Potters in January amid concerns over his knees, and instead joined Newcastle in the off-season at the end of his contract with West Ham.

And it was his contribution as well as the Magpies’ brilliant display of defending against Stoke’s style of play which saw them claim a 3-1 win over Stoke and leap-frog Chelsea in the league.

The opening exchanges consisted of a series of long balls, as both sides tried to test the resolve of each other’s back four in the air.

Fittingly, it was a lofted delivery that produced the first goal of the game.

Newcastle’s Dutch goalkeeper Tim Krul pumped the ball into the opposition’s half and striker Leon Best flicked it on to winger Gabriel Obertan, whose nicely measured cross found Ba in the box.

The ball was slightly behind the striker but Ba adjusted his body shape well before guiding his header the left of Begovic and into the bottom of the corner.

The Stoke goalkeeper was in a personal battle with Ba all match, and Yohan Cabaye’s ball in behind the defence caused the hosts problems before Begovic ran out and cleared just in time.

But Ba got the better of him once again moments later as Best’s low cross-cum-shot fell at his feet as he ghosted into the area, leaving him to tap home beyond the despairing goalkeeper.

The second-half proved to be a tale of two penalties.

The Newcastle hero of the hour brought down Peter Crouch in the box after a clumsy challenge following some head tennis in the penalty area, and Jonathan Walters thundered home the resulting spot-kick to set up a fascinating final ten minutes.

But any hopes of a comeback were over as Robert Huth lent into Best in the box and referee Mike Dean pointed to the spot.

Ireland striker Best did not go down but the shove was enough to convince Dean and Ba duly obliged to score a perfect hat-trick – scoring with his left, right and head – which was also his second three-goal feast this season.

It was also the second consecutive hat-trick to be scored by Newcastle on Halloween after Kevin Nolan’s goal frenzy against Sunderland last season.

Obertan went close to increasing the lead but his shot just fizzed past the post as Newcastle held on for three well-earned points, ensuring they remain unbeaten in the league.

Mon 31 Oct, 2011
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La Liga: Sevilla 1 Granada 2

Mikel Rico scored a 90th-minute goal to hand Granada a dramatic 2-1 victory over Sevilla in La Liga on Monday.

Manu del Moral had put Sevilla ahead inside the first minute of the match but a spirited fightback from Granada – through a goal from Alex Geijo and Rico’s late strike – ensured they were to clinch their first away win of the league season.

Sevilla took the earliest of leads when Granada failed to deal with Jesus Navas’ cross and Manu put away the rebound from striker Frederic Kanoute’s shot.

Further chances came the home sides’ way before the 10-minute mark with Manu, Jesus Navas and Piotr Trochowski all squandering good opportunities to double Sevilla’s lead.

Granada’s influence grew and they had a good opportunity to level when they were awarded a free kick in a promising position.

Abel tested the palms of Sevilla goalkeeper Javi Varas with the set-piece and from the resulting corner a timely intervention from Uruguay defender Martin Caceres prevented a tap-in for two lurking Granada players.

Sevilla began to realise that their slender lead was under threat and emerged from the half-time break with the intention of finding a second, and they nearly managed that when Emiliano Armenteros was unchallenged five meters from goal but he put his header wide.

Granada goalkeeper Roberto was then in fine reactionary form saving from Manu, Armenteros and Jesus Navas all in quick succession to deny Sevilla a second goal.

Granada’s best chance came and went when a corner kick was scrambled to Uche just three meters from goal, but the Nigerian striker scooped his effort over the bar.

They then found their lifeline when Javi Varas was left-wrong footed after on-loan Argentine forward Franco Jara’s shot hammered off the crossbar and onto the head of Geijo, who gratefully nodded home to level the match with little over ten minutes remaining.

Granada then stunned the home faithful with a superb strike in the 90th minute from Mikel Rico at the edge of the area.

Sevilla were left ruing their numerous missed chances, with Marcelino Toral’s side falling further behind Valencia in the race for a Champions League spot as a result.

Granada lifted themselves off the bottom of the table courtesy of victory against their Andalusian rivals.

Mon 31 Oct, 2011
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Dutt out to reign in Spain

Manager Robin Dutt wants his Bayer Leverkusen side to repeat their feats the last time they met Valencia in the Champions League.

Two second-half strikes helped the Bundesliga club win 2-1 and collect three vital Group E points at BayArena on October 19, greatly helping their quest for qualification to the next stage.

Dutt and defender Gonzalo Castro believe they will be under pressure from the start of Tuesday’s match at the Mestalla, but are still targeting three points against their La Liga opponents.

“After two tough matches against Genk and Chelsea, perhaps the most important match until now was the first leg against Valencia,” Dutt said.

“After 35 minutes of great football from Valencia, we were lucky to only concede one goal. After that we were able to show our quality and the possibilities that we have and were able to turn the score around and win the match. As for (Tuesday’s) match, we are looking for a win but I think it will be a very difficult match.”

Castro – German-born but of Spanish descent – believes his side must begin well in order to keep Valencia on their toes.

“I think that they will try to pressure us from the start of the match. They will be aggressive and play like they did the first half of the home match. They are especially good in counter-attacking football and they have very loyal and vocal supporters,” he said.

“However, if they haven’t scored in the first 30 or 35 minutes, the fans can become impatient and start showing their frustration and this can be negative for the home team.”

“I think that Valencia playing at home and still with chances to qualify for the next round will be a very difficult rival for us. I think they are favourites but we will try to do as much damage as we can and try to re-create the second half of the match we played in Leverkusen.”

Mon 31 Oct, 2011
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Allegri: Cassano on our mind

AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri is thinking of Antonio Cassano ahead of his side’s Champions League clash against BATE Borisov.

Cassano has been in hospital for two days after falling ill on the return flight to Milan following his side’s 3-2 Serie A win over Roma on Saturday.

The Italy striker’s problem has not been confirmed by the club despite reports in the Italian media that Cassano had suffered stroke-like symptoms.

Allegri said Milan would go into their Group H clash on Tuesday in Minsk with Cassano in mind.

“Tomorrow (Tuesday) we will play for Antonio (Cassano) as well and it is a great pity that he won’t be playing, as he has been in great form recently,” Allegri said.

“Everybody is looking forward to his return.”

Milan are on a good run of form, having won five consecutive games in all competitions. But Allegri is expecting a stern test against BATE.

“We had a very important game on Saturday (against Roma) and performed very well up front, but still conceded two goals,” he said.

“I am pleased with our display and hope that it will be a starting point for further successes.”

“We have a very important game tomorrow as we are targeting first place and we have to win to approach our second game against Barcelona on equal terms.”

“Although we have conceded a lot of goals lately, I am not too worried about our defence.”

“Sometimes we have conceded from set-pieces. We have some points to improve on there.”

“During our game in Milan (on October 19, ending 2-0 to the home side), BATE played some good football. They have many quality players and everyone in our team should understand that it will not be an easy game.”

Milan lead Group H on seven points, alongside Spanish giants and defending champions Barcelona.

Mon 31 Oct, 2011
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Ferdinand submits statement to FA

QPR’s Anton Ferdinand has submitted a statement to the Football Association regarding alleged racist abuse by Chelsea captain John Terry.

The defender reiterated his ‘strong feelings’ on the matter in his statement to the FA and confirmed he would not be making further comment on the issue until the governing body had concluded its investigation into the incident.

The FA launched a probe on Tuesday into allegations Terry racially abused Ferdinand during last Sunday’s west London derby at Loftus Road.

“Today (October 31) I finalised my statement with the Football Association with regards to the incident that occurred last Sunday at Loftus Road in our Barclays Premier League fixture against Chelsea,” Ferdinand said.

“I have very strong feelings on the matter, but in the interests of fairness and not wishing to prejudice what I am sure will be a very thorough enquiry by the FA, this will be my last comment on the subject until the enquiry is concluded.”

“I would like to thank the club, (chairman) Tony Fernandes, (vice-chairman) Amit Bhatia, (manager) Neil Warnock, the supporters and my fellow professionals for their unwavering support.”

Terry has held firm to his version of events that there was a ‘misunderstanding’ and in a statement claimed he was merely responded to Ferdinand’s accusation that he had uttered a racist slur.

Terry has denied all allegations, previously stating: “I thought Anton was accusing me of using a racist slur against him. I responded aggressively, saying that I never used that term.”

“I would never say such a thing and I’m saddened that people would think so. I have known Anton for a long time and spoke to him about it after the game and there was no problem between us.”

The two player’s version of events differ in that Ferdinand alleges he does not recall any exchange in which he accused the England captain of racially abusing him.

Ferdinand subsequently made a complaint and spoke to the FA last Friday, an action Rangers boss Warnock and Fernandes fully supported.

Meanwhile, Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas was in unanimous support of his captain, saying: “All of the players have been quiet about it because we know what happened. Nothing happened, so there is nothing to discuss.”

Mon 31 Oct, 2011
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Robinson rapt at re-signing

Liverpool’s 18-year-old left-back Jack Robinson has spoken of his joy at penning a new long-term deal at Anfield.

The promising defender has made five senior appearances having become the youngest ever player to represent the club after coming on as a substitute against Hull on the final day of the 2009-10 season.

Robinson has seen first-team chances limited following the arrival of former Newcastle left-back Jose Enrique this summer, but was eager to sign a new deal.

“I’m delighted,” he told the club’s official website.

“I was going for my lunch and I saw Damien (Comolli) on my way through. He pulled me to one side and said the club wanted to offer me a new contract.”

“There was no doubt in my mind, I was just so excited the club were offering me a contract.”

“I’ve just got to keep working hard in training. I can’t just sit back on this contract. I’ve got to keep improving and showing people what I’m about.”

Liverpool midfielder Charlie Adam followed up the announcement by tweeting: ‘Good too see liverpool signed up another young player in jack robinson one for the future.’

Mon 31 Oct, 2011
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Wenger lauds ´perfect´ Van Persie

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has praised his ‘perfect captain’ Robin van Persie following the striker’s hat-trick against Chelsea.

Dutchman Van Persie, who led his side to a 5-3 Premier League win at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, has now scored 28 goals in his previous 27 games.

And Wenger has been quick to praise his skipper and the team for creating as many chances as they have for the lone striker.

“I was always very confident (in my team),” Wenger told Arsenal’s official website.

“I have always said that football games are decided by details.”

“Robin is an exceptional player who takes advantage of that fact that we have an attacking team that works hard for him.”

“It’s no coincidence that when a player scores, well it is because the team does well. Our style of play creates chances.”

“Van Persie is a perfect captain not just because he scores goals but because he behaves himself on and off the field.”

Turning his attention to Arsenal’s midweek Champions League fixture against Marseille, Wenger added: “We have another big test tomorrow night, but we have that desire to win.”

Wenger believes that the clash against the French side will be tough as they are strong on the break and well-equipped to defend.

“I believe they have the team which certainly is more at ease away from home,” he said.

“They are a side who can defend well with very physical and quick players on the break, so I believe that the counter attack suits them more than dominating the game.”

“They have gained in confidence in between the two games like we have so it should be an interesting tie. But for us it’s an opportunity to qualify and of course we want to take this chance.”

Wenger also revealed that Thomas Vermaelen, Yossi Benayoun and Carl Jenkinson would all be fit for Marseille’s visit to the Emirates.

Mon 31 Oct, 2011
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Fresh injury blow for Gerrard

Liverpool and England midfielder Steven Gerrard could be set for another spell on the sidelines after a cut to his ankle became infected.

The 31-year-old, who only returned to action from a groin injury in September, could be facing another lengthy stint on the sidelines.

It is understood Gerrard suffered the cut in training last week and missed Liverpool’s 2-0 win away to West Brom as a result after initially travelling with the squad.

Gerrard’s absence will not only hurt his club but also his country, with England set to play friendlies against Spain and Sweden at Wembley on November 12 and 15 respectively.

Manager Kenny Dalglish is set to find out the full extent of the problem later this week.

Mon 31 Oct, 2011
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Jaguares follow Valencia, add Tweet tag

Mexican Primera Division club Jaguares have taken their liking of Twitter to a new level by printing players’ account names on their shirts.

Jaguares have also plastered the club sponsor’s Twitter handle on their jersey, while using the social media site’s official font and bird logo on the back of the shirt.

The club’s decision to print players’ account names on official club shirts comes just one month after Valencia decided to print their account handle on the front of their shirts in place of a sponsor.

The Mexican side, founded in 2002, competed in the Copa Libertadores earlier in the year, reaching the quarter-finals of the competition.

Mon 31 Oct, 2011
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