Villas-Boas demands improvement

Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas has demanded his side improve following their dismal exit from the Carling Cup quarter-finals.

The Blues lost 2-0 against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday, applying further pressure on the 34-year old as his team struggle to find form ahead of their crucial tie against Valencia in the Champions League group stages on Tuesday.

A loss for Chelsea would result in a failure to progress to the final 16 of Europe’s prestige club competition.

The Portuguese boss is more than aware of the pressure that is mounting at the club, and knows that Chelsea will have to improve on their Carling Cup performance if they want to succeed in Europe.

“The Champions League is a competition that is life and death and this standard won’t be enough,” he said.

“We will need to up the tempo and play that game with the ultimate desire.”

Chelsea currently lie just 5th in the Premier League table, 10 points off current league leaders Manchester City.

December will prove to be a pivotal month with games against top-four sides Newcastle, Tottenham and City, which could decide the outcome of their season.

And Villas-Boas is aware of the task ahead, adding: “For our Premier League challenge to be alive we need to make the most of our December fixtures.”

“If we are able to do that we can get it back on track, not that we can’t get back on track after. If we do well in December it will have a major impact.”

“We recovered two points on our near opponents when we beat Wolves last weekend, which was good.”

“But for us to challenge for the Premier League we need to make the most of our December fixtures because we play most of the top teams.”

“I’m not a wizard so I can’t say for sure what will happen after December.”

“The FA Cup and Champions League come into play next year, so we don’t know what will happen in March and April.”

“But it’s a fact that if we get points from December, it will put our challenge back on track.”

Wed 30 November, 2011
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Crash victims point finger at Podolski

Cologne forward Lukas Podolski has defended his actions after being involved in a serious car accident on Monday.

The Germany international was involved in an crash on his way to training, but did not sustain any injuries.

However, local police told RTL on Tuesday that they would be opening a criminal investigation into the incident over alleged negligence on Podolski’s part.

The father of the family of three travelling in the other vehicle involved in the crash publicly accused the 26-year-old of displaying little concern for him or his daughter, both of whom were taken to hospital immediately after the collision.

Podolski, though, insists that he made every effort to check on the welfare of Eduard Paller and his one-year-old daughter, Fabienne, who suffered a suspected fracture in the bone above her nose.

“I immediately tried to contact the family by telephone in the afternoon,” he told the Koln-Star. “Unfortunately, I could not reach anyone.”

“In the evening, I was able to speak with the mother. I asked about the health of the family and apologised for the collision.”

“I told the mother that I will immediately look for a quick and smooth claims settlement.”

Podolski admitted he had been stung by Paller’s accusation of a lack of compassion and the negative media coverage which has followed.

“Now I have the impression that the public has more interest in the family than the actual accident,” he said.

Podolski also revealed that he experienced some mild pain in his ribs following the crash but he is expected to be available for this weekend’s Bundesliga clash with Stuttgart.

Wed 30 November, 2011
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Mendieta to open football academy

Former Spain international Gaizka Mendieta is hopeful his new football academy in England can help players improve technically.

Mendieta – who spent five seasons in England with Middlesbrough in addition to stints at Valencia, Lazio and Barcelona – will use the Spanish football philosophy, based on short, sharp passing and fluid football to improve English players.

“I am setting up an academy to interlink Spain and England, helping players to develop and improve, not only as players but as people, as human beings,” Mendieta said.

“The idea is to teach English players with a Spanish methodology, because now Spanish football is at the best in its entire history.”

“So we are trying to make the most of that and help the players. It’s not to change them because we want the English players to be English players, but we want to improve them technically, make sure they know about football, how to read the games and make them better players.”

Mendieta hopes to have his new football academy up and running in the coming months.

Wed 30 November, 2011
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Niger appoint “super coach” Courbis

The Niger Football Federation has named former Marseille boss Rolland Courbis as a ‘super coach’ of the national team.

The Frenchman has been brought in to assist head coach Harouna Douala, as he prepares to lead Niger into their first African Cup of Nations campaign in next year’s tournament in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

“Roland Courbis will serve as adviser and super coach and share his wealth of experience with Douala Harouna during the tournament,” Niger FA boss Djibrilla Hima Hamidou told state television ORTN on Wednesday.

Courbis has already accompanied the team to Dubai for a training tour and a friendly against Botswana this month.

“I think being with the Niger team during the 2012 Afcon will be a very passionate experience,” Courbis told L’Equipe.

Although he has not coached any team since 2009, Courbis led Marseille to the UEFA Cup final in 1999 and won two French league titles as a player with Monaco.

Niger have been drawn against hosts Gabon, as well as north African giants Tunisia and Morocco in Group C at the 2012 African Cup of Nations.

Wed 30 November, 2011
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Stevens slams Schalke stars

Schalke coach Huub Stevens has issued harsh criticism of two of his team’s star players, Raul and Lewis Holtby.

Following his side’s 2-0 derby loss to bitter rivals Borussia Dortmund on Saturday, the Dutch coach has opined that Spaniard Raul has not regularly brought his best performances.

“He’s played inconsistently this season, with good and bad moments,” Stevens told Bild.

He added, however, that this is not entirely the fault of the veteran, who although deployed in midfield, is as much a striker as a playmaker.

“Our current midfield problem, however, Raul cannot solve. He is a striker, a nine and a half – he needs assists.”

Stevens also claimed that Holtby has not matured as a leader in defensive midfield, and admitted that his side lack a spark in the absence of Jefferson Farfan.

“(Holtby) is only 21, but he should be ahead of Julian Draxler, who is only 18,” Stevens said.

“Lewis needs to be more present and to grow into the chief’s role. Otherwise, without the injured Jefferson Farfan, we have no solutions. His quality has been missing in every nook and cranny.”

Schalke have struggled since Farfan and captain Benedikt Howedes sustained knee injuries during the most recent international break.

Looking ahead, Stevens believes his side can advance from Europa League Group J, and eagerly anticipates the return of Howedes, who resumed training this week.

“With a win we are through. And hopefully Benedikt Howedes will come back on Sunday against Augsburg.”

Schalke currently top their Europa League group with eight points, two ahead of Maccabi Haifa.

Their Bundesliga campaign has been slightly less fruitful thus far, leading to a fifth-place position after 14 games.

Wed 30 November, 2011
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Bayern rule out January signings

Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness has ruled out the possibility of the Bavarian giants signing new players in January.

His statements come amid a slump of form from his club, who have lost three of their last five Bundesliga games, and on the heels of rumours that the Bavarians might be interested in signing Papiss Cisse from Freiburg when the transfer window re-opens in the New Year.

“To get players to solve the problem is not a solution,” Hoeness told Sky Sports News HD. “Those we have must play to their potential. And then we will have no need for new players.”

However, Hoeness did not rule out the possibility of adding reinforcements at the end of the season.

“For us to think about it again at the end of the season is something else.”

Bayern’s loss to Mainz on Sunday left them third in the Bundesliga table, behind defending champions Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Moenchengladbach.

Wed 30 November, 2011
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CECAFA Cup wrap: Kenya notch first win

Kenya beat Ethiopia 2-0 on Tuesday to enhance their chances of reaching the last eight of the CECAFA Tusker Challenge Cup.

The match was played in wet conditions in Dar es Salaam and the slippery pitch affected players’ ball control in the first half of the match.

In the 11th minute striker Bob Mugalia pounced on a ball which was parried by Ethiopian goalkeeper Habetamu, slotting it into goal to make it 1-0 to Kenya.

Kenya had a chance to double their advantage when Victor Ochieng was brought down in the box, but Jamal Mohammad sent the ball over the bar from the spot in the 25th minute.

With only six minutes left of the half, centre-back Brian Mandela sent the ball into the back of the net to stamp Kenya’s authority on the match.

The Harambee Stars’ solid defence kept their opponents’ strike force at bay at the break as they ensured they grabbed the maximum points from the encounter.

Elsewhere, Rwanda maintained their 100 percent record at the tournament with a 2-0 win over Zimbabwe.

Rwanda have now won both of their opening two matches, and top Group A ahead of host nation Tanzania, who claimed their first points with a 3-0 win over Djibouti.

Wed 30 November, 2011
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Eto´o blamed for Cameroon boycott

The Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot) has accused national team captain Samuel Eto’o of plotting to destabilise the governing body.

The claims come after the Cameroon team boycotted a friendly last month following the non-payment of bonuses after the Indomitable Lions won the LG Cup in Marrakech, Morocco.

Responding to a demand of explanation from the office of the Head of State, the Fecafoot said in a document made available to Xinhua on Wednesday that the Anzhi forward was the man responsible for the team’s boycott of the November 15 friendly against Algeria.

“Some points suggest that the botch up of the Algeria-Cameroon international friendly was premeditated and that the Indomitable Lions captain was manipulated to destabilise the federation and the ministry of sports,” the report said.

The FA also accused other team members – Makoun, Kameni and Enoh Eyong (vice-captain) – for inciting others to embark on the strike action. But Eto’o seems to be receiving the most blame.

“The refusal to accept the bonuses, which the sports ministry later made available in Marrakech, and the determination to persist in a position with extremely serious consequences, and the absence of Eto’o, who left for Barcelona, on permission, and his firm instructions on telephone to his team-mates, resulted in the eventual grave situation,” the document continued.

“Eto’o confided to some officials his resentment towards the minister of sport and the president of the Fecafoot for contacting the Prime Minister demanding to change the team’s captaincy.”

The cancellation of the Algeria-Cameroon friendly almost caused a diplomatic fallout between both countries after Cameroon officials intending to travel to Algiers to pacify the situation were denied visas.

The Algeria Football Federation has filed a complaint with FIFA against the Fecafoot, demanding damages of up to US$1million.

Wed 30 November, 2011
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Ganso dreaming of Club World Cup glory

Midfielder Ganso is hoping his partnership with Neymar can help Santo win the Club World Cup in Japan next week.

The Brazilians will leave for Asia on Monday and are scheduled to begin their campaign at the semi-final stage against either Monterrey or the winner of a play-off between Auckland City and a participant from the host nation.

Santos have never won the competition in its present incarnation, but lifted the Intercontinental Cup twice in 1963 and 1963.

“Of course we are anxious to begin,” Ganso told Radio Globo. “It is natural, but we are more than ready. I hope we can win the title with one of my passes for Neymar to score the winner.”

Team-mate and friend Neymar recently committed his future until 2014 to Santos, but Ganso said he would put off making a decision about his own future until after the Club World Cup.

“My future is Santos. The directors have offered me a new contract and I have told the president that we can talk after the tournament,” he said.

“We have this vital competition and I don’t think this is the right time (for discussions). When we return, we will talk about it. The most important thing is that I want to participate in the club’s centenary year (in 2012).”

The Brazil international, who has endured an injury-disrupted 2011, has previously been the subject of transfer speculation linking him to Inter, AC Milan and Corinthians.

Wed 30 November, 2011
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Roth calls time on Gremio tenure

Gremio coach Celso Roth has confirmed Sunday’s clasico against Internacional will be his final game at the helm of the Brazilian club.

Roth took charge midway through the 2011 Brazilian Serie A season after Renato Gaucho’s departure, but has presided over a mediocre campaign.

Under his command the club won 10 games, lost 10 and drew four, and with only one match remaining can finish no higher than 12th place.

The coach told reporters on Tuesday that he was bringing an end to his fourth spell with the club and would not sign a new contract to stay into the coming year.

“I want to announce to you all that I will honour my contract until December 31. I will not continue,” Roth said.

“It is my decision taken in conjunction with the Gremio board, we believe it is best to confirm it now in order to focus on Gre-Nal.”

“I am not leaving Gremio and I am not being sacked. I am seeing out my contract and not renewing, by common agreement.”

Caio Junior has emerged as an early favourite to take over in 2012, according to Globoesporte.

The 46-year-old began his football career in Gremio and is available having been sacked from Botafogo in November after a poor run of results.

Wed 30 November, 2011
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