Babel confident of Euro berth

Ryan Babel does not believe Hoffenheim’s inconsistent Bundesliga form will affect his chances of making the Netherlands’ Euro 2012 squad.

Hoffenheim have won only one of their last nine Bundesliga games, dropping to eighth on the table, but Babel does not think this poor run of form could harm his chances with Bert van Marwijk’s Netherlands set-up.

Babel, 25, returned the international scene in September 2011 after an absence of 10 months, and the forward is confident that he will make the 23-man roster for the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine.

“I don’t fear that Hoffenheim’s poor results will cost me my place in the Dutch squad,” Babel said.

“That shouldn’t be a problem as long as I deliver the goods, and I have plenty of confidence.”

“Things are not looking very good at the moment at the national side regarding the fitness of some players. A number of players are being plagued by injury.

“I don’t think that the national team coach will experiment and test new players. There’s not enough time for that.”

The former Ajax and Liverpool man went to claim the departure of regulars Vedad Ibisevic and Chinedu Obasi from Hoffenheim is not necessarily a bad thing.

Babel feels the team still have plenty of options up front, and hopes the squad changes will give him more freedom on the pitch.

“We still have plenty of optionsm,” he said.

“The players we have can all play in more than one position. Ibisevic could only play as a centre forward, and that limited the freedom of the other attackers.”

“I now had the freedom to move from the wing to the position of striker, while Roberto Firmino could drift wide.”

Hoffenheim meet Augsburg at home in the Bundesliga on February 4.

Tue 31 January, 2012
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Narsingh in line for Ajax return

Ajax are reportedly interested in signing former youth team player Luciano Narsingh from Heerenveen in the January transfer window.

Narsingh, 21, has been in fine form during the 2011-12 campaign, scoring five Eredivisie goals and setting up 12 more.

Such good performances have not gone unnoticed at the Amsterdam ArenA, where Narsingh spent time as a youth player before making his full debut for Heerenveen in 2008.

“We are interested in signing him. Do we want him this winter? That’s certainly an option,” Ajax head coach Frank de Boer told De Telegraaf.

“We are currently looking into the possibilities of a transfer. We want to sign him, and it’s now up to (sporting director) Danny Blind to make a move.”

Mino Raiola, Narsingh’s agent, claims the Eredivisie champions have already contacted him about a potential transfer, and the winger appears to be keen to return his former club.

“They’ve been in touch with me,” Raiola said.

“Luciano’s focused on Heerenveen for now, but he was born and raised in Amsterdam. Who wouldn’t want to play for his boyhood team?”

Narsingh is contracted to Heerenveen until the end of the 2012/13 season, and a fee in the region of six million euros would likely be needed to lure him away from the Abe Lenstra Stadion.

Tue 31 January, 2012
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Mancini denies Liverpool approach

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini has denied having any contact with Liverpool over a potential swap involving Carlos Tevez and Andy Carroll.

Liverpool were reported to have offered City the chance to let Tevez leave in exchange for Carroll, approaching City football administrator Brian Marwood concerning their proposal.

The alleged offer is thought to have been turned down and now Mancini has said he had no knowledge of the potential deal.

“I never heard of this,” Mancini said.

“Carroll is a good player, he is young and strong but it would be difficult and I don’t think (it is going to happen).”

“There was no phone call to me. I don’t know if Brian Marwood was involved. I just read it in the newspaper. I didn’t speak to Marwood about this.”

Tevez has been frozen out of the City squad since allegedly refusing to go on as a substitute during a Champions League game against Bayern Munich in September.

The Argentine was widely expected to walk away from the club during the January transfer window, but he remains a City player.

“My opinion about Carlos is that it is important he finds a good solution because he can stay for a year without playing. It is important that he plays, he is a top player,” Mancini said.

Tue 31 January, 2012
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Marcelo may miss Getafe trip

Fullback Marcelo is in doubt for Real Madrid’s La Liga match away to Getafe on Saturday due to an injury sustained against Real Zaragoza.

Brazilian Marcelo picked up a leg problem in last weekend’s 3-1 win at home to Zaragoza, but stayed on the pitch until the final whistle as Real had already used all three substitutions.

The left-back underwent an examination on Monday to clarify the extent of the knock, and Real believe the defender could miss the match against Getafe based on the results of an MRI scan.

Marcelo’s absence would likely see Portugal international Fabio Coentrao, who has been used as a midfielder at times this season, drop into the defence.

League leaders Real, who boast a seven-point advantage over defending champions Barcelona, meet Getafe at Estadio Coliseum Alfonso Perez.

Tue 31 January, 2012
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Fiorentina capture Zahore

Fiorentina have signed promising Dane Kenneth Zohore from Copenhagen for an undisclosed fee.

The transfer has been confirmed on the official Serie A website.

Fiorentina have a history of snapping up hot prospects relatively cheap at young age, as they previously did with Adem Ljajic and Stevan Jovetic, and the 18-year-old Zohore fits in with their transfer policy.

Zohore is a product of the Copenhagen youth academy, and made his first team debut only one month after turning 16.

The striker, who has been capped at Under-19 level for Denmark, previously enjoyed trials at Chelsea and Inter, but will now continue his career with Fiorentina.

Tue 31 January, 2012
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Dalglish lashes City swap claims

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish has blasted Manchester City’s claims he tried to instigate a swap between strikers Andy Carroll and Carlos Tevez.

Dalglish is unhappy after the Eastlands outfit revealed the potential exchange, and reiterated the club’s intentions of having no players coming in or out of Anfield before the end of the transfer window.

The Scot insisted Liverpool will not validate the claims and slammed City’s decision to make the alleged deal public knowledge.

“We’re not going to get involved in justifying what people are saying – we don’t have to. Get City to justify it, not us,” Dalglish said.

“We’re not talking about any specific incident, but if you are going to do business in any way shape or form, no matter what life you are in, you don’t need to disclose it until it’s done.”

“As (Liverpool chairman) Tom Werner said the other day, ‘there’s no point letting the facts get in the way of a good story’, when he was talking about Stewart Downing being bought from a clip off YouTube. Do us a favour.”

The 60-year-old said Liverpool would not be having a similarly hectic end to the January transfer window as they did last time round, and insisted Carroll is perfectly happy at the club.

“Nothing is happening at all and we don’t anticipate it to either. Last year was a bit manic but there’ll be nothing this time,” he said.

“There’s no need for us to pass comment on anything that’s been speculative in any way shape or form. We’ve said what’s going to happen, and that’s nothing. It’s quiet.”

“We don’t have any problems with any of the players, because they are all going nowhere.”

“Andy has said he is very happy here and doesn’t regret coming. That’s the best reference you can get, but for some reason the focus always seems to be on the big fella.”

Tue 31 January, 2012
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Lakic loaned to Hoffenheim

Hoffenheim are set to sign Wolfsburg striker Srdjan Lakic on loan, subject to the completion of a successful medical.

The departure of Vedad Ibisevic to Stuttgart meant Hoffenheim were in the market for a new striker, and the club have now agreed terms with both Lakic and Wolfsburg.

Lakic, 28, joined Wolfsburg from Kaiserslautern in 2011, but has made just 10 Bundesliga appearances during his time at the Volkswagen Arena, without finding the net.

The Croatian will now try to relaunch his career at Hoffenheim, as they look to qualify for European football in the second half of the season.

Hoffenheim sit eighth in the Bundesliga table with 23 points from 19 matches played.

Tue 31 January, 2012
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Manning keen for repeat performance

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning hopes lightning can strike twice when his side meet the New England Patriots in Sunday’s Super Bowl.

Manning led the Giants to a famous Super Bowl victory over the Patriots in 2008 with a last minute drive, while New York has the recent form over New England – clinching a 24-20 win when the sides met in November.

“I think it feels like we’ve played them a decent amount in the last couple of years,” Manning said.

“We’ve played them in the Super Bowl, we’ve played them in the regular season, we have played them close in all of those games so I think you understand that they are very talented.”

“They have the ability to score a lot of points, their defence has the ability to keep you to a minimum of points so it’s going to be a great challenge for both sides.”

Manning said he still sees occasional glimpses of the 2008 Super Bowl and feels he is better equipped to handle the build up to Sunday’s game in Indianapolis because of it.

“It feels very similar,” he said. “I think you’re just excited to be here.”

“Besides that, I think it still comes down to you. You have a great feeling everything is going to work out perfectly, you still want to prepare hard, get all your studying in, make sure you’re doing everything to get your team ready to play.”

“I think that’s still the mentality, it’s all going to come to making sure we play our best football on Sunday, that’s the ultimate goal.”

Eli’s older brother, Colts quarterback Peyton, is normally the talk of Indianapolis but he has been forced to take a back seat having missed the whole season with a neck injury.

Now, it will be Eli who steps into the spotlight on Sunday.

“I really haven’t thought much about playing in Indianapolis,” Eli said.

“It’s not really a time to reflect right now on that so I think it’s just a matter of trying to get ready for the Patriots, trying to get ready to play this game”

“We’ll look back on the fact that (I’m) playing a Super Bowl in the town where Peyton plays NFL for the Colts, we’ll look on that later.”

Tue 31 January, 2012
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Juve move for Padoin

Serie A leaders Juventus have signed Atalanta midfielder Simone Padoin for five million euros.

Padoin, 27, has signed a five-year deal with the Turin club.

Juve were believed to be keen to add depth to their midfield before the January transfer window closed, and had been linked with players such as Cagliari’s Radja Nainggolan and Porto’s Fredy Guarin.

However, they turned their attention to Padoin and have now completed the signing of the midfielder.

Padoin started his professional career with Vicenza, where he made 126 league appearances before returning to his boyhood club Atalanta in 2007.

He had since developed into a key player at the Bergamo-based outfit, racking up 157 league appearances, and earning himself a move to heavyweights Juventus.

Tue 31 January, 2012
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Zambia target last four

Isaac Chansa is confident Zambia can progress to the Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals for the first time since 1996.

One of the tournament’s most impressive performers so far, Zambia topped Group A with two wins and a draw, including a 2-1 victory over pre-tournament favourites Senegal in their opening match.

They take on Group B runners-up Sudan in the quarter-finals on Saturday, with a place in the last four up for grabs.

“We can realise our semi-final dreams,” Chansa said.

“This time it is our target that we want to go further and continue with our brilliant performance.”

At the 2010 tournament Zambia reached the Afcon quarter-finals for the first time since their third-place finish in 1996.

While the semis remain the target this year, Chansa dares to dream of making all the way to the decider.

“If we get to the final it will be a plus for us and if we get there anything can happen,” Chansa said.

“Two years ago we went to the quarter-finals where we lost to Nigeria but we learnt a lesson from last time.”

“This time around we are with the same team, but more experience and yes, we do have young players and brilliant players and they are doing fantastic for the team.”

Tue 31 January, 2012
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