Mazzarri to rely on home advantage

Walter Mazzarri believes Napoli’s supporters will prove more important than ever in the team’s bid to reach the Champions League.

Mazzarri’s side occupy third place on the Serie A table, but are separated from Udinese, Inter Milan and Lazio on goal difference only.

Napoli managed to claim third spot last season, reaching the last 16 of the Champions League before bowing out against finalists Chelsea.

They have three matches of the Serie A campaign remaining to try and book a place in UEFA’s elite club competition again next term.

With two of those fixture at home, starting with the visit of Palermo on Tuesday, Mazzarri feels the intimidating atmosphere of the Stadio San Paolo could provide a decisive advantage.

“We have three big league encounters and the public will support us, as they did in the most important European matches this season,” he said.

“It is support that has always accompanied us and enabled us to play well against the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea, Villarreal and Bayern Munich.

“The fans have always been involved with us and now we are at a crucial moment – three important finals to face with heat and passion, starting with the match against Palermo.

“Everyone is together with us to help obtain another result.

“I’d like to see my team play as they did in the second half against Roma, but if this fails to happen, it is important that the goal is then reached with everyone’s help,” he said, referring to Napoli’s performance in a 2-2 draw at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday.

Following the Palermo match, Napoli go away to Bologna and are at home to Siena, before a Coppa Italia final against Scudetto challengers Juventus.

Mon 30 April, 2012
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Premier League: Manchester City 1 Manchester United 0

Manchester City took control in the English Premier League title race by beating rivals Manchester United 1-0 at Etihad Stadium on Monday.

Vincent Kompany’s header in first-half stoppage time earned Roberto Mancini’s hosts all three points, sending them above United and into top spot on goal difference.

City can now afford to match United’s results in the final two games of the league campaign to seal their first league title of the Premier League era.

Silencing the home fans would have been a priority for Sir Alex Ferguson’s visitors and the defending champions were able to settle quickly in the opening minutes.

Nani exchanged passes with Ryan Giggs from a corner to deliver a cross which City goalkeeper Joe Hart could only punch to Michael Carrick.

The midfielder’s volley was blocked by the chest of Vincent Kompany, drawing optimistic appeals of handball from the United players.

City did not muster their first meaningful attack until the 15th minute, when Carlos Tevez’s low cross was cut out by Phil Jones after Samir Nasri had weaved through the United midfield.

Kompany was booked for a foul on Rooney to the displeasure of the City supporters, but Mancini’s men remained focus on the matter at hand and finished the first 45 minutes well on top.

As the half wore on Sergio Aguero hacked a volley wide from close range and Pablo Zabaleta narrowly failed to get good contact on a left-footed effort from a similar distance.

The United resistance was stern and it seemed City had fallen into a lull, despite their monopoly on possession.

But they would go in at the break with a deserved lead following David Silva’s well-taken corner.

Joleon Lescott’s cunning positioning prevented Chris Smalling from tracking Kompany and the City captain rose unchallenged to thump his header past David De Gea.

After the break, United struggled to force opportunities due to City’s narrow and congested midfield unit, leading Ferguson to introduce forward Danny Welbeck just before the hour mark.

Mancini opted for safety first, despite the visitors’ lack of attacking threat.

Holding player Nigel de Jong replaced Tevez and dropped to a position alongside midfielder Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry, limiting United’s chances further still.

In their desperation to find a way back into the contest, the visitors began to look increasingly stretched.

On the counter, Toure rocketed a low shot just wide of De Gea’s left post, having been given more license to push on following De Jong’s introduction.

The Dutchman himself earned a yellow card for a foul on Welbeck which seemed to infuriate Ferguson.

The 70-year-old exchanged several choice words with counterpart Mancini, an uncharacteristic loss of cool perhaps reflective of the high stakes and United’s apparent helplessness.

Toure narrowly missed again from 20 yards before Ashley Young entered the fray as a last roll of the dice for United.

It was City, though, who went closest to adding to the scoreline.

Gael Clichy was denied by De Gea after shooting from edge of the box, before Nasri took too long to pull the trigger from point blank range.

City saw out the time remaining to earn a potentially decisive victory, and replace the defending champions at the top of the table.

Mancini’s side, with a goal difference eight better than that of United, go away to Newcastle next week before hosting Queens Park Rangers on the final day of the season.

United meanwhile are at home to Swansea on Sunday before an away match at Sunderland on the last day.

Mon 30 April, 2012
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Dortmund ready to sell Kagawa

Borussia Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke says midfielder Shinji Kagawa will be allowed to leave for the right price.

The 23-year-old Japan international helped his side to a second straight Bundesliga title, but it appears his time in Germany is coming to an end.

Kagawa is reportedly eyeing a move to English Premier League giants Manchester United.

Watzke said on Monday Dortmund were prepared to sell Kagawa if a good offer was put on the table.

“He is no longer unsellable,” Watzke told Sport 1.

“If anyone should be interested, they should notify either the player or us.”

Kagawa’s agent Thomas Kroth said: “It’s not about money. The player has a career plan and some goals. That’s what it’s about.”

Mon 30 April, 2012
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Garde calls for calm, focus

Montpellier coach Remi Garde has urged his team to stay focused ahead of their clash against Evian TG on Tuesday.

Garde’s men are closing in on a first ever Ligue 1 title, sitting five points clear at the top with four matches remaining.

But despite their healthy advantage, Garde said it was important his side avoided thinking they had the title wrapped up.

“All of these are numbers, papers, and words — all hypothetical. For my part, I am interested in what will happen at the end, which is the 20th of May,” Garde said on Monday.

“It is true this morning I did not come in singing and dancing. I did not open the champagne in my office because there is no reason, I am concerned for tomorrow.

“We have to prepare the game against Evian and most importantly, we can’t think that we have done it already. We can’t miss winning the league because we were not vigilant.”

Montpellier meet an in-form Evian side, who have won three of their last four matches to move into ninth.

Garde has set his team the target of winning all four of their remaining matches, including clashes with Lille and Stade Rennes, who are third and fourth respectively.

“We will know the 20th of May if we needed these 12 points or not,” he said.

“Today when I do the maths, I take the total of PSG, the total of Lille and I add them 12 points, and we will see what will happens.

“But for us I do not add these 12 points. The suspense remains.”

Mon 30 April, 2012
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English Premier League Preview: 1 May 2012

Anfield Stadium

Premier League action resumes on Tuesday, May 1 with Liverpool taking on Fulham and Stoke City hosting Everton at the Britannia Stadium.

As usual, this segment will feature betting odds, match previews and match predictions for Tuesday’s fixtures.

Without further ado, let’s kick-off with the betting odds for tomorrow’s matches.

English Premier League Betting Odds: 1 May 2012

Liverpool (8/13) v Fulham (5/1); Draw (11/4)

Stoke City (17/10) v Everton (7/4); Draw (9/4)

Bet of the Day: 1 May 2012

Tuesday’s bet of the day is under 2.5 total goals when Liverpool host Fulham at Anfield, paying 11/10 odds.

Preview: Liverpool v Fulham

Kenny Dalglish and Liverpool play host to Martin Jol’s Fulham on Tuesday, with the Reds surely eyeing three points ahead of their massive FA Cup final clash with Chelsea at the weekend.

Liverpool have been less than clinical at Anfield this season, scoring a meager 20 goals in 17 home matches. Meanwhile, Fulham have been absolutely anemic away from Craven Cottage in 2011-12, netting just 11 away goals in 17 English Premier League fixtures.

However, both clubs’ defences have been on solid form in 2011-12, so don’t expect a ton of goals at Anfield on Sunday.

FA Cup Tryouts

Tuesday’s match is a tryout of sorts for Liverpool, according to Kenny Dalglish.

“We’ve said to all of the players we want to give you the best possible chance to be available for selection on Saturday,” said King Kenny.

“We want the strongest possible squad we can to pick from for Saturday’s game, and there are many ways we can do it.

“If someone needs a break we’ll give them a break and if someone needs a game we will give them a game, because every single one of them are more than capable of playing in a cup final for this club.

“It’s going to be a difficult selection as it always is but it’s a difficult selection for Tuesday night as well. Everybody will be treated fairly and equally and everybody will be allowed to put their CV in for selection on Saturday.”

Which players will shine for the Reds on Tuesday? Suarez, Gerard and the back four are surely locks for Saturday’s FA Cup final, but the other spots are up for grabs when Liverpool battle Fulham.

Prediction: Liverpool v Fulham

Liverpool tally three points, 1-0 Reds.

Preview: Stoke City v Everton

David Moyes’ Everton travel to the Britannia Stadium to take on Stoke City on Tuesday night.

Everton have been on a purple patch of late, tallying 11 points in their last five Premier League fixtures.

On the other side of the touchline, Stoke have just bagged five points out of their last 15 possible.

With that said, Stoke are unbeaten in their last five matches at the Britannia, while Everton have lost just once in their last five away games in the league.

All things considered, expect a hard-fought game, resulting in both sides earning a point.

Prediction: Stoke City v Everton

Nothing to separate the two sides, 1-1 draw.

Mon 30 April, 2012
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Ganso hails ´prophet´ Neymar

Santos star Ganso has revealed a new talent of Brazilian starlet Neymar, labelling him a ‘prophet’ after he predicted his hat-trick against Sao Paulo.

The 20-year-old wonderkid netted all three of the Santos’ goals as they downed their Paulista rivals 3-1 on Sunday, setting up a clash with Guarani in the state championship final.

Muricy Ramalho’s team will now have the opportunity to fight for a third successive Paulista crown, mirroring triumphs in 2010 and 2011.

Speaking after the match, Ganso was overwhelmed by the impact of his close friend on the game, and revealed that Neymar had vowed to net a hat-trick before the encounter.

“This kid is a genius, and he is also a prophet – he predicted the game’s outcome,” Ganso told reporters.

“Once more he has helped the fans with three beautiful goals and we are in the final again.”

Santos and Guarani will meet in a two-legged final, with the first match to be played in Campinas on May 6.

Mon 30 April, 2012
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Di Matteo undecided on FA Cup starters

Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo says he is yet to finalise his starting lineup for Saturday’s FA Cup final against Liverpool.

Di Matteo’s biggest selection headache is up front, where he is likely to leave one of Fernando Torres or Didier Drogba on the bench.

Since taking over from the sacked Andre Villas-Boas in March, Di Matteo has steered the club to 11 wins in his 16 matches in charge, a run of form which has seen them reach the FA Cup and Champions League finals.

A recurring theme during that superb run has been the willingness with which Di Matteo has utilised his whole squad, often opting to rotate between both Torres and Drogba, rather than starting both.

But the 41 year-old is not looking beyond the Blues’ Premier League clash against Newcastle in midweek, as the club remain well in the hunt for fourth spot.

“We have to play Newcastle on Wednesday and I need to reassess my players in the next couple of days to see how they have recovered and how they are, to pick a strong team,” Di Matteo told reporters.

“Then we’ll think about the final.”

After Drogba’s heroics against Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final and Torres’ first hat-trick for the club in Sunday’s 6-1 demolition of QPR, Di Matteo is spoiled for choice in his attacking stocks.

And the Italian welcomes being spoiled for choice in team selection.

“It’s great for this football club that we’ve got all these players now full of confidence and belief in themselves, and everybody wants to play. It’s fantastic,” Di Matteo said.

“It’s the only way we can achieve our targets.”

Mon 30 April, 2012
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Hurst: Redknapp a better choice

Harry Redknapp is a better choice than Roy Hodgson for England manager, World Cup hero Geoff Hurst said on Monday.

Tottenham boss Redknapp was widely favoured for the position, but the Football Association revealed on Sunday they were set to hold talks with Hodgson.

Hurst, a World Cup winner with England in 1966, said he felt Redknapp should be given the job ahead of his West Bromwich Albion contemporary.

“I think Harry just has the edge, if I’m honest, in terms of managing a club in the Champions League, you need that experience,” Hurst said.

“You need that experience in the level just below the national side, the Champions League. I think that’s been a positive experience for Harry.

“I think it may be difficult for Roy if he feels that he isn’t the obvious choice. There’s no getting away from it — he’s a very good manager, he’s an experienced manager and he’s a very good manager — without any shadow of a doubt.

“But look at the Liverpool experience, where he wasn’t the popular choice at the time, it ended in disaster. It doesn’t take anything away from him as a manager. He’s a fantastic man and a fantastic manager.”

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew believes the FA will speak to Redknapp before hiring anyone.

Hurst said Redknapp would be disappointed, and also believes the 65-year-old is keen to take the reins.

“I think he’ll be hugely disappointed after everyone in the country thought that he was going to be the man that the FA would talk to. It’s understandable that he will be disappointed,” Hurst said.

“I think he wanted the job. I don’t speak to Harry regularly, but knowing what I know about him, he would have wanted the job and would have taken the job — subject to everything being correct.

“He’ll be hugely disappointed and you must be when you expect you will be at least interviewed for the job.”

Mon 30 April, 2012
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Van Buyten gets Bayern extension

Daniel Van Buyten has extended his stay at Bayern Munich for one more year after signing a contract extension on Monday.

The Belgian defender’s deal was set to expire at the end of the season, amid talk that the Bavarians were ready to dispense of the 34-year-old’s services.

However, the club have chosen to retain the veteran centre-back, who they believe will be an important player next season.

“We are delighted Daniel will continue playing for Bayern next season,” sporting director Christian Nerlinger told reporters.

“We know exactly what we have with him. With his experience and qualities he will continue being an important part of our squad.”

Van Buyten is currently recovering from a broken foot, but according to team doctor Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt should be ready in time for the Champions League final against Chelsea on May 19.

“Daniel is making progress. Yes, the final is possible,” Muller-Wohlfahrt revealed to TZ.

Should he be pronounced fit, Van Buyten could be a key player in the final, with regular starter Holger Badstuber ruled out due to suspension.

Mon 30 April, 2012
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Greuther celebrate Bundesliga promotion

Greuther Fuerth’s supporters have celebrated in style after the club’s first ever promotion to the Bundesliga.

Mike Bueskens’ men are guaranteed a spot in Germany’s top flight next season, and can seal the 2.Bundesliga title with a win over Hansa Rostock on Sunday.

Former Schalke midfielder Bueskens, who took over in late 2009, urged his team to enjoy the success he said they deserved.

“It is a wonderful feeling because we have lifted the spirit of the club with the way we play our football,” Bueskens said.

“These moments can never be forgotten, and you only get to experience them a few times in your career.

“You can’t buy these feelings with money, they are just raw emotions. The team has deserved promotion because they have done an excellent job throughout the season.”

Greuther Fuerth are three-time German league champions, the last of which came in 1929, but have never played in the Bundesliga, which was established ahead of the 1963/64 season.

Mon 30 April, 2012
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