Ireland to play Morosini fundraiser

Ireland look set to play a pre-Euro 2012 friendly against a Tuscany selection to raise funds for the family of the late Piermario Morosini.

Morosini, 25, collapsed and died during a Serie B match for Livorno earlier this month from a heart attack.

Ireland will spend a week prior to this year’s European Championship in Montecatini and boss Giovanni Trapattoni told reporters in Mullingar that he is keen for the fundraiser to go ahead.

“We have discussed it with the organisers of the camp and with the FAI. It’s not done yet but everybody agrees it is a good gesture,” said the Italian.

Funds from the game will be used to help the late player’s severely disabled younger sister, for whom Morosini provided during his playing career.

He was laid to rest on April 19.

Mon 30 April, 2012
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Del Piero confirms Juventus exit

Alessandro Del Piero has confirmed that the Coppa Italia final with Napoli on May 20 will be his last match for Juventus.

The Old Lady announced earlier in the season that the 2011-12 campaign would be the last for the 37-year-old after 19 years on the club’s books.

While there have been calls from fans to see their talisman stay put, the forward is not holding his breath.

“For now, as things stand, the Coppa Italia final with Napoli on May 20 will be my last game for Juventus because my contract expires in June. But I prefer to think about the present,” he said.

“The affection that the fans have shown me each and every day is incredible. Then what will happen, will happen.

“Today (the 4-0 win over Novara) is a moment so delicate and beautiful, and it should not to be confused with other things such as my future.”

Del Piero urged Italian football to take a leaf out of England’s book if they are to avoid a repeat of last weekend’s unsavoury incident at the Marassi, which saw Genoa ultras force the team’s players to remove their jerseys.

“Being a club symbol means a lot to me. It means being responsible and giving out a positive message both on and off the field,” he said.

“We – clubs, players and state law enforcement – must take all of the necessary steps forward (to stamp out a hooligan culture).

“Today the benchmark is not Italy (in this regard), it is British football.”

Juventus are three points clear of AC Milan on the Serie A table with three games remaining.

Mon 30 April, 2012
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Platini would welcome Juventus return to CL

UEFA president Michel Platini is looking forward to seeing Juventus play in the Champions League next season.

The Bianconeri legend was in attendance as Juventus dismantled Novara 4-0 to keep their three-point lead over second-placed AC Milan in Serie A.

After successive seventh-placed finishes in the league, Juventus are now just two wins away from claiming the Scudetto and Platini insisted that Antonio Conte’s men will be a welcome addition to the Champions League.

“Europe has missed Juve, just as the Bianconeri have missed Europe,” the Frenchman said.

Platini praised midfielder Andrea Pirlo, who has been instrumental to the club’s success this season, according to the UEFA president.

“Juve have been much stronger in every department his year, but Pirlo is directing everything,” he said.

Platini’s sentiments were shared by Parma boss Franco Colomba who also lauded the impact of the former AC Milan man.

“Pirlo is their extra man,” the 57-year-old coach told Sky Sport Italia. “He is a player who has allowed the others around him to grow. I think that has made the real difference this season.

“Juventus are now a very strong team mentally – they are aware that they are good physically and technically.”

Mon 30 April, 2012
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Ancelotti not giving up on title dream

Paris Saint-Germain coach Carlo Ancelotti insists the Ligue 1 title race is still alive despite losing 2-1 to Lille on Sunday.

PSG, who started the weekend two points behind table-toppers Montpellier, looked good for all three points after Javier Pastore opened the scoring on 48 minutes, but a red card to defender Mamadou Sakho 20 minutes from time instigated the turnaround, and Lille subsequently made their man-advantage count with two goals in the last 20 minutes.

And with Montpellier victorious at Toulouse, Rene Girard’s men now lead the standings by five points with just four matches to play.

Ancelotti thinks his side can still win the title though with Montpellier still to face Lille (third on the table) and Stade Rennes (fourth) before the season is over.

“It was not a good night,” Ancelotti said of the club’s defeat on Sunday.

“We lost an important game … a game we lost when we lost the control of the game. We played well in the second half.

“We had the opportunity to score another goal on the counter attack. After that, we conceded a penalty. The game became very difficult for us. But that’s football.

“We must look forward. The season is not over. We didn’t lose the title. It will be more difficult. But we didn’t lose it.

“We have four games to play. It will be important to have a reaction after this defeat. We can still win (the league). We must play four games and do our best.”

With only the top two sides in Ligue 1 automatically qualifying for the group stages of next season’s UEFA Champions League, Ancelotti is also wary of Lille, who are hot on PSG’s heels in third.

“Lille are just two points behind,” he said.

“We want to secure a spot for the Champions League. For sure, the next game (against Saint-Etienne at home) will be important, to see the reaction we will have and to win again.”

Mon 30 April, 2012
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Tevez keen to stay at City

Carlos Tevez has revealed he feels happy at Manchester City again and is delighted with his relationship with manager Roberto Mancini.

The Argentine returned to the club in February after an absence of six months following a falling out with the City boss when he refused to play in the club’s UEFA Champions League match against Bayern Munich.

After apologising, Tevez forced his way back into the starting line-up and has been in outstanding form since, helping to re-launch the club’s title bid with four goals in seven games.

“I’ve felt great since I came back in February, very relaxed and content and just pleased to be back playing football for Manchester City again,” Tevez told the Manchester Evening News.

“My relationship with the manager is totally fine, he’s been as good as gold with me and there have been absolutely no problems. He wants to win games and be successful and if I can play a part in helping to do that, then that’s what I will work hard to do.

“Yes, there’s been a lot said and written this season but that’s in the past. Everybody at the club shares the same goal, Roberto, me, the other players and all the staff. I’m an ambitious person, I want to work hard and win things with City. That’s all that matters to me as a player and a person.

“This club has been building something special for the past few years. It was the project and the dream that made me come to City in the first place.

“I’ve been here since the start of that project and I share the same vision as Sheikh Mansour.

“He has always been brilliant with me and I want to repay his faith and stay here as long as it takes to make the project a success.”

Tevez has been much maligned for his antics during his spell away from the club, but he revealed he is not bothered by that and prefers to answer his critics on the pitch.

“I prefer to do my talking on the field,” he said.

“It’s easy to speak off the field, but my message to the fans will be through doing my very, very best for the shirt at this important part of the season, and trying to make sure we go on to win the title.

“I’ve joked with people that if I DID score the winner tonight then perhaps some City fans will stop throwing my shirt away!”

The 28-year-old has also defended team-mate Mario Balotelli after the striker came under fire for his sending off against Arsenal.

Tevez feels the 21-year-old’s all-round game, including discipline, will improve as he matures as a player and a person.

“Mario is young and has everything you need to be a great, great player. I do talk to him and give him bits of advice here and there on what to do and what not to do – when you are young like Mario you do need to be told what to do,” Tevez said.

“He does get things wrong from time to time, but that will stop as he gets older. But he does have what it takes, and if he takes advice and continues on a good path he will be a great player.”

Mon 30 April, 2012
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De Gea ready for derby ´final´

Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea says his side will go for broke in Monday night’s crunch clash with bitter rivals Manchester City.

United enjoy a three-point lead over City at the top of the Premier League with just three matches to play, but know a repeat of October’s 6-1 Old Trafford humiliation at the Etihad Stadium will see their advantage wiped out.

A draw would be enough to keep Sir Alex Ferguson’s men in control, but De Gea insists the idea of playing for a share of the spoils is not even in their minds.

“We won’t park the bus or try to get a point,” he told Goal.com. “We don’t know how to do it and that would mean giving them the advantage on the match.

“We are approaching this derby as a final because it really is, but we have more chances than them. They need the victory and that’s an extra pressure they could resent on the pitch.

“I don’t expect a crazy match but rather a tactical one. This is not a knockout tie but a match in which a goal can give you the title, so we have to remain calm.

“This is the match of the season and we are planning up to the most minimal detail. We cannot fail.”

United face a City side who have scored 12 goals in their last three matches but, while he admits it will not be easy, De Gea is confident the Red Devils will rise to the occasion.

“Man City are very dangerous, especially attacking,” he said.

“Silva and Tevez have clicked and that makes them create many dangerous chances. We have to stop those two if we won’t want to suffer on Monday.

“The ambiance will be electric and the fans will be against us but I won’t be affected.

“I have played at the Bernabeu, Camp Nou, Turkey, Greece and Italy. I actually play better in these situations.

“My team-mates have been very motivated during this week’s training sessions. We know what we are fighting for and we know that we will play a final tonight.

“We won’t think about losing but it would obviously be very hard if we finish the season without winning a title and after having the Premier League title in the tips of our hands.”

A record 20th Premier League title would be a remarkable achievement considering United’s shaky form during the first half of the season.

But since the turn of the year they have been relentless in their pursuit of City, with De Gea gradually growing into the number one shirt and playing a key role.

Everton’s stunning late comeback at Old Trafford last Sunday has given Roberto Mancini’s men renewed hope, but De Gea insists United have not grown complacent at the top.

“I think I have improved a lot since I arrived in England,” he said. “My beginnings weren’t very good or very easy but I feel a lot better now. Even the coach says so.

“This season has had lots of comings and goings.

“City seemed to have their work done but we were able to overcome them and now it seems to be balanced. I always prefer to be leading than to be trailing.

“These last points we have relinquished are not because of overconfidence. There are no easy rivals in the Premier League and we have suffered in the last few weeks.

“I hope we won’t regret it at the end of the season.”

Mon 30 April, 2012
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Derby win all that matters for City, says Toure

Yaya Toure has demanded victory for Manchester City against Manchester United on Monday night.

The Ivorian believes that City have outperformed their neighbours over the campaign and insists any other result will hand the Premier League title to the Red Devils.

He also admitted he expected the title race to be finished by now, after seeing his side lose form in January and March.

“We have more at stake than them; if we don’t win this match, we are out of the title race,” Toure told Goal.com.

“We have lost too many points in the last few months but now we have a chance and we can’t waste it. It’s a final for us.

“I don’t know how the title race will finish or who will be champions but I haven’t changed my mind, we have played a lot better than United this season.

“I didn’t expect the derby to be so decisive in the title race. Both us and them could have wrapped it up by now but in the end this will be the decisive match, and that makes things a lot more exciting.

“These last months have been sort of a roller-coaster, we had a big advantage and then we saw ourselves waiting for United to fail. Now we have regained our hope. That’s why we can’t afford not to win the derby.”

Toure does not believe that playing the game at the Etihad Stadium will give City a huge advantage and points to his side’s incredible 6-1 victory at Old Trafford earlier this season as proof, while also claiming that Roberto Mancini’s squad ‘don’t care’ about that game now.

“We have home-field advantage but in these derbies anything could happen,” he said.

“Just remember the 6-1 at Old Trafford this season. We made history there but now they arrive three points ahead.

“The 6-1 was beautiful and we’ll never forget it but now we don’t care. We only think on winning, whatever it takes, if you ask me, I’d be ecstatic if we won 1-0

“The key will be at the start of the match. We have to impose ourselves from the first minute and finish our first chance. We can’t afford to waste any chances if we want to win this one.

“I think it will be a very open match. We will look to win it but let’s see how United decide to approach it.

“I don’t know which approach would be better for them. If they are conservative and gift us the control of the ball they are going to struggle in their box, but I’m not convinced they are interested in a box-to-box match.”

Toure also dismissed the game being decided solely by the sides’ respective top-scorers Sergio Aguero and Wayne Rooney, and pin-pointed Carlos Tevez as a key player.

“(Will the game be) a personal duel between Aguero and Rooney? I don’t think so,” Toure said.

“We don’t think on personal battles, we just want to win. On Monday we have to defeat United even if it’s a defender who scores the decisive goal.

“I see a very motivated Tevez but it will be Mancini who decides if he plays or not. You don’t have to motivate Carlos when he plays against United. It will obviously be a very special match for him.”

Mon 30 April, 2012
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Conte: Juventus are ´masters of our destiny´

Juventus coach Antonio Conte admitted his side have one hand on the Serie A title after they thrashed Novara 4-0 on Sunday.

The Bianconeri remain three points clear of Milan at the summit of the Serie A standings, with just three rounds of the season remaining.

Given that Juve have a better head-to-head record against the Rossoneri, Conte’s troops can secure the Scudetto if they beat Lecce on Wednesday and then Cagliari next Sunday.

“We know that we are masters of our destiny,” he said.

“We’re feeling good, the team is determined and we want to do something extraordinary. We are approaching our goal in exactly the right manner.”

In-form attacker Mirko Vucinic struck twice against Novara, with Marco Borriello and Arturo Vidal accounting for the visitors’ other goals.

And Conte said his side are playing like champions-elect.

“It wasn’t easy today, as Novara beat Lazio three days ago and today they really wanted to trip us up,” he said.

“We are in good shape and anyone who saw the game witnessed a Juventus team that plays with intensity.

“We can make calculations too and we are closing in on the Scudetto in the right way, though we know Milan are great antagonists. The important thing is that our destiny is in our hands.”

Conte praised striker Borriello after the front man scored in consecutive matches for the first time in a Juve jumper on Sunday.

“Marco is in great shape and has entered into the mechanism of our football. Fabio Quagliarella and Alessandro Del Piero also had some physical problems. He put in a fine performance along with Mirko Vucinic today,” he said.

Novara coach Attilio Tesser said his squad were helpless to prevent defeat against Juve, and now they are all but relegated, as they need to win their final three games and get results to go their way.

“There wasn’t much we could do against this Juve side. We did everything within our capabilities, even if we weren’t in the best shape. My future? It’s too early to talk about this,” Tesser said.

Mon 30 April, 2012
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Allegri slams perceived media persecution

AC Milan boss Massimiliano Allegri lashed out at the media for allegedly ‘ganging up’ on him at ‘a key moment’ of the Serie A season.

The 46-year-old’s future at the club has been the subject of much debate in recent weeks and the former Cagliari boss believes that the speculation has destabilised his side’s bid to retain their Serie A title.

“The thing that disappoints me is that the media have ganged up on me and the team with talk of contracts at a key moment of the campaign,” Allegri said.

“But I have an excellent rapport with president Silvio Berlusconi and (CEO) Adriano Galliani.

“In two years we have won the Scudetto and a Super Cup, while we are still in the race for the title now and were unlucky to be eliminated by Barcelona from Europe.”

Allegri was speaking after his side’s 4-1 victory over Siena, a game in which both Antonio Cassano and Gennaro Gattuso shone.

The former only returned to action earlier this month after spending just over five months recovering from an emergency heart procedure last November, while the latter was out for even longer after being beset by ocular problems.

Both men started against Siena, though, and played key roles in a win which keeps up the pressure on league leaders Juventus, with Cassano really catching the eye with a goal and two assists.

Consequently, Allegri could not help but wonder about what might have been had both men been available to him during a season in which he has seen several members of his squad sidelined by injury for lengthy periods of time.

“It was important to win today so we could stay close to Juve,” the former Cagliari boss said.

“Now we have to hope they drop some points in these final three games, while we’d have to win them all.

“In any case, if we continue like this then we can finish the season without regrets.

“The only problem was that Cassano and Gennaro Gattuso suffered physical problems that could not be predicted by anyone.

“We paid a heavy price for all the injuries, as don’t forget Mario Yepes and Mathieu Flamini were also out for months at a time.

“The shortage didn’t allow me to rest some players who have now reached the end of the campaign totally exhausted.

“It’s also a pity that with the timing of the Champions League we paid for the strains of facing Barcelona by dropping points to Fiorentina and Bologna.

“We gave away too many goals and a side like Milan cannot do that.”

Milan, who are three points behind the Bianconeri with three rounds remaining, return to San Siro on Wednesday to take on Atalanta.

Mon 30 April, 2012
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Prediction: Manchester City vs Manchester United

30th April 2012

All eyes will be on Etihad Stadium tonight as Manchester City take on Manchester United in the decisive battle for the Premier League title. The Reds hold a three-point advantage over their rivals at the moment, but City boast superior goal difference, meaning that they can climb to the top of the standings with three points from this clash.

Even Roberto Mancini conceded that title race was over following the 1-0 defeat to Arsenal, but, to the delight of City fans everywhere, the Italian was quickly proved wrong. Convincing victories over West Brom, Norwich and Wolves allowed the Citizens to take advantage of United’s slip ups and close the gap to just three points, thus effectively returning to the title race. The Citizens now have an opportunity to leapfrog their rivals in the standings by beating them at Etihad and it is only fair that the Manchester derby decides the next Premiership champions. Roberto Mancini can be delighted with the form of attacking trio Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez and Samir Nasri as these are the players who can lead City to victory in one of the most important games in club’s history. Their teammates will also be high on confidence after the great run of results, so it is not by mistake that online bookmakers see City as favourites to win this clash. Mario Balotelli is back in contention after completing a three-match ban, but he will have to settle for a place on the bench.

Before the season started Manchester United were hardly considered the main candidates for the league title, meaning they can be perfectly happy with the three-point cushion at the Premier League summit, but Sir Alex Ferguson’s can regret the fact they allowed their arch rivals to return to the title race. Just a couple of weeks ago the Red Devils were eight points clear at the top and looked to be cruising to a new league trophy, but slip-ups against Wigan and Everton could prove very costly come end of the season. United still have a psychological advantage over their rivals seeing they would remain in the driving seat even with one point from the Emirates, but the players could be somewhat low on spirits after squandering a two-goal lead against Everton. With no fresh injury worries to report, Sir Alex Ferguson is expected to field a similar side to that which started at the weekend, but Phil Jones or Chris Smalling could come in for Rafael.

Conclusion

Manchester City definitely enter this match in better mood than their opponents and with their key attackers in great form, the Citizens will fancy their chances at Etihad. However, Manchester United are much more experienced when it comes to title deciders and big games in general, which is likely to give them a key advantage in this match.

Verdict: Draw (X)

Best Odds: 5/2

Bookmaker: William Hill

Mon 30 April, 2012
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