Prandelli finalising Italy plans

Italy manager Cesare Prandelli says he will use Friday’s friendly international with Russia to finalise his tactical line-up for Euro 2012.

After the postponement of a match against Luxembourg because of an earthquake in Italy earlier this week, Prandelli is short on time to put his ideas onto the pitch.

“The two friendly matches would have been useful to have a general idea of the possible tactical solutions, because friendly matches mean something if you use them for tactical reasons, from the physical point of view I prefer to work alone with the team,” Prandelli said.

“I would have liked to try tactical solutions and try to play with three forwards. Now we remain with only one game and we’ll try two different tactical solutions tomorrow, one in the first and one in the second half.”

At least 15 people were killed when a magnitude 5.8 earthquake hit northern Italy and Prandelli boss believes it was impossible to play the match in such circumstances.

“It was unthinkable to play that match, in respect for those people, it was unthinkable to propose a show and have fun when 20 kilometres away there were people suffering,” he said.

“When you hear desperate people launching appeals and the people responsible for those towns asking not to abandon them, our first thought was we couldn’t abandon them and we won’t, we’re thinking of some initiatives to help these people.”

Giorgio Chiellini is currently recovering from a thigh strain, while Palermo defender Federico Balzaretti is struggling with injury.

But when quizzed about using the Juventus trio of Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci in a back three, Prandelli reiterated his belief that it could be done.

“As I’ve already said, a three-man defence could be an arm in some particular moment, but the three players should necessarily be the Juventus players, because they know it by heart,” the former Fiorentina boss said.

“At the moment though, I only have two-and-a-half of them ready for that solution, so we haven’t tried it yet.

“I wish I can use it and I don’t think we need to try that system too much, seeing the three players know how to do it very well, they’ve played with that system in the last 12 months with Juventus.

“We tried to make the other players understand that if we decide to use a three-man defence, they have to shift their position onto the pitch.”

Prandelli also stated he would do all he could to protect Mario Balotelli from racist chants in Poland and Ukraine.

“If I happen to hear people booing Mario (Balotelli) or insulting him in any way we would do something to defend him, like going all onto the pitch from the bench in sign of protest.”

Thu 31 May, 2012
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France hit by M´Vila injury blow

France midfielder Yann M’Vila is at risk of missing Euro 2012 after picking up an ankle injury in Les Bleus’ friendly against Serbia.

The Rennes star limped off just five minutes into the game after finding himself on the receiving end of a harsh tackle from Dusan Tadic, and was immediately replaced by Alou Diarra.

M’Vila was in tears as he sat on the substitutes’ bench before heading back into the dressing room as his participation for the European Championship is in doubt.

His chances of making the match squad for next week’s friendly against Estonia look slim, but an accurate estimation of his recovery time will only be given after he undergoes extensive tests.

M’Vila, who has 18 France caps to his name, has been a regular presence in Les Bleus’ midfield since Laurent Blanc took charge of the national team in 2010.

The 1998 World Cup winners will kick off their Euro 2012 campaign against England on June 11 before taking on Ukraine and Sweden.

Thu 31 May, 2012
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Lukaku did not enjoy Chelsea wins

Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku said he did not celebrate the club’s recent Champions League and FA Cup triumphs as he ‘had no part’ in them.

The 19-year-old arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2011 for 20 million pounds from Belgian side Anderlecht after forging a formidable reputation as one of the brightest talents in world football, but made just one start in the league last season.

Lukaku failed to play a single minute of Chelsea’s Champions League run, while he made just one substitute appearance during the side’s successful FA Cup campaign, and therefore felt unable to join in the celebrations.

“I don’t like people talking to me about the Champions League. It wasn’t me, but my team that won,” Lukaku told the BBC.

“When (Salomon) Kalou put the cup on my lap in the bus I asked him to take it away immediately. I didn’t want to touch it because just as with the Champions League I had no part in it at all,” he added to De Standaard.

The striker’s Stamford Bridge future hangs in the balance as the club search for a new manager, though, as the club continue to invest heavily, Lukaku has admitted he has no hesitation about going out on loan to gain first-team football.

He added: “Chelsea really wanted me last summer and paid a lot for me but after a while I thought, are you just throwing money around?”

“During the conversation with the manager I will see whether he’s serious about me or not. If not, I will go away on loan. I have to play.”

Thu 31 May, 2012
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Sion set sights on Del Piero

Sion sporting director Marco Degennaro has confirmed his side are pondering a move for Juventus legend Alessandro Del Piero.

The 37-year-old is currently assessing his options for the future as he is set to leave the Serie A champions, after they decided against offering him a new contract.

Del Piero has guaranteed that he will go abroad for the next stage of his career, and the Swiss side have now joined the list of potential suitors for the former Italy international.

“The president of my club wants to consider Del Piero, but it will be hard for him to accept, considering that he probably has offers from England or Los Angeles,” Degennaro told Radio Calciomercato.

“We will think about it, but it will be very hard.”

Sion, who avoided relegation to the second-tier of Swiss football in the play-offs, are also believed to be looking for a new coach as Vladimir Petkovic is reportedly close to joining Lazio.

Thu 31 May, 2012
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Euro 2012: Players to Watch

A combination of technical prowess, blistering pace, superb aerial ability and cracking long-distance range, Cristiano Ronaldo is the premier talent at Euro 2012.

With Euro 2012 right around the corner flank, it’s time to look at the most intriguing players of the tournament.

Some players will make the list for their world-class abilities, while some will be featured for their unique egos.

Of course, many players fit both of these qualifications, making the 2012 European Championships must see television.

Enough banter, let’s get started.

10. Wesley Sneijder (Holland)

Holland’s midfield maestro will be looking to end his injury-ridden campaign on a high note at Euro 2012.

Sneijder featured in 35 games for club and country in 2011-12, bagging seven goals and nine assists in his worst statistical season since leaving Real Madrid for Inter in 2009.

9. Fernando Torres (Spain)

Torres is perhaps best known for scoring the winning goal in the Euro 2008 final against Germany.

Since then, not much has gone right for the Spaniard, but all that can change this summer.

8. Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany)

Bayern Munich standout Bastian Schweinsteiger is notorious for playing his best football on the international stage.

In Euro 2008, Schweinsteiger tallied two goals and two assists in five appearances (three starts) for Germany.

7. Karim Benzema (France)

Benzema is coming off his best season in professional football after tallying 35 goals and 18 assists in 66 appearances for club and country.

Expect the former Lyon striker to continue his good habit of finding the back of the net at Euro 2012.

6. Wayne Rooney (England)

In other circumstances, Rooney may have been higher on this list, but his two-match ban forced me to exclude him from top-five considerations.

With that said, Wazza is one of the best strikers in Europe, and has previously been the center of controversy in this tournament.

Those two facts essentially guaranteed him a place on this prestigious list.

5. Robin van Persie (Holland)

RVP, who bagged 30 league goals and nine assists in 38 appearances, was arguably the best player in the English Premier League in 2011-12.

That’s all that needs to be said.

4. Nicklas Bendtner (Denmark)

Feel free to criticize this selection, but I know I’ll be watching for Bendtner’s name in the headlines come the start of Euro 2012.

He can talk with the best of them, and even backs up his outrageous statements on occasion.

3. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden)

“The Barca players were like schoolboys, following the coach blindly, whereas I was used to asking ‘why?’.

 I like guys who run red lights, not pedantic and strict rules,” wrote Ibra (I am Zlatan).

Throw in 39 goals and 13 assists for club and country in 2011-12 and you have one the best ego’s and footballers in the world.

2. Mario Balotelli (Italy)

No explanation needed.

1. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)

Aside from being the front-runner for this year’s FIFA Ballon d’Or, Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the most exciting footballers on the planet.

A combination of technical prowess, blistering pace, superb aerial ability and cracking long distance range, Ronaldo is the premier talent at Euro 2012.

Thu 31 May, 2012
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Bale hails Walker´s season

Tottenham winger Gareth Bale has praised the impact of team-mate Kyle Walker.

The former Sheffield United player, in his first full season for Spurs, quickly established himself as first-choice right-back after a string of impressive performances, which culminated with him being crowned PFA Young Player of the Year.

Having initially struggled to break into the north Londoners’ first-team earlier in his career himself, Bale recognises that a run of games was the opportunity Walker needed to display his ability for all to see at White Hart Lane.

Bale told Spurs TV: “He needed a run in the team, he got that and he’s showed exactly what he can do this season.

“He’s played really well. He’s set himself a benchmark this season and hopefully he can maintain it.”

However, Bale has warned Walker to expect a tougher time next season with players now aware of the threat he poses after experiencing the same problem since he introduced himself in early 2010.

He added: “Players know all about him now, they will be looking to stop those forward runs and he has to find a way around it – I’m sure he will.”

A toe injury ruled Walker out of the chance to represent England at Euro 2012 after gaining his first cap in the 1-0 friendly victory over Spain in November 2011.

Thu 31 May, 2012
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Rodgers, Liverpool agree compensation

Liverpool have agreed to a compensation package with Swansea for Brendan Rodgers and three of his backroom staff.

The Northern Irishman has agreed a three-year deal as Reds boss and will take assistant manager Colin Pascoe, performance analyst Chris Davies, and head of sports science and medicine Glen Driscoll with him.

The Swans broke the news on Thursday evening through the club’s official website and the appointments are expected to be confirmed at a press conference at 10am on Friday.

Rodgers emerged as a late candidate to succeed Kenny Dalglish at Anfield after initially rebuffing an approach from owners Fenway Sports Group.

The 39-year-old was said to be unhappy with the comprehensive list of managers in which the Merseyside outfit had expressed an interest.

However, following the reported withdrawal of Wigan boss Roberto Martinez, Rodgers expressed his wish to enter talks and has now accepted the role.

The former Reading man led the Welsh side to a 10th-placed finish in their maiden Premier League season, following promotion via the Championship playoffs.

Meanwhile, the Reds slumped to a disappointing eighth which, despite Carling Cup success and an FA Cup final appearance, was enough to see Dalglish’s time at the club ended.

Thu 31 May, 2012
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Ronaldinho ends Flamengo spell

Former Barcelona star Ronaldinho has been given permission to rescind his contract with Flamengo because of a dispute over unpaid wages.

The Brazil international has long been involved in a tug-of-war with Flamengo, with reports suggesting that the 32-year-old has become disillusioned with life at the club after being insulted by Rubro-Negro during a match against Internacional.

Earlier on Thursday, Flamengo had quashed reports suggesting that Ronaldinho had been released, but the former Barcelona ace decided to take legal action against the club.

Ronaldinho claims he is owed over 16 million euros in salaries, bonuses and image rights, and the Labour Court in Rio de Janeiro has ruled in favour of the player.

The Brazilian Football Federation (CBF) is expected to acknowledge the court’s decision before the end of the day, which will turn Ronaldinho into a free agent.

Flamengo vice-president Rafael de Piro confirmed that the club have been notified of the court’s ruling and insisted that they will appeal against the decision.

Ronaldinho signed for Flamengo in 2011 in a deal worth 3m euros after spending three years at AC Milan.

Thu 31 May, 2012
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Moyes ready to push Fellaini forward

Everton manager David Moyes has hinted that he will look to deploy Marouane Fellaini in a more advanced midfield role.

The Belgian has predominately been positioned with a defensive mindset since his big-money move in 2008, although his manager is of the belief that his long-term position is further up the field.

Tim Cahill has long featured in the role, but Moyes has suggested that Fellaini could become the 32-year-old’s successor.

“Marouane is probably seen as more of a defensive midfield player,” Moyes told the club’s official website.

“But he’s far better when he’s joining in and getting forward because he can do a bit of everything.

“He plays for Belgium as one of a three-man midfield. For us, we’ve tended to play with two midfield players and one ahead – in the main, that has been Tim.

“But I’ve always known that Marouane can do that job. We had just been looking at the right time to do that.”

The 24-year-old has been a mainstay of the Everton side in recent seasons and Moyes is hoping his midfielder can replicate the performance he produced during the 4-4 draw against Manchester United at the back-end of last season where he ventured forward to join the attack.

“Marouane’s performance against Manchester United was excellent, but I thought he has been in near enough all games,” he said.

“He’s been needing to add a goal or two to his game because when he first came he got 10, I think.

“He just needs to add a little bit more and his goal against United, his all-round play, even his setting up for the fourth goal for Steven (Pienaar) would have given him a lot of confidence.

“It’s difficult to put him into any one box. He’s got a goal in him, he does get forward and causes problems, but he’s also very good at breaking the game up and doing other things. He’s quite good at both jobs.”

Despite joining for 15 million pounds four years ago, Everton’s record signing, Moyes believes the club’s supporters are only now seeing the best the former Standard Liege man has to offer.

“You can see Marouane’s enjoyed his football much more in the last three or four months,” said the Everton boss.

“Young players mature. The decisions you make as a young player are sometimes different than when you get a bit older.

“His form has been good. He’s been getting us a couple of goals in recent games, and long may that continue.”

Thu 31 May, 2012
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Bonucci remains with Italy squad

Italy international Leonardo Bonucci will continue to train with the Euro 2012 squad, despite his reported involvement in corruption.

Italian Football Federation (FIGC) vice-president Demetrio Albertini has explained that Bonucci has not been withdrawn from the national team squad for Euro 2012 because he is not under investigation by the Cremona Prosecutor in connection with Scommessopoli.

Domenico Criscito was dropped from Cesare Prandelli’s provisional squad on Monday, just hours after having his room at the Azzurri’s training base at Coverciano searched, and his agent revealed on Thursday that he wanted to know why Bonucci had not been axed as well.

However, while it was reported earlier this week that Juventus defender Bonucci had been implicated in the match-fixing scandal, Albertini said the centre-half has not been formally contacted by the authorities.

“Leonardo Bonucci has not received any notice from the prosecutor to the effect that he is under investigation,” the former Italy international told ANSA.

“The situation was different for Criscito, who received such a notice.”

Bonucci, who has been capped 13 times by his country, is currently preparing for the Azzurri’s final warm-up game for Euro 2012, against Russia on Friday.

Thu 31 May, 2012
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