Scolari rubbishes Barcelona comparison

New Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has downplayed any similarities between his side and Barcelona.

Scolari’s team, who do not have to go through the series of World Cup qualifiers because they are hosting the competition, will instead take part in the Confederations Cup next year.

And Scolari, back for his second stint at the helm of the national team, is adamant his side will play to their strengths as they prepare for 2014.

“If we try to import players like (Andres) Iniesta, Xavi and (Lionel) Messi, then we would play just like Barcelona. But these aren’t anything like Brazilian players,” the 2002 World Cup-winning coach said.

“We have to build a team that can play good football, but, at the same time, we must respect each player’s characteristics.

“We have an identity, but we have to know what to do about the characteristics that every player can bring.”

Scolari said playing in the qualifying stages could have benefitted his side, but believes the Confederations Cup will help him create a suitable system for his side.

“This stage of identifying the team’s strengths will suffer because of the fact that we aren’t in the qualifiers,” he said.

“We have quality players, and I don’t agree when it is said that this team is too young. It’s a great team, but we are missing more challenging opponents.

“In 2002, we had a team well organised, and we had a system. We’ll build that while we play our friendlies and (in) the Confederations Cup.”

The former Portugal and Kuwait coach, whose first task in charge of Brazil will be a friendly against England in February next year, said the Confederations Cup was important for his side.

“It will give us a base on what we need from this team,” Scolari said.

“It’s a fine opportunity, with challenging matches. As we don’t participate in the qualifiers, this will be good to analyse how our players react in big matches.”

Fri 30 November, 2012
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Benitez seeks Chelsea unity

Rafa Benitez has claimed Chelsea’s fans are coming around to him as manager and believes a positive atmosphere will help the team.

Chelsea’s supporters have been antagonistic toward Benitez since the former Liverpool manager took over from Roberto Di Matteo.

But despite overseeing successive 0-0 draws in his first two outings at Chelsea, Benitez believes the club’s fans started to give up their criticism of him in the match against Fulham on Wednesday and the Spanish manager believes that is crucial if the team is to improve.

“I will try to do my best, from eight (in the morning) to eight (in the evening), I am around working hard here trying to improve things,” Benitez said.

“They (the fans) have to realise I will do my best for the club for them and for winning.

“As I have said before we have to do it together.

“The other day (against Fulham) they were a little bit better, more behind the team and that is the way it should be.

“The manager supports the team and if you support the manager it’s easier to achieve what we want to achieve.”

Chelsea will travel across London to take on West Ham on Saturday and Benitez has claimed it is important for his team to have a victory soon to prove they can challenge for the Premier League title this season.

“Chelsea are a top side and we have to prove that we are a top side on the pitch,” Benitez said.

“I think the fans will realise we’re trying to do this and hopefully they will be happy.”

Chelsea head into the game third on the table but without a win in five league matches.

West Ham manager Sam Allardyce meanwhile dismissed suggestions of any lingering hostility between himself and former Liverpool manager Benitez, dating back to the former’s time in charge of Bolton Wanderers.

“It was a long time ago, a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then and I am just looking forward to the game,” Allardyce said.

“I don’t want to jump into that scenario, I am a bit bigger than that, I don’t want to go tit for tat.

“All I do is look to compete at a level going against not just Chelsea, but also against a man who has a real good record, to see if we can upset them.”

Fri 30 November, 2012
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Lambert explains Bent absence

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has denied Darren Bent is being kept on the sidelines due to clauses in the striker’s contract.

Bent has not played for Aston Villa since October 27 when he came off the bench against Norwich City.

Only Queens Park Rangers in the English Premier League have scored fewer goals than Lambert’s side this season, further highlighting Bent’s absence.

That has led to rumours the striker is being denied playing time due to a clause in his contract, allegedly one that would see Aston Villa pay more money to Sunderland if he reaches 50 appearances for the club, but Lambert has claimed his reasons for not selecting the forward are only about football.

“Have there been any enquiries for Bent? No. Has he asked to be put on the transfer list? No. Is there a clause? That’s not true,” Lambert said.

“I’m not sure where that came from.”

Not only has Lambert preferred Christian Benteke as his starting striker, Bent has also missed out on a bench role behind 21-year-old Jordan Bowery.

“I think he (Benteke) has really good manners and he’s really humble which is a great thing for a footballer,” Lambert said.

“If he keeps that way he will have a massive career.

“He’s given us everything he’s got and his work ethic is fantastic for us.”

Fri 30 November, 2012
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McEachran wants Middlesbrough stay

On-loan Chelsea midfielder Josh McEachran says he wants to continue his stay at Middlesbrough until the end of the current campaign.

And McEachran hopes new Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez sees the benefit he is getting from playing regular first-team football at the Riverside.

Despite wanting to remain in the Championship for now, the teenager’s dream has always been to play for Chelsea.

“I’ve been at Chelsea since the age of seven and I’ve grown up there. It’s always been my dream to play regular first-team football there,” McEachran told the Daily Mirror.

“But at present, I’d like to stay here for the rest of the season. We’ve got a genuine chance of going up and I want to be part of it.

“There’s a long way to go this season and a lot could happen but we have a really good manager here and I like the way he wants to play.”

The midfielder has been one of the Boro’s key players this season, but is yet to open his scoring account.

“Sooner or later I will get one. I came here to play games and that’s exactly what I’m doing. The standard of the Championship has impressed me and I’m getting a lot out of it,” McEachran said.

“We’re playing two games a week and it’s really intensive, but it’s improving me as a player.”

Middlesbrough sit third in the Championship, and will look to further their aim of returning to the top flight when they travel to St Andrews to face Birmingham City on Friday.

Fri 30 November, 2012
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Southall dismisses Hart criticism

Ex-Wales and Everton goalkeeper Neville Southall has slammed recent criticism of Manchester City shot-stopper Joe Hart.

Southall earned 92 caps for his country, as well as chalking up 578 appearances for Everton and he believes that, while Hart is not the best in Europe at the moment, he can go on to achieve great things in his burgeoning career.

Hart has come under fire for several high-profile errors lately, including the decision to rush off his line that led to Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s fourth goal against England, but Southall has dismissed suggestions the City man is off form.

“I just think it’s a load of pants, really. If you look at him, he’s the most improved goalkeeper I’ve seen for a long, long time,” Southall told Goal.com.

“He’s gone in there and now he’s let in a couple of goals that people think he should not have let in. That was always going to happen.”

Southall is also of the belief that, as long as Hart is eager to learn, he will be able to complete the long-term transition into becoming a world-class goalkeeper with time.

“Best in Europe? Not at the moment because he’s still a bit young,” he said.

“He hasn’t learnt what he needs to learn and that takes time, I’m sure he’s learning his craft every day.

“In time, if he carries on going the way he is, he’s going to be one of the best in the world. He’s probably already in the top 20 at the moment.

“Now he’s just got to work himself up to the number one position. I’m sure that’s his aim and his ambition.”

Fri 30 November, 2012
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Heynckes eager for Dortmund showdown

Bayern Munich head coach Jupp Heynckes believes the Bundesliga game against Borussia Dortmund on Saturday will be a match to savour.

Bayern have begun the new season in fantastic form and have a 10-point lead in the league over Bayer Leverkusen in second place.

Defending champions Dortmund may be a further point back in third place in the Bundesliga, but they have impressed in the UEFA Champions League, topping a group containing Real Madrid, Manchester City and Ajax.

“That game is going to be a highlight,” Heynckes said.

“Two teams who are playing football on a very high level. We are in a good position in the league table right now and this year we always managed to focus on the games.

“I don’t think there will be a difference tomorrow. On Wednesday we played a really good Freiburg team and we did a professional job.

“My team knows that our effort has to be above average against Dortmund because they are team with lots of quality and good players. My players will be motivated and focused.”

Bayern and Dortmund meet at the Allianz Arena, Munich, on Saturday.

Fri 30 November, 2012
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Toulalan hails Pellegrini

Malaga midfielder Jeremy Toulalan believes his coach Manuel Pellegrini acted as a saviour for the club in times of financial struggle.

The La Liga side had enjoyed economical backing from the royal family of Qatar until last season, when the sponsors suddenly lost interest in investing.

During the off-season, Malaga were forced to let go of some of their players, and the Frenchman is relieved he was not one of them.

“I had serious doubts that I could continue here,” the 29-year-old told AS.

“The situation was simple, I spoke to the club and they made me understand that they needed money and would have to sell players.

“But when I spoke to Pellegrini all doubts disappeared completely. We talked and listened to offers from other clubs, but once I talked to the coach everything was solved. Without Pellegrini, the team and the club would be dead.

“I came here because Pellegrini had full confidence in me. When I talked to him this summer, I got the same sense of confidence and that’s why I’m here. The message he gave me is the one he gave to the group.

“He is the core that holds us together. Without him, each of us would have gone to a different place.”

Toulalan praised team-mate Ignacio Camacho, labelling him as one of the team’s driving forces.

“This year Camacho is having continuity and he is one of the revelations of this Malaga. He has assumed a great responsibility,” he said.

Fri 30 November, 2012
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Hummels: I don´t give a damn about Bayern

Borussia Dortmund centre-back Mats Hummels says he could not care less about his ex-club Bayern Munich ahead of their Bundesliga clash.

The Germany international, who spent most of his youth career at Bayern’s academy, had also spent his first three professional years at the club but says he now has no fondness for the side.

“I do not give a damn about Bayern,” the 23-year-old told Bild. “I have completely lost the link with the club.

“By this time, I am thoroughly a Borusse (dedicated to playing for Dortmund).”

Hummels admitted he was delighted to have recovered from injury in time to appear against his former club, who top the Bundesliga ahead of Saturday’s clash at Allianz Arena.

“Remarkably, it is better now and I have trained normally with the team today,” he told reporters.

“I am expecting nothing less than being able to play.”

Fri 30 November, 2012
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Mancini wants goals from Balotelli

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini hopes Mario Balotelli can begin a good run of form, admitting he needs goals from the striker.

Balotelli netted his first English Premier League strike of the season at Wigan on Wednesday and Mancini hopes it might be the start of a scoring streak as City prepare for Saturday’s clash with Everton.

Edin Dzeko and Carlos Tevez are joint top-scorers for City so far with six goals apiece, while Sergio Aguero has hit the back of the net five times, but Mancini believes the reigning champions need more.

“It was important, it is important for him (Balotelli) because he’s scored his first goal, it’s important because he scored an important goal at a difficult moment,” Mancini said.

“Now I hope he can continue to score because we need his goals.”

Manchester City will welcome Everton to Etihad Stadium on Saturday with a ten-point gap on the Merseyside club.

But Mancini remains convinced Everton can improve from their position of sixth on the Premier League table and challenge for a top-four spot at the end of the season.

“Everton started the season very well, last year only so-so but they can finish in the Europa League (position),” Mancini said.

“They also have the quality to finish in fourth position.

“They are a strong team and have a good mentality.”

The 48-year-old Italian manager has also rejected the idea that the Premier League can only be won by the two Manchester clubs.

Mancini believes Chelsea can still challenge for the title despite trailing Manchester City by six points.

Fri 30 November, 2012
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Pardew acknowledges Newcastle plight

Alan Pardew admits Newcastle United are in a relegation battle after their second worst start to an English Premier League season 10 years.

Newcastle have just 14 points from 14 matches played – the last time they boasted such a poor tally at this stage of the season was back 2008/09, the season they were relegated.

And with matches against both Manchester clubs coming up, along with a trip to Arsenal and the visit of Everton to St James’ Park, things do not look likely to get any easier for Pardew’s men.

Asked if it was too early to say his side were being pushed into a relegation battle, the Newcastle boss said: “Well, we are now, and no, it’s not too early.”

But despite the difficult position the team find themselves in, Pardew believes they have what it takes to end their poor run of form.

“We can’t bury our head in the sand, and we have to get wins to get out of it,” he said.

“Actually, I’m so buoyed by the performance (at Stoke), and by the fact that the things we have changed, the things we’ve done, have definitely helped the team.

“The team have responded to them. Hopefully, we can take that forward.”

Midfielder Cheikh Tiote shares his manager’s frustrations, but insists that if he and his team-mates match the level of performance shown against Stoke, positive results will not be far away.

“Everyone is very disappointed,” he said.

“This is so difficult for the team to take, but we were much brighter against Stoke than we have been recently and had more energy on the pitch.

“If you play well like we did then we will get three points again very soon.”

Newcastle’s next match is at home to Wigan Athletic on Monday.

Fri 30 November, 2012
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