Townsend eyes derby victory for QPR

QPR attacker Andros Townsend says confidence is high at Loftus Road ahead of the derby with neighbours Fulham on Monday night.

The west Londoners have fared well in derby matches this season, taking four points off Chelsea as well as defeating Martin Jol’s men in an Adel Taraabt-inspired 2-1 win in the reverse fixture, leaving Townsend in a bullish mood.

“We’re confident we can get a result there,” the 21-year-old told QPR’s official website.

“The fact it’s a local derby is an added incentive, but all we’re focused on is returning to winning ways and getting another three points on the board.”

QPR moved off the bottom of the Premier League without even playing at the weekend with Reading losing heavily at Arsenal, and after claiming two wins in their last three outings Tottenham loanee Townsend says no-one at the club has given up on survival.

“We’ve got eight games to go and we believe we can still get out of it,” the young winger added.

“Obviously it’s going to be tough, but we’re a confident group of players and we’re playing well at the moment.

“We’re scoring goals again and looking like we can really take the game to the opposition, so we’re all confident.

“The gaffer has said he thinks 37 points might be enough and that’s four wins and two draws, which we feel we are capable of achieving.

“That’s what we’re aiming for.

“We still believe and we’ll be giving everything we can to stay up.”

Sun 31 March, 2013
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Swansea deserved a draw, says Tiendalli

Swansea defender Dwight Tiendalli believes his side deserved more from their third Premier League defeat in a row on Saturday.

The League Cup winners were beaten 2-1 by Tottenham at the Liberty Stadium thanks to two first-half strikes from Jan Vertonghen and Gareth Bale.

Despite a rousing comeback that saw Michu find the net in the second period, Michael Laudrup’s side could not find an equaliser.

“We are a little bit disappointed,” Tiendalli told the club’s official website.

“I thought we deserved at least a draw. The first 20 minutes wasn’t so good, but we fought for each other throughout and I thought we should have got something in the end.

“Nathan Dyer was very unlucky when he hit the crossbar, but our mentality was very good. We created a couple of good chances through crosses into the box, but it just didn’t fall for us.”

The 27-year-old turned out at right-back following a calf injury to regular Angel Rangel and the Dutchman went on to speak of his desire to make an impact in the remaining matches of the season, with his current contract set to expire at the end of the season.

“I’m just doing my job,” he said.

“I know what I can do and I try to perform well for the team. There are still plenty of games left this season and I want to try and play as much as possible.”

The Swans have been shaky since their maiden trophy triumph against Bradford City in late February, taking only one win from their last four league matches.

However, Tiendalli believes the forthcoming trip to relegation-threatened Norwich offers a good opportunity for Laudrup’s men to get their season back on track.

“We have been unlucky in the last three games and deserved more points,” he added.

“But that’s football, and you don’t always get what you deserve. Every game is tough in this league. Norwich away is a tough game but we trust each other than we can go there and get some points.

“We have a team that is mentally strong. We know we can win, especially at home, and we showed that fight in the second half against Spurs.”

Sun 31 March, 2013
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Prediction: Chelsea vs Manchester United

31st March 2013

Chelsea came from two goals behind at Old Trafford to earn a replay three weeks back, but had the Blues known that the replay would be played less than 48 hours after their match against Southampton, they probably wouldn’t have bothered. Manchester United, too, played on Saturday, but they clearly enter the match in much better spirits than their opponents.

This season is likely to be dubbed a failure even if Chelsea secure Champions League qualification and win the FA Cup title, but if they fail to achieve at least one of the two targets then all hell will break loose at Stamford Bridge. Roman Abramovich clearly cannot blame Rafa Benitez for the latest poor results since it was he who brought the Spaniard in the first place against his better judgement, but the reality is the Blues have largely struggled since the former Liverpool boss took over the reigns. The lack of strength in depth coped with the hectic schedule might just prove to be the key to Chelsea’s demise, and Benitez faces some tough selection choices ahead of the Manchester United clash. With Juan Mata and Gary Cahill both doubtful, he just doesn’t have enough quality players to replace the entire starting line-up, which by the way was beaten by Southampton at the weekend, while it will be very difficult for the players who did start at St Mary’s to produce a quality display less than 48 hours later. At least Demba Ba, Ashley Cole, Eden Hazard, Ramires and David Luiz all return.

No matter how many millions Manchester City and other title contenders spend every transfer window, Manchester United pay no attention and just follow their own path, which usually leads them to glory. The Red Devils have made several slip ups this season, but they have been absolutely amazing most of the time and thus the 15-point cushion at the Premiership summit. United were unfortunate to be eliminated from the Champions League due to a refereeing error, but they are still in the race for the FA Cup title, even if the road to the title is by no means easy. Should they pip Chelsea to a place in the semi-final, they will battle local rivals Manchester City, but first things first. Sir Alex Ferguson was able to rest a number of regular starters at the weekend and still field a side that eased off to a win at the Stadium of Light, while never really putting their foot on the gas. That should give the Red Devils an extra edge in the all-important clash at Stamford Bridge, and given them a good chance to make amends for squandering a two-goal lead when the two sides met at Old Trafford. The likes of Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney, Patrice Evra, Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley all return, but Rafael misses out with a groin problem.

Conclusion

Had they had few more days to rest from the disappointing defeat to Southampton, Chelsea would probably stand a better chance of reaching the next stage, but given the timing of the tie, it is advantage United. The Red Devils are playing with a lot of confidence at the moment and there is a value in backing them to qualify.

Verdict: United to qualify

Best Odds: 1/1

Bookmaker: Paddy Power

Sun 31 March, 2013
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Alcaraz praises Wigan team effort

Wigan Athletic defender Antolin Alcaraz has praised the efforts of his team following their 1-0 win over Norwich City on Saturday.

Arouna Kone’s goal after 81 minutes separated the two sides and meant Wigan leapfrogged Aston Villa to move out of the Premier League relegation zone with seven games left to play.

“Everybody did a great job and to get another three points at home is a big achievement at this stage of the season, especially with it being our second in a row,” Alcaraz told the club’s official website.

“Keeping a clean sheet at home is always important and the manner that we did it in with Norwich not having a shot on target is very impressive and it means as a team we defended really well.

“I have to praise my team-mates because all of them have been excellent in recent weeks.”

The Paraguayan also revealed his frustrations at being sidelined through injury but was pleased to return to form.

“I’m happy with my own performances recently but it’s been the whole team that has achieved these results,” he added.

“It was frustrating to be out of the team so I’m trying really hard to give it my all and be a part of the team now.”

Wigan next face rock bottom QPR and the defender insists that the team are focused on sealing another season in the Premier League.

“I enjoyed the three points,” the Latics defender continued. “But straight after the game it’s time to move on and look towards the next three points that are up for grabs against Queens Park Rangers.

“It’s important to claim as many points as we can before the end of the season and at this moment we are more focussed than ever.

“You never know what special moments we could create again this season but the most important thing now is to look towards the QPR game.”

Sun 31 March, 2013
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Pastore keen to lock horns with Messi

Javier Pastore says he is excited about playing against Argentina team-mate Lionel Messi when Paris Saint-Germain host Barcelona on Tuesday.

PSG will be hoping to emulate AC Milan’s home win against Barca but avoid their subsequent collapse at Camp Nou when the two European giants clash in their Champions League quarter-final.

“He’s the best player in the world,” Pastore responded when asked about Messi by PSG’s official website. “He shows it match after match.

“For us Argentines, he is a reference and an example. I am delighted to be playing against him, it will be a very special moment for me. There will be a little emotion there for me.

“We will have to remain focused for 90 minutes. You have to stay calm when they have the ball. Barcelona are a team that exploit the smallest error from the opposition to score. From that moment, it is very hard to come back.”

PSG are naturally the underdogs against the 2010/11 Champions League winners, but Pastore is confident that a semi-final berth is not beyond the squad.

“At this level of the competition, every team is strong, but anything is possible,” he said. “We need to play two great matches of football.

“If we stay focused we will have reason to hope we’ll go through. It’s the only way of getting through this round.”

The other three quarter-finals are Borussia Dortmund against Malaga, Real Madrid play Galatasaray and Bayern Munich clash with Juventus.

Sun 31 March, 2013
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Bundesliga wrap: Frankfurt edge Greuther

Eintracht Frankfurt continued their bid for UEFA Champions League football next season with a 3-2 win away to Greuther Fuerth.

In a battle of the top two clubs from last season’s Bundesliga 2, Frankfurt defeated the reigning second-tier champions thanks to a man-of-the-match performance from Alexander Meier.

The 30-year-old attacking midfielder set up Frankfurt’s first goal and scored the third as Frankfurt picked up their first Bundesliga victory in six matches.

After Nikola Durdic put Greuther in front in just the second minute on Sunday, the visitors hit back 10 minutes later through Takashi Inui.

The 24-year-old Japanese winger received Meier’s pass on the left of the penalty box, cut back onto his right boot and smashed the ball past Greuther goalkeeper Max Gruen.

Frankfurt were in front in the 58th minute when a left-wing cross made it all the way to Stefan Aigner at the back post and his strike was deflected into the net.

Frankfurt were cruising 10 minutes later when Meier got onto the scoresheet with a fine strike from the edge of the area for his 12th goal of the season but Greuther ensured a nervous finish to the game after Sercan Sararer scored in the 72nd minute.

The hosts hit the post soon after but Frankfurt held on to regain fifth position in the Bundesliga ahead of Mainz.

Frankfurt have 42 points from 27 games, the same as fourth-placed Schalke but are behind on goals scored, while Mainz and Freiburg, who are sixth and seventh respectively, both have 39 points.

Fourth place in the Bundesliga comes with a spot in the qualifying rounds of next season’s Champions League.

In the other Bundesliga match on Sunday, Nuremburg scored twice in five second-half minutes to claim a 2-2 draw at the Volkswagen Arena in Wolfsburg.

Wolfsburg led early through Diego’s third-minute goal and were two goals up at half-time thanks to Ivica Olic’s strike just before the half-hour mark.

But Nuremburg extended their unbeaten run to eight games thanks to goals from Timmy Simons (61st minute) and Per Nilsson (66th minute).

Sun 31 March, 2013
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Lennon slams ´appalling´ referee

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has described the performance of referee Bobby Madden in his team’s 1-1 draw with St Mirren as ‘appalling’.

Madden sent off Celtic midfielder Victor Wanyama 10 minutes into the second half and also awarded St Mirren a controversial late penalty from which Paul McGowan equalised.

After the game, Lennon was scathing in his assessment of the official’s performance as Celtic continue to stumble towards the Scottish Premier League title.

“That is by far the most appalling refereeing performance I’ve seen this season,” the Celtic boss told the BBC. “How he got so many big decisions wrong in one day is beyond me.”

Kenya midfielder Wanyama was shown a straight red card for a tackle in the centre circle in the 55th minute, and Lennon was adamant the club would contest the decision.

“Absolutely,” he replied when asked if the club would appeal the sending off. “It’s absolutely awful.

“Beram Kayal was thrown into the advertising boards and five seconds later my man gets sent off – which is never a red card. The sending off killed the game as a spectacle.

“And that is not a penalty for St Mirren. It was outside the box and there was no contact.

“I’ve been pretty concerned for the last couple of months about the abhorrent decisions I’ve seen – not just against my team but in general in the Scottish game.”

Lennon admitted his side were lucky to get away without conceding a spot kick earlier in the half after Greece striker Georgios Samaras appeared to handle the ball inside the area.

“It’s a clear penalty,” the Northern Irishman added. “Samaras has handled the ball. How he doesn’t see that and the linesman doesn’t see it is beyond me.

“We’re talking about the referee rather than the competitive nature of two good footballing teams. I haven’t said anything insulting or called the referee’s competence. I just thought he had an appalling game.”

Celtic have now failed to win any of their last four away games in the SPL, and Lennon admitted to having some concerns over his side’s form as they enter the final straight of the campaign.

“We looked okay at the start of the second half, without being brilliant, but never really settled,” he said. “Our ball retention should have been better, even with the 10 men.

“I’m a bit concerned. There’s still a few of them not finding their best form. I don’t know why. We’ve got a week now to get ready for Hibs and I want to start seeing performances at the level I expect.”

Sun 31 March, 2013
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Drummy: Not enough opportunities for youth

Chelsea NextGen coach Dermot Drummy believes there are insufficient opportunities for academy graduates to make their mark in the first team.

Drummy, who also manages the club’s reserve side, will be on the sidelines when Chelsea’s under-19 team face Aston Villa in the NextGen Series final on Monday in Como, Italy.

Despite their success at youth level, the Englishman is discouraged by the amount of players that are forced to go out on loan in search of first-team football as Chelsea continue to purchase established stars.

“It’s difficult because Chelsea will buy ready-made players, but the bottom line is you’ve got to produce a player,” he told the Mirror.

“There is a second tier now, where the lads like Nathaniel (Chalobah) and Josh (McEachran) tend to go out on loan.

“But there has to be a pathway and opportunities, in my opinion, for the young British players to get a chance. Play them in the League Cup because you never get an answer on a player until you play them.

“At the moment, they have to go away because they want to play first-team football. The boys have got to be patient sometimes, but, on the other hand, there has to be a pathway.”

Drummy has watched his team beat the likes of Juventus and Barcelona en route to the final and believes the NextGen tournament has proven that their young players are among Europe’s elite.

“The NextGen gives us a barometer of where the lads are because we are playing European football,” he said.

“We know it’s not the be-all at this level to beat Barcelona, but we went there and played fantastic football. We are playing very attractive, technical football.”

Sun 31 March, 2013
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Ligue 1 wrap: Marseille win away, Lille stage comeback

Marseille have kept the pressure on Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain with a 1-0 victory over Nice, their first away from home this year.

Andre-Pierre Gignac scored the only goal of the game after a quarter of an hour as second-placed Marseille moved back to within seven points of PSG, while Nice’s third defeat in four matches saw the home side drop to sixth.

While Nice had slightly more possession and shots than Marseille on Sunday, it was the visitors who claimed the Derby de la Cote d’Azur after Gignac scored from a corner in the 15th minute.

Marseille had just one corner for the match but made the most of it as Gignac pulled away from his marker to head Mathieu Valbuena’s cross inside the near post, despite the best efforts of the Nice defender standing on the goal line.

The result extended Marseille’s unbeaten run against their southern rivals to six games, while Nice’s loss allowed Lille to leapfrog them into fifth.

In Brest, Lille had to come from behind to overcome the home side, with Nolan Roux scoring the winner in the 79th minute against his former team.

Brest led after just nine minutes at the Stade Francis-Le Ble through Florian Raspentino, who tapped home Benoit Lesoimier’s pass, but Lille were level in the 18th minute when Salomon Kalou scored after Aurelien Chedjou’s flick-on from a corner.

Lille had five shots on target to two and deservedly claimed all three points when Roux, who joined the north-eastern club from Brest in January 2012, burst onto Benoit Pedretti’s ball over the top of the hosts’ defence to finish past Joan Hartock.

The result leaves Brest winless in their past five games in Ligue 1, while Lille have moved within two points of Europa League qualification after their sixth victory in seven matches.

Sun 31 March, 2013
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Van Persie: Fatigue will affect FA Cup tie

Manchester United striker Robin van Persie believes fatigue could play a part in Monday’s FA Cup quarter-final replay against Chelsea.

After a 3-3 draw at Old Trafford, the two clubs will meet again at Stamford Bridge just two days after their latest Premier League fixtures on Saturday.

Van Persie believes the 48-hour rest period is not enough and admitted the close proximity of the games added to the risk of muscular injuries due to tiredness.

“These games are just too close to each other,” he told reporters. “People have to realise they can’t expect a great game of football because it is not possible.

“Normally on the second day your muscles are quite bad, but now we have to play at this certain time.

“It is a shame but we can’t do anything about it because there are Champions League games in midweek and Chelsea are still in the Europa League.”

Chelsea interim manager Rafa Benitez has also bemoaned the fixture congestion after he was forced to make eight changes to his side for the 2-1 loss to Southampton at the weekend .

“When you don’t have one or two players you have to manage the squad,” he said. “The day after a game you feel tired, two days after you feel even more tired.

“That is the reality. The second day will be really tough for everyone.”

Sun 31 March, 2013
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