West Ham eyeing Boulahrouz deal

West Ham are considering a move for former Chelsea defender Khalid Boulahrouz, according to TalkSport.

The Dutch international only moved to current club Sporting CP last summer, though with the Portuguese side facing financial difficulties, they are keen to cash in on some of their big name players.

Boulahrouz made just thirteen league appearances during his time with Chelsea before moving to Sevilla on a year-long loan, playing just six times before being sent back to Stamford Bridge.

A move to Stuttgart followed, where he spent four years prior to his transfer to Lisbon twelve months ago while his last of thirty-five international caps came in the 3-2 win over England last February.

The 31 year old’s vast experience and ability to play at both centre-back and right-back will appeal to Hammers boss Sam Allardyce, who has already brought in Romania captain Ravzan Rat, and is keen to further bolster his backline ahead of the new season.

Wed 31 July, 2013
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Sivasspor snare free agent Utaka

Turkish Super Lig outfit Sivasspor have announced the capture of John Utaka on a two-year deal.

The 31-year-old had been without a club since leaving Montpellier in July following the expiry of his contract with the French side.

And he has now elected to move to Turkey with Sivasspor, who are managed by former Brazil international and Real Madrid full-back Roberto Carlos.

Utaka began his career with Enugu Rangers in his native Nigeria before stints in Egypt and Qatar.

A five-season spell in France with Lens and Rennes followed, with the forward’s form over that time securing him a move to the Premier League with Portsmouth.

The Nigeria international lifted the FA Cup with the English team, but would return to France with Montpellier after his contract with the south-coast club had run down.

He subsequently played a prominent role in helping the club to the first Ligue 1 title in their history in 2011-12.

Utaka has been capped 43 times by Nigeria.

Wed 31 July, 2013
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K-League Wrap: Ulsan, Pohang ease to victories

Ulsan Hyundai maintained their advantage at the top of the K-League with a comfortable 3-1 win at Gyeongnam on Wednesday.

A late double from Chikashi Masuda proved to be enough for the leaders, as the Japanese midfielder scored his first 11 minutes before the end before sealing the victory in injury time. Masuda’s intervention came after Han Sang-Woon’s 12th-minute strike was cancelled out by Gyeongnam forward Milan Bubalo.

Pohang Steelers remain a point behind Ulsan in second following their 4-0 home success against Gangwon. Forward Cho Chan-Ho netted an impressive hat-trick following Park Sung Ho’s opener as the hosts cruised to an emphatic win.

Jeonbuk Motors stay five points behind in third after they came through an away trip to Daegu, midfielder Seo Sang-Min scoring the only goal of the game just after the hour mark.

Incheon United’s 1-0 win over bottom club Daejeon Citizen keeps them one point adrift of Jeonbuk, a 19th-minute effort from attacker Seol Ki-Hyeon the difference between the two sides as Incheon made it just one defeat in their last six matches.

Busan I’Park’s hopes of qualifying for the Championship round were dealt a blow as they were comfortably beaten at Suwon Bluewings. The home side produced a thoroughly professional display and made sure of maximum points with goals from Hong Chul and Cho Dong-Geon.

However, Busan are still only behind seventh-place Jeju United on goal difference after they were edged out 1-0 by Seoul, defender Adilson Dos Santos scoring the crucial goal for the capital club after 69 minutes.

Elsewhere, Chunnam Dragons ended a run of four games without a win by beating Seongnam 2-1.

Strikers Lee Jong Ho and Wesley moved Chunnam two goals to the good just after 25 minutes. Kim Dong-Sub pulled one back for the visitors, but it proved to be little more than a consolation as Chunnam held on for the three points.

Wed 31 July, 2013
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Ribery: Tactical changes necessary at Bayern

Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery believes Pep Guardiola’s tactics will make the side even stronger this season.

Under Jupp Heynckes, Bayern often used a 4-2-3-1 formation, which brought success as the side won the Bundesliga, UEFA Champions League and the DFB-Pokal last season.

However, Guardiola opted for a 4-1-4-1 system against Borussia Dortmund in the Super Cup defeat at Signal Iduna Park, suggesting this may be the preferred formation for the coming campaign.

Ribery, who made 43 appearances for Bayern in their treble-winning season, scoring 11 goals, believes a change is important to keep opponents guessing.

“Last season we won everything and if we didn’t make any changes, our opponents would be more able to adapt to us,” he told the Bundesliga website.

“The new system makes our game even harder to second-guess. We can change tactics mid-match or switch a few players around to give the opposition even more trouble.”

The France international, who arrived at the Allianz Arena from Marseille in 2007, explained he and his team-mates remain hungry for more silverware.

While the Bundesliga is the team’s priority, Ribery believes a strong showing in the Champions League is also important.

“It was an unforgettable experience. I woke up happy every day on holiday, just thinking back to our UEFA Champions League triumph,” he continued.

“The holidays were just the job to recharge the batteries. We’re well aware that every team we play are going to be even keener to get one over on us – because what feels better than to beat the treble winners?

“We want to win the Bundesliga again. That’s our priority, to show again who’s top dog in Germany. Furthermore we want to go as far as possible in the Champions League again.”

Bayern wlll get their Bundesliga defence up and running against Borussia Monchengladbach on August 9.

Wed 31 July, 2013
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Blaszczykowski: I turned down Manchester City

Borussia Dortmund attacker Jakub Blaszczykowski has revealed he snubbed Manchester City to sign a new deal with the club.

The Poland international has been with the German club since 2007, and played a leading role in their two recent Bundesliga wins and march to the 2013 UEFA Champions League final.

Blaszczykowski’s form during that period has alerted several clubs to his talents, but the 27-year-old says he would not want to play his football anywhere else.

“Dortmund simply had the advantage over Manchester City,” he told Polish newspaper Przeglad Sportowy. “We have a great squad, fantastic manager, incredible supporters and a very bright future ahead of us.

“In Dortmund, me and my family have everything we need. I did not pursue interest from other clubs in my services.”

Blaszczykowski has made over 200 appearances for Dortmund since his arrival from Wisla Krakow in February 2007, scoring 29 goals.

He has also been capped on 61 occasions by Poland and signed a new contract at Signal Iduna Park in June.

Wed 31 July, 2013
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Warnock: Leeds star Byram has everything

Leeds United’s Stephen Warnock believes young defenders Sam Byram and Tom Lees will be crucial in the club’s promotion hopes this season.

The 31-year-old Warnock – who joined Championship outfit Leeds in January – has been blown away by the talent of Byram and Lees since arriving at Elland Road from Aston Villa.

The likes of Jonathan Woodgate, James Milner, and Aaron Lennon have all progressed through the club’s famed academy system and in more recent years, Fabian Delph and Jonny Howson have been notable graduates.

And the club’s latest young stars are destined for the top, according to Warnock, with 19-year-old Byram having been linked with moves to Manchester City and Liverpool after a stunning debut season.

“Sam’s done very well. He has a bit of everything,” Warnock told PERFORM as Leeds prepare to launch a new club store in the city.

“It’s one of the questions that people ask me all the time when I see other players from other clubs. They ask ‘how good is he’ and ‘what can he do’ and things like that.

“He’s great going forward but he’s also very strong defensively. He’s a typically all-round full-back.

“This year will be a big year for Sam. The first season is always great and things go well but it’s trying to replicate that and improve yourself that is a challenge.

“I’m sure Sam will do that because he’s got more than the ability required to do that. He’s the type who wants to learn and improve all the time so I’m sure he will go on to good things.”

Byram made 53 appearances in all competitions last term at Leeds and swept the board at the club’s end-of-season awards, winning four honours including the Player of the Year accolade.

He is tied to Elland Road until 2016 and is not the only young prospect that Warnock is excited about.

While Lees did not burst onto the scene like Byram, his gradual improvement has seen him rewarded on the international scene.

The 22-year-old featured at this year’s UEFA European Under-21 Championships for England, and has won six caps at that level.

“Tom’s a great player,” Warnock said.

“He’s shown that by playing with the England Under-21s. Tom’s got to show everyone what he is about again this season though.

“There will be plenty of people watching him this year because he is a quality player.”

Leeds have only been able to sign three players in the close-season, with former Crewe captain Luke Murphy the headline arrival at Elland Road.

Manager Brian McDermott is likely to call on more prospects from the club’s academy as a result, including Aidan White and Dominic Poleon, who are already regulars.

With an array of talented young players at the club, Warnock knows promotion to the Premier League – a division Leeds have not played in since 2004 – is vital to keep them at the club.

“Tom and Sam are very important to Leeds this season,” he said.

“There will be clubs who are interested in buying them. We’ve got to prove that we are capable of getting up the league and fighting for promotion to keep hold of them.”

Leeds open their Championship campaign with a home fixture against Brighton and Hove Albion at Elland Road on Saturday.

Wed 31 July, 2013
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International Champions Cup Preview: Real Madrid v LA Galaxy

Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos feels Landon Donovan is the main threat for LA Galaxy, ahead of the sides’ International Champions Cup clash.

The Spanish side will face Galaxy in Phoenix on Thursday for what will be the pair’s first appearances in the competition and Real’s vice-captain is well aware of Donovan’s talents.

As well as the 31-year-old United States international, Ramos also highlighted Ireland’s Robbie Keane as another player he and his Real team-mates will need to keep quiet, although the 33-year-old is a doubt for the game with a hip flexor injury.

“Los Angeles Galaxy are a leading team in this country,” Ramos told Real’s official website.

“They’ve won two titles in a row and it’s always good to face the best in order to be as ready as possible for the official season. Their biggest player is Donovan, but Keane also makes a difference.”

Ramos also explained that, with football on the up in the US, he feels the clash against LA Galaxy will offer a good test ahead of the Liga season.

The defender added: “They’ve also had strong growth in this country. They won the Gold Cup and continue to show progress and consistency today. As players we’re happy that they’re on par with the best competitions in the world.”

Real will use the tournament as an opportunity to prepare for the forthcoming La Liga season, which gets under way against Real Betis at the Santiago Bernabeu on August 18.

While a deal is yet to be reached over long-term target Gareth Bale, close-season signings Asier Illarramendi and Isco are both in the squad for the competition.

For Bruce Arena’s side, the tournament comes during the MLS season, with Galaxy currently fourth in the Western Conference.

They have been inconsistent in their form over the past month however, winning three times and losing twice in July.

The Galaxy will miss 14 days off from the MLS in total to feature in the competition, with the winners of the first round clash in Phoenix facing Juventus or Everton in the next stage on Saturday.

Wed 31 July, 2013
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CAF Champions League Preview: Al Ahly search for venue for Pirates clash

Al Ahly are searching for a venue to play their CAF Champions League clash with Orlando Pirates amid security concerns in Egypt.

The Egyptian champions saw their request for a postponment of their second Group A fixture – which is scheduled to take place on Sunday – denied by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) on Tuesday.

However, Egypt’s military are refusing to allow the game to take place in either Alexandra or Cairo because of ongoing civil unrest, even though the tie is to be played behind closed doors.

That leaves the seven-time Champions League winners trying to find another venue where they would not have to play in the intense daytime heat during Ramadan. But with only stadiums in major cities having adequate floodlight facilities, this may prove an impossible task.

Orlando drew their opening game of Group A against Congolese champions Leopards, but will be without new signing Kermit Erasmus for their first ever meeting with Al Ahly’s fierce rivals – and five-time Champions League winners – Zamalek on Sunday. The South Africa international is cup-tied for the competition having played for SuperSport United in the CAF Confederation Cup.

With both games in the opening round of Group A ending in draws, the opportunity is there for all four teams to seize control of the pool.

Elsewhere, both Group B matches will take place on Saturday, with current leaders Recreativo do Libolo of Angola travelling to West Africa to face Ivory Coast champions Sewe.

Meanwhile, Tunisia’s Es Tunis will host Cameroonian champions Cotonsport, who finally get their campaign under way after their opening fixture was postponed due their football association’s recent FIFA suspension.

Wed 31 July, 2013
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Soldado set for Tottenham, says Valencia president

Valencia president Amadeo Salvo has revealed that the club have reached an agreement with Tottenham for the sale of Roberto Soldado.

The Premier League side have been on the hunt for a centre-forward during the transfer window, with Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe the only senior strikers currently on their books.

And Salvo has now explained that their premier target Soldado will arrive at White Hart Lane imminently.

He told Valencian newspaper Las Provinicias: “The deal with Tottenham is complete.”

However, Salvo did explain that the deal is currently being held up due to an issue with the Spain international’s representative.

He added: “A problem has arisen with the player’s agent.”

Soldado scored 30 goals in 46 appearances for Valencia last season as they narrowly missed out on UEFA Champions League qualification.

He has also scored six times in 11 appearances for Spain, and featured in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup for his country.

The striker’s arrival from his homeland comes amid suggestions Gareth Bale could be set for a move the other way, with Real Madrid reportedly considering a world-record bid for the Welshman.

Wed 31 July, 2013
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Championship Preview: QPR, Reading start at home

QPR, Reading and Wigan Athletic will begin life in the Championship on Saturday while newly promoted Yeovil Town travel to Millwall.

The new season resumes with all 24 clubs involved in the second tier of English football having hopes of reaching the Premier League and enjoying the riches that come along with it.

Regarded by football fans as the most competitive league in the world, the 2013-14 edition of the Championship is sure to throw up its share of thrilling matches, shock results and unbelievable storylines again.

Much of the opening-day focus will surround the three teams relegated from the top flight, with Harry Redknapp’s QPR set to start their campaign with a home fixture against Sheffield Wednesday.

With the likes of Loic Remy, Adel Taarabt, Bobby Zamora, Joey Barton, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Robert Green still on QPR’s books, the London club have more than enough quality about them to mount to a title push.

How many of the club’s big names will be at Loftus Road once the transfer window shuts remains to be seen, but they should be far too good for a Wednesday outfit who have failed to strengthen significantly during the close-season.

Reading open their season at home to Ipswich Town and followers of Nigel Adkins’ side will have their fingers crossed that star striker Adam Le Fondre remains at the club.

Wigan travel to Oakwell to face Barnsley as Owen Coyle takes charge of his first competitive game with the 2013 FA Cup winners.

Coyle’s men are a serious title threat, having kept the majority of their best players, while they also signed proven goalscorer Grant Holt in July.

Yeovil will play their first ever match in the second tier of English football at The New Den against Millwall.

Gary Johnson’s efforts to get Yeovil promoted from League One on a shoe-string budget are to be commended and he will be hopeful that Paddy Madden – who scored 23 goals last term – can help his team make a positive start against Steve Lomas’ Millwall.

A host of big names remain in the Championship, with Leeds United, Nottingham Forest and Derby County all hopeful their large fan bases can help them return to the Premier League.

Leeds – who have kept hold of star teenager Sam Byram and added Crewe captain Luke Murphy – start with a home fixture against Brighton and Hove Albion, while Forest face Huddersfield Town, two clubs who have spent big in the close-season.

Derby are in action on Sunday against Blackburn Rovers.

Other matches on the first weekend of the Championship – which commemorates the 150th year anniversary of the Football League – see Burnley battle Bolton Wanderers at Turf Moor and Birmingham City host last season’s beaten play-off finalists Watford.

Newly promoted Doncaster Rovers and AFC Bournemouth are at home against Blackpool and Charlton Athletic respectively, while Leicester City travel to Middlesbrough.

Wed 31 July, 2013
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