Injured Costa to miss Barca clash

Diego Costa is set to miss Atletico Madrid’s UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg at Barcelona after leaving training early on Monday.

Atletico coach Diego Simeone conceded it will be ‘difficult’ for Costa to play on Tuesday after the Brazilian-born striker completed just 10 minutes of training.

Costa has scored 32 goals in all competitions for Atletico this season, including six in the club’s past five matches, but Simeone does not expect the 25-year-old to take part at the Camp Nou.

“The doctors will assess his fitness but I can’t see him playing,” Simeone was quoted as saying by Marca.

Simeone added on Spanish television channel TVE: “Having seen him at training I think it is going to be difficult for him to make it, but we will wait as there’s still a long while to go yet.”

The Argentine coach said that Costa is as important to Atleti as Lionel Messi is to Barcelona, underlining the significance of an injury to the Spain international.

“Without doubt. Cristiano (Ronaldo), Messi and Costa, all of their own style, but are all equally important,” Simeone said.

“Two in-form players now face off and I think that Diego is growing day by day, and Messi is demonstrating what good those two months off did him, and will go into the World Cup in top form.”

Atleti will enter Tuesday’s quarter-final first leg one point ahead of Barcelona in La Liga and having drawn with the Catalans in all three of their previous meetings this season.

But Simeone expects an even tougher challenge in the Champions League.

“This will be the most difficult (match) of the lot,” the 43-year-old said.

“In the first game we played as the home side and in the third Messi was recovering from injury, and now we have the best Barca.”

Mon 31 March, 2014
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La Liga Wrap: Key wins for Malaga, Levante

Malaga and Levante pulled clear of the La Liga’s relegation zone with important wins on Monday.

Bernd Schuster’s Malaga side struck twice in the final seven minutes in a come-from-behind 2-1 win at bottom side Real Betis.Lorenzo Reyes gave Betis hope with a 30th-minute opener but late goals from Juanmi and Sergi Darder saw the visitors into the lead.

Ruben Castro missed a stoppage-time penalty for Betis in a costly blow for Gabriel Calderon’s side.

Real Betis are eight points from safety with seven league matches remaining, while Malaga jumped up to 12th and five points clear of 18th-placed Almeria.

Chilean midfielder Reyes put the hosts ahead with a lucky strike on the half-hour mark.

His curling 25-yard effort appeared to be too close to goalkeeper Wilfredo Caballero but the Argentine shot-stopper was unable to stop the effort from going through his hands.

Malaga were level with seven minutes remaining as substitute Juanmi cleverly flicked a Nordin Amrabat pass from the right into the bottom corner from close range.

A poor turnover of possession in the middle third just four minutes later proved costly for Betis.

Amrabat was again the provider as his pass from the right found the late run of Darder, who took a touch before finishing into the top corner from 10 yards.

Castro hit the crossbar with his 91st-minute spot-kick, as Betis were dealt a huge blow to their chances of survival.

At the Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes, Granada suffered a 2-0 loss to Levante.

Levante broke a four-game winless run thanks to second-half goals from David Navarro and Pedro Lopez.

Navarro scrambled in the opener four minutes into the second half before Lopez sealed the result with a fine 20-yard effort in the dying stages.

Levante sit 10th and 10 points clear of Almeria, while Granada are just three points ahead of the 18th-placed side.

Mon 31 March, 2014
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Allardyce hails Carroll´s match-winning performance

West Ham manager Sam Allardyce was full of praise for Andy Carroll after the striker led the Londoners to a crucial 2-1 win at Sunderland.

Allardyce declared it was ‘a bit scary’ to imagine how good West Ham might have been this season if Carroll had been fit for the entire campaign.

The 25-year-old forward missed the opening 20 games of West Ham’s Premier League season but showed how crucial he is to Allardyce’s team at the Stadium of Light, scoring one goal and creating another, as the London club registered their sixth win in nine matches.

“It’s a bit scary to think where we might be if we’d had Andy all season,” Allardyce said in his post-match press conference.

“We didn’t have him all season last season and finished 10th. We’ve had him even less this season and we’re now into 11th. We’re one point behind last season’s total (at this point).”

Allardyce said Carroll has all the tools to dominate the Premier League if he can stay fit for an entire season.

“It’s an all-round quality that he has; quicker than he looks, some good hold up play off the chest at times, takes the ball with his feet, got a terrific shot on him … superb in the air and he’s young,” the 59-year-old said.

“So, hopefully, he keeps on … growing in terms of his experience and his abilities to stay fit and be an even better player than he already is.”

Carroll scored West Ham’s opener against Sunderland with a trademark header at the back post in the ninth minute and then chested down a long pass five minutes after half-time for Mohamed Diame to score the visitors’ second goal.

While Adam Johnson pulled a goal back for the hosts in the 65th minute, Allardyce was generally pleased with his team’s entire performance.

“Andy, using his major strength to put us 1-0 up. Beautiful header and I think that gave everybody the confidence to try and go on, and play, and expose more of the spaces that Sunderland were going to leave,” Allardyce said.

“Because they were going to have to come out even more to try and get back in the game … and we finally took advantage of that just after half-time.

“Then really, we controlled the game even more from there on, didn’t get the third when Stewart Downing went through and then had a little bit of a mad 20 minutes to hold on when (Adam) Johnson scored a very good goal.

“The lads, defensively, did that very, very well indeed and it’s an outstanding victory for us.”

Allardyce added that West Ham have just about avoided relegation with their strong run since the start of February.

“We’re probably in the top four or five in the Premier League for results at the moment and it’s got us out of trouble and it’s got us almost safe; not quite mathematically but I think it’ll be difficult for anyone to catch us now,” he said.

Mon 31 March, 2014
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Poyet to leave if Sunderland ´give up´

Sunderland manager Gus Poyet will offer his resignation at season’s end if his team ‘give up’ in their relegation fight.

A 2-1 loss to West Ham on Monday left Poyet’s side four points adrift of safety but they hold a game in hand over 17th-placed West Bromwich Albion.

The Uruguayan was appointed at the Stadium of Light in October last year, signing a two-year contract.

Poyet, 46, said he would offer his resignation if he saw his side giving up late in the campaign as he urged them to fight for their place in the top flight.

“If my team give up, I’ll leave. Nobody needs to sack me, I’ll leave on my own, OK?” he told a news conference after Monday’s loss.

“If you see this team giving up before the end of the season, you won’t see me here.”

Goals from Andy Carroll and Mohamed Diame set up West Ham’s victory, and they held on despite substitute Adam Johnson pulling one back for the hosts on 65 minutes.

Poyet said he was hurt and sad about Sunderland’s position but believes repeating their recent performances could help them survive.

“If we play like we play against Liverpool and today in the next eight games, we’re going to have a great chance (of surviving),” he said.

“The crystal ball, I can tell you, is not in my house. I’m not going to try and read the future because I’m not very good at that.

“What I believe is that I need to convince the players to keep doing it and defend this club to the end, to the last minute – to try their best.

“If everybody does the same, who goes out? The three worst teams in the league.”

The loss extended Sunderland’s miserable runs in Premier League games on Mondays.

The club are winless in 19 league matches on Mondays, dating back to 2002, and have a trip to Tottenham next – again on Monday.

“Thank you to the TV for putting another game on Monday next week. Very nice,” Poyet said with a laugh.

“Why they don’t change the last seven and put it on Mondays as well?”

Mon 31 March, 2014
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Bayern rule out Kroos summer sale

FC Bayern Munich have ruled out the possibility of midfielder Toni Kroos leaving the club in the upcoming summer transfer window.

FC Bayern Munich have ruled out the possibility of midfielder Toni Kroos leaving the club in the upcoming summer transfer window.

Kroos, whose current contract at the Allianz Arena expires at the end of next season, has been heavily linked with a summer move to English Premier League strugglers Manchester United.

However, Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and manager Pep Guardiola have moved to rubbish the aforementioned reports, insisting the maestro will stay in Munich ahead of the UEFA Champions League quarter-final tie against United in midweek.

“Toni Kroos is sure to play in a Bayern Munich shirt next year as well,” Rummenigge told reporters on Monday.

Guardiola added: “Toni has one year more of a contract and Toni will remain.

“I hope he can extend his contract and stay with us because he is a very good guy, he loves his game, it is not just a job for him and I would like him to stay.

“I spoke with the player, with the club, I gave my opinion. After that I am not manager, I am just the trainer.”

For the second consecutive season, Bayern — priced at 9/5 to win the Champions League this term — have wrapped up the Bundesliga title in record time, having been crowned German champions with seven league fixtures remaining.

The Bavarian giants are expected to give Manchester United a stern test at Old Trafford on Tuesday night, so much so that the visitors are overwhelming favoured at 1/2 to win the game.

Can under-fire United boss David Moyes turn the Red Devils nightmare 2013/14 campaign around with a shock win over Bayern? Don’t bet on it.

Evra yet to decide future

In other news, the future of Manchester United left-back Patrice Evra remains undecided, according to the player’s agent Federico Pastorello.

It has been suggested the France international, 32, could return to former club AS Monaco FC when his current deal expires in June, while Italian Serie A side Internazionale are also reporting keen on the Frenchman.

Due to the emergence of Layvin Kurzawa, a summer move to the Stade Louis II will not guarantee Evra a place in Claudio Ranieri’s starting XI.

Thus, following United team-mate Nemanja Vidic to Inter Milan seems like the best possible option for the 32-year-old defender.

“Patrice has to decide what to do with his future,” Pastorello told Tele Radio Stereo (per Sky Sports).

“He is very close to United, but lately things have changed a little.

“Could he come back to Italy? Patrice has always highly regarded Serie A and so, if he were to leave England, it could be a possibility.

“But at the moment it is still too early to talk about next season.”

Mon 31 March, 2014
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City in for Dani Alves

Manchester City are set to make a £15m move for Barcelona full-back Dani Alves at the end of the season, the Mirror understands.

The Brazil international is in his sixth season with the Catalan club, but, along with a number of his teammates, he is set to move on to pastures new in the summer.

The 30 year old is believed to have a £30m buy-out clause in his contract, though a fee of half of that amount could be enough as Barca look to help finance the £500m cost of remodelling the Nou Camp.

City’s 1-1 draw away to Arsenal at the weekend saw them lose ground in the race for the Premier League title, though they still have two games in hand over leaders Liverpool.

They remain 4/6 favourites, just ahead of Brendan Rodgers’ side, to reclaim the title that they lost to neighbours Manchester United last year.

Mon 31 March, 2014
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Southampton to keep hold of stars

New Southampton director Hans Hofstetter has insisted that the club will not be selling any of their young English talent, according to the Express.

Luke Shaw, Jay Rodriguez and captain Adam Lallana have all been linked with a move away from the club in recent weeks after each putting in consistently good performances for the South Coast club this season.

All three have burst onto the international scene this season, while the latter two both scored in the club’s 4-0 win over Newcastle United at the weekend along with fellow England star Rickie Lambert.

Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea have been linked with Shaw, while Premier League leaders Liverpool have been considering a move for Lallana though Hofstetter is adamant that the club can keep hold of them.

Mauricio Pocchetino’s men travel to title favourites Manchester City on Saturday afternoon, and are generously priced at 15/2 to take all three points.

Mon 31 March, 2014
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Mazzarri criticises Inter´s concentration

Inter coach Walter Mazzarri criticised his side’s concentration levels after they threw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at Livorno.

Mazzarri’s men looked to be in complete control at the Stadio Armando Picchi on Monday after goals from Hernanes and Rodrigo Palacio put them 2-0 up at half-time.

However, Livorno’s top scorer Paulinho pulled one back early in the second half, before substitute Innocent Emeghara completed a dramatic comeback five minutes from time.

Emeghara slotted past Samir Handanovic after capitalising on a sloppy backpass from Fredy Guarin, leaving Mazzarri to lament his team’s lack of focus.

“From the character point of view we have concentration limits,” the former Napoli boss told Sky Sport.

“Unfortunately we have to work on this, I’m seeing some improvements, but it is necessary to concentrate for all 90 minutes of the match.

“It is crucial to always be on the ball during the match.”

Meanwhile, Livorno coach Domenico Di Carlo praised the spirit his side displayed in moving just a point adrift of safety.

“It’s a point that is worth so much for the team in terms of staying up,” Di Carlo said.

“We can always improve and I was pleased with the spirit of the team. That is the way to ensure we stay up.”

Mon 31 March, 2014
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Serie A Wrap: Livorno fightback stuns Inter, Udinese beat Catania

Livorno came from two goals down to boost their Serie A survival hopes by claiming a dramatic 2-2 draw against Inter on Monday.

Walter Mazzarri’s side appeared to be on their way to a comfortable victory after two first-half goals put them very much in command at the Stadio Armando Picchi.

Hernanes opened the scoring with his first goal for the club since joining from Lazio in January, slamming home from close range after Mauro Icardi had failed to connect with Rodrigo Palacio’s knock back across goal.

Palacio then looked to have sealed the points for Inter when he met a Jonathan delivery with a superb half-volley that sailed into the bottom right corner in first-half injury time.

But Livorno found a way back into the game when top scorer Paulinho struck his 12th league goal of the season, before substitute Innocent Emeghara ensured a share of the spoils five minutes from time.

The Switzerland international raced on to an ill-advised backpass from Fredy Guarin to coolly slot home and move Livorno one point adrift of safety and extend Inter’s winless run to three games.

Elsewhere on Monday, bottom club Catania’s slim prospects of survival were further dented by a 1-0 loss at Udinese.

Veteran striker Antonio Di Natale again proved to be Udinese’s inspiration, scoring the only goal of the game in the 68th minute.

Di Natale – who has hinted that he may retire at the end of the campaign – finished off a sweeping team move to net his 11th Serie A goal of the season following good work from Allan and Bruno Fernandes.

The result makes it just one defeat in five for Udinese, while Catania remain six points off safety.

Mon 31 March, 2014
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Poyet unhappy with non-penalty call

Sunderland manager Gus Poyet felt his side should have been given a first-half penalty during their 2-1 loss to West Ham on Monday.

Poyet was unhappy at Howard Webb’s refusal to point to the spot when Kevin Nolan elbowed a loose ball in the penalty area at the Stadium of Light.

Sunderland were still trailing at that point, after Andy Carroll’s early header, before the hosts’ woes were compounded when Mohamed Diame’s deflected strike went in five minutes into the second half.

Substitute Adam Johnson – bizarrely left on the bench despite being Sunderland’s top scorer – produced a response with an excellent 20-yard effort in the 65th minute.

But it was too little too late as Sunderland remained 19th, four points adrift of safety, as their winless run extended to seven matches in all competitions.

Asked if he thought it was a penalty, Poyet told Sky Sports: “Yeah. Yeah, it was clear. It was deliberate.

“He (Nolan) tried to play the ball with his hand. I think Howard was in a good position … perfect angle, easy to see.

“I think it is one of them where you need to ask the referee.”

Sunderland face Tottenham, Everton, Manchester City and Chelsea – who are all in the top six – in their next four Premier League matches.

But Poyet has vowed his side will keep fighting.

“It’s difficult to accept (these defeats) because sometimes when you see a team down at the bottom, a team that is suffering and with no spirit – they just give up,” he said.

“I don’t think it is possible to see one of my teams giving up so it is going to the end, that’s for sure.

“I think today we showed what we are, and that’s it. Sometimes you need to be realistic and know the team we have got and know what you can do.

“I think today we tried everything possible. I hope we can get the luck … and we can win a few more games. It’s about winning now.

“We still have a chance and we are going to go to the end.”

Mon 31 March, 2014
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