Celtic want Norwich City winger Robert Snodgrass

Scotland international winger Robert Snodgrass has talked up a potential move to Scottish champions Celtic in the summer, as current club Norwich City near relegation to the Sky Bet Championship.

Scotland international winger Robert Snodgrass has talked up a potential move to Scottish champions Celtic in the summer, as current club Norwich City near relegation to the Sky Bet Championship.

The Canaries (8-8-20) are currently in 18th-place in the English Premier League table, with two fixtures — away to Chelsea and at home to Arsenal — remaining on schedule. As a result, Norwich are priced at 1/10 to suffer relegation, and rightfully so.

Simply put, the club are in shambles, as evidenced by the fact that 40-year-old goalkeeper Carlo Nash, who has not made one first-team appearance for the Canaries this season, is the leading vote-getter for Norwich City Player of the Season.

Nash has received about 2,000 votes via mail and social media (Facebook and Twitter) for the annual Barry Butler memorial trophy, in an attempt for a number of displeased supporters to have their voice heard.

Club chairman Alan Bowkett has his work cut out for him ahead of the summer transfer window, with the club’s top players — including Snodgrass — likely to search for pastures new if the Canaries are relegated from England’s top-flight.

“What division we’re in will be relevant,” Snodgrass said. “If things go according to plan and we stay in the Premier League, I’ll have a year left and I’ll honour that.

“As a player, you want to play at the highest level and that’s why I’m giving everything I can to keep Norwich up.

“Everything I do is geared towards keeping us in the Premier League as this club gave me my chance. It’s a fantastic club and I’ve loved every second here.

“I’m flattered to be linked with Celtic as I’ve watched them since I was a kid. I was also in Scottish football and there’s always a part of me that thinks I’ve a point to prove there.

“Celtic hold a place deep in my heart because I’ve watched them and they’re the team I support, but it’s all about being the best you can and playing at the highest level possible.

“The Premier League is where it’s at and I’d be lying if I said anything other than that. But if other options come up in the summer, I’ll look at them.”

Snodgrass, who joined Norwich from Leeds United for an undisclosed fee in the summer of 2012, has tallied 12 goals and eight assists in 65 Premier League appearances over the past two seasons.

The Scottish winger, currently valued at around €7 million, is under contract at Carrow Road until 30 June 2015.

Wed 30 April, 2014
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´It´s a dream´ – Tiago lauds Atletico triumph

Atletico Madrid midfielder Tiago said their “dream” progression to the UEFA Champions League final came down to belief.

The Liga leaders could complete an historic double of domestic and European titles, after they downed Chelsea 3-1 in London on Wednesday to oust Jose Mourinho’s men from the competition.

Chelsea had taken the upper-hand, earning a scoreless draw in the first leg in Spain before striking first at Stamford Bridge through former Atletico captain Fernando Torres.

But the Blues’ defensive structures – the centre of much criticism of late – crumbled as Adrian Lopez, Diego Costa and Arda Turan all scored to continue Atletico’s stunning season.

Tiago, a former Chelsea player, said his side simply had to believe they could score away from home.

“It’s a dream. We have a great spirit and a great team and we all work together. Now we go to the final in Lisbon and the dreams can become true,” Tiago told Sky Sports.

“It’s not easy to play at Stamford Bridge but we knew that Chelsea had to play more and score a goal.

“We had confidence because we know we are very good playing away. We scored and after our goal I think Chelsea were a bit down and we became more confident.

“It was very important to go into half-time at 1-1. That’s the way we like to play – in that moment we knew Chelsea had to play more in the second half.”

Tiago said Atletico felt their defence would not be breached more than once, and it was stability at the back that saw the visitors comfortably through – as Chelsea required three goals to advance after they went 3-1 down in the 72nd minute.

“Our belief was the key to success. We knew, if we scored one goal, we would do it. This did not change after Chelsea had scored,” he said.

“In the end it was a deserved victory. Especially in the second half we were able to press Chelsea into their own half.

“We will enjoy this moment as much as we can. I am very proud of this team and of our superb fans.”

Wed 30 April, 2014
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Mourinho counts costly minute

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho rued a manic minute that cost his side in their UEFA Champions League semi-final defeat to Atletico Madrid.

Atleti’s hopes of pulling off a famous La Liga and Champions League double are still very much alive after they came from behind to win a frantic encounter at Stamford Bridge 3-1.

Following a drab first leg at Vicente Calderon last week, there was no shortage of drama on Wednesday as former Atleti captain Fernando Torres put Chelsea in front against his former club.

The Liga leaders were level just before half-time, though, courtesy of Adrian Lopez’s strike before the game’s end-to-end nature was encapsulated.

Thibaut Courtois – Atleti’s on-loan Chelsea goalkeeper – made a stunning save to deny John Terry, with the visitors bursting up the other end and winning a penalty through Samuel Eto’o’s clumsy foul on Diego Costa.

The Spain international dusted himself off to put Atleti ahead and in full control of the tie with half an hour to play.

Arda Turan sealed an impressive victory for Diego Simeone’s side, who can now look forward to their first final in Europe’s premier club competition for 40 years, with La Liga title rivals and neighbours Real Madrid their opponents at Estadio da Luz on May 24.

Despite his disappointment, Mourinho – whose wait to become the first man to win the famous trophy for three different clubs continues – gave credit to Simeone’s charges.

He told Sky Sports: “The game until a certain minute was very equal.

“The first half was more ours than theirs, but finished 1-1, which is an open result. One minute decided everything in the second half.

“The Atletico goalkepeer makes an impossible save and in the same minute is the penalty that kills the game. I don’t know if it was a penalty or not, I was too far away.

“That was the crucial minute, 2-1 against Atletico is almost impossible and after that there was only one team (in the game) – a team with morale high, knowing that with half an hour to go they have the game and the result in control.

“Congratulations to them because they are a very good side and what they are doing also in the Spanish league is fantastic.”

Wed 30 April, 2014
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La Liga Preview: Atletico visit Levante hoping for Barca, Real slip-ups

An improbable set of results could give leaders Atletico Madrid the chance to seal a first La Liga title in 18 years this weekend.

Atletico, on the verge of regaining the trophy they last won in 1996, head into Sunday’s trip to Levante four points clear of Barcelona with three matches remaining and six ahead of city rivals Real Madrid, who have a game in hand.

And, after joining Real in the UEFA Champions League final with 3-1 win at Chelsea on Wednesday, the sky-high mood around the Vicente Calderon could be lifted further with the league title in sight for Diego Simeone’s men.

Atletico may potentially be crowned champions with victory over a Levante side mired in mid-table with little to play for, although they will need two shock results to go in their favour if that possibility is to become a reality.

Barca host relegation-threatened Getafe, who have never won at Camp Nou, on Saturday and will be completely eliminated from contention should they succumb to a shock defeat and Atletico overcome Getafe.

That unlikely prospect coming to fruition would leave Atletico with a nervous wait to see if Valencia can obtain a surprise win at Real later on Sunday that would see Simeone’s charges clinch the title.

But the chances of Real following up Tuesday’s 4-0 (5-0 agg) Champions League semi-final triumph against Bayern Munich by potentially falling nine points adrift of Atletico with a home reverse to Valencia look to be remote.

Real’s magnificent victory at the Allianz Arena keeps them in contention to win the European Cup for a 10th time. And they will need no extra motivation to maintain their hopes of the treble with a win over Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men.

The battle for the fourth and final Champions League qualification place is also one that may be decided this weekend, with Athletic Bilbao in pole position following their 3-1 victory over nearest challengers Sevilla last Sunday.

Ernesto Valverde’s men will seal a place in Europe’s premier club competition with three points regardless of Sevilla’s result at Villarreal.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the table, Granada will look to move on to 40 points and edge closer towards ensuring top-flight survival by beating a Real Sociedad side hoping to make sure of a UEFA Europa League spot.

Elche visit Malaga with designs on pulling further clear of the bottom three, while Real Valladolid and Almeria each have the chance to pull out of the drop zone against Espanyol and relegated Real Betis respectively.

Elsewhere, Osasuna can boost their prospects of staying up with success against Celta Vigo.

Wed 30 April, 2014
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UEFA Champions League: Chelsea 1 Atletico Madrid 3 (1-3 agg)

Atletico Madrid will face city rivals Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League final after beating Chelsea 3-1 at Stamford Bridge.

Diego Simeone’s side came from behind to reach their first final in Europe’s premier club competition for 40 years and keep alive their hopes of a Champions League and La Liga double.

A cagey first leg of the semi-final tie last week finished goalless, but former Atletico captain Fernando Torres put Chelsea in front on Wednesday – and was emotional as his team-mates celebrated – against his boyhood club, only for Adrian Lopez to equalise just before half-time.

Atletico took that momentum into the second half and Diego Costa – a reported Chelsea target – put them in front from the penalty spot with his 36th goal of the season after substitute Samuel Eto’o brought him down in his first involvement in the game.

And Arda Turan sealed Atletico’s progress into what will be a first final – to be held on May 24 at Estadio da Luz – in the competition between two sides from the same city and ensure Jose Mourinho misses out on a showdown with his former club.

The Portuguese’s wait to become the first manager to win the famous trophy for three different clubs goes on, and he will have to hope his side win the Premier League to avoid a trophyless first season back in London.

Mourinho was able to name fit-again captain John Terry (ankle) and Eden Hazard (calf) in his starting line-up, while former Chelsea midfielder Tiago replaced the suspended Gabi and also skippered the Atletico side.

Koke’s cross-shot almost caught Mark Schwarzer out in the early exchanges, though Chelsea replied through David Luiz’s audacious overhead kick, which flew narrowly wide.

The breakthrough finally came nine minutes before half-time as Willian displayed fine close control on the right before Cesar Azpilicueta cut the ball back for the onrushing Torres and his right-foot strike found the net via a slight deflection.

Torres refused to celebrate out of respect for his former club, but Atletico were euphoric a minute before half-time when Adrian capitalised on some hesitant defending to equalise with a scuffed right-foot effort from Juanfran’s cross.

The Spanish side had the bit between their teeth early in the second half and Terry was relieved to see Schwarzer thwart Turan with a fine reflex save following some poor defending from the centre-back.

Terry was next to go close at the other end, but Thibaut Courtois’ razor-sharp reflexes denied his parent club.

Mourinho replaced Ashley Cole with Eto’o nine minutes before the break and he must have been ruing that decision soon after when the Cameroon striker upended Costa and referee Nicola Rizzoli awarded a penalty.

Costa was booked for time wasting as he struggled to get the ball to stay on the spot, but held his nerve to fire the ball into the roof of the net as Schwarzer dived the wrong way.

There was no let-up in the action and Luiz got on the end of Willian’s inviting free-kick with a powerful header which struck the crossbar – Courtois somehow diverting the rebound over.

But any hopes of a Chelsea fightback were ended by Turan, who calmly tucked the ball into an empty net when the ball came back nicely for him after Schwarzer had tipped his powerful header against the bar 18 minutes from time.

Both Atletico and Real could enter the final as Spanish champions. Simeone’s side will be seeking a first top European crown, with their local rivals out to clinch La Decima.

Wed 30 April, 2014
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Emery: No time for sentiment

Sevilla coach Unai Emery will put his feelings for Valencia aside as he looks to reach the UEFA Europa League final with his current club.

Emery spent four years as coach at the Mestalla between 2008-12, leading them to three consecutive third-place finishes in La Liga and the 2011-12 Europa League semi-finals.

On that occasion, Emery’s Valencia were vanquished by eventual winners Atletico Madrid, but his hopes of reaching this season’s showcase are boosted by a 2-0 first-leg win in Seville.

Valencia reached the semi-finals thanks to a stunning turnaround against Basel, winning 5-3 on aggregate, despite a 3-0 first-leg loss in Switzerland.

And Emery remains wary of his former club’s capacity to spring a surprise at the Mestalla on Thursday.

“For me to be here again – I can’t explain how good those four years were, but I am putting these feelings aside,” he said.

“I’m not looking to defeat Valencia; I’m looking to guide Sevilla through to the final.

“I’ve played a semi-final before, with Valencia in the Europa League, but I lost to Atletico. I have another chance now with Sevilla.

“We are all in a good place, close to something extraordinary.

“We know it’s going to be a tough game. We need to continue what we did in the first leg, recognising Valencia’s threat and potential.

“I have faith in our ability.

“Before the first leg I said our chances were 50-50. Now the odds are stacked a bit more in our favour but we must be very cautious and play with a lot of respect for our opponents.”

Wed 30 April, 2014
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Conte bullish over Juve progression

Antonio Conte is “very confident” Juventus can secure their place in the UEFA Europa League final on home soil when they face Benfica.

The Turin giants head into Thursday’s second leg with a 2-1 deficit to overturn after a stunning Lima strike at Estadio da Luz consigned them to defeat.

Juve, who could seal another Serie A title this weekend, have the incentive of a mouth-watering final at their very own Juventus Stadium next month if they can get past the newly crowned Primeira Liga champions.

Not since their 1996 UEFA Champions League success have the Italian champions won a trophy in European competition, but coach Conte is bullish over their chances of dumping Benfica.

He said: “I think we put in a fine display in Lisbon. It’s not easy, particularly psychologically. When you concede after two minutes.

“I think there was only one team in it during the second half that could have, with greater precision, scored more.

“The game will be played over 95 minutes, we know what we need to do. I’m very confident, I know we’ll have Juventus Stadium behind us.”

The former Italy midfielder knows his side will have to be wary of the threat posed by the Lisbon outfit on the break, but stated that the game holds no fear for his players despite what is at stake.

“Benfica played very much on the counter-attack in the first leg and we need to watch out for this tomorrow night.” he said.

“The word fear isn’t part of our vocabulary. We know we deserve to be in a European semi, it’s an exciting moment.”

Conte revealed that Arturo Vidal (knee) trained on Wednesday and is available for selection, but refused to give away whether the Chile midfielder would start.

Wed 30 April, 2014
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Benfica chief claims UEFA want Juventus to progress

Benfica vice-president Silvio Cervan has suggested UEFA would rather Juventus made the Europa League final rather than his side.

The final of this season’s competition is in Turin and Cervan believes European football’s governing body would rather have Juve in next month’s showpiece in their own stadium over Benfica.

No Italian side has won a European title since 2010 when Inter won the Champions League, while you have to go back to Parma’s 1999 victory for success in the UEFA Cup or Europa League.

Cervan believes this lack of success is something UEFA would like to see change, but he hopes his side can progress.

“It’s a long time since an Italian team last won in Europe,” Cervan is quoted by Italian media. “I have no doubts that, particularly for commercial interests, UEFA would like to see Juventus go to the final and win the tournament.

“They would also want to have a team with great history in the European Super Cup in Cardiff.

“But we are a great club too, as shown by our sixth place in the European rankings.

“Football is great if it’s only played on the pitch. But if there are outside interests that surround it, it’s not worth believing in the beauty of football anymore.”

Thursday sees the second leg of their semi-final at the Juventus Stadium with Benfica holding a 2-1 advantage from their first meeting, and head coach Jorge Jesus insists they are heading to Italy looking to attack.

“We firmly believe we must score,” said Jesus. “We have the players who can help us to do that.

“Thanks to their great characteristics and technical qualities, we can think about playing an offensive game.

“We know that we face a tough match. Benfica have the advantage having won the first match, but we will not change who we are.”

Wed 30 April, 2014
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Wigan fined over Fortune deal

Wigan Athletic have been fined £40,000 by the Football Association (FA) for irregularities in their signing of Marc-Antoine Fortune.

Fortune signed a two-year deal at the DW Stadium in July after leaving West Brom.

The punishment relates to a breach of the FA’s Football Agents Regulation C10(a)(i), which states an agent “must not carry out any activity for or on behalf of a club in any transaction in respect of a player where the agent has carried out any activity for or on behalf of another club in respect of the same player in the immediately preceding completed transaction or contract negotiation of that player”.

The striker’s agent Willie McKay has also been punished by the FA, having his overseas agent registration suspended for nine months.

An appeal could see the Scot’s ban overturned and in any case it will not come into effect unless he offends again in a two-year period.

Fortune has made 48 appearances in all competitions for Wigan this season, scoring five goals.

Wed 30 April, 2014
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Pizzi issues rallying call

Valencia boss Juan Antonio Pizzi has called for the club’s fans to roar them to an unlikely comeback in their UEFA Europa League semi-final.

Sevilla will visit the Mestalla on Thursday holding a 2-0 aggregate lead from last week’s first leg at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

Pizzi’s side produced a stunning turnaround against Basel in the previous stage to reach the final four, emerging 5-3 victors after a 3-0 first-leg defeat in Switzerland.

Though the 45-year-old is not expecting lightning to strike twice, he has issued a call to arms to the supporters to create an atmosphere that can inspire his players.

He said: “There are not many chances to play in the semi-finals of a tournament and do what we are doing.

“But it is also true that we have to recover from two goals down against a really good team and it is going to be very difficult to overcome them.

“But people have to come here to enjoy the match with optimism. I would like to see the stadium full, with the people enjoying their time at the Mestalla and hopefully to see their team reach the final. So these are our expectations.

“It’s going to be difficult because we face a very good team, who knows us much better than Basel, and who are used to playing in La Liga with the pressure, so it is going to be very difficult.”

Meanwhile, midfielder Seydou Keita, who counts Sevilla among his former clubs, will not allow Valencia’s desperation for goals translate into a haphazard performance, and has not ruled out completing a stunning comeback.

He added: “I’m like any other player and like any other player I always try to play with my head and not with my heart to help my team.

“We are a team, with 11 players on the pitch and those on the bench but I’m like any other player and will always try to do my best.”

Wed 30 April, 2014
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