Mata confident of title chances

first_imgJuan Mata is convinced that Chelsea can win the Barclays Premier League title under Jose Mourinho next season. Press Association “If we start well I think we can do it. We have a great squad and fantastic supporters behind us, so hopefully we can do it. For me it would be amazing to win four trophies in three seasons. It would be a very special feeling to win the Premier League title and I’m looking forward to hopefully doing so.” Mourinho underlined his desire to keep David Luiz at Chelsea in his first interview since taking over, and he also spoke about the need to strengthen the Blues squad. Chelsea are in talks with Bayer Leverkusen over the possible signing of forward Andre Schurrle. Mourinho met with Leverkusen general manager Rudi Voller prior to Michael Ballack’s testimonial in Leipzig, where the Portuguese managed a World XI in the German’s final match before retiring. Several other targets have been mooted, including Zenit St Petersburg striker Hulk and Fiorentina forward Stevan Jovetic. There are likely to be several outgoings this summer too. Florent Malouda has already admitted he will leave while Hilario, Ross Turnbull, Paulo Ferreira and Yossi Benayoun are also out of contract. Benayoun has been linked with a move to the United States, but the Israeli’s agent Ronen Katzav says the 33-year-old midfielder has other options too. He said: “He has several offers – not just from America, but Italy, England and Germany too. We are talking about what to do next, but it’s too early to say which is the best option yet.” Turnbull has been unable to edge Petr Cech out of the Chelsea team since moving to Stamford Bridge four years ago. The 28-year-old, who made just six Premier League starts during his spell at Stamford Bridge, is understood to be in talks with four English clubs. center_img Mourinho’s long-awaited return to Stamford Bridge was confirmed on Monday when he signed a four-year contract to replace interim manager Rafael Benitez. Chelsea have won the league just once since Mourinho led them to successive titles in 2005 and 2006. Other than the League Cup, the only domestic trophy Mata is yet to win is the Premier League and he wants that to change next year. “Winning the Champions League, FA Cup and Europa League was great, but I really want to win the Premier League title next season,” the Spaniard told Chelsea’s website. last_img read more

Carrick: Rooney is one of us

first_img Doubt remains over his future, though. Having had two bids turned down for Rooney already, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho seems intent on having a third attempt to prize the England forward away from Old Trafford. And it was noticeable at the Liberty Stadium that Rooney did not celebrate United’s goals with his team-mates, although on the latter occasion at least, that had something to do with the kick on his Achilles he sustained as he set up Welbeck’s impudent chip. It appears there are no problems in the camp though, with Carrick backing a stance taken by the United supporters, who cheered Rooney on his arrival. “Wayne is a great player,” said Carrick. “He is one of the lads. He is one of us and we all stick together. “I didn’t hear the fans but he has given this club an awful lot. The fans support him and so do we. “He came on and looked good. He set up two goals. That is what he is all about. “We played for each other to get the win. He was certainly part of that.” After missing the entire pre-season campaign due to hamstring and shoulder injuries, Rooney was introduced as a substitute 30 minutes from the end of Saturday’s 4-1 win at Swansea. Though obviously some way short of match fitness still, the 27-year-old still had a significant impact, setting up goals for Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck as David Moyes’ reign as United manager got off to a perfect start. In fairness to Rooney, he is not the type to down tools, no matter what position he finds himself in. However, he is in an awkward spot, having failed to commit his future to United, despite having plenty of opportunity to do so. The brutal truth is that Rooney is no longer the central figure within the Red Devils camp. Robin van Persie is now in that position, and it appears there are also alternatives for the role of back-up. Shinji Kagawa proved at Borussia Dortmund what an impressive player he is, although has yet to have the same impact at United, whilst Javier Hernandez’s goalscoring prowess is well known, even if he is currently sidelined with a hamstring injury. And it appears Danny Welbeck is intent on providing last term’s miserable goalscoring form was a blip. Welbeck found the net just once in the Premier League in Sir Alex Ferguson’s final Premier League campaign. He eclipsed that figure in one impressive 90 minute performance at the Liberty Stadium, the impudent chip for his injury-time second a particular gem. And that will help silence both the doubters and the dressing room wind-up merchants, who have not been afraid to make Welbeck aware of his meagre contribution. “We have had a bit of banter with Danny,” said defender Phil Jones. “But he is a confident lad. It speaks volumes for him that he stuck two away and the last one was a great finish.” Michael Carrick insists Wayne Rooney remains a central figure in the Manchester United squad. Press Associationlast_img read more

McIlroy claims first win of year

first_img McIlroy beat world number one Tiger Woods for the second year in succession in their lucrative exhibition at Mission Hills, carding a six-under-par 67 to win by a shot. The 24-year-old has not tasted victory in a full tournament in 2013, a stark contrast to his five wins last year which included a second major title by eight shots in the US PGA Championship. Press Association Rory McIlroy finally claimed his first win of the year on Monday, albeit in an 18-hole exhibition, and is now targeting further success before the end of the season. center_img However, the Northern Irishman was second in the Korean Open earlier this month and believes his game is improving, partially thanks to using a new ball and driver. “It’s much better,” McIlroy, who made a controversial switch to Nike in January, told a press conference. “I’ve seen a lot of promising signs over the past few weeks in practice and also in competitive play. “I still have four tournaments left until the end of the season and I would love to finish 2013 strongly and get a little bit of momentum going into next season. “But I think as I showed out there, I’m hitting the ball well. Tee to green, the game was very solid, and if I can just get the putter going a little bit more and get a few more putts to drop, then in these last four tournaments, I can hope to contend and maybe pick up a win or two.” McIlroy will contest the HSBC Champions event in Shanghai this week and the Turkish Airlines Open, but needs to climb from 62nd on the Race to Dubai into the top 60 to qualify for the DP World Tour Championship next month. Woods, who was heard swearing during television coverage of the contest, was struggling with an illness and said: ” I mean, obviously you can hear, I probably don’t sound my best. But it’s nice that it was warm out there today. That certainly helps. I’m hoping that my fever broke and that I’m going to start feeling a little bit better. “But I tell you what, when you have kids, they bring home some strong stuff. So this one was definitely kicking my butt for the last few days.” last_img read more

Medics should make call – Martinez

first_imgEverton manager Roberto Martinez insists players cannot be allowed to make decisions about their own fitness when it comes to matters of concussion. The Spaniard found himself closely involved in the issue last weekend when Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris was knocked out in the second half of the goalless draw at Goodison Park but played the remainder of the game. Romelu Lukaku, the striker involved in the collision, had his own similar episode, although not as serious, in September when was so dazed after a clash of heads with defender Joey O’Brien he had to be told by the Toffees physio he had scored the winner. “It is a debate which needs to be taken to the governing bodies to make it a ruling and that will be easier for everyone – you don’t want to see a player upset because he is not allowed to carry on but the most important aspect is the health of the player. “If we are so clear that it is so dangerous that he shouldn’t be allowed to do it that should be part of the ruling.” Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas’ suggestion Lukaku’s role in the Lloris incident required further examination and an apology brought not only a strong defence but a riposte from Martinez, who was unhappy Roberto Soldado’s apparent elbow on Phil Jagielka went unpunished. “The good thing is you can watch the replay and see the video evidence,” the Spaniard added. “All Romelu is doing is carrying on his run – he cannot disappear. It is unfortunate. “I don’t think Andre Villas-Boas mentioned there was any intent or any wrongdoing from Romelu – he only mentioned he expected a bit of an apology. “Obviously we are waiting for Roberto Soldado to apologise to Phil Jagielka and so we can use the same phone call so we don’t have to spend on two phone calls.” Asked whether he thought there should have been retrospective action taken against the Spain international, Martinez added: “That is not for me to comment. I don’t think it would give anything to Everton. “That is down to the authorities to decide whether they want to implement it. “I am more about the referee making decisions in the game and whatever happens in the game is where it matters. “I’m not too keen about retrospective punishment unless it (the action) goes against the values of the competition. “I don’t think they (officials) saw it obviously otherwise they would’ve acted accordingly. “Nowadays you have action replays and you can see everything that happens but for the referee it is very difficult.” “At the time I was told he was fine, that it was a knock but it didn’t go any further and it wasn’t that he lost consciousness,” Martinez said. “He was fine to carry on. It is something you will always see – people will want to follow the player’s wishes. “I’ve never seen a player who wants to come off, even if they can’t walk, but that is the moment when the medical advice has to take the most important part of the decision. “I don’t think it should be a manager’s decision whether you take a player off or not. “If there is a strong view from the medical side that when a player gets concussed he should come off I think we should look into it and make it a rule. “If it comes as a rule with an understanding for everyone that if that happens the player should come off and it shouldn’t count as a substitution that would be a lot easier. “Because if you are put in a position where a player has to come off when three substitutions have been made it is a real shame as it is going to affect the competition. “You wouldn’t want to see a team down to 10 men but the last thing you want is to put the health of any player at risk. Press Associationlast_img read more

Laudrup calls for accountability

first_img That game will be officiated by Andre Marriner, who gave Chelsea a controversial late penalty to earn a draw at West Brom, a decision Professional Game and Match Officials Limited chief Mike Riley has since apologised for. Swansea have not received an apology over Madley’s decision and Laudrup has not spoken to the official, although Riley has been in touch with Laudrup over the matter and the former Barcelona midfielder was satisfied with the explanation he received. But the Dane pulled no punches in his assessment of how referees are currently handled, believing they should explain controversial decisions after games. He said: “I spoke to the match delegate after the West Brom game and he understood and agreed with me and I have the match report, but it is hidden away. “It would make the referees a little more human to all the fans and feel part of us, as we all agree that it is a very, very difficult job. “You have people that are trying to get a penalty or free-kick or get another opponent sent off and everything is so quick, players are so fast and just a small touch and it feels like the end of the world. “It is very difficult to change that but it would make them a little more like the rest of us. I don’t think protecting them like this so they can’t talk to anyone makes it better for them.” He added: “Someone says we want to protect referees and not put them under extra pressure as they are already under enough pressure. But if you want to be at the highest level there is always pressure. Press Association “If you are a manager, if you are in a top club there is always a big responsibility and a lot of pressure. “You are there because you want to be there, otherwise you would do something else.” Laudrup also highlighted an incident in Spain where referee Cesar Muniz Fernandez did not take charge of a top-flight fixture for a month after incorrectly awarding Real Madrid a penalty to beat Elche 2-1 in September, a move he feels was correct. “Even the most fanatical Real Madrid fans and journalists said the penalty was non-existent. This guy (the referee), he got three weeks in the fridge (without a game). “Okay, he made a huge mistake, but there is a consequence. “Then you can say that when he comes back after three weeks then there will be a lot of pressure on him in the next game. “It’s exactly the same for my players. If I have a player who misses a penalty or a keeper who makes a mistake and I say, ‘I’ll take you out for a couple of games’. When he comes back there will be pressure on him. “There’s a lot of pressure on all of us because we are at the highest level.” But a PGMOL spokesman told Press Association Sport: “One of the major reasons referees don’t speak post-match is because of the discipline system. “Clubs, managers and players have the right to appeal over matters of discipline and referees commenting post-match is viewed as potentially prejudicing that appeal. That is a view supported by FIFA and the Football Association. “Referees are accountable. In every game the officials are equally assessed by two groups: Match Delegates, appointed by the Premier League, who sit in the stand and assess their game management, and Evaluators, appointed by PGMOL, who analyse their technical performance. “Managers have the opportunity to speak to the officials post-match and mark their performance through the Match Delegates. “Referees performances influence the matches they can be put in charge of; they would only get the FA Cup final for example if they have performed consistently well over a season. “Errors by officials in the Premier League are uncommon, this season they are getting nearly 95 per cent of major decisions right. We find that referees working hard to improve on any mistakes is more effective than punishment. “If officials are consistently under-performing then we’ll work with them to develop their standards, but we are fortunate to have some of the leading officials in world football who operate to a very high level. “We also work closely with the League Managers’ Association and the Professional Footballers’ Association on referee development.” The Dane is still seething at the penalty given against his side in the 3-3 draw with Stoke prior to the international break, with Charlie Adam converting from the spot in stoppage time to deny Swansea all three points. Referee Robert Madley adjudged Wayne Routledge had handled in the box, but Laudrup, a man not given to displays of temper, was furious at the decision and has admitted the frustration lingers as his side prepare to face Fulham on Saturday. Swansea manager Michael Laudrup believes Barclays Premier League referees are too heavily protected and need to be more accountable for their decisions.last_img read more

Striker Borini released from hospital

first_img When asked if Borini had collapsed, Poyet said: “He was a little bit sick before the game, not even this afternoon, but he wanted to play. “Sometimes you have decisions to make between a manager and a player and we looked at each other and he said he wanted to play. “He did well, he had a couple of opportunities, but at half-time he looked down and weak. We changed him, we did not give him a choice, then the doctor checked him twice and decided to have an extra check in hospital.” On the field Sunderland had looked to be sliding to defeat after being second best for the first hour, with Cardiff leading through goals from Jordon Mutch and Fraizer Campbell. But Steven Fletcher, Borini’s replacement, pulled one back with seven minutes to play beore Jack Colback’s deflected strike in injury time earned the Wearsiders an unlikely point. “We have more information, the doctor called me. He is not going to fly back with us, he will stay down here overnight, but he has been released from hospital. Luckily it is nothing serious. “We were really, really worried as he was really, really sick so the doctor decided rightly to take him to hospital but he has been released now. It was a virus or sickness so no problems.” The on-loan Liverpool striker was involved in two of his side’s best attacking moments during the first half but did not emerge for the second half as Steven Fletcher came on in his place. It later emerged Borini had gone to hospital but Poyet said: “He is feeling better. Sunderland manager Gus Poyet has confirmed striker Fabio Borini has been released from hospital after being taken ill at half-time during the 2-2 draw at Cardiff.center_img “My team do not give up,” said Poyet. “We started very bad, we put ourselves in a bad situation, but we were getting back into it at the end of the first half. “I did not expect their second goal, it was a very poor goal to concede, but in the last 25 minutes we were the only team on the pitch, we were knocking on the door and we needed to score with enough time left to go on and get the second. “I am delighted we had a deflected goal go in our favour, as we have had quite a few go against us. ” Press Associationlast_img read more

Everton sweat on Coleman

first_img Press Association The Republic of Ireland international limped off 10 minutes from the end of Monday’s 1-1 draw at West Brom and will be assessed at the club’s Finch Farm training ground later on Tuesday. Everton travel to League One Stevenage in the FA Cup on Saturday before heading to Anfield three days later. Everton face an anxious wait to discover the extent of Seamus Coleman’s hamstring problem, which could rule him out of next week’s Merseyside derby.center_img “We are going to be cautious and see what the problem is, but it’s not a good sign because Seamus would never want to come off the football pitch,” said manager Roberto Martinez. “He felt his hamstring, so we will have to assess it. He has been in a terrific moment of form so we will try to get him back on as quick as we can.” The 25-year-old right-back has flourished since Martinez arrived in the summer, scoring six goals, with five coming in his last 11 matches. Everton have cover in the form of John Stones, who has also been employed at centre-back this season after injuries to Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin, while the out-of-favour John Heitinga is still at Goodison Park, despite being told he can find a new club in the transfer window to boost his World Cup hopes. last_img read more

Deulofeu nears Everton return

first_img Press Association Defender Seamus Coleman, who was an unused subsitute for Saturday’s win over Aston Villa after returning from injury himself, looks likely to start at White Hart Lane. “Everyone is massively needed. We are in a situation were a couple of players will come back from injury and that puts us in a better postion than we were a couple of weeks ago,” Martinez told evertontv. “Gerard he such a positive young man and the fact he has been missed so much at Everton is a reflection of the type of person he is. “We have the game on Sunday so we will be able to assess him as the week goes on but he is fully fit from a medical point of view. It is making sure he is match fit. “Seamus is fully fit from a medical point of view and although he was on the bench on Saturday it was too much of a risk to bring him on. January loan signing Lacina Traore is probably a week away from consideration after arriving from Monaco with a hamstring problem. “We will take our time with Lacina to make sure he is fully fit,” said Martinez. The teenager has been sidelined by a hamstring injury since December 14 but is now fully recovered, although his lack of match fitness will be taken into account by Martinez ahead of Sunday’s trip to fellow Champions League-chasing rivals Tottenham. However, with leading scorer Romelu Lukaku out for at least the next month with an ankle problem having the 19-year-old Deulofeu back is a welcome boost for the Toffees center_img Everton manager Roberto Martinez hopes to have his attacking options boosted by the return of on-loan Barcelona forward Gerard Deulofeu.last_img read more

Fabregas flattered by United interest

David Moyes wanted to make Fabregas his first marquee signing as United boss, but the Red Devils failed with two bids and the former Arsenal captain remained at the Nou Camp. Fabregas has since found a new lease of life under Barca boss Gerardo Martino and it appears the 26-year-old does not have any regrets about deciding to stay in Spain. “He’s produced some amazing performances as they won the Champions League, Europa League and FA Cup and he scored in the final of the European Championship with Spain.” After eight years at Arsenal, Fabregas moved back to Barcelona – where he began his career – in 2011. The Spain international still watches the Barclays Premier League on a regular basis, though, and he has been impressed by the English players on display. England are regarded as big outsiders for the World Cup, but Fabregas sees plenty of reasons for optimism. “I have seen youngsters like Jack Wilshere, Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck play and they have got talent,” he said. “That’s the thing England have been missing over the years – talent. “They have got a great group of boys with amazing talent and they have to take advantage of that.” “It’s always flattering when a club like Manchester United talks very well about you and you can see they want you,” the Spaniard told the BBC’s Football Focus. “But I’m going through an amazing moment [at Barcelona] now. “I’m playing every week and I feel very important to the team. I’m very happy right now. “This season I have felt more like myself, with more freedom and more secure with the way I like to play. It’s not easy when you know you have to convince many fans how good you are and how good you can be for the team. “The manager has trusted me and given me what I needed. I’m probably going through my best spell here.” Moyes was looking to sign a central midfielder again in January, but he instead landed playmaker Juan Mata for a club record £37.1million. Fabregas did not expect Chelsea to let Mata go to a team who are historically regarded as title rivals. “I was surprised to see Juan move there because I think he has been Chelsea’s best player over the last two years,” added Fabregas. Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas admits he was “flattered” by Manchester United’s interest in him last summer. Press Association read more

Wilko the hero as Toulon progress

first_img However, Rob Penney’s men were left to rue some costly penalties in the closing stages of both halves as their record 11th Heineken Cup semi-final appearance ended in defeat. Ian Keatley, who kicked 11 points, and number eight James Coughlan starred during a defiant second half display but the Irish province were foiled by French opposition at the semi-final stage for the second year running. Wilkinson nudged Toulon into a sixth minute lead at a heaving Stade Velodrome, drilling over a penalty from wide on the right after CJ Stander failed to roll away. Keatley responded within two minutes with a confident kick from outside of the 22, rewarding a steal from fit-again centre Casey Laulala. Munster laid down their first physical marker when they held up Danie Rossouw in a choke tackle and two stabbed kicks forward from Keatley kept the visitors advancing. However, David Kilcoyne was penalised in two scrums and a high tackle by Conor Murray on opposite number Sebastien Tillous-Borde saw Wilkinson restore Toulon’s advantage. Bernard Laporte’s charges gained a territorial edge as the penalties mounted against Munster, but Wilkinson sent a kickable attempt wide in the 24th minute. There was no second let-off for Munster when Zebo was caught offside and Wilkinson fired over with aplomb from the right wing for 9-3. Defending champions Toulon stand just 80 minutes away from retaining their Heineken Cup crown after they edged past Munster 24-16 in Marseille. Munster then capitalised on a turnover as Keith Earls scampered into the 22 and Argentinian flanker Juan Fernandez Lobbe made contact with Murray’s face as he came in at the side of a ruck, with referee Wayne Barnes reaching for his yellow card. The Toulon crowd voiced their disapproval as Keatley lined up and converted the resulting penalty. Tellingly though, Munster were unable to use their numerical advantage leading up to the break. They coughed up the ball from the restart and Wilkinson picked off a lovely 31st minute drop goal. Those three points were cancelled out when Keatley punished a scrum infringement from Carl Hayman. But Munster offered up two more soft penalties while in possession, Wilkinson popping over a sitter from in front of the posts and full-back Delon Armitage adding a monster effort with the last kick of the half. Bryan Habana burst into life on the resumption, profiting from a blocked Earls kick to charge forward and only Zebo’s last-ditch tackle prevented a certain try for Steffon Armitage. James Downey did likewise against Rossouw and somehow Munster clawed their way back downfield, drawing strength from Keatley’s precise touchfinders and their underused lineout maul. Toulon were stung in the 53rd minute when having stalled a Munster maul five metres out, Murray slipped a pass away for Zebo to crash over in the left corner past Drew Mitchell. Assistant referee Luke Pearce spotted the grounding much to the dismay of the home fans and Keatley followed up with a peach of a conversion to make it 18-16. The Munster out-half narrowly missed a long range penalty approaching the hour mark and Toulon hit back when replacement David Smith broke free and was tackled without the ball by Earls, resulting in the semi-final’s second yellow card. Wilkinson mopped up with the three points, but the 14 men showed impressive resilience as they turned to their maul again after opting not to go for goal from inside the Toulon 22. Munster’s brave decision did not pay off though and Toulon, despite struggling for possession and territory in the final quarter, set up Wilkinson for a clinching 80th minute penalty after Donncha O’Callaghan was pinged at a ruck. The result keeps Toulon on course to match the achievements of Leicester Tigers (2001/2002) and Leinster (2011/2012) as the only teams to have successfully defended the Heineken Cup. Jonny Wilkinson kicked 21 points as the Top 14 side set up a May 24 final against Saracens at the Millennium Stadium – a repeat of last year’s semi-final which Toulon won 24-12 in London. Munster threw the kitchen sink at the star-studded hosts, coming from 18-9 down at half-time to score the game’s only try through winger Simon Zebo. Press Associationlast_img read more