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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Gerrard: Premier League is my priority

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has admitted a fear of failure drives him on in his quest to claim a so far elusive Premier League title before he retires.

The influential midfielder will celebrate the 10th anniversary since making his Reds debut when West Ham visit Anfield this weekend.

During his glittering career the 28-year-old has lifted the Champions League, UEFA Cup, FA Cup and two League Cup trophies with Liverpool, however, he admits it is the Premier League title that he covets the most.

''My priority is to win the Premier League. We believe we are good enough to challenge,'' he told the Daily Express. ''Everyone wants it so badly here. I want it because I have never won it - and I don't want to finish my career without one. I don't want to finish my career and people look at me as a failure.''

Liverpool are arguably better placed to make a title challenge than at any other time during Gerrard's career.

The Reds currently sit level on points with leaders Chelsea, with just over of a third of the season gone, and Gerrard believes they can can push on and end a league title drought that stretches back to 1990.

He continued: ''Getting invloved in the title race and staying involved in it is a completely different challenge to what we are used to at Liverpool.

''To finish in the top four you can have a defeat and it does not hit you too bad. Two successive defeats in the title race and it could be over. But we are in there and everybody wants to make sure that's the case at the end of the season.''

He added: ''I'm coming up to 10 years and it doesn't feel like that. It's flown. I'm sure the next five or six will be exactly the same, that's why I have to make the most of every minute I've got.''

Reflecting on his career so far Gerrard said that while he ''wouldn't change anything for the world'' he did have some regrets about his links with making a move to Chelsea a couple of summers ago.

The England midfielder had been strongly linked with the London club in the consecutive summers of 2004 and 2005, and even released a statement stating his desire to move to the Blues in the latter of those years, before a late change of heart kept him at his home-town club.

''I wouldn't change anything for the world. I am captain of the club and doing what I always wanted,'' he added.

''It's only as you get older though that you realise how important playing for Liverpool is. You cannot grasp that when you are setting out, so maybe that is why I look at things a bit differently.

''Looking back, I'm pleased how I have reacted. From the bad tackles and sending offs, to all the talk of a Chelsea move, which I regret getting involved in, and the own-goal in the cup final.

''Without the setbacks, I don't think I'd have achieved as much as I have.'

Calderon vows to bring 'high-class' signings to Real

Spanish champions Real Madrid are close to signing two young players to reinforce the squad through the January transfer window, club president Ramon Calderon said.

"You want headlines and I'm going to give you them," Calderon told Radio Marca.

"We are going to make two good signings in the month of December. I don't know their names because that is (sports director Predrag) Mijatovic's domain, but I know they are going to be young, quick, and will be able to play in the Champions League.

"We want them to be players who will stay for a long time, similar to Marcelo, Fernando Gago and Gonzalo Higuain."

The statement appeared to end the media speculation that had surrounded Real's reported interest in Inter Milan's 33-year-old striker Hernan Crespo. "I don't think he is going to come," Calderon added.

Local media have reported Real are interested in Lazio striker Mauro Zarate and Ajax's Klaas-Jan Huntelaar among others.

Real have been hit by a string of injuries to key players, the worst being to leading striker Ruud van Nistelrooy who has been ruled out for the rest of the season after knee surgery.

They have also looked short of options on the wing with Royston Drenthe struggling to provide effective cover for the injury-prone Arjen Robben.

Calderon went on to talk of plans for reinforcements at the end of the campaign.

"In May or June we are going to make two or three world class signings. I won't give names because I don't want to raise false expectations," he said.

Names linked with Real in the media have been Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo, Olympique Lyon striker Karim Benzema, Bayern Munich winger Bastian Schweinsteiger and Zenit St Petersburg forward Andrei Arshavin.

Marseille charged over missile-throwing at Anfield

Marseille have been charged by UEFA after an object was thrown in the direction of Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard during Wednesday's Champions League game at Anfield.

Gerrard appeared to be hit by a missile thrown from the Marseille fans' section as he went to take a corner in the first half of Liverpool's 1-0 victory.

UEFA confirmed yesterday the incident was to be included in Portuguese referee Olegario Benquerenca's report as well as the report from UEFA delegate Svein Johannessen.

European football's governing body today confirmed to PA Sport that Marseille will answer the charge at a meeting of UEFA's control and disciplinary panel on December 11.

UEFA also confirmed that the French club have been fined 15,000 euros following a near identical incident at the Stade Velodrome in September.

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez welcomed UEFA's decisive action although also said he had some sympathy with the French club.

He said: "It is good that UEFA have acted. But the problem is that it is just one person out of thousands who decides to do something like that, so how can you control it? It is not easy to stop these things.

"It is difficult to control everyone, if someone wants to do something like this then it is hard to stop. You can fine the club and look for solutions afterwards, but you cannot control everything. But the response of Gerrard was very good."

Meanwhile, Roma are facing charges from UEFA following crowd trouble at their Champions League match against Chelsea earlier this month.

A UEFA spokesman confirmed that Roma have been charged with ''insufficient organisation'' at the Stadio Olimpico after fireworks were set off at the match on November 4.

There was also fighting between fans prior to kick-off. Roma won the game 3-1. UEFA's control and disciplinary panel will hear the case on December 11.

The Stadio Olimpico has been selected to host the Champions League final in May next year, but UEFA had already voiced concerns over crowd trouble and there is speculation Rome could be stripped of the marquee event.

Zlatan: Inter don't need Drogba

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has poured cold water on reports linking Didier Drogba to Inter by claiming the Ivorian is not needed.

Drogba has been heavily linked with a move to join his old boss Jose Mourinho at Inter since the Italian media claimed the Ivory Coast star had held a meeting with Mourinho's agent Jorge Mendes earlier this week.

Mourinho has already denied any knowledge of the alleged meeting, and Inter president Massimo Moratti has also told the Italian press his side do not need any more strikers.

Now Ibrahimovic too insists between him and Brazilian forward Adriano the Nerazzurri have more than enough firepower to defend their Scudetto.

"He (Drogba) is a great player, one that thanks to his physical strength scores so many goals," the Sweden international told Corriere dello Sport.

"But when it comes to great strikers we already have plenty. Adriano for example can make a massive difference if he's fit. I really enjoy playing alongside him and he creates a lot of space for me."

Ibrahimovic has been nominated alongside Drogba as one of the 30 players shortlisted to win the Ballon d'Or this season.

However, the 27-year-old admitted he has his eyes on a different prize.

"If I could choose between winning the Ballon d'Or and the Champions League then there's no doubt in my mind that I'd want the Champions League," he said.

As for who he believes will win the France Football award, he added: "Cristiano Ronaldo because he did so well in the Champions League, but if we take Euro 2008 into account then (Spain and Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker) Casillas deserves it."

Ron happy with Milan start

AC Milan forward Ronaldinho is happy with his progress since making the switch to the Rossoneri from Barcelona.

The 28-year-old completed his move to Serie A following a torrid final campaign in Spain where he was held largely culpable for the Catalan club's two-season trophy drought since helping them win a league and Champions League double in 2006.

Injury woes and a lack of form saw the 2005 Ballon d'Or winner lose his starting spot at Barca and confined him to only 11 appearances last season, while he was constantly being accused of being lazy and overweight in the Spanish press.

Despite all this Ronaldinho insists he enjoyed his time in Spain and is now happy to have a new challenge.

"I am very happy to be able to play here in Italy," he told the AC Milan website,

"In the past I had the chance to play in Spain in a team full of great champions, but now at Milan I'm having a lot of fun because I'm at a club with a lot of good players.

"For me it's a joy to be able to help my team-mates by giving my contribution. I am going through a good time."

He added: "Coming here I had hoped things would go well, I am a positive person. But life is like this. It's impossible to always be doing well.

"I am happy to have started this season in the best possible way after a bad year in Barcelona. It was the best thing I could hope for. I see things going better every day.

"Here at Milan I feel an important player, just like all my team-mates."

United get Tosic clearance

Manchester United have been granted a work permit for young Serbian winger Zoran Tosic, who will sign in January.

Sir Alex Ferguson attended a hearing for the 21-year-old on Friday and emerged with positive news, meaning Tosic will sign from Partizan Belgrade in January.

United have not confirmed the fee they have agreed for Tosic, although they have been looking at the wide-man for some time.

Tosic has appeared 12 times for his country and can play on either flank, having also starred for Serbia's Under-21 side.

He will join fellow countryman Nemanja Vidic at Old Trafford, with the prospect of more to come as another Partizan player Adam Ljajic - a 19-year-old dubbed the 'Serbian Kaka' - is also thought to be in talks with United.

Old Trafford officials are staying silent on talks with Ljajic though, insisting there have been no developments.


Luis Felipe Scolari has been waiting for his chance to face Arsenal since coming to the Barclays Premier League.

The Brazilian manager, who considers Arsene Wenger a close friend, believes Sunday's game will be talked about all over the world, but he'll still treat it the same as every other game.

'It is one of the big games, but in my mind when I play against Arsenal, Manchester or Everton, every club is a big game for me, because when we lose three points maybe we are out,' said Scolari.

'This is what I try to say to my players, that we are not motivated for just this game against Arsenal, we need to play every day and every game with this same motivation, and we need to try and win. There is no difference.'

Arsenal's start to the season has not been the best, and some believe their title challenge opportunities have already passed, but Scolari disagrees, and uses an example from last season to explain why.

'When I came to Chelsea I looked at the table from last season and saw when Manchester United were nine points behind, but in the second leg they became champions.

'Here in England you can never say 'I am champion' before the last game.'

So, regardless of the start our London rivals have had to 2008/09, they could still be one of our toughest opponents this season.

'It will be a very good game, I like this game and I think Arsene likes this game.

'It is the first time I play against one of the men that I like very much, because he is my friend for 10, 12 years now.

'His team play football, it is difficult to win because they play beautiful football and in these games they play better than other games.

'I looked in this Premier League and I think after tomorrow our game is the same as Arsenal against Manchester United.

'All over the world they'll write about this game and for us coaches, it is very good.'

Last season Arsenal scored twice against Chelsea in the Premier League, and both of those goals came from corners, a feat Bordeaux repeated mid-week in the Champions League.

'We played badly in the first 45 minutes against Bordeaux, but after that they didn't get one shot on goal.

'People will remember they scored a goal by a corner kick, and it is the first time my team have conceded a goal from a corner kick.

'But our team score many goals by corner kick, and this one time I need to accept it, because they are in the right position 100 times, but only one time it was wrong.'

The last week has seen speculation surround Didier Drogba, but Scolari is not concerned after working with the Ivorian on a daily basis.

'Drogba is happy. Chelsea is one of the best in the world; it gives us what we need.

'For me as a coach with the players, every minute of everyday I think he is happy and my relationship with him is very good.

'When you are injured and you come back step-by-step you need to grow your confidence, and for me he has my support everyday.'

One concern mid-week was Joe Cole's fitness, after leaving the field early against Bordeaux, but he looks to be ready for Sunday.

'When I talked to him yesterday he said he was ready, I say okay very well. Maybe he feels something, but in his mind he wants to play,' added Scolari.

Finally, Scolari had a message to the media, who misconstrued his mid-week joke about leaving for Brazil if Chelsea do not progress to the next round of the Champions League.

'Some people need to understand when I am joking, because when I say something they put different things in the newspaper.

'When I said if I do not go through in the Champions League then I will go back to Brazil, it was what I used to say when I was in Brazil, that if I do not go through in the World Cup then I will go to Kuwait, because maybe Kuwait will receive me better.

'Same here, it is my style. But do not be thinking that I am not happy in Chelsea, I am very happy and I want to stay for two years.'


Yesterday, Luiz Felipe Scolari described Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger as a friend. Today, he explains why.

The pair first met as a result of working in Japan, Scolari taking over at Jubilo Iwata around the time Wenger was leaving his post at Nagoya Grampus Eight to come to England, and Highbury.

Since then their paths have crossed in the professional arena only when Scolari visited the country to keep an eye on international talents in his capacity as coach of either Brazil or Portugal.

The Brazilian explains it is a shared ideology between him and his north London counterpart that brought them close.

'I came to London to look at games and afterwards discussed at his house because he invited me for dinner and we spoke about football, what I think with my team, Arsenal, and we had some ideas, same ideas about football,' he said.

'Our personality is different because I was born in Brazil, he was born in France and our families are different but some ideas about football are the same and I like his style. He is a very good friend, lose, win or draw, he is the same man every game. I like him because he is a very good coach, and a friend… I think!'

Scolari added that the friendship would continue, despite the outcome or events of tomorrow's match.

'We are opponents only for 90 minutes. Before the game we talk and discuss about the game, players, this or that. After the game he plays at Stamford Bridge, my house, I invite him to talk after the game, win, draw or lose. This is a moment with two friends. But, in the game, we are opponents,' he stressed.

In recent seasons, we have outspent the Gunners in the transfer market, but Scolari believes under his stewardship Chelsea will be brought more in line with Wenger's methods of player development.

'You need quality and Chelsea was one club that spent money three, four, five years before, but not now,' he explained, before looking at the current global financial market. 'With me, no. I only spent money on Deco.

'Arsenal have not spent money, sometimes one here or there. Arsene knows what position is better to spend money on, and now maybe is the time in the world that we need to think about money, coaches, boards, clubs, players, because it is not easy anymore. We need to think.'


Ten points ahead of Arsenal going into Sunday's Premier League encounter at Stamford Bridge, Petr Cech believes we can end our rivals' title challenge with a victory.

The Gunners sit in fifth place in the league table, following consecutive defeats against Aston Villa and Manchester City, and the Chelsea goalkeeper suspects a third straight loss would leave Arsene Wenger's side with too much of a gap to close.

He insists the pressure is on Arsenal to take the three points, something they have not done at Stamford Bridge since February 2004.

Manchester United famously came from 12 points behind to catch Newcastle in 1995/96, while Wenger led his men from nine points back against United in 1997/98, but such instances are the exception rather than the rule.

'For them it is a must not lose game, if they lose this game they are out of the title race completely,' said the 26-year-old. 'Maybe it is even a must win game, because if they don't win it is still 10 points, still a big gap.

'But, I would say must not lose because if it is 13 points it is too far, and I think that is too far. It is also a big game for us, because if we can win we can cut out one of our title rivals.'

With two similar playing styles coming head to head, Cech anticipates a game easy on the eye, with neither side stepping out to play for a draw, as we saw when Newcastle were our guests last weekend.

'I think both sides have the same characteristics. Both sides want to play with the ball, both teams want to entertain. That's why I think it could be a really interesting game for everyone, including the neutral to watch,' Cech said, before pointing out one advantage for the Blues.

'I think they always played like that. You can see they don't have the squad for people to defend, that's why they are trying to use their own strengths, the passing game and the movement, and that's why they play the way they have done the last few years.

'At times they play beautiful football but sometimes you have to know how to win the game in a different way, and that I think is the difference between us and them. When you have the type of game where you don't manage to move your opponent with the football and you need to be physical and fight, this is what they are missing.'

Wenger has sought to readdress the mood in the dressing room at the Emirates in recent weeks by appointing Cesc Fabregas as the new captain. The Czech stopper also believes that the north London club has enough character to cancel out the Spaniard's relative inexperience.

'I think they have enough experienced players there, they bough Silvestre, they have Gallas, Toure, it is up to them to manage it, and Almunia is over 30 too, he has been there for a long time.

'They have enough players there to lead, now the question is, because we can't see what is happening inside, whether they can play like a team.'

Ballack warns of danger from wounded Gunners

Michael Ballack insists Arsenal will represent a real danger when they face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge as the dressing room turmoil sparked by defender William Gallas will give them added desire to beat the Blues.

The France international was stripped of the captaincy by coach Arsene Wenger after publicly claiming all was not well within the Arsenal camp and the Gunners went on to lose 3-0 against Manchester City last weekend.

A win for Chelsea would put them 13 points clear of the Gunners and effectively end their opponents' title hopes for another season, but Germany midfielder Ballack warned the recent events at the Emirates Stadium would make their London rivals a real threat on Sunday.

''We hope we can beat them as it would be a lot for Arsenal to come back,'' he said. ''Arsenal have other problems now but such teams are very dangerous at these moments.

''Because they have problems in the team, they are dangerous and we have to be aware especially after Wednesday's game against Bordeaux.

''If you are on top of the league it is always a little bit different. They have to win to close the gap. We are on top and they are 10 points behind us. They have to win as well. The team has a target to be champions after finishing second twice but everyone is hungry and the focus is there.''

Meanwhile, Luiz Felipe Scolari insists that Arsenal will continue to be a title threat even if Chelsea beat them on Sunday.

''Last season Chelsea were nine points behind United at the halfway point and even if you're 15 points clear with five games to go, you're not champions,'' said Scolari. ''You're only champions at the end of the last game. This is the first time I'll have played against Wenger - he's been my friend for 10 or 12 years now.

''I met him for the first time in Japan and we are big friends. I like him as a coach. If I chose five coaches in the world as the best, he'd be one of the five.

''His team plays football, so it's difficult to win. They play beautiful football. I watched their game against Manchester United and it was one of the best games in the Premier League. This game against Chelsea will be like that as well.

''This is one of the big games but we are not motivated just for a game against Arsenal or Tottenham. We need to play every game with the same motivation. We need to try to win.''

Scolari will go into the game without the services of the suspended and much-troubled striker Didier Drogba.

He will sit out the second match of his three-game ban with the dust refusing to settle on his alleged meeting with Inter Milan's sporting director Marco Branca last Monday night.

But Scolari admitted he had not spoken to the Ivorian striker about his alleged attendance at the meeting because he had been focused on the Arsenal game.

However, Scolari is convinced that Drogba is 100% committed to Chelsea despite the recent speculation over his future.

''I think Didier is happy,'' said Scolari. ''My relationship with him is very good. Very good. All I know is that he can't play against Arsenal. I have to be thinking about the Arsenal game, not what might happen in 2010 or 2011.

''I'm not thinking about Juliano Belletti, Didier Drogba, Ricardo Carvalho and Franco Di Santo because none of them can play. Drogba has had four months of injury, but he's training now. Now it's step by step at Chelsea. I'll try to play him when he's back from suspension.

''For me, he has my support every day. Injured or not injured. I'm sure he's 100% committed to the club.''

Wenger demands belief from Gunners

Arsene Wenger insists Arsenal must maintain the belief they can win at rivals Chelsea and still finish top come May.

The Gunners head to Stamford Bridge 10 points off the pace following five defeats already, and another at the hands of Luiz Felipe Scolari's side would all but end dreams of a first championship since the Invincibles campaign of 2003/2004.

However, Arsenal are now refocused after beating Dynamo Kiev to secure safe passage into the last 16 of the Champions League in midweek and restoring calm under new captain Cesc Fabregas following a turbulent end to William Gallas' reign as skipper.

Wenger, though, accepts the Gunners now have to reproduce their form in "direct confrontations" against their title rivals as they look to build on the home win over Manchester United - their last victory in the Premier League.

"We want to get back into it and the only way to get back into it is to win the game on Sunday," declared the Arsenal boss.

"We know that direct confrontations with top teams become vital when you are in our position.

"I believe seeing the other teams play, we know we can beat them and that is the only way to get back into it."

Wenger accepted: "We are written off. You cannot say when you are 10 points behind that we are favourites to win the championship, but you can say as well the only way we can get back into it is to believe we can.

"That is why we want to go into this game on Sunday by believing we can beat them because we know we can. That is all you want your players to do."

Wenger maintains when his men are on their game, then Arsenal can prove a match for any side.

"There is no team that is not vulnerable, none in the world," the French coach observed.

"First of all we have to go with extreme desire and express our strong points and not hide.

"We can play and win everywhere in the world and we have not to consider too much who we play against.

"We know Chelsea are a great side with great players - but at the end of the day, you beat them if you play at your best."

Wenger accepts Arsenal's long-established position within the top four is no longer guaranteed, with the likes of Aston Villa currently one point ahead of them and surprise package Hull hot on their heels. However, he feels the title race is nevertheless still wide open.

"It is not completely sure this year because none of the teams I see look to be really dominating this league," said Wenger.

"Everybody can drop points and when the team drop points at home that means it is open for everybody."

Deposed skipper Gallas will return to his former club on Sunday, and Wenger backed the defender to weather any potential stormy reception.

"What gets you through everything is your focus on what you love the most - to win the game," he said.

"When you are on the football pitch, no matter what people say, you do not even hear it.

"I believe that a player sometimes will not know that it rained after the game because he is so focused on the game and you forget everything around you."

Despite their troubles in Europe where Chelsea, last season's runners-up, are not yet sure of a place in the knockout stages, Wenger has been impressed by the impact of Brazilian coach Scolari.

"I have known him for a long time and I believe he has done well," said the Arsenal boss.

"He has a big experience and football everywhere is the same - you want to win your games and he has dealt quite well with the problems he faces here."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Scolari bemoans defending

Luiz Felipe Scolari blamed his team's poor defending after Chelsea blew its second chance to qualify for the Champions League knockout stages.

Chelsea had looked certain to reach the next phase when Nicolas Anelka put it in front on the hour with his 14th goal of the season.

But unmarked Alou Diarra headed an 82nd-minute equaliser to put Bordeaux level and Roma's win against Cluj left Chelsea in second place in Group A.

The Blues, yet to win away in Europe this season, now need to beat Cluj in their final group match at Stamford Bridge in a fortnight to ensure they qualify for the next phase of the competition.

"I am not satisfied with the goal we gave away," said Scolari. "It was a bad goal for us. We work on this in training and it is the first time in my period as Chelsea coach that we have conceded a goal from a corner."

"We scored our goal and but let them back into it and lost one player. That allowed Bordeaux to create more opportunities."

"The players did not relax. They respected the other team. But we made a mistake. We knew who should be marking the player and who should mark the ball, but mistakes happen."

"It was not because my players thought they had won the game, it was a mistake."

"Now we need to beat Cluj but if I thought my players did not have the quality to beat them at home, then it is better I go back to Brazil and stay there."

"We need to think about qualifying. Not this week but next week we will sit down and discuss why we have let two chances go."

"Qualification is still in our hands although we may not finish top of the group. But when we started the campaign, I didn't think about finishing second because I thought I had the players to arrive in first position in the group."

"But that is not in our hands any more because we lost these two points to Bordeaux."

Chelsea will have to beat Cluj without the services of midfielder Frank Lampard who was sent off late in the game for a second bookable offence.

But Scolari said: "We will be without him for the next game but after he was sent off, Bordeaux put us under more pressure because of their extra man."

However, the Brazilian was full of praise for striker Anelka.

"He is getting more confident with every game," added Scolari. "But I wanted to give Didier Drogba 30 minutes and took Anelka off because I had Sunday's game with Arsenal in mind."

"Anelka is my only striker for that game because Didier is suspended."

Bordeaux coach Laurent Blanc was delighted with his players and was not looking forward to a final game against Roma where victory would see it finish as group winners.

"I am satisfied with the individual performances of my players and the team," said Blanc. "We wanted to press Chelsea and it required a lot of effort and in that respect we played the perfect match."

"We created more chances after their goal and got the equaliser."

"Our game plan was to reduce the space and the size of the pitch."

"We have played better matches but not against a team such as Chelsea."

"It is an exciting prospect to be going to Roma.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Man U vs Chelsea Battle Of The Bridge Date Set

Not that these things are dragged out or anything, but almost eight months after the Battle of the Bridge’, a date has finally been set for the hearing into the bust-up between Manchester United’s Patrice Evra and Chelsea groundsman Sam Bethell.

Yes, that’s right, this one’s still going on. Whilst bans can be swiftly arranged for both Drogba and Ferguson for their recent charges, the ‘Chelseagate’ affair has been going on since Chelsea’s 2-1 win over United in April.

So what’s taken them so long? Well, for a start there was the apparent cock-up with Bethell’s contract, with Chelsea failing to include the fact that their groundsman was subject to the governing body’s rules and regulations. So, despite charging Bethell with improper conduct and the use of racially aggravated language, a quick peek at his contract showed the FA didn’t actually have the authority to do so and whilst Bethell seemingly got a let-off, the FA did an about-turn and brought charges against Chelsea instead.

Meanwhile in the red corner, Patrice Evra has denied his charge of improper conduct and although he apparently isn’t going to say Bethell racially abused him – United are. Because, during the brawl which was caught on cameras inside Stamford Bridge, it’s alleged Bethell was heard calling Evra a “f***ing immigrant” within earshot of United assistant manager Mike Phelan. Not only that, but Paul Scholes, Park Ji Sung, John O’Shea, Danny Welbeck and Gary Neville were all in the vicinity as well. So, even if Evra’s planning to play it down and say he just lost his rag because the groundsmen were on a bit of a wind-up, there might be plenty who could say they heard different.

Not that Bethell is worried about that of course, because not only has he always shrugged off his behaviour as ‘handbags’ but he also seems to have the support of his employers despite it seeming to be pretty poor PR on their part. You see, no doubt advised by the PR nightmare that is Peter Kenyon, on the charges of failing to ensure Bethell conducted himself in an orderly fashion and failing to include the necessary provisions in his contract – both of which aren’t really disputable – Chelsea have decided to deny them anyway.

Not exactly the club’s brightest idea really but then again neither is their insistence that they would never condone racist behaviour if the evidence against Bethell really is that overwhelming and they’ve failed to deal with him in the past eight months.

The two day hearing is set for December 4th and 5th and this time, there could be some serious punishments dished out.

Ban reduced for Chelsea Talented Star

Rajkovic: Free to play

Chelsea youngster Slobodan Rajkovic has successfully appealed against a one-year suspension from football, although the on-loan FC Twente defender will still be banned for international games.

Rajkovic was handed the punishment after being seen to spit at referee Abdullah Al Hilali during an Olympic tie between Serbia and Argentina in Beijing on August 19.

A trip to Zurich to appeal against the ruling has been successful though and Rajkovic is now eligible to feature in FC Twente’s Eredivisie games.

The defender, who agreed to join Chelsea from OFK Belgrade in November 2005, has welcomed the decision although he is still disappointed at being prevented from playing for his country.

“I am very pleased with this ruling,” Rajkovic told the club’s official website. “I look forward to playing in competitions for FC Twente.

“It is good that I have always been training in recent months and can now join the group.

“I want to express my heartfelt thanks to everyone at the club for their support at this difficult time.

“It remains, of course, extremely annoying that I have no matches to play next year for Serbia.”

Rajkovic made 13 appearances whilst on loan with PSV Eindhoven last season and FC Twente coach Steve McClaren is now keen to hand him his long-awaited debut in Enschede.

“First of all I am obviously very happy for Slobodan personally,” said McClaren. “He has put a very difficult and unpleasant time behind him.

“FC Twente can now have this talented defender again.”

Pompey send striker Sahar back to Chelsea after unsuccessful loan spell

Ben Sahar

Ben Sahar will return to Chelsea in January after Portsmouth decided not to extend the striker's six-month loan agreement at Fratton Park.

The Israel international arrived during the summer but has failed to appear in a competitive match for Portsmouth.

Sahar has not even been included in the squad for most matches. With Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch, Kanu and David Nugent ahead of him Sahar has been unable to break into the team.

And despite having the option of extending the loan, both parties have decided a parting of the ways is best.

Pompey executive chairman Peter Storrie confirmed: 'Ben will go back in January. It has been a mutual decision.

'He's not been involved but the coaches feel he's not at that level and that he will be better in the Championship. He's had injuries and needs to play somewhere but I think at the moment that would be in the Championship.'

John Terry is the complete footballer, says his Chelsea team-mate Deco

Chelsea midfield ace Deco has hailed skipper John Terry as the 'complete footballer.' And he believes the timing of his arrival in London has been perfect because he's mature enough to have settled in quickly.

The Portuguese star said: 'For me Chelsea have the strongest midfield in the world. That is the strongest area of the team.

John Terry

Terry's gold: The Chelsea captain is football's most complete player, according to Deco.

'However, the player that has impressed me most is John Terry because he is a strong character, he is a great footballer and a very complete footballer.'

He added: 'I have found it easy to adapt despite the difference in the Spanish and English styles of play.

'I think that's because I came here at a stage of my career when I already had a lot of experience.

'I accepted the differences and was more mature about my surroundings.'

Deco gave an insight into Jose Mourinho's managerial style as opposed to Phil Scolari, having of course played under both.

He said: 'Scolari talks more to the players on a daily basis whilst Mourinho prefers to concentrate on match preparation and will only speak to you personally when it is necessary to do so.'

MM has first-team future - Blues

Chelsea's latest England star, 20-year-old defender Michael Mancienne, has been told he has a first-team future at Stamford Bridge.

Mancienne: On loan with Wolves

Mancienne, who is in England's squad to face Germany on Wednesday, had recently hinted he might have to quit the club in order to gain regular first-team football.

He is currently on loan at Wolves having spent much of the previous two seasons at QPR.

But Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck said: "He is a very good young player and we look forward to him at some point making it into the first team.

"Unfortunately, we have lots of good players who play in the same position so in the last couple of years we've sent him out on loan to gain experience."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Man U Fans Report Man Utd To OFT Over Ticket Row

Manchester United have been reported to the Office of Fair Trading by a group of their own fans.

The Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST), the group formerly known as Shareholders United that vehemently opposed Malcolm Glazer's takeover of the club in 2005, has lodged official papers with the OFT claiming the Red Devils have 'breached its statutory and legal obligations to season ticket holders'.

MUST's argument centres on the hotly disputed compulsory cup scheme, which forces season ticket holders to agree in advance to buy tickets for cup games even though they do not know how many they will have to pay for and who the opposition will be.

At one point all season ticket holders had to pay for all cup matches but this has now been relaxed to exclude Carling Cup games.

However, MUST still claims United are acting unlawfully given what they view as a dominant position in the market and the fact that fans do not transfer their allegiance just because the club acts in a way they do not like.

Specifically, MUST's three complaints are:

• United's season ticket terms and conditions are in breach of the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations 1999.

• Their compulsory automatic cup ticket scheme is in breach of The Competition Act 1998, Part II, Section 18(2).

• Their pricing policy is in breach of The Competition Act 1998, Part II, Section 18(2)(a).

In addition, they argue that massive ticket price rises in recent years - highlighted by sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe - contravene a pledge given by Glazer in the build-up to his takeover attempt.

''Over recent years we have seen unfair terms and huge ticket price rises imposed on supporters by club owners taking advantage of their loyalty,'' said MUST chief executive Duncan Drasdo.

''MPs from all political parties have raised concerns and even the minister for sport felt it necessary to launch an outspoken attack on the huge price rises at Old Trafford in recent years.

''For a long time Manchester United was by no means the worst offender having previously had an admirable policy of keeping prices relatively low despite the success of the club. All that changed when the Glazers took over.

''However now, with the help of a team of eminent competition lawyers, economists and experts in sports law, we have been able to compile a comprehensive complaint based on Competition and Contract Law, which could have welcome consequences for supporters at clubs throughout the country.''

I'm the first, second and third best player in the world, says smug Man United star Ronaldo

Who are the three best players in the world? For Cristiano Ronaldo, there is only one candidate.

 Cristiano Ronaldo

I'm No 1 (and 2, and 3): Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring on Saturday

'I am the first, second and third,' the Manchester United star said with a smile after arriving in Brazil for international duty with Portugal.

The 23-year-old conceded AC Milan's Kaka, Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Liverpool's Fernando Torres were 'good candidates', but he believes he has surpassed all of his rivals for the FIFA World Footballer of the Year and Ballon d'Or awards.

Asked if he had done enough to be named the best player in the world this year, he told Brazilian newspaper O Estado de Sao Paulo: ' I think I did all that was needed and I want to keep doing more. My goal is to win everything that comes before me.'

In a typically confident interview, the former Sporting Lisbon ace said he was ready for plenty of attention from Brazilian women ahead of Wednesday night's friendly in Brasilia.

'Oh, I'm ready for harassment (from women), I'm used to that in Europe, and here it is the same,' he said. 'It is a friendly game here and a good opportunity to relax.

'I have been [to Brazil] a few times, but never to play. I love holidays here, there are beautiful beaches and the people are nice.'

Despite consistently setting himself targets to score more goals, the Old Trafford idol claims personal glory is not his main aim.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani

Birthday boy: Ronaldo congratulates Nani - his Manchester United and Portugal team-mate - who turned 22 today

'My goal, frankly, has never been to score goals,' he said. 'I like to play for the team and what is most important is that we win games.

'But if the goals appear, even better. I'm having the good fortune to score many goals and hope that things continue like this.'

Portugal arrive in Brazil after a poor start to their World Cup qualifying campaign, which has seen them win one, draw two and lose one since Carlos Queiroz replaced Luiz Felipe Scolari as the national team's coach.

A home draw against Albania last time out was particularly badly received but Ronaldo has asked for patience.

'Big Phil (Scolari) is a great friend. I'm sorry he has left the Portugal job, but it was an excellent move (to Chelsea). I loved working with him.

'Queiroz has not had much time to develop his work. Two years ago, England also had problems and then they recovered. All the big national teams go through this. Let us recover.'

Recovery is also something that Ronaldo hopes for in the global economy, even if you would think his multi-million pound contract leaves him immune from the credit crunch.

'The situation has to worry everyone, yes,' he said. 'We are worried and feel a certain uncertainty (about the future). We talk about it - it is part of our reality - but we believe that things will improve.'

Shearer now ready to take over at Newcastle?

Newcastle United legend Alan Shearer could be ready to accept the job as the club's manager.

Stuart Pearceq

Shearer's trademark celebration

The Premier League's all-time record goalscorer, touted as a future boss long before he hung up his boots at the end of the 2005/06 season, has concentrated on media work.

Glenn Roeder, Sam Allardyce and Kevin Keegan have all vacated the manager's job at St James' Park since Shearer stopped playing but on each occasion he has rebuffed the chance to take over.

It was thought unlikely Shearer would take the job while there was such uncertainty over the future of the club with owner Mike Ashley desperate to sell. Interim manager Joe Kinnear has steadied the ship but there is still the belief that Magpies remain in limbo.

Former Newcastle player and close friend of Shearer, Rob Lee now says Shearer will walk away from his contract with the BBC to manage his hometown club. And Lee himself would be more than happy to take a post in Shearer's coaching team.

"I can honestly say, yes, Alan Shearer will manage Newcastle,'' Lee told The Mag, Newcastle's leading fanzine. "Until now I would have just said that he would one day but I finally believe that he would tomorrow if the job is how he wants it, without all the silly games going on that have killed it.''

Lee, however, believes Ashley, who put the club up for sale following the furore surrounding Keegan's resignation in September, could win over the fans by appointing Shearer as boss.

"Mike Ashley would solve a lot of his problems by appointing Alan and accepting that mistakes have been made,'' Lee added. "Alan could be a priceless get out of jail card. Now is the time to make the club what we all want.''

Lee, who spent 10 seasons playing for Newcastle, admitted he would consider returning alongside Shearer.

"Yes I would love to be part of it,'' he added.

Mancini hoping to land Real Madrid rescue mission

Former Inter Milan boss Roberto Mancini has revealed he would jump at the chance to coach Real Madrid if they decide to part ways with Bernd Schuster.

Mancini, sacked by Inter at the end of last season despite having just guided the Nerazzurri to a third successive Scudetto, is reported target of the Spanish champions.

"I wish that was true," Mancini said of the speculation. "But I know nothing. I can only hope that these rumours turn out to be true."

Madrid were knocked out of the Copa del Rey in the fourth round third division Real Union before slipping to a 1-0 league defeat at Real Valladolid at the weekend.

Schuster, who led Madrid to the Primera Liga title last season, received a vote of confidence from the club's board yesterday although he remains under immense pressure heading into this weekend's game with Recreativo Huelva.

Charlton tips Ronaldo for another 'fantastic' season

Sir Bobby Charlton is pleased Cristiano Ronaldo has re-discovered his dead-ball technique - and believes the Manchester United winger is ready to rack up the goals again.

Ronaldo took his tally to 101 for the club with two in last weekend's 5-0 Premier League victory against Stoke.

For the first time this season, both came from free-kicks - leaving goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen baffled.

Ronaldo is now on nine for the campaign - he scored a remarkable 43 last season - but he did not get going until mid-September following an ankle operation.

Charlton, who scored 249 goals in 758 appearances for United, is delighted to see that integral facet of the Portugal winger's game return.

He said: "Cristiano's free-kicks have not been going in - but thankfully they did last weekend. His rate of scoring is fantastic. He had a great season last time around and is heading for another one.''

Real Madrid have made no secret of the fact they would like to have Ronaldo on board, but he has decided to stay put.

Charlton claims Ronaldo is at the best club to hone his talents and is working with the best manager to do that.

"I think Cristiano thought about it and realised this is the best place," he added. "With the best manager? Absolutely.''

United are playing catch-up in a bid to retain their title and lie eight points behind leaders Chelsea but with a game in hand.

Next up is a difficult trip on Saturday to an Aston Villa side who beat Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium in their last match.

Charlton, however, is optimistic about United's chances in the long term.

He conceded: "We have some catching up to do in the league, and Villa will be a hard match.

"But we are playing well - and if we are lucky with injuries and suspensions, we should be okay. We have some exciting players, and things are just beginning to happen.''

Vidic predicts strong second half from United

Nemanja Vidic is convinced Manchester United will show their true Premier League title credentials in the second half of the season.

Despite recording their biggest win of the season against Stoke on Saturday, United remain eight points adrift of pace-setters Chelsea and Liverpool - knowing they will probably slip even further behind before Christmas because their scheduled clash with Wigan on December 21 has been postponed due to the World Club Cup.

But Vidic remains unconcerned.

In each of his three years at Old Trafford, the Red Devils' form has improved markedly after the festive period.

The Serbian defender sees no reason why this season should be any different.

"I can only speak from experience - but after three years here, I know we are always better in the second half of the season,'' he said. "We pick up the flow, and our performances tend to improve. I hope it will be like that again.''

While Chelsea's credentials - if not Luiz Felipe Scolari's - at the end of an exhausting domestic campaign are already established, Liverpool remain an unknown quantity.

Many felt Rafael Benitez's side would challenge for the championship last term, only for the Anfield outfit to fall away badly after they were beaten by United in December.

Having avenged that loss and ended Chelsea's formidable home record already this term, Liverpool seem intent on lasting the pace.

But as Vidic knows only too well, performing at your highest level in April and May - when the pressure is at its most intense - is another matter entirely.

"It is always about the second half of the season,'' he said. "That is when the games are decisive. That is when it is really tough. It is hard to say how Liverpool will handle it. All we can do is keep as close as we can and then push forward.

"I am certainly not worried about the way we are playing - because we have done well in the last few games, even against Arsenal when we lost the match but our performance was good.''

Vidic certainly feels at home with United, contrary to speculation that erupted around his critique of the English weather.

While Manchester's climate is nothing to write home about, it is at least warmer than his previous home in Moscow - and Vidic is happy to confirm the north-west suits him just fine.

"I definitely feel settled here,'' he said. "It is unnerving for everyone when they move clubs. When I joined Red Star Belgrade as a young player it was two hours away by car. It felt like the end of the world and at first it was very hard.

"It was the same when I came to Manchester United. But you get used to it. I have more friends and I am used to the language. I really feel at home now.''

Mourinho bemoans image of Serie A abroad

Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho believes Italian football needs to do a much better job of selling itself abroad.

Mourinho, who took the helm of the three-time defending champions Inter in the summer, said: "The fact is that Italian football as a product is not liked abroad.

"My family back in Portugal have to wait until midnight to watch a Serie A game while at seven in the evening they have to watch an ugly Getafe v Valladolid (Spanish Primera Liga). I also look at the Asian market where Serie A is not sold much."

Mourinho once matched wits with the likes of Manchester United's Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsenal's Arsene Wenger while guiding Chelsea, and he believes coaching in the Italian game is every bit as challenging.

"It's true that Italian football is difficult," said Mourinho. "It demands great preparation by a coach.

"Against Genoa, for example, I had to change three or four times my tactical approach and Genoa always adapted to my formula. For me as a coach, this is a fantastic show."

Sir Alex fined and given two-match touchline ban, Drogba handed three-match ban

Sir Alex fined and given two-match touchline ban

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has been given a two-match touchline ban and a £10,000 fine by the Football Association, following his row with referee Mike Dean this month.

Sir Alex Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson: In hot water against Hull

The 66-year-old was fuming that Dean did not send off Hull defender Andy Turner for a foul on Michael Carrick during United's 4-3 Premier League win at Old Trafford.

That Dean then awarded Hull a penalty for an innocuous Rio Ferdinand challenge on Bernard Mendy only infuriated the Scot even more.

The Scot's suspension starts on December 2 and means he will not be pitchside for the Carling Cup match against Blackburn the following day.

He will also miss out on a touchline reunion with former United captain Roy Keane, who brings his Sunderland side to Old Trafford for a Premier League match on December 6.

Ferguson had claimed the FA were "dying'' to hit him with his latest improper conduct charge.

At a meeting at the City of Manchester Stadium, the FA's Regulatory Commission took into account Ferguson's admission of the charge and his previous disciplinary record.

Ferguson served a two-match ban last term for a finger-jabbing rant at referee Mark Clattenburg following a defeat at Bolton.

Drogba handed three-match ban for coin throwing

Didier Drogba has been given a three-match ban by the Football Association after the Chelsea striker admitted a charge of violent conduct following the Carling Cup match against Burnley last week.

Didier Drogba

Drogba gives it back to the Burnley fans

The Ivory Coast international threw an object, believed to be a coin, back into the visiting fans after celebrating Chelsea's opener at Stamford Bridge.

It means the striker will miss the forthcoming games against Newcastle United, Arsenal and Bolton though he will be eligible to face Bordeaux in the Champions League on November 26 as the ban only covers domestic football.

Drogba has been given the same treatment as Liverpool defender Jamie Carrager who was handed the mandatory three-game ban for throwing a coin in an FA Cup tie at Arsenal in 2002.

The form of French striker Nicolas Anelka coupled with Drogba's current lack of fitness and form - his only goal this season came in the game against Burnley - means Chelsea are unlikely to be hit hard by the ruling

The 30-year-old admitted the charge earlier this week and apologised to the Burnley fans after the incident.

The Ivory Coast striker could now be fined two weeks' wages by the club, believed to be around £180,000, after Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck confirmed Drogba knew the club were "not happy''.

"Didier did something he should not have done,'' said Buck. "However, you have to look at the fans. I believe the FA will take a look and find the culprits.

"To his credit, Didier apologised publicly almost immediately after the game.''

An FA statement read: "At a regulatory commission today, Chelsea forward Didier Drogba was given a three match suspension.

"Drogba admitted a charge of violent conduct. The charge related to Drogba throwing a missile into the away section of the crowd after scoring during the League Cup match against Burnley at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday 12 November.

"Drogba will serve the suspension with immediate effect.''

Hammersmith and Fulham Police continue to liaise with the FA and Chelsea in a bid to track down the fan who initially threw the coin at the striker.

Police are studying CCTV footage from inside Stamford Bridge as well as reviewing Sky TV's coverage of the game. They are also in contact with Lancashire Police but so far no arrests have been made.

Burnley fans were handed leaflets before Saturday's game at Queens Park Rangers asking for any witnesses to come forward.

Moyes fined for dismissal at Stoke

Everton manager David Moyes has been fined £5,000 by the Football Association after being found guilty of improper conduct.

Referee Alan Wiley sent Moyes to the stands during Everton's 3-2 Barclays Premier League win at Stoke City in September, after the Toffees manager criticised Wiley for not awarding his side a penalty.

An FA statement read: "At a regulatory commission hearing today, Everton manager David Moyes was fined £5,000 and warned as to his future conduct.

"Moyes admitted a charge of improper conduct relating to his touchline behaviour during Everton's match against Stoke City on 14 September.

"In reaching its decision, the commission said that it was taking into account Moyes' good disciplinary record, his admission of the charge and his apology.''

Rovers and United solve Carling Cup conundrum

A rare night of football will take place in Manchester next month - with both City and United at home on the same night.

United's Carling Cup quarter-final tie against Blackburn has been put back 24 hours to Wednesday, December 3 - with City taking on Paris St Germain in the UEFA Cup on the same night.

United and Blackburn were due to play the previous night - but both teams were keen to postpone for 24 hours, even though local police prefer both their major clubs not to play at the same time.

United tackle City at Eastlands on November 30, with Blackburn facing the more geographically challenging trip to Portsmouth on the same day.

However, with United due to play a Champions League tie against Aalborg the following week before flying to Japan for the World Club Cup, there was little opportunity for the Carling Cup tie to be played at a later date as the semi-finals should take place at the beginning on January.

However, following discussions with Greater Manchester Police, the Football League have confirmed the Carling Cup clash at Old Trafford will now take place on December 3.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Big Four EPL Round Up

Aston Villa win over Arsenal almost effectively rule them out of the race and Villa themselves are looking for the 4th Champions League Spot. While Man U dish out a 5 - 0 Trashing to Stoke with Roy Delap Missle Throw-Ins being useless that day. Chelsea also continue on top of the table with Nicholas Anelka scoring 2 goals and leading the goal scoring chart with 12 goals follow by C.Ronaldo and Amr Zaki 8 goals. Liverpool continue to pile on the pressure on Chelsea now on equal points but stay in second due to goals difference that might prove decisive come end of the season.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Man City Janaury Transfers Plan

Man City beat Man Utd, Spurs for Portsmouth's Diarra

Manchester City have clinched a £10 million deal for Portsmouth midfielder Lassana Diarra, it has been revealed.

The People says City have beaten Tottenham and Manchester United to the signing of Diarra.

City have blown their rivals out of the water with an £85,000-a-week wage offer and the deal is described as 'virtually done'.

Under-fire City chief Mark Hughes is desperate to shore up his struggling team with a quality holding midfielder.

Diarra, 23, has a get-out clause in his Pompey deal enabling him to talk to any club who offer £10m.

Ex-Pompey chief Harry Redknapp wanted to take Diarra to Spurs and United chief Alex Ferguson saw him as a replacement for injury hit Owen Hargreaves.

But neither can compete with City's skyhigh wage offer as the club's new Arab owners flex their muscles.

Blackburn insist £18M not enough for Man City target Santa Cruz

Blackburn Rovers are digging in their heels over striker Roque Santa Cruz.

Manchester City boss Mark Hughes has made his former Rovers striker City’s top transfer target at £18million.

But the Daily Star Sunday says Blackburn’s attitude is that City – touted as the world’s richest club following the takeover by the Abu Dhabi United Group – can keep their millions.

Fit-again Paraguay striker Cruz won’t be sold in the new year as Rovers need him in their battle to stay in the Premier League.

The feeling at Ewood Park is that they won’t have time to find an adequate replacement if they did sell Cruz, 27.

Rovers boss Paul Ince says Cruz will stay – and that view has chairman John Williams’ support.

AC Milan star Kaka remains on Man City's £200M shopping list

Manchester City will be the big players in the summer market.

The Mirror says Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan has told City boss Mark Hughes that £200 million is available for new signings.

And City plan summer moves for Liverpool’s Fernando Torres and AC Milan’s Kaka.

Man City to sound out Valencia for Villa

Manchester City have put aside £200 MILLION for new player signings.

The Mirror says Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan has told boss Hughes of the riches that are available and moves for names on the hit-list for the New Year window have begun.

Hughes wants a top striker, a new left-back and a midfield general and approaches will be made for Valencia’s David Villa, Chelsea star Wayne Bridge and Lassana Diarra at Portsmouth. But while Hughes hopes to land those three the Arabs are willing to wait to spend the bulk of the money next summer.

Man City to splash the cash on signings

Manchester City’s new Arab owners will spend £200million on new players, reports The Mirror.

Whilst the bulk of the cash will be spent in the summer, boss Mark Hughes can use some in the January transfer window.

The City chief wants a top striker, a new left-back and a midfield general and approaches will be made for Valencia’s David Villa, Chelsea's Wayne Bridge and Lassana Diarra at Portsmouth.

Frank Lampard: Why Blue is my colour

Frank Lampard is '100 percent' certain that he made the right decision in committing his future to Chelsea.

The England international plumped for The Blues despite being coveted by his former Stamford Bridge boss Jose Mourinho at Inter and, after seemingly interminable contract negotiations, he put his name to a new five-year contract in the summer.

While admitting that the death of his mother earlier this year did leave him considering the possibility of a change of environment, Lampard revealed that his return to pre-season training with Chelsea helped to make up his mind.

“Inter made a bid for me, and it was a possibility, for sure,” Lampard told the Sunday Times.

"It was a very tough time for me personally after the death of my mum, and my head was in a spin in the summer, he said

"I didn't really know what to do and I felt it might suit me to get away and change my surroundings and my life.

"But when I came back pre-season, I realised how much I loved this place - and, through speaking to my family, I knew what I had to do.

"I'm sure now 100 percent that I made the right decision."

Lampard’s decision-making process has been vindicated by the team’s impressive start to the season under Luiz Felipe Scolari and the former West Ham star believes the current league leaders have all the attributes necessary to finish the season as champions.

“I do believe we’re going to win the league this time,” said Lampard.

“Manchester United deserved to win it last time but with the squad we’ve got, the belief running through the players and the quality of the manager, I think we’ll do it.”

And who does Lampard believe to be Chelsea’s biggest threat?

“I would still say Man U."

Chelsea edge AHEAD of United in race for £15million STAR!

Chelsea Football Club are new favourites to land Axel Witsel.

Following an injury to Owen Hargreaves, Manchester United were last week reported to be lining up an offer of around £15million for the Standard Liege midfield player.

However, Witsel’s agent, Jorge Vidal, has now revealed that whilst the Reds interest appears to have cooled, the youngster could well be heading to Stamford Bridge in January.

“Manchester United came back especially to watch him, but I have not received any news from them. They may be discussing with Standard de Liege directly, I do not know,” Vidal told Setanta Sports.

“The club that seem to be the more interested are Chelsea.”

Capello Shock Call Up Of Chelsea Youngster Michael Mancienne

Capello to hand two young stars England chance

Fabio Capello will take a careful look at the youngsters in his new-look England squad before deciding which lucky pair will play against Germany in Berlin on Wednesday.

Including Theo Walcott, Capello has picked five players eligible for under-21 duty in his 23-man squad, plus another couple who are only just making their mark in the Premier League.

Given withdrawals can be anticipated over the next 48 hours, notably captain John Terry who is due to have a scan on the foot he injured during Chelsea's win at West Brom this evening, Capello needs to choose wisely.

For, after four straight World Cup qualifying wins, he does not want to see confidence drain away by placing his trust in too many rookies.

"It is dangerous to put too many new players into a team that has trained a lot together,'' said Capello. "It is best when you put one or maximum two in. I just want to know them better, which I will do during the camp.

"I want to study what they do in training, then I will decide.''

While the inclusion of Gabriel Agbonlahor and Manchester City duo Joe Hart, who has subsequently withdrawn from the squad, and Micah Richards had been anticipated, even before Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney were declared unavailable by Sir Alex Ferguson, the selection of Michael Mancienne is a shock.

Mancienne is still to play for Chelsea and while his appearances for Wolves have caught the eye, it is a surprise Capello has chosen to pluck the 20-year-old from the Coca-Cola Championship to the senior international squad even if he has received rave reviews from England Under-21 boss Stuart Pearce.

Even if Terry misses out, as he did against Kazakhstan and Belarus last month, it is doubtful Mancienne will play a significant role as Richards and Matthew Upson would be favourites to fill the central defensive berths, which Everton's Joleon Lescott is also capable of doing.

Agbonlahor has more chance of being selected, although there would be little point in picking 38-year-old Portsmouth keeper David James unless he was going to play.

James' continued presence proves Capello does not believe age is a barrier to selection. Instead, the omissions of David Beckham and Michael Owen are justified on form grounds.

In Beckham's case it is down to an MLS season that came to an end almost a month ago, since when he has had no competitive football, for Owen, it is due to a lack of match practice after a recent groin injury.

"It is not enough to play one or two games,'' said Capello. "You cannot find enough form to play an international match in that time.''

For all Capello's assertions, there are plenty who feel Owen is condemned to miss out unless the Italian has a major change of policy.

Beckham's experience at Real Madrid suggests such an about-turn is possible, although Capello tends to stick to his opinions, which in the veteran midfielder's case is clear enough.

"Beckham is not in the squad because he has not played for three weeks,'' said Capello.

That situation has already been addressed with Beckham due to join AC Milan on a loan deal in January that should allow him to join Bobby Moore as England's most capped outfield player when the Three Lions tackle Spain the following month.

However, Capello stressed he had played no part in the short-term transfer.

"I am a friend of (AC Milan vice-president) Adriano Galliani and he told me about what they were going to do,'' he said. "I like the player and I like the man. But they told me after they decided to sign him, not before.''

As they famously exchanged words after a fierce condemnation of the use of Steven Gerrard - who along with Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry is one of the likely captains if Terry misses out - Capello probably did not ask Harry Redknapp about Tottenham striker Darren Bent.

However, as Bent has scored five goals in his last seven matches it is a fair assumption he is benefiting from Redknapp's arrival at White Hart Lane.

So, with Heskey missing, he could get a shot at partnering Agbonlahor or Jermain Defoe.

"We have followed Bent over the last year and he has scored a lot of goals recently,'' said Capello. "We need a player for that role because we don't have Heskey.

"He is young, fast and has good movement without the ball. He runs into space, which is very important. It is important that Tottenham have won a lot of games because it helps Bent's confidence. That makes me happy.''

Scott Carson - West Brom
David James - Portsmouth
Wayne Bridge - Chelsea
Curtis Davies - Aston Villa
Glen Johnson - Portsmouth
John Terry - Chelsea
Joleon Lescott - Everton
Michael Mancienne - Chelsea
Micah Richards - Man City
Matthew Upson - West Ham
Gareth Barry - Aston Villa
Michael Carrick - Man Utd
Stewart Downing - Middlesbrough
Jimmy Bullard - Fulham
Scott Parker - West Ham
Shaun Wright-Phillips - Man City
Ashley Young - Aston Villa
Gabriel Agbonlahor - Aston Villa
Darren Bent - Tottenham
Peter Crouch - Portsmouth
Jermain Defoe - Portsmouth

Theo Walcott - Arsenal

Terry backs Mancienne call
Skipper delight at youngsters inclusion

England captain John Terry has backed Michael Mancienne's inclusion into the senior squad.

Chelsea starlet Mancienne is yet to play to play for The Blues and has only ever experienced senior football at Championship level.

He has spent most of the last two seasons on loan in the Championship mostly with Queens Park Rangers, but currently with top-of-the-table Wolves.

Now having starred for the England Under-21s in recent outings - Mancienne has been called up by Fabio Capello for next week's friendly in Germany.

And Terry is full behind the decision to include his club mate.

"Fair play to Michael. We have got a lot of players at Chelsea and he has been eager to go out and prove that he is good enough," said Terry.

"Myself and Lamps (Frank Lampard) spoke to Stuart Pearce and he said Michael has been his best player in the Under-21s.

"He will gain from the experience and his form has been fantastic for Wolves.

"They have had three or four wins since he has been there and he has got a bright future ahead of him.

"I don't want to put too much pressure on the lad but we all realise he is one for the future.

"He could come back and be in the Chelsea side, quite possibly. He has been eager to break into the squad. It is very unfortunate for all the young players at Chelsea that we have got such a big squad.

"In the Carling Cup, when the manager leaves out the likes of myself and Lamps, there are players who are not playing week in and week out who deserve to play.

"They get paid a lot of money to be part of our squad and it is difficult sometimes to throw the younger lads in but he will get his chance, I am sure."

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Carling Cup Draw

Arsenal to travel to Burnley in Carling Cup

Burnley's reward for their Carling Cup upset of Chelsea is a home tie against Arsenal in the quarter-finals.

The Clarets beat Chelsea 5-4 on penalties at Stamford Bridge after a 1-1 draw on Wednesday night and will now host Arsene Wenger's impressive youngsters at Turf Moor.

Arsenal swept into the last eight with a 3-0 demolition of Wigan at the Emirates Stadium despite fielding a team composed almost entirely of teenagers.

Paul Ince will take his Blackburn team to his old stomping ground of Old Trafford to face Manchester United, while holders Tottenham have been drawn away at Watford.

Stoke City and Derby County will meet in an all-midlands clash in the other quarter-final.

Ties will be played week commencing December 1

Stoke City v Derby County

Manchester United v Blackburn Rovers

Burnley v Arsenal

Watford v Tottenham Hotspur

Rafa Benitez and Frank Lampard scoop awards

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez has won the Premier League's manager of the month award for October, while Chelsea's Frank Lampard is player of the month.

The Reds won all four of their league matches, in the process ending Chelsea's 86-game unbeaten home record, scoring eight goals and conceding six.

Lampard scored two goals in four league games, including a superb angled chip in his side's 3-0 win over Hull City.

It is the first time in three years the midfielder has won the monthly award.

Lampard is the second Chelsea player to win the award this season, after Deco won August's prize.

The 30-year-old Lampard has now won the award three times, one behind the record for the most monthly player accolades.

Six players have won the award on four occasions, including Lampard's England colleagues Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney.

Benitez picks up his award having guided Liverpool to victories over Manchester City, Wigan Athletic, Chelsea and Portsmouth.

The Reds twice came from behind, against City and Wigan, then inflicted Chelsea's first home defeat in four years.

Liverpool ended the month with another win, as a late Steven Gerrard penalty proved enough to see off Portsmouth at Anfield.

Benitez has been named manager of the month four times, but has a long way to go to catch all-time record holder Sir Alex Ferguson, who has won the award 21 times in his career

Maldini Donate Half Of His Wages To Charity

Milan legend Paolo Maldini signed on to play another year in order to give half of his wages to charity, according to Tuttosport.
The Italian left-back has been an example and role model to every player in the game, from grass roots learners to some of the world's greats.

He was close to hanging up his boots in the summer but he decided to beat the pain barrier and play on for another season.

Why? To help those who have much less than he has.

Tuttosport claims Il Capitano is giving away 50 percent of his wages to the charity of his choice, and this was the major reason as to why he decided to play another year.

Milan had offered Maldini €1.5 million for the season but the stopper pushed for €3m.

The Rossoneri gave him what he wanted and half of that amount will go towards helping those who need it most.

Over the years the player has donated plenty to good causes and his latest gesture shows just why he has become one of the most admired figures in the game, not just for his football on the pitch, but as a person too.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Frank Lampard And Gianfranco Zola has jumped to the defence of Didier Drogba

Frank Lampard And Gianfranco Zola has jumped to the defence of Didier Drogba by calling on the Football Association to take action against the fans who threw coins rather than his team-mate.

Drogba has apologised for the offence after throwing a coin back into the supporters and making a rude gesture, but Lampard has called for leniency and wants fans who abuse players to be punished.

"There are two sides to it," Lampard told: Metro "Didier's come out and there's been a reaction, a human reaction I have to say, which Jamie Carragher made once.

"He's come out straight away and said he's made a mistake. People also have got to stop throwing things on the pitch. I was around Didier at the time and I don't know how many coins there were around.

"We've seen referees getting hit, too, so I think people have to take responsibility as a group.

"Didier has to take responsibility as an individual. I hope he doesn't get banned, but it's up to The FA, who are investigating it.

"But if Didier gets banned, are fans going to do this more to provoke people? Who knows? I take quite a lot of corners and it's not unusual to get things thrown at you and lots of abuse, too, and I think it's got to a stage now where it's got to stop."

Former Blues playing legend Gianfranco Zola has also defended the Ivorian, claiming he must have been provoked.

''I know Drogba is a very composed and honest player,'' said Zola. ''He is always fair. If he reacted, maybe he has been insulted and that is not good in football.

''A couple of weeks ago there was an anti-racism campaign. I don't know if this was a racist act or not. The crowd has to respect the players, and the other way round.

''I don't know what happened but I know he is a fair player and an honest player - a straight player. You have to understand they are human beings and when you are playing an important match you are under pressure.

''Sometimes your composure can be lost. It's not easy, you are walking on the edge all the time. A little bit of common sense is good from both sides. There have been a couple of situations when I was struggling on the pitch and getting abuse from the crowd. I was very close to reacting.

''It's totally understandable. Some moments you can hold yourself and others you can lose it a little bit.''

Raid On Dos Santos And Blue bottlers

I Seriously feel we better start

Last night's defeat by Burnley at Stamford Bridge was Chelsea's fifth successive defeat in a penalty shoot-out

v Charlton, lost 5-4 October 26 2005
Carling Cup third round

v Liverpool, 4-1 May 1 2007
Champions League semi-final

v Manchester Utd, 3-0 August 5 2007
Community Shield

v Manchester Utd, 6-5 May 21 2008
Champions League final

v Burnley, 5-4 November 12 2008
Carling Cup fourth round

Chelsea £8million raid on Spurs back ON!

Chelsea Football Club’s reported raid for Giovani Dos Santos could be back on.

The Blues were linked with a shock move for the Tottenham Hotspur forward last week, but it is believed they cooled their interest when the Mexican damaged his ankle.

It was expected that the former Barcelona player would require surgery which would leave him sidelined until the New Year, but examinations have come back with good news.

Luiz Felipe Scolari is now set to press ahead with his interest in Giovani, and he hopes to persuade the White Hart Lane club to offload him for around £8million.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Herny To Chelsea ? Chelsea senior players tell Scolari not to play kids in Cup

Chelsea will not be fielding their academy players in tomorrow's Carling Cup tie with Burnley.

The Independent says Luiz Felipe Scolari will not pick an experimental team of Chelsea academy players to face Burnley because he has been told by his senior players that they want to play in and win the competition. Unlike Arsenal and Manchester United, Scolari knows that many of his biggest names want the chance of winning the Carling Cup for a third time in five years.

Chelsea's senior players feel that their three recent appearances in Carling Cup finals (2005, 2007 and 2008) have been among the most memorable games since Roman Abramovich's arrival. As a result they are unwilling to stand aside.

Agent demands £170,000-a-week for Man Utd ace Ronaldo

Jorge Mendes hopes to secure a bumper pay-rise for his client, Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Mirror says Mendes wants to talk about a deal that would see Ronaldo get around £170,000 a week just a couple of months after turning down a move to Real Madrid.

However, United are reluctant to give Ronaldo a new deal so soon, with chief executive David Gill believing their star is already firmly under contract.

Ronaldo signed a five-year deal in April 2007 and is on around £120,000 a week. But an improved contract would lead to the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney demanding hikes, too.

Mendes wants to know United's thinking and planning after the two camps declared an uneasy peace after the summer.

United are aware the threat of Real Madrid remains despite the Spanish club's statements to the contrary.

Henry To Chelsea

According to reports which may or may not be reliable, Chelsea could be about to launch a January swoop for Barcelona forward Thierry Henry.

Reports in both English and Spanish tabloids have suggested that Luiz Felipe Scolari is preparing to unleash an £8 million bid to lure iconic Frenchman Thierry Henry back to London.

The 31-year-old striker is currently in his second season at Barcelona, but has not scaled the heights that saw him crowned a bona-fide legend at Highbury and the Emirates with Arsenal.

Scolari is eager to bolster Chelsea's attacking options, with strikers painfully thin on the ground outside of Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka.

Chelsea's planned raid for Robinho was usurped by newly-monied Manchester City over the summer, leaving Scolari with limited options at the business end of the field.

He has been making noises about adding to his panel during the January sales, even though the economic downturn has left the once richest club in the world with unprecedented financial constraints.

According to The People newspaper, the Blues may have as little as £5 million with which to bid over the winter, while Henry is likey to command a fee at least twice that amount, with his wages set to be in the region of £120,000 a week.

The player was also linked with Manchester City, but is known to have a strong affection for London return.

He has been quoted by the press as saying: "Though I work in Barcelona my heart is in London." However, he has also said, repeatedly, that he is happy at Barca, that Arsenal are in his heart and that he could not envisage playing for any other Premier League club after his time as a Gunner.

But then as we all know, things can change rapidly in football.