Larsson: Barca a ´pleasure to watch´

11 August 2012 12:40

Former Barcelona attacker Henrik Larsson feels the Catalans are a joy to watch and are the best team in the world.

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Barca had to settle for second spot in La Liga last term, while they were
eliminated from the Champions League in the semi-finals, but the Swede is
confident they can fight for top honours again this season.

“It is a pleasure to watch Barcelona,” Larsson told Barca TV.

“I think they can challenge for everything again. They have such essential
players like Xavi, (Andres) Iniesta, (Lionel) Messi.

“Right now they are the best team in the world.”

The 40-year-old praised Barca star Messi and is confident the Argentine will
win a fourth straight Ballon d’Or.

“Messi will win the Ballon d’Or, because he’s the best. I remember the
first time I saw him in training and it was incredible,” he said.

Messi netted an impressive 73 goals in all competitions last season.

Girard content with opening-day draw

11 August 2012 12:06

Montpellier coach Rene Girard was happy his team took a point at home against Toulouse in their Ligue 1 season opener.

Souleymane Camara put the champions ahead on 34 minutes, but his opener was cancelled out by Wissam Ben Yedder in the second half in the 1-1 draw on Friday.

Three players – Montpellier’s Jamel Saihi and Toulouse pair Adrien Regattin and Serge Aurier – were sent off in an ill-tempered clash.

Girard, who was unhappy with three red cards being shown, said he was content with his team’s hard-earned point.

“I think that three red cards for the first game of the season is definitively too heavy,” Girard said.

“We were leading 1-0 and then we lost a player and tried to preserve the scoreline. We made a few mistakes defensively and we conceded a goal. Then Toulouse got two red cards and lost two players.

“That’s only a first game. It has never been easy against Toulouse over the last four years. It was a tight and complicated game.

“I am quite satisfied with my players’ state of mind. We have seen many technical faults from both sides and it just means that neither of the teams have reached their peak yet or played at 100 percent.

“That’s why we saw so many faults and a game with not so much fluidity. What’s more the weather was really hot as well. I would say that it was a good point to take.”

Girard also defended new signing Emanuel Herrera, who was quiet on debut.

The Argentine joined from Chilean side Union Espanola in July and Girard said he needed to be given time.

“Emmanuel needs some time to make his mark. His team-mates must find him on the pitch,” Girard said.

“It was a shy first official appearance but we knew that it wouldn’t be easy.

“I will say it again but when Olivier Giroud arrived you asked me exactly the same thing. OK, Herrera didn’t score 21 goals yet, but let’s be patient.”

Terry, Ferdinand stay in Hodgson´s plans

11 August 2012 11:56

England coach Roy Hodgson insists that John Terry and Rio Ferdinand will stay in his plans as long as they avoid lengthy bans from the FA.

After being found not guilty of racially abusing QPR defender Anton Ferdinand, Rio’s brother, in a criminal court, Terry now faces investigation by the national association.

Ferdinand, meanwhile, has been charged with improper conduct after promoting a Twitter message that carried racist undertones.

“John Terry has been through a charge in a court, now he has to go through the process the FA have embarked upon,” Hodgson told Sky Sports News.

“The same applies to Rio. As far as I am concerned, it is a disciplinary matter, which the FA will take care of.

“As long as they don’t suffer enormous bans that will keep them out of my thinking there is no reason for me to believe I can’t consider them in the future. And obviously I will.”

Hodgson, who has named a youthful squad for Wednesday’s friendly with Italy, also explained his decision to recall Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick.

Carrick had been left out of the country’s Euro 2012 squad and told the former West Brom manager he did not want to be on the reserves list for the tournament.

Less experienced players such as Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson were included in the squad but Hodgson has dismissed the criticism that Carrick could have been persuaded to play a part.

“Michael Carrick would have always been in our thinking,” Hodgson added.

“I was given to believe he didn’t want to be part of the England set-up. He didn’t want to be considered for the Euros so I reluctantly thought if people are not available they are not available.

“He has had discussions with Gary and me since and it turns out that he does want to play. This is an ideal opportunity to invite him to come and play for England again.

“There has never been any doubt that Carrick has not been in our thoughts or our wishes. It was more a case of believing he wasn’t available for England and it was a final decision.”

Schweinsteiger set to resume training

11 August 2012 11:38

Bayern Munich midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger is set to resume training ahead of Sunday’s DFL-Supercup clash against Borussia Dortmund.

The Germany international picked up an ankle injury in last week’s LIGA Total! Cup and Bayern initially feared the injury was serious.

Nevertheless, an early comeback seems on the cards and Schweinsteiger could even make the squad for Sunday’s match.

“He’s been working on sports rehab for the last few days,” coach Jupp Heynckes told reporters.

“The injury wasn’t particularly serious and all the pain has gone now. Will he make the squad for Sunday’s game? We will have to wait and see how much progress he has made.”

The news of Schweinsteiger’s return comes at a good time for Bayern, who will be without star striker Mario Gomez for up to six weeks after he underwent ankle surgery.

Heynckes said he was ‘very optimistic’ about Gomez’s recovery, adding the Germany international had responded well to surgery.

“He’s doing relatively well,” Heynckes said.

“The pain has gone away and he’s started physiotherapy.”

Gold in Neymar´s sights

11 August 2012 11:26

Brazil star Neymar is eagerly anticipating Saturday’s Olympic final against Mexico and is determined to win the gold medal.

The South Americans beat South Korea 3-0 in the semi-finals courtesy of a Romulo goal and two strikes from Leandro Damiao, and the 20-year-old is desperate to continue Brazil’s hot streak.

“It will be my first final with Brazil and I’m proud to be here representing the country in such an important moment like this, our first Olympic final in 24 years,” the Santos striker told ESPN.

“No Brazilian has ever won this and I feel I am prepared to help the team leave with the gold medal. We have to keep doing what we have been doing so far in the tournament. It has been working.”

Neymar went on to discuss the availability of Gio Dos Santos for Mexico, and stressed his absence will be a plus for the Brazilians.

“We would be very fortunate (if he does not play),” he said.

Mexico’s medical staff have confirmed that Dos Santos will miss the final due to his muscular problem.