Retiring Gattuso puts coaching first

12 March 2013 03:41

Former AC Milan and Italy player Gennaro Gattuso says he will retire from playing at the end of the season to focus on coaching.

The 35-year-old is playing with FC Sion since leaving Milan at the end of last season, but the veteran midfielder has now said he will call time on an illustrious 18-year playing career in June.

In February, the 2006 World Cup winner was appointed player-coach for the Swiss club and, speaking to Tuttusport, Gattuso revealed the decision to quit playing is linked with an ambition to embark on a coaching career.

“I think I will have another match but it will be my swan song. In June I will finally hang up my boots and dedicate myself to my new career,” he said.

And having played under some of the game’s most decorated figures, Gattuso believes he is well-equipped to make a successful transition from life on the pitch to life in the dugout.

“Let’s just say that I feel I have the ambition and determination to succeed as a coach. I have been compared with Antonio Conte and it is an honour to be compared with him. I would love to enjoy the same success he has had as a coach,” he said.

“There are many similarities between us and we both had, among other things, (Marcello) Lippi and (Carlo) Ancelotti as coaches. They were my teachers.”

Meanwhile, Gattuso turned his attentions to former club Milan as they prepare to face Barcelona with a 2-0 aggregate lead in the Champions League round-of-16 second leg on Tuesday.

Gattuso said: “I will sit in front of the TV and savour the big game alongside some of my former classmates. Prediction? I would take a 3-1 defeat.”

FC Sion, who sit fourth in the Swiss Super League, travel to the capital Bern on Sunday for a clash with Young Boys.

O´Neill expected Sunderland to struggle

12 March 2013 02:39

Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill says he is not surprised the club are in a relegation battle.

After losing to 2-1 to Queens Park Rangers on Saturday, coupled with Aston Villa’s win over Reading, Sunderland find themselves just six points clear of the relegation zone with nine games left to play.

O’Neill believes his team have not done enough to secure maximum points in games they have controlled, and believes the remaining matches will be very tough.

“I’m not surprised at all (at the prospect of fighting for survival),” O’Neill told reporters.

“I knew right from the off it was going to be very, very tough and it’s been like that all season, every game we play.

“In the last number of games we’ve played my own view is we shouldn’t have been beaten in these games.

“We put severe pressure on Arsenal, couldn’t get the ball over the line, at West Bromwich Albion I thought any piece of luck going was going with the home team.

“But you can say that forever and a day, we have to turn it (around).”

O’Neill also believes an injury crisis at an unfortunate point in the season has limited his ability to change games with substitutions, and cited the QPR defeat as a case in point.

“We had a lot of defenders on the bench but at the moment that’s all we have,” he said.

“(Lee) Cattermole is injured, (Wes) Brown’s been out all season so we can discount that.

“The only other one we had is James McClean, who was ill. He got let out of hospital around about 11 o’clock on Saturday morning having spent the last two days on a drip.

“We had a lot of defenders on the bench but that wasn’t anything planned, that was just lack of choice.”

Pardew: Newcastle safe thanks to Stoke win

12 March 2013 02:23

Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew says his team’s 2-1 win against Stoke City has confirmed their Premier League survival.

After an impressive league campaign last season, Newcastle have struggled through much of 2012/13, but the victory on Sunday moved them nine points clear of the relegation zone.

Pardew believes that cushion is enough to guarantee safety, and he is now focusing his efforts on Thursday, when his side host Anzhi Makhachkala in the second leg of the Europa League round of 16, with the tie in Moscow finishing goalless.

“That’s (Premier League survival) done; we don’t need to worry about that now,” he told the BBC.

“What we’ve done is set ourselves up for what I’m hoping is going to be a special night for us.

“We’ve set the scene for that and I can’t wait already. I hope we get as many people as we can afford to come fill the place up.”

With both league and European priorities to balance, Pardew has been forced to rotate his squad frequently this season, but after the victory over Stoke, Pardew will now deploy his best side against Anzhi.

“We’ve approached it in an intelligent way,” he said.

“In a way that we have dealt with the team as it comes, put a team out that is good enough, and we’ve had to do that. We’ve had so many injuries that we had to put out the team that we had.

“There are too many games, but now we’re at the nitty gritty – the real serious business, playing against real quality.

“I’ll play my best team – that win (against Stoke) has helped me do that.”

Roura has faith in stuttering Barca

12 March 2013 02:05

Barcelona assistant coach Jordi Roura expects his team to produce an impressive performance against AC Milan in the Champions League.

Barca were surprisingly beaten 2-0 by Milan in the round-of-16 first leg at San Siro last month, leaving one of the pre-tournament favourites teetering on the brink of an early elimination.

After also struggling against arch-rivals Real Madrid in the league and Copa del Rey, the Liga leaders defeated Deportivo La Coruna 2-0 on Saturday to continue their march toward the domestic championship.

And Roura, standing in for Tito Vilanova while the head coach under goes treatment for cancer, backed Barca to be at their best on the European stage when Milan arrive at Camp Nou.

“Well, after the run of bad results I talked to the team and this week was pretty intense,” he said.

“We worked hard in training and the players responded well and are very keen to show their fight. I am very happy with their work this week and I think it will show on Tuesday.

“Milan’s performance in the first leg did not surprise me. I always said that Milan is a very tough place to travel to and they are very good in front of their home fans.

“We were beaten on the day by the better side. I don’t know what … their strategy will be for the second leg, though I guess that having had that good result they’ll play to hold it.

“What we do have clear (is) we are going to attack them, we have no choice because that is the only way for us to get back into the match.”

After the team struggled with an inconsistent surface in Italy, Barca centre-back Gerard Pique said he hopes the near-flawless turf at Camp Nou will afford the hosts the advantage they need to overturn the deficit and reach the quarter-finals.

“I think that every year since I am part of Barcelona, there have been times when we have not found ourselves in good form,” he said.

“Perhaps we have lacked a bit of the spark in the last few games but there will be no excuses from the players tomorrow.

“The pitch will be set up exactly how we want it tomorrow. It will suit our style of play and the fans will fill the stadium and get behind the team.

“I am confident, we have to go out there and do everything we can and the pressure is on them (Milan). We have been criticised in the last few weeks but tomorrow the team is going to do well.”

Allegri braced for Camp Nou siege

12 March 2013 01:06

AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri believes his team must produce their best Champions League performance yet to get past Barcelona.

Milan go to Camp Nou leading 2-0 on aggregate courtesy of goals from Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari during the first leg in Italy.

But despite their advantage in the round0of-16 tie, Allegri is well aware of the danger La Liga leaders Barca will pose in front of their own fans.

“We will play against a team that will fight to overturn a two-goal deficit, so we must perform better than in the first leg,” he said.

“Last year, when we met them in the group stage, Barcelona played with three defenders. We have to be better in defence tomorrow and manage the ball a lot better than we did at home.”

Allegri also revealed his intention to field three forwards, in an attempt to avoid being pinned back by Barcelona’s possession-based approach.

“Italian football is different to other European leagues. Barcelona always force their opponents to play the same way because of their ball possession,” he said.

“If we can keep Barcelona away from our box, then we have a better chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals. We will play with three forwards tomorrow.”

The draw for the quarter-finals of the Champions League will be held on Friday.