Udinese to meet Braga in Champions League

10 August 2012 12:47

Italian outfit Udinese will meet Liga Sagres team Braga in the 2012-13 Champions League playoff following Friday’s draw in Nyon.

In the other four fixtures in the League Route, Bundesliga representatives Borussia Moenchengladbach take on Dynamo Kiev, while Malaga face Panathinaikos.

Furthermore, Russian giants Spartak Moscow will have to deal with Fenerbahce, with 2010-11 Ligue 1 champions Lille awaiting a tie versus Copenhagen.

In the champions route, Scottish giants Celtic will have to deal with Swedish side Helsingborgs, while Belgian powerhouse Anderlecht meet Cypriot titleholders AEL Limassol.

The first legs of the ties will be played on August 21/22, with the return taking place one week later on August 28/29.

Rooney starts mind games with City

10 August 2012 12:34

Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney has cast doubts over Manchester City’s ability to defend their Premier League title next season.

City clinched the title on the final day of last season, courtesy of a 95th-minute Sergio Aguero winner against QPR.

And Rooney believes that Roberto Mancini’s side may struggle with the expectation that comes with being favourites for the 2012-2013 campaign.

“It’ll be a different situation for them, something they’ve never experienced before but we know about it,” Rooney said.

“We know all about it when you’re trying to defend your trophy. We know that over the years everyone has tried to raise their game when they play against Manchester United.

“Now obviously City are champions they’ll have to face that. Sometimes it can be more difficult.”

Rooney stated that he thought this season would see an equally closely-run race to be crowned league champions, particularly in light of Chelsea’s heavy spending so far this summer, adding that the club must improve in Europe if they want to win silverware in the future.

He added: “I’m not sure we need any more motivation but to lose that way was difficult for us to take.

“It’s a good chance for us now to bounce back from that. We know how hard you have to work to try and win it back but hopefully come the end of the season we’ll have it back.

“City have got some great players. Chelsea have spent a lot of money, so it’ll be a close-run thing.

“But this is our chance to show everyone we are a good team and we’re capable of winning the league this season. That’s obviously our aim this season.

“Ending the campaign without a trophy is a rare thing for United. But we felt we were unlucky in the league.

“We know we let ourselves down in Europe. That’s something we’ve had to think about. I’m sure we’ll be a lot better this season.

“Our first aim will be to improve on last year and we can do that. It’s a big season for us after last season and we all need to be ready for it.”

Alves sustains ankle injury in friendly

10 August 2012 12:24

Barcelona full-back Dani Alves faces a brief spell on the sidelines after picking up an ankle injury in the 0-0 draw with Manchester United.

Alves complained about pain in his lower leg in the aftermath of the pre-season friendly, and sat out of training a day later because of the knock he was later found to be carrying.

The club have since announced that the injury does not seem to be too serious, but it is unlikely that the 29-year-old will feature in the Catalans’ final pre-season game against Dinamo Bucharest on Saturday.

Nevertheless, Barcelona are confident that Alves will have recovered from his ankle sprain in time for their La Liga opener against Real Sociedad on August 19.

The Brazil international recently returned to full training after a two-month lay-off due to a shoulder injury.

Villas-Boas reveals Modric ´pact´

10 August 2012 10:55

Luka Modric continues to train separately at Tottenham as the club struggle to reach an agreement with Real Madrid over a transfer.

The 26-year-old midfielder has long harboured a desire to leave Spurs, publically declaring his interest in moving to Chelsea last season before opting to miss the club’s US tour this summer ahead of a proposed move to the Spanish capital.

However, Tottenham have set a 40-million-pound asking price for the Croatia international, a figure the Spanish giants have refused to meet thus far, leading Villas-Boas to once again state the importance of the club’s stubborn stance.

“There is still no deal between the two teams because Real Madrid don’t get closer to what Daniel Levy asks for, but we understand what Modric wants and he understands our behaviour as well,” Villas-Boas said.

“Modric is still training on his own. This is a ‘pact’ between the two of us and that’s the way it will be until his future is decided.”

But Villas-Boas, who saw his side lose their final pre-season friendly 2-0 to Valencia in the Mestalla on Thursday night, suggested there could be a way back for Modric.

“We will try to recover him mentally in case he finally doesn’t leave,” he said.

“Of course we respect Real Madrid and their claims, but they should also respect us.”

Conte handed 10-month ban

10 August 2012 10:25

Juventus coach Antonio Conte has been suspended for 10 months for his involvement in the Scommessopoli scandal.

The Italian football federation (FIGC) found Conte guilty of failing to report attempts to influence the outcome of two Serie B matches against Novara and AlbinoLeffe in the 2010-11 season when he was in charge of Siena.

The 43-year-old had previously reached a plea bargain deal with prosecutor Stefano Palazzi over a three-month ban, but the agreement was rejected by the disciplinary committee.

Conte has now been slapped with a suspension until the end of the 2012-13 campaign instead.

Furthermore, Angelo Alessio, Conte’s assistant at both Siena and Juventus, has been handed an eight-month ban for his involvement in the match-fixing probe.

Lecce and Grosseto have both been relegated from Serie B, while the presidents of both clubs have been suspended from all football activities for five years.

Meanwhile, Juventus duo Leonardo Bonucci and Simone Pepe are among the players who were acquitted due to a lack of evidence, with veteran striker Marco Di Vaio walking away unscathed as well.

A statement from the FIGC read: “(These are) the judgments issued today by the National Disciplinary Committee, chaired by Sergio Artico,in relation to two cases of match-fixing.

“Among the officials, the more severe penalties are those of the president of Grosseto, Camilli, and the former president of Lecce, Semeraro, (for both a five-year ban); the disqualification of 10 months for Antonio Conte, currently coach of Juventus, and for eight months his deputy Angelo Alessio.”