Abidal, Vilanova inspire Messi

7 March 2013 13:14

Lionel Messi has voiced his admiration for Barcelona team-mate Eric Abidal following the latter’s ongoing fight against health problems.

The Frenchman was diagnosed with a tumour in his liver in March 2011, yet featured for the full 90 minutes in Barca’s 3-1 Champions League final win over Manchester United hardly two months later.

Abidal was dealt another blow in March 2012, though, when it was announced that he needed to undergo a liver transplant, and the defender has since been working on his recovery.

“Everything Eric has done and everything he has fought for is admirable. No-one truly knows how hard he has worked to be able to train with the team again,” Messi told reporters.

“It was very difficult when we found out (he had cancer) but his strength has united the whole team. How much he can contribute to the team is irrelevant, the important thing is that he is here with us.

“The illnesses to Tito (Vilanova) and Abidal have had a huge effect on us but we are a strong team and we will overcome this.”

Abidal was recently given the green light by Barca’s medical staff in late February and could make his comeback in the upcoming weeks.

Enrique praises Suarez as Messi-like

7 March 2013 13:10

Liverpool defender Jose Enrique has likened marking Luis Suarez in training to playing against Barcelona star Lionel Messi.

The Uruguayan is the Premier League’s top scorer so far this season, netting 21 times, and has mesmerised defences with his bag of tricks on many occasions.

And his Spanish team-mate revealed that he still finds it hard to stop the striker in training, despite playing with him almost every day, indicating his knack of beating players is similar to that of the Argentine sensation.

“I tell (Luis) all the time that he always does the same thing – he tries to do nutmegs. It’s always ‘megs, ‘megs, ‘megs. And you just know that he is going to do it but you can’t stop him,” he told the club’s official website.

“When you know someone, you can know what they are going to do but he’s still a very difficult player to train against.

“He scores so many goals in training. It’s like with Messi – everyone says (Messi) is going to cut inside all the time. And you know that he is going to do this but you can’t stop him from cutting inside and scoring goals.

“With Luis it’s the same. Of course there are some differences between the two players.”

With the end of the season in sight the full-back insisted that Suarez deserves the Player of the Year award, but admitted it will be hard for him to beat Robin van Persie and Gareth Bale due to the Reds’ league position.

“Van Persie and Bale are on fire,” he continued.

“Van Persie has been a very important player for Manchester United this season and Bale is doing very well – in the last few games, Spurs have won because of Bale’s goals.

“But Luis is my friend, so I would like him to win the Player of the Year award.

“Judging the award is really difficult because a lot of the time it depends on where a team is in the league and Tottenham and Manchester United are both in better positions than us. So it will be difficult for him. But, of course, I think he deserves it.”

Mandzukic: Arsenal have hope yet

7 March 2013 13:03

Bayern Munich striker Mario Mandzukic said their Champions League round-of-16 tie against Arsenal is not over yet.

The Bavarians recorded a 3-1 away win in the first leg, and Mandzukic is confident that the team will progress if they can put in a similar performance.

However, he has warned that the tie can go either way if Arsenal get an early goal in the second leg.

“A lot of people think we’re already through to the next round, but anything can happen in football,” the Croatia international told the official Bayern website.

“Provided we play the way we did in London we need have no worries.

“Nevertheless, if we concede an early goal, it could be dangerous.”

The 26-year-old then spoke of his pleasure after scoring at the Emirates in the first leg.

“I’m obviously delighted about the goal, partly because it was an odd one. The press were saying I lacked a goal in the Champions League, but I never let it get to me. The only thing that ever matters to me is winning.”

Mandzukic has already netted 19 goals in all competitions for Bayern this season.

Valencia defeat aggrieves Feghouli

7 March 2013 12:58

Valencia midfielder Sofiane Feghouli said he felt short-changed after their aggregate defeat to PSG in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Feghouli said their disappointing performance in the first leg at Mestalla eventually cost them.

Valencia were unable to turn things around in the return tie as they were held to a 1-1 draw at Parc des Princes after previously losing the first leg at home 2-1.

“I felt we deserved to win the game. We dominated from start to finish. We just didn’t get the little break we needed to score the second goal and instil more doubt in their minds,” Feghouli told the official UEFA website.

“PSG deserve to go through overall and I wish them good luck. We simply didn’t turn up in the first leg – it was very frustrating.

“We believed we could go through. It didn’t happen, though, so now we have to concentrate on the league and try to get back in to the Champions League next season.”

Luiz chasing Chelsea titles

7 March 2013 12:53

Chelsea defender David Luiz said the Blues ‘need’ to win the FA Cup and Europa League to match last season’s Champions League triumph.

The Blues were eliminated from the group stages in trying to defend their title, and face Steaua Bucharest in the Europa League last 16 on Thursday, before taking on Manchester United in the FA Cup on Sunday.

Luiz reckons the Stamford Bridge outfit could have a slight advantage over the Red Devils, with Sir Alex Ferguson’s men still hurting from a controversial European exit against Real Madrid.

“It’s a massive week,” he told reporters. “It’ll be difficult again (against Bucharest). And Sunday (against United) is also a massive game, a game everyone in the world will love to watch.

“I hope we win because this season it’s not gone as well for Chelsea as last season, so we need to win the titles we’re still in.

“I think it’s difficult (for United) when you’ve been knocked out of an amazing competition like the Champions League,” he continued. “Your confidence is not the same. The happiness inside your heart is not the same.

“Maybe it gives us an advantage. But I know, as well, Manchester United will want to win.

“They’ll play at home but some supporters and some players will be thinking it’s not the Champions League so it’s difficult to come in with the same form.”

He also said it is ‘normal’ that the team have gone through a transitional period this season after several recent signings and sales.

He added: “This squad has a lot of quality with many expensive players and young talents.

“Some of the guys are becoming a bit old so we needed transition. Manchester United have nine, 10, 11 guys who have played together for a long time.

“Barcelona play together for a long time. Real Madrid needed two years until now to start to become a stronger team. So this is normal.”