City won´t give up, says Toure

5 March 2013 02:11

Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure says his team will not give up their Premier League ambitions after their 1-0 victory over Aston Villa.

A first-half strike from Carlos Tevez was enough to seal a narrow but deserved win for the champions.

And although they trail rivals Manchester United by 12 points, Toure is adamant his side will not stop in their pursuit for a second consecutive title.

“We know it’s going to be difficult, but the most important thing is that we have to keep staying tight to [Manchester United],” he told Sky Sports.

“I think the 12 points is a lot; United have fantastic experience. I think it’s not finished though – we have to keep fighting for the fans and for the club.

“You see the people, the fans coming out today to support us, [it] was really nice.

“Of course, there was quite big pressure [after United and Tottenham won]. I think we needed to deliver today. It was a very good game and Aston Villa played very well.

“In the first 20 minutes it was very difficult for us but I think we managed and it’s a great three points for us.”

Toure’s brother, Kolo, put in a strong performance in the win at Villa Park up against Christian Benteke and observed after the game that the side are showing the right type of spirit to be a top club.

“[Benteke] is a great young striker and I knew it was going to be a big battle,” the elder Toure added.

“I think all the team was defending well.

“We attacked together and that’s the kind of spirit we need to have if we want to be one of the best clubs in the Premier League.

“I’m doing my best. I love football. Every time I have the chance to play I will give 100 percent; that’s what I want to do every game.”

Agger: Reina back to top form

5 March 2013 02:03

Liverpool centre-back Daniel Agger believes Pepe Reina was back to ‘world-class’ form in the Reds’ 4-0 win away to Wigan.

Reina has made some high-profile mistakes in the Liverpool goal this season, but pulled off a number of saves at the DW Stadium as a Luis Suarez hat-trick inspired the Merseyside club to their third win on the bounce.

Brendan Rodgers’ side has received a lot of praise for their attacking display against the Lactics, but Agger highlighted Reina’s performance as being of the highest quality.

“Pepe was world class against Wigan,” the Danish defender told the Daily Mirror.

“He had a few great saves and he deserves a lot of credit for his performance.

“It says it all if you can have a goalkeeper you can rely on at the back, both with the feet and on the line. Against Wigan, he showed the best of himself.”

Liverpool have now recorded three consecutive victories, and Agger went on to stress the importance of continuing this run of form.

“I hope we are beginning to find some consistency because that’s what we need,” he continued.

“It’s vital to get as high up the table as possible. That’s the target.”

Messi: I have no ego

5 March 2013 01:33

Barcelona star Lionel Messi has defended himself against recent criticism by claiming he is not inherently an egotistical person.

The 25-year-old has drawn criticism from some sections of the media this season following indifferent performances for Barcelona in matches of great significance to the Catalan giants.

In addition to his recent form, it had also been reported the star had fallen out with team-mate David Villa in November last year following a high-profile spat with the Spain international, prompting theories that Messi had acquired a narcissistic streak.

However, speaking to US Magazine Esquire, the Argentine claims to possess an innate sense of humility amid the criticism.

“I don’t have an ego. I certainly do not feel like I have one,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Ballon d’Or winner also reflected on the birth of his son, Thiago, but says he will not force him into following a similar career-path as he did.

“It makes me happy knowing that he’s at home waiting for me after training and playing. I’m not determined for him to be a footballer. Whatever he does in his life, I’ll support him,” he said.

Mancini eyes 10 straight wins

5 March 2013 01:15

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini says his side must win all of their remaining games if they are to retain the Premier League title.

Carlos Tevez’s first-half goal gave the champions a 1-0 win at Aston Villa on Monday, closing the gap to leaders Manchester United back down to 12 points.

But Italian Mancini admits that it would take a perfect run-in to win a second triumph in as many years.

“We need to win all 10 matches,” Mancini told reporters after the game.

He said to Sky Sports: “It was really important to win this game. For us it was important to stay 12 points behind United, because with 10 games (left) you never say never. The championship is not finished.

“We had a few games like QPR, West Ham and Chelsea away where we deserved to win but missed two or three chances to score but sometimes it’s enough to win 1-0 like tonight, to fight for every ball, because now the result is very important.”

Mancini also offered updates on injuries, revealing that Jack Rodwell is likely to be out for around four weeks after limping off Villa Park with a hamstring injury.

City will try to make sure that Sergio Aguero, whose knee injury prevented him from featuring against Villa, is fit for their clash with Everton on March 16.

“We are very sorry for Jack, he is unlucky,” Mancini lamented. “It’s a hamstring injury. Maybe after the international break (he will be back).

“He’s a good player. He’s young and needs to improve but he played very well against Chelsea and was playing well tonight.

“Aguero fell on his knee early on in training yesterday. If possible we want him to play against Everton.”

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert was left to rue a costly error from defender Ciaran Clark that led to the only goal of the match on Monday.

The Republic of Ireland international was caught in possession by Edin Dzeko first-half stoppage time, before the City striker laid off for Tevez to slot past Brad Guzan.

Lambert rued the timing of the goal, which came after Villa had tested the reigning champions with a gritty opening-half display.

“I thought we were well in the game. The goal is a mistake,” Lambert said.

“I wouldn’t have minded if someone had put one in the top corner with a bit of skill.

“But it’s a mistake by us. It is easy to be critical of Ciaran. The lad has been excellent all season. He will learn from it, he won’t make the same mistake again.”

Villa look ahead to games against Reading and QPR in the next fortnight, sides they share the relegation places with.

Lambert is under no illusions about the importance of the fixtures and is hoping for a repeat of Monday’s determined display.

“The next two games are massive for us,” he said. “If we play like that, we will give teams a fright, that’s for sure.”

Painful memories spur Pirlo

5 March 2013 00:44

Juventus midfielder Andrea Pirlo says he is using the defeat to Liverpool in the 2005 Champions League final to prepare himself for Celtic.

The 33-year-old was part of the AC Milan team that threw away a 3-0 lead in the second half to the Merseyside club in Istanbul in 2005 and eventually lost the match in a penalty shootout.

The experienced midfielder insists that the bad memory will spur him on in Wednesday’s second-leg encounter against Celtic, as his current club hold a 3-0 advantage against Neil Lennon’s side.

“I will never forget the game against Liverpool in Istanbul – for all the wrong reasons,” Pirlo told the Scottish Sun. “And it is a game I will be reminding myself of before Celtic.

“We are in a very strong position and expect to progress after the result in Glasgow – but we can’t think all we need to do is turn up.

“Celtic, for a start, will be wounded. They are a very proud club and have a very proud set of fans. It will have hurt them to see the way they were beaten at their home – and if we are complacent, then that is when they could have their revenge.

“If we stay professional and concentrate then I am confident we can progress. We respect our rivals but to fail against the Scots in Turin would be one of the biggest disasters in the history of this club.”

Despite their spot in the quarter-finals being all but secure, the former Milan maestro concedes that the Serie A club are not favourites to win the competition.

“We have to be realistic, we know we are not favourites for the Champions League. People will look at Bayern, Real Madrid, Manchester United and, even after their defeat, Barcelona,” Pirlo added.

“The most important thing we can do is stay focused against Celtic in Turin — and then we can see what the draw brings after that.”

However, his Chilean team-mate, Arturo Vidal, is adamant that the tie is over and that other clubs will be fearful of drawing Juventus in the next stage of the competition.

He declared: “It is impossible for Celtic to beat our score from the first leg. It would take a miracle for them to go through.

“The difference between the two clubs is huge and it is up to us to show in this game we are in contention to win the Champions League. I think this team can go far in the competition.”