Stoke set to seal Popov loan move

11 August 2012 13:07

Stoke City are set to sign Dinamo Kiev full-back Goran Popov on a season-long loan deal.

The club have announced that they hope to finalise the move on Monday before the Macedonia international joins up with his national team for their friendly against Lithuania.

Popov, primarily a left-back, faced Stoke in the Europa League last season and left a lasting impression on manager Tony Pulis.

“Goran really impressed me last season,” Pulis told the club’s website. “He’s an experienced player for his age and he has a great left foot on him.

“Naturally gifted left-sided players are like gold dust, so he will give us strength in depth down that left hand side which can only improve us.

“We had him watched when he played in the Europa League against Feyenoord the other night and he did exceptionally well in that game.

“Goran wants to play in the Premier League and he was impressed with us when we played the two games against them in the Europa League.

“It’s a season-long loan, so we have got a good opportunity to see how he adjusts to English football before we make a commitment to signing him.”

Popov, 27, can also operate on the left side of midfield and played for Eredivisie outfit Heerenveen before moving closer to home by joining Dinamo.

He has won 41 caps for his country, scoring in friendlies against Estonia and Montenegro.

Ramires keen to deliver City blow

11 August 2012 12:56

Chelsea midfielder Ramires believes his side have closed the gap on Premier League champions Manchester City.

Roberto Di Matteo has bolstered his squad with the additions of Eden Hazard, Marko Marin and Oscar already while his fellow Italian Roberto Mancini has yet to complete any transfers.

Ramires believes Chelsea’s acquisitions mean they are now ready to challenge for the Premier League title and defend their Champions League crown this season, but need to begin by scoring first blood in the Community Shield at Villa Park on Sunday.

He told The Mirror: “It would be huge for morale and that is why the Community Shield is so important for us. We want to win and show that we can go far.

“City are similar to the team they were last year but Chelsea have made signings and reinforcements and it will be a psychological blow if we beat them.

“Our challenge is to win the Premier League, but we must also balance it with Europe. We are the Champions League holders and we must defend that title for prestige and professionalism.”

Ramires predicts the usual contenders will again jostle for the top spots in the table but believes Chelsea will find it difficult to replicate what he considered to be a ‘dream’ campaign.

“I think it will be a very close season in England. Along with the two Manchester teams, we, Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham will be in the race,” he said.

“Everyone knows I was supportive of Andre Villas-Boas and I hope he does well at Tottenham – but just not against us.

“But this year it will be harder to win games. Personally, last season was a dream for me. Titles and a goal at the Nou Camp against Barca will always be in my head.”

Sirigu backs PSG to handle pressure

11 August 2012 12:45

Salvatore Sirigu believes things will not be as easy for Paris Saint-Germain as many expect in the upcoming season.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men are favourites to win the Ligue 1 title following the signing of stars such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva and Ezequiel Lavezzi.

However, the former Palermo goalkeeper, who moved to the French capital last year, feels there is a lot of pressure on the Paris side to live up to the expectations.

“PSG’s project is such an ambitious one that the pressure will be bigger every year. It’s a bit like driving a Ferrari. It’s not as easy as it seems. You have to know how to drive it,” the Italian told RMC.

“There is always a lot of pressure when you are playing for Paris Saint-Germain. Everybody expects you to win your games easily. But we are a very, very strong team.”

Paris Saint-Germain lock horns with Lorient in their Ligue 1 opener on Saturday.

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.”