Papin ´hugely impressed´ by Ibrahimovic

25 September 2012 11:42

Former France international Jean-Pierre Papin believes Paris Saint-Germain star Zlatan Ibrahimovic can score more than 30 goals this season.

The Sweden international has already netted seven times in five Ligue 1 appearances so far, and Papin expects the towering forward to break his personal record of 28 league goals in a season that he set at AC Milan last term.

“It’s impossible to predict how many goals he will make. There will always be a few games without goals and injuries or suspensions. It will be difficult for him to keep up his current goal-to-games ratio,” Papin told RMC.

“He is surrounded by a great team and I think that he can surpass my 30 goals (from 1989-90). (Josip) Sklobar’s record tally of 44 goals might be a bridge too far, but he has still hugely impressed me.

“I don’t envy him, because he has different qualities than I had. It’s quite rare to see a player with his physical appearance move so smoothly in front of the goal. I really like his combination of power and finesse.

“He reminds me a bit of Marco van Basten. He has the same style of play, but is even more of a physical presence.”

Ibrahimovic will be looking to add to his tally on Thursday when PSG host Sochaux.

Pepe pleased with Real focus

25 September 2012 11:25

Pepe has urged his Real Madrid team-mates to show the focus they displayed in their 2-0 win over Rayo Vallecano for the remainder of the season.

The Santiago Bernabeu side bagged the full three points courtesy of goals from Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo, and Pepe is determined to build on Monday’s victory.

“The most important thing is that we won the game. It was a difficult match, but we worked hard and showed that we’re a solid team that’s capable of winning things,” the Portugal international told Marca.

“The season has really started for us now. We have a number of important games coming up and we have to show the same focus that we displayed against Rayo.

“Rayo made life difficult for us with their good players, and we have to keep up our good work in the next few weeks.”

Real Madrid resume Liga action on Sunday at home against Deportivo la Coruna.

Reja: Napoli, Lazio could be challengers

25 September 2012 10:50

Edy Reja believes Lazio and Napoli have the quality to fight for the Italian league title this season.

Reja, who coached Lazio from 2010 until 2012, and Napoli from 2005 until 2009, sees Juventus as heavy favourites to win the Scudetto, but feels his two former teams could take advantage if the Turin giants slip up.

“Lazio and Napoli got disappointing results at the weekend, but I believe that both teams have what it takes to challenge for the Scudetto,” Reja told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“Juventus are superior to any other team, but they also play Champions League football and that could affect them in Serie A.

“Lazio and Napoli are the two first teams to possibly take advantage of it if Juventus slip up.

“AC Milan are going through a transitional year. Fiorentina are a team that could surprise this season. They are a good team with a great trainer, who has all my respect.”

Napoli are second in Serie A, while Lazio occupy third spot ahead of the teams’ meeting in the league on Wednesday.

Gerrard, Rodgers want fair deal for Suarez

25 September 2012 10:35

Steven Gerrard and Brendan Rodgers have urged referees to not to pre-judge Luis Suarez, after another match where he was accused of diving.

The Uruguay international was booked following a collision with Manchester United defender Jonny Evans during the clash at Anfield on Sunday and the Liverpool skipper believes his 25-year-old team-mate has an unfair reputation for going down easily inside the penalty area.

Gerrard was, however, careful not to suggest Suarez is completely innocent of simulation, and refused to deny his booking for a similar offence against Sunderland was unfairly given.

“I think even when Luis does get blatant penalties now he doesn’t get them,” Gerrard told reporters.

“It is down to referees to not judge him and give what they see – if it’s not a penalty, don’t give him one but if it’s clear give it.

“He was booked at Sunderland but against United it was a penalty.”

Glen Johnson echoed his captain’s sentiments regarding Suarez, adding that a referee must make instinctive decisions and not allow previous behaviour to fog their judgement.

“Everyone has to do their job: they have to forget about who they are looking at and make their decisions and not let anything from the past affect their decision,” Johnson said.

“They have to call the shots at the time, regardless of who it is.”

Suarez’s boss Brendan Rodgers said diving is definitely an issue in the modern game, but said Suarez has been unfairly treated in recent weeks.

“You see it in the modern game, across the board, a number of players go to ground too easily and they get their rewards sometimes,” he said.

“If you look at Luis last week away at Sunderland he goes down, there is contact but he gets booked for it then yesterday he didn’t get it.”

Fiorentina clash has Bonucci on guard

25 September 2012 10:25

Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci has warned his team-mates not to underestimate Fiorentina in Tuesday night’s Serie A match.

The centre-back believes the Viola will be Juve’s toughest opponent so far, and has stressed that the reigning champions will have to be on top of their game if they want to continue their 43-game unbeaten run.

“In my opinion, Tuesday’s game will be the most difficult match of the season so far,” Bonucci told the club’s official website.

“The match in Florence will be difficult for a thousand and one reasons. They lost 5-0 against us last term, so it will be the game of the season for them. A difficult challenge awaits us.

“We are completely focused on Fiorentina. We will have to show them respect of we could be in trouble on Tuesday,” he said.

The match at the Artemio Franchi starts at 20:45CET.