Marcelo resumes Madrid training

16 August 2012 15:25

Real Madrid have welcomed Marcelo back into their squad after the defender returned from representing Brazil at the Olympics.

The 24-year-old missed the first few weeks of Real’s pre-season due to his obligations with the Brazil, but is now available again, having touched down in the Spanish capital.

Marcelo’s Brazil were beaten 2-1 by Mexico in the final of the Olympics on Saturday.

Madrid resumed regular training action on Wednesday after three days of rest following their pre-season tour of the USA, where they played friendlies against Celtic, AC Milan, Santos Laguna and Los Angeles Galaxy.

Coach Jose Mourinho is preparing his squad for Sunday’s La Liga opener against Valencia.

Robben unfazed by friendly loss

16 August 2012 15:33

Netherlands winger Arjen Robben has insisted Wednesday’s international friendly against Belgium was not about the result.

The Dutch were beaten 4-2 in an entertaining game, but the Bayern Munich ace was not too worried about his team’s loss in Brussels.

“It’s obviously always a bit of a disappointment when you lose because you always play to win. Nevertheless, this match was not so much about the final result,” Robben told

“We are making a fresh start with the team. It would have been nice to win this game, but that was not the important thing for us.

“What really matters is that we were together again and got to talk to each other. We can turn our focus to the future again.

“We still have work to do, as today’s match illustrated. We played a new formation and that takes time. I’m positive about the future, though. We shouldn’t read too much into this loss.”

Netherlands kick off their 2014 World Cup qualification campaign at home to Turkey on September 7.

Newcastle lure Anita from Ajax

16 August 2012 14:42

Newcastle United have confirmed the signing of Ajax midfielder Vurnon Anita for a fee of 8.5 million euros.

The Netherlands international operates primarily as a central midfielder but can also fill in at full-back and has signed a five-year contract at St James’ Park.

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew expressed his delight at the completion of the deal and said he is looking forward to the player blossoming in the northeast of England.

“We are delighted to secure the services of Vurnon,” Pardew told the club’s official website.

“He is an exceptionally talented footballer with great technical ability, which is exactly what I’m looking at in a player. And, at 23-years-old, we hope his best years are at Newcastle.”

Anita played a key role in Ajax’s Eredivisie title-winning campaign last season, scoring two goals in 17 matches.

Pardew revealed he will be ready for the season opener against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday as he has already completed a full pre-season.

“He has come through the Ajax youth system which is world renowned for bringing up players the right way, and I am sure he will fit seamlessly into the squad of players we have here,” he said.

“Vurnon has done his pre-season, and indeed already played one competitive game, so he’s up to speed and ready to play when I need him.”

During his time in Amsterdam, Anita won both the Eredivisie title and the Dutch Super Cup twice, as well as lifting the Dutch Cup on three occasions, and is now ready for a new challenge.

“I won almost everything in Holland so the step was not difficult to make,” Anita said upon his arrival on Tyneside.

“Now I think we can also win trophies with Newcastle and it’s time to do that.

“In the Premier League especially, every game is tough so it can help me also to grow in my football skills.”

Anita also said he had spoken with Pardew about the role he hoped to play in the team.

“I talked to the manager and the coach and they know that I want to play in a defensive midfield place and that’s why they brought me here,” he said.

“But I can play at left-back or right-back, so that’s also no problem.”

Ligue 1 preview: PSG look to rebound

16 August 2012 14:02

Paris Saint-Germain will look to get their Ligue 1 title bid started at Ajaccio on Sunday after an opening-day stumble against Lorient.

After the big-money signings of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva (both AC Milan) as well as Ezequiel Lavezzi (Napoli), a championship for the capital club was considered a foregone conclusion.

That theory was derailed on the opening weekend of fixtures with Carlos Ancelotti’s men requiring a second-half brace from Ibrahimovic to rescue a point for the expensively assembled squad.

The main positive was Ibrahimovic’s undeniable influence on the side as his match-winning qualities were there for all to see in the second half.

Champions Montpellier were held to a draw at home to Toulouse and continue life without last year’s leading scorer Olivier Giroud (Arsenal) away to PSG’s tormentors Lorient on Saturday.

Hurting their cause further was the absence of star playmaker Younes Belhanda, who could miss again through injury.

Lille got their season off to a great start with a last-gasp 2-1 win over Saint-Etienne thanks to Benoit Pedretti’s stoppage-time strike.

The 2011 champions seemed relatively unfazed by Chelsea defector Eden Hazard’s absence and looked fluid in attack with replacements Marvin Martin (Sochaux) and Salomon Kalou (Chelsea) both playing the full 90 minutes.

Lille take on Nancy on Saturday at home with a chance to maintain their two-point buffer over PSG.

Benoit Cheyrou’s sublime volley secured Marseille a 1-0 win over Reims and they tackle Sochaux on Sunday.

Bordeaux picked up where they left off last season, making it seven Ligue 1 wins in a row to defeat Evian 3-2 on the opening weekend, and they take on top-six side from last season Rennes, following their 1-0 defeat to Lyon.

After wrapping up the signing of Brazilian striker Brandao on a free transfer from Marseille, Saint-Etienne get the chance to atone for their loss to Lille when taking on Toulouse on Saturday.

In other fixtures on Saturday, Lyon are at home to newly-promoted Troyes, as are first-placed Bastia to Reims, while Brest host Evian and Valenciennes welcome Nice.

Premier League preview: Fulham v Norwich

16 August 2012 13:53

Norwich City visit Fulham in their English Premier League opener, with Marc Tierney seeking an improvement on last season’s achievements.

Norwich, promoted automatically from the Championship in 2010/11, secured a 12th-placed finish during their first campaign back in the top flight.

Saturday’s match at Craven Cottage is where it all starts again, albeit without manager Paul Lambert, who left for Aston Villa and was replaced by former Birmingham and Newcastle United coach Chris Hughton.

Despite the loss of their impressive manager, defender Tierney is confident Norwich can continue to climb the table under the guidance of Hughton.

“We don’t want to just relax and stay where we are,” he said.

“We want to keep working hard. Normally when a new manager comes in they have to try and turn things around.

“I think it’s probably a bit different as we’ve done so well over the past couple of seasons so we’ve just got to look to continue improving.”

Leeds United’s Robert Snodgrass and Sunderland’s Michael Turner moved to Carrow Road during a pre-season which included a win against Scottish champions Celtic and a draw against Dutch giants Ajax.

Fulham meanwhile did not experience a change in manager, with Dutchman Martin Jol beginning his second season in charge, but he did see a number of players leave.

Veteran midfielder Danny Murphy joined Blackburn along with Dickson Etuhu, while Andrew Johnson (QPR), Pavel Pogrebnyak (Reading), and Orlando Sa and Bjorn Helge Riise (both released) followed the pair out of the club, leaving Fulham short on midfield and striking options.

Although free agents Hugo Rodallega and Mladen Petric have arrived at Craven Cottage, Jol would like to add two more players to his squad.

“We need at least a midfield player, in the midfield area,” he said.

“Up front, we lost four strikers – Orlando Sa went, Bobby Zamora, the Pog (Pavel Pogrebnyak), Andy Johnson went.

“We have got two, Rodallega and Petric, so at least we need one or two strikers as well.”

In the pair’s two meetings last season, Fulham edged Norwich 2-1 at home in April and earned a 1-1 draw at Carrow Road in January.