Spalletti happy to stay in Russia

3 May 2013 18:13

Zenit St Petersburg coach Luciano Spalletti says he is “very happy” in his current role, despite reports linking him to Milan.

The 54-year-old Italian has been in charge of Zenit since 2009, leading the club to two league titles and a series of other cup successes.

With Milan slipping off the pace in Serie A this season – they sit third, 18 points behind Juventus – speculation over the future of Massimiliano Allegri has been rife.

Spalletti has been linked with the job, but doused the flames in an interview with Mattina Sport.

He said: “I’m very happy in Russia. I don’t think I’ll be leaving as I’m very attached to the project we have at the club.

“There are already good and young coaches in Italy, whereas I want to respect the contract I have with Zenit.”

Spalletti – who previously managed at Sampdoria, Udinese and Roma – is contracted at the Russian club until 2015.

Zenit, who sit second in the Russian Premier League, are three points behind leaders CSKA Moscow with four matches to play.

Hughton enjoying battle for survival

3 May 2013 18:11

Norwich City manager Chris Hughton says he has been motivated by the challenge of keeping the club in the Premier League.

Hughton is only three matches away from completing his first season in charge at the club, with Norwich still not safe from relegation.

They are six points above the 18th-placed Wigan, who have a game in hand, but can practically secure their survival with victory against Aston Villa at Carrow Road on Saturday.

“It’s always a tough job, but you do the job because of the challenges,” Hughton said.

“We can speak about the challenge now – the challenge of going into these last three games trying to get the results that we need. They’re there throughout the season.

“You do this job because of them, and you never shy away from them, but you also do the job because you have a confidence in what you’re doing. We need to take that confidence into these last three games.”

Villa were superb in a 6-1 mauling of Sunderland on Monday, a match which saw Belgian Christian Benteke net a second-half hat-trick.

The result lifted Villa away from immediate relegation danger and Hughton knows that Paul Lambert’s side will enter the match in good form.

But he said that will not affect his club’s preparation for the match and that they will be focused on what they can do right ahead of Saturday’s crucial clash.

“They’re on the back of a very good performance, but I think what we have to concentrate very much on is ourselves and what we’re prepared to put in to try and win the football match,” he noted.

“We approach every single game the same, in the sense that we want to win every game, but we’re playing in a difficult league with top players playing at top clubs.

“It’s about concentrating on our strengths – we are at home and we’ll have a fabulous crowd behind us, as they were in the Reading game. We have to very much look at the positives.”

Pulis targets top-half finish

3 May 2013 17:58

Stoke boss Tony Pulis is targeting two wins and a draw from his side’s remaining Premier League games to secure a top-10 finish.

Pulis’ men have won their last two games to move onto 40 points and travel to relegation-threatened Sunderland on Monday, although the Welshman has warned his side that they are not safe just yet and is looking for a strong end to a campaign that has seen Stoke flirt with danger for much of its duration.

“We’ve got 40 points and good goal difference which is what we wanted,” he said. “Now is the time to push on. we have to do that because mathematically we’re still not safe.

“We need to get as many points as possible and it would be lovely to finish the season with a few more wins.

“If we can win two of our last three and get a draw we could end up in the top half of the Premier League, which would be a great season for us.”

Stoke will travel to Wearside with a number of fitness issues. Marc Wilson is struggling with a hamstring injury, while Pulis also cast doubt over Andy Wilkinson and Glenn Whelan’s availability for the trip to the Stadium of Light.

“Marc is still a concern for us and so are Andy and Glenn after they came off on Saturday,” he said.

“We’ve got three people who we’re not sure of and we could certainly do with one of the defenders being fit. Fingers crossed, but at the moment those

three are a concern.”

Mancini: Sinclair should leave Man City

3 May 2013 17:27

Roberto Mancini believes Scott Sinclair should look to leave Manchester City, after a frustrating season at the Etihad Stadium.

Sinclair signed for City in a reported eight million pound move on transfer deadline day in August but has since gone on to start just two games for the club.

The winger netted eight goals in 38 games for newly promoted Swansea in the 2011-12 season and Mancini believes Sinclair is good enough to play for City, but should look to leave for the good of his career.

The Italian said: “Scott is young and he has good quality, but it was difficult for him this year.

“I think that it would be better if he could find another solution, because if he stays here maybe I can change how I feel but I can understand his frustration at the moment because he hasn’t played a lot of games.

“I don’t know because this situation with Sinclair is difficult because I didn’t give him a lot of chances to play and I think that it is also difficult for him.

“It is not his fault – it is my fault. I think Scott is a good player and he deserves to play. So it was always difficult for him this year.”

With Sinclair possibly on his way out, City have been linked with a move for Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Fernandinho.

The Brazilian has impressed many this season with his dynamic displays, racking up nine assists from 34 games, but Mancini conceded chasing the player’s signature would be tough.

He added: “I don’t know. We can talk about Fernandinho, he is a good player. He plays for Shakhtar and is like all the other good players.

“I don’t think like there are a lot of good players around the world [that City could get] because there are four or five top teams who buy good players and this will make it difficult.”

Mancini’s side take on Swansea at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday and the 48-year-old is eyeing a win that would go a long way to guaranteeing second spot in the league and enable the Italia to give the lesser-used members of his squad a chance to impress in their last few games.

“Tomorrow is important for us, to win against Swansea, and we know it will be difficult,” he said.

“But if we win tomorrow we will get the chance to play our young players and also players that play for the second team, maybe, for the last two games. It is also important for us for the future.”

Di Canio bemoans ´relaxed´ Sunderland performance

He has urged them to bounce back against Stoke City on Monday at the Stadium of Light.

“After two good wins, and the results we saw for Wigan and Newcastle (last weekend), we relaxed too much,” he said.

“It’s clear that is true. We have to remember that if we don’t perform like we can, we can receive a big slap every time.

“We must make sure we drop back to how we were over the previous three weeks.”

Di Canio experienced similar situations as a player and said he understood why and how it happens.

However, with his Sunderland still involved in the fight to avoid relegation, the Italian said it was not something which could be tolerated.

“When I was a player, we won an important game against a top side, and then the week after lost 7-1,” he said.

“I don’t accept it as a manager, but I know it can happen. It’s not acceptable, especially in this moment of the season.

“People say we need three points, but in the end we have to get them. No one can give out the guarantee.

“We have to make sure we don’t repeat it.”