Zanetti ruled out for six months after Achilles op

30 April 2013 22:14

Inter defender Javier Zanetti is set for six months on the sidelines following successful Achilles tendon surgery.

The club captain, who has made close to 850 appearances for the Italian side, ruptured his Achilles during Sunday’s Serie A defeat to Palermo.

But, after operating on the 39-year-old, Professor Franco Benazzo has revealed that everything went to plan.

“The operation was a complete success, it lasted around an hour, an hour and a quarter,” he said.

“How long will it take him to recover? He’ll have his foot in a cast for the next three weeks and won’t be able to walk on it, then he will start to walk in phase two of his physiotherapy.

“As ever in cases like these we’re looking at six months out of action, just as we’ve seen from other examples in recent times.

“Does his incredible physique give him an advantage? He’s proved it by playing until the age of 40 and he will do so again.

“Is there a chance he might lose a bit of fitness after an operation like this? In general terms no, but locally the muscle mass will decrease slightly during the time his foot’s immobile.”

There has been speculation since Sunday’s game over whether or not Zanetti will play again for Inter, but club president Massimo Moratti expects him to return.

“It’s very sad, I feel really bad for him,” said Moratti.

“He knows that, I spoke to him straight after it happened. But with his character he’ll be back, no doubt about it. He will be back playing his best.”

Schweinsteiger wary of ´dangerous´ Barcelona

30 April 2013 20:23

Bayern Munich midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger believes Barcelona are more than capable of reaching the UEFA Champions League final.

The German side hold a four-goal lead over the La Liga table-toppers going into Wednesday’s semi-final second leg, but the midfielder believes they will have to play at their best to reach the Wembley showpiece.

Barca beat Bayern 4-0 in a quarter-final tie in 2009 and Schweinsteiger has told his team-mates to blank out the atmosphere at Camp Nou and focus on the match.

“Barcelona can turn the tie around – they are capable of it,” he said.

“Barcelona have been wounded so that makes them dangerous. The first leg has opened the door but we haven’t crossed the threshold yet.

“It’ll be a difficult match as few teams have stood up to Barcelona at the Camp Nou. We have to be even more focused than in the first leg. It’ll be tough because Barcelona are capable of great things.

“The pitch is slightly larger so it might be tough for those who haven’t played here before.

“The Barcelona fans will get behind their team, but we have to stay focused on our objective and forget what is around us.

“It’s always an honour to represent this club and these nights are always special. We have to be ourselves and we want to represent the club because we’re proud of it.

“It’s an honour to play this match. We are in top form and it is great to be able to play at Camp Nou, really motivating.”

Pique ´100 percent´ confident Barca will turn Bayern tie around

30 April 2013 19:27

Gerard Pique is fully confident Barcelona can recover from their first-leg defeat at Bayern Munich to make the UEFA Champions League final.

The Catalan side were thrashed 4-0 in the Allianz Arena, with Mario Gomez and Arjen Robben adding to Thomas Muller’s double to leave the newly-crowned Bundesliga champions with one foot of the final.

But Pique insists that Tito Vilanova’s side are more than capable of turning the scoreline around, providing they can strike early at Camp Nou on Wednesday night.

He said: “We believe we will turn this around 100 per cent. We need to score a goal as soon as possible to get more and more confident.

“After a 4-0 result you do doubt yourself, but as days go on, you suddenly believe you can do this. Football is very psychological.

“The team is fine, and very confident that we will do all we can to stay alive for the whole match.

“We need to not concede goals, score at least one early on and fight until the end. We represent a club that does not consider giving up, a club that has won a lot and has a long history. We represent Barcelona and we will want to give a good image.

“I remember when I was seven and we lost 4-0 against AC Milan [in the final] and I remember how my father was when we lost. Tomorrow we can be childlike in the sense that we can believe and we can dream, but it is going to be very hard.”

Lionel Messi scored twice as Barcelona beat the Germans 4-0 at home in 2009 and, although Pique expects a much tougher test this time round, the World Cup-winner hopes that having the Argentine star fully-fit will be vital if they are to score they goals they need.

“We won 4-0 in 2009 but they are a different team, a lot better team, with a different coach and different players. It is very different. They are much better than that team,” Pique continued.

“We have to open up the pitch, have the ball and play fast football. In recent years we have proved we can beat anyone in any situation.

“We need the fans to back us and try to feel we are not knocked out of the Champions League yet. We have to try to find all the right circumstances to win the match. If everything goes in our favour, we can do it.

“Tomorrow we have 90 minutes to hit Bayern psychologically with the help of the fans. They could also score a goal and then to score six goals is a lot tougher. But we believe.

“We know what [Lionel] Messi means. He is the best in the world and to have him in the team is the best news. We need everyone, especially Messi. I do not want us to commit mistakes because we have enough work as it is to play a good match and be better than the opponent.

“We do not have anything to prove because we have done it time and time again. If tomorrow we have enough desire to win, it is because we want to prove we can do it and for the fans. We want to do it for them. The fans are grateful to this team and they deserve for us to play a good match tomorrow.”

Vilanova: Barcelona will fight to the end

30 April 2013 19:07

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova has promised that his side will “fight to the end” of their UEFA Champions League clash with Bayern Munich.

The La Liga leaders require a significant turnaround to reach the tournament final, having suffered a 4-0 defeat in the first leg of the teams’ last-four meeting in Germany.

However, Vilanova is refusing to write off his side’s chances, and is expecting a vociferous Camp Nou crowd to boost the team on Wednesday.

“I expect that we will be ourselves – that we will try to be better than Bayern,” he said. “We know we have to score, I know we can do that.

“We should be ourselves – that is the important thing. Scoring goals but also playing good football. It is very obvious we cannot concede, it will make it that much harder, but we have to get goals as well.

“The players are aware of the difficulty of the match. We are Barcelona and we cannot take this tie for being lost already. If we do not make it, we have to hold our heads high, fight until the end and have our fans feel proud about us.

“We know we need the fans. It is not the same to have a quiet stadium compared to a stadium full of people cheering. Bayern had everyone cheering for them and that helped them without a doubt. But we cannot always ask the fans for help, we also have to give them something back in return.”

Vilanova went on to emphasise the importance of Gerard Pique and Lionel Messi to Barcelona’s hopes, with the pair having been sidelined through injury at various points during the campaign.

“When I said that without Pique we would not be the same team, I mean it. His season has been excellent. The fact that we have conceded goals has to do with the fact some players have been injured,” he continued.

“We know how important Messi is in our team especially when it comes to scoring goals. The better he plays, the better for the team. But we cannot put all the pressure on his shoulders, the rest of the team also has to help him. Obviously Messi will have a lot to say in tomorrow’s match.”

The 44-year-old coach revealed that Javier Mascherano will not feature due to injury, while Sergio Busquets’ participation is also in doubt.

“Mascherano will not be able to play tomorrow. He needs six weeks to recover and only four have gone by, so he will not be in the team,” he added.

“Sergio Busquets and some others are still suffering from minor injuries. We will see after the training session if Busquets is fit to play. “

Rodgers keen for more transfer success

30 April 2013 18:23

Brendan Rodgers says he is hopeful Liverpool can repeat their January success when entering the transfer market at the end of the season.

The Merseyside club reinforced their attack with the signings of Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho during a productive mid-season transfer window.

And with both players having made a positive impression since their arrivals, Rodgers is aiming for more of the same.

“The club respect where we need to strengthen and where we need to improve,” the 40-year-old told Sky Sports.

“We have seen from the last window in January, we got our business done early and brought in two outstanding players in Sturridge and Coutinho.

“Hopefully we will have a similar impact in the summer. If we can do that, that will make me really happy with the group going forward.

“I just think we need a bit more depth and a bit more quality.

“The players this year have done very well. I have asked everything of them and, in the main, they have done very well.

“The majority of the time, there have not been too many performances where I have been really disappointed.”