Bruce targeting midfield reinforcements

29 July 2013 17:48

Steve Bruce has admitted he needs to improve Hull City’s midfield ahead of their first campaign back in the Premier League.

Midfield targets have so far eluded Bruce since promotion from the Championship in May, and the 52-year-old admitted he has found it difficult to bring new players in.

And after seeing his side beaten by Birmingham City in a pre-season friendly on Saturday, Bruce confirmed he would be pursuing central reinforcements in the coming weeks, having already boosted his front line.

“We’ll still maybe look at another couple to add to the squad,” he said after their 2-1 defeat at St. Andrew’s. “It’s proving very, very difficult, more difficult than it’s ever been.

“That’s what the challenge is, you’ve got to find them at the right price and see if they’ll come to us.

“Midfield is the area that concerns me most now we’ve got (Yannick) Sagbo and (Danny) Graham in. If Sone Aluko stays fit we’ve got a group of strikers who are a little bit different.

“We’re still a bit thin in the middle of the park and that’s the area we’ll be looking at.”

Stoke’s Wilson Palacios has been linked with the club, and although Bruce is a fan, he refused to specifically discuss the Honduran.

“It’s wrong for me to talk about other people’s players,” he added. “I’m going to be linked with him (Palacios) because he’s been one of mine.”

“I don’t know if Stoke are going to let him go. He’s certainly a player I like but we’ll see.”

CSL Preview: Table-toppers Evergrande host Guoan

29 July 2013 17:42

It is first against third in the Chinese Super League on Wednesday as Guangzhou Evergrande welcome Beijing Guoan.

Marcello Lippi’s side sit 13 points clear at the top of the table after 17 games, 18 ahead of Guoan, and remain unbeaten this season.

Evergrande have won five CSL games in a row, although Guoan are also in impressive form with one draw and four wins in their last five games in all competitions.

Aleksandar Stanojevic’s defence will need to be alive to the danger posed by Brazilian Elkeson, with the league’s top scorer having netted three goals in his last four games and 18 in total in the CSL.

The sides last met in March, drawing 1-1, and Evergrande will be looking for a favour from Guangzhou R&F, who travel to second-place Shandong Luneng.

Luneng can go within 10 points of top spot if results go their way while Guizhou Renhe will look to climb back into the AFC Champions League spots against bottom side Wuhan Zall.

Renhe are without a win in five matches in all competitions, but will be confident going into their clash at the Wuhan Sports Center Stadium, with the hosts winning just twice all season in the CSL.

Changchun Yatai can climb out of the relegation spots depending on how they fare at away at Qingdao Jonoon. The 2007 CSL champions will need to better Tianjin Teda’s result at 12th-place Hangzhou Greentwon.

Shanghai Shenhua will look to secure back-to-back wins following their victory against Shanghai Shenxin when they face Liaoning Whowin while neighbours SIPG host ninth-place Dalian Aerbin.

Thursday’s last game sees Jiangsu Sainty take on Shanghai Shenxin with both sides winless in their last three CSL outings.

Napoli cancel pre-match party after bus crash

29 July 2013 16:37

Napoli have cancelled planned celebrations ahead of their friendly meeting with Galatasaray out of respect for the victims of a coach crash.

A coach carrying 50 people plummeted off a flyover in Avellino – just over 50 kilometres from Naples – on Monday, leaving 38 people dead and many others injured.

And Napoli have subsequently shelved plans to put on fireworks, singing and acrobatics ahead of their clash with the Turkish club in recognition of the tragedy.

The presentations of the club’s new shirt and recent signings Gonzalo Higuain and Pepe Reina will still take place, though they will be preceded by a minute’s silence at the Stadio San Paolo.

Napoli will hope to use the pre-season fixture to bed in their numerous recent signings, with the Italian club having enjoyed a busy transfer window.

The lucrative sale of Edinson Cavani to Paris-Saint Germain has facilitated the arrival of the likes of Gonzalo Higuain, Dries Mertens and Raul Albiol.

Napoli also have a new coach, former Liverpool and Inter Milan manager Rafael Benitez.

Wilkinson cleared to play in Premier League opener

29 July 2013 16:22

Stoke City defender Andy Wilkinson will be allowed to feature in the club’s opening Premier League fixture with Liverpool this season.

The 28-year-old received a red card in the closing stages of Stoke’s 1-0 pre-season victory over FC Dallas on Saturday.

Manager Mark Hughes believed he would serve his suspension in the Premier League.

But he will instead miss Stoke’s final US pre-season tour game against Philadelphia Union on Tuesday.

“Stoke City can confirm that defender Andy Wilkinson will serve an immediate one-match suspension following his dismissal in Saturday’s 1-0 pre-season friendly victory against FC Dallas,” a statement on the club’s website read.

“The news, which has been confirmed by the Football Association, ensures that Wilkinson is available for selection for the 2013-14 curtain raiser against Liverpool at Anfield.”

Wilkinson featured on 24 occasions in all competitions last season as Stoke secured a 13th-place finish in the Premier League.

Pre-Season Friendly: Kitchee 2 Manchester United 5

29 July 2013 16:07

Manchester United ended their pre-season tour of the Far East and Australia with a comfortable 5-2 victory over Kitchee in Hong Kong.

An emphatic first-half performance saw United run in three goals through Danny Welbeck, Chris Smalling and Fabio.

When substitute Adnan Januzaj added a fourth five minutes into the second half a rout looked on, however goals from Lam Ka-Wai and Alex Tayo Alkande brought the hosts back into the match before Jesse Lingard restored United’s three-goal advantage.

David Moyes gave starts to youngsters Michael Keane and Ben Amos, with Wilfried Zaha and Ashley Young supporting lone striker Welbeck.

The Premier League champions started well and after Anderson had missed two chances, they took the lead in the 16th minute through Welbeck.

Michael Carrick delivered a perfectly lofted pass to Young inside the area and the forward’s volley deflected onto the post, but the rebound fell to Welbeck, who volleyed home first time for his third goal in pre-season.

Six minutes later, the visitors doubled their lead through Smalling.

The defender rose unmarked inside the penalty area to meet a Tom Cleverley cross from the right, and his header was too powerful for Wang Zhenpeng to keep out.

It was all one-way traffic, and after 26 minutes Fabio added a third as United’s dominance continued to pay off.

Zaha had managed to keep a wayward Patrice Evra cross in play before delivering a disguised pass into the path of the Brazilian full-back, and the 23-year-old took the ball in his stride before driving a low shot under Zhenpeng and into the bottom corner.

Moyes made three changes at the break, introducing Lingard, Januzaj and Alex Buttner – and within five minutes Januzaj was on the scoresheet. Buttner was released down the left-hand side and delivered a perfect cross onto the head of the 18-year-old, who made no mistake from six yards.

Kitchee gave the home fans something to cheer about in the 53rd minute as Wai pulled a goal back – the captain picking the ball up on the left, drifting past Carrick and unleashing a left-footed shot into the top corner that Amos could do nothing about.

And they pulled a further goal back just after the hour through forward Alkande.

After soaking up pressure from United, a long ball out of defence found the Nigerian and he cut in from the right before turning away from Buttner to side-foot past Amos.

Lingard sealed the win for United with their fifth goal 10 minutes from time. The 20-year-old found himself alone with four defenders for company before working the ball onto his right foot and unleashing a curling effort into the Zhenpeng’s top corner.