Pardew predicts Newcastle resurgence

4 April 2013 08:49

Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew is convinced his side’s difficult season will galvanize them for the next campaign.

After exceeding expectations last season, with the club finishing fifth and qualifying for the Europa League, Newcastle have disappointed this term and sit just three points above the relegation zone with eight games remaining.

The sale of Demba Ba combined with a significant injury list have left Pardew’s squad stripped to its core at times, but the manager thinks they will be in a great position for next year.

“We got caught out a bit in terms of the size of our squad in the Europa League,” Pardew told reporters.

“But we remedied that in January and we will be stronger for this season come next year. We’re in a great position for the (European) summer.

“I’m optimistic (Newcastle will stay up) because we’re playing well. We were unlucky to lose 2-1 at Wigan and need to continue playing like that.”

Newcastle endured a tough period in December and January as the club ended up increasingly closer to the relegation zone, a time in which Pardew admitted he often looked back to his time as a non-league footballer for inspiration.

He added: “I remember how hard it was and that can help you in the dark moments. I have great memories, like playing in the third round of the FA Cup, which was huge at the time.

“That was probably the highlight of my career then. You always dream of pulling a big club out of the hat in the FA Cup as a non-league player. Non-league is the fabric of our game.”

Wenger unfazed by Walcott slump

4 April 2013 08:35

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has dismissed claims that Theo Walcott’s form has tailed off due to signing a new contract back in January.

The England international had been excellent for the Gunners during the first part of the season and bagged 10 goals in 18 appearances by the turn of the year, but since agreeing a new deal he has scored just once, against Liverpool over two months ago.

However, Wenger does not believe that his drop in form and new contract are related, adding that the former Southampton man looks as hungry as ever, backing him to find his form again in the near future.

“I don’t believe that. If he didn’t play well and had not signed a contract, then people would say the opposite,” Wenger said to reporters.

“I don’t think that is linked, especially with the fact that he has signed a contract or not. Because you can say as well he is more secure, he can express himself.

“I don’t see any difference in attitude in training. He is a guy who loves football, who stays after training, works on his finishing.

“He was just a bit less decisive. He needs that fraction of a second to make the difference. He needs his pace.

“In recent games he dropped a little bit. I think it was the fact that he got the muscular injury, so it was down to fatigue.

“At Bayern, he did not have the greatest game but he still brought the goal and he looks dangerous. Until recently he made the difference time after time. He will come back.”

Walcott is currently battling a groin injury and is in doubt for Arsenal’s trip to West Brom this weekend.

Goetze rues profligate display

4 April 2013 08:26

Borussia Dortmund star Mario Goetze was frustrated by his inability to convert chances in his side’s 0-0 Champions League draw with Malaga.

Juergen Klopp’s men had a handful of opportunities to take an away goal into the second leg of the quarter-final tie, with three falling to the 20-year-old, but some wasteful finishing saw the hosts keep a clean sheet at La Rosaleda on Wednesday.

Goetze was denied two times within five minutes when one-on-one with Willy Caballero in the first half and lashed wide from a great position a few yards out after the interval.

“I could’ve helped the team out a great deal by scoring at least one goal,” the German international told reporters after the match.

“It’s a shame that I wasn’t able to do that. We still have to be satisfied with the result and we still have a return leg.”

But team-mate Ilkay Gundogan defended Goetze, insisting that the misses will not be dwelled upon.

“We showed a good performance for an away match and created several decent chances,” Gundogan said. “Mario had three or four (chances) and he usually puts at least one of those away. It wasn’t meant to be but it was also important to keep a clean sheet.”

Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller also emphasised the importance of keeping a clean sheet, saying: “We can be satisfied with 0-0.

“Our goal was to keep a clean sheet. It’s a shame we didn’t score. I’m satisfied nonetheless. Nothing is decided yet but we can set things straight at our home ground.”

CONCACAF Champions League: LA Galaxy 1 Monterrey 2

4 April 2013 07:05

Monterrey hit back with two late goals to take a 2-1 lead into their CONCACAF Champions League semi-final second leg with LA Galaxy.

Humberto Suazo and Aldo de Nigris netted in the final eight minutes to swing the tie firmly in the Mexican side’s favour.

The Galaxy led after 28 minutes when Robbie Keane’s cross was nodded back across goal by Mike Magee for AJ DeLaGarza to head home.

Galaxy star Landon Donovan came on in the 63rd minute for his first spell at the Home Depot Center following a three-month sabbatical and flashed a shot immediately wide.

Monterrey made the MLS side pay on 82 minutes when Suazo turned home Cesar Delgado’s cross after de Nigris’ initial blocked shot.

Then, four minutes into stoppage time, De Nigris latched onto Guillermo Madrigal’s flick on to fire the winner inside the far post.

Europa League preview: Semi-final spots up for grabs

4 April 2013 06:22

Three English sides will be vying for a place in the Europa League semi-finals as the quarter-finals get underway on Thursday.

Champions League holders Chelsea will face Russia’s Rubin Kazan in the first leg at Stamford Bridge and will be playing their third game in five days after facing Southampton in the Premier League and Manchester United in the FA Cup.

Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez will be missing two key defensive figures with Ashley Cole limping off against Manchester United with a hamstring injury and Gary Cahill having already been ruled out with a knee injury.

Rubin Kazan, who knocked out Europa League holders Atletico Madrid in the round-of-32, have a fit squad to choose from and will be buoyed by having gone five games in all competitions without a loss.

Tottenham will host the first leg of their clash against Swiss side Basel at White Hart Lane.

After beating Inter Milan 3-0 in the first leg of their round-of-16 clash, Spurs found themselves in desperate trouble after their Italian opponents forced the game into extra time at the Giuseppe Meazza.

But a 96th-minute Emmanuel Adebayor strike got Spurs a crucial away goal and they progressed despite Inter again levelling the tie with 10 minutes of extra time to spare.

Andre Villas-Boas will be without defensive midfielder Sandro (knee) and there is a question mark over USA international Clint Dempsey, who did not feature in the squad for Spurs’ last game against Swansea City.

Basel have a deadly Swiss strike force featuring veterans Alexander Frei and Marco Streller and hopes will be high that they can find the back of the net with the duo contributing 19 league goals this season.

Fresh from a 4-0 loss in the league to Manchester City, Newcastle United will travel to Portugal to take on Benfica at the Estadio do Sport.

Alan Pardew’s side have been riddled by injuries and captain Fabricio Coloccini (back), Tim Krul (ankle), Cheick Tiote (hamstring), Hatem Ben Arfa (knee), Davide Santon (hip) and Mathieu Debuchy (hamstring) are among a swathe of players all unlikely to be in contention.

The Portuguese side are fresh off a 6-1 win against Rio Ave in the Liga Sagres and possess prolific Paraguayan hitman Oscar Cardozo, while supremely skilled veteran Pablo Aimar can still prise open a defence at the age of 33.

Turkish side Fenerbahce welcome Lazio to the Sukru Saracoglu Stadyumu in Istanbul.

Having won four of their past five matches and sitting second in the Super Lig, Fenerbahce will be primed to take on their Italian opponents, who are 18 points off the pace and fifth in Serie A.

Both sides will have their key players available for selection as they bid to get the upper hand in the first leg.