Marseille look to make up ground

22 November 2012 00:40

Marseille host Europa League Group C leaders Fenerbahce on Thursday, desperate for a win to keep their hopes of progress alive.

The French side are third in the group, level with second-placed Borussia Moenchengladbach and five points behind Fenerbahce.

The last time they played, Marseille had a 94th-minute goal from Andre Ayew to thank for securing them a 2-2 draw in Istanbul.

With injuries to key players and a 1-0 loss to Bordeaux in Ligue 1 at the weekend, Baup has warned his side they are in for a tough time on Thursday.

“Our group is made of talented squads. We are speaking about a European cup,” Baup said.

“When you are in a group with the Moenchengladbach, Fenerbahce or even (Cypriot side AEL) Limassol, you know that it is a proper European challenge. The group is not easy.

“We did start not too badly by drawing in Fenerbahce or after, Limassol (a 5-1 win at home). However, we had more difficulties against Moenchengladbach.”

Baup said his side’s chief goal this season is to do well in Ligue 1, where they sit in fourth place, but insisted they will be giving their all on Thursday.

“As you all know, the league in France is our main goal, but to do so we have to be in the best position in the table,” he said.

“Already seven or eight clubs are trying to get a place for next season’s Champions League. After all, the Europa league is as well a great competition. We will do our best.”

Petkovic on guard amid Spurs downturn

22 November 2012 00:20

Lazio coach Vladimir Petkovic is not underestimating Tottenham ahead of Thursday’s Europa League clash between the two sides.

Spurs sit second in Group J, two points behind Lazio, but have won only once so far in the Europa League and have lost four of their past five matches in all competitions.

Lazio welcome Andre Villas-Boas’ side to Rome’s Olympic Stadium knowing a win would guarantee their progress to the knockout stages, but Petkovic said his men are not getting ahead of themselves.

“We are mathematically forced to win tomorrow if we want to finish on top of our group and that’s what we would like to do, closing this first stage of the competition tomorrow,” Petkovic said.

“It won’t be our last chance, but we want to do it, we want to win the match.

“I need players who are mentally and physically at 100 percent, because against an opponent such as Tottenham we need to give all that we have, as we have done in the last matches. I need players at their best.

“I don’t think they’ve been overrated, they’ve proved their value after the first leg against us (a 0-0 draw in September).

“They’re going through a negative moment again now, they’re suffering a bit, but for that reason they could be even more dangerous, because they might want to come back with some good results and performances – they surely want to find their confidence back.

“The match is very important for them too if they want to continue the competition in Europe.”

Troubled former England star Paul Gascoigne will be in attendance at the match, 20 years after his move from White Hart Lane to Lazio.

Gascoigne has battled addiction problems in recent years and Petkovic said it would be nice to see him at the ground.

“Gascoigne is an important player who entered in the history of Lazio, everyone will be pleased (to see him here again),”he said.

“It will surely be another reason to come at the stadium to watch the game tomorrow.”

Blatter mends FA rift

22 November 2012 00:02

FIFA president Sepp Blatter says there is no rift between England’s Football Association and the sport’s governing body.

Relations between the two organisations have been at an all-time low since England’s failed World Cup bid ended in accusations of corruption and mistrust.

But speaking at the FA’s brand new national football centre at St. George’s Park on Wednesday, Blatter said he hoped for ‘friendship’ and ‘co-operation’ from both sides.

“Where there are human beings, from time to time relations are not as they should be in a very educated family,” he said.

“When you are able to bring everybody back to the same level, this has been done in the past especially the FIFA president with the FA so we are very happy to participate, if modestly to the creation of St. George’s Park.

“But what is more important for me is to sign memorandum of understanding with the FA. This is good for football, it’s 150 years of the FA, and it’s a much older organisation than FIFA.

“Therefore it is as much out of respect that the FIFA family works with the FA and I think everyone will applaud that this memorandum of understanding will be signed today.”

The 76-year-old also weighed into the coaching situation at Chelsea, which saw Roberto Di Matteo relieved of his duties on Wednesday.

After two wins in eight league and cup games, Roman Abramovich moved swiftly to appoint former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez until the end of the season, making him the ninth Chelsea boss in nine years.

“This is a problem which is linked with the technical bench and the direction of operations and the ownership of football,” Blatter said.

“Unfortunately if you are not successful the first victim isn’t the owner and it isn’t the players, it is the manager.

“It’s not just England where this is the case, in my own country a manager, (Bernard) Challandes has been asked just to leave (Swiss club FC Thun), why? No success.

“No success is not in a contract but this is football, we have to live with that.”

UEFA Champions League Group C wrap: Milan battle through

21 November 2012 23:44

AC Milan advanced to the last 16 of the Champions League after labouring to a 3-1 win over Anderlecht on Wednesday.

Anderlecht started the game impressively but were unable to make the most of their superior possession due to a lack of creativity.

They were punished early in the second half when Stephan El Shaarawy put the Serie A giants ahead at Constant Vanden Stock Stadium.

After Bram Nuytinck was shown a red card, Philippe Mexes netted one of the goals of the competition so far to secure the points.

Tom De Sutter did pull one back for the Belgian outfit but Alexandre Pato restored the two-goal cushion in stoppage time.

Milan put a poor opening period behind them as they found the net two minutes after the restart.

Mattia De Sciglio’s deep cross was controlled exquisitely by El Shaarawy and with his second touch he curled a superbly-placed shot past Silvio Proto.

The hosts were regularly hitting a brick wall as they looked to find a route to goal, and any hopes of a comeback were extinguished in the space of one minute.

Nuytinck was dismissed in the 70th minute as he took away Pato’s legs with the Brazilian ready to go through on goal, but the real blow came from the resultant free-kick.

With his back to goal, Mexes controlled the delivery on his chest and improvised magnificently to loop a stunning overhead kick past an idle Proto from the edge of the area.

John van den Brom brought on De Sutter in the 75th minute and the change proved beneficial as the striker poked in from close range moments later.

Milan took full advantage of an Anderlecht desperate for an equaliser as El Shaarawy burst past the defence before sliding the ball across to Pato for a simple finish in stoppage time.

Zenit St Petersburg came from two goals down to seal a 2-2 draw at home to Malaga.

The visitors shocked the hosts to race into a two-goal lead inside nine minutes, with Diego Buonanotte and Sebastian Fernandez handing their side an early advantage.

A romping start to the second half from the hosts saw them grab a deserved lifeline courtesy of a Danny finish, and the St Petersburg side completed a deserved comeback late on when Viktor Fayzulin emphatically rifled home.

UEFA Champions League Group A wrap: PSG, Porto cruise

21 November 2012 23:29

Paris Saint-Germain booked their passage through to the last 16 of the Champions League after a routine 2-0 victory over Dynamo Kiev.

Ezequiel Lavezzi, who had not previously scored for PSG, grabbed both of the goals for Carlo Ancelotti’s men in the Group A clash in the Ukraine.

The first arrived on the stroke of half-time and was largely due to an excellent pass from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, though the ex-Napoli star’s finish was also of the highest order.

After the break, he put the game out of reach for the hosts with a tap-in following a horrendous defensive lapse.

Neither side was able to assert themselves early on but Ibrahimovic helped carve Dynamo Kiev apart just before the break.

A counter-attack orchestrated by Ibrahimovic, who provided a superb through ball to Lavezzi to finish expertly.

Oleg Blokhin’s side started the second half with purpose.

Lukman Haruna had a well-struck shot from range, but it proved a routine hold for Salvatore Sirigu, and at the other end the hosts were about to be punished for a huge error.

Yevhen Khacheridi was hopelessly short with a back pass under only moderate pressure, and Blaise Matuidi leapt on the error to square for Lavezzi, who was left with a simple finish.

Although the fight was not out of the hosts, Sirigu was in such form that they would not fight their way back into contention.

The Italy international made a marvellous save from a Dudu shot that seemed destined to loop over him and into the net, while he was also alert enough to stop any other threatening moments.

PSG have set up a Group A decider in a fortnight against Porto at the Parc des Princes, in which three points will be enough to secure top spot.

Porto enjoyed almost total domination over Dinamo Zagreb at the Estadio do Dragao, running out as 3-0 winners after a convincing performance.

Despite some nervous moments for the home side, goals from Lucho Gonzalez, Joao Moutinho and Silvestre Varela wrapped up the victory for the Portuguese giants, who had already secured qualification from their group before kick-off.