Zanetti salutes Palacio heroics

4 April 2013 13:16

Inter captain Javier Zanetti praised team-mate Rodrigo Palacio’s display in his side’s 2-0 Serie A win over Sampdoria on Wednesday.

The Argentine attacker gave Inter the lead in the closing stages of the opening period, before putting the result beyond doubt in second-half stoppage time with his 12th league goal of the season.

“We soaked up a bit of pressure at the start, then afterwards Rodrigo was extraordinary and helped us get these three points,” Zanetti told Inter Channel.

“… He’s a top player and he’s showing everyone that.”

Zanetti also had words of encouragement for promising youngster Mateo Kovacic, who joined Inter in the January transfer window.

“Kovacic? He did brilliantly,” he said of the Croatian.

Inter sit seven points behind third-placed AC Milan, who occupy the final Champions League spot.

Basel pledge no-fear approach

4 April 2013 12:58

Basel coach Murat Yakin says his side have no qualms about facing Tottenham in the Europa League quarter-finals.

The Swiss league leaders enjoyed a strong run in last season’s UEFA Champions League, reaching the last 16 before suffering a heavy defeat to eventual runners-up Bayern Munich.

And the opportunity to reach the last four of the Europa League will be firmly on their minds when they travel to London for Thursday’s first leg.

“We know what results they’ve had and how strong they are at home. That’s our big challenge, to prove ourselves here tomorrow,” Yakin said.

“We need to be confident at the back, and we’ve proven that we can be. But we don’t want to just concentrate on defending, we’ve got the opportunity and ability to score an away goal.

“And that’s what we need to get through this round. The players are looking forward to this game as well as the atmosphere in this stadium. So we’ll be excited when we head onto the pitch tomorrow.”

An away goal for Basel could prove pivotal in helping them secure a semi-final berth, with the return leg taking place in Switzerland next week.

Baup: Barton must take responsibility

4 April 2013 12:41

Marseille head coach Elie Baup says Joey Barton needs to be accountable for his actions after the midfielder abused Thiago Silva.

Barton, on-loan at Marseille from Queens Park Rangers, labelled Silva an ‘overweight ladyboy’ on his Twitter page following Paris Saint-Germain’s 2-2 draw with Barcelona in the Champions League.

Marseille have apologised for their player’s remarks ahead of their Ligue 1 meeting with Bordeaux on Friday but PSG could be set to take legal action against Barton.

“I’m not responding to this. I’m not going to judge these things. But every player has to be accountable for what they do after they leave the training ground,” Baup said.

Despite condemning his comments, Baup said Barton’s potential selection for Friday’s game would not be influenced by the incident.

“Like I said before, he has an important role in the team. I make the decisions. I decided not to start him at Nice,” he said.

“I will have another decision to make against Bordeaux. This is my responsibility. But the rest, beyond football itself within the club, is not my responsibility.”

Marseille occupy second place on the table, seven points back from PSG and one ahead of third-placed Lyon, with automatic Champions League qualification the prize on offer for a top-two finish.

“The final sprint will start in the five or six last games. But before that, we have important games to play, against some direct opponents,” Baup said.

“Clubs like Nice, Bordeaux or Lille. All the games ahead are important before the final sprint.”

Sneijder rues inept performance

4 April 2013 12:41

Galatasaray playmaker Wesley Sneijder concedes he did not contribute enough in his side’s Champions League defeat at Real Madrid.

The Netherlands international featured from the start at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday, but was taken off at half-time after failing to make an impact in his side’s 3-0 reverse.

“Of course I am disappointed. I wanted to finish this game, especially here at the Santiago Bernabeu where I played in the past. I was unable to do that and that’s disappointing,” the Dutchman told NOS.

“I am in good physical condition and I’m feeling good. I did have a few minor physical problems, though, because I had to do a lot of running. But that’s not an excuse, because it’s clear that I should have offered more.

“Normally, I receive the ball between the lines when I am available for one or two seconds, but not this time. When that doesn’t happen, you’re pretty much invisible. It might have looked pretty bad, but it wasn’t that poor.”

Galatasaray will be looking to bounce back from their loss to Real in next week’s second leg of the quarter-final tie.

Bundesliga preview: Bayern braced for title glory

4 April 2013 12:31

Bayern Munich can seal the club’s 23rd league title with victory over Eintracht Frankfurt in the Bundesliga on Saturday.

The Bavarian club have been a runaway success this season but few would have thought Jupp Heynckes’ men would be in the position to clinch the title with seven games remaining.

Bayern brushed aside Juventus 2-0 in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday but were dealt a blow when playmaker Toni Kroos limped off after 20 minutes.

Kroos faces missing the rest of the season and his absence could prove more telling in the latter stages of the Champions League, given his growing influence and flexibility this term.

Borussia Dortmund must know their fate is sealed. With a 20-point gap to Bayern, their chances of a third straight title are all but over.

Juergen Klopp’s side have been well short of the mark in the league this season despite charting a similar progression to Bayern in the Champions League.

Dortmund have a few injury concerns having taken left-back Marcel Smeltzer (nose), Sven Bender and Kevin Grosskreutz (both foot) into their Champions League clash with Malaga underdone.

Poland winger Jakub Blaszczykowski missed the match with a strained adductor and is a doubt for Saturday’s visit of Augsburg.

Third-placed Bayer Leverkusen host Wolfsburg while struggling Hoffenheim welcome Fortuna Dusseldorf under the guidance of new manager Markus Gisdol following Marco Kurz’s sacking on Tuesday.

After four wins in five league games, fourth-placed Schalke will look to make further inroads up the table at lowly Werder Bremen.

On Saturday, Borussia Moenchegladbach are at home to last-placed Greuther Furth, Hamburg take on Freiburg and Nuremberg welcome Mainz.

Hannover take on Stuttgart in a mid-table battle to complete the round on Sunday.