Balotelli, Mancini clash at City training

3 January 2013 15:31

Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli and manager Roberto Mancini were involved in an explosive training ground bust-up on Thursday.

The Italy international is understood to have angered Mancini with a late challenge on team-mate Scott Sinclair at the club’s Carrington base.

The 48-year-old confronted the centre-forward and the pair had to be separated by staff before Balotelli left Carrington shortly after.

Balotelli has been involved in altercations at the club’s training ground before, having previously been photographed clashing with Micah Richards.

The striker has been linked with a potential January exit from Manchester City, with AC Milan rumoured to be interested in making a bid.

Until now, Mancini – one of the controversial star’s staunchest defenders – has insisted the 22-year-old would not be sold, but recently indicated Balotelli had to work harder in training.

Sterling stoked with Suarez on his side

3 January 2013 13:20

Liverpool striker Raheem Sterling has described playing alongside Luis Suarez as ‘one of the best things ever’.

Suarez, 25, scored a double in the Reds’ 3-0 victory over Sunderland on Wednesday night, with the Uruguayan assisting Sterling for his second Premier League goal.

Sterling, who signed a new five-year deal with the Anfield outfit last month, insisted he has learnt a lot from training and playing alongside Suarez, with the 18-year-old admitting he is constantly picking up things from his team-mate.

“Everyone knows how good he is,” Sterling told the club’s official website.

“To play with him is one of the best things ever.

“He speaks to me a lot, telling me to move the ball quicker and stuff like that. In training, I try to watch him and take a few things off him. He’s a great player.

“As a young player, that’s what you’ve got to do – try to take a bit off players like him and (Steven) Gerrard and bring it to your own game.”

Sterling joined Liverpool from QPR’s youth academy in 2010 for a reported fee of 600,000 pounds and has since made 23 first-team appearances.

The youngster has admitted that he is happy with scoring twice so far this campaign, but has revealed his determination to extend that in the coming games.

“I’ve only scored two so that was the best one I’ve scored so far and hopefully there’ll be more,” he added.

“I thought we started a bit slowly (against Sunderland) but then we got into our game as we knew we could play – it was good to get the three points we really needed.”

Flores flags Mourinho move to UAE

3 January 2013 13:05

Al Ahly coach Quique Sanchez Flores believes Jose Mourinho would consider coaching in the UAE.

Speculation has mounted that the Real Madrid boss could depart the Santiago Bernabeu in the near future, with Manchester United touted as one potential destination when Sir Alex Ferguson chooses to retire.

However, Flores has revealed Mourinho expressed an interest in the prospect of working in the Middle East nation when the former Chelsea coach visited the country for the seventh annual Dubai International Sports Conference.

When asked about the prospect of Mourinho moving to UAE, Flores said: “Sure, I can see it perfectly. Jose is a person who is open to the world of football. He loves the work and I’m sure he is open in the future to come here. He knows that the UAE football will grow in the next few years.

“I was having lunch with Mourinho. I was hanging out with Mourinho and (agent) Jorge Mendes. For me it was important because we were talking about football, about his troubles in Spain and how it is different in Spain.

“He was asking me about the UAE league, what the situation is here. It was all very friendly. He told me that as an alternative, the UAE is perfect. Europe is the best option, but it is an alternative because it is a nice place and the UAE have the intention to grow in the future.

“He said ‘Quique, you are very happy here, I can see it in your face.’ He was interested to know about the UAE players and the UAE stars.”

Ibini excited for ´home´ clash

3 January 2013 12:20

Central Coast Mariners young gun Bernie Ibini is relishing the return home on Sunday when the A-League leaders travel to Western Sydney.

The Nigeria-born striker, who has spent most of his 20 years living in Sydney’s west, regularly makes the 75-minute journey along the New South Wales coast to Bluetongue Stadium.

But the commute will be drastically shorter on Sunday as Graham Arnold’s men do battle with this season’s surprise packets at Parramatta Stadium, something the Australian youth international is looking forward to.

“It’s always nice playing those Sydney teams, as I am a Sydney boy,” the 20-year-old said.

“The RBB (Red and Black Bloc) are a great crowd and I am looking forward to the atmosphere that will be at the field on Sunday.

Western Sydney are unbeaten in five games, having claimed the scalps of championship hopefuls Melbourne Victory and high-flying Adelaide United in recent weeks.

The Wanderers’ 2-1 triumph over Victory on New Year’s Day moved them into third position on goal difference but Ibini is hopeful of ending that streak.

“They (Western Sydney Wanderers) are definitely a team that is in form,” he said.

“But hopefully we can beat them at the weekend and keep our buffer at the top of the table.”

The Mariners are two points clear on top of the table thanks to Ibini’s 68th-minute winner against Perth Glory on Monday.

However, the youngster has been confined to a substitute’s role this season, with seven of his 14 appearances coming from the bench.

And while Ibini would ideally like to start more often, he is happy to perform when called upon.

“I think every player wants to try and start as many games as possible,” he said.

“But it’s up to the coach at the end of the day and if he’s happy for me to start on the bench or start the game, whichever one it doesn’t matter to me.

“I just try to go out there and do my best each and every game.”

Kompany not giving up on City title hopes

3 January 2013 12:07

Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany has refused to concede the Premier League champions’ title chances this season.

City trail cross-town rivals Manchester United by seven points but after a busy festive period, Kompany feels he and his team-mates have the graft required to turn the tide after last season’s staggering last-day heroics.

“What I would say is that a couple of years ago, had we fallen seven points behind, we would all have said to ourselves that it would be very difficult,” Kompany said.

“But now we’ve done it, nobody panics. Everything is still possible. We have proved what we can do and everybody is very calm.

“That’s the advantage you get when you win it once. You have that inner confidence.

“When you’ve won the title, you aim for another one. That’s not just the ambition for 2013, but for the future of the club.”

United have piled the pressure on with eight wins in their past nine games, during which time City have dropped eight points.

A last-gasp home loss to United and 1-0 reverse at Sunderland halted City’s momentum, but with Sir Alex Ferguson’s side still in the Champions League, Roberto Mancini’s may be able to capitalise on that in February if they can cut out the poor performances.

“The reason we’re not closer to United is not that we’ve been playing badly,” he said. “We’ve only lost two games, which is not a bad record at this stage of the season.

“But United are doing extremely well and, if they continue to play like they have been doing, it will be difficult.

“But we’re perfectly capable of having a long, long winning streak that will bring us very close. So it’s a good challenge.”

Hurting City’s cause will the departure of Yaya Toure for the Africa Cup of Nations during the next six-week block, while defender and brother Kolo will also be unavailable.

“Yaya has played every game and that shows you how important he is for the team,” Kompany said.

“But that’s something we’ll have to deal with. It is like having an injury, it happens. We believe we have enough players to step up and make the difference.”