Osvaldo slams Premier League standard

30 July 2012 11:45

Roma striker Pablo Osvaldo has hit out at the Premier League, branding the standard of football ‘second-rate.’

The former Espanyol man, who spent four years in Italy between 2006 and 2010 before returning from Spain last summer, came out fighting as he hit back at suggestions that Serie A is in decline.

“Once the Premier League was the most beautiful in the world,” the 26-year-old told Gazzetta dello Sport.

“But I think now the football has become second-rate.

“It’s more fun to play in Italy where every game is a fight, rather than a tournament where the first few teams get an easy 30 points.”

The Argentina-born forward did, however, have some positive words for English football, particularly by praising their hard-line stance on hooliganism.

He added: “We (Italian football) need to go hard on the ultra violent, like they have in England. Football is the greatest sport in the world and it is absurd that a few people can ruin it.”

Looking ahead to the new campaign, Osvaldo admitted Roma are aiming high, but reiterated the need to remain realistic.

“Yes, I think we should be in the mix,” he said.

“I want to win the Scudetto, but we must wait until after our first 10 games to see how our season is going. Obviously we want to finish as high as possible, but our minimum goal is to return to Europe.”

The Argentina-born goalscorer then praised new coach Zdenek Zeman, who he worked with during the 2006-07 season in the south of Italy.

“It was nice to meet (Zeman) after so many years. I had him when I was at Lecce, but I was just a kid. Now the situation has changed, but the relationship has always been excellent. He has not changed at all; we still train really hard.”

And the twice-capped Italy forward is hoping that that hard work will be rewarded with a recall to the national team.

“I was sorry to miss Euro 2012, but I liked how Italy played,” Osvaldo said.

“My goal is to get back as soon as possible, and pair up with (Mario) Balotelli, maybe.

“I saw some of the games from the tournament, and what Mario did against Germany was exceptional. And not to mention up front there was another true talent in (Antonio) Cassano.”

Fergie promises CL group qualifying

30 July 2012 11:19

Sir Alex Ferguson has vowed that Manchester United will progress from the Champions League group stages this term.

The Red Devils were title contenders in the Premier League until the final day of the season but were knocked out of Europe’s premier club competition in December, after only securing victories against lowly-ranked Romanian side Otelul Galati.

“It’s fair to say we threw that one away,” Sir Alex told The Sun.

“That won’t happen again next season. We’ll qualify from the group stages. I’ll make sure of it.”

United dropped into the Europa League and after beating Ajax over two legs, were then impressively beaten by eventual finalists, Athletic Bilbao.

The 70-year-old insisted his side will prepare to compete on all fronts this time.

“European football is hugely important to us and we must compete for the biggest trophies,” he said.

“We need to make a statement — and show everybody last season was just a blip.”

Lahm backs Bayern

30 July 2012 11:06

Philipp Lahm is optimistic about Bayern Munich’s chances in the 2012-13 campaign after they bolstered their ranks with new signings.

The Germany international recently stressed that Borussia Dortmund are the favourites to win the Bundesliga title, but he feels things are looking good for Bayern, too.

“The arrival of players such as (Claudio) Pizarro and others gives us the option of using two formations. I know Pizza from the past, and I know how well he can play off a central striker. He and (Mario) Mandzukic are both great in the air,” Lahm told the club’s official website.

“We have lots of options now, (Xherdan) Shaqiri included. At the back, Dante means there’s more competition. (Mitchell) Weiser can play anywhere, and we have (Tom) Starke as a back-up in goal.

“It all looks good on paper, but all of them have to prove themselves on the pitch – and not just the newcomers, also the players who were regulars last season.”

Bayern start the new season on the road against Greuther Furth on August 25.

Giggs defends not singing National Anthem

30 July 2012 10:38

Ryan Giggs said Wales internationals are committed to Team GB despite not singing the national anthem before games.

The Manchester United midfielder captains Stuart Pearce’s side and, together with fellow Welshmen Craig Bellamy and Joe Allen, caused controversy by not singing God Save the Queen ahead of Thursday’s 1-1 draw against Senegal.

The trio were silent again on Sunday against United Arab Emirates, but following the match Giggs sought to play down the row.

He told reporters: “It’s a personal thing. The British anthem is the same for a Welshman, Scotsman or an Englishman. It’s difficult but it’s not an issue for us.

“It might be for other people but, once the game starts, we’re all pulling in the same direction and I think that’s the main thing.”

Team GB’s third and final group match against Uruguay is on Wednesday at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, and the 38-year-old warned that the national anthem may not be viewed favourably by a majority Welsh crowd.

Giggs said: “The national anthem may not be so warmly received in the Welsh capital. I hope it won’t get booed and I hope the fans will get behind us as they have in our first two games.

“It will mean a lot to all of the Welsh lads to play in our own stadium, our own back yard so it will be a great occasion.”

Giggs became the oldest Olympic scorer at 38 years and 243 days on Sunday, and although UAE equalised, Scott Sinclair and Daniel Sturridge came off the bench to complete a 3-1 win.

The victory sees Team GB top Group A on goals scored ahead of Senegal who unexpectedly defeated Uruguay, and Giggs reflected: “It was a very important win.

“Especially after the Senegal result, and the pressure was on. I’m still disappointed not to play in a World Cup, a Euros or a major tournament and now this is something I’m relishing.”

Mancini concerned over Van Persie chase

30 July 2012 10:28

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini says the club could miss out on signing Robin van Persie from Arsenal.

While City have the resources available to secure Van Persie’s signature, both Manchester United and Juventus are also interested in the Netherlands striker.

And Mancini has acknowledged the outcome of the pursuit is far from certain.

“I don’t know what will happen with Van Persie,” Mancini told The Mirror.

“Now he’s an Arsenal player.

“They are a top team, even though they’ve lost some good players in the last year. For me they are one of the best teams in the world, so it’s not easy for Van Persie to leave a club like this.

“When you are talking about Manchester City, United and Juventus it’s difficult for any player to choose between these three teams.

“But if we have a chance to take him, we will try. He is a top striker like the other strikers we have.”

The Italian manager also claimed his exiting squad is not good enough to win the Champions League, and claimed their main priority will be to try and retain the English Premier League title.

“Defending the title should be our target this year,” Mancini said.

“If we also go well in the Champions League, there could also be a chance that we can arrive in the quarter, semi-final or final.

“We will try to win it but it’s important, for this, that we have a good squad.

“But the Champions League is a strange competition sometimes. I don’t say Chelsea didn’t deserve to win it, but there were better teams than them last year.

“Chelsea probably deserved to win a Champions League three or four years ago, but there are some years when you can (win) a Champions League and not know why.

“Our target for the Champions League should be to go for the second stage after the group.”