Archive for January, 2013

Varane’s Star Rises with Defining Performance in Real Madrid Draw with Barcelona

Varane tackling

 

With 10 minutes remaining in a typically tumultuous Clasico, and despite Barcelona’s 1-0 advantage, Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane had already staked his claim as the outstanding player of a match graced by the best in the world.

The 19-year-old Frenchman was making his first appearance in football’s most vital fixture. Injuries in Madrid’s ranks led to his opportunity, and he seized it with all the maturity Jose Mourinho saw in him when he signed Varane from French club Lens (H/T Marca).

Varane had already cleared off the line from Pedro, denied Cesc Fabregas with a brilliant saving tackle and put the strongest of arguments to Mourinho that he deserves to start in Madrid’s Champions League last-16 tie against Manchester United.

He wasn’t done yet.

With time running out and Madrid perhaps fortunate to still be just one goal down, Mesut Ozil took possession. The German had been isolated and frustrated on the right flank for most of the evening, but this time he found room to cross.

Varane’s Star Rises with Defining Performance in Real Madrid Draw with Barcelona
BY WILL TIDEY (WORLD FOOTBALL LEAD WRITER) ON JANUARY 30, 2013 2,448 reads 12
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Denis Doyle/Getty Images
With 10 minutes remaining in a typically tumultuous Clasico, and despite Barcelona’s 1-0 advantage, Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane had already staked his claim as the outstanding player of a match graced by the best in the world.

The 19-year-old Frenchman was making his first appearance in football’s most vital fixture. Injuries in Madrid’s ranks led to his opportunity, and he seized it with all the maturity Jose Mourinho saw in him when he signed Varane from French club Lens (H/T Marca).

Varane had already cleared off the line from Pedro, denied Cesc Fabregas with a brilliant saving tackle and put the strongest of arguments to Mourinho that he deserves to start in Madrid’s Champions League last-16 tie against Manchester United.

He wasn’t done yet.

With time running out and Madrid perhaps fortunate to still be just one goal down, Mesut Ozil took possession. The German had been isolated and frustrated on the right flank for most of the evening, but this time he found room to cross.
Varane anticipated his inswinging ball, sprung with a conviction that had been lacking in Madrid’s finishing all evening and sent a superb header past a helpless Jose Pinto to bring them level. Whether Madrid deserved it is up for debate.

Whether Varane did is not.

On a night billed as the continuing battle between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, Varane emerged as the most unlikely of stars. This was his coming-out party, and the early signs suggest Madrid have acquired a defender with the potential to be at the foundation of their trophy challenges for the next decade to come.

Varane’s partner Ricardo Carvalho will be more relieved than anyone. The veteran endured a difficult night and was exposed time and again by Barcelona’s quick-footed forward play.

The visitors, as usual, dominated possession and, as usual, had to survive an early Madrid flurry. Madrid started with a high line and attempted to force the agenda. Ronaldo had a free kick saved by Pinto, and was inches below a Karim Benzema cross that fizzed over his head a couple of yards out.

Barca bided their time. Soon enough a lifted pass from Andres Iniesta released Jordi Alba, but the fullback finished like a fullback. Then Xavi struck the bar from a free kick. Then Varane slid in to deny them on the goal-line.

By halftime, the game had fallen into its natural rhythm. Barca would have most of the ball, Madrid would threaten on the break.

Straight after the interval, Benzema and Ronaldo linked superbly, only for the Frenchman to blaze over. Five minutes later, Fabregas capitalised on a poor clearance from Jose Maria Callejon to break the Madrid line and sweep a crisp shot past Diego Lopez—in for the injured Iker Casillas.

Fabregas could have added another soon after, but for another fine piece of work from Varane. The former Arsenal man had a further chance in the 70th minute, but again fluffed his lines.

In the meantime, Ronaldo had been agonisingly close to converting Michael Essien’s cross to the back post but was thwarted by a fine tackle from Gerard Pique. The Barca man was almost as impressive as Varane, showing his true worth and making a mockery of the criticism he receives.

With 20 minutes to go, Barca were on top, but Madrid’s looming threat suggested strongly they needed a second to be safe. Barca’s best opportunity to double their lead would fall to Pedro, the winger dragging a shot wide with the goal at his mercy.

Then came Varane’s crescendo, a goal that brought the Bernabeu to its feet and pointed towards a brighter future. It was Varane’s third goal for Madrid, but it will have felt like his first.

Madrid will go to Camp Nou level at 1-1, and with everything to play for.

Moreover, they will go there with a new star in their ranks.

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Arsenal vs Liverpool EPL Preview: Wenger and Rodgers battle for top four spot

Arsene Wegner

 

PROBABLE LINEUPS

 

ARSENAL
Arsenal FC
Szczesny
Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs
Diaby, Wilshere
Walcott, Cazorla, Podolski
Giroud
LIVERPOOL
Liverpool
Reina
Wisdom, Skrtel, Agger, Johnson
Allen, Lucas
Suarez, Gerrard, Sterling

Sturridge

Thomas Vermaelen should be back in the Arsenal defence after missing out against Brighton with an ankle injury.

Mikel Arteta (calf) is scheduled to return for the game, but either Abou Diaby or Aaron Ramsey may play instead with the Spaniard lacking full match fitness.

Francis Coquelin (hamstring) may well miss out for the hosts, as will reserve goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski (ankle). Gervinho is absent as he is on international duty with the Ivory Coast at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Some of Liverpool’s younger players may be dropped by Brendan Rodgers after the manager said he felt “let down” by them during Liverpool’s shock 3-2 FA Cup defeat away to Oldham on Sunday.

Jose Reina, however, is expected to return after a hip injury, so Brad Jones will most likely lose his place after making a bad mistake to gift Oldham their second goal.

Andre Wisdom will probably continue at right-back despite the probable return of Jose Enrique, with Glen Johnson filling in at left-back – although Johnson himself is struggling with a hamstring injury.

Martin Kelly (knee) is a long-term absentee, and is only expected back at the end of March.

  • Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-0 earlier in the premier League season at Anfield, with goals from Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla.
  • The Gunners only have one win (West Ham) from their last four league games, drawing with Southampton and losing to Chelsea and Manchester United.
  • Arsene Wenger’s side have also lost two of their past five league home games, but won the other three.
  • Theo Walcott leads the club’s goalscoring charts with 17 in all competitions, and has just signed a new deal with the club.
  • Liverpool’s away league form has been poor this season, with three wins, four draws and four defeats.
  • Brendan Rodgers’ side have lost three of their last five away games, but have won the other two.
  • Luis Suarez is integral to liverpool’s goal output – he has 21 in all competitions, and his nearest team-mate is Steven Gerrard with just six.
  • Both Arsenal and Liverpool have conceded fewer goals than league leaders Manchester United, but are 19 and 22 points behind them respectively.
  • Liverpool won 2-0 at the Emirates in the league last season courtesy of an Aaron Ramsey own goal and a Luis Suarez strike.

Talent Watch: Joshua McEachran

Joshua McEachran

 

19 year-old midfielder Joshua McEachran may have thought 2011/2012 would have been his breakthrough season but with Chelsea in disarray it was no time to throw the talented wonderkid into the limelight. Signing for Swansea on loan in the January 2012 transfer window many believed it would be an ideal pairing but with Swansea side in fine form, first team opportunities have been limited. Hailed as one of England’s finest prospects, he has been described as Chelsea’s Jack Wilshere. The England Under-21 international who is contracted at Stamford Bridge until 2016 is fully expected to make the grade at Chelsea and is seen as the idea heir to Frank Lampard. Comfortable on the left or in the middle, McEachran was one of Chelsea’s pivotal players in their FA Youth Cup final win against Aston Villa. Despite his small physique, McEachran has already displayed extraordinary vision and creativity. With excellent technique, McEachran has a fine range of passing and is able to unlock defences with his close control on the ball and composure. With a good football brain, the starlet is able to create space. It is perhaps at international youth level where McEachran has impressed most and represented and captained England at Under-16 level and played a key role in the England U17 side which won the 2010 U17 European Championships.

n 17 January 2012, McEachran completed a loan move to Swansea City. On finalising the deal he told Blues News that he was looking forward to working under former Chelsea reserves coach and Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers. ‘I want to get game time to be honest, and it will be good playing for Brendan. Swansea play really good football and I’m looking forward to it.’ McEachran was given the number 17 jersey. McEachran made his debut for Swansea City against Sunderland coming off the bench in the 66th minute for Gylfi Sigurðsson, the match ended 2–0 loss for Swansea City. McEachran made his first start for Swansea in a FA Cup match against Bolton Wanderers which ended in a 1–2 defeat.

On 20 August 2012, McEachran completed a loan move to Championship club Middlesbrough on a season long loan. After his move to Middlesbrough, McEachran says he joined the club in order first team opportunities and fight his place under manager Roberto Di Matteo. He made his debut appearance for Middlesbrough the next day, in a 3–2 victory against Burnley. He became regular for Boro, creating a strong midfield partnership with Grant Leadbitter .

Honours


FA Youth Cup: 2010
UEFA Under-17 Championship : 2010
Chelsea Young Player of the Year (1): 2011
Oxfordshire Sport Award: Sport Man of the Year 2010

Real Madrid vs Barcelona Copa Del Rey Preview: Los Blancos look to draw first blood in pivotal cup tie

Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos

 

PROBABLE LINEUPS

 

REAL MADRID

Adan
Arbeloa, Albiol, Varane, Marcelo
Khedira, Alonso
Ozil, Modric, Ronaldo
Benzema
BARCELONA

Pinto
Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba 
Xavi, Busquets, Fabregas
Pedro, Messi, Iniesta

Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho has a number of selection problems heading into Wednesday’s Clasico showdown against Barcelona.

Iker Casillas (broken hand) and Pepe (ankle) are out, meaning Antonio Adan and new signing Diego Lopez battle it out in goal, while Sergio Ramos, Fabio Coentrao and Angel Di Maria all serve suspensions.

However, Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to start despite hurting his ankle in Sunday’s 4-0 win over Getafe.

Gerard Pique returns from suspension for Barcelona, who have a fully-fit squad at their disposal.

Jordi Alba, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas are all likely to be recalled to the starting XI after they were rested for the weekend victory over Osasuna.

  • Real Madrid are on a 31-match unbeaten run at the Santiago Bernabeu in all competitions (W26, D5).
  • The Castilian side have won just one of their last eight home encounters against Barcelona (W1, D2, L5).
  • Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 100th goal at the Bernabeu in the win over Getafe to take his overall tally for Real to 179 in 176 matches.
  • Barcelona have won eight of their last nine away matches across all competitions.
  • The Blaugrana ran out 4-3 aggregate winners in last season’s Copa del Rey semi-final against Blancos.
  • Pedro is in line to make his 200th appearance for Barca.

QPR vs Manchester City EPL Preview: Mancini’s side hoping to keep up pressure on rivals

Abel Tarabbt

 

PROBABLE LINEUPS

 

QPR

Cesar
Onuoha, Hill, Nelsen, Fabio
Mackie, Mbia, Derry, Wright-Phillips
Taarabt
Bothroyd
MANCHESTER CITY

Hart
Zabaleta, Rekik, Lescott, Kolarov
Milner, Barry, Garcia, Silva
Dzeko, Aguero

Harry Redknapp may well find himself unable to call upon recent arrival Loic Remy (hamstring), with the Frenchman likely to be subject to a late fitness test prior to Tuesday’s clash.

Fellow attackers Junior Hoilett (hamstring), Bobby Zamora (hip) and Andrew Johnson (knee) are also unavailable for the hosts, while Jose Bosingwa (back) is too absent through injury.

Samba Diakite, meanwhile, is at the Africa Cup of Nations with Mali.

The visitors go into the meeting with significant problems in central defence. Captain Vincent Kompany (calf) has been ruled out after picking up a problem in the FA Cup against Stoke, while Matija Nastasic (knock) is also a major doubt.

Roberto Mancini’s problems at the back are exacerbated with the absences of Maicon and Micah Richards (both knee).

Kolo Toure, along with brother Yaya, remains on international duty with the Ivory Coast, so youngster Karim Rekik may be called into the backline unless the Italian opts for a three-man defence.

  • At this point last season, in which QPR avoided relegation by a single point, the west Londoners were six points better off than they are currently.
  • The Rs currently boast the sixth highest net transfer spend total since the start of the summer 2012 transfer window, with only Chelsea, Liverpool, Southampton and the two Manchester clubs boasting greater outlays.
  • The last time Harry Redknapp  managed a club that was relegated was Southampton in 2004-05. At the equivalent stage of that season, the Saints had an identical results record to QPR’s current run: two wins, nine draws and 12 defeats.
  • Manchester City are yet to concede a goal in 2013.
  • So far, the Premier League champions have only managed 75% of the number of goals they had scored at this point last term.
  • Roberto Mancini’s men have netted three times in each of their last three meetings with QPR, winning every time – including their memorable last-minute win to claim the Premier League title last season.
  • City have won their last four games in the Premier League, and last six in all competitions, while Redknapp’s side are unbeaten in three, but crashed out against MK Dons in the FA Cup at Loftus Road last time out.

Burkina Faso vs Zambia AFCON Preview: The Stallions can seal progression by knocking Chipolopolo

Burkina Faso players celebrating

 

PROBABLE LINEUPS

 


BURKINA FASO

Angola
Diakite
H.TraoreB.KoneKoulibalyPanandetiguiri
PitroipaRouambaKaboreKoffi
A. Traore,
Dagano

ZAMBIA
Morocco
Mweene
Nkausu, Sunzu, 
Musonda, Mbola
Lungu, Chansa, Sinkala, Kalaba, Katongo
Mayuka

In their final group game, Burkina Faso and Zambia clash at the Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit, with qualification to the knockout rounds the very visible prize.

Few would have predicted, when the Afcon schedules will drawn out, that Burkina Faso would top the group at this late stage, yet the Stallions’ four points have been earned on merit. Zambia, on the other hand, are in danger of crashing out – their euphoric victory a year ago but a distant memory.

The Burkinabe will fly into the contest filled with confidence after their emphatic 4-0 victory over Ethiopia in the same stadium they compete in now. Still, it would take a brave man to bet against Zambia, who won so many admirers with their emotional victory in 2012. The Stallions’ victory last week might have flattered them as well, with Ethiopia becoming visibly demoralised as the game progressed.

The west Africans will, however, be without veteran keeper Abdoulaye Soulama, recalled to the team by Paul Put, but who was dismissed in the second half for handling outside his area.

Alain Traore, Nigeria’s nemesis back in the first match, will once again look to be the hero. The French-based player, currently the tournament’s top scorer, could score the goals to secure Burkina Faso’s place in the knockout stages.

Herve Renard will hope not, and will be able to call on the sublime talents of Rainford Kalaba, who looked so influential and impressive against Nigeria, to try and save his side. The crux of last season’s victorious side will also be present, and the likes of Christopher Katongo, Joseph Musonda, and the heroic Kennedy Mweene will do everything in their power to keep the side alive.

  • Despite not having scored in the tournament yet, Burkina Faso captain Moumouni Dagano is a veritable goal machine, and is currently his nation’s top scorer.
  • Zambia are currently 34th in Fifa’s world rankings, putting them among Africa’s finest nations.
  • Stallions coach Paul Put is Belgian, and was previously manager of The Gambia.
  • At the same stage of the tournament last year, Zambia qualified by securing victory over Equatorial Guinea in Malabo.
  • Christopher Katongo has scored 19 goals in 80 appearances for Zambia.

Nigeria vs Ethiopia AFCON Preview: Super Eagles aim to right the wrong of matches past

Nigeria player

 

PROBABLE LINEUPS

 


NIGERIA

Angola
Enyeama
Omeruo, Oboabona, Ambrose, Elderson
Igiebor, Mikel, Ogude
Musa, Emenike, Brown

ETHIOPIA
Morocco
Tadele
Hailu Reda,DebebeTesfaye, Bogale
Zinabura, Beyene, Adis, Bekele
Saladin, Assefa

Rustenburg will be the venue for the Super Eagles’ final Group C match—a contest which will decide the immediate future of the nation’s football. How will the nation remember the 2013 Cup of Nations? Will this be the year of what-ifs and might-have-beens? The year when the side conceded late equalisers against Burkina Faso and Zambia, throwing away four points in the process.

Or, will it be the year when the side overcame some perceived injustices to qualify from a tricky group and make an emphatic return to the continent’s high table? The future is still in the hands of the Super Eagles, for whom the permutations are numerous.

All Stephen Keshi will be telling his boys is that a win against Ethiopia will guarantee their place in the quarter-finals. The Black Lions may well be in disarray after their demolition at the hands of Burkina Faso, and shorn of the confidence that characterised their opening battle with Zambia, the Big Boss may well identify the Walya Antelopes as ripe for the taking.

After impressing in the first two fixtures, the duo of Emmanuel Emenike and Ahmed Musa will likely be the key attacking options for Nigeria. Despite his nervous penalty miss, John Obi Mikel’s improvement throughout the Zambia match will not have gone unnoticed—indeed, it was his pass which led to Emenike’s opening goal against Chipolopolo.

Defensive resiliency has been the issue for Naija in the first two games, and Keshi might be tempted to recall skipper Joseph Yobo, who sat out of the second fixture against Zambia.

  • Ethiopia, ranked 110th in the Fifa world rankings, are the lowest ranked team in the competition.
  • The east Africans return to the competition after a 31-year absence, but are yet to register a victory this year.
  • Nigeria skipper Joseph Yobo was set to win his 90th cap against Zambia, but after not making it onto the pitch, that land mark could be sealed against Ethiopia.
  • In contrast, Kenneth Omeruo, who replaced the Fenerbache man is relative newcomer to the side – the 19-year-old is currently playing for ADO Den Haag on loan from Chelsea.