Evra Prepared for Battle Ahead of Anfield Clash [picture]

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Manchester United’s assistant boss Mike Phelan has confirmed that skipper Patrice Evra will feature in Saturdays FA cup fourth round tie match against Liverpool, despite the expected backlash and highly charged atmosphere resultant of last Octobers race row.

In the past Sir Alex has protected players from abuse by leaving them out of games in which a hostile reception from opposition crowd was on the cards and didn’t even take Wayne Rooney to Goodison Park last season to spare him the adverse reaction he receives from his former club.

However, Phelan and a number of ex-United players have backed the decision to include Evra in the team set to face Liverpool, stating he has the experience, ability and strength of mind required to withstand any additional pressure.

Former United defender Viv Anderson said: 'Patrice should definitely play 100 per cent. There will be a backlash but he did nothing wrong, so why should he not play?'

'He is experienced enough and old enough to deal with it. It won’t be the first time he’s been verbally attacked. If you cannot deal with it then you are never going to make a career for yourself.'

'Patrice is at Manchester United playing in the Premier League and is a French international. He has proved that he is able to stand up to all the outside pressures that have been heaped on him as he’s built his career.'

'It is not right you have to put up with racial abuse, but I am sure it has happened to him in the past. I don’t think playing at Anfield after what has gone on will bother him.'

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Illustration by John Hutcheon 


Balotelli: Dancing on Eyes [picture]

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Mario Balotelli's agent has spoken out of his belief that the Italian striker could be forced to quit English football because of the treatment he has received from the FA and Premiership referees.

'I think he feels persecuted, he cannot go on like that,' agent Mino Raiola told BBC Radio 5 Live.

'We had a very clear image of his career at the beginning and I have told the press openly Mario will have to stay at Manchester City for at least three or four years, helping the club on this important project and grow as a man and a player.'

'Obviously if he's being banned every three or four games for one reason or another we cannot go on like that and there needs to be an end to that.'

'So if that's the case and English referees and the English FA would like Mario to go out of England then we would take that seriously in consideration, even if that's not and was not our intention.'

Raiola’s comments come in response to the four match ban handed out to Balotelli by the FA for stamping on Scott Parkers head during City’s 3-2 win over Tottenham last Sunday.

Speaking about the alledged stamp Raiola insisted that it was not deliberate and that TV replays prove that there was no ill intent from the 27-year-old.

'He didn't do anything on purpose, he was clearly pushed and was out of balance and put down his feet," said Raiola. 'That's also clear in the slow-motion replays.'

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The Clash of the Old School Rivals [picture]

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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will be hoping his side can avenge the 8-2 hammering they received at Old Trafford last August as they go head to head with Manchester United this afternoon.

The newest chapter in the longest running managerial rivalry in Premier League history will be written as Fergie and Wenger enter their 47th bout, with United needing a win to keep pace with league leaders Manchester City.

The Gunners enter the game off the back of two successive league defeats which has left them five points away from the Champions League places and with Liverpool and Newcastle snapping at their heels.

An old school vibe could be added to the occasion if Paul Scholes and Thierry Henry line up against each other once again, though the Frenchman has picked up a calf injury which could keep him out of the action.

Thomas Vermaelen and Mikel Arteta have been added to Wenger's long list of injured players, whereas United have been given a boost by the news that Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are available to play after missing last weeks game against Bolton with minor injuries.

With United facing Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool twice in the next six weeks, Alex Ferguson has admitted that the game against Arsenal begins a defining period of their season.

'You want to get into these games in good form,' Ferguson said. 'Hopefully we can navigate this clutch of games because they will be important for where we end up this season.'

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Tevez to Sign for PSG [picture]

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Wantaway Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez could finally be on his way out of the club following reports that his advisor Kia Joorabchian has completed negotiations with Paris St Germain.

According to reports in the Sun all that is needed is a final OK from the player for the £31 million deal to go through with Tevez picking up an £8.3m signing on fee and £10m a year throughout a 3½ year contract.

PSG manager Carlo Ancelotti confirmed the clubs interest in Tevez and revealed the French club's director of football, Leonardo, had been negotiating with Tevez’s representatives.

Ancelotti said: 'Everyone knows that we want a striker. Carlos Tevez? It's a great opportunity for us to have a great striker.'

'Today Tevez isn't playing for Manchester City - but he wants to play. We hope to find a good solution. I haven't had him on the phone, not him or his agent. It's Leonardo who is looking after that.'

'He is a great player. In around 15 days he could get back into great physical condition.'

Should the move go through it would make a mockery of the 27-year-olds repeated claims that he wants to move away from City because of being homesick and needing to be closer to his family in Argentina.

Dave Wallace, editor of City fanzine King of the Kippax has stated: 'I think it's always been a nonsense that he's homesick. It's all very baffling why Tevez doesn't want to be part of the City set up when we've got so much going for us at the moment.'

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Barcelona Stars Have Swansea’s Leon Britton To Look Up To [picture]

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Move aside Xavi, a new king of passing accuracy has arisen and he plays for Swansea City. Leon Britton is officially the most accurate passer of Europe’s top five leagues with a pass completion success rate of 93.3%.

Opta stats show the 29-year-old has recorded a higher successful pass rate during his debut season in the English Premier League than Barcelona duo Xavi and Sergio Busquets, Chelsea's John Terry and AC Milan's Thiago Silva, who make up Europe’s top five.

Nicknamed ‘Little’ due to his 5ft 5in height, Britton has become an integral part of the Swansea team and in October he became the only player in England's top-flight this season to complete a match with a 100% passing success rate in the Swans 3-0 win against Bolton.

Remarkably, Britton was not the only Swansea player to make it into Europe’s top ten most accurate passers with Joe Allen coming in at number six, which is a testament to the classy style of play instilled by manager Brendan Rogers.

Also, the Swansea team are sixth in the European pass-accuracy charts, with only Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Real Madrid and Chelsea ahead.

The hard work paid off for the Swans last Sunday as they moved into the top half of the Premiership after out passing Arsenal in their 3-2 victory at the Liberty Stadium.

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Illustration by John Hutcheon


Torres Takes Extra Shooting Practice [picture]

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Fernando Torres is taking extra shooting practice after every Chelsea training session in an attempt to rediscover the goal scoring form he was formerly renowned for and put an end to his goal drought that has lasted almost three months.

The Spaniard has not scored for the Blues since their 5-0 win over Genk in the Champions League last October and has only managed three league goals since his move from Liverpool in January 2011.

Chelsea's Assistant coach Steve Holland told Chelsea TV: 'Fernando is working very hard at his finishing in training.

'We do a lot of finishing as part of the sessions anyway but he is doing extra at the end of every session during the week.'

'His finishing is looking very good in training, the ball is flying in. I have personally spent some time with him on making sure [he's in the right position].'

Torres hit the woodwork against Sunderland last Saturday and was able to claim an assist after Lampard knocked in his rebounded shot. Lampard claimed after the game that it would only be a matter of time until we see Torres return to his best form judging from his performances on the training ground.

'He is doing it in training and you can see a lift in him,' Lampard said. 'I feel for him because he made a great connection for my goal when it hit the bar first.'

'You're just waiting for that moment when he is going to bang two or three in.'

'He is working his socks off, making runs and creating goals. We're all talking about that and rightly so.'


Fergie and Wayne: Friends Re-United [picture]

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Wayne Rooney and Alex Fergson have made up after Rooney’s 'magnificent' brace in United’a 3-2 win over City in the FA cup on Saturday.

The pair have had numerous reported problems since Rooney’s arrival from Everton, most notably Rooney’s transfer request in October 2010, but they just can’t seem to stay mad at each other for long.

Their relationship has recently come under media scrutiny after Wayne was dropped for United’s game against Blackburn, following a boozy night out before training. The rumoured cracks in Fergie and Wayne’s relationship weren’t helped by United’s shock 3-0 defeat to Newcastle the following Wednesday. 

However Rooney and United were quick to deny any problems and released a joint statement declaring 'Any suggestion that Manchester United and Wayne Rooney are to part company is complete nonsense.'

Rooney also took to his twitter account to further support the statement saying: 'The Independent are talking absolute rubbish, my future is with Manchester United and the club and I am totally committed, the manager and I have no issues and anyone who says different doesn't know what they are talking about.'

In a interview with BBC football Fergie likened Rooney’s unwanted  ability to attract headlines to that of Paul Gasgoine, another one of England’s most naturally gifted players.

'Wayne Rooney is a headline-maker, good or bad,' said Ferguson. 'It is the situation that existed years ago with Paul Gascoigne. Any flaws will be annihilated by the press.'

Maybe Ferguson gave Rooney a blast of his notorious hairdryer treatment to help produce his 'magnificent performance' against Manchester City, if not at least it will have done his new barnet some good.


Arsene Goes Back to the Future [picture]

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Arsene Wenger has heaped praise upon Arsenal legend Thierry Henry after resigning the Frenchman on a two month loan deal from the New York Red Bulls.

The Arsenal manager emphasised that Henry’s achievements would not be undermined if his second spell with the Gunners doesn’t work out and stated his belief that the 34-year-old is still a world class player with plenty left to offer the club.

Wenger told Arsenal’s official website: 'No, you cannot take away from people what they have done, and what he has delivered will stay forever. It can just make the statue a bit bigger! Let's hope he will do that.'

'Thierry is a world-class player and even at this club a player of that dimension is always very difficult to find, especially at this period of the season.'

'He can just add something more to the team. Certainly he is one of the best signings I have made. It is difficult to compare defenders and strikers, but one of the best for sure.'

Wenger has confirmed that Henry will feature in Arsenals FA Cup match against Leeds on Monday, but admitted it would be a couple of weeks before he would be able to play a full match.

'Thierry will be involved against Leeds, but at the moment 90 minutes is a bit long for him because he has not played for a long time,' Wenger said.

'He works hard, but he is a bit behind physically. In one or two weeks Thierry will be fine.'


Luis 8 Match Sua-Rest [picture]

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Liverpool will be without their top scoring striker Luis Suarez during a critical and potentially season defining period after accepting the eight game ban the FA gave the Uruguayan for racially abusing Patrice Evra.

The Reds will now have to chase a top four place without their most potent goal scoring threat meaning the pressure will be turned up on misfiring attackers Stuart Downing and £35 million signing Andy Carroll to step up to the plate.

Downing is yet to record either an assist or a goal since signing for Liverpool in the summer, whereas Carroll has only managed five goals in twenty five appearances and neither were able to cause the Manchester City defence too much trouble in Liverpool’s 3-0 at the Etihad Stadium last night.

Liverpool enjoyed plenty of possession against the league leaders, which they were unable to take advantage of due to a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal to the frustration of manager Kenny Dalglish.

'I'm not so sure the scoreline reflects the way the game went,' Dalglish said. 'I'm not saying we deserved to win, but I think the lesson we've learnt from tonight is that if we're not clinical we're going to suffer.'

'There are a lot of things that happened tonight that we can correct ourselves, so we need to go and do that. It's a harsh lesson, but it'll be even harsher if we don't learn from it.'


World Darts Wind Up in Response to Barton's Twitter Rant

12:53:00 2 Comments

Joey Barton took to his twitter account yesterday to vent his frustration after being sent off for an alleged headbutt in QPR’s game against Norwich.

The former Newcastle midfielder had a fine start to the game at Loftus Road in which he scored the opening goal, but he received marching orders following an off the ball incident with Bradley Johnson.

The red card proved costly as Norwich went on to win the game 2-1, which left both QPR manager Neil Warnock and Barton complaining that the Johnston had conned the referee Neil Swarbrick and his assistant David Richardson.

Barton tweeted: 'Well feel for the officials, they've been conned.'

'Admitted to me at HT they never saw it. I was pulled back 1st, then kicked 2nd!'

'Linesman definitely never saw it, all he seen was Johnsons reaction.'

'My head dosent move forward at all. Ridiculous decision seen 25 replays.'

'I'd be 1st to apologise if I'd reacted. Cannot apologise as I know I've not head butted anyone.'

'Disappointed for the lads and the fans.'

To rub salt in Barton's wounds, Bradley Johnson used the the World Darts Championships at Alexandra Palace to respond to the days events.

Johnson made his feelings known by holding up a board that read: 'Barton, your breath stinks' during the darts match that was televised on Monday night.

Who will win in this epic battle of wits?