David Beckham too slow for Premier League, says Chelsea boss Rafa Benitez

Beckham can't cope with pace of Premier League, says Benitez as Chelsea manager takes swipe at former England captain

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UPDATED:

14:59 GMT, 30 November 2012

Interim Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez believes David Beckham will no longer be able to keep up with the pace of the Barclays Premier League.

The former England captain is on the lookout for a new club after announcing his decision to quit LA Galaxy following Saturday's MLS Cup final.

A host of clubs have expressed an interest in signing Beckham, with Queens Park Rangers leading the Premier League race to land the veteran midfielder.

Plenty to ponder: David Beckham is considering his next move as his time at LA Galaxy draws to an end

Plenty to ponder: David Beckham is considering his next move as his time at LA Galaxy draws to an end

Final farewell: David Beckham will play his last game for LA Galaxy this weekend

Final farewell: David Beckham will play his last game for LA Galaxy this weekend

Monaco are also interested in Beckham
and are poised to hold talks with the former Manchester United and Real
Madrid star next week.

But
one club where Beckham won't be heading is Chelsea after Benitez
appeared to rule out a move for the midfielder.

'I was watching some games in the MLS, analysing his team, and he was doing well. His crossing was very good,' said Benitez.

'I don't know if
he can cope now with the pace of the Premier League.'

Monaco were relegated in 2011 after suffering a steady decline in fortunes since appearing in the 2004 Champions League final, when they were beaten 3-0 by Jose Mourinho's Porto.

However, billionaire Russian businessman Dmitry Rybolovlev bought a majority stake in Monaco in December 2011 and wants Beckham on board from January to inject some glamour into the club's attempts to win promotion.

No move: Benitez has questioned whether Beckham could cope with the Premier League

No move: Benitez has questioned whether Beckham could cope with the Premier League

Beckham may have reservations about the standard of football in France but life on the French Riviera may appeal to him and wife Victoria.

On Thursday night, Beckham spoke in LA ahead of Saturday's game but did not give much away about his future and would not comment on suggestions from new QPR boss Harry Redknapp that he may wish to take him to Loftus Road.

Beckham said: 'I'm lucky. At the age of 37 I've been offered some quite exciting options. I am flattered by some of the interest I have had. I always said I'd struggle to come back and play in England because I've played for the biggest club in the world and biggest club in England – Manchester United.

'So I couldn't see myself playing for any other Premier League club, but you never know. I do think I'll be spending more time in England, though, and it's good for our kids to see their grandparents.

Fun in the sun: Beckham could be tempted by a move to Monaco

Fun in the sun: Beckham could be tempted by a move to Monaco

'Over the last six years it's been
difficult not seeing them as much as we'd like and they'd like, but we
won't be leaving LA for good.

'What I am touched about is that I've got great managers – Harry
(Redknapp) and (Carlo) Ancelotti at PSG saying great things about me.

'They are not saying they would like to sign me but they are saying nice things about me.'

Meanwhile, Jermain Defoe has claimed Beckham would be welcomed at Tottenham with open arms if he decides to move back to England.

Spurs tried to sign the 37-year-old on loan last year and he ended up training with them during the MLS off-season.

Beckham has previously said he would not play for another Premier League club other than United. But former England team-mate Defoe told Absolute Radio's Rock 'N' Roll Football: 'He can come to Spurs if he wants – we'll have him here.

'He's a fantastic player and I think a credit to the game.

'If you talk about someone that's done everything in a game and to still want to play and still have another challenge and still want to achieve something, when you've achieved so much, I think that's a special person.

'He's someone that I look up to, a legend in the game.'

Silver lining: Beckham has the chance to win his second MLS Cup

Silver lining: Beckham has the chance to win his second MLS Cup

VIDEO: Becks talks about future ahead of his last MLS match

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Luis Suarez poses with 10-goal Golden Boot award in front of Bill Shankly"s famous message

Suarez collects goal trophy in front of a famous Shankly message: 'Hold your head up high and share the glory'

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UPDATED:

15:14 GMT, 30 November 2012

PREMIER LEAGUE'S TOP SCORERS

Luis Suarez (Liverpool) Goals: 10
Robin van Persie (Man United) Goals: 9
Demba Ba (Newcastle) Goals: 8
Michu (Swansea) Goals: 8
Jermain Defoe (Tottenham) Goals: 7
Marouane Fellaini (Everton) Goals: 7

It was a famous quote from Bill Shankly that sits on the wall at the Liverpool training ground.

It displays his love for 'the Liverpool family' and the success he created.

Another man who has taken to life at Anfield like a duck to water is Luis Suarez.

Striker Suarez has won the Barclays Race for the Golden Boot ‘10-goal’ award after being the first player this season to reach 10 goals in the Premier League.

Proud: Luis Suarez holds up his award for the Race For The Golden Boot

Proud: Luis Suarez holds up his award for the Race For The Golden Boot

Leading the way: Suarez (right) was in training this afternoon

Leading the way: Suarez (right) was in training this afternoon

FROM SHANKLY TO SUAREZ…

Luis Suarez stood, proudly holding his trophy, in front of a renowned Bill Shankly quote emblazoned on the wall.

The quote from the legendary former manager of the club references a desire to be remembered as a man of the people of Liverpool.

It reads: 'Above all, I would like to be remembered as a man who was selfless, who strove and worried so that others could share the glory, and who built up a family of people who could hold their heads up high and say “We’re Liverpool”.'

On receiving the award Suarez was
quick to praise Brendan Rodgers for the award — believing the ‘free
number nine’ role the new manager has given him has made him so
effective.

‘The manager has been a huge
influence, not just on me but on every single player at the club this
season. The position I am playing now is really the one I like the most —
a free number nine.

‘The manager tells me I can score goals and fills me with confidence to do well for the team.’

Without Luis Suarez, who tops the scoring charts with 10 goals and also has two assists, Liverpool would be second bottom.

They would only have one win to their credit instead of three and 10 fewer points. More worryingly, they would have lost 10 matches and be in real trouble.

Suarez has earned Liverpool at least a
point on six occasions in the league this season. Without the
Uruguayan, Brendan Rodgers would be in serious peril.

Opta
statistics show United are just as reliant on Robin van Persie. Without
the Dutchman's nine goals, United would have just three wins instead of ten, and
seven draws instead of none.

Their
goal difference would be just +2 instead of a healthy +14 and they’d
have half the points of bitter rivals Manchester City.

Suarez will be hoping to stay ahead of the chasing pack this weekend as Liverpool welcome Southampton to Anfield. Newcastle's Demba Ba and Swansea's Michu trail Suarez and Van Persie with eight goals each.

All smiles: Suarez was sharing a joke as he prepared with his team-mates for the visit of Southampton

All smiles: Suarez was sharing a joke as he prepared with his team-mates for the visit of Southampton

SUPER SUAREZ IN NUMBERS THIS SEASON

Proud: Luis Suarez

Team: Liverpool
Appearances: 14
Minutes On Pitch: 1,257

Goals: 10
Minutes per goal: 126
Shots On Target: 25
Shots Off Target: 41
Shooting Accuracy: 38%
Chance Conversion: 15%

Blocked Shots: 18
Assists: 2
Chances created (inc. Assists): 36
Mins per chance created: 35
Total Passes: 494
Pass Completion: 76%

Dribbles & Runs: 135
Dribble Completion: 36%

Liverpool’s record with Suarez’s goals and assists:
Pld 14 W 3 D 7 A 4 F 18 A 18 (0) Pts 16

Record without Suarez:
Pld 14 W 1 D 3 L 10 F 6 A 18 (-12) Pts 6

Keven Mealamu warns England that New Zealand are ready

All Blacks are over sickness bug and ready to leave England's series in tatters, warns Mealamu

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UPDATED:

15:16 GMT, 30 November 2012

New Zealand hooker Keven Mealamu has insisted that the illness which hit nearly all of Steve Hansen’s squad earlier in the week has had no adverse effect on their preparations for Saturday’s final autumn international against England at Twickenham.

Hansen revealed on Thursday that the vast majority of his All Blacks squad had been struck by a 24-hour sickness bug which has caused vomiting and diarrhoea.

But despite confirming that he was one of the players affected by the illness, Mealamu – who starts on Saturday – is confident that the world champions are over the worst of it and are fully prepared for the challenge of taking on Stuart Lancaster’s side.

Ready to roll: Keven Mealamu visited the West London Free School today to teach the Year 8 pupils

Ready to roll: Keven Mealamu visited the West London Free School today to teach the Year 8 pupils

Recovered: New Zealanders Mealamu, Adam Thomson and Tawera Kerr-Barlow sign autographs

Recovered: New Zealanders Mealamu, Adam Thomson and Tawera Kerr-Barlow sign autographs

‘Most of the team have been hit by a bit of a bug, but that is the sort of thing that happens on tour,’ explained the 33-year-old veteran of 101 Tests. ‘I think everyone is just getting over it at the right time though.

‘Everyone is well now and certainly feeling a lot better than we did earlier in the week.

‘I became ill with it for a bit on Tuesday night so it wasn’t a good start to the week, but you just have to get on with it, get on with the job and make sure we get the things we need ready for the weekend.

‘Obviously it is something that has come through the team as a bit of a surprise but we have had to put it aside for a second and make sure we are prepared.’

The All Blacks have not played against England since 2010 – when Mealamu was banned for four weeks for headbutting Lewis Moody – and for six of the starting XV it will be the first time they have played at Twickenham, but Mealamu insists that those who have played at HQ before are just as excited about running out at the iconic stadium on Saturday as the rookies are.

‘All the boys understand the magnitude of where we are playing,’ he enthused. ‘It is honestly one of the greatest places to play rugby. The home of rugby.

‘Whether it’s guys that have played there before or not, we all just can’t wait to get on the field and play.’

Top class: Richie McCaw and the rest of the All Blacks were in training yesterday

Top class: Richie McCaw and the rest of the All Blacks were in training yesterday

Illness: The New Zealand squad were struck down with a sickness bug earlier this week

Illness: The New Zealand squad were struck down with a sickness bug earlier this week

A stalwart of the Kiwi side for 10 years now, Mealamu has had to play second fiddle to Andrew Hore so far during this tour, but with his fellow veteran suspended for five weeks for striking Wales lock Bradley Davies in the 33-10 win in Cardiff last weekend, Mealamu is given the chance to start at Twickenham.

The Auckland Blues hooker – no stranger to controversy himself – sympathises with Hore, but he is understandably delighted to be pulling on the All Black No 2 jersey again.

‘There is nothing worse than watching on the sidelines so I am really looking forward to getting back out there and helping the team out,’ said Mealamu, who was talking after an impromptu kick about with budding rugby players from the West London Free School at Regents Park.

‘I think Andrew and the team understood what happened and what it looked like and we knew what was coming. We all have to take on extra responsibility without him and we have to support him as well.’

Challenge: Tom Youngs (centre) will line up against Mealamu

Challenge: Tom Youngs (centre) will line up against Mealamu

Having seen umpteen Red Rose hookers come and go over the last decade, Mealamu lines up opposite another new face on Saturday in the form of Tom Youngs, the 25-year-old Leicester star who’s performances have been one of the major positives for Lancaster this autumn despite defeats to South Africa and Australia in the last two weeks. Mealamu admits he has been impressed by Youngs’ start to Test rugby.

‘I have had a brief look at him over the last week and I know he has just recently converted from being in the backline, so it is quite a good effort from him to be able to play in the front row now,’ said Mealamu. ‘He has done really well.

Ready England will have to make special plans to stop Dan Carter from running the show

Ready England will have to make special plans to stop Dan Carter from running the show

‘I have been impressed with his work around the field and he is quite a physical player. He looks to hit a lot of the rucks and likes to have ball in hand, so for us we’re looking at him as quite an important player for them.’

Having seen several England sides come and go since his All Blacks debut in 2002, Mealamu – who infamously dislocated Brian O’Driscoll’s shoulder in tandem with Tana Umaga in the first Lions Test in 2005 – is a good judge of a Red Rose XV.

Lancaster’s troops have been criticised for lacking a cutting edge going forward, but Mealamu says he has been impressed with the attacking abilities of what he sees as a team breaking with English traditions.

Limbering up: Ma'a Nonu

Relaxing: Ma'a Nonu and Liam Messam (right)

Limbering up: Ma'a Nonu is put through his paces (left), as he relaxes with Liam Messam (right)

‘We will find out more about this England team in time,’ said Mealamu, who started in last year’s World Cup final over France, ‘I think at the moment they are a team that are still working to get that identity going and put a run of good performances together.

‘But for an England side they use the ball really well. They are quite an exciting side to watch and they look to counter really well and I think comparing to England sides in the past they seem more willing to attack.’

But as impressed as Mealamu may be with England’s ability to attack and counter-attack, there is no better side in the world at those two facets of the game than the All Blacks, who have cruised past Scotland, Italy and Wales so far on tour without ever really hitting top gear.

Bouncing back: Chris Robshaw will hope to end the series on a high against the world champions

Bouncing back: Chris Robshaw will hope to end the series on a high against the world champions

But there is no sign of the All Blacks letting up – illness or no illness.

Hansen has picked the strongest side available to him for Saturday’s game and Mealamu says the side are determined to end their tour on a high.

‘We are happy with what we have been able to achieve so far but the tour is not finished yet, we have got one more job to do so we need to make sure we finish well,’ he said. ‘It all comes down to this last game and how we finish.

‘It is against another big foe of ours and who we enjoy playing against. To be playing England at their home, it is a game you have to come over here and make sure you do well.’

All smiles: Chris Ashton (left) shared a joke in training yesterday

All smiles: Chris Ashton (left) shared a joke in training yesterday

Known for playing with a swagger and verve not seen anywhere else on the planet, and as odds-on favourites, New Zealand could be forgiven for targetting not just a win, but a comprehensive one. But Mealamu is having none of it.

‘It is about winning,’ he said. ‘Whether it comes down to one point or whether it is a bigger margin it doesn’t matter, at the end of the day it is just about winning and that is what we are determined to do.’

England, you have been warned.

John Terry unlikely to play until FIFA Club World Cup

Benitez has no plans to use Terry against West Ham or Nordsjaelland despite rapid recovery

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UPDATED:

15:34 GMT, 30 November 2012

Rafa Benitez may not use John Terry until Chelsea travel to Japan for the FIFA Club World Cup, despite the club captain's rapid recovery from a knee injury.

New manager Benitez revealed Terry is desperate to return to action, but he isn’t ready to face West Ham tomorrow and is even a doubt for Chelsea’s final Champions League match against Nordsjaelland.

'Terry is ready to play, but we know he’s not ready. He is pushing himself, wanting to be there and playing. The same with Sturridge.

No go: Rafael Benitez will not risk John Terry

No go: Rafael Benitez will not risk John Terry

'Lampard did the warm-up to the training session, nothing else. They’re working with the physios, doing well on the pitch, but they’re still not close to the team.’

Asked if Terry himself believes he is ready, Benitez said: ‘He said it to one of my medics.

'He wanted to push himself. I watched him with the physios and he was fine, but he was pushing, wanting to play with the team. But it’s too soon.

'Frank, Sturridge and him are all pushing, wanting to be involved and to help.

'It’s too early for Tuesday. It’s a knee, not just a muscle. You have to see the reaction when you turn. You cannot put him in a position where he could get injured again.

'He might go to Japan having not played. If he’s involved in training and he’s happy – when you forget you’ve had that problem in your knee, you’re ready… it’s a question of confidence.'

Not yet: John Terry warmed up before last week's drab 0-0 draw with Manchester City

Not yet: John Terry warmed up before last week's drab 0-0 draw with Manchester City

Getting his eye in: Fernando Torres tries a bicycle kick in training

Getting his eye in: Fernando Torres tries a bicycle kick in training

'A lot of teams have some good players in terms of mentality. What I’ve seen from him, early this morning, he was in front of me walking on to the pitch and he didn’t know I was following him.

'Three young players were coming along and the way he approached him was quite positive. Different to Stevie (G), but a lot of similarities with the young players. Steve was very supportive with the youngsters too.'

Benitez takes his side to Upton Park, and can expect another frosty reception from the travelling Chelsea fans, who were disappointed to see Champions League-winning manager Roberto Di Matteo sacked.

The Spaniard was booed throughout his first game in charge in a drab 0-0 draw against Manchester City at Stamford Bridge.

He received the same treatment when Chelsea put on a limp display against west London rivals Fulham, another 0-0 draw.

Unpopular: Benitez has to win over the Chelsea fans after replacing Roberto Di Matteo

Unpopular: Benitez has to win over the Chelsea fans after replacing Roberto Di Matteo

Out: Chelsea fans have expressed their disapproval at Benitez's appointment

Out: Chelsea fans have expressed their disapproval at Benitez's appointment

Arsenal boss Arsenal Wenger: Manchester City and United haven"t been spectacular

Next 12 games will reveal if Arsenal can challenge 'unspectacular' Manchester clubs for Premier League title, says Wenger

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UPDATED:

16:32 GMT, 30 November 2012

Arsene Wenger feels the next 12 matches will determine whether his side can force their way back into contention for a shot at the Barclays Premier League title.

The Gunners head into Saturday's clash against Swansea down in seventh place, some 12 points behind leaders Manchester United following their midweek draw at Everton.

However, with four of Arsenal's upcoming December league games set to be played at the Emirates Stadium, Wenger is confident his team can use home advantage to catapult themselves up the table.

Centre of attention: Arsenal will host Swansea at The Emirates on Saturday

Centre of attention: Arsenal will host Swansea at The Emirates on Saturday

'We will come back. Now we have six games, four at home, and if we do well in this block I think we have a chance to come back, but of course it is vital for us to do well in these games,' Wenger told Arsenal Player.

'At the moment the two Manchester sides [are top]. They have not been spectacular, but efficient, and they have made the maximum of the chances they have created.

'For example, Manchester United have already lost three games and have lost in the Champions League as well. It is exactly what we have done, but they took more points and had less draws than we did. That has been the difference until now.'

With Laurent Koscielny set for around a month on the sidelines after limping off at Goodison Park with a thigh strain, captain Thomas Vermaelen looks set to return to the centre of defence against the Swans.

The Belgian has been utilised on the left in recent weeks, but produced a solid display helping shackle countryman Marouane Fellaini and track Croatia frontman Nikica Jelavic.

'It was certainly his best game since the start of the season in this position,' said Wenger. 'That will boost his confidence and hopefully get out of his mind what happened before when he was not completely confident.

'He was physically sharp, confident, calm and important for us.'

Swansea come to Emirates Stadium on the back of their midweek win over in-form West Brom. Michael Laudrup's men are only a point and a place below the Gunners and Wenger maintains there can be no thoughts of complacency.

Thomas Vermaelen and Kieran Gibbs

Jack Wilshere

In training: Thomas Vermaelen, Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere are to set to face Swansea at The Emirates

'They [Swansea] have bought intelligently and of course that gives them the basis they had last year, and the addition of the players they have brought in. It makes them dangerous.

'Of course [Brendan Rodgers] has made the basis of what the club is today and Michael Laudrup has added some players he knew from Spain who are very good additions.

'They have Michu, Pablo Hernandez, (Jonathan) de Guzman, these players and keeping Britton, Rangel and the players at the back.

'Swansea are a dangerous side throughout, and having a good season. They are a complete unit, very creative, very technical and very mobile.'

Arsenal will check on the fitness of right-back Bacary Sagna, who has a foot injury, while forward Theo Walcott, who fired the Gunners ahead inside a minute at Everton, will also be assessed after taking a knock to his ankle.

Harry Redknapp wants Rob Green to challenge Julio Cesar for first-team place

Redknapp challenges Green to wrestle No 1 jersey from Brazilian Cesar at QPR

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UPDATED:

16:41 GMT, 30 November 2012

Harry Redknapp has urged Rob Green to fight to become the No1 goalkeeper at QPR once again.

The former West Ham stopper has not started a Premier League match since September 1 but is set to line up against Aston Villa on Saturday because Julio Cesar has suffered a torn groin.

Green, who replaced Cesar at half-time in Tuesday’s 0-0 draw at Sunderland , is also highly rated by QPR’s goalkeeping coach, David Coles.

Challenge set: Harry Redknapp wants Rob Green (right) to compete for the No 1 spot at QPR

Challenge set: Harry Redknapp wants Rob Green (right) to compete for the No 1 spot at QPR

Rangers boss Redknapp said he had spoken to Green about the past few months, which saw him move to west London on a free transfer from West Ham only to be deposed as Rangers’ No1 by Brazilian Cesar following a humiliating 5-0 loss on his debut against Swansea City.

But Redknapp stressed all his players were starting with a ‘clean sheet’ after Mark Hughes’ departure and said he would select his goalkeepers ‘week by week’.

The QPR manager said: ‘I had a chat to Rob about his situation. He found himself in a situation he didn’t expect to be in when he came here but that’s it now.

‘We’ve got two top goalkeepers and it’s up to them to fight it out for the No1 spot. We’ll play it week by week. I’m very lucky to have two top goalkeepers.

‘Rob is fine. He’s a goalkeeper I’ve always admired; an England international goalkeeper. He didn’t have a lot to do against Sunderland the other night but he pulled off one world-class save.’

Hello son! Harry (right) was joined by Jamie (left) Redknapp at training today

Hello son! Harry (left) was joined by Jamie (right) Redknapp at training today

Hello son! Harry, who was joined by Jamie Redknapp at training today, wants Green to provide competition for Cesar, who arrived from Inter Milan in summer

Crunch time: QPR are looking for their first win of the season against Aston Villa at Loftus Road

Crunch time: QPR are looking for their first win of the season against Aston Villa at Loftus Road

All smiles: Shaun Wright-Phillips (centre) shared a joke in training

All smiles: Shaun Wright-Phillips (centre) shared a joke in training

Harry Redknapp has urged Rob Green to fight to become the No1 goalkeeper at QPR once again.

The former West Ham stopper has not started a Premier League match since September 1 but is set to line up against Aston Villa on Saturday because Julio Cesar has suffered a torn groin.

Green, who replaced Cesar at half-time in Tuesday’s 0-0 draw at Sunderland , is also highly rated by QPR’s goalkeeping coach, David Coles.

Rangers boss Redknapp said he had spoken to Green about the past few months, which saw him move to west London on a free transfer from West Ham only to be deposed as Rangers’ No1 by Brazilian Cesar following a humiliating 5-0 loss on his debut against Swansea City.

But Redknapp stressed all his players were starting with a ‘clean sheet’ after Mark Hughes’ departure and said he would select his goalkeepers ‘week by week’.

Sprawling: Green made an outstanding save to keep his side on terms at Sunderland in midweek

Sprawling: Green made an outstanding save to keep his side on terms at Sunderland in midweek

The competition: Julio Cesar was bought by Mark Hughes in the summer

The competition: Julio Cesar was bought by Mark Hughes in the summer

The QPR manager said: ‘I had a chat to Rob about his situation. He found himself in a situation he didn’t expect to be in when he came here but that’s it now.

‘We’ve got two top goalkeepers and it’s up to them to fight it out for the No1 spot. We’ll play it week by week. I’m very lucky to have two top goalkeepers.

‘Rob is fine. He’s a goalkeeper I’ve always admired; an England international goalkeeper. He didn’t have a lot to do against Sunderland the other night but he pulled off one world-class save.’

Lance Armstrong doping affair: Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson lands role investigating links with UCI

Baroness Grey-Thompson lands role investigating Armstrong's links with UCI

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UPDATED:

16:42 GMT, 30 November 2012

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson has been named on a three-person panel to assess the Lance Armstrong affair and the role of the International Cycling Union in the scandal.

The UCI in October ratified the sanctions recommended by the United States Anti-doping Agency, who conducted an investigation which concluded Armstrong and his United States Postal Service team ran 'the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen'.

Allegations of complicity and insider knowledge were levelled at the UCI and its leadership – all of which have been denied – and 11-time Paralympic champion Grey-Thompson forms part of the independent commission set up to establish the facts.

Disgraced: Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles

Disgraced: Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles

Australian John Coates, the president of the International Council of Arbitration for Sport assembled the commission, which is independent of the UCI and will be chaired by former Court of Appeal judge Sir Philip Otton Australian lawyer Malcolm Holmes QC will join Lords peer Grey-Thompson on the panel.

Armstrong did not cooperate with the USADA investigation and has been banned for life and stripped of all results from August 1, 1998, including seven Tour de France titles.

Investigating Armstrong: Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson

Investigating Armstrong: Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson

Michael Laudrup plays rugby for Swansea

Laudrup unveils bizarre new training method ahead of Swansea's visit to Arsenal

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UPDATED:

16:54 GMT, 30 November 2012

The Wales rugby team use frozen cryotherapy chambers, Andy Murray does chin ups with weights strapped around his waist and the All Blacks do sprint work while standing on medicine balls – but this technique is new on all of us.

It seems Swansea manager Michael Laudrup has been preparing to face Arsene Wenger's Arsenal team by getting his side to play football with a rugby ball.

The former Barcelona man was known for his skills when he won four consecutive La Liga titles but he never showed he could do this.

Michael Laudrup

Michael Laudrup

Taking the Michael: The Swansea manager messes around with a rugby ball on Friday and coach Kristian O'Leary (below) gets in on the action, too

Kristian O'Leary

Swansea head to north London boosted by a superb display in the 3-1 win over West Brom in midweek but Pablo Hernandez, one of the architects of that victory, will not face the Gunners because of a thigh injury.

And Laudrup is unsure whether the Spain winger will be back in time to face Norwich a week on Saturday.

He said: 'We don't know yet how bad it is, it is a small muscle injury but for Saturday it will be impossible.

'If he could play against Norwich that would be a good sign. It depends on how it heals.

'If we are lucky he could be back against Norwich, if it is a bit more serious it could be maybe two or three weeks.

'These muscle injuries happen the longer you go with a lot of games, it is part of the game you have to accept and that's why you have a squad so you can use them. From Christmas through New Year, especially if we get through in the cups, we will have a lot of games.'

Mark Clattenburg will be in charge of tomorrow's fixture, having returned to action at Southampton in midweek after being cleared of racially abusing Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel.

And Laudrup is pleased to see the official back in action. He said: 'It is good to see this case is finally closed and he is back. He is a good referee and we have to try to help him by playing fair.

'If we think he makes a mistake the players can tell him, that's no problem, but it is good it is over.

'These cases have to be solved quickly so no-one can speculate as the more time it takes, the more speculation there is. But it is over, he is back and he will want to forget what happened, learn from it and get on with his life and his refereeing.'

Going Potty: Stoke have been compared to a rugby team

Going Potty: Stoke have been compared to a rugby team

Manchester City stars shop at Carrington as Harvey Nichols set up Christmas store

Manchester City stars shop 'til they drop at Carrington training ground as upmarket Harvey Nichols set up Christmas store

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UPDATED:

17:14 GMT, 30 November 2012

It's not uncommon to see Premier League stars and their WAGs splashing their cash at up-market stores like Harvey Nichols.

But Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini appears to have decided, for the second year in a row, that his players aren't going to have any time off this Festive season, and that they need to do their Christmas shopping on-site.

Last year Harvey Nichols set up a nifty pop-up marquee at City's Carrington training ground to allow his squad to shop in privacy and comfort. It must have been a success because they've decided to do the same this time around.

Joleon Lescott

Christmas shopping: Joleon Lescott leaves Harvey Nichols with a full bag

Joe Hart

Dressed for success: City stopper Joe Hart

Keep it under you hat: City boss Roberto Mancini pays a visit to the pop-up store on Friday

Keep it under you hat: City boss Roberto Mancini pays a visit to the pop-up store on Friday

It's a lucrative move for Harvey Nicks, since many of the players frequent their city centre store, meaning the store knows what kind of things the players will be looking to buy for their loved ones.

And perhaps they will be looking to treat themselves as a reward for their 2-0 win over Wigan on Wednesday.

Edin Dzeko

Edin Dzeko

Edin in the right direction: Dzeko stocks up on gifts ahead the Festive season

The company has strong ties with the club, having already created a luxury corporate box at the Etihad Stadium, at which customers can even have a personal shopping session or a wine masterclass, among other services.

It can be hired for parties of up to ten and is decorated with Harvey Nichols clothes and products.

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Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are great but can they trap a football on a lamppost?

VIDEO: Messi and Ronaldo are great… but they can't climb a lamppost while juggling a football like this street star sensation

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UPDATED:

17:15 GMT, 30 November 2012

Eat your heart out Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo — you might earn a few more euros a week than this street busker, but we bet you can’t do this with a football and a lamppost!

This talented street performer, reportedly called Iya Traore, who performs regularly in the Montmarte suburb of, entertains inquisitive tourists on the streets.

He might not be revered around the world as one of the finest footballers the world has ever seen, but he certainly has a few tricks up his sleeves.

Going up: This amazing football juggler heads up a lamppost in Paris while balancing the ball on his head

Going up: This amazing football juggler heads up a lamppost in Paris while balancing the ball on his head

Spinning around: The mystery keepy-uppy artist then swings around the lamppost with the ball wedged to his foot (above) and demonstrates more of his stunning repertoire while standing on a plinth (below)

Spinning around: The mystery keepy-uppy artist then swings around the lamppost with the ball wedged to his foot (above) and demonstrates more of his stunning repertoire while standing on a plinth (below)

Paris football juggler

Paris football juggler

Paris football juggler

VIDEO: Check out his amazing skills for yourself. Take a bow, son…

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Iya good enough Get in touch, please…

We're so impressed with Iya Traore's skills that we want him to get in touch. Iya, email us at: [email protected]

Traore starts with some fairly
basic keepy-uppies, before hypnotising crowds with a head balancing act
that has to be seen to be believed.

At one point in the five-minute performance he balances precariously on a thin iron pole while continuing his flicks and tricks.

There’s also a homage to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, with his very own interpretation of a propeller kick.

And the finale has to be seen to be believed — as he performs a heart-stopping balancing act 30ft in the air.

Watch and learn, lads: Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo (right) and Barcelona's Lionel Messi (left)

Watch and learn, lads: Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo (right) and Barcelona's Lionel Messi (left)

EXTRA VIDEO I: Now watch Cristiano Ronaldo have a go (and check out the cameraman!)…

EXTRA VIDEO II: And, here's Messi showing off his skills – WITH A BOOT INSTEAD OF A BALL…