Tag Archives: allianz

Hair today, gone tomorrow… but new style makes Pique a dead ringer for former boss Guardiola

Hair today, gone tomorrow… but new style makes Pique a dead ringer for former boss Guardiola

By
Charlie Skillen

PUBLISHED:

20:07 GMT, 23 April 2013

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UPDATED:

20:09 GMT, 23 April 2013

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique revealed his new shaved hairstyle in tonight's Champions League semi-final first leg at Bayern Munich, and it makes him look just like former manager – and next Bayern boss – Pep Guardiola.

After wearing a hat during training yesterday, the former Manchester United centre back shocked fans with his trademark spiked look completely gone.

Guardiola

Pique

Spot the difference: Gerard Pique (left) sports a similar look to former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola (right)

Keep it covered: Pique was wearing a hat in Barcelona's training session yesterday to hide his new look

Keep it covered: Pique was wearing a hat in Barcelona's training session yesterday to hide his new look

The shaved head comes complete with a beard, meaning he had more foliage on his chin than his head.

The new look obviously doesn't do him much good on the pitch. Thomas Muller's opener for Bayern was a header past the newly-bald Pique.

Guardiola sports the same look, and
the style is set to be a regular feature at the Allianz Arena with the
Catalan manager replacing Jupp Heynckes at the end of the season.

It's possible that his partner, pop
star Shakira, prefers the 'Pep' look. The couple have been dating since
2010 and celebrated the birth of their first child in January.

Partner: It is unknown whether Pique's partner, pop singer Shakira, likes his new 'Pep' look

Partner: It is unknown whether Pique's partner, pop singer Shakira, likes his new 'Pep' look

Pique and Shakira

Bayern Munich v Barcelona – live Champions League

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE LIVE: Bayern Munich v Barcelona – as it happens from the Allianz Arena

).

25min: GOAL! BAYERN MUNICH 1-0 Barcelona

It's been coming and finally the German side's pressure pays off. A corner eventually finds Dante inside the area and his headed effort back across goal is powerfully nodded home by Thomas Muller.

22min: Bayern are slightly fortunate to win a corner as Jordi Alba was adjudged to have failed in keeping the ball in play, but Robben's set-piece is punched clear by Valdes before the visitors win a free-kick for an infringement inside the box.

19min: The home side continue to look dangerous as they go forward but whether it's by handball or other means, the Barcelona back-four isn't struggling too much to cope with the German side. Going forward though it's a different story as Lionel Messi and Co have yet to get into the game.

Clash of the titans: Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery fight for the ball

Clash of the titans: Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery fight for the ball

16min: A strong penalty claim from Bayern Munich, as Philipp Lahm's shot is clearly blocked from a raised Pique arm. It's very subtle from the defender but he is very fortunate to get away with that.

14min: From InfostradaLive:

Bayern have never lost a CL semifinal match at home (5W – 1D). Their only draw was in April 1995: 0-0 against Ajax.

11min: A very even opening to a game which neither side has yet to take control of. Barcelona's passing looks better at this stage but it's Valdes who has had to make the only save of the match so far.

Aiming low: Bayern Munich's Arjen Robben sees a shot saved by Barcelona's Victor Valdes

Aiming low: Bayern Munich's Arjen Robben sees a shot saved by Barcelona's Victor Valdes

8min: In fact one or two players are slipping on other areas of the watered pitch as Barcelona win their first corner, which is headed wide by Gerard Pique.

5min: The home side have settled now but we have the bizarre case of a waterlogged pitch.

There's been no rain in Munich today but the centre-circle is holding standing water from what is most likely from the sprinklers that watered the pitch before the game.

2min: It takes nearly 80 seconds for Bayern to touch the ball but they carve out the first opportunity. Arjen Robben's through pass feeds in Javi Martinez, and after the forward returns the favour with a cut-back, the winger's low shot is well blocked by Victor Valdes.

Ready to go: The players arrive on the pitch at the Allianz Arena

Ready to go: The players arrive on the pitch at the Allianz Arena

Kick-off: Away we go at the Allianz Arena as Barcelona possession is immediately jeered by the home crowd.

19.41: Both sets of teams are on the field, as the home fans raise red and white cards to represent Bayern Munich's colours.

19.36: From InfostradaLive:

Bayern are the first German team to play two consecutive Champions League semifinals since 1998/1999, 1999/2000 and 2000/2001, when they themselves achieved this feat.

Preparing: Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer saves a shot warming up

Preparing: Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer saves a shot warming up

19.31: Viktor Kassai is in charge of tonight's game – with the Hungarian a lucky charm of some sort for Barcelona.

He oversaw their 4-0 win over AC Milan at the Nou Camp earlier this year and was also in charge of the 2011 Champions League final at Wembley where the Spanish side defeated Manchester United 3-1.

Bayern Munich last had the official in their 2-1 defeat at Real Madrid in last year's semi-final.

19.26: They may be stars everyone wants to see but Barcelona were greeted by jeers from the home fans as they took to the pitch for their warm-up.

19.23: Whatever you think of this current Bayern Munich team there is no denying how impressive their current form is. They have won 19 of their last 20 matches in all competitions – with that one blemish being the second-leg defeat against Arsenal in the last 16.

Jupp Heynckes' team have won all 13 Bundesliga games this year and are on course for the treble having reached the final of the German cup following a 6-1 semi-final win over Wolfsburg.

Club legend: Bayern president Uli Hoeness arrives at the Allianz Arena

Club legend: Bayern president Uli Hoeness arrives at the Allianz Arena

Flying the flag: Bayern Munich and Barcelona fans gathered outside of the Allianz Arena

Flying the flag: Bayern Munich and Barcelona fans gathered outside of the Allianz Arena

Flying the flag: Bayern Munich and Barcelona fans gathered outside of the Allianz Arena

19.18: From InfostradaLive:

Victor Valdes plays his 48th CL KO match, overtaking Ryan Giggs (47) as player with most CL KO appearances.

19.13: Full line-ups from the Allianz Arena:

Bayern Munich v Barcelona
Bayern Munich: Neuer, Lahm, Boateng, Dante, Alaba, Javi Martinez, Schweinsteiger, Robben, Muller, Ribery, Gomez. Subs: Starke, Van Buyten, Shaqiri, Rafinha, Pizarro, Gustavo, Tymoschuk.

Barcelona: Valdes, Dani Alves, Pique, Bartra, Jordi Alba, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Sanchez, Messi, Pedro. Subs: Pinto, Fabregas, Villa, Thiago, Montoya, Abidal, Song.

Referee: Viktor Kassai (Hungary)

19.08: From OptaPaolo:

25 – Bayern have always scored at home in the Champions League against Spanish opposition (13 games), scoring 25 goals in total. Assurance.

Way back when: Bayern Munich's Stefan Effenberg (right) tracks Barcelona's Sonny Anderson

Way back when: Bayern Munich's Stefan Effenberg (right) tracks Barcelona's Sonny Anderson

Revenge: First leg goals from Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry helped Barcelona thump Bayern Munich 5-1 on aggregate in the 2009 Champions League quarter-finals

Revenge: First leg goals from Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry helped Barcelona thump Bayern Munich 5-1 on aggregate in the 2009 Champions League quarter-finals

Revenge: First leg goals from Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry helped Barcelona thump Bayern Munich 5-1 on aggregate in the 2009 Champions League quarter-finals

19.05: Bayern Munich won two Champions League group stage meetings in 1998, but Barcelona finally triumphed over the German side when they strolled to a 5-1 aggregate victory in the Champions League quarter-finals four years ago.

In fact they effectively won the tie by half-time of the first leg at the Nou Camp, following a brace from Lionel Messi and strikes from Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto'o.

19.00: Despite their regular participation in Europe's top competition – these sides have only clashed in three previous seasons.

The first was in the 1996 UEFA Cup semi-final when Bayern edged through 4-3 on aggregate – a tie where in the clash at the Nou Camp, Sergio Busquets' (who starts tonight) father Carles featured – as did Pep Guardiola.

18.55: Mario Mandzukic is suspended for Bayern, so therefore Mario Gomez plays up top. The more agile Jerome Boateng starts in front of Daniel van Buyten.

French following: A fan holds a France flag with Bayern's Franck Ribery on the front

French following: A fan holds a France flag with Bayern's Franck Ribery on the front

18.50: So Messi returns for Barcleona and will lead an attack along with Pedro Rodriguez and Alexis Sanchez. Marc Bartra starts in defence in place of injured pair Javier Mascherano, Carlos Puyol and the suspended Adriano.

18.45: Barcelona starting XI:

Valdes, Alves, Bartra, Pique, Alba, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Pedro, Messi, Alexis.

18.40: Bayern Munich starting XI:

Neuer, Lahm, Boateng, Dante, Alaba, Schweinsteiger, Martinez, Robben, Muller, Ribery, Gomez.

On the move: Mario Gotze (centre) will join Bayern Munich this summer

On the move: Mario Gotze (centre) will join Bayern Munich this summer

18.35: Bayern Munich have already been making headlines today, after it emerged Mario Gotze will join the club from Borussia Dortmund for 32m in what will be Pep Guardiola's first signing when he takes over at Munich this summer.

A huge statement of intent that, with the 20-year-old midfielder one of Europe's most highly sought after players.

18.30: From OptaJean:

1 – Barcelona have only won one of their 6 competitive encounters with Bayern Munich (D2, L3). Stress.

18.25: The fact that Barcelona are not huge favourites (if they are favourites at all) to win tonight shows just how far Bayern Munich have come this season.

They continue to shine in Europe of course but their domestic form has been nothing short of devastating – it should be quite a contest.

Back in business: Lionel Messi is poised to return for Barcelona

Back in business: Lionel Messi is poised to return for Barcelona

18.20: It's been a lovely sunny St. George's Day in the UK, and the weather is looking good in Munich too ahead of tonight's game. It's 16 degrees at the Allianz Arena where fans are already arriving.

18.15: No full team news yet but it seems Lionel Messi is fully fit for Barcelona, having not featured since coming off the bench in the quarter-final win against Paris Saint-Germain in the last round. That's a big boost for Barca who have stuttered at times on their travels around the continent this term.

18.10: There may be no English teams left but what a final four we have in this season's Champions League!

As it turns out it will be a double dose of Spain v Germany, and while Real Madrid are favourites to edge past Borussia Dortmund, it appears much closer between Bayern Munich and Barcelona – the latter of course, the main event this evening.

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On the ball: Bayern Munich's Bastian Schweinsteiger trains in preperation for the semi-final

On the ball: Bayern Munich's Bastian Schweinsteiger trains in preperation for the semi-final

Bayern Munich hit Hamburg for NINE to continue procession to 23rd Bundesliga title

Majestic Bayern hit Hamburg for NINE to continue Bundesliga title procession

PUBLISHED:

20:51 GMT, 30 March 2013

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UPDATED:

20:51 GMT, 30 March 2013

Brutal Bayern Munich produced a nine-goal annihilation of Hamburg to move to within one win of wrapping up the Bundesliga title.

Bayern smashed their opponents 9-2 at the Allianz Arena with Claudio Pizarro scoring four times and Arjen Robben twice.

Xherdan Shaqiri, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Franck Ribery were also on target for the rampant hosts, who led 5-0 at the break and refused to let up.

Four-some: Claudio Pizarro netted four times for the soon-to-be German champions

Four-some: Claudio Pizarro (centre) netted four times for the soon-to-be German champions

Sensational: Bayern dismantled their opponents with ease during tonight's nine goal drubbing

Sensational: Bayern dismantled their opponents with ease during tonight's nine goal drubbing

They did it all without leading scorer Mario Mandzukic, who was left on the bench ahead of Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final meeting with Juventus.

Hamburg's goals, from Jeffrey Bruma and Heiko Westermann, made it 8-1 and then 9-2 and did nothing to ease the misery.

The win moved Bayern 20 points clear of Borussia Dortmund with seven games to go and victory at Eintracht Frankfurt next Saturday will wrap up the title.

Dortmund kept Bayern waiting for another week at least by winning 2-1 at Stuttgart

Lukasz Piszczek gave Dortmund the lead in the 29th minute, but Alexandru Maxim's first Bundesliga goal brought the Swabians level before a red card to Georg Niedermeier tipped the scales back in Dortmund's favour.

Robert Lewandowski grabbed the winner eight minutes from time.

Bayer Leverkusen kept a strong hold on third with a 4-1 win at Fortuna Dusseldorf.

How many Arjen Robben scored two of the nine goals

How many Arjen Robben (right) scored two of the nine goals

Two goals apiece for Stefan Kiessling and Andre Schurrle ensured Leverkusen maintained a six-point cushion over Schalke.

The fifth goal in the game also came from a visiting player, Daniel Schwaab's own goal all Fortuna had to show for their efforts.

Schalke scored three times in the final 20 minutes to beat relegation-threatened Hoffenheim 3-0.

Marco Hoger broke the deadlock in the 71st minute before two substitutes, Raffael and Teemu Pukki, wrapped up the victory.

Mainz dropped three points behind Schalke as they had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Werder Bremen, despite going ahead after 12 seconds.

Adam Szalai gave Mainz a flying start, but Aaron Hunt earned Bremen a point.

Max Kruse scored twice as Freiburg moved ahead of Borussia Monchengladbach in the race for Europa League qualification with a 2-0 win.

Third-bottom Augsburg failed to improve their chances of avoiding the drop as they lost 2-0 at home to Hannover.

Konstantin Rausch scored both goals in the second half.

Kevin Davies to be released by Bolton after a decade at the Reebok

'Shocked' Bolton legend Davies to be released after a decade at the Reebok (and the club told him on his birthday!)

By
John Drayton

PUBLISHED:

19:58 GMT, 26 March 2013

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UPDATED:

10:13 GMT, 27 March 2013

Kevin Davies has been left shocked and hurt after discovering he is being released by Bolton at the end of the season.

The former England striker, who turned 36 on Tuesday, is out of contract in the summer and he has been told he will not be offered an extension by the Championship side.

Davies, who has made more 400 appearances and scored 84 goals during a 10-year spell at Bolton, admits he has been taken aback by the news as he had hoped to finish his career at the Reebok Stadium.

Finest hour: Kevin Davies scores for Bolton against Bayern Munich to secure an improbable 2-2 draw in the Allianz Arena in 2007

Finest hour: Kevin Davies scores for Bolton against Bayern Munich to secure an improbable 2-2 draw in the Allianz Arena in 2007

Davies celebrates

He told talkSPORT: 'It was a bit of a shock. I was shocked at the time and it's not quite sunk in yet, but these things happen.

'I've had clubs come in for me down the years but always turned them away because I've been so happy here. I always wanted to stay here and finish my career here, and hoped to go into a coaching role. That's maybe why it's shocked me so much.'

The former Blackburn and Southampton centre forward, who will look at the possibility of going out on loan in the next few days, insists he has no intention of hanging up his boots yet, however.

Aerial ultra: Davies scores with his head against Tottenham and (below) Chelsea

Aerial ultra: Davies scores with his head against Tottenham and (below) Chelsea

Kevin Davies scores against Chelsea

'I've had a few clubs come in for me so I'm not going to start panicking about retiring just yet. I want to carry on for at least a couple more years yet. It hurts right now, but hopefully by the end of this season I'll have a new challenge ahead of me,' he said.

Davies also revealed his contract runs out just before he is due a testimonial at Bolton, although the Bolton News report that the striker could still get one if he asks the club.

He said: 'It would have been nice to have one as a thank you for what I've done.

'I was aware when I signed [a new deal] last year it was running short, and the club said they might extend it for a week or two [to get to the testimonial] but I don't think that will happen.

Leading from the front: Davies's all-action style has made the Bolton captain a hero at the Reebok

Leading from the front: Davies's all-action style has made the Bolton captain a hero at the Reebok

Kevin Davies challenge

Yellow peril: Davies, here challenging Tom Cleverley, has been booked 99 times in the Premier League

Yellow peril: Davies, here challenging Tom Cleverley, has been booked 99 times in the Premier League

'Right now it's difficult for me to take but I need to keep my head up. It's going to be hard to try to keep involved, but I just have to try my best.'

Bolton manager Dougie Freedman told the club's official website: 'Kevin Davies is and always will be a Wanderers legend.

'I want to be fair to him as regards his future, as he deserves it. This decision means that he is now free to sort himself out with a new club in plenty of time for next season.'

International man of history: Davies became the second oldest player to make his England debut, against Montenegro in 2010 at the age of 33

International man of history: Davies became the second oldest player to make his England debut, against Montenegro in 2010 at the age of 33

Bayern Munich lead the race to sign Luis Suarez – Liverpool striker"s agent is Pep Guardiola"s brother

Liverpool want to keep Bayern target Suarez… but the bad news is that his agent is Guardiola's BROTHER

By
John Edwards

PUBLISHED:

11:57 GMT, 25 March 2013

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UPDATED:

12:03 GMT, 25 March 2013

Bayern Munich are ready to play their trump card in a three-way battle to land Luis Suarez after it emerged that Pep Guardiola's brother is advising the Liverpool striker on his future.

Senior sources at Juventus confirmed their intention to join the bidding for 40million-rated Suarez, while Guardiola's old club Barcelona are also in the frame.

But Serie A leaders Juve have privately
admitted Bayern are in pole position, due to Guardiola's brother Pere
being Suarez's agent.

Race is on: Luis Suarez will be targeted by a number of top clubs this summer

Race is on: Luis Suarez will be targeted by a number of top clubs this summer

Star man: Suarez is currently on national duty with Uruguay ahead of their clash with Chile

Star man: Suarez is currently on national duty with Uruguay ahead of their clash with Chile

Former Barca boss Guardiola has been
promised substantial transfer backing, after agreeing two months ago to
replace Jupp Heynckes at the end of the season, and has earmarked
Liverpool's prolific frontrunner as his main target.

Bayern's seemingly unassailable lead
at the top of the Bundesliga guarantees Champions' League football next
season, while Pere seems certain to nominate the Allianz Arena, should
Suarez seek his advice over choosing a new club in the summer.

Juventus have not given up on the
26-year-old Uruguayan, but there is an acceptance that they are up
against it, given the Guardiola family link and the amounts involved.

With prize money for a Champions'
League semi-final place estimated at 40million, senior figures at Juve
have calculated that they need to reach the last four, at least, to have
a realistic chance of financing a deal.

Bayern are standing in their way, in a
twist that should add extra spice to an eagerly-awaited quarter-final
showdown next month between the two biggest names in Italian and German
football.

Though Suarez has been installed as
Juve's priority target, coach Antonio Conte and director Beppe Marotta
have lined up Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez as an alternative, should
they lose out to Bayern or even Barca in the race for the top prize.

Liverpool still hope to hang on to
Suarez, but are mindful of his longing for Champions' League football
and wary of his agent's possible influence on what promises to be this
summer's most intriguing transfer battle.

Tug of war: Guardiola is well positioned to lure Breddan Rodgers' star performer

Tug of war: Guardiola is well positioned to lure Breddan Rodgers' star performer

Tug of war: Guardiola is well positioned to lure this season's star performer for Rodgers

Roberto Di Matteo airbushed from Chelsea history – club remove Champions League picture

Di Matteo airbrushed from Chelsea history as club remove Champions League picture featuring former boss

By
Neil Ashton

PUBLISHED:

22:58 GMT, 26 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

02:13 GMT, 27 February 2013

Before: This picture featuring Roberto Di Matteo has been replaced

Before: This picture featuring Roberto Di Matteo has been replaced

Roberto di Matteo has been airbrushed out of Chelsea’s Champions League history after the club replaced his image on an iconic wall at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea’s history-making manager, sacked last November by owner Roman Abramovich, was pictured on the West Stand wall with the rest of the squad and their trophies at the start of the season.

Di Matteo has now been replaced by a huge image of Chelsea’s players and coaching staff — minus the manager — celebrating the club’s first European Cup triumph in the Allianz Arena.

And Chelsea supporters, who often take souvenir pictures next to the giant poster, have been left stunned by the decision.

The
new image is one of the few in existence with the team and coaching
staff celebrating their triumph without Di Matteo present.

The
popular Italian led Chelsea to their first European Cup last May, but
was brutally axed following a 3-0 defeat at Juventus in November.

The original picture of the squad was in
place at the start of the season, but Di Matteo has only just been
removed.

After: This is the picture which you can find at Stamford Bridge now, not featuring the former manager

After: This is the picture which you can find at Stamford Bridge now, not featuring the former manager

Gone and forgotten: Di Matteo led the Blues to double cup success before being ousted

Gone and forgotten: Di Matteo led the Blues to double cup success before being ousted

Gone and forgotten: Di Matteo led the Blues to double cup success before being ousted

He was still in place when Chelsea played Wigan at Stamford
Bridge on February 9, but had gone by the time they faced Brentford in
an FA Cup fourth-round replay on February 17.

Although the club insist the change was made because Di Matteo is no longer Chelsea manager, they are still using pictures of other departed stars in the new image outside Stamford Bridge.

Didier Drogba, who struck the winning penalty against Bayern Munich last May, is in the front row with Chelsea’s players.

Troubled times: Interim boss Benitez has failed to lift the gloom at Stamford Bridge

Troubled times: Interim boss Benitez has failed to lift the gloom at Stamford Bridge

Troubled times: Interim boss Benitez has failed to lift the gloom at Stamford Bridge

Florent Malouda, banished to training with the academy players in his final year and told he will never play for Chelsea again, is also in the frame.

Jose Bosingwa, who joined QPR in the summer on a free transfer, is another former player captured on the image, which has a prominent place just by the stadium’s entrance.

Chelsea last night pointed out that Di Matteo is pictured with the FA Cup in another area of the concourse.

Artificial pitches are coming to Rugby Union

Fantastic plastic will end the winter mudbaths for the better, despite what traditionalists might say

|

UPDATED:

00:19 GMT, 21 December 2012

Those ‘traditionalists’ who are permanently up in arms about any change to the precious status quo have a prime new focus for concern and complaint.

Artificial pitches are coming.

The purists will have a field day, so to speak.

There will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth when Saracens take their place at the vanguard of the revolution by moving to Allianz Park, their new home in Barnet, next month.

A thing of the past: Mudbaths of the like which led to this famous image of Fran Cotton will become a thing of the past when artificial pitches are brought into rugby union

A thing of the past: Mudbaths of the like which led to this famous image of Fran Cotton will become a thing of the past when artificial pitches are brought into rugby union

There they will play on a synthetic surface, which will also be available to the community.

It has emerged that Wales are considering the use of artificial turf at the Millennium Stadium, where there have been endless problems with the grass.

No doubt, the prospect of Tests being played on a hi-tech, all-weather carpet will crank up the traditionalists’ anger still further.

Such resistance is absurd. This is positive progress, not something that betrays the heritage of the sport.

Much of the opposition is based on the out-dated notion of so-called ‘plastic pitches’ being dangerous.

But the state-of-the-art surfaces, with grass yarn laid on rubber, are far removed from old-fashioned Astroturf.

Pioneers: Saracens will have an artificial pitch when they move to their new home, Allianz Park in Barnet, next month

Pioneers: Saracens will have an artificial pitch when they move to their new home, Allianz Park in Barnet, next month

They have been heavily tested and
declared safe. Improved grip means less danger of scrum collapses, which
in turn reduces a major source of serious injury.

Part
of the argument against this innovation is that teams must deal with
what the forces of nature throw at them. Well, this is Britain, so there
is plenty of rain and wind to keep rugby real.

And
if games at the Millennium Stadium end up being played under a closed
roof, on a fake grass pitch, as if in a vacuum, this column has no
complaints.

The most talented players will still manage to stand apart, even if basic skills are easier to perform.

Let’s
face it, no-one has ever gone to a match in the hope of seeing slips
and knock-ons. The end of winter mud-baths leading to stodgy contests
wouldn’t be lamented here.

Six Nations winners Wales are considering artificial turf at the Millennium Stadium

Six Nations winners Wales are considering artificial turf at the Millennium Stadium

The
iconic picture of Fran Cotton looking like a creature from the swamps
would serve as an image of a historical reference point.

If summer rugby is not on the agenda (more’s the pity) then these durable, consistent surfaces represent a compromise.

Traditionalists
presumably still pine for heavy, cotton shirts and heavy, leather
balls, not to mention rotund props who can’t run and have to perform a
forfeit if they actually throw a pass.

Move on — the game is changing, for the better in this case.

More from Chris Foy…

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06/12/12

Chris Foy: Early World Cup draw can sow seeds of discontent
29/11/12

Chris Foy: New guru Parker will soon learn rugby is not an exact science
22/11/12

Chris Foy world of rugby: Lam's back, so it could be the chop for Howley
15/11/12

Chris Foy: Six injured and counting, Lancaster needs stability
01/11/12

World of rugby: Ireland facing the music as Strauss gets a call-up
25/10/12

Chris Foy: More referees will follow Lawrence's example and quit if this hounding goes on
18/10/12

Chris Foy: Let's play! Time for TV war to take a back seat as the Heineken Cup returns
11/10/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Quote of the week

Brian O’Driscoll on his lifestyle changes: ‘I have the T-shirt from going out in my twenties, I don’t go out nearly as much as I used to. You get to a point where your life and family situation dictates certain things and you are just content in living that way.

As a 22-year-old you look at guys like me now — 32-33 — and you say, “Jeesus, settled down and married, I couldn’t imagine anything worse”. But I look at the 22-year-olds now and I say, “You can keep your wild lifestyle”. I have been there, lived it, enjoyed it, but you just shelve that. God forbid, it’s dinner parties I go to now, not nightclubs!’

Sarries out of tune with Munster

While the bold step of installing an artificial pitch illustrates the best of Saracens, what happened in Watford last weekend showed the club in a much dimmer light.

Those who were at Vicarage Road for the visit of Munster will not forget the Tannoy torture in a hurry.

With a huge contingent of away fans in attendance and in fine voice, as ever, a conscious decision was made to dilute their impact on proceedings by blaring out the awful ‘Stand up for the Saracens’ over the public-address system.

Saracens will have artificial turf when they move to their new home, Allianz Park next month

New feel: Saracens will have artificial turf when they move to their new home, Allianz Park next month

That one, grating line was repeated perhaps a thousand times during the game — often cynically played louder if Munster fans were singing.

It didn’t just ruin their experience, it also antagonised many home fans too, judging by angry comments on the club’s website.

Saracens don’t have enough loyal supporters to alienate the ones they do have. This was a terrible error of judgment and must not be repeated.

In addition, the authorities should ban this barrage of music while the game is taking place. Before, after and at half-time is fine, but not during.

New man at the helm: Scott Johnson

New man at the helm: Scott Johnson

The last word

There must be something sensational on Scott Johnson’s c.v., some startling revelations which apparently prove to prospective employers that he is capable of wizardry. Either that, or he’s just a master at talking himself into top jobs.

The Australian has been installed as Scotland’s interim head coach, based on his ‘wealth of experience of international rugby’. Well, he worked in the Wales set-up under Graham Henry, Steve Hansen and Mike Ruddock, but was widely implicated in the latter coach’s abrupt exit.

After an abortive stint in charge, Johnson drifted home to act as assistant to the Wallabies. Then he had a brief stint with the USA, and a colourful period of mixed fortunes as Ospreys director of coaching before joining Scotland.

To this day, he is perhaps best known for referring to New Zealand as ‘a poxy little island in the south Pacific’ — which is telling in itself. It may be in Scotland’s best long-term interests if the Six Nations is an unmitigated disaster.

How netting would work to stop coin throwing and pitch invasions in Premier League

Net gains Premier League could follow Germans to sort out meshy business of missiles and pitch invasions

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UPDATED:

13:04 GMT, 10 December 2012

Heralded for possessing some of the finest top-level football stadiums on the planet, the majority constructed or extensively remodelled for the 2006 World Cup, behind-the-goal netting is commonplace in the German Bundesliga.

Sportsmail spoke to Ralf Esser, the owner of Funtec, which supplies the crowd-control measures to grounds such as Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena and Stuttgart’s Mercedes-Benz Arena, to find out what may lie in store for English fans.

Look closely: The net at the home of Bayern Munich is just visible if you stare hard enough

Look closely: The net at the home of Bayern Munich is just visible if you stare hard enough

So how does the system work

We became involved at the request of FIFA for the 2006 World Cup to design a system which would prevent objects being thrown, including pyrotechnics, on to the pitch and to stop people running onto the field.

It is a flame-resistant mesh which you can see through very easily.

We produce a steel rope which is built into the roof of the stadium from which the net is suspended and there are no poles to obscure the view.

So what do the fans think about the nets

Sometimes they notice them if they are very, very close to the net. But we often have a very funny reaction from the fans.

They write letters to the clubs complaining that it is not fair that only the home supporters, and not the away fans, have nets in front of them. That’s because they cannot see them on the other side!

You do not focus on the nets. You focus on the action behind it. We don’t want the fans to notice the net.

Net profit: Again, at first glance the net at Borussia Dortmund's Westfalenstadion is hard to spot

Net profit: Again, at first glance the net at Borussia Dortmund's Westfalenstadion is hard to spot

What about the safety implications about having nets

It is possible to break the net down very quickly. It can be winched away if you only wish to use it for high-risk games.

In fact there was a match a few weeks ago at Hoffenheim where they forgot to take it down, nobody realised it was still up!

We have had lot of discussion with the emergency services. Every stadium is different and everyone has a different emergency concept.

There are provisions in place for spectators to run through the net or to go underneath it.

There are exits which are protected with Velcro which can be opened by the stewards.

There are systems in the steel rope which, if the tension is getting too high, the net will break in individual sections.

The steel rope also has a mechanism at the end that if there is more than two tons of pressure it will break in slow and smooth fashion so it cannot fall into the spectators.

There are lot of emergency break points which are guaranteed to break under a certain pressures and conditions.

Flashpoint: Rio Ferdinand was hit with a coin as Manchester United won the derby at the Etihad Stadium

Flashpoint: Rio Ferdinand was hit with a coin as Manchester United won the derby at the Etihad Stadium

What would it prevent being thrown on to the pitch, coins, and lighters

It depends on the size of the mesh and the speed a coin is thrown. A lighter will be stopped by the mesh.

If a coin is heavy enough it can go through the mesh but it will still slow it down. If you manage to throw a coin the right way it can get through.

If you make the mesh too fine you can see the net so we have to find a compromise.

The stadium owners don’t want the mesh to be too fine. But with a net that you cannot see, the fans soon find out it is not worth throwing two or three coins until you hit somebody.

Pitch invader: A Manchester City fan was able to get too close to the players during Sunday's derby

Pitch invader: A Manchester City fan was able to get too close to the players during Sunday's derby

Have you had any contact from a Premier League club and how long would it take to install

We have had no discussions as yet but it would take just one week to install. If you don’t have any protection systems it is also cheap.

You do not have to dig foundations or install poles. All our solutions are based on the steel cable which stretches from one side of the stadium to the other.

The system is working very well in Germany. The league supports it but they have not made a rule that you have to install it.

All of the big clubs have it but they do not want to draw attention to it. If they did people would realise it is installed.

Pep Guardiola is Bayern Munich target with Manchester City and Chelsea chasing

German giants Bayern aiming to pip Man City and Chelsea to Guardiola's signature

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UPDATED:

12:37 GMT, 9 December 2012

Bayern Munich have emerged as a serious threat to Manchester City’s hopes of luring Pep Guardiola to The Etihad Stadium at the end of the season.

With time running out for Roberto Mancini, following another Champions' League failure and claims of dressing room unrest, City have made Guardiola their top target and believe they have a better chance than Chelsea of enticing him back to management.

The Blues are desperate to bring him
to Stamford Bridge, although have begun to draw up a list of
second-choices because they are worried Guardiola is unwilling to work
under notoriously impatient owner Roman Abramovich.

Wanted man: Pep Guardiola is in demand with Bayern Munich, Man City and Chelsea in the hunt

Wanted man: Pep Guardiola is in demand with Bayern Munich, Man City and Chelsea in the hunt

But whether City have a better chance than Bayern is beginning to look increasingly doubtful.

Talks have already taken place between Bayern bosses and Guardiola’s brother Pere, and the former Barcelona coach is now waiting for the outcome of discussions in the New Year over Jupp Heynckes’ future.

Officially, Bayern want their veteran boss to continue for another year and have said they will tell him as much when they sit down with him in February or March.

The word within the Allianz Arena, however, is that the meeting could be as early as next month and that Heynckes, whose contract runs out at the end of the season, will indicate he is ready to step down in May, when he turns 68.

At risk: Roberto Mancini could be replaced at the Etihad

At risk: Roberto Mancini could be replaced at the Etihad

There is a growing feeling that if Bayern win the Bundesliga, which they led by 11 points going into Bayer Leverkusen’s game at Hannover on Sunday afternoon, or especially the Champions’ League, Heynckes would consider it the ideal way to bow out.

Guardiola has been made aware he is far and away Bayern’s top choice to take over and left in little doubt that he can name his own terms.

Bayern would not only meet his financial demands but, despite the presence of former playing legends like Franz Beckenbauer, Uli Hoeness and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, allow him total control of football matters, without any interference.

Backing: Luca Toni (left) has helped Bayern's cause by speaking to Pep

Backing: Luca Toni (left) has helped Bayern's cause by speaking to Pep

The presence of former Barcelona officials Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano at The Etihad can only enhance City’s prospects of winning any tug-of-war for Guardiola, should Mancini be axed amid claims his players are not responding to his style of management.

Bayern will not give in without a fight and even have their former striker Luca Toni, a close friend of Guardiola’s after they played together at Brescia a decade ago, aiding their cause.

‘I have spoken to Pep a couple of times about what he might do next and recommended Bayern to him,’ said the Italy forward. ‘The circumstances and everything about the club would be perfect for him.’

Juan Mata says Didier Drogba is still missed at Chelsea

Losing Drogba was like an electric shock! Mata says Chelsea are still recovering from losing Munich hero

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UPDATED:

02:45 GMT, 7 December 2012

Juan Mata has revealed that Chelsea miss legendary striker Didier Drogba and says his departure was 'like an electric shock'.

The Spanish playmaker has been one of the few Blues players to play at his best this season but says Drogba's absence has been hard for the team to cope with.

Drogba scored the crucial equaliser in the Allianz Arena when Chelsea beat Bayern Munich to win the Champions League – and his last kick for the club was the winning penalty in the shoot-out.

Missed: Losing Didier Drogba (second left) felt like an 'electric shock', according to Juan Mata

Missed: Losing Didier Drogba (second left) felt like an 'electric shock', according to Juan Mata

He left for Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua on a free transfer before the start of the season.

'Drogba's departure was an electric shock for us. He was a warrior,' said Mata, as reported in The Sun.

'We've had to learn to cope without him because for many long years he was Chelsea's lightning conductor.

'With Drogba we were conditioned to play in a certain way.

'You gave him the ball and you knew that he would at least force the opponent into a foul.

'In a way we had a tendency to rely on him too much but it was a natural mechanism.

'All the great players like getting the ball, Didier even more so.'

Mata said that playing with his compatriot Fernando Torres in the team was simply not the same.

'With Fernando it’s different. His runs aren’t the same. He’s not a funnel for our play like Drogba could be.

'He doesn’t like the holding-it-up role. He prefers finding space and facing the goal.'

He told French magazine So Foot that the 50million price tag was weighing on Torres' head.

Mata explained: 'When someone pays that much for you and you become the most expensive player in the Premier League, you are eager to please. Too eager, maybe.

'Especially Fernando, because he’s a very humble guy who knows where he comes from and understands the value of money.

'For me, he is still one of the best strikers in the world.'

Drogba, back in London to train at Cobham during the Chinese off-season before the African Cup of Nations, hosted a party for the Chelsea players who won the Champions League in May on Thursday evening.

He handed out expensive personalised commemorative rings to mark the victory on that heady night.

One notable absentee was Torres – although he may have been otherwise engaged because his son Leo turned two.

Strong bond: Mata only played with Drogba for a year but can feel the difference without him

Strong bond: Mata only played with Drogba for a year but can feel the difference without him

READ ABOUT DROGBA'S BASH

Click here to see the gifts Drogba bestowed on his Champions League winning ex team-mates

Mata and Peter Cech were also non-attendees, but the Spaniard remains proud of his side's remarkable achievement.

'After the Champions League final it hurt to hear people saying the football we played had no merit,' he said.

'Every way of playing has merit. If you tell me Chelsea's football is not as good to watch as Barcelona's, I can understand.

'I can accept we were not the most talented either. However we were the most competitive.

'So, like it or not we did not steal the Champions League.

Legacy: Drogba is still regarded as the legend at Stamford Bridge while Fernando Torres struggles

Legacy: Drogba is still regarded as the legend at Stamford Bridge while Fernando Torres struggles

All for this: Drogba with the prestigious Champions League trophy which Mata said was deserved

All for this: Drogba with the prestigious Champions League trophy which Mata said was deserved

'I don't understand why people want to constantly under-estimate what we achieved last season.

'Knocking out Pep Guardiola's Barcelona is anything but simple – but we showed that it's possible.'

Mata also had praise for two much maligned figures at Chelsea – Roman Abramovich and John Terry.

He said, of Chelsea's Russian owner: 'I think he loves Chelsea, coming to the ground and knowing how the squad is getting on.

The first time he came and spoke to me, it was to congratulate me – and that really touched me because I felt he was really sincere.'

Sympathy: Mata said it is sad that John Terry has no private life left

Sympathy: Mata said it is sad that John Terry has no private life left

He also said he felt sorry for skipper Terry because his name is frequently dragged through the mud publicly.

'Obviously it got to him, having his whole life unwrapped in public,' explained Mata.

'You're talking about a man who has no private life left and that is sad because the guy I see every day going flat out in training does not correspond to the image peddled in the press.'

'If you need help with anything, John is always there.And even if he has made mistakes, does he have to be reminded all his life Everyone makes mistakes.'