Tag Archives: barlow

Manchester United and Arsenal won"t win Champions League = Roy Hodgson

That's harsh, Roy! England boss writes off United's chances of beating Real (and he doesn't fancy Arsenal either…)

By
Matt Barlow

PUBLISHED:

13:56 GMT, 19 February 2013

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UPDATED:

14:03 GMT, 19 February 2013

Roy Hodgson does not expect another English triumph in the Champions League this year, claiming his favourites for the title come from Spain and Germany.

Hodgson has picked Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich as his top tips to lift the European Cup at Wembley in May, dismissing Arsenal and Manchester United’s hopes.

Speaking to an Italian newspaper, the England manager also said he had been impressed by the progress made at Juventus since their return to the top.

Vital: Danny Welbeck scored a crucial away goal against Real Madrid

Vital: Danny Welbeck scored a crucial away goal against Real Madrid

head boy: Cristiano Ronaldo levelled the scores at the Bernabeu last week

head boy: Cristiano Ronaldo levelled the scores at the Bernabeu last week

‘My favourites are Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern,’ said Hodgson. ‘Juventus is working well, too.’

Juve are virtually into the last eight after winning 3-0 at Celtic in the first leg of their last-16 encounter but he does not rate the chances of Arsenal, who take on Bayern Munich at the Emirates tonight, or Manchester United, runaway Barclays Premier League leaders, who drew 1-1 with Real in Madrid last week.

‘Arsenal and Manchester United have been unlucky with the draw,’ said Hodgson, during a lengthy interview with Gianfelice Facchetti, son of legendary Inter Milan defender Giacinto, who died in seven years ago.

His views are in line with the fear that the Premier League clubs have lost their stranglehold having dominated Europe for a few years.

Tough times: Arsene Wenger must mastermind a win over Bayern Munich

Tough times: Arsene Wenger must mastermind a win over Bayern Munich

Fancied: Roy Hodgson has backed Bayern Munich to beat Arsenal

Fancied: Roy Hodgson has backed Bayern Munich to beat Arsenal

In 2008, three of the four Champions League semi-finalists were from England but this year, for the second successive season, only two have qualified for the last 16.

Despite this and his acceptance that there is a diminishing pool of homegrown talent in the Premier League, Hodgson told Gazzetta’s Extra Time that he was optimistic about the future for the national team.

‘The win against Brazil was very important,’ said the England boss. ‘I am confident we can improve. We are finding the right balance between the old and new generations.

Jack Wilshere is a fantastic talent for the future. He lost a year through injuries but he is fit.’

Top tips: Hodgson has also backed Barcelona and Juventus to impress

Top tips: Hodgson has also backed Barcelona and Juventus to impress

Top tips: Hodgson has also backed Barcelona and Juventus to impress

He also said England fans were pleased to see an Englishman at the helm after the years under Fabio Capello and Sven Goran Eriksson.

‘The fans are happy and I suppose it is because the English team have an English manager and optimism is good because we have some young players,’ said Hodgson.

‘We had good managers but I think in a country with such important football history as England, Italy or Germany, the fans are more critical with a foreign manager. I knew this was the reality because I was national team coach in foreign countries.’

Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe may need surgery on a pelvis injury

Striker light: Spurs concern as crocked Defoe faces operation leaving AVB short up front

By
Matt Barlow

PUBLISHED:

22:30 GMT, 27 January 2013

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UPDATED:

08:10 GMT, 28 January 2013

Jermain Defoe has been nursing a pelvic injury and was left out of the squad for yesterday’s trip to Leeds amid fears he may yet need surgery.

Defoe has been playing in discomfort for some time and after a blistering start to the season his form has suffered with only one goal in his last
eight games.

In pain: Spurs striker Jermain Defoe, grimacing during the game against Manchester United, may need surgery on a pelvic injury

In pain: Spurs striker Jermain Defoe, grimacing during the game against Manchester United, may need surgery on a pelvic injury

The Spurs and England striker was not expected to be fit for the Barclays Premier League game against Manchester United last week but was patched up and played 90 minutes, his 34th appearance of the season, because Emmanuel Adebayor was at the Africa Cup of Nations with Togo.

Defoe was able to train last week and the club were at pains to insist there was nothing wrong with him ahead of the FA Cup tie at Elland Road but there is clearly concern behind the scenes.

The striker has had an injection in the hope of being fit for Wednesday’s fixture at Norwich but the fear at Tottenham is that it nags away or worsens and requires an operation.

Top form: Defoe has scored 14 goals so far this season

Top form: Defoe has scored 14 goals so far this season

Andre Villas-Boas has tried to manage the issue carefully, hoping Adebayor might return quickly or that a striker can be signed in the transfer window but it has exposed a desperate lack of cover in a key area.

Spurs went into the season with only two specialist centre forwards, youngster Harry Kane on loan at Norwich and Clint Dempsey, an attacking midfielder who can operate up front, as he did at Leeds.

Tottenham have long been in pursuit of a striker. They are keen on Sevilla striker Alvaro Negredo but have yet to strike a deal and they are interested in Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke although this is not something they can complete this month as he has already played for two clubs this season.

In need: Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas (pictured) was forced to play Clint Dempsey up front in the loss at Leeds and has been searching for another striker

In need: Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas (pictured) was forced to play Clint Dempsey up front in the loss at Leeds and has been searching for another striker

Petr Cech applauds Rafa Benitez changes

Matt Barlow: Cech closes in on his 400th Chelsea game… and here's where I rate him among the Premier League's finest

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UPDATED:

11:25 GMT, 28 December 2012

Petr Cech has applauded Rafa Benitez’s tactical changes which have helped restore Chelsea’s traditional strengths of organisation and defensive solidity.

Cech has conceded eight goals in 10 games under Benitez, although three of them came inside half an hour of disarray at West Ham.

Overall, Chelsea have been more compact since last month’s managerial change and the players seem happier with the return to a system upon which they built so much of their recent success.

Scroll down for Matt's top 10 non-British keepers in Premier League history…

Resolute: Petr Cech has applauded Rafa Benitez's tactical change which has seen a return to Chelsea's traditional strengths of defensive solidity and organisation

Resolute: Petr Cech has applauded Rafa Benitez's tactical change which has seen a return to Chelsea's traditional strengths of defensive solidity and organisation

‘We look better organised, I think that is the difference,’ said Cech, who kept his 187th clean sheet in 399 games for the club at Norwich on Boxing Day.

‘We were very open and suddenly we are defending much better. I think that is the key because we were not defending well as a team.

‘We were conceding too many goals and now we are back to our ways where we are difficult to score against and that’s a big help.’

Benitez has made changes of personnel, using Branislav Ivanovic primarily as a centre half and shifting David Luiz into midfield.

David Luiz has moved into midfield

Branislav Ivanovic

Personnel: Benitez has moved David Luiz (left) further forward into midfield, while Branislav Ivanovic (right) has moved infield from his usual right back birth to play alongside Gary Cahill in the middle

The interim manager has also used Victor Moses more often, adding more power and industry to the forward department.

‘He came to us with slightly different ideas of what we were doing on the pitch and so far it has been working,’ said Cech. ‘Let’s hope this will continue.

Changes: Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez (right) has picked up 11 points out of a possible 18 since his appointment

Changes: Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez (right) has picked up 11 points out of a possible 18

‘What has improved is that we are pressing the ball much better so it gives us the time to re-organise.’

The decision to move Luiz forward into a defensive midfield role has been well received.

‘He is very good on the ball and, as he is originally a central defender, he defends the space and he can be a shield to the back four,’ Cech said.

‘When he gets the ball he is very creative. I don’t know if he’ll stay there long term. That’s a question for the manager.’

Cech will play his 400th game for Chelsea at Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday, which promises to be the first big test for the improvements made by Benitez since the Club World Cup in Japan earlier this month.

‘We need a run of wins to close the gap to Manchester United and Manchester City,’ said the 30-year-old Czech.

‘Three points at Everton would be a big win.’

Benitez is also aiming to keep John Mikel Obi and Victor Moses until after cup ties against Southampton and Swansea before releasing them for the Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa.

Mikel and Moses, integral players since Benitez took control, are in the Nigeria squad which was due to report for a pre-tournament training camp in Portugal yesterday.

The Chelsea pair were given permission to stay in London until the New Year but Benitez is negotiating to keep them for as long as possible as his team are faced with a cluttered fixture list.

Chelsea launch their defence of the FA Cup at Southampton on January 5, four days before the first leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final at home to Swansea.

Benitez accepts he is unlikely to have Mikel and Moses around by the time they play Stoke in the Premier League on January 12.

Wall: The clean sheet against Norwich was Cech's 187th in 399 games for Chelsea

Wall: The clean sheet against Norwich was Cech's 187th in 399 games for Chelsea

‘The tournament starts on the 19th, so they will go one or two weeks before,’ said Benitez. ‘Maybe we can manage to keep them a bit longer.

'They know sometimes the players do not need to go early.’

Nigeria’s first game of the tournament is on January 21 against Burkina Faso. The final is on February 10.

Chelsea have played 31 games already this season and could be close to 70 by the end of the season, depending on their progress in the cup competitions.

Steel and industry: Victor Moses (blue) has seen increased time under Benitez, adding work rate and a physical presence to the CHelsea frontline

Steel and industry: Victor Moses (blue) has seen increased time under Benitez, adding work rate and a physical presence to the Chelsea frontline

Meanwhile, the club are likely to come under fire from eco-warriors after they chartered a flight from Norwich on Boxing Day.

The journey by road can take three hours but Benitez and his men would not have been in the air for any longer than 25 minutes.

The team boarded a BMI Embraer jet after their 1-0 win at Carrow Road, touching down in London Gatwick at 7.30pm. Arsenal also flew to Norwich for their game there in October.

Sources close to Chelsea defended the flight, citing tiredness after their recent trip to Japan.

*****

Additional reporting: Laure James

THE 10 GREATEST NON-BRITISH GOALKEEPERS IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE:

1. Peter Schmeichel (Manchester United, Manchester City, Aston Villa): For his sheer presence, personality and his contribution to Manchester United’s domination.

2. Edwin van der Sar (Fulham, Manchester United): Solved Fergie’s post-Schmeichel dilemma and one of the architects of the modern sweeper-keeper style.

3. Petr Cech (Chelsea):
Hero of Chelsea’s finest hour in Munich and one of the pillars of the
club’s success, all achieved despite fracturing his skull six years ago.

4. Brad Friedel (Liverpool, Blackburn, Aston Villa, Tottenham): Matured into a Premier League legend who went eight years without missing a PL game.

5. Bruce Grobelaar (Liverpool, Southampton): Hard to imagine him in the era of the GK giants but brilliant, acrobatic and entertaining.

6. Jens Lehmann (Arsenal): Mad as a hatter and won’t get Manuel Almunia’s vote but an inspiration for Arsenal in the Invincibles era.

7. Pepe Reina (Liverpool): Another very modern keeper, athletic and good with his feet, who made an exceptional start to life at Liverpool.

8. Shay Given (Blackburn, Swindon, Sunderland, Newcastle, Manchester City, Aston Villa): No-one better when it came to reaction saves from close range.

9. Mark Schwarzer (Bradford, Middlesbrough, Fulham): Sixteen years and counting in English football, the Aussie is one who got better with age.

10. Kasey Keller (Millwall, Leicester, Spurs, Southampton, Fulham): At the vanguard of the American movement featuring Friedel, Howard, Hahnemann, etc.

Sport dominates Twitter talk in 2012 with help from dancing Boris Johnson

Sport dominates Twitter talk in 2012 (with a little help from dancing Boris Johnson)

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UPDATED:

16:54 GMT, 11 December 2012

A bumper year for sport has been confirmed by twitter results that show that seven out of the top 10 highest spikes in conversation on the social media website are related to sport.

The results are based on data that measures the number of UK tweets sent per second.

Here are the top 10 according to twitter’s official UK blog: ‘

1. Olympics: David Cameron, Samantha Cameron and Boris Johnson dancing together at the Olympic closing ceremony (Sunday, August 12)

Stop right now: Boris Johnson, David Cameron and Samantha Cameron dance to Spice Girls during the Olympic Closing Ceremony

Stop right now: Boris Johnson, David Cameron and Samantha Cameron dance to Spice Girls during the Olympic Closing Ceremony

2. Euro 2012: England vs Italy, England lose on penalties (Sunday, June 24)

3. X Factor: James Arthur and Ella Henderson in bottom two, Ella voted off (Sunday, November 18)

4. Olympics: Bolt wins the Men’s 100 Metres Olympic final (Sunday August 5)

Bolt saw off competition from compatriot Yohan Blake in London to retain the 100m and 200m Olympic titles he won in Beijing

Bolt saw off competition from compatriot Yohan Blake in London to retain the 100m and 200m Olympic titles he won in Beijing

5. Olympics: Mr Bean’s Chariots of Fire sketch in the Opening Ceremony (Friday, July 27)

6. X Factor: Rylan and Kye deadlock (Sunday, November 4)

7. Euro 2012: England vs Sweden, Theo Walcott’s goal to bring England level at 2-2

Walcott's strike against Sweden helped England top Group D in Euro 2012 but Roy Hodgson's men lost in the quarter finals to Italy on penalties

Walcott's strike against Sweden helped England top Group D in Euro 2012 but Roy Hodgson's men lost in the quarter finals to Italy on penalties

8. X Factor: Gary Barlow storms off X Factor as Carolynne Poole was voted off in favour of Rylan (Sunday October 7)

9. Euro 2012: England vs France, Joleon Lescott’s goal put England up 1-0 (Monday June 11)

10. Champions League: Man City vs Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal put Real 3-2 ahead, ultimately resulting in a victory (Tuesday September 18)

It was a year that saw some extraordinary firsts for twitter. In May, footballer Eden Hazard (@HazardEden10) revealed that he was joining Chelsea exclusively via his twitter feed, writing: ‘I’m signing for the champion’s league winner’.

Hazard signing for Chelsea

Twitter saw more than 700,000 #PrayforMuamba messages in support of footballer Fabrice Muamba (@FMuamba) when he suffered a heart attack on the pitch in March of this year: ‘Pray for fab god willing he will pull through #PrayForMuamba.’

After his Olympic success, Usain Bolt (@usainbolt) said he wanted a trial at Manchester United… And Rio Ferdinand (@RioFerdy5) stepped in to help, only on Twitter.

Usain Bolt and Rio Ferdinand talk about a football trial

Chelsea also announced that they had sacked manager Roberto Di Matteo on twitter, before also confirming Sportsmail on twitter that they were replacing him with Rafa Benitez.

Twitter Chelsea sack Di Matteo and hire Benitez

Chelsea need leadership of John Terry and Frank Lampard back

Matt Barlow: Under fire Rafa needs the missing men of steel at wobbling Chelsea

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 2 December 2012

Sam Allardyce, freshly shorn of his charity moustache at the start of December, was pleased to see Chelsea struggling without their own symbol of masculinity.

‘They’re missing John Terry,’ said the West Ham manager. ‘I think they’re missing leadership.’

The Hammers had just demolished the European champions with three goals in 30 minutes and the sort of second-half monstering that Allardyce sides used to reserve for Arsenal.

Help: Rafael Benitez needs his power players to come to the fore quickly

Help: Rafael Benitez needs his power players to come to the fore quickly

West Ham’s desire and energy
overwhelmed Chelsea, who dazzled briefly before surrendering meekly,
looking far from the muscular, streetwise team built by Jose Mourinho.

When Rafa Benitez was at Liverpool,
engaged in those epic red-blue duels which have returned to haunt him,
he knew one thing: Mourinho’s teams never stopped fighting.

‘Yes, they had a lot of character but
it is a different time,’ said Benitez. ‘We have young players in their
first year in the Premier League.

‘They have talent and they have quality but it is very physical, and if you cannot cope with that, you cannot show your quality.

‘Some players might show character,
but if one or two are not at the level, the team are suffering. That is
what happened in the second half, so we needed to change players.

‘You cannot just have quality and
that’s it. You have to change things, adjust position, attitude, the way
you play. Sometimes you cannot play on the floor, you have to clear the
lines.

‘Always character and leadership are
necessary in a team. They have won the Champions League and a lot of
trophies, they have to show that character, but they need confidence.’

Defeat will crush confidence a little
more as Chelsea prepare for the final Champions League group game
against Denmark’s Nordsjaelland on Wednesday, when they could become the
first holders to crash out at the first stage of their defence.

Swift return: John Terry's comeback from injury would be a big boost

Swift return: John Terry's comeback from injury would be a big boost

RAFA'S RECORDS

9 years since West Ham last beat Chelsea, through a Paolo Di Canio goal in May 2003.

26 points after 15 games is Chelsea’s worst Premier League start since Roman Abramovich took over in June 2003.

7 Premier League games without a win is now Chelsea’s longest winless streak since February 1995 (10 games).

192 minutes it took for the first goal under Benitez, the longest such wait for any of the club’s Abramovich-era managers.

Form is poor, the fans are mutinous,
the interim manager fears his squad are not fit enough, character is
being questioned and owner Roman Abramovich is furious that Benitez has
failed to stop the rot in his first three games. There are
vulnerabilities where before there were none.

With a tactical tweak and two
half-time changes, Allardyce rattled Chelsea by attacking their back
four in the channels between the centre halves and full backs.

Just as he invented the notion that Arsenal didn’t like it up ’em, he may have discovered the new Chelsea don’t either.

‘You can see the quality they’ve got
but in the second half they didn’t quite show as much resilience as they
needed to,’ said Allardyce. ‘They couldn’t change the way they played
to cope with us. We changed the way we played to cope with them and
expose them. They couldn’t do that against us in the second half.’

He was right. Chelsea did miss Terry to organise, cajole and resist as they conceded three goals in half an hour.

‘We did not manage the physicality,
the long balls, the second balls, the corners,’ said Benitez. ‘That is
when you have to show character and quality.’

Criticism: Chelsea fans are acting mutinously towards Benitez with banners like this

Criticism: Chelsea fans are acting mutinously towards Benitez with banners like this

EURO WATCH

To reach the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday, holders Chelsea must beat Nordsjaelland and hope Juventus lose at Shakhtar. Nordsjaelland (2nd) lost their last domestic game 1-0 at 10th-placed Esbjerg.

Chelsea have not won in seven Barclays
Premier League games. They are third but 10 points behind leaders
Manchester United and the wintery slump ought to surprise nobody.

Trapped by the owner’s will to sign
the world’s best players yet trim costs, Chelsea have launched into one
campaign after another with a fine team but a squad ill-equipped to
compete on all fronts.

It happened to Carlo Ancelotti in his
second season, Roberto Di Matteo suffered too and Benitez was summoned,
which ws ironic since at Liverpool and Inter he was a passionate
advocate of super squads and regular rotation.

Without this, the season may start
well with a strong and fresh team but players tire — mentally and
physically — as fixture pass and injuries strike.

At Chelsea, the manager pays with his
job and someone like Benitez — or Di Matteo, Avram Grant or Guus Hiddink
before him — tries to salvage something, usually by reverting to
methods which worked in the past.

Hands on hips: Fernando Torres has been ineffectual

Hands on hips: Fernando Torres has been ineffectual

This year’s squad has cost more than
200million and contains bare patches, forcing Benitez to yearn for the
return of Terry and Frank Lampard.

Chelsea have often kept crises at bay
thanks to the strength and character inside the dressing room. For
some, player-power has been the major long-term problem but it has often
produced success, as it did last season.

Whether it can be done again is
questionable. One key individual — Didier Drogba — has departed and the
influence of others — Ashley Cole, Lampard and Terry — is diminishing.

Added to this is the polarising effect
of Benitez, which has driven a wedge between the club and supporters.
How the club have descended into such a mess within seven months of
Munich is bewildering, even by their standards.

Sunderland follow Nordsjaelland then
it’s off to Japan to contest the title of world champions, which sounds a
little far-fetched for a side in such a rut.

Terry and Lampard will train for at
least part of the session on Monday but Benitez will resist the urge to rush
them back for his personal gain.

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.

Lazio v Tottenham, Liverpool v Young Boys and Newcastle v Maritimo live

EUROPA LEAGUE LIVE: Lazio v Tottenham – from the Stadio Olimpico as it happens

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UPDATED:

17:52 GMT, 22 November 2012

Follow Sportsmail's coverage of the Europa League as Tottenham, Liverpool and Newcastle aim to book a place in the last 32 with one group game to spare. Spurs face a tough test at Lazio at 6pm needing a win to qualify, while Liverpool and Newcastle can also reach the last 32 with victories when they host Young Boys and Maritimo respectively at 8.05pm.

Latest scores

Lazio v Tottenham 6pm

Liverpool v Young Boys 8.05pm

Newcastle v Maritimo 8.05pm

5.50pm: It seems Hugo Lloris has won the battle of the goalkeepers at White Hart Lane. Brad Friedel is set to return to Blackburn which seems all rather sad to me.

He has been a phenomenal custodian for Spurs and has done nothing wrong yet finds himself out of the picture.

5.45pm: In case you're wondering what the thing above is, it's our brand new vidiprinter with the latest from tonight's games. Love it Loathe it Let me know below.

Main man: Paul Gascoigne in Rome with Lazio president Claudio Lotito

Main man: Paul Gascoigne in Rome with Lazio president Claudio Lotito

Paul Gascoigne

5.40pm: Sportsmail's Matt Barlow is in Rome and has indeed just seen the legend himself.

'First sighting of Gazza at the Stadio Olimpico, surrounded by camera. I can see his bald patch and little else'

You can follow Matt on Twitter here

5.35pm: Paul Gascoigne will be at the game tonight and earlier, Sportsmail took a look back at their best Gazza moments, here.

5.30pm: Lazio will clinch pole position in Group J with victory but a Spurs win will take them through if NK Maribor do not win at Panathinaikos.

5.25pm: Emmanuel Adebayor has been handed the lone striker role as Tottenham look to book their place in the knockout stages of the Europa League with victory over Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico.

Andre Villas-Boas makes four changes from the team that lost 5-2 to Arsenal on Saturday, with Gylfi Sigurdsson, Clint Dempsey, Steven Caulker and young midfielder Tom Carroll all handed starting berths.

Gareth Bale captains Spurs, while Lazio left out Germany striker Miroslav Klose.

5.20pm: Tottenham: Lloris; Walker, Caulker, Vertonghen, Naughton; Sandro, Carroll; Dempsey, Sigurdsson, Bale; Adebayor.

Subs: Cudicini, Dawson, Livermore, Lennon, Dembele, Huddlestone, Defoe.

Lazio: Marchetti, Cavanda, Biava, Ciani, Radu, Mauri, Gonzalez, Ledesma, Hernanes, Lulic, Kozak.

Subs: Bizzarri, Scaloni, Ederson, Onazi, Rozzi, Candreva, Floccari.

5.15pm: The first of our triple header should be a cracker as Tottenham take on Lazio in Rome. Unfortunately there were unsavoury scenes earlier today when two Spurs were stabbed.

You can read more on that here

5.10pm: Welcome to Sportsmail's coverage of tonight's Europa League fixtures.

Lazio

Lazio

Paul Gascoigne: Sportsmail"s favourite Gazza stories

The good, the bad and the ridiculous – Sportsmail's favourite Gazza stories

PUBLISHED:

11:14 GMT, 22 November 2012

|

UPDATED:

12:57 GMT, 22 November 2012

Paul Gascoigne will always have a very special place in the hearts of Tottenham and Lazio fans and with the two squaring up in the Europa League, the former England star has been invited to watch the action in Rome's Olympic Stadium.

It's 20 years since Gazza swapped White Hart Lane for the Italian capital and here, Sportsmail writers and photographers share their favourite memories of one of the best midfielders and brightest characters to have graced the game.

Lazio lad: Paul Gascoigne

Spurred on: Paul Gascoigne

When in Rome: Paul Gascoigne is set to watch two of his former clubs in action in the Europa League

……………………………………………………………………………..

LEE CLAYTON
I went to Botswana with him and I
can’t tell all the stories, but he was brilliant company, dazzled on the
pitch, scored a couple of goals past me and made me wish him all the best.

He once threatened to send me ‘back in a box’ when I approached him for an interview in Portugal a few years back.

But on a trip to Africa in 2006, to
promote the FA’s work abroad (including visiting an orphanage and a
hospital specialising in treatment for children with AIDS ) he was in good form.

In the wild: Our man Lee Clayton with Paul Gascoigne and a couple of friends they met in Botswana

In the wild: Our man Lee Clayton with Paul Gascoigne and a couple of friends they met in Botswana

We parted at Heathrow with a kiss (him, not me) and stayed in touch after.

The kids loved seeing him and so did the cheetahs during a visit to a wildlife centre.

In company, he was fine. He even overcame his hatred for flying. His demons were never far away, but he seemed happy.

He said he had lost his love for English football because it was ‘dull’. He wasn’t dull.

MATT BARLOW
The fondest memories are of those gliding runs and explosions of pace and the trail of bodies he would leave in his wake.

The most shocking memory, the tackle that wiped out his knee in the FA Cup final.

I will never tire of hearing the thousands of (perhaps slightly embellished) stories from his career. Climbing into a tumble dryer at Newcastle and emerging so dizzy he couldn’t stand.

Appearing naked on the front seat beside Dino Zoff when the team bus came out of a tunnel and into daylight.

Emotional: Gascoigne in tears was one of THE images of Italia 90

Emotional: Gascoigne in tears was one of THE images of Italia 90

Covering himself in ketchup and lying beneath Bobby Robson’s balcony at the team hotel during Italia 90.

Or when Matt Holland asked him why he had 'Holland 8' written on the back of his hand and was told it was because he had been told to mark him at corners.

But my favourite memory is when my mate Steve copied his hairdo, around 1990, the one with it
all brushed forward with a little fringe, and unwittingly revealed for
the first time how abnormally large his head actually was. Good old Gazza.

DOMINIC KING
I sadly never covered Everton when Gazza was playing there but I do know several stories about him.

One which springs to mind is when he entertained
a packed restaurant one Sunday afternoon by letting a parrot that had
been bought for him by his erstwhile sidekick Jimmy Fivebellies out of its cage. The squawking was apparently deafening.

As for his football, the goal he scored against Scotland at Euro 96 epitomised his genius. What a crying shame his demons prevented him reaching astral heights.

Thirsty work: Gazza's celebration after scoring against Scotland is also unforgettable

Thirsty work: Gazza's celebration after scoring against Scotland is also unforgettable

CHRIS WHEELER
It was rude and it was wrong, but it
has to be the moment before England’s World Cup qualifier with Norway in
October 1992 when Gazza was asked by NRK network reporter Thor Eggen if he would like to send a message to Norway.

‘Yes,’ replied Gazza. ‘F*** off Norway!’

LAURA WILLIAMSON
I know it’s predictable, but it’s that goal against Scotland at Euro ‘96. I was still at primary school and I remember watching it in awe…and then laughing.

I can appreciate the vision, talent and audacity now, but back then it was the sheer joy of a wonderful sporting moment – and fact Gazza seemed just as happy and excited as me.

GRAHAM CHADWICK
My favourite picture is the one of him and Vinnie Jones taken when Newcastle played Wimbledon at Plough Lane in 1988.

Taken by the great Monte Fresco, it gave me the inspiration to get into sports photography.

Ouch: Vinnie Jones gets to grips with Gazza in one of the most famous photgraphs in football

Ouch: Vinnie Jones gets to grips with Gazza in one of the most famous photgraphs in football

KEVIN QUIGLEY
My personal favourite was when I was working for The People and was sent to do a feature with Gazza and Jimmy Greaves.

They were doing a stand-up Q&A and when I got there Jimmy didn’t really like my idea of a head-to-head picture.

Gazza being Gazza shoved his face up to Greavsie's nose… then said: 'Hope you've got it.'

Really nice guy for such a big star.

What a pair: Gazza and Greavsie were entertainers on and off the pitch

What a pair: Gazza and Greavsie were entertainers on and off the pitch

And finally….Adam Shergold says:

'My favourite Gazza memory will be totally different from the others here – it was the extraordinary six weeks he spent at my club, Boston United, in the summer of 2004.

United were by this time established in the Football League and evidently had ambitions of a kind and a whole load of persuasive power to entice Gascoigne to south Lincolnshire.

After all, Boston hardly has the nightlife he might be used to and is miles from anywhere.

It had been two years since he played in England – at Burnley – and a year since he joined Gansu Tianma in China, purely for the sake of an accompanying ITV documentary I might venture.

No tea party: Gazza had a brief spell at Boston in 2004

No tea party: Gazza had a brief spell at Boston in 2004

He rocked up about a month before the start of the League Two season and, to be fair to the 37-year-old, looked in good shape.

I later heard from friends in and around the club that he was on a strict regime of going to the gym three times a day and subsisted exclusively on Bran Flakes.

With hindsight, he looked too fit – all skin and bone with a pale complexion.

You could kind of tell this wasn't going to be a permanent change of club by the fact Gazza holed himself up in a suite in the New England hotel, rather than look for a property in the area.

Unsurprisingly in such a sleepy town, Gazza was pretty bored. My dad, who works at the nearby Toyota dealership, had the surreal sight of Gazza walking in and asking for a test drive on a new model to pass the time.

On the pitch, it seemed Gazza was knuckling down to the hard graft but his performances, frankly, tallied with those of a faded diamond.

I remember three things – a pre-season match with a youth team from his old club Newcastle in which he sprayed magic 60-yard passes without a second thought, having put another 1,000 on the gate and attracted all the regional news crews to York Street.

Steve Evans, our manager at the time, brought him off the bench in the derby with Lincoln at Sincil Bank – and he immediately put in two pin-point crosses to earn us a 2-2 draw.

And in a game against Chester, he actually avoided a second yellow card by kissing the referee.

But after just four league appearances, Gazza had checked out of the New England, handed back the keys to his hire car and left the club.

Allegedly it was because United wouldn't allow him to appear on 'I'm a Celebrity.'

But it was probably 'I'm a star in a small backwater… get me out of here!'

All in all, a very strange, if exciting, episode.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Wondergoal v England proves I"m as good as Lionel Messi

I'm as good as Messi… and now my English critics can shut up, boasts Zlatan

|

UPDATED:

10:50 GMT, 15 November 2012

The greatest goal ever scored

VIDEO: Watch Zlatan's incredible propeller-kick (then watch it again… and again…and again)

Jamie Redknapp: I'd love to see Ibra head to the Premier League

Neil Ashton: Cocky Hart was an accident waiting to happen

Sweden 4 England 2 – Read Matt Barlow's match report from the Friends Arena

Zlatan Ibrahimovic hopes his wonder goal against Roy Hodgson's men will see him at last compared with the likes of Lionel Messi in England.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward showed audacious flexibility with a 30-yard propeller kick to score his fourth goal in Sweden’s 4-2 victory.

He has often been criticised for his performances against English clubs in the Champions League — but four goals in 70 minutes showed his true class.

Have you ever seen anything like it Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored an incredible 25-yard overhead kick against England

Have you ever seen anything like it Zlatan scored an incredible 25-yard overhead kick against England

Afterwards he said: ‘That’s the way it is with the English. If you score against them you’re a good player, if you don’t score against them you’re not a good player.’

‘I remember Lionel Messi before the 2009 Champions League Final. Then he scored against Manchester United and suddenly he was the best player in the world.

‘Maybe now they’ll say something like that about me.

‘Hart was a long way out and I was just trying to get it into the goal. I was on the ground when it was on the way in.

‘I saw a defender sliding in to try to get rid of it and I wanted to scream “No” but the ball went in.'

Sweden boss Erik Hamren said Ibrahomovic’s fourth goal should not even be possible.

Getting shirty: Ibrahimovic celebrates his 'Goal from the Gods'at the Friends Arena in Stockholm

Getting shirty: Ibrahimovic celebrates his 'Goal from the Gods'at the Friends Arena in Stockholm

‘I don’t know if you will see another like it in your life. It was like watching a video game. Sometimes, when he’s doing these things, in training or in matches, you don’t think it’s possible. Because it’s not possible to do that – the fourth goal, for example.’

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, who won his 100th cap in the match, said: ‘I have mixed emotions. Obviously I am very proud for myself, getting to 100 caps and really pleased with the lads for large parts of the game.

‘I thought we controlled the game and did not look like losing it – but sometimes you have to hold your hands up to an individual special performance.

‘This was a world-class performance from a world-class player in Ibrahimovic. It (the fourth goal) is the best goal I have seen live.

Awesome foursome: Ibra scored four goals in the friendly win over England, including a piledriver of a free-kick

Awesome foursome: Ibra scored four goals in the friendly win over England, including a piledriver of a free-kick

‘I think the best goal I have seen before that is Wayne Rooney’s (against Manchester City).

‘Everyone knows how special that was but this one tonight – an overhead kick from 25 yards when the ball is six feet in the air – only certain players can do that.

‘He is a special player.’

Gerrard was happy to pay compliments in person to Ibrahimovic.

He said: ‘I congratulated him after that. He said some nice things about me before the game which was really nice.

‘If I could return the compliment I would say that was one of the best individual performances I have seen.

‘He is not everyone’s cup of tea but he is certainly mine.’

All hail Zlatan: Ibrahimovic proved himself a player of the highest class with his four-goal salvo

All hail Zlatan: Ibrahimovic proved himself a player of the highest class with his four-goal salvo

Gerrard received warm applause from the home crowd in recognition of his century of caps but is now focusing on helping England qualify for the next World Cup.

He said: ‘That was really touching. All the support I have had from you lads (in the media) my family, friends and people in the game has touched me.

‘All eyes were on me and there was extra pressure and excitement.

‘Now I am glad it is out of the way and I focus on getting us to the next World Cup. That is the big challenge.’

P.S. And Ibra might just have a point…

On the night that Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored four brilliant goals against England, including perhaps the greatest goal ever scored, Lionel Messi was firing blanks against the might of… Saudi Arabia.

A side that included Messi, Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria could not break down the stubborn Saudi defence, which has been more notable in the past for leaking eight goals to Germany in the 2002 World Cup than keeping clean sheets.

So, who's the best player in the world now, Leo

Tough night: Lionel Messi (centre) could not inspire Argentina to victory over Saudi Arabia in Riyadh

Tough night: Lionel Messi (centre) could not inspire Argentina to victory over Saudi Arabia in Riyadh

Tough night: Lionel Messi (centre) could not inspire Argentina to victory over Saudi Arabia in Riyadh

... but these Messi fans did not seem to care that the Barcelona superstar was not at his best on the night

… but these Messi fans did not seem to care that the Barcelona superstar was not at his best on the night

See the wonder goal here…

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Wondergoal v England proves I"m as good as Lionel Messii

I'm as good as Messi… and now my English critics can shut up, boasts Zlatan

|

UPDATED:

09:34 GMT, 15 November 2012

The greatest goal ever scored

VIDEO: Watch Zlatan's incredible propeller-kick (then watch it again… and again…and again)

Jamie Redknapp: I'd love to see Ibra head to the Premier League

Neil Ashton: Cocky Hart was an accident waiting to happen

Sweden 4 England 2 – Read Matt Barlow's match report from the Friends Arena

Zlatan Ibrahimovic hopes his wonder goal against Roy Hodgson's men will see him at last compared with the likes of Lionel Messi in England.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward showed audacious flexibility with a 30-yard propeller kick to score his fourth goal in Sweden’s 4-2 victory.

He has often been criticised for his performances against English clubs in the Champions League — but four goals in 70 minutes showed his true class.

Have you ever seen anything like it Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored an incredible 25-yard overhead kick against England

Have you ever seen anything like it Zlatan scored an incredible 25-yard overhead kick against England

Afterwards he said: ‘That’s the way it is with the English. If you score against them you’re a good player, if you don’t score against them you’re not a good player.’

‘I remember Lionel Messi before the 2009 Champions League Final. Then he scored against Manchester United and suddenly he was the best player in the world.

‘Maybe now they’ll say something like that about me.

‘Hart was a long way out and I was just trying to get it into the goal. I was on the ground when it was on the way in.

‘I saw a defender sliding in to try to get rid of it and I wanted to scream “No” but the ball went in.'

Sweden boss Erik Hamren said Ibrahomovic’s fourth goal should not even be possible.

Getting shirty: Ibrahimovic celebrates his 'Goal from the Gods'at the Friends Arena in Stockholm

Getting shirty: Ibrahimovic celebrates his 'Goal from the Gods'at the Friends Arena in Stockholm

‘I don’t know if you will see another like it in your life. It was like watching a video game. Sometimes, when he’s doing these things, in training or in matches, you don’t think it’s possible. Because it’s not possible to do that – the fourth goal, for example.’

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, who won his 100th cap in the match, said: ‘I have mixed emotions. Obviously I am very proud for myself, getting to 100 caps and really pleased with the lads for large parts of the game.

‘I thought we controlled the game and did not look like losing it – but sometimes you have to hold your hands up to an individual special performance.

‘This was a world-class performance from a world-class player in Ibrahimovic. It (the fourth goal) is the best goal I have seen live.

Awesome foursome: Ibra scored four goals in the friendly win over England, including a piledriver of a free-kick

Awesome foursome: Ibra scored four goals in the friendly win over England, including a piledriver of a free-kick

‘I think the best goal I have seen before that is Wayne Rooney’s (against Manchester City).

‘Everyone knows how special that was but this one tonight – an overhead kick from 25 yards when the ball is six feet in the air – only certain players can do that.

‘He is a special player.’

Gerrard was happy to pay compliments in person to Ibrahimovic.

He said: ‘I congratulated him after that. He said some nice things about me before the game which was really nice.

‘If I could return the compliment I would say that was one of the best individual performances I have seen.

‘He is not everyone’s cup of tea but he is certainly mine.’

All hail Zlatan: Ibrahimovic proved himself a player of the highest class with his four-goal salvo

All hail Zlatan: Ibrahimovic proved himself a player of the highest class with his four-goal salvo

Gerrard received warm applause from the home crowd in recognition of his century of caps but is now focusing on helping England qualify for the next World Cup.

He said: ‘That was really touching. All the support I have had from you lads (in the media) my family, friends and people in the game has touched me.

‘All eyes were on me and there was extra pressure and excitement.

‘Now I am glad it is out of the way and I focus on getting us to the next World Cup. That is the big challenge.’

P.S. And Ibra might just have a point…

On the night that Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored four brilliant goals against England, including perhaps the greatest goal ever scored, Lionel Messi was firing blanks against the might of… Saudi Arabia.

A side that included Messi, Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria could not break down the stubborn Saudi defence, which has been more notable in the past for leaking eight goals to Germany in the 2002 World Cup than keeping clean sheets.

So, who's the best player in the world now, Leo

Tough night: Lionel Messi (centre) could not inspire Argentina to victory over Saudi Arabia in Riyadh

Tough night: Lionel Messi (centre) could not inspire Argentina to victory over Saudi Arabia in Riyadh

Tough night: Lionel Messi (centre) could not inspire Argentina to victory over Saudi Arabia in Riyadh

... but these Messi fans did not seem to care that the Barcelona superstar was not at his best on the night

… but these Messi fans did not seem to care that the Barcelona superstar was not at his best on the night

See the wonder goal here…