Tag Archives: demolition

Stewart Downing: Liverpool are starting to click into gear

I love it when a plan comes together! Downing hails Rodgers after Liverpool thrash Wigan

By
Carl Markham, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

13:49 GMT, 3 March 2013

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UPDATED:

13:49 GMT, 3 March 2013

Liverpool winger Stewart Downing believes the side are starting to click into gear and while it may be just a little too late to snatch a Champions League place he is confident they can still finish the season on a high.

The 4-0 demolition of Wigan at the DW Stadium came courtesy of a Luis Suarez hat-trick after Downing's second-minute header but there were other elements of the performance which impressed.

Since taking over in the summer manager Brendan Rodgers has spent his time trying to ingrain a new way of playing into the side, although he admits he will still require a number of transfer windows to bring the best out of his methods.

On the up: Stewart Downing celebrates after scoring against Wigan

On the up: Stewart Downing celebrates after scoring against Wigan

But the ease with which 8.5million January signing Philippe Coutinho seamlessly fitted in on only his third appearance – providing assists for the first two goals – suggests Rodgers' plan is working.

And despite their frequent difficulties in finishing off their dominance in possession results are starting to suggest when things go right they do so in impressive fashion.

The sequence of Liverpool's last six league victories since December 22 is 4-0, 3-0, 3-0, 5-0, 5-0, 4-0.

'I think it's coming together. We've had some good results of late. We're finishing teams off and defending ever so well,' said Downing.

'Pepe Reina made some great saves (against Wigan) and if we do our bit at the other end of the field, we've got a chance.

'It's all coming together. We've got 10 games to go and we've got to keep winning games.'

Liverpool's total of 53 goals from 28 matches is their second best at this stage of a Premier League season – bettered only by the 56 scored in 1995-96 – but Rodgers is not getting carried away.

He can see the progress being made but knows Champions League qualification this season remains some way off for his seventh-placed side at this point.

Treble: Luis Suarez scored a hat-trick as Wigan were put to the sword

Treble: Luis Suarez scored a hat-trick as Wigan were put to the sword

'We are not thinking about that. All we are looking at this moment in time is the next game – that is what we spoke about in the last few days,” said the Reds boss.

'We have played well a lot of this season, what has got us behind has been individual errors.

'Yesterday I could see the graft the players are doing on the training field being taken onto the pitch.

'There was a real focus and concentration in our performance.

'They are being very accustomed to how we are asking them to press as a team high up the pitch and when to drop in and build a block and control the game. That was wonderful for us.

'We have to give great credit to the players because it is very easy, especially after getting knocked out of the Europa League, to feel sorry for ourselves.

'We will focus on finishing as high as we can and look to finish the season strongly.'

Suarez stole the show again with a hat-trick which lifted him to 21 league goals for the season and past Manchester United's Robin van Persie as the country's leading scorer.

'It was another great performance,' added Downing.

Cruise control: Liverpool are finding their feet under Brendan Rodgers

Cruise control: Liverpool are finding their feet under Brendan Rodgers

'There were all types of different goals for his hat-trick.

'At the minute he's on fire and if you have a striker like that in your team, you always have a chance of winning games.

'We played some good football. Obviously getting the early goal helped.

'It settled us down and on a tricky pitch, I thought we dominated for large periods of the game.'

Of his rare header he said: 'It was nice to get a goal, no matter how they come.

'The manager said to me to try to get in a position to score goals and if you get in the box, you have a chance.

'It was a great ball from Philippe and I was able to make a good contact on it to get it past the keeper.'

Downing's goal set the tone for what was probably Liverpool's most comfortable victory of the season.

Coutinho's perfectly-weighted pass put Suarez through for a clever finish in the 18th minute and the Uruguayan then scored a deflected free-kick with 34 minutes gone and Wigan in disarray.

Four minutes into the second half right-back Glen Johnson charged 40 yards downfield before releasing Suarez to complete his treble with an angled shot through the legs of goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi.

Australian Open 2013: Maria Sharapova wins first round

Sharapova begins Melbourne campaign with double-bagel win over compatriot Puchkova

By
Mike Dawes

PUBLISHED:

01:41 GMT, 14 January 2013

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UPDATED:

04:03 GMT, 14 January 2013

Maria Sharapova dispelled any uncertainty over her fitness with a ruthless demolition of Olga Puchkova at the Australian Open today.

The Russian was forced to pull out of the warm-up event in Brisbane after suffering a collarbone injury shortly before Christmas.

But in her first competitive match of 2013 she showed no signs of rustiness by brushing aside her Russian countrywoman 6-0 6-0 in just 55 minutes.

Signed, sealed, delivered: Maria Sharapova eased through to the second round in Melbourne

Signed, sealed, delivered: Maria Sharapova eased through to the second round in Melbourne

Sealed with a kiss: Maria Sharapova cruised to victory against Olga Puchkova

Sharapova's dominance was only threatened in the early stages when Puchkova, ranked 107 in the world, held two break points in the opening game but the second seed gave an early demonstration of her physical state with two booming aces to avert the danger.

From there on in it was a procession as the first match of the tournament on the main show court – Rod Laver Arena – ended in a disappointing no-contest.

Sharapova reached the final last year before being crushed by world No 1 Victoria Azarenka and she is hoping to go one better this year and repeat her Melbourne triumph of 2008.

She said: 'After a couple of close games I started to concentrate a bit better.

Sealed with a kiss: Sharapova had too much in her locker as she crushed compatriot Olga Puchkova (below)

Sealed with a kiss: Sharapova had too much in her locker as she crushed compatriot Olga Puchkova (below)

Plenty to ponder: Puchkova was hopelessly outclassed by Sharapova

'I didn't want to focus on the fact I hadn't played a lot of matches but just focus on what was ahead of me and really be aggressive.

'Today was a good scoreline.'

Although she didn't drop a game, Sharapova insisted there was still room for improvement.

'It's tough to feel completely satisfied,' she said.

'You always want to improve on things and work on certain things that you feel will help you in the later rounds towards the end of the second week.

'But overall I was happy with the way I started considering I didn't play any matches coming in.'

Theo Walcott is proving he is a centre forward

He's been saying it for years and now Walcott's proving that he really is a middle man

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UPDATED:

23:37 GMT, 30 December 2012

If Theo Walcott needs reminding of what being Arsenal's No 1 centre forward entails, he will get it at training this morning.

Thierry Henry will be there. The way Walcott opened his body up before sliding the ball past Tim Krul for the first of his three goals in Saturday's 7-3 demolition of Newcastle had Henry's influence written all over it.

However, it also displayed the hallmarks of a clinical Premier League striker, something Walcott wants to become so desperately.

Expertly done: Theo Walcott showed his ability to play in the middle for Arsenal

Expertly done: Theo Walcott showed his ability to play in the middle for Arsenal

Sign him up: Arsene Wenger is hoping Walcott will commit his future to Arsenal

Sign him up: Arsene Wenger is hoping Walcott will commit his future to Arsenal

Having the luxury of working with
Henry each day will only enhance the 23-year-old's efforts to complete
the transition from pacy winger to world-class centre forward.

Who better to learn from than
arguably the best goalscorer the club have ever had Saturday's
brilliant display against Newcastle will help convince his doubters that
he can develop into an out-and-out centre forward.

But, truth be told, the man he
really needs to convince still needs persuading. Wenger has put a centre
forward at the top of his shopping list.

David Villa, Adrian Lopez and Edin
Dzeko are targets. Should any of that trio arrive at the Emirates next
month, then Walcott could be shifted back out wide.

'I've always said I'm a striker and the manager is giving me the opportunity to play up front,' said Walcott.

'I'm not saying I'll play up front all the time, but it's just nice to have a different option.

'Olivier (Giroud) came off the bench
and showed great qualities. I switched to the right so it can work. We
are scoring goals from every position. I believe I am a striker.'

Walcott is finally adding substance to those claims, a fact underlined by Saturday's breathtaking performance.

His first against Alan Pardew's side
displayed all the precision of a top-class goalscorer as he expertly
side-footed his effort past Krul.

The England man's second demonstrated
all the instinctiveness of a quality finisher, ramming home from 12
yards under pressure from Gael Bigirimana.

Main man: Walcott was in exceptional form against Newcastle

Main man: Walcott was in exceptional form against Newcastle

It must be love: The Arsenal manager was impressed with Walcott's performance against Newcastle

It must be love: The Arsenal manager was impressed with Walcott's performance against Newcastle

10 GAMES, 10 GOALS

Theo Walcott's recent form means Arsene Wenger must be seriously considering handing him the main striker's role on a permanent basis.

In his last 10 matches, Walcott has scored hat-tricks against Reading and Newcastle and goals against Schalke, Tottenham, Everton and Reading.

When Walcott has scored this season, Arsenal have not lost.

And his third showed the
single-mindedness of a seasoned centre forward, picking himself up off
the floor to curl a shot past Krul to complete his hat-trick.

Walcott is silencing his doubters;
those who have questioned his credentials as a central striker are being
forced into a rethink.

Yes, he has to do it on a regular
basis, but 14 goals from 11 starts this season provides a clear
indication that his long-term future can be as a bona fide middle man.

Whether that is at Arsenal remains to
be seen, but it is to Walcott's credit he has managed that exceptional
goal ratio with uncertainty looming large.

'Even with the speculation going on,
he's stuck to his task. He's been a great professional ,' said
team-mate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

'He's a good lad in the dressing room
and we need him to keep doing that for the rest of the season. We've
all been giving him a bit of banter (about his future) but that's for
Theo's people to sort out.'

Saturday's hammering of Newcastle was
Walcott's third successive outing in his preferred position, a period
in which he has scored four times.

Duel: Walcott got the better of Tim Krul on a number of occasions

Duel: Walcott got the better of Tim Krul on a number of occasions

Options: Wenger also likes to pick Olivier Giroud (right) through the middle

Options: Wenger also likes to pick Olivier Giroud (right) through the middle

However, his contribution has not
stopped at goals. Walcott set up both of Giroud's strikes against
Newcastle and won the decisive penalty in the 1-0 victory over Wigan
last week. Sunday's FA Cup third-round tie at Swansea is likely to see
Walcott given another chance to nail down the role.

'He bangs them in for fun in
training,' added Oxlade-Chamberlain. 'Someone with pace is a nightmare
to defend against. When he gets the service, he can punish teams. In
training, he's no different.

'When Theo first came, he was
training with players like Thierry, (Dennis) Bergkamp and (Robert)
Pires. He's learned from the best, he's getting better and better, and
there's no one better to learn from.

'From the player that I first
started watching to the man he is now, he is only getting better and
better and he's still only 23.

'He's got such a mature head on his
shoulders. He's great on and off the pitch so he's so important for us.
He was great for me when I first arrived. He took me under his wing,
helped me. 'When he came along, it must have been even more daunting
because I think Ashley Cole was the only English player around at the
time.

'They had experienced players like
Henry and Bergkamp. It must have been daunting so he realised it must
have been hard for me coming in. So he helped me through that.

'He was the first person to really
help me. 'I sit next to him in the dressing room and he's been really
good for me.' Walcott is really good for Arsenal at the moment, too.

How Theo got his third

Australia set down Ashes marker… but should England be worried?

Awesome Aussies set down Ashes marker… but should England be worried

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UPDATED:

11:32 GMT, 28 December 2012

There's no getting round the fact: the second Test between Australia and Sri Lanka at Melbourne was not so much a game of cricket as a demolition job.

Australia won inside three days by an innings and 201 runs, while Kumar Sangakkara had his left hand broken by Mitchell Johnson and two other Sri Lankans stayed in the pavilion, absent hurt.

With back-to-back Ashes series lying in wait in 2013, this result was what you might reasonably call a statement of intent.

Star man: Mitchell Johnson (centre) was in fine form as Australia hammered Sri Lanka in the second Test

Star man: Mitchell Johnson (centre) was in fine form as Australia hammered Sri Lanka in the second Test

But how concerned should England be After all, the Sri Lankans have always been poor in Australia: this was their 10th defeat there in 12 Tests, four of them by an innings.

And Australian pitches could not be further removed from the slow heart-breakers routinely found in Sri Lanka.

Alastair Cook may also comfort himself with the thought that, more than anything, the MCG appears to have hosted the rebirth of Johnson, who returned match figures of 6 for 89 and hit an unbeaten 92.

If anything was designed to dispel the post-Christmas blues in soggy England, it is the thought that Johnson – a figure of fun during the 2010-11 Ashes – will be taking the field at Trent Bridge on July 10. The Barmy Army will be exercising their vocal chords.

Take that: Johnson punished the Sri Lankans with the bat as well as the ball in Melbourne

Take that: Johnson punished the Sri Lankans with the bat as well as the ball in Melbourne

The success on Test debut of Sydneysider Jackson Bird may be more significant, for Australia are compiling a stock of apparently interchangeable seam bowlers – the must-have accessory for any team aspiring to regular success in the fixture-heavy modern era.

Their problem, though, is fitness: everyone keeps breaking down.

As things stand, it is fairly pointless trying to predict which of their seamers will play at Nottingham. As for their batting, Michael Clarke remains in the form of his life, with Mike Hussey not far behind.

England's best hope here is that the law of averages kicks in, as it has done for every batsman in Test history bar Don Bradman.

Solid start: Jackson Bird can be happy with his Test debut for Australia

Solid start: Jackson Bird can be happy with his Test debut for Australia

And, although there were half-centuries at Melbourne for David Warner and Shane Watson, England will also be quietly confident about getting the better of Australia's top four.

Warner and Phil Hughes, who is being rehabilitated at No 3, may be too keen to play their shots to prosper regularly in English conditions, while Ed Cowan looks no better than steady, and Watson is yet to demonstrate he has the capacity for big hundreds required at No 4.

Having said all that, Australia are now 2-0 up with one to play against a team England beat only 1-0 at home in 2011, then lost to at Galle earlier this year.

And yet a better gauge of where the two Ashes sides are will be Australia's four-Test series in India, starting in February.

England are still luxuriating in their 2-1 win. The pressure will be on Clarke's side to match them.

David Price to fight Tony Thompson in February at Liverpool Echo Arena

Price to fight Thompson in February in latest stepping stone towards world title shot

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UPDATED:

20:33 GMT, 18 December 2012

David Price will take the next step towards a challenge for a world title when he faces American veteran Tony Thompson on February 23 at Liverpool's Echo Arena.

The 29-year-old heavyweight has enjoyed a successful year, stopping all four of his opponents in impressive style.

But he will face the biggest test of his career to date when he tackles Thompson, 41, who lost to Wladimir Klitschko for the second time in July.

Impressive: David Price has won all four of his heavyweight fights this year

Impressive: David Price has won all four of his heavyweight fights this year

Price began the year without a title but needed just 73 seconds to beat John McDermott for the English belt and less than four rounds to add the British and Commonwealth straps by stopping Sam Sexton.

A brutal 82-second demolition of Audley Harrison followed before he defended his titles again last month against Matt Skelton.

Different class: Tony Thompson (right) has twice lost to Wladimir Klitschko (left)

Different class: Tony Thompson (right) has twice lost to Wladimir Klitschko (left)

Thompson meanwhile has lost three of his 39 contests and has stopped 24 of his opponents.

Price’s promoter Frank Maloney said: ‘This is the right fight at the right time for David and one where a win will propel him even higher.

‘Thompson still has ambition and I am certain that he will come to win and score a major upset.’

Amir Khan suffers fractured hands in Carlos Molina win

Khan's plan for world domination could be derailed by fractured hands

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UPDATED:

10:56 GMT, 17 December 2012

Amir Khan faces an anxious wait to discover when he can return to action after fracturing both hands during his comprehensive stoppage of Carlos Molina on Saturday.

The 26-year-old Brit took the first step towards rebuilding his career following successive world title defeats to Lamont Peterson and Danny Garcia.

Molina was pulled out by his corner at the end of the 10th round having suffered a nasty cut during a lop-sided contest.

Demolition: Amir Khan eased to a comprehensive victory over Carlos Molina

Demolition: Amir Khan eased to a comprehensive victory over Carlos Molina

Khan had his hands checked by a doctor last night and will visit hospital today for a further update.

A common injury among boxers, the rehabilitation period can be up to five months depending on whether surgery is required.

That could rule Khan out until next summer, upsetting his plans to fight Josesito Lopez in the spring before rematches with Garcia and Peterson later in the year.

Costly: Khan fractured both hands during his victory in Los Angeles on Saturday

Costly: Khan fractured both hands during his victory in Los Angeles on Saturday

A picture of the light-welterweight's damaged hands was posted on Twitter yesterday, which followed a revelation from his former trainer Freddie Roach who said last week that Khan was wary of throwing his right hand after hurting his wrist.

Khan is now working with Virgil Hunter, who also trains super-middleweight world champion Andre Ward, and was delighted with his return to the ring.

'I thought I stuck to my gameplan and
was keeping faith in my jab,' he said. 'Carlos took some really good
shots but was still coming forward, so I thought to myself I'd better
stick to this gameplan.

Back on track: Khan hopes to fight for a world title next year after his victory

Back on track: Khan hopes to fight for a world title next year after his victory

'Virgil
Hunter, my new coach, is a great trainer and I'm getting better at
boxing, being a complete fighter. He's teaching me things, like speed,
patience, picking the right shots and when to throw them.

'Sometimes I'm too brave for my own good but now I know it is better to stick to a gameplan.'

Rugby World Cup draw: England are the team to fear, says Clive Woodward

Big guns now fear England in World Cup draw, says Woodward

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UPDATED:

08:07 GMT, 3 December 2012

Sir Clive Woodward believes England’s demolition of New Zealand makes them the team to avoid in Monday’s draw for the 2015 World Cup.

New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and France are the top seeds — and hosts England, who are among the second seeds, could find themselves up against the All Blacks when the draw is made at Tate Modern in London.

‘It makes the draw fascinating, given that England have just demolished New Zealand,’ said Woodward.

Scroll down for your guide to how the draw works

History: England celebrate their stunning victory over New Zealand

History: England celebrate their stunning victory over New Zealand

‘The top four sides will not want to be playing against England. That result will make the southern hemisphere teams sit up and say for once, “We want to keep away from England”.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek, Woodward, who was England’s World Cup winning coach in 2003, added: ‘It was a great, great victory for the English team. The 38-21 scoreline absolutely reflected the performance and it was a great, great day to be at Twickenham.

‘They have some great players in there — Joe Launchbury, Tom Wood, Chris Robshaw — who were world class. This was a real David and Goliath effort.

Flying: Chris Ashton scored a try during England's win at Twickenham

Flying: Chris Ashton scored a try during England's win at Twickenham

‘They came out and threw the kitchen sink and New Zealand got completely rattled. Every phase of the game they won.’

Because Wales have slipped to ninth in the world following seven successive defeats, they will be drawn against two teams higher than them in the rankings, and could face New Zealand and England in a ‘group of death’.

But centre Jonathan Davies recalled
Wales’s performance at the last World Cup when they lost by a point to
France in the semi-finals and said: ‘Because of what we did then, I
think people will be fearing us, not the other way round.

Despair: Wales lost their fourth and final autumn international to Australia

Despair: Wales lost their fourth and final autumn international to Australia

‘It’s not an ideal situation, but we had a tough draw last year, too. I’m sure the boys are pretty confident that whoever we are drawn against we can beat.’

Wales wing Alex Cuthbert was similarly confident. ‘I’d look forward to it, whoever we draw,’ said Cuthbert. ‘Two top teams in the pool You want to beat the best in the world. We’ll be looking forward to it.’

Your guide to the World Cup draw

Where and where…
The World Cup draw takes place at 2.55pm today at Tate Modern in London.

How it works…
The 20 teams for the 2015 World Cup will be allocated into four pools of five teams. The top 12 teams in the world have automatically qualified and are split into bands. No team faces another from the same band.

Mind the gap…
The eight remaining qualifying places (two in each pool) will be allocated into bands four and five and drawn randomly. Those teams are yet to qualify.

The bands…

BAND ONE: New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, France
BAND TWO: England, Ireland, Samoa, Argentina
BAND THREE: Wales, Italy, Tonga, Scotland

*The competition will run from September 18 to October 31, 2015, with Twickenham hosting the final.

ENGLAND'S DREAM DRAW: France and Tonga

ENGLAND'S NIGHTMARE: New Zealand and Wales

WALES'S DREAM DRAW: France and Argentina

WALES'S NIGHTMARE DRAW: New Zealand and England

Roberto Mancini demands perfection from Manchester City against Real Madrid in Champions League

Only perfection will do if Man City are to upset odds and beat Real to salvage Euro dream, insists Mancini

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UPDATED:

09:12 GMT, 19 November 2012

There were precious few flaws, as the 5-0 scoreline might indicate, but Roberto Mancini was adamant there will be scope for even fewer when Real Madrid come to the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night.

Defending champions Manchester City stormed back to the top of the Barclays Premier League with a ruthless five-goal demolition of Aston Villa and Mancini could scarcely have asked for more.

He can and will, though, when the focus switches to the Champions League. The game with Real that can only go one way, if the faintest of qualification hopes are to keep flickering.

Five star: Roberto Mancini wants perfection from Manchester City, who beat Aston Villa 5-0

Five star: Roberto Mancini wants perfection from Manchester City, who beat Aston Villa 5-0

Five star: Roberto Mancini wants perfection from Manchester City, who beat Aston Villa 5-0

Hosting the Spanish giants is the biggest challenge, in terms of glamour and intrigue, of Mancini’s City reign. He knows what is needed for his side to meet it — perfection.

‘This was a really good performance and result but it will count for nothing against Real,’ said the City manager. ‘I don’t know whether it would be enough against them. They are one of the best teams in the world, and to beat them, we will have to give a perfect performance.

‘We went close last time, in Madrid, and were 2-1 up with four minutes to go, but this is not going to be easy. It is a different game, and if we want to beat them, we will have to defend very well. They have three or four players who can decide a game at any moment, and we are going to have to work very hard as a team.

‘At least we have improved defensively in the last four or five games, which is important. It is down to the whole team playing different football and having 65 per cent, or more, control of the game. That has helped us look more solid.’

Far from being daunted by Real’s reputation, Mancini is convinced his own galacticos will relish the occasion.

‘If you have players who have won World Cups, like David Silva, or who have won everything in the game, like Yaya Toure, you know what you are going to get on nights like this,’ he said.

‘For them, playing against Real Madrid is the essence of football, and it should bring the best out of them.

‘When you are young and starting out in football, you think about how much you would love to play against Real Madrid or Barcelona.

Gulf: City's Euro campaign has been disappointing so far, coming after a brave showing in Spain

Gulf: City's Euro campaign has been disappointing so far, coming after a brave showing in Spain

‘Sergio Aguero is the same, and it
could be important that he missed the game in the Bernabeu. He will want
to make up for that and I think he can cause problems for Real. But,
above all, we must play as a team.

‘They have a big history, going back a long way. But I do think we have the players who can beat them. It is possible.'

Though Mancini insisted Mario Balotelli could feature on Wednesday, his prospects appear bleak after a back injury was added to the training-ground lethargy that so angered the City boss.

‘Mario had a problem with his back in training yesterday and said he couldn’t play,’ said Mancini. ‘If he trains and trains well, then he can be part of the squad against Madrid but he was not here today. I think he was in bed, because of this problem, so we will see how he is tomorrow.’

Carlos Tevez cheekily mimicked being behind the wheel of his impounded Porsche, after converting a 65th-minute penalty but it was an earlier spot-kick that drove Villa manager Paul Lambert mad.

Villa were only one goal behind when linesman Adrian Holmes wrongly flagged for handball against Andreas Weimann, from a 54th-minute corner.

After seeing Aguero double City’s lead, and effectively settle the outcome, Lambert fumed: ‘I have seen it and it was never a penalty.

'What the linesman saw, I don’t know. He has to be 100 per cent sure to give it, but he guessed. He saw something 50,000 others didn’t. But the lads will be fine. They will bounce back, like they always do.’

Roberto Mancini demands perfection from Manchester City

Mancini knows only perfection will do if City are to upset the odds and beat Real Madrid

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UPDATED:

22:45 GMT, 18 November 2012

There were precious few flaws, as the 5-0 scoreline might indicate, but Roberto Mancini was adamant there will be scope for even fewer when Real Madrid come to the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night.

Defending champions Manchester City stormed back to the top of the Barclays Premier League with a ruthless five-goal demolition of Aston Villa and Mancini could scarcely have asked for more.

He can and will, though, when the focus switches to the Champions League. The game with Real that can only go one way, if the faintest of qualification hopes are to keep flickering.

Five star: Roberto Mancini wants perfection from Manchester City, who beat Aston Villa 5-0

Five star: Roberto Mancini wants perfection from Manchester City, who beat Aston Villa 5-0

Five star: Roberto Mancini wants perfection from Manchester City, who beat Aston Villa 5-0

Hosting the Spanish giants is the biggest challenge, in terms of glamour and intrigue, of Mancini’s City reign. He knows what is needed for his side to meet it — perfection.

‘This was a really good performance and result but it will count for nothing against Real,’ said the City manager. ‘I don’t know whether it would be enough against them. They are one of the best teams in the world, and to beat them, we will have to give a perfect performance.

‘We went close last time, in Madrid, and were 2-1 up with four minutes to go, but this is not going to be easy. It is a different game, and if we want to beat them, we will have to defend very well. They have three or four players who can decide a game at any moment, and we are going to have to work very hard as a team.

‘At least we have improved defensively in the last four or five games, which is important. It is down to the whole team playing different football and having 65 per cent, or more, control of the game. That has helped us look more solid.’

Far from being daunted by Real’s reputation, Mancini is convinced his own galacticos will relish the occasion.

‘If you have players who have won World Cups, like David Silva, or who have won everything in the game, like Yaya Toure, you know what you are going to get on nights like this,’ he said.

‘For them, playing against Real Madrid is the essence of football, and it should bring the best out of them.

‘When you are young and starting out in football, you think about how much you would love to play against Real Madrid or Barcelona.

Gulf: City's Euro campaign has been disappointing so far, coming after a brave showing in Spain

Gulf: City's Euro campaign has been disappointing so far, coming after a brave showing in Spain

‘Sergio Aguero is the same, and it
could be important that he missed the game in the Bernabeu. He will want
to make up for that and I think he can cause problems for Real. But,
above all, we must play as a team.

‘They have a big history, going back a long way. But I do think we have the players who can beat them. It is possible.'

Though Mancini insisted Mario Balotelli could feature on Wednesday, his prospects appear bleak after a back injury was added to the training-ground lethargy that so angered the City boss.

‘Mario had a problem with his back in training yesterday and said he couldn’t play,’ said Mancini. ‘If he trains and trains well, then he can be part of the squad against Madrid but he was not here today. I think he was in bed, because of this problem, so we will see how he is tomorrow.’

Carlos Tevez cheekily mimicked being behind the wheel of his impounded Porsche, after converting a 65th-minute penalty but it was an earlier spot-kick that drove Villa manager Paul Lambert mad.

Villa were only one goal behind when linesman Adrian Holmes wrongly flagged for handball against Andreas Weimann, from a 54th-minute corner.

After seeing Aguero double City’s lead, and effectively settle the outcome, Lambert fumed: ‘I have seen it and it was never a penalty.

'What the linesman saw, I don’t know. He has to be 100 per cent sure to give it, but he guessed. He saw something 50,000 others didn’t. But the lads will be fine. They will bounce back, like they always do.’

Crystal Palace have loads of Zahas, says new boss Ian Holloway

We've got loads of Zahas: New boss Holloway impressed by Palace starlets

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UPDATED:

14:53 GMT, 7 November 2012

Ian Holloway insists there are plenty more players like Wilfried Zaha in Crystal Palace's youth set up.

The Championship club have slapped a 20million price tag on the 19-year-old winger after Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City sent scouts to watch him.

Hot prospect: Wilfried Zaha

Hot prospect: Wilfried Zaha

And Holloway, who took charge for the first time on Tuesday night in a 5-0 demolition of Ipswich, expects more to follow.

He said: 'The main reason I came here is because behind this group is a wonderful youth set up run by Gary [Issott]. If Wilfried turned out like that I'll find more diamonds.

Bright future: Ian Holloway

Bright future: Ian Holloway

'I've already seen it. I'm not ever going to bring a player here who blocks our youth players. I'm going to play them first and give them a chance to do it. It's all about producing players and this club has done it for years and years.

'That's what I want to do. I'd love to be at this club for a long, long time and see all sorts of Zahas coming through and see how we can do. They've got a fantastic catchment area and hard work going on behind the scenes.'

Holloway singled out 19-year-old Jonathan Williams and 20-year-old Ibra Sekajja as two youngsters who have already caught his eye.

And he joined the long list of managers piling plaudits on to Zaha, who turns 20 on Saturday.

The 49-year-old added: 'God knows how good Wilfried is going to be, I don't know. I've never seen anything like him with the ball, I just want to give him two to see what he does with them.'