Tag Archives: drogba

Real Madrid 3 Galatasaray 0: match report – Cristiano Ronaldo scores

Real Madrid 3 Galatasaray 0: Classy Ronaldo and Co on course for semi-finals

PUBLISHED:

20:35 GMT, 3 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

21:05 GMT, 3 April 2013

Real Madrid took a huge step towards reaching the last four of the Champions League by strolling to a comfortable victory over Galatasaray at the Bernabeu.

Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring early in the first half before Karim Benzema doubled the hosts' lead.

Substitute Gonzalo Higuain's second-half header put the result beyond doubt, and made Madrid's task in the second leg at the Turk Telecom Arena next Tuesday look far easier.

Up and over: Cristiano Ronaldo scored the first against Galatasaray at the Santiago Bernabeu

Up and over: Cristiano Ronaldo scored the first against Galatasaray at the Santiago Bernabeu

Up and over: Cristiano Ronaldo scored the first against Galatasaray at the Santiago Bernabeu

MATCH FACTS

Real Madrid: Diego Lopez, Varane, Ramos, Coentrao, Khedira, Ronaldo, Ozil (Modric – 80), Alonso, Essien, Di Maria (Pepe 86), Benzema (Higuain 65)

Subs not used: Adan, Marcelo, Arbeloa, Kaka

Booked: Essien, Modric, Ramos

Goals: Ronaldo 9, Benzema 29, Higuain 73

Galatasaray: Muslera, Dany Nounkeu, Kaya, Eboue, Altintop (Bulut 78), Inan, Felipe Melo, Riera (Amrabat 83), Sneijder (Zan 46), Yilmaz, Drogba

Subs not used: Iscan, Balta, Sarioglu, Kurtulus

Booked: Dany Nounkeu, Felipe Melo, Yilmaz, Drogba

Referee: Oddvar Moen

Attendance: 80,000

Galatasaray's coach and players had
insisted before the game that they would try to attack the Primera
Division champions and would not settle for holding out for a draw. They
were loyal to their promise in the first half, but it left them very
exposed at the back.

Madrid, who have the reputation for
being one of the best counter-attacking teams in Europe, were given a
generous amount of space by their opponents and made full use of it.

They had their first attempt on two
minutes, Benzema heading just over the bar after a cross from Angel Di
Maria, and they took the lead after just nine minutes.

Xabi Alonso supplied the ball up to
Mesut Ozil from his own half and the German played a one-two with
Benzema, which allowed him space to deliver an excellent low pass into
the path of Ronaldo, who calmly chipped the ball over goalkeeper
Fernando Muslera and into the net.

Gala played pretty football but
struggled to penetrate the Madrid backline and were limited to shots
from outside the area. Didier Drogba turned Raphael Varane on the
18-yard line and shot just over the bar, while Wesley Sneijder also
missed the target from 20 yards.

In the goals: Karim Benzema got the second for the hosts

In the goals: Karim Benzema got the second for the hosts

Sea of red: Galatasaray fans lit a flare to celebrate the occasion

Sea of red: Galatasaray fans lit a flare to celebrate the occasion

Ozil could have doubled the lead when
a long Sergio Ramos header out of defence led to Madrid attacking, but
the midfielder, receiving the ball from Ronaldo, could not put his shot
past Muslera.

Madrid's second goal arrived just
before the half-hour mark. Michael Essien, a surprise inclusion in the
starting line-up at the expense of Alvaro Arbeloa, delivered a high ball
into the box which fell at the feet of Benzema, who was in space, took
one touch to control the pass and slotted home from six yards.

Galatasaray's best chance of the half
fell to Emmanuel Eboue just before the interval. The former Arsenal
player burst through on goal but hit his shot straight at Diego Lopez's
legs.

Sneijder, unimpressive in the first
45 minutes against his former club, was removed at half-time and
replaced by defender Gokhan Zan – a move which saw Fatih Terim's side
switch to a back three, with Eboue pushing up to right midfield.

Struggle: Didier Drogba led the line for the visitors

Struggle: Didier Drogba led the line for the visitors

Three and easy: Gonzalo Higuain scored the third with a glancing header

Three and easy: Gonzalo Higuain scored the third with a glancing header

Three and easy: Gonzalo Higuain scored the third with a glancing header

The tactical change did not help the
visitors' attacking ambitions, and they went on to pose even less of a
threat after the break as they had before it.

Madrid also dropped their intensity
in the second period. Ronaldo and Di Maria both had chances to test
Muslera, the better of which fell to the Argentinian, but the goalkeeper
had little trouble with either effort.

Higuain came on for Benzema on 65
minutes and seven minutes later made the triumph secure when he headed
in a free-kick from Xabi Alonso.

Rough and tumble: Sergio Ramos (left) drags Didier Drogba to the floor in the second half

Rough and tumble: Sergio Ramos (left) drags Didier Drogba to the floor in the second half

Rough and tumble: Sergio Ramos (left) drags Didier Drogba to the floor in the second half

Jose Mourinho's side rode out the
final minutes of the game with little trouble. Alonso and Ramos both
picked up yellow cards which mean they will miss the second leg.

Achieving victory was much lighter
work for Madrid than their two hard-fought games with Manchester United
in the previous round but, barring a complete collapse in Istanbul, they
can be confident of reaching their third consecutive Champions League
semi-final under Mourinho.

Putting out fires: Sami Khedira (right) and Ramos tackle Burak Yilmaz

Putting out fires: Sami Khedira (right) and Ramos tackle Burak Yilmaz

Over you go: Ronaldo hits the deck after Semih Kaya (centre) backs into the Portugal forward

Over you go: Ronaldo hits the deck after Semih Kaya (centre) backs into the Portugal forward

Cristiano Ronaldo New nike CR Mercurial Vapor IX boots

Ronaldo's new boots: He may not have celebrated in Champions League triumph over United, but he still loves to win

By
Charlie Skillen

PUBLISHED:

09:59 GMT, 29 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

10:05 GMT, 29 March 2013

Cristiano Ronaldo might have displayed his love for Manchester United when dumping his old side out of the Champions league with Real Madrid, but his new boots reveal he might not have been so loved-up if Sir Alex Ferguson's side had triumphed.

His signature Nike CR Mercurial Vapor IX boots have been re-worked in a new colourway – and with the Portugal star's 'love to win, hate to lose' logo on the heel, which is a heart with a big 'X' through it.

Bright spark: Cristiano Ronaldo's new boots are in neon colours with his 'love to win, hate to lose' logo (below)

Bright spark: Cristiano Ronaldo's new boots are in neon colours with his 'love to win, hate to lose' logo (below)

CR Mercurial Vapor IX_Dtl_.jpg

Behind the wheel: Ronaldo was snapped wearing the new collection, with the 'love to win' logo, in his car

Behind the wheel: Ronaldo was snapped wearing the new collection, with the 'love to win' logo, in his car

CR7

Brightly-coloured with neon yellow, orange and white, the boots also feature the number 7, Ronaldo's squad number at Real Madrid, and a safari print on the Nike 'swoosh' – referencing his cheetah-like pace.

The new boots are sure to continue the Real Madrid star's success – Ronaldo has hit 40 goals for club and country this season.

Jose Mourinho's side continue to be off
the pace in the Spanish La Liga – they sit 13 points behind Barcelona,
just one point ahead of city rivals Atletico.

Studs up: Nike's All Condition Control technology means the boots will perform well in all weather

Studs up: Nike's All Condition Control technology means the boots will perform well in all weather

Apologies: Ronaldo famously didn't celebrate when scoring at Old Trafford earlier this month

Apologies: Ronaldo famously didn't celebrate when scoring at Old Trafford earlier this month

However, a Champions League quarter-final clash with Galatasary – pitting Ronaldo against Didier Drogba – makes the Spanish giants favourite to progress.

United fans hoping for a romantic return to Old Trafford for Ronaldo can be pleased with their idol's new footwear, as it features Nike's All Conditions Control technology – meaning they are just at home in the pouring Manchester rain as the balmy Madrid sun.

The boots are part of a whole collection with the same design, featuring training wear, casual clothes and a matching ball, and is out April 11.

Wild animal: The 'safari' swoosh features in the collection, including a ball and other clothes (below)

Wild animal: The 'safari' swoosh features in the collection, including a ball and other clothes (below)

Collection

Strike a pose: Ronaldo, modelling his new collection, has scored 40 goals for club and country this season

Strike a pose: Ronaldo, modelling his new collection, has scored 40 goals for club and country this season

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.

Didier Drogba"s move to Galatasaray challenged by Shanghai Shenhua

He's still our player: Shanghai Shenhua set to challenge Drogba's move to Galatasaray

officially signed a formal contract for a period of two and a half years. The club has acted in accordance with this contract, and has effectively fulfilled the responsibilities and obligations of the club.

'Currently, Drogba is still a player of Shanghai Shenhua Football Club, the contract between the two parties is still within the period of validity.

'Shanghai Shenhua is prepared to collate all the evidence and information and submit it to FIFA in order to protect its interests.'

On Monday, Galatasaray announced that Drogba had agreed an 18-month deal to move to Turkey, where he would join up with Wesley Sneijder as part of an ambitious new-look side.

Drogba, speaking through his representatives Sports PR Company on Twitter, said at the time: 'The opportunity to play for this great club was an offer that I could not turn down.

Out of Africa: Drogba is currently playing at the Africa Cup of Nations for the Ivory Coast

Out of Africa: Drogba is currently playing at the Africa Cup of Nations for the Ivory Coast

'I am looking forward to playing in the Champions League again, against the best clubs in Europe.'

Despite his protests to the contrary, reports persisted that Drogba's move to China had not worked out, largely due to boardroom wrangling, prompting him to seek a return to Europe.

Neil Warnock says Charlie Morgan must have been watching Didier Drogba

Warnock joins those putting the boot into ball boy Morgan, and says he must have been watching Drogba

By
Ian Ladyman

PUBLISHED:

13:50 GMT, 27 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

14:11 GMT, 27 January 2013

Leeds manager Neil Warnock has accused controversial Swansea ball boy Charlie Morgan of reacting like Didier Drogba at the Liberty Stadium last week.

Chelsea forward Eden Hazard is facing an FA charge after kicking the ball from beneath the 17-year-old towards the end of the teams’ Capital One Cup semi-final on Wednesday night.

The incident has divided opinion in football and Warnock didn’t pull any punches in his programme column for today’s FA Cup tie against Tottenham at Elland Road.

Warnock was scathing over Charlie Morgan's reaction

The oldest ball boy in history: Warnock was scathing over Charlie Morgan's reaction

The Leeds manager said Morgan must have been mimicking Drogba

Drogba's influence: The Leeds manager said Morgan must have been mimicking Drogba

Warnock wrote: ‘It was interesting to see Hazard’s sending off.

‘He obviously kicked the ball and caught the oldest ball boy in history.

‘I think the lad must have been studying Drogba over the years when you saw his reaction.

‘All that said, I’m sure Hazard will take his punishment because he was out of order.’

Meanwhile, new Leeds owners GFH Capital have reassured Warnock that he will be given cash to spend this week if striker Luciano Becchio leaves before the end of the transfer window.

A statement in today’s programme said: 'He will only be allowed to leave this week if we have an offer that is considered acceptable and in the best interests of the club.

‘If that happens proceeds will be re-invested in the team.’

Becchio submitted a transfer request last week after Leeds rejected offers from two foreign clubs.

Alex Ferguson rages at referee over Wayne Rooney penalty

Fergie fumes at officials after Rooney is denied penalty in dramatic Spurs draw

By
Mark Bryans, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

19:00 GMT, 20 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

19:27 GMT, 20 January 2013

Sir Alex Ferguson was left ruing a decision not to award his Manchester United side a penalty as they conceded an injury-time equaliser at Tottenham.

The visitors were leading 1-0 courtesy of a Robin van Persie header, his 18th Barclays Premier League goal of the season, when substitute Wayne Rooney went down under a challenge from Steven Caulker inside the box.

Referee Chris Foy declined to award a penalty and Spurs, who dominated the second half, eventually scored a dramatic 92nd-minute equaliser through Clint Dempsey.

Going down: Wayne Rooney appeared to be fouled by Steven Caulker but no penalty was awarded

Going down: Wayne Rooney appeared to be fouled by Steven Caulker but no penalty was awarded

Going down: Wayne Rooney appeared to be fouled by Steven Caulker but no penalty was awarded

Going down: Wayne Rooney appeared to be fouled by Steven Caulker but no penalty was awarded

United therefore had to settle for a five-point lead over champions Manchester City at the top of the table, and Ferguson was quick to direct his anger at assistant referee Simon Beck.

'It was a clear penalty,' he said. 'It was definitely a penalty. He has put his leg right in there.

'The linesman is facing it, I thought he had a very poor game, the linesman. I thought he was disappointing.

'We have got that history with him. He never gave offside with (Chelsea striker Didier) Drogba at Old Trafford when he was three yards offside. Everyone remembers that, I certainly do.'

The incident with Drogba came in a 2-1 win for Chelsea at Old Trafford in April 2010 and Ferguson felt his side had been let down again, with Rooney seemingly fouled only moments after replacing Shinji Kagawa.

'For me it was a poor performance from him, why he never gave a penalty I don't know,” Ferguson added. “I think he had a shocking game today, he's had a bad game and we never got anything from that side of the pitch.'

Come on! Rooney appeals to the linesman after he felt he was fouled in the box by Caulker

Come on! Rooney appeals to the linesman after he felt he was fouled in the box by Caulker

Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas was unsure whether Caulker had caught Rooney, but did not want the argument to overshadow a tremendous performance and hard-fought point for his side.

'Obviously it is going to be debated and debated and I hope it doesn't mar the game,' he said.

''uring the game we got most of the decisions against us. I prefer to look at this game on my view and United prefer to look at it on their view.

'We take our boost of confidence and the debate is going to be whether it was a penalty because that is controversy and it sells better, but we shouldn't mar the game and the quality of the game played in these difficult conditions.

Rage: Alex Ferguson was furious with the linesman

Rage: Alex Ferguson was furious with the linesman

'Fortunately we got a point, I think it is credit for the game that we had. We were the best team and created the best chances.

'I think it was probably the worst United game in terms of opportunities, with them having only four. It is a pity we couldn't win but I'm extremely happy with the draw obviously.'

As for the title race, Villas-Boas still thinks it is too close to call.

'It is very tight between them,' he said. 'They are two strong teams with top quality squads and individuals. I think it is for either of the Manchester teams as the distance to third place is quite important.

'I'm not sure (who will win the league) but United have the experience that can help them.'

Ferguson believes his side have a good record against the bigger teams in the league and was always keen to play the game at White Hart Lane, despite snow falling throughout the day.

'We have been to all the top teams' grounds so far,” he said. “We just have Arsenal left and we think we can be pleased with the outcome of them all.

'We have got a healthy points total from them and it's another game out of the road.

'I wanted the game to go ahead today because we don't want a backlog and as it was, it proved I was right.'

Juan Mata is like return of Gianfranco Zola to Chelsea

Mata isn't Juan of a kind… Chelsea star is closest to second coming of King Zola

|

UPDATED:

11:27 GMT, 29 December 2012

Chelsea are not a team many people wish well, bar their own supporters. The club's players are even less popular.

John Terry and Ashley Cole regularly come in for dogs' abuse from the terraces, and the likes of Didier Drogba and Dennis Wise also drew ire with ease from opposition fans.

So when people found a diamond in what was widely perceived to be the rough, it was a shock. But lo and behold, Gianfranco Zola arrived from Parma in 1996 and delighted fans of all clubs week in, week out.

Mata of fact: The Spaniard has been in scintillating form this season

Mata of fact: The Spaniard has been in scintillating form this season

When he left SW6 in 2003 at the same time Roman Abramovich arrived, football fans in England were sad. Zola's expression on the pitch, his joy and skill and smile all drew much admiration, with little venom in response.

If a football player becomes extremely popular there is often a backlash from people who become fed up of hearing about them. See Jimmy Bullard and Mario Balotelli for details. Even Premier League legends like Ryan Giggs and Thierry Henry have their detractors.

Zola didn't, and seemed like he was one of a kind. But then in the summer of 2011, while Chelsea was under the stewardship of Andre Villas-Boas, a young man by the name of Juan Mata arrived.

Much of the talk around Stamford Bridge was concerned with how, where and if Mata would fit in. If he would be strong enough or quick enough for English football. If this 23-and-a-half-year-old was worth the same number in millions of pounds which Chelsea paid for him.

Were the goals he scored for Valencia all he offered Videos on the internet suggested he had an eye for a pass and could whip a ball in. But then if you flicked through the right collection of YouTube clips you could wind up convinced that Jesper Gronkjaer was one of the finest crossers of the ball the top flight has ever seen.

Return of the King Zola spent seven years at Stamford Bridge

Return of the King Zola spent seven years at Stamford Bridge

Return of the King Zola spent seven years at Stamford Bridge

However, Mata made an instant impact
at the Bridge by scoring in his first match after coming on as a
substitute and his career has taken an upward trajectory ever since.

He soon became the key – and often
even the only – creative outlet to Villas-Boas' side. Mata forged
chance after chance for Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres, while colleagues Florent Malouda and Salomon Kalou floundered.

Mata consistently took the plaudits even as the team lost momentum and form, leading to Villas-Boas’ dismissal. Roberto Di Matteo took the reins but the Spaniard did not bat an eyelid, continuing as impressively as before.

He helped Chelsea earn the FA Cup and Champions League trophies in a successful albeit unorthodox year at the club. Across the board he was picking up nods and mentions, and, like Zola before him, rarely attracted a mean-spirited comment.

Five for free on Mata

1. It's not just on the pitch he's smart. Mata is studying for two degrees, one in marketing and one in sports science.

2. He is a home town hero. In Oviedo, Spain, they have opened 'Juan Mata Park' and his youth team decided to rename their stadium after him.

3. Mata runs his own social media accounts, including his Twitter feed, his Instagram account and his blog.

4. He rose to the fore at Valencia after current Manchester City star David Silva left.

5. Real Madrid allowed Mata to leave on a free transfer at the age of 19.

And the comparisons to Zola started
to gather pace. Even visually Mata, at 5ft 7, is only one inch taller
than the Italian and both players had heads which appear fractionally
too big for their diminutive frames.

Mata also plays with a smile – and
some of the artistry he is responsible for could only have been conjured
by someone with a deep love for the game.

As well as enjoying taking to the field, Mata watches a lot of football at home too – especially La Liga. He writes about it on his blog, ‘One Hour Behind’ – in Spanish and then again in near perfect English.

And if you read the comment section below each entry, you will discover the blog is a rare section of the internet which has avoided the usual mudslinging. It is hard to imagine another footballer who would receive such solely positive feedback.

But then Mata does little to enrage opponents or fans. Unlike many players of a creative disposition and slight build, he does not dive and often attempts to stay on his feet despite being pulled back.

During the year-and-a-half which has passed since Mata signed for Chelsea, he has virtually been playing non-stop, so there’s been plenty of opportunity to expose him as ‘one of those diving foreign types’.

But between August 2011, via the Champions League run, Euro 2012, the Olympics and the new Premier League season, until today, Mata has only brought delight to football fans.

From the preciseness of his passing, to its scope and incisiveness, to some of the strikes he has to his name, here is a rare thing. A footballer as superb as he is likeable.

And this season he can lay claim to being the finest in the top flight. When he returned from the Olympics he was visibly tired and was sent on a two week break. After he returned, he has been unstoppable.

All action: Mata followed Champions League glory with victory at the Euros

All action: Mata followed Champions League glory with victory at the Euros

All action: Mata followed Champions League glory with victory at the Euros

'It was just common sense to give him
a break and the way he’s performing suggests it was very welcome by his
body and his mind,’ said Di Matteo.

'Juan Mata is a very intelligent man and I talked to him about this idea; he bought into it and saw the benefits of it.'

His poise and balance are as good as they have always been, but what has really improved is his eye for goal (see below to find out why).

Mata already has 13 goals and 14 assists this term in 28 games, compared to 12 and 20 in 54 respectively last year, in all competitions for Chelsea. Essentially that means he has made a key contribution to a goal in every single one of his matches this season, bar one.

Mata stats… 2011-12

Games played: 54

Minutes played: 4075

Goals: 12

Minutes per goal: 339.6

Total shots: 82

Shots on target: 44

Shot conversion: 15%

Assists: 20

Yellow cards: 3

Red cards : 0

Mata stats 2012-13

Games played: 28

Minutes played: 2201

Goals: 13

Minutes per goal: 169.3

Total shots: 43

Shots on target: 24

Shot conversion: 30%

Assists: 14

Yellow cards: 1

Red cards:0

And he has adapted seamlessly to life under Rafael Benitez. His superb goal against Norwich on Boxing Day was yet another flash of magic which won Chelsea a match.

He has even praised Chelsea's interim coach without drawing fire from sceptical Blues fans who remain at loggerheads with the club over his appointment.

Ask fans at Carrow Road who the best player on the pitch was at the weekend, and they will tell you the answer was Juan Mata. Visit any of the stadiums Chelsea have played at this season, ask the same question, and you're likely to receive the same response.

Chelsea were blessed with one outstanding – and widely appreciated – talent in Zola. Mata is well on his way to emulating the little magician. Quite a few Chelsea fans will tell you he’s done it already.

How has Mata's productivity increased so significantly this year

Mata described Drogba’s departure from Chelsea as an electric shock and said the club have had to work hard to adapt to life without the talismanic striker. Mata’s game has certainly adapted.

In 2011-12 he was often deployed in attacking position on the left, to supply the ball aerially for the Ivorian. This meant Mata was not always in a useful position to add to his own goal tally. But when Di Matteo took over from Villas-Boas he began to play Mata more centrally, where he improved.

At the start of this season Mata was picked by Di Matteo on the right, with Oscar in the middle and Eden Hazard on the left. This gave him the chance to cut inside and shoot from a central position with his favoured left-foot, as well as supplying through-balls to Fernando Torres.

Man of the moment: Mata scored a stunner in the victory over Norwich

Man of the moment: Mata scored a stunner in the victory over Norwich

Since Benitez has arrived he has selected Victor Moses on the right wing and pushed Mata into the middle again, where he is arguably at his most effective and creative. His goals against West Ham and Norwich came as Mata sprang from this area of the pitch.

Frank Lampard’s incredible goal-hauls for the Blues have often led people to believe his eventual departure will be a massive blow for Chelsea. While he will be missed, Mata’s contribution will ensure it is only for sentimental reasons.

Mario Balotelli latest: AC Milan ready to sell Robinho and Pato to fund Manchester City striker bid

Milan ready to pack Pato and Robinho back to Brazil in bid to sign Balotelli

|

UPDATED:

11:04 GMT, 28 December 2012

AC Milan are preparing a bid for Mario Balotelli, confident they will be able to offload both Pato and Robinho to Brazil.

Manchester City have hung a 20million price tag on their striker, who has been linked with a move home to Italy on numerous occasions, but the San Siro club are close to securing him.

Balotelli is desperate to flee Manchester and sources close to the striker told Goal.com: ‘The situation has reached a point where both player and club simply want his time at City to end as soon as possible.

Italian job: AC Milan are reportedly ready to step up their interest in Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli

Italian job: AC Milan are reportedly ready to step up their interest in Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli

‘Mario has told his representatives that he is ready to leave Manchester. He is just waiting for the call from Italy.’

The deal hinges on Milan agreeing transfers of their own and the club is currently in advanced negotiations with Corinthians over the sale of Pato, who is likely to join the Club World Cup winners for around €15m (12.3m) within days.

Milan have also received a number of offers for Robinho, although vice-president Adriano Galliani has said Santos are leading the race, after talks with Flamengo fell apart earlier this month.

Boys from Brazil: Milan may cash in on Robinho and Pato to fund a bid for Balotelli

On the move: Milan could sell Pato

Boys from Brazil: Milan may cash in on former Man City striker Robinho (L) and Pato to fund a bid for Balotelli

Just last week, president Silvio Berlusconi rubbished talk of Balotelli joining Milan, insisting neither the Italian nor Didier Drogba were transfer targets.

He confirmed Drogba was the player ‘only Russian and Chinese clubs can afford’ while Balotelli’s wayward behaviour turned the politician and media tycoon off him.

But after warnings from City boss Roberto Mancini, Balotelli is thought to be cleaning up his act and is prepared to take a pay cut from his 110,000 weekly wage to become a Rossoneri player.

Christian Benteke not for sale, says Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert

Don't call him the new Drogba: Lambert says it's unfair to compare Benteke to former Chelsea star

|

UPDATED:

14:10 GMT, 21 December 2012

Paul Lambert believes it is unfair to label Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke as the new Didier Drogba but insists the Belgium international can have an outstanding career.

Benteke has been drawing comparisons with former Chelsea star Drogba with his physique and power and the way he tormented the Liverpool defence during last weekend's 3-1 win at Anfield.

The 22-year-old is already looking a bargain buy at 8 million from Genk during the latter stages of the summer transfer window.

A star is born: Christian Benteke has made a big impact at Villa since signing in the summer

A star is born: Christian Benteke has made a big impact at Villa since signing in the summer

Lambert, whose side visit Chelsea on Sunday, said: 'I can understand why people are comparing with Drogba with the size of the two guys – but Christian is his own man.

'It's unfair for me to turn around and say he's going to be the next Didier Drogba with the career he's had.

'Christian has only just turned 22. But the potential there is incredible, what he can achieve.

'He's been absolutely brilliant for me, not just as a footballer but as a guy he is really humble, which is important. He's been brilliant.'

In the goals: Benteke has scored eight goals for Villa this season

Didier Drogba

Don't compare: Paul Lambert has asked for Benteke not to be compared with Didier Drogba

Lambert has a long-term vision for Villa and is adamant Benteke is part of that future admidst speculation he could become a target for the leading clubs during the January transfer window.

He said: 'There's no point in us even being here if it's a case of bringing people in and then letting them go.

'What's the point in that We're trying to build something here which can take a few years and you need good players with you to achieve that.

'There's no point in them coming for half a season or a year and then we let them go. That's not the right way.'

Not for sale: Paul Lambert says Benteke is not going anywhere in January

Not for sale: Paul Lambert says Benteke is not going anywhere in January

Benteke is developing a thriving partnership with Andreas Weimann who has started to realise his potential since being an extended run of games under Lambert.

The understanding was demonstrated via Weimann's sublime finish after Benteke's back heel for the second goal at Anfield.

Lambert said: 'Andi (Weimann) was here long before I came in. He's a natural finisher and has an incredible work-rate for the game of football.
'Provided he does not lose that, he can be a right good player.

'He's a totally different player to Christian, but he certainly knows where the goal is.

'We try to let them have the freedom to go and play and create.

'The second goal against Liverpool had great build-up and the finishing touch was the backheel from Benteke while the hardest part of the game is putting the ball in the net.'

In good form: Chelsea beat Leeds 5-1 in the Capital One Cup

In good form: Chelsea beat Leeds 5-1 in the Capital One Cup

Villa are unbeaten in their last five league games and also reached the semi-finals of the Capital One Cup.

Lambert still expects Chelsea to pose a formidable threat despite their hectic schedule and travelling back from the World Club Championship in Japan.

He also has immense respect for the Blues interim manager Rafael Benitez.

Lambert said: 'I hope the travelling affects them – but I don't think it will. They had a good result the other night against Leeds.

'The tiredness only comes in if you are not getting results, if you're winning nobody bothers.

'In terms of Rafa, you look at his managerial career and it is phenomenal.

'He's gone in there at a difficult time and tried to stabilise it and get results at the same time.

'You look at Chelsea's squad, and the players they've got, and there are some world-class players in there.'

Meet the sleep coach for Ryan Giggs, John Terry, Didier Drogba and Bradley Wiggins

Have I got snooze for you! Meet the sleep coach who helped Giggs, Terry, Drogba, Hoy and Wiggins

|

UPDATED:

22:48 GMT, 13 December 2012

That Ryan Giggs is still playing in the Barclays Premier League in his 40th year is perhaps down to natural ability, a rigid conditioning programme and regular yoga.

The day the Manchester United midfielder invited a chap called Nick Littlehales round to his house in 2003 was maybe significant, too.

Littlehales is – as unusual as it sounds – an expert in the art of sleeping; how to do it and what to do it on and in.

Sleeping on the job: Nick Littlehales takes a break

Sleeping on the job: Nick Littlehales
takes a break

Nik's top tips for getting better kip

You should be able to lie comfortably on your mattress with no pillow.

Hard mattresses are not generally good for you. It’s a myth.

Check the environment. Light, noise and temperature can ruin your sleep without you knowing.

Try to wake up to natural light.

Inexpensive washable linen is best. Fresh linen facilitates good sleep.

Don’t buy a super-warm duvet. You will overheat as you sleep.

He said this week: 'I was invited to talk to a group of United players. Six came to see me together. I spoke to them about how important it was to sleep in the right conditions on the right things.

'At the end, five walked out and one stayed and said, “I want to know more about this”. It was Ryan Giggs.'

Giggs, whose longevity was threatened by hamstring problems as he reached the end of his 20s, is one of Littlehales' most famous clients. There are many more.

Most notable in football are Chelsea captain John Terry and his former team-mate Didier Drogba as well as the whole Blackburn squad during the days of Sam Allardyce.

Littlehales is acting as a consultant for United on a sleep room they are building at Carrington to cater for players returning from overseas games. He has also worked with Arsenal, Liverpool and for the Football Association.

His influence, though, is felt across other sports. In the summer, every member of the Team GB cycling team took individually designed, lightweight, fold-up mattresses and 'sleep packs' recommended by Littlehales into the Athletes' Village at the Olympics and slept on them on the floor next to their beds. They took his linen and duvets too. Bradley Wiggins and his colleagues at Team Sky took them up the mountains during the Tour de France.

Rest in peace: Littlehales with his sleep kit

Rest in peace: Littlehales with his sleep kit

Rest in peace: Littlehales with his sleep kit

Rest in peace: Littlehales with his sleep kit

So what's the big deal about sleep Don't athletes count sheep like the rest of us

'People don't understand how important it is and, more pertinently, how important it is to do right,' said Littlehales.

'If you are spending eight hours and more a day asleep, surely it makes sense to be in the right environment.

'To get it right you have to get things like temperature, light, noise and air quality correct. You have to know your allergies. Then, of course, you have to sleep on something that suits your height, shape and weight.

'I help athletes and people with injuries but it's not just that. It's preventative as much as anything. Many people walk into a shop, spend 500 on a posh mattress and walk out again. It's ridiculous.

'When you wake – athlete or not – you shouldn't want to turn over and sleep for another two hours. You should feel rested and ready to go. But how many people do I dealt with one player whose bedroom temperature at home was 32 degrees! It was because his wife liked to be warm. He, meanwhile, was waking up dehydrated.

'That's quite common in sport. The partner chooses and designs the bedroom.'

Littlehales, a former professional golfer from the Midlands, was working for the Slumberland bed company in the 1990s when he heard about a back injury afflicting United defender Gary Pallister.

'I just wrote to Sir Alex Ferguson and said I may be able to help,' he recalled. 'Gary came to see me. He was travelling home from games on a special bed on the team bus. His back was that bad. At home he was sleeping in totally the wrong position.

Famous clients: Ryan Giggs (above) and Sir Chris Hoy (below)

Famous clients: Ryan Giggs (above) and Sir Chris Hoy (below)

Sir Chris Hoy

Sir Chris Hoy

'I didn't cure his injury but I did help him keep away from the physio's table. After that the United physios went and found out what every player was sleeping on. They even went into the lodgings of their youth players.'

Littlehales, who calls himself a sleep coach, has worked on and off with United for more than 15 years. He has even helped Ferguson.

Inevitably, there are those who don't have time for his theories. Steve Kean dispensed with him when he succeeded Allardyce at Blackburn two years ago, while his work with Chelsea ended when Carlo Ancelotti left.

He said: 'Certain managers won't buy into certain aspects of sport science. Most footballers will be sleeping in the wrong conditions. Allardyce, though, bought into the whole concept of marginal gains in sport very quickly.'

Littlehales has had an on-off relationship with the FA. Fabio Capello was one England manager who was not interested but others were.

'Before Euro 2004 we took the beds out of the England hotel and replaced them with my kits,' he said with a smile. 'The hotel staff thought the FA had gone bonkers.'

He has a meeting coming up about kitting out the FA's centre of excellence in Burton but it is work with Britain's triumphant cyclists that has made him most proud.

'Sir Chris Hoy set the example at the world championships and took one of my kits into his five-star hotel and slept on it,' Littlehales said. 'It only cost a few hundred quid. Then Bradley took his up the mountains.

'Hoy takes his “bed” with him everywhere. Once the others knew he was using it, they all followed.

'In the Athletes' Village they knew they had their own stuff and they understood the science behind it. They bought into it.

'Many football people think it's too much hassle to carry the stuff round. The cyclists don't.'

Littlehales' client list includes the Red Bull Formula One team, companies like Unilever and staff at the Victoria and Albert Museum. He also does consultations at people's homes.

He listened to the fuss about England's footballers taking sleeping tablets before their rearranged game in Poland in October with interest.

'You can't put caffeine into players during the day then try and suppress it at night with a sedative,' he said. 'You end up with players who are wiped out.'

l Nick Littlehales can be contacted at [email protected]