Tag Archives: effect

Arsene Wenger urges Arsenal players to complete the impossible dream by defeating Bayern Munich

Dream the impossible: Wenger urges players to defy the odds and complete the stunning turnaround in Munich

By
Jim Van Wijk, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

19:02 GMT, 12 March 2013

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UPDATED:

19:16 GMT, 12 March 2013

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has challenged his players to produce a performance which will define their careers and knock Bayern Munich out of the Champions League against the odds tomorrow night.

The runaway Bundesliga leaders look all set to take their place in the quarter-finals having delivered a European masterclass in their 3-1 victory in north London three weeks ago.

Bayern's home defensive record is formidable and have not conceded three since losing to Inter Milan two years ago, while this season they have let in only 10 goals in 25 Bundesliga matches.

Prepared for battle: Arsene Wenger looks ready to take on the media during his press conference in Munich

Prepared for battle: Arsene Wenger looks ready to take on the media during his press conference in Munich

Still hopeful: Despite having to recover from their 3-1 first-leg defeat, Wenger believes his team still stand a chance of progressing tomorrow

Still hopeful: Despite having to recover from their 3-1 first-leg defeat, Wenger believes his team still stand a chance of progressing tomorrow

Despite his side having travelled to Bavaria without injured England midfielder Jack Wilshere, set for around three weeks out because of an ankle problem, and first-choice goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny rested, Wenger insists now is the perfect moment for his team to return all his belief with what would go down as one of the greatest European comebacks.

'I am convinced that if this team can find a big game, with a big win, you will see a completely different animal. This season we have fought to find that in the big games and we have another opportunity tomorrow night and I hope the team takes this chance,' Wenger said at the Allianz Arena tonight.

Chilling effect: Wenger is without injured star man Wilshere

Chilling effect: Wenger is without injured star man Wilshere for the trip to Germany

'I have a great respect for this team and its attitude and they have not been rewarded yet. It is important for the end to our season that we do it tomorrow.'

Despite everything seemingly stacked against them, Wenger insists it is not a case of Mission: Impossible.

He said: 'It is a difficult task, we know that, but we think it is not impossible.

Stepping in: Aaron Ramsey (second left) is more likely to start in Wilshere's absence

Stepping in: Aaron Ramsey (second left) is more likely to start in Wilshere's absence

'The only way to make it possible is to have a real go and play at our best tomorrow night, that is what we will do.

'I am confident we will be completely focused and up for it, and give it our best shot.

Keeping watch: Wenger (centre) during training before tomorrow's crunch clash

Keeping watch: Wenger (centre) during training before tomorrow's crunch clash

'Football is football – everything is possible.'

Chelsea fans moving on after Roberto Di Matteo – Petr Cech

Rafa's rising sons think big in Japan as upbeat Chelsea prepare to take on the world

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 10 December 2012

A big wheel flashes and spins in front of Chelsea's team hotel, a fairground attraction that lights up Yokohama harbour and dares to promise an upturn in fortunes for Rafa Benitez.

The defence of their European title may have gone badly but the club arrived in Japan in good spirits after two wins, with Fernando Torres smiling and among the goals and Benitez satisfied with progress after a rocky start to his interim stewardship.

As they prepared for their debut in FIFA's Club World Cup, there was even a hint from Petr Cech that supporters who fiercely opposed the change of manager last month may be moving on

Rafa Benitez

Chelsea

Ready to take on the world: Chelsea train on Monday under the guidance of Benitez (left)

'In the last two games, in the Champions League against Nordsjaelland and versus Sunderland, the support was very good,' said Cech.

'The atmosphere is getting better as the results and performances are getting better.

'You need results and better performances to get this pressure off the team and make the supporters happier. I think we are seeing it in a different way. We are on a good road now to changing that. The support we had at Sunderland was brilliant.'

Benitez, too, believes some of the minor tactical adjustments – tightening the defensive unit and compressing the team – are having the desired effect.

He talks continuously about the need to improve 'balance' between attack and defence but he has been thrilled with the reaction of Torres. The 50million Spain striker has scored four in two games, and the dark mood and sulky demeanour seem to be lifting as well.

He was the star attraction for Japanese fans yesterday as Chelsea trained before Thursday's game against Monterrey, of Mexico, the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) champions.

'He is happy,' said Benitez. 'When a striker is scoring, he's happy. I have noticed the difference in him. Everybody has been talking for months, saying that Fernando has to score more goals, so to score four in a week, he must be pleased.'

Centre of attention: Torres remains a big sell in the Far East despite his suspect form at Chelsea

Centre of attention: Torres remains a big sell in the Far East despite his suspect form at Chelsea

In training: Chelsea will face Monterrey in their opening match on Thursday

In training: Chelsea will face Monterrey in their opening match on Thursday

Chelsea feel they start this tournament at a disadvantage, having arrived late in Japan, because the Premier League refused their request to move Saturday's game at Sunderland. As it was, they flew from Newcastle Airport to Japan, with a two-hour refuelling stop in Helsinki.

'I tried to force myself not to sleep on the plane,' said Cech. 'I had a nap to relax when we left Helsinki, but then I woke up and stayed awake. So I was tired enough and ready to go to bed. It's not easy when you lose nine hours. Your body is set in its ways.'

Nothing on Barcelona: Despite an enthusiastic welcome on Sunday interest in the Champions League winners has cooled

Nothing on Barcelona: Despite an enthusiastic welcome on Sunday interest in the Champions League winners has cooled

It does not sound like perfect preparation for an elite athlete entering a world title contest, but the culture is that English teams take this tournament a little less seriously than the rest of the world.

This attitude is reflected in Japan where, despite an enthusiastic welcome at the airport on Sunday night, the interest in Chelsea had thinned yesterday and the locals claimed it was nothing like as clamorous as the visit of Barcelona last year.

Outside Europe, the Club World Cup is viewed as a very prestigious crown. When Brazil's Corinthians clinched the Copa Libertadores, the South American version of the Champions League, all this week's direct flights to Tokyo from Brazil were fully booked within days.

All smiles: Torres has scored four goals in his last two appearances for Chelsea

All smiles: Torres has scored four goals in his last two appearances for Chelsea

Up to 20,000 Corinthians fans are expected in Japan for the game, compared to around a thousand Chelsea supporters. It helps that the tournament sits at the end of the Brazilian season, whereas for the English clubs, it is a distraction at a pivotal point in the domestic league campaign.

Corinthians and Chelsea are expected to be in Sunday's final, but both have been determined to look no further than their semi-finals.

For the Londoners, this means the Mexicans who beat Asian champions Ulsan Hyundai of South Korea, after which Monterrey boss Victor Vucetich declared it was time to 'dance with the ugliest'.

It did not sound like a compliment but Benitez shrugged it off and said: 'Everybody thinks that the Premier League is high-tempo all the time, and maybe he was concerned about this.

'I watched them against Ulsan and maybe because they were better, they could play the passing game they like to play.'

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.

Hugo Lloris row continues as Didier Deschamps hits back at Andre Villas-Boas

Deschamps turns deaf ear to Villas-Boas as row over Lloris rumbles on

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UPDATED:

17:32 GMT, 12 November 2012

Didier Deschamps has hit back at Andre Villas-Boas as the war of words between the two over Hugo Lloris intensified.

Deschamps has been at odds with Villas-Boas ever since the Portuguese signed the France goalkeeper from Lyon for 8million on transfer deadline day.

The France head coach is unhappy that Lloris, who also captains the national team, is not a regular starter at Tottenham, where he is in competition with Brad Friedel.

Blunder: Lloris made a mistake for Spurs in the Europa League last night

Blunder: Lloris made a mistake for Spurs in the Europa League last night

Last week Deschamps claimed Villas-Boas' rotation policy could have a detrimental effect on the goalkeeper's form. The Spurs manager shrugged off the claims, saying of Deschamps' comments: 'It goes in one ear and comes out the other.'

Deschamps responded with a similar barb on Monday.

No 1: Lloris captains France

No 1: Lloris captains France

'I have two ears as well. What he (Villas-Boas) says has the same effect on me,' Deschamps was quoted as saying at a France press conference reported by L'Equipe.

Lloris has started six games for Spurs, but only one of them has come in the Barclays Premier League. The Frenchman was partly to blame for a howling error in Tottenham's 3-1 win over Maribor last Thursday, and 41-year-old Friedel was preferred for Sunday's game at Manchester City.

Deschamps, whose team travel to Italy
for a friendly on Wednesday, has been encouraged to see Lloris getting
more game time of late but also claimed the stopper is not playing as
much as he would like to.

'We are not talking of a player who does not play,' Deschamps said.

'Since he played his excellent match against Spain (France's 1-1 draw last month), he has kept goal three times.

'Hugo is playing one match per week. Of course, he would like to play more, and it is not the case for the moment,' the former Chelsea midfielder was quoted as saying on Eurosport's website.

'He is getting on with it as best he possibly can (but) obviously he would like to play more.'

Arsene Wenger chants: Idiots should be banned

Clubs must ban these idiots responsible for Wenger chants

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UPDATED:

22:44 GMT, 4 November 2012

Vile chants: Wenger was on the receiving end

Vile chants: Wenger was on the receiving end

We’ve seen a lot of progress dealing with racism in this country but the vile obscenities Arsene Wenger has had to put up with are unacceptable.

Wenger is one of the nicest men on the planet and the accusation that he is a paedophile is, of course, absurd. It’s an embarrassment.

Like most players and managers who are abused, Wenger ignores it and remains professional but it is not easy. I know from being the subject of chants that inside your blood is boiling, you are seething, but you have to get on with it. I used it as motivation to make sure the opposition didn’t score against me, but what can Wenger do

He’s standing on the touchline with no-one to turn to. It has an impact on your family too. They have to sit through it while people are giggling. It is demeaning. There are lots of good people out there but there are idiots too. That kind of abuse makes you question your belief in the human race.

Mr Nice Guy: Wenger is one of the most respected men in football

Mr Nice Guy: Wenger is one of the most respected men in football

What can be done It’s difficult as Sir Alex Ferguson has been commendable in writing to Manchester United fans in the past but it doesn’t seem to have had the desired effect. Most United fans – and those at West Ham a month ago – must have felt embarrassed listening to those around them.

It is time to ban offenders. Clubs should encourage people to hit back in a calm way by taking seat numbers and contacting the club. The FA should look at ways to combat the problem – even if it means banning fans en masse.

Edinburgh reject Saracens offer to play Heineken Cup game in South Africa

Edinburgh reject Saracens offer to play Heineken Cup game in South Africa

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UPDATED:

10:51 GMT, 11 October 2012

Edinburgh have rejected an approach by Saracens to play a Heineken Cup pool game between the teams in South Africa.

Edinburgh Rugby managing director Craig Docherty said the proposal was not 'commercially compelling'.

Saracens tackle Edinburgh at Murrayfield on Saturday in the opening Pool One fixture of this season's tournament.

No go: Edinburgh have rejected an offer from Saracens to play their Heineken Cup clash in South Africa

No go: Edinburgh have rejected an offer from Saracens to play their Heineken Cup clash in South Africa

But the Aviva Premiership club were keen to play the return fixture – scheduled for January 20 – in Cape Town.

Saracens have already taken one 'home' Heineken Cup fixture abroad this season, opting to tackle French club Racing Metro at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels on Saturday week.

Moves to play a Heineken game against Biarritz in Cape Town, meanwhile, did not come to fruition last term.

Edinburgh reached last season's Heineken semi-finals, beating four-time tournament winners Toulouse on the way in a thrilling quarter-final at Murrayfield that attracted a crowd close to 40,000.

Docherty said: 'As a club, our commitment is to our fans and other key stakeholders, such as sponsors, and fundamentally our goal is to qualify from what is a very challenging Heineken Cup pool.

'Following Edinburgh Rugby to South Africa is simply not an option for the vast majority whose support was so crucial to our journey to last season's semi-final.

Away day: Saracens will host French club Racing Metro at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels

Away day: Saracens will host French club Racing Metro at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels

Luke Benedict

'I am sure they will be desperate to support us in what could be a critical pool game.

'The case made by Saracens was not commercially compelling and, from a performance perspective, would have had a detrimental effect on our preparation for – and recovery from – this match.

'Edinburgh Rugby are open to new and innovative ideas, but the prospect of playing our final pool game in the southern hemisphere was simply not an option that we could seriously consider from a number of different perspectives.

'We consulted with tournament organisers ERC (European Rugby Cup) and Scottish Rugby throughout this process, and both are happy with our decision.'

Saracens' official fixture list currently has the Edinburgh game down to be played at Vicarage Road in Watford.

It would be Saracens' last game there before moving to a new home – Allianz Park in Hendon.

Chris Foy's World of Rugby

Tait's style is a welcome change from big hitters

For Leicester, it must be like having an exciting new signing – a dangerous attacking talent, young and English. For Mathew Tait, it surely feels like the start of a whole new career.

This legacy could make kids losers
Where there's a Bill there's a way to sort out TV row
Toulon say Non to letting Jenkins fly with the Lions
London Welsh have grounds to be upset over promotion sham
Law changes show IRB are going with the flow

To hell and back: Mathew Tait has been out injured for almost a year

Hillsborough tribute from Sunderland ahead of Liverpool game

Sunderland fly flags at half-mast for Liverpool game in Hillsborough tribute

By
Sportsmail Reporter

PUBLISHED:

11:12 GMT, 15 September 2012

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UPDATED:

11:12 GMT, 15 September 2012

Flags at Sunderland's Stadium of Light will fly at half-mast today as a mark of respect to those who died at Hillsborough.

The Black Cats host Liverpool in the Barclays Premier League at the end of a week during which a damning independent report into the tragedy was published.

Tribute: Sunderland will will their flags at half-mast in respect to their opponents Liverpool

Tribute: Sunderland will will their flags at half-mast in respect to their opponents Liverpool

Sunderland chief executive Margaret Byrne said: 'We recognise and respect the significance of this week for fans and our friends and colleagues at Liverpool Football Club.

'The Hillsborough tragedy had a profound effect on football as a whole and the thoughts of everyone at Sunderland are with all of those affected by the tragic events of April 15, 1989.'

Stuart Broad: Losing Andrew Strauss means we all have to step up

Losing Strauss means all the England players have to step up

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UPDATED:

22:38 GMT, 30 August 2012

A captain of substance

It was a complete shock when Andrew Strauss called me on Tuesday to say he was retiring. I just didn't see that one coming. Yes I knew after Lord's that it had been a turbulent time but I thought he still had the hunger and desire to carry on leading the England side. There were no clues as to the captain's thinking.

There is obviously a lot of sadness because Andrew Strauss has been a special part of this team and he means an awful lot to us. I have played the bulk of my Test cricket with him as captain and had most of my success under him. I will always remember how he backed me ahead of the Oval Test in 2009 when I was under the pump and some were calling for me to be dropped. Hopefully I repaid him in that game against the Australians.

Happy days; Andrew Strauss celebrates Ashes glory

Happy days; Andrew Strauss celebrates Ashes glory

Straussy has always been a calm, level-headed leader who took everything in his stride and I can't really recall him ever losing his temper. But I do remember him calling us together on the field during the Lord's Test of that 2009 Ashes series when we had become ragged and had lost our discipline a bit. He just said 'let's pull ourselves together and up the tempo' which had the desired effect.

He has been a captain who always listened to his bowlers and backed them with the fields they wanted to set, giving you confidence for the task in hand. It was always about the team with Straussy, never about him, and any hint of anyone just thinking about themselves when they pulled on the shirt was completely abolished once he took charge. He urged us all to take responsibility and with that came the strong team ethic that has served us so well.

Maybe the last straw for him was losing to me at golf before the Headingley Test. That must have been a real kick in the teeth for Straussy! I'm sure now he will improve his already pretty impressive golf and enjoy being with his family and spending more time at home. What comes next for him I don' t know but he's the sort of bloke who will want challenges in his life. We all wish him well.

A new era

With that sadness comes excitement because this is very much a new era for us now. Alastair Cook is another calm, solid man who has played an awful lot of Test cricket for someone who is still so young. The experience that he and the other senior men in the dressing room have gained will be vital as we might well head to India with a young batting line-up in October.

Past and present: Strauss (left) and Alastair Cook

Past and present: Strauss (left) and Alastair Cook

There will be extra responsibility now not just for Cooky but for all of us and I'm sure those of us with a fair bit of experience can help him as he settles in to his new role. We are a strong unit and that's important moving forward.

There were three England captains and now there are two but I don't expect anything to change as far as my role is concerned. Nothing has been said as yet about the vice-captaincy so I don't know if I am in the frame for that or not but it's not an issue because Cooky and I work closely anyway with our limited-overs cricket. The senior players cover any extra responsibility that the side needs so the vice-captain is only really required to step in when the captain has to leave the field to be honest.

Hitting the gym

Stuart Broad of England

I wasn't at the Ageas Bowl on Tuesday to receive my letter from Straussy – my post has been playing up so I haven't received mine yet – because I have been rested during this one-day series. Andy Flower and I talked about it and it was felt that I should have a break and concentrate on the Twenty20 cricket we have coming up. It's hard to say if I've felt fatigued as such but we all know how much cricket we have coming up and I fully understand the decision. It's sensible. I have been hitting the gym and mentally getting away from cricket and I' m sure 10 days without bowling will do my body some good. We're very fortunate to have a management that looks after us.

Sri Lankan mission

I'm very excited about captaining England at the World Twenty20 and I think we have a squad that can do well in Sri Lanka as we attempt to defend our title. We are all buzzing about it. People have said we might be weakened by the absence of Kevin Pietersen but you have to remember that Alex Hales came into his place against West Indies earlier this summer and immediately scored 99. Our plans haven't changed because KP will not be there and I'm honoured to be the captain.

The future

It was an honour, too, to be named in the ICC Test team of the year, particularly as there were two other England players there in Alastair Cook and Matt Prior. I know we have had some difficult times this year but that shows you that it has not all been doom and gloom and that we have much to look forward to. We are starting again under a new captain but we are doing so with a firm base. It's not like 2009 when it was almost like starting from scratch. I am really looking forward to the challenges that await this England team and I am very confident that we will rise to those challenges. The future starts now.

Bahrain Grand Prix brings happiness to nation, says Jean Todt

Todt unconcerned by Bahrain backlash as he insists staging Grand Prix was right

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UPDATED:

14:46 GMT, 21 April 2012

FIA president Jean Todt is adamant his conscience is clear and the reputation of Formula One remains intact despite damaging headlines this week.

It is rare for F1 to attract front and back page headlines, but that is the scenario that has unfolded over the past few days.

Todt's decision to press ahead with the Bahrain Grand Prix has drawn stinging criticism that has increased in intensity as the anti-government and anti-F1 protests have been ramped up.

Thanks for coming: FIA President Jean Todt has no regrets about ensuring the Bahrain Grand Prix went ahead despite unrest in the country

Thanks for coming: FIA President Jean Todt has no regrets about ensuring the Bahrain Grand Prix went ahead despite unrest in the country

Phil Duncan F1 blog

Those demonstrations on Saturday took a new twist with confirmation of the first death in race week of 37-year-old Salah Habib Abbas.

It has been claimed he was killed by shotgun pellets fired by riot police after a raid on Saturday night on the village of Shakhura.

His death was expected to have an adverse effect on two planned marches, one on the main highway that leads into the capital Manama, the other in villages close to the Bahrain International Circuit.

The Coalition of the Youth of the Feb 14 Revolution, one of the main opposition protest groups, have called for tyre burning and road blocks across the Gulf kingdom.

Despite that, and the inextricable link between the sport and politics in which F1 is meant to have no place, speaking for the first time on the matter, Todt dismissed concerns.

'I am sorry about what has been reported – I am not sure all that has been reported corresponds to the reality of what is happening in this country,' said Todt.

'But I feel F1 is very strong. It is a very strong brand, and all the people among the teams to whom I have been speaking are very happy.

Unrest: Anti-government protestors continue to blight the streets of the kingdom

Unrest: Anti-government protestors continue to blight the streets of the kingdom

'I was even told it would have been a mistake not to come. Again, you speak to those people. That is what I have been told by most of the team principals here.'

Todt's position has been undermined by the fact Force India and Sauber personnel have both been caught in incidents this week.

Force India even took the decision yesterday not to run in the second practice session due to safety concerns after four members of their team witnessed clashes between police and protesters.

Todt, however, insists he is comfortable with the decision to be in Bahrain after asserting all possible pre-race investigations into safety and security were conducted beforehand.

Carrying on: Qualifying went off without a hitch ion Saturday

Carrying on: Qualifying went off without a hitch ion Saturday

'To say there has not been some controversy around what has happened in Bahrain would be wrong from my side,' added the Frenchman. 'Yes, there are certain problems, yes there are some protests – because it is a democratic country and protests are allowed.

'If there is a protest, can there be some consequences We know, if you go to any soccer game anywhere in the world, including Europe, there are some consequences when there is a protest.

'When I was in Kazakhstan on Wednesday night I spoke with (Force India deputy team principal) Bob Fernley and he said everything was fine, but there was some emotion.

'I sympathise with people who have some emotions, but we have to deal with facts. I also spoke with Peter Sauber this morning and he said he felt as comfortable here as he would at any other place in Europe.

'Do you think the promoters, if they would have felt it was very bad for their country, they would have encouraged F1 to come here

'They would not have asked the commercial rights holder, Bernie Ecclestone, in the first place to put Bahrain on the calendar.'

Former Ferrari team principal Todt also dismissed the anti-F1 element amongst the protesters who maintain the race is the sport of repressive dictators.

Top of the pile: Defending champion Sebastian Vettel secured his first pole

Top of the pile: Defending champion Sebastian Vettel secured his first pole

'I would be very annoyed if it was the majority of people (who did not want F1),' said Todt. 'But at the most it is 10% of the people who are anti. So do we have to penalise 90 per cent of the population because 10 per cent are against

'My answer is no. My answer is that there is a strong majority of people who want the race. Unfortunately there is a lot of media attention, again rightly or wrongly it is not for me to judge, emphasising this minority.

'But most of the people are in favour of having their life move on and the sport move on.'

Graham Poll: Didier Drogba will need a Nou tactic

Drogba will need a Nou tactic after his antics in Chelsea win

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UPDATED:

23:40 GMT, 19 April 2012

If I was refereeing the second leg of
Barcelona v Chelsea next Tuesday I would have tried to watch the first
game live. If not, I would get a recording and watch it. Not to
pre-judge, but to be fully prepared.

At tournaments the referee is given
tapes to watch of the two teams he has to referee next, just the same as
teams watch forthcoming opponents.

Pole-axed: The Chelsea striker was in constant need of treatment

Pole-axed: The Chelsea striker was in constant need of treatment

At one such briefing, referees were warned to look out for tactics employed by Peter Crouch, who then endured a difficult World Cup when decisions regularly went against him, often unreasonably.

READER COMMENT

Graham Poll is not anti-Chelsea — he is just saying it as it is. I was at the match and I am a season-ticket holder; let’s be honest, Drogba was falling all over the place very easily and it was having the desired effect of allowing our players to have a breather while disrupting Barcelona’s flow of the game. But FIFA and UEFA are to blame by allowing the Spanish, Italian, Portuguese etc clubs to get away with this for years, much to the
frustration of English teams in the
past. And Barcelona (despite being
a great football team) are also masters of the arts in deception, diving and feigning injury. So if you need to play them at their own game then so be it.
— Scott M, London

The referee will see how Didier Drogba affected the pace of play in the first leg, breaking Barcelona's rhythm with a series of 'injuries', the most obvious being the groin problem after an hour.

A referee finds it almost impossible to caution a player for such acts but will take the opportunity to caution him at the next opening – and Drogba was cautioned on Wednesday.

When I refereed an all-Spanish UEFA Cup semi-final, second leg between Sevilla and Osasuna I saw similar antics to Drogba's from players from both sides in the first leg. So I made sure I was very close to play early on and waved for players to get up when they went down too easily.

It wasn't popular but it was effective as
players realised I would not stop the game. I expect next week's
referee to do the same in the Nou Camp.

Familiar sight: Didier Drogba spent plenty of the game stricken on the turf

Familiar sight: Drogba spent plenty of the game stricken on the turf

We don't know who it is yet but don't be surprised to see an Italian when the decision is announced after the weekend.

Experience tells me that is the country from which UEFA will select their officials for this particular game. The referee and his team will be in for a busy night and I'm not sure Drogba and Chelsea will find as much going for them in the second leg.