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Kiradech Aphibarnrat wins Malaysian Open

Smokin! Aphibarnrat holds nerve to win Malaysian Open after thunderstorm delay

By
Phil Casey, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

08:28 GMT, 24 March 2013

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UPDATED:

14:01 GMT, 24 March 2013

Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat today held his nerve after an untimely weather delay to claim his first European Tour title with a wire-to-wire victory in the Maybank Malaysian Open.

The tournament had been reduced to 54 holes following thunderstorms on each of the first three days, and another arrived just after the final group had teed off on the 16th hole today.

That meant a two-hour delay with Aphibarnrat one shot ahead of Italy's Edoardo Molinari, who had completed his 67 just before the delay and was safely in the clubhouse.

Smokin: Kiradech Aphibarnrat takes a puff on a cigarette on his way to victory

Smokin: Kiradech Aphibarnrat takes a puff on a cigarette on his way to victory

Hands on: Kiradech Aphibarnrat poses with the trophy after winning the Malaysian Open

Hands on: Kiradech Aphibarnrat poses with the trophy after winning the Malaysian Open

Kiradech Aphibarnrat

Kiradech Aphibarnrat

But Aphibarnrat made light of the disruption, hitting his approach to the 16th to three feet for birdie and then saving par on the next after almost finding water over the back of the green.

The 23-year-old former junior world champion therefore had the luxury of taking six on the 634-yard par-five 18th to complete a closing 70, sealing a a one-shot win over Molinari and claiming the first prize of 303,000.

Denmark's Anders Hansen (66) was third on 11 under, with France's Victor Dubuisson (70) and South African Charl Schwartzel (71) joint fourth a shot further back.

'This means a lot to me,' Aphibarnrat said. 'I had been struggling a lot after getting sick with my thyroid, but I fought and worked hard with my dad and my coach to have today.

'I have to thank my family, my mum and dad have always supported me and I am sure they are in front of the TV watching.'

Realisation: Aphibarnrat won his first European Tour title in Malaysia

Realisation: Aphibarnrat won his first European Tour title in Malaysia

Kiradech Aphibarnrat celebrates

The leaders started the day on the third hole and Aphibarnrat pitched to three feet for a birdie before holing from 15ft for an eagle on the par-five fifth.

At that stage his nearest challenger was Ireland's Padraig Harrington, who had eagled the same hole and also picked up three birdies, but the three-time major winner carded three bogeys in succession on the back nine to fade to sixth.

Bogeys at the seventh and 12th then saw Aphibarnrat joined at the top of the leaderboard by China's Wu Ashun, but as Wu also faded – shanking a pitch on the 16th into the crowd – Aphibarnrat birdied the 14th to edge ahead of Molinari, who was by now in the clubhouse.

The thunderstorm which arrived soon after looked to have come at a bad time for Aphibarnrat, but he added: 'I think it was good for me, I have time to rest and there were a lot of things going through my head. After I birdied the 16th I thought I had a good chance to win.

'The 18th hole I've played 10 times before, but today it was the toughest hole I have ever played, even though I could make six to win.'

Missing out: Edoardo Molinari had to settle for second place

Missing out: Edoardo Molinari had to settle for second place

Molinari was left to rue a number of missed chances, despite having previously missed the cut in all five of his appearances this season.

'It's mixed emotions because I'm very happy to have a good week for the first time in a long time,' said the former Ryder Cup player, who changed coach in December after missing three months following wrist surgery.

'The swing changes (under Sean Foley, who also coaches Tiger Woods and Justin Rose) are starting to pay off which is surprising because I thought it would take a lot longer, but I'm disappointed because I had a lot of chances on the back nine. The 18th is only the second fairway I missed all day which is very disappointing.

'I felt if I birdied the last I might have won outright because it puts a lot of pressure on the guy coming up behind, but unfortunately I think I'll be one or two short.'

QPR in talks to sign Nicolas Anelka

QPR eye move for Anelka: Redknapp confirms relegation threatened club are in talks with former Chelsea striker

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UPDATED:

13:47 GMT, 21 December 2012

Harry Redknapp has revealed QPR are in talks to sign former Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka in January.

The Frenchman wants to terminate his contract with Shanghai Shenhua after he scored just three goals in 22 matches and was replaced as player-coach of the Chinese side.

Redknapp admitted QPR are interested in Anelka, 33, but insisted Rangers would not pay over the odds for his services – despite being five points from safety with just one win in the Premier League this season.

Comeback Nicolas Anelka could be set for a return to the Premier League with QPR

Comeback Nicolas Anelka could be set for a return to the Premier League with QPR

The QPR boss also joked that if Barcelona were interested in Adel Taraabt they would have to offer Leo Messi in a swap deal.

Redknapp said: 'Barcelona want him, do they Maybe we’ll have a straight swap with Messi. We’ll do a deal. We don’t want to sell him. No-one’s made an offer for him. He plays here.

More seriously, he added: ‘Nicolas Anelka is a player who’s of interest to anybody. He’ s finishing in China so he’s available.

'It’s what you can afford and whether you think he can do the job you want. He’ s a top player so he’s a player we would be interested in, but whether we can afford it.

Looking to add: Harry Redknapp is expected to be busy in the transfer window

Looking to add: Harry Redknapp is expected to be busy in the transfer window

'I think the chairman (Tony Fernandes) knows Nicolas’ people. He’s got a few details on what it would be but it depends, just how expensive the whole package comes to. If it’s within reason he certainly could improve your team.

'Whoever we bring in here as got to be the right type. We can’t afford to load up again, with people who aren’t the right type. I’ve spoken to the chairman and Philip (Beard, the chief executive), but finding people is not easy.

'People think they can screw you into the ground because you’re desperate, because you’re going to get relegated, but we’re not going to fall into that trap. They’ll ask 6million when the player’s worth 3m.’

Redknapp confirmed technical director Mike Rigg and Mark Hughes’ assistants Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki have left the club and said bringing in Ian Broomfield, whom he worked with at Tottenham, as chief scout was 'a possibility'. The QPR boss also wants former Rangers striker Les Ferdinand to join Joe Jordan and Kevin Bond in his backroom staff, as revealed by Sportsmail earlier this month.

Redknapp said: ‘We’ve got one or two good scouts here but you need your own people around you; people you know and can talk to all the time. At least you can bounce ideas off them, and that’s important.

Up and running: Adel Taarabt helped QPR to their first win of the season against Fulham at the weekend

Up and running: Adel Taarabt helped QPR to their first win of the season against Fulham at the weekend

'Last week was make or break. If we had got beat (by Fulham) last week it would have been double desperate. We’re desperate as it is.

'We need to improve the squad in Jan, we need to get a couple in that can help us make the difference. If we can’t find them we’ll stick with what we’ve got, if people are going to take liberties with us, screw us , if we’re desperate. And if we can do that, we’ve still got a chance.’

Goalkeeper Julio Cesar and defender Jose Bosingwa have both suffered minor back injuries that will rule them out of tomorrow’s trip to Newcastle United, although Redknapp expects both players to be fit for QPR’s home match against West Bromwich Albion on Boxing Day.

West Brom 0 Stoke 1 match report – Dean Whitehead scores winner

West Brom 0 Stoke 1: Whitehead strikes late to further dent Baggies' flying start

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UPDATED:

17:32 GMT, 1 December 2012

Stoke continued their dominance against West Brom as substitute Dean Whitehead scored a late winner in the Barclays Premier League clash at The Hawthorns.

Whitehead converted a cross from fellow substitute Michael Kightly to earn the Potters their first away league win since January.

Tony Pulis' side have taken 13 points from the last five games, while for the fifth-placed Baggies it was a second setback in the space of 72 hours following Wednesday night's 3-1 loss at Swansea.

Job done: Dean Whitehead scores the decisive goal for Stoke

Job done: Dean Whitehead scores the decisive goal for Stoke

Chase is on: Markus Rosenberg (right) attempts to hold off Ryan Shotton

Chase is on: Markus Rosenberg (right) attempts to hold off Ryan Shotton

MATCH FACTS

West Brom: Myhill, Reid, Olsson, Popov, McAuley, Yacob (Brunt 81), Dorrans, Mulumbu, Gera (Odemwingie 64), Rosenberg (Lukaku 64), Long

Subs not used: Daniels, Ridgewell, Tamas, Morrison

Stoke City: Begovic, Cameron, Huth, Shawcross, Shotton, Whelan, Nzonzi, Adam (Whitehead 65), Etherington (Kightly 59), Jones, Walters

Subs not used: Sorensen, Upson, Wilkinson, Palacios, Edu

Booked: Huth, Shawcross, Adam

Goal: Whitehead 75

Referee: Friend

Attendance: 24,739

The latest Premier League table, fixtures and results

Stoke's victory means Albion have
failed to defeat them in front of their own fans for nine years and they
have triumphed only twice in the last 30 league meetings.

They have won all four Premier League encounters at The Hawthorns without conceding a goal.
Kenwyne Jones made his first Premier League start of the season in place
of the injured Peter Crouch and was a constant threat to the West Brom
defence.

Albion drew a blank at home for the
first time this season and seldom looked like finding a way through the
Stoke back four in which skipper Ryan Shawcross was outstanding.

Youssouf Mulumbu gave his usual solid display in midfield while defender Gareth McAuley made several crucial challenges.

But Albion lacked their usual spark
in the attacking third of the pitch as they missed the opportunity to
reclaim third spot after Chelsea's lunchtime defeat against West Ham.

West Brom head coach Steve Clarke
made six changes from the side beaten at Swansea in midweek and handed a
debut to Sweden striker Markus Rosenberg.

Sliding in: Ryan Shawcross goes in hard on Graham Dorrans

Sliding in: Ryan Shawcross goes in hard on Graham Dorrans

Battle: Robert Huth (left) attempts to take the ball from the feet of Shane Long

Battle: Robert Huth (left) attempts to take the ball from the feet of Shane Long

Tussle: Dorrans tries to find a way past Steven N'Zoni at The Hawthorns

Tussle: Dorrans tries to find a way past Steven N'Zoni at The Hawthorns

ones came close to breaking the deadlock in the 14th minute after a quiet opening to the game.
The Trinidad & Tobago international got on the end of a cross from
Geoff Cameron and directed his header back across goal and only inches
wide of the post.

Shawcross produced a fine tackle to
halt the run of Graham Dorrans on the edge of the Stoke box after a
reverse pass from Rosenberg.

Robert Huth blocked a fierce drive
from Mulumbu after Dorrans had found him in space but neither goalkeeper
had a save to make in the opening half-hour.

Huth became the first player to be yellow-carded after 35 minutes for bringing down Shane Long.
Stoke keeper Asmir Begovic had to back-pedal to parry a speculative dipping 40-yard attempt from Steven Reid over the bar.

Charlie Adam became the second Stoke player to be booked a minute before half-time for a foul on Zoltan Gera.

Goal-den boy: Tony Pulis puts his arm around his goalscorer

Goal-den boy: Tony Pulis puts his arm around his goalscorer

Wheeling away: Whitehead (left) and Jon Walters (right) celebrate

Wheeling away: Whitehead (left) and Jon Walters (right) celebrate

Shawcross followed him into referee Kevin Friend's notebook shortly after the restart after bringing down Long.

Begovic dealt comfortably with Jonas
Olsson's looping header from Long's cross as clear-cut chances continued
to be at a premium.

Pulis replaced Matthew Etherington with former Wolves winger Michael Kightly after 59 minutes.
Clarke then brought on forward players Romelu Lukaku and Peter Odemwingie for the ineffective Rosenberg and Gera.

Hounded: Goran Popov (right) is pursued by Walters

Hounded: Goran Popov (right) is pursued by Walters

Come here: Youssouf Mulumbu (right) leaves Charlie Adam in his wake

Come here: Youssouf Mulumbu (right) leaves Charlie Adam in his wake

McAuley produced a superb tackle inside the Baggies box to halt Jones in full flight.

But after 75 minutes Stoke broke the deadlock after a rare mistake by Jonas Olsson.

The centre-back tried to keep the
ball in play when challenging Jones but only succeeded in finding
Kightly. He ran unopposed into the Albion area and his low cross was
turned home by Whitehead.

Begovic parried a Dorrans drive but Stoke held out with relative ease for the three points.

Jonny Marray and Freddie Nielsen lose in World Finals semi-final

No dream finale for Marray and Nielsen as Spanish duo reach London showpiece

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UPDATED:

22:55 GMT, 11 November 2012

A year which saw Jonny Marray propelled from obscure journeyman to household name came to an abrupt end on Sunday night, and almost certainly so did his partnership with Frederik Nielsen.

The Anglo-Danish pair were defeated 6-4, 6-3 by Spain’s Marc Granollers and Marc Lopez in the semi-final of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. So there will be no follow-up to the unlikely Wimbledon win that got them to the O2 Arena.

Given that Nielsen has ambitious plans to try to excel at singles, despite being ranked outside the top 300, it will be their last match for the foreseeable future. The 31-year-old from Sheffield is still scouting around for a new partner.

Over and out: Jonathan Marray and Frederik Nielsen were beaten in the semi-final

Over and out: Jonathan Marray and Frederik Nielsen were beaten in the semi-final

Having got to the last four of the season’s last two sizeable events — here and in Paris — Marray should not have too many problems finding somebody. He and Nielsen were the lowest seeds at this event, so to have made it to the last Sunday was a decent achievement.

Marray will end the year ranked inside the top 20 for doubles, and assuming he can line someone up within the world’s top 40, will gain direct entry into the big events next season. He should be able to leave the world of Challenger-level tennis behind. Marray and his partner will share 70,000 for their endeavours this week, meaning the Liverpool-born player will have cleared 200,000 in earnings for 2012 — a tidy sum for a doubles specialist.

Nielsen dropped his first service game and the victorious Spaniards now face India’s Rohan Bopanna and Mahesh Bhupathi in Sunday’s final.

Here we go: Spanish duo Marc Lopez and Marcel Granollers celebrate their win

Here we go: Spanish duo Marc Lopez and Marcel Granollers celebrate their win

Manchester City still frail – Ian Ladyman

Frail City still lack Fergie's killer instinct as their European campaign falters

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UPDATED:

23:30 GMT, 24 October 2012

It is a year now since Manchester City ransacked Old Trafford to the tune of six goals to one.

Still, though, Roberto Mancini’s team are missing one vital component of their neighbours’ DNA.

Football at this level is not just about technique, raw ability and the physical fitness needed to run 10km over 90 minutes without losing your breath.

Beaten: Joe Hart and Man City went down without a fight

Beaten: Joe Hart and Man City went down without a fight

No go: Samir Nasri appeals for a penalty

No go: Samir Nasri appeals for a penalty

All those things help, of course, but in Europe the margins are so small that the mentality, the steady nerve and, at times, the bloody-minded, stubborn belief of true winners are the qualities that can make the difference.

It also helps if you don’t make mind-numbing mistakes.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s teams — in all their various guises — have understood this for years. The United manager has refined the art of simply finding a way to win to such a degree one wonders if he bottles it.

At City there has been some progress in this area. It was there at West Bromwich on Saturday as they came from behind to steal a win. It was there on the final day of last season.

Great frailties remain, though, and now they will rue them once again.

That City began this game weighed down by pressure, for example, was due to the fact that they turned a famous win at Real Madrid last month into a damaging defeat with some calamitous late play. When opportunity beckoned, City were blinded by the lights.

It is instances such as this that cause Mancini such anguish. When he talks of being ‘four yards behind United’ it sounds glib but it isn’t. He is not referring to yards on the field but in the head.

On Wednesday night, City, despite the comprehensive nature of the final score, appeared at one stage as though they were going to get things right.

Having conceded territory and possession early on, Mancini’s team scored an excellent goal against the run of play in the 22nd minute. Briefly, they had control.

The next test, though, was the big one and that was the one they failed. This was the defining part of the night, the period where most top teams — including the great United ones of yore — tend to get it right.

Learn a lesson: Joleon Lescott and Co should have closed the door after taking the lead

Learn a lesson: Joleon Lescott and Co should have closed the door after taking the lead

Once ahead, City should have closed the door on Ajax. Micah Richards had a chance. So did Samir Nasri.

They wasted them by making poor decisions and by half-time a devilish flash of Siem de Jong’s right foot ensured the home team were level.

The second half was not dissimilar. An early chance was wasted by Sergio Aguero and it was calamity from then on.

All teams concede goals, of course, but the manner in which they do it is what often tells the whole story — last night for City read like a chapter from a horror story.

One year ago: Roberto Mancini's side thrashed United at Old Trafford

One year ago: Roberto Mancini's side thrashed United at Old Trafford

If you want to win the Champions League, or even get out of the group, then you cannot allow a central defender to run unchecked on to a corner and head the ball past your goalkeeper without even feeling an opponent’s breath on his shoulder.

Similarly you can’t offer up possession in the middle of the field as cheaply as City did — Gareth Barry was the culprit — on the way to conceding Ajax’s third goal.

It may sound harsh to focus on individual errors but when they stem from an absence of awareness or concentration then you have a real problem. Looking back through City’s European campaign so far, it is easy to find other examples. Two at Madrid for a start.

Cheap: Gareth Barry conceded possession too easily for the third

Cheap: Gareth Barry conceded possession too easily for the third

This is not clinical football. It betrays a collective mental weakness that makes Mancini fret at night and this is the main reason why his team look to be heading for the wastelands of the Europa League — if they are lucky — next February.

City have been drawn in a tough group and that is wrong. The UEFA coefficients that determine the seedings are laughable.

Mancini knows he cannot use that as an excuse, though. He knows the issues he has to tackle.

Essentially, the key question is this: a year on from that incredible afternoon across town at Old Trafford, how much have Manchester City actually improved

Premier League club by club guide to transfer deadline day

Transfer deadline day: Which clubs are happy and which are panicking

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UPDATED:

21:27 GMT, 29 August 2012

With transfer deadline day fast approaching, almost every Premier League club is still active in trying to secure a last minute deal or prevent a star player from departing.

With just a couple of days remaining, Sportsmail looks at all the potential comings and goings, what each side needs and whether your team is set for the season or ready to hit the panic button.

Arsenal

In: Santi Cazorla (Malaga, 16.5m), Olivier Giroud (Montpellier, 13m), Lukas Podoloski (Cologne, 11m)

What they need: Despite two games and no goals, the signings of Giroud and Podolski should be enought to replace Robin van Persie and they will be allowed time to settle. The Gunners will be focusing on finding strength in the centre of midfield to replace Alex Song and cover for the crocked Jack Wilshere.

Who they’re watching: Fitting the central piece of the jigsaw could be Yohan Cabaye, but the Frenchman looks settled at a flourishing Newcastle side. Arrivals on the wing could also be a possibility with Barcelona’s Ibrahim Afellay set to be sent out on loan.

Who could go: The summer arrivals have bumped Andrei Arshavin down the pecking order, while strikers Marouane Chamakh and Nicklas Bendtner will also be allowed to depart.

Panic rating: 3/5

On his way Walcott is interesting Man City and Liverpool

On his way Walcott is interesting Man City and Liverpool

Aston Villa

In: Matthew Lowton (Sheffield United, 3m), Ron Vlaar (Feyenoord, undisclosed), Karim El Ahmadi (Feyenoord, undisclosed) Brett Holman (AZ Alkmaar, free)

What they need: A kick up the rear end. Consecutive defeats have left Villa bottom of the table and while that’s no cause for panic yet there is a lack of goal scorers outside Darren Bent and Gabriel Agbonlahor. Even then injury and form have hampered both recently.

Who they’re watching: The new Emile Heskey… albeit one with a more prolific strike rate. Christian Benteke has emerged as a primary target for boss Paul Lambert, with the powerful Genk striker valued at around 6m. Left-back Joe Bennett is a target from Middlesbrough.

Who could go: Bennett’s arrival would pave the way for Stephen Warnock’s exit but it’s a thin squad at Villa Park so any other departures may be reduced to loan deals. Andreas Weimann was young player of the year last season but the striker is still very rough around the edges and would benefit from a temporary departure.

Panic rating: 4/5

Chelsea

In: Eden Hazard (Lille, 32m), Oscar (Internacional, 25m), Marko Marin (Werder Bremen, 7m), Thorgan Hazard (Lens, free), Victor Moses (Wigan, 9m), Cesar Azpilicueta (Marseille, 7m)

What they need: A bigger team bus. The European champions have had a productive summer in the transfer market, spending over 80m buying first team talent as well as back-up. It’s like 2003 all over again under Roman Abramovich.

Who they’re watching: It’s not unlike Chelsea to snatch a player from under their rivals’ noses, as Arsenal and Juan Mata will know, and the Blues may still have eyes on Spurs target, Willian. The Shakhtar Donetsk forward was denied a move to Stamford Bridge last month and the Blues only have three recognised attackers.

Who could go: And that could be two if Daniel Sturridge gets his wish of first-team football. The forward has emerged as a target for Liverpool and will be keen to move on to strengthen his chances of becoming an England regular after missing out on the Euro 2012 squad. Michael Essien and Raul Meireles are on Fenerbahce’s wanted list.

Marquee signing: Eden Hazard

Marquee signing: Eden Hazard

Panic rating: 1/5

Everton

In: Steven Pienaar (Tottenham, 4.5m), Steven Naismith (Rangers, free), Kevin Mirallas (Olympiakos, 5.2m)

What they need: For once it’s been a less than rocky start for Everton after two very encouraging wins against Manchester United and Aston Villa. A well balanced squad isn’t screaming for improvements but boss David Moyes still has an eye on finding replacements for Tim Cahill and Jack Rodwell.

Who they’re watching: A victim of another summer restructuring at Liverpool, Charlie Adam appears to be on his way out of Anfield and their Merseyside rivals have shown an interest in taking the attacking midfielder across Stanley Park. Kilmarnock winger, Matthew Kennedy is also of interest.

Who could go: Strikers, Apostolos Vellios and Victor Anichebe look to be victims of the influx of attackers arriving at Goodison Park this summer. Hot prospect Ross Barkley may also find first-team opportunities limited and Moyes will be open to a loan switch to prevent the 18-year-old stagnating.

Panic rating: 1/5

Fulham

In: Hugo Rodallega (Wigan, free), Mladen Petric (Hamburg, free), George Williams (MK Dons, free), Sascha Riether (Cologne, loan)

What they need: In theory the squad looks well equipped to at least survive another season in the Premier League. But with pending departures in key attacking positions, Martin Jol will be tracking at least one experienced playmaker with Alex Kacaniklic and Kerim Frei promising but still unproven at the club.

Who they’re watching: Out-of-favour Charlie Adam would be a competent fit at Craven Cottage behind the strikers while a move for Sunderland winger, Kieran Richardson is at an advanced stage.

Who could go: Adam and Richardson could be direct replacements for Clint Dempsey and Mousa Dembele.

Panic rating: 3/5

Switching allegiance: Dembele is set to join Tottenham

Switching allegiance: Dembele is set to join Tottenham

Liverpool

In: Nuri Sahin (Real Madrid, loan), Joe Allen (Swansea, 15m), Fabio Borini (Roma, 10m) Oussama Assaidi (Heerenveen, 3m)

What they need: Some stability after four years of different managers has resulted in a large turnover of players. Brendan Rodgers is still aiming to strengthen his side with attack remaining a primary concern despite shipping five goals in the first two Premier League games.

Who they’re watching: A move for Clint Dempsey, which seemed highly likely last month, is in jeopardy due to interest from other clubs but Rodgers will still be keen to grab the American forward. Theo Walcott is of interest as is Wolves keeper Dorus De Vries as back-up to Pepe Reina.

Who could go: A Daniel Sturridge arrival could spell the end for Andy Carroll who is already behind Luis Suarez and Fabio Borini in the Liverpool strike force and could be set for at least a loan departure. A big squad needs cutting, especially in midfield, with Joe Cole, Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing all facing uncertain futures.

Panic rating: 3/5

Manchester City

In: Jack Rodwell (Everton 12m)

What they need: If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. Manchester City have been the least busy club in the transfer window this summer which suggests Roberto Mancini is more than happy with his title winning squad. Eight goals conceded in the last four games seems to represent defensive issues but City let in the fewest amount of goals last season.

Who they’re watching: Outside of Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott, City do have a weakness in centre-backs and have eyes on 19-year-old Matija Nastasic from Fiorentina. In the blockbuster category, Javi Martinez, who can play in defence and midfield, has been linked with a 31.7 move from Athletic Bilbao while Benfica midfielder Javier Garcia is also a target at 25m. Scott Sinclair may also join from Swansea.

Who could go: After some shaky displays last season, Stefan Savic could be used in a swap deal with Nastasic, while striker Edin Dzeko is still open to a switch back to Germany. Incredibly, Roque Santa Cruz is also still on City’s books despite not playing for the club in nearly two years, while Michael Johnson is also surplus to requirements.

Panic rating: 2/5

Highly-rated: Nastasic (left)

Highly-rated: Nastasic (left)

Manchester United

In: Angelo Henriquez (Universidad de Chile, undisclosed), Robin van Persie (Arsenal, 24m), Shinji Kagawa (Dortmund, 17m), Nick Powell (Crewe, 4m), Alexander Buttner (Vitesse Arnhem, 4m)

What they need: Some fresh legs at the back. Nemanja Vidic has been victim to injuries in the past season while Rio Ferdinand is well into the autumn of his career. Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are still lacking experience, while question remarks remain over Jonny Evans as a long term replacement.

Who they’re after: None of the above seems to concern manager Sir Alex Ferguson though who has stated his deals are done as far as the transfer window is concerned. It is still silly season though and the Red Devils have been linked with St Etienne’s 17-year-old centre-back Kurt Zouma in a 9m switch.

Who could go: Some big names could still leave Old Trafford though, with contract rebel Nani in talks regarding a 25m switch to Russian side, Zenit. Dimitar Berbatov is set to depart, while midfielders Anderson and Bebe will also be allowed to leave.

Panic rating: 1/5

Newcastle

In: Vurnon Anita (Ajax, 6.7m), Curtis Good (Melbourne Heart, 400,000), Gael Bigirimana (Coventry, undisclosed), Romain Amalfitano (Reims, free)

What they need: As good as they are going forward, Newcastle’s weakness still lies in the art of defending. Only West Brom conceded more in the top 10 last season and Alan Pardew’s focus should be on strengthening the back four or at least provide ample cover.

Who they’re after: Lille have become a feeder club for Premier League sides and right-back Mathieu Debuchy has already been the subject of two rejected bids from the Toon. Pardew’s team of scouts have been the toast of the division in the last couple of years and have been watching 23-year-old Montpellier centre-back, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa.

Who could go: Yohan Cabaye and Cheick Tiote have interested Arsenal while Dan Gosling may struggle to find a place in the Newcastle side this term following the midfield arrivals of Anita, Birgirimana and Amalfitano. Shane Ferguson, who can play anywhere on the left, is also on the outside looking in.

Panic rating: 2/5

French fancy: Arsenal have shown an interest in Yohan Cabaye (left)

French fancy: Arsenal have shown an interest in Yohan Cabaye (left)

Norwich

In: Sebastian Bassong (Tottenham, undisclosed), Robert Snodgrass (Leeds, 3m), Michael Turner (Sunderland, undisclosed), Jacob Butterfield (Barnsley, undisclosed), Steven Whittaker (Rangers, free), Javier Garrido (Lazio, loan), Alexander Tettey (Rennes, undisclosed), Mark Bunn (Blackburn, undisclosed)

What they need: A busy summer has seen Norwich bolster their squad in a variety of positions, including a whole new back four after conceding the most goals outside of the relegation zone last term. Chris Hughton remains happy with a strike force though that scored the most outside the top six, so if the Canaries are not ready now then they never will be.

Who they’re after: Hughton’s sole focus as the transfer window nears closure is finding a new goalkeeper, with Blackburn’s Mark Bunn poised to move to Carrow Road. The 27-year-old would be set to play as back-up to recent England debutant, John Ruddy.

Who could go: Not Grant Holt, and that is great news for Norwich who will need his goals to stay up again this season. It’s a thin squad at Carrow Road so major departures look highly unlikely.

Panic rating: 2/5

QPR

In: Junior Hoilett (Blackburn, tribunal), Park Ji-sung (Manchester United, undisclosed), Samba Diakite (Nancy, undisclosed), Robert Green (West Ham, free), Ryan Nelsen (Tottenham, free), Andrew Johnson (Fulham, free), Fabio (Manchester United, loan), Jose Bosingwa (Chelsea, free), Julio Cesar (Inter Milan, undisclosed)

What they need: An ice breaker session after a summer which has seen plenty of players leave the club as well as join. Bizarrely, Robert Green’s place is already under threat following a horror show on his debut and Mark Hughes has already replaced him with Julio Cesar. As far as on-field positions are concerned, it may as well be open season at Loftus Road.

Who they’re after: To shore up the defence, Hughes has targeted Rubin Kazan full-back Cristian Ansaldi but a move for Spurs defender Michael Dawson looks dead in the water.

Who could go: The Hoops are desperate to offload Joey Barton, with Marseille interested in taking the controversial midfielder on a free. The west London club love a signing though and Stephen M’Bia has been targeted as a replacement from the French side.

Panic rating: 2/5

Keeping up appearances: Julio cesar is ready to sign for QPR

Keeping up appearances: Julio Cesar is ready to sign for QPR

Reading

In: Chris Gunter (Nottingham Forest, 2.5m), Adrian Mariappa (Watford, 2.5m), Pierce Sweeney (Bray Wanderers, undisclosed), Pavel Pogrebnyak (Fulham, free), Danny Guthrie (Newcastle, free), Garath McCleary (Nottingham Forest, free), Nicky Shorey (West Brom, free), Stuart Taylor (Manchester City, free)

What they need: Having only spent little over 5m, it’s been a very conservative summer for Reading whose deals have mostly involved Championship stars or players with very little Premier League experience. It’s a gamble that could pay off but supporters may feel more at ease if they had a proven Premier League hitman.

Who they’re targeting: And that’s where Carlton Cole comes into the equation. Brian McDermott would have to break the club’s transfer record and pay 5m to grab the West Ham striker though. Notts County winger, Alan Judge is also on the radar.

Who could go: Veteran striker Jason Roberts will find opportunities hard to come by on his return to the top flight as will Simon Church following the signing of Pogrebnyak.

Panic rating 3/5

Southampton

In: Emmanuel Mayuka (Young Boys Berne, undisclosed), Jay Rodriguez (Burnley, 6m), Paulo Gazzaniga (Gillingham, undisclosed), Steven Davis (Rangers, free), Nathaniel Clyne (Crystal Palace, tribunal)

What they need: Plenty of focus has gone into the strikers but Nigel Adkins may want to add some steel to a defence that looks like it could leak goals this season. Some more wide players would also be useful, especially on the right.

Who they’re targeting: Gaston Ramirez's move from Bologna has stalled but the attacking midfielder could still join if the clubs can agree on a fee. Left-back is also an area where Southampton want to strengthen and Ajax’s Nicolai Boilesen is a 5m target. However Arsenal and Inter Milan are also keen.

Who could go: Star striker and fan favourite Rickie Lambert is a target for Aston Villa and Blackburn. Should he depart then Adkins may swoop for Swansea striker Luke Moore in a loan deal but either way it would be a huge loss for the Saints.

Panic rating 4/5

Stalling: Gaston Ramirez (left) is in talks with Southampton

Stalling: Gaston Ramirez (left) is in talks with Southampton

Stoke

In: Michael Kightly (Wolves, 2m), Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo, undisclosed), Jamie Ness (Rangers, free), Goran Popov (Dynamo Kiev, loan)

What they need: In terms of just surviving another season in the Premier League the ingredients are already there for Stoke who have a well balanced team and once again will be hard to defeat. But it’s about time the Potters kicked on and targeted a top ten finish by signing a creative attacking midfielder.

Who they’re targeting: It’s creativity that Tony Pulis is looking to strengthen too with Liverpool’s Charlie Adam a target. A loan swoop for Tottenham’s Tom Huddlestone is still an option while the Potters are still linked with free agent, Michael Owen.

Who could go: Diego Arismendi has failed to make an impact in his three years at the Britannia Stadium while Michael Tonge may also opt to move on to secure first team football.

Panic rating: 3/5

Sunderland

In: Louis Saha (Tottenham, free), Carlos Cuellar (Aston Villa, free), Steven Fletcher (Wolves, 15m), Adam Johnson (Manchester City 10m)

What they need: A summer spent mostly rebuilding the attack has left a few holes at the back for Sunderland. Wes Brown and John O’Shea are impressive enough but injuries hampered the former last season, while the arrival of Cuellar is just a replacement for Michael Turner.

Who they’re targeting: Michael Dawson would be a huge coup for the Black Cats but interest is starting to fade in the central defender who would stretch the financial purse strings at the Stadium of Light. The same also applies to Fulham playmaker, Clint Dempsey.

Who could go: Kieran Richardson has just 12 months left on his contract and any reasonable offer would be accepted, with Fulham likely to confirm a deal. Winger Ahmed Elmohamady is poised to join Hull on a season-long loan.

Panic rating: 2/5

Southbound: Kieran Richardson (right) looks set to join Fulham

Southbound: Kieran Richardson (right) looks set to join Fulham

Swansea

In: Michu (Rayo Vallecano, 2m), Jose Manuel Flores (Genoa, 2m), Jonathan de Guzman (Villarreal, loan), Kyle Bartley (Arsenal, 1m), Jamie Proctor (Preston, undisclosed), Ki Sung-yeung (Celtic, 5.5m)

What they need: A round of applause so far. Shrewd transfers have seen Swansea make an excellent start to the season but Michael Laudrup will still be targeting a replacement for Joe Allen who was the heartbeat to the midfield last season.

Who they’re targeting: The Crewe academy has been a respectable one over the years and the latest star to come through the ranks is Ashley Westwood. The Swans are considering a 2m swoop for the midfielder but Everton and Blackpool are also keen.

Who could go: Scott Sinclair looked all but set to sign for Manchester City for 6.2m but the Swans have upped their asking price at the last minute to put the deal in serious doubt.

Panic rating 3/5

Tottenham

In: Mousa Dembele (Fulham, 15m), Emmanuel Adebayor (Manchester City, 5m), Jan Vertonghen (Ajax, 10m), Gylfi Sigurdsson (Hoffenheim, 8m)

What they need: Another transfer window circus at Tottenham has seen them trying to close out deals in the last minute once again. A replacement for Luka Modric is of primary concern and cover for strikers Jermain Defoe and Adebayor would also be welcomed by the White Hart Lane faithful.

Who they’re targeting: Russia’s Euro 2012 star striker Alan Dzagoev is linked while moves for Yann M’Vila, Willian and Joao Moutinho have hit stumbling blocks surrounding asking prices.

Who could go: Just about anyone! Not even the most established first-team player is safe from Andre Villas-Boas’ axe with Aaron Lennon, Rafael van der Vaart and Michael Dawson all linked with moves away from the Lane.

Panic rating: 3/5

In the market: Spurs are interested in Euro 2012 star Alan Dzagoev

In the market: Spurs are interested in Euro 2012 star Alan Dzagoev

West Brom

In: Ben Foster (Birmingham, undisclosed), Markus Rosenberg (Werder Bremen, free), Claudio Yacob (Racing Club de Avellaneda, free) Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea, loan), Yassine El Ghanassy (AA Gent, loan)

What they need: Concerns remain over West Brom’s defence – even more so should Liam Ridgewell or Jonas Olsson pick up an injury. A rampaging full-back would also add more quality to the Baggies attack.

Who they’re targeting: Rubin Kazan’s Cristian Ansaldi is an option but Steve Clarke’s business (with not a penny spent on an outfield player) looks done with Yacob, Ghanassy and Lukaku making solid starts to the season.

Who could go: The Baggies first team look secure but a big squad now needs trimming with Gonzalo Jara and Jerome Thomas likely to find it difficult to break into the first team.

Panic rating: 2/5

West Ham

In: Matt Jarvis (Wolves, 10.75m), Modibo Maiga (Sochaux, 5m), Alou Diarra (Marseille, 2m), James Collins (Aston Villa, undisclosed), Stephen Henderson (Portsmouth, undisclosed), George McCartney (Sunderland, undisclosed), Raphael Spiegel (Grasshoppers, undisclosed) Jussi Jaaskelainen (Bolton, free), Mohamed Diame (Wigan, free)

What they need: Having signed nearly a whole first team worth of players, Sam Allardyce should probably focus on handing out name tags around the club dressing room having raided the transfer market in every position.

Who they’re targeting: It should be a quiet last few days as far as arrivals are concerned but Joe Cole has been constantly linked with a return to Upton Park from Liverpool. It’s starting to become a congested midfield at the east London side though.

Who could go: Much to the fans’ disappointment, local boy Mark Noble is on Fulham’s wish list and with the midfielder in the last year of his contract he could be subject to a move away from the club.

Panic rating 3/5

Leaving home Fulham have shown an interest in Mark Noble (right)

Leaving home Fulham have shown an interest in Mark Noble (right)

Wigan

In: Arouna Kone (Levante, undisclosed), Ryo Miyaichi (Arsenal, loan), Ivan Ramis (Real Mallorca, undisclosed), Fraser Fyvie (Aberdeen, undisclosed)

What they need: For the first time in many years, Wigan look like a solid Premier League side. But the opening game defeat to Chelsea highlighted a familiar problem in that they do not have a lethal marksman, even more so after the departure of Hugo Rodallega and key creator Victor Moses.

Who they’re targeting: Bolton winger Lee Chung-yong is an option and was sorely missed by the Trotters through injury as they suffered relegation last season. A striker doesn’t look in sight but Arouna Kone may just surprise a few this season.

Who could go: Youngster, Callum McManaman has been on the verge of breaking into the first team for a couple of seasons now, but chances still look limited and he may be allowed to leave on loan to get a full campaign under his belt in a lower division.

Panic rating 3/5

FC Toronto 1 Liverpool 1: Adam Morgan rescues Reds

FC Toronto 1 Liverpool 1: Reds youngster Morgan rescues Rodgers in first game

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UPDATED:

23:05 GMT, 21 July 2012

Fantasy football 2012

Brendan Rodgers first game in charge of Liverpool ended in stalemate as a goal from England youth striker Adam Morgan rescued a draw here in Toronto.

Magnificently billed as a decider in the World Football Challenge, the grandiose title did not reflect the status of the game and Rodgers made no secret that his first 90 minutes in charge was simply a fact-finding mission.

Still, no manager enjoys losing and it need a poacher’s goal from Morgan, an Academy graduate who has enjoyed a prolific strike rate at age-group levels, to cancel out Quincy Amarikwa’s opener and ensure that Rodgers’ big day was not spoiled.

My ball: Liverpool's Suso, left, skips past Toronto FC's Matt Stinson and Aaron Maund

My ball: Liverpool's Suso, left, skips past Toronto FC's Matt Stinson and Aaron Maund

MATCH FACTS

Liverpool (first half 4-3-3): Jones: Wisdom, Sama, Carragher, Enrique: Aquilani, Spearing, Adam: Ibe, Ecclestone, Pacheco.

Liverpool (second half 4-3-3): Gulacsi: Flanagan, Skrtel, Wilson, Robinson: Adorjan (Lucas 74mins), Shelvey, Suso: Cole, Morgan, Sterling.

Subs: Lucas, Smith, Ward, McLaughlin

Goal: Morgan (69)

The first half, in terms of action, was instantly forgettable. Eager to give a good account of themselves, Toronto were all hustle and bustle, keeping their shape and harrying their more exalted opponents whenever they lost possession.

Sitting on Liverpool’s bench with his arms casually resting behind him, Rodgers was simply happy to soak up the action that was unfolding in front of him; only rarely did he feel compelled to leap from his pew to exhort some orders or bark his displeasure when a move broke down.

Quite frankly, the result did not matter a great deal. What Rodgers was most concerned about was seeing how players such as Charlie Adam and Alberto Aquilani fitted into his system or how young talents like Jordan Ibe, Andre Wisdom and Dani Pacheco would fare.

Of all the midfielders Liverpool possess, it would seem that Adam’s position is vulnerable and few would dispute that he will struggle to hold down a regular spot going forward. Though he showed some nice passes, more will be required in the coming weeks to impress Rodgers.

Midfield battle: Charle Adam is tackled by Toronto FC's Doniel Henry

Midfield battle: Charle Adam is tackled by Toronto FC's Doniel Henry

For Aquilani – who conjured up Liverpool’s first shot on target after 44 minutes – there is also an element of doubt about whether he will be around for when Barclays Premier League business resumes and if an offer were to arrive from Italy, Liverpool would certainly consider it.

Yet the feeling persists that there is a top class player waiting to come out of Aquilani. He looks the part; he can pass and score goals when in the mood and has the elegance to slot in to the stylish way Rodgers wants to play. Seeing how he progresses these next few weeks will be intriguing.

A sentiment, of course, which applies to Liverpool as a collective. They created the best chances of the opening 45 minutes but the closest they came to poking their noses in front was a blocked shot from Pachecho and a header from Nathan Ecclestone, which sailed wide.

First one out of the way: Brendan Rodgers applauds the fans as he walks off

First one out of the way: Brendan Rodgers applauds the fans as he walks off

Rodgers made wholesale changes after the break – he fielded a completely new and largely youthful 11, with Joe Cole and Martin Skrtel the only recognised ‘seniors’ – but shuffling the pack did not bring about instant dividends.

In fact, the opposite was true. Toronto took the lead after 58 minutes when Amarikwa pounced after goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi has failed to hold on to a stinging drive from Sergio Camargo. As Amarikwa ostentatiously celebrated, a shake of the head from Rodgers confirmed it was a poor goal to concede.

Parity, however, was restored within 10 minutes. Raheem Sterling, the young winger for whom Liverpool have such high hopes, darted into the area and his cross-cum-shot was gobbled up by the 18-year-old Morgan from close range.

No spare seats: Liverpool and Toronto play in the World Football Challenge at the Rogers Centre

No spare seats: Liverpool and Toronto play in the World Football Challenge at the Rogers Centre

With obtaining fitness the overriding priority, Rodgers took the opportunity to give Brazilian midfielder Lucas his first run out since last November and the Brazilian was given a warm ovation from the crowd. His introduction was significant as he will play a big role for Rodgers.

What Lucas could not do, however, was inspire a winning goal. The game petered out tamely and now it is on to Boston for Rodgers and Company, where they face AS Roma on Wednesday night before finishing their tour in Baltimore next Saturday against Tottenham.

Wimbledon 2012: No nonsense Ivan Lendl may be just what Andy Murray needs

Ice-cool Ivan keeping the heat off Andy: Lendl still a man of few words – but they are making a difference

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UPDATED:

18:26 GMT, 7 July 2012

Ivan Lendl is a man of few words, at least in public and about Andy Murray.

One of those words is 'no' – as in
no, he won't sit down and talk at any length about the Wimbledon final
chances of the man he's been coaching since January.

Another is 'yes', but that is his
entire response when asked whether it is possible to formulate a
gameplan against Roger Federer, the greatest player ever. Lendl does not
elaborate.

Understated: Ivan Lendl is the hard man of tennis

Understated: Ivan Lendl is the hard man of tennis

To do so would give too much away.

In this respect, the 52-year-old
Czech, an eight-times Grand Slam singles champion but famously never at
Wimbledon, may turn out to be the perfect mentor and guide for Murray as
the 25-year-old Scot reaches the peak years of his career.

Murray doesn't relish the spotlight and isn't comfortable with endless media engagements.

Lendl similarly endured rather than
enjoyed them. Murray is taking his time in finding a way to win a first
Slam. He has lost three finals already.

Low key: Ivan Lendl has been a quiet but powerful influence on Andy Murray

Low key: Ivan Lendl has been a quiet but powerful influence on Andy Murray

This is where Lendl's experience is especially relevant: he lost four before going on to win eight.

Those four were the French Open of
1981, the US Opens of 1982 and 1983 and the Australian Open of 1983
before his breakthrough at Roland Garros in 1984, when he had just
turned 24.

/07/07/article-0-13F466B8000005DC-361_468x286.jpg” width=”468″ height=”286″ alt=”All smiles: But Ivan Lendl (right) is rarely moved by Andy Murray's performance” class=”blkBorder” />

All smiles: But Ivan Lendl (right) is rarely moved by Andy Murray's performance

The Centre Court crowd will assist Murray, Lendl says.

'It's always great to play in front of a home crowd, they've been brilliant so far.'

And he has been impressed, he adds, that Murray has been 'very focused and determined during the tournament'.

As for insight into how he has helped
Murray develop, tactically or technically, or helped him work on mental
strength and erasing hotheaded moments from his play, Lendl won't talk
in any detail.

Asked which of his experiences he
will share with Murray for the most important match of the British No
1's life, he says: 'We will talk a lot about playing the late stages in
major events.'

Right attitude: Andy Murray seems in the right frame of mind for the final

Right attitude: Andy Murray seems in the right frame of mind for the final

On the changes to Murray's game, he
says, again vaguely: 'We have worked on certain things and we'll
continue to work on them. However, we never like to discuss specifics.'

And on the less emotional, less
histrionic Murray we have seen this past fortnight, Lendl won't
elaborate on what, if anything, he has done to calm his player in the
heat of battle.

'I don't like to discuss specifics,'
he says, and he is equally dismissive when asked how important this
final means to him, as a coach as opposed to Murray the player.

'It's all about Andy,' he says.

To witness them at work on the
Aorangi practice courts here at the All England Club, it is evident
their relationship is about the quality not the quantity of advice Lendl
provides.

Tough competitor: But Ivan Lendl never won Wimbledon

Tough competitor: But Ivan Lendl never won Wimbledon

In a workout that lasted no more than 40 minutes from the first warm-up stretch to the last ball slammed past hitting partner Oli Golding, Lendl spoke directly to Murray three times.

The first was when Murray unleashed a trademark blistering backhand down the line.

1936 to 2012

When Fred Perry won in 1934, he received a club tie and a 25 voucher for jewellers Mappin & Webb.

Andy Murray will net a cool 1.15m if he wins.

'Good shot, Andy,' Lendl said.

The second was when Lendl wanted Golding to test Murray's mobility by hitting to the flanks.

'I'm just going to get Oli to move you around a bit,' he said.

The third thing he said was out of earshot during a huddle.

It looked like a word about Murray's service. It was short and sweet, unfussy, practical.

In the public eye at least, this relationship is all business but there is no suggestion of frostiness or lack of harmony between the pair.

The session ended when the rain began.

They will be back , Murray to meet Federer, and his fate, and Lendl to take his place in Murray's box, showing no overt emotion.

Will he display more should Murray triumph

'Come and find out,' he says.

Euro 2012: Cesare Prandelli focuses solely on Ireland

Prandelli calls for calm amid fears of Spain and Croatia carve-up

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UPDATED:

22:02 GMT, 17 June 2012

Cesare Prandelli called for calm as he prepared to send Italy into their make-or-break Group C clash with the Republic of Ireland on Monday night.

The Italians need to win to have any chance of making it to the quarter-finals and even then, a high-scoring draw between Spain and Croatia in Gdansk would put them out.

Calm down, dear: Cesare Prandelli insists his team must focus on Ireland

Calm down, dear: Cesare Prandelli insists his team must focus on Ireland

Prandelli was bombarded with 'what if' questions and speculation that the ghost of Euro 2004, where a draw between Sweden and Denmark accounted for Giovanni Trapattoni's Italy, could return to haunt them.

However, Prandelli was in relaxed mood as he approached a crucial 90 minutes, which he nevertheless described as 'the most important game' of his reign to date.

Asked what would represent the difference between success and failure, he replied: 'It's very difficult to say. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, we are just thinking about tomorrow's game.

'We want to win the game, that's it. Just let us play, let's get on with it, come on. We always want everything before it comes, we want everything now.

Injury fears: Mario Balotelli did not look sharp in training

Injury fears: Mario Balotelli did not look sharp in training

'We are always getting ahead of ourselves, us Italians, but I always say that if you get ahead of yourself, you fall over.'

Italy go into the game on the back of successive 1-1 draws with Spain and Croatia and knowing anything less than a victory will prove fatal to their hopes of making it out of the group.

Even a win would not be enough if Spain and Croatia repeat the 2-2 scoreline which proved decisive in Portugal eight years ago to leave three teams on five points, when their respective returns against Ireland would be disregarded.

However, Prandelli insists he is thinking of nothing other than finding a way to condemn his former Juventus manager to a third successive Euro 2012 defeat.

He said: 'Three days ago, I said it all depends on us and I have to prepare for this game solely focussed on the result in our game.

'I'm not really concerned about what everyone else is saying, it doesn't bother us.

'We are just focussed on tomorrow's game. You have written a lot and said a lot over the last few days.

'But I don't think a team like Spain, who have based their whole footballing image on giving a show and playing tactical football, they are not planning it down to the detail of what the result is going to be.

'It's not at all possible. We need to think of our own game. But I am also convinced we have the means at our disposal to go ahead and win this game.'

Prandelli was quizzed repeatedly over whether he would field a three-man defence or a four-man defence, but was giving little away, and he was equally reticent on whether or not striker Mario Balotelli will be available after hurting his right knee in training.

Listen up: Prandelli (top, centre left) talks tactics with his team ahead of crunch clash with Ireland

Listen up: Prandelli (top, centre left) talks tactics with his team ahead of crunch clash with Ireland

He said: 'We will see how Mario is on the training pitch. He's a lot better than he was yesterday, so if he trains, then of course he will be fit for the game.'

Balotelli was indeed on the training pitch at the Municipal Stadium on Sunday evening, but the consensus was that he did not look 100% fit.

Trapattoni and Prandelli know each other well, of course, and the younger man retains a huge fondness for the 73-year-old, despite seeing his side slip to a 2-0 friendly defeat by Ireland in Liege last summer.

He said: 'When I speak about Giovanni Trapattoni, I always talk about the coach, “Il Mister”, because I had him at a special time in my career.

Time for change: Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni is much respected by his Italian counterpart

Time for change: Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni is much respected by his Italian counterpart

'I was only 20 years old at the time and I grew up playing under him, and he always respected everyone.

'We had a team of great players, but even those of us who didn't play very much, he still thought we were very important, all the players in the squad.

'We have always discussed his strength, and he has great strength. He's got the desire to never give up, to always keep moving with the times, to always be competitive – and he still is very competitive.

'He is a fantastic person.'

FA technical director role in reach for Gareth Southgate

Southgate closing in on FA promotion with technical director role in his sights

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 4 April 2012

Gareth Southgate's chances of securing the technical director’s job at the FA have been enhanced by a fact-finding mission he took to Brazil last week.

The FA insist appointing the right man will be ‘an open process’ with candidates worldwide invited to apply. But they have big plans for Southgate, already head of elite development.

They see him as their ‘Michel Platini’,
said one FA source, and he impressed officials in Brazil with the way
his reputation in the game opened doors.

Top job: Gareth Southgate is favourite for the coveted FA technical director role

Top job: Gareth Southgate is favourite for the coveted FA technical director role

There is, of course, a purely technical side to the position with the new National Football Centre at St George’s Park a big part of that. But Southgate is a former manager and international centre half, and he has obtained the highest coaching qualifications — the FIFA Pro Licence.

Southgate has yet to apply, but the support he has within the FA makes him a clear favourite for a position of huge importance.

FA general secretary Alex Horne said: ‘The role will be crucial as we strive to improve the technical ability and knowledge of our players and coaches.’