Tag Archives: heavyweights

David Haye posts a fearsome photo from his gym as he prepares for his comeback fight

Beware the Hayemaker! Boxing star posts fearsome photo from the gym as he prepares for comeback fight

By
Mike Dawes

PUBLISHED:

16:42 GMT, 8 April 2013

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UPDATED:

16:42 GMT, 8 April 2013

It is only two days to go until David Haye announces his next heavyweight opponent — but he is already looking the part.

The former heavyweight champion is fighting again on June 29 in Manchester and posted a picture on his twitter feed of him in fighting fit shape.

He has previously revealed he began plotting his ring return when alone with his thoughts in the jungle on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.

Hayemaker: There's no denying David Haye is taking his comeback seriously after this photo posted on twitter

Hayemaker: There's no denying David Haye is taking his comeback seriously after this photo posted on twitter

The fighter’s trainer and manager Adam Booth said earlier this month he was in discussions with five heavyweights ranked within the world’s top 15 – four of which remain unbeaten – in his pursuit of an opponent for Haye’s comeback fight on June 29 as the former champion bids to gain mandatory-challenger status to either Vitali or Wladimir Klitschko.

Since his fifth-round knockout victory over Dereck Chisora in July, Haye has lived a life far from that of the customary prizefighter over a period in which his celebrity status significantly grew but insists it was this that persuaded him he wanted to return to fight for the status of world heavyweight champion.

Timer: Haye knocked out Dereck Chisora in the fifth round of his last fight

Timer: Haye knocked out Dereck Chisora in the fifth round of his last fight

Top of the tree: Haye wants to prove that he is still the best heavyweight in the country

Top of the tree: Haye wants to prove that he is still the best heavyweight in the country

Ready and waiting: Haye has been promoting his next fight recently which will take place on June 29

Ready and waiting: Haye has been promoting his next fight recently which will take place on June 29

Meanwhile, Tony Bellew’s rematch with Isaac Chilemba has been added to the undercard of Carl Froch’s super-middleweight unification clash with Mikkel Kessler at the O2 Arena on May 25.

Bellew and Chilemba fought out a lifeless draw in Liverpool on March 30 in their final eliminator for a shot at the WBC light-heavyweight title with both claiming they should have been given the verdict.

Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn insists the successful fighter will still be in line to meet Chad Dawson if the American successfully defends his WBC belt against Adonis Stevenson on June 8.

Back in the ring: England's Tony Bellew and Isaac Chilemba of South Africa will fight again on the under-card of the re-match between Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler

Back in the ring: England's Tony Bellew and Isaac Chilemba of South Africa will fight again on the under-card of the re-match between Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler

Africa Cup of Nations – Zambia 1 Nigeria 1

Zambia 1 Nigeria 1: Defending champions hold Nigeria to a draw thanks to keeper who SCORES a penalty at the death!

PUBLISHED:

17:57 GMT, 25 January 2013

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UPDATED:

18:14 GMT, 25 January 2013

Zambia goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene once again proved decisive on penalties Friday as the defending champions held Nigeria to a 1-1 draw in the Africa Cup of Nations.

Mweene first saw Nigeria's John Mikel Obi send a spot kick on to the outside of the post in the first half after diving the right way, and then scored one himself at the other end to equalise in the 85th minute.

Hero: Goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene (pictured) of Zambia scores a penalty - he also saved one in the first half

Hero: Goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene (pictured) of Zambia scores a penalty – he also saved one in the first half

Jubilant: Team-mates rush to surround him after earning his nation a point

Jubilant: Team-mates rush to surround him after earning his nation a point

Mweene's penalty-saving prowess was one of the keys during Zambia's winning campaign in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea last year and Mikel seemed to be wary of the goalkeeper's skills as his missed kick was weak.

Zambia have now given away penalties
in their last four Nations Cup finals matches and, in an incredible run
of fortune, seen their opponents fail to score on each occasion.

Emmanuel Emenike then put Nigeria ahead with a smooth finish in the 57th minute but Mweene stepped up to the spot himself to level with five minutes remaining.

Vital: Mweene saves a spot kick from Chelsea's John Obi Mikel

Vital: Mweene saw Chelsea's John Obi Mikel hit his penalty off the outside of the post

The 1-1 draw at the Mbombela Stadium between the two heavyweights in Group C leaves both teams perilously placed without a win but still with a chance to grab a quarter-final place early next week.

'I'm happy with the result because of the circumstances,' said Zambia coach Herve Renard

'Never forget we had Nigeria ahead of us. We are still alive and we are still in a good way to qualify.'

Mweene slotted home after Emmanuel Mayuka had been tugged down on the edge of the Nigerian area by Ogenyi Onanzi in what looked a harsh decision from Egyptian referee Grisha Ghead.

Battle: Nigeria's Victor Moses (right) fights for the ball with Zambia's Joseph Musonda

Battle: Nigeria's Victor Moses (right) fights for the ball with Zambia's Joseph Musonda

The champions had the better of the first half exchanges as they pinned back Nigeria, who had Victor Moses in the line-up after injury, but laboured in the second period.

Nigeria boss Stephen Keshi said: 'I have no choice but to be happy but my goal was to get three points. Zambia were never going to be easy to play against.'

Trumpets: Nigerian fans try to lift their team

Trumpets: Nigerian fans try to lift their team

Tyson Fury to return to ring at Madison Square Garden, New York

Fury puts Price clash on ice as heavyweight announces New York return to ring in March

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UPDATED:

20:56 GMT, 5 December 2012

Tyson Fury will return to the ring on March 17 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Fury’s uncle and trainer Peter Fury took to Twitter tonight to confirm the date and claimed world-ranked heavyweights Tomasz Adamek, Chris Arreola, Bermane Stiverne and Johnathon Banks were possible opponents, as well as former WBO champion Shannon Briggs.

Peter Fury tweeted: ‘Tyson next out Madison square Garden march 17th. Training camp Canada starts jan 14th. Poss opponents Adamek” Arriola Stiverne Banks. Briggs.’

On ice: Tyson Fury will fight in New York on St Patrick's Day 2013

On ice: Tyson Fury will fight in New York on St Patrick's Day 2013

Fury maintained his unbeaten record with a straightforward points win over Kevin Johnson in a WBC eliminator last Friday and has since resumed hostilities with British and Commonwealth champion David Price.

Price’s manager Frank Maloney offered 650,000 to make the fight, but Fury’s promoter Mick Hennessy described the bid as a ‘joke’.

Fury’s Madison Square Garden date will come exactly a year after his proposed debut at the ionic venue fell through.

Tyson Fury to fight Kevin Johnson

Unbeaten Fury to face heavyweight test against 'Kingpin' Johnson in Belfast

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UPDATED:

14:51 GMT, 12 November 2012

Tyson Fury will take another step towards challenging for a world title when he tackles American Kevin Johnson in Belfast on December 1.

Johnson went the distance with WBC world heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko three years ago with his only other defeat coming in the Prizefighter tournament earlier this year.

Unbeaten Fury had hoped to fight Denis Boytsov next month but the Russian withdrew, explaining he needed more time to prepare.

True test: Tyson Fury (left) will face Kevin Johnson in Belfast

True test: Tyson Fury (left) will face Kevin Johnson in Belfast

'Johnson is just the kind of opponent that I want at this stage of my career,' Fury said. 'We needed a world class fighter and we have got one and when I take him apart the world will sit up and take notice.

'I’m not going around getting opponents out of graveyards, fighting guys well past their best like some other heavyweights in Britain, I’m taking on Kevin Johnson who has fought for a major world title and been the distance with Vitali Klitschko.

'I am getting closer to a shot at Klitschko myself and I’m going to show Vitali why he has to fight me because when I do a number on Johnson and get him out of there I’ll have done a better job than Vitali did on him.

'I’m really looking forward to fighting again in Belfast, the support I get there is great and to bring such a big fight there is terrific for the fans. Johnson is going to be tough, he’s a hard man but I’ll be in the best shape of my life. The fans can expect fireworks, that’s for sure.'

Challenge: Johnson went the distance with Vitali Klitschko in 2009

Challenge: Johnson went the distance with Vitali Klitschko in 2009

Promoter Mick Hennessy says Johnson is going to be the perfect world class test for Fury at this stage of his career.

'Kevin Johnson has been there and done it and he wants another shot at the world title and he sees Tyson as the route to that, that’s why he has taken the fight,' commented Hennessy.

'He’s a very dangerous opponent, he’s a clever boxer, he’s never been stopped and he can punch so Tyson has his work cut out. But I believe that Tyson is the best heavyweight in the world and he’ll show that again with the way he takes care of Johnson.

'Johnson has been asking for this fight for a long time and we have granted his wish unlike a lot of other fighters who have avoided him as he is a very dangerous fighter over 12 rounds.'

On the up: Tyson Fury

On the up: Tyson Fury

Former world heavyweight title challenger Johnson is coming to Belfast full of confidence with his sights set on railroading Fury’s world title aspirations.

'I'm excited about the opportunity to step into the ring with Tyson Fury on December 1, in Belfast,' he said. 'It's a fight that I've been looking to make for a long time. It's going to be the best American fighter against the best fighter in the UK.

'I give Tyson all the credit in the world for stepping up to the plate and taking the fight. This is the biggest fight of my career since my world title fight against Vitali Klitschko in 2009 and I look forward to giving the fans what they deserve, an action packed, explosive and exciting fight.

'Tyson is a helluva fighter but he's never seen anything like the 'Kingpin' up close and personal. I'm on a mission to claim the heavyweight title and Tyson Fury is in my way.

'I'm not Derek Chisora or Neven Pajkic. I'm the real deal and Tyson will find that out on December 1. Don't blink, its going to be a short night.'

Carl Froch thinks Tony Bellew sparring sessions could be tougher than Yusaf Mack

Froch says heavy sparring sessions with Bellew could be harder than Mack title fight

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UPDATED:

20:50 GMT, 6 November 2012

Carl Froch believes his explosive sparring sessions with fellow Englishman Tony Bellew ahead of next week's IBF title defence against Yusaf Mack could prove to be tougher than the fight itself.

The Nottingham super-middleweight regularly trades blows with his fiery compatriot in training and despite their friendship, the pair are unashamedly spiteful inside the ring.

Froch, 35, also benefits from his connections with the Team GB set-up due to trainer Rob McCracken's role as performance director in Sheffield and regularly spars with the cream of the country's amateur talent.

Hard work: Carl Froch has been involved in some heavy sparring sessions with Tony Bellew

Hard work: Carl Froch has been involved in some heavy sparring sessions with Tony Bellew

Fierce: Bellew does not take it easy in training

Fierce: Bellew does not take it easy in training

Ahead of his November 17 defence against Mack in Nottingham he has worked with two former amateur stars – Commonwealth Games gold medalist Courtney Fry and ex-Olympic hopeful Callum Smith – as well as Liverpudlian hardman Bellew.

All three are natural light-heavyweights and should prepare Froch well for his meeting with Philadelphian Mack, who is dropping down from that division to attempt to spring a massive upset.

'Sometimes sparring is tougher than the actual fight,” Froch said. 'It's very intense, especially with Tony Bellew because we don't pull any punches in there.

'We train and spar like we're fighting because that's how you need to be. You need to get that mindset and let your big shots go, because what you do in sparring and training, you do on fight night too.

'It can be very tough, but it's all part and parcel of it.'

Froch added: 'Courtney Fry is a
light-heavyweight, Tony Bellew is a very strong light-heavyweight and
Callum Smith is going to fight at super-middleweight as a professional
but had stepped up to light-heavyweight as an amateur before turning
pro.

'They are all big lads, tall and rangy and strong. It's a big advantage to get great sparring. It's is one of the most important aspects of your training camp and sometimes you struggle to get the sparring. You fly them in from America and they don't want to be here, you get them from Europe and stay a week before going home.

'But we've got serious fighters here who are serious about the sport and want to do well.

Serious: Froch says sparring can give you a big advantage

Serious: Froch says sparring can give you a big advantage

'Tony Bellew is on the fringes of fighting for a world title. Callum is eager, he's just turned pro and wants to show he's a contender.

'We've never used Courtney Fry for sparring before but he's tall and rangy and throws a lot of straight punches like Mack and he's bigger and heavier than me.

'So it's been brilliant to have good, all-round sparring this camp.'

Froch defends the belt he won in May – with a five-round bludgeoning of Lucian Bute – at the Trent FM Arena in his native Nottingham a week on Saturday.

On the defensive: Froch is fighting for the belt he beat Lucian Bute to win

On the defensive: Froch is fighting for the belt he beat Lucian Bute to win

He does so with a slight injury inflicted by Fry in one of their recent sessions.

'I got elbowed on the nose on Friday but it's nothing serious,' said 'The Cobra'.

'It's nothing serious, I got some butterfly stitches put on as a precautionary measure, more than anything else, because I didn't want it to get any worse.

'It happened in round one of the sparring session and I did a 12-round spar that day, we just patched it up and went again. It's fine and it's healed up.'

India grateful for England"s old ineptitude – The Top Spin

Why India are clinging to faith in England's ineptitude against spin

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UPDATED:

11:12 GMT, 6 November 2012

Top Spin

When England arrived in Australia two years ago, travelling journalists who had grown used to being mocked even as they passed through customs noticed a change of mood.

‘You guys are going to win,’ grumbled my taxi driver in Brisbane. I didn’t believe him, but the comment was symbolic. Australia without its swagger was like bubble without the squeak.

To be in India this last week has not quite been to sense the same defeatism. Yet there is an anxiety here that has matched England’s own concerns about selection.

Our hero: Sachin Tendulkar's century for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy settled a few Indian nerves

Our hero: Sachin Tendulkar's century for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy settled a few Indian nerves

India remain favourites to win the four-Test series starting in nine days’ time in Ahmedabad, but mainly because of enduring faith in English ineptitude against spin, rather than the kind of confidence that was once inspired by the greatest batting line-up on the planet and has produced only four series defeats at home out of 40.

Just to repeat, in case you choose to read this piece selectively: I expect India to win (2-1, to make a fool of myself in advance). But it has required centuries for Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar in the opening round of Ranji Trophy matches to settle nerves – theirs and everyone else’s – while question marks remain about the form of Gautam Gambhir and the fitness of Zaheer Khan.

Then there’s the alleged civil war between Sehwag and MS Dhoni, the captain, which the local TV channels can be relied upon to rev up on the flimsiest pretexts in the weeks ahead.

We are hardly in the realms of a crisis here. But such has been the expectation that England are due another subcontinental misadventure that the desire to avenge the 4-0 whitewash of 2011 has acquired an introspective air.

Rift Indian heavyweights MS Dhoni (left) and Virender Sehwag (right) are said to be at loggerheads

Rift Indian heavyweights MS Dhoni (left) and Virender Sehwag (right) are said to be at loggerheads

Rift Indian heavyweights MS Dhoni (left) and Virender Sehwag (right) are said to be at loggerheads

When will Sachin quit Is Viru past it What about Gauti Is Zak too old Why have we gone back to Harbhajan

THE TOP SPIN ON TWITTER

For cricket-related snippets from England’s tour of India, feel free to go to twitter.com/the_topspin

The answer to that last question also explains why England faced no frontline spin (sorry, Yuvraj) in their first two warm-up matches, and will be tested only by leggie Amit Mishra in the four-day game against Haryana starting on Thursday here in Ahmedabad.

It’s not so much that BCCI conceived a cunning plan to deprive England of the chance to apply a sticking plaster to their old achilles heel – more that India’s stock of quality spinners is not what it once was. This is not to denigrate Ravi Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha, who could yet win them the series. But the cupboard is disconcertingly bare.

Although there is never a good time to play India in India, the truth is that this is one of the better times. England, though, need absolutely everything to slot into place – and the early signs have been mixed.

England have problems too: Steven Finn (second left) is vital to the attack but is struggling with a thigh strain

England have problems too: Steven Finn (second left) is vital to the attack but is struggling with a thigh strain

Crucial to their hopes of unsettling India’s batsmen on docile tracks is the fitness of Steven Finn, who may play his first Test out here with only four overs under his belt thanks to a thigh strain. Next in the queue is Stuart Broad, who will have been limited to 10 by a bruised heel.

Through no obvious fault of their own, England’s eminently sensible plan of playing three warm-up games before the Tests is in danger of losing its value.

But they have learned things too. For one thing, it seems Nick Compton has guts. It’s true that the Mumbai A bowling on Monday afternoon wasn’t up to much, but his entire tour was in the balance after scores of 0 and 1, and he responded with a show of bloody-mindedness that will have resonated with Andy Flower.

Got guts: Nick Compton overcame a poor start to his tour to hit a half-century against Mumbai A

Got guts: Nick Compton overcame a poor start to his tour to hit an unbeaten half-century against Mumbai A

For another, Samit Patel looks ready –
and so too do either Jonny Bairstow or Eoin Morgan when Ian Bell flies
home around the time of the second Test in Mumbai. And Kevin Pietersen
Gloriously, he is yet to put his foot in it.

Still, an Indian elephant lurks. England have not faced either Ashwin or Ojha, and neither have they batted on a pitch that is more than three days old. If India are asking themselves questions, England are equally unsure of a few answers.

Both sides are stumbling towards the starting line – which is why India, in their home conditions, should remain ahead. Just don’t expect another 4-0.

WIN THE REMARKABLE STORY OF CRICKET ON EVEREST

The Top Spin has stumbled across three copies of Alan Curr’s cracking new book Cricket on Everest: The Inspirational Story of the World’s Highest Cricket Match. And we’re offering them as a prize. All you have to do is answer the following question, and email the answer to [email protected] by 12 noon GMT on Monday, November 12.

– Which member of England’s current touring party in India climbed to Everest base camp five years ago

For more information on Alan’s story, please visit www.facebook.com/CricketOnEverest and @everestcricket.

THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS

Bresnan almost puts his foot in it – and over it

There was a small intake of breath as Tim Bresnan addressed the media on the first evening of England’s warm-up game against India A last week. Earlier in the day, Bresnan had been made to wait for six minutes for the third umpire to confirm that he hadn’t overstepped when removing Ajinkya Rahane, and quipped that he hadn’t bowled a no-ball ‘without meaning to’ for about eight years.

To confess to a deliberate no-ball is an interesting career move in the post-Lord’s-2010 era, but – as the room filled with titters – Bresnan quickly clarified his position. ‘Sometimes you need an extra ball to set the batsmen up,’ he pointed out. Returning to the dressing-room, Bresnan wondered whether he had just dropped a clanger. Still, next time he oversteps, we’ll have a decent chance of knowing why.

Careful, Tim: England bowler Bresnan (right) flirted with controversy in India last week

Careful, Tim: England bowler Bresnan (right) flirted with controversy in India last week

More from Lawrence Booth…

The Top Spin: England's batsmen show they are still struggling to get to grips with spin
24/09/12

The Top Spin: England voyage into the unknown on a wing and a prayer
18/09/12

The Top Spin: Bears, Twitter and textgate… a review of the summer that was
10/09/12

The Top Spin: KP's England future is more dependent on his attitude than he may realise
03/09/12

The Top Spin: Strauss's future uncertain after mid-table mediocrity takes hold at precisely the wrong moment
21/08/12

The Top Spin: Don't judge Pietersen – leave that up to Flower and Strauss
14/08/12

The Top Spin: Pietersen chasing omnium of desires… love, 10,000 Test runs and to be rich
07/08/12

The Top Spin at the Test: Headingley – the ground where Weird Things Happen (And Mainly To England)
02/08/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

India A's flighty openers

The India A openers faced a tricky decision on the final day of the match. Both Abhinav Mukund and Murali Vijay had already booked afternoon flights to Cuttack, 90 minutes in the air from Mumbai, for Ranji Trophy matches starting the next day. Batting again against England was, frankly, an inconvenience. What to do

The two men took different routes. While Vijay cancelled his flight in the hope of impressing the selectors with a big score, Mukund stuck resolutely to Plan A – a stratagem that was not inconvenienced when he was caught at mid-on in the third over from a leading edge off Jimmy Anderson.

What happened, asked India A coach Lalchand Rajput ‘I was too early on the shot,’ protested Mukund. ‘Early on the shot – or late for the flight’ came the withering reply. As for Vijay, his demise in the first over after tea meant he was back on the phone to his airline to retrieve his booking. Both men are understood to have caught their flights, but they need barely have bothered. Bad weather limited Tamil Nadu’s game against Orissa to 33.1 overs.

Hair today, gone tomorrow

Forget Steven Finn’s anxiety over how much of a part he’ll play in this Test series. The big question he’s asking himself right now is: why did I shave my legs Finn lost some hair on his right thigh after undergoing treatment for the strain he collected on the first day of the tour, but instead of ignoring the bare patch on a part of the body rarely seen in public, England’s beanpole decided to even things up by depilating both legs – in their entirety. Just don’t be heard suggesting he looks the less manly for it.

The name's P… KP

Reintegration comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes it isn’t merely a case of scoring runs or confirming that everything really is back to normal by getting out to a left-arm spinner. So hats off to Kevin Pietersen for pulling a few strings and organising a team outing to a Mumbai premiere of Skyfall, the new James Bond flick.

Movie star: Kevin Pietersen's 'reintegration' with the England team continues apace

Movie star: Kevin Pietersen's 'reintegration' with the England team continues apace thanks to a cinema trip

Here we go again…

If England thought the retirement of Rahul Dravid has created a potential weakness in India’s line-up at No 3, they may have to think again. Cheteshwar Pujara looked a model of concentration as he made 87 for Mumbai A at the DY Patil Stadium on Sunday. But perhaps this should come as no surprise. In the space of a month four years ago, Pujara compiled scores of 386, 309 and 302 not out. Is a new wall being erected

Patrick Vieira says Manchester City have the right mentality to win the Champions League

Vieira says City have what it takes to win the Champions League

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UPDATED:

15:11 GMT, 17 September 2012

Patrick Vieira believes Manchester City are developing a winning mentality that can lead to Champions League glory.

Excitement is high as City begin their second successive season in Europe's elite competition with a trip to one of the game's true heavyweights, Real Madrid.

Last season's Champions League tilt ended at the group stage but Vieira, the World Cup-winning former City midfielder who is now the club's football development executive, feels they can go better this time.

Madrid mission: Mario Balotelli and Samir Nasri head to the plane

Madrid mission: Mario Balotelli and Samir Nasri head to the plane

Although the draw in Group D is a tough one, with Ajax and Borussia Dortmund also lying ahead, the Frenchman expects the experiences of last year to stand them in good stead.

Vieira, speaking at the launch of the 'PASS' education scheme, said: 'I think when you want to win the Champions League, it is about how you as a whole football club respond to all the demands around.

'You need a winning mentality, and not just from the 11 players on the field – from the entire squad, from the staff working in the office, from those working at the stadium.

European mission: Edin Dzeko trains at the Carrington Training Ground

European mission: Edin Dzeko trains at the Carrington Training Ground

'Everybody has to go to this different level, because if you go to Madrid, or Barcelona – even to Manchester United – you have this mentality as a football club of winning big competitions.

'That takes time, and last year was our first Champions League competition.

'We learned a lot, and hopefully we will do better and you never know where we can go.

Relaxing atmosphere: Sergio Aguero, Pablo Zabaleta and Carlos Tevez share a joke at training

Relaxing atmosphere: Sergio Aguero, Pablo Zabaleta and Carlos Tevez share a joke at training

'I think when you saw Chelsea win the Champions League, that gives you belief and confidence that you can do it as well.'

City have made rapid progress since their takeover by Sheikh Mansour in 2008, the peak so far being their Barclays Premier League title success last May.

Vieira, a member of the 2011 FA Cup-winning side, said: 'It started with new players coming in, then the FA Cup, then winning the Premier League.

'The success is growing year after year and that is how you build a successful football club.'

Last orders: Roberto Mancini speaks to his players during training ahead of flying to Madrid

Last orders: Roberto Mancini speaks to his players during training ahead of flying to Madrid

While other recent English champions Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal may now be experienced Champions League campaigners, there is still a huge sense of excitement and adventure around City's involvement.

Trips to the great venues of Europe such as the Bernabeu this week and Bayern Munich's Allianz Arena last season were unthinkable for fans even just a few years ago.

Despite that, Vieira sees no reason why City should not go to the Spanish capital with hopes of upsetting the Primera Division champions.

The former France international, 36, said: “Why not I believe this is a really strong team.

'Of course it is not easy to go to the Bernabeu and try to get a result, but I believe with players like Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Vincent Kompany and Joe Hart, we can challenge any other team.

'I think the feeling with this group is excitement more than anything else because you are playing against Madrid, Dortmund, Ajax.

'Last year it was Bayern Munich – as a player you want to challenge yourself and the best way to do that is to play against the best, and I'm sure 100 per cent that the team is looking forward to the game.'

Manchester City out to do it the hard way as Real Madrid loom in Champions League opener

Manchester City out to do it the hard way as Real Madrid loom in Champions League opener

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UPDATED:

14:32 GMT, 15 September 2012

Manchester City's rapid rise continues apace as they return to the Champions League as champions – and with a 'mouthwatering' trip to European heavyweights Real Madrid – next week.

City tasted the continent's elite competition for the first time last season but it ultimately proved a mere side story in the most memorable campaign of their recent history as they landed a first title in 44 years.

Coming after the FA Cup success of the year before, that represented the next step in the Eastlands revolution that began with Sheik Mansour's takeover of the club in 2008.

Now, having put last season's group stage exit down to experience, City will attempt to flex their growing muscle in the Champions League once again.

Up for it: Manchester city are chomping at the bit to get their second Champions League campaign started

Up for it: Manchester city are chomping at the bit to get their second Champions League campaign started

But to do so, it will have to be done the hard way with a group draw even tougher than last year's Napoli, Bayern Munich and Villarreal assignments.

This time they face Madrid, Ajax and Borussia Dortmund, all past winners and last season's top teams in Spain, Holland and Germany respectively – a true champions league.

City first-team coach David Platt said: 'For me, any Champions League draw is going to be difficult but if you're going to progress in the competition, you're going to have to do well.

'I think it's a great point for the football club that Manchester City are drawing Real Madrid in the Champions League. I think it's a mouthwatering prospect.'

City's maiden Champions League campaign will eternally be remembered for the night in Munich last September when Carlos Tevez infamously did not appear as a substitute.

Rearing to go: Roberto Mancini will look forward to harnessing a refocused Carlos Tevez

Rearing to go: Roberto Mancini will look forward to harnessing a refocused Carlos Tevez

An almighty row between club and player over whether or not the striker had refused to play erupted and cast a shadow over most of the rest of the season, a significant portion of which Tevez spent in Argentina without permission.

But while City were without Tevez's talent and experience for most of their last European campaign – a factor which may have been critical as they were edged out despite accumulating 10 points – this term could be markedly different.

Tevez, 28, has returned this season with his appetite for City renewed – he is leaner, hungrier and in form.

Mancini said: 'Carlos is improved with his behaviour – he worked serious in pre-season, I think he is another player with us.'

Another player Mancini believes will
get better this season – despite making a remarkable impact since his
38million club record move from Atletico Madrid – is Tevez's countryman
Sergio Aguero.

The 24-year-old struck 30 times in his debut season at the Etihad Stadium but Mancini thinks there is still plenty more to come.

Aguero is hoping to play a part at the Bernabeu after recovering from the knee injury suffered against Southampton last month.

When asked if Aguero can get better, Mancini said: 'I think so. It is difficult to score more than 20 goals in the first season in the Premier League. But this year if he is lucky with injuries I think he can score more goals.'

Robin van Persie transfer: Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger hold talks

Exclusive: Ferguson makes RVP peace call to rival Wenger over United's move for ace

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UPDATED:

21:45 GMT, 13 August 2012

Sir Alex Ferguson has held private discussions with Arsene Wenger over Manchester United's attempts to complete a dramatic swoop for Robin van Persie.

And Sportsmail understands Arsenal are expecting an improved offer following personal contact between the two managers which took place recently.

In the air: Van Persie trained with Holland on Monday uncertain which club he'll be playing for this term

In the air: Van Persie trained with Holland on Monday uncertain which club he'll be playing for this term

Fantasy football 2012

Sources say that a deal to take the Arsenal captain, who got 30 goals to win the golden boot last season, to Old Trafford could be completed by the time the season kicks off this weekend.

It is understood the Arsenal manager repeated his insistence to Ferguson the 29-year-old would not be allowed to leave for United for a penny under 30million – but the Gunners will listen to offers starting at 20million with add ons.

Ferguson's personal intervention into the proposed deal to sign Van Persie underlines the club's determination to land the Holland international.

Moving on: RVP made his first appearance for Arsenal in pre-season on Sunday replacing new signing Podolski

Moving on: RVP made his first appearance for Arsenal in pre-season on Sunday replacing new signing Podolski

However, the Old Trafford club would not be willing to meet Arsenal's inflated asking price, placing serious doubt over the protracted move.

The Gunners are willing to listen to offers starting at 20million, but Wenger is desperate not to sell his talisman to a Premier League rival – hence the sky-high price quote.

United were quoted 30million during initial talks between the two Premier League heavyweights earlier in the summer and it seems Arsenal's stance has not changed despite Ferguson's private chat with Wenger.

Not committed: Van Persie has signalled his desire to leave the Emirates this summer

Not committed: Van Persie has signalled his desire to leave the Emirates this summer

A shock move to Old Trafford now seems the only viable option for Van Persie in his attempts to leave the Emirates Stadium this summer after Manchester City and Juventus both stalled on their interest.

And it seems Wenger is facing a fight to keep hold of another one of his stars after Alex Song said Barcelona are interested in signing him.

The Spanish giants are huge admirers of the Cameroon midfielder, identifying him as a potential target.

Arsene Wenger

Sir Alex Ferguson

Crunch talks: Wenger and Ferguson have held discussions over Van Persie's future

Sources in Spain have indicated that Barca will attempt to open talks with the Gunners this week.

And when asked about interest from Barcelona, Song said yesterday: 'I am not going to lie if I said there is no interest, but I am at Arsenal and I am happy at Arsenal.

'Barcelona are the best team in the world, and speculation will always continue until the window closes.'

The La Liga club's interest in Song is another unwanted headache for Wenger in the build up to new season – though the club are growing increasingly confident of signing Theo Walcott to a new contract.

Meanwhile, the ankle injury that has ruled Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain out of England's clash against Italy is not understood to be serious.

The midfielder withdrew from Roy Hodgson's squad yesterday, but his removal is precautionary. Gunners winger Ryo Miyaichi has joined Wigan on a season-long loan.

David Price to fight Audley Harrison in Liverpool on October 13

Price is right for Audley as British heavyweights set date for October fight

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UPDATED:

13:00 GMT, 23 July 2012

David Price will defend his British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles against Audley Harrison at Liverpool's Echo Arena on October 13.

Price, a bronze medal winner at the Beijing Olympics four years ago, will meet the 40-year-old who won gold in Sydney in 2000.

Plenty to say: David Price at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London on Monday

Plenty to say: David Price at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London on Monday

'Audley was an inspiration to me when I was younger, someone our amateur squad always looked up,' said Price.

'He called me before Beijing to offer advice, which I'm grateful for, but he's still getting flattened.'

Price,
29 earlier this month, defeated Sam Sexton to win the vacant British and Commonwealth
titles earlier this year and wants a world title shot before the end of
2013.

Veteran: Audley Harrison (right) in action against David Haye in 2010

Veteran: Audley Harrison (right) in action against David Haye in 2010

Wladimir Klitschko has said he is open to the idea of giving the rising British star a world title shot.

Klitschko holds four versions of the world heavyweight title and says he fancies a defence against the Liverpool boxer.

Harrison is rebuilding his career after a devastating KO at the hands of David Haye in November 2010. He has fought only once since, beating Ali Adams in Brentwood in May.