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France v Spain – watch it live for FREE

LIVE France v Spain: Watch the crunch clash in Group I as Les Bleus take on the world and European champions

PUBLISHED:

10:23 GMT, 26 March 2013

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UPDATED:

16:15 GMT, 26 March 2013

Welcome to Sportsmail's coverage of what promises to be the game of the night as France take on Spain in Group I.

The French can take a huge step towards qualification for Brazil 2014 with a win over their near neighbours in Paris.

Victory would move them five points clear at the top with just three games to go and leave the reigning world and European champions staring at the prospect of a two-legged play-off.

The sides drew in Madrid last October and Spain followed that up by sharing the points with Finland on Friday night while Les Bleus eased past Georgia.

Sergio Ramos, on his 100th appearance for his country, captained Vicente del Bosque's side against Finland and led by example with the goal.

Karim Benzema, his Real Madrid team-mate, drew a blank in France's victory and will be out to make amends if he is given the nod after being booed by the home support for missing chances in the Stade de France.

***Full coverage will start at 8pm***

Live : France – Spain par ffftv

Paul Lambert calls on Aston Villa to battle themselves out of relegation trouble ahead of Reading Premier League clash

Lambert calls on Villa to battle themselves out of relegation trouble ahead of Reading clash

By
Neil Moxley

PUBLISHED:

19:06 GMT, 8 March 2013

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UPDATED:

19:06 GMT, 8 March 2013

Paul Lambert says Aston Villa will need to play with 'courage' at the Madjeski Stadium tomorrow as he attempts to drag others into the relegation dogfight.

Villa's boss says he does not sense that his team is playing under pressure and believes that a good result against Reading this weekend, followed by similar against bottom-placed QPR next Saturday will ease the club's lingering relegation issues.

War cry: Lambert believes a couple of wins for his Aston Villa side will pull others into a relegation dogfight

War cry: Lambert believes a couple of wins for his Aston Villa side will pull others into a relegation dogfight

Scrap: Villa are four points ahead of basement club QPR

Scrap: Villa are four points ahead of basement club QPR

Lambert believes two positive results will leave others looking 'edgy' as the Premier League campaign enters its final two months.

'There are loads of teams who will be edgy,' he said. 'It will take courage tomorrow. We will need it all over the pitch. To go and play football and not get caught up with the occasion.

'We certainly don't look like a team that is playing under pressure. We were well in the game against Manchester City – we never allowed them to play their normal fluid game.

In the game: Lambert said his team frustrated Manchester City on Monday, with Gabby Agbonlahor (above) and Christian Benteke (below)

In the game: Lambert said his team frustrated Manchester City on Monday, with Gabby Agbonlahor (above) and Christian Benteke (below)

Christian Benteke

'I would like to think that everyone has fight in them to win a game – it's okay to be aggressive.

'But we need to play the game and not the occasion.'

Lambert has a few injury issues with which to contend. There was some positive news regarding Ron Vlaar who has come through a calf problem and is set to start.

But Fabian Delph's suspension and an ankle injury to Karim El Ahmadi might mean a first start for Yacouba Sylla, signed during the January transfer window from Clermont for 2m.

Aston Villa: (4-4-2) Guzan, Lowton, Clark, Vlaar, Baker; N'Zogbia, Sylla, Westwood, Agbonlahor; Benteke, Weimann.

Suspended: Delph

Injured: El Ahmadi, (ankle) Bent, (foot) Dunne (groin and hip) Albrighton. (toe)

Aston Villa youngsters must respond bravely against Tottenham, says Paul Lambert

Villans to heroes! Lambert demands thrashed kids to show their heart against Spurs after Chelsea humiliation

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 25 December 2012

Paul Lambert has ordered an instant response from his wounded youngsters as the Aston Villa manager attempts to banish memories of a crushing defeat at Chelsea.

Villa are at home to Tottenham on Boxing Day, three days after losing 8-0 at Stamford Bridge – the heaviest defeat in the club’s 138-year history.

‘They know my feelings on it,’ rapped Lambert. ‘You don’t need to be Einstein to tell them what went wrong. We told them they have a few days to get over it and then get going again.

Feeling Blue: Aston Villa were 'beaten up' by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge

Feeling Blue: Aston Villa were 'beaten up' by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge

I eight Christmas: Villa's thrashing was the biggest in their long history

I eight Christmas: Villa's thrashing was the biggest in their long history

‘They’ll come out of the traps against Spurs, I know. I expect a reaction. Whoever’s playing, we have to atone for that.

‘They’ve done it before. They were
beat heavy at Man City (5-0 in November) and then went on that little
run. You take the criticism and you bounce back.

'There’s no point feeling sorry for
yourself. There are too many people coming to watch on Boxing Day. So we
have to bounce back.’

It looks like the players who were
crushed by Chelsea will be given the chance to redeem themselves, but
only because Lambert has no choice.

Charles N’Zogbia and Darren Bent are out with knee injuries, and there is still no return for Gabby Agbonlahor.

And with Karim El Ahmadi having
joined Morocco ahead of his country’s Africa Cup of Nations campaign,
Lambert is short of options.

Must do better: Paul Lambert has demanded a reaction next time out

Must do better: Paul Lambert has demanded a reaction next time out

His first job is to ensure his young
players are not scarred by their experiences this season, which
culminated in the thrashing by Chelsea.

Villa have conceded 32 goals in 18
Premier League games and are just three points clear of the relegation
zone. Dion Dublin, on BBC’s Match of the Day 2, branded it ‘the worst
performance in the history of the club, ever’.

‘I’ve been absolutely tonked before, as player and manager,’ said Lambert. ‘You just try and win the next game.

‘It’s about how they react. That’s
the mark of good players and a good team. I don’t think it will affect
them long-term. It’s up to myself and my back-room staff to ensure it
doesn’t.

'I won’t have a problem doing that, because they’re really hurt. None of them will be feeling great. I know how to handle it.’

Brian McDemott claims Christmas is ruined

Furious McDemott claims Christmas is ruined after Man City's late triumph

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UPDATED:

18:57 GMT, 22 December 2012

Reading manager Brian McDermott claimed his Christmas had been ruined after Manchester City scored a late winner against his side he felt should not have stood.

Gareth Barry headed home in injury time as the champions snatched a last-gasp 1-0 win to deny the bottom club what would have been a hard-earned Barclays Premier League point at the Etihad Stadium.

McDermott felt Barry illegally jumped on the back of one of his players as he leapt to reach David Silva's cross but referee Mike Dean saw nothing untoward.

Heartbreak: Gareth Barry struck late to deny Reading a point

Heartbreak: Gareth Barry struck late to deny Reading a point

Dean had been similarly unmoved when Jay Tabb went down in the area after a collision with City youngster Karim Rekik during a second half Reading counter-attack.

When asked about the winning goal, McDermott said: 'Absolute joke. We have had that a few times this season and even the Tabb penalty – it was a penalty.

'We have had three or four of those, we have had a handball goal against us and an offside goal against us – all of which have cost us points.

'To get that wrong – I have just said to him (Dean) he will be gutted he's missed that.

'He hung in the air, but you can hang in the air all day long if you are on someone's back.

'It's an absolute cert foul, it cannot be anything else.

'But listen, the bottom line is we are Reading. We are a small club in this league punching above our weight.

'That will be irrelevant to you guys because Man City have won, but it is not to us.

'We love this club we have got, we have got a real passion. We will fight, we have 20 games to go, but we certainly deserved a draw today at least.'

He later added: 'But just to let you know, that has just ruined my Christmas.'

A seventh successive defeat was harsh on Reading but McDermott, whose side have accumulated just nine points from 18 games, is determined to battle on.

He said: 'We have to take consolation from that, we have to take the positives because that is what you have to do. We have got to move on.

'I honestly thought we were going to get something. Even in the first half there were a couple of incidents where we might have got something on the break.

Outrage: Brian McDermott says Christmas has been ruined for him

Outrage: Brian McDermott says Christmas has been ruined for him

'I'm really disappointed for our fans today and really disappointed for the players because they didn't deserve that.'

Despite McDermott's frustrations after a resilient defensive display, City were the superior side throughout.

The hosts created numerous chances but lacked a cutting edge and manager Roberto Mancini was again left to bemoan his side's wastefulness.

The Italian said: 'I think we deserved to win but when you are in the last two or three minutes of extra time, it could be difficult.

'These games, if you don't score in the first half when you have a lot of chances to score, I think they can be strong.

'They played well, they defended well, for 90 minutes with all players behind the ball. We didn't find space to score.

Distraught: Reading players wonder what went wrong after conceding

Distraught: Reading players wonder what went wrong after conceding

'When you have one chance, you have to score. In the end, I am happy with the victory but we had a big problem.'

The match was City's last home game of 2012 and they won it in a manner in keeping with the rest of the year, notably last season's title decider.

The win denied Manchester United the opportunity to open up an eight-point lead at the top of the table and Mancini was pleased with the character shown.

He said: 'In this we have improved a lot. We want to recover so when we are losing we try until the end to score, to recover the game.

'Our character is strong. Sometimes you can win, sometimes you can't but I am very happy because we have recovered a lot of games like today.

Complaint: McDermott was unimpressed with his side not being awarded a penalty

Complaint: McDermott was unimpressed with his side not being awarded a penalty

'But it is more important to score before. If not my heart is not strong.'

Mancini had a different opinion on Barry's goal to McDermott. 'No foul, absolutely not,' he said.

Striker Mario Balotelli did not play having missed some training sessions this week through illness.

Mancini was not concerned about reports the 22-year-old had been spotted elsewhere in Manchester today.

He said: 'Mario is ill. I don't know where is now. For one week he was ill.

'He came to the training ground yesterday because he wanted to train but he couldn't.

'I can't close him in his house, it is impossible.'

Lionel Messi scores two but Radamel Falcao shows Chelsea his class as Barcelona beat Atletico Madrid

Messi double takes him up to 90 – that's more than Liverpool in all of 2012 – after Falcao stunner showed Chelsea his class

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UPDATED:

22:44 GMT, 16 December 2012

Lionel Messi scored two goals for the seventh consecutive match he has started to help Barcelona strike a potentially decisive blow in the La Liga title race.

The Catalan giants romped to a 4-1 victory at home to second-placed Atletico Madrid to move nine points clear at the top.

Defending champions Real Madrid are 13 points behind after they were surprisingly held to a 2-2 draw at home by lowly Espanyol.

Magic: Lionel Messi once again left everyone else in the shade as Barcelona beat Atletico Madrid

Magic: Lionel Messi once again left everyone else in the shade as Barcelona beat Atletico Madrid

Magic: Lionel Messi once again left everyone else in the shade as Barcelona beat Atletico Madrid

Tito Vilanova's unbeaten leaders fought back after Radamel Falcao gave Atletico a deserved lead with the cutest of finishes.

It was the least the visitors deserved for an impressive start in which they caused problems on the break, an approach which yielded the opener, the Colombian's 17th of the season.

Five minutes later, Barca were back in the game thanks to a thunderous shot from Adriano, who cut in from the right flank and fired in off the underside of the crossbar.

Atletico were struggling to break out of the area before halftime, and when they failed to clear a corner, Busquets calmly stroked home the second.

Touch of class: Radamel Falcao shoeed Chelsea fans what they could enjoy with a stunning chipped finish

Touch of class: Radamel Falcao shoeed Chelsea fans what they could enjoy with a stunning chipped finish

Touch of class: Radamel Falcao shoeed Chelsea fans what they could enjoy with a stunning chipped finish

After the break, Messi slotted a third into the corner and then pounced on an error at the end for his 25th in La Liga and 90th for club and country in 2012.

Earlier, Espanyol substitute Juan Albin stunned Real with an 88th-minute equaliser as the Barcelona-based side grabbed an unlikely draw at the Bernabeu.

The Uruguayan forward bundled the ball in after Real failed to clear a corner, and whistles rang around the ground as the teams filed off the pitch at the end.

Karim Benzema was left in the stands with an ankle injury, and Cristiano Ronaldo started in the centre-forward position, but for all their possession Real struggled in the first half.

Feeling the heat: Cristiano Ronaldo scored again for Real Madrid, but they let slip late on against Espanyol

Feeling the heat: Cristiano Ronaldo scored again for Real Madrid, but they let slip late on against Espanyol

Visiting striker Sergio Garcia, a Euro 2008 winner with Spain, sprinted clear to net past Iker Casillas in the 31st minute.

Luka Modric crashed a shot against the post, but just as the Bernabeu was getting restless Sami Khedira crossed and Ronaldo stuck out a foot to level in the 45th minute.

Ronaldo's reverse pass picked out Fabio Coentrao's driving run, and the Portugal defender put Real ahead with his first league goal for the club, soon after the re-start.

A fingertip save and the woodwork prevented a quick third for Real, but Espanyol continued to threaten and Albin made them pay for failing to finish off the job.

Sunderland want John Guidetti from Manchester City

O'Neill to turn to City's Guidetti to solve Sunderland's goalscoring problems

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UPDATED:

22:56 GMT, 5 December 2012

Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill wants to revive his bid to sign Manchester City striker John Guidetti on loan in January.

O’Neill tried to sign the 20-year-old in August but the Sweden forward was struggling after a paralysis virus which he picked up in April.

However, Guidetti, who scored 20 goals in 23 games in Holland for Feyenoord last year, is on course to be fully fit for the next window.

Wanted: Manchester City's John Guidetti (right) is a target for Sunderland

Wanted: Manchester City's John Guidetti (right) is a target for Sunderland

Other clubs are also interested but Sunderland will offer a loan with a view to a 6.5million deal.

City defender Karim Rekik, 17, has signed a new long-term contract and the club are also monitoring Colombia Under 20 defender Pedro Franco of Millonarios.

ICC World Twenty20 2012: England beat Afghanistan

Wright on cue! England beat Afghanistan in Twenty20 demolition in Sri Lanka

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UPDATED:

16:59 GMT, 21 September 2012

Luke Wright was in scintillating form as England cruised past Afghanistan at the ICC World Twenty20 tournament in Sri Lanka.

The batsman hit an impressive 99 not out as the hopes of an upset for the Afghans went up in smoke with England hitting a total of 196.

England's bowlers showed little mercy either. Graeme Swann and Samit Patel led the charge as the wickets rapidly fell, leaving Afghanistan on a paltry total of 80, equalling their worst ever total in a T20 international.

More to follow.

Star man: Luke Wright (left) was one short of a century, as he hit 99 runs against Afghanistan

Star man: Luke Wright (left) was one short of a century, as he hit 99 runs against Afghanistan

Textbook: Wright put on an incredible display as the Afghans had no answer for the Englishman

Textbook: Wright put on an incredible display as the Afghans had no answer for the Englishman

No mercy: Steven Finn celebrates after taking the wicket of Mohammad Shahzad

No mercy: Steven Finn celebrates after taking the wicket of Mohammad Shahzad

Gotcha! Stuart Broad runs out Karim Sadiq

Gotcha! Stuart Broad runs out Karim Sadiq

Easy does it: The England team celebrate their demolition of Afghanistan

Easy does it: The England team celebrate their demolition of Afghanistan

ICC Twenty20 World Cup: England prepare for Afghanistan test

Fairytale of the unlikely lads from a war-torn land as England prepare for Afghanistan

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 19 September 2012

Mohammad Nabi was born a refugee in the Afghani province of Logar, where a foreign journalist once remarked that 'the most common sight except for ruins are graves'.

When his family relocated to another refugee camp, in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, Nabi began playing tennis-ball cricket. It was the start of an infatuation.

On Wednesday, he cracked 31 in 17 balls against India in the World Twenty20 in Colombo.

Rags to riches: Karim Sadiq gets home as Afghanistan show their improvement in defeat by India

Rags to riches: Karim Sadiq gets home as Afghanistan show their improvement in defeat by India

On Friday, he lines up against England. There are rags-to-riches stories. And then there is the Afghanistan cricket team.

As recently as four years ago, they were taking part in the ICC's lowly World Cricket League Division 5 in Jersey, with the likes of Japan and Mozambique.

Their presence in Sri Lanka, where – by definition – they are one of the 12 best Twenty20 teams, is the equivalent of a team from the Blue Square Premier North doing battle for a Champions League spot.

It is not the first time they have qualified for the World Twenty20. In 2010, they were thrashed by India – who beat them comfortably enough by 23 runs – and South Africa.

Take bat: Nabi cracked 31 in 17 balls against India on Wednesday

Take bat: Nabi cracked 31 in 17 balls against India on Wednesday

Top Spin

But they arrived in the Caribbean two years ago after wins over Ireland and Scotland and have beaten Canada and the Netherlands, who themselves embarrassed England at Lord's in 2009.

'Everyone likes cricket in Afghanistan,' said Nabi. 'There are a lot of fans now. We will try hard in this tournament to do something for our nation.'

Like Nabi, the big break for fast bowler Hamid Hassan came during a game against a touring MCC side, led by former England captain Mike Gatting, at Mumbai in 2006. While Nabi scored a century, Hassan had Gatting caught behind for a duck – in spikeless boots.

The following year, the bandana-wearing Hassan, whose family fled Jalalabad when he was six after the Mujahideen ousted the invading Soviets, went on to become the first Afghani to play at Lord's, representing MCC against a Europe XI.

Leader: Mangal (left) has captained Afghanistan since 2007

Leader: Mangal (left) has captained Afghanistan since 2007

When he helped his country qualify for the 2010 World Twenty20, his family – previously anti-cricket – sacrificed a lamb. Playing for MCC against Nottinghamshire in a Twenty20 match in Dubai in 2008, he took a hat-trick.

Nawroz Mangal, 27, has captained Afghanistan since 2007. When he began his career, having learned his cricket – like many of his team-mates – in a Pakistani refugee camp, the sport was largely a mystery in a land more readily associated in foreign minds with the Taliban, futile wars and the illegal opium trade.

Now, Mangal claims more than 500,000 of the nation's 30million inhabitants are playing cricket.

'After participating in this World Cup, if we do better, I expect 30 to 40 per cent of the population to start playing it,' he said.

If that may be optimistic, Mangal wants cricket to bring at least some measure of hope to a war-ravaged nation.

'This would be a positive sign to bring the youth into sports instead of them having wrong influences,' he said.

'I would say this could be a positive step towards bringing peace to the country as well.'

Stuart Broad's team need to beware. For these remarkable Afghanis, cricket is rather more than a sport. And after their defeat by India, they will be playing for their lives.

ICC World Twenty20 2012: India beat Afghanistan

Dropped catches cost Afghanistan chance of historic upset as India win by 23 runs

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UPDATED:

18:24 GMT, 19 September 2012

Dropped catches cost Afghanistan the chance of a famous upset against India in the ICC World Twenty20 as they were beaten by 23 runs in Colombo.

After Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag were dismissed early on, Virat Kohli benefited from a ball dropped over the boundary for six on his way to 50 and Suresh Raina had two let-offs in making 38.

The pair led India to 159 for five and though Mohammad Nabi led a spirited run-chase, India made a winning start ahead of their clash with England on Sunday.

Close but no cigar: Dropped catches cost Afghanistan the chance of an upset against India

Close but no cigar: Dropped catches cost Afghanistan the chance of an upset against India

Shapoor Zadran screamed in celebration in the third over as Gambhir edged onto his stumps for just 10 runs before Mohammad Shahzad snaffled a poor shot from Sehwag to embarrass the left-armer for eight.

Yuvraj Singh announced himself with a huge six but he was soon dismissed by Karim Sadiq as he sliced a cut straight to Shapoor.

After such a strong start, Afghanistan's attack began to falter, a series of dropped catches helping Kohli reach his half-century.

But Dawlat Zadran would soon remove the middle-order batsman, Nabi taking the catch and then adding another scalp when he scooted the ball under Raina's bat in the 20th over.

This is how it's done: Yuvraj Singh expertly takes a catch

This is how it's done: Yuvraj Singh expertly takes a catch

I'm stumped: Dawlat Zadran of Afghanistan is bowled by Lakshmipathy Balaji

I'm stumped: Dawlat Zadran of Afghanistan is bowled by Lakshmipathy Balaji

Mahendra Singh Dhoni added 10 runs to India's tally from the last two deliveries and Afghanistan were set a target of 160 runs for victory.

They made a promising start, openers Shahzad and Nawroz Mangal putting on 26 before the former slogged the ball straight to Yuvraj at mid-on.

Yuvraj then trapped Mangal lbw with his very first delivery before forcing Sadiq into an aimless hit towards Gambhir.

Asghar Stanikzai edged into Dhoni's gloves next ball and though Samiullah Shenwari survived the hat-trick ball, a third wicket fell in six deliveries when he was caught and bowled by Ravichandran Ashwin.

Nabi and Shafiqullah breathed new life into the run chase with giant sixes but the latter soon walked after a contentious lbw call off Irfan Pathan's bowling.

Nabi's effort of 31, including two fours and two sixes, came to an end in the 17th over as he lifted Ashwin straight to Ishant Sharma.

Najibullah Zadran spanked Balaji to the cover boundary but was then run out, with Balaji dismissing Dawlat Zadran to wrap up the innings.

On that got away: Virat Kohli benefited from a dropped catch on his way to a half century

On that got away: Virat Kohli benefited from a dropped catch on his way to a half century

Aston Villa 1 Everton 3: Match report

Aston Villa 1 Everton 3: Fellaini and Toffees continue good start to the season

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UPDATED:

16:00 GMT, 25 August 2012

Fantasy football 2012

Everton followed up their opening day win over Manchester United with an equally impressive victory away to Aston Villa.

Known in previus seasons for being notoriously slow starters, the Toffees made sure it was two win from two thanks to goals from Steven Pienaar, Marouane Fellaini and Nikica Jelavic.

It was Aston Villa's second successive defeat and things were worse as they had Ciaran Clark sent off but Karim El Ahmadi did pull back a consolation goal.

More to follow…

Slow starters Everton's Marouane Fellaini celebrates scoring his second goal of the season

Slow starters Everton's Marouane Fellaini celebrates scoring his second goal of the season

MATCH FACTS

To follow…

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Going well: Fellaini celebrates scoring his side's second goal

Going well: Fellaini celebrates scoring his side's second goal

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High riser: Fellaini scores heads home his goal

High riser: Fellaini scores heads home his goal

Back with a bang: Pienaar scored the first goal of the game

Back with a bang: Pienaar scored the first goal of the game