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Stoke, Norwich and Newcastle must hold their nerve to stay in the Premier League – Martin Keown

The bootroom: Survival It's all about nerve now… and Stoke, Norwich and Newcastle must keep theirs

By
Martin Keown

PUBLISHED:

21:30 GMT, 5 April 2013

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UPDATED:

22:57 GMT, 5 April 2013

Taking it easy: Jocky Wilson relaxes away from the pressures of the oche

Taking it easy: Jocky Wilson relaxes away from the pressures of the oche

The late, great darts legend Jocky Wilson used to recount how pressure could reach out and grab him by the throat. Once that happened, he could do nothing.

Stoke, Norwich and Newcastle must make sure that the same thing doesn’t happen to them this weekend.

They are the teams in 13th, 14th and 15th places in the Barclays Premier League, just a few points above the drop zone and all with very winnable home games this weekend.

Stoke, with one win in 12, are at home to Aston Villa. Norwich have won one in 14 and face out-of-sorts Swansea. Newcastle, after returning from Lisbon, hope a fourth successive home win — against Fulham — can pull them clear of danger.

It’s easy to look at those sides and say they’ll be fine but why should they be The bottom of the table is as close as I can remember and if you are one of those teams, you will be nervous.

All these teams are probably a win away from safety. If you can put daylight between you and the bottom three quickly, it’s fine. If you don’t, that win you need becomes harder to come by.

This weekend, Stoke manager Tony Pulis, Chris Hughton at Norwich and Alan Pardew at Newcastle will have pencilled in must-win matches. Of their respective opponents, Villa are deep in trouble, Swansea have lost three in a row while Fulham are safe and have little to play for.

Where it went wrong

Such is Villa’s and Wigan’s fighting spirit that they are pulling the teams above them into the relegation battle. They worried Sunderland so much that they sacked Martin O’Neill. But all the teams up to and including Southampton will be a bit nervous.

Stoke, more than anyone, might have the outcome of the relegation battle in their hands. After Villa, they play Norwich, QPR, Sunderland and Southampton before the end of the season. Last week against Everton they were poor, Peter Crouch and Cameron Jerome especially.

Out of sorts: Stoke lost at Everton last weekend (above), while Newcastle were thumped by Manchester City (below left) and Norwich were beaten by Wigan (below right)

Out of sorts: Stoke lost at Everton last weekend (above), while Newcastle were thumped by Manchester City (below left) and Norwich were beaten by Wigan (below right)

Out of sorts: Stoke lost at Everton last weekend (above), while Newcastle were thumped by Manchester City (below left) and Norwich were beaten by Wigan (below right)

Out of sorts: Stoke lost at Everton last weekend (above), while Newcastle were thumped by Manchester City (below left) and Norwich were beaten by Wigan (below right)

It doesn’t look like Stoke’s players are responding to Pulis as much as they used to and they have failed to evolve as a team. Their passing and style should be better after so many years in the Premier League. And there is the added uncertainty over Pulis’s future, which cannot be helping the players. I didn’t like hearing him talk this week about how many points will be needed to stay up. The focus should be on improving the team, not counting the points and fixtures.

We did that when I was relegated with Aston Villa and it cost us. You must not become obsessed with each and every scenario.

But Pulis is a fighter and has done remarkably well at that club overall. I’m confident he’ll keep them up, even if they have regressed this season.

Score

Norwich hardly concede but they hardly score either. And after losing at Wigan last weekend, the pressure is on a little bit. When you lose to a team below you, it can give you the impression that they are better than you. It will not have inspired confidence. Three wins on the trot against Swansea will give them some belief that they can claim three vital points.

For Stoke and Norwich, staying up is their main aim. Anything after that is a bonus. For Newcastle it is slightly different, although people are realising now just how much they overachieved last season.
The Europa League has not helped them but they haven’t won a trophy for 44 years so they need to take it seriously. It’s just vital that their league form doesn’t dip any more or the situation will snowball.

Table

Boot room

Boot room

Aston Villa 1 Olympiakos 0 – NextGen match report

Aston Villa 1 Olympiakos 0: Burke fires dominant Villans in to NextGen semi-finals

By
Janine Self

PUBLISHED:

21:56 GMT, 20 March 2013

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UPDATED:

23:41 GMT, 20 March 2013

The present may be somewhat rocky for Aston Villa but the future is looking bright and rosy.

Graham Burke’s first-half goal was enough to see the U19s through to the semi-finals of the NextGen Series at Lake Como over Easter.

But it took a brilliant late save by Brad Watkins from a ridiculously long-range free kick by Leandro Pinto to make sure in a nervy finale.

On target: Graham Burke of Aston Villa (centre) celebrates after firing his side through

On target: Graham Burke of Aston Villa (centre) celebrates after firing his side through

Denied: Jack Grealish has his shot saved by Eleftherids Choutesiotis of Olympiacos

Denied: Jack Grealish has his shot saved by Eleftherids Choutesiotis of Olympiacos

Last year Villa went out at the quarter-final stage and the defeat against Marseille has clearly rankled ever since.

A season on, the side skippered by Sami Carruthers has come on in leaps and bounds. So much so that Sporting Lisbon, PSV Eindhoven and Ajax number among the Villa scalps.

Villa owner Randy Lerner is a big believer in the homegrown system so would have been delighted to see a healthy crowd in the upper tier of the North Stand.

Surprisingly there were also a fair few Olympiakos supporters too, who generated plenty of noise on a freezing night. Hardly Greek weather, though.

The visiting players did not give them much to cheer in the first half as Villa pretty much took control from the first moment.

Carruthers, who has already had a fleeting introduction to the first-team squad, was a steady influence while striker Callum Robinson made quite a nuisance of himself.

The Olympiakos fans even booed when he was in possession, a major compliment to any player.

It was Robinson who fired the first shot in anger, a routine effort which still had Eleftherids Choutesiotis scrambling to block.

A couple of minutes later and Villa were in the lead through Burke, who took advantage of a bouncing ball in the area to poke it past the keeper.

That signalled a spell of superiority when Villa could easily have increased their lead and should have. It would have saved a lot of worry later on.

Tussle: Jordan Lyden and Dimitrios Siopis of Olympiacos compete for the ball

Tussle: Jordan Lyden and Dimitrios Siopis of Olympiacos compete for the ball

Carruthers fed Josh Barton, whose shot was batted away by a less than sure-gloved Choutesiotis.

Robinson also had a couple of openings but had his first shot cleared for a corner and the second one, after a wonderful turn, rolled wide of a post.

Whether it was the temperature, the stadium or just nerves, Olympiakos took an age to get into the tie but, once they did, they caused a few scares.

It meant that an under-worked Watkins in the Villa goal suddenly had something to do. He did it well, too, gathering Dimitrios Siopis’s low shot and pushing the same player’s next attempt wide.

That set the scene for the start of the second half. This time it was Klodian Gino who twice held his head in his hands after clipping woodwork and seeing the ball drift just wide.

Midfield battle: Konstantinos Rougkalas fights for the ball with Burke

Midfield battle: Konstantinos Rougkalas fights for the ball with Burke

Just as the one-goal lead was beginning to look somewhat fragile, Villa’s Republic of Ireland U17 player of the year, Grealish showed what a prospect he could be.

One jinking run sliced through the Olympiakos defence and should have been capped with a goal. Sadly for Grealish, he hit the post instead.

Minutes later the previously uncertain Choutesiostis proved that when it comes to reflex saves he is a master. Somehow he kept out Grealish’s close-range header, which meant his team-mates stayed in the hunt.

With a minute to go Pinto from 40 yards out forced Watkins into a flying save and Villa were on the plane to Italy.

Leap: Villa's Callum Robinson is challenged by Leandro Climacci Pinto

Leap: Villa's Callum Robinson is challenged by Leandro Climacci Pinto

The Footballers" Football Column – Frank McParland: Liverpool playing Real Madrid and Histon was a real experience

FRANK McPARLAND: Playing Real Madrid in Qatar was all well and good… but a cold, wet night in Histon is what really makes a Liverpool player

PUBLISHED:

09:59 GMT, 20 February 2013

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UPDATED:

09:59 GMT, 20 February 2013

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Liverpool’s Director of Academy and Player Development Frank McParland returns for his second Footballers' Football Column. He and his young players have been on their travels – from a cold wet night in Histon to taking on the might of Real Madrid in Qatar. Having watched the likes of Andre Wisdom move into the first team squad , McParland is busy developing the next generation of Anfield stars.

It's been an important couple of weeks in the education of our young players. We took a group to Qatar for the Al Kass International Cup, we played Histon in the FA Youth Cup fourth round and tonight we face Sporting Lisbon in the NextGen Series.

Qatar was fantastic. Some of the biggest clubs in the world were there: Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Fluminense, Boca Juniors, Paris St Germain and we were playing at the Aspire Zone where Manchester United had been for their break the week before.

We were there for 12 days to play in the tournament and the facilities were superb with glorious weather.

The contrast with Histon last Wednesday night was stark but so important.

Meeting an old friend: Frank McFarland with former Liverpool striker Fernando Morientes

Meeting an old friend: Frank McFarland with former Liverpool striker Fernando Morientes

We made a real point on the night of
speaking to the lads about how much we do for them. How we take them to
places like Qatar, how we play in the NextGen Series against big-name
sides and in the big stadiums. But this, in the FA Youth Cup, this is
real football and, if you can't adapt for both, you are not going to be a
top player for Liverpool Football Club.

It couldn't have been a better
leveller to keep them grounded. It was a horrible night, absolutely
freezing and the pitch at the Glass World Stadium was really
challenging.

Histon's first team had played on it the night before, there
were over 1,500 fans in the ground and they had some really good
players.

The great thing for us was that the
lads responded to what we had said. They handled the physical side and
played like proper professionals with a good attitude and controlled the
game.

We had a few Under 16s in there and it was pleasing how they came
through. Kris Peterson, Jerome Sinclair, Jack Dunn and Dan
Trickett-Smith got the goals an d we won 4-0.

Joining in: Liverpool academy players at the Shafallah Center

Joining in: Liverpool academy players at the Shafallah Center

More from The Footballers' Column…

ROHAN RICKETTS: Cows in the road and Twitter row meant my Indian adventure ended early… but I went back in time to live the dream in South America
16/02/13

RICHARD LEE: If League Two Bradford can make it to Wembley, what's stopping us at League One Brentford knocking Chelsea out of the FA Cup
14/02/13

The Footballers' Football Column – Kevin Ball: I was really good at tackling, but I would have been sent off today… And it is the refs I feel sorry for as they can't win
13/02/13

Watching Brazil was like buying a ticket to see Beyonce and ending up with SuBo… England may have won, but the Thomas Ince tale reveals everything that's wrong with our game
13/02/13

ASHLEY WILLIAMS: The ball-boy row, my spat with Suarez and 'almost killing' Van Persie – you learn to live with it… playing for 80 and working as a waiter – THAT was hard
11/02/13

LEON OSMAN: What makes an Everton player Desire, heart, quality and character… But Pienaar reckons it takes a bit of the Bee Gees, too
07/02/13

ADAM ECKERSLEY: I played with Beckham and Ronaldo – but Becks was better… and on one of the few occasions Fergie spoke to me, he warned me of dangers of gambling
05/02/13

The Footballers' Football Column – Edgar Davids: If Platini can't stop racism, he should step aside and get someone in who can… Blatter and Cruyff should be leading by example
01/02/13

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

The aim is to keep educating and make these young players more rounded as men and footballers who will help the first team.

It was pleasing last month that when Andre Wisdom got his new long-term contract he came down to the Academy at Kirkby to thank the coaches and staff for their help in his development. It was a nice touch.

We take pride in the fact that as well as Andre and Raheem Sterling, Conor Coady is training with the first team – as is Suso – but they all take time to come across to the Academy not just to see their mates but to keep in touch with the staff.

We're still here for them if they need us and it shows they appreciate what we have done.

Qatar was a great learning experience on and off the pitch for the lads. There was a big focus on the Al Kass tournament and every game was live on TV.

They had to deal with different styles and approaches in the games. Against Esperance Sportive, of Tunisia, for example, Jerome Sinclair came in for a bit of rough treatment where one of their guys kneed him in the back three times. He didn't react once.

It's something we constantly tell them. It's not always easy in the face of provocation but teams from abroad will try different things.

Some defenders will spit at you, some will pull at you, block you, the important part is you have to stay in control.

The play-off games pitched us against Real Madrid and gave me a chance to catch up with Fernando Morientes who is part of their U17s coaching set-up now. I played a part in helping bring Fernando to Liverpool from Madrid and it was good to catch up with him.

We lost 2-1 to Madrid but Rodolfo Borrell, our head of coaching, was chatting to their staff afterwards and they were complimentary about our style of play.

We had given them their best game they said and they also believed we played more like a continental side than typical British one. It's always beneficial to hear that sort of feedback.

Tournaments often mean players have a lot of downtime and we've stressed how they need to be responsible in this time for themselves and the club. Liverpool are really powering forward off the pitch in terms of embracing new media and embarking on different commercial activities to spread the word about the club and the players got a taste of what may lie ahead.

Stepping up: Andre Wisdom has moved up into the first team squadStepping up: Andre Wisdom has moved up into the first team squad

Stepping up: Andre Wisdom has moved up into the first team squad

Doing their bit: The Liverpool players with disabled children at the Shafallah Center

Doing their bit: The Liverpool players with disabled children at the Shafallah Center

Dee Kundra, the club's PR manager, came with us. Dee was the only woman in the group and while the lads stopped short of calling her 'Miss', they were all on their best behaviour, no swearing and all putting on their best manners.

Dee co-ordinated with Standard Chartered, our sponsors, to set up a visit to the Shafallah Centre in Doha which is a place for children with special needs and some are severely disabled.

It was an incredible experience for the lads and they got really involved. They helped out not just in the sports classes but the music ones.

We were actually due to leave when one of the children started playing a Justin Bieber song and Jordan Rossiter, one of our 16-year-olds, made sure everyone waited until the song was finished and all the players stood and gave a round of applause.

It underlined to the lads how important a role they can play in other people's lives.

Guitar hero: Justin Bieber performs in Oakland, California last October

Guitar hero: Justin Bieber performs in Oakland, California last October

We spent an evening with the supporters club out there also and gave them official status as the Qatar Reds with a little certificate presentation. Even the British ambassador Michael O'Neill professed to being a Liverpool fan.

He went to our first game and asked us to put on a coaching session for Doha College at the embassy.

Myself and the lads also had a little treat as Spain were over playing Uruguay so we took the chance to get our pictures taken with the World Cup and European Championships trophies that they had brought over.

There's no harm in dreaming – even for me.

Different ball game: The players join in with a game at the Shafallah Center

Different ball game: The players join in with a game at the Shafallah Center

SEEING IS BELIEVING
Frank and the Liverpool FC Academy support the Seeing is Believing campaign

Media training is something that has become pivotal to our young players' education and we work hard on that. Being
prepared for what questions they may face as they develop is another
facet we have to take care of and they got some good experience after
the games.

There was one particularly where Jerome Sinclair, Jordan Ibe, Dan Trickett-Smith and Cameron Branningan had to deal with answering questions post-match on their headphones and wait for the translation from Arabic.

They handled it brilliantly.

Liverpool has also launched 10 new international Twitter feeds, which means we have overtaken Barcelona as the most globally active club. The idea is to interact with fans more so we have feeds in areas such as Bahrain, India, Turkey, Spain and Thailand and we use local people on the ground to bring conversations from fans to the club.

I'm not sure I believe all the lads though. Jordan Ibe said he wanted to be a maths teacher in one of his Twitter questions… I didn’t even know he liked maths.

Time for a photo: The team pose with chairman Hassan Ali Bin Ali

Time for a photo: The team pose with chairman Hassan Ali Bin Ali

Doing it for the kids: The Liverpool players put a smile on the faces of the children

Doing it for the kids: The Liverpool players put a smile on the faces of the children

Pass and move: The players teach the children the Liverpool way

Pass and move: The players teach the children the Liverpool way

Supporters would have been aware that for the West Bromwich Albion Barclay's Premier League game last Monday, the first team wore shirts with the 'Seeing is Believing' logo as part of Standard Chartered's campaign. The shirts have been signed by the first team and are to be auctioned off on e-Bay to raise money for the charity. It's also something we got our lads involved in at the Academy.

A week before we went to Qatar, we had a few young people from Royal Society for the Blind down and got involved in some coaching sessions.

Again, it was rewarding how the lads responded. They really looked after the people they were paired with and I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as we did.

The downside to a footballer's life was brought home when Marc Pelosi suffered a bad injury against West Brom on Sunday as the U21s won 2-1. Marc is 18.

He is a versatile midfielder who had been playing really well of late but a tackle two minutes from the end broke his leg in two places.

He spent the night in hospital for his operation but he will be looking at around six months out.

It's not been a great month for injuries with Brad Smith our Australian left-back and Sami Yesil, the German striker we bought last summer, both injuring anterior cruciate ligaments also.

A young footballer's life isn't always as perfect as it seems and it's important at this stage we give them plenty of support. We obviously wish them all a speedy and full recovery.

Jordan Ibe’s responses to questions from the Turkish Twitter feed @LFCTurkey
Jordan Ibe

How did you feel in your debut with LFC
I felt quite nervous and it was a lot to take in as I didn't know I was starting

What's is your favourite food Do you have a special food pre-games
Food before a game is usually pasta and mince but my favourite food is macaroni cheese!!

How does it feel to be a part of LFC How did it happen
I was playing for the first team at Wycombe Wanderers at 15 then LFC came for me and I've never looked back

Who is your best mate in the team
Ryan McLaughlin…we're the youngest in the reserves so we get along well

How do you describe the fans
Fans are amazing! I'm always impressed with the support they give us young players

If you weren't a footballer, which profession would you choose If you we're to be a coach, which team would you like to coach
I love maths so would've been a maths teacher. I'd coach Chelsea for sure!

How is it like to be in the same team with Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher
They are both really supportive and encouraging of young players and make us feel welcome in training

What are your future plans with LFC Can you tell us about the first moment he heard LFC's interest for him
Hope to stay here as long as I can. I was excited about a big club showing interest in me

Who is your idol in football
Brazil's Ronaldo!!!

What type of music and which artists do you enjoy listening to
I like all music apart from opera and rock n roll. Listening to Chris Brown and Drake at the moment

Former Ballon d"Or winner Luis Figo backs Christiano Ronaldo to beat Lionel Messi to this year"s award

Former winner Luis Figo backs Ronaldo to beat Messi to this year's Ballon d'Or

|

UPDATED:

18:15 GMT, 27 December 2012

Luis Figo has said there’s nothing to stop Cristiano Ronaldo from achieving Ballon d’Or glory this year.

The former Portuguese midfielder says Ronaldo is more than deserving of the honour, highlighting his excellent performances for both Real Madrid and their shared nation.

‘There’s nothing to stop [Ronaldo] from winning it,’ the former Barcelona and Sporting Lisbon hero.

Legend: Figo won the Ballon d'Or in 2000 in his first season for Real Madrid

Legend: Figo won the Ballon d'Or in 2000 during his first season for Real Madrid

‘He is one of the favourites to win all the individual trophies there are, even more so this year, because I think he had a good season in the league and did well at the Euros.’

Quoted in Mundo Deportivo, the 2000 Ballon d’Or recipient added: ‘There are a lot of people involved in the choice, so it is always difficult to know who will win.’

When he scores, he can really go for it. Ronaldo has netted seven league hat-tricks in each of the last two seasons.

Goal machines: Both Messi and Ronaldo have been in magnificent goalscoring form over the past few seasons

Goal machines: Both Messi and Ronaldo have been in magnificent goalscoring form over the past few seasons

Goal machines: Both Messi and Ronaldo have been in magnificent goalscoring form over the past few seasons

Figo is of course referring to the seemingly unstoppable Lionel Messi as Ronaldo’s competition, but even suggests it’s easier to win the honour now, than it was in his day.

‘It was one of the most special moments in my career on the individual side of things, because there are few players who have the opportunity to win this trophy.

‘At the time, there were lots of players who were in with a shout, whilst now there are four or five big candidates.

Ronaldo was unable to lead Portugal to glory in Euro 2012 after they were knocked out by Spain in the semi-final

Ronaldo was unable to lead Portugal to glory in Euro 2012 after they were knocked out by Spain in the semi-final

Messi's incredible hat-trick against Brazil silenced those who criticised him for his under-par performances for Argentina

Messi's incredible hat-trick against Brazil silenced those who criticised him for his under-par performances for Argentina

Wayne Rooney is the only English player on the shortlist for the award

Wayne Rooney is the only English player on the shortlist for the award

‘It was a privilege and a proud moment for me.’

Barcelona ace Messi has a truly mind-blowing ability for finding the back of the net and whether or not he’s a safe bet for the Ballon d’Or, he’s already had plenty of reason to celebrate.

He’s Barcelona’s all-time leading scorer, something he achieved aged just 24, and earlier this matched Gerd Muller’s record for the most goals scored in a calendar year. If he is triumphant, it will be his fourth successive Ballon d’Or.

The initial 23-man shortlist, dominated by Real Madrid and Barcelona players and featuring Wayne Rooney as the lone Brit, was whittled down to just three, with Andreas Iniesta completing the trio.

National coaches, captains and selected journalists will vote for the winner of the FIFA crown and the winner will be presented at the Zurich Kongresshaus on January 7, 2013.

They’re arguably the world’s greatest footballers, so what finer way to split them apart than by checking out their stats:

BATTLE FOR THE BALLON D'OR: RONALDO VS MESSI

RONALDO
MESSI

LA LIGA

Appearances:

17

17

Goals:

14

26

Assists:

3

5

ALL COMPETITIONS

Appearances:

26

26

Goals:

23

35

Assists:

4

8

Celtic take on Benfica in Lisbon

Celtic look to channel spirit of '67 as Lennon's men face Benfica challenge

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UPDATED:

23:40 GMT, 19 November 2012

Following Celtic’s defeat of Barcelona at Parkhead a fortnight ago, Neil Lennon had Elton John on the phone offering congratulations. This after making Rod Stewart weep.

Should things go Lennon’s and Celtic’s way tonight in Lisbon, it might be Elvis calling on Wednesday. Or that bloke Snoop Dogg.

That is how enticing Group G has become for Celtic. And now they are back in Lisbon, a city with a major part in the club’s history.

Training days: Celtic prepare to take on Benfica in the Champions League

Training days: Celtic prepare to take on Benfica in the Champions League

Celtic

It is 45 years since Jock Stein’s Glaswegians became the first British club to win the European Cup and some of the club’s Lisbon Lions were on the flight to Portugal yesterday, as was the old trophy itself.

It is all part of a romantic nod to Lisbon that will see Lennon take his players for a light training session this morning at the Estadio Nacional where, in 1967, Inter Milan were beaten.

‘1967 is pivotal in our history and we all aspire to reach those heights again,’ Lennon said.

‘The Lisbon Lions are a very special team, a unique bunch of men in the history of the club and it is very poignant that we are playing in Lisbon.’

Such nostalgia touches everyone in green,
but so too do the feats of 2012. Had Celtic been outclassed by Benfica
and Spartak Moscow, as well as by Barcelona, there would have been
another lament about Scottish football and the state of the SPL
post-Rangers. But there would have been little surprise.

On the verge: Celtic could qualify for the knockout stages with a win in Portugal

On the verge: Celtic could qualify for the knockout stages with a win in Portugal

Sense of history: Celtic manager Neil Lennon (right) with Adam Matthews

Sense of history: Celtic manager Neil Lennon (right) with Adam Matthews

Glory: Celtic triumphed in 1969

Glory: Celtic triumphed in 1969

The opposite has occurred. Celtic have
not only beaten Spartak away and, magically, Barcelona at home, they
began the group with a 0-0 draw against Benfica. After four matches,
Celtic have seven points. The defeat of Barca means that there is now a
beautiful permutation facing Lennon.

Barcelona
play Spartak in Moscow at 5pm and if Messi and Co win, Celtic will know
at kick-off that they will make the last 16 with a score draw in the
Estadio da Luz.

Even
if Spartak beat Barcelona or Celtic lose, there is one game left — in
Glasgow against Spartak — in which there will still be a chance to make
it through. That night, Benfica will be at the Nou Camp.

What may make tonight problematic for Lennon’s team is that Benfica know their progress hinges on a win.

Lennon left the injured Emilio Izaguirre and James Forrest at home and has concerns over captain Scott Brown.

‘You are never relaxed, particularly at this level,’ Lennon added. ‘The landscape of the group can change on one night. This will be as tough as Barcelona, if not tougher.’

But he was relaxed enough yesterday to joke about rapper Snoop’s idea of buying a slice of Parkhead.

This is Celtic. There are dreams and songs to sing.

Snoop Dogg Celtic: Neil Lennon would welcome rap star

Lennon: He can bring a bit of Snoop to Celtic… providing I can bring a bit of Neil to one of his parties

|

UPDATED:

18:58 GMT, 19 November 2012

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has joked that he would welcome Snoop Dogg's investment in the club – if the hip hop star invited him to one of his parties.

The US rapper has expressed an interest in becoming a Celtic director after being struck by the passion of the supporters during their 2-1 Champions League win over Barcelona.

No 1 fan: Snoop Dogg, pictured posing with a Celtic shirt in 2005, is considering investing in the club

No 1 fan: Snoop Dogg, pictured posing with a Celtic shirt in 2005, is considering investing in the club

The singer stated he 'wanted to bring
a bit of Snoop' to Celtic and added: 'The boxes at Celtic would never
be the same once I have hosted a party there.'

When questioned about the music
star's interest ahead of his team's Champions League clash against
Benfica in Lisbon, Lennon said: 'It would be interesting if he did put
money in. As long as I got invited to one of his parties, it would be
okay.'

Snoop Dogg, who has previously been
photographed wearing a Celtic strip, said in the Sunday Mail: 'I know
Barcelona are a big deal, and it shows Celtic are a big deal as well.

Star quality: The rapper says he would like 'to bring a bit of Snoop to things' at the Glasgow club

Star quality: The rapper says he would like 'to bring a bit of Snoop to things' at the Glasgow club

'I see how passionate Celtic fans are
about their team and I could see myself making an investment if any of
the board wanted to sell.

'I don't need to run a soccer club but enough of a percentage to get me on the board so I can be heard.'

Snoop Dogg was not the only
international music star to be touched by Celtic's win over Barcelona.
Hoops fan Rod Stewart was reduced to tears as he watched from the stand
while Lennon revealed Sir Elton John phoned to congratulate him.

Drop it like it's hot: Lennon would like to be invited to one of Snoop Dogg's parties

Drop it like it's hot: Lennon would like to be invited to one of Snoop Dogg's parties

He said: 'I like Samaras a lot. He looks like a proper athlete and is a pretty dangerous player. If we are to go far in Europe, he needs to play well.'

But why Celtic Snoop says he simply loves Britain and its food, including a curry house in Scotland.

He added: 'I love Scotland. I am so happy my UK ban is up. I love British Indian restaurants, man – but the best one I ever had was in Glasgow. The food blew me away, man.

'When I am away, I like to stay in hotels and have people look after me. But if I had investment in Celtic, that's a different story. Maybe I would look for a crib over there.'

Brendan Rodgers hails "unbelievable" Luis Suarez

Unbelievable! Rodgers raving about super Suarez after Reds fight back against Newcastle

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UPDATED:

11:13 GMT, 5 November 2012

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was glowing in his praise of Luis Suarez after the striker's performance against Newcastle.

The Uruguay international was at his brilliant best in Sunday's 1-1 draw at Anfield, producing a superb equaliser to cancel out Yohan Cabaye's opener just before half-time.

Silky: Luis Suarez glided past Newcastle keeper Tim Krul to score

Silky: Luis Suarez glided past Newcastle keeper Tim Krul to score

Net gain: Suarez celebrated after scoring Liverpool's equaliser at Anfield

Net gain: Suarez celebrated after scoring Liverpool's equaliser at Anfield

WHO SHOULD RODGERS BUY

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers wants two forwards in January to strengthen his squad and shoulder the goalscoring burden with Luis Suarez.

Rodgers believes the best 'asset-buying' age for a player is between 22 and 29. The handicap is that Liverpool's American owners have preferred to buy players of 23 or under.

Here Sportsmail outlines ten potential targets for Liverpool's moneymen within their preferred age range.

But who do you think Liverpool should buy

Theo Walcott (Arsenal)
Age: 23
Value: 12m

Daniel Sturridge

Daniel Sturridge (Chelsea)
Age: 23
Value: 16million

Joel Pohjanpalo (HJK Helsinki)
Age: 18
Value: 3m

Jurgen Locadia (PSV)
Age: 17
Value: 10m

Arkadiusz Milik (Gornik Zabrze)
Age: 18
Value: 6m

Ricky van Wolfswinkel

Ricky van Wolfswinkel (Sporting Lisbon, right)
Age: 23
Value: 12m

Alexis Sanchez (Barcelona)
Age: 23
Value: 35m

Leandro Damiao (Internacional)
Age: 23
Value: 25m

Cristian Tello (Barcelona)
Age: 21
Value 10m

Franco di Santo (Wigan)
Age: 23
Value: 5m

SIMON JONES

Suarez has scored seven league goals this season – in his last nine matches – which is more than half the team's tally for the campaign.

'I thought he was unbelievable. It was a brilliant goal for Luis and a terrific performance and it bodes well for us going forward,' said Rodgers.

'We play him (Suarez) in that false nine role. He's not a traditional No 9 who's up there, stood, static.

'That's why when we get a number of players in who can work off his qualities, that's going to make us a real threat.

'I ask him to get on the move and get defenders out of their positions.

'His cleverness and movement at the moment is world class. It's then important that we've got men running in off that.

'If we can add to the group, you can see the excitement in our team.'

Rodgers hopes to add reinforcements when the transfer window opens in January.

'It doesn't worry me,' Rodgers added.

'He (Suarez) gets picked to score goals but of course I would want them to be more spread out.

Hail king Louis: Brendan Rodgers was full of praise for Suarez

Hail king Louis: Brendan Rodgers was full of praise for Suarez

'Everyone knows that is the key
feature for us. We need to get goals from other areas but I can't
complain when we play to that level.

'Once we get that type of player in that is really going to finish off a lot of great work for us.'

Suarez's constant running and teasing of the
Magpies defence also led to visiting captain Fabricio Coloccini being
sent off late on for a foul on the 25-year-old.

Rodgers said: 'Coloccini got sent off because he was frustrated. He's been a great defender for the last number of years for Newcastle but Luis is so bright and clever, and a world-class striker in that form really frustrates defenders.

Seeing red: Fabricio Coloccini was sent off for this challenge on Suarez

Seeing red: Fabricio Coloccini was sent off for this challenge on Suarez

Europa League round-up: Inter Milan and Lyon among winners

Europa League round-up: Night of few shocks with Inter and Lyon among the winners

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UPDATED:

21:28 GMT, 25 October 2012

Rodrigo Palacio headed home an 88th-minute winner as Inter Milan repelled the brave challenge of Partizan Belgrade at the San Siro and all but booked their place in the knockout stages of the Europa League.

Palacio nodded home from a Diego Milito cross less than a minute after Lazar Markovic had a shot saved by Samir Handanovic at the other end, sending Inter joint top of Group H on seven points.

Inter share their lead with Rubin Kazan, for whom Alan Kasaev's 16th-minute goal proved enough to see off Azerbaijan side Neftci in Russia. Inter and Kazan now hold a six-point advantage over their group rivals.

Head boy: Inter Milan's Rodrigo Palacio rose highest to smash home a winner in the 88th minute

Head boy: Inter Milan's Rodrigo Palacio rose highest to smash home a winner in the 88th minute

Head boy: Inter Milan's Rodrigo Palacio rose highest to smash home a winner in the 88th minute

Elyaniv Barda also headed a late winner as Genk stayed unbeaten at the top of Group G after coming from behind to see off Sporting Lisbon 2-1 in Belgium.

Stijn Schaars put Sporting ahead on eight minutes, but Benjamin De Ceulaer equalised after 25 and Barda struck with three minutes to go after Sporting's Khalid Boulahrouz was sent off for a second bookable offence.

And Hungarians Videoton also continued their excellent form in the group with a 2-1 win over Basle. A Fabien Schar own goal paved the way for the hosts, who extended their lead through Marco Caneira before Schar scored at the right end in injury time.

Lyon maintained their 100 per cent record in Group I with a 2-1 win over last year's beaten finalists Athletic Bilbao. A Lisandro Lopez opener was cancelled out by Ibai Gomez before Jimmy Briand struck the winner four minutes from time.

First-half goals from Ladislav Krejci, Vaclav Kadlec and Ondrej Svejdik helped Sparta Prague to a 3-1 win over Ironi Kiryat Shmona, for whom Shimon Abuhatzira replied late on.

French fancy: Lisandro Lopez helped maintain Lyon's 100 per cent start to the group stage

French fancy: Lisandro Lopez helped maintain Lyon's 100 per cent start to the group stage

Lyon lead the group on nine points with Sparta clear in second on six.

In Tottenham's group, substitute Jose Toche grabbed an injury time equaliser as Panathinaikos drew 1-1 with Lazio in Group J. An own goal from Giourkas Seitaridis looked set to give the Italians the points before the late drama.

Lazio remain unbeaten on five points with Maribor in second, but all four sides are still in the running.

Late goals from Bonfim Marlos and Cleiton Xavier gave Ukrainians Metalist a 2-1 win at Rosenborg in Group K, after the Norwegians had led through Tarik Elyounoussi's 46th-minute strike.

But Metalist still conceded top spot in the group to Bayer Leverkusen, whose crushing 4-0 win at Rapid Vienna took them first on goal difference. Philipp Wollscheid, Karim Bellarabi and two from Gonzalo Castro did the damage.

Leaving it late: Panathinaikos' Jose Manuel Velazquez grabbed a last-gasp equaliser against Lazio

Leaving it late: Panathinaikos' Jose Manuel Velazquez grabbed a last-gasp equaliser against Lazio

Leaving it late: Panathinaikos' Jose Manuel Velazquez grabbed a last-gasp equaliser against Lazio

In Group L, Hannover stayed top after a dramatic 2-1 win at Helsingborg, Mame Biram Diouf opening the scoring for the Germans with Alvaro Santos equalising in injury time, only for Didier Ya Konan to restore Hannover's advantage in the third minute of added time.

Levante moved clear in second place with a 3-0 win over Twente, a Michel penalty setting them on their way and Pedro Rios adding a late double.

Reigning champions Atletico Madrid maintained their 100 per cent record in Group B with a 2-1 win over Academica, Diego Costa and Emre Belozoglu netting before Salim Cisse hit a late consolation for the Portuguese side.

Also in Group B, Viktoria Plzen moved clear in second place with a 2-1 win at Hapoel Tel Aviv.

Hanan Maman put the Israelis in front after 19 minutes, but Pavel Horvath equalised in first-half injury time and Frantisek Rajtoral hit the winner before home defender I'yad Hutba was sent off.

In Group A, a shock 3-1 defeat for Udinese away to bottom side Young Boys in Switzerland means things are very much to play for.

Raul Bobadilla grabbed a stunning hat-trick for Young Boys, who had gone into the game without a point, putting them 2-0 up with goals in the fourth and 72nd minutes and then wrapping up victory with a penalty after Andrea Coda briefly reduced the deficit.

Shock at last: In Liverpool's group, Young Boys produced an excellent performance to down Udinese

Shock at last: In Liverpool's group, Young Boys produced an excellent performance to down Udinese

Shock at last: In Liverpool's group, Young Boys produced an excellent performance to down Udinese

It was also all-change in Group C, where Egeman Korkmaz scored in the 72nd minute to give Fenerbahce a 1-0 win at AEL Limassol and move them to top the top of the group.

Marseille, who started the night on top, lost 2-0 at Borussia Monchengladbach, a Filip Daems penalty and a second-half strike from Peniel Mlapa moving the Germans level with their opponents on four points, with the Turkish side now out in front on seven.

Elsewhere in Newcastle's group, Bordeaux were held 1-1 at Maritimo. Yoan Gouffran's opener for the visitors was cancelled out by Roberge Valentin six minutes later.

Steaua Bucharest extended their lead at the top of Group E as goals from Vlad Chiriches and Raul Rusescu gave them a 2-0 win over Molde, while group rivals Stuttgart and FC Copenhagen played out a goalless draw in Germany.

Dnipro went five points clear at the top of Group F with an excellent 3-1 win over Napoli in Ukraine, Artem Fedetskiy, Matheus and Giuliano scoring before Edinson Cavani replied with a late consolation.

PSV Eindhoven and AIK drew 1-1 in Holland, Kwame Karikari putting the previously pointless Swedes in front on the hour before Jeremain Lens equalised with 10 minutes to go.

Carles Puyol to miss Barcelona v Real Madrid

Barcelona hit by Puyol blow with injured captain to miss Real Madrid clash

PUBLISHED:

06:04 GMT, 3 October 2012

|

UPDATED:

08:50 GMT, 3 October 2012

Barcelona centre back Carles Puyol
defender has been ruled out of Sunday's 'El Clasico' against Real
Madrid after dislocating his left elbow.

The 34-year-old captain required
hospital treatment after suffering the injury in Tuesday's 2-0 victory over Benfica in the Champions
League.

On the mend: Carles Puyol tweeted this picture from his hospital bed

On the mend: Carles Puyol tweeted this picture from his hospital bed

Puyoll, playing his first match since recovering from a knee problem, landed awkwardly after leaping for the ball at a corner in the 78th minute.

'We are waiting for more information but he will certainly miss the “Clasico”,' Barca coach Tito Vilanova said after the match.

The injury is a huge blow for Barcelona with Puyol's defensive partner Gerard Pique also sidelined.

Agony: Carles Puyol after dislocating his elbow

Agony: Carles Puyol after dislocating his elbow

Barcelona player Carles Puyol

Barcelona player Carles Puyol

Barca won in Lisbon, their second victory in two Group G games, thanks to goals from Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas.

'Now we have to forget about the Champions League and have a unique opportunity (on Sunday) to do things well at home,' said Barca fullback Dani Alves, who was visibly shaken by Puyol's injury. 'We know it is going to be a complicated match.'

The Catalans are eight points ahead of Real in La Liga after six matches.

Manchester United try to silence Nani

Silence! United try to gag wantaway midfielder Nani as contract dispute drags on

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UPDATED:

09:40 GMT, 11 September 2012

Manchester United have tried to silence Nani as his contract dispute with the club continues to rumble on.

His 'unreal' wage demands wrecked any chance of the United winger moving to big-spenders Zenit St Petersburg this summer.

And the Portugal international has become increasingly disillusioned with life at United after failing to agree a new contract and finding himself outside Sir Alex Ferguson's preferred line-up.

Hush! The United winger looks set to leave Old Trafford

Hush! The United winger looks set to leave Old Trafford

Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young are ahead of Nani in the pecking order on the wings, while the arrivals of Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa this summer have further shunted Nani away from the action.

Nani believes he has been mistreated by United over his contract situation and the club have been angered by claims that Nani intends to run down his contract and leave for free when it expires – according to reports in The Mirror.

Nani was dropped following United's defeat at Everton in their opening match of the Barclays Premier League season and has not yet forced his way back in.

The former Sporting Lisbon ace came off the bench to replace Kagawa with 29 minutes remaining in the 3-2 win at Southampton in his only other appearance for United this season.

Eyes on the prize: Nani's move to Zenit collapsed this summer

Eyes on the prize: Nani's move to Zenit collapsed this summer