Tag Archives: middle

Wilfried Zaha will have FA hearing after he and Ian Holloway admit charges

Zaha set for FA showdown while Holloway hit with 2k fine after both admit charges

By
Rik Sharma

PUBLISHED:

17:40 GMT, 15 March 2013

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UPDATED:

17:43 GMT, 15 March 2013

Crystal Palace manager Ian Holloway and attacker Wilfried Zaha have both admitted FA charges for improper conduct.

Zaha, who is on loan from Manchester United after signing for them in January, gave Leeds fans the middle finger during their clash on March 9.

He has requested a personal hearing, while Holloway is hit with a 2,000 fine because of his misconduct towards match officials during the same game.

Response: Wilfried Zaha had a message for the Leeds fans giving him stick

Response: Wilfried Zaha had a message for the Leeds fans giving him stick

Rambunctious: Ian Holloway was not amused during Palace's clash with Leeds

Rambunctious: Ian Holloway was not amused during Palace's clash with Leeds

Zaha, who had been suffering abuse
from Leeds fans before the incident, was ticked off by Man United for
his behaviour during the 2-2 draw.

He admitted on Twitter that he should have behaved better, telling his followers 'it was very unprofessional of me'.

Liverpool striker Luis Suarez was
given a one-match ban, fined 20,000 and warned as to his future conduct
after a similar gesture aimed at Fulham fans back in December.

Wilfried Zaha swears at Leeds fans over Manchester United abuse

Zaha gives Leeds fans the middle finger after abuse over transfer to Man United

By
Rik Sharma

PUBLISHED:

21:55 GMT, 9 March 2013

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UPDATED:

10:31 GMT, 10 March 2013

Manchester United's new signing Wilfried Zaha was spotted swearing at Leeds United fans on Saturday.

The Crystal Palace attacker was being berated by Leeds supporters over his transfer to their bitter rivals.

He responded by grinning and sticking up his middle finger at them.

Response: Wilfried Zaha had a message for the Leeds fans giving him stick

Response: Wilfried Zaha had a message for the Leeds fans giving him stick

Top form: Zaha again showed the star quality yesterday that earned a move to Manchester United this summer

Top form: Zaha again showed the star quality yesterday that earned a move to Manchester United this summer

Red Devils fans took to Twitter to praise their new signing, saying he was 'getting into practice'.

Whether Sir Alex Ferguson would approve of this gesture is another matter entirely.

Eyes on the ball: Zaha used his head to get past Leeds player Lee Peltier

Eyes on the ball: Zaha used his head to get past Leeds player Lee Peltier

Wing wizard: Zaha cuts inside to beat Leeds United's Stephen Warnock

Wing wizard: Zaha cuts inside to beat Leeds United's Stephen Warnock

Palace fought hard and earned a 2-2 draw with Leeds thanks to a late goal by Glenn Murray.

The Eagles frontman hit a brace – and so did Leeds' Steve Morison – as they shared the spoils at Selhurst Park.

Raheem Sterling signs Liverpool contract as Brendan Rodgers fires warning

Players' greed may scupper new deals, warns Rodgers as Sterling pens new Liverpool contract

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 21 December 2012

Raheem Sterling finally signed a new five-year Liverpool deal on Friday after months of negotiations.

The 17-year-old England winger admitted it was a ‘relief’ that talks had reached a successful end. ‘It was so frustrating that everyone thought I was not going to sign when you know deep down that you are going to sign sooner or later,’ he said.

And boss Brendan Rodgers has warned potential signings they will talk themselves out of a move if their sole focus is money.

Signed, sealed, delivered: Raheem Sterling agreeing his new contract with Brendan Rodgers

Signed, sealed, delivered: Raheem Sterling agreeing his new contract with Brendan Rodgers

Shake on it: Sterling with Liverpool boss Rodgers

Shake on it: Sterling with Liverpool boss Rodgers

A 12million deal for Daniel
Sturridge stalled this week after it emerged Liverpool will not pay his
agents’ demands for a percentage of any sell-on fee. It comes as part of
a clampdown on the amount of fees the club are paying to middle men.

Rodgers, though, is determined to be
just as careful in terms of the money that goes to new arrivals. He
pulled out of a move for Gylfi Sigurdsson in the summer because of the
terms being demanded and will not be afraid to do the same again.

‘You have to get hungry players in who want to work and want to fight to be successful – that is the biggest thing for me,’ said Rodgers, whose side face Fulham this evening for the first time since Liverpool’s very public pursuit of Clint Dempsey.

‘They will get a good contract coming here but if they want to argue over money, and other things that go around it, I don't want them here. In my experience those players will eventually let you down anyway.

‘So, for us, it is about getting players in who are hungry to succeed and to pull on the shirt. That's the simple message for any player coming here – you can't take the money and run. You have to earn the right to play for this club and to help us succeed.’

Raheem Sterling finally put pen-to-paper on a five-year deal yesterday after months of negotiations and the England winger admitted it was a “relief” that talks had reached a successful conclusion.

‘It was so frustrating that everyone (though I was) not going to sign when you know deep down that you are going to sign sooner or later,’ said Sterling, who has missed some training sessions this week through illness. ‘So it was just really good to get it over and done with. I'm happy with that.’

Diego Maradona close to becoming Iraq manager

Legend Maradona in line to become Iraq coach… who are ranked 92nd in the world

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UPDATED:

07:20 GMT, 21 December 2012

Diego Maradona is on the brink of becoming manager of Iraq.

The former Argentina boss, who is acting as a consultant for the UAE club Al Wasl that he used to coach, is awaiting the outcome of a meeting of the Iraqi Football Federation to be held on Friday.

Maradona has already set his sights on guiding the country, who are ranked 92 in the world, to the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.

Who wants me Diego Maradona is in line to become the new Iraq manager

Who wants me Diego Maradona is in line to become the new Iraq manager

'Diego is really enthused and phones us every day,' agent Hernan Tofoni said. 'He doesn't just want to coach (Iraq) for the next six months but long term.'

'He is excited by the fact that it's a challenge and that he'd be going to replace Zico,' added Tofoni, referring to the Brazil great who quit as Iraq's coach last month.

Tofoni, a registered FIFA agent, said he put Maradona's name on the table when Iraq approached World Eleven looking for an Argentine coach and 'they liked the idea'.

He said there would be no obstacles for Maradona to leave Al Wasl, where he coached for 14 months until last July, to take up the Iraqi post.

Replacement: Brazil legend Zico quit the post earlier this year

Replacement: Brazil legend Zico quit the post earlier this year

Iraq have played at one World Cup finals, in 1986 in Mexico where Maradona led Argentina to their second title.

The Middle Eastern nation are third in Group B in the fourth round of Asian World Cup qualifiers. Japan lead with 13 points from five matches, while Iraq are equal on five points with second-placed Australia, who have a match in hand, and Oman.

The 52-year-old Maradona, one of the greatest players, has a modest record as coach.

Although he led Argentina to the World Cup finals in 2010, his side lost 4-0 to Germany in the quarter-finals.

Thomas Ince prepared to see out season at Blackpool as Liverpool argue over 6m fee

Ince prepared to be patient and see out season at Blackpool as Liverpool argue over 6m fee

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UPDATED:

09:44 GMT, 20 December 2012

Thomas Ince is prepared to sit tight at Blackpool and run down his contract if the Championship club fail to agree a fee with Liverpool.

Ince, 20, believed the deal with Brendan Rodgers' side was almost done, but there is hitch over the price.

The England Under 21 winger's contract at Bloomfield Road is up at the end of the season and an FA tribunal would have to set the fee.

Man in the middle: Liverpool want to sign Blackpool winger Thomas Ince

Man in the middle: Liverpool want to sign Blackpool winger Thomas Ince

Blackpool want 6m for Ince, but Liverpool are offering substantially less for a player they released 18 months ago.

Liverpool still have a 30 per cent sell-on clause in Ince's contract, but the Blackpool wideman is determined to return to Anfield.

He has scored 13 times for Michael Appleton's side and has contributed 15 assists from his position on the wing.

Blackpool are already in dialogue with Liverpool about the January move, but it is being held up by the Tangerines' playing hardball.

Rodgers, who is short of attacking options because of Andy Carroll's loan move to West Ham and the long-term injury to Fabio Borini, needs the deal done in the transfer window.

SPOTY 2012: Bradley Wiggins is the champion of champions

Jonathan McEvoy: 'Champion of Champions' Wiggins caps a year to cherish as the nation crowns him Sports Personality

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UPDATED:

00:34 GMT, 17 December 2012

The everyman and his nan won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award last night. Bradley Wiggins, the fellow who could not care less about his image, is the champion of champions in the year of sporting years.

Britain’s first Tour de France winner, and gold medallist in the Olympic time-trial, jokingly thanked his grandmother Maureen for pressing the redial button.

He won because he was, even among the dozen greats in the running, the supreme candidate.

Scroll down for video

The Nation's Choice: Bradley Wiggins has been voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year for 2012

The Nation's Choice: Bradley Wiggins has been voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year for 2012

Great achievement: Wiggins was presented with the award by David Beckham and the Duchess of Cambridge

Great achievement: Wiggins was presented with the award by David Beckham and the Duchess of Cambridge

He attracted 492,064 of almost 1.63million votes — 30.25 per cent. Jessica Ennis, the girl-next-door heptathlete who turned into the lady in red last night, was second, 120,000 votes adrift.

Andy Murray, who ended the nation’s long wait for a male tennis grand slam winner, was third, a further 140,000 or so behind. Mo Farah was fourth another 100,000 back.

Some viewers complained they could not cast their vote in the early surge. Show organisers insisted it was not a substantial number – and, certainly, the outcome was not distorted.

In fact it was so straightforward for Wiggins that the only possible impediment would have been if he said something silly to offend Middle England. Always a possibility for this straight-talker.

But he was well behaved, even if at the start he appeared perhaps a little lubricated by the BBC’s pre-show largesse. Like the others, Wiggins talked of the team behind the athletes.

He called Sue Barker ‘Susan’ for comic effect. He poked fun at Gary Lineker’s thick make-up and later kissed him.

Golden Duo: Sport Personality of the Year Bradley Wiggins with runner-up Jessica Ennis
Golden Duo: Sport Personality of the Year Bradley Wiggins with runner-up Jessica Ennis

THE RESULTS

1. BRADLEY WIGGINS – 492,064 votes – 30.25%

2. JESSICA ENNIS – 372,765 – 22.92%

3. ANDY MURRAY – 230,444 – 14.17%

4. MO FARAH – 131,327 – 8.07%

5. DAVID WEIR – 114,633 – 7.05%

6. ELLIE SIMMONDS – 102,894 – 6.33%

7. SIR CHRIS HOY – 42,961 – 2.64%

8. NICOLA ADAMS – 35,560 – 2.19%

9. BEN AINSLIE – 35,373 – 2.17%

10. RORY MCILROY – 29,729 – 1.83%

11. KATHERINE GRAINGER – 28,606 – 1.76%

12. SARAH STOREY – 10,342 – 0.64%

TOTAL VOTES CAST: 1,626,718

After receiving the accolade from the Duchess of Cambridge, he promised not to swear. His wife, Cath, murmured, ‘Oh God’.

He was fine. The crowd loved him, chanting ‘Wiggo, Wiggo.’ As Lord Coe observed, he has a ‘rock-star quality’.

The fans and stars alike streamed
here, 16,000 souls wanting to drain every last drop of Olympic
champagne. And the BBC even altered their rules to keep the party going
right to the end of their annual knees-up.

‘For the avoidance of doubt,’ the
Beeb’s published criteria for the Team of the Year Award read, ‘it
excludes Team GB/Paralympics GB but includes the likes of British
Cycling, the rowing coxless four and European Ryder Cup.’

But, no, that did not fit the spirit
of the age. It did not reflect the all-embracing hug we have all enjoyed
sharing. So the judges rightly exercised their right to amend the
criteria — and I’m not congratulating them just because my boss was one
of them.

Popular choice: Bradley Wiggins was crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year following his Tour de France and Olympic triumphs

Sky procycling team rider Bradley Wiggins of Britain celebrates his overall victory on the podium after the 20th and final stage of the Tour de France

Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain celebrates after the Men's Individual Time Trial Road Cycling

Champion: The award caps a wonderful year for Wiggins, who won the Tour de France (left) and Olympic time trial gold

VIDEO: Bradley Wiggins receives his award

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REACTION TO THE WIGGINS WIN

UK Prime Minister on Twitter: 'PM: “Congratulations to Bradley Wiggins -a truly inspirational winner, after an incredible year for British sport”. #SPOTY'

Rio Ferdinand on Twitter: 'Congratulations to Bradley Wiggins winning #Spoty'

British Cycling president Brian Cookson: 'Bradley's win is a high point of what has been the greatest year in British Cycling's history.

'To win the Tour de France and gold in the Olympic time-trial in the same year is a feat that has anchored our sport in the mainstream of British life.

'The fact that three out of the 12 nominees this year are cyclists [Sir Chris Hoy and Sarah Storey were the others] is recognition of the hard work and dedication of not just our amazing athletes but of everyone who works in cycling.

'Dave Brailsford's win as Coach of the Year and BMX rider Quillan Isidore making it on to the short list for Young Sports Personality shows the success cycling has enjoyed across all disciplines.

'A cyclist has been crowned Sports Personality three times in the last five years, proving that cycling is the sport that has redefined our national sporting identity.'

Runner-up: Jessica Ennis came second after winning the Olympic heptathlon gold

Runner-up: Jessica Ennis came second after winning the Olympic heptathlon gold

Golden Girl: Olympic champion heptathlete Jessica Ennis is interviewed by Sue Barker on stage

Golden Girl: Olympic champion heptathlete Jessica Ennis is interviewed by Sue Barker on stage

Man in Miami: Third-placed Andy Murray was presented with his award by boxer and former SPOTY winner Lennox Lewis in Miami

Man in Miami: Third-placed Andy Murray was presented with his award by boxer and former SPOTY winner Lennox Lewis in Miami

So, that problem cleared, the party
was on. The 800-plus athletes of our British Olympic and Paralympic
teams were thrust into the centre of the occasion, winning the Team
Award. Who could begrudge them after 185 medals

Coe, now undisputedly the dominant
figure in British sport, got the Lifetime Achievement Award for
producing the Games. He also deserves a gold medal for all the ceremony
speeches he has made in the last few weeks.

VIDEO: Lord Coe receives his Lifetime Achievement award

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Lifetime achievement: Lord Coe was honoured for helping deliver the London Olympics and Paralympics

Lifetime achievement: Lord Coe was honoured for helping deliver the London Olympics and Paralympics

But, by the time the main award was
handed out, Wiggins’ boss Dave Brailsford, 48-year-old performance
director of British Cycling, had been named Coach of the Year. He is the
embodiment of the modern Lottery-era coach. Professional, clinical,
organised.

The top-performing sport at Beijing
four years ago, British Cycling won eight gold and 22 medals at this
year’s Olympics and Paralympics. And add in the small matter of
masterminding Team Sky’s Tour de France win.

Cycling has been swept from the margins to become a major British sport. Tell your boy to go into the bike shop business.

Stars: The Duchess of Cambridge and David Beckham presented the Sports Personality and Lifetime Achievement awards

Stars: The Duchess of Cambridge and David Beckham presented the Sports Personality and Lifetime Achievement awards

Who else could win the Overseas Sports
Personality of the Year but Usain Bolt In fact, he seemed bored in his
acceptance speech from Jamaica. So many awards, so many thank yous.

More sombrely, for the Helen Rollason
Award for Outstanding Achievement the Olympic symbolism stretched back
to 2005. The winner was Martine Wright, the Paralympic sitting
volleyball player who lost both legs in the 7/7 bombings. That horror
befell London the day after Coe & Co won the bid in Singapore.

Wright’s inspirational journey lent a
nice symmetry to proceedings. ‘I’d like to thank Liz for saving my life
that day,’ she said of PC Elizabeth Kenworthy. ‘This is also for the 52
who died. Now we have to go on and inspire a nation.’

The only bauble that departed from the
Olympic script was the Unsung Hero Award for Sue and Jim Houghton, the
inspiration behind a community centre in Leicestershire. One sport they
have contributed to: pigeon racing.

The Houghtons were the only unsung
heroes of the night. The hymns of praise to our Olympians rang loud and
clear at the end of a year the memory of which will never leave us.

THE SPORTS PERSONALITY WINNERS IN FULL

Sports Personality of the Year – Bradley Wiggins

Lifetime Achievement Award – Lord Coe

Overseas Sports Personality of the Year – Usain Bolt

Coach of the Year – Dave Brailsford, Performance Director of British Cycling

Team of the Year – Team GB and Paralympic GB

Unsung Hero Award – Sue and Jim Houghton – Spent 25 years transforming a derelict Leicestershire sports ground into a community facility

Helen Rollason Award – Martine Wright – 7/7 survivor who played sitting volleyball for Paralympics GB

Young Sports Personality of the Year – Josef Craig, Britain's youngest goal medallist at the 2012 Paralympics in the S7 400m freestyle swimming


Superman: Mo Farah, the double Olympic champion, is quizzed by Gary Lineker

Superman: Mo Farah, the double Olympic champion, is quizzed by Gary Lineker

Champion: Rower Katherine Grainger talks about her Olympic achievements with Clare Balding

Champion: Rower Katherine Grainger talks about her Olympic achievements with Clare Balding

City slickers: Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero (left) are interviewed by Gary Lineker to celebrate City's first Premier League title triumph

City slickers: Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero (left) are interviewed by Gary Lineker to celebrate City's first Premier League title triumph

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF BRADLEY WIGGINS

1980: Born April 28 in Ghent, Belgium before growing up in London. Son of Australian former racing cyclist Gary Wiggins.
1992: Begins track cycling at Herne Hill Velodrome, London.
1997: Wins individual pursuit gold at Junior World Track Championships in Cuba.
2000: March – Silver in team pursuit at Track Cycling World Championships in Manchester.
October – Bronze in team pursuit at Olympic Games in Sydney.
2001: September – Silver in team pursuit at Track Cycling World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium.
2002: July – Silver for England in team pursuit and individual pursuit at Commonwealth Games in Manchester. Gold in individual pursuit at Track Cycling World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany.
2003: August – Silver in team pursuit at Track Cycling World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany.
September – Wins opening stage of Tour de l'Avenir.
2004: August – Olympic gold in individual pursuit at Athens Olympics. Also wins silver in team pursuit alongside Steve Cummings, Paul Manning and Rob Hayles and bronze in Madison alongside Rob Hayles to become first Briton since 1964 to win three medals at one Games.
2005: September – Wins stage eight of Tour de l'Avenir.
2006: July – Makes Tour de France debut, riding for French team Cofidis.
2007: March – Wins gold in the individual pursuit and team pursuit at Track Cycling World Championships in Palma, Majorca.
June – Prologue victory in Dauphine Libere.
July – Finishes fourth in Tour de France prologue in London behind Swiss winner Fabian Cancellara but his team, Cofidis, later withdraw after team-mate Cristian Moreni fails a drugs test.
2008: January – Wiggins' estranged father, Gary Wiggins, is discovered unconscious in New South Wales and later dies.
March – Wins individual pursuit, team pursuit and Madison gold at Track Cycling World Championships in Manchester.
August 16 – Successfully defends Olympic individual pursuit title with gold at the Laoshan Velodrome.
August 18 – Olympic team pursuit gold alongside Ed Clancy, Geraint Thomas and Paul Manning in a world record of three minutes 53.314 seconds.
August 19 – Favourite for Olympic Madison alongside Mark Cavendish but ninth-placed finish results in Manxman suffering the ignominy of being the only member of GB's track team to leave the Laoshan Velodrome without a medal and has a public falling-out with Wiggins.
October – Releases autobiography titled 'In Pursuit of Glory' detailing his struggle with alcohol after Athens Games.
2009: July – Secures fourth place in Tour de France, matching highest-ever placing by a British rider.
September – Wins British Time-Trial Championship.
October – Wins stage five time-trial and overall title at Jayco Herald Sun Tour in Australia.
December 10 – Signs four-year deal with Team Sky, the BSkyB-backed road team which is being led by British Cycling performance director Dave Brailsford.
2010: February 7 – Makes Team Sky debut at Tour of Qatar, helping squad to victory in the race's opening team time-trial.
March – Finishes third overall in the Tour of Murcia.
May – Wins Giro d'Italia prologue to become second Briton to wear race leader's pink jersey, the maglia rosa. The victory gives Team Sky a Grand Tour stage win at the first attempt.
July – Finishes 24th on Team Sky's Tour de France debut, upgraded to 23rd after Alberto Contador is stripped of the title for a doping offence.
2011: March – Finishes third overall in Paris-Nice stage race.
May – Wins fourth stage of Bayern-Rundfahrt as team-mate Geraint Thomas wins overall.
June – Wins traditional Tour de France warm-up Criterium du Dauphine. Wins British Championships road race.
July 8 – Abandons Tour de France after fracturing collarbone in crash on seventh stage. Wiggins was sixth overall, 10 seconds behind race leader Thor Hushovd, entering the stage.
September – Finishes third overall at the Vuelta a Espana, with Team Sky colleague Chris Froome second. Finishes second in World Championships time-trial before helping Cavendish win the road race.
2012: February: Wins stage five of Volta ao Algarve.
March – Wins Paris-Nice overall, completing victory with win on stage eight.
April – Triumphs in Tour de Romandie, winning stages one and five.
June – Successfully defends his Criterium du Dauphine title and wins stage four time-trial for an unprecedented series of results.
July 7 – Takes the Tour de France yellow jersey after stage seven.
July 9 – Enhances hold on maillot jaune ahead of the first rest day with a first Tour stage win, on the stage nine time-trial to Besancon.
July 21 – Wins the time-trial on the Tour's penultimate day to all but secure victory.
July 22 – Confirmed as Britain's first-ever winner of the Tour de France.
August 1 – Claims gold medal for Team GB at London 2012 in Olympic road time-trial.
November 7 – Taken to hospital after a collision with a car near his home in Lancashire. Wiggins suffered bruising, a fractured rib, a bruised lung and a dislocated finger.
December 16 – Wins BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, finishing ahead of second-placed

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini can"t afford to lose to Dortmund and United

Mancini is feeling the heat… and the Manchester City boss can't afford to lose to Dortmund and United

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UPDATED:

13:04 GMT, 4 December 2012

A year ago next Monday, Manchester City lost their first game of the Barclays Premier League. A 2-1 defeat at Chelsea it signalled the end of a long unbeaten run that ultimately ensured that Roberto Mancini's team could withstand some inevitable hiccups later in the season and still win their first title of the modern era.

Once again this season City have yet to be turned over in the league. Things in Europe have been considerably more difficult but in the Premier League the champions' unbeaten run already stretches to 15 game ahead of Sunday's Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium.

Middle man: Manchester City's manager Roberto Mancini

Middle man: Manchester City's manager Roberto Mancini

It is unfortunate, then, that City still seem a little uneasy and that their manager continues to appear a little uncomfortable. As City look to defend their title – which is always hard – they still appear to be in need of some improvement.

From that point of view, this is an important week. Lose at Dortmund in the Champions League and City will suffer the indignity of finishing bottom of their group without a win and will not even qualify for the Europa League.

Lose to United on Sunday and they will be six points behind their rivals in the Premier League.

Two victories, on the other hand, could provide City with a little momentum and could give them the kind of lift-off that their season has lacked so far.

We could talk all day about the intricacies of City's season so far, about Mancini's state of mind and about the form of some of his key players. Certainly City would improve overnight if players like Vincent Kompany, YaYa Toure, Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero could remember who they are.

The players have uneasy relationship with Mancini

Cold front: The players have uneasy relationship with Mancini

Mancini

Tight call: Mancini waiting for a flight to Germany

However, one thing that City's season has definitely lacked so far is a significant victory.

Mancini's team have accumulated
their 33 points in a rather functional manner up until now. Nothing
wrong with that. There are no extra marks given in football for artistic
impression.

They have, however, managed only draws against teams like Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Dortmund.

Taken in isolation, these results are decent enough. But individual victories over your direct domestic rivals or big European teams can do wonders for the direction and impetus of a season and City, it must be said, are a team that look to be crying out for one at the moment.

Tonight in Germany, Mancini will rest some players as he looks to give his team the best possible chance of facing United in rude health on Sunday.

The City coach knows that, despite their league position, Sir Alex Ferguson's league leaders are vulnerable defensively and feels that if his team can click in to gear offensively then they could very well come away with the victory that they need to take them to the summit themselves and deliver the kind of message that may an impact both outside and inside their own dressing room.

Question time: Mancini quizzed by the media at Manchester Airpoirt

Question time: Mancini quizzed by the media at Manchester Airpoirt

Still got it: Mancini shows off his ball skills during training

Still got it: Mancini shows off his ball skills during training

City supporters bristle when their own team's 'uncertain form' is mentioned. Certainly, Alan Hansen's suggestion on Match of the Day on Saturday that the champions have 'struggled all season' seemed to over-state the point a little.

Nevertheless, it is true that City have looked rather unlike themselves so far this term. This has been a team that has scraped together its victories, rather than ease teams aside in the Premier League as it did on the first third of last season's campaign.

Some may suggest its symptomatic of a playing squad no longer totally in tune with its manager. Others may argue that City are suffering from a shortage of confidence and from a reduced impact from their big name players.

Whatever the case, two victories in the next five days would see things looking a good deal brighter.

Estonia international Oliver Konsa arrested on suspicion of dealing cocaine

Estonia international striker Konsa arrested on suspicion of dealing cocaine

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UPDATED:

15:42 GMT, 13 November 2012

Arrested: Oliver Konsa and three others were taken into custody on Monday on suspicion of dealing cocaine

Arrested: Oliver Konsa and three others were taken into custody on Monday on suspicion of dealing cocaine

Estonia international Oliver Konsa has been arrested on suspicion of dealing cocaine ahead of his country's friendlies in the Middle East.

The striker, who plays for Estonian champions JK Nomme Kalju, was arrested on Monday along with three others suspected of distributing the drug.

The 27-year-old has been capped 20 times for Estonia, but did not make the squad for his country’s friendlies against Oman and the United Arab Emirates this month.

Nomme Kalju suspended the player immediately after Konsa’s arrest for allegedly dealing the Class A drug.

The club’s sporting director Sergei Terehhov said: 'It is very sad. We are shocked by this news.'

The 6ft striker has only managed to score 12 goals in three seasons at champions Nomme Kalju since joining in 2010.

Multiple: Konsa, who plays as a striker, has been capped 20 times by Estonia

Multiple: Konsa, who plays as a striker, has been capped 20 times by Estonia

Jack Wilshere and Tom Cleverley for middle England

Wilshere and Cleverley – the boys destined to be England's middle men

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UPDATED:

12:45 GMT, 5 November 2012

They have been billed as the future of the England team, the talented pair who can run the midfield for Roy Hodgson when Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard finally hang up their boots, and on Saturday Tom Cleverley and Jack Wilshere went head-to-head in the lunchtime kick-off at Old Trafford.

It offered an intriguing glimpse of the future of the national team, and could be the defining clash of United versus Arsenal in years to come.

Wilshere, in only his second game back from a 17-month injury lay-off, played a more advanced role for Arsenal.

Middle men: Tom Cleverley slides in to challenge Jack Wilshere at Old Trafford

Middle men: Tom Cleverley slides in to challenge Jack Wilshere at Old Trafford

His average position was just over the half-way line, whereas Cleverley had the majority of his touches in his own half.

Both made around 40 passes during the game, but Wilshere hit a far greater proportion of his passes in a forward direction – 27 per cent to Cleverley's 12 per cent.

Although it may be reflection of the shape of the game, in which a comfortable United side enjoyed the lions share of possession and territory and defended their lead by passing the ball around the pitch, Cleverley also hit double the number of passes backwards than Wilshere.

He's off: Arsenal midfielder Wilshere was shown the red card against United

He's off: Arsenal midfielder Wilshere was shown the red card against United

Most tellingly, Wilshere did not hit a single long ball (any pass 35 yards or longer) before he was sent off in the 69th minute, while in Cleverley's 61 minutes on the pitch before he was substituted, he hit 17 per cent of his passes over 35 yards or more.

The United midfielder was the most accurate passer on the pitch – hitting his intended target with an astonishing 98 per cent of his passes. Wilshere, meanwhile, hit the target with only 89 per cent.

But neither player made single pass that set up a goal-scoring opportunity.

Committed: Cleverley (right) also found himself in trouble with the referee

Committed: Cleverley (right) also found himself in trouble with the referee

Defensively, Cleverley made three tackles in the game (and attempted nine) while Wilshere failed to make single tackle (and still managed to get himself sent off).

In possession, the Arsenal tyro lost the ball an alarming 11 times, whereas Cleverley protected it far more effectively, only losing the ball twice.

England's new Gerrard-Lampard axis Let's just hope they can play together.

Lee Mason will be in the spotlight at Stamford Bridge – Graham Poll

Mason will be in the spotlight at Stamford Bridge

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UPDATED:

23:54 GMT, 30 October 2012

Lee Mason enjoyed his 41st birthday on Monday but his thoughts will have been dominated by his appointment to referee Wednesday's Capital One Cup game between Chelsea and Manchester United.

The Bolton-based referee, a former debt collector, is a competent select group official who tries to go about his duties with as little fuss as possible.

Man in the middle: Lee Mason will take charge of the game between Chelsea and Manchester United

Man in the middle: Lee Mason will take charge of the game between Chelsea and Manchester United

Over last season and this he has refereed six Chelsea games, all won by the Stamford Bridge side, and two Manchester United matches, both of which were victories for Sir Alex Ferguson’s team.

At the same stage of the League Cup last season he took charge of Chelsea’s game at Everton and sent off goalkeeper Ross Turnbull for tripping Louis Saha. Everton’s Royston Drenthe was dismissed for a second yellow card as Chelsea won 2-1 in extra time.

In the spotlight: Mason will have the eyes of the football world on him after the controversies surrounding Sunday's game

In the spotlight: Mason will have the eyes of the football world on him after the controversies surrounding Sunday's game

Mason will be assisted by Jake Collin and John Brooks, who will be under pressure to get the offside decisions correct after three clear errors at the weekend. One of those, Mikel Arteta’s goal for Arsenal against QPR, was missed by Brooks, who is in his first year on the select group of assistant referees.