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ECB release 2013 domestic cricket fixtures

Warwickshire to start defence of County Championship against Derbyshire as 2013 domestic fixtures are announced

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UPDATED:

15:10 GMT, 26 November 2012

Warwickshire are set to begin their LV= County Championship defence at Edgbaston against newly promoted Derbyshire after the domestic season’s fixtures were announced this afternoon.

The first round of the County Championship matches starts on Wednesday April 10 after champions Warwickshire return from Abu Dhabi having taken part in the traditional season opener against MCC.

The Clydesdale Bank 40, meanwhile, begins on Friday May 3 with holders Hampshire taking on Essex at Chelmsford in the floodlit game.

Ready Warwickshire start their title defence against Derbyshire on April 10

Ready Warwickshire start their title defence against Derbyshire on April 10

The final of the competition, which sees the 18 first-class counties joined by Scotland, the Netherlands and the Unicorns, will be held on Saturday September 21 at Lord’s.

The Friends Life t20 begins on Wednesday June 26 and, as usual, will include the first-class counties divided into three geographical groups before being pitted against one another.

The Friends Life t20 Finals Day will be held at Edgbaston on Saturday August 17.

Seven international teams are scheduled to play series in the UK next summer with New Zealand, Australia, Australia A, Bangladesh A, Bangladesh U19s, Pakistan U19s, and Australia Women all touring.

A full list of fixtures are published on the ECB's website here.

LV=CHAMPIONSHIP FIXTURES ON THE OPENING DAY

All the below matches begin on Wednesday April 10

Warwickshire v Derbyshire Edgbaston, Birmingham

Durham v Somerset Emirates Durham ICG, Chester-le-Street

Yorkshire v Sussex Headingley Carnegie, Leeds

Nottinghamshire v Middlesex Trent Bridge, Nottingham

Death threats to Halsey opened Taylor"s eyes to referee"s plight in the modern game

Death threats to Halsey opened Taylor's eyes to referee's plight in the modern game

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UPDATED:

22:38 GMT, 1 November 2012

Steven Taylor had just finished sparring with Sunderland fans when he bumped into Mark Halsey at St James’ Park last Sunday.

It should have been an innocuous conversation with the fourth official before Newcastle’s clash with West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League, a chance for a quick chat with a popular match official.

What happened next left the former England Under 21 defender wide-eyed as he was given an insight into the world of top-class refereeing.

Banter: Steven Taylor (right) has a glint in his eye as he shares a moment with Sunderland's Steven Fletcher

Banter: Steven Taylor (right) has a glint in his eye as he shares a moment with Sunderland's Steven Fletcher

Taylor said: ‘Mark asked me what the reaction of the Sunderland fans had been and I told him there had been no problems, just a bit of banter.

‘I didn’t realise Mark gets death threats to him and his family. I didn’t know that kind of thing happened, so it was a bit of a shock to me, a real eye-opener.

'When they’re talking about his family, his kids, talking about putting a bullet in their heads, that’s too far. I haven’t had anything like that.

‘Halsey was trying to make me feel better about my situation by telling me what happened to him, but that’s another level.’

This is the modern-day plight of referees, living in fear of reprisals over decisions made at high speed and under matchday pressure.

It has been a difficult week for officials in light of Chelsea’s complaint into the conduct of Mark Clattenburg at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea have filed a report to the FA citing ‘inappropriate language’ towards John Mikel Obi, but no-one at the club denies that the alleged insult is the word ‘monkey’.

This is different territory for a referee, but the 80,000-a-year officials have become accustomed to the abuse and the threats from supporters.

In September, a fan was cautioned by Greater Manchester Police after Halsey, who recovered from throat cancer in 2009, was abused on Twitter.

Halsey had refereed Manchester United’s 2-1 victory at Anfield when Liverpool fan John Wareing tweeted: ‘I hope Mark Halsey gets cancer again and dies.’

Death threats: Mark Halsey has received vile abuse from supporters

Death threats: Mark Halsey has received vile abuse from supporters

Taylor added: ‘It’s different for Mark because he gets abuse and threats and it’s down to the decisions he’s made. I asked him how he dealt with it and he said he just had to get on with it and not let it affect him, but that must be incredibly hard.

‘I don’t know how he can shrug that kind of thing off because I’m not that kind of person. He’s a brave guy for what he’s been through and after everything that has been said about his family.’

The abuse is relentless, far more sinister compared with anything Taylor endured at the Stadium of Light after joking that he would rather collect stamps than watch Sunderland.

They responded by singing ‘Steven Taylor, we wish you were dead’, but the big central defender thought nothing of it.

The Newcastle defender added: ‘The Sunderland fans know what I’m like, it was all tongue in cheek, but some of their fans got caught up in the emotion of it.

‘I was only having some fun, stirring things up a bit. I’ve talked to Sunderland fans and they understood it was about getting the North-East derby back up to where it should be.

‘I think the fans were just lost for words about what to sing about me. We were having a laugh with each other, there were 48,000 and the atmosphere is always great there. I really enjoyed it.’

These are volatile times for football, with fans creating hostile atmospheres and players putting intolerable pressure on referees as they press for an advantage.

The Newcastle defender, in the squad for Sunday’s clash at Liverpool, added: ‘Players put massive pressure on referees.

‘In the dressing room before games we are told by one of the backroom staff who is the referee, how many red and yellow cards they’ve given out so far this season.

‘If you act all big time the referee is just going to ignore you. Players are so clever these days and they go down with the slightest of touches.

‘I think we’ve seen them clamping down on this diving thing, but I think it’s getting even harder for referees.

‘Like players, different referees have different characters and egos.

‘People should treat referees the way you want to be treated.

For their own self-respect they need to keep their cool and not let things affect them.’

Celtic"s James Forrest ready to face Aiden McGeady in Champions League

Forrest all fired up to cause a surprise and sink former hero McGeady

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UPDATED:

00:02 GMT, 1 October 2012

James Forrest can prove that he is a worthy heir to Aiden McGeady in Tuesday night’s Champions League head-to-head — as he and Celtic aim to spring another Group G 'surprise' in Moscow.

The SPL champions, having taken a point from their home opener against Benfica, head to the artificial surface of the Luzhniki Stadium in excellent form after regaining the SPL lead with an away win over Motherwell on Saturday.

Former Celtic superstar McGeady, already with an assist to his name after Spartak’s dramatic 3-2 defeat in Barcelona on match day one, is expected to be one of the main threats for the home side.

Ready to go: Celtic's James Forrest can fill the boots left by Aiden McGeady

Ready to go: Celtic's James Forrest can fill the boots left by Aiden McGeady

But Scotland winger Forrest, who has filled the role left vacant when McGeady moved to Russia in a record-breaking 9.5million transfer two years ago, is eager to impress his boyhood hero.

‘Aiden was an inspiration to me,’ said the 21-year-old, adding: ‘When I was coming through, there was Aiden and Shaun Maloney playing in my position — and it was great for me to learn from both of them.

‘They were playing in the first team, so it was ideal for me to watch and pick up a lot of things.

‘I’ve learned from Aiden and from Shaun. Now it’s about me in the first team — and I’m just going to concentrate on staying there and doing as well as I can.

‘Most of the boys here know Aiden. He’s a good attacking player and he’ll be one of their biggest threats. We know how difficult he will be to play against.’

Addressing the widespread perception that Celtic should be no more than whipping boys on their return to the world’s elite club competition, Forrest admitted: ‘Nobody gives us a chance. I think everybody expects to us to be beaten in every game.

‘But we did well against Benfica and, hopefully, we can keep surprising teams.

Heading off: Celtic manager Neil Lennon checks in at Glasgow Airport ahead of the Champions League clash with Spartak Moscow.

Heading off: Celtic manager Neil Lennon checks in at Glasgow Airport ahead of the Champions League clash with Spartak Moscow.

‘We had a really good performance against Motherwell, but we know it’s going to be a different game in Moscow.

‘All the players are back — and I think the gaffer has said it’s the best he’s seen a Celtic team play at Fir Park.

‘It’s hard to say before the game if a point would be a good result. We’re just going to go over there in the right frame of mind.

‘We’ve played on an artificial surface a few times. We played on it in Helsinki, while we’ve also trained on it a few times.

‘Possibly it will suit our style of play — but you also have to remember Spartak play on it every other week.’

Impressive as Forrest was on Saturday, he was outshone by the remarkable Kris Commons, a creative spark who surely must be named in Scotland’s squad for the World Cup double-header away to Wales and Belgium; it is hard to think of a convincing football case for excluding probably the best player in the SPL.

Familiar face: Aiden McGeady is getting ready to go up against his former team

Familiar face: Aiden McGeady is getting ready to go up against his former team

Forrest said: ‘His skill at the first goal was tremendous and I thought he played very well. He’s back to the best form of his first season with us.’

There was further encouragement for Celtic last night from their opponents’ camp, with Spartak boss Unai Emery apparently harbouring concerns about the form of his his centre-backs.

The Spanish coach has little confidence in Juan Insaurralde and Sergei Bryzgalov, despite the pair helping Spartak to a 3-1 away win at 10-man Amkar Perm on Saturday.

And while Emery may be toying with the idea of making changes for tomorrow night’s clash, Celtic boss Neil Lennon has been told he can pull off a notable result in Russia if he adopts the same ‘pressing’ tactics Amkar did.

Gianluca Nijholt, son of former Motherwell defender Luc, faced Spartak in Amkar’s Star Stadium, having just joined the Russians from Utrecht last month. And the Dutch midfielder saw nothing for Lennon to fear and revealed that a post-match talk with his compatriot Demy de Zeeuw brought Emery’s own fears out into the open.

‘I spoke with Demy and he said that the coach (Emery) had to put certain guys in the team that he did not want to play,’ said Nijholt.

‘Spartak did not look very good in defence. The centre backs (Insaurralde and Bryzgalov) did not look stable and made a lot of mistakes.’

William Gallas urges Tottenham fans to keep faith despite winless start

Gallas calls for calm as Spurs go to Reading in search of first win under AVB

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UPDATED:

12:27 GMT, 15 September 2012

William Gallas has urged Tottenham fans not to panic despite the team's poor start to the season.

Spurs go to Reading on Sunday still looking for their first win of the campaign.

The London club were unlucky to lose their season-opener against Newcastle, but they missed a hatful of chances against West Brom and looked clueless at times during the 1-1 home draw against Norwich that followed.

Keep calm: William Gallas insists supporters should not panic over their slow start to the season

Keep calm: William Gallas insists supporters should not panic over their slow start to the season

The stalemate against the Canaries, which could so easily have been a defeat had it not been for an excellent performance in goal from Brad Friedel, was followed by a huge chorus of boos from Spurs fans who are clearly unhappy at how Andre Villas-Boas' reign at White Hart Lane has begun.

But Gallas, who has captained the side in all three Barclays Premier League games this season, is unconcerned about how the team have started under the Portuguese.

'We have only two points, but we don't have to be too much afraid because it's the beginning of the season, we have a new manager and a new style,' Gallas told Spurs TV Online.

Tottenham's defence have born the brunt of the criticism from fans after they buckled under pressure to concede two late equalisers in the two games at White Hart Lane.

New beginnings: Spurs trained at their new state-of-the-art training complex for the first time on Wednesday

New beginnings: Spurs trained at their new state-of-the-art training complex for the first time on Wednesday (below)

Training day: Tottenham train at their new training ground

Gallas, who looks set to continue his partnership with Jan Vertonghen at the back on Sunday, admits the team need to maintain their concentration right to the final whistle if they are to pick up their first win at the Madejski Stadium.

'We have to be very focused on what we have to do and we have to be focused for 90 minutes or maybe more,' the Frenchman added.

'All the players want to win, the fans want to see their team win so on Sunday we will try to get the three points.

'We have to be very strong against that team because they are good, they are strong and they are playing well.'

Gallas hopes the club's move to their new training ground will trigger a turnaround in fortunes.

The Spurs squad trained on Wednesday for the first time at their impressive new 67-acre HQ, which contains 11 outdoor pitches and state-of-the-art medical facilities.

Waiting game: Andre Villas-Boas is yet to register a win since taking charge of Tottenham

Waiting game: Andre Villas-Boas is yet to register a win since taking charge of Tottenham

'What we need now is to win some trophies because with this facility, we can get something,' Gallas said.

'It's one of the best, maybe in the world. Everything is perfect.

'When you come here you don't want to leave. You don't want to go back home.'

Villas-Boas will have two new signings available to him for the first time in Hugo Lloris and Clint Dempsey.

The Spurs boss hinted Lloris could be left out of the squad completely as he has only trained twice with his new team-mates, but Dempsey looks set to feature, most likely from the substitutes' bench.

Liverpool were strongly tipped to sign Dempsey from Fulham all summer, but Spurs swooped for the United States international on deadline day after the Merseysiders refused to meet the Cottagers' 6million valuation.

Although Villas-Boas may have to spend a while working out how to fit Dempsey into his starting XI, he is sure that the 29-year-old will have a big impact at the club this term.

'Dempsey can play all different kinds of position,' Villas-Boas said.

'He can play behind the striker, as the main striker or in the channels.

'He is a player who scored 17 last season, 12 the season before.

'He is a massive goalscorer and another good coup in the market on the final day of the window for us.'

Police clash with fans during NFL season opener

Cop that! Police clash with rival fans during NFL season opener

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UPDATED:

10:31 GMT, 11 September 2012

Police clashed with American football fans as violence marred the start of the NFL season.

Several fans were arrested after fighting broke out during the San Diego Chargers' 22-14 victory over AFC West divisional rivals the Oakland Raiders on Monday.

Trouble: Police move in as fans fight during the second half of the NFL game

Trouble: Police move in as fans fight during the second half of the NFL game

Philip Rivers avoided the turnovers that plagued his 2011 season and helped the San Diego Chargers open the new campaign with a victory over AFC West divisional rivals on Monday.

Rivers led the Chargers on drives that produced five field goals from Nate Kaeding and finished a steady day with one touchdown throw, and more importantly, no interceptions.

Rivers threw 20 interceptions last season during a disappointing 8-8 campaign for San Diego.

The Raiders too, were hoping for a new beginning as they entered the 2012 season with a new coach and general manager.

Hand off: Sheriff officers grapple with a female fan

Hand off: Sheriff officers grapple with a female fan

Alameda County Sheriff officers contain a football fan

However, they found themselves 10-6 behind at half-time before Kaeding kicked four successive field goals to leave the home team with a mountain to climb.

Carson Palmer, who joined Oakland in the middle of last season, threw for 297 yards but could only muster a consolation touchdown in the final minute.

In Baltimore, Joe Flacco passed for 299 yards and two touchdowns, while Ray Rice rumbled into the end zone twice as the Ravens ditched their traditional bruising, methodical attack in favour of a no-huddle offense that blew away the Bengals.

Mayhem: Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden takes on Chargers' defence

Mayhem: Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden takes on Chargers' defence

Cincinnati, coming off a surprising season where they reached the playoffs with then-rookie quarterback Andy Dalton, stayed in touch at 17-13 halfway through the third quarter before Baltimore broke loose.

Flacco tossed a touchdown, Ed Reed returned an interception 34 yards for a score and the Ravens ended the game with 27 unanswered points to cap an impressive victory – especially for their quarterback.

'We know what we've got in this guy, he's won a lot of football games,' Ravens coach John Harbaugh.

'Joe Flacco is a great football player.'

John Terry will be selected for England by Roy Hodgson

Hodgson insists he will select Terry despite looming hearing over Ferdinand row

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UPDATED:

14:17 GMT, 24 August 2012

Fantasy football 2012

John Terry will be selected for England's World Cup qualifying double-header against Moldova and Ukraine.

The Football Association have yet to announce a date for Terry's independent disciplinary hearing over charges he used a racist slur against Anton Ferdinand, an allegation he denies and was cleared of by a magistrates' court in July.

Terry was rested, along with several other senior players, for last week's friendly win over Italy.

First choice: Roy Hodgson said he will select John Terry

First choice: Roy Hodgson said he will select John Terry

But Roy Hodgson revealed he would recall the Chelsea captain – if fit – when he names his squad for the September 7 away game in Moldova on Thursday and home clash against Ukraine four days later.

'As far as I know, I can select him at the moment, and I will be selecting him,' Hodgson said.

'I don't really have any comment about the rest of it. Time will take its toll. I just know I can select him.'

Recall: Hodgson rested Terry for the Italy game

Recall: Hodgson rested Terry for the Italy game

That may change if the FA announce Terry has been found guilty in the next week, as there is a possibility his disciplinary hearing has already taken place in secret.

The FA did not make public the date for Rio Ferdinand's hearing into the 'choc ice' insult that appeared on his Twitter feed, simply revealing that he had been fined 45,000.

The Chelsea captain will miss Saturday's match against Newcastle with a neck injury sustained in the 4-2 win over Reading on Wednesday.

'John is struggling for tomorrow. He's a great leader and it's a big loss for us,' Di Matteo said.

If
as expected he fails to recover, Terry is likely to be replaced in the
starting line-up by David Luiz, who sat out the season opener at
Stamford Bridge with a knee problem.

Injury: John Terry will miss the game against Newcastle

Injury: John Terry will miss the game against Newcastle

Luiz was warned by Chelsea for revealing his injury on Twitter, but the Brazilian later Tweeted a photo of himself on a private jet heading for Barcelona to watch their match against Real Madrid.

The 25-year-old is the subject of interest from Barcelona, but Di Matteo insists he was at the Nou Camp on behalf of a sponsor.

'David went to a sponsor's event. In modern day football players have sponsorship deals,' he said.

'As long as it doesn't affect their performance, players try to obligate those duties.

'We generally don't fine our players for tweeting, although we remind them of the responsibilities they have.

'He remains a very important player at Chelsea.'

New boy: Cesar Azpilicueta is ready to go

New boy: Cesar Azpilicueta is ready to go

With Moses' arrival imminent, Chelsea have taken their summer spending to around the 80million mark thanks to today's recruitment of Spanish defender Cesar Azpilicueta from Marseille.

Azpilicueta, who has represented Spain at several youth levels and played at the Olympics this summer, is believed to have cost 7m.

'Azpilicueta will give us cover at right-back. It gives us more options for the future,' Di Matteo said.

'His signing gives us competition for positions. We'll see who will be first choice.'

Di Matteo insists Chelsea's business in the transfer window is complete.

'I'm very happy with the squad. We've got Fernando Torres and Daniel Sturridge, two good goalscorers,' he said.

'Hopefully there will be more goals from midfield too. We have a competitive squad now and we're happy. I don't envisage anyone leaving.'

Daniel Agger to appeal red card received at West Bromwich Albion

I didn't touch him! Liverpool defender Agger plans red card appeal
digg]

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UPDATED:

09:22 GMT, 20 August 2012

Fantasy football 2012

Daniel Agger is considering appealing the red card he received during Liverpool's humbling 3-0 season opener with West Bromwich.

The Denmark defender was handed his marching orders by referee Phil Dowd after appearing to push Shane Long inside the box.

No contact Agger says he didn't touch Long

No contact Agger says he didn't touch Long

He will miss the clash with Manchester City as a result, unless the card is rescinded – and Agger believes he has a strong case.

When asked if he plans to contest the red card Agger said: 'Of course. I've seen it again on television and there is no contact. Referees are only human. They make mistakes as well.

Marching orders: Agger leaves the pitch after being shown a straight red

Marching orders: Agger leaves the pitch after being shown a straight red

'I was unlucky to be involved in one of the mistakes. It’s frustrating but that’s part of the game.'

It was a chastening afternoon for new Reds boss Brendan Rodgers who watched his side crash to defeat at the Hawthorns. But Agger believes his team can and will come back stronger.

'I know we will bounce back from this,' added Agger. 'I think we controlled the game before the sending-off. We had the momentum, we kept the ball well and we created chances. The red card changed the game.'

At Liverpool, the spotlight is always
there. There is no reason to panic. Everyone is frustrated. I don't
think the result was right. It doesn't really make sense. But that's
football and it happens.

'We have to continue. We showed a bit of the football we want to play. The manager said the same – that we controlled the game, created some chances and were a bit unlucky with some decisions.'

Gareth Bale injury fears for Tottenham ahead of Newcastle opener

Bale back injury gives new Spurs boss AVB headache ahead of season opener

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UPDATED:

11:07 GMT, 16 August 2012

Fantasy football 2012

Andre Villas-Boas is sweating on the fitness of Gareth Bale ahead of Saturday's Premier League opener at Newcastle after the Tottenham winger suffered a knock during Wales' 2-0 defeat to Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Bale was taken off on the hour mark by Chris Coleman after his troublesome back injury, which earlier this summer forced him to withdraw from Team GB's London 2012 Olympics squad, flared up in Llanelli.

Cause for concern: Gareth Bale was forced off during Wales' defeat to Bosnia-Herzegovina with a back injury

Cause for concern: Gareth Bale was forced off during Wales' defeat to Bosnia-Herzegovina with a back injury

The 23-year-old landed awkwardly and admitted after the defeat that it had caused him some pain.

He will likely be assessed by Tottenham's medical staff when he returns to report for training at the club's Spurs Lodge HQ in Essex.

But Bale hopes it will ease in time to hand new boss Villa-Boas a welcome boost for the weekend visit to St James' Park.

Pain game: Bale hopes to be fit for Tottenham's opening game of the season at Newcastle

Pain game: Bale hopes to be fit for Tottenham's opening game of the season at Newcastle

‘It was a bit sore when I landed on it, but it wasn’t too bad,’ he said.

‘I will be fine and I just have to get myself ready for the weekend.’

Villas-Boas has endured a frustrating summer so far in failing to secure a new striker in time for Saturday's curtain-raiser, while wantaway midfielder Luka Modric is on his way to Madrid to undergo a medical for Real.

Jose Mourinho: I was wrong to poke Barcelona"s Tito Vilanova in the eye

Mourinho admits he was wrong to poke Barca rival Vilanova in the eye

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UPDATED:

18:51 GMT, 9 August 2012

Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho has sought to calm the waters before this month's Spanish Super Cup against bitter rivals Barcelona by admitting for the first time he was wrong to poke Barca's new coach Tito Vilanova in the eye.

'I should not have done what I did, obviously not,' Mourinho told Fox Sports during Real's pre-season tour of the United States.

'The person who messed up there was me,' added the Portuguese, in an interview posted on the broadcaster's website.

One in the eye: Jose Mourinho shamefully pokes Tito Vilanova last season

One in the eye: Jose Mourinho shamefully pokes Tito Vilanova last season

During a Super Cup match last season, Mourinho stole up behind Vilanova, who was assistant to Pep Guardiola at the time, and jabbed a finger in his eye.

Vilanova responded by shoving Mourinho away and although both were handed Super Cup bans by the Spanish soccer federation (RFEF), federation president Angel Maria Villar exonerated them last month as part of a general amnesty.

They can take their places on the bench for the first leg of the traditional season opener at Barca's Nou Camp stadium on Thursday August 23 and the return game at Real's Bernabeu arena on Wednesday August 29.

Mourinho, whose Real side ended Barcelona's three-year grip on the Spanish title last term, said his relationship with Vilanova had since been repaired.

Lost control: Mourinho admits he should have kept his emotions in check

Lost control: Mourinho admits he should have kept his emotions in check

'I work a lot with my players precisely on this, control the emotions, only think about playing and work well,' he said.

'The key thing is the negative image. As Tito said a few weeks ago, the footage will be there for ever.

'There are no problems between him and me. The story is over and what needs to be done now is to make sure nothing similar happens again.'

The Spanish Super Cup pits league champions Real against King's Cup winners Barca.

John Terry to join Chelsea in USA as Blues prepare for Seattle Sounders test

Terry set to join Chelsea in US as Blues prepare for Seattle pre-season opener

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UPDATED:

06:52 GMT, 18 July 2012

Chelsea warmed up for their pre-season opener in Seattle boosted by the news captain John Terry will link-up with them this weekend.

England defender Terry will meet up with his Blues team-mates on the East coast leg of their US tour, with Roberto Di Matteo's side scheduled to arrive in New York on Friday night, ahead of Sunday's clash against Carlo Ancelotti's Paris St Germain.

Hundreds of fans turned up to witness the European champions being put through their paces by the Italian boss at the CenturyLink Field, where they take on MLS side Seattle Sounders in their first game.

Hands on: Hilario catches a cross as Chelsea prepare for their pre-season opener against Seattle Sounders

Hands on: Hilario catches a cross as Chelsea prepare for their pre-season opener against Seattle Sounders, as the players signed autographs for supporters (below)

Fan-tastic: American fans went wild for the European champions, who signed autographs after their training session

The Blues are Stateside for the remainder of the month with further games against MLS All-Stars and AC Milan to follow and manager Di Matteo is looking forward to getting started.

'Pre-season friendly games are important to transfer what we are doing in training. It's a physical test, and we're still trying to increase our physical performance,' he said.

'The freshness won't be there yet but we will try to set our stamp on our first games and try to develop that.

On the ball: Frank Lampard

Hair we go: Brazilian defender David Luiz

Main attraction: Frank Lampard and David Luiz were two of Chelsea's big stars on show in Seattle

'We're looking forward to playing, we've been training for a while and the game just wakes those nerves a bit and brings excitement for the players.

'The experience so far has been excellent. The training facilities are very good and we've been able to train twice a day for the first two days.

'The weather has been pretty good as well, not too hot, not too cold and it's perfect for pre-season.'

All smiles: Michael Essien will be looking to prove his worth to Di Matteo during the club's tour of the USA

All smiles: Michael Essien will be looking to prove his worth to Di Matteo during the club's tour of the USA

Calling the shots: Roberto Di Matteo has been pleased with Chelsea's pre-season preparation so far

Calling the shots: Roberto Di Matteo has been pleased with Chelsea's pre-season preparation so far

One player who could be on his way out of west London is Florent Malouda.

The Frenchman has been linked with a move to South America and Di Matteo hopes to speak to the midfielder to discuss his future in the next few days.

Di Matteo added: 'I still haven't had a chance to speak to Florent, so I need to speak to him first and see what his intentions are, then we will see what the best interests are for him and the club.'

Cheer we go: Fans in Seattle show their appreciation for Di Matteo's men

Cheer we go: Fans in Seattle show their appreciation for Di Matteo's men