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Ashley Cole"s agent flies to Spain for Real Madrid talks

Cole ramps up Real interest as Chelsea defender's agent flies to Spain for Madrid talks

By
David Kent

PUBLISHED:

00:41 GMT, 11 January 2013

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UPDATED:

07:48 GMT, 11 January 2013

Ashley Cole's agent has flown to Spain with a view to speaking to Real Madrid about a possible move for the Chelsea defender.

The 31-year-old's contract ends this summer and, like Blues and England team-mate Frank Lampard, he has been told by Chelsea's hierarchy he will not be offered another.

Real deal: Ashley Cole's agent has flown to Spain for talks

Real deal: Ashley Cole's agent has flown to Spain for talks

Cole has set his sights on a Spanish swansong with Real Madrid or Barcelona despite interest from cash-rich Paris St Germain.

PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti has made no secret of his desire to sign Cole. The pair worked together at Stamford Bridge and they could be reunited in the summer even if Cole opts for a move to Spain.

Ancelotti is under severe pressure and he could leave the club in the summer to take over at Real Madrid. The Italian is on the short-list to take over from Jose Mourinho, who has fallen out with the club's board.

Bargain buy: Cole will be a free agent in the summer

Bargain buy: Cole will be a free agent in the summer

Sir Alex Ferguson reportedly wants to bring Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard to
Manchester United in the summer as he looks add experience to his squad.

The Blues have told Lampard his contract will be not be renewed at the end of
the season, despite his fine form.

Midfielder Lampard, 34, is reportedly keen on a move to Old Trafford,
although left-back Cole's thinking on his future is unclear.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos, selected in FIFA's team of the year on Monday, has been banned for five matches after being sent off and insulting the referee in the King's Cup victory over Celta Vigo on Wednesday.

Former Spurs starlet John Bostock is now on loan at Swindon but insists… I can still reach for the stars

Chased by the world at 15, former Spurs starlet Bostock is now on loan at Swindon but insists… I can still reach for the stars

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UPDATED:

01:01 GMT, 7 December 2012

At the age of 15 years and 287 days John Bostock became the most wanted teenager in world football.

Ronaldinho's signed boots were sent from Barcelona and shirts worn by Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas arrived in the post as part of the seduction process.

Now: John Bostock is at League One Swindon

Now: John Bostock is at League One Swindon

Then: Bostock at the London Nautical School

Then: Bostock at the London Nautical School

Bostock had just made his debut for
his boyhood club Crystal Palace and everybody wanted a piece of a kid
who learned his skills on the streets of Camberwell, south-east London.

Tottenham snatched him in the summer of 2008, paying 700,000 for his
talent and promising to take him all the way to the very top under
Juande Ramos.

Today, aged
20, he is on loan at League One side Swindon Town, fighting for his
place in Paolo Di Canio's team as they prepare to play in front of 6,000
fans at Doncaster Rovers.

'I'm desperate to be a footballer,' he admitted.

'I am a footballer. I want to be a top footballer. There have been
loads of setbacks at Tottenham, but then there are setbacks for players
at every club.

'I'm only human and I made a decision to leave Palace which I thought was the best for me.

'Palace fans were frustrated, but I didn't want to frustrate them – I'm
still a Palace fan and I went to every home game between the ages of
five and 15.

Bostock made his debut at 15 for Crystal Palace

Promise: John Bostock at Tottenham

Promise: Bostock at Crystal Palace (left) and Tottenham (right)

The lost boys

Freddy Adu – Age 23

Signed a reported $1m deal with Nike as a teenager and joined DC United at 14. He made the MLS All-Star team twice before joining Benfica and making his full USA debut. Loaned to Monaco, Belenenses, Aris and Caykur Rizespor before signing for Philadelphia Union.

Nii Lamptey – Age 37

Hailed by Pele as 'my natural successor' and signed for Anderlecht at 16. Scored on his Ghana debut and moved to PSV Eindhoven and then Aston Villa in 1994. He was cheated by his agent and, after playing for clubs all over the world, he returned to Ghana and now runs a football academy.

Florent Sinama Pongolle – Age 28

The U17 World Championship player of the tournament joined Liverpool in 2001 from Le Havre and scored four league goals. Moved to Recreativo de Huelva, then Atletico Madrid and Sporting Lisbon. He now plays for Russian side FC Rostov.

'Sometimes I look back and think what might have been, but I was a young player. I was hungry and I wanted to develop.'

He made a handful of Europa League appearances when Harry Redknapp
replaced Ramos, but his career has never taken off at Tottenham.

When he has the ball at his feet he
is still magical, but he has never been given the chance to thrive in
Tottenham's first team.

'When I joined Spurs I wanted to turn into the players I was playing
alongside – Berbatov, Modric, Palacios and Bale,' he added. 'They were
internationals and I aspired to be like them.

'They were some of the best players in
Europe and I was just a young man learning my trade. Before I left
Palace there was a lot of interest from some top clubs, but I was just a
young kid kicking a ball around and I tried to ignore the distractions.

'I was fortunate to have a good grounding from my parents, so that has helped.'

At times his life has been on warp-speed.

He spent the first year at Spurs living with a family near the club's
old training ground in Chigwell before he later shared an apartment with
his sister.

Bostock married when he was still a
teenager and that relationship has helped the devout Christian through
some difficult periods.

Euro test: Bostock in action against Dinamo Zagreb

Big match: Bostock made his competitive debut against Dinamo Zagreb in UEFA Cup

Chasing the dream: Bostock has also been on loan at Hull, Sheffield Wednesday and Brentford

Chasing the dream: Bostock has also been on loan at Hull, Sheffield Wednesday and Brentford

'Sometimes Harry (Redknapp) would call me into his office and tell me
where he wanted me to improve,' he added. 'I've been around for so long
that people think I'm much older, maybe 23 or 24 – but I'm not. I'm a
student of the game and I'm hungrier than ever.

'As a young player, when I made my Palace debut I dreamed of becoming a great player and playing at the highest level.

'I've had to dig really deep in the past four years and it's been a really challenging period of my life.

'There have been highs and lows, but
without challenges or resistance you can't improve. I feel as though I
am coming through.'

As part of his development strategy he was sent on loan to Hull, Sheffield Wednesday and Brentford.

It was a steep learning curve at first, adapting to the change of
environment after training with seasoned internationals at Tottenham
every day.

National service: Bostock training with England U19's

National service: Bostock training with England U19's

'This is the first time I have been on loan and been given the chance to play centre midfield, which is my best position,' he added.

'Playing football in League One is a totally different environment. I've had to adapt when the ball is up in the air a lot on a freezing cold day and develop other parts of my game.

'People want me to use my skill in the right areas and every manager I have worked under has tried to make me a more complete player. I have worked with some great people. Neil Warnock gave me my debut against Watford, Micky Hazard and Gary Issot at Palace worked with me between 13 and 16.

'Tim Sherwood, Les Ferdinand and Chris Ramsey all helped me at Spurs and Paolo Di Canio is a Premier League legend – he loves the game.'

After the challenge of competing for a place at Tottenham, Bostock is ready for the next one.

Sergio Ramos spits at Diego Costa in Real Madrid v Atletico

Ramos spits at Costa after headbutt with tensions high in Madrid derby

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UPDATED:

12:56 GMT, 3 December 2012

Sergio Ramos is sometimes thought of as a dirty player and if he was attempting to shed that reputation he did himself no favours at the weekend.

The Real Madrid defender was seen spitting at Atletico Madrid's Brazilian striker Diego Costa.

Scroll down for video

Heads up: Diego Costa (right) butts Sergio Ramos before being made to pay when the Spaniard spat at him (below)

Heads up: Diego Costa (right) butts Sergio Ramos before being made to pay when the Spaniard spat at him (below)

Spit: Ramos unloads

Costa was not blameless himself – earlier he headbutted the Spaniard, which obviously wound him up.

The pair have history too – last season Ramos escaped with elbowing Costa in the face – the forward ended up being booked for complaining about it.

Ramos' side emerged on top in the derby, beating their rivals 2-0 thanks to goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil.

First Costa headbutts Ramos…

But then Sergio gets spitty…

Despite the victory Madrid lie third in the table, behind Atletico and, of course, Barcelona.

Before the match Real boss Jose Mourinho gave fans disappointed with the club's form the opportunity to jeer him.

Battle: Ramos (left) and Costa (centre) became embroiled in a personal war

Battle: Ramos (left) and Costa (centre) became embroiled in a personal war

He came out 40 minutes ahead of kick-off and welcomed abuse from the Bernabeu crowd, on the proviso that when the match began they backed the team.

Although a few fans did take the opportunity to whistle and jeer, many got behind him – but there were only 5,000 fans in the stadium at that point.

Marca have reported that Mourinho will leave at the end of the season and he is in contention to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.

Abuse: Jose Mourinho presented himself to the fans before the game

Abuse: Jose Mourinho presented himself to the fans before the game

Harry Redknapp takes QPR job after Mark Hughes is sacked

SACKED! QPR finally fire Mark Hughes as Redknapp is handed reins (but not until after trip to Old Trafford)

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UPDATED:

16:53 GMT, 23 November 2012

Mark Hughes has been sacked as manager of QPR – and Harry Redknapp has been appointed as his replacement.

Hughes's assistant manager Mark Bowen will take Rangers, winless and rock-bottom of the Barclays Premier League, to Old Trafford tomorrow with former Tottenham boss Redknapp in the stands.

Redknapp will take formal charge of the team on Sunday.

Ready for a fresh challenge: Harry Redknapp arriving home on Friday

Ready for a fresh challenge: Harry Redknapp arriving home on Friday

Watching brief: Club shareholder Kamarundin Bin Meranun (left) and QPR chief executive Phil Beard (second left) watch QPR's Stephane Mbia train after boss Mark Hughes was sacked this morning

Watching brief: Club shareholder Kamarundin Bin Meranun (left) and QPR chief executive Phil Beard (second left) watch QPR's Stephane Mbia train after boss Mark Hughes was sacked this morning

Fury: Fans turned on Hughes following the defeat to Southampton at home

Fury: Fans turned on Hughes following the defeat to Southampton at home, his final game before being sacked today

WITH HARRY THERE'S HOPE

QPR are the only team out of 92 league clubs yet to win a match this season. But Harry has performed miracles before. When he took over from Juande Ramos at Tottenham the team had only two points and his only brief was to stop them slipping them into the Championship. He managed to finish in eighth place that very season, and took Tottenham to the Champions League two years later.

Hughes's position has been hanging in
the balance all week after defeat to Southampton at Loftus Road, a
match dubbed 'El Sackico'.

The
former Manchester United striker had been preparing his team for the
clash at Manchester United with the expectation that he would be on the
touchline.

However, owner Tony Fernandes finally snapped this morning, showing Hughes, who had replaced, Neil Warnock the door after 10 months.

Crisis talks were held at the club's Harlington training base on Monday evening.

But the decision was taken by the board to end Hughes' tenure as boss with the board aware that any increase in the five-point gap between QPR and Reading in 17th would make it harder to find a new boss to take charge.

On the ground: Beard watches training as shareholder Muhammad Amiruddin (right) shares a joke with a QPR staff memeber today

On the ground: Beard watches training as shareholder Kamarundin Bin Meranun (right) shares a joke with a QPR staff memeber today

Harry Redknapp photographed in Mayfair

Mark Bowen

The boss men: Redknapp (left) will take charge on Sunday, while Bowen
(right) will be in charge of the QPR team for the trip to Manchester
United tomorrow

On the brink: Mark Hughes took QPR training this week before being axed this morning

On the brink: Mark Hughes took QPR training this week before being axed this morning

FERNANDES TWEETS OF SUPPORT

Cracked: Tony Fernandes wanted to keep hold of Hughes, but finally snapped

OCTOBER 21 (QPR 1-1 Everton)
'Stop wasting your time and energy
on negative tweets. QPR needs time and stability. We have great squad
great manager great ceo. Takes time and a bit of luck.'

OCTOBER 29 (two days after Arsenal 1-0 QPR)
'I
honestly believe we have one of the best managers in the premier
league. And we are in for the long term. Whatever happens. We love QPR.
Ill be there at reading so rangers fans ill be available to meet and
chat. Trust me on this one. Keep the faith. Stability is the key.'

'Completely
right. Mark has my backing and the shareholders. We need a little luck
and no injuries. What’s written in the press is all rubbish. RT
@wayneoeyers: @tonyfernandes we must stick with Hughes. We haven’t been
playing poorly. The club needs stability, manager change would be
suicide!'

NOVEMBER 4 (QPR 1-1 Reading)
'We are doing
our best. Keep the faith. Need to get behind the team now. Positive
energy is what we need. RT @martingreen_qpr: Message to the entire QPR
team, staff, manager and **** head @tonyfernandes. Please don’t **** up
another one of my weekends.'

'A game of 2 halves. Players getting
used to premier league and different type of teams. Keep calm we will
come good. Plenty of time. Many opps to win the game. I’m calm. Won’t
please everyone. But as I keep saying stability is key.'

NOVEMBER 10 (Stoke 1-0 QPR)
'We
got to cut out errors. One error cost us and we got to take our
chances. Team played as planned. Must win next win. No panic. Table is
compressed. Defense was awful now fairly solid. Midfield strong. Got to
score now.'

'Keep the faith. Panic is not what the doc ordered.'

NOVEMBER 16
'Won’t
be happening. For the one millionth time. Hahaha. Stability. RT
@timnmcollins: @Jeffro_QPR @tonyfernandes @lieyaM_M Maybe you can
practice the “You’re fired” line on Mark Hughes #QPR'

NOVEMBER 17 (QPR 1-3 Southampton)
'I
feel gutted. I have put my heart and soul into this with my other
shareholders. And done all we can to give support to players and all
management. I can only apologise to the QPR fans. we keep fighting.'

'Let
me tell you Fans come first. Everyone including me let the fans down.
Many of us need a hard look at themselves. QPR has amazing fans. They
deserve better.'

A club statement this morning said the
Rangers board were now looking to appoint a replacement as soon as
possible, however Sportsmail is able to confirm that Redknapp is the new
manager.

The club's statement read: 'Queens Park
Rangers Football Club has today (Friday) terminated the contract of
manager Mark Hughes with immediate effect.

'This decision has been taken after
careful consideration by the Board of Directors, following numerous
meetings over the last few days.

'The Board of Directors wish to thank Mark for his commitment, hard work and dedication in his ten months in charge.

'Mark
has shown integrity and professionalism throughout his time here, but
ultimately the circumstances we find ourselves in have left the Board of
Directors with very little choice but to make a change.

'The Board will now be working actively to put a new managerial structure in place as soon as possible.

'Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki will take charge of the R's trip to Manchester United in the Barclays Premier League on Saturday afternoon. 'The club will be making a further announcement in due course.'

Former QPR winger Richard Langley told
BBC Radio 5live: 'The frustration has been brewing and the main thing is
they've got such a talented squad at the moment and the results haven't
been coming so you can understand the frustrations at the club. They
haven't been playing as a team.'

Hughes has been walking a tightrope since QPR lost at Arsenal on October 27. Fernandes was set to sack him then but had a change of heart and has tried to support him.

They have not won all season but have an easier run of fixtures coming – and Redknapp will be licking his lips at that prospect.

The former Southampton and Portsmouth manager, who was snubbed by England after Fabio Capello left his post, will eagerly look forward to a new year clash with Tottenham, his most recent club.

QPR's chief executive Philip Beard was seen talking to the players during today's training session following Hughes' departure.

Former Manchester City boss Hughes oversaw 34 matches as manager at Loftus Road, winning just eight of those fixtures.

He managed to keep the club in the Premier League last season despite a 3-2 defeat at City on the closing day of the campaign, picking up memorable victories over Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham along the way.

Marquee signings such as Park Ji-sung, Junior Hoilett, Julio Cesar, Jose Bosingwa and Esteban Granero were brought in before the transfer window closed but Hughes could not bring the best out of his expensive talent.

DATES FOR HARRY'S DIARY…

Harry Redknapp will face his old club Tottenham for the
first time as QPR manager on Monday, January 14 at 8pm.

Happy New Year, Harry.

BEFORE THAT…

Man Utd (away) tomorrow, Sunderland (away) Tuesday, Aston Villa (home) Sat, Dec 1

Wigan (away) Sat, Dec 8, Fulham (home) Sat, Dec 15, Newcastle (away) Sat, Dec 22

Real Madrid 3 Manchester City 2: Match report

Real Madrid 3 Man City 2: Ronaldo breaks Mancini's heart with late winner for hosts

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UPDATED:

21:06 GMT, 18 September 2012

Soemone forgot to tell these two teams that this was the first game of the first round. At least they must have done given a concluding 21 minutes as insane as any you are likely to see in the Champions League this season.

The opening goal was ludicrous. After surviving an onslaught for 69 minutes, Manchester City somehow found themselves in front thanks to a burst of acceleration from Yaya Toure and a goal from Edin Dzeko, who beat Iker Casillas in the resulting one-on-one.

They went ahead again when Aleksandar Kolarov’s deflected free-kick cancelled out an equaliser from Marcelo.

Winner: Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring for Real Madrid in the dying seconds

Winner: Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring for Real Madrid in the dying seconds

MATCH FACTS:

Real Madrid: Casillas, Arbeloa, Pepe, Varane, Marcelo, Khedira (Modric 73), Alonso, Di Maria, Essien (Ozil 65), Ronaldo, Higuain (Benzema 73).

Subs Not Used: Adan, Sergio Ramos, Fabio Coentrao, Kaka.

Goals: Marcelo 76, Benzema 87, Ronaldo 90.

Man City: Hart, Maicon (Zabaleta 74), Kompany, Nastasic, Clichy, Javi Garcia, Silva (Dzeko 63), Toure, Barry, Nasri (Kolarov 36), Tevez.

Subs Not Used: Pantilimon, Lescott, Aguero, Rodwell.

Booked: Javi Garcia,Kompany,Dzeko.

Goals: Dzeko 69,Kolarov 85.

Att: 67,000

Ref: Damir Skomina (Slovenia).

Then came, in four astonishing minutes, the two goals that prompted Jose Mourinho to slide on to the pitch on his knees. The first came from Karim Benzema, the second from the irrepressible Cristiano Ronaldo.

It just had to be the Sad One, didn’t it.

Real’s victory may have been dramatic, but it was also deserved. The first-half statistics perfectly illustrated how their hosts dominated, Real enjoying 74 per cent of the possession, unleashing 16 attempts on goal with only one in response.

When Samir Nasri was injured, City manager Roberto Mancini actually responded by sending on Aleksandar Kolarov, creating a five-man defensive wall whenever Madrid had the ball.

Only in Yaya Toure did they have a player capable of easing the pressure on the City defence. On more than one occasion he burst forward on the counter attack, only for the move to break down before City could even begin to trouble Casillas in the Madrid goal.

Mancini will try to focus on the positives, and the mere fact they avoided anything like the controversy that marred last season’s visit to Bayern Munich is a sign of progress.

Kneesy does it: Jose Mourinho celebrates Real Madrid's late winner

Kneesy does it: Jose Mourinho celebrates Real Madrid's late winner

But if one team looked equipped for the challenge the Champions League represents, it was Madrid. They were not just more creative. They worked relentlessly, playing the pressure game that the Spanish have perfected at club and international level and one that opposing teams find completely suffocating.

It was surprising to see Michael Essien playing in such an advanced position in the Madrid midfield, particularly when Mourinho could have deployed Luka Modric in such a role and when Essien seems better suited to more defensive duties these days. The legs are not what they used to be, even if he remains a fine player.

Gutted: The Manchester City defence are stunned by Ronaldo's late goal

Gutted: The Manchester City defence are stunned by Ronaldo's late goal

The major shock for the locals, of course, was the omission of Sergio Ramos, who was clearly paying for challenging his manager’s authority at the weekend. If Madrid’s ‘captains’ think they have power and influence at this club, it seems to count for little with Mourinho (left).

One player he will probably select come what may is Ronaldo, however, and the Portuguese winger was quick to make an impression. He had already had two attempts on goal when he forced a quite brilliant save from Joe Hart in the eighth minute, skipping past Vincent Kompany before testing the Manchester City goalkeeper with a teasing right-foot shot.

Opener: Manchester City's Edin Dzeko puts his side in front against Real Madrid (above) and celebrates (below)

Opener: Manchester City's Edin Dzeko puts his side in front against Real Madrid (above) and celebrates (below)

Short lived: Edin Dzeko put Manchester City in front in the second half

Exploiting the space being given to him by Maicon, who had left Kompany completely isolated on that occasion, Ronaldo would demand the best of Hart again minutes later. This time his shot took a nasty deflection off Gonzalo Higuain but Hart still somehow reacted fast enough to make the save.

City were under considerable pressure, with Alvaro Arbeloa then asking questions of Hart and further chances falling to Higuain, Ronaldo and Sami Khedira. The Spanish champions were certainly dominating this contest, with Ronaldo just terrific.

Leveller: Marcelo scored Real Madrid's first equaliser after his shot was deflected in

Leveller: Marcelo scored Real Madrid's first equaliser after his shot was deflected in

City, by contrast, were struggling. Maicon looked as lost here as he had against Gareth Bale for Inter Milan two seasons ago. Gael Clichy was drowning too, and a lack of possession made it difficult for Mancini’s forwards to make any kind of impression.

In fact it was only when Yaya Toure wrestled the ball off Khedira and made a marauding run upfield that City fans got even remotely excited. Frustratingly for Toure, however, Nasri drifted into an offside position and the opportunity was gone.

Strike: Manchester City's Aleksander Kolarov (centre) scored a free kick to put his side back in front

Strike: Manchester City's Aleksander Kolarov (centre) scored a free kick to put his side back in front

Nasri did not last much longer, injury seemingly marking the end of his night after 35 minutes. That Mancini responded by sending on Kolarov said it all; a more defensive player for a pure attacker and someone who seemed to position himself wide of Clichy to form what looked like a five-man defence when Madrid were in possession.

Toure would launch another one-man assault on the Madrid half, only to play the ball behind David Silva when the Spaniard was in a dangerous position.

In top form: Joe Hart earlier pulled off a string of brilliant saves to keep Real Madrid at bay

In top form: Joe Hart earlier pulled off a string of brilliant saves to keep Real Madrid at bay

In top form: Joe Hart pulled off a string of brilliant saves to keep Real Madrid at bay

But Mancini would have felt a sense of relief at the sound of the half-time whistle. His side had been distinctly second best but they were still level, not least because of the saves made by Hart.

Madrid continued to dominate after the break but with Kompany starting to get the measure of Ronaldo, they were looking less dangerous. Alongside Kompany, Serbia’s Matija Nastasic also impressed on his debut.

There was a decent effort from Marcelo and Mesut Ozil replacing Essien meant more trouble for City.

Blow: Samir Nasri was forced off injured for Manchester City

Blow: Samir Nasri was forced off injured for Manchester City

Real Madrid scouting report: What lies in wait for Manchester City?

Real Madrid scouting report: What lies in wait for Manchester City

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UPDATED:

21:39 GMT, 17 September 2012

Real Madrid’s season has not started well. Two La Liga defeats have left them eight points behind Barcelona and prompted Jose Mourinho to declare, rather dramatically: ‘I don’t have a team.’ On Tuesday we will discover how deep their problems run…

THE BACK DOOR LOOKS OPEN

Madrid fans are used to teams that place defending way down their list of priorities. But Mourinho is no offensive gambler and this is why his team’s current problems are troubling him so much. They have kept only one clean sheet from seven games this season and in Saturday’s defeat at Sevilla they looked remarkably porous.

Dodgy defending: Sergio Ramos has struggled at the back for Real Madrid

Dodgy defending: Sergio Ramos has struggled at the back for Real Madrid

The central partnership of Sergio Ramos and Pepe was far from secure as Madrid conceded in the second minute, Piotr Trochowski scoring unmarked from a corner, and was not helped by Marcelo’s difficulties with basic defensive duties down the left side. Madrid play with two holding midfielders but neither Xabi Alonso nor Sami Khedira are particularly defence-minded, meaning that Mourinho’s back four were often left exposed.

City will spend large amounts of time without the ball but when they do have it they will hope to push numbers up the field quickly to expose their opponents.

BEWARE THE QUARTERBACK

There is not much we don’t know about Alonso after his years with Liverpool but consider this: he is getting better with age. On Saturday, Alonso was one of the few players to emerge with any kind of credit. He will be 31 in November but his football is only maturing and much of what Madrid do that is good stems from or involves him.

Midfield maestro: Xabi Alonso (front) will be crucial to Real Madrid

Midfield maestro: Xabi Alonso (front) will be crucial to Real Madrid

Madrid’s attacking width is provided largely by their full backs, Marcelo and Alvaro Arbeloa, as Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel di Maria tend to work in and around central striker Gonzalo Higuain. It will be Alonso’s job to feed the runs from the full backs, so the one thing City cannot afford to do is give him time to pop off his passes.

Responsibility will fall not only on City’s midfielders but on their own centre forward, in all likelihood Carlos Tevez. Not shy of hard work, Tevez — or indeed Sergio Aguero — must drop off quickly when Madrid build their attacks and be busy around the deep areas Alonso likes to work in.

ANOTHER BOMBING BRAZILIAN

After 11 years of Roberto Carlos, Madrid have another left back cut from the same cloth. Marcelo was given a difficult time on Saturday but the 24-year-old is dangerous when Madrid have the ball.

Bombing Brazilian: Marcelo (second right) will hope to feature on Tuesday

Bombing Brazilian: Marcelo (second right) will hope to feature on Tuesday

There was talk here that he may lose his place to Fabio Coentrao. If he does play, though, Marcelo will fly forward on to City’s right back at every chance and will be one of their greatest attacking threats. He likes to go to ground, too, and will think nothing of pushing the ball into dangerous areas and falling over outstretched legs. Mancini will think hard about who he chooses on the right side of his own midfield as, whoever Madrid’s left back is, the chances are they will have to help out defensively.

Micah Richards and Samir Nasri had a shocking time against Franck Ribery and Phillip Lahm in Munich a year ago and Mancini will not want that to happen again. Step forward James Milner

FEEL THE PRESSURE

Intimidation runs through this Madrid team and the pressure they place on referee Damir Skomina will be immense. The Slovenian will find himself dealing with a team feeling the strain and City will need to be ready for their opponents to hit the deck regularly. Against dead-ball technicians like Ronaldo and Alonso, City will not wish to give set-pieces away.

Fernando Torres raring to go for Chelsea

Rejuvenated Torres raring to go after putting Chelsea troubles behind him

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UPDATED:

09:20 GMT, 10 September 2012

Fernando Torres believes his experiences with club and country last season helped him become a more complete player.

The Chelsea striker struggled to live up to his whopping 50million price tag as he fluffed his lines in front of goal.

But Torres helped his club win the Champions League before landing the golden boot as Spain won Euro 2012.

Reborn: Fernando Torres has been in fine form for both club and country

Reborn: Fernando Torres has been in fine form for both club and country

Reborn: Fernando Torres has been in fine form for both club and country

'I learned so much about myself last season and feel better for that experience now,” he said. 'I’m playing much more for my club and you can see that I’m starting to score more goals and play better.

'I am a different type of striker than in the past. I created a lot of chances for my team-mates last season and it means my game is more complete at this point in my career. To play in a new Chelsea team and still have something to aim for with Spain is exciting for me.

'The night of my 100th game for my country is something I will always remember. Many Spain players have reached 100 appearances and this says so much about the consistency of the team in the last few years. More will follow to get to 100 – Sergio Ramos and Cesc Fabregas for sure – but it was a special moment for me.

'Even after so many years, it is still a privilege to play in this great Spain team.'

Barcelona 3 Real Madrid 2: Supercopa match report

Barcelona 3 Real Madrid 2: Xavi and Messi rule as Vilanova's men earn slim advantage

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UPDATED:

23:26 GMT, 23 August 2012

Barcelona came from behind to take a slender lead from the first leg of the Spanish Supercopa at the Nou Camp.

Cristiano Ronaldo headed Real into the lead against the run of play 10 minutes into the second half from Mesut Ozil's corner, but Barcelona responded as Pedro showed great poise to slot home a minute later.

Three's the trick: Xavi celebrates scoring Barcelona's third goal

Three's the trick: Xavi celebrates scoring Barcelona's third goal

Boom: Cristiano Ronaldo heads in the first goal

Boom: Cristiano Ronaldo heads in the first goal

MATCH FACTS

Barcelona: Valdes; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Adriano; Busquets, Xavi (Fabregas 83), Iniesta; Sanchez (Tello 72), Messi, Pedro (Alba 88).

Substitutes: Pinto, Puyol, Roberto, Villa

Goals: Pedro 56, Messi 70 (pen), Xavi 77

Real Madrid: Casillas; Arbeloa, Albiol, Ramos, Coentrao; Khedira, Alonso; Callejon (Di Maria 66), Ozil (Marcelo 82), Ronaldo; Benzema (Higuain 61).

Substitutes: Adan, Jesus, Varane, Nacho, Morata, Diarra, Granero

Goals: Ronaldo 55, Di Maria 85

The action then raced from end to end
and it was the hosts who forged ahead 20 minutes from time when Lionel
Messi scored from the penalty spot after Sergio Ramos had brought down
Andres Iniesta.

Then a terrific jinking run from Iniesta freed Xavi to stroke home Barcelona's third goal seven minutes later.

However, the visitors were gifted a
way back into the tie five minutes from time when Barcelona goalkeeper
Victor Valdes tried to dribble around Angel Di Maria and only succeeded
in gifting the Argentinian an open goal.

Barcelona were deserving of the victory but may rue not taking full advantage after dominating for large spells against a Real side who failed to find the cohesion that had seen them go unbeaten in three of their last four trips to the Nou Camp.

Magic: Lionel Messi celebrates as Barca picked up a slim win

Magic: Lionel Messi celebrates as Barca picked up a slim win

Easy does it: Angel di Maria hits back for Madrid

Easy does it: Angel di Maria hits back for Madrid

Messi had the first real chance of
the game when a typically sharp Barcelona passing exchange freed Dani
Alves down the right and his cut-back found the Argentinian on the edge
of the penalty area, but his left-footed drive flew just off target.

The world player of the year then had
an even better opportunity from similar range as he skipped past Alvaro
Arbeloa but this time pulled his shot wide of the other upright.

Real were struggling to manage any
prolonged possession and were relieved to see referee Carlos Clos Gomez
wave away appeals for a penalty when Alexis Sanchez tumbled in the box
under pressure from Ramos.

Spin: Ronaldo wheels away in celebration

Spin: Ronaldo wheels away in celebration

Duo: Xavi (centre) and Iniesta (right) pulled the strings as usual

Duo: Xavi (centre) and Iniesta (right) pulled the strings as usual

However, for all their dominance
Barcelona only had another two long-range efforts on goal as Pedro's
drive was tipped over by Iker Casillas before Xavi shot just over from
similar range.

And it was the visitors who took the
lead 10 minutes into the second period as Ozil's corner was bulleted in
by Ronaldo for his fourth goal in his last four away games against
Barcelona.

The lead lasted less than a minute as
a wonderful ball over the top from Javier Mascherano found Pedro in
behind Fabio Coentrao and the Spanish international slotted past
Casillas.

On the move: Ronaldo gets a pass away after escaping the attentions of Javier Mascherano (right) and Adriano

On the move: Ronaldo gets a pass away after escaping the attentions of Javier Mascherano (right) and Adriano

The game then became increasingly
stretched as both sides tired slightly from playing in the still searing
heat, despite the late kick-off time, and the visitors' luck with
Gomez eventually ran out as Iniesta was brought down inside the area by
Ramos and Messi stepped up to thunder home the penalty.

Moments later Iniesta showed
incredible speed of foot to dance past three Real challenges and slip a
pass through for Xavi to sidefoot past Casillas.

Messi then had a great chance to all
but seal the trophy but he was denied from point-blank range by
Casillas, and within seconds the complexion of the tie had completely
changed as Valdes' error allowed Di Maria to give Madrid a lifeline
heading into the return at the Bernabeu next Wednesday.

Shifty: Messi tries to turn Sami Khadira during the Super Cup first leg at Camp Nou

Shifty: Messi tries to turn Sami Khadira during the Super Cup first leg at Camp Nou

The shake: Jose Mourinho and Francesc 'Tito' Vilanova prior to the match. Mourinho was punished after apparently gouging Vilanova's eye during a La Liga match last season

The shake: Jose Mourinho and Francesc 'Tito' Vilanova prior to the match. Mourinho was punished after apparently gouging Vilanova's eye during a La Liga match last season

No you don't: Ronaldo tries to get the better of Barcelona defender Gerard Pique during the Spanish season curtain-raiser

No you don't: Ronaldo tries to get the better of Barcelona defender Gerard Pique during the Spanish season curtain-raiser

Clash: Messi tussles with Fabio Coentrao on the turf

Clash: Messi tussles with Fabio Coentrao on the turf

Euro 2012 final: Mario Balotelli storms off

Temper, temper! Italy staff fail to calm Balotelli as he storms off after Euro thrashing

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UPDATED:

21:06 GMT, 1 July 2012

The ugly side of Mario Balotelli unfortunately came to the fore once more after the striker clashed with members of Italy's backroom staff in the wake of the Euro 2012 final.

Balotelli endured a frustrating evening as Spain romped to a historic third successive major international tournament victory.

Down and out: Mario Balotelli reacted angrily to Italy's Euro 2012 defeat

Down and out: Mario Balotelli reacted angrily to Italy's Euro 2012 defeat

Volatile Balotelli had had a splendid tournament until that point, most notably when he blasted Italy into Sunday's showpiece with a stunning double to down Germany.

However at the full-time whistle in Kiev, the Manchester City man made a beeline for the dressing room. He came up against resistance from senior figures and appeared to push one.

After several minutes, Balotelli could then be seen on his haunches in the centre of the pitch. He later collected his medal.

MARIO BALOTELLI CLOCKWATCH

I'm outta here: Mario stormed off at full-time

I'm outta here: Mario stormed off at full-time

Five minutes: Appears to have a minor lash out at Spain defender Sergio Ramos after being beaten in the air.

12: Narrowly fails to get on the end of Andrea Pirlo's ball over the top, with Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas hurriedly clearing his lines.

26: Casillas once again thwarts the Manchester City striker, who looks poised to head home Federico Balzaretti's excellent left-wing cross, but for the Spain goalkeeper who just about turns it away.

38: Ends a promising Italy attack with a strike from 25 yards that sails high over the bar.

48: Fails in his efforts to win a penalty after falling to the ground under pressure from two Spanish defenders, having tried to jink his way past.

51: Narrowly fails to get the rebound after Antonio Di Natale's close range strike is parried by Casillas.

58: Shoots over from just outside the area after Casillas had clawed Pirlo's free-kick away.

67: Continues to show an impressive work-rate and wins three free-kicks in 10 minutes after being fouled by Alvaro Arbeloa, Pedro Rodriguez and Xabi Alonso.

90: Cuts a frustrated figure up front as Spain run riot in the closing stages and walks straight off the pitch following the full-time whistle.

Euro 2012: Spain could win three major international tournaments running

Spain could be first international team to win three major tournaments running… here are those that tried and failed

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UPDATED:

13:22 GMT, 28 June 2012

Following their Euro 2012 semi-final penalty shoot-out victory over Portugal, Spain – the Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010 champions – are still on course to become the first team in history to win three major international tournaments in a row, with the World Cup as part of the treble.

Delight: Could Spain make it three on the trot

Delight: Could Spain make it three on the trot

West Germany (1976 European Championship)

The Germans went into the Euros in Yugoslavia as defending champions and having also won the 1974 World Cup, staged in their own country.

For a third successive time they made a final, taking on Czechoslovakia, but after falling 2-0 behind early on and then pulling two goals back to take the game to penalties, they were undone in the shoot-out, losing 5-3 as Antonin Panenka produced a nerveless chip to win it for the Czechs and set the template for Andrea Pirlo and Sergio Ramos to follow.

Foiled: Berti Vogts (left) of Germany and Karol Dobias of Czechoslovakia (right)

Foiled: Berti Vogts (left) of Germany and Karol Dobias of Czechoslovakia (right)

Argentina (1994 World Cup)

Argentina had a hat-trick in their sights at the World Cup in the United States having won the 1991 and 1993 Copa America titles, but after suffering the blow of Diego Maradona being sent home for failing a drugs test, the South Americans – having only finished third in their group – were eliminated in the round of 16 with a 3-2 defeat to Romania.

Kicked out: Maradona was booted out of the tournament for drug abuse

Kicked out: Maradona was booted out of the tournament for drug abuse

France (2002 World Cup)

After savouring the glory of winning the 1998 World Cup on home turf and then following it up with the Euro 2000 title, Les Bleus came crashing back down to earth at the tournament in Japan and South Korea, finishing bottom of their group having suffered defeats to Senegal and Denmark either side of a goalless draw with Uruguay.

Upset: Senegal beat France in the first game of World Cup 2002

Upset: Senegal beat France in the first game of World Cup 2002

Brazil (2006 World Cup)

It was Brazil who eventually won the World Cup in the Far East and two years later they added a Copa America title, but their hopes of a treble were then dashed in Germany as they cruised to the quarter-finals, only to be beaten 1-0 by the French in the last eight thanks to a goal from Thierry Henry.

Defeated: Brazil tumbled to France

Defeated: Brazil tumbled to France