Tag Archives: thinking

New Zealand star Dan Carter winning fitness battle for England showdown

New Zealand fly-half Carter winning battle to be fit for England showdown

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UPDATED:

15:08 GMT, 27 November 2012

New Zealand fly-half Dan Carter is confident he will be fit for Saturday's clash with England at Twickenham.

Carter missed last Saturday's 33-10
defeat by Wales with achilles and calf problems, but expects to return
for the All Blacks' final match of the year.

Welcome sight: New Zealand's Dan Carter (C) during training

Welcome sight: New Zealand's Dan Carter (C) during training

'Hopefully I'll be ready, nothing's changed over the last couple of days,” he said.

'The plan was to get through training and it was pretty light today, I didn't go over 50%. I got through it well.

'We're looking after it well and doing everything right to be ready for this weekend.

Just the ticket: Carter out in London on Tuesday

Just the ticket: Carter out in London on Tuesday

'I'm pretty confident I'll be right to play, I just need some positive thinking.

'It's the last game of the year and I want to be part of it.'

Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez develops iPad coaching app

Save Chelsea's season There's an app for that! New Blues boss Benitez has a secret weapon for masterminding his tactics

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UPDATED:

14:29 GMT, 26 November 2012

Some managers are sticklers for a wipeboard and coloured marker pens, while others might swear by a magnetic pitch and coloured discs to get their laboriously thought-out tactical musings through to the players.

Not so Rafael Benitez – he takes a wholly more high-tech and sophisticated approach to his team talks.

The new Chelsea coach has helped develop an iPad app designed especially for coaches – and he hopes it'll help in turning the club's season around.

Tactics board: The Globall Coach iPad app, which Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez has helped develop, allows managers to plan formations and tactics

Tactics board: The Globall Coach iPad app, which Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez has helped develop, allows managers to plan formations and tactics

Thinking man: Rafa Benitez was installed as interim Chelsea manager last week following the sacking of Roberto Di Matteo

Thinking man: Rafa Benitez was installed as interim Chelsea manager last week following the sacking of Roberto Di Matteo

The Globall Coach app comes in three
versions – 'Lite' for school and Sunday League gaffers at 4.99,
'Premier' for those who take it slightly more seriously at 50 and
'Elite' for those with UEFA qualifications at 300.

Looking a bit like an old Football
manager game, it allows coaches to manage their squads and try out
different on-pitch scenarios and formations.

You can also bring in virtual cones
and flags for training ground routines in case the strikeforce needs
additional shooting practice.

And after the final whistle, the app can help analyse where it all went wrong – or right.

All-out attack: Will Chelsea stick to their policy of full throttle attacking play under Benitez

All-out attack: Will Chelsea stick to their policy of full throttle attacking play under Benitez

The Spaniard has had plenty of time to
think about tactics, having been out of employment for two years before
being brought in as Chelsea's interim boss following the sacking of
Roberto Di Matteo last week.

And talking about his new gadget with
tech website Pocket-Lint, he said: 'A lot of people have iPads now. But I
haven't seen anything like this program.

'A lot of them have a PC, which they
can use to download videos, etc. But to go to the pitch with this, this
level of information and the way you can change everything, I haven't
seen this.'

Benitez said he could only have dreamt
of such technology when, as a young coach, he spent hours meticulously
studying video tapes on upcoming opponents and transfer targets.

'When I was a young coach, I had two VHS video players and I was using both to prepare my case for my players,

'I would spend maybe five hours in the
morning to prepare clips. With this technology you can do things like
that [snaps fingers].'

Zonal marking The Globall coaching app allows managers to fine-tune all aspects of their side's tactics, including positioning from set pieces

Zonal marking The Globall coaching app allows managers to fine-tune all aspects of their side's tactics, including positioning from set pieces

He added that the app will make things clearer for the players as well.

'The other thing is that I have been
at a lot of top sides and they have a lot of foreign players, sometimes
it's difficult to communicate.

'Liverpool had 14 nationalities. And,
at other teams, I've seen a translator on the pitch explaining the
exercises during the training sessions.

'With this you can show them the exercises yourself.'

Globall Coach Lite is available on iPad to download from the iTunes store for 4.99.

More information on the other, advanced versions are available at www.globall-coach.com

Chuck Pagano speech: Leukaemia coach talks to Indianapolis Colts

NFL coach suffering with leukaemia gives team emotional speech after returning from hospital

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UPDATED:

18:35 GMT, 6 November 2012

American football coach Chuck Pagano gave the Indianapolis Colts an emotional and rousing post-match speech after attending his first game since being diagnosed with leukaemia.

The coach has been receiving chemotherapy treatment since September 26, when he discovered he had the cancer.

Scroll down for video

Emotional: Chuck Pagano raises his fist at the end of the speech he gave his side after their victory at the weekend

Emotional: Chuck Pagano raises his fist at the end of the speech he gave his side after their victory at the weekend

Get well soon: Pagano was diagnosed with leukaemia (pictured before undergoing chemotherapy)

Get well soon: Pagano was diagnosed with leukaemia (pictured before undergoing chemotherapy)

Support: Fans and players alike are backing Pagano to come back and put up this #chuckstrong banner in support of him

Support: Fans and players alike are backing Pagano to come back and put up this #chuckstrong banner in support of him

But he turned up at the Lucas Oil Stadium
on November 4 and saw his side beat the Miami Dolphins 23-20 before
heading down to the locker room to deliver his moving team-talk.

Pagano spoke to his men about the
power of positive thinking and visualisation, how they visualised what
they wanted and achieved it in the game – the Colts came back from
behind.

He told them about how because he was visualising overcoming the cancer 'it was already beat'.

Pagano talked of seeing two more of
his daughters get married – he has three, Taylor, Tori and Tara who is
married with two children.

Backed to the hilt: The entire Indianapolis Colts team is behind their coach

Backed to the hilt: The entire Indianapolis Colts team is behind their coach

Indianapolis Colts' Reggie Wayne

A fan holds up a banner in support

Come on Chuck! Indianapolis Colts' Reggie Wayne takes off his helmet while a fan holds up a message of support (right)

Pagano was released from the Indiana University Health Simon Cancer Centre two weeks beforehand.

Colts owner, Jim Irsay, announced Pagano would be watching two days before the game took place.

The game was notable itself for a
record breaking performance from quarterback Andrew Luck, in which he
threw for 433 passing yards – beating the previous record of 432 yards
set by Cam Newton.

Pagano's side are now 5-3 and will travel to Jacksonville in Week 10.

PAGANO'S SPEECH IN FULL

'I mentioned before the game that you guys were living in a vision and you weren't living in circumstances. Because you know where they had us in the beginning. Every last one of them.

'But you refused to live in circumstances and you decided consciously, as a team, and as a family, to live in a vision. And that's why you bring things home like you brought home today. That's why you're already champions, and well on your way.

'I got circumstances. You guys understand it. I understand it. It's already beat. It's already beat. My vision that I'm living, see two more daughters getting married, dancing at their weddings, and then hoisting that Lombardi several times and watch that confetti fall on this f****** group right here.

'Several times, we're going to hoist that baby. I'm dancing at two more weddings. And we're hoisting that trophy together man. Congratulations.'

Good news came with doctors saying his leukaemia is in 'remission', but treatment must continue over two years.

His form of the cancer is acute promyelocytic leukaemia which in over 80 per cent of cases can be cured.

When the news broke at the end of September the team were distraught.

Ryan Grigson took over as general
manager but hopes Pagano will be able to return and coach from the press
box later in the season.

Offensive co-ordinator Bruce Arians was nearly in tears when he heard the news.

Arians fought prostate cancer in 2007 and backed his colleague to emerge on top.

'I know him. He's a fighter. He's
survived tough times already in his life,' said Arians. 'As a cancer
survivor myself, I know that these first few days are really hard on you
but as he and I talked yesterday, it's just a matter of time.'

He spoke of a tribute to Pagano which is taking place.

Arians said: 'I asked Mr. Irsay if we
would leave the light on in his office permanently till he comes back
and we are going to do that.'

Watch the rousing speech here:

Chelsea racism row – comment: Police probe fan"s monkey gesture

Comment: My love for football dies a little bit more… this Chelsea fan will have thrilled to Drogba and Mikel, so what would they think of his monkey gesture

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UPDATED:

15:26 GMT, 1 November 2012

CHELSEA FAN'S MONKEY TAUNT LATEST NEWS…

Now name him: Chelsea ask supporters to shop this fan for his 'monkey' taunt towards Welbeck as club AND police launch probe

Click here to read the latest…

For some of us the memory of standing up on terraces watching English football goes back longer than we would care to remember.

Not because it is now long enough ago to remind one of the onset of middle age, and certainly not because of the raw sense of energy once engendered by being part of a swirling mass of humanity all sharing the same passion.

Instead it is due to some of the other stuff that came with it, such as things like the rudimentary toilet habits and, we reflect again today, the vicious singling out of players purely because of their ethnicity.

It hardly needs saying that 'jokes' about jam jars (how some people laughed) and more straightforward racial abuse from 30 years ago should rightly be considered among sport's most unwanted museum pieces.

Unacceptable: A Chelsea fan appears to make a 'monkey' gesture toward Manchester United's Danny Welbeck

Unacceptable: A Chelsea fan appears to make a 'monkey' gesture toward Manchester United's Danny Welbeck

Taunt: A Chelsea fan appears to make a monkey gesture (above) at Stamford Bridge

This was a particularly nasty part to the underbelly of the Seventies and Eighties, one that you would expect to have been consigned to history until you see images such as that of the Chelsea-supporting lout from Wednesday night making ape gestures at Manchester United's Danny Welbeck.

Right-thinking people everywhere, even those who behave in football grounds in a way they would rarely countenance in any other area of life, are entitled to ask: how on earth is this still going on as we approach the end of 2012

Our small and crowded island can, for the most part, be proud of the way it has absorbed large numbers of incomers from far off lands of all colours and creeds and yet there are still a few who believe that walking through the turnstiles gives them license to behave abusively in a way that is now, thankfully, totally unacceptable.

Utlimately self-policing among fans is the best solution to eradicate it altogether. Yet for part of the explanation behind Wednesday night's events it is depressingly instructive to look closely at the picture taken from the opposite side of the pitch and the demeanour of the other spectators around the bearded offender.

Directly two rows back there is
another man, his arm raised and wrist cocked in a position making a
gesture in Welbeck's direction that will be unmistakeable to anyone who
regularly watches football. In the heat of the moment he, too, clearly
thinks it is acceptable to send a hateful signal, albeit one more
commonplace and harmless.

Daniel Sturridge of Chelsea

Mikel John Obi of Chelsea

Victor Moses

Stars: Chelsea have many black players including Sturridge (left), Mikel (centre) and Moses

But back to the bearded man, who in this age of communication will be quickly identified and is already the subject of an official investigation by Chelsea.

After the police and the club have finished with him you would like to ask him a few questions. For instance, does he not in his daily life have friends or colleagues who are of a different race to him, and has their acquaintance not taught him that his behaviour is completely wrong

And as a Chelsea fan, has he never thrilled to any of his team's black players over the years, for example the muscular industry of Jon Mikel Obi or the physical grace of Didier Drogba What would they think of what he has done

But then football is always a mass of contradictions, not least with the running of Chelsea itself. The angry, bearded man will doubtless get a life ban from Stamford Bridge and will quickly be forgotten, but it is tempting to think that he is an easy target for punishment.

Football clubs usually talk a good game when it comes to the whole issue of respect but, as we have seen with the John Terry and Luis Suarez affairs in all their tortuous tedium, they often send out mixed messages if it involves a valuable asset to on-field performance.

All this comes at a time when football's image has suffered badly in the wake of a glorious summer, with a glut of contrasts being drawn with the Olympics and the spirit that pervaded them and other sports.

Such comparisons are largely over-simplistic and fanciful, but there is no question that it sorely tests your love of the world's biggest game, even among those of us who developed it in the decades when football was about as fashionable as herpes. And every time you see images like Wednesday night's that love dies a little more.

Victim: Danny Welbeck was the subject of the apparent monkey gesture

Victim: Danny Welbeck was the subject of the apparent monkey gesture

Steffen Freund admits Tottenham return is a dream come true

A Freund in need! Steffen admits Tottenham return as AVB assistant fulfills dream move

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UPDATED:

13:30 GMT, 16 July 2012

New Tottenham coach Steffen Freund has described his dream return to the club as an offer he simply couldn’t refuse.

Freund re-joined the north London side this summer as assistant coach to new manager Andre Villas-Boas, having previously played for Spurs in a successful spell between 1999 and 2003.

I'm going back to Spurs! Steffen Freund had previously worked with Germany's national youth teams

I'm going back to Spurs! Steffen Freund had previously worked with Germany's national youth teams

The former Germany midfielder revealed that he was called by Villas-Boas and Spurs chairman, Daniel Levy while on holiday with his family but that he didn’t need much convincing to seal a dream move back to White Hart Lane.

Freund said: ‘That’s my dream, to one day come back to Spurs. Four years ago I did my Pro License, worked for four years for the DFB (German FA), three years with the Under 17s and we were successful, a really nice time.

Thinking time: Freund needed little convincing to rejoin Tottenham

Thinking time: Freund needed little convincing to rejoin Tottenham

‘Of course, it’s a good job, but when Daniel Levy and Andre Villas-Boas call, you have to ask to release the contract and move to Spurs. That’s what happened, all in two weeks! I was on holiday with my family and the next day, Andre called me and said ‘I would like you here at Spurs’. My family is still on holiday and I’m back to work!’

Apart from emotional attachments, Freund told Tottenham's official website that an exciting football philosophy, similar to the model he was working with the German youth teams, was another influence in moving back to Spurs.

The north London outfit have built a brand new training complex which the club claim to be one of Europe’s finest and the former Leicester player is convinced he has the experience to thrive again at the club.

‘We spoke about my role and my situation and Andre’s philosophy,’ Freund continued, ‘I know all about the philosophy of Spurs, everything is the same. The philosophy of the youth teams in Germany is exactly the same as at Spurs – play well, be strong with the ball, dominate games and be strong and solid without the ball. In three hours, we spoke about the future together.

‘It was a special feeling [returning]. We’ll soon move to the new Academy (training centre) and I’ve heard that’s one of the best in Europe, maybe the best, so I can’t wait for that.

‘My role here is to work for Andre and the first team, but still I like to see the youth teams, to know what’s going on. We’re all together at the Academy and I can’t wait for that. It was an exciting day, not easy for me, a little nervous, but I have more experience now and I think I can handle it.’

Fan favourite: Spurs supporters quickly took to Freund (left) who became a tough tackling midfielder during his four years at the club

Fan favourite: Spurs supporters quickly took to Freund (left) who became a tough tackling midfielder during his four years at the club

Freund, who was inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame with Darren Anderton in 2009, also admitted he can’t wait to step out at White Hart Lane again but warned Spurs fans that he can’t guarantee instant success.

He added: ‘Don’t even ask me! That will be a special day again. That was my living room, from 1999 to 2003.

‘I can’t say we will improve straight away in the table and that’s not my job at the moment, that’s up to Andre and Daniel to think about what is possible, but I can help because I know the club.

‘That was my dream when I started my B License five, six years ago. Now is the day to come back and I can’t wait.’

Euro 2012: Cesare Prandelli focuses solely on Ireland

Prandelli calls for calm amid fears of Spain and Croatia carve-up

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UPDATED:

22:02 GMT, 17 June 2012

Cesare Prandelli called for calm as he prepared to send Italy into their make-or-break Group C clash with the Republic of Ireland on Monday night.

The Italians need to win to have any chance of making it to the quarter-finals and even then, a high-scoring draw between Spain and Croatia in Gdansk would put them out.

Calm down, dear: Cesare Prandelli insists his team must focus on Ireland

Calm down, dear: Cesare Prandelli insists his team must focus on Ireland

Prandelli was bombarded with 'what if' questions and speculation that the ghost of Euro 2004, where a draw between Sweden and Denmark accounted for Giovanni Trapattoni's Italy, could return to haunt them.

However, Prandelli was in relaxed mood as he approached a crucial 90 minutes, which he nevertheless described as 'the most important game' of his reign to date.

Asked what would represent the difference between success and failure, he replied: 'It's very difficult to say. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, we are just thinking about tomorrow's game.

'We want to win the game, that's it. Just let us play, let's get on with it, come on. We always want everything before it comes, we want everything now.

Injury fears: Mario Balotelli did not look sharp in training

Injury fears: Mario Balotelli did not look sharp in training

'We are always getting ahead of ourselves, us Italians, but I always say that if you get ahead of yourself, you fall over.'

Italy go into the game on the back of successive 1-1 draws with Spain and Croatia and knowing anything less than a victory will prove fatal to their hopes of making it out of the group.

Even a win would not be enough if Spain and Croatia repeat the 2-2 scoreline which proved decisive in Portugal eight years ago to leave three teams on five points, when their respective returns against Ireland would be disregarded.

However, Prandelli insists he is thinking of nothing other than finding a way to condemn his former Juventus manager to a third successive Euro 2012 defeat.

He said: 'Three days ago, I said it all depends on us and I have to prepare for this game solely focussed on the result in our game.

'I'm not really concerned about what everyone else is saying, it doesn't bother us.

'We are just focussed on tomorrow's game. You have written a lot and said a lot over the last few days.

'But I don't think a team like Spain, who have based their whole footballing image on giving a show and playing tactical football, they are not planning it down to the detail of what the result is going to be.

'It's not at all possible. We need to think of our own game. But I am also convinced we have the means at our disposal to go ahead and win this game.'

Prandelli was quizzed repeatedly over whether he would field a three-man defence or a four-man defence, but was giving little away, and he was equally reticent on whether or not striker Mario Balotelli will be available after hurting his right knee in training.

Listen up: Prandelli (top, centre left) talks tactics with his team ahead of crunch clash with Ireland

Listen up: Prandelli (top, centre left) talks tactics with his team ahead of crunch clash with Ireland

He said: 'We will see how Mario is on the training pitch. He's a lot better than he was yesterday, so if he trains, then of course he will be fit for the game.'

Balotelli was indeed on the training pitch at the Municipal Stadium on Sunday evening, but the consensus was that he did not look 100% fit.

Trapattoni and Prandelli know each other well, of course, and the younger man retains a huge fondness for the 73-year-old, despite seeing his side slip to a 2-0 friendly defeat by Ireland in Liege last summer.

He said: 'When I speak about Giovanni Trapattoni, I always talk about the coach, “Il Mister”, because I had him at a special time in my career.

Time for change: Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni is much respected by his Italian counterpart

Time for change: Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni is much respected by his Italian counterpart

'I was only 20 years old at the time and I grew up playing under him, and he always respected everyone.

'We had a team of great players, but even those of us who didn't play very much, he still thought we were very important, all the players in the squad.

'We have always discussed his strength, and he has great strength. He's got the desire to never give up, to always keep moving with the times, to always be competitive – and he still is very competitive.

'He is a fantastic person.'

Darren Fletcher eyes Manchester United return next season

Fletcher eyes return to action next season as United star battles bowel condition

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UPDATED:

14:58 GMT, 26 March 2012

Manchester United's Darren Fletcher is optimistic he will be able to make his comeback from a chronic bowel condition next season.

The midfielder has not played since November 22 due to a condition known as ulcerative colitis, a form of inflammatory bowel disease.

Watching on: Fletcher was in the stands for Sunday's Old Firm derby

Watching on: Fletcher was in the stands for Sunday's Old Firm derby

Fletcher, 27, is still to return to training and has instead taken over some of the coaching responsibilities Paul Scholes abandoned when he came out of retirement.

There is still no precise date for when Fletcher will step up his recovery programme.

Tough break: Fletcher hasn't played for United since November

Tough break: Fletcher hasn't played for United since November

'I'm still not ready to come back playing or training yet but I'm listening to the medical people and trying to get myself right,' Fletcher told BBC Scotland's Sportscene programme.

'The challenge and the focus is to be ready for next season.

'Me and the medical team decided it'd be best if I tried to get myself right and take an extended period out from the game; then come back fully fit and ready to play.

'It's an unpredictable illness and you don't know what lies ahead of you. But I've got to keep staying strong and keep believing. That's an important side of it: positive thinking.

'I've received great support from everyone in Scotland and down in Manchester. I'm hopeful and really positive that I'll be back and back to my best.'

Scotland international Fletcher is enjoying working with United's second string.

He said: 'It’s always something I’ve had a keen interest in – coaching and passing on advice to younger players who are at an important level at Manchester United in the reserves.

'The next step is first-team football, so [I’m] passing on advice to these players.'

Andre Villas-Boas says Chelsea can win Champions League

We can do it! AVB says Chelsea can win Champions League

Andre Villas-Boas has insisted Chelsea have what it takes to win this season's Champions League, despite admitting they were 'not good enough' to beat a depleted npower Championship side.

Saturday's 1-1 FA Cup fifth round draw with injury-hit Birmingham did nothing to ease the pressure on Villas-Boas, whose players have produced their worst performances of the season at what appears to be the wrong time.

Chelsea's Champions League campaign resumes on Tuesday night when they visit Napoli for their first leg of their last 16 clash.

Wishful thinking Andre Villas-Boas says Chelsea can win the competition

Wishful thinking Andre Villas-Boas says Chelsea can win the competition

A repeat of yesterday's display over the course of the tie will almost certainly result in elimination but Villas-Boas was confident his players would raise their game when it really mattered.

Indeed, the 34-year-old still believes he has a squad capable of ending the club's long wait for Champions League glory.

'It will be a massive challenge. Everyone saw what Napoli did in a group which put another English team out,' he said.

That team was Barclays Premier League leaders Manchester City, who are 17 points better off than Villas-Boas' fifth-placed Chelsea.

The Portuguese has admitted finishing in the top four, thereby qualifying for next season's Champions League, is the minimum requirement this term – quite possibly in order for him to keep his job.

But another early exit from this season's competition – which would mark the third year in a row Chelsea had failed to reach the semi-finals – would really test the patience of billionaire owner Roman Abramovich.

Back: Didier Drogba's return will boost Chelsea's chances

Back: Didier Drogba's return will boost Chelsea's chances

Return: Ramires' return from injury is also crucial to Chelsea's chances

Return: Ramires' return from injury is also crucial to Chelsea's chances

Villas-Boas added: 'The Champions League is a competition that everyone wants to win.

'The players will feel much more tension and feel it much more.

'There are two weeks between the games and it's important for us to be competent and to bring the game to Stamford Bridge with a win or a draw, ideally a scoring draw. Then we can finish the business here.'

Chelsea certainly raised their game when reaching the Champions League knockout stage looked in doubt, beating Valencia 3-0 in December in what was their best performance of the season.

That was inspired by Didier Drogba, who simply must start on Tuesday night following another abject performance by Fernando Torres against Birmingham.

The 50million man's stock has never been lower following a 20th club game without a goal, especially after playing every match since Drogba departed on African Nations Cup duty.

That eight-week period looked the Spaniard's best chance of rediscovering his form but Villas-Boas claimed the renewed competition from Drogba's return could be the real catalyst.

Desperate: Fernando Torres' form has been poor

Desperate: Fernando Torres' form has been poor

He said: 'Everybody is desperate for him to score. Everybody pushes him, praises him in training and it will come with him getting opportunities.

'His confidence is low but we will have to continue to persist with our belief in his talent.

'The belief is the same. The only thing that changes is the level of competition for him and maybe that will be the key.

'More competition will see him push himself that little bit harder and maybe he will eventually reach his goal and targets.'

Chelsea will give captain John Terry until the last possible moment to prove his fitness for Tuesday's game following three weeks out with a knee problem.

Villas-Boas said: 'If he misses out on Tuesday then we will miss a top, top player and a player who gives us great defensive stability.

'It would be a massive loss for us, that's for sure.'

No you don't: Colin Doyle repelled Juan Mata's penalty

No you don't: Colin Doyle repelled Juan Mata's penalty

Birmingham showed the kind of defensive leadership yesterday Chelsea have been lacking in Terry's absence, no-one more so than goalkeeper Colin Doyle.

The Irishman was once again drafted in for a cup tie and starred with a world-class penalty save from Juan Mata to help the visitors secure a replay.

It was a far cry from the 26-year-old's Premier League debut four and a half years earlier, which saw Chelsea set a top-flight record of 64 unbeaten home matches.

'I let in a couple of soft goals,' he said of the 3-2 defeat.

'I didn't have the best of games so I put something right.

'I love facing penalties which is good and I'm pleased I saved it.

'We will be confident bringing them back to our place.

'The pitch will probably suit us rather than them so we will just have to see and hopefully we can do it.'

Andrew Strauss needs to perform against Pakistan – Martin Samuel

It's early, but out-of-sorts Strauss should raise the alarm

Andrew Strauss once claimed he played better after a sleepless night. He could do with setting his alarm clock for a call on the hour in Abu Dhabi, then, because if ever a man needed runs it is the England captain.

His team have been a roaring success, until they arrived in Asia at least, but he has been a worrying failure with the bat for more than a year.

His last international century was in the second innings in Brisbane, 2010, the first Test of the triumphant Ashes series.

Ton-derful: Strauss hasn't scored a Test century since Brisbane, November 2010

Ton-derful: Strauss hasn't scored a Test century since Brisbane, November 2010

Until now, the high level of performance has distracted from Strauss's problem. If the team are winning, and he is their captain, why rock the boatThe logic is certainly compelling.

And then, suddenly, against Pakistan in Dubai, England were not winning. England were floundering and one of the reasons was the failure of the top-order batsmen. At which point, Strauss's dry spell became an issue.

Leading from the front: Strauss needs a prominent performance with the bat

Leading from the front: Strauss needs a prominent performance with the bat

It does not help that at the non-striker's end stands the man many see as the solution to the problem: Alastair Cook, prolific in Australia, scorer of 294 against India at Edgbaston last summer and a captain in waiting.

There will come a time for succession and on Asia's flat wickets it will arrive sooner rather than later if Strauss cannot score.

The track here in Abu Dhabi, for instance, is regarded as a ribbon-tied gift to a batsman with a single century to his name in 42 innings.

Averaging 23.42 since the start of last summer, if there is ever a Test in which Strauss needs to take personal advantage, it is this one.

A dead track is of no assistance to a team needing to square the series with one Test remaining, but to Strauss personally it is an opportunity.

Thinking time: The England captain's position in the side could come under threat

Thinking time: The England captain's position in the side could come under threat

'Anyone who is under any illusion that Test match cricket gets any easier as you get older is wrong,' he said before England's final practice session.

'It's always tough. I think when you're young and naive you look for that magic answer if things go wrong, so you'll be changing your technique, trying different things in the nets. When you're a bit older you realise the best thing is to keep everything the same, keep your preparation the same, don't have too many concerns about technique and just make sure you watch the ball.

If ever a man needed runs it is the England captain

'That's the best recipe for doing well, but it's always a challenge mentally. The trick is to prepare properly and when you get in a position to score a big hundred, make it count.

'That's where I've let myself down over the last year, getting out at 50 or 60 when I could have gone on.

'Being captain can work both ways because overanalysing your game and getting too concerned by technical worries can put you in a bad place mentally.

'As captain, you're obviously busier and have got a lot of other things on your mind. Sometimes that's not a bad thing. Generally I've found being captain has helped me. I hope that will continue to be the case.'

Flat out: Strauss will be keen for England to bounce back after their first-Test defeat

Flat out: Strauss will be keen for England to bounce back after their first-Test defeat

Strauss had some rotten luck in the second innings in Dubai and Cook says he is mystified by his form, having never seen him strike a ball better in the nets.

Strauss accepts the little team talk, but it is plain that a role as the modern Mike Brearley – whose intelligence as captain compensated for some ordinary performances with the bat – does not sit comfortably with him.

'I'm conscious that it is important as a captain to lead from the front by scoring runs,' he added.

'My responsibility is to get the team off to a good start. Having been around the Test match scene for a while, I know form ebbs and flows and one innings can completely change your perspective and the perspective of others about how well you're playing, but I don't think there's room for sentiment in the game.'

Talking with Strauss after the Ashes series, it was clear the pressure on an opening batsman weighed more heavily than he will perhaps acknowledge on the eve of a Test.

'Touring is so much harder than being at home because you don't have that network with you and international sport is very stressful,' he told me. 'If you fail, everyone knows about it .

One of the challenges of making a long career is dealing with tours and finding ways of escaping and coping.

'You never know if you can cope until you go through it. I don't want to paint too bleak a picture, because it can be amazing, but how you cope affects how many runs you score.'

So, well hidden, England's captain is probably going through a tough old time right now. What he needs is a bad night's sleep.

England must hit back hard against Pakistan

Quest to join the greatest! England must hit back hard to keep their mission alive

England showed their character and mettle by hitting back strongly and winning the Ashes twice after crushing defeats by Australia at Headingley and Perth during their rise to the top of the Test game.

This time could be different. This time will be a true test of their desire to be considered one of the greatest teams to have played the game. It will be the ultimate test of their powers of recovery because defeating Pakistan here in alien conditions in the second Test will be devilishly difficult.

Thinking time: Strauss will be keen for his side to bounce back from their first-Test defeat

Thinking time: Strauss will be keen for his side to bounce back from their first-Test defeat

For a start, no team has won a Test at the Sheik Zayed Stadium – OK, there have only ever been two of them here but they were both high-scoring draws – and the wicket being prepared for Wednesday's match looked like the flattest of surfaces.

Also, conditions were very much in England's favour when they moved on to The Oval in 2009 and Melbourne at the end of 2010 after defeats that could have knocked the stuffing out of lesser teams.

In good spirits: Pietersen was criticised for his display in the opening Test

In good spirits: Pietersen was criticised for his display in the opening Test

Instead, England earned thrilling wins that clinched the urn on both occasions. The shock of their 10-wicket loss in Dubai leaves England still having everything to prove if they are to convince they can compete in subcontinental conditions.

If they fail here then they cannot win this three-match series and a year that will also include visits to Sri Lanka and India will seem that much more daunting.

Probable teams

Andrew Strauss is always phlegmatic and talked sensibly yesterday about the task ahead, but he must know deep down that this is one of the biggest challenges of the highly successful alliance between him and Andy Flower.

The Sheik Zayed Stadium is an unlikely stage for such a showdown, not least because it is another inaccessible venue in the middle of the desert. So desperate are the authorities here to attract a crowd – any sort of crowd – that the doors will be flung open and spectators invited in for free. That will never happen at Lord's.

Strauss knows that taking 20 wickets here will test the skill and ingenuity of his four-man attack like never before but hewas keen yesterday not to pre-judge the wicket on the back of history.

'It might be hard to get a victory here but there are a lot of things that can happen over five days,' said Strauss.

'The wicket looks flat but it's
important we don't go in with any preconceptions. We learned a lesson on
that in Dubai. /01/24/article-0-116F301A000005DC-862_468x286.jpg” width=”468″ height=”286″ alt=”In training: England are put through their paces at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium” class=”blkBorder” />

In training: England are put through their paces at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium

England may never have played here before but they remember Abu Dhabi well as the venue for their holding camp before they returned to India in the wake of the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008.

England trained at this spaceship-like venue and stayed at the same central hotel they are using now with their families.

'Things were a bit up in the air over whether we would return to India and we got bounced mercilessly by Freddie Flintoff in the nets,' said Strauss.

'So they aren't brilliant memories, but we went back to Chennai and I scored two centuries in the Test, so personally that was fantastic.'

England were already considering leaving Chris Tremlett out of this Test after his rusty performance in Dubai but the decision was made for them yesterday when the Surrey giant spent all of training sitting on a cool-box rather than bowling because of a sore back.

Game over: Tremlett faces another spell on the sidelines

Game over: Tremlett faces another spell on the sidelines

It was a back injury that kept Tremlett out for the second half of last summer and this latest setback is a worrying one for a bowler who looked to have put his many injury problems behind him when he starred in last winter's Ashes.

Tremlett has all the physical attributes to be a monster of a fast bowler but his body still looks fragile and he cut a forlorn figure yesterday as he contemplated another spell out of the side.

England were set to choose in his place between the next man in line for a fast bowling spot, Steven Finn, or the wicket-to-wicket qualities of Graham Onions, who would be making his international comeback after a career-threatening back injury of his own.

Onions looked the more likely to get the nod last night, and the wait for a Test return for spinner Monty Panesar, whose last appearance was in 2009, seemed set to continue.

Only if England need to gamble everything on winning the final Test will Panesar seemingly come into the equation.