Tag Archives: turbulent

Joey Barton says he"s not scared of David Beckham ahead of expected clash in PSG v Marseille in Le Classique

I'm not scared of Beckham… he's not the same player any more, says Barton ahead of expected clash in Le Classique

By
John Drayton

PUBLISHED:

17:23 GMT, 19 February 2013

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UPDATED:

17:41 GMT, 19 February 2013

Joey Barton insists he will not be running scared of David Beckham when title hopefuls Marseille play Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain on Sunday.

One-cap England midfielder Barton will come up against a player who made 115 appearances for his country, should Beckham make his debut for the Parisians in the league fixture at the Parc des Princes.

Former England captain Beckham has joined PSG on a short-term arrangement until the end of the season and the big-spending capital club hope he can help steer them to the league title.

David Beckham

Preparing for debut: David Beckham in training with Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday

Preparing for his debut: David Beckham was pictured in training with Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday

Preparing for debut: David Beckham in training with Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday

But Barton is relishing the chance to face the 37-year-old, confident his threat can be contained.

Barton said at a press conference today, according to Marseille's website: 'Paris have a lot of big names and big players. Beckham is a big star off the pitch but on the pitch it's not a big worry.

'He causes a lot less fear compared to when he played in the Premier League. It would be naive to concentrate on David Beckham.'

Brooklyn joins dad David in training

Brooklyn

Click here to read the full story as Beckham Jnr trains alongside his dad in Paris, just a month after undergoing a trial at Premier League giants Chelsea.

Barton, 30, has settled into the French game after a turbulent career in England, and third-placed Marseille stand five points behind this weekend's opponents in the league table.

The significance of the fixture is not lost on Barton but less so because of its traditional status as the most fiercely contested match in France and more because of its implications in points terms.

Barton said: 'I've experienced Manchester City-Manchester United, Sunderland-Newcastle and QPR-Chelsea. The electric atmosphere doesn't worry me, it's even the norm for me. I am experienced, I know the score. There's nothing new for me in a derby.

'The season has already given a lot of surprises and twists. And we're not the types to give up. Nor are (second-placed) Lyon.

French exile: Joey Barton is on loan at Marseille from Queens Park Rangers

French exile: Joey Barton is on loan at Marseille from Queens Park Rangers

'We remain motivated and concentrated even if we haven't been very strong in recent matches.

'This week could change our season.'

PSG and Marseille meet again in the Coupe de France quarter-finals on Wednesday week,
February 27.

'If we win on Sunday and go through on Wednesday, everything changes,' Barton said. 'The pressure will be on Paris. Even without superstars like at PSG, we are solid and when we play like a team, we play well.'

Dylan Hartley to face a disciplinary hearing after citing for striking Rory Best

Hartley's discipline problems back in the spotlight after citing for striking Ulster's Best in cup defeat

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UPDATED:

00:02 GMT, 11 December 2012

Dylan Hartley is in hot water again, this time for striking rival hooker Rory Best in Friday’s Heineken Cup clash between Northampton and Ulster.

The England hooker, who has served lengthy bans for gouging and biting offences in his turbulent career, is set to face a disciplinary hearing this week after he was cited by French match commissioner Jean-Claude Legendre.

This latest charge is not as serious but his poor disciplinary record might well lengthen his ban if he is found guilty. The International Rugby Board recommends a suspension of from two to eight weeks, depending on the severity of the incident.

Trouble ahead: Dylan Hartley (second left) has been cited for an incident during Morthampton's 25-6 defeat to Ulster in the Heineken Cup on Friday

Trouble ahead: Dylan Hartley (second left) has been cited for an incident during Morthampton's 25-6 defeat to Ulster in the Heineken Cup on Friday

Immediately after Northampton had lost
25-6 to Ulster, Hartley denied that he had been involved in any
incident. But TV pictures highlighted how the pair enveloped each other
after Best had tackled Hartley in the 64th minute.

The flare-up ended when the Northampton player lashed out at the Ireland star, who was not hurt.

Hartley missed England’s autumn games
because of a knee injury and only returned to action two weeks ago. The
injury followed his eight-week suspension last April after he was found
guilty of biting Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris on the arm in England’s
Six Nations win.

Hartley, 26, has been backed by
England forwards coach Graham Rowntree, who said the hooker had worked
hard to improve his discipline following a 26-week ban for a gouging
offence against Wasps players James Haskell and Jonny O’Connor in April
2007.

Gemma Spofforth announces her retirement at 24

Retirement at just 24! Swimmer Spofforth ends career to help disadvantaged children

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UPDATED:

16:12 GMT, 21 September 2012


Retiring: Gemma Spofforth is to quit swimming at the age of 24 to help under-privileged children

Retiring: Gemma Spofforth is to quit swimming at the age of 24 to help under-privileged children

British swimmer Gemma Spofforth has announced her retirement at the age of 24, saying she 'cannot top' the experiences she has had in her career.

The 100 metre backstroke world record holder finished fifth in the event at this summer's Olympic Games.

Spofforth, who lost her mother Lesley to cancer in 2007, told SwimNews: 'I have had a very turbulent career and I feel that I cannot top a home crowd in London or a world record in Rome (in 2009).

'I cannot top the experiences I have had and most importantly the friends I have made through the sport.

'When it comes down to it, the races and competition are not what will stay with me, the people and friends I have met and made will stay with me forever.

'I would love to thank everyone who has made this journey possible, specifically the unconditional support and love my dad has given me over these years, the patience my brother has shown with his world-travelling sister and the fantastic coaching I have received from each and every one of my coaches.'

The former world backstroke champion also revealed her new career path would take her away from the pool.

No turning back: Spofforth competes in the 100m backstroke at the London Olympics, where she finished fifth

No turning back: Spofforth competes in the 100m backstroke at the London Olympics, where she finished fifth

She said: 'I've started a new life. I'd like to work with under-privileged kids who need that structure in their lives, who need sport or something like that in their lives.

'To be able to create that avenue for the kids, one that I was so lucky to have myself because I had a fortunate childhood, is something that really motivates me.'

Fellow Olympic swimmer Liam Tancock, meanwhile, joined cycling legend Sir Chris Hoy to celebrate the launch of the Gillette 'Great Starts' grant which will fund the aspiring coaches next stage coaching qualifications.

Tancock said: 'This is an incredible scheme and what we have seen over the summer with the Olympics and Paralympics is great and the work Gillette do helps set up and secure this legacy.

'I actually do a bit of coaching myself now and really enjoy it so I know how important it is and every little really helps.'

Stuart Broad: Losing Andrew Strauss means we all have to step up

Losing Strauss means all the England players have to step up

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UPDATED:

22:38 GMT, 30 August 2012

A captain of substance

It was a complete shock when Andrew Strauss called me on Tuesday to say he was retiring. I just didn't see that one coming. Yes I knew after Lord's that it had been a turbulent time but I thought he still had the hunger and desire to carry on leading the England side. There were no clues as to the captain's thinking.

There is obviously a lot of sadness because Andrew Strauss has been a special part of this team and he means an awful lot to us. I have played the bulk of my Test cricket with him as captain and had most of my success under him. I will always remember how he backed me ahead of the Oval Test in 2009 when I was under the pump and some were calling for me to be dropped. Hopefully I repaid him in that game against the Australians.

Happy days; Andrew Strauss celebrates Ashes glory

Happy days; Andrew Strauss celebrates Ashes glory

Straussy has always been a calm, level-headed leader who took everything in his stride and I can't really recall him ever losing his temper. But I do remember him calling us together on the field during the Lord's Test of that 2009 Ashes series when we had become ragged and had lost our discipline a bit. He just said 'let's pull ourselves together and up the tempo' which had the desired effect.

He has been a captain who always listened to his bowlers and backed them with the fields they wanted to set, giving you confidence for the task in hand. It was always about the team with Straussy, never about him, and any hint of anyone just thinking about themselves when they pulled on the shirt was completely abolished once he took charge. He urged us all to take responsibility and with that came the strong team ethic that has served us so well.

Maybe the last straw for him was losing to me at golf before the Headingley Test. That must have been a real kick in the teeth for Straussy! I'm sure now he will improve his already pretty impressive golf and enjoy being with his family and spending more time at home. What comes next for him I don' t know but he's the sort of bloke who will want challenges in his life. We all wish him well.

A new era

With that sadness comes excitement because this is very much a new era for us now. Alastair Cook is another calm, solid man who has played an awful lot of Test cricket for someone who is still so young. The experience that he and the other senior men in the dressing room have gained will be vital as we might well head to India with a young batting line-up in October.

Past and present: Strauss (left) and Alastair Cook

Past and present: Strauss (left) and Alastair Cook

There will be extra responsibility now not just for Cooky but for all of us and I'm sure those of us with a fair bit of experience can help him as he settles in to his new role. We are a strong unit and that's important moving forward.

There were three England captains and now there are two but I don't expect anything to change as far as my role is concerned. Nothing has been said as yet about the vice-captaincy so I don't know if I am in the frame for that or not but it's not an issue because Cooky and I work closely anyway with our limited-overs cricket. The senior players cover any extra responsibility that the side needs so the vice-captain is only really required to step in when the captain has to leave the field to be honest.

Hitting the gym

Stuart Broad of England

I wasn't at the Ageas Bowl on Tuesday to receive my letter from Straussy – my post has been playing up so I haven't received mine yet – because I have been rested during this one-day series. Andy Flower and I talked about it and it was felt that I should have a break and concentrate on the Twenty20 cricket we have coming up. It's hard to say if I've felt fatigued as such but we all know how much cricket we have coming up and I fully understand the decision. It's sensible. I have been hitting the gym and mentally getting away from cricket and I' m sure 10 days without bowling will do my body some good. We're very fortunate to have a management that looks after us.

Sri Lankan mission

I'm very excited about captaining England at the World Twenty20 and I think we have a squad that can do well in Sri Lanka as we attempt to defend our title. We are all buzzing about it. People have said we might be weakened by the absence of Kevin Pietersen but you have to remember that Alex Hales came into his place against West Indies earlier this summer and immediately scored 99. Our plans haven't changed because KP will not be there and I'm honoured to be the captain.

The future

It was an honour, too, to be named in the ICC Test team of the year, particularly as there were two other England players there in Alastair Cook and Matt Prior. I know we have had some difficult times this year but that shows you that it has not all been doom and gloom and that we have much to look forward to. We are starting again under a new captain but we are doing so with a firm base. It's not like 2009 when it was almost like starting from scratch. I am really looking forward to the challenges that await this England team and I am very confident that we will rise to those challenges. The future starts now.

Harlequins scrum half Danny Care says his mum made him change his ways

When my mum broke down in tears, I knew I had to change, says Care after turning his turbulent life around

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UPDATED:

22:18 GMT, 25 August 2012

Danny Care has confessed that it needed a heart-breaking moment in a turbulent year to finally convince him he had to mend his ways or risk jeopardising his playing future.

After a series of alcohol-related incidents in the last 20 months — including a drink-driving ban, a police caution for urinating in public, an arrest over an alleged sexual assault (strenuously denied and later dropped by police) and stern warnings from the judiciary and rugby hierarchy, the England and Harlequins scrum-half finally saw the light in an unlikely confrontation with his mother.

The meeting ended when his mother, Sherry, burst into tears after issuing a warning that left one of rugby’s fiercest competitors in little doubt that family support would be withdrawn unless his behaviour improved.

Back to his best: Danny Care has committed to Quins and is ready to fight for his future

Back to his best: Danny Care has committed to Quins and is ready to fight for his future

‘She broke down and cried in front of me,’ said the 25-year-old Care, who was dropped by England for the last Six Nations Championship after being banned from driving for 16 months and fined 3,100 following his arrest in the early hours of New Year’s Day.

Opening day fixtures

‘I found that hard to take and knew I had let my mum and dad down. I could not have asked for better parents. Mum has backed me in everything I’ve ever done. But she has also told me in no uncertain terms when I’ve done something wrong — and here she was in tears.’

Care, who announced in May he had given up alcohol, addressed this sobering moment after signing a contract extension on Wednesday that binds him to the Aviva Premiership champions until 2015-16.

And he chose the build-up to this weekend’s Aviva Premiership showpiece opener between Harlequins and Wasps at Twickenham to speak openly of his annus horribilis and promise his career is back on track.

‘The demand for fair play and the Olympics feelgood factor has given all of us a sense of pride and a sharp lesson in how we should behave,’ said Care, who was recalled by England for the summer tour to South Africa.

Second chance: Care was recalled by England for the summer tour of South Africa

Second chance: Care was recalled by England for the summer tour of South Africa

‘I let everyone down by getting into trouble. At the time it didn’t dawn on me the level of responsibility I had when representing club and country. I feel I’ve grown up at last. I’ve learned lessons. To wear an England shirt again was brilliant.’

Care is by no means certain to retain his place for the autumn internationals against Fiji, Australia, South Africa and world champions New Zealand, with England coach Stuart Lancaster having Ben Youngs (Leicester), Joe Simpson (Wasps), Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens), Lee Dickson (Northampton) and Paul Hodgson (London Irish) in competition for the scrum-half berth.

Dark days: Care leaves Southampton Magistrate's Court, where he was fined a total of 3,100 and banned from driving for 16 months after pleading guilty to drink-driving in the early hours of New Year's Day

Dark days: Care leaves Southampton Magistrate's Court, where he was fined a total of 3,100 and banned from driving for 16 months after pleading guilty to drink-driving in the early hours of New Year's Day

But few can doubt the level of commitment Care pledges to next weekend’s encounter with Wasps, which will be examined closely by England coach Stuart Lancaster.

‘It’s a massive year, with the chance of a Lions tour place if I do well,’ said Care. ‘That would be a dream fulfilled and my chance to say thank you to Conor O’Shea [Quins rugby director], Stuart Lancaster and the family and friends who kept faith in me when I went off the rails.’

I"m desperate to finally end Major drought, insists Woods

I'm desperate to finally end Major drought, insists Woods

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UPDATED:

09:17 GMT, 8 August 2012

Tiger Woods has come a long way since this time last year – but not far enough, as far as he is concerned.

When the former world No 1 missed the cut by six shots at the US PGA Championship last August he looked a million miles away from the player who had won 14 majors.

He remains four behind Jack Nicklaus' record, but after finishes of 40th in the Masters, 21st in the US Open and third in the Open – plus three other tournament wins – things are certainly looking up again.

Getting ready: Tiger Woods hits a bunker shot during a practice round at Kiawah Island on Tuesday

Getting ready: Tiger Woods hits a bunker shot during a practice round at Kiawah Island on Tuesday

'I'm pleased at the way I was able to play at certain times and obviously disappointed that I did not win,' Woods said at Kiawah Island, where the 94th US PGA starts on Thursday.

'I've played in three major championships this year and I didn't win any of them. That's the goal.

'I was there at the US Open after two days [he was joint leader] and I was right there with a chance at the British Open.

'Things have progressed, but not winning a major championship doesn't feel very good.'

Not that the 36-year-old is fretting over a pursuit of Nicklaus that has stalled for four turbulent years in his life.

'I figure it's going to take a career – a long time,' he said. 'Jack didn't finish his until he was 46, so if you go by that timetable I've got 10 more years.
“Four more majors is a lot, but I've got plenty of time.'

Luke who's in contention: Donald in practice on Tuesday

Luke who's in contention: Donald in practice on Tuesday

Tom Watson nearly won the 2009 Open just short of his 60th birthday and the year before that Greg Norman was third at Birkdale aged 53.

'We can play late in our careers just because of our training and also just getting the right golf course,' he added.

Woods now finds himself on the longest course in major history – 7,676 yards if played from every back tee – and one made famous by its staging of the 'War on the Shore' Ryder Cup in 1991.

He also finds himself in the strongest field ever assembled for any event.
Barring any late withdrawals, it will be the first time since the rankings were launched in 1986 that the world's top 100 are all in the same place.

The last 16 majors have had 16 different winners. This season has seen Bubba Watson capture the Masters, Webb Simpson the US Open and then last month Ernie Els his second Open.

Lee Westwood

Rory McIlroy

Brit of all right: Lee Westwood (left) and Rory McIlroy (right) at Kiawah Island

It could easily become 17 – Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Woods are not on the list and nor, of course, is Adam Scott after he threw things away with four closing bogeys at Royal Lytham.

Watson is also celebrating something off the course this week – his adoption of a baby boy was finalised.

The American's victory at Augusta came just after he and wife Angie had welcomed month-old Caleb into their home, so perhaps the latest news will spur him onto more major glory.

'Monday was a great day for us, so that's the most important thing – and now we're on to trying to win this tournament,' he said.

Simpson, meanwhile, has become a father again since he triumphed in San Francisco, missing the Open while he waited for his wife Dowd to give birth.

I always knew Mario Balotelli would be a star and I wanted him at Spurs, says Harry Redknapp

I always knew Balotelli would be a star and I wanted him at Spurs, says Redknapp

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UPDATED:

17:38 GMT, 29 June 2012

Strike a pose: Italy's Mario Balotelli celebrates after scoring his second goal against Germany

Strike a pose: Italy's Mario Balotelli celebrates after scoring his second goal against Germany

Harry Redknapp has revealed he tried
to sign Mario Balotelli while he was Tottenham manager and has predicted
a great future for the Italian.

Balotelli guided Italy into the final of Euro 2012 by scoring both goals in the 2-1 victory over Germany.

The 21-year-old is a volatile
character and had a turbulent season although he ultimately secured a
Barclays Premier League winners' medal with Manchester City. Redknapp
said: 'You never know what you're going to get with Mario Balotelli but
one thing is certain – he is a major talent.

'He stunned Germany in the Euro 2012 semi-final and his second goal was fantastic.

'I
actually tried to sign him for Tottenham before he went to Manchester
City. I'd admired him for a while and I went over to Italy to watch him
play. I was impressed and I met up with him too.

'We wanted him on a loan deal but his club weren't keen and it never
happened. Shame because he's definitely got it and, at only
21-years-old, he'll be terrorising defenders for many seasons to come.'

England were beaten by Italy at the quarter-final stage in a game which starkly displayed their deficiencies, specifically an inability to retain possession and inferior technical ability.

Clinical: Balotelli heads home against Germany

Clinical: Balotelli heads home against Germany

For Redknapp footballing culture in this country has to change if England are ever to challenge.

He told Sky Sports News: 'We did okay. Roy (Hodgson) came in at a difficult time.

'We came out of the group which wasn't the most difficult group in my opinion and then didn't play very well against Italy.

'I don't think anyone expected a lot more but I still think we've got players in this country that are capable of doing a lot better and hopefully Roy will take them on now.

'He's got time to work with the team but I think it's long term.

'Unless someone sorts it out and we start playing and producing people that are technically better and are willing to play from the back and receive the ball and play like Italy played against us where they passed the ball – like the top teams in the world – they are never going to improve.

'The problem is they can set up Burton and have the kids there and work on their skills and on their technique. The problem is they then go to football clubs and it depends how the clubs play.

Big fan: Harry Redknapp tried to sign him at Spurs

Big fan: Harry Redknapp tried to sign him at Spurs

'If the clubs are not going to play it's no good having somebody who is going to be the new (Andrea) Pirlo and that kid goes to a club where they are lumping the ball from back to front 60 yards.

'Unless they are going to play through these people and they are going to encourage more and more teams to play football then we are always going to have that problem.'

Redknapp, Betfair's football ambassador for Euro 2012, also expressed surprise that David Beckham has not been selected for the Great Britain team for the Olympics.

'I have to say that I would have picked him,' he said.

'David has been a fantastic servant to all his clubs and a tremendous ambassador for football.

'He trained with Tottenham in January 2011 and we looked at signing him on loan when the American season ended. Putting him in the Olympics squad would not have hurt.

'Fair play to Stuart. He's always been his own man, which is what you have to be if you want to make it as a top manager. It's up to him to select the best squad at his disposal, that's what he believes he'll do.'

Danny Care looking to lead Quins to glory

Danny's taking due Care at last as scrum-half looks to lead Quins to glory

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UPDATED:

21:00 GMT, 22 May 2012

Fully focused: Care says he has 'grown up a bit'

Fully focused: Care says he has 'grown up a bit'

Danny Care is desperate to inspire Harlequins’ last big push to seize the Aviva Premiership title on Saturday as payback for the club’s support during the turbulent period this season when his career veered off the rails.

The 25-year-old scrum-half is back from a shoulder injury, ready for an intriguing head-to-head with Ben Youngs in the final against Leicester at Twickenham.

He is also back in favour with England after being dropped by head coach Stuart Lancaster following two alcohol-related offences.

Further drink-fuelled antics ensued, but in the last couple of months Care has addressed the issue and his game has flourished.

Harlequins – led by director of rugby Conor O’Shea – stood by him all along and Care wants to show his appreciation by helping his team become champions after finishing top of the table.

‘Conor has backed me with everything, put a lot of faith in me. I owe a lot of people a big performance,’ he said. ‘This club are dying to win a trophy and it would be a dream to be crowned the best team in England.’

Watching on: Care missed the semi-final win over Northampton with injury

Watching on: Care missed the semi-final win over Northampton with injury

Care’s various controversies came after he missed the World Cup due to injury. Looking back, he accepts that he was at fault, that rugby was not his priority as it should have been and that Lancaster was right to emphasise his responsibilities as an England player. ‘I lost sight of what I was – I am a professional rugby player and very fortunate to be in the position I am in,’ he said. ‘I think I took that for granted.

‘The stuff off the field was something I needed to change. I probably didn’t realise that until the second or third time. I needed to sort my life out. I did that.

‘I have knuckled down and really focused in the last few months and I’m loving playing rugby again. There was a time when I wasn’t really enjoying it – missing this year’s Six Nations was heartbreaking but it was my own doing.

Back in the mix: Care will tour South Africa with England this summer

Back in the mix: Care will tour South Africa with England this summer

‘To be thrown out of the England squad is the worst you could ever have happen to you as a player. I think I have learned a lot and grown up a bit. It has been a tough few months but there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel – and hopefully winning the Premiership on Saturday is that light.’

Care admitted that his duel with Youngs ‘adds extra spice’ to the final, particularly as it will serve as an audition for the England No 9 shirt for the first Test against South Africa in Durban on June 9.

The last meeting between the clubs last month was a pulsating epic which the Tigers eventually won 43-33.

Setting the scene with a flourish worthy of a top marketing executive, Care said: ‘We are the two best teams to watch in the league. It should be a great final. We like to run it a lot, we like to score tries and so do Leicester. I don’t think it will be a boring penalty fest. I think there will be a few tries – hopefully a few more to us than them!’

Juan Mata targets Champions League after poor League position

Mata desperate to win Champions League to make up for poor league form

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UPDATED:

14:43 GMT, 12 May 2012

Chelsea's failure to finish in the Barclays Premier League top four has made them even more desperate to win the Champions League, according to Juan Mata.

The opportunity to be crowned kings of Europe for the first time would seem motivation enough for the Blues to beat Bayern Munich in next Saturday Allianz Arena showdown.

But playmaker Mata told said the prospect of failing to qualify for next season's competition had given him and his team-mates an added incentive to upset the odds against the German giants.

Final fling: Ramires and Mata celebrate in the Cup final and want to add to their final success

Final fling: Ramires and Mata celebrate in the Cup final and want to add to their final success

'We want to win for the club, and for us, because we can make history for Chelsea,' he said, speaking at the official launch of Chelsea's partnership with the Sauber Formula One team.

'But, as well, it's important to play in the Champions League next year.

'Chelsea always want to be in the Champions League'

The Blues have not been out of the competition since Roman Abramovich bought the club nine years ago.

But they have paid the price for a turbulent season which saw Andre Villas-Boas sacked as manager almost 10 weeks ago.

'It hasn't been an easy season for us in the Premier League,' Mata said ahead of tomorrow's final league game of the season against Blackburn.

'We are in sixth position, so it's not what Chelsea deserves.

'But we won the FA Cup, we have the chance now to win the Champions League as well.

More silverware: Mata is keen to add to his FA Cup winners medal

More silverware: Mata is keen to add to his FA Cup winners medal

'So, if we win both, it will be an amazing season for us.'

The fact Chelsea are on the brink of such a historic season is down to the players and caretaker manager Roberto Di Matteo.

'Robbie's a very good guy, a very good person,” Mata said of the former Blues midfielder.

'He has character, he knows Chelsea.

'He used to play, now he's training.

'So he's a very good manager and we are all with him.'

Mata, who was signed by Villas-Boas last summer, would not go as far as backing Di Matteo for the manager's job full-time.

One down one to go: Roberto Di Matteo has guided Chelsea to one trophy this season

One down one to go: Roberto Di Matteo has guided Chelsea to one trophy this season

He said: 'We don't know, we don't know. It's not our job.

'But I think all of us are happy with him.

'We have to win the final of the Champions League and now that's it.'

Summer signing Mata has done more than most to help Di Matteo transform Chelsea's fortunes during the last two months, featuring in every game until Tuesday night's 4-1 thrashing at Liverpool.

Two days later, he was deservedly crowned the club's Player of the Year, and Di Matteo is unlikely to take any chances with his star player tomorrow, confirming he would blood 'one or two' of his youngsters.

But Spain international Mata once again played down fears he was at risk of burnout and reiterated his desire to play at both this summer's European Championship and the Olympic Games.

Keen to play: Mata says he is not worried about playing lots of games

Keen to play: Mata says he is not worried about playing lots of games

'It's true that I have played a lot of games, more than ever for me,” he said.

'But it's what I want. I always want to play and, after in the summer, we have the Euros and Olympic Games.

'I'm still young and I want to play every weekend.'

Di Matteo presented Mata with his Player of the Year gong at Stamford Bridge on Thursday night and he was full of praise for the former Valencia winger.

'To be so efficient and effective in the first season in English football is impressive because it does take time to adjust in the Premier League,' Di Matteo said.

'He's had a remarkable season, won the Player of the Year for the club, and that just shows what kind of player he's been for us this year.'

Liverpool face summer of discontent

Summer of discontent ahead for Liverpool as inquest into turbulent season begins

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 6 May 2012

They had billed it as the game when judgments could finally be made: a season-defining battle that would solve all those unanswered riddles.

In many ways, they were right. Liverpool’s FA Cup final defeat by Chelsea provided clarity on several key issues, such as the squad (it needs reshaping and strengthening), Andy Carroll (he deserves a chance to shine) and the campaign (it will be viewed with bitter disappointment).

Yet, wholly in keeping with this most puzzling 10 months, a fresh set of dilemmas emerged from the wreckage of their latest trip to Wembley, conundrums that must be tackled swiftly to prevent Liverpool being cut adrift from England’s elite teams.

Plenty to ponder: Kenny Dalglish watches his side lose to Chelsea

Plenty to ponder: Kenny Dalglish watches his side lose to Chelsea

Suddenly the picture of how Liverpool will move forward through the summer is murky and none of the club’s hierarchy would say plans are in place. Or who will oversee them.

Defeat led to inevitable conjecture about Kenny Dalglish’s position. Some supporters are open to the idea of change but the majority are firmly behind a man who was desperate to collect the 28th major honour of his Anfield career.

Yet, on this occasion, the words of reassurance that some longed for were absent. Managing Director Ian Ayre scuttled briskly through the media corridor, declining all interview requests, while principal owner John W Henry offered nothing more than convivial handshakes and ‘hellos’.

Dalglish batted away questions about his relationship with Henry. ‘We will wait and assess the season for everything that contributes to it until after the last games are finished,’ he said. ‘I cannot be any more honest than that. Everybody is going to sit down and assess what has happened.’

Decision time: Liverpool's owner John W Henry has a tough job on his hands

Decision time: Liverpool's owner John W Henry has a tough job on his hands

While it is vital to discover why the wheels came off in the Premier League, all eyes will be on Anfield to see how the massive improvements will be made.

Firstly, it is imperative Fenway Sports Group appoint a director of football to oversee the financial, scouting and contractual duties that have been left unattended since Damien Comolli was sacked. Dalglish has said as much himself.

Secondly, it is crucial that FSG decide quickly whether Dalglish is the man for them. If the doubt remains, the inconsistency that has blighted Liverpool’s season will not be expunged. ‘We have been two different teams this season,’ said a disconsolate Steven Gerrard. ‘We have not been good enough in the league but we have done exceptionally well in the cups.

‘There are no excuses. We as players need to take responsibility for that showing because the players we have in the dressing room are certainly not eighth best in the league.’

Down and out: Steven Gerrard is dejected after his Liverpool side lost

Down and out: Steven Gerrard is dejected after his Liverpool side lost

Pepe Reina, Luis Suarez, Daniel Agger, Glen Johnson and Martin Skrtel are all top performers and the injured Lucas will be another plus, while Carroll seems to have come of age.

How things have changed for the 35million man. Having had to contend with criticism for buying him, Dalglish now finds himself being criticised for not starting Carroll.

It remains a curious fact that the England striker has not started more than three consecutive games this season.

‘We are Liverpool — we will bounce back,’ said Gerrard. ‘We will strengthen in the summer and we will come back and fight again. That’s what this club does. All through my career it’s been about highs and lows. This is a big low but we will be back. I will be back. We are Liverpool.’