International News - Issue 231

Rojo Injury Puts United In Defensive Crisis

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal confirmed Marcos Rojo suffered a dislocated shoulder in the 1-0 defeat to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. Rojo was stretchered off early on in the second half and needed gas and air when going off the pitch after landing awkwardly on his shoulder in making a sliding challenge. The Argentine is now facing a spell on the sidelines to add to United's defensive problems with Rafael and Phil Jones out injured and Chris Smalling facing a ban following his sending off against City have. "The shoulder is out, so you never know how long that takes," Van Gaal told Sky Sports. "I to wait until tomorrow but he shall not play against Crystal Palace." Despite United's growing injury list van Gaal is refusing to make excuses feeling they have a big enough squad to cope without the missing players. "We have injuries but we still have 11 players to play and they are very good players," added van Gaal. "I don't cry for that, but it is sometimes difficult to select the best team. I think I can manage that." Van Gaal should be worried as his only available centre backs are youngsters Tyler Blackett or Paddy McNair.

Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini has hinted at a move for Steven Gerrard if the midfielder fails to agree a new deal at Liverpool. The former England captain will be out of contract in June and has yet to agree terms on extending his 16-year career at Anfield. Concerns were raised at Anfield after a recent interview with the Liverpool talisman who said that he would consider playing for another team if he did not receive a next contract. Gerrard has expressed his desire to play on in the Premier League beyond the end of this season, and Reds manager Brendan Rodgers remains confident the 34-year-old will stay at Liverpool. Pellegrini has no concerns over Gerrard's age, having signed 36-year-old Frank Lampard on a short-term loan deal from new MLS franchise New York City FC. The City manager believes Gerrard still has plenty to offer, and he will be carefully monitoring his situation at Liverpool over the coming months. Pellegrini told several national newspapers: "I don't ever rate players on their age. It depends on the money they cost and the number of years they have (on their contract). But, like Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard is a top player and he can continue at a high level for a couple more years." Rodgers reiterated his intention to retain Gerrard when asked about the progress of talks following Saturday's 1-0 defeat to Newcastle. He said: “It's quite straightforward. I had a meeting with Steven's representative explaining the situation. I very much want him to be a part of what we are doing here. He's been a brilliant captain for me. I relayed that to the ownership. I'm sure he will go away with that and hopefully his representative will organise a deal. Steven is very much part of what I'm doing here. He's a unique player, a unique talent."

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has refused to back down from his scathing attack on the club's lacklustre support. Mourinho criticised his team for a lack of intensity after the 2-1 home win over struggling QPR, but his biggest frustration was aimed at the home fans who he claimed were far too quiet during the game. Chelsea are riding high at the top of the table, after winning all five of their Premier League home games this season, but Mourinho is mystified as to why the atmosphere is so poor at Stamford Bridge.  "We are the team to get less support in home matches. When compared to my previous time I think it's getting worse," he said. "I don't question the passion and the love - I'm nobody to question that and I know clearly that is not true. I will always love them and respect them, but I don't know (why the atmosphere is poor)."

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal was unhappy with Chris Smalling for his sending off in the defeat to Manchester City, but proud of his side for battling with ten men. United faced an uphill battle from the moment Smalling got himself sent off late on in the first half after picking up two bookings in the space of eight minutes. Smalling picked up his first yellow card for needlessly impeding Joe Hart as he tried to clear the ball and handed his second booking for taking down James Milner. Van Gaal had no complaints with referee Michael Oliver sending off Smalling admitting the England defender, who later apologised for his actions, was "not very smart" to make the challenge on Milner when he was already on a yellow card. "I think the first yellow card for Chris Smalling, I did not see but OK, the referee gives a yellow card. Then you know as a player you have a yellow and you cannot do what he did for the second yellow card. That is logical. I say also a lot of things to the players and despite that they do not always follow what I have said. There is also emotion and sometimes you cannot control your emotion but it was not very smart."

Celtic and Rangers will meet in the semi-finals of the Scottish League Cup. The other semi-final will see holders Aberdeen take on Scottish Premiership rivals Dundee United. The game between Celtic and Rangers - which will take place on January 31 or February 1 - will be the first time the Glasgow clubs have met since the financial collapse of Rangers in 2012. The last Old Firm meeting came in April 2012 when Celtic celebrated their title triumph with a 3-0 victory against a club that had been deducted 10 points and were battling for survival off the field.

Arsenal have moved a step closer to signing Sporting Lisbon defender Cedric after the player’s agent talked up a January switch to the Emirates Stadium. The Gunners have been strongly linked with a move for right-back Cedric, who is rated as one of the best full-backs in Europe at present. Arsene Wenger is reported to be considering meeting his £25.5million release clause in January, and Cedric’s agent won’t rule out the transfer happening. “We are happy his work is being recognised,” said agent Miguel Veloso when asked about Arsenal interest. “Right now, we continue to negotiate the renewal of the contract between Cedric and Sporting. But nothing is agreed. All scenarios are possible [in January].” Arsenal are currently without a first-choice right-back with Mathieu Debuchy injured long-term, and Calum Chambers now seen as a centre back.

Liverpool are ready to outbid Arsenal in the race to sign Barcelona sensation Pedro in the January transfer window. The 27-year-old is destined to leave Barca in the new year after falling out of favour under new manager Luis Enrique, and Arsenal had been in pole position to do business. But now reports in Spain say Liverpool are now poised to join the race and would be prepared to outbid Arsenal to get their man. It’s thought that Barca are looking for about £25million for Pedro and would be happy to let him go if an offer around that price arrived.

Algerian club ES Setif got their hands on a second star after beating Congolese team AS Vita on the away-goals rule in the 2014 CAF Champions League Final. After the first leg in Kinshasa ended 2-2, it was the North Africans who were crowned kings of African club football for the second time in their history after a 1-1 draw in Blida. It is the second title for Setif after their first African Champions Cup win in 1988. They are also the first Algerian club to win the competition since rivals JS Kabylie in 1990. Setif will receive $1.5-million and represent Africa at the 2014 FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco in December.

Real Madrid reserve team coach Zinedine Zidane has had his three-month ban temporarily lifted after the club appealed the ban sanctioned by the Spanish Football Federation. Zidane was hit with a three-month ban by the RFEF after it was established that the Frenchman was not in possession of the necessary qualifications for his managerial role with Real Madrid Castilla. However, Real Madrid have since appealed to the Spanish Administrative Court for Sport against the ban cast upon the former Madrid midfielder and, according to a statement on the club’s website, the court has temporarily suspended the ban.

La Liga strugglers Real Sociedad have sacked their coach Jagoba Arrasate. The Basque outfit are third-from-bottom on the table with just one win from their 10 matches so far this term, while they were also eliminated from the Europa League in the qualifying phase. One-time Mainz coach Thomas Tuchel, ex-Betis and West Brom boss Pepe Mel as well as former Manchester United boss David Moyes are reported to be possible successors for Arrasate.

QPR defender Rio Ferdinand has been suspended for three matches and fined £25,000 for comments he made on Twitter. The former England captain was sanctioned for his response to a jibe from a Twitter follower on 1 September, who said: "Maybe QPR will sign a good CB (centre-back) they need one." Ferdinand replied by saying, "get ya mum in, plays the field well son! #sket". The Collins English Dictionary defines the word 'sket' as "a promiscuous girl or woman".

World football governing body Fifa have narrowed down their options in selecting the prospective dates for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The tournament looks to be heading for the winter months in order to miss the extreme heat of the Asian country’s summer season. Fifa has revealed that it has narrowed down the possible dates for staging the Qatar World Cup to January/February 2022 or November/December 2022, but has been asked to consider a third option by a host of top European clubs. A task force set up by the Fifa Executive Committee met in Zurich on Monday to discuss the best possible dates that Qatar should host the world showpiece. “We are getting closer to narrowing the dates for the FIFA World Cup to two options – January/February 2022 or November/December 2022 – but FIFA has also been asked to consider May 2022,” said Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke. “We will summarise what we’ve heard today and provide feedback to all parties in order for them to prepare for the next meeting as we progress towards a final decision.” Local organising committee representative Hassan Al Thawadi said their preferred option would be to stage it in the winter, yet January/February 2022 is a doubt due to the dates clashing with the 2022 Winter Olympics. Further meetings are expected, with a decision rumoured to be finalised in March next year.

Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher named Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta as the best defender in the Premier League on Monday Night Football. Asked to select the standout stopper in the division – from a purely defensive point of view, discarding the player’s attacking contributions – the pundits picked out the Spain full back. The 25-year-old has become a key member of Jose Mourinho’s backline since dispossessing Ashley Cole of Chelsea’s left-back berth and the Blues have conceded just eight times in his eight league appearances this term. “I’d say, for consistency of performances, it would be one of the Chelsea lads – and I’d probably say Azpilicueta,” said Neville. “For technical defending, not making a mistake, not being in the wrong position, not getting caught out… I don’t see him making a mistake. And I have to say the Chelsea defenders aren’t far behind him; Gary Cahill, John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic. But Azpilicueta, when I watch him, he’s as near to perfect as possible when it comes to defending; he’s immaculate.” Carragher described the former Marseille man as an ‘out-and-out defender’ and commended the way Mourinho has cultivated a mean defence at Chelsea. The Blues have conceded the second-fewest number of goals in the league this season. “I totally agree,” said Carragher. “I think those Chelsea players, all of them, they defend properly. We see that in terms of the number of goals they’ve conceded, the clean sheets they keep. Azpilicueta is an out-and-out defender. You very rarely see anybody get the better of him. He’d be my number one.”

Newcastle United winger Jonas Gutierrez has been given the all-clear following treatment for testicular cancer. The 31-year-old revealed in September he was having treatment in his native Argentina and he has taken to Twitter to reveal the good news of his recovery.  "Today I was given a medical discharge,” he said in Spanish on Twitter. "Thank you very much to all who accompanied me at this time, especially my family, my parents, brothers, godmother, friends and @alemaglietti" Newcastle also tweeted their congratulations, posting: "Everyone at #NUFC is delighted to share the news that @elgalgojonas has been discharged from hospital in Argentina #UnitedWithJonas'." Gutierrez moved to St James’ Park from Real Mallorca in July 2008 and played a key role in helping United win the Championship in his second season with the club. He was largely unused by manager Alan Pardew last season though and joined Norwich on loan for the second half of the campaign, making his last league appearance in Norwich's 1-0 defeat to West Brom in April.