International News - Issue 246

FA Cup Quarter-Final Draw Serves Up Man United Arsenal Tie
FA Cup holders Arsenal will travel to Manchester United in the quarter-finals on 7 or 8 March. United confirmed their place in the last eight after coming from behind to win 3-1 at Preston North End. Liverpool host Blackburn, League One survivors Bradford City face Reading while West Midlands rivals Aston Villa and West Brom will meet at Villa Park. Arsenal and United met in the 2004-05 FA Cup final in Cardiff with the north London side winning 5-4 on penalties after a goalless draw. Liverpool's last-eight draw will give Steven Gerrard hope of reaching Wembley in his final season at the Reds, although they will have to overcome a Blackburn side who have knocked out Premier League opposition in Swansea and Stoke already this season. League One side Bradford are into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup for the first time since 1976, and will be confident of progressing further against Reading after beating Premier League sides Chelsea and Sunderland in the previous rounds. The quarter-final draw was made by England boss Roy Hodgson and Brian Finney, son of Preston legend Tom Finney, at Deepdale on Monday before the Preston-Manchester United game.

Tim Sherwood admits it was a "no brainer" when asked to replace Paul Lambert as Aston Villa manager. Sherwood, 46, was appointed on Saturday and watched from the stands as Villa beat Leicester 2-1 in the FA Cup fifth round on Sunday at Villa Park. He said: "When I got the call it was a no brainer. I said 'yes, I'll take the job' then negotiate afterwards." The Birmingham club are third from bottom on 22 points, just five more than basement club Leicester. Sherwood added: "Everyone is surprised to see where they are. But they are not here for no reason. "They are a giant club with a lot of history. I will do whatever I can to take us over the line." And one of Sherwood's first tasks is to help striker Christian Benteke to recapture his form of the last two seasons to help Villa start climbing the table. The Belgium striker has scored only three goals in 19 Villa appearances this term after netting 34 in 62 games in the previous two seasons. He was left out of the side for both the home defeat by Chelsea and Tuesday's loss away to Hull City - Lambert's last game in charge. Sherwood was the clear frontrunner to take over at Queens Park Rangers following the resignation of Harry Redknapp, but negotiations came to a halt last week. His new club have won only two home league games all season and their last league win was a 2-1 success against Leicester City on 7 December. He said: "When I came here as a player I found it a difficult place to get a result. I want to turn it into a fortress. I've got a way of playing. It has been a success with the Spurs development side and in the first team. I know how to galvanise and get the best out of players and that is what I intend to do with this squad."

Borussia Dortmund midfielder Marco Reus could have doubled his wages by leaving the club, according to Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke. Reus penned a new deal with the Bundesliga strugglers which expires in June 2019 - snubbing interest from Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City. "Reus's renewal is a crazy story. It really is remarkable. He could have earned twice as much elsewhere. On one hand you have some of the biggest clubs in the world chasing you and then there's the relegation battle with Dortmund - and no Champions League football next season. But he is committed to Dortmund. It would have been very difficult for Marco to leave the city and club. That was decisive in the end. He really is a special guy." Reus said of his decision: "This is a decision for life, that's clear. That is also why I thought about it for such a long time. When I returned to this club, I said that I have plans with Dortmund. And I stand by what I said then. You win together and you struggle together." The 25-year-old has scored seven goals in 14 appearances in all competitions this season.

Filippo Inzaghi’s woes continued as he watched his Milan side give away their lead in a 1-1 draw with Empoli in their Serie A encounter on Sunday afternoon. New Signing Mattia Destro, who joined from rivals AS Roma, tapped in from close range on 40 minutes to give the hosts the lead, before Massimo Maccarone headed home midway through the second half to claim a point for the visitors. The result left Inzaghi lamenting the numerous injuries in his squad, especially after Brazilian centre-back Alex had to leave the field after just eight minutes with a broken nose. "It is a difficult period for Milan, we have many injuries," the Rossoneri coach said. "We are also very unlucky, losing Alex a few minutes in with a broken nose is exceptionally unlucky. It was a balanced game, we were good value for our lead. My biggest regret is the goal we conceded. Empoli are a great team, you see the work Maurizio Sarri has done with them. We are growing. I read criticism that I change the starting XI a lot, but I cannot play injured players. At this time we have to work on our mentality, my players need to find some belief.” Milan are now eleventh in the Italian standings with just seven wins from their 23 matches, and the former striker knows his side have to improve as their discontent supporters jeered them off the field after the game. Milan next face Cesena in their next League fixture on 22 February.

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has defended Wayne Rooney’s club role in midfield to that of his role under Roy Hodgson at the England national team. Van Gaal has used Rooney in a deeper role in midfield as opposed to his accustomed role up front in recent fixtures. Hodgson has been quizzed on whether he would change Rooney’s England role, but the former Liverpool manager rejected any such possibilities, with Van Gaal admitting he would do the same if he was England manager. “In the composition for Mr Hodgson, Rooney is probably giving more contribution to the English team in the striker's position, then I would put him there too if I was the English manager,” Van Gaal said. The former Netherlands mentor defended Rooney’s role, explaining that United have too many quality options in the striking positions. "He has to compare Rooney with other strikers in his line-up and that is another consideration I have to make. I have to choose between Radamel Falcao, Robin van Persie and all the other strikers I have, then it is my consideration that is a different way. It is not that anybody isn't a good player in my selection. I have to look at where each player can make the biggest contribution. It's the composition, which is more important than the individual player," he added.

Brendan Rodgers is pleased to see Daniel Sturridge fit and firing again for Liverpool, but the same can't be said for Alberto Moreno's attempted celebration. Sturridge made his second consecutive start for the first time in five and a half months as the Reds progressed to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup at the expense of Crystal Palace. The England striker bagged in the second-half at Selhurst Park to cancel out Fraizer Campbell's early opener and was joined by Moreno in his trademark dance celebration. Adam Lallana completed the comeback nine minutes later, and Rodgers was pleased with his side's second-half performance. "After we scored I thought we were very good. We had 15 efforts on goal in the first half but we weren't aggressive enough. I wanted us to keep the width on the pitch, we changed it around at half-time and it worked well for us. Daniel Sturridge is a natural goalscorer. The worry is that his team-mates are joining in with his dancing!"

Ivory Coast defender Kolo Toure has officially announced his retirement from international football. The Liverpool centre-back’s announcement comes just a week after helping his national side to the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations. “It is with great emotion that I inform you that I am going to step back. It is a very difficult decision to take as I love my country and especially love football. But at some point, there comes a time to stop,” Kolo said. The 33-year old also took the opportunity to divert the attention to what he has labelled his “successor”. “I am going to introduce my successor at the heart of the defence to you. He is tough. This is Ousmane Viera Diarrassouba, the new boss of the defence. He is my successor,” he added. Kolo, the older brother to Manchester City midfielder and Ivory Coast captain Yaya, served The Elephants for almost 15 years ago and featured in seven Afcon tournaments and three World Cup finals, winning over 110 caps in the process.

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has brushed off criticism from retired midfielder Paul Scholes. Scholes recently criticised United’s playing style of play under the Dutch mentor, arguing that they were way more attacking under Sir Alex Ferguson. United have won just 13 of their 25 league matches this season, which may suggest the reason for Scholes’ criticism, however, Van Gaal has brushed aside the Old Trafford legend’s harsh words, labelling him just another “fan”. “I don't worry about it, it's not so interesting I think because he is one of the fans, I hope, and fans can criticise," said Van Gaal. "That's what I have to say about that. I am used to it and I think all the players are used to it because they are not first time professional football players. Maybe some players are not affected, most of the time it does not affect me or the players."

Tottenham striker Harry Kane and Southampton boss Ronald Koeman have been named the Premier League's player and manager of the month respectively for January. Kane scored five times in as many matches for Spurs last month, including a brace in a 5-3 defeat of Premier League leaders Chelsea on New Year's Day. The 21-year-old Englishman has bagged an impressive 23 goals in 35 matches this season. Koeman was recognised for steering the Saints to three wins in the voting period - over Arsenal, Manchester United and Newcastle - to maintain the club's charge for a top-four finish. "It's a great feeling and it's a big compliment to the whole team," Koeman told Southampton's official website on receiving his award. "We are working hard. The win against Arsenal gave the players confidence. It was then an unbelievable feeling to win at Old Trafford. Then to keep the spirit to win against Newcastle as well was great. It was a tough week but the players were fantastic."

Kabuscorp president Benedict Kangamba has claimed the Angolan club are on the brink of signing Brazilian legend Ronaldinho. The two-time World Player of the Year is currently contracted to Queretaro until the end of the 2015-16 season, having surprisingly joined the Mexican outfit in September. "It's a certainty. We are negotiating, but Ronaldinho has to terminate the contract with his current club, and then be able to join us in June," Kangamba told Public Television Angola. "You may ask why I picked Ronaldinho... Well, I want quality in my squad," he added of the 34-year-old, who has played for Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona and AC Milan and earned 97 caps for the Samba Boys. Ronaldinho's former teammate Rivaldo joined Kabuscorp on a one-year deal in 2012.

Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric is expected to resume full training within three weeks following a lengthy spell out through injury. The Croatian has been sidelined since rupturing a thigh muscle in his country's Euro 2016 qualifier against Italy on November 18. Modric said: "My rehabilitation is going according to plan, it is going very well. I am happy and I will soon be back on the pitch! I have been aware just how serious this injury is ever since it happened, and we all agreed we have to be patient because a rupture is very complicated. Yes, I miss playing very much but I am disciplined and I don't want to rush things. I know it could end very badly, with a new injury, if I return too soon." Croatia FA's head of medical services Boris Nemec added: "He will begin to run now and in three weeks he should make full training sessions with the team.

Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard has signed a new five-and-a-half-year contract with the Premier League leaders. Hazard had been in negotiations with the Blues for several months amid reported interest from French big-spenders Paris Saint-Germain. "I am very happy to sign a new contract with Chelsea," he told the club's official website. "Since I came here in 2012 I have always felt good and the club has been very supportive to me. The manager has helped me improve a lot, the fans have been fantastic and I have an amazing understanding with my team-mates. I always try to give pleasure to the supporters with my style of play and it is nice to know they appreciate my work. "I hope we can repay that support by winning lots of trophies, beginning with the League Cup at Wembley, and after that, we can push hard towards the end of the season." Blues manager Jose Mourinho added: "I am very happy that Eden has signed a new contract. It shows he believes in the club’s coaching staff and players to help him become the best player in the world. He is already a top player and his evolution has been fantastic. He is still very young and he can become the best." Hazard has netted 13 goals in 36 appearances for the Londoners this season.