International News - Issue 251



Big Quarter-Final Clashes In Champions League
Holders Real Madrid meet Atletico Madrid in the quarter-finals, a repeat of last year's final, while there is a rapid reunion for Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona.

UEFA Champions League quarter-final draw:
Paris Saint-Germain v Barcelona – 15/21 April
Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid – 14/22 April
Porto v Bayern Munich – 15/21 April
Monaco v Juventus – 14/22 April
Real Madrid beat Atletico 4-1 after extra-time in last season's UEFA Champions League final in Lisbon. The sides have already met six times this term in the Spanish Super Cup, La Liga and Copa del Rey, with Atletico winning four of those ties and drawing twice. PSG and Barcelona met in this season's group stage, PSG triumphing 3-2 at the Parc des Princes but losing 3-1 at the Camp Nou. The semi-final draw follows in Nyon on 24 April, and those games will take place on 5/6 and 12/13 May. The 2014/15 UEFA Champions League final will be held on Saturday 6 June at the Olympiastadion, Berlin.

Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker believes his side have a long way to go before dreaming of winning the Uefa Champions League title. Despite a 2-0 victory in Monaco, the Gunners were dumped out of this season’s European Cup on away goals following a 3-3 aggregate result. Arsenal centre-back Per Mertesacker believes his side did not show the mental toughness needed in the competition after the 3-1 defeat at home in the first leg. "In the first game, we didn't have that mental level you need to compete at the highest level,” he said. “That was missing but you could see on Tuesday night in Monaco how good we are as a team and how well organised we can be.” Yet the German feels his side are nowhere closer to being seen as European contenders, after failing to make the quarter-finals for the fifth year in a row. "We need to consider that every day in training and in games, that is why we are so far away from winning the Champions League,” Mertesacker said. "It is the last 16 and Monaco were underestimated by a lot of people, but they deserved it by playing well in the first leg. We had one bad game and that is enough to get knocked out. In the first leg, we conceded that late goal which was overall the killer, so it is really disappointing for us."

Manchester United coach Louis van Gaal says his current coaching position at Old Trafford will be the last of his career. The experienced Dutchman, who took over at the Red Devils at the start of the season, began his illustrious managerial career 29 years ago as an assistant coach at AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands. And having taken charge of top European clubs such as Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, as well as the Holland national team, van Gaal says his current job will be his last. "I am also old. This is my last job. For sure," he told The Daily Telegraph. "I have to pay attention to my kids, my grandchildren but also to my wife. They deserve it. Now I cannot pay that attention. I was not at the birthday of my grandson for example. I don't like it." The 63-year-old, whose contract with United ends in 2017, insists his main aim this season is to ensure his side finish in the top four, so they can contend for the Champions League next season. "That's our goal, yes, and it depends on how we end this season," Van Gaal said. "We have to qualify for the Champions League and we have many tests next year. That also develops the level of your team, and of course how many players can come in to improve our selection."

Real Madrid have suspended one fan and identified two others who attacked Gareth Bale and Jese following Sunday’s El Clasico defeat. Footage shows a fan striking Jese’s car window while another was seen trying to kick and punch Gareth Bale’s car as they left Madrid’s training complex after the 2-1 La Liga defeat to Barcelona. The pair were also verbally abused, along with coach Carlo Ancelotti, and the club has also issued a statement indicating that the perpetrators are being dealt with. Los Blancos defender Sergio Ramos said he watched the incident unfold, and tried to intervene. "This should not happen," he said. "These guys were my age. I drove up behind Jese's car and heard what was said, so I took a stand. I stopped the car, rolled down the window and told them they were in the wrong. The best thing I did was beeping Jese to drive away. Sometimes the fans wants to express themselves but not in this way." The defeat leaves Madrid four points adrift of their rivals in second place on the Spanish table.

Fernando Torres says he returned to Atletico Madrid for the kind of game he experienced in last Tuesday's Champions League tussle with Bayer Leverkusen. Atletico edged Leverkusen 3-2 on penalties after recording a 1-0 win at the Vicente Calderon on the night, with Torres sinking the final spotkick for the Spanish champions. Diego Simeone's side, who lost the first leg 1-0, joined holders Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, FC Porto and Monaco in the quarter-finals of the competition. "I'm happy to see the fans being happy from the first to the last minute. I wanted to live these nights in the Calderon again," Torres said. "That was not easy as people think. We suffered a lot, which made us more cautious. When they began to break the game down we had to regain control. When it comes to penalties, the team with the greater decisiveness wins." The 30-year-old striker rejoined his boyhood side in January from AC Milan, who signed him permanently from Chelsea the month before.

Selecao coach Dunga has lamented the lack in Brazilian attacking talent in Europe, labelling Neymar as the only superstar on the continent. The 51-year-old coach, who won the 1994 World Cup in a star-studded Brazil side, feels that in recent times, Brazilian icons are becoming few and far between in European football. "What is happening in Brazilian football is that we used to have players who scored a lot of goals in Europe and who were points of references, but we no longer have players like that nowadays," Dunga said. "We used to have players like Careca, Ronaldo and Rivaldo, but countries like Portugal and Holland now produce those kinds of players.” Dunga feels Neymar is the only Brazilian superstar in Europe, which he feels is worrying for the country’s football. "We do not have any players who are really making waves,” he said. “We only have Neymar at the moment. This is very worrying for Brazilian football. We need to have patience, though, and remain calm." Neymar, 23, has recently taken over the armband from defender Thiago Silva for his national team, for whom he has an impressive goal-scoring record, having netted 42 goals in 60 matches.

Manchester United playmaker Juan Mata said his acrobatic goal against Liverpool was among the best of his career. The Spaniard scored twice as United won 2-1 on Sunday to move five points ahead of the fifth-placed Reds in the Premier League standings. Mata struck first on 14 minutes with a clinical strike before completing his brace with a scissor-kick in the area off a floated delivery from Angel Di Maria at Anfield. "I don’t know very well how to explain it. It’s something you just don’t think," Mata wrote on his blog, One Hour Behind. "It’s more a resource you use when you understand it’s better to shoot the ball as it comes rather than trying to control it and keep the play. Angel’s pass invited me to do so. It’s one of the best goals of my career for sure, among other things because it happened in such a massive game. And it helped us win." He continued: "Sunday has been one of the happiest days of my career. When you start playing football as a kid on muddy pitches, for something so simple and wonderful as having fun, you dream about becoming a footballer one day to be in a game like the one in Anfield. It has been an unforgettable day for me. As I have said several times before, I am the same player I have always been, with the same passion, the same abilities and the same hunger to get better. Hard work brings a reward, and that has been the case this Sunday."

Manchester City coach Manuel Pellegrini feels league leaders Chelsea will soon drop points, allowing his side a sniff at the title this season. The Blues were narrow 3-2 victors over Hull City on Sunday, with City registering a 3-0 win over West Brom the day before as they remained six points adrift of Jose Mourinho’s men, who still have a game in hand. Yet Pellegrini feels Chelsea are not a “winning machine” which may allow his side back in with a chance of retaining their league crown. “I don’t think they’re a winning machine all the time,” said Pellegrini. “I’m sure from now until the end of the season every team will drop points, so it’s important to return to our normal performance and win our games. After that we’ll see what happens with Chelsea. Maybe we can win all the games and maybe we can retain the title.” The Chilean insists that wins for his side will keep the pressure on the London club as he optimistically eyes first place. “The important thing is they must feel pressure,” he said. “If you don’t win, it’s easy for them. We depend now just on these last eight games to at least finish in the same position we are now.” City lead third place Arsenal by just one point, with Manchester United also just one point further back in the last Champions League qualifying spot.

Liverpool icon Steven Gerrard has apologised following his second-half stamp in his side’s 2-1 loss to Manchester United on Sunday. The English midfielder was brought on as a second-half substitute, yet lasted just 43 seconds on the pitch, reacting angrily after a challenge by Ander Herrera by stamping on his leg, for which he was shown a straight red. The Reds legend was quick to apologise for his actions after the match. "I need to accept it, the decision was right, I have let my team-mates and manager down today, even more importantly I let all the supporters down and I take full responsibility for my action,” he told SkySport. "I tried to jump his tackle, I saw his studs and I reacted wrong. I've been in the game long enough to know when you do something like that, especially at the timing of the game, at half-time with 45 to play, a great opportunity to get back in the game, I take full responsibility for it." Gerrard said he was not sure what made him act in that manner, yet knows his actions were wrong. "I don't know,” he said when asked about the stamp. “Probably just the reaction to the initial tackle, I don't think I should say too much more on it, I came to speak to apologise to everyone in the dressing room, all the supporters, all the players because I take full responsibility for today's result."

Fifa last Thursday approved holding the final of the controversial 2022 World Cup in Qatar on December 18. Fifa communications chief Walter de Gregorio said the start date for the event would be decided after talks with federations and representatives of top clubs, according to AFP. The world footballing body usually holds the tournament in June-July but this has been changed due to the scorching summer temperatures in Qatar. The adjustment has caused months of debate, particularly among European football bosses, because of the disruption to national championships. "The final will be on December 18. It is a Sunday and it is also the national day of Qatar," de Gregorio said. "In principle we try to play in 28 days. The next step will be to have different talks, especially related to the international calendar."

Fifa president Sepp Blatter has once again thrown his weight behind the 2022 World Cup to be staged in Qatar, insisting all problems “have been solved”. There has been much said about the World showpiece to be held in the Asian country, with the heat and conditions under intense scrutiny, yet the world football governing body’s president insists all is on track for a successful World Cup. “We chose Qatar. And now we go to Qatar," Blatter said. "There are no more problems for we have decided to stage the World Cup in November and December 2022. Except for the allegations about the labour conditions on the construction sites, all problems have been solved by now. It's unthinkable for me that we delay or cancel Qatar." Blatter then spoke about Fifa’s large reach, saying he hopes the organisation will use its power for social responsibility. "We reach 1.6 billion people,” he said. “Fifa is more influential than any country in the world or any religion through the positive emotions football triggers. We move masses. And we want to make use of this to create more peace, equality and health in this world." Blatter is running for a fifth successive term in charge of Fifa, and he is eager to continue in his position in charge. "The majority of the associations want it," the 79-year-old said when asked why he will remain in office for another term. "My father always said: you can rest in the graveyard." Elections for the Fifa presidency take place on 29 May.

Juventus director Pavel Nedved has revealed Paris Saint-Germain have made a bid for Paul Pogba, while he admits Real Madrid and Barcelona are also interested in the midfielder. Pogba is one of the most sought after young players in world football, with English giants Chelsea and Manchester City also thought to be pursuing the 22-year-old. However, he is contracted to the Serie A champions until June 2019. "Yes, PSG sent us an offer," Nedved said. "But Paris is not the only one. Real Madrid and Barcelona are also interested." The France international has shone since arriving in Turin as a free agent from Manchester United in 2012.

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has revealed his desire to coach the Italian national team in future. The Italian manager, a former player for the Azzurri with 26 caps to his name, has enjoyed a stellar managerial career thus far, with successful stints at AC Milan, PSG and now Real Madrid. Yet the Los Blancos manager has revealed he wishes to try his hand at international coaching in future, with his eyes set on winning the World Cup with Italy. “I’d like to,” Ancelotti told Fifa.com when asked if he would like to coach the Italian national team. “In Italy the story goes that we reach the World Cup Final every 12 years: we did so in 1970, ’82, ’94 and in 2006. “If that continues then we’ll reach the final again in 2018, though I think [Antonio] Conte will still be in charge then. Then we’ve another story: we play the final every 12 years but only win it every 24. We did it in 1982 and 2006 so, following that pattern, Italy will win it next in 2030. I’ll be 71 then, so I’ve still got time…” The ex-midfielder won bronze with Italy after they came third at the World Cup they hosted in 1990.

Napoli will meet Wolfsburg, while Europa League champions Sevilla will tackle Zenit St. Petersburg in the quarter-finals of the competition. Uefa held the last-eight draw in Nyon, Switzerland on Friday. The first legs will be played on April 16, with the return duel the following week. The final will be played at the National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland on May 27.
Draw results:
Sevilla vs Zenit St. Petersburg
Dnipro vs Clube Brugge
Dynamo Kiev vs Fiorentina
Wolfsburg vs Napoli