International News - Issue 288




Third Round FA Cup Draw

The draw for the third round of the oldest club football competition in the word, the FA Cup, took place on Monday night, as Arsenal look to win the competition for a third season running. The Gunners, who successfully defended their title with a 4-0 win over Aston Villa at the end of last season, were pitted against Premier League rivals Sunderland, as Manchester United were drawn to face Sheffield United. Defending Premier League champions Chelsea face the winners of the Leyton Orient vs Scunthorpe tie, as Liverpool also face lower League opposition in Exeter City. Having been beaten by Championship opponents in the last two seasons, Manchester City will face EPL rivals Norwich City in their third round clash, while another tantalising all-EPL clash awaits as high-flyers Leicester City travel to London outfit Tottenham Hotspur. The third round ties will take place between 8 and 11 January next year.

Sir Alex Ferguson thinks Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich would be foolish to sack manager Jose Mourinho. Mourinho's future is under scrutiny as the Blues' 1-0 home loss to Bournemouth leaves the champions just two points above the drop zone after 15 games. Ferguson, however, believes Abramovich must keep faith in the decorated Portuguese. "Abramovich has sacked so many coaches in the last 10 years that I am sure he has learned from it," the legendary ex-Manchester United boss is quoted as saying by The Mirror. "He has to trust and have confidence that Jose can turn it around. "There is no point in sacking one of the best coaches of all time, he’s won the European Cup twice, he’s won the league in each country he’s managed in, he’s won the big trophies. "It would be foolish to take that step to sack him. That would be bad management. It’s not leadership, that." The Scot continued: "I’ve been watching Jose and I’ve spoken to him a couple of times. It’s the first time he’s been confronted with non-success. "If you look at his whole career it’s been nothing but a rise all the time, so for the first time in his life he’s had to deal with bad publicity, adversity, and thats a challenge but there are signs he is getting back to a balanced level even though they lost on Saturday. "For Jose, all good leaders will eventually find a solution. He will find a solution and I think he will get back to normal. It’s not looking great at the moment, but I know the guy and work he has done in football and I can’t see it lasting long. "There are not many teams who can continue that, for instance Manchester City won the League and then lost it the next year, Chelsea won the league and are now having a bad spell. "It is very difficult to maintain and continue success for five, six, seven years, very, very difficult. “The key is to avoid complacency."

Arsenal playmaker Santi Cazorla could be sidelined for four months with a ruptured knee ligament, according to Gunners manager Arsene Wenger. The 30-year-old sustained the injury early into the second half of the club's recent draw with Norwich, but remained on the pitch. "Santi wanted to have a chance to come back quickly so he didn't want to last too long for 25 opinions," Wenger said after his side beat Sunderland 3-1 last Saturday to remain two points behind Premier League leaders Leicester City. "He decided to go straight away. The guy said: 'Look, it's a clear case. It's a rupture of the external knee ligament.' And Santi said: 'OK, let's do it straight away.' "It's not the season. It is at least three months out, maybe four."

"Better you lose a bad game than a good game," said Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp after his side's 2-0 loss at struggling Newcastle. The Reds were in fine form before the defeat, registering seven wins in their previous eight matches. However, the Merseysiders, who thrashed Southampton 6-1 in the FA Cup last week, were humbled by an own goal from Martin Skrtel and strike from Georginio Wijnaldum last Sunday. "If you see the situation that Newcastle is in and the situation we are in, I have to say they deserved the win, maybe we could have deserved a point," Klopp said. "I couldn't see that we should have won three points because we were not good enough, we didn't do what we could do." The German added: "I have to see it again, I have to analyse this game so I know more about it. It's hard work -- that's clear, but it shouldn't be this hard because we could do better and play much more football. "We played no counter-pressing. Pressing was not good... we were not compact enough - a lot of things we didn't do well. "Better you lose a bad game than a good game."

Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri believes Jamie Vardy would be taking a risk should he decide to leave the club, saying the star striker "is king" at King Power Stadium. Vardy is in demand after setting a Premier League record by scoring in his 11th game in a row in the 1-1 draw with Manchester United last weekend. The 28-year-old bettered Ruud van Nistelrooy's previous mark of 10, prompting reported attention from Chelsea, Manchester United, Barcelona and Real Madrid. "I think that he is a smart guy," Ranieri said of Vardy. "He knows that this season we have to avoid relegation. That's our first target. "Then, obviously, the more we do the more chances there are for him to stay. But he also knows that here he is like a king – everybody loves him. If you join another team instead, he might play one game but not the following one, so you may have regrets. "He will think about what he wants to do because Leicester are destined to grow and to reach the top level in the Premier League." Vardy can create more history on Saturday if he hits the target against Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium. The English top-flight record of scoring in 12 consecutive matches was set by Sheffield United's Jimmy Dunne in the 1931/32 season. Ranieri added: "The boy [Vardy] doesn't need any motivation because he is motivated himself. He is always willing to do well. He wants to reach targets. He came up from the non-league, he has suffered, he has fought hard to reach this level. "Two years ago he had scored 16 goals in the Championship. Last season he managed to score six in the Premier League and this season he is scoring consistently. It's pretty clear to me that he has understood how things work. "But I also have to say that those are strikers' classic moments – there are moments where everything turns out well, but there are other strikers at the moment who can't even score the easiest of goals, which might be even unprecedented. "He has to live this moment in complete freedom. What I always ask from him is not the goals, but rather playing for the team and fighting for his teammates. Then if he scores, that's a bonus."

Southampton boss Ronald Koeman has warned off any potential suitors for Sadio Mane by insisting the Senegalese forward is not for sale at any price in January. The 23-year-old – who scored the fastest ever Premier League hat-trick against Aston Villa last season – has had another great campaign and has reportedly attracted the interest of Manchester United and even Bayern Munich. Asked if the likes of Mane could leave when the transfer window opens at the end of the month, Koeman responded: “Already we spoke about that situation. We sell nobody in January. Nobody – not even if they pay £100m.” Mane has scored three goals and produced three assists in 14 League games this season, but Koeman feels he can do even better. “He can still improve in some cleverness to know what his position is on the pitch, both inside and outside.”Still he can be more dangerous if he knows exactly the moment to have that movement in the space behind the defenders. “In front of the goal he can be more of a scoring player but he is young – 23 years old – and a great player. It is a pleasure to work with him.” 

Real Madrid have been expelled from the Copa del Rey for fielding an ineligible player. Real manager Rafa Benitez handed a start to Denis Cheryshev - despite his being suspended - in a 3-1 win over Cadiz. Cheryshev should not have played as he had accumulated three yellow cards while representing Villarreal in last season's tournament. The Russian winger netted the opener before he was substituted early into the second half at Estadio Ramon de Carranza. Cadiz later reported the matter to the Royal Spanish Football Federation, who have disqualified Los Blancos from the tournament.

Valencia have appointed Gary Neville as their head coach until the end of the season. The former England and Manchester United defender has replaced Nuno, who was sacked on November 29 after the side lost 1-0 in Sevilla. Neville, who has been working as an England coach and as an analyst for Sky Sports since retiring in 2011, has penned a five-month contract with the La Liga outfit in his first foray into management. The 40-year-old will continue to be involved in Roy Hodgson's Three Lions set-up. Gary's brother Phil was named co-caretaker boss of the team last week following Nuno's departure. His role is yet to be confirmed following his sibling's arrival at the Mestalla. The Neville’s have a history with Valencia owner Peter Lim, who bought a stake in Salford City from them and their ex-United teammates Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt.

Gary Cahill has committed his long-term future to Chelsea by signing a new four-year deal. The 29-year-old arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2012 and worked his way up to become a first-choice centre-back alongside John Terry.  He has also worked his way into the England squad, winning 40 caps for the Three Lions. “I’m really pleased to commit my future to Chelsea and it’s great the club has put their faith in me,” Cahill says. “I have achieved a lot here and I hope I can keep on learning, helping the team and lifting trophies over the next four years.”

Karim Benzema has opened up about the alleged sex-tape scandal involving French teammate Mathieu Valbuena. The Real Madrid striker is currently being investigated for allegedly being involved in an attempt to blackmail Valbuena, and faces charges of conspiracy to blackmail after allegedly joining a group in order to exploit his countryman. However, Benzema insists he is innocent, and took to French national television channel TF1 to give his side of the story. “I heard there was a video in which he appeared and when I mentioned this to him it appeared that I already knew of its existence,” he explains. “I then told him that I could help him through a friend I have in Lyon. I asked him if he had advised his family. “We never spoke about money. I’m hearing all this talk about extortion and it’s driving me crazy. That night Valbuena called me and thanked me for tipping him off. He can attest to that.” Benzema is hoping for a speedy resolution, adding: “I hope that things work out. I’m not guilty. This will work out well for Valbuena, for my friend and for me.”

Bastian Schweinsteiger faces a three-match ban after being charged with misconduct by the FA. The Manchester United midfielder was charged with violent conduct for elbowing West Ham defender Winston Reid in last weekend’s goalless draw. Referee Mark Clattenburg was only a few yards away and warned both players, but he later told West Ham manager Slaven Bilic he had not seen the incident. Clattenburg confirmed in his report to the FA that he had not seen it, allowing the governing body to charge the German. The FA said in a statement: "The matter was referred to a panel of three former elite referees who each reviewed the video footage independently of one another to determine whether they considered it a sending-off offence. "For an FA charge to follow the decision by the panel must be unanimous. The player has until noon on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015, to reply to the charge." If Schweinsteiger is found guilty, he will miss the Premier League games against Bournemouth, Norwich and Stoke but would be eligible to return against Chelsea on Dec. 28.His possible absence comes at a times when United are already without two midfielders, the injured Ander Herrera and Morgan Schneiderlin. Bilic had said in his news conference last Saturday: "It is a moment of madness and he deserved to be sent off. But the referee told me he didn't see it."

A Valencia supporter died after he collapsed celebrating the club's late equaliser in a 1-1 draw with Barcelona at the Mestalla last Saturday. Santi Mina netted in the 86th minute to level proceedings against La Liga leaders Barca. However, the celebrations were marred following reports of the passing of a fan, which Valencia later confirmed. The club released a statement, which said: "Valencia were sad to learn of the death of a fan following the match at Mestalla on Saturday. "The club wishes to extend its deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of the deceased."

Arsenal have made an enquiry over Celta Vigo star Nolito as they look to firm up January transfer plans. The Gunners have long followed the 29-year-old but feared for much of the Autumn that Barcelona would beat them to the punch, with the forward favouring a Nou Camp move having come through Barca's famed La Masia academy. But the current La Liga leaders can't afford the £15million price tag this winter, instead being forced to look at a loan for striker cover, meaning that Arsenal could have a free path to signing Nolito. Surprise-package Celta had been working on a new contract to tie down their man, but the two parties moved further apart during negotiations when Nolito's early-season form fired the Galician club into the top four and caught the eye of several European giants. The Spain international, who featured against England in last month's friendly, could expect to see his wages rise by around 250% should he join the north London club.