Monday, 31 March 2014

MotoGP: Brazil not included in amended 2014 race calendar

MotoGP bikes

Brazil's 10-year absence from the MotoGP calendar will continue this coming season after it was left off the list of races for 2014.
It was hoped a round of the world championship would be staged in Brasilia at the Autodromo Internacional Nelson Piquet circuit on 28 September.
But the venue has not be included on the amended MotoGP schedule for 2014.
MotoGP's last visit to Brazil was in 2004, when the Rio Grand Prix was won by Makoto Tamada.
The omission of Brazil means the San Marino Grand Prix and the Aragon Grand will be two weeks apart, rather than there being races on three consecutive weekends.
The 2014 MotoGP calendar will once again consist of 18 rounds and include a planned new event in Argentina at the Autodromo Termas de Rio Hondo.

MotoGP: Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa quickest in Sepang test

Valentino Rossi
Yahama's Valentino Rossi and Honda's Dani Pedrosa recorded the quickest lap on the final day of the second pre-season test at Sepang.
Nine-time world champion Rossi and Pedrosa set a time of 1:59.999, with Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso third.
Ducati confirmed after the session that their riders will compete in the Open rather than Factory class in 2014.
The change in class will allow the team to benefit from a greater engine allocation through the season.
Ducati riders Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso, and Pramac's Andrea Iannone and Yonny Hernandez will race under the new Open rules.
Although there are differences  in fuel limits, engine development and changes, rear tyres, and ECU software between the two classes, Factory and Open class competitors will compete for the same MotoGP world title.
England's Crutchlow was eighth-fastest on the tight-turning Malaysia circuit, with compatriot Bradley Smith ninth on his Monster Yamaha Tech.
MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez is out of action for around a month after breaking his leg in training last week.
The 21-year-old will miss the three-day Phillip Island tyre safety testing, which starts on Monday, but is expected to recover in time for the opening MotoGP race of the season, in Qatar on 23 March.

Official test, Sepang - Session 3

1=. Valentino Rossi (Ita) Yamaha 1:59.999
1=. Dani Pedrosa (Spa) Repsol Honda 1:59.999
3. Andrea Dovizioso (Ita) Ducati +0.068s
4. Aleix Espargaro (Spa) NGM Mobile Forward Racing +0.102
5. Stefan Bradl (Ger) LCR Honda +0.165
6. Alvaro Bautista (Spa) Honda Gresini +0.507
7. Jorge Lorenzo (Spa) Yamaha +0.620
8. Cal Crutchlow (Eng) Ducati +0.791
9. Bradley Smith (Eng) Tech 3 Yamaha +0.805
10. Pol Espargaro (Spa) Tech 3 Yamaha +1.033

Moto GP: Mixed fortunes for Aleix and Pol Espargaro in final testing

Pol Espargaro Pol Espargaro will have surgery on a suspected broken collarbone after crashing during the final testing session in Qatar before the new season.
The 22-year-old Spaniard was second fastest on his Monster Yamaha Tech 3, in a time of one minute 54.907 seconds.
But he crashed on turn six late in the session and will fly to Barcelona to have surgery on Monday.
Aleix Espargaro
Aleix Espargaro was fastest in Qatar testing
Pol's brother Aleix, 24, a member of the NGM Mobile Forward Racing team, set the fastest time of 1:54.874.
Both Tech 3 bikes were in the top three, with Great Britain's Bradley Smith third quickest in 1:55.027.
The factory Yamaha, Honda and Ducati teams all sat out the Qatar test as they had run in Bridgestone's Phillip Island sessions earlier in the week.
Spanish world champion Marc Marquez was fastest in the first test at Sepang, Malaysia, before Italy's Valentino Rossi and Spain's Dani Pedrosa were joint fastest in the second test, held at the same venue last month.
Earlier this week, Spain's Jorge Lorenzo dominated the third pre-season test on the Phillip Island circuit, off the coast of South Australia.
The first race of the season will be held in Losail, Qatar, on 23 March.

Final testing - Losail, Qatar

1. Aleix Espargaro (Spa) NGM Mobile Forward Racing 1:54.874
2. Pol Espargaro (Spa) Monster Yamaha Tech 3 +0.033secs
3. Bradley Smith (GB) Monster Yamaha Tech 3 +0.153secs
4. Stefan Bradl (Ger) LCR Honda Moto GP +0.313secs
5. Alvaro Bautista (Spa) GO&Fun Honda Gresini +0.358secs
6. Andrea Iannone (Ita) Pramac Racing +0.644secs

MotoGP 2014 calendar

Spain MotoGP, Jerez

23 March: Qatar, Losail

Qatar MotoGP
2013 Race report
Qatar MotoGP on 

13 April: Americas, Austin

Circuit of the Americas, Austin Texas
2013 Race report
Americas MotoGP on 

27 April: Argentina, Santiago del Estero

 Ezequiel Iturrioz
2013 Race report
Argentina MotoGP on 

4 May: Spain, Jerez

Spain MotoGP, Jerez
2013 Race report
Spanish MotoGP on 

18 May: France, Le Mans

France MotoGP, Le Mans
2013 Race report
French MotoGP on 

1 June: Italy, Mugello

Jorge Lorenzo
2013 Race report
Italian MotoGP on 

15 June: Spain, Catalunya

Catalunya MotoGP
2013 Race report
Catalunya MotoGP on 

28 June: Netherlands, Assen

Netherlands MotoGP, Assen
2013 Race report
Netherlands MotoGP on 

13 July: Germany, Sachsenring

German MotoGP
2013 Race report
German MotoGP on 

10 August: Indianapolis, Indianapolis

Indianapolis MotoGP
2013 Race report
Indianapolis MotoGP on 

17 August: Czech Republic, Brno

Cal Crutchlow at the 2012 Czech  MotoGP at Brno
2013 Race report
Czech Republic MotoGP on 

31 August: Great Britain, Silverstone

British MotoGP
2013 Race report
Great Britain MotoGP on 

14 September: San Marino, Misano

Jorge Lorenzo after winning the 2012 San Marino MotoGP at Misano
2013 Race report
San Marino MotoGP on 

28 September: Aragon, Teruel

2012 Aragon MotoGP
2013 Race report
Aragon MotoGP on 

12 October: Japan, Motegi

Japan MotoGP 2012
2013 Race report
Japan MotoGP on 

19 October: Australia, Phillip Island

Australia MotoGP 2012
2013 Race report
Australian MotoGP on 

26 October: Malaysia, Sepang

Malaysia MotoGP
2013 Race report
Malaysia MotoGP on 

9 November: Spain, Valencia

Dani Pedrosa at the 2012 Valencia MotoGP
2013 Race report
Valencia MotoGP on 

MotoGP: Bikes, rules and riders - What's new for 2014?

Marc Marquez
After a lengthy winter break, MotoGP returns this weekend as the riders converge on the desert circuit of Losail in Qatar.
For the first time in a decade, Sunday's race will not be live on the BBC after BT Sport bought the rights in a five-year deal.
Marc Marquez won the championship last year at the first attempt and the young Spaniard starts the season as favourite, despite breaking a leg last month.
There is a new circuit this season - in Argentina in April - but what else is new?

The Brits are back

Cal Crutchlow
Will new Ducati rider Cal Crutchlow add to his six podium finishes this season?
There are eight British riders across the three classes (MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3) this year, with Cal Crutchlow again the headline act.
Now 28, Crutchlow starts his fourth season in MotoGP as a full factory rider for the first time after his move from Yamaha to Ducati.
The move may have given him a hike in wages and status but, with Ducati managing just four podium finishes in the three years since Casey Stoner left the team, Crutchlow will struggle to repeat his two second-placed finishes of last season.
Also, keep an eye out on Scott Redding - so nearly the Moto2 champion last year - as well as the ever-improving Bradley Smith, looking to capitalise on a solid debut season with saw him score the most points for a British MotoGP rookie in 2013.

New year, new rules

The abolition of the 'Claiming Rules' at the end of last season was set to bring in a new era in MotoGP where the gap between the factory teams at Honda, Yamaha and Ducati and the rest was narrowed.
"The new rules are certainly confusing and it is an era of Disney World racing - it has all been designed to make it as close as possible.
"But MotoGP is competing with F1 and other sports - they need to put on a show.
"If Ducati win again, if we have six or seven different winners this season then the casual fans won't care who's running which tyres.
"Time will tell if this is a step forward or a huge slip back."
Governing body Dorna's plan is to eventually make the premier class of motorcycle racing a more level playing field, much like its feeder classes Moto2 or Moto3.
The first step was to introduce a single tyre (Bridgestone) in 2009. Now the plan is to have a single electronics package (from Magneti Marelli) from 2016.
From this year, teams are required to all use the same engine control unit (ECU) hardware. Factories do have the choice to continue using their own software and here's where the categories are divided into 'Factory' and 'Open.'
Those using the spec software, the 'Open' category, are allowed to use 24 litres of fuel per race, have a softer tyre option, unlimited testing and 12 'non-sealed' engines in a season. This means teams in the Open category are allowed to develop their engines throughout the year.
The 'Factory' entrants are those opting to use their own ECU software. They are restricted to 20 litres of fuel per race and are only permitted five engines during the season. Those engines are 'sealed,' meaning that there is a freeze on development.

Ducati in a class of their own

Still with us? Great. But it's about to get more complicated.
At the second pre-season test of 2014, where Magneti Marelli introduced the latest, more sophisticated upgrade to its electronics package, Ducati made the decision to go from Factory to Open.

The forfeit of giving up control over their own ECU software, was deemed worth it for the extra fuel, tyres and, most crucially, according to Ducati general manager Gigi Dall'Igna, the freedom to develop their bike.
Having been so far behind the Hondas and Yamahas since Stoner last won a race for them in 2010, the switch would give Ducati an advantage in the short term to try to narrow the gap to the Japanese factories, while allowing them to continue with much needed engine development work to get their bike back to winning in the long term.
Suffice to say the other factories were not too happy with Ducati's 'advantage' and complaints were made. The solution from MotoGP rights holders Dorna was some last-minute amendments  to the rules, now giving Factory entrants without a dry win in the previous season the chance to compete with Open concessions. So Ducati can go back to running as a Factory entrant again, with all the advantages of running as Open and the freedom to use their own software.
Once they get three third-placed podiums, two second places or a single race win in dry conditions, their fuel tank capacity will decrease to 22 litres. If they get three wins in a season they will lose the soft tyre option.
These concessions also apply to new manufacturers, so will be welcome news for Suzuki, who are set to return to MotoGP in 2015.

Open vs Satellite

Aleix Espargaro
Forward Yamaha rider Aleix Espargaro has been surprisingly fast during pre-season testing
Ducati may well have been looking at Aleix Espargaro's times on the Open Forward Yamaha in pre-season testing as a gauge of how much the benefits of the Open class can prove advantageous on the track.
On board what is pretty much an Open version of the full-factory Yamaha, Espargaro, who finished as top CRT the last two years, has impressed in winter testing, finishing in the top four  at each. How much of his speed is down to his own abilities - this is a rider who regularly out-qualified factory and satellite bikes onboard an underpowered CRT bike - and how much is down to the advantages gained from the fuel, tyre and engine allowances remains to be seen.
If his lap times in testing can be transferred over race distance this season then it may draw complaints not only from the other manufacturers but from Yamaha's own satellite team as well. Espargaro beat both his brother Pol, the Moto2 champion, and Briton Smith on the Tech 3 Yamaha in all three tests.

Break a leg

The new rules will hopefully help Ducati narrow the gap to Yamaha and Honda, and maybe even start to blur the lines between Open and Satellite bikes this year, but it is unlikely that they will trouble the front runners too much.
Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and perhaps even a resurgent Valentino Rossi will be in the mix again but it's Marquez, as defending champion, who will start as the favourite, despite breaking a leg in a training accident in February. It ruled him out of the last two tests of the season but he is back for the first race in Qatar.
Marquez endured some huge crashes in his debut season last year, including the fastest one ever recorded, but bounced back from each to take a podium in all but two grands prix, in what was to be a record-breaking championship for the young Spaniard.
It seemed only a matter of time before one of his crashes caught him out. The question now is whether his latest will do any damage to his seemingly unshakable confidence, or whether his durability from last year can extend to a title defence.
We will find out during Sunday's opening race in Qatar - but expect the 21-year-old to pick up where he left off. At the front.

Qatar MotoGP: Marc Marquez wins ahead of Valentino Rossi

Marc Marquez

Spain's Marc Marquez won the opening MotoGP in Qatar on Sunday after a thrilling battle with Valentino Rossi.
The world champion, 21, held off the challenge from the veteran Italian, 35, despite racing with a broken leg.
Marquez pushed his Honda to the limit on the penultimate lap as he twice regained the lead after Valentino's Yamaha had edged in front.
"I enjoyed it. I did not think about the injury," said Marquez. "Last year he won, this year I won. I'm happy."
Marquez, who fractured his right fibula during a dirt-track training session in Lleida, near Barcelona last month, started in pole position and crossed the finish line 0.259secs ahead.
He added: "On the lap before the last we overtook each other two or three times which was so nice."
Dani Pedrosa (Honda) came in third while Britain's Cal Crutchlow (Ducati) and Scott Redding (Honda) finished sixth and seventh.
Spain's Esteve Rabat won the Moto2 race, beating Japan's Takaaki Nakagami with Finland's Mika Kallio finishing in third. Australia's Jack Miller won the Moto3 race.
Qatar MotoGP Results
1. Marc Marquez (Spain) Honda 42:40.561
2. Valentino Rossi (Italy) Yamaha 42:40.820
3. Dani Pedrosa (Spain) Honda 42:43.931
4. Aleix Espargaro (Spain) Yamaha 42:52.184
5. Andrea Dovizioso (Italy) Ducati 42:52.720
6. Cal Crutchlow (Britain) Ducati 43:09.087
7. Scott Redding (Britain) Honda 43:13.154
8. Nicky Hayden (U.S.) Honda 43:13.189
9. Colin Edwards (U.S.) Yamaha 43:20.108
10. Andrea Iannone (Italy) Ducati 43:23.921
11. Hiroshi Aoyama (Japan) Honda 43:27.156
12. Yonny Hernandez (Colombia) Ducati 43:27.249
13. Karel Abraham (Czech Republic) Honda 43:31.142
14. Danilo Petrucci (Italy) ART 43:43.688

Mourinho: Chelsea have no hope of winning the title now

Mourinho: Chelsea have no hope of winning the title now Jose Mourinho believes defeat to Crystal Palace leaves Chelsea with "no chance" of winning the Premier League title this season.

A John Terry own goal condemned the Blues to a 1-0 loss at Selhurst Park and, while they remain one point ahead of Liverpool and three ahead of Manchester City at the top of the table, both of their main rivals can now overtake them by winning their games in hand.

After the match a dejected Mourinho admitted Tony Pulis' men were good value for their victory and insisted the result kills Chelsea's hopes of winning their first title since 2010.
"I think now we lose any chance of finishing first," he told Sportmasta Radio live. "Now we depend too much on other results.

"But today we lost three points, we lost against a team that was better than us in terms of spirit and mentality. We can only blame ourselves.
"I think maybe they deserved a victory. We had good chances. Their keeper made some good saves. We probably had the best chance of the first half.

"But their spirit, desire and commitment was stronger. Because of the spirit, they deserved the win."

New Hillsborough probe begins

Liverpool supporters hold scarves and shirts during a memorial service on the 24th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster
Fresh inquests into the deaths of 96 Liverpool supporters at Hillsborough will begin in Warrington on Monday.
The inquests were ordered in December 2012 when the High Court quashed the original accidental death verdicts which had stood for more than 20 years
Proceedings, to be heard by coroner Lord Justice Goldring, are expected to last up to nine months.
A jury will first be selected in the purpose-built courtroom in Birchwood Park, with opening statements from the coroner and the bereaved families due to be presented to the court later this week.
Later in the hearing the jurors will make a site visit to Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield but will be directed not to read the "deeply moving" tributes on the memorial to the tragedy.
Britain's worst sporting disaster happened on 15 April, 1989 during Liverpool's FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest as thousands of fans were crushed on the ground's Leppings Lane terrace.
Verdicts of accidental death from the original Hillsborough inquest in March 1991 were quashed in December 2012 after the Hillsborough Independent Panel delivered its final report on the disaster earlier that year.
It was decided that the inquests would be held in Warrington after a split emerged between two separate campaign groups, with one side pushing for the inquiry to be held in London and the other calling for it to take place in the north west.

Striker priority for Mourinho

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has hinted at a major overhaul of his forward line this summer.
Mourinho ruled his side out of this season's Premier League title race after the 1-0 defeat by Crystal Palace on Saturday despite them only losing top spot to Liverpool 24 hours later.
The reverse at Selhurst Park again brought his side's relative struggles in front of goal into focus, with the majority of their league goals having come from attacking midfielders Eden Hazard, Oscar and Andre Schurrle.
Samuel Eto'o has scored only eight times, Fernando Torres just four and Demba Ba has been on target three times in limited Premier League appearances.
Mourinho could look to give Romelu Lukaku - he has scored 12 times for Everton on loan this season - a chance to shine and he is continually linked with a move for prolific Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa as well as a host of other strikers.
"I don't think it's the moment to speak about next season and the market but it's clear to everybody that Chelsea next year wants to bring in a striker," said Mourinho.
"What's the future for the other strikers? The ones who are staying are competing with the striker we are bringing [in]. And normally, at the end of the season, players that are not playing a lot or players who are not happy may prefer a change.
"That is also part of the market. We want to improve the team and the players and make some surgical movements in the transfer window.
"It's also clear that we want to improve our players. I can't and I don't need to improve (Branislav) Ivanovic, (Gary) Cahill, John Terry.
"There are other guys I need to improve. I think we are doing that step by step, but it's not enough to be champions."

SAM PRAISE: How flexible Rodgers has put Liverpool on top

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers
His side are flying right now and gave another demonstration of why they are such an exciting force going forward.
The flexibility Rodgers has with his formations, and his attacking outlook, is a big reason why they are back at the front of the title race for the first time since Christmas.

Widemen find Spurs' weakness

Rodgers alters his team depending on which area of the pitch he thinks he can get at the opposition.
When he wants his team to dictate play, he puts Philippe Coutinho in the hole behind his strikers.
Joe Allen keeps things ticking over if he needs more numbers deeper in midfield and, if he wants to add pace in the centre, he can put Raheem Sterling at the top of a midfield diamond, which is what he did with great success against Manchester United earlier this month.
In terms of personnel, most of Rodgers's team is basically the same each week, but he rotates those three players depending on who they are playing.
Average position of Liverpool players
Average position of Liverpool players vs Tottenham and Manchester United
Key to average positions graphic
Rodgers played with a diamond in midfield in each of Liverpool's four games before they faced Spurs, and they won all of them.
Against Tottenham, he changed his shape completely, bringing Sterling back in for Allen and going with a 4-3-3 formation.
Rodgers saw Spurs' weakness as being out wide when they try to play with a high line, and he went for their full-backs, particularly Danny Rose at left-back.
Liverpool attacks vs Tottenham in first half
Liverpool attacks vs Tottenham in first half
Liverpool attacked mainly down their right in the first half, and their first goal came from down that side, when Christian Eriksen failed to track Glen Johnson's run on the overlap.
Sterling spent most of his time on that wing and caused Rose a lot of problems, but he did his share of defensive work too.
Because Liverpool were so dominant, they were playing 4-3-3 the majority of the time, but they also had Sterling working back on either flank to make that a 4-4-2 when Tottenham attacked.
Touches against Tottenham
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez's touches against Tottenham
Sterling and Suarez touches vs Tottenham
Luis Suarez was switching wings with Sterling but did not track back as much. That meant Liverpool always had two men up front when they looked to break.
Rodgers switched back to a diamond formation midway through the second half when he replaced Coutinho with Allen. By then, the game was already won.

Reds results down to plan of attack

I have talked a lot this season about how strong Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho is tactically, but the results Rodgers is getting mean he deserves to be given as much credit.
He and Mourinho are the best two coaches in the Premier League at the moment, and not just because they are in charge of the top two teams in the table. The way they organise their teams is very impressive.
They are doing it in different ways - Chelsea's strength is in their defence, and they do not take enough of their chances, while Liverpool are clearly all about going forward and are not as strong at the back.

2013-14 Premier League (and ranking)

Team Shots Shots on target Goals scored Shots faced Shots on target faced Goals conceded
440 (1)
219 (1)
88 (1)
413 (12th best)
129 (6th best)
39 (=6)
414 (2)
188 (2)
62 (3)
333 (3rd best)
99 (1st best)
24 (1)
The Reds look to overwhelm teams from kick-off and have scored 53 of their 88 Premier League goals this season before half-time.
Chelsea operate best on the break but, at home, Liverpool start on the front foot and go at teams. They shut the opposition down high up the pitch and do not give them room to breathe.

2013-14 Premier League leading scorers in the first and second half

First-half goals Second-half goals
Stats: Opta
1. Liverpool: 53
1. Manchester City: 46
2. Manchester City: 34
2. Arsenal: 37
3. Chelsea: 27
=3. Chelsea: 35
=4. Manchester United: 24
=3. Everton: 35
=4. Southampton: 24
=3. Liverpool: 35
Liverpool's title bid is a team effort, starting with their manager, because they are well drilled no matter how they are set up, and a lot of that must come from the training ground.
Even when there are changes in formation from game to game, everybody always knows their job.
It is no surprise that Rodgers is so sharp tactically, though. He worked under Mourinho at the start of his coaching career.

Gerrard a key man in title bid

Liverpool are top of the table because Rodgers has got the game plan and Daniel Sturridge and Suarez have got the goals.
Going forward, Liverpool have lots of options: they have fast forwards when they break, overlapping full-backs and a threat from set-pieces too. No Premier League team has scored more goals from free-kicks or corners.

2013-14 Premier League goals from set-pieces

Team Set-piece goals % of total goals from set-pieces
Stats: Opta
1. Liverpool
2. Manchester City
3. Chelsea
=4. Everton
=4. Southampton
But having Steven Gerrard sitting deeper in his quarterback role gives Liverpool a different dimension on top of that.
Against Spurs, Gerrard and Coutinho were pinging long passes through for their runners to go behind Tottenham's defence. Not all of them came off, but it helped keep Tim Sherwood's team under pressure no matter where the ball was on the pitch.
Coutinho sometimes operates further forward, and Gerrard can do the same too. He is a man for the big occasion and is going to play a massive part in Liverpool's title run-in.
Yes, Gerrard sits deep, but he can still join the attack if Liverpool need a goal and he is a big threat whenever he is in the opposition half.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers celebrates with Steven Gerrard
Rodgers and Gerrard celebrate after Liverpool's win over Tottenham
He is a danger from set-pieces too - and when Liverpool needed a goal in midweek against Sunderland, he put that free-kick in the top corner.
Winning the title would be a fitting way to crown his career and, with his vast experience, he is undoubtedly Liverpool's leader on the pitch.
He will be needed when the pressure is on between now and the end of the season, which it will be at some point.
But there were no nerves at Anfield on Sunday because Tottenham never looked like testing Liverpool. Their record against the top-four teams shows why they are not up there themselves.
Liverpool's win means the title is in their hands. On the back of eight straight league wins, they have the momentum for the run-in, and their brilliant home form will mean they are full of confidence too.
But it is not as straightforward as saying Liverpool will beat Chelsea and Manchester City just because they have to go to Anfield, and that the title is theirs. There are plenty more twists and turns to come.

Oscar not seeking Chelsea departure despite PSG interest

Oscar not seeking Chelsea departure despite PSG interest
Oscar insists he is happy with Chelsea despite mounting speculation that Paris Saint-Germain will try to sign him this summer.
The Brazil international arrived at Stamford Bridge in July 2012 and has impressed this season as the London club look to regain the title under Jose Mourinho.
However, Chelsea's hopes were dented on Saturday with a surprise 1-0 defeat at relegation-threatened Crystal Palace that marked their second loss in three league matches.

Rumours of a potential switch to PSG - Chelsea's opponents in the Champions League quarter-finals - have emerged, with compatriot Lucas Moura urging Oscar to join him at the Ligue 1 leaders.
However, Oscar is settled at Stamford Bridge, where he is hoping to enjoy similar success to that of former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba.
"Jose [Mourinho] has shown me I can be one of the best," Oscar is quoted by Sportmasta.
"The manager has given me this confidence and I have grown better and better under him. Now I just hope I can keep on getting better and win titles with him at the end of the season.
"The team is top of the Premier League and the manager has his own way of playing. He alternates quite a bit because we have a lot of games.
"But that's normal. I'm playing well at Chelsea and am in my prime right now.
"Didier [Drogba] was always an idol.
"I'd watched him lots on the TV and then suddenly I was wearing the same Chelsea jersey he always wore. I feel very proud about that.
"But I am writing my own story. I have my own style and hopefully I will be able to have my own great story at Chelsea - just like he did."

Thiago could miss rest of Bayern season

Thiago could miss rest of Bayern season Thiago Alcantara could miss the rest of Bayern Munich's season after tearing a ligament in his knee in Saturday's 3-3 draw with Hoffenheim, casting his chances of featuring in the World Cup into doubt.

The Spain international was forced off just 25 minutes into Saturday's Bundesliga clash with Hoffenheim and the Bavarians have now confirmed that the ex-Barcelona starlet will be out until at least mid-May and possibly until June.
"The first suspicions have unfortunately been confirmed," a statement on Bayern's website read. "Thiago picked up a tough injury in the 3-3 draw against Hoffenheim.

"After an MRI scan the diagnosis is now clear: Thiago has an extensive partial tear of the medial collateral ligament in his right knee knee.

"The Spaniard will be in a cast for 14 days. Overall, the summer signing will miss six-to-eight weeks. Thiago will definitely miss the two quarter-finals of the Champions League against Manchester United as well as possible semi-finals."

Thiago could make a return in time to feature in the Champions League final, should the European champions reach their third consecutive showpiece event, but it is unlikely he will be fit enough to be thrown into the starting XI even if he is.
Saturday was a disappointing day for Bayern as they also saw their 19-game winning streak in the Bundesliga come to an end, with Hoffenheim earning a 3-3 draw at the Allianz Arena.

However, coach Pep Guardiola rested a number of key players ahead of Tuesday's last-eight first-leg clash with Man Utd at Old Trafford.

Southampton: New board says financial situation 'difficult'

Hans Hofstetter

New Southampton director Hans Hofstetter says the club's board has inherited a "difficult financial situation".
Hofstetter spoke as Southampton published their annual results for the year ending 30 June 2013 - their first back in the Premier League.
The club posted a net loss of £7.1m and will enter the summer window owing £27m in outstanding transfer fees.
Continue reading the main story
It is a burden that has to be covered and will be covered
Hans Hofstetter Southampton director
A bill in excess of £30m is also pending for their new training ground.
Previous chairman Nicola Cortese resigned in January, with Ralph Krueger replacing him. Hofstetter joined the board at the same time.
"Whilst I perceive that we have inherited a difficult situation financially, there are now clear and structured plans in place to progress the club and avoid a similar situation from occurring again," Hofstetter said in a statement.
Cortese was at Southampton from 2009 and was widely credited with helping to bring stability off the pitch after years of financial turmoil.
However, Hofstetter says the new board must act now to eradicate some of the "burdens" of that regime.
Speaking to BBC Radio Solent, he added: "Of course it's a burden, but it's a burden that has to be covered and will be covered.
"When I came in from the outside I had different information, I was surprised but not disappointed. It is what it is and my culture is to look to the future and accept the past."

Financial highlights

  • Total revenue increased 213% to £71.8m (2012: £22.9m) with average league attendances up from 26,427 to 30,807.
  • Broadcasting income grew from £5.6m in 2011/12 to £46.9m in 2012/13.
  • Match day income of £11.8m in 2011/12 has risen to £16.9m in 2012/13.
  • Commercial income increased from £4.8m in 2011/12 to £6.7m in 2012/13.
  • Total group wages, including player wages, increased to £47.1m in 2013 from £28.7m in 2012.
That past means Southampton will begin next season with a transfer debt of £27m - despite already repaying £21m of fees this season alone - but Hofstetter says that will not lead to the sale of star players such as Luke Shaw, Jay Rodriguez and Adam Lallana.
"The most important point is that we are in a position where we do not need to sell any player Mauricio [Pochettino] wants to keep," Hofstetter added.
"We have a very strong squad and we are still in a situation where we are free enough to act quickly if quick action is asked from us."
The over-spend on the club's new training ground at Staplewood is also significant, with the expected total cost now more than £30m - up from an original estimate of £15m.
However, the wage-to-turnover ratio has fallen sharply - from 102% to a healthier 65% - after the removal of exceptional bonuses associated with promotion.
Operating profit is up to £8.7m, although that becomes a net loss of £7.1m once transfer expenditure is taken into account.
Commercial income rose from £4.8m to £6.7m after Southampton's ascension to the top flight.
The Liebherr family, represented by non-executive chairman Katharina, injected a further £12.5m during the financial year, with another £2.2m in September 2013 bringing the total investment to £52.7m.
However, £37.9m of that has been converted into equity shares, bringing the club's net liabilities down to £1.6m from £32.4m in 2012.

Martinez deserves full credit for Everton rise

Roberto Martinez: Has overseen transformation of Everton
After another Everton win on Sunday, Adam Bate looks at the improvements Roberto Martinez has made from the David Moyes' reign at Goodison.
Everton produced a formidable second-half performance at Craven Cottage on Sunday to beat Fulham 3-1 and extend their winning streak to five.
With Arsenal to play next at Goodison Park, there is a belief that Roberto Martinez's side could claim an unlikely top-four finish this season. But how has the Spaniard done it? We take a look at some of the key facets of their success...
Martinez's relentless positivity was elucidated in Tim Howard's comments back in February. While David Moyes enjoyed an impressive record at Goodison Park, as has been shown under the increased scrutiny that comes with the Manchester United job, there was a tendency to focus on stopping the opposition rather than infusing his own players with belief.

Martinez's optimism has found a receptive audience on the Everton training ground and long-serving goalkeeper Howard articulated that shift in emphasis in clear terms "No matter what game we go into, the focus has not at any point this season been on the other team - it has always been about us," he said.
"You have to do this 40 weeks of the year, it is nice not to come into work every day thinking 'Oh, that's looming ahead'. The manager keeps us bright and bubbly and focused on ourselves. Not always having to look over your shoulder at who is coming next is good.
"We work on ourselves and it's a difference. We'll train on trying to exploit them, as opposed to 'Here is what they are going to do to hurt us and this is what we are going to do to defend against them'. That is not in the manager's nature."
Given those words, it's easy to see why Everton remain unfazed and are playing with such confidence at this critical stage of the season.
Martinez's attitude is indicative of a manager who is not afraid to empower his players.
Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin have long been a solid unit at the heart of the Everton defence and their defensive qualities remain vital to the team's hopes. But the roles have changed under Martinez. Like Tony Adams & Co under Arsene Wenger, the manager has shown an awareness that his experienced defenders were capable of a more expansive game.

"There will be a bit of uncertainty amongst the lads at first," admitted Jagielka in the summer. "You never quite know if you're the new manager's type of player but he mentioned me as his captain when he spoke to the press so that was nice to hear."
There were teething problems early in a pre-season that Jagielka described as "drastically different" and the team were guilty of overplaying at the back in a defeat to Austria Vienna, but Martinez's trust has since been rewarded.
Jagielka had experience in midfield as a young player at Sheffield United and has since embraced the change with Martinez enthusing about the "real swagger" in his play.
Distin has even raised his game at 36. "I wouldn't say he's just carried on where he left off last season, he has stepped up and gone to a different level," said Martinez. "He has always been paramount in our defensive duties but now he is very important in our style of play and the distribution that he brings to the team."
That Everton style now involves them building their play from the back with James McCarthy and Gareth Barry always looking to then receive the ball in midfield.
All the key passing and possession numbers have increased this season, providing evidence of this process in action. Everton's total number of passes per game has increased by 15 per cent, while the average number of short passes has risen from 369 last season to 428 this term. It's been easier on the eye.
Under Moyes, engineering space down the left flank for Leighton Baines to exploit was a vital tactic, and the vast majority of Everton's attacks came down that wing.
It was a viable ploy given that Baines created 116 chances in the Premier League in 2012-13, more than any other player. The effective partnership between Steven Pienaar and Baines was something opponents had to be mindful of.
Martinez has continued to place a priority on the Everton left when attacking. It continues to account for 40 per cent of their attacks - with 28 per cent through the middle and 32 per cent down the right wing.
But what's significant is that the opposite flank is now a potent weapon in its own right. Everton's attacking play has a whole new dimension thanks to Seamus Coleman.
Moyes had been surprisingly reluctant to trust the Irishman at right-back. Coleman turned 23 early in the 2011-12 season, but all 14 of his appearances in that campaign came further forward in midfield rather than at full-back as the manager preferred the more predictable talents of Tony Hibbert, Phil Neville and Johnny Heitinga.

Everton's attack zones and assist locations for both last season (left) and this season (right). They indicate that goals are now coming from both flanks.
Coleman did appear at right-back in just over 60 per cent of Everton's Premier League games last term, but it is under Martinez that he's truly blossomed.
So while the team remain left-side dominant, there is no longer an assists vacuum down the right in the final third. Coleman is even Everton's joint-second highest goalscorer in the Premier League with six strikes this season.
Finally, Everton have a bit of balance to their attacking game - and it's come without exposing the team defensively as Moyes might have feared.
"There aren't many clubs that have as good full backs as Everton," said Martinez. "That's been one of the features of our team so far this season. It's a special balance which we benefit from hugely."
Coleman has been flagged up as an example of the previous Everton manager's willingness to embrace youth in his team.
However, the player's rise was far from quick and at 25 half of his fellow starters against Fulham were younger than him - four of them significantly so. Ross Barkley, John Stones, Gerard Deulofeu and Romelu Lukaku are all under the age of 21.
By comparison, Barkley was the only player under the age of 22 to start a single Premier League game for Everton last season - and even he got just two starts.
In other words, there were twice as many youngsters in the team in one game against Fulham than the fans saw in the entire of last season. It's injected real enthusiasm into this squad.
Of course, there are a number of old heads too - the aforementioned centre-back duo as well as shrewd loan acquisition Gareth Barry.
But with that environment created, the willingness of the youngsters to work and to learn has been a factor. Everton are a fit group and have scored 17 goals in the final quarter of an hour of Premier League games this season - more than any other team.
If those late goals can be accompanied by a late charge this season, there is the chance to achieve something really significant. Having won five in a row for the first time in 11 years, seven more and Everton will be guaranteed a top-four finish and - barring a Manchester United miracle - Champions League football at Goodison Park.
With Arsenal, United and Manchester City still to come at home, that will be tough. But whatever happens from now until the end of the season, this has felt a lot like progress.
The highest points tally under Moyes was 65. Even two wins from the remaining seven fixtures would surpass that figure. Whichever way you look at it, the Martinez effect has been spectacular.

Brendan Rodgers: Liverpool boss tips his side to cope with pressure

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is confident his team can handle the pressure of the title battle after they moved back top of the Premier League.
The Reds thrashed Tottenham 4-0 on Sunday and will be champions if they win their last six matches.
"There are still a lot of points to play for and there will be points dropped by all teams before the end of the season," said Rodgers.

Premier League title race

1. Liverpool
2. Chelsea
3. Man City
4. Arsenal
"We don't feel the pressure and we're very confident with how we play."
Liverpool were last top on Boxing Day and moved back above Chelsea with a convincing victory against Tottenham.
Younes Kaboul scored a second-minute own goal before goals from Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson sealed the Reds' eighth successive league victory.
They are two points ahead of Jose Mourinho's Chelsea side and four in front of third-placed Manchester City, although Manuel Pellegrini's team have played two matches fewer than their title rivals.
However, with City and Chelsea still to play at Anfield, Liverpool's hopes of winning the league for the first time since 1989-90 remain in their own hands.
"The dream is for our supporters, they want to win the title," added Rodgers. "It has been a long time but it's not in my thinking. We just need to prepare and do well, and if we do that, we will win games.
"Chelsea and Manchester City understand Anfield will be a real tough place to come. We love playing here, the support was incredible and that will only intensify.
We're a long way behind rivals - Sherwood
"We respect Chelsea - they have a world-class manager and a team that has been assembled to win the Champions League and the Premier League.
"Manchester City are one of the new superpowers in world football, but we feel we can win any game because we are a team, we have a lot of hunger and our tactical ideas are improving all the time."
Tottenham have lost four of their past six Premier League matches and have taken one point from their eight games this season against the current top four - Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal.
"It's not a good record," said manager Tim Sherwood, whose side remain sixth. "We have six games left against teams not in the top four so we owe it to ourselves to win those six and get some pride back.
"I don't know about Liverpool being favourites for the title - I would still go for Manchester City."

Bayern Munich must improve to beat Manchester United

Guardiola: Bayern Munich must improve to beat Manchester United
 Pep Guardiola was less than impressed with Bayern Munich's showing against Hoffenheim on Saturday, arguing that a massive improvement will be required for Tuesday's Champions League clash with Manchester United.

The Bavarians had appeared to be cruising towards a 20th consecutive win in the Bundesliga after responding to Anthony Modeste's opener with a Claudio Pizarro double and a Xherdan Shaqiri strike.

However, Hoffenheim pulled one back just before the break through Sejad Salihovic and then claimed their first ever point away to Bayern courtesy of Roberto Firmino's 75th-minute equaliser.

"Compliments to Hoffenheim," Guardiola told his club's official website after the dramatic 3-3 draw. "They showed a good ability to press.

"In the first half we found good solutions. In the second half, though, we were not good.

"We need to control the ball. If this is not the case, then we have a problem.

"We need to analyse this game and then quickly focus on Tuesday. We need to improve."

The first leg of Bayern's Champions League quarter-final clash with United will take place at Old Trafford.