Thursday, 30 October 2014

Suarez made the difference, says Luis Enrique

Suarez made the difference, says Luis Enrique
The Blaugrana trainer was impressed by the Uruguay international's performance versus Espanyol and insisted they have forgotten about their loss versus Real Madrid
Barcelona coach Luis Enrique felt Luis Suarez excelled after overcoming Espanyol on penalties (1-1 AET) in the Catalan Super Cup on Wednesday night.
The Uruguay international featured from the start in Girona and showed his class early on with a fine assist for Gerard Pique's opening goal before he was replaced at half-time.
Luis Enrique was thoroughly impressed with the ex-Liverpool attacker's contribution and stressed that it was Suarez who made the difference during his time on the pitch.
"Suarez played very well. He got most of his actions right," Luis Enrique told the official Barcelona website.
"He made a difference to the game every minute he played.
"He shows mobility and eagerness, like the rest of the squad."
The Barcelona coach then went on to stress that he was happy with his side's overall performance, before claiming they have forgotten about their Clasico defeat and are keen to get back to winning ways against Celta de Vigo at the weekend.
"The team was in absolute control of the game. I was very pleased with their attitude and the way they tried to go for the game.
"Matches like these help to get the players into the rhythm of playing games and becoming more important to the team.
"The squad have clearly forgotten the situation last week and we’re now focusing on the game with Celta on Saturday."
Last week's defeat at the hands of Madrid saw Sevilla go level on points with Barcelona atop of the table, with Real Madrid chasing the leaders by one point.

Ghouls and goals

  • Each mammoth gourd weighs in at a whopping 15kg and McMinnis spent a total of 25 hours whittling the orange flesh into the likenesses of Louis van Gaal and Manuel Pellegrini.
    We think there is something of Lord of the Rings creep Gollum about Pellegrini's pumpkin though. And a lot of Hollywood actor John Goodman in the Van Gaal effort
  • Football

    Lambert - 'We will be better'
    Posted at
    Paul Lambert has told Sky Sports News that his Aston Villa team can't yet be judged because they've had so many difficult games.
    "In our first nine games we've played the top five and it's been really tough," said the boss. "But we will (this season) be a lot better than we were last year, that's for sure."
    Villa, who host Tottenham on Sunday, are 15th in the table with three wins from nine games.
  • Tennis

    Murray time approaching
    Posted at
    Andy Murray and Amelie Mauresmo
    British number one Andy Murray can finally nail down his place at London's ATP World Tour Finals today.
    The Scot, sitting fifth in the 2014 rankings, is best placed to secure one of the four spots still up for grabs.
    His participation at the O2 will be confirmed today if he beats Wimbledon quarter-final conqueror Grigor Dimitrov in Paris, or if Kei Nishikori, Tomas Berdych or Milos Raonic lose.
    So far it is looking like Murray will have to do the business himself. Bedych has beaten Feliciano Lopez 7-5 6-3 in the opening match on court in the French capital.
    Murray v Dimitrov will follow Kevin Anderson v Stan Wawrinka, which is the next match on court. There will be live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and this website with some live text words as well.
  • Cricket

    Tea at the Test
    Posted at
    Pakistan have batted solidly despite losing both their openers to reach 158-2 at tea on the opening day of the second Test against Australia in Abu Dhabi.
    Younis Khan was unbeaten on 49 and Azhar Ali was on 26, having added 62 runs for the third wicket after Pakistan won the toss and elected to bat on a flat pitch.
    Younis is bang in form, having scored twin hundreds in the first Test in Dubai.
  • Keane's I'm A Celebrity offer

    Posted at
    Roy Keane
    Aston Villa and Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane says he turned down the chance to become a reality TV star.
    "I've had the Celebrity Big Brother offers and the jungle stuff (I'm A Celebrity…). I met the jungle people, but I thought, Nah, not for me,'" he told ShortList magazine.
    What a pity, would have been a hell of a watch...
  • Football

    Ince joins Forest on loan
    Posted at
    Hull City winger Tom Ince has joined Nottingham Forest on loan until the end of December.
    England Under-21 international Ince left Blackpool to sign for the Tigers during the summer.

    Blackpool appoint new manager
    Posted at
    Blackpool have named Lee Clark as their new manager, three days after Jose Riga was sacked.
    Clarke, fired by Birmingham on 20 October, has agreed a one-year rolling contract.
    He has a tough job on his hands - the Seasiders are bottom of the Championship and already seven points from safety.
  • Cricket

    Flintoff disappointment at KP
    Posted at
    Former England cricketer Andrew Flintoff says he is disappointed that Kevin Pietersen chose to focus on bullying in his recently-released autobiography.
    "I feel sad that his book isn't a celebration of being a fantastic cricketer," he told the Flintoff and Holcroft podcast.
    "I think people want to read about how he felt when he walked out to bat and scored all those runs...instead it is about being bullied in the dressing-room."
  • Basketball

    Deng warming up with the Heat
    Posted at
    Luol Deng playing for Luol Deng
    Great Britain's Luol Deng got off to a solid start in Miami Heat's NBA season-opener, scoring 12 points in a 107-95 win over the Washington Wizards.

    Falcao 'to make Man United move permanent'
    Posted at
    Radamel Falcao celebrates his goal against Everton
    Striker Radamel Falcao will make his loan move to Manchester United permanent at the end of the season, according to
    They report that United executives have "already agreed and shaken hands on a £44 million deal to sign Radamel Falcao permanently" from Monaco.
    The Colombian, 28, has scored one goal in five games for United since arriving at Old Trafford.
  • Football

    Fixture changed to honour shooting victim
    Posted at
    South Africa have moved their Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Sudan on 15 November from Nelspruit to Durban, the hometown of goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa, in honour of the former national team captain.
    Meyiwa, 27, was shot and killed in what appears to have been a botched robbery at his girlfriend's house on Sunday.
  • Basketball

    Stars in the Garden
    Posted at
    karlie kross, Taylor Swift and Ben Stiller
    "I got a colour TV, so I can see, the Knicks play basketball," boasted the Sugarhill Gang.
    No such armchair action for supermodel type Karlie Kloss, pop siren Taylor Swift and actor Ben Stiller, though, who were up close and personal at courtside for the New York Knicks' opening game of the NBA season last night.
    They may have had A-list support, but the Knicks, who play the Milwaukee Bucks in London in January, delivered a D-grade performance, losing 104-80 to the Chicago Bulls.
  • Ant and Dec salute Taylor

    Posted at
    Ryan Taylor
    Big Newcastle fans Ant and Dec told their 4 million Twitter followers how happy they were to see Ryan Taylor back on a football pitch during last night's win over Manchester City.
    "Just brilliant to see @TaylorR1984 back in action tonight," the pair tweeted. "It's been a long time coming. Welcome back 'Over The Wall'!"
    Here, here, for it is indeed terrific to see Taylor return after 26 months on the sidelines due to two horrible cruciate ligament injuries.
  • Cricket

    Strike duo deny bullying claims
    Posted at
    England fast bowlers Stuart Broad and James Anderson have had their say about Kevin Pietersen's claims of a bullying culture in the England dressing room.
    The pair says they are saddened and disappointed by the allegations, and also denied any involvement in a Twitter account that set out to parody the former batsman.
    Broad said: "The bullying word has not crossed my mind in eight or nine years of playing international cricket."
    Anderson said a bullying culture was "certainly not something I remember".
  • Transforming Sport conference

    BBC Sport's Anna Thompson at Transforming Sport conference at Lord's:
    Posted at
    Judy Murray
    British Fed Cup team captain Judy Murray, and mother of Andy and Jamie, tells the Transforming Sport conference:
    "When Jamie and Andy were six and seven, I applied for a personal coaching award scheme organised by the LTA. There were 20 places available and two women were given places. A man complained asking "what on earth has she got to offer in performance coaching when she had two young kids.... Funny how it's never mentioned now!"
  • Burgess cool on England talk

    Rugby Union
    Posted at
    Sam Burgess
    New Bath signing Sam Burgess was a guest on BBC Radio 5 live Breakfast earlier and was even surprised live on air with a call from his mother, Julie, in Sydney.
    Presenter Rachel Burden quizzed him on his chances of playing for England, but the former South Sydney Rabbitoh would not be pushed in to any commitment.
    "Everyone's asking me whether I'll play for England," he said.
    "I've spoken to him (Stuart Lancaster) very briefly, nothing about being picked in his side or nothing like that, just generally seeing how I'm going.
    "He's a very busy man, doing his job."
  • Football

    Mario Super - Sturridge
    Posted at
    mario Balotelli with Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling
    Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge has defended Liverpool team-mate Mario Balotelli after the Italy international's slow start to life at Anfield.
    Sturridge, who admitted during the recent World Cup that he was "not on texting terms" with former strike-partner Luis Suarez, says that he gets on well with Balotelli.
    "Mario's a great guy, and he's misunderstood sometimes," Sturridge told Talksport.
    "We get on well off the field and in the changing rooms. We're always laughing and joking."
    "It's not hugely important to be friends to have a great [football] relationship with somebody, and if you're not friends you can still have a great partnership, but you can also be friends and have a great partnership."
  • Football

    Allardyce press conference
    Posted at
    Big Sam on striker Andy Carroll: "Andy has to go through what for him is the final part of a pre-season after recovery, and ease himself slowly into games."
    Carroll has been out all season with an ankle injury but is back in training.
    Allardyce added: "James Tomkins is back and Matt Jarvis is back in the squad and the others we're waiting patiently for."
  • Football

    Allardyce press conference
    Posted at
    Diafra Sakho
    Allardyce says man of the moment Diafra Sakho - who scored for the sixth straight league game to help earn West Ham victory over Man City last weekend - is "touch and go" for the Stoke trip.
    "We will see what he's like tomorrow and make a decision from there," said the boss.
    Speaking about Saturday's opponents, Allardyce said: "Sparky (Mark Hughes) is looking for the consistency level at Stoke that we've found and the goalscorers in our team allow us to go and win games."

Stephen Keshi to return for Nigeria Afcon qualifiers

Stephen Keshi set for return
The Big Boss has been asked to finish the job he begun by leading the Super Eagles to the rest of the qualifiers against Congo and South Africa next month
It seems that Nigeria have not heard the last of coach Stephen Keshi as he is set to return to his role in charge of the Super Eagles for next month’s pair of qualifiers against Congo and South Africa.
On Thursday morning, media officer of the Super Eagles, Toyin Ibitoye tweeted that Keshi is set to return to his job.
 Sportmasta findings revealed that Keshi has been asked to return to his post as part of reconciliatory moves in the Nigeria Football Federation as ordered by President Goodluck Jonathan.
The President has also asked the faction of Chris Giwa to withdraw its case from court to ensure that Nigeria is not banned by Fifa.
The NFF is yet to release any official statement.
Keshi was relieved of his job on October 16, a day after the Super Eagles defeated Sudan 3-1 in Abuja, by the Amaju Pinnick-led board of the NFF who re-called former coach Shaibu Amodu in an interim capacity.
The African champions had struggled to win just one in four qualifying matches and fans had begun to call for the coach’s sack.
However, the Giwa-led faction had always maintained Keshi was still in charge despite the Big Boss having spoken about intentions to lead the Ghanaian national side, a fact that the GFA has now ruled out.
The 52-year-old will now be in charge for the must-win pair of qualifiers next month. Nigeria are yet to announce their squad.
The Super Eagles have four points and are behind South Africa (eight points), Congo (seven points) but ahead of Sudan (three points) in Group A.

Man United agree permanent €56 million Falcao deal

Man United agree permanent €56 million Falcao deal
Terms have been established and signed on the transfer and a €305,000-a-week salary, with United fully expected to activate the move in the summer

Manchester United have agreed and shaken hands on a €56 million deal to sign Radamel Falcao permanently when his loan move ends at the end of the season, Sportmasta can confirm.

United finalised terms with Monaco and Falcao when his €8m season-long loan switch from the French club was sealed on the last day of the summer transfer window.

The 20-time English champions will have the option to activate the agreement at the end of the season if they are satisfied with Falcao’s performances and fitness. It is understood all parties fully expect the deal to be made permanent.

Falcao currently receives a salary package worth around €305,000 per week, and United have agreed and signed paperwork on the same terms should the switch materialise next summer.

Falcao’s agent, Jorge Mendes, has a close relationship with United executives and the striker has expressed his desire to stay at the club beyond this season.

Despite the perception that Falcao's move was a last-minute swoop which only materialised in the final hours of the transfer window, United had been negotiating various terms with Mendes for a number of weeks.

But with the deadline approaching, all parties decided on a season-long loan move and the details of a permanent move were agreed and signed upon.

The loan agreement gives United the opportunity to assess Falcao’s form and fitness after the serious knee injury that ruled him out for the second half of last season and caused him to miss the World Cup.

A transfer next summer will also be reflected more favourably in United’s financial accounts having spent more than €190m in the transfer market over the summer.

Falcao has scored one goal in five Premier League appearances for United but missed Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea after sustaining an injury in training last week.

Juventus managing director has claimed this week that Falcao came close to joining the Italian champions in the summer before United stepped in with a better offer.

"We were following him and there was contact," Marotta told RAI. "We were very close to [signing] Falcao and the player preferred Italy and our colours, but then United came forward and they have much more spending power than we do so the deal broke down."

United paid roughly €76m for Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera at the start of the summer, broke the British transfer record with a €76.3m move for Angel Di Maria and spent a further €44m on Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind after suffering a rocky start to the Premier League season in August.

Bournemouth draw Liverpool in League Cup

Callum Wilson scored the winner as Bournemouth beat West Bromwich Albion in the League Cup last 16
Championship side Bournemouth will play Liverpool in the quarter-finals of the Capital One Cup.
The south coast side have never featured in the last eight and will now host eight-time winners Liverpool at the Goldsands Stadium.
Derby have a home tie against Premier League leaders Chelsea, while League One Sheffield United welcome high-flying Southampton.
Newcastle, who knocked out holders Manchester City, travel to Tottenham.
The ties will be played in the week beginning 15 December.
Sheffield United reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup last season and are enjoying another good cup run after knocking out MK Dons in the previous round.
Championship leaders Derby are rewarded for coming from 2-0 down to beat Fulham 5-2 with a home draw against the Premier League leaders.
Bournemouth - the third of the non-Premier League sides left in the competition - eliminated West Brom on Tuesday.
Full quarter-final draw:
Derby v Chelsea
Tottenham v Newcastle
Bournemouth v Liverpool
Sheffield United v Southampton

'I know what I am doing' SAYS; Alan Pardew

Alan Pardew defended his position as Newcastle manager after their League Cup victory at Manchester City, telling supporters: "I do know what I'm doing."
Pardew, 53, has been the subject of protests from some fans after Newcastle's poor start of the season.
But the 2-0 win at Etihad Stadium secured a League Cup quarter-final place and followed Sunday's Premier League victory at Tottenham.
"This was a victory for our fans," said Pardew.
"It's important for us that we just keep this momentum going."
Newcastle sit 14th in the Premier League and face a trip to Tottenham in the League Cup last eight in the week beginning 15 December.
Pardew has guided Newcastle to fifth, 16th and 10th in his three full seasons at the club and has seen key players such as Andy Carroll and Yohan Cabaye leave for large transfer fees.
Supporters have held up '' banners during matches since early in the season.
He admitted he was under pressure earlier this month, but defender Daryl Janmaat said on Wednesday that the players are behind their manager.
"I do know what I'm doing," Pardew said. "I think I've had most of the scalps as Newcastle manager, maybe except Arsenal, and I look forward to playing them."
Pardew rested several players at City ahead of Saturday's Premier League game against Liverpool at St James' Park.
Midfielder Ryan Taylor is likely to be available after describing his return from a 26-month lay-off with a cruciate ligament injury as a "dream come true".
Ryan Taylor
Taylor, 30, delivered the assist for Rolando Aarons to open the scoring
"Years of hard graft for myself just to get back playing football is a big thing for me, but what a performance that was from the lads," Taylor told Sportmasta.
Pardew said: "Ryan Taylor was a kind of story you'd read in some football magazine that was made up. He was outstanding in his first game after all that time. Brilliant."
Taylor, 30, delivered the assist for Rolando Aarons to open the scoring, before substitute Moussa Sissoko hit the second to move Newcastle a step closer to a first Cup triumph since 1955.
Goalkeeper Rob Elliot added: "Tonight's all about Ryan.
"He's epitomised everything about us: two years of solid hard work, with setbacks. Everyone is buzzing for him and the fans - it's a great night for us all."

Drogba is back to his best. says; CAHILL

Cahill: Drogba is back to his best
The Ivorian forward has scored three goals in a week in the absence of Diego Costa and Loic Remy and his team-mate feels that the veteran is rediscovering his best formGary Cahill believes that Didier Drogba is back to his best after finding his goalscoring touch following his return to Chelsea.

After re-signing for the Blues on a one-year deal this summer, the Ivorian striker got off to a slow start to life back at Stamford Bridge, only to score three goals in as many games in the space of seven days.

11/1 Chelsea are 11/1 with Bet365 to beat QPR 3-1
The 36-year-old has been pressed into action following injuries to Diego Costa and Loic Remy and was particularly influential in Jose Mourinho's side's 2-1 win over Shrewsbury Town on Tuesday.

And England defender Cahill believes that Drogba has returned to the level at which he was when he helped the club to their first Champions League trophy in 2012.

"After the last two games he is fully fit now and he is looking dangerous, exactly like he was when he went," the centre-back told reporters of his team-mate.

"Drogba was massive for us against Shrewsbury and he got a vital goal. Who knows how long he can go on? That's for the club and Drogba to decide but we've started the season well and he's been a big part in that.

"Diego Costa has played the majority of the games but Drogba is getting back to match sharpness."

Despite Drogba's good form, Cahill knows that all three strikers are key to the Premier League leaders' season as they continue to fight on four fronts.

"To get them all back fit and scoring goals is vital for us," he remarked. "There are options in attack but not just there, all over the pitch."

Costa row continues as Spain doctor refutes Mourinho claims

Costa row continues as Spain doctor refutes Mourinho claims The Chelsea manager claimed the striker's lack of involvement since international duty was down to the way he was handled by the national side, which Juan Jose Garcia Cota denies
 Diego Costa's club versus country row rumbles on after Spain's team doctor insisted the Chelsea striker did not pick up a fresh injury on international duty.

The 25-year-old striker has scored nine goals in seven Premier League games since arriving during the summer, but has been blighted by a persistent hamstring injury.

That issue, combined with a virus, means he has not featured for Chelsea since playing in Spain's Euro 2016 qualifiers against Slovakia and Luxembourg earlier this month.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho laid the blame for Costa's current absence on his involvement with Vicente del Bosque's side, but Spain team doctor Juan Jose Garcia Cota has refuted those claims.

"This time he [Costa] didn't say anything about the hamstring," Cota told Sportmasta UK. "When Costa arrived to the international team he said to us he had a minor hassle in the groin but that it was nothing important.

"He probably had played with it before for Chelsea and he didn't complain any more about it during the international duty.

"He was treated by the physios [like every other player] and didn't have any limitations when doing exercises.

"I wouldn't even say it was an injury or a problem. It was a very minor hassle that is very common in every professional footballer. He didn't even ask for treatment and didn't require a scan or anything similar."

What is wrong with Emmanuel Emenike?

Emmanuel Emenike The striker's alarming loss of form indirectly led to the axing of the Big Boss and is a riddle that Amodu Shaibu needs to unravel if Nigeria is to defend her Afcon crown in 2015
Villarreal’s Ikechukwu Uche, the arch-nemesis of erstwhile Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi, top-scored to qualify Nigeria for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations. By the time the tournament rolled around though, he was no longer first choice, and it is to Emmanuel Emenike’s credit that not many noticed.
Indeed, when misfortune caused Uche to put in an appearance in the final, his performance served only to remind us he was no longer head honcho upfront. The team sorely lacked a focal point; Uche does his best work inside the penalty area, Emenike likes to roam.
The Otuocha-born striker excelled for the Super Eagles in South Africa, winning the tournament Golden Boot with four goals. We were introduced to a cannon-like right foot, the like of which had not been seen since the legendary Rashidi Yekini was custodian of the No. 9 shirt.
If these events seem like a lifetime ago, it’s because, as the cliché goes, a week is a long time in football. Emenike’s drought with the national team now stands at 54 weeks, not since his brace against Ethiopia in Addis Ababa to turn the World Cup Qualifying play-off has he found the net. His goals established the Big Boss at the helm, and the lack of them has seen Keshi out.
His decline has mirrored Keshi’s; since that brace, Nigeria has won three times in 13 matches: the return leg in Port Harcourt, a hard-fought win over Bosnia-Herzegovina at the World Cup, and the 3-1 win over Sudan in Abuja in October.
In a way, the striker’s problems for the national team began right after the Afcon in 2013. After sustaining a hip injury against Mali in the semi-final, he criticised Keshi and the NFF for their lack of interest in his welfare. In his absence, the Super Eagles laboured through the World Cup qualifiers; his goals were not replaced, and this threw into sharp contrast the limitations of strike partner Brown Ideye.

Ideye | Exposed during Emenike's absence
Emenike ultimately returned to the side against Malawi in Calabar, and scored with a delicate chip to re-affirm his ability. By contrast, Ideye was damnably profligate in that game, and that was when the Big Boss decided he had seen enough to put all the team’s eggs in an Emenike-shaped basket.
It proved to be an ill-fated decision.
In Ideye, Emenike had the ultimate handyman partner: willing runner, chaser of lost causes, always occupying defenders. For all his physique, Emenike shies away from playing with his back to goal, and is not as amenable to pressuring opposing defenders into mistakes. His lack of work-rate exposed the significant weaknesses of Nigeria’s defensive midfield double-pivot.
Clearly then, it was unwise to expect the Fenerbahce man to play in the exact same way as his former partner, without the concomitant drop-off in efficiency. Where once he could profit, Emenike has had to fulfil the gofer-duty that West Brom’s Ideye excelled at. The sole beneficiary is the person who took Emenike’s inside-forward role; Ahmed Musa has been excellent in 2014, scoring braces against Argentina and Sudan and being Nigeria’s most dangerous player against South Africa in September.
That said, we know that Emenike can finish. After all, he did weigh in with 12 goals as Fenerbahce claimed the Turkish Super Lig crown last term, while mostly playing in a similar role alongside Senegal’s Moussa Sow. The change of dynamic upfront may reduce a player’s impact, but should not totally negate it; Emenike has not scored for Nigeria since Ideye was dropped.
So what else is eating away at the 27-year-old?
Strikers are creatures of confidence, more so than any other set of footballers. There is only so long you can emphasize the primacy of the team over the individual; if a striker is not scoring, the confidence slowly seeps out of him. Already this season, there have been worrying signs that the drought is getting to Emenike.
First was his on-field altercation with Fenerbahce captain Emre during a league game against Gaziantepspor in September following manager Ismail Kartal’s decision to substitute him. He admitted as much afterward in an apology to the fans, quoted by the Turkish press as being stressed due to his goal drought.

How can Emenike rediscover his scoring touch?
Then there was his angry public reaction to being dropped for Nigeria’s first Afcon 2015 qualifier at home against Republic of Congo. Keshi upbraided him in the press for arriving to camp only on the eve of the game, and claimed he had shown disrespect to his team mates. Emenike went ballistic, sensationally challenging the Big Boss to drop him if his presence was no longer of benefit to the team.
Surprisingly, Keshi did not call his bluff. Perhaps he too understood that this was the frustration of a man under pressure speaking, and refrained from punitive measures. Whether he should have been bold enough to do just that, and much earlier too, is a revisionist argument. It is not Keshi’s headache anymore.
This is one of the puzzles interim boss Amodu Shaibu must solve, and that quickly, if the Super Eagles are to book a place in the 2015 Nations Cup. How do you get the best out of a striker who has lost his scoring touch?
On the surface, the signs are not looking good, as Amodu seems set to recall Ikechukwu Uche to the squad. Then again, perhaps with someone else to share the goalscoring burden, we may see the old Emenike again.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

No bitterness towards Barcelona fans or Guardiola. says; Fabregas

Fabregas: No bitterness towards Barcelona fans or Guardiola
Cesc Fabregas has insisted he does not bear any bitterness towards Barcelona's fans or former boss Pep Guardiola over his time at Camp Nou.
The Masia youth academy product was hailed as a returning hero when he rejoined the Blaugrana in 2011, after eight years at Arsenal.
However, Fabregas never managed to nail down a regular berth in Guardiola's starting line-up during his first season back at the club and the remainder of his time in Catalunya continued in the same vein - under both Tito Vilanova and Gerardo Martino - until he was sold to Chelsea this summer.
The 27-year-old says, though, that he still does not regret his decision to return to Barca and claims he holds no animosity towards those supporters who booed him last season.
"My dream was to play for Barcelona and I wanted to try it," the attacking midfielder explained in a interview with Radio MARCA.
"I didn't care if it went well or badly. I'm not bothered about what people think of me. I was satisfied when I left Barca: I won titles; I played with friends; I met my wife.
"There were moments that weren't so great, but I consider myself a strong lad. I've never cried or felt bad when a section of the fans has whistled at me."
When pressed on his relationship with Guardiola, Fabregas stated: "All I can say is they were three wonderful years for me. I was happy, and that's all.
"I had expectations which ended up turning into something else. Life is reality.
"I didn't feel cheated or disappointed. I don't expect anything from anyone in football.
"I don't regret anything I've done in my career. I could have chosen a different path, but as it stands I've played at three big clubs under great managers.
"I'm satisfied, but I want more. This doesn't end here."
Fabregas also insisted that he is just as comfortable playing under Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho as he was under Guardiola - despite their contrasting footballing philosophies.
"Of course I like them," he stated. "I like both of them. All styles are worthy of respect."


Messi could receive Liga goals record award at the Bernabeu

Messi could receive Liga goals record award at the Bernabeu
Javier Tebas says the LFP will pay tribute to Lionel Messi even if the Barcelona star becomes La Liga's all-time record goalscorer at the home of great rivals Real Madrid.
The Argentina international is just two goals shy of Telmo Zarra's tally of 251, meaning the four-time Ballon d'Or winner could make history in this weekend's Primera Division clash with Eibar at Camp Nou.
However, there is also the intriguing possibility of Messi, who has scored more goals in Clasico history than any other player, breaking the record in the meeting with Madrid on October 25.
When asked if the LFP would be willing to publicly recognise the Blaugrana ace as the greatest goalscorer in the history of the Spanish league before a partisan crowd at the Santiago Bernabeu, Tebas replied: "Why not?
"I am thinking of ideas but the homage has to be a tribute that lasts forever.
"We must never forget it in La Liga, it should always stay with us.
"If the time comes and he beats the record we will have to reflect upon it because it will be an historic moment.”
Messi, who has netted 21 times against Madrid, has already racked up six goals in seven Liga appearances for Barca so far this season.
The Rosario native has spent his entire professional career in Catalunya, having joined Barca from Newell's Old Boys in 2000.
Messi made his Liga debut on October 16, 2004, in a 1-0 win over city rivals Espanyol. He scored his first goal the following May, against Albacete, and he has now struck 249 times in just 284 matches.

Messi could receive Liga goals record award at the Bernabeu

Messi could receive Liga goals record award at the Bernabeu
Javier Tebas says the LFP will pay tribute to Lionel Messi even if the Barcelona star becomes La Liga's all-time record goalscorer at the home of great rivals Real Madrid.
The Argentina international is just two goals shy of Telmo Zarra's tally of 251, meaning the four-time Ballon d'Or winner could make history in this weekend's Primera Division clash with Eibar at Camp Nou.
However, there is also the intriguing possibility of Messi, who has scored more goals in Clasico history than any other player, breaking the record in the meeting with Madrid on October 25.
When asked if the LFP would be willing to publicly recognise the Blaugrana ace as the greatest goalscorer in the history of the Spanish league before a partisan crowd at the Santiago Bernabeu, Tebas replied: "Why not?
"I am thinking of ideas but the homage has to be a tribute that lasts forever.
"We must never forget it in La Liga, it should always stay with us.
"If the time comes and he beats the record we will have to reflect upon it because it will be an historic moment.”
Messi, who has netted 21 times against Madrid, has already racked up six goals in seven Liga appearances for Barca so far this season.
The Rosario native has spent his entire professional career in Catalunya, having joined Barca from Newell's Old Boys in 2000.
Messi made his Liga debut on October 16, 2004, in a 1-0 win over city rivals Espanyol. He scored his first goal the following May, against Albacete, and he has now struck 249 times in just 284 matches.

Hit or miss? Alexis Sanchez to Arsenal

Hit or miss? Alexis Sanchez to Arsenal
 Having joined from Barcelona in a £32 million deal earlier this summer, Alexis Sanchez has threatened to become a fan favourite at Arsenal after scoring two sensational goals. But how successful has the transfer been, and what does the future hold? Sportmasta takes a look...


Were it not for the simply staggering displays of James Rodriguez for Colombia there would only have been one undisputed star of the World Cup. Alexis Sanchez lit up the competition with Chile, scoring twice in four games and inspiring his side to within a hair’s breadth of the quarter-finals.

Many praised Arsene Wenger for subsequently signing one of the stand-out players of the finals but the truth is that the Frenchman anticipated the then-Barcelona winger’s fine performances, with a delegation flying to Spain to negotiate the signing of Alexis in May.

Liverpool were also keen – Brendan Rodgers later claimed the player snubbed a move to Anfield as he did not want to live on Merseyside – but Arsenal soon emerged as front-runners for his signature and tabled a £32 million bid in July.

Yet it was the personal touch from Wenger that sealed the deal. While Ivan Gazidis – the club’s chief executive – and Dick Law, their chief negotiator, were also involved in talks, Wenger made a personal plea to Alexis’ agent as he attempted to gazump his Premier League rivals.

In fact, Wenger had been tracking Alexis since his European breakthrough at Udinese, and later explained that he was attracted to his versatility.

"He made a great impression in Italy - I saw him there and he was really outstanding,” he said upon completing the deal. “I like the fact he can play left, right, up front and that's why I went for him.”

The deal itself was announced in July to a tidal wave of Twitter hashtags, and ushered in a raft of new recruits for the club. Indeed, Mathieu Debuchy was acquired from Newcastle just seven days later, with Wenger dipping into the club’s freshly stocked cash reserves to embark upon a spending spree designed to turn Arsenal into title contenders once again.

Coupled with the £42.5m signing of Mesut Ozil 12 months previously, Alexis was signed to make maximum impact – a marquee player designed to strike fear into the hearts of opposition defenders. He may not have hit top gear just yet, but his staggering volleyed goal against Manchester City and his exquisite free-kick in the 2-1 League Cup defeat to Southampton hinted at what is to come.

Blessed with explosive pace and a keen eye for goal, Alexis was initially signed on the belief that he could be converted from a winger into a striker, a la Thierry Henry. Yet he has been almost exclusively used as a right winger so far this season, following the repeated injury setbacks suffered by Theo Walcott and the patchy form of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

While familiar with such a role, the presence of Mesut Ozil on the opposite flank has made things difficult; Alexis no longer has the ability to wander in a fluid front three, and is instead forced to hug the touchline before cutting inside.

Player Stats — Alexis Sánchez

  • General

    Games Played
    Minutes Played
    Substitution On
    Substitution Off
    Duels Won
    Aerial duels won
YET TO SPARKLE | Alexis' stats are solid, but are they good enough for a £32m signing?

At Barcelona he was allowed to roam and would dovetail superbly with Lionel Messi and Neymar. Two-footed, Alexis is good enough to play on either flank or through the middle but he has so far struggled to shine in a red shirt, with the disaffected Ozil partly to blame.

His need to move inside and switch positions often is evidenced by his woeful crossing statistics; of the 19 he has attempted this season, none have found a team-mate. In six games, he has won just 38.5% of his duels, while his 75% hints that his ideas are not quite coming off.

Yet goals are the currency of football and his two strikes so far have seen him become something of an icon among the Emirates faithful. His strike against City was a stroke of pure genius, his volley leaving Joe Hart grasping at air as it flew into the top corner. His fist-pumping, eye-bulging celebration spoke volumes of his desire to be a hit in north London, while his world-class free-kick against Southampton evidenced his class and panache on the ball.

But Wenger is not fully convinced. Despite making the Chilean the second-most expensive signing in the club’s history the Gunners boss dropped him against Aston Villa and Tottenham after taking exception to his inability to release the ball quickly, thus disrupting Arsenal’s passing rhythm. Despite scoring against City he attempted 46 passes across the 90 minutes, with an accuracy of just 61%. By comparison, Ozil played 48 passes, but with a much higher completion rate of 81%, recycling possession effectively in order to keep Arsenal ticking over and moving forward.

Despite Alexis’ status as one of the club’s best players, Wenger sounded a note of caution back in August, warning that the forward was not yet physically ready for the challenge of the Premier League following his exertions in Brazil. "He is not ready physically but I am not worried about him," he said, after the star turned in an ineffectual performance against Everton at Goodison Park. "Once he will be at his best physically his confidence will come back."

It remains to be seen if that confidence will remain, if he continues to be the subject of doubts from Wenger and his coaching staff.

Alexis signed a “long-term contract” on his arrival in north London and the deal was supposed to signal the beginning of a new, cash-rich era at the Emirates Stadium.

Alexis and Ozil are the figureheads of this new model. Yet both must do more, with Alexis guilty so far of over-indulging when the ball comes to his feet, and he has yet to truly get to grips with the rigours of Premier League football. In six appearances he has completed the full 90 minutes just three times.

Despite his muscular frame – his build would seem ideally suited to the rough and tumble of England’s top-flight – he can struggle to best the most physical defenders in the league. See Sunday’s ugly clash with Branislav Ivanovic for evidence, when Alexis appeared to aim a punch at the Serbian after the Chelsea man brushed him off the ball.

Yet understanding comes with time and he will surely adjust to his new surroundings. Despite the instant acclimatisation of the likes of Diego Costa and Angel Di Maria, foreign players must be given something of a honeymoon period, however expensive their signing eventually proved to be.

Once he has bedded down, however, much will be expected. It is rare that bona-fide stars arrive at the Emirates and Alexis must soon prove his worth. On signing, he outlined his intention to help the Gunners “win as many titles as possible” but when the stats are stacked up, he does not feature in the top 10 for goals, assists, key passes, or chances created (either from open play alone or including set pieces).

That will concern Wenger, who is famously frugal. The Frenchman will expect a significant return on his £32m investment and, with Arsenal winning just four of their opening 12 games, Alexis must start paying that figure back soon.

Lucky Chelsea? Di Matteo has chance to prove Champions League triumph was no fluke

Lucky Chelsea? Di Matteo has chance to prove Champions League triumph was no fluke May 19, 2012. Chelsea had finally won the Champions League after almost a decade of near-misses.
It was an incredible achievement given the circumstances. In terms of individual quality, the Londoners had never been weaker in the Roman Abramovich era and their coach was not Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti or any of the other glamorous names who had sat on the bench during the previous nine years. It was Roberto Di Matteo, an interim boss.

Chelsea had started that season under Andre Villas-Boas, an ambitious young coach whose project had fallen to pieces by February. Di Matteo stepped into the void to steady the ship. His only previous managerial experience had been at Milton Keynes Dons and West Bromwich Albion, and his time with The Baggies had ended with the sack.

Just six months after his night of crowning glory in Munich, Di Matteo would be fired again as Chelsea stared down the barrel of a humiliating group stage exit in the first defence of their trophy. All this despite investing heavily in attacking talents such as Oscar and Eden Hazard.
Now, almost two years on, the former midfielder returns to coaching at Schalke with a point to prove.

Despite retaining his status as a hero among the Stamford Bridge faithful - who continued to chant his name after the unpopular Rafa Benitez succeeded him - the general consensus in the football community was that Di Matteo was somewhat lucky to win the Champions League.
"Nobody in the history of the Champions League has had that much luck," was the verdict of former Liverpool star Graeme Souness, who lifted the European Cup three times as a player.
After inspiring Chelsea to a memorable comeback against Napoli in his first Champions League game in charge, overturning a 3-1 deficit from the first leg in the last 16, Di Matteo then led his men to a comfortable 3-1 aggregate success over Benfica in the next round.
From the semi-final onwards, though, Chelsea certainly used up all of their nine lives. In the last four, Barcelona laid siege to the Chelsea box throughout the first leg in London but could not find the net - despite Alexis Sanchez and Pedro striking the woodwork. Didier Drogba struck at the other end with the hosts’ only shot on target to give them a narrow advantage.

It was a similar story at Camp Nou, Lionel Messi missing a decisive penalty and Barca squandering numerous chances. Against all odds, the 10-man visitors scored with two of only three shots on goal to somehow snatch a 2-2 draw.
The showpiece against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena was one of the most one-sided Champions League finals in history, yet Chelsea emerged victorious. The Germans racked up an incredible 26 shots and 20 corners, but only broke the deadlock with seven minutes remaining through Thomas Muller. The 'visitors' forced extra time in the final minute, with Drogba scoring off Chelsea's only corner of the game. Bayern continued to dominate and Arjen Robben missed a penalty in the extra 30 minutes, but Chelsea clinched the trophy by winning 4-3 on penalties.
Of course, Chelsea's triumph can't be put down simply to luck and Di Matteo deserves great credit, too. The team he inherited was plagued by problems from the previous regime. Senior players such as Frank Lampard were alienated, while Villas-Boas' high-line tactics did not suit the ageing players he had at his disposal.
Di Matteo played the role of peacemaker, got the team playing to their strengths and the positive results followed. His shortcomings may have been exposed when he was given the role on a full-time basis, but he earned credit for his exploits the previous year, something for which his players were grateful.

“It was sad to see Di Matteo go early like that,” Cech commented. “He will always be a huge part of the history of this club with all that he achieved as a manager.”

It’s in this regard that Di Matteo can help Schalke. The club's start to the current season under Jens Keller is not too disimilar to Chelsea's under AVB in 2011-12.
Results have been inconsistent, star players such as Julian Draxler have under-performed due to questionable tactics and man-management, and the squad is in a big need of a lift. Schalke CEO Horst Heldt confirmed this on Tuesday in explaining the reasons for replacing Keller with Di Matteo.

Team Stats — FC Schalke 04

  • General

    Games Played
    Average Possession
    Duels Won
    Aerial duels won

“By changing the coach, we want to create new momentum,” he said. “We’re utterly convinced that Di Matteo will stabilise the team and achieve our goals in the Bundesliga and the Champions League.”

Capable of drawing against Chelsea and Bayern and beating Borussia Dortmund this term, S04 have spilled points against the likes of Hoffenheim, Frankfurt, Maribor and Hannover and even lost to lowly Dynamo Dresden in the DFB Pokal. They sit 11th in the Bundesliga, nine points behind leaders Bayern, and have yet to win in the Champions League. Di Matteo, who speaks fluent German having been born in Switzerland, knows all about the Champions League of course. And his appointment at the Veltins-Arena is a big chance to show to everyone that his managerial career won't be solely remembered for one improbable European triumph in Munich.

Tactical options for Nigeria against Sudan

Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi

Thousands of Nigerian Football fans would have heaved a deep sigh of relief at what seemed like the denouement of the whole drama that the federation has served up in recent times.
However, there remains a whiff of disbelief that the election of Amaju Pinnick as NFF President is the final episode of the somewhat confusing tale in whole; more confusing than Egyptian Hieroglyphics or, better still, Chinese Mandarin.
Who writes these scripts?
Away from the NFF drama, there’s Stephen Keshi’s forever-taking contractual issue, which should be sorted out in the coming weeks. Those contract talks have taken longer than a defunct rail road.
The Big Boss has proven to be a divisive figure amongst supporters of the Super Eagles, with some clamouring for his return as the head coach and others strongly against his return at the helm but, love him or loathe him; he’s going to be in charge of the double header against the Falcons of Jediane.
But how will he choose to organise his troops during the double-header with Sudan?
It’s a fairly arduous task trying to second-guess whatever the Big Boss has up his sleeves re: tactics. He’s shown to be as unpredictable as weather in some cases and other times to be as predictable as a trashy novel.
Talking Tactics
Keshi hasn’t exactly raked in plaudits for his tactical nous or acumen; in fact certain sections of both fans and the media think he is tactically inept. He isn’t known for the extremely bizarre, so don’t be expecting Helenio Herrera’s Catenaccio, Herbert Chapman’s W-M formation or a Pyramid.
Here are three options that the manager might choose to employ against Sudan.

Nit-pickers and pedants will most likely disagree with the christening of this shape; they’d say 4-2-1-2-1 or whatever else they can come up with.
It’s simply a 4-5-1 with the known back four and Vincent Enyeama returning between the sticks after his exclusion due to personal issues. It’s an identical set-up as that of the World Cup with Nosa Igiebor in the starting XI after injury to Michael Babatunde.
The triumvirate is completed with the known faces of Onazi and Mikel at the base of the midfield.
The slight tweak is that Sone Aluko comes in on the right wing—partly due to Victor Moses’s injury— as an inside forward, making inward, diagonal runs into the box and sometimes doubling up with Emenike up front. The right wing is certainly not his natural position as he is a striker, or more aptly put, a secondary striker, but he has made several appearances on the wing and would put in a decent shift.

Everyone wants a feel of the not-so-more-in-vogue 3-5-2 and Keshi hasn’t trialled it yet.
It worked well for Antonio Conte’s Juventus, Cesare Prandelli’s Italy and Louis van Gaal’s Dutch team, but for Manchester United, not too well. It’s still worth a try anyway.
One problem though, is that it would require Azubuike Egwuekwe to operate as the sweeper!
Elderson Echiejile and Efe Ambrose should not do too badly as wing-backs and Aluko plays in his preferred secondary striker position with Emenike leading the line and Hope Akpan as the ball mover in the midfield.
Musa is the casualty of this shape as it doesn’t afford space for a winger and an Ashley Young conversion isn’t the smartest thing to do.
Here comes the deal-breaker
Mikel Obi plays as the regista or the deep-lying playmaker. Sadly, his passing isn’t Pirlo-esque, (the epitome of the regista role) neither is his understanding of the game anything close to the bearded Italian, but he could fill the role. Maybe he’d exert his influence, dictate the pace of the game (which I pray isn’t a crawling one) and ping couple of passes from deep. Candidly, I doubt if he’s good enough to be an ersatz version of the Italian maestro but it’s worth a try…no?
Admittedly, the chances of the Big Boss using this shape should be same as Zimbabwe winning the World Cup—no offense. Even if the faintest idea of it did cross his mind, I’m sure the sheet he scribbled it on became charred material almost immediately.

This seems to be the ideal formation as the team covers the full width of the pitch and there’s less onus on the wingers to cover for the defence. However, there’s also less creative influence from deep; blame this on the superfluity of defensive midfielders and paucity of creative ones.
Things could be difficult against teams that defend deep and are difficult to break down, as the Super Eagles could be relegated to playing dozens of sideways or lateral passes without any form or verticality or incisiveness. However, the shape could aid fast breaks and counter attacks against unorganized and high defence lines, with the searing pace of Ahmed Musa and Aluko on the wings, the Super Eagles have more than an advantage.  

Babatunde, Moses could miss Sudan tie

Babatunde, Moses could miss Sudan tie

Nigeria pair of Michael Babtunde of Volyn and Victor Moses will likely miss the Super Eagles' crucial double header against Sudan in the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on October 11th and 15th respectively.
Babatunde and Moses, who were earlier snubbed for the Super Eagles' two opening qualifying games, may remain absent for the important two-legged games against the Falcons of Jediane due to injury.
The duo were both handed a recall with the African champions needing to win the home and away fixtures at the Khartoum Stadium, Khartoum on Saturday and the National Stadium, Abuja on Wednesday respectively to qualify.
Moses, who joined Stoke on-loan from Chelsea, provided the assist to Charlie Adams for the Potters to level up for 1-1 against Sunderland before hurting himself and was immediately substituted after the goal celebration.
The former Wigan Athletic wide-man, 23, who is suspected to have suffered a re-occuring thigh injury, is expected to undergo series of tests to ascertain its seriousness.

Babatunde, who just recovered after his wrist was fractured by a shot which came off teammate Ogenyi Onazi's foot against Argentina at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, is feared injured after not being listed when Volyn played out a 2-2 home draw against Vorskla on Friday, October 3.
The 21-year-old, was aided out of the pitch due to injury in the Crusaders' earlier fixture against Dnipro and was substituted with just 23 minutes into the Ukraine Premier League Week 7 encounter on September 27.
Nigeria have picked only a point from two games in Group A and will need maximum points against pointless Sudan in the next two games to get their qualification back on track.
Congo top the ladder with six points from two games, while South Africa are second with four points in two matches.

Emem Eduok excited with first Nigeria call-up

Emem Eduok excited with first Nigeria call-up
New invitee Emem Eduok has expressed delight at his first ever senior national team invitation to the Super Eagles for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying double-header against Sudan.

Edouk, who was picked as a late replacement for injured Stoke Ciy winger Victor Moses, spoke to Sportmasta about his excitement securing his first international call-up for his country.

The Dolphins attacker admitted he had waited in patience for the opportunity and is fully prepared to grab it with both hands when given his international debut.

The 20-year-old, who featured for the Flying Eagles at the 2013 Fifa U20 World Cup against Cuba and Korea Republic, said he is unfazed by the challenge for a starting place in the team.

Eduok has notched a total of 12 goals in the league for Dolphins and 15 in all competition this season including three in the Federation Cup with his club in the final to face defending champions Enyimba.

"First and foremost, I have to thank God for this opprtunity becuase as an upcoming player, our desire is to represent the country at the national or international level," Edouk told Sportmasta on his arrival at the Super Eagles camp on Monday.

"That's what every talented footballer wants to achieve. I'm very happy and hungry to play. I've been waiting for it a long time and been working hard for the opportunity to come.

"I just have to give my best and leave the rest to God. I believe so much in myself as a talented player. So now I need to put in my best to justify the call-up.

"I know it will be tough competing in attack with the likes of Salami and others. They are good players and I have great respect for them.

"Football has its language, if you believe in yourself and the talent God has given to you. And I know I will always do my best irrespective of who I will be playing against in attack," he concluded.

Eduok will be hopeful for his first international debut for the African champions in the crunch duels at the Khartoum Stadium, Omdurman on Saturday and the National Stadium, Abuja on Wednesday respectively against Sudan.

Nigeria, who have only a point from two games, require a two-leg victory against Sudan to brighten their dreams to defend the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations title they won in South Africa.

Caf names Ghanaian referees for Super Eagles

Caf names Ghanaian referees for Super Eagles
Officials from the anglophone West African nation have been picked for Saturday's first leg African Cup of Nations qualifier between Nigeria and Congo
Referees from Ghana have been picked by the Confederation of African Football to take charge of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier between Nigeria and Congo billed for Saturday at the UJ Esuene Stadium, Calabar.
39-year-old Joseph Lamptey is a Fifa referee will be at the centre while he will be assisted by compatriots Abdul Malik Seidu and David Laryea.
Agbovi who was named the best referee in the Ghana Premier League last season serves as the fourth official  while Abdoulkadri Boube from Niger will serve as match commissioner..
The quartets are expected in Nigeria on Thursday with the Congolese to land in the country on Wednesday.
Clashes between Nigeria and Congo at international level are few and far between, but the Devils famously held the Eagles to a 0-0 draw in Lagos in a group phase match at the 2000 Africa Cup of Nations, and last year, the Golden Eaglets mauled the Congo U-17 side 7-0 at the African U-17 Championship in Morocc

Oshaniwa unfazed by Echiejile's return

Oshaniwa unfazed by Echiejile's return
Ahead of Nigeria's African Cup of Nations qualifier against Congo, Super Eagles defender Juwon Oshaniwa has revealed that he is ready to challenge Elderson Echiejile for a starter’s shirt.
Oshaniwa played as Nigeria’s left full back at the Brazil 2014 World Cup after injury ruled out Echiejile of the competition.
In a chat with Goal , the Ashdod FC of Isreal defender said the return of the Monaco player is a big boost to the team and will respect the discretion of the coaching crew on who starts against Congo.
"For sure, football is just like that. The whole 23 cannot start a team, it's just 11 that will have the privilege to start,” Oshaniwa told Sportmasta.

Everybody must wait for his own starting time and when your time comes - you grab it.
"I cannot be playing and same time acts as a member of technical crew. Stephen Keshi and his crew got the discretion and right to decide on who they want to start a game. Football as it said goes along with challenge and I’m so happy to have him back," he continued.
"He is a good guy to me anytime and any day. So his return is good for the team. If Echiejile is there, he is going to put up his best and if Oshaniwa is there, he is going to put up his best also.”
Speaking on the game against Congo, he said the invited players are focused on making a winning start in Morocco 2015 while assuring that there is no cause for panic.
"For Congo, we are very prepared for the game. As African champions, we are focused on recording a winning start to another Nations Cup campaign.  The team is intact, everyone is in high spirit and looking forward to prove why we are champions come Saturday.
"Panic, not at all, that's why I’m a professional. And at every moment for me being on the pitch, I’m always confident of what God has deposited in him. God has been my inspiration and he has guided me all through the tournament," he concluded.

We can't afford to drop points against Sudan. says; Juwon Oshaniwa

We can't afford to drop points against Sudan - Juwon Oshaniwa
Nigeria defender Juwon Oshaniwa has expressed positivity over the nation's qualification hopes for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations in Morroco ahead of their two-legged matches against Sudan.

The MS Ashdod FC of Israel defender, told Goal that the Super Eagles will get the maximum points against the Falcons of Jediane.

Oshaniwa, 24, who was a member of the Super Eagles that won the 2013 Afcon title in South Africa, is hopeful of regaining a starting role after his impressive performance at the 2014 Fifa World Cup in place of injured Elderson Echiejile, who is now back to the fold.

The former Sharks defender, who only featured in the Afcon 2013 final as a substitute, insists he and his teammates are fully aware of the immediate importance of the Sudan clash and cannot afford to drop points if they hope to reach the finals in Morrocco.

"I'm happy to still be invited to the team and the dream to ensure the country's flag is hoisted in Morroco is our objective. We might have had our bad start, but we still have a big chance to go through as all hope is not lost," Oshaniwa told Sportmasta.

"The games against Sudan are very important and we the players know it. We will be going out for victories both at away and home. We know how much we need to win these games becuase we want to go to the Nations Cup and defend our title," he concluded.

The Super Eagles, who are expected to depart the country on Thursday, October 9 will first play the Sudanese national team in Kharthoum on October 11, before they host them four days later in Abuja.

Nigeria are third on the Group A standings with a point from two games, while opponents Sudan are pointless and rooted bottom after recording defeats in their two opening games.

Congo and South Africa occupy first and second place with six and four points respectively after two matches.

Totti should have kept quiet. says; Morata

Morata: Totti should have kept quiet
Juventus striker Alvaro Morata believes Roma captain Francesco Totti would have been better off keeping quiet after Sunday's controversial Serie A showdown between their respective sides.
The Biaconeri triumphed 3-2 in Turin but Totti was enraged by the fact that the hosts had been awarded two contentious penalties by referee Gianluca Rocchi, and that none of the match officials had noticed that Arturo Vidal had been standing in an offside position in front of Giallorossi goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski when Leonardo Bonucci scored the winner with four minutes remaining.
The 38-year-old forward sparked controversy by stating that Roma know that they are destined to finish second again this season because of the alleged preferential treatment reigning champions Juve receive from referees - an allegation that Morata feels that Totti should not have made.
"If they had won, they would not be saying anything," the Spaniard told Sportmasta. "It could be that he was just upset about the game, as it's not easy to take when you lose such an important game in the closing minutes.
"Totti is a great player, a historical one, but perhaps he should not have said that."
Morata, of course, was involved in another one of the game's flash points, with the forward receiving a straight red card after clashing with Roma defender Kostas Manolas, who was also dismissed.
The 21-year-old had been guilty of fouling the Greece international close to the touchline just seconds beforehand, prompting a furious reaction from his opponent, but Morata, who has been hit with a one-game ban, remains mystified by Rocchi's decision to give him his marching orders.
"It was really weird," he exclaimed. "I did not do anything. I was strong [in the tackle], but only because it was a game in which you had to be strong.
"It was what my team needed: to stop the game; be aggressive. On the previous paly, he pushed me against the barrier. But this is football.
"I do not know why Manolas had this reaction because they were also kicking us.
"I did nothing and I hope they can do something to reduce it yet but the important thing is that we won."
Meanwhile, Morata revealed that he is settling in well at Juventus following his summer switch from Real Madrid - but the €20 million man admitted that he is only now getting used to the more physically demanding nature of the Italian game.
"Everything is going well," he enthused. "The only thing is how they train here: it's like you're preparing for war!
"There is no recovery time. It's very physical. But I'm coming along.
"At first, it takes its toll on you. I remember when I had to just sit down after the exercises instead of stretching because I couldn´t do any more!
"But it is all for the good of the team. And we have a great team. We can do great things."