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10-09-2016, 10:36 AM

Lopetegui happy with Spain's attacking threat



Julen Lopetegui insists he is happy with Spain's effectiveness in attack, despite his side dropping two points against Italy in World Cup qualifying on Thursday.Leading through Vitolo's goal until the 82nd minute, Spain had to settle for a draw in Turin as Daniele De Rossi netted a late penalty.

That result followed an 8-0 success over Liechtenstein and Lopetegui has been impressed with his side's output in the early months of his reign.

"I am satisfied with the number of goals and our effectiveness in creating [chances]," he told a news conference ahead of the clash with Albania on Sunday."We have nine goals from two official games."We are trying to create dangerous situations. To have 13 corners in Italy is a good thing."

Lopetegui will now hope Spain can find the goals to kill of Albania, a side he openly admires."Albania are a great opponent," he continued. "They demonstrated this in the last Euros. We must give our best."It is going to be a very competitive qualifying group. There are two years of matches until the World Cup."
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10-09-2016, 10:37 AM

Germany could have won by more, claims Muller



Thomas Muller claims Germany could have scored more in their 3-0 win over Czech Republic, although he was delighted to send the fans home happy.

The world champions were ruthless in blowing away their visitors in Hamburg, with Muller's brace and Toni Kroos' goal earning another three points towards World Cup qualification.

And the Bayern Munich man admitted that his side might have won by a more convincing margin had they not wasted a number of chances."We could have scored more goals, but have nevertheless played a great game," he told RTL.

"We pleased the fans, who made a great atmosphere, so it is even more fun to play for Germany."

Having struggled in front of goal at Euro 2016, Muller has four in two so far in this Group C campaign."When you are not scoring goals, it's just so that you can work hard on yourself and you have to try again," he added.

"There are just unfortunately still defenders and a goalkeeper."Germany face Northern Ireland in their clash on Tuesday, having beaten Michael O'Neill's men 1-0 at the Euros.
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10-09-2016, 11:28 PM

Messi knows 'everything' about football - Bauza



Argentina coach Edgardo Bauza was surprised by Lionel Messi's knowledge of football, saying the star knew "everything" about the game.Messi, sidelined with a groin injury, is considered among the game's greats thanks to his stunning displays and achievements with Barcelona.

Bauza, who spoke to Messi before the 29-year-old reversed his international retirement, was stunned by how smart the attacker was.

"What surprised me is how much he knows about football, because he knows everything, about his team-mates, the technical team, about football. He's aware of everything," he told Sport.

"I always thought a player of his standing would have to be a player who knew a lot about football. But he surprised me even more than I thought."Leo knows everything about everything. Nothing escapes him. He has a very important understanding and this helps when one has to communicate their idea."

Without Messi, Argentina were held to a 2-2 draw by Peru and sit fifth on CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying ahead of a meeting with Paraguay.
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10-09-2016, 11:29 PM

'Some people think I'm useless' - Hart admits he had to leave Man City



England goalkeeper Joe Hart admits that he would have struggled to win his battle with Pep Guardiola if he had stayed at Manchester City.

Hart was sent out on loan to the Serie A club having fallen down the pecking order under the Catalan coach, who also signed Claudio Bravo from Barcelona.And Hart, who signed for City in 2006, said he felt unlikely to be able to win back his spot had he stayed with the Premier League leaders.

"Football is a game of opinions and some people have a great opinion of me and some people probably think I'm absolutely useless," Hart said, via the Daily Mail."Unfortunately for me, one of the guys' opinions in charge of my club at the time wasn't as strong as it needed to be.

"Some people you struggle to argue with – they've got a lot of strong backing to what they say and what they do. It's hard to please everyone and I learnt quite early that that's never going to happen."

Hart admits he had limited options before leaving City, and is grateful to Torino for the opportunity to play in Italy.The 29-year-old said he had few choices before his switch, but was pleased with the decision he made.

"I wasn't sat there with 25 options. I wasn't," Hart added. "Torino was a really good option for me and it definitely excited me to go to play in Serie A and to play for Torino."That fit, in the situation I was in, was a good decision.

"But it's not about making brave decisions. It was a decision I had to make and was comfortable with. I felt I was capable of doing it and, where my options were, it was the best one for me in my opinion."I had a situation at City where my playing time was going to be limited, full stop, so I had to look elsewhere.

"It was pretty quick. I wasn't given much time so when that opportunity came, I was really, really grateful."
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10-09-2016, 11:30 PM

Messi set to return for Deportivo and Man City clashes



Lionel Messi is stepping up his recovery from an adductor injury and is set to feature in some capacity in Barcelona's La Liga game against Deportivo La Coruna after the international break.

The Argentine attacker was injured in the 1-1 draw at home to Atletico Madrid on September 21 and has played no part in his side's last three matches: a 5-0 win at Sporting Gijon, a 2-1 victory away to Borussia Monchengladbach and a 4-3 loss at Celta Vigo last Sunday.

The Catalan club originally annunced that the 29-year-old would be out for around three weeks and in that respect, the break for World Cup qualifiers has come at a good time for the Blaugrana.

While his Argentina team-mates toiled in a 2-2 draw against Peru in Lima on Thursday night, Messi continued his recovery with gym work in Barcelona and posted a picture on his Instagram account on Friday, with the description reading: “Just another day.”

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner was suffering with pain in his left adductor prior to the previous international break and made the problem worse by turning out for Argentina in his comeback game against Uruguay last month, returning ahead of time to Barcelona and missing the World Cup qualifier against Venezuela.

That restricted his movement and in attempting to compensate by placing more weight on his right side, he picked up the new problem - a strain in the adductor of his right thigh - against Atletico.

Barcelona are wary about bringing back the forward too soon, but his progress has been good and all being well, he will feature as a substitute in the Primera Division clash at home to Deportivo on October 15.

"Messi plays it all because he is the best in the world," Barca boss Luis Enrique said after the 7-0 win over Celtic in early September. But the Asturian may have to give his star man more rest to avoid a recurrence of the groin problems in the weeks to come.

"Without Messi, we all lose," Luis Enrique later said. “Football loses. We have to find solutions, knowing that with Messi we’re very strong. We know that we have to win.”

The plan now is for Messi to return for the crunch clash against Manchester City in the Champions League on October 19, but before that, Barca fans can expect a cameo on Saturday versus Depor.
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10-09-2016, 11:31 PM

Pjanic: Everybody wants to see Juventus lose



Miralem Pjanic believes Juventus' task of winning a sixth consecutive Serie A title is made tougher by the desperation their rivals have to end the Turin club's dominance.Massimiliano Allegri's men were beaten 2-1 by Inter on matchday three, but are nonetheless already sitting in pole position to successfully defend their title.

They hold a four-point lead over second-placed Napoli, but Pjanic is taking nothing for granted."The most consistent team will win the Scudetto. We have a huge desire to bring home the sixth title in a row. But we all know it will not be easy," Pjanic told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"We cannot afford to let up. But our goal is to win it. The competition is long and hard. Everybody cannot wait to see Juventus stop winning. It will not be easy for us.

"There are a number of teams that will be challenging us right until the end. Roma and Napoli will definitely be there, but I am also keeping an eye on Inter, who have a lot of great players. "The team is playing well. We sit top of the table in Serie A and in the Champions League. So we are on the right path. Even if there is always room for improvement."
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10-09-2016, 11:32 PM

Henderson defends Rooney after boos against Malta



England midfielder Jordan Henderson has defended Wayne Rooney after the captain was booed by supporters at Wembley during Saturday's 2-0 win against Malta.

Rooney played alongside Henderson in a midfield role and was criticised by a section of fans during the game, which interim manager Gareth Southgate said he could not understand.But the Liverpool skipper noted the Manchester United player has come through periods of criticism before and backed his team-mate to shine.

"Wayne's experienced enough to know he has to concentrate on his football," said Henderson after the World Cup qualifying clash."I think he's had criticism for most of his career, like many players have."He deals with it very well. He's our captain and our leader. He's a fantastic player for Manchester United and England.

"I didn't really hear any boos, but we have to deal with it as professional footballers. There is going to be criticism along the way."

Henderson added he can see why fans would be frustrated with England after their disappointing performances at Euro 2016, when they suffered a shock exit to Iceland in the first knockout round.

"We just have to focus on what is important as a team," Henderson said. "That's staying together and winning games."I said during the week the fans had a right to criticise after the way we went out of the Euros. Not only the Euros but in the World Cup as well.

"We've got to take the criticism and we deserve it. But I feel as though they know we are a good team and want us to do well."It's up to us to put in good performances and win games."
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10-09-2016, 11:33 PM

Giggs reveals which Man Utd player was a 'nightmare' to coach



Ryan Giggs has claimed that Jesse Lingard was a "nightmare" to coach as a youngster - but for all the right reasons.

The Wales international started studying for his coaching badges midway through his 24-year playing career at Old Trafford, and served as assistant to David Moyes and Louis van Gaal.

Lingard was one of the youngsters Giggs worked with during his studies and he affirmed that his talent was almost overwhelming for a novice trainer. "He can play a number of positions. He’ll give you energy, he’ll score goals, he’s a team player, but now at 23, he’s got to kick on," the Welshman, working as a television pundit, told ITV.

"I coached him when he was 10, and my subject for my A license was coaching a No.10. It was nightmare because he did everything right."Lingard made his competitive debut for United in 2013 and has scored seven times in 46 appearances for the club.
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10-10-2016, 06:50 PM

Wales 1-1 Georgia: Dragons pegged back after Bale strike



Wales were caught cold by Tornike Okriashvili's second-half equaliser as they played out a 1-1 draw against Georgia in Sunday's World Cup qualifier in Cardiff.

Gareth Bale headed home his 25th Wales goal in the 10th minute to move within three of Ian Rush's all-time national record as the hosts deservedly led after controlling the first half.

Chris Coleman's men took their foot off the pedal early in the second half, though, and Georgia took full advantage when Okriashvili ghosted in behind a static Wales defence to head home and restore parity.

Things could have been worse for Wales had Levan Mchedlidze not missed a gilt-edged opportunity to steal the win, while Valeri Kazaishvili also rattled the woodwork.

Wales, who have never beaten Georgia, twice let the lead slip in Thursday's 2-2 draw against Austria and another failure to win means they have five points from three Group D matches.Georgia, meanwhile, still face an uphill challenge to qualify for Russia 2018 with Vladimir Weiss' men on one point.

Wales came flying out of the traps and Andy King's teasing right-wing centre was almost met by a sliding Bale.And the hosts' fine start yielded rewards with the opening goal when Bale rose highest to meet Joe Ledley's corner with a thumping header.

Bale continued to prove a menace and he tested Georgia goalkeeper Giorgi Loria with a 25-yard free-kick before miscuing with another header from a Ledley corner.

Georgia had offered little threat in the final third, but Jano Ananidze saw a well-struck free-kick clip the top of the crossbar.Bale stated after the Austria game that his long throw is an added "weapon" to his arsenal and it was a tactic that almost led to a second goal when Sam Vokes headed wide.Wales were handed a warning when Okriashvili dragged an effort wide of the right-hand post from the edge of the box.

Okriashvili made no mistake the next time, though. Kazaishvili crossed deep from the left and the forward was on hand to guide his header past a helpless Wayne Hennessey.The equaliser briefly reinvigorated Wales and Bale dipped a long-range free-kick on the roof of the goal.

But the home side were let off the hook in the 73rd minute. Bale lost possession deep in Georgia's half and a lightning counter-attack led to Mchedlidze going one-on-one with Hennessey, but he wastefully slid his shot wide.

Kazaishvili then almost won the match for Georgia in spectacular fashion, but his rasping drive cannoned back off the underside of the bar.Bale saw another free-kick ripple the side-netting in the closing stages, but Wales had to settle for a point.
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10-10-2016, 06:51 PM

Albania 0-2 Spain: Diego Costa and Nolito strike for visitors in easy win



Spain made the most of their complete dominance over Albania on Sunday to cruise to an easy 2-0 World Cup qualifying win in Shkoder.

Julen Lopetegui's men enjoyed similar levels of control at times in Thursday's draw in Italy without taking full advantage, but there was to be no such failure in Albania, as their persistence paid off.Albania were subjected to constant pressure throughout the first half, with Vitolo drawing solid saves from Etrit Berisha on two occasions.

The goalkeeper was culpable for Diego Costa's 55th-minute opener, though, with his poor clearance pounced upon in the build-up to the Chelsea striker's simple finish.Substitute Nolito doubled Spain's lead with a tidy finish shortly after his entry on the hour mark.

A late knee injury forced Sergio Ramos to hobble off, but it had no impact on the end result as Spain took their tally in Group G to seven points from three matches.
Albania showed no signs of intimidation as they got physical with their visitors, but Spain's more intricate approach had them carve through the hosts in the early exchanges.

Thiago slipped a fine reverse pass into the danger area for Costa, who showed great awareness to backheel into Vitolo's path and the Sevilla star forced a crucial stop from Berisha.

Vitolo was at the centre of things again shortly after, as he saw curling 18-yard effort tipped around the post by Berisha after being teed up by Thiago at the end of another well-worked move.

Such was Spain's domination that Ramos became a permanent presence in the final third and his right-wing delivery shortly after the half-hour mark should have brought the breakthrough, but Costa somehow failed to get his head on the pinpoint cross.

The half-time interval did little to upset Spain's flow and they went close early in the second period – David Silva cutting in from the right and sending a low drive just wide of the right-hand post.

Spain then broke the deadlock, with Berisha ensuring all of his hard work in the first half went to waste as he scuffed a clearance as far as Vitolo, who fed Silva into the area and he squared to Costa for an easy finish.

Spain effectively wrapped things up through Nolito in the 63rd minute, with the Manchester City star bundling himself past tired right-back Elseid Hysaj and placing a fine finish into the bottom-right corner.

Albania received a late boost to their chances in the shape of an innocuous knee injury to Ramos, but Spain saw things out in expert fashion to secure all three points without any fuss – the hosts failing to produce a shot on target.
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