..::Football III::..

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    Guardiola shuts down talk of Gundogan to Manchester City

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    Pep Guardiola quickly shut down talk of Borussia Dortmund midfielder Ilkay Gundogan joining him at Manchester City next season.

    Reports in England claim that a deal is in place for the BVB star to complete a move to the Etihad Stadium for a fee in the region of £30 million.

    Guardiola, who will succeed Manuel Pellegrini as City boss at the end of the season, is understood to have ironed out his transfer plans after meeting with director Txiki Begiristain in Amsterdam in March.

    But the Bayern Munich boss bristled when asked for his view on the rumours surrounding Gundogan's future ahead of his side's DFB-Pokal semi-final against Werder Bremen."I am the coach of Bayern Munich," he said simply when asked by reporters about a deal for the player.

    Gundogan, 25, has made 39 appearances in all competitions for Thomas Tuchel's Dortmund this season.
     

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    Vardy handed FA improper conduct charge

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    Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy has been charged with improper conduct by the Football Association, following his actions in the 2-2 draw with West Ham.

    Vardy was sent off by referee Jon Moss, picking up a second booking for simluation, and his reaction to the dismissal has drawn an FA charge.

    The forward had previously given Leicester the lead, before Andy Carroll and Aaron Cresswell hit a quickfire double to put West Ham in the driving seat.

    The Foxes eventually battled back with 10 men to grab a share of the points through Leonardo Ulloa's last-gasp equaliser.

    A statement on the governing body's website read: "Leicester City's Jamie Vardy has been charged with improper conduct for his behaviour following his second-half dismissal against West Ham United on Sunday 17 April 2016."Leicester have also been charged for failing to control their players following the awarding of an 83rd-minute penalty to West Ham.
    "Both the player and the club have until 6pm on Thursday 21 April 2016 to reply to their charge."
     

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    :cool:Torres scores in four consecutive games for the first time since his Liverpool days

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    Is Fernando Torres finally getting back to his best?

    The 32-year-old scored the second goal in Atletico Madrid’s 3-0 win over Granada on Sunday which has pulled Diego Simeone’s men level on points with Barcelona at the top of La Liga.

    And Torres, who has endured a torrid time on the pitch since his £50 million move to Chelsea in January 2011, finally looks to be finding consistency as he’s now scored in each of his last four games.

    The last time the striker managed that was in March 2010 when he was at Liverpool.

    Torres has also struck up a promising partnership with Atletico team-mate Koke.

    Koke has assisted Torres’ last three goals, while Torres has set-up the midfielder’s last two.
     

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    Barcelona lacking a captain like Puyol - Capello

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    Former Real Madrid coach Fabio Capello believes Barcelona's recent struggles are partially down to the absence of a charismatic leader like Carles Puyol, who hung up his boots in 2014.

    The Catalans are on a four-game winless streak in La Liga following Sunday's 2-1 defeat against Valencia and are in serious danger of missing out on the domestic title following their poor run, while they also crashed out of the Champions League at the hands of Atletico Madrid.

    And Capello - who was coach of the Madrid team that pipped Barcelona to the title in 2006-07 after an impressive comeback - feels the lack of a true leader could cost the Camp Nou side.

    "This time, the comeback has happened really quickly. Barca have lost a lot of points and are now in great difficulty. When we did it, we went step by step, quietly, right up until the last day of the season," Capello told reporters.

    "You can't tell what will happen now and it's possible that Barca will get back on track, both physically and mentally."But I think they need a captain in the mould of Puyol to pull them along. There are moments when a coach can try something, but it all counts for nothing if there is no real leader in the dressing room.

    "When Juventus struggled this season, [Gianluigi] Buffon and [Giorgio] Chiellini stepped up to turn things around."Barcelona will be looking to return to winning ways on Wednesday, when they travel to Deportivo La Coruna.
     

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    Sanchez back to his electric best - Wenger

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    Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger feels Alexis Sanchez is back to his "electric" best again after a difficult spell.

    The Chile international impressed in the first half of the season until a hamstring injury kept him out of action for nearly two months in December and January.

    He initially struggled to make an impact following his return to the pitch, but has been in strong form recently, netting four goals in his last five Premier League appearances."Alexis is much sharper again," Wenger told Arsenal Player.

    "He is much more electric in his dribbling and much more confident. He scores goals again. "He looks to me to be more comfortable in his movement, especially in his movement in behind.

    "When he plays on the left, he likes to drift in then come back. When he plays on the right, his runs in behind are better."The 27-year-old has netted 14 goals in 36 appearances in all competitions for Arsenal this campaign.
     

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    Bye bye Barcelona? Alves has huge offer from China

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    Barcelona right-back Dani Alves has received a multi-million offer to see out his playing days in China, Goal can reveal.

    Alves, who was left out of the team to face Valencia at Camp Nou on Sunday after he posted a controversial video of himself wearing a wig and pretending to be his girlfriend in the aftermath of Barca's Champions League exit to Atletico, signed a new deal at the Catalan club only last summer.

    However, the Brazilian is no longer automatic first choice for the Blaugrana this term and has shared the right-back responsibilities with both Aleix Vidal and Sergi Roberto in 2015-16.

    The 32-year-old, who is under contract for one more year with the option of a third, is in contact with a mega-rich Chinese club and could decide to see out his career in Asia.
    Alves has previously attracted interest from Chinese champions Guangzhou Evergrande and was also in Manchester United's plans before putting pen to paper on a new deal last year.

    The former Sevilla defender has made 385 appearances for the Catalan club and won 21 trophies for the Camp Nou outfit.
     

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    Stoke City 0-4 Tottenham: Kane & Alli ignite Spurs title chase

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    A stellar second-half performance from Tottenham saw the Premier League challengers move within five points of Leicester City with a 4-0 destruction of Stoke City.

    Claudio Ranieri's men had to settle for a 2-2 draw with West Ham on Sunday and Spurs capitalised to cut the deficit with four games remaining.Harry Kane's sublime strike settled any early nerves in the ninth minute and Dele Alli made it two midway through the second half.

    The former MK Dons midfielder then missed an open goal, but was relieved to see Kane put the result beyond doubt soon after, while Alli made amends with a well-struck volley eight minutes from time.

    The rout leaves Spurs as the highest scoring team in the top flight and they also boast the best defence, while Stoke's top-six hopes now look to have been dashed after a third home game in a row without a win.

    Mauricio Pochettino did not make any changes to the Spurs team that beat Manchester United so comfortably last time out, while home boss Mark Hughes gave Shay Given the nod ahead of Jakob Haugaard and dropped Peter Crouch in favour of the returning Marko Arnautovic.

    Kane should have opened the scoring early on after a sublime throughball from Erik Lamela, but the England international's first touch let him down and Given eventually denied the striker.

    There was no stopping Kane just before the 10-minute mark, though. Mousa Dembele set up the Spurs striker on the edge of the area down the left and he cut inside before beating Given with a curled shot into the far corner.

    Stoke slowly grew into the game following a difficult start, with Arnautovic testing Hugo Lloris after dancing past Toby Alderweireld, while Bojan Krkic fired over the crossbar from a dangerous position.

    Spurs continued to threaten on the counter-attack, though, and Dembele came close to doubling his side’s lead with a powerful long-range strike that only just missed the top corner.

    Christian Eriksen was unfortunate not to make it two for the visitors shortly before the break, his effort after a brilliant flick from Alli hitting the crossbar before being cleared to safety.

    Geoff Cameron did well to muscle Danny Rose off the ball when he attempted to round the Given early in the second half, effectively preventing another Spurs goal.
    The visitors kept on pushing hard to extend their lead and Lamela should have made it two after some good work from Kyle Walker down the right, only for Given to show his class with a fine near-post save.

    Spurs eventually got their second goal courtesy Alli in the 67th minute. Eriksen set up the young midfielder with a sublime pass and he coolly lifted the ball over Given to double the London club's lead.

    Alli appeared to be on his way to his second goal of the evening just minutes later, only to strike the post with the goal gaping.Kane had an even simpler chance in the 71st minute and his finishing was not found wanting as he netted his 24th top-flight goal of the season with a tap-in after being set up by Lamela.

    A second brace of the night was confirmed in the closing stages as Alli confidently steered home Eriksen's cross to underline a strong message of intent from a Spurs side still very much in the title race.
     

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    Alli sets new Premier League record after scoring twice for Tottenham

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    Dele Alli has set a new Premier League record by becoming the youngest midfielder to score 10 or more goals in a single season.

    The 20-year-old struck twice in Tottenham’s 4-0 victory over Stoke City on Monday evening, which moves his tally to 10 goals and nine assists in 32 appearances this term.

    Alli has been one of Spurs’ standout stars since his £5 million arrival from MK Dons last summer.

    The victory at the Britannia Stadium on Monday has moved Tottenham to five points behind leaders Leicester City in the Premier League with four games remaining.
     

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    Fabregas hails Manchester United starlet: I really like his intelligence

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    Cesc Fabregas has praised Marcus Rashford and admits he has been impressed with the Manchester United striker’s “intelligence”.

    Rashford has seven goals in 12 appearances since making his first-team debut in the Europa League at the end of February.

    And the Chelsea midfielder has hailed the 18-year-old’s introduction to Louis van Gaal’s side.

    “He’s on fire at the moment, I really like the kid,” Fabregas told Sky Sports.

    “I’ve watched him play a few times since he came through. I really like his intelligence. His desire to be in the box, his movement as we’ve seen, around defenders.

    “His intelligence in the box and in open play, he’s been very, very good.”
     

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    Kane: Tottenham could have scored seven

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    Harry Kane feels Tottenham could have beaten Stoke City by six or seven goals in Monday's Premier League encounter at the Britannia Stadium and believes it was one of their best performances of the season.

    Kane opened the scoring nine minutes in before Dele Alli doubled their advantage halfway through the first half, with the duo each added a second goal in the final 20 minutes of the game to make it a 4-0 rout.

    The win closed the gap to leaders Leicester City to five points with four games left in the season, and Kane believes they put in one of their best shifts of the campaign."What a performance. Stoke is a tough place to come and to win in the manner we did shows what sort of team we are," Kane told the BBC.

    "We scored four but could have had six or seven. It is one of our best performances all season but that's what we can do. It doesn't get much better than that. We hardly put a foot wrong and could have scored more."Every single one of us put in a good performance and we have done for a while now.

    "Leicester dropped points and I had been itching to play. I had to wait a whole day and a half. We are ready to put the pressure on Leicester. We think we can do it. Leicester are five points ahead but we have closed the gap, that's all we could do."

    Alli, meanwhile, was equally delighted with Spurs' win after putting in yet another fine performance, even if he did miss an open goal after rounding Stoke goalkeeper Shay Given."We have had the same mentality all season," the midfielder said. "It is important to keep going all season.

    "I don't know how I missed that chance! Finishing training for me I think."I am just enjoying playing, there is nothing to be scared of."Leicester know we are going to keep fighting."
     

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    Arsenal threw title away - Lehmann

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    Jens Lehmann believes his former club Arsenal have "thrown away" the Premier League title this season.

    Arsene Wenger's men have fallen 13 points behind league leaders Leicester City in the final stages of the campaign.Arsenal were top of the table at the start of 2016, but have since failed to beat the likes of Stoke City, Chelsea, Southampton, Swansea City and Crystal Palace.

    Lehmann, part of the 2003-04 Invincibles, said his former club had let the title slip away."Have they thrown it away? Yes, it's a fact, of course they did. The table now is different," the German said."So of course I'm a little bit sad.

    "The Arsenal when I played was probably a little bit different than it is now but that's football and it always contains disappointments for most of the teams who would like to win the trophy but don't manage to do that at the end of the season."Disappointment is a consistent follower of the daily football business."

    Tottenham have proven to be Leicester's biggest challengers for the title and Mauricio Pochettino's men moved to within five points of top spot with a 4-0 win over Stoke City on Monday.Lehmann said this season's letdown for Arsenal was one of their biggest in recent history.

    "I think this time it’s a little bit more disappointing than before because everybody thought Leicester could be caught at the end of the season and they still could, but unfortunately by Spurs and not by Arsenal," he said.

    "If you're an Arsenal supporter there have definitely been better times."
     

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    Vidic hails United defence

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    Former Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidic has been impressed by the club's young defenders despite a faltering campaign.

    Vidic, who captained the club from 2010 to 2014 after joining in 2006, said he felt the young defenders had coped admirably with the pressure of coming into a struggling side, especially one with the expectations of United.

    Tim Fosu-Mensah is the latest in a long line of youngsters to man the United defence, joining the likes of Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Guillermo Varela, Donald Love and Joe Riley to impress, alongside the consistent Chris Smalling who Vidic says has matured into a fine centre-back.

    The former Serbia international said it was particularly hard for youngsters to come into a struggling side at the back, due to the scrutiny that follows poor performances."I think it's more difficult for defenders, especially when you have three or four of them playing together in the same match," Vidic told MUTV.

    "For the young players who come in up front, you need that energy, imagination, happiness… you can let them play and be more free, but, in defence, I think you need someone who can lead these young boys.

    "United have always brought youngsters into the team and of course they have ability, they have shown that in the games they've played but, when you want to win the trophies, you have to patient with them."You have to give them the right matches, develop them slowly so you can think about keeping them there for many years."

    "It's a longer process not just for the defenders but even for attackers," he added.
    "You have to be careful how you develop them. You have to accept that Manchester United always need to win trophies and when the club don't, players have to accept some criticism and that can be hard for the younger ones to take.

    "They need some experienced players to take that weight off their backs."
    And Vidic said Smalling had been just the sort of player they needed."I've always loved Chris. I love him because he’s a defender. His mentality is that he likes to defend," said Vidic of his former team-mate.

    "I believe he can still improve but he is physically strong and, as I said, he likes to defend which, for me, is very important."You don’t see many players nowadays who like to defend, there are not many in the world. That’s his big ability."
     

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    Ribery doubtful for DFB-Pokal semi against Werder Bremen

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    Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery is a minor injury doubt for Tuesday's DFB-Pokal semi-final against Werder Bremen after sustaining a knock in training.

    Ribery appeared as a second-half substitute as the Bundesliga leaders closed in on a fourth consecutive league title with a 3-0 win over Schalke on Saturday.But the 33-year-old hobbled out of Monday's training session after Xabi Alonso caught his right foot in a challenge.

    A report from Bild suggests Ribery's injury is not serious and he will be assessed ahead of the match at the Allianz Arena, where he might play wearing protective tape.

    Former France international Ribery has been severely plagued by ankle issues over recent seasons, making just 15 appearances in all competitions so far this season.
     

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    Zabaleta pondering Manchester City future

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    Pablo Zabaleta concedes his eight-year association with Manchester City could come to an end this summer.

    The 31-year-old Argentina right-back has won every major honour in English football during his time at the Etihad Stadium, while becoming a much-celebrated cult hero with the City fanbase.

    But medial knee ligament problems have played their part in restricting Zabaleta to 10 Premier League appearances this term, where he has regularly found himself behind Bacary Sagna in the pecking order on the right-hand side of defence for Manuel Pellegrini's side.

    Zabaleta has high praise for his team-mate but, having entered English seasons on the back of runs to the World Cup and Copa America finals over the past two years, he believes the time will come to assess his options ahead of Argentina's campaign at the forthcoming Copa America Centenario.

    The former Espanyol player, who started Saturday's impressive 3-0 victory at Chelsea, has only one more year to run on his current contract with City and knows a period of upheaval could follow Pep Guardiola's much-anticipated arrival as manager.

    "He [Sagna] has been outstanding this season," Zabaleta told Sky Sports News."I'm so glad for him because he's a great lad, a great player and also he's given me a chance to have some rest thinking about the future.

    "I have just one more year here [on my contract] and we'll see what happens at the end of the season. We expect big changes at the club with a new manager coming in."Probably at the end of the season, we have to sit down with the club and decide what will happen," he added.

    "My only concern is just thinking about another big tournament in the summer and coming back probably without rest and without pre-season."The best thing for me is just be focused on trying to finish this season in the best way. All the players will have to hear from the new manager and what his new ideas are for next season."
     

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    Neymar is being persecuted, claims Alves

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    Barcelona forward Neymar is being persecuted by the local media, according to Valencia goalkeeper Diego Alves.

    Defending La Liga champions Barca have come under intense scrutiny after three straight defeats have resulted in their nine-point advantage at the summit being wiped out by Atletico Madrid.

    Neymar's recent contributions - the Brazilian is without a goal in his last five matches for the club - have been met with staunch criticism.Alves believes the treatment of Neymar is unfair, but suggested his Brazil team-mate already knows how to cope with such negative attention.

    "I think it is persecution, it happens with everyone, but for being Neymar, or Messi, they always create controversies," he told Globo Esporte. "They are already used to this kind of situation."

    Following the conclusion of Barca's 2-1 defeat at home to Valencia on Saturday, Neymar appeared to slap Antonio Barragan on the head, with some reports claiming he threw a water bottle that struck the right-back in the tunnel.

    Alves was unaware of the incident at the time, but appears happy to move on and forget it."Neymar was normal. I talked to him before the game, [he was] very calm, no problem," added the goalkeeper.

    "I did not see what happened at the end of the game, I was giving an interview on the pitch. When it happens, everyone goes back to their home and it ends."

    Alves missed out on the chance to join Neymar in the Brazil squad for Copa America 2015, but he is hoping to do enough to represent his country in this year's edition, or the Olympic Games in Rio."I cannot speak about it, because I may not even be called. It is up to the coach to decide if I will play or not," he added.

    "What I can do is train to my best and finish the season well, without injury. Last year I got to the last game, in the final 15 minutes, I had a knee injury that took me out of the Copa America."Now I will try to finish the season well and wait for the opportunity."
     

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    Neymar focused on turning Barca around - Luis Enrique

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    Luis Enrique insists Neymar is fully focused on turning around Barcelona's plummeting form.The Brazil superstar has failed to score in his past five club games, with Barcelona losing all three of those in La Liga to surrender their lead at the top of the table.

    They are now level on points with Atletico Madrid - their quarter-final conquerors in the Champions League quarter-finals when, once again, Neymar could find no way through.

    The 24-year-old's recent displays have come in for criticism, while he finds himself at the centre of a club-versus-country row after the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) pledged to fight for Barcelona to release their star man for both the Copa America Centenario and Rio Olympic Games later this year.

    Neymar was also caught up in an altercation with Valencia's Antonio Barragan after the 2-1 weekend loss at Camp Nou but Luis Enrique is still backing his player ahead of Wednesday's crucial trip to Deportivo La Coruna."Neymar is worried [only] about playing his game tomorrow," Luis Enrique told a pre-match news conference."That's all I'm worried about. There are other times to discuss these other matters."

    Luis Enrique flatly refused to comment on a question regarding a lack of squad rotation contributing to his virtuoso forward trio of Neymar, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi lacking their usual potency.

    The coach, who will be without suspended defender Gerard Pique at Deportivo, views Barcelona's drop off in form as an unfortunate inevitability of top-flight football."Is there some kind of a magical solution? That's football - you know that expression, it's the beautiful game of football.

    "If it was always the team who had the best players who won then this would be an incredibly dull sport."It's my job now is to turn a negative streak into a positive streak and that's difficult. As you can see, so far we have not managed to do it."

    "We have a maximum difficulty situation at the moment and at Deportivo, things will not be easy."It is never easy at that stadium but if we win we will then think about the next game. I think it is important that we rebuild confidence."
     
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