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'We've got more
than enough to cause them problems' -
Cautious All Whites quietly confident
The All Whites are taking no chances as
they prepare for their crucial World Cup
qualifier against Peru in Wellington.
Since the team began arriving in the
capital three days ago, trainings have
been held well away from prying eyes as
the Kiwis complete their fine-tuning for
the home-and-away series.
However, All Whites and Ipswich Town
defender Tommy Smith says that doesn't
necessarily mean there'll be too many
surprises at Westpac Stadium on Saturday.
"There's no two ways about it - we've got
more than enough to cause them problems,
but we want to keep those cards close to
our chest," he said.
New Zealand won't be veering too far away
from the structure and tactics they
displayed at the Confederations Cup in
June, where they were beaten 2-0 by
Russia, 2-1 by Mexico and 4-0 by Portugal.
The 122nd-ranked All Whites will be
looking for the elusive balance of solid
defence and well-timed attack which might
allow them to sneak an unlikely result.
"I don't think you can dictate before the
game's started when and where you're going
to press, defend or attack," Smith said.
"As players and a group, you've got to
pick your moment when to capitalise on
those opportunities. "It's a hard one to
put your finger on before the event's
Smith said the All Whites' chances had
been boosted by the unaccustomed luxury of
having a squad which included Burnley
striker Chris Wood and skipper Winston
Reid. "It's great to have a full-strength
squad, which we haven't had for a long
time. We're quietly confident that we can
go and cause an upset," he said.
Although it's been some time since he
played alongside Reid, Smith says there've
been no problems with the West Ham
defender slotting sweetly into the back
four."A player as good as Winston is
always going to slide straight back in -
we know how good he is and how strong he
is for us."
Smith said All Whites coach Anthony Hudson
had been meticulous in his preparation for
the matches against world No.10 Peru, and
having Reid back in the line-up had
provided an extra confidence boost."We've
been well-versed in how they're going to
play and how we're going to combat their
strengths and exploit their weaknesses,"
he said. With Winston in the back line, it
gives us a lot more strength we haven't
had in previous squads."
Pearce interested in West Ham return
Stuart Pearce has
admitted he’d be interested in joining David
Moyes’ coaching set-up at West Ham. The
former England defender has been a regular
at the Blues’ Hilsea training ground in
A friend of manager Kenny
Jackett, he has been helping to coach
Pompey’s defensive players and was in
attendance yesterday as the team prepares
for tonight’s Checkatrade Trophy game at
Charlton. Moyes was named as Hammers manager
this morning following the sacking of Slaven
The Scot is expected to name
his backroom staff in the coming days, with
Pearce linked with a move back to a club
where he made 45 appearances. In an
interview with Talksport yesterday, Pearce
said he would be keen to talk to the club if
the chance arose.
‘I’ve had no contact with West
Ham,’ he said. ‘But if I had contact with
them I would certainly go and talk to them.
‘I really enjoy doing the media work, but
then again I enjoy coaching – I’ve been at a
club today coaching.’ (For more information about
Benitez insists he is relaxed about
Newcastle United’s current run of
form in the
Premier League because he
knew this season would throw up some
difficult moments. The Spaniard, though,
knows that things will get easier for
the Magpies in the coming months as his
team adjust to life back in the
top-flight and the club look forward to
an increased transfer kitty and wage
budget from May onwards.
United chief Benitez has
been given assurances that there will be
money to spend in January too -
regardless of whether there is a
takeover at St James’ Park or not.
Benitez stated last week
he wanted fans to stay calm in the weeks
ahead and believes that Newcastle will
soon be competing with other top-flight
clubs when it comes to improving his
He told the Chronicle:
“After some months this team will be
stronger because they continue to work
“Then we will stay in the
Premier League, we’ll get money from the
TV and we can compete against teams we
couldn’t this year because of wages and
Benitez admitted that
newly promoted Newcastle had to cut
their cloth accordingly last summer.
He said: “You can talk
about players at Bournemouth or Burnley
that we couldn’t sign because we
couldn’t afford the fee or their wages.
“We’re now in a really
good position. We have to enjoy it and
stay calm and support the team. We’re
not at the bottom of the table. It could
be worse and could be better but we must
Recent games against
Burnley and Bournemouth have resulted in
narrow Premier League defeats and he
spoke about the complexities of life
back in the big time compared to the Sky
Bet Championship last term.
The former Real Madrid and
Liverpool boss explained: “Can you
guarantee we’ll score goals? No, you
can’t because other teams set themselves
up to defend."
trio crucial to City's success
With Manchester City scoring at will and
playing some bewitching attacking
football, it has been easy to overlook the
contribution made by their three most
defensive outfield players.
Fernandinho, John Stones and Nicolas
Otamendi are never likely to hog the
headlines in a team that has plundered 52
goals in all competitions and features
flamboyant playmakers Kevin De Bruyne and
David Silva behind deadly finishers such
as Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus.
Yet statistics suggest they hold a valid
claim to being the three most important
players in Pep Guardiola’s squad,
following an unbeaten start to the season
that has left City eight points clear at
the top of the Premier League.
Their record of conceding just 11 goals in
17 matches in all competitions this season
is impressive enough on its own, yet the
argument gathers pace when you consider
their contributions to City’s domination
of possession and attacks.
Argentine centre back Otamendi, for
example, has had more touches in the
Premier League and Champions League
combined than any other City player this
season, with England centre back Stones
second and Brazil midfielder Fernandinho
fourth behind De Bruyne. It is a similar
story with passing. Otamendi is once again
at the top of the charts for passes
attempted, ahead of Fernandinho in second
place with Stones in third.
While for pass completion, Stones leads
the way for City ahead of Otamendi in
second place and Fernandinho in fourth –
all three of them currently registering
above 90 percent. In fact, Stones’s rate
of 96.6 percent is bettered in European
leagues only by the 96.7 percent completed
so far by Paris St Germain’s Thiago Silva.
It is not out of the ordinary for a
holding midfielder such as Fernandinho to
sit near the top of a team’s touch and
passing charts – Nemanja Matic has
dominated both for Manchester United this
season. Yet the figures for Otamendi and
Stones are more unique.
It suggests that all three are the glue
binding this most exhilarating of
attacking forces together and the bedrock
of the goals being bagged by Aguero and
the like. Not that they haven’t been
scoring themselves. Stones and Otamendi
have netted three times apiece this season
while Fernandinho has scored twice.
Needless to say, Guardiola has been the
first to recognise the trio’s
significance. "I think Fernandinho right
now is one of the three best holding
midfielders in the world,” he said ahead
of Sunday’s 3-1 win over Arsenal. “Just as
with John (Stones) and Nico (Otamendi),
Fernandinho has achieved another level,
with his positivity and his mentality. He
gives us a lot, with the ball and without
the ball.” That contribution could end up
being the key to any success City go on to
enjoy this season. (Watch other couples
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Michael Laudrup was leading contender for Barcelona manager job, agent claims
Michael Laudrup was a
leading contender for the Barcelona
job last summer, according to his
Bayram Tutumlu says the Dane was in
fact Barca president Josep Maria
Bartomeu’s preferred choice to replace
Luis Enrique, ahead of Ernesto
Valverde and current Celta Vigo
manager Juan Carlos Unzue.
“In May, my adviser Evren Sahin and I
invited the owner of Brondby, Jan Bech
Andersen, to visit my good friend
Josep Maria Bartomeu in Barcelona,”
Tutumlu told Danish media (h/t Marca).
“Bartomeu told me that Laudrup was one
of his favorites to replace Luis
“But the club finally chose Ernesto
Laudrup, the former Barcelona
midfielder who also played for Real
Madrid, also had offers to return to
Europe last summer, Tutumlu revealed.
The 53-year-old former Swansea manager
has also previously been approached by
Atletico Madrid and PSG.
He’s currently managing Al-Rayyan in
Qatar, with his contract up at the end
of the season.
“I have received calls from Germany,
Spain, France, Italy and England,”
Tutumlu claimed. “It depends on him
and where he wants to be a coach in