Security was on high alert in Stockholm on Tuesday ahead of the Europa League final between Manchester United and Ajax after a suicide bombing in Manchester killed at least 22 people.
The head of security at the Swedish Football Association, that co-organises Wednesday’s UEFA Europa League final, Martin Fredman, said security was already on high alert after Sweden suffered an attack in April when a truck drove into a crowd killing five people.
Speaking on whether special measures were put in place following the attack in Manchester, Fredman, said, “I would really say no because we have already been on such a top level on the security work. We have done a lot of things and we have these kinds of happenings in our plans and the police have it in their plans.
“You know in Stockholm there was a terrorist attack on April 7 so I really feel that the impact of (the suicide attack in) Manchester will not make us work in another way than what we’ve planned before.”
Manchester United meet Dutch side Ajax at the Friends Arena on Wednesday night.
Fredman explained that considering that both teams are top European teams, the threat surrounding the event when it comes to public order is big.
He said, “Of course we were already on a high alert security-wise from the beginning, both staff-wise and also how we are planning on sealing these areas to areas to handle it. When both finalists were ready, this was, of course, stepped up a notch.
“These are two top teams in Europe, both teams are known for many supporters and there are elements of risk in the supporter milieu – you can’t turn a blind eye to that – when it comes to both of the teams. We also have information about many people without tickets who plan to come to Stockholm.
“All this together means that the threat surrounding the event, when it comes to public order, is quite big and for that reason, we’ve taken several measures to determine who will be allowed near the arena tomorrow.”
The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) have confirmed there is “no specific intelligence” to suggest Wednesday night’s Europa League final will be a target for a terror attack.
The governing body released a statement following Monday’s attack at the Manchester Arena in which a suicide bomber killed 22 people when detonating a device in the foyer of the venue following US singer Ariana Grande’s concert.
The UEFA statement said: “UEFA is shocked by last night’s attack in Manchester. Our thoughts are with the victims and the families of those affected.
“UEFA has been closely working with local authorities and the Swedish FA for many months and the terrorist risk had been taken into account since the very beginning of the project. Furthermore, a number of additional security measures were implemented following the attacks in Stockholm last April.
“Due to the tight security arrangements, UEFA urges fans to arrive at the stadium as early as possible, as detailed checks will be made at the entrances, resulting in potential delays in accessing the stadium.”
Manchester United will face Ajax in the UEFA final on Wednesday, May 24, in Stockholm, with UEFA issuing guidance to supporters heading to Sweden.
Manchester United will be going to Stockholm for the May 24 Europa League final against Ajax Amsterdam but the Red Devils must play their final Premier League match of the season on Sunday (May 21).
Manager Jose Mourinho told reporters in Manchester on Friday that he rated Ajax highly but he disagreed with them even being able to take part in the Europa League, let alone reach the final.
He said he was in favour of the Europa League being for teams which were contesting the tournament from the start, not teams that attempted to qualify for the Champions League and were excluded in the play-off stage.
“They’re a Champions League team, they come from the Champions League. I always disagree with it. I think a team shouldn’t play two European competitions in the same season.
“I think if a team goes to the Champions League and then doesn’t qualify, should go home, shouldn’t have the opportunity to go and play Europa League. I think Europa League competition is for teams that go to the Europa League in the beginning like us,” he said.
Mourinho said he was not focused on Wednesday’s final yet, concentrating on the Premier League match against Crystal Palace at Old Trafford, and working to get a win.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is out for an estimated nine months after damaging knee ligaments at the team’s Europa League quarter-final match against Anderlecht but Mourinho said the Swede would be in Stockholm for the final with the rest of the squad, on crutches or not.
“Everybody goes; we have a few in crutches, but everybody goes. Fantastic group of players, fantastic spirit since the beginning of the season. Difficult run, lots of matches,” he said.
“We spent more time travelling, playing, with hotels than at home because 60 matches, 60-something matches, means 140 days in hotels so half the year we spend together.”
Super Eagles Coach, Sunday OIiseh, has expressed optimism that the Nigerian National Team would improve in subsequent games, after playing a goalless draw against Tanzania in their Africa Cup of Nations Group G qualifier.
Although Oliseh was happy with one point, he was also convinced that the team would get better once they start to achieve team cohesion.
The former Ajax midfielder also praised goalkeeper Carl Ikeme for having a great game.
The Wolverhampton Wanderers stopper made a string of saves to help Nigeria avoid defeat in Dar es Salaam.
The Nigeria vs Tanzania match is said to be the first major game for the new Super Eagles’ Coach and the Taifa Stars’ Coach, Boniface Mkwasa.
In the group, Nigeria now have four points while Tanzania have one point.
Liverpool striker, Luis Suarez has signed a new four-and-a-half-year contract at Anfield.
Twenty-six year old Suarez joined the Reds in January 2011 and has scored 17 goals in 11 Premier League starts this season. Suarez, whose original deal was set to expire in 2016, will reportedly earn around £160,000 until the end of the current 2013/2014 season and then £200,000 per week over the final four years of the contract.
“I believe I can achieve the ambitions of winning trophies and playing at the very highest level with Liverpool. My aim is to help get us there as quickly as possible.” He said.
In the summer transfer, Suarez was close to joining Arsenal, but Liverpool rejected the Gunners club record offer of £40 million plus £1 in an attempt to trigger a release clause in his contract. Since the new season started, Suarez’s relationship with leading figures at Anfield has improved significantly.
Suarez joined Liverpool from Ajax for £22 million and his time at the club has often been controversial as he has previously served two long-term bans.
In December 2011, the Uruguayan was banned for eight games for racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra and again received a 10-match ban in April 2013 for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic.
Suarez who is widely regarded as one of the most talented footballers in the world paid tribute to the supporters, citing the ‘special relationship’ he has with them as a key factor in reaffirming his commitment to Liverpool.
Liverpool and Uruguay International; striker Luis Suarez has secured the backing of his manager Brendan Rodgers after he dismissed fears that the striker will be forced out of the English game by continuing criticism.
Since his leaving his former club Ajax for the English Premier League and Liverpool precisely in January 2011 the forward player has had to endure so much and with the last game played by the Reds, there’s no signs of them easing off.
Looking back, the Uruguay international was banned for eight matches last season after being found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra, now he’s been accused of diving which from some quarters a sending-off from the game would have been the only option.
Former Liverpool striker John Aldridge expressed his concern the 25-year-old could walk away from the club because of the hard time he gets from opposition managers and supporters but Rodgers rejected that.
And according to Rodgers “I think he loves playing in English football,” said Rodgers of Suarez, who only signed a new long-term contract at the start of the season.
“I speak with Luis regularly and he loves the passion and excitement of the game over here.
“What he is a player who is mentally very strong – as you can see from his time here the amount of stick he has taken.
“It is actually a driver for him. It really motivates him and he loves being at Liverpool: he loves the city, the club and the supporters so I can’t see that (being forced out) happening.”
Suarez answered his critics, and more pertinently David Moyes with a sarcastic dive at the Everton manager’s feet after his deflected shot brought the opening goal in Sunday’s Merseyside derby draw.
Rodgers has been impressed by the way the South American has shouldered the burden of being the club’s only fit senior striker and insists it is a privilege to coach him.
“I thought he was outstanding (against Everton). He is a breath of fresh air with his enthusiasm,” added the Northern Irishman.
“He is our only fit senior striker here and he was tireless against Reading and then we had to play a strong team against Anzi (in the Europa League).
“People maybe thought the condition of the team and him in particular would waver but the condition of the group, and particularly him up front, was amazing.
“He is a wonderful talent who will always provoke comments both positive and negative but the bottom line is he is a fantastic player.
“He is goal scorer and his goals to games ratio this season is fantastic.
“He is really inspirational for the group because he works hard every day and he is quality at that top end of the field: he genuinely is a world-class striker.
“It is a privilege to work with a player of that quality every day.”
After three tough games Suarez is likely to be given the night off tomorrow when Rodgers’ former club Swansea visit in the Capital One Cup.
Liverpool, the defending champions, came through the last round with a 2-1 win at West Brom having fielded a team with an average age of 24 years 10 days, while seven of the 13 players used that night were under 22.
The Reds boss has admitted league performances are his priority and so the side he puts out in this competition will be shorn of first-team stars and tomorrow is no different.
But he intends to pay every respect to the club he left in the summer, insisting the close relationship he had with Swans chairman Huw Jenkins remains strong and that actually helped when he went back to buy midfielder Joe Allen.
“It improved the Allen deal as I was able to speak to Huw and ask if there was a market for Joe and he came back to me and told me there was a possibility he could be sold,” he said.
“We became close both professionally and personally there and our relationship is still strong.
“Leaving there was sad but I knew I was coming to one of the biggest clubs in the world.
“We are not in contact as much – we would have spoken every day and had many great football conversations – but there is still that respect there and an admiration for the work they do.
“I always like to leave on good terms. There is no problem there.
“But we want to get through and nothing will get in the way of that.
“No sentiment gets in the way of wanting to progress to the next round.”