Robben, Thiago Back In Training For Bayern

Robben /Guenter Schiffmann / AFP

Bayern Munich received a timely boost on Tuesday when Thiago Alcantara, Arjen Robben, and Javi Martinez all returned to training ahead of Saturday’s Bundesliga match at Werder Bremen.

The trio sat out last Friday’s opening match of the season when the defending champions eased to a 3-1 win at home to Bayer Leverkusen.

Robben pulled up in training on Saturday with a thigh strain, while this was the first time Martinez and Thiago have trained this season.

Thiago is returning after a calf problem and stomach muscle injury, while Martinez missed the past two weeks with a leg injury, after breaking his collarbone towards the end of last season.

Germany defender Jerome Boateng and new signing James Rodriguez both trained separately as they continue their recovery from thigh injuries.

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Netherlands Coach To Remain Despite Euro 2016 Disappointment 

NetherlandsNetherlands coach, Danny Blind, says that the team’s next goal will be the 2018 World Cup in Russia after they failed to qualify for Euro 2016 as the Czechs top Group A.

The Netherlands failed to reach the European championship finals for the first time since 1984 as they lost 3-2 at home to the 10-man Czech Republic in their final qualifier.

The loss left the Dutch with 13 points from their 10 matches behind Turkey on 18, while the Czechs claimed top spot in the group with 22 points, two ahead of Iceland.

Despite their failure to qualify for the euro 2016 finals, Blind said that he would continue in his role as coach.

Dutch football fans usually decked in bright orange were reportedly wearing black on Wednesday as Dutch newspapers described the team’s 3-2 home defeat against a 10-man Czech Republic as “the biggest underperformance in the history of Dutch football”.

A headed own goal by Robin Van Persie climaxed an alarming fall from grace for the Dutch.

Van Persie, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart had been the heartbeat of a Netherlands side that finished second and third at the last two World Cups but their influence waned badly in the Euro 2016 qualifiers.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo Named Best Player In Europe

Christiano RonaldoCristiano Ronaldo, whose extra-time penalty put the seal on Real Madrid’s 4-1 Champions League final victory over Atletico Madrid in May, was named UEFA’s Best Player in Europe on Thursday.

Ronaldo scored 17 goals in all as Real won the title for the 10th time. The Portuguese was presented with the award in Monte Carlo by UEFA President, Michel Platini, at the end of the draw for this season’s Champions League.

He won ahead of Bayern Munich’s Arjen Robben and Manuel Neuer in a live vote by a panel of 54 journalists.

“I’m really happy, so I must say thanks to my team-mates because without the team, individual awards would not be possible. I don’t have this trophy in my museum, so my brother is going to put it there immediately,” he said.

Nadine Kessler won the women’s award after captaining VfL Wolfsburg to the women’s Champions League title, ahead of team-mates Nilla Fischer and Martina Mueller.

Ronaldo opened a museum on Madeira in 2013 to showcase his trophies and medals.

World Cup: Messi, Neymar Make 10-Man Best Player Award Shortlist

golden ballArgentine, Lionel Messi and Brazil’s Neymar have been nominated among the 10 players shortlisted for the award for best player at the World Cup.

Finalists, Argentina and Germany produced seven of the candidates announced by FIFA on Friday.

Messi is nominated along with Argentina teammates Angel Di Maria and Javier Mascherano, while Germany provides four candidates: Mats Hummels, Toni Kroos, Philipp Lahm and Thomas Mueller.

Neymar is the only candidate from Brazil. Arjen Robben of the Netherlands and James Rodriquez of Colombia, the tournament’s top scorer with six goals, complete the list.

The players were selected by FIFA’s technical study group of coaching analysts and the winner is selected by the FIFA technical group and announced after the final.

The candidates for best young player are Memphis Depay of the Netherlands, and France pair Paul Pogba and Raphael Varane. Nominees for that award must have been born since Jan. 1, 1993.

Previous Golden Ball winners are:

1982 FIFA World Cup Spain: Paolo Rossi (Italy)

1986 FIFA World Cup Mexico: Diego Maradona (Argentina)

1990 FIFA World Cup Italy: Salvatore Schillaci (Italy)

1994 FIFA World Cup USA: Romario (Brazil)

1998 FIFA World Cup France: Ronaldo (Brazil)

2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan: Oliver Kahn (Germany)

2006 FIFA World Cup Germany: Zinedine Zidane (France)

2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa: Diego Forlan (Uruguay)

EPL: Liverpool Confident Of Victory Over Chelsea

Brendan RogersLiverpool Manager, Brendan Rodgers is confident his Liverpool players possess the necessary ingredients to get the better of title rival Chelsea when the two teams meet at Anfield on Sunday.

Liverpool will go into the game five points ahead of Jose Mourinho’s side following an unexpected victory by bottom club Sunderland at Chelsea which Liverpool took advantage of with its 3-2 win at Norwich City on Sunday.

Beating Chelsea on Sunday would put Liverpool closer to its first ever Premier League title with two games left to play.

Rodgers gave an insight into the philosophy that has helped the team get to the top of the league table, crushing teams like Arsenal and Liverpool along the way.

“When they are in the changing room just before we go out, I always tell them, ‘Lose yourself, focus on the ball and focus on the team. If you do that, then we can be a real force,’ ” he said.

“You have seen all the characteristics of our team today (Sunday) — wonderful invention and creativity, courage, arrogance on the ball, goal-scoring, young players and senior players all playing, and instructions that allow them to express themselves.

“It’s going to be a brilliant game next weekend with Chelsea coming to Anfield. The supporters will be right up for it and the players as well. We are looking forward to it.”

Raheem Sterling scored two of Liverpool’s goals at Carrow Road, either side of Luis Suarez’s 30th Premier League goal of the season, and Rodgers hailed the England international for his contribution.

“He is arguably the best young player in European football at the moment,” Rodgers said.

EPL: Tomas Rosicky Determined To Win With Arsenal

Tomas Rosicky celebrates Arsenal's third goal with the scorer of the first two, Olivier Giroud. Reuters

Tomas Rosicky has pledged his future to Arsenal in the belief that the club has all that they needs to end their lengthy trophy drought.

The Czech playmaker is out of contract at the end of the 2013/14 season, but Arsenal Manager, Arsene Wenger revealed at the weekend that he expects that Rosicky would sign a new deal in the coming weeks.

The 33-year-old, who joined Arsenal from Borussia Dortmund in 2006, impressed when he took the place of Mesut Ozil in the team against Sunderland on Saturday, crowning his performance with a sublime goal.

Rosicky’s time at the club has been hampered by a number of injuries, and he missed the entire 2008-09 season due to a hamstring tendon problem that almost ended his career.

But he is back in Wenger’s plans and remains convinced he is at the right place to win silverware sooner rather than later.

“I always believed in it here at Arsenal and still do. I knew this club was the right place for me and I want to be here for as long as I can,” Rosicky told the official Arsenal magazine.

“It is obviously very difficult to predict how long I can go on for, (but) I feel very good. I don’t feel any different than in the past, I don’t feel any change in myself.

“All I can say is that I still have a big passion to achieve things and that is really important.

“You must have that force, that drive to go on and achieve something and I definitely still have that.

“I was nearly out of the game because of injury, so I have a different approach now because I know it could end at any point. I just want to be successful with Arsenal.

“I won three titles in the Czech Republic before I left (Sparta Prague), I won the Bundesliga with Dortmund and I still believe I can do it here.

“I wouldn’t stay here if I didn’t believe.

“The idea of winning the (Premier) League and the Champions League really drives me forward, I love it”, Rosicky said.

Champions League: Belief Is The Key For Arsenal – Wenger

Arsenal have the belief to challenge Champions League holders Bayern Munich in the first leg of the last-16 more effectively than they did a year ago, Coach Arsene Wenger said on Tuesday (February 18).

Having met at the same stage of the competition last season, Arsenal will be out to avenge defeat by Bayern as, despite winning the second leg 2-0 at the Allianz Arena, they were eliminated on away goals after losing 3-1 at home.

At the start of February, Wenger identified it as a crucial month for the London side and results so far in the tougher games have been mixed.

They beat Liverpool 2-1 in the FA Cup to avenge a 5-1 drubbing in the Premier League and drew 0-0 with defending champions Manchester United.

At a news conference on Tuesday (February 18), Wenger took heart from the FA Cup wins over Liverpool and over local rivals Tottenham in the previous round as he prepared his side to face champions Bayern.

“We know that we face the favourites of the competition and what we have is belief, because on the opposite we have had only big games in the Champions League and in the FA Cup because we played against Tottenham, we played against Liverpool. Since the start of the season we know that in every single game we have to be 100 percent. We believe we can do it but that is down to the quality of our performance tomorrow,” said the Frenchman.

“It gave us belief to finish well the season last year and from then on I think as well since the start of the season we have done well. We are in a strong position and it’s now down to us how we can from game to game show the same focus as against Liverpool.”

“I think we are in much better mental shape than we were one year ago because we lost against Blackburn (Rovers) at home in the FA Cup and it was a big disappointment for us, this time we won against Liverpool and we are really determined of course to win this game tomorrow.

“We have a strong team spirit that is for sure and a strong desire to do well and a united team. But it’s important as well; I believe we always had these kinds of qualities but not always the belief. Belief is built by the results and on that front we are stronger of course.”

Wenger is expected to ring the changes against a Bayern side that have lost once in 34 games and won 13 straight Bundesliga matches.

Santi Cazorla, Kieran Gibbs, Olivier Giroud, Bacary Sagna and Wojciech Szczcesny are all pushing for starts and with Mikel Arteta suspended, Tomas Rosicky could start in midfield alongside Mathieu Flamini.

Jack Wilshere may also bolster Arsenal’s midfield in view of the difficult task of stifling Bayern’s powerhouse midfield, with Schweinsteiger, Tony Kroos and Javi Martinez supplying balls for Thomas Mueller, Arjen Robben and Mario Mandzukic.

The 20-year-old England international is confident Arsenal can rise to the challenge posed by the German side.

“We’ve spoken about the importance of staying in the game, if it’s 0-0 at home we’ve still got a big chance of qualifying, the away goal is massive in this competition, especially when it comes to these big games.

“That’s what we saw last year, we went out on away goals and this year we’ve got to be a bit more intelligent and stay in the game,” said Wilshere, who has scored two goals in six Champions League appearances this season.

Bayern edge Madrid in UCL semi final first leg

Bayern Munich put a leg in next month’s Champions League final at their Allianz Arena home after star striker Gomez hit a late winner to earn a 2-1 victory over Jose Mourinho’s men in Tuesday’s semifinal first leg.

France winger Franck Ribery gave Bayern an early lead while Real’s Mesut Oezil equalised before Germany striker Gomez hit the 90th-minute winner ahead of next Wednesday’s return leg at Madrid’s Bernabeu Stadium.

“We knew Real are capable of scoring lots of goals and it’s a pity we conceded one,” said Bayern’s goal-scorer Ribery.

“We’ll have some chances in the return leg and we have to make the most of them.”

Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes was delighted with his team’s performance as they fought until the end.

“All in all, we deserved to win,” said the Bayern coach.

“Madrid started well, but we took command and played very cleverly.

“I had said we would play with passion for 90 minutes and the players did just that.

“A great compliment to my team, they ran very hard and played a great game. They gave everything.”

Real coach Jose Mourinho is however confident his side can overturn the deficit in the second leg and progress to the final.

“We have the second leg to come and it’s not like we have to make a historical comeback, what we have to do is very achievable,” said the ex-Chelsea boss.

“If we win at home, we are there.

“I am optimistic we can return here to play the final.

“It’s the first defeat in this Champions League for us but it’s not one that leaves me with negative feelings.”

The Bavarians preserved their remarkable record of having never lost at home to Madrid, with nine wins and a draw in their 10 meetings in Munich since 1976.

“It’s a pity that we conceded a goal at the end as until then we had defended well, but it’s over now,” said Real captain Iker Casillas.

“We also managed to score which is obviously very important.

“We both had chances and we have to score at home in the second leg now, simple as that.”

Bayern are now in pole position to return to Munich for this year’s Champions League final on May 19, when they will face either holders Barcelona or Chelsea, who meet in the first leg of their semifinal on Wednesday.

Both teams started at full-strength, with wingers Ribery and Arjen Robben either side of Toni Kroos behind Gomez in Bayern’s attack.

Mourinho opted to start with France’s Karim Benzema as striker in front of Oezil, who was flanked by Argentina’s Angel di Maria and Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo.

After Ribery had seen a penalty appeal turned down, he then fired past Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas from close range on 17 minute after Madrid failed to deal with a Kroos corner and the ball fell kindly to the Frenchman.

The goal injected some confidence into the Bayern attack as midfielders Kroos and Luiz Gustavo got the better of their Real opponents, while Bastian Schweinsteiger forced Casillas into a diving save.

Bayern picked up two first-half bookings, with both defender Holger Badstuber and Robben earning cautions, but neither will miss the second leg.

The visitors got back on level terms just seven minutes into the second half.

Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer managed to save Ronaldo’s shot, but when Benzema fired the ball back across goal, the Portugal star teed up Oezil for a simple tap-in as Neuer watched on helplessly.

Having squandered several chances and had a penalty appeal turned down, Gomez finally found the net in the 90th minute after Bayern captain Philipp Lahm squared for the German star to bundle the ball home from close range.

A brawl was quickly thwarted after a harsh tackle on substitute Thomas Mueller by Real’s Brazilian defender Marcelo who was shown a yellow card for his action much to the chagrin of the Bayern fans.