Jan 052016
Zidane replaces Benitez as Real boss

Rafael Benitez has been sacked as manager of Real Madrid after just seven months in charge at the Bernabeu.

The 55-year-old Spaniard was relieved of his duties following a meeting of the club’s board on Monday.

Real’s B team coach Zinedine Zidane, 43, has been promoted to the role of first-team boss.

Frenchman Zidane, a former Real player and World Cup winner, said: “I am going to put my heart and soul into this job so that everything works out well.”

Benitez’s final game was Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Valencia, which left them third in La Liga, four points behind leaders Atletico Madrid.

The right replacement for Rafa?

For a man with no experience of managing at the top level, Zidane’s appointment could be considered a risk – but he has long been seen as a future Real boss.

Zidane has been coach of Real’s B team – who are second in the Spanish third tier – since 2014. Prior to that he was an integral member of the backroom staff under then Real boss Carlo Ancelotti, who led the side to ‘La Decima’ – the club’s 10th European Cup.

During his playing career, the Frenchman was one of Real’s key ‘Galacticos’ – a label given to the expensive players signed by club president Florentino Perez in the early to mid-2000s.

Zinedine Zidane

Zinedine Zidane is the first French manager in Real Madrid’s history

Real paid Juventus a then world record fee of £45.8m in 2001 for the midfielder, who had already won the World Cup and European Championship.

At the Bernabeu, he played alongside players such as Luis Figo, Raul and Ronaldo, and also featured in the same midfield as England captain David Beckham.

During a five-year stay, he helped the side win the Spanish league in 2003 and was named Fifa world player of the year for the third time that year.

But perhaps his defining moment came during the 2002 Champions League final, when he scored a stunning volley against Bayer Leverkusen at Hampden Park.

What next for Benitez?

Valencia supporters

Valencia fans unfurled a banner at the Mestalla on Sunday thanking their former manager

Benitez may be loved in Liverpool and Valencia, but his reputation as a manager has diminished in his past two jobs – at Napoli and Real.

The Spaniard
replaced Walter Mazzarri as Napoli boss in May 2013, and won the Coppa Italia in his first season in charge, but things soured in his second and final season.

Napoli failed to make the Champions League despite the big-money signings of Gonzalo Higuain, Jose Maria Callejon, Raul Albiol and Dries Mertens, with Benitez criticised for his rotation policy and stubborn adherence to a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Real lost just three of their 25 competitive matches under Benitez, but the club’s supporters quickly tired of what they regarded as a sterile and unexciting style of play.

West Ham co-chairman David Sullivan said last month that Benitez was
“two hours away” from being appointed Hammers boss before he took the Real job.

His trophy-laden CV map tempt other Premier League clubs to turn to a man whose family home is still in Liverpool.

And what next for Mourinho?

Jorge Valdano and Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho was named Real Madrid boss in May 2010

Real overlooked one of their notable former managers in turning to Zidane.

Jose Mourinho guided the club to the league title in 2012 and – following his sacking by Chelsea last month – is available.

He has unfinished business at the Bernabeu having failed to win the Champions League – a prize coveted perhaps more than any other by Los Blancos.

But there were reports his relationship with forward
Cristiano Ronaldo  broke down during his last spell in charge, while he also had high-profile clashes with fan favourites Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas.

And following Mourinho’s departure from Chelsea, Perez said there would be
no imminent return to the Bernabeu for ‘the Special One’. 

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Stoke City v Liverpool

 Posted by at 1:29 AM
Jan 052016

Continue reading the main story

Daniel Sturridge will miss Liverpool’s League Cup semi-final first leg at Stoke on Tuesday after suffering a minor setback in training as he recovers from a hamstring injury.

The striker, 26, has been blighted by injuries, making only 19 appearances last season and six this campaign.

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp has only one fit striker, Christian Benteke, with Divock Origi and Danny Ings also injured.

Stoke’s Geoff Cameron is available despite being sent off on Saturday.

The USA defender’s red card in the 2-1 defeat by West Brom was
overturned on appeal, meaning his three-match ban was withdrawn.

‘Daniel had some problems’

Sturridge has not played since straining a hamstring against Newcastle on 6 December.

After his side’s 1-0 win over Leicester on Boxing Day, he
tweeted: “I’m back training and good to go!!”

But Klopp, speaking on Monday, said Sturridge “had some problems” which forced him to miss a training session.

He added: “What Daniel has to do at this moment is hard work to be prepared for the things we make in a football game. He had the last complete pre-season a long time ago.

“In pre-season we load our bodies with strength, energy, all we need for the games and then the problems start.

“It would be easy for me to say ‘Come on, let’s try, we have problems, we don’t score enough goals, let’s see what will happen’ but we have to wait and be patient.”

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson is likely to miss Tuesday’s match with the recurrence of a foot problem and fellow midfielder James Milner is still struggling with a calf injury.

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Jan 042016

Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe believes
loan signing Juan Iturbe will add quality to his squad.

Iturbe, 22, signed from Roma until the end of the season, could make his Cherries debut against Birmingham in the FA Cup third round on Saturday.

Roma paid more than £17m for the Argentine winger in July 2014.

“He will bring energy, creativity, pace and can pick a pass. We’re hopeful that he can have a big impact for us,” Howe told
BBC Radio Solent.

Bournemouth are awaiting a work permit for Iturbe before he can be cleared to play at St Andrew’s.

“It was a really long process to get the deal agreed,” added Howe. “A player of his calibre is not one you would normally associate with a club like us.

“But we’re trying to compete and stay in the Premier League. To do that, we need to get the best players.

“We had competition and we were able to secure his signature in a move that favoured us so we get to look at him before any decision is made to sign him permanently.”

Iturbe has made 19 appearances in all competitions for Roma this season, including Champions League games against Barcelona and Bayer Leverkusen.

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Top four still possible – Hiddink

 Posted by at 4:28 PM
Jan 042016
Top four still possible - Hiddink

Chelsea can still finish in the Premier League’s top four, says interim manager Guus Hiddink after Sunday’s 3-0 win at Crystal Palace.

The Blues have not lost in four matches but are 13 points behind Tottenham, who occupy the fourth Champions League spot with 18 league games left.

“It’s difficult because this league has become so strong; everyone can win from everyone,” said Hiddink, 69.

“It’s very difficult to get there. It’s possible but there’s a long way to go.”

Chelsea celebrate

Tottenham and Fulham (19 points from 19 games) achieved eighth-place finishes. Sheffield Wednesday came seventh in 1993 but the league featured more fixtures then

The defending champions’ four-match unbeaten run is their longest of the season and moved them up to 14th, six points clear of relegation.

Hiddink, who succeeded the sacked Jose Mourinho
in December, conceded Chelsea “desperately needed” the victory, which came courtesy of goals from Oscar, Willian and Diego Costa.

“We have to get back to thinking why we were champions,” added the former Netherlands, Turkey and Russia coach.

Costa’s goal – his third in two games – sealed an impressive individual display after managing just one in 12 previous matches.

Hiddink said he is trying to give the striker some focus on the pitch so he does not “waste” energy “where he should not be”.

We let everybody down – Terry

John Terry and Guus Hiddink

Hiddink also took charge of Terry and Chelsea in 2009, guiding them to the FA Cup

Chelsea’s improvement in form since Mourinho’s departure has led to some criticism as to why the Blues could not produce such performances under their former manager.

Captain John Terry admits the players “let everybody down” following the club’s worst start to a season since 1978.

“It’s unfortunate what’s happened,” said the 35-year-old defender. “We are where we are, and slowly climbing the Premier League table.”

But Terry feels Hiddink, who also took interim charge of the club in 2009, has “picked things up” since taking over.

“That was the Chelsea of last year,” he said after Sunday’s display. “Overall, as well as the goals, it was different class.”

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