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England vs France: The key battles in this Euro 2012 grudge-match

England have been drawn against old enemies France in Group D of Euro 2012, and the clash on June 11th will have a major bearing on each side’s chances of progression in the tournament. With a month to go before the nations do battle the Three Lions are slight favourites, but it should be a close encounter. With Sweden and Ukraine in the pool also, both teams will look to get an early advantage in the competition.

With the domestic campaigns drawing to a close in the Premier League and Ligue 1, Laurent Blanc and Roy Hodgson will have their squads for the tournament all but decided, with a few decisions potentially still to be made. Les Bleus coach has named a strong looking provisional squad, with a raft of English-based players included, whilst the West Brom man has revealed that he will name his contingent on Wednesday.

Despite the full tournament squads yet to be announced, the main players for both sides are known and will play a key role in deciding the outcome of the encounter. France have a good blend of young talent and experienced heads, and their strength lies in central midfield and in a couple of talented individual attackers. The battle for possession in the centre of the park will be a key element to deciding the outcome, with Blanc able to choose from Yohan Cabaye, Yann M’Vila, Alou Diarra and Morgan Amalfitano in the heart of his midfield. Scott Parker will have a role to play in breaking up the French passing game, whilst the likes of Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard will look to mix it with their opponents.

French matchwinners include skilful wingers Franck Ribery, Samir Nasri and Hatem Ben Arfa, whilst the goalt-hreat will be provided by Karim Benzema. England’s full-backs must monitor the widemen carefully, with a big responsibility falling on Kyle Walker, Micah Richards or Glen Johnson’s shoulders to shackle Bayern Munich superstar Ribery. The centre of the English defence will also be wary of giving Benzema space, as the Real Madrid man is one of Europe’s form strikers currently.

Going the other way, new boss Hodgson will be without his talismanic forward Wayne Rooney due to suspension, and has key decisions to make in attack. With Darren Bent still on the sidelines with injury and on the borderline of missing out, no other centre forwards shout out as sure things. Hodgson will consider the likes of Danny Welbeck, Daniel Sturridge, Jermain Defoe, Andy Carroll and maybe even Peter Crouch to lead his line, but the English attack will be limited due to Rooney’s absence.

The eventual England squad should have pace to burn however, with widemen Ashley Young, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and Aaron Lennon all with the necessary speed to harry the French defenders. There is also a case for Paul Scholes’ inclusion to add a bit of creativity to the side, but Hodgson will look to his wingers to provide the necessary penetration.

The game is sure to full of natural pride and passion, but England must compete with the technical abilities of the France side to get a result. The odd goal may well decide this game, but it should be an exciting and enthralling match.

Published – Ghana Soccernet

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Europa League Preview: Tottenham, Fulham, Stoke and Birmingham in a confusing European adventure

The draw for the group stages of this season’s Europa League has thrown up a number of difficult and interesting challenges for England’s representatives, with qualification through to the knock-out stages far from assured. This term it will be up to Tottenham, Fulham, Stoke and Birmingham to do the nation proud, and test their wits against some cultured European opposition.

Tottenham were drawn in Group A, and have been given one opponent on their doorstep, and two on the other side of the continent. Shamrock Rovers, Rubin Kazan and PAOK FC will look to further frustrate Spurs fans after their slow start to the campaign, and will have taken comfort in Harry Redknapp’s men being outplayed and beaten by both Manchester clubs in the space of six days.

The Russians will provide the most difficult opponent, and were unlucky not to make the Champions League; Kurban Berdyev’s side lost out narrowly to Lyon in the qualifiers. The Tsentrainyi Stadion is a hostile environment to enter, and a host of Russian internationals and familiar face Obafemi Martins will make the away tie in particular increasingly difficult. PAOK are not the force of past decades, but, like the Russians will make the away leg uncomfortable. The Irish champions will be sure to put up a fight in the emerald isle, but may find similar treatment to that distributed to Hearts in the qualifying round forthcoming at White Hart Lane.

Stoke have arguably got the most difficult task in front of them, with travels to the far-fetched lands of Israel, Turkey and Ukraine; Maccabi Tel Aviv, Besiktas and Dinamo Kiev lie in wait. Tony Pulis will be happy he has Wilson Palacios and Peter Crouch at his disposal, in what should be a tricky campaign. The Turks have European calibre and experience, and will look to capitalise on the English outfit’s lack of past action in the continent. Stoke’s direct style of play will be countered by a technically gifted midfield trio of ex-Real Madrid playmaker Guti and Portugal international duo Ricardo Quaresma and Simao Sabrosa.

Kiev are top of the Ukranian Premier League currently have attacking options that could be the downfall of the side from the Britannia, with Andriy Shevchenko and international team-mate Andriy Yarmolenko sure to cause Ryan Shawcross and company problems. Tel Aviv meanwhile will be the least threatening member of the trio, but the distance to the away leg will ensure a win is not guaranteed.

Fulham have a mixed group comprising Twente, OB Odense and Wisla Krakow. The Dutch side crashed out of the Champions League qualifiers at the hands of Benfica, but have a strong team; despite this a deadline day move saw Bryan Ruiz swap De Grolsch Veste for Craven Cottage, which could be the difference between the sides. OB were unlucky not to make the group stage of the top tournament, as they were eliminated by Spaniards Villarreal, despite winning the first leg. Krakow offer up an unpredictable element, but should not be underestimated as they are Poland’s current champions.

Birmingham may find the going tough especially with a squad depleted after relegation and will most likely focus on their domestic fixtures in an attempt to make it back to the English top flight, rather than a European adventure. Club Brugge and last year’s defeated finalists Braga should be too strong for The Championship side, who will target the fixtures against Slovenian outfit Maribor as winnable games.

The English sides will travel to the four corners of the continent in this year’s group stage, have drawn difficult opponents, and will have to be at the top of their game if they are to progress.

Published – http://soccerlens.com/europa-league-preview-tottenham-fulham-stoke-and-birmingham-in-a-confusing-european-adventure/78376/

Frustration in the transfer market for Tottenham, as there is still no new striker at White Hart Lane

Harry Redknapp and Daniel Levy have not made secret their wishes to bring a centre forward to White Hart Lane this summer, but with no arrival of a new number nine, time is working against Tottenham. With transfer attempts for a number of forwards crashing on the rocks, and a list of targets not interested due to the lack of Champions League football, who will be starting up front for Spurs against Everton come the Premier League opening day on August 13th?

Much was made of the side’s inability to beat some of the lesser teams towards the end of last season, with disappointing results in the last third of the campaign meaning no top four finish. Peter Crouch was effective in Europe but struggled domestically, whilst Jermain Defoe had what he calls the worst season of his career. With Roman Pavlyuchenko not clinical enough when it mattered and Robbie Keane low on confidence and fitness, all four have been linked with a summer departure.

As yet the only attacking arrival has been that of Souleymane Coulibaly, a 16-year-old Ivory Coast youth striker. As bright a prospect as the sprightly African is, he will need time to adapt to his new surroundings, and is not yet ready for the big stage.

Leandro Damaio looked like a player Redknapp would move for, but the Internacional and Brazil forward has decided to sign a new contract with his current employers. Giuseppe Rossi has been linked with a move, but with Barcelona and Juventus circling, and Villarreal in the Champions League, this simply is not going to happen. Espanyol have slapped a £20 million price-tag on Pablo Osvaldo, a £9 million bid for Abel Hernandez of Napoli has been rejected and Dimitar Berbatov’s return has had no clear signs of occurring.

With the effort to keep the likes of Gareth Bale and more-so Luka Modric at the club, Spurs have become distracted from the efforts in attaining a goalgetter. But who should they be targeting?

1 – Lukas Podolski – The 26-year-old has recently been stripped of the FC Koln captain’s armband, and the opportunity to play in Europe would be appealing. 42 international goals for Germany is a record that speaks for itself.

2 – Alvaro Negredo – A Spanish international with a real eye for goal, the former Real Madrid youth player is the main man at Sevilla. With the Andalusians rumoured to be interested in Giovani Dos Santos, a player-plus-cash deal could tempt the 25-year-old to England.

3 – Antonio Cassano – The AC Milan forward is well down the attacking pecking order at the Giuseppe Meazza and needs first team football to have a chance of playing for Italy at Euro 2012. At times has a questionable attitude, but would prosper under the adoration of Tottenham support.

With a couple of weeks and counting to the end of the transfer window, Harry Redknapp needs to assess which of the four strikers at his disposal he will keep, and which realistic targets he can bring to White Hart Lane to fire Spurs back into top four contention, but the club needs to act quickly to start the season with a bang.

Tottenham cherish historic victory in Milan

Tottenham produced the performance of many a season to defeat hotly fancied AC Milan 1-0 at the San Siro and take the tie back to White Hart Lane in a couple of weeks with their destiny firmly in their hands. Peter Crouch scored an 80th minute winner following great work by Aaron Lennon, but it was the nature of the team performance and the discipline shown from the first whistle that really impressed.
 
Spurs went into the game missing a number of key players, and despite their underdogs tag, the visitors looked to take the game to their illustrious opponents and attack. In a compelling first half, Spurs played some excellent football and dominated the early exchanges, attacking right from the first whistle and the visitors had a penalty appeal turned down in the first minute, as Alessandro Nesta appeared to block a Steven Pienaar cross with his arm. The Tottenham players were not in awe of the occasion, and looked the better side; the best chance of the half fell to returning Dutchman Rafael van der Vaart, who had a shot from 25 yards tipped over by Milan replacement keeper Amelia. Milan did pose some threat, and had a penalty appeal of their own waved away as Ibrahimovic went down under a Sandro challenge. At half time the scores were level but Harry Redknapp would have been the happier of the two managers.
 
Early in the second half Spurs started brightly again, and Van der Vaart looked to have broke the deadlock with a chip over goalie Amelia, but the ball sailed agonisingly wide. Milan had rung the changes at halftime and brought on Alexandre Pato for Clarence Seedorf, and the young Brazilian looked to bring a bit of urgency and dynamism to the Milan attack. With all to play for the game turned into a tense affair, with a number of swashbuckling challenges flying in, mainly from the Milan side, who grew increasingly impatient and frustrated at their inability to break their opponents down. Gennaro Gattuso was the main culprit and showed petulence and ill discipline in an angry display, and was booked for a challenge on Steven Pienaar which means the ex-Rangers man will miss the second leg. Gattuso was also guilty of pushing Crouch and clashed with Spurs assistant Joe Jordan both during the game and after the final whistle, where he has been accused of headbutting the Scot. Mathieu Flamini was also lucky to stay on the pitch as a reckless and cowardly two footed tackle on Vedran Corluka resulted in a yellow card for the ex-Arsenal midfielder; Corluka had to leave the pitch on a stretcher and was replaced by injury ravaged defender Jonathan Woodgate. Despite these bully boy tactics, Tottenham kept their composure, defended well and limited Milan to few chances, the best of which was a Mario Yepes header saved by Spurs stopper Gomes. Spurs defended right from the front, with Crouch getting through a lot of work and wingers Lennon and Pienaar tracking back well to help their fullbacks.
 
The decisive moment in the match came in the 80th minute, with a flowing counter attack leading to Crouch opening the scoring for the visitors with a neat finish. Aaron Lennon, who troubled Milan all night, showed great pace to expose Yepes and had the compsore to square the ball to Crouch, who duly finished and gave Spurs the advantage. Milan huffed and puffed, and their best chance came in stoppage time as a Zlatan Ibrahimovic goal was ruled out for an obvious and blatant push on Michael Dawson.
 
This was an historic and memorable night for the North London club, one that will not be forgotten any time soon by the travelling faithful, and Spurs will look to finish the job on 9 March when they host Milan at White Hart Lane. Manager Harry Redknapp will know however that the tie is far from over and Milan have the quality to come to England and win, but a repeat of Tuesday’s performance will set Spurs in good standing to proceed. For the meantime Spurs players and fans alike will enjoy and cherish the achievement of beating one of Europe’s top teams, and be dreaming of Champions League progression in weeks to come.

Published – http://www.1000goals.com/tottenham-cherish-historic-victory-in-milan

Bale Misses Tottenham’s Milan D-Day‏

Tottenham will be without flying winger Gareth Bale for their first leg Champions League tie against AC Milan at the San Siro, and a host of other injuries and suspensions means the English team will field a scratch side on Tuesday night. The Welshman has not recovered from a back injury in time to face the Italian giants, which will be a blow to the London club’s preparations.
 
Bale will be massively disappointed not to feature at the San Siro, a ground where he captured the attention of the World’s media with a sensational hat-trick against AC’s rivals Inter Milan in the group stages earlier in the season. Manager Harry Redknapp will wish he could call on his star player, and confirmed his absence as he told Sky Sports News : “I’d like to be able to scare Milan and say he’s going to be available, but he’s not”.
 
Tottenham will also be without long term absentees Tom Huddlestone, Younes Kaboul, club captain Ledley King and Jermaine Jenas, who is suspended. Peter Crouch (back) and Luka Modric (appendicitis) will also face late fitness tests, with Crouch more likely to feature than the talented midfield man Modric. Good news for the visitors is the return of Dutch forward Rafael van der Vaart, who will return to the starting line-up. Bale’s absence will give a chance to on form Croatian playmaker Niko Kranjcar, who is fresh from scoring spectacular winners against Bolton and Sunderland in the London club’s last two league games. Brazilian Sandro will most likely start along side Wilson Palacios in centre midfield.
 
The Rosseneri also have injury concerns ahead of the game and will be without Italy international midfield duo Andrea Pirlo and Massimo Ambrosini, whilst January signings Mark van Bommel, Urby Emmanuelson and Antonio Cassano are all ineligible. The Serie A leaders will most likely start with an impressive front three of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alexandre Pato and Robinho.
 
In the biggest game of the season for Tottenham, injuries will mean that the London club cannot put out their full strength team, but the visitors should go into the game with no fear and high confidence after three good league victories. If they are to have a chance of proceeding through the tie they will need to limit supply to Pato and Robinho, who have the ability to turn Champions League dreams into nightmares, and a strong start is needed for Tottenham to stand a chance of taking the tie back to White Hart Lane in a couple of weeks time with all to play for.
 
Probable Starting Tottenham XI (4-4-1-1) : Gomes, Assou Ekotto, Dawson, Gallas, Hutton, Kranjcar, Sandro, Palacios, Lennon, Van der Vaart, Crouch

Published – http://www.1000goals.com/bale-misses-tottenhams-milan-d-day%e2%80%8f

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