Chelsea’s Benitez in search of Hammer blow

Updated 30 November 2012
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Chelsea’s Benitez in search of Hammer blow

LONDON: European champions Chelsea may be third in the Premier League but that will be little consolation to interim manager Rafael Benitez as he takes his side across London to West Ham today.
Two successive goalless draws is not what owner Roman Abramovich wanted after sacking Roberto di Matteo, the man who brought the European Cup to Stamford Bridge for the first time courtesy of last season’s Champions League triumph.
And those performances, against Manchester City and derby rivals Fulham, have done little to alter the hostility felt toward Benitez by a large section of Chelsea fans on account of the Spaniard’s outspoken comments about the Blues when he was Liverpool manager.
Even wins may not be enough to appease those sections of the Chelsea faithful who remain implacably opposed to his appointment.
But a win, not to mention a goal, at West Ham would be a start in an early kick-off fixture where victory would see the Blues close to within four points of Manchester United before the leaders are in action at Reading.
“If you analyze 10 games without a clean sheet, when the team are attacking and then you give the chance to the other team to score, you lose your confidence,” said Benitez.
“The main thing is to keep a solid team with good shape and then we have to take the chances we create with the talent we have up front.” United travel to Reading following a midweek 1-0 win where it took striker Robin van Persie just 33 seconds to score the fastest goal of the Premier League season so far.
Moreover, that match saw United rid themselves of the worrying habit they’ve developed this season of conceding first.
“The clean sheet is something to build on because the performance needs to be better,” insisted United midfielder Michael Carrick in words that could have been borrowed from manager Alex Ferguson.
Meanwhile Manchester City, still the only unbeaten side in the league, are at home to Everton with manager Roberto Mancini demanding more of Mario Balotelli after the striker opened his Premier League account for the season with the first goal in a 2-0 midweek win at Wigan.
“It’s his first goal this year (season) and I hope he can improve after that game,” Mancini said of his fellow Italian.
West Brom, still fourth despite a 3-1 midweek defeat by Swansea, will look to return to winning ways at home to Stoke while Tottenham, whose 2-1 win over Liverpool took them up into fifth place, make the cross-London trip to Fulham.
Arsenal welcome Swansea to the Emirates following a 1-1 draw at Everton.
Southampton, still in the relegation zone, travel to Liverpool — the club where Saints manager Nigel Adkins was once a schoolboy goalkeeper.
“Obviously they’re going through a transition at this moment in time, but it is a game that we’ll look forward to, as we do every game in the Premier League,” said Adkins.
Liverpool are just four points above the relegation zone and Reds manager Brendan Rodgers has called on the rest of his players to ease the burden on captain Steven Gerrard.
“He’s carried this club for nearly 13 years and it’s about time that there was more than Steven picking up the baton of responsibility,” said Rodgers of the England midfielder.
Bottom of the table QPR, who drew away to Sunderland in their first match under Harry Redknapp, will look to give their new manager a maiden win at home to fellow strugglers Aston Villa.
Fixtures (1500GMT unless stated)
Saturday: Arsenal v Swansea, Fulham v Tottenham, Liverpool v Southampton, Manchester City v Everton, QPR v Aston Villa, Reading v Manchester United (1730GMT), West Brom v Stoke, West Ham v Chelsea (1245GMT)
Sunday: Norwich v Sunderland (1600GMT)
Monday: Newcastle v Wigan (2000GMT)


Saudi Arabian football clubs helped with debts by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Updated 22 May 2018
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Saudi Arabian football clubs helped with debts by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

  • Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will cover all external debts owed by Saudi Professional League clubs
  • Crown Prince will provide 1,277,000,000 Saudi riyals (around $340 million)

RIYADH: The General Sports Authority and Saudi Arabia Football Federation (SAFF) have announced that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will cover all external debts owed by Saudi Professional League clubs.
According to reports, the Crown Prince will provide 1,277,000,000 Saudi riyals (around $340 million) that will not only clear monies owed but also enable clubs to invest ahead of the 2018-19 season.
The issue of debt had become a major issue in the country’s football scene.
“Some Saudi Arabian clubs are currently experiencing financial problems that require immediate and urgent intervention,” the General Sports Authority, which oversees Saudi Arabian sport, said in a statement released on social media.
The body noted that there are a total of 107 cases under appeal at world governing body FIFA regarding unpaid salaries in Saudi Arabia.
“Failure to intervene urgently to rescue clubs may result in damage to the reputation of the Kingdom in general and Saudi Arabian sport in particular,” added the GSA.
“Some Saudi Arabian clubs may face severe disciplinary sanctions because of the failure to meet financial obligations such as the
denial of the registration of players in general or the deduction of points.”
Unpaid salaries were also a factor in Al-Ittihad and Al-Nassr being unable to appear in this year’s AFC Champions League after they were denied AFC club licenses.
Al-Ittihad were the club with the highest debt of 309 million riyals ($82 million) and welcomed the news.
“We are delighted by the generous initiative of His Royal Highness,” Al-Ittihad president Nawaf Al-Muqairn said in an official statement released by the two-time Asian champions.
“This contributes to creating solid ground for all clubs to move toward achieving their goals.”
Legendary Saudi striker Sami Al-Jaber, recently appointed president of champions Al-Hilal, announced his gratitude on social media.
“Great thanks to His Highness the Crown Prince for the great support that the clubs have enjoyed which enables sport in our country to keep pace with the aspirations of our leadership,” Al-Jaber wrote.
The Crown Prince’s move followed the SAFF announcing a new raft of regulations in April that will come into effect next season and are designed to take the league forward. These included restricting club spending on transfers and salaries to 70 percent of revenue. The size of first-team squads has been reduced from 33 to 28, of which five must be homegrown players of 23 or younger.