Fergie eyes epic Manchester derby triumph tomorrow

Updated 07 December 2012
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Fergie eyes epic Manchester derby triumph tomorrow

LONDON: Alex Ferguson lit the fuse on a potentially explosive showdown with Manchester City as the Manchester United manager claimed a victory at Eastlands would be one of his club’s greatest ever results.
For the first time in 44 years, City will go into the Manchester derby as reigning English champions, but the bragging rights from piping United to the title on the final day of last season will count for nothing if Ferguson’s side inflict a first league defeat of the season on Roberto Mancini’s men at Eastlands tomorrow.
United are three points clear of second placed City at the top of the Premier League and the prospect of allowing their bitter rivals to extend that lead is certain to provoke a ferocious response from the hosts after their exit from the Champions League in midweek.
With United showing alarming defensive frailties in recent weeks, encapsulated by a chaotic 4-3 win at Reading last week, Ferguson knows it won’t be easy to subdue City, especially as the Blues have a formidable record on their home turf.
City haven’t lost a league home game since Everton won at Eastlands in December 2010 and they can also take confidence from a pair of league victories over their bitter rivals last season.
In the circumstances, Ferguson believes a derby victory would rank as one of the all-time great United triumphs.
“If we win (on Sunday) it will be one of our best ever results. They are a really good, powerful team with massive players,” Ferguson said.
“It won’t be easy and if we defend like we did at Reading we’ll be in trouble.
“The important thing for us is to take lessons from the mistakes we’re making and do something about it. We need to find a solution.” Mancini faced renewed questions about his future after City’s latest European flop and a defeat to United would only add to the pressure on the Italian.
Reports of Pep Guardiola or Jose Mourinho replacing him at the end of the season will make unpleasant reading and, while Mancini is convinced he will be given time to get his spluttering team back on track, even he admits his players need to raise their game.
The theme of managers under pressure runs through the rest of the weekend’s program at both ends of the table.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has been under fire of late and another negative result against West Bromwich Albion today would trigger more bile from the growing number of critics among the club’s previously loyal fanbase.
Wenger’s team are on a miserable run of two wins from their last nine matches in all competitions and Spanish midfielder Mikel Arteta, is well aware that a victory over West Brom is essential to ease the sense of crisis enveloping the Gunners.
At the Stadium of Light today, both Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez and Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill are in desperate need of a morale-boosting victory.
Benitez has yet to win a league match since replacing Roberto Di Matteo, while O’Neill has presided over a woeful run of two wins from their last 22 league games.
Fixtures (1500 GMT) unless stated)
Saturday: Arsenal v West Brom, Aston Villa v Stoke, Southampton v Reading, Sunderland v Chelsea, Swansea v Norwich, Wigan v QPR
Sunday: Everton v Tottenham, Man City v Man Utd (1330GMT), West Ham v Liverpool (1600GMT)
Monday: Fulham v Newcastle (2000GMT)


'We want to make Saudi Arabia proud': Pizzi promises better showing against Egypt

Updated 21 June 2018
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'We want to make Saudi Arabia proud': Pizzi promises better showing against Egypt

  • Saudi Arabia cannot progress from Group A even if they defeat Egypt in their final game on Monday
  • Wednesday’s overall performance was much improved, yet a lack of penetrative passing was obvious

ROSTOV-ON-DON: “Keeping possession of the ball seems to be the absolute and most important thing, but then when you sometimes find issues in getting the ball into your opponent’s half, you have to find other movements and ways of doing that,” said Oscar Tabarez after watching his lackluster Uruguay rely on a solitary Luis Suarez goal to eliminate Saudi Arabia from the World Cup. 
Tabarez was talking about his own team’s struggles, yet the assessment is considerably more applicable to the Green Falcons, who dominated possession and retained the ball with ease in midfield, yet for the second match running looked absolutely bereft of ideas in the final third. With Uruguay and Russia now on six points, Saudi Arabia cannot progress from Group A even if they defeat Egypt in their final game on Monday.
The Green Falcons coach Juan Antonio Pizzi confirmed he intends to stay at the helm of the side for the long-haul, yet is only too aware that the potential of this team is being hamstrung by its inability to score. He called it “our weakness”, adding that his side enjoyed “good ball possession, but no effectiveness”. They, he said, did not have the sufficient “weapons or tools” to equalize.
Pizzi’s side have found the net now just twice in their past five games and against Uruguay managed only three shots on target in 90 minutes — two of which came in added time and were so tame they would hardly have troubled the opposition goalkeeper Fernando Muslera had he been relaxing at his far post sipping a drink. In the 5-0 defeat to Russia last week, they failed to muster a single shot on target. 
Wednesday’s overall performance was much improved, yet a lack of penetrative passing was obvious. One passage of play in the opening exchanges saw Saudi Arabia complete 16 passes untroubled without the ball entering the opposition penalty box. When Uruguay finally won possession, they required only four quick exchanges to find Edinson Cavani on the left wing drilling the ball across the front of goal. 
“I don’t share that assessment,” said Pizzi, when it was put to him that his team was too slow to attack. “We played at the speed that was necessary. We need to be accurate, but if you step up the speed you lose accuracy with your passes. We had control of the game and that was why.”
Striker Mohammed Al-Sahlawi had been the focal point of much criticism from Turki Al-Sheikh, the head of Saudi’s General Sports Authority, after the Russia “fiasco” and was dropped from the side against Uruguay. So too was goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf, another who Al-Sheikh name-checked as having been at fault.
Pizzi, asked whether the scathing assessment from his bosses had forced his hand when it came to team selection, calmly dismissed the suggestion. He also ruled out the notion that administrative issues between the players and the country’s football federation had caused unrest in his squad.
“I have a list of 23 players here and they are all available to play. We are here together and pushing in the same direction. 
“I wanted — and still want — to make the Saudi Arabian people feel proud of our energy and the desire we show in matches. Unfortunately we were unable to do that against Russia and will be playing our next match without any hope of progressing. I hope now they will feel a little more proud even though we are out of the World Cup,” he said.