Chelsea & Spurs should kick off at same time

Posted by Warren Fyfe on April 29, 2017 with No Comments
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Chelsea manager Antonio Conte

Chelsea are on course for a Premier League-FA Cup double in Antonio Conte’s first season in charge at Stamford Bridge

Premier League title rivals Chelsea and Tottenham should kick off their last three matches of the season at the same time, says Blues boss Antonio Conte.

Leaders Chelsea will temporarily go seven points clear if they win at Everton on Sunday (14:05 BST) before Spurs entertain Arsenal (16:30 BST).

But Conte wants his side and Spurs to start the last three matches at the same time.

“Try and keep it the same hour, the same days to rest,” said the Italian.


Newcastle win at Cardiff to keep title hopes alive

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Isaac Hayden celebrates after scoring Newcastle's second goal,

Isaac Hayden’s second goal of the season sealed Newcastle United’s win at Cardiff City

Newcastle United kept intact their slim hopes of winning the Championship title with a comfortable victory at Cardiff.

Already promoted, the Magpies went ahead early in the second half with Christian Atsu’s delicate curling free-kick.

Isaac Hayden’s long-range strike sealed victory for the visitors, who are now one point behind leaders Brighton.

However, the Seagulls will be crowned champions with a game to spare if they beat Bristol City on Saturday.

  • Relive Newcastle’s win at Cardiff

Despite securing an instant return to the Premier League, Newcastle had endured a turbulent week following Wednesday’s off-field investigations by Revenue Customs.

According to manager Rafael Benitez, however, it was “business as usual” on the football front, and his side were roared on by 4,000 travelling fans in a boisterous away end at the Cardiff City Stadium.


Tottenham stadium: Club will play home games at Wembley in 2017-18

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Tottenham Hotspur are due to move into their new stadium next year

Tottenham have confirmed they will play their home games at Wembley for the 2017-18 season while construction work on their new stadium takes place.

The club’s new 61,000-seater ground is being built next to the site of their current home White Hart Lane.

Spurs played their Champions League and Europa League ties at Wembley this term but won just one of four games.

“This is an incredibly exciting time in the history of the club,” said club chairman Daniel Levy in a statement.

“Wembley will be our home for a season and then we will return to what will be one of the best stadiums of its kind and the most unique in the world playing host to NFL (American football) games too – a stadium that will be key to our future growth and success.”

The new stadium is expected to cost £750m but will create about 3,500 jobs in the area when it is finished, according to the club.

Spurs, who are four points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea with five games to play this season, face Manchester United in their final game at the current White Hart Lane on 14 May.

Their most recent experience of Wembley was last weekend’s FA Cup semi-final, which they lost 4-2 to Chelsea.

How Spurs will mark the move?


It is business as usual for Newcastle

Posted by Warren Fyfe on April 27, 2017 with No Comments
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Rafael Benitez

Rafael Benitez won promotion from the Championship with Newcastle at the first time of asking

Manager Rafael Benitez says it is “business as usual” on the football side at Newcastle United, despite Wednesday’s off-field investigations by Revenue Customs.

HMRC’s tax fraud investigation emerged just two days after Newcastle confirmed promotion back to the Premier League.

Managing director Lee Charnley was arrested, but released without charge as part of the raids.

“We are trying to concentrate on football,” Benitez told BBC Newcastle.

  • Marveaux arrested in a tax fraud investigation

“It’s a pity that all the issues about the investigation, about something that happened four or five years ago, but we can concentrate on our usual football business.

“The first day after the day off we were trying to concentrate on football and that’s what we have done. We were training, normal things, set-pieces and tactical adjustments.

“I was even talking to Lee today about pre-season which will start on 3 July. We have no control of the other things. We are trying to do what we have to do.”

Meanwhile, former Newcastle winger Sylvain Marveaux was one of four people arrested in a tax fraud investigation by HMRC.

Too soon to talk about the future


Joey Barton: Burnley boss Sean Dyche says betting ban is ‘harsh’

Posted by Warren Fyfe on April 27, 2017 with No Comments
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Joey Barton

Barton rejoined Burnley in January until the end of the season

Burnley manager Sean Dyche says Joey Barton’s 18-month ban for breaching betting rules is “harsh”.

The 34-year-old midfielder received the punishment on Wednesday after admitting a Football Association charge.

Barton, who placed 1,260 bets on matches between 26 March 2006 and 13 May 2016, has admitted he is addicted to gambling.

“Eighteen months seems a long time to me in light of other things I’ve seen in the sport,” said Dyche.

“Eric Cantona was given a nine-month ban for a kung-fu kick.”

Barton plans to appeal against the length of the suspension, calling it “excessive”.

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Dyche confirmed Barton, who re-joined Burnley from Rangers on a short-term deal in January, will not be offered a new contract in the summer.

The ex-England international was in his second spell at Turf Moor before the ban, having helped the Clarets reach the Premier League in the 2015-16 season.

“We thought there was a chance, of course [of this happening],” added Dyche. “We’re not naive. Joey understood that. On the football side of things we didn’t want it to get in the way of thinking he was a worthwhile player to bring back. We wanted to get on with it, give him a platform and he’s done that.”

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Sylvain Marveaux: Former Newcastle winger arrested in tax fraud probe

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HMRC officers raided Newcastle and West Ham's stadiums on Wednesday as part of the investigation

HMRC officers raided Newcastle and West Ham’s stadiums on Wednesday as part of the investigation

Former Newcastle winger Sylvain Marveaux is one of four people arrested in a tax fraud investigation by Revenue Customs (HMRC).

French authorities said secret payments made to players and agents during deals between French and Premier League clubs are the focus of the probe.

Newcastle and West Ham’s grounds were raided on Wednesday, as HMRC deployed 180 officers across the UK and France.

Marveaux, 31, joined Newcastle from Rennes in 2011 and made 39 appearances.

He returned to France to join Lorient last year.

Newcastle’s managing director Lee Charnley was also arrested. He was released without charge at about 17:00 BST on Wednesday.

The French Prosecutor’s office says 10 searches were carried out in France and four people were placed in police custody.

“The British authorities suspect secret payments may have been made to benefit certain players, their agents or third parties, allowing them to avoid paying tax on the income, or making social security payments,” said a statement from the French Prosecutor’s office.

French officials were asked by HMRC to provide assistance to their investigation in July 2016.

It took a further nine months before officers launched their raids on both sides of the Channel.

HMRC said it searched premises in the north east and south east of England, and seized business records, financial records, computers and mobile phones.

West Ham’s London Olympic Stadium and Newcastle’s St James’ Park were among the locations raided.

HMRC officers also visited offices belonging to Chelsea FC “in connection with its wider investigation”, a club spokesman confirmed.

But it is understood the club’s premises were not raided and no arrests were made.

‘Investigation creates instability and uncertainty’

BBC Radio 5 live sports news correspondent Richard Conway

The wheels of tax investigations turn slowly – so any sporting implications resulting from these arrests and raids may not be known for some time.

It would appear, on face value, that Premier League points and status for both West Ham United and newly promoted Newcastle United are safe for now.

However this “on-going” investigation risks creating instability and uncertainty for both clubs at a time when they both, for different reasons, need it the most. HMRC investigations of this scale are costly and only undertaken in the most serious of circumstances. This isn’t going away anytime soon.

Rafael Benitez, celebrating promotion on Monday, told reporters it was good to work at a club where there’s no backroom politics, a not so subtle reference to his tumultuous time at Real Madrid.

With Newcastle having documents seized, and further questions looming for its senior officials, he may have spoken too soon.

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Tottenham will not sell top players and ‘don’t need the money’

Posted by Warren Fyfe on April 26, 2017 with No Comments
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Dele Alli

Dele Alli has scored 16 Premier League goals this season

Tottenham will keep their best players this summer and only sell those who are no longer wanted by the club, says manager Mauricio Pochettino.

Spurs sit second in the Premier League, with a number of teams said to be interested in their top players.

But Pochettino says he has a close relationship with chairman Daniel Levy, who has assured him the club will not sell as they “don’t need the money”.

“The players that we want to keep, we will keep,” he said.

Defenders Kyle Walker and Danny Rose and midfielders Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli are among those to have recently been linked with moves away from White Hart Lane.

“I think because we are doing good things, the clubs with a lot of potential are focused on our players, on our talented players,” added the 45-year-old Argentine.

“But the good thing is we have the plan to try to improve and we will deliver it when we finish the season.

“For our fans, it is so clear that all the decisions we take are for the reason to try to improve the team, to try to be more competitive next season.”

Former Spain midfielder Xavi said this week that 21-year-old Alli is the kind of talent his previous manager at Barcelona, Pep Guardiola, would be keen to sign for Manchester City.

“I don’t know what Xavi said – is he working for Manchester City now? He wants to help Guardiola,” added former Espanyol boss Pochettino.

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Huddersfield beat Wolves to secure Championship play-off place

Posted by Warren Fyfe on April 26, 2017 with No Comments
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Izzy Brown

Izzy Brown returned to the Huddersfield Town starting line-up after a hamstring injury

Izzy Brown’s strike was enough to give Huddersfield Town a narrow victory at Wolves and secure the Terriers a Championship play-off spot.

Brown curled home in the first half, his fifth Terriers goal, as David Wagner’s side moved eight points clear of seventh with two games to play.

Wolves came close when Dave Edwards hit the post as the hosts were frustrated.

Terriers sub Collin Quaner missed a number of chances to extend his side’s lead, but the Yorkshire side held on.

  • Relive Huddersfield’s win at Molineux

At one stage of the season Huddersfield had looked to be automatic promotion contenders but a run of two wins in seven games allowed Newcastle to take advantage and beat Preston on Monday to secure their Premier League place next season.

However, the Terriers had the chance to be the first Championship side this season to seal a play-off place with victory in the West Midlands.

Chelsea loanee Brown’s low strike past keeper Harry Burgoyne, a late replacement for Andy Lonergan, was the high point of a drab first half.

Visiting keeper Danny Ward did have to deny Edwards in the first half, and had to be at his best to keep out Andreas Weimann’s effort before Edwards could only fire the rebound against the woodwork.

Wagner’s side had the opportunity to increase their advantage, but Quaner was wasteful. He fired wide from six yards, shot straight at youngster Burgoyne and took too long to decide when well-placed to allow a defender to block his strike.

But Town’s 25th win of the season – the 22nd with a single-goal margin – is enough to take them up to third place and put them in pole position for a home second leg in the play-offs.


Chelsea beat Saints to go seven points clear at the top

Posted by Warren Fyfe on April 26, 2017 with No Comments
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Eden Hazard

Eden Hazard opened the scoring for Chelsea with a low strike

Chelsea restored their lead at the top of the Premier League to seven points with a convincing win over Southampton at Stamford Bridge.

Antonio Conte’s side had seen their advantage cut by Tottenham after the Blues’ loss at Manchester United – but this was an emphatic response to follow on from Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final win against their London rivals.

Eden Hazard and Diego Costa were both back in the starting line-up after Wembley and were key figures, the Belgian putting Chelsea ahead with a low shot after five minutes.

Former Chelsea midfielder Oriol Romeu bundled in an equaliser for Saints before Gary Cahill headed the title pace-setters back in front right on half-time, a moment that effectively decided the destination of the points.

Costa confirmed Chelsea’s supremacy with a header early in the second half before scoring his second with a low shot late on.

Ryan Bertrand, another former Chelsea man, was on target in the dying seconds – but the victory was secured for Conte’s men and now Spurs must respond at in-form Crystal Palace on Wednesday (20:00 BST kick-off).

Conte gets Hazard and Costa calls spot on

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Antonio Conte hailed Chelsea’s desire following their 4-2 victory over Southampton

Conte manoeuvred his resources to perfection in the victory against Spurs at Wembley – and did it again here as Hazard and Costa made decisive contributions to a vital Chelsea win.

Conte raised eyebrows when he left his two most dangerous attackers out of his starting line-up on Saturday but used them as game-changers to great effect, deploying them as substitutes after an hour and Hazard then scoring the goal that swung the match in favour of his side.

Hazard and Costa were back from the start against Southampton and illustrated why they have been such integral components of Chelsea’s rise to the top of the table this season.

The pair combined in the fifth minute for Hazard to score and Spain striker Costa was simply too strong for Bertrand when he arrived on the end of Cesc Fabregas’ cross to score the third goal early in the second half.

And they were at it again soon afterwards – a neat exchange with Pedro leading to Costa getting his second and Chelsea’s fourth with a powerful low drive in the closing moments.

Conte has put the Blues right back on track after their loss at Manchester United with wins in the FA Cup semi-final and here at Stamford Bridge – and his shrewd use of two of his most vital assets has helped him achieve it with a superb piece of management.

Chelsea survive test of nerve


Messi proves a point: Why 500-up Lionel is still the magic man

Posted by Warren Fyfe on April 24, 2017 with No Comments
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Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi has scored 47 goals in 46 games this season – despite some claiming he is no longer at his peak

Barcelona blew La Liga’s title race wide open with a sensational 3-2 victory in El Clasico at Real Madrid on Sunday night, and the identity of the match-winner was no surprise whatsoever: Lionel Messi.

The Argentine ace netted twice, including the winner with just 12 seconds of stoppage time remaining, to allow his team to leapfrog the hosts at the top of the table – even though the title is still under Real’s control because they have a game in hand.

Not only that, but he is now up to 500 goals for Barcelona. Not bad for a player who is supposedly on the decline.

  • Match report: Real Madrid 2-3 Barcelona
  • Relive the drama as it happened
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Messi heroics revitalise title race

It wasn’t just Messi’s goals which made this a special performance, because he was more or less unstoppable all night.

In fact, the only way that Real could stop him was by fouling him, with Sergio Ramos earning a straight red card for a wild two-footed lunge while Casemiro was a little lucky to escape dismissal for repeated fouls and Mateo Kovacic also earned a yellow card for fouling the Argentine.

Despite forcing his opponents into such desperate measures, Messi still managed six shots on goal, four of which were on target – more than any other player. He also embarked upon seven dribbles, again higher than anyone else, and his 72 touches of the ball were more than any Real player (Dani Carvajal had 71).

And all of that came despite Messi playing most of the game with a badly bloodied mouth following a first-half collision with Marcelo (accidental according to white-shirted fans; deliberate according to those in red and blue) which saw him briefly leave the field for treatment.

Naturally, the Barcelona media reacted ecstatically to their idol’s latest match-winning heroics, with the headline in newspaper Sport’s online report simply stating: ‘Messi destroys Madrid’.

Mundo Deportivo, meanwhile, hailed Messi as ‘unique’ and described his winning goal as a ‘work of art’, while also complaining – in a style typical of the constant back-biting between these two clubs – that Casemiro and Marcelo should also have been sent off for their challenges on Messi.