West Brom fine Odemwingie over Twitter outburst

West Bromwich Albion forward Peter Odemwingie has been fined two weeks wages (a total of £76,000) by the West Brom board following a outburst on Twitter. The Nigerian international accused the club were “threatening to ruin (his) career” by not letting him move to Queens Park Rangers and heavily criticized them for leaving him on the bench for the last four games. “Keeping me on the bench now is worst than what they did on the 31st,” Odemwingie tweeted.

“If they like they shouldn’t even give me 10 mins to play. Threatening to ruin my career? Career I closed already last summer? No harm to me.”

Odemwingie tried to leave West Brom in the January transfer widow, but the club didn’t let him, and the player has been fined a total of £160,000 by the club for various incidents since then. The thirty-one-year-old was told “you should be sacked,” by one West Brom fan, and in reply Odemwingie said “that’s my wish.”

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Ferdinand withdraws from England squad

Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand has withdrawn from the England national squad following a meeting with England manager Roy Hodgson on Sunday evening. Hodgson explained Ferdinand could not play in England’s World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro “due to the detailed pre-planned training and medical program he (Ferdinand) must follow.”

Ferdinand had been called up to the squad by Hodgson after previously being ignored by him and former England manager Fabio Capello since his last cap, against Switzerland in June 2011. There had been doubts about whether Ferdinand would play for England, and Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson stated that playing for England would disrupt Ferdinand’s fitness program.

“Roy Hodgson phoned me to say he had called him (Rio) up and I was quite surprised,” Ferguson said. “I did say to him that I will talk to Rio.

“The issue is not that (amount of games), the issue is his whole preparation for football today.

“It involves treatment, it involves rest, it involves heavy days followed by some light days followed by some easy days.

“Our medical staff and fitness lads have done a great job with him. That’s the issue.

“Because he hasn’t been playing international football, when the international breaks have come along, we have detailed all the things he has to do: when he trains, when his treatments come along, therefore it is a disruption to his normal preparation.”

But on Saturday Ferguson announced that Ferdinand would join the squad, and when asked if Ferdinand would join, he answered “Yes.” However, following Ferdinand’s meeting with Hodgson, it has been announced that the thirty-four-year-old would not make the trip to the England camp.

“Rio Ferdinand has been forced to withdraw from England’s forthcoming fixtures with San Marino and Montenegro,” an English Football Association statement read. “The decision was taken following a meeting in London on Sunday evening with Rio Ferdinand and England Manager Roy Hodgson.”

Hodgson has expressed his disappointment on Ferguson withdrawing, but did not rule out the possibility of Ferdinand returning to the England squad. “I’m disappointed Rio will not be available, but due to the detailed pre-planned training and medical programme he must follow it’s not possible. However, I was pleased that Rio called and asked to meet with me. It was important to hear from him personally about the way he must manage his body between games.” This is not to say he cannot play back-to-back games – he can and has proven so. He’s out this time due to particular pre-planned details already in place for his programme. I must place on record how I was impressed with his commitment to playing for England and I look forward to hopefully selecting him for squads in the future.”

Ferdinand has also told of his disappointment on having to withdraw. “It was important for me to be able to speak with Roy face to face and explain the situation, and one thing I made clear was that my passion and commitment to represent my country is as strong as ever. It is disappointing that I won’t be able to play a part in the upcoming games but I told Roy that I want to continue to be available for England and I look forward to working with him in the future.”

Ferdinand has been replaced by Tottenham defender Steven Caulker for the qualifiers.

Barcelona and Real Madrid kept apart in Champions League Quarterfinal draw

Spanish rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona were kept apart in the Champions League Quarterfinal draw, with Madrid set to face Galatasaray and Barca to face David Beckham’s (the last Englishman in the competition) Paris Saint-Germain side. The two sides can still meet in the Semis or the Final, but for now, el Clasico fans will have to wait. The draw was held in Nyon, Switzerland on Friday with former Liverpool player and TV pundit Steve McManaman making the draws. The standout draw is Bayern Munich versus Juventus, with their contrast of styles leaving the tie open for either side to win. Malaga has been drawn with Borussia Dortmund, and with the German champions main focus now being this competition (because they are now out of the running for the Bundesliga title), the Spanish side will have their work cut out.

Barca came back from a 2-0 loss in the first leg to overcome AC Milan 4-0 in the second leg at the Nou Camp. Saint-Germain beat Valencia 3-2 on aggregate in the Round of 16, and managed a 1-1 draw in the second leg without main forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic (due to the Swede getting a red card in the first leg). Barca will be trying not to fall behind in the first leg like they did verses Milan, and Saint-Germian’s expensive attack could cause problems for the Blaugrana. Saint-Germian’s best chance of winning will be if they contain Lionel Messi (arguably the best player in the world), which worked wonders for Milan and Celtic at home earlier in the competition.

Manchester United will be woefully watching Real Madrid take on Galatasaray, with the Spanish champions only advancing to the Quarterfinals due to Nani getting an undeserved red card to put United down to ten men in the second leg of their tie. Madrid will be playing Didier Drogba and Wesley Snider’s Galatasaray side who narrowly defeated Schalke 04 (Gala won 4-3 on aggregate due to Umut Bulut’s injury time winner in the second leg) in the Round of 16. This season’s top two scorers in the Champions League will face off in this tie, with both Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Galatasaray’s Burak Yilmaz looking to score their ninth goals in this seasons competition. Madrid manager Jose Mourinho will be looking to become the first manager to win the competition with three different teams, having won with Portuguese side Porto and Italian side Internazionale. Former Madrid player and the drawer of the ties Steve McManaman commented on Madrid’s tie saying: “Real have had to do it the hard way so far- they have beaten a lot of good teams.”

The stand out tie, Bayern Munich versus Juventus will be the best to watch, with the two sides’ contrasting styles making the match there for the taking. Bayern are the more attacking side and Juventus have a more laid back style. Juventus reached the Quarterfinals by beating Celtic 5-0 on aggregate, with the Italian side not allowing a goal in the stage. Bayern beat Arsenal 3-1 in their Round of 16 first leg at the Emirates, but lost 2-0 in the second leg at the Allianz Arena and only advanced through away goals.

Borussia Dortmund will play Malaga, and with the Germans main focus now being this competition, Malaga will have their work cut out. The competition also shows Malaga’s good form, and the Spanish club have only lost once in the competition so far. Malaga came back from a 2-0 loss in the first leg of their Round of 16 tie with Porto to win 2-0 in the second leg and 2-1 on aggregate. Dortmund had to beat Shakhtar Donetsk to reach the Quarters, and the German side won 5-0 on aggregate with seven different players scoring for both sides.

Quarterfinal Draw
Malaga vs Borussia Dortmund
Real Madrid vs Galatasaray
Paris Saint-Germain vs Barcelona
Bayern Munich vs Juventus

Spain stays atop new FIFA World Ranking

The March FIFA World Rankings have been released, with the only movement in the top ten ranked nations being Columbia rising above Portugal to take sixth place.  Spain, Germany and Argentina are still the top three nations with 1610, 1473 and 1309 points, but England and Italy are close behind them in fourth and fifth place.  The top movers were Afghanistan who moved up 48 places from 189th to 141st, and India who moved up 24 places from 167th to 143rd.  The worst movers were Sudan, who fell 23 places to 127th, and Chad fell 22 places to 162nd.  The worst teams have stayed the same, with San Marino, Bhutan and the Turks and Caicos Islands all on zero points, but San Marino have a (slim) chance to move up places in their match against England on March 22.  Here are the rankings at fifa.com http://www.fifa.com/worldranking/rankingtable/index.html

Ferdinand recalled to England squad

Manchester United center-back Rio Ferdinand has been recalled to the England squad for their World Cup qualifiers after an absence of almost two years.  The thirty-four-year-old has been recalled for England’s World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro, and is part of Roy Hodgson’s twenty-six man squad.  Ferdinand has won 81 caps and last played for The Three Lions on June 4, 2011 against Switzerland in a European Championship qualifier.  But Ferdinand was excluded from England’s Euro 2012 squad that reached the Quarterfinals, for what Hodgson called “footballing reasons”.  He he has been included with six other Manchester United players, and surprisingly the entire England squad (except for Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster) plays in the English Premier League with either Everton, United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, Liverpool or West Bromwich Albion.  England will play San Marino on March 22 and will play Montenegro on March 26 in qualifying Group H.

England Squad
Goalkeepers: Ben Foster, Joe Hart, Fraser Forster
Defenders: Leighton Baines, Gary Cahill, Ashley Cole, Michael Dawson, Rio Ferdinand , Glen Johnson, Chris Smalling, Kyle Walker
Midfielders: Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Aaron Lennon, James Milner, Leon Osman, Scott Parker , Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Ashley Young
Forwards: Jermain Defoe, Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge, Daniel Welbeck

Liverpool debts rise £21.8m to £87.2m

Liverpool have revealed the effects of spending on transfers, reporting a loss of £40.5 million in the ten months leading up to May 31, 2012 and a £21.8 debt increase from £65.4 million to £87.2 million in that time period.  Liverpool’s owners, Fenway Sports Group, completed expensive signings including Stewart Downing from Aston Villa and Jordan Henderson from Sunderland that accounted for most of their £40.5 million loss and debt increase.  Another factor was Liverpool’s £9.5 million pay off to former manager Kenny Daglish and his assistants.  Despite that, managing director Ian Ayre said Liverpool were being “prudent” in the transfer market and that Fenway Sports Group would continue to give Liverpool manager Brenden Rodgers the backing he needs to make Liverpool a top European club again.

“We will continue to invest in the squad – I think that is what our fans would expect,”  He told the Liverpool Echo.

“But the most important thing is that we do it prudently and in a sustainable way that is affordable, and that we all have our sights on the same goal – success.”

But it is not all bad for Liverpool, and despite their losses their annual pre-tax loss fell from £49.3 million to £40.5 million in the 2011-12 season.

Bale playes down Ronaldo comparisons

Tottenham Hotspur star Gareth Bale has played down suggestions that he is on of the worlds best players, despite being on the best form of his life.  The twenty-three-year old has already scored twenty-three goals this season, said that he is flattered to be compared with some of the worlds best players, mainly Cristiano Ronaldo.  The Welshman also said that he does not model his game on Ronaldo, despite having similar styles.

“I think anybody would love to be mentioned alongside the best in the world,” Bale told Sport Magazine. “It’s flattering but I don’t really look too much into it. I don’t get the newspapers or read too many reports, so I don’t really know how much hype there is. My friends tell me things but I just treat every day as normal and focus on my job.

“I don’t model my game on Ronaldo’s. I have my own way of playing and it’s not exactly the same but we do have similar attributes. I just like watching the best players: seeing Messi and Ronaldo. I’ve watched Ronaldo in the past and you do take things from other people’s games to try to improve as a player.”

Bale credited Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas to have much to do with his amazing form though, saying their is a lot more tactical work in his style than in former Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp’s, which has helped Tottenham.

“Harry was more ‘go out there and play how you feel and express yourself’. With André, there’s a certain shape and a style we play,” Bale commented. “I think Harry was more free and let you do what you want. André does that too but there’s a lot more tactical work. I think it’s something that’s good to learn. We’ve done well this year and I think that’s down to our defending as well as attacking.”

Despite being slow to get going, Bale has proved to be one of the best players in the English Premier League this season, scoring some superb dipping shots, mainly freekicks.  He also scored Tottenham’s injury time winner against West Ham and the winger is said to be Real Madrid’s main transfer target in the summer, and may replace Cristiano Ronaldo.