Martinez ready to knuckle down

first_img Press Association Toffees fans might be starting to get concerned about the prospect of a real battle to beat the drop. But manager Martinez – whose side have thrived in the Europa League this term in contrast to their domestic struggles – insists he and his players are not looking down the league table. Asked about the fear of being dragged into a relegation fight, the Spaniard said: “It is not about fear. “We have a real strong sense of responsibility and we want to win games. “We have a very talented squad and we have incredible characters who understand what is needed to perform well and win football games. “We have 10 games left and 30 points to fight for, and we are going to give our lives to get as many as we can.” Asked if Everton were too good to go down, Martinez said: “No, but we are a team very confident in the talent we have, which had a terrific season in the last campaign (when they finished fifth). “Everything you want in a football team is there – what we want is games and a bit of a positive feeling. Roberto Martinez stressed Everton will “give their lives” to get as many points as possible between now and the end of the season after their 2-0 loss at Stoke. “We are not looking down. We haven’t got the amount of points we wanted, but it has been very small margins and we are looking forward to the next 10 games. “We will face the challenge straight on. We want to get as many points as we can.” Everton were put to the sword on Wednesday by a superb Victor Moses header in the 32nd minute and rebound effort six minutes from time from Mame Biram Diouf, who slotted in after fellow substitute Marko Arnautovic had hit the post. Martinez’s men failed to muster much in response and he suggested the amount of games they have had to cope with of late – including a two-legged Europa League last-32 victory against Young Boys – had taken its toll. “We didn’t show enough cutting edge,” Martinez said. “I did feel we had a lot of character, gave a lot of effort and everything we had, but probably it showed that it was our fifth game in two weeks. “Now what we need is a proper opportunity for our players to recover, and then we will face the challenge that we have on – 10 (more league) games, six of those at Goodison Park, and trying to get some positive momentum.” Meanwhile, Martinez thinks Everton’s England full-back Leighton Baines (thigh) may still be unavailable for next Thursday’s Europa League last-16 first leg against Dynamo Kiev, but is confident he will be available for the Premier League clash with Newcastle three days later. Things are looking very positive for Stoke, who have won their last three league matches, seven of their last 11, and are now up to eighth in the table on 42 points. The Potters are looking to better their Premier League club record set last term of a ninth-placed finish and total of 50 points, which certainly appears achievable – and their fans may even be wondering about a push for Europe. Manager Mark Hughes said: “I was delighted. Three wins in a row, two successive clean sheets. I couldn’t ask for anything else. “We are ahead of where we thought we’d be. We are eighth at the moment and we’d love to finish the season in that position if we can. “We are now above (10th-placed) West Ham, who have had an outstanding season. At one stage we were many points behind them and we have been able to catch up and overcome them, so it shows the run we have been on. “Given the amount of injuries we’ve had to deal with, we’ve done remarkably well to be where we are at the moment. “The key for us is that we are still progressing from last year, even under difficult circumstances.” Stoke did suffer another injury setback on Wednesday, with defender Philipp Wollscheid having to be withdrawn early on due to a groin problem he sustained in the warm-up. The Merseyside outfit are 14th in the Barclays Premier League, only six points above the relegation zone, with 28 points from 28 fixtures. The defeat at the Britannia Stadium was the seventh in their last 12 top-flight matches, a sequence which has featured only one win and none in the last five games. last_img read more

Catch or No Catch: Thanksgiving weekend is the best time to watch football

first_imgIt starts on Thanksgiving Day with a full slate of NFL games bound to keep you couch-locked while your mom and her siblings tire away in the kitchen. There’s always three — an early afternoon game, an afternoon game and a night game. The Detroit Lions usually lose one of them, and the Dallas Cowboys typically emerge victorious in another. It’s a tradition football fans have grown accustomed to at this point, but that doesn’t make it any less special when Thanksgiving rolls around each year. For those who don’t know, Thanksgiving marks the greatest weekend of the football season. It’s a four-day celebration of all that is good and holy about the sport, opening Thursday and closing Sunday with the NFL and filling in the gaps with some of the best rivalries in college football. Just two weeks removed from a heartbreaking home loss against top-ranked LSU, the No. 5 Crimson Tide will travel two and a half hours south to face its sworn enemy without its on-field leader, junior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. It’s a win-or-go-home game for an Alabama team teetering on the edge of a playoff berth, and I can’t think of a better opponent to stand in their way than the dreaded Auburn Tigers. When most people think of Thanksgiving, they think of the basics: food, family, friends, gratitude, Black Friday and cranberry sauce (whatever the hell that is). But for me, as well as an entire nation of maladjusted sports fans, there is another pillar of Thanksgiving tradition that takes precedent over all others: football.  Sure, Ohio State has won seven straight dating back to Urban Meyer’s reign of terror, but Michigan probably has its best chance to play spoiler in years. It’s Ryan Day’s first game against Michigan as head coach of the Buckeyes, and a win would all but guarantee his team’s slot in the elusive College Football Playoff. As a two-loss team, it’s a long shot for Michigan to make the playoff, but a win against their highly ranked rivals would make a convincing argument to any skeptic on the playoff committee. The next day, after the food has settled and the hangover has kicked in, we begin the first of a two-day college football festival otherwise known as Rivalry Weekend. Some people call it the greatest weekend in sports; I’m sure others have grown tired of my hyperbole at this point. Either way, it’s certainly a weekend worth celebrating, with a seemingly endless stream of top-flight rivalry games for two whole days. There are always a few games on the docket you can’t miss while you’re busy cleaning out your fridge and freezer. Finally, if you’re from a certain part of the country where one’s identity is irreversibly tied to the college football team one pledges their allegiance to (the Dirty South, baby), there is one rivalry that trumps all others in terms of passion, commitment and disdain for the other side: the Iron Bowl. Alabama’s in-state rivalry between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Auburn Tigers is among the sport’s most beloved (or infamous, depending on how you look at it), and this year, everything is on the line.  To cap this delicious meal, right before us USC students are slated for our final week of classes, we’re blessed with a classic NFL Sunday. Look, I recognize that it’s already a weekly tradition in the fall, but a full Thanksgiving schedule doesn’t make it any less exciting. Two of the season’s best games fall on this Sunday, with a matchup between the conference-leading San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens and a Sunday night clash between the New England Patriots and the Houston Texans. At noon Saturday, No. 2 Ohio State and No. 10 Michigan face off in what is known in the American sports canon as “The Game.” That’s right, not “The Game Up North” or even “The Big Game,” just “The Game” — as in The Only Game you should ever be concerned about. Ohio State and Michigan have been facing off for more than a century now (this Saturday will mark the 116th game between the two programs), and the rivalry is still as fresh as it’s ever been. It sounds like a lot of football because it is and that’s the point. If the football season is an indie movie (which, for some of us, isn’t a stretch), this weekend is the emotional climax where the protagonist dunks her head underwater and comes of age — or something. Either way, I already forgot what we’re getting three days off of school for. Sports! Matthew Philips is a senior writing about football. He is also a former lifestyle editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “Catch or No Catch,” ran every other Tuesday.last_img read more

Neymar could still face Real, no operation planned: Emery

first_img0Shares0000Neymar still has a small chance of playing against Real, his PSG coach Unai Emery says © AFP / GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELTPARIS, France, Feb 27 – Neymar still has a “small chance” of playing against Real Madrid in the Champions League and there are no plans for an operation on his cracked bone, Paris Saint-Germain coach Unai Emery said on Tuesday.“For Neymar there has been no decision to have an operation,” said Emery, denying an earlier report in the Brazilian press that the world’s most expensive player would go under the knife to fix the cracked bone in his foot. “Neymar is the first to want to play every match, he’s very focussed on Real. I think there’s a small chance that he’ll be ready for the match,” added Emery.PSG trail 3-1 from the last 16 first leg in Madrid two weeks ago and the loss of Neymar would be a huge blow to their chances of overturning that deficit at the Parc des Princes on March 6 and reaching the Champions League quarter-finals.Neymar suffered a cracked metatarsal in his foot and a twisted ankle in an innocuous looking incident against Marseille on Sunday night.And while Spaniard Emery said there is a possibility he’ll recover by next week, he was more pessimistic than he had been on Sunday night.“Today, after analysing Neymar, it looks less likely than it did on Sunday that he’ll be ready for this match,” said Emery.However, he was clear in his dismissal of a report published by Brazilian newspaper Globo Esporte on Tuesday morning that claimed a decision had already been reached for Neymar to undergo an operation, and that he would be out until May.– ‘Tranquility and patience’ –“Last night (Monday) the club issued an official statement: it said how the player was medically,” said Emery.“Things (like operations) aren’t decided like that,” he added, clicking his fingers.“You need discussions with the doctor, the player, his entourage.“To make such an important decision you need tranquility and a bit of patience.“Right now, I don’t think you need anything else. There’s a lot of information from outside, but the truth is what I told you, which is what the doctor told me.”Neymar was visibly in pain before he was stretchered from the pitch © AFP / GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELTWhile PSG’s primary concern is having the world’s most expensive player available for their Champions League match next week, in Brazil it is Neymar’s participation at the World Cup that is most pressing.The 26-year-old captained Brazil to their first ever Olympic gold medal 18 months ago on home soil and is seen as crucial to their hopes in Russia in June and July.Were he to undergo an operation now and return to fitness in May, that would suit Brazil, who could then rely on a fully fit and fresh Neymar for the World Cup. Four years ago, Neymar missed the semifinal against Germany with injury and Brazil were thrashed 7-1.Globo had said Neymar would have a “pin” attached to his metatarsal bone and would be fit to return in May.Recovery from metatarsal injuries usually take weeks, if not months.Just last year, Neymar’s international team-mate Gabriel Jesus was out of action for two months after breaking a metatarsal playing for Manchester City.Former England stars David Beckham and Wayne Rooney spent six weeks on the sidelines with metatarsal injuries in the past.Earlier on Tuesday, AFP spoke to a number of medical experts who all set a downbeat tone.“It would be very risky as it’s a fragile bone in the foot which is difficult to protect,” said Jean-Marcel Ferrat, a former doctor with the France national football team.“(Playing against Real) could compromise the rest of his season.”Parisian osteopath Alain Gosp Server said such injuries normally take “three weeks to heal”.“It will all depend on his treatment but what’s sure is that he wouldn’t be at 100 percent (in eight days),” added Gosp Server.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)last_img read more