Author Archives: Naomi Lopez

Virgil van Dijk: Liverpool will be back at their best against Roma

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Virgil van Dijk has admitted Liverpool let their standards slip against West Bromwich Albion but insisted that their home game against Roma will prove a welcome and contrasting proposition.

Liverpool squandered a two-goal lead on their visit to West Brom after struggling to cope with set pieces late on but Van Dijk is confident they will rise to the occasion in the semi-final first leg.

“We need to do better,” he said. “You have to tell each other the truth you cannot be nice and happy when we want to achieve so much as a team and a club. A draw is not good enough but there is no reason to panic. There is no need to stress.”

“I don’t worry at all. They [West Brom] are fighting for their lives so in the end they are very direct, balls into the channel, work hard, trying to get fouls and free-kicks and we didn’t cope with that how we should have. To concede two goals from set pieces as well where we have always the same roles to do and we didn’t do that. So it is disappointing but I am not worried at all.”

After witnessing Roma’s extraordinary comeback against FC Barcelona to advance from the quarter-finals on away goals, Liverpool, who will hold their pre-match team meeting on Monday, will not be taking anything for granted against the Serie A side.

“It will be hard work and we need to be ready for anything and then obviously the tough game in Rome,” Van Dijk added. “That will be a hard one as well, but we need to enjoy that because not many players, teams come to this stage and have the chance of getting to a final. We will prepare as well as we can and see what happens.”

“I have not played against Dzeko before but everyone knows the result against Barcelona. They are a very good team and we have to be ready. I don’t fear anyone. We play a different style to Roma. It will be a different game to this one. The system we played at the end today won’t be the same.”

Arsene Wenger: ‘hurtful’ supporters damaged Arsenal’s image

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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has admitted that supporters campaigning for the manager’s removal had created a “hurtful” atmosphere that was damaging the club’s reputation on a worldwide scale.

Wenger made it clear he was “not tired” and wanted to continue working in football, but declined to explain in full why had chosen to break his contract, stating that he would wait until he had left the club.

However, he spoke at length for the first time about the bitter divisions that have been created among Arsenal’s fanbase.

“I believe this club is respected all over the world, much more than in England, and our fans did not give the image of unity that I wanted. That was hurtful because I feel the club is respected over the world and, overall, the image we gave from our club is not what it is — and not what I like.”

“I feel this club has a fantastic image and, for me, that is absolutely vital. We can speak and speak and speak but sport is about winning and losing and you [the supporters] have to accept you will lose games, even when I will not be here anymore.”

“But it is about something bigger than just winning or losing and that was always a worry: how the club is perceived worldwide, for kids playing in Africa, China and America and the dreams it can create for young children who want to play football.”

“I am not resentful and I do not want to make stupid headlines. I just feel if my personality is in the way of what I think our club is … for me, that is more important than me staying. That is all I want to say. It is nothing to do with the fans. The fans were not happy and I can understand that. It’s my job. I have to live with that. I can accept that.”

Chelsea beats Southampton to set up FA Cup final with Man United

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Olivier Giroud’s brilliant semi-final goal helped Chelsea beat Southampton by 2-0 as the Blues go on to set up a FA Cup final with Manchester United.

Giroud, 31, received the ball from Eden Hazard and jinked his way past two Southampton players in a crowded area before he stabbed the ball home.

It was a goal which provided the game’s memorable moment as the player showed superb balance, poise and technique to finish as Southampton defenders dropped like dominoes.

The scored stayed the same, before Giroud was replaced by Alvaro Morata with 10 minutes to go and the substitute sealed safe passage with Chelsea’s second when he headed in at the back post from Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross.

Southampton went close with Nathan Redmon’’s low drive from distance while Charlie Austin hit the post, meaning that Chelsea manager Antonio Conte will come up against managerial adversary Jose Mourinho at Wembley on 19 May.

French international Giroud won the FA Cup three times as an Arsenal player and his fondness for the competition continued against the Saints with the crucial first goal.

He now has a hand in 22 goals in 26 appearances in the competition since January 2012, with 15 goals and seven assists — more than any other player in the competition during that period.

He also had scored twice as Southampton squandered a two-goal lead against Chelsea to lose 3-2 in their Premier League fixture at St Mary’s last weekend.

After his strike at Wembley he has now scored eight goals at Southampton’s expense, against no other side has he scored more since he arrived in England.

Barca one win away from title after Atletico collapse at Real Sociedad

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FC Barcelona are one win away from a 25th Spanish La Liga title after Atletico Madrid lost by 3-0 at Real Sociedad.

Diego Simeone’s side team second best throughout and fell behind when Willian Jose turned home a cutback by winger Adnan Januzaj, while substitute Juanmi made it 2-0 late on when he drove in before getting his second in stoppage time with a chip.

Barcelona will win the La Liga title with victory at Deportivo La Coruna on 29 April, after finishing second last season, three points behind rivals Real Madrid.

Atletico hosts fifth-placed Real Betis on Sunday with the chance to close the gap to Barca back to nine points, but only if Barca does not win.

Second-placed Atletico, who are now 12 points behind Barcelona with five games remaining, would travel to Arsenal in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final on 26 April but carry a concerning streak in regards to away games, as demonstrated by their rout at Real Sociedad, with Simeone putting the blame on concentration issues.

“We have to take a good look at our away form and be more alert and attentive because we are letting ourselves down on the road,” Simeone said after the game.

“Today we did not play a good first half. We improved at the start of the second half, but we did not have the consistency to get closer on the scoreboard.”

“We have to look at what happened, but congratulate Real Sociedad on their deserved win.”