Russia's sports minister says 2018 infrastructure is on track

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Mutko (l) and the 2018 logo.

Russia’s sports minister says preparations for the 2018 World Cup are on track but admits to delays in the construction of hotels in host cities.

“Overall work done in the framework of the federal programme for infrastructure preparation is on schedule,” sports minister Vitaly Mutko told R-Sport news agency on Wednesday.

Mutko added that Russia’s “complicated economic situation” — in part linked to Western sanctions and low oil prices — had not affected its investment budget for World Cup preparations.

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The sports minister however deplored that economic woes had slowed the construction of hotels in some of the 11 tournament host cities.

“There are problems with delays in the construction of hotels in a number of regions because most of them are investment projects,” Mutko said.

“The crisis could not but affect investors,” he said, adding that the cities of Kaliningrad, Volgograd and Rostov-on-Don had experienced issues.

Mutko said he was confident the problems would be resolved in the “near future”.

Russia in June slashed its World Cup budget by nearly 30 billion rubles ($448 million), sparking fears that the country’s ambitious project would be marred with delays.

Mutko at the time said that the new budget, which was cut from 660.6 billion rubles to 631.5 billion rubles, would not impact the construction and renovation of stadiums.

The Interior Ministry on Wednesday said it was concerned that Russia was still lacking the 12,000 stadium stewards required to ensure security at its 12 World Cup venues.

But Russian sports authorities have remained upbeat, with Mutko saying he hoped the tournament would appease global tensions after Moscow’s relations with the West plunged to their post Cold-War nadir over the Ukraine crisis.

Relations between Russia and the West soured over Moscow’s the annexation of Crimea in March 2014 year and its subsequent support of a pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

There is also bitterness amongst other 2018 candidates over allegations Russia was awarded the World Cup by a backroom deal made with FIFA prior to voting for the host country.

Mutko has maintained Russia was not aware of any behind-the-scenes deals and that the country’s bid for the tournament had been fair.

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Gary Neville named new Valencia manager

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Neville joins up with some familiar faces in Valencia.

Gary Neville will take his first steps in management at Valencia after being named head coach for the remainder of the season.

Since the former Manchester United and England defender retired during the 2010/11 season, the 40-year-old has become an acclaimed pundit with Sky Sports and worked as a coach under national team manager Roy Hodgson.

Now Neville will try his hand at management in Spain, having been given the reins at Primera Division outfit Valencia until the end of the season.

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“Valencia have reached an agreement with English coach Gary Neville for him to be coach of the first team until June 30, 2016,” the club said in a statement.

“Neville will officially begin his work on Sunday, December 6 ahead of the Champions League match against Lyon which will take place at Mestalla on Wednesday, December 9.”

Neville’s brother Phil has been at the club since the start of the season, working as an assistant to Nuno Espirito Santo before he left the club after a poor run of results on Sunday.

“I am very excited and feel very proud to have received this great opportunity with Valencia,” Neville told the club’s website.

“It is a huge club of immense prestige and I remember well from my time as a player the great passion and loyalty of their fans.”

Los Che have been without a coach since Nuno quit following Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Sevilla – a decision the Portuguese informed owner Peter Lim of prior to kick-off.

The Singaporean businessman also owns a 50 per cent stake in Salford City, with the rest split between Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and the Neville brothers.

Neville will continue in his role as England coach, with Hodgson saying: “I’m delighted that Gary has decided to take this excellent opportunity.”

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La Liga Top 5: Neymar & Aduriz continue to catch the headlines

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Who played better - Neymar or Aduriz?

Each week, Sport360 will be bring you the best five players from La Liga, as chosen by you the supporters through our ValoraFutbol fan ratings tool.

– BALLAN D’OR: Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar nominated
– BALL: Marking Neymar, Barcelona brilliance & appearing on Basque TV
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YOU have direct influence on who appears in each Top Five so be sure to rate each weekend.

1)   NEYMAR (Barcelona) – 8.43

The Brazilian took his tally to 14 for the season with two goals and a late assist. He tucked away a Dani Alves corner after 22 minutes and met Jeremy Mathieu’s cross with a neat flick early in the second half. Neymar continues to be at the fore for most Barcelona attacks and turned provider to send teammate Messi in from close range for the Catalans fourth.

2)   ARITZ ADURIZ (Athletic Bilbao) – 8.00

Aduriz registered a hat-trick as Athletic Bilbao overcame Rayo Vallecano 3-0 at home. His first goal was a gem and underlined his intelligence on and off the ball. A well-measured through ball found Aduriz and he nonchalantly beat keeper Juan Carlos from close range to put the hosts in control.

3)   ALEXIS (Getafe) – 7.85

Held the defence effectively during Getafe’s 2-0 win against Villarreal. With Angel Latifa milking the headlines for his clinic finishing, Alexis epitomised a voracious work-rate on and off the ball and proved to be a menacing presence throughout the match for the winners.

4)   DANI ALVES (Barcelona) – 7.81

Consistently one of the best defenders in La Liga, Alves has an eye for space and providing key passes to unlock opposition defences. He assisted Neymar’s early goal, and was again to the fore to play-in Luis Suarez for a tremendous strike just before half-time.

5)   ANGEL LAFITA (Getafe) – 7.71

Lafita was a thorn in Getafe’s 2-0 victory over Villarreal as he scored one and assisted Alvaro Vazquez’s 51st minute strike. Getafe’s win brings them to 13th in La Liga – two points ahead of Real Sociedad and Sporting Gijon.

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