Real Madrid’s Nacho Fernandez ready to prove himself against Malmo

Andy West 30/09/2015
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Jack of all trades: Nacho.

Nacho Fernandez is eager to seize a rare chance to impress for Real Madrid in Wednesday’s Champions League trip to Malmo.

The versatile defender, 25, has only started five previous games in the competition but will be given a chance tonight in Sweden with Pepe and Sergio Ramos both ruled out by injury.

And with Sunday’s league derby date at Atletico Madrid rapidly approaching, a good performance tonight would help soothe nerves over his ability to face Los Rojiblancos if necessary.

Nacho has become a utility man since graduating from the club’s youth system, appearing in both full-back positions and in central defence when the need has arisen.

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He said: “I am prepared for what the coach wants, and I take advantage of all of the opportunities that he gives me.

“Maybe it’s not the ideal role, but I always do the best that I can. Against Malmo I want to deliver a good performance, win the game and leave with a clean sheet.”

Manager Rafa Benitez, meanwhile, has called upon his players to spread their goals across the squad to relieve the burden on Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.

Benitez said: “It’s only a matter of time until we score – Cristiano is a guarantee of goals. But we have to increase our accuracy and raise the numbers of Isco, Jese and the other players in the second line, and so we don’t depend so much on Cristiano or Benzema.”

Benitez is likely to rotate his squad tonight, with Casemiro and Mateo Kovacic likely to start in midfield.

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#360view: Manchester City’s core grown in UCL yet still look stunted

James Piercy 30/09/2015
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Europe despair: Manchester City.

Manchester City in Europe: A mystery within an enigma trapped inside a labyrinth.

Quite how a team that looks so consistently ruthless in the Premier League can be dramatically transformed into a meek and nervous outfit when faced with continent competition, is a question few, if any, have been able to provide any credible and coherent answers to.

As each season passes the belief has been that this group of players – especially the core of the likes of Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Sergio Aguero – will grow in experience and eventually stamp their authority on games against Europe’s finest, like they do so regularly within the English top flight. 

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Yet, so far, and admittedly it’s a small sample size, it’s been more of the same.

Against Juventus, a side in a suspect run of form and struggling to find any great cohesion after a summer of frenzied transfer activity both in and out of the club, City folded from a position of superiority to lose a game they really should have won. 

It says something about their Euro-phobic approach that in their 28 games in the Champions League since earning the ticket to world football’s most elite club, they have won just 10.

That, given the strength of investment at the Etihad Stadium and calibre of player clad in sky blue, is a damning indictment of the fragility that permeates this team.

It’s a fragility that we’ve also seen in the Premier League in the wake of the Juve defeat as back-to-back defeats to West Ham and then Tottenham have rendered any fears of them running away with the title this season horribly premature.

A fortnight ago City would have looked to tonight’s game in Monchengladbach as a welcome release. With six straight defeats and a series of scratched heads how Die Fohlen had fallen from finishing third last term to bottom, they would have effectively been there for the taking.

But now they are reinvigorated under youth team coach Andre Schubert, who may not possess any top-flight credentials but has certainly restored morale and given a talented group of players a sense of purpose. What did seem a walkover now seems a worry for City.

Preparations have been further clouded by the loss of captain Vincent Kompany to injury.

Calamitous he may have been last season but this term he’s returned to some semblance of his usual inspirational self.

His leadership is everything that City need to weather this squall before it breaks out into a full-blown storm.

But in his absence what Manuel Pellegrini absolutely needs is the remaining members of his aforementioned core to come to the fore. 

Between them, in City colours, Hart, Toure, Silva and Aguero have 99 Champions League appearances (notwithstanding the 35 Yaya made as a Barcelona and Olympiakos player and 19 for Silva at Valencia and 17 for Aguero at Atletico) and these sort of games should be meat and drink for them. Instead they’re always difficult to digest.

Toure and Aguero, in many ways, encapsulate City. When they’re at their very best as individuals they turn Pellegrini’s side into one resembling the very finest in Europe. At their worst – in Toure’s case all to often over the last 18 months – they appear lost and disinterested. 

Defeat tonight is by no means a disaster but City need to start showing some maturity in the competition.

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Michel Platini: Payment delay due to FIFA’s financial situation

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Michel Platini claimed that FIFA has owed him money for nine years.

Michel Platini has claimed he was not paid money owed by FIFA for more than nine years because of the world governing body’s financial situation.

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Platini, whose status has been described by the Swiss attorney general as “in between a witness and accused person” in the criminal proceedings involving FIFA president Sepp Blatter, said he was still determined to stand for the presidency himself in February.

The UEFA president said: “Mr Blatter informed me when I started my role as his advisor [in 1999] that it was not initially possible to pay the totality of my salary because of FIFA’s financial situation at that time.

“I never doubted, however, that the remaining amount owed to me would be paid eventually, so I did not actively pursue it.

“I even put the matter to the side for a while, before finally requesting that the outstanding balance was paid in 2011.”

FIFA’s accounts for the 1999-2002 period shows a deficit of 134million Swiss francs had been estimated after its TV and marketing partners went bankrupt but actually ended the cycle with a revenue surplus of 115million Swiss francs, and in April 2003 Blatter hailed the organisation as “financially more stable than ever”.

The timing of the payment to Platini in February 2011 raised questions as it came just after the Frenchman had met Asian football chief Mohamed bin Hammam, who had urged him to stand against Blatter, and two months before UEFA gave its backing to Blatter.

Platini added: “The outstanding amount for the work I did was paid when I finally requested it to FIFA.

“The fact that this payment was made a few months before the FIFA presidential elections is irrelevant since I never had any plans of becoming a candidate.

“As a matter of fact, I was extremely happy to be re-elected as UEFA President at the UEFA congress in Paris in March of 2011.”

The Frenchman said he was “calm and totally serene” about the investigation “since I don’t have reasons to be concerned”.

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