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Mihajlovic ready to face his past when Milan host Lazio

Sinisa Mihajlovic

The coach helped Lazio to their most successful period in club history during his time there, but all of that will be forgotten when the two teams clash at the San Siro on Sunday night.

Sunday’s match between AC Milan and Lazio is more than just another game for Rossoneri tactician Sinisa Mihajlovic considering the great results he achieved while with the Aquile back during his playing days.

In six seasons with the Biancocelesti the Serbian scored 33 goals and won seven trophies with the side, coinciding with their most successful period in history.

A Scudetto, two Coppa Italia wins, two Supercoppa Italiana’s, a Cup Winners’ Cup and a UEFA Super Cup were the haul the now tactician helped bring to the capital club.

Considering that Lazio have won fewer trophies, six, in the other 110 years of their existence, than it’s clear to see why his time at the side from 1998 to 2004 is looked at so fondly.

Of the 33 goals he scored while there, 17 came via the freekick. He famously netted three in one match, against Sampdoria, a feat that no player has ever replicated in Serie A.

One of those efforts came against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League in 1999. Christoph Daum, who coached the Germans at the time, stated that two goalkeepers were needed to stop Mihajlovic’s goal when the two sides met.

“My ideal set piece would see Sinisa take the corner kick and Sinisa fire home with a header,” his then coach Sven-Goran Eriksson once stated.

“He’s very good in the air as well. Too bad he isn’t fast enough to do both things.”

It’s no surprise the Swede spoke so fondly of the defender, as he was the one who demanded President Sergio Cragnotti sign him, and Juan Sebastian Veron, in order to win the Scudetto. Lazio paid ₤22 million to sign him, a fee that was considered quite large at that time as well.

However his time at the club was blotted by controversy as well, as he was banned for two matches after directing racist remarks at Patrick Vieira during Lazio-Arsenal.

He also received eight matches for spitting on Adrian Mutu during a 2003 match with Chelsea, though Lazio fans are more inclined to talk about his freekick strike at Stamford Bridge that saw the Biancocelesti become the first Italian side to win on Chelsea’s home ground back in March 2000.

He has only ever defeated the Aquile on one occasion as coach, a 1-0 victory while with Catania back in 2010, to go along with a draw and seven defeats, but he will no doubt be keen to better that line despite his strong affection for the Biancocelesti.

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Man. United vs Middlesbrough: League Cup Preview

Man. United vs Middlesbrough

Manchester United face Middlesbrough in the fourth round of the League Cup at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening.

United beat Ipswich Town 3-0 at Old Trafford in the third round of the competition last month to earn their place against Middlesbrough. United have done well recently with a 3-0 victory over Everton in the Barclays Premier League, followed by a 1-1 draw away to CSKA Moscow in the UEFA Champions League, then a 0-0 draw against Manchester City in the league. It turned around United’s form at the start of the month, losing 3-0 to Arsenal in the worst match United have played this season. United have four more matches before the final international break of the year; the league including a visit to London to face Crystal Palace, the return fixture at Old Trafford against CSKA Moscow then the return to Darren Fletcher, Jonny Evans and Anders Lindegaard with United entertaining West Bromwich Albion.

Manchester United have a good record at home against Middlesbrough, winning 35 of the 56 competitive matches played, drawing 11 and losing 10. The last time the two sides met, back in 2008, United won 1-0, Boro last beat United back in 2004 at Old Trafford, in a 3-2 victory. Louis van Gaal has gotten over his blip in the League Cup last season, losing in their first match in the second round, so he will be looking to earn a pass into the fifth round of the competition, where it will start to get tougher. I would like to see the likes of Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira utilised in the match, which will help both bed themselves into the first team, benefiting them for their future careers. Pereira scored in his last League Cup outing and could be given another chance to do so again.

Louis van Gaal Will be without three of his stars; with Luke Shaw the long-term absence, Paddy McNair and Antonio Valencia are the two short-term injuries, meaning the Dutchman has the majority of his squad to choose from for this match. Keeping an eye on the match away to Crystal Palace on Saturday afternoon will be something the manager will be doing, aiming to keep most of his players fit for the crucial match, with United out to put the 0-0 stalemate against City to bed, earning three points on the road. Middlesbrough will put up a fight in the League Cup, aiming to book their place in the fifth round, but I believe United will be too strong for them, earning the place instead.

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Pellegrini's side look to extend unbeaten run

Manuel Pellegrini

Manchester City welcome Crystal Palace to the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday in the fourth round of the League Cup.

Manchester City will look to extend their unbeaten run to six games in all competitions when they host Crystal Palace in the League Cup on Wednesday.

Manuel Pellegrini's side have recovered from a shaky September that saw them suffer three defeats to put an impressive streak of results together, only dropping points in a 0-0 Manchester derby draw on Sunday.

Although that game finished goalless at Old Trafford, Pellegrini was still able to find some positives after watching his side keep a clean sheet for the first time since their last meeting with Palace in September.

With Sergio Aguero and David Silva still missing through injury, City will again look to Wilfried Bony to provide the firepower, as the Ivorian looks to add to his two goals in all competitions this season.

Both of those strikes came in one game – against Bournemouth – and the striker has struggled to have the impact at City that saw him thrive at Swansea City last season.

Bony failed to impress against Manchester United and Pellegrini may opt to give youngster Kelechi Iheanacho his first City start – the 19-year-old having impressed in his cameo appearances from the understitutes bench.

Iheanacho may not be the only youngster handed some vital first-team experience at the Etihad Stadium, with Pellegrini having given Manu Garcia and Patrick Roberts outings in the previous round of the League Cup.

Garcia may get his chance in place of the injured Silva, while Pellegrini will need to make a change in central midfield after Fernandinho picked up his fifth booking of the season against United - earning him a one-game ban.

Palace arrive in Manchester after two disappointing defeats in the league against West Ham and Leicester City, the loss at the King Power Stadium on Saturday was particularly frustrating for Alan Pardew, who saw a penalty appeal waved away by referee Mike Dean.

The Palace manager hopes to see a reaction from his side on Wednesday, in order to get their season back on track before league matches with Manchester United and Liverpool.

"It makes a difference to bounce back now," Pardew told the Croydon Advertiser.

"We have a big cup game to look forward to and also for our travelling fans, because they would be frustrated and disappointed like I am.

"Hopefully we can get them a win on the road [against City]."

Pardew has previous history when it comes to knocking City out at this stage of the competition, having plotted their downfall 12 months ago, when he was still in charge of Newcastle United.

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Gundogan aiming for the win

Ilkay Gundogan

The midfielder insists his side must go all out for the three points as they look to secure their place atop Euro 2016 qualifying Group D.

Ilkay Gundogan insists it is not in Germany 's nature to play for a draw against the Republic of Ireland , despite one point being all they need to seal qualification for Euro 2016.

The world champions sit top of Group D on 19 points from eight matches and are already assured of a play-off place, with a draw in Dublin all they need to secure a top-two spot and an automatic spot in France.

The Borussia Dortmund midfielder, though, expects Joachim Low's side to go for all three points and thinks their recent experience in an intimidating away venue against Scotland will serve them well.

"I think that Ireland are similar to Scotland and it is going to be a great atmosphere - we can all look forward to it," said Gundogan.

"We beat Scotland, though, and we should be aiming to do the same in Dublin to book our ticket. It has not been discussed yet, but I don't think we are going to aim to get the point we need and play a tactical game that way.

"We want to win, of course, and I am sure we will play for all three points."

Ireland assistant boss Roy Keane knows his side have two crucial qualifiers over the next week, with the game against Germany on Thursday being followed by a trip to Poland on Sunday in their final tie.

Martin O'Neill's men currently sit third, four points ahead of Scotland, but Gordon Strachan's team could still finish above them depending on the results of their own last two games against Poland and Gibraltar.

Former Manchester United and Ireland captain Keane believes the nation's current crop should be relishing the opportunity to play in such a huge game.

"With the campaign now coming towards the end, this is what the players look forward to," he said.

"It is a big game, quality opposition - this is what it is all about. We have played a lot of games with Ireland when we have not had as much possession as the opposition.

"So you have got to take that into consideration, but when we do have possession we will have to play with it and be brave. We have to look after the ball and trust the players and the qualities that we have."

Germany have an injury doubt over Lukas Podolski (ankle), but in-form Bayern Munich forward Thomas Muller - who has scored eight goals in seven qualifiers - is sure to provide Germany's chief attacking threat.

Ireland will be checking on the status of Seamus Coleman (hamstring) and Wes Hoolahan (heel) ahead of kick-off. Ciaran Clark and Marc Wilson are ruled out, as are Glenn Whelan and James McClean (suspended). 

Keane also said he expects his namesake Robbie Keane to play despite missing training on Tuesday after his wife gave birth.

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Walcott vows to deliver for England

Theo Walcott

With England's skipper sitting out training with a knock, the 26-year-old Arsenal forward is determined to add to his impressive recent scoring record whilst on international duty.

Theo Walcott is eager to carry his club form into England's final two Euro 2016 qualifying matches - especially with Wayne Rooney a doubt due to injury.

England captain Rooney was forced to sit out training on Wednesday after picking up a knock in Manchester United's 3-0 defeat to Arsenal last weekend.

Walcott, who starred in the Gunners' dominant victory over Louis van Gaal's side, is determined to produce the goods for his country as England look to finish their qualifying campaign with a 100 per cent record against Estonia and Lithuania.

"I’d love to maintain my Arsenal form for England," he said. "Things are going great, I’m looking after myself and looking forward to the next two games.

"I feel good and when players feel good it's a great opportunity to give them a chance. Everyone knows I want to play up front.

"Wayne is the only person who can tell you whether he'd play. We'll know tomorrow if he can train but if he is not 100 per cent the manager will make a decision. It's always great to see him. He is the England captain and he will want to play.

"This feels like a special group and that shows with eight wins from eight. Hopefully we can get 10 from 10, which no other European country has done. All eyes were on us after the World Cup but we have reacted well and managed to turn things around in a short time as well."

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