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Van Gaal expects Di Maria to stay at Old Trafford

Angel di Maria

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal believes embattled winger Angel di Maria will remain at the club amid doubts surrounding his future, though the Dutchman concedes the decision rests in the player's hands.

Di Maria signed a five-year deal with United for a British record transfer fee of £59.7million last August but the former Real Madrid star is already being linked with a move away from Old Trafford, with French champions Paris Saint-Germain reportedly interested.

The Argentina international has not started a match since he was sent off in United's 2-1 FA Cup quarter-final loss to Arsenal in March but Van Gaal has been impressed by the 27-year-old's attitude.

"I think Di Maria shall stay. He cannot say that he has had a marvellous season here, but he is working very hard. I am pleased with his attitude, so that is not a problem," Van Gaal told reporters.

"The manager and the club is always dependable on the opinion of the player himself. The player decides, so we shall see what he decides.

"The decision is not only [down] to him because we have a contract, so we shall speak always with every player and evaluate, as I always do. Then we speak with each other about the future, and that is [the case] with every player."

Asked whether last year's FIFA World Cup has worn out Di Maria, Van Gaal replied: "I hope! You cannot always say that is the main factor. Of course, it plays a role and I hope it is that, because then we can have a fantastic season next season.

"You have to adapt to our philosophy and that is also difficult for him, probably. Normally he shall have a fantastic season, I believe in that."

While Van Gaal expects Di Maria to be at the club next season, the Dutch boss revealed plans are well underway to add reinforcements to the playing squad.

United have been linked with off-season moves for Real Madrid winger Gareth Bale, Borussia Dortmund duo Mats Hummels and Ilkay Gundogan, as well as PSV Eindhoven starlet Memphis Depay.

"This summer is very important, of course. We need balance in our selection. I cannot deny that. But we are very busy with that,” Van Gaal added.

"I am looking for players who fit in as my players, so that has to be a quicker adaptation than players who I have received when I came here in Manchester United."


Mourinho calm in bid for title glory

Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho says the champagne is not on ice as Chelsea bid to secure the Premier League title in front of their own fans against Crystal Palace on Sunday.

Chelsea have dominated domestically this season, losing just twice in the league, and another win would confirm a first top-flight crown since 2010.

A 3-1 come-from-behind victory at lowly Leicester City in midweek left Chelsea on the cusp of a fourth Premier League triumph and a third under Mourinho.

The Portuguese is understandably eager to ensure the task is finished at Stamford Bridge, but stressed it would be foolhardy to feel the job is already done.

"It's easy. We need two or three points to be champions. Let's say three, to make sure we don't depend on goal difference," Mourinho said.

"We need a victory or we need three points with three draws. Obviously, we want to finish as soon as possible.

"If we can do it at home, better. If we can do it on Sunday, even better. That's what we have in our mind.

"Similar to [the games against] Arsenal and Leicester, we go to win but, at this moment, any point that we get is a positive point. So, we are calm.

"At this moment we have nothing prepared [for celebrations], nothing organised."

Chelsea, who are once more without top scorer Diego Costa (hamstring) but welcome back Loic Remy (calf), come up against a manager that has already masterminded a victory over them this season.

Alan Pardew was the manager of Newcastle United when they beat Mourinho's side 2-1 at St James' Park in December.

Since taking over at Selhurst Park in January, Pardew has steered Palace to safety, but he has been left disappointed by back-to-back 2-0 defeats in home matches against West Brom and Hull City.

Pardew has now called on his team to respond in the correct manner and ensure Chelsea's title celebrations are put on hold for at least another week.

"Last weekend was below the group's standard. I didn't even need to tell them, they told me. We didn't reach the levels last week," he said.

"We need to respond following our recent defeats, for ourselves and to keep the Premier League title race interesting."

Palace remain without forwards Fraizer Campbell and Marouane Chamakh (both hamstring), but Joel Ward will hope to shake off a shin injury.


Off-field problems dominate build-up for Inzaghi´s men

Filippo Inzaghi

Milan will be desperate to ease their off-field problems by clinching a much-needed three points at home to Genoa in Serie A on Wednesday.

A dreadful season for Milan hit a new low in Saturday's 2-1 defeat at Udinese, which left the club in 10th position and struck a potentially fatal blow to their already slim hopes of playing European football next season.

More worrying for the club's supporters were reports in Italy of a bust-up between head coach Filippo Inzaghi and members of his squad in the aftermath of the Udinese loss.

Inzaghi has endured a torrid debut campaign at San Siro, and there have been persistent rumours that the former striker - who spent 11 years as a player with Milan - will be replaced.

With rumours that Thai businessman Bee Taechaubol is set to enter talks over purchasing the club, Inzaghi's future is shrouded in doubt.

Following the Udinese setback, Inzaghi apologised to the fans for the poor performance and he later revealed he and the team stayed at the club's Milanello training centre on Saturday and would remain there indefinitely.

It remains to be seen if Milan's retreat will pay dividends against a Genoa side that are still well in contention to achieve a UEFA Europa League berth.

Gian Piero Gasperini's side easily dispatched Cesena 3-1 on Sunday to leave them just three points adrift of fifth-placed Sampdoria.

Gasperini believes that Milan's slump this term has been nothing more than a blip, but he wants his team to show no let-up in their quest for Europe.

"Regardless of what the other teams do, it was vital that we got this result [against Cesena]," he told Rai Sport.

"It was another fine performance, an excellent result and our position in the table is good. There are six matches to go and now we have got to this stage, it’s only right we keep pushing.

"Milan remain a top-level team and have played well in fits and starts. It's just an off season."

Milan, who have Stephan El Shaarawy (foot) and Riccardo Montolivo (hamstring) back in training, will need no reminding of the difficulty they face at San Siro having lost 1-0 to Genoa in December's reverse fixture.

Full-back Luca Antonelli scored the winning goal on that occasion, but he could line up against Genoa this time around having returned to Milan - where he began his career - in January.


Marcelino´s men bidding to end winless run

Marcelino´s men bidding to end winless run

Atletico Madrid are the visitors to El Madrigal on Wednesday, with Villarreal desperate to bring an end to a run of nine matches without a victory.

Marcelino's side sit sixth in La Liga, although any potential hopes of sealing a UEFA Champions League spot have been dashed by a lengthy injury list, which has contributed to a poor sequence of form.

The likes of Luciano Vietto, Giovani dos Santos, Denis Cheryshev and Ikechukwu Uche have all been fitness concerns and, in their past seven league outings, Villarreal have drawn five games and lost two - scoring just one goal in the process.

That run, coupled with a 5-2 aggregate defeat to Sevilla in the last 16 of the UEFA Europa League, has seen their season tail away badly, but coach Marcelino remains positive.

"When you work towards a big objective, you must suffer a lot for it," he said following the weekend's 0-0 draw at Real Sociedad.

"The statistics say we went several games without a win, but we've been good enough to win in that time. We're feeling fine, playing good football and we must stay on this path.

"We're a young team who have gained experience this season. The manner in which the team has competed has given me great satisfaction.

"We didn't win, but we're hard to beat and once we have our players back, we'll have recovered our winning edge."

Atletico, by contrast, have been in strong form in the league recently, going unbeaten in their past 10 and losing only one of 15.

Those results mean Diego Simeone's side look set to secure third place and the final automatic qualifying berth for the Champions League, although both Sevilla and Valencia have designs on usurping them.

On Saturday, the defending Liga champions bounced back from their European exit at the hands of Real Madrid by dispatching Elche 3-0 at Vicente Calderon, Antoine Griezmann netting twice.

That brace took the Frenchman's tally to 22 for the season, behind only Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in the Pichichi charts.

"I'm happy to help the team. I wish to continue this streak, the most important thing is to help the team," said Griezmann.

"When I arrived I wanted to improve my statistics and now we have to keep working. 

"It is true that we have been playing often every three days and we have a bit of accumulated fatigue, but we have to win the remaining league matches."

While Marcelino continues to battle with a long list of absentees, Simeone's only concern surrounds Mario Suarez (hamstring).


Kagawa: Dortmund owe Klopp a trophy

Kagawa: Dortmund owe Klopp a trophy

Borussia Dortmund midfielder Shinji Kagawa argued his team owe outgoing coach Jurgen Klopp a trophy as they prepare for their DFB Pokal semi-final.

Dortmund will travel to Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich on Tuesday with a spot in the DFB Pokal decider on the line, and after a tough season that saw Klopp's men spend a long stint in and around the relegation zone, Kagawa wants to send the 47-year-old coach out on a high.

Klopp announced earlier this month that he will leave the Westfalenstadion at the end of the campaign.

In his seven seasons in charge of Dortmund, Klopp won two Bundesliga championships, one DFB Pokal title and led the club to the final of the 2012-13 UEFA Champions League, which they lost to Bayern.

"We feel a great sense of gratitude and we owe him," Kagawa told the Bundesliga's website.

"Soon it'll be time for him to go and that won't be easy, which is all the more reason why it's now about us giving even more for the coach in the last few games."

Dortmund will arrive in Munich with four wins in their past six matches in all competitions, plus a 1-0 loss to Bayern at home at the start of April.

In their past two games, Kagawa and Co. have not conceded a goal as they have accounted for Paderborn 3-0 and Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0.

The Japan international has scored in both Bundesliga fixtures.

"The Bayern game's coming at a good time for us. We'll be able to take our momentum from the league into the semi-finals of the cup," Kagawa said.

"The last few games have given us a lot of belief. That's what we want to draw on in the cup and show in Munich on Tuesday."

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