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Yarmolenko acknowledges Spain task

Andriy Yarmolenko

Andriy Yarmolenko has admitted Ukraine face a difficult challenge when they take on Spain in a Euro 2016 qualifier in Sevilla this Friday.

Ukraine travel to Andalusia joint second in Group C, level on points with holders Spain and three points behind leaders Slovakia, and the Dynamo Kiev winger accepts it is going to be tough for his team.

“We know Spain well and how difficult it is going to be against them,” remarked Yarmolenko in an interview. 

“However we’ll prepare exactly the same way we do for every opponent and spend an hour watching them. It will be the same as if we were playing San Marino. 

“We watched four or five of their games, so for Spain we’ll be watching even more – definitely not less!” 

Yarmolenko, who helped himself to a hat-trick against Luxembourg, believes his country’s campaign to date has not gone too badly. 

“We’re happy with how we’re playing and the results, although I can’t say I’m 100 per cent satisfied because we lost our first game to Slovakia. That was a very important match and we should have won it. 

“But by and large we’re happy we’ve won all our games since and there is still the chance to make up for that defeat.” 

Ukraine had their first taste of a European Championship finals three years ago and Yarmolenko is eager to grasp the opportunity to be in France next year. 

“The squad has changed a bit since Euro 2012 because two outstanding players like [Andriy] Shevchenko and [Andriy] Voronin have retired.

“The young players who have replaced them haven’t experienced these kind of tournaments so we are all desperate to get there.

“We’ll be giving our all to try and make it to the finals,” he told.

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Sturridge, Lallana Pull Out of England's Euro 2016 Qualifier

Daniel Sturridge

While Daniel Sturridge sustained a hip injury, Adam Lallana suffered a groin injury. England will take on Lithuania in Friday's Euro 2016 qualifier at Wembley and face Italy in a friendly next week.

England manager Roy Hodgson suffered a double injury blow on Monday as the Football Association confirmed Liverpool duo Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana had withdrawn from his squad for the forthcoming matches against Lithuania and Italy.

Sturridge was forced to return to Liverpool after scans showed the striker wouldn't be fit to feature in Friday's Euro 2016 qualifier against Lithuania at Wembley and next week's friendly against Italy in Turin.

The 25-year-old was reported to have sustained a hip problem during Liverpool's 2-1 defeat against Manchester United at Anfield on Sunday.

With Sturridge, who scored in the United match, already having been ruled out for several months after suffering a thigh injury while training with England earlier this season, Hodgson and his medical team were understandably keen not to take any risks with the player's fitness.

"Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge has left the England squad and returned home to his club on Monday evening," an FA statement confirmed.

"This follows a scan on an injury that he sustained during Liverpool's game against Manchester United on Sunday.

"The England medical team took the decision on Monday evening having assessed Daniel following the squad's arrival at St. George's Park on Monday afternoon."

Sturridge's absence could mean a first cap for in-form Tottenham striker Harry Kane, who took his goal tally for the season to 29 with a hat-trick against Leicester on Saturday.

Kane is in the senior England squad for the first time and will be competing with Arsenal's Danny Welbeck for the job of partnering captain Wayne Rooney in Hodgson's forward line against Lithuania.

To add to Hodgson's misfortune, Liverpool midfielder Lallana also withdrew from the squad after suffering a groin injury against United that forced him to come off at half-time.

Lallana was replaced by Tottenham's emerging young midfielder Ryan Mason, who was called up for the first time.

The 23-year-old, who has enjoyed a breakthrough season in central midfield for Tottenham, will also provide cover for Aston Villa midfielder Fabian Delph, who is suffering from a stomach bug.

Mason was loaned to third tier club Swindon last season, but he has played 29 times for Tottenham under new boss Mauricio Pochettino this term.

His last appearance in an England shirt came in 2011 when he played for the Under-20s against France.

"Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Ryan Mason has been drafted into Roy Hodgson's England squad," an FA statement read.

"The inclusion of the 23-year-old follows the withdrawal of Liverpool's Adam Lallana through injury.

"Mason, a regular for Spurs this season, has previously represented the Three Lions at U19 and U20 level.

"Lallana wasn't the only absentee as the senior squad gathered at St. George's Park on Monday afternoon in preparation for the forthcoming fixtures against Lithuania and Italy.

"Aston Villa's Fabian Delph remained at home with a sickness bug but is expected to link up with the team later this week."

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Costa risks Chelsea and Spain anger

Diego Costa

Striker is poised to miss Spain’s vital Euro 2016 qualifier against Ukraine but is hoping to play in Chelsea’s next Premier League game.

Diego Costa is heading for more club versus country controversy between Chelsea and Spain.

Striker Costa is poised to miss Spain’s vital Euro 2016 qualifier against Ukraine and the friendly against Holland, but is hoping to play in Chelsea’s next Premier League game against Stoke City.

There could be even more trouble to come as Chelsea consider how best to manage Costa’s hamstring issues, which could also impact on whether or not he can play for Spain in June.

Chelsea’s preference is to try to avoid Costa going under the knife, but end-of-season surgery has not been ruled out. Even if he does not need an operation, the 26-year-old could be ordered to take the entire summer off.

Having suffered another hamstring problem, Costa was forced out of Chelsea’s victory over Hull City with 15 minutes remaining and Spain immediately drafted Malaga forward Juanmi into their squad.

Early indications suggested Costa had suffered a hamstring strain after he underwent tests in London on Monday. The Spanish federation are due to make a final check in Madrid before confirming his absence.

Costa believes that with a period of rest he can now be fit enough to play against Stoke in Chelsea’s next fixture on April 4 and add to his 19 Premier League goals.

That could enrage Spain manager Vicente del Bosque and his players, who hit out at Chelsea and Costa earlier in the season over the former Atletico Madrid star’s absence from international duty.

Despite making 34 appearances for Chelsea this season, Costa has only played twice for Spain since moving to Stamford Bridge.

His last Spain appearances were against Slovakia and Luxembourg in October after which Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho complained about the condition in which Costa returned.

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AC Milan vs Cagliari: Serie A Preview

AC Milan vs Cagliari: Serie A Preview

AC Milan will try to get back to winning ways when they take on Serie A strugglers Cagliari on home turf on Saturday.

Filippo Inzaghi's side have not won a league game since February 22 and they were forced to relinquish all three points when they succumbed to a 2-1 defeat to Fiorentina last weekend.

Goals don't appear to be a problem for Milan as they have only drawn a blank twice in the league since the turn of the year, but they have only kept a clean sheet twice in that time.

Milan could potentially move towards the top seven with all three points this weekend, and considering Cagliari's current predicament in the bottom three of the table, a win is a strong possibility.

You'll have to go back to January 24 to find Cagliari's last win in the top flight - since then, the club have suffered five defeats and two draws, which has left them in danger of relegation.

Cagliari are four points away from safety and they don't have the best record against this weekend's opponents as they have not beaten them in their last five meetings.

However, they did secure a 1-1 draw on home turf back in October, and they may feel encouraged by the fact that Milan have struggled to find league wins of late.

Mattia Destro is expected to lead the line for Milan on home soil, while Ciao Rangel is likely to play for the visitors.

 

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Wenger looking to move on after Euro exit

Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger has called on Arsenal to "move on" from their European exit when they travel to Newcastle United in the Premier League on Saturday.

A 2-0 victory at Monaco on Tuesday saw Wenger's side eliminated on away goals in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League.

Arsenal return to league action this weekend at St James' Park, where they have not lost since December 2005 and sealed 1-0 victories on their last two visits.

A happy hunting ground could be just what Arsenal need to banish their midweek disappointment as Wenger looks to ward off the attentions of Manchester United and Liverpool in the scramble for a top-four finish.

"We have good memories at Newcastle but they are always very tight, very difficult games," said the Arsenal manager. 

"They are in a position where they are not under threat to go down. 

"They always have a very motivated crowd and they always play well against us, which makes it a tight game."

With nine games remaining, Wenger's side trail leaders Chelsea by seven points, but it is the teams below them who are arguably more of a concern, with Southampton and Tottenham also in contention with United and Liverpool.

The task facing Newcastle, therefore, is a daunting one and that is added to by the fact they have lost their last six encounters with Arsenal and are struggling with injuries and suspensions.

John Carver revealed on Thursday that he only has 13 fit senior outfield players for this weekend's clash, meaning his substitutes' bench will have a youthful look to it.

However, the Newcastle head coach is wary of starting some of his less experienced players against a side challenging at the top of the table.

"Saturday is not the environment for young lads, especially against an in-form Arsenal side," he said. "It's not the right time for them.

"They [Arsenal] are a good footballing side who like to play, so we have to be patient. But we have one or two things up our sleeve."

Like Arsenal, Newcastle are coming into the game following disappointment, last weekend's 3-0 defeat to Everton was their second successive loss in the league and means they have won just twice in 2015.

Fabricio Coloccini was sent off in that game at Goodison Park and begins a three-match ban, adding to Carver's woes with Papiss Cisse also suspended following a spitting incident with Manchester United's Jonny Evans earlier this month.

Arsenal could welcome back Tomas Rosicky for the trip north, but Wenger confirmed it will come too soon for Mathieu Debuchy (shoulder), Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere (both ankle). 

 

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