Breakfast Briefing: Fearful Capello and bemused van Gaal as Euro qualifiers drawn
The UEFA Euro 2016 qualifiers were drawn last night, with Russia coach Fabio Capello quaking in his boots at the thought of one Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Despite coaching the ranked team in their qualifying Group G, Capello told the media that Sweden were a team that nobody wanted in their group.
Netherlands head coach Louis van Gaal was preoccupied with more important matters though, like why he was even required to attend the qualifying draw. The 62-year-old Dutchman is preparing to step down after the upcoming World Cup, and was bemused that he was asked to front up for a competition he would not even be at in 2016.
Roy Hodgson cut a much happier figure though as England were awarded an easy enough group with Switzerland their highest-ranked opposition. The England boss will enjoy meeting a side he coached from 1992 to 1995, as he also faces trips to Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania and San Marino.
Liverpool came out tops in a 7-goal thriller last night, with Jordan Henderson scoring a late decisive goal to hand the Reds a 4-3 win over Swansea. Daniel Sturridge continued his excellent goalscoring form, becoming only the second player to net in eight consecutive matches in Premier League history.
There was heartache for Aston Villa, as Loic Remy's injury-time strike ended Newcastle's barren run of results at home with a 1-0 win. Alan Pardrew's side had gone over seven hours without a league goal, but French striker Remy lashed home from inside the area to break Villa hearts after Newcastle's Tim Krul had kept the visitors out for most of the game.
The shock result was definitely Tottenham's 1-0 defeat at the hands of relegation strugglers Norwich, as Robert Snodgrass' goals sealed an important win for Chris Hughton's men. The win was the Canaries' first in five league matches and came despite Tottenham being back at full strength after resting players for their Europa League game in midweek.
West Ham's Sam Allardyce is enjoying his side's Premier League revival as the 3-1 win over Southampton stretched their record to four wins out of four in February. The Hammers were 19th in the table on New Year's day, but their current run of results has lifted them to the top half of the table.
Arsene Wenger has also moved to calm any fears over a defensive crisis at Arsenal, stating he is confident that Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal will be fit to face Stoke City next weekend. Both players failed to complete the 4-1 win over Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, but Wenger believes neither injury is serious.
Over in Italy, Verona closed the gap on Inter Milan in the race for Europa League qualification with a 3-2 win over struggling Livorno. Juventus and Milan gained wins over Sampdoria and Torino too, as Inter could only manage a 1-1 draw against Cagliari in reply.
In La Liga news, Osasuna dented Atletico Madrid's title bid with a 3-0 win on Sunday, while Athletic Bilbao remain on course for fourth position with a routine 2-0 win over nine-man Real Betis. Atletico coach Diego Simeone had opted to rest numerous players after their Champions League exertions, but it backfired on him as Osasuna proved too good.
Barcelona are set to lose Gerard Pique for two weeks after he sustained a thigh injury during the club's 3-1 loss to Real Sociedad on the weekend. The defender completed the whole game, but the club have confirmed that he suffered a 'minor problem' during the match.
No such luck for Borussia Dortmund midfielder Sven Bender, as the Germany international was substituted at half-time on Saturday as Dortmund suffered a shock 3-0 loss at Hamburg. BVB have since reported that Bender faces 10 weeks out with an inflammation of the pubic joint, an injury layoff that could very well rule him out of World Cup contention.
The Bayern Munich juggernaut rolled on though, as they beat Hannover 4-0 to go 47 Bundesliga games unbeaten while Eintracht Frankfurt drew 0-0 with Werder Bremen.