Breakfast Briefing: Spain still top of the world and Mackay under attack
Portugal, Switzerland and Brazil have all gained ground in the latest update to FIFA's World Rankings list released on Thursday. World Champions Spain hold on to top spot ahead of Germany and Argentina, but most of their challengers have gained ground as Portugal jump into fourth spot, Switzerland into sixth and Brazil into ninth.
The war of words between Cardiff City and their former manager has not yet abated as chief executive Simon Lim has accused Malky Mackay and former head of recruitment Ian Moody of "imprudent and careless management". Mackay is blamed for an £8.5million loss due to the transfer of Andreas Cornelius, who was signed for £10million but returned to FC Copenhagen in January. The League Managers Association (LMA) has hit back at Cardiff though, labelling the comments as "inappropriate and unprofessional" and pointing out that it was Lim rather than Mackay who had the final say on transfer of players.
Manchester United midfielder Tom Cleverley is hoping the team's warm-weather training trip to the Middle East will spark a form revival. The Premier League defending champions have endured a wretched season so far, 11 points adrift of fourth place but Cleverley believes that the mid-season getaway will improve spirits and get them back on track.
High profile signing Juan Mata is also insisting he is still happy to have made the switch from Chelsea in January, despite winning just once with the Red Devils since the transfer. David Moyes has utilised the Spaniard in a variety of midfield roles, but Mata is adamant that he is only focused on helping the team's cause as they look to fight their way out of a slump.
It's all a bit congested for Sundeland manager Gus Poyet, who is anticipating a tough final three months of the season after their game against Manchester City was postponed due to bad weather. The Black Cats are amazingly still in both local cup competitions, and their manager is afraid that the fixture congestion might take it's toll on the squad. It could be worse Gus, you could be in the Champions League too.
Norwich defender Sebastian Bassong says their recent form is turning the season into a 'nightmare'. City have won just once in their last 11 Premier League matches, leaving them in a precarious position just above the relegation zone. "I think I am dreaming - it is a nightmare," said the Norwich captain.
Giuseppe Rossi is hoping to make a quick return from injury in order to repay the faith shown in him by his club. Fiorentina's injury-cursed striker broke down again in last month's 1-0 win against Livorno, but scans have shown that he does not require further knee surgery.
Juventus will be without striker Mirko Vucinic for a lengthy period of time though, after reports that he had sprained his right knee during training on Thursday. The 30-year-old has escaped ligament damage, but the injury is expected to keep him out for 'several weeks'.
Milan coach Clarence Seedorf says colourful forward Mario Balotelli still has lots of work to do before he can be considered a champion. The Italy forward was in the spotlight recently after he was filmed crying on the bench during the match against Napoli, but his manager believes he is destined for great things if he knuckles down and really applies himself.
La Liga strugglers Rayo Vallecano have confirmed the signing of Romania captain Razvan Rat on a free transfer. The defender had been without a club since being released by West Ham last month, but has put pen to paper on a deal that last till the end of the season.
Meanwhile in France, a group of Ligue 1 clubs including Paris Saint-Germain are taking legal action against a decision to allow Monaco to operate tax-free. A dispute between Monaco and the LFP, French football's governing body, had been resolved last month with the club allowed to pay a lump sum and stay in the Monegasque principality, but a number of their competitors have been angered by the decision.