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Pendleton advances after crash drama

Friday, April 6, 2012

Great Britain's Victoria Pendleton went from a 2-0 defeat to a dramatic last-gasp 2-1 victory over Australian rival Anna Meares in the semi final of the World Championships in Melbourne.

Reigning world champion Meares thought she had wrapped up the best-of-three semi-final 2-0, winning the first race in dramatic circumstances as the Olympic champion crashed at high speed in the final straight after making contact with the Australian.

Meares then stormed home in the second round but officials relegated Meares for moving into Pendleton's line, awarding the round to the Briton and levelling the series 1-1.

And Pendleton produced a late surge after trailing the majority of the third and final race to snatch it by millimetres in a photo finish.

Premier League - Papers: Mancini ‘would punch’ Mario, Inter keen

The Italian striker crops up across the back pages, and even on some of the front pages.

The Times lead with quotes that Balotelli’s manager at Manchester City Roberto Mancini would have found it exasperating to be the striker’s team-mate.

“If you played with me 10 years ago,” Mancini said he told his young charge, “I give to you every day maybe one punch in your head!” He added: “But no I understand this, his team-mates’ [frustrations].”

Those frustrations came to a head in the extraordinary 3-3 draw last weekend at home to Sunderland, during which Balotelli scored twice for City but also sparked an argument with his team-mate Aleksandar Kolarov over who was to take a free kick and eventually had to be led away by his captain Vincent Kompany.

Mancini seems keen to keep the 21-year-old at the club, but if Balotelli wants to move on, Internazionale could offer him an escape route, say the Daily Mail.

The striker joined City from Inter back in the summer of 2010 for a fee of around £26m, but now that Andrea Stramaccioni has been promoted from youth team coach, where he once worked with Balotelli, to manager, interest could be rekindled.

Balotelli and Stramaccioni have already met since he took the job – as the striker infamously gatecrashed his first press conference in charge.

But with lurid revelations appearing on the front pages about Balotelli’s personal life, there appears to be little let-up in the Mario story.

Balotelli interrupts press conference

Elsewhere on the back pages, the Daily Mail reports that the FA are finally ready to move for a new England manager and will start making formal approaches within the next two weeks.

Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp is ‘understood to be at the top of their list’, the paper says, but they add that Roy Hodgson is also likely to be approached.

Whoever gets the job, they cannot expect to be offered previous incumbent Fabio Capello’s £6m wages.

In transfer news, there’s a few Good Friday titbits with the end of the season drawing closer.

The Sun suggest that in-form Sunderland striker Nicklas Bendtner is going to keep his options open on his future and keep manager Martin O’Neill waiting until after Euro 2012.

Bendtner is quoted as saying he is happy in footballing terms up north, but missing London life. The Dane is on loan at the Stadium of Light from Arsenal, but could leave the Emirates for as little as £4m in the summer.

One man who wants to make a loan move permanent is West Brom goalkeeper Ben Foster, who is still contracted to Birmingham. The Mirror report that the Baggies are unlikely to get their way if Birmingham secure promotion back to the Premier League, in which case they’ll look to hold on to the former England keeper.

And Manchester United have been told to forget about making a move for Blackburn Rovers defender Grant Henley, who The Sun say impressed Sir Alex Ferguson in the 2-0 win for the Red Devils at Ewood Park.

Moving from Blackburn to Old Trafford is a well-established career path, but Rovers boss Steve Kean has told Sir Alex to cast any thoughts of signing the young Scot aside.

Kean said: “I hope Fergie’s not going to be putting a bid in. I said that to him.

“I told him leave it a bit longer because Grant is only just starting with us.”

No Barca fear for Di Matteo

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Roberto Di Matteo insists he cannot wait to face European champions Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals.

Chelsea booked their place in the last four with a 3-1 aggregate win over Benfica after a nervy 2-1 success at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

And Di Matteo insists he is confident the Blues could prove a real test to Barcelona.

"It will be exciting to play two games against one of the best teams in the world," Di Matteo said.

"We will find a strategy that will suit our players and our team to face Barcelona.

"It will be a combination of playing to our strengths and being aware of theirs.

"They obviously have some individual players who are a big threat and that are very dangerous but we have to play our game and play to our strengths."

Chelsea last faced Barca at the same stage in 2009 and went out in controversial circumstances as the capital outfit felt they were only denied by Norwegian referee Tom Ovrebo.

"We have faced them a lot of times over the years and a lot of our players have some history against Barcelona and they certainly felt they were a bit hard done by when they played against them three years ago," Di Matteo continued.

"It is going to great to play two games against them. We are looking forward to it and very pleased to be in the Champions League semi-final."

Terry struggling with injury

Chelsea captain John Terry has revealed he is finding it difficult to breathe during games but is ready to play through the pain of his suspected fractured ribs.

Terry was substituted an hour into Wednesday night's UEFA Champions League match against Benfica and is due to undergo a scan on Thursday morning.

The 31-year-old suffered the injury in last week's first-leg victory in Lisbon and was able to complete that match and play 90 minutes of Saturday's Premier League win over Aston Villa.

He admitted he was gasping for air at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, but insisted he was ready to continue playing through the pain during what is a nightmare run of eight games in just 26 days, including Champions League and FA Cup semi-finals against Barcelona and Tottenham respectively.

Terry said after the 2-1 victory over Benfica: "I couldn't breathe and my chest was closing up.

"I was having a difficult time out there, especially in the first half. Hopefully, I'll be okay.

"I don't know how long I'll be out. I will have a scan in the morning and we will see where we go from there. It's just horrible.

"In the away leg, after about 20 minutes, I got an elbow in the ribs and they sort of fear I fractured two ribs, so I've just got to wait and see the result of the scans.

"When you get one in the ribs, you can't do anything about it, you can't treat it, you just have let it heal, but I can get through games definitely.

"I thought it was okay but, later in the second half, it just seemed to be getting worse and I was struggling to breathe to be honest.

"It was difficult. I have never felt anything like that before."

Having knocked out Benfica 3-1 over two legs, Chelsea now face reigning champions Barcelona in the last four of Europe's premier competition.

Terry said: "It's a very good achievement to reach our sixth semi-final in nine years, but we want to go through to the end.

"Clearly, that's going to be tough against Barcelona, but we're playing well.

"I am not sure anyone will fancy playing us at the moment because we are a very good side, especially in this competition."

Championship - Birmingham win at Burnley

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Chris Hughton's men are now six points behind third-placed West Ham, but more importantly they extended the gap between them and seventh-placed Middlesbrough to three points by winning their game in hand.
Marlon King opened the scoring in the first half, but Birmingham were pegged back in the second by Danny Ings’s 74th minute strike.

However, Jordon Mutch scored his first goal for the Blues just 90 seconds later, and David Murphy netted a third with three minutes left on the clock.

As expected, Burnley were without Martin Paterson, who limped out of Saturday's 5-1 win over Portsmouth with a hamstring injury. The injury came just six weeks after he returned from a similar problem.

Top-scorer Jay Rodriguez is recovering from a hip problem, so Charlie Austin started up front after scoring his first hat-trick for the club as a substitute on Saturday.

Birmingham made just one change from the side that won 3-1 at Doncaster on Friday, with Wade Elliott replacing Andros Townsend in midfield.

There was a good reception from the Turf Moor fans for former players Elliott and Steven Caldwell before the game. Birmingham captain Caldwell led Burnley to the Championship play-off win over Sheffield United in May 2009, while Elliott was the goalscorer against the Blades at Wembley.

Caldwell almost gifted his former side a goal in the first minute of the game with a misplaced header that gave Josh McQuoid an early sight of goal. However, with Birmingham goalkeeper Boaz Myhill way off his line, the forward failed to get an effort on target.

Birmingham took the lead in the 11th minute, after the Burnley defence had switched off when facing a Murphy throw. Nikola Zigic flicked on, allowing King to net his 16th goal of the season with a first-time effort that deflected off goalkeeper Lee Grant and in.

Birmingham have lost 25 points from a winning position this season, the highest in the division, a statistic that would have given Burnley some hope.

But Eddie Howe’s men could not keep hold of the ball in midfield, and consequently were unable to feed Saturday’s hat-trick hero Austin.

The only chance of note for the home side was a bullet header from David Edgar in the 28th minute from a Kieran Trippier corner, which went wide.

Birmingham started the second half again the brighter side, and King should have scored when set up one-on-one down the right side of the area, but defender Michael Duff came back to brilliantly block.

But Burnley slowly started to gain a foothold in the game, with Ings turning and shooting in the 50th minute, and Myhill looked unconvincing when saving the snapshot.

The introduction of Junior Stanislas midway through the half galvanised the home side. His worrying of the Birmingham defence forced a poor clearance from Myhill, which allowed Austin a chance to control the clearance and then shoot towards goal from 35 yards. However, Curtis Davies was alert and able to clear on the line.

On 71 minutes, Stanlislas then crossed for Ings, whose shot hit the bar, then Austin headed the rebound against the woodwork.

An equaliser seemed inevitable, and it finally arrived two minutes later with Stanislas again instrumental.
The 22-year-old played a one-two down the left with Ross Wallace, and the Scot’s cross was perfect for Ings to head home his second goal of the season, and his first goal at Turf Moor.

It had been all Burnley in the second half, but they then switched off and allowed Zigic a chance, then just 90 seconds later Mutch made it 2-1 with a cool finish after King had been allowed space down the right to hook back the ball into the penalty area.

Birmingham made it 3-1 with three minutes to go, Mutch's free-kick was only half-saved by Grant, and David Murphy had time and space to shoot home the rebound for his sixth goal of the season.
Nick Royle / Eurosport

Injured Johnson out of Masters

"I have to apologise to the fans and sponsors. With heartfelt regret, I won't be playing in the Masters due to a tweaked back," he said on Twitter.

“You have no idea how much I wanted to walk the fairways at Augusta and fulfill what I’ve been practicing for!! I’ll have to root my buddies!”

Johnson will not be replaced in the field for the first major of the season.

His agent David Winkle added: "His back bothered him from time to time. He kind of played through the pain, but it was never crippling.

“He rested it at Bay Hill, got back to working some last week, and tweaked it last week lifting a jet ski.”

The big-hitting Johnson has had top-10 finishes in every major except the Masters. He lost the 2010 PGA Championship after receiving a two-shot penalty for grounding his club in a bunker on the final hole.

The Masters - US Masters: First round tee times

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Groupings for the first two rounds of the April 5-8 Masters which begins on Thursday at Augusta National Golf Club (UK time listed):

1240 Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player - honorary starters
1250/1557 Craig Stadler, Brendan Steele, Tim Clark (South Africa)
1301/1608 Jose Maria Olazabal (Spain), Robert Garrigus, a-Randal Lewis
1312/1619 Larry Mize, Paul Lawrie (Britain), Anders Hansen (Denmark)
1323/1630 Ross Fisher (Britain), Ryan Palmer, Harrison Frazar
1334/1641 Ben Crenshaw, Robert Karlsson (Sweden), a-Bryden Macpherson
1345/1652 Adam Scott (Australia), Bo Van Pelt, Martin Kaymer (Germany)
1356/1714 Steve Stricker, Padraig Harrington (Ireland), Stewart Cink
1407/1725 Aaron Baddeley (Australia), Kim Kyung-tae (South Korea), Lucas Glover
1418/1736 Kyle Stanley, Jason Day (Australia), Bill Haas
1429/1747 Trevor Immelman (South Africa), Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose (Britain)
1440/1758 Tom Watson, Johnson Wagner, a-Hideki Matsuyama (Japan)
1502/1809 Matt Kuchar, Geoff Ogilvy (Australia), Yang Yong-eun (South Korea)
1513/1820 Gary Woodland, Henrik Stenson (Sweden), Alvaro Quiros (Spain)
1524/1831 Charl Schwartzel (South Africa), Keegan Bradley, a-Kelly Kraft
1535/1842 Tiger Woods, Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spain), Bae Sang-moon (South Korea)
1546/1853 Luke Donald (Britain), Francesco Molinari (Italy), Nick Watney
1557/1250 Scott Verplank, Sean O'Hair, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (Spain)
1608/1301 Mark O'Meara, Chez Reavie, Martin Laird (Britain)
1619/1312 Sandy Lyle (Britain), Simon Dyson (Britain), a-Corbin Mills
1630/1323 Ian Woosnam (Britain), Edoardo Molinari (Italy), Kevin Chappell
1641/1334 Louis Oosthuizen (South Africa), Mark Wilson, Graeme McDowell (Northern Ireland)
1652/1345 Zach Johnson, Ian Poulter (Britain), a-Patrick Cantlay
1714/1356 Kevin Na, Fredrik Jacobson (Sweden), Ben Crane
1725/1407 John Senden (Australia), Jonathan Byrd, Paul Casey (Britain)
1736/1418 Bernhard Langer (Germany), Jason Dufner, Charles Howell III
1747/1429 Mike Weir (Canada), Brandt Snedeker, Webb Simpson
1758/1440 Vijay Singh (Fiji), Lee Westwood (Britain), Jim Furyk
1809/1502 Thomas Bjorn (Denmark), Scott Stallings, Rory Sabbatini (South Africa)
1820/1513 Fred Couples, Darren Clarke (Northern Ireland), Ryo Ishikawa (Japan)
1831/1524 David Toms, KJ Choi (South Korea), Sergio Garcia (Spain)
1842/1535 Angel Cabrera (Argentina), Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland), Bubba Watson
1853/1546 Phil Mickelson, Hunter Mahan, Peter Hanson (Sweden)

The Masters - US Masters pairings announced

Rory McIlroy has been grouped with Angel Cabrera and Bubba Watson in the first round of the US Masters, which starts on Thursday.

US Open champion McIlroy, who squandered a four-shot overnight lead with an eight-over-par 80 in the final round of last year's Masters, has been paired with 2009 winner Cabrera and long-hitting American Watson for the first two rounds.

Four-times champion Tiger Woods has been grouped with Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez and South Korea's Bae Sang-Moon.

Woods, who has been installed as a 4-1 favourite for the April 5-8 tournament, is scheduled to tee off at 15:35 UK time in the opening round at Augusta National.

Fellow American Phil Mickelson, a three-times Masters winner, will launch his bid for a fifth major title in the company of compatriot Hunter Mahan and Swede Peter Hanson in the final group of the day.
Left-hander Mickelson and his playing partners start at 1:53 p.m. on Thursday.

British world number one Luke Donald, Italy's Francesco Molinari and American Nick Watney will tee off one group after Woods, Jimenez and Bae.

In other groupings, British world number three Lee Westwood will set off with 2000 champion Vijay Singh of Fiji and American Jim Furyk while holder Charl Schwartzel of South Africa has been paired with PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley and U.S. amateur champion Kelly Kraft.

First off at 12:50 UK time, following ceremonial tee shots by golfing greats Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, will be Americans Craig Stadler and Brendan Steele and South African Tim Clark.

Champions League - Record-breaker Messi puts Barcelona through

Monday, April 2, 2012

Barcelona progressed to the last four of the Champions League with a 3-1 win over Milan at the Camp Nou, Lionel Messi scoring twice to set one record and equal another.

After a goalless draw in the first leg of the quarter-final between two of Europe's heavyweights, Messi, 24, netted an early penalty, making him the youngest player to reach 50 goals in the Champions League.

Antonio Nocerino equalised with a fine goal for the Italian side but Messi restored Barca’s advantage with another spot kick which put the Argentine level with former Milan forward Jose Altafini’s season record of 14.

That knocked the stuffing out of Milan, who were never in the races from that point onwards, Andres Iniesta adding a third and Barca wasteful as they chased a fourth in the latter stages.

Barca next face the winner of Chelsea and Benfica's tie, setting up a tantalising replay of previous clashes with the Blues and a possible Clasico final against Real Madrid in May.

As expected, Barca took the game to the visitors with their unique brand of passing dominance, but the Rossoneri had ideas of their own, threatening on the counter attack.

Indeed, the first real danger came from Milan, as Nocerino’s drilled low ball wreaked havoc on five minutes: Barca responded with a break of their own, Messi firing straight at Christian Abbiati after searing clear of Alessandro Nesta.

Messi may have been the star of the show but was guilty of uncharacteristic profligacy, putting wide from close range after chesting down Cesc Fabregas’s flick.

He made amends soon afterwards but the opening goal was all about a Milan comedy of errors: first Philippe Mexes was caught dilly-dallying by Messi, who raced clear. The Argentine wizard should have scored but, with just Abbiati to beat, he elected to cut the ball back, the chance gone.

Or so he thought - Milan’s centre-halves made a pig’s ear of clearing the ball, and as the ball skittered across the box Messi was caught by Luca Antonini’s desperate lunge.

The FIFA World Player of the Year made no mistake from the spot, drilling it past the outstretched arm of Abbiati, his first record of the night.

The script is usually pre-written after Barca take the lead and they almost added a second but for Nesta’s intervention after Fabregas was played in by Isaac Cuenca, the youngster surprisingly preferred to Alexis Sanchez.

Abbiati then made a brave stop at the feet of Daniel Alves after the Brazil wing-back wriggled through as Barca pushed hard for a second.

But Milan stunned them with a 33rd-minute equaliser, Nocerino putting them level on the night and ahead on away goals with a slick low finish after Ibrahimovic’s excellent diagonal through ball.

The upset was on but Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers had other ideas: a routine tangle at a Barca corner saw him point to the spot. Milan were furious as - though Nesta had a piece of Sergio Busquets’s shirt - Carles Puyol was also tugging away.

Such incidents are common, with most referees opting to warn players first, so Milan could be forgiven their incredulity.

Messi, uninvolved, was cool as a cucumber as he sent his low penalty into the other corner to put Barca back in front. Milan continued to complain but Barca, with two possibly penalties rejected in the away leg, will feel justice was done.

Abbiati made another decent stop from Messi late in the half, setting the tone for what would be a second 45 that Barca dominated, with Milan barely able to get a look in.

Xavi curled a free-kick just wide before, on 54 minutes, what would prove to be the match-ending moment saw Messi’s shot blocked by Mexes, the Frenchman as unfortunate as he was hapless earlier as the ball dropped to Iniesta: the Spaniard killed it dead first time before flicking a finish past Abbiati.

Milan had run out of ideas while Barca slipped into cruise-control: Massimiliano Allegri threw on Alexandre Pato, returning from a back injury but fluffing his lines when put through by a long ball, mis-controlling it into Victor Valdes’s arms.

He was hauled off just 14 minutes after coming on, and his replacement Maxi Lopez fared little better, barely getting a touch and one of several players booked late on as the visitors lost their collective rag.

You could hardly blame him as, at times, Kuipers was giving Milan carte blanche to question him: the decision to call back Robinho for handball when Gerard Pique’s point-blank clearance may have rebounded off an arm was absurd.

Meanwhile Barca were making, and missing, chances for fun: sub Thiago Alcantara put wide when it looked easier to score, Messi was denied by a flying Abbiati and Adriano - on for an injured Pique - put a defender’s finish wide when clean through.

A thrashing would have been unfair on Milan, who can now focus on fending off Juventus in the race for the Serie A title; Barca, meanwhile, are challenging on three fronts, six points shy of a stuttering Real Madrid in La Liga and with a Copa del Rey final to look forward to.

Contador will not appeal ban

The Spaniard, who was given a retroactive ban by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in February, has always protested his innocence and has not given up in his fight against the decision.

"His lawyers are studying other channels such as the possibility of taking it to Tribunal in Strasbourg (the European Court of Human Rights)," Contador's spokesman said.

In an interview with the sports daily Marca, Contador explained why.

"Last Friday, I spoke to my lawyers and they told me they didn't see it as an option to appeal to the Swiss Federal Court because it could be a waste of time and it wouldn't have a future," Contador said.

"With such little chance of success we have decided not to appeal, because in the best case scenarios, they would return the case to CAS and to the same judges."

The Saxo Bank rider is taking some days off from his training schedule over Easter to rest and said he had not yet decided which race he would return at when his ban finishes on August 5.

Contador was stripped of his 2010 Tour de France title by CAS in February and all his victories from last season, including the Giro d'Italia, were nullified.

He tested positive for the banned anabolic agent clenbuterol while competing in the 2010 Tour and blamed the result on having eaten contaminated meat.

Ferguson hits back at refereeing 'bias' claim, insisting: I'll get Keane back to tackle Vieira!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

An angry Vieira insists he was misrepresented in a BBC interview, and FA sources said last night they are unlikely to take any action against him.

But a week after he irked Ferguson by suggesting that bringing Paul Scholes out of retirement was an act of desperation, the United boss smiled when asked if the 35-year-old was trying to drag him into a slanging match as the Barclays Premier League title race hots up.
'I'm trying to analyse that,' said Ferguson. 'I'm not sure. He's more or less saying all the refs have been wrong this season and you're not supposed to discuss referees.
'So he is a paid official, isn't he? I think he is, isn't he? Apparently, he's retracted that. I can bring Keane back if he wants, and make it interesting!'

Vieira's comments followed a controversial incident at Old Trafford on Monday night when referee Michael Oliver rejected a late penalty claim from Fulham for Michael Carrick's challenge on Danny Murphy as United won 1-0 to go three points clear of City at the top of the table.
Ferguson insisted refereeing decisions even themselves out over the course of a season, and pointed to the penalty harshly awarded against Rio Ferdinand for his challenge on Newcastle's Hatem Ben Arfa in November.

The United boss had done his homework, claiming his side have been awarded an average of 'three-and-a-half penalties a year' during his time in charge.
He also tried to turn the tables on City by pointing out that Gareth Barry could have been penalised for his challenge on Stoke's Glenn Whelan at the weekend.
And he reminded his rivals that Mario Balotelli escaped a red card for his stamp on Scott Parker - the Italian received a retrospective ban - before scoring their winner from the penalty spot against Tottenham in January.
'We've had some terrible decisions at Old Trafford, like when Newcastle got a penalty kick,' said Ferguson.

'Tottenham could claim the same when Balotelli wasn't sent off and ended up scoring the winning goal. I think from the referee's position I could see why he didn't give one when Danny Murphy was brought down because the ball was moved to the angle as Michael Carrick challenged him.
'From that position it wasn't clear but it was a good claim.
'But then City could have had a penalty kick against them at Stoke, with Gareth Barry.
'Every club gets good breaks, they get bad breaks that even themselves out over a season and that will never change.

Someone said to me years ago that United always get penalty kicks at Old Trafford. But you go back through the 25 years I've been here, it's only three-and-a-half a year or something like that.'
Ferguson also responded to Vieira's suggestion that City deserve to win the title because they have played the better football.
'They were playing great football in the first half of the season,' he said.
'We felt the brunt of it when they beat us 6-1. But a season lasts for a bit longer than three months.'
City can go top again by beating Sunderland at home on Saturday before United play at Blackburn on Monday night.

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Kenny Dalglish right man for Liverpool, says Alan Shearer

Alan Shearer believes boss Kenny Dalglish remains "the right man to take Liverpool forward" despite the Reds' poor form in the Premier League.

The Reds have won the Carling Cup and are in the FA Cup semi-finals but have won only two league games in 2012.

Shearer, who won the title under Dalglish at Blackburn in 1995, said: "That is disappointing, but you have to be careful in criticising Kenny.

"Liverpool entered three competitions this season and they could win two."

Dalglish takes his side to his old club Newcastle on Sunday, having lost four out of five league games since they won the Carling Cup on 26 February, and seven out of 11 since the turn of the year.

Despite their Wembley success and a resounding win in the Merseyside derby on 13 March, Dalglish has come under increased criticism from Reds supporters as their hopes of a return to the Champions League have disappeared.

With eight games to go, Liverpool lie seventh, 31 points behind leaders Manchester United and 13 behind fourth-placed Tottenham.

But Shearer, whom Dalglish signed for Blackburn for £3.3m in 1992 and also managed at Newcastle from 1997 to 1998, feels the 61-year-old's job is safe and says the Anfield club's fans should enjoy their side's successes in the knockout competitions.

Shearer told BBC Sport: "There is a big gap there and Liverpool are not going to get in the top four this season but it still could turn out to be a good one for them.

"It's there for everyone to see that their league form has not been good enough, but if they go home with two cups then that would certainly be progress, and surely that is what it is all about for Liverpool at the moment?
"If you were to ask an Arsenal fan which they would rather have, the FA Cup and the Carling Cup in the trophy cabinet or a finish in the top four, then that is a tough question for them.

"Of course Liverpool want both. Next season will be all about winning trophies and getting in the top four, because that's the size of club they are."

In contrast, Liverpool's next opponents Newcastle have overachieved this season, and sit eight points above Liverpool in sixth place.

Shearer, a Magpies legend who played for and managed the north-east club, added: "They have had a magnificent season.

"They came into it with totally different expectations to all the teams around them. Nobody thought they would be where they are now, so there is absolutely no pressure on them between now and May.
"[Manager] Alan Pardew is doing a great job and hopefully they will build on it next season. That depends on whether they keep hold of the players they have got and whether they bring new guys in over the summer to supplement them."

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