Premier League

Begovic ignores transfer talk

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Thu, 07 Mar 2013 11:01:00

Former Hoffenheim coach Ralf Rangnick believes a spell back in the second division might do the club some good as they struggle for survival in the Bundesliga.

Former Hoffenheim coach Ralf Rangnick believes a spell back in the second division might do the club some good as they struggle for survival in the Bundesliga.

Rangnick led Hoffenheim from the third tier of German football into the top flight in consecutive seasons before leaving in early 2011.

He is now director of sport at Salzburg but continues to follow the progress of his former team and believes relegation, which is looking increasingly likely, could be a blessing in disguise.

"Relegation would be a chance to get back to the roots because Hoffenheim was always a club who were successful with the philosophy of working above all with young players," he said.

"Sadly they have veered off this path recently."

Hoffenheim slipped 11 points adrift of safety after losing to Bayern Munich last weekend, and with just 10 games of the season to go, they are running out of time to save their season.

"The situation is unfortunately so dramatic that Hoffenheim risk going down automatically," Rangnick said in the Bild newspaper.

"To be honest, (the situation) really hurts me."

Defender Lopez and winger Miyaichi both featured in the Latics' Under-21s fixture against Nottingham Forest earlier this week as part of their rehabilitation from long-term injury lay-offs.

A substitute appearance in the 1-0 fourth-round win at Macclesfield in January is the only first-team action Lopez has seen since he suffered a hamstring tear in the 2-1 Barclays Premier League loss at Norwich in December.

Miyaichi, on loan at Wigan from Arsenal for the season, has been sidelined by an ankle problem, with his last involvement with the senior side coming in a substitute run-out in the 3-0 away league defeat to Liverpool in November - a game in which he was making his comeback from a groin complaint.

Asked this morning about the duo, Latics manager Roberto Martinez - whose squad has been hit by a host of injuries this season - said: "Adrian Lopez played 90 minutes for the Under-21s and Ryo played 45 minutes, so I do consider them fully fit and I think they are available now.

"Emmerson Boyce and Antolin Alcaraz have come through our two previous games, against Reading and Liverpool, well enough.

"So I do expect everyone to be available for selection apart from Ben Watson, Albert Crusat and Ivan Ramis. Probably this is the strongest we have been this season."

The 1-1 draw in Paris guided PSG to a 3-2 aggregate success, with an opening goal from Valencia's Jonas wiped out by an equaliser from Ezequiel Lavezzi.

Now the French capital club face a wait to learn who they must face in the last eight, with the draw taking place in eight days' time.

For Ancelotti, twice a Champions League winner as a manager with AC Milan, getting through against Valencia was a fine achievement.

He said: "Over the two matches, I think we deserved to qualify. It was more difficult tonight (Wednesday) than in the away leg.

"In the first half, we played with a bit of worry about us. Paradoxically, we started to play better after the goal by Jonas and we played well in the second half. The players showed a very good reaction."

And so PSG go forward to a Champions League quarter-final for the first time since 1995, when they beat Barcelona over two legs to advance to the semi-finals.

Milan toppled the Parisians in the last four, but on the evidence of last night's largely drab performance Ancelotti's team will struggle to make further progress this year.

The rebuilding process at the Parc des Princes is such that anything they achieve further in Europe this season can be considered a bonus.

Funds from the club's owners, Qatar Investment Authority, have been used to shape a first team capable of competing at this level but they lack the strength in squad depth of many of the clubs they might encounter next.

The absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic last night left PSG without a real presence in attack, and the suspension that counted the Swedish striker out of the second leg against Valencia will also keep him sidelined for the first match in the quarter-finals.

Club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi wants PSG to become a permanent fixture in the latter stages of the Champions League, and has designs on winning the trophy by 2016.

Al-Khelaifi is more than pleased with the progress that has already been achieved, and was full of praise for the accomplishment of finishing off a Spanish side with bags of Champions League experience.

"We are very happy to qualify for the quarter-finals," he said.

"It was a difficult match for us, but we are now one of the best eight clubs in Europe and it's magnificent.

"Before the match, I was very confident. It was a delicate operation to score tonight but everyone worked hard: the coach and the players."

The 19-year-old striker has made 10 appearances for Barnet this season but played just one game for Wood following his switch last month.

However, Lowe could be thrust straight back into Edgar Davids' squad for Saturday's visit of Morecambe with a host of forwards struggling with injuries at Underhill.

Craig Beattie has a hamstring problem while Ricky Holmes and Steve Kabba are long-term absentees.

The long-serving midfielder, 31, will begin his 15th season at Griffin Park next term.

O'Connor has been sidelined since November with an ankle injury but has resumed training this week.

Bees manager Uwe Rosler told the club website: "It is very important we give Kevin, a player who has dedicated his whole career to Brentford football club, the chance to come back from his bad injury.

"He has been unfortunate last year and this year with two injuries.

"It is important to have an experienced player, a player who has a good attitude to his job every day around on the training pitch.

"He is a player who can play in different positions for us and he does everything in the interests of Brentford FC.

"It was very important for me to keep Kevin on board. We have a very young squad, we need experience around the group. He will offer that in abundance."

The Bosnian goalkeeper was strongly linked with a move up the Premier League food chain in January, with the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United said to be monitoring his situation.

Begovic ended up seeing out the January transfer window at the Britannia Stadium, but Stoke did move to secure the services of England international Jack Butland on deadline day.

That would suggest that they are planning for life after Beogvic, with a summer move widely touted.

The highly-rated 25-year-old is paying little attention to the gossip, though, with it important for him to end the 2012/13 campaign as positively as possible.

Begovic told SportSport: "I must confess it is nice to hear these things. It is always nice to hear what others are saying, it means that you are doing a good job.

"But I have no time to think about this. My only concern is Stoke City as I want to be as good as I can be for my club, and for my national team.

"So quite simply, I really don't have any time to think about a move or anything else."

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