Premier League

Buck 'open minded' in boss search

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Wed, 10 Apr 2013 18:21:00

Vladimir Petkovic has warned Fenerbache not to rule out Lazio's chances ahead of their Europa League quarter-final meeting in Rome.

The Italians, who must host the second leg behind closed doors due to recent racist behaviour by their supporters, are facing an uphill battle to reach the last four having lost 2-0 in Istanbul thanks to goals from Pierre Webo and Dirk Kuyt.

Lazio are yet to lose at the Stadio Olimpico in Europe this season but only two clubs have ever overturned a two-goal first-leg deficit in the knockout stages - Fulham overcoming Juventus in 2010 before Steaua Bucharest ousted Ajax at the last-32 stage this year.

Petkovic, however, is buoyed by the return of star striker Miroslav Klose to full fitness and is backing his first-choice starting XI to rise to the challenge on Thursday.

He told reporters: "We really believe we can do this. I'm really confident after what I've seen from Lazio recently.

"Lazio will go out there with the best possible 11 because we want to stay in Europe. If Fenerbahce are better than Lazio then they have to prove it on the pitch. We will see who's best after 180 minutes.

"But I know that Lazio have less than a 50 per cent chance of progressing following the first leg. We have to use our heads. The most important thing is that we will play the Lazio way, imposing our own game on them and giving them problems."

Italy midfielder Antonio Candreva echoed his coach's sentiments and rallied his team-mates to shrug off last week's disappointing trip to Turkey and progress.

He said: "We knew Lazio could do this before the first leg and we're ready to handle this game in the best possible way. We will give them a game.

"There's a lot of regret about the first leg, we should have got a better result, but this is another challenge and we know our own strength. We believe."

Fenerbahce are unbeaten in their last five European away games - without conceding on their last four trips abroad - but they have lost all of their six games in Italy by two goals or more.

The Super Lig club will be without suspended defender Bekir Irtegun and the injured duo of midfielder Belozoglu Emre and striker Moussa Sow.

The Latics have taken seven points from their three league games since beating Everton in the quarter-finals but remain in the bottom three ahead of Saturday's trip to Wembley to face Millwall.

Chairman Dave Whelan said this week survival must take precedence over reaching the final, and Scharner agrees, but he does not think the latter will compromise the chances of the former.

The 33-year-old said: "Of course (survival is the priority) because it's the future for Wigan and it brings the money to run the business.

"But I don't see a problem to be in the semis and fight against relegation because it's a little island outside of the relegation fight to enjoy another football match.

"I think every single player should enjoy their time there because it's not very often you're playing at Wembley with Wigan in an FA Cup semi-final.

"It's a different pressure. We have the relegation pressure, which is very hard to handle to be honest because you have to get the points to stay up and secure the future. This is different because it's one match.

"Wigan has a lot of experience now in the relegation fight. It does bring also pressure on you because everybody's expecting Wigan to survive again. What we need to focus on in the last seven games is get nine points, that's it."

Fans' favourite Scharner spent four-and-a-half years with Wigan before leaving for West Brom in 2010 and then Hamburg, but returned to the DW Stadium in January on loan until the end of the season.

He said: "The cup was in my mind when I signed the contract on January 31 because Wigan were already in the quarter-finals. So I did think about it because I never played at Wembley.

"The FA Cup is one of the biggest occasions in world football so everybody knows Wembley. It will be a very nice experience for me."

When Scharner joined the club for the first time, the Latics were on their way to the 2006 League Cup final, where they lost 4-0 to Manchester United at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.

The Austrian said: "My memories are I was very disappointed when we lost 4-0 against an outstanding Manchester United side but I scored on my debut in the first leg of the semis against Arsenal and it's one of my best memories at Wigan."

Scharner's fellow defender Emmerson Boyce is confident Wigan will not take their eye off the ball when it comes to the league and cited the experience of Birmingham, who won the League Cup in 2011 but were relegated.

He said: "You just have to look at Birmingham a couple of years ago. I don't know whether they took their minds off the Premier League, but they got relegated.

"We need to stay in the Premier League, that's the be all and end all. We know how football can change so quickly. We can go into the semi-final on track to have a great finish to the season or it could be a big disappointment."

Wigan will also have to deal with the pressure of being big favourites to reach the final - against Chelsea or Manchester City - given they are meeting a Championship club.

Boyce knows it is a great opportunity but is confident his side will take nothing for granted.

"We're not going to underestimate Millwall," he said. "They'll go into the semi-final thinking they've got a great chance of beating us so we've got to go there and put in a professional performance and it's going to be a hard game no matter what.

"It's up to us to take the game to them and get the result that we need. For the first time probably all the pressure's on Wigan."

Accountants managing affairs since the club was placed into administration 14 months ago said a problem relating to the sale of the Fratton Park stadium had been solved - paving the way for the Pompey Supporters' Trust (PST) to complete a buyout.

Trust members said a club takeover by supporters was "ground-breaking" and bigger news for Portsmouth fans than an FA Cup win.

A High Court judge had been due to analyse issues relating to the sale of the ground at a hearing in London.

But lawyers told judge Mr Justice Peter Smith that an agreement had been reached between BDO - the firm acting as administrators - and the club's former owner.

The judge said he was pleased that an agreement had been reached and that Portsmouth would be preserved.

Fans who had travelled to the High Court from the south coast applauded and cheered when the hearing ended.

PST chairman Ashley Brown welcomed the agreement, saying in a statement: "This is a historic day for Portsmouth Football Club and for Pompey fans everywhere.

"At last, the tough work done over the last year is over and we can start to rebuild our club. Pompey fans are now days away from owning and running our club and becoming the biggest community owned football club in the country.

"We have a lot of people to thank, and much more to say, but will do that once the details of today's settlement are finalised.

"For now, we would like to offer heartfelt thanks to Pompey fans all over the world who have pledged money and have saved our club from liquidation.

"Now the next chapter of hard work begins to transform our club into something the community of Portsmouth can be proud of, both on and off the field."

Iain McInnes, the prospective chairman of PFC commented: "If you believe you can do something you can - and we have."

Buck has insisted the search for the club's next manager has not yet begun in earnest, but suggested a return for Jose Mourinho is possible.

Mourinho is expected to leave Real Madrid at the end of the season and has long been linked with a return to Stamford Bridge, where interim boss Rafael Benitez is under contract until May.

Asked if anyone had been ruled out and about Mourinho in particular, Buck told Al Jazeera at the Business of Sport summit in Singapore: "I am completely open minded about it".

The Portuguese would be the fans' choice, having steered Chelsea to two Barclays Premier League titles, one FA Cup and two League Cups during three years in west London before departing in acrimonious circumstances in September 2007.

Chelsea are still to draw up a list of the possible 10th manager of Roman Abramovich's 10-year ownership.

"We really haven't started that yet," Buck added.

"We're all thinking about it and have some ideas and certainly Mr Abramovich is thinking about it.

"At the moment we're concentrating on the end of the season."

Benitez was appointed in November after Champions League-winning boss Roberto Di Matteo's departure when the Blues became the first holders of the trophy to exit at the group stage.

Chelsea are now in the Europa League and Buck's comments come on the eve of the quarter-final second leg with Rubin Kazan in Moscow. Chelsea hold a 3-1 first-leg lead.

Buck has been chairman since Abramovich's takeover in 2003, with the Russian oligarch's reign coinciding with great success, despite managerial turmoil.

Buck said: "I know we have fired what most people would say are a lot of managers - terminated the relationship is a better way to describe it - but we've always thought long and hard when we've done it.

"It's always difficult, it's always sad when a relationship is terminated.

"We don't look back, we always look forward and see where we're going and figure out how we get there.

"We certainly believe in stability in managers, but it has to be with the right manager."

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