PL: Villa are a work in progress
Mon, 03 Dec 2012 10:19:00
Jose Mourinho will leave Real Madrid at the end of the season, according to a report in Spanish newspaper Marca.
The Portuguese coach has come under fire from supporters this season following Madrid's slow start to the domestic season which has enabled arch-rivals Barcelona to establish an 11-point lead over Mourinho's men.
They are also five points behind second-placed Atletico Madrid despite Saturday night's 2-0 defeat of their near-neighbours.
Mourinho was jeered by sections of the crowd in last Tuesday's Copa del Rey defeat of Alcoyano, prompting the former Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan boss to offer supporters the chance to vent their frustration by arranging to come to the side of the pitch 40 minutes before the Atletico game.
The reaction was mixed but with less than 5,000 fans inside the Bernabeu at the time, it offered little indication as to how the majority were feeling.
Nevertheless, it is now being speculated that Mourinho and Madrid president Florentino Perez have agreed his tenure at the club will come to an end next summer.
Under a picture of a broken heart, the Marca report claims: "Jose Mourinho will not coach Real Madrid next season. Both Mou and Florentino Perez believe the Portuguese's cycle on the bench at the Bernabeu is exhausted and that the current situation cannot continue beyond June 30."
Marca, who are known to have strong links with Real, report Perez has become concerned by a number of incidents this season which have not cast the club in a good light.
Firstly, there was an incident with Sergio Ramos which saw the Spain defender put on Mesut Ozil's shirt underneath his own after the German was substituted at half-time of a game against Deportivo La Coruna.
Ramos later claimed he was merely showing support for his team-mate but the move was perceived as an attempt to undermine Mourinho's authority.
Ramos was later dropped.
There was also the public spat with Alberto Toril, boss of the reserve side Real Madrid Castilla, who play in the Segunda Division.
Mourinho accused Toril of focusing too much on results rather than trying to produce young players for the first team.
And it would seem the publicity stunt prior to the Atletico game may have been the final straw.
Marca's report added: "Florentino believes Mourinho is 'committing suicide' with his decisions and statements this season - the Ramos case, the war with Toril and checking the pulse of the Bernabeu.
"They will try to get to the end of the season in a friendly manner as Florentino does not want a crisis in the middle of the season.
"But what is certain is that the decision is taken: this will be the last season of the Mou tenure in Madrid."
The speculation is sure to alert a number of clubs around Europe and, in particular, England where Mourinho is still highly regarded following his spell at Stamford Bridge where he won two Premier League crowns and one FA Cup.
He has been linked with a return to Chelsea, currently under the interim stewardship of Rafael Benitez, and Manchester United when Sir Alex Ferguson finally retires.
Mourinho joined Chelsea after leading Porto to a surprise Champions League triumph in 2004 and remained for three years.
He then joined Inter Milan and guided the Nerazzurri to back-to-back Serie A titles.
In addition to the Scudetto, Inter also landed the Coppa Italia and the Champions League in 2010 and in doing so became the first Italian side to win the treble.
A move to Madrid ensued and after winning the Copa del Rey in his first season in charge he ended Barca's stranglehold on the Primera Division crown last season.
After AFC Wimbledon's Jack Midson had cancelled out Stephen Gleeson's 30-yard scorcher, visiting fans spilled onto the pitch near Martin's goal.
Martin, who played two matches for Wimbledon before the club's high-profile move to Milton Keynes, then broke the League Two side's hearts by denying Steven Gregory one-on-one late on before Jon Otsemobor's flicked late winner.
Tensions ran high throughout the first ever meeting between the two sides and although MK Dons fans also invaded the pitch, Martin was unfazed.
Asked what it was like being in front of the Wimbledon fans, Martin said: "It wasn't too bad, I thought I was going to get worse to be honest.
"It was a bit hairy when they came onto the pitch when they scored but they were reasonably well behaved.
"You can understand the emotions that surround this game that will overflow sometimes - when they scored obviously it was a great moment for them.
"But they didn't really show any aggression towards me, so I was happy enough just to back off.
"It would have obviously been a fairytale for them to be going 2-1 up in the last minute but I'm employed by MK Dons and the chairman here.
"So it's a great thing to make a difference for any team that you play for, let alone in a big game like this that is unique."
The Brazil international made his comeback at the weekend after three months out with a thigh problem, having already been sidelined since last November after knee surgery.
It provided the Reds with defensive surety in the middle of the pitch and allowed their full-backs and more creative midfielders, Allen and Steven Gerrard, to get forward.
The 1-0 victory over Southampton, which included a completely one-sided first half, lifted Liverpool to within seven points of third-placed Chelsea.
And Allen thinks the return of Lucas can help them close the gap further.
"You're always going to miss quality players like Lucas and it's great to have him back in the side," said the Wales international.
"His return, with the steel and quality he brings, is only going to help the team going forward.
"It's a very important role. If you look at the top teams, they all utilise that position and have a quality player there and it is for a reason, it is vital for the way we want to play.
"With him back playing, I'm sure we'll get the benefits of that in terms of points and our position in the table.
"We've closed the gap (to the top four) a bit and for a club like Liverpool, that has to be our target.
"We have got a run of games now where we want to pick up points and further reduce that deficit."
Allen is also hopeful the freedom playing alongside Lucas brings will allow him to show a different side to his game as on Saturday he was released to attack more having spent most of his debut season at Anfield in the holding role.
"That's more my natural position," he added. "I haven't played there for a while so I found myself trying to get back into the swing of things.
"I had that security of knowing that Lucas was there.
"It gives you the chance to express yourself further up the pitch, and try to get involved in creating and scoring goals."
The highly anticipated tie was settled late on by Jon Otsemobor's strike, which came after Jack Midson had cancelled out Stephen Gleeson's opener.
Ardley said: "I'm proud of the way we've handled the week. This moment that our fans have dreaded has come and gone and it's turned into a celebration of how far this club has come.
"From the fans' point of view I don't think they will ever forget (about the relocation). But I think it's a milestone for them that they've got this out of the way, the first ever one in a big cup competition.
"This was the first time, the more you talk about it the more you realise globally it's one of the most unique games there is because this is a situation that never has or never will happen again."
Lambert believes the progress being made by his crop of young players means they are winning over their critics.
The Villa boss has put the accent on youth since splashing out ?22million on revamping the squad during the summer.
It has not been an easy path with Villa dropping into the bottom three of the Barclays Premier League last month after a demanding run of fixtures which included the two Manchester clubs and Arsenal.
But Lambert's faith has never wavered and five points from the last three games - including the weekend 1-1 draw at QPR - has seen Villa climb above the safety line.
He said: "I am delighted with the way things are going. I think the lads have taken some unfair criticism at times.
"But now they are starting to get the praise that maybe they deserve.
"When we first came in, we knew we had to try and change certain things and we've done that.
"We are nowhere near the finished article. That's the big thing, but you keep building and building."
Lambert added: "Some of the football we are playing is very good. You just need results to go your way and the last few games we've done really, really fine.
"We are only a few points off mid-table so we're not a million miles away.
"The young lads have been exceptional since the games with Swindon (in the Capital One Cup) and Sunderland. I couldn't ask for any more from them.
"The only game we've been reallly turned over since then was at Manchester City. In other games we've been in it, and slowly and surely we are starting to get there."
Winger Charles N'Zogbia is expected to resume training this week after a spell on the sidelines with a knee problem.