Gianfranco Zola: Has big ambitions as Watford manager Sky Bet Football Betting Retrieving latest Sky Bet odds Football Betting 10 Free Bet Watford manager Gianfranco Zola hopes play-off victory over Crystal Palace will be the first step towards Europe for the ambitious Hornets.
Watford and Palace will lock horns at Wembley on Monday as they compete for what has been dubbed the “biggest financial prize in football”.
Awaiting the winners of the Championship final is a place in the Premier League next year and a potential 120million windfall.
But the ambition of Watford’s owners – the Pozzo family, who also own Udinese and Granada – is so great that they hope the likes of Inter Milan and Real Madrid will be visiting Vicarage Road in the coming seasons.
“The owners want Watford to become an established team in the Premier League and with time our ambition is to be a European team,” Zola said.
“There is a long way to go.
Don’t forget that we are in the Championship, but that is the type of people (the Pozzos) are.” The Pozzo family took over Watford last summer, ending the often turbulent 15-year spell of Laurence Bassini’s ownership.
The Italian family gambled on replacing popular manager Sean Dyche with Zola and the move seems to have paid off, with Watford spending much of the season in the automatic promotion places before they were condemned to the play-offs on the final day of the season after losing to Leeds.
The Pozzo family have enjoyed a successful 27-year ownership of Udinese, overseeing the development of players like Alexis Sanchez and Fabio Quagliarella to help the club regain its position as one of the leading clubs in Italy.
Scepticism surrounded the family when they bought the club, but Zola thinks owner Gino Pozzo has become so enamoured with the Hornets that he may consider making them his priority ahead of Udinese and Granada next season if they go up.
“This is not down to me to answer, but I believe there is a very good chance of that,” Zola added.
“They have a lot of expectation and interest in the club.
“They are people that know what they are doing.
They will bring here their expertise and experience to make sure they are going in the right direction.” It seemed the footballing gods were conspiring against Watford when they lost to Leeds on the final day of the season.
Zola had to bring 19-year-old goalkeeper Jack Bonham off the bench after Watford’s first and second choice goalkeepers – Manuel Almunia and Jonathan Bond – suffered injuries.
The young stopper’s gaffe allowed Leeds to score a crucial winner, plunging the Hornets in to the lottery of a play-off, but they recovered and regained some of the luck they lost on that energy-sapping day against Leeds for the play-off semi-final.
Anthony Knockaert had a chance to seal Leicester’s passage to the final, but Almunia saved his spot kick and Troy Deeney raced up the other end, scoring 20 seconds later to give Zola’s side their most dramatic win in history.
Deeney has been inundated with requests for tickets for Monday’s final.
“I’ve had requests for 96,” the striker said.
“I’ve got everybody – my nan, mum, brother, sister.
I had to re-write the list because I forgot one or two, but I got (one for) everybody, so it’s going to be a good day – as long as we win.
“I’m still selling blood to pay them off, although a lot of people paid for their own to be fair.” Deeney has endured a rollercoaster year.
This time last year he was sentenced to 10 months in prison for affray following a street brawl in Birmingham.
The striker has since gone on to score 20 goals and claims he is totally rehabilitated.
He will give two of the tickets to guards he got to know during his time at Thorn Cross prison in Cheshire, where he spent the last part of his three-month spell behind bars.
“I have got them a couple of tickets,” Deeney said.
“I had football conversations with them, they were big on sport.
“Being up north there were Manchester United fans, Manchester City fans and Liverpool fans so me being a Birmingham fan wasn’t the best – I had to talk about the Premier League all the time.”
John Oxx: Hopeful Trainer John Oxx expects the fast ground at the Curragh to suit Little White Cloud in the Airlie Stud Gallinule Stakes on Sunday.
The Dalakhani colt outran his odds in the Derrinstown Derby Trial when a close third behind Battle Of Marengo and Loch Garman.
“He ran well in the Derrinstown Derby Trial on his first run of the year when the ground was a little dead for him,” said Oxx.
“That run should have sharpened him up nicely and fast ground will suit.” Aidan O’Brien runs Leading Light and Count Of Limonade.
Joseph O’Brien has opted for Leading Light, with Ryan Moore on Count Of Limonade.
“Leading Light won a maiden at the back end of last season and won nicely,” said O’Brien jnr.
“He was very impressive in Navan so I’m looking forward to him.
“Count Of Limonade has done nothing but improve.
He won a Dundalk handicap off a high enough mark and the good ground should suit him.
They are both in good form and should both run well.”
Craig Bryson: New three-year deal for Derby midfielder Sky Bet Football Betting Retrieving latest Sky Bet odds Football Betting 10 Free Bet Midfielder Craig Bryson has pledged his future to Derby County after agreeing terms on a new three-year contract.
The 26-year-old, who was due to be out of contract at the end of next season, has extended his stay at Pride Park to the summer of 2016 and will sign the deal when he gets back from holiday.
Bryson has established himself as a regular in the Derby midfield since arriving from Kilmarnock in the summer of 2011, scoring 11 goals in 85 appearances, and he is delighted his future has been sorted out.
“I want to be part of what the club is trying to achieve, so it’s great we’ve got something sorted and I’ve made it clear for a while that I’ve settled into the area and wanted to stay,” Bryson said.
“I’ve really enjoyed the last two seasons and I think with the progress we’ve made in that time, especially in the last 12 months, we can kick on and make a real challenge towards the top six next season.
“We’ve got a strong team in place already with an excellent spirit and the manager has made no secret of the fact he wants to add to it over the summer to see if we can have an even better season next year, which is quite exciting.” Manager Nigel Clough said: “Craig is a key player for us so it was always high on our wish list to get something agreed with him.
“There aren’t too many players like him around so this is an important piece of news for us that he wants to remain at Derby County for the next three years.
“People always comment on his work-rate, but that does him a disservice in many ways because he is an extremely good player with a lot of quality.
His goals from midfield have been vital for us throughout the course of the last two seasons as well.”
Neymar: Weighing up offers from Barcelona and Real Madrid Sky Bet Football Betting Retrieving latest Sky Bet odds Football Betting 10 Free Bet Neymar will take his time to make a decision about his future after Santos accepted two offers for the Brazil forward.
The Brazilian side confirmed on Friday they had accepted two bids for the 21-year-old, widely thought to be from Barcelona and Real Madrid.
But after a meeting between club officials, Neymar and the player’s father, no immediate decision was reached.
A statement from the club read: “In a meeting with representatives of the management committee of Santos FC, striker Neymar Jr was made aware of the offers received by the club and he will analyse them in the coming days before making a final decision.” Neymar admitted he was flattered by the interest in his services, but that he will not rush into making a decision on his future.
“This is an honour, the happiest moment in my life,” Neymar told Globo Esporte.
“I will now think about these two proposals.
“I will decide with my family.
There’s no hurry.
Decision can be made in five minutes, half an hour, or three days.” Neymar’s father, Neymar da Silva Santos, reiterated that his son will take his time over where to continue his career.
“No decision has been made.
We will go home, sit down and talk,” said Neymar’s father.
“We can’t decide in the heat of the moment.
We’ll see what Neymar wants.” Santos’ vice-president Odilio Rodrigues claims the two offers are are both of similar value, but revealed Neymar has had a verbal agreement with Barcelona for some time about moving to Camp Nou.
“The offers are similar, but it’s true Neymar already has a gentleman’s agreement with Barcelona for a while,” said Rodrigues.
Frankie Dettori: Could be back in time to ride in the Derby British Horseracing Authority chief executive Paul Bittar is hopeful jockey Frankie Dettori can be given the go-ahead to return to action before next weekend’s Investec Derby meeting at Epsom.
French racing authority France Galop banned Dettori, 42, for six months after he tested positive for cocaine at Longchamp last September, with his suspension reciprocated by the BHA.
The Italian had this week been due to make his comeback, but Dettori remains exiled from the sport after a test carried out by France Galop produced, according to Bittar, an “irregularity”.
The BHA chief is expectant the jockey’s return to the saddle will now be hastened after he spent the last few days in France in an attempt to address the issue.
He told The Morning Line: “I know him and his team have spent quite a lot of time with France Galop over the last few days.
“As soon as he has satisfied all of their requirements we are in a position to move very quickly.
I know they (France Galop) are very hopeful he will satisfy all of their requirements in the next few days.
“If they can, we are in a position to green light him very quickly.
The information in the public domain is all the information that France Galop have given us – just that there was an irregularity and they sought to discuss the issue with him.”
Gareth Bale: Scored 31 goals for club and country this season Sky Bet Football Betting Retrieving latest Sky Bet odds Football Betting 10 Free Bet Real Madrid ambassador Zinedine Zidane believes Tottenham winger Gareth Bale is “more than good enough” to play for the Spanish side.
Bale, 23, has just enjoyed a stellar season, during which he scored 31 goals for club and country and was named Professional Footballers Association player and young player of the year and Football Writers Association footballer of the year.
With Spurs having missed out on a place in next season’s Champions League, it has been suggested they could struggle to hold on to Bale, although the club is keen to tie him to a new deal.
Zidane’s comments are likely to add to fears over a bid from the Bernabeu, with the former France international placing Bale in the same bracket as Real forward Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.
“I’ve been watching Tottenham because Gareth Bale has been playing there,” said Zidane.
“He is consistently scoring spectacular goals and very important goals.
He is very quick, skilful and exciting.
“Of course all the talented players like that can come to Real Madrid.
Is he good enough for Real Madrid? Of course.
He is more than good enough to play for Real Madrid.
“Aside from Ronaldo and Messi, he is the player who has impressed me the most in the world.
He is outstanding.
“What has particularly impressed me is that he is consistent.
It’s not just been in one or two matches.”
Anibal Sanchez: had a no hitter in the ninth innning as the Detriot Tigers blanked the Minnesota Twins Joe Mauer broke up Anibal Sanchez’s no-hitter in the ninth inning as the Detroit Tigers saw off the Minnesota Twins 6-0.
Sanchez, who set a franchise record with 17 strikeouts against Atlanta last month, was in line for the second no-no of his career until Mauer’s single with one out in the ninth.
This time Sanchez fanned 12 while walking three for a one-hit shutout.
John Lackey hurled seven dominant innings as the Boston Red Sox rebounded from a pummelling to beat the Cleveland Indians and Terry Francona 8-1.
Lackey allowed one unearned run on two hits, striking out eight and walking three as he continued to impress after his return from Tommy John surgery.
Chris Davis hit his MLB-leading 16th home run as the Baltimore Orioles beat the Toronto Blue Jays 10-6.
Jordan Zimmermann pitched seven strong innings for his National League-leading eighth win as the Washington Nationals beat the Philadelphia Phillies 5-2.
Michael Cuddyer had a home run and three RBIs on his return from the DL in the Colorado Rockies’ 5-0 victory over the San Francisco Giants.
Walk-off single Jeff Keppinger hit a walk-off single as the Chicago White Sox beat the Miami Marlins 4-3 in 11 innings.
Chris Young belted a three-run homer in the ninth as the Oakland Athletics rallied for a 6-5 win over the Houston Astros.
Joey Votto, Ryan Hanigan and Brandon Phillips all homered in the Cincinnati Reds’ 7-4 win over the Chicago Cubs.
Allen Craig and David Freese both went yard in the St Louis Cardinals’ 7-0 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, while the Texas Rangers held off the Seattle Mariners for a 9-5 victory.
The New York Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays 9-4, the Milwaukee Brewers edged out the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-1 and the Arizona Diamondbacks were 5-2 winners over the San Diego Padres.
The game between the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves was suspended because of rain at 5-5 in the top of the ninth and will be concluded before Saturday’s scheduled meeting.
Kris Letang celebrates after making it 3-0 to Pittsburgh.
James Neal was the star of the show as the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Ottawa Senators 6-2 to reach the NHL Eastern Conference finals.
Neal scored a hat-trick and added an assist for the hosts, who won the series 4-1 and will next face either the New York Rangers or the Boston Bruins for the right to play in the Stanley Cup finals.
Tomas Vokoun, who has been the starting goalie for the Penguins since taking over for Marc-Andre Fleury prior to game five of their first-round series, stopped 29 shots to improve to 6-1 in this post-season.
The top-seeded Penguins swarmed all over the somewhat listless Senators from the opening face-off and took the lead 6:25 into the first period when Mark Eaton set up Brenden Morrow.
Neal made it 2-0 from a rebound in the second period and Kris Letang followed with a wrist shot over Craig Anderson’s glove.
Beautiful finish Ottawa’s Milan Michalek produced a beautiful finish to make it 3-1 with 3:48 left in the second but Evgeni Malkin scored on a breakaway just before the intermission, restoring Pittsburgh’s three-goal advantage.
And Neal produced a pair of powerful wrist shots in the third period to claim his first career play-off hat-trick and put the Penguins through to the conference finals for the first time since they won the Stanley Cup in 2009.
Anderson made 27 saves for the Senators and Kyle Turris scored their second goal, in between Neal’s pair of third period strikes.
Neal said: “We gave them the respect they deserved and we came out and, I think, we surprised ourselves.
“We played with a lot of speed and got it behind them and got to the net.”
John Terry (left) and Frank Lampard (right): Have won a number of trophies together at Chelsea Sky Bet Football Betting Retrieving latest Sky Bet odds Football Betting 10 Free Bet Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard hopes team-mate John Terry will follow him in agreeing a new contract to remain at the club.
England international Lampard, 34, signed a new one-year deal last week, following a season that saw him overtake Bobby Tambling’s record as the club’s leading all-time goalscorer.
The future of club captain Terry, 32, has been the subject of speculation after an injury-hit campaign during which he was often left out of the side by interim boss Rafa Benitez.
The defender has one year left on his existing deal at Stamford Bridge.
Lampard told the Sun: “I know JT will want to stay, he’s said he’d love to stay at Chelsea.
He feels the same as me.
“Why play anywhere else when you love the club you’re at? JT’s the captain of the club and does a brilliant job.
“At the start of next season, I think that’s when the club will take a view on it.
I know what my view would be.” Terry made 27 appearances for Chelsea in all competitions last season, scoring six goals.
Arjen Robben: Hailed by Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes Sky Bet Football Betting Retrieving latest Sky Bet odds Football Betting 10 Free Bet Bayern Munich coach Jupp Heynckes believes Arjen Robben is even more important to the German giants’ Champions League quest this term.
Robben was cast in the role of villain 12 months ago when he missed the extra-time spot-kick that cost his side victory on home soil against Chelsea.
With a disappointing Euro 2012 campaign to follow and then an early season injury, it seemed the Dutchman’s influence was fading.
But Robben has slowly returned to form, contributing two of Bayern’s seven goals in their semi-final mauling of Barcelona and being an integral figure in their pursuit of the Treble.
And ahead of Saturday’s all-German showdown with Borussia Dortmund at Wembley, Heynckes said: “It is not a surprise.
“Arjen was very motivated after the European Championships last summer.
But he got injured and lost time.
“He is still driven by ambition.
He has a professional approach and is in good form.
“He is a very important player in my system because he has learned to take on defensive roles.
That makes him a lot stronger than he has been in the past.” Heynckes reported a fully fit 21-man squad, which will allow Bayern to start favourites to lift their first European crown since 2001.
With the Bundesliga title already confirmed and a German Cup final against Stuttgart to follow next week, Heynckes accepts his team are something special.
“We have achieved some extraordinary things,” added Heynckes.
“Overall, our season has been the best in the Bundesliga from any team in 50 years.
“But we have the aspiration to carry on.
We want to maintain our form tomorrow and in the German Cup final.
“I am fortunate.
I have won the Champions League before when I was at Real Madrid.
For the players in our squad who are 28 and over, tomorrow could be the crowning moment of their entire careers.” Although Bayern have not beaten Borussia Dortmund in six meetings since February 2010, they start overwhelming favourites given the manner in which they have transferred their imperious domestic form on to the European stage.
Thomas Muller acknowledges the side Bayern wrested the Bundesliga title from have plenty of quality, despite the absence of Bayern-bound Mario Gotze.
However, he is adamant his side are the stronger.
“Borussia are a complete team,” Muller said.
“That is harder to deal with than a group of individual players, even though their individuals are also very good.
“But I don’t have believe we have any weaknesses.
We have played a lot of games, scored a great deal of goals and not conceded many.
“I have a really good feeling.”