Everton ready to send message against Spurs – Martinez

17Feb

Everton are sixth, two points behind second-placed Liverpool and four off leaders Arsenal, and their one league loss was at Manchester City where they took the lead before losing 3-1.

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They have coped with the sale of midfielder Marouane Fellaini to Manchester United with ease and in Romelu Lukaku, on loan from Chelsea, they boast one of the most lethal strikers in the top flight.

Martinez, who replaced Old Trafford-bound David Moyes at Goodison Park, has quickly established the eye-catching brand of passing football he ingrained at Wigan Athletic and Swansea City without sacrificing Everton’s steely core.

Tottenham are one point better off in fourth spot and Martinez believes the north London club, top-five finishers for the past four seasons, can act as a benchmark for his side.

“If we can win, I’m sure it sends out a message,” Spaniard Martinez, who will be without injured striker Arouna Kone, told a news conference on Friday.

“But there’s also a message internally; that you gain that confidence and belief in what you are doing.”

“This Spurs side can become something special but that’s why we’re looking forward to the challenge – because we feel that we are ready to face whatever we have got in front of us at Goodison,” Martinez added.

“I do feel that the environment that is created at Goodison is as positive as you can get as a home team and we want to use that to our advantage.”

Despite losing Welsh forward Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, Martinez said the squad Andre Villas-Boas has put together at White Hart Lane is as good as any in England.

“Gareth Bale was a phenomenal player for Spurs, there’s no two ways about it,” he said.

“But when you replace that with seven or eight players, you’re going to be in a stronger position because you don’t rely on that player.

“As a top-four club, sometimes you are outstanding at something. I think Spurs are developing to be outstanding at everything.”

Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas is impressed with Martinez’s start at Everton and the impact of Lukaku who has netted five times in seven league games.

“There is a massive difference from Moyes’ aggressive-type football to Roberto’s build-up play but there is no difference to the results they are getting,” he told Tottenham’s website (www.tottenhamhotspur.com).

“The team have bonded to Roberto’s ideas…he’s a very straightforward, open-minded coach.

“Lukaku is a player of great potential, he is strong but he’s also creative on the ball. He has a big motivation to show that he belongs to the top.”

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond and Alison Wildey)

Federer finds Masters’ touch just in time

17Feb

Switzerland’s former world number one, now ranked sixth, will face second seed Novak Djokovic in the last four in the build-up to next week’s ATP World Tour finals in London.

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“I knew it was a long time since I had been able to do that,” Federer told a news conference after his 6-3 4-6 6-3 victory over the fifth-ranked Argentine.

“So I’m happy now I won against a top 10 (player) again, especially just before London where I will have to play against three top 10 players in a row.

“It seems to be interesting and I’m happy that I made that first step today,” he added ahead of next week’s ATP World Tour Finals in London.

The 17-times grand slam champion has had his worst season in 10 years, having failed to reach any of the grand slam finals and appearing in only one Masters Series final so far.

His last victory over a top 10 player was in the Australian Open quarter-finals against then eighth-ranked Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France.

Federer’s only title this season came on grass at Halle.

Del Potro beat him in the Basel Open final on Sunday before becoming the highest-ranked player to suffer defeat at the hands of the Swiss in nine months.

“Probably has to be,” Federer said when asked if Friday’s win had been his best of the season.

“I have had some decent matches along the way ‑ maybe against less famous players than Juan Martin ‑ so I’m happy it worked out well today,” added the Swiss, who revived some of his old brilliance at the Paris indoor event.

“I think it was a good match from start to finish. That’s definitely good for my confidence, because those are the kind of wins I need right now.”

Federer will play at the ATP season finale for the 12th time next week.

(Reporting by Gregory Blachier; Editing by Ken Ferris)

Sheens wary of letting guard down v Fiji

15Jan

Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens admits Australia face a genuine Rugby League World Cup danger game against an ambitious Fiji in St Helens.

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The Group A teams meet on Saturday (Sunday morning AEDT), with Australia looking to take their game to the next level after a 28-20 win over England in the tournament opener.

The Kangaroos have won all three previous clashes with Fiji by more than 50 points but the Bati have never looked stronger; their squad littered with NRL talent across the park.

And while it would be a major surprise if the Kangaroos are seriously troubled, Sheens says Fiji are capable of exploiting any complacency or a lack of focus from his men.

“You can’t afford to let your guard and get beat,” Sheens said as Australia trained in drizzle at the 18,000-capacity Langtree Park on Friday.

“Realistically, from our point of view, we’ve got to come out and be aggressive, kick and chase and play what we know is our game.

“We’ll get our opportunities near their line but we don’t want to rush those opportunities.

“Ireland did that (in an opening 32-14 loss to Fiji) … we’re going to have to be a bit more clinical.”

The Petero Civoniceva-led Fijians were physical and aggressive in their opening match, with Sheens revealing Ireland and Canberra prop Brett White had told Kangaroos players he’d never been so sore after a game.

Sheens expects much of the same on what is expected to be a cold, wet night in St Helens.

“There’ll be the odd tackle that rocks the stadium,” he said.

“I think that’s what this sort of football is about.

“It’s been shown with Samoa and New Zealand, and a few of the other games, they’ve been very high impact.”

Sheens predicted debutants Josh Papalii and Boyd Corner would handle the occasion well and backed Daly Cherry-Evans to slot into the side smoothly at halfback in place of the rested Cooper Cronk.

Fiji will be without centre Wes Naiqama (back) but they won’t be lacking any belief, with tough forward Ashton Sims adamant the 2008 World Cup semi-finalists felt they could pull off what would be the tournament’s biggest ever upset.

“We’re going out there to win, there’s no two ways about it,” said Sims, one of three Sims brothers in the side.

“If there’s guys who don’t think we can win, I don’t really want to play.

“We’ve got our backs against the wall big time, I understand that, but most guys don’t player rugby league just to be competitive. We want to win.”

Labor stands by emissions trading scheme

17May

Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s plan to abolish the carbon tax may have to wait at least nine months after the Labor shadow cabinet agreed to block the bills unless the government moves to an emissions trading scheme in 2014.

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Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says Labor will seek to amend the government’s repeal laws after they are introduced in the first week of parliament starting on November 12.

“The opposition will move amendments consistent with our pre-election commitments to terminate the carbon tax on the basis of moving to an effective emissions trading scheme,” Mr Shorten said.

“However, if our amendments are not successful we will oppose the government’s repeal legislation, in line with our long-held principle position to act on climate change.”

Mr Abbott argues his election win gives him a clear mandate to abolish Labor’s carbon tax and associated climate change agencies and replace them with his Direct Action plan.

But Mr Shorten said Labor is not a “rubber stamp” for Mr Abbott.

“We won’t be bullied, and I won’t be bullied by Tony Abbott merely because he doesn’t accept the science of climate change,” Mr Shorten said on Friday.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt says the trading scheme is “exactly the same” as a carbon tax and the government would not support it.

Mr Hunt said repealing the carbon tax would save households $550 a year.

Business Council of Australia chief Jennifer Westacott wants the opposition to support the coalition’s legislation.

“The last thing business and the economy needs is for actions by the parliament to lead to one of the world’s highest carbon prices remaining in place for an extended and uncertain period,” Ms Westacott said.

Under Labor’s carbon pricing regime, big polluters paid a fixed price per tonne of emissions ahead of a planned shift to a market-based pricing mechanism in 2014.

The new government has the numbers in the House of Representatives to pass its legislation but Labor and the Greens will amend the bills in the Senate.

The detail of Labor’s amendments, which are yet to receive full caucus endorsement, will be released before parliament starts and the party will support a Senate inquiry into the bills.

Labor’s decision lays the groundwork for a possible double-dissolution election, which Mr Abbott has said is an option if he can’t pass his bills.

This could occur if the lower house fails to accept the Senate-amended bills, or the Senate rejects the bills outright, and the same thing occurs when they are reintroduced after a period of three months.

“We will not stop until the carbon tax is repealed,” Mr Hunt said.

“We will take each step methodically and with complete intention until the carbon tax is repealed.”

The government is likely to get its way in the Senate after July 1 when conservative crossbench senators who oppose the carbon tax take up their seats.

Nazi Gestapo chief ‘buried in Jewish cemetery’

17May

The revelation that a prominent Nazi war criminal is buried in a Jewish cemetery in Berlin has made headlines across Germany.

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Heinrich Mueller was the head of the Gestapo, the secret state police in Nazi Germany, from 1936 to 1945.

According to Professor Johannes Tuchel, head of the German Resistance Memorial Centre, his remains are interred in the Grosse Hamburger Strasse, a Jewish cemetery in Berlin.

The new revelations are based on recently released statements from gravediggers who testified they buried an SS general in what was a mass grave. The statements had been long buried in the archives of communist East Germany.

But what in hindsight seems like a tremendous mix up, was, at the time, all too easily done.

“They had to do a job. They had to collect all the bodies and Heinrich Mueller at that moment was not a prominent person, it was only a body in a general’s uniform,” Professor Tuchel said.

Mueller was rumoured to have survived the fall of Berlin, but nobody knew exactly where he ended up after the war.

A German intelligence file stated that Mueller was in the former Czechslovakia in summer 1949, but Professor Tuchel has said the file is incorrect. 

A grave for Mueller has previously emerged but, despite his name etched on the tombstone, subsequent testing revealed it was not his body which lay inside.

Unlike other prominent Nazis during the Holocaust, Mueller was camera shy.

He was in the upper echelons of the Nazi party, even inhabiting Hitler’s infamous bunker in the days before the German leader’s death, but little is known about the man himself.

However Professor Tuchel said his atrocities were well known.

“He was deeply involved in the Holocaust, he was a member of the Wannsee Conference in 1942 and he was also responsible for the mass killings of Soviet prisoners of war.”

Despite potential pressure from the descendants of Holocaust victims, the German government has no plans to open the graves to locate Mueller. 

Johnson matches course record to surge clear in Sheshan

17May

On a day when first round leader Rory McIlroy’s season-long struggles returned to haunt him on the back nine and pushed the Northern Irishman back into a tie for second with Americans Bubba Watson and Boo Weekley, Johnson was in a class of his own.

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He plundered six birdies in the first seven holes en route to a nine-under-par 63 on another pleasant day at Sheshan to rocket up the leaderboard after ending the first day in a tie for eighth.

“I played really well the last two days,” said Johnson, who posted a 12-under-par 132 halfway total.

“Yesterday, I was one-over through nine holes and then played good on the front side, which was my back side, and then I started right back up today and played really good on the front.”

Johnson is an aggressive player and he vowed to try to increase his lead, rather than protect it, over the final two rounds.

He has won seven times on the PGA Tour but is perhaps best known for blowing a chance to win the 2010 U.S. PGA Championship when he received a two-stroke penalty for grounding a club in a sandy lie on the 72nd hole that cost him a place in a playoff.

McIlroy, meanwhile, had threatened to run away with the tournament when he recorded three successive birdies to charge to 10-under after eight holes.

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However, his swing deserted him on the back nine. A poor drive at the difficult par-four 11th led to a bogey and it was a struggle from that point on as he battled to an even-par 72.

McIlroy identified his drive at the par-four 13th as the turning point of his round.

“I hit a bad drive up the left and that sort of knocked my confidence a little bit and I started to struggle from there,” he admitted.

“I just hit a couple of bad shots and then I guess I just let it affect me a little bit and then I started to doubt myself sometimes.

“I didn’t hit a lot of quality shots on the back nine. I missed the last six greens in a row, so a bit of work is needed on the range this afternoon.”

Weekley (67) made a sluggish start, hitting the ball poorly by his own admission, but a wayward shot into the water at his fifth hole seemed to light a fire inside him.

He sank a 25-footer to save par and promptly reeled off three straight birdies from his seventh hole.

Weekley, a self-confessed redneck from the Florida Panhandle region, was asked whether he enjoyed the Chinese culture.

“It’s fun. Just can’t understand them,” he said in his thick southern drawl, before adding he had no plans for sightseeing trips in China, because “I don’t need to see nothing”.

Watson, who hails from the same area as Weekley, shot a 69 that included a double bogey from the middle of the fairway at the 10th.

“I left a lot of putts out there,” the 2012 Masters champion said.

Japanese prospect Hideki Matsuyama pulled out before the round due to a back injury.

(Editing by John O’Brien)

England cash in on lifeless WACA deck

17May

Joe Root was the odd man out as England’s batsmen cashed in on a lifeless wicket in their three-day tour match against a WACA Chairman’s XI in Perth.

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Ian Bell (77no) and Jonathan Trott (64no) combined for au unbeaten 133-run stand to guide England to 2-270 at stumps on day two in reply to the WACA’s 5-451 declared.

All of WA’s top-six batsmen made it past 50.

So, too, did England’s Michael Carberry (78), Trott and Bell.

But Test opener Root could only managed 36 before being trapped in front by seamer James Allenby.

Root averaged 37.7 with the bat during England’s 3-0 Ashes triumph earlier this year.

But that figure was inflated by his 180 at Lord’s, and the 22-year-old could find himself under the pump if he fails to fire in the first few Tests of this summer’s return Ashes series.

Bell was Australia’s nemesis in England with an average of 62.4, and he again looms as a major headache.

The 31-year-old cracked 11 fours and two sixes on Friday, and looked at ease against a WACA attack that was weakened by an early knee injury to paceman Burt Cockley.

Cockley was sent off for scans after breaking down midway through his third over.

And Tom Triffitt was also in the wars, with the wicketkeeper requiring six stitches underneath his right eye after being struck in the face by a sharp-turning Michael Beer delivery.

Although England’s batsmen looked in good touch, the same can’t be said for their pace battery.

James Anderson, Chris Tremlett, Steven Finn and Boyd Rankin were meant to feast on the inexperienced WA side.

Instead, it turned out to be a famine, with the quartet picking up just three wickets between them before being put out of their misery by the home side’s declaration shortly before lunch.

Queensland’s Chris Lynn (104), Mitch Marsh (58), Luke Towers (77), Marcus Harris (69), Ashton Turner (62no) and James Allenby (53) all made England’s attack look second rate.

England are set to be bolstered by the return of skipper Alastair Cook, paceman Stuart Broad, batsman Kevin Pietersen and spinner Graeme Swann for next week’s four-day tour match against Australia A in Hobart.

Grosjean fastest in Abu Dhabi first practice

17Apr

The Frenchman, comfortably faster than team mate Kimi Raikkonen who won last year’s race, lapped the Yas Marina circuit in the searing afternoon heat with a best time of one minute 44.

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241 seconds late in the session.

Lewis Hamilton, winner in 2011 and twice on pole at the circuit, was second quickest for Mercedes and just 0.192 slower than Grosjean.

Vettel was 0.258 off the pace on a slippery track that, with track temperatures hovering around 40 degrees, will be far cooler during the day-to-night race.

Raikkonen, who triggered speculation about his relationship with the team when he failed to appear for Thursday’s media activities at the circuit, finally turned up and was sixth fastest with a lap of 1:44.929.

Grosjean has beaten Raikkonen in the last two races and finished on the podium in the last three.

Vettel, who became the sport’s youngest quadruple champion when he won in India on Sunday, is chasing his seventh successive race victory to equal fellow-German Michael Schumacher’s 2004 streak.

That is the longest winning run of the modern era, with the record of nine set by Italian Alberto Ascari over the 1952 and 1953 seasons.

Red Bull have already clinched their fourth successive constructors’ title and the focus is now on whether anyone can stop Red Bull and their 26-year-old German winning the last three races of the year.

Vettel has won two of the four races held so far in Abu Dhabi, including 2010 when he clinched his first championship.

Australian Mark Webber, Vettel’s team mate, was fourth quickest with Nico Rosberg fifth for Mercedes in a session that started slowly and without a timed lap in the first half hour.

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who had been the only man mathematically capable of making Vettel wait for the title in India, was 12th with Brazilian team mate Felipe Massa 17th.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

Red-hot Giroud and Suarez key to heavyweight clash

17Apr

Leaders Arsenal raised plenty of eyebrows when they failed to land a striker during the transfer window, leaving Frenchman Olivier Giroud, who underwhelmed during his first season in England, to lead the line.

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Giroud has since gone on to net five goals and set up a further four in nine league matches, to prove his critics wrong and help Arsenal to the top of the table.

While there were no doubts over the ability of Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, there was plenty of speculation he was set to leave the club, possibly for Arsenal, after the Anfield side failed to qualify for this season’s Champions League.

Since his return from a 10-match suspension for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic, the Uruguayan has scored six goals in four league appearances, including a hat-trick in last week’s 4-1 win over West Bromwich Albion, and has struck up a devastating partnership with Daniel Sturridge to put the doubts over his commitment to rest.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger acknowledged the impact the pair were having on their respective clubs.

“They are different styles of players,” he told reporters on Friday.

“Giroud is a real centre forward who uses space and uses his power and he’s really central. Suarez is more a player who goes on the flanks, comes deep into midfield and is more a dribbler.”

Wenger backed Giroud, who came on as a substitute for Arsenal during their League Cup defeat to Chelsea on Tuesday, to maintain his form, and gave little thought to the fact Suarez could have been lining up alongside him had Liverpool decided to sell the Uruguayan after the Gunners made a bid of just over 40 million pounds.

“I’m not focussed on that now, what is important for me, 24 hours before the game, is that I believe Giroud has proven since the start of the season that he is an exceptional striker and I am convinced that he will be up to show that tomorrow again,” said Wenger.

Midfielder Mikel Arteta will return for Arsenal after suspension but Serge Gnabry and Mathieu Flamini are out.

Philippe Coutinho could be back for Liverpool after the midfielder missed six weeks following shoulder surgery.

Arsenal have 22 points from nine games with Liverpool two points behind.

(Reporting by Josh Reich; Editing by Alison Wildey)

Coulson ‘used phone hacking to verify tip’

17Apr

Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson allegedly used “phone hacking, surveillance and confrontation” in an attempt to confirm a bogus tip about an affair involving then-home secretary Charles Clarke.

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Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC told the Old Bailey that the News of the World (NotW) heard a false rumour in May 2005 that Clarke was seeing his “attractive special adviser”, Hannah Pawlby.

The newspaper tasked private investigator Glenn Mulcaire with hacking Pawlby’s voicemails and “door-stepped” her, but Coulson also called and left her voicemails, the court heard.

“The prosecution suggests that Mr Coulson, who is now the editor of the NotW, he is not the man who stands outside people’s houses hoping to catch them out, he is the man who likes to put the story to people to see what they will say,” Mr Edis said.

He said the NotW used three ways to investigate stories: phone hacking, surveillance, and confrontation.

“The editor is personally involved in the third. Obviously he knows about the second, surveillance, he must do. What about the first? Does he know about phone hacking? He says he doesn’t, we say `Oh yes, he did’.”

Rumours about an affair involving Clarke were first picked up by the NotW’s features desk when a source who was sexually interested in Ms Pawlby was told: “Don’t bother wasting your time, she’s with Charles.”

A tape of voicemails taken from her phone on at least three occasions was seized from Mulcaire’s home in August 2006.

Investigators also found entries on the private investigator’s computer which had Ms Pawlby and her sister as “Projects”.

During the period she was being investigated, Ms Pawlby’s grandparents received anonymous calls asking for information about her, Mr Edis said.

Meanwhile, former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck and former reporter James Weatherup oversaw surveillance of Ms Pawlby’s movements.

Leaving her a voicemail on June 18 2005, Coulson told her: “I’ve got a story that we’re planning to run tomorrow that I really would like to speak to Charles about.”

Mr Edis said Coulson’s involvement in the story followed the same pattern as with other important men, such as former home secretary David Blunkett.

The jury heard on Thursday that Coulson confronted Mr Blunkett over an affair with a married woman while he was himself seeing co-defendant Rebekah Brooks, who was married at the time.

Coulson and Brooks deny conspiring with others to hack phones between October 3 2000 and August 9 2006.

Mulcaire, Thurlbeck and Weatherup have admitted phone hacking.

Chelsea’s form making selection tough for Mourinho

17Apr

Chelsea can go top for a few hours at least with victory at Newcastle United on Saturday, having reached the League Cup quarter-finals in midweek with a 2-0 victory at Arsenal.

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With 13 points from the last 15 available, striker Fernando Torres looking rejuvenated, options all across the pitch and an empty treatment room, Chelsea are clearly hitting their stride.

Yet, the form of his squad is causing Mourinho a few headaches, especially when it comes to deciding which players must be consigned to the substitutes’ bench or the stands.

“It’s not easy for me to leave players at home and on the bench because everybody deserves to play,” said Mourinho, who was given a reminder of Juan Mata’s quality in midweek when the Spaniard, who has not always started this season, dazzled at Arsenal.

“I’m unfair with the players I am not selecting because they are doing everything to play,” Mourinho told a news conference.

“It’s a difficult feeling for me. All of my players have a collective soul at the moment. That’s the most important thing.”

Mourinho has a full squad to choose from on Saturday for a fixture that has not always been kind to him.

“We have one of the most difficult matches of the whole season at St James’ Park but we want to try and keep winning,” Mourinho, whose only victory there was in the 2006 League Cup, told a news conference.

“October was magnificent for us but to be top or not to be top is a question in this moment of one point, two points and that is not very important.

“Of course it’s better to be first than be fifth, that’s obvious but no problem for us.”

Torres embodies the improvement in Chelsea and his performance against Manchester City last weekend, when he scored a late winner having set up the first goal, was arguably his best since joining in a 50 million pounds deal from Liverpool in 2011.

“I feel he’s just giving his best every game,” Mourinho said.

“When he’s the man of the match against Manchester City or when he’s not the man of the match, or when he’s on the bench and he comes on, I just feel he gives his best, always, and that’s the most important thing.

“I don’t like this history of one day the player is a disaster, the next day the player is phenomenal. I don’t think Fernando is a kid to be influenced by these wins, so I want him to be stable, I want him not to be too much worried about proving himself, or not to prove, or scoring or not scoring.”

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond)

Lotus hail ‘prodigal son’ Raikkonen

17Apr

Speaking on the day the Finn showed up for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after missing Thursday’s media activities, Lotus chairman Gerard Lopez took to the Formula One team’s website (www.

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lotusf1team.com) to calm the situation.

The partnership with Raikkonen, he said, had been a ‘perfect fit’ for Lotus.

Far from being the taciturn ‘Iceman’, thwarting the global media in its search for a soundbite or penetrating insight, Lopez presented the Finn as “actually a very talkative, very friendly guy.

“One of the unfortunate things about being in the limelight is that people are always trying to make it look like there are huge fights going on,” he added.

“We discussed the fact that Kimi was signing for Ferrari between the two of us and it was a very frank discussion.

“The whole Iceman thing actually prevails on the track from where he is very cool-headed and a very good driver. In reality he’s a kind guy…and over the two years I’ve gained a friend in Formula One which is a difficult place to do so.”

Last weekend’s Indian Grand Prix triggered fresh speculation that the relationship was on the rocks after track operations manager Alan Permane was heard swearing at the Finn as he told him to get out of team mate Romain Grosjean’s way.

Raikkonen, who won his 2007 world championship with Ferrari, replied with a similar expletive and his manager was quoted as saying he had never heard of a team treating their driver in such a manner.

“A lot was made about the comments…during the course of a tense moment in a race, but this was just one exchange taking a matter of seconds in the course of a two-year relationship,” said Lopez.

“It certainly wasn’t the most beneficial few seconds, but you have to step back and accept that everyone is passionate about racing and sometimes these things do happen.”

Raikkonen made his comeback with the team last year after spending two years in rallying and other international motorsport series.

Lopez said Lotus had always believed in the Finn and had wanted to keep him, but had not been able to match Ferrari’s offer.

“For me this brought sadness, as it’s like the prodigal son leaving us,” said Lopez, who hailed the Finn as the only reason the team was now fighting for second place in the standings.

“The first thing that Kimi did was to remove any excuses from the team. We knew we had one of the best ever drivers in Formula One and as a result of that there was no escape from whether the cars were good enough,” he added.

“With Kimi we knew we had a benchmark.

“The second thing he did was match really well with who we are as a culture…for us essentially he was the perfect puzzle piece and for him I think it was a perfect fit. I still think it’s one of the best partnerships in Formula One.”

Lotus are 24 points behind Ferrari in the constructors’ championship, and 28 adrift of second placed Mercedes, with three races to go.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Alison Wildey)

Goalkeeper Hart still sweating on City place

17Mar

Hart sat out the 2-0 League Cup victory over Newcastle United on Wednesday, although that was expected as understudy Costel Pantilimon is a regular in the competition.

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Pellegrini would not say whether the tall Romanian, who has yet to appear in the Premier League, would be wearing the gloves in place of Hart for Saturday’s home clash.

“Tomorrow you will know the XI that starts,” the Chilean told a news conference on Friday. “It’s a decision I have to take every week.”

City captain Vincent Kompany is still sidelined and not expected to be fit until after the international break later this month, meaning he will also miss next week’s trip to Sunderland.

The talismanic Belgium international has not played since aggravating a thigh injury against Everton on October 5, having initially hurt it on the opening day of the season.

“Vincent is progressing, I think after the international break he will be back, but not before,” Pellegrini said.

“He is a very important player, but we have a strong squad and the other players can play.”

Defensive midfielder Javi Garcia and Montenegro striker Stevan Jovetic are also out after picking up knocks during the extra-time victory over Newcastle.

Robert Snodgrass and Nathan Redmond are injury doubts for struggling Norwich, who lie third from bottom with eight points from nine matches.

City have won all four of their league games at the Etihad Stadium this season but Pellegrini still expected a tough battle.

“Norwich are a very good team. If we think we are playing at home, so we will win easy, I think it is a very big mistake.”

(Reporting by Josh Reich; Editing by Alison Wildey)

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