Tuesday 16 January 2018

In Brief: Euro blow still hurts Spurs

Manager Andre Villas-Boas has revealed Tottenham want to get one over Arsenal because they are still hurt by losing out to their rivals in last year's race for the Champions League.

Spurs will move seven points ahead of Arsenal if they beat them in this afternoon north London derby.

Given that they go into the match on the back of an 11-match unbeaten run, Tottenham are favourites to win, and go on to pip the Gunners to a Champions League spot.

Villas-Boas is mindful though that Tottenham missed out on Champions League qualification last season after letting a 10-point lead over their rivals slip through their fingers.

Villas-Boas was not at Spurs at the time but he has noticed a deep-rooted sense of disappointment among his players at last year's collapse, and they want to put it right. "They are motivated because of what they have suffered in the past,'' said Villas-Boas.

Tottenham's failure to qualify was eventually sealed by Chelsea's Champions League final win in Munich. Finishing fourth was not enough.

"It's never easy to finish in the position that they did, qualifying for the Champions League in fourth spot and seeing it taken away from them because it's the rules,'' added Villas-Boas.

The last time Tottenham and Arsenal played each other, Spurs striker Emmanuel Adebayor was sent off after 18 minutes for a reckless tackle on Santi Cazorla. Villas-Boas is confident the Togo striker will be able to keep a lid on his emotions this weekend, if he is selected ahead of fit-again Jermain Defoe.

Tottenham v Arsenal,

Sky Sports 1, 4.0

Stokes puts Celts in semis

Anthony Stokes' headed the winner as Celtic booked their place in the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup against St Mirren in Paisley.

Stand-in Hoops skipper Joe Ledley opened the scoring in the fifth minute with a header before a mistake by left-back Emilio Izaguirre allowed Esmael Goncalves an easy chance to level in the 13th minute. However, Stokes hit what proved the winner in the 21st minute with a close-range effort.

Celtic got the revenge they wanted following their defeat to the Buddies in the League Cup semi-final at Hampden in January and will be boosted ahead of the second leg of their Champions League last-16 clash with Juventus on Wednesday night, where they are looking to recover from a 3-0 first-leg deficit.

Women head for Cyprus

The Republic of Ireland Senior Women's team are back in action this week when they take part in the Cyprus Cup, a 12-nation tournament which will feature the likes of England, Holland and FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 hosts Canada. Ireland are in Group C with South Africa, South Korea and Northern Ireland, whom they meet in their opening game on Wednesday in Larnaca.

Retirements, injuries and work commitments have meant manager Sue Ronan has an inexperienced squad with five uncapped players, although the inclusion of 14 Irish-based players is an indication of how much of an impact that Bus éireann Women's National League, now in its second season, has had in developing home-based players for international football.

One of Ronan's first decisions when she gathers her squad together tomorrow will be to appoint a new captain following the recent retirement from international football of Arsenal midfield Ciara Grant who held the armband for the past seven years.

Don't expect Ronan to look further than Grant's Arsenal team-mate Emma Byrne who captained the side for the two games against Olympic champions USA last December and, by all accounts, was highly impressive in the role.

With 93 caps she is the most experienced player in the squad and, in time, could also take Grant's Irish record of 105 caps as well as her captain's armband.

Real get better of Barca again

Real Madrid beat Barcelona for the second time in five days, a 2-1 win which will do little to prevent its fierce rival from reclaiming the La Liga title but should boost Jose Mourinho's team for Tuesday's Champions League trip to Manchester United.

Sergio Ramos netted the winner in the 82nd minute when he rose up to head in Luka Modric's corner to give Madrid their first home league victory over Barcelona since 2008, in a game that grew testy toward the end and saw Barca 'keeper Victor Valdes sent off for protesting.

Lionel Messi extended his Spanish league scoring record to 16 straight games when he equalised in the 18th minute to cancel out Karim Benzema's sixth-minute opener. That was Messi's 18th career goal in Clasicos to equal Madrid great Alfredo Di Stefano's mark set in the 1950s and '60s, but Barcelona were otherwise a shadow of the thrilling team that until last season had dominated their rivals in recent years.

Madrid managed without Cristiano Ronaldo as Mourinho rested the winger until the final half hour.

Irish Independent

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