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Saturday, 27 December 2014

Suarez upbeat despite lack of goals

Barcelona forward Luis Suarez is confident his scoring form will return and he can put a slow start to his debut season in Spain behind him.

Suarez needed eight La Liga games to open his Barca account with a goal against Cordoba last weekend and has two in three Champions League appearances, a meagre return for the player who was Premier League top scorer with 31 goals in his final campaign with Liverpool.

The Uruguay international plays in a three-man attack at Barca with Lionel Messi and Neymar and although he has not been as prolific as he or coach Luis Enrique would like he has been contributing with assists and has made four in La Liga and one in Europe's elite club competition.

Atletico hints at possible Torres return

Atletico Madrid president Enrique Cerezo has hinted at a possible deal to bring struggling Spain forward Fernando Torres back to his boyhood club.

Cerezo said the Spanish champions' coach Diego Simeone had the squad he needs to compete in La Liga, the Champions League and the King's Cup but did not rule out Torres returning to the club he left in 2007 to join Liverpool.

Torres moved from Chelsea to AC Milan on a two-year loan deal in August but the switch has yet to help the 30-year-old rediscover anything like the form that lit up the English Premier League during his first few seasons.

"He (Torres) is not here but that does not mean that he won't be," Cerezo was quoted as saying in local media on Tuesday.

"Right now we have a great team and we believe that all the positions are well covered but that does not mean that up until the last hour of January 31 we won't bring someone in," he added. "We have a fantastic team that will fight for all three titles."

Khedira keen to extend Real contract

Germany midfielder Sami Khedira has indicated he would be happy to extend his contract with Real Madrid beyond June 2015 if an agreement can be reached.

Khedira, whose season has been disrupted by injuries, is not a first-choice starter under coach Carlo Ancelotti, with Germany teammate Toni Kroos, Croatia international Luka Modric and Spain playmaker Isco all ahead in the pecking order.

Media reports have speculated Khedira could move to Bayern Munich and that several English clubs including Arsenal, where his close friend Mesut Ozil plays, are also interested in securing his services.

Khedira, who joined Real from VfB Stuttgart in 2010, told Germany's Stuttgarter Nachrichten he was back to a good level of fitness and hopeful he would see more playing time.

"If we can find a solution I am happy," he said about his contract situation.

Ronaldo looking to improve

Not content with four titles in 2014, including his second Champions League, prolific Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo is determined to make next year an even bigger success.

Ronaldo netted 51 goals in 47 appearances last season, setting a record of 17 goals for one edition of Europe's elite club competition, as Real secured a record-extending 10th continental crown and the King's Cup.

The Portugal captain continued where he left off in 2014-15 as the world's richest club by income claimed the European Super Cup and Club World Cup and he has amassed an incredible 32 goals in 25 games in all competitions.

His haul of 25 in 14 La Liga matches is a Spanish record and he looks set to smash the biggest total for a season in Spain's top flight of 50 scored by Lionel Messi in 2011-12.

"It would be a dream if 2015 was like 2014 or even better," Ronaldo said in an interview published in sports daily As on Saturday.

"It is possible to do it because Madrid is always a candidate to win the competitions it is playing in," added the 29-year-old.

"We have a team spirit that can help us win the most titles possible and we will fight to the death to get them."

Atletico close to sealing Torres deal

Atletico Madrid are close to tying up a deal for Spain forward Fernando Torres to return to his boyhood club on loan from Chelsea, assistant coach German Burgos said on Saturday.

Torres, 30, joined AC Milan on a two-year loan in August but has yet to rediscover his form and has only managed one goal in 10 Serie A appearances.

"It (the Torres deal) is on the verge of completion and we are waiting for things to firm up," Burgos was quoted as saying in Spanish media.

"He will be a very important reinforcement for the second half of the season," added Diego Simeone's No 2.

"We will get the best out of him, the same as everyone, and he knows where he is coming to."

Atletico's Italy winger Alessio Cerci will move to Milan on loan as part of the deal, which will run until the end of the 2015-16 season, Spanish media reported.

Cerci said on his Facebook page on Saturday he had not yet signed with another club.

"I am an Atletico Madrid player and together with the club I am considering the best solution for both," he added. "I think that is right and normal."

A World Cup and double European Championship winner with Spain, Torres joined Atletico at the age of 11.

Elephants get their money


The row between the Ivory Coast FA and its Sports Ministry over an Afcon budget has been resolved.

The Elephants have been granted their 3.5 billion CFA francs (US$ 6.65 million) budget demands for preparation and participation at the January 17 - February 8 tournament in Equatorial Guinea following the involvement of the country’s head of state.

Sports Minister Alain Lobognon, whose office is to work with a budget for just a little over 4 billion CFA francs for the year 2015, offered that the government could only afford 310 million CFA francs (US$ 588 375) of the budget for the Afcon campaign.

Warnock sacked by Crystal Palace

Premier League strugglers Crystal Palace ended manager Neil Warnock's brief second spell in charge on Saturday following a dismal run of one win in 12 games, the club said in a statement.

A 3-1 home defeat by Southampton on Friday left Palace in the relegation zone, third from bottom on 15 points from 18 games. Warnock, appointed in August, is the first Premier League manager to lose his job this season.

"Crystal Palace Football Club can today confirm that Neil Warnock has been relieved of his duties and is no longer first-team manager," Palace said on their website (www.cpfc.co.uk).

"The club would like to put on record its thanks to Neil for all his hard work and energy over the past four months."

The London club have lost three and drawn three of their last six games, their last win coming against Liverpool on November 23. Palace make the trip across London to face Queens Park Rangers on Sunday with Keith Millen taking charge as caretaker manager.

Warnock, 66, returned to Selhurst Park after Tony Pulis, who had steered them to an 11th-place finish against the odds last season, departed two days before the start of the current campaign.