Blanc still rates England

France (10/1 Euro 2012 outright with bet365) boss Laurent Blanc has rejected claims that England go into Euro 2012 under strength and says the Three Lions are as big a threat as anyone at the tournament.

The two sides meet in their opening Group D game in Donetsk on Monday with Les Bleus the favourites to take the win due to England’s untimely spate of injuries over the last few weeks.

Roy Hodgson is without key midfielders Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry for the tournament, while first-choice central defender Gary Cahill has also been ruled out of the championships after breaking his jaw against Belgium last Saturday.

This has prompted suggestions that England have less chance of success than at previous competitions, something captain Steven Gerrard has said may work in their favour as they have less pressure on them.

Despite the doom and gloom surrounding the English camp, Blanc believes they still have the potential to challenge for the title and says his side certainly won’t be taken them lightly when they meet on Monday (France 7/5, draw 21/10, England 11/5 with bet365).

“The English will be present at the right moment, don’t worry,” said Blanc. “We know their strength. Despite withdrawals, it will be complex to face them.

“I’m not saying English fans have nothing to worry about, but if Gerrard, Young and Milner are not good players then I’m misunderstanding something.

“Maybe it is the role of the English press to create drama, but it remains a competitive team.”

 

Di Matteo facing Euro defensive crisis

Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo has revealed that he remains unsure whether Gary Cahill or David Luiz will be fit enough to return to action in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich on May 19 (Bayern 4/5, Draw 13/5, Chelsea 7/2 – Match Betting with bet365).

The Blues are desperate for both to return as captain John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic are both suspended for the showpiece clash at the Allianz Arena (Bayern 4/9, Chelsea 7/4 – Tournament Outright with bet365).

The duo are expected to pair up at the heart of the defence if fit – but Di Matteo has now revealed that he cannot be sure when either player will be back from their respective hamstring injuries.

Cahill suffered his injury in the Champions League semi-final second leg at the Nou Camp and has missed the last three games, while Luiz has been ruled out for six matches since being injured in the FA Cup semi-final against Spurs.

“We have injuries, we had five players unavailable and we need to see how the players are after tonight,” said Di Matteo after the 4-1 defeat at Liverpool.

“I would love to have all the players who are unavailable for the final available.

“We are working towards their [Luiz and Cahill] fitness and trying to get them back as soon as we can, but I can’t put an exact date on it.”

 

Di Matteo ready for ‘difficult’ decisions

Roberto di Matteo has confirmed he has tough selection decisions to make for Chelsea ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup Final with Liverpool (Liverpool 11/10, Chelsea 8/11 To Lift The Trophy with bet365).

Defensive duo David Luiz and Gary Cahill are both out of the Wembley showpiece with hamstring problems, but are still hopeful of making the Champions League final, and those two are the only missing players for the Italian manager.

Di Matteo admits it will be ‘difficult’ to disappoint some faces and leave them out, with a lot of competition in midfield and also the choice to make between Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba – two in-form forwards seemingly vying for one striking spot.

Chelsea are looking to win the trophy for a fourth time in six years and, for di Matteo, it would mean success in the competition as both a player and manager for the Blues (Liverpool 15/8, draw 9/4, Chelsea 6/4 90 Minutes Match Betting with bet365).

The interim manager has transformed Chelsea’s season since taking over from Andre Villas-Boas at the beginning of March and, despite admitting it would be tricky, he claims to be unafraid of making tough selection decisions.

“It’s a question of what is best for the team and if I feel it would be best for the team then I would do it but it all depends on what is our best team and formation to win the game tomorrow. I’ll take everything into consideration,” he said.

“What is important is the players still have the ambition to want to win another FA Cup. That’s very important motivation. It’s great for this club to be involved in another cup final. We’ve got a good tradition in this competition and hopefully we can continue this.”

Cahill wary of task ahead

Gary Cahill has moved to quell the celebrations following Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final first leg at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night and insisted that there is plenty of hard work still to do to book a place in the final (Chelsea 15/8, Barcelona 2/5 To Qualify with bet365).

Didier Drogba’s goal at the end of first-half stoppage time was enough to secure a slender advantage – and crucially without conceding an away goal – despite Barcelona’s dominance of possession.

The defending champions missed a number of chances as well as hitting the woodwork twice and Cahill is wary that Chelsea still have their work cut out to book their place at the Allianz Arena next month.

“It was a fantastic result but it’s only half-time,” Cahill said.

“I thought as a team we were well organised. Everyone was on the same page.

“The gaffer gave us a game plan before the game and we stuck to it. It worked really well, but it’s half-time and it’s going to be really hard over there but it’s a good start for us.”

Despite suffering the surprise defeat, Barcelona remain outright favourites at 11/10 with bet365 to defend the title, with Real Madrid next best at 11/4, Bayern Munich at 7/2 and Chelsea the outsiders at 13/2.

Cahill wary of ‘phenomenal’ Barca

Chelsea defender Gary Cahill has described the Blues’ Champions League semi-final opponents Barcelona as ‘phenomenal’, but says they can be beaten (Chelsea 4/1, draw 14/5, Barcelona 7/10 with bet365).

The two sides meet in the first leg of the their semi-final tie at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, with Roberto Di Matteo‘s men being viewed as major underdogs.

After a slow start to the year, European champions Barca have won their last 13 games in the league, as well as dominating AC Milan in the last round of the Champions League.

Despite the Blaugrana (5/6 Champions League outright with bet365) facing Real Madrid next weekend, coach Pep Guardiola has insisted that his players will be fully focused on the Stamford Bridge clash and says they will be looking to take a lead back to the Camp Nou.

Cahill accepts that Barcelona are a ‘phenomenal’ team, but says he and his team-mates will not be scared of their opponents.

“They’re beatable, for sure, every team is beatable. But the way they play football is phenomenal,” Cahill said. “I saw them against AC Milan, they scored three but could have probably had six against a fantastic team in their own right.

“We’re under no illusions and everyone knows it will be one of the toughest games of the season,” he added.