Friends reunited: Dzeko & Pjanic face off for the first time as Manchester City host Roma

October 22nd, 2014

EXCLUSIVE: The pair have played alongside one another for years at international level with Bosnia and Herzegovina but they will be rivals at the Etihad on Tuesday night

By Jasmin Ligata

When Edin Dzeko was a child growing up in war-torn Sarajevo, he would sometimes have to spend his days hiding from grenades in the basement of his family home. But that never stopped the Bosnian from taking every possible opportunity to play the game he loved.

However, one day, his mother Belma refused to allow him to go to the local playground for a match with his friends. It was a decision that may well have saved Dzeko’s life, as the playground was hit by a grenade a matter of minutes later.

Consequently, Dzeko knows more than most that there are far more important things in life than football, which is precisely why Tuesday’s crucial Champions League clash with Roma will not be about rivalry for him – but friendship.

The game at the Etihad Stadium not only brings together two sides intent on qualifying for the last 16 but two men who have played together many times but never against one another – Dzeko and his Bosnia and Herzegovina team-mate, Miralem Pjanic.

“Miralem is my friend,” the Manchester City striker tells Goal. “We spoke right after the draw [for the Champions League group stage] and I am happy we will finally meet.

“He is one of best Roma players and my team-mates will have to keep an eye on him. If we leave him with too much space, it could end fatally for us.”

While Dzeko grew up in Sarajevo, Pjanic was born in Zvornik but his family moved to Luxembourg as soon as the Balkan war broke out. Pjanic started out with Schifflange in his adopted nation before being picked up by Metz, breaking into the senior side in 2007.

After a stellar season at the Stade Municipal Saint-Symphorien, Pjanic joined Olympique Lyonnais, where he established himself as one of the most exciting young playmakers in the game, eventually earning an €11 million move to Roma.

He took some time to settle at the Stadio Olimpico but flourished following the arrival of Rudi Garcia as coach last summer and is now considered one of the finest players in Serie A.

Dzeko took a different route to the top. He came through the youth team ranks at Zeljeznicar before joining Teplice. It was while playing with the Czech outfit that he came to the attention of Wolfsburg, who brought him to the Volkswagen Arena in 2007.

It was an inspired decision, with Dzeko scoring 84 goals in all competitions over the next four seasons before joining Manchester City in 2011 for €32m.

He has proven just as prolific at international level and is his country’s record goalscorer, with 37. Many of those strikes were created by Pjanic but ‘The Little Prince’ was very nearly lost to Luxembourg, whom he represented at underage level.

Indeed, Pjanic was only granted a Bosnian passport in 2008, thanks to the intervention of a member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina presidency, Zeljko Komsic.

Still, while their backgrounds may be different, the respect between Pjanic and Dzeko is mutual. Indeed, after watching Dzeko net twice in City’s 4-2 win at Hull on the weekend, Pjanic knows that his international colleague is more than capable of shooting down Roma.

“Edin is in top form and he will be the biggest threat,” the midfielder admits to Goal. “I hope he will have a bad day on Tuesday!

“He is very dangerous and I know how little space and time he needs to find himself in a goalscoring opportunity.”

Still, whatever the outcome of the game at the Etihad, Dzeko and Pjanic know that both life, and their friendship, will go on.

'Man Utd … LOL' – Balotelli, Szczesny & the top 10 Twitter taunts

October 22nd, 2014

The Liverpool forward could not hide his enjoyment of the Red Devils’ collapse against Leicester City on Sunday – Goal picks out some of the best social media jibes

Following Mario Balotelli’s short and not-so-sweet assessment of Manchester United’s shock 5-3 loss at Leicester City, Goal takes a look at other taunts from footballers over social media …

Mario Balotelli/Manchester United

Man utd … LOL

— Mario Balotelli (@FinallyMario) September 21, 2014

The Italian striker had plenty of reason to enjoy United’s incredible implosion at Leicester on Sunday. Being both a former Manchester City player and now a Liverpool man looking to ensure an advantage over the Red Devils in the race for the top for and beyond, Balotelli could not help but laugh as Louis van Gaal’s side surrendered a two-goal lead at the King Power Stadium.

Sadly, his chuckling prompted some disturbing responses from United fans, with Merseyside Police now investigating racist abuse sent to Balotelli.

Edin Dzeko/Manchester United


— Edin Džeko (@EdDzeko) August 26, 2014

United have had their fair share of problems this season, as with last, but perhaps their most awkward moment so far under Van Gaal – though the Leicester result rivals it – was their 4-0 obliteration by third-tier MK Dons in the League Cup in August.

Though the Red Devils were yet to win under the Dutchman at the time, nobody predicted the incredible scoreline at stadium:mk and City striker Edin Dzeko, watching the match, could not hide his amusement.

Wojciech Szczesny/Tottenham

Arsenal visited White Hart Lane in March wanting a derby victory over Tottenham to keep on track their push for the Premier League title and that was exactly what they got, Tomas Rosicky’s early goal going unanswered.

Sucked into the derby atmosphere, goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny gathered his team-mates for an on-pitch selfie after the final whistle, celebrating in front of the away fans to rub it in for their north London rivals.

Andros Townsend/Szczesny

Who thinks we will see another selfie from him after today’s game?

— andros townsend (@andros_townsend) March 22, 2014

Szczesny’s post did not go down too well with Tottenham fans, nor with the players – Spurs winger Andros Townsend shot a pointed barb the Pole’s way when Chelsea took Arsenal to pieces in an astonishing 6-0 victory later that month.

Ashley Cole/Arsenal

I am what I am!!! Winnerrr!!!! Hahahahahahah, 11 to me 0 for you!!!

— Ashley Cole (@TheRealAC3) July 22, 2012

Ashley Cole’s arrival on Twitter in 2012 raised some eyebrows. As one of the least popular men in the estimations of Arsenal supporters ever since his move to Chelsea, the left-back was seen as asking for trouble in joining the site – and trouble he soon received.

The then-England star met it head-on, however, and when confronted with abuse by angry Gunners fans, posted a picture of himself posing with the club’s recently won Champions League trophy, pointing out how many titles he had won since making the move across London.

Ryan Babel/Howard Webb

Shortly before his time at Liverpool ended in a loan to Hoffenheim, Dutch forward Ryan Babel got himself into hot water with the Football Association for venting on Twitter after his side’s 1-0 defeat by Manchester United.

Former World Cup final referee Howard Webb had been in charge of the game and infuriated the Reds by awarding Sir Alex Ferguson’s side a first-minute penalty at Old Trafford and later sending off Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard. It drove Babel to post a mocked-up picture of Webb wearing a United shirt, adding “And they call him one of the best referees? That’s a joke. SMH” – which he soon deleted before apologising to Webb for an “emotional reaction”.

Jose Enrique/Manchester United

First good news of the season :)))

— José enrique (@Jesanchez3) August 16, 2014

Balotelli was not the only Liverpool player to have revelled in United’s struggles so far this season. Van Gaal’s men were beaten by Swansea City on the first day of the new Premier League campaign and Jose Enrique was watching eagerly.

With the Red Devils expected to be a resurgent power under the new manager, the Spanish left-back greeted their defeat happily with a picture of the scoreline to rub it in.

Joey Barton/Thiago Silva

Thiago Silva. That the same pussy thats been injured all season. Another over rated Brazilian. Sort your hamstrings out FatBoy…

— Joseph Barton (@Joey7Barton) April 2, 2013

Never one to hold his tongue on Twitter, Joey Barton was even more forthright than usual when he criticised Paris Saint-Germain star Thiago Silva’s performances during his own spell on loan at Marseille. When the Brazilian later responded to the comments, Barton attacked again, this time calling him a “ladyboy”.

The former England international’s posts earned him a suspended ban as Marseille rushed to apologise on his behalf. Silva has since captained his country to the World Cup semi-finals.

Marco Rojo/Gimnasia

Marcos Rojo may now be a Manchester United player but he has not forgotten his roots. Before turning out for Spartak Moscow and Sporting Lisbon, the Argentina international came through the ranks at Estudiantes in La Plata.

His old side eliminated local rivals Gimnasia from the Copa Sudamericana earlier in September and Rojo was quick to post a photo of an old 7-0 victory for Estudiantes in the same fixture, remarking that “the city is in order”.

Carlos Vela/Athletic Bilbao

Hacia mucho tiempo que no veía ANOETA tan vacío…

— carlos vela (@11carlosV) August 23, 2013

While Athletic Bilbao were preparing their impressive new stadium, the Basque club had to, for one match only, play a home game at Real Sociedad’s Anoeta – based in San Sebastian – rather than Bilbao.

Sociedad forward Carlos Vela could not help but poke fun at his side’s rivals, remarking that he had never seen the stadium so empty. His club’s fans seemed to enjoy it.

Dzeko: Chelsea are Manchester City's biggest threat

October 22nd, 2014

The Bosnia-Herzegovina international striker believes the Blues are top of the group of contenders for the Premier League title as his side prepare to face Arsenal

Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko has warned of the danger posed by Arsenal ahead of the match on Saturday – though he maintains Chelsea are his side’s biggest title rivals.

The Bosnian, who is set to line up for Manuel Pellegrini’s men at the Emirates Stadium after the international break, sees Arsene Wenger’s side as a genuine challenger for City’s Premier League crown.

“[The Arsenal game] will be difficult but I’m an optimist,” he told the club’s official website.

“As with every season, there are several teams that will battle for the title of champions in England.

“This season Chelsea might be the most serious challenger but we mustn’t ignore Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal, or [Manchester] United, who will certainly be much stronger than last year. After all, everyone has got stronger and everyone wants to be first.”

The 28-year-old penned a new four-year deal at the Etihad Stadium in August and says that he had no hesitation in putting pen to paper after winning the Premier League and League Cup last season.

“The past season was one of the best in my career and, in the end, we reached the title of champions of England, the second in the past three seasons,” he enthused.

“We succeeded in winning the [League] Cup and I am really happy how everything played out in the past season, both for the club and for myself.

“As far as the contract, in general I had no dilemma around an extension. I am happy at City, the manager believes in me, which is certainly important, and I give my all on the pitch and altogether it means quite a lot to me because Manchester is a club with great ambitions and I easily decided to stay put.”

Dzeko signs new Manchester City contract

October 22nd, 2014

The Bosnia striker has penned a long-term deal at the Etihad Stadium, following in the footsteps of team-mates Vincent Kompany, David Silva and Sergio Aguero

Edin Dzeko has signed a new four-year contract at Manchester City, the club have revealed.

It was reported on Sunday that Dzeko and Joe Hart would be the next City stars to pen new deals as the Premier League champions continue their summer policy of tying their big-name players to long-term contracts.

In August alone Vincent Kompany, David Silva and Sergio Aguero put pen to paper, and Dzeko is pleased to join them: “I’m really happy here at City, it’s a second home to me, so it was an easy decision to stay for the long-term,” he told the club’s official website.

“I knew from the beginning when I started here that I wanted to stay for a long time – I can’t see any place better than here.

“I’m settled perfectly to life here, I know my teammates, the club, the team, very well and I feel like I can improve even more.

“Over the last three and a half years we’ve made history together but I feel like we are only at the start of something really special.

“There are still so many objectives and goals that I want to reach from my career in the game and I believe that I am in the perfect place to achieve them all.

“The fans have always shown so much faith in my ability and I feel so much love, both from supporters inside Manchester and from those all over the world.”

Dzeko had looked set to leave the club this time last season following the arrivals of Stevan Jovetic and Alvaro Negredo.

But thanks partly injuries to the two new signings and Aguero, particularly in the second half of last season, Dzeko flourished under Pellegrini with goals in three the final four matches which helped to secure the Premier League title.

And with Aguero and Negredo currently struggling with injuries, Dzeko has been forging a partnership with Jovetic during pre-season and opened his competitive account with the opening goal in the 2-0 win against Newcastle on Sunday.

Premier League Team of the Week: New-boys Fabregas & Costa star

October 22nd, 2014

Some of England’s top-flight debutants join a handful of more surprising standout-performers from the weekend in the first select XI of the season

The Premier League is back with a bang, with Manchester City and Chelsea proving why they are favourites for the title with comfortable wins, while Liverpool and Tottenham also picked up narrow victories in a fascinating opening weekend.

Of course, things did not quite go to plan for Louis van Gaal, who suffered defeat in his first Premier League game as manager of Manchester United with Swansea 2-1 victors at Old Trafford, while there were also defeats for Stoke and QPR as the top flight got back up and running.

We start our Team of the Week as always in goal where Hull keeper Allan McGregor gets the nod after keeping a clean sheet at Loftus Road, as the Tigers picked up a 1-0 victory against QPR. The Scot faced 19 shots in the Hull goal but could not be beaten and also denied Charlie Austin from the penalty spot with a fine save.

In defence, Laurent Koscielny inspired Arsenal to a comeback victory against Crystal Palace, heading home the equaliser as the Gunners won 2-1 and keeping strikers Fraizer Campbell and Marouane Chamakh quiet. The Arsenal defender also enjoyed a pass success rate of 97 per cent and barely put a foot wrong all afternoon.

Also lining up in defence is Vincent Kompany who was at his best as the champions overcame a tricky first game, beating a new-look Newcastle 2-0 at St James’ Park. The Belgium international conceded just two fouls against Alan Pardew’s side as Manuel Pellegrini’s men began the season where they left off.

Aston Villa’s Ron Vlaar is the third centre-back in our line-up as we favour a 3-5-2. The Netherlands international showed why he has become so in-demand with a dominant display, particularly a last-ditch block to deny Bojan as Villa won 1-0 at Stoke.

Into midfield and Nathan Dyer gets the nod after a fine afternoon tormenting Manchester United on their home turf. The Swansea winger gave Ashley Young and Tyler Blackett plenty to think about as he helped Garry Monk’s side inflict an opening day defeat on the Red Devils for the first time since 1972.

Next up is Southampton youngster James Ward-Prowse who caught the eye at Anfield, putting in a fine display as the Saints narrowly lost 2-1 to Liverpool.

Alongside the teenager is our star man, Cesc Fabregas, who made his return to Premier League action in Chelsea’s 3-1 victory over Burnley. The former Barcelona midfielder sparkled at Turf Moor, setting up two goals, including a sublime touch for Andre Schurrle to make it 2-1. Overall the midfielder enjoyed a pass success rate of 87% and completed 76 successful passes.

Mile Jedinak features despite Crystal Palace’s narrow defeat to Arsenal. The Australian was a tireless presence in midfield, winning six out of his nine tackles and using the ball well to release his side’s attackers and give Arsenal plenty to think about.

Raheem Sterling scored the opener for Liverpool with a great run and composed finish and caused the Saints problems all afternoon with his pace. The youngster enjoyed 71 touches throughout the match, completing five dribbles and having four shots on goal.

Up front, Edin Dzeko features after a fine display as Manchester City beat Newcastle. The striker set up David Silva brilliantly for the first goal with a delightful backheel and also managed three shots on goal in a strong showing.

Completing our line-up is Diego Costa, who took just 17 minutes to open his Premier League account against Burnley. The Spain international was a constant threat and was unlucky not to have been awarded a penalty after being brought down after going around goalkeeper Tom Heaton.

Want to keep track of all the key statistics in Europe’s top five leagues? Keep an eye out for the Huawei European Team Ranking, due to be launched in the first week of September.

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