Arsenal Sahin switch on hold as Wenger considers option of permanent deal

By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent

Nuri Sahin’s move to Arsenal from Real Madrid is being held up following a change of heart from Arsene Wenger.

The Premier League club had reached a breakthrough in their pursuit of the Turkey international by agreeing a season-long loan for the midfielder, including the loan fee and the player’s wages.

But the deal has stagnated for the second time this week as Wenger deliberates over whether to push for a permanent transfer.

This has prompted reports in Spain that Sahin’s agent Reza Fazeli has met with senior Liverpool officials in an attempt to revive the possibility of a loan move to Anfield.

It is understood that Liverpool withdrew their interest in signing the former Borussia Dortmund player last Saturday after learning that he wanted to join Arsenal.

However, the London club deny that they had planned a photo shoot on Monday ahead of his unveiling, which then had to be cancelled at the last minute.

Arsenal are confident they are still in the driving seat to capture the 23-year-old, who has been identified by Wenger as a versatile midfielder capable of adapting to his team’s playing style.

Sahin’s destination is also understood to have been a discussion point in the Luka Modric talks between Real and Tottenham amid rumours that Spurs would prefer the player not to join their north London rivals.

It is uncertain whether Real are willing to sanction the permanent sale of Sahin even though Jose Mourinho has made it clear that the player will benefit from a season in the Premier League.

Sahin would strengthen the midfield options of Wenger, who sanctioned the sale of Alex Song to Barcelona for £15 million on Monday and is also likely to be without Jack Wilshere for the first three months of the season through injury.

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Zidane better than Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, says Cazorla

Arsenal star Santi Cazorla says that France legend Zinedine Zidane is the best player he has ever faced rather than Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo or Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.

The former Villarreal and Malaga midfielder locked horns with the Frenchman a number of times during his spell at Madrid, and the Frenchman has made a lasting impression on Cazorla.

“During your life you always have different players that you like. When I was a child, because my dad liked the ‘Dream Team’, I liked Michael Laudrup,” the Spain international stated to EFE.

“But I have always said the best player I have played against, and the most elegant player, was Zidane. There’s Messi and Ronaldo, but I still think being lucky enough to play against Zidane, and see him play, was amazing. He is still the best.

“He looked like he was going to be clumsy because of his height, but then you realised he was so skillful and gifted with the ball. I really enjoyed watching him play, it was a pleasure. I would highlight everything about him, because he had everything to be the best player.”

Zidane wore the shirt of Cannes, Bordeaux, Juventus and Real Madrid during his playing career, while also representing France on more than 100 occasions.

Barcelona – Real Madrid Betting Preview: Why backing Madrid to get at least a draw holds value

The 12th Clasico in the last two years sees these two rivals meet in what would otherwise be a fairly meaningless fixture against another opponent.

The Spanish Supercopa effectively means extremely little, but when it sees Barcelona and Real Madrd pitted against one another, it becomes more than merely a curtain-raiser to the season, and turns into a vital encounter in the constant battle to gain the psychological advantage.

Barcelona have of course, in recent years, had the upper hand both mentally and in footballing terms, with Madrid recording just one victory in their last 15 encounters.

price another win for the Spanish champions at 3/1 (4.00) while Barcelona can be backed at 5/6 (1.83) and the draw is offered at 14/5 (3.80).

Given that the last seven Clasicos have seen both teams score, it is hardly surprising to find a repeat offered at 8/15 (1.53). The odds are not huge but for punters looking to invest in a relatively low-risk bet this looks like a wise selection.

For those with a more casual approach, the price of 19/20 (1.95) on ‘Real Madrid or Draw’ looks to offer some considerable value in the double chance market.

Though Madrid’s recent record in this fixture is far from impressive, crucially the last time the sides met, back in April, it was Los Blancos who earned the victory with the 2-1 win at the Camp Nou all but sealing their 32nd League title.

The psychological barrier has been broken and Madrid under the guidance of Jose Mourinho, the master of the two-legged tie, are more than capable of coming away from Catalonia with at least a draw.

In terms of a value bet, the price of 10/3 (4.33) for Madrid to win the first half looks tempting, given that this bet has paid out in two of the last three Clasicos.

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Phil Kitromilides is a sports broadcaster working on radio and TV in London and Madrid. You can also follow Phil on Twitter.

Vilanova & Barcelona desperate to beat Real Madrid & prove they can win without Guardiola

By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer

What a difference a year makes.

This time, 12 months ago, it was Real Madrid who were fired up and flying as the season got underway, intent on making a statement by winning the Spanish Supercopa against their fiercest of rivals, Barcelona.

In August 2011, uncertainty remained over the future of Mourinho’s Madrid. With only a Copa del Rey to their name from his first campaign in charge, the Portuguese was looking to begin his second season in style.

Now, similar uncertainty can be found in Barcelona.

Despite a chaotic pre-season with injuries, experimental line-ups, players returning late and mixed results last summer, the Catalans claimed the Spanish Supercopa with a 5-4 aggregate win over Madrid, and went on to add three more titles in 2011-12 as Pep Guardiola ended his tenure with 14 out of a possible 19 trophies.

Behind the scenes, however, things were not as harmonious as they appeared at the Camp Nou last season. There were bust-ups with both Gerard Pique and Dani Alves, many players tired of Guardiola’s necessity to hog the media limelight, while Cesc Fabregas recently admitted that he struggled to adapt to Pep’s tactics on the pitch, too.

Guardiola looked to Johan Cruyff at times to resolve tactical questions and it was the side’s use of the Dream Team’s 3-4-3 system that raised the most doubts last term. There were too many tweaks and players sometimes felt uncomfortable with their roles on the pitch. Points were dropped, and ultimately the deficit could not be clawed back as Barca relinquished La Liga to Madrid, while there was an uncharacteristically poor performance in both Champions League semi-final games against Chelsea. This was not the Barcelona of previous years. Guardiola was tired – and the players were tired of him.

Vilanova has now assumed control and, while little is known about the former assistant on the outside, there is a growing feeling within the club that he was responsible for much of Barca’s brilliant play over the last four seasons.

The players, too, are eager to show they can win without Pep and are more motivated than they have been since Guardiola’s first season in charge of the Catalan club. They feel they have a point to prove.

This summer, Barca neglected lucrative offers to tour Asia and the United States, preferring instead to play their preparation games in cities like Bucharest and Gothenburg, rather than Seattle and Shanghai. Now, it is all about winning the Supercopa.

Vilanova is fully aware of the constant comparisons with Guardiola and has already claimed he cannot compete with his friend and former colleague. He knows, nonetheless, that winning the Supercopa will dispel doubts over his regime at this early stage.

However, failure to do so will bring the first voices of discontent – whatever the circumstances of the 180 minutes of action at Camp Nou on Thursday and at the Santiago Bernabeu next Wednesday.

So while he may have claimed publicly that this competition is low down on his list of priorities, Vilanova will want to win this Spanish Supercopa at all costs, in order to start his spell on the front foot and lay down a marker for the rest of the campaign. So, too, do the players.

This Barcelona is more than just Guardiola. Now, Vilanova and his squad are ready to prove it.

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Milla: Madrid are favourites to win Supercopa

Former Spain Under-21 coach Luis Milla believes that Real Madrid hold the edge over Barcelona ahead of their Spanish Supercopa tie as they have home-advantage in the second leg.

The Catalans proved to be the stronger side last season after successfully defending their lead in the return at Camp Nou, but Milla believes Madrid could come out victorious this time around.

“Madrid have the advantage because they are playing the return at home. Both teams are pretty similar, though. Barca might have changed coaches, but their philosophy remains the same,” Milla was quoted as saying by Sport.

The 46-year-old then went on to express his delight with David Villa’s return to match action, and stressed that the attacker can play a key role for Barca.

“The most positive thing is the return of Villa. He is a decisive player because of his goals, and his character will be very important for the team’s morale. He has status and is a guarantee for 25 goals if he’s fit.”

Thursday’s first leg at Camp Nou kicks off at 22:30CET.