Paper News and Gossip: Manchester City Now Bigger Than United, Says Pellegrini

Ian Rodgers@irodgers66World Football Staff WriterFebruary 18, 2014

Paper News and Gossip: Manchester City Now Bigger Than United, Says Pellegrini

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    The eyes of the football world will be on the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday night as Manchester City host Barcelona in the Champions League last-16 first leg.

    But the back-page agenda in the morning newspapers is dominated by a more domestic issue after Manuel Pellegrini claimed his City side were now bigger than neighbours and rivals Manchester United.

    And Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho claims City have a great chance of progressing to the quarter-finals at the expense of Barcelona.

    But who else is making the headlines on Tuesday? Read on to find out more.

Manchester City Are Now Bigger Than United, Claims Manuel Pellegrini

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    Manchester City might be on the verge of one of the biggest games in club history, but Tuesday's newspapers focus on a more domestic issue after Manuel Pellegrini's comments in the press conference before the Champions League visit of Barcelona.

    The Etihad Stadium sent waves across the reporters in attendance as he claimed City were now bigger than Manchester United, although he qualified his comments by noting the success of the Old Trafford club in recent seasons.

    Ian Herbert of The Independent is among those to report Pellegrini as saying: "If we only consider this season, there is just one club in Manchester and it's ours. But you cannot forget what United has done in the previous years."

    To underline just how far City have come in recent seasons, Ian Ladyman of the Daily Mail notes that 15 years ago the team were playing Macclesfield Town in a third-tier clash.

Jose Mourinho Backs Manchester City Against 'Worst Barcelona in Years'

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    Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has put aside his recent rivalry with Pellegrini to back City to overcome Barcelona, reports John Cross of the Daily Mirror.

    The former Real Madrid boss has been unimpressed with the Camp Nou side this season, and is quoted as saying:

    Of course, by history, Barcelona is the favourite, but this Barcelona, this season, is showing that it is not the same in previous years.

    Of course they have Messi, he is special, and they have more than him.

    But I think this is the worst Barcelona of many, many years, so City have a chance.

    But Barcelona defender Gerard Pique maintains his team are determined to prove Mourinho and others wrong, as Antony Kastrinakis of The Sun reports (subscription required).

Referee Howard Webb Escapes Demotion After Weekend Penalty Controversy

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    Referee Howard Webb has escaped demotion by the Football Association after his display in the FA Cup fifth-round tie between Arsenal and Liverpool on Sunday was criticised, reports Chris Bascombe of the Daily Telegraph.

    The match official was berated for missing a penalty award to Liverpool after Luis Suarez appeared to be felled in the area by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but will be in charge of the Cardiff vs. Hull game in the Premier League this weekend.

    However, Bascombe also notes that Webb's name has been withdrawn from a "comedians for hire" website, where he was advertised as a £4,000-per-night, after-dinner speaker.

Roy Hodgson 'Dreams' of World Cup Glory with England

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    England manager Roy Hodgson has admitted to dreaming of World Cup glory in Brazil this year, reports Sam Adams of the Daily Mirror.

    The former Liverpool and Inter Milan boss is currently in the South American country visiting the stadium where England will face Italy in Manaus among other activities.

    And when asked about imagining success for England this year, Hodgson is quoted as saying: "You've got to, when you put your head on the pillow at night, imagine your team getting the greatest successes, playing very well and coming back to a hero's welcome."

    Hodgson was also relieved at the conditions at the Amazonia Arena in Manaus, saying: "I'm impressed and if the temperature stays like this I'm even impressed by that. At the moment it's not as overpowering as we were led to believe it would be."

Robin Van Persie Left off Manchester United List of Potential Captains

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    The future of Robin van Persie at Manchester United has been thrown into doubt after the striker was omitted from a list of potential club captains by the official Old Trafford website, claims Liam Prenderville of the Daily Mirror.

    With Nemnaja Vidic leaving United at the end of the season, the United website offered an article looking at possible new skippers with Wayne Rooney, Phil Jones, Jonny Evans, Darren Fletcher and David De Gea all included on the list.

    Prenderville claims the omission of Van Persie, who has captained Holland and Arsenal in the past, from the list increases speculation over the player's future at Old Trafford.

    Meanwhile, United starlet Adnan Januzaj has been invited to play in Kosovo's first international match by the country's deputy prime minister, reports Neil Ashton of the Daily Mail.

    United are also considering a move for Juventus defender Martin Caceres, claims Ben Jefferson of the Daily Express.

Michael Ballack Writes off Arsenal Hopes vs. Bayern Munich

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    Former Chelsea and Germany midfielder Michael Ballack does not envisage an Arsenal victory over Bayern Munich in the Champions League, reports John Dillon of the Daily Express.

    Ballack has been hugely impressed by the arrival of Pep Guardiola at the Allianz Arena this season, and is quoted as saying:

    The true strength of this team is that there are no weaknesses.

    The way they play football, it;s not just about winning.

    It is about dominating the teams they beat. It is really impressive.

    They are looking to establish a dynasty and they must be among the favourites to win the European Cup again.

    Meanwhile, Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey is targeting a return to action in the game against Chelsea next month, reports Tom Bellwood of the Daily Mail.

    Gunners defender Thomas Vermaelen is wanted by Inter Milan if their move for Nemanja Vidic fails, claims Ben Jefferson of the Daily Express.

Bits and Pieces: Luka Modric, Nicolas Anelka, Chris Hughton, Fulham, Tranmere

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    Real Madrid star Luka Modric is the latest Bernabeu player to be accused of earning a deliberate yellow card, reports Rik Sharma of the Daily Mail.

    The former Tottenham star was cautioned for a needless handball in the game against Getafe, which means he will miss the match against Elche, but will be available for the derby against Atletico.

    The hearing into West Brom striker Nicolas Anelka's controversial goal celebration will be heard early next week, reports John Percy of the Daily Telegraph.

    The future of Norwich manager Chris Hughton is under threat after chief executive David McNally claimed the club has already considered replacements, reports Laurie Whitwell of the Daily Mail.

    Fulham have sacked Alan Curbishley and Ray Wilkins from their backroom roles but refuse to confirm the decision, claims Darren Lewis of the Daily Mirror.

    Tranmere Rovers manager Ronnie Moore has been suspended by the club after the FA announced it will be investigating a potential breach of betting rules, reports David Kent of the Daily Mail.

    Cardiff City will host this year's UEFA Super Cup final, reports Nick Lustig of the Daily Star.