Chelsea target Hiddink & Aguero, Man City target Liverpool’s Torres & the Henry bashing continues

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “Naturally I feel embarrassed at the way that we won and feel extremely sorry for the Irish who definitely deserve to be in South Africa. Of course the fairest solution would be to replay the game but it is not in my control. There is little more I can do apart from admit that the ball had contact with my hand leading up to our equalising goal and I feel very sorry for the Irish. I have said at the time and I will say again that, yes, I handled the ball. I am not a cheat and never have been. It was an instinctive reaction to a ball that was coming extremely fast in a crowded penalty area. People are viewing a slow motion version of what happened and not what I or any other footballer faces in the game. If people look at it in full speed you will see that it was an instinctive reaction. It is impossible to be anything other than that.” – Thierry Henry.

Runner-up: “What shocked me most wasn’t the handball… [it] was that at the end of the match, in front of the TV cameras, this player [Henry] went and sat down next to an Irish player [Dunne] to console him, even though he’d screwed them three minutes earlier. If I’d been Irish, he wouldn’t have lasted three seconds… [Domenech is] the worst coach in French football since Louis XVI… If it was up to me, I’d put Laurent Blanc in charge.” – Eric Cantona.

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Today’s overview: After failing to qualify for World Cup with Russia last week, Golden Guus is on the verge on coming back to the Premier League.

Luke Harding and Dominic Fifield join forces to announce “Guus Hiddink plans to return to Chelsea as technical director following his failure to guide Russia to the World Cup. Hiddink said yesterday that an announcement on his future could come as early as next month. He has a contract as Russia’s head coach until the end of June 2010 but sources say the Dutchman will almost certainly quit and take a job at Chelsea… It is understood his role at Stamford Bridge would be to offer support to Carlo Ancelotti and would not threaten the manager.”

Staying with the Pensioners, Paul Doyle details how Chelsea could unveil Gael Kakuta in Saturday’s match with Wolves. “Ancelotti may today hand a Premier League debut to the best teenage footballer he has ever seen, a player who until now has been synonymous only with controversy. A spate of injuries to established regulars… means the 18-year-old Gael Kakuta is included in the Chelsea squad for the first time since Fifa’s decision in September to punish the club with a transfer embargo for allegedly breaking transfer rules to lure the gifted youngster from the French side Lens.”

Turning focus on the big early kick-off in the Premier League this weekend, the Liverpool-Man City match, James Ducker put the cat amongst the pigeons suggestion the Citizens could buy Fernando Torres. “Hughes refused to be drawn, quite sensibly, yesterday on whether City would bid for Torres next summer, but The Times understands that if they were to qualify for the Champions League at Liverpool’s expense, there is a strong likelihood that a move for the player would be made.”

On the match itself, Ian Herbert labels Liverpool versus Manchester City as “a clash of cultures: Liverpool, comparatively impoverished but aristocrats no less and, to Benitez’s mind, rich in a tradition of building organically; City, the arrivistes, building a side from scratch to burst in on the elite. For City, victory will be evidence at last of the club arriving as a force. For Liverpool, it will, as Benitez put it yesterday “show we are still alive” – and that is certainly a start.”

Unsurprisingly, the fallout from Le Hand of Henry continues to focus attention as a raft of hacks continue to do everything in their power to ensure the words ‘Henry’ and ‘cheat’ stay in the public’s conscience.

David Lacey is first to bash Thierry. “Few if any could ever have expected the words “Henry” and “cheat” to appear in the same sentence but after Wednesday night they became inseparable.” Next, under the headline “Henry is a cheat – and a replay could have proved it on Wednesday night,” James Lawton also dissects the reputation of the Frenchman. “Henry can beat his breast a thousand times. He can even robe himself in sackcloth for the journey to South Africa. He might even be applauded as a man who eventually made contact with his conscience. What he can’t do, this side of an amazing volte-face by Fifa, is right a grievous wrong.”

Brian Viner then wades into the Titi trampling. “Maybe we should now see those Gillette commercials in which [Henry] stands alongside Tiger Woods and Roger Federer, of all people, as a reminder that football, no less than shaving, is a cut-throat business.”

For Des Kelly, the consequence of Henry’s handball should be for video technology to be introduced. “If we cannot expect sportsmen – and footballers in particular – to improve their behaviour, we must find better ways of enforcing the laws. For years I’ve argued there is no need for video evidence in football. I’ve said that human error is part of sport and the rules should be the same for all forms of the game, from the local recreation field all the way up to Wembley. Sod that. Not any more. Not when one cheat can deny a country £1billion in revenue and a summer of unforgettable sporting history. Bring in the cameras.” Terry Venables is also convinced the football needs video replays. “I am sick of hearing the long-standing groans from stuck-in-the-mud technophobes that video technology would slow down the game, lead to endless interruptions and turn football into a stop-start bore that would last three hours rather than 90 minutes… I would like to see a video referee monitoring play inside the box, drawing the ref to misdemeanours regarding penalties, goals, fouls and dives.”

But bad news for video technology enthusiasts is quickly delivered by Matt Scott, who reports “Thierry Henry’s handball against the Republic of Ireland could lead to Fifa fast-tracking the introduction of two additional referees in time for the World Cup in South Africa.”

David Beckham captures column inches this Saturday as his LA Galaxy side prepare for the MLS Cup final.

with the Galaxy preparing for their first final since Beckham joined the club and his name already pencilled into Fabio Capello’s World Cup squad, the 34-year-old has done what he enjoys most of all; proving people wrong.” Laura Williamson adds “if the Galaxy are successful, Beckham will have won three championships in three different countries – England, Spain and the US. In a football culture that rarely sees English players foray to foreign shores, that’s some achievement.”

In the transfers, Antony Kastrinakis claims “Inter Milan want to snatch Sergio Aguero from under the noses of Chelsea in a £40million tug-of-war,” while Carl Long spouts “Harry Redknapp last night told Roma they will have to pay top dollar to get their hands on spare-part Spurs striker Roman Pavlyuchenko.”

According to the Daily Mirror, “Villa boss Martin O’Neill has targeted Micah Richards as another England star to add to his growing squad of Three Lions hopefuls. Hughes would be reluctant to sell Richards but if he presses ahead with a bid for Alves, O’Neill will look to force his hand with a bid of around £13million.”