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NST Online: Sports

Make it a family problem

Posted: 01 Jan 2011 08:40 AM PST

TREAT it as a family problem from now on.

The FA of Malaysia (FAM) has urged its state affiliates to work as a team and if one of them is in trouble, the others should come in to help.

FAM deputy president, Tan Sri Annuar Musa, said all the teams competing in the M-League will be treated as a partner of FAM.

"If one is having a problem, it becomes a family issue. It will become a responsibility for FAM and its partners to settle," said Annuar.

"My long term goal is to raise the bar and the prestige of the M-League. I believe that by working together, we can achieve it sooner under one effective unit.

"As for now, the M-League is categorised as a class three league by the Asian Football Confederation.... we need to take steps to improve our league's status."

Annuar also promised that teams would receive higher grants in stages when the league's new sponsors are announced soon.

As for now, each team receive between RM250,000 and RM150,000 in grants for each season and the sum is not enough for teams to cover all expenses.

FAM also expects this season's M-League to be livelier and more exciting after the success of the national team in the recent AFF Cup.

Teams could also earn more revenue compared with previous years through ticket sales as more fans are expected to flock to the stadiums.

Annuar hopes affiliates would capitalise on the recent success of the national team to promote their teams during the M-League season.

"Fan clubs play an important role as their responsibility is to get their members to the stadiums. I also want fan clubs to be more structured," he added.

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Ancelotti looks for signs of Chelsea revival

Posted: 01 Jan 2011 07:42 AM PST

LONDON: Carlo Ancelotti admits Chelsea must beat Aston Villa today before the champions can start to believe they have ended the miserable run that threatens to destroy their title challenge.

Ancelotti's grip on his job appeared to be weakening with every passing game during a woeful run that saw last season's double winners slip to fifth place.

A stuttering win over Bolton on Wednesday, Chelsea's first in seven league games, was hardly emphatic enough to herald the dawn of a new era, but it did bring Ancelotti and his players some much-needed respite and gave them the psychological lift of moving back into the top four.

The post-match talk at Stamford Bridge turned once again to the title but Ancelotti knows full well his side will once again be written off if they fail to beat a Villa side currently on an alarming slide towards the wrong end of the table.

The visit of Villa, then managed by Martin O'Neill, to west London last March marked one of the defining moments in Chelsea's first ever league and FA Cup double winning campaign as Ancelotti's side cruised to a 7-1 victory.

For several months following that game, the Blues appeared unbeatable on home turf and John Carew's consolation goal in that mauling remained the last time Ancelotti's team conceded at home until Nedum Onuoha struck Sunderland's first in a 3-0 defeat on Nov 14.

So far, the champions do not appear to have recovered from the shock of that defeat and their air of invincibility has certainly disappeared.

"It was a hard period - that's normal," Ancelotti said. "It was a very difficult period. We have to keep going now. We have to maintain good focus on our training and on our games."

Whether Villa can exploit Chelsea's weaknesses is another matter altogether, however.

Gerard Houllier's team will certainly take heart from the likely appearance of young centre back Jeffrey Bruma in the Blues league starting line-up for the first time.

Bruma, 19, is expected to come in for the suspended Branislav Ivanovic, who serves a one-match ban after collecting his fifth booking of the season against Bolton, while centre back Alex is out for another month following knee surgery.

Reports from Portugal claim Benfica have dismissed a bid from Chelsea for centre back David Luiz, with Bolton's Gary Cahill also mooted as a possible target.

Ancelotti, though, is keeping his plans for the transfer window close to his chest.

"We didn't speak about this but we have one month," he said. "(If) we need to have some players, I said a lot of times that we are able to do it."

Villa's decline over the past 12 months has been alarming, with the club starting the year with hopes of a Champions League place, and ending it with their lowest points tally after 19 Premier League games since 1995.

Already Houllier is under pressure after just 17 games in charge and the manager admits he has endured a difficult period.

"I think some players are affected mentally by what is happening here," said Houllier, who will welcome back Ashley Young after injury.

"But they are men enough now to be counted and go and say 'we can cope' but it is a team thing.

"The team needs more to know that I've got faith in them, I trust them, they are good players, and they haven't changed. They are still good players.

"There has been a change in the culture of what we have been doing here but we won't go back and we've got to stick together.

"We've also been affected by a few results that didn't go our way when we deserved for them." -- AFP

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