Koeman banishes Valencia trio to doghouse for rest of season

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The Independent Football

Ronald Koeman, recently installed as the new coach of Valencia, has taken the extraordinary step of telling three of his senior players that they will not be part of the first-team squad for the rest of the season.

The Dutchman, who has told the goalkeeper, Santiago Canizares, midfielder David Albelda and winger Miguel Angel Angulo that they are to be excluded for the rest of the season, said: "The team had to change, to have people with more enthusiasm and a greater hunger... I have seen things that I haven't liked from the start and I have changed them." His new-look side meet the similarly struggling Real Zaragoza today.

With Spain's big two meeting at the Nou Camp, elsewhere in La Liga, Atletico Madrid, fresh from a last-gasp winner against Panathinaikos in the Uefa Cup, host Espanyol in their third-plays-fifth match tomorrow. Fourth-placed Villarreal, who also enjoyed midweek Uefa Cup success at AEK Athens, entertain Recreativo Huelva tomorrow.

In Italy, the Internazionale midfielder, Luis Jimenez, is hoping to shrug off a thigh strain in time for tomorrow's Milan derby. The Chilean, who hardly featured at the start of the campaign, has scored three goals recently for the champions and league leaders after his fellow midfielders Patrick Vieira, Luis Figo and Olivier Dacourt sustained long-term injuries. His team-mate, striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, is expected to return after being rested for Wednesday's 4-1 Italian Cup win at Reggina.

The coach, Roberto Mancini, is likely to revert to a front two of Ibrahimovic and Julio Cruz if Jimenez is fit, having been forced to play a front three lately because of his midfield problems.

Mid-table Milan have no fresh injury worries, with a sell-out 83,500 crowd expected at San Siro. However the striker, Ronaldo, who has played one game all season, is back in Brazil receiving treatment on his latest leg injury. Second-placed Roma entertain Sampdoria today with the striker and captain, Francesco Totti, set for a place on the bench at least after his nagging foot problem eased.