Look­ing for pay­back

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

And Bonucci warned: “We’re ex­pect­ing a dif­fer­ent Spain side with re­spect to the one we faced at the Eu­ros.

“They will have fresh mo­ti­va­tion, they’ll be in a new state of mind and look­ing to avenge their Euro 2016 de­feat.

“We have to step up a gear with re­spect to how we played against Is­rael.”

Asked if Spain were favourites, he added: “To­tally, yes. And if we’re to up­set pre­dic­tions we’ll have to play like we did at the Eu­ros, with pace, com­mit­ment and by be­ing clin­i­cal in front of goal.”

Barcelona and Spain mid­fielder Ser­gio Bus­quets ad­mit­ted yes­ter­day: “At the Eu­ros we made a few slips but now it is time for re­venge. Qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the World Cup is at stake here.”

Ex­pec­ta­tions that Spain and Italy will stick to the form book and take max­i­mum points from re­main­ing home and away fix­tures against Mace­do­nia, Liecht­en­stein, Is­rael and Al­ba­nia re­main high.

With only the group win­ners pro­gress­ing au­to­mat­i­cally to the fi­nals in Rus­sia, that means Italy and Spain’s di­rect en­coun­ters take on spe­cial im­por­tance.

And if Ven­tura ever needed re­mind­ing, Bus­quets added: “It’s not a de­ci­sive match for ei­ther of us, but it is im­por­tant to fight for the top spot, es­pe­cially as we’re the strong­est sides in the group.” him­self down in a quick turn­around be­fore Ja­pan, but he can seek so­lace in the fact he has won in Ja­pan three times and will be chas­ing a hat­trick of wins – and the 50th of his F1 ca­reer – in Suzuka on Sun­day.

Mercedes team prin­ci­pal Toto Wolff called Hamil­ton’s en­gine trou­ble “a freaky co­in­ci­dence” and chal­lenged Hamil­ton to bounce back in the ti­tle run-in.

“Our guys will get to the bot­tom of what hap­pened and learn from it,” he promised. “But I want to fo­cus on how Lewis re­sponds in the af­ter­math. We let him down to­day and we are beat­ing up our­selves about it.”

Af­ter com­pos­ing him­self, Hamil­ton said: “I hon­estly feel that it’s a test of my will, my spirit and who I am as a per­son to get back in and keep fight­ing it head on. It’s not how you fall, it’s how you get back up.”

Dur­ing a tur­bu­lent week­end here, Hamil­ton had also moaned about the “psy­cho­log­i­cal ef­fects” of break­ing up his ti­tle-win­ning crew by switch­ing five mechanics to Ros­berg’s side of the garage.

Wolff took a dim view of Hamil­ton’s re­newed crit­i­cism of a Mercedes de­ci­sion Ven­tura, who suf­fered a 3-1 friendly de­feat to France on his maiden out­ing as Italy coach, is un­der no il­lu­sions as he pre­pares to face off against a coach who, he says, has given Spain fresh en­ergy and con­vic­tion. “They’re the strong­est op­po­nents in the group,” he said. “Since Lopetegui took over they’ve changed the way they play, and their ap­proach to games. He’s given them an adren­a­line boost, and con­vic­tion. “It’s a del­i­cate game for us, an im­por­tant test. I’m pretty con­vinced that to win, we’ll need a spe­cial kind of per­for­mance. “It won’t be enough to play well 60% of the time, it has to be 99%.” – AFP taken at the start of the sea­son.

“There is no Team Hamil­ton and no Team Ros­berg,” he said, us­ing a foot­ball anal­ogy to un­der­line his point.

“No foot­baller would tell Jose Mour­inho or Pep Guardi­ola who he’d like to play with. It’s the man­ager’s call to de­cide who is in the squad.”

Af­ter a year plagued by tech­ni­cal grem­lins, time is run­ning out for the 2014 and 2015 cham­pion Hamil­ton to quash Ros­berg’s at­tempt to de­throne him.

The Ger­man is in the form of his life and fought back to fin­ish third here fol­low­ing a first-cor­ner col­li­sion with Se­bas­tian Vet­tel’s Fer­rari.

Ric­cia­rdo will be look­ing to build on his first vic­tory in two years, in­sist­ing the Red Bulls can pose a threat in what is fore­cast to be a wet race in Ja­pan.

“I ac­tu­ally think we will be more com­pet­i­tive at Suzuka,” said the Aus­tralian, who came home ahead of 19-year-old team­mate Max Ver­stap­pen at Sepang.

“If it rains I be­lieve we can win the race. If it’s dry, Mercedes would be favourites.” – AFP

Petronas Mercedes F1 driver Lewis Hamil­ton leaves his car af­ter an en­gine fail­ure dur­ing the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang last Sun­day.

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