Pellegrini not feeling pressure despite Man City woes

The Premier League champions are struggling to keep pace with leaders Chelsea and face an uphill battle to stay in the Champions League after last week’s chastening 2-1 home defeat by Barcelona in the last 16 first leg.

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Having lost in the FA Cup to second tier Middlesbrough, the Chilean’s hopes of backing up last season’s title and League Cup with more trophies look slim, leading to inevitable speculation about his job.

Asked a Tuesday’s news conference whether he was concerned, he said: “No. I never haven’t any pressure to win an amount of titles, to win a title every year if I want to continue here.”

“The only pressure is when I don’t see my team playing like I want it to.

“Never when I sign a contract do they tell me I have to win the title every year, or five titles in five years,” he added.

“Only one team wins and that doesn’t mean all the others are failures. There are different ways to analyse a season, the title is important but not the only important thing.”

City go into Wednesday’s home match against bottom club Leicester City five points adrift of Chelsea who also have a game in hand. Third-placed Arsenal are only four points behind Pellegrini’s side.

Sunday’s 2-1 defeat by Liverpool was a hammer blow for City and left them five points worse off than they were after 27 games of last season when they surged through to take the title for the second time in three seasons.

“We are second, we have just two or three points less than last year and we continue in the Champions League,” said Pellegrini.

“I don’t think it’s important to think about what happened in the past, it’s important to think about what will happen in the future, to improve, to be consistent for 90 minutes and not have those bad moments in games.

“The concern is to win the next 11 games. It’s important to trust in what we do because I think it’s the same team that won the League Cup and Premier League last season, that scored a lot of goals.”

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond)

Automakers vow not to give up on electric

Top automakers are vowing not to give up on weak-selling electric vehicles – even as they unveil an array of powerful luxury cars with conventional engines aimed at a growing global automarket.

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BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer says that his company cannot do without battery-powered vehicles such as its i3 urban compact.

“In the future, electric drive vehicles will be in demand,” he said at the Geneva International Motor Show, adding that the Munich-based automaker could not meet its targets to reduce emissions without them.

Only about 75,000 of the 12.5 million vehicles sold last year in Europe were electrics or hybrids.

Still, auto companies have sunk billions into developing alternative propulsion vehicles over the long term, due to government requirements to limit vehicle emissions and with an eye to restrictions on autos in China due to heavy air pollution.

Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said hybrids combining internal combustion and batteries were “truly attractive cars that represent the best of both worlds” and serve as a bridge to future no-emissions vehicles.

He cautioned, however, that the long-life batteries needed for electrics to conquer the market are at least five years off.

Daimler introduced a rechargeable plug-in hybrid of its C-class sedan.

The calls to keep developing alternative-drive cars come even as high-end sports cars take pride of place at this year’s Geneva show.

Lamborghini, Ferrari, Audi and McLaren all are unveiling high-speed machines costing hundreds of thousands, while Daimler has the Maybach Pullman stretch limousine, which will go on sale for north of 500,000 euros ($A715,154.12).

Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn stressed his company’s commitment to new technologies even as the company’s Lamborghini brand showed off its Aventador LP 750-4 Superveloce, a sleek beast of a sports car with an enormous 750 horsepower and a top speed of over 350km/h).

Volkswagen also unveiled a concept sport coupe that’s hybrid driven and can reach 93km/h.

BlackBerry offers new phones, shifts focus

BlackBerry may be launching four new smartphones over the coming year, but the struggling company is staking its future on becoming a giant in software.

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“We are committed to making software as a business,” Chen said at the Mobile World Congress wireless show in Barcelona on Tuesday.

“We are going to evolve.”

The company that once popularised handsets with full keyboards has had to reassess its goals since sales failed to keep up with other smartphones in recent years.

Though it presented its new BlackBerry Leap on Tuesday – a “low-to-mid” market phone that will go on sale in Europe in April and be followed by three more handsets – its focus was on software.

In particular, it wants to make its more business-friendly applications, such as its messaging service, available to non-BlackBerry phones.

It will roll out over the next year the BlackBerry Experience, a set of three software packages crafted to improve security and communications for business and government customers.

It also presented its Work Life software designed to allow companies to separate billing and communications on employees’ smartphones used for both private and business.

The Canadian smartphone maker once commanded 50 per cent of the US market, but has seen its share evaporate as consumers flock to devices made by Apple and those run on Google’s Android operating system, like the popular Samsung models.

Chen’s major move to transform BlackBerry came in November, when it separated its most successful applications from its devices and made them available for the operating systems of would-be competitors.

It has since struck new deals to provide software to Samsung.

Chen said BlackBerry will try and strike a balance.

“We are going to compete with Samsung and we are going to collaborate with Samsung,” Chen said.

“We have a very small hardware percentage around the world today, so our strategy is to expand our server-available market by making it cross-platform. We can now have a business that spans 99 per cent of the market.”

Hardware sales still represent 73 per cent of BlackBerry’s revenues, and Chen said his vision is that devices and software become “two pillars” of his business.

Bereaved to view MH17 wreckage at base

GILZE-RIJEN AIRBASE, Netherlands, March 3 AFP – The first of around 500 relatives of those killed in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine have visited the wreckage at a Dutch airbase.

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The wreckage was brought to the Gilze-Rijen base in the northern Netherlands late last year as part of a probe into what exactly shot down the Boeing 777 in July, killing all 298 people on board.

Around two-thirds of those killed were Dutch, while citizens from a total of 11 countries died in the disaster, including 38 Australian citizens and residents.

Pieces of the plane’s fuselage have been laid out in hangars at the base where they can be viewed by the bereaved until Saturday and by journalists on Tuesday.

“There are about 500 people coming, not only from the Netherlands but also from other countries,” said Sara Vernooij of the Dutch Safety Board, which is leading the probe into the crash.

Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of supplying pro-Kremlin insurgents with the missile that downed the jet.

But Moscow and the separatists deny responsibility and have instead pointed the finger at Kiev.

The Dutch are leading international efforts towards a criminal prosecution, if the culprits can be identified.

International investigators from Ukraine, Malaysia, Australia, the United States, Britain and Russia have already carried out a preliminary investigation of the wreckage, the OVV said.

The three-dimensional reconstruction of part of the aircraft will begin later this month, focusing on the cockpit and business class section, the OVV said.

A preliminary report in September, which apportioned no blame, said the plane “broke up in the air probably as the result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside”.

Luis Enrique unfazed by Suarez petulance

Suarez, who scored one goal and was involved in the other two in a 3-1 victory over the Andalusian side, was clearly not happy as he walked off the pitch to be replaced by Pedro Rodriguez in the closing stages.

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But ahead of the King’s Cup semi-final second leg against Villarreal, Luis Enrique said it was not a worry for Suarez to be substituted late in a game.

“I’m not looking at what took place off the field,” he told a news conference.

“When I played I didn’t want to be involved in every minute. In the kickabouts and in matches where the substitutes were playing, I wasn’t bothered about playing then.”

The Catalan side have beaten Villarreal twice in the league this season and hold a 3-1 lead from the first leg at the Nou Camp.

If they can finish off the job they will face either local rivals Espanyol or Athletic Bilbao, who drew 1-1 in the first leg.

“Barca always go out to win the games and the objective in the return leg of the cup is to beat Villarreal,” Luis Enrique said.

“If we win the game then there is no possibility of a surprise.”

Barca’s devastating forward line of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Suarez have scored 32 goals since the start of the year.

“We are in top condition considering the stage of the season and the minutes already played,” Luis Enrique said. “To score will be more than important for us.”

Villarreal held Real Madrid to a 1-1 draw in La Liga last weekend and have impressed this season with the quality of their football and a solid backline.

The fact Villarreal coach Marcelino rested several players against Real also suggests they have not written off the tie.

“Until the game starts we don’t know what Villarreal are going to do and this is the doubt,” Luis Enrique said.

“The Villarreal side that we have seen in other league games is different to the one that has faced us,” he added.

“In the other matches they have created chances with the ball, they have been dangerous and used the wings.”

(Editing by Ed Osmond)