Bolton running low on numbers

Owen Coyle will travel to Anfield with just 15 fit players in his Bolton side for their New Year’s Day showdown with Liverpool.

The Trotters could only name six fit substitutes for Wednesday’s loss at Chelsea and their fortunes haven’t improved since then.

Full-back Paul Robinson is the latest addition to the absentee list having picked up a fifth booking of the season in the loss at Stamford Bridge, leaving former Real Madrid youngster Marcos Alonso to make his Premier League debut following his two million pound signing over the off-season.

Gretar Steinsson is also set to miss out due to a knee injury and South Korean winger Chung-Yong Lee has departed for the Asian Cup in Qatar, leaving Coyle facing the prospect of naming only five substitutes.

“Unless there are a couple of miraculous recoveries, I expect to only have 15 players available for the match,” Coyle said.

“But we will just get on with it with a smile on our face and look to go and win a very difficult game.”

“I have to make sure my group are fresh and at their best bearing in mind we probably have the smallest squad in the division.”

Coyle’s counterpart Roy Hodgson has been criticised ahead of the game for comments relating to a lack of support from the fans, while a poor run of results has seen the Reds slip to 12th in the league.

But the Wanderers manager insists he has too many problems of his own to worry about under-fire Hodgson.

“I only focus on my team,” said Coyle. “Whatever happens at any other football club is for that club to look after.”

“We’ll be going there looking to be positive and with a game plan.”

Tamir Cohen is one of eight first teamers missing from the Bolton side.The midfielder is back in Israel on compassionate leave following the death of his father, the former Liverpool defender Avi, and Coyle has no plans to rush him back.

“It’s up to Tamir,” Coyle said. “It’s such a difficult time for him and his family. He’ll come back when it’s the right time for Tamir.”

Fri 31 December, 2010
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Phillips in line for Blackpool start

Blackpool boss Ian Holloway could throw teenager Matt Phillips into his starting line-up for their New Year’s Day trip to Manchester City.

Midfielder Elliot Grandin has been ruled out of the trip to Eastlands with a hamstring injury – a problem Holloway puts down to the lack of training and match practice due to the big freeze.

And that could open the door for 19-year-old Phillips, who was signed from Wycombe for just 300,000 pounds at the start of the season.

The winger has started just three games this season, but Holloway rates Phillips highly and says he has a bright future.

“The lad is so good it’s scary,” said Holloway. “I am glad I don’t play anymore because I would not like him running at me.”

“There are aspects of his game he needs to improve on but the world is at his feet.”

Holloway now has his sights set on revenge after City won 3-2 at Bloomfield Road in a controversial game in October.

Television replays showed that two of City’s goals should not have stood, and Holloway admits the game still rankles with him two months on.

“I was bitter about and it still gets me peeved,” said Holloway, “But now we have our chance to get our own back.”

Holloway revealed that striker Marlon Harewood is now back in training, but would not comment on reports Ghana midfielder Laryea Kingston is now in talks with the club ahead of the January transfer window.

Kingston left Dutch club Vittesse Arnheim earlier this year and his brother is Blackpool goalkeeper Richard Kingson.

Fri 31 December, 2010
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Kaka set for a summer move to Chelsea; Juventus admit interest in Pazzini and Gilardino

Agent: Kaka will join Chelsea in January

Football agent Ernesto Bronzetti believes Real Madrid star Kaka is close to agreeing a summer move to Chelsea.

The Brazilian has been strongly linked to Inter ever since Leonardo replaced Rafa Benitez, but Bronzetti believes Kaka will not be moving clubs in January.

“Kaka to Inter? I know Real President Florentino Perez very well, I only spoke to him a few days ago and he’ll never sell Kaka in January,” Bronzetti said.

However, he admits the Brazilian’s transfer to Chelsea next summer is almost a done deal.

“I would say that there is a 90 per cent chance that Kaka will go to Chelsea at the end of the season for a fee of around €50m.”

Having lost his place in the starting line-up because of injury, Kaka now faces a difficult battle to prove his worth to Real Madrid fans, and should the Brazilian fail to do so, he would probably be sold in the summer, with Chelsea and Inter the potential buyers.

[Source: Daily Mail]

Juventus admit interest in Pazzini and Gilardino

Juventus transfer guru Giuseppe Marotta admits the Bianconeri are keeping tabs on Giampaolo Pazzini and Alberto Gilardino.

Juventus are looking for a prolific striker to boost their attacking options and Marotta has confirmed interest in the Italy internationals.

“In terms of profile, Pazzini is a player worthy of Juventus,” said Marotta.

“When Sampdoria decide to put him on the transfer market then we’ll consider a bid.

“Gilardino is a prolific attacker and a good player, but it’s the same scenario as the Pazzini one. If a club decides not to sell a player then it’s useless to persist.”

Marotta also says he hopes Juventus can win the Scudetto this season.

“Juventus must always be protagonists, always. We need to improve and also to win.

“The Scudetto? We are obliged to believe. At the start we knew that we couldn’t compete, but as time has passed we have noticed our strength.”

[Source: Il Corriere dello Sport]

Roberto Ayala retires at 37

Argentina World Cup star Roberto Ayala has decided to hang up his boots after ending his contract at Racing Club de Avellaneda.

Ayala spent last year and a half at Racing, but after the club opted against extending his contract, the former Argentina international decided to end his playing career.

The 37-year-old is recognized as one of the best defenders in the history of the national team, and with 115 appearances for los Albicelestes, Ayala is second most capped player behind Javier Zanetti.

Ayala started his career at local Ferro Carril Oeste and went on to play for River Plate, Napoli and Milan before joining Valencia, where he spent seven very successful years.

Some of his achievements include the gold medal at 2004 Olympic Games, UEFA Cup and Super Cup titles with Valencia, as well as two La Liga titles with los Che.

The Argentine will be remembered as one of the smartest defenders ever to have played the game, with his impeccable decision making often compensating for the lack of height.

[Source: El Mundo Deportivo]

For more news about football transfers and rumours, visit our Transfer News section. To view all football transfers for 2010/11 season, visit our Soccer Transfers section.

Fri 31 December, 2010
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This year’s Premier League season is brilliantly unpredictable

This season has been one of the strangest in Premier League history. The likes of Blackpool and Wolves have both achieved remarkable victories at Liverpool’s Anfield.

Sunderland beat league champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. West Brom blew Arsenal away at the Emirates and hammered Everton at Goodison Park.

Unpredictable

This season has also been the most unpredictable Premier League campaign in recent years.

On Wednesday night I sat down fully expecting to watch Liverpool easily turn over Wolves. The visitors however had other ideas, as they shocked the hosts 1-0. This result was typical of how this season has gone.

It’s these sorts of results that have made the Premier League so interesting to watch this season. The bottom half of the table has some unfamiliar names down there. The likes of Everton, Liverpool and Aston Villa are all in the bottom half of the table.

Underachieving

All three are more used to being in top six of the Premier League than the bottom ten. However this season all three have had a poor first half of the season. I have no doubts that the two Merseyside giants will finish higher up in the table.

Villa could be in trouble though. They are currently depending on youngsters and confidence is very low at the Villans. Villa Manager Gerard Houllier isn’t exactly the most popular guy in the Midlands either unless you ask West Brom or Birmingham City fans!

Villa currently find themselves just one point outside the relegation zone with a trip to champions Chelsea on Sunday afternoon. If I was a Villa fan I would be very nervous right now.

Fantastic

The standout team of the Premier League season at the halfway stage has to be Blackpool. The Seasider’s are in eight place in the Premier League table with up to three games in-hand on the teams around them.

I have never hid my admiration for Ian Holloway’s side and they have been fantastic this season. Their attacking approach to the game has proved a breath of fresh air in the Premier League. I think they are fast becoming everybody’s second team.

I was hoping that the Tangerines would stay up and it’s looking like they could be capable of surviving in the Premier League.

Open

The league is so wide open it’s unbelievable. Everton in 11th are just three points off 18th placed Fulham. One win could take you up five places in the Premier League table and it’s absolutely fascinating.

The relegation battle will probably go right down to the wire. Blackpool, Blackburn and Bolton were three of the favourites to be relegated at the start of the season, yet they are currently midtable looking securely down at the relegation zone.

In fact the three North West clubs are looking at challenging for a European place instead. They are not safe yet with half of the season till left to run and could still be dragged into the dogfight, it looks unlikely though. With those three unlikely to be relegated other clubs will be in trouble.

Strugglers

The bottom of the Premier League table isn’t clear and cut. Nobody has been cut adrift like in normal seasons. Bottom club West Ham are just two points away from 17th place and safety that’s how tight it is.

The bottom teams are all showing enough fight to make the relegation places hard to predict. The likes of Wigan, Wolves and West Ham all achieved vital victories over the festive period. I’m not even going to try to predict who will go down.

Title

The top of the Premier League table is just as competitive as the bottom, which is unusual for England’s top flight. Five teams are realistically challenging for the title.

The usual suspects of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal are there with the new challengers of Manchester City and Tottenham also battling away at the top. Again it would take a wiser man than me to predict how that race will finish. With no runaway leaders it’s anybody’s title.

Exciting

Before this season started I believe the Premier League had become slightly boring because it was too predictable. This season has restored my faith in the excitement of the Premier League and I just can’t wait to see what happens next.

Is this the most exciting season in recent Premier League history?

Fri 31 December, 2010
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Anelka upbeat on Chelsea title chances

Nicolas Anelka is backing Chelsea to remain in the English Premier League title race despite their recent form slump.

Chelsea beat Bolton 1-0 on Wednesday to record their first win in seven league matches – the team’s worst run of form since Roman Abramovich took over the club in 2003.

Despite their poor results, Chelsea remain just four points off league leaders Manchester United, a measure of an unpredictable season that Anelka believes is far from decided.

“It’s not a surprise for me the way this season has gone,” the Frenchman said.

“We did very well at the beginning and we’ve had a little difficulty recently, but there are still a lot of games left and it’s going to be a very tough season.”

“That’s the way the league is now – when you have more big teams, you have more big games, so it’s going to be very tight all the way through.”

“If you drop points one day, it doesn’t mean you will still be behind 15 games later anymore because anything can happen each week.”

“We’ve dropped points, but sometimes it’s like that – football is not always beautiful. You have to be strong in your head to pass these hard times.”

“It’s better when things are easier, of course. But life is not always easy, so we have to stay strong and see what happens. It doesn’t affect the way we approach matches because we always want to win.”

Fri 31 December, 2010
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A-League: Central Coast 1 Melbourne Victory 2

Late goals from Diogo Ferreira and Grant Brebner gave Melbourne Victory a 2-1 win over Central Coast in a New Year’s Eve thriller at Gosford.

The third-placed Mariners went ahead in the 48th minute after an own goal from Melbourne defender Adrian Leijer, before second-half replacement Ferreira equalised with five minutes to play.

A shocking mistake from young Mariners goalkeeper Mathew Ryan in the 87th minute saw Brebner presented with an easy tap-in to win the match.

Ryan should have easily held Ferreira’s long-range shot but the shot-stopper fumbled the ball and Brebner had the easiest of tasks to score what turned out to be the winner in front of 12,409 fans at Bluetongue Stadium.

It was a heartbreaking end to the match for the Mariners who looked on course for a third win in succession.

”They got two soft goals from fatigue,” Central Coast coach Graham Arnold lamented.

”The game changed completely with the sending off (of in-form Mariners striker Adam Kwasnik). I’m proud of the boys, for me there was only one team on the field in the first half.”

Melbourne remain in fifth place on the A-League table after their fourth straight win.

Fri 31 December, 2010
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Wigan secure Spanish youngster Lopez

Wigan Athletic have completed the signing of Spain Under-21 international Adrian Lopez on a free transfer from Deportivo La Coruna.

Lopez, 23, has been out of contract with the La Liga club since the end of last season, but has had to wait for international clearance from FIFA before completing his move to the English Premier League.

The 23-year-old defender, who appeared twice for Spain at Under-21 level, is contracted to Wigan until the end of the season and will be available to play immediately.

“We’ve been waiting a while for the FIFA resolution and it’s great to see Adrian’s desire to play for Wigan Athletic can finally be fulfilled,” Wigan manager Roberto Martinez said.

“He is a player with a fantastic football education, coming through the ranks of Deportivo La Coruna and playing for Spain at Under-19 and Under-21 level, which gives him a unique development, and makes him a defender with real potential.”

“He is a defender who is very calm under pressure, and is a great reader of the game, and I am confident he will be able to fulfil his potential at Wigan. He is desperate to help the squad to win games for Wigan Athletic.”

Fri 31 December, 2010
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La Liga preview: Barca depleted for Levante clash

La Liga leaders Barcelona will be without first-choice centre-backs for the visit of Levante when the Spanish season resumes on Sunday.

Barca skipper Carlos Puyol will miss the match at Camp Nou after sustaining a groin injury representing Catalonia against Honduras on Tuesday, while Gerard Pique is suspended.

Puyol, 32, is expected to be out for up to seven days, meaning he is also likely to miss a Copa del Rey tie away to Athletic Bilbao and the trip to Deportivo La Coruna in La Liga on January 5.

Fortunately for Barca, Argentine defender Gabriel Milito has returned to fitness after overcoming a thigh problem, along with emerging midfielder Jeffren.

Milito may be thrust straight into the starting line-up, alongside Eric Abidal.

Despite their defensive problems, Barca seemingly have little to fear from Levante, who went down 8-0 against Real Madrid in their last match before the winter break.

Struggling just two points above the relegation zone, they may be braced for more of the same treatment when they take on the league leaders in their own backyard.

Also on Sunday, fourth-place Valencia play host to fifth-placed Espanyol at the Mestalla.

The hosts drew 0-0 at home to Villarreal in the Copa del Rey 10 days ago, while Espanyol lost 1-0 away to Atletico Madrid in the same competition.

Elsewhere, Seville are at home to Osasuna, while second-bottom Sporting Gijon clash with third-bottom Malaga.

Deportivo La Coruna are away to Athletic Bilbao.

On Monday, Real Madrid travel to Getafe, while their cross-capital rivals Atletico Madrid are at home to Racing Santander.

Mallorca have a mid-table clash with surprise package Hercules.

The promoted side are flying high in 12th despite a large proportion of the first-team squad going unpaid for several months this season.

Bottom side Real Zaragoza will be desperate for points at home to Real Sociedad, as will third-placed Villarreal, who welcome Almeria to El Madrigal.

Juan Carlos Garrido’s side have the unenviable task of attempting to keep pace with the top two and they must do so without Brazil international Nilmar, who has been ruled out for up to a month following knee surgery.

Tenacious midfielder Marcos Senna is also out for 10 weeks after injuring a hamstring.

Fri 31 December, 2010
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Telling the fans that it’s their fault is hardly likely to help Hodgson

Pushing the self destruct button

Liverpool’s 1-0 defeat at home to Wolves was a new low for the once proud Anfield club. The fans have clearly decided that manager Roy Hodgson is the main reason for the dismal performances and results and whilst the players must take their share of the blame, it is beginning to look as though the fans may have a point.

Fan

Anyone who has read any of my previous articles will know that I’m a huge fan of Roy Hodgson. I think he is a great football man with a wealth of knowledge. He is a fine tactician and he is able to get the very best out of average players by organising them to be very difficult to beat. Unfortunately, many people, including me, wondered whether Liverpool was the right move for Roy at this stage of his career. As it is turning out, he does look to be out of his depth.

After the Wolves defeat, Hodgson seemed to be blaming the players and, in a suicidal move, the fans, for the current position.

Position

“The fans have left angry and that’s understandable. We’ve let them down. I have to hope the fans will become supporters because we need support. We are not deliberately losing games.”

Liverpool’s supporters chanted the name of Kenny Dalglish and also sarcastically, ‘Hodgson for England’, during and after the game.

“I am getting used to it, that is the way it is. We’ve had to live with that for quite a long time now as ever since I came here the famous Anfield support has not really been there. There were the problems with the owners, then Kenny being so popular and not getting the job and it being given to me. It is sad and I don’t like hearing those things because I am trying to do the best job I can do. As manager, you take responsibility for that so I have to take that criticism on the chin as well. You have seen these players before. They are just not playing like they have done in the past so I think it is time for the fans to really help as well. It is not for lack of trying that we are not winning matches. Maybe we are lacking quality and lacking confidence. The negativity doesn’t help. The players are not getting on the ball for fear of making mistakes.”

Forlorn

During the game Fernando Torres once again cut a forlorn figure and Steve Gerrard, following a six week injury lay off, looked understandably short of match sharpness.

“A lot of our players were below their form and the level we want them to play at. It was a performance way below what we are capable of and what we wanted to give. I’d like to give Wolves credit but I think we were a bit unlucky to lose the game. Probably 0-0 would have been a fair result but it was nowhere near our expectations or hopes. It’s one of those days that saddens you as a coach and as a player. Tonight the fans go home angry and disappointed because they’ve seen their team play badly.”

Movement

Hodgson went on to say that there may not be a lot of movement in the January transfer window, but that he was also aware that other people at the club could take things out of his hands.

“It would be dangerous to clear a lot of players out on the basis of one game. We wanted our renaissance to start today but it hasn’t happened. Panic would be the wrong thing to do but I’m not the sole arbiter of that.”

Problem

Unfortunately, that last statement sums up what the problem is. Hodgson has gone on record as saying that a top half finish would be a reasonable performance. He really does think that the Wolves game was a one-off. A top half finish is not success for Liverpool and a current position of twelfth and a record of eight defeats in eighteen games is not good enough. It is a symptomatic problem whereby the players do not seem to buy-in to Roy’s methods, beliefs and the way he wants to play. It is a whole lot more than a 1-0 defeat to the bottom club.

Telling the fans that they are out of order and asking them to be proper supporters is simply not the answer. I love you Roy, but I think your time at Anfield may be coming to an end.

Fri 31 December, 2010
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Belgian First Division wrap: Gent held to draw

Third-placed Gent were held to a 2-2 draw against Zulte-Waregem courtesy of a late equaliser to Moussa Traore in the Belgian First Division.

Khaleem Hyland gave the 10th-placed hosts the lead at the Regenboogstadion in the eighth minute on Thursday, but goals to Zlatan Ljubijankic and an own goal by Miguel Dachelet either side of half time looked to have helped Gent net a valuable three points.

But Traore, on loan from Standard Liege, popped up in the 90th minute to score for Zulte-Waregem, duly assisted by Steve Colpaert.

Zulte head into the New Year on a three-game unbeaten streak courtesy of the draw, while the result meant it was Gent’s first point in three games in all competitions.

Second-placed Genk fought back from a two-goal deficit to take a point from their away fixture against Lokeren at Daknamstadion, the match finishing 2-2.

The hosts led after just 16 minutes when Katuku Tshimanga found the back of the net, before Senegalese defender Ibrahima Gueye doubled their lead eight minutes from the break.

After half-time, the fortunes changed for Genk when Brazilian defender Joao Carlos pulled a goal back in the 54th minute prior to Marvin Ogunjimi’s equaliser in the 73rd minute.

The point moves Lokeren above Standard Liege to fifth spot on the table, while Genk remain six points in arrears of league leaders Anderlecht, but have a game in hand on their title rivals.

Thursday’s scheduled fixture between Sint-Truiden and Cercle Brugge was postponed.

Fri 31 December, 2010
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