Premier League preview: Wigan v Newcastle

Newcastle will not be worried about former player Charles N’Zogbia producing heroics for Wigan again when the two teams clash on Sunday.

United’s former winger N’Zogbia scored twice in as many minutes earlier this season to stun Newcastle in their 2-2 draw at St James Park.

Defender and crowd favourite Fabricio Coloccini saved face for the hosts on that occasion with an injury-time equaliser, but N’Zogbia will not be playing on Sunday after receiving a three-match suspension for head-butting in Wigan’s 2-2 draw with Arsenal.

N’Zogbia’s rash decision to head-butt Jack Wilshere will only further fuel long-standing rumours he will depart the club in the January transfer window, despite manager Roberto Martinez’s claims he is not a wanted player elsewhere.

“The situation has not changed – there have been no offers but I’m sure the speculation will carry on,” the Latics boss said.

Both sides are hovering above the relegation zone, meaning the three points is a must for both managers Alan Pardew and Martinez.

Wigan are unbeaten in their past six surrounded by the comforts of their DW Stadium home, and Newcastle’s form has slumped to see them win just one of their past eight.

United might welcome back striker Shola Ameobi from a hamstring injury to the starting 11, who would provide experience and aerial support to the in-form Andy Carroll.

Carroll has 11 goals to his name this English Premier League season, and paired with Ameobi, will provide a brutal challenge for Wigan’s centre-backs to handle their agility and strength in the air.

Fri 31 December, 2010
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Premier League preview: Chelsea v Aston Villa

Chelsea will look to string back to back wins together when they host Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

The Blues scored a desperately needed win over Bolton on Wednesday but it would account to nothing if the home side could not take all three points against Gerard Houllier’s men.

The match will be no breeze for Carlo Ancelotti’s side, with Villa likely to be desperate for points, given they are languishing in 15th place on the English Premier League table, just one point above relegation-placed Fulham.

Houllier believes sewing up the defence will be the key to seeing his side climb the table, after allowing six goals into their own net in their past two league affairs.

“We have to be aware that to sort this out we need to work harder as a team to defend and protect the ball,” Houllier told the club’s official site.

“If you don’t do that you are always exposed to conceding goals and that will cost you games.”

“I think we have to be aware that as a team we need to put in more effort to defend.”

“We have improved in terms of passing and movement but this must not bring us to some kind of indulgence on the back of that.”

Ashley Young is back training after recovering from a knee injury, while Emile Heskey is close to returning to ball work at Villa Park after twisting his ankle in their 2-1 Boxing Day loss to Tottenham.

Ancelotti was in no mood to start celebrating his side’s breakthrough win over Bolton, their first in seven league games, saying they needed to set the standard at three points if they are to revive their title-winning form.

“It’s a hard period. That’s normal. 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,” Ancelotti said.

Villa will be hoping to diminish the memories of their trip to Stamford Bridge from March this year, when they were thrashed 7-1 by a rampant Blues side on their way to the league title.

Fri 31 December, 2010
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Diaby to miss three weeks

Arsenal midfielder Abou Diaby is set to spend more time on the sidelines this season after picking up a calf injury.

The France international returned to the pitch as a second-half substitute in their 3-1 win against Chelsea on Monday, following a nine-week hiatus due to an ankle injury.

Diaby was in the starting 11 in their 2-2 draw with Wigan on Wednesday, but was substituted in the opening 30 minutes after injuring his calf.

Manager Arsene Wenger said Diaby will miss most of January in a crucial period for the Londoners to mark their title ambitions, with the 24-year-old likely to miss away trips to Birmingham City and West Ham, and a home clash with Manchester City.

“We lost Diaby last night for a while and he will have a scan today (Thursday) but in my opinion he will be out for over three weeks,” Wenger told the club’s official site.Although Wenger said Diaby’s absence from the team was his only new injury concern, joining Thomas Vermaelen, Manuel Almunia and Kieran Gibbs in the medical room.

Fri 31 December, 2010
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Ljungberg signs for Celtic

Scottish giants Celtic have signed former Arsenal winger Freddie Ljungberg after the 33-year-old passed a medical on Thursday.

He could make his debut for the Glasgow outfit in Sunday’s crucial Old Firm derby with Rangers at Ibrox.

Ljungberg won 75 caps for Sweden, had a stint at West Ham and was most recently plying his trade in the United States, first for the Seattle Sounders and then the Chicago Fire.

The Swede had a week-long trial with at Parkhead and watched the club defeat Motherwell 1-0 on Wednesday night to move one point clear of Rangers on top of the Scottish Premier League.

He will be officially unveiled as a Celtic player on Friday at a press conference at the club’s Lennoxtown training headquarters.

Thu 30 December, 2010
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Hughes denies Bothroyd link

Fulham boss Mark Hughes has poured cold water on speculation that Cardiff striker Jay Bothroyd is a potential January signing.

Bothroyd, 28, has enjoyed a stellar season in the Championship and has scored 13 goals so far, winning his first England cap in November’s friendly against France.

Hughes has made no secret of the fact he needs to address a dearth of goals this term, but would not be drawn on whether Bothroyd was in his sights.

“I’m aware of Jay because I worked with him at Blackburn Rovers and that’s where the speculation is coming from,” Hughes told Sky Sports.

“He’s certainly matured as a player from when I had him. He was still a young player and he was finding his way and he’s had a few problems at previous clubs.”

“But from my knowledge he’s a Cardiff player and it’s not something I particularly like to do – talk about other players at other clubs.”

Hughes was also reluctant to comment on his predecessor at Fulham, Roy Hodgson, who has endured a nightmarish time at the helm of Liverpool in recent months.

Liverpool supporters sarcastically chanted ‘Hodgson for England’ after their 1-0 loss to Wolves on Wednesday, but Hughes – who himself faced a backlash after his side’s 3-1 loss to West Ham on Boxing Day – said supporters had every right to vent their anger.

“No one is really in full possession of the facts apart from the people concerned with the management of any given club,” he said.

“My view on that situation is really only from an outsider’s view point. I don’t know enough detail to comment with regard to what is going on there.”

“They are a top club and have been for many years. The history of the club is there for everyone to see and supporters have a right if they feel they are not performing then they will voice those opinions.”

“May be they are a bit audible at the moment and with that comes pressure.”

Thu 30 December, 2010
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Maxwell´s house in order

Barcelona full-back Maxwell has warned his teammates against complacency as they head into the New Year.

The reigning La Liga champions have swept all before them so far this season, culminating in a 5-0 annihilation of second-placed Real Madrid on November 29.

They are two points clear of Madrid at the top of the table with a staggering goal difference of 42, but Maxell is keen to ensure his teammates are not getting carried away and remain focused on the job at hand – beginning with Sunday’s home clash with Levante.

“Games are always difficult,” the 29-year-old said. “You can train as much as you can, but maybe we haven’t had enough time to get in shape for it.”

“We have to be focused and play an intense game, so that there are no surprises and we can get a fundamental three points.”

“You can never be comfortable in football and should always look for improvement and titles. You can’t live off what you have done. You have to look for new titles and to improve our game, even though in 2010 we did very well.”

“We have the challenge of winning all the competitions that we are participating in. The cup, the Champions League and the league – we want to win them all, and we’ll have to be very prepared.”

Maxwell was full of praise for Barca’s new signing Ibrahim Afellay, a 24-year-old Dutch winger the Catalan giants have bought from PSV Eindhoven

“He is very fast, technical and intelligent. He has talent. He will have to get used to our game, but we will support him,” he said.

Thu 30 December, 2010
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Di Matteo defends red card record

West Brom manager Roberto Di Matteo has refuted claims his side are violent after having six players sent off this season – the most in the league.

The Baggies host Manchester United at the Hawthorns on Saturday with Gabriel Tamas suspended after being sent off in their previous game against Blackburn.

Youssuf Mulumbu saw red against Everton and Manchester City, while both Gonzala Jara and Pablo Ibanez were given their marching orders against Blackpool. James Morrison was also sent off against Liverpool in August.

“I don’t think we are a violent team because of our red cards,” said Di Matteo.

“There’s been two double yellows with Youssuf Mulumbu. So it’s Jara and Tamas that have been the bad ones.”

The Italian also expressed his disappointment at the suspension of Tamas, who has appeared in all but one of West Brom’s league games this campaign.

“It’s disappointing, missing three games,” he said.

The former Chelsea midfielder hailed the strength and depth Manchester United have in their squad ahead of their visit to the Hawthorns.

“Anytime you play against Manchester United it’s difficult because they have such great players and quality. There are goals everywhere in the team,” he said.

“It’ll be a difficult game for us no doubt about it.”

“Our first game of the season we played Chelsea, now our first game of the second half of the season we play Man United. But after that there’s another 18 games to play.”

Thu 30 December, 2010
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Ferguson takes son´s sacking to heart

Sir Alex Ferguson recalled two Manchester United players on loan at Preston, just a day after his son was sacked as manager of the Championship side.

Darren Ferguson was sacked by Preston North End on Wednesday after winning just 13 of his 49 games at the helm and the club is anchored at the foot of the Championship table.

Ferguson recalled defender Ritchie de Laet and striker Joshua King, and is also keen on bringing midfielder Matty James back to Old Trafford.

“This has come as a shock to us and a bit of a blow,” Preston Chairman Maurice Lindsay told The Guardian.

“Ritchie de Laet and Joshua King won’t be available for Saturday’s game (against Derby) because we got a message from Manchester United this morning to inform us that they had been summoned back immediately and, under the terms of the agreement, they can do that.”

“It’s a big blow for us. These are two players, young and enthusiastic, who seemed to be enjoying it at Preston, so to be told by their parent club that they can’t play for us again really is sad indeed.”

James’ situation is more complicated, as the 19-year-old is on a season-long loan deal at Deepdale and has emerged as a key member of the Preston side this term.

“It’s unfortunate with De Laet and King but we recognise Manchester United’s legal right and have to respect that,” Lindsay said.

“They have also suggested they would like Matty James back as well but it’s a bit different legally and I will have to speak with (caretaker manager) David Unsworth first.”

“David being the tough, effervescent, confident character he is, he will deal with it.”

Thu 30 December, 2010
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Hughes keen to rattle Spurs

Mark Hughes has been involved in professional football for 30 years but this season is like no other as his Fulham side struggle for survival.

Tuesday’s win over Stoke was enough to appease the fans but the west London club are still in the relegation zone.

The experienced Welshman knows full well the importance of a win on Saturday against Tottenham.

“We are among a group of teams at the bottom and there are not a lot of points that separate us and one win could take someone up to 11th in the league, that’s how tight it is, I have never known a year like it,” Hughes said.

Fulham fans have afforded Hughes more time after that 2-0 win over Stoke and a win over Harry Redknapp’s men would convince them further.

“We’ve had a couple of games in quick succession and you always worry that it will have a negative effect on players,” he said.

“Apart from a few bumps and bruises after a tough game with Stoke everyone has come through ok, which is a bonus.”

“We’ve even had good news on Mousa Dembele, he is looking good. He won’t be ready for the weekend but he has a good chance of playing against West Brom in midweek.”

The absence of strikers Dembele, Bobby Zamora (broken leg) and Andrew Johnson (various) has affected Fulham’s season dramatically especially when the team has such a solid defensive unit.

“I think we have done fine, I think that we have underachieved in some games when we have not been able to convert draws into wins and that is what has held us back.”

“Scoring is our problem and that is obvious to everybody.”

“Defensively we are decent, I don’t think there a lot of teams that have got a record like ours but we have not scored enough goals and we haven’t been in enough situations to score goals.”

One man who is in goal-scoring form is Tottenham winger Gareth Bale and it comes as no surprise to Hughes to see his fellow Welshman playing so well.

“Everyone was aware of the talent that he had as a youngster but he is not a kid anymore. Now he has filled out and is a strong man and you see that in his play and you can see him taking his career on to the next level,” Hughes said.

Fulham have no new injury changes but goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer will be playing his last game before leaving for the Asian Cup with Australia, for what could be a month-long absence.

Thu 30 December, 2010
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Swedish defender to leave Fulham

Sweden international Fredrik Stoor has revealed that his transfer request has finally been granted.

The 26-year-old is expected to leave Fulham in the January transfer window, after failing to make an impact at Craven Cottage since joining the club back in 2008.

“I said I want to get away from here, and it seems there may be something this time,” he told Fotbollskanalen.

“What it is is too early to say. I’ve wanted to be sold a long time, and now the club has changed. They have agreed to let me go in this window.

“I know there are clubs in both Denmark and Norway who are interested. I’ve also heard rumours about clubs in other leagues in Europe who are interested, but so far nothing is clear.”

[Source: Fotbollskanalen]

Thu 30 December, 2010
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