Premier League preview: Swansea v Stoke City

Swansea will field a makeshift line-up against Stoke City on Sunday as injuries have swept through the squad of the Premier League new boys.

Leon Britton was substituted at half-time of their 4-1 loss to Chelsea in London last weekend, citing a recurring back injury, and it will likely keep him out of the clash at Liberty Stadium.

Britton will join fellow holding midfielder Kemy Agustien on the outer, with the latter suffering a hamstring injury against Arsenal, while striker Craig Beattie (ankle) will also miss the clash.

Defenders Steven Caulker (knee) and Alan Tate (leg) are also unavailable, creating a selection headache for manager Brendan Rodgers.

Stoke’s squad depth will also be tested, as they look to continue their winning ways after a midweek Europa League victory.

Tony Pulis’ men were thrashed by Sunderland the last time they had to back up from a midweek European fixture.

That came after a visit to Ukraine, however, while Thursday’s 2-1 win over Besiktas took place on home soil at Britannia Stadium.

Nevertheless, a trip to Wales will test the endurance of the Potters, particularly given Pulis will have to make-do without the injured Ricardo Fuller, Mamady Sidibe, Kenwyne Jones and Danny Higginbotham.

Swansea broke their Premier League goal-scoring duck in their last home game, a 3-0 win over West Bromwich Albion, while Stoke have lost just once on the road this term – the 4-0 reverse against Sunderland.

Fri 30 September, 2011
RSS Feed

Premier League preview: Fulham v QPR

Fulham host Queens Park Rangers on Sunday in another west London derby in the Premier League.

Fulham already had rivals Chelsea to contend with in the English top flight, but the presence of Championship winners QPR has added another feisty derby to the line of fixtures.

The two sides last played each other in the Championship in March 2001, with Fulham winning 2-0, while QPR have failed to score in their past four clashes against the Cottagers.

But Neil Warnock’s side are in good form and will look to prolong Fulham’s winless streak in the Premier League this season to seven games.

They will have to do so without Kieron Dyer, however, with a foot injury sustained on the season’s opening day keeping the veteran midfielder sidelined. Rob Hulse and Jamie Mackie are also nurturing long-term injuries.

Despite their winless start to the domestic campaign, Martin Jol’s Fulham side will take confidence from their 2-0 away win at Odense in the Europa League on Thursday.

Andy Johnson scored both goals against the Danish side, and Jol revealed post-match that the club have offered the former England striker a two-year extension on his contract at season’s end.

Former Wales international Simon Davies is Fulham’s only injury concern, as he is out indefinitely with a knee injury.

Jol will also be eager to end another Fulham drought over the weekend, with the Cottagers failing to win a London derby in their past nine encounters.

Fri 30 September, 2011
RSS Feed

England wary of early exit

England have adopted a knockout mentality ahead of their final pool B Rugby World Cup match with Scotland.

A win would guarantee the top ranking heading into the quarter-finals and a likely showdown with France.

However, a loss, coupled with a bonus-point win for Argentina over Georgia, would send the 2007 finalists back home.

When asked if he had considered the permutations of a loss, captain Mike Tindall said: “It’s not an option.”

“I always think of it as just another game that you’ve got to go and win,” Tindall said. “As long as this team turns up and we put everything we’ve done in training on to the paddock then I believe we’ll win.”

While he has 14 fellow countrymen on his side on the field, there is another Englishman plotting their downfall.

That man is Scotland coach Andy Robinson, a former England flanker who played eight Tests and also coached them from 2004 to 2006.

Tindall played under Robinson during that time, a period where England won only nine of 22 matches which led to the coach’s demise.

His record is stronger with Scotland – six wins and four losses – including a tight 22-16 loss at Twickenham in this year’s Six Nations.

“Robbo’s a very passionate person. He is intense, he loves his rugby. He’ll do as much homework as he can on us,” Tindall said.

“He’ll be thorough and he’ll try and come up with something he can surprise us with. That’s why we’ve got to make sure we’re ready for anything.”

“If you think back to Twickenham they made a real good mess of contact time. They really put us under pressure there.”

“For our game to really work well we need that quick ball and they were good at Twickenham at slowing that down. That’s been a focus spot for us during the week.”

Fri 30 September, 2011
RSS Feed

Dzeko sorry for petulant display

Manchester City’s Edin Dzeko says he apologised to Roberto Mancini after his negative reaction to being substituted against Bayern Munich.

The Bosnian striker was notably displeased with City manager Mancini after being taken off in Tuesday’s Champions League defeat in Munich.

Mancini had suggested that Dzeko would be dropped from the starting 11 for the game against Blackburn Rovers but Dzeko insists the matter has been resolved following his apology.

He told the club’s official website: “I know my reaction (to being substituted) was bad and I have spoken to the guys and to the coach.”

“I have apologised for the reaction and Roberto has accepted it and said that everything is okay and that we have to be positive for the next game.”

“I was unhappy because we were 2-0 down and I wanted to win the game.”

“It was something special for me to go back to Germany, where I played for a long time, and I wanted to do well and wanted the team to do well”

“Things didn’t go well for us. That is why I was extra frustrated.”

Dzeko has escaped punishment for his ill-tempered reaction, unlike teammate Carlos Tevez who has been suspended by the club for allegedly refusing to come off the bench in the same game.

Dzeko added: “Everyone has had a sleep and a rest after the Bayern game and we know we could have done better but it is football and you cannot win every game.”

“Bayern Munich is behind us, we are feeling positive and looking forward to the next game. That is our new target.”

“I remember last year when I scored there (at Blackburn) and we won. We had great support from thousands of City fans and we hope to make them cheer again on Saturday.”

Fri 30 September, 2011
RSS Feed

Del Piero relishing Milan showdown

Juventus star Alessandro Del Piero is relishing Sunday’s Serie A clash with Milan, but said it will not determine how the season pans out.

Del Piero is preparing for the big game as his side aim to continue a positive start to the season in the Italian top-flight.

Antonio Conte’s men sit top of the table after four games, and a win against the champions will set down a marker of how things stand.

The former Italy international knows a classic is in store as Milan are coming off a 2-0 win over Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League.

“This game has always been a Scudetto clash and it marks the race for the title,” Del Piero told La Repubblica.

“I am sure it will be the great league clash we all expect, but I don’t think that it will be decisive.”

“Whichever way it goes, the road is still a very long one.”

Del Piero has started two games for Juventus this season, but he has yet to score.

Fri 30 September, 2011
RSS Feed

Scholes impressed by new United crop

Paul Scholes played some 676 times for Manchester United and has been labelled as one of the greatest players to wear the famous red shirt.

After retiring at the end of last season, the former England man believes he made the right decision to call time on his career, despite watching midfielder Ryan Giggs continue to shine for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men at the age of 37.

“For the first month or so I didn’t (miss playing). But once I went back into training and seeing the lads training, I am starting to miss it a bit now,” Scholes said.

“Whether I could have gone on for another year? I don’t know. It’s hard when you’ve been doing something for 18, 19 years, it’s hard to just give up. I felt I made the right decision and that’s that.”

Ferguson reinforced his playing stocks in the summer, bringing in former Blackburn defender Phil Jones and Aston Villa winger Ashley Young.

Scholes has been impressed by the new recruits and how the new-look team has continued United’s legacy, currently sitting on top of the table as they look to defend their English Premier League title.

“The pace in which they’re playing the game, they’ve just looked too quick and too clever for every team they’ve come up against. Tom Cleverley – before his injury – was fantastic, hopefully he’ll be back soon,” Scholes said.

“The biggest, pleasing part has probably been Phil Jones, the way he’s stepped in. He can play centre half, he can play right back and he can play in central midfield.”

“He’s such a powerful lad and the confidence he’s shown, he really is a good addition.”

“Ashley Young, as well, has come in and fitted in really well, as if he’s just been here five or six years really. I think there are a lot of positive things.”

“The lads have managed to make a great start to the season.”

Scholes also played alongside want-away Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez, during the Argentine’s two-season stay in the red half of Manchester.

And Scholes believes his former team-mate will regret refusing to come on as a second-half substitute during City’s UEFA Champions League clash with Bayern Munich on Tuesday.

“He was City’s best player by far last season and scored a lot of goals. With him saying in the summer he wanted to leave, he’s probably upset the manager a bit and the manager has chosen to leave him on the bench and prefer other players,” he said.

“Carlos has obviously got his feelings, he’ll probably regret what he did one day. If he’s not playing it definitely makes City a weaker team.”

Thu 29 September, 2011
RSS Feed

Europa League wrap: Johnson steers Fulham to win

An Andy Johnson double fired Fulham to a 2-0 win at Odense in the Europa League, while Celtic drew 1-1 with Udinese on Thursday.

Fulham travelled to Denmark for their Group K encounter unbeaten in three matches, although it was the hosts putting the pressure on in the early stages.

Australian goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer had to be at his best to deny Baye Djiby Fall from close range before the Senegalese forward shot wide on the volley.

Against the run of play, Fulham claimed the lead through Johnson who slipped his shot under Odense goalkeeper Stefan Wessels before he wrapped the match up two minutes from time with his second goal.

The hosts had Kalilou Traore sent off in stoppage time to add insult to injury, while the other match in the group saw FC Twente produce a 4-1 home win over Wisla Krakow.

The Polish side claimed a ninth-minute lead after a left foot strike from David Biton but the Eredivisie side were in front by half-time, as Marc Janko claimed a double.

In Group I, Udinese and Atletico Madrid scored late equalisers to draw away from home, with Almen Abdi cancelling out Ki Sung-Yong’s strike with two minutes to play while Juanfran netted with three minutes left as Atletico drew 1-1 with Rennes.

Championship outfit Birmingham City came from behind to beat Slovenian table-toppers Maribor 2-1 in Group H with Chris Burke and Wade Elliott scoring in the second half, while Club Brugge also won 2-1, triumphing at last season’s Europa League finalists Sporting Braga.

Christian Fuchs bagged a double including a brilliant free-kick from distance in Schalke’s 3-1 win over Maccabi Haifa while the other Group J match saw Steaua Bucharest come from behind to grab a point in a 1-1 stalemate at AEK Larnaca.

Goals to Thomas Burgstaller and Mario Haas in the last five minutes saw Austrian side Sturm Graz defeat AEK Athens 2-1 and there was more joy in store for the away sides in Group L as Anderlecht won 2-0 at Lokomotiv Moscow.

In Group G, Austria Vienna claimed a strong 2-1 win at Swedish side Malmo and Metalist Kharkiv’s Taison cancelled out Jozy Altidore’s goal with 14 minutes remaining as the two sides could not be separated, with the match finishing as a 1-1 draw.

Thu 29 September, 2011
RSS Feed

Excited Dalglish relishes Merseyside derby

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish is just as excited about the Merseyside derby as he ever was.

Dalglish’s side host Everton in a Premier League blockbuster on Saturday, and the manager – who is in his second stint at Liverpool – says he remains as excited about the match as he was during his 14-year playing career at Anfield.

“The competition is still as intense and the desire to win is the same as before,” Dalglish told the club’s official website.

“I don’t think it has devalued – it doesn’t matter how long ago it was you have been involved or not or how recently. It is a Merseyside derby and like everyone who has been involved in it they think it is the most important one.”

“But people in Birmingham think theirs is the biggest, Rangers and Celtic think theirs is the biggest – and they are right.”

“This is the biggest one because this is the one I am involved in. There is no point in having a league table of clubs you are not involved with.”

The 60-year-old will take the cautious approach about captain Steven Gerrard’s fitness, despite the magnitude of the game.

“The game is not the important thing – Steven Gerrard is the most important,” he said.

“As we’ve said before, we’ll manage Steven as well as we possibly can.”

Dalglish is determined to win the match for the fans and is not worried about whether Charlie Adam, Andy Carroll or Stewart Downing have not played in a Merseyside derby.

“We know what a victory in the derby means to the people of Liverpool and how much elation the players get from it,” he said.

“There are players who have not played in it before who may play on Saturday but I am sure they understand what it stands for.”

“I think the Rangers-Celtic derby has given Charlie a good grounding, Andy has had the north-east derby and Stewart has had Villa-Birmingham – which is not the smallest.”

“They may not have experienced this derby but they have all experienced a derby of some sorts.”

Thu 29 September, 2011
RSS Feed

Pardew: Tevez not finished at City

Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew believes Carlos Tevez could still play a role at Manchester City.

Pardew was in charge of Tevez when he first came to the Premier League at West Ham in 2006.

City boss Roberto Mancini said Tevez was “finished” at the club after claiming he refused to come on during the defeat by Bayern Munich on Tuesday.

“Sometimes it can be overcome by a performance on the pitch. Tevez could still be forgiven,” Pardew said.

“You never know in football. There have been massive conflicts in the past and then suddenly, it is ironed out.”

“Who would have thought Harry Redknapp would have gone from Southampton manager back to Portsmouth or, for that matter, that Alex McLeish would go from Birmingham to Aston Villa as manager?”

Pardew does believe Tevez is in the wrong.

“He’s a maverick player and most Premier League clubs carry one or two.”

“They are going to have their moments and sometimes, it is about managing those moments.”

“He isn’t the first and he certainly won’t be the last who won’t want to warm up and is sulking a little bit because they are not playing.”

“But all these situations are about circumstance and timing and perhaps they just got that completely wrong the other night.”

“At the moment it doesn’t look perfect for Manchester City because they have got a player who is obviously upset.”

“They have fined him two weeks money and now there’s some conflict.”

“If Carlos goes in the next window, that will be the end game. But who knows? Sometimes you have got to look at the bigger picture.”

Thu 29 September, 2011
RSS Feed

Hodgson backs Mancini over Tevez saga

West Brom manager Roy Hodgson has little doubt that Roberto Mancini will be able to effectively deal with the Carlos Tevez saga at Manchester City.

The Argentina international refused to come off the bench during his side’s 2-0 defeat to Bayern Munich on Tuesday and has since been suspended but, according to the Baggies boss, if anyone can deal with the restless star, it’s the Italian.

“I’m sure at all levels of football at all times, these sort of situations have come up and if anyone if capable of dealing with it, it will be Roberto,” Hodgson told reporters.

“He’s worked in Italy and he knows the Italian mentality and this type of problem, if we call it that, has reared its head many a time in Italy.”

“I’m sure he knows how to deal with it.”

Hodgson boss believes professionals should do as a professional does and ultimately is thankful he’s not had similar issues yet at Albion.

“It is not the best time to say too much but you bring players into your squad to play for you,” the well-travelled Englishman said.

“The manager has to make decisions about who does and doesn’t play, and the club is entitled to expect anyone not chosen by the manager, if called upon, is ready to play when and if asked.”

“The situation is black and white. There is not much shade of grey.”

“But it is a Man City problem.”

“I’m just happy to be working with modern day players personally and happy those problems haven’t reared their head for me here.”

Thu 29 September, 2011
RSS Feed