Dzeko insists City title fight not over

Manchester City are still confident of retaining their Premier League crown despite falling seven points behind Manchester United.

Defeat against Sunderland coupled with United triumphing over Newcastle in a seven-goal thriller saw City lose ground on their bitter rivals at the summit on Boxing Day.

However, after City’s turbulent 4-3 win over Norwich on Saturday, striker Edin Dzeko insisted that his side remain calm about their prospects of topping the league come May.

“It (the number of points between them and United) looks a lot, of course, but nothing is finished. We will fight until the end,” he said.

“It is still open. There are so many games to play. There is a chance (of winning the title again) and it is our main target, but as I said, it is too early to talk about the title.

“Last year we got five points back in two games. This is not a problem.”

Roberto Mancini had rued his strikers’ recent profligacy in the build-up to the trip to Norfolk, and Dzeko was delighted to have responded by scoring twice and claiming a third.

“I didn’t hear exactly what he said, but I saw he said the strikers weren’t in form and not scoring goals, but we scored today and that is good for us,” Dzeko said.

“Even the Sunderland game we deserved to win, but we didn’t score goals and that was unlucky for us. But we came back today and it was a good performance.

“It’s not the first time. He gave me the chance to play today and I think I paid him back. We will see what the future brings.”

Samir Nasri saw red in the game at Carrow Road for his head-butt on Sebastien Bassong, a fact which the former Wolfsburg striker believes made life difficult for his side.

“It was hard to play when we were one player down,” he said. “But we did it once before against West Bromwich, and here we did it again very well. We deserved this win.

“I don’t know if it was a red card or not, I didn’t see exactly what happened, but I think it was harsh.

“I think we played a good game. They were always there and it was a hard game to play. It was also hard to watch when the manager took me off, but I am happy.

“I scored three goals and I am happy for that, but the manager decided (to substitute him) and I can’t be unhappy with that.”

Mon 31 December, 2012
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Raul Meireles offered to Inter

Il Corriere dello Sport has revealed that Inter have been offered the services of Portuguese midfielder Raul Meireles.

The Portugal international hasn’t had such a good start to his career in Turkey and Fenerbahce are considering sending him on loan or even cashing in on the player in January.

According to Il Corriere dello Sport, the experienced midfielder has been offered to Inter, who are in desperate need of midfield reinforcements.

The Neroazzurri have lined up Corinthians midfielder Paulinho to replace Wesley Sneijder, but with the Brazilian club not willing to sell, they might have to turn their attention elsewhere.

Meireles obviously would not be a perfect replacement for Sneijder, but he could definitely offer a new dimension to Inter midfield.

Andrea Stramaccioni will be the one to give his verdict on Meireles, although the talented coach might just wait until Wesley Sneijder leaves before signing any new midfielders.

Mon 31 December, 2012
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Oxlade-Chamberlain hopes Walcott stays at Arsenal

Arsenal forward Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is desperately hoping that team-mate Theo Walcott will sign a new contract at the club.

Walcott’s current deal runs out at the end of the season and the 23-year-old forward is free to talk to other clubs from January.

But following the former Southampton man’s hat-trick in Saturday’s 7-3 win over Newcastle, Oxlade-Chamberlain – a Saints academy graduate himself – hopes that the contract saga will soon be put to rest.

“We’ve all been giving him a bit of banter but that’s for Theo’s people to sort out,” Chamberlain said.

“Even with the speculation going on, he’s stuck to his task, he’s been a great professional, he’s a good mate, he’s a good lad in the dressing room and we need him to keep doing that for the rest of the season. We need to stick some good results together.

“His hat-trick was amazing. You could see after his first goal that he had a spring in his step. He was sharp, good going forward, and he’s been like that all season.

“The goals are coming for him as well. He’s got all the attributes. He’s proving he can do a really good job for us up there.

“He bangs them in for fun in training. Someone with pace is a nightmare to defend against. When he gets the service he can punish teams and in training he’s no different.

“He went out wide for the last 10 or 15 minutes, put in that cross for Olivier Giroud – that shows he can play anywhere up front as well.”

Oxlade-Chamberlain went on to hail Walcott’s maturity, and revealed he has been a big help to the youngster since his breakthrough at the Emirates Stadium.

“When Theo first came, he was training with players like Thierry, (Dennis) Bergkamp and (Robert) Pires,” he said.

“I’m sure he’s learnt off the best, he’s getting better and better and there’s no-one better to learn from.

“From the player that I first started watching to the man he is now, he is only getting better and better, and he’s still only 23. He’s got such a mature head on his shoulders. He’s great on and off the pitch so he’s so important for us.

“He was great for me when I first arrived. He took me under his wing, helped me. When he came along it must have been even more daunting because I think Ashley Cole was the only English player around here at the time.

“He was the first person to really help me. I sit next to him in the dressing room and he’s been really good for me.”

Mon 31 December, 2012
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Diego Lugano announces PSG exit

Uruguayan defender Diego Lugano has announced that he plans to leave Paris Saint-Germain in the January transfer window.

The experienced centre-back has been repeatedly linked with a January exit following a poor start to his career in France.

Despite having one and a half years left on his deal, Lugano has now confirmed reports that he will be leaving the French giants.

“France is finished. I still have a year and a half of contract with PSG, but we agreed that the best thing to do is find a solution,” the Uruguay captain told El Pais.

“In the next fortnight, at the latest, I should have found my next destination.”

Diego Lugano joined the Saints in the summer of 2011, but lost his place in the side after Thiago Silva and Alex arrived at the club.

He has failed to make a single appearance for the first team this season and it was only a matter of time before he would leave Parc des Princes.

Lugano, 32, is still held in high regard by a number of European sides and should have no problems finding a new club.

Mon 31 December, 2012
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Liverpool lead race for Sneijder; Coentrao linked to Chelsea

Liverpool lead race for Sneijder

Liverpool have joined the race to sign Inter star Wesley Sneijder, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

The Dutch playmaker yesterday made it clear that he wanted out of Giuseppe Meazza and the Reds have taken the hint.

La Gazzetta dello Sport claims the Premier League club have already contacted the player’s representatives to present their offer.

While they are clearly unable to match Sneijder’s €6 million yearly wage, the Reds are prepared to offer around €10 million for a three-year contract.

Liverpool have desperately lacked a creative midfielder this season and this does appear to be a unique opportunity to sign a world-class playmaker on the cheap.

The only problem is that Tottenham and Manchester United are also keen, even if they have yet to make official bids.

Coentrao linked to Chelsea

Spanish newspaper Marca suggests that Real Madrid full-back Fabio Coentrao could hand in a transfer request at the end of the season.

The Portuguese international has almost four years left on his deal at Santiago Bernabeu, but is, nevertheless, pondering his future.

Coentrao has found it hard to deal with the pressure of the €30 million price tag and is aware he has failed to live up to his potential in Spanish La Liga.

The 24-year-old is clearly unhappy at Real Madrid and hope to move to a less demanding environment.

Chelsea could be the first club to offer the Portuguese defender an escape route from Santiago Bernabeu, given that Ashley Cole is set to leave Stamford Bridge at the end of the season.

The Blues have a very high opinion of Coentrao and have established excellent relationship with the player’s agent Jorge Mendes.

They also have reason to believe Coentrao would be interested in a move to English Premier League.

Debuchy edges closer to Newcastle move

French newspaper La Voix du Nord reports that Newcastle are on the verge of signing Lille defender Mathieu Debuchy.

With Danny Simpson widely tipped to leave St James Park when his contract expires in the summer, Newcastle have made signing a new right-back their number one priority.

Lille full-back Mathieu Debuchy remains the number one target and it appears he is finally on his way to St James Park.

La Voix du Nord claims the two clubs are set to agree on a €6 million deal that would take the experienced defender to England.

Newcastle were set to sign Debuchy in the summer, but Lille eventually pulled the plug on the deal.

The 27-year-old has made it clear he wants to join the Magpies and all that remains is for les Dogues to give the green light.

Mathieu Debuchy has spent his entire professional career at Lille and is looking forward to a new challenge.

For more news about football transfers and rumours, visit our Transfer News section. To view all football transfers for 2012/13 season, visit our Soccer Transfers section.

Mon 31 December, 2012
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Premier League preview: Liverpool v Sunderland

Home field advantage could prove decisive when Liverpool plays host to Sunderland at Anfield on Wednesday.

Liverpool have played 10 games at home this season, losing twice, while Sunderland have picked up just two wins on the road.

And it has been an enjoyable experience for Liverpool against Sunderland, with the Merseyside club unbeaten in 11 previous Premier League fixtures on home soil.

It has been a mixed campaign for Liverpool as the club settles into life under the guidance of Northern Irish manager Brendan Rodgers.

Rodgers arrived at Anfield from Swansea, where he turned the Welsh outfit into one of the most entertaining teams in the league.

His switch to Liverpool, however, has not been as straightforward but the fans have seen signs of progress.

One player to thrive is Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez, who bagged a brace in Liverpool’s 3-0 win over QPR last time out, helping the team to ninth position.

In 19 appearances this term, Suarez has scored 13 goals, already eclipsing his 11-goal tally from last season.

The former Ajax captain will need to be at his best against a
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Sunderland side who kept defending champions Manchester City scoreless last Wednesday.

Sunderland’s 1-0 victory over City made it three wins in four games for Martin O’Neill’s men but they came crashing down to earth after suffering a 2-1 loss at home to high-flying Tottenham.

The result has left Sunderland in 13th ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, five points clear of the relegation zone.

Rodgers has close to a full list of players to choose from, with Fabio Borini (foot) and Martin Kelly (knee) the only casualties, while Sunderland captain John O’Shea could miss the match after being forced off during the loss to Tottenham.

Mon 31 December, 2012
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Premier League preview: Chelsea v QPR

Frank Lampard was reportedly told to look for a new club in January but his brace against Everton could help win a contract extension.

According to reports in England, Lampard was free to move elsewhere after 11 years at Stamford Bridge.

However, the experienced English midfielder sent a timely reminder to all involved at Chelsea, netting a brace in the club’s come-from-behind 2-1 win at Everton on Sunday, his third goal in as many Premier League matches.

Lampard’s recent form should earn him a starting berth for Wednesday’s home encounter against cellar-dwellers Queens Park Rangers – the club he has been linked with in recent weeks.

As a result of Chelsea’s triumph at Goodison Park, the London outfit are four points adrift of Manchester City in third position with a game in hand.

And since Rafael Benitez’s arrival, they have lost just twice in their past 11 league and cup fixtures.

Sitting at the other end of the spectrum is QPR, who have managed only one win in 20 Premier League games thus far.

Despite Harry Redknapp’s arrival at Loftus Road, the club is still facing relegation from England’s top-flight.

Redknapp’s appointment sparked a four-game unbeaten run but QPR have failed to remain consistent, losing three matches on the bounce, including Sunday’s 3-0 defeat to Liverpool.

QPR have never beaten their London rivals in a league fixture at Stamford Bridge, with last season’s 6-1 drubbing still fresh in the memory.

And more worryingly for Redknapp and his troops is the fact they are yet to win on the road this season.

Captain John Terry is working his way back to full fitness, while midfielder Oriol Romeu is still facing an extended stint on the sidelines.

Park Ji-Sung headlines a group of experienced QPR players, including Jose Bosingwa, Bobby Zamora and Nedum Onuoha, who are set to miss Wednesday’s game.

Mon 31 December, 2012
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Premier League preview: Liverpool v Sunderland

Home field advantage could prove decisive when Liverpool plays host to Sunderland at Anfield on Wednesday.

Liverpool have played 10 games at home this season, losing twice, while Sunderland have picked up just two wins on the road.

And it has been an enjoyable experience for Liverpool against Sunderland, with the Merseyside club unbeaten in 11 previous Premier League fixtures on home soil.

It has been a mixed campaign for Liverpool as the club settles into life under the guidance of Northern Irish manager Brendan Rodgers.

Rodgers arrived at Anfield from Swansea, where he turned the Welsh outfit into one of the most entertaining teams in the league.

His switch to Liverpool, however, has not been as straightforward but the fans have seen signs of progress.

One player to thrive is Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez, who bagged a brace in Liverpool’s 3-0 win over QPR last time out, helping the team to ninth position.

In 19 appearances this term, Suarez has scored 13 goals, already eclipsing his 11-goal tally from last season.

The former Ajax captain will need to be at his best against a Sunderland side who kept defending champions Manchester City scoreless last Wednesday.

Sunderland’s 1-0 victory over City made it three wins in four games for Martin O’Neill’s men but they came crashing down to earth after suffering a 2-1 loss at home to high-flying Tottenham.

The result has left Sunderland in 13th ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, five points clear of the relegation zone.

Rodgers has close to a full list of players to choose from, with Fabio Borini (foot) and Martin Kelly (knee) the only casualties, while Sunderland captain John O’Shea could miss the match after being forced off during the loss to Tottenham.

Mon 31 December, 2012
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Premier League preview: Newcastle v Everton

Newcastle have lost two successive matches across the Christmas period but it could have been a whole lot different for Alan Pardew’s side.

The 1999 FA Cup runners-up led on three occasions but went on to lose 4-3 against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Boxing Day.

With scores locked at 3-3 in the dying moments, Javier Hernandez popped up to break Newcastle’s hearts.

And Newcastle were involved in another high-scoring thriller with Arsenal on Saturday, suffering a mammoth 7-3 defeat.

However, the score flattered the London club with their final three goals coming in the last five minutes at Etihad Stadium, leaving Newcastle languishing in 15th position on the Premier League table, three points clear of the drop zone.

Newcastle have now shipped 11 goals in two games, something they will need to address if they are to return to the winners’ circle against Everton on Wednesday.

Everton were made to pay for wasting a number of chances on Sunday as they lost 2-1 at home to Chelsea.

The defeat ended Everton’s unbeaten home record, which stretched back to last season, and a run of seven matches without a loss.

Despite the loss, Everton head into 2013 in sixth position and on the back of their biggest points haul in a calendar year since 1987.

David Moyes’ team are undefeated in the past two meetings against Newcastle, with their most recent victory in May 2012 coming courtesy of goals from Steven Pienaar, Nikica Jelavic and Johnny Heitinga.

However, Everton fell to a 2-1 loss in the pair’s most recent clash at St James’ Park on November 5, 2011.

Newcastle defender Mike Williamson missed the remarkable match at Etihad Stadium due to a one-game suspension but is set to return, while Everton are expected to welcome back key midfielder Marouane Fellaini from a three-match ban.

Mon 31 December, 2012
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Jones hails Stoke spirit

Stoke striker Kenwyne Jones has praised his team-mates after they completed a late comeback to draw with Southampton on Saturday.

The Potters trailed 3-1 with 36 minutes on the clock but earned a point thanks to an improved second-half performance and Cameron Jerome’s 90th-minute wonder goal.

And Jones, who scored his side’s first and played the full game against Nigel Adkins’ men, has praised the fight shown by the Staffordshire side.

“We have a spirit here which can never be questioned – in fact, we don’t really like to talk about it anymore because it’s just standard for us to keep going right until the last kick of the game,” he told the club’s official website.

“At no point in time did we ever think that we were going to lose the game – It was just a matter of us coming out in the second half and getting the first goal, and then if we did that, going on to grab the second goal.

“Thankfully, we were able to do that, and that is down to the spirit and determination we have. We are proud professional footballers and we know what this football club is all about, so we always keep going until the game is over.

“This is our job, and at no point are we ever going to just stand there and accept defeat. If we go on to lose the game, then we have to accept that, but whilst the game is still going on we will always give everything we have to get something from the game, and that will always be the case.”

The Trinidad and Tobago international also looked ahead to the upcoming meeting with reigning Premier League champions Manchester City on Tuesday.

“We are doing well, and we have been solid over the past few months or so,” he said. “For that, you have to give credit to the team, the fans and the manager, because we are all in this together, and we stand together as one big group.

“Obviously we wanted to win the game today, but getting the point in the way that we have done, and extending our unbeaten run in the process, gives us a lot of confidence going into the Manchester City game.

“The next game is always the most important one, so we will dust ourselves down, get back on to the training pitch and get ready to go to the home of the champions next week. We will go there and give it a go, for sure.”

Mon 31 December, 2012
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