Ferdinand sceptical of ´SAS´ partnership

Liverpool pair Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge have lots of work to do to become a special strike partnership, according to Rio Ferdinand.

The duo have made a stunning start to the 2013-14 season, scoring a combined total of 14 goals as Liverpool have surged to third in the Premier League table.

Of the five games they have played together, the Suarez and Sturridge partnership – christened the ‘SAS’ by Liverpool fans – has scored 10 times, leading to several pundits describing them as the best strikeforce in the country.

However, Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand feels the pair must prove themselves over the course of the season to deserve such a title.

And although he admitted to being impressed by their form, the 34-year-old says the jury is still out.

“In this country and in football in general I think we build people up too quickly,” Ferdinand told BT Sport.

“That’s not to say they’re not a great partnership – they’re proven at the moment. They’re on top of their game and they’re playing very, very well. They’ve scored some great goals.

“But I think you judge partnerships over a period of time. Look at (Dwight) Yorke and (Andy) Cole, (Teddy) Sheringham and (Alan) Shearer.

“These types of partnerships aren’t developed overnight over a course of part of a season, it’s over a period of time. So I think it’s better to give these people time.”

The Suarez and Sturridge partnership will next be tested by Arsenal, with Liverpool travelling to the table-toppers on Saturday.

Thu 31 October, 2013
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Westwood targets back-to-back wins

Keiren Westwood hopes Sunderland can build on their derby victory over Newcastle United with another three points against Hull City.

Sunderland picked up their first win of the season against their fierce rivals last time out, and face a Hull side desperate to get back to winning ways after three matches without victory.

The win over Newcastle lifted Sunderland off the bottom of the Premier League table and, although confidence is high at the Stadium of Light, goalkeeper Westwood knows Hull will provide them with a stern test on Saturday.

“It’s not going to be easy – every game in this league is tough,” the Republic of Ireland international told the club’s official website.

“But we’ll go there in great spirits, look to get the ball down and play and take the game to Hull.

“They started really well, have had some decent result and got some points on the board.

“The league is so tight at the moment – Hull are in 10th and there’s only three points between them and third-bottom.

“Hull are a good side. They’ve had some injuries but other players have come in and shown what they can do.”

The 29-year-old has played every game in the Premier League this season but is yet to keep a clean sheet.

However, after another week working with new manager Gus Poyet, Westwood said the squad are hopeful of building on their maiden victory.

“We’ve been on a high this week and everyone is delighted,” he added. “Hopefully this can kick-start our season.

“With the team and the talent we have, hopefully we can push on.”

Sunderland have won their last six league meetings with Hull.

Thu 31 October, 2013
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Premier League Preview: Stoke City v Southampton

Stoke City host in-form Southampton on Saturday seeking a first win in seven Premier League games.

Mark Hughes’ side made an encouraging start to the new campaign, but have struggled to follow up back-to-back wins over Crystal Palace and West Ham in August.

An improved performance at Old Trafford in Stoke’s last league outing went unrewarded as Manchester United came from behind to claim a 3-2 victory.

However, despite occupying 17th place in the table, Stoke have lost only once on home soil and go into this weekend’s game buoyed by qualification for the quarter-finals of the League Cup.

While the Britannia Stadium outfit needed extra-time and penalties to see off Birmingham City in a match that finished 4-4 after 120 minutes, Southampton were able to rest as their last-16 clash with Sunderland was postponed.

The south-coast side are unbeaten in seven across all competitions and sit fifth in the league with a tally of 18 points from nine games.

In addition, Mauricio Pochettino’s men boast the best defensive record in the league having conceded just three in nine games.

Stoke have managed a paltry six top-flight goals thus far, although two of those did come last weekend and four different players – Oussama Assaidi, Peter Crouch, Marko Arnautovic and Kenwyne Jones – were on target in the club’s midweek cup tie.

Southampton surrendered a 3-1 lead to draw 3-3 on their last visit to Stoke, Cameron Jerome – now on loan at Crystal Palace – grabbing a sensational injury-time equaliser.

Pochettino could be boosted by the return of Steven Davis and Pablo Daniel Osvaldo, who both face late fitness tests after missing the 2-0 victory over Fulham with knocks.

Stoke boss Hughes has no new injury doubts and is likely to recall Asmir Begovic, Geoff Cameron and Erik Pieters after the trio were rested at Birmingham.

Thu 31 October, 2013
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Martinez ready for Tottenham test

Roberto Martinez expects one of the toughest challenges of the season so far when Everton face Tottenham at Goodison Park this weekend.

Everton have already beaten Chelsea at home in 2013-14 and will target another high-profile scalp when fourth-placed Tottenham head to Merseyside on Sunday.

Back-to-back Premier League wins over Hull City and Aston Villa means Martinez’s men are just a point behind Andre Villas-Boas’ side.

And the Spaniard insists his squad are ready for the challenge and intend to use home advantage to spur them to victory.

“We know that we’ll have to be at our best on Sunday,” he told the club’s official website. “I think Spurs are probably one of the best squads in the league, if anything they’ve coped really well losing one of the best performers last season (Gareth Bale).

“We just concentrate on ourselves. We’re still growing and we’re still getting better.

“We’re a group of players that are ready to compete against whoever and with the support of Goodison behind us.”

Everton have not lost at home to Tottenham since 2007 and will hope to extend their undefeated run to seven games on Sunday.

Thu 31 October, 2013
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Ruddy agrees new Norwich deal

Norwich City goalkeeper John Ruddy has agreed a new four-year contract with the club.

The 27-year-old arrived at Carrow Road in 2010 from Everton and has gone on to make 107 appearances in all competitions.

His form has earned him a first England cap – against Italy in 2012 – and he has been an ever-present in the Premier League this season.

And Ruddy will now remain at Norwich until 2017 – something he is thrilled about.

“I’m more than happy to commit my long-term future to the club,” Ruddy told the club’s official website.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time at Norwich City – everyone has been very supportive. The whole club, the players and staff I have worked with have been fantastic.

“I’ve broken into the England squad while at Norwich, and without the opportunity they gave me I wouldn’t have been anywhere near it. I was in a bit of a no-man’s land before I joined the club, and they took a gamble on me.

“Thankfully I think it’s paid off for both sides and now I’m just looking to keep up my form.”

Thu 31 October, 2013
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Premier League Preview: West Brom v Crystal Palace

Managerless Crystal Palace head to West Brom on Saturday aiming to stop the rot after a dismal run of six consecutive defeats.

Palace sunk to the bottom of the Premier League table when Sunderland beat Newcastle last Sunday and have just three points to their name after the first nine games on their return to the top flight.

Caretaker boss Keith Millen has taken the reins after Ian Holloway’s departure and his first game in charge ended with a 2-0 defeat to Arsenal in a London derby at Selhurst Park last Saturday.

Millen will take charge again for the clash at the Hawthorns as Palace continue their search for Holloway’s successor and he will be hoping to mastermind an upturn in fortunes.

Palace have lacked a cutting edge on their travels, having scored just twice in four away games in the Premier League.

But Millen is eager to build some momentum, starting with the showdown with Steve Clarke’s Albion.

He said: “There’s enough points to play for to stay up. If you can get even a point Saturday, it’s a start. We aren’t not cut adrift yet.”

Midfielder Jonny Williams (ankle) is closing in on a return to the squad, but centre-back Paddy McCarthy (groin), striker Glenn Murray (knee) and defender Jack Hunt (ankle) all remain sidelined.

The two sides have not met in the Premier League since an entertaining 2-2 draw at the Hawthorns back in February 2005.

Albion are without a win since beating Manchester United at Old Trafford just over a month ago, but they held leaders Arsenal in their last home game.

Clarke’s side felt the force of the Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge partnership when they were beaten 4-1 at Liverpool last weekend.

A lack of goals from his strikers has been a problem for Clarke, as England Under-21 international Saido Berahino is the only one among them to have scored this season.

Victor Anichebe and Nicolas Anelka got the nod to start at Anfield, but Shane Long and Berahino will be hoping for a recall.

Winger Scott Sinclair could return to the Albion squad after a spell on the sidelines due to a hamstring injury sustained in the victory at United.

And fellow loanee Morgan Amalfitano could also feature despite limping off at Anfield with a knee problem, but back-up goalkeeper Lee Camp will not be involved after he joined Championship side Bournemouth on loan.

Thu 31 October, 2013
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Suarez was never going to Arsenal, says Rodgers

Liverpool striker Luis Suarez was never going to be allowed to join Premier League rivals Arsenal, according to manager Brendan Rodgers.

Suarez publicly stated his desire to leave Liverpool in the close-season, with a lack of UEFA Champions League football said to be his primary reason.

This led to interest from Arsenal, who made a bid of £40million and £1 in an attempt to trigger a release clause for the 26-year-old.

Liverpool held firm though, refusing to sell the Uruguayan, and the decision has paid dividends already, with Suarez having netted six goals in three Premier League appearances since returning from suspension.

His latest effort – a hat-trick in a 4-1 thrashing of West Brom – saw the third-placed Liverpool extend their excellent start to the season and, ahead of a meeting against table-toppers Arsenal on Saturday, Rodgers said there was no chance he would have sold the forward to another Premier League team.

“It was something that was never going to happen. I respect why Arsenal wanted to buy a player of Luis’ quality because he’s one of the leading strikers in the world,” said the Northern Irishman.

“But for us, and the institution that we are, we certainly weren’t going to sell to a rival or a competitor. That’s something we felt very strongly about from the off.

“It’s a great credit to the owners and the leadership of the club that they stood by what my thoughts were as a manager and they backed it all the way.”

The Emirates Stadium fixture is hotly anticipated, with Arsenal and Liverpool – two of three highest scorers in the league – making superb starts to the season.

And Rodgers is looking forward to seeing how his side respond to the challenge of playing at Arsenal.

“It’s two very good teams – Arsenal are an excellent side and score goals. They’ve got some top players,” he said.

“We arrive at the game really confident and with belief off the back of an outstanding performance (against West Brom). The players forgot about it very quickly (though) and thoughts turned to this game.

“The quality of our training this week has been outstanding. We look to take it into the game but it will be very difficult.”

Thu 31 October, 2013
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Preparation key for in-form Giroud

In-form Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud believes he is reaping the rewards for getting a full pre-season under his belt.

The France international was not at his best during his first campaign in England in 2012-13, but has made an impressive start to his second term with the north London club.

Giroud has scored eight goals in all competitions to establish himself as Arsene Wenger’s first-choice striker.

And the former Montpellier man puts his form down to having a better preparation for the season and regaining his confidence.

“I think technically I had it before, maybe I progressed because we have worked on it a lot in training,” he told Arsenal’s official website.

“It is also (down to) confidence. I did well from the start of the season, I had good preparation with the team – instead of last season when I wasn’t here from the beginning – and I scored early in the pre-season games.

“I feel really confident, the boss made me feel good and that is why I feel good and try to improve every day. It is all about confidence I think.”

Thu 31 October, 2013
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FA charge Norwich and Cardiff

The Football Association have charged Norwich and Cardiff for failing to control their players in the draw at Carrow Road last weekend.

Cardiff players were incensed after Norwich’s Leroy Fer put the ball into the back of the net when the Welsh side were expecting him to pass back to goalkeeper David Marshall.

The visitors had kicked the ball out of play so Norwich midfielder Alex Tettey could receive treatment in injury time.

A confrontation between the two sets of players ensued before the goal was ruled out by referee Mike Jones, who claimed he had not restarted play.

An FA statement said: “Both Norwich City and Cardiff City have been charged by The FA for failing to ensure their players conducted themselves in an orderly fashion.

“It follows an incident which occurred in or around the 94th minute of their fixture on Saturday October 26, 2013.

“Both clubs have until 6pm on 4 November 2013 to respond to the charge.”

Thu 31 October, 2013
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Dummett offered new Newcastle contract

Newcastle United defender Paul Dummett has been offered a new contract by the club, manager Alan Pardew has confirmed.

Dummett, 22, has broken into the Newcastle first team this season, making six appearances in all competitions.

The Wales Under-21 international scored his first goal for the club as Newcastle secured a 2-2 draw with Liverpool earlier in the month.

The full-back suffered a hamstring injury in the 2-0 League Cup defeat against Manchester City on Wednesday, and is set to miss out on Saturday’s Premier League clash with Chelsea.

Pardew has been impressed with Dummett – whose contract expires at the end of the season – and is keen for him agree to a new deal.

“We have a deal in place for Paul,” he said.

“That’s something that has been talked about since the start of the season.

“Whether that gets resolved, I don’t know.

“Unfortunately, he’s got an injury which will rule him out of Saturday. But he’s on a crest of a wave, and we love him.”

Dummett’s absence leaves Newcastle short of options in defence after Massadio Haidara also picked up a hamstring problem against City.

Captain Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor are both still struggling with injuries, but Pardew is confident Newcastle’s backline can cope with the threat posed by Chelsea.

“We are pretty stretched for Chelsea,” he added.

“But we have four senior players that are playing well at the moment in our back four.

“Mapou (Yanga-Mbiwa) played well (on Wednesday). That bodes well for Chelsea.”

Thu 31 October, 2013
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