Saturday, September 15, 2007

Eriksson: Extra cash means more quality for City

Manchester City manager Sven-Goran Eriksson believes the Premier League is the strongest in the world thanks to fast-improving teams like his own. The Swede, who served as England manager until the World Cup last summer, has worked in Italy and Portugal as well as his native Sweden and sees the English top flight as the most competitive he has come across. Eriksson told his club's official website: 'Suddenly we have rich men from different parts of the world coming to buy clubs and of course that makes the money big in football.

'If the money is bigger then the football will be better.

It's tighter this season and I think it's good for the league. It means it's getting better and better.' City are back in action on Sunday against an Aston Villa side that shocked Chelsea a fortnight ago. Villa goalkeeper Scott Carson has urged his team-mates to ensure that superb win over was not a one-off result. The on-loan Liverpool keeper said: 'I think we took another step in the right direction against Chelsea but you've got to carry it on. We've got to continue things on against the teams around us in the table. 'I think the lads have got to look at Europe. There is no point in settling for 10th, 11th or whatever. We've got to look to the next step like Blackburn did last season.' Meanwhile, Newcastle manager Sam Allardyce is determined to keep defender Steven Taylor on Tyneside despite his decision to reject a new contract offer.

The 21-year-old was away on international duty with England's Under-21s last week, captaining his side to European Championship qualifier victories in Montenegro and Bulgaria. However, in his absence, his father Alf, who represents the Greenwich-born player, revealed he had turned down the Magpies' offer and voiced his disappointment at the financial package. Taylor's current deal does not expire until the summer of 2009, but news of the stalled talks has not gone unnoticed by a series of potential suitors. 'Steven Taylor is a key member of our squad. We want him to stay, apparently it sounds like he wants to stay, so hopefully we can resolve the problems,' he said.

'At the moment, we seem to be some way off, but we won't get sucked into paying somebody that we think is asking for too much.'

Shevchenko in for injured Drogba

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has welcomed the return to form and fitness of Andriy Shevchenko and silenced suggestions the Ukrainian is not part of his plans. The striker scored for his country during their Euro 2008 qualifiers in midweek, amid suggestions that he was upset at not being part of Chelsea's squad at the start of the season. But Shevchenko, who underwent a groin operation towards the end of last season, proved his fitness on international duty and Mourinho is ready to welcome him back into the fold. Shevchenko will almost certainly play some part in tomorrow's home clash with Blackburn because Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba is missing.

He has not recovered from the knee injury he sustained in the closing moments of their defeat against Aston Villa. Mourinho confirmed that both Drogba and England midfielder Frank Lampard would be absent from his line-up and there was a doubt about Claudio Pizarro, who was still on his way back from international duty with Peru. But Mourinho said: 'Sheva is selected. It is good to have him back. We need every player. We are starting the period where we need everybody.

'We need to rotate players. We are now playing in three competitions at the same time. In the next two weeks, we have to play five matches and that's the story we are going to have, hopefully, until the of the season, playing in a lot competitions and matches. 'So we need every player with Drogba injured and with Pizarro still at this moment in the air and on the way back to London, the situation is not easy in attack. 'We need everybody and it is good to have Shevchenko back. He played two matches for his national team, the results were not good for his team but I saw the matches and especially, in the second one, I was happy with the way he performed. So yes, he is selected and he will have minutes tomorrow.'

Mourinho may not have selected the Ukrainian so far this season but he still believes Shevchenko is improving in every aspect of his game and, more importantly, the teamwork which is so vital to Chelsea. Mourinho explained: 'Sometimes it is not just about fitness. Sometimes players have a great fitness situation and they are not performing well. 'I think he's improving in every aspect. Against Italy he played a good game not just because he scored the goal, football is not just about goals.

'I think his contribution to the team was positive. He brought to his game, some of the aspects I want him to bring. I was very happy watching that game. So I hope he can perform for us because we need him. 'Last Wednesday I was watching three or four matches at the same time - doing a lot of zipping. I was taping other matches to watch them all, I saw every one of my players except Essien in Saudi Arabia and I'm happy with the way he performed.' Mourinho has already challenged his players to focus on winning the title back - starting with victory over Blackburn at Stamford Bridge tomorrow.

But while he still believes the Premier League is the best in the world, he knows it is now even harder than ever to cruise to the crown like they did in his first season in the English game. Mourinho added: 'It is more than a race, every game is open I think things are better, teams are better because they have spent money. 'Teams bought good players, teams with ambitions. Newcastle wants more, Aston Villa, Blackburn, Middlesbrough, Fulham and West Ham. They all want more, everybody wants more.

'So I think the competition is very hard. I don't think the kind of points we had to be champions in the previous season or the number of points Manchester United won it with last year will happen. 'It is a difficult number to reach again because it is more difficult to win matches. I can see a much more competitive league not just because of the top teams but especially because of the other group I mentioned.'

EPL this week fixtures

Sat 15th September 2007
Everton v Man Utd 12:00
Portsmouth v Liverpool 12:45
Tottenham v Arsenal 13:30
Birmingham v Bolton 15:00
Wigan Athletic v Fulham 15:00
Sunderland v Reading 15:00
West Ham v Middlesbrough 15:00
Chelsea v Blackburn 17:15
Sun 16th September 2007
Manchester City v Aston Villa 16:00

Monday, August 13, 2007

Unsettled Diouf in talks over Bolton future

El-Hadji Diouf is set for talks with manager Sammy Lee after warning he may have to leave Bolton if he is not given a regular first-team place.

The 26-year-old striker was a substitute for the Trotters' opening game of the Premier League season on Saturday, coming on in the second half as they went down to a 3-1 defeat by Newcastle.

Now the Senegal forward wants Lee to outline what the future holds for Diouf at the Reebok.

He said: 'I just want to get everything clear in my head.

'I want to talk with the chairman and the manager because I want everything to be clear.

'If the manager tells me he has confidence in me, I do well. If I don't see that, I don't think I can stay.

'Right now as I talk, this is my crowd and this is my club.

'I don't know tomorrow, it is another day. Maybe tomorrow I go.

'Of course I was disappointed not to be on at the start. I am a footballer and I want to play every game.

'This is my crowd and everybody loves me here - that is why I want to play against Newcastle and every time there is a game.

'They decided I wasn't playing, though, and that was it.

'I respect the boss and his decision and I am here for the time.'


Rooney to miss two months of the season

Manchester United have revealed England striker Wayne Rooney is likely to be out for two months after suffering a hairline fracture of his left foot.

The forward is likely to miss England's next four Euro 2008 qualifiers after suffering the injury in yesterday's Premier League opener at home to Reading.

After taking on Germany in a friendly next week, England face qualifiers at home to Israel and Russia on September 8 and 12 and the following month meet Estonia at home and Russia away on October 13 and 17.

Sir Alex Ferguson has already ruled out the possibility of plunging into the transfer market to solve Manchester United's striking crisis.

Confirmation Wayne Rooney suffered a hairline fracture of his left foot during yesterday's goalless draw with Reading only worsened an already difficult situation for the United boss.

Louis Saha and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have only just returned to training after long-term problems, while Carlos Tevez is effectively only a week into his pre-season after an extended lay-off following Argentina's Copa America campaign.

Ferguson is so short of orthodox forwards he ended up with John O'Shea partnering Cristiano Ronaldo up front against Steve Coppell's men, so it was probably little surprise they failed to find a crucial breakthrough even against a side reduced to 10 men after the dismissal of Dave Kitson.

But Ferguson will resist the temptation to splash the cash once more, insisting he is happy with his current options, with Tevez almost certain to be handed his debut against Portsmouth on Wednesday.

'Carlos Tevez is available now and Louis Saha and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer are training,' said Ferguson.

'With Wayne as well, we have four strikers so I am not looking at a situation where I have to add to that number.'

Nevertheless, the loss of Rooney for an extended period, following hot on the heels of the sales of Alan Smith and Giuseppe Rossi, presents a problem United could well do without.

Old Trafford officials have so far declined to reveal either the precise nature of Rooney's injury, nor offer a recovery time.

However, given he left the ground with his foot in plaster last night, it would be a major surprise if Rooney was back in action within two months, ruling him out of a succession of key fixtures for club and country, including four crucial Euro 2008 qualifiers.

'There was a bit of swelling around the injury,' said Ferguson.

'There was no point him continuing because we have a long season ahead.'

Rooney's injury overshadowed a strange contest in which United dominated and created plenty of chances without managing to put Reading's goal under sustained pressure.

Ryan Giggs did hit a post, while the best of a string of saves from Royals keeper Marcus Hahnemann denied Paul Scholes near the end.

As Reading boss Steve Coppell reflected, not a bad effort from the USA keeper, who had surgery on his hand only six weeks ago.

'When he got back to us he couldn't have saved a tennis ball,' said Coppell.

'He had no strength in his hand whatsoever. But the progress he has made and diligent work he has undertaken over the last six weeks is a credit to him.'

Although Coppell claimed he felt like apologising for the smothering tactics he employed against his old club, he had no need to given they worked to perfection.

In fact, the only thing that went wrong for Reading was Kitson's loss of control which resulted in a rash challenge on Patrice Evra just 37 seconds after his introduction as a second-half substitute.

Coppell, while defending his player, admitted referee Rob Styles was probably correct to brandish the red card.

Ferguson was in no doubt either.

'It looked a terrible challenge,' he said.

'There was real intent there and the referee had no option.'

nani or tevez?