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Friday, March 13

Sky Bet Championship

Fulham v Brentford – Craven Cottage

Fulham and Brentford go head-to-head at Craven Cottage, both ready to strike should the top-two – Lees and West Brom – falter during the final weeks of the campaign.

The third-placed Cottagers snatched a point thanks to Tom Cairney’s late goal at Bristol City last week, while Brentford climbed to fourth following a resounding 5-0 trouncing of Sheffield Wednesday at Griffin Park.

Speaking to BBC Sport after that Ashton Gate stalemate, Fulham boss, Scott Parker, said: “What pleased me most was the character the players showed after falling behind. They could have let heads drop, but instead got level and looked the only team likely to win in the closing stages.

“That sort of resilience is something we have worked because it wasn’t always evident over the first half of the season.

“It is a quality we are going to need over the final weeks of the campaign if we are to achieve our aim.

“Tom Cairney took his goal superbly and was outstanding throughout the game. I thought he was head and shoulder above every other player.”

Thomas Frank offered his thoughts to BBC Radio London after the mauling of Wednesday: “We know when we are bang on it, that we are a really, really big threat. What we’ve got right this season is that our defending’s even better

“The big headline today was the desire to defend.

“I know that sounds crazy when we won 5-0, but we know that we try to play attractive, offensive football and we try to dominate the matches.

“When we got on top of the game and created chances we were scary. But, we conceded too many goals in February, so today was a big, big thing. [The players] defended with their lives.”

Saturday, March

Premier League

Watford v Leicester City – Vicarage Road

Watford’s build-up ahead of Leicester’s visit has been hindered after boss, Nigel Pearson, cancelled training after several members of his squad complained of feeling unwell.

The Hornets boss told www.watfordfc.com: “interests of the people who work here and their wider families”. “We are talking about sport versus the well-being of people here.

“We are still preparing for the game, which is difficult bearing in mind the disrupted week we have had.

“We’ve had players, as most clubs will have done, who have had symptoms of not being well. We’ve had players experiencing illness this week, who have stayed at home. 

“We had somebody with a chest infection, somebody with an upset stomach and players who have shown flu-like symptoms. We’ve got one player awaiting test results on his symptoms. Not everybody is the same and we’ve had people who feel okay.”

AFC Bournemouth v Crystal Palace – The Vitality Stadium

Palace head to the south coast in the knowledge that a win will all but secure their Premier League status.

Three successive victories have carried the south Londoners away from the dropzone – a further triumph at the Vitality Stadium will heap further trouble on hosts, Bournemouth, who occupy a place in the bottom three and are without a win in four. 

Brighton & Hove Albion P-P Arsenal – Amex Stadium

Arsenal’s game at Brighton has been postponed following the Coronavirus outbreak and subsequent news that Head Coach, Mikel Arteta had tested positive.

A statement posted on www.arsenal.com explained: 

‘We will work with Public Health England on the next steps in regard to our facilities and staff, and with the Premier League, Football Association and relevant clubs around our forthcoming matches in the Premier League and Emirates FA Cup.  

‘It is clear we will not be able to play some fixtures on their currently scheduled dates. We will update supporters who have tickets for forthcoming games with more information as soon as possible.’

Managing director Vinai Venkatesham said: “The health of our people and the wider public is our priority and that is where our focus is. Our thoughts are with Mikel who is disappointed but in good spirits. We are in active dialogue with all the relevant people to manage this situation appropriately, and we look forward to getting back to training and playing as soon as medical advice allows.” 

Head of football Raul Sanllehi added: “Mikel and the full first-team squad, players and staff, will be fully supported, and we look forward to getting back to training and playing as soon as medical advice allows. Obviously Mikel’s full recovery is the priority now for us all.” 

Aston Villa v Chelsea – Villa Park

Chelsea’s game at Villa Park is now under considerable doubt after striker, Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive for Coronavirus.

As a result, the Blues squad and coaching staff will self-isolate, according to Government health guidelines.

A statement on www.chelseafc.com said:  

‘It is expected that those who did not have close contact with Callum will return to work in the coming days. In the meantime, the men’s team building, one of several separate buildings at our training ground, will remain closed. The rest of our training facility, Stamford Bridge and our other facilities are operating as normal.’

‘Callum displayed symptoms similar to a mild cold on Monday morning and has not been at the training ground since then as a precaution. However, his test came in positive this evening and he will undergo a period of self-isolation. Despite testing positive for the virus, Callum is doing well and looking forward to returning to the training ground as soon as it is possible.’

Sky Bet Championship

Hull City v Charlton Athletic

Lee Bowyer was disappointed with his side after they went down by a goal to nil against Middlesbrough at the Valley, plunging them further into the relegation mire.

The ‘Addicks now face a ‘must-win’ match at out of sorts Hull City – themselves just one place and two points above the dropzone following a 5-1 walloping at Stoke City – their fourth defeat on the bounce.

Speaking after witnessing his sides defeat to Boro, Bowyer told BBC Sport: “I’m frustrated and disappointed again. We can’t keep gifting teams goals.

“We are not good enough to give teams one-goal leads.

“We had three clear-cut chances. We have got to take at least one of them.

“The message to supporters is this – just stick together. We have got nine games to go and we have to keep fighting together.”

Millwall v Derby County – The Den

Millwall hope to record an East Midlands ‘double’ when Derby County visit The Den.

A hat-trick from Matt Smith secured a hugely impressive 3-0 success for the Lions at Nottingham Forest, keeping their play-off aspirations very much alive.

Speaking to BBC Radio London after their win at The City Ground, Lion’s boss, Gary Rowett, explained: “We were superb in different ways today. In the first 45 minutes, from an attacking sense, I thought all three goals were very, very well worked and we had some other opportunities which was pleasing.

“We could have come here and gone 5-2-3, but I felt there was an opportunity against Forest to exploit certain areas and one of those was a little bit of direct play on the angle to big Smudge (Matt Smith).

“I have asked the strikers to score goals and he has stood up. I have to work the team around Smudge because he is a big threat at the moment. Sometimes it means we have a little lack of energy in certain areas but he led the line absolutely magnificently.

“The lads worked really hard. The gameplan was spot on today. At 3-0 up we had to defend well under pressure and we did that. And we finished really well. They didn’t create too many chances.”

Back-to-back victories have given Derby a sniff of the top-six places. The Rams currently reside in twelfth place but are only three points behind eight-placed Millwall and five from the play-off spots.

Queens Park Rangers v Barnsley – Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium

Rangers are six without defeat following their impressive 3-1 win at Preston and Mark Warburton’s men will fancy their chances of extending that sequence when rock-bottom Barnsley are the visitors to Loftus Road.

Speaking to BBC Sport after the win at Deepdale, Warburton said: “It’s a really good result, we know Preston’s home record is outstanding this season, they’d only lost three times at home this season.

“We were really poor, deserved to be one down, in truth it was a blessing it was only one. We didn’t force a shot, didn’t force a save, didn’t look like creating a chance.

“Thoroughly deserved to be one down. We had to come out, change our shape, made two changes and I could have made seven.

“What a reaction from the players, what a response, we looked on the front foot, we won our duals, we looked dangerous and scored three wonderful goals.”

Barnsley arrive in the capital off the back of two successive defeats, leaving them seven points from safety.

Sky Bet League One

Doncaster Rovers v AFC Wimbledon – Keepmoat Stadium

Glyn Hodges was frustrated his side couldn’t find a goal to see off bottom of the table Bolton and enhance their survival hopes.

Wimbledon remain six points above the relegation zone following their stalemate with the Trotters and now face a tough trip to Doncaster Rovers – a side still harbouring outside ambitions of the top seven.

Speaking to www.afcwimbledon.co.uk after the Bolton draw, Hodges explained: “Back-to-back wins in this position is a massive boost and that was an opportunity. 

“I said to them at half-time that this is one that you have to grind out. We were not playing particularly well, but we needed that flash of inspiration. The offside goal could have been given, but we are not worried about that and we have no complaints. 

“I thought our deliveries from corners were good, but we didn’t look like we were going to score. There’s a lot to work on and we just have to keep chipping away.

The Welshman added: “We didn’t do enough to win it, although we defended at times and we created our own problems to a degree. 

“We didn’t hit the levels that we produced at Gillingham last week and if we had done that I’m sure we would have got the three points. 

“A clean sheet, another 0-0, and one defeat in six means we are ticking along and we are ready for the next game.”

Sky Bet League Two

Bradford City v Leyton Orient – Valley Parade

Leyton Orient produced an impressive performance to see off Cambridge United last time out and manager, Ross Embleton insisted he already had half an eye on next season: “I’ve got an eye on next season, in terms of recruitment, and how the squad looks. But, ultimately, it’s about now.” the O’s chief explained.

The east Londoners head north to face a Bradford City side currently four points outside the play-off places following three defeats in four matches.

Sunday, March 15

Premier League

West Ham United v Wolverhampton Wanderers – London Stadium

Sebastien Haller insisted it wasn’t just about the performances any more after West Ham United slipped to defeat at Arsenal last weekend.

The relegation-threatened Hammers have produced decent displays against Liverpool, Southampton and the Gunners, but yielded only three points, leaving them perched precariously above the dropzone on goal difference and piling further pressure on the east Londoners ahead of Sunday’s clash with Wolverhampton Wanderers at the London Stadium.

“We need to get good performances and this is what we’ve done for the last couple of weeks but the thing is, now we are not about playing well, it is just about the points, so even if we play bad, we have to get three points. We need to do it and hopefully, we can,” the French frontman told www.whufc.com.

Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United – Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

As it stands, Tottenham’s huge clash with Manchester United will go ahead. However, an imminent emergency meeting held by the Premier League on Friday morning could see all matches postponed.

A statement posted on www.premierleague.com on Thursday explained:  

‘In light of Arsenal’s announcement tonight confirming that their first-team coach Mikel Arteta has tested positive for COVID-19, the Premier League will convene an emergency club meeting on Friday morning regarding future fixtures.  

‘The Premier League will make no further comment until after that meeting.’ 

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Brian Jeeves

Email: [email protected]

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