London Soccer Shorts….

Friday, September 11

Sky Bet Championship

Watford v Middlesbrough – Vicarage Road

Hornets Head Coach, Vladimir Ivić, insists the focus is on a swift return to the top flight a disappointing 2019/20 season culminating in relegation: “The target is to come back to the Premier League,” the Serb confidently told www.watfordfc.com.

“This is the target. We all need to work together to achieve this goal. It will not be easy for sure. It’s not an easy job in front of us, but we will give our maximum and together with our fans, we can achieve our goal. I don’t have a problem with this kind of pressure. I can handle it.”

Andre Gray will miss out with a hamstring injury, while fellow striker Troy Deeney and winger Gerard Deulofeu are close to returning to training, but will not be available this weekend.

Midfielder Will Hughes as he continues his recovery from a medical procedure carried out during pre-season.

Long-term absentees Daryl Janmaat and Isaac Success have been joined on the sidelines by Adam Masina, who faces several months out, while Etienne Capoue, Roberto Pereyra and Danny Welbeck are in line to resume training within a matter of weeks.

Saturday, September 12

Premier League

Fulham v Arsenal – Craven Cottage

Fulham could hand a debut to goalkeeper, Alphonse Areola, who has joined the Cottagers on loan from Paris Saint-Germain. 

The 27-year-old stopper told FFCtv: “I am very happy everything is done. Scott Parker called me and I had a good feeling. He said he really wanted me.

“Fulham is a historic club in London and I have heard a lot about the stadium.

“I hope this season will be a good one for us. I want to bring my energy and do everything for this team to keep us where we belong to be.”

Mikel Arteta has no fresh injury concerns following the international matches but is without Sokratis, who sustained a calf injury in training, while David Luiz (neck spasm), Emile Smith Rowe (right shoulder), Calum Chambers (left knee), Pablo Mari (left ankle), Gabriel Martinelli (left knee and Shkodran Mustafi (right hamstring) all remain sidelined.

Crystal Palace v Southampton – Selhurst Park

Michy Batshuayi could feature for Palace against the Saints after arriving on a loan deal from Chelsea.

“I am very happy we have secured Michy on a season-long loan,” Eagles boss, Roy Hodgson told www.cpfc.com. 

“He made a great impact at the club in his previous loan spell, albeit only five months long, displaying a goal-scoring threat which we very much needed at that time and we are confident he will produce again.”

West Ham United v Newcastle United – London Stadium

David Moyes outlined his ambitions for West Ham United ahead of the new campaign.

“Continue progress and make steps going forward. Add more consistency, and just try to build and move on,” the Scotsman explained.

“I think West Ham’s got an incredible chance for progress to be made. I think there’s room for improvement in so many areas, but the one I’ve been put in charge of is in the pitch.

“I think from coming back in January we’ve made great improvements. We had difficult games, but certainly the run-in to the season was very good, and we’re hoping those standards continue.”

Sky Bet Championship

Birmingham City v Brentford – St Andrews

Brentford begins life without Ollie Watkins at St Andrews but will hand a Championship debut to Ivan Toney following his move to West London from Peterborough United.

The Bees missed out on promotion to the Premier League following a play-off final defeat to local rivals, Fulham, but will be amongst the favourites this time around.

Speaking to www.brentfordfc.com, boss Thomas Frank, said: “Last season is history, now we need to create a new history. This league is the most competitive in the world. Our only focus is on us and getting the three points tomorrow”

Millwall v Stoke City – Bet365 Stadium

Gary Rowett is expecting a tough examination of his side when Stoke City visit The Den on Saturday.

“They’ve got a lot of Championship and Premier League experience, and they are big and physical,” the Lions chief told www.millwallfc.co.uk. 

“There are certain things we’ll have to do really well to hurt them, but there will also be certain things we’ll have to do really well to make sure they don’t hurt us.

“I expect it to be a really tough game, but it doesn’t matter who you play first, it’s always going to be tough. There’s the unexpected, and you don’t know how you’re going to start yourself. All we have to do is look after ourselves and try to perform, but also be respectful of the qualities which Stoke possess.”

Queen’s Park Rangers v Nottingham Forest – Loftus Road

Mark Warburton urged his Rangers side to be sharper both in defence and attack ahead of Saturday’s Championship opener with Nottingham Forest at Loftus Road.

“We have to be more ruthless in both boxes,” The R’s chief told www.qpr .co.uk following last weeks frustrating 3-2 Carabao Cup defeat at League One new boys, Plymouth Argyle.

“We just said to the team about last season – how many games where we had so many chances.

“And that was it again today. Put the ball in the back of the net, make it 2-1 or 3-1 and the game is dead and buried. But we didn’t do that today.

“We did more than enough to win the game but we have to be ruthless.”

The West Londoners were without George Thomas, Geoff Cameron and Yoann Barbet at Home Park. Thomas is now back on the training ground: “George should be back training with us from Tuesday,” Warburton confirmed. “He tweaked a quad so you have to be careful. Hopefully, he will be available for selection for the Nottingham Forest game on Saturday.

“Yoann and Geoff should both be ready as well.”

Sky Bet League One

Crewe Alexandra v Charlton Athletic – Gresty Road

Welsh international midfielder, Dylan Levitt, could feature for Charlton at Gresty Road after signing a season-long loan deal from Manchester United.

“He’s another good addition to the squad, he’s a very good player. He’s got talent and he’s a Wales international,” Addicks boss, Lee Bowyer, told www.cafc.com.

It just makes it more competitive for the players if you’re bringing in international players.”

Northampton Town v AFC Wimbledon – Sixfields Stadium

Glyn Hodges has been busy reshaping the Dons ahead of the new campaign with eleven players heading out and seven coming in. And with competition for places fierce, the former Welsh international insisted he has some tough decisions to make ahead of the big kick-off.

“It’s going to be really hard. There are going to be some disappointed lads, but we have a good squad and everyone is going to be needed,” he told www.afcwimbledon.co.uk.

“We are going to have to get everyone buying into the idea that they might not be in the team, but they still need to support the lads in it. We are going to need everyone at some stage, so they need to hide their disappointment and wish the lads all the best. 

“If we can stick together as a group and get that in place we will be far better off.”

Hodges will be without injured duo, Ollie Palmer and Jack Rudoni for the trip to Sixfields. 

Sky Bet League Two

Oldham Athletic v Leyton Orient – Boundary Park

Assistant Head Coach, Danny Senda, believes the O’s are in decent shape ahead of their trip to Boundary Park.

The O’s recorded back-to-back competitive victories in the Carabao Cup and EFL Trophy over the past week, leaving the former Wycombe Wanderers man satisfied with what he has seen 

“We’re obviously very pleased with the two victories, certainly after coming off the back of a long pre-season – a pre-season which we are really happy with,” Senda told the O’s YouTube channel

“You’re never quite sure whether everything, all the work that the players have put in throughout pre-season will come out when you go live, so to get the result against Forest Green, then follow that up with another good result against Brighton is encouraging.” 

Sunday, September 13

Premier League

Tottenham Hotspur v Everton – Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

Jose Mourinho insisted Sunday’s opponents, Everton, will be a tougher nut to crack this campaign. “I do see them as top-six challengers,” the Lilywhites chief explained. 

“I think the ten-point distance last season was just the consequence of how strange last season was. 

“When we come back from lockdown it was a group of teams fighting for objectives and some others weren’t. We were, our distance to the top four, top six was giving us a light to chase.”

Monday, September 14

Brighton & Hove Albion v Chelsea – The AMEX Stadium

Frank Lampard will be without exciting Scottish midfielder, Billy Gilmore for the Blues Monday night trip to the AMEX Stadium after undergoing a knee operation back in July.

“Billy Gilmour is obviously a longer-term injury, he’ll be out for a couple of months more after the operation he had,” the Blues chief told BBC Sport. 

Lampard spoke about the pressure heaped upon him to surpass last seasons fourth-placed Finnish, adding: “That comes with the territory of this job.

“I don’t want to talk about us making statements. We should be excited but also have a word of caution that we need to work with the new players and my job is to get them settled and get the team working as well as possible.”

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Brian Jeeves

Email: [email protected]