London Soccer Shorts…

Saturday, January 30

Premier League

Crystal Palace v Wolverhampton Wanderers – Selhurst Park

Roy Hodgson will demand improvement from his palace side after they were outplayed by West Ham during the week.

Palace was largely forced on the back foot for large spells of the game; “I thought we lost to the better team, our first-half performance was nowhere near as good as we expected to be and as a result we found ourselves coming in at half time 2-1 down,” the former England chief told BBC Sport.

“Second half we lost it to the set play and when you are 3-1 down even though we had a bit of a spurt in that period it’s very hard to score two goals against a team of West Ham’s quality and they tool the points deservedly.”

West Bromwich Albion v Fulham – The Hawthorns

Scott Parker is another manager looking for improvement despite his relegation-haunted side taking a share of the spoils from their midweek trip to Brighton; “”Am I fully happy with the overall performance? No, I’m not. I’m satisfied as I can be with the point,” he told BBC Sport.

Arsenal v Manchester United – The Emirates Stadium

Arsenal’s recent Premier League revival will come under scrutiny when Manchester United are the visitors on Saturday.

The Gunners were 3-1 winners’ at Southampton during the week, lifting them within five points for the top-four: “We’re keeping the momentum going, the run going, being very humble and understanding that there are a lot of things we have to improve,” boss, Mikel Arteta told www.arsenal.com. 

“There is so much we have to do to catch up with many other teams still, and go game by game. Let’s see where we get.”

Sky Bet Championship

Brentford v Wycombe Wanderers – Brentford Community Stadium

Brentford remains in touch with the automatic promotion places and will be confident of taking the points when struggling Wycombe are the visitors.

The Bees claimed a point from a difficult midweek trip to Swansea, although Bees boss, Thomas Frank, suggested his side should have taken all three points after the Swans played out the final twenty minutes with ten men following the dismissal of Kyle Naughton. 

“Of course, when it is eleven versus ten you have to go on and win but that is why football is such a beautiful game,” the Dane explained. 

“There is such small margins and then suddenly it is two points dropped.”

Cardiff City v Millwall – Cardiff City Stadium

Lions boss, Gary Rowett, tried to change the mindset of his players ahead of Tuesday evenings goalless draw with Watford at the Den: “Our home form hasn’t been good so I spoke to the players before the game and told them to treat it like an away game. 

“The challenge wasn’t to go and get on the front foot, I just felt we had to keep our shape.”

Millwall now faces a Cardiff side without a win in seven and who recently parted company with their former favourite, Neil Harris, replacing him in the managerial hot seat with Mick McCarthy.

Sky Bet League One

AFC Wimbledon v Milton Keynes Dons – Plough Lane

Wimbledon remain in relegation trouble following their midweek defeat at Doncaster Rovers and they could slip nine points below bitter rivals MK Dons if that trend continues when the pair meet at Plough Lane on Saturday.

Speaking to www.afcwimbledon.co.uk after that loss in South Yorkshire, Dons chief, Glyn Hodges, said: “It was disappointing. We did well on Saturday and I put Crewe in the same bracket as Doncaster as they are a similar sort of team, but I think these tonight were a bit better. 

“They caught us on the counter-attack. We got done on the counter from one of our crosses going into the box and they ended up scoring, and they scored through a deflected shot that might have been going wide. 

“While the boys are working as hard as they can, it’s disappointing that they conceded those goals.”

Charlton Athletic v Portsmouth – The Valley

The Addicks got their play-off show back on the road with a 1-0 win at MK Dons during the week.

Lee Bowyer’s side now face a Portsmouth side one point and a place above them in the table: “When you play these sides that are in and around you, a win gives you a mental boost,” the former midfielder told www.cafc.c.uk 

“Every single time we’ve played Portsmouth, they’ve been tight games. We have to compete because they are a big, strong, physical team. We’ll have to fight them from start to finish.” 

Sky Bet League Two

Bolton Wanderers v Leyton Orient – University of Bolton Stadium

The O’s head to the North-West keen to bounce back from last weekends single-goal setback at the hands of Forest Green Rovers.

Orient currently occupy tenth place but come up against a Bolton side still looking to find their feet and who were thrashed by four unanswered goals at Brisbane Road back in October.

Sunday, January 31

Premier League

Chelsea v Burnley – Stamford Bridge

Incoming Chelsea boss, Thomas Tuchel, run the rule over his new charges during their frustrating goalless draw with Wolves during the week and suggested there isn’t too much wrong, despite their indifferent form this season: “I don’t see too many weaknesses,” the enthused. 

“I will focus on our strengths, the mix is amazing of the team between experienced players, big personalities and young, hungry talent.”

West Ham United v Liverpool – London Stadium

West Ham’s run of six successive victories in all competitions will be put to the test against when champions, Liverpool, are the visitors to the London Stadium.

The Reds returned to winning ways at Spurs on Thursday evening, lifting them above the East Londoners in the table. Nevertheless, a West Ham victory on Sunday will see the sides again swap places.

Speaking after the midweek win at Selhurst Park, Hammers boss, David Moyes, said: “We’re on it and the players are on it and I think they can even do much better.

“I think we are only scraping the surface and there is a lot more to come.”

Brighton & Hove Albion v Tottenham Hotspur – AMEX Stadium

Spurs will be looking to make up lost ground when they head to the south coast.

Defensive errors proved costly as the Lilywhites slipped to defeat against Liverpool on Thursday evening: “Everything went wrong at the end of the first half,” Jose Mourinho bemoaned. 

“We shouldn’t go in losing at half-time, not at all. I think we were really good, solid and confident in the first half, so to go 1-0 down, not easy, to lose Harry Kane, not easy. 

“To come out for the second half and another defensive mistake and 2-0, it’s very difficult to resist that, even mentally. But I praise the guys who stayed on until the end because, until the end, they tried.”

Monday, February 1

Sky Bet Championship

Watford v Queens Park Rangers – Vicarage Road

Watford lost ground on leaders Norwich following their midweek goalless draw at Millwall.

Nevertheless, Hornets chief, Xisco Munoz, wasn’t too disappointed with what he saw: “I think it was a very good performance in which we controlled the ball very well in both halves and created chances to score.

“This is good momentum for us and I don’t want to make excuses but today was also difficult for our guys. They gave everything, though, so to them I say congratulations. They are winners to me.”

Rangers were beaten by Derby County last time out. They currently reside in seventeenth place – seven points above the dropzone.

Stefan Johansen could feature for Mark Warburton’s side after arriving at Loftus Road from West London rivals, Fulham, on a loan deal spanning until the end of the season.

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Brian Jeeves

Email: [email protected]