London Soccer Shorts…

Friday, February 19

Sky Bet Championship

Watford v Derby County – Vicarage Road

Watford boss, Xisco Munoz, was delighted with the Hornets 1-0 midweek win over Preston and will demand the pressure is ke[t on the top two when improving Derby visit Vicarage Road on Friday evening. 

“I think it was a good performance for us because we showed the very good team spirit that we already have and we played with passion,” the Spaniard told BBC Sport.

“We had control of the game in the first half and in the second half we lost the momentum at times.

“But everyone played together and we worked very hard.

“This is our club, this is our style, this is our challenge and we need to follow this game.”

Saturday, February 20

Premier League

Southampton v Chelsea – St Mary’s Stadium

Thomas Tuchel spoke of the single-minded attitude which has seen Chelsea roar back into Champions League contention.

The Blues remain unbeaten since the German took charge in December. Speaking to www.chelseafc.com after Monday evenings 2-0 win over Newcastle United, he explained: “When we started we were a lot of points behind Liverpool with many teams between us and fourth place. 

“So it was clear that it was not only in our hands, that we needed also results on other pitches to close the gap. This was the situation when we started and from there on we spent not one minute thinking about the other pitches and the other teams.

“We spent every minute with the team to focus on us, to prepare matches because we play in the toughest league. It can be a reward now to look at the table but it cannot distract us.

“From Thursday on, the only focus will be on how to be ready for Southampton. 

“We worked hard for this momentum, the players worked very hard to win all these games in a row, and we will keep going.”

Fulham v Sheffield United  – Craven Cottage

Fulham closed the gap on Newcastle to six points and will hope to take another step towards safety when bottom of the table Sheffield United visits Craven Cottage.

Speaking after Wednesday’s 1-1 draw at Burnley, boss Scott Parker told Sky Sports: “It is a tough place to come, the ball is in play not a lot, it is scrappy. We got our noses in front and disappointed with the goal we have conceded.

“We take the point though. That is four points so far this week. When we get ahead we need to weather something. There were a couple of mistakes for their goal.

“I thought we were solid, dealt with the threat of balls coming in but were not able to get our identity on it.

“We regroup, it has been a busy week. Every game is big for us. Six points. This team has honest belief and confidence.”

Sky Bet Championship

Coventry City v Brentford  – St Andrews

Back-to-back defeats have seen Brentford slip from the summit. Speaking after Wednesday’s 2-1 derby defeat at QPR, Bees chief, Thomas Frank, explained: “The important message to get out is that if anyone had told us at the beginning of the season that we’d be in this position, with 57 points, I think we would have said ‘Yes, we’ll take that.

“I’m aware we can lose the next one every single time because this league is so even.”

Millwall v Wycombe Wanderers – The Den

More of the same will be the order from Lions boss, Gary Rowett when bottom of the table Wycombe Wanderers visit The Den on Saturday.

Millwall saw off Birmingham City by two unanswered goals during the week, once again, drawing an honest response from the Bromsgrove-born chief: “It was a good start for us but I thought after that Birmingham were better than us,” he told BBC Sport. 

“We’ve won four and drawn three now against some excellent sides, Norwich City and Watford included, and the players have shown what they are all about with a really good run of results.”

Queen’s Park Rangers v AFC Bournemouth – Kian Prince Foundation Stadium

Mark Warburton praised his side following their surprise derby success over Brentford but will be mindful that another big performance is required when promotion-chasing Bournemouth are the visitors to Loftus Road.

Mindset was everything tonight,” he told www.qpr.co.uk.

“I thought first half we didn’t start. We stood off them and showed them too much respect, that wasn’t QPR at all. We gave away an awful goal and we knew we had to respond and the lads did that fantastically this evening.

“We had to believe in ourselves, they are a very good team but so are we, we just had to have belief in ourselves.

“We had to deny them time and space on the ball and make sure we played, we had to move the ball quicker, move the ball forward, and we began to open them up.”

Sky Bet League One

Fleetwood Town v Charlton Athletic – Highbury

Lee Bowyer relieved some of the pressure from his Charlton players after Gillingham won by the odd goal in five to put another dent in the Addicks promotion hopes.

“I’m happy with where we are, how we are playing,” the former midfielder told www.cafc.co.uk. 

“I’d be worried if we were losing and not playing well or created chances. We’ve been the better side recently, and today was the same. To concede the way that the last goal was. We were on the front foot and down to ten men, we ran out of legs. We could’ve held on for the point but we ran out of legs and when you go down to ten it’s tough.

“There’s a long way to go, we will pick ourselves up and prepare ourselves.”

Peterborough United v AFC Wimbledon – Weston Homes Stadium

Mark Robinson takes full-time charge of the Dons for the first time at Peterborough.

Speaking after his interim role had been upgraded, Robinson told www.afcwimbledon.co.uk: “Everyone knows how I feel about AFC Wimbledon and I am absolutely thrilled to be given this opportunity at the club that is the greatest story in football; a club with a great heritage and the best supporters in the country.

“There is undoubtedly a lot of hard work to be done but when you look at the quality in the squad and the academy, alongside the good people we have in place in and around the club, if we can all pull together it makes me genuinely excited about what we can achieve.”

Sky Bet League Two

Leyton Orient v Port Vale – Breyer Group Stadium

Leyton Orient chief, Ross Embleton, will be hoping Danny Johnson’s return to fitness coincides with the East Londoners ending a four-match goal drought.

Two defeats were followed by back-to-back goalless draws with Crawley Town and Colchester United, leaving the O’s in tenth place, five points off the play-off places. 

Sunday, February 21

Premier League

West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur – London Stadium

West Ham boss David Moyes, has been delighted with his sides toil of late. 

“Our form after lockdown was good and a couple of signings have worked really well for us, and the players have kicked on,” the Scotsman enthused after Monday’s 3-0 win over Sheffield United at the London Stadium.

However, despite probably heading into Sunday’s derby with Spurs as favourites, Moyes will be mindful of the challenge in hand against a side that has lost four of their last five Premier League matches.

Spurs did regain some momentum with a resounding UEFA Europa League Round of 32 first-leg victory over Austrian outfit, Wolfsberger on Thursday evening.

Frontman, Harry Kane missed the trip to Budapest due to injury. Nevertheless, Jose Mourinho expected the England skipper to be available for the trip across the capital: “I believe so, an experienced guy that had injuries in the past, he knows his body better than anyone,” the Spurs chief explained.

“He knows that I want him to play every minute of every game, so it’s never a question of a choice.”

Arsenal v Manchester City – Emirates Stadium

Mikel Arteta will need an altogether more ruthless display from his skipper, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang if Arsenal are to end Manchester City’s impressive Premier League run.

Aubameyang passed up several decent opportunities during Thursday’s UEFA Europa League tie with Benfica in Turin: “These things happen,” the Spaniard explained. 

“He was on the end of the biggest chances we had tonight. He was a real threat and we played against this opponent with a high line they propose all the time, and he was unlucky of course not to score two or three tonight, because in normal circumstances that would be the case.”

Monday, February 22

Premier League

Brighton & Hove Albion v Crystal Palace – AMEX Stadium

Crystal Palace boss, Roy Hodgson will demand better from his side at chief rivals, Brighton. 

Palace were beaten 3-0 by Burnley at Selhurst Park last time out: “It was pretty obvious that it was a performance we can’t be in anyway happy with or proud of. We were beaten by the better team,” the former England boss bemoaned.

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Brian Jeeves

Email: [email protected]