London Soccer Shorts…

Friday, March 19
Premier League
Fulham v Leeds United – Craven Cottage
Three points will be imperative to Fulham in their bid to escape relegation.

The Cottagers were beaten 3-0 by Manchester City last time out, but boss Scott Parker remained calm, explaining to BBC Match of the Day: “This is the part of the season when trophies are won and rewards are won. It’s the nitty-gritty of it. It’s the defining moment. We understand that. It’s the home stretch for us. We are in a good place and we will continue.”

Fulham faces a Leeds side playing some entertaining football but struggling for consistency. The Elland Road club currently occupy twelfth place – ten points above the dropzone.

Saturday, March 20
Sky Bet Championship
Brentford v Nottingham Forest – Brentford Community Stadium
Brentford’s recent patchy form continued at Derby on Tuesday night – The Bees tossing away a 2-0 lead as the Rams forced a share of the spoils.

“Definitely a game of two halves. We were absolutely excellent first half, maybe one of the best we’ve played so far in the season, totally in control on and off the ball,” Boss, Thomas Frank explained.

However, his side has now slipped five points off the automatic promotion places and face a Forset side keen to arrest a slump that hasn’t seen them win in five outings.

Millwall v Middlesbrough – The Den
Gary Rowett accepted the flack following Millwall’s defeat at QPR but insisted his team had given it everything despite throwing away a two-goal lead at Loftus Road.

“Having lost the game after being 2-0 up the team is going to get criticism and I’m going to get criticism but I think the team have worked hard,” the Lions chief explained.
“I don’t think they’ve not tried, we worked as hard as we could but one or two maybe struggled to keep going and that was our issue.”
Millwall now face a tough task against a Middlesbrough side sitting just five points shy of the play-off places.

Reading v Queens Park Rangers – Madejski Stadium
Mark Warburton will demand a repeat of his sides second-half performance against Millwall during the week when they head to Reading.

Rangers trailed 2-0 but staged a remarkable recovery to win 3-2: “I don’t rate that first half in any shape or form. We were lucky to be only 2-0 down. We played like a team that hadn’t even met each other before,” Warburton explained.

“To then show that desire and character, and to create so many chances against a Millwall defence that gives away very few chances against most teams in the division, the players deserve so much credit.”

Watford v Birmingham City – Vicarage Road
Watford are second after thrashing Rotherham United and will fancy their chances of taking another step towards automatic promotion when Birmingham City visit Vicarage Road on Saturday.

Speaking after their 4-1 midweek win at the New York Stadium, Hornets boss, Xisco Munoz, said: “We are building something and, while I was happy with this game and it was an amazing performance, we can still perform better.

Sky Bet League One
AFC Wimbledon v Charlton Athletic – Plough Lane
Mark Robinson called for concentration at the back after his sides defensive frailties emerged during the Dons 1-1 draw with fellow strugglers, Wigan Athletic during the week.

“There were good performances out there, but we just can’t concede goals like that,” he told www.afcwimbledon.co.uk.

“I said to the lads, you have got to give yourselves chances to win football matches. If someone does something amazing out there you hold your hands up, but it was just a poor goal.

“We got a point, but it’s still not good enough. We wanted three points, and it was a game that we should have got three points from.

“I want some answers from the lads for the first ten minutes after half-time. It has happened too often, and I want to see us come out and take the game completely to the opposition.”

Meanwhile, Nigel Adkins takes charge of Charlton for the first time following his appointment on Thursday: “I had a conversation with Thomas (Sandgaard – Owner) and he highlighted where he wants this club to go,” teh new boss told www,cafc.co.uk.
“It’s an exciting and long-term vision. Getting to the Premier League is something that we all want and something that I have done before. I want to achieve that again.”

Sky Bet League Two
Newport County v Leyton Orient – Breyer Group Stadium
The O’s head to South Wales looking to end a three-match winless sequence.

The game will be staged at the Cardiff City Stadium due to ongoing issues with Newport’s Rodney Parade pitch. The hosts, themselves keen to bounce back following a midweek defeat at Port Vale.

Sunday, March 21
Premier League
West Ham United v Arsenal – London Stadium
Jesse Lingard is available to David Moyes after sitting out last weekend’s defeat at Old Trafford due to the terms of his loan agreement.

Moyes and the Hammers were criticised for a somewhat subdued display in the North West, with fans expecting a response against their capital rivals.

Meanwhile, It’s difficult to predict which Arsenal will turn up these days. Europa League progress was made during the week despite Olympiakos securing a narrow second-leg success at the Emirates.

“We can’t use any excuses. We had fresh players in the side,” boss Mikel Arteta explained.

“We started the game really well but then we had a lack of stability. We need to keep the ball and play some passes together and not just keep giving the ball away in transitions.

“We’ll get better. When it comes to decision-making and execution, it’s a little bit more difficult.

“We need another win in the Premier League and it’s a big chance after the international break to get a run together.”

Aston Villa v Tottenham Hotspur – Villa Park

With the fallout from a defeat in the North London derby, swiftly followed by a horrific Europa League exit in Croatia, Jose Mourinho and Spurs head to the West Midlands under huge pressure and with sections of the support calling for change.

Mourinho questioned the player’s desire after Dinamo Zagreb had recovered a two-goal deficit in Thursday’s exit: “Of course it concerns me,” he explained to BT Sport.

“We worked very hard, we tried to provide the best conditions for the players to perform. Of course, it concerns me.

“My position as a head coach is the position that stops me or at least makes me uncomfortable to come in front of the cameras and go deep in analysis. I hope you can understand that.

“I believe all of us have to be humble enough to accept any criticism that you can make of our work. It is not for me to go on that.”

Spurs face a Villa side without a win in three but looking to secure a top-ten finish to an otherwise satisfactory second season back in the top flight.

Emirates FA Cup Sixth Round
Chelsea v Sheffield United – Stamford Bridge
Chelsea’s progression on all fronts shows little sign of diminishing. Thomas Tuchel’s side are unbeaten since his appointment and made strides in the Champions League during the week as Atletico
Madrid were dispatched 3-0 on aggregate.

The visit of Sheffield United for a sixth-round FA Cup tie should hold little fear for the Blues: “The guys play with a special bond and results like this give you a certain edge and glue to achieve special things,” Tuchel told www.chelseafc.com.

“You can only do it with a special atmosphere. I’m pretty sure nobody wants to play against us in the last eight. It will be a big step but there’s no need for us to be afraid.”

Brian Jeeves

Email: [email protected]