London Soccer Shorts…

Thursday, December 26

Premier League

AFC Bournemouth v Arsenal – The Vitality Stadium

Mikel Arteta will take his place in the dugout for the first time since his appointment as Head Coach at Arsenal – perhaps buoyed by his side’s performance against Everton at Goodison Park last time out.

The Gunners had to be content with a goalless draw on Merseyside, despite creating several chances. Interim boss, Freddie Ljungberg, took charge of the side while Arteta watched from the wings: “I liked that we dominated the game,” the Swede told www.arsenal.com.

“I put a very, very young side out as well and they fought so hard. I wanted them to win but at the end of the day it’s a difficult place to come and they beat Chelsea here, they did well against Manchester United. 

“Well done to the boys, it’s a point.”

Injury-hit hosts, Bournemouth were beaten by a late Jay Rodrigez goal as Burnley plundered the points at the Vitality Stadium last time out. The Cherries are currently four points above the relegation zone but can point to a recent 1-0 victory at Chelsea to suggest they are more than capable of upsetting the applecart. 

Chelsea v Southampton – Stamford Bridge

Willian was Chelsea’s match-winner at Tottenham – the Brazilian bagging a brace as the Blues sank their bitter rivals last weekend. However, despite confirming their place in the top four at Christmas, the busy midfielder has called for more consistency from his side.

“It was one of our best performances of the season but now we have to keep doing the same,” he told www.chelseafc.com. 

“We cannot keep going up and down, we have to carry on and keep the momentum.

“We have many games coming and if we want to stay near the top, we need to win more of them.”

The Blues host a Southampton side embroiled in a relegation battle but lifted by an impressive 3-1 success at Aston Villa.

Tottenham Hotspur v Brighton & Hove Albion – Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

Spurs will be without Heung-Min Son for the visit of Brighton after the South Korean was sent-off during Sunday’s defeat to Chelsea at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Son was given his marching orders by referee, Anthony Taylor, after appearing to kick out at Blues defender, Antonio Rudiger, and will now miss Tottenham’s next three matches. 

Spurs received better news regarding Argentine playmaker, Erik Lamela. The player has resumed first-team training following a troublesome hamstring injury and could come into contention for a place in the squad to face the Seagulls.

Injured duo, Ben Davies and Hugo Lloris remain sidelined. Meanwhile, Brighton head to North London looking for a unique double-double, having already beaten Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium as well as Hammering Spurs by three unanswered goals when the two sides met at the Amex Stadium in October. 

Crystal Palace v West Ham United – Selhurst Park

Crystal Palace were beaten for the first time in five matches as Newcastle United took the points thanks to a late Miguel Almirón at St James Park, and they will be looking for a return to winning ways over a West Ham United side who they saw off by the odd goal in three when the sides met at the London Stadium back in October.

Eagles boss, Roy Hodgson, expressed his frustration after Palace passed up a series of opportunities in the North-East: “I was rather hoping we would win it,” he told www.cpfc.co.uk. 

“Our second-half performance followed on from the first half, I thought we had a lot of the ball and created a lot of chances but you’ve got to take your chances and we didn’t.”

West Ham have had a two-week break since winning by a Sebastien Haller goal to nil at Southampton: “We had 12 days to prepare and we’re working with confidence so I hope we can recover the points we lost earlier in the season,” boss, Manuel Pellegrini told www.whufc.com.

“We have to play two more games to finish the first round and if we finish with 25, after all the problems we had, would be a good first part of the season.”

Sheffield United v Watford – Bramall Lane

Watford head to Bramall Lane with renewed vigour after recording a superb 2-0 Premier League victory over Manchester United at Vicarage Road.

Despite the win, the Hornets remain bottom of the table, although new boss, Nigel Pearson, believes his side have the right attributes to avoid relegation.

“I need to stress that we can’t get carried away with it, but I’ve seen lots to encourage myself that we’re capable,” he told www.watfordfc.com 

“But we’ve got to sustain our positive intent and our ability to go into these types of games and keep our composure and our nerve and perform.” 

Watford face a tough task against a Sheffield United side that has surprised many this season. The Blades are currently fifth in the table, just a single point off the Champions League places.

Sky Bet Championship

Brentford v Swansea City – Griffin Park

Brentford enhanced their play-off aspirations with a superb 1-1 draw with league leaders, West Bromwich Albion, and will be hoping to hone in on the automatic spots with a victory over fellow contenders, Swansea City, at Griffin Park. 

Speaking to BBC London after the Hawthorns stalemate, Bees boss, Thomas Frank, said: “I am so proud of the boys, coming here with a big personality, wanting to dominate the game on our terms.

“That frustrated West Brom and I think for 43 minutes they didn’t have a shot on target.

“Second half it was a little bit more open, but throughout the 90 minutes I think if there was a team who should have won, it would’ve been us.”

The Swans head to West London following back-to-back league victories over Middlesborough and Luton Town.

Cardiff City v Millwall – Cardiff City Stadium

Millwall’s recent unbeaten sequence was brought to an abrupt conclusion late on by struggling Barnsley last time out, leaving the Lions looking to bounce back against old boss, Neil Harris, and his Cardiff City side in the Welsh capital.

Manager, Gary Rowett, was less than pleased after the Tykes won by the odd goal in three at the Den, telling BBC London: “Yes I’m disappointed, obviously it’s a frustrating performance. It was not as high as the standards we’ve set so far. If you look at the first 30 minutes I thought we were really comfortable, I thought we were the best team by far.

“In the second half we huffed and puffed, we didn’t really go very far with any sort of precision. My frustration is, when you get back into the game in the 87th minute, you take the point.

“You’re not happy with it but you keep the unbeaten run going.”

Host’s Cardiff, sit one place above Millwall in twelfth place on goal difference.

Charlton Athletic v Bristol City – The Valley

Lee Bowyer hoped hos sides luck had changed after they snatched a 2-2 draw at Queen’s Park Rangers thanks to Naby Sarr’s stoppage-time strike.

“Hopefully that’s the change in luck for us that we need,” he told www.cafc.co.ik.

“I have to say that’s the least that we deserved from the game to be fair. I started with four and then I had to change it and go with three at the back and then I thought that we were in charge.

“I think that we created a lot of chances and managed to get ourselves into some very good areas. With our final ball sometimes, we just couldn’t pick out our man.

“But don’t get me wrong, they hit us well at times on the break and caused us problems and with them being the home side you expect that. But I think that a point is the least we deserved.”

The ‘Addicks will fancy their chances of backing this result up against a Bristol City side who have fallen off the pace following three straight defeats.

Luton Town v Fulham – Kenilworth Road

Scott Parker was beaming with pride after his promotion-chasing Fulham side ended their recent winless sequence with an impressive 2-1 success over Leeds United at Craven Cottage.

“I’m most pleased obviously with the result,” he told BBC London

“When you come out of three losses you feel things heating up with everyone including the squad.

“We got a result today against one of the top teams in the league and the way we went about it is what pleased me the most.”

“People were questioning things last week at Brentford away. This time, against Leeds, it wasn’t about technique or quality, people were going to be judging you for who you are.

“I don’t want to hear that we played well, I want to hear that people say our players did everything they could to win a football match and I think we’ve done that.”

Parker’s side now face a Hatters side sitting just above the dropzone, having lost three on the bounce.

Reading v Queen’s Park Rangers – The Madjeski Stadium

Mark Warburton has urged his Queen’s Park Rangers side to be more clinical after witnessing visitors, Charlton Athletic, claim a share of the spoils following a punchy 2-2 draw at Loftus Road last time out.

“Goals change games, they release the pressure,” he told www.qpr.co.uk.

Geoff Cameron, and Marc Pugh had handed the R’s a 2-1 advantage. However, after failing to kill the contest, Naby Sarr netted for the ‘Addicks in the fifth minute of stoppage-time, much to Warburton’s frustration. 

“We were in control for long periods of the match and we didn’t get our rewards because we didn’t take our chances, so we must be more clinical,” he added.

Sky Bet League One

Bristol Rovers v AFC Wimbledon – The Memorial Ground

Glyn Hodges will be looking for a reaction from his AFC Wimbledon side when they head to the Memorial Stadium.

The Dons were beaten by a single Rushian Hepburn-Murphy strike at Tranmere Rovers last weekend, drawing an honest assessment from the boss.

“We probably should have done more in the first half, but in the second-half we had chances,” he told www.afcwimbledon.co.uk. 

“We got bodies forward and balls were rolled across the box that you expect someone to finish. I was disappointed that we did not get the goal and maybe if we had got one we would have got another, but we’ve been beaten.”

Sky Bet League Two

Leyton Orient v Colchester United – Breyer Group Stadium

Leyton Orient are unbeaten in three league outings but will have their work cut out to extend that sequence against in-form Colchester United at the Breyer Group Stadium.

The O’s followed up back-to-back draws with Oldham Athletic and Bradford City by beating Cambridge United by the odd goal in five at the Abbey Stadium – their first league victory in eight attempts.

O’s will be without the suspended Myles Judd following the defenders red card at Cambridge. Meanwhile, Colchester arrive in the capital just outside the play-off places after a run of seven without defeat. 

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Brian Jeeves

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