London Soccer Shorts…
Friday, January 10
Sheffield United v West Ham United – Bramall Lane
Back-to-back victories have brought renewed vigour to West Ham United. However, the Irons face an altogether stiffer test when they head to Bramall Lane on Friday evening.
David Moyes’ men still two points outside the dropzone, while the Blades – under the guidance of Chris Wilder – currently harbour aspirations of Europa League qualification.
West Ham will be buoyed by a 4-0 victory over AFC Bournemouth in their last Premier League outing and could take heart from the fact Sheffield United have lost two on the spin.
Moyes will be without Ryan Frederick – the defender sustained a hamstring injury during the FA Cup win at Gillingham last weekend.
Saturday, January 11
Crystal Palace v Arsenal – Selhurst Park
Roy Hodgson hopes to have their talisman, Wilfried Zaha, fit to face Arsenal at Selhurst Park.
Zaha missed the FA Cup defeat to Derby County, Hodgson telling www.cpfc.co.uk: “I do [hope he’ll be back against Arsenal]. The fact is he was pressed into service against Norwich, probably defiant of the advice of the sports science and medical people.
“If Wilf had been a different person to the person he is, he wouldn’t have played against Norwich. But he did and he got through the game which was fantastic. I wasn’t prepared to ask him to push himself through another game against medical advice for a cup match, which, if you’re going to lose a game in our situation, Crystal Palace, is the game you prefer to lose to a league game because our aim is not to win the FA Cup, our aim is to stay in the Premier League.”
Meanwhile, Mikel Arteta was pleased to see his Arsenal side pick up another victory as Leeds were dispatched in the cup: “Not relaxing but feeling a little bit more confident and building something together. I think it’s important,” he told www.arsenal.com
Arsenal struggled during the opening period and the Spaniard confirmed he let the players know it during the interval: “When I see what I don’t want to see – and I’m not talking about technically and tactically – what I expect from them and the standards that we wanted to set in certain areas, I cannot be happy and I have to let them know. I am learning every day about them.
“How they react when they lose, what they need when they lose, what they need when they win as well. And as well, how can they react when they want to. Because before that, obviously, everybody said it was a physical issue that we could not sustain a certain rhythm or intensity throughout the game. Look how they finished tonight. After 94 minutes they kept going and this is here and this is there. This is what they have to understand as a team.”
Chelsea v Burnley – Stamford Bridge
Chelsea return to Premier League action hoping it is a case of ‘home is where the heart is’ following a difficult spell at Stamford Bridge of late.
The Blues lifted some of the uncertainty with a 2-0 FA Cup triumph over Nottingham Forest last time out, although Frank Lampard told BBC London that he wasn’t completely satisfied.
“These games are not easy. When they make changes it does not mean it’s an easier game,” the Blues chief explained.
“We got our two goals and it was very comfortable but did we push on from that and create and score more goals? No, we didn’t and I would’ve liked to have scored some more.”
Nevertheless, Chelsea will be reasonably confident of getting back on track against a Burnley side who have lost three on the bounce.
Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool – Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Spurs will be without Moussa Sissoko for the visit of World Club Champions, Liverpool, this after the French international underwent surgery on a medial collateral ligament in his right knee, sustained during the Lilywhites recent defeat at Southampton.
Harry Kane’s hamstring injury picked up in the same game keeps him sidelined along with Tanguy Ndombele (hip), Ben Davies ankle), Hugo Lloris (elbow) and Danny Rose (calf).
The inconsistent North Londoners face the all-conquering Reds at a difficult time. However, Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen, insisted there was plenty to be positive about.
“It’s a tough spell, that’s true, but the most important thing is that we have confidence in ourselves, the manager and everyone around the club to get back to winning ways. I feel all the ingredients are here,” he told wwwtottenhamhotspur.com.
“In my career, I’ve known ups and downs… look, we haven’t won in our last three games, but I don’t want to have the conversation that we’re down, I still feel we have everything to play for.
“The top four is in sight, we’re in the next round of the Champions League and everything still to play for in the FA Cup, so at the end of the day, nothing major, and we push on.”
Sky Bet Championship
Brentford v Queens Park Rangers – Griffin Park
Promotion-chasing Brentford will be eyeing up a derby double over West London rivals, Queen’s Park Rangers when the pair go head-to-head at Griffin Park on Saturday lunchtime.
The Bees warmed up with a single-goal FA Cup success over Stoke City – a result and performance which pleased Head Coach, Thomas Frank.
“I’m massively delighted, I told them in the dressing room I’m so proud of them for various reasons, we went up against an experienced Stoke side and they’d played 9,000 minutes as a group in the Championship this year, our team had played 2,000 compared,” he told BBC Radio London.
Meanwhile, Mark Warburton heads back to his former hunting ground having witnessed his Queen’s Park Rangers side hit eleven goals in two matches, comfortable dispatching Welsh duo, Cardiff City and Swansea City 6-1 and 5-1 respectively.
Warburton was clearly satisfied with the R’s FA Cup rout of the Swans, telling www.qpr.co.uk: “It is always a tough footballing test against Swansea, they have a real philosophy and do it really well, so it was a pleasing performance from start to finish.”
Charlton Athletic v West Bromwich Albion – The Valley
Charlton faces West Brom for the second successive weekend with ‘Addicks boss, Lee Bowyer, likely to field a more familiar line-up.
Despite a horrendous injury list, Bowyer made nine changes to the side which had lost at Swansea four days previous – and despite suffering a 1-0 defeat and a cup exit, the former midfielder was satisfied with his young charges’ toil.
“At the end of the day, we’ve lost the game. I don’t like losing any game but taking into account the lads that have started, their age, their experience, then I think we gave a good account of ourselves,” he told www.cafc.co.uk.
Hull City v Fulham – KCOM Stadium
Fulham head to Humberside buoyed by an impressive FA Cup victory over Aston Villa at the Cottage.
Stunning goals from Anthony Knockaert and Harry Arter sealed the deal, much to the delight of boss, Scott Parker.
“The most important thing was the result – but, more importantly, I thought the performance was outstanding,” he told BBC London.
“We caused them a lot of problems; we got in the right areas.
“Winning becomes a habit like losing does. Ultimately, you need a winning mentality and a habit of being winners, and that is going to take time. You can’t just click your fingers, but games like this help against very good opposition.”
Stoke City v Millwall – Bet365 Stadium
Millwall head to Stoke in fine fettle having recorded back-to-back league victories coupled with Emirates FA Cup progress at the expense of Newport County last weekend.
Defender, Danny McNamara, has now returned to the Lions following a successful loan spell at Newport. He was ineligible to face his parent club last weekend but could come into contention to travel to the Potteries.
Stoke sit just above the relegation zone. They were beaten at Brentford in the FA cup last weekend but thrashed Huddersfield Town 5-2 on their last league outing.
Sky Bet League One
Portsmouth v AFC Wimbledon – Fratton Park
Wimbledon will be without central-defender, Ryan Delaney after the on-loan player returned to his parent club, Rochdale.
Meanwhile, another loanee, striker Michael Folivi, has gone back to Watford, leaving Dons boss, Glynn Hodges looking for replacements in both positions.
Sky Bet League Two
Leyton Orient v Grimsby Town – Breyer Group Stadium
Ross Embleton takes charge of Leyton Orient on a full-time basis for the first time, with the clubs hierarchy sending a positive message that he will be backed during the January transfer window.
The O’s had struggled to make an impact since returning to the Football League. However, following two spells in charge on an interim basis, 38-year-old Embleton can now impose further his own ideas as he tries to lift the east Londoners up the table.
Joint owner and Chairman, Nigel Travis, explained on www.leytonorient .com: “Ross will be encouraged to reinforce the first-team through the January transfer window, which began with the signing of Lawrence Vigouroux and the extension of George Marsh’s loan.”
Mr Travis added: “For a number of reasons it has been a difficult season and therefore the board, alongside Martin Ling, have been very deliberate in the search for the Club’s new Head Coach and we are pleased to appoint Ross Embleton to that role.
“The club have held ongoing discussions with Ross over recent weeks relating to improving on-field results, the development of the first-team squad and Ross’ own desire to take up the role. We are confident that Ross is the right person to lead the O’s forward, his ability to lead the players, and his coaching staff, is superb and he provides stability, which is essential, given the events of the season.”
Meanwhile, Grimsby arrive in the capital off the back of two successive victories since the appointment of Ian Holloway as their manager.
Sunday, January 12
AFC Bournemouth v Watford – The Vitality Stadium
Nigel Pearson will field an altogether more familiar line-up when Watford continued their fight for Premier League survival at AFC Bournemouth.
The Hornets chief rested a number of players for last weekend’s thrilling FA Cup draw with Tranmere Rovers and insisted he had no regrets, despite his side surrendering a three-goal advantage to the League One side.
“The Premier League is our priority and I have no qualms about it. It was never my intention to do anything other than protect the squad and to look after what we need to do for the Premier League – it’s as simple as that and we can’t afford not to,” he told www.watfordfc.com.
Meanwhile, the Hornets have successfully appealed the red card shown to Robero Pereyra during that match.