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The Sport Matrix: Wednesday 01 January 2014

Arsenal injury woe as Mourinho ramps up pressure on City

Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger has criticised the festive fixture list as the Premier League leaders face an injury crisis ahead of today’s visit of Cardiff City.

Thomas Vermaelen and Nacho Monreal are both suffering from illness, with Mesut Özil, Aaron Ramsey, Olivier Giroud and Kieran Gibbs ruled out for the visit of the managerless Welsh side. Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky could also miss the game.

Saturday’s visit of neighbours Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup will be the club’s fifth match in 13 days. “Our game was on Monday [23 December] against Chelsea and all the other teams played Saturday,” the Frenchman  (above) said of the scheduling. “We played Monday, Thursday,  Sunday, and now Wednesday, Saturday. So many games make some changes necessary. It is difficult to rotate without losing the balance of the team.”

Across the capital, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho admitted his side were well-placed for a title tilt as the top-flight enters the second half of its season, while ramping up the pressure on favourites Manchester City.

“Last year at this stage [Chelsea] were 11 points behind the leader, so game over,” the Portuguese said ahead of today’s trip to Southampton. “In this moment we are two points behind, so game on. Let’s keep going. Let’s see if Manchester City kills everybody or if they keep being close to all of us. They know how good they are and know they are the clear favourites. I don’t think they feel any pressure.” MORE

Martinez: Barkley is staying put

Everton manager Roberto Martinez remains confident the club can hold onto Ross Barkley, despite interest from Manchester United. “There is not even a doubt,” the Spaniard said. “He has a long-term contract. We are in a strong position financially.”

Murray coasts through on return

Andy Murray eased back into competitive action with a 6-0 6-0 victory over home wildcard Mousa Zayed at the Qatar Open yesterday. The Scot progressed to the second round in just 37 minutes. MORE

Sherwood to play on the defensive

Tim Sherwood admits Tottenham may need to rein in their attacking approach when they visit Manchester United tonight. “You have to be more cautious,” he said. “The last thing you want to do is concede early because then you are chasing the game.” MORE

England players in last chance saloon

England stumble towards the final Test of a catastrophic Ashes campaign in Sydney tomorrow with a number of players unsure of their future. Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, James Anderson and Matt Prior all have points to prove. MORE

Preview: The year ahead

With a Ryder Cup, World Cup, Winter Olympics and Commonwealth Games to come this year, 2014 promises to be a thrilling ride. Robin Scott-Elliot marks your card for the next 12 months. MORE

Annie Power tops Cheltenham field

Annie Power goes on trial in the Dorman Engineering Hurdle at Cheltenham today, unbeaten in eight starts. Nobody seems sure what Festival race she is on trial for, with the Champions Hurdle, Mares’ Hurdle and World Hurdle all mentioned. MORE

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