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News & Comment

Football in brief: Heskey's groin injury is not 'long term'

Aston Villa: Martin O'Neill has been handed an injury boost after scans revealed that that is no long-term damage to Emile Heskey's groin.

The injury forced the England striker off during Villa's 1-0 win over Stoke on 19 December but O'Neill is now hopeful Heskey will be available for at least one of their two festive games. O'Neill's side face a serious test of their top-four credentials over the next five days with the visit to Arsenal on Sunday followed by Tuesday's home game against Liverpool and the manager knows the importance of player rotation. "It is a big period for us and I am quite sure we will utilise the players in that period," he said. "I am sure it will be difficult for the team to keep going in the manner they have been doing. In any case, I bet one or two things will be enforced on us with injuries and suspensions. It can happen, in fact it will happen.

Then we will see how we cope." O'Neill's comments offer hope to his fringe players with Fabian Delph, Steve Sidwell, Nigel Reo-Coker and John Carew singled out. "They have proved themselves in the past and I am hopeful everyone will step up to the mark," O'Neill said.

Chimbonda prepared to handle festive boos

Blackburn Rovers: Pascal Chimbonda spent his Christmas Day preparing to be the most hated man in the north-west as he gets set to face former club Wigan at the DW Stadium. The French full-back infuriated Wigan by handing in a transfer request on the final day of his first season with the club, stating that he wanted to play for a bigger team. "Everytime I go back to Wigan they boo me. Maybe for them that's normal but for me it's not," he said. "When the opportunity came to go to a club on a different level I couldn't refuse it. The fans may be upset but if you are ambitious and want to play at the highest level you have to take these opportunities." Three years after leaving Wigan, his Rovers side make the trip to the DW Stadium knowing defeat would see Wigan jump above them in the table.

Moyes rallies Toffees to turn season around

Everton: David Moyes has challenged his team to kick-start a season that threatens to turn into a relegation battle should results not improve. Everton go into today's game at Sunderland just two points off the drop zone and Moyes is aware how important the festive period can be "Things can change very quickly over Christmas, with a couple of games in quick succession, and we want to make that happen," he said. "You will get someone making a push at the top. We have to make sure that is us because we are too near the trap-door for comfort at the moment." After a run of three defeats and three draws, now is the time to win. "I am frustrated with the results of late, " said Moyes. "We just need to get three points to go with the better displays."