Today in the Premier League

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The Independent Online

Arsenal

Barcelona director Txiki Begiristain has dismissed reports linking midfielder Cesc Fabregas with a return to the Nou Camp. "There is always a risk when you decide to leave Barcelona," Begiristain said. "The fact is that he cannot return." The Spaniard left Barça as a trainee in 2003.

Aston Villa

The defender Curtis Davies has returned to the Midlands after undergoing successful surgery on a ruptured Achilles tendon. The 22-year-old centre-back sustained the injury during the 1-1 draw at Arsenal last Saturday and is expected to be sidelined for between six and seven months.

Birmingham City

Manager Alex McLeish believes £5m signing James McFadden will play a key part in helping the Blues avoid relegation. "James has brought a bit of creativity from middle to front, which we had lacked," McLeish said. McFadden joined City from Everton during the January transfer window.

Blackburn Rovers

Benni McCarthy maintains the club still harbour hopes of finishing in the top four. "There is a fourth place up for grabs," the striker said. "That is what we want. There is a serious screw loose in our team if we are not looking towards fourth place. If we think we can just settle for the Uefa Cup, no way."

Bolton Wanderers

Defender Gary Cahill believes the Trotters have enough to preserve their Premier League status, despite the poor display in the 3-1 defeat against Liverpool on Sunday. "I said when I first came here that we are more than capable of staying up in this league," the former Aston Villa centre-back said. "And I still believe that."

Chelsea

The referee Peter Walton has admitted privately that he made a mistake when sending off Frank Lampard in the game against West Ham on Saturday, raising the midfielder's hopes that his three-match ban will be rescinded at a hearing today. Lampard was adjudged to be guilty of violent conduct for shoving Luis Boa Morte at Upton Park.

Derby County

The defender Marc Edworthy admits the club are already planning for next season and said he wants to be part of the Rams' attempts to get promoted. "I know the Championship inside out," the 35-year-old said. "And know what it takes over 46 games to win promotion."

Everton

The club have defended Tim Cahill over his goal celebration during the 3-1 win over Portsmouth on Sunday. "It was a very personal thing for Tim," a spokesman said. "He is a highly intelligent young man. Anyone who saw the pictures will see he was emotional and it meant a lot to him."

Fulham

Roy Hodgson said Jari Litmanen may have to wait for his Cottagers debut. "If we were down to 10 players there's no question he'd play," the manager said. "He's physically fit to play but he's been resting. We won't take that risk. We want to give him a full week's training before we even consider him."

Liverpool

The Reds have opened contract talks with Peter Crouch over a new deal. "We have been talking about a new contract and the player has told me he wants to stay," manager Rafael Benitez said. "His agent was talking to [chief executive] Rick Parry and said the player wanted to talk."

Manchester City

Sven Goran Eriksson said the club were lifted by the return of midfielder Michael Johnson in the 0-0 draw with Wigan last weekend. "It was good to see Michael playing 90 minutes and performing so well," the manager said. "Afterwards he reported no pain which is also good news."

Manchester United

Sir Alex Ferguson believes 21 points from the remaining 12 games will be enough to retain the title. "The big clubs are taking points off each other and sides outside the top three are getting stronger and causing a few upsets," the manager told Inside United. "I think 85 will be enough to win it."

Middlesbrough

Gareth Southgate said the club will focus on Sunday's FA Cup quarter-final with Cardiff following the poor display in the 1-0 home defeat to Reading on Saturday. "We've got two tough games away and have to lift ourselves," he said. "But before that we have a week to prepare for Sunday."

Newcastle United

Kevin Keegan has told defender Steven Taylor that the club's Premier League survival battle takes precedence over the 22-year-old's contract talks. "We want to make sure we stay in this division, which we've still got to," the Magpies manager said. "Then, we'll look at all those things."

Portsmouth

Nico Kranjcar has offered his support to compatriot Eduardo da Silva as the Arsenal forward begins his recovery from a broken leg. "I believe he is a strong enough character to come back as a better player," Kranjcar said. "But I feel very sad for my team-mate – we grew up together in Zagreb."

Reading

Manager Steve Coppell said he is concentrating on the Royals reaching the 40-point mark rather than studying the table. "To me, the Premier League is just about points accumulation," he said. "And you know that if you get more than 40 you're not going to be relegated."

Sunderland

Dean Whitehead has supported manager Roy Keane's decision to place Liam Miller on the transfer list following the players poor time-keeping. "Discipline is a big part of football," the midfielder said. "Being on time, making sure you don't let your team-mates down and show a bit of respect."

Tottenham Hotspur

Jermain Defoe said he has no regrets at leaving White Hart Lane, despite missing out on the club's Carling Cup triumph last month. "If I look back I think I've wasted 18 months of my career," he said. "I was really depressed about my situation. I knew I had to leave, I had to get away."

West Ham United

Lucas Neill is optimistic the club can repeat last season's end-of-season form and earn a place in Europe. "Last year we won seven out of nine and it took us about seven or eight places up the table," he said ahead of the game at Liverpool tomorrow. "We've got to put everything into the Anfield game to get a result."

Wigan Athletic

Manager Steve Bruce said he was impressed by Jason Koumas in the 0-0 draw at Manchester City on Saturday. "Jason has been knocking on the door and I thought he took his chance," Bruce said. "He showed he can be disciplined." The Welsh midfielder's start came after seven successive substitute appearances in the League.

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