Today in the Premier League

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The Independent Football

Arsenal

Midfielder Cesc Fabregas has defended the leadership style of Gunners captain William Gallas following criticism of the Frenchman in recent months. "For me, the most important thing is giving everything on the pitch," the 20-year-old Spaniard said. "That is what really matters to me."

Aston Villa

Gabriel Agbonlahor has attributed his recent goal-scoring resurgence to persistent hard work. The forward has scored four goals in four games after going 12 matches without scoring. "I went through a run without scoring but I knew the goals would come," he said. "I just had to keep working hard."

Birmingham City

Mehdi Nafti remains a worry for this weekend's match at Fulham after being substituted against Liverpool last weekend with a thigh injury. "At half-time Nafti said he would do as much as he could," Blues manager Alex McLeish said. "But he was struggling and we had to bring him off."

Blackburn Rovers

Manager Mark Hughes has praised new signing Johann Vogel following his free transfer to Ewood Park last month. "He understands the game," Hughes said of the midfielder. "He knows what teams are trying to do when they are in possession. He breaks things up for us and he's got a good vision."

Bolton Wanderers

Kevin Nolan has admitted the side are strengthened by the travelling support. "Even when we were under the cosh, we knew our supporters were there," he said of last Saturday's 1-1 draw at Tottenham. "With the club laying on free travel once again to Chelsea [on 11 May], we are certain to take a large following to Stamford Bridge."

Chelsea

Midfielder Claude Makelele believes his side have been Manchester United's only real contenders for the Premier League title this season. "They always knew we were their most serious challengers," the 35 year-old Frenchman said. "Even when we fell behind, they knew we were physically and mentally strong enough to come back."

Derby County

Robbie Earnshaw has expressed his relief at finally getting off the mark with his first league goal for the club in Monday's 6-2 defeat to Arsenal. "It was nice to get the first Premier League goal," the 27-year-old said. "Especially against Arsenal, one of the best teams in the league. I was very happy."

Everton

Phil Neville has vowed to extend his goal-scoring "run" after doubling his season's tally with his strike against Aston Villa on Sunday. "The manager has been getting on at me to score more," he said. "You see the best full-backs in the world scoring six or seven a season – I only get one or two."

Fulham

Director Stuart Benson has dismissed speculation that John Collins is being lined up to replace Roy Hodgson. "I can only assume that it represents pure invention," Benson said. "There are and have been no plans either to replace Roy Hodgson, or to have any discussion whatsoever with Mr Collins."

Liverpool

Yossi Benayoun has rejected comparisons with former Reds midfielder Luis Garcia, insisting he is his own player. "He [Garcia] did very well for the club, but I am a different player," the Israeli said. "I wouldn't like to say that I have come in to replace Luis and the job that he did."

Manchester City

Defender Michael Ball has given his backing to under-fire manager Sven Goran Eriksson. "Every player is 100 per cent behind Sven," Ball said. "If the club wants to go forward we have got to keep the coaching staff and obviously add a few more players for quality reasons."

Manchester United

Midfielder Park Ji-Sung believes team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo was a worthy winner of the PFA Player of the Year award. "Cristiano is currently the best player in the world," the South Korean said. "We are just lucky to be able to play with him since he has the ability to decide a game on his own."

Middlesbrough

Gareth Southgate has demanded a strong finish from his team following the 3-2 defeat at Sunderland last week. "On the back of a derby defeat, it is easy for people to fall out of love with each other," he said. "That's not going to happen [here]. We are going to be strong to the finish."

Newcastle United

Magpies manager Kevin Keegan says the club are determined to keep goalkeeper Steve Harper at St James' Park amid reported interest from Liverpool.

"I am not looking for him to go," Keegan said. "I'm not surprised if other teams are interested as Steve is a very, very good goalkeeper."

Portsmouth

The club are reportedly interested in bringing the Benfica defender Luisao to Fratton Park, with scouts said to be monitoring his performances in recent matches. "The club are aware of my position," the Brazilian said. "If they receive a good offer for me then I have a good chance of leaving."

Reading

Royals goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann has revealed he is enjoying the excitement of the relegation battle. "I do like pressure – it's a buzz when there is so much on the game," the American said. "The thought of losing is unbearable, but what a great feeling it will be to win."

Sunderland

The manager Roy Keane has insisted the club will not take a relaxed approach to Saturday's game at Bolton, despite already securing their Premier League status. "Can we enjoy it? Yes and no," he said. "We'll be going to Bolton looking to put on a good show and climb the table."

Tottenham Hotspur

Brazilian Gilberto hopes to build on a first full game for the club by appearing in the final two games of the campaign. "I thought I played well," the 32-year-old said of his display against Bolton last weekend. "There's two matches left of the season and hopefully I can play both of them."

West Ham United

Manager Alan Curbishley has assured Hammers supporters the club will head to Old Trafford to beat Manchester United this weekend. "We haven't got the pressure we had last year," he said of the 1-0 win the club recorded last May. "But we want to finish as strongly as we can. [We] will go there and give it our best shot."

Wigan Athletic

Wigan Warriors, the Latic's Rugby League neighbours, have agreed to a request from chairman Dave Whelan to re-schedule their next home game to avoid further criticism of the JJB playing surface. "We have been wrongly blamed for the poor state of the pitch," Whelan said. "And I don't want Wigan's name to attract wrongful criticism."

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