Today in the Premier League
Thursday 28 February 2008
Theo Walcott has warned his team-mates of the threat Gabriel Agbonlahor will pose when Aston Villa visit the Emirates on Saturday. "Gabby has been doing fantastically well," he said. "With Gabby you can overcook a pass and he'll still get there. His pace is just phenomenal, it's a joke."
Martin O'Neill has confirmed Gareth Barry will remain as the club's penalty-taker, despite the midfielder's miss from the spot during the 2-1 win over Reading last week. "I'm happy for him to continue," O'Neill said. "As Gareth went up to take it at Reading his foot slipped. It is not a problem."
Alex McLeish has praised the coolness of midfielder James McFadden after his injury-time spot-kick against Arsenal last weekend earned the Blues a point. "Imagine being in that situation in front of a full house," the manager said. "It takes a lot of self-belief and James has that."
Defender Andre Ooijer will remain at Ewood Park for a further 12 months after the club invoked an option in the Dutchman's contract. "We had until 31 March to exercise the option," chairman John Williams said. "But we have decided to do it now because Andre has been brilliant for us."
Gary Megson remains upbeat over the Trotters' chances of avoiding relegation, despite matches with Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United still to come. "It depends whether you look and see the glass half full or half empty," he said. "When you've got five points from 10 games, as we had, to be in the position we are in, the glass is half full."
The club's youth side reached the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup for the first time in 35 years after a 5-2 win at Port Vale on Tuesday. Frenchman Gaël Kakuta, 16, scored a hat-trick, with other goals from Morten Neilsen and Miroslav Stoch. The Blues meet Aston Villa in the semi-finals, with the home leg at Stamford Bridge.
The midfielder Mile Sterjovski believes the visit of Sunderland this weekend gives the Rams a fine opportunity to end their run of 21 games without a Premier League victory. "If we are on our game and do well," the Australian said. "Then it is a team we can probably get some points from."
The Toffees have confirmed their application to enter next season's Intertoto Cup should they fail to achieve European qualification via the league. The Merseyside club currently occupy fourth place, which would be enough to earn them a place in the Champions League qualifying rounds.
The manager Roy Hodgson said the club will benefit from defender Ian Pearce's loan spell at Southampton. The 33-year-old moved to St Mary's last week on an initial month's loan. "The level of match play he will get there will stand him in very good stead when he comes back," Hodgson said.
Steven Gerrard believes the club need to concentrate on the present rather than plan for the future. "We can't keep talking about next season all the time," the midfielder said. "Sooner or later we have to make one season the season where we make it happen, and do the talking on the pitch."
The striker Danny Sturridge continued his return from hip and thigh injuries with the opening goal in the Blues' 4-1 Youth Cup quarter-final victory over Plymouth on Tuesday. Sturridge played for 85 minutes and could now be in contention to face Wigan this Saturday.
Michael Carrick has admitted he has had to get used to squad rotation at United. "It's not a case of getting dropped, it's about making the right decisions for the benefit of the team," he said. "There's so much quality in our midfield, and you can adapt to different games, opposition or scenarios."
Gareth Southgate believes Stewart Downing can earn a recall to the England squad after the midfielder signed a new contract with the club. "He has got an opportunity with the new manager coming in," Southgate said. "The form Stewart is in, he will be hammering on the door."
Manager Kevin Keegan has admitted he is concentrating on keeping the club in the Premier League before beginning any rebuilding of the squad. "Then I've got to go and get the three, four or five players," he said of his summer plans, "That are hopefully going to turn this place around."
Director of Youth Operations Paul Hart has high hopes for goalkeeper Liam O'Brien after the 16-year-old signed from Queens Park Rangers this week. "In the present climate there are a few decent young English goalkeepers," Hart said. "But for a young boy Liam is mature and confident."
England defender Nicky Shorey believes his teammates have the experience to pull clear of the relegation zone. "We've come a long way together," said 27-year-old Shorey. "I wouldn't want anyone else in the trenches with me, they are top lads and we can come through I am sure."
Goalkeeper Craig Gordon has admitted he underestimated the intensity of English football after joining the Black Cats in a £9m move from Hearts last summer. "It was always going to be a difficult step," he said. "I had not experienced anything like this and it took a bit of getting used to."
The defender Gilberto said he hopes to make his Spurs debut this weekend. The Brazilian joined from Hertha Berlin last month but has struggled with injury. "I had a muscle problem in my left calf," he said. "Now I am fit and Saturday's game, against Birmingham, will be my first."
West Ham United
Goalkeeper Robert Green has urged supporters to raise the roof against Chelsea on Saturday. The Hammers have already recorded home victories over Manchester United and Liverpool this season. "Between ourselves and the fans we can make it as intimidating as possible," Green said. "And really get stuck into them."
The striker Julius Aghahowa impressed for the Latics reserve team this week in their 2-0 victory over Newcastle United. The 26-year-old Nigerian opened the scoring with his second goal in sucessive games in front of watching first team manager Steve Bruce before Honduran left back Maynor Figueroa scored the second.
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