Club Focus – Liverpool – Clutching at draws

Steven Gerrard has been an inspiration for Liverpool during his 11 years in the first team. Appointed club captain as a 23-year-old, he has taken all of the responsibilities that go with that honour on his shoulders – sometimes literally. His whirring arms signified that the 2005 Champions League final might not have been all over after all. His 35-yard stunner in Cardiff snatched the FA Cup from West Ham’s grasp in 2006. His constant encouragement and inspiration of others has made teammates feel 10-feet tall. When he speaks, Liverpool…

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Premier League preview – January 30/31, 2010

With January’s big freeze interrupting the football calendar, along with cup competitions hitting full swing, the Premier League has yet to find its feet in 2010 with most sides limited to only two or three league games so far. However, this does at least mean a gripping finish to the season with rescheduled games adding to an already jam-packed season. This week has been no exception with 16 sides having to play two games in the space of five days, and as good as the midweek action was, it is…

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Liverpool daily news – Benitez needs club funding to resist Juve, Gerrard to turn Reds season, Babel move ruled out

Every morning A Different League searches the nations press to bring you the latest goings on at Liverpool. Today: Liverpool’s long-running search for investors to inject £100 million of capital and break the club’s financial paralysis must bear fruit before the end of the season if Rafael Ben

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Arsenal daily news – Gunners chase Chamakh, Wilshere move official, Wenger claims Rooney could play for Real

Every morning A Different League searches the nations press to bring you the latest goings on at Arsenal Today: Rooney could play for Real Madrid – Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger salutes in-form Manchester United striker. (Daily Mail) Bolton Wanderers Sign Jack Wilshere On Loan From Arsenal Until End Of Season. (Goal.com) Martin O’Neill has launched another withering attack on Ars

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Club Focus – Tottenham – Bentley still not a luxury model

After a frustrating start to 2010, it has turned out to be a good week so far for Tottenham. With a solid if unspectacular win over Fulham in the bag, there has been the added bonus of seeing their closest rivals drop points. With Liverpool and Aston Villa only managing draws, the advantage was with Spurs. The match against the Cottagers was very much an exercise in going back to basics. Harry Redknapp’s side were never at their devastating best but did the simple things well. Fulham rarely threatened Gomes’…

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Club Focus – Everton – A game of two halves

A strong first-half performance was all it took to blow Sunderland away on Wednesday night, but Everton fans may be concerned about their team’s inability to perform for the full 90 minutes. After an insipid first-half led to the Blues being dumped out of the FA Cup by Birmingham City last weekend, the second-half against the Black Cats was worryingly apathetic. It is too easy to say the root cause of the malaise that affected the second period was a lack of passion, commitment or any variation on that theme,…

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Club Focus – Fulham – The price of potential

Most people will tell you potential doesn’t have a price, but it does if you’re Manchester United. The Red Devils have paid £12m to find out whether Fulham have let go of a future England international in Chris Smalling. The deal has to go down as a gamble on United’s part, and a very good piece of business for the west Londoners. Picked up from Maidstone United for a voluntary donation of just £10 000, Smalling has made just a handful of appearances for the Whites – impressing on most…

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Club Focus – Reading – McDermott must address Reading’s home form

The result at Bramall Lane might not have gone in Brian McDermott’s favour but the decision of Sir John Madejski about his future in the manager role did. Despite the club slipping to 23rd in the table, the caretaker has been made the permanent occupant of the Madejski Stadium dug out on a 12-month rolling contract. There has been much speculation in recent weeks as to if and when McDermott would be given the reins to keep. The magnificent FA Cup showing by Reading has done everything to aid his…

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Club Focus – Portsmouth – Poor showing against West Ham highlights midfield weakness

Portsmouth were back in Premier League action on Tuesday after an enforced 27-day break, but the Blues could only manage a draw at home to relegation rivals West Ham, on a disappointing night at Fratton Park. Indeed Avram Grant’s men were lucky to escape with a point after an error-strewn display which allowed the visitors to dominate. Grant ditched his favoured 4-5-1-cum-4-3-3 system for the midfield diamond as he sought to incorporate a front two following encouraging displays from forgotten man John Utaka. However, the midfield quartet was outplayed, out-passed…

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Club Focus – Birmingham City – Chelsea end fifteen game unbeaten run

A lot has happened on the blue side of Birmingham in the last few days – Craig Gardner has signed and has joined City for a rumoured fee of £3.5 million. The biggest story, however, has been their defeat to the hands of league leaders Chelsea. The last fifteen games have encompassed Birmingham’s best period of football, perhaps ever. It has seen the status of a once small club that was never really good enough for the Premier League, jump to a genuine threat to the top half of the…

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Club Focus – Newcastle – Jose mayday

Newcastle United kept their automatic promotion aspirations on track with a mid-week 2-0 home victory against troubled Crystal Palace. The win replicated a number of Newcastle victories this season – not playing particularly well yet stealing all three points. At times against Palace they were second best and looked strides from a side that are top of the table. Despite entering administration and only being able to name three substitutes Palace gave a good account of themselves and had chances to get something out of the game. Compared to the…

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Club Focus – Aston Villa – O’Neill content despite lack of goal scoring form

Whilst Aston Villa awaited confirmation of their Carling Cup final opponents, they hosted an in-form Arsenal side that had previously beat them 3-0 at the end of last month. The final score line fails to reflect the exciting nature of that which saw the Gunners hit the woodwork twice and the Villans fail to convert routine chances. While it is a great result for the Birmingham side, it did not hide the fact that they have not won or scored in their last four successive league games, a problem which…

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Club Focus – Arsenal – Wenger versus Ferguson

In the Premier League era Arsenal v Manchester United has been the outstanding fixture on the calendar – a date marked in the diary as soon as the fixtures are released every summer. This classic fixture is about to deliver its latest instalment and enter another chapter in the battle between the managers as they clash at the Emirates on what proves to be a truly ‘Super Sunday.’ The use of ‘mind games’ was one of the strongest weapons in Sir Alex Ferguson’s armoury when heading into key matches and…

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Club Focus – Leeds United – Grayson puts a brave face after another league defeat

Complacency and lack of effort are two things not associated with Leeds United this season but the current drop in form in League One action has prompted the Manager to blast his players. Simon Grayson knows he has a tough task of balancing between the dream of a longer run in the FA Cup and the realities of League One life. The Whites are truly going through a critical period as every player’s motivation and priorities are being tested. At Old Trafford and White Hart Lane the players fought extremely…

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Club Focus – Manchester City – The wait goes on

Manchester City’s wait for a major trophy continues after a late Wayne Rooney header settled a compelling Carling Cup semi-final. Roberto Mancini had vowed to end City’s three decade cup drought but now the FA Cup is City’s only hope, barring a late surge up the Premier League. While some teams snort with derision at the League Cup, usually placing it way down the list of priorities, this year City took the tournament seriously even before the two-legged clash with their near-neighbours. With Mark Hughes in charge for much of…

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Club Focus – Manchester United – Rooney excels once again as United lose Rio

With the news that Rio Ferdinand is to serve a four match ban for his scuffle with Craig Fagan comes further uncertainty about the sustainability and consistency of this current United back four. Robbed off their first choice centre half and often captain for all but 10 games this season has proved costly at times. It may be true that Carlos Tevez gave him the slip for City’s goal on Wednesday night and the defending at times against Hull was not of the required standard but his mere presence is…

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Club Focus – Stoke – Stoke Sunderland’s “Tribute Band:” Better Than The Real Thing?

It has become something of a running joke among mackems that Stoke City are becoming something of a Sunderland tribute band. The connection between the two clubs goes beyond red and white stripes. There are currently no fewer than six former Black Cats players lining up for the Potters these days, and the Sunderland influence even extends to the backroom staff at the Britannia Stadium, where ex Sunderland boss Peter Reid is in situ as Assistant Manager. The joke suddenly doesn’t seem so funny for many regulars at the Stadium…

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Club Focus – Chelsea – Things were looking Bleakley

Carlo Ancelotti announced, post Birmingham victory, that Didier Drogba will start the Blues next game away at Burnley. However, how much has the powerful target man been missed, if at all? Chelsea in recent weeks, since the Ivoirians departure, have lacked the brute force and aerial threat Drogba can provide. In order to adjust, the Londoners have used free-flowing football and wingers to great effect. Intricate passes and moves have stabilised the team in the African’s absence, with mid-fielders breaking from deep the goals have been surging. Nicolas Anelka has…

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Ominous Chelsea masquerade as champions

CHELSEA 3Malouda 6, Lampard 32 & 90 BIRMINGHAM CITY 0 In theory, the African Cup of Nations was supposed to show-up glaring deficiencies in Chelsea’s squad. In practice, it has simply allowed them to peacock the sheer strength in depth they possess. Four games, four wins and seventeen goals later, and a potentially tricky period of games without key members has been negotiated with the minimum of fuss. A seven-goal hammering of a free-falling Sunderland was sandwiched by two routine cup run-outs, so the arrival of Birmingham City – unbeaten…

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Everton pile on the misery for below par Sunderland

EVERTON 2Cahill 6, Donovan 19 SUNDERLAND 0 Everton will face far sterner tests this season and they barely had to move out of first gear last night, coasting to a 2-0 victory over Sunderland. The Black Cats constantly looked far too rigid when in possession, often giving the ball cheaply to Everton’s well organised and hard working midfield. Steve Bruce left out flair players Andy Reid and Steed Malbranque and aimed to contain the opposition with a defensively minded 4-5-1. His side constantly surrendered possession during the opening exchanges and…

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News and Views from the Football League – Palace in Administration

In talking about all the transfer activity of the past month, we have touched on the financial problems in South London, as Neil Warnock’s Crystal Palace continue to battle against the inevitable. The sad news is that the Eagles have now entered administration and will face the standard 10 point deduction, leaving them just outside the drop zone, with the threat of relegation a distinct possibility. Palace’s form this season has surprised many and although nothing can ever be taken for granted, the mere fact that they were comfortably mid-table…

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African Cup of Nations – Week 3 review – A Delicious derby rooted in resentment

Hostilities between old foes Egypt and Algeria look set to resume on Thursday in the highly anticipated African Cup of Nations semi-finals. The match-up comes less than three months after their hotly contested World Cup 2010 playoff game. Algeria just edged it on that occasion. On current form, sporting a perfect record of four wins in four games the Pharaoh’s look unstoppable. Meanwhile Algeria only managed one goal in their group matches and were two minutes from elimination to the Ivory Coast in their quarter-final. However, with such colourful history…

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League Cup Preview – 27 January, 2010 – The Manchester shift?

The Manchester derby at Old Trafford on Wednesday is almost guaranteed to hit the headlines. After the result at the City of Manchester stadium everything is to play for with City going into the second leg with a slender 2-1 lead. Both teams realise what is at stake, and it is not just a trip to Wembley for the Carling Cup final winner. Contests between the two sides have become closely fought in the last couple of years – although arguably a reachable chance of silverware has rarely cursed the…

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