Premier League preview – Man Utd and Chelsea look to get back among the points

The beginning of 2011 will be celebrated with a traditional full Premier League fixture list. Liverpool and Aston Villa will hope the New Year brings them a change of fortune as they look to put an unsuccessful 2010 behind them. On the other hand, Premier League newcomers Blackpool have had a remarkable 12 months that has seen them transform from an over achieving lower league side into an established Premier League club and they’ll be hoping their rapid progress continues in 2011. Manchester United will head into the New Year…

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Club Focus – Everton – Toffees in familiar situation ahead of Stoke trip

Everton travel to Stoke City on New Year’s Day in search of three points to start their 2011 Premier League campaign in the best possible manner, and a victory would push the Toffees into the top half of the table for the first time since early November. The win that pushed Everton to the relative heights of seventh was the first meeting between Everton and Stoke this season, a 1-0 win at Goodison Park courtesy of a Yakubu goal. David Moyes’ side maintained their spot on the fringes of the…

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Club Focus – Chelsea – 2010: Hot and cold for Carlo’s Blues

As we approach the end of 2010, Chelsea Football Club can reflect back on what has been the most successful calendar year in their 105-year history. Despite struggling over the last six weeks, ending the year 4th in the Premier League after a ten-year worst run of just three points from a six game winless streak, the Blues can look back on the first ten months of the year with great fondness. New manager Carlo Ancelotti ended his first season at Stamford Bridge as the only manager since the clubs’…

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Blog: Preston – Ferguson took on too much, too soon

Rock bottom of the Championship, with five wins from 22 games, almost two goals per game conceded on average and a record over twelve months of thirteen wins out of 49. Football management is rife with snap judgements and premature sackings in this day and age, but on this occasion the feeling that the incumbent did not get sufficient opportunity to make his mark would not really hold water. Darren Ferguson’s career in the dugout, which looked immensely promising as recently as a year ago, now appears to have at…

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Club Focus – Manchester City – City have little to fear in Premier League title race

Rarely has a Premier League table been so delicately poised going into the New Year. Both Manchester teams sit atop their respective thrones, level on 38 points. Arsenal are a further two points behind, whilst Chelsea’s hard-fought victory over Bolton means that in spite of picking up just six points from their previous six games, they too remain strong contenders at the summit, just four points off top. Without Champions League football to distract them over the Christmas period, Tottenham’s football has been equally as exhilarating as it has been…

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Arsenal news – Gunners in for Alcantara, RvP in Juve link, Wenger: Communication key

Wenger: Communication key. Arsene Wenger has told his players to start communicating on the pitch if they are to prevent seeing their title aspirations going up in smoke, according to Sky Sports. The Gunners’ win over Chelsea seemed to imply that they were ready to end their trophy hoodoo, but a disappointing draw just days later at Wigan again highlighted deficiencies in the side’s consistency. The manager has slammed the defence for needlessly conceding corners and goals, telling Arsenal TV: “There was no need to concede the corner that led…

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Chelsea news – Blues turn to Cahill, Luiz bid rejected, van der Vaart passed over

Luiz bid rejected. Chelsea have had a £17m offer for Benfica defender David Luiz rejected by the Portuguese club. ESPN reports that Luiz was a target for Carlo Ancelotti as he seeks to help build on Chelsea’s first win in seven games earlier this week. The Italian has felt the pressure at Stamford Bridge recently, and is believed to be considering bringing in some new faces in January in order to get the Blues’ title defence back on track. One drawback however could be that Benfica’s requirements to do business…

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Liverpool news – Hodgson apologises, Fans’ anger alarms owners, Hodgson blames players

Hodgson apologises. Speaking to The Guardian, Roy Hodgson clarified his comments following the Wolves defeat, having said that he had yet to see the ‘famous Anfield support’. Perhaps realising that the divide between him and the fans – many of whom already yearn for a change of manager – would be insurmountable should he refuse to apologise, he said he did not mean to be critical of the fans. “Things have been misinterpreted,” he said. “I’m afraid people have taken one small comment where i was describing my situation. I…

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Club Focus – Newcastle United – Toon Army hope to revive flagging fortunes against Wigan

Newcastle will be hoping for a turnaround in fortunes in the New Year as they continue the current hectic holiday schedule with a trip to Wigan. The Magpies have not enjoyed the best of fortunes over the past week with consecutive defeats against title chasing Manchester City and Tottenham. While performances have generally been encouraging they have had nothing to show for their efforts so far. They at least have the bonus of an extra day’s rest with their trip to Lancashire put back to the 2nd of January for…

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Club Focus – Arsenal – Consistently inconsistent Gunners slip up in the title race

Arsenal missed the chance to keep the pressure on at the top of the table with a disappointing draw away to Wigan Athletic. The result is the latest entry in a catalogue of mediocre outcomes following impressive glimpses of potential and suggests Arsene Wenger’s men are increasingly becoming a side defined by its opponents. When the promise of a physical battle looms on the horizon, the players are resolute, focused and united in the face of the enemy. Yet, hard-fought single-goal victories over West Ham, Everton and Fulham were all…

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Club Focus – Blackburn Rovers – West Brom victory reassures fans of Steve Kean’s credentials

Blackburn Rovers travel to the Stadium of Light on New Years Day as Steve Kean’s men look to secure yet another victory away from home under the Scotsman. Rovers, who beat newly-promoted West Bromwich Albion 3-1 last time out, are currently in the top half of the Premier League table, despite the unexpected decision of the new owners to sack Sam Allardyce just a few weeks ago. The Blues were impressive against West Brom and appeared to play a more exciting brand of football, although their final two goals did…

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Man Utd news – Kidd: Utd’s title to lose, Owen to West Ham, Youngsters recalled from loan

Kidd: Utd’s title to lose. Manchester City’s Assistant Manager Brian Kidd believes the Premier League title is Manchester United’s to lose, given their imperious track record. United head into 2011 atop the Premiership, albeit on goal difference, with two games in hand over their City rivals. United were denied victory on Tuesday thanks to a controversial 90th-minute strike by Lee Bowyer but Kidd, a former assistant to United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, said: “It’s theirs to lose, it’s in their hands. You can’t get away from that. “They have been…

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Club Focus – Stoke – Will Stoke speculate to accumulate?

Chairman Peter Coates has indicated that January will see a quiet transfer window at the Britannia Stadium. Yet Stoke’s transfer windows are rarely devoid of activity, and Coates has always backed Pulis to the hilt thus far when it comes to strengthening his squad. With just a handful of points separating the club from a European spot however, it would not be a surprise if Pulis once again managed to twist his chairman’s arm and loosen the purse strings. Unlike previous windows, when the Potters have traditionally left their business…

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Club Focus – Liverpool – Hodgson’s future hanging by a thread after Wolves defeat

Stephen Ward scored his first goal in almost four years as Liverpool fell to a disappointing 1-0 home defeat against Mick McCarthy’s well-organised Wolverhampton Wanderers side. Prior to the game, the visitors were bottom of the Premier League and had managed to secure just a solitary point on their travels all season, but McCarthy’s men showed they are no pushovers with an impressive and well-deserved win over Roy Hodgson’s side. Hodgson’s team selection raised a few eyebrows even before a ball was kicked. The former Fulham boss opted to start…

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Ligue 1 Daily – Speculation heats up winter break

Domestic action lies dormant until the middle of January as football in France puts its feet up and enjoys the midpoint of the season. With little to discuss in terms of incidents on the field, transfer rumours intensify as the turn of the years draws nearer. Second-placed Paris Saint Germain have been identified as a team ripe for departures for some time, but Stephane Sessegnon’s future may have been sealed after a bust-up with coach Antoine Kombouare. Sessegnon told L’Equipe:“The coach insulted me. Under these conditions, it appears to me…

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Liverpool news – Reds to make Young move, Hodgson attacks fans, Wolves claim famous win

Wolves claim famous win. Liverpool had hoped to use the Christmas period to reignite their faltering season. Two postponements and a home defeat later and those pronouncements of hope going into the festive season seem a long way away. The latest disappointment Liverpool have to cope with is a defeat to Premier League basement boys Wolves, a well-taken 56th minute Stephen Ward goal enough to clinch the points. Not only had Liverpool been beaten, they had been outplayed. Wolves played with an intelligence, confidence and commitment rarely evidenced at Anfield…

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Man City news – Diarra set to join, Ruiz rules out City, De Jong backs Balo

Ruiz rules out City. Espanyol’s Victor Ruiz has moved quickly to dismiss speculation linking him with a move to free-spending Manchester City. The young Spanish defender has been in fine form this season, helping guide the club to the dizzy heights of 5th in La Liga. However, despite their impressive league position, City may look to capitalise on their troubled financial situation. But Ruiz, who has been consistently linked with City since the summer, told Com Radio: “I want to stay at Espanyol – thanks to this club I can…

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Arsenal news – Gunners join Kasumovic race, Vela to be sold, Fabregas angry

Fabregas angry. Cesc Fabregas has demanded some consistency among Premier League referees after Arsenal were denied a last-minute penalty against Wigan, according to The Press Association. Fabregas felt the incident was identical to one in the north London derby against Spurs which saw the Spaniard giving away the spot kick, in this instance James MacArthur seemingly handling a Samir Nasri free kick inside the area. Fabregas took to Twitter to ask: “What’s the difference between this handball and my one versus Spurs? Referees don’t want us to complain about them…

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Chelsea news – Blues back on track, Carlo: Problems remain, Striker exit

Blues back on track. Chelsea ended their winless streak last night as they overcame Bolton 1-0 thanks to a controversial second half strike from Florent Malouda. Replays revealed that Didier Drogba was being played onside when he crossed for Malouda who slotted home the goal, much to the relief of the Blues’ fans according to BBC Sport. The result means Chelsea have now moved back up to fourth in the table, but remain four points behind Man United who also have a game in hand. Goalkeeper Petr Cech had yesterday…

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Tottenham news – Beckham race on, Bale believes, Kranjcar Celtic latest

Beckham race on. Tottenham have joined the host of clubs seeking a January loan move for LA Galaxy star David Beckham, according to Goal.com. The midfielder hopes to repeat his moves of the last two years and earn a new year loan move in an effort to regain his place in the England set-up – and many feel the time would be ideal for the midfielder to return to the Premier League. Beckham stated earlier this month that he would only come back to England if it was to re-join…

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Asian Cup preview – Part one: Qualification and stadiums for Qatar 2011 and the history of the tournament

The 15th edition of the AFC Asian Cup gets underway next month from Qatar, who will also host the 2022 World Cup. In part one of A Different League’s preview of the tournament we will look at how the 16 teams reached Qatar 2011, the stadiums they will play in and the history of a tournament stretching back more than 50 years. The first Asian Cup was played in 1956, hosted by Hong Kong – then a British colony – with the hosts placing third in a round robin format…

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Club Focus – Real Madrid – Positive mid-term report as Los Blancos face pressing issues closer to home

With Spanish football halted for a winter break until the New Year, Real Madrid will move into the second half of the La Liga season in a near ideal position. A second place berth inches behind Barcelona in the Primera Division, the rarity of a strong domestic cup run and the luxury to take revenge on French adversaries Lyon in the Champions League in February can be seen as a successful opening baptism for Jose Mourinho as Los Blancos Coach. The only blotch – a 5-0 mauling at the hands…

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Everton Analysis – Coleman gives Toffees a point but Blues’ striking deficiencies remain

WEST HAM 1 Hibbert o.g 16 EVERTON 1 Coleman 42 Everton’s first Premier League game of the festive period ended in a draw – Seamus Coleman’s first half effort levelling Tony Hibbert’s unfortunate own goal that had given West Ham the lead. The extra few days afforded Everton by the postponement of their Boxing Day clash with Birmingham City did nothing to ease David Moyes’ defensive headache. The absence of Phil Jagielka and his likely centre-back replacement John Heitinga saw Tony Hibbert drafted to an unfamiliar central defensive role, but…

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Manchester United Analysis – United again struggle away from home

BIRMINGHAM CITY 1Bowyer 89 MANCHESTER UNITED 1Berbatov 58 Manchester United may have returned back to the top of the Premier League but it was with a sour taste that they left St. Andrews. Sir Alex Ferguson’s men may well feel aggrieved due to the nature of Lee Bowyer’s equaliser but the manner of the result was as much down to United’s making as a perceived refereeing error. United have only won once on their travels in eight Premier League attempts this season and they started this game looking like a…

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