Aston Villa vs Chelsea – Match preview and team news

With the sad news that Aston Villa midfielder Stiliyan Petrov has been diagnosed with acute leukaemia, this tie will serve as another opportunity to put the game of football into perspective. All at A Different League wish him well with his treatment. Form: Villa come into the tie having won just once in their last eight outings in all competitions, including a 3-0 defeat to Arsenal last weekend. This has seen the Villains drop down to 15th place in the Premier League, and the pressure mounting on manager Alex McLeish.…

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Chelsea Club Focus – Villa a different prospect after Petrov news

Saturday’s game between Aston Villa and Chelsea has now taken a totally different complexion following Stiliyan Petrov’s devastating news that he has been diagnosed with acute leukaemia. Roberto Di Matteo’s men go into the game full of confidence after their impressive 1-0 win away to Benfica in the Champions League in midweek. Aston Villa have only won one game in their last eight and haven’t won at home since early November leading to fans getting disgruntled. But this is not just any game now. Aston Villa announced on Friday afternoon…

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Oxlade-Chamberlain compares Song to Fabregas

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has praised Arsenal teammate Alex Song for his passing ability, going so far as to compare the midfielder with the Gunners’ former captain, Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas, according to ESPN. Song has racked up a number of assists this season, most notably perhaps his two passes to Robin van Persie to allow the current Arsenal skipper to score spectacular goals against Everton at the Emirates Stadium and Liverpool at Anfield. While complimenting Song for his more orthodox defensive work, Oxlade-Chamberlain also pointed out the Cameroonian’s contribution further forward.…

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FA Cup scheduling leaves Di Matteo bemused

The decision to schedule the FA Cup semi-final between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at 6pm on Sunday 15 April has disappointed Blues manager Roberto Di Matteo, who criticised the decision for lacking common sense, the Guardian has reported. Liverpool will play Everton the day before, and with the Reds reluctant to play on the Sunday – the 23rd anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster in which 96 Liverpool supporters were killed – the match between Chelsea and Spurs was always likely to be held on the Sunday despite a request by…

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Wenger hits out after Champions League touchline ban

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has reacted angrily to being given a three-game European touchline ban and a £33,000 fine for describing a referee’s performance as “a disgrace”, criticising UEFA for blocking any dialogue between a manager and an official, the Daily Telegraph has reported. Wenger was punished for condemning Damir Skomina after Arsenal’s 3-0 second-leg victory over Milan in the Champions League and for allegedly swearing at the Slovenian official. Despite the result Arsenal bowed out of the competition after losing the first-leg 4-0, and after being censured Wenger said:…

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Wenger calls for quicker England appointment

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has urged the FA to appoint a new England manager as soon as possible, adding that the delay is understandable as the governing body is reluctant to disrupt a club’s Premier League season by poaching their manager, the Daily Mail has reported. Wenger’s North London rival Harry Redknapp was immediately installed as the favourite to replace Fabio Capello when the Italian resigned in February but the Mail confirms the FA will wait until May to approach their preferred candidate, as, if he is currently employed, they…

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Swansea boss Rodgers not ready for Chelsea role

Brendan Rodgers has ruled himself out of the running to fill the vacancy at Chelsea after declaring that he is not ready to move to a bigger Premier League club than current employers Swansea City, Press Association has reported. Rodgers has been linked not only with the position at Chelsea currently held on an interim basis by Roberto Di Matteo, but also the expected opening at Tottenham Hotspur should incumbent Harry Redknapp swap White Hart Lane for Wembley and the opportunity to manage England. But Rodgers has indicated he does…

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La Liga Week 31 Preview: Barca and Real Madrid face tough tests

It is another crucial round of fixtures in La Liga as the title challengers both face tough matches this weekend, and the battle for third place heats up by a few degrees as Levante host Valencia. Title race Athletic Bilbao, who are looking to salvage their domestic campaign and reiterate their challenge for the Europa League spot which seems to have fallen by the wayside in recent weeks, travel to Catalonia to play a Barcelona side which is anxious not to drop any more points in order to maintain their…

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Arteta rejects Fabregas comparisons

Mikel Arteta has insisted he should not be viewed as a replacement for departed Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas, telling the London Evening Standard that it is unfair to compare him to his compatriot. Fabregas left Arsenal for boyhood club Barcelona in summer 2011, while Arteta was a transfer deadline day signing from Premier League rivals Everton, part of a late triple swoop that also saw Germany international Per Mertesacker and South Korea forward Park Chu-Young also arrive at the Emirates Stadium. Arteta told the newspaper: “Cesc wasn’t the same player…

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Dalglish puts FA Cup out of mind ahead of Newcastle fixture

Kenny Dalglish is not thinking about Liverpool’s FA Cup semi-final match with Everton, insisting he is fully focused on the upcoming Premier League fixture with Newcastle United, the Daily Mail has reported. Dalglish takes his side to the Sports Direct Arena – formerly St James’ Park – on Sunday with Liverpool eight points adrift of their hosts. The Scot said: “The game is two weeks away so I am sure there will be a lot of conversations about Everton nearer the time. But for us the most important game right…

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Villas-Boas departure gives Torres new Chelsea life, claims agent

The sacking of Andre Villas-Boas by Chelsea means Fernando Torres may stay at Stamford Bridge this summer, ClubCall have claimed, with the player’s agent admitting the departure of the Portuguese has changed Torres’ circumstances. Antonio Sanz, Torres’ representative, has been widely quoted as saying: “We’ll evaluate his future in the coming months. Fernando has another four years on his contract at Chelsea and the situation there has changed for him.” Villas-Boas was dispensed with by Roman Abramovich in early March after overseeing a campaign that left Chelsea outside of the…

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Injuries have effected Arsenal’s season, claims Arteta

Mikel Arteta has in the Daily Telegraph blamed Arsenal’s injury problems on the Gunners’ mediocre form before Christmas, insisting that if the club could find a settled line-up the outcome may have been different. Arteta is quoted as saying: “We have been hit with important, long-term injuries the whole season that really, really affect the team. Now we are starting to do it and we are starting to get really good results, so for me the biggest concern is to stop the injuries.” Arsenal have been without England midfielder Jack…

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Poor Liverpool form makes players angry, says Suarez

Liverpool striker Luis Suarez has revealed that the club’s poor results have made the players angry and desperate to arrest the slide, according to ESPN. The Reds last week lost 2-1 at home to a Wigan Athletic side who were level on points with bottom of the table Wolverhampton Wanderers at kick-off. A Shaun Maloney penalty and Gary Caldwell finish condemned Liverpool to a 10th match at Anfield without victory this season. Kenny Dalglish’s side have won five of their matches at home, drawing eight and losing two. Suarez said:…

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Kalou backs Torres to keep improving

Chelsea forward Salomon Kalou has praised his teammate Fernando Torres and insisted that the Spanish World Cup winner will return to his previous best, Sporting Life has reported. Kalou scored the only goal of Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Benfica in the Champions League on Tuesday evening after being played in by Torres, and the Ivory Coast winger had kind words for his colleague. Kalou said: “I’m glad he’s playing, he’s enjoying. For me, he’s still the striker he used to be and he just has to keep doing the hard…

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Wenger demands focus from Arsenal in Champions League run-in

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has called on his players to focus in their final eight Premier League games and ensure the club qualifies for next season’s Champions League, the Independent has reported. The Gunners have pulled back Tottenham Hotspurs’ 12-point advantage in the race to finish third and enter the Champions League group stages directly, now leading their North London rivals by three points. Wenger is quoted as saying: “This is the period where what we do matters the most, so we just want to keep our focus on this…

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Dalglish the right man for Liverpool, insists Shearer

Kenny Dalglish has received a message of support from former Newcastle United and England captain Alan Shearer ahead of the match between the Magpies and Liverpool, as Shearer has told the BBC that Dalglish is the right man to manage the Reds. Shearer added: “Their league form has not been good enough, but if they go home with two cups then that would certainly be progress. Liverpool have already won this season’s Carling Cup, defeating Championship side Cardiff City on penalties at Wembley in late February, and are through to…

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Torres agent claims Chelsea striker would consider Serie A move

The agent of Chelsea striker Fernando Torres has admitted the striker would consider a move to either Juventus or Roma, but stressed there had been no negotiations with either club, the Daily Telegraph has reported. Antonio Sanz said: “We know the new American project at Roma and the philosophy of manager Luis Enrique, but if Roma want Fernando, they will have to talk with Chelsea. The Italian championship is of a good standard, but there are currently no discussions with Roma or Juventus.” Torres has been at Stamford Bridge since…

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Swansea City defying all expectations to stand as Europa League outsiders

Swansea City are the first ever Welsh side that has grace the Premier League, a side that less than 10 years ago were sitting at the bottom of the football league pyramid. Their opening game at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium did not exactly start well, with the Swans on the wrong end of a 4-0 deficit. But Brendan Rodgers has brought Swansea back from that disappointment to the fringes of European football. A guarantee for relegation by many pundits, including a number who contributed to the Guardian’s season preview, few…

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Do La Liga refs give value for money?

La Liga clubs, fed up of numerous controversial refereeing decisions this season, are now starting to question whether officials are earning their money. Unsurprisingly, it is Real Madrid and Barcelona that have been involved in most of the arguments this term, with the Catalan club showing a previously unseen side of its character with several complaints about decisions. As early as the first month of the 2011-12 campaign La Blaugrana made it known they felt aggrieved at having had penalty appeals for fouls on Lionel Messi turned down in 2-2…

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