Manchester City’s perfect weekend

It’s been a little while coming, but finally Manchester City enjoyed a weekend where everything went their way, which could set them up for next season, writes Oli Coates. They don’t seem to come along as often as you need them, but when they do it feels like winning the lottery. The perfect weekend however, as elusive as it is, is exactly what Manchester City were blessed with, and it even extended to the midweek fixtures as Manuel Pellegrini’s side now seem all but certain to finish in the top…

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Championship Analysis – Watford go top after beating Birmingham and Bournemouth slip up

Watford took charge of the nail-biting but compelling Championship run-in after a 1-0 win over Birmingham saw the Hornets leapfrog Bournemouth, who lost top spot in the dying seconds of their clash with Sheffield Wednesday at the Goldsands Stadium when the visitors netted from the spot to claim a draw. It was a massive win for Watford, who took full advantage of Norwich’s defeat to Middlesbrough on Friday evening, to move into one of the two automatic slots. It was the Hornets’ fourth win on the trot but Slavisa Jokanovic…

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Championship Analysis – Four-way promotion battle continues after Bournemouth, Norwich, Watford and Middlesbrough win again

The top four Championship clubs all bagged three points over the weekend and continue to be separated by just two points, leaving this compelling race for the Premier League wide open with just four matches remaining. Last month Watford boss Slavisa Jokanovic described the division as “crazy” after a run of results put his side into the promotion picture, and he predicted that the teams that held their nerve and made the least mistakes would prosper. Funnily enough, considering the season has been somewhat notorious for teams bumbling around at…

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Winners and Losers: Newcastle sleepwalking to the end of another mediocre season

Sunderland were the undoubted winners of Sunday’s Tyne-Wear derby, Jermain Defoe’s spectacular goal on the brink of half-time delivering three points that push the Black Cats closer to Premier League safety. And the defeat for Newcastle means more than just points lost or even the pain of losing to local rivals – it’s symptomatic of another season of mediocrity. The Magpies are 13th after 31 games, with 35 points – nine off the relegation zone, probably enough at this late stage of the season. They’re seven away from the top…

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Championship Analysis – Bournemouth go into break top after win over Middlesbrough

Bournemouth may have been ousted from the Championship’s top spot in midweek after a draw allowed Watford and Middlesbrough to leapfrog them with victories, but the Cherries took full advantage of their instant opportunity to reclaim the lead by beating Boro in the lunchtime kick-off. And it got even better later in the afternoon when Watford suffered defeat in stoppage time at home to Ipswich, meaning Bournemouth go into the international break a point clear with a goal difference (42) currently 10 and 12 goals superior to those of their…

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Championship Analysis – Clark admits he can’t wait for Blackpool’s season to end

It’s almost unheard of for a football manager to be so downbeat but in Lee Clark’s case it’s difficult not to sympathise. His Blackpool side were defeated 3-0 by in-form Charlton on Tuesday evening, and although not yet mathematically down, at 18 points short of safety with only 24 points left to play for this season, Clark’s description of “a slow death”, while somewhat melodramatic, in football season terms is not too far off the mark. “You just want the season to end and you can start again,” Clark commented…

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Championship Analysis – Bournemouth back top after Derby crash in stoppage time against Birmingham

With only 10 games remaining the Championship’s promotion race has become more unpredictable and compelling than ever after dropped points aplenty meant four teams essentially led the division at the end of the weekend, with Bournemouth demonstrating just how critical goal difference is by reclaiming top spot – and staying there – after thumping Fulham 5-1 on Friday. Just a week ago the Cherries were within a point of slipping outside of the play-off picture following a five-match winless run, but after recovering against Wolves on Tuesday, Eddie Howe’s side…

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Papiss Cisse hit with seven-match ban

Newcastle United striker Papiss Cisse has accepted his FA charge of spitting and has been slapped with a seven match ban according to Sky Sports. Jonny Evans has denied any wrongdoing and will have until 6pm on Friday to accept or deny the FA charge. The incident happened in a coming together in the 38th minute, with the game still locked at 0-0, near the halfway line, brought a reaction by Evans, who reacted to the Senegalese striker who appeared to catch Evans whilst both men tussled for the ball.…

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Neville fears for former club Man Utd

Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville, believes that Liverpool are capable of causing a huge dent in United’s race for a top four finish according to Sky Sports. The ex-England right back, who made 85 appearances for the Three Lions in a 12 year spell, believes that Liverpool are now capable of overtaking United and finishing in a Champions League position at the end of the season. Liverpool beat title chasing Manchester City 2-1 at Anfield on Sunday thanks to goals from Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho and Sky Sports…

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Poyet: No regrets over Bruce altercation

Following the altercation with Steve Bruce in Tuesday night’s game between Hull City and Sunderland, Sky Sports have reported that Sunderland manager Gus Poyet has no regrets. The managers had a coming together following referee Mike Dean’s to show a yellow card to Sunderland midfielder Jack Rodwell for diving in the 35th minute. Poyet kicked a water bottle in frustration at the decision and was subsequently sent to the stands. With Poyet on his way to the stands, he decided to attempt to shake hands with his counterpart Bruce. Bruce…

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How far behind has the Premier League fallen?

After the poor showing of English clubs in the Champions League and Europa League, Oli Coates questions how bad the situation really is for the Premier League… Football can described as a game of cycles, an ever-evolving beast that throws up varying styles and adaptations. The Premier League rose to the top of the pile in the last decade, but in recent years English sides have appeared mightily inferior to continental rivals, and particularly the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. Only Chelsea emerged from the first leg…

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Championship Analysis – Norwich close in on automatic promotion spot after win over Ipswich

Many pundits described this clash as the most important East Anglian derby for a decade and it’s difficult to argue, with both Norwich and Ipswich in the Championship top six and in the sort of form capable of making them genuine challengers for automatic promotion. It’s easy to be cynical about the huge numbers of managerial changes and the supposed notion that they will always be beneficial – and this column focused on that heavily last weekend – but Norwich is one of the rare examples of a club this…

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Championship Analysis – Stability on the pitch as Leeds beat Middlesbrough

Leeds earned their fifth win in sixth matches to practically end any fears of relegation, and at the same time inflicted Middlesbrough’s first Championship defeat since December and the first at the Riverside since August. It’s a welcome boost for a team whose off the field activities have dominated the headlines for too long for the wrong reasons. With Massimo Cellino in and out of the club for various legal mishaps, plus managerial chaos and transfer embargoes keeping pundits and journalists with feet on desks and paragraph templates in databases,…

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Competition – Win a years supply of Adidas trainers

Mens shopping brand Mainline Menswear are running a competition to offer one lucky entrant a years supply of Adidas trainers – and yes, that means one new pair of the iconic shoes per month! From Gazelles to Sambas, Topanga to Spezials, as long as they sell them, they could be yours each month. All you have to do to enter is visit their competition page here, follow the instructions, and enter your contact details – easy! For more information watch this video:

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Sterling facing fitness race ahead of Liverpool Besiktas tie

Raheem Sterling is running out of time in his bid to be fit for Liverpool’s crunch Europa League clash with Besiktas, the Daily Mail is reporting. The England winger has missed two games already with a foot injury he picked up during the Reds’ dramatic FA Cup win over Bolton a fortnight ago – having struggled to cope with the knock during the Merseyside derby. Rodgers will be sweating on his player’s fitness right up to Thursday’s game but there are hopes that even if he misses the first leg…

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Man Utd readying move for Dortmund’s Gundogan

Manchester United are said to be readying a move for Borussia Dortmund midfielder Ilkay Gundogan as the player continues to refuse new contract terms at the club, according to the Metro. Gundogan has already turned down two attempts by the club to sign fresh terms with his contract set to expire at the end of next season. As it stands his price tag is growing ever smaller and if the Germany international continues to stand his ground they could be forced to sell rather than losing one of their star…

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Bologna to go back for Liverpool’s Borini

Italian side Bologna are ready to go back in for Liverpool’s Fabio Borini after they failed with a January move for the striker, the Daily Express has reported. Borini has already rejected two moves away from Liverpool as both Sunderland, where he spent last season on loan, and Queens Park Rangers failed with summer and January bids respectively. The Italian has chosen to remain at Liverpool and fight for a place in the starting XI – although he has scored just one goal in 16 appearances so far. The return…

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Chelsea underdogs to progress insists Mourinho

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has claimed they are not favourites to progress in the Champions League after seeing his side claim a 1-1 away to Paris Saint Germain on Tuesday, Sky Sports is reporting. Having taken the lead through Branislav Ivanovic’s header the Blues looked in control of the game as they retained the ball, much to the frustration of the home crowd. However the home side sprang into life during the second period and a free header from Edison Cavani brought them level – before a string of saves…

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Liverpool hot streak must continue – Coutinho

Midfielder Philippe Coutinho has urged his Liverpool team mates to continue their red hot form if they are to land silverware this season, according to the Daily Express. The Reds made a poor start to the season that ended their title chances early and saw a tame exit from the Champions League. However there has finally been a resurgence from the club and a current nine match unbeaten run in the Premier League has coincided with reaching the Capital One Cup semi-final and still in the sixth round of the…

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Saints’ Rodriguez could feature before season’s end

Southampton striker Jay Rodriguez has targeted a March return to action despite manager Ronald Koeman’s previous worries he would miss the whole season, according to the Daily Mail. The one time England international suffered anterior cruciate ligament damage last April which cruelly ruled him out of England’s World Cup campaign in Brazil, with the striker netting 17 goals in 40 appearances before his injury. It was hoped that Rodriguez would be fit in time for the festive period but having suffered a setback in attempts to regain full fitness he…

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Man Utd’s Falcao facing bench with Van Persie fit again

Manchester United striker Radamel Falcao could be set for a place on the bench this weekend after Robin van Persie’s recovery from injury, according to the Daily Star. Falcao had an ineffectual game on Monday night that saw him replaced on the hour mark – much to the bemusement of the player himself. Despite this reaction, the Colombian had failed to even register an attempt let alone one on or off target. Van Persie had failed to make the team sheet with what has been described as a mystery injury…

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West Ham closing on deal for free agent Nene

West Ham United have begun talks with former Brazilian winger Anderson Luiz De Carvalho, or Nene, with a view to capturing the free agent, the Daily Mail is reporting. Nene, pictured on the right, will be well recognised by fans of Ligue 1 where the player spent the best years of his career with Paris Saint Germain and Monaco. The Brazilian boasts a good goal scoring record for a wide man, bagging 55 goals in 142 league appearances for the French pair. The player had most recently been plying his…

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Hodgson all but confirms England place for Spurs’ Kane

Following his appearance as a pundit for the BBC’s FA Cup coverage on Monday England manager Roy Hodgson has all but confirmed Harry Kane’s place in his next squad, the Daily Mail is reporting. Kane has been in irresistible form during his breakthrough season in a Tottenham shirt – bagging 23 goals in all competitions as his stock rockets within the game. In comparison Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge have been nursing regular injuries while Wayne Rooney scored his first goal since Boxing Day on Monday night, although the striker…

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Poyet told immediate Sunderland future safe despite fan relations

Sunderland boss Gus Poyet has been told his immediate future is safe at the club despite growing discontent amongst supports, according to the Telegraph. Poyet performed the impossible in keeping the Black Cats up last season in what had looked to be the club’s exit from the Premier League. However struggles have not eased this season and Sunderland are in need if points – currently just two points above the drop zone with a league high 12 draws to their name. Fans have been growing increasingly disgruntled at the Stadium…

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Atletico Madrid chasing Arsenal’s Cazorla

Sky Sports’ Spanish football expert Guillem Balague has revealed that Atletico Madrid are interested in Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla. The diminutive playmaker has been in outstanding form recently and has been a real star since the injury to team mate Jack Wilshere saw him move into a more central position. 30-year-old Cazorla only has 18 months left on his current deal with Arsenal having joined the North London side back in 2012, and will be significantly cheaper in the summer as his contract ticks into its final year. Atletico are currently…

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