With no disciplinary action being taken against McManaman over his controversial tackle on Massadio Haidara in the 2-1 league defeat of Newcastle on March 17, he is eligible for selection this weekend. But Martinez has emphasised the 21-year-old has been carrying an ankle problem, sustained in the 3-0 FA Cup win at Everton on March 9, and will need to be assessed over the next few days. Wigan manager Roberto Martinez has confirmed forward Callum McManaman is still being troubled by an ankle injury ahead of Saturday’s Barclays Premier League home clash with Norwich. “Callum’s been carrying an injury to his ankle, which caused him to be substituted against both Newcastle and Everton,” said Martinez, quoted on www.wigantoday.net. “Our major concern now is making sure he’s fully fit and able to take to the field against Norwich. “He hasn’t trained with the rest of the team yet, and the next 48 hours will be crucial.” Press Association
Press Association He continued: “Giving away 2 more tickets with players lounge as a sorry for yesterday game, just retweet to enter, meet u also in person and hand u my shirt. “Just to say I am human and like any others words can be upsetting, the money comments and performance tweets I can deal with to a degree.” Samba also hit out at the racism he suffered last night after a user called him “negro” on the social network. “As for the racist abuse I receive last nite I did not deserve at all, called it a early day today to be called a negro for a game of football,” he said via his verified account @cs4christsamba1. “2013 kick racism out of football, retweet if you are against it thank you, no matter what race sex or nationality STOP RACISM OUT OF FOOTBALL.” Samba was not alone in taking to Twitter after QPR’s latest defeat, with forward Jay Bothroyd left “absolutely gutted” by the result that leaves QPR seven points adrift of safety. Only seven matches remain but Rangers chairman Tony Fernandes remains convinced that Harry Redknapp can steer the west Londoners to safety. “Shocking first half,” he said via Twitter account. “No more breaks. Game every week. Its still in our hands. 7 games 21 points. Feeling calm and still optimistic. Keep the faith whatever happens.” That view, though, is not shared by former Rs captain Joey Barton. The 30-year-old is on a season-long loan at French giants Marseille and believes his parent club are destined for the drop. He said: “Realistically that’s it. Too much to do for QPR. Had enough chances to get something tonight. Can’t give 3 goal head starts at this level Feel its unfair to blame board, they’ve backed the managers.” Christopher Samba wants to start afresh and move on from Monday night’s miserable performance in QPR’s west London derby defeat at Fulham. The 29-year-old endured a torrid time at Craven Cottage, gifting the hosts the two opening goals in what ended up as a 3-2 defeat. Only the greatest of escapes will now save QPR from the drop and their latest loss saw Samba, who arrived for a reported £12.5million in January, come under intense scrutiny. The centre-back took to Twitter immediately after the game to apologise for letting the side down, before biting back at those questioning his value. Returning to the social media site on Tuesday, Samba said: “Good morning to all, hope u (sic) all ok and start to day with a fresh mind set move on from what happen yesterday only way to over come the past.”
The Bosnian, whose double at The Hawthorns in October included a last-gasp winner, guided home a volley after 35 minutes of a Barclays Premier League clash lacking in intensity but not incident. Both sides spurned numerous chances with City hitting the woodwork twice through Carlos Tevez and James Milner in the first half and Marcus Rosenborg doing likewise for West Brom after the break. Edin Dzeko struck against West Brom for the third time this season as FA Cup finalists Manchester City edged an open contest 1-0 at the Etihad Stadium. Press Association City, although not mathematically certain of second place, made clear Saturday’s date at Wembley was their priority as they fielded a team showing eight changes. Captain Vincent Kompany and influential players Yaya Toure, Pablo Zabaleta and Gael Clichy were rested completely while Sergio Aguero and David Silva were among those on the bench. Joe Hart, Milner and Samir Nasri were the only three men to survive from the stalemate at Swansea, meaning a whole new back four. West Brom made four changes themselves, giving a chance to goalkeeper Boaz Myhill and also bringing in James Morrison, Craig Dawson and Gabriel Tamas. Aleksandar Kolarov was perhaps lucky to stay on the field when he caught Tamas on the side of the head with a high boot. The Romanian left the field for treatment, later to return bandaged up, while Kolarov escaped with a yellow card from referee Phil Dowd. City then enjoyed a good spell as Tevez shot narrowly over from the edge of the box and Milner slammed a good chance from a dangerous Nasri cross. Jack Rodwell was then inches away from turning a Kolarov corner towards goal and Tevez rattled the crossbar with a powerful drive from the edge of the box. The opening goal came moments later as Tevez broke away down the right and clipped back a delicate cross for Dzeko. The Bosnian, guilty of a glaring miss at Swansea, watched carefully and guided a well-weighted volley past Myhill. The break came at a good time for West Brom and they began the second period with renewed vigour. Rosenborg smashed a free-kick against the bar after being tripped by Javi Garcia on the edge of the area and Hart then saved well from Billy Jones’ follow-up header. West Brom applied pressure for a spell but were unable to break through.
Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech has described the prospect of Jose Mourinho returning to the club as “fantastic”. Yet despite looking forward with optimism, Cech is saddened that the reign of interim manager Rafael Benitez is coming to an end. The Spaniard takes charge of the Blues for the final time as they face Manchester City in the second of two lucrative post-season friendlies at Yankee Stadium in New York this weekend. Benitez has overcome huge fan hostility since succeeding Roberto di Matteo to leave on a high after winning the Europa League and securing third in the Barclays Premier League. Cech, 31, said: “I think he has done a very good job, obviously, having won the Europa League and qualified for the Champions League. I think this was the aim, and to try to do as best as we could. He worked hard from day one and tried to do the best for the club. In the end he is leaving with a European trophy, which is great for him.” Defender David Luiz, who has excelled at times under Benitez, also paid tribute to the Spaniard, whose past associations with Liverpool made him a reviled figure among supporters on arrival. The Brazil international said: “He has done a great job at Chelsea. He has had a lot of pressure. He has shown character and that he is a professional. I am so happy we won a title and qualified directly for the Champions League.” Luiz added that he was excited about the prospect of being managed by Mourinho, who has also won the Champions League with Porto and Inter Milan. Luiz said: “Everyone says positive things about him and everyone knows about his qualities. He has done a great job in many clubs in the world, like Chelsea. We would be excited to work with an experienced coach like that.” Press Association The flamboyant Portuguese boss is expected to take charge at Stamford Bridge for a second time this summer after it was confirmed he is to leave Real Madrid at the end of the Spanish season. Mourinho won two Barclays Premier League titles, an FA Cup and two League Cups during his three-year spell at the club between 2004 and 2007. Cech, who arrived in the same summer as Mourinho nine years ago, said: “He is a great manager and I think everyone remembers how successful we were with him as a manager. If he could reproduce that it would be fantastic.”
Press Association Even David Moyes gets taken aback sometimes when reminded of the legacy he has to live up to as Manchester United’s new manager. It is the standard by which Moyes is going to be judged as he tries to hold off the threat of Chelsea and Manchester City. “It was the first time I had seen those clips myself and I thought ‘wow’,” said Moyes. “I was very fortunate to get a great grounding at Everton. “But I have now come to the biggest club in the world. Sir Alex (Ferguson) has left me a winning team. I am taking over the champions of England. “The job now is to try and do what you saw in all those clips. The history of this football club is incredible. “I have a great chance to build on that and try and get a little bit more over the coming seasons.” It is United’s first visit to Australia since 1999 and the measure of their standing in this part of the world is seen in the number of fans who have been waiting for autographs outside the team hotel. “I have been overwhelmed already,” said Moyes. “We dropped into Thailand on the way to Sydney and everywhere you go with Manchester United, everyone wants to meet the players. It is a fantastic football club.” Moyes was one of the chief guests at a high-profile lunch in Sydney, arranged with the business community as part of United’s stay in the city. Prior to answering admittedly less taxing questions about his job, Moyes watched a montage of United’s performances last season, which ended with them winning the Premier League title with four games to spare and by an eventual margin of 11 points.
Arsene Wenger believes he was right to turn down the likes of Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Paris St Germain and even the England job to stay on as Arsenal manager for 17 years – and would welcome ending his coaching career at the Emirates Stadium. The Frenchman, who will turn 64 next month, has received the full backing of owner Stan Kroenke as his young team look to deliver a first trophy since 2005 with the London club embarking on what they hope will be a new chapter backed by increased financial resources, which helped secure the record £43million signing of Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid. Following the disappointment of an opening-day 3-1 home defeat by Aston Villa, Wenger has since guided Arsenal safely into the group stages of the Champions League, to the top of the Barclays Premier League table and on Wednesday night saw the next generation come through a penalty shoot-out in the Capital One Cup at West Brom. Press Association “I want to feel that I do well and then the question of me staying will be secondary after that.” The arrival of the relatively unheralded former Monaco and Nagoya Grampus Eight coach was met by headlines of “Arsene Who?” when he succeeded Bruce Rioch in September 1996. Wenger, though, has no intentions of revelling in a bit of nostalgia ahead of what is set to be a testing encounter at the Liberty Stadium. ”Our job has a good advantage – you just look forward to the next game,” he said. Arsenal head to Swansea looking to stay top of the table after four straight league wins. Former Cardiff midfielder Aaron Ramsey is set to have a fitness test on a thigh problem, as is Mathieu Flamini (shoulder). England forward Theo Walcott, meanwhile, faces more than a month of rehabilitation after a minor procedure on an abdominal problem. Last season, Arsenal battled to a 2-2 draw at Swansea in the FA Cup third round, before going through on a replay, and then won 2-0 in Wales when the home side had just celebrated winning the Capital One Cup. “Swansea are a team now where the level of expectation is higher than the year before, so of course everybody wants them to be performing in the top seven or eight, what I think they have the quality to do,” said Wenger, whose side were beaten 2-0 at home by Swansea in their Premier League game on December 1. “Overall they buy well, they play attractive football. Swansea is a very, very good team.” Wenger remains relaxed about his own long-term future, but made it clear he would have no issue with signing on again for the Gunners. “Yes I turned many offers down because I rate what I’ve got here and I always thought that this club is special on that front. In our job it is important to know what you want and I rated the qualities that this club has always shown,” said Wenger, who takes his side to Swansea for Saturday afternoon’s late kick-off. “I am very grateful to this club because during the 17 years we had ups and downs. They have always shown a big faith in me and they always let me do the job like I thought it had to be done, and if I am still here today it is because I got that consistent support from inside the club. “Honestly, I would love to be here forever because that would mean I would be immortal! I am (though) not naive enough to believe that. What I would like to do as long as I am here is give my best for this club because I love this club, of course.” Wenger added: “I am very honoured to have the support of Stan Kroenke. That he thinks I can help the club is a huge confidence vote. That is something for me that is very positive.” On the continuing negotiations, he said: “(We will do it) when we find time. I don’t think that is the most important problem at the moment. “The good thing with me, if I have one quality, (it is that) you don’t need a lot of talks to extend the contract I have. “I want to focus on the quality of our season.
The issue has become a talking point after Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was knocked out in the goalless draw at Goodison Park on Sunday, yet played on after treatment. Spurs came in for criticism for allowing the France international to continue but Martinez argues the decision should be taken out of manager’s hands. Everton manager Roberto Martinez has called for legislation to be introduced to safeguard players against the effects of concussion. “My view is that I don’t think it should be a manager’s decision whether you take a player off or not,” he said. “If there is a strong view from the medical side that when a player gets concussed he should come off, I think we should look into it and make it a rule. “It should be part of the game and a law. “It shouldn’t be the manager’s decision or a game decision based on how the result goes, what type of game it is or how many substitutes have been used when it is a serious situation on the health of the player. “In that situation you need to understand whether the player is in a position to make a decision. “There are many issues that are medical grounds and others which are football grounds, and we have to be careful one doesn’t overlap the other. “The manager is going to make decisions to win games, but when you have a player who is risking severe damage, that is a completely different area away from sport which no-one wants to go into. “It is a decision to be made at the highest level and I think there should be a rule included for medical reasons, but I don’t think it is a manger’s decision.” Martinez also responded to Tottenham counterpart Andre Villas-Boas’ questioning of Romelu Lukaku’s role in Lloris’ concussion. The Spurs boss claimed the Belgium international could have avoided his knee connecting with the goalkeeper’s head and asked why more questions had not been directed at the striker and why Lukaku had not apologised. But Martinez responded, suggesting there should have been a similar conversation the other way regarding Roberto Soldado’s apparent elbow on Phil Jagielka. “The good thing is you can watch the replay and see the video evidence,” said the Spaniard. “All Romelu is doing is carrying on his run, he cannot disappear. It is unfortunate. “I don’t think Andre Villas-Boas mentioned there was any intent or any wrongdoing from Romelu, he only mentioned he expected a bit of an apology. “Obviously we are waiting for Roberto Soldado to apologise to Phil Jagielka, and so we can use the same phone call so we don’t have to spend on two phone calls.” Asked whether he thought there should have been retrospective action taken against the Spain international, Martinez said: “That is not for me to comment. I don’t think it would give anything to Everton. “That is down to the authorities to decide whether they want to implement it. “I am more about the referee making decisions in the game and whatever happens in the game is where it matters. “I’m not too keen about retrospective punishment unless it (the action) goes against the values of the competition. “I don’t think they (officials) saw it, obviously, otherwise they would’ve acted accordingly. “Nowadays you have action replays and you can see everything that happens but for the referee it is very difficult.” Press Association
The midfielder, who is set to be offered an improved contract next month, turned 20 last week and despite his age and relative inexperience he has become a key player in the side. Almost half his 33 club appearances have come under Martinez and he has started 12 of their 15 Barclays Premier League matches this season. Everton manager Roberto Martinez has no concerns about the risk of overloading Ross Barkley this season because of the youngster’s unique qualities. Martinez is mindful of the workload on younger players but is more than confident Barkley’s special talent can cope with the rigours of a long campaign which will only get more difficult in the new year. “Physically he is one of those players who is really capable,” said the Spaniard. “He is not like other footballers. Normally you get the technical player and the physical player and in Ross’s case it is both, which is quite unique. “It is important to measure him weekly to make sure he doesn’t burn himself out but he is really strong and capable of coping with the demands of the league and whatever is throw to him with international football. “I have been very impressed with how he has grown in that department this season, because playing 90 minutes is a completely different role than playing just part of a game. “I haven’t seen the ceiling of Ross from a physical point of view so I am not concerned at all, but we need to manage that well and treat him like any other player.” Martinez believes the academy graduate’s all-round development has been impressive since the summer. And the way the midfielder has handled himself as the plaudits started to flood in, from winning his first England cap to a man-of-the-match display in last weekend’s draw at Arsenal, has been especially encouraging. “My biggest impression was when he arrived in pre-season and showed he was ready and desperate to have a big role in the side and since then I haven’t seen a difference,” added the Toffees boss. “He takes everything in his stride and I think he is becoming a better player on a weekly basis. “With the quality he has and his character, where he never gets fazed by the situation, he has never been affected. “He loves the game, loves performing and I don’t think the scale of the game affects him. “If anything he is someone who, because he is so emotionally level-headed, he can play against anyone in the same manner. “You have a big strength when you are a good listener and he has all the attributes to be a terrific footballer and it is a pleasure to work with him.” Barkley and veteran defender Sylvain Distin, whose current deal expires in the summer, are set for new contracts in January while low-key talks continue with defender Leighton Baines, who has 18 months left on his contract and is attracting interest from Manchester United. “Even when you don’t speak about issues, we work really hard behind the scenes to try to make sure that the youngsters get rewarded and Ross clearly deserves that,” said Martinez. “Sylvain has been a terrific performer this season and we couldn’t be happier with his role at the club. “All these issues are vital for us and we are going to look after them straight after this Christmas period.” Also imminent in January are additions to Martinez’s squad. They have so far coped with injuries to midfielder Darron Gibson and striker Arouna Kone (both knee) and Baines’ broken toe. However, the manager knows he must strengthen if they are to maintain their challenge for the top four, which they are just a point outside at the moment. “We had two long-term injuries, plus suspensions and injury to Leighton Baines, but we have been able cope,” Martinez said. “It is true in January we should try to add a couple of faces just to make sure we cope with the demands of another competition, like the FA Cup, and make sure we don’t get caught short in that respect, but I couldn’t be happier with the strength of the squad so far. “It doesn’t matter (whether permanent or loan signings) – as long as they are through the door I don’t really care. “It is important to get the right balance. We have a strong spine at the club so it is very easy for new players to come in, but I’m not too bothered about the length of contracts of the players coming in.” Press Association
Striker Luis Suarez continued his incredible run of form with two more goals to fire Liverpool to the top of the table and make Cardiff manager Malky Mackay’s position even more difficult – if that was at all possible. The Uruguay international, who caught everyone by surprise by signing a new long-term contract on Friday, made it 19 for the season as Cardiff were despatched 3-1. Raheem Sterling was also on the scoresheet in between Suarez’s two brilliant strikes and although Jordon Mutch’s reply just before the hour breathed new life into Cardiff, the home side’s grip on the three points was not to be loosened. In truth the result made little difference to Mackay’s future, which appears to have already been pre-determined by Vincent Tan. The owner was present at Anfield to see his side torn apart in the first half. How much longer Mackay lasts may be assessed in terms of hours rather than days – having been told by Tan earlier in the week to resign or be sacked – but what is enduring are Liverpool’s title challenge credentials. Fuelled by Suarez’s goals they have now overtaken long-time leaders Arsenal, who face fellow top-four side Chelsea on Monday, and with the season almost halfway through must now be classed as credible rivals to the favoured front-runners in the Gunners, Manchester City and Chelsea. Brendan Rodgers’ side must face both the latter in their next two matches but with Suarez in the form he is they can go into the games with confidence. The figures are staggering – and that is not a reference to the reported £200,000-a-week the striker will receive from next season as a result of his new deal. He has 19 in 12 league matches, including 10 in his last four games, and he set a Premier League record with his first goal – which was his ninth in December, outstripping the previous best in a single month. It was the purest example of a striker at his best – but also showed there is more to him than just goals. Having initially begun the move he continued his run towards the penalty area where Jordan Henderson picked him out with an inviting cross which was expertly volleyed past goalkeeper David Marshall. That maintained his record of scoring in every home match – six in total – he has been available for this season, having been suspended early on. In doing so be became the first player since Fernando Torres (who scored in eight) in May 2008 to achieve that feat. Cue the inevitable Liverpool onslaught which saw Martin Skrtel head over, Sterling have a shot blocked and Jon Flanagan and Philippe Coutinho both hit the post – the latter’s effort only just kept out by the outstretched boot of Marshall. It seemed despite Liverpool’s dominance their lead would be a slender one at half-time but three minutes before the break they struck again, thanks to their two best players in recent weeks. Henderson’s through-ball was superb in itself but no surprise considering his improved quality this season. What was a shock was the sight of Suarez, with only Marshall to beat, squaring the ball for Sterling to slot home. Suarez’s second of the game highlighted exactly what that sort of investment brings. Henderson’s backheel was all the invitation the Uruguayan needed as he opened his body to curl a shot around a pack of bodies in the penalty area and inside Marshall’s left-hand post. The second half should have been a procession for the home side but that was interrupted by Mutch’s unchallenged header from a free-kick in the 58th minute. Cardiff subsequently enjoyed their best spell of the game but that was ended when Sterling forced Marshall to save in a one-on-one and Suarez followed up to blast a shot against the post. The win means Liverpool could still be top for Christmas should Arsenal fail to win on Monday and that would be the first time that has happened since 2008. The last four champions have all been top on Christmas Day. It may still be wishful thinking for Rodgers, who claims he will only consider their chances with 10 games to go, but with Suarez in current form he may have to reassess that sooner rather than later. Press Association
Striker Luis Suarez is confident Liverpool can regain their Champions League status if they maintain their current form. The Uruguay international has scored 20 goals already this season – all in the league – with half of those coming as the 26-year-old became the first player in Premier League history to reach double figures in a calendar month. “It’s so important when you work hard on the pitch and they recognise it when you win these prizes,” Suarez told Sky Sports News. “On the pitch I try to help Liverpool and I try to help the squad, and I think for confidence it is very good. “If Liverpool continue at this level we can finish in the top four, which we want.” Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers admits the experience of working with Suarez will last a lifetime. It has not all been plain sailing with Suarez for Rodgers after the player’s failed attempts to manufacture a summer move but the manager believes all that is now behind them after the striker signed a new contract last month. “The experience of working with Luis is something which will stay with me for a lifetime,” Rodgers told talkSPORT. “(Just to be able) to work with someone with that determination and desire and will to win. The Reds are currently fourth in the table, having been top at Christmas, and are looking to secure a place in European football’s elite club competition for the first time since 2009. Suarez’s form will be pivotal to their chances and, after collecting his Barclays player of the month award for a record-breaking December, he is upbeat about their chances. “He is a real old school player in that he is never injured and he loves to train. “When I first came in I rested him in one or two cup games and I could see he didn’t like it. “What has been brilliant about these last four or five months has been the maturity of the man. “He obviously had issues in the summer but since the moment he decided to stay we talked him through how the club was evolving and he has been 150 per cent committed.” Rodgers believes he is well on course to deliver the requirements laid down by owner Fenway Sports Group when they appointed him in the summer of 2012. The club are currently fourth in the table, having been top at Christmas, and with nine wins and only one defeat in 10 home league games this season are turning Anfield into the fortress it once was. “You are always striving to be better. In terms of the job I was asked to do when I came in we are well on track for that,” he added. “In three years we were given the objective to push for the Champions League. “We made great strides in the calendar year (of 2013) and this season was about being in the competition (contending for the top four) because no-one was talking about Liverpool. “We are on track but when you are fourth you always want to be third, second and ultimately first.” Meanwhile, defender Daniel Agger has confirmed he is expected to be sidelined for a month with a calf strain. The Denmark international sustained the injury late in Sunday’s 2-0 FA Cup win over Oldham and is likely to be out for a while. “Disappointed with my injury! But I hope to be back strong within 4 weeks! Thanks for all the supporting tweets,” the centre-back wrote on Twitter. Agger’s absence is a blow as Rodgers was just starting to get players back from injury. The Dane’s unavailability will, however, be offset by the progress made by Mamadou Sakho’s recovery from a hamstring strain ahead of Sunday’s trip to Stoke while striker Daniel Sturridge is back in full training having been out since the end of November with a sprained ankle. Captain Steven Gerrard played 77 minutes against Oldham to add to the half an hour he had coming off the bench against Hull four days previously to show he had fully recovered from a hamstring strain. “Over Christmas we were unfortunate we had a number of injuries which brought the squad down to about 15 players,” added Rodgers. “Thankfully over this last week are starting to get one or two back and they are very important players for us. “Steven came back into the fold against Oldham which was great and Daniel is back training now, which is brilliant for us.” Press Association