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League Two Preview: Promotion rivals meet, leaders tackle basement club

26 November 2014 21:12

Second will meet fourth as Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s Burton Albion face Shrewsbury Town in League Two on Saturday.

The pair are separated by just two points, with Burton sitting narrowly in front of their opponents ahead of the trip.

Their respective positions set up a mouth-watering encounter at the Pirelli Stadium, with Burton entering the game on a high having snapped Luton Town’s 13-game unbeaten streak with a 1-0 triumph last time out.

Hasselbaink now has his sights set on a third consecutive win to continue the promising start he has made at the Burton helm.

John Still’s Luton, who dropped to third in the table following that defeat, will attempt to get back on track when they host Mansfield Town.

The division’s new leaders, Wycombe Wanderers, face a top-versus-bottom clash with Hartlepool United.

Wanderers have won their last four fixtures, while struggling Hartlepool are winless in six and have netted just 13 goals in their 18 league matches.

Wycombe enjoyed a dominant away day last time out, too, as Paris Cowan-Hall, Steven Craig, Joe Jacobson and Matt McClure found the net in an impressive 4-1 success over Cheltenham Town.

That defeat proved to be the last of Mark Yates’ five-year reign and his replacement Paul Buckle will begin his new role with the visit of Oxford Untied.

Their opponents, who boast the league’s to scorer in Danny Hylton, will attempt to continue their surge away from the relegation zone by collecting the points.

Fifth-placed Southend United host Northampton Town on the back of three successive wins, while the other sides in the top seven, Plymouth Argyle and Bury, host York City and Dagenham and Redbridge respectively.

At the other side of the spectrum, second-bottom Tranmere Rovers – having not collected maximum points since August – host a Portsmouth side sitting comfortably in 10th.

AFC Wimbledon welcome Cambridge United, whom they sit just ahead of in the table on goal difference.

Carlisle United welcome Newport County to Brunton Park, while Stevenage host Morecambe.

The action kicks off on Friday evening in-form Exeter City entertain an Accrington Stanley team who have won three of their last five matches.

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Ligue 1 Preview: PSG and Marseille both fighting for top spot

26 November 2014 21:02

Paris Saint-Germain’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic wants to recapture his best form for the visit of Nice, as a win could send his side top of Ligue 1.

The Sweden captain was on target for Laurent Blanc’s men in the 3-1 UEFA Champions League victory over Ajax on Tuesday, but has not found the net in league action since August after spending time on the sidelines with a heel problem.

Blanc’s men are one point behind leaders Marseille going into the weekend and are the form side after eight consecutive wins in all competition.

And Ibrahimovic feels the goal against his former club Ajax will help his confidence. 

He told PSG’s official website: “I think the goal is good for the confidence.

“I need to get back to my best form because I haven’t played for two months. I’m not 100% and it shows. I can do better, but I will soon be back to my best.”

Leaders Marseille face a tricky encounter at home to Nantes on Friday knowing that anything less than a win could see them surrender top spot. 

Marcelo Bielsa’s side bounced back from defeat to PSG with an impressive 3-1 win over Bordeaux last Sunday, but they have lost three in their last five games and face a Nantes side unbeaten in 10 games in all competitions. 

A win could put Nantes level on points with third-placed Lyon, who are looking to keep the pressure on the top two when they visit Saint-Etienne. 

Like Nantes, Lyon are in sparkling form, unbeaten in 10, having won five of their last six. The hosts will be tough to crack, having only conceded three goals in their last seven outings. 

Monaco travel to Rennes, while fifth-placed Bordeaux host Lille, whose form has fallen away alarmingly with five defeats in the last seven. 

Bottom club Lens know a win over Metz will lift them off the foot of the table, as the two sides immediately above meet when Evian entertain Guingamp. 

Elsewhere, Caen, Lorient and Bastia could find themselves in the bottom three, so will be hoping for wins over Montpellier, Toulouse and Reims respectively. 

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Mitchell lands Tottenham role

26 November 2014 20:13

Tottenham have confirmed the appointment of Paul Mitchell as head of recruitment and analysis at the Premier League club.

Mitchell had been employed as head of recruitment at Southampton before reportedly handing in his notice last week to pave the way for a move to White Hart Lane.

And the London club on Wednesday revealed that the former MK Dons and Wigan Athletic midfielder will be reunited with Tottenham head coach Mauricio Pochettino, having worked with the Argentinian at St Mary’s.

Mitchell, 33, was forced to cut short his playing days at the age of 27 due to injury and, after a spell as community ambassador, was appointed as head of recruitment at League One side MK Dons.

He then moved to Southampton to take charge of the scouting and recruitment department at the south-coast club and will now move to the capital.

Tottenham’s transfer dealings have been the subject of much debate after they made a whole host of signings following the big-money sale of Gareth Bale prior to last season, with many of the new recruits not living up to expectations.

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Zenit 1 Benfica 0: Danny eliminates Portuguese champions

26 November 2014 20:00

Zenit grabbed a 1-0 win over Benfica to boost their chances of reaching the UEFA Champions League last 16 and eliminate the Portuguese side.

The Russian side’s captain Danny struck late on to seal the Primeira Liga champions’ fate in an otherwise scrappy affair at the Stadion Petrovsky on Wednesday.

Needing to better Zenit’s 2-0 win at the Estadio da Luz to overturn the head-to-head record between the sides, Benfica enjoyed the majority of the contest’s attacking highlights, though they were few and far between.

Hulk spurned a good chance to snatch the points for Zenit, but Danny eventually got the goal to move Zenit into second in Group C ahead of pool leaders Bayer Leverkusen hosting Monaco later in matchday five.

Zenit now face a winner-takes-all trip to Monaco in a fortnight’s time, though Benfica – who saw their captain Luisao dismissed in time added on – are left to rue a fourth season out of five which has seen them drop out of Europe’s premier club competition at the first hurdle.

Elimination will sting Jorge Jesus, though his side could have done more to capitalise on a ponderous performance from the hosts – especially in the opening half.

In a rare Zenit attack before the break, Hulk’s thunderous free-kick caused havoc in the Benfica penalty area as Julio Cesar could only spill the ball back into danger before eventually recovering.

Andre Villas-Boas was forced into a defensive change midway through the half as Nicolas Lombaerts limped off and was replaced by Luis Neto – the Portuguese quickly going into the book for a crude challenge on Talisca.

A moment of poor concentration almost gifted Benfica the lead, Domenico Criscito allowing Eduardo Salvio to steal in at the back post from Nico Gaitan’s cross, but Zenit goalkeeper Yuri Lodygin was sharp to bail out the Italian.

Benfica came roaring out for the second period and could have taken the lead twice within 15 minutes of the restart, but Luisao wastefully skewed an effort wide when one-on-one before Gaitan’s persistence to get to the byline and fire across the six-yard box was not rewarded by a supporting colleague.

Javi Garcia was forced off with a hamstring injury to further worry Zenit, but they responded by putting the neatest move of the contest together, although Danny passed on the opportunity to shoot in favour of feeding Hulk, who could not finish.

The Hulk-Danny combination swapped roles soon after though to fine effect as Zenit claimed the points.

Hulk typically drifted in from the right flank and clipped a smart cross into Danny, who stole in ahead of Luisao to rifle past a helpless Julio Cesar.

A frustrated Luisao saw red in stoppage time after receiving a second booking for a hack on Criscito, summing up yet another fruitless Champions League campaign for the Lisbon giants.

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Deila concerned over Commons´ future

26 November 2014 19:57

Celtic boss Ronny Deila has expressed his concern over Kris Commons’ future with no word on whether the forward will sign a new contract.

Commons has been a revelation since joining the Scottish champions from Derby County in the 2011 January transfer window. 

The 31-year-old scored 32 goals for the Glasgow giants last season in all competitions, but his appearances have been restricted due to injury in the current campaign.

Commons is in the final year of his contract and has been linked with a move in January, as Premier League sides Leicester City and Crystal Palace reportedly weigh up bids to take him back to England.

And Deila is in the dark as to whether one of his prized assets will remain at the club after he was offered a new deal.

He said at a press conference: “This is always played through the agent and the club, and it’s about money, it’s about length and a lot of things. And what the options are for us and him.

“We just have to keep driving the process and see where we’re going with it.

“I’ve been told they now have to get back to us on what we’ve offered them.”

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