Premier League preview: QPR v Swansea

16 August 2012 13:49

Queens Park Rangers manager Mark Hughes will give his new look side their first chance to impress at home to Swansea City on Saturday.

The London club have made several shrewd signings since narrowly avoiding relegation last season and boast lofty ambitions moving forward.

South Korean midfielder Park Ji-Sung joined from Manchester United for a reported fee of around two million pounds, while Brazilian defender Fabio da Silva also arrived on loan from Old Trafford.

England international goalkeeper Robert Green crossed over from West Ham United as Tottenham defender Ryan Nelsen and Fulham forward Andrew Johnson also signed on free transfers.

Hughes is likely to rely on the experienced heads of Green and Nelson to strengthen his defence after the team conceded an alarming 66 goals last season.

Throw former Blackburn Rovers midfielder Junior Hoilett and loan capture Samba Diakite from Nancy into the mix and the fans at Loftus Road have cause for optimism ahead of the new campaign.

Swansea stunned the Premier League with their style of play under former manager Brendan Rodgers last season – finishing 11th with 12 wins, 11 draws and 15 losses – and will be out to prove their efforts were no fluke.

Rodgers has since moved on to Liverpool, with former Denmark international Michael Laudrup taking the reins at Liberty Stadium.

Promising young talent Joe Allen followed Rodgers to Anfield, but has Laudrup moved swiftly to bolster his stocks with three foreign additions.

Villarreal midfielder Jonathan De Guzman penned a season-long loan, while Spanish duo Jose Manuel Flores from Genoa and Michu from Rayo Vallecano completed transfers.

QPR ran out 3-0 winners last time the sides met at Loftus Road in April this year.

Premier League preview: West Brom v Liverpool

16 August 2012 13:49

Liverpool travel to West Bromwich Albion for their English Premier League opener on Saturday with both sides represented by new mangers.

Brendan Rodgers has taken over for the Reds after leaving former club Swansea City to replace Kenny Dalglish, who was sacked at the end of last season by the Anfield club.

The move came after Liverpool finished eighth in the English top flight, and was made despite Dalglish steering the side to the Carling Cup title and the FA Cup final.

Midfielder Joe Allen has made the journey with Rodgers from Swansea to help the club establish a new possession-based brand of football.

The new style of play has earned early success with Liverpool winning their Europa League qualifying tie against FC Gomel comfortably, as well as beating Leverkusen 1-0 in their August 12 friendly.

Liverpool have also aquired Italian striker Fabio Borini from Serie A club Roma.

Notable exits over the close season include Dirk Kuyt, Maxi Rodriguez, Alberto Aquilani and Fabio Aurelio.

Another crucial piece of business was the re-signing of Uruguay international Luis Suarez, who will spearhead a Reds attack that could be trimmed if reports linking Andy Carroll with an Anfield exit eventuate.

For West Brom, new manager Steve Clarke, a former Liverpool first-team coach, replaces Roy Hodgson after the latter took charge of the England national team.

Two new additions to Clarke’s line-up are Swedish striker Markus Rosenberg from Werder Bremen and Belgian counterpart Romelu Lukaku, who arrives at the Hawthorns on loan from Chelsea.

Rosenberg scored 10 goals and recorded five assists in 33 Budesliga appearances for Werder Bermen last season.

Departures for West Brom from last season include Nick Shorey and Irish International Keith Andrews.

West Brom won all three of their friendlies in August, defeating Nottingham Forest, Walsall and Sheffield Wednesday.

They also defeated the Reds 1-0 in the last meeting between the sides in April.

Premier League preview: Arsenal v Sunderland

16 August 2012 13:47

After a busy transfer period, Arsenal will be looking for early success in their Premier League opener against Sunderland at Emirates Stadium.

The signings of Oliver Giroud, Lucas Podolski and Santi Cazorla add to an Arsenal team which finished third last season.

But the Gunners have been unable to fend off Manchester United’s bid for

their captain Robin van Persie, who has sealed a deal that will see him move to Old Trafford.

Striker Giroud won the Golden Boot in Ligue 1, scoring 21 goals to lead Montpellier to the championship, and the Frenchman provides the Gunners with another attacking threat up-front.

Cazorla, manager Arsene Wenger’s third off-season signing, is part of Spain’s treble-winning national team and adds further prowess in the attacking third.

The re-signing of defender Laurent Koscielny is also crucial after the Frenchman impressed last season.

Arsenal were convincing in their last pre-season hit out, defeating German club Cologne 4-0 in convincing fashion.

Sunderland’s only close-season signing so far is Carlos Cuellar, a versatile Spanish defender who played for Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill at Aston Villa.

O’Neill has said he is also looking to boost his attacking stocks, particularly given Danish front-man Nicklas Bendtner has returned to Arsenal after completing a loan deal at the Stadium of Light.

Bendtner was a key source of goals at the Stadium of Light last term, managing eight, and his absence leaves O’Neill short up front.

Without a star striker in the line-up Sunderland will look to a balanced attack to provide offensive pressure.

Last season, Sebastian Larsson and Stephane Sessegnon scored seven goals apiece and are the likely duo to step up to the task.

O’Neill’s side have not recorded a win in their past three pre-season friendlies, losing to Leicester 1-0, York 3-0 and drawing with Derby 1-1.

Trapattoni confident in Westwood

16 August 2012 12:05

Republic of Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni was satisfied with his team’s performance as they recorded a 0-0 draw against Serbia on Wednesday.

The Italian took time to praise goalkeeper Keiren Westwood, who kept a clean sheet in his first match as the new Irish number one following Shay Given’s retirement from international football.

“Westwood showed that we can trust him to be a long-term replacement,” Trapattoni told reporters. “I am also happy with the rest of the team although it was clear we still lack fitness.

“We can take a lot of positives from this game because we were up against a well-drilled Serbian team who have some very good players in their ranks.”

Trapattoni’s counterpart for the night, Serbia coach Sinisa Mihajlovic, was also content with the result given the changes he has made to the national team due to the international retirements of key players Nemanja Vidic and Dejan Stankovic.

The former Fiorentina coach praised his team’s defensive solidity and expected them to improve in attack during their upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

“We have made sweeping changes and it takes time to rebuild a team, but I remain optimistic about our chances of qualifying for the World Cup,” Mihajlovic said.

“We were impressive at the back and I am confident that we will be able to add some bite to our attack before our opening qualifier against Scotland.

“We know our fans expect instant success but that’s easier said than done and overall I am happy with our performance and the result.”

Sammer: Germany needs its own identity

16 August 2012 11:58

Bayern Munich sporting director Matthias Sammer feels the German national side lack a true footballing identity.

Germany have not won a major trophy since Euro 1996, and the former sweeper is struggling to characterise German football when compared to contemporaries such as Spain and Italy.

“Do Germany actually have a footballing identity at the moment? Apart from saying we’ve got some good lads coming through? I don’t see one. Right now, I can’t really define our football,” Sammer told reporters.

“You can define Spain, Italy and some other nations, but I’m having problems with Germany. What do we stand for?

“At the moment it’s for good young players, but overall, we could restart work on our footballing identity, because we should always look reality straight in the eye.

“I think we’re heading in a very good direction, but we still need the courage to keep working on what it means.

“Obviously, we have to take note of a couple of facts. With the exception of youth teams, it’s a while since we’ve won an international trophy.”

Germany were beaten 3-1 by Argentina in a friendly on Wednesday.