Premier League preview: Reading v Liverpool

11 April 2013 13:30

Reading manager Nigel Adkins says he will not compromise on his style of football despite facing relegation to the Championship.

Adkins was appointed Reading manager on March 26 and has overseen two defeats so far but remains committed to playing attacking, possession-based football as he prepares his team for the visit of Liverpool on Saturday.

Despite admitting Reading face an ‘uphill task’ to stay in the English Premier League, the former Southampton manager has urged his players to ‘get the supporters off their feet’ rather than just defend over the last six games of the campaign.

“I want the players to work hard, I want the players to get the supporters off their feet,” Adkins told the BBC.

“I want us to score goals, I want us to pass the football.

“It’s a work in progress.

“I’ve been out of work for the last two months but I’m looking forward to getting my teeth into the job we’ve got here at Reading.

“But let’s not hide away from the fact that we’ve got an uphill task.

“The players are well aware of how hard I expect them to work on the training ground and during the games.

“I want us to play out from the back, I want us to pass the ball about and that’s a work in progress.”

Reading are bottom of the Premier League table heading into Saturday’s clash with Liverpool at the Madejski Stadium and are eight points away from safety.

Having lost their past eight games, Reading must get something out of their match against Liverpool if they are to have any genuine hope of escaping relegation to the Championship.

But with Liverpool having only lost once in their past six Premier League fixtures, the chances of a home victory look slim.

Liverpool drew 0-0 to West Ham last week, having defeated Aston Villa 2-1 on March 30.

The trip to Reading will be Liverpool’s first of three matches against teams in the bottom eight before the end of the season and manager Brendan Rodgers will no doubt remind his side that maximum points will be required if they are to make a late bid for Europa League qualification.

Liverpool sit seventh in the league standings with 49 points, seven behind fifth-placed Arsenal, who hold the automatic Europa League-qualifying berth and have a game in hand on Rodgers’ team.

After being held by West Ham, Liverpool cannot afford another slip up against Reading, Newcastle United or Queens Park Rangers if they want to play European football next season.

Premier League preview: Aston Villa v Fulham

11 April 2013 13:30

Relegation-threatened Aston Villa will hope to make it two vital wins in succession when they host Fulham in the English Premier League.

Villa defeated Stoke City 3-1 away from home on Saturday, dragging their beaten hosts into the scrap for survival at the wrong end of the table.

Three points gained at the Britannia Stadium lifted Villa up to 16th in the standings, two points clear of the drop zone.

And with little separating the teams in the bottom half of the Premier League, they are just six points away from 10th-placed Fulham.

Paul Lambert’s Villa team are enjoying some of their best form this season, having won three of their past four leagues games.

Forwards Christian Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor have proved crucial in earning those victories, with both men netting in wins over Reading, Queens Park Rangers and Stoke.

They will be confident of getting on the scoresheet again when Fulham arrive at Villa Park on Saturday, with Martin Jol’s team having won just three times away from home this season.

One of those three victories came as recently as March 17, and in the form of an impressive 1-0 triumph at high-flying Tottenham Hotspur.

They followed that up with a 3-2 win at home to QPR, making it five matches unbeaten for the west London side.

But their away-day woes promptly returned last week, as Jol’s men went down 1-0 at Newcastle United, Papiss Cisse claiming the winner for the hosts in injury time at St James’ Park.

Although they remain outsiders to go down, Fulham must still pick up as many points as possible over their final seven games of the season to guarantee their survival and avoid an uncomfortable climax to the campaign.

In injury news, Agbonlahor should overcome a thigh problem to take his place in Villa’s starting 11, while defender Ciaran Clark is a bigger doubt due to a shoulder issue.

For Fulham, midfielder Steve Sidwell is suspended, but forward Mladen Petric is nearing a return from the thigh injury which has kept him out since February.

The previous meeting between the teams saw Fulham run out 1-0 winners at Craven Cottage in October.

Premier League preview: Everton v QPR

11 April 2013 13:29

Realistically, Queens Park Rangers must beat Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday if they hope to avoid relegation from the Premier League.

Harry Redknapp’s side have spent the season near the foot of the table and are in 19th position, a worrying seven points from safety with just six games left to be played.

Their recent form has been up and down, with crucial lapses badly affecting their results, such as the first-half performance in a 3-2 loss to Fulham and conceding a late equaliser against Wigan after battling hard to retain their lead despite being reduced to 10 men.

Everton by contrast have won three of their past four league games, with an outstanding 2-0 victory against Manchester City last month the pick of those results.

David Moyes’ men are in sixth position, four points behind fifth-placed Arsenal.

They are also still in the hunt for a Champions League qualification berth, with Tottenham six points ahead in fourth position, but having played one game more.

The last meeting between QPR and Everton came in October at Loftus Road, and ended in a 1-1 draw, with Junior Hoilett’s early opener for the hosts cancelled out by Julio Cesar’s 33rd-minute own-goal.

January signing Loic Remy has given QPR some slim hope of top-flight survival, smashing in five goals in his eight appearances since signing from Marseille, and the pressure will be on the French international with Bobby Zamora suspended.

Redknapp will have a relatively healthy squad to choose from – only Shaun Wright Phillips (ankle) and Samba Diakite (knock) are unavailable because of injury.

The man in form for Everton is Belgian attacker Kevin Mirallas, who has produced two spectacular solo goals in his past two matches against Stoke and Tottenham.

QPR defenders will be well-advised to put a challenge in before Mirallas – on current form – jinks past and lashes a shot on target.

There is a relatively empty physio room at Everton, with only veteran fullback Tony Hibbert (calf) unavailable.

With QPR out of the top flight between 1996 and 2011, the two teams have only played three matches in recent years, meaning Everton will be out to record their first triumph over the west London side since November 1995.

Premier League preview: Southampton v West Ham

11 April 2013 13:29

Three points for Southampton or West Ham United will all but guarantee their Premier League survival when they clash on Saturday.

After a 2-0 away win against Reading in their last fixture, Southampton have now won their last three games, including home wins against Chelsea and Liverpool, and are in 11th position on 37 points.

Coming off some solid results against Liverpool (0-0) and West Bromwich (3-1), West Ham are placed 12th in standings, behind their south-coast opponents only on goal difference but with a game in hand.

It would take a poor run for either of these sides to be relegated but three points in this clash at St Mary’s Stadium would see the winner reach 40 points, a tally that only three teams have ever been relegated with in the Premier League era.

The last meeting between the two sides in October 2012 at Upton Park ended in a crushing 4-1 win to West Ham, midfielder Mark Noble netting a brace.

Since the appointment of Argentine Mauro Pochettino, Southampton have been playing a high-tempo pressing style that has been winning plaudits as well as points.

Striker Rickie Lambert has enjoyed a terrific debut Premier League season at 31 years of age, having banged in 14 goals in 32 appearances and can threaten the West Ham defence if provided with quality crosses and set-piece delivery.

Pochettino will have a full squad to choose from, a blessing at this time of season, with the club reporting no significant injuries.

The return to form of Andy Carroll will be welcomed by coach Sam Allardyce with the Liverpool loanee scoring five goals in his last nine games, including a brace in last week’s clash against West Brom.

West Ham’s two players unavailable for the match, Noble (arm) and George McCartney (knee), are both out for the rest of the season, with Gary O’Neil deputising solidly for the former.

The head-to-head record between the two teams is tight with Southampton claiming 21 wins, West Ham 19 victories and the points have been shared on 17 occasions.

There is no doubt that this battle will be close, and with both teams is good form of late, should be a great contest with Pochettino’s intricate style versus Allardyce’s direct style.

La Liga preview: Celta seek rare win in Mallorca

11 April 2013 13:25

Celta de Vigo will head to Mallorca on Monday knowing they could move out of La Liga’s relegation zone with a win on the Spanish island.

Last-placed Mallorca will host Celta in a bottom-of-the-table clash, with the visitors having not won at the holiday destination since 2004.

But Celta coach Abel Resino will be reminding his team that if they can snap that streak, they could move from second-last in La Liga to 17th position, just above the relegation zone, if Deportivo La Coruna fail to win and Real Zaragoza lose.

Danish winger Michael Krohn-Dehli will be a key player for Resino’s team after an impressive first season in Spain.

The former Brondby man has scored two goals since joining Celta at the start of the season, while setting up six, after developing a strong connection with forward pair Iago Aspas and Mario Bermejo.

With eight rounds remaining, the La Liga relegation battle realistically consists of six teams, Celta and Mallorca the two clubs with the best chance of picking up points this weekend.

Zaragoza will host league-leading Barcelona on Sunday, 15th-placed Osasuna head to Malaga and 16th-placed Granada will travel to Atletico Madrid, while Deportivo, who sit 18th, might have an outside chance on their trip to Levante.

Real Betis will look to keep their bid for next season’s Europa League on track when they take on Sevilla in their local derby on Friday.

Betis have not won the past five Seville derbies at their own stadium but are six points and three positions ahead of their arch-rivals, and the team in green and white should be confident of breaking that drought, which stretches back to April 2006.

In other La Liga fixtures, Real Valladolid will host Getafe, Espanyol will welcome Valencia to Catalonia, Rayo Vallecano are up against Real Sociedad and Real Madrid travel to Athletic Bilbao.