New striker Rickie Lambert believes Liverpool will quickly find their rhythm having got a first win on the board early. A hard-fought 2-1 home victory over Southampton got Brendan Rodgers’ side under way but it seemed a long way from the devastating performances which tore opponents to shreds last season. Next up are Manchester City, who pipped them to the title in the final week, but Lambert believes the Reds will soon pick up the tempo. “It was definitely a goal and he’s managed to push it on to the underside of the bar.” Lambert found himself in the unique position of being applauded by both sets of fans as he made his way onto the pitch with the 32-year-old former Reds trainee still warmly regarded by supporters of the club he served so well. “It was strange to come on against your old team-mates. I haven’t had many situations like that in may career but you have to be as professional as you can,” he added. “It was special from the Liverpool fans making my debut, which was a dream, and it was special from Southampton fans who showed a lot of respect and appreciation.” There was not the same appreciation from Dejan Lovren, another former Saint who made his Liverpool debut – the third, Adam Lallana is recovering from a knee injury. The Croatian was booed throughout by fans who were unhappy with the way he handled his exit after just a season on the south coast but it did not appear to affect his performance. “I thought Lovren was excellent,” said Rodgers. “It is always difficult when you play against your old team. If you have nine or 10 things to think about, when you play your old team you have 20. “He is a real leader and he was excellent.” Southampton boss Ronald Koeman was equally happy with the performance of Schneiderlin, who has been angling for a move to Tottenham to be reunited with ex-Saints coach Mauricio Pochettino. “I think it was good for him. He is player of Southampton and he will continue playing for Southampton,” said the Dutchman. “He changed his mind and mentality and he showed that this week. “He showed his qualities and he is very strong for the team. It was normal for me to put him in the line up.” “I don’t think we played badly, I just don’t think it was as fluid as Liverpool can play,” said the England international, who made his debut against his former side with a late substitute appearance. “But I thought the first goal (from Raheem Sterling) was excellent: a great pass from Jordan (Henderson) and a good finish and after some pressure from Southampton we came strong and got the win. “It was a really hard game and it was a great three points. The first game is always nervous, you are never quite as sharp as you want to be. “The first game everyone is excited and desperate to win and you are not sure how you are going to play and the quicker you can get that win the better. “It makes you get into your rhythm a bit easier and faster. “The win is perfect but we now have a few hard games coming up.” Like last season, when Simon Mignolet saved a last-minute penalty against Stoke to hold on to three points, it could have been so different had the goalkeeper not produced a brilliant late save from Morgan Schneiderlin. “It was one of the best saves I’ve seen,” added Lambert. Press Association
Emerging seamer Peter Chase and fit-again Alex Cusack are both part of an 18-man Ireland squad bound for Australia and New Zealand this month. Veteran medium-pacer Cusack is back after a season curtailed by injury to join the trip Down Under as Ireland step up their preparations for next year’s World Cup, also in Australia and New Zealand. William Porterfield’s team will travel without experienced batsman Ed Joyce, who is instead to be given time to recover from an arduous domestic season with Sussex. Press Association Coach Phil Simmons outlined the timetable for Cusack’s return to action. “Alex Cusack has been one of our best limited-overs bowlers in the last six years,” he told Cricket Ireland. “Although he’s been out of competitive action since early May, the plan was always to take him on tour as long as he had recovered from injury. “He has been in a long period of rehabilitation and is fit to train now. He will be back training and bowling this week – and part of his continued rehabilitation will be in Australia, with the hope he is able to play towards the latter half of the tour in New Zealand.” Ireland will play eight 50-over fixtures between September 30 and October 23. Ireland squad (to travel to Australia and New Zealand): W Porterfield (Captain), A Balbirnie, P Chase, A Cusack, G Dockrell, J Mooney, T Murtagh, A McBrine, K O’Brien, N O’Brien (wkt), A Poynter, S Poynter, M Sorensen, P Stirling, S Thompson , A White, G Wilson (wkt), C Young
They will be buoyed not only by a 3-1 Capital One Cup third-round victory over Nottingham Forest on Wednesday, but also by the fact Arsenal have won once in their last five fixtures. Wenger has been criticised for not adding defensive recruitments to his ranks over the course of the summer, with a number of injuries restricting the Frenchman’s options at the back. One player set to line up for the Gunners is England international Calum Chambers, who was moulded into a first-team footballer under Pochettino’s tutelage at St Mary’s. The 19-year-old was one of a number of players to depart Southampton in the wake of Pochettino’s appointment at Spurs but his former manager is backing him to be a success at his new club. “Calum is a great personality and has a great talent,” he added. “He deserves his moment now because one year ago at the start of pre-season at Southampton he was playing in the development squad and step by step he deserved to play and win his place in the first team. It is not only because he has talent he also has a great personality and character.” Wenger, 64, has been in charge of Arsenal for the past 18 seasons and is comfortably the longest-serving boss in the Barclays Premier League. Newcastle’s Alan Pardew is next on the list on four years, with Sam Allardyce third following three full seasons at Upton Park. Press Association Pochettino has only just taken the reins at Spurs and will manage his first derby against fiercest rivals Arsenal on Saturday. The Argentinian came up against Wenger during his time in charge at Southampton and holds the man who has delivered three league titles for the Gunners in high regard. “We have a good relationship,” he said. “We played against Arsenal (for Southampton) I have full respect for him, he is a great manager. An 18-year stay in charge is not easy. It’s a big gap with me in Tottenham. “Tottenham for me is a big job, it’s a dream to stay here like (him) or to have the time Arsene had in Arsenal. For this, I need to show my skill, I need to work hard, I need to get the results. “In football you never know, you need to work with passion that we have. We are positive in our job, in our skill, with the players. We try to arrive as far as possible.” Recording only Tottenham’s third win over Arsenal in the Premier League era would give Pochettino a great grounding for following the blueprint of Wenger’s longevity in one job. Spurs go into the game on the back of just one point from their last three league games, having started the new campaign with back-to-back London derby victories over West Ham and QPR. Tottenham head coach Mauricio Pochettino is dreaming of replicating Arsene Wenger’s success at Arsenal across the other side of north London.
Moses, who signed for the Staffordshire outfit on a season-long deal last month, has had a frustrating last couple of years as a bit part player for his parent club and then Liverpool on loan. He has rapidly emerged as a key man for Stoke, though, and his threat was in particular evidence as he helped them to Monday’s 1-0 Barclays Premier League win over Newcastle, in which they registered their first home points of season. Stoke boss Mark Hughes hopes “man on a mission” Victor Moses can keep up the impressive form the winger has shown since joining the Potters on loan from Chelsea. Press Association The 23-year-old Nigeria international provided the cross from which Peter Crouch headed in the 15th-minute winner, and caused constant problems for the visitors. Hughes, whose side moved up from 17th to 11th in the table with the victory, said of Moses: “He’s been exceptional since he came to the club. “We are really delighted with what he has produced. He is a man on a mission I would suggest, because he hasn’t had a lot of football in the last two years or so. “He just wants to play, and every time he gets into those positions, in the wide areas, you always sense something is going to happen. “It was the same again (against Newcastle). We are delighted for him, and I think if he continues in the same vein, then he’ll have a good season and so will we.” Hughes also had praise for Crouch – now with three goals in all competitions this season – and Marko Arnautovic, who hit the post in the second half and put in what the manager felt was his best performance of the campaign so far. Arnautovic came on in the 23rd minute of the contest, Mame Biram Diouf having to be withdrawn due to an injury. And regarding Diouf’s condition, Hughes said: “It looks like he might have a slight hamstring strain. “Obviously he stopped and he came off immediately, which is the right thing to do. So we are hopeful it is not going to be too serious.”
Joe Hart has committed his future to Manchester City by signing a new contract which will keep him at the club until 2019. The England goalkeeper becomes the latest City player to extend his stay at the Etihad Stadium, following the likes of Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, Aleksandar Kolarov, Samir Nasri and David Silva. The 27-year-old told the club’s official website: “I’m really happy, I’ve been here a long time now and I want to keep that going.” Hart, a former Shrewsbury trainee, joined City in a £600,000 deal in 2006. He made his breakthrough as a senior player during a loan spell at Birmingham in 2009-10 and returned to City to supplant Shay Given as first choice the following season. He has since helped City win two Premier League titles, the FA Cup and Capital One Cup. Hart said: “The new deal means I get to stay longer – the club’s doing amazing things at the moment, we’ve created history and we want to keep doing that. “Wanting to stay here was never going to be an issue for me – I’ve loved every moment since I joined. “The club’s growing and I’ve been really lucky to be part of the ride. “I just want to keep winning with the team and keep developing. A lot of the boys have signed long-term deals, so we’re building as a squad and I think that quite a few of us have been here for a long time now. “We’re enjoying building that winning mentality, how the club is growing is around us and how we need to grow along with it.” Confirmation of Hart’s deal had been expected since manager Manuel Pellegrini revealed an agreement was close a fortnight ago. Hart has re-established himself as City’s number one over the past year after being dropped by Pellegrini for a short spell following a series of errors in the autumn of 2013. That decision by Pellegrini now looks to have been justified with Hart’s form this season – particularly after the signing of new back-up keeper in Willy Caballero in the summer – having been impressive. Pellegrini is confident England midfielder James Milner will soon follow Hart in committing to the champions. There were reports this week claiming that talks between the club and the 28-year-old’s representatives, thought to be nearing a conclusion, had stalled. But asked if he expected Milner to stay, Pellegrini said at a press conference: “I think so. There are some differences that can be arranged. “We are talking with James. It is not easy for all the players to sign a new contract. There are a lot of things to talk, to decide, discuss. I hope finally James will sign his contract. “The same as with Joe Hart – he wants to stay and the club wants to keep him.” Milner, 28, is in the final season of his current deal and would be free to talk to other clubs from next month. His future became the subject of speculation due to his limited action last season but his prominent role this term – featuring in all but two matches – has changed the picture. The other major contract speculation at the Etihad Stadium at present concerns Frank Lampard’s loan from sister club New York City, which is due to expire at the end of the month. Pellegrini hopes to keep the influential 36-year-old until the end of the season and also claimed last week that Lampard wanted to stay longer. It might be that Pellegrini has to settle for a shorter arrangement – for an extra month or two – but no decisions have yet been made. Pellegrini said: “It is not just our decision. If you ask me if I want Frank to stay, of course. He is a very important player for our squad and he is playing very well, as the top player he is. “Maybe in the next days we will be sure but I cannot be 100 per cent at this moment.” Pellegrini’s most immediate concern is overcoming the absence of his captain Vincent Kompany and all three of his frontline strikers for the visit of Crystal Palace in the Barclays Premier League on Saturday. Kompany suffered a recurrence of a hamstring injury in his comeback match at Leicester last week while forward Edin Dzeko hurt his calf in the warm-up. Frontmen Sergio Aguero and Stevan Jovetic were already sidelined. The lack of forward options could mean another opportunity for 18-year-old Jose Angel Pozo or a change of system to utilise a midfielder such as Milner, David Silva or Samir Nasri in an advanced position. Pellegrini said: “The strikers, the three of them are out for tomorrow. We will try to play in another way. “I know that we play against a team that defend very well also so we will see what is the best solution to play without them.” Victory for City by four goals or more would take them to the top of the table ahead of current leaders Chelsea’s trip to Stoke on Monday. Press Association
Hugo Lloris has called on Tottenham to take their chances against Chelsea when the Premier League leaders visit White Hart Lane on New Year’s Day. Kyle Walker, Danny Rose, Erik Lamela and Aaron Lennon are among those who could return to the starting XI. Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho cares little that Chelsea’s eight-point advantage over Manchester City has been cut to three at the halfway point of the Premier League season. The Blues have been pace-setters since their opening win at Burnley, with only Thursday’s opponents Tottenham temporarily overtaking them on goal difference after two rounds of matches. Now, after playing all the other 19 teams in the Premier League and ahead of the first return fixture of the season on New Year’s Day, Mourinho has reflected on a strong start. “Everybody starts with the same points and if we have one more point than them, we did well,” Mourinho said. “We are top of the league at the end of the first round because we deserve it and because it is a consequence of what we did. “Chelsea is playing very well since the beginning of the season. That’s the only thing we work at, the only thing we concentrate on. “And in the second part of the season we are going to try to do exactly the same thing. “Against Tottenham, we will be there again trying to get a good result.” Mourinho is chasing a third Premier League title and Chelsea’s first in five years. Seven times he has led a championship on Christmas Day – in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain – and each time his teams have gone on to win the title. Chelsea, who were eight points clear of defending champions City during November, are indebted to Burnley that their lead was not cut to a solitary point. The Clarets last Sunday fought back from two goals down to draw at City on a day when Chelsea had earlier been held to a 1-1 draw at Southampton. Mourinho’s men have drawn four times and lost once this season in the Premier League, but won all nine of their home matches. City’s revival has coincided with a difficult spell on the road for Chelsea, who have dropped points in three of their last four away games in drawing at Sunderland and Southampton and losing at Newcastle. “We had very difficult fixtures away from home,” Mourinho added. “We lost one game that we didn’t deserve to lose (at Newcastle). We are doing well.” Chelsea’s only other dropped points were at City and at Manchester United, who are 10 points adrift in third in what appears already to be a two-horse title race. Mourinho has a full squad to choose from for the trip to White Hart Lane to play a Spurs side who are without a win in 10 matches against their London rivals. Tottenham have not beaten Chelsea since April 2010. “We are getting better and better every game,” Lloris said on tottenhamhotspur.com. “Defensively, when you get a run of games it’s easier for everyone. We start to understand and to know what the manager wants, what he is expecting every game. “It’s important to be strong, to not concede goals, not concede chances. “But it’s not enough to win games. You need to score and to do more offensively.” Spurs are 15 points behind Chelsea in seventh, but only two points behind fourth-placed Southampton. Lloris said: “We know where we want to be at the end of the season. It’s a long, long walk.” Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino could rotate his squad once more for the visit of the Blues. Spurs made four changes following the Leicester win for the Manchester United draw and can be expected to make a similar number of switches as they bid to end a 10-match winless run against the Blues. Spurs held Manchester United to a goalless draw last Sunday, largely as a result of Lloris’ brilliant shot-stopping. But David de Gea was not similarly stretched at the other end and Lloris would like Thibaut Courtois, who is likely to be in the Chelsea goal, to be busier on Thursday. Press Association
On Saturday evening, the club published a photo of Eto’o wearing a Sampdoria branded t-shirt on their social media outlets. “The first Blucerchiato smile for Eto’o at the end of his visit and waiting for his official introduction to #Sampdoria,” the caption said. Eto’o, 33, joined Everton just five months ago after being released by Chelsea and has scored four goals in 20 appearances. The four-time African Footballer of the Year spent two seasons at Inter Milan and was a member of the 2010 treble-winning side that won the Serie A title, Coppa Italia and Champions League under Jose Mourinho. Sampdoria are looking to strengthen their forward line after selling top scorer Manolo Gabbiadini to Napoli earlier this month. The Genoa outfit, coached by Sinisa Mihajlovic, are fourth in Serie A, level on 33 points with third-placed Napoli at the halfway stage of the season. It was reported earlier in the week that Eto’o had already agreed an 18-month contract with the Serie A side, accepting a 40 per cent pay cut, but the deal stalled with Sampdoria complaining about a lack of clarity in their dealings with Everton. Those issues now appear to have been resolved with Eto’o in Italy to wrap up his move. Samuel Eto’o is poised to complete his move from Everton to Sampdoria after the Italian club published the first picture of the Cameroon striker in their colours. Press Association
Clattenburg is considered one of England’s top referees but has a history of controversy with both clubs, who sit first and second ahead of the clash at Stamford Bridge. City boss Manuel Pellegrini claimed Clattenburg cost his team victory during a 2-2 draw with Arsenal in September and the Chilean also criticised decisions made by the same official in his side’s 3-2 defeat to Liverpool last season. Chelsea also have history with Clattenburg, who was falsely accused of racially abusing Blues midfielder John Obi Mikel during a league match with Manchester United in October 2012. Clattenburg is one of two English officials in UEFA’s elite category along with Martin Atkinson. He was put in charge of last season’s Europa League semi-final second leg between Benfica and Juventus and then the Super Cup final between Real Madrid and Seville in August. Chelsea are five points clear of City, who are looking to avoid a third consecutive defeat after being beaten by Arsenal in the league and Middlesbrough in the FA Cup. Mark Clattenburg has been selected to referee Saturday’s Barclays Premier League title showdown between Chelsea and Manchester City. Press Association
Popular veteran sprinter Bubbly Bellini could join Ado McGuinness’s team at Royal Ascot next month, subject to ground conditions. “We have a few other options, there are a couple of big handicaps at home he could go for, but we’ll see. “His long-term target is the Ayr Gold Cup as he’s more likely to get his ground at that time of year (September). I think that race would suit him perfectly. “He has surprised me this year. I don’t know where he’s got his improvement from, but he’s definitely improved.” Press Association The eight-year-old secured his third victory of 2015 at Cork recently and the trainer believes his charge is better than ever, with a number of big-race options open to the Mull Of Kyntyre gelding. “He’s entered in the Wokingham in Royal Ascot, but he wouldn’t go if the ground was firm.” said McGuinness.
TNS’ position is a better one than that of Crusaders, though. The Northern Irish side were hammered 4-1 away to Albanian club Skenderbeu. Bakary Nimanga got the home side going (15) before veteran Hamdi Salihi added a second (34). Jordan Owens pulled a goal back three minutes after the half-time break, but Bernard Berisha made it three and Salihi made it two for the night. Press Association A second-half goal from Adam Gyurcso condemned TNS to a 1-0 home defeat in their Champions League qualifier with Videoton. The Welsh side held their own in the second qualifying round first leg, but were undone 13 minutes from time. Hungarian outfit Videoton will now fancy their chances of progressing through when the sides play out the second leg in a week’s time.