Thursday, 27 September 2012

Capital One Cup: Fourth Round Draw

The newly named Capital One Cup continued this week as we saw the third round of the competition take place. This round saw the remaining seven Premier League clubs enter the fray including current holders Liverpool and Premier League winners Manchester City.

It was City though, who surprised everyone as they were beaten 4-2 at home by Aston Villa after extra time at the Etihad Stadium. Roberto Mancini fielded a strong side which included Kolo Toure, Jack Rodwell, Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tevez. It was the Italian striker that opened the scoring in the game after an excellent through pass from James Milner. It was another former Villa man in the City line up, Gareth Barry, who scored a deserved equaliser for Villa as he put through his own net after good work down the right from Andreas Weimann. An Aleksander Kolarov free kick and a Gabby Agbonlahor goal in the second half, saw the game go to extra time. It was Villa though, who took the initiative in extra time as goals from Charlies N'Zogbia and Gabby Agbonlahor gave Paul Lambert and his Villa side a surprise victory away from home.

Another shock in the third round of the competition came at Elland Road as Championship outfit Leeds United beat high flying Everton 2-1. The game was largely dominated by Leeds who could have easily scored more. They opened the scoring in the first half as Aidan White was given time and space to beautifully curl home. David Moyes fielded a strong line up which included Steven Pienaar and his side should have been level when Steven Naismith headed wide from 3 yards. Leeds effectively ended the game in the second half as midfielder Rodolph Austin flicked home after a well worked free kick from the left. A late Sylvain Distin header made an exciting end to the game but the Premier League team were unable to take the game to extra time.

Having beaten Stoke in the last round, Swindon were at it again causing another upset beating Championship team Burnley 3-1 at home. They were joined in the fourth round by Bradford, who came down from two goals down at home to Burton to win the all League Two clash 3-2 after extra time. Arsenal and Chelsea set up their Premier League clash beautifully on Saturday, as they both hit their opponents for six. The Gunners faced League One Coventry City at home and two goals for Theo Walcott and a first goal for Olivier Giroud, saw Arsene Wenger's side came out 6-1 winners. Chelsea fielded a strong side against Wolves and that was evident as they beat the Championship club 6-0 at Stamford Bridge.

Current holders of the cup Liverpool, faced a tricky tie away at West Brom who beat them on the opening day of the league season 3-0. Brendan Rogers young outfit though came away 2-1 winners thanks to two goals from Nuri Sahin. Tottenham, Southampton and Sunderland all eased past lower league opposition and were joined by Man United who came out top against Newcastle United.

As the competition progresses nicely, the fourth round draw was made immediately after the third round and threw up Chelsea v Man United in the tie of the round. Arsenal face a tough tie away at Reading, while holders Liverpool are at home to Swansea which will see Brendan Rogers come up against his former team. Aston Villas reward for beating Man City is a tricky tie away at League One Swindon Town. Bradford are the lowest league side left in the competition and will travel to Wigan, whilst Sunderland will face north east rivals Middlesbrough.

All ties will be played the week commencing the 29th October 2012.

Fourth Round Fixtures:

Sunderland v Middlesbrough
Swindon v Aston Villa
Liverpool v Swansea City
Chelsea v Man United
Wigan v Bradford City
Norwich City v Tottenham
Reading v Arsenal
Leeds v Southampton

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

England: JT retires, but who will replace him at the back?

With Chelsea captain and centre back John Terry having controversially retired on Sunday, England have lost one of their key members of their back four. Despite the shock decision, the World Cup is still two years away, leaving national manager Roy Hodgson time to find an ideal replacement. We have listed the potential candidates who can fill the gap, and become central to the heart of the England back line.

Gary Cahill: (Chelsea)
Caps: 10 Goals: 2

Former Bolton defender Gary Cahill is Terry's team mate at Chelsea and has been unlucky with his opportunities in the national set up. The 26 year old joined the London team last January and finished the season with a Champions League and FA Cup final medal. Cahill fitted in the Chelsea team quickly and became a regular fixture alongside Terry in their back four towards the end of last year. In England's recent World Cup qualifier against Ukraine, Cahill was overlooked by Roy Hodgson, who selected Everton's Phil Jagielka ahead of the Chelsea man. Having suffered a jaw injury before the Euros last June, Cahill was unlucky to miss out on travelling to the tournament. But with him likely to face Champions League opposition with Chelsea this season, Hodgson may favour Cahill ahead of Jagielka in the upcoming qualifiers.

Phil Jagielka: (Everton)
Caps: 14 Goals: 1

Everton centre back Phil Jagielka will be keen to claim the gap left in the England defence by John Terry. Jagielka was chosen ahead of Gary Cahill in the recent qualifier against Ukraine and also featured and scored in the summer friendly with Italy. Having played together with Joleon Lescott when the Man City defender was at Everton, Roy Hodgson may be tempted to choose Jagielka ahead of Cahill. The two have played together for England four times on which they have come out winners on all occasions. Both centre backs look set to be regular fixtures for their club this season, and having forged a partnership at Everton, this partnership at the back could well be the future for the Three Lions.

Joleon Lescott: (Manchester City)
Caps: 23 Goals: 1

Lescott has established himself as Terry's partner in the England defence and has been a regular feature in Roy Hodgson's games. The former Everton defender is almost a definite starter in England's World Cup qualifying campaign over the next two years, but the question is, who will partner the Man City defender? Lescott partnered Terry at every game in the European Championships, including scoring England's first goal of the tournament against France in the group stages. He was involved heavily in City's title winning season last year alongside Vincent Kompany, but with the side leaking goals early on this year, Lescott's performances will need to improve if he is to be a dead cert in the England side.

Chris Smalling: (Manchester United)
Caps: 3

Despite only managing three England caps to his name, Chris Smalling certainly has a bright future wearing the national shirt. Smalling is currently injured, and is working his way back to full fitness. The former Fulham defender has two solid seasons behind him for United in the top league, and his versatility is key to his inclusion in the national set up. As well as being able at centre back, Smalling has featured at right back at Old Trafford and will be just as reliable there as he is in the centre. Smalling's only appearances for England came at the end of the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign under Fabio Capello. Smalling also has plenty of experience at U21 level and will certainly feature for England again when back to full match fitness.

Phil Jones: (Manchester United)
Caps: 5

Just like club team mate Chris Smalling, Phil Jones is another useful defender to have in the national squad. At only 20 years old, Jones was involved in the European qualifying campaign and was also taken to the finals by Hodgson where he played no part. Jones has been used mainly at right back for United but is also able to play in central defence and even in midfield where he played whilst at Blackburn. His tireless box to box runs and attacking threat makes him a dead cert to be involved in Hodgson's squads in the near future.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Deadline Day: A Summer of Transfer Madness

We saw a huge amount of activity last week as the transfer window came to an end on Friday. We look at the winners and losers of the window and round up which players made the biggest moves to and from England on the final day.

Deadline Day Winners:
picture: Manchester City
Unlike their rivals, Manchester City left it to the final day to make any moves. Roberto Mancini had only brought in Jack Rodwell in the window before the last day, with the former Everton youngster moving for £12million. The midfielder was joined by a number of players on the final day, as Mancini left it late to improve his squad. Brazilian full back Maicon made the move to the Etihad from Inter Milan for around £3million. The new arrival was joined by another defender with Fiorentina centre back Matija Nastasic moving to Manchester in a part exchange deal which saw Stefan Savic go in the opposite direction. Other arrivals brought in by Mancini included winger Scott Sinclair moving from Swansea, and Benfica midfielder Javi Martinez who cost the club £16million. Moving out of Manchester, winger Adam Johnson went to Sunderland, midfielder Nigel De Jong went to AC Milan whilst striker Roque Santa Cruz went to Malaga on a season long loan.

As well as City, Tottenham Hotspur had a successful last day as new manager Andre Villas Boas took advantage of the window. AVB had previously completed the permanent signing of Emmanuel Adebayor who had spent the previous season on loan at White Hart Lane. The Portuguese manager had already captured Gylfi Sigurdsson and defender Jan Vertonghen earlier on in the summer. The surprise move of the summer was American Clint Dempsey who had looked set to move to Liverpool. Spurs had taken advantage of the Merseyside club's inability to match the asking fee for Dempsey who made the move across London for £6million. Dempsey joins his former Fulham team mate Moussa Dembele who also joined Spurs the previous day for a fee of £15million. Moving out of Spurs, Luka Modric made the expected move to Real Madrid for £30million which also saw Rafa Van Der Vaart return to Hamburg where he played before moving to Spurs.

Deadline Day Losers: 
It was a deadline day to forget for Liverpool and Brendan Rogers. Despite managing to bring in Joe Allen, Nuri Sahin and Fabio Borini earlier on in the window, Rogers was unable to strengthen the squad much to many fans annoyance. Having let £35million man Andy Carroll leave on loan to West Ham the previous day, Liverpool were expected to replace the striker. American Clint Dempsey had been linked with the reds all summer but having fallen short of the valuation of the midfielder, Liverpool missed out meaning he made a last gasp move to Spurs. Having failed to sign another striker during the window, it leaves Rogers with only Luis Suarez and Fabio Borini as options in attack. Deadline day at Anfield saw midfielders Charlie Adam and Jay Spearing leave, with the latter on a loan deal to Bolton Wanderers. Adam, who had only spent a year at Liverpool, made a £4million move to Stoke City where he signed a four year deal.

No-one may have been as unlucky or as unfortunate as Liverpool in the window, but Arsenal may feel they could have done slightly better over the summer. Having already brought in Santi Cazorla, Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski, Arsene Wenger was keen to bring in an additional midfielder. Having lost Alex Song to Barcelona, and with Jack Wilshere still injured, Arsenal had been close to capturing playmaker Nuri Sahin on loan. But having failed to come to an agreement, Sahin moved to Liverpool leaving Arsenal finding themselves one Abou Diaby injury away from having to play youngster Francis Coquelin.

Premier League round up:
Fulham were heavily involved in transfer activity this summer seeing players come in and out of Craven Cottage. Bulgarian front man Dimitar Berbatov made the switch on deadline day making the move from Manchester United for a fee in the region of £4million. He was joined by Kieran Richardson who moved from Sunderland for £3million. Stoke City were also busy in the window and captured the services of free agent Michael Owen. The 32 year old had been released from Manchester United in June and signed a one year deal with The Potters. Tony Pulis had looked set to bring in Spurs midfielder Tom Huddlestone on loan but having failed to reach an agreement, Pulis brought in Blackburn man Steven N'Zonzi, paying £3million for his services.

Other Deadline Day movers:

Yossi Benayoun: Chelsea - West Ham (season long loan)
Danny Rose: Tottenham - Sunderland (season long loan)
Gaston Ramirez: Bologna - Southampton (£12million)
Hugo Lloris: Lyon - Tottenham (£11.8million)
Stephane Mbia: Marseille - QPR (£4.5million)
Bryan Oviedo: FC Copenhagen - Everton (£5million)
Christian Benteke: Genk - Aston Villa (£7million)
Pablo Hernandez: Valencia - Swansea (£5.5million)

Football League round up:
Blackburn Rovers sealed one of the biggest deals of the window by capturing Jordan Rhodes who moved from Huddersfield Town for £8million. It looked likely that Rhodes would stay with the Terriers, but with Leon Best out through injury, Steve Kean needed a replacement. Fellow forward David Goodwillie moved out of Ewood Park though going to Crystal Palace on a season long loan. Palace were again involved on deadline day as they captured defender Damien Delaney who moved on a free transfer from Ipswich Town. The Tractor Boys were the talk of the Championship on deadline day as they were in talks with Peterborough United duo George Boyd and Paul Taylor. Both were transfer listed at London Road and it was the latter of the two that made a permanent move. Despite on going talks, Boyd rejected the chance and remains at Peterborough for the forthcoming months.

In League One, Sheffield United were involved in transfer activity on deadline day as they brought in Dave Kitson from Portsmouth and saw midfielder Stephen Quinn move out as he went to Hull City. Promoted from League Two last year, Paolo Di Canio's Swindon saw many comings and goings during the window. The Italian brought in striker Adam Rooney from Birmingham City, with Paul Caddis moving in the opposite direction. Despite financial worry, Portsmouth were able to make deadline day moves as they saw Darel Russell, Josh Thompson and Johnny Ertle all make their move to Fratton Park on free transfers.

In League Two, Southend striker Kane Ferdinand made the step up to the Championship as he went to Peterborough United for £200,000. Another mover out of League Two was Wycombe forward Stuart Beavon who moved to Preston North End for an undisclosed fee. Beavon had scored 25 times for Wycombe last season. Despite losing Beavon, Wycombe had previously brought in striker Jo Kuffour who moved from fellow League Two side Gillingham on a free transfer.

Other Deadline Day movers:

Jay Bothroyd: QPR - Sheffield Wednesday (season long loan)
Craig Noone: Brighton - Cardiff (£1million)
Billy Sharp: Southampton - Notts Forest (season long loan)
Andrea Orlandi: Swansea - Brighton (undisclosed fee)
Nicky Maynard: West Ham - Cardiff (£2.5million)
Iain Hume: Preston - Doncaster (season long loan)
Martin Taylor: Watford - Sheffield Wednesday (undisclosed fee)
David Stephens: Hibernian - Barnet (Free transfer)

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

World Cup 2014 Qualifier: England V Moldova Preview

With all focus on the domestic season, the beginning of the qualifying campaign for the World Cup in two years begins this weekend. After falling to Italy in the quarter finals at Euro 2012, England beat the Italians 2-1 in a recent friendly. Their opponents this Friday come in the shape of Moldova who last played England back in 1996 where they were comfortably beaten 4-0 at Wembley.

England boss Roy Hodgson named his squad for the qualifiers last week and has included a number of players who weren't involved in the Euros. Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick has been included in the squad having revealed in January he didn't want to be considered for international selection. He has been joined by Sunderland winger Adam Johnson and Daniel Sturridge who were overlooked in the summer.

With Andy Carroll and Wayne Rooney both out through injury, Hodgson has only three strikers in his squad having made the decision not to replace Carroll, who had to pull out due to an injury sustained for West Ham at the weekend. Alongside Sturridge, the former West Brom boss has Danny Welbeck and Jermain Defoe as other options upfront. At the back John Terry has been included having missed their recent game against Newcastle with a neck injury. In goal, Joe Hart is backed up by John Ruddy and Jack Butland with QPR keeper Rob Green overlooked.  Left back Ashley Cole was set to make his 100th international appearance against Ukraine next week but has pulled out due to an ankle injury, meaning Everton defender Leighton Baines looking set to take his place in the team.

Opponents Moldova are ranked 137 in the world and should be relatively easy for England. As mentioned above, England's last game against Moldova came back in 1997 when they comfortably came out 4-0 winners. That day Glen Hoddle's men included legendary keeper David Seaman, David Beckham and Stan Collymore. Goals that day came from Paul Scholes, Paul Gascoigne and a double from Ian Wright. The game was  a World Cup qualifier as they aimed for a place at France '98

Moldova finished second bottom in their Euro 2012 qualifying group with nine points having recorded wins against Finland and twice against San Marino. The majority of their squad play their trade in Moldova and are managed by Ion Caras. Captain Alexandru Epureanu is currently the most capped player in the squad at the moment having played 43 times for his country.

England's group for the World Cup contains five other teams including Ukraine and Montenegro who England previously faced in their Euro 2012 qualifying group. Alongside them are Poland and San Marino who should be easier opponents for England. The fixtures will be played over the next year and will also include friendlies against Sweden and Scotland.

Roy Hodgson's men will play their first game in the Zimbru Stadium in Moldova on Friday evening and will follow their first game with a home fixture against Ukraine five days later.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Capital One Cup: Third Round Draw

Having witnessed many upsets in the first round, the Capital One Cup the theme of David beating Goliath continued in the second round of the competition. 

The second stage saw the entrance of 13 Premier League sides with only Fulham and Stoke City failing to progress. The Cottagers were beaten 1-0 away to Sheffield Wednesday thanks to a Gary Madine penalty whilst Stoke were beaten at home by Swindon Town in extra time 4-3. The League One side had gone into half time two goals to the good, but were pegged back in the second half after Jonathan Walters and Kenwyne Jones had made the game level. Despite throwing away the lead, Swindon's James Collins grabbed a late winner in extra time to take Paolo Di Canio's men to the third round where they will play Burnley. 

The upsets continuted in the second round with plenty of Championship clubs falling victim to lower league opposition. The most notable game involved Leicester City who were comfortably beaten 4-2 at home to League Two side Burton Albion. Midlands rivals Birmingham City and Coventry went head to head, and it was the Sky Blues who came out on top beating their opponents 3-2 after extra time. Both Blackburn and Bolton were knocked out after both sides were beaten away to League One opposition. Blackburn were beaten 2-1 by MK Dons whilst Bolton came away from Crawley also losing 2-1. 

With the third round upon us already, the remaining seven Premier League sides enter the competition. Winners from last year Liverpool will travel to West Brom who comfortably beat them 3-0 on the opening day of the season. Coventry's reward for beating Birmingham in the last round is a trip to the Emirates where they will face Arsenal. Both Manchester clubs both have home fixtures in the third round with United facing a tricky test against Newcastle United. Rivals City have a slightly easier task as they come up against Paul Lambert and Aston Villa. 

Having comfortably come through their second round tie against Leyton Orient, Everton face a difficult game as they travel to Championship side Leeds United. The Toffee's came away 5-0 winners in their second round game, and have got off to a flyer in the league. Neil Warnock's men have also had a good start in the Championship having taken seven points from their first four games. 

All ties will be played the week commencing the 24th September 2012.

Third Round Fixtures: 

Man United v Newcastle United
Man City v Aston Villa
MK Dons v Sunderland
West Brom v Liverpool
Crawley v Swansea City
QPR v Reading
Norwich v Doncaster Rovers
Bradford v Burton Albion
Preston v Middlesbrough
Arsenal v Coventry City
Southampton v Sheffield Wednesday
Chelsea v Wolves
Carlisle v Tottenham Hotspur
Swindon v Burnley
West Ham v Wigan Athletic
Leeds United v Everton