Laudrup acknowledges it is a considerable compliment for Wenger, who is celebrating his 17th anniversary in charge of Arsenal this weekend, to compare the two, but the Dane is happy to focus on the unique qualities his bargain £2million signing brings to his team. He said: “Michu is different to the other players we are talking about. They are smaller players physically, but you always want your players to work between the back four and midfield, in the hole, that’s what you want. “But he scores more goals than a lot of other players who play there. I don’t think he’s similar in the way he plays, he is a different kind of player, even if he plays the same position. “People want to compare Michu to a lot of players. Just let Michu be Michu. “Bergkamp and he are two different players, with Michu’s height and physicality he is so important for us. “I wouldn’t compare him to Bergkamp, Ozil or Cazorla, but we’re very pleased with what he is doing for us. “For an Arsenal fan, Bergkamp is a very special player in the history of the club, so to talk about two players like that shows how much Arsene Wenger appreciates what Michu has been doing here for the last 15 months.” While happy to extol the virtues of Michu, who has already scored five goals in all competitions this season after netting 22 last term, Laudrup also praised the way Ozil has quickly adapted to English football, but admits he was surprised to see Real Madrid let the Germany international go. “I have to admit I was very surprised when I saw he had left Real Madrid as he is a fantastic player,” he said. “Arsenal is a great club too but with Real Madrid you are playing in the quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals of the Champions League. “I was also surprised with the way it happened on the last day of the transfer window as I did not imagine a player with his quality would be changing team at the last moment, but he did and you have to say well done to Arsenal. “Even before signing Ozil, the strongest part of their side was the midfield with Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla and after adding Ozil there is so much quality. Fortunately Cazorla cannot play against us, but they are still very good in that area.” Wenger found himself under immediate pressure when Arsenal lost to Aston Villa on the opening day of the season, but they have recovered with four wins on the bounce to sit top of the Premier League table, and Laudrup has hailed the character shown by the Gunners. “They lost the first game and experts were saying they would have a tough year, but now they have won games including a difficult Champions League game. It’s a fantastic start,” he said. “It will be difficult for us as their midfield is strong and Olivier Giroud has shown Wenger he wants to repay the faith he has shown in him, and Aaron Ramsey has also had a great start to the season. I’m looking forward to an exciting game, but also a difficult one.” With the Swans facing Arsenal in Saturday’s tea-time kick-off, comparisons have been made between the Spaniard and Ozil, who has quickly established himself as Arsenal’s attacking fulcrum since his high-profile arrival from Real Madrid. Gunners’ boss Arsene Wenger even went as far as to put Michu in the same bracket as Dutch hero Bergkamp, who is fondly remembered by fans of the north London club thanks to his magisterial 11-year stint there, during which he registered more than 300 appearances. Michael Laudrup has seen his star player compared to Dennis Bergkamp and Mesut Ozil among others, but the Swansea boss is happy to simply “let Michu be Michu”. Press Association
Press Association Manuel Pellegrini’s side made it an impressive nine out of nine – with 37 goals scored – to move into second place behind Arsenal as the Reds slipped to fourth after a 2-1 defeat. However, had Raheem Sterling’s effort not been wrongly ruled out for offside before either side had scored – and goalkeeper Simon Mignolet not made a hash of Alvaro Negredo’s winner – Brendan Rodgers’ side could well have got much more out of this game. Kompany’s header wide from a corner gave Liverpool a warning which they later failed to heed as City continued to probe and press. By the time Negredo fired wide Suarez had already aimed a low free-kick straight at Joe Hart as the tide started to turn. Sterling’s diagonal run from the right had already been picked out once by Suarez without success but when the Uruguay international found the youngster again and he did not make the same mistake, going around Hart to score into an empty net. Play was brought back by an offside flag but television replays showed Sterling was at least two yards behind the last defender when he was played through. The same pair combined for the opening goal in the 24th minute when Suarez’s ball over the top was destined for Sterling only for Coutinho to come in from the left and score from a narrow angle. City’s response was instantaneous as Yaya Toure went past three defenders with one turn only to be denied by the outstretched leg of Martin Skrtel. The Slovakia defender has been singled out recently as the weak link at defensive set-pieces and while he was busy trying to grapple with Kompany the City captain had eyes only for David Silva’s corner and glanced a header past Mignolet. With City now holding the upper hand again Liverpool fire them a warning after a brilliant move via Suarez and Sterling saw Coutinho forced Hart into a smart save. But City often catch opponents napping on the counter-attack and so it proved on the stroke of half-time when Mignolet failed to deal with Negredo’s shot with outside of his left foot from Navas’ through ball as the visitors were cut wide open. Negredo tried a similar effort early in the second half but this time the goalkeeper was better positioned. The attacks continued at both ends with Sterling coming the closest with 17 minutes remaining when he diverted Suarez’s inviting cross over from seven yards. Late on Suarez appealed for a penalty with Lescott pulling at his shirt but as Skrtel had spent most of the match doing that to Kompany there was almost an argument for it being the same for both sides. As it was they contributed much to an enthralling match which was billed as a test of their title credentials. That may still be something of a distant dream, considering Rodgers was forced to name 19-year-old reserve team defender Brad Smith in his squad for the first time, but it did plenty to suggest their top-four challenge is alive and well. City, of course, remain favourites for the title and their home form will be a major factor in achieving that but for all their goals what was just as impressive about this performance was the way Kompany and Joleon Lescott kept the Premier League’s top scorer Luis Suarez on a tight leash in terms of chances. Philippe Coutinho’s opener sparked the home side into life and after Kompany had equalised from a corner Negredo’s 14th goal of the season ultimately clinched another three points. No team have scored more at home in the Premier League than City this season while Liverpool were the top flight’s top scorers on the road so the signs were good and the first half did not disappoint as both sides attacked each other freely. City had the better of the first and last 15 minutes with their visitors enjoying the middle third. The home side set out trying to exploit the weakness on Liverpool’s left where Aly Cissokho, the unconvincing on-loan Valencia defender, was making his first appearance since November 9 because of makeshift left-back Jon Flanagan’s hamstring injury. Jesus Navas almost made that pay when his looping header hit the outside of the post after he nipped in front of the Frenchman to meet a left-wing cross. Manchester City retained their imperious 100 per cent home record as they denied Liverpool the chance to regain top spot in the Barclays Premier League in an entertaining encounter at the Etihad Stadium.
Shelvey put the hosts ahead in the 61st minute when his shot from the edge of the box struck Wilfried Bony and Brede Hangeland to beat a helpless Maarten Stekelenburg. Flores’ near-post header, which flicked in off Dimitar Berbatov, sealed the 2-0 win, just the third on home turf this term, and moved Swansea up to 10th in the table. Keiran Richardson’s superb set-piece delivery picked out captain Hangeland near the penalty spot, but the Norwegian headed well over. Alexander Kacaniklic’s surging run created another headed opportunity, but Dejageh failed to test Gerhard Tremmel as his effort was straight at the Swansea keeper. Tremmel then pushed away a deflected Clint Dempsey strike and the tension among the home support was palpable. Swansea rallied, with Shelvey’s fierce drive rattling the crossbar from Hernandez’s lay-off. It sparked a strong start to the second period for the hosts, with Stekelenburg making a superb save to keep Flores’ header out of the far corner from Jonathan de Guzman’s set-piece delivery. De Guzman and Shelvey tried their luck from distance, and it was the latter who broke the deadlock just past the hour mark. Substitute Nathan Dyer set up Shelvey after nice work from Bony and his strike from the edge of the box took a couple of deflections, the second – and most notable – off Hangeland to beat Stekelenburg and nestle in the bottom of the net. Fulham had to come out in search of an equaliser, and De Guzman almost picked them off with a driving run and left-footed shot that Stekelenburg leapt high to his right to keep out. The points were sealed with 15 minutes to go. De Guzman’s free-kick was flicked goalwards by Flores and hit Berbatov on its way win, leaving Fulham with no way back. Press Association Fulham failed to make the most of excellent first-half chances for Hangeland and Ashkan Dejagah as they slipped to a defeat which ensures they remain just a point above the drop zone. Swansea manager Michael Laudrup had warned his team they may have to suffer in order to end their worrying winless run, their worst run of league form since the 2008-09 season, and so it proved. There was plenty of anxiety among the home support during a tight first hour, but the Welsh club have opened up some valuable breathing space ahead of the weekend trip to West Ham. Given both sides poor recent form and precarious position in the table, it was little surprise that the opening exchanges were decidedly cagey. Swansea had plenty of ball but Fulham had little difficulty in sitting deep and soaking up the pressure. It took 12 minutes for there to be a genuine effort on goal, with Bony’s looping header dropping on the roof of the net from Ben Davies’ cross. A couple of minutes Shelvey fired well over after nice interplay between Pablo Hernandez and Angel Rangel had teed him up on the edge of the area. Fulham weathered that flurry and carved out the two best chances of the half. Deflected efforts from Jonjo Shelvey and Chico Flores gave Swansea a first win in nine Barclays Premier League matches to ease their relegation fears against fellow strugglers Fulham.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has conceded defeat in the Barclays Premier League title race following the 1-0 loss at Crystal Palace. Press Association A John Terry own goal earned the Eagles a lifeline in their battle against relegation. Chelsea’s concerns are at the top of the table and they have played more games than rivals Manchester City and Liverpool. A second successive away loss saw Mourinho admit his hopes of a third Premier League title are over with six matches to go. Mourinho said: “We depend too much on other results. When you depend a little it’s possible, when you depend a lot, I don’t think it’s possible. “We depend now too much. I don’t think now we can win the league.” Mourinho absolved his defenders – Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, Terry and Cesar Azpilicueta – of blame for the loss to Palace, but was not shy at pointing fingers at others. Mourinho said: “My four defenders, phenomenal performance, as always. The others I’d prefer not to analyse individually.” Asked what quality is required for his side, Mourinho said: “I cannot say in front of the cameras. I can write it on paper.” Offered a notepad after the media conference, the Portuguese wrote “balls”. He had made his discontent clear. “We missed some qualities,” he said. “Mentality and a little bit of quality. Mentality because the opponents beat us clearly on that. Strong mentality, aggressive, committed. “Every one of them played, I think, at the top of their potential and that, in football, is important. “Clearly we have some players, because of their profile, who find it difficult to perform in some profile of matches. “You have Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill and Azpilicueta and they perform in the sun, in the rain, small pitches, big pitches, aggressive teams, non-aggressive teams, possession teams, not possession teams and they perform every game from day one to the last day. “And you have other players who are fantastic in some matches and disappear in other matches.” For Mourinho, the disappearing acts have happened in four of Chelsea’s five losses this season, all of which have come away from home. The exception was the defeat at Aston Villa when the Blues boss was unhappy with referee Chris Foy’s performance. Mourinho claims he was trying to avoid an incident similar to when Eden Hazard was sent-off for kicking a ball-boy at Swansea last season when he approached one of Palace’s ball-boys in stoppage time. The Chelsea boss suggested the boy had been told to return the ball slowly. Mourinho said: “The kids were doing that all the time, so I went to stop Azpi and I had the chance to get the kid, and the kid was cute. “He came to me and I told him if he does this, ‘one day somebody will punch you’. “But the kids, it’s not their fault. It was not me, for sure (telling the kids to slow it down). I was losing.” Palace boss Tony Pulis danced down the touchline at full-time in celebration of the Eagles’ first league win over Chelsea in nearly 24 years. After fulfilling some of his media commitments, Pulis left his post-match media conference to assistant David Kemp to enjoy a glass of wine. Kemp said: “Our players have put in a magnificent effort today. They’ve been rightly rewarded and for him to recognise their effort I thought was very good. “Jose came and congratulated our players. I thought that was very classy.” Kemp did not dwell on the penalty appeals which went against Palace, but believes the result could have been more convincing, with Cameron Jerome also hitting a post. “The finishing didn’t match some of the rest of the play, but that’s been our problem for a while,” Kemp added. “Fortunately today one was enough and we’re very pleased with it. “If we could stick the ball in the net to back it up it could’ve been a bit more comfortable.” The victory could aid Palace in the closing weeks of the campaign. “It’s big for the club and it’s big for the players,” Kemp said. “When you beat a top team it gives them that little bit more confidence, credibility and belief to go on. It will be very important for this group of players and the club.”
The Blues on Tuesday night announced plans to consult local stakeholders, including community and residents’ groups, about existing conditions in the vicinity of the ground which has been their home since their launch in 1905. In the era of Financial Fair Play – something Chelsea are bidding to comply with – it is in the club’s interest to enhance matchday revenue. Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has commissioned a study to explore the possibility of expanding the club’s Stamford Bridge home and improve access to the stadium on matchdays. Stamford Bridge’s current capacity is 41,837 and the Blues have previously explored the possibility of moving to nearby Battersea power station and Earls Court, options which are no longer there. It was stressed the consultation is the beginning of a “preliminary process”. A Chelsea spokesman said: “The owner has commissioned a study into the area surrounding Stamford Bridge. “As the correspondence that has gone out to local stakeholders makes clear, this consultation is just the start of a preliminary process to collect opinions on the existing conditions in the area.” A message to supporters on the club’s official website announced the study, which could result in “landscaped public walkways and cycleways” over the railway lines near the site to reduce pedestrian traffic on nearby streets on matchdays. The message added: “The study will also assess the feasibility of an expansion of the stadium within the existing historic site boundaries, potentially to enlarge its capacity, enhance its facilities and improve the movement of people and vehicles on match and non-matchdays. “The consultation will not concern itself with any design or details of a redevelopment on the stadium site. Instead it will ask about the surrounding publicly-owned areas and in particular the civic infrastructure necessary to ensure a successful and feasible redevelopment.” Press Association
Vorm moved from the Liberty Stadium to White Hart Lane last month for an undisclosed fee, with Utrecht claiming they have not received 30 per cent of Vorm’s transfer fee, which they allege was part of a sell-on agreement between them and the Swans when he moved to Wales for £1.5million in 2011. A FIFA spokesperson said: “We can confirm that we’ve received a complaint from the club FC Utrecht against the club Swansea City in connection with the transfer of the player Michel Vorm. FIFA has received a complaint from Michel Vorm’s former club FC Utrecht in relation to the Dutch goalkeeper’s transfer to Tottenham from Swansea. Press Association “At this stage we cannot make any further comment.” Swansea last week issued a statement to say the transfer was “conducted and concluded correctly under Premier League rules”. A Swansea spokesman said: “It was approved by the Premier League and also FIFA via their TMS (Transfer Matching) system. “While we have been in contact with Utrecht as a matter of courtesy, we will continue to conduct our business in the best interest of our football club and our supporters, and not based on the views of other clubs.”
West Ham assistant boss Neil McDonald has turned down the chance to become Carlisle manager. “Obviously there has been a lot of speculation in the local press about Neil McDonald, and I think it’s only fair to say that he has formally withdrawn his name from the process and we respect that decision totally,” Carlisle managing director John Nixon told the club website. “That has made a difference to the shortlist because he was a strong candidate, as far as we were concerned. “He’s given it a great deal of thought over the last five to 10 days and he has spoken to us about the situation today. “He has told us that he has discussed it with his family, having thought about it long and hard, and he has decided that it isn’t the right career move for him to make at this point in time.” Former Millwall boss Steve Lomas has also been linked with the role at Brunton Park. Sam Allardyce’s number two was in the frame to replace the sacked Graham Kavanagh at the club where he previously had a spell in charge eight years ago. But McDonald has decided to stay at Upton Park leaving the Cumbrians, currently bottom of League Two, looking elsewhere for a new boss. Press Association
Holland’s Joost Luiten put himself in pole position to make up for the disappointment of missing out on the Ryder Cup in the ISPS Handa Wales Open on Saturday. Luiten, who was considered for a wild card by European captain Paul McGinley, carded a third round of 65 at Celtic Manor to turn a one-shot deficit into a two-shot lead over Ireland’s Shane Lowry. Both players got off to a flying start on a day of low scoring, Luiten making birdies at the first, third and fifth and playing partner Lowry responding on the second, third and sixth. Press Association “Joost is playing lovely but I felt like I played lovely myself. Just warm up the putter tonight and see what happens tomorrow.” France’s Gregory Havret carded a 66 to lie three shots off the lead on 11 under alongside former champion Thongchai Jaidee, who shot 67. Havret, who finished runner-up to Graeme McDowell in the 2010 US Open but has not won on the European Tour since 2008, said: ” I played good. Unfortunately the last three holes were not as good as the first 15, but it was definitely a good round. “Anything red (under par) in this beautiful course is always good, and that’s three in a row and hopefully another one tomorrow.” Of the three Ryder Cup players left in the field, Welshman Jamie Donaldson was best placed on eight under after a 68, with Lee Westwood three under after a 68 which featured a birdie-eagle finish. In contrast, Thomas Bjorn fired a level-par 71 made up of 18 straight pars to remain two under. But while Lowry could then only manage a string of 12 consecutive pars, Luiten birdied three of the last four holes to continue his superb recent form. The 28-year-old was fourth in the Italian Open, the last qualifying event for the Ryder Cup, and after being overlooked for a wild card two days later, finished fifth in the defence of his KLM Open title on home soil last week. “I f you had these last couple of events counting for Ryder Cup qualification maybe I have a chance, but you know when the date ends and the qualification stops and you have to play well before that and I didn’t do that,” Luiten said. “You have to be realistic. “I’m just happy that I’m playing good again and just want to keep going again. “I’m happy with a good score today. I played solid, consistent, hit a lot of greens and holed some nice putts to start with. I didn’t really make a lot in the middle part, but came back strong at the end with three birdies on the last four, and I’m happy. “You’re in the last group, the greens are not as good as in the morning maybe and you just have to be patient out on the greens. They are quite soft and you have to create chances every hole and they will go in eventually and luckily it did for me at the end.” Lowry, who won the Irish Open as an amateur in 2009 and the Portugal Masters in 2012, said after his 68: ” I got off to a flyer and just nothing really happened for me. I did make three good par saves, but I would have liked to make a couple more birdies and probably should have. “I’m right where I want to be for tomorrow and I’m looking forward to it. I’ m still there. If you had given me this Thursday morning before I stood on the first tee, I would have taken your hand off. I’m where I want to be and I feel like I have a chance tomorrow.
“They’re still talking, but there are no problems. The lawyers are finalising the contract. The paperwork is taking longer than expected,” Millen said. “Alan has held a staff meeting when he spoke about a number of things. He spoke to the players and then we had training. “We’re preparing for the game on Sunday and I’m sure Alan will be taking the game. He’ll be taking training on Saturday. We’re hopeful the deal will be done for Sunday.” Pardew will select the side to face Vanarama Conference side Dover and Millen insists his return to the club has captured the players’ imagination. “We’ve spoken about the team for Sunday’s game. He’s gone through the squad. He’s learning about the players, but he’s pleased with what he’s seen. He’ll pick the team,” Millen said. “Alan is excited because it’s Crystal Palace and the club means a lot to him, but it’s also exciting because of the group of players he’s inheriting. “There’s a buzz about the place. It’s exciting times and from the conversations I’ve had with him we’ll be looking to change a few things. “He knows what we’re about and is excited because he feels he can bring another dimension to our play, certainly from an attacking point of view. We all know we need to score more goals.” Pardew was expected to be unveiled as Neil Warnock’s successor on Friday – but the details of the contract that will prise him away from Newcastle are still being finalised. The former Eagles midfielder spoke to staff on a visit to the training ground on Friday morning and caretaker-manager Keith Millen insists official confirmation of his appointment is imminent. Pardew has also held talks over potential targets in the transfer window. “We’ve shared our thoughts with Alan. He has to assess the squad really quickly to see what we need. We’ve had a chat and he’s spoken to the chairman,” Millen said. “He’s seen the squad for the last few games, so he has a good idea of what we need, and he’s in agreement with what we thought. “There’s a list of targets, but I don’t know how far down the road we are. There are a few positions we’re looking, but it’s not a massive overhaul. “It’s more two or three players to enhance what we already have. The quicker we get players through the door the better.” Crystal Palace are confident Alan Pardew will be at the helm for Sunday’s FA Cup tie at Dover despite a delay in his appointment as manager. Press Association
Only Philippe Senderos (calf) and Libor Kozak (broken leg) are unavailable for the hosts. Sherwood twice missed out on the West Brom job and was linked with QPR before they appointed Chris Ramsey – Sherwood’s own assistant at Tottenham– as manager until the end of the season. Lambert was sacked after two-and-a-half years in the role, having only signed a new four-year contract in September. Villa have won just twice in their last 21 league games and are winless in 10 matches. Chairman Randy Lerner acted after Tuesday’s 2-0 defeat to Hull, which dropped Villa into the bottom three in the Barclays Premier League. Sherwood said: “It is a great honour to manage one of the biggest clubs in English football. “I can’t wait to get started and I’m really looking forward to the challenge.” Lerner also told the club’s official site: “While being forever conscious of the frustrations that we all suffer, we feel that a change that offers a positive, fresh approach will be very good for the club. “I know that Tom (Fox, chief executive) and many others at Villa worked very hard to recruit Tim in the face of severely limited time constraints and pounding pressure. “More importantly, I know further that internally we remain focused and committed to challenges we face, and I am deeply appreciative for that.” Press Association Former Tottenham chief Sherwood has been appointed as Paul Lambert’s successor after Villa acted quickly to replace the sacked Scot. Marshall will take the team for Sunday’s FA Cup visit of the Foxes, with Sherwood watching from the stands after signing a deal until 2018. Caretaker manager Scott Marshall insists Aston Villa will not hold back against Leicester – as incoming boss Tim Sherwood watches on. He has been charged with keeping Villa in the Barclays Premier League after they dropped into the bottom three on Tuesday. The FA Cup remains a secondary priority for the club but Marshall insists they are ready for a battle after two previous games with Leicester this season saw three red cards. Paul Konchesky was dismissed in the first game, only for the red card to be overturned, while Matty James and Ciaran Clark walked in Leicester’s 1-0 win at the King Power Stadium last month. James’ tackle on Jores Okore sparked a late scuffle between the sides in January and Marshall wants Villa to impose themselves. He said: “There’s a lot at stake – a quarter-final place – it’ll be competitive and you don’t want to take your foot out of anything. “It’s a Midlands derby, the clubs aren’t far apart and it’ll be a competitive game. “I don’t think there was much in the last one, certainly there was a bit of a gathering of the two teams but other than that there wasn’t much.” Christian Benteke could return after being on the bench for the last two games of Lambert’s reign while Ron Vlaar is fully fit after a knee problem.