Footy Journal
Premier League: Gerrard has groin surgery

Liverpool have confirmed Steven Gerrard has undergone groin surgery and will be out of action for a month.

Gerrard was forced to miss Thursday’s Europa League defeat to Braga after suffering a recurrence of the problem in last weekend’s win over Manchester United.

The Reds captain has been carrying the injury for a while and the club have decided to send him under the knife to correct the problem.

The surgery has been declared a success and the club say the midfielder will be sidelined for four weeks.

A club statement read: “LFC can today confirm that Steven Gerrard has undergone successful surgery on his groin and will be out for up to four weeks.

"The decision was made following consultation with a specialist."

It means Gerrard will miss next week’s return meeting with Braga at Anfield as well as the Premier League clash at Sunderland next Sunday.

Gerrard will also be unavailable for England’s Euro 2012 qualifier with Wales and the friendly with Ghana later this month.

The news is a major blow for Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish as he looks to end the season on a high, while his absence for England leaves Fabio Capello with a major selection headache as to who to play in midfield against Wales.

Premier League: FA Cup Preview

The FA Cup has reached the quarter-final stage and Manchester United’s clash with Arsenal takes centre stage.

Manchester United beat Arsenal 4-0 the last time the teams met in FA Cup action at Old Trafford in February 2008 and they will be the pre-match favourites to advance to the semi-finals.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s troops have enjoyed the week off while the Gunners arrive in Manchester bruised and battered following their UEFA Champions League exit to Barcelona.

However, Arsenal have enjoyed FA Cup success at Old Trafford before and Arsene Wenger’s men will be keen to ensure they maintain their hopes of ending the campaign with a league and cup double.

Saturday’s other game sees injury-hit Birmingham entertain Bolton at St Andrews with manager Alex McLeish hoping at least eight wounded players are fit enough to feature.

Blues brushed aside League One outfit Sheffield Wednesday to advance to the quarter-finals, while Bolton edged out Fulham in their fifth round encounter at Craven Cottage.

Although Bolton’s Premier League form has dipped since the turn of the year they remain determined to win the cup and Birmingham will not have it all their own way in the Midlands.

Ambitious

The blue half of Manchester play on Sunday with ambitious Manchester City hosting surprise package Reading at Eastlands.

City go into the game on the back of a disappointing Europa League defeat to Dynamo Kiev and nothing less than success this weekend will do.

Reading are not to be underestimated having knocked out both West Brom and Everton already en route to the quarter-finals.

The weekend’s final clash sees hard-to-beat Stoke City host resurgent West Ham at The Britannia.

Stoke are notoriously difficult on home soil, although the visitors take on Tony Pulis’ troops full of confidence following rare back-to-back league triumphs, including a 3-0 victory over the Potters last time out.

The Hammers have been excellent in cup competitions this term having reached the Carling Cup semi-finals and will have no plans to bow out to the Potters.

We’ve done well there,’ said Ferguson. ‘He has that mentality of the proper, really authentic defender. Watch Vidic in training, and he’ll batter Louis Saha and then pick him up, as if to say, “This is my job, this is what I do.” I’ll be yelling from the touchline, “Watch the tackling, watch the tackling,” and Vidic will shout, “Sorry boss, sorry boss.” But he’s not sorry at all, he just loves defending.

Alex Ferguson on Nemanja Vidic

Premier League: Wenger praises Wilshere and van Persie

Arsene Wenger singled out Robin van Persie and Jack Wilshere for praise after Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Wolves.

The Gunners kept up the pressure on leaders Manchester United thanks to a goal in each half from Van Persie at the Emirates Stadium, writes Stewart Coggin.

The Dutchman volleyed in a Cesc Fabregas cross after 16 minutes and doubled the advantage after a swift counterattack, with a low finish from a Theo Walcott cross.

  “He scored two different goals,” said Wenger. “I personally like the two. One he scored with his right foot and the other on a one touch counterattack where we know we can be very dangerous.”

After an impressive 45 minutes for England against Denmark last week, Wilshere produced another performance that belied his years. The 19-year-old delivered some exquisite passes into the penalty area and contributed to a performance that should have resulted in more goals.

very good

"I think he had a very good game," continued Wenger. "He defends well, attacks well and creates chances and assists.

"At the moment I believe he will soon score because he comes close and has a hesitation to finish himself and chooses at the moment always to keep the ball but when he has more confidence he will score goals."

It was a comfortable afternoon for Arsenal who created a number of chances, with the likes of Andrei Arshavin and Walcott lively on the wings. The manner of the display was a boost to Wenger after watching his side lose a four-goal lead at Newcastle United last weekend.

"We confirmed with the number of chances we created the quality of our game and we were defensively solid which was important after the four goals we conceded," he added.

"The only regret we have is that maybe we didn’t score enough goals. The goalkeepers are very inspired here at the Emirates and their keeper (Wayne Hennessey) had an outstanding game."

slapped us

Wenger also confirmed that Samir Nasri has a chance of being fit for Wednesday’s Champions League second round first-leg match with Barcelona at the Emirates. The Frenchman sustained a hamstring injury in the FA Cup against Huddersfield Town two weeks ago but has returned to training.

Wolves manager Mick McCarthy accepted that his side were second best and deserved what they got.

"There was a murder going on out there and we were the recipient of it unfortunately," he said.

"We have tried everything but they were better than us from one to 11. Better all over. They have slapped us. We have tried everything, whether it be personnel, shape, formations, we have tried everything. I don’t have one complaint at all.

"I’m disappointed that we’ve lost but did I look at the fixtures against Manchester United and Arsenal and think that’s back to back victories for Wolves who are second bottom of the league and bottom after these results? No, I said we’d go and give it our best against them both but we have West Brom next week and that is a bigger game for our club. I have to admire that performance by Arsenal and aspire to it."

Premier League: Manchester is painted Red as United win the derby

Wayne Rooney scored a sensational goal to seal a 2-1 victory over Manchester City and keep Manchester United on track for another Premier League title.

Questions had been raised about whether the Red Devils might struggle to bounce back from their first Premier League defeat of the season at the hands of Wolves last weekend.

However, Rooney ensured that United extended their advantage over City to eight points, having played a game less, with a sublime strike 12 minutes from time.

The striker has struggled all season but showed in one magical moment that he remains a world-class performer, as he took to the air to blast an unstoppable overhead volley past Joe Hart.

United had earlier been pegged back to 1-1 by David Silva’s fortunate finish after Nani had opened the scoring in the 41st minute.

Positive mindset

Fears that the 144th league derby could follow a similar pattern to the 143rd, a dire goalless draw at Eastlands in November, were not helped when the team news broke before kick-off and both managers had selected 4-5-1 formations, with big-money strikers Dimitar Berbatov and Edin Dzeko left on the bench.

However, both sides also had key defensive players missing as holding midfielder Nigel de Jong was ruled out for City with an ankle injury and Rio Ferdinand’s absence in the heart of United’s back four presented Chris Smalling with an opportunity to start alongside Nemanja Vidic.

Poor defending was not to blame for the first chance of the match, though, as a wonderfully slick passing exchange involving Yaya Toure, Carlos Tevez and Silva culminated in the Spaniard making a clever run into the box to find himself one-on-one with Edwin van der Sar, only to poke narrowly wide.

Only four minutes had passed but it was already clear that City had arrived at Old Trafford with a more positive mindset than United might have expected, always looking to get forward quickly but retaining possession impressively for long spells when this was not possible.

Not that it was all one-way traffic in the early stages, as Ryan Giggs and Nani buzzed with vibrancy and Rooney displayed all his customary enthusiasm in a bid to prove that Sir Alex Ferguson was right to start with him over Berbatov.

Nani twice tried his luck with rasping drives from outside the area that flew over the crossbar, while he also delivered an inviting cross from the right after effortlessly gliding past Pablo Zabaleta that just evaded his team-mates.

Hart was worked for the first time when Giggs swung over a left-wing cross that Darren Fletcher headed straight at him, before making another routine save from Nani’s deflected long-range effort.

At the other end it was turning out to be a frustratingly quiet first half for former United star Tevez, whose every mistake was greeted by cheers from the Old Trafford faithful, but the movement of Silva was causing plenty of problems.

Having released Toure for a potentially dangerous cross-cum-shot that was blocked by Vidic, Silva later saw an appeal for a penalty turned down when his powerful strike crashed into the midriff of Patrice Evra and referee Andre Marriner correctly ruled that it was not handball.

Moments later the deadlock had been broken with a goal of simple efficiency, as Rooney flicked on a long ball and Giggs’ first-time pass was expertly controlled by Nani, who slotted his finish past Hart to put United in front.

Confidence coursed through United for the remaining four minutes of the first half but City survived until the interval without suffering any further damage, with Marriner waving away shouts for a spot-kick after Anderson went down under a challenge from Gareth Barry.

Wicked deflection

An uneventful start to the second half prompted Roberto Mancini to make his first change after 53 minutes, bringing on Shaun Wright-Phillips for Aleksandar Kolarov, who had been ineffectual on the left wing.

United withstood an aerial bombardment as City failed to make the most of a series of corners, before Silva shot straight at Van der Sar after skilfully creating space for himself on the edge of the box.

Vincent Kompany denied Rooney a shooting chance with a perfectly timed tackle but undid his good work by giving the ball away to Nani, although the Portuguese winger could only drag his effort wide.

James Milner appeared to pick up a knock on the hour mark and was withdrawn to make room for Dzeko, who was to play a vital role in City’s equaliser just minutes later.

Wright-Phillips sent in a low cross from the right on 65 minutes and Dzeko connected forcefully with a shot that slammed against Silva’s back and took a wicked deflection to deceive Van der Sar and bring City level.

United responded by introducing leading scorer Berbatov and the game began to fluctuate from end to end in thrilling fashion as both sides went in search of a winner.

It was Rooney who made the decisive contribution, though, with a magnificent goal after 78 minutes.

The England striker’s touch had not looked particularly sure all afternoon but he demonstrated the perfect technique to leap high and swivel to meet Nani’s cross, before instinctively hooking an irresistible overhead finish past a stunned Hart.

City battled hard to try and get back into the match in the closing stages but United held firm to secure a crucial three points which takes them one step closer to the league title.

Mancini’s men, meanwhile, must now be resigned to missing out on top spot after once again coming off second best to their local rivals.

I have to play strongly. In England, only 100 per cent is good enough.

Nemanja Vidic- Manchester United

Premier League: Arsenal news

By Richard Clarke
 
Johan Djourou has been passed fit and will be available against Wolves on Saturday.
 
When the Swiss centre back hobbled off with a knee injury at Newcastle last weekend, Arsène Wenger initially feared the worst. But Djourou underwent a fitness test on Friday morning and came through OK.
 
Alex Song (thigh) was similarly examined and is expected to be fit as well. Abou Diaby is both injured and suspended while Tomas Rosicky misses out after collecting a groin injury on international duty. Denilson (hamstring) is back, Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas have recovered from sickness.
 
“Yes, Djourou is fit,” said Wenger at Friday’s press conference.
 
"Diaby has a problem but anyway he is suspended. Denilson is available. Rosicky has a groin problem coming back from the Czech Republic so he is not involved but Denilson is coming back. The rest of the squad will be the same as Newcastle. Cesc and Van Persie will both be playing.”
 
Djourou’s injury was particularly significant as Thomas Vermaelen, his fellow centre back, is still out. Wenger reported the Belgian is progressing well but a return is not imminent.

“He is doing better and he is in the normal process of rehabilitation,” said the manager. “When he will be fit again, I don’t know. It is very difficult to set any time on it. Something like three weeks.”

Anders Lindegaard

Anders Lindegaard

Nicklas Bendtner and (former) partner Caroline Flemming for Elle Magazine

Nicklas Bendtner and (former) partner Caroline Flemming for Elle Magazine