Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 25th 2014 Contents A57
Thursday, December 25, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
MANCHESTER---While Europe s other big
leagues take a breather over the festive period,
clubs in the English Premier League begin a tra-
ditionally frenzied spell of fixtures that excites
fans, exhausts players, tests managers, and
potentially defines campaigns.
A run of four games in nine or ten days kicks
off tomorrow with a full program, with Chelsea
looking to tame one of the surprise teams of the
season to stay in first place and keep title rival
Manchester City at arm s length.
West Ham arrives at Stamford Bridge in fourth
place and as London s No 2 team this season, a
side reborn under Sam Allardyce following sum-
mer orders from the hierarchy to play a more
attractive brand of football.
West Ham is certainly doing that---and impres-
sive wins over City and Liverpool so far suggest
a trip to Chelsea will hold no fear.
"Playing against Big Sam (Allardyce) is a hard
job for us, we have to cope with it," said Chelsea
manager Jose Mourinho, who thinks his team has
the hardest festive fixtures of all of the top teams
with games at Southampton and Tottenham to
By beating Stoke on Monday, Chelsea restored
a three-point lead over City and ensured it would
be top on Christmas Day---a noteworthy milestone
that has special significance for the Blues. The
last three times Chelsea has led the league on
December 25, it has gone on to win the title.
"What we did in the past is not important,"
Mourinho said. "What s important is this season,
and this season we are top of the league since
day one because we are playing really well.
"In my opinion we are the best team."
Here are some other things to look out for in
the 18th round:
Exciting West Ham
When West Ham last travelled to Chelsea, in
January 2014, the visitors held on for 0-0 despite
conceding 39 shots on their goal, and were accused
by Mourinho of playing "football from the 19th
century" because of their defensive tactics.
That is unlikely to be the case this time round,
with Allardyce recently speaking of his "fantastic
options" up front with strikers Andy Carroll,
Diafro Sakho, and Enner Valencia, and attacking
midfielder Stewart Downing looking sharp.
"We re playing great football, and any team
that we play against is going to be worried about
us," said Carroll, who has rediscovered his best
form after injury. "We ve got more than one
attacking option ---we play it on the floor, play
it in the air, down the sides."
West Ham hasn t been in a higher position in
the top flight of English football at Christmas
Day since 1985.
No strikers for City
Man City manager Manuel Pellegrini is facing
the unenviable task of negotiating the festive
period without any strikers.
Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic
will again be missing when City plays away at
West Bromwich Albion.
City coped on Saturday against Crystal Palace,
playing midfielder James Milner up front and
Pellegrini said Dzeko and Aguero are unlikely
to return until "the second part of January" but
Jovetic will be sooner.
City has won its last six league games in the
defense of its title.
Van Gaal's Treat
Louis van Gaal is breaking with tradition at
Manchester United and giving his squad Christmas
Players used to train on Christmas Day under
long-time coach Alex Ferguson, and did so in
David Moyes short tenure last season, too. Van
Gaal is dealing with English football s unique
festive fixture schedule for the first time, and
sees things differently.
"I believe in a total human being, so the envi-
ronment is also important," the Dutchman said
ahead of United s home match against Newcastle.
"They are more pleased to be at home with their
wives and children."
Since the Premier League s inception in 1992,
only two teams have stayed up when bottom of
the standings at Christmas. The omens, therefore,
are not looking good for Leicester.
Leicester is winless in 12 games, five points
from safety, and its manager Nigel Pearson is one
of the favorites to become the first Premier League
coach to be fired this season.
Leicester is at home to Tottenham on Friday.
denied increase in
GLASGOW---The Scottish Foot-
ball Association has rejected an at-
tempt by the owner of English
Premier League team Newcastle
to significantly increase his stake
in financially stricken Rangers.
Mike Ashley owns nearly nine
per cent of Rangers' shares, and
wanted to take his shareholding to
29.9 per cent.
The SFA says in a statement re-
leased on Wednesday that it has
been "unanimously" decided that
Ashley's application should not be
granted, in order to "safeguard the
interests and public profile of asso-
ciation football, its players, specta-
tors, and others involved with the
Ashley, who recently handed the
club a loan of three million pounds
($4.7 million), faces a hearing on
January 27 which will determine
whether his dual interests in
Rangers and Newcastle breaches
clubs push for
League clubs will ask their players
to accept pay cuts in response to a
sharp fall in the value of the ruble.
All 16 top-flight clubs agreed to
ask players to accept revised deals
pegged to a fixed exchange rate
that is significantly lower than the
current rate, according to docu-
ments released by the league.
That would effectively mean pay
cuts of more than 20 per cent for
most of the league's senior players.
The ruble has lost almost half of
its value against the dollar and
euro this year.
Russian football stars often
have contracts that are denomi-
nated in euros or dollars but paid in
rubles under a floating exchange
rate, meaning their wages have
risen sharply in absolute terms as
the ruble declines.
Winger Eljero Elia
BREMEN---Dutch winger Eljero
Elia is joining Southampton from
struggling Bundesliga club Werder
Bremen says Elia is going on
loan until the end of the season to
the Premier League club, which will
then have an option to buy him.
The 27-year-old Elia joined Bre-
men from Juventus in 2012.
Bremen general manager
Thomas Eichin says Elia "had highs
and lows at Werder and is now
seeking a new challenge."
Bremen, which is 16th in the 18-
team Bundesliga, also is sending
striker Nils Petersen on loan to do-
mestic rival Freiburg.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is full
of admiration for footballers in England
because of their commitment over the fes-
Mourinho s side embarked on the first of
five games in less than two weeks when
they beat Stoke 2-0 on Monday at the Bri-
And while many of the top European
leagues are on a winter break, Mourinho is
relishing the challenge, although he concedes
he is facing a testing period.
"It s very difficult," said Mourinho, ahead
of tomorrow s match with West Ham.
"I have lots of respect for the players in
this country. It doesn t matter---English or
not English. The moment you are a football
player in this country, I respect you a lot.
"At this moment the German guys are on
the beach, the Spanish guys are in the Mal-
dives getting sun---everybody else is doing
"But in this country you play on the 22nd,
you play on Boxing Day, you play on the
28th, you play on New Year s Day. There is
no Christmas---just football, and I think (the
players) deserve respect."
Manchester United cap-
tain Wayne Rooney has wel-
comed manager Louis van
Gaal s decision to give his
players Christmas Day off.
Unlike his predecessors
David Moyes and Sir Alex
Ferguson, Van Gaal has
instructed his players to stay
at home today, even though
they have a match at home
to Newcastle 24 hours later.
Christmas Day training
has been cancelled and the
players will report for duty
the following morning at the
AON Training Complex in
Playing on Boxing Day will
be a new experience for Van
Gaal and five of the six play-
ers he signed in the summer.
Rooney feels they will
benefit from being able to
spend time with their fam-
ilies, rather than spend the
day on the training pitch.
"We re not training on
Christmas Day this year
because we ll be spending it
at home, which will be good
for the foreign players and
those of us with children,"
said Rooney, who has two
"It must be strange for the
new players to have more
games than ever over Christ-
mas, having had the time off
"They have to adapt and
be ready for it, while being
aware of the fixture list. I m
sure they ll be prepared for
the upcoming games."
The omens look good for
United ahead of the match.
They have only lost once
on Boxing Day---against
Middlesbrough in 2002---
since the Premier League
Rooney, however, has
bagged just two goals in eight
Boxing Day appearances for
the Red Devils.
The 29-year-old is
expected to play in midfield
against the Magpies, with
Radamel Falcao poised to
continue up front alongside
Robin van Persie.
Falcao ended a two-month
goal drought with a well-
taken header at Aston Villa
last weekend and Rooney
hopes the Colombian will
now start scoring on a reg-
"It was great for Falcao to
get on the scoresheet, and it
was a great header," the Eng-
land skipper told MUTV.
"I m pleased for him and
I hope he continues that into
the next few games."
The 1-1 draw at Villa Park
ended a run of six consec-
utive wins for Van Gaal s
team, who are now third in
the Barclays Premier League.
Newcastle, on the other
hand, have struggled for
consistency this year.
No rest in England as
hectic festive period looms
Rooney enjoys Christmas cheer Mourinho admires
Chelsea's Cesc Fabregas celebrates after scoring
against Stoke during the English Premier League
soccer match between Stoke City and Chelsea at
the Britannia Stadium, in Stoke on Trent,
England, Monday. AP PHOTO
Links Archive December 24th 2014 December 26th 2014 Navigation Previous Page Next Page