Tag Archives: easter

Watford 0 Cardiff 0 – match report

Watford 0 Cardiff 0: Zola's men lose ground on Hull after goalless draw against leaders

PUBLISHED:

18:37 GMT, 6 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

18:45 GMT, 6 April 2013

Watford lost ground in the race for automatic promotion as they were held to a goalless draw by npower Championship leaders Cardiff at Vicarage Road.

Following their 1-0 win over second placed Hull on Tuesday, Gianfranco Zola's side failed to keep pace with their rivals following a frustrating evening.

The point for City leaves them requiring a maximum of seven points from their remaining six games as they take a step closer to the Barclays Premier League.

Promotion chasers: Watford and Cardiff played out a 0-0 draw in a top-of-the-table clash at Vicarage Road

Promotion chasers: Watford and Cardiff played out a 0-0 draw in a top-of-the-table clash at Vicarage Road

MATCH FACTS

Watford: Almunia, Doyley, Cassetti, Ekstrand, Abdi, Battocchio (Hogg 51), Chalobah, Briggs, Anya, Deeney, Vydra (Forestieri 60).

Subs Not Used: Bond, Yeates, Pudil, Thompson, Geijo.

Booked: Cassetti.

Cardiff: Marshall, Connolly (McNaughton 10), Turner, Barnett, Taylor, Kim, Gunnarsson, Mutch, Conway (Smith 69), Mason (Gestede 56), Bellamy.

Subs Not Used: Lewis, Whittingham, Cowie, Helguson.

Booked: Gunnarsson, Mutch.

Att: 15,550

Ref: Mark Halsey (Lancashire).

The latest Championship table, results and fixtures

Zola made two changes to the side
that edged past promotion rivals Hull on Tuesday. Former Arsenal
goalkeeper Manuel Almunia returned between the posts while stalwart
defender Lloyd Doyley was also recalled.

The Bluebirds made just one change
following their 3-0 win against lowly Blackburn over the Easter weekend.
Striker Joe Mason came in to replace the injured Fraizer Campbell.

Malky Mackay's preparations suffered a
huge blow 10 minutes into the game though when Kevin McNaughton was
forced to replace Matthew Connolly at the back.

However, they started the brighter of
the two sides and Bo-kyung Kim soon forced Almunia into a fine save as
he blocked a low effort with his feet.

Craig Conway then fired just wide from the edge with the hosts struggling for a response as they waited for a chance to counter.

Cardiff came closer still as Ben Turner headed over the top before Zola's gameplan began to pay dividends.

On the up Cardiff are five points clear of Hull with a game in hand while Watford sit third in the table

On the up Cardiff are five points clear of Hull with a game in hand while Watford sit third in the table

TOP SIX – AS IT STANDS

TABLE

Click HERE for the full Championship table

Top-scorer Matej Vydra nodded down
for strike partner Troy Deeney but he inexplicably blazed his strike
over the bar from no more than 10 yards.

The Hornets penned their opponents
deep in their own half and with the game bubbling nicely things
threatened to boil over on the touchline.

Zola's assistant, Giancarlo
Corradini, had to be pulled away by the little Italian after clashing
with Mackay as they argued over Aron Gunnarsson's challenge on Cristian
Battocchio.

Referee Mark Halsey kept his cards in
his pocket and Cardiff managed to keep the ball out of their net as
they survived a late onslaught before the break.

The visitors responded positively
after the restart and Almunia did well to save Joel Ekstrand's blushes
pushing away Joe Mason's strike after he seized on an error by the
defender.

Contest: Cardiff captain Craig Bellamy comes under pressure from Watford's Matthew Briggs

Contest: Cardiff captain Craig Bellamy comes under pressure from Watford's Matthew Briggs

As the game began to open up David
Marshall was forced into action at the opposite end making a terrific
fingertip save to keep out Deeney's header.

Conway fired a volley narrowly wide
before Hornets substitute Fernando Forestieri lashed one inches over the
crossbar as the game continued at a frantic pace.

The former Udinese man then
squandered another promising opportunity as he dragged another effort
wide from the edge after a clever flick by Nathaniel Chalobah.

On the touchline: Watford manager Gianfranco Zola and Cardiff boss Malky Mackay

On the touchline: Watford manager Gianfranco Zola and Cardiff boss Malky Mackay

Cardiff were forced to try and
utilise Gunnarsson's long throw in the closing stages and it very nearly
paid off when Kim's close-range effort was deflected wide of the post.

Mackay's former charges looked as
though they might have the last word when Deeney found a way through but
he was crowded out before he could get a shot away.

Forestieri also saw his shot bravely
blocked over the top during a frantic final few minutes but in the end
both sides were forced to settle for a hard-fought point.

NextGen Series: Arsenal and Chelsea on course to meet in semi-finals, while Aston Villa play Sporting Lisbon

Arsenal and Chelsea on collision course in NextGen semi-finals as Villa face Sporting

By
Adam Shergold

PUBLISHED:

16:06 GMT, 21 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

16:06 GMT, 21 March 2013

Arsenal and Chelsea are on a collision course in the semi-finals of the NextGen Series.

If the young Gunners side can beat CSKA Moscow at the Emirates Stadium on Monday night, they will face their London rivals in the last four.

Aston Villa, who beat Olympiakos 1-0 last night to progress, will play Sporting Lisbon, who beat Tottenham 5-3, in the other semi-final.

London Derby: Chelsea, who beat Juventus 4-1 in the quarter-finals, could face Arsenal in the last four of the NextGen Series

London Derby: Chelsea, who beat Juventus 4-1 in the quarter-finals, could face Arsenal in the last four of the NextGen Series

NextGen Series

QUARTER-FINAL RESULTS

(click for match report)

Chelsea 4 Juventus 1
Aston Villa 1 Olympiakos 0
Tottenham Hotspur 3 Sporting Lisbon 5 (aet)

REMAINING QUARTER-FINAL
Arsenal v CSKA Moscow – Monday March 25, 7pm (Emirates Stadium)

SEMI-FINAL DRAW
Chelsea v Arsenal/CSKA Moscow – Friday March 29, 3pm local time

Aston Villa v Sporting Lisbon – Friday March 29, 8pm local time

Both at Stadio G. Sinigaglia, Como, Italy

Both semis, as well as the final and third place play-off, will be played at Como FC in Italy over the Easter weekend.

Chelsea booked their place in the last four with a 4-1 win over Juventus last Sunday, thanks to goals from Lewis Baker, Alex Kiwomya and Islam Feruz.

Villa got through last night thanks to a first half strike from Graham Burke.

Sporting beat Spurs in a rollercoaster
match played at Leyton Orient – trailing 3-1 with minutes to spare,
they forced extra time thanks to a Laste Dombaxe penalty and Roman
Michael-Percil's last gasp equaliser.

However,
the Portuguese side proved stronger in extra time, with further strikes
from Alexandre Guedes and a 45-yard volley by defender Atud Fokobo
ending hopes of an all-English final four.

Arsenal will hope to join Chelsea and Villa when they host CSKA on Monday evening.

Winner: Graham Burke (centre) scored the winner as Aston Villa beat Olympiakos 1-0

Winner: Graham Burke (centre) scored the winner as Aston Villa beat Olympiakos 1-0

Dramatic game: Sporting's Ruben Semedo celebrates the penalty that restored his team's lead in extra time against Tottenham

Dramatic game: Sporting's Ruben Semedo celebrates the penalty that restored his team's lead in extra time against Tottenham

Chelsea v Manchester United FA Cup replay on Easter Monday, April 1

April duel day: Chelsea and United will replay FA Cup tie on Easter Monday (and both teams will play twice in 48 HOURS)

By
Ian Ladyman

PUBLISHED:

14:58 GMT, 13 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

16:33 GMT, 13 March 2013

Manchester United and Chelsea will replay their FA Cup tie at 12.30pm on Easter Monday, April 1 at Stamford Bridge.

It means Chelsea's Barclays Premier League game against Southampton, scheduled for Easter Sunday, has been moved forward a day to Saturday March 30, kick-off 3pm.

This means Chelsea and United will play two games within the space of 48 hours as the Premier League leaders are playing at Sunderland at 12.45pm on the Saturday.

To be announced: Eden Hazard (left) celebrates on his way to earning Chelsea the replay causing the chaos

To be announced: Eden Hazard (left) celebrates on his way to earning Chelsea the replay causing the chaos

RE-ARRANGED DATES

Southampton v Chelsea, Saturday March 30, 3pm

West Ham v Manchester United, Wednesday April 17, 7.45pm

The replay date will play havoc with TV schedules because Chelsea's game at Southampton was meant to be live.

A statement from the FA said: 'Following consultation with all relevant stakeholders, The FA can confirm that The FA Cup with Budweiser Sixth Round Proper Replay between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge will take place on Easter Monday 1 April, live on ITV. Kick-off is at 12.30pm.'

The winners will face Manchester City in the semi-finals.

Easter weekend was always the most likely time for the replay to be take place.

The two-week international break
starting next Monday meant there were not many opportunities to fit the game
in before the Wembley semi-final weekend on April 13 and 14.

UEFA rules that forbid domestic games
taking place on the same night as Champions League or Europa League
games are only served to complicate the matter.

The decision means Chelsea's Barclays
Premier League fixture with Southampton, which had been due to take
place on Easter Sunday, will now take place a day earlier and with a 3pm
kick-off.

Close-run: United's Wayne Rooney (left) and Chelsea midfielder Ramires do battle the first time around

Close-run: United's Wayne Rooney (left) and Chelsea midfielder Ramires do battle the first time around

Chelsea's fixture pile-up

March 14 (h) v Steaua Bucharest (Europa League)
March 17 (h) v West Ham (Premier League)
March 18-27 international break
March 30 (a) v Southampton (Premier League)
April 1 (h) v Manchester United (FA Cup quarter-final replay)
April 4 (TBC) Europa League quarter-final first leg.
April 6/7 (h) v Sunderland (Premier League)
April 11 (TBC) Europa League quarter-final second leg.
April 13 & 14 FA Cup semi-final weekend.

Finding a suitable date for the fixture proved challenging due to Chelsea's involvement in the Europa League and the confirmed FA Cup semi-final dates of April 13 and 14.

It had been expected the FA would wait to see if Chelsea advance in the Europa League tomorrow before determining a date.

They must overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit to the Romanians to reach the Europa League quarter-finals.

The rescheduling means Chelsea and Manchester United, who visit Sunderland on March 30, play their Premier League matches on the same day, but has irked Southampton.

A statement on Southampton's official website read: 'The game had already been moved once for the purposes of live Sky TV coverage – to Sunday, March 31 – however, the Premier League have deemed it acceptable to move the fixture once more.

'The club is extremely disappointed that this decision has been taken; not least because of the significant inconvenience a second change to the fixture will cause our supporters.'

Scotland 3 Australia 1: Jordan Rhodes stars for hosts

Scotland 3 Australia 1: Aussies ruled as Rhodes scores on full debut for Levein

|

UPDATED:

11:33 GMT, 16 August 2012

Fantasy football 2012

With a deft flick of the head, Jordan Rhodes announced his arrival as a full Scotland international. On this evidence, he will take some shifting.

Before a highly satisfactory final warm-up exercise at Easter Road, Craig Levein played down the coveted forward’s chances of starting against Serbia and Macedonia when the opening World Cup qualifiers start next month. The prospect, said the manager, was ‘unlikely’.

Capping a lively 65 minutes with a superb equalising header and a man-of-the-match award, Rhodes made a compelling case here for a swift revision of the pecking order.

Level terms: Rhodes wheels away after scoring the equaliser for Scotland

Level terms: Rhodes wheels away after scoring the equaliser for Scotland

Match facts

Scotland: McGregor (Gilks 22), Webster, Caldwell (Black 87), Berra, Hutton (Martin 67), Snodgrass, Adam, Morrison (Maloney 27), Fox (Mulgrew 69), Naismith, Rhodes (McCormack 67). Subs not used: Goodwillie, Phillips, Cowie, Bannan, Marshall.

Scorers: Rhodes 28, Davidson 62, McCormack 76

Australia: Schwarzer (Federici 46), Williams, Ognenovski (McGowan 79), Neill, Carney (Davidson 60), Kruse, Valeri, Bresciano (Jedinak 46), Wilkshire, Holman (McDonald 46), Brosque (Thompson 84). Subs not used: Langerak, Kilkenny.

Booked: Kruse.

Scorer: Bresciano 18.

Referee: Tom Harald Hagen (Norway).

Attendance: 11,110.

As indeed did Danny Fox, the
Southampton left-back brought back to the fold following a three-year
international hiatus. An unconvincing defender at Celtic, Fox survived a
red-card scare to prove himself much improved.

On a night of slick passing and
incisive attacking, the left-back provided a terrific cross for the
headed goal which marked the graduation of one of English football’s
hottest scoring prospects from the ranks of the Under 21s.

His calm possession and crossing also
forced hapless Australian debutant Jason Davidson to head the ball past
his own keeper for the Scots’ second in 61 minutes to the delight of
the modest 11,110 crowd. As a result, Fox now has every chance of
starting against Serbia.

Less certain is the inclusion of Rhodes, a player listed below Kenny Miller and Jamie Mackie on Levein’s list of strike choices.

Or for that matter his replacement
Ross McCormack, who completed an excellent night by striking a low,
right-footed shot past Aussie substitute keeper Adam Federici in 74
minutes at the end of a fine solo effort.

In a convincing second-half display
there were countless positives for Levein to purr over. All from a less
than perfect starting base.

The Scots fell behind to a stunning 25-yard volley from Mark Bresciano in 17 minutes.

They should already have been a goal
down when Fox — who might have been red-carded by a bewildered Norwegian
referee — blatantly handled a Brett Holman eight-yard shot following a
cutback by Robbie Kruse.

Aussie rules: Bresciano celebrates his opener and is mobbed (below)

Aussie rules: Bresciano celebrates his opener and is mobbed (below)

Aussie rules: Bresciano celebrates his opener and is mobbed (below)

Christophe Berra scrambled the ball
clear for a corner as Australia — rightly — appealed for a penalty.
Replays even showed the ball was over the line when it came off the hand
of Fox.

Either way, Berra’s defensive header
from the resultant Luke Wiltshire corner brought some justice when
Bresciano thumped an unstoppable first-time shot inside McGregor’s
left-hand post.

Picking the ball out of the net would
be the last act for the Besiktas keeper before he limped off to be
replaced by Matt Gilks. James Morrison also left the field injured
before the inevitable raft of second-half substitutions began.

Rhodes left the pitch in 65 minutes,
but could be satisfied. He had the first chance in just four minutes
when Morrison scurried down the right flank and cut the ball back into
the danger area.

The ball stuck under his feet then,
but it might have been the only time he was caught cold. There were
other chances before half-time when his lively running allowed Charlie
Adam to roll the ball into the penalty box and Schwarzer smothered.
Another header also sailed wide of the goal.

Either way, Rhodes had achieved more
in half an hour as a full international than Australian substitute
Scott McDonald had managed in 25 appearances for his country.

The former Celtic player appeared
after the break for his 26th showing, but it was Wilkshire — the Dynamo
Moscow midfielder — who offered Gilks the opportunity to impress.

You beauty: The Scotland fans go wild after Rhodes scored his equaliser

You beauty: The Scotland fans go wild after Rhodes scored his equaliser

You beauty: The Scotland fans go wild after Rhodes scored his equaliser

Alan Hutton was beaten a mite too
easily by Kruse on the left flank and, with time to pick out a
cut-back, the Fortuna Dusseldorf player found Wilkshire.

His sweeping left-foot shot was bound
for the top left-hand corner until Gilks — a man with an honours
degree in international patience — showed why he keeps coming back for
more.

As with the opening Australian goal, that was a misleading reflection of the run of play.

With Gary Caldwell sitting between
defence and midfield, Adam, Steven Naismith and Robert Snodgrass joined
sub Shaun Maloney in driving at the Aussies time and again.

The decisive attacking move came once
again from Fox, however. Resisting the urge to cross first time, Fox
chose his moment, putting young Jason Davidson under pressure.

The son of a Socceroos legend, the defender somehow contrived to place a quite unstoppable header past his own keeper.

World Cup watch: The Aussies have already begun the qualification process for Brazil 2014

World Cup watch: The Aussies have already begun the qualification process for Brazil 2014

Inconsolable in the seconds afterwards, it was a cracks-of-the-fingers moment.

No one could say, however, that the
Scots were not worthy of their lead. Or, indeed, that they did not
deserve to add to it following a mere eight minutes on the pitch for
Leeds United’s McCormack.

The former Rangers and Motherwell
player had impressed Scotland’s manager with his attitude and
dedication in training this week. In the aftermath of an impressive
nutmeg and finish, we will be seeing more of the pint-sized attacker.

After dominating the headlines for
days, there was a mere six-minute cameo for Ian Black of Rangers. To the
shame of the Easter Road crowd, the former Hearts player was roundly
booed by his own supporters. As indeed was Australia’s Tynecastle
substitute Ryan McGowan.

It was the only black mark of a decent night for the Scots.

One which erases the bitter aftertaste
of the 5-1 end-of-season thrashing in the USA. The main course arrives
on September 8 with the visit of Serbia. This was a promising starter.

Catalan Dragons coach eyes Challenge Cup quarter-final win over Warrington

Best is yet to come! Catalan coach eyes quarter-final win over Warrington

|

UPDATED:

15:53 GMT, 12 May 2012

Catalan Dragons coach Trent Robinson is calling for his in-form team to produce their best performance yet when they put their 100 per cent home record on the line against Warrington in the quarter-finals of the Carnegie Challenge Cup.

The Dragons warmed up for the visit of the Wolves with a 27-20 victory over Super League leaders Huddersfield but Robinson believes they will need to find some improvement if they are to stay on course for a trip to Wembley.

And he is disregarding completely their 44-16 league win over Warrington on Easter Monday.

Up for the cup: Catalan coach Trent Robinson wants his in-form team to put in another winning performance

Up for the cup: Catalan coach Trent Robinson wants his in-form team to put in another winning performance

'They were pretty disappointed with that game but they're getting better and better each week,' Robinson said.

'We need a big performance. We want to go through to the semis but we're going to have to play really well, and much better than we did last week, to proceed.

'Obviously it's a big bonus playing at home – that's a big thing for us – but that last game we played won't make any difference to this one.'

The Wolves have yet to rediscover the form that took them to the League Leaders' Shield in 2011 but they will go into tomorrow's tie in Perpignan on the back of a four-match winning run and hooker Mick Higham believes they are gradually starting to hit their straps.

'We are getting back on track this season,' he said. 'A good win over there in France, where they have not lost this year, would be a massive performance for us and we are confident of doing it.

'We will go over there, give it our best shot and if we are on our game, I am sure it will be good enough.'

No way through: Catalan have been in fine form

No way through: Catalan have been in fine form

Robinson has named scrum-half Scott Dureau in his squad despite earlier this week ruling him out with a knee injury.

The Australian was hurt during his side's win over Huddersfield and was diagnosed with a torn meniscus that was expected to sideline him for a fortnight.

Warrington, who beat the Dragons 54-12 in the semi-finals two years ago, are still without Adrian Morley, Michael Monaghan and Richie Myler but first-team regulars Lee Briers, Chris Bridge, Brett Hodgson and Ben Westwood all return having been rested last week.

In Sunday's other quarter-final, Huddersfield coach Nathan Brown insists his side will not under-estimate visitors London Broncos, who have not beaten a Super League team away from home for more than 12 months.

'The Broncos have some good players,' he said.

'They have had some good results at home and they did really well against Bradford Bulls last weekend.'

Richard Hughes determined to get his life back on track after beating alcohol addiction

My race for life: Richard Hughes beat the booze… now he's chasing title dream again

|

UPDATED:

22:10 GMT, 2 May 2012

Jockey Richard Hughes has had plenty of time on his hands recently after being banned for 50 days.

Apart from familiarising himself with the new talent at the stable of his father-in-law Richard Hannon, the champion trainer, he has had one crucial commitment — regular sessions at Alcoholics Anonymous.

He has three appointments this week — appointments that now dictate his schedule.

Home comforts: Richard Hughes at his house in Wiltshire

Home comforts: Richard Hughes at his house in Wiltshire

To many, this will come as a shock. Assured, confident and in control is the public impression of a daring tactician with an independence of thought who, on occasions, turns race riding into an art form.

But Hughes, son of the respected Irish jockey-turned-trainer Dessie, came within a short head of slipping into sporting oblivion, only to be rescued by friends and his wife Lizzie.

Few would have blamed her for turning her back on a seemingly lost cause. As Hughes refused to accept his alcoholism, Lizzie’s support was repaid by discovering he was having an affair, which led to the postponement of their wedding.

Winning return: Hughes guides Lyric Ace home on Wednesday

Winning return: Hughes guides Lyric Ace home on Wednesday

Hughes, who has not tasted alcohol since Easter Sunday 2005, confesses all in his brutally honest autobiography.

The picture he paints is a world away from the charming Wiltshire home he now shares with his wife and children, Harvey, four, and Phoebe, two, but Hughes insists his wife wanted the full story to be told. ‘Lizzie said stick it in the book — it is what happened,’ he said. ‘I was a complete nightmare to live with. I don’t think I would have put up with it. But we got through to the other side.’

Hughes, who must squeeze a 5ft 9in frame into a body hovering just under 9st, initially used alcohol’s dehydrating capacity to control his weight before its distortion of reality gripped him.

Finally, it took a close friend, James Collins, to deliver the damning verdict that broke the downward spiral.

Getting his life back in order: Hughes has been going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings

Getting his life back in order: Hughes has been going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings

Hughes said: ‘James told me I’d end up sitting in a bar telling someone I could have been champion. I’d seen a lot of those guys in Kildare and Newmarket — fellas telling you how good they were over a pint. I was relatively successful and getting away with it — managing to hang on to jobs, but deep down I kind of knew.

‘I didn’t go racing drunk but I was going racing just to make a living. My love for riding horses was gradually going. That burned me up. Loads of other people out there are doing the same thing. They are practising alcoholics throwing all the balls in the air trying to please everyone.

‘At AA, people help me more than I help them. Someone comes in who has only been sober for a month and I listen to the quiver in their voices. It brings all the s*** back because alcohol is all sparkling champagne and craic.

Back from the ban: Hughes has served his 50-ban

Back from the ban: Hughes has served his 50-ban

‘It is cunning and baffling. You remember all the good stuff. It brings your story back and, by speaking about it, gives you a little dig.’

Hughes acknowledges the crucial support of Lizzie and the Hannon family in his rehabilitation and the inspiring example he drew from one-time Hannon understudy, now three-time champion, Ryan Moore.

‘I used to watch Ryan — how sharp he was — and I was just turning up to get the day over with. He was sharper and more alert — it was definite motivation. I could see he was passing me. I was also very lucky the Hannons stood by me, but I think they saw the good side of me, too. Although I was a b******, I wasn’t all bad.’

Hughes once predicted he would retire from riding at 40 and become a trainer. A year away from that landmark, a more contented soul is still not yet ready to give up a job he has fallen in love with again.

Back in the saddle: Hughes returned to riding after completing after the ban

Back in the saddle: Hughes returned to riding after completing after the ban

Now his priority will be to repay the Hannons by helping the trainer transition of father to son, Richard Snr to Jnr, when it eventually happens.

A first Flat race jockeys’ championship — he came agonisingly close when losing out to Paul Hanagan in 2010 by two winners — is still possible despite his late return to action this season because of the worldwide ban.

This was imposed in India after being found guilty of failing to follow a trainer’s instructions. The ban ended on Tuesday and yesterday he was back in the winner’s enclosure twice, with success in the first race at Kempton on Lyric Ace and later riding Gusto.

Hannon’s increasingly powerful string offers Hughes the hope of an elusive first British Classic, starting with Craven Stakes winner Trumpet Major in Saturday’s 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket.

Hughes said: ‘I was impressed with Trumpet Major in the Craven. Johnny Murtagh rode him in the Dewhurst last year when he said he should have won.’

Victory would be sweet but Hughes knows he continues to win a far more important contest.

Richard Hughes: A Weight Off My Mind is published by Racing Post Books on May 19 priced 20. It is available from www.racingpost.com/bookshop and all good bookshops.

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson takes a swipe at City

It's not all about money! United boss Ferguson takes a swipe at mega-rich City

|

UPDATED:

07:35 GMT, 24 April 2012

Sir Alex Ferguson has rejected the theory that next Monday's Manchester derby represents a collision between passion and money.

After looking to have their 20th
Premier League title sewn up a fortnight ago, Manchester United will
head to the Etihad Stadium knowing they must avoid defeat if they are
not to surrender top spot to neighbours City.

Heavyweights: Title rivals Sir Alex Ferguson and Roberto Mancini

Heavyweights: Title rivals Sir Alex Ferguson and Roberto Mancini

It promises to be a fascinating duel, far more than a battle between the established elite and City's nouveaux riche excesses.

'That's not really accurate,' Ferguson told RMC Sport. 'I don't agree with that.

'It's true City became rich in a pretty incredible way, but it's not the fact there is a new owner and new ambitions which necessarily change things.

'The difference is perhaps that we're trying to build with youth.'

United soothsayers have been quick to try and limit the damage by claiming that, at the beginning of January after successive defeats to Blackburn and Newcastle, hands would have been bitten off to approach this game with a three-point advantage.

It has also been pointed out that United began their surge by beating City in an FA Cup tie where they established a three goal lead.

However, for every positive, a negative can be found.

That Cup tie, for instance, ended with shredded nerves from a United perspective as Roberto Mancini's side fought their way back to 3-2 despite the additional handicap of being reduced to 10 men due to Vincent Kompany's harsh dismissal.

Manchester United won 3-2 at City earlier in the season

Boost: Manchester United won 3-2 at City earlier in the season

And whilst United's form up to Easter Sunday was almost flawless, then have won only once in three games since and the defensive frailties again exposed by Everton are unlikely to be sorted out fully in a week, no matter how much work is done on the training ground.

For virtually the first time since he ruptured cruciate ligaments in December, United have cause to lament the absence of skipper Nemanja Vidic, knowing the Serbian was also missing when City inflicted that morale-sapping 6-1 defeat at Old Trafford in October.

Vidic is not available though, so Ferguson has to work with what he has.

Such was the poor performance of Rafael at right-back against Everton that a change is virtually certain.

Yet Phil Jones has been equally loose in his defending recently and Chris Smalling would be a better bet if it were not for the fact he has not started a Premier League game since January.

There has to be a question mark over Ferguson electing to start with two wide players, as he did in that first traumatic Premier League derby of the season, especially as he cannot allow his team to run the risk of Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick being outmanoeuvred in central midfield by Yaya Toure.

Norwich players have to drive old car if worst trainer

Norwich team spirit driven by fear of having to step into clapped-out car

|

UPDATED:

10:23 GMT, 21 April 2012

Norwich winger Elliott Bennett has revealed the secret behind Norwich's success this season – a clapped-out Porsche 924.

The Canaries have far exceeded expectations by nestling into mid-table in their first Premier League season in six years, and much of the credit has to go to manager Paul Lambert, who has clearly created a positive atmosphere behind the scenes at Carrow Road.

All together now: Norwich celebrate Bennett's strike against Spurs on Easter Monday

All together now: Norwich celebrate Bennett's strike against Spurs on Easter Monday

Bennett told The Sun of some of the club's morale-boosting forfeits, which include players having to drive into training in an old banger.

The summer signing from Brighton, who scored the winner against Spurs on Easter Monday, said: 'Every Friday we have a young v old match.

'If, say, the young lads win, they get to choose a player from the old lads who has been the worst trainer.

'Everyone votes and you then have to wear a 'donkey of the week' shirt and drive the banged-up car. We all clubbed together and paid 50 each as it cost 1000.

Working wonders: Lambert has done a fine job at Carrow Road

Working wonders: Lambert has done a fine job at Carrow Road

'It does not start all the time and
there have been a few problems. I have not driven it yet – thankfully –
but there are still a few weeks to go.

'Steve Morison gets voted a lot but much of the time, very unfairly. It seems to be the strikers more than the defenders who get voted.

'The players drive it to training. I am not sure if you would get it to the city centre.'

The white 1980s Porsche 924 looks likely to fail its next MOT, so Lambert's squad have decided to auction it off for charity.

Debut season: Bennett had never played higher than League One before this campaign

Debut season: Bennett had never played higher than League One before this campaign

The car has certainly served its purpose
though. Bennett added: 'The team spirit is massive. A lot has been said
about it this season and I’d say it was justified.

'No-one has been talked about individually.

'We have a good bit of fun on a Friday and the match is played at a good tempo.

'No one wants that yellow jersey and to have the drive the car.

'Although I wouldn’t call it a car to be honest. It is just something on wheels.'

Newcastle"s Papiss Cisse leaves barber shop

I only came here for a 6 haircut! Cisse mobbed by Newcastle fans after leaving barbers

|

UPDATED:

15:36 GMT, 19 April 2012

For most of us, the majority of the time in the barbers can be spent sitting down waiting in line before the scissors and clippers do their work.

For Papiss Cisse though, it’s after he leaves where he loses most of his day.

The Newcastle striker walked into a barbers shop in Gateshead trying to go unnoticed with his baseball cap, but walked out to be met by a hoard of screaming fans asking for an autograph.

As he battled to reach his car, plenty of kids desperately tried to get the Senegal international’s signature, which to his credit, he happily obliged.

Even when the video cuts off he is still signing everything he can for the fans, for who he has become a cult hero after scoring 10 goals in just nine games for the club.

Next time Cisse might want to go for a trim when it’s safe to assume the kids have returned to school following the Easter holidays.

Warren Gatland won"t be rushed into Wales comeback

Wales won't rush into Gatland decision as coach prepares for surgery

|

UPDATED:

09:11 GMT, 13 April 2012

Warren Gatland's wife says a decision on whether the Wales coach will lead his side on their summer tour of Australia will be made 'closer to the time'.

Gatland is set for surgery in New Zealand next week to reconstruct his right heel after he fell three metres on to concrete while cleaning windows of the family holiday home at Wahi Beach.

Gatland had been due to return to Wales this week following time off after he led Wales to the RBS 6 Nations title and a Grand Slam last month.

Time will tell: Warren Gatland faces surgery after falling badly at home

Time will tell: Warren Gatland faces surgery after falling badly at home

He suffered multiple fractures to his right heel and a single fracture of the left heel, and he now faces several weeks recuperating in Hamilton after the operation.

Wales play the Barbarians in Cardiff on June 2, before heading Down Under for three Tests against Australia and a midweek fixture against the Brumbies in Canberra.

The Welsh Rugby Union already have detailed contingency plans in place, with assistant coach Rob Howley ready to step up if Gatland cannot take charge of the trip.

'The coaches are just going to step up and do the job of getting the boys prepared for Australia, and then Warren will see closer to the time whether he can get to Australia or not,' Trudy Gatland told the Waikato Times.

Success breeds success: Wales will hope to build on their Six Nations win

Success breeds success: Wales will hope to build on their Six Nations win

Recalling the accident on Easter Monday, she added: 'Luckily he landed on his feet, because he could have landed on his head.

'He landed falling backwards, so his heels took the impact and the calcaneus bone, that heel bone, is a really painful injury. He's being very brave, but it is very painful.

'He is hopeful it won't be too long that he is off his feet, but he is going to be in two casts initially.

'His left foot hopefully will mend quite quickly because it's just got one fracture on the heel, but the other one that needs the surgery has a lot more shattered pieces.'