The season is hotting up for clubs near the top and bottom of their respective leagues. Apart from Manchester United, who have now opened a cavernous 15-point gap with rivals Man City – who themselves look in danger of being overhauled by Spurs.
Mancini’s blues take on Lambert’s Limes this evening, as Villa look to get some desperately-needed points on the board for their relegation battle, particularly when you look at teams around them: QPR seem to have poisonous intra-squad problems, but look too talented not to put a run together, Southampton look to be pulling away, Reading have been improving throughout the season and Wigan usually win every game 27-0 during April. Lose against Man City, and relegation is something that the Villains will have to start talking about.
Villa captain Ron Vlaar will be assessed before tonight’s game, while Darren Bent is still struggling for fitness. Man City are still short on defenders, with Maicon, Micah Richards and Vincent Kompany all ruled out.
Anyway, enough of this “team news” nonsense, you’re after rumours, aren’t you? Well here’s one. QPR (go on...) turned down a bid (yes...) from Anzhi (eh?...) for Christopher Samba (...what?!). That’s right – the Daghestan-based giants seemed to have a rush of blood to the head on Russian transfer deadline day (Feb 28) less than one month after they sold the burly centre-half to the Loftus-Roaders.
According to Football 365, Harry Redknapp said: “The offer was last week - it was a massive offer to take Samba back to Russia. It was in the week that has just gone as the Russian window was still open. It was a big offer.
“The chairman asked me ‘what do you think?’ and I said ‘it is up to you, it is your club, it is your decision’. I would have had no problem. I left it to the chairman. He came back and said he had turned it down and said ‘get on with it’.
What strikes me as unusual about the neverending Neymar-based footie-chatter is that we now have a player to whom the well-worn path from Brazil to the ‘big four’ European leagues does not appeal.
It’s a lot of fun to watch, too, as the youngster’s reluctance to leave Santos seems to be driving clubs and newspapers alike completely bonkers.
Today’s Metro is a case in point – they report today that good-again German outfit Bayern Munich are keen on Neymar, and will look to offer an absolutely ridiculous £86 million.
Really, Metro? Really?
“Liverpool want Swansea’s Ashley Williams to replace Martin Skrtel.” - (Daily Mirror)
“Real Madrid are ready to make a summer raid on Tottenham for Kyle Walker.” - (Daily Mirror)
Cristiano Ronaldo will take a massive pay cut to rejoin Manchester United - (The Sun)
Liverpool want to sign a pre-contract deal with CSKA Moscow attacker Keisuke Honda - (Metro)
Bradford City were deserved victors at Bootham Crescent on Saturday, and scorer James Hanson hopes to kick on with a good run.
And on his key opener, he added: “I was working on Friday with the gaffer on timing my headers right and it has paid off. I know their goalkeeper sort of threw it in a bit, but for me, it was about hitting the target which I hadn’t been doing recently.
“It is 10 goals for the season and I am looking to kick on now. Getting another five or six would be nice but the key thing is pushing on towards those play-offs.
The Minstermen’s current captain, Chris Smith, was part of the side who, after triumphing against Carlisle United on January 10, 2004 went into serious freefall, failing to win any of their next 20 matches.
LEE Peltier insisted a resurgent Leeds United were in prime position to sneak into the play-offs after Stephen Warnock’s penalty earned a 1-0 win over Millwall.
United’s captain praised a persistent performance and admitted he was confident of Leeds bridging the gap to sixth place during their 12 remaining Championship games.
The Elland Road club ground three points out of a competitive meeting with Millwall on Saturday, with Warnock striking on 71 minutes after Ross McCormack’s earlier penalty was saved.
But Peltier said: “I thought it was a very good performance and it’s a massive three points.
“Every game is massive for us now but I’d rather be going into the play-off places coming in from the outside than being in there and under pressure.
Huddersfield were outgunned 4-1 at home to a rampant Brighton and Hove Albion.
Town were without long-term absentees Danny Ward (broken metatarsal), Keith Southern (Achilles) and Jermaine Beckford (hamstring) as they looked to follow up their midweek win at Burnley.
But it was the hosts who took the lead via Jose Ulloa in the opening half hour.
It needed a spectacular overhead kick from James Vaughan to level the scores, the striker’s eighth goal of the campaign.
But after the break, the hosts stepped up a gear as Ulloa went on to complete his hat-trick before David Lopez converted an 81st minute penalty.