Newcastle United: Steve Bruce has been addressing the press ahead of Newcastle’s match against Wolves at St James’ Park, where a large banner calling for his dismissal was left last overnight. Fourth from bottom of the table and just three points ahead of upwardly mobile Fulham, Newcastle are in grave danger of sleepwalking towards relegation and the natives on Tyneside are increasingly restless.
“When the daffodils are up the crux of the season is upon us,” he said, channeling his inner William Wordsworth while talking about the likelihood of Newcastle getting relegated. “We’ve still got a lead but it seems Newcastle are the only ones in it. There are six or seven teams. You can talk about tactics as much as you like, it’s all about players.”
West Ham: David Moyes has dismissed talk linking him with the vacant manager’s job at Celtic, telling reporters he is “going nowhere”. The Scot is one of several men to have been linked with the Celtic gig since Neil Lennon’s resignation earlier this week.
“I’ve got no intentions of going anywhere,” he said this morning. “I’ve already spoken to David Sullivan, we’re up to date and things are quietly ticking along. “I don’t want anything to get in the way of what we’re doing just now. I’m not going to come out and say I’m signing a big contract or doing anything else that in any way might change things around. I just really want to go about the job and try and be professional.”
The West Ham manager’s next assignment is a tough one – a lunchtime trip to Premier League leaders Manchester City tomorrow.
Aston Villa: Dean Smith has revealed that Jack Grealish will miss out on Villa’s match against Leeds United at Elland Road tomorrow evening as he recovers from a leg injury. Villa’s star was also absent for his side’s defeat at the hands of Leicester City last weekend, prompting a subsequernt storm in a teacup after Leicester got wind of his injury when several Aston Villa players removed Greealish from their Fantasy Football teams.
Speaking to the press yesterday, Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa said he hoped Grealish would be fit for the encounter, despite the threat he poses. “He is a great player who can unbalance you,” he said. “But I always prefer that opponents have their best players available because even if that fortifies a team, and makes them more scary to face, it’s also a stimulus for us to face such players, to try to neutralise them.”
Rangers’s season gets better and better
With their coronation as Scottish champions a formality, Rangers spanked five past Royal Antwerp to make it to the last 16 of the Europa League for the second consecutive season. “We wanted to be very bold and we picked two very aggressive, ambitious teams,” said a very proud Rangers manager, Steven Gerrard. “The players deserve all the plaudits that will come their way.” Ewan M urray was at Ibrox for the Guardian.
Manchester United held but breeze through
Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side were held at Old Trafford by Real Sociedad, but the four first leg goals they scored without reply were more than enough to see them through to the next round of the Europa League. Jamie Jackson was at Old Trafford for the Guardian …
Arsenal leave it late
Arsenal put their fans through the wringer, relying on a late goal from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to send them through to the last 16 of the Europa League. Bukayo Saka was the hero, picking out his team-mate with a sublime cross to the far post, putting the ball on a plate for Aubameyang in the 87th minute.
Leicester City go out with a whimper
Brendan Rodgers has taken full responsibility for his side’s strangely flat performance against Slavia Prague last night, when goals from Lukas Provod and Abdallah Sima tsent the Czech team into the last 16.
“It’s my responsibility,” he said. “I pick the team to try to get the result and that clearly didn’t work as well as I would have liked.
“We’ve changed the team often enough because we’ve carried injuries all year, so we’ve had to be able to do that. The players returning from injury, especially Ricardo and Barnesy, they’ve been playing non-stop and we had to find a way to freshen up the team.
“I would still expect us to do better but when you’re missing the players we are, that’s going to affect the quality of your game.
“There are no excuses. It’s my responsibility. I pick the team and the set-up. It wasn’t to be. The best team won.”
The big news this morning is that Liverpool’s skipper is recuperating after surgery to repair his groin injury and will be sidelined for six to eight weeks. Having been forced off the pitch during last weekend’s Merseyside derby, Henderson joins the very long list of Liverpool’s lame and halt, and will miss as many as 10 Liverpool matches, as well as three England games. We wish him a speedy recovery.
The weekend starts here …
Greetings and welcome to our rolling blog covering all the news that’s fit to print (and plenty more that may not be) as we look forward to another hectic weekend of football action. We’ll bring you top content from various managerial press conferences, keep you posted on any big developments and bring you a blow-by-blow account of the Europa League Round of 16 draw from the House of European Football in Nyon, Switzerland at noon (GMT). Leicester City are out following their surprise defeat to Slavia Prague, but Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Manchester United and Rangers are all in the upturned Uefa hat.