Saturday evening’s televised Premier League clash at Goodison Park pits David Moyes’ Everton against Tony Pulis and his Stoke City side.
When these two teams came head-to-head earlier this season, quite literally in the case of Marouane Fellaini and Ryan Shawcross, a bruising encounter ended in a 1-1 draw at the Britannia Stadium. For the home side, who still harbour faint hopes of a place in the top four, the propensity of tied games has almost certainly turned what promised to be a fantastic season in the early months into one where their expectations of finishing just outside the European qualification places are likely to be met.
If the Toffees are to make a successful late season spurt for fourth place the game with the Potters is a must win. Having blown a glorious opportunity for a tilt at silverware when they crashed out of the FA Cup, they went some way to restoring pride when running out convincing winners over reigning champions, Manchester City to renew hope of a possible challenge for a Champions League spot.
Real Madrid coach, Jose Mourinho, today admitted to Sky Sports News that he would love a return to England and The Premier League, further cementing the belief that his time in the Spanish capital is coming to a close this summer.
The two time Champions League winner, who is closing in on a third success with Los Merengues, has been the subject of many stories throughout this season indicating that his relations with the players and supporters are not what they could be as Real have made a mess of their La Liga title defence.
During the interview, conducted on a cold London street today, Mourinho declared, “One day I have to be back to another English club or Chelsea”.
He further added, “ I have big emotional connections with Chelsea. Chelsea is in my heart”.
Despite his huge success both in Italy with Inter and in Spain with Real Madrid, it is well known that the Portuguese coach enjoyed his time at Stamford Bridge more than any since. It also seems apparent that his relationship with Blues owner, Roman Abramovich, may be repaired. The two fell out over Mourinho’s sacking in 2007.
Roy Hodgson’s England side take the field in Podgorica on Tuesday evening to take on current Group H leaders, Montenegro.
The clash between the two nations will go a long way to determine who progresses automatically to next year’s finals in Brazil. Both countries remain unbeaten in their qualifying campaign so far with the former Yugoslav republic holding a two point lead over the Three Lions.
The tiny Balkan nation have impressed to date in their fixtures and came good with a late winner in Friday’s trip to Moldova to maintain top spot in the group. England come into this game on the back of an eight goal mauling of perpetual whipping boys, San Marino-the first time they’ve bagged as many goals in one game since 1987.
Hodgson took the opportunity to rest some of his key personnel for the game on Friday evening in preparation for this crucial fixture. The players who came in such as Leighton Baines and Kyle Walker came in and gave impressive performances but it is expected that the England boss will ring the changes to ensure his side don’t slip up in this tricky game.
Coventry City have become the latest English League club to hit a financial brick wall as their plight has reached a critical point.
Founder members of the Premier League back in 1992, the Sky Blues were renowned for their ability to defy the odds and remain at football’s top table for so many years without experiencing the dreaded drop. But after a 34 year stint, Coventry finally fell into the Football League in 2001.
In line with the trend encountered by many other clubs to have dropped out of the Premier League, the financial implications of relegation are monumental . Without the preposterous amounts of Sky TV money to prop up the club’s runaway outgoings, the outcome can be catastrophic.
Despite parachute payments and cost-cutting exercises since their demotion at the turn of the century, City have regularly flirted with administration. From 2001 to 2004, as the club teetered on the brink of collapse, a fire sale of players and a reduction of the stratospheric wage bill reduced debt and averted the need for High Court intervention.
After a week of much wailing and gnashing of teeth for those connected with the blue half of Merseyside, it’s back into the fray for David Moyes and his Everton side as Manchester City roll into town for Saturday’s Premier League encounter at Goodison Park.
The Toffees’ capitulation at home to Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup has been proceeded by much recrimination and analysis as fans and pundits have debated where Everton are going, both for the rest of this season and beyond as speculation increases around the manager’s future.
They say the best course of action if you fall off a bike is to get back on as soon as possible, and in Everton’s case last weekend’s tumble from grace is followed by the stiff task of facing last season’s champions.
Roberto Mancini’s side have struggled all year to match the blistering form they displayed for most of the last campaign and go into the final stages of this one staring into the distance at the backs of neighbours Manchester United as they disappear over the horizon in the title race.