Premier League

Fergie has no Qatar trip issues

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Fri, 29 Mar 2013 11:27:00

Everton manager David Moyes will be forced to make at least two changes for the Premier League clash against Stoke at Goodison Park as Steven Pienaar and Marouane Fellaini are suspended.

Pienaar was sent off in the win over Manchester City and subsequently banned for two games, while Fellaini also has a two-match suspension after notching up 10 yellow cards this season.

Goalkeeper Tim Howard (back) and Tony Hibbert (calf) are sidelined but Phil Jagielka has an outside chance of returning from an ankle injury.

Stoke have Robert Huth back available for Saturday's trip after the defender completed a three-match suspension.

Huth, who served the ban after accepting a violent conduct charge from the Football Association relating to an incident in the Potters' 1-0 defeat at Fulham last month, is expected to make an immediate return to the starting XI, linking up once again with his centre-half partner Ryan Shawcross.

Potters boss Tony Pulis looks set to have a full squad to choose from for the fixture.

Plymouth defender Curtis Nelson is set to return for the Devon derby.

The youngster had been sidelined by a persistent groin problem since late January but has returned to training and is set to be involved.

The Argyle youth product's comeback will be timely with fellow central defender Anthony Charles set to miss out again with a groin injury he picked up in the 2-0 win at Southend.

Striker Warren Feeney is on the comeback trail after two months on the sidelines with an ankle injury but this match is expected to come too soon for the Northern Ireland international.

Captain Conor Hourihane heads into the clash with their biggest rivals on nine yellow cards, one away from a two-game suspension. And striker Reuben Reid will be involved after his loan deal from Yeovil was extended until the end of the season.

Argyle are now two points clear of the League Two relegation zone having suffered just one defeat in their last six games but they have tasted victory over Exeter just once in the previous five meetings.

Exeter boss Paul Tisdale is confident his promotion-chasing squad can handle two crunch games in just over 48 hours, starting with the Devon derby.

That lunchtime clash on Saturday and Monday's visit of Rochdale will decide whether the Grecians have a realistic chance of making it into the League Two automatic promotion places.

But, injuries and suspensions aside, Tisdale is likely to name a similar line-up in both matches.

Matt Oakley (shoulder), Tommy Doherty (back), Alan Gow and Liam Sercombe (both ankle) are all sidelined but the arrival of Brighton midfielder Anton Rodgers and fellow loanee Lawson D'Ath from Reading have helped fill the void.

John O'Flynn will hope to keep his place after netting in the 4-1 win over Bradford, with top scorer Jamie Cureton pushing for a recall after being an unused substitute against the Bantams.

Cureton has scored 20 goals for the Grecians this season but has failed to net in 12 appearances against the Pilgrims since netting for Bristol Rovers at Home Park in January 1998.

Ferdinand was selected for England's recent World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro, only to withdraw due to an 'intricate and pre-planned' training regime.

The Manchester United defender has since been the victim of abuse from England fans, but Ferguson encouraged the 34-year-old to meet with Roy Hodgson regarding his international future

"He did the right thing to go down and see Roy," said Ferguson.

"I encouraged him to go down and do it face to face."

Ferguson continued: "He needed to explain how we handle him now and how he prepares for games.

"I think Roy appreciated that."

The United boss also said he had no issue over Ferdinand's trip to Qatar, which caused such consternation among the England fans.

"I was only catching up on a couple of things over the last couple of days and to be honest it doesn't bother me one bit," he said.

"They had the weekend off and players are entitled to do what they want.

"They trained all last week and we gave them Friday, Saturday and Sunday off. He has his own choice with these things."

England fans have now been reported to FIFA by anti-racism group FARE after directing abusive chants at Ferdinand at both matches.

Ferguson feels such extreme reactions are a sign of the times.

"That is the modern society I am afraid," he said. "We see a lot of that.

"Supporters react to many things. I don't think we can change that."

Hodgson has said there needs to be further discussions between the Football Association and United before Ferdinand could be considered again for his country.

But Ferguson is not sure that is necessary.

"I don't think there is any need," he said.

"Roy phoned me and I said he would need to speak to Rio for what his reaction is.

"The matter was put to rest when Rio went to see him."

Ferdinand is bound to be involved at some stage over the next three days, when United head to Sunderland in the Premier League and Chelsea for their FA Cup quarter-final replay.

And there was also good news on the injury front.

"We have no injuries from the internationals," said Ferguson.

"There is a bit of tiredness but we will make sure we get plenty of energy back in their bodies.

"Nani, Phil Jones and Paul Scholes have also done a little bit of training, which is encouraging.

"Hopefully that will give us a good strong squad as we approach the next two games."

Ferguson also said the best thing to happen over the international break was the return to form of Robin van Persie.

The Dutchman has not scored in seven games for his club but managed three in two games for his country.

"It is the same with all strikers," he said.

"When they get into a little dry spell they hope to get out of it as quickly as they can. Hopefully those goals for Holland will have helped him to do that.

"But his form has not changed. That is the important thing.

"But the goals will help. There is no question about that."

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