Premier League

Samba: Owner deserves credit

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Fri, 29 Mar 2013 10:05:00

Southampton are sweating on the fitness of key trio Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw and Jos Hooiveld ahead of their home date with Chelsea, with all three nursing knocks.

They will be assessed ahead of the St Mary's clash, although manager Mauricio Pochettino hopes they will all be fit to feature.

Vegard Forren could make his Saints debut, having started Norway's 2014 World Cup qualifier against Albania.

Rafa Benitez may decide to shuffle his pack as Chelsea enter a crucial run of fixtures - with the Blues set to take in four games in nine days.

Fernando Torres was among those able to take a much-needed rest during the recent break from club commitments, and the Spaniard could be deployed as a lone frontman against the Saints.

Gary Cahill was forced to sit out a 2014 World Cup qualifying double-header with England with a knee problem, while Brazilian midfielder Ramires has picked up a thigh complaint, and both men will be assessed closer to kick-off.

Benitez has endured a tough time at Stamford Bridge since filling the managerial void created by Roberto Di Matteo's dismissal in November.

The Spaniard has struggled to win over a sceptical fan base, with past rivalries and inconsistency on the field working against him.

Benitez will, however, remain in charge until the end of the season, and Azpilicueta admits it is important that a united front is maintained as the club continue to compete on multiple fronts.

The Spanish full-back told The Independent: "The supporters have these feelings because they have clashed many times before but Rafa, right from the start, came in with so much enthusiasm and desire to get results and so we concentrate on that.

"Of course, it's easier when everyone is pulling in the same direction, but the world is not like that. There are so many different opinions. There are always people happier with the situation than others and it comes down to respecting everyone's position."

He added: "We still don't know what decision will be made by the club (in the summer). Right now we are with Rafa and we are concentrating on the here and now.

"Every day he is altering little things, modifying my game, we watch videos. He is passionate about football and always trying to make everything perfect."

Loftus Road chairman Tony Fernandes has dug deep in an effort to make QPR competitive at a Premier League level, but has seen little return on his considerable investment.

A slow start to the season, and a subsequent failure to turn things around, has left the club rooted to the foot of the table.

Harry Redknapp was appointed in an effort to try and turn the tide, while big money was spent in January to try and inject quality and confidence into a faltering side.

Samba was among those drafted in, and he insists that he and his fellow players are fully committed to the cause, despite critics suggesting that they are motivated my money.

The commanding centre-half told the Daily Mirror: "I have to defend this. Nobody put a knife at the throat of anybody at QPR to come and discuss contracts.

"They wanted to extend my contract for another year at Anzhi. I could have earned more there. But I wanted to come back to England.

"The club believes in the players that have been brought here. They believe they are the right players for the club.

"What would people have said if the owner didn't try anything? If he didn't spend any money? They would have said that he didn't care. But he did what he believed was right.

"The owner really is a passionate man. He has shown a fighting spirit for the club by doing all the business he could have done to improve the team.

"Us players have come in to try and prove him right. (Loic) Remy, (Jermaine) Jenas and (Andros) Townsend have been fantastic. We all know what staying in the Premier League means to the fans.

"But people still think that our attitude is, 'Whether we win or lose, we get paid'. They are wrong."

Samba added: "If I lose a game, I might get paid but I go home and it affects me.

"I am not doing anything. I am not going to restaurants. I am not going out at all. I'm not the nicest person when we lose.

"That's how it affects your life. Ask any player at any club, and they will tell you the same."

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