Premier League

Title is all important - Fergie

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Sat, 06 Apr 2013 09:41:00

Mousa Dembele is confident that Tottenham Hotspur will finish in the top four of the Premier League even if Gareth Bale misses a number of key games.

Welshman Bale was stretchered off at the end of Spurs' Europa League game against Basel on Thursday with an ankle injury, and it was initially feared that his season could have been brought to a premature end.

There was positive news on Friday as scans revealed that Bale should be back in training in a fortnight, although Tottenham will have to cope without him against Everton on Sunday.

Dembele has faith in the rest of the squad, though, saying: "Can we make the top four without Gaz? Yes, of course we can.

"There are other good players who play well. He has been very important for us but other players have to step up now."

Dembele admits it is a blow to be without Aaron Lennon as well as Bale, with the England winger also expected to be back in a couple of weeks after picking up an injury against Basel.

"Everybody knows they are two very important players for us so it's another big disappointment," said Dembele.

"But I think we have a big, good squad and we have to concentrate on beating Everton now."

Belgian midfielder Dembele is backing his former Fulham team-mate Clint Dempsey as one of the players who can make a vital contribution for the final few weeks of the season.

He said: "I remember from my time at Fulham he was very important so I know what he can do.

"He can score important goals as well. He has just come back from injury but before that he was showing some good form.

"That's the reason I have confidence - but there are other players as well."

Veteran striker Lee Hughes struck twice from the penalty spot after opening the hosts' account with a firm header, with his hat-trick contributing to Vale's biggest win in 53 years in front of 10,978 supporters on Friday night.

Ben Williamson also grabbed a brace for second-placed Vale while Tom Pope, with his 32nd goal of the season, and Chris Birchall were on target as well, substitute Matt Paterson netting Burton's impressive consolation.

The emphatic defeat leaves fifth-placed Albion winless in four games with just a further four remaining this season in League Two.

Rowett admitted: "They were a lot better than us. They were strong and ran with more desire.

"But that's 10 goals we've conceded in two games and we can't keep defending like that. It's given our goal difference a massive battering. So we've got to put it right.

"I always thought our two home games coming up against Wycombe and Plymouth would define our season more than this game.

"But for 20 minutes in the first half we were all over the shop and we made poor decisions on the ball. We gave ourselves a mountain to climb.

"Matt Paterson came on and showed some real desire and his finish was sensational and it was just unfortunate the game wasn't tighter.

"It's a test for everyone now as we have been on a poor run."

The veteran frontman swelled his goal tally to nine since joining the Valiants in January as promotion rivals Burton were battered 7-1 in League Two.

Vale's 1993/94 promotion-winning team were paraded at half-time and the celebratory mood among Vale Park's biggest crowd in 15 years, 10,978, increased as their team completed a stunning rout.

Hughes struck twice from the penalty spot after opening rampant Vale's account with a firm header.

"The first goal was what Lee does best," said Vale boss Adams. "He was in the right place. He might have got two penalties, but they've still got to be put away and he showed all his experience.

"The performance was fuelled by the supporters. When you see 11,000 fans in Vale Park like that it makes me realise whey I came to the club.

"And it was nice that the 1994 team were all here. That was a tribute to them.

"It was a special occasion, but it's still only three points. We picked up four points over Easter and coped with the pressure of games, but we're not there yet and there is still work to do."

Ben Williamson also grabbed a brace for Vale while Tom Pope, with his 32nd goal of the season, and Chris Birchall were on target as well, substitute Matt Paterson netting Burton's impressive consolation.

The Sweden international has struggled to make an impact since his move from Werder Bremen to the Baggies last summer and has started just two league matches.

"It's been a frustrating season for Markus. He's never really been given the chance to show his potential mainly down to the form of the other players," Clarke said.

"I'm aware Markus is really disappointed, and a little bit down. He comes to speak to me quite often. I respect him for that. He lets me know his frustrations face to face.

"Does he stay beyond this season? That is not a discussion we've had yet. I'm sure between now and next season we have to sit down and discuss things because he is not a young man anymore.

"He is not the type of person who is happy to sit on the bench and just pick up his money. I'm sure it's a conversation we will have.

"We will sit down and decide what is the best thing for Markus and West Brom."

Rosenberg has been behind Shane Long, Romelu Lukaku and Peter Odemwingie in the pecking order this season.

A slack piece of defending in the right-back position by Marcos Sanchez allowed substitute Soony Saad to pinch the ball and dart into the penalty area.

Saad smartly picked out Bieler with a cut-back and the striker clipped a left-footed strike powerfully across goal and into the right corner.

It gave Kansas City their third win in six games this season, and left DC with just one win from five.

Samba gifted Fulham two goals in Monday night's 3-2 defeat at Craven Cottage, a result that has left Rangers seven points adrift of safety with seven matches remaining.

The Congo centre-back was involved in a spat with supporters on Twitter following his performance, but Redknapp insists it was a one-off.

"Samba had a nightmare to be fair, but he was absolutely brilliant when we won at Southampton," Redknapp said.

"It was one of the best performances from a defender I've seen for years. He's a top player who could play for any side in the top four.

"He had a bad night against Fulham, but he's not the first defender I've seen make mistakes.

"Tomorrow I'm sure we'll see the Samba we're used to seeing."

QPR's chances of escaping relegation look bleak following successive defeats to Aston Villa and Fulham, but Redknapp refuses to give up hope of masterminding survival.

"When I stop believing, the players will stop believing. If I send out the wrong message they'll down tools, thinking we've had it," he said.

"I don't feel we've had it. I couldn't tell you the pleasure keeping QPR up would give me. It would be fantastic.

"We have to keep going - we've got to beat Wigan. There's nothing else for it, we have to beat them.

"Nothing else but a win would be any good to us. We need to win and keep winning. We need to win four or five games - it's a tall order but not impossible.

"But if we don't win tomorrow, we won't give up because there'll be six games left and we could still win all six. You don't give up, you have to keep going."

It has been a chastening month for the Old Trafford outfit.

After their controversial Champions League defeat to Real Madrid, United exited the FA Cup earlier this week when they were beaten by a solitary Demba Ba strike at Chelsea.

It means instead of a hoped-for treble, the only silverware available to United this season is the Premier League.

With a 15-point advantage heading into Monday's derby with nearest challengers Manchester City, securing that 20th championship should be a formality.

And that, as far as Ferguson is concerned, would represent a job well done.

"In the context of the kind of competition we have, teams from London - Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea - Liverpool and Everton, there are massive challenges every year," he told MUTV.

"For every one of those teams, their supporters hope they win one trophy.

"We have won the one that really does matter to our fans.

"Yes, I would have loved to win the European Cup again but we got knocked out in circumstances that everyone is still talking about, and the disappointment of getting knocked out by Chelsea is obvious.

"But the league form has been consistent."

And so too, in recent times, has been the form of David de Gea.

Castigated by Gary Neville, amongst others, as recently as January, De Gea comes into the City game on the back of six successive Premier League clean sheets.

And Rio Ferdinand is amongst those who believe the Spain youngster has learned some valuable lessons.

"When you are a keeper, experience comes with games and becoming used to certain situations," said the veteran defender.

"He hasn't been here long. He is young, he had to become accustomed to his new surroundings and he wasn't given time."

There was also a quick initiation into life as a United player.

As it transpired, a seamless progression through professional ranks to the extent of featuring in Atletico Madrid's 2010 Europa League final triumph over Fulham proved to be no preparation for Old Trafford, where every mistake has been seized upon.

"When you play for Manchester United, you are under incredible scrutiny," said Ferdinand. "That is just the way it is.

"You have to get used to it. You need a thick skin to be a Manchester United player. Because if you cannot take a battering at times, you will fall by the wayside and someone else will fill your shoes.

"He has a huge price tag on his head that carries a lot of weight.

"But he is resilient, even if he still has a lot to prove because this season is not over yet."

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