Reds form pleases Rodgers

Winger Jose Antonio Reyes has set his sights on ending former

club Atletico Madrid’s perfect home record on Sunday.

Reyes played a starring role as Sevilla ended a three-match

winless run with a 5-1 thrashing of Real Betis last weekend, the

29-year-old scoring twice in the first half and also setting up

Federico Fazio for his side’s fourth goal before making way just

after the hour.

Reyes revealed Sevilla’s confidence has rocketed in the wake of

that win, and is hoping they can capitalise on that with victory

over an Atletico side who have the only remaining 100 per cent home

record this season with six wins out of six.

The former Spain winger, who spent four years at Atletico before

leaving in 2011, said: “We are highly motivated. Atletico are very

strong at home, but we have our weapons and we’re going to try and

beat them, even though we’re well aware of what they are capable

of.

“The team have a tremendous desire and morale has been boosted

after the derby. We are going to the Calderon with confidence

sky-high.”

If Sevilla are to pick up three points from their trip to the

capital they will need to improve on their poor away form so far

this campaign, which has seen them earn just one win from six

games.

“We don’t have an answer for that (their away form). The team

always want to go out the same, but at times, due to our opponents

or circumstances, we haven’t done it. We’ve always gone into

matches with the attitude of trying to win, but we’ve not always

achieved it.”

It is going to be tough for Sevilla, though, with Atletico

looking back on track after a brief slump at the start of this

month.

Successive defeats to Valencia and Academica brought Atletico

down to earth following their 13-match winning streak, but since

those setbacks Diego Simeone’s men have picked up three consecutive

victories without conceding a goal.

The most recent, Thursday’s 1-0 home triumph over Hapoel Tel

Aviv, earned the defending champions a place in the last 32 of the

Europa League, and they did so without a host of first-choice

players, including star striker Radamel Falcao, Arda Turan, Gabi,

Juanfran, Filipe Luis and Diego Godin.

They are likely to return for Sunday’s visit of Sevilla where

second-placed Atletico will hope to keep the pressure up on league

leaders Barcelona, who are three points ahead.

In light drizzle, a long list of dignitaries attended the

unveiling of a 9ft statue of Ferguson at Old Trafford

yesterday.

With plenty of supporters in attendance as well, it could have

been mistaken for one of those stage-managed occasions used to pay

homage to communist leaders.

Even Ferguson joked he was “outliving death” with the latest

tribute to his remarkable career.

Yet the truth is those present had turned up of their own free

will, to give thanks for the 37 trophies – by United’s own

calculations – the club has won since he came south from Aberdeen

in 1986.

But to those whose day-to-day involvement with the Red Devils

brings them closest to the 70-year-old Scot, he has done so much

more.

“Everyone can talk eloquently about the great football teams he

has built and world class players he has developed and managed,”

said Gill.

“They can talk about the hairdryer and Fergie time.

“But for me, as a fan, a colleague and a friend, the greatest

thing he has brought back to this club is respect.

“Respect for the staff; respect for the heritage and history of

the club and respect for the Manchester United way.”

Eric Cantona, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer were

amongst those present to watch Ferguson’s wife Cathy complete the

unveiling at a ceremony hosted by celebrity United fan Eamonn

Holmes.

In addition, Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham and former Prime

Minister Tony Blair paid tribute by video.

The statue, created by renowned sculptor Philip Jackson, depicts

Ferguson by the touchline, arms folded, concentrating on the

game.

Ferguson was suitably impressed by the creation, which has been

positioned outside the stand which bears his name.

However, the strangeness of the situation was not lost on the

Scot.

“Normally people die before they have a statue,” said Ferguson.

“I am outliving death.”

Ferguson joked that Cathy had promised him that “she would come

down here every Saturday morning and bow to the statue”.

He added: “My three sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren can

all come down here on a Saturday.”

Harry Redknapp is set to be confirmed as the successor to

Hughes, who was dismissed on Friday, and will take over a side

bottom of the Premier League and without a win all season.

Warnock knows what it is like to be ushered out of Loftus Road –

he lost his job in January just months after taking the club to

promotion – but he does not want to see them relegated.

“I would like to wish Harry Redknapp the best of luck filling my

old seat in the dugout at Queen’s Park Rangers,” he wrote in the

Independent.

“It was one of the achievements of my managerial career getting

QPR back into the Premier League after a 15-year absence and I

would be very sad to see them go back down after all the hard work

the players, staff and myself put in.

“Neither the fans nor the owners, Tony Fernandes and Amit

Bhatia, deserve that.”

Warnock made no secret of his disappointment at losing his job,

feeling he deserved credit for having taken the club back to the

top flight after a lengthy absence.

He has also been angered by some of the comments made by Hughes

since his appointment and feels Fernandes may now regret ever

letting him go.

The Leeds manager added: “I have to admit there have been times

this year when I have had to bite my tongue. I kept hearing the

team were playing well without getting the results they deserved:

so were mine but we did win away from home three times.

“There was also the comment at the end of last season when my

successor said after coming 17th, the same position I left them in,

‘we won’t be in this position again’. Unfortunately he was proved

right; QPR have not been that high since.

“It was difficult to accept when I was replaced. Having met the

mandate of keeping out of the bottom three we were about to make

the signings in the January window we needed to head towards

mid-table.

“Having kept QPR up I planned to retire and hand the reins over

to someone else for a smooth transition. It is easy to look back in

hindsight but I think Tony might now reflect and feel that would

have been a better way to proceed.”

Redknapp had hoped his position would be confirmed last night,

but even though it was not, he is still set to take the job.

Out of work since leaving Tottenham in the summer, he told Sky

Sports News late last night: “There are a couple of bits to be

sorted out tonight but I’ve left it to other people and said I want

it to happen because it’s a club I want to manage.

“I’m looking forward to it. It’s a big challenge and a tough job

to take on – but I’m up for the challenge.”

Villa will go into Saturday evening’s home clash with Arsenal

occupying a bottom three spot for the first time in two years since

the Gerard Houllier era.

Lambert retains faith in his players to survive but is

battle-hardened for the tasks ahead.

He said: “I was fortunate I played for the big clubs because you

tended to handle a lot of media stuff and pressure and all

that.

“At Celtic you were probably a second away from being hopeless

because of the pressure! You tend to deal with it.

“Celtic was absolutely brilliant for that. It really made you

thick-skinned and you’d get your head down and get on with it

because of the demands of the public.

“It’s the same scenario as a manager, but you battle through it.

You try not to wilt under it, you keep going.

“That’s why I always say the most important people at this

football club are the players and the people that come and watch

it.”

Lambert insists the belief and confidence has been retained by

his players and he views beating someone of Arsenal’s quality as

crucial as overcoming one of Villa’s relegation rivals.

He said: “You certainly don’t want to be where we are. It’s not

something that I’m used to.

“The thing for me is that the players don’t lose heart and

confidence. As soon as you lose that, then it becomes a major

problem. I’ve not sensed that one bit.

“But we need to win games, including the Arsenal game. I always

want to be beating the bigger teams as well.

“I don’t look at the fixtures and say ‘oh well, we’re playing

Arsenal so I’ll disregard three points there’.

“I want to win and it’s the same when you go and play the

so-called not so big clubs that you want to win them.

“You’ve got to have that belief there that you can do it. I

think that’s important, no matter what.”

Lambert insists he will not press the panic button during the

January transfer window whatever Villa’s league position is at that

juncture.

He said: “Whatever will happen in January, will happen. At the

end of December we’ll see where we are and where we go from

there.

“I don’t think even when you get to January, I never panic. In

some cases you can do that because of inflated prices and people

wanting ridiculous money for players.

“That’s something I won’t do, I won’t panic in the last week or

so.

“We’ve got to stay in the league no matter what, even if that

deal wasn’t there. This is the best league to play in.”

A second home win of the season last weekend against Wigan came

on the back of a draw at Chelsea and there is a general feeling

that there has been an upturn at Anfield.

Their current undefeated sequence is the Reds’ longest since

November last year, when they managed eight matches, and only

leaders Manchester City have gone longer without losing.

Having played all the sides in the top six the fixture list

should be slightly kinder to Rodgers, who took over from Kenny

Dalglish in June.

“I felt the opening period was always going to be difficult for

us; a new manager, new ideas and some tough fixtures,” he said.

“There has been a lot of change over the course of the summer

but it is much smoother now and there is a real spurt around the

club.

“We have had three teenagers (Raheem Sterling, Suso and Andre

Wisdom) a lot of the time in our team and they will make mistakes

and our senior players are carrying them along at the minute.

“Short term we want to keep performing well. The players want to

improve and that gives us a great future going forward and

hopefully we keep chipping away and moving on.

“It’s where we finish at the end of the season that will be the

most important thing. It’s about continuing our improvement.

“I’ve said before – and I’ll repeat it again – we’ll get even

stronger in the second half of the season because we’ll get better

in our ways of working and get a better understanding what we’re

trying to achieve in terms of the team.

“Where we’re at in May will define how good a season we’ve

had.”

Liverpool’s unbeaten run will be tested at Swansea tomorrow as

Rodgers returns to the club he left in the summer.

They have won only one of their last seven visits to south

Wales, only two of the last 11 and have not beaten the Swans in

three attempts since they became a Premier League side.

Rodgers’ Swansea side beat Liverpool on the final day of the

season last May but, having switched sides, saw his former team

knock them out of the Capital One Cup at Anfield last month.

“It is a real special place, Swansea. I spent two fantastic

years there and had a wonderful rapport with the supporters,” he

added.

“The club was brilliant for me and hopefully I gave them

something back while I was there.

“I never said I was going to be there for many years but it took

a truly unbelievable club like Liverpool to draw me away.

“Whatever reception I get is irrelevant, the important thing is

I know the good people there and I am sure time will heal any bad

thoughts.

“But we are going there to keep our (seven-match) unbeaten run

in the league going.”