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.”