Bristol R v Burton preview

Porto defender Eliaquim Mangala is flattered to be linked with

moves to Manchester United and Tottenham.

Reports have claimed United and Tottenham are keeping tabs on

Mangala as they look to bolster their defensive options next

season.

Italian giants AC Milan are also thought to be confirmed

admirers of Mangala as Porto brace themselves for moves for the

centre-back.

The 22-year-old has impressed for Porto this season in the UEFA

Champions League and he is regarded as one of the best young

defensive talents in Europe.

Mangala insists he is happy at Porto, but admits he would be

interested in a move to the Premier League.

“I have a contract here till June 2016, however all players want

to play one day in the top league in Europe,” Mangala told Sky

Sports. “I am no different to that.

“To be linked with clubs of the stature of Tottenham or

Manchester United is the best feeling.

“I want to finish the season strongly and see at the end of the

season if the reports are true.”

Cheltenham defender Michael Hector is set to start after his

loan spell from Reading was extended for a second month.

The 20-year-old has made seven starts for the club but could

have a different centre-back partner against the Dons if veteran

Steve Elliott fails a late fitness test on a knock picked up in

Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Fleetwood.

If Elliott does not make it then Manchester United loanee Luke

McCullough is likely to step into the side.

Full-back Sido Jombati is set for a recall as Cheltenham look to

close the four-point gap between themselves and the automatic

promotion places in npower League Two.

Young defender Harry Hooman is Mark Yates’ only long-term

absentee with a foot injury.

AFC Wimbledon will check on Jonathan Meades ahead of the

trip.

The on-loan Bournemouth defender failed a late fitness test on

an ankle injury ahead of Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw against

Plymouth.

With fellow full-backs Curtis Osano (calf) and Jim Fenlon (back)

still missing, centre-half Mat Mitchel-King will deputise at

right-back again if Meades is ruled out.

Midfielder Harry Pell suffered a gluteal injury in the pre-match

warm-up against Argyle but managed to play the full 90 minutes and

scored the Dons’ goal, so he should be fine to continue.

On-loan Cardiff forward Jesse Darko is pushing for a full debut

after coming on as a half-time sub.

Rashid Yussuff is a doubt through illness, fellow midfielder

Peter Sweeney has a toe injury and defender Will Antwi a hip

knock.

The Black Cats midfielder has been struggling for some time with

the problem, and visited a specialist earlier this week.

Manager Martin O’Neill said: “He went to see the specialist and

he has given him an injection. At this moment, he is hoping in the

next couple of weeks that that would cure things.

“But if it didn’t do, then we might have to have another look at

things, so we will see how it goes.”

Asked if surgery might be needed if the injection does not solve

the problem, O’Neill replied: “That has been mentioned, but we will

see.

“I wouldn’t start to draw too many conclusions from that at the

moment, but that might be the case.”

Bale cracked in a superb last-minute strike to secure a 3-2 win

at West Ham on Monday night, which moved Spurs up into third place

in the Premier League.

The Welshman – once scouted by Arsenal when a youngster at

Southampton – is being heralded as one of the best in Europe, up

alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Wenger, though, insists his team must concentrate on delivering

a performance themselves rather than worry about what Bale might

do.

“We don’t plan for anybody. It is always the same – focus on our

strengths and forget about your opponent,” said Wenger. “There is

nobody special that you least like to face. All players have

different qualities.

“What is important when you are a manager is that you are

focused, that hasn’t changed over the last 15 years, you always

make sure your team is at its best, prepares well and focuses on

playing the football that we love.

“What is important before a game like that is just to focus on

our game and forget all the rest.”

Despite their recent disappointments against Blackburn in the FA

Cup and losing at home to Bayern Munich in the first leg of their

Champions League last-16 clash, Arsenal have found some form in the

Premier League, where they are unbeaten in five games winning the

past three.

Should Arsenal – who are now just two points behind

fourth-placed Chelsea – secure victory on enemy territory this

weekend, the gap on Spurs would be reduced to just one point.

“It is an interesting game because there is something at stake,”

said Wenger.

“We are confident and we are on a good run in the Premier

League. If you look at our record, it is very good in recent games,

so we will just focus on our strengths, that is it.”

Wenger added: “Sunday is a very important game because it’s in

the final part of the Premier League season, the outcome will give

a big boost to the team who wins it.

“This is a derby and [will be] a very intense game, as usual, it

is always very tight, always a big fight.

“If you look at our record in the last 15 or 16 years, it is

very good. Of course we want to continue to maintain that

record.”

Arsenal will be without defender Bacary Sagna (knee) on Sunday,

while midfielder Abou Diaby is rated as 50/50 with a calf

problem

Bristol Rovers boss John Ward has received mixed news on the

striker front.

While Ryan Brunt looks likely to return after missing the last

two games, Scottish striker David Clarkson will not play again this

season as he needs an operation on an ankle problem.

“David needs an operation and won’t play again this season,”

Ward told the Bristol Evening Post. “His ankle is not right so we

really have to look at that.

“It is a shame because David is a senior member of the squad and

an important player for us, but he just can’t get that ankle

right.”

Clarkson’s place in the squad looks likely to be taken by former

Sunderland striker Oumare Tounkara who signed a short-term deal

with the club on Thursday.

The Pirates announced earlier this week that Seanan Clucas is

out for the season with a knee injury, while winger Fabian

Broghammer is also a doubt due to an on-going hamstring

problem.

But defender Clayton McDonald returns after missing Tuesday

night’s defeat at Northampton to be present at the birth of his

child.

Burton will check on Jacques Maghoma.

Maghoma was substituted due to injury after just over an hour of

the 3-2 home win over Morecambe on Tuesday night and the winger is

a doubt ahead of the weekend, meaning manager Gary Rowett may have

to change his starting line-up for the first time in four

games.

“He’s obviously hurt himself and I would assume that makes him a

doubt for Saturday’s match,” said Rowett, who admitted he

considered making changes for the Shrimps match in midweek.

“I was a little bit concerned because I thought I needed to

change it and maybe put two or three fresh bodies in, but it’s

difficult when you’re winning and have been in such great form.

“It’s unfair on the lads in the side, too, so I decided to go

with the same team.”

Should Rowett opt to freshen things up against Rovers he has

plenty of options.

Striker Calvin Zola and skipper Zander Diamond, available again

on Saturday after serving a four-match suspension, are itching to

get back into the team while defender Andrew Corbett, midfielders

Jimmy Phillips, Jack Dyer and Adam Drury and striker Matthew

Paterson have all had to settle for places on the bench

recently.