Warren relishing Caley future
Jan Vertonghen believes Tottenham are on the verge of achieving
something special this season as they close in on a top-four spot
in the Premier League.
Vertonghen has compared to what is happening at White Hart Lane
to the Belgium national side, who are looking to qualify for the
World Cup for the first time since 2002, as both look to overcome
major mental hurdles.
The 25-year-old, who joined from Ajax last summer, is positive
that Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas now has a side with the qualities
to compete against the likes of north London neighbours
He told the Observer: “I have the same feeling at Tottenham that
I do with Belgium, that we are in a strong team and we’re getting
stronger, that we’re on the verge of something.
“A few results have helped us. We won at Manchester United and,
with Belgium, we beat Holland at home.
“Everybody can feel that Spurs are getting stronger, not only
inside the club but also at other clubs. Even in the Belgium team,
we get the respect. Teams are not happy when they have to face
“We look at ourselves but then we see the opponent is under
pressure, in trouble, and you want to take advantage of that. I
hope we can put them under a lot of pressure in the game.
“Because we are not the team who finished first or second for
the last 10 years, we are not under the pressure Arsenal are, but
we put ourselves under pressure because we deserve to be up there
and have the qualities to play in the Champions League.”
The Toffees’ hopes of claiming a place in the Champions League
took a knock in February but they still have an outside chance of
reaching fourth spot in the Premier League.
Even if they do not make it into the elite competition, they
should be strong contenders to bring continental football back to
Goodison Park via the Europa League, through league position or the
Everton, sixth, boosted their league prospects with a 3-1 win
over struggling Reading on Saturday and are now looking forward to
a cup quarter-final against Wigan next weekend.
Pienaar, who scored a stunning second goal as the Royals were
overcome at Goodison, said: “Sometimes you have to go through the
back door, so there is a little less pressure on us now.
“We will see how the other teams do and hopefully we can sneak
“I think it is fairly good to play in European competitions.
After the Premier League there are only two bigger cups – the
Europa League and the Champions League.
“All the players want to play in it and it is important for the
club to get European football.
“We will just see. The cup is the shortest route to European
“Next week we are also at Goodison so hopefully this can be the
place that gives us the passport to European football.”
Everton have not played in Europe since the 2009-10 season and
Pienaar knows the fans would also enjoy the experience, even if the
travelling might not particularly appeal to him.
He said: “I think it is important for the supporters as well –
they enjoy going away. I’d rather stay at home with the
Everton are amid a run of five consecutive home games, the third
of which will be Wigan’s visit.
Victory over the Latics would secure a return to Wembley, where
Everton were beaten by neighbours Liverpool in last season’s FA Cup
semi-finals, but Pienaar is not thinking that far ahead yet.
The 30-year-old said: “We don’t have to talk about it now. The
most important thing is Wigan and it is not going to be an easy
hurdle to go past.
“That is important and at the final whistle maybe we can talk
Everton will at least go into the game in positive mood after
the disappointment of last week’s late capitulation at Norwich.
Pienaar said: “It does give us a lot of confidence but the FA
Cup is going to be a totally different game.
“We all know it is not the same as the league. We are playing
against good opposition, so it is going to be hard. With the 12th
man behind us hopefully we can go all the way.”
Everton were deserved victors over the Royals although the game
was evenly contested until the influential Marouane Fellaini headed
them ahead after 43 minutes.
Pienaar doubled the advantage with a long-range strike just
before the hour and Kevin Mirallas made victory certain with a neat
Reading, who hit the woodwork early on through Adam Le Fondre,
battled on and Hal Robson-Kanu grabbed a consolation.
The only downside for Everton was the loss of England defender
Phil Jagielka with a badly gashed ankle, which later required
surgery, after a clumsy tackle from Le Fondre in the opening
Defeat left Reading in the bottom three although results
elsewhere did not significantly worsen their position.
They now face relegation rivals Aston Villa in a critical game
at the Madejski Stadium next week before tough away trips to
Manchester United and Arsenal.
Manager Brian McDermott remains positive and sees last season’s
late charge to promotion as a good omen.
McDermott said: “I just hope our fans can stick with us because
we might do it, you just never know.
“Last season we were written off pretty early. We’ve been
written off before and we’ll probably be written off again.
“We need a real vibrant atmosphere next week and we need to make
sure we give the fans something early in the game, and they can
really get behind the team.
“I thought we played some good football on the front foot at
Everton, which is never easy.
“We are going to need our fans next week and we are hopeful we
will get a good following and everyone sticks by us.”
Mancini has regularly cited the failure of his forwards to match
the standards of last season as one of the reasons for the
champions’ faltering title defence.
City have found the net 50 times in their 27 league games to
date, 19 behind their tally at the same stage last season and 18
less than United this term, although they have played a game
It is an issue City are expected to address in the summer but
Mancini does not necessarily need an abundance of goals to get back
into the title race.
The Italian said: “I hope that we can win the next 11 games 1-0
if it is possible because 1-0 is enough if you don’t concede a
“But it is impossible that you don’t concede a goal every
“It is clear, if we are missing 15 or 16 goals now from last
year, it is too much because 10 goals are probably six or seven
“This is the difference.”
One of City’s strikers, Carlos Tevez, has also set his sights on
victory in every game to apply maximum pressure to United.
Tevez has scored 11 times this season including a superb
long-strike to settle a tight contest with Chelsea last
The former United forward told the club’s website: “I think that
what we have left is 11 cup finals.
“There is not long between now and the rest of the season and we
must win – we have to win.
“We’re still in the race, we know we can still catch United.
“If we can get three points from every match and hope that
United slip up here and there, we can maybe start to put some
pressure on them.
“We would be fooling ourselves if we thought it was going to be
“It will be very tough, but by picking up the points we will be
fighting, believe me we will be fighting and while it is still
mathematically possible, we will be going for it.”
City’s 2-0 win over Chelsea eased fears they might be dragged
back into a battle for second place and restored confidence after a
damaging loss at Southampton last month.
But Tevez also sees the Monday night trip to Villa Park to face
another relegation-threatened side as fraught with danger and is
anxious to ensure intensity does not slip.
He said: “It is very important that we stay strong – both
mentally and physically – going into each of the remaining
“I think this is going to be a tough game.
“We know that Villa are battling against relegation and it’s at
their ground, so I think it’s going to be treated like a final for
them too, so that should make for a very entertaining match.”
City will need a number of favours from elsewhere to pull off
what would be an even more unlikely title triumph than last year’s
There has been little sign of it with United unbeaten in the
league since November but Mancini has not forgotten where they
slipped up last time.
He said: “It is difficult because last year nobody thought they
could lose against Wigan or these games.
“When there are seven, eight, nine games to the end, it will be
difficult because teams play for (to avoid) relegation, for the
Europa League or the Champions League.”
City are unlikely to be without captain Vincent Kompany as he
continues to recover from calf problems but midfielder Gareth Barry
is fit to face his former club after an ankle injury.
Boyce and McArthur had to be separated by captain Gary Caldwell
during the 4-0 home defeat by Liverpool but, far from punishing the
pair for their lack of discipline, Martinez welcomed it.
“If I’m honest I was glad to see that because the position we
are in we need passion,” said the Spaniard, whose side will drop
back into the bottom three if Aston Villa manage a point at home to
Manchester City on Monday night.
“We cannot have players who accept defeat and go through the
motions,” he added.
“It was a moment of frustration between the players who had the
feeling we had thrown away the opportunity to win three points and
the reaction from James and Emmerson is something I want to see in
the dressing room.
“I think they were demanding a little more from each other and
then it became a little argument.
“If everyone could have that passion in the dressing room we
would have been a lot more competitive than we were in the first 20
“At half-time there was a lot of respect between the two
players, who analysed their frustration and used it in a good
manner to perform better in the second half.
“I’d rather see that passion on the pitch than players accept
defeat and not get hurt when their performance is not what is
The Wigan players’ contretemps came midway through the first
half, by which time they were already 2-0 down after a
second-minute header from Stewart Downing and a smart finish by
Liverpool’s Uruguay striker went on to claim his hat-trick with
a deflected free-kick and a breakaway run early in the second half
to become the Premier League’s leading scorer with 21.
Wigan have 10 matches left to save their season once again and
could probably do without the distraction of a FA Cup quarter-final
against Everton next weekend.
Martinez is confident, however, they will bounce back from their
poor showing at the DW Stadium, where they have won just twice all
“The biggest strength we have as a team is we can go anywhere in
the league and are capable of getting points,” added the Latics
“But it is clear we need to learn lessons quickly. We can’t
defend in the manner we did in the first 20 minutes – we need to
“It doesn’t matter who you are playing against, if you are that
soft it makes it very difficult to win games.
“You can’t perform badly and expect to win games and as a team I
thought we had too many bad performances defensively.
“Our defensive performance in the first 20 minutes made the game
“But we are not lower than any other day. You have to
congratulate Liverpool and you have to move on.
“We have many things to look forward to, the first being Everton
in the FA Cup, and everyone is fighting for places in the
The former Newport County captain, who had been an ever present
in the side this season before missing out in the midweek 0-0 draw
with Dundee United though suspension, made a welcome return to
Caley Thistle’s defence on Saturday.
The 28-year-old gave Terry Butcher’s side a boost ahead of the
fourth derby of the season by signing a new two-year deal.
Warren said: “I’m delighted to have signed a new contract. It
was good to get it done and dusted before the game.
“When I was younger it is what I dreamed of (playing at a higher
level), it’s taken me a long time to get here.
“It’s great playing here in the SPL and being in with a chance
of getting a European place.”
Warren admitted the game itself was a bit of a ‘slog’ but felt a
draw was a fair result.
Chances were few and far between with the both sides cancelling
each other out on a tricky surface.
Warren said: “The pitch wasn’t ideal for playing good football
on but the teams went toe to toe and at the end of the day a draw
was probably a fair result.
“We’ve proved over the last couple of games to be more resolute
at the back and although we haven’t scored in either of them you
sometimes have to consolidate to keep a clean sheet.
“It’s all changed since the start of the season. We didn’t
perform well and were scrapping for our lives. But look at the way
we are now.
“We’ve got good forward pace, good character and a good blend of
grafters in our side, that makes for a good all round unit.”
Inverness had gone on a run of four league games without a win
earlier this year but bounced back with victory over Hearts and
goal-less draws against Dundee United and Ross County.
Warren added: “Even when we weren’t winning we were playing
well. We’ve played well in nearly every game. Sometimes you don’t
get the results you deserve.
“We’ve just got to take each game as it comes, keep focused and
pick up as many games as we can to have a chance of getting a
Ross are fourth and Inverness stand fifth in the Scottish
Premier League, both well placed to be in the top six when the
division splits in two.
When asked if he had his sights on a European place, County
manager Derek Adams said: “No, we’ll try to think of the top six
now because we’ve put ourselves in that position and then take it
“We’ve got four games to the split. We have Celtic, Inverness,
Hearts and Kilmarnock to play – four tough games. We’ll do well to
finish in the top six but we’ll give it a go.”