x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Muamba's mind will be on the job as debate over reckless tackles rages

The Bolton midfielder has found himself in the spotlight after his tackle left Wigan's McCarthy with a seriously damaged ankle ligament.

BOLTON // Owen Coyle has backed Fabrice Muamba to put behind him the furore surrounding the challenge that left Wigan Athletic's James McCarthy facing three months on the sidelines.

The Bolton Wanderers midfielder, 22, has found himself in the spotlight for an attempt to win the ball in a 1-1 draw at the DW Stadium last weekend. The effort certainly lacked timing, although many believe it was far from an egregious foul.

However, McCarthy sustained serious damage to an ankle ligament, and the Republic of Ireland prospect is unlikely to return until late in January. Roberto Martinez, the Wigan coach, called Muamba's tackle "a footballing crime".

It is unfortunate for Muamba that such an incident has come at a time when there has been considerable focus on ill-timed and reckless tackles in the Premier League.

Muamba's manager is convinced that his player has the mental strength to put the matter to one side when he lines up in today's home clash with Liverpool at the Reebok Stadium.

"Everybody knows the tackle wasn't malicious," Coyle said.

"Fabrice is a great kid. He's a very good player, and he'll be focused on doing his job for Bolton. It's as simple as that.

"Honestly, he is such a lovely kid, and he was genuinely disappointed and hurt by the fact young James was injured.

"I knew James as a young kid growing up in Glasgow, and he'll go on to have a glittering career. It's such a shame he is injured, but Fabrice went to win the ball, and unfortunately James has picked up an injury on the back of that.

"But that's the nature of the competition we play in. There are always going to be talking points, and obviously right now tackling and injuries are the main focus.

"You just have to deal with that the best you can."

Coyle's side go into the game riding high in eighth position in the Premier League table on the back of just one defeat from their opening nine matches.

In contrast, opponents Liverpool are in the relegation zone, two places and three points off the foot of the table.

Liverpool and under-pressure manager Roy Hodgson at least head into the game on the back of a win at home over Blackburn Rovers last Sunday, a result that ended a wretched run of five matches without a victory.

For Coyle, that potentially makes Liverpool a far more dangerous side today.

"Their tails will be up," he said. "They will certainly be boosted by last week's result, so I'm sure they will be positive, trying to win the game. We know how hard it will be because of the quality we face, but we will also be on the front foot.

"My boys are in terrific form, they're playing well, so I'll ask the same of my group, that we give our maximum. If we do that then I'm sure we can go and earn points from this game."

Coyle has confirmed that Ivan Klasnic, the striker, comes into consideration for the game with Liverpool.

Klasnic, who was suspended for the game at Wigan, is available despite currently being on bail following his arrest on suspicion of rape earlier this week.

* Press Association

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