x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

One competition at a time for Pepe Reina

Liverpool goalkeeper focused on Premier League game against Bolton Wanderers, despite the two big cup matches just around the corner.

Pepe Reina, the Liverpool goalkeeper, wants his team to maintain their momentum.
Pepe Reina, the Liverpool goalkeeper, wants his team to maintain their momentum.

Pepe Reina, the Liverpool goalkeeper, is confident the squad will not allow dreams of Wembley Stadium to interfere with a vital trip to Bolton on Saturday.

The Reds are 90 minutes away from their first final in six years – and a first visit to Wembley since 1996 – as they hold a 1-0 lead going into the Carling Cup semi-final second leg at home to Manchester City on Wednesday. After that comes more knockout action as they host Manchester United in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

However, it is the club's Premier League form which needs addressing after just one win from their past five matches.

And while the lure of silverware is an obvious one for the players, Reina said the focus has to be on arresting a slide which has seen them drop to seventh in the table.

"We know how huge it is to play a Carling Cup semi-final, second leg at home and everybody knows how big the tie against Manchester United is going to be," the Spain goalkeeper said. "It definitely won't be difficult to put those games to the back of our minds because the first game is Bolton and is therefore the most important of all three. It is vital for us. We have to get some momentum going and keep winning games."

Last weekend's goalless draw to Stoke – the seventh time they have been held at Anfield this season – was possibly the most disappointing performance of the campaign.

Kenny Dalglish, the manager, is keen to put the Stoke performance behind them and admitted there was very little in the way of positives to come from the game. "We are not going to dwell on it," he said. "As long we've got it in perspective then we're OK and we know what we have to do to improve."

Other games on Saturday

Everton v Blackburn Rovers

Phil Neville, the Everton captain, celebrates his 35th birthday on Saturday with David Moyes, the manager, hailing his professionalism. Neville, who has just under 18 months remaining on his Toffees contract, found his first-team place under threat earlier this season, but he is now firmly ensconced back in the line-up. Moyes believes there is still a place in the high-tempo league for players of his experience.

“I never realised he was 35; he told me he was 32!” the Toffees manager joked. “We are delighted with Phil. What he has given Everton in the time he has been here has been remarkable. He continues to work weekly and daily as if it is his last day. He has been a terrific professional and a great ambassador for Everton since he left Manchester United.”

Moyes added: “It is undoubtedly a young man’s sport, but you see Paul Scholes and Thierry Henry coming back and people admiring what they can do.”

Stoke City v West Bromwich Albion

Tony Pulis, the Stoke City manager, will not relax this season until his side have hit the 40-point mark. A run of just one defeat in their last 10 league matches since a 5-0 drubbing at Bolton in November has propelled Stoke up to eighth and within 10 points of the coach’s target. “We have to get Premier League status for next season again,” he said.

“It’s the thing we desire at this football club, with everything else a sideshow in many respects.”

Sunderland v Swansea City

Josh McEachran, the loan signing, has said Frank Lampard, the Chelsea midfielder, convinced him to make the move to Swansea. McEachran, 18, is in line to make his Swans debut against Sunderland on Saturday as they look to build on an unbeaten run that stretches to five games.

“I spoke to Frank a few times and he told me I would love it. I wasn’t getting the game time at Chelsea, so I thought I needed to get games and try to prove myself to everyone,” he said.

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Aston Villa

Mick McCarthy, the Wolves manager, does not want his team to have to rely on their tag of comeback kings as they look to bounce back from their FA Cup exit in Saturday’s home derby with Aston Villa.

McCarthy’s side, beaten 1-0 by Blues in their Cup third-round replay on Wednesday, have picked up 10 points this term from losing positions to keep them above the bottom three. “I’m not sure if I should be happy or sad about that,” he said.

Queens Park Rangers v Wigan Athletic

Mark Hughes, above, the Queens Park Rangers manager, has said the next eight matches will be crucial to their survival hopes. QPR won their first match in 11 attempts against MK Dons in midweek, with Danny Gabbidon’s header securing progress from their FA Cup third-round replay.

QPR will look for back-to-back victories when Wigan, fellow strugglers, come to Loftus Road, which Hughes hopes can lead to further success. “We are all mindful of significance of the game,” he said. “It is not only this one but maybe the next six, seven or eight games to be honest.”

Fulham v Newcastle United

Martin Jol, the Fulham manager, said money is available to bring in new faces during the current transfer window. The Cottagers’ attack is an area where the Dutchman is looking for reinforcements, and it is reported Fulham are still monitoring Catania’s Maxi Lopez, although the Sicilian club’s asking price is proving a stumbling block.

Jol admitted he is “very busy” trying to bring in new players and said the chairman Mohamed Al Fayed will back him. “If we come up with a good player, he will sign it off,” Jol said.