x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Premier League: Arsenal to Fulham

January's Asian Cup in Qatar could ruin any plans goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer has of completing a dream move to Arsenal.

Arsenal

Any Arsenal fan will say beating arch-rivals Tottenham is a highlight of their season. But if Arsene Wenger's side can do just that tomorrow, it will feel extra special for them as the Gunners will leapfrog Chelsea to the pinnacle of the Premier League. Robin van Persie, the Dutch striker with a remarkable record of scoring against Spurs, is expected to feature in the early kick-off at the Emirates Stadium after representing his country in Holland's midweek 1-0 win over Turkey. Van Persie has not started for Arsenal since picking up an ankle injury in August.

Aston Villa

Robert Pires, the 37-year-old former Arsenal winger who left for Villarreal in 2006, said he is ready to feature for Aston Villa against Blackburn on Sunday so long as the formalities of his contract are completed. Pires has been training with Arsenal since his Villarreal contract expired two months ago, and the Frenchman is convinced that he can make an immediate impact with coach Gerard Houllier's team. "I'm happy and in good shape," Pires said. "I just have to see the medical team at Villa and, if I've signed, I hope to be involved in the trip to Blackburn."

Birmingham City

Alex McLeish, the Birmingham coach, has told Alexander Hleb, the on-loan Barcelona midfielder, that he expects him to raise his game. The 29-year-old arrived at St Andrews in the summer but has so far failed to impress. "I'd hate to think that a player of his calibre at this stage of his career doesn't want to make an impact any more," McLeish said. Hleb has the perfect opportunity to impress when his side host Chelsea tomorrow. McLeish added: "I don't think we'll pip Chelsea for the league, but can we win a home game against them? That's achievable."

Blackburn Rovers

Tripy Makonda, the Paris Saint-Germain defender, could be heading for Ewood Park after Sam Allardyce, the Rovers manager, is said to have expressed an interest in the Frenchman. The 20-year-old full-back, who would cost in the region of £1 million (Dh5.8m) previously has indicated he would be keen to move to the Premier League and Blackburn scouts have been impressed with recent displays in Ligue 1. Allardyce is also reported to be interested in signing the striker Mohammed Tchite from Standard Leige when the transfer window opens in January. Allardyce is keen to move away from the relegation zone.

Blackpool

Ian Holloway's future at Blackpool would be decided in the next seven days after the Football Association sent a letter to the Seasiders asking for an explanation into why their coach made 11 personnel changes to the side that faced Aston Villa last weekend. Holloway has repeatedly threatened to quit if he is fined for his actions and Blackpool's response to the letter will be critical to how the situation is resolved. They face Wolves tomorrow and should have Charlie Adam, their captain and key midfielder, fit to play. However, the goalkeeper Matt Gilks is out for up to two months after breaking his knee cap.

Bolton Wanderers

Matt Taylor, the Bolton midfielder, has urged chairman Phil Gartside to do everything within his power to retain the services of Johan Elmander and Gary Cahill. The Trotters are flying high in the league in fifth place in the Premier League table having lost only twice this season. However, Gartside is reportedly ready to cash in on some of his most sought-after players in a bid to reduce the club's debt. Said Taylor: "We're doing well and getting the results we deserve, so there's no reason why we can't maintain the league position. The main thing for the club is to make sure that we keep hold of our important players."

Chelsea

Carlo Ancelotti's defensive headaches continue ahead of tomorrow's trip to Birmingham. Branislav Ivanovic is the Chelsea coach's only fit centre-back with John Terry being sent to Italy for scans on his leg and Alex ruled out for up to eight weeks with a knee injury. Alex, the Brazilian, was actually named on the bench for his country's clash with Argentina in Doha - a situation that did not please the Chelsea staff. But Mano Menezes, the Brazil coach, said the Londoners were fully aware that Alex would be involved, even though he remained an unused substitute. The Premier League leaders have lost two of their past three games.

Everton

Louis Saha has struggled for form since returning from a series of injuries, but he has pledged to improve as Everton chase points to recover from a poor start to the season that has left them in 13th place, only two points clear of the relegation zone. "I will work harder to get luck back on my side," he said. "We need results and I will try everything. I will work as hard as I can to help give the team three points as we need to get going again." Meanwhile, Landon Donovan is yet to decide whether he will return to Everton in January. His LA Galaxy season ended last weekend. Everton travel to Sunderland on Monday night.

Fulham

January's Asian Cup in Qatar could ruin any plans goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer has of completing a dream move to Arsenal. The Australian was heavily linked with a cross-town move to the Emirates in the summer, but it fell through late on. Fulham have now lined up Espanyol's Carlos Kameni as a replacement, but Schwarzer's involvement for his country in Doha could persuade Arsenal to look elsewhere. The former Middlesbrough stopped said that if something were to arise, in terms of a transfer, the Asian Cup "is something that would have to be addressed at the time" Fulham host Manchester City on Sunday.

* Compiled by Gary Meenaghan and Graham Caygill