x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Premier League notebook: Arsenal to Fulham

Cesc Fabregas understands why Arsenal felt allowing him to join Barcelona was 'impossible', while Christopher Samba has criticised Blackburn's start to the season.

Arsenal

Cesc Fabregas understands why Arsenal felt allowing him to join Barcelona was "impossible". The 23-year-old is set to return from a hamstring injury for the visit of Birmingham City tomorrow. Fabregas was close to returning to his boyhood club during the summer, but Arsenal rejected a £35 million (Dh203m) offer. "I maintain that I was right because [to play for Barcelona] is a dream," Fabregas told radio station Cadena Cope. "It wasn't to be and that's that, though in my head I keep thinking it could have been a good opportunity. But here [at Arsenal] I have everything. I am still happy."

Aston Villa

Marc Albrighton, Aston Villa's rookie winger, is unfazed by facing England's record-equalling left-back Ashley Cole in tomorrow's clash with Chelsea at Villa Park. Cole moved level with Kenny Sansom as the most capped England full-back, with 86 games, this week. It will be a big test for Albrighton, who has enjoyed his first extended spell of first-team football this season. "I wouldn't say it is daunting, it's exciting more than anything," Albrighton said. "Every player in that [Chelsea] team is world class and, if you can play well against them, you can play well against anybody."

Birmingham City

Cameron Jerome is doubtful for tomorrow's away trip to Arsenal because of injury. The Birmingham striker injured an ankle in training earlier in the week and, while scans have revealed that the knock is not too serious, it could keep Jerome, 24, the club's top scorer last season, out of the trip to the Emirates Stadium in London. "Cameron Jerome took a knock in training this week and is a doubt," Alex McLeish, the Birmingham manager, told the club's website. "There's nothing broken or anything like that and it's just a ligament strain or something like that."

Blackburn Rovers

Christopher Samba, the Blackburn captain, has criticised the club's start to the season, which sees them sitting 13th in the table, three points off fourth and two points away from the drop zone. "I would say our start to the season is below expectations," Samba told the Lancashire Evening Telegraph. "We are full of regret and that means we have not done the necessary to be where we wanted to be. You look at games like Arsenal, where we dominated and lost. With a little bit more effort and a little bit more quality we would have a lot more points. We just make things a little difficult for ourselves at times and that is regrettable."

Blackpool

Blackpool, the surprise package of the Premier League season so far, host big-spending Manchester City on Sunday and Ian Holloway, the home team's manager, has called it a case of opposites colliding. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed-backed City have spent more than £300m (Dh1.75 billion) in the past two years. Blackpool, meanwhile, have splashed out just £3m. "This is the match between the biggest opposites in the division - massive-spending City and us," Holloway told the Blackpool Gazette. "You won't get two more opposite ends of the spectrum. We have one point out of six at home and I want to improve on that."

Bolton Wanderers

Owen Coyle believes England would have won on Tuesday night if Bolton's Kevin Davies had been introduced to the action earlier. Davies, 33, became the oldest England debutant since Leslie Compton in 1950 when he came on against Montenegro with 20 minutes remaining of a 0-0 draw. "As the manager of his football club, it filled me with immense pride," Coyle said. "I think it would have been a travesty if he had finished his career and hadn't won that elusive cap for England. I thought he did ever so well in the game and I truly believe, having sat and watched the game, if he had been on earlier, then England would have gone on to win."

Chelsea

Chelsea are still waiting on the fitness of captain John Terry ahead of tomorrow's trip to Aston Villa. Terry withdrew from the England squad to face Montenegro on Tuesday after hurting his back. The defender returned to Chelsea for treatment on the injury and the club are hoping he will be fit enough to lead the side against Villa. Defensive partner Alex, the Brazilian, is already out with a thigh injury and young centre-half Jeffrey Bruma withdrew from Holland's Under 21 squad because of a hamstring problem. If Terry is ruled out, Carlo Ancelotti could switch Michael Essien, the midfielder, alongside Branislav Ivanovic at centre-back.

Everton

Ross Barkley, the talented young Everton midfielder, is facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines. The club have confirmed Barkley suffered a double fracture of a leg during England Under 19s' 2-1 defeat to Belgium in Wednesday night's European Championship qualifier. Barkley, 16, was involved in a collision with teammate Andre Wisdom in the first half that led to both players needing to be substituted. The full extent of Barkley's injury is now being assessed by the Everton medical team. Barkley has been on the first-team bench this season but is yet to make his professional debut for David Moyes's team.

Fulham

Simon Davies has warned Tottenham that Fulham will be out to prove just what a "dangerous team" they are in tomorrow's London derby at a sold-out Craven Cottage. Mark Hughes's men are unbeaten in the Premier League this season, but also have managed only one victory from seven matches.

"We look a really dangerous team and it has been a shame that we have not gone on and won a couple more games, but the longer the season goes on, the better I am sure we will become," Davies said on the club's official website. "The Cottage is a difficult place to come to and hopefully we can keep our home form going."