From Liverpool to Wolves, how are the Premier League teams shaping up for this weekend's matches.
Premier League previews: Liverpool to Wolves
Liverpool were fortunate to still find themselves at the top of Europa Cup group K last night after a poor performance against Utrecht. The hosts, by far the better side, had the ball in the net in the first half when Jan Wuytens shot past Pepe Reina, but the whistle had gone for a push in the penalty area. Liverpool were below par for most of the match but Martin Skrtel nearly scored as the match headed for a goalless draw, heading against the Utrecht crossbar. Jacob Mulenga had a chance to seal the win late on for the home side but pushed his effort wide of Reina's post and a grateful Liverpool held on for a point.
As City took on Juventus last night in the Europa League, striker Emmanuel Adebayor, who has not been a first choice this season, hinted that he may look for a move in the January transfer window. "What is it like to be playing against Juventus? The effect is one against a team with which I was linked in the summer by the papers," he told Il Giornale. "When I said that I was not convinced about ending my career in England I never mentioned Juventus. But I'd be lying to say that I don't consider them as one of the most fascinating clubs in the world. I want to fight for a starting role. But if I don't play then it would be stupid not to look around."
Ji-sung Park is unhappy with his performances so far this season for Manchester United. After his World Cup exertions with South Korea in the summer, the midfielder has struggled to find any kind of form since his return to Old Trafford. His first-half display in United's 1-0 Champions League victory at Valencia on Wednesday night was particularly poor and earned him a verbal volley from his manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, at one point during the match. "I don't know why my performances have not been good," Park said. "Maybe I was not ready for the season. But mentally I have been weak and I have to improve."
Impressive early season victories for Newcastle - 6-0 at home to Aston Villa and 1-0 away at Everton - have been cancelled out by successive home defeats to Blackpool and Stoke City. Ryan Taylor, the Newcastle defender, knows that home form is the key to staying in the Premier League. Newcastle went through the whole of last season unbeaten at home on the way to winning the Championship. "We should be picking up points but we haven't. We need to concentrate on the home form," Taylor told BBC Newcastle. "When Blackpool and Stoke come here, we should be picking up points from them."
Tony Pulis, the Stoke manager, believes the winger Matthew Etherington and the centre-back Ryan Shawcross deserve call-ups to the England squad for the forthcoming European Championship 2012 qualifying match against Montenegro. Both players have been instrumental in Stoke's unbeaten run through September. The England manager, Fabio Capello, will name his squad on Monday. Pulis said: "In my opinion they must be very, very close. I'm not going to tell Capello who to pick, that's up to him and he's an experienced enough manager to know his own mind. But the two lads haven't done themselves any harm at all."
Sunderland round off a trio of tough league fixtures with tomorrow's visit of Manchester United. The Black Cats impressed with a steely display and a 2-2 draw at Liverpool last week having held Arsenal to a 1-1 draw at home seven days earlier. The manager Steve Bruce, a United old boy, hopes his squad can keep their focus against another heavyweight side. "We stuck at it against both Arsenal and Liverpool and showed no fear," Bruce said. "We've had an unbelievably difficult run of fixtures and at the moment we've done OK. This is the ultimate test - can we go again and get to the same levels we've showed? I hope so."
Ledley King, the Tottenham captain, has urged his teammates to take their European form into their next league game, at home to Aston Villa tomorrow. Spurs beat Dutch side Twente 4-1 in a thriller on Wednesday night and the England defender said: "That's what we've struggled to do in recent years, when we've been in Europe our league form has suffered, so that's what we want to put right this season. People are looking at us after our European games, the spotlight's on us and teams are waiting for us to slip up and are saying 'it's the same old Tottenham'. We don't want to be like that."
West Bromwich Albion
After surprising everyone with a 3-2 victory at Arsenal last week, West Brom's manager Roberto Di Matteo has tried to make sure the club's fans calm down. Promoted Albion are sixth in the table after six games. They take on Bolton tomorrow and Di Matteo insists it will be just as tough a game as last week's trip to the Emirates Stadium was. He told the club's website: "I hope the fans don't get carried away by the Arsenal result. I hope they understand our position and see that Bolton is a difficult game. It's one of the teams that is a competitor, even though they've been in the Premier League for many years."
West Ham United
West Ham have pledged to help revitalise British athletics in their bid to move into London's Olympic Stadium after the 2012 Games. The club submitted their proposal yesterday, and are the only bidders to confirm their plans for the stadium. They were among more than 100 companies, including entertainment giant AEG, to declare initial interest in taking over the stadium, with the preferred tenants to be identified by December. Bidders are obliged to retain the running track. The UK Athletics chairman Ed Warner said: "West Ham are not the only people we've spoken to."
Robert Martinez, the Wigan manager, is relaxed about Gary Caldwell's return to the Scotland squad despite the defender having yet to start a first-team game this season. The former Celtic man last played on May 9 against Chelsea, following which he had a hip operation. He will not play tomorrow at home against Wolverhampton Wanderers but is in Scotland's squad for the games against the Czech Republic on October 8 and 12. But Martinez said: "The two medical departments have been in contact and I am quite happy for Scotland to call Gary up."
Wanderers have had a Jekyll and Hyde start to the season. They went three games unbeaten, but have now lost three in a row. Steven Fletcher, the club's record signing from Burnley this summer, has targeted tomorrow's trip to Wigan Athletic as a chance to turn the corner. "It has been an up-and-down start generally with a few injuries and the recent league results," he told the club's website. "We're still confident and we know we've got a good team. Hopefully that will show up again on Saturday. Wigan is a big game for us."