The latest update of the English club teams ahead of their weekend games.
Premier League weekend preview
Jens Lehmann, the former Germany international, is coming out of retirement at the age of 41 to solve Arsenal's goalkeeping crisis. Lehmann, who left Arsenal in 2008 after a five-year spell with the club, will sign a contract until the end of the season. "We have no cover … that is why I decided to bring Jens back," Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, said yesterday. Meanwhile, Uefa has imposed one-match bans on Wenger and midfielder Samir Nasri for comments made to the referee after their team's Champions League elimination against Barcelona.
James Collins and Richard Dunne have been disciplined after being involved in a row with coaching staff during a team bonding session. Villa manager Gerard Houllier confirmed the club have "reacted strongly" to the behaviour of Dunne and his central defensive partner Collins at a health spa in Leicestershire last week. The pair have had to explain their actions at club disciplinary panels during the past 48 hours although Houllier was not directly involved. Villa are also not confirming the exact nature of the punishment handed out to Dunne and Collins.
Alex McLeish expects to have six players back available after injury for tomorrow's relegation clash at Wigan Athletic. Stephen Carr, the captain, Roger Johnson, Obafemi Martins and Craig Gardner, along with Barry Ferguson and Martin Jiranek, were able to train yesterday and have been declared fit for the weekend. McLeish, the Birmingham manager, said: "We had a right few missing last week and, if they had played, there could have been a danger of them incurring muscle injuries and being out for the next month or even longer."
Brett Emerton is confident that wise heads in the Blackburn squad will ensure they remain in the Premier League next season. The Australian is confident he and his teammates can beat the drop, and told The Lancashire Telegraph: "One thing about this team is when we have been up against it and really needed to win games, we have been able to do that. Hopefully this season it will be no different, we can string a couple of wins together and end the season on a high. There is a lot of experience within the team, we know what is needed to be done and we feel confident we can do that and get the results we need."
David Vaughan has said he will not decide on where he plays his football next season until he knows what league Blackpool will be plying their trade in. Ian Holloway's side have been dragged into the battle to avoid relegation after a good start, and Vaughan, 28, who is a free agent in the summer, said he would not rush into making a decision. "Obviously it depends which league we are going to be in next season. That will be a big factor in my decision," he told The Blackpool Gazette. "I will see what options are available, and I'll sit down with the gaffer my family and everyone who is important and see what is best for me."
Owen Coyle, the Bolton manager, insists Johan Elmander still has to decide where his future lies. Rumours continue to persist that the Sweden striker will join another club when his contract runs out in the summer, with Fiorentina and Juventus the latest to be linked. But Coyle said: "I don't deal in rumour … I deal in fact and the fact is that there has never, ever been one genuine inquiry for Johan. If the summer comes about and there is something out there for Johan and his family that he thinks is the right thing for him, then good luck to him. I would love him to stay - I enjoy working with him and he enjoys working with me."
Didier Drogba has denied the arrival of Fernando Torres at Chelsea has unsettled him as he insisted he remained "really happy" at Stamford Bridge. Drogba, who recently turned 33, stopped short of committing his long-term future to Chelsea but vowed to continue giving everything to the cause. "There will always be talk about my future," he said. "I keep saying it, I'm here and I'm giving everything and it's normal that the club wants to buy another striker because we are ambitious and we want to win the Champions League. I'm really happy because the fans know that my commitment for the team is 100 per cent."
Tony Hibbert is hoping Everton can maintain their dominance over Fulham at Goodison Park when the two sides meet on Merseyside today. Fulham have left pointless every time they have played at Everton, and Hibbert, the defender, thinks he and teammates can use that statistic to their advantage. "It probably does help a bit when you know you have a good record against a team," he told his club's website. "It gives you that added confidence." Everton are unbeaten in their last three games and Hibbert is looking for that to be built on. "We need a result - we need to kick on now," he said of the ninth-placed side.
Mark Hughes yesterday insisted Mohamed Al Fayed had earned the right to erect a statue of Michael Jackson at Craven Cottage. Al Fayed, a close friend of the late performer, caused controversy after announcing he had decided to place the tribute to Jackson outside the stadium. Hughes, the manager, said: "In fairness to the chairman, he's fully supported this club for a long time, put in something like £200 million (Dh1.18 billion) … The reasons are he was a close friend of the chairman of Fulham Football Club, and he wants to mark that and make people understand the respect and affection that he had for the guy."
Kenny Dalglish, the Liverpool manager, believes Jose Reina is possibly the best goalkeeper in the world. "In my opinion Pepe Reina is one of, if not the, best keeper in the world," said the Scot of the 28 year old who was signed from Villarreal in 2005. "I know he doesn't get in his national side [he is kept out of the national team by Real Madrid's Iker Casillas, the Spain captain], but if it's my opinion you're asking for that would be my shout. He has been fantastic for this football club and is a great asset to us. That is reflected in that if Stevie [Gerrard] or Carra [Jamie Carragher] are not playing, he is our captain."
Roberto Mancini is counting down until the international break next week so that he can give Carlos Tevez, his side's top scorer, a break. A run of one goal in nine games for City's top scorer is down to tiredness, his manager believes, but City's tough schedule of Premier League, FA Cup and Europa League action has made it hard to give the Argentine a break from first-team action. Mancini told Sky Sports: "It isn't only Carlos who has lost his sharpness, all the players have. But if we don't have problems against Dynamo Kiev or Chelsea [on Sunday], then we can recover all our players after the internationals."
Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, has admitted that Rio Ferdinand could miss the rest of the season. The 32-year-old England defender has been out since sustaining a calf injury in the warm-up against Wolverhampton Wanderers last month. Ferguson said: "We are not looking at Rio as a short-term situation for us. He has been out for a few weeks now anyway and has not started training yet." Ferguson will also not appeal his five-game touchline ban from the Football Association for making critical comments about Martin Atkinson, the referee, in their 2-1 defeat to Chelsea earlier this month.
Alan Pardew, the Newcastle United boss, faces a series of late selection decisions ahead of their tough trip to Stoke as his walking wounded close in on returns. Joey Barton, the midfielder who has sat out the last two games with a thigh problem, is closest to making tomorrow's clash at the Britannia Stadium, but Pardew will not risk him if he is not 100 per cent fit. However, Pardew faces perhaps a bigger challenge at left-back with first-choice Jose Enrique struggling with the hamstring strain he suffered against Everton and rated "very doubtful", while replacement Jonas Gutierrez is similarly afflicted, if to a lesser degree.
Tony Pulis, the Stoke manager, has described tomorrow's clash with Newcastle United as a must-win game as the Potters turn their attentions from possible FA Cup glory to Premier League survival. Stoke reached the semi-finals of the cup for the first time in 39 years courtesy of a 2-1 win over West Ham but sit 12th in the league and their cushion over the bottom three is only three points. Victory would move Stoke on to 37 points and above Newcastle, and Pulis said: "It's very, very important for the football club that we stay focused on the league and we've got a very, very tough game against Newcastle. We've got to win it."
John Mensah has denied that revenge will be in his mind when he and his Sunderland teammates come up against Luis Suarez on Sunday when they face Liverpool. Suarez, caused controversy last summer when in the World Cup quarter-final between Uruguay and Ghana he deliberately handled a last-minute Ghanaian shot on the line, and although he was sent off, Ghana missed the resulting penalty and Uruguay used their lifeline to win the shoot-out. But Mensah, the Ghanaian, told his club's website: "What he did is not in my mind right now. What is in my mind is that we stop him and Liverpool from scoring."
Michael Dawson does not mind who Tottenham Hotspur get into today's draw for the quarter-finals of the Champions League. Tottenham booked their place in the last eight by seeing off AC Milan with a goalless draw last week. He told his club's website: "It means a lot to everyone. When you look around the dressing room you realise there are a number of us who haven't played in the Champions League before. We've done well to achieve what we have done so far this year but we want to go as far as we can in this competition." Assistant coach Joe Jordan has been banned for one match by Uefa after an incident in Milan.
West Bromwich Albion
Chris Brunt has admitted that being club captain was not something he had been desperate for, but now Roy Hodgson has given him the responsibility, he is looking to lead by example, beginning tomorrow against Arsenal. He told The Express & Star: "I wasn't massively bothered about becoming captain but the new manager has come in and wants me to stay in that position. With me being one of the more senior players, he's quite happy with that and if he's happy with it, I'm happy to do the job. But, as I've said before, as we come towards the end of the season we need as many leaders out there as possible."
West Ham United
Freddie Sears has urged his West Ham United teammates to bounce back from their FA Cup heart-break and boost their chances of beating the drop by getting a positive result at Tottenham Hotspur. West Ham were knocked out in the quarter-finals last week at Stoke City, and are in the relegation zone at present, albeit on goal difference from Birmingham City. Sears told his club's website: It would have been nice to win at Stoke and go to Wembley, but the most important thing is the league. We want to stay in the Premier League and we've got nine games to do that."
James McCarthy, the Wigan midfielder, is still undecided about his international future, according to his club manager Roberto Martinez. The 20-year-old was named in the Republic of Ireland's latest squad earlier this week but Scotland-born McCarthy can still play for both countries. Martinez, speaking at a press conference before Wigan's clash with Birmingham, said: "I am sure it is going to be decided shortly but the focus goes to Birmingham for now … He needs to have time and space to make the right decision as to who he wants to play for at international level."
David Edwards, the Wolves midfielder, has set his sights on returning to action at the beginning of next month. Edwards is sidelined with a back problem which he fears is hereditary and has already undergone a scan. "There may be a weakness in the family and what came back supported that theory, and it's just disappointing," Edwards said: "I've got another scan in three weeks and if there's an improvement and everything has repaired, then I can head back to training. That would be about the start of April and, if all was well, I could be fit for the last five or six games."