x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Upredictable Wigan a challenge for Stoke

Stoke manager Tony Pulis admits Wigan's up-and-down form will make them an extremely difficult opponent today.

Stoke manager Tony Pulis admits Wigan's up-and-down form will make them an extremely difficult opponent today. So far, the Latics have ended Chelsea's 100 per cent record and have been beaten 9-1 by Tottenham. "Wigan are a very unpredictable team who can be very good or be average at times," said Pulis. "That is a massive problem for us. You look at them one week and they are absolutely outstanding and the next the glue seems to be missing. "We don't know how they are going to turn up on Saturday. But we've only lost to Manchester United and Chelsea at the Britannia this seaso and long may that continue." Stoke defender Ryan Shawcross added: "You can't guess what you are going to get so you have to concentrate on what we can do and that is perform well," he added." Stoke v Wigan, 4.45pm, Showsports 2,

West Ham and England striker Dean Ashton announced his retirement from professional football yesterday. Ashton, 26, failed to overcome a long-term ankle problem which he initially sustained when training with England in August 2006. He underwent several operations in a bid to solve the problem but concerns for his mobility later in life prompted his decision. Ashton made his name at Crewe before joining Norwich in January 2005. He netted 18 goals in 46 appearances for the Canaries, earning him a then club-record £7.25million (Dh43.4m) move to West Ham. The striker missed the whole 2006/07 season but returned to make 35 appearances in 2007/08. He started the 2008/09 season in goalscoring form but broke down again after just four games because of the ankle injury. Birmingham v West Ham, 7pm, Showsports Extra

Burnley's Wade Elliott believes Turf Moor has become a "bear pit" for visiting sides. Sixteen of the Clarets' 17 points have come at home, where they face Fulham today. "It is a cold, noisy ground and a bit of a bear pit at times. The crowd are brilliant and get right behind us," said the 30-year-old midfielder. "The fans realise what a big part they have to play as well. For whatever reason the atmosphere seems to bring the best out of us. They also realise we are a group of hardworking, honest lads, who go out every week and give their best. "We all appreciate being in this league and want to hang around. I do not think any one of us has proved yet we are Premiership players. But we have shown we are capable of competing against the very best." Burnley v Fulham, 7pm, Show Comedy Extra

Sam Allardyce believes the time has come for Blackburn to start replicating their home form on the road. Rovers have lost only once at Ewood Park all season, but have suffered six defeats out of seven away from home in the Premier League. The team halted a run of 10 consecutive away defeats in the league stretching back to the previous campaign when they won 2-0 at Bolton in November, but then went down 3-0 at Fulham three days later. "We've almost been guilty of being Jekyll and Hyde this year with the superb performances we've been giving at home and the under par performances away from home - in fact, grossly under par in terms of results," Allardyce said." We can't continue to go on from where we left off at Fulham." Hull v Blackburn, 7pm, Show Series Extra

Portsmouth manager Avram Grant is certain his side can pull off a great escape from the Premier League's drop zone despite a wretched season on and off the pitch so far. Pompey are bottom of the division, four points from safety, and earlier this week the club were forced to deny claims they were on the brink of entering administration. "We need to come to the end of January in a position from where we can get some good results and escape from the relegation zone," said Grant. "I think we can do it. We need to think about things game by game but we need to think about more than this. If we come to the end of January and we are in a position like we are now, we can stay in the league." Sunderland v Portsmouth, 7pm, Show Shasha

Wolves manager Mick McCarthy has said his team will not play for a draw against a Tottenham team who have scored 11 goals in their last two home games. McCarthy said: "We are going to Tottenham to get something. If we play like we did last Saturday then we have a chance. If we play like we did the previous Sunday against Birmingham (a 1-0 defeat) then we might as well not bother. I have no idea where that dross came from against Birmingham and we all know what can happen if we are not at it." Meanwhile, McCarthy described losing striker Andy Keogh for three months as "a massive blow". The Irish forward suffered ankle ligament and tendon damage in training and is now set to miss three months. Tottenham v Wolves, 7pm, Showsports 4 sports@thenational.ae