Northampton v Oxford preview
Fri, 22 Mar 2013 11:43:00
Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari felt his side's friendly draw with Italy in Geneva had been a "useful test" as they gear up for hosting next year's World Cup.
The South Americans stormed into a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Fred and Oscar, but Italy responded in the second period as Daniele De Rossi and Mario Balotelli brought them level by the hour mark.
Scolari, quoted on the Brazilian federation website www.cbf.com.br, said: "We faced an Italy team that has been playing together for three years and, of course, had the advantage of unity. Still, we managed to impose ourselves for part of the match and showed some good football.
"The most important thing is that the game served as a useful test, we had to face a very skilled opponent."
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli was pleased with the character shown by his side in coming back from a two-goal deficit.
"We played a great game," he told vivoazzurro.it.
"After 30 minutes we conceded two goals and the game seemed to have been closed out, however we were good (enough to come back)."
Prandelli also hailed the "personality and technical qualities" of debutants Alessio Cerci and Mattia De Sciglio, and said of striker Balotelli: "He created a number of chances, he was very good in attack."
AC Milan defender De Sciglio was pleased with his bow, and felt he had acquitted himself well in his duel with Brazil's Dani Alves.
"I try to give my best and to make things easier for the team, this is a wonderful group and I will try to be there as as long as possible," he said.
"We are a great team and we showed that last night. Dani Alves is a great champion, it is difficult to mark him. I think I did well in defence, in attack I only came forward a few times to cross but we were trying not to lose the ball."
Prandelli was conscious of managing his resources well, with Tuesday's World Cup qualifier away to Malta coming up. For Scolari, their next friendly is against Russia in London on Monday.
Borini sustained a dislocation in February but is progressing well, however, Kelly's comeback from anterior cruciate ligament surgery in September will not be rushed.
"Fabio Borini was outside for the first time today (Friday) so he's starting that progression - passing balls, running and doing ball work," said head of performance Glen Driscoll.
"He's due to be probably another six weeks from this point on. The injury he's had is normally eight to 12 weeks. He's quite a quick rehabilitator.
"At the moment, it's looking pretty positive for Fabio that he could be back ahead of schedule and maybe make the end of the season."
There are more issues to be taken into consideration with the type of injury Kelly suffered, which usually has about a nine-month lay-off period. And while the 22-year-old has made such good progress the temptation may be to give him a run out before the end of the campaign, Driscoll stressed that may not be in the defender's best interests.
"Martin is doing extremely well; he's probably at the late stage of his rehab," he told Liverpoolfc.com.
"We'll probably look to prioritise getting him back for pre-season 110% fit - 10% fitter, stronger and quicker, more powerful and agile than he was previously.
"He'll probably be in a position where it will be tempting to put him into games again this season but it will show class and quality if we make sure that he's in a very strong position so he can fly next season.
"Martin should look at what Steven Gerrard has achieved this season (playing every minute of every Premier League match so far): people would never have considered that he would be available for a full campaign. He should take great hope from that and know that if he continues to work and continues his professionalism, hopefully the future is bright. We hope to give him every chance."
Michael Symes is expected to return to the Burton squad.
Symes missed the draw at Dagenham & Redbridge last Saturday with a niggling groin injury. The on-loan Leyton Orient striker has seen a specialist in London and rested this week to give him the best possible chance of being available.
"He's been a little bit stiff and I've seen him holding his groin and his hip a little bit in recent weeks," said Albion boss Gary Rowett. "We've kind of ignored it because he's been doing so well.
"But we decided to leave him out last weekend and he's rested this week and hopefully we'll see him fine for the rest of the campaign."
Calvin Zola has been playing with a hip/hamstring problem in recent weeks and that has flared up again, making the striker a doubt ahead of the weekend.
Aaron Webster resumed training on Thursday after his hamstring issue while fellow defender Nathan Stanton is fit again after a knee injury.
Goalkeeper Matt Ingram will make his competitive Wycombe debut after being recalled from a loan spell at Oxford City.
The 19-year-old youth product will step into the starting line-up with Tottenham loanee Jordan Archer away on international duty with Scotland Under-21s.
Gareth Ainsworth, who believes his side need just one more win to be sure of League football for another season, is not ruling out further changes after an energy-sapping trip to Bradford in midweek.
QPR loanee Bruno Andrade has returned to his parent club for treatment and will have his ankle assessed by the Chairboys' medical staff upon his return this Friday.
Midfielder Stuart Lewis is likely to feature despite being one yellow card away from a two-match suspension.
Ainsworth will pit his wits against Burton boss Gary Rowett, a team-mate back in their Cambridge United days.
Portsmouth will be unchanged for the clash.
Caretaker boss Guy Whittingham has named the same starting XI for the past five matches and seen his side collect two wins and two draws while falling to a narrow 1-0 defeat to in-form Leyton Orient.
It means defender Sam Sodje will have to be content with a place on the bench again following his recent return from suspension.
Striker John Akinde returned as a substitute in the 1-1 draw at leaders Doncaster last weekend following a sickness bug and should be on the bench once more.
Experienced duo David Connolly and Patrick Agyemang, who have scored five goals between them in the last five matches, will start in attack again.
Coventry will be without captain Carl Baker for their trip to the South Coast.
The midfielder, who has an impressive 14 goals to his name this season, has flown to Germany to undergo surgery on a hernia which a has been troubling him for some time but hopes to miss just the single game.
The Sky Blues are already without leading scorer Leon Clarke, shortlisted for the League One Player of the Season award, after he underwent an ankle operation which has ruled him out for the remainder of the campaign.
However, manager Steven Pressley insists the 21-goal striker is recovering well and is on target to return for pre-season training in the summer.
Defender Richard Wood was back in training on Thursday following his groin injury but will not be match fit for around another seven to 10 days, while Blair Adams and Stephen Elliott (both knee) are each making great progress and stand a chance of playing again before the season is out.
The highly-rated midfielder has created a buzz in Europe over the past few years and has scored seven goals for the Dutch giants this season.
Eriksen has been linked with several clubs in the Premier League but insists he is not ruling out an extension with the Amsterdam-based side.
The 21-year-old is unsure if he will still be at Ajax when the summer transfer window closes, but expects to return for pre-season training.
"I don't know if I will be an Ajax player after the summer," the Danish international told Sporten.
"I will probably start up training with Ajax, and then we will see what happens. I don't exclude anything.
"I haven't received a detailed offer of an extension yet, but my agent has had talks with the club regarding that matter."
Northampton will have an unchanged squad.
The Cobblers have not played since March 12 after last Saturday's trip to Wycombe was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.
Ahead of that game, Aidy Boothroyd was mulling over whether to make changes following the 1-1 draw against Morecambe - and the Town boss faces the same decision this weekend.
Leading scorer Adebayo Akinfenwa was rested again at the Globe Arena, coming on as a substitute midway through the second half for the second game in succession.
With Alex Nicholls the only absentee as he continues his recovery from a broken leg, 17-goal striker Akinfenwa is one of many options available to Boothroyd.
Fellow forward Clive Platt and midfielder Lewis Hornby are pushing for recalls after being benched against the Shrimps, while midfielder Luke Guttridge and striker Jake Robinson are also options.
Northampton slipped to sixth in the table last weekend after they were left kicking their heels.
Promotion rivals Port Vale, Cheltenham and Exeter all took full advantage of the Cobblers' inactivity with victories, with the Robins and Grecians leapfrogging Boothroyd's side in the standings.
Oxford boss Chris Wilder has no fresh injury concerns as his side prepare for the crucial clash.
The U's travel to Sixfields knowing defeat could leave them nine points adrift of the top seven with six games remaining.
And Wilder could include Jon-Paul Pittman on the bench after the forward returned to training following his dislocated shoulder.
The former Crawley and Wycombe forward has been missing since December and he looks set to feature in the matchday squad.
Oxford have lost just two in their last eight games but their play-off hopes suffered a blow when Chesterfield won 1-0 at the Kassam last weekend.
The U's remain without long-term injury victims goalkeeper Ryan Clarke (shoulder), striker Justin Richards (knee) and midfielder Peter Leven (knee).