Premier League

Laudrup admits Williams fears

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Thu, 14 Mar 2013 09:28:00

John Arne Riise wants Fulham to take advantage of Tottenham Hotspur's hectic schedule when Martin Jol returns to his former club on Sunday.

The Cottagers have not been in competitive action since the 2-2 draw at Sunderland on March 2 after being knocked out of the FA Cup.

Tottenham, in contrast, will have played three additional fixtures by the time they face Fulham and Riise is hopeful that Spurs' busy run can work in their favour.

"It's one of the toughest matches because of the way they play and they're in good shape," Riise told Fulham' official website.

"But they have a heavy schedule right now as they're playing in the Europa League so hopefully they'll be a bit tired."

The Norway full-back is not expecting an easy afternoon across London and added: "They still have one of the best players in the league at the moment in Gareth Bale.

"He can't stop scoring and he's a fantastic person as well. They've got Aaron Lennon on the other side too and good players all over the pitch.

"It will be nice to see Mousa Dembele and Clint Dempsey again but it will be a very tough game for us. That's the type of game we'll go into to try and get at least a point."

The fixture also represents the chance for Fulham to make amends after the 3-0 home defeat to their London rivals at Craven Cottage earlier this term.

"We should have won that game but somehow lost," said Riise.

"But every game has its own life and, as I said, they have a busy schedule, whereas we'll have had a free weekend.

"We'll train well and prepare our best for it and we look forward to it. It's a derby and anything can happen."

The country's 32 lower-league clubs are currently mulling over plans to reorganise Scottish football under one league body.

Among the proposals are blueprints for a 12-team top division and similarly-sized Championship second tier that would merge into three groups of eight after 22 games in order to decide the major issues - the title, European qualification and relegation out of the top flight.

But the sticking point for some of the nation's smallest clubs is whether to proceed with an 18-team third division or persist with the current Second and Third Divisions comprising 10 teams each.

The first option, however, means runaway Irn-Bru Third Division leaders Rangers would remain trapped in the basement of Scottish football for another year and that has sparked outrage among their fans.

Now Rangers Supporters Assembly chief Andy Kerr claims the Glasgow giants' fanbase will look to take revenge if the 18-team bottom tier is voted in.

He told the Scottish Sun: "The only thing that is pushing this is short-sighted finance. The top 12 clubs are happy because nothing is changing.

"The teams below them are happy because they are getting a bigger share, while those 17 clubs left along with Rangers are happy. They are rubbing their hands at the thought of the gate money.

"While we want to support our team, serious questions would have to be asked. I think there's a huge risk Rangers fans will simply say, 'enough is enough'.

"We are trying to work our way back while others are attempting to hold us back and drag us down. I don't believe our fans would stand for it, and nor should they.

"It's been an adventure this year. But the thought of having to go through all that again, having won the league and not been promoted, would have a very negative affect among our supporters."

The Portuguese winger was given the nod to start last week's crucial UEFA Champions League showdown against Real Madrid but was controversially sent off as United bowed out of the competition.

Nani, who has just a year left on his contract at Old Trafford, thinks he is hitting form just in time for the run-in and is keen to repay Sir Alex Ferguson for showing faith in him.

"I feel I'm in good form and I've nearly arrived at my peak," he said in the Daily Star.

"I think over the next few games I can surprise a few people. I want to show the manager that he can trust me and he can believe in me in every match.

"My confidence is high and I think the best is still to come from me.

"This is my time - and I think I can be important for the team in these big games.

"Because I was injured for two months, it means I'm fresh now when some other players are starting to get tired.

"I want to show him my contribution can help win games, so I'll keep working hard to make sure I'm ready every time I get a chance."

Arsenal are thought to be weighing up a summer swoop for Williams, while Liverpool have been long-term admirers of the talented central defender.

Williams has been one of Swansea's star performers this season and he has established himself as one of the best centre-backs in the Premier League over the last 18 months.

Laudrup believes the transfer speculation is a compliment to how well Williams has done for Swansea.

"When there are rumours about these clubs wanting someone from here it is because the player has done well - and Ashley has," Laudrup told the Daily Mirror.

"What else can I do? I can't call Arsenal and say 'Is it true?' - and I don't think Arsene Wenger would answer anyway, he has other things to think about. It is just part of the game.

"We will have to cope with these stories and remember it means people have seen what we have done here and what the players have done.

"He and Chico [Flores, his fellow centre-half] have been a great pair. They are doing great together and I will be unhappy to lose that pairing for next season."

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