RM: Wigan face perfect City test
Wed, 28 Nov 2012 09:04:00
Vitesse Arnhem will offer striker Wilfried Bony a new contract in the hope of persuading him not only to stay at the club, but also to skip the African Nations Cup in January so that he might fire them into the Champions League.
The 23-year-old Ivory Coast striker is being chased by a string of clubs after an electric start to the season.
He scored his 15th goal of the campaign on Sunday, the winner as Vitesse registered a 2-1 upset of PSV Eindhoven at the Philips Stadion to move within two points of the Eredivisie leaders.
"We have concrete plans to keep Bony on board," general manager Erwin Kasakowski said in De Telegraaf.
"We are already in discussions with his agent."
Bony's existing contract runs until 2015, leaving Vitesse under no pressure to sell as they chase their best league finish since taking third place in 1998.
But reports suggest they have another incentive to talk to Bony now as they are keen not to lose the focal point of their attack when the African Nations Cup begins in January.
"We need to keep the team as strong as possible in the second half of the season, and that includes Bony," Kasakowski added.
This week, which marks the first anniversary of Hibs manager Pat Fenlon's appointment, concludes on Sunday with a Scottish Cup final replay, with Hibs and Hearts drawn against each other for the fourth round, as the SPL clubs enter the competition for the first time this season.
Stevenson, though, is concentrating on bouncing back from the league losses to Dundee and Aberdeen with victory at McDiarmid Park.
"I've played in many derbies and the derby takes care of itself," Stevenson said.
"St Johnstone's the biggest game we've got, especially after two defeats in the league in a row. We need to get a decent result."
The 24-year-old is content to continue at left-back, with injuries to captain James McPake (back) and Tim Clancy (groin) forcing the switch from midfield.
"I'm happy to play anywhere," Stevenson added.
"When I first broke through I was a left-back and I changed to a midfielder.
"I'm probably only filling in there just now until the injured players are back.
"When James and Tim come back, which is hopefully soon, I won't be too down if the manager reshuffles."
While Hibs seek to respond from two straight losses, St Johnstone hope to build on a three-match unbeaten run which included Saturday's 2-1 win at Kilmarnock.
Manager Steve Lomas said: "There is a massive incentive. We want back to back wins, we are at home and we want to push ahead of them in the table.
"But Hibs will be wanting to bounce back from their defeat.
"It has the makings of a good game and we are looking forward to it."
Clarke took the first permanent manager's job of his career when he succeeded Roy Hodgson at the Hawthorns and has enjoyed a dream start.
The 49-year-old Scot has guided the Baggies to third in the Premier League table, and even received messages of support from Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho, who he worked with at Chelsea.
Albion will be looking to win a fifth consecutive top-flight game for the first time in 34 years, and Laudrup knows only too well how much of a threat the confident visitors will pose.
He said: "Confidence is so important in football. Talent, motivation and concentration are also key elements, but if you are winning games and getting good results then you believe you can beat anyone.
"They have already won a lot of games away from home, they beat Chelsea at home and were unlucky to lose to Manchester City. So West Brom at this moment will feel they can beat anyone no matter where they play.
"They don't think they are the best team in the world but they are confident."
He added: "Everybody has been impressed by the job Steve Clarke has done, to be third is fantastic, it is way above expectations.
"We will see a hard-working team with a lot of confidence."
Swansea will again be without striker Danny Graham as he continues to fight the illness that has left him unable to train since the 2-1 win at Newcastle.
Graham is also unlikely to be fit in time for Saturday's trip to Arsenal, and Laudrup admits the former Watford man's illness is a worry.
"It is a concern, especially for him, it's one thing to have two to three days with the flu but when it is still there you get worried," he said.
"We hope it is nothing more, I think he has had some tests but we have not had the results.
"It's important he gets back again, that he has nothing to worry about and he can rest and then come back to training."
Roberto Mancini's men have not tasted defeat in their last 19 league games, a sequence which includes the final six matches of last season's successful title run-in.
They extended what is a club record run in the competition with a goalless draw at Chelsea on Sunday, although it was not enough to see them regain top spot.
Naturally it is something they want to maintain but, speaking ahead of the Wigan clash, Mancini's number two David Platt played down its significance.
The first-team coach said: "The unbeaten run is there, it becomes a thing people talk about, but it counts for nothing if you are drawing games and drawing games and drawing games.
"We see that after 13 games, we are still a point behind (Manchester) United, who have lost three games but have also got 10 victories.
"We will try to protect the unbeaten run, but not to the point where we are going to stop trying to win games.
"It gives you a confidence that you are difficult to beat but that is all it does."
Platt landed himself in trouble last week when he was sent to the stands during City's Champions League clash with Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium.
He is now banned from the touchline for next week's final Group D game at Borussia Dortmund, a match from which the best City can do is secure a consolation place in the Europa League.
Platt said: "It's a mistake of mine. I grumbled about the referee to the fourth official.
"Letter of the law says you can't do that, and I accept the responsibility and the decision."
Platt, speaking at a press conference to preview the Wigan game, had words of support for winger Scott Sinclair, who is still to make an impact since his August move to City.
The 23-year-old Great Britain Olympic player, signed for a reported ?6.2million, has made just five appearances.
Platt said: "Every player wants to feature more, and Scott is doing fine.
"He has done well when he has come on, and when he has started games as well, but we have a big squad and everyone is aware of that."
City are still without left-back Gael Clichy due to an ankle injury while right-back Micah Richards remains sidelined following knee surgery last month.
There remains uncertainty over when he will return with the player having feared a lay-off of up to four months, but Mancini delivering a far more optimistic assessment.
Platt said: "Micah is progressing. Our immediate concern is always for players who are on the horizon to come back and Micah is not quite there yet.
"In terms of getting back to playing, without knowing, even if he gets back on the training pitch in two or three weeks, it is probably going to be a three-month thing."
Wigan are widely acknowledged to play some of the most attractive football in the Premier League but appear to lack the substance to consistently produce results.
They remain in the bottom half of the table and needed a dramatic injury-time winner to beat Reading 3-2 last weekend, their first victory in three games.
Martinez's men face a stern test as unbeaten City visit the DW Stadium tonight but the Spaniard - who oversaw dramatic late-season wins over Manchester United and Arsenal to avoid relegation last term - is confident of troubling the champions.
He said: "I think from a tactical point of view you have to be perfect. The moment you make a mistake you are going to get punished.
"From every other angle of the performance I do think we can compete against anyone in the league.
"Physically and technically I think we are ready.
"On the day, tactically, we will have to be perfect but we have done that in the past. We have done it many times and not long ago.
"That is really fresh for us to be able to enjoy the occasion and the challenge and take responsibility.
"I want ourselves to be the ones taking the responsibility, playing at home, and try to dictate and look for a win from the start."
Martinez has no intention of sending his team out to sit back and try to contain City.
He wants them to play their usual expressive game and, with City chasing a win after settling for a draw at Chelsea, he is not anticipating a cagey encounter.
He said: "With the quality of players they have got they will always score goals.
"I do feel it is going to be a very interesting game. It will be an open game because both sides will want to win.
"I went to watch Manchester City against Chelsea and that was a solid display away from home.
"They'll want to come here and get the three points. We will be feeling the same.
"We are at home. We want to start the second third of the season on a real positive and we are going to go out to try to win the game."