Balotelli has scored just once in his first 11 appearances for the Merseysiders and the maverick striker left his manager Brendan Rodgers less than impressed last week when he swapped shirts with Pepe at half-time during the 3-0 Champions League loss to Real Madrid. Rodgers was complimentary about Balotelli’s performance in Saturday’s 0-0 Barclays Premier League draw with Hull, though, and has since spoken of his confidence in the Italy international’s willingness to “learn”, as well as about the support he is receiving from the club. Those words were backed up by Pascoe ahead of Tuesday’s Capital One Cup fourth-round clash with his and Rodgers’ old side Swansea at Anfield. Asked at the pre-match press conference on Monday about the effect the attention focused upon Balotelli was having on the 24-year-old, Pascoe said: “Nothing really. “He works hard, he is a great talent and every day on the training pitch you can see he wants to do more. At the end he is always asking to do more things. “Everything will be alright with Mario because you know his hunger is there and he wants to win. “After every training session he wants to do shooting, passing – he wants to do everything, to work on his game. We as coaches will help him that way.” Balotelli was always likely to generate headlines following his move to Liverpool from AC Milan in August. But things have been particularly intense for him given, in the absence of the sold Luis Suarez and injured Daniel Sturridge, he has struggled for goals while leading the line for a club who excelled last term but have made a shaky start to the current campaign. Tuesday’s game might be deemed a good opportunity for Balotelli to break his eight-match scoring drought – or for him to be taken out of the spotlight for an evening. Either way, Pascoe was giving little away as to his chances of retaining his starting spot when Liverpool’s players are rotated for the tie. “We have strikers and midfielders who can step in as we rotate it,” said Pascoe, who watched from the Reds bench as Swansea won 3-1 at Anfield in the Capital One Cup fourth round two years ago. “It is not all about Mario here – you have (fellow strikers) Rickie Lambert or Fabio Borini that can step in. It may be one for Mario, but we’ll just wait and assess everyone and decide then.” Balotelli and Lambert played together for part of Saturday’s game after the latter came off the bench. And asked about using Balotelli alongside someone rather than as a lone frontman, Pascoe said: “With Mario and Rickie working together and linking up, it worked well, and when Daniel gets back, the three of them can cause a problem to any team. “At Tottenham (a 3-0 win) with Mario and Daniel up front we put in our best performance of the season so far – that worked well.” Meanwhile, Pascoe insists Sturridge has just been “unlucky” with his injuries. The England man was ruled out for two to four weeks earlier this month with a calf problem, having only just recovered from a thigh injury sustained on international duty. Rodgers admits Sturridge needs to get a consistent run of games if he is to become one of Europe’s top strikers. And Pascoe, asked if there were concerns long-term about the 25-year-old continuing to have fitness issues, said: “No, not at all. “He is a great pro, he looks after himself well and he has just been unfortunate.” Another Liverpool player currently on the sidelines is defender Mamadou Sakho. A few days after Sakho, who had not been named in the squad for the match, departed Anfield during the 1-1 Merseyside derby draw with Everton in September, Rodgers confirmed the France international had sustained a thigh strain. And giving an update on Sakho on Monday, Pascoe said: “He’s progressing well. “He’ll be another couple of weeks, and hopefully he’ll be available then.” Then asked if there were any issues with the player with regard to what happened in the derby, Pascoe said: “As soon as he’s fit and raring to go he’s available.” Pascoe also revealed full-back Jose Enrique was a doubt for Tuesday’s game due to an unspecified injury. “He’s got a little sort of injury at the moment and we will have to wait to find out what the extent of that is,” Pascoe said. Mario Balotelli is not affected by the scrutiny he is under and has the hunger to succeed as a Liverpool player, according to Reds assistant boss Colin Pascoe. Press Association
Wojciech Szczesny’s two goalkeeping howlers gifted Southampton a 2-0 victory over Arsenal that left Arsene Wenger fuming at St Mary’s. Szczesny raced out of his area to hand Sadio Mane the chance to chip home, before a weak clearance led to Dusan Tadic’s tap-in. Manager Ronald Koeman has already claimed Southampton can beat Arsenal to a top-four Barclays Premier League finish this term, and the Saints’ victory cemented fourth spot and a three-point advantage over the Gunners. Press Association Sanchez’s roaming threat created space in behind for Arsenal’s attacking midfield trio to exploit, only for Santi Cazorla to waste a glorious chance to open the scoring. The Spain midfielder scuffed his shot despite ghosting on to the penalty spot without any Saints attention. Cazorla’s lack of full connection gifted Fraser Forster a straightforward save as Saints stuck to their defensive duties manfully. Saints’ academy graduate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain then fired a smart volley just wide of the far post, with Forster well beaten in the hosts’ goal. Mane quickly disabused any notions of Arsenal claiming control however, pouncing on Szczesny’s costly misjudgement to chip Saints into the lead. Arsenal’s Poland stopper needlessly raced out of his area to deal with a long ball, only to be beaten to the punch by Mane. The Senegal hitman nipped in first, spun round the Gunners goalkeeper and chipped home from an acute angle to pilfer the lead with his third goal in as many games. The former Salzburg speed merchant was forced to hobble off with injury minutes later, but his accurate finish kept Saints ahead at the break. Wenger sat fuming on the bench, shaking his head sullenly in reaction to Szczesny’s loose error that gifted Southampton the lead. Arsenal pressed at the half’s death, but a fine sliding challenge from Jose Fonte denied Kieran Gibbs, leaving Saints 1-0 to the good at the break. Arsenal pressed again from the restart, Toby Alderweireld forced to head clear from Cazorla’s dangerous cross. Sanchez wriggled into space for a shot in the Saints box, only for Forster to pull off a fine one-handed parry. In a flash Saints were back on the attack though, with Victor Wanyama lofting a fine ball in behind for Steven Davis. The midfielder controlled well and chipped into the six-yard box, forcing Mathieu Debuchy to trap, but before the France defender could take another touch Szczesny attempted a weak clearance. The loose ball landed straight at Tadic’s feet, and the Serbia star duly tapped home. Pelle fired a near-post shot against the post as Saints maintained their pace, while Florian Gardos was booked for taking out Sanchez just outside the box. James Ward-Prowse wasted a fine chance to kill the clash after losing control with the goal at his mercy, but Saints were still able to coast to victory. Saints will hope their first league victory over a traditional Premier League power this term will provide the catalyst to chase that unlikely Champions League qualification. Wenger meanwhile kept sullen countenance on the touchline as Arsenal failed to fire, enduring Saints fans’ taunts the Frenchman would be “sacked in the morning”. Arsenal struggled for a true goal threat with Alexis Sanchez deployed as a lone front man in the absence of Danny Welbeck, Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski. The German missed out through groin trouble, but rumours of a rift have increased as the forward eyes a move to Inter Milan. Arsenal’s squad frailties were once again exposed by their lack of an attacking alternative that will no doubt lead to renewed calls for Wenger to act in the January transfer window. Graziano Pelle should have headed Southampton into an early lead with the game’s first real chance. The Italy striker nodded against the post at point-blank range with Arsenal statuesque in the six-yard box. Szczesny then flicked a loose ball away from the onrushing Mane to keep the game goalless, and finally Arsenal settled.
The veteran striker’s move to Sampdoria was confirmed on Tuesday and Martinez sees Arouna Kone, who is fit again after a long-term knee injury, as the player to step into the breach. Everton are enduring a difficult season and have failed to win any of their last eight games, but Martinez is in no hurry to bring in reinforcements. He told the club’s official website: “January is not the place to find solutions (in the transfer market). Our moment of form, we want to change, but the solutions are in the squad. “With Arouna Kone being fully fit, I see him as a replacement for Samuel’s position and it is more about trying to get the players back from injury. “Steven Pienaar and Leon Osman have been two players missing throughout the season, which has been disappointing because they are important in the way we want to play. “Leon played in every single game last season and we miss what he brings. So I am looking around that. “We are always working and if we can do something to help the players we have got at the club then we will do something. But what’s clear is that January is not very straightforward. “You never get value for money, first and foremost, and you will not get players you have been following for a long time. And if you want to rely on January to find solutions for your season, then it is a big gamble.” Press Association Everton boss Roberto Martinez is not looking to sign a replacement for Samuel Eto’o during the January transfer window.
Cisse accepted the charge and a seven-match ban – one extra because of a previous offence this season – but Evans insisted he had not intended to spit at the striker and contested it. The three members of the regulatory commission accepted 27-year-old Evans was the only person who could know his intent, but stated: “I t is clear that Mr Evans is looking directly and indeed aggressively at Mr Cisse. His lips are ‘pursed’ and he is close to Mr Cisse. “If he was, as alleged to be the case, a person who ‘habitually spits’, then the c ommission were concerned as to why he did not turn his head away from Mr Cisse when so spitting. “If that had been a family member or indeed another team member or his manager in front and below him would he still have carried out the same manoeuvre? “Mr Evans had (and has) a duty of care, if spitting for whatever reason, not to direct the same in the general direction of an opponent, or indeed anyone else. The video clips clearly show that he failed in his duty of care. “There may, in some quarters, be substantial sympathy for Mr Evans, but the video evidence shows that he did what he did, and the ordinary man in the street will find his action to be simply disgusting and should not be allowed in any walk of life, let alone on any football field.” The written report also reveals Manchester United questioned the length of the suspension but the commission did not consider there were any “truly exceptional” circumstances to reduce it from the standard six matches. Press Association Jonny Evans’ actions in spitting at Papiss Cisse were “simply disgusting”, a Football Association regulatory commission ruled. The written reasons for Evans’ six-match ban were released by the FA on Thursday. The Manchester United defender and Newcastle striker Cisse were both charged after spitting at each other during the Red Devils’ 1-0 victory on March 4 in an incident missed by referee Anthony Taylor.
Press Association Carroll remains Michael O’Neill’s first choice, having played 15 successive qualifiers prior to the Romania clash, but McGovern is eager to inherit the gloves when the time comes. “I like to think that I have taken my chance now that it’s come,” said the 30-year-old. “Opportunities for me have been few and far between, so when they come I feel like I need to take them and stake my claim. “I’d love to play but of course I understand the situation. Roy has been excellent for Michael since he came back in and I wouldn’t be shouting from the rafters that I should be playing in the next game. “He’s not going to go on forever, but he has a few years left in him, so if I get a wee chance here and there before he does retire hopefully when he does step down I will be in a good position to take over.” Hamilton goalkeeper Michael McGovern believes he can be Northern Ireland’s number one when veteran Roy Carroll decides to call it a day. McGovern made his first competitive start in Saturday’s goalless draw against Romania after 37-year-old Carroll was ruled out with an abdominal problem. That was only his fourth cap in five years, three of which have come since March.
“I’m very happy that the club have shown me tremendous support after some very tough times,” he told stokecityfc.com. “I’m happy that Stoke trust my ability in helping to improve and push the team on to greater things, so I’m delighted to still be a part of that. “I have had to really push myself hard, so this new contract extension is a reward for all the effort I have put in but also for the medical staff that did a great job supporting me along the way. “I really want to repay the club for having faith in me and I’m thankful for the support that everybody connected with the club has given me. “I didn’t want to leave on a note like this, I started very well here and I want to have a good season this year, which I have every faith in doing. “Mark Hughes has big ambitions and hopefully we can do better in one of the cup competitions whilst maintaining a top-half finish.” Manager Hughes’ ambitions stretch into the transfer market where he is trying to tie up a £12million deal for Inter Milan winger Xherdan Shaqiri. Former Potters favourite Terry Conroy believes it sends out the right message. Press Association The 33-year-old has agreed a deal which will keep him at the Britannia Stadium until the end of next season with the option of a further 12 months. After making his comeback last season following eight months out with a knee injury the Nigerian is keen to give something back to the Potters. “I’m excited by the chance to get Shaqiri and it certainly shows the ambition the club has,” he told The Sentinel. “Stoke is not prepared to just deal in the lower basement but go for players like this. “Mark Hughes has been astute spending-wise up to now and you did wonder if he was going to carry on looking for bargains but trying to sign this fella gives a very positive feel to the club’s ambition.” Stoke striker Peter Odemwingie is looking to repay the club’s faith in him after signing a contract extension.
The Norfolk club want to add the 23-year-old Republic of Ireland wing-back to their squad after winning promotion back to the Barclays Premier League in the Sky Bet Championship play-off final at Wembley. Bruce, though, is not about to let the Canaries land one of Hull’s key men on the cheap, despite their own relegation from the top flight. Press Association “Norwich have come in with bids for Robbie Brady, but I have to say they have been embarrassing,” Bruce said in the Hull Daily Mail. “The supporters should know the truth and Norwich came in two weeks ago with a bid of £2m, £2.5m and then £3m. “That’s ridiculous for someone who is 23, has played two years in the Premier League and has become a regular international. “When we have just got almost twice that for Tom Ince (who joined Derby for £5m). It doesn’t make sense. We paid £2.75m for Robbie and that was three years ago. “This can unsettle players, do this, that or the other, and it is all part of the game, b ut Robbie Brady will not be going for anywhere near that. “If it happens, it happens, but Norwich are nowhere near the figures we would even think about accepting at the moment.” Norwich have so far added only midfielders Youssouf Mulumbu and Graham Dorrans, whose loan move was made permanent, to their squad for next season. Club-record signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel could also be back in contention after reports in Portugal suggested a proposed move back to former club Sporting Lisbon fell through for the Holland forward, who spent last season on loan at St Etienne. Norwich’s attempts to sign Robbie Brady in a cut-price deal have been labelled “embarrassing” by Hull manager Steve Bruce.
Asked if he was under pressure, the Portuguese said in his post-match press conference: “No, no. I think the refugees are under big pressure.” Despite suggestions all is not well at Stamford Bridge, Mourinho says he is happy as Chelsea manager . “It is a pleasure, an honour and it is happiness every day,” he said. Chelsea were outplayed in the opening 25 minutes as Naismith, an early replacement for the injured Muhamed Besic, struck twice and Arouna Kone and James McCarthy forced brilliant saves out of Asmir Begovic. Nemanja Matic pulled one back with a fine strike before the break but Naismith rounded off an excellent Toffees display by completing his treble – a classic effort of headed, left-foot and right-foot finishes – in the 82nd minute. Chelsea have lost three of their last four games but Mourinho but the result down to bad luck. He said: “We don’t deserve this result. It is too heavy for the way the players started the game, finished the game and played during the game. “The biggest concern is that everything goes against us. We know we are making mistakes but for every mistake we are punished immediately. Press Association “We need to win a couple of consecutive matches. We need the players to smile again. We need the strikers to score goals. We need the central defenders not to make mistakes and be punished for that. “We need confidence. I think confidence is fundamental. In this moment everything goes against us and the players feel it. They don’t accept it. They fight, they play, they try, but the reality at the moment is difficult for them. It is not easy to play football with confidence level low.” Asked if his side could still win the title, Mourinho said: “I don’t know. Chelsea can win the next match against Arsenal for sure, (but) to win the title, I don’t know.” Chelsea’s problems took some of the attention away from what was a superb performance by Everton. The Toffees looked hungrier in that first crucial spell in the first half and then defended strongly. The standout performance was by Naismith but recent Chelsea target John Stones was also highly impressive in the back line and manager Roberto Martinez paid tribute to both. He said: “It would have been all too easy for Naisy not to be ready and not to be happy to not be in starting XI, but he gave us a real example of focus, concentration and the real standard of this dressing room. “Sometimes you play against the champions and you can beat them, but you look at lucky breaks – but for 90 minutes we restricted Chelsea to two shots on target. “Clearly John showed we couldn’t replace a player like John Stones at that stage. He has been heavily tested but we never had a doubt in the way he would perform and he never let the team down. “He always trained and performed well and today he showed he is going to be a future England captain. “We know we can play better but what you are looking at is a complete performance.” Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho claimed he was not feeling the pressure after watching his stuttering champions slip to a heavy defeat at Everton. Steven Naismith scored a hat-trick as Mourinho’s side crashed to a 3-1 loss at Goodison Park, a result which left them with just four points from their first five Barclays Premier League games. The heat on Mourinho, who has also been involved in an extraordinary row with his medical staff this term, is increasing as Chelsea’s opening sequence now constitutes their worst start to a top-flight campaign since 1986.
Joe Schmidt has adopted a “risky strategy” in preparing Ireland to peak for a potential World Cup Pool D decider against France, according to Ben Kay. Schmidt is aiming to guide double RBS 6 Nations winners Ireland to their first-ever World Cup semi-final, with 2003 winner Kay backing the Kiwi boss in his calculated gamble. “One of their issues has been looking at the fixtures ahead of them and planning,” said former England and Leicester lock Kay. “Because their first World Cup game against Canada, they haven’t performed particularly well, then Romania – Ireland probably have the easiest draw. “So they’ve got that build-up then they have a tougher game against Italy, and the big one against France at the end. “Speaking to people around the squad they are saying that their build-up has been slightly different in that they are looking to peak slightly later in the tournament. “That’s a risky strategy if you can’t get the confidence.” Former Bay of Plenty coach Schmidt created a feared attacking arsenal as Leinster dominated the European scene, but has reined in that style at Test level. Kay believes the Ireland boss has simply reacted to resources, but pinpointed Ireland’s suffocating style as hugely profitable in high-pressure World Cup contests. Press Association England World Cup winner Kay claims Ireland squad players have revealed head coach Schmidt has staggered their build-up to keep key men fresh for the pivotal clash on Sunday, October 11. Ireland will launch their pool-stage campaign by taking on Canada in Cardiff on Saturday, with Italy and Romania their other early rivals. “Joe Schmidt is tactically one of the best coaches in the world though, and always brings the best out of the squad,” said Kay. “He’s very good at looking at and working on the strengths of the team he has. “When he was at Leinster they had an open style of play because they had that attacking threat. “This Irish team he has gone very much into a style of rugby that suits World Cups. “You don’t see many teams winning World Cup finals running in bagfuls of tries. “While it might not be so exciting to watch, with the high ball to the fore, but in their half-back combination they’ve probably got the most settled game-management team. “They’ve done very well and deservedly managed to reach the second-place ranking in the world earlier this summer. “I worry about their threats in the backline not being quite as strong, with Drico (Brian O’Driscoll) not being there and other players having retired. “But as a forward pack they are capable of arm-wrestling with the best.”
A 2-1 victory at Liverpool lifted the Eagles to eighth place in the Premier League, just two points behind Tottenham in fifth and five off Manchester United, who currently occupy the final Champions League qualification spot. “Our ambitions are modest,” said Pardew. “We have no complications: no Europa League, no League Cup so the league programme is right at the top of our agenda. Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew insists his ambitions for the club are modest but there is no doubt he has set his sights set on improving their league position further. “That helps us because all these big clubs have Europe to contend with.” Palace were rewarded for their attacking intent at Anfield with a fourth away win of the season, and Pardew admits the only thing currently holding back his squad is the lack of belief in themselves. “I said to the players afterwards that the problem with this team is it doesn’t trust how good it can be,” he added. “We proved that when we backed off (against Liverpool). “When we went toe-to-toe I thought it was an even game but it is difficult to do that at these big arenas. “I really enjoy managing this team, I think it is a really honest team and we will have to wait and see.” Pardew hopes the last two results, including the goalless draw at home to Manchester United, will have helped boost confidence. “The last two games we have defended brilliantly and it has got us four massive points against two big clubs,” he said. “This was the last game in a series of games which was a goal for us and we needed three points to achieve that goal. “We are kind of on target for what we think we are going to get. “I did promise an extra day off (if they reached their target) and maybe that played more of a part.” Press Association