Luis Suarez helps Liverpool recover from a goal down to batter Zenit at Anfield but the Reds exit the Europa League on away goals. Newcastle scrape past Metalist courtesy of a Shola Ameobi spot-kick, Mousa Dembele’s late equaliser seals Tottenham’s progress at the expense of Lyon, while Eden Hazard climbs off the bench to save Chelsea’s blushes against Sparta Prague. Elsewhere, Wayne Rooney is reportedly unlikely to be fit for United’s trip to Loftus Road this weekend.
Metalist 0 Newcastle 1 (0-1 agg)
Alan Pardew named a strong side as the Magpies clinched a place in the last 16 of the Europa League. Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa partnered Fabricio Coloccini at centre-half, allowing Danny Simpson to take his place at right-back, while Massadio Haidara made his full debut on the opposite side of the back-four as Davide Santon missed out with an ankle knock. Cheick Tiote missed out with a virus, which afforded Vurnon Anita the chance to partner Yohan Cabaye in central midfield, though Papiss Cisse’s owners will be a little concerned after he was shifted out to the right flank to accommodate Shola Ameobi as the lone forward. Cisse and Anita made way with 14 minutes remaining, while Ameobi was the goal hero, slotting home from the spot after Moussa Sissoko – who impressed once again in “the hole” – was brought down in the box. Post-match reports, however, suggest Tim Krul left the stadium on crutches with a protective boot on his ankle – he picked up a knock during the match and received treatment. Cabaye was subbed off with three minutes left on the clock after picking up a knee knock. Post-match, Pardew spoke on Krul’s situation – when asked if his keeper would be available for the weekend, he answered:
“I don’t know. We’ll have to wait for the scans.”
Lyon 1 Tottenham 1 (2-3 agg)
Andre Villas-Boas continued with the same back-four and keeper that featured in the first-leg last week. This meant Brad Friedel took his place between the sticks ahead of Hugo Lloris, while Michael Dawson remained on the bench as William Gallas partnered Jan Vertonghen at centre-half, with Benoit Assou-Ekotto at left-back. Indeed, the Spurs boss made just one alteration to his XI, with Lewis Holtby replacing Clint Dempsey in a switch that saw the German international tuck in behind Emmanuel Adebayor, with Gareth Bale moving to the left. Holtby and Aaron Lennon were both replaced midway through the second 45, with Dempsey and Gylfi Sigurdsson coming on, but despite Bale’s recent exploits it fell to Mousa Dembele to rescue the visitors. The Belgian grabbed an equaliser with second left on the clock to set up a last 16 showdown with Italian outfit Inter.
Liverpool 3 Zenit 1 (3-3 agg)
Brendan Rodgers made two enforced changes from the side that hammered Swansea last Sunday. With Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho cup-tied, Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson were handed starting roles as the Reds moved from 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3, with Henderson and Stewart Downing lining up on either side of Luis Suarez. Despite going a goal down early on, the Merseysiders produced a stirring comeback with Suarez once again at the heart of their attacking forays. The Uruguayan fired home a pair of stunning free-kicks and Allen was also amongst the goals for Rodgers’ side but Liverpool failed to find a fourth and slipped out on away goals.
Chelsea 1 Sparta Prague 1
Rafa Benitez made five changes from the side that beat Brentford 4-0 in the FA Cup. In defence, Ryan Bertrand and Cesar Azpilicueta replaced Ashley Cole and Branislav Ivanovic in the full-back berths, though John Terry retained his place alongside Gary Cahill at centre-half, with the Blues skipper edging his way closer to full match fitness. John Obi Mikel and Ramires replaced the rested Frank Lampard and David Luiz in central midfield, while Fernando Torres led the line, with Demba Ba cup-tied. Benitez made just one substitution, bringing on Eden Hazard for Oscar with just over 20 minutes remaining – this meant the likes of Juan Mata and Victor Moses played the full 90 minutes in the attacking midfield three ahead of Sunday’s trip to City. The switch proved decisive, though, as the Belgian notched an injury time equaliser to clinch a place in the last 16.
In Other News
Sir Alex Ferguson has suggested Wayne Rooney is unlikely to feature for United this weekend, as he continues to suffer from the sinus infection that kept him out of Monday’s FA Cup clash with Reading. Speaking at yesterday’s press conference, Ferguson was asked whether Rooney will be fit for the weekend and responded:
“”I wouldn’t think so. He came in for the first time yesterday [Wednesday]. The medical people are dealing with him. He just had a bad sinus infection. He got it on Saturday morning and didn’t turn in. He has been on medicine but came in yesterday. Hopefully he will start training on Thursday.”
Certainly, if Rooney is indeed ruled out, it’s likely to afford Ferguson less chance of rest and rotation as he looks to juggle his frontline options ahead of the club’s crucial Champions League clash with Real Madrid on March 5. Robin Van Persie’s Fantasy owners will be confident of a start this weekend, then – the Dutchman was handed a brief sub appearances midway through the second-half against Reading but, with City taking on Chelsea this weekend, Ferguson could well play his strongest hand as he attempts to extend the 12 point lead at the summit.
Sam Allardyce could be set for a defensive boost ahead of Monday’s match with Tottenham after Joey O’Brien and George McCartney both returned to full training. The Hammers boss has also revealed James Collins has been training for the last few days, suggesting the Welshman could also be in line for a recall. With just a single clean sheet in the last nine Gameweeks, Allardyce’s side have been far from resilient – McCartney possible return to left-back, in addition to O’Brien’s versatility, could place question marks against Guy Demel’s starting role for the Spurs game, though. The Ivorian was named as a sub against Villa last time round and climbed off the bench to replace the injured O’Brien at right-back – the latter’s recovery could well mean Demel has to make do with a sub role once again.
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For Gameweek 38
- van Persie
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|No Change||Hart||MCI||B, Vs|
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“I am happy with the way I’ve started, but on the other hand, I should have scored four or five more, so that’s something for me to work on.”Robin Van Persie talks about his early form at United ahead of his first Manchester derby