Pablo Zabaleta believes Manchester City's sloppy away form will make it 'difficult' to win back Premier League


Michael Regan

Pablo Zabaleta has admitted Manchester City have made it “difficult” to wrestle back the Premier League title.

And England defender Joleon Lescott has hit out at the lack of “appetite” City showed at the Stadium of Light.

are eighth after 11 games, six points adrift of leaders Arsenal and with a woeful record away from home, including Sunday’s .

City had high hopes of rattling their rivals this season in a wide open contest, but Zabaleta has conceded they “cannot keep a clean sheet” on their travels.

also fears that teams have worked out City away from home by denying their attacking players any space, and soaking up pressure.

He said: “There is a long way to go and we have too many games to the end, but when you lose points like that it will be really difficult to fight for the title.

“We are so disappointed. We had a great chance to reach third position and we knew before the game that Chelsea had dropped points on Saturday, and that Spurs had lost just before us.

“It was a great chance, but unfortunately we didn’t take it.

“I don’t know if it is just about our away form – when you look at the games we have played away, we have dominated all of them.

“But it is true we cannot keep a clean sheet, and when you play away you must defend much better, and try not to concede goals. It’s not happening, every time we play away.

“It was a difficult game. Sunderland played well for the first 45 minutes. They scored a goal, defended with 11 players behind the ball, and just closed the space every time.

“We had no space to create chances. It is sometimes hard to play against 11 players, but you must give them credit – they are in a tough position, fighting against relegation, so it was a very important game for them.

“We don’t care about what other teams are doing. We need to focus on what we are doing at the moment, and improve our performances away.

“When you have a defeat like this you want to play as quickly as you can, but we now go into an international break, and then we will face Spurs at home, which will be a crucial game for us.”

Clive Brunskill

Lescott wants more hunger from his city team mates who were sloppy early on against Sunderland.

He said: “Overall, I don’t think we deserved to lose the game, maybe they had a bit more appetite in the first half than we showed at certain times. But we should have come out with something.

“We don’t care about what other teams are doing. We need to focus on what we are doing at the moment, and improve our performances away.”

“It was disappointing. It’s happened four years on the trot, it’s not the best place for us to come.

“I don’t know what it is about Sunderland, it’s hard to say. Normally you can put your finger on why you’ve lost a game but I don’t see that today. I don’t believe we should have lost it.”

Asked for a reason behind City’s miserable four point haul and four defeats away from home in the league, Lescott said: “It’s hard to say, it’s not like we feel any different going into the game. Obviously the atmosphere and surroundings are a lot different.

“But every team has to play away and at the minute we can’t put it all together and go on a run away from home. We’ve won an odd one here and there and one in the league cup, but it’s too stop-start but we need to knuckle down now and pick up some points.”


Next Crystal Palace manager: Crystal Palace consider ex-Manchester United assistant boss Rene Meulensteen



Former Manchester United assistant boss Rene Meulensteen is a surprise outsider for the Crystal Palace managerial vacancy.

The Dutch coach is highly regarded in footballing circles and has been recommended to key decision-makers at as the perfect coach to work ina two-tiered management structure.

TheEagles appointed Iain Moody as Sporting Director last week, before announcing his arrival on Saturday, and could use a clause in his new contract with the Qatari FA that allows him to leave his post for a pre-determined compensation payment.

Spanishcoach Aitor Karanka is another of the names in the frame and arrived inLondon for his second round of talks with the club yesterday.

Phil Bardsley rebuilding Sunderland career after surviving Paolo Di Canio regime


Chris Brunskill

Phil Bardsley says his summer of torment under Paolo Di Canio could have “destroyed” a weaker player.

The Sunderland defender hopes he has started his rehabilitation in the eyes of supporters after .

Hejoked: “I was over the advertising hoardings and I think a couple of people in the crowd patted me on the back. That was nice. A few months ago I would probably have got chinned there!”

Bardsley had to train with the Under-21s until .

DiCanio punished him for ­incidents including a picture of the , and mocking a Sunderland defeat on social media. Players are gagged from revealing the full details of Di Canio’s regime under an agreement with the sacked boss, who is also required to keep quiet.

But Bardsley admitted: “There were a few situations I was involved in which were difficult for me and my family at the time. As I say that’s all in the past now – you’ve got to be mentally strong in this game or it will destroy you.

“Thankfully I stayed strong. I knew that I had to offer this football club a little bit more than I had at the time.

“Ithought at the time my Sunderland career was over but the manager has given me a new lease of life and here we are talking about a 1-0 win over Manchester City. It’s mad.

“I’d love to stay here but it’s up to the club. I’m in the last eight months of my contract and I’ve got to perform.

“WhenI cross the white line, I’ll wear my heart on my sleeve and when I get the ball I try to be brave with it. I love playing here and I’m just happy with what’s happened since.”

Poyet’s revival has seen three wins at home in a row and the club are in touch with safety ahead of a clash in a fortnight with fellow strugglers Stoke.

Rickie Lambert heaps praise on Southampton team-mate Adam Lallana as Saints trio prepare for England duty


Rickie Lambert has backed Adam Lallana to show Roy Hodgson he is worthy of a place in England’s World Cup plans.

Southamptonstars Lambert and Lallana are both in the squad for the upcoming friendlies with Chile and Germany along with teammate Jay Rodriguez.

Hodgsonwas to witness midfielder Lallana produce a stunning man of the match performance, capped by a superb solo goal, in on Saturday.

Striker Lambert, who netted on his debut against Scotland in September, said: "Adam put in an unbelievable performance.

"He has played well quite a lot this season but that is the best I have seen him play. He was frightening.

"Itwas good to know Roy Hodgson was there to witness how good he is. He made us tick and everything went through him. He also scored an unbelievable goal.

"This week is going to be special. We are all travelling up to meet up with the squad together and I cannot wait.

"It is good the manager has called up a few new players as that is how I got my chance.

"I am sure Adam and Jay will do well in training or if they get a chance in a game will show what they can do."

Glen Johnson believes current Liverpool squad is the best he's played in


Clive Brunskill

Glen Johnson claims Liverpool’s current team is the best he has played in during his Anfield career.

Johnson feels has more quality than any of the groups he featured in under Rafa Benitez, Roy Hodgson or Kenny Dalglish since joining the Reds in 2009.

Liverpool are playing their best football for years and to move second in the Premier League.

said: “We’ve had some fantastic players in the past that have obviously moved on.

“But in terms of a squad and starting XI, I think it’s the best since I’ve been around.”

Johnson was delighted by the way Liverpool recovered so well from their loss at Arsenal seven days earlier.

“Everygood team bounces back after a disappointing result,” he said. “To do that with a clean sheet and four goals is an ideal day.

“We’ve got to make this a difficult place for teams to come and play, and easier for us to play and get the points.

“If we keep working like that, I’m sure we’re going to give every team a good game.”

Aston Villa striker Libor Kozak hails his 'perfect' partnership with Christian Benteke


Neville Williams

Libor Kozak says his blossoming strike partnership with Christian Benteke at Aston Villa is “perfect”.

Czech striker Kozak nodded in his against Cardiff since joining from Lazio for £7million in August.

Itwas the first time he started alongside Villa’s main striker. Belgian international hitman Benteke came close to scoring .

Kozak said: “We had other chances to Christian as well. We played very well and we won — it is perfect.”

Kozak is on international duty but is already thinking about the trip to West Brom on November 25.

Thomas Vermaelen frustrated by Arsenal's missed opportunity at Old Trafford


Alex Livesey

Thomas Vermaelen last night admitted his "frustration" "missed opportunity".

Vermaelen was a late call-up for his first Premier League startafter Per Mertesacker succumbed to the bug that swept the Arsenal camp.

Andthe Belgian, who pledged his commitment to Arsene Wenger’s side despitehis loss of status, conceded knew they had wasted the chance to effectively end Manchester United’s title hopes.

Defeat sawArsenal head into the international break two points clear of Liverpoolwith just six points separating the top eight.

Vermaelen agreed: "We lost the game with a set-piece and that’s a bit frustrating. Neither side really created too many chances.

"We didn’t play well enough in possession of the ball to create any chances or score goals.

"Ithink we can take confidence from the fact that we’re still top of the league. There’s a long way to go and we must learn that we need to improve in possession of the ball.

"Of course it was disappointing that we lost. We wanted to win the game and went to Old Trafford to do that.

"We were eight points ahead of United going into the match and had the chance to make it 11 points.

"Wewent there to win. But we’re still top of the league and need to keep the confidence we’ve had over the last couple of weeks.

"There’s no reason for that to change dramatically. We’re still confident we can wingames and we have a long way to go. But it was a bit of a missed opportunity."

Vermaelen added that he received the call from Wenger at the team hotel five hours or so before kick-off.

"I found out quite late, it was in the morning," he said. "There were one or two players who were ill.

"ButI was happy to play, especially in a big game against a big team like Manchester United. At the end of the day it’s not about my situation, it’s about the team.

"It wasn’t hard. I go into every game, ready to play. I always make sure I’m mentally ready and physically ready to playa game, so for me it wasn’t difficult.

Alex Livesey

"I knew it could happen at any moment so I’m always ready. I’ve been saying it for weeks and monthsand all of a sudden it happened.

"So I’m always positive. What I have said is that it is not about my situation but what the team does and I’m really happy that we’re top of the league.

"Personally I’m still confident I can play for this club and every chance I get I will do a job for this club.

"I feel my future is at Arsenal, yes. At the moment there is no story. I’m not talking about it.

"Ican keep talking about my situation. I’ve done that with the national team and I keep on reading stories that say I want to leave.

"But that’s not the case. I’m still focused on the team at the moment and that’s what I want to do.

"It’s now November but any moment things can happen. If they do, I’m ready and I’m not thinking about anything else."

Hull City owner Assem Allam plots ANOTHER name change for his club


Getty Images

Hull City owner Assem Allam wants to change the club’s name again – this time to Hull Tigers.

Allam caused upset among fans earlier this year and now wants to tinker again.

Hehas told fans groups the switch is key to generating greater commercialincome because he cannot buy the freehold .

“Having been deprived of opportunities to acquire the stadium freehold, which would have enabled us to create the infrastructure in the surrounding area, we will now need to focus on generating commercial income from elsewhere,” said the ­Egyptian-born tycoon.

“A shorter club name will hopefully enable us to do so, with a stronger, quicker marketing impact all over the world.”

Allam has promised to keep fans involved in the consultation process and would like the new name to come in next year.

Headded: “I believe the representatives at the meeting accepted that there is a wider issue at hand, in that we need to ensure the club can sustain itself through commercial income.”

Seamus Coleman urges Everton to show more creativity after Crystal Palace stalemate


Chris Brunskill

Seamus Coleman claims Everton must be more creative if they are going to maintain their European push.

failed to turn their domination into three points against the Premier League’s bottom side and Coleman knows they must be better.

Everton enjoyed over 70 per cent possession in the goalless draw and claims this is not enough on its own to win games.

“You’vegot to keep the ball of course, and that’s something we do under the new manager, but you’ve got to keep it for a reason and that’s to createchances,” he said.

“We didn’t create enough for the amount of possession we had – it’s as simple as that.

“Wewent to Palace playing well and with confidence so with no disrespect to them, the way we’re playing we should be coming to these places and getting three points.

“It wasn’t to be though because we just couldn’t break them down.

“They sat behind the ball and were happy with a point.”

England centurion Frank Lampard to be honoured at Wembley before Chile clash


Mike Hewitt

Frank Lampard will be honoured at Wembley on Friday night for reaching his 100 cap England landmark.

, 35, has already joined the centurion club but was acutely aware that England’s final two World Cup qualifiers were too important for ceremony.

But Lampard is expected to get the captain’s armband on Friday against Chilewith Steven Gerrard set to sit out the first of the back-to-back friendlies.

Lampard will be presented with a commemorative cap before kick-off and his two daughters, Isla and Luna, are due to be mascots.

Gerrard is determined to report up with the rest of the England squad when they assemble .

ButGerrard has been nursing a hip problem and another recent niggle in thepast few weeks and England boss Roy Hodgson is likely to give him a breather.

It could also open the door for Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, Jack Wilshere and Ross Barkley to press their claims.

Hodgson is likely to rest and rotate across the two friendlies may feature bigger names.

The FA are unlikely to tick off the players until today but there are injury doubts for Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge.

Celtickeeper Fraser Forster could also start against Chile as Hodgson tries out his back-up keepers for first choice Joe Hart. Forster and Norwich’sJohn Ruddy are hoping to press their claims this week for their chance.