Bosnia-Herzegovina team doctor Reuf Karabeg confirmed that Dzeko will miss Sunday’s match against Israel. “It’s a very serious injury and requires the kind of treatment whose time-frame unfortunately rules out a quick return,” Dr Karabeg said on the Bosnia-Herzegovina Football Federation website. Dzeko said: “I am extremely disappointed with the news that I will miss this match but I have faith in my team-mates and believe that they have it in them to get a result.” The Dragons are second from bottom in Group B, with two points from their first three matches. City captain Vincent Kompany, meanwhile, will miss Belgium’s friendly against Iceland on Wednesday with a calf injury, national team boss Marc Wilmots revealed on Sky Sports News. The 28-year-old centre-back missed Saturday’s draw at Loftus Road with the injury, but could recover in time to play in Belgium’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Wales in Brussels on Sunday. Press Association Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko could miss the next three weeks with a “very serious” calf injury. Dzeko was forced from the field just four minutes after replacing Fernandinho during the second half of City’s 2-2 Barclays Premier League draw at QPR on Saturday, and he has been ruled out of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Israel on Sunday. Reports suggest that Dzeko could also be unavailable for City’s upcoming league fixtures against Swansea and Southampton, and their Champions League tie against Bayern Munich.
United stretched their winning streak to six matches on Sunday with a morale-boosting 3-0 victory over arch-rivals Liverpool. Despite struggling in the opening stages of the season, Louis van Gaal has guided his men to third in the table and they are now eight points shy of leaders Chelsea, who are three points ahead of second-place Manchester City. Wayne Rooney insists Manchester United can overtake Chelsea and win the Barclays Premier League this season. “We have been here before but we have a lot of new players and this is where the experience of myself, Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher can rub off on the other players.” Rooney points to several factors behind United’s resurgence. The superb form of David de Gea was the most pertinent one in his mind following the United goalkeeper’s latest top-class display. While Liverpool helped United with an abject defensive performance, De Gea played a big part in the 3-0 win too by pulling off superb saves to deny Raheem Sterling and Mario Balotelli. “In my eyes he is the best keeper in the world,” Rooney said without hesitation. “Sometimes in training you hit a shot and turn away thinking it has gone in and he just manages to get there. “He came through a tough patch early on in his career here and he is starting to prove what a top keeper he is. “I hope he wins some of the top personal awards. He has had a really good season.” Rooney also feels the players have started to understand Van Gaal’s demands in training and on match day. “We are all aware of what the manager wants now both on and off the pitch,” Rooney added. “We all bought into his ways. He is a great manager. He is great with the players. “He is honest with the players who are playing and those who aren’t which is great. “We have a great team spirit. Everybody is pulling together. We all want to win. We all want to be successful. As long as we keep working we won’t be far away.” Rooney’s flexibility is one of the reasons why the striker’s love for his manager is not unrequited. Despite missing part of the season through suspension and injury, Rooney has found the net six times. Many of those goals have come from the striker’s position, but he has also looked effective in the number 10 position just behind. And on Sunday Rooney played as a central midfielder. In the summer the United skipper said he was reluctant to play in midfield at this stage of his career, but he was happy to operate there on Sunday. And Rooney believes the move could be beneficial long-term. “I think it can help me in years to come,” he said. “You see top players retire like Michael Owen, for instance. “He was one of the world’s best players but I don’t think he could drop back into midfield so once his pace had gone through injuries that was kind of the end. “But I feel I can drop back and I am sure it will give me an extra few years at the end of my career and it will also help me if I go into management.” So far this season Chelsea have looked superior to United, but that does not faze Rooney. The striker was part of the team that won the league six seasons ago despite trailing Liverpool by eight points in January and he also remembers United’s last triumph in 2013, when they won the title by 11 points despite rarely blowing sides away. “I think we have to believe we can win the title,” Rooney said. “We are eight points behind and coming into a busy period. “If we can win our games and the others have one bad result then there is nothing there. “We have to keep winning our games and hopefully get back to the top and you never know. “We won the league two years ago and we weren’t great in a lot of those games but we got the results. “We have shown a great resilience this season. Some of the games haven’t gone the way we would like but we are winning them and that is a great quality to have. Press Association
Jose Mourinho appears likely to escape Football Association sanctions for claiming Chelsea are the victims of a clear campaign after referee Anthony Taylor booked Cesc Fabregas for diving. “I am happy that it is this way, with respect for the referee. He made a big mistake like I make, like the players make sometimes.” Chelsea have found themselves at the heart of the simulation debate in recent weeks, with Diego Costa and Willian booked for supposedly taking a tumble in the win against Hull. After that match Steve Bruce compared a Gary Cahill dive as “like something out of Swan Lake” and West Ham manager Sam Allardyce accused Branislav Ivanovic of going down “looking for a penalty” on Boxing Day. Asked if the Cahill and Ivanovic incidents had influenced referees, Mourinho said: “They are not incidents, they are not incidents. “Of course [it has influenced the referee]. That’s a campaign, that’s a clear campaign. “People, pundits, commentators, coaches from other teams – they react with Chelsea in a way they don’t react to other teams. “They put lots of pressure on the referee and the referee makes a mistake like this. We lose two points, Fabregas earns a yellow card.” Mourinho made those comments to the BBC and let loose again in the post-match press conference. The Portuguese said this has been an issue since the first day of the season, when Costa was wrongly booked for a dive against Burnley, and called for a change to the system. “The double punishment is something unbelievable,” Mourinho said. “Anthony [should go to a] screen, see that he has made a mistake – he is a good guy, an honest guy. “He writes ‘I made a mistake, let’s clean the yellow card for Cesc’. It should be a simple process.” The Chelsea boss watched his words carefully, though, and is expected to escape disciplinary action. Fabregas believes referee Taylor had “a bad day at the office”. “There was definitely contact,” Fabregas said on chelseafc.com. “I don’t think the referee had the best game of his life but we’re all human and a bad day at the office can happen to anyone. “That’s it, let’s not talk more about it, we have to talk about football.” After the leaders’ run of five successive wins in all competitions was ended, Mourinho said the Blues were losing Premier League points as a result of unjust decisions. “I think it is a scandal because it is not a small penalty – it is a penalty like Big Ben,” the Blues boss said following the match. “In this country – and I am happy with that, more than happy with that – we will just say that it was a big mistake with a big influence in the result. Mourinho was adamant the Premier League leaders should have had a potentially match-defining penalty early in the second half of Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Southampton, when Fabregas went down under pressure from Matt Targett. Instead of a spot-kick, however, referee Taylor deemed it a dive and booked the infuriated Spanish midfielder – part of a what Mourinho believes is a growing movement against his side. Press Association
But club captain Jagielka insists the squad are fully behind the Spaniard and must take responsibility for changing things. Asked if the manager’s position was becoming an issue for the players, the England defender said: “We’re massively behind him. I don’t think it’s come to that point. “You see pundits, newspapers or social media but things haven’t gone from hero to zero in the space of nine games. “It’s not a good place to be right now because if you were an honest Evertonian you wouldn’t be confident in us keeping clean sheets and you wouldn’t be confident in us scoring too many goals. “That’s not a good combination but we’ve got some good players and some good characters so we need to come to the party. “At the end of the day we go out there to play and if we don’t pick up results, the manager will take a bit of the blame but the players have to go out there and perform. “We’ve got a lot to answer for and the only way we can make it up to the fans is by winning games.” The FA Cup third round draw could have been kinder to Everton, who face a testing tie against high-flying West Ham on Tuesday. Phil Jagielka believes it is up to Everton’s under-performing players to take the heat off manager Roberto Martinez. Press Association But Jagielka is still banking on an upturn in fortune. “There’s a lot of stuff for us to sort out but hopefully we can get a result in the FA Cup and that can give us some sort of confidence to take into the league,” he said. “We hope to be a bit happier after West Ham but we need to sort out our league form, which is just not good enough.” Hull started the new year in good heart, dominating proceedings and taking the points courtesy of first-half efforts from Ahmed Elmohamady and Nikica Jelavic. That lifted them to 15th in the table, but still only two points clear of the drop zone. Survival remains the primary objective, rather than a repeat of last year’s FA Cup final. The Tigers face Arsenal on Sunday in a repeat of May’s Wembley showpiece, but Steve Bruce is battling a raft of injuries. Michael Dawson and Mohamed Diame have been out for a number of weeks, while victory over Everton came at a physical cost. “The disappointing thing was we’ve lost three or four players through the ridiculous programme over Christmas,” said Bruce. “The traveling and everything involved with it is total nonsense. We’ve lost three more arguably to fatigue. (Liam) Rosenior has a hamstring, (Andy) Robertson needs an ankle X-ray and Gaston Ramirez hurt his groin. “As well as that, Abel Hernandez is physically exhausted.” The Toffees completed a miserable run of results over the festive period with a 2-0 loss at Hull on New Year’s Day, leaving them a disappointing 13th in the Barclays Premier League. It was their fourth straight defeat and a seventh in the last nine matches, a sequence that has put Martinez in an uncomfortable position.
“I really enjoyed playing the games when we were in the competition last season but it is very difficult,” Williams said. “You see that most teams in the Premier League suffer when they play in it. “It was one of those things where if we had got it then brilliant, but now we haven’t we can concentrate on the Premier League. “I’m glad I’ve played in it once in my career and it wouldn’t have been doom and gloom if we had got in there. “But I’d prefer to concentrate on the league.” Swansea might have missed out on European football for the second time in three seasons, but the Welsh outfit have still had an outstanding campaign with a record Premier League points total haul and a best eighth-placed finish. Many pundits believe Swansea have hit their ceiling as far as the Premier League is concerned but Williams insists the aim at the club is to keep on improving. “Who knows if we’ve hit the ceiling, we’re just enjoying being in eighth right now,” Williams said. The bloated European competition is considered more of a curse than a reward by many, with the playing and travel demands having a serious impact on a club’s Barclays Premier League campaign. Swansea manager Garry Monk said he was disappointed the club’s European hopes had been extinguished after the 4-2 home defeat to Manchester City on Sunday, but his captain Williams did not share that sentiment and is content to focus on domestic commitments. Swansea skipper Ashley Williams feels it is a blessing to be missing out on the Europa League next season. “The main thing is that we keep getting better and we’ve progressed this year. “If the Europa League is the next step then you have to try and get in it, and then it’s down to the club to get a bigger squad and manage it better than we did last time. “I wouldn’t say that we want to sit in eighth for the next five years because we want to keep getting better and better. “It’s up to us as players and the club to make sure we can compete.” Monk has said he wants to add “two or three quality players” this summer to a squad which has been severely depleted by injuries in recent weeks. “We have a lot of talking to do before next year as we’ve learned a lot this season,” Williams said. “It will be good for the senior players and the manager to get our brains together to decide what worked and what didn’t and which direction we want to go in.” Press Association
“I hope it will be a problem later on in the season but there’s no tiredness at the moment, because we’re starting the season,” he said. “We don’t have long to prepare for the next game but at the start of the season that’s not a problem. Maybe it’s good to play so many games because we need to develop and improve and cut out mistakes. The second half (against Midtjylland) was good but we are learning.” Southampton kicked off their Premier League season with a draw at Newcastle before being outplayed in a 3-0 loss to Everton at St Mary’s last week. A fixture against newly-promoted Watford may look like a good chance to pick up a maiden league win of the season but, having drawn with both the Toffees and West Brom, Quique Flores’ side have suggested they can quickly adapt to life in the top-flight. “It’s always nice to play a promoted team and they have had two good results, the start of the season is very positive for them,” Koeman added. “It takes time to integrate into the Premier League, that was the case for me last year, finding how difficult and tough it is, but the manager has always had good organisation in his teams so it will be a tough one.” Jay Rodriguez will be hoping to score his first league goal in 17 months after grabbing the equaliser against Midtjylland, while both Sadio Mane and Victor Wanyama – reported transfer targets for Manchester United and Tottenham respectively – are likely to keep their places in Koeman’s side as Saints insist neither will be sold. Press Association Having taken one point from their opening two league games, Saints travel to face Watford on Sunday looking for their first victory of the domestic campaign. Koeman’s side were also held to a 1-1 draw in the opening leg of their Europa League play-off against Danish champions FC Midtjylland on Thursday night but, at such an early stage of the season, Koeman feels the extra fixtures are not a burden on his players. Southampton have started their Premier League campaign slowly but manager Ronald Koeman is refusing to blame it on their European involvement.
Liverpool playmaker Philippe Coutinho has withdrawn from Brazil’s squad for their World Cup qualifiers against Chile and Venezuela. His place in the squad has been taken by Kaka. Press Association The 23-year-old played the full 90 minutes of Sunday’s 1-1 Merseyside derby draw at Goodison Park. However, the Brazilian Football Confederation announced on Monday he has pulled out of their squad with an unspecified injury.
Northern Ireland are heading to their first ever European Championship after captain Steven Davis and Josh Magennis kicked off celebrations 30 years in the making at Windsor Park. The nation has not been seen a major tournament since the 1986 World Cup but that will all change in France next summer after an unforgettable 3-1 victory in Belfast. Michael O’Neill’s men knew three points would be enough to make history and, when Davis stabbed home Stuart Dallas’ 35th-minute cross, the promised land moved a mighty step closer. Press Association Northern Ireland began with bristling intent, with three corners in the first five minutes and one rasping shot into the side-netting from Oliver Norwood. The febrile fans soon had something significant to celebrate – a Faroe Islands goal 11,000 miles away in Budapest. Regardless of the result in Belfast, anything less than a Hungary win would be enough for O’Neill’s men. In the end, Hungary’s comeback win was an irrelevance. Northern Ireland thought they had a vital breakthrough in the 24th minute, Dallas gliding past Vasilis Torosidis on the left before cutting the ball across goal. It trickled just behind the advancing Magennis, but he swiftly repositioned and hooked a shot goalwards from eight yards. Vangelis Moras did brilliantly to get a healthy deflection on it and instead of nestling in the corner it rolled to safety. Jamie Ward tried his luck from 25 yards as Northern Ireland surged again, but his shot was a fraction high and a fraction wide. The visitors were being penned back by an industrious front three of Magennis, Dallas and Ward but it took a moment of vision from Corry Evans to crack things open. The Blackburn midfielder, only playing because of Hughes’ injury, appeared to have few options available when he spotted Dallas on the move and pinged a precision pass from left to right. The winger took a clean first touch and sent a measured ball across goal, where Davis was on hand to fling himself forward and stab home. The reaction was electric, on and off the pitch, with Davis pointing to the skies. Greece almost spoiled the script in first-half stoppage time, Kostas Mitroglou striking the post seconds after a brave block from Norwood. But by the start of the second half French tricolours had begun to pop up in the crowd. If it is bad luck to tempt fate, somebody forgot to tell Magennis. The 25-year-old looked to be in no position to steer home Norwood’s corner but he arched his neck and sent a looping header past the despairing Orestis Karnezis. A first international goal was followed by a huge, all-consuming bear hug for O’Neill, the manager who had handed him the opportunity. It was job done – in terms of qualification at least – but Davis was not finished yet. Just before the hour mark another corner exposed Greece’s dreadful marking, Davis netting his seventh Northern Ireland goal with a looping header home from the edge of the area. The green shirts congregated in a touchline huddle around their inspirational skipper, united in joy and relief. With matters settled so emphatically, the last 20 minutes were little more than an elaborate lap of honour. O’Neill went to his bench three times to allow Liam Boyce, Niall McGinn and Luke McCullough a taste of the stellar atmosphere. Greece finally gained a consolation three minutes from time, though Christos Aravidis’ close-range finish barely merited a reaction from either side. This was Northern Ireland’s night, after three long decades of waiting. But this was not a night when the Green and White Army would squeak home – this was a party. Kilmarnock forward Magennis – a converted goalkeeper who had never scored an international goal before – made it two with a deft header and the inspirational Davis nodded in his second just before the hour mark. The Southampton midfielder was just a year old when Billy Bingham’s boys went to Mexico and, having described this match as the biggest of his career at his pre-game press conference, he was a fitting figurehead. So too Magennis, whose low profile and unique back story epitomise the spirit in this squad. He would not have been on the pitch had Kyle Lafferty not been suspended – nor if he had made it with the gloves at Cardiff as a teenager. Northern Ireland were without not just Lafferty but also the banned Chris Baird and Conor McLaughlin and the injured Jonny Evans and Aaron Hughes. Their resources were tested to the limit, but the likes of Magennis, Paddy McNair and Corry Evans were not found wanting. Their nerveless showing was met with unfettered delight by 11,700 frenzied fans – a number curtailed by construction work but including local hero Rory McIlroy and IBF superbantamweight champion Carl Frampton.
Neil, the former Hamilton player-manager, accepts he got his own share of things wrong against Newcastle, where the decision to replace defensive midfielder Alexander Tettey with playmaker Wes Hoolahan when chasing the game at 3-2 backfired as the hosts soon netted twice on the break in as many minutes. However, the 34-year-old sees no reason why Norwich cannot put that disappointment behind them and produce the required performance against the Baggies, who were beaten 3-0 in a Capital One Cup tie at Carrow Road last month. “We focused on the negatives when we looked back at the game,” Neil said. “We know what we are good at, that is keeping the ball – we create chances, we go forward well and we have scored a lot of goals this season, so that doesn’t need attention. “I think the other side is what needed attention and that is what we have focused on more this week. “I don’t think anybody enjoys that. “It is the heaviest defeat I have experienced as a manager, so you have to stick your chest out and make sure in the next game you go and perform a lot better and hopefully go and win.” Neil added on Norwich City TV: “However, it is not important what happens here during the week, it is important what happens during the game, that is when the proof is in the pudding. Norwich manager Alex Neil hopes a DVD rerun of his side’s horror show at Newcastle will help them get back to winning ways against West Brom on Saturday. “It is just going to be about getting the balance right, because our attacking play (at Newcastle) was good, but defensively we did not do well enough and have to make sure we address that as we best as we can. “At this level, you have to make sure you have that attacking threat, but also keep the back door shut, but that is much more easily said than done.” Neil revealed while midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu had shown no ill effects from his run-out with the academy side at Leicester in midweek after recovery from a fractured metatarsal, the 28-year-old would not be rushed back to face his old club, having signed in the summer on a free transfer. “He is still a bit rusty in terms of game time, but it is good he has come through it with no reaction,” Neil said. “Saturday maybe a bit soon for him, it is a big game so to take that chance would probably be unfair to him.” The Canaries were stuffed 6-2 at St James’ Park last Sunday as the Magpies recorded their first Barclays Premier League victory to move off the foot of the table. Following a promising start to life back in the top flight after coming up via the play-offs, Neil’s side have not won in four league matches and are just three points clear of the drop zone. Press Association
Press Association Saints boss Koeman is impressed by the 26-year-old’s resolve, but admitted the jury will be out until the new year on whether he can stay the course this term. “I think it’s too early to judge that,” Koeman said. “At this time last year Tadic was fantastic and he was starting with physical problems in December, January. “Wait until January and ask me again.” The international break that follows Saturday’s trip to Sunderland will be the only respite before the hectic Christmas schedule. Former Holland defender Koeman believes he will only need to make minor tweaks to his selection policy to cope with the Premier League’s rigour this term. The Southampton boss did, however, insist that he will be selective when it comes to resting his top stars, challenging his squad to dig in when the season grinds past the halfway point. “First of all I’ve made more changes in the Capital One Cup,” said Koeman. “And I’m not a fan of making a lot of changes every week. “Sometimes I’ll leave one or two players out to give those players a rest, because I’ve learned also from last year.” The Serbia playmaker set an impressive early pace in the first half of his debut season at Southampton, but struggled to cope with the relentless winter schedule. Tadic has vowed to learn from the spate of injuries he suffered at the tail-end of last season, as he adjusted to his first campaign without a winter break. Ronald Koeman has challenged Dusan Tadic to back up his claims he is now better equipped to cope with the Premier League’s unforgiving winter.