Pellegrini seeks Kompany solution

Manchester City head coach Manuel Pellegrini was left looking for answers after Vincent Kompany suffered yet another injury blow.

The Citizens skipper lasted just nine minutes as a second-half substitute during the 4-1 home win over Sunderland on Boxing Day with a recurrence of a long-standing calf problem.

That left Pellegrini, who had earlier been looking forward to seeing Kompany back in action for the first time since early November, frustrated and preparing to be without the central defender for another spell.

He told reporters: "The only pity was Vincent Kompany's injury. Yes, it is a calf.

"He was ready to return. I did not want him to play the whole game because we have to play so many games. He had a good warm-up, he was working during the week with normality.

"It is really difficult to understand what happened. The most important thing is to understand why this happens – that is the most important to focus on now.

"We will see with the doctor's report, but it is the same injury, the same calf."

Among the positives for Pellegrini in the resounding win over the Black Cats was another superb display by former Chelsea and Wolfsburg forward Kevin De Bruyne, who scored once and assisted in another two goals.

The Belgium international has scored ten goals in 23 appearances so far for the Citizens, while also having a hand in setting up as many goals again.

Meanwhile, City are back in action on Tuesday evening when they head to the King Power Stadium to take on Premier League leaders Leicester City, who suffered a 1-0 defeat at Liverpool on Boxing Day.

That allowed the Citizens to close to within three points of the Foxes, with Arsenal two points behind Leicester in second after being mauled 4-0 at Southampton.

City are now 5000/1 to win the Premier League title this season, with Leicester 1/10000 and the Gunners 5000/1.

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Van Gaal suggests he could quit

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal has indicated that he may resign before he is axed after watching his side lose 2-0 at Stoke City.

United extended their winless run to seven matches in all competitions as Bojan Krkic and Marko Arnautovic scored in the first half for the Potters.

Van Gaal has been criticised for his negative tactics this season and he walked out of a press conference in the build-up to the Potters game.

When asked whether he feared he would be sacked, the experienced Dutchman said: "That is something I discuss with (executive vice-chairman) Ed Woodward not you.

"It is not always the club that has to fire or sack me.

"Sometimes I do that by myself, but I am the one who wants to speak first with the board of Manchester United and my members of staff and my players, not with you."

Van Gaal dropped Wayne Rooney to the bench for the game at the Britannia Stadium, while United can be backed at 6/4 to get back on the winning trail on Monday when they come up against Chelsea. Rooney is 12/5 to score at any time against the Blues who drew 2-2 with Watford on Boxing Day.

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Positive Deila eyes more trophies

Ronny Deila insists Celtic have the ability to enjoy another good season despite their early European exit.

The Norwegian believes the Bhoys are on track to have another excellent campaign and thinks they can improve on last season's domestic double.

Celtic won the League and League Cup last term but they lost 3-2 to Inverness Caledonian Thistle after extra time in the Scottish Cup semi-finals.

This season, Celtic are still in both cups and lead the Scottish Premiership despite losing to Motherwell last weekend.

"I'm confident in the team," said Deila. "We're top of the league. We've got champions in this team and we have won a lot in the past and that's what we want to do in the future. That's the positive thing. We can turn this into a very good season and that's what we want to do."

Celtic are 1/10000 to win a fifth successive title, with Deila adding: "I'm here to win. That's the only thing I'm here to do. Along the way you'll have some losses, you'll have some bad times but, hopefully, in the end you're smiling more than the others and that's my task. Last season we won two trophies and this season we're hoping for more."

Celtic are 8/15 to defeat third-placed Hearts at Tynecastle on Sunday while the Jambos are 9/2 to triumph.

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Retre impressed with spirit

Boosted by his first A-League goal, Paulo Retre says the feeling within the Melbourne City squad is the best he can remember it.

The 22-year-old is one of just four survivors from the squad that started the 2012-13 with what was then Melbourne Heart – along with fellow young guns Ben Garuccio and Stefan Mauk and veteran striker David Williams.

The dressing room is buzzing these days, as City have won four games in a row and are fresh off a 2-1 win over Melbourne Victory.

Retre was in the right place at the right time to slot home what proved to be the winner and give John van 't Ship's side bragging rights in the derby against the defending champions.

They have the chance, if they beat Brisbane Roar on Sunday, to move into the top two for the first time this season.

That's a significant position, as it brings with it a spot in the qualifying round for the 2017 Asian Champions League.

City are 21/10 to beat the Roar, who are 23/20 with the draw 13/5.

Retre, who can play as a full-back or in midfield, started the season as a fill-in for Socceroo Ivan Franjic but has become a regular in the City side, who are 1212/1 to win the Grand Final.

"We do want success so I knew playing was going to be a week-in, week-out thing," he said. "To be honest I didn't really expect big things; I'm just trying to put my head down and work."

The former Melbourne Victory junior says City are in their healthiest position since he arrived at the club just over three years ago.

"Not just for me personally but the feeling as a group," he added. "It shows our character is building.

"We're not getting carried away, we're just trying to take it game by game. Everyone here wants to win silverware and that's the goal."

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Solorzano keen to take his chance

Brisbane Roar striker Jean Carlos Solorzano is pleased to be fit again and in a position to challenge for a regular starting spot.

The Costa Rican has got healthy at a good time, as coach John Aloisi is likely to need him next month.

Striker Jamie Maclaren is one of three players the Roar will lose early in the New Year for up to a month as he heads to Qatar with the Australia squad for the AFC U-23 Championships – the final stage of qualifying for next year's Olympic tournament in Brazil.

For now, in Sunday's home clash with Melbourne City at least, he's likely to stay on the bench.

The Roar are 23/20 to beat City, who are 21/10 with the draw 13/5.

Solorzano has scored 18 goals in 59 appearances overall for Brisbane, across two spells, but his effectiveness this season has been reduced first by a foot injury and then a hamstring strain.

The 27-year-old said: "I have had really tough time with injuries now I am recovering well. I'm just waiting for the opportunity and every time I come on the field I am trying to do the best for the team.

"When difficult times come, that is when you have to be a bit more stronger and try to recover a bit better. Now I am getting the chance to be back, I am going to try and take my opportunities.

Solorzano takes the view that the important thing is that the whole playing group are in good form, and in a good position to challenge for the premiership. Brisbane are 1212/1 to win the Grand Final.

"There are a lot of positive signs, the team has shown a lot of character, we keep believing in our game and that is really important for us," he said.

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Williams determined to extend stay

Defender Aryn Williams is looking to play his way into Perth Glory's long-term plans over the next two months.

Williams has played seven games for Kenny Lowe's side since joining as an injury replacement player in November.

He's recently had his contract extended until the end of February, but doesn't know what his future holds beyond then.

Aryn is one of three brothers brought up in Western Australia who have all made the grade at professional level. His twin brother Ryan is with Barnsley in League One in England while Rhys who is five years older plays one division higher with Middlesbrough in the Championship and has earned 14 Socceroos caps.

Right-back Aryn played 40 games in the NPL with Floreat Athena before earning his first professional deal, and is now keen to be cement his place in the Glory side.

"I would love to stay at Perth Glory for many years to come as I love playing for the club and the fan base is great," he said. "I used to love coming down and watching and now I am wearing the jersey with my name on the back; it really is a boyhood dream come true."

Williams feels he's dealt well with the step-up from the NPL, adding: "I've worked extremely hard to get to where I have got so hopefully with more hard work I could become a more permanent name on the team sheet."

He made his debut off the bench in the round four defeat away to Western Sydney and has played right across the defence for Perth in his first few games.

The Glory, who are unbeaten in their last three games, go to defending champions Melbourne Victory on Sunday looking for a similar performance to when they beat

Kevin Muscat's side at nib Stadium earlier this month.

Perth are 7/1 to beat Victory, who are 2/5 with the draw 15/4. The Glory are 15/2 to win by a one-goal margin.

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Pellegrini hopes for Kompany boost

Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini hopes to have injury-hit captain Vincent Kompany available for the majority of the rest of the season.

The 29-year-old Belgium international centre-back has been plagued by calf problems for a large part of the season to date, but is expected to return to action when the Citizens play host to Sunderland on Boxing Day.

However, Pellegrini says his side cannot afford to rely on Kompany too much, even if he overcomes his injury problems to return to the heart of the City backline on a regular basis.

Pellegrini told reporters: "Vincent is the captain of the team – you cannot be the captain of an important team if you are not an important player.

"We need Vincent, but this team doesn't depend on one player.

"Vincent has had a long recovery. We hope that he will not have more problems in the future.

"It is very difficult to know if he will have them or not, but we are going to be optimistic and hope we can have the captain for the rest of the season."

The Citizens are third in the Premier League table ahead of the Boxing Day action, six points adrift of Premier League leaders Leicester City.

City can be backed at 5000/1 to win the league title this season, with the Foxes 1/10000 and Arsenal 5000/1.

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Pulis tells Berahino to step up

West Bromwich Albion striker Saido Berahino has been told to get his 'head in gear' by Baggies head coach Tony Pulis.

The 22-year-old has found the net just three times so far this season for Albion, with his future at The Hawthorns continuing to be far from certain.

And the vastly experienced Pulis admits that the situation is not one he has not come across before in all his years in management.

He told reporters: "It is the first time I have had to manage this situation. I have been in management a long time, but it is the first time someone has had that opportunity and has not gone and then he has just faded away as much as Saido has.

"I am not blaming the kid one bit about that, it is just the way it has been.

"Obviously, with the press focusing on what he is going to do and what he is not going to do, it is going to point the gun firmly at him again. He has got to make sure that he gets his head in gear and performs well."

Berahino is poised to be handed his first start since the end of October when West Brom travel to Swansea City on Boxing Day, with Salomon Rondon starting a three-match suspension after being sent off in the 2-1 home defeat by Bournemouth last time out.

England Under-21 international Berahino can be backed at 17/2 to score the first goal of the game at the Liberty Stadium, while he is 4/1 to be the first goalscorer for his side and 10/3 to find the net at any time.

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