Mustafi sticking to his guns

Arsenal defender Shkodran Mustafi is adamant that despite their stuttering form of late, his side are still in the race for the Premier League title this season.

Recent defeats in the league to the likes of Watford and frontrunners Chelsea have seen Arsene Wenger's men drop well off the pace at the top of the table.

Now a 12-point gap lies between themselves and the Blues with 14 games of the Premier League campaign remaining.

Despite such a tall order for the north Londoners, Germany international Mustafi is still holding on to the belief his side can perform a remarkable comeback.

He told Sky Sports: "I think it's going to be more difficult than it was before but I'm a believer. I don't give up.

"As long as it's possible we're going to fight for it, and in the end we will see and if we're lucky enough and good enough to go for it or not."

Next for the Gunners is another banana-skin encounter when they host a resurgent Hull City at the Emirates on Saturday.

Arsenal are 2000/1 to win the Premier League title this season, while frontrunners Chelsea are 1/250 to finish the job and be crowned champions.

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Brisbane roar into group stage

Brisbane Roar are through to the group stages of the Asian Champions League after upsetting Shanghai Shenhua 2-0 in their play-off in China.

The spotlight might have been on Carlos Tevez making his competitive debut for the home side, but the Roar put the new signing in the shade with a victory that delighted coach John Aloisi.

Brisbane scored twice in the first half, through Brandon Borrello and Tommy Oar, before their disciplined midfield and defence shut out the hosts as they pushed for a way back into the match.

Aloisi hailed the win at Hongkou Stadium as the best since he arrived at the club.

"That's probably been the biggest win – especially because a lot of people really didn't give us a chance of beating them," said the coach.

"But we showed we're not only a good footballing team, but we can also fight when we have to and defend."

Aloisi said his team had shown many times that it was a mistake for people to underestimate the culture at the club, as the Roar were able to limit the influence of both Obefami Martins and Tevez.

Borrello opened the scoring inside the first two minutes with a clinical finish across the goalkeeper and Oar scored with a rare right-footed strike into the bottom corner just before the interval.

Oar said it was a collective team performance and their fitness levels that helped the Roar cause the upset victory.

"There are no star individuals in our team, but we play well together and that was the most important thing," he added.

The Roar are 6/4 to win their next game against Melbourne City, who are 7/4, with the draw 5/2.

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Reds keeper out for a month

Eugene Galekovic will miss about four weeks with a shoulder injury, putting him out of the start of Adelaide United's Asian Champions League campaign.

The Reds keeper was injured in last weekend's 2-1 defeat to Central Coast in Gosford and he has an uncommon injury, the nature of the problem being one neither the club's doctor nor physio have come across before.

It's not just a simple muscle tear and scans have indicated the injury should take about a month to clear up.

The injury to the Reds captain's right shoulder is the latest misfortune to hit the struggling defending champions, who are bottom of the table.

Galekovic will be out of the first two games of United's ACL season, which starts on 22nd February at home to Gamba Osaka.

Coach Guillermo Amor can ill-afford to be without the experienced stopper at a time when the Reds face a fight against the A-League wooden spoon and begin their pursuit of a place in the ACL knockout stages.

Adelaide's season hasn't been helped by the departures of Socceroo James Holland, Spaniard Sergi Guardiola and striker Henrique.

Amor signed three players earlier this week though of the trio Senegalese forward Baba Diawara is still awaiting final approval of a work visa to join the club.

South Korea international Kim Jae-sung has joined and will be available both for the domestic campaign and the Asian matches.

The 33-year-old recently had a stint on loan at Jeju United, who are one of Adelaide's three opponents in the ACL.

Central midfielder Kim said his burning desire to play overseas led to his move to the Reds.

"As a player I feel I've achieved a lot," he said. "I've been to the World Cup in 2010, I've been a national team player, I've won championships, I've won the Champions League with my club in my career.

"I felt like I've achieved everything I could football-wise. There was one challenge and a dream I've had and that was to play overseas."

United are 11/8 to win their next game against Perth Glory, who are 9/5, with the draw 11/4.

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Zidane moves on from Celta loss

Real Madrid were dumped out of the Copa del Rey on Wednesday evening but coach Zinedine Zidane has urged his side to move on.

Los Blancos drew 2-2 at Celta but lost out 4-3 on aggregate after a 2-1 defeat at the Bernabeu in the first leg of their quarter-final clash.

Real saw a 40-match unbeaten run halted by Sevilla in January but since then they have managed just one win in five matches in all competitions.

The Madrid side remain the La Liga leaders, with a one point lead and a game in hand over Sevilla, and they are through to the last 16 of the Champions League – and Zidane wants his players to move on from the defeat to Celta and concentrate on the competitions they can win.

"We played a good match but in the end it wasn't possible to advance,'' said Zidane.”We are disappointed, but we have to keep working and focus on the competitions we can still win."

Zidane's side host Real Sociedad in La Liga on Sunday and they are 3/10 to secure all three points, or 17/2 to win 3-0.

Real are 1/20 to win La Liga outright and 5/6 to successfully defend their Champions League title.

Puel sets sights on Europe

Southampton boss Claude Puel has urged his side to claim the EFL Cup trophy and a spot in the Europa League after their semi-final success over Liverpool.

Saints beat Liverpool 1-0 at Anfield on Wednesday to claim a 2-0 aggregate victory and book a place in the final.

The St Mary's side will take on either Manchester United or Hull City in the final at the end of next month, with United holding a 2-0 lead ahead of Thursday's semi-final second leg at the KCOM Stadium.

Southampton dropped out of the Europa League in the group stages this season and Puel has urged his side to claim the EFL Cup and earn a chance at European redemption next year.

"It's important to put this experience for next year in European games. It'll be important to qualify," said Puel.

"It will be important for the squad to continue the work, to improve, and know the possibilities to play European games."

He added: "Now we go to Wembley, not just to participate but to win this cup."

Southampton are 5/2 to win the EFL Cup outright and 23/10 to beat Arsenal in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Saturday.

Jose wary of improved Tigers

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho has warned his side that League Cup semi-final opponents Hull City are in a 'good situation' under new coach Marco Silva.

The Red Devils head to the KCOM Stadium for the second leg of their last-four tie holding a 2-0 lead from the first meeting at Old Trafford, but Mourinho is taking nothing for granted.

And he is especially wary given the impact made by fellow Portuguese Silva with the Tigers, who have won two of their last four games and who pushed Chelsea hard last weekend before going down 2-0 at Stamford Bridge.

Mourinho told his club's official website: "It is no surprise for me, I knew it. It is not just because there is an impact when any team changes their manager.

"I knew that Marco was such a good coach that the team would really improve. There is still a very difficult job in hand, still a big fight with some other five, six or seven teams to avoid relegation, but he is a very good coach.

"They played against us very well, they played the matches they won at home very well too. They played against Chelsea very well too. So I think they're in a good situation."

Mourinho also confirmed that Argentina defender Marcos Rojo is back in contention after missing the 1-1 Premier League draw at Stoke City last weekend due to illness.

Centre-back Eric Bailly misses out, but could be available for the FA Cup tie with Wigan Athletic next weekend after the Ivory Coast suffered an early exit at the Africa Cup of Nations.

United are priced at 1/66 to reach the League Cup final and are 18/5 to secure a draw in 90 minutes on Humberside on Thursday evening, with the Red Devils 10/11 to keep a clean sheet against the Tigers.

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Key Hull duo to miss second leg

Hull City manager Marco Silva has confirmed that Robert Snodgrass and Curtis Davies will not feature in Thursday's game against Manchester United.

Snodgrass is being linked with a move away from the Tigers this month and sat out Sunday's 2-0 defeat at Chelsea with a knee injury while Davies is struggling with a hamstring problem.

Hull lost the first leg of their EFL Cup semi-final at Old Trafford 2-0 a fortnight ago but Silva believes all is not lost and is upbeat about his team's chances of shocking Manchester United in the second match.

"We did very well at Chelsea, especially in the second half. We controlled the game after the break," he said.

"I was pleased with the reaction of the team. It was a good performance and we need to build on that against Manchester United.

"We will try to get the job done and win the game. That is our aim."

Meanwhile, Tom Huddlestone says the Tigers are in a determined mood heading into the second leg.

The former Tottenham midfielder said: "We have made history quite a few times at Hull in recent years. Hopefully, we can do it again on Thursday evening.

"It will be difficult, but if we can get ahead and go into the last 10-15 minutes with a lead then all the pressure will be on them.

"Everyone has written us off, so the pressure is very much on them. We will turn up determined to win the game and progress."

Hull, 1/25 to be relegated from the Premier League this season, can be backed at 100/1 to win the second leg against Manchester United 3-0 while Huddlestone is available at 12/1 to score at any time against Jose Mourinho's team.

Romeu extends St Mary’s stay

Southampton's former Barcelona and Chelsea midfielder Oriol Romeu has agreed a new contract at St Mary's.

The 25-year-Spainiard moved to Southampton from Chelsea for £5million in the summer of 2015 and has featured in 50 Premier League matches for Saints.

He only played in 22 top-flight games for Chelsea in his four years at Stamford Bridge and was loaned out to Valencia and Stuttgart during his time with the current Premier League leaders.

When he initially moved to St Mary's, Romeu signed a three-year deal but he will now be under contract until 2021 after penning an extension.

"I couldn't be any happier to have this new contract with the club," he said. "Ever since I came here I have felt very, very good. Everything has been positive for me. I have developed myself and been getting better every day.

"Looking forward, it's a good thing for me, but hopefully there will be more to come and nice experiences to go through."

Southampton have the opportunity to reach Wembley on Wednesday when they visit Anfield to take on Liverpool in the second leg of their EFL Cup semi-final.

Saints won the first leg at St Mary's 1-0 a fortnight ago and are 13/2 to draw Wednesday's encounter 1-1 and 5/2 to win the EFL Cup outright this season.

Moyes suffers Anichebe blow

David Moyes' chances of lifting Sunderland clear of the bottom three have been dealt a blow after it was revealed that Victor Anichebe faces a long lay-off.

The former Everton striker is not expected to be able to play again until April after sustaining ankle ligament damage during Saturday's 2-0 defeat at West Brom, a result that left Sunderland at 1/2000 to be relegated this season.

Anichebe will be out for up to ten weeks which means he will sit out the Premier League games against Tottenham, Crystal Palace, Southampton, Everton, Manchester City, Middlesbrough, Burnley, Watford and Leicester City.

Moyes already has a lengthy injury list to contend with as Jan Kirchhoff, Jordan Pickford, Lynden Gooch, Lee Cattermole, Duncan Watmore and Paddy McNair are all currently on the sidelines.

In addition Wahbi Khazri and Lamine Kone are at the Africa Cup of Nations, although midfielder Didier Ndong is set to return to Wearside after Gabon were eliminated from the tournament.

Moyes snapped up the veteran former Manchester City, Aston Villa and Everton defender Joleon Lescott on a short-term deal on Tuesday but Sunderland are rooted to the foot of the table and do not have a game this weekend as they are already out of the FA Cup.

Anichebe moved to the Stadium of Light last summer and made the headlines when he scored the winner for the ten-man Black Cats at Bournemouth in early November and then grabbed a brace in the victory against Hull City a fortnight later.

However those have been his only goals for Sunderland, 17/2 to win their next match against Tottenham on 31st January, in 11 Premier League appearances.

Victory aim to forget setbacks

Leigh Broxham believes a win in his landmark game on Thursday will get Melbourne Victory over their mid-January slump.

Victory had closed the gap to five points behind leaders Sydney FC by winning six games in a row, but their Premier's Plate challenge has received a setback.

First they lost 3-0 at Westpac Stadium to Wellington Phoenix – who they'd beaten 6-1 in their previous meeting – and then they suffered a 2-1 defeat to Perth Glory at the weekend.

It means the gap to the Sky Blues has opened up to eight points and Kevin Muscat's side can ill afford to lose to the leaders at Etihad Stadium in their Round 17 clash – which will be Broxham's 226th appearance for the club, making him Victory's games record holder.

Victory have reached a pivotal point in their season as after hosting the Sky Blues they take on Melbourne City in the derby.

Broxham, who will overtake Archie Thompson's games record, isn't reading too much into the club's last two results.

"In Wellington, we didn't perform to the level that we wanted to," he said. "In Perth, we had a lot of chances and the performance was generally good.

"It's not a form slump, we're happy where we are. We win on Thursday and everything is forgotten, isn't it?"

Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold's not been shy of talking about his team potentially going through the entire season without defeat, although taking on the second-placed club on their home turf may test that ambition to the full.

"If that's how they want to talk, then that's how they want to talk," Broxham said of the opposition's stated ambition. "It's for them to do and to back it up – we'll do our business the way we always do it and we'll see at the end of 90 minutes on Thursday night."

Melbourne Victory are 8/5 to beat Sydney FC, who are 17/10, with the draw 12/5.

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