Kovacic looking for fine finale

On-loan Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic is confident that the Blues can enjoy a successful conclusion to what has been an inconsistent season so far.

The 24-year-old Croatia international has made 40 appearances for the Londoners since arriving on a season-long loan from Real Madrid, with Chelsea currently battling to secure a top-four finish in the Premier League.

They are also still involved in the Europa League, where they will face Slavia Prague in the quarter-finals, with head coach Maurizio Sarri still trying to fully implement his own preferred playing style.

Kovacic told Chelsea TV: "When players are used to playing (differently) and then come here and change everything, it's difficult.

"But he (Sarri) has his football in his mind and that's a great personality. He just wants to play his football and that's what we're trying to do and trying to win a trophy.

"In the end the most important thing is to win trophies and the players know it. The players are used to winning trophies and I'm sure we will have a great year this season."

Chelsea currently lie in sixth place in the Premier League standings, three points behind fourth-placed Arsenal and only one point further adrift of Tottenham, who occupy third place.

The Blues return to action following the international break with a trip to South Wales to take on Cardiff City on Sunday March 31st.

Earlier this season the meeting of the two sides at Stamford Bridge ended in a 4-1 win for the hosts, with Eden Hazard scoring a hat-trick.

Chelsea are available at 2/5 to win the game a week on Sunday and are 15/2 to do so by a 2-1 scoreline, with the Blues 2/1 to finish in the top four come the end of the season.

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Pellegrini welcomes tough choice

West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini is pleased to have a number of attacking options to choose from as he aims to help his side finish the season on a positive note.

The Hammers have lost just one of their last five Premier League games and that was a narrow 1-0 reverse at reigning champions Manchester City.

And Pellegrini had been pleased with the form shown by Javier Hernandez, while he is delighted to have Marko Arnautovic fully recovered from injury and challenging for a starting spot.

Ahead of a Saturday trip to take on Cardiff City, the Chilean told reporters: "Javier is in a good moment – his commitment with the team, he is making good movements in attack.

"Maybe, as with all other strikers, they want to score more goals, but he is involved in the play that allows us to score.

"We also have now coming back Marko Arnautovic, so I think we also have an option also not only in the starting eleven, but we have important options on the bench also.

"I always say for a manager it is more difficult when you don't have players (to choose from). Having good options for me is a solution, not a problem."

Arnautovic and Hernandez both started when the Bluebirds were beaten 3-1 at the London Stadium earlier this season.

The Irons can be backed at 21/20 to claim all three points at the Cardiff City Stadium this weekend, with the draw priced at 23/10, while Arnautovic is available at 8/5 to score at any time in the game.

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Bamba blow rocks Bluebirds

Cardiff City will be without Sol Bamba for the reminder of their battle to avoid relegation, with the central defender having suffered a serious knee injury.

The 34-year-old Ivory Coast international, who been with the Bluebirds for just over two years, had to be stretchered off just after half-time of the 2-0 defeat at Wolves on Saturday afternoon.

City boss Neil Warnock was concerned straight after the game that the injury might be a long-term one and his worst fears have now been realised.

He told the clubs official website: "Unfortunately our biggest fears have been confirmed regarding the injury Sol suffered at Wolves on Saturday.

"Scans have shown that Sol has ruptured his ACL, he will have an operation on Wednesday and therefore miss the rest of the season.

"It is a major blow to the squad, but I know all of our supporters will join me in wishing him the very best during his recovery."

Bamba had only missed one Premier League game so far this season, scoring four goals in 28 appearances.

The Bluebirds are currently inside the bottom three in the top-flight and are two points adrift of safety following three consecutive defeats – to Watford, Everton and Wolves.

Next up for City is a Saturday visit from West Ham, with the meeting of the two sides at the London Stadium earlier this season having finished 3-1 to the hosts.

Cardiff are 11/5 to secure victory on Saturday and are 10/1 to edge a 1-0 win, with the draw available at 12/5.

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Coady praises Wolves reaction

Wolves defender Conor Coady felt his side showed what they are made of by getting back to winning ways with a 2-0 victory at home to Cardiff City at the weekend.

The Midlanders had gone eight games unbeaten in all competitions before they slumped to a 1-0 defeat at rock-bottom Huddersfield Town a week ago.

However, with the likes of Joao Moutinho, Ruben Neves, Matt Doherty, Jonny Castro Otto and Rui Patricio omitted, they struck back quickly to see off the Bluebirds and stay in seventh place in the Premier League standings.

Coady told the Express & Star: "It was pleasing to win how we did and it could have been more.

"We've been on a run that we've enjoyed, but we didn't play well at Huddersfield and we needed to put it right.

"The message was to focus and not get complacent in what we were doing. We needed to bounce back."

Meanwhile, Molineux head coach Nuno Espirito Santo confirmed that making a number of changes for the win over the Bluebirds was not about sending a message to players who had underperformed against Huddersfield.

He added: "We don't have to pass the message that way. We speak, we have dialogue.

"We are all aware of what happened at Huddersfield, we didn't perform well, but it was nothing to do with that. We go straight and I say what I think."

Next up for Wolves is a tough trip to Stamford Bridge on Sunday to take on Chelsea, with the Blues having been beaten 2-1 at Molineux earlier on in the campaign.

The visitors are 3/1 to earn a draw on Sunday and 5/1 to keep a clean sheet, with Chelsea 13/2 to win the game 1-0.

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Warnock calls for more fight

Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock is worried that his team are going to slide out of the Premier League with a whimper.

The Bluebirds are 1/3 to be relegated this season after suffering a 3-0 home loss to Everton on Tuesday, just four days after being thrashed 5-1 by Watford at their own ground.

Iceland international Gylfi Sigurdsson scored twice and Dominic Calvert-Lewin was also on target in stoppage time as Everton easily won at the Cardiff City Stadium.

Cardiff are 11/2 to win at Wolves in their next Premier League match on Saturday.

"I know my team for the Wolves game and I want people who will be in the trenches because I was let down by one or two on Tuesday," said Warnock. "I am not going to throw the towel in and I will make sure we are ready."

Cardiff had beaten Bournemouth and Southampton before their two recent setbacks and Warnock is keen to return to winning ways, adding: "We have got to make our own luck.

"We have got 10 games left, difficult games, and people will probably be rubbing their hands now at playing us but, as I've said to the lads, we're not going down without a fight."

Toffees eager for derby-day win

Marco Silva has quickly turned his thoughts towards winning the Merseyside derby this weekend after Everton's 3-0 win at Cardiff City.

Gylfi Sigurdsson scored a brace while Dominic Calvert-Lewis put the gloss on the win in south Wales in stoppage time.

It ended a run of three successive Premier League defeats for Everton, who were also dumped out of the FA Cup by Championship side Millwall in January.

They had 17 days to prepare for the Cardiff City Stadium clash following a 1-0 reverse at Watford last time out and Silva admitted they used the break well.

"We had time to prepare which was important and we could work on what we wanted to. The most important thing for us is winning points to boost our confidence and now we have to rest and recover," he said.

"We are happy with the win. We played with more freedom after the goal and you can see the type of football we can play. We were in command of the match."

Next up for Everton is a visit from title-chasing neighbours Liverpool on Sunday afternoon. Victory at Cardiff moved his side into ninth spot in the table and Silva now wants to avenge their derby defeat from earlier in the season.

A late howler from goalkeeper Jordan Pickford gifted Liverpool their goal in a 1-0 win at Anfield in December and Silva feels they can gain some revenge at Goodison Park.

"We have a big test on Sunday and I know how important it is for the fans and our opponents. We know how we lost the first game at Anfield and we can achieve victory at our own ground," he added.

Everton are 17/4 to win on Sunday, with Jurgen Klopp's team priced at 4/7 and the draw rated a 16/5 chance in the Merseyside showdown.

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Confident Hornets please Gracia

Watford head coach Javi Gracia is confident his side can compete with every team in the Premier League, with the Hornets having lost just once in eight games.

The Golden Boys claimed a comprehensive 5-1 victory at Cardiff City last time out, while their only league reverse since Boxing Day coming in a narrow 2-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley just under a month ago.

And Gracia is delighted with the way things are going, with his side also through to the last eight of the FA Cup, where they have been drawn at home to Crystal Palace.

The Spaniard told reporters: "If we are in seventh it is because many people, the players mainly, have worked very hard for a long time. At the end of the season we will see what we are able to achieve.

"Whether we finish seventh, eighth, or any other position, it doesn't change my feeling about this squad – we are a good squad, competing well.

"We are playing in two competitions, the Premier League and FA Cup and we want to win every game. The main thing is trying to compete game-by-game.

"That is our only focus, but at the moment the team is in a good place with confidence to compete with any team in the league."

Watford are in action on Wednesday evening when they face a tough trip to Premier League leaders Liverpool, with the hosts 2/7 to win at Anfield.

The draw can be backed at 5/1, while a 1-1 final scoreline is available at 12/1.

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Confidence low Silva admits

Everton boss Marco Silva has admitted that confidence among his Toffees players has been affected by a run of five defeats in six games in all competitions.

The Merseysiders return to action on Tuesday evening when they travel to South Wales to take on Cardiff City, with Everton having had more than a fortnight without a game to try and reflect on where things have gone wrong in recent weeks.

And Silva is aware that the clash with the Bluebirds has taken on more significance due to his side having struggled in recent times.

The Portuguese told reporters: "It is a really important game. We must show we can change the results and it is a good opportunity for us – that does not mean it will be an easy match.

"We have to prove that we want to achieve good results and turn results back to us again and look for our players to play with a different confidence.

"I'm not happy with our last results or position, but everything is open for us. Playing with confidence is main thing for us now.

"We are losing points and not achieving good results in some moments – it's in the details. In this type of detail we have to work more and more to be consistent as a team."

The meeting of the two sides earlier this season at Goodison Park ended in a 1-o win for the hosts, with Gylfi Sigurdsson scoring the only goal of the game.

An Everton win on Tuesday is priced at 6/5, with a draw available at 12/5, while the hosts are 10/1 to edge a 1-0 victory at the Cardiff City Stadium.

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Gracia aims for ‘something special’

Watford head coach Javi Gracia believes he and his players have an opportunity to achieve 'something special' if they maintain their current form.

The Hornets moved up to seventh place in the Premier League standings with a resounding 5-1 victory at Cardiff City on Friday evening, with Watford having also reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup – where they will face Crystal Palace.

And Gracia has challenged his side not to lose focus in the coming months, with the prizes of silverware and European football next season within their grasp.

He told reporters: "I'm happy with my players, with the way they are playing.

"We are competing in all the games with this mentality and with this ambition and we can achieve something different this season.

"We have at the moment 40 points, but that's in the past. Now we want to keep our level until the end, in the Premier League and in the FA Cup as well and try to achieve something special.

"I can feel all the players are (working) in the same direction, all are helping each other and I think it's very good news for us."

Next up for Watford is the huge challenge of taking on Liverpool at Anfield on Wednesday evening, with the Reds having won 3-0 at Vicarage Road earlier this season.

The meeting of the two sides on Merseyside last season finished 5-0 to the hosts, while Mohamed Salah has scored five goals in his last three outings against the Hornets.

A draw on Wednesday evening is priced at 11/2, with a 1-1 final scoreline available at 14/1, while the hosts are 1/6 to take all three points.

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Warnock praises Hornets form

Cardiff City boss Neil Warnock believes Friday's opponents Watford are the strongest team in the Premier League outside the current top six.

The Bluebirds go into the game at the Cardiff City Stadium in good hearts, having secured back-to-back victories over Bournemouth and Southampton, but Warnock is under no illusion about the challenge facing his side.

He told reporters: "To get three wins on the trot in the Premier League for a club like Cardiff is nigh-on impossible.

"Watford are probably the best team in the league outside the top six. They are a strong physical side who have got good players and, although it was 3-2 down there, they beat us well.

"But in adversity you tend to pull together and that's been the situation here. What's happened has made us play more of a tempo. We've got good players and it's about believing in ourselves."

The meeting of the two sides at Vicarage Road just before Christmas ended 3-2 to the Hornets, with two late City goals making the final scoreline less emphatic.

Warnock has major injury doubts over centre-back Sean Morrison (appendix) and forward Victor Camarasa (calf) for Friday's clash.

The Bluebirds can be backed at 21/10 to secure all three points against Watford and are 9/1 to win the game in South Wales by a 1-0 scoreline.

Cardiff, who are one point outside the drop zone heading into the weekend programme of games, are 1/1 to avoid relegation this season.

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