Cardiff have been forced to postpone a planned promotional trip to Malaysia due to the poor air quality in the country. Club representatives including manager Malky Mackay, his assistant David Kerslake, captain Mark Hudson and striker Craig Bellamy are due to fly out to Kuala Lumpur on Thursday. But with a state of emergency being declared in certain districts and a number of schools being closed, the trip has been put back for health and safety reasons and the club hope to find a suitable date in the future. The trip was due to include visits to 1MCC (1 Malaysia Cardiff City) grassroots coaching initiatives, schools and meeting with the Malaysian press. Cardiff’s Malaysian owner Tan Sri Vincent Tan said: “It’s with disappointment that the planned visit to Malaysia this week by Malky, David, Mark, Craig and other club delegates has been postponed. “A schedule of events had been put in place ahead of the opening Premier League fixtures, further raising awareness of Cardiff City Football Club in Malaysia. “However due to the current poor air quality in Kuala Lumpur, it has been decided for the welfare of all concerned to delay the trip, re-establishing plans in the future when the manager and players can better interact with Malaysian based supporters in a suitable environment.” Cardiff have yet to make any additions to their squad ahead of their maiden Premier League campaign but are reportedly in the race to sign Celtic midfielder Victor Wanyama. Press Association
He added: “We know it’s going to be a very difficult task because Team Sky are so well structured, they’ve been doing it for two years now where they just keep rolling and doing whatever they want in a race, imposing their own tactics. “It will be a hard task for us to find the right tactics to unbalance them but I do believe Contador can beat Froome. It won’t be easy which is why there is the excitement there is. I think everyone is looking for a great battle, and it is going to be a battle for sure.” To break the often metronomic pace Team Sky are renowned for creating at the front of the peloton, Roche believes Saxo-Tinkoff must counter with waves of attacks. “How to break their rhythm exactly I don’t know yet, but for sure it’s not by staying behind them,” he said. “Sooner or later you have to attack. It’s the only solution. There’s no point staying behind into the final kilometre and then watching Froome accelerate away. “I think Froome is a bit stronger than Alberto in the time-trial, so for sure it’s going to have to come from true attacks.” Ireland’s Nicolas Roche is hoping to play his part in defeating Chris Froome at this year’s Tour de France. Roche, son of former Tour winner Stephen Roche, will line-up in a support role behind Froome’s main rival for the yellow jersey, Alberto Contador of Spain. Although the recent form book suggests Froome is a runaway favourite ahead of the two-time Tour winner – returning to the event this year after a doping ban – Roche is confident Contador can win. “I definitely hope so,” the Team Saxo-Tinkoff rider said. “Everyone on the team is thinking that way, we’re all here with that purpose.” Press Association
Wales powerhouse Roberts returns to the Lions midfield following his recovery from a hamstring injury he initially thought might mean an early flight home. Roberts partners his regular Wales centre colleague Jonathan Davies for Saturday’s Test series decider against Australia, with Ireland talisman Brian O’Driscoll a shock absentee. Roberts, who was not fit for the second Test in Melbourne, joined the Manics on stage at Melbourne Festival Hall, playing guitar alongside James Dean Bradfield and company as they performed their hit single “You Love Us”. “That was a good experience,” recalled Roberts. “I adored the Manics growing up.” Jamie Roberts will reclaim centre stage for rugby reasons on Saturday – a week after playing live with his rock star heroes The Manic Street Preachers. Press Association He added: “I am that sort of guy in life who takes every opportunity that comes their way. That was thrown in front of me, and I couldn’t say no.” He is now, though, concentrated on the biggest match of his career as the Lions bid for a first Test series triumph since they toppled South Africa 16 years ago. “Bar maybe a World Cup final, I doubt there is a bigger game in rugby for us boys,” the 53 times-capped Wales star added. “You just have to get completely excited about it, not shy away from it, not get nervous. It’s just pure excitement, go out and express yourself, keep your concentration and deliver under pressure. “I see it as a responsibility. I’ve been picked to do a job and it is important I deliver. I’ve always thought that I thrive under pressure in big games, it’s where I like to play. “The higher the pressure, the more responsibility is put on me, the more I thrive and the more I enjoy it. I am on my second (Lions) tour now, and I think any player who is on their second or third tour who has played quite a bit of international rugby, you have to take responsibility. That is something I enjoy and thrive on. “I see myself as one of those guys who has to lead the way. It will be big mind games on Saturday, a huge mental challenge as well as a physical one. It is about staying completely focussed.”
Former defender Henning Berg believes new signing Marouane Fellaini can provide the sort of focal point Eric Cantona once did for Manchester United. Press Association Much will be expected of the 25-year-old as he was Moyes’ only significant signing of the summer after failed bids for Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas, but Berg believes the Belgian can develop into a key figure for the side. “He’s got great potential and if he’s consistent with his best level, he will be a fantastic signing,” he told MUTV. “He can play so many different positions, he’s a good footballer but there’s something about him. “He can get players around him, he can control and dominate games and I think United have too few players who can do that – that’s why I think he will be a great signing. “He’s very difficult to handle in the box, but he’s got that presence and that mentality that makes sure he stands out and does that little bit extra. “I think with his passion and his mentality, he can make a big difference to United. “He’s not the kind of player to thread passes through but he has a sheer presence to hold the ball up, ability to win balls in the box and match-winning mentality – he raises his game for the big matches. “Every game for United is a big one, so I think he will rise to that and enjoy it. “When Cantona came, he had that mentality every game. I’m not saying he’s going to be the same, but he can be.” The Belgium international completed a £27.5million move to be reunited with former Everton manager David Moyes at Old Trafford late on deadline day. He has yet to make an appearance because of the international break but will be in the squad to face Crystal Palace at home on Saturday.
Manchester United defender Patrice Evra insists it is wrong to believe he wants to leave Old Trafford. Given David Moyes’ much-publicised interest in Leighton Baines and Fabio Coentrao during the summer transfer window, it would be no surprise to discover Evra was looking towards the next phase of his career. However, the 32-year-old insists that is not the case. “I did an interview in France and I said it was personal,” said Evra, when asked on MUTV about his contract situation. “I haven’t seen what people are saying but the thing is if someone wants to talk about my contract, which is ending after this year, they have to talk to Manchester United and with my agent. “Me? I love this club so much.” Press Association Stories in the week emerged suggesting Evra would not sign an extension to his contract, which expires in the summer. The France star cited “personal reasons” for his position, which are believed to be a desire to return home.
“Not used to this injury business. Heal quick n come back stronger!!” Carrick played in United’s 1-0 win over Arsenal on Sunday but withdrew from the England squad preparing for friendlies against Chile and Germany on Tuesday. He underwent a procedure where he had an injection to reduce the swelling around the affected Achilles, however Press Association Sport understands that claims he may require an operation are wide of the mark, although he will be out of action for a while. “We can confirm that Michael Carrick will be out for four to six weeks with an Achilles injury,” United confirmed in a statement. Carrick has appeared in 15 of United’s 18 matches this season and his absence leaves manager David Moyes short in central midfield – an area which he tried to strengthen in the summer. Six weeks on the sidelines would take Carrick up to the Boxing Day clash at Hull, however if he is out for the full duration is seems unlikely Moyes will throw him straight back into action in the midst of the busy festive programme and he may not be match-fit for the Hull game or the trip to Norwich two days later. Carrick’s United team-mate Danny Welbeck also pulled out of the England squad on Tuesday as he continues to battle with a knee injury which has kept him out since October 19. His situation will continue to be managed by United but there is no suggestion yet he will require surgery. Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick admits he will find it difficult to sit on the sidelines well into December as he recovers from injury. Team-mate Phil Jones admits the absence of Carrick will be a blow just as United are looking to push on following the victory over Arsenal, sitting just three points behind second-placed Liverpool and five adrift of the Gunners at the top. “He is a great player and will be missed for club and country,” said Jones. “He brings a lot to the side, with his range of passing. He will be sorely missed.” On Welbeck, Jones added: “He has done well on the international stage when he has been picked for England and he’s another great player. Hopefully he’ll be back soon.” Press Association The 32-year-old has been ruled out for up to six weeks with an Achilles tendon problem, meaning he could miss at least six Barclays Premier League matches, two Champions League ties and United’s Capital One Cup quarter-final at Stoke. “A few weeks out for me. Hate missing games!” the midfielder wrote on Twitter.
Tony Pulis enjoyed a second home victory inside a week as his Crystal Palace side recorded a fully deserved win over Cardiff at Selhurst Park on Saturday. Press Association Adrian Mariappa replaced Dean Moxey at the back for Pulis’ side as the latter limped off injured but it was the hosts who continued to attack. If the physicality of Jerome through the centre was causing the Bluebirds trouble, it was the sheer pace of Puncheon on the right which was adding to their problems. The Southampton loanee had set up the opening goal and cut inside once more before lashing his shot wide of the target as Palace looked to double their lead. Danny Gabbidon tripped Jordon Mutch right on the edge of the Palace penalty area as half-time approached but Peter Whittingham’s free-kick was headed clear by Damien Delaney as the Eagles continued to stand firm and reached half-time unbeaten. Puncheon cut inside once more early in the second half but his effort was scuffed wide. The Southampton winger’s drifting had Cardiff chasing shadows at time and Mutch brought him down eight minutes into the second half as he popped up on the left. The resulting free-kick was headed across goal by Chamakh but Jerome could not turn it home as he would have been flagged offside. As Cardiff pushed forward looking to make more happen in the Palace half they left themselves susceptible to the hosts on the counter-attack. Only a smart, low save from Marshall prevented Jerome flashing in a second from the edge of the box just before Chamakh doubled the Eagles’ lead with his third goal of the season. Bannan’s cross towards Jerome was bravely headed clear by Turner but it only dropped to Chamakh, who keep his composure to fire the home side into a two-goal lead. Jerome proved to be Cardiff’s tormentor well into the second half and saw another effort deflected behind for a corner after wriggling free inside the box. The resulting corner almost led to the third Palace goal as Jerome diverted a header goalwards with Marshall able to collect his latest effort at the second attempt, only just preventing the ball crossing the line. Palace were a constant menace from set-pieces and Delaney was the next to win a header from a corner but he could not keep the effort down. With just under 10 minutes to go Jerome was guilty of putting a decent chance wide of Marshall’s goal as he continued to elude Cardiff’s backline. The hosts saw the game out on the front foot, with Turner almost directing a Puncheon cross past his own goalkeeper, with the win meaning only an inferior goal difference is keeping the Eagles in the relegation zone. The former Stoke boss took charge at Palace a little over two weeks ago and, following a narrow loss at Norwich, the Welshman has now guided the Eagles to back-to-back home wins as Cameron Jerome and Marouane Chamakh got on the scoresheet to secure a comfortable 2-0 victory. Glenn Murray scored a hat-trick in a 3-2 win for Palace when these two sides met in south London in the Sky Bet Championship last season, but with their talisman still recovering from a long-term injury, it was two of their summer recruits who sealed another vital victory which moves them to within a point of the 16th-placed Bluebirds. Much was made of Jerome’s relationship with Pulis during their time together at Stoke but the striker, on a season-long loan from the Britannia Stadium, opened the scoring with his first Palace goal as he headed home after six minutes before going on to be a constant thorn in the side of his former club. The hosts dominated for large spells and deservedly doubled their lead as Chamakh finished coolly just before the hour mark, with Pulis’ side going on to create the better of the chances after doubling their advantage without adding to their two goals. Cardiff started well and Fraizer Campbell wasted a golden opportunity to put them ahead inside the opening two minutes. He was picked out when free in the box by Don Cowie’s cross but his downward header was pushed over by Julian Speroni. Jerome’s strength seemed to cause problems for the visiting defence from the start but he could not get away in time to get a shot in on goal after the ball fell kindly to him following a crunching Ben Turner challenge on Kagisho Dikgacoi. The Stoke loanee did not have to wait long to open his Palace account, however, as his ability to hold the ball up played a big part once again. Jerome showed good strength to hold off Turner and Steven Caulker before finding space and heading home Jason Puncheon’s cross from close range. Dikgacoi’s through ball set Jerome away once more at the midway point of the first half, with the 27-year-old this time looking to turn provider and seeing his cross cleared behind for a corner.
Willie Mullins will rely on Diakali in the Doom Bar Aintree Hurdle on Thursday. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ stable star was badly hampered by the fatal fall of Our Conor at Cheltenham, but the way he flashed home up the hill suggested he would have played a part in the finish. The New One was narrowly beaten by Zarkandar as a novice in this race last season and Twiston-Davies and his jockey-son, Sam, will be hoping for a bit more fortune. Taking him on is former champion hurdler Rock On Ruby after connections decided to put a chasing career on the back-burner following an error-strewn round of jumping in the Arkle. Another reverting to the smaller obstacles is Nicky Henderson’s Grandouet. With Zarkandar likely to take up on option on Saturday in the Silver Cross Stayers’ Hurdle, Paul Nicholls instead relies upon Irish Saint and Ptit Zig in the two-and-a-half-mile contest. Alan King’s Grumeti, winner of the Grade One four-year-old juvenile hurdle at the meeting two years ago, completes the field of seven. The grey ran such a game race when finishing fourth under top weight in the County Hurdle when last seen at the Cheltenham Festival and takes on a classy field in Liverpool. The New One will attempt to atone for an unlucky run in the Champion Hurdle by aiming to go one better than 12 months ago. Press Association
The Northern Ireland Under-21 team ended their disappointing Euro 2015 campaign with another defeat, heavily beaten at home by Serbia. Jim Magilton’s side ended their campaign with just three points, taken in the home match against Cyprus, after going down 4-1 at Portadown’s Shamrock Park. Magilton handed out five debuts on the day – to Chris Johns, Cameron Dummigan, Jamie Harney, Aaron Burns and Michael Duffy – but a visiting side who started the day with an outside chance of topping Group 9 proved too strong. It was already 4-0 when Hartlepool’s on-loan Middlesbrough winger Ryan Brobbel got the hosts on the scoresheet for just the second time in the eight-match cycle. Home captain James Gray spurned an early chance to mark his final appearance at this level with a goal and the deadlock remained until the 34th minute when Aleksandar Pesic beat goalkeeper Johns. Johns was picking the the ball out for a second time less than two minutes later as Slavoljub Srnic improved on an earlier miss to double the lead. Striker Duffy failed to take the only opportunity to hit back before half-time and another quick two-goal burst after the break settled the issue. Pesic was unlucky not to score on each occasion, hitting the woodwork in the 56th and 58th minutes to tee up Srnic’s second and Filip Kostic for the fourth. At that stage the last half hour looked as though it would be a trial for the hosts but Brobbel salvaged something positive with his first Under-21 goal with 23 minutes to go. Press Association
Press Association But the Swansea goalkeeper knows enough about Wenger’s burning will to win after seven seasons at Arsenal to have warned his team-mates to expect a backlash after the Gunners’ Champions League collapse against Anderlecht in midweek. Asked how Gunners boss Wenger would react to Arsenal throwing away a three-goal lead at home to draw 3-3 against the Belgian champions, Fabianski replied: “I don’t know.” The Pole then broke into a big smile, saying: “Maybe I do. He won’t be happy. “They have a good team, strong squad and very good offensive players and I’m sure the game on Sunday will be an opportunity to bounce back from the Anderlecht result. “It will make them motivated for our game.” Fabianski joined Arsenal from Polish club Legia Warsaw in 2007 but he made only 31 league starts for the Gunners before heading to south Wales in the summer. The 29-year-old Poland international said Wenger wanted him to extend his Arsenal career but his mind was made up even before he played his part in the club’s first trophy success for nine years, the FA Cup final victory over Hull. “I don’t have to prove anything to Arsenal or the manager,” Fabianski said. “It was my decision to leave the club and I finished in a good way so we’ve all got massive respect towards each other. “When I was coming to the end of my contract there were more intense conversations more often between me and the manager. “But I had decided to leave and he really respected my decision.” Meanwhile, Arsenal will welcome midfielder Jack Wilshere back from illness. The England midfielder sat out the win against Burnley and Tuesday night’s Champions League draw with Anderlecht but Wenger has confirmed he is now fit to return. Mikel Arteta has been ruled out after picking up a hamstring injury against the Belgians but Wenger insisted Theo Walcott is fit enough to start if he is selected following his first appearance since January as a substitute last weekend. Laurent Koscielny (Achilles), Mesut Ozil (knee), Olivier Giroud (foot), Yaya Sanogo (hamstring), Mathieu Debuchy (ankle), David Ospina (thigh) and Abou Diaby (calf) are all missing. Wenger has warned Arsenal and England fans that they will have to wait until the new year to see the best of Walcott. The 25-year-old is in line to make his first start since suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury on January 4 when the Gunners travel to Swansea. Walcott made his comeback from the bench in last weekend’s win over Burnley and has been included in Roy Hodgson’s England squad for the European Championship qualifier against Slovenia and the friendly in Scotland. Although Wenger said he was pleased that Walcott was linking up with the national team in the hope of him getting more competitive minutes, the Arsenal boss believes the former Southampton youngster is still some way from being back to his peak. “It takes two months,” he said when asked how long it will take Walcott to get back to his best. “Once you’re back in full training, you count two months. Of course, people think you’re back and you play but it’s not like that. Ten months is a long time in top-level football. “(You lose) the sharpness, the speed. At the top level, it’s a fraction of a second that makes the decisions. And to find the confidence to get away from people. “You’re nearly there but you’re not there and for a while you think, ‘will that ever come back?’ And suddenly yes, it’s there again. But it takes time to get that fraction of pace. “You need to go back into contact. He will go with England and get what he needs to. He will get competitive training every day and get back into games. “At the moment we go from recovery to recovery. He works hard, but maybe he can play against Scotland and gain a lot from that.” Lukasz Fabianski insists he has nothing to prove to Arsene Wenger when he comes up against former club Arsenal for the first time on Sunday.