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BPL back in action after Euro defeat

sports Updated: Nov 22, 2007 18:26 IST
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The hangover from England's failure to qualify for the European Championship could impact some of the players when Premier League resumes this weekend.

England's 3-2 loss to Croatia on Wednesday meant the country that invented modern soccer failed to qualify for a major tournament since the 1994 World Cup.

And the player most under pressure this weekend will be Scott Carson.

Starting his first competitive England match, the Aston Villa goalkeeper made a mistake with his first touch of the ball to gift Croatia its opener and was unconvincing throughout his second international match.

Villa travels to Middlesbrough on Saturday, and Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard hopes Carson who is on loan from Liverpool will play.

"Scott is obviously disappointed," said Gerrard, who captained England on Wednesday. "He knows he's made a mistake. But he's a young lad and he's got a bright future. He's got to get it out of his system as soon as possible."

The man he replaced, Paul Robinson, will likely line up for Tottenham against West Ham on Sunday.

Arsenal, which didn't contribute any England players on Wednesday, leads the Premier League with 30 points, ahead of Manchester United on goals scored.

Manchester City coached by former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson is third with 26, followed by Chelsea with 25 and Liverpool with 24.

Arsenal will field up to 10 players at next year's European Championship. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is often criticized for his side's lack of English players, but defender Gael Clichy says nationality is irrelevant.

"The boss has made something great here, the way we like to entertain people, and I am sure that it doesn't matter for him," said Clichy, who has yet to make his debut for France. "If he has the quality, he will be in his team, and if not, he won't be in his team."

Man United, meanwhile, could have as few as five players at Euro 2008, with England players Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, Owen Hargreaves, Michael Carrick and Wes Brown getting a summer off. Rooney missed the Croatia game with injury and is out for the Bolton match, while Ferdinand is also a doubt. Bolton, struggling in 18th place and without a win under new manager Gary Megson, will hope to take advantage of any United dip.

Chelsea also has a large contingent of English players, but should face an easy task against bottom side Derby. Derby coach Billy Davies was optimistic his side would avoid another heavy defeat. Derby lost 5-0 to West Ham on Nov. 10. "The good thing ahead of Chelsea is that Derby County shouldn't be in a position as we were last time, to have to cover for the absence of three center-backs and an unfit left back, who we still had to put on the bench," Davies said.

Still, Chelsea beat inform Manchester City 6-0 on Oct. 27. Eriksson led England to the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup, the 2004 European Championship and the 2006 World Cup. But now that Eriksson is on the other side of the coaching fence, he's happy the international break is over so he can concentrate on domestic soccer, starting with Reading on Saturday.

"It's an important few weeks for us now with no more international breaks, which is a good thing," Eriksson said. "If we can keep the team fit and keep doing well then I will be thinking very positively.

"I'll be very happy if we can stay where we are, we now have a home game which I think people may be expecting us to win, but it's going to be difficult like they all are."

In the League Championship, Watford is at Barnsley and Charlton plays Preston on Saturday. On Sunday, West Brom hosts Wolverhampton. Watford has 36 points, followed by West Brom with 30 and Charlton with 28.

The Barclays Premier League fixtures for this weekend include :

Saturday:

Newcastle vs. Liverpool (St. James' Park)

Birmingham City vs Portsmouth (St. Andrew's Stadium)

Bolton vs Manchester United (Reebok Stadium)

Arsenal vs Wigan (The Emirates)

Everton vs Sunderland (Goodison Park)

Manchester City vs Reading (City of Manchester Stadium)

Derby vs Chelsea (Pride Park)

Sunday:

Fulham vs Blackburn (Craven Cottage)

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