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Reds’ Rodgers expects tough Cardiff challenge United hope Rooney can recover to face West Ham

LIVERPOOL, Dec 20, (AFP): Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers launched a strong defence of under-fire Cardiff City boss Malky Mackay ahead of Saturday’s Premier League clash at Anfield. Mackay was publically criticised by Cardiff’s Malaysian owner Vincent Tan this week after he stated he wanted to bring in new signings in January. Tan told Mackay he would be given nothing to spend in January and it has left the Bluebirds manager in a precarious position even though he insists he will not resign. Former Swansea City boss Rodgers, who worked with Mackay at Watford when he was manager in 2008, said: “I find it incredible, all the talk about Malky. I know Malky well from having worked with him at Watford and I am probably privy to things even more because I worked in South Wales for a couple of years.

“I find it astonishing what he has had to go through and that is just looking at it from a distance.
“Malky walked into a club that had given him 10 players, 10 players he had that summer in 2011 when he took over and he had to build a new team. “They brought in someone who totally transformed the mentality and the culture at the club. “He has started this season with great results and he is going to go on and become a big manager and at a top club and I find it astonishing that there is talk about him leaving there. Absolutely astonishing. “My only conclusion when I look from the outside is that you have a business guy, who is operating the club and knows absolutely nothing about football, who has obviously been a very successful businessman in his life and congratulations, but football is like no other business.

“To see Malky being questioned on what he has done is just remarkable, especially when I know a lot of the supporters there will look up to him and respect him for what he has done.” Second-placed Liverpool, who have surprised many with their early-season form, could move top of the Premier League if they beat Cardiff as leaders Arsenal and third-placed Chelsea are not in action until their London derby clash on Monday.
But despite Cardiff’s off-field troubles, Rodgers is expecting a tough challenge at Anfield even with Luis Suarez, who has scored 17 goals in 11 Premier League games, in hot form. “It is going to be a difficult game for us,” he said. “We are under no illusions, Malky’s team will work very, very hard and work tirelessly. For us our concentration will be key.”

Mackay is also confident his players will not have their focus on the game taken away by his position being under threat and the heated atmosphere at the club, which was rocked earlier in the season when Tan replaced head of recruitment Iain Moody with 23-year-old Alisher Apsalyamov. Apsalyamov was at the club on work experience before his appointment, but has now been suspended in a query over his visa. “I had a chat with the players a few months ago when we started making the headlines for the wrong reasons,” Mackay said. “We sat down and I said, ‘Ask me any questions you want?’. There wasn’t too many, but we spoke openly. “Then I said, ‘Right, get your professional head on and get back to what you do well, which is come in every day and work really hard. Things like that, leave to me’.”

Manchester United manager David Moyes is hopeful Wayne Rooney will have recovered from a groin injury in time to face West Ham at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Rooney, 28, missed United’s 2-0 win at Stoke in the League Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday, but Moyes is desperate for the England forward to be fit to face the Hammers as he tries restore the champions to the Premier League title race.
United are already 10 points adrift of leaders Arsenal heading into this weekend’s fixtures and, with Robin van Persie out for a month with a thigh problem, Moyes needs Rooney, who has scored 10 goals so far this season for his club, to climb off the treatment table.
“Yes he has a chance to play,” Moyes said when questioned on Rooney’s fitness.

Meanwhile, Ashley Young is hoping his first United goal since May 2012 will give him a chance of starting against the Hammers.
The England winger had been exiled by Moyes after a lacklustre start to the season, but he lashed in a fine second-half strike at Stoke to help United on their way to the last four.
“I was delighted to get the goal, but getting through was more important,” he said.
“The boys were magnificent. We showed great spirit and character and hopefully we can take that into this weekend’s game against West Ham.”
Patrice Evra also got on the scoresheet against Stoke, but the French left-back insists he has to maintain his defensive performances rather than worry about getting on the scoresheet.
“I always say that I have played for many years at United and I know I can score more goals,” he said.
“But I am a defender and my first job is to defend. The name of the game now is to play with a clean sheet because, when we do that, we know we can win the game.

“It’s a strong performance (against Stoke). So now we are really focused on Saturday.”
United midfielder Michael Carrick will miss Saturday’s game as he recovers from an Achilles problem with Serbia defender Nemanja Vidic also a doubt for Moyes’s men.
Meanwhile, West Ham’s midweek 2-1 victory at Tottenham in the League Cup quarter-finals gave Sam Allardyce’s team a welcome lift after a disappointing run of results in the league.
The Hammers are just one point clear of the bottom three and, having lost four of their previous five games, their confidence had slumped before the win at White Hart Lane.
But Matt Jarvis, the scorer of the first goal against Tottenham, believes the London derby success can have a knock-on effect in the league while demonstrating the players are fully behind Allardyce.

“The Tottenham win could be a massive springboard for us and it’s just what we needed,” Jarvis said.
“It was a hard-fought victory and a massive confidence boost for ourselves.
“It doesn’t get any better for us, getting a win away from home against a big rival and playing as well as we did.
“I don’t think it has ever been in doubt (that the players are behind Allardyce). We work extremely hard and show great team spirit. We back the manager and it came out against Spurs.
“Can we get a result at Manchester United? I don’t see why not. Teams have gone to Old Trafford this season and got results.
“They’re still a fantastic side but we can go there full of confidence after this result.”


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