Skrtel on City radar: Manchester City are targeting a shock move for Martin Skrtel this summer should Liverpool fail to qualify for the Champions League, reports the Daily Mail. With Joleon Lescott destined for pastures new at the end of the season, City boss Manuel Pellegrini is searching for Vincent Kompany's new partner in the heart of his defence. Skrtel signed a contract extension with Liverpool in August 2012, and is said to be happy, but also wants to play Champions League football. Liverpool are on course to qualify for next season's competition, but should they fail, City are ready to pounce.
Paper Round's view: So good has Skrtel's form been this season, the Slovakian can be considered one of the best defenders in the country at the moment and he fully deserves to be playing in Europe's top competition. However, it's inconceivable that Liverpool would sanction a move for one of their best players, who is under contract and happy on Merseyside, to one of their rivals. However, this all dependent on Liverpool finishing in the top four.
- - -
Ozil set for axe: Arsene Wenger is prepared to drop Mesut Ozil for Arsenal's Premier League clash with Sunderland, reports The Independent. The Germany international's performance in the Gunners' Champions League game against Bayern Munich in midweek was widely criticised and somewhat symptomatic of his current dip in form. Wenger has admitted that he will employ his rotation policy today and that there “will certainly be changes” to the team, leading the paper to assume that means Ozil, who is thought to be tired and struggling to adjust to the physicality of the English game.
Paper Round's view: Just as Wenger's rotation policy is "inevitable" (his own word), so too is the dropping of Ozil for today's match. Given the scrutiny he faced after missing that penalty against Bayern and then going, well, missing, it would be a big ask of the £42.5million record signing to face the music again so soon. That said, some might say that's what he gets paid so much for, but it would not be a surprise to find out that Wenger is not thinking that way.
- - -
Pardew fears for future: Alan Pardew has conceded he has concerns over his future as manager of Newcastle United, reports the Daily Express. The manager received a vote of confidence of sorts this week but still admitted he would be a fool not to worry about what lies ahead. The club moved to dismiss reports that Pardew would lose his job if they lose against Aston Villa, yet still Pardew knows his future could be on the line if he fails to improve results.
Paper Round's view: Clearly Pardew doesn't follow the same line of thinking as his club, who banned the Express from St James' Park for their temerity to suggest the manager was facing the sack. Pardew seems to have bought into it though, and rightly so. Humiliated by Tottenham 4-0 last time out and five successive defeats are results of a doomed manager. It will be interesting to see how the party line changes after Sunday's game.
- - -
Courtois will play for Chelsea next season: Jose Mourinho has played down talk of Thibaut Courtois joining Real Madrid and insisted the goalkeeper will challenge Petr Cech for the number one shirt at Chelsea next season. The Daily Mirror reports that the Spanish giants were exploring the possibility of signing the Belgium keeper but Jose Mourinho has dismissed the idea, insisting that his club will "not struggle" to keep him.
Paper Round's view: Mourinho's right in theory - "he has two more years on his contract so he is easy to keep". Unfortunately, in modern football, contracts don't actually bind an employee to their employer like they do in the real world and if Real Madrid are dogged enough and Courtois wants to go, then there's not a great deal Mourinho can do about it. What is possibly more likely is that the highly-rated keeper will be used as bait in a bid to land Atletico striker Diego Costa in the summer.
- - -
- Sports & Recreation
- Manchester City
- Arsene Wenger
- Jose Mourinho