EPL wrap: Bassong wants strong start, and more

Tottenham Hotspur

Sebastien Bassong has challenged his teammates to prove they are good enough to earn a place in next year's Champions League by extending their unbeaten run. Bassong came off the bench to help Spurs register a 2-0 victory over Newcastle United at White Hart Lane on Tuesday. The win extended the north Londoners' unbeaten run to 10 matches in all competitions. Bassong has warned that Tottenham must keep picking up wins in order to stay in the mix, starting with Saturday's match at home to Fulham. "Starting 2011 with a win is really important for us and we need to keep going like that," he said. "We've had good results and, if we want to be in the top four at the end of the season, we have all said we must carry on winning."

Aston Villa

Gerard Houllier has admitted Aston Villa must start keeping clean sheets if they are to stand any chance of halting their descent down the table. The Midlands giants are hovering dangerously over the relegation zone following Tuesday's 4-0 hammering at Manchester City. Only twice during Houllier's 14 matches in charge have Villa managed to keep the opposition out. "The main thing that has to be addressed is we have to keep a clean sheet," said the Frenchman ahead of Sunday's clash with Chelsea. "If you keep clean sheets you have a chance to win games. We have been guilty of being too naive and too indulgent defensively."

Blackburn Rovers

Steve Kean saw clear signs he has the backing of the players and the fans as he enjoyed his first win as Blackburn manager. Rovers showed little evidence of player unrest on Tuesday as they overcame West Bromwich Albion 3-1 in a compelling encounter at The Hawthorns that saw both sides reduced to 10 men. Kean, placed in charge after the sacking of Sam Allardyce earlier this month, also revealed he has cleared the air with unsettled defender Christopher Samba. Samba was stripped of the captaincy by Kean after reportedly stating a desire to leave. But the new coach said: "I never felt there was a rebellion or that anyone didn't want to play. He assured me he never said he wanted to leave. It is a buoyant dressing room. To get a victory and to play the way we did was fantastic, especially for the travelling fans."


Ian Holloway, the Blackpool manager will head into 2011 determined to carry on enjoying himself. The promoted Seasiders have more than made a good fist of life in the Premier League, and will end 2010 comfortably in the top half of the table. While it has come as no surprise at all to Holloway, he is full of admiration for his players. He said: "I can't tell you how proud I am of them. It's nice for Blackpool to get recognition, it's nice for people to say nice things about me, but it isn't about that, I am not doing it for that. I am doing it to try to help them improve in their careers, and I can't ask for anymore from any of them."


Mark Hughes rated the first of Chris Baird's double strike against Stoke on Tuesday as a goal-of-the-season contender - and was surprised to learn how long it had been since the Northern Ireland international last hit the back of the net. In the fourth minute, Baird unleashed a bullet of a shot that Asmir Begovic could not prevent from crashing in off the post. When told it had been almost four years since Baird's previous goal, Hughes said: "That surprises me, because arguably, he is one of the best strikers of the ball that we have at the club. With the first one, arguably goal of the season."


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