Roberto Martínez hopes squad rotation eases Europa hangover against QPR

Roberto Martínez hopes squad rotation eases Europa hangover against QPR

If last season was hailed as an all-round success for two vibrant Merseyside clubs then the focus on the recent misery across Stanley Park has perhaps obscured that the reverse is applicable to both. Everton have won just one of their last six Premier League games; although victory over Queen’s Park Rangers would move them above Liverpool, there is a feeling that the rigours of the Europa League have done their campaign few favours so far.

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Saracens’ Billy Vunipola reminds England of his influence against Sale

Saracens’ Billy Vunipola reminds England of his influence against Sale

There is nothing unusual about the sight of Billy Vunipola barrelling over the line through despairing hands nor about the hefty carry he had put in a few moments earlier during the sweeping build-up to the try he finished so peremptorily. But a look at the clock might have raised the eyebrow of a casual observer. It read, “74.05”, the final lung-bursting minutes, and big Billy was still mixing it, as he begins the response to losing his England place in the autumn.

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Amir Khan aims for the best after dazzling defeat of Devon Alexander

Amir Khan aims for the best after dazzling defeat of Devon Alexander

There is a sporting adage which will serve Amir Khan well in the weeks ahead. ‘You can only beat what is put in front of you’ may sound rather hollow for him after a performance which has established him as an elite welterweight. His mind will rightly be fizzing over the potential of meeting Floyd Mayweather. How could it not? Yet Khan, 28, should pay heed to it. Do not fret about situations which are out of your hands. The Briton is going places no matter whom he fights next. The performance against Devon Alexander in this WBC welterweight fight certainly warranted that mega-money date with the best.

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Premier League: 10 talking points from the weekend’s action

Premier League: 10 talking points from the weekend’s action

The record books will say a win for Manchester United that was just as convincing as Liverpool’s by the same scoreline in the same fixture last season. What is harder to work out is how David de Gea ended up man of the match for most people when United were so demonstrably on top. De Gea is certainly on form at the moment, he was presented with a second successive player of the month award before kick-off at Old Trafford, bringing Liverpool’s present goalkeeping problems into sharp focus, but when a goalkeeper is regularly outstanding it usually says something about the protection he is getting from the rest of the team. United did make defensive mistakes against Liverpool – Jonny Evans’s sloppy backpass should have been punished for a start –but Evans was one of only two regular defenders in the home lineup. Once Luke Shaw, Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo return United should be more solid at the back, or at least that is the theory. Louis van Gaal still seems to have more attacking-minded players than reliable defenders, though maybe that is the way he likes it.

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