Sat, Dec 20, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Giant-killer Bolton goes back on the warpath

AFP , LONDON

Bolton go into today's clash with Arsenal looking to claim the scalp of a Premiership leader for the second time in eight days.

Sam Allardyce's men knocked Chelsea off the top with a last-minute winner at Stamford Bridge last Saturday before booking their place in the League Cup semifinals with another late, late show against Southampton in midweek.

Victory over Arsenal, who took advantage of Chelsea's defeat to move to the top of the table, would complete one of the most memorable weeks in Bolton's history.

It would also take some of the edge off fans' concerns about being without their inspirational playmaker Jay-Jay Okocha for over a month from early January.

The Nigeria captain this week rebuffed a plea from Allardyce for him to retire rather than lead his country in the African Nations Cup in Tunisia.

"As it is I will be joining up with the squad late and that is a big effort for me -- I can't do any more than that," Okocha said.

Chelsea meanwhile find themselves confronting a mini-crisis before today's short trip to face west London neighbors Fulham at Loftus Road.

A midweek League Cup defeat by Aston Villa means Claudio Ranieri's side are winless in their last three matches.

The Italian was forthright in his criticism of his players after the Villa defeat but is adamant they can ride out the rough patch.

"All teams have bad periods and for Chelsea this is one now," Ranieri said. "It is important we stick together, have a good reaction and work hard to overcome this little spell."

Fulham will be bolstered by the return of Luis Boa Morte from suspension -- as well as this week's news that the club will return to their traditional home at Craven Cottage next season.

"It is fantastic news for everyone at the club and it has given us a real lift, especially ahead of a game as big as Chelsea," manager Chris Coleman said.

Fulham, tipped by virtually every pundit as relegation candidates at the start of the season, currently sit in fourth place -- ahead of the likes of Newcastle and Liverpool.

Colemen would love nothing more than to mark the return to the Cottage with the prospect of European football. "It does give us a bigger incentive to push on and do well this season so that we can begin a new season at our real home on a high."

On-form Newcastle travel to Charlton with skipper Alan Shearer looking to notch up another personal milestone.

The former England striker has scored 16 times already in this campaign and one more goal would represent his best total since joining his hometown club in 1996.

"Don't get me wrong, I never get fed up of milestones and records -- long may they continue," Shearer said. "It's going all right both for the team and myself at the moment, and as far as records are concerned, the more the merrier.

"I wouldn't complain if there were one or two every week, but picking up the points is always the most important thing."

Liverpool are hoping Australian winger Harry Kewell will be able to play some part in their match at Wolves, who are fighting for their Premiership lives. Wolves are already condemned to being bottom on Christmas Day, a position from which no club has ever escaped the drop.

Also see story:

Madrid pulls of spectacular cup escape

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