Soccer

English Premier Roundup: Houllier, Valencia and Other Updates

| by World Soccer Reader

New Aston Villa boss Gerard Houllier may be looking to reunite with some familiar faces upon his return to the English Premier League. He is reportedly interested in signing former Liverpool star Michael Owen from Manchester United in January.

The two worked together for six years during Houllier’s tenure as manager at Anfield, and with Owen struggling to break into the first team at United, his departure to the Villains looks like a strong possibility.

“I like him, as a player and a man,” Houllier said. “I went to Liverpool on September 4 for Jamie Carragher’s testimonial, and I saw Michael play a half of football. He still has the legs for it.”

Despite starting against Chelsea in the Community Shield, Owen has found playing time hard to come by thus far, making three substitute appearances for a total of about 45 minutes of football. He had some memorable performances for the club last season, including a Champions League hat-trick against Wolfsburg, a last-gasp winner against Manchester City, and a goal in the Carling Cup final against Aston Villa, but he hasn’t broken through as a first-choice striker.

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“You look at highlights of the season, did we win anything – things like that – but I wouldn’t put any goal or appearance totals out there because, at a club like this, you never know when the manager is going to use you,” he said.

Owen was signed by United on a free transfer last summer following Newcastle’s relegation from the Premier League.

Stars On The Sidelines

Antonio Valencia will likely be out of action for the rest of the season after suffering a serious ankle injury during Manchester United’s Champions League clash against Rangers on Tuesday.

The Reds winger went down after a tackle from Kirk Broadfoot, who immediately signaled to the sidelines for medical assistance. The injury, gruesome enough that Sky Sports did not show a replay, was a compound fracture to the ankle. Valencia underwent surgery on Wednesday to reset the bone and repair ligament damage.

A statement on United’s website read: “A plate has been inserted to stabilize the fracture, but there is obvious significant ligament damage that follows a dislocation and he will be out for a good portion of the season. Antonio is perfectly fine, very positive and very determined.”

Meanwhile, in the Blue half of Manchester, there was some uncertainty over Mario Balotelli’s road to recovery following his knee surgery. The City striker was expected to return by October, but some reports in Italy this week suggested that rehabilitation was not progressing on schedule, meaning he could be out until the end of November. Assistant manager Brian Kidd quashed the rumors, however, stating that the story was “nonsense”.

Down south in London, Bobby Zamora also underwent surgery after he suffered a broken leg during Fulham’s Premier League match against Wolves last weekend. The recovery period is projected to be about five months, longer than the initial estimate of three months due to ligament damage in his ankle. Fulham manager Mark Hughes will be hoping that striker Andrew Johnson is not too far away from full fitness in order to fill Zamora’s void in the side. Johnson is reportedly a few weeks away from returning after battling shoulder and groin injuries.