Football

Begovic set to step in

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Asmir Begovic is likely to replace injured England goalkeeper David James for Avram Grant's first game in charge of bottom club Portsmouth - at home to champions Manchester United at Fratton Park.

Grant, still officially Pompey's director of football until paperwork arrives enabling him to be installed as successor to sacked manager Paul Hart, could stick with Jamie Ashdown but highly-rated Bosnian international Begovic was recalled from a loan spell at Ipswich earlier this week.

Veteran defender Hermann Hreidarsson is likely to keep his place after coming back from injury in the 1-0 defeat at Stoke but Grant may recall French loanee Frederic Piquionne in place of Kanu, who made his first Barclays Premier League start of the season last week.

Portsmouth goalkeeper David James has backed Grant to reverse the ailing fortunes of the Fratton Park club.

Grant takes up the reins with the club four points from safety at the foot of the Barclays Premier League, but veteran England keeper James believes the 54-year-old has what it takes to haul the club clear of danger.

"Avram's knowledge is immense," James told The Sun. "He's like Yoda. His pearls of wisdom seem to be far-reaching and he speaks a lot of sense.

"He is just what we need and I'm sure he can get us out of trouble.

"He's very different and profound which appeals to me.

"I have total respect for him and he will get the instant respect of all the players. He's a wonderful bloke and has got what it takes for a relegation fight."

James admits he will be a frustrated spectator for Grant's first game at the helm against the champions after sustaining a calf injury in the pre-match warm-up ahead of last weekend's loss at Stoke.

"I'm gutted that I'll not be able to play but I'm hopeful of being back quite quickly," said James, who expects to be on the sidelines for three weeks.

"Having United to start is some test but we have done okay against them at our place in recent years."

Jonny Evans and John O'Shea remain doubtful for Manchester United.

Evans picked up a calf injury on international duty with Northern Ireland a fortnight ago while O'Shea suffered an thigh injury during the Republic of Ireland's controversial World Cup play-off defeat to France.

Patrice Evra is set to return, along with Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov, Edwin van der Sar and Darren Fletcher as United look to cut the gap on leaders Chelsea to two points ahead of the Londoners' meeting with Arsenal.

Sir Alex Ferguson believes Premier League basement dwellers Portsmouth are in a false position.

Ferguson's Manchester United side visit Fratton Park looking to collect another three points and exert some pressure on Chelsea ahead of their eagerly-anticipated London derby with Arsenal on Sunday.

Even with Avram Grant installed as manager, few expect anything other than an away win, with Portsmouth believed by many to be certainties for the drop given their much-publicised financial strife and the loss of so many influential players since their 2008 FA Cup win under Harry Redknapp.

But Ferguson is not so sure.

After analysing Pompey's recent performances, he feels Grant can look forward to better times.

"Portsmouth have some very good players," said Ferguson.

"I have looked at their videos and they may be in a false position.

"But being bottom of the league does create a reaction from owners and management of a club."

Ferguson will recall all his big guns following Wednesday night's Champions League defeat to Besiktas.

However, he will be forced to watch from the stands as he starts a two-match touchline ban imposed following his verbal attack on referee Alan Wiley.

It is an inconvenience United's players could have done without, although Fletcher is not convinced it will have any major effect.

"Obviously the manager is a massive presence on the sidelines but we have plenty of experience in (coaches) Mick Phelan and Rene Meulensteen and I am sure he will be in constant contact with them," said the Scotland midfielder.

"In an ideal world we would have him there but unfortunately that is not the case.

"We cannot let that affect us. We just have to focus on getting the result."

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

Topics:
Asmir Begovic
Arsenal
Portsmouth
Ipswich Town
European News
Stoke City
David James
Frederic Piquionne
Dimitar Berbatov
Football
Hermann Hreidarsson
John O'Shea
Edwin Van der Sar
Chelsea
Premier League
Alex
UEFA Champions League
Jamie Ashdown
Manchester United
Patrice Evra
Darren Fletcher
Wayne Rooney
Jonny Evans
FA Cup
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