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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

50-50 Challenge
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By ESPN Staff

Curbishley calls for re-think over fixtures

West Ham manager Alan Curbishley wants all Premier League fixtures moved to Sundays following an international double-header to ease the demands on the jet-setters.

Curbishley admits he could have done with squaring up to tomorrow's opponents, Middlesbrough, 24 hours later as he goes in search of his side's first home win of the season.

The Hammers fielded eight Englishmen in their starting XI when they beat Reading 3-0 a fortnight ago, but while none of those troubled Steve McClaren's latest squad, a number of Curbishley's players will be feeling the effects of long-haul flights.

Skipper Lucas Neill captained Australia against Argentina on Tuesday, Craig Bellamy, James Collins and Danny Gabbidon were in Slovakia with Wales on Wednesday while Mark Noble, George McCartney, Jonathan Spector and new signing Nolberto Solano have also been racking up the air miles.

'We all back our countries, no question, but if we all came back and played on a Sunday that wouldn't be such a bad idea,' added Curbishley.

'I don't know whether it can be done, but lots of players won't be back with their clubs until Friday morning, if they're playing away from home they're often travelling, so it's something we should look at.

'As for the traditionalists, in a month's time West Ham and Aston Villa are the only teams playing on Saturday afternoon.

'There was talk of playing internationals on a Tuesday night, and we're one of the only countries who play on a Saturday.

'I've had Jon Spector playing in Chicago, Nolberto Solano is in Peru, so for them to get back and play on Saturday, why can't we just play on the Sunday?

'It's something to think about, especially if the Premier League is only 40% English, so many of the other players are travelling back to their clubs Thursday and Friday so we could do with another day.'

One player with no such worries, yet, is striker Dean Ashton, who Curbishley is preparing to let off the leash against Boro.

The striker, who suffered a broken ankle when he was called up to the England squad for the first time last August, has been eased back by Curbishley this season following a year on the sidelines.

But the international break has given the ex-Norwich hitman the chance to build up his fitness and Curbishley feels he is close to full throttle.

'Dean has played the last two reserve games and he looks sharp and strong now,' he said.

'It was always going to be a time thing, he's physically strong but it's the short, sharp stuff, and the more football he gets the better he'll become.

'He started against Reading because Bobby Zamora was out and he's getting better every day.

'I'm really pleased he's got to this stage. Some people were clamouring for him to play early on but we knew, and perhaps after the Reading game one or two other people knew.

'We knew what we were doing and he's picked up over these last two weeks, he's pushed on.'