no excuses for pompey

LONDON - Portsmouth travel to Birmingham City today with South Africa midfielder Aaron Mokoena saying uncertainty over Sulaiman Al-Fahim's stalled takeover of the club cannot be used as an excuse for poor performances.

LONDON - Portsmouth travel to Birmingham City today with South Africa midfielder Aaron Mokoena saying uncertainty over Sulaiman Al-Fahim's stalled takeover of the club cannot be used as an excuse for poor performances.

The south coast side suffered a 1-0 loss to Fulham on Saturday, a match watched from the stands at Fratton Park by Al-Fahim, who has insisted his bid for the south coast club remains on course.

But Mokoena, who joined Portsmouth on a free transfer from Blackburn Rovers, said the team had to forget that the likes of England trio Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe and Glen Johnson had all been sold and concentrate on the task at hand against City.

"It is going to be difficult this season, but we are ready," he told the Portsmouth News.

"There has been a lot of speculation off the field, but as players we try not to let what is happening off the field affect us at all. We know we have to do the business on the field. That is our job. "We could never use it as an excuse. We have professional senior players here."

City pushed champions Manchester United before losing 1-0 on their return to the top flight last weekend and manager Alex McLeish said: "We have to use that as a confidence booster. We can go into the next game with the evidence of a great performance."

Today's other matches see United away to newly-promoted Burnley while Liverpool will look to bounce back against Stoke.

Tottenham Hotspur captain Ledley King believes a top four finish in the Premier League is a realistic target for his team. Spurs produced the shock result of Saturday's opening day of the 2009-10 campaign when they beat Liverpool, last season's runners-up, 2-1 at White Hart Lane.

Now they will want to prove that result was no fluke in today's match away to a Hull side that gave Spurs' London rivals Chelsea a scare before going down 2-1.

Centre-back King said the fact few pundits had predicted great things for Spurs this season had done Harry Redknapp's men a favour.

The 28-year-old's persistent knee problems have led him to cut down on his training sessions and today's match may be too soon for King to play again.

So King's fellow centre-half Sebastien Bassong, who scored the winner against Liverpool on his debut, could now find himself alongside Vedran Corluka at the KC Stadium with both Jonathan Woodgate (groin) and Michael Dawson (Achilles) still injured.

Hull boss Phil Brown was encouraged by his side's opening day display but knows the Tigers need more forward firepower if they are to avoid being drawn into another relegation battle.

Today's fixtures : Birmingham v Portsmouth, Burnley v Manchester United, Hull v Tottenham, Liverpool v Stoke. - Sapa-AFP

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