The following is a roundup of soccer stories from U.K. newspapers, with clickable Internet links.
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has demanded that the team’s top scorer Christian Benteke should not be sold to Manchester City, the Daily Mirror reported.
Benteke, in his first season at Villa, has been the team’s main hope of fighting relegation, scoring 13 league goals since joining from Genk in Belgium. He’s attracted interest from Italy’s Fiorentina and City, the Mirror said.
Lambert has told team officials and American owner Randy Lerner that Benteke must stay on as he attempts to move the team higher up the league, the newspaper reported. Villa is currently one place outside the relegation zone.
Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero is close to returning after a month out through injury, the Daily Mail reported.
Aguero has been recuperating at home in Argentina after damaging his knee in a Premier League win over Chelsea and may return against Newcastle in three days, the Mail said.
City is 15 points behind league leader Manchester United.
Premier League referee Mark Halsey has been demoted to third-tier League One this week after failing to spot a “horror tackle” in the March 17 game between Wigan and Newcastle, the Express reported.
Halsey waved play on after missing a lunge by Wigan midfielder Callum McManaman that caught Newcastle’s Massadio Haidara above the knee and saw the defender taken off on a stretcher.
Halsey will take charge of Coventry City’s match with Doncaster in two days. The Football Association said its rules prevented retrospective action to be taken against McManaman.
One More Try
Liverpool will try once more to convince Blackpool to allow former Reds winger Thomas Ince to return to Anfield, the Sun reported.
Liverpool sold Ince to Blackpool 18 months ago after the 21-year-old came through its youth academy. Ince has excelled at second-tier Blackpool and has just been named the Football League’s best young player.
Blackpool prevented Ince’s return to Liverpool in January by refusing to lower its 6 million-pound ($9 million) valuation, the Sun said. Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes his team’s 4 million-pound offer will be enough when the transfer window reopens, the newspaper added.
Another player on Liverpool’s radar is 16-year-old Barcelona youth team winger Sergi Canos, according to the Mirror.
The right-sided player has yet to sign a long-term contract with Barcelona, and Liverpool is trying to tempt him with a bigger offer, the newspaper said