Pompey after championship
PAUL Merson today underlined Portsmouth's determination to be crowned First Division champions."We want the title," confirmed Merson ahead of tomorrow's key, live-on-Sky clash with Ipswich at Portman Road.
By Mel Henderson
PAUL Merson today underlined Portsmouth's determination to be crowned First Division champions.
"We want the title," confirmed Merson ahead of tomorrow's key, live-on-Sky clash with Ipswich at Portman Road (kick-off 5.15pm).
So Town, in urgent need of victory to bolster their play-off challenge, can expect a 'full steam ahead' approach from Harry Redknapp's team.
Pompey clinched promotion to the Premiership for the first time when they beat Burnley 1-0 at Fratton Park on Tuesday, with celebrations lasting until four in the morning.
But they now have another target firmly in their sights – to stay one step ahead of title rivals Leicester.
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Former England star Merson, 35, has been a revelation this season, failing to start just two games and netting 11 goals in 43 appearances.
He said: "It will be interesting to see how everyone responds tomorrow, but we're all professional and know we can only be judged on our next game.
"Tuesday doesn't matter now. If we come away with a draw at Ipswich that will leave us needing to win our last three games to win the title.
"If we do that Leicester can't catch us. We've been top of the table all season and we badly want to finish there too."
Meanwhile, Merson echoed boss Redknapp's comments of yesterday when he tipped Town to gatecrash the play-offs AND join Portsmouth in the Premiership next season.
He added: "Ipswich are probably the best side we have played this season. When we played them at Fratton Park they gave us the runaround at times.
"I'm surprised to see them where they are – I thought they'd be higher by now – but I still expect to see them in the play-offs and then back in the Premiership."
Ipswich defender Richard Naylor fears he has only a slim chance of making tomorrow's game after injuring his knee at Coventry and being unable to train since then.
Naylor said today: "I'm going to give myself every chance, but it's not looking good. The fact that the game is on Friday, rather than Saturday, doesn't help. That could be crucial.
"It is still pretty sore, but if it's not right there's nothing I can do about it. I would say my chances for tomorrow are slim, but hopefully I'll be available for Monday at Rotherham."