Thursday, 8 February 2018

Salah steers around Real Madrid question in-form Reds star has avoided being drawn on talk of a possible move to Spain, with his focus currently locked on events in the Premier League
Mohamed Salah has swerved La Liga future questions amid links to Real Madrid, with his focus locked on Liverpool and a Golden Boot hunt.
The Egypt international forward has been one of the stars of 2017-18, with a 28-goal return in England seeing his profile rise considerably.
He is now considered to fit the ‘Galactico’ mould which is so appealing to those at Santiago Bernabeu.
A move to Spain has been mooted for the 25-year-old as a result, but Salah is reluctant to be drawn on the speculation having spent less than a year on the books at Anfield.
“At the moment I am here,” he told Marca when pressed on whether he would like to play in La Liga.
“I want to concentrate on my team and finish the season very well.”
Salah, who has graced the Premier League and Serie A in his career to date, was, however, prepared to admit that he is a fan of the Spanish top-flight.
He added: “Yes, I follow it, I see some games. Not always, because sometimes they coincide with Liverpool fixtures, of course.
“It's a good league, has top teams, and the way they play is very attractive.”
Among those currently gracing the La Liga ranks is Barcelona new boy Philippe Coutinho, with the Brazilian having left Liverpool for Camp Nou in a €160 million deal during the winter transfer window.
Salah said of his former colleague: “I miss him. He was my friend, a very nice guy.
“I wish him all the best in Barcelona because he is an incredible player, with a lot of quality. As a person he's very calm. I'm proud to have played by his side.”
Salah celebrates Liverpool v Tottenham
It may be that Salah’s path will once again cross with Coutinho at some stage in the future, but for now his attention has been narrowed on the present.
A 21-goal return in Premier League competition has him just one behind Tottenham’s Harry Kane in the battle for the Golden Boot, and Salah intends to get his hands on the prize.
He said of a tussle with Spurs star Kane: "He is a great player, in the last two years he has already been the top scorer. Kane plays as a No.9 and has more chances to score goals than me.
“In my mind I want to win it, but we will see what happens.
“Now I want to be in a good position in the Premier League and help my international team to pass the first phase in the World Cup in Russia. Those are my goals for now, then we'll see.”

Victor Moses can be key to Chelsea renaissance Conte will need his widemen performing much better if the Blues are to step out of their recent malaise

Chelsea’s form in 2018 does not make for good reading.
For those who need a refresher, Antonio Conte’s side have won twice in 11 games in all competitions, three if you add the FA Cup third round replay win over Norwich City at Stamford Bridge.
The general consensus seems to be centered on Conte’s gloomy demeanour and reluctance to switch things up from his preferred tactic of three at the back, and the manager is arguably fortunate to still be in a job after speculation that he'd be dismissed following the defeat by Watford.
While the former criticism may be merited, a departure from a back-three may be required if Conte is to survive at Stamford Bridge.
To this end, Victor Moses could be key to the Italian manager saving his job.
Antonio Conte, Watford v Chelsea, 17/18
Admittedly, and in hindsight, the Italian manager has made a few poor calls in recent games, not least in terms of personnel and combinations.
Chelsea’s rather indifferent start to the 2016-17 season saw the Italian bring in Moses and Marcos Alonso as his primary wing-backs. The switch saw the Stamford Bridge club win a staggering 27 games from 32 (after winning just three from the first six) in a remarkable title-winning campaign.
Moses, for his part, seemed reborn in the wing-back role as it amplified most of his strengths, while masking a few weaknesses in his game.
By contrast though, this season has seen an alarming drop in his level of performances and, consequently, Chelsea’s. Some may scoff and downright say it’s a bit silly attributing the Pensioners’ malaise this year to the inconsistency of their wing-backs.
Admittedly, that may be rather too simplistic, but you can’t deny their output (or lack of, in this case) has a major impact on how Chelsea play.
Thibaut Courtois Marcos Alonso Eden Hazard Boston Celtics vs Philadelphia 76ers
The three-man defence requires the men out wide to maintain the side’s width (as the team mostly play without recognized wingers), whilst influencing the game at both ends of the pitch.
Moses, and to a lesser degree, Alonso have struggled to replicate last season’s performances and it’s ultimately crippled the team’s effectiveness. The Nigeria international's statistics show a considerable drop in his underlying figures from last year which amplifies his lesser contribution in defence and attack.
A particular indictment in this campaign has been his inability to beat his marker with any degree of consistency and consequently create chances for his teammates in the attacking third. He’s also down on his number of key passes, chances created, interceptions, blocks and clearances from 2016/2017.
Maybe the Nigerian is starting to feel the effects of playing in one of the most physically challenging positions in modern football, hence the drop in quality displays. This certainly appears to be the case with Alonso, who's a doubt for the West Bromwich Albion match due to fatigue.
When you take into account the number of extra games this season, coupled with the wideman’s problems in the past to stay fit for a stretch whilst also delivering good performances, it all adds up.
Victor Moses
The Super Eagle missed about seven weeks earlier in the campaign as Chelsea struggled through the autumn to find a balance to their play. He returned to the starting line-up in early December and delivered a good performance in his side’s 3-1 win over Newcastle United at the Bridge.
The fact that the West African superstar’s next good outing was in the Blues’ 4-0 win over Brighton on January 20 (when he set up Eden Hazard’s opener before scoring himself) is telling. Both matches were seven weeks and eight league games apart. It's not good enough...and not nearly consistent enough!
Conte hasn’t helped either, with his flirtation with the 3-5-2 system (a tweak from Chelsea’s title winning 3-4-3 formation) in several games this term, which only places extra pressure on inconsistent wing-backs to deliver. The Blues have also lacked the element of control of games they had last season, which then mostly sees the widemen pinned back in a back five and unable to attack and support the front-men.
A switch to a back four wouldn’t make much of a difference either, with the dreadlocked Nigerian neither a natural full-back nor the most prolific attacker.
Victor Moses of Chelsea
In the space of three days, Chelsea played Newcastle and Bournemouth, which saw performances from either side of the great divide.
In the Blues’ 3-0 FA Cup fourth round win over a poor Magpies side, Alonso and Davide Zappacosta were deployed out wide and had impressive individual performances. On the other hand, both players failed to replicate that display against Eddie Howe’s side as they slumped to an extremely disappointing 3-0 defeat in West London.
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A penny for Antonio Conte’s thoughts - before the showdown with The Albion this weekend – as he strives to get better and importantly, more consistent performances from his wing-backs.
With the departure of Abdul Baba Rahman and Kenedy (both on loan) to Schalke 04 and Newcastle respectively, and subsequent arrival of Emerson Palmieri from Roma – a superior athlete to Alonso – the Italian manager has got to be pulling his hair out on how to get dependable performances from his widemen.
If he’s successful, then maybe, just maybe a so far disappointing campaign might still have a happy ending.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

What a waste of money 24-year-old has played a bit-part role under Antonio Conte and is in need of a fresh start ahead of the 2018 Russia World Cup
Prior to his £33 million transfer to Chelsea, Michy Batshuayi was one of the hottest prospects in European football.
He would go on to make just a single Premier League start in his debut season in the English top tier and would eventually be offered to a host of clubs over the summer transfer window by Antonio Conte, though vowed to fight for his place. Despite his restricted playing time, Batshuayi scored five goals in 239 minutes - an average of a goal every 48 minutes - and refused to read into the claims that he was not cut out for a starring role at Chelsea.
Marseille were ready to take their former forward back on loan, while at least 10 Premier League clubs offered a temporary home, but Batshuayi again refused to give into the pressure.
His confidence is admirable but isn't shared by his manager, who has worked extensively with the striker to develop his understanding of what is required.
Michy Batshuayi Chelsea
Batshuayi has made just two Premier League starts this season, with another five coming in cup competitions. And, to the striker's credit, he has scored seven goals this term in 20 bit-part appearances. However, his overall contribution is significantly short of what Conte requires from his leading frontman and the Italian's preference to push Eden Hazard into a makeshift 'false nine' role over selecting Batshuayi is telling. As was Conte's push to sign Fernando Llorente in the summer as an understudy to Diego Costa.
"He has to show me that he's better than Morata, or than Hazard. It's very simple,” Conte said earlier in the season. “But don't forget that Michy this season is playing more than last season. Last season he didn't play. He didn't play and I think this season, if you consider his injury for a month, he had his chance."
Batshuayi Conte PS
And Batshuayi was offered another chance to make a mark ahead of Chelsea's Carabao Cup tie with Norwich on January 6, with Alvaro Morata dropping to the bench and Hazard missing out through injury. Batshuayi offered little, however, and was eventually replaced by Morata in the second with the home support mocking the Belgium international as he left the pitch.
With an eye on the Russia World Cup this summer, Batshuayi is increasingly in need of regular playing time to restore his reputation as one of the most promising forward's in Europe.
Batshuayi is a player who hit double figures in goals in the four seasons prior to joining Chelsea, with his final campaign at Marseille ending with 23 in all competitions. His season and a half with Chelsea, then, can be fairly marked as a stain on an otherwise promising career to date. Still 24, Batshuayi now has a decision to make if he is to retain his status ahead of Roberto Martinez selecting his Belgium side for the World Cup.
"I was a player, I understand if someone is worried about the World Cup," Conte said previously when asked about his plans for fringe players in the winter transfer window. "I understand [if they want to leave], but at the same time it’s very important to keep players very happy to stay here, to work with us and I think this must be our priority."
Michy Batshuayi
So what next for Batshuayi?
 while a move to West Ham has also been suggested. Chelsea are unwilling to let him leave without a replacement, however, regardless of how a move away would benefit all parties.
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Sevilla's proposition is an attractive one, with European football in hand and currently sitting fifth in the Liga rankings. Vincenzo Montella's side recognise that Chelsea need a replacement before sanctioning a loan move, however, and are therefore also looking at both Stevan Jovetic of Monaco, who spent part of last season at the club, and Everton attacker Sandro Ramírez. The decision is up to Conte, though, and he risks scuppering Batshuayi's development by not pulling the trigger.
“Michy is a young player," Conte said. "He has to work very hard to improve himself. But he's doing this. I'm happy with his behaviour and his commitment. But I have to make the best decision for the team."
With Conte's mind made up and having had little change from persevering with his goal of being Chelsea's leading striker, now is the time for Batshuayi to cut his losses and look to make a short-term impact elsewhere.

Barcelona announce €11.8m Yerry Mina signing Colombia international had been scheduled to arrive in the summer, but a deal has been pushed through that sees him go to Spain now
Barcelona have announced their second signing of 2018, with defender Yerry Mina joining La Liga's leaders from Brazilian side Palmeiras for €11.8 million.
Mina has signed a five-and-a-half-year deal with the Catalan giants.
A deal for Mina had been set up for after the World Cup, but Barcelona were keen to complete an early move for the defender, who made clear his desire to join Ernesto Valverde's side.
The table-toppers said in a stement: "Yerry Mina now comes to Barca with the opportunity to continue developing as a footballer following his move to Europe. Without a doubt the Colombian has the potential to make it."
EN Emirates Yerry Mina
The Colombia international will strengthen Barcelona's defensive options as Javier Mascherano is reportedly expected to leave Camp Nou in the January transfer window, with Chinese Super League side Hebei China Fortune reportedly keen on the experienced Argentine.
Mascherano has started only six La Liga games so far this season, with Thomas Vermaelen typically selected by Valverde as Gerard Pique's partner in the absence of the injured Samuel Umtiti.
Umtiti has also been linked with a transfer away from Barcelona, with Manchester City and Manchester United among the clubs linked with triggering the France centre-back's €60m release clause. Gerard Pique, however, has said he is sure the France international wishes to stay with the club.
Barcelona have already added to their squad this month, having finally completed a long-awaited move for Brazil international Philippe Coutinho.
After a string of failed bids for the Liverpool playmaker in August, Barca have agreed to pay a reported club-record fee of €120m for the Brazil international, who signed a five-and-a-half-year deal at Camp Nou.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

EXTRA TIME: Mohamed Salah reacts to Philippe Coutinho’s move to Barcelona Egyptian forward dropped a message for the Brazil international who completed a big money move to the Camp Nou this week
Liverpool's Mohamed Salah has revelled in the short period he spent with Philippe Coutinho before the Brazilian completed a switch to Barcelona on Monday.
Coutinho joined the Catalan giants for a £145 million record fee that will keep him at the club until 2023.
After hitting 12 goals and eight assists in 20 games in all competitions for Reds this season, the former Espanyol and Inter Milan player ended his five-year stay at Anfield.
And Salah who joined Jurgen Klopp's men from Roma in June relished his partnership with the Brazil star and wished him luck in his 'new adventure'.

£650m spent, but academy star Lingard is Man Utd's best player right now Red Devils youth product has not always convinced the Old Trafford faithful but has been in a rich vein of form of late
At most clubs, the scorer of three key Wembley goals including a wonderful strike to win the FA Cup would go down as an immediate club legend. However, Jesse Lingard has had to fight longer and harder than you might expect just to be accepted as a preferred starter for the majority of Manchester United fans.
In many ways, Lingard is the archetypal success story by which United fans judge their club. They want to see local lads brought through the system and given the chance to thrive in the first team, and the attacker has done exactly that having risen from a seven-year-old wannabe to a senior England star over an 18-year spell with the Red Devils.
But having taken a considerable time to string together a consistent run of stand-out performances following his first-team break-out in 2015-16, Lingard had become something of a figure of fun in some quarters until his recent upturn in form which has seen him net eight goals in 10 games as a number 10 in Jose Mourinho’s side.
Jesse Lingard Manchester United Derby
And his spell of prominence could not have come at a better time when you consider that Mourinho was left scrambling for an alternative to the failing Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the main creative attacking slot in a United squad costing £648 million. With the Armenian having struggled after a bright opening month and Paul Pogba needing to partner Nemanja Matic in the midfield hub due to Ander Herrera’s poor form in 2017-18, Lingard suddenly became the manager’s go-to guy as United began to fall adrift of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.
“I think he is comfortable in the positions he plays,” said Mourinho after Lingard got the all-important 84th-minute opener in Friday’s FA Cup win over Derby County.
“I think he is improving with the progressive style of the team. The team is playing progressively in a different way which makes him feel like a fish in the water and he is in this moment where everything goes right for him.”
Jesse Lingard stats Manchester United
Mourinho’s reward for his faith in Lingard has been remarkable, with Lingard not only adding goals but also demonstrating some of the incisive running that United have lacked from the number 10 position for long stretches of the past few seasons. While Pogba has made the most obvious difference to United when on form, Lingard has been their key man more often than not of late. Having previously been seen by many as little more than the Frenchman’s dancing side-kick on social media, Lingard has outshone his more esteemed former academy team-mate over the winter months.
From match-winning braces against Swansea City and Arsenal to his game-saving double as a substitute against Burnley, the Warrington product has bailed out United time and again. It is not by accident that he has scored in each of his side’s last five wins away from home, with goals of great quality and precious timing helping to ensure that United’s inconsistent season hasn’t taken a turn for the disastrous.
Jesse Lingard Ashley Young Paul Pogba Arsenal Manchester United Premier League
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It is right that there remain question marks over his long-term credentials for a starting shirt given some of the remaining flaws in his skill set, but that should not lend itself as a stick to beat him with in the present day since he is United’s star player right now. Mourinho will doubtless have additions in mind for the forthcoming transfer windows in Lingard’s position, but the very fact that he hasn’t airlifted in an emergency signing so far this January reflects positively on the 25-year-old’s impact over the past couple of months.
Lingard’s promotion to first-choice number 10 is unlikely to be a permanent solution given United’s spending power, but the very least his recent run has done is to ensure he has a say in the allocation of squad positions for a season or two to come.
At United, more than any other club, there is always a place for a hard-working local lad and Lingard has worked harder than anyone to prove his ability to compete for one of the most prized starting spots in world football.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Ferdinand trolls Gerrard as Liverpool legend backs Coutinho sale

Rio Ferdinand was quick to rub Steven Gerrard’s nose in it after the Liverpool legend was questioned about Philippe Coutinho’s transfer to Barcelona.
The long-running saga was finally brought to a close on Monday lunchtime when the Brazilian superstar completed a £142million move to the Nou Camp.
Although Gerrard predicted back in 2015 that Coutinho would eventually end up at Barcelona, the former Reds skipper admits he is struggling to come to terms with the sale of the club’s talisman.
Speaking on BT Sports, Gerrard said: “I’m still digesting it as a Liverpool fan.”
Ferdinand, so often Gerrard’s opponent on the field, was quick to troll the Anfield legend by asking him: “You feel sick?”
Gerrard continued: “I’m not surprised it’s happened – Liverpool fought very hard to keep him and fought hard to keep him until the summer.
“But when a kid has a dream – and Philippe was desperate to join Barcelona – it’s very difficult to stop him.

“But there’s no doubt about it – Liverpool will miss him. He’s a wonderful player, a wonderful person, and truth be told, he hasn’t down-tools, so I respect his decision.
“But Liverpool will go on, they’ve got big money for him and I’m sure they’ll replace him with the right people.”

‘I’ve never killed someone’ to be a deliberate attempt, the midfielder was quick to play down the action and expressed relief as Binuyo survived his scorcher
Go Round FC’s Vincent George relives the scary moment that saw Kwara United player Lookman Binuyo slump after his clearance - from a corner kick - was met by the player’s face.
The Omoku outfit and the Harmony Boys locked horns in the opening fixture of the Nigeria National League Super Four tournament [the decider of the second division overall winner] at the Agege Stadium on Sunday evening.
Moments after the interval, the Kwara outfit were awarded a corner kick, the cross was headed out and in an attempt to clear his lines further, the midfielder’s forceful attempt clattered into the face of an onrushing Binuyo - who was bent on sending the ball back into the danger zone.
The player slumped, thus, needing the help of medics for minutes before he was okayed to leave the pitch.
“No, it wasn't deliberate,” George told Sportmasta.
“I was very scared because I've never killed somebody and I was very upset with myself.
“I felt sorry and I pray he gets better very soon,” he added.
The Omoku outfit won their Kwara counterparts 4-2 after a less adventurous 90 minutes that ended in a goalless stalemate.
And George, one of the four Go Round Players to convert their spot kicks, explains how he was able to keep his calm from 12-yard out after second half’s near-death incident.
“I felt relaxed because I'm very good at taking penalties. It was very easy for me despite the earlier incident. I just had to erase it from my mind because I saw the guy was alive,” he continued.
“Well, Kwara United are very good and I've never seen them play before or played against them. This is my first time of watching them and they are a very good team.
The former Garden City Panthers player will be making his maiden appearance in the Nigeria Professional Football League after helping his side finish second - behind Heartland - in the NNL Southern Conference last season. And he talks up his expectations: “I’m looking forward to playing good games, I excel and looking forward to the national team.”
Go Round will face the winner of Heartland on Tuesday evening and the left-footed midfielder has stated his readiness for the tie.

The 18 players to have scored just one Premier League goal for Man Utd

Manchester United have possessed some of the greatest goalscorers in Premier League history, but what about the players who scored just once for the club in the competition?
There are 18 players in total to have scored once and only once for United in the Premier League. It’s an eclectic list, made up of long-serving defenders and Academy graduates who had limited opportunities but also several players who really ought to have scored more than just one.
You can make up your own minds about which ones they are…
Eric Bailly
Bailly looked delighted when he scored against Swansea City earlier this season but was prevented from running to the touchline by Romelu Lukaku, who “tried to waste time”.
Laurent Blanc
Inspired to bag his only Premier League goal after Sir Alex Ferguson’s famous “lads, it’s Tottenham” half-time team talk.
Jesper Blomqvist
The one name from United’s starting XI in the 1999 Champions League final that you always forget. Blomqvist played for 10 clubs throughout his career. At six of them he only scored one league goal.
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Matteo Darmian
We’re not quite sure how Darmian is still at Old Trafford given he seems to have been linked with a transfer in every window since he joined three years ago.
At least his volley against Crystal Palace was the “best goal” of his career.
Mame Biram Diouf
A goal on his Premier League debut against Burnley earned the forward only four more appearances in the competition in a United shirt.
Chris Eagles
The final goal in a 4-2 win at Everton was as good as it got at United for Eagles, who joined Ross County in November in a transfer which earned him an inclusion in our list of players we can’t believe are still going.
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Rafael scored five, that’s all we’re saying.
Keith Gillespie
Gillespie scored in a 2-0 win over Newcastle which knocked Kevin Keegan’s side off the top of the table before going on to join said Kevin Keegan’s side three months later. Awkward.
Josh Harrop
One goal in one appearance for United as Harrop scored against Hull on the final day of last season before rejecting a new deal to instead join Preston.
Gabriel Heinze
In three years at Old Trafford Heinze managed to squeeze in a debut goal against Bolton, a Player of the Year award, an injury which kept him out for a whole season, getting knocked out by Roy Keane and a failed transfer request to join Liverpool. Great work.
Henrik Larsson
The thought of Larsson in his pomp spearheading United’s attack is quite scary. Few players have made such an impact on a club in such a short spell.
Paul Parker
105 league appearances over five years for the Red Devils for Parker, who we spoke to last year.
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Nick Powell
Do you remember Nick Powell? What a time to be alive. He’s got 11 goals in 22 appearances for Wigan in League One this season, to be fair.
Marcos Rojo
We have no idea whether Rojo is actually a centre-back or a left-back and we equally have no idea whether he’s actually any good or not. What we do know is that he scored the opener in a 1-1 draw with Bournemouth last season.
Giuseppe Rossi
Somewhere in an alternate universe Rossi is still banging them in for United having become Italy’s record goalscorer. Sadly, us mere earthlings will just have to make do with the final goal in a 3-1 win at Sunderland on his Premier League debut and curse his injury-ridden knees.
Morgan Schneiderlin
We were convinced Schneiderlin was going to be good at Old Trafford. He wasn’t really, was he?
Bastian Schweinsteiger
If only he’d come to England sooner.
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Jaap Stam
Stam scored his only goal for Manchester United in a 6-2 victory over Leicester City, after which Foxes boss Martin O’Neill declared: “All things considered we did very well.”