Friday, 29 July 2016

Chelsea: What does N'Golo Kante arrival mean for John Obi

John Obi Mikel & N'Golo Kante
The arrival of the league's most efficient ball-winner is an indication of the Blues' direction under Conte, but where does the Super Eagles captain fit in? 

Many obituaries have been written for John Obi Mikel in his time at Chelsea , but with the persistence of the undead, he has clung on through a procession of challengers and coaches.
This time, it’s the lean reaper N'Golo Kante , rapacious as hell's angel, who comes bearing grim tidings. The question on everyone’s lips is: why is this time any different?
For one thing, throughout Mikel’s Stamford Bridge tenure, the club have never signed a player quite like Kante. There really haven't been many in his mould anywhere really, essentially a quicker, meaner, less static version of Claude Makelele, incidentally the player Mikel replaced in 2008.

So, back to the future then?
It does in a sense define the Nigeria international’s time in London - longevity has not impacted style, and the club are right back where they started before they waged an acrimonious war with Manchester United for the world’s hottest midfield talent a decade ago. Makelele arrived older and stayed for a shorter period, yet it is in his image that the London club have sought out a replacement, not in Mikel’s as they complete their gritty reboot of the mid-noughties.
There can be no mistaking the fact he is warmly regarded, and his time will be looked upon with fondness, but if the desire for a possession-proficient midfield anchor led to his acquisition, this reversion could be viewed as a tacit admission of failure. Whether this is a failure of strategy or of recruitment depends on what the prevailing perception of Mikel’s career is.

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However, the very peculiarity of the present situation may well present the 29-year-old with the sort of opportunity denied him up until now.

Makelele |  Never truly replaced
The uniqueness and Premier League-proven excellence (something no one could say of Oriol Romeu, for example) of Kante mean he will almost certainly be first-choice. That aside, there’s little to go on. Antonio Conte is not a manager wedded to any one formation: he arrived at Juventus with a reputation for playing 4-2-4/4-4-2, then he played 4-3-3 for a while before settling for the 3-5-2 which has (somewhat unfortunately) come to be viewed as his specialty.

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The Italian boss is certainly adaptable, a fact he buttressed with his 'tailor' analogy at his official unveiling. It is also instructive that he extolled Claudio Ranieri’s work, saying he would be seeking 'advice' from the former Inter and Juventus boss, and while this might have been an attempt to butter up his countryman for a raid (it is rumoured the Blues may be looking at Riyad Mahrez as well), a look at Leicester’s system may offer Mikel a lifeline.
Having excelled last season alongside Danny Drinkwater, a limited footballer with an exemplary range of passing and a great deal of stamina, Kante and the Super Eagles captain could forge a similar understanding: the France international tackling and putting fires out, and Mikel scooping the water out, the not-so-dynamic duo. It would also allow Conte implement his original vision of a 4-2-4.

The other options to partner Kante are somewhat less suitable, for different reasons: Nemanja Matic, another whose arrival was supposed to run Mikel out of town, is limited in his passing and apt to wander. Ruben Loftus-Cheek is yet to convince he is ready for the big time, while Cesc Fabregas, though the best passer at the club, is lightweight defensively.
The Jos native represents a useful middle ground.

Mikel though, needs to convince Conte of his viability in this role, and his desire for the added responsibility.
The former Azzurri manager is notoriously demanding, and ruthless in his appraisal of a player’s worth. Now in his 30th year, Mikel is smack in the middle of his prime and, if he was content to be the faithful back-up option up till now, he owes it to himself to push for a starting place.

Pogba medical scheduled; deal ‘can be’ announced on Friday

Paul Pogba: United bound
According to the Italian newspaper La Stampa, Paul Pogba “can” complete his Manchester United transfer on Friday.
The 23-year-old, who posted a cryptic picture in red, black and white of himself filling up his car with fuel and then made reference to ’66’ three times has reportedly arrived in LA to have his medical.
The Italian paper claims that the deal has been speeded up by the fact that his agent Mino Raiola has agreed to lower his agent fee demands. It was initially suggested that Raiola wanted a £20million cut from the proposed transfer, and that’s why he prevented a medical taking place earlier in the week.
However, suggestions are now that he will now settle for a £10million payout and will accept the rest of his money via other, yet to be determined means.
The report is far from definitive, but when so many parties, including Adidas, are involved the optimum announcement time will have been discussed at length and probably worked out using social media algorithms.
Earlier, L’Equipe journalist Nabil Djellit claimed a deal should be completed by the weekend with all the money issues involving Raiola had been resolved.
The French outlet report that Raiola will now receive £24million from this deal, with United paying him £20million and Juventus paying the remaining £4million, that after United chief executive Ed Wooward had backed down to get the deal over the line.
According to the Sun, United will pay £112million for Pogba with £92million to Juventus, and £20million to Raiola. ESPN FC suggest United have agreed to pay Juventus’ €120million (£101.3m) Paul Pogba and are now hoping to come to an agreement over the final fees in order to clinch the deal by this weekend.
“It could even be done by Friday, ” say ESPN FC.

Chelsea’s Mikel denies donating $30,000 to Nigeria Olympic squad

The midfielder has dismissed claims that he gave out a certain amount of money to the Dream Team VI
John Obi Mikel has disproved reports that he donated the sum of 30,000 dollars to the Nigeria U23 team camping in the United States of America.
Mikel, who is one of the two overage players in Samson Siasia’s squad for Rio Olympics was reported to have given the Dream Team VI that amount to alleviate their sufferings owing to neglect from the Nigeria Football Federation.
But the Chelsea star has refuted the news saying it was a tactic to divide the team.
"I was first told of this unfortunate story by a friend who called me from Nigeria. I thought he was joking until he sent me the link,” Mikel told the NFF.
"I don't know the source of this story which to me is all out to divide us as a team. I would have thought that stories that should be coming out in the media are stories that will unite the team instead of dividing us. Our target in Rio is to excel, but if they continue like this, then I wonder how we can be united.
"Tell me the players who are in this team that are so hungry that will be looking up to me for survival? Is it (William) Ekong, (Oghenekaro) Etebo, (Shehu) Abdulahi, (Daniel) Akpeyi, (Kingsley) Madu, (Okechukwu) Azubuike or (Stanley) Amuzie, who are my team –mates in the Super Eagles, that I will be donating to, or other players who are plying their trade abroad and are doing well for themselves?
“To me, this is just mere distraction that won't help this team going into a major tournament like the Olympics,” he concluded.
Nigeria face Japan on August 4 at the AmazĂ´nia Arena Manaus in their opening game of the competition as they gun for a second Olympic football gold medal.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Rio 2016: Narsingh Yadav makes police complaint over doping 'conspiracy'

Narsingh Yadav
Indian wrestler Narsingh Yadav has lodged a police complaint after claiming he tested positive for banned substances due to a "conspiracy".
The Indian government says a final report into the freestyle wrestler's case will be presented on Friday.
The 26-year-old, who failed tests on both his A and B samples, claims his food was spiked with steroids by two fellow wrestlers.
He has been provisionally suspended from competing at the Rio Olympics.
Yadav was under provisional suspension for failing a doping test on 25 June and failed a second test on 5 July. He was due to appear in front of India's National Anti-Doping Agency on Wednesday.
The wrestler's food supplements have reportedly been found to be clean in tests conducted since his allegations.
The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) has backed Yadav, with assistant secretary Vinod Tomar saying the body believed him to be "a victim of conspiracy".
It had already identified the person behind it, Tomar claimed.
Yadav was picked over two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar after he won India's quota place with a bronze medal in last year's World Championships.
Following the positive tests, Parveen Rana was named as his replacement, a move that has been approved by United World Wrestling.
On Tuesday, Rio-bound Indian shot put champion Inderjeet Singh also claimed he had failed a drugs test because of a "conspiracy" against him.

Rio 2016: Belinda Bencic out of Olympics to focus on US Open

Belinda Bencic
World number 16 Belinda Bencic has pulled out of next month's Olympic Games in Rio to focus on the US Open.
The Swiss, 19, was forced to withdraw from the second round at this year's Wimbledon with a wrist injury.
"Although I have recovered from the wrist injury I am behind in my training schedule," she wrote on social media.
On Tuesday, Bencic's compatriot Roger Federer, the men's world number three, pulled out of Rio with a knee injury that has ended his 2016 season.
The US Open begins in New York on 29 August.
Also out of the Olympics - which start on August 5 - are Maria Sharapova, who is serving a doping suspension, fellow former world number one Victoria Azarenka, who is pregnant, world number five Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova, who is ranked 17th.
In the men's tournament, Wimbledon runner-up and world number seven Milos Raonic and Tomas Berdych, ranked eighth, will also not compete.

Six London 2012 medal-winning weightlifters return positive tests

Alexandr IvanovSix London 2012 weightlifting medallists were among the 45 athletes who last week failed retrospective drug tests, says the sport's governing body.
The results came in the second wave of tests carried out by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on samples from the London and Beijing Olympics.
None of the medallists from London were due to compete in Rio next month.
The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) said 11 of its competitors had tested positive.
They include Russian London 2012 silver medallists Alexandr Ivanov, Svetlana Tsarukaeva and Natalya Zabolotnaya.
Armenia's Hripsime Khurshudyan, Moldova's Cristina Iovu and Iryna Kulesha of Belarus - all of whom won bronze medals four years ago - also returned positive tests.
The IWF has imposed mandatory provisional suspensions on all 11 athletes, including Georgia's Rauli Tsirekidze, who was due to compete in Rio.
The other four weightlifters to fail tests were Russia's Andrey Demanov, Turkey's Sibel Simsek, Kazakhstan's Almas Uteshov and Azerbaijan's Intigam Zairov.
All of the athletes tested positive for the banned anabolic steroid dehydrochlormethyltestosterone.
On the day the IOC announced the second wave of results, Turkish weightlifter Sibel Ozkan was stripped of the silver medal he won in Beijing.

US PGA Championship: Danny Willett says it is wide open at Baltusrol

Rickie Fowler US PGA
Masters champion Danny Willett believes the current depth of talent in golf means "anyone" could win this week's US PGA Championship at Baltusrol.
The last four majors have gone to first-time winners, including Willett's triumph at Augusta National in April.
Henrik Stenson's Open win a fortnight ago followed major breakthroughs by Willett, Dustin Johnson and Jason Day.
"Anyone who pitches up with their 'A' game has a good chance of winning," said Englishman Willett, 28.
World number one and defending champion Day, American Jordan Spieth and Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy had been expected by some to establish themselves as 'the big three' in the sport, after winning five of eight majors in 2014 and 2015 between them.
As a result of his maiden major at the US Open, Johnson has now been catapulted into a 'big four' - but Sheffield-born Willett believes this year's results prove there is a wide spectrum of players who can compete with the elite.
Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed, Branden Grace and Brooks Koepka are four talented players who could very easily keep the run of maiden major winners going at the historic New Jersey venue.
"The winners that you've got this year just go to show that it's been so varied. It shows the strength and depth throughout golf at the moment," world number nine Willett added.
Meanwhile, McIlroy is targeting a win this weekend to prevent him from going two years without a major, having won his fourth title at the 2014 PGA Championship.
The 27-year-old said doing so would turn a "B-" campaign into an "A+" one.
"I'd love to sit here and say I'm going to win a major every year," he said. "I could retire at 40 and be very happy.
"There's no reason to think I can't do that for the foreseeable future. I have to play my best golf, but I definitely think it's attainable."
Sweden's Stenson said his Open victory was the "icing on the cake" of his career but he now intends to "focus on what's ahead".
He added: "If I look at my career, a major championship was pretty much the only thing I had not managed to achieve and now I have that.
"But then at the same time, you can look ahead and then try and win another one."
Phil Mickelson, the man Stenson pipped to the title on a thrilling final day at Royal Troon, said he did not want "to let the effects or disappointment linger".
The 46-year-old American, who won the last time the US PGA was staged at Baltusrol in 2005, said: "I think there's a really big window of opportunity to add to my resume, to continue to compete in big events."
World number three Spieth wants to add to his major triumphs at last year's Masters and US Open and will adopt an aggressive approach as he attempts to do so.
"My goal has changed now to trying to win a career Grand Slam, and this would be a fantastic time to grab a third leg," said the American, who turns 23 on Wednesday.
"I've been getting a bit too frustrated at times but recently I've gotten back to kind of the gunslinger, the way that I grew up playing, which is just step up and hit it.
"I have more confidence in my mid-to-long-iron play than I did last year. Short game has gone down just a bit. I'm working hard on it

US PGA Championship: Jason Day 'running on empty' before title defence

Jason Day
World number one Jason Day says he is "running on empty" as he prepares to defend his US PGA Championship title.
The Australian has played only one practice round at Baltusrol after spending Tuesday night in hospital with his wife, who had an allergic reaction.
Day, 28, could lose his number one spot if he finishes 29th or worse and Dustin Johnson is in the top two.
"I'm just a little bit under the weather," said Day, who has topped the world rankings since March.
"I've got to really try and manage my patience out there, because I have very little patience right now. For some reason, every time I get a little bit under the weather, I've got zero patience."
Day's victory at Whistling Straits last year was his first in a major.
He has since finished tied 10th in the Masters, tied ninth in the US Open and tied 22nd at The Open in a season disrupted by illness and injury.
"It's very, very difficult to win golf tournaments," he said.
"I think everyone expects if you're in the lead, or if you're a favourite to win, you will win, and if you don't, then you're in a slump. It's not the case."

MLS All Stars v Arsenal Betting: Gunners could misfire in San Jose

MLS All Stars v Arsenal Betting: Gunners could misfire in San Jose
With a talented squad and no shortage of motivation, Al Hain-Cole is backing Kinnear's team to triumph against a visiting side lacking match practice and missing some star names
Arsenal will be hoping to get their American tour off to a winning start when they take on the MLS All Stars at San Jose’s Avaya Stadium on Thursday evening.
After drawing 1-1 in their opening pre-season friendly against Lens in France, Arsene Wenger’s men are available at 11/8 (2.38) with Skybet to secure their first win of the summer in California.
Having beaten Bayern Munich and Tottenham in the last two editions of this showpiece fixture, the hosts are priced at 6/4 (2.50) to achieve another victory against major European opposition.

Only one of the previous 11 editions has resulted in a draw, but you can get odds of 11/4 (3.75) on the side taking the game to a penalty shootout after a deadlocked 90 minutes.
Although technically just a friendly match, All Star manager Dominic Kinnear will be taking this fixture very seriously as he seeks to banish the memory of 2010’s humbling 5-2 defeat against Manchester United during his stint as Bruce Arena’s assistant coach.
As well as star names such as Andrea Pirlo, Didier Drogba, Kaka and David Villa, the squad is made up of a number of talented internationals who will be keen to demonstrate how strong their league has become over the past few years.

If the wins over Bayern and Spurs are anything to go by, neither motivation nor quality is likely to prove an issue as the home side take on a team still lacking in match fitness and missing the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud to due to Copa America and Euro 2016 exertions.
Currently in the middle of their own domestic season, the fitter and more focussed All Stars look well worth those 6/4 (2.50) odds to add a weakened and under-prepared Arsenal to their illustrious list of recent scalps.

Real Madrid vs Paris Saint-Germain Betting: A fast start in Ohio

Unai mery David Luiz PSG
The Liga side are without some of their biggest names for this game, but still have enough quality in their squad to net in the opening 45 minutes against the French champions
The European champions begin their pre-season campaign in the unlikely setting of Ohio, with the American midwest state hosting an attractive looking game between Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain in the International Champions Cup. Zinedine Zidane's men have been preparing in the Canadian city of Montreal but head to Columbus without some of their biggest names.
Cristiano Ronaldo is still taking a well earned rest after leading Portugal to their unlikely Euro 2016 triumph, while Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Sergio Ramos and Pepe are all missing from Los Blancos' squad. PSG meanwhile have already played their first International Champions Cup game of the summer, overcoming Inter Milan 3-1 in Oregon and fielding relatively strong line-up in the process.

New PSG manager Unai Emery has almost all of his side's star players at his disposal in North America, with the likes of Edinson Cavani and Angel Di Maria likely to come into the starting line-up for the meeting with the 11-time Champions League winners. Perhaps given the fact that Madrid have some high profile absentees and PSG have close to a full squad, it is understandable to find the Ligue 1 champions as favourites with bet365 at 7/5 (2.40).
Zidane's men, meanwhile, are offered 7/4 (2.75) and it will be interesting to see how the Frenchman approaches his first pre-season friendly in charge of Madrid.

The squad is full of young players that Zidane knows well from his time as the club's youth team manager, and he is likely to give plenty of academy players a run out at the Ohio Stadium. Nevertheless, it remains surprising to find them as such clear outsiders, and there are plenty of attractive looking prices for punters who wish to support the Spanish giants in some form.
The price of 4/5 (1.80) for the Liga outfit to win either half looks of interest, while the price of evens (2.00) for them to score in the first half seems extremely generous.  In last season's edition of the International Champions Cup, Madrid scored in the first half of both of their opening games, against Manchester City and Inter Milan, and the price of evens (2.00) for them to score in the opening period of any game looks appealing despite the absence of some key players.

The Open 2016: Henrik Stenson v Phil Mickelson was heaven sent

After so many negative headlines in the build-up, the classic Open duel between Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson was just what golf needed.
The game's reputation had taken a battering by so many high-profile withdrawals from the Rio Olympics and Rory McIlroy's frank disdain for golf's return to the Games.
As a result, there seemed little sympathy for golf from the wider sporting public as play got under way at Royal Troon on Thursday and even as the championship developed in its early stages.
Thank goodness, then, for the epic contest between the Swede and the American, four hours of astonishing drama that showed the game at its magical best.
The momentum was traded not by nervous mistakes but by bewildering quality that must be regarded as some of the best play ever witnessed in the last round of a major.
If you had offered the defeated American a closing 65 on Sunday morning, he would surely have snapped off your hand. Yet it proved only good enough for a three-stroke defeat as Stenson sprinted for the line with four birdies in the last five holes.
For those who witnessed it, the 145th Open will live long in the memory. The only shame is that there were not more people watching.
The final group attracted large numbers of followers throughout their two-day duel, but overall attendance figures were down on the last time The Open was staged at Royal Troon.
Back in 2004 Tiger Woods was at the height of his powers and more than 176,000 fans flocked to the Ayrshire links. Last week those numbers were down to 173,134 and this was despite lower-rate twilight tickets.
Scenes such as the disappointingly empty grandstands around the 18th that greeted Stenson and Mickelson as they marched up the last on Saturday evening gave the impression there were even fewer fans in attendance than the official figure.
It is a shame spectator numbers were slightly down and that there was no live terrestrial TV coverage in the UK, because this was an Open that deserved the widest-possible audience - and not just for the brilliance of the leading pair of protagonists.
There was so much more to enjoy, including the way leading stars like McIlroy, Jason Day and Danny Willett tussled with the worst of the weather.
That those players who played early on Thursday and late on Friday were effectively blown out of contention by the elements raises the question of whether The Open - subject as it is to the vagaries of British seaside weather - should adopt a two-tee start like the US Open and US PGA Championship.
It would shorten the day and might limit the variance in conditions that is largely inevitable when play begins at 6.35am and does not end until around 9.30pm.
However such an alteration would mess with the tradition of The Open and you do that at your peril. It is a unique event and those long days are one of the factors that make the championship so distinctive.
Rather than a debate about the capricious conditions, last week will be remembered for the epic dubbed "High Noon at Troon".
And it wasn't the only memorable storyline. There was the emergence on the major stage of Andrew 'Beef' Johnston, whose jovial manner was so refreshing as he finished eighth. The heavily-bearded 27-year-old relished the attention his terrific golf generated.
It is laughable to equate the North Middlesex man with recent Wimbledon sensation Marcus Willis - as the Spanish Open champion, he has a far better sporting pedigree - but they do share an ability to engage with crowds.
Let's hope the elongated sound of "Beeeeef" becomes a regular refrain at major venues around the world in the coming years. He is just the sort of 'everyman' figure the game requires.
Now up to number 89 in the world, Johnston can now look forward to next week's US PGA at Baltusrol.
Yes, there really is another major as soon as next week.
It feels ludicrous there is such a short time between two of the year's most significant tournaments; we need more time to savour the drama of Troon before building to the last of the 'big four' men's events.
To use the analogy that caused a stir last week (when used to describe McIlroy), the PGA is the 'Ringo' of the majors and this scheduling does nothing to help elevate it from its standing as the fourth of four.
It has been brought forward to accommodate the Olympics, but at least at Baltusrol we will see the leading four stars - Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and McIlroy - before they disappear during the Rio competition.
None of the quartet enjoyed the best of times at Troon, although McIlroy responded to his harsh 'Ringo' tag to finish top of the 'big four'.
The Ulsterman ended a fractious tournament in good style to record another top-five finish in a major.
You would not put it past McIlroy to elevate his year from 'modest' to 'great' in New Jersey next week, but as The Open once again proved, it is folly to make predictions in majors.
No-one saw the Stenson/Mickelson showdown coming, but thank goodness it materialised into the most timely reminder of golf's greatness at the very highest level.

Bayern Munich vs Milan Betting: Ancelotti's men can shade a high scoring game

Bayern Munich vs Milan Betting: Ancelotti's men can shade a high scoring game
With the Rossoneri still finding their feet under new boss Vincenzo Montella, Al Hain-Cole is expecting them to come away empty-handed from a clash against their former boss
Carlo Ancelotti will come up against his former club when Bayern Munich take on Milan in Wednesday’s International Champions Cup clash at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Having overseen victories in all three friendly matches since replacing Pep Guardiola at the Allianz Arena, the Italian manager is available at 8/13 (1.62) with Paddy Power to extend that winning streak against the team with whom he won two European Cups.

Also new to a job after being appointed as Cristian Brocchi's successor this summer, new Milan boss Vincenzo Montella can be backed at 7/2 (4.50) to enhance his reputation with a high profile victory here. All draws in this competition go straight to penalties, and you can get odds of 3/1 (4.00) on them triggering a shootout after a deadlocked 90 minutes.
As the second longest-serving manager in their club’s history, Ancelotti is bound to receive a warm reception from the Rossoneri fans, who have seen seven bosses come and go since he left the San Siro.

The sixth boss to be appointed in the two years since Massimiliano Allegri’s departure alone, Montella would be considered a huge success if he could manage even half of his opposite number’s time at the helm.

However, the former Sampdoria coach will be under no illusions over the magnitude of the job he is faced with, as he takes over a team that has finished eighth, tenth and seventh in the last three campaigns. In contrast, Ancelotti has taken over a team needing very little tinkering after three dominant years under Pep Guardiola, and whose superior match practice should provide an extra advantage over a team still finding its feet.
Nevertheless, with a number of Die Roten’s key players still missing after their Euro 2016 exertions, Milan will at least feel optimistic of finding the net – making odds of 15/8 (2.88) look good on Bayern coming out on top in a match featuring goals at both ends.

Tottenham Hotspur v Atletico Madrid: Spanish side can keep it tight

Tottenham Hotspur v Atletico Madrid Betting: Spanish side can keep it tight
Spurs face a tough test in their second friendly in the International Champions Cup and Diego Simeone's side are likely to prove too strong for the north Londoners in Melbourne
Despite seeing his side lose their opening friendly in Australia 2-1 to Juventus, Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino declared himself "very happy" after the game. The match saw the north Londoners field several impresisve youth prospects against the Italian champions, while new signings Victor Wanyama and Vincent Janssen also made their debuts.
Next up for the side that finished third in the Premier League is a clash with the side that finished third in La Liga, Atletico Madrid. The team from the Spanish capital have travelled down under with close to a full squad, although they are missing perhaps their most important forward players.

French star Antoine Griezmann will not be involved, neither will Belgium's Yannick Ferreira Carrasco, with Argentine forward Lucas Vietto missing too ahead of a proposed move away from the Vicente Calderon, while Angel Correa competes with the Albiceleste at the Olympics.
Nevertheless, the runners-up from last season's Champions League are clear favourites against Spurs, with Paddy Power pricing an Atleti win at 11/10 (2.10) while Pochettino's men can be backed at 23/10 (3.30) and the draw is offered at 5/2 (3.50).
Of course Atletico are famed for their miserly defence and with seven players who started the Champions League final two months ago in the squad, Diego Simeone's men are likely to be as solid a unit as ever. Spurs for their part are missing their first choice centre back pairing with youngsters Dominic Ball and Cameron Carter-Vickers failing to impress against Juve, especially in the early stages when the Italian champions struck twice in quick succession.

Furthermore, Christian Eriksen is likely to be out for the game meaning that the White Hart Lane outfit will be without their most inventive player.
Naturally, pre-season friendlies are about fitness and giving opportunities to young players, but the potential Spurs line-up looks a little weak to take on a side of Atletico's stature. The price for a win for Los Rojiblancos is surely big enough to consider, while the price of 15/8 (2.88) for them to keep a clean sheet should offer great value to bolder punters.

RUMOURS: Arsenal earmark Wenger replacement

RUMOURS: Arsenal earmark Wenger replacement
The Emirates Stadium hierarchy have been impressed by the Bournemouth manager, with the club looking ahead to the Frenchman's exit in the near future
Arsenal have earmarked Bournemouth head coach Eddie Howe as a successor to Arsene Wenger, according to the Daily Star.
The Emirates Stadium hierarchy have been impressed by the young manager's tactical approach and are happy it would transition well to the Premier League giants.
Wenger shares their enthusiasm, though the long-serving manager's recommendations will only be taken as additional options and not result in an automatic appointment.
The report claims Arsenal would have been happy to see Wenger take up the England post this summer as they begin their search to replace the Frenchman, who is entering the final 12 months of his contract.

Five central defender targets for the Premier League’s big guns

Leonardo Bonucci: Top defensive target
A look at five central defenders who could be on the move for big money this summer, courtesy of
With the transfer merry-go-round in full swing, a number of top teams are strengthening accordingly to achieve their seasonal goals. However, a lack of movement for top level centre-backs – Manchester United aside – means Premier League sides run the risk of being caught short at the back in their quest for glory. There have been rumours of a host of defenders swapping Serie A for the Premier League and here, compares the five main central defensive targets for some of England’s top teams.
Leonardo Bonucci
Leonardo Bonucci: Poised to stay with Juventus
Leonardo Bonucci: Poised to stay with Juventus
The primary centre-back donning the back pages this summer, Juventus’ Leonardo Bonucci has been linked with a big-money switch to the Premier League for much of the transfer window. Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United are all keen on adding to the 29-year-old to the ranks, having established himself as one of the finest players in his position on the continent. Of the 35 Serie A games Bonucci started last season, Juventus kept a clean sheet in 18, with the Old Lady hopeful of retaining the Italian’s services.
The arrival of Medhi Benatia puts Bonucci’s Juventus future in doubt, while Daniele Rugani’s continued development suggests the Serie A champions could cope without the Italy international, though it would be a big loss. The three Premier League sides linked could certainly utilise a player of Bonucci’s talent. Of all defenders, only one has played more accurate passes than Bonucci (5295) in the last three Serie A seasons. The English trio favour a system that involves playing the ball out from defence, an area the Juventus man excels in having gained a statistically calculated strength of ‘passing’.
Newly-appointed Chelsea boss Antonio Conte is also familiar with Bonucci’s capability having tapped into the player’s potential during their time together at Juventus, however it looks as though the Manchester pair are leading the race to sign Bonucci. Conte, though, appears to have altered his transfer plans, instead swapping his attention to another Serie A centre-back.
Kalidou Koulibaly
Kalidou Koulibaly

The man dubbed K2, Kalidou Koulibaly was brought to Napoli by former boss Rafa Benitez. In his debut campaign in Italy, the Senegalese defender appeared out of his depth and, after a solitary season, Napoli were rumoured to be considering cutting their losses on the centre-back. However, Maurizio Sarri opted to instead invest the time into improving Koulibaly and was rewarded. Only Juventus (20) conceded fewer goals than Napoli (32) in Serie A last season with the 25-year-old playing an essential role at the heart of the defence.
Defenders whoscored
Koulibaly started 32 of 38 league games for the Partenopei last term earning a rating of 7.19 in the process. Like Bonucci, Koulibaly has deservedly earned rave reviews for his ability to play the ball out from the back. Indeed, the centre-back played more forward passes (1268) than any other player in Serie A last season. 2024 accurate passes, meanwhile, was the fifth most in the Italy’s top tier last term, with the player more than capable of instigating attacks from the back.
Having won possession in the defensive third the third most times (159) in Italy last season, Koulibaly’s defensive qualities coupled with his passing ability renders him ideal for Premier League footballer. Sarri famously utilised drones to help improve Koulibaly’s positioning and it’s this approach to coaching that has helped the defender establish himself as one of the most sought after centre-backs on the continent this summer.
Kostas Manolas
Kostas Manolas
It’s hard to believe that Kostas Manolas is only 25-years-old given how assured he has become at the back. Snapped up by Roma two years ago as Benatia’s replacement following his move to Bayern Munich, the Greek centre-back successfully transferred his fine form for Olympiacos to Italy and has quickly risen to prominence as one of the best in his position on the continent, and it’s no secret that Manolas has all the makings of succeeding in the Premier League.
Dominant in the air, it’s no wonder to see the Greece international won more aerial duels (125) than any other player in Serie A last season. With a number of Premier League sides adopting a direct approach, this facet of Manolas’ game would benefit any English team. He’s still far from the finished article of course, having committed four errors that led to shots on goal for Roma in Serie A last season, one of the poorer returns, but there is still ample time for the defender to hone his skills.
However, this is somewhat to be expected from a defender required to – like Bonucci and Koulibaly – play the ball out from defence. A pass success rate of 86.5% from an average of 47.7 passes per game in Serie A last season was a modest return for the centre-back and Manolas is one who would realise his potential with the correct coaching. Roma head coach Luciano Spalletti insists Manolas is not for sale, but that won’t stop Europe’s elite from testing the club’s reluctance to sell.
Stefan de Vrij
Stefan De Vrij, Lazio
One has to sympathise with Stefan de Vrij, whose season was cruelly cut short all the way back in August on account of a knee injury. The problem came on the back of an excellent debut campaign for Lazio, where he gained a rating of 7.35, not to mention a hugely impressive World Cup campaign for the Netherlands that earned him a spot in’s team of the tournament. His injury woes, though, haven’t detracted teams from registering an interest in the Dutch defender.
The 24-year-old earned rave reviews on the back of his first season with Lazio, with an average of 3.4 interceptions per game the third best return in the 2014/15 Serie A campaign. While an 83% pass success rate from an average of 40.1 passes per league game that season was hardly ideal, De Vrij’s commendable reading of the game allows for him to start attacks from defence. In a dominant side, that figure would undoubtedly rise.
The risk now is whether he can rediscover his best form after almost a year without game time. There is no denying De Vrij’s obvious talent, which was exhibited to the watching world during the 2014 World Cup. Any move this summer, however, presents a risk given his recent injury and it remains to be seen how far he has come since sustaining the problem on international duty almost 12 months’ ago.
John Stones
Everton John Stones
Despite an indifferent campaign for Everton, John Stones is a centre-back still highly thought of by England’s top teams. Manchester City remain keen on the England international, with Pep Guardiola hoping to add the ball-playing centre-back to the ranks before the campaign gets underway. The 22-year-old endured his moments of madness for an underwhelming Everton side, but also showed signs of his quality when required at the start of the campaign.
He fits the mould of the ball playing centre-back Guardiola favours and it’s clear he has the potential to forge a successful a career in the Premier League under the Spaniard. A superb pass success rate of 88.7% suggests Stones’ greatest trait is his ability to pick out a team-mate, but the England international very much remains a diamond in the rough. No player committed more errors that led to an opposition goal than Stones (3) of all outfielders in the Premier League last season.
Guardiola, though, has a knack for bringing out the best in inconsistent defenders having moulded Jerome Boateng into one of the finest centre-backs in Europe during their time together at Bayern Munich. While it remains to be seen whether Stones could reach a similar level to the Germany international, he stands a much stronger chance of realising his potential under Guardiola at City than anywhere else.

Rio Olympics 2016: Russian athletes are arriving, but how many will compete?

Russian athletes began to arrive in Rio on Monday
How many Russians will compete at the Rio Olympics next month?
The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) had recommended they all be banned.
That was after its independently commissioned report found evidence of a four-year, state-run "doping programme" across the "vast majority" of Olympic sports.
But the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said individual sporting federations must rule on whether Russians can compete.
Russia's full Olympic team would have consisted of 387 competitors but the country's track and field athletes are already barred by athletics' governing body.
Of the 28 Olympic sports there are no Russian football, rugby, basketball or hockey teams.
The rest of the sports must rule and then put their decision forward to be ratified by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas).
So which federations have decided already? And what have they decided?

Aquatics (swimming, diving & water polo)

Russians hoping to compete: 67
Decision: Some Russians have been banned, with further rulings to follow.
On Monday, swimming's governing body banned seven Russian athletes from going to Rio. Four were barred because they had served doping bans in the past and the other three because they were mentioned in the Wada-commissioned report that alleged state-sponsored doping in Russia.
Fina said the "exact implication for the Russian Swimming Federation is still to be clarified" and an "ad hoc commission will have to investigate".
It also said it will re-test all the samples collected from Russian swimmers at the 2015 World Championships.


Russians competing: Three
Decision: Russians can compete.
World Archery said the three Russians have been "tested extensively" and had no previous doping convictions. It expressed "shock and concern" over recent allegations but praised the IOC's "courageous decision" not to give Russia a "blanket ban".


Russians competing: None.
Decision: All of the 68 Russian athletes have already been banned, though long jumper Darya Klishina has been cleared to compete as a "neutral".
Yuliya Stepanova, the 800m runner whose evidence helped expose the Russian doping scandal, will not be allowed to do the same, however. The IAAF had previously cleared her to compete, but the IOC's latest ruling disallows any athlete with a previous doping ban.
Stepanova has since questioned that ruling, describing it as "unfair".


Russians competing: Four
Decision: Russians can compete.
The Badminton World Federation (BWF) has included four Russian players in the draws for Rio, "pending the validation of the International Olympic Committee".


Russians competing: 11
Decision: None yet.
Governing body the AIBA is "reviewing and analysing, on a case-by-case basis, the anti-doping record of the 11 Russian boxers currently qualified". It has said it will confirm with the IOC "in due course".

Canoeing and kayaking

Russians competing: 18
Decision: Russians can compete.
Eighteen Russians remain eligible after the International Canoe Federation "immediately suspended" five of the 23 qualified, as they were named in the McLaren report, pending further investigation.
ICF general secretary Simon Toulson said it was a "bitter blow for the Olympic movement," but that "swift action" was needed to show "that if you step out of line you won't make the start line."


Russians competing: 18
Decision: None yet.
Governing body the UCI is expected to make a decision in the coming days.


Russians competing: Five
Decision: Russians can compete.
Governing body the FEI says there is "no indication of any organised doping malpractices within the Russian equestrian delegation". It adds there is "absolutely no reason why the Russian equestrian athletes should not compete at Rio".


Russians competing: 16
Decision: Russians can compete.
Fencing's governing body the FIE cleared all 16 Russians to compete, saying it had "re-examined the results from 197 tests taken by Russian athletes in 35 countries, including Russia, between 2014 and 2016", which were all negative.


Russians competing: One
Decision: None yet.


Russians competing: 21
Decision: None yet.
The International Gymnastics Federation previously said it was opposed to a blanket ban, and on Monday said it would establish a "pool of eligible Russian athletes" as soon as possible.


Russians competing: 14
Decision: None yet.
The International Handball Federation said on Monday it took "immediate action" to re-test Russian athletes following the IOC's ruling and is expected to make a further statement soon.


Russians competing: 11
Decision: Russians can compete.
The International Judo Federation, whose honorary president is Russian President Vladimir Putin, has cleared all Russians to compete, with president Marius Vizer saying they had been tested from last September to May "on many occasions, at many international judo events, abroad from Russia".

Modern pentathlon

Russians competing: Three
Decision: Russians can compete.
One of the four qualifying Russians, plus a reserve, have been banned by the governing body UIPM, after being implicated in the McLaren report's 'Disappearing Positive Methology' scheme. The remaining three have been cleared to compete.


Russians competing: Six
Decision: Russians can compete.
Russia's initial squad of 28 has been reduced following 22 suspensions. Fisa said the latest banned athletes were "not considered to have participated in doping" but did not meet the IOC's criteria of having been tested in labs outside of Russia.


Russians competing: Seven
Decision: Russians can compete.
One sailor has been banned. World Sailing suspended Pavel Sozykin but said the other six members of Russia's squad can compete and a replacement for Sozykin would be allowed.


Russians competing: 18
Decision: Russians can compete.
An ISSF statement said all 18 Russian shooters are eligible having not been mentioned in the McLaren report, nor tested positive through further doping controls. The governing body added that "all Russian athletes are being carefully monitored" by its intelligence based testing programme.

Table tennis

Russians competing: Three
Decision: Russians can compete.
"An investigation which included an individual test analysis of each player, conducted outside the Russian anti-doping system met the necessary requirements," said the International Table Tennis Federation.


Russians competing: Three
Decision: None yet.


Russians competing: Eight
Decision: Russians can compete.
The International Tennis Federation said the nominated Russians have been tested 205 times between them since 2014, adding that is "sufficient" for them to go to Rio.


Russians competing: Six
Decision: Russians can compete.

Volleyball (and beach volleyball)

Russians competing: 30
Decision: Russians can compete.
Governing body the FIVB said it had "conducted a full examination of the Olympic eligibility" of all Russian volleyball and beach volleyball players and had now submitted them all to Cas and the IOC for approval.
It had earlier said Russian athletes had been tested at the same level as all other countries and the majority of the testing analysis of Russian athletes had been conducted outside Russia.


Russians competing: Eight
Decision: Two Russians have been banned, with further rulings to follow.
The International Weightlifting Federation will ratify the participation of the remaining team members on an individual basis, although there is still a good chance the entire team will be barred as a result of the reanalysis of samples from the Beijing and London Games.
It says it has contacted the IOC and Wada for "further clarification" and its executive board will issue the final decision on the eligibility of the Russian weightlifters once the evidence has been evaluated.


Russians competing: 17
Decision: None yet.
United World Wrestling says it has appointed a "special commission with the mandate to review the doping cases related to the Russian wrestlers currently qualified to compete for the Rio Games". It expects to report back by Friday, 29 July.

Arsenal eye defenders; Man City agree deal

Shkodran Mustafi: Defender wanted by Arsenal
Arsenal have lined up two defensive signings after Per Mertesacker’s injury, while Manchester City have agreed a deal to sign a prodigious striker, according to today’s rumours.


Valencia’s Shkodran Mustafi and Fabian Schar of Hoffenheim are Arsenal’s latest centre-half targets following confirmation Per Mertesacker is facing months out (Daily Express)
Lyon have told Arsenal and West Ham they will have to offer £40m plus bonuses to sign striker Alexandre Lacazette (Daily Mirror)
Arsenal and Tottenham both want to sign Toulouse forward Wissam Ben Yedder who scored 17 times in Ligue 1 last season (Canal+)
Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has told 23-year-old winger Jese to leave the club in order to play regular first-team football (Marca)
Monaco are ready to rival Arsenal for the signing of Barcelona midfielder Arda Turan (Daily Express)
Youngster Tafari Moore is on the verge of joining Dutch side FC Utrecht on a season-long loan (
Inter Milan say they will not sell captain Mauro Icardi this summer (Sky Sports)
Arsenal want to sign Shkodran Mustafi from Valencia (Emanuele Giulianelli)

Shkodran Mustafi: Part of double move for champions Juventus


Chelsea and Everton will fight for the signature of Sporting Lisbon’s £30m-rated Portugal midfielder William Carvalho (Daily Mirror)
Wolfsburg defender Jeffrey Bruma, 24, said he could have re-signed for Chelsea before joining the German side this summer (Bild)
Aston Villa, Fulham, Wolves and QPR all want Patrick Bamford on loan (Daily Mail)
Chelsea are in a battle with Everton to sign Sporting Lisbon midfielder William Carvalho (Daily Mirror)
Liverpool have joined Chelsea and Manchester City in the queue for Swansea’s Andre Ayew (South Wales Evening Post)

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace have entered the race to sign highly rated Brighton midfielder Dale Stephens (Croydon Advertiser)
Palace are set to sanction Alex McCarthy’s departure to Southampton (The Sun)


Austria forward Marko Arnautovic, 27, is not interested in a move to Everton and will sign a new contract with Stoke City (Daily Mail)
Everton have met Idrissa Gueye’s £7.1m release clause and hope to complete a deal for the 26-year-old Aston Villa midfielder (Birmingham Mail)
Everton are lining up Sunderland’s £15m Lamine Kone as they prepare for the possibility of losing John Stones (Daily Mail)
John Stones has told Everton he wants to play for Pep Guardiola at Man City (Daily Star)
Chelsea are in a battle with Everton to sign Sporting Lisbon midfielder William Carvalho (Daily Mirror)
Everton are interested in Benfica defender Jardel (O Jogo)
Roma have turned their attention to Everton defender Ramiro Funes Mori (Gazzetta dello Sport)
Lamine Kone: Fit for Sunderland

Hull City

Hull City want Birmingham manager Gary Rowett to be their new boss (HITC)


West Brom remain interested in Leicester’s Jeffrey Schlupp and are preparing a new bid in the region of £10million (Express & Star)
Aston Villa are interested in signing Leicester City full-back Ritchie De Laet (Express & Star)


Liverpool have had a £33.5m bid rejected for Sporting Lisbon’s Portugal midfielder Joao Mario, 23 (Various)
Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has told 23-year-old winger Jese to leave the club in order to play regular first-team football (Marca)
Turkish champions Besiktas want to sign Liverpool forward Mario Balotelli, 25, on loan (Gazzetta dello Sport)
Liverpool midfielder Cameron Brannagan, 20, remains keen to go out on loan this season despite a proposed move to Wigan breaking down (Liverpool Echo)
Young striker Taiwo Awoniyi is expected to join Dutch side NEC Nijmegen (Liverpool Echo)
Liverpool have joined Chelsea and Manchester City in the queue for Swansea’s Andre Ayew (South Wales Evening Post)
Joao Mario: Liverpool made a bid

Manchester City

Borussia Dortmund have dismissed rumours linking striker Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang with a move to Manchester City (Bild)
Manager Pep Guardiola has agreed a deal to bring 19-year-old Atletico Nacional forward Marlos Moreno to Manchester City for around £8m (Guardian)
John Stones has told Everton he wants to play for Pep Guardiola at Man City (Daily Star)
Liverpool have joined Chelsea and Manchester City in the queue for Swansea’s Andre Ayew (South Wales Evening Post)

Manchester United

Manchester United target Blaise Matuidi has been told he is allowed to leave Paris St-Germain this summer, with the 29-year-old midfielder available for around £30m (L’Equipe)
David Moyes is interested in bringing Manchester United’s Marouane Fellaini to Sunderland (Daily Express)
Napoli hope to sign Man Utd defender Matteo Darmian (Manchester Evening News)
Manchester United are plotting a £50.2m move for West Ham star Dimitri Payet (TopMercato)
Dimitri Payet: In sublime form for West Ham at Blackburn


Goalkeeper Brad Guzan could complete his move from Aston Villa to Middlesbrough this week (The Gazette)
West Brom have made an offer in the region of £10.9million for Lille’s Ibrahim Amadou, with Middlesbrough also said to be keen (France Football)


Crystal Palace are set to sanction Alex McCarthy’s departure to Southampton (The Sun)
Filip Kostic has completed a move to Hamburg after initially being linked with Southampton and Liverpool.


Austria forward Marko Arnautovic, 27, is not interested in a move to Everton and will sign a new contract with Stoke City (Daily Mail)
Stoke chairman Peter Coates says his club remain hopeful of signing West Brom striker Saido Berahino (Talksport)
Saido Berahino: Tottenham have first option on West Brom striker


David Moyes is interested in bringing Manchester United’s Marouane Fellaini to Sunderland. (Daily Express)
Everton are lining up Sunderland’s £15m Lamine Kone as they prepare for the possibility of losing John Stones. (Daily Mail)
Sunderland are closing in on a deal to sign Yann M’Vila from Rubin Kazan (Sunderland Echo)


Liverpool have joined Chelsea and Manchester City in the queue for Swansea’s Andre Ayew (South Wales Evening Post)


Arsenal and Tottenham both want to sign Toulouse forward Wissam Ben Yedder, 25, who scored 17 times in Ligue 1 last season (Canal+)
Spurs are waiting for Clinton N’Jie to move to Ligue 1 before completing deal for Georges-Kevin N’Koudou (Calciomercato)


Sheffield Wednesday are on the verge of completing a deal for Watford duo Daniel Pudil and and Almen Abdi (Sheffield Star)

West Brom

West Brom remain interested in Leicester’s Jeffrey Schlupp and are preparing a new bid in the region of £10million (Express & Star)
Stoke chairman Peter Coates says his club remain hopeful of signing West Brom striker Saido Berahino (Talksport)
West Brom have made an offer in the region of £10.9million for Lille’s Ibrahim Amadou, with Middlesbrough also said to be keen (France Football)
Alexandre Lacazette: Likely to stay with Lyon

West Ham

Lyon have told Arsenal and West Ham they will have to offer £40m plus bonuses to sign 25-year-old striker Alexandre Lacazette (Daily Mirror)
Manchester United are plotting a £50.2m move for West Ham star Dimitri Payet (TopMercato)
West Ham may turn to former Manchester United defender Alexander Buttner as a potential short-term replacement for Aaron Cresswell (Fox Sports)

Man Utd and Liverpool missing from EFL Trophy draw

Jurgen Klopp: No Football League Trophy action for Liverpool
Manchester United and Liverpool were among a number of Premier League clubs who were missing from the EFL Trophy group-stage draw on Wednesday after rejecting invitations from the Football League to include their academy sides in the revamped competition.
Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham all opted against taking part, but the inclusion of Leicester and Chelsea will be considered a boost by the Football League.
It was announced in June that, in an attempt to refresh the competition formerly known as the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, 16 ‘category one’ academy outfits would be invited to join the 48 sides from League One and League Two.
But a number of teams initially invited passed up the chance to be involved, with fixture clashes and the number of games already played by academy sides among the reasons believed to have been given for the rejections.
Recently-relegated Newcastle joined 15 Premier League sides in being invited but also declined the chance to be involved, with the Football League extending the invitation to other category one academies in order of where the first team finished in the league standings last season.
The five teams who decided not to enter therefore saw their offers given instead to Norwich, Aston Villa, Brighton, Derby and Wolves and, with Villa deciding against taking part, Reading were also welcomed.
The reformatted tournament will see 64 teams split into 16 groups of four, on a north/south regional basis, each containing an invited club and they will play each other once, with the invited club playing one game at home.
The draw, made to little fanfare on Twitter, saw Chelsea grouped with Swindon, Exeter, Oxford.
Leicester will face Sheffield United, Walsall and Football League newcomers Grimsby while Everton meet Bolton, Cheltenham and Blackpool.
One of Coventry, Wycombe or Northampton will get an early look at West Ham’s new Olympic Stadium home, or London Stadium as it will be known.
Swansea landed an all-Welsh tie with Newport as well as games against AFC Wimbledon and Plymouth while Southampton take on Charlton, Colchester and Crawley.
Stoke were grouped with Bradford, Morecambe and Bury, West Brom face Luton, Millwall and Gillingham and Middlesbrough will meet Scunthorpe, Cambridge and Shrewsbury.
Teams will earn three points for a win and a point for a draw, but if the scores are tied after 90 minutes an extra point will go to the winner of a penalty shoot-out.
The group stages will start in the last week of August, with the knock-out rounds beginning at the start of December and the final on April 2, 2017.
The top two from each group will then proceed to a regional knock-out round of 32, with the rounds of 16, eight and four being free draws.
These will all be single ties and will be settled by penalties after 90 minutes, although that may change for the semi-final and Wembley final.
Newcastle said they rejected the offer, having been told from the outset they would not be involved and having therefore made other plans.
“The club was initially informed by the Premier League that it was not going to be invited to compete in the restructured competition,” Newcastle said in a statement.
“Accordingly, the club started to make plans with regard to the development squad for the coming season. These plans included the intention to loan out some of the players who are currently part of the under-23 squad, rather than allowing them to compete in the Premier League 2.
“Changes to the loan system, which come into effect this season, mean all loans must now be completed on a window-to-window basis, with emergency and youth loans no longer permissible. These regulations are a contributory factor to the club’s decision.
“Though Newcastle United did subsequently receive an invite to compete in the EFL Trophy, the club feels their younger players would be better served by going out on loan and gaining experience over an extended period in a first-team environment.
“Although Newcastle United supports the principle of the competition’s new format, participating in the EFL Trophy is not something the club wishes to do this season.”

Rio 2016: Badminton clears Russian players for Olympic Games

Russia's women's handball Olympic team
Badminton is the latest sport to clear Russian competitors to take part in the Olympic Games as the nation's athletes begin to travel to Brazil.
Governing bodies must rule on whether Russian athletes can compete in Rio following the country's doping scandal.
So far 108 of the 387-strong Russian team have been banned from the Games, which get under way on 5 August.
The final line-up will be announced on 30-31 July, according to the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC).
"We have had a rigid drug-testing programme, especially leading up to Rio 2016, and all four Russian athletes have been tested in and out of competition and their samples have been analysed outside of Russia," said Badminton World Federation's (BFW) Thomas Lund.
Boxing, cycling, golf, gymnastics, handball, taekwondo, weightlifting and wrestling are still to confirm their eligibility decisions.
"We will tell how many people will go in the next few days," said Alexander Zhukov, the head of the ROC.

'We will fight for those not able to go'

About 70 Russian athletes left Moscow for Brazil on Wednesday, following a farewell ceremony hosted by Russian president Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin.
"They have got us fired up but in a good way," said handball player Polina Kuznetsova of the cheering crowd at Moscow's Sheremetevo airport.
"We are going to fight more to prove that it is difficult to break Russia. We will fight for those who were not able to go."
Olympic champion pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva and world champion hurdler Sergey Shubenkov are among 67 of the 68-strong athletics team to have been banned by the International Athletics Federation (IAAF).
Isinbayeva corrected reports on Thursday suggesting she might be the Russian team's flag bearer in Rio, despite not being able to compete.
"We should clarify one very important thing!" she said via Instagram. "Flag bearer at the Olympics in Rio have already been defined, it is a great athlete, Olympic champion Sergey Tetyukhin (volleyball)."

Manchester City open talks with Everton over Stones

John Stones: Defender could join Pep's City revolution
Manchester City have opened talks with Everton over a deal for John Stones, according to the BBC.
With Vincent Kompany set to miss the start of the season through injury, Martin Demichelis having been released, and neither Nicolas Otamendi or Eliaquim Mangala managing to fully convince in the Premier League, City are in the market for a new centre-back.
Leonardo Bonucci – who featured in our top five defensive targets – had been mooted, but it now appears City manager Pep Guardiola has set his sights on England international Stones.
The 22-year-old is expected to cost around £50million and it is understood the two clubs are not far apart in their valuations.
Stones’ comfort on the ball and willingness to play out from the back – which has often attracted criticism – is likely to fit Guardiola’s philosophy.
“Normally central defenders are strong in the air and aggressive,” said Guardiola on Wednesday.
“But we need to have a good build-up to create easy passes in the midfield so they can create good passes for the strikers.
“I believe when the ball goes from the central defender to the striker as quickly as possible, it comes as quickly as possible back.
“That is why the players in that area need quality. By 31 August we will have the right squad to play how we want.”
Guardiola, meanwhile, has also suggested he could use midfielder Fernandinho in defence.