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Mesut Ozil has expressed his joy at helping Arsenal to a 3-1 win over Burnley on Saturday.The Germany international’s future has been called into question in recent weeks, with the attacking midfielder struggling for game time under Unai Emery.Ozil was on the bench against Bournemouth, and missed Premier League clashes with Tottenham, Manchester United and Huddersfield Town with a back complaint. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? However, the 30-year-old was back to his brilliant best against Sean Dyche’s side.Ozil wore the captain’s armband during the game, which Arsenal won 3-1, and produced a phenomenal pass in the build-up to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s opening goal.Following the match, Ozil wrote on Twitter: “YaGunnersYa (sic). Very valuable 3 points won. Glad I could help the team today!”The Germany international has been heavily linked with a January loan move away from the Gunners, as the club looks to get his £350,000-per-week wages off of their bill.Turkish club Istanbul Basaksehir are keen on a deal, with president Goksel Gumusdag claiming the club are ready to offer Ozil the world to convince him to move to the Super Lig.”Mesut Ozil is a precious player,” Gumusdag said, as quoted by Bild .”I hope one day our paths will cross at Basaksehir.”If he wants to be with us as well, we would do anything to get him.”Ozil has scored four goals and provided three assists thus far this season, while Arsenal currently lie fifth in the Premier League table. Check out Goal’s Premier League 2019-20 fantasy football podcast for game tips, debate and rivalries.
A dreadful 0-0 Premier League draw between Newcastle United and Fulham gave Claudio Ranieri’s bottom-of-the-table side their first clean sheet of the season.Saturday’s match at St James’ Park saw neither side create a clear goalscoring opportunity, with the defensive improvement for Fulham one positive to emerge, after they failed to shut out an opponent over the first 17 games of the campaign.Newcastle continue to struggle at home and in general in front of goal, but do at least extend their advantage over the bottom three to five points after Burnley’s defeat at Arsenal. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? Against his former club, Aleksandar Mitrovic had an early shot saved by Martin Dubravka, before a Jamaal Lascelles header bounced off the striker at the other end and was hacked away from the line by Denis Odoi.Dubravka gathered Jean Michael Seri’s free-kick towards the end of a drab first half where neither side looked likely to score.Mitrovic sent a poor finish straight at Dubravka just after the restart, while Salomon Rondon had a penalty claim turned down after being bundled over by Alfie Mawson.The first substitution did not come until Rafael Benitez introduced Kenedy with 18 minutes remaining, and the wing-back had another home penalty appeal denied after tussling with Joe Bryan.Fabian Schar then sent a header just over, but Fulham came closest to a late winner as Mitrovic, fed by Aboubakar Kamara, had an effort dramatically blocked by a sliding Lascelles, the visitors’ claims for handball ignored at the end of a second period that saw neither keeper troubled.FULL-TIME Newcastle 0-0 FulhamNothing to separate the sides as Fulham remain rooted to the bottom#NEWFUL pic.twitter.com/J0YxIzajVh— Premier League (@premierleague) December 22, 2018 What does it mean? A result for Fulham to build on While they offered little going forward in this game, Fulham have at least shown earlier in the season that they can be a threat in attack.It is their defensive woes that have cost them up to now, and a first clean sheet will come as a huge boost to Ranieri ahead of the busy festive schedule.Newcastle are the second-lowest scorers in the league with 14 from 18 games, and have only won two of their 10 home matches in the top flight. They are both issues Benitez must address with the help of some much-needed January additions after a game that saw them fail to register an attempt on target.Fulham back three deliversMawson, Odoi and Tim Ream combined to make 20 clearances as they adequately dealt with what was often a direct Newcastle approach, reaching an important defensive milestone in the process. Mawson particularly deserves credit, having battled on to complete the game despite being on the receiving end of an inadvertent punch to the face from his own goalkeeper Sergio Rico in the first half.Poor Perez must do moreAyoze Perez feels it is unfair that he receives criticism from the Newcastle support, but it is hard to argue his case after this game. Despite playing the full 90 minutes, he failed to register a shot on goal or create a single chance for his team-mates.Key Opta Facts- Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez has yet to lose a home Premier League game against Fulham (W4 D4), with his teams keeping a clean sheet in each of the last six meetings.- Fulham have kept their first clean sheet in the Premier League in 22 games, since winning 1-0 against Norwich City in April 2014.- Fulham have won just their second away point in their last 12 outings in the Premier League (D2 L10).What’s next?Newcastle have an attractive-looking festive fixture away to league leaders Liverpool on December 26, the same day as Fulham hope to build on this result as they host Wolves. read more
Softly spoken and self-effacing almost to a fault, not even being crowned the world’s best player could inflate Luka Modric’s ego.The 2018 Ballon d’Or winner ended a decade of tyrannical domination of the award by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who had shared out equally – if not always uncontroversially – the last 10 awards. Modric, however, saw his triumph as a win for the ‘little guy’.“Nobody has the right to compare themselves to [Messi and Ronaldo] the Real Madrid star told France Football upon receiving his new prize. “They are the best in the history of this sport. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? “I am happy that someone normal is able to win the Ballon d’Or.”Do not be fooled by Modric’s diffidence, however. Beneath that unassuming exterior is a truly magnificent playmaker who fully deserves to have finished ahead of two footballing behemoths – a fact he underlined with a match-winning performance to crown Madrid world champions on Saturday.Santiago Solari’s men could have been forgiven for taking the Club World Cup final rather lightly. On the opposite side of the pitch were unheralded Al Ain, the local heroes in Abu Dhabi who had ejected Wellington, Esperance de Tunis and River Plate on the road to the decider but who were surely outmatched against the winners of the last three Champions League titles.Part of River’s downfall was underestimating that rival, though, and Madrid almost paid for the same mistake early on. A dreadful error from Marcelo just 12 minutes into the final sent Hussein El Shahat bursting through on goal and only Sergio Ramos’ miraculous stop on the line stopped the favourites going behind after Al Ain’s dangerman had danced past a flailing Thibaut Courtois.That near-miss was a show of the absent-mindedness and apparent lack of focus that has hurt Madrid time and again in this desperately disappointing start to the season. Luckily for the Liga side, they had an ace up their sleeve in the shape of their Croatian genius.Minutes after Ramos’ intervention Modric was given an inch of space on the edge of the Al Ain box. He does not need much more. The midfielder whipped the ball past goalkeeper Eisa with an unstoppable effort, a near-mirror image of the strike that finished off Argentina in this summer’s World Cup as this time round he opted to use his left boot.From that point onwards, and despite another scare when the brilliant Caio scooped over Courtois’ head only to be called back for a marginal offside, the game was Madrid’s to lose.In the second half Marcos Llorente stepped up to take a leaf out of Modric’s and fire home a cracking volley, his first-ever Madrid goal effectively ending the final as a contest. Modric stepped up once again with a perfect corner to allow Ramos to extend the scoreline, before Al Ain grabbed a late consolation. An even later own goal meant that Madrid ran out 4-1 winners.After all the strife of the last few months, the Merengue received some welcome breathing space in the shape of silverware as Solari takes his first trophy in the hotseat. What is clear is that this team, dishevelled as it has been recently, still depend heavily on their No. 10, who once more has responded when it most counts.Perhaps Modric does not have the scintillating natural talent of Messi (but then who does?) or Ronaldo’s irrepressible eye for goal. But the facts speak for themselves. At 33 he continues to pull the strings in the team that have been crowned European and world champions for the last three years. He shows no sign of slowing down.When his heroics in leading unfancied Croatia to the World Cup final are taken into consideration there can be no doubt that he was the right man for the Ballon d’Or, a feat only made more exceptional by the fact he overthrew those two monsters to take the prize. Those who gripe and moan about the decision, often on social media with avatars depicting one of the pair above, miss the point about what these awards are supposed to signify.To put it simply, Modric was the outstanding star of the past 12 months, bringing his game to new heights to lead Madrid to further silverware and Croatia to the brink of glory. Like Andres Iniesta before him, he cannot be judged solely on goals, assists and other dry statistics; watching him glide across the pitch and making his side tick is a work of art that needs no numerical support.Perhaps one can only fault his own perceptions of himself, particularly when it comes to speaking to reporters. Normal? There is absolutely nothing normal about Modric and his marvellous 2018.
Rafael Benitez was disappointed with aspects of Newcastle United’s performance in the 0-0 home Premier League draw with Fulham, but questioned whether his side should have been rated as big favourites.Newcastle failed to register a shot on target for a game they were widely tipped to win against Claudio Ranieri’s bottom-of-the-table visitors, who kept their first clean sheet of the season.Benitez felt it was a “tense” atmosphere with his players expected to triumph, but was keen to point out Fulham’s quality as well as the fact his team are collecting consistent points, 15 having been earned from their last nine matches. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? “Sometimes it can be tense at home, when they say you have to win the game, but Fulham spent a lot of money in the summer,” he said to BBC Sport.”They are bottom but have a good team. They are organised, they had five at the back and were dangerous on the counter-attack.”It’s disappointing because we were expected to get the three points, but now we’ve taken four points from two games. It’s not ideal but we are getting points.”Newcastle extended their advantage over the bottom three to five points despite the poor display, Aleksandar Mitrovic coming closest to scoring by forcing a dramatic last-ditch block from Jamaal Lascelles with two minutes left.Benitez added: “During the game I was not happy with some situations and decisions. The worst thing is that, in a game we could win, where we were pushing and had control, we could have lost it in the last counter-attack.”It’s good that we didn’t lose but the negative is that we gave Fulham those situations to score and were a bit lucky in the end.”FULL-TIME: Newcastle United 0 Fulham 0It finishes goalless at St. James’ Park on a frustrating afternoon for the Magpies. Reaction to follow at https://t.co/6wuhjKS0XX. #NUFC pic.twitter.com/bwifnaSW6u— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) December 22, 2018Ranieri, meanwhile, hailed a key step as Fulham finally kept one of their opponents out after switching to a back five.”It is very important for us,” he said. “First half maybe we created more play and had possession well, but they had a very big chance.”Second half we lost control and they were dangerous, but we had four or five chances on the counter-attack, so at the end I’m happy because every point we achieve is good.”It’s the first time I’ve tried to play with three centre-backs and the players responded well. They were very solid against a physical team.”Alfie Mawson, one of the three centre-backs, was glad to get a clean sheet in the bag.”It’s a relief,” he said. “We were very resilient, especially in the second half. “We’ve been working hard defensively all week and now we can build on that. Hopefully it’s the start of something good. We haven’t been good enough but since the gaffer’s come on we’ve been improving.” Check out Goal’s Premier League 2019-20 fantasy football podcast for game tips, debate and rivalries.
Juventus retain a firm grip on first place in Serie A , with Roma the next side to challenge the apparently untouchable Turin giants as they visit the Allianz Stadium on Saturday.Juve boast 15 wins and one draw from their opening 16 matches of the campaign, which is the best record of any club in Europe’s top five leagues. They were pushed a week ago by Torino, but a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty gave them a 1-0 win over their neighbours. Roma, meanwhile, are in the race for a Champions League spot but are not hitting the heights expected of them and will have to raise their level substantially to challenge Italy’s top dogs. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? Game Juventus vs Roma Date Saturday, December 22 Time 7:30pm BST / 2:30pm ET TV Channel, Live Stream & How To Watch In the United States (US), the game will be shown on Rai Italia America and live-streamed through ESPN+. US TV channel Online stream Rai Italia America ESPN+ In the United Kingdom (UK), the game can be streamed via Eleven Sports 1. UK TV channel Online stream N/A Eleven Sports 1 Squads & Team News Position Juventus players Goalkeepers Szczesny, Pinsoglio, Perin Defenders De Sciglio, Chiellini, Benatia, Bonucci, Cancelo, Rugani, Sandro, Barzagli Midfielders Pjanic, Matuidi, Can, Bentancur, Bernardeschi, Spinazzola, Khedira Forwards Ronaldo, Dybala, Costa, Cuadrado, Mandzukic Juventus have seen Sami Khedira return to regular training this week, but it is too early for the midfielder to see action.Joao Cancelo and Juan Cuadrado remain the key injury problems for the Turin giants.Juventus starting XI: Szczesny; De Sciglio, Bonucci, Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Bentancur, Pjanic, Matuidi; Dybala; Mandzukic, Ronaldo. Position Roma players Goalkeepers Olsen, Mirant Defenders Karsdorp, Pellegrini, Juan Jesus, Kolarov, Marcano, Santon, Fazio, Manolas Midfielders Cristante, Pellegrini, De Rossi, Coric, Zaniolo, Florenzi, Pastore, N’Zonzi Forwards Perotti, Dzeko, Schick, Cengiz Under, Kluivert, Celar, El Shaarawy Daniele De Rossi has been out since October with knee trouble and is missing once again. Edin Dzeko is fit enough to play some part, but only from the bench.Roma starting XI: Olsen; Santon, Manolas, Fazio, Kolarov; Cristante, Nzonzi; Under, Zaniolo, Florenzi; Schick.Betting & Match Odds Juventus are 4/9 favourites with bet365 , while Roma can be backed at 9/1. A draw, meanwhile, is priced at 10/3.Click here to see more offers for the game, including goalscoring markets, correct score predictions and more. Match Preview It has been another thoroughly satisfactory week for Juventus, who lead Serie A by eight points over second-placed Napoli with a virtually unblemished record approaching their final match before Christmas.Star summer signing Cristiano Ronaldo proved the difference from the penalty spot as Torino were seen off 1-0 last weekend in a competitive local derby, while away from the field they have been heartened by Alex Sandro penning a new deal and Daniele Rugani closing in on one. Certainly, the Portuguese’s presence seems to have boosted spirits in the camp, with Moise Kean explaining to RMC : “I had only seen him on the PlayStation before! Playing with him has improved me a lot, I learn a lot from him as well as from the other champions with the Bianconeri.”Perhaps the only concern for Juve came in Monday’s Champions League draw, in which they were paired with Atletico Madrid, despite beating Manchester United to finish top of their pool.“We didn’t have much luck,” vice-chairman Pavel Nedved lamented.But Juve can worry about Atleti in February, particularly as they have a challenging Serie A match forthcoming against Roma.With only six wins from 16 league matches this season, Eusebio Di Francesco finds himself a man under pressure.They have conceded two goals in each of their last five outings in all competitions and had to twice come from behind to beat Genoa 3-2 at the Stadio Olimpico last weekend.“We have so much pressure on us that the wait for the next match has been really hard,” captain De Rossi explained. “We have a lot of pressure on our shoulders. We’re in a delicate period because we know we have to do better than we have been doing.“We are all under observation, including the coach, and we know it. We want to have a great match, more for ourselves than for the importance of the game. Against the strongest of them all.”A massive 22 points behind Juve, it is abundantly clear how daunting their task is.
Kylian Mbappe made the difference in the absence of Neymar, scoring the only goal of the game as Paris Saint-Germain beat Nantes 1-0 to end 2018 in victorious fashion.Brazil star Neymar had been allowed to travel back to his home country to rest following recent struggles with a groin injury, and while PSG missed his craft, they scraped the win nonetheless.Angel Di Maria looked PSG’s biggest threat in the first half, though his two best strikes did not quite hit the target as the hosts failed to make the most of their superiority. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? PSG remained the controlling force after the interval and finally broke the deadlock through Mbappe in the 68th minute, and that proved to be enough as the hosts’ first Ligue 1 game since December 5 – due to the ‘gilet jaunes’ demonstrations – ended with a triumph.FULL TIME: PSG end the year on a winning note, beating Nantes 1-0 on @KMbappe’s lone goal! #AllesParis #PSGFCN pic.twitter.com/kn6DKKRaUR— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) December 22, 2018It took less than a minute for PSG to threaten, as Di Maria saw a controlled volley go agonisingly over Ciprian Tatarusanu’s crossbar.But that failed to usher in a period of PSG bombardment, with their next opportunity not presenting itself until the 25th minute, when Julian Draxler shot over from 20 yards after Mbappe’s cut-back.Di Maria went close again a few moments later, his 25-yard strike flying past the right-hand post with Tatarusanu looking beaten.PSG continued to threaten from distance after the break, with Di Maria – again – and Mbappe shooting just off target in the first 12 minutes.Draxler thought he opened the scoring after an hour, but VAR proved the ball went out of play in the build-up, despite Marco Verratti’s best efforts.There was no denying Mbappe 22 minutes from time, though, as he turned in – via the crossbar – from close range after Marquinhos flicked on Di Maria’s corner.Di Maria saw another effort thud against the crossbar but it mattered little as PSG secured victory to open up a 13-point lead over Lille – beaten 2-1 by Toulouse – at the top of the table.He’s not a teenager anymore #AllezParis #PSGFCN pic.twitter.com/r5zSMzNEjH— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) December 22, 2018What does it mean? PSG lacking sharpnessIt is fair to say PSG looked a little off the pace on Saturday, and it is easy to understand why, given the only teams they have faced since December 5 were Red Star Belgrade and Orleans. Considering the circumstances and the absence of Neymar, they will surely be happy to get this one out of the way.Di Maria provides PSG’s sparkWith Neymar not featuring, Di Maria took on the mantle of PSG’s creative hub and he was certainly lively, seeing several shots go close. He was unable to get a deserved goal, but there is no doubt about the quality he showed.Cavani blends into the backgroundPerhaps the service to him was lacking, but Edinson Cavani did little to make any openings for himself and rarely featured in build-up play before being hooked towards the end.Key Opta Facts- PSG have won their last 14 games against Nantes in Ligue 1, and become the first ever top-flight team to win 14 consecutive games against the same opponent.- Nantes have failed to score in eight of their last 10 away games against PSG in Ligue 1 (2 goals).- Thomas Tuchel’s side have picked up 47 points after 17 games in Ligue 1, the highest tally in the history of the top-flight at this stage.- PSG are the only team to have scored in all of their Ligue 1 games this season (17/17).- Mbappé’s goal in the 68th minute was PSG’s first shot on target.- The 20-year-old has scored 13 goals in Ligue 1 this season, only Lionel Messi (15) has scored more in the top 5 leagues.What’s next?After the winter break, PSG have games against Pontivy and Guingamp in the Coupe de France and Coupe de la Ligue, respectively, before then returning to Ligue 1 action on January 11 at Amiens. Nantes will host Chateauroux in the Coupe de France, then Montpellier in the league four days later on January 8. read more
Santiago Solari shared the credit for Real Madrid’s record-breaking Club World Cup triumph with former head coach Zinedine Zidane.Solari, the replacement for Zidane’s short-lived successor Julen Lopetegui, led Madrid to their first title under his stewardship with a 4-1 win over Al Ain in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.Victory means Madrid have won the tournament three years in a row and their fourth triumph in the competition moves them clear of rivals Barcelona as the Club World Cup’s most successful team. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? Solari, though, was quick to pile praise on Zidane, who surprisingly stood down in the wake of winning Madrid’s third consecutive Champions League crown at the end of the 2017-18 season.”We are happy, these players deserve it, they have come here after a lot of work and a lot of wins,” Solari told TVE.”We put a finishing touch to that third consecutive Champions League, it is a feat of the club, this group and other coaches.”We are also here thanks to Zidane. It will be difficult to match in the future.”Listen to what goalscorer @lukamodric10 said after helping us become WORLD CHAMPIONS! #RMCWC pic.twitter.com/oO6FTjYLCI— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) December 22, 2018Marcos Llorente was among Madrid’s goalscorers in the final, the 23-year-old midfielder scoring his first goal as a professional with a half-volley from the edge of the penalty area.Llorente was overlooked throughout Zidane’s reign but has grown into a key role since Solari took charge, following Lopetegui’s sacking after just four months in charge.”They are all Madrid players and they all work to be able to do what they do in the field,” Solari said. “Marcos has always worked a lot, and he deserves the credit.”A first trophy for Santiago Solari as @realmadriden manager #ClubWC pic.twitter.com/cogKjGUgyy— #ClubWC (@FIFAcom) December 22, 2018Solari’s opposite number Zoran Mamic felt a gruelling Club World Cup campaign caught up with his tired Al Ain side in the final.”The first thing is to congratulate Real Madrid because they deservedly won it, with good football,” he said.”We have not been able to compete, it’s the fourth game in days and that has weighed on us. We had a great tournament, nobody thought we were going to get here.”We had opportunities in the first half, but we missed them and at this level we pay when Real Madrid are in front.”We would have liked to have more days of rest, but everything is set up and we cannot say anything, I sincerely believe that we have done a good job.”
“It was a unique game. I always liked to come to the stadium, I always liked the environment, which is exciting. The first game was a dream. When I entered the field I almost had a blackout.”He may have suffered a few nerves when making his Benfica debut, but Gedson Fernandes’ performances for the transitioning Portuguese giants haven’t been that of a player overawed by his fast-tracked inclusion into the first-team.The 19-year-old made his Primeira Liga, UEFA Champions League and full international debuts all within a matter of months, quickly leading to apparent interest from European heavyweights such as Juventus. Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? His recent seventh-placed finish in the Golden Boy ranking proved testament to how well he has settled into the senior set-up with Benfica, while his impactful performances in the Champions League qualifiers were worth their weight in gold for the Eagles, who along with their new prodigy have been taken aback by his ability to have such an effect on their season so far.”I did not expect it to happen so quickly. I appreciate the confidence [shown by the coach and everyone at Benfica],” Fernandes said. “My colleagues really help me. The team has grown immensely. We have worked a lot, we have several goals to reach. I am very happy here.””I was speechless, I was not expecting it, but I’m happy. It’s a sign that the work is being done well. It’s a unique feeling, something inexplicable, I’m in one of the best clubs in the world, it’s my home, that’s where I graduated.” Technically proficient with an athletic build and an eye for goal, Fernandes has completed over half of his attempted dribbles and won more than 50% of his aerial duels this season, as well as boasting a passing accuracy of over 82% in the Portuguese top-flight and the UEFA Champions League.His ability to distribute the balls is mirrored by his skills to win it back; Fernandes completes on average two tackles a game and wins 3.5 fouls per game in the Primeira Liga; the fifth-highest in the league.Such well-rounded statistics promise a bright future for Fernandes, who is being monitored by the likes of Juventus and Manchester United. If his progress in 2019 rivals the strides he made in 2018, it won’t be long before the precocious young Portuguese starlet is propelled among the footballing elite.
Rangers will look to respond to Celtic’s 3-0 win over Dundee when they travel to face St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park on Sunday. Steven Gerrard’s men fell to third in the league on Saturday as Aberdeen leapfrogged them, while there is now a four-point gap to bridge between themselves and Celtic before the Old Firm game on Saturday.Although that encounter is the main focus of the week, the Gers cannot allow their concentration to waver in Perth or for an awkward midweek meeting with Hibs at Ibrox. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? Game St Johnstone vs Rangers Date Sunday, December 23 Time 12:15pm GMT / 7:15am ET TV Channel, Live Stream & How To Watch In the United States (US), the game can be streamed via B/R Live. US TV channel Online stream N/A B/R Live In the UK, the game will be shown on BT Sport 1 and can be streamed through the BT Sport Live app. UK TV channel Online stream BT Sport 1 BT Sport Live Squads & Team News Position St Johnstone squad Goalkeepers Clark, Hurst Defenders Shaughnessy, Anderson, Kerr, Gordon, Easton, Tansfer, Foster, Comrie Midfielders Nydam, Davidson, Callachan, McClean, McCann, Wotherspoon, Alston, Craig, Swanson, Scougall Forwards Kennedy, Watt, Kane, McMillan St Johnstone go into this encounter without goalkeeper Conor Mitchell, defender Brian Easton and midfielder Drey Wright, all of whom would have expected to start the game.Danny Swanson and Blair Alston are set to come into the midfield, while Jason Kerr returned to full training late in the week and should start.Possible St Johnstone starting XI: Clark; Foster, Kerr, Shaughnessy, Tanser; Swanson, Alston, Davidson, Wotherspoon; Watt, Kennedy Position Rangers squad Goalkeepers McGregor, Foderingham, Robbie McCrorie Defenders Tavernier, Goldson, Flanagan, Ross McCrorie, Katic, Bradley, Barisic, Worrall, McAuley Midfielders Jack, Ejaria, Halliday, Coulibaly, Arfield, Kelly, Grezda Forwards Candeias, Morelos, Lafferty, Middleton Steven Gerrard has the familiar trio of long-term absentees – Lee Wallace, Jamie Murphy and Graeme Dorrans – to contend with. Additionally, Ryan Kent will miss the match and Scott Arfield is something of a worry, leaving the midfield somewhat depleted.In defence, meanwhile, centre-backs Gareth McAuley and Connor Goldson are both worries, which could open the door to a return for Nikola Katic.Ryan Jack will start after signing a fresh contract with the club that will run until 2021.Possible Rangers starting XI: McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Worrall, Barisic; Coulibaly, Jack, McCrorie; Candeias, Morelos, GrezdaBetting & Match Odds Rangers are priced as 11/20 favourites to win this game by bet365. St Johnstone are considered a 5/1 bet to win, while a draw is 3/1.Click here to see more offers for the game, including goalscoring markets, correct score predictions and more.Match Preview Rangers might have fallen four points behind Celtic in the Scottish Premiership standings, but they still have designs on overtaking their great rivals before New Year.Victory over St Johnstone on Sunday would open the door to the potential of regaining top spot in the final matches of 2018, in which they face Hibs on Boxing Day before tackling Celtic at Ibrox on Saturday.No slips, however, can be afforded against the Perth outfit, with assistant manager Gary McAllister acutely aware of the danger such a fixture can pose.“Barring their little blip against Motherwell, St Johnstone have been on good form,” he said. “They’re keeping clean sheets. It never ceases to amaze me what Tommy Wright does through at St Johnstone, very rarely he gets money to go and build his squad or add to his squad.“It’s the same players and they’ve done extremely well so it’s a tough opponent. We go up to Perth and it’s going to be difficult, I think it always is when we go through there. So it’s game on, and then obviously it’s Hibs coming back to Ibrox.”St Johnstone had been on an eight-match undefeated run before losing 2-1 to Motherwell at home last weekend, with their defence especially impressive as they had kept seven cleansheets in those games.However, they lost 5-1 at Ibrox when the sides previously met this season.“I know the idea of revenge is used a lot in football but if we need revenge as motivation then we need to take a look at ourselves,” Wright said.“Our focus is all on getting three points and to do that we’re going to have to learn from the game back in September.“We created chances which was obviously positive but we were too open and we were punished for it.“We’re keen to finish this year strongly before the break so we want to pick up another three points on Sunday and that’s our main focus.”Eighth in the table, Saints find themselves in a battle for the top six, but an upset victory would draw them to within four points of Rangers with a game in hand.
Chelsea are 11 points away from Premier League leaders Liverpool and are staring down the reality that they are not title contenders this season.Maurizio Sarri has sent warnings that his side ‘are a step behind’ both Liverpool and Manchester City throughout the course of the season, even when his side racked up an impressive 18 game unbeaten streak in all competitions.A strong ‘big six’ in England’s top flight means a top-four finish is a battle, and Chelsea find themselves just outside the top tier of challengers alongside Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? Some saw Sarri’s comments as pessimism at the time but the recent run has exposed shortcomings at Stamford Bridge that the Italian was evidently aware of – the same ones countryman Antonio Conte complained about before him.Strange mentality On any given day, Chelsea can beat anyone. Both Manchester City and Liverpool have found that out already this season, but the real challenge is to grind it out week after week.That’s where Chelsea are failing, they are unable to blow teams away like Man City, whereas Liverpool’s title charge has been characterised by a dogged mentality.Even the best teams have bad days but Chelsea seem to fade for large periods of games in which they had previously been doing well. In November, the issue for Sarri was starting games slowly but now it’s that Chelsea react poorly to hardship, most blatantly when the opposition scores.Leicester City earned their first win at Stamford Bridge for more than 18 years with a 1-0 win on Saturday and they deserved it. A strong Claude Puel game plan still needed resilience as Chelsea dominated possession and created more chances.However, Jamie Vardy’s second half strike saw Chelsea collapse and Sarri seemed baffled about his team’s lack of ability to mount a response.”I think we played very well for 55 minutes, we played very good football,” said the Italian. “After the goal the reaction was, for me, a strange reaction, not in the right direction, not as a team but as 11 different players. It was very strange.“I think we could have done better. We only had to continue to play like we did in the first part of the match. There was time to score but we reacted as a team that was shocked. I cannot understand our reaction.”There are many games that you could look to in highlighting examples of poor mentality from Chelsea and it doesn’t matter if they won, lost or drew. Manchester United, Crystal Palace, Wolves, Tottenham and Leicester City… the examples are numerous of this ‘strange mentality’ that plagues Chelsea’s side and that is costing them points.A possible solution would be the emergence of leaders of the ilk of those long gone at Chelsea. The Blues’ most feared team featured the likes of John Terry, Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard, whose mental toughness complimented their immense footballing talent.There’s also a need for Chelsea to kill off games more ruthlessly when they are on top.Lack of reliable striker Eden Hazard has emerged as Chelsea’s leading striker, operating as a false 9, with Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud only having six league goals so far between them.Chelsea have switched formations to play with eight-goal Hazard up front, but Leicester opted to use a deep block and give him, Pedro and Willian little space to weave their magic.Giroud is hard-working and a good influence for the team but, as proved at the World Cup, he needs others to take the role of goal scorer.Morata was meant to be the 20-, potentially 30-goal-a-season man but he has not shown himself robust enough to cope with the pressure of being under the spotlight. At Juventus and Real Madrid, the talent of his team-mates offered him some hiding space, but Chelsea invested £58 million plus add-ons in his potential to rise from the shadows and become a main man.So far it has been not so good for the 26-year-old since his move to west London. It has been a run of injuries, complaints, yellow cards and excuses rather than goals. Spain dropped Morata from their World Cup squad and Sarri left him out after switching to a false 9 against Man City.It is a sad indictment for a player who is clearly so talented. Patience is limited in football though and this might be an area where Chelsea look to the transfer market for a solution.Chelsea explored the possibility of signing Gonzalo Higuain in the last transfer window and are rumoured to be interested in him again. The false 9 may also be here to stay, but that might lead to Sarri looking for more clinical small forwards – with a host of names having been linked – including the likes of Christian Pulisic, Nabil Fekir and Ousmane Dembele.Some people think Sarri also needs a ‘Plan B’ but the 59-year-old was hired on the knowledge that he doesn’t deviate from his tactical plan. There’s also been unrest among his substitutes at Chelsea but this is just another example of history repeating itself after his spell at Napoli.Chelsea’s other concern is integrating their world-class youth players into their first team, but to do so they need a manager to stick around for a long time. They will hope that man is Sarri, so fixing the striker and mentality issues would be the best places to start, with bigger issues to be resolved along the way.Achieving great things takes time for most, just ask Pep Guardiola at Man City. Check out Goal’s Premier League 2019-20 fantasy football podcast for game tips, debate and rivalries.
Santos youngster Rodrygo says that comparisons made between his talents and those of Neymar are “idiocy” as the forward prepares for life at Real Madrid.Los Blancos signed the 17-year-old on a six-year deal earlier this year, to take effect from June 2019, tying him to the Champions League holders until 2025.The teenager has struck up a friendship with Brazilian superstar Neymar following his involvement in the Selecao’s youth set-ups, but ahead of his move to La Liga he has played down talk describing him in the same terms as the Paris Saint-Germain star. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? “Neymar is Neymar and Rodrygo is Rodrygo,” he was quoted by AS . “What he does, no one else will do the same.“People want to compare us and there is no comparison. Neymar is 26 years old and has won everything.“He won the Copa Libertadores, the Olympic Games, the Champions League. I am in my first year as a professional.“It is idiocy. He’s one of my idols, but we cannot compare.”Neymar won the Copa Libertadores with Santos, where he started his career like Rodrygo, in 2011 before making the switch to Barcelona.With the Catalan club, he was a two-time La Liga winner and three-time holder of the Copa del Rey, as well as claiming Champions League and Club World Cup honours in 2015.At PSG, he also won a domestic treble, picking up medals for Ligue 1, the Coupe de France and the Coupe de la Ligue this year.On the international stage, he won Silver with the Brazilian men’s Olympic football team in London in 2012 and went one better four years later in his home country to take Gold.He also won the Confederations Cup in 2013 and was part of the national side that finished fourth on home soil in the 2014 World Cup, though he endured a mixed campaign in Russia this year as Brazil were knocked out in the quarter-finals by Belgium.Santos struggled this season in the Campeonato Brasileiro, finishing 10th and missing out on qualification to the Copa Libertadores.They will instead play in the Copa Sudamericana next year.
Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery has admitted that he could see himself remaining at the Bundesliga champions for another year after his impressive performance against Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday helped them to victory.The Frenchman’s brace inspired Niko Kovac’s side to a 3-0 win in the final game before the winter break, to ensure that they stay within feasible distance of league leaders Borussia Dortmund.His two goals also ensured that, at 35, he became the oldest player in Bayern history to achieve a double in a game for the club. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? Ribery has been linked with an exit from the club he has called home for more than a decade at the end of the current campaign, with club officials Hasan Salihamidzic and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge hinting that this could be his last season at the Allianz Arena.Speaking afterwards, the midfielder’s tune was more ambiguous, acknowledging that he could still see his future with Bayern while admitting that he has no concrete plans beyond next May.“Yes, of course,” Ribery told Sky when asked about remaining in Munich, before adding: “My situation is not easy to assess.“But I just work, I’m having fun and I’m performing. What will happen next season, we’ll see.”Ribery joined Bayern from Marseille in 2007 and has gone on to win virtually every major honour with the club.He is an eight-time winner of the Bundesliga and also holds medals for the DFB-Pokal and DFB-Supercup domestically.In Europe, he has won the Champions League and the Super Cup as well as the Club World Cup in 2013.He was also a runner-up with France at the 2006 World Cup, featuring in the final for Les Bleus as they were beaten on penalties by Italy.Ribery has also been named in UEFA’s Team of the Year twice, both times while playing for Bayern, in 2008 and 2013.If he is to depart, he would become the second big-name winger to exit the club in the space of a season, after Arjen Robben confirmed he would call time on his 10-year Bayern career at the end of the current season.
Mauricio Pochettino is hopeful Dele Alli avoided serious injury in Tottenham’s Premier League thrashing of Everton on Sunday.Spurs fought back from a goal down to claim a 6-2 victory at Goodison Park, with Alli and Christian Eriksen scoring once and Harry Kane and Son Heung-min each netting a double.The result lifts Pochettino’s men to within two points of second-placed Manchester City, but their victory was soured when Alli failed to emerge for the second half following a heavy challenge from Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford just before the break. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? Pochettino thinks Alli was fatigued from Wednesday’s EFL Cup win over Arsenal and hopes the England star has not suffered anything major.”He didn’t feel a big problem,” the Spurs boss told Sky Sports. “Maybe [he was] a little bit tired from Wednesday. I hope it’s not a big issue. It was a precaution.”Pochettino added at a news conference: “I didn’t see [the challenge]. I am curious to see the action.”I didn’t want to say because I’ve not seen the video. It was a tough action. We hope it’s not a big issue.”Spurs host Bournemouth on December 26 and Wolves on December 29, before heading to Cardiff City on New Year’s Day.They then take on Tranmere Rovers in the FA Cup third round three days later.
Gareth Southgate insists he has had no offers to leave England and return to club management.The 48-year-old enjoyed a memorable 2018, leading the Three Lions to the semi-finals of the World Cup for the first time since 1990 before sealing a spot in the inaugural Nations League Finals, being held next year.Those achievements saw him awarded the BBC Sports Personality Coach of the Year prize earlier this month. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? Southgate’s efforts saw him linked as a possible long-term replacement for Jose Mourinho at Manchester United, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer only in charge of the Red Devils on a caretaker basis.However, the former Middlesbrough manager, who signed a new four-year deal with England in October, has not been given any reason to quit his post with the national team.”I think at the moment that’s very easy: I don’t have anything to consider,” he told Sky Sports when asked about possible interest from club teams. “We’ve just had our best year in about the last 28 years, we’re in another semi-final next summer and I signed a new contract three months ago.”I’m incredibly proud to be the England manager and I’ve the opportunity to lead England into a European Championship where so many of the matches are at Wembley, so for me it’s a very simple situation at the moment.”Cheeky flicks Free-kicks Long-rangers Back-heeled lobs Watch the best #YoungLions goals from 2018: https://t.co/WAl8eN0wX6 pic.twitter.com/tydgJsfDat— England (@England) December 21, 2018
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told his players to run more and be more dangerous in attack after arriving at Manchester United, Nemanja Matic has revealed.Solskjaer was appointed as interim boss at Old Trafford after Jose Mourinho was sacked on Tuesday, and got off to an emphatic start by beating Cardiff City 5-1 in his opening game.The players had come under criticism for a lack of effort under their former manager, with some critics claiming Mourinho had lost the support of the dressing room. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? United had renewed energy on Saturday though, and Solskjaer was pleased with how the players implemented his ideas.Speaking to reporters after the game, Matic said of the Norwegian: “He is only two days with us but we had a few meetings. He said we need to play more forward, to be more dangerous in attack, to run more, to compete with everything and that’s exactly what we did today and we are happy because of that.”Matic was signed by United in 2017 from Chelsea for £40 million ($50m), and had previously won a Premier League title under Mourinho at Chelsea.The midfielder was then singled out by his manager last season as one of the few United players to be putting in consistent performances.Matic was a key reason United secured a second-place finish in the Premier League that campaign, and he defended Mourinho after the club’s worst start to a season for 28 years.”This is football,” he continued. “In football, this happens. We know, also, it’s not only the manager’s fault that results are not good but this is football and we have to carry on and to fight for the club.””I said after the Liverpool game we also needed to take responsibility and to do our best to play better and to win games.”United face Huddersfield Town at home on Boxing Day next time out as Solskjaer aims for a win on his Old Trafford debut as manager.They then clash with Bournemouth before a trip to Newcastle United to round off the festive period. Check out Goal’s Premier League 2019-20 fantasy football podcast for game tips, debate and rivalries.
Jurgen Klopp does not believe Manchester City are cracking under the pressure of Liverpool’s ferocious pace at the top of the Premier League.The Reds will celebrate Christmas with a four-point lead over the reigning champions following recent defeats for Pep Guardiola’s side against Chelsea and Crystal Palace.Both of those reverses came when Liverpool had played earlier that weekend and won against Bournemouth and Wolves respectively. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? But Klopp baulked at the idea that City are struggling to respond to his still unbeaten side – pointing to the overall quality of their performances in what he felt were ill-deserved results.”You saw the two games they played? It didn’t look like they felt a lot of pressure. They were outstanding in these games,” he told a news conference to preview the Boxing Day clash with Newcastle United at Anfield.”If you don’t finish off your chances against Chelsea you can lose. They were the better team this game”Crystal Place did an outstanding job and scored outstanding goals. That always makes life uncomfortable.”It [means] absolutely nothing. It’s difficult to win football games, sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t.”They were just a bit unlucky in these two games and this happens from time to time.”City host Liverpool on January 3 and the gap between Guardiola’s men in second and Tottenham in third is narrower than the one between themselves and Liverpool after Spurs’ resounding 6-2 win at Everton on Sunday.Klopp thinks Mauricio Pochettino’s team are very much part of the title picture – having never sought to rule them out in the first place.”You make these stories about who is in, who is out,” he said.”I saw the game yesterday against Everton and the first goal of Tottenham was obviously a situation Tottenham needed. Everton played more than okay in the first couple of minutes.”Then they hit everything, it was really impressive how Tottenham did. The same can happen with Chelsea, Arsenal and all those teams. Nobody can feel safe, nobody can feel out of the race or whatever. It’s not a time to think about it.”It’s just a fantastic football team and I said a few times that Tottenham had the most difficult summer period, and I don’t mean [because of them] not signing players. Eight or nine players played the full World Cup and playing how they have so far this season is more than impressive.”A lot of teams are in whatever you call the title race and that’s the only difference to last season, when no-one was in at this time [due to City’s dominance]. That’s good for all supporters.”Instead of looking too far ahead, Klopp wants his players fully focused for the expected challenge of breaking down a well-manned Newcastle defence under the charge of ex-Reds boss Rafael Benitez.”The Wolverhampton game was a big challenge for us after winning against Napoli and Man United,” he added, having confirmed defender Trent Alexander-Arnold is back in full training following a foot injury.”In players’ minds they could drop focus a bit. I was really happy when I saw the attitude for that game as well.”That’s what we need – stay angry, stay greedy.” Subscribe to Goal’s Liverpool Correspondent Neil Jones’ weekly email bringing you the best Liverpool FC writing from around the web
When Liverpool went four points clear of Manchester City on Friday night, not even the most optimistic Reds supporters expected the lead to last more than 24 hours.But Crystal Palace’s surprise tactical victory at the Etihad Stadium was evidence not only of Liverpool’s ability to push the champions all the way, but of Man City’s increasing vulnerabilities.Elsewhere on a narrative-heavy weekend of football, Leicester City reminded us why they should play counter-attacking football more often with victory at Chelsea, while Manchester United got off to a flying start under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer thanks to his bold commitment to attacking football. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? Here are five tactical things you might not have noticed from the weekend’s Premier League action…Solskjaer’s risk-taking unleashes Man Utd’s wild sideSolskjaer’s first game in charge of Man Utd was characterised by quick forward passes, energetic movement, and – above all – risk-taking.They played with great bravery and creativity, charging around with the joy of prisoners unshackled after an unexpected revolution. Victor Lindelof’s one-two and run into the final third typified their aggressive attacking game, and although the increase in forward-thinking football was largely psychological, Solskjaer deserves credit for his tactical decisions.Their possession was meaningful, minimising the defenders’ time on the ball and using narrow wingers to create multiple short-passing options in the centre of the park. Marcus Rashford operated like a false nine at times, dropping very deep to link with Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial as they drifted infield.United had clearly been told to move the ball as quickly as possible with one or two-touch football. A big feature of their game was forwards dropping off and tapping a one-touch pass back where it came from, dragging defenders out of position and keeping the ball moving.Ander Herrera was notably improved, his ability to play clever passes under pressure helping United to get beyond the first line of the press and play expansively in the Cardiff half. The Spaniard’s neat, weaving interplay will become a crucial aspect of Solskjaer’s football ,as will the performances of Nemanja Matic. He cleverly dropped in between the two centre-backs when appropriate, which allowed United to spread wider and get the full-backs further forward.They will face tougher tests than this, but it was very encouraging to see Solskjaer recognise that the fluidity, intelligence, and positional interchanging of Martial, Rashford, and Lingard is United’s greatest asset.Leicester are back, but Puel could still be moved onOrdinarily a big win at Stamford Bridge would provide security for a manager on the brink, but Claude Puel may in fact have hastened his own demise on Saturday.Leicester’s 1-0 victory at Chelsea was reminiscent of their title-winning campaign – suggesting the Foxes should be led by a counter-attacking manager, rather than one set on prosaic possession football.Leicester sat in a hunched shell, accruing just 28 per cent possession, to stop Chelsea from passing the ball through the centre of the pitch.It worked well. The vast majority of Jorginho’s passes went sideways to the wingers, who, with no other option, promptly swung crosses into the box (36 in total, a season high for Chelsea). Unsurprisingly, Wes Morgan and Harry Maguire easily dealt with these.It was classic Leicester, a reminder of how well the team – and Jamie Vardy in particular – could be playing.The former England striker has struggled to fit into Puel’s usual system but was back to his old self on Saturday, chasing down long balls and scoring the winner from a quick break.Elsewhere, Ricardo Pereyra’s and James Maddison’s tendency to run with the ball also proved well-suited to a counter-attacking philosophy.Ozil proves his worth with intelligent displayUnai Emery is getting a reputation for strange tactical choices at the beginning of matches.It was certainly odd to line up against such a narrow team as Burnley in a 4-3-1-2 formation, with Mesut Ozil expected to create chances for the two strikers in a No. 10 role.Unsurprisingly, Sean Dyche’s defensive shell held out through the centre, although ultimately they were beaten thanks to Ozil’s reading of – and adaptation to – the game.For a central attacking midfelder Ozil spent a remarkable amount of time on the flanks, his pass map revealing a performance that could be called a “false ten”.He drifted into channels on the outside of Burnley’s narrow four-man midfield, linking neatly with wing-backs Sead Kolasinac and Ainsley Maitland-Niles to ensure Arsenal’s possession dominance never became aimless.Ozil played a crucial role in the early opening goal, without which the match could easily have swung the other way. His cross to Kolasinac was special, but from a tactical perspective his involvement in the build up down the right was just as important.Within 15 minutes on Saturday it was clear that Ozil is a better option for Arsenal than Henrikh Mkhitaryan.PIC: All Ozil’s passes vs Burnley (Black = successful) Stones struggles underline City’s Fernandinho reliancePep Guardiola has been guilty of too much squad rotation in recent weeks, culminating in Saturday’s 3-2 defeat to Crystal Palace in which only five of his starting 11 could be considered first choice.Injuries have played their part, but this weekend he had three of his best players on the bench, plus he decided to replace Fernandinho with John Stones when he had the manpower necessary to avoid such an unusual move.It was no surprise Nicolas Otamendi struggled against the speed of Palace’s breaks, while Stones was directly at fault for two of Palace’s goals.What makes Fernandinho so unique for a defensive midfielder is his agility and technique; without him, City’s expansive formation meant Palace could counter in the spaces around the flat-footed Stones.His poor mobility saw him turned in the build-up to the first two Palace goals, first failing to properly tackle James McArthur before Jeffrey Schlupp fired in a equaliser, and then losing his man in the move that led to Palace’s free-kick from which Andros Townsend gave the away side the lead.Fernandinho remains an under-rated component of this City team and, judging by Saturday’s game, arguably the only irreplaceable player in Guardiola’s team.Hodgson out-tactics Guardiola to stun CityBy contrast, Roy Hodgson’s midfield selection was perfect.Schlupp played in central midfield for perhaps the first time in his career, the plan being to inject some counterattacking directness into the centre without losing defensive sturdiness.Schlupp consistently burst beyond Ilkay Gundogan and Stones – most notably to score Palace’s first goall – often moving into a wide left position to double up with Max Meyer.Schlupp’s selection meant Hodgson switching from 4-4-2 to 4-5-1 with Townsend moving to the right wing, a clever tweak from the former England manager that exploited City’s historic weakness on this side.Townsend’s cutting infield drew City in, creating space for Aaron Wan-Bissaka to drive directly at Fabian Delph – who has always struggled to defend one-on-ones. It was Wan-Bissaka’s burst past Delph that led to Palace’s match-winning penalty.PIC: All Schlupp’s touches vs Palace Check out Goal’s Premier League 2019-20 fantasy football podcast for game tips, debate and rivalries.
GENEVA – The UN special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, will on Saturday visit Egypt as he kicks off a regional tour to prepare for peace talks on Syria dubbed Geneva 2, his spokesman said.Brahimi will meet Egypt’s foreign minister Nabil Fahmy as well as the Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi, spokesman Khawla Mattar said in Geneva on Friday.The rest of his schedule is uncertain due to various governments being on holiday because of the main Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, but Mattar said “the tour will cover several countries of the region”. This will include visits to Damascus and Tehran.The international community has for months been pushing Syria’s rebels and the regime to participate in talks on a negotiated solution to the conflict, which has killed an estimated 115,000 people since March 2011.Syria’s Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil said proposed peace talks in Geneva could take place on November 23-24.However Mattar said the date for the long awaited peace conference will be announced by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon “in due time”.She said the meeting was likely to place in the “second half of November”.Prospects for the Geneva 2 conference remain unclear, with the Syrian opposition divided and due to vote next week on whether to take part.
OSU defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell yells at his players during The Game Nov. 30 at Michigan Stadium. OSU won, 42-41.Credit: Ritika Shah / Asst. photo editorIn the game of college football, a win’s a win, no matter how or at what cost.For the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes (12-0, 8-0), their 24th victory in a row might have been the toughest of the streak to date, a 42-41 win on the road against archrival Michigan (7-5, 3-5) that saw the OSU defense give up a season-high 603 yards to the Wolverines.Such a performance garners questions to be directed at the team’s defensive coordinator, and OSU’s Luke Fickell was no exception Monday.When asked about what he thought went wrong in Saturday’s win, Fickell didn’t take kindly to the question.“What do you mean what went wrong? Did we win? Did we win?” Fickell said. “I’ve been up (in Ann Arbor) quite a few times in my 18-year career here … We know there’s things we have to correct, momentum and things happened and we didn’t play great on the defensive side of the ball so there’s a lot of things to correct. Every single week we have objectives and the last objective last week was win, and we came away with a win.”Don’t tell that to junior linebacker Ryan Shazier, though, who called the unit’s performance Saturday “bittersweet” even though the team won the game.“The most important thing at the end of the day is getting a ‘W,’” Shazier said. “But we (are) still pretty mad … the whole defense is pretty pissed off about how many yards we gave up rushing and passing. It’s just not acceptable.”Even though the Buckeye defense struggled all game, it did make a big play when it mattered most as redshirt-freshman cornerback Tyvis Powell picked off Michigan redshirt-junior quarterback Devin Gardner’s two-point conversion pass attempt with 32 seconds left to ice the game.Powell said after the game he knew that play was coming thanks to cornerbacks coach and special teams coordinator Kerry Coombs, which Fickell said is all part of weekly preparation.“You prepare. You don’t know exactly, but when you do your studies and you have an idea,” Fickell said. “Obviously, you see the things that we rep we do a lot better job of … but that (play) was one of the things that we had repped and had a good idea but it comes down to the guy making the play.”OSU’s defense gives up an average 255.8 passing yards per game, tied for 101st in the country with Northwestern. The whole season, the team has been able to compensate for the lack of consistency on that side of the ball, but coach Urban Meyer remains confident in them.“(The) pass defense surfaced again, and (a) lack of contact on the quarterback,” Meyer said Monday. “We just had some guys running open … I trust that we’ll get it fixed, and I trust that these guys will be locked and loaded and have a good week of preparation.”The Spartan offense ranks third to last in the Big Ten in total offense with 380.2 yards per game, but is better than that number indicates, Shazier said.“They have playmakers out there,” Shazier said. “They would not have went undefeated in the Big Ten so far if they weren’t (good) so I feel like they’re doing a great job right now.”After watching the film of Saturday’s win against Michigan, sophomore linebacker Joshua Perry said the defense was “really close” to stopping the Wolverines from a lot of their big plays. The mistakes, though, were pretty evident.“When you turn on the film you gotta face the facts and realize that there were some mistakes made,” Perry said. “We got a chip on our shoulder, but it’s nothing that’s too urgent like we gotta throw out the whole defense and start over again. It’s just that we gotta correct up what we know to do.”Whether there are questions about the defense as a whole or specifically about their performance against Michigan, Fickell said it all comes back to one thing.“You have a standard, and that’s what’s been set around here. And I think that’s the beauty of it,” Fickell said. “You’re never satisfied with what you got.”The Buckeyes and No. 10 Spartans (11-1, 8-0) are set to face off for Big Ten supremacy Saturday at 8:17 p.m. at Lucas Oil Stadium.