• Man City v West Ham: Expect an angry response at Etihad

    Get all the best betting tips ahead of Wednesday's Premier League clash between Manchester City and West Ham here.

    18 Feb 2020, 14:56 CET

    Get all the best betting tips ahead of Wednesday’s Premier League clash between Manchester City and West Ham here…

  • F365 Says: No Frank, Chelsea are not playing well...

    Lampard's denial is costing Chelsea far more than the excuses he claims not to be making...

    18 Feb 2020, 14:54 CET

    There’s very little point in taking note of any of Frank Lampard’s post-match comments these days. Much like his ‘serious point, light-hearted point [chuckle] but, no, serious point’ pre-match press conferences, they’re a carbon copy of the one that came before. And after Chelsea’s 2-0 defeat to Manchester United on Monday, he trotted out the same hollow assertions that they were unlucky, created loads of chances they failed to convert, and played pretty well. But they really didn’t. Other than Mateo Kovacic, who was excellent in the first half, and Reece James, whose stock continued to rise despite his obvious frustration at the players around him, Chelsea were rubbish. They could have come away with a point, or even three, given the questionable VAR decisions that went against them, but their performance merited nothing. And Lampard’s denial of this, along with some unfathomable decision-making and an inability to remedy enduring problems at the club, is proving far more costly than the valid excuses he claims not to be making, but brings up at any given opportunity. After the United loss, Lampard said: “Every week we look at the stats and it’s very clear we make as many chances as anyone else bar Liverpool.” And according to Expected Goals (via infogol) Chelsea should have scored 10 more than they have this season. But there comes a point – which should have been back in September at the first instance of this soundbite in Lampard’s Chelsea problem bingo – when the boss needs to focus on coaching the goalscorers to score goals, rather than complaining about their inability to do so. Picking the right striker would be a good start. As Matt Stead pointed out in 16 Conclusions, Chelsea’s best period against United coincided with Olivier Giroud’s introduction, after Michy Batshuayi’s shocker on his first Premier League start of the season. The Frenchman’s disallowed goal was a prime example of what he can bring to the side – smart movement in the box and wonderful one-touch finishing. And while the goal was rightly chalked off as Giroud was adjudged to have been marginally offside, Batshuayi lives two or three yards behind the defence, and when he’s not being flagged, he’s allowing the ball to bounce off him or fluffing chances. Presumably Lampard picked Batshuayi based on how he’s been performing in training, the same reason he gives for selecting Willy Caballero over Kepa Arrizabalaga – which is now another problem the Chelsea boss has created for himself. The most expensive goalkeeper of all time was left out of the 2-2 draw with Leicester, in what at the time seemed merely a one-game reminder to Kepa and the rest of the squad that no place in the starting lineup is secure. But Caballero kept his place against United, and didn’t put a foot wrong. A small part of Lampard, having gone two goals down, was perhaps hoping for a mistake from the 38-year-old that would make switching back to Kepa more logical. His replacement is nowhere near as good with his feet, and every time Caballero receives a back-pass or attempts anything less than a 50-yard hoof, there’s an audible tension around Stamford Bridge, as the fans anticipate a blunder. Now, if Lampard brings Kepa in on the back of a faultless Caballero performance, and the Spaniard plays poorly, Chelsea could face flip-flopping between keepers for the rest of the season behind a defence that yearns for some sort of stability. Most worrying for Chelsea – and another number to tick off in Lampard Chelsea problem bingo – is their game management, or the lack there of. While the evidence of a plan before kick-off was murky, the inability of the side to adapt as the game went on was as clear as day. The most obvious example of this – picked out in 16 Conclusions – was the ceding of possession while Christensen received treatment in the build-up to the opening goal, but they also had no answer to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s decision to press much higher up in the second half. Lampard simply watched on while his defenders attempted to relieve pressure by pumping the ball forward to 5ft5in Pedro and trampoline-touch Batshuayi. When Lampard did eventually bring Giroud on, United dropped back in the knowledge that they were now up against a striker who could hold the ball up and bring others into play, and Chelsea started to dominate. The Blues boss may claim his hands were tied by the two injuries, meaning he couldn’t risk making an early second-half substitution, but it should have been very clear that they had no chance of getting back into the game while the Belgian remained on the pitch. It was a risk worth taking and 20 minutes wasted. With Lampard’s final post-match claim that not “many people would have put us in fourth place at this point in the season”, the blue-rinsed lady in the back put down her blue dauber and shouted “BINGO!”, the game was up. As it will be for Chelsea’s Champions League hopes should Lampard not stop focussing on meaningless pre-season predictions and complaining about things beyond his control and look to rectify the problems he’s consistently spoken of and have persisted unremedied all season.  

  • Elliott confident ahead of Delta Work Gold Cup charge

    Trainer Gordon Elliott is confident Delta Work will be ready for his outing in next month's Cheltenham Gold Cup.

    18 Feb 2020, 14:52 CET

    Boasting five Grade One wins on his CV, the seven-year-old has enjoyed a hugely encouraging run of form in recent months. Two wins at Leopardstown appear to have set him up perfectly for a run in the Gold Cup at March's Festival. At Cheltenham Festival last year, he finished third in the RSI Insurance Novices' Chase and Elliott believes, one year on, his charger will be suited to the three-and-a-quarter mile run at Prestbury Park. He said: 'He's all set for the Gold Cup. I don't think he's done much wrong over the last couple of seasons - he was lame after Down Royal (when he was beaten on his seasonal bow) and was just beaten in the RSA last year. 'It just didn't work out for him in Cheltenham last season. It was probably my own fault, as I didn't run him between Christmas and the RSA and he seems to be a horse that runs better when he runs more often. 'I think he's made for the race. His style of racing will suit - going three-mile-two.'

  • Son Heung-min injury is ‘massive blow’ to Spurs, says Harry Winks

    Son faces between six and 12 weeks out of action after undergoing surgery on a fractured arm.

    18 Feb 2020, 14:45 CET

    Tottenham midfielder Harry Winks admits the likely season-ending injury to Son Heung-min is a “massive blow”.

    Son faces between six and 12 weeks out of action after undergoing surgery on a fractured arm suffered in Sunday’s 3-2 win at Aston Villa – an injury that did not stop him scoring two goals.

    It leaves Spurs without a recognised striker for a crucial part of the campaign which could define their season and a player who has scored six goals in five games.

    That starts with a Champions League last-16 first-leg clash with with RB Leipzig on Wednesday and Winks knows the South Korean will be a big miss.

    “It’s a massive blow for us. He’s a top player and in such good form at the moment, especially coming off the back of the weekend,” Winks said.

    “He brings more than just his goals to the team, his work-rate, energy and experience. A massive loss for us, but we’ve got good enough players who can fill in and hopefully score us goals.”

    With Harry Kane also out injured Spurs are really up against it in their bid to get past Leipzig and finish in the top four of the Premier League.

    Such hardships are not knew to this Spurs team, who reached the final of last season’s Champions League by going through similar adversity.

    Winks hopes this news can help galvanise the squad, saying: “It is important that we don’t dwell on it, because it is not going to benefit us.

    “We have had an up-and-down kind of season, at times things have gone against us, it’s been like this for the last few years and we have always found ways to get results.

    “I am sure tomorrow will be no different. The mentality of the squad is to always work and and do as well as we can to win and tomorrow will be no different.”

  • United retain King interest amid 15-minute deal claim

    Manchester United retain an interest in Josh King amid a possible summer swoop after failing to land the Bournemouth striker last month.

    18 Feb 2020, 14:44 CET

    United made a late move for the Norway international on transfer deadline day at the end of January but failed to the land one-time Red Devils youngster.
    Following an earlier injury to Marcus Rashford, boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was on the lookout for a proven Premier League striker and a bid was placed for King in the hope of signing the 28-year-old on a permanent £25million deal.
    However, Bournemouth resisted and King ended up staying at the Vitality Stadium. That may not be the end of the matter, though, as it’s believed Solskjaer is still keen to land his compatriot in the summer and will launch another move for the south coast hitman.
    It’s since been claimed United frustrated the Cherries on deadline day with their offer as reports say executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, in an attempt to force through the transfer, informed Bournemouth chief executive Neill Blake he had just 15 minutes to make a decision on the £25million offer.
    With boss Eddie Howe openly admitting King was interested in the move back to Old Trafford but also acutely aware he had little time to find a suitable replacement, the deal was always in the balance but it seems United’s insistence they wanted a quick answer actually derailed the chance of the striker returning to his old club.
    It’s expected to be a different scenario in the summer window, if Solskjaer keeps his job as he believes his fellow countryman would be a good fit at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ while Bournemouth and Howe would be powerless to block a deal if they are relegated come May.
    King has been impressive for Howe’s side since joining from Blackburn on a free in 2015, scoring 47 goals in 161 appearances in all competitions, although he has only struck three so far this term in an injury-hit campaign.

  • New signing Reinier says joining Real Madrid has fulfilled a ‘childhood dream’

    The 18-year-old joined the LaLiga giants last month from Flamengo.

    18 Feb 2020, 14:38 CET

    New Real Madrid forward Reinier says he has fulfilled a “childhood dream” by moving to the Bernabeu and is determined to establish himself at the club.

    The 18-year-old joined the LaLiga giants last month from Flamengo, signing a six-year deal for a fee believed to be in the region of 30million euros (£24.85m).

    The attacking midfielder has captained Brazil at under-17 level and will initially join Real Madrid Castilla in Segunda Division B.

    “Today I fulfil a childhood dream. Thanks to my family who was always with me,” Reinier said at his official unveiling, reported by AS.

    “We always talked about how amazing it would be to get here. I want to be part of the history of this great club. Hala Madrid!”

    Reinier is the latest in a long list of Brazilians to pull on the famous white shirt and is the third to join Real in the last two years.

    Fellow teenagers Vinicius Junior, who joined from Flamengo in 2018, and Rodrygo – a 2019 signing from Santos – have both gone on to make their mark in the first team at the Bernabeu.

    President Florentino Perez believes the recruitment of the best young talent is a huge part of Madrid’s plan for the future.

    “Real Madrid are building a new stadium for the future and our vision for the future doesn’t stop at the ground,” Perez added.

    “We’re also looking for the best global talent and are hoping to win LaLiga and the Champions League. Real Madrid will never tire to look for the best new talents from around the world.

    “It is not easy to find that indisputable talent that can be part of the legend of Madrid. Our players conquered the Spanish Super Cup just a month ago and will continue to give it their all. Here, nobody ever gives up.

    “It is our obsession to look for players who can be the great figures of tomorrow. Today comes a player who has just turned 18, but has already been champion of the last Copa Libertadores with Flamengo, one of the great clubs in the world.

    “Welcome Reinier, you’re now a player with the club that you used to select when playing video games. You are here on merit, you made your debut at the age of 16 and have won titles with Flamengo.

    “We wish you every success with the Real Madrid shirt, this club is now your home.”

  • Can you name every Liverpool player to score in the CL knockout stages?

    There are 28 to get, and they're not all easy.

    18 Feb 2020, 14:38 CET

    Liverpool have had some epic Champions League matches over the years, but can you name every Reds player to score in the knockout stages of the competition? There are some tough ones, and we’ve given you 10 minutes to see if you can name every one since the competition was rebranded from the European Cup. Good luck and don’t forget to tweet us your scores @planetfutebol. A * denotes the player is an active member of Liverpool’s squad. Note: If you’re having problems attempting the quiz, try playing it on the Sporcle website. 

    More quizzes

    Can you name Liverpool’s top 20 Champions League goalscorers? Can you name every African player to appear for Liverpool in the Prem? Can you name the top Premier League goalscorer for every nationality? Can you name every Champions League final goalscorer since 2000?

  • One For Arthur fine after heart scare

    Trainer Lucinda Russell says One For Arthur is recuperating well following a heart scare at Haydock on Saturday.

    18 Feb 2020, 14:35 CET

    Racing in the Unibet Grand National Trail, the 2017 National winner pulled up with a fibrillating heart. Dr John Keen from the Royal Veterinary School in Edinburgh checked the 11-year-old on Monday and a scan showed no physical issue with his heart. Dehydration is believed to be the cause of the problem and doctors have fitted a 24-hour ECG monitor which will be analysed to see if they have any reason to believe further issues could surface. However, Russell says her charger is okay for now and there are no immediate concerns. 'Arthur's heart is in perfect rhythm and there is no atrial fibrillation any more,' she said. 'Dr Keen did a total scan and checked all the valves and the whole structure of the heart and that was found to be very good. 'Obviously we want to know the reason for it and to stop it happening again going forward. The conclusion the vets have come to is that it was a dehydration issue.'

  • Alexander embraces pantomime villain tag as Salford seek Wembley stage

    18 Feb 2020, 14:32 CET

    Graham Alexander knows Salford’s ascent, eye-catching signings and status have made them pantomime villains, but it is pressure the club continue to embrace as they push for a Wembley return.

    The fiercely ambitious Ammies face a tough trip to Newport in the Leasing.com Trophy semi-finals on Wednesday evening, when the visitors will attempt to keep alive hopes of punctuating their first ever campaign as a Football League club with a trophy.

    Alexander has already taken Salford to Wembley, where they triumphed in last year’s National League play-off final to continue the club’s breakneck rise from the Northern Premier League Division One North to Sky Bet League Two since 2014.

    That is when Singaporean billionaire Peter Lim and the ‘Class of 92' rolled into town, with Manchester United greats Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and David Beckham all currently holding a 10 per cent slice.

    Such profiles, associated money and TV documentaries have seen Salford ruffle feathers when securing four promotions over the last five seasons, but boss Alexander is happy shouldering that pressure.

    Put to him that City appear to be the pantomime villains of the lower leagues, he told the PA news agency with a laugh: “Yeah, I know what you mean! I’ve actually said that myself.

    “It’s a bit like a panto and there’s always someone that’s got to tick the box of certain characters and we seem to have had to tick the box of, like you say, the villain of the piece and the one people like to beat.

    “We understood that really early on, in our first two or three games as a coaching staff. I think the club were aware of it in their previous seasons as well.

    “I think it’s something that we’ve had to get used to, but I do believe it sort of adds a bit into our planning and preparation and into our players’ mentality, where we know we have to be our best to overcome the opponent because the will to beat us is there.

    “I wouldn’t like to disrespect opponents saying ‘they only want to beat us and not other clubs’. I don’t think that’s correct. I think everyone wants to win games for their own reasons, regardless of the opponent, so I think it’s important to state that fact.

    “But I think there’s a touch more enjoyment for the opposition if they did beat us – certainly from supporters, anyway. We felt that.

    “We don’t mind. Listen, we do mind getting beat but we understand what it’s about, and the profile of the club goes before us when we get to a ground but it’s just another thing to overcome, really.”

    Salford sit 11th in League Two, eight points shy of the play-offs, and a swathe of recent additions – including Premier League winner Darron Gibson and another former United player, James Wilson – looks to have set them up well for the remainder of the season.

    League Two success remains the focus but winning the Leasing.com Trophy could be an important moment in the club’s growth.

    “I don’t think trying to win and having a will to win is a tap you can turn on and off,” Salford boss Alexander said.

    “I believe you have to go into every single game representing your club in the best way possible and trying to win and putting everything into the game to try and win the game.

    “We’ve approached each game in that manner. We’ve got this far by having that mentality and we’re not going to change going into this game.

    “We know it’s a different challenge, we know it will be a difficult one, but we’ll go in with the same approach and give it our best to try and win.

    “I’ve never heard anyone have a negative thought about playing at Wembley. Whatever level you play at, it’s a special venue, world famous.

    “Anyone that has ever supported English football or been around English football knows of its history. Even though it’s the new stadium, it still sort of garners up so many thoughts for so many people.

    “We’ve had the fortune of playing there last year in the play-off final and we know how memorable that was for us, so that for us is the target.”

  • Mourinho does not expect Son to play for Tottenham again this season

    Son has undergone surgery on a broken arm suffered in Sunday’s 3-2 win against Aston Villa, where he scored two goals with the injury.

    18 Feb 2020, 14:28 CET

    Tottenham head coach Jose Mourinho does not expect Son Heung-min to play again this season.

    The South Korea international has undergone surgery on a broken arm suffered in Sunday’s 3-2 win against Aston Villa, where he scored two goals with the injury.

    The club have said that he will be out for a “number of weeks” but Mourinho is much more pessimistic.

    It is a massive blow to Spurs, who could be without Harry Kane for the rest of the season, given the fact Son has scored six goals in the last five games.

    Mourinho described the news as heartbreaking and says that he must now “play without a striker”.

    “I’m don’t count on him again this season,” he said ahead of Tottenham’s Champions League tie with RB Leipzig.

    “If he plays two or three games then it’s because he (the press officer) is very optimistic, but I’m not counting on him.

    “Yeah, bad news. For how long we are going to miss him, Simon (Felstein, press officer) said a very nice way to write the statement.

    “If I was the one to write the statement I would write different than he did. So you can understand what I mean. We miss him. According to Simon for a number of weeks.

    “Yesterday the bad news – the first thing was to break our hearts and the second thing was to break our team.

    “But we have to recover from broken hearts and we have to fight with the team we have.”

    The timing could not be worse for Spurs given they are entering a possible season-defining period, with the two-legged Champions League tie with the Bundesliga side and games against top-four rivals Chelsea, Wolves and Manchester United in the next four weeks.

    Mourinho has no out-and-out striker to call on, having declared academy prospect Troy Parrott not ready, meaning options are limited to playing Lucas Moura, Dele Alli or Steven Bergwijn.

    “The situation couldn’t be worse in terms of options,” Mourinho said. “I think that’s a very, very, very obvious situation. There is nothing that you can do.

    “You are going to play with the players we have available. The players are going to give absolutely everything which is what they are doing. In some periods I was worried about not having attacking options on the bench.

    “Now I don’t have attacking options on the pitch.

    “So again, analogies apart, are we going to give up or are we going to fight the way we can? We are going to fight the way we can.”

    Spurs made it to last season’s Champions League final through a period of adversity and Mourinho hopes Leipzig underestimate them at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Wednesday night.

    “I’m not going to give up and probably opponents, they are thinking, ‘Wow, now is the time to kill them’,” he said.

    “I understand why they think that way but we are going to give everything and I don’t think it’s going to be easy for Leipzig to play against us.

    “I don’t think it will be easy for them.”

    Spurs might have been considered favourites to progress before this news, given their experience in the competition and the fact that it is Leipzig’s first-ever knockout game at this level.

    Mourinho went to watch them against Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga last week and says their position of second in the title race shows just how strong they are.

    He said: “Leipzig have the power of a very good team, very good players and of course an emergent club without a history like the big ones that you have in Europe but with the potential to be first in the Bundesliga for many months.

    “To be second, one point behind and to be fighting for the title – I think that tells a lot.”

    Erik Lamela will be assessed ahead of the game, but Son joins Kane, Moussa Sissoko and Juan Foyth on the injury list.

  • Who are the new faces in England’s SheBelieves Cup squad?

    Grace Fisk and Sandy MacIver are the two uncapped players in Phil Neville’s Lionesses squad.

    18 Feb 2020, 14:25 CET

    England Women’s head coach Phil Neville has selected a youthful squad for the SheBelieves Cup, with two uncapped players involved.

    The Lionesses are defending champions after winning the tournament last year and will hope to impress in the United States after a stuttering end to 2019.

    Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the new faces in the squad and why they have been selected.

    Who are they?

    West Ham defender Grace Fisk and Everton goalkeeper Sandy MacIver are the uncapped players in Neville’s squad. Toffees forward Chloe Kelly is also relatively inexperienced after playing just once for her country in the past. Ellie Roebuck, who has become first-choice at Manchester City this season, has only appeared on four occasions for the Lionesses while Chelsea star Beth England is in a similar situation, but both have starred in the Women’s Super League this term.

    How have they earned this call-up?

    Fisk only moved to West Ham in December, but caught the eye of the England Women’s head coach at a training camp and has made 30 appearances for her country at youth level. Since joining the Hammers, Fisk has impressed Neville with her attitude and leadership skills in the face of some poor results for her club side. MacIver is also a similar situation, only joining Everton in January after graduating from college in the United States. Like Fisk, she has been a regular for England from the under-17s through to the under-21s.

    What is their club history?

    Until December, Fisk had played her football for South Carolina Gamecocks, but is now a fully fledged member of Matt Beard’s West Ham side. MacIver had spent the past four years playing for Clemson Tigers on a soccer scholarship, but has impressed everyone at Everton since her January move.

    Where do they fit into the squad?

    England Women’s boss Neville described defender Fisk as having the potential to “become one of our best centre-backs”. She will hope to impose herself on the group alongside older professionals like Steph Houghton. Goalkeeper MacIver will work alongside Chelsea’s Carly Telford at the SheBelieves Cup and fellow youngster Ellie Roebuck, who has caught the eye at Manchester City this season in Karen Bardsley’s absence.

  • ‘All systems go’ for Tiger and Cheltenham

    National hero in fine shape following Navan return.

    18 Feb 2020, 14:21 CET

    Dual Grand National hero Tiger Roll is firmly on course for the Cheltenham Festival following his comeback run at the weekend – and he could be seen again next season.

    The 10-year-old has a deep history with the Prestbury Park track, beginning with victory in the 2014 Triumph Hurdle before going on to add the 2017 National Hunt Chase and the last two renewals of the Glenfarclas Chase over the cross-country course.

    Tiger Roll will again be on cross-country duty as he continues to build towards his hat-trick bid at Aintree in April, and Elliott was thrilled with his fifth place in the Boyne Hurdle on Sunday, where he was making a belated start to his campaign following injury.

    He said: “I was very happy with the way he ran on Sunday and he’s come out of the race very well. He’d be the one horse we’re all looking forward to running in Cheltenham.

    “I was actually worried he might not run as well with the way the ground was in Navan, but I thought he showed a lot of zest – he looked the winner between the third-last and the second-last and just got tired.

    “It was great to see him come back and run so well. He’ll probably go to Cheltenham for a school between now and the Festival and it’s all systems go.”

    Tiger Roll boasts an official rating of 171, a mark which theoretically would put him right in the mix for the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup.

    However, Elliott believes a return to regulation fences would not inspire the Authorized gelding, who now seemingly saves his best for the cross-country and National fences.

    Asked which race he would plump for if there was not a cross-country race at Cheltenham, Elliott said: “I probably wouldn’t run him at all.

    “We might run him in Punchestown this year, but for me, if he ran in a Gold Cup I don’t think he’d even go a circuit – I just think he’s that type of horse.

    “I know his rating suggests he should be bang there in it, but I just think he likes doing different things.

    “He’s only 10 years of age and Gigginstown aren’t buying any new horses at the moment, so if he’s in one piece at the end of the season, there’s no reason why he won’t come back and have another go at the cross country.

    “With these horses it’s day by day, so it’s hard to know about next season, but it would be great to have him again.”

  • Potential solutions to the striking problem facing Spurs

    Without Kane and Son, who can Tottenham turn to up front?

    18 Feb 2020, 14:21 CET

    Tottenham face a striker crisis following the news that Son Heung-min will be out for several weeks after he fractured his right arm in Sunday’s win against Aston Villa.

    The injury leaves Jose Mourinho desperately short up front, with first-choice striker Harry Kane also a long-term absentee with a hamstring problem.

    Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the options available to the Spurs boss in the absence of his two main goal threats.

    Lucas Moura and Steven Bergwijn

    Moura and recent signing Bergwijn could form a forward pairing in a 5-3-2 formation. Their pace and mobility running in behind opposition defences would cause teams problems. Bergwijn scored 14 goals for Ajax last season while Moura showed he is capable in front of goal with 15 strikes last season, including two hat-tricks – most famously in the Champions League semi-final against Ajax. The problem with the formation is that if Mourinho sees his team being dominated in midfield and wants to go long, Moura and Bergwijn are not going to win many aerial battles.

    Dele Alli as a number nine

    Alli is good in the air and has the physical attributes to hold off defenders, together with the skill and intelligence to find space between the lines and beyond the last line of defence. Dropping deep would also allow Moura and Bergwijn to run beyond him, which plays to both of their strengths. The issue here might be shape. If Alli spearheaded the attack in a 4-2-3-1 line up with Moura, Bergwijn and probably Erik Lamela behind him, it would require the attacking midfielders to do a lot of work tracking back when Spurs are defending – leaving Alli isolated.

    A fluid 4-3-3

    Mourinho tried it at Watford a month ago, with a midfield trio of Harry Winks, Alli and Giovani Lo Celso assisting a front three of Lamela, Son and Moura. Although Spurs did not find the net that afternoon, the game finished goalless, they created several chances to score. The addition of Bergwijn might see this tactic used again. Though known mostly as a winger, the January signing often found himself as the most advanced forward at his previous club PSV Eindhoven.

    Troy Parrott

    The news on Son, combined with Kane’s absence, might have provided a window of opportunity for academy graduate Parrott. However, at his pre-match press conference on Tuesday afternoon ahead of Spurs’ Champions League tie against RB Leipzig Mourinho said: “My thoughts are that Troy Parrott is not ready,” having said last month that the 18-year-old was “not ready at all” to fill the void as the main striker. The Republic of Ireland Under-21 international made his senior debut in the Carabao Cup defeat at Colchester in September before making his Premier League bow against Burnley in December.

  • Jordan feuds with Raiola over Man Utd and 'culture of division'

    'Well, Mr Jordan, maybe everything should be capped, maybe transfers should be capped.'

    18 Feb 2020, 14:19 CET

    Simon Jordan has hit out at Paul Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola over “creating a culture of division” after the agent sent out an “inflammatory” tweet over his client’s situation at Manchester United. Raiola responded negatively to comments from Man Utd boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who remarked that “Paul is our player and not Mino’s” before their 2-0 victory over Chelsea on Monday. Gary Neville has since urged Man Utd to stop dealing with Raiola, which the agent has also responded to via talkSPORT. 16 Conclusions: Chelsea 0-2 Man United And while discussing various topics surrounding Pogba on the radio, he also got involved in a heated discussion with former Crystal Palace chairman Jordan. Here’s the full transcript from talkSPORT: JORDAN: Mino, I’m listening to you and I’m trying to understand… you made an observation about journalists talking about players moving and that it’s a centre of attention, but journalist don’t move players, agents move players… RAIOLA: I don’t think agents move players. JORDAN: Of course you do Mino, that’s what you do, that’s your modus operandi, that’s how you get paid. You move players. RAIOLA: No, that’s not what we do. I represent players, that’s different from moving them. To move a player, if you’re right that players are owned by clubs, then I cannot move a player without permission from the club. JORDAN: But you can create division, can’t you. You create a culture of division. If you create a culture, both you and the player, that a player doesn’t want to be at this club anymore then there is really only one transaction: when he goes, how much you get paid and how much he gets paid. RAIOLA: Listen Mr Jordan, that’s the case here. It’s not a question of Paul wanting to move, Paul is only committed to Manchester United and the European Championship. After that we will sit down with the club and see what the club wants. JORDAN: But why is ‘no comment’ not the better comment? RAIOLA: Yeah, but what is the matter if I have a comment to make? JORDAN: Because it’s not about you Mino! It’s about the player and Man United. You’re incidental; you only work for the player.   RAIOLA: I agree, I agree, it’s not about me. JORDAN: But you tweeted, Mino. You tweeted at a very divisive time. Why is it about you? Why are you making it about you? RAIOLA: No, no, no, no, no. JORDAN: You are! You put a tweet out that is inflammatory, you know it’s inflammatory, you are hitting back becasur you want to make a point If a player wants to make a point, he makes that point. So why does he need you to put a tweet out about what Solskjaer said? Why are you getting involved? Why are you inserting yourself in the centre of this? RAIOLA: Because it was about me, Mr Jordan, it was not about Paul. JORDAN: No, it’s about Man United asserting their right having paid £90m for a player – of which you got a lot of, that’s the business you’re in and whether I like that or not is incidental -but they’ve paid for that right. You haven’t earned that right, you get paid by the player, so why are you able to comment on the business of Man United? I don’t understand it Mino, I don’t understand what you’re trying to create. You’re not creating a happy culture, you’re creating a divided one. RAIOLA: I don’t agree. I don’t create any culture over the last years. But I don’t need to defend myself here, the only need to explain it to is my player. JORDAN: In the long game you guys will do, because if FIFA get a hold of you guys and start regulating you properly… RAIOLA There is no problem of being regulated here Mr Jordan, I think you are now mixing up things. Jordan: No, you should be regulated, you should be capped on your fees and you could contribute financially to the wellbeing of football, there’s a bigger picture here. RAIOLA: That’s your opinion. JORDAN: Well it’s a good opinion and it’s the opinion of most people who are sensible, not you guys, you and Jonathan Barnett and whoever else. RAIOLA: Well, Mr Jordan, maybe everything should be capped, maybe transfers should be capped, maybe sponsor money should be capped, but we live in a free society, we live in a capitalist world, we don’t live in a communist world. And by the way, Mr Jordan, saying a club can pay £90m for a player’s services is not correct, the club pays £90m as an amenity to break a contract. That’s the transfer. They don’t buy a player, they don’t buy a human being… JORDAN: Oh you’re being pedantic! Man United have every right, if you pay for something you have a sense of entitlement over it and in that contract period, in the four years they have him they are able to say he is there’s. RAIOLA:  So in your businesses you own your employees? They are owned by you? JORDAN: This is very different, I don’t pay £90m to buy an employee! Don’t be absurd! In the business of football he’s an asset. He’s a paid-for asset of the club. JIM WHITE: A relevant question here is Man United fans want to know why it seems you and Pogba don’t respect Man United as you should. RAIOLA: Those are your words Jim. There is absolutely no way of me or Pogba not Man United. They are your words and they are not correct, Jim.  

  • Mamelodi Sundowns v Bloemfontein Celtic

    Mamelodi Sundowns will have the chance to take back second position in the Absa Premiership on Wednesday when they host Bloemfontein Celtic.

    18 Feb 2020, 14:06 CET

    Mamelodi Sundowns will have the chance to take back second position in the Absa Premiership on Wednesday when they host Bloemfontein Celtic. Pitso Mosimane's title challengers are third in the standings, one point behind Orlando Pirates and seven adrift of league leaders Kaizer Chiefs, but they have a game in hand over Amakhosi and two in hand over the Buccaneers. The Chloorkop outfit endured a difficult spell last month, drawing at home against Bidvest Wits before losing away at Pirates, but have recently rediscovered some form and are now aiming for a third successive league victory. In their last two PSL games Masandawana beat SuperSport United 2-1 and most recently thrashed Chippa United 3-0, which should see them brimming with confidence. Mosimane still feels bullish about his side's chances in the fight for the Premiership silverware. He told the media: 'We have to push. If you want to stay in contention for the title, they (Sundowns players) have to push. They know. 'It's still alive until mathematically it's not.' Meanwhile, Celtic's form has been all over the place of late. Phunya Sele Sele are 10th in the league table, only five points above the danger zone, after losing two, winning two, and drawing one of their last five outings. Head coach Lehlohonolo Seema's men come into the clash after losing 2-0 at Highlands Park last weekend. The Free State outfit last won a league game on January 12 when they beat Black Leopards 4-2 at Seisa Ramabodu Stadium. The last time Sundowns and Celtic clashed was in late August last year when the Brazilians ran out 2-1 winners.

  • Former Celtic and Hibernian defender Ambrose signs 18-month deal at Livingston

    The versatile defender has signed an 18-month contract with the Ladbrokes Premiership club.

    18 Feb 2020, 14:05 CET

    Livingston have signed former Celtic and Hibernian defender Efe Ambrose.

    The versatile defender has signed an 18-month contract with the Ladbrokes Premiership club.

    The Nigeria international has been back in his homeland keeping his fitness up since leaving Derby last summer.

    Ambrose said: “I have watched them play and have seen the ambition of the club.

    “This is an opportunity for me to come back to the league and see what I can do to help Livingston do what they want to achieve this season – which is (finish in the) top six and fight for the European spots. Nothing is impossible in football.”

  • On This Day: Lincoln land huge FA Cup shock

    The FA Cup may not sparkle with the same magic of old these days but for little Lincoln City three years ago they enjoyed a rare famous day in the competition.

    18 Feb 2020, 13:55 CET

    The Imps, then a National League side, became the first non-league team to make the quarter-finals of the FA Cup in 103 years when they knocked out Premier League outfit Burnley.
    It really was a stunning achievement as Lincoln, away from home, scored a dramatic late winner in the fifth round to stun Turf Moor and seal the minnows’ passage into the last eight.
    It’s the sort of victory Lincoln may never repeat and one from recent history that may not have got the acclaim it deserves.
    It’s possibly symptomatic of the cup’s obvious fall from grace that this result is not lauded like previous true giant-killing triumphs against top-tier clubs down the years.
    Think Hereford, Wrexham, Sutton United. These are all famous examples of lower-league clubs enjoying their finest moments against the big boys, with the defining goals of those games played endlessly on TV down the years.
    So Sean Raggett’s 89th-minute header for Lincoln should be added to the collection as it was he who turned out to be the hero on a dank but delightful day in East Lancashire for Lincoln, who progressed via a shock 1-0 win.
    The fact it was Danny Cowley’s side’s only effort on target in the whole game mattered little. City soaked up pressure from Burnley, who had begun to establish themselves in the Premier League by 2017 and had only suffered three home defeats in their last 29 games, before hitting them with a late sucker punch.
    The game had ebbed and flowed, with Lincoln more than playing their part despite a lack of clear chances. Cowley’s men were on a fine run, which had seen them win 15 of their past 18 matches in all competitions and, while leading the National League, they had already knocked out Oldham, Ipswich and Brighton in the cup that season.
    Clearly they approached the tie with confidence and nothing to lose. And in winning they became only the second non-league club to knock out a Premier League team after Luton achieved the rare feat when beating Norwich in 2013. They also became the first non-league side since Telford in 1985, and only the third ever, to knock out four league clubs in a single season.
    Raggett’s late header came when the defender rose at the near post from a corner, with the decisive moment only being given the green light by the referee the thanks to goal-line technology.
    The ball was clearly way over the line upon viewing the replay and Lincoln’s players celebrated deliriously in front of the 3,000 or so travelling fans in the away end.
    The fairytale ended in the last eight for Lincoln as they were brought back down to earth by Arsenal at the Emirates. The Gunners, who would go on to win the FA Cup that season, won 5-0, while the impressive Cowley eventually took a job at Huddersfield Town last year after his eye-catching exploits in Lincolnshire.

  • Kovacic calls on Chelsea team-mates to cut out errors

    Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic has urged his team-mates to stop making mistakes after their 2-0 loss to Manchester United.

    18 Feb 2020, 13:54 CET

    In a game dominated by VAR decisions, headers from Anthony Martial and Harry Maguire saw Manchester United leave Stamford Bridge with all three points.
    Chelsea were aggrieved by those at Stockley Park throughout, firstly when Maguire was not sent off in the first half despite appearing to kick out at Michy Batshuayi.
    Then two goals were chalked off in the second period after Kurt Zouma’s strike was adjudged to have had a push in the build-up before Olivier Giroud was shown to be marginally offside after a tidy near-post finish.
    Tammy Abraham was missing from the line-up after failing to recover from injury in time, while N’Golo Kante and Andreas Christiansen were withdrawn after suffering abductor muscle and concussion problems respectively, meaning it was a frustrating evening altogether for Blues boss Frank Lampard.
    Their grip on a top-four place has been slipping since the new year, having won only one of their last six matches in the Premier League.
    Chelsea welcome Tottenham to Stamford Bridge on Saturday in what could be a season-defining match in the battle for a Champions League spot next season.
    Kovacic, speaking after the loss to United, says his side must improve if they want to achieve their aims at the end of the season.
    He said: “We have to train hard every day, to prepare our games better and try to avoid our mistakes because we are making too many mistakes in these kinds of matches, and you get punished.”
    Following the Spurs match, Chelsea face Bayern Munich at home in the first leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie. They then travel to Bournemouth a week on Saturday to end a crucial month in their season.

  • Raiola aims Salford City jibe at Neville over Man Utd comments

    'He should be on the board of directors of United and ask them for a job.'

    18 Feb 2020, 13:50 CET

    Mino Raiola has labelled Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville a “big know-how” after the former Manchester United player urged the club to stop dealing with the agent. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made a comment about the future of Paul Pogba ahead of Man Utd’s 2-0 victory over Chelsea, he said: “Paul is our player and not Mino’s”. To which Pogba’s agent Raiola hit back straight away on social media, he responded: “Paul is not mine and for sure not Solskjaer’s property, Paul is Paul Pogba’s. You cannot own a human being already for a long time in the UK or anywhere else. “I hope Solskjaer do[sic] not want to suggest that Paul is his prisoner.” And on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football, Neville told Man Utd to stop dealing with Raiola in any future negotiations for players.   Those comments have not gone down well with Raiola with the Dutch football agent claiming he isn’t bothered by anything Neville says. “Gary Neville has such a big know-how of football that I’m surprised his Salford City are not in the Premier League already,” Raiola told talkSPORT. “He should be on the board of directors of United and ask them for a job, I don’t care what he says.” On Solskjaer’s comments, Raiola added: “The outcome was good for Man United [vs Chelsea[ so maybe I should do it more often. “In all seriousness, I thought what Solskjaer said was out of line. He took parts of sentences of an interview of mine, and acted a little bit offended that I was offering Paul Pogba to other clubs without permission. “If you read the whole interview I was asked if Paul would fancy Italy, and I said Italy is a second home, but that is not the case now as he is concentrated on Manchester United and getting back in the team as soon as possible and to make a great end of the season.”  

  • Khune defends Middendorp's selection policy

    Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune has defended the selection policy of head coach Ernst Middendorp after Daniel Akpeyi's high-profile error against Maritzburg United on Saturday.

    18 Feb 2020, 13:49 CET

    Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune has defended the selection policy of head coach Ernst Middendorp after Daniel Akpeyi's high-profile error against Maritzburg United on Saturday. Akpeyi's howler was costly as log-leaders Amakhosi went on to lose the game 2-1 with fans then heard chanting Khune's name. Nigerian keeper Akpeyi has been Chiefs' number one as Khune has spent most of the season on the sidelines due to injuries and Middendorp has stuck with the former even though the latter is back fit again. Khune though insists he will continue to train hard and will support whoever the coach selects in the starting team. In quotes published on Kickoff, Khune said: 'I think it's always good to give the coaches headaches on who to start and who should sit on the bench, but every time we play and get told we're not in the starting XI, we take it as professionals and we give the support to the one who is starting and deserves it. 'So we're just going to continue performing at training but we have to understand that only 11 players are allowed on the field, with one goalkeeper, so I'll wait for my chance. 'I think it all boils down to confidence. The more I keep working hard at training, the more I will convince the coaches that I deserve to be back in the team. 'But if that doesn't happen then I will continue supporting Daniel because it is a healthy competition, and you can see whoever is on the field is able to perform. 'Unlike other players that you will find, when they are on the bench, they sulk and the ones on the field are unable to concentrate and perform to the best of their ability. 'So Daniel has been getting that full support from everybody in the goalkeeping department and that's why he has been doing so well.'

  • Neville wants blend of youth and experience to start winning big games

    Arsenal forward Beth Mead missed out on England’s squad for the SheBelieves Cup with a knee injury sustained last week.

    18 Feb 2020, 13:37 CET

    England Women’s head coach Phil Neville wants his youthful squad for the SheBelieves Cup to gain crucial experience in winning big matches.

    The Lionesses head to the United States next month looking to defend the crown they won in 2019.

    Neville has picked six players in the group that competed for England at the Under-20 World Cup in 2018 as the former Manchester United defender turns his focus to youth ahead of Euro 2021.

    A number of senior players also remain in the group, but the 43-year-old wants the blend of youth and experience to start winning the big games after they lost to the USA in the World Cup semi-finals in July.

    “We have to start beating the USA and beating the top teams in the world consistently,” Neville said.

    “You can probably only judge when it comes to a major tournament and you start winning major tournaments like the USA have.

    “We have just employed Dawn Scott, a fitness coach, who has been to the World Cup and won and been to Olympics Games and won and that is where you judge yourself, in the best moments and the best competitions, but along the way you have to experience what it takes to win.

    “I think the SheBelieves and the games we have got in the next 12 months are part of a programme that will hopefully give us the experience of how to win games of football against the best opposition.”

    Arsenal forward Beth Mead misses out due to a knee injury while Reign FC’s Jodie Taylor and Manchester United goalkeeper Mary Earps are also notable absentees.

    Neville praised the Gunners striker and hoped her issue was not serious, suggesting she could be part of the next camp in April.

    On Taylor and Earps, he added: “The door is always open to any player that is still available for England.”

    The England Women’s head coach revealed he only wanted to take one experienced goalkeeper to the SheBelieves Cup, with Everton’s Sandy MacIver in line for a first senior appearance on the international stage and competing with Manchester City’s Ellie Roebuck behind first-choice Carly Telford, of Chelsea.

    “It was a choice between Carly and Mary because I would never take a goalkeeper of that experience and play them third and not get them on the pitch,” Neville revealed.

    “I explained to Mary it was a one-off decision in which experienced goalkeeper I would take to support the young ones.”

    West Ham defender Grace Fisk is another to earn a maiden call-up and Neville described the youngster in glowing terms.

    He insisted she could “become one of our best centre-backs” while Everton forward Chloe Kelly returns to the fold after an impressive Women’s Super League campaign to date.

    Neville heaped praise on her and admitted: “She has that determination to succeed at the top.”

    Manchester City’s Ellen White, who starred at the World Cup, could form an exciting partnership in attack with Chelsea star Beth England after the pair were labelled as the “two best forwards” in the country.

    “Every time I see her play she has added another bit of quality to her game,” Neville said of England.

    “Without doubt her and Ellen White are the best two forwards in England on form. She rightly deserves her place in the squad and she will be getting an opportunity in the SheBelieves to play.”

    England Women squad for SheBelieves Cup: Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Lyon), Rachel Daly (Houston Dash), Toni Duggan (Atletico Madrid), Beth England (Chelsea), Grace Fisk (West Ham), Alex Greenwood (Lyon), Lauren Hemp (Manchester United), Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Chloe Kelly (Everton), Sandy MacIver (Everton), Abbie McManus (Manchester United), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Nikita Parris (Lyon), Ellie Roebuck (Manchester City), Jill Scott (Manchester City), Lucy Staniforth (Birmingham), Georgia Stanway (Manchester City), Carly Telford (Chelsea), Demi Stokes (Manchester City), Keira Walsh (Manchester City), Ellen White (Manchester City), Leah Williamson (Arsenal).

  • Let’s be Frank: the hard work starts here for Lampard and Chelsea

    Manchester United may have won 2-0 at Chelsea on Monday night but all the talk has been about the Blues and boss Frank Lampard.

    18 Feb 2020, 13:37 CET

    Is Lampard the right man? Do the players have enough in the tank to make the top four? Was VAR at fault or were the Blues not good enough?
    The 4-0 opening weekend defeat at Old Trafford looked ominous for Chelsea but things have gone relatively well since. However, cracks have appeared and now the real work starts.
    A win on Monday would have moved Chelsea nine points clear of United but goals from Anthony Martial and Harry Maguire saw the Red Devils take the points and close the gap to three.
    Chelsea were unlucky. Both Kurt Zouma and Olivier Giroud had goals ruled out by VAR, while Maguire could have been sent off before the break for kicking out at Michy Batshuayi.
    If, buts and maybes do not win trophies, though, and for the eighth time this season in the Premier League, Chelsea failed to win at home. In fact, their seventh home loss of the season sets a new club record in the Premier League era.
    Listening to the post-match reaction, VAR was the culprit. However, there does seem to be an issue for Chelsea when playing at home.
    There has to be a degree of balance, with Fred seemingly pushing Cesar Azpilicueta, which prompted the Basque to nudge Brandon Williams, therefore ruling a goal out, while Maguire maybe should have gone for the Batshuayi incident.
    The facts are this: Chelsea on Monday managed just one shot on target despite having 69% possession.
    So what now for Lampard and Chelsea? Let’s look back first and appreciate the boss’ frustration about the club’s inability to add in January after spending copious amount on lawyers to overturn the transfer ban that had prevented him from spending next summer.
    In normal circumstances, a run of four home games in the next five fixtures would be a positive. However, that streak sees them welcome Tottenham on Saturday, Bayern Munich in the Champions League, Liverpool in the FA Cup on March 3, then improving Everton, under former Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti, travelling to the Bridge on March 8.
    Now is the time Lampard has to make his money. In just his second year in management, the 41-year-old is fourth in the Premier League, through to the last 16 of the Champions League, and into the fifth round of the FA Cup.
    However, barring Everton, Chelsea have lost more games than anybody else in the top 10 of the table, while again, barring the Toffees, their tally of 36 conceded is the worst of any top-half team.
    So why then in January were Chelsea linked with Edinson Cavani and are now reportedly interested in Jadon Sancho? Maybe a strong central defender like Maguire is the answer?
    Lampard described the game, on talkSPORT, as “Groundhog Day” due to his team’s inability to take their chances.
    Yes, they are in an excellent position, fourth in the table, but United and especially Tottenham are coming up hot on their heels.
    Chelsea were bullied at times on Monday and unless Lampard identifies where his team needs to improve, it could be a sharp learning curve for a group and manager who has promised so much but could well fall short.

  • Tottenham rocked by Son fractured arm injury absence

    Tottenham have confirmed that the influential Son Heung-min is facing "a number of weeks" on the sidelines after suffering a fractured arm at Aston Villa.

    18 Feb 2020, 13:26 CET

    The 27-year-old South Korea international has been a key player in Spurs boss Jose Mourinho’s plans this season, especially with first-choice striker Harry Kane also a long-term absentee with a hamstring issue.
    Son scored a brace, including an injury-time winner, at Villa Park on Sunday despite it emerging that he suffered the injury in a first-minute challenge with Ezri Konsa.
    However, Spurs have now revealed that he will require an operation on his arm and the recovery process could take up to two months.
    A statement on the club’s website read: “Son Heung-min is to undergo surgery this week after sustaining a fracture to his right arm.
    “Following surgery, our medical staff shall be reviewing management options for Son’s rehabilitation with the player expected to be sidelined for a number of weeks.”
    Mourinho was not as optimistic about Son’s recovery time and feels he could be missing for the rest of this campaign.
    He added in his Tuesday afternoon press conference: “I’m not going to count on him again this season.”
    The news has come at the worst possible time for the north Londoners as they prepare for the Champions League last-16 tie against RB Leipzig on Wednesday and Saturday’s Premier League trip to top-four rivals Chelsea.
    Son has scored 16 goals in all competitions this season, including at least once in the last five games so he will leave a huge void for Mourinho to fill.
    The Portuguese tactician has only Brazilian Lucas Moura, January signing Steven Bergwijn and 18-year-old Republic of Ireland international Troy Parrott at his disposal in forward positions.
    Mourinho said last month that he does not believe Parrott is ready to make the step-up to become a main striker in the first-team, but he might have to hand him an opportunity now his options are further limited.

  • F365 says: It's time to praise Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer might not be the greatest manager, but that was a good night...

    18 Feb 2020, 13:25 CET

    Chelsea were always likely to struggle. West Ham have won at Stamford Bridge this season, so too Bournemouth, and Frank Lampard’s team have an established type of performance that they give whenever they’re expected to win at home. Add in Manchester United’s counter-attack, which seems to perform even when they don’t, and this was going to be a night full of trouble. It wasn’t quite that simple. Harry Maguire absolutely should have been sent off and Kurt Zouma’s goal possibly should have stood, but there were familiar themes and, once again, Chelsea showed all the limitations which have become habit under Lampard. But it’s just too easy to dress their defeats in that costume. Similarly, it was tempting to watch this game’s broader patterns and conclude precisely nothing new about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United. They’ve also given this performance before and it’s been a precursor to nothing; there’s always a Bournemouth, an Astana or a Burnley lurking around the corner, ready to puncture any momentum gained. It’s possible to recognise that, to conclude that Solskjaer probably isn’t a long-term answer for United, but to also accept that Monday night was probably still good for his reputation. United were poor in the first half. They were inaccurate. Even Solskjaer described them as ‘cumbersome and slow’ and Anthony Martial’s header came at a time when Chelsea – probably – deserved to be in the lead. But there was plenty that was good, too. Fred’s revival has been one of the lower key stories of the last few months and, quite rightly, he was Matt Stead’s Man of the Match in 16 Conclusions. Monday night was his improvement distilled down to its essence. Fred has an intent which is rare among Manchester United midfielders. Fred wants the ball. He wants to do something with it. It’s a minor virtue, but it’s been enough to make him stand out. His role in the Martial goal characterised that nicely. At the point at which Aaron Wan-Bissaka had the ball at his feet for the first time, the move would have died had Fred not made his forward run, first creating the angle for the one-two and then the opportunity for the cross. Two caveats. First, Chelsea definitely allowed it to happen. Do they do any work at all on their defensive shape in training? Second, it’s really Fred’s job to make that kind of run. But it was still heartening to see that kind of life in the United midfield. It’s been a passive, reactive mass for much too long, full of players who only start to think about how they might affect the game once they receive possession. Fred’s active, arterial role in that move was a very welcome contrast. It was also a passage of play which, at its end, showed an aggression that Martial too often lacks. What a conundrum he is. So talented, so obviously capable of being one of the finest forwards in the country, but yet so often underwhelming. He’s traditionally enjoyed his visits to Stamford Bridge in the past, so let’s proceed with caution, but it was still encouraging to see him attack that space in front of Andreas Christensen and behave with a centre-forward’s instinct. It wasn’t a typical Martial goal, but he showed that it could be. He’s good in the air, he’s physical when he wants to be, and he has the anticipation to see that sort of chance at the near post. It’s not a Big Conclusion, more just a nice moment which doesn’t deserve to be seen solely through the prism of Chelsea’s limitations. The same is true of the Luke Shaw/Brandon Williams axis down the left side. That worked well, certainly in the sense that it looks like a well-drilled, properly organised dynamic. The trick seems to be that – contrary to what the 3-5-1-1 formation suggests – Shaw didn’t really play as a centre-half and Williams wasn’t really a wing-back. Instead, with and without the ball, it was more of a double full-back situation, allowing both players to remain in their comfort zone and do what they’re good at. Both players dropped, both pushed forward. They did get lucky, because without VAR’s intervention one of their few miscommunications would have cost them that Olivier Giroud goal, but they deserved their good fortune. Whether Solskjaer was that area’s sole architect, it was an approach which he approved, and its success challenged the notion that United just pack the box and counter in these games. There’s thought to these performances, also some smart design. So file it alongside the other micro-observations – Bruno Fernandes’ corners, Wan-Bissaka’s improved attacking contribution, and the dividend from starting Eric Bailly – as praise which shouldn’t be lost within the broader concerns. This was a good night. It may not have been instructive and it probably didn’t answer any of the more pertinent questions about Solskjaer’s Manchester United, but it was a fine result and – by full-time – had become a thoroughly deserved win. Seb Stafford-Bloor is on Twitter.

  • Tottenham v RB Leipzig: Back Bergwijn to shine again

    Get all the best betting tips ahead of Wednesday's Champions League clash between Tottenham and Red Bull Leipzig here.

    18 Feb 2020, 13:23 CET

    Get all the best betting tips ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League clash between Tottenham and Red Bull Leipzig here…

  • Huge blow for Spurs as Son suffers fracture to his right arm

    'The South Korea international suffered the injury during our win against Aston Villa on Sunday.'

    18 Feb 2020, 13:21 CET

    Tottenham face the prospect of being without Son Heung-min for several weeks after the forward fractured his right arm in Sunday’s win over Aston Villa, the club have announced. Son suffered the injury in a first-minute challenge with Villa’s Ezri Konsa and though he completed the 90 minutes and scored twice, he now faces surgery on the injury and a potential long-term lay-off. A statement on the club’s website read: “Son Heung-min is to undergo surgery this week after sustaining a fracture to his right arm. “The South Korea international suffered the injury during our win against Aston Villa on Sunday. “Following surgery, our medical staff shall be reviewing management options for Son’s rehabilitation with the player expected to be sidelined for a number of weeks.” The injury leaves Tottenham desperately short up front, with first-choice striker Harry Kane also a long-term absentee with a hamstring injury. Son has been deputising as the main frontman since Kane’s injury but with both players now missing, Lucas Moura or untested youngster Troy Parrott may be required to step in. Manager Jose Mourinho said last month that Parrott is “not ready at all” to fill the void as the main striker, though the Republic of Ireland Under-21 international could be considered for some playing time.  

  • Wolves post pre-tax profit of £19.9m after Prem return

    18 Feb 2020, 13:19 CET

    Wolves’ latest accounts show a large increase in turnover and a return to profit, following the club’s promotion to the Premier League. Records for the year ending 31st May 2019 reveal that Wolves achieved a turnover of £172.5million, up from £26.4m the previous year, resulting in a pre-tax profit of £19.9m – after reporting a loss of £57.1m for the 12 months before. The period, which reflects the 2018/19 season, was the third campaign under the ownership of Fosun International and the first in the Premier League since 2012. Wolves finished the campaign in seventh place, securing Europa League qualification, as well as reaching the FA Cup semi-finals. The increases can be largely attributed to Premier League distributions, with the club receiving £134m in broadcasting income and league distributions compared to only £8m in their Championship promotion season. Money from sponsors, advertising and commercial also jumped from £8.9m to £25.9m. Season ticket numbers increased to the maximum available, from 21,233 to 22,500. The average league attendance was up from 28,298 to 31,030, with money from gate receipts also rising from £7.8m to £11.5m.   The period saw significant investment in the playing squad, including the signings of Joao Moutinho, Adama Traore, Rui Patricio, Diogo Jota, Willy Boly, Ruben Vinagre and Jonny, but player trading for the year generated a profit of £11.9million. However, this was cancelled out by higher amortisation and impairment charges on player registrations of £37.7m – resulting in a net player trading loss of £25.8m. Wages increased from £50.7m to a relatively modest £92.1m by Premier League terms, meaning Wolves spent only 53 per cent of their income on wages, compared to 192 per cent in the 2017/18 season. Fosun International loaned the club a further £57million to cover costs, meaning W.W. (1990), the parent company of the football club and a related property company that owns the stadium development and training facilities, owe Fosun £131million as of the end of last season. A statement signed off by the board said Fosun “has indicated its intention to continue to make available such funds as are needed…and that it does not intend to seek repayment of the amounts due at the balance sheet date.”  

  • Mediawatch: Matic a 5/10 or 8/10? Plus, Stan and Garth

    Nemanja Matic was either a 5/10 or 8/10 and Stan gets it all wrong...

    18 Feb 2020, 13:17 CET

    Midfield muddle We know such things are subjective but was Fred ‘outmuscled in midfield, overpowered and struggled’ (Daily Mirror)? Or was he ‘energetic in a congested midfield’ and ‘becoming an increasingly influential figure for Solskjaer’ (Daily Mail)? It would seem really rather hard to do both. And while we are dealing with the rather divisive subject of Manchester United’s midfield, was Nemanja Matic ‘pretty quiet all things considered, unable to keep tabs up (sic) with Chelsea’s nippy midfielders (5/10, The Sun) or did he ‘settle back into his old home effortlessly and provided a secure shield for the United back four’? (8/10, Manchester Evening News). There’s a pretty bloody big gap between 5/10 and 8/10.   VAR from okay Now clearly there were some very odd VAR decisions on Monday night, but is it really helpful of The Sun to give oxygen to the absolute numpties who claim some correlation between the officials being from Manchester and a series of decisions that went against Chelsea? Well no. Of course not. But why let that stop them? ‘Fans’? The word you are looking for there is actually ‘dickheads’.   Extremely amusing Just how easily amused are tabloid football website journalists? After his goal on Monday night, Anthony Martial posted some ‘banter’ on social media in which he said ‘I score because it was not your pass’, directed towards Bruno Fernandes. We think you will all agree that such top-class japery deserved several crying-with-laughter emojis. It also prompted Fernandes to reply thus: ‘Next time I pass to you, try not to miss it.’ This, ladies and gentlemen, has been described THREE times by the Daily Star website as ‘hilarious’. ??????   Entrenched ‘Chelsea enter no man’s land battle for Champions League place after Man Utd loss’ is the headline on Goal as Nazar Kinsella writes that ‘Chelsea had until now avoided the chaos of no-man’s land having been in the top four of the Premier League since September’. As no-man’s land is defined as ‘land that is unoccupied’, haven’t Chelsea done the exact opposite by allowing themselves to be dragged close to a whole raft of other teams? They are pretty much in every man’s land now.   Stone them! ‘The last time I looked, the Premier League falls under UEFA’s jurisdiction, so it has to abide by its rules,’ begins Stan Collymore in the Daily Mirror. We will stop you there, Stan, because that’s simply not true. And we have no idea where you are ‘looking’. Certainly not on the Premier League website, which itself states:

    ‘The Premier League is a private company wholly owned by its 20 Member Clubs who make up the League at any one time.’
    That doesn’t sound like they ‘fall under UEFA’s jurisdiction’ because they absolutely don’t. Still, carry on Stan, despite the basic premise of your piece being entirely false.
    ‘And if one of our teams has been caught flouting UEFA’s rules then the punishment shouldn’t just be in Europe but domestically as well.’
    Well no. Because that’s now this works; UEFA punish teams in UEFA competition and the Premier League punish teams in Premier League competition. That is why players get banned in Europe but not in the Premier League. And that’s why we all had domestic football to watch when English clubs were banned from competing in Europe. Now Manchester City could possibly be stripped of their Premier League title, but that decision will be made by the Premier League, who launched their own investigation based on Premier League FFP rules. It’s almost like they’re a ‘private company wholly owned by its 20 Member Clubs’.   Backwards thinking Sticking with Stan, he tells us that Tottenham ‘have not progressed since Jose Mourinho replaced Mauricio Pochettino’ and that ‘they aren’t kicking on…but rather, going backwards and dying a slow death’. ‘Going backwards’ from 14th to fifth? Pesky fact: Only Liverpool have picked up more Premier League points that Tottenham since Jose Mourinho’s arrival. You might think they play some pretty shit football, but claiming that they are ‘going backwards’ is wilfully and ridiculously wrong.   Toby jug ‘It’s rather unusual to pick a defender for scoring goals rather than his team coming away with a clean sheet,’ said Garth Crooks on the BBC earlier this month. And oh how we laughed. Because that is what he does ALL THE BLOODY TIME. This week he goes even further, picking Toby Alderweireld despite his Tottenham team conceding twice, with one of those goals being an actual Toby Alderweireld own goal. Still, at least he didn’t pick Nicolas Pepe as a left wing-back…   Borat was so 2006 Now we’re not saying that the Liverpool Echo should not have leapt on any new Liverpool transfer gossip for their ‘live’ blog…
    ‘Liverpool news and transfers LIVE – Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka linked, Philippe Coutinho claim’
    …but as they cite Football Insider, who not just once (Monday) but twice (last month) refer to the Arsenal teenager as Bruno Martinelli, a pinch of salt should have been issued with each click.   Recommended reading of the day Jonathan Liew on Manchester City

  • Youngster Saka happy to bide his time at Arsenal

    Arsenal youngster Bukayo Saka says he is still hoping he can be given a chance to play left wing this season under Mikel Arteta.

    18 Feb 2020, 13:07 CET

    The 18-year-old has enjoyed himself this season in his breakthrough campaign, making 22 appearances in all competitions so far this term.
    Saka was first given a chance last year, but he had to settle for four appearances, as Unai Emery looked at other options but the Basque used him more regularly in the Europa League this season, only to be sacked in December.
    He has played out wide, through the middle and now at left-back under Arteta and the Spaniard has brought the best out of him.
    Saka is now ahead of Sead Kolasinac in the pecking order at the Emirates Stadium, while summer signing Kieran Tierney is still struggling with a shoulder injury.
    The England youth international grabbed another assist after teeing up Nicolas Pepe during Sunday’s 4-0 win over Newcastle United and is becoming a regular source of chances.
    Saka says he is constantly learning under Arteta and although he will play at the back, he admits he would like to feature further forward in the future.
    “I’m really enjoying my football under the new manager. It’s not my natural position, but he’s given me all the advice I need,” he told Sky Sports. “I feel like my dream was always to be a winger, to affect games, score goals and get assists. For now, I’ll do the job the manager asks me to.
    “There’s a lot of space for me, and it’s good for me. I’m playing sort of as a winger when we have the ball, but without the ball, I have to come back and work on my clearances, my heading and stuff I haven’t worked on my whole life. I feel like I’m doing OK right now.”
    Saka is out of contract at the end of next season, but he has reassured his fans that his representatives are in talks with the club’s board about a new deal.

  • Elliott: Delta Work ‘made’ for Gold Cup challenge

    ‘He’s won five or six Grade Ones and gets the job done.’

    18 Feb 2020, 13:04 CET

    Gordon Elliott would not swap “forgotten horse” Delta Work for any other in next month’s Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup.

    The seven-year-old was edged into third in last year’s RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase at the Festival, but he has come of age in fine style this term, winning two of his three starts.

    Victorious in the Savills Chase and the Irish Gold Cup, Delta Work now boasts five Grade One wins on his CV – and Elliott believes he will be perfectly suited by three and a quarter miles at Prestbury Park.

    He said: “He’s all set for the Gold Cup. I don’t think he’s done much wrong over the last couple of seasons – he was lame after Down Royal (when he was beaten on his seasonal bow) and was just beaten in the RSA last year.

    “It just didn’t work out for him in Cheltenham last season. It was probably my own fault, as I didn’t run him between Christmas and the RSA and he seems to be a horse that runs better when he runs more often.

    “I think he’s made for the race. His style of racing will suit – going three-mile-two.

    “He probably is a bit of a forgotten horse. He’s won five or six Grade Ones and gets the job done.”

    Elliott certainly knows what it takes to the win the Gold Cup, having sent out Don Cossack to lift the prize in 2016, but he has plenty of respect for Delta Work’s likely Cheltenham rivals.

    “It would be great to win another Gold Cup. You have to respect whatever Willie Mullins runs and I’d say he’s the biggest danger. Al Boum Photo and (the Nicky Henderson-trained) Santini are probably the two horses you’d respect most.

    “I tend to worry about my own horses and let everybody else worry about theirs.

    “I wouldn’t swap my horses, but I’m sure if you asked five or six other trainers they’d say the same.”

    Jack Kennedy has ridden Delta Work to his last two wins, but he is currently on the sidelines with a broken femur, meaning a new rider will be required at Cheltenham.

    Elliott said: “Jack was awesome on him the last day. The ride he gave him that day, Ruby Walsh at his best would have been proud of it.

    “I’d say anyone could ride him. It will be one of three or four lads that will ride him and we’ll see what happens.

    “We won’t make any decision yet.”