Manchester United put five goals past Bournemouth in the Premier League on Saturday at Old Trafford, but not before Junior Stanislas managed to nutmeg the world’s most-expensive defender and beat one of the best goalkeepers in the world at the near post.
Barcelona will reportedly try once more to offload Ivan Rakitic this summer.
The still reigning La Liga champions have already completed a deal with Juventus to swap Arthur Melo for Miralem Pjanic, in a move that looks more to have been made for financial reasons, rather than the football ones. And in an effort to ease the burden on their wallet further, they are open to offers for the Croatian international and ready to lower their €20 million asking price to attract potential suitors.
According to Sport, Sevilla are very interested in bringing their former captain back to the club, but they wouldn’t be willing to pay for a 32-year-old player more than Rakitic would be getting as a sign-on fee if he were to arrive as a free agent. That, it seems, might just prove acceptable to the Blaugrana, who are desperate to get his €7.8m per year off their wage bill.
Meanwhile, Atletico Madrid are also believed to be keeping tabs on the situation.
Speaking to the press ahead of his team’s clash against Tottenham Hotspur on Monday evening, Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti ruled out a sale of Lucas Digne this summer.
The 26-year-old has reportedly caught the interest of Manchester City and Chelsea with both clubs in the process of identifying a long-term solution on the left defensive flank, but it seems neither will be able to get him this year. Digne has been a regular starter for Everton, not only under Ancelotti but ever since he joined the club, pushing down the pecking order former team captain Leighton Baines. Everton have made an undeniable statement by hiring the experienced Italian manager, and it seems Digne is a big part of his plans.
Ancelotti was also asked about the club’s interest in Southampton midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, but he refused to comment on a player who currently belongs to another club. Hojbjerg has also been linked with Spurs.
Media reports about a potential move by Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich to Liverpool this summer are as contrasting as opinions on whether it would make sense for the newly crowned Premier League champions to actually sign the midfielder or not.
Stories first broke out about Thiago’s reluctance to agree a new deal with his current club and his wish to try his rarely disputed qualities in the English top flight, with Liverpool his first choice among potential destinations. The initial rumour itself was greeted with excitement from a large portion of the Reds’ supporters, but also with a word of caution from some who didn’t consider the move likely.
And then, on Saturday afternoon, Italian journalist Tancredi Palmeri broke the ‘news’ that Liverpool had agreed personal terms with the former Barcelona man. Apparently, a bid of €30 million, plus €5m in add-ons, was forthcoming. The excitement reached a very high level and the doubts abated somewhat, but then, as is their wont, Liverpool Echo dismissed the whole thing.
Following up on Palmeri’s claim, they say they’ve done ‘a bit of digging’ and were told that the rumours were unfounded.
Right now, anything seems possible. It could be that Thiago’s representatives have thrown the name of Liverpool to the media in an attempt to present their client to be in demand at the highest level, so they can secure him a deal more lucrative than any one he would normally be getting, whether from Bayern or any other club. On the other hand, it could be that a deal is actually in the pipeline but Liverpool are trying to keep it quiet, wanting to avoid a repeat of the Timo Werner scenario when Chelsea suddenly moved in and stole the march on them to sign the RB Leipzig striker.
On one hand, the presence of Thiago in this Liverpool team would mean some welcome creativity added to their robust midfield section, which they’ve occasionally appeared to lack since the departure of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona in January 2018, despite the successes they’ve achieved in the last two and a half years. On the other, they are a well-oiled machine at the moment, and signing a 29-year-old player with a questionable injury record would seem very much unlike the way they’ve been operating under current owners, Fenway Sports Group. And looking at it from yet another angle, the possibility that they may feel a different approach is needed when they set out to defend the Premier League title next season cannot be ruled out at this stage.
Athletic Bilbao welcomed Real Madrid to their stadium of San Mames on Sunday afternoon, in what was the 34th match of the 2019/20 La Liga season for both teams.
Bilbao entered the game from eight place with 48 points, with no real chance of reaching top four by the end but with a quite reasonable chance of securing one of the two Europa League spots. Meanwhile, Real Madrid were looking to extend their lead at the top to seven points, at least until Barcelona visited Villarreal that evening.
Bilbao head coach Gaizka Garitano couldn’t call upon midfielder Benat Etxebarria who was out with a hip problem.
Unai Simon was in goal. Inigo Martinez and Yeray Alvarez organized the back line, flanked by Yuri Berchiche on the left and Ander Capa on the right. Unai Lopez and Dani Garcia protected the back four by sitting deep in midfield. Iker Muniain and Inigo Cordoba were on the wings, while Raul Garcia played just behind striker Inaki Williams.
Having reportedly been rested in the previous match against Getafe, winger Eden Hazard was widely expected to start for Real, but in the end he wasn’t even on the bench. Defender Raphael Varane was taken off the pitch in that game with a suspected head injury and he was left out here as well. Nacho Fernarndez was out with a hamstring issue for a while.
Thibaut Courtois stood between the posts. Eder Militao this time joined captain Sergio Ramos in the heart of defence, with Marcelo on the left and Dani Carvajal on the right. Casemiro anchored the midfield, with Luka Modric and Fede Valverde in more advanced roles. Rodrygo Goes and Marco Asensio flanked Karim Benzema in attack.
The First Half
Real came close to taking an early lead in the fourth minute. They earned a free-kick some 30 yards out in a good position for a fine shooter, which they certainly have no lack of in their ranks. Asensio took it and hit the target, Simon parried shortly, Carvajal tried to pull it back for the unmarked Benzema at six yards, but it was a poor ball and Benzema couldn’t control his header.
It took only two minutes for the hosts to respond as Ramos failed to intercept a diagonal pass into the box towards Williams, who took a low shot under pressure from Marcelo and saw it saved well by Courtois.
It was a lively contest from the start, with Real expectedly seeing more of the ball and spending more time in the opposition half, and Bilbao defending well and looking to hit back through the pace of Williams.
And another such moment occurred in the 16th minute. Williams took the ball forward, and involved Muniain on the right. A good cross followed and Raul hit a fine header, prompting an equally good save from Courtois. Three minutes later, Williams latched onto a good pass down the right flank and charged at Militao, but with the help from Ramos, Militao reacted well and dispossessed him cleanly.
In the 21st minute, Garitano had to replace Yeray through injury, and Unai Nunez took his place.
Real threatened seriously in their very next move, and it was the first time Bilbao’s defence wasn’t up to the task. Both centre-backs were watching Benzema in the middle of the box as Asensio swung in a cross from the left, and as the ball passed through, Rodrygo was completely alone at the far post and sent his header over the bar. Williams sent his powerful shot over the other bar less than 60 seconds later as he charged into the box from the right. Chances came, but the nets stood still.
After around half an hour had gone, both teams appeared to have grown slightly frustrated with inability to take the lead despite the chances, and the battle became tougher with a number of reckless fouls in the middle of the park. Referee Jose Luis Gonzalez exercised extreme patience not to book anyone from either team.
In the 36th minute, Bilbao attacked again down the right and caused Real serious trouble. Capa broke down the flank and went for a one-two with Raul on the edge of the box. Williams, however, got involved and took the ball for himself, and not only missed the target when one-on-one with Courtois, but he was also rightly flagged offside. Then Inigo almost gave Real a great chance the other end as he allowed Rodrygo to intercept his pass, but Benzema switched on from an offside position and saved the Bilbao defender’s skin. Then it was Williams again at the other end; he suddenly broke towards Militao and tried to go around, but the Real centre-back was immaculate again and with the help of Courtois this time, dealt with the situation expertly. At the stroke of 45 minutes, Real almost punished the hosts for it all when Asensio’s finely measured cross found Benzema high in the air, but the Frenchman missed the far post by a few inches.
It was a highly exciting first half, with both sides unlucky not to have scored before the break.
The Second Half
Luka Modric quickly announced that the second period would be just as lively as the first with a powerful shot after cutting inside from the left which Simon had no problems saving. Real attacked quickly again through Valverde whose fine pass into the box found Benzema at some 10 yards from the goal, but the striker was tightly marked and couldn’t turn to face Simon before being dispossessed.
But the visitors now pushed forward with a bit more determination and they took control of the game. They were gradually moving the line of battle towards Simon’s goal, constantly looking for an opening in a very organized Bilbao defence to exploit. The offensive lasted for about 10 minutes, and then the home side managed to string a few passes together and move forward themselves.
From that point on, the flow of the game returned to the ways of the first half. Real still had more of the ball, but Bilbao’s quick attacks through Williams and Raul were by no means to be taken lightly. Militao excelled in dealing with the Bilbao striker, but it was hard work all the time for the Portuguese defender.
In the 62nd minute, Garitano withdrew Cordoba and Lopez and introduced Oscar de Marcos and Mikel Vesga.
Real now tightened the noose around the Bilbao box again. They played quickly and intricately, with right-back Carvajal sometimes ending up as a centre-forward, sometimes as a left winger. But Bilbao weren’t just sitting back either; they still looked for any opportunity to hit back at the table toppers. Raul and Muniain were now looking more active in support of Williams.
In the 70th minute, the referee stopped the game to use the VAR monitor and check the contact between Marcelo and Dani Garcia inside Bilbao’s box, and then he pointed to the spot as the footage showed the Bilbao midfielder stepping on the foot of the Real fullback.
Sergio Ramos stepped up, but there was still a conflict between Valverde and Yuri for the referee to sort out. Nonetheless, the Real captain was ruthless from the spot.
Zidane had already prepared to change his wingers, and now Rodrygo and Asensio made way for Lucas Vazquez and Vinicius Junior.
And less than a minute later, the officials showed an extreme lack of consistency when Sergio Ramos clearly stepped on the foot of Raul Garcia inside Real’s box, but the referee wouldn’t even look at VAR.
The sense of injustice seemed to have given the Bilbao players some added energy, and they wrested the control of the proceedings from the visitors. They were now spending a lot of time in possession in Real’s half. In the 84th minute, De Marcos had a go from the edge of the box but failed to hit the target.
Zidane obviously felt a fresh pair of legs was needed in the middle of the park at that point, and Toni Kroos came on for Valverde and almost scored within a minute, only just failing to latch onto a great pass from Modric into the box.
Nonetheless, Kroos quickly helped his team regain composure and control and in the very next attack he created a great chance for Benzema, but Simon made a great save. Then Vinicius burst into the box from the left, but he was eventually stopped by Capa.
The home team gathered their last strength for a final charge as the four official announced a five-minute stoppage time. With one of the five gone, Villalibre beat Militao in Real’s half and whipped in a dangerous cross, forcing Ramos to hit it out for a corner. Another minute later, Casemiro was lucky to get away with only a yellow card as he recklessly mowed De Marcos down, raising his studs as he slid in.
Tempers ran high towards the end as Bilbao players grew frustrated. Several names from both teams were added to the referee’s book but it all only went further in Real’s favour. The scuffles lasted even after the final whistle.
Referees and VAR have lately often been accused of helping Real Madrid win their games as they seek to overthrow arch-rivals Barcelona from the La Liga throne, and this game is very likely to add fuel to the fire. The rules clearly weren’t the same for the two teams, and Bilbao will feel extremely hard done by; they did not deserve to lose this game. But this is Real Madrid, and just like Barcelona, they’re certainly no strangers to winning in this manner.
Muniain: “we’ve seen how things have gone in recent weeks….depending which team it is, some penalties are given. Let everyone reach their own conclusions.”
— Sid Lowe (@sidlowe) July 5, 2020
Be that as it may, the dubious penalty calls at either end now take Real to a seven-point advantage over Barcelona, at least until the Catalans’ game away at Villarreal in the evening. As for Bilbao, they will have to try and forget about the injustice and rack up some points elsewhere to book a place in next season’s Europa League.
ATHLETIC BILBAO: Simon 7.5, Inigo 7.5, Yeray N/A (21′ Nunez 6.5), Yuri 7.5, Capa 7.5, Lopez 6 (63′ Vesga 6.5), D. Garcia 6.5 (78′ Sancet N/A), Muniain 6.5, Cordoba 6 (63′ De Marcos 6.5), R. Garcia 7.5, Williams 7.5 (78′ Villalibre N/A).
REAL MADRID: Courtois 7, Ramos 7, Militao 8, Carvajal 7, Marcelo 7, Casemiro 7, Modric 7, Valverde 6 (85′ Kroos 7.5), Asensio 7.5 (74′ Vinicius 6), Rodrygo 6.5 (74′ Vazquez N/A), Benzema 7 (90′ Jovic N/A).
YELLOW CARDS: Raul 39′, Dani Garcia 72′, Muniain 90′, Ramos 90′, Yuri 90′, Casemiro 90′, Carvajal 90′.
GOAL: Ramos (P) 73′.
REFEREE: Jose Luis Gonzalez.
DATE & VENUE: July 5, 2020, San Mames, Bilbao.
While the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Sadio Mane and Jordan Henderson still find themselves leading the race for this year’s PFA Player of the Year award, it has been the Premier League’s brightest starlets who have stolen the show since the return to action last month.
Still with it all to play for in the race to secure Champions League football for next year and the FA Cup still up for grabs, it appears that the next generation still have a huge part to play at the end of the season.
With the European Championships delayed until next summer and another 12 months for England’s most promising talents to progress, Gareth Southgate has three youngsters really making a claim for a senior call-up.
Phil Foden – Manchester City
Although Manchester City might have seen Liverpool snatch their Premier League crown this season, the Sky Blues will already be planning a title reclaim and they have one 20-year-old who could play a critical role.
While Pep Guardiola’s handling of Phil Foden might have raised a string of questions over the past 18 months, the England youth team star has only seen his reputation skyrocket since returning from football’s enforced break.
Once again finding the net in City’s 4-0 romp against the newly-crowned on Thursday night, the Stockport-born star has recorded three strikes since returning to action and has now racked up 30 appearances under the former Bayern Munich boss this season.
Despite many feeling that the life long City fan would be best developing his powers on a season-long loan stint away from Manchester, he now appears to be the new face of Guardiola’s next chapter at the Etihad.
Back in July of last year, Guardiola labelled Foden as “the most talented player” he has ever seen. Not a bad statement for a coach who so famously spent four years working with six-time Ballon d’Or winner, Lionel Messi.
With David Silva’s top-flight tenure drawing to an end this summer and Guardiola making it clear City have no need to invest in a new play-maker due to Foden’s emergence, the Sky Blues have arguably Europe’s brightest starlet waiting as their heir to the throne.
Mason Greenwood – Manchester United
Although the blue half of Manchester might have one academy graduate gaining a string of plaudits, the Old Trafford faithful have their own starlet continuing to set-alight the Premier League.
Claiming yet another Man of the Match award after a stunning individual display against Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon, Mason Greenwood bagged a spectacular brace over the weekend and is seen to be Manchester United‘s latest budding superstar.
Following in the steps of Marcus Rashford and really bursting onto the scene in his debut Premier League campaign, the 18-year-old has growing comparisons to Robin van Persie and has continued breaking records at Old Trafford this year.
Putting himself on a star-studded list, Greenwood has now scored eight top-flight goals for United in 2019-20; among players aged 18 and younger, only Michael Owen (twice), Robbie Fowler and Wayne Rooney have scored more in a Premier League season.
Almost becoming undroppable on the right-hand side of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s attacking trio, the Norweigan tactician branded Greenwood as a “specialist goalscorer” after his clinical display on Saturday.
Seen to be one of the hottest attacking commodities on the continent, some around Old Trafford believe that they have no need to bring in transfer target Jadon Sancho this summer with Greenwood seen to be as a real generational talent.
Bukayo Saka – Arsenal
While some Arsenal fans might remember Bukayo Saka making his first senior appearance for the Gunners in a Europa League contest against Ukrainian outfit Vorskla Poltava back in November 2018, the 18-year-old has cemented his spot as the Premier League’s hidden gem this season.
Completely bursting onto the scene this year and only going from strength to strength since Mikel Arteta made his North London return over the festive period, the starlet has made 34 appearances across all competitions, including 22 top-flight caps.
Bagging his first Premier League strike in a 2-0 win against fellow European chasers Wolves on Saturday and picking up Arsenal’s Player of the Month award for February, the Gunners couldn’t be more thrilled to see that Saka has put pen to paper on a new long term deal with the former champions.
Seen to be the real future of Arteta’s new wave at Arsenal, the talented youngster has signed a new four-year-deal in North London, fending off interest from Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool.
Showing his versatility across the pitch, Saka’s strike at Molineux over the weekend saw him become the second youngest English player to score in the Premier League for the Gunners, after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in 2012.
Quickly becoming Arteta’s Mr. Reliable and a firm fan favourite at the Emirates, many believe that Saka has played his way onto Gareth Southgate’s shortlist for a spot at next year’s European Championships, despite not making an appearance for the Three Lions’ U21’s.
According to a recent report from Mundo Deportivo, Barcelona legend Xavi could be making his return to the Nou Camp at the end of the season in order to take over from Quique Setién as the club’s new manager.
The 40-year-old spent four years from 2015 to 2019 with Al Sadd in Qatar, and since retiring from playing, he has been the club’s manager.
Whether or not he’d be able to successfully make such a large jump up in difficulty remains to be seen, but given the spiral that Barca seem to find themselves in right now, they’ll seemingly be willing to give anything a go.
Xavi was one of the most beloved stars that has ever pulled on the famous Barca strip, but there’s an argument to be made that he could tarnish that reputation if things don’t go to plan for him as manager.
For now, though, we just have to sit back and see whether or not Setién can survive.
According to a recent report from ESPN, Liverpool will continue to pursue Ugurcan Cakir as they aim to strengthen their goalkeeping options at the club.
It goes without saying that Alisson is their number one, and there’s a good chance he will be for many years to come. Alas, even with that being the case, it can’t hurt for them to see what else is out there.
The Reds have been the best team in English football this season by a country mile, and when Alisson went down with an injury, Adrian was often a very capable replacement.
Cakir, on the other hand, is nine years younger than Adrian and has plenty more years ahead of him at the highest level. Even if it’s not Anfield he makes his way to this summer, it feels pretty likely that he’ll leave Turkey in favour of new beginnings in one of the major European leagues.
The clash between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Arsenal was always going to be one of the most intriguing of the weekend across Europe, with both clubs aiming to improve their chances of qualifying for Europe this season. In the end, it was the Gunners who upset the status quo with a comprehensive away performance at Molineux.
Wolves never really seemed to get going in this game, with Nuno Espirito Santo’s men struggling to replicate the form they showed in their previous three league wins. Bukayo Saka opened the scoring just a few minutes before half time, and after overcoming a nervous second half that featured a golden effort for Adama Traore, it was Alexandre Lacazette who put the final nail in the coffin with an 86th minute strike.
Making a statement
“It has been such a great week, signing my contract and then getting my first Premier League goal,” Saka said. “And it wasn’t a bad goal either so I’m very happy.
“I have to stay humble and keep my feet on the ground to keep learning. It’s important for us to have experience and world-class players around to advise us. It was tough for us today but we gave our all and that is what got us over the line.”
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta was also clearly pretty pleased with the victory.
Pushing the pace
“It was a massive win. We had two and a half days to prepare and they had a week. We played two games while they were training.
“They [Wolves] are a really well organised team and it’s really tough to come here and win, we needed everybody to play with high attention and commitment. We had good possession and scored two goals. When we had to suffer, the team enjoyed to suffer together, which is massive for us.”
The tough games don’t stop for Arsenal from this point on, with back to back games against top six contenders in the form of Leicester City and Tottenham Hotpsur. Wolves, on the other hand, are in for a tough week with encounters against Sheffield United and Everton.
Wolves: Patricio (6.5), Saiss (6), Coady (6), Boly (6.5), Jonny (6), Moutinho (6.5), Neves (7), Dendoncker (6), Doherty (6), Traore (6.5), Jimenez (7), Gibbs-White (6), Jota (6), Neto (6)
Arsenal: Martinez (6.5), Mustafi (7), Luiz (7), Kolasinac (7.5), Soares (6.5), Ceballos (7), Xhaka (7), Tierney (7), Saka (7.5), Nketiah (7), Aubameyang (7), Willock (7.5), Maitland-Niles (6.5), Torreira (6), Bellerin (6.5), Lacazette (7.5)
Referee: Michael Oliver
Goals: Saka, Lacaette
Yellow Cards: Coady, Saiss, Luiz, Torreira, Xhaka, Maitland-Niles
Red Cards: N/A
Wolverhampton Wanderers are the club that is most closely linked to Portugal and Portuguese players, due to their relationship with Jorge Mendes. Nuno Espirito Santo’s team is full of players that are of Portuguese nationality or arrived to the Molineaux from a Portuguese club. One of them is Mexican Raul Jimenez, whose performances have alerted even the likes of Juventus and now another Mexican could be coming to the club.
That is Jesus Manuel Corona, the man whose last name is now getting more recognition than ever before, for obvious reasons, but it is not only his last name that is worth the talk. Porto winger has been doing really well in Portugal and he is now being linked with a move to Wolves.
Corona was previously linked with a move to Sevilla, under Julen Lopetegui, but it looks like that deal will not happen. A Bola are reporting that Nuno Espirito Santo and his team are considering a formal bid for Corona.