Rumour Has It: Atletico closing in on Cavani, Man Utd duo told they can leave

By Sports Desk December 24, 2019

With Atletico Madrid struggling for regular goals, Diego Simeone is keen to address the problem.

Atletico have only scored 20 goals in 18 LaLiga matches this season – the club relying heavily on Alvaro Morata's seven strikes.

Simeone's solution could be about to arrive from the French capital, where a Paris Saint-Germain star has fallen down the pecking order.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID NEARING CAVANI DEAL

Paris Saint-Germain forward Edinson Cavani is close to joining Atletico Madrid in January, according to Marca.

Cavani has reportedly agreed a two-and-a-half-year contract with Atletico, while PSG would prefer to keep the 32-year-old until the end of the season.

The soon-to-be free agent has found himself behind loanee Mauro Icardi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar this season.

Signing Cavani in the January transfer window could force Atletico to sell due to their salary-limit issue, with Thomas Lemar a possible casualty.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United pair Nemanja Matic and Marcos Rojo have been told they will be sold in January, according to the Daily Star. Matic has been linked with Serie A duo Milan and Inter, while Atletico have emerged as an option for the veteran midfielder.

- According to AS, Valencia want to sign right-back Joao Cancelo from Premier League champions Manchester City. The LaLiga outfit are keen for a January reunion with Cancelo, who initially joined Valencia in 2014 before leaving permanently in 2018. Valencia want to re-sign the Portugal international on an initial loan.

Hertha Berlin have entered negotiations with Granit Xhaka to bring the former Arsenal captain back to the Bundesliga, reports RMC Sport. Hertha have turned their attention to ex-Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Xhaka after failing to prise Lucas Tousart from Lyon.

Chelsea have been offered the chance to sign Isco. The Daily Express says Real Madrid are trying to offload players to free up funds to bring in Tottenham star Christian Eriksen in January. City are also reportedly interested in Madrid's Isco.

Mario Mandzukic's proposed switch to Qatari outfit Al-Duhail from Juventus has broken down due to wage expectations, according to Tuttomercatoweb.

- Mundo Deportivo claims Barcelona only want to loan out defender Jean-Clair Todibo in January amid interest from Milan and Bayern Leverkusen. United have also been linked with the 19-year-old.

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    Alderweireld suffered a groin injury in Spurs' win over Manchester City on Saturday and Mourinho was initially downbeat about the outlook for the Belgium international.

    However, scans appear to have brought good news for Spurs, who are top of the Premier League courtesy of their goal difference being superior to that of defending champions Liverpool.

    Speaking ahead of Thursday's Europa League clash with Ludogorets, Mourinho said: "Toby has a muscular injury but not as bad as we initially thought.

    "He will have his time to be out but not like a month, which was immediately what we thought. I'd say between two and four weeks."

    A two-week absence will see Alderweireld miss the Premier League derbies against Chelsea and Arsenal as well as the European meetings with Ludogorets and LASK.

    Should he be out for four weeks, Alderweireld would also be unavailable for Spurs' final Europa League group game at home to Antwerp and league fixtures against Crystal Palace, Liverpool and Leicester City.

    Despite missing three of their nine Premier League games this season, Alderweireld leads Tottenham in clearances with 29, according to Opta data.

    Tottenham could be allowed to let fans into their stadium in a reduced capacity from December 2, when the lockdown in England ends, though their ability to do so will depend on London's coronavirus risk tier.

    Asked about that possibility, Mourinho said: "First of all we have to see what tier London is.

    "Looking at it from an economical point of view I don't think it's any good to clubs but for the fans, for their happiness and best of all it's probably the start of it and progressively we can go in the way of a situation closer to what we wanted."

    Spurs are top of Europa League Group J having claimed two wins from their opening three games in this stage of the competition.

    They beat Ludogorets, who have lost all three of their group matches, 3-1 in the reverse fixture.

  • Bielsa nominated for The Best FIFA Coach: But does Leeds' Premier League start warrant it? Bielsa nominated for The Best FIFA Coach: But does Leeds' Premier League start warrant it?

    Marcelo Bielsa has been nominated for The Best FIFA Men's Coach award after an impressive year saw him become further adored by Leeds United supporters.

    The former Argentina coach guided Leeds back to the Premier League last season after 16 years outside the top flight, racking up 93 points in a superb Championship season.

    Bielsa, 65, has since overseen a solid start to the new campaign in the Premier League, securing draws against Manchester City and Arsenal as Leeds sit 14th in the table.

    But while results in 2020 have been impressive, does Bielsa really warrant inclusion on a five-man FIFA shortlist that also includes Champions League winner Hansi Flick, Premier League champion Jurgen Klopp, LaLiga winner Zinedine Zidane and Europa League victor Julen Lopetegui?

    We have looked at some of the best Opta statistics behind Leeds' start to the 2020-21 campaign, comparing that to past Premier League years and what is happening elsewhere in Europe this year.

    LEEDS MAKE IMPRESSIVE START

    Leeds have had a good opening to the new season and their 11 points from nine games already puts them a healthy seven points clear of the relegation zone.

    Wins over Fulham, Sheffield United and Aston Villa mean they are well on track to achieve their survival objective, though heavy defeats to Crystal Palace and Leicester City provided a reminder of the difficulty of top-flight life.

    Leeds' style of play has also led to a host of entertaining matches, their dramatic 4-3 defeat to champions Liverpool on the opening weekend setting the tone.

    Their 14 goals make Leeds the top scorers in the bottom half while only two teams have conceded more than the 17 they have leaked.

    With 130 total shots, Leeds are second only to Liverpool in that regard, while they are fourth when it comes to attempts on target (48), both incredibly impressive figures for a promoted side.

    They have completed 4,756 passes in their nine matches, which again sees them rank favourably.

    That number is good for sixth in the Premier League, behind the likes of Chelsea (5,814), Liverpool (5,683) and Manchester City (5,042) but above Tottenham (4,602) and Manchester United (4,463).

    Leeds' average possession figure is a tremendous 60.46 per cent, highlighting the control they have had in most of their matches. Only Pep Guardiola's City (62.57) sit above them in that metric.

    Those displays have come even while negotiating a particularly tough start to the season - Leeds have already faced five of the teams who finished in the top eight of the Premier League last season.

    BUT POINTS RETURN IS NOTHING SPECIAL

    However, the case against Bielsa's nomination would be that when it comes to Leeds' overall record, while 11 points is a decent return, it is certainly nothing special.

    Prior to this season, 34 promoted teams had earned 11 or more points inside their first nine top-flight matches.

    Some of those have far exceeded that total. Nottingham Forest had 21 points from their first nine games in 1994-95 and went on to finish in third place.

    Hull City stunned the league with 20 points in nine matches in 2008, while Wigan Athletic had recorded 19 by this stage in 2005.

    There are more recent examples too, as Sheffield United (12) - who went on to finish ninth - and Aston Villa (11) both had similar returns after nine games last season.

    Looking specifically at 2020, Bielsa is not the only coach of a promoted team in Europe's major leagues to have captured the headlines this season.

    Cadiz are fifth in LaLiga with 14 points from 10 matches after a magnificent start that has seen them earn famous away wins over Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao.

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    In France, Lens have 17 points from nine games and are seven points off the top of Ligue 1 with two games in hand. They have already defeated leaders and champions Paris Saint-Germain.

    Stuttgart, meanwhile, are eighth in the Bundesliga and reached the 11-point mark one game quicker than Leeds did in England's top flight.

    While a Bielsa nomination has its merits, the data suggests there were also other potential candidates this year and in seasons past who, having lacked his global profile, can feel hard done by to miss out.

  • Van de Beek believes deeper role worked well in Man Utd victory Van de Beek believes deeper role worked well in Man Utd victory

    Donny van de Beek believes his deployment in a deeper role worked well as Manchester United thrashed Istanbul Basaksehir in the Champions League.

    United won 4-1 at Old Trafford on Tuesday, with Bruno Fernandes' early double added to by strikes from Marcus Rashford and substitute Daniel James.

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    "Some games I play number 10 and sometimes the coach needs me in the control position.

    "That is fine for me because before, when I played at Ajax, I was playing in those positions, so it is okay.

    "It was a good reaction from the away game. To win 4-1 at home I think you can be happy. The first half was really good especially the first 30 minutes and we played nice football and scored nice goals.

    "In the second half we lost too many balls and gave them some chances but the last five minutes we controlled the game again."

    A third straight win in all competitions for United avenged their defeat in Turkey earlier this month and put them three points clear at the top of Group H.

    They have now won their last seven home games in European competition by an aggregate score of 24-2.

    "It is not finished but we are in a good position," added Van de Beek, with United sitting ahead of Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig.

    "We need to keep working and everything will be fine. We now have eyes on the weekend [against Southampton]."

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