I was kind of hoping Mauricio Pochettino would give as good as he gets if he is peppered with verbal pelters at Spurs on Monday. But it sounds like he’s going to just soak it up and smile. Oh, Poch! Here’s Sachin Nakrani’s take on the press conference:
Who knew that Jarrod Bowen was on the verge of becoming a record-breaker? Certainly not West Ham boss David Moyes. The Hammers winger has scored in the first five away games of the season, a feat only achieved by one other player, Mo Salah. If he can find the net at Brentford he will be out on his own. Not that he’ll get a shiny award for it or anything. Here’s Moyes:
I wasn’t aware of it. Look, he’s made a really good start to the season, Jarrod, his form’s been good. There’s a consistency to him at the moment as well, he’s getting goals, so let’s hope he can break that record tomorrow.I think the length of his contract would suggest to you how long we want him for and what we think of him. I like Jarrod’s journey because I think he’s been a bit of the story where football always used to be, you start in the lower leagues and find your way up. You make your way to the top if you can, and it’s probably less and less happening in football nowadays. Now the kids are all getting taken in the academies so young and very few clubs now miss out on young boys. So for him to go from Hereford to Hull, Hull to West Ham and eventually become an England international, I think that says a lot about Jarrod and how well he’s done.
Here’s an extract of our daily football email handily called Football Daily. It’s on the big match this weekend between
Bayern Munich and Dortmund Arsenal and Newcastle.
Hello again. Spurs v Chelsea is not the only London derby in the latest round of Premier League fixtures. There’s another one, too, an East v West-meeting when Brentford host West Ham. Both clubs are steaming into the fixture full of beans after big wins last time out, with the Bees beating Chelsea 2-0 in the league and the Hammers, erm, hammering Arsenal 3-1 in the Carabao Cup. If Brentford can get back-to-back wins they will leapfrog West Ham and could even go above United, if Erik ten Hag’s side have another off day. Here’s likeable Bees manager Thomas Frank, who has still not come down from that big win at Stamford Bridge:
Every Premier League win is something you should celebrate. When you play against a club like Chelsea, and when you manage to do it again at Stamford Bridge, it is very impressive. The performance, especially the second-half, made it so impressive. West Ham are a very good side. They’ve had a good start to the season and did excellently in the transfer market this summer with (Edson) Alvarez and (Mohammed) Kudus, who is a fantastic player. We trust ourselves and believe that if we top perform we have a good chance.
He was asked about Ivan Toney’s future, too. The striker’s ban will end in mid-January and Frank tried to play down reports that Arsenal could be tempted to bid for Toney, who is valued at around £100m by Brentford.
I want him to stay. Ivan is happy to stay. He is happy at the club. What happens in the future is impossible to guess about. He’s a top player, one of our most important players, if not the most important last year. Any player that can score 20-plus goals in the Premier League are very, very important. Ivan’s skillset in terms of finishing abilities with his left and right (foot), heading and his composure in those moments and his link-up play and his presence, character, is a very good package. It’s not (up to) me to put a price tag on him, it’s down to the club. But I’m happy with him, I hope he plays here forever and I’m the coach.
Here’s Nottingham Forest’s Steve Cooper, whose side have no wins to their name since 2 September. His side host in-form Aston Villa on Sunday …
You have to take a deep breath and think about how we are doing in general and we are in a much better place than we were a year ago, and definitely a much better place than where we were two years ago. When you think like that you realise that actually on the whole the club is making progress and we shouldn’t lose sight of that.
We want to win every game we play and are going to be disappointed when that doesn’t happen. We shouldn’t lose sight of how much more we need to grow as a club to really be competitive at this level, you can’t do that in just 12 months.”
With wins proving elusive, injuries up front are obviously troublesome – Chris Wood and Divock Origi are both confirmed as out, while Taiwo Awoniyi is having to manage a groin issue, as Cooper explained …
It’s not been as simple as he’s back training and he’s fully fit. It’s something that is going to be a managing process for a little bit of time now. We’ll see if he is available for the weekend. We hope he is, but it could go either way.”
With that, I’ll hand over to Gregg once more. Thanks for reading!
A fine imposed on Barcelona for a breach of Uefa’s financial reporting rules has been upheld following an appeal by the club.
Barça were fined €500,000 (£434,000) in July by the Uefa Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) first chamber for wrongly reporting profits on the disposal of intangible assets, other than player transfers, in the financial year 2022 which were not considered as relevant income.
Now, the CFCB’s appeals chamber has rejected the club’s appeal and upheld the first chamber’s initial decision and sanction.
UEFA has not said precisely what the profits wrongly reported by the club related to.
In 2022, Barcelona sold 25% of their domestic television rights for the next 25 years to global investment firm Sixth Street. Sixth Street said the purchase of the first 10% of those rights in June last year was worth €267m to the club.
The club are also the subject of a separate UEFA investigation into allegations they made payments to a former vice-president of Spain’s referees’ committee. PA Media
Neto news … Wolves’ Gary O’Neil will doubtless have died a bit inside when he saw Pedro Neto clutching his hamstring in last Saturday’s battling 2-2 draw with Newcastle. However, he said today that the outlook is a lot more optimistic than it initially appeared …
“A few weeks is probably where we are at the moment. He won’t be available in the next two weekends and then we have an international break. We’re hopeful we’ll get him back quickly. I don’t want to put too much pressure on him. He’s been so good this season but we have other players.”
The influential Portuguese midfielder has scored one goal and contributed assists for seven more in a side with 13 league strikes this season. A three-week absence would see him miss tomorrow’s visit to Sheffield United as well as a home game against Spurs. Post-international break, trips to Fulham and Arsenal await.
Unai Emery has been up, praising Villa’s Lev Yashin trophy-winning goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez. In-form Villa visit decidedly not-in-form Nottingham Forest on Sunday …
As a person he’s very competitive in all his career. When he came here to the Premier League 12 years ago, he’s progressively improved a lot. His mentality is really brilliant. Winning this award is magnificent for him, and for us we can be very proud of him – all Aston Villa workers and fans.
With his side fifth in the table and buoyant fans looking up rather than down, Emery says he is trying to keep things on an even keel.
I have to be in a good balance when we are winning and when we are losing. I have to be very clinical in my analysis of how we can improve and never be relaxed because we are always facing very difficult matches.
On Sunday, it’s the same. I don’t want to stop and I want to continue progressing. I want to be very demanding with each player in every match we are going to face.”
Tomorrow sees Der Klassiker … hot on the heels of Bayern being dropkicked from the German Cup by third-tier Saarbrücken on Wednesday.
Thomas Tuchel was in typically combative form in looking forward to taking on Borussia Dortmund …
There is no reason to be resigned at all. We are very disappointed but what I liked was that no one blamed the other because there is no reason for that. We wanted to got to Berlin to win the Cup. We have to write it off and digest it, you feel the pain and that won’t go away but there is no reason to be resigned.
We have a good run in the Bundesliga, we have a team we trust and we go to Dortmund to win the game.
We have a good run in the Bundesliga, we have a team we trust and we go to Dortmund to win the game. We have to reach our limits, get our best out from the first until the last minute.
We have enough quality and form and spirit to beat Dortmund. We go to Dortmund to win and stretch our run in the league. It is a great chance to show a reaction.
Tuchel will be without Matthijs de Ligt, while uncertainty remains over the availability of another central defender, Dayot Upamecano. “The loss of Matthijs is very bitter,” the manager added. “He will be out for several weeks.”
Hearts’ Steven Naismith has also been teeing up the cup tie, which sees him taking on the club he played for between 2007-12 …
The last couple of performances have been good and the confidence is there. We took a lot of confidence and positives from last Sunday’s game (the 2-1 defeat at Rangers). It was a really tight game. We scored a good goal and could probably have done better with a couple of other opportunities we had. And overall we defended well so that gives you the confidence and belief.
As much as the surroundings are different and I think the game will play out slightly differently, we believe that we can cause them problems.
We go into it probably with most folk not giving us a chance and expecting us not to go through but we’ve got to use that as motivation. That gives us the sense that there isn’t pressure there, everybody expects Rangers to go through.
That then gives us the opportunity that we’ve got nothing to lose so we can go out there with a freedom.”
Rangers’ Philippe Clement doesn’t like the idea that his side will be ultra-charged by the prospect of a cup occasion. Before his side take on Hearts in the Scottish League Cup on Sunday, the manager – unbeaten since taking over from Michael Beale last month – said …
“I hate this ‘extra motivation’ – I want that they are motivated for everything. So, if I think: ‘Oh, now they are motivated for the semi-final because we can win a cup’, it’s totally the wrong message. They need to be motivated every day, every game to show the best of themselves.
A football career is so short for them, it goes so fast that they need to be motivated to take the best out if every day, they have the best life in the world and that’s what I want to see from my players. And then the other things follow.”
Clement added that defender Ben Davies remains a doubt with a “small problem” after missing Wednesday’s 5-0 league win at Dundee and “there is a chance but no guarantee” that attacker Tom Lawrence will return. John Souttar, Nicolas Raskin, Rabbi Matondo and Kemar Roofe all remain out.
A minor but extremely welcome bit of history at Craven Cottage tomorrow. Rebecca Welch – who became the first female referee in the Football League three years ago – has become the first woman to be appointed as fourth official for a Premier League game. There is a slight caveat here as Sian Massey-Ellis has already pipped her slightly, having needed to take over such duties for the second half of a game in 2017 after getting injured while fulfilling the role of assistant referee.
Welch follows in the footsteps of Wendy Toms, Massey-Ellis and Natalie Aspinall, who have all been assistant referees in England’s top flight. Massey-Ellis will also be on duty at Fulham v Manchester United, as assistant VAR.
Here’s hoping that, before too long, such appointments will be so normal, everyday, mundane and unremarkable that nobody bats an eyelid.
Marco Silva has selection quandaries as Fulham look to heap the pressure on Ten Hag and Manchester United. Kenny Tete, Tosin Adarabioyo and Adama Traoré are said to be “in their last steps of their recovery” while Brazilian forward Rodrigo Muniz “is a selection headache … we are analysing in training every day and he’s doing really well.”
Silva faced United three times last season, including in the FA Cup, with no dice on any of the three occasions. Still …
I believe that performance-wise we were the better team but we lost. We want to write a different story this season. We want the Cottage to be bouncing from the first minute because the fan support can help us get the result. We need them to push the team forward.”
Guardiola’s Bournemouth counterpart, Andoni Iraola, has been in front of microphones. As a full-back, Iraola faced Guardiola sides several times in Spain with Athletic Bilbao. “His Barça team was amazing,” he said.
We are talking about one of the most successful managers in history. He makes his teams play a certain way that we analyse.
Every coach tries to minimise what they are trying to do but he has a lot of options. His teams are very difficult to play against.
Manchester City have very good players and they are coached in a perfect way so it’s tough to prepare for the games.
But as we did against Liverpool, we have to try to maximise our options, try to level it as much as we can and that’s what we have in our minds.”
The Bournemouth manager conceded that City’s non-Ballon d’Or-winning turbogrock may have it in his locker to pose them a problem or two …
The numbers speak for themselves. Normally he scores and he’s very difficult to stop. Even if you know what he’s going to do or what they are going to try to do, they are very good at it.
They are powerful. He’s involved in part of the offence but he’s much more dangerous inside the box.
With all the offence they produce and all the chances they create, to have someone with his ability and aerial threat makes the team much more complete.”
The love-in went both ways, however, with Guardiola saying of the Cherries manager …
They competed really well against Liverpool. Andoni (Iraola) was an incredible manager in Spain and did an incredible job at Rayo Vallecano, playing in an offensive, attractive way.”
More from Guardiola …
Every season is tougher. Compared to when I arrived, there are better managers and better teams. The important thing is we are close, and we are there. There are still 28 games to play, and a lot of things are going to happen. But we aim to keep getting better.”
Newcastle’s director of football, Dan Ashworth, has refused to rule out the club initiating legal action against Milan over the transfer of Sandro Tonali after the midfielder was given a 10-month ban for breaching Italian betting regulations.
Ashworth said he had questioned his own role in Tonali’s signing as Newcastle’s majority Saudi Arabian owners oversee an internal investigation as to what went wrong.
“From the minute it happened, you look at yourself,” said Ashworth, the former Football Association technical director, who – with hindsight – would not have recruited Tonali. “What could we have done better? What could I have done better? What lessons can be learned? Could we have known? Should we have known? He’s a top player and a big signing, we will miss him.”
Read more here …
Manchester City host Bournemouth tomorrow. Pep Guardiola has addressed questions about Erling Haaland having to face the indignity of finishing runner-up in the Ballon d’Or standings to World Cup winner Lionel Messi.
I saw him so happy to be a contender so close to Messi, Mbappé. He has all his career ahead of him. He has to continue to win and think: ‘OK maybe next season I can be there.’”
Guardiola also rejected the suggestion that his side had found the second half “easy” and “comfortable” in the derby against Manchester United last Sunday.
It was not easy. It helped us to score the second goal early on (Haaland in the 49th minute). After that we had control. But it’s never easy – we have a lot of respect for United. We won because we played a good game.”
Before the WSL match against Manchester City on Sunday, the Arsenal manager opened up about a huge challenge still facing the women’s game. His club recently acknowledged how not-great a squad photo looked, which featured no black or ethnic-minority players in the 27-strong lineup. Eidevall says it is not just a problem restricted to Arsenal …
Where we come from, north London, we are very proud of our community. It is a diverse community. The history of the club, both the men’s first team and the women’s first team has very proud history of players coming from diverse backgrounds as well and made the club very proud of that.
So, us not having that diversity in the first team women’s today – of course, that is a problem.
Women’s football has a diversity problem in that, in getting especially people of colour involved more in football, not only at the top level, but also at the grassroots level and I think we have to work with it but also the FA and other clubs.”
Tristan Rutter emails re: the Old Trafford fun and games:
Ten Hag, Fernades et al, are akin to deck chairs on the Titanic: you can shuffle them all you want but the good ship United’s iceberg is mid-table mediocrity and nothing will change so long as Captain Glazer is at the helm.
Sadly, the demise won’t be cataclysmic but rather a slow descent into oblivion as people lose interest.”
Still, Sir Jim is apparently pledging to throw money in that can surely at least stop the roof leaking.
Jürgen Klopp on hopes that Luis Díaz’s father will be freed soon …
More from Pochettino. He admits the “strange feeling” of returning to the club he spent five years managing, and says: “There were times I thought to dress in a different way and maybe wear a mask” to watch the team.
It’s going to be a tough game. Son is one of the best players in the Premier League and we hope it won’t be a good night for him on Monday.
We need to pay attention to how we start. In our mentality and philosophy, we are looking at how to improve.”
Arsenal host WSL table-toppers Manchester City on Sunday. In the run-up, Gunners defender Jen Beattie spoke about some of the attendances she is starting to see more frequently, with her club having already sold 40,000 tickets for the 10 December match at the Emirates against Chelsea.
I‘m 32, I’ve been in the game for a long time, I’ve played in front of crowds that aren’t that big, so to still be a part of it now and to see the crowd numbers growing and becoming consistent is surreal, to be honest.
I don’t think selling out the Emirates will ever become normal for me. It will be just as surreal and just as exciting every single time. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that.”
Beattie was speaking at the Scottish FA Grassroots Awards, which the piece of paper in front of me suggests I spell out takes place in partnership with McDonald’s Fun Football.
Despite the substantial and ever-growing appetite for WSL games … Sunday’s game takes place at Boreham Wood’s 4,500-capacity Meadow Park.
The Chelsea manager is preparing his topsy-turvy Chelsea for a visit to his former club Spurs on Monday. Ange Postecoglou has “very good players, a very good team – they can be contenders,” he says. Pochettino concedes that the Chelsea of 2023-24 is not the all-conquering force that they have been.
Now we are in a different pressure … a different situation. We are building Chelsea for the future – maybe we struggled a little bit from the beginning. We lose too many points … maybe we deserve more (from) our performance but I think because we are so young.
No doubt, in the future, Chelsea will be in the same position that they deserve to be in, because of the history.”
Chelsea enter the weekend in 11th place – the top of the bottom half, in other words. Since only managing a point having been two goals up against Arsenal two weeks ago, the Blues lose 2-0 at home to Brentford but will arrive at Spurs on the back of a 2-0 Carabao Cup victory over Blackburn.
Mykhailo Mudryk has returned to full training after recovering from a knock and Armando Broja “might be available on the bench for Monday”, Pochettino said. However, all of Trevoh Chalobah, Ben Chilwell, Carney Chukwuemeka, Wesley Fofana, Roméo Lavia and Christopher Nkunku remain sidelined.
Ten Hag continues.
(Thanks to Gregg – Stuart here again, jumping in while Erik is mid-flow.)
To paraphrase Aaron Sorkin, Ten Hag looks determined in front of the media. The Dutchman concedes that “we have to adjust” given injuries and absences, and that “the execution isn’t there” at the moment. More fundamentally …
We have to win. I don’t want to find excuses if we’re not winning. (Winning) is a demand. I don’t want to walk away from that.
(The players) want to put this right. We know the standards here, we have to match the standards every day. We had two setbacks but we’ll fight back.
These players … we have seen last year they can do a lot better. That’s up to me to let them play better. I will put every effort in.
I have a good squad, good players … the players are hard to beat. I’m convinced over the long term, they’ll be hard to beat.”
Erik ten Hag has emerged to speak to the press. He is asked if there is a lack of character among his squad given recent limp displays. He is adamant this is not the case.
I remember only the fight we showed against Brentford (in the 2-1 comeback win). If there wasn’t spirit (or) characters in the dressing room we can’t do that.
He is then asked about quotes attributed to him last week in which he seemed to suggest that he can’t make his Manchester United team play like his Ajax one because he has to be more direct. He says it is simply because he has different players.
I can’t play like Ajax because they have different players. We have to combine (the Ajax method) with the DNA of Man Utd. To combine it with the characters of the (United) players. I think last year we could see that. This year the philosophy is the same. I want to play from the back but every game we play, like against City, we face a high press and sometimes have to go direct.
He says United have to fight to get out of their slump but injuries have made it hard to get consistency.
The intention is clear. I think in the moment we are in there are so many changes each game. Now we miss often players in the back four. And now Casemiro in midfield. We have to adjust. We have never built up (a head of) steam but we have to win.
While we’re still waiting for Erik ten Hag to emerge for his Manchester United press conference/grilling, why not get quizzical? There are plenty of football questions in here:
Vincent Kompany’s Burnley have floundered a bit since racing up from the Championship, taking just four points (all away from home). So with Crystal Palace visiting Turf Moor it feels like this is a chance to finally get some points on the board in Lancashire. He reckons his team are stuck between two worlds and need to settle in their new one.
Staying up is a way for this club to grow into this league. But this year is by far the hardest. You find yourself in the middle ground now between the two divisions where you’ve probably deservedly moved on from the Championship but to say you belong in the Premier League, there’s still a gap. I think the squad is still healthy in terms of you can go down really strong but you can also grow into this league and be stronger in the years to come. We’ll have to fight for every point but I don’t think we’re in a position where we have to be too surprised or panicking about anything.”
The fixture list was certainly not kind to Burnley, whose four home defeats have come against Manchester City, Tottenham, Manchester United and Chelsea.
It’s a massive (opportunity) for us (against Palace). We’ve not played for a while at home so we are looking forward to playing in front of our fans. The type of league it is, I think there’s no game where you can expect but there’s every game where you have the opportunity and tomorrow we have to look at it as an opportunity to show to the fans something they’ve been waiting for in the Premier League. I’m a big believer of home advantage so I do think it’s part of the make-up of any successful team.”
Jürgen Klopp has said there is “a little bit of hope” that Luis Díaz’s father could be released by kidnappers in Colombia and the Liverpool forward may be involved in Sunday’s visit to Luton. Klopp said the player was tired but in reasonable spirits and would be left to decide whether he wishes to feature against Luton having missed Liverpool’s past two matches owing to his family’s ordeal.
You can read the full story below:
Some news from the WSL now, with Manchester United manager Marc Skinner pointing out, fairly I reckon, that a 6.45pm kick-off at Brighton is not ideal for his team nor attendance figures.
It’s one of those that, for us, of course, it’s difficult, because it’s the travel then back, and I think it knocks into the week – but we’re part and parcel of that kind of cycle. It’s the fans. It will be interesting to see how many are at the game, because I’m sure, even local fans, with a 6.45 pm kick-off, there’s school the next day, you’re probably deterring some of the younger fans who really want to see their heroes, or the players they want to be like in the future. I think it’s also come out as well that we’re away against Tottenham at 6.45pm (on Sunday 10 December). If you want to grow the game, then the timing slots for availability for fans is really important. We can recover, we’ll move on. It’s not ideal. But I think for the fans, maybe in the next season, we can look at better slots that really make it available for fans, to get as many there as possible. Because it’s all well and good being available for TV, which we all want, and we want to grow that, but also you want an atmosphere in the stadium, because that is what makes the performances what they are. I would say hopefully in the future we can look at what that looks like, for more accessibility to fans.”
Hello, Gregg here while Stuart grabs some lunch. A bit more on Everton here, before they host Brighton tomorrow. Dwight McNeil is feeling pretty good about life at Goodison and reckons a group pow-wow back in August has helped the team fight through a sticky patch.
We had a discussion and we all came together and said that we want the same thing; (it was) about what we want as a collective mindset so everyone knows what is required. It is good for everyone to have that input because everybody’s input matters. We want the best for each other. We want the best for ourselves; we want the best for the club and the fans. Everyone believes we’ve got a good team, now we’ve got to show everyone that we’re a good team. It’s all good saying it, but now we’ve got to do it out on the pitch, and it’s down to us to do it. We want to build a good story at the club.
I’d argue that Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s return has probably had more to do with the upturn in form than a chat. But maybe I’m being cynical.
Much, much more on the Lisbie link-up between Kyrell’s eighth-tier club Cray Valley and his father Kevin’s old side Charlton. Morgan Ofori speaks to the pair in the run-up to Sunday’s FA Cup clash …
“Ten Hag – so much ink spilled on him … what more has to happen for people to see he is not up for the job?” emails Jeff Sax.
Being without a £70m midfielder against the backdrop of an investor being airlifted in, who has openly criticised the signing of said midfielder, probably won’t help. Mr Ten Hag is due to be up before the media in the next couple of hours.
Manchester United’s woes continue with news of an injury to Casemiro. In a statement, the club said the midfielder “will be out for several weeks due to a hamstring injury suffered during our Carabao Cup defeat to Newcastle United on Wednesday.
”The Brazilian midfielder was withdrawn at half-time due to the issue, and subsequent assessment has revealed a strain that will keep him out for a number of weeks.”
Casemiro had missed three games before returning in the loss to Newcastle. Following tomorrow’s visit to Fulham, United visit Copenhagen in the Champions League next Wednesday before a home game against Luton on Saturday week. Following the international break, the club have three away games, against Everton, Galatasaray and Newcastle, before a home game against Chelsea on 6 Dec.
News from the Blues. The in-form Mali midfielder Abdoulaye Doucouré has signed on the line to extend his stay on Merseyside until June 2025.
Speaking to Everton TV, Doucouré said:
I love Everton and I’m very happy to extend my stay here and look forward. It was a very easy decision to make. I love all the people around the club and all the fans who have shown me so much love in the past couple of months. I can’t thank them enough for all the support they give me.”
His manager, Sean Dyche, added:
I have long been an admirer of Doucs’ qualities and, from the moment I became Everton manager, I was keen to get him into our team and for him to show what he can do. He repaid that decision with some excellent performances and crucial goals, not least the winner on the final day of last season which sealed our stay in the Premier League.
Doucs has continued to impress this season and we are confident he will remain an integral part of our squad going forward.”
More Premier League managers are in front of mics this afternoon. In the meantime, here’s Dan Morgan on how managers are starting to think differently about the five changes at their disposal …
A Bundesliga managerial development from last night: Bo Svensson has walked from Mainz, following a winless start to the season.
“Unfortunately, there are always many sides to the story in football, which can bring a successful collaboration to a point whereby it is perhaps better to go a different way,” Mainz sporting chairman Christian Heideil said. “Bo also felt the same and told us about this. Hats off to him for his openness and his close bond with Mainz.”
Mainz have three points from their opening nine league games, and they were beaten 3-0 by Hertha Berlin in the German Cup second round on Wednesday. Under-23 coach Jan Siewert has stepped in to helm matters pitchside at home to RB Leipzig tomorrow.
Iran’s Sepahan have been handed a $200,000 fine by the Asian Football Confederation and banned from playing at their Nagsh-e-Jahan stadium after last month’s Asian Champions League clash with Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ittihad was cancelled.
Sepahan have also been given a 3-0 defeat in the 2 October game, which did not kick off after Al-Ittihad players refused to take to the field due to a statue of assassinated Iranian general Qasem Soleimani being placed at the entrance to the pitch.
The confederation’s disciplinary committee said Sepahan’s behaviour had “created an unsafe and unstable security environment” and “caused reputational damage to the AFC, the AFC Champions League competition and Asian football generally”.
Soleimani, a prominent general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, was killed near Baghdad airport in a US drone strike in January 2020 and is viewed as a martyr by the country’s ruling regime.
The game was called off minutes after the scheduled start time and with around 60,000 fans in the stadium. Reuters
Fascinating potential Manchester United development … according to Sky News, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the aspirant 25% owner of the club, is pledging to invest £245m to improve the club’s infrastructure.
Back in 2019, Jamie Jackson wrote this piece about how tired Old Trafford now seems in comparison to the likes of Spurs’ new stadium …
More from Jürgen Klopp, this time on Darwin Núñez … who scored just about the most Darwin Núñez goal yet recorded in Carabao Cup victory over Bournemouth on Wednesday.
The first year was hard for him and then hard for me as well because you see this incredible talent, massive potential, but it is difficult to unfold it.
I am a manager who can help a player but I need contact for that, it can speed up a process by talking a lot with the player. I was not able to do that because I don’t speak Spanish and he didn’t speak English but his English is now that much better.
He is settled in the team and when you see him around the building everything is different and he is in a very good moment. It is still only the start for him.
It’s a good moment, hopefully it continues like that for ever. Then I am a bit afraid of the highs he could reach because there is so much there it is crazy.
Among the considerable FA Cup intrigue this weekend … bracket-tastic Isthmian League South East Division side Cray Valley (PM) – they dropped Paper Mills from their name 25 years ago – make the short, four-mile jaunt to visit Charlton on Sunday. Up front for them is set to be 19-year-old Kyrell Lisbie, the son of Kevin, who memorably scored a Premier League hat-trick for the Addicks against Liverpool in 2003.
Speaking to PA Media, the Cray Valley forward opened up on his joy at the draw:
It was amazing, with how close the two teams are to each other and everything else. I feel like it is written in the stars that we go out there and perform.
They are a good team, but the beauty of the FA Cup is you just never know what the result will be. The boys have fully deserved it. It is going to be a special day and occasion. There have been a few upsets and I just can’t wait for it.”
ICYMI … here’s 10 things from the weekend’s Premier League action. Featuring: West Ham facing bogey team Brentford, Brighton hoping to atone for the 5-1 shooing they endured against Everton last season, and fears about Forest’s form.
Tonight sees a big game in the Championship (8pm GMT), as early pacesetters Leicester host Leeds. After 14 games, the Foxes already have a 14-point cushion over their fellow relegated side from last season, who occupy third place. Leicester’s manager, Vincenzo Maresca, said:
We are going to try and do our best in and use our weapons to prepare in the way we want to play, but nothing more than that.
Our preparation will be the same as the previous one. We’re going to try to have a plan to see how we need to attack, to see how we need to defend when they want to attack us, and see how we can avoid transition.
It’s a special night for sure for the fans; for us it’s a special night because it’s a game.”
Speaking on Wednesday, Leeds’ manager Daniel Farke was effusive about tonight’s opponents:
They deserve this points tally (39) after 14 games … it’s remarkable. I just give them credit and applause. I think it’s a fantastic side, many top players, many players who have played Premier League level and lots of stability in the club … they kept the key players together.
It’s a great game, two big clubs … two quality sides, spotlight game, Friday evening, the floodlights on. Everybody who like the Championship and likes football is looking forward to this.”
Blades news … Sheffield United are currently rooted to the bottom of England’s top tier, with just one point from their opening 10 games. However, manager Paul Heckingbottom is hopeful that full-back George Baldock is ready to return to his starting lineup, having suffered a calf injury on international duty with Greece back in September.
Heckingbottom will reunite with Tommy Doyle when his side host Wolves tomorrow, the Manchester City-owned player who was key during a loan period for the Blades in their promotion campaign last season. He’s now on loan at Molineux, and Heckingbottom opened up on why that’s the case:
He wanted to (move) and we’d have taken him, without a doubt. But City were keen to sell. Finances, that’s all it was.
He had a couple of loans which were indifferent but someone I’d seen a lot of and knew a lot about. I knew his character and also his technical ability. I was pretty sure he was what we were looking for and what we were after. He did great. We were good for him and he was good for us. I have nothing but praise for him.”
The manager also confirmed that Anel Ahmedhodzic and Oli McBurnie will both be out tomorrow.
Newcastle’s manager is understandably buoyant following Wednesday’s comprehensive dismantling of Manchester United in the Carabao Cup. Speaking to reporters, he said:
It was great to be able to give everyone an opportunity and I thought they responded magnificently. It was a brilliant team effort.
I thought the spirit, determination and collective mindset was at the highest level. We’re in a good place mentally after the win, the whole squad will be lifted by that performance.
Howe added that Matt Targett is to undergo a scan on the hamstring injury he sustained during the game today, but was pessimistic about its outcome:
It doesn’t look good … when you have a hamstring injury you fear the worst. It’s a real blow to lose him – he’s a top player.”
Last Saturday, Burnley were denied a late equaliser against Bournemouth. This followed a curious, circa six-minute-long VAR confirmation of an offside decision after Jay Rodriguez found the bottom corner in the 89th minute. Refreshingly, Kompany refused to dwell on it:
I have to put the game behind me. I don’t want to be constantly putting us in a victim situation. One of the positive things I have to highlight is that there are open conversations (with referees’ body PGMOL).
So we do voice our opinion – we don’t always agree – but at least there’s a discussion and there’s a way to maybe change some perspectives. It’s been a succession of events that we could have done without, but we have to move on and focus on the next game … and get our rewards tomorrow.”
Kompany confirmed that Lyle Foster will miss tomorrow’s game and is unlikely to feature before this month’s international break, meaning he could also be unavailable against Everton on Saturday week.
Tomorrow, Burnley host Crystal Palace. This sees the Premier League’s youngest manager, Vincent Kompany, test himself against the league’s oldest, Roy Hodgson. For context, Roy’s first job in management was at Sweden’s Halmstads … 10 years before Kompany was born.
Asked about the generational intrigue on the sidelines, Kompany said:
I’ve been looking at his history as a coach. He’s been through so many countries and he has such a huge knowledge of the world.
I can see why he’s still doing it – I can see the passion in his eyes. I’m lucky to have a father who’s around the same age, and still just as active as Roy Hodgson is at the moment. We all hope to be as healthy and energetic at his age.
While I roll back the tape on some Important Vincent Kompany Chat … check out this lovely piece from Paul McGreal, on the unexpected joy of sharing matchdays with his daughter: “What started as a slightly selfish opportunity for me to go to football matches masquerading as parental responsibilities morphed into important bonding trips …”
Arteta’s captain missed last weekend’s heavy defeat of Sheffield United with a hip problem. He came off the bench to score a consolation in defeat by West Ham in midweek, and today the manager said:
We have tried to offload him a little bit because he had a little issue that he was grumbling with. He felt much better in the last few days, and we gave a few minutes against West Ham which was good to see, and his contribution was really good. He will train today and if he’s fine he will be ready.
Arteta had a less positive update regarding another of his midfielders, Emile Smith Rowe, who suffered the latest of his litany of injury setbacks this week.
I think he will be out for weeks. How many will determine in relation to how he progresses in the first few weeks especially. It’s a big blow because he was getting some momentum and some minutes and we’d started to get the Emile that we needed, but unfortunately he’s going to be out again.
Smith Rowe set up one of Eddie Nketiah’s three goals against the Blades last Saturday.
The Arsenal manager suffered a setback with the limp midweek Carabao Cup defeat by West Ham. He admitted his disappointment:
Every time you have a defeat it takes a few days to get over, but the full focus now is on Newcastle. There are obviously things that we had to do much better in the game, especially the way we competed and the way we conceded the goals. I don’t think the scoreline reflects what happened in the game at all but we should have done much better.
If you take your foot off the gas in any action in this league, against this type of opponent, you get punished. It’s as simple as that so you have to give the standards the maximum level if you want to keep winning and winning.”
Jürgen Klopp spoke about Díaz this morning:
He was in training two days ago, yesterday he had a session and will be part of the team (training).
We must wait. If he feels right, he will be here and train with us. The session he had with us you can see when he is with the boys he is fine, he is OK, but you could see he didn’t sleep a lot.
We have to see how he is and we go from there. The news from Colombia gives us a little bit of hope. We are waiting for the really good news, but that’s it pretty much.
I cannot say what we will do because we just wait where we can pick up the boy from and go from there. But it’s all about him, if he makes himself available or not, and I will not force anything.”
Reports have emerged overnight that Díaz’s father, Luis Manuel, is expected to be freed in the coming days. Colombia’s government said the National Liberation Army (ELN), the country’s largest guerrilla group, is known to have been behind the kidnapping, and that negotiations for his release are taking place.
Otty Patiño, who leads the government peace delegation that is negotiating, said: “We demand that the ELN releases immediately Mr Luis Manuel Díaz and we say as of now that they are entirely responsible to secure his life and integrity.”
Early dispatches from today’s Premier League press conferences are starting to land. More detail to follow but a couple of early notable highlights:
Luis Díaz is back training with Liverpool – last week his parents were kidnapped in Colombia, and his father remains missing. Jürgen Klopp’s side visit Luton on Sunday.
Martin Ødegaard is in contention to start against Newcastle tomorrow, having recovered from the hip problem that kept him out against Sheffield United last Saturday. Emile Smith Rowe, however, is expected to be “out for weeks”.
Here’s how the state of play with Erik ten Hag and Manchester United stood overnight …
Erik ten Hag is expected to continue as Manchester United’s manager for Saturday’s trip to Fulham but must oversee an upturn in results to keep his job.
Although there is no desire among the executive to replace Ten Hag, who they have backed as the right man for the long term, there is an acceptance after eight defeats in the first 15 games of the season that the Dutchman needs to turn around this run of form, starting at Craven Cottage.
After Saturday’s 12.30pm kick-off, for which Casemiro is a doubt, United go to Copenhagen for their fourth Champions League group match on Wednesday. Ten Hag’s side have taken three points from their opening three games but are point one behind Galatasaray, who are in the second qualifying position. Jamie Jackson
Read more below. Ten Hag is due to be up before the assembled media later today.
A nice curveball to start the day. Uefa have decided to geg in on the Ballon d’Or from next year …
The prestigious Ballon d’Or awards will be co-organised by Uefa from 2024. European football’s governing body has reached an agreement with Group Amaury, the owner of media companies France Football and L’Equipe, to “enhance the stature and global reach of the awards”.
The merging of the awards means an end to the Uefa awards handed out in August each year, with the exception of the President’s Award which will still be presented alongside the draws for the Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League.
There will also still be accolades for the best player in each of Uefa’s club competitions, which are determined by its technical study group and announced within days of each competition’s final.
Under the new partnership, Uefa said all existing Ballon d’Or awards will remain in place with the addition of men’s and women’s coach of the year prizes. Groupe Amaury retains control of the Ballon d’Or brand under the agreement and of the voting system, which will be unchanged. PA Media
Hello and welcome. Another one of those Fridays where “your weekend really does start here” … with Leicester hosting Leeds in a Battle Of Two Relegated Sides tonight in the Championship, just after the First Round Proper of the FA Cup kicks off in both Barnsley and Sheppey.
Erik ten Hag has an awkward-looking trip to Craven Cottage tomorrow, in a week where the temperature has risen markedly on his heated seat. On Monday, Mauricio Pochettino returns to Spurs with a Chelsea side that’s variously taken forwards, backwards and sideways steps so far this season.
We’ll be getting into all that, Bayern licking their
Saarbrücken-imposed wounds with the small matter of a trip to Dortmund, Jonas Eidevall hoping to get his Arsenal women’s side back on track against WSL pacesetters Manchester City, and much, much more.