Erling Haaland remains tight-lipped on his plans for his future.

The 21-year-old Norway forward has drawn widespread interest after two outstanding years at Borussia Dortmund.

Haaland appears destined to exit BVB later this year but has a decision to make.

TOP STORY – BARCELONA LOOMS AS HAALAND'S PREFERRED MOVE

Haaland is holding off on a decision on his club future to see if Barcelona can raise the required €360million to put together a package for the striker, reports the Daily Star.

The report claims Borussia Dortmund representatives believe Barcelona is Haaland's preferred destination.

The 21-year-old also has interest from Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea .

 

ROUND-UP

- CBS Sports claims Saudi Arabia's  Al Nassr  have lodged a final bid for Arsenal outcast  Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang , with the deal matching his Gunners salary and including a break clause after 12 months that would allow him to return to Europe. Gerard Romero claims  Barcelona have reached an agreement with Arsenal to sign Aubameyang, although the Blaugrana must offload Ousmane Dembele  first.

- Atletico Madrid are unwilling to allow Alvaro Morata to join rivals Barcelona ,   claims Sport. Morata is on loan at Juventus from Atletico amid talk of a switch to the Blaugrana, with Arsenal , Newcastle United and Tottenham also linked to the Spain striker.

Dejan Kulusevski  is set to be loaned from Juventus to  Tottenham ,   with the two clubs in advanced talks on a deal, according to Fabrizio Romano. The deal would include an option to buy.

- The Daily Star reports likely new Everton manager Frank Lampard will block  Dominic Calvert-Lewin 's proposed move to  Arsenal .

- Goal claims top-four hopefuls  West Ham  have made dual bids for Leeds United pair  Kalvin Phillips  and  Raphinha . The Sun claims the Hammers' bid for Phillips is worth £50m.

Christian Eriksen had his contract terminated with Inter last month.

The Danish midfielder has been training with Ajax in recent weeks.

But the 29-year-old former Tottenham star is set to return to England.

 

TOP STORY – ERIKSEN SET TO COMPLETE BEES DEAL

Former Inter midfielder Eriksen is set to complete a deal to join Brentford in the next 72 hours according to the Mirror.

Ex-Tottenham star Eriksen has agreed terms but needs to pass a medical with the Bees to seal the imminent deal.

The Denmark international, who suffered a cardiac arrest at Euro 2020, was unable to play for Inter this season due to Italian football regulations.

 

ROUND-UP

- Newcastle United will open new talks with Brighton as they move to sign Yves Bissouma, claims the Daily Mail. The Magpies are also pondering an offer for Tottenham's Dele Alli.

- The Sun reports that Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola may be lured away with by the offer to take over as the Netherlands national team boss. The Dutch deal would start in 2023 when his current contract expires.

- West Ham will make a bumper move for Everton forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin claims The Sun. The deal would be worth £60million.

- Mundo Deportivo claims that ex-Manchester United winger Adnan Januzaj is set to extend his current deal with Real Sociedad .

- Diego Carlos' representatives are trying to convince Sevilla to sell him to Newcastle with a £60m deal on the table according to 90min.

Ralf Rangnick admitted he took a punt that paid off after Manchester United's super-subs combined for a priceless winner against West Ham.

United's German interim boss sent on forwards Marcus Rashford, Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial to join Cristiano Ronaldo in attack, and that quartet conjured a dramatic goal three minutes into stoppage time.

Rashford tucked in from close range after Ronaldo fed Martial, who relayed the ball to Cavani, with the Uruguayan narrowly beating the offside line before delivering the perfect low cross.

After huffing and puffing without reward until that point, United could celebrate and the Old Trafford crowd was jubilant as the home side pinched a 1-0 win that lifts them to fourth place, at least for a short while, in the Premier League. Arsenal and Tottenham have the chance to jump ahead of United on Sunday.

United have scored eight goals via substitutes in the Premier League this season, said Opta, more than any other team. Old habits die hard.

Rashford's goal also meant that for the second time this season, West Ham were denied a point by a late United winner from a substitute, with Jesse Lingard's 89th-minute effort having decided the London Stadium tussle between the teams in September.

On that previous occasion, West Ham were thrown a lifeline when Luke Shaw handled and they were awarded a penalty, only for more substitute drama to follow. Mark Noble was sent from the bench to take the spot-kick, but the specialist missed.

This time, the goal came too late for any similar drama to follow.

"It couldn't have been better than that, if you score in the last second of the game. It was amazing," Rangnick told MUTV.

"Enormous important win and physically a great performance.

"I'm extremely happy for the boys. They did it, and we had to take some risks in the last 15 minutes.

"We played almost with four strikers in a 4-2-4, but we knew we had to win that game and that's why we decided to take that risk."

Rashford has been directly involved in more goals against West Ham in all competitions than he has against any other side at club level (eight – four goals, four assists).

He has hit four winners in the 90th minute or stoppage time in his United career, which is twice as many as any other Red Devils player in the Premier League era.

United have now won 21 of their 26 Premier League home games against West Ham (D3 L2) and are unbeaten in their last 14 against them at Old Trafford since a 1-0 loss in May 2007.

Another notable detail is that Saturday's hosts have only lost once in their last 10 Premier League games (W6 D3). This was their first clean sheet in the competition in six matches, another plus for Rangnick as United rebuild in the post-Ole Gunnar Solskjaer months.

All the positives aside, there were still elements that disappointed Rangnick in United's display, and it had been shaping up as a game to forget before the late twist.

After a win at Brentford on Wednesday, United looked flat at times against West Ham, who almost snatched the lead before Rashford's intervention when Tomas Soucek headed just wide.

"We didn't always find the right solutions in possession of the ball, especially in the final third of the game," Rangnick said. "But the way we played defensively after having played only three days ago at Brentford, I was really impressed by the team.

"I'm still not quite happy the way that we play in possession of the ball, so this will have to be the next step in the next couple of weeks."

Marcus Rashford hit a last-gasp winner as Manchester United jumped ahead of West Ham in the race for the Champions League with a 1-0 Old Trafford success.

A drab game looked destined to end in goalless stalemate until Edinson Cavani's low cross from the left was turned in from close range by fellow substitute Rashford in the third minute of stoppage time.

Cavani appeared to be possibly offside when he collected a pass from Anthony Martial, but a VAR review allowed the goal to stand, leaving the Hammers devastated.

The result means West Ham manager David Moyes has now not won an away league match against his former club in 15 attempts (L11 D4).

Cristiano Ronaldo has emerged as an injury doubt for the Premier League match between Manchester United and West Ham on Saturday.

The Portugal star played 71 minutes of the 3-1 win at Brentford on Wednesday before being substituted - a decision with which he was clearly annoyed.

Interim manager Ralf Rangnick insisted he had no problem with the player becoming frustrated at going off and that it would not affect his chances of facing the Hammers at Old Trafford.

However, Rangnick later confirmed Ronaldo suffered a neck injury during the victory over Brentford that could keep him out of the game.

"Cristiano is a question mark because he has a problem with his neck," he said to MUTV on Friday.

"He received treatment yesterday [Thursday] for two, three hours and we will have to wait to see how he feels today."

Edinson Cavani missed the match at Brentford Community Stadium and he too is facing a race to be fit for the visit of David Moyes' men.

"Edi hasn't been training with the team yet and will hopefully resume training today and then we'll take the final decision after the training session, [around] if he will be available for the game," Rangnick said.

Losing Ronaldo and Cavani presents United with a possible striker shortage given Anthony Martial is attempting to secure a move away from the club.

Rangnick left Martial out of the 2-2 draw at Aston Villa, saying the France international had told him he did not want to be involved – a claim Martial later disputed.

Jesse Lingard will be available to face the club for whom he excelled on loan last season, while Jadon Sancho, who missed the Brentford match due to a family funeral, could be involved.

"We need to see where Jadon stands," said Rangnick. "He didn't train yesterday. As you know, he attended a funeral on Wednesday and didn't want to train yesterday as he is still affected by that. We will have to see.

"I will see him for training today and speak with him after the training session, to see if he is in the state of mind, and also his energy [is there], so he can be available for tomorrow."

Aaron Wan-Bissaka will also be missing again with illness, while Victor Lindelof will sit out the game after a burglary of his family home, but midfielder Scott McTominay hopes to be involved after battling a back problem.

Victor Lindelof will miss Manchester United's clash with West Ham as he wants to stay with his family after his house was broken into on Wednesday.

Lindelof started alongside Raphael Varane in a 3-1 win at Brentford, but during the clash in London entered his home while his wife and children hid inside.

The 27-year-old's wife, Maja, revealed on Instagram she locked herself and her two children in a room before the intruders entered the house.

United interim manager Ralf Rangnick confirmed on Friday that the Sweden international will be unavailable for Saturday's Premier League meeting with West Ham as he wants to be with his family.

"I spoke with him at length on our flight back home from London," Rangnick told reporters at his pre-match news conference. 

"Also, we spoke for about 20, 25 minutes this morning. He told me what had actually happened and that this was a traumatic event especially for his wife and three-year-old son.

"He said to me that he right now needs to stay at home. He doesn't want to leave his wife and family on their own, which I can fully understand, being a father of two children myself. 

"We agreed that he will not be training today and won't be available tomorrow for the game."

Jadon Sancho, who was absent for the trip to the Brentford Community Stadium, remains a doubt for the encounte with the Hammers.

The former Borussia Dortmund winger missed the meeting with Thomas Frank's side as he was at a family funeral on the same day. Rangnick remains unsure whether Sancho will available to face West Ham.

"Jadon didn't train because he still asked to be able to not train," he added. "He attended the funeral on Wednesday. It's still affected him quite a lot. He's expected back today at three o'clock. 

"Right now, I'm not sure if he will be available because it was an important member of the family, someone he was close to all his life. We've got to wait and see and speak after training."

The Red Devils will be without Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who remain out injured, so Diogo Dalot and Alex Telles will likely continue at full-back.

United sit seventh in the Premier League, two points behind fourth-placed West Ham with a game in hand.

Not many would have predicted before the season that Manchester United versus West Ham represented a key game in the battle for the top four, but that's where we are.

The Red Devils' win over Brentford moved them to within two points of the Hammers in fourth, with a game in hand, meaning Saturday's clash at Old Trafford offers a good chance to make some headway in the race to finish behind Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City.

It also gives David Moyes the chance to end a pretty rotten record at the home of his old club – and that's not including the nine months he was in charge there – as well as the chance for West Ham to avenge their defeat in the reverse fixture.

Let's not forget they have already won away against United in 2021-22 – and not many teams manage to do that twice in a season. The last one, in fact, was managed by Jose Mourinho.


BEDEVILLED

United have won 20 of their 25 home games against West Ham in the Premier League, their last defeat coming in May 2007, when soon-to-be Red Devil Carlos Tevez secured a 1-0 win for the visitors.

Yet their record when London clubs come calling hasn't been so strong of late: they have lost three of the previous eight home games against teams from the capital, as many such defeats as they suffered in 38 matches at Old Trafford between 2013-14 and 2019-20.

West Ham, of course, boast the rare feat of being above United in the table: while they sit fourth, United are seventh. Only four times previously in the Premier League era have the Hammers faced them while being placed higher in the standings; interestingly, they failed to win any of them, losing 2-1 in August 1995 and September 2014, drawing 0-0 in August 1998 and losing 3-1 in December 2020.

'PLAY LIKE FERGIE'S BOYS...'

Moyes has done a quite brilliant job at West Ham since being parachuted in to rescue them in December 2019. Since the start of 2020-21, he has managed 30 wins from 60 league matches, accruing 102 points in that time. The only sides with more victories and more points are United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City.

Old Trafford, though, is not a happy hunting ground for the former United boss. He has drawn four and lost 10 of his away games at the stadium as a Premier League manager; only Harry Redknapp (15 games) has visited more often in the competition without a single win.

That being said, Moyes did lead West Ham to victory on this ground in the EFL Cup back in September, and they could become just the fourth team to beat United away twice in the same season after Aston Villa (1919-20), Tottenham (1989-90) and Chelsea (2004-05).

BOWEN'S ROAD RAGE, HAMMER TIME FOR RONALDO

Cristiano Ronaldo scored in United's dramatic 2-1 win in the reverse fixture in September, in which he was also denied a couple of pretty strong penalty shouts before Mark Noble's injury-time spot-kick was saved by David de Gea.

The Portugal great has always quite enjoyed facing the Hammers, with six goals and one assist in his five league appearances against them. He was directly involved in seven of the 10 United goals in those matches, in fact, so you wouldn't bet against him keeping up that record – assuming, of course, he isn't having a strop on the bench instead.

Jarrod Bowen, arguably West Ham's most in-form player, is another who will be hoping to make an impact.

He has scored six and assisted seven goals in his past 18 league appearances, including goals in his most recent two, but the former Hull City man has only scored three times in 43 top-flight matches on the road, converting a meagre four per cent of his shots (3/69).

Bowen has played seven times against United from the start, but he's never scored, and only twice has he even lasted the whole game.

SATURDAY SLUMP

It's a minor novelty in itself that United are playing a match at 15:00 local time on a Saturday. Such is their global appeal that broadcasters are usually quick to shift them to a more viewer-friendly kick-off time.

Ralf Rangnick might actually have preferred a different slot. United have lost their most recent two games to start at this time on a Saturday, both of which were this season: 4-2 at Leicester City, and 4-1 at Watford, a result that ended the reign of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Never before have they lost three in a row when playing at this time.

United's opening league game of 2022 ended in a 1-0 loss to Wolves at Old Trafford. They have not lost their first two home league matches in a year since 1985, when Ron Atkinson's side were beaten by Sheffield Wednesday and Coventry City. They did go on to finish fourth, though...

Ralf Rangnick insisted that his priority will always be with the Manchester United team and not certain individuals amid ongoing questions over Cristiano Ronaldo's behaviour at Brentford.

United sit seventh in the Premier League but are two points behind fourth-placed West Ham with a game in hand after defeating Brentford 3-1 on Wednesday.

Ronaldo played a part in Mason Greenwood's goal, the second for United, at the Brentford Community Stadium but was removed nine minutes later, seemingly much to the Portugal captain's disgust.

The 36-year-old appeared annoyed as he wandered towards the dugout, where he sat on the steps as he continued to gesture as if he was asking why he had been substituted.

Rangnick, who could be seen having a word in Ronaldo's ear minutes later in an attempt to defuse the situation, said post-match that the commotion did not concern him, a stance he once again reiterated on Friday.

"I think we shouldn't make too much of a fuss out of it," Rangnick responded when asked about Ronaldo at a pre-match news conference ahead of Saturday's clash with West Ham.

"I can only speak for myself and my coaching staff. I explained that to him during the game, we had a little conversation after we scored the third goal. In fact, I told him the same as what I said in our press conference. 

"The job of a football manager is to help the team win the game and it was clear from our experience at Villa Park that this time we have to do things better. 

"We did it better and the only question was, who do we take off? Of course, Cristiano is a prolific goalscorer and he's a player that will always want to play and score goals. 

"The team is more important than whoever – Cristiano, Edinson [Cavani], Bruno [Fernandes].

"He was also asking why me 'why didn't you take off one of the younger players?'. The answer came five minutes later when one of the younger players scored the third goal. 

"Maybe Cristiano could have also scored the third goal, but football is not about maybe, it is about taking a decision in the right moment."

Asked for further clarification on his decision to send on centre-back Harry Maguire for Ronaldo, Rangnick added: "In a way in football it's a bit like chess, things can change so quickly during the game. 

"If you watched last night's semi-final [between Arsenal and Liverpool] in the EFL Cup things can change from one minute to another.

"In some parts of the game, you are dominating the game, pinning the other team back, and all of sudden it can be different. 

"Therefore it is important to be able to react to what the game needs now, to what the team needs and we had exactly the same decision at Brentford as at Villa, 70 minutes played, 2-0 up against a team who does not give up. 

"For me, it was logical with the negative experience we had at Villa Park to do it differently this time and it was clear we bring on Harry [Maguire] and then defend this 2-0 result and in the end we even scored a third one on the counter-attack and it was clear we were going to win the game."

Ronaldo will likely lead the line again at home to David Moyes' Champions League-chasing Hammers, who the striker has scored seven goals in his last five top-flight appearances against.

West Ham, however, have already won away at Old Trafford this season, winning 1-0 in the EFL Cup. Only three teams have ever won twice away against the Red Devils in the same season – Aston Villa (1919-20), Tottenham Hotspur (1989-90) and Chelsea (2004-05).

Rangnick appreciates he has to take a game at a time at the United helm as he refused to look to far ahead in terms of rebuilding at the club.

"My full focus as I have indicated is to win games with this team, in order to win games as a team we need to develop as a team," he continued.

"We need to improve in some areas, we have done so in the last couple of weeks, but there is still more space for that in vast areas of our game and this is where my focus is. 

"I'm not dealing with what might happen in four or five months, that is not on top of my list.

"It's about how we can win the game against West Ham, then the cup against Middlesbrough and then Burnley, playing Southampton and Brighton [and Hove Albion] at home, this is where my focus is."

The Premier League is a week away from its winter break, but a feast of football awaits us before then, along with fantasy point-scoring opportunities.

Leaders Manchester City head to Southampton and will look to extend their 12-game winning run in the competition, at the expense of opponents who are unbeaten in their last seven league games at St Mary's.

Manchester United have a tricky assignment against David Moyes' West Ham, and you might consider a Hammers forward to break down Ralf Rangnick's defence at Old Trafford.

If the time is right to back your strong start to the season, there are proven fantasy league performers to choose from here among this week's picks, and a strong case to be made for others you may not have considered.

EDERSON (Southampton v Manchester City)

Pep Guardiola's trusted City goalkeeper has kept more Premier League clean sheets (12) and faced fewer shots on target per 90 minutes (2.2) than any other goalkeeper this season.

City have faced 50 shots on target across 22 games and have conceded only 13 goals, so another shut-out must be a realistic proposition on the south coast.

Ederson has played in all but one of those Premier League assignments for City this term, and although Southampton have won three and drawn four of their last seven 2021-22 home league games – their best record since going nine unbeaten from March to October 2016 – it is the visitors who start this clash as strong favourites.

JOAO CANCELO (Southampton v Manchester City)

City's defence has been close to watertight this season, but Cancelo's role at full-back is more than just about stopping the opposition.

Only the Liverpool duo of Trent Alexander-Arnold (10) and Andrew Robertson (6) have provided more Premier League assists among defenders this season than Cancelo (5).

He has also had 44 goal attempts, with 15 of them finding the target, and his tally of one goal scored will surely grow soon enough.

DAVINSON SANCHEZ (Chelsea v Tottenham)

Can Tottenham be trusted to keep a clean sheet against Chelsea, in Sunday's headline game? This choice would represent a gamble, albeit one that can to an extent be rationalised by data.

Since December 1, Sanchez has been involved in a Tottenham defence that has kept four clean sheets in seven Premier League appearances. Indeed, only Manchester City's Aymeric Laporte (5) has kept more clean sheets during that time among top-flight defenders. New boss Antonio Conte is making a difference at Spurs, no doubt about it.

The counter-argument here comes with the fact Chelsea have won five of their last six league games against Spurs (D1), and beat them in both legs of the EFL Cup semi-finals.

RAPHINHA (Leeds United v Newcastle United)

Leeds United have woken from their slumber in the Premier League, winning twice in a row to climb to 15th place, just three points behind Leicester City in 10th spot.

Last time out it was Jack Harrison who was the hero, with a hat-trick at West Ham, but Raphinha is their Mr Consistency.

The Brazilian set up Harrison's match-winning third goal at the London Stadium, and since the beginning of the 2020-21 Premier League season, Raphinha is one of just five players to have registered 10 or more goals, 10 or more assists and created over 100 chances in the English top division.

JARROD BOWEN (Manchester United v West Ham)

Former Hull City forward Bowen has been involved in 13 goals in the Premier League this season (6 goals, 7 assists) and opponents Manchester United will be wary of his quality.

Indeed, only Mohamed Salah (25) and Bowen's West Ham team-mate Michail Antonio (14) have been involved in more Premier League goals this term.

To strike a slight note of caution, Bowen only has an expected assists (xA) total of 2.94, meaning West Ham have made more of his chances created than they would ordinarily be expected to, while Bowen is slightly lagging behind his expected goals (xG) total of 8.29. That said, the Red Devils will surely not underestimate his threat.

ROBERTO FIRMINO (Crystal Palace v Liverpool)

With Salah and Sadio Mane still away at the Africa Cup of Nations, Brazilian forward Firmino again looks set for a starting role as the Reds travel to Selhurst Park on Sunday.

Firmino has been involved in six Premier League goals against Palace in his last five appearances (4 goals, 2 assists), having been involved in just two across his first seven games against the Eagles in the competition (2 goals).

Starting with a double in a 7-0 win in this exact fixture last season, each of Firmino's last 10 Premier League goals have all come away from home. Liverpool have won their last six Premier League away games against Palace.

ALLAN SAINT-MAXIMIN (Leeds United v Newcastle United)

Can Newcastle beat the drop? Their best hope before the transfer window opened up a new world of possibilities appeared to lie with the fast feet of Saint-Maximin, and he remains their star attacker for now.

The French winger has scored in each of his last two Premier League appearances, with those goals earning 1-1 draws with Manchester United and Watford.

Now here lies the problem with trusting such form: he has never scored in three successive appearances in the competition. However, Saint-Maximin did score in the reverse fixture against Leeds in September, another 1-1 result for the Magpies.

Donny van de Beek has struggled to make much of an impression since his £35million move to Manchester United from Ajax in September 2020.

The Netherlands international was overlooked for regular selection by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and is also a fringe player under interim boss Ralf Rangnick.

But Van de Beek, who previously starred in a talented Ajax side, could be offered a route out of Old Trafford this month.


TOP STORY – DORTMUND, NEWCASTLE IN FOR VAN DE BEEK

Van de Beek is reportedly considering a move away in order to win back his place in the Netherlands side.

According to the Manchester Evening News, Bundesliga heavyweights Dortmund and Premier League strugglers Newcastle United are possible suitors for the midfielder.

However, United will have the final say on any loan deal, which would not be expected to contain an option to make the deal permanent at the end of the campaign.

The 24-year-old has featured 49 times for the Red Devils – just 19 of those being starts – since arriving at the club 16 months ago.


ROUND-UP

– Barcelona will make one final effort to sign Alvaro Morata this month, according to Sport. Memphis Depay could be used as part of any deal.

– Liverpool want to sign Jarrod Bowen and the West Ham forward is keen on the move, says Football Insider. It will not be in January, though.

– Desperate for a replacement for Kieran Trippier, Atletico Madrid are interested in Manchester United's Diogo Dalot, according to AS.

– Tuttomercatoweb says Arthur is keen on the idea of joining Arsenal on loan, but Juventus and Massimiliano Allegri have yet to okay any departure.

– Meanwhile, TMW also claims Paulo Dybala is not yet prepared to listen to offers from other clubs, with a contract summit with Juventus set for February.

– The Daily Mail reports that Arsenal are frontrunners to sign Youri Tielemans after Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers admitted the midfielder may leave the club.

West Ham were handed a tasty trip to sixth-tier Kidderminster Harriers as the FA Cup served up a David and Goliath tie in the fourth-round draw.

David Moyes' Hammers beat top-flight rivals Leeds United 2-0 on Sunday to pass their first test in this season's competition, and now face a game they dare not lose.

Kidderminster and West Ham are five divisions apart in the English football system and both sit fifth in their respective leagues – the National League North and Premier League.

A stunning 2-1 third-round win over Championship outfit Reading carried Russell Penn's Kidderminster through to the last-32 stage, and now the West Midlands side can prepare for the visit of top-flight high-flyers to Aggborough.

Cup holders Leicester City, who saw off Watford on Saturday, were drawn to travel to either Nottingham Forest or Arsenal, who went into battle at the City Ground on Sunday evening.

Among the Premier League elite, Chelsea were handed a home draw against League One side Plymouth Argyle, Manchester City will host Fulham, Liverpool will tackle Cardiff City at Anfield, and Tottenham will welcome Brighton and Hove Albion.

Manchester United, who face Aston Villa at Old Trafford on Monday, will face Middlesbrough if they come through the tussle with Steven Gerrard's side.

There was perhaps a tinge of disappointment for League One side Cambridge United, who were not rewarded for upsetting Newcastle United with another glamorous tie against Premier League opposition. Instead, they will entertain Luton Town of the Championship, while National League side Boreham Wood, who knocked out AFC Wimbledon, were handed a trip to Bournemouth.

FA Cup fourth-round draw in full:

Crystal Palace v Hartlepool United, Bournemouth v Boreham Wood, Huddersfield Town v Barnsley, Peterborough United v QPR, Cambridge United v Luton Town, Southampton v Coventry City, Chelsea v Plymouth, Everton v Brentford, Kidderminster v West Ham, Manchester United or Aston Villa v Middlesbrough, Tottenham v Brighton and Hove Albion, Liverpool v Cardiff City, Stoke City v Wigan Athletic, Nottingham Forest or Arsenal v Leicester City, Manchester City v Fulham, Wolves v Norwich City.

Ties to be played on the weekend of February 4-7.

Kylian Mbappe is widely expected to join Real Madrid at the end of this season.

The 23-year-old attacker has stalled on a new contract offer at Paris Saint-Germain.

Madrid have been circling for Mbappe's signature for a long time and had multiple bids rejected in 2021.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE COULD STILL RE-SIGN WITH PSG

Mbappe could spring a surprise and renew his current PSG deal prior to the end of this season, claims Le Parisien.

The 2018 World Cup winner had been expected to become a free agent when his contract expires on June 30 and join Madrid .

Le Parisien claims that PSG have hope that Mbappe may pen an extension to force a transfer fee from Los Blancos, should they pursue a move. Mbappe is still undecided on his future, according to the report.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United 's superstar forward Cristiano Ronaldo has held crisis talks with his agent Jorge Mendes as he considers his future with the Red Devils, according to The Sun. Ronaldo reportedly may leave United depending on their choice of a new permanent manager.

- El Nacional claims that Liverpool are ready to offer Barcelona teenager Gavi a deal worth £80,000 (€96k) per week to secure his signature, while Manchester City are also interested. Barca have a £42m (€50m) release cause in the 17-year-old's contract.

- Arsenal want to sign a new midfielder in January with Lyon's Bruno Guimaraes on their radar while a loan deal for Arthur Melo was discussed but has not advanced to talks with Juventus yet, claims Fabrizio Romano.

- Argentinean forward Dario Benedetto is set to return to his homeland to join Boca Juniors from Marseille although the deal may take several days to complete, reports Cesar Luis Merlo.

- Nicolo Schira claims that Newcastle United have opened discussions with Sevilla on a four-year deal to sign Brazilian defender Diego Carlos .

- West Ham United and Newcastle may be priced out of their pursuit for Marseille's Boubacar Kamara,  who wants a £150,000-per-week (€180k) deal according to The Sun.

Rafael Benitez has confirmed Lucas Digne wants to leave Everton.

Left-back Digne, who signed from Barcelona for a reported £18million in August 2018, has not featured for the Toffees since a 4-1 home defeat to Merseyside rivals – and Benitez's former club – Liverpool on December 1.

That loss was one of eight for Everton from their last 12 Premier League games. They have won just one of their fixtures in that run, beating Arsenal 2-1 thanks to a late Demarai Gray stunner.

Everton, who were limited in the off-season transfer window partly due to the Premier League's profit and sustainability rules, have been active already this month, signing right-back Nathan Patterson from Rangers for a fee believed to be £11m plus add-ons, and bringing in left-back Vitaliy Mykolenko from Dynamo Kiev, seemingly to replace Digne.

Chelsea, who need cover at left wing-back following news of Ben Chilwell's season-long injury lay-off, are rumoured to be interested, while West Ham and Newcastle United have also been linked.

And, in a somewhat unexpected outburst during Friday's news conference to preview Everton's trip to Hull City in the FA Cup, Benitez revealed Digne, who signed a new long-term contract in 2021, wished to leave.

Benitez also addressed an Everton legend from the club's 1980s heyday in the form of Peter Reid, who on Sunday, after a 3-2 defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion, tweeted: "Major problems at Goodison Park, huge concerns about the direction of the football club."

The Spanish coach told reporters: "I want to ask a question to every fan, or former players, what Peter Reid will do or say if a player doesn't want to be there. That's it, simple.

"I had a couple of conversations with [Digne], he told me what he thought. What do you expect a manager to do? Fans, former players, what will Peter Reid say if a player goes to the manager that he doesn't want to be here?

"We need players that want to be here. Talking about individual stats when the team finished 10th [last season], it means nothing for me. I want a winning mentality, ambition, it will take some time."

Asked why he included Digne on the bench for Sunday's loss to Brighton, having dropped him altogether for previous matches, Benitez said: "I try to do what is best for the club, sometimes you pay for that."

Benitez also confirmed there had been no bids for Digne.

"I would like to sign [Erling] Haaland and [Kylian] Mbappe, but you'd need commitment. We don't have commitment yet," he said.

"There is interest but nothing concrete. What I cannot do is give priority to those who are not interested. Do we want to grow and improve or just manage egos?"

Big boots to fill?

With Digne's replacement already through the door, the focus for Everton will be on recouping a suitable fee for such an experienced player in arguably his prime years.

Digne has undoubtedly been a success at Everton after having a tricky spell at Barca, where he struggled for regular minutes behind Jordi Alba in the pecking order.

Having replaced fan-favourite Leighton Baines as first choice at Everton, Digne went on to be a creative fulcrum under Marco Silva and Carlo Ancelotti, both from set-pieces and open play.

Since making his Everton debut on August 11, 2018, Digne has created 211 chances in the Premier League, ranking him behind only Liverpool star Trent Alexander-Arnold (267) among defenders.

Digne's 34 big chances created is the third most, behind Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson, with his 18 league assists also only bettered by the Liverpool duo.

Alexander-Arnold (1,408) is also the only defender to have played more passes/crosses into the area than Digne (902), highlighting just how much of a persistent threat the Frenchman can be.

But on the defensive side of things, Digne has proven himself slightly more reliable in the tackle than Alexander-Arnold and Robertson, with the former Paris Saint-Germain full-back boasting a better success rate (63.2 per cent) than both in such situations.

That desire also translates to his duels involvement, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Charlie Taylor the only full-backs (minimum 50 games played) to have a better duel success rate than Digne's 59.4 (712/1,199) since the Everton man made his Premier League debut.

Premier League managers are already feeling the strain amid cascading numbers of COVID-19 cases and mid-season injuries. Now many top bosses stand to lose stars to the Africa Cup of Nations.

Africa's greatest football show – now commonly known as AFCON – gets under way on Sunday in Cameroon.

Although the 2019 edition was held in June and July, it has historically been a January-into-February tournament and has returned to that place on the calendar.

A host of Premier League big names are hoping to make an impact during the four-week tournament, which falls slap-bang in the middle of European club campaigns, causing a major clash of competitions.

Premier League clubs certainly cannot complain of a lack of fair warning. It was June 2020 when African football chiefs decided the 2021 edition of the tournament would have to be pushed back by 12 months to a January 2022 start, in the hope the coronavirus crisis would have eased.

Here, Stats Perform takes a look at which teams from the English top flight might feel its impact the most.

Can Reds cling on in title battle?

If Liverpool lose no further ground on leaders Manchester City by the time their stars return from AFCON, then Jurgen Klopp would surely settle for that.

The 2019-20 Premier League champions have taken two points from a possible nine to leave the title as effectively City's to lose, and now Klopp is going to have to get by without Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita.

Egyptian striker Salah is the Premier League's leader in goals (16) and assists (9, level with Trent Alexander Arnold) so far this season. He has taken 80 shots in 20 games (38 of these have hit the target), played 12 throughballs and created 40 chances from open play: in each of those categories he is at the top of the Premier League charts for players defined by Opta as forwards.

How do you cope without such a contribution? Having Mane on hand would help, but Mane will be turning out for Senegal, a team who, like Salah's Egypt, are firmly in the mix as serious trophy contenders. Don't expect either back at the end of the group stage.

Mane has eight Premier League goals this term, including the opener at Chelsea recently. That goal return puts Mane joint-second among African scorers in the Premier League this season, level with Watford's Emmanuel Dennis, who is not in Nigeria's squad.

Mane has played 19 throughballs and has made 23 tackles to boot, which is the seventh highest number of tackles by a forward in the league this season, a rarely mentioned attribute of his game. He does not always tackle with his elbow, either.

Keita will presumably be less of a miss, with the Guinean's Anfield contribution remaining underwhelming, but Liverpool have been so hard hit by absentees recently that to lose anybody for up to five weeks is an inconvenience.

They are at least assured of Joel Matip's presence this month. The centre-back last played for Cameroon in 2015 and has retired from international duty. That is bad news for the AFCON hosts but helps Liverpool, given Matip remains a sturdy presence, with a duel success of 69.47 per cent this season ranking him third among Premier League defenders with 10 or more appearances, and a passing accuracy of 88.89 per cent putting him eighth in that metric.

Liverpool only have two league games inked in between now and the end of AFCON, against Brentford and Crystal Palace, but the Reds also have two postponed fixtures to be slipped in somewhere along the line.

Wintertime Blues?

Pep Guardiola's Manchester City hold a 10-point lead over second-placed Chelsea, with Liverpool a point further back but possessing a game in hand on the top two. Reigning champions City have won 11 straight Premier League games and the Citizens have the resources to be able to cope with the short-term loss of Riyad Mahrez, who will captain Algeria.

Mahrez's six goals and four assists this season have come at a startling rate. Given the depth in City's squad, he does not always start, so to appreciate his contribution it is worth looking at his numbers per 90 minutes on the pitch.

The former Leicester City forward is averaging 0.64 goals and 0.43 assists per 90 minutes – impressively close to Salah's return of 0.81 and 0.45 in those categories – and is one of only four Premier League players with 10 or more appearances to average at least 1.00 goal involvements per 90 (Michael Olise 1.43, Salah 1.26, Roberto Firmino 1.24, Mahrez 1.07).

The Blues of Chelsea may have concerns over the absence of goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, given the Senegalese's stabilising influence at the back. His save percentage of 77.14 has only been beaten this season in the league by Wolves' Jose Sa (80.82) and Arsenal's Aaron Ramsdale (77.46).

Spaniard Kepa Arrizabalaga struggled in the early stages of his Chelsea career and is now the undoubted understudy.

Yet Kepa's form when given an opportunity this season has not given such cause for concern. The former Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper has been chiefly used in cup action, and he has achieved a remarkable save percentage of 81.48, suggesting that for a short run of games, he could be a perfectly able deputy.

Can an exodus to Africa affect the race for Europe?

Will fourth-placed Arsenal miss Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang? It seems unlikely now, given he was dropped and stripped of the captaincy after a disciplinary breach before heading off to join Gabon. He has not played for a month. The Gunners won five games in a row without him, including four in the league, before being unlucky to lose to Manchester City.

Cold facts tell us Arsenal have a points average of 1.9 per Premier League game when Aubameyang has started games this season, and 1.5 when he has been either a substitute or out of the team, but those figures may not be significant given the momentum Mikel Arteta's players have built in the recent absence of the 32-year-old. His continuing exile from the first team seems unlikely to cause much consternation.

For manager Arteta to lose Thomas Partey (Ghana) at this point is a blow though, with the former Atletico Madrid player having been excellent in the 2-1 defeat to City, having been slowly building up to such a performance. He had more touches, won more duels, made more tackles and played more successful passes than any other Arsenal player.

Arsenal have a big derby at Tottenham coming up on January 16, and they might feel Partey's absence that day, particularly given Spurs, who currently sit sixth, are sending no current first-teamers away to AFCON.

Splitting the north London rivals for now are West Ham, in fifth, and it will surely have hurt David Moyes to wave off Said Benrahma for a month of Algeria duty. The playmaker has five goals and four assists in the league this season, as well as making 83 ball recoveries and creating 21 chances in open play. That makes him one of only 13 players in the competition to top both 80 recoveries and 20 open-play chances created, and one of only five Premier League stars to tick both boxes and score at least five times. Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha, away with Ivory Coast, is another member of that small group.

Seventh-placed Manchester United will lose Eric Bailly to Ivory Coast too. But with Phil Jones back in the first team, will Bailly be missed? The former Villarreal centre-back has played just 217 minutes in the Premier League this season. United youth prospect Hannibal Mejbri is also away, in his case with Tunisia.

Further into mid-table, Wolves must find an alternative to the excellent Romain Saiss (tackle success rate 72.73 per cent) on the left side of their defence, after he joined up with Morocco. Brighton and Hove Albion powerhouse Yves Bissouma has the highest tackle success rate among midfielders to have made more than 40 such challenges in the Premier League this season (50 attempted, 35 won: 70 per cent hit rate) and he will line up for Mali after ending an international exile.

Leicester City sent away striker Kelechi Iheanacho (2 goals, 4 assists this season) for Nigeria service at a bad time for the Foxes, given injured Jamie Vardy faces several weeks out of action.

Palace are firmly in favour of players heading away to represent their countries, but the Eagles never particularly like to be without Zaha (5 goals, 1 assist, 86 dribbles). Since his return from Manchester United in August 2014, Palace have averaged 1.2 points and a 32.9 per cent win percentage with Zaha in their starting line-up, and 0.9 points and a 24.5 win percentage when he has not been in that matchday XI. The loss of Cheikhou Kouyate (80.56 per cent success rate from 36 tackles) to Senegal duty may also diminish the sturdiness of Patrick Vieira's Eagles spine.

Can Clarets cope without Cornet?

The relegation scrap seems more likely to be affected by transfer market activity than departures to AFCON.

Newcastle United and Norwich City, the league's bottom two, are sending nobody away, while fourth-bottom Watford have kept Dennis (8 goals, 5 assists) and it remains to be seen what happens to Ismaila Sarr (5 goals), who has been absent with injury of late but has headed for checks with Senegal doctors.

Burnley, who sit 18th, are seemingly the team to watch carefully here. Maxwel Cornet, now away with Ivory Coast, has scored six Premier League goals from just 10 shots on target, and Sean Dyche must find a way to make the Clarets impactful without the former Lyon man.

Dusan Vlahovic looms as a major topic in this January transfer window.

The 21-year-old Serbia international has scored 18 goals this season for Fiorentina.

Chelsea, Manchester City, Barcelona and Juventus have all been linked with Vlahovic, along with Arsenal and Tottenham.

TOP STORY - GUNNERS LODGE VLAHOVIC BID

Arsenal have lodged a €70million (£58.3m) bid for Fiorentina's Serbian forward Dusan Vlahovic,  according to Gazzetta dello Sport.

As part of the proposed deal, Uruguayan midfielder Lucas Torreira would join La Viola on a permanent deal.

Arsenal, who were seen as a long shot to secure Vlahovic's services, are keen to sign a new forward, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang falling out of favour.

 

ROUND-UP

- Arsenal are willing to listen to offers for outcast forward Aubameyang in January, claims Sky Sports. Aubameyang lost the Gunners' captaincy last month and has been dropped from the side. Newcastle United have been linked with the Gabon international.

- Goal reports that Aston Villa, Everton and Liverpool are all keen on bringing in Philippe Coutinho during the January transfer window as Barcelona shop him around. Coutinho is not keen on a return to Brazil and fancies playing in England again.

- Atletico Madrid full-back Kieran Trippier has agreed personal terms with Newcastle with a medical to complete before a deal is confirmed, reports Fabrizio Romano.

- Real Madrid have thrown in the towel in their pursuit of Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger due to his wage demands, claims Marca.

- Chelsea, Newcastle and West Ham are all circling for Everton's full-back Lucas Digne,  according to Sky Sports. Digne is valued at £30m.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.