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Group A comes to a close on Saturday, with a pair of spots in the semifinals on the line. The group is jam-packed at the top, with nobody confirmed on to the next round and only New Zealand eliminated.
Russia meets group-leaders Mexico at 11:00 a.m. ET in Kazan, with the hosts needing a win to advance, while a draw would complicate things for Stanislav Cherchesov’s squad. Mexico needs just a draw to confirm advancement.
Mexico has brought back its first-choice lineup for the final group stage match, with a number of rotations made in the near-disaster against New Zealand. However, Carlos Salcedo is out with a dislocated shoulder, bringing Nestor Araujo into the starting lineup. Hector Moreno starts despite his injury concerns.
On the other side, Portugal takes on New Zealand with a chance to win the group still intact. Portugal sits in second position currently, level with Mexico on both points and goal difference, but behind by one on goals scored. Should Portugal win and earn a greater goal difference or outscore Mexico by more than one, they would win the group.
Cristiano Ronaldo starts for Portugal yet again, fresh off his match-winning goal against Russia. They see both full-backs rotated from that match, with Raphael Guerreiro and Cedric rotated for Eliseu and Nelson Semedo.
New Zealand has already been eliminated, without a point thus far in the competition despite a pair of spirited performances for the Group A underdogs.
Mexico: Ochoa, Moreno, Reyes, Layun, Araujo, Herrera, Guardado, J dos Santos, Hernandez, Lozano, Vela.
Russia: Akinfeev, Jikia, Kudryashov, Vasin, Glushakov, Erokhin, Bukharov, Samedov, Smolov, Zhirkov, Golovin.
Portugal: Patricio, Alves, Pepe, Eliseu, Semedo, Moutinho, Pereira, B Silva, Quaresma, Ronaldo, A Silva.
New Zealand: Marinovic, Durante, Smith, Boxall, Doyle, Ingham, Rojas, Thomas, McGlinchey, Wood, Lewis.
Huddersfield Town’s first signing as a Premier League team has broken the club’s transfer record.
The newly promoted side snagged Belgian striker Laurent Depoitre from FC Porto, the club has confirmed. The 28-year-old had played in the Belgian ranks his entire career before trying his hand internationally, moving to Porto last summer. Unfortunately, he found playing time scarce, and has looked to the Premier League for a career revival.
“He is a proper striker,” said Huddersfield manager David Wagner. “One who has played for a very good Belgium side, featured in elite European competition and who has won domestic titles. It is great news that we have had the opportunity to sign a player of his quality and now we will focus on getting him back to the top form he showed only a season ago.”
Wagner also mentioned how Depoitre fits the “Terrier mentality” with a hard-working playing style.
The signing of Depoitre was at an undisclosed fee, but the club confirmed it broke the transfer record. Some reports tab the signing at around $6 million. That would far and away mark the highest fee paid by the club, with the previous record set last summer for German defender Christopher Schindler who arrived from 1860 Munich for around $2.2 million.
Still, that transfer record could be shattered again, with the club expected to announce the permanent signing of Manchester City loanee Aaron Mooy for a reported $12.7 million.
Things are beginning to truly heat up in the transfer market as we approach the official opening of the window. No serious domino has fallen yet, with the biggest signing so far proving to be Liverpool’s capture of Mohamed Salah.
Still, the big guns are taking aim, and the feel is that, while still needing some time, the bomb could drop at any moment. Here’s what’s making the rounds today:
Arsenal is being linked to several top-line forwards, many from Arsene Wenger‘s home country of France. One of them, Alexander Lacazette, could be progressing significantly.
According to The Guardian and the Telegraph, the Gunners are preparing a $56 million bid for the Lyon frontman, an amount which would prove to break the club transfer record. The report says Arsenal has spoken with Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas and “agreement is close” on a transfer fee.
The report also states that Lacazette is open to the idea of moving to Arsenal, although the lack of Champions League play would be a drawback. Nevertheless, with the degradation of his favored move to Atletico Madrid due ot the club’s transfer ban, Arsenal would still reportedly be a foreseeable destination.
Manchester City also has striker news; two of them, in fact. First, Sergio Aguero’s career continues to find itself shrouded in mystery. With Gabriel Jesus‘s explosion onto the Manchester City scene, Aguero can be nothing but unsure of his role in the team moving forward.
With the recent ultimatum from Italian midfielder Marco Verratti possibly serving as motivation, French giants Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly preparing a massive bid to lure Aguero away from the Etihad. According to The Times, PSG is weighing a potential $76 million bid for the Argentinian. It’s no surprise that the bid would need to be massive to pry Aguero free. Not only has his goalscoring record proved vital to City in the past, but he has also stated multiple times he wishes to stay and fight for a first-team spot despite the arrival of Jesus.
The 28-year-old has a contract at Manchester City that runs through the summer of 2019, meaning if he is to be sold, time is running out for City to deal him.
Another Manchester City striker is in the news. With both Aguero and Jesus ahead of him, Kelechi Iheanacho has fallen from young gun to bench player. The 20-year-old has been looking for a new home, but things have bogged down because his parent club is insisting on a buy-back clause.
Iheanacho has been linked with both Watford and West Ham, with the pair of clubs both heavily in the market for a new striker. Leicester City has also reportedly been in the mix for Iheanacho. According to The Telegraph, Manchester City realizes that they may be letting a significant talent leave the club, and they’d like to give themselves the option of bringing him back. That will obviously lower the asking price considerably, but could be a benefit in the future.
One bit of completed business, former Premier League striker Victor Anichebe has completed a move to China, where he has joined second-tier club Beijing Enterprises Group.
Anichebe was with relegated Sunderland as recently as last season, but failed to make an impression and also saw his time hampered by injuries. The Chinese club he has joined is the club of late Ivorian Chieck Tiote, who passed away last week during training.
When asked if he wants to leave Paris Saint-Germain, Marco Verratti gave an answer sure to turn the heads of his teammates in the French capital.
Transfer rumors have swirled around the Italian midfielder all summer, and he finally addressed the situation in Italian publication Gazzetta dello Sport. When asked if he wanted to leave, Verratti said he’d like to stay, but if he is to do so, the club must come through in the transfer window.
“It’s not that I want to go at all costs,” Verratti said. “It’s just I want to see if they really do build a great squad this time. In that case, I would be happy to stay.”
“Each year they say they are going to build a great squad, but we’ve seen the results. Promises are not enough. If, on the other hand, this time PSG with [sporting director Antero] Henrique stick to what they say, then I will be absolutely happy to stay. At the end of the day, nobody is forcing me to leave.”
It’s one thing for a player to say he thinks the club needs reinforcements in the summer, but Veratti goes all in here. For the Italian to claim that promises had been broken and good players were not brought in, that’s a ruthless aside to his current teammates.
Media reports have linked Verratti with a move away from Parc de Princes all summer. The 24-year-old has been most heavily linked with Barcelona, although clubs like Bayern Munich and Chelsea have been mentioned. According to a number of reports, Verratti turned down a new PSG contract as recently as last week in a meeting with the sporting director.