Recap: The English Premier League (Matchweek 33)

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Even with a reduced slate of matches due to the FA Cup semi-finals, Matchweek 33 proved to be yet another crucial week in the Premier League. With Wigan, Manchester City and Chelsea involved in the FA Cup, that left Tottenham, Swansea City and West Brom with a weekend of rest. Saturday featured a fixture list of Arsenal v. Norwich City, Aston Villa v. Fulham, Everton v. QPR, Reading v. Liverpool and Southampton v. West Ham.

The match of the day was a no brainer. After falling behind Norwich 1-0 courtesy of a 56th minute header by Michael Turner, Arsenal were awarded a controversial penalty in the 85th minute that Mikel Arteta dispatched in the left corner. The goal invigorated the Gunners to a seven minute purple patch where goals by Olivier Giroud (’88) and Lukas Podolski (’92) vaulted Arsene Wenger’s side to a 3-1 victory and third spot in the table.

At Villa Park, Paul Lambert’s side needed three points to provide some relegation breathing room and things looked good in the 55th minute when Charles N’Zogbia put the ball on his left foot and hooked it into the left corner. But eleven minutes later Fabian Delph’s own goal ensured the Cottagers a draw bringing them to that magic 40 point safety mark. For Lambert, the single point puts the Villains even with Stoke City and Sunderland on 34 points, just three ahead of relegation threatened Wigan, who have two games in hand.

In the north-west goals by Darron Gibson (40′) and Victor Anichebe (56′) handed Everton a comfortable 2-0 victory against a lifeless QPR, who remain in 19th place, seven back of the Latics. With five matches to play Harry Redknapp’s squad isn’t mathematically eliminated but they have a defeated look to them and appear bound for the Championship next season.

Joining the R’s in the second flight will be 20th place Reading, also on 24 points. The Royals earned a 0-0 draw against Liverpool at the Madejski on Saturday behind a mammoth performance by goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, who earned 11 saves after the Reds tagged him with 28 shots. With the single point, Brendan Rodgers’ side are now five points behind 6th place Everton, who have a game in hand on their neighbors.

Over at the formidable St. Mary’s Stadium, a Gaston Ramirez opener (59′) was nixed by a 66th minute strike by Andy Carroll to give West Ham a hard-earned point ensuring both sides stay seven points clear of the drop zone.

With Wigan, Manchester City and Chelsea all in FA Cup action, Sunday’s reduced slate was reduced to two matches, Newcastle v. Sunderland and Stoke City v. Manchester United.

After crashing out to Benfica in the Europa League, Newcastle limped into the Tyne-Wear Derby and were punished 3-0 by a Paulo Di Canio inspired Sunderland side that received goals from Stephane Sessegnon (27′), Adam Johnson (74′) and David Vaughan (84′).

At the Britannia Stadium, United ensured their cushion at the top of the table with a 2-0 win as Robin van Persie (66′) ended his 10 match goal drought with a well-taken penalty after Michael Carrick (4′) opened the scoring to heap worry on a Potters side that sits just three points above relegation.

Chelsea chase Alexis Sanchez; Man United want Dier

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The summer transfer rumors are heating up long before the heat of summer arrives…

[ MORE: Zlatan to stay at United?

On Wednesday it is being claimed by the Guardian that Alexis Sanchez has become Chelsea’s “No.1 target this summer” as the Arsenal and Chile forward has yet to sign a new deal with the Gunners.

Per the report, Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has drafted up a shortlist of the players he wants to sign this summer and Sanchez is at the top of the Italian managers wishlist as he is also close to signing a new deal at Stamford Bridge.

Sanchez, 28, has a deal at Arsenal until the summer of 2018 but if the north London club fails to agree a new deal with him this summer (as well as Mesut Ozil and Arsene Wenger, but that’s another story…) then they’ll have to sell him on or risk losing him for nothing as a free agent next season.

The striker scored twice for Chile in their 2018 World Cup qualifying win over Venezuela on Tuesday and has been essential all season long to Arsenal, scoring 18 goals and adding nine assists after playing through the middle on his own for much of the campaign.

Would Arsenal really sell Sanchez to a PL rival? It wouldn’t be ideal but it’s not like they haven’t done that in the past. Think of Robin Van Persie, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy.

The thought of Sanchez on one wing with Diego Costa up top and Eden Hazard on the other wing at Chelsea should be enough to get Arsenal to offer their star man whatever cash he wants — the report states he wants $310,000 a week which would almost double his current $160,000 a week salary — when they sit down to discuss the new deal at the end of this season.


Elsewhere in north London, Tottenham Hotspur’s versatile defender Eric Dier has been linked with a $50 million move to Manchester United this summer.

According to Neil Ashton of the Sun, Dier, 23, is being lined up to replace Michael Carrick in the holding midfield role at United.

Now, Tottenham are notoriously tough to do business with and chairman Daniel Levy will not want to lose one of his top prospects and an England international to a direct rival in the Premier League.

That said, Dier has been used in multiple positions by Spurs this season and Mauricio Pochettino appears to prefer Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembele as the holding midfielders and the emergence of Harry Winks has seen Dier’s importance questioned by some.

The fact that Dier can play in holding midfield or anywhere across the back line will also suit Moruinho who likes to have a smaller squad to work with and per the report the Portuguese boss has been a long-time admirer of Dier. His power to break up the play and also use he ball safely could work very well alongside Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera.

PHOTOS: Bizarre Cristiano Ronaldo statue unveiled

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Hang on, is that really meant to be Cristiano Ronaldo?

On Wednesday the Portugal and Real Madrid legend had Madeira Airport named after him just outside his hometown of Funchal and during the ceremony a bust of his head was put on show.

Except, it looked horrendous…

Take a look for yourself in the photos below. See.


 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic confirms Man United contract talks

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic is in talks with Manchester United about extending his stay at Old Trafford beyond this season.

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The veteran Swedish striker, 35, has scored 26 goals in 41 appearances in all competitions this season, and he has an option to extend his contract for another year. However, that option hasn’t been triggered yet by Ibrahimovic and United’s fans seem to be getting rather tetchy about the prospect of him not being around next season.

Ibrahimovic is enjoying life in England and revealed to the Manchester Evening News that he is in talks with the club about extending his stay in the Premier League.

“Let’s see what happens, we are talking,” Ibrahimovic said. “I have an option for another year, I want to do great as long as I’m here, so let us see, there is a lot of time. I’m enjoying being at a fantastic club, without doubts, one of the biggest clubs in the world with a great coach (Jose Mourinho).

“I know him before (from our time at Inter Milan), he’s a winner, he’s the perfect coach for this club. Being a Manchester United player, I don’t know how many people have that possibility but I am a Man United player, people wanted me here, I chose the club, I chose the best English club, that’s the way it works.”

Ibrahimovic also hinted that he would stay by stating he “never leaves a job unfinished” when talking about his dedication.

“I’m a person when I go into something I put my head 200 per cent, and I do what I’m good at. I go in, I go for the kill and I go out,” Ibrahimovic said. “And when I go out there is no complaints, that’s what I do. I never leave a job unfinished. I always go in, do my job, and in the way that is a fair play, a fair deal, that is what I do.”

With offers reported pouring in from Major League Soccer and the Chinese Super League, Ibrahimovic will likely have those kind of deals on the table next summer too. His current deal at United sees him paid over $310,000 per week but after joining from Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer it could be one of the best pieces of business in United’s history if he helps them win the Europa League and/or finish in the top four in the PL this season.

If he leads the Red Devils back to the UEFA Champions League and has one more season as the talisman for Mourinho at Old Trafford, then leaves to finish out his playing days elsewhere, the legendary forward will go down as a hero in the eyes of United’s fans.

Portugal airport to be named after Ronaldo near his hometown

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FUNCHAL, Portugal (AP) Welcome to Cristiano Ronaldo Airport.

That will be the message awaiting passengers in the Madeira Islands from Wednesday, when the local airport will be renamed after the local star by the regional government.

Ronaldo is expected to attend a ceremony at the airport outside his hometown of Funchal on Wednesday, a day after his Portugal side lost 3-2 to Sweden in the city in a friendly.

The name change attracted a lot of attention locally, with many politicians opposing it.

Portugal’s squad landed on Monday at the airport displaying the trophy it won at the 2016 European Championship in France.

Funchal also has a Ronaldo statue and a museum about the player, as well a hotel complex named after him.