Merseyside Derby could be the last for Fellaini, Baines and Moyes

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Today’s Liverpool match could be the final Merseyside derby for three key characters at Everton Football Club: Marouane Fellaini, Leighton Baines and David Moyes.

Since joining Everton from Standard Liège as a 20 year old, Fellaini has gone from long limbs and lots of potential to a world-class, multi-tooled player. Now at the age of 25, he is in the form of his life and enjoying his best Premier League season ever. Whether deployed as a striker or a holding midfielder, Fellaini is always afforded the freedom to roam causing major headaches for opposition.

This will likely be Fellaini’s final Merseyside derby as this summer will see numerous clubs hustling to trigger his £23m release clause. Originally the Belgian was widely believed to be heading to Chelsea but reports of the Blues’ interest in Shakhtar Donetsk’s Fernandinho suggest their desire to bring in Fellaini could be waning.

Anzhi Makhachkala have also expressed huge interest in Fellaini, who could be influenced by the Russian side’s deep pockets and that they currently employ country-mate Axel Witsel. One way or another, Everton fans have come to grips with the fact that their best player will soon be leaving the club. A big derby day would be a phenomenal way to go out.

Leighton Baines is another player whose stock has continued to rise this season. For the last few summers Goodison Park has been rocked by rumors that Manchester United is contemplating a bid on the left-back. Many feel that move is likely to materialize this summer and could be in the region of £15m.

It’s a sale that most Evertonians are staunchly against. Whereas Fellaini always has been bound for a bigger club, Baines’ work rate, spirit and modesty are qualities that are quintessential Everton. But with the club’s notorious financial constraints, it wouldn’t surprise if chairman Bill Kenwright pulled the trigger on a deal for Baines.

For David Moyes, the Merseyside derby could play a crucial part in determining whether he decides to remain at the club. The manager’s contract is set to expire this summer and one of his major sticking points for re-signing with Everton is whether the club can qualify for European football. With Tottenham’s 1-0 victory over Southampton yesterday, achieving that feat is a long-shot as the Toffees head into Sunday’s match six points adrift of Spurs for 5th place.

The other major sticking points for Moyes’ decision concern personnel and transfer money. If Kenwright ends up selling players – namely, Fellaini and Baines – Moyes could be dissuaded from believing there is much of a future at Goodison Park. The Scot will feel equally undone if Kenwright fails to provide a sizeable transfer kitty from which to bring new talent into the squad.

It all comes to a head in today’s derby at Anfield where the Toffees have not won in 14 years.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.

Statement from suspended UEFA president Michel Platini

Michel Platini, UEFA & FIFA
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Statement from suspended UEFA President Michel Platini:

Early this afternoon, I was informed of the FIFA ethics committee’s decision to impose on me a provisional 90-day suspension with immediate effect. That decision, which I will of course contest in the appropriate manner at the appropriate time, had already been the subject of a deliberate leak, and I gave my opinion on that earlier in the day.

I reject all of the allegations that have been made against me, which are based on mere semblances and are astonishingly vague. Indeed, the wording of those allegations merely states that a breach of the FIFA Code of Ethics “seems to have been committed” and that a decision on the substance of the matter cannot be taken immediately.

Despite the farcical nature of these events, I refuse to believe that this is a political decision taken in haste in order to taint a lifelong devotee of the game or crush my candidacy for the FIFA presidency.

I want everyone to know my state of mind: more than a sense of injustice or a desire for revenge, I am driven by a profound feeling of staunch defiance. I am more determined than ever to defend myself before the relevant judicial bodies.

I want to reiterate in the strongest possible terms that I will devote myself to ensuring that my good faith prevails. I have received numerous messages of support today from UEFA’s member associations and the other confederations encouraging me to continue my work serving football’s interests. Nothing will make me give up on that commitment.