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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.

Robbie Keane still entertaining offers ahead of return

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 12:  Soccer Player Robbie Keane arrives at the Premiere of IFC Films' "Pele: Birth Of A Legend" at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
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Robbie Keane is still sorting out his future, and it seems unlikely he’s heading back to the past.

Keane is training in Dublin ahead of a return to the pitch. The 36-year-old striker left the LA Galaxy this offseason, and says he’s had several offers from Championship squads in England as well as a few clubs abroad.

[ MORE: Top Premier League story lines ]

Although he’s starred for Wolverhampton and Leeds, destinations where fans would welcome his arrival, Keane says not to hold your breath.

From TalkSport.com:

“I’ve had a lot of people asking me about coming back to Leeds and Wolves, and they’re great clubs I’ve played for, but you can’t go somewhere if people actually don’t offer you anything.

“Until it’s actually in writing to me I can’t comment much on it, but I definitely haven’t heard from Leeds or Wolves.”

Whether Stateside or in England, Keane can still have an impact on a team’s fortunes. We look forward to seeing him back on the field, and to hear some more quips as well.

Consider his answer to whether he’d entertain an offer from China:

“If they gave the money Diego Costa was offered, I’d walk there now,” Keane said.

Galaxy adds center mid from Portuguese top flight

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LA Galaxy’s roster reformation continues with the addition of Joao Pedro, a day after formalizing a deal with USMNT midfielder Jermaine Jones.

The 23-year-old center midfielder was with Vitoria Guimaraes in Portugal’s top flight, and comes to the club as a “Special Discovery Player” with Targeted Allocation Money.

[ MORE: Top Premier League story lines ]

Pedro has a goal in 17 appearances this season, as Vitoria Guimaraes sits fifth in the Primeira Liga.

From LAGalaxy.com:

“Joao is an extremely talented midfielder who has experience playing at a high level in Portugal,” said Galaxy general manager Peter Vagenas in a written statement released by the club.

“He is only 23 years old and has the best years of his career front of him. We identified him as a top target this offseason and we think he can immediately help strengthen our midfield. We look forward to welcoming Joao to Los Angeles as we continue to prepare for the upcoming season.”

Pedro was a regular for Vitoria Guimaraes but is far from a certainty to star for the Galaxy. We do know that Vagenas has probably done his research as to whether Pedro fits with Jermaine Jones.

AFCON wrap: Senegal clinches first knockout round slot

Senegal's, Sadio Mane, right, is challenged by Zimbabwe's, Willard Katsande, left, during the African Cup of Nations Group B soccer match between Senegal and Zimbabwe at, Stade de Franceville Stadium, in Franceville, Gabon Thursday Jan. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
AP Photo/Sunday Alamba
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Senegal has advanced to the knockout rounds of the Africa Cup of Nations, leaving three teams to work for the second Group B slot come the final day.

[ MORE: Top Premier League story lines ]

Senegal 2-0 Zimbabwe

Sadio Mane (Liverpool) and Henri Saivet (Saint-Etienne) scored within the first 13 minutes as Senegal clinched Group B with a win over Zimbabwe. There were 48 shots between the two teams, 24 for Senegal, in a fairly open affair. As for the Warriors, they’ll need to beat Tunisia on Monday.

Algeria 1-2 Tunisia

Tunisia rebounded from a loss to Senegal without scoring from the run of play. Lille mid Naim Sliti scored a penalty after an Algeria own goal made it 1-0. Anderlecht midfielder Sofiane Hanni scored for Algeria.

Friday’s matches
Ivory Coast vs. DR Congo — 11 a.m. ET
Morocco vs. Togo — 11 a.m. ET

Wenger concerned Chinese wages become benchmark for players

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 15:  Arsene Wenger manager of Arsenal looks on during an Arsenal press conference ahead of their UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg match against Barcelona at Camp Nou on March 15, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
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LONDON (AP) Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is hoping the high quality of competition in Europe will keep players from leaving for the financial gain in China.

Wenger is facing regular questions about the future of both Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, and the big money on offer in the Chinese league can complicate negotiations.

[ MORE: Top Premier League story lines ]

Argentine striker Carlos Tevez joined Shanghai Shenhua last month in a deal worth $40 million over two years.

“The danger (is) that the Chinese offers become the benchmark for Europe,” Wenger said Thursday. “You cannot compete with that, but I still think that, when you’re a footballer, the first thing is that you want to play against the best players in the best teams.”

Wenger said players that want the best compensation for playing in the best quality league need not look to Asia.

“I think that combination is the best in England at the moment, so I don’t see why the players should leave the English Premier League,” Wenger said.

Wenger, whose team is fourth in the standings, has made only one signing in the January transfer window, picking up defender Cohen Bramall from non-league club Hednesford.

Arsenal has also decided to keep captain Per Mertesacker for another season. Wenger announced Thursday that the club has taken up a one-year option to extend the contract of the 32-year-old German, who has not played this season because of a knee injury sustained during a friendly in July.

Mertesacker faces a fight to get back into the team because Shkodran Mustafi, an offseason signing from Valencia, has built a strong partrnership with vice captain Laurent Koscielny at the heart of Wenger’s defense.