Wednesday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Suarez to Real Madrid, Benteke to Spurs

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After Arsenal tabled a $45 million bid for Luis Suarez that was rejected earlier this week, Real Madrid have stepped up their chase for the Uruguayan forward. Suarez, 26, wants out of Anfield after his agent revealed yesterday that the striker wants to end his stay at Liverpool. But with Carlo Ancelotti now in charge at Real Madrid, president Florentino Perez is set to put in a huge $60 million offer that will test Liverpool’s resolve. If Suarez wants to move, Liverpool should just let him go. We all know what a great player he is, but this saga had dragged on for too long. It would be wrong of Liverpool to keep a player against his will. Now is the time to cash in.

A tug of war is taking place between three EPL giants for Aston Villa’s want-away striker Christian Benteke. London clubs Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea are battling it out to bring the bustling Belgian forward to England’s capital, with Villa now putting a $45 million transfer fee on Benteke’s head. The 22-year-old scored 23 times last season in a struggling Aston Villa team, think of how much better the service would be at Spurs, Chelsea or Arsenal. He wouldn’t have to do it all on his own like he did at Villa. If the bruising striker does leave Villa Park, Tottenham would be a great option. Andre Villas-Boas is a huge admirer of Benteke, and with the World Cup coming up and Belgium almost certainties to qualify, it is a big year for Benteke. A new club and playing in the World Cup? Perhaps.

Sunderland are certainly making waves in the transfer market his summer, and manager Paolo Di Canio wants to add a fellow Italian to the ranks. Juventus winger Emanuele Giaccherni is the man in question, with the Black Cats tabling a $13 million deal for the Italian international. The 28-year-old put in a solid shift for Italy during the Confederations Cup, but Juve may hold out for closer to $16 million. Giaccherni can operate in the wing-back role and also further forward in the central attacking position. Di Canio could make the Juve man his seventh summer signing, as he molds Sunderland into his own outfit. Giaccherni has a sweet left foot and with opportunistic strikers like Steven Fletcher and now Jozy Altidore in the box, the Wearsiders offensive output could increase rapidly.

Ex-Arsenal midfielder Mathieu Flamini has alerted several English Premier League clubs, after admitting he has “unfinished business” in England. The 29-year-old French midfielder left the Gunners to join AC Milan back in 2008, but after several injuries he is only now regaining the form that saw him become a pivotal part of Arsene Wenger’s side. But which clubs will take Flamini? He has spoken about wanting to win the EPL and other titles, but also about being part of an ambitious project. I really can’t see a top four team buying the Frenchman. Maybe an ambitious smaller club would be best for him. Southampton? West Ham? Or maybe, just maybe, Manchester City could swoop for Milan’s midfielder destroyer?

Staying in Manchester, and United’s winger Nani could be leaving Old Trafford as the 26-year-old Portuguese winger has been the subject of a large bid from Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala. Flamboyant, unpredictable but at times mercurial, Nani’s talent is unquestioned. But after spending much of last season on the peripherals, is it time for Nani to move on? I think that would be best for both parties. Regular minutes and the chance to shine ahead of Portugal’s potential appearance in the World Cup is what Nani needs. Maybe United can loan him out somewhere? I’m not sure if Russia, or Anzhi, is the right option. But then again with Nani, just like his form when he steps onto the pitch, you never know what’s going to happen.

MORE: Tuesday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup, Benteke to Chelsea, Luiz to Barcelona

Wenger: Sanchez, Giroud will both be with Arsenal next year

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Arsene Wenger thinks Alexis Sanchez will sign a new deal at Arsenal this summer, whether the manager changes or not.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s visit from Leicester City, Wenger did not offer any clues as to his future with the club. He also said it does not hinge on how the Gunners finish the current campaign, and that he is working on transfers for the benefit of Arsenal regardless of his future.

[ MORE: Will Real open door for Barca? ]

That’s no surprise, given his reputation and fidelity to the club. What may surprise some is Wenger’s confidence that Sanchez will stay at the Emirates Stadium.

From Sky Sports:

“I personally think he will stay and sign. First of all he is happy here, his desire is to stay, that is what I deeply believe.

“I don’t think you would sell him to any Premier League club, that is for sure. The question is why would you sell him to another club? You want to be as strong as you can be and not strengthen the other teams.”

Wenger said both sides want to work out a deal and that the hold-up resides in agent-related matters. He also said Arsenal does not have interest in selling Olivier Giroud, who backed Wenger just over a month ago.

Title fight in Spain: Will Real slip up again?

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Barcelona’s dramatic 3-2 win over Real Madrid has set La Liga’s title race on its ear, with both clubs level on points with 75.

Real still controls its own destiny in a bid for its first league title since 2011-12, but a single loss puts Barcelona in pole position for its fourth title in five seasons.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

The tiebreaker is head-to-head, which Lionel Messi lifted from Real with his thrilling stoppage time thriller on Sunday at the Bernabeu.

Here are the run-ins for both sides, with Real facing a more congested schedule thanks to its status as a UEFA Champions League semifinalist.

Real Madrid

Only two of Real’s remaining five La Liga matches are at home, a boon for Barcelona considering Real boasts a strong home mark. The loss to Barca was Real’s first at the Bernabeu this season, and the Merengues only drew three matches at home (Villarreal, Eibar, Atletico Madrid).

Those home matches, however, are against teams that beat Real in the sides’ other league meetings this year, Sevilla and Valencia.

Wednesday – at Deportivo de la Coruna (16th)
Saturday – vs. Valencia (12th)
May 2 – vs. Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 6 – at Granada (19th)
May 10 – at Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 14 – vs. Sevilla (4th)
May 21 – at Malaga (14th)

Barcelona

Barca is home for three of its remaining five matches. The Blaugranas drew Villarreal and blew out Osasuna and Eibar ahead of the return visits.

As for the road matches, Barca has the Derbi barceloni with Espanyol, having taken the Camp Nou meeting 4-1, as well as a trip to Las Palmas (5-0 at home).

Wednesday – vs. Osasuna (20th)
Saturday – at Espanyol (9th)
May 6 – vs. Villarreal (5th)
May 14 – at Las Palmas (13th)
May 21 – vs. Eibar (8th)
May 27 – vs. Alaves (Copa del Rey Final)

The verdict

Any whiplash Real faces from schedule congestion should be offset by Barcelona’s much tougher schedule. Real could lose again, perhaps versus Sevilla, but Barca will likely finish second thanks to dropped points against Espanyol, Eibar, or Villarreal.

Premier League Weds. preview: Desperation on display

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Two London powers face a race to stay alive for their lofty season goals, while two Northeast sides see their last chances to claim hope for another year in the Premier League.

[ STREAM: All PL games here ]

That’s what’s on the docket for Wednesday’s PL matches, one day after Chelsea buried Southampton 4-2 t0 move seven points clear of Spurs in the race for the league’s 2016-17 crown.

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

No team has looked better than Spurs lately, though Palace won’t be bowed by a big name or good form. Sam Allardyce‘s Eagles boast wins at Liverpool and Chelsea, as well as a home defeat of Arsenal. Those have all come in 2017, as Palace has leapt to within striking distance of the top half.

Spurs need to win at Selhurst Park to keep pace with Chelsea and sit four points back of the No. 1 spot with five matches to play. Lose, concede, and feel like last April all over again. It was a year from Tuesday that Spurs coughed up a home lead to Leicester and saw any hopes of catching Leicester fade into the sunset.

Middlesbrough vs. Sunderland — 2:45 p.m. ET

This Tees-Wear Derby oozes desperation, with Sunderland knowing it needs to win its matches-in-hand on Hull City and Swansea to have any hope of staying up, and Middlesbrough nearly as desperate.

Boro’s 24 points is three more than Sunderland, who has played one less game. Hull sits 17th with 33 points while Swansea holds 31.

Middlesbrough hasn’t won in the Premier League since Dec. 17, a run of 16 matches. Their only wins of the year are over lower league opposition, a trio of victories against Sheffield Wednesday, Accrington Stanley, and Oxford United.

Sunderland has just one league win since that same date in December, and that came at Crystal Palace. The Black Cats have lost six of eight, and look destined to join Boro in the second tier as Northeast neighbors Newcastle comes up.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images )

Arsenal vs. Leicester City — 2:45 p.m. ET

Did Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Manchester City snap Arsenal out of its funk, or was it just a matter of Alexis Sanchez’s class squeezing a bit of excellence out of the tube?

Arsene Wenger will hope for the latter, because Arsenal’s Top Four hopes hinge on winning its matches-in-hand on Liverpool and getting significant help from Man City and Manchester United. Their opposition will also be rested, having rested since bowing out of the UEFA Champions League on April 18.

Leicester’s five match winning streak, part of Craig Shakespeare’s new manager bounce, has died down a bit. The Foxes lost at Everton and drew at Palace, and get a third tricky road test in a row at the Emirates Stadium.

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”