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Barcelona pendulum swings to Daniel Agger, away from David Luiz?

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There’s always a chance Barcelona will pay for both, but whereas last week the soccer world’s Universal Rumor Mill was spinning David Luiz-to-Barça, this week its focusing on Daniel Agger. The Liverpool defender has been linked with a move to Cataluyna all summer, but with Luiz still at Stamford Bridge, it seems time to for the gossip pages to zero-in on the Dane. And if a deal for Agger isn’t completed this week, Luiz’s mug shot can go back on the cork board next Monday.

The potential Agger deal has the benefit of the player being interesting in the move. At least, that’s what today’s reports are claiming. Barcelona’s placed a $23 million bid for the Danish tattoosmith, it’s been rejected, but should the teams come to terms, Agger would actually be fine making the second switch of his club career.

From the player’s agent:

“We are aware that Barcelona have made an offer for Daniel that Liverpool have rejected,” said Steffensen, who was approached by an agent representing the Spanish club several weeks ago. “Daniel has a contract with Liverpool for the next three years and it would be up to the clubs to agree a fee for his transfer in order for that to change.”

That’s not “and he wants to see the deal out.” It’s also not “Daniel wants to play Champions League football.” It’s decidedly in the middle, perhaps an attempt to say “We’d like to see it happen, but we’re not going to force a deal.”

And everything you need to know about why a deal’s unlikely to happen this month, even if Agger forces it:

With Carragher gone, Sebastián Coates failing to convince Rodgers and Martin Skrtel’s position uncertain having been told he can leave Liverpool earlier in the summer, only to be informed last week that he would not be sold, the Anfield club can ill afford to lose their most influential centre-half. That was reflected in the response to Barcelona, who have targeted either Agger or David Luiz but have received no encouragement from Chelsea that the Brazil international is for sale.

So where does this leave Barcelona? It seems Gerardo Martino wants reinforcements at the back, but with the team’s high standard and limited time left in the summer window, there are very few candidates. That’s why they seem to be bouncing back and forth between Chelsea and Liverpool, but with neither club needing to sell or capable of weathering the loss of their best defender, it doesn’t look good for Barcelona.

The Spanish champions may need to target some depth players, hope Gerard Piqué, Carles Puyol, Javier Mascherano and Marc Bartra stay healthy, then concentrate on January. In the interim, they can start working with some clubs toward a winter buy, preparing them for the need to replace a key player in a way they haven’t with Chelsea and Liverpool. Hopefully they’ll have reinforcements mid-season.

That’s not ideal, and most elite defenders will already be playing in Champions League. Though Liverpool will have one guy who’s not.

 

Premier League AT HALF: Arsenal fights back, Hull City on top

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal (L) and Francis Coquelin of Arsenal (R) celebrate after Theo Walcott of Arsenal (not pictured) scored Arsenals first goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Stoke City at the Emirates Stadium on December 10, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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Goals and controversial penalty decisions are a big part of Saturday morning’s quartet of Premier League matches, all of which are at the break.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]

Arsenal 1-1 Stoke City

Joe Allen took an elbow from Granit Xhaka inside the 18, and Lee Mason awarded a PK that Charlie Adam converted to give the visitors an early lead. But Theo Walcott scored his 100th goal as a Gunner off a classy Hector Bellerin cross to make it 1-1 before the break.

Burnley 2-1 Bournemouth

The Cherries will have to dig out of another hole this week, and it all began with Jeff Hendrick‘s phenomenal opener. Fellow Irishman Steven Ward scored an economical to goal to double the lead.

But Ryan Fraser continued his fine December with an assist on Benik Afobe‘s goal before halftime.

Hull City 1-0 Crystal Palace

Robert Snodgrass drew a penalty with a pretty easy grass grab, and the Tigers have a

Swansea City 0-0 Sunderland

Not much cooking at the Liberty Stadium.

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Koeman: “Nervous” Everton has a problem after another loss

WATFORD, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Ronald Koeman manager of Everton arrives prior to the Premier League match between Watford and Everton at Vicarage Road on December 10, 2016 in Watford, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
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One win in 10 for Ronald Koeman‘s Everton has the Dutchman on the hot seat.

Koeman seems to be clawing for air after the Toffees’ latest setback, a 3-2 loss at Watford.

The loss puts the Hornets ahead of Everton on the PL table, and — while unlikely — it’s a mathematical possibility that the Toffees could be a bottom half team by the end of the weekend.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]

That’s a brutal development for a club expected to challenge for a European place this season.

Here’s Koeman:

“I see a lot of similar problems in the team. The team is too much reactive. Of course it’s maybe a lack of confidence, but if you start the game well, 1-0 up, you need a bigger belief in the team and not going back and defending, and nervous, and not enough ball possession. In my opinion that’s a problem.”

A big problem with that? It can be put down to the manager. Is Koeman in trouble already?

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VIDEO: Hendrick scores incredible volley from distance

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Jeff Hendrick, take a bow.

Burnley’s Republic of Ireland international midfielder pulled off a stunning piece of skill on Saturday to put the Clarets ahead against Bournemouth.

[ STREAM: Every PL game online ] 

A long ball forward was flicked on to Hendrick and he took a stunning first touch to tee himself and then settled himself before spanking a volley into the top corner.

Sensational goal from Burnley’s club-record signing.

Click play on the video above to watch it.

Messi’s latest goal dares you to count the touches (video)

PAMPLONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 10:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the La Liga match between CA Osasuna and FC Barcelona at Sadar stadium on December 10, 2016 in Pamplona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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There’s a danger in observing Lionel Messi on a week-by-week basis, and it has a lot to do with how he makes greatness look routine.

So while it’s easy to dismiss yet another mazy dribble through a defense, one of those “Frogger” style with calm-but-vicious cutbacks, try to consider everything that goes into Messi’s second goal against Osasuna early Saturday.

[ MORE: Watford 3-2 Everton ]

On first look, you might count 9 touches for Messi starting with his right-footed collection of the ball. But move to the slow motion replays, and recognize the truth: Often Messi is letting the ball do the work for him, essentially moving the duo closer to goal while he used his preferred left foot as a must-respect threat.

That he does it in such traffic and at full speed is incredible. It’s literally one of those goals in which a linguistic luminary like Ray Hudson would have trouble over-emphasizing the greatness.

Messi now has 11 La Liga goals in 12 matches, and 22 in 19 overall.

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