Leighton Baines out with broken toe, a loss Everton should get used to

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Everton has confirmed that Leighton Baines suffered a fractured toe in Saturday’s 3-3 draw with Liverpool.

The injury means the left-back could face up to six weeks on the sideline.

Speaking on Tuesday morning, Toffees manager Roberto Martinez said: “It has been confirmed that Leighton has got a fracture in one of the bones in his right foot, which is the phalange.

“We need to treat that now and see how it develops. It could mean anything from missing six weeks to being back in 10 days because it depends how the fracture heals.

“It is in such a specific spot and we are going to see how it (the injury) reacts.”

So how difficult will Baines’ injury be on the Merseyside club?

At first blush, quite difficult. Over the last five years Baines has been the heart and soul of Everton. He has been so consistent, in fact, that his exit shortly after half-time on Saturday was the first time the England defender failed to complete a Premier League match since 2008.

Besides consistency, Baines has proven himself to be a weapon on both sides of the ball. An above average defender, Baines’ specializes in creating offensive opportunities down the left side of the pitch. Last year, no player in Europe created more opportunities than Baines, solidifying his partnership with Steven Pienaar as one of the Premier League’s most deadly.

There’s little doubt that Everton are a much less formidable side with Baines out of the squad. But from all indications, that’s a reality that Evertonians should get used to as my sources tell me that a transfer deal for Baines to Manchester United this January is all but done.

United have tried at least twice to buy Baines in the past, the most recent go this past summer when Roberto Martinez rejected a $24.3 million (£15m) bid for the defender. When the window opens this winter, expect David Moyes to come with an improved offer in the range of $29.1-32.4 million (£18-20m) and for Everton to take the money.

Assuming this deal comes to fruition, there’s no time like the present for Martinez to figure out his new defense. There are a few options.

Martinez could opt to change to a back three, something he was well known for during his Wigan days. To play with a back three a squad typically needs three large, fast center-backs. Sylvain Distin qualifies and Phil Jagielka, while not the speediest man in the world, should be able to make do.

Former Wigan center-back, Antolin Alcaraz, is now fit after undergoing a hernia operation and would be a natural fit as the third center-back. Another option is John Stones, who was massively impressive this summer in Everton’s pre-season friendlies.

Utilizing a back three would make Seamus Coleman the odd man out of the defense but the marauding right-back would likely be pushed into the midfield five to back-track and even out the back three in times of peril.

If Martinez chooses to keep a back four, however, Alcaraz or Stones could come into a center-back pairing with Jagielka, with the left-footed Distin moving out to the left-flank. Using Gareth Barry at left-back, as Martinez did against Liverpool following Baines’ injury last weekend, seems unlikely.

Ultimately this is probably a situation that will require Everton to purchase a left-back in the January transfer market. Martinez could make a move for Algerian international and St. Etienne full-back Faouzi Ghoulam, who at 22 years old could develop into a star of the future at Goodison Park. 

One way or the other, the time is now for Everton to kick on without Leighton Baines.

Qatar stadium safety concerns again raised by death investigation

Photo by Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy/Qatar 2022 via Getty Images
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An investigation into why a British man fell to his death on a building site for the 2022 Qatar soccer World Cup has raised concerns about stadium roof safety.

World Cup organizers on Thursday released partial findings of an assessment of the accident at the Khalifa International Stadium, but said the full report cannot be released while local authorities continue their own investigation. It is one of two work-related deaths detailed in Qatar’s latest welfare report on preparations for the 2022 soccer tournament, which currently involves 12,367 workers on eight construction sites.

The 40-year-old British man fell 39 meters in January after one end of the roof catwalk he was installing dropped and a safety rope snapped.

“During the course of the investigation, the team had raised concerns with the method of installation of the raised catwalk system,” the welfare report from Qatar’s World Cup organizers stated. “This required further investigation regarding the method itself and the supervision skills of the specialist contractor staff.”

It has led to “corrective and preventative actions” being implemented by the contractor, a joint venture between Belgian and Qatari firms, along with safety checks across all stadium sites, the report said.

“These included a review of all working-at-height activities across all SC projects, an enhanced process when reviewing specialist activities within construction sites, and a detailed review of all roof and gantry designs,” the Supreme Committee overseeing stadium projects added.

The British man is the only European working on Qatar stadiums to have died in a country relying on a low-paid migrant workforce from south Asia to prepare for the first World Cup in the Middle East. Six non-work related deaths have been announced by organizers, with most suffering from heart or breathing problems.

Hassan Al Thawadi, the supreme committee’s secretary general, said medical staff are trying to raise awareness of the “importance of healthy lifestyles” by evaluating diets and identifying health issues, including hypertension and diabetes. Cooling helmets have also been developed in an attempt to make it safer for workers on outdoor sites during the searing summer heat.

World Cup preparations have been dogged by concerns about the welfare of workers since the natural gas-rich Gulf nation won the FIFA vote in 2010. Mounting international pressure led to Qatar raising living standards and worker rights. Inspections led to three contractors being blacklisted and 14 entities “demobilized” from projects for failing to tackle welfare issues, the World Cup report reveals.

“There is still work to be done to ensure our workers’ welfare standards continue to have a tangible impact on the ground and we are comprehensive in our attempts to tackle the myriad of issues facing migrant workers across the SC program,” Khalid Al-Kubaisi, who oversees worker welfare at the Supreme Committee, said in a statement.

The report has been released as Qatar is gripped by a diplomatic crisis that has seen it isolated in the region. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar earlier this month and blocked air, sea and land traffic over its support for Islamist groups and ties with Iran. Qatar denies the charges and says the allegations are politically motivated.

Official (finally): Salah completes move from Roma to Liverpool

Photo credit: Liverpool FC / Twiter: @LFC
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It was the summer’s first transfer rumor-turned-real-story-turned-never-ending-saga that seemed to refuse to cross the finish line, but it’s finally come to pass: Mohamed Salah is a Liverpool player.

Salah’s move from Roma to Liverpool took so long to complete that the club’s poor social-media manager probably never wants to read the words “Announce Salah” for the rest of his/her life.

The deal will cost Liverpool something in the neighborhood of $50 million — a new Liverpool club record — and completes the utterly terrifying attacking quartet Jurgen Klopp can’t wait to unleash on the Premier League come August — Salah on one side, Sadio Mane opposite, Philippe Coutinho in the middle, and Roberto Firmino at striker. Salah, by the way, will take over Firmino’s no. 11 shirt, with the Brazilian switching to no. 9.

Alexis sets the record, but Germany come back for draw

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Alexis Sanchez became Chile’s all-time leading goalscorer (38) on Thursday, and La Roja inched ever closer to progression at the 2017 Confederations Cup with a 1-1 draw against Germany.

[ MORE: VAR steps in to help Aussies draw Cameroon, 1-1 ]

Sanchez moved past Marcelo Salas with his 6th-minute opener (above video) to capitalize on a poor turnover and complete a quick one-two atop Germany’s 18-yard box. Arturo Vidal put a foot in to disrupt Germany’s attempt to play out of the back, and the ball fell to Sanchez who quickly played it back to Vidal, who played Sanchez into the box for a left-footed finish inside the near post.

[ MORE: Latest 2017 Confederations Cup news

Chile’s lead wouldn’t quite last until halftime, though, as Lars Stindl got on the end of Jonas Hector’s cross in the 41st minute to bring the reigning World Cup champions back to level terms and all but secure their place in the next round.

With the result, Chile and Germany remain tied on top of Group B (4 points) with one game to play. Given the distance between themselves and Australia and Cameron (1 point each) in third and fourth, a draw in their final group games would be more than enough to go through to the semifinals. One-goal defeats would even do the trick.

Kenny Saief approved for one-time switch from Israel to USMNT

Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
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Kenny Saief has been officially cleared by FIFA to make his one-time switch of international allegiance from Israel to the United States, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced on Thursday.

Saief, 23, was born in Panama City, Fla., to Druze-Israeli parents and began his youth career with Maccabi Haifa in 2005, at the age of 11. After a handful of first-team appearances for various Israeli clubs between 2010 and 2013, Saief earned a regular place in Ironi Nir Ramat HaSharon’s first team during the 2013-14 season. In the summer of 2014, he moved to Belgian side Gent, where he’s played in the UEFA Champions League and Europa League. U.S. men’s national team head coach Bruce Arena included Saief on his 40-man preliminary roster for next month’s 2017 Gold Cup.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

He appeared for Israeli youth national teams at just about every level, but having grown frustrated at the lack of a call-up to the senior team, Saief made it known many months ago he would consider a switch to the USMNT if the omission continued.

Saief figures to serve as something of a utility-man for the USMNT, at least from the start. He’s a left-footed midfielder who’s played extensively on both the left and right wings, and even a bit at left back. It’s the latter that should most intrigued USMNT fans, considering the dearth of options available at the position.