Report: Chelsea and Atletico Madrid agree to swap Thibaut Courtois for Diego Costa

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Whenever the Daily Mail pens an article “according to reports in the Spanish media” and then fails to name or cite those reports, one can be doubly (if not triply) sure there is some level of falsity to it.

Still, I’m a sucker for crappy reality television and juicy, if not baseless, transfer rumors. And this one’s a doozy: Come next summer Atletico Madrid and Chelsea will swap striker Diego Costa for netminder Thibaut Courtois.

Both players are currently playing for Atletico but Courtois’ presence there (where he has played the last three seasons) is courtesy of a loan deal from Chelsea. The 21-year-old Belgian giant has made no secret of his desire to stay in Madrid while Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho is desperate for a world-class striker to simplify the mind-numbing decision of having to play Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto’o or Demba Ba.

Costa and Courtois have been sensational of late, rising to prominence at their respective positions. Costa has fired home 19 goals in La Liga this season, second only to Cristiano Ronaldo, while Courtois is widely considered the best young keeper in Europe.

This past weekend Mourinho admitted his “hope” that Chelsea were done with business in the January transfer window but nevertheless left the door open for deals this summer.

As untrustworthy as the Daily Mail and “reports in the Spanish media” can be, the Costa for Courtois does make sense. Chelsea need a proven, world-class striker and with Petr Cech still performing as one of the top custodians in the Premier League, there’s no rush to call on Courtois. Financially, such a move would also be very attractive for Chelsea given the Financial Fair Play regulations.

So why doesn’t Chelsea get this deal done now rather than this summer?

Simple, their hands are tied.

As much as a striker like Costa could be the difference between winning the Premier League and finishing in second place for Chelsea, Atletico have zero motivation to do the swap now. They already have Courtois on loan until the end of the season so they’d gain nothing (unless significant cash were involved) in accelerating the process. Plus, Los Colchoneros are in fantastic shape both domestically (second in La Liga, even on points with leaders Barcelona) and in Europe (Champions League Round of 16).

So, if the swap is to go down Mourinho will have to wait until next summer. But if he does complete the deal Costa would be a major coup not only because he fits right in the mold of The Special One’s original prodigy, Didier Drogba, but because domestic competitors in search of a striker (Arsenal) will have one less star striker to choose from.

Top Storylines for Premier League Week 6

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After a week of League Cup action domestically, the Premier League returns this weekend with a myriad of interesting matchups and storylines.

Let’s take a look at some of this week’s top story’s to follow:


Can Manchester City continue its torrid form?

Manchester City has finally found its groove under manager Pep Guardiola.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The club has won five successive games, the last three coming on the road while scoring a combined 19 goals. Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus are a terrific 1-2 punch while David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne have been stars in midfield, with De Bruyne pulling the strings for Man City all season.

There’s every likelihood that Man City will continue its impressive run on Saturday. The club hosts floundering Crystal Palace, which is still adjusting to new manager Roy Hodgson.

(more…)

On This Day: The Battle of Old Trafford

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Fourteen years ago today, Arsenal headed north to Manchester for a famous matchup with Manchester United.

Taking the field at Old Trafford, Arsenal were unbeaten to start the season, having won its first four Premier League matches before drawing a week prior at home against Portsmouth. Manchester United meanwhile had four wins and one loss in that span.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

By way of Arsenal’s FA Cup title and Man United’s Premier League title the year before, the two teams met for the annual Community Shield a month earlier, and the game descended into a physical battle. Five yellow cards were shown, Arsenal substitute Francis Jeffers was shown a red card and defender Sol Campbell was later banned for kicking at an opponent, and Man United – backed by a young Tim Howard in goal – won 4-3 on penalty kicks after the score was tied at 1-1 after extra time.

With numerous physical encounters over the years, the September 21 encounter was shaping up to be another monumental showdown, and in terms of physicality, it didn’t disappoint.

Each team were shown four yellow cards and there was a combined 31 fouls. The match took a turn when Patrick Vieira was shown a second yellow card and subsequent red card for kicking out at Man United’s Ruud Van Nistelrooy after Van Nistelrooy had fouled Vieira going for a header. The decision set off a scrum in the middle of the field.

Despite being down to ten men, Arsenal held on until the final minutes, when Martin Keown was whistled for a foul in the box on Diego Forlan, giving Man United a penalty kick. But whether it was karma or lady luck, Van Nistelrooy’s penalty clanged off the crossbar and away to safety. Arsenal held on for a goalless draw, which helped boost the team’s belief in itself.

The Gunners went on to finish the 2013-2014 season undefeated, the only team to finish a Premier League season without a defeat. Man United wound up taking the FA Cup crown, settling for third place in the Premier League.

Watch some highlights from the match below.

Former Sunderland forward Scocco scores five goals for River Plate

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Veteran forward Ignacio “Nacho” Scocco is quickly endearing himself to the River Plate faithful.

Nearly three months since joining River, Scocco scored an incredible five goals in the second leg of his team’s Copa Libertadores quarterfinal matchup with Bolivian side Jorge Wilstermann. Scocco scored a first half hat-trick and added two more in the second half as River turned around a 3-0 deficit heading into the second leg.

Scocco had a mostly frustrating spell in 2014 ahead of the World Cup with Sunderland, joining the club as they staved off relegation by one point. Scocco failed to score for Sunderland in eight appearances, all off the bench.

However, since then, he returned to his native Argentina and starred for his hometown club Newell’s Old Boys before moving this summer to River as a replacement for Sebastián Driussi, who completed a transfer to Zenit St. Petersburg.

Here’s a look at all of Scocco’s goals Thursday evening.

Tammy Abraham denies switching national teams

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Fans of the England National Team may still have a chance to see Tammy Abraham don the Three Lions crest one day.

Abraham refuted reports from earlier Thursday that he was in the process of switching his national team to Nigeria from England. The 19-year-old Swansea City forward on-loan from Chelsea has played as high as the England Under-21 Men’s National Team but because of his Nigerian father, he’s eligible for the African nation.

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Abraham confirmed that he had met with Nigeria Football Federation chief Amaju Pinnick after Swansea’s last game, but denied that he was looking to play for the Super Eagles.

“I have informed The FA that I remain available for selection for England,” Abraham said, via the BBC. “Contrary to reports in the media I would like to clarify that I have not agreed to switch my national team allegiance. I can confirm I met the President of the NFF after our last game against Tottenham at Wembley on Saturday given he is a friend of my father. However, any suggestion that I have made a decision to change my international representation is incorrect and wide of the mark.”

Earlier in the day, reports emerged that Pinnick said the process was underway for Abraham to switch his international allegiance.

Abraham’s apparently decision to remain with the England set-up is good news for his club Swansea City, who will get to keep him closer to Wales on a regular basis, but Abraham may be missing a chance to play senior national team soccer at a young age.