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Arsenal’s chief transfer negotiator is in Germany with Julian Draxler on his mind

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Finally, some real life traction has begun in the Julian Draxler-to-Arsenal rumors as the Gunners’ chief transfer negotiator, Dick Law, is currently in Germany exploring the possibility of a January deal for the Schalke starlet.

The Draxler rumor has followed a path that’s been quintessential Arsenal transfer drama. It began sometime last summer as nothing more than a natural linking – a stylish club looking for a stylish player. Then in December chatter of the German international coming to North London was ramped up the the Mirror, the Daily Mail and other speculation-pumping hyenas (bless their souls) of the footy tabloid world.

When the New Year finally rolled around Goonah’s across the globe snatched their ticket in the transfer deli line and when asked their wish, the request was broad and reasonable: ‘One world-class striker, please.’

How about Draxler?‘ the Transfer Voice responded.

Er… well… I think he’s an attacking midfielder… but yes, sure, he’ll be great,‘ Goonah’s replied with hopes that, like former Arsenal hitman, Robin van Persie, Draxler could be converted to a striker.

All the while Gunners boss, Arsene Wenger, played it cool. So damn cool, in fact, that when asked about the Draxler-to-Arsenal link he replied: “That is an illusion. There is nothing happening, honestly no. We don’t need to take players on the flanks – we have 17 players on the flanks.”

Best poker face in the game, that Wenger.

Because while the crafty ole Frenchman does have plenty of options in the attacking midfield, he also has some injury concerns, mainly to Theo Walcott, who is out for the season with a cruciate knee ligament rupture. But then there’s also Aaron Ramsey’s setback in rehabilitation from a thigh strain, Jack Wilshere’s ankle problem, Tomas Rosicky’s nose and the four-match ban defensive midfielder Mathieu Flamini picked up for his two-footed challenge against Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin on Tuesday.

Then there are the issues up top. Olivier Giroud is tired (even if he says otherwise) and Nicholas Bendtner doesn’t possess the requisite proven quality (even if he says otherwise).

So, to answer the question everyone is asking, yes, Draxler fits into the needs of this Arsenal side.

First and foremost he fits because he is a world-class talent – a 20-year-old with infinite potential to impact the game at a number of positions. Much like Mesut Ozil last summer, Draxler is, at his core, a player that if you can get your hands around him you do it, regardless of whether he’s currently in the exact form of your club’s needs.

Second, Draxler provides the injection of new blood into a squad facing a Champions League and Premier League title run. No, he won’t be able to play in the Gunners’ European campaign, but his ideas and imagination will be there domestically and in training, which will be a huge boost.

Third, Arsenal’s three headed monster could use a kick up. Santi Cazorla, Serge Gnabry, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rosicky, Wilshere and Ozil have done incredibly well but including Draxler will provide fresh ideas and some much needed rest.

Fourth, and finally, Draxler is capable of excelling in the role of a False 9. It would be a work-in-progress, no doubt about that, but one that few opposing defenses would want to be on the receiving end of.

Which brings us back to the news that one of the best named transfer negotiators ever, Dick Law, is in Germany. The cat is out of the bag, Wenger. Arsenal is at least trying to get this deal done. And the club is just one easy payment of a £37M buy-out clause away from making it happen. The transfer window closes Friday at 11pm GMT/6pm ET.

Tick-tock.

Coutinho, Kaka headline preliminary Brazil roster for Copa America

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It appears that Neymar won’t be the only big name missing from Brazil’s star-studded squad this summer at the Copa America Centenario.

[ VIDEO: Previewing every Week 36 match around the Premier League ]

The Selecao revealed their preliminary 40-man roster for this summer’s competition, and it includes Orlando City midfielder Kaka, Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho and Douglas Costa of Bayern Munich.

[ MORE: PST discusses how Leicester has gotten to the verge of an epic title ]

Chelsea pair Willian and Oscar also made the initial cut, in addition to Liverpool midfielder Roberto Firminho, who is coming off of a stellar season for Liverpool.

Among the biggest snubs for Brazil are a trio of defenders. Paris Saint-Germain duo Thiago Silva and David Luiz were each left off, while Real Madrid wing back Marcelo was also left out of the side.

Head coach Dunga will be forced to cut his roster down to 23 before the tournament starts for the Brazilians on June 4. The Selecao will take on Ecuador, Haiti and Peru in Group B play.

You can view the entire roster below:

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Freiburg promoted, returns to Bundesliga after 1 season away

SEVILLE, SPAIN - OCTOBER 03:  Mike Hanke of SC Freiburg controls the ball during the UEFA Europa League group H match between Sevilla FC and SC Freiburg at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on October 3, 2013 in Seville, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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BERLIN (AP) Freiburg secured an immediate return to the Bundesliga, one season after relegation to the second division, with a 2-1 win at Paderborn on Friday.

Goals from Mike Frantz and Nils Petersen, both set up by Maximilian Philipp in a three-minute spell just after the break, ensured Freiburg will finish at least second, earning automatic promotion.

“It still has to sink in,” Petersen said.

With two rounds remaining, Freiburg has 69 points, five more than Leipzig, and 10 more than third-placed Nuremberg, which has a game in hand.

Even if Nuremberg, which is all but certain of at least a promotion/relegation playoff following St. Pauli’s 2-0 defeat at 1860 Munich, wins its remaining three games, it cannot catch Freiburg.

It is Freiburg’s fifth promotion to the top flight after 1993, 1998 and 2003 – all under Volker Finke – and then 2009 under Robin Dutt.

“I’m quite calm,” said current coach Christian Streich, who was relegated with the side last season. “There were a lot of ups and downs over the year. I’m simply happy we managed it, no more.”

With 72 goals in 32 games, Streich’s side has the best offense in the second division. A run of 10 wins and one draw from its last 11 games helped clinch its return to the top flight.

Video: Ranieri gets emotional after seeing Leicester fans tribute

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Claudio Ranieri in on the verge of leading Leicester City to the most improbable feat in Premier League history.

[ MORE: Pochettino verbally agrees to return to Tottenham ]

While the Foxes have given the club’s supporters the greatest ride they’ve ever seen, the fans put together a tribute video describing what the 2015-16 season has meant to them.

[ MORE: Previewing every Premier League match for Week 36 ]

Fans of all ages put in their two cents regarding the team’s quirky manager, and the 64-year old Italian began to shed tears.

We likely won’t ever see a team like Leicester again, not only in the Premier League, but any sports league. The club’s assembly of players and Ranieri have coincided perfectly and the Foxes faithful are clearly grateful for what they’ve witnessed at the King Power Stadium this season.

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Premier League Preview: Newcastle vs. Crystal Palace

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 28: Georginio Wijnaldum of Newcastle United and Joel Ward of Crystal Palace compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Newcastle United at Selhurst Park on November 28, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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  • Newcastle has won one of their previous 10 PL matches
  • Palace is unbeaten in five of last six
  • Benitez is 1-3-3 since taking over Magpies

Newcastle host Crystal Palace on Saturday at St. James’ Park (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on USA and online via Live Extra) with the Magpies among the three sides battling to stay in the Premier League for the 2016-17 season.

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Crystal Palace isn’t mathematically out of the woods in the relegation battle, but they’re more than likely to remain in the PL next season. Palace has been in decent form of late, securing a win over Watford and draws against Arsenal and Everton. Yohan Cabaye and Connor Wickham are among the dangerous attackers that Newcastle will need to be wary of, each scoring five PL goals on the season.

[ MORE: Arsenal can put a damper on Norwich’s season with a win Saturday ]

A 5-1 drubbing towards the end of November gave Palace bragging rights, but at this stage of the season Newcastle must forget what happened in the past. While draws against Manchester City and Liverpool were certainly encouraging, the Magpies need wins. Anything else simply won’t do, particularly with Sunderland and Norwich each holding a game in hand.

The two-headed monster of Georginio Wijnaldum and Aleksandar Mitrovic will be crucial if Newcastle is to pick up a vital three points at home for the sixth time this season.

What they’re saying…

Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez: “I don’t bet. Obviously, I agree we have to win. In my experience, it’s the players who make the difference, not the managers. I can prepare for the game, but to talk about mind games, I don’t take too much notice.”

Palace boss Alan Pardew: “I’ve always encouraged other coaches and managers to be involved, with comments from them. I asked a bit of advice at the weekend from a couple of people which was very sound. I expect, as I do on occasion, to get calls from some of the players I’ve coached to ring me. You have to keep your network big.”

Prediction

Newcastle needs this game, or at the very least a point. Given the team’s poor goal differential though, this isn’t something Rafa Benitez and company will want to leave up to fate. Palace has dropped plenty of points this season, leaving Newcastle in an opportune position to gain ground on the coveted 17th place. The Magpies will push hard and I think they’ll be able to pull this one out at home, 2-1.

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