Cattermole

Down to the Wire: With the window nearing its close, who will beat the clock?

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With just three hours remaining in the January transfer window, it’s a race to the finish for many teams to try and secure the players they desire for the final half of the season.

The top clubs appear to be very quiet as we approach the moment of truth, but with 10 clubs within nine points of each other, the bottom half of the table has been a flurry today, and to no surprise, the pickings have gotten a bit slim.

As we race towards the home stretch, let’s take a look at who could make a play just before the deadline.

After all, that’s what Deadline Day is all about, right?

Lee Cattermole to Stoke City:

An on-again, off-again rumor, Stoke haven’t given up the fight just yet. Known for his crunching tackles, many are joking (with a hint of truth) that Cattermole would be a perfect fit for Stoke’s physical style.

Originally said to be nearing completion with Sunderland having accepted a bid for the midfielder (pictured, left), his current club is now insisting that the deal is dead.  And yet it won’t go away…

According to Sky’s Rob Dorsett, Cattermole’s agent has arrived at the Stoke City training ground.  We’ll see where it goes. I can’t imagine Sunderland would be too happy with that news. Chances of completion: 4/10

John Heitinga to Fulham:

The furious attempt by Shad Khan, Alistair Mackintosh, and Rene Meulensteen to keep their club up is far from over, with deals for Kostas Mitroglou and Lewis Holtby already done and dusted.

The Cottagers have conceded a Premier League-high 50 goals this year, 10 more than anyone else in the league.  With that in mind, the club’s focus has now shifted to shoring up that back line.

With a serious need at left-back, Fulham first looked to Swansea’s Neil Taylor with a pair of bids, but amid reports that the defender’s wife has gone into labor today (typical Deadline Day!), the 24-year-old is apparently staying with Michael Laudrup.

Now, Fulham have turned their attention to the Everton central defender. Heitinga won the Toffees Player of the Year award as recently as the 2011/2012, but has been shoved aside by Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin, leaving the 30-year-old with just a single Premier League appearance this year

With Fulham out of domestic loan slots (you get 2, and they have Holtby and Darren Bent), the transfer would have to be a purchase of his contract, most likely on a free.  Sky Sports are reporting he is having a medical at Fulham. From the sound of things, it’s a pretty likely possibility.  Chances of completion: 7/10

source: AP
With his name in the papers for years, could the 22-year-old Blackpool winger finally be headed to the Premier League?

Thomas Ince to Crystal Palace:

The Tom Ince Deadline Day Tour looks to have found a conclusion at Crystal Palace. This one has been in the reports for most of the day, but the longer these deals linger without confirmation, the more likely they are to have a twisted ending.

Slowly, news is trickling out that the move is nearing completion, with the Blackpool Gazette reporting that striker Stephen Dobbie will be sacrificed in the other direction to Blackpool.

Ince was rumored to be in contact with numerous Premier League clubs in the past week, and it would appear Crystal Palace are the winners. A very likely deal at this point, on a loan with a £1 million fee. Chances of completion: 8/10.

Jonathan Pitroipa to Stoke City:

It seems that Stoke aren’t finished, even if Lee Cattermole falls through.  Sky Sports is reporting another target for Mark Hughes – Rennes striker Jonathan Pitroipa.

The striker market is beginning to dwindle, and Cardiff City, West Ham United, and other bottom-half clubs have missed out on key striker targets.  So Hughes has targeted the 27-year-old Burkina Faso international for the job.  French paper L’Equipe is reporting a loan deal with an option to buy has been agreed upon, but nobody else has taken that leap yet.

Unfortunately, his numbers are a bit ugly – no goals and four assists in 20 appearances (16 starts) – but he’s been playing mostly on the right wing. Also, that’s what happens when you wait until three hours left in the transfer window. Chance of completion: 5/10.

Ross McCormack to anybody:

With news that all hell has broken loose at Leeds United – they’ve shockingly sacked manager Brian McDermott on the heels of an Italian takeover – will anybody make a play for former Cardiff City striker Ross McCormack?  The 27-year-old told Sky he was “gutted” by the news.

Ok, with 3 hours left that’s probably not likely, but hey, it’s Deadline Day. You never know! Right on cue, Sky reports SIX (!!) clubs have contacted Leeds about McCormack. Buckle up… Chances of completion: 2/10.

Bayern’s Vidal says “ugly” Atletico not deserved UCL finalists

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27: Juanfran of Atletico Madrid and Arturo Vidal of Bayern Munich argue during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.

Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.

Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.

They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.

The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.

Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.

[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]

Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.

Europa League preview: Liverpool, Shakhtar look to overcome Spanish foes

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - APRIL 28:  Cedric Bakambu of Villarreal is watched by the Liverpool defence during the UEFA Europa League semi final first leg match between Villarreal CF and Liverpool at Estadio El Madrigal on April 28, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.

[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]

Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.

Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0

Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.

[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]

Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw 

Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

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In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.

[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]

Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.

Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.

Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.