Chief Executive confirms Premier League ‘B’ league is in the works

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For years many have been calling for the Premier League to have a more profound reserve or development league.

On Friday, PL Chief Executive Richard Scudamore confirmed that plans are in place to set up a Premier League ‘B’ division, that would see  an Under-23 league, plus four overage players, compete alongside the current PL setup.

That notion has a lot of people talking.

In England there are already three professional tiers below the PL, with the SkyBet Championship, League One and League Two hosting the countries other 72 professional teams. While below that in the Conference, most of the teams are full-time. But what Scudamore is suggesting would have no impact on the Championship and the promotion and relegation, but instead it would provide an extremely competitive level for young academy players to develop in and give them the chance to play against older players at a young age.

Only the PL teams that have been classed as category one in the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) would be invited, as well as the five Championship teams and one League One side who are in that bracket, as these 22 sides currently compete in the Premier League’s U-21 division.

Talking about the plans, Scudamore had the following to say about upgrading the U-21 league to become the Premier League B.

The minute you call it ‘Under-21’ people think it is no use. It needs a better name and a better focus. All clubs recognize that. We need proper kick-off times, using main stadiums, anything to create an experience that is more competitive and more like the first team so it doesn’t come as such a shock. And those players in that group should be interchangeable with the first team.

The 22 teams this ‘B’ league would be made up of, are PL teams Arsenal, Aston Villa, Chelsea, Everton, Fulham, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle, Norwich, Southampton, Stoke, Sunderland, Tottenham, West Brom and West Ham. While Football League clubs Bolton, Blackburn, Leicester, Middlesbrough, Reading and Wolves would be included.

With many Spanish teams such as Real Madrid and Barcelona fielding their B sides in the second tier of Spanish soccer, and the same happening in the Bundesliga, the PL is looking to follow the same model which has seen so many young players develop and prosper in Spain and Germany during recent years.

I think it’s a good idea, and the notion that these games will be broadcast on television and be played in home stadiums also suggests this will be a very strong ‘B’ league.

Will it ever take over the Championship and form two tiers of the PL? Who knows. But these plans are already in place and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it happen very soon.

Sanchez, Mkhitaryan transfer still up in the air

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The player-swap/trade/transfer between Arsenal and Manchester United still appears to be heading towards completion, but it was further delayed Friday.

Multiple reports in England state that while Alexis Sanchez seems set to move to Manchester United, Henrik Mkhitaryan has yet to agree to move the other way, as talks between the player’s agent and Arsenal continue. Mkhitaryan was seen training at Manchester United’s practice facility on Friday, and because the latest delay, both players would be unable to debut for their new teams this weekend after missing the Premier League registration deadline.

[MORE: JPW’s Premier League picks]

Arsenal hosts Crystal Palace Manchester United travels to Burnley, both on Saturday at 10 a.m. (Watch Arsenal live on CNBC, Manchester United live on NBCSN, and both live on NBCSports.com)

The London Evening Standard reports that Mkhitaryan would command a $242,000-per-week salary but that as of Friday morning he had yet to undergo a medical for the transfer. Arsenal reportedly still wants a transfer fee included for Sanchez, while Manchester United would prefer to just swap the two players.

It’s also looking as if that won’t be Arsenal’s only business in the transfer market. While it seemed like a far-fetched rumor at first, the links between Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Arsenal have only grown stronger in the past few days, and the Gabon international appears to be in the Gunners sights. It appears that Bordeaux’s young striker Malcolm is now off the table.

Vancouver adds versatile Juarez, formerly of Monterrey, Celtic

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Efrain Juarez is bringing his game to Major League Soccer.

[ MLS: 2018 Mock SuperDraft ]

The 39-times capped Mexico veteran has inked a deal with the Vancouver Whitecaps, joining a strengthened unit which came within a point of winning the West last season.

Juarez, 29, was unveiled as a midfielder by the ‘Caps, though he’s primarily played right back in his club career. He’s played at Celtic, Real Zaragoza, Club America, Monterrey, and Pumas.

Last capped by El Tri in 2012, Juarez has played every position except goal, center attacking mid, and center forward in his career (picture a ‘U’ on the pitch).

“I’m so happy and excited for this new stage in my career,” Juarez said. “It’s an opportunity for me to keep growing in a new league and to be a part of an amazing club in Vancouver. From the moment they showed interest me, Carl Robinson and the Whitecaps staff have made me feel very important. I promise to put all my effort into this club and do my best to help us achieve our goals.”

VIDEO: Asensio goal ends Real Madrid’s winless run

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Marco Asensio’s eighth goal of the season and second of this Copa del Rey put an end to an unlikely Real Madrid winless run in a 1-0 victory at Leganes.

[ MLS: 2018 Mock SuperDraft ]

The 21-year-old darted in front of a defender to volley home from in-tight, giving Real Madrid a first leg lead in the tournament quarterfinals.

More importantly, perhaps, it gives struggling Real a boost in morale after draws with Celta Vigo and Numancia, and a loss to Villarreal.

Real is home to Deportivo de la Coruna in La Liga before hosting Leganes in the second leg.

Hopeful Newcastle buyer Staveley: Offer still on the table

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Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is probably happy that his for-sale club is away this weekend, even though his side’s up against Manchester City.

[ MORE: Top PL storylines — Week 24  ]

That’s because hopeful buyer Amanda Staveley has responded to claims that her hopeful takeover of the team won’t be happening any time soon.

Talks had stalled, said Tuesday reports, much to the chagrin of an #AshleyOut brigade that at times can make Arsenal’s #WengerOut brigade look like a yard full of happy puppies.

A “source” had said, “Attempts to reach a deal have proved to be exhaustive, frustrating and a complete waste of time,” but Staveley shot back on Thursday to reignite the fire. From the BBC, taken from The Times:

“Our bid remains on the table. This is an investment, but it has to be a long-term investment. Newcastle would be run as a business, but we want it to be a successful, thriving business that is an absolutely integral part of the city.”

She also said that popular manager Rafa Benitez is integral to her interest in the team, and that fact combined with her insistence that an offer remains on the table will have many Newcastle fans seething with current ownership (and there have been protests for years). It’s Ashley’s move now.