The Sunderland Echo is reporting that Sunderland manager Gus Poyet believes United States striker Jozy Altidore is the happiest he has ever seen him.
The comments come just four days after Sunderland’s season opening 2-2 draw with West Brom where Altidore came off the bench as an 81st minute substitute. Altidore’s introduction into the match helped spur the Black Cats’ attack and four minutes later they were level through a tidy Sebastian Larsson finish.
Altidore arrived back on Wearside following a difficult summer where his World Cup dreams were cut short after pulling up with a hamstring injury in the Ghana match. Since then the American has worked hard to gain his fitness back but, according to Poyet, still has some ways to go.
For Poyet, the upside is that he currently has three forwards – Steven Fletcher, Connor Wickham and Altidore – all of whom he sees as capable of contributing. “The idea is always to have options,” Poyet said. “We talk about Fletch and Connor, but I can say that I’ve never seen Jozy as happy as now. I’ve got no explanation for that. But he looks really happy and knows everything that is going to happen and why.”
While Altidore recovers, Poyet plans on easing him into the attack through the role of super-sub. “[Jozy] knows where he’s standing, knows he’s started later and knows he cannot play 90 minutes right now. He knows the importance of maybe the last half-hour for us. Hopefully then we’ll see the Jozy of the last five games [of last season]. That’s great for us. He knows his role in the team for the next month.”
In this way, the hamstring injury could prove a blessing in disguise for Altidore, who heads into this season free from the pressure to produce that he may have felt last year as a high-profile transfer. Instead, the 24-year-old striker can now focus on improving his fitness, impacting matches and, eventually, winning back that starting spot.
- Foxes unbeaten in five vs. Stoke
- Drew 2-2 at the Potteries on Nov. 4
- Leicester leads all-time 34W-34D-31L
Leicester City can rejoin the Top Seven with a win and help on Friday when it hosts relegation-threatened Stoke City (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).
The Foxes sit eighth in the Premier League table, a point back of Burnley (The Clarets host Southampton on Saturday)
Stoke, meanwhile, is two points back of safety. The half-full glass says the Potters have only lost once since Paul Lambert took over as boss, but the half-empty one sees draws against Watford and Brighton to go a loss at Bournemouth.
What they’re saying
Leicester boss Claude Puel on Stoke’s fortunes: “Shaqiri can make the difference and at the moment they play well with a good fighting spirit. I think they play good football on the floor. When they recover the ball they try to get in behind and make good pressing on the opponent. Shaqiri has more freedom and plays between the lines and they are a good team at this moment.”
Stoke’s Xherdan Shaqiri on Paul Lambert’s style: “He has a German mentality with his teams… I’m really glad he came here. With German teams they always sit together – there are no phones on the table. It’s brought us more together – when you eat together you have to speak more to other team-mates who you don’t normally speak to. It’s a good thing.”
Phone ban or no, it will take improved communication to deal with Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, and Adrien Silva. Leicester gets another win, 3-0.
The English Football Association has charged Pep Guardiola for wearing a political message.
Guardiola has been wearing a yellow ribbon in support of Catalan independence, and that’s in breach of the FA’s kit and advertising regulations.
[ PL PREVIEW: Liverpool vs. West Ham ]
The Manchester City boss was born in Santpedor in central Catalonia, and played for Catalan club Barcelona in addition to representing both the Spain and Catalonia national teams.
Guardiola has until Monday to respond to the charge.
He’s spoken of jailed Catalans and Spain’s unwillingness to allow a Catalan independence vote as a concern for democracy.
- West Ham one loss in last 8 PL matches
- Reds won 4-1 in London on Nov. 4
- Liverpool leads all-time 70W-37D-28L
Liverpool can move second in the Premier League if it handles its business against West Ham United at Anfield on Saturday (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).
The Reds enter the day two points and two goals of differential behind Manchester United, and are a point ahead of fourth-placed Chelsea. The Red Devils and Blues meet on Sunday.
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A Mohamed Salah double led the Reds past the Irons in a London Stadium meeting earlier this season, but West Ham is a much different team under David Moyes.
Part of that is a firing Marko Arnautovic, who has seven goals and three assists in his last nine matches for West Ham.
The Irons announced the sale of Jose Fonte to Chinese Super League club Dalian Yifang on Friday.
What they’re saying
Jurgen Klopp on Liverpool’s Spanish training camp: “As always with a training camp, you want the boys to be together the whole day. We are a lot together but not when we have time off so we had that time as well. The weather was brilliant and everything was easier – if you have to do hard work, which we did there, it is easier if the weather plays in your cards and that was a change of circumstance after a long winter. ”
West Ham’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez on the Irons renewed season: “We had our targets, but they changed. At the beginning of the season, we were aiming to qualify for European competition, but now we are fighting against relegation, but that is sport, that is football and part of life, so we need to accept it and try to be better and get out and see what’s going to happen next year. If we have all these players recovered, probably next year we are going to be fighting for a European position, you never know.”
The Reds are hard to predict, but the lay-off between their Porto triumph in the Champions League and Saturday’s match should benefit Liverpool. 2-1 to the hosts.
Mousa Dembele‘s been appreciated as a midfielder for sometime, but the Belgian is getting as many rave reviews as any other non-scorer these days.
Tottenham’s middle man got the twice-over from his manager on Friday, as Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino prepares for Crystal Palace.
[ MORE: Europa League draw ]
Calling Dembele a “genius,” Pochettino heaped praise on the 30-year-old.
“I’ve told you, I put him next to Ronaldinho, Maradona, Okocha – players I’ve been lucky enough to play with. For me he’s one of the unbelievable talents in the history of football.”
The temptation is to make a joke about Dembele being next to Ronaldinho and Maradona in the lobby of an awards ceremony, but the player has been dynamite for some time.
The advanced stats, for what they’re worth, aren’t incredibly kind to Dembele aside from his club-best 93 percent passing percentage and average of 2.2 successful dribbles per game. Still, it’s improbably hard to ignore the eye test, and Dembele passes that one every time.
Spurs are off to Selhurst Park for a Sunday match with Palace (Watch live at 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).