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Spurs’ Wanyama expected back during festive period

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Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino is eager to welcome midfielder Victor Wanyama back into his first-team squad during the upcoming festive period of Premier League fixtures.

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Wanyama, who hasn’t played since the second game of the 2017-18 season due to a knee injury which required extensive rehabilitation in order to avoid surgery, returned to full training this week. Pochettino is hopeful, yet cautious, that the Kenyan’s knee will respond well in the coming days and ultimately be ready for game action in the next 10-14 days — quotes from the Guardian:

“He came back to training with the team on Wednesday. Now we need to see how the knee reacts but it’s a very good feeling from him. It will be fantastic to have him back. He was such an important player for us last season and it’s true that we have missed a player like him this season — in a position where you have to be strong.”

Tottenham are away to Burnley on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com), home against Southampton three days later on Boxing Day, and away to Swansea City seven days later on Jan. 2.

By opting against significant investment during the summer transfer window, Spurs essentially rolled the dice in hopes of another largely injury-free season as they attempted to challenge for the PL title for a third straight season. If everyone managed to stay healthy and play 80-90 percent of games, the squad was good enough to push the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea — or so the thought was in June, July and August.

[ MORE: Premier League TV schedule | JPW’s PL picks ]

Of course, that’s a risky proposition. Wanyama was lost for four months after just 98 minutes of PL action, Mousa Dembele‘s chronic injury issues have persisted, Danny Rose didn’t return from a knee injury of his own until November, and Toby Aldeweireld has been out since the start of Novemeber and won’t be back until February. Following Wanyama’s comeback, Aldeweireld is the only Spurs player currently unavailable for selection.

As such, Moussa Sissoko has started more than half of Spurs’ games in the PL, Eric Dier has been forced into center-back duty thus weakening an already-thin midfield unit in Wanyama’s absence, and the likes of Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli have been ridden extremely hard during the first half of the season — perhaps setting them up for second-half breakdowns of their own.

Couple all of that with the fact Spurs are playing their home games at Wembley Stadium this season, and it begins to feel like something of a miracle that they currently sit just three points back of fourth place in the league and effortlessly breezed through the “group of death” in the UEFA Champions League.

Bayern signs Germany midfielder Goretzka from rival Schalke

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MUNICH (AP) Bayern Munich signed Germany midfielder Leon Goretzka on Friday on a free transfer from Bundesliga rival Schalke effective from next season.

Bayern said the 22-year-old Goretzka signed a four-year deal from July 1 through June 2022.

Schalke, which Goretzka joined in 2013 from hometown club Bochum, said the player informed the club this week of his wish to join Bayern when his contract expired.

[ MORE: Bundesliga scores ]

“We think we did everything in the last months to convince Leon to stay with us,” Schalke sporting director Christian Heidel said. “In the end, it wasn’t enough.”

Schalke had long been engaged in trying to get Goretzka to extend his contract, but was aware of reported interest from Bayern, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and Liverpool.

“We’re very happy that Leon Goretzka, a German international with big potential, has decided in favor of Bayern despite big-name international competitors. This way it’s ensured that Leon Goretzka remains in the Bundesliga,” Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said.

Goretzka scored 19 goals and set up 13 more in 130 appearances for Schalke.

The club had previously expressed its displeasure with Bayern making public statements about its player after Goretzka was praised by sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic and coach Jupp Heynckes.

Heidel said “we don’t need to hear every day from the Munich people how good our player is.”

Goretzka has six goals in 12 games for Germany.

Pele hospitalized overnight in Brazil

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The most famous soccer player in the world had a scare last night as he was hospitalized in Brazil for “severe exhaustion.”

Pele, 77, was set to travel to London this weekend to be honored by the Football Writers Association, though it looks like that trip has now been postponed.

In the early hours of Thursday morning, Pele collapsed and was taken to a hospital in Brazil where he has undergone a series of tests which appear to point to severe exhaustion,” a FWA statement said. “He remains on fluids while doctors monitor his recovery.

“Thankfully, there is no suggestion of anything more serious than exhaustion.”

Here’s to hoping Pele makes a full recovery.

[MORE: USMNT centerback heads to Championship club]

USMNT centerback Carter-Vickers heads to Ipswich Town on loan

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Cameron Carter-Vickers has a new club to call home for the next five months or so after a rough first half of the season.

Tottenham announced Friday morning that it had loaned the U.S. Men’s National Team centerback to Championship club Ipswich Town for the rest of the season. Carter-Vickers spent the first five months of the season at fellow Championship side Sheffield United, starting 17 times though he struggled recently as Sheffield won just one game he played in during the month of December, losing three and drawing one.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Carter-Vickers was then recalled earlier this week and now has a new home with a mid-table Championship club, with a new chance to impress. Hopefully Carter-Vickers can recover his form and continue to grow, potentially latching on to another Premier League side next year or breaking into the Tottenham first team.

There’s another interesting American tie-in to this. Carter-Vickers appears to be a short-term replacement for Ipswich Town’s Tommy Smith, who the club states is headed to join the Colorado Rapids ahead of the 2018 MLS season.

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.