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Puel underscores import of keeping volley-scoring Mahrez

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The January transfer window is open, and there are few clubs who wouldn’t welcome the talent of Riyad Mahrez to their squads.

His name is sure to be one mentioned often over the next few weeks, along with West Brom defender Jonny Evans, as a possible intra-league transfer.

[ WATCH: Mahrez volley gives Leicester lead ]

That’s seen Leicester City boss Claude Puel, who’s helped engineer a resurgent season from the Algerian magician, using quotes and puffery to recruit Mahrez to stay home since almost the moment he took the job.

Mahrex has seven goals and eight assists this season, with the goal total well off his marvelous 2015-16 but his assist figure on pace to pass that season soon.

He was speaking about it again Monday after Leicester City clobbered Huddersfield Town 3-0.

“I like this player and I’d like to keep our best players. We will ask him the question, for me I am happy to play with the team with Riyad, with Jamie Vardy and others,” he said. “You say the word, speculation. I would like to keep all my best players. It was a very good game, a fantastic game for Riyad. It will be important to keep the maximum of our players.”

Leicester is four points back of seventh place Burnley, and we’ve learned not to doubt either team’s prospects, but the Foxes have a legit chance to finish as high as that mark. Keeping Mahrez is an absolute necessity to those goals unless Puel thinks he can find the next wizard with an early sale of that fee.

Video: Fekir’s brilliant free kick has Lyon leading PSG

AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani
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Paris-Saint Germain has established itself as one of Europe’s best sides, but their opponent on Sunday isn’t playing scared against Neymar and Co.

[ MORE: Spurs, Saints play to 1-1 draw at St. Mary’s ]

Lyon has taken a 1-0 lead inside the opening two minutes against the Parisians after a stunning free kick by Nabil Fekir caught PSG keeper Alphonse Aréola off his line.

The hosts could move all the way up to second place today with a victory over PSG, who holds the league lead in Ligue 1 with a nine-point advantage.

The 24-year-old Fekir has been a revelation for Lyon in his fifth season with the club, scoring his 19th goal in all competitions on Sunday.

That total has already surpassed his career-high from the 2014/15 season, when he eclipsed 15 goals.

USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie injured in Schalke draw

AP Photo/Martin Meissner
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Look away, U.S. Men’s National Team fans.

American and Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie was forced out of Sunday’s 1-1 Bundesliga draw against Hanover 96 after the 19-year-old collided with Felix Kraus.

McKennie, who entered the match in the 62nd minute for Leon Goretzka, managed to stay on the field for nearly 20 minutes before being substituted out.

To this point there has been no indication that the young USMNT player’s injury is serious.

More to follow…

Watford announces Gracia as Silva replacement

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Watford’s replacement for fired manager Marco Silva is indeed veteran Spanish boss Javi Gracia.

[ MORE: Watford fires Silva, blames Everton ]

The Hornets announced the 47-year-old’s hiring on Sunday, hours after firing Silva and blaming Everton’s pursuit of the manager for the club’s fall from European contender to the fringe of a relegation battle.

Watford is still four points clear of the drop following Southampton’s draw with Spurs on Sunday.

Gracia led Malaga to eighth and ninth place finishes in La Liga between 2014-16 before spending last season at Rubin Kazan.

Gracia, 47, has led promotion campaigns in Spain and has plenty of experience with perceived smaller clubs battling the drop zone.

Watford will hope the Hornets don’t reach that point after flirting with the Top Seven for the first quarter of the Premier League season.

Pochettino on sloppy Spurs draw, dismisses Malcom “rumor”

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Mauricio Pochettino knows St. Mary’s well, and the ex-Southampton boss has managed a rainy, sloppy match or three there in the past.

[ RECAP: Saints 1-1 Spurs ]

So he knows it’s possible to play well in those circumstances, leaving him feeling like Tottenham Hotspur’s 1-1 draw at Southampton on Sunday was a wasted opportunity against a struggling Saints side.

“It is temporary that Southampton are in the relegation zone, for sure they will push up the table,” Pochettino said. “It is two points we are going to miss at the end of the season because it is so tough between six or seven teams.”

[ MORE: Bertrand reacts to draw ]

So why couldn’t Spurs find their foothold? Well, aside from sickness keeping Christian Eriksen and Hugo Lloris out of the lineup, a bug that may’ve affected more on the team, Spurs just weren’t up to snuff.

“We struggled to play,” Pochettino said. “It was in possession, we made mistakes which allowed them to play. To win the game we should do better and play better. It wasn’t great.

Pochettino was also asked about Spurs’ reported pursuit of 20-year-old Bordeaux star Malcom, who has seven goals and five assists in Ligue 1 this season.

“That is a rumor and I don’t want to speak about it. I am happy with our squad. We are open to quality players but you know very well it is difficult in this transfer window.”