Middlesbrough

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DONE DEAL: Laporte, Emerson, Lukebakio, Harrison

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Tuesday’s finalized transfers in the Premier League are plenty.

[ MORE: Man Utd extends Mata deal ]

Manchester City has signed another expensive defender, putting the finishing touches on the deal to bring French center back Aymeric Laporte to England from Athletic Bilbao. The 6-foot-3 defender provides a boost to a center back corp which has leaned heavily on Nicolas Otamendi this season.

City also announced the purchase of Jack Harrison from sister club New York City FC, and the instant loan to Tony Pulis‘ men at Middlesbrough.

“I can’t wait to get started over here,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed my time with New York City and I’d like to thank Patrick Vieira and his coaching staff for helping me to develop as a player. I feel I’ve really improved working under him and playing regularly in the MLS, but now I’m looking forward to testing myself in England. Middlesbrough are a good club, with Premier League experience and they’re in the mix for a return via the playoffs this season. Hopefully I can help them achieve that.”

Chelsea has added left-sided man — back and midfield — Emerson Palmeiri from Roma. The Brazilian is said to cost a little over $24 million and follows in the “Serie A to Chelsea” footsteps of Marcos Alonso and Davide Zappacosta. If he works out in the same fashion as those two, life will be okay for Antonio Conte. Chelsea will have Ruben Loftus-Cheek back in town, but don’t get excited at the loan return of the electric Crystal Palace performer: RLC’s World Cup may be in doubt as his injury is explored further.

Also:

— Arsenal could not get 18-year-old Marcus McGuane to sign a new deal, and now we know why: The English youth international is going to try his hand abroad with Barcelona, joining the Barca B team.

— Watford has signed another winger, this time young Dodi Lukebakio from Anderlecht.

Sandro Ramirez is going on loan, but not to a Premier League club; Everton has sanctioned a Sevilla stay.

Championship Focus: Halfway through, who’s coming up?

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Just as the second half of the 2017-18 Premier League season began on Tuesday, so did the Championship’s decisive half of football, with one former PL side threatening to run away with the title and the rest of the top half separated by just 13 points.

Sounds somewhat familiar, doesn’t it?

[ MORE: Boxing Day blues for Man Utd; joy for Chelsea, Liverpool, Spurs ]

Wolverhampton Wanderers, who were mostly recently a PL side before being relegated in 2012, are unbeaten in their last 10 league games (eight wins) and eight points clear of their nearest title challengers, though Nuno Espirito Santo’s side did drop points for the second time in four games on Boxing Day. The Championship’s most prolific scoring side is spearheaded by 23-year-old Brazilian forward Leo Bonatini (12 goals) and 21-year-old Portuguese wonderkid Diogo Jota (10). If Wolves somehow don’t end up promoted this season, a bump in league is still likely for the prolific duo. Tuesday’s 2-2 draw away to 16th-place Millwall left the door slightly ajar for newly-established second-place Bristol City to trim the gap into single digits.

Everyone will first recall Bristol’s famous victory over Manchester United in the League Cup last week, of course, but that triumph at is hardly an outlier in what has been a fantastically consistent season for Lee Johnson’s Robins. With just one defeat from their last 11 league games (eight wins), Bristol have shot up the table following a draw-filled start to the season which seemed likely to preclude them from the promotion discussion. 24-year-old English forward Bobby Reid leads the way with 11 goals this season, with no one else bagging more than a half-dozen for an effectively balanced side.

Cardiff City had shown themselves to be worthy adversaries of Wolves, until back-to-back defeats in the last week saw them tumble from second to third in the table. First, it was a 2-0 defeat away to 23rd-place Bolton, followed by a 4-2 humbling at home against Fulham on Tuesday. 27-year-old Canadian winger Junior Hoilett is still kicking around the Championship and leads the Bluebirds with six goals.

Leeds United are the hottest team in the league (this side of Bristol), as Thomas Christiansen’s men are unbeaten in their last six (five wins) and are now just three points back of fourth-place Derby. A pair of sides relegated in recent seasons, Middlesbrough (2017) and Aston Villa (2016), currently sit just outside the playoff (top-six) places.

[ MORE: Man City take on Newcastle seeking 18th straight win ]

After 24 of 46 rounds played…

Place Team Points GD
1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 55 +26
2 Bristol City 47 +15
3 Cardiff City 47 +13
4 Derby 45 +17
5 Leeds United 42 +10
6 Sheffield United 41 +10
7 Middlesbrough 38 +9
8 Aston Villa 38 +8
9 Preston North End 37 +4
10 Ipswich Town 36 +4
11 Fulham 35 +2
12 Brentford 34 +5

Report: Middlesbrough, Pulis in talks over vacant coaching position

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It seems as though Middlesbrough isn’t wasting any time in its managerial search just under 24 hours after the club fired its coach.

Sky Sports is reporting that Boro are in active discussions with Tony Pulis regarding the club’s vacant coaching position.

[ MORE: PST’s Midseason Premier League awards ]

Pulis, 59, last managed Premier League side West Bromwich Albion before being sacked in November. The former Bristol Rovers defender has managed eight different English sides throughout his career as a coach.

Former manager Garry Monk was sacked by Middlesbrough on Saturday, after leading the club to ninth place in the Championship through 23 matches.

Monk had taken the job at the Riverside Stadium back in June, following Aitor Karanka‘s departure.

At the moment, Middlesbrough is a mere three points out of sixth place in England’s second flight.

3-time Champions League winner Valdes retires

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Victor Valdes was one of the best goalkeepers of his generation, proven in part by his three UEFA Champions League winner’s medals, and has reportedly called full-time on his footballing career at the age of 35.

[ MORE: Wednesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Tuesday | Monday ]

Valdes, who joined Barcelona at the age of 10 and went on to win six La Liga titles and two Copas del Rey to go with the three Champions League triumphs during his time at the club, will launch his own television production company, as well as his own show. Valdes made more than 500 appearances for Barca, beginning his first-team career in 2002 before moving to Manchester United in 2014.

If not for his career running perfectly parallel to that of Iker Casillas, Valdes would have won far more than his 20 caps for Spain during any other era, though he does have 2010 World Cup and 2012 European Championship winner’s medals. Valdes spent the 2016-17 Premier League season with Middlesbrough, starting 28 of 38 games during the club’s relegation season.

Championship Focus: Bluebirds flying, Villa second-last

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The wild 46-game slate that is the Football League Championship is already howling, with all 24 teams three matches deep into their campaigns toward Premier League promotion (or avoiding relegation to League One).

The three clubs relegated from the Premier League last season all sit within the Top 8 after three match days. Sunderland is unbeaten with a win and two draws, while Hull City is 1-1-1.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

Middlesbrough has two wins from three matches, three points behind three sides who’ve started a perfect 3-0.

Wolves and Ipswich Town are two of the three, and Cardiff City leads the way. Owner Vincent Tan has seen his club score six goals without conceding once in defeats of Burton Albion, Aston Villa, and Sheffield United.

Burton is 0-3, while Steve Bruce‘s Villa is just one point better and sits 23rd.

As for individual superlatives, Bristol City’s Bobby Reid has four goals to lead the league while familiar names Lewis Grabban (Sunderland) and Abel Hernandez (Hull City) are among a quartet of players to score thrice.

Meanwhile, PL transfer target Jota of Brentford continues to impress with three assists through three matches. Will he remain in the second tier by the close of the transfer window?