Arsenal may want Simon Mignolet, but Paolo Di Canio’s prepared to fight for him

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In the wake of a run-in that left Sunderland fortunate to stay in the Premier League, manager Paolo Di Canio is promising big changes. The Black Cats may need “half-a-dozen” new signings this summer (really, an annual ritual around the Stadium of Light), though in order to keep that number from escalating, Di Canio’s going to have to hold on to the few solutions he has. That means keeping Steven Fletcher, retaining Stephane Sessegnon, and fighting off the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool for Sunderland’s true gem: goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.

The 25-year-old Belgian was among the league’s best `keepers this season, facing the second-most shots in the league as he played every minute for the flounder Cats. Behind that barrage, Mignolet felt the downside of Martin O’Neill’s negative tactics, his ability tested not only with shots on goal but having cut out changes on endless balls sent into his area. Both aggressive off his line and posessing quick shot-stopping reflexes, Mignolet was given plenty of opportunity to shine behind a terrible team.

Unfortunately for Di Canio, it may be impossible to keep Mignolet now that clubs near the top of the table are in pursuit. No young Belgian heads to England to spend the rest of his career at Sunderland. Teams like the Black Cats provide a proving ground for foreign talent eager to work their way into the league’s seven high-profile teams. Once one comes knocking, it’s usually a matter of extracting full value.

Depending on how Liverpool feel about Pepe Reina, that my be difficult to extract from the Reds, as it’s unclear Brendan Rodgers is ready to let the Spaniard return to Barcelona. Arsenal, on the other hand, moved away from Wojciech Szczesny at year’s end, and while Arsène Wenger has typically imported younger goalkeepers, Mignolet makes sense if he’s looking for a new number one.

Able to speak five languages (Flemish, Dutch, German, French, and English), Mignolet will immediately be able to communicate with the bulk Arsenal’s defenders, and being a rare footballer with a four-year degree (politics, University of Leuven), Mignolet may be a natural fit for Wenger’s more erudite approach.

Add in the fact Arsenal won’t have to set any transfer records to bring the Belgian to The Emirates and everything lines up, though if Di Canio’s remarks to the Hartlepool Mail are to be taken at face value, Mignolet’s move would be a contentious one:

“It is clear that we have to bring in players over the summer – half-a-dozen, maybe more,” said Di Canio.

“We finished near the relegation zone and so it is obvious that we need to make changes to make sure that we are not in this situation next season.

“But at the same time we already have some quality players here, and I want them to stay.

“I want to build something here at Sunderland and take the club forward – that is my mission. So the last thing I want to do is to let any of our quality players leave.

“Simon is a top class goalkeeper,” he said. “He’s very important to us.”

For Di Canio, it would be better if he cashed in and reinvested the money. Sunderland needs some much at so many positions, getting a potential eight-digit (or, high seven-digit) sum for your goalkeeper has to be considered. With Irish international Kieran Westwood on the bench, the Cats have somebody who should be able to do a minimal job should a different replacement fail to head north.

For Arsenal, it’s just a matter of prioritization. If they do have a £70 million war chest, as has been speculated, how much of that do they want to allocate toward a goalkeeper? And are they willing to give up on Wojciech Szczesny?

Scenes from around the UCL final

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We’re just hours away from kickoff in Kiev, Ukraine, and the streets are lined with football supporters ahead of the year’s biggest club final.

Liverpool and Real Madrid will meet at the NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium on Saturday, as the latter aims for its fourth UEFA Champions League crown in five seasons.

Let’s take a look at the sights around Ukraine and abroad ahead of the UCL final.


Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox took to Twitter to show their support for the Reds, with both teams owned by John Henry.

Los Blancos go for an unprecedented fourth UCL title in five years, as Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. aim to assert their dominance once again.

Reds legend John Arne Riise took part in Liverpool’s last UCL title in 2004/05, and holds the giant piece of silverware once again.

Supporters from both sides are out in full force in Kiev, with the Reds hoping to spoil yet another UCL triumph for Madrid.

Supporters all over the world will have their eyes on the most important club competition in football, with the Champions League hosting viewing parties in Shanghai, London and Rio de Janeiro.

Report: Napoli’s Sarri in as next Chelsea manager?

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Antonio Conte hasn’t been relieved of his managerial duties at Stamford Bridge; at least not yet, however, reports out of Italy are suggesting the Blues are in line for a new boss.

Gazzetta del Sport is reporting that Chelsea is preparing to hire Napoli manager Maurizio Sarri, who remains under contract with the Serie A side.

The report says that Sarri is preparing his staff to make the move to London, although both managers are currently tied to their clubs.

Additionally, Sky Italy has stated that an agreement in principle has been reached between Sarri and Chelsea, assuming Conte leaves the Blues.

Chelsea wouldn’t have to pay Sarri’s $9 million release clause if they wait until after Thursday to complete a deal.

Conte endured an up-and-down 2017/18 season with the Blues, however, Chelsea did manage to close the year on a high note with an FA Cup title.

Meanwhile, Sarri has held his post at Napoli since 2015, guiding the club to top three finishes in all three seasons in Italy’s top flight.

Video: Modric, Milner show off in training ahead of UCL final

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The UEFA Champions League final hasn’t even kicked off yet, and Liverpool and Real Madrid are already trying to show each other up with some gorgeous golazos.

[ MORE: Everything you need to know ahead of Saturday’s UCL final ]

Both sides had their final training sessions on Friday, and there were several unforgettable moment for each club.

We start with Real, who even got manager Zinedine Zidane involved in a crossing and finishing drill with some of his players.

This is where Luka Modric’s stunning volley came into play (below).

Meanwhile, in an inter-squad scrimmage amongst Liverpool’s team, James Milner unleashed this brilliant curling effort into the top corner (below).

LIVE: Aston Villa, Fulham battle for Premier League promotion

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The task is quite simple for the two sides competing at Wembley Stadium on Saturday; win and you’re back in the Premier League.

Aston Villa and Fulham will battle it out for the third and final promotion spot into the PL (12 p.m. ET) after boasting tremendous 2017/18 campaigns.

LIVE UPDATES FOR THE PLAYOFF FINAL 

For both clubs, there is a significance about restoring their role as a PL club, with Fulham last competing in the top flight four seasons ago and Villa two seasons removed.


Aston Villa: Johnstone; Chester, Snodgrass, Grealish, Hourihane, Jedinak, Hutton, Terry, Elmohamady, Adomah, Grabban. Bench: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn.

Fulham: Bettenelli; Fredericks, Sessegnon, Odoi, McDonald, Johansen, Cairney, Ream, Targett, Mitrovic, Kamara. Bench: Button, Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas.