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Mourinho slams pitch in Russia ahead of Europa League tie

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Jose Mourinho is far from impressed about the pitch Manchester United have to play on in Russia on Thursday.

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United are in Rostov-on-Don to face FC Rostov in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League Round of 16 clash and the quality of the pitch at Olimp-2 Stadium leaves much to be desired.

On Wednesday Mourinho and his players attended the stadium for a training session and many laughed when they saw the bumpy surface which was rock solid. Mourinho said he complained to the UEFA officials about the quality of the playing surface and the response he got was simple: your players are insured.

“It is hard for me to believe that we are going to play on that field, if you can call it a field,” Mourinho told reporters. “I don’t know what team to play, really. I don’t know if Henrikh Mkhitaryan is going to play, I don’t know. I have now a lot to think (about) because I was expecting something more playable.

“In a very similar pitch in the summer in China, we and Manchester City decided not to play. But it looks like we have to play.”

United’s grueling 4,000 mile round-trip journey hasn’t started in the best manner as they face three games in the next seven days with an FA Cup quarterfinal at Premier League leaders Chelsea sandwiched in-between the home and home games against Rostov for a spot in the Europa League quarterfinals. 238 hardy United fans have made the journey to Russia for the clash.

Below are some photos and videos of the current pitch conditions around 24 hours before kick off in what’s expected to be a packed and partisan home crowd.

You can see why Mourinho and his players are far from impressed…


Report: Marcelo Bielsa lined up by Atlanta United

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Now this is something that would not only break the hearts of Leeds United fans but it would surely delight supporters of reigning MLS champs Atlanta United.

A report from Paul Newberry of the Associated Press claims that Atlanta United want one of Marcelo Bielsa or Guillermo Barros Schelotto to take over from outgoing head coach Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino.

The Argentine coach took charge of ATL’s first two years as an MLS franchise but Martino announced he is leaving this month, and he is expected to be named the new head coach of the Mexican national team.

Bielsa is known to be a close friend of Martino, but does this link make sense?

Right now the eccentric Argentina coach has a sleeping giant, Leeds, in second place in England’s second tier and many believe the Elland Road club are the favorites for promotion to the Premier League this season.

However, a report from the Daily Telegraph states that Leeds owner Andrea Radrizzani could be having money issues as his sports streaming company, Eleven Sports, is on the brink of shutting down.

“Radrizzani’s sports streaming service is at risk of shutting down after only four months amid growing doubts over the financial viability of the company. It is understood that the 44-year-old Italian businessman has been unsuccessfully attempting to renegotiate deals with established pay-TV operators but Eleven Sports is now considering pulling the plug on its UK company. Telegraph Sport understands there could now be added pressure on Leeds to achieve promotion this season due to fears over cash-flow issues.”

Would this situation force Bielsa to leave Leeds before the end of the season? Probably not. It seems likely that the pressure will be cranked up on him to achieve promotion though as Radrizzani, Leeds’ majority owner since May, will need to deliver the huge riches promotion to the Premier League brings to continue to bankroll the club.

Bielsa does have a reputation for jumping ship pretty quickly when he does decide he’s had enough at a particular club or if things that were promised to him do not come to fruition. That said, this would still be a huge shock.

Then again, Atlanta shocked many with hiring Martino in the first place and since then the signings of Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron, Barco and now Gonzalo ‘Pity’ Martinz.

Huddersfield’s Mooy, Liverpool’s Matip out injured

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A huge blow has arrived for Huddersfield Town, as Aaron Mooy has been ruled out until February with a serious knee injury.

The Terriers have announced that Mooy “suffered a tear to the Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) in his right knee” in the 1-0 defeat at Arsenal on Saturday.

Mooy, 28, will miss the 2019 Asian Cup for Australia and Huddersfield’s top goalscorer this season will miss at least their next eight Premier League games. That run includes massive clashes with fellow PL strugglers Newcastle, Southampton, Fulham, Burnley and Cardiff, as Mooy would have lively been the difference for Huddersfield in those game.s

“I’m gutted to be missing an important time for club and country,” Mooy said. “We’ve got a lot of fixtures over the Christmas period at Huddersfield Town, but I back the team to continue our good performances and get the results that we’re targeting. I’m also sad that this injury will rule me out of the Asian Cup. I’d like to wish the Socceroos all the best as they head to the UAE; I’ll be supporting them from afar. The hard work on my recovery has already started and I’m looking forward to being back out on the pitch.”

What does this mean for Huddersfield?

With a pivotal run of games coming up for David Wagner‘s side, Mooy’s absence at the heart of their midfield will be felt. Danny Williams has just returned to full fitness so he should play alongside Jonathan Hogg (struggling with a knock) and Phillip Billing in Mooy’s absence. Wagner also has issues with Terrence Kongolo and right back Tommy Smith, as the latter will be out until January with a hamstring strain.

At this time of the season injuries are starting to mount up for every single Premier League, and Liverpool know all about that.

Jurgen Klopp‘s men will now be without center back Joel Matip until the end of January as he fractured his collarbone in the crucial win against Napoli at Anfield as Liverpool secured their spot in the UEFA Champions League last 16 on Tuesday.

The towering defender, 27, played throughout the game but landed awkwardly when winning a header late on. He went to hospital after the game and it quickly became clear that the issue was a lot more serious then previously thought. Matip will now undergo surgery to repair the damage.

Matip joins Joe Gomez on the sidelines, as the latter fractured a bone in his left leg last week and will be out until February.

With Trent Alexander-Arnold also going off injured during the victory against Napoli, plus Dejan Lovren struggling with injuries all season, the only fully-fit center back Klopp currently has is Virgil Van Dijk. Fabinho could play there at a push, but Klopp is now relying on Lovren to regain his fitness quickly to step in with both Matip and Gomez out.

Raheem Sterling named Premier League Player of the Month

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Raheem Sterling has been named Premier League Player of the Month for November.

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Sterling, 24, scored three goals and added three assists as Manchester City won all three of their Premier League games in November. He had more touches in opposition boxes than any other player and was involved in more goals than any other player over the month.

The England winger has been at the center of alleged racist abuse over the past few days, as four Chelsea fans who were seen hurling abuse at Sterling during City’s 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge on Saturday remain under investigation.

On the pitch, Sterling’s development under Pep Guardiola has been clear. This is the second time he’s won the Player of the Month accolade, with the first coming back in August 2016, as Sterling beat his teammates Leroy Sane and David Silva to the award.

The way he sets up chances for his teammates and finishes them off himself has seen him scored nine times and add eight assists in all competitions this season as he is City’s second highest goalscorer. For club and country he is an automatic starter with his pace, trickery and finishing giving defenders all over the world sleepless nights.

Sterling has now been a Premier League player for eight seasons and this year looks like being his best yet.

What do Man City, Man United need to win UCL groups?

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Both Manchester clubs are in UEFA Champions League action on Wednesday and both teams can win their respective groups.

But what do they need to do?

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City host Hoffenheim as they currently sit top of Group F, while United head to already-eliminated Valencia sitting in second place in Group H behind Juventus.

Below is a look at the scenarios for both City and United, with the former looking nailed on to win their group and United need a win and help if they’re going to finish top of their group.


MANCHESTER CITY

  • A win against Hoffenheim guarantees top spot in Group F
  • A draw against Hoffenheim guarantees top spot in Group F
  • A defeat against Hoffenheim coupled with a win for Lyon against Shakhtar Donetsk will see City finish second
  • A defeat against Hoffenheim couple with a Lyon draw or defeat against Shakhtar Donetsk will see City finish top of Group F

MANCHESTER UNITED

  • Beat Valencia and if Juventus draw or lose away at Young Boys they will finish top of Group H
  • A draw or defeat at Valencia would see United finish second in Group H