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Transfer Roundup: Mahrez to Arsenal; Ederson to City; Fletcher to Stoke

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After revealing that he wants to leave Leicester City in a statement, Riyad Mahrez is a wanted man.

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A report in the Daily Express suggests that Arsenal are the frontrunners for the Algerian midfielder but Leicester’s asking price of close to $65 million could be a major stumbling block.

Mahrez, 26, scored 10 goals in the 2016-17 season but suffered a slump in the Premier League (even though his performances in the UEFA Champions League were remarkably better) 12 months after being named the PFA Player of the Year as he led Leicester to a remarkable PL title win.

Now the winger wants to move on and the likes of Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain and AS Monaco appear to be at the front of the queue.

Would Mahrez be a good fit for the Gunners? In this new 3-4-3 system, it’s tough to see him starting out wide for Arsene Wenger with Hector Bellerin, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Nacho Monreal used in the wing-back roles. If one, or both, of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil leave then Mahrez is capable of slotting in behind Olivier Giroud or Danny Welbeck to provide assists and goals, but it would still be a big ask.

Despite his stunning season in 2015-16, it’s tough to see Mahrez being worth over $65 million. This saga could rumble on all summer.


Darren Fletcher has joined Stoke City on a two-year deal.

West Brom’s captain, 33, is out of contract this summer and the Scottish international midfielder will join the Potters on July 1 when the transfer window reopens. The Daily Mail claims Fletcher had offers from Major League Soccer and Spain, but decided to remain in the PL.

Fletcher spent his entire career at Manchester United before falling down the pecking order after many injuries and eventually he left for West Brom in Ferbruary 2015. While at the Baggies, Fletcher has impressed with all-action displays in midfield but now it appears he will move on.

Being closer to Manchester is probably a big reason for this move, plus Fletcher would be an upgrade on Stoke’s other two-way midfield options, Charlie Adam and Glenn Whelan. Adam has an option of extending his deal at Stoke for another year, while Whelan is out of contract next summer but both could well move on with Fletcher coming in.

Alongside Geoff Cameron in central midfield, Fletcher would be able to dovetail with the U.S. national team star and both can get on the ball and surge forward but are also able to shield the defense.


Manchester City look to be closing in on Benfica goalkeeper Ederson Moraes.

The Brazilian stopper, 23, is said to be in Manchester awaiting the final details of the deal to be sorted out, while Benfica have released an official document to the Portuguese stock exchange stating that Ederson has been sold for a fee of $45 million.

They also revealed that half of that fee will go to “third parties” involved in the deal. The Brazil U-23 national team goalkeeper will become the second most-expensive goalkeeper in the world, behind only Gianluigi Buffon who moved from Parma to Juventus back in 2001 for over $50 million.

After the issues with Joe Hart being loaned out to Torino, plus Claudio Bravo struggling in his debut season in England, there was no doubting that Pep Guardiola needed to strengthen in goal, especially with veteran Willy Caballero out of contract and leaving City this summer.

Ederson will have a lot of pressure on his shoulders but after winning the Portuguese league and cup with Benfica this season — he has won five titles with the Lisbon club over the past two seasons — he will be high in confidence.

Champions League score predictions: Round of 16

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The 2019-20 UEFA Champions League is finally back as the Round of 16 kicks off this week and two of the four Premier League clubs are in action.

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Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, the two finalists from last season, are first up and both will be happy enough with their draws in the last 16.

That said, Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool know that Diego Simeone’s Atleti are a very dangerous team to play as they will scrap and battle for every ball against the reigning European champions. As for Spurs and Jose Mourinho, the news that Heung-min Son has broken his arm and could be out for the rest of the season is a huge blow but they host an inconsistent RB Leipzig.

Borussia Dortmund host Paris Saint-Germain and Atalanta host Valencia in the other last 16 ties this week and both should be cracking encounters between two very evenly-matched teams.

[ MORE: Which Premier League team(s) will reach last eight? ]

Next week the other four last 16 first legs take place as Man City and Chelsea are in action against Real Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively. Out of the four Premier League teams still in the competition, Liverpool and Spurs will be the most confident of advancing.

Below we predict the scores for the UCL round of 16 games taking place over the next two days. Feel free to make your own predictions in the comments section below, too.


Tuesday
Atletico Madrid 1-2 Liverpool
Borussia Dortmund 3-2 PSG

Wednesday
Tottenham Hotspur 2-2 RB Leipzig
Atalanta 2-1 Valencia

Lampard issues Chelsea injury update; Pulisic remains out

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Chelsea boss Frank Lampard issued a lengthy injury update after their 2-0 defeat against Man United and USMNT fans will not be happy to hear that Christian Pulisic remains out.

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Ahead of Chelsea’s pivotal top four clash at home against bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), Lampard could be without as many as five key players.

Andreas Christensen broke his nose and came off at half time against United, while N’Golo Kante was subbed off early after yet another leg injury for the French superstar.

“Callum, no. Pulisic, no. N’Golo, no, from that today. Tammy is a maybe. It is not going our way with injuries at the moment but the players who come in they have to show that. That is what the squad is there for. It is frustrating,” Lampard told Chelsea TV when asked about availability for Saturday.

Lampard then gave an extra update on Kante, who walked through the mixed zone after the game looking okay and told the French journalists who were assembled that it wasn’t too bad.

“It is an adductor injury,” Lampard confirmed. “We will have to assess it and scan it. It doesn’t look great. It is on the same leg [as he injured before].”

With four wins in their last 14 Premier League games Chelsea are not in good form and are just one point ahead of fifth-place Tottenham ahead of their game this weekend.

They also have a nasty habit of dominating matches but are failing to put multiple chances away and with these injuries piling up it certainly makes Chelsea’s decision to not spend in the January window to strengthen their squad, especially in terms of strikers, very surprising.

With Bayern Munich coming up in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League last 16 tie next week, Lampard will hope Chelsea’s luck turns and plenty of players return from injury.

FC Cincinnati coach Jans resigns amid investigation over remarks

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CINCINNATI — FC Cincinnati coach Ron Jans resigned amid an investigation by Major League Soccer of his use of a racial slur in the locker room.

Jans resigned late Monday, FC Cincinnati President Jeff Berding said: “The club had suspended Jans pending the investigation, which was prompted by a complaint from the MLS Players Association.

“As Major League Soccer’s investigation unfolded and some themes emerged, Ron offered his resignation and we agreed that it was the best course of action for everyone involved with FC Cincinnati,” Berding said.

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The club designated Yoann Damet as interim head coach while the team conducts a search. Cincinnati is training in Florida for its second season in MLS.

Cincinnati has been through two head coaches during its brief stay in the league. It fired Alan Koch after its 11th first-tier match, which left the expansion club with two wins, seven losses and two draws.

Damet also was the interim head coach while the team conducted a search that resulted in Jans’ hiring last August.

Cincinnati finished with the worst record in MLS in its inaugural season, with six wins, six draws and 22 losses. It scored a league-low 31 goals in 34 matches.

Cincinnati gained entry into MLS after a successful debut under Koch, who led the team to the semifinals of the United Soccer League’s playoffs in both 2017 and 2018.

German fans turn on fellow supporter for racist abuse

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BERLIN — The fans of German soccer club Preußen Münster showed how racist abuse can be handled, shouting “Nazis out! Nazis out!” after one of their own fans targeted a visiting player with monkey chants.

The perpetrator was a 29-year-old man who was forced out of the stadium. And the player, Würzburger Kickers defender Leroy Kwadwo, thanked the opposing fans their “exemplary” reaction.

“I was racially abused by one single spectator. It just makes me sad,” Kwadwo wrote on Saturday, a day after the match. “I indeed have a different skin color, but I was born here in this wonderful land that has given my family and I so much and made so much possible. I am one of you. I live here and can live my calling as a professional with the Würzburger Kickers.

“Something like yesterday just makes me sad and angry because everyone has to know, racism does not belong in OUR world. We all have the opportunity to oppose it and stop it if it happens.”

The incident occurred during a third-division match in Münster.

On Monday, Münster said it would seek to ban the suspect from all German stadiums for three years, the toughest possible sanction permitted under current regulations.

“The least we an do is ensure that this person is no longer allowed in our stadium,” Münster president Christoph Strässer said. “We will not tolerate racism or any form of discrimination. The issue of integration is naturally important to us as a sports club, and Article 1 of the constitution applies primarily, namely: Human dignity is sacrosanct. That goes for everyone in this country.”

The perpetrator also faces legal consequences. Local police said the man would be charged with incitement, which can lead to financial penalties and a jail term of three months to five years if convicted.

Referee Katrin Rafalski stopped the 0-0 draw in the 88th minute after being informed of the racist abuse by Kwadwo. It was followed by a stadium announcement against the abuse and the “Nazis out!” chants from the fans.

The German soccer federation praised the fans’ reaction on Twitter on Saturday.

“So sad and shameful as the racist incident against Leroy Kwadwo was, so exemplary was the immediate reaction to it,” the federation said. “The third division stands together and says, no to racism and discrimination!”

The incident occurred only days after Bundesliga club Schalke was fined 50,000 euros ($54,600) after some of its fans subjected Hertha Berlin player Jordan Torunarigha to racist abuse during a German Cup game on Feb. 4.

Torunarigha, the son of former Nigerian player Ojokojo Torunarigha, was targeted with monkey chants and was eventually sent off in extra time when he picked up a second yellow card after appearing increasingly upset as the game went on. The 22-year-old German defender was consoled by Schalke’s Amine Harit.

Numerous other racist incidents have tarnished European soccer this season.

On Sunday in Portugal, Porto striker Moussa Marega was visibly angered by monkey noises targeting him after he scored his team’s second goal in a 2-1 win at Guimarães. Several Porto and opposition players attempted to dissuade him from walking off the field in the 71st minute, when he demanded to be substituted.