Claudio Ranieri is working his magic at Fulham

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LONDON — Claudio Ranieri is back in the Premier League and the much-loved Italian is already working his magic at Fulham.

Without a Premier League win since August, Fulham beat Southampton 3-2 at Craven Cottage on Saturday in Ranieri’s first game in charge.

Wearing a broad smile and applauding the home fans at the final whistle, it just feels right to have Ranieri back in England. In only a few days he lifted the mood at Fulham, who hadn’t won a game since August before edging past Saints in a topsy-turvy game.

And this game showed us not only the size of the task ahead for the former Chelsea and Leicester manager at Fulham, but also that Ranieri has already had an impact on his current squad after just 10 days in the job.

Speaking after the thrilling encounter, Ranieri wasn’t happy with the way his team defended but he has already seen something he likes: his players fighting until the end.

“For us it was an important match, Everyone is very pleased but it is a little step because it is not easy job for everybody. But I believe until the end,” Ranieri said. “I ask the players to fight until the end. We played a good match but we conceded too many chances to the opponent. We have to improve a lot. We have to work hard to improve tactically.”

Similarities will no doubt be drawn to the job Ranieri did at Leicester as he took them from relegation favorites to Premier League title winners in the incredible 2015-16 season.

The way Fulham took their chances when they arrived (three goals from five shots on target) and sat back and tried to hit Saints on the counter was reminiscent of a Ranieri side.

And while nobody is expecting Fulham to emulate Leicester this season, Ranieri knows he faces a huge battle to improve the Cottagers defensively.

Is improving Fulham’s defense (the leakiest in the top-flight this season with 33 goals against) the toughest task he’s had?

“Yes, yes, yes. All the team have to maintain the right position,” Ranieri said. “It is very, very important. In this case they run less and they are always in a good position and for the opponent it is more difficult.”

There’s no doubt that shoring up this Fulham side which was assembled to be free-flowing and attacking will take time, and Ranieri said it would take all season and probably next season to figure that out.

That said, the character they showed to fight back from 1-0 down and then being dragged back to 2-2 was certainly befitting of the fight we’ve seen from Ranieri’s teams in the past.

“Fantastic character. Fantastic fighting spirit. I ask just this. Never, never give up,” Ranieri said. “Work hard until the end and at the end we see the result. After the first goal I wanted to see our reaction, it was amazing. At 2-2 we again wanted to score a goal. I think it was a good match because Southampton also had the chance to score a goal and Sergio Rico made a fantastic save. That is not good because I want less chances for the opponent. Too many chances.”

Similar to his time at Leicester, Ranieri has two star attackers who will improve his chances of keeping Fulham up this season: Aleksandar Mitrovic and Andre Schurrle.

Mitrovic scored twice and Schurrle added the other, and Ranieri was full of praise for his powerful Serbian striker.

“For me Mitrovic is one of the best strikers in Europe, and when I say Europe I mean all of the world,” Ranieri said. “he is only 24 years old. He is a fantastic player and it is important to give the ball to him because he can play and give us a platform and he’s also a goalscorer when the ball arrives in the box. When he is very close to the goal it is important to give him a lot of chances to score.”

Praising Mitrovic and building up his confidence in this way is a shrewd move from Ranieri.

Mitrovic told Sky Sports after the game that the gameplan from the new manager is clear: get balls into the box.

“Two terrific goals for me. This is what the manager wants – the balls into the box,” Mitrovic said. “We have worked hard. There has been just 10 days with the manager and we need to continue like this.”

Scurrle added that Fulham have “worked a lot on tactical and shape and the way he [Ranieri] wants to play” and although they must improve “today was all about winning.”

Fulham got the win in Ranieri’s first game in charge, even if it wasn’t perfect, and next up he has games against the two Premier League teams he formerly managed: Chelsea and Leicester in the space of four days.

The Italian is a happy man to be back in the thick of things in the Premier League.

“The emotion was high. I make this job because I live for emotion,” Ranieri said. “For me to come back to Premier League is an emotion. For me to come back to Fulham is an emotion, because it is one of the most historical clubs. I’m at a good family club at Fulham and I am very, very pleased.”

The Premier League seems pleased to have the Italian back on the sidelines after a near two-year absence.

Transfer news: Werner to Chelsea; Sanchez to Inter

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In the latest transfer news Timo Werner is reportedly being chased by Chelsea, while Alexis Sanchez could be staying at Inter Milan instead of returning to Man United.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

First up, a juicy report from Bild says that Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger is trying to convince his Germany teammate and close friend Timo Werner to join hm at Stamford Bridge.

Werner, 24, has dazzled at RB Leipzig this season (31 goals in 40 games in all competitions) and is widely expected to leave with Liverpool, Man United and many others clubs across Europe chasing his signature. Per the report, Chelsea have Rudiger working hard to convince his friend and former Stuttgart teammate that west London is the place for him.

The release clause on Werner’s current contract is said to be $60 million and Chelsea are one of the few clubs who have a healthy transfer budget as they had a transfer ban for a whole year and Frank Lampard has just spent $44 million on one new signing so far, bringing in Hakim Ziyech who will not arrive until later this summer.

Werner is exactly what Chelsea need. They have created so many golden goalscoring opportunities and although Tammy Abraham was putting them away at the start of the season, his form and fitness was a concern in the last few months before the suspension.

Olivier Giroud is their only other forward option and Werner would be perfect to finish off the chances this attack-minded Chelsea team create. Even better for him, he would actually play at Chelsea which may not be the case at Liverpool and Man United given their stacked attacking lineups.

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Heading to Manchester, it appears Alexis Sanchez may not be going back to his parent club next season.

Sanchez, 31, is on loan at Inter Milan for the 2019-20 season and the Daily Express claim that he could stay at Inter rather than heading back to Old Trafford despite Ole Gunnar Solskjaer previously saying he was open to the idea. Per the report, Man United are keen to loan Sanchez out to Inter once again on a similar arrangement and the Serie A side are willing to see how Sanchez does when the season restarts in a few weeks. With Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood and others around at Man United, he may struggle for minutes at Man United.

Would another loan be a good move for Inter?

Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez have been their main strikers this season under Antonio Conte, with Sanchez out injured for large chunks of the campaign and then doing okay when he did play. However, with Martinez chased by Barcelona, if they do sell the Argentine forward for over $115 million, having Sanchez around on loan would soften the blow.

The main problem with Sanchez is that over the last three years he has picked up consistent injury problems. If he can shake those issues off, we all know he is capable of scoring goals and creating havoc. Given this recent track record though, that’s a big if, as he’s scored just one goal and added three assists in 15 outings for Inter this season.

Premier League confirm zero positive COVID-19 test results

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Following the latest batch of tests on players and club staff the Premier League have revealed that zero out of 1130 COVID-19 tests taken on Thursday and Friday have come back positive.

Zero.

The fourth round of testing is the first time that no positive tests have come back, as a total of 3,882 COVID-19 tests have now been carried out with 12 positive results.

All players and staff at Premier League clubs will be tested twice a week during the strict return to training protocols put in place, as full contact training is now up and running and a restart date of June 17 has been set.

Here is the statement from the Premier League in full:


The Premier League can today confirm that on Thursday 28 May and Friday 29 May, 1130 players and club staff were tested for COVID-19. Of these, zero have tested positive.

The Premier League is providing this aggregated information for the purposes of competition integrity and transparency. No specific details as to clubs or individuals will be provided by the League and results will be made public after each round of testing.

Previous test results

Round 1: 17-18 May – 748 tested, with six testing positive from three clubs.
Round 2: 19-22 May – 996 tested, with two testing positive from two clubs.
Round 3: 25-26 May – 1,008 tested, with four testing positive from two clubs.


This is more good news for the Premier League as the UK government gave the green light for elite sport in the UK to return from June 1 in empty stadiums, as the top-flight of English soccer continues to clear each hurdle in its way to finishing the final 92 games of the 2019-20 season.

With just over two weeks to go until the action returns, Premier League clubs will have to keep these test results low for the restart to take place.

Bayern Munich batter Fortuna, go 10 points clear at the top (video)

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Bayern Munich are waltzing their way to an eight-straight Bundesliga title as they battered Fortuna Dusseldorf 5-0 on Saturday at the Allianz Arena to record an eight-straight win in the German top-flight.

[ MORE: Schalke lose again; Saturday recap ]

An own goal, two from Robert Lewandowsk and a goal each from Benjamin Pavard and Alphonso Davies did the damage to Fortuna as Bayern Munich are now just three wins away from securing the title, as they have five games left in the season.

Hansi Flick has now won 22 of his 25 games in charge of Bayern Munich after he took charge in November with the German giants struggling under Niko Kovac. Now, they are rampant and are one of the favorites to win the UEFA Champions League.

The Bavarian giants dominated early on as USMNT midfielder Alfredo Morales made an important clearance but Mathias Jorgensen was so lucky a few moments later.

[ MORE: Bundesliga schedule, stats

A ball into the box found Benjamin Pavard and his scuffed effort was going wide before it hit Jorgensen and went into his own goal.

Bayern then doubled their lead as Thomas Muller’s shot was pushed wide and from the resulting corner Pavard nodded home to make it 2-0.

Lewandowski made it 3-0 before the break as he has now scored against all of the current Bundesliga clubs and had previously gone without a goal in five outings against Fortuna.

Kimmich’s surging round saw the loose ball find Muller and his pass to Lewandowski was perfect as he swept home to an empty net.

Lewandowski was at it again just a few minutes after the break as he finished off a slick Bayern move as the Bavarian giants put their foot on the accelerator.

Alphonso Davies made it 5-0 as he bulldozed his way through the Fortuna defense and slotted home, while Muller and Pavard went close to adding a sixth and Fortuna had the odd chance on the break.

In the end, the victory was as routine as possible for Bayern Munich who have more than one hand on the Bundesliga title.

USMNT’s Weston McKennie honors George Floyd with armband

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Schalke and USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie has released a statement after he wore a personalized armband with the message ‘Justice for George’ on it to honor George Floyd.

McKennie, an American international who has played in the Bundesliga for the last four seasons at Schalke, was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. He wore the armband in Schalke’s defeat at home to Werder Bremen on Saturday.

Following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN on Monday there have been widespread protests across the USA. A video showed former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, putting his knee on George Floyd’s neck for more than 8 1/2 minutes. Chauvin was arrested Friday and charged with murder, authorities confirmed.

Weston McKennie released the following statement after wearing the armband at the weekend to honor George Floyd:

“To be able to use my platform to bring attention to a problem that has been going on to long feels good!!! We have to stand up for what we believe in and I believe that it is time that we are heard! #justiceforgeorgefloyd #saynotoracism

Here is a photo of McKennie wearing the armband which he put on before the game kicked off and wore on his left arm.