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Premier League transfer needs: Final week of the window

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One week ladies and gents, that is all we have left.

Until the January transfer window slams shut in the Premier League, of course. Sorry for sparking any apocalyptic thoughts among you…

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Anyway, with the transfer window closing at 6 p.m. ET next Thursday, Jan. 31, there are still plenty of PL clubs who have yet to make a single signing and are coy on the possibility of adding to their squads. There are also plenty of players praying for a big move, or just a switch to somewhere they can lock down some guaranteed playing time.

You just know everyone loves a last-minute bargain.

With that in mind, here’s a look at the business each of the Premier League’s clubs should do if they dip into the market in the final seven days.

Tick-tock…


Arsenal
Key transfer needs: Center back, CM – Unai Emery has had so many injuries in defense that he needs to add cover, but he’s already said he can only bring players in on loan. With Aaron Ramsey agreeing his move to Juventus for the summer, Denis Suarez seems to be coming in on loan from Barcelona, but do Arsenal really need another central midfielder? Getting a new center back in should be the priority and although they’ve been linked with Eric Bailly, that seems like a long shot.


Bournemouth
Key transfer needs: None – They’ve done their business nice and early with Nathaniel Clyne and Dominic Solanke arriving from Liverpool, then promising young Welsh center back Chris Mepham arriving from Brentford for $15 million. With Jermain Defoe moving to Rangers, buying Solanke was a big risk at $24.1 million but he has bags of potential and Eddie Howe will think he can develop that talent a la David Brooks, Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson. Clyne is only on loan, but you can see a permanent deal happening this summer. Mepham could be a long-term replacement for Nathan Ake, who reportedly has a buy-back clause in his contract and his former club Chelsea are keen to exercise it.


Brighton & Hove Albion
Key transfer need: Central midfield – Some extra depth in central midfield is all that is needed, as Chris Hughton has a strong squad and the quality of his starting XI doesn’t drop significantly when a regular is replaced. Having some extra nous in central midfield would be a good move, but not essential. The Seagulls probably won’t sign anyone.


Burnley
Key transfer needs: Winger, attacking midfielder – Injuries to key players in attack have hampered Burnley for most of this season, and with their defense sorted out in recent weeks and Tom Heaton back in goal, they are shored up at the back. They could do with adding more creativity in the final third but Sean Dyche will be hesitant to spend big.


Cardiff City
Key transfer needs: Striker, defenders – There is real work to do for Cardiff to seal some signings, and with the tragic situation regarding their club-record signing Emiliano Sala they are likely without a new forward to push them away from the relegation zone. Cardiff do not have a big budget and will have to wait for the last minute. They will have to get creative and look at loan deals, as Neil Warnock was angry to lose out to Bournemouth for Nathaniel Clyne.


Chelsea
Key transfer needs: Central midfield – With Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud misfiring, Maurizio Sarri needed a new striker and he finally got one: Gonzalo Higuain arrived initially on loan from Juventus and will be tasked with putting away the copious chances Chelsea create. Cesc Fabregas left for Monaco and Sarri wants a new central midfielder, but a $55 million move for Cagliari midfielder Nicolo Barella seems unlikely, while Leandro Paredes seems to be heading to PSG instead. Maybe just play Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Callum Hudson-Odoi or Ross Barkley more, Maurizio?


Crystal Palace
Key transfer needs: Striker, striker, striker… – Roy Hodgson needs one thing to turn this team into a midtable side: a striker. Michy Batshuayi has been mentioned on several occasions but Hodgson has had to rely on less than prolific Andros Townsend, Wilfried Zaha and Jordan Ayew for goals. Palace are set elsewhere, but need a new targetman. If they don’t sign anyone, at least Christian Benteke is  now back from injury. Reports that Borussia Dortmund want to sign Wilfried Zaha in the summer are worrying for Palace, but the Ivory Coast winger would demand a huge transfer fee if he did leave Selhurst Park. All of the focus should be adding help for Wilf as the Eagles aim to push away from a relegation battle in the final months of the season.


Everton
Key transfer needs: Striker, center back – The Toffees need a new center forward too, as Cenk Tosun‘s move just hasn’t worked out and Dominic Calvert-Lewin may not cut the mustard at the top level. Richarlison has had to play through the middle a lot this season and he is clearly better coming off the left. Jean-Kevin Augustin has been linked with a move to the Toffees, as well as other PL clubs, but he may be too expensive after a big outlay on new players over the past 12 months. Perhaps getting Michy Batshuayi in on loan makes more sense? As for defense, Kurt Zouma, Michael Keane and Yerry Mina have had rollercoaster campaigns and getting them extra cover, especially in a 3-4-3 formation, is vital.


Fulham
Key transfer needs: Center back, full backs – Claudio Ranieri has improved this Fulham defense significantly but this may be all he can do with his group of players. Gary Cahill has been linked with a loan move from Chelsea and Ranieri could do with strengthening both full back positions and adding two new center backs. Going forward they look more than adequate, and added Ryan Babel on loan to help with that, but there’s no real balance in this team. Gary Cahill was linked with a move to Fulham on loan, and his experienced would be helpful for plenty of teams at the bottom of the table.


Huddersfield Town
Key transfer needs: Everywhere – It is quite simple, Huddersfield need to spend big in the transfer window or they are going to get relegated. It seems they’re already resigned to their fate. Jason Puncheon has arrived from Crystal Palace on loan and has made a difference, but top quality in midfield and attack is needed. Losing Aaron Mooy and Danny Williams for a key part of the season was a blow. The Terriers know they will have to add a few new players in the next week to give themselves a chance of staying up, but that likely depends on how they get on in their next game.


Leicester City
Key transfer needs: Striker, central midfield – With Vicente Iborra sold to Villarreal, there is a hole in central midfield for Claude Puel to plug. Up top the likes of Shinji Okazaki and Kelechi Iheanacho continue to deliver lackluster displays and Jamie Vardy really needs some support. Bringing in a strong center forward who can link up with Vardy would be ideal. But Leicester probably won’t spend anything.


Liverpool
Key transfer needs: Defenders – Injuries have hit Jurgen Klopp‘s side hard in this area of the pitch, but Joe Gomez, Dejan Lovren and Trent Alexander-Arnold will be back fit soon. Maybe a young defender or right back who can be developed is the way to go. Either way, Liverpool don’t need to do anything in the final days of the window.


Manchester City
Key transfer needs: Left back, defensive midfielder – Benjamin Mendy‘s injury problems mean that left back is the main area needed to strengthen in. Pep Guardiola‘s plan to play Fabian Delph there worked last season, but not so much this season, while Oleksandr Zinchenko hasn’t settled in that role. Aymeric Laporte has plugged the gap for now, but a long-term left back to challenge Mendy is badly needed. A long-term replacement for Fernandinho is needed too, as the Brazilian is badly missed when he’s been out injured. A few names thrown around to come into central midfield include Declan Rice (despite his new contract at West Ham) and Everton Soares, while City were priced out of a deal for Frankie de Jong as he signed for Barcelona.


Manchester United
Key transfer needs: Center back, left back – Defensively United need some serious help, as their stable of center backs are getting by in games but David De Gea is usually bailing them out. Luke Shaw is their only real option at left back, with Matteo Darmian, Marcos Rojo and Ashley Young able to play there out of position in a pinch. But Ole Gunnar Solskjaer probably won’t be allowed to spend money as he isn’t the permanent boss.


Newcastle United
Key transfer needs: Striker, central midfielder, winger – Now, it is very unlikely Rafael Benitez will be given money to spend in January, but he does need to strengthen in a few areas. Defensively they are solid enough and they are all set. But going forward he is woefully short of quality options. Extra quality off the wing, a No. 10 and a striker to partner Salomon Rondon is needed. Miguel Almiron from Atlanta United has been linked with a move to St James’ Park but the Magpies are baulking at the $35 million transfer fee and Atlanta will let this run until the final hours of the window as they are in no rush. Benitez will be pulling his hair out right about now, as Newcastle just need a few reinforcements to push well clear of the relegation zone.  Another club which could use Batshuayi to strengthen their attack.


Southampton
Key transfer needs: Winger, striker, center back – Saints have yet to bring in a new signing, while Wesley Hoedt, Manolo Gabbiadini and Steven Davis have all been moved on and Cedric is on his way out. It seems like Ralph Hasenhuttl is keen to head to his former club RB Leipzig add the likes of Dayot Upamecano or Willi Orban to shore up his defensive unit, while adding Jean-Kevin Augustin, also from Leipzig, would be a major coup. Time is ticking for Saints, and their biggest need is for a new speedy striker to challenge Danny Ings, Michael Obefemi, Shane Long.


Tottenham Hotspur
Key transfer needs: Central midfield, striker – The latter has become essential given injuries to Harry Kane and Dele Alli, while Heung-Min Son‘s absence throughout January has also hurt Spurs. It is unlikely they will do any business in the final week of the window, even after selling Mousa Dembele to the Chinese Super League. Harry Winks and Oliver Skipp will be asked to step into prominent roles in midfield in the final months of the season and that’s the great thing about Mauricio Pochettino: he loves giving young players a chance to shine.


Watford
Key transfer need: Center back – It is unlikely Watford will do much business but if they do, a new center back should be a priority. The Hornets are going along nicely under Javi Gracia and their squad looks extremely strong. If Abdoulaye Doucoure forces a move then it will be tough, but it is likely he will leave in the summer.


West Ham United
Key transfer needs: Striker – The Hammers are pretty set and spent a lot of money in the summer but Marko Arnautovic‘s stance that he wants to leave for the Chinese Super League has complicated what should have been a quiet window. Javier Hernandez reportedly wants out, while Andy Carroll is struggling after his latest return from injury. If Arnie is allowed to leave, Celta Vigo’s Maxi Gomez is said to top their list of replacement strikers. Batshuayi could be a short-term fix until the summer.


Wolverhampton Wanderers
Key transfer need: Striker – Recent wins have shown the strength Nuno Espirito Santo already has in his squad. Having another option for Raul Jimenez up top would be handy if they are going to finish seventh and qualify for Europe. A move for Tammy Abraham fell through, and although they’ve been linked with Jean-Kevin Augustin too, they may not spend at all.

Guardiola: Man City should get apology

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Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City should get an apology after they won their appeal against a two-year UEFA ban.

[ MORE: What now for Man City, PL? ]

Manchester City saw their ban overturned on Monday as their appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) was successful. UEFA had claimed that Man City’s hierarchy broke Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules between 2012-16 but CAS ruled that the punishment dished out by European soccer’s governing body was too severe and a $34 million fine was reduced to $11.3 million.

That means Guardiola’s men can play in the Champions League next season and speaking ahead of their clash against Bournemouth on Wednesday (start time, 1pm ET for FREE via Peacock), Guardiola came out all guns blazing.

“We were damaged. Our prestige and reputation was damaged,” Guardiola said.

He was then asked about comments from Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho who called the whole situation ‘disgraceful’ when it came to the way Man City were treated.

“We should be apologized [to],” Mourinho said. “If we did something wrong, we will accept absolutely the decisions. We have the right to defend ourselves when we believe what we have done is right. Today is a good day for football. If we broke the rules we would have been banned. The club believed what they have done is right and three judges have said we have done it properly. The people who said we were cheating and lying, presumption of innocence was not there.”

Guardiola is not holding back here. From the get-go both he, the club and their legal representatives have vowed to clear their name and they’ve done it.

This is a huge victory for Manchester City on multiple levels.Not least because they faced potentially losing big name players and maybe even Guardiola had they been banned from the Champions League for two seasons, not to mention a new financial reality as their spending would have been limited due to the loss of income from Champions League action.

Man City are one of the favorites to win the Champions League this season and when it restarts in August, Guardiola and his players will be fired up to prove all those who believed they were guilty, were wrong.

Real Madrid on brink of La Liga title; record ninth-straight win

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MADRID (AP) Real Madrid is on the verge of reclaiming the Spanish league title, after its ninth straight win following the pandemic break.

Madrid defeated Granada 2-1 on Monday to move within two points of winning the La Liga title.

[ MORE: La Liga scores, schedule

Ferland Mendy and Karim Benzema scored first-half goals to keep Madrid four points ahead of second-placed Barcelona with two rounds to go.

Madrid can clinch its first title since 2017 on Thursday with a win at Villarreal, or if Barcelona loses points when it hosts Osasuna. Two draws in the final two rounds will also be enough to secure Madrid a record 34th league trophy.

“We are a step closer but we can’t relax, we haven’t won anything yet,” Madrid captain Sergio Ramos said. “There are still points to be won. We depend on ourselves and we have a game at home coming up, hopefully we can win it and celebrate the league title.”

Madrid was in control early in Granada and Mendy’s first goal since joining the Spanish club this season came from a beautiful angled shot into the top corner after getting past a defender inside the area in the 10th minute.

Benzema added to the lead six minutes later by scoring his 19th league goal with a right-footed strike into the far corner.

Granada, which was 10th in the standings, got on the board with a goal by Darwin Machis in the 50th and pressured to the end.

The hosts came closest to the equalizer with about five minutes left, when Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois had to make a difficult save and Ramos cleared a shot at the goal line.

Madrid had not conceded a goal in its last five league matches.

Sevilla secured the final Champions League spot after Villarreal lost to Real Sociedad 2-1.

The loss left Villarreal nine points behind fourth-placed Sevilla with two rounds to go. Sevilla beat Mallorca 2-0 on Sunday for its fourth straight win.

Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid have the other berths in the Champions League.

Sevilla last featured in the Champions League in 2018 when it was eliminated by Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals. It played in the Europa League in 2018-19 and this season, where it will face Roma in the round of 16.

Villarreal needed a win to keep alive its hopes of making it to the Champions League. It has won six of its nine matches following the pandemic break, but the home setback against Sociedad ended its chances of qualifying. It remains in good position to grab a Europa League spot, though, as it kept fifth place.

Sociedad also stayed in contention for the Europa League with its third win since the break, moving to seventh place. Willian Jose scored in the 61st minute and Diego Llorente in the 75th, while the hosts pulled closer through Santi Cazorla in the 85th.

Getafe stayed in sixth place after drawing at relegation-threatened Alaves 0-0.

A late goal disallowed by video review kept Getafe from earning its second win since the league resumed after the pandemic stoppage.

Alaves has also won only once since the break and is winless in seven straight league matches. It is four points above the relegation zone.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

Man United: ‘We will put it right’ and not feeling pressure in top 4 race

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Manchester United insist they will put their draw against Southampton right and the reaction from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his players was clear that they aren’t feeling the pressure of the top four race.

Leading 2-1 in the 96th minute at home against Southampton, they conceded a late equalizer from a corner and Solskjaer looked understandably frustrated with two points dropped.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Within a few seconds they went from moving up to third with three games to now sitting in fifth, behind both Leicester City and Chelsea in the top four race.

Speaking to reporters via Zoom after the game, Solskjaer was asked if he believes in the mentality of his players to put things right.

“I have to say the mentality of the boys has been absolutely brilliant. We’ve had a few setbacks and this is another challenge for us. I’m very confident in the mentality of them,” Solskjaer said. “Very disappointed, of course, but you have to take the disappointments as well as the positives when you win games. Disappointment because one of the last kicks of the ball you concede a goal and you lose two points, that’s just part of football. We’ve learned a hard lesson today, hopefully. We will make it right and put it right. The boys, I trust them in that respect.”

[ MORE: Maguire reacts to draw ]

Solskjaer was then asked if the pressure of the situation, watching Chelsea and Leicester both get hammered at the weekend and giving them the chance to jump up to third, played on the mind of his players.

“Absolutely not,” was Solskjaer’s reaction. “I don’t think any of our players have been thinking what have Chelsea done this weekend. Not at all. It is just the way the games go. We all play against the same teams and we all have 38 games to go through. It will even itself out during a long season and you will deserve the position you get in the end.”

That position for Manchester United will still probably be in the top four but they have made it harder for themselves now.

From the start they looked sluggish against Saints, with Paul Pogba giving the ball away on the first goal, then they sat back and looked tired in the second half.

Although Solskjaer said tiredness wasn’t an issue, it looked like midtable Southampton were chasing third place and not Manchester United. Maybe a busy few weeks caught up with United but they now have an FA Cup semifinal and huge games against Crystal Palace, West Ham and Leicester City to finish the season.

Going forward they looked slick and they should have just about enough in the tank to finish in the top four. However, this will be tight and could go to the final game of the season at Leicester.

WATCH: Akinfewa’s inspires after verbal abuse, Wycombe promotion

Adebayo Akinfenwa speech
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Adebayo Akinfenwa is living the life right now.

The 38-year-old striker has helped Wycombe Wanderers into the Football League Championship for the first time in their existence after the club beat Oxford United 2-1 in the League One playoff final on Monday.

If Akinfenwa’s name sounds familiar, it should. The muscular 38-year-old “Beast” shot into the spotlight when he used Wimbledon’s promotion to broadcast that managers should “hit him up on Whatsapp” because he wasn’t done playing the game.

[ MORE: Maguire, Solskjaer rue late Man Utd draw ]

The striker mentioned Whatsapp again on Monday, saying “The only person who can WhatsApp me tonight is Klopp so we can celebrate together. ”

He was recently in the news for vile reasons, reporting that he had been called a “fat water buffalo” in Wycombe’s semifinal win over Fleetwood Town. Akinfenwa says that if the barb wasn’t intended as racial abuse, then his opponents need to be educated on racism.

He didn’t want to speak about that on Monday.

“Today is about, listen, for me, life in football is all about opinions. Four years ago someone gave an opinion about me and that was their opinion. I hope my story shows that the only opinion that matters is the opinion you have about yourself. I was lucky and blessed to find a manager and players who believed in me. I’ll say it for the people in the back: Wycombe is in the Championship. Wait, wait, I’ll say it one more time. Wycombe’s in the Championsh- WAIT! The people in the back didn’t hear me: Wycombe is in the Championship.”

Akinfewa played the final 28 minutes of Monday’s win and his next league appearance will be the first above League One in his long career that started with Watford’s academy in 2000.

He scored 10 goals and added six assists this season, giving him 200 professional goals in more than 650 appearances.