Kevin McDonald

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Transfer Rumor Roundup: Spurs in late Rabiot swoop, Deulofeu to Milan

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As the January transfer window winds down, teams that still have needs work furiously to get deals done and reinforce the squad. Some are not going according to plan, as Newcastle announced it has scrapped a deal with Jordan Lukaku after the 24-year-old Belgian failed a medical.

The rumors in the winter aren’t nearly as heavy as the summer, with teams often unwilling to part with even bit-part players unless they find a replacement. Still, there are some rumblings across Europe as to who might get a last-minute deal across the line with about a week to go.

According to multiple reports in England, Tottenham is after wantaway PSG midfielder Adrien Rabiot as a desperate attempt to fill holes in the midfield left by recent injuries. The biggest is to England international Dele Alli who injured his hamstring against Fulham last weekend and will be out until March. They are also missing Moussa Sissoko, and while the Frenchman could return soon, he will at least miss this weekend, a cause for some concern.

Thus, it would make sense that Spurs would look to make a cut-rate deal for Rabiot, even as a rental for the rest of the season. According to the Daily Mail, it would cost about $26 million to pry away the 23-year-old midfielder, likely worth more than that on the open market but with his contract out this season and certain to leave PSG in the summer without a new deal, his value has been hacked. He’s been openly courted by Barcelona, and even had his agent – and mother – claim that Spurs is “beneath him,” but on a short-term deal could be valuable to the London club.

The biggest stumbling block to the deal is PSG welcoming Rabiot back to the squad. He was sent to train with the youth squad and removed from the matchday team, but they have recently been forced to take him back on court order. With that in mind, the team wants to sign a replacement before letting him go. Still, it would behoove them to get some kind of return on investment, with Rabiot otherwise ready to leave for free this summer.


Championship side West Brom is reportedly looking into bringing Fulham midfielder Kevin McDonald in on loan for the rest of the season. McDonald was a critical piece of the Fulham team that won promotion via the playoff last season, but has been relegated to just 10 Premier League appearances this season with new signings Jean-Michel Seri eating up minutes in midfield.

The Telegraph reports that West Brom has nearly secured Newcastle winger Jacob Murphy on loan, and that McDonald is next in line. At 30 years old, McDonald has looked a little behind the Premier League pace, but could do a job in the Championship if given a chance to reprise last year’s form.

West Brom currently sits third in the Championship table, in the thick of the promotion race. They are three points back of Norwich City in second, and just four behind Leeds United in the top spot.


According to Italian outlet Tuttosport, AC Milan is hoping to bring Gerard Deulofeu to the San Siro as the Serie A giants are in desperate need of a winger.

Deulofeu seemed to have finally found a home at Watford on a permanent switch from Barcelona after a plethora of loans, and has been his usual streaky self, accumulating three goals and three assists. Still, a move to AC Milan could prove lucrative to Watford, who acquired him just this summer for a reported $15 million.

The 24-year-old Spaniard was at AC Milan on loan from Everton during the second half of the 2016/17 season, and was excellent at the San Siro, but Milan reportedly passed on acquiring him permanently despite fan pressure to do so. There could be a twinge of regret in Milan, and with Deulofeu’s excellent performances in Italy still fresh on the mind, it could be an important move with Milan clinging to the last Champions League place in Serie A.


According to Fiorentina director of football Pantaleo Corvino, Manchester United saw a bid for defender Nikola Milenkovic rejected earlier this January. Italian publication Gazzetta dello Sport quoted Corvino admitting they turned down a bid from Manchester United along with a host of other bids from French and other Italian teams for different Fiorentina players. Corvino called Manchester United’s bid a “great bid” but did not specify a value.

Milenkovic has played the full 90 minutes in every single Fiorentina Serie A match this season except for two, and has helped the club to the fifth-best defensive record in the Italian top flight. The 21-year-old Serbian joined Fiorentina in the summer of 2017 from his boyhood club Partizan Belgrade. He already has 10 caps for his country and has become a fixture for Serbia at the back, with the country conceding just two goals over his five Nations League starts.

Manchester United has looked to bring in defenders over the last few transfer windows, but has in large part failed to do so. A big sticking point for former manager Jose Mourinho was his desire to bring in a defender, reportedly targeting Toby Alderweireld and Harry Maguire of late, but failing to find the backing from the front office.

PL Preview: Fulham v. West Ham

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  • Fulham has won 3 of the last 4 games vs West Ham at home
  • West Ham has not won 4 PL games in a row since 2014
  • Fulham has gone 20 PL games without a clean sheet, conceding 51 goals in that span

Fulham begins a critical four-game stretch, sitting bottom of the Premier League table and needing points as they host West Ham at 12:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, live on NBC or live online at NBCSports.com.

The Whites’ next four matches see them take on the Hammers, followed by games against Newcastle, Wolverhampton Wanderers, and Huddersfield Town. They sit in the basement of the standings, but are just four points from safety. Fulham has secured four points in four matches under new manager Claudio Ranieri, but were also thoroughly beaten by both Chelsea and Manchester United, meaning the games against fellow relegation candidates are becoming more and more critical.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa is unavailable after a controversial second yellow card against Manchester United saw him sent for an early shower. Maxime Le Marchand is a big miss for the Whites, out with an undisclosed muscular injury, but that is the extent of their unavailable list as Calum Chambers, Floyd Ayite, Andre Schurrle, and Kevin McDonald are all ready to go, Ranieri confirmed.

Meanwhile, Jack Wilshere will miss his third straight match for West Ham as he recovers from an ankle injury, and Lucas Perez is likely unavailable due to a cut on his foot, but otherwise the Hammers are fully fit as they look for an opportunity to move into the top half of the table.

West Ham was in the bottom third of the table for much of the first few months of the season, but they have climbed to 11th with a run of seven matches that features just one loss. That includes a current three-match winning streak that has seen West Ham drop three relegation candidates in Newcastle, Cardiff City, and Crystal Palace, by a combined 9-3 score. With Fulham up this weekend followed by matches against Watford, Southampton, Burnley, and Brighton, this is the time for the Hammers to pick up a swath of points and brace for a grueling final third of the season.

What they’re saying

Ranieri on Fulham’s lack of a clean sheet this season: “The players are improving a lot with my tactics. It’s normal they need time to understand everything. Sooner or later, we’ll keep a clean sheet – I hope it’s sooner rather than later.”

Pellegrini on playing a team near the bottom: “I said last week, the most stupid thing we can do is to believe that because we are playing against teams near the bottom of the table we will win. We must be very careful, thinking game by game.”

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Prediction

While West Ham is playing well, they will be up against a team that knows this four-game stretch is critical. Still, Fulham’s midfield is a complete mess, and they have lots to work on. The defense is a bad matchup for a Hammers side on a roll in front of net. That run will continue, as West Ham wins 3-1 behind another big attacking performance.

PL Preview: Manchester United vs Fulham

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  • Man United has won 21 of 23 home matches against Fulham
  • Fulham has won just once at Old Trafford in any competition
  • Fulham has lost six straight PL road games

Manchester United returns home a wounded animal as the Red Devils host Fulham on Saturday (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

The Red Devils have not won in Premier League play in over a month, without victory since a visit to Bournemouth in early November. They are set to take on an opponent they have had much success against in the past, having lost just once at home against Fulham in 23 matches.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

With pressure heaped on Jose Mourinho – needing a vote of confidence via the boss’s own agent to quiet the noise – Fulham could do significant damage to the Portuguese manager should they achieve a rare result at Old Trafford. It would also be a significant boost to the Whites’ relegation battle, currently sitting bottom of the table with nine points, below Southampton and Burnley on goal differential.

Claudio Ranieri has come on board in place of the departed Slavisa Jokanovic and done well to steady the ship, earning four points in his first three matches in charge, instilling a greater defensive discipline within the squad. Still, the Whites have the league’s worst defensive record by a considerable margin, and could be just what the doctor ordered for a Manchester United team that has scored five goals over the four-match winless run.

Manchester United comes into the match with significant questions on the injury front, with Anthony Martial, Luke Shaw, Chris Smalling, Eric Bailly and Phil Jones all facing an uphill battle to prove fit. Alexis Sanchez and Victor Lindelof have both already been ruled out with longer term problems. Fulham, meanwhile, looks likely to have both Kevin McDonald and Floyd Ayite back fit, although Timothy Fosu-Mensah is not eligible to face his parent club.

What they’re saying

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho on Fulham: “The game is not eleven versus zero, it’s going to be eleven versus eleven, with good players on the other side, the position and points [total] don’t say much about [the] potential of the team. They have one of the two most important managers in Premier League history, they have the potential to come here and give us a difficult match.”

Fulham manager Claudio Ranieri on Jose Mourinho: “He was the first who sent me a message to say welcome back. He is a very friendly friend. I know him for a long time, when he came to Chelsea and in Italy, and he was very polite with me. He’s a great man, coach, manager.”

Prediction

This is a tough one to predict, as many possibilities are in play. Manchester United could succumb to its most embarrassing defeat of the season if Ranieri can devise a plan to take advantage of a wounded squad, or the talent of the Red Devils could prove too much for a Fulham side that is only recently beginning to build confidence. The latter is more likely, and the young internationals at the head of the United attack will hold serve at home for a 2-1 victory and leave Fulham still with more work to do in the relegation battle.

PL Sunday preview: Two London derbies, plus the Merseyside

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Sunday is Derby Day in the Premier League, as a pair of sides from each of west London, north London and Merseyside will square off back-to-back-to-back, beginning at 7 a.m. ET.

[ MORE: Man City find groove in win | Man United come back for draw ]

Chelsea vs. Fulham — 7 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Chelsea’s unbeaten start to the PL season — and with it, most realistic title hopes, perhaps — came to an end last weekend, as Tottenham Hotspur thrashed Maurizio Sarri’s side and handed the Italian his first defeat. Chelsea actually sit fourth in the table, despite their lone defeat — compared to Tottenham’s three — ahead of Sunday’s visit from west London rivals Fulham. Sarri will face his compatriot, newly appointed Fulham boss Claudio Ranieri, some 20 years after their first face-to-face meeting, in Florence.

“Friend is a big word, but I like him very much,” Sarri said this week. “I visited him in Florence 20 years ago. I think he doesn’t remember this meeting but it was very important for me. He visited us around 40 days ago to see our training. He spoke to me and Gianfranco (Zola).”

Since taking over at Craven Cottage, all Ranieri has done is inspire the Cottagers to one victory — their second of the season and first since August — in his one game in charge. While the three points were a welcome change after nine games without a win (and six straight defeats), the defense remains as leaky as ever, which will almost certainly be a major stumbling block against Player of the Year candidate Eden Hazard (7 goals, 4 assists in 12 appearances).

INJURIES: Chelsea — OUT: None | Fulham — OUT: Kevin McDonald (hamstring), André-Frank Zambo Anguissa (knock)


Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 9:05 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

The season-long narratives surrounding Arsenal and Spurs couldn’t be any more different heading into Sunday’s north London derby, yet it’s Spurs — the disappointing nomads of the PL — who sit third in the table, while Arsenal — the reinvigorated giant under new manager Unai Emery — sit fifth, albeit just three points behind their bitter rivals.

Spurs have picked up their points in far less entertaining fashion — a great departure from the last two seasons under Mauricio Pochettino, when they played some of the most attractive attacking soccer in the world — and relied heavily upon makeshift defensive and midfield units, as the likes of Jan Vertonghen, Kieran Trippier, Danny Rose, Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele have all taken turns missing a handful of games each through injuries following a heavy workload at the 2018 World Cup. With Vertonghen only recently back in the fold, it’s Davinson Sanchez who’s set to miss the next month. Throw in the fact that Spurs signed not a single player in the summer transfer window, and it would be hard to argue against this being Pochettino’s best managerial job to date.

Arsenal, on the other hand, are scoring goals with great regularity (28 in 13 games), but it’s the narrow decline in goals conceded (16 in 13 games, 1.3 per game, compared to 1.5 per game last season) that has painted a different picture to what many had grown accustom to from the Gunners in recent years.

“Each match for me is very special,” Emery said this week. “The derby is perhaps more special because my responsibility is bigger because of every supporter. Also we need three points in the league because we want to be closer to the other teams, like Tottenham, and we have this challenge.”

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Nacho Monreal (thigh), Danny Welbeck (ankle), Laurent Koscielny (achilles); QUESTIONABLE: Alexandre Lacazette (groin) | Tottenham — OUT: Davinson Sanchez (hamstring), Mousa Dembele (ankle), Kieran Trippier (groin), Danny Rose (groin)


Liverpool vs. Everton — 11:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

The day’s final derby will feature a second-place Liverpool side — now five points behind Manchester City after Saturday — in desperate need of not only a win, but a performance that inspires confidence they’re up to the challenge of staying with Man City for 25 more games. With a must-win game against Napoli set for the final day of the Champions League group stage, the 2018-19 season is filling up with do-or-die fixtures far earlier than Jurgen Klopp would have liked. Goals and points have been hard to come by for Anfield visitors this season, as the Red have conceded just one goal and dropped only a pair of points, against Man City, in six league games.

Everton, on the other hand, have flown somewhat under the radar as all the headline go to City and Liverpool on another title race; Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal leapfrogging each other every week; and Manchester United hugely underperforming. Under new manager Marco Silva, the Toffees entire Sunday’s showdown in sixth place and having lost just one of their last seven league games. Alas, it’s been nearly 20 years (Sept. 27, 1999) since Everton were last victorious at Anfield.

INJURIES: Liverpool — OUT: Jordan Henderson (suspension), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee) | Everton — OUT: James McCarthy (fitness)

Injury update: Ings, Vardy doubts, Mendy, Silva out, United’s stars return

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Ahead of the Premier League’s return on Saturday, there are plenty of injury updates around the league.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live

With the international break always causing a headache for PL managers as their stars give their all for their nations and have to travel thousands of miles around the globe, the past 24 hours has been about assessing which players are fit and ready for the weekend.

Here’s a look at some of the key players who could be missing and who may be back for their teams after a rest over the past 10 days or so.


Manchester United
Jose Mourinho has revealed that both Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba are fit to play against Crystal Palace, with the duo not linking up with France over the international break due to injuries. Romelu Lukaku is fit “with a risk” and the likes of Antonio Valencia, Marcus Rashford and Marouane Fellaini are all available to play.


Manchester City
Pep Guardiola has confirmed that Bernardo Silva will miss City’s trip to West Ham this weekend after picking up a knock on international duty, while Benjamin Mendy had successful knee surgery but will be out for the next 12 weeks.


Tottenham Hotspur
Mousa Dembele is in Qatar having treatment on an ankle injury, while Kieran Trippier, Davinson Sanchez and Danny Rose remain out. Rose has returned to training and could be back soon, while Sanchez is unlikely to be back until January 2019 with a hamstring injury. The good news: Jan Vertonghen has recovered from his hamstring injury and could play against Chelsea this Saturday.


Leicester City
Jamie Vardy has a groin injury and is a doubt for Leicester who travel to Brighton, as Claude Puel also has to deal with Harry Maguire remaining out and James Madisson struggling with a knee injury. The English trio have been key for the Foxes this season, so this is no doubt a blow.


Everton
A big boost for Marco Silva as midfielders Gylfi Sigurdsson and Andre Gomes are both available to play against Cardiff City on Saturday. The duo have been a key part of Everton’s recent good form with Gomes linking things together in midfield and Sigurdsson creating chances and scoring goals.


Southampton
Saints’ top scorer Danny Ings is a huge doubt for their massive trip to fellow strugglers Fulham. Ings has scored over half of Southampton’s goals this season, but Mark Hughes revealed Ings is still struggling with a hamstring injury which forced him off in the first half against Watford before the break. 


Fulham
Talking about Fulham, new manager Claudio Ranieri revealed he will be without Frank Anguissa and Kevin McDonald for his first game in charge, against Southampton at Craven Cottage.


Crystal Palace
Roy Hodgson has confirmed Wilfried Zaha is fit after missing the game against Tottenham before the break. Palace will need Zaha’s power and pace on the break against his former club, as a tough trip to Old Trafford awaits the out of form Eagles.