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Vlasic, N’Koudou seal loan deals; Ospina gets Napoli medical

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Two Premier League players are departing their clubs for loan stints elsewhere in Europe, and a third is a medical away from leaving London.

Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina is reportedly undergoing a medical ahead of a move to Serie A powers Napoli.

[ MORE: Premier League Club Power Rankings, Week 1 ]

The Colombian will have a chance to start after a long-term injury to Napoli’s No. 1, Alex Meret, who was bought from Udinese for nearly $40 million this summer. Pepe Reina left Napoli in the offseason.

The club’s goalkeeping corps also includes ex-Waftford player Orestis Karnezis and 22-year-old Nikita Contini.

Everton’s Nikola Vlasic is leaving Goodison Park for a season with CSKA Moscow. Vlasic, 20, played 19 times for the Toffees last season, scoring twice.

Also on the move is Tottenham’s Georges-Kevin N’Koudou. The 23-year-old Frenchman is headed to the Bundesliga with Mainz after going on loan to Burnley last season.

Of the three, only Ospina is probable to leave his parent club after the season, with Napoli holding an option to buy the player.

Spain coach Hierro backs de Gea

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Fernando Hierro has made it clear who he thinks will be starting in goal for La Furia Roja.

The interim Spanish National Team coach shut down rumors and whispers that he was considering a goalkeeper change for the knockout stage of the World Cup, saying in an interview on Spanish station RNE that David De Gea will start the next match against Russia. De Gea has made some uncharacteristic errors during the tournament, including on Cristiano Ronaldo’s second goal in Spain’s wild 3-3 draw with Portugal in the opening match of Group B.

[ MORE: 2018 World Cup Best XI (so far)]

“Yes, he will play,” Hierro said, referring to De Gea.

De Gea also allowed two goals to Morocco, which saw Spain rescue a point in second half stoppage time thanks to Iago Aspas.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

The 27-year-old de Gea has been in sparkling form in the past for both Spain and Manchester United, but there were whispers after his performance in the group stage that he could have been replaced by Kepa Arrizabalaga or Pepe Reina.

Now, it seems that Hierro trusts in de Gea, which could bode well for the future for both Spain and Man United.

No World Cup for Chelsea’s Spanish trio

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Spain has left Chelsea trio Alvaro Morata, Marcos Alonso, and Pedro off its World Cup squad.

Also omitted were Napoli’s Jose Callejoin and Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin.

[ MORE: MLS Things — The Archive ]

Manager Julen Lopetegui did include Blues defender Cesar Azpilicueta and ex-Chelsea man Diego Costa, as well as Manchester United’s David De Gea, Arsenal’s Nacho Monreal, and Man City’s David Silva.

Spain is expected to contend for the tournament crown in Russia, led by a stellar midfield which includes Silva, Andres Iniesta, Isco, and Thiago Alcantara.

Spain is in a group with Portugal, Iran, and Morocco.

Spain’s World Cup squad

Goalkeepers: De Gea, Kepa Arrizabalaga, Pepe Reina

Defenders: Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Azpilicueta, Nacho, Alvaro Odriozola, Jordi Alba, Monreal, Dani Carvajal

Midfielders: Sergio Busquets, Asensio, Iniesta, Isco, Saul Niguel, Thiago Alcantara, Koke, Silva.

Forwards: Diego Costa, Rodrigo, Iago Aspas, Lucas Vazquez.

Like clockwork, top goalkeepers criticize new World Cup ball

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It’s a tradition as old as time — the union of top goalkeepers from all over the world, no matter the continent from which they hail, complaining about the new ball to be used at the upcoming World Cup.

[ MORE: New USMNT kits for 2018 World Cup ]

By the end of this summer’s tournament in Russia, you’ll reflexively twitch every time you hear the words “Telstar 18.” Goalkeepers will tell you that it’s designed to deceive them, to boost goalscoring numbers during major tournaments.

Below you’ll find the critical, but restrained so as not to offend, assessments of goalkeepers David De Gea (Spain’s no. 1), Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Germany’s no. 1b) and Pepe Reina (De Gea’s wily backup) — quotes from FourFourTwo:

“It’s really strange. It could have been made a lot better.”

“The ball could be better; it moves a lot. But I think we’re just going to have to get used to working with it — and try to get to grips with it as quickly as possible before the World Cup starts. We’ve got no other option.”

“They should change it. There’s still time.”

[ MORE: France blow a lead, lose to Colombia; England top Holland ]

Unsurprisingly, top attacking stars — those who presumably stand to benefit from a ball that unpredictably moves on goalkeepers — have given their seal of approval for Telstar 18.

Transfer rumor roundup: Fred to Man City; Aubameyang wanted

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Could this January transfer window rival last season’s in terms of activity?

[ MORE: FA Cup replay roundup ]

Last season saw Crystal Palace save its season and Hull City nearly do the same, Morgan Schneiderlin head to Everton, Leicester find a decent N'Golo Kante replacement, and much, much more.

This season has been less active, though Ross Barkley has headed to Chelsea while former club Everton nabbed Cenk Tosun and Liverpool added Virgil Van Dijk.

The BBC has news involving Napoli which could affect two Premier League clubs. The Neapolitans apparently want Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, who wants to be an every week starter, to be a prime part of their push to end Juventus’ Serie A stranglehold.

That would unseat Pepe Reina, who’s been long linked with a reunion with former boss Pepe Reina at Newcastle United. Napoli currently has Luigi Sepe as a No. 2 to Reina, though UEFA Europa League fixtures mean it’s no guarantee Mignolet’s arrival would allow Reina to leave town.

Sky Sports says Manchester City would like to see Fred as a long-term replacement for Fernandinho. Fred went 90 minutes for Shakhtar Donetsk in a pair of UEFA Champions League contests against City, including the 2-1 home win over the Premier League leaders’ B-squad on Dec. 6. The 24-year-old has two goals and two assists in league play, and could cost more than $25 million.

Don Balon proffers news that could unsettle Arsenal fans, as Real Madrid is apparently entering the bidding for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Florentino Perez would like an upgrade to Karim Benzema for his struggling La Liga super powers, and goodness knows Real will tempt Borussia Dortmund’s bank account.

One liners:

— The BBC also says Besiktas want Islam Slimani to join the club from Leicester City.

— Ola Kamara’s move from Columbus to another MLS team may be hijacked by La Liga.