Stefan Johansen

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Euro 2020 qualification set to begin Thursday

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With the international break upon us, qualification for Euro 2020 is set to begin, with 55 countries spread across 10 groups to determine who will make the final field of 24 that will take place in the main event in the summer of 2020.

As the group stage draws nearer, we take a look at the important matches that will begin qualification play through the first three competitive days of the international break in round one of qualifying.

Austria v. Poland

Bayern Munich teammates Robert Lewandowski and David Alaba will go head-to-head as Austria hosts Poland in Vienna. Lewandowski hasn’t scored for the national team since a pre-World Cup friendly last summer, and the visitors will be looking to put a poor World Cup behind them for good. As the two highest-ranked teams in Group G, there will be plenty of eyes on this match between two teams who haven’t met in over a decade.

Belgium v. Russia

The two favorites in Group I go head-to-head to kick off the competition as two teams fresh off happy World Cup memories clash in Brussels. Both of these teams failed to win their UEFA Nations League groups, meaning Euro qualification is their only method of entry into the final competition. Kevin De Bruyne misses out for Belgium, but the rest of the star-studded Belgian roster is intact. The Russians are looking for a new goalkeeper after the international retirement of Igor Akinfeev, and the three men called up to replace him have a combined 12 caps between them.

Slovakia v. Hungary

In surely one of the most hotly contested groups of Euro 2020 qualification, Slovakia and Hungary meet hoping to get the jump on one another as they compete with Croatia, Wales, and Azerbaijan for a slot in the final tournament. Hungary has not won a competitive road match since 2016, and they have scored just one goal against Slovakia in their last five tries. Marek Hamsik, fresh off his move to Chinese club Dalian Yifang, leads the lines for Slovakia in this critical match.

England v. Czech Republic

The two favorites in Group A meet to see if either side can get a leg up on the other four teams early. England will be without John Stones and Luke Shaw due to injury, but otherwise most first-choice players are fit. Jadon Sancho may get a chance to continue his stellar club form on the international level, while Callum Hudson-Odoi is with the squad as well. The Czech Republic called up just 18 players, including Burnley forward Matej Vydra, one of only five players on the squad with over 20 international appearances.

Portugal v. Ukraine

Group B has three main contenders, and two of them will meet on Friday looking for an early advantage. Cristiano Ronaldo is in great club form and was rested in the latest Juventus match as they lost for the first time all Serie A season. All the usual suspects are back for a ridiculously experienced Portugal team that hopes to defend its Euro 2016 title. The squad features five players with at least 50 caps, including three with over 100. Ukraine, meanwhile, is without the injured Andriy Yarmolenko who tore his Achilles back in October. Coach Andriy Shevchenko made the bold decision to leave experienced defenders Yaroslav Rakytskyi and Yevhen Khacheridi at home, with their 104 caps more than the entire defensive unit currently in the squad.

Spain v. Norway

An absolutely loaded Group F begins play on Saturday as Spain hosts Norway in Valencia. While Spain is considered the favorite for the group, the rocky and disappointing World Cup journey and spotty Nations League performances leaves them considered vulnerable heading into qualifying, and with Sweden, Norway, and Romania all considered contenders for that second spot, Luis Enrique’s squad will have to be on top of its game throughout. Enrique has left out Real Madrid struggler Isco as well as Atleti pair Koke and Saul in favor of greener players like Iker Muniain. On the other side, Norway boss Lars Lagerback has an inexperienced squad captained by West Brom midfielder Stefan Johansen.

FULL ROUND 1 SCHEDULE (all times Eastern)

Thursday, 3/21

Kazakhstan v. Scotland – 11am
Cyprus v. San Marino – 1pm
Austria v. Poland – 3:45pm
Belgium v. Russia – 3:45pm
Israel v. Slovenia – 3:45pm
Macedonia v. Latvia – 3:45pm
Netherlands v. Belarus – 3:45pm
Northern Ireland v. Estonia – 3:45pm
Slovakia v. Hungary – 3:45pm

Friday, 3/22

Bulgaria v. Montenegro – 1pm
Albania v. Turkey – 3:45pm
Andorra v. Iceland – 3:45pm
England v. Czech Republic – 3:45pm
Luxembourg v. Lithuania – 3:45pm
Moldova v. France – 3:45pm
Portugal v. Ukraine – 3:45pm

Saturday, 3/23

Georgia v. Switzerland – 10am
Gibraltar v. Republic of Ireland – 1pm
Malta v. Faroe Islands – 1pm
Sweden v. Romania – 1pm
Bosnia & Herzegovina v. Armenia – 3:45pm
Italy v. Finland – 3:45pm
Lichtenstein v. Greece – 3:45pm
Spain v. Norway – 3:45pm

Complete list of January transfer deals in the Premier League

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Who moved, and who didn’t?

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Here are the hundreds of players on the move into and out of Premier League clubs this month.


Arsenal
In: Denis Suarez (Barcelona) Loan
Out: Emiliano Martinez (Reading) Loan, Emile Smith Rowe (RB Leipzig) Loan

AFC Bournemouth
In: Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool) Loan, Chris Mepham (Brentford), Keelan O'Connell (Morton) Loan, Dominic Solanke (Liverpool)
Out: Jermain Defoe (Rangers) Loan, Alex Dobre (Yeovil Town) Loan, Tyrell Hamilton (Salisbury) Loan, Jordan Holmes (St Mirren) Loan, Corey Jordan (Eastbourne Borough) Loan, Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa) Loan, Marc Pugh (Hull City) Loan, Aaron Ramsdale (AFC Wimbledon) Loan, Charlie Seaman (Dundee United) Loan, Matt Worthington (Yeovil Town) Free

Brighton & Hove Albion
In: Tudor-Cristian Baluta (Viitorul Constanta), Alexis Mac Allister (Argentinos Juniors), Jan Mlakar (NK Maribor)
Out: Billy Arce (CS Emelec) Loan, Ben Barclay (Notts County) Loan, Aaron Connolly (Luton Town) Loan, George Cox (Northampton Town) Loan, Anders Dreyer (St Mirren) Loan, Josh Kerr (Derry City) Loan, Jordan Maguire-Drew (Leyton Orient), Mathias Normann (FC Rostov), Oliver Norwood (Sheff Utd), Ezequiel Schelotto (Chievo) Loan, Markus Suttner (Fortuna Dusseldorf) Loan, Ben White (Peterborough) Loan, Alexis Mac Allister (Argentinos Juniors) Loan, Stefan Ljubicic (Eastbourne Borough) Loan

Burnley
In: Peter Crouch (Stoke City)
Out: Jimmy Dunne (Sunderland) Loan, Ali Koiki (Swindon Town) Loan, Ntumba Massanka (RWD Molenbeek) Loan, George McMahon (Ashton United) Loan, Conor Mitchell (Linfield) Loan, Sam Vokes (Stoke City)

Cardiff City
In: Leandro Bacuna (Reading), Oumar Niasse (Everton) Loan, Emiliano Sala (Nantes)
Out: Omar Bogle (Portsmouth) Loan, Ciaron Brown (Livingston) Loan, Mark Harris (Port Vale) Loan, Gary Madine (Sheffield United) Loan, Paul McKay (Morecambe) Loan, Anthony Pilkington -Released, Lee Tomlin (Peterborough)

Chelsea
In: Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Gonzalo Higuain (Juventus) Loan
Out: Lewis Baker (Reading) Loan, Cesc Fabregas (Monaco), Josh Grant (Yeovil Town) Loan, Matt Miazga (Reading) Loan, Alvaro Morata (Atletico Madrid) Loan, Victor Moses (Fenerbahce) Loan, Lucas Piazon (Chievo) Loan, Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund) Loan, Kasey Palmer (Bristol City) Loan, Charlie Wakefield (Coventry City) Free, Karlo Ziger (Sutton United) Loan, Michy Batshuayi (Crystal Palace) Loan

(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)

Crystal Palace
In: Lucas Perri (Sao Paulo) Loan, Bakary Sako (West Brom), Michy Batshuayi (Chelsea) Loan
Out: Joseph Hungbo (Margate) Loan, Sullay Kaikai (Breda), Nya Kirby (Blackpool) Loan, Jordon Mutch (released), Jason Puncheon (Huddersfield Town) Loan, Alexander Sorloth (KAA Gent) Loan, Oliver Webber (Greenwich Borough) Loan, Jonny Williams (Charlton)

Everton
Out: Beni Baningime (Wigan Athletic) Loan, Callum Connolly (Bolton) Loan, Kieran Dowell (Sheffield Utd) Loan, Antony Evans (Blackpool) Loan, Mason Holgate (West Brom) Loan, Shayne Lavery (Falkirk) Loan, Cuco Martina (Feyenoord) Loan, Oumar Niasse (Cardiff City) Loan

Fulham
In: Havard Nordtveit (Hoffenheim) Loan, Ryan Babel (Besiktas), Lazar Markovic (Liverpool)
Out: Stephen Humphrys (Southend), Stefan Johansen (West Brom) Loan, Aboubakar Kamara (Yeni Malatyaspor) Loan

Huddersfield Town
In: Jaden Brown (Spurs), Jason Puncheon (Crystal Palace) Loan, Karlan Grant (Charlton Athletic)
Out: Jaden Brown (Exeter City) Loan, Rarmani Edmonds-Green (Brighouse Town) Loan, Rekeil Pyke (Rochdale) Loan, Collin Quaner (Ipswich Town) Loan, Ryan Schofield (Notts County) Loan, Ramadan Sobhi (Al Ahly) Loan, Rajiv Van la Parra (Middlesbrough)

Leicester City
In: Youri Tielemans (AS Monaco) Loan
Out: Yohan Benalouane (Nottingham Forest), Fousseni Diabate (Sivasspor) Loan, Callum Elder (Ipswich) Loan, Vicente Iborra (Villarreal), Darnell Johnson (Hibernian) Loan, Andy King (Derby) Loan, Josh Knight (Peterborough United) Loan

Liverpool
Out: Pedro Chirivella (Extremadura UD) Loan, Nathaniel Clyne (AFC Bournemouth) Loan, Ovie Ejaria (Reading) Loan, Liam Miller (Kilmarnock) Loan, Dominic Solanke (AFC Bournemouth), Lazar Markovic (Fulham)

Manchester City
Out: Brahim Diaz (Real Madrid), Ed Francis (Wolves), Luke Bolton (Wycombe Wanderers) Loan, Rabbi Matondo (Schalke)

Manchester United
Out: Ethan Hamilton (Rochdale) Loan, Joel Pereira (KV Kortrijk) Loan, Regan Poole (Newport) Loan, Ro-Shaun Williams (Shrewsbury Town)

Newcastle United
In: Miguel Almiron (Atlanta United), Antonio Barreca (Monaco) Loan
Out: Ronaldo Aarons (Sheff Wed) Loan, Liam Gibson (Accrington) Loan, Achraf Lazaar (Sheff Wed) Loan, Jacob Murphy (West Brom) Loan, Elias Sorensen (Blackpool) Loan, Jamie Sterry (Crewe) Loan, Josef Yarney (Chesterfield)

Miguel Almiron, Newcastle United (Photo credit: nufc.co.uk)

Southampton
Out: Steven Davis (Rangers) Loan, Manolo Gabbiadini (Sampdoria), Wesley Hoedt (Celta Vigo) Loan, Ryan Seager Released, Cedric Soares (Inter Milan) Loan

Tottenham Hotspur
Out: Jaden Brown (Huddersfield Town), Mousa Dembele (Guangzhou R&F), Georges-Kevin Nkoudou (Monaco) Loan, Kazaiah Sterling (Sunderland) Loan

Watford
In: Adam Parkes (Southampton)
Out: Ashley Charles (Barnet) Loan, Michael Folivi (AFC Wimbledon) Loan, Stefano Okaka (Udinese) Loan, Jerome Sinclair (Oxford United) Loan, Ben Wilmot (Udinese) Loan, Randell Williams (Exeter City), Marvin Zeegelaar (Udinese) Loan

West Ham United
In: Samir Nasri (Unattached) Free, Mesaque Dju (Benfica)
Out: Sead Haksabanovic (Norrkoping) Loan, Moses Makasi (Stevenage) Loan, Toni Martinez (Lugo) Loan, Vashon Neufville (Newport) Loan, Reece Oxford (FC Augsburg) Loan, Joe Powell (Northampton) Loan

Wolverhampton Wanderers
In: David Wang (Jumilla B), Ed Francis (Manchester City), Jonny (Pictured, Atletico Madrid)
Out: Benik Afobe (Stoke), Danny Batth (Stoke), Harry Burgoyne (Falkirk) Loan, Ethan Ebanks-Landell (Rochdale) Loan, Bright Enobakhare (Coventry) Loan, Kortney Hause (Aston Villa) Loan, Dominic Iorfa (Sheffield Wednesday), Phil Ofosu-Ayeh (Wurzburger Kickers) Loan, Connor Ronan (FC DAC 1904 Dunajska Streda) Loan, Jack Ruddy (UD San Sebastian) Loan, Ben Stevenson (Colchester United), David Wang (Sporting Lisbon) Loan

Fulham make difficult choice to break from Jokanovic, past

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172 days ago. That’s how long ago Fulham was celebrating its first-ever win at Wembley, capping maybe the greatest five-month stretch in club history. The Whites were headed back to the Premier League, a feat that seemed more and more unreachable as the months in the Championship dragged on.

Slavisa Jokanovic was at the center of it all. He was hailed as a visionary. He was hailed as a calculated risk-taker. He was hailed as a manager who took an ideal and made it a reality.

172 days is the time it took for all of that to come crashing down. On Wednesday, Fulham – sitting bottom of the Premier League – unceremoniously replaced Jokanovic with another dreamer, another visionary in Claudio Ranieri, the man who did the impossible with Leicester City.

[ MORE: Rooney to captain England vs USA ]

Many fans are furious. How could they so quickly forget what Jokanovic brought this club? How could they tear down what he so tirelessly built up?

The reality of the situation, however, is clear: Fulham has not only sunk to the bottom of the Premier League table, they have been flat out terrible. Statistically, they claim ownership to the worst defense in the European top 5 leagues, but it’s about so much more than that. The squad lacks any semblance of ambition, energy, or purpose on the pitch; the players have appeared utterly devoid of life, a husk of their former selves. The same team that led the Championship in both possession and completed passes the previous two seasons was so thoroughly beaten by Huddersfield Town earlier this month, that it’s clear the past is just that – an unrecognizable memory evaporated into the annals of club history to take its place alongside Johnny Haynes, Bobby Robson, and the 2010 Europa League run.

Fulham’s Championship playoff triumph in May is fresh in the minds of fans, yet suddenly seems like a distant memory (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images).

Which is why, despite the sting of cutting ties with someone so dear to the fans and team, the club made the right decision moving on from Slavisa Jokanovic. The manager is most certainly not the only one to shoulder blame for the club’s horrendous start to its Premier League campaign, but he’s most certainly part of the crew. Jokanovic was caught between what worked last season and what he knew had to change, continually flip-flopping between loyalty to the players who brought him Wembley glory and the ones who were poised to bring the club into the new era. Jokanovic was partial to players like Kevin McDonald, Stefan Johansen, and Denis Odoi – who were critical to last season’s triumph but clearly not up to Premier League standards – with disastrous consequences.

As a result of his inability to resolve the internal struggle he faced, expensive new players like Andre Zambo Anguissa and Alfie Mawson struggled to mesh with their new teammates and it showed on the pitch. Fulham central defensive partnership was a carnival turnstile – they haven’t started the same center-backs in consecutive league matches since mid-September. The decomposition continued to manifest on the field as players became more discouraged with the results, coming to a head in the Huddersfield loss. The team that had led the Championship in every possession-based statistical category the year before was beaten in shots and attacking third passes by a team that hadn’t scored a home goal in over 650 minutes. Fulham, as they were know, had faded into nothingness.

[ MORE: PL Power Rankings for Week 12 ]

Undoubtedly, others share the blame. The players have looked disinterested and unmotivated over the past month, happy to pass the ball square around the midfield like zombies, without direction or purpose. Recruitment chair Tony Khan, who led Fulham to a massive summer spending spree of $126 million, seems to have missed on a couple of big-money buys like Anguissa and Mawson, while Jean-Michael Seri has cooled after a hot start. Khan built the Championship juggernaut with a statistical approach that led to shrewd purchases in the midfield and on the wing, but in the Premier League, his targets have struggled to make a serious impact as Jokanovic trended towards his more tenured players. In addition, the attitude on the pitch has been nothing short of pathetic, as the players have shown little fight when falling behind, and never has a collective lack of confidence been more apparent.

Still, those deficiencies fall back – at least somewhat – on the manager. Jokanovic proved unable to motivate a fractured and disjointed squad, beating the same drum week after week and throwing his players under the bus for their tainted attitude. He also showed an inability to adapt to a new situation, a naively egotistical approach in hoping to replicate last season’s possession-based tactical model against even Champions League sides at the top of the table. That not only saw his tactics beaten to a pulp week after week, but it also lent to a favoring of tenured players more suitable to his tactical approach rather than allowing the newer – and theoretically better – players a chance to break into the side. As a result, the team was shredded on a weekly basis as Tony Khan was resigned to watching his prized acquisitions rot either on the bench or in a squad with clear defects.

In the end, a change was painful yet necessary. Letting loose the triumphs of last year so fresh in the memory was a difficult one to swallow. Even owner Shad Khan said in his letter to fans, “I wasn’t anticipating having to make this announcement related to Slavisa and wish the circumstances were such that I didn’t have to.” Yet here the club is, with just one win in 12 and a mountain to climb. Jokanovic, for all his successes at Craven Cottage, was never going to provide the immediate on-field change this club needs so desperately, instead determined to plow through the oncoming wave with his feet buried in the sand. If the necessary points weren’t going to come against Cardiff City, Bournemouth, and Huddersfield, they weren’t going to appear against anyone else.

Jokanovic will always be remembered fondly by those at and around Fulham FC, but the only decision moving forward was to cut him loose. It was now or never for the Whites, as desperate as any in the Premier League in mid-November.

Fulham captain Cairney out injured “a few weeks”

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Fulham will have to do without captain and playmaker Tom Cairney for some time, as manager Slavisa Jokanovic confirmed he suffered a foot injury recently.

“Tom Cairney is going to be unavailable for the Brighton game,” Jokanovic told the media during his pre-match press conference ahead of Fulham’s match on Saturday against Brighton & Hove Albion. “He has a foot injury and we still need to assess him but it is our expectation that he will be unavailable for a few weeks. We must assess him, he is going to be out for a few weeks. Yes, this is a big loss for us.”

The Scottish international was critical to the Whites’ promotion campaign last season, the heartbeat of the club’s possessional attack. However, he has had some injury problems over the past few years that have limited his production. Last season, he made 34 Championship appearances, but was limited early on due to a knee injury. He returned in November, although he took another month to truly find himself fully fit.

Jokanovic has a few options to replace Cairney in his absence. Two-way midfielder Stefan Johansen could take his place off the bench, or Andre Schurrle could move from the wing to the middle in an attacking role. A more fringe option could be young American midfielder Luca De La Torre, who has made recent waves out of the Fulham academy and saw significant time in preseason.

Fulham had a spectacular summer transfer window, becoming the first newly promoted English club to spend over $100 million. However, they have struggled to put a full-strength starting lineup on the field at the beginning of the year. American center-back Tim Ream, last year’s Fulham Player of the Season has yet to make an appearance this season with a nagging injury, while new signing Alife Mawson just returned to action in the midweek Carabao Cup win over Exeter City. They also lost winger Neeskins Kebano who suffered an ankle injury during the Exeter City win.

Rumors: Fulham spree continues with links to Mawson, Herrera, Battaglia

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Newly promoted Fulham has already shelled out nearly $50 million this summer as the Whites look to secure Premier League status in the season following promotion via the Championship playoff, but they show no signs of slowing down.

The Whites, led by recruitment chair Tony Khan, have been linked to a host of new players on Friday, including a Mexican international.

Midfielder Hector Herrera, who played every minute of Mexico’s 2018 World Cup adventure, has been linked with a move to London. According to Portuguese outlet Record, in a report which has since been corroborated by The Sun in England, Fulham is chasing the 28-year-old Mexican who currently plays for Portuguese giants FC Porto. The reports state Herrera has a release clause of nearly $46 million, but that the proposed transfer fee would likely fall well short of that.

[ MORE: Friday transfer rumor roundup ]

Herrera has made 70 appearances for the Mexican international team, a mainstay over the last four years since debuting as a regular in the 2014 World Cup. He has been with Porto since the summer of 2013 when he arrived from Liga MX side Pachuca, making 192 appearances for Porto. He would join new signing Jean-Michael Seri in the Fulham midfield, alongside incumbent starters Kevin McDonald and Stefan Johansen, the former of which signed a new contract with Fulham on Friday.

Also making the rounds in Portugal is the rumor of contact with Sporting CP midfielder Rodrigo Battaglia. Record, along with a few of the TV channels in Portugal, is reporting that Battaglia has seen his Sporting contract successfully nullified following the locker room attack that has reportedly left many players wanting out. Should that be the case, it would mean Battaglia would be able to sign with any team on a free transfer.

The 27-year-old has yet to make an appearance for the Argentinian national team but was considered unlucky not to make the 2018 World Cup squad under Jorge Sampaoli. Known as a true defensive midfielder with bruising capabilities and a decent eye for distribution, Battaglia made 33 Liga NOS appearances for Porto last season after joining in the summer from fellow Portuguese club Braga. However, reports later on Friday have since suggested there may remain the possibility for Battaglia to work out a new contract at Sporting.

Another connection made to Craven Cottage has been Swansea City defender Alfie Mawson, according to WalesOnline. The Fulham back line is currently thin, with United States international Tim Ream leading the way. Still just 24 years old, Mawson has been with Swansea since 2016, joining from Barnsley and making 65 career Premier League appearances. While Swansea’s defensive record has been relatively solid over the past few years, it was their attack that floundered in their relegation season last campaign.

On the verge of sniffing the national team, Mawson has been reportedly chased by a number of mid-table Premier League sides such as Burnley and West Ham, and with the Whites looking to bolster the back line, this would seem to be sensible, quoted at around $26 million, a sizeable but sensible investment towards a youthful English defender.

Also notable remains the constant links to Newcastle striker Aleksandar Mitrovic. The Serbian international was stellar on loan in the second half of last season at Craven Cottage, pouring in 12 goals in 17 Championship appearances with Fulham in their successful push for promotion. With the other striker options thin in Slavisa Jokanovic’s possession-based system, Mitrovic seems a no-brainer for the Whites, but so far Newcastle has held firm on their valuation of around $26 million and forced Mitrovic to join the club on its preseason tour of Portugal even though Rafa Benitez has been public about his dislike for the Serbian striker. The Whites have to this point resisted that amount, but the links continue to swirl and the signing still seems to be a likely possibility.

Fulham has already broken its transfer record to bring Seri in, while also adding Borussia Dortmund winger Andre Schurrle on a two-year loan deal.