Tom Heaton

Aston Villa signs Pepe Reina
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Pepe Reina returns to Premier League with Aston Villa

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Three-time Premier League Golden Glove winner Pepe Reina is coming back to England in a brand new role.

The serial trophy chaser is joining Aston Villa on loan from AC Milan in a bid to help the Villans stay in the top flight.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Reina, 37, made 395 appearances for Liverpool between 2005-2014, winning the FA Cup, League Cup, and UEFA Super Cup.

His last first team appearance was Oct. 5, a 2-1 win over Genoa. Now he’ll take the gloves for an Aston Villa side missing Tom Heaton for the rest of the season.

From AVFC.co.uk:

“At the start of the summer we were looking for an experienced goalkeeper and brought in Tom Heaton. Unfortunately, his injury has ruled him out for the rest of the season but Pepe fits our criteria not just because of his experience but also because of his leadership qualities.”

Reina is closing in on 800 career senior appearances, all with big European clubs. He began his time with Barcelona in 1999 before moving onto Villarreal, Liverpool, Napoli, Bayern Munich, and AC Milan.

He was on the Spain squads that won the 2008 and 2012 EURO tournaments as well as the 2010 World Cup.

PL Sunday Preview: Watford travel to Bournemouth; Aston Villa host City

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Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures won’t be the busiest of all, but it promises to have some drama as bottom-dwellers Bournemouth and Watford face off, while Manchester City travel to Villa Park.

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Bournemouth vs. Watford — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

It might be difficult to admit, but Nigel Pearson‘s arrival at Watford has done wonders for the club.

The Hornets secured 10 out of the possible 12 points during the festive period, putting the upwards-trending club two points within reach of escaping the drop zone. Throughout that same stretch of four matches, Pearson and company have outscored opponent’s eight goals to two.

The 56-year-old, who last coached Belgium’s Oud-Heverlee Leuven, is implementing an effective and pragmatic 4-2-3-1 system. But perhaps the reason behind the escape trick isn’t solely based on on-field adjustments, but on the emotional investment that the manager is putting forward.

“I’ve been asked a few times already about whether I had still got enthusiasm or the drive or whatever it is to continue to work, and those are the sorts of questions that I’ve asked myself for sure,” he said leading up to Sunday’s match.

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think we were capable of getting out of the situation that we’re in, but I can’t ask people to be committed if I’m not committed myself, so all those things are very important to me and I think this club has got a really strong identity and there’s potential for us to rediscover what we are as a football club.

“I do feel attached to being a part of that and trying to rediscover that.”

Eddie Howe‘s Bournemouth, on the other hand, are on the opposite site of the spectrum, falling instead of climbing up the table.

Ravaged by injuries, the Cherries picked up a sole point throughout the same span of four matches. Howe, desperate to animate his team (and supporters), is urging for Dean Court to get loud and hostile again – like in the past.

“Teams used to really fear coming here, a tight ground and a great atmosphere,” Howe said. “We now need that feeling back, which only we can create as a team.

“We’ve had good battles with Watford and I imagine this game will be tight again – our motivation levels have to be higher than theirs.”

INJURIES: Bournemouth — OUT: Danjuma (ankle), King (hamstring), Stacey (hamstring), Brooks (ankle), Daniels (knee) | Watford — OUT: Hughes (groin), Janmaat (knee), Cleverley (calf), Welbeck (hamstring), Femenía (hamstring) Prödl (calf)

Aston Villa vs. Manchester City — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Everything is moving at hyperspeed for Aston Villa, and they probably don’t want it that way.

Days after earning a laudable draw against Leicester City in the semi-final of the EFL Cup, Dean Smith and company host back-to-back champions Manchester City. It wasn’t too long ago that Villa lost Wesley and Tom Heaton to season-ending injuries, either.

Smith recognizes at what speed the challenging hurdles are coming at, but instead preaches for concentration from his players.

“We played the second-placed team in the cup and now we’re playing the team that are third and have won back-to-back titles,” the 48-year-old said. “They have a world-class coach and world-class players, they can afford to spend £50m on a right back, so we know the test.”

“They have had some off days this season – they got beat at Norwich and Wolves – so we must have belief in ourselves, as well as concentration.”

Fresh off a 3-1 victory over rivals Manchester United, the sense is that Manchester City are finally finding their groove again.

Pep Guardiola and his team may be out of contention for a third straight title, but they have a lot to prove with the EFL Cup and Champions League still up for grabs. In fact, Sunday’s match against Villa may well be a preview of the EFL Cup final.

“We have to play all the teams. Sometimes they’re at the top, sometimes in the middle, sometimes at the bottom. It’s a historic club,” Guardiola said prior to Sunday’s match. “They changed their last set-up in the last game. We’ll try to maintain the dynamic we have.”

INJURIES: Aston Villa — OUT: Davis (hamstring), Steer (achilles), Heaton (knee), Wesley (knee), McGinn (foot) | Manchester City OUT: Laporte (knee), Sané (knee) (knee)

Transfer rumor roundup: Man United in talks with Fernandes; Reina to Aston Villa

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A roundup of all of Friday’s biggest transfer rumors, including those involving Premier League outfits.

[ MORE: Premier League January transfer needs ]

After a failed move to Tottenham over the summer, Bruno Fernandes may find himself on English soil after all.

Manchester United are closing to reaching a deal with Sporting Lisboa for their 25-year-old captain Fernandes, according to O Jogo’s Filipe Dias.

The story so far is that United this time are really closing in on Bruno Fernandes,” Dias told Sky Sports. “We ran the story that there are talks between the two clubs and we figured that a deal might be close in the next few days, or hours even, because Sporting need money badly.

“The situation has changed since last summer,”  he added. “They didn’t accept a deal with Tottenham for 70m euros but that would have been paid with €40m upfront and then another €30m.”

Over the summer, Spurs bid a reported $75 million for Fernandes, only for the deal to fall in the late stages. It has been reported that United would get the midfielder at a reduced price given Sporting’s financial hardships.

Emre Can and Donny van de Beek have also been linked to a move to Old Trafford recently.


Aston Villa and AC Milan have agreed on a deal sending Pepe Reina to Villa Park on a season-long loan, according to Sky Sports News.

Both clubs have agreed on a fee for the 37-year-old goalkeeper, who is expected to arrive in Birmingham on Monday to undergo a medical and put pen to paper.

The former Liverpool ‘keeper quickly emerged as Dean Smith‘s following Tom Heaton‘s season-ending injury.

Villa are reportedly also in pursuit of Newcastle striker Dwight Gayle to replace Wesley Morais, who is also out for the season.


Tottenham have made a 18-month loan offer for Benfica’s Gedson Fernandes.

Benfica and West Ham recently agreed a deal in principle for the transfer of the 21-year-old, but Spurs are reportedly making a late push for the midfielder.

Jose Mourinho and company are currently without Moussa Sissoko, who had surgery on his medial collateral ligament late last year.


Arsenal have offered Shkodran Mustafi to Inter Milan, according to Calciomercato.

With newly-appointed Mikel Arteta looking to revamp his squad, Mustafi may see a move this month.

That said, a move to Inter doesn’t seem imminent for the German, as Inter aren’t looking to sign a center-back unless Diego Godin requests a transfer.


Everton are preparing to launch a $33-million bid for Gremio’s Everton Soares, according to ESPN.

The 23-year-old, who has been linked with Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal in the past, has reportedly been approached by Toffees boss Carlo Ancelotti on a move to Goodison Park.

 

Leicester, Villa draw League Cup semi first leg

Leicester City and Aston Villa League Cup first leg
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Aston Villa had little of the ball but made one of its lone chances count in a 1-1 League Cup semifinal first leg draw with Leicester City on Wednesday.

Frederic Guilbert scored a 28th-minute goal with Villa’s first shot attempt at King Power Stadium, a lead that lasted on Kelechi Iheanacho‘s 74th-minute equalizer.

The sides meet again on Jan. 28 at Villa Park. Away goals are not weighted over two legs.

Leicester City outshot the visitors 21-3 and held 70 percent of the ball.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Wilfred Ndidi missed the match for Leicester City and will be absent for the next month.

Villa’s teenage American striker Indiana Vassilev came off the bench for the second-straight match after making his first team debut in the FA Cup versus Fulham over the weekend.

Orjan Nyland made a wonderful save on James Maddison moments before Villa went in front.

The 29-year-old Nyland will be called upon plenty this season with Tom Heaton requiring surgery for knee ligament damage.

Anwar El Ghazi set up Guilbert’s clinical finish with a pass that left Ben Chilwell out to lunch. It hasn’t been a great few weeks for the England left back.

Leicester City was all over the Villans, who were buoyed by another standout day from center back Tyrone Mings.

The Villa man lunged to block Iheanacho’s late effort, but couldn’t get a piece of the ball on its way past Nyland.

Premier League January transfer needs

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The January transfer window is now open in the Premier League and there are already plenty of managers talking about doing business this month.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Who needs what?

We break that down below and assess the top transfer needs for each PL club between now and when the window shuts on Jan. 31 at 6 p.m. ET.


Arsenal
Center back, central midfielder: Linked to Jerome Boateng already, the Gunners are on the hunt for a new central defender after Calum Chambers ruptured his ACL. Any international caliber defenders Mikel Arteta can get his hands on will surely be snapped up. If Granit Xhaka leaves they could also add another central midfielders.
Possibility they will add players: 90 percent


Aston Villa
Goalkeeper, striker, center back: They may well be the busiest team in January, just like in the summer, as two huge injuries to Tom Heaton and Wesley have hit Villa hard. Dean Smith would have been looking to add defensive reinforcements anyway and Villa will need to do well, probably in the loan market, to cope with their lengthy injury list and stay up. They’ve added Danny Drinkwater on loan and that is a good start with John McGinn also out injured.
Possibility they will add players: 100 percent


Bournemouth
Central defender, striker: With so many injuries, Eddie Howe‘s hand may be forced into buying new defenders. It will also be a necessity as Bournemouth are in the bottom three and struggling to score goals. Nathan Ake could depart which would be another massive blow. All in all, Bournemouth probably need a few new faces to give them a little more squad depth as they battle against the drop. Ryan Fraser‘s contract runs out in the summer, so maybe Bournemouth will cash in?
Possibility they will add players
: 70 percent


Brighton and Hove Albion
Striker: The Seagulls probably don’t need to buy in January. They’ve been really good so far this season, with Trossard and Maupay making a big difference since their summer arrival. Aaron Connolly has been like a new signing after his emergence from the academy, but maybe they will try to bring in an experienced forward as they don’t score enough goals given the chances they create.
Possibility they will add players
: 20 percent


Burnley
Central midfielder: Having let Danny Drinkwater go back to Chelsea after his loan spell ended, you have to think Sean Dyche has something else lined up for Burnley’s midfield. Defensively they’ve been fine and going forward Wood, Barnes and Rodriguez have enough goals in them, but in midfield they’ve struggled to control games this season. 
Possibility they will add players
: 30 percent


Chelsea
Center back, striker, winger: It is safe to say Chelsea will be busy as they aim to keep their top four hopes going and recover from a summer transfer ban as all of that money is burning a hole in Frank Lamprd’s pocket. They’ve been linked with so many players but their biggest need is in defense as Ake could return. Timo Werner, Jadon Sancho and Wilfried Zaha all seem more likely to arrive in the summer, but with Pedro on his way out and Willian not signing a new deal, maybe now is the right time for Zaha to arrive?
Possibility they will add players: 90 percent


Crystal Palace
Striker, winger, defenders: Basically, Palace need to add an extra player in each area of the pitch. Roy Hodgson has already said that and he hopes the owners back him. It all depends on whether Zaha is allowed to leave in January as to how busy the Eagles are. Adding one more striker to help Ayew manage the load seems the biggest need, as some of their defensive injuries will start to clear up. Could Batshuayi head back to Palace on loan? The Eagles always seem keen to add players later in the month and hang on for a good deal. They can afford to do that again as they are well clear of the drop zone, for now.
Possibility they will add players
: 60 percent


Everton
Central midfield, full back: A bit of extra cover in midfield and wide area will be key for Carlo Ancelotti and previously getting a central striker in would have been their biggest need. But with Dominic Calvert-Lewin doing the business, there’s no need for that right now. Adding Rabiot in midfield would be great business. 
Possibility they will add players
: 50 percent


Leicester City
None: Another forward option in case Vardy is fatigued would be smart but Perez and Iheanacho have stepped up superbly recently. No need for the Foxes to buy.
Possibility they will add players
: 5 percent


Liverpool
Winger: And they’ve already done their business. Takumi Minamino has arrived from RB Salzburg in a bargain deal and that should be Liverpool wrapped up for the window. If they suffer any more defensive injuries then Jurgen Klopp could jump into the market but they seem all set.
Possibility they will add (more) players: 5 percent


Manchester City
Center back: Their biggest need for about 12 months and City haven’t done anything about it. Seems crazy given their status as one of the richest teams on the planet. Nathan Ake would be a good buy, so too would Caglar Soyuncu or Jonny Evans but all three would be tough deals to do in January. Pep is unlikely to do business in the January window unless a wonderful deal presents itself.
Possibility they will add players: 25 percent


Manchester United
Central midfield: As injuries pile up in central midfield Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has admitted that is where he is looking. Gedson Fernandes has been linked and United need an attacking playmaker who can control the tempo of the game better. That has been their biggest need all season, especially with Pogba’s injury problems. With Harry Maguire now out injured too, maybe some extra cover in defense is needed.
Possibility they will add players: 50 percent


Newcastle United
Defenders, striker: Joelinton has scored once and Newcastle have a lot of defensive injuries to deal with. Steve Bruce‘s side are running out of steam after a fine start and the Magpies will try to kick things on by bringing in some new faces in January. Expect Bruce to convince a few of his ex players to join his project at St James’ but don’t expect anything too flashy from Newcastle.
Possibility they will add players: 60 percent.


Norwich City
Defenders, striker: Someone to help out Pukki would be great and so too would some upgrades at center back but Norwich are already in that situation where they may save their money instead of spending big, as they know relegation is likely. Sad but true as they could make a lot of money on Pukki, Buendia, Aarons and Cantwell in the summer. Norwich have been like with a loan move for Hertha Berlin’s attacker Duda. 
Possibility they will add players
: 20 percent


Sheffield United
None: They added Jack Rodwell as a free agent to provide some depth but apart from that they look set. They have options in every position and Chris Wilder has rotated the squad well this season. 
Possibility they will add (more) players
: 5 percent


Southampton
Full backs: Ralph Hasenhuttl has already said he wants to sign some new full backs. Cedric is out of contract this summer and Ryan Bertrand has been linked with a move away. Expect some young full backs to arrive who will ease themselves in and be starters next season. Kyle Walker-Peters and Joakim Maehle have been mentioned as potential new right backs, the former on loan.
Possibility they will add players: 60 percent.


Tottenham Hotspur
Defenders, striker: Harry Kane’s injury may force them into buying a new striker. Vertonghen may leave, while Aurier continues to be a problem at right back. Jose Mourinho is not happy with their defensive displays and Spurs need to add quality rather than quality in defense. Daniel Levy must loosen the purse strings if Spurs are to keep their top four hopes alive. Christian Eriksen could leave before his contract runs out, so maybe Spurs will look to sell him and bring in a new playmaker. Plenty of work to be done. Piatek could arrive to help with Kane’s absence.
Possibility they will add players: 70 percent.


Watford
Striker: Honestly, they are pretty set. Another striker to push Deeney and Gray hard would be nice but Nigel Pearson has inherited a decent squad and now has them well organized and hungry. The Hornets don’t need to spend despite being in a relegation scrap. They always seem to buy a young players from somewhere, or at least loan someone from the Pozzo owned clubs.  
Possibility they will add players
: 20 percent


West Ham United
Midfield, defenders: David Moyes has been linked with Gedson Fernandes and West Ham need a little something extra in midfield with Rice and Noble keeping things tight. That said, defensive improvements would be nice but Moyes has a lot of expensive new-ish signings to work with. West Ham will not want to spend much.
Possibility they will add players: 50 percent


Wolverhampton Wanderers
Defenders, striker: Raul Jimenez needs some help and Patrick Cutrone has done okay but hasn’t set the world alight. Getting in some decent young players should be the aim as Wolves’ relatively small squad has to cope with Europa League, FA Cup and the Premier League. If they get this right in January they could finish in the top four.
Possibility they will add players: 60 percent