Tom Cairney

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Report: Loan interest in Fulham’s USMNT youngster de la Torre is high

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According to a report by HITC Sports’ Pete O’Rourke about a week ago, there is high interest around Europe for Fulham youngster Luca De La Torre.

The 20-year-old, who made his senior debut for the USMNT in early June, coming in off the bench for the final 13 minutes of a 2-1 loss to Ireland, less than a year after making his league debut for the club the previous October.

While de la Torre has yet to appear in a Premier League match for Fulham, he has played 101 minutes in two EFL Cup matches this season, including an 85-minute Man of the Match appearance against Millwall where he scored a goal and assisted two others in a 3-1 win. De la Torre also impressed in preseason, and is highly regarded by Fulham as a top academy prospect.

The report states that the San Diego-born midfielder has intrigued teams around Europe to the point of inquiry, with “several sides at the top end of the Championship chasing promotion and a number of clubs in France, Holland, Germany, Portugal and Belgium” all contacting the club about a potential loan.

De la Torre left USMNT camp early this past international break to return to Fulham amid a managerial change, hoping to use the days off to impress new boss Claudio Ranieri. The United States had a match in London against England, and the 20-year-old stayed there to rejoin Fulham while the rest of the squad departed for Genk to take on Italy.

With the January transfer window nearing, it’s possible that de la Torre could be on the move soon. However, with Ranieri still hoping to sort out Fulham’s midfield in the midst of a relegation battle, it’s also possible that he stays to fight for a place in the squad. Tom Cairney has not been able to replicate his Championship form of the last few years amidst injuries and poor play, while new signing Jean-Michael Seri has slowed after a hot start to his Premier League career. Andre Schurrle has played up the middle of late, but the German international seems to be at his best out wide, potentially allowing for de la Torre to slide in if Cairney’s injuries persist or he’s unable to improve on his poor form.

Former Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic liked to use Cup matches to get youth products time on the field, and de la Torre was the beneficiary of such preferences, but it remains to be seen how Ranieri will treat the academy youngsters. De la Torre was not in the matchday squad for Ranieri’s 3-2 debut win over Southampton, with Cairney starting and attacking midfielders Neeskins Kebano and Floyd Ayite preferred on the bench.

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.

Championship Playoffs: Reading steal 1st-leg draw away to Fulham

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After 90 minutes of the Championship Playoffs semifinal between Fulham and Reading, it’s Jaap Stam’s Royals who hold the narrowest of advantages after securing a first-leg draw at Craven Cottage on Saturday.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Arsenal alive and fighting for 4th ]

In Tuesday’s second leg, when no away-goals rule will be in effect, a home victory of any scoreline will see Reading through to the final; any draw would send the two sides to extra time; any Fulham victory would send Slavisa Jokanovic’s Cottagers to Wembley for the Promotion Playoff final.

The first leg was thoroughly dominated by Fulham, in terms of possession (58 to 42) and chances created (Reading took just three shots over the 90 minutes, with just one on target; Fulham, meanwhile, took 12 with two on target). It was Reading, however, who went ahead early in the first half, as Jordan Obita fired past Marcus Bettinelli from a nearly impossible angle, smashing the inside of the far post for 1-0 in the 53rd minute.

[ MORE: Full “Chelsea Champions” reaction, here ]

Fulham needed just 12 minutes to respond, though, as a wonderfully free-flowing bit of build-up forced Ali Al Habsi into a diving save in the 65th minute. Unfortunately for the Omani international, the rebound fell no further than five yards out from goal, where Tom Cairney was the man in the right place at the right time and headed home to equalize.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Reading’s earlier work was so nearly undone in the 80th minute, when Paul McShane earned himself a red card with a studs-up, knee high challenge on Kevin McDonald. The man advantage just about paid of for Fulham in the fifth minute of stoppage time, but Ryan Fredericks‘ angled effort flashed across the face of goal and just wide of the far post.

Podolski goes out with super goal; Germany tops England

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The highlight of Wednesday’s international friendly docket was Lukas Podolski‘s final match for Germany, and the former Arsenal man did not disappoint his crowd.

But first, Canada plays its first match since unveiling new coach Octavio Zambrano.

[ MORE: Zlatan still bitter with Guardiola ]

Scotland 1-1 Canada

Zambrano saw plenty to like from his new side, as Canada went ahead early with a goal from former Scottish youth Fraser Aird. Toronto-born, the ex-Rangers and current Falkirk man got his first Canadian goal against the team he represented at U-17 and U-19 levels.

Norwich City’s Steven Naismith redirected Tom Cairney‘s shot to make it 1-1 before the break, but Scotland never found its way back into Canada’s net.

Germany 1-0 England

Lukas Podolski scored his 49th international goal in his final cap for Germany, and it was spectacular.

Joe Hart didn’t stand a chance.

The match saw big stops from both ‘keepers, as Hart thwarted Leroy Sane on a second half break after Marc-Andre Ter Stegen defied Dele Alli in the opening 45.

Podolski subbed off in the 84th minute to wild applause, but it must sting slightly to know you finished an illustrious career one goal short of a nice, round 50. We guess he’ll have to rest on his millions and millions of earnings and loads of on-field honors.

Elsewhere
Vietnam 1-1 Chinese Taipei
Philippines 0-0 Malaysia
Cyprus 3-1 Kazakhstan
Yemen 0-1 Palestine
Cambodia 2-3 India

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Cairney to Boro, second Foxes bid for Mbodji

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As the January transfer window comes close to shutting, teams who missed out on targets earlier in the season begin to panic as they try desperately to fill holes for the second half of the season.

That perfectly describes the situation Middlesbrough is in right now, having missed out on Hull City playmaker Robert Snodgrass, who moved to West Ham a few days ago. Boro was thought to be heavily involved in discussions for the player, and Aitor Karanka has yet to bolster his toothless attack. Middlesbrough also reportedly was in for Bojan, but missed there too as the Stoke forward went to the Bundesliga.

Now, according to a report in The Sun, Karanka has turned his sights to the Championship and Fulham playmaker Tom Cairney. The 26-year-old has been statistically the best player in the second tier this season, leading the charge of Fulham’s possession-heavy attack.

[ RELATED: West Ham sells Dimitri Payet to Marseille ]

According to the report, Middlesbrough is “in discussions” with Fulham for Cairney, but they will need to seriously pay up if they wish to pry the most important player off a team pushing for promotion. He is the gem for manager Slavisa Jokanovic, who favors a Barcelona-like style, and American owner Shad Khan has Premier League ambitions. Fulham sold 31-year-old striker Ross McCormack for a whopping $15 million last summer, and Cairney is both much younger and equally as important to the squad as McCormack was then.

Leicester City also needs to boost the squad, in 15th place a season after shockingly winning the title. The Foxes defense has regressed mightily from its championship winning form, and as Robert Huth, Wes Morgan, and Christian Fuchs all creep further away from the 30 year old mark, Claudio Ranieri knows he needs to get younger at the back.

Cue the rumors of Leicester’s interest in Anderlecht defender Kara Mbodji. The 27-year-old Senegalese international has spent the last three and a half seasons in the Belgian top flight after coming from the Norwegian league. This season, Mbodji has made 17 league starts for Anderlecht, helping the club to a third-place position and one of the league’s better defensive records. Mbodji is currently on international duty in the African Cup of Nations, although he will be returning shortly as Senegal was eliminated by Cameroon on penalties in the quarterfinals. Kara scored in the shootout, while Liverpool forward Saido Mane had the deciding miss.

According to rumors in England, Leicester is readying a second bid for Mbodji after their first was rejected. The reports say the first bid totaled $9.5 million, while Anderlecht values the defender at around $16 million.

One player definitely not on his way to England is Liverpool target Leandro Paredes. The Roma midfielder is not someone the Reds are going to continue pursuing, according to the Liverpool Echo. Manager Jurgen Klopp said the other day that he would not likely be adding players in this transfer window, saying, “It’s not about not wanting [to sign players], it’s about getting the right players.” The Echo report also shoots down links to Real Betis defender Riza Durmisi.

Finally, there are reports that Tottenham could look to make a late move for Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha, who has just returned from African Cup of Nations after the Ivory Coast fell short of expectations with a group stage exit. The Sun reports that Spurs were interested in Zaha over the summer, and now could make a move before the window shuts.