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Transfer rumor roundup: Real Madrid to snatch up Haaland, Pogba

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A roundup of all of Friday’s biggest transfer rumors, including a few involving Premier League clubs…

[ MORE: Thursday’s transfer rumor roundup | Wednesday | Tuesday ]

When a player possessed world-class talent or potential, it feels like all roads eventually lead to Madrid — or, at least a chance to move to the Spanish capital. Sure, Erling Haaland is only 19 years old, but he’s already been earmarked as Real Madrid’s star striker for the next 10 or 15 years with Zinedine Zidane reportedly very keen on bringing the Norwegian to the Santiago Bernabeu this summer. It was inevitable from the moment he started scoring goals for Borussia Dortmund.


Speaking of Madrid restocking the pond full of world-class stars, Zidane also hopes to have Paul Pogba in his team when the 2020-21 season kicks off. With his current contract with Manchester United set to expire in just over 12 months, it’s now or never for Pogba to move elsewhere or re-up for another few years. Given the up-and-down nature (it’s mostly been down, if we’re honest) of his second stint at Old Trafford, Pogba seems a safe bet to make another big-money move this summer.


Wolverhampton Wanderers forward midfielder Raul Jimenez on speculation that he’ll leave the club this summer if they don’t qualify for the Champions League, via Facebook Live: “I have a contract [with Wolves] until 2023. It’s not that we have to qualify for the Champions League in order to stay. I’m good [here], happy with Wolves, doing important things — me as well as the whole team.”


Don’t be surprised if Arsenal make a decidedly Spanish turn in the coming transfer windows with Mikel Arteta at the helm. The former Gunners midfielder was a crafty technician himself and has a preference for similarly skilled players, based on reports of his interest in Valencia midfielder Carlos Soler. The 23-year-old has been a revelation for Valencia as they made their way into the Champions League knockout rounds for the first time since 2013, and clubs the size of Arsenal have certainly taken notice.


Pedro will leave Chelsea when his contract expires this summer, according to the player himself. The 32-year-old World Cup winner will almost certainly have a number of suitors at mid-tier European clubs as well as the Middle East and China.

Top PL Storylines: Boxing Day

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The Premier League kicks off its holiday schedule with a jam-packed Boxing Day match schedule. Eighteen of the 20 teams are in action on Thursday, with matches played across four match windows, making for a full day of Premier League soccer on display.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Here’s what we have on the docket for a busy Boxing Day in England.


Top of the Table Clash

  • Leicester City v. Liverpool, Thursday, 3:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN

You never know what the league table will truly look like when the schedule is released, but fans get to build up over the course of Boxing Day to a highly-anticipated clash between Leicester City and Liverpool.

It’s Brendan Rodgers second time facing Liverpool since joining Leicester City and it’s a proverbial six-pointer. With the win, Liverpool continue their claim for the Premier League title, and the Reds would begin to look like they’re running away with the league. On the other hand, a Leicester City win gives the Foxes and Manchester City just that little sliver of hope that they can catch Liverpool. The key will be how Liverpool responds to returning from Qatar. It won the Club World Cup trophy, but will the extra work and travel cost the club.


A pair of debuts

Thursday marks the official match debut of two new Premier League managerial appointments, where the clubs went in polar opposite directions. Everton went out and brought in one of the most successful, talented coaches on the market in Carlo Ancelotti, with the hope that he could get this Everton team to play 25 percent better than it had been playing before.

On the other hand, Arsenal, facing a season that is falling and falling fast, went with a man who has never been a full-time head coach (except for one game this season). However, Mikel Arteta spent five years at Arsenal and while he’s close to Everton too, that hadn’t stopped him from helping Man City rout the Toffees.

Both Arsenal and Everton will be looking to get a big result out of the way in the first fixture under new management.

Santo slams ‘absurd’ Premier League holiday fixture schedule

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Every year, it seems that there’s another Premier League coach distressed by the lack of recovery time during the holiday fixture list, with Great Britain’s insistence on playing matches at a time when the rest of mainland Europe takes a break.

This year, that coach is Wolverhampton Wanderers boss Nuno Espirito Santo.

[READ: American investment group unlikely to complete purchase of Newcastle]

Speaking ahead of his side’s match against defending champion Manchester City, Santo decried the way the fixtures were set up, which he feels – and he may have a point – puts Wolves at a disadvantage.

“All the teams have strong cases [to complain to the Premier League], but of all the schedule, we are the team that has less hours in this period – 45 hours between two games and 112 hours between the three games until New Year’s Day,” Santo said. “It’s going to be very tough, I think all of the managers are concerned and rightly so. I’m particularly concerned because I’ve been saying this; the schedule doesn’t make sense, it’s absurd. For all the teams.

“Of course, there are teams that have three days [between matches], but I don’t know what the particular reason why it’s us as Wolves who have less hours, but it’s a concern for all the managers and for all the players. We have to survive. We have to survive. Let’s see what happens. We will train tomorrow, then we prepare to play Man City, and we’ll see. Let’s try and survive.”

Matches over the festive period appears to be one of the last mainstays that connects English soccer’s present to its past, with global television audiences having dictated plenty of other changes, both to match days, match times, and uniforms. But while the rest of the major soccer powers take a rest during this time, England goes even more full throttle, packing in three matches between Boxing Day and New Years Day for some teams.

However, you can see why it’s a nightmare for coaches in England. Wolves, for example, faces Man City on Friday afternoon (U.S. time), Liverpool on Sunday morning, and then Watford on New Years Day. Especially for a team like Wolves which doesn’t necessarily have the depth that the big clubs have, it may mean Santo will have to sacrifice a match or two to make sure they pick up all three points when needed, as well as avoid injuries.

With coaches in the past hoping for a winter break, the Premier League has come up with a compromise: Every team will get a weekend off in February. That comes as a small consolation to coaches who may lose a player to a muscle strain now and have them out until February, but if teams can at least make it in one piece to February, they’ll get a little bit of time to rest, recover, and gear up for a final run before the season ends.

Matchweek 11 Premier League odds: Liverpool take on Arsenal in critical showdown

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Liverpool have been able to break through for goals against Arsenal in recent matchups – even when the Gunners have their first-choice back line, which they won’t this weekend.

Liverpool are an even-money away favorite on the weekend’s Premier League odds with Arsenal coming back at +275 on the three-way moneyline for Saturday at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The draw pays +280 and the total is set at 3.0 goals.

Liverpool, with the likes of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah up front, have scored at least three goals in their last five matches against Arsenal in all competitions, and the Gunners’ back line is depleted with fullback Hector Bellerin (thigh) potentially unable to play.

Arsenal, which have been overly reliant on second-half rallies, will also be minus key midfielder Matteo Guenduozi (suspension). Some of the chancier but higher-yield props predicated on a Liverpool victory include Liverpool win/yes (+275) in both teams to score props and Liverpool 3-0, 3-1, 3-2 (+550) in correct score group props.

Bournemouth (+275) are one of the most potent offenses on home turf, and Manchester United (even, draw +270) have scored at least two goals in three league matches in a row heading into their meeting on Saturday, meaning bettors might want to play around with an alternate total instead of the standard 2.5 goals.

Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson (+600 first goal scorer, +175 anytime) and Manchester United’s Anthony Martial (+500, +150 respectively) should feature and Manchester United’s defensive issues make Bournemouth worthy of backing on the double chance (-120).

Cardiff City (+260) host Leicester City (+120, draw +235) in a matchup where the latter’s collective mental state is a wild card after the helicopter crash death of team owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha last weekend. It might be a surer play to look at other props.

Both teams have scored in three of Cardiff’s last five home matches and four of Leicester’s last five away matches, while the over (+120) on the 2.5-goals total has come through in seven of Leicester’s last eight away matches.

Wolverhampton (+225) and Tottenham (+130, draw +250) may be due to break extended under streaks, as Wolverhampton’s last nine games have gone under 2.5 goals, as have Tottenham’s last four. Tottenham need an outright victory to stay in a top-four position and should press the issue, meaning the over (-105) on the 2.5-goals total is reachable. Tottenham have also led at half time in their last three league matches.

Chelsea (-375) take on tenacious Crystal Palace (+1000, draw +550) in a Sunday Premier League matchup. Eden Hazard (+320 first goal scorer, -120 anytime) is expected to return from a back injury for Chelsea and may be poised to cash in on Ross Barkley‘s attacking runs at Palace’s back line. In both teams to score props, Chelsea offer an excellent price on No/Over 2.5 goals (+275). Five of the last six games in this matchup have gone over 2.5 goals.

And Huddersfield Town (+130) host Fulham (+230, draw +240) in a Monday matchup that is the quintessential relegation six-pointer as both teams are far down the table. The urgency of the situation lends itself to taking the over (-105) on the 2.5-goals total, while Huddersfield also offer a good price (+220) to score in both halves as they face one of the EPL’s leakiest defenses.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or Spotify or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

PL Preview: Manchester United vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers

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  • Manchester Uniited midfielder Nemanja Matic and striker Marcus Rashford are both suspended following red cards against Watford and Burnley respectively.
  • Manchester United have won their last six league matches against Wolves at Old Trafford, including all four in the Premier League, one of six sides they have played against on at least four occasions at home in the competition while retaining a 100 per cent record.
  • Wolves have won their last two Premier League matches, both by a 1-0 scoreline. They have not won three in a row in the top-flight since March 1980.
  • Man United are looking to avoid consecutive home defeats in the Premier League for the first time since March 2014, while manager Jose Mourinho has never suffered back-to-back home league defeats in his managerial career.

Facing one of the Premier League’s hottest clubs, Manchester United will look to avoid a second consecutive home defeat when it takes on Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. ET live online at NBCSports.com/Gold. It’s a reunion of sorts, as Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho meets his countryman Nuno Espirito Santo, who formerly played at goalkeeper for Mourinho while at Porto.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]

Man United has looked solid in its last three matches, all away from home, but they’ll want to avoid the memories of the last time the Red Devils took the field at Old Trafford, a 3-0 defeat to Tottenham. On the other side, Wolves are unbeaten in four matches and face their biggest test since facing Manchester City earlier in the season. It’s been 38 years since Wolverhampton last won at Manchester United. Can they re-write history in the process?

What they’re saying

Man United manager Jose Mourinho on his team’s improving defense: “I think the team as a team is resolving the defensive problems better than before. I don’t want to say it was Bailly or Jones, and it’s now Smalling or Lindelof. I think the team is more compact, is more solid, the spirit, the co-operation, the empathy, the communication, all of that improved in the team and good results bring confidence. I think we are improving as a team. I don’t want to say that our improvement has the name of Chris or Victor. The team is playing better and of course they are part of the team that played well in these matches.”

Wolverhampton manager Nuno Espirito Santo on not changing his team’s playing style: “There is no game I recall that we changed. That tells a lot about what the players believe. If you change, it doesn’t make sense. You have to adapt, respect and be humble – know you are facing a strong team – but you cannot change and fear. None of those things are part of us. We go there to compete, believing in ourselves.”

Video Preview

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zx5Iz1QrOKs

Prediction

Even with a better defense, Manchester United will feel the absence of Nemanja Matic in midfield. Wolverhampton won’t back down and on the counter, Ruben Neves will make a late run and score from the top of the box to nullify a goal from Romelu Lukaku. Manchester United 1-1 Wolverhampton