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Report: Ashley Cole considering offer from Derby, Lampard

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Ashley Cole probably thought that when he joined the LA Galaxy in 2016, it would be the last club he played for before, literally, relaxing on a beach in retirement.

[ Transfer rumor roundup: Klopp wants USMNT starlet; Higuain dominoes ]

Considering he was 36 at the time — he is now 38 — it seemed obvious that England’s 107-times-capped left back would play out a final few years in MLS before calling full-time on his decorated career. Three years later, Cole might still do just that.

He might also resume playing after receiving a six-month contract offer from Championship side and promotion chasers Derby County, who are now coached by one of Cole’s longtime teammates and friends at Chelsea and England, Frank Lampard.

[ MORE: Top Premier League storylines for Week 23 ]

Cole has been without a club since his option was declined by the Galaxy following the end of the 2018 season.

According to the Guardian, the chance to play alongside a largely young, but promising, squad of players and to help Lampard guide the club to the Premier League in his first season as manager is very appealing to Cole.

Humble Jose Mourinho: ‘I belong to top level’

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Jose Mourinho is back in the public eye a month after being fired as Manchester United’s manager.

Did he every really leave?

Mourinho is working as a pundit for beIN Sports in the Middle East and will give analysis of the huge Arsenal v. Chelsea clash on Saturday.

Speaking with huge passion to the outlet about a multitude of topics, Mourinho revealed he isn’t considering retirement and has his eyes on a top job.

“I want to coach. I am too young. I am in football for a long, long time but I will be 56 in a couple of weeks. I am too young. Where I am going to stay is where I belong. I belong top level football and that is where I am going to be,” Mourinho said.

We see that Mourinho’s famed confidence hasn’t taken a battering from losing his job at United…

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

On a serious note, he did have some interesting things to say about his two-and-half seasons in charge of the Red Devils.

Mourinho said that the second-place finish he achieved at United in 2017-18 was one of his greatest achievements as a manager, and added that “some people don’t know what is going on behind-the-scenes” at the club.

And he added that the structure of the club has to be set up in a way for the manager to not focus on everything the modern day player is involved with, while several times he pointed to the fact that players now have a huge amount of power.

“A club must be very well organised, where the manager is only the manager and not the man that is trying to keep the discipline or educate the players,” Mourinho said.

Hmmm. I wonder who he could have on his mind there…

The former Chelsea, United, Real Madrid and Inter Milan coach also tried to put plenty of wrongs right (his words) about him, as he talked about the results versus style of play debate — he is obviously a fan of the former — and stated that he didn’t sell Mohamed Salah while he was in charge of Chelsea.

“People try to identify me as the coach who sold Salah. I am the coach that bought Salah,” Mourinho said. “It is completely the wrong idea. I played against Basel in the Champions League. Salah was a kid in Basel. When I play against a team I analyze the team and the players for quite a long time and I fell in love with that kid. I bought the kid. I pushed the club to buy him. At that time we already had fantastic attacking players… He was a lost kid in London. He was a lost kid in a new world. When the club decided to sell him, it was not me.”

It safe to say that Mourinho will be absorbing to watch as an analyst, and he plans to do that for a little while as he added that he wants to learn more about what goes on behind the camera in order to learn more about the modern game.

All of this talk taught us one thing: Mourinho really is struggling with how the game has changed and he needs to adapt to the modern game if he’s going to continue to be successful and last longer than a few years at one club.

Henry’s Monaco draws 1-1 with Vieira’s Nice in French league

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PARIS (AP) Old friends Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira had to split the points as Monaco drew 1-1 with French Riviera rival Nice on Wednesday in a scrappy match featuring three video reviews.

Winger Allan Saint-Maximin put Nice ahead in the 30th minute and 17-year-old defender Benoit Badiashile equalized shortly after halftime, becoming the youngest scorer in the French top flight this season. Badiashile’s header from a corner was deemed to have crossed the line by the use of goal-line technology.

[MORE: Ligue 1 scores, schedule]

Henry and Vieira are in their first seasons coaching in France, but they go way back and hugged warmly before kickoff.

Living next to each other in London, they blossomed with Arsenal and were part of the famed “Invincibles” side which went a whole season unbeaten in the Premier League. The Frenchmen also won the 1998 World Cup and the European Championship in 2000, as well as playing together in the 2006 World Cup final.

Having started their illustrious careers as teenagers on the French Riviera – Henry with Monaco and Vieira with Cannes – they have come full circle as coaches.

Monaco had chances through Aleksandr Golovin and Rony Lopes, only for Nice to strike against the run of play following a sloppy mistake from Youssef Ait Bennasser. After he gave the ball away in midfield, Saint-Maximin took it off him easily and shrugged off defender Jemerson before shooting confidently past goalkeeper Diego Benaglio.

The goal was awarded before being checked and confirmed by referee Benoit Bastien using VAR. Moments before the interval, he consulted VAR again to send off Nice striker Ihsan Sacko for a late challenge on defender Benjamin Heinrichs.

“There’s a lot of frustration and questions about the decisions. The red card is very harsh,” Vieira said. “It wasn’t a dangerous action and it had a negative impact on us.”

Bastien used VAR for the third time to award a penalty in the 75th, ruling that Badiashile impeded right back Youcef Atal when images suggested Atal initiated contact with Badiashile before tumbling down.

Benaglio guessed correctly to keep out Saint-Maximim’s spot kick. Monaco almost won it near the end when Radamel Falcao hit the post with a curling effort.

“A point isn’t enough for us, but we could have been sat here talking about a defeat,” Henry said. “I have no opinion about the VAR, those are their decisions. Diego saved the penalty – so much the better for us.”

Monaco has not won at home this season and is 19th – only one point ahead of last-place Guingamp, which beat Rennes 2-1 at home.

OTHER MATCHES

VAR also played a key role elsewhere as Saint-Etienne equalized with a penalty in a 2-1 home win against Marseille.

Referee Antony Gautier awarded the penalty in the 56th after goalkeeper Steve Mandanda upended forward Wahbi Khazri.

Gautier then changed his mind after the linesman signaled Khazri was offside when receiving the pass, but further confusion ensued as he then consulted VAR and re-awarded the penalty, which was confidently tucked away by Khazri.

There was no debating Khazri’s late winner, struck ferociously from 20 meters past Mandanda. It was his 12th league goal of the season and leapfrogged Saint-Etienne over Lyon into third place ahead of their local derby on Sunday.

Netherlands midfielder Kevin Strootman headed Marseille ahead early on from Florian Thauvin‘s excellent cross. The defeat increases the pressure on ninth-place Marseille and its coach Rudi Garcia after a string of poor performances have left fans disgruntled and angry.

In other matches, forwards Moussa Dembele and Nabil Fekir netted late on as Lyon rallied to draw 2-2 at Toulouse.

Nimes moved into 11th spot after winning 1-0 at home to Nantes.

Girona shocks Atletico Madrid behind stunning goals

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Co-owned by Pep Guardiola and the City Football Group, Girona isn’t your average minnow. However, what Girona did on Wednesday is worthy of a closer look.

Girona came back from a goal down on two occasions, eventually scoring on a breath-taking counter attack in the 88th minute to advance past Atletico Madrid, 4-4 on away goals at the Wanda Metropolitano. With the draw, Girona advances to the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey, the farthest it has ever gone so far in the competition.

[READ: Berhalter announces USMNT staff]

Nikola Kalinic put the hosts up 1-0 early, but that was before Valery Fernandez, who made his first-team debut in La Liga just last month, became a household name around Spain and the talk of the internet. Fernandez touch a touch on a cross into the box with his chest and then on the volley, rifled a goal past Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Antonio Adan.

Cristhian Stuani and Angel Correa traded goals, before Antoine Griezmann put Atleti back in front with a goal in the 84th minute.

But four minutes later, a turnover in midfield led to a break for Girona, where veteran forward Seydou Doumbia re-directed a shot from Borja Garcia in to give Girona the result it needed.

Premier League Club Power Rankings: Week 22

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The individual spots on the PL club power rankings feel like they are teetering, prepared for some big moves.

[ ARCHIVE: Premier League club power rankings ]

The table says that Arsenal and Spurs are comfortable in their top spots, but the power rankings see a loss to West Ham and injury to Harry Kane as reason for concern.

We are just a result or two from some serious tumult, but here’s where we sit today.


20. Huddersfield Town — Putting aside the idea of a new manager bounce against Manchester City or some other surprising results, the Terriers would need an unbelievable finish to the season to survive the drop; Huddersfield only faces three relegation candidates in the final 16 match days. Climbing out of the Bottom Three would be one of the greatest escapes of all-time.
Last week: 20
Season high: 16
Season low: 20

19. Fulham — Losing to Burnley was a killer. But, hey, at least your strikers aren’t fighting during a yoga class. Wait, what’s that? They are?!? Oh.
Last week: 19
Season high: 11
Season low: 20

18. Newcastle United — Owner Mike Ashley doesn’t look prepared to invest anything ever in January, and Rafa Benitez is heading into a crucial home game against Cardiff City down a number of starters. So this is going well, especially considering Newcastle is hardly even being linked with transfer targets. Even the rumor mongers know better than to expect people to latch onto clickbait when it says Newcastle might buy big. And FWIW: We had Newcastle in our Bottom Three before last week’s results dropped them there on the table.
Last week: 18
Season high: 13
Season low: 19

17. Cardiff City — The good news for Neil Warnock‘s Bluebirds is the three teams below them look quite poor. A win at Newcastle on Saturday would be a huge step to safety.
Last week: 17
Season high: 13
Season low: 20

17. Crystal Palace — Not quite as maddening as Wolves and Watford, but the team that beat Man City has now drawn Cardiff City 0-0 and lost at home to the Hornets.
Last week: 13
Season high: 6
Season low: 17

16. Southampton — The Leicester City win is another fine moment for Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s men, who have been aided just as much by the Bottom Three as their own results.
Last week: 17
Season high: 13
Season low: 20

14. Burnley — A third-straight league win has Sean Dyche‘s unit on the rise. The fixture list has helped, but the hardened English boss has done a fine job focusing his men on the task at hand.
Last week: 17
Season high: 13
Season low: 20

13. Bournemouth — Only being stopped by a new season low by the clubs underneath it. Next up for the Cherries: West Ham and Chelsea at the Vitality Stadium.
Last week: 12
Season high: 6
Season low: 14

12. Everton — Will be relieved to have handled Bournemouth, and will be eyeing a table run with fixtures ahead with Southampton, Huddersfield Town, Wolves, and Watford.
Last week: 12
Season high: 5
Season low: 13

11. Leicester City — Here’s what I wrote last week, before the Foxes went and lost to Southampton, They’re doing it again, luring me into the belief that the Foxes are the clear favorite to finish seventh. This all but guarantees a weekend loss to Southampton at the King Power Stadium.”
Last week: 10
Season high: 7
Season low: 13

10. Brighton and Hove Albion — Flustered Liverpool, and it wouldn’t have been a crime had the Seagulls lifted a point from the leaders.
Last week: 13
Season high: 9
Season low: 19

9. Wolves — Losing to Man City is all but certain when you go down a man at the Etihad Stadium.
Last week: 8
Season high: 5
Season low: 13

8. Watford — How many years do you think have been taken off Javi Gracia‘s life by this team’s unpredictable form? Do you think he’s going to have a presidential downtown in looks by the time this is through? After dramatically drawing Newcastle and Bournemouth, the Hornets are back into seventh via a win at Palace.
Last week: 11
Season high: 4
Season low: 14

7. West Ham United — We cannot overlook recent form and 10 points on the table, but the Irons are looking decent money against any club that dares to overlook them. Just ask Arsenal.
Last week: 10
Season high: 6
Season low: 20

6. Arsenal — It’s not wild to call Saturday’s match against Chelsea a season-defining one, especially with the Top Four door opened by an injury to Harry Kane at Spurs.
Last week: 6
Season high: 2
Season low: 9

5. Chelsea — Ten points from 12 has rarely looked so meh.
Last week: 4
Season high: 1
Season low: 5

4. Manchester United — Took three points off Spurs as a team, then perhaps even more thanks to Phil Jones‘ tackle on Harry Kane.
Last week: 5
Season high: 4
Season low: 14

3. Spurs — Seven is the number. That’s Spurs’ advantage on Chelsea and Arsenal heading into this prolonged Harry Kane absence.
Last week: 3
Season high: 2
Season low: 8

2. Man City — Could sleepwalk through next four fixtures to get to Chelsea and Arsenal on consecutive match days. And both of those are at the Etihad Stadium.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 3

1. Liverpool — Sadio Mane has joined Dejan Lovren in publicly claiming they’ll win their first top flight title of the Premier League era.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 4