1 Marouane Fellaini celebrates scoring a late goal against Club Brugge Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has revealed midfielder Marouane Fellaini will play as a forward against Club Brugge on Wednesday evening.United are overwhelming favourites to secure a return to the Champions League group stages having won the first leg of their play-off last week 3-1.Van Gaal has brought just 18 players for the second leg trip to Belgium, and Fellaini looks likely to start after scoring the vital third goal in stoppage time last week.And the Dutch boss revealed that he intends to use the 6ft 4in as a striker this term, rather than in midfield, which in part explains why United are yet to buy a forward despite their struggles in front of goal.“He can play in a nine position and a 10,” Van Gaal said.“He can also play at six and eight, but this year he shall play more at nine and 10 because there we have other players.”Fellaini, meanwhile, is keen to play up front if his manager believes that is the best place for him.“In the past I have played number 10 and number nine sometimes so I can play there and help my team-mates and my team,” the former Everton man said.“It is different to play midfield and striker but I enjoy all the positions I can play.”Brugge manager Michel Preud’homme claimed it would take a “miracle” for his injury-ravaged squad to overturn United’s two-goal advantage in Flanders.But Van Gaal has told his players to be wary the hosts, who came from 2-1 down to beat Panathinaikos 4-2 over two legs in the previous qualifying round.“They won against their Greek opponent 3-0 so they are capable to do that with the support of the fans,” the United manager added.“I don’t think my players shall take it easy.”
1 Arsenal and Tottenham could be set for a January transfer tussle for Switzerland striker Breel Embolo.The teenage forward, who plays his club football for FC Basel, appeared as a second half substitute during his country’s 2-0 defeat to England at Wembley on Tuesday night.He has scored three times so far this season in the Swiss League, following his 17-goal haul last term, and his rapid progress has alerted the north London giants.The 18-year-old is rated in the £10million bracket by his club, but that is unlikely to deter either Arsenal or Spurs as they consider a move in the winter transfer window. Breel Embolo
Dave Stevens joins the Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast to round up the latest sporting odds.The Coral spokesman talks to Alan Brazil and Ray Parlour about the evening’s League Cup action, including the north London derby at White Hart Lane.Arsenal are favourites 7/5 favourites to claim victory over their rivals, while Tottenham are 19/10, but Gunners hero Parlour believes,with both managers likely to name strong sides, it could go all the way to a penalty shootout to decide the victor.It’s a big game for Spurs’ out-of-form striker Harry Kane – could he net his first Tottenham goal of the season against the Gunners? He’s 11/2 to score first at the Lane…Coral is the official betting partner of the Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast
1 Barcelona and Brazil superstar Neymar has revealed he held ‘conversations’ with Manchester United in the summer over a move to the Premier League.United reportedly enquired about the Brazilian captain’s services late in the transfer window as the Red Devils chased a marquee signing.They ended up with French teen sensation Anthony Martial, who has scored four goals in as many games in all competitions already, but Neymar admits Old Trafford was a possibility for him.“We had conversations, but there was nothing concrete,” he told ESPN.Neymar plundered 40 goals in 54 appearances last season as he played an integral part in Barcelona’s treble-winning campaign, and the 23-year-old is now eyeing personal glory to add to his growing résumé.He added: “I hope I will be on the Ballon d’Or podium this year. I want to keep giving my all and evolve season to season.” Neymar
His lacklustre defensive showings have also hindered his attacking approach, limiting his influence pressing forward. His average of 0.4 key passes per game is his lowest, while only 31% of Chelsea’s attacks are coming down his side of the pitch, a stark contrast to the left (39%). A labourious Ivanovic is not only faltering defensively, but failing to leave his mark on games in the final third, which is one of his strongest assets. Indeed, of outfielders to start every Premier League match this campaign, Ivanovic has the lowest WhoScored.com rating (6.56), with that figure far and away his lowest in the last seven league seasons. Given Blues boss Jose Mourinho isn’t short of options at full-back, it’s something of a miracle that the Serbia international is yet to be dropped. On the contrary, Ivanovic is one of two Chelsea players – along with Eden Hazard – to play every minute in England’s top tier this season.It’s got to the stage where opposition sides are specifically targeting him as a means of getting in at goal. The opening day of the season set the benchmark, where Jefferson Montero routinely exploited Ivanovic’s defensive deficiencies in Swansea’s 2-2 draw with Chelsea. The full-back struggled to contain the Swans wideman at Stamford Bridge and, since the stalemate, it’s been more of the same for the right-back. Opposition managers have clearly pinpointed Ivanovic as the weak link in the Chelsea backline, reinforced in that he’s being dribbled past an average of 1.4 times per game, that return its highest in the Premier League.Of course, he isn’t the only player who can be blamed for Chelsea’s lackadaisical start to the campaign. The entire Blues defence has been culpable of a series of errors that have seen them ship 17 league goals already this season; only Sunderland (18) have conceded more. Thibaut Courtois’ injury concerns have not helped matters either, but it would be unfair to place the blame squarely at Ivanovic’s feet. Branislav Ivanovic As such, Ivanovic has been forced into taking drastic measures in order to stem the flow of attacks down his side of the pitch. His average of 1.8 fouls per game is his joint highest average in the Premier League in the last seven seasons, while he already has 3 yellow cards to his name. One would not bet against him matching or bettering the 12 cautions he received in the 2010/11 season. Football statistics analysts WhoScored.com take a close look at a Chelsea star whose performances and consistent selection are mystifying Blues fans. Check out more Chelsea stats at WhoScored.com.There was a moment in the second half of Southampton’s 3-1 win over Chelsea at the weekend where one felt nothing but sorrow for Branislav Ivanovic. Having seconds earlier hooked a ball back into his own box the right-back was one-on-one with compatriot Dusan Tadic, yet was unable to rob the Saints star of possession. After being spun by the winger, Ivanovic fell to the floor and looked a defender bereft of confidence. The 31-year-old has started the season abysmally following a consistent campaign in the Blues backline last term. The Serbian defender has hardly been offered the necessary protection from teammates, particularly those in midfield. Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic’s performance levels have dropped significantly, the former especially guilty of shirking his defensive responsibilities. On two occasions this season alone, Fabregas has failed to track the opposition goalscorer, coming against Newcastle and Saints. The lack of work off the ball has indeed left Ivanovic isolated and with his advancing years; the defender is clearly struggling. 1 Mourinho has hinted that he is willing to drop his big name players in order to improve Chelsea’s fortunes, with Ivanovic surely at risk of losing his starting spot in the foreseeable future. Given Cesar Azpilicueta is a more than adequate stand in at right-back and summer arrival Baba Rahman is capable of coming into the side, the powerful Serb must be fearing for his place in the starting XI.For more stats on Branislav Ivanovic, click here to view his WhoScored.com player page
1 Theo Walcott give England the lead Theo Walcott maintained his brilliant goalscoring run to give England victory over a stubborn Estonia at Wembley.New record goalscorer Wayne Rooney, absent with a minor knock, received a golden boot from Sir Bobby Charlton before the game and England could have done with his threat on the night.Walcott finished from a wonderful pass from Ross Barkley – England’s best player on the night – to give the hosts the lead on the stroke of half time.And Sterling doubled the lead as time ran out after great work from the Premier League’s top scorer, substitute Jamie Vardy, meaning England won all nine of their qualifiers so far.This match was being billed as the question ‘what would England look like without Rooney?’ Laborious, was the answer.Walcott provided the best outlet having his fourth-minute volley well blocked before having another effort deflected wide.But, for the most part, England’s problem was a familiar one – an inability to keep the ball.The attacking triumvirate of Walcott, Harry Kane and Sterling struggled to link up around the area as the Three Lions were largely restricted to long-range, off target efforts from James Milner.With half of the crowd growing increasingly frustrated and the other half increasingly bored, something had to give before half time, and thankfully for the assembled Wembley crowd, it did.Walcott continued his hot streak of form when he latched on to a wonderful, piercing through-ball by Barkley and tucked the ball into the corner of the next to light up a very dull 45 minutes.Kane wasted another opportunity just after the break when Adam Lallana’s well struck free kick was pushed directly into the Tottenham striker’s path but he dallied on it and Estonia managed to clear.Barkley was next to try as he escaped a flock of defenders with an exquisite piece of skill before flashing his shot just wide of the goal.However, after that bright start to the second half, normal service was resumed as England continued to struggle to break down Estonia and create anything clear-cut.Barkley was the only one able to get the Wembley crowd off their feet and he did it again with another lovely display of quick-feet to weave through two defenders but he was thwarted by a tremendous save by Mihkel Aksalu.Sterling got the second in the 85th minute after England resorted to route one tactics, when Kane flicked on to Vardy – who had only been on the pitch for two minutes – before the Leicester man squared across goal to his Manchester City counterpart.Despite the performance, it was job done for England who maintained their 100 per cent record in Group E ahead of Monday’s trip to Lithuania.
Jerome Champagne 1 Jerome Champagne has announced his decision to run for the FIFA presidency, saying the events of recent months have renewed his determination.The Frenchman tried to run against suspended incumbent Sepp Blatter at the last election in May, but was not nominated.However, after the recent collapse of FIFA’s structure – which has seen Blatter and UEFA president Michel Platini suspended pending an investigation into a £1.35million payment to Platini – Champagne has put himself back in the running.His announcement comes ahead of Monday’s deadline for the February 26 vote and he joins Platini (subject to his suspension being lifted prior to February’s vote), Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, former Trinidad and Tobago player David Nakhid and Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman al-Khalifa in standing.In a statement released on his website, former diplomat Champagne said the corruption scandal that has engulfed FIFA helped him decide to run.He wrote: “At a time when FIFA, our FIFA, needs more than ever an open debate about its future, its reform and the reform of football, we are witnessing the first months of the electoral campaign being dominated by controversy and deals made behind closed doors.”Champagne has also called for all candidates to take part in a series of televised debates and says he will commit to achieving eight goals over the next four years, if elected.The goals include: “Continuing what has been done well over the past 40 years”, “applying the highest standard of transparency and ethics” and “modernising the FIFA administration”.To aid those goals, Champagne adds in his seven-page manifesto that he would publish the salaries and benefits of FIFA executives in an annual report.Champagne has worked for FIFA before, serving the governing body between 1999 and 2010. He worked as an advisor to Blatter from 1999 to 2002 before holding the positions of deputy secretary general, delegate of the president and director of international relations.Since leaving the governing body he has occupied a number of advisory roles with various football federations and clubs.His announcement comes on the day footballers’ union FIFPro published four “vital criteria” it believes the next FIFA president must meet if the game’s governing body is to repair its reputation.The global body has said Blatter’s replacement must meet certain standards if football is to “climb out of the toxic pit which continues to produce serious accusations of corrupt behaviour on almost a daily basis”.FIFPro said the new FIFA president must have a proven capacity to drive reform of a democratic and politically complex global body; a governance record; a human rights record; and an understanding of the game as a sport and business.Salman’s potential candidacy would not be without controversy, given a number of questions he faces about human rights abuses in his native Bahrain, specifically related to the pro-democracy uprising in 2011. Salman has denied the allegations.FIFPro’s statement said the new FIFA president must be able to show “a body of work based on social wellbeing, fairness, democratic values on human rights”.“The future leader of FIFA has to be a proven reformer, an impeccable figure who passes the most stringent integrity tests (underpinned by the highest standards of ethical behaviour and honesty), carried out independently, possibly by more than one external body,” the statement said.
Stephan El Shaarawy, linked to Arsenal and Liverpool, will sign for Monaco permanently at the end of the season.The Italy international joined the French club on loan in the summer from AC Milan after growing restless at the Serie A side.Now, according to Tuttosport, that move is set to be made permanent at the end of the season after El Shaarawy triggered a clause in his contract.The 22-year-old has now played over 10 times for Monaco and as such they are obliged to complete a deal at the end of the season.The Ligue 1 side will reportedly pay Milan around £10m for the player. 1 Stephan El Shaarawy
Borussia Dortmund playmaker Ilkay Gundogan 1 Juventus are ready to make their move for Liverpool target Ilkay Gundogan this January.The 25-year-old Borussia Dortmund star has been heavily linked with an Anfield switch ever since his former manager Jurgen Klopp took over at the Merseyside club.Manchester United and Arsenal have also tracked him in the past but Gundogan has this week insisted he is happy at Dortmund.But, according to reports in Italy, Juventus still hope to tempt the midfielder to Serie A and reckon a £14m bid will be enough to prise him from Dortmund.However, it is understood the German club are holding out for closer to £20m and are unlikely to do business for anything less than £17.5m when the window opens.
1 Leicester City are preparing a January move for Caen striker Andy Delort.The 24-year-old only joined the Ligue 1 side in the summer after a disappointing spell with Wigan Athletic.Delort joined the Latics for £3m in the summer of 2014, but he failed to settle and headed back to France after just 12 months.Since returning, the forward has been in fine form and he already has six league goals to his name this term.That, according to Foot 365, has attracted interest from Leicester and they are now ready to make a move during the January transfer window.Aston Villa and QPR are also said to be keen on the former France under-20 international. Andy Delort