We entered the international break after witnessing a classic 4-4 draw between Chelsea and Manchester City. We re-join the Premier League title race on Saturday with a mouth-watering tie between City and Liverpool. It’s the Haaland v Salah show. Liverpool are rejuvenated and Jurgen Klopp’s men have rediscovered their winning ways and they are confident of going to the Etihad stadium and beating the champions.
Add that tantalising battle to the fact that Arsenal, Tottenham and Aston Villa are within three points of the top two and each of those five teams have scored an average of two goals per game – 370 in 120 games – and the entertainment value is sky high.
Liverpool’s toughest test of the season awaits them on Saturday when they travel to Manchester City. The Reds are currently 2nd in the table and City are top, just 1pt ahead.
Jurgen Klopp has already complained to the FA about a 12.30pm kick-off (UK time). Both Klopp and Pep Guardiola are worried about their players being jet-lagged and tired after playing in World Cup qualifiers this week but their pleas fell on deaf ears.
Guardiola had 15 players called up for international duty this month and Klopp was missing 18 players (including the Under-21 internationals). Another factor in City’s favour is that only Josko Gvardiol (Croatia), Manuel Akanji (Switzerland) and Julian Alvarez (Argentina) were playing on the final World Cup qualifying date of Tuesday 21st November. Liverpool, in contrast, had 10 of their 16 internationals playing on the last possible dates and because of the time difference Alisson Becker and Alexis Mac Allister did not finish their games until early Wednesday morning and then had to fly back to the UK.
Now, I am not accusing anyone of feigning injury but it was pointed out to me that many of City’s top players did not participate in the World Cup qualifiers because of injuries…for instance, we all know about Kevin De Bruyne, John Stones and Nathan Ake who had pre-tournament injuries however Ederson, Mateo Kovacic and Matheus Nunes all pulled out of the competition and did not travel and Erling Haaland and Rodri returned to the Etihad early because of injury. You might therefore think it suspicious if any of them miraculously return to fitness in time to face Liverpool.
After a 10pt deduction Everton could face further problems
I have learned this week that Leeds, Burnley, Leicester City and Nottingham Forest could pile on the misery for Everton by seeking compensation relating to the Toffee’s financial irregularities. Those clubs want answers as to whether or not Everton enjoyed an advantage by overspending in transfer fees.
More than 2,000 fans and members of the Everton 1878s organisation have donated money to help the club fight the harshest punishment ever handed out to a club for breaking FA financial rules. Clubs are not allowed to lose more than £105 million and Everton are alleged to have lost approximately £20million more than that in 2020/21. Although the ten point penalty has already meant an immediate deduction it could take all season for the appeal’s panel to reach a decision.
Coach Sean Dyche has hauled his Everton team off the bottom of the table and was heading upwards however the huge ten point deduction sees them dumped back in the relegation zone alongside Burnley with just 4 points.
Everton are claiming the deduction of 10 points is disproportionate for the offence but admit they should not avoid punishment.
Onana fit to face Everton
News from inside Old Trafford is that Andre Onana will be fit for United’s trip to Everton on Sunday. He suffered a painful back injury on international duty with Cameroon in their 3-0 win over Mauritius. He has now returned to Manchester and missed Cameroon’s World Cup qualifying match against Libya. After a somewhat unconvincing start at United when many fans said the club should have retained David De Gea, Onana has improved considerably and the 27-year-old has four clean sheets in the Premier League and sits joint second behind Newcastle’s Nick Pope on a save percentage of 76.7%.
Jesus and Odegaard almost ready to go
Good news for Arsenal fans. Striker Gabriel Jesus trained with Brazil earlier in the week. Brazil scanned his injured hamstring on arriving in Rio de Janiero and Mikel Arteta was glued to his phone to monitor Gabriel’s progress hoping the injury would not be aggravated.
Arteta is also expecting to have captain Martin Odegaard available and he should be ready to face Brentford this weekend. He was left out of the Norway squad after being hit in the face during training at Arsenal. After missing the games against Newcastle and Sevilla he is hoping to return.
Verane likely to be sold next summer
News has reached me that Manchester United defender Raphael Verane is likely to be offered for sale next summer.
He has become injury prone and after a spell out of the team is finding it difficult to get his place back due to the excellent form of Harry Maguire. My sources tell me that Verane is not a happy man at the moment and has become unsettled sitting on the sidelines. He is on wages of £340k a week which makes him the highest paid player at United. Verane is 30 years-of-age now and United want to cut their wage bill. With two years left on his contract the club could save £30 million. The Saudi Pro League are bound to be interested given their current strategy is to buy as much of Europe’s top talent as possible.
Diaz family fly in for Christmas
The most heart-warming story for some time ended in an emotional success in Barranquilla last week. Luis Diaz scored twice in three minutes to lead Columbia over their mighty rivals Brazil. Watching from the stands was Diaz’s father Luis Manuel Diaz who had been held hostage in a kidnapping for 12 days. He was overcome with emotion. Liverpool gave the family their biggest early Christmas present and flew them over by private jet to Merseyside so that Luis could spend time with them.
Nkunku approaches debut start for Chelsea
Chelsea are determined that they will not rush Christopher Nkunku back into action after he underwent knee surgery after being injured pre-season. I have been told from the Cobham training ground that Nkunku is now closing in on a return to action and has been out training on grass and he is keen to play against Newcastle on Saturday. Chelsea’s medical staff are being very cautious before letting the striker take the field for his first competitive game for the club. The Blues face Brighton, Manchester City and Everton during a seven day period at the start of December and they will need Nkunku and a full strength squad.
Bruno pledges loyalty to United
I have checked on the situation regarding rumours and reports that Manchester United captain Bruno Fernandes’ agent is talking to the Saudi Pro League about a possible lucrative move. Bruno says the rumours are not true and he is not looking to move. He commented, “I don’t look at rumours. I am focusing on Manchester United. Today it’s easy to spread rumours in the press but I prefer to concentrate on my goals.”
*Bruno has also spoken about his desire for the Reds to sign Portuguese Benfica midfielder Joao Neves who is regularly impressing in Primeira Liga. United’s scouts have watched him over several months. However, across Manchester at City another national teammate of Neves is trying to get his club involved. Bernardo Silva is also an admirer of Neves and feels he should join City and not United and has vowed to use his influence in Portugal to give the light Blues the edge in any negotiations and to secure a move to the Etihad.