Liverpool’s backup defender Ragnar Klavan has admitted that he doubts himself, which Jurgen Klopp once said held him back from being a great centre-back.
Eric Bailly is facing a race against time to recover full fitness in time for Manchester United’s trip to Sevilla in the Champions League on February 21, according to reports.
The defender has been absent from the squad since the November international break and underwent ankle surgery in December after conservative treatment failed to solve his problem.
Reports last month suggested that Bailly was ahead of schedule and in contention to recover in time for the last 16 clash at the Estadio Sanchez Pizjuan.
But according to ESPN‘s Mark Ogden, the meeting with Sevilla could come a week too soon for the defender, who continues to work on his fitness at Carrington away from the first team squad.
Jose Mourinho confirmed last week that Bailly, unlike Zlatan Ibrahimovic, hadn’t returned to training with the first team squad just yet, and with the clash coming in just a week’s time you would be surprised to see the Ivorian in the starting XI.
That said, his return is edging closer and supporters will be extremely glad to see him take the place of Chris Smalling, who bore the brunt of criticism from supporters following the 1-0 defeat to Newcastle following a truly reckless defensive display.
Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta has this this evening been absolutely lauded online, following his brilliant showing during the Blues’ 3-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion.
The two sides went head to head at Stamford Bridge, with Antonio Conte’s men desperate for all 3 points following a dismal run of form which saw the Blues fall to consecutive 3-goal defeats at the hands of Bournemouth and Watford.
West Brom, meanwhile, had fallen to defeats in their last 2 Premier League outings, the latter of which came in hugely disappointing fashion at home to fellow strugglers Southampton.
Ahead of tonight, the Baggies sat rock bottom of the English top-flight table, a full 5 points behind 19th-placed Stoke City.
The lineups for tonight’s crucial matchup were announced an hour prior to kick-off, with a number of notable inclusions and absences for hosts Chelsea.
Andreas Christensen returned to the heart of the Blues’ defence following a spell on the sidelines, while Olivier Giroud earned his first start for the Premier League champions up front.
Cesc Fabregas was also included from the start, stepping in for the suspended Tiemoue Bakayoko, while Alvaro Morata was fit enough for a place on the Chelsea bench.
However, Marcos Alonso was a notable absentee, with the Spaniard having been a surprise late scratch from the Blues’ squad for their clash with Watford last week as a ‘precautionary measure’.
Team to face WBA: Courtois; Azpilicueta (c), Christensen, Rudiger; Moses, Kante, Fabregas, Zappacosta; Pedro, Giroud, Hazard.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) February 12, 2018
West Brom boss Alan Pardew, meanwhile, opted for the following, with Daniel Sturridge joining Salomon Rondon in a dangerous-looking forward line for the Baggies:
— West Bromwich Albion (@WBA) February 12, 2018
However, in a massive blow for the visitors with just 2 minutes on the clock, Danny Sturridge went to ground clutching his hamstring following an innocuous challenge from Cesar Azpilicueta, with the 28-year-old eventually succumbing to the problem and making his way down the Stamford Bridge tunnel with frustration etched across his face.
Following a shaky opening quarter of an hour for Chelsea, the Blues began to take firm control of proceedings as the half wore on, with Eden Hazard looking particularly dangerous.
And it was the brilliant Belgian who went on to break the deadlock with 25 minutes on the clock, playing a neat one-two with Olivier Giroud on the edge of the West Brom box before rifling home a perfect finish into the bottom-left corner of Ben Foster’s goal.
The second-half saw the home side maintain their dominance, with Victor Moses handing the Premier League champions a deserved second after Cesc Fabregas’ pass landed fortuitously at the feet of the Nigerian inside the West Brom box.
And Eden Hazard soon put the game firmly to bed with his brace and Chelsea’s 3rd of the night, picking up the ball on the right corner of the Baggies’ box before cutting inside and drilling a wonderful finish with his left foot past the wrong-footed Ben Foster.
While it was Man of the Match Hazard who understandably took the majority of the plaudits following the full-time whistle this evening, another of Chelsea’s stars came in for just as much praise online, following his own stellar showing.
The player in question was Cesar Azpilicueta, who played a captain’s role for Antonio Conte’s men throughout the 90 minutes tonight with typically no-nonsense defending, perfect positioning, flawless distribution and improving leadership qualities.
Check out the best of the social media reaction to ‘Azpi”s brilliant performance below:
Azpilicueta is the best defender in the league by far. Underrated!
— #TeamLH44 (@Nadal_LH_Fan) February 12, 2018
Azpilicueta is the best defender in the Prem
— Sam Jennings (@Sam_Jennings1) February 12, 2018
Azpilicueta best defender in the league.
— Kyle (@KyleRoberts_CFC) February 12, 2018
Azpilicueta has gotta be the best defender in the league, majorly for his consistent top performances. But quite underrated
— Sir_MOH (@Ola_Muhammed) February 12, 2018
Azpilicueta is arguably the best defender in EPL
— #GET (@YorubaMontana) February 12, 2018
Azpilicueta is the best defender in the league don’t fucking @ meeee
— Shad (@shadhoner) February 12, 2018
Azpilicueta, best defender in the league 100% #cfc
— abu okhai (@abuokhai) February 12, 2018
Azpilicueta is the best defender since Prime Terry
— Jamie (@LegendJohnTerry) February 12, 2018
Azpilicueta is the best defender in the league by a mile
— George (@GKilloughery) February 12, 2018
Arsene Wenger blasts former Arsenal defender after derby defeat – originally posted on Sportslens.com
Arsene Wenger has hit back at Martin Keown’s criticism of Arsenal’s defence.
The former Gunners centre-back blasted Arsenal’s defensive performance as they lost the north London derby against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley on Saturday.
Wenger admitted the result was a huge blow to his team’s hopes of securing a top four finish in the Premier League, but he was unhappy with Keown’s suggestion that his team lacked the fight to deal with Spurs’ striker Harry Kane.
“I don’t think they lack hunger to defend,” said Wenger.
“They got caught by a super striker who is one of the best in the world. He scores against everybody.
“All the defenders in the world must lack hunger then.”
The 1-0 defeat left Arsenal sixth in the table, six points behind fourth-placed Liverpool who have a game in hand. The Gunners’ best hope of qualifying for next season’s Champions League is likely to be by winning the Europa League, but Wenger insists his team will keep fighting.
“The top four is difficult now as this is a game we could not afford to lose, but it’s too early (to focus on winning the Europa League),” he added.
“Football is not about switching off for three games and then switching it on for one game.
“Manchester United decided that once they were in the semi-final to focus on Europa League (last season).
“We are far from the semi-final and we have to fight to have a chance to come back.
“For me, it’s a very disappointing result because the priority has to be to get into the Champions League from the Premier League.
“I’m not a great fan of qualifying through the Europa League because I don’t think it’s right.
“If it’s an opportunity, we’ll have to try to take it as well. The priority is still to be in the Premier League.”
Manchester United are interested in bringing England international Harry Maguire to the club in summer after a fantastic first season at Leicester City.
The Foxes were ridiculed for spending £17m on the central defender last summer, but his form this season at the King Power Stadium has seen him work his way into Garet Southgate’s England starting line-up, with a place in the Three Lions’ FIFA 2018 World Cup squad now looking probable.
The Mirror suggest that Maguire is now of interest to both Man United and local title rivals Manchester City.
Leicester fans have hailed Maguire for his ball-playing abilities and contributions in the opposition’s penalty area. United fans will now that all too well after Maguire scored a late equaliser in a 2-2 draw during the festive period at the King Power to deny Jose Mourinho’s side the full three points.
In terms of English players, Maguire has been one of the best in the Premier League this season. Despite playing in defence, he has more successful dribbles than Dele Alli and Jamie Vardy, and has netted twice with four assists, too.
Both Manchester clubs are reportedly tracking his progress, though United could have the upper hand after Man City’s business with Ryad Mahrez, which saw the Algerian hand in a transfer request on Deadline Day in January before City pulled out of the deal, unsettling the player and the team.
Any deal would likely be around £50m. Is that worth United’s investment? Maguire is 24, but there will certainly be a feeling that the Reds could do better.
As a Marine general, John F. Kelly was used to defending subordinates. Standing up for a White House aide accused of abuse has raised the specter of his own resignation.
Done deal: Ex-Tottenham and Liverpool defender makes shock move – originally posted on Sportslens.com
Former Tottenham Hotspur defender Steven Caulker has joined Dundee on an 18-month deal, the Scottish Premiership club have confirmed. The 26-year-old left Queens Park Rangers in December by mutual consent, having made 54 appearances for the Londoners.
The news comes as a shock given he’s spent his entire playing career in England, the majority of which has been in the Premier League and Championship, but Dundee convinced him to go to Scotland until the summer of 2019.
— Dundee Football Club (@dundeefconline) February 8, 2018
Caulker will wear the number 4 shirt at Dundee and trained with his new teammates today. The centre-back will bring a wealth of experience to Dens Park, having played for Tottenham, Yeovil, Bristol City, Swansea City, Cardiff City, QPR, Southampton and Liverpool, while being an England international.
He’s had his troubles with mental illness, gambling and drinking which hampered his playing career, but his move to Dundee could be provide a fresh start. Caulker could make his debut for the Premiership outfit against Motherwell in Saturday’s Scottish Cup fifth-round clash.
The defender started out at Tottenham, making 29 appearances in all competitions, and he’s led a nomadic career ever since. Caulker had a big opportunity to join Liverpool on a permanent deal after a shock loan move in 2016, but he made just four appearances for the Merseysiders before leaving.
Stats from Transfermarkt.
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Steve Nicol admits he is bemused by Jurgen Klopp’s thinking behind his centre-back selection process at Liverpool.
Deal signed: Defender snubs Liverpool for Atletico Madrid – originally posted on Sportslens.com
Liverpool have been dealt a blow, with Atletico Madrid defender Sime Vrsaljko turning down their interest to sign a new deal at the Wanda Metropolitano, the La Liga side confirmed.
— Atlético de Madrid (@Atleti) February 5, 2018
The 26-year-old, who joined from Sassuolo in 2015, has put pen to paper on a contract extension keeping him at Atleti until 2021. Vrsaljko has made 39 appearances for the Rojiblancos in all competitions under Diego Simeone and has earned a lengthy stay as a result of his performances.
Formerly of NK Zadar Jugend, GNK Dinamo Zagreb, NK Lokomotiva Zagreb and Genoa, the Croatian international was linked with a move away from Atleti earlier in the season but played down exit talk amid rumours that Liverpool were going to lodge a bid for his signature.
But now his three-year deal signed with Atleti should rule out any immediate change to his situation, meaning Liverpool will have to shop elsewhere for a right-back. Vrsaljko hasn’t been a regular in the defence, making only 14 Liga appearances in 2016/17 and 10 this season, but injuries can be blamed for the sporadic nature of his gametime.
He’ll be hoping to put such issues behind him to nail down a spot in the first-team for the long-term, although veteran defender Juanfran won’t be an easy player to dislodge.
Stats from Transfermarkt.
Done deal: World-class defender makes Premier League return – originally posted on Sportslens.com
West Ham have confirmed the signing of Patrice Evra, with the French international signing a short-term deal until the end of the season.
The world-class 36-year-old returns to the Premier League where he won five titles in an eight-year stay at Manchester United. His final season at the club saw him play under David Moyes, whom he’s now reunited with at West Ham, and will bring even more experience to an already aged backline.
— West Ham United (@WestHamUtd) February 7, 2018
Evra has been a free agent for three months after being sacked by Olympique Marseille for assaulting a supporter whom he believes was abusing him. And now he’s passed a medical in London, the veteran left-back has been announced a Hammer and could make his debut against Watford on Saturday.
“I’m really happy to be a Hammer, to be back in the Premier League and I love this game! It’s amazing to be back and I am thankful to West Ham for giving me the opportunity to do my job,” he said.
“When I wake up and know I am going to work hard, to have fun with my teammates and give my best on the pitch, I want to say a massive thanks to West Ham, to the Chairman, to the manager to all my teammates, who have given me a nice welcome, my agent and my brother.
“I’m just happy to be here, it’s really simple. You don’t realise how lucky you are and just to wake up this morning and know I am going to train with my new teammates made me smile!”
Having left the Premier League in 2014, the defender joined Juventus and won three consecutive Serie A titles and two Coppa Italias before his return to France. His time didn’t go to well at the Orange Vélodrome, but he’ll be hoping for a more successful spell in London.
West Ham have competition for starting places, however, with Aaron Cresswell and Arthur Masuaku both vying for a spot at left-back, but Evra’s contributions may well be off the pitch not just on it. His experience could be invaluable to United, and the chance for Moyes to bring in a serial winner for free was clearly too good to pass down.
Stats from Transfermarkt.