Transfer sagas reach Premier League fever pitch

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte (Reuters)
Updated 18 August 2017
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Transfer sagas reach Premier League fever pitch

LONDON: With the transfer window due to close in two weeks, the pressure is mounting on Premier League clubs to get their business done in time, and not everyone is enjoying the process.
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has grumbled about the champions’ failure to meet his transfer expectations, Tottenham have yet to make a single signing and Liverpool are in a tense stand-off with Philippe Coutinho after Barcelona’s attempt to land the Reds star.

Despite spending £130 million on Alvaro Morata, Antonio Rudiger and Tiemoue Bakayoko since masterminding Chelsea’s title triumph, Conte remains miffed Manchester United chief Jose Mourinho won the race for Romelu Lukaku, while Leonardo Bonucci and Alex Sandro also eluded him. Those miscues, combined with the departures of Nemanja Matic, John Terry and Nathan Ake, have left Chelsea short of quality understudies. Conte, who has also cast striker Diego Costa into exile, heads into Sunday’s clash at Tottenham without Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas following their dismissals in last weekend’s shock defeat against Burnley.

A quick glance at the scoreline from Tottenham’s 2-0 victory at Newcastle last Sunday suggested all is well with Mauricio Pochettino’s side. But the costly redevelopment of White Hart Lane has forced Tottenham to be cautious with their spending. And after Tottenham left-back Danny Rose criticized his club’s failure to sign enough marquee names, Pochettino added to concerns over the transfer impasse when he admitted he needs fresh faces to maintain the momentum from last season’s second place finish. Tottenham start their temporary stay at Wembley with a visit from Chelsea, who beat them there in last season’s FA Cup semifinals.

Liverpool have found an already demanding start to the season marred by a tug-of-war with Barcelona over Coutinho. Ignoring Coutinho’s transfer request, Liverpool’s American owners have dug their heels in, insisting the Brazil forward isn’t for sale at any price. With Coutinho sidelined by a back injury, Liverpool have had a glimpse of life without their prize asset and the early returns have been mixed. A victory over Crystal Palace on Saturday would be a timely boost to Liverpool’s belief in their principled stance.

Fortified by the British record £75 million fee received from United for Lukaku, Everton manager Ronald Koeman has embarked on the kind of spending spree never before seen at Goodison Park. By the time Koeman shattered his club’s transfer record with the £45 million capture of Swansea playmaker Gylfi Sigurdsson on Wednesday, the Dutchman had splashed out £140 million in a bid to make Everton top four contenders. Yet some cynics have noted Koeman’s signings, also including Wayne Rooney and Davey Klaassen, lack the one thing they really need after Lukaku’s exit — a top-class striker in his prime.

When Mourinho laid out his plans for a twin assault on the Premier League and Champions League, he handed United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward a list of four positions he believed must be strengthened. Lukaku, Victor Lindelof and Nemanja Matic have arrived for a combined cost of £140 million, but Mourinho’s wish for a penetrating winger may have to wait until January. With Woodward unable to prise Ivan Perisic from Inter Milan and Gareth Bale still committed to Real Madrid, Mourinho has reportedly opted to keep his powder dry. Lukaku’s debut brace in a 4-0 demolition of West Ham was encouraging for Mourinho, who takes his team to Swansea on Saturday.

Fixtures (1400 GMT unless stated):
Saturday
Bournemouth v Watford, Burnley v West Brom, Leicester v Brighton, Liverpool v Crystal Palace, Southampton v West Ham, Stoke v Arsenal (1630), Swansea v Manchester United (1130)

Sunday
Huddersfield v Newcastle (1230), Tottenham v Chelsea (1500)

Monday
Manchester City v Everton (1900)


World Cup boost for Egypt as Mohamed Salah ‘is ready to play against Russia’

Updated 12 min 26 sec ago
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World Cup boost for Egypt as Mohamed Salah ‘is ready to play against Russia’

  • Liverpool star took part in full training
  • Egypt team manager says Salah is poised to make his World Cup bow

ST. PETERSBURG: Mohamed Salah is a looming obstacle as Russia attempt to virtually secure their place in the knockout stages of the World Cup in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday.
Fears that poor performances from the home side could dampen enthusiasm in the host nation were blown away by a 5-0 demolition of Saudi Arabia in the opening game.
The seven-time African champions will pose a much tougher task, but a lot will depend upon Salah's fitness.
Liverpool star Salah has not featured since leaving the field in tears early in the Champions League final just over three weeks ago after landing heavily on his left shoulder and had to watch from the bench as Egypt lost 1-0 to Uruguay in their opening game.
Salah has been declared 100 percent fit by Egypt's team doctor and his agent, leaving little doubt he will be thrown back into action in the Pharaohs' hour of need.
However, as he returned to training on Saturday, Salah was seen by AFP reporters at Egypt's training camp in Grozny needing help from teammates to lift a training top over his head.
"Salah participated in training with his teammates for the entire session and he is ready to play against Russia according to technical staff," Egypt's team manager Ihab Leheta told FIFA.com.
Egypt coach Hector Cuper's decision not to risk Salah against Uruguay may have been influenced by the fact his side held out for 89 minutes before conceding to Jose Gimenez, by which time the Argentine had made all three of his substitutions.
"Russia's game is fateful and difficult because of our defeat against Uruguay," said Leheta. "Winning is our only choice".
If fully fit, the sight of Salah, who scored 44 goals in a remarkable debut season at Liverpool, will strike fear into the Russians.
Concerns Russia could become just the second host nation to bow out of the World Cup at the group stage after a seven-game winless run ahead of the tournament have been alleviated by a perfect start.
With Uruguay favourites to top the group, though, Russia are keen not to have to rely on getting something from their final group game against the two-time former world champions.
"The second game will be our most important one in the group stage," said Russia's deputy prime minister and former football federation president Vitaly Mutko after attending Russia's training session on Sunday.
A close ally of President Vladimir Putin, Mutko oversaw preparations for the tournament at a cost of more than $13 billion.
"In the first match, everyone saw how much the players cared. If we play up to our level, I don't see any problems."
Denis Cheryshev was Russia's hero against Saudi Arabia as he came off the bench to score twice.
And the Villarreal winger accepted it will be a more "interesting" clash if Salah is fit.
"If he's not there, does that mean our task becomes easy? Not at all," he told FIFA.com "If he plays, it will be hard but more interesting. He's one of the best and you always want to compete with the best and win."
Russia will be without one of their key players, with Alan Dzagoev expected to miss the rest of the tournament with a hamstring injury.