Newcastle United score injury boost ahead of return to Premier League

Bruno Guimaraes (L), Alexander Isak (R, top) and Allan Saint-Maximin are all available for selection. (AFP)
Bruno Guimaraes (L), Alexander Isak (R, top) and Allan Saint-Maximin are all available for selection. (AFP)
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Updated 30 September 2022

Newcastle United score injury boost ahead of return to Premier League

Newcastle United score injury boost ahead of return to Premier League
  • Four players rated as doubts likely to return to the field

 

NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe has revealed Newcastle United have received a quadruple injury boost ahead of their return to Premier League action against Fulham this weekend.

The Magpies travel to Craven Cottage on Saturday looking to record only their second top-flight win of the campaign — and will likely do so with four players who were rated as doubts within their ranks.

It is fair to say the international break has been one of worries and concerns on the injury front for head coach Howe, with strikers Alexander Isak and Chris Wood as well as Bruno Guimaraes all sent home early from national duty due to knocks.

However, where the situation once seemed grim, according to Howe, the outlook is now brightening with Callum Wilson, Elliot Anderson and Guimaraes all fit to start against the Cottagers. In a further boost, Allan Saint-Maximin, missing since August, is also understood to be close to a return to the squad, while Isak’s injury, picked up while with Sweden, is not thought to be serious.

“When the doctor was calling me, I didn’t want to take his calls anymore,” joked Howe from United’s Benton training base on Friday.

“It was a stressful period for three or four days, but thankfully it’s maybe not as bad as it first appeared.”

On Wilson, Howe said: “He’s trained for around 10 days with us now. He’s in a good place. Every time he comes back from an injury I’d say he does the work and doesn’t cut corners. He’s had a really long body of work with the sports science team and then trained with us. He looked good.

“It’ll be a huge boost for the players to have Callum in the group with his positive energy and laughter that he brings. He’s a big player for us. And with Alex picking up his injury as well, it was perfect timing for us.”

Guimaraes, too, who has missed two Brazil friendlies in France in the past seven days as a result of a thigh problem, is understood to be fit to play from the off in southwest London.

“Bruno has trained with us. I had a couple of difficult calls during the international break to say players had various things happen to various players,” Howe said.

“We were concerned for Bruno but he’s come back and the scan was good. He’s trained, and trained well. Obviously slightly disrupted for him because these two weeks were really important in terms of his training and getting his match sharpness back, but he’s physically fine. He’s in the squad.”

Fellow United talisman Saint-Maximin has been unavailable for selection due to a hamstring injury since the 1-1 draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers in August.

And while he is yet to return to full training with the squad, Howe says that Saint-Maximin has a chance.

“Yeah, he’s doing well,” he said when asked about the player.

“He’s had a period away and come back. He’s close, very close. It’s how we view things.

“There are a lot of moving parts with us at the moment. I’m being vague because there are a lot of player situations that are slightly unclear as we go into the game. Allan will be one of them.”

While Anderson has also managed to shake off a slight knock and will likely make the bench, two players who are unlikely to do so are Isak and Wood. But their problems are not likely to keep them out for too long, according to Howe.

On record signing Isak, Howe said: “He picked up an injury training for Sweden, so he’s come back. The scan doesn’t look too bad so we’re not overly concerned it’s a long injury, but with any muscle injury there’s always a slight period where you have to be careful.

“He’s out running on grass so he’s looking good at the moment.

“Chris Wood came off with a rib problem. He took a knock in the game. Again, that’s another player we’ll make a very late decision on.”

Meanwhile, the Magpies have completed their first signing of the January window, with highly rated Australian forward Garang Kuol putting pen to paper.

And Howe admits he is delighted to win the race for the player who was courted by the likes of Barcelona.

United are understood to have paid Central Coast Mariners about $400,000 for the Southern hemisphere star.

“I’m very excited,” said Howe about the deal.

“He’s a young player with huge potential. It’s a show from myself and the club on where we want to go in terms of signing young players and trying to develop them in our system for them to be Premier League players in the future. He’s had a dramatic rise and he’s in a position that excites everybody. There needs to be some patience shown.

“Touch wood we’ll look after him, go out on loan and develop behind the scenes. Hopefully when he comes here, he can play a part in our future.”

The Egyptian-born teenager made his senior debut at 17 in 2021 and rose to worldwide prominence when he played a starring role as the 2022 A-League All Stars team that took on Barcelona in front of more than 70,000 spectators in Sydney earlier this year.

Kuol made his Australia debut against New Zealand during the most recent international break.

After making the move, Kuol said: “It’s unreal. As a young boy in Australia, the Premier League is the main thing that everyone watches but nobody actually thinks they’ll reach those heights. To be one of those people, to be in the position I am, it’s amazing.

“Now that I’ve signed for Newcastle, I want to train hard, play hard, hopefully go to the World Cup and come back here.”

The United executive who was instrumental in securing the transfer, sporting director Dan Ashworth, explained the signing and the club’s new philosophy.

Ashworth said: “Garang is a very promising young talent and we are excited that he’ll be continuing his development as a Newcastle United player.

“Our philosophy is to invest in our academy and in exciting young players for the future, as well as in players required to make an immediate impact in the first team.

“We wish Garang the best of luck in his remaining games with Central Coast Mariners and we hope to see him on the international stage again very soon.”


Shootout masters Croatia end Brazil’s hopes of sixth World Cup

Shootout masters Croatia end Brazil’s hopes of sixth World Cup
Updated 09 December 2022

Shootout masters Croatia end Brazil’s hopes of sixth World Cup

Shootout masters Croatia end Brazil’s hopes of sixth World Cup
  • Neymar looked to have kept Brazil's hopes of a sixth World Cup title alive by starting and finishing a brilliant effort in extra time
  • But he was left distraught and sobbing after Brazil lost a shootout

DOHA: Croatia stunned Brazil in a dramatic penalty shootout on Friday to reach the semifinals of the World Cup after Marquinhos slammed the decisive kick against the post.
Neymar looked to have kept Brazil’s hopes of a sixth World Cup title alive by starting and finishing a brilliant effort in extra time that equalled Pele’s international scoring record of 77 goals.
But he was left distraught and sobbing after Brazil lost a shootout that was triggered when Bruno Petkovic popped up to make it 1-1 at the end of extra time.
Neymar’s individual flash of brilliance had lit up a tense and often niggly game that finished goalless in normal time, Croatia’s man-of-the-match goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic pulling off a series of stunning blocks to keep the Brazilians at bay.
But as the minutes of extra time ticked down at the Education City Stadium, Petkovic popped up to connect with a cross and his deflected shot found its way into the net past the outstretched arm of Brazil ‘keeper Alisson.
If Brazil were rocked by the late equalizer, worse was to come in a series of nerve-shredding spot kicks.
The tone was set when Nikola Vlasic slammed the opening penalty down the middle and into the net, before Livakovic tipped away Rodrygo’s first effort for Brazil.
In the end it came down to Paris Saint-Germain center-back Marquinhos who strode up confidently, but saw his kick rebound off the post to give Croatia a 4-2 win in the shootout and a place in the last four for the second World Cup in a row.
As the Croatian players sprinted across the turf in joy, Marquinhos sank to his knees and Neymar was soon in tears, being consoled by veteran teammate Dani Alves.
Livakovic, who again played a huge role after his heroics against Japan, said: “We’re raised as fighters. We spare no effort — we’re always giving our best and that’s our recipe for success.”
The Croatian team coached by Zlatko Dalic followed up their win over Japan on penalties in the last round with this victory, which might well go down as their greatest ever triumph.
Brazil will have to wait at least another four years for that sixth title — by 2026 it will be 24 years since they last won it.
Instead of a blockbuster South American semifinal between Brazil and Argentina, it is Croatia who will face the winners of the clash later Friday between Lionel Messi’s side and the Netherlands.
Seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi is hoping to end his wait for a World Cup after Argentina lost to Germany in the final eight years ago.
The Copa America holders go up against the Dutch at Lusail Stadium, the venue for the December 18 final.
The two countries have met five times at the World Cup, including in the 1978 final, which Argentina won 3-1 after extra-time.
Attention switches on Saturday to the heavyweight clash between defending champions France and England.
France captain Hugo Lloris said the rivalry between the two countries was special.
“These are two great football nations and the rivalry between us also exists in other sports like rugby,” he said on Friday.
“When you get to such a high level these are great battles. At an event like the World Cup there is a special flavour to a France-England game. But we are preparing for a World Cup quarter-final, regardless of the opponent.”
England boss Gareth Southgate has vowed to go on the attack, despite the threat from the fleet-footed Kylian Mbappe, arguably the best player in the world.
“There is no point going into a game like this and just covering up and sitting on the ropes,” he told ITV. “We believe we can cause problems with the ball and we intend to do that.”
In the other game on Saturday, Morocco, in the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time, take on Portugal.
Portugal on Thursday denied reports that Cristiano Ronaldo threatened to quit the camp after he was benched for their 6-1 rout of Switzerland in the last 16.


Ronaldo, Portugal look to end Morocco’s World Cup run

Ronaldo, Portugal look to end Morocco’s World Cup run
Updated 09 December 2022

Ronaldo, Portugal look to end Morocco’s World Cup run

Ronaldo, Portugal look to end Morocco’s World Cup run
  • Ronaldo has again managed to steal the spotlight in his inimitable way
  • Will he start, or won’t he? That’s the big question being asked about Ronaldo

DOHA: These really are pinch-yourself times for Morocco: A first-ever spot in the quarterfinals of a World Cup — the first to take place in the Arab world, no less — and now a meeting with Portugal and their superstar striker, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Well, maybe.
Because Ronaldo has again managed to steal the spotlight in his inimitable way, even bumping Morocco’s historic run to the last eight off the top of the agenda before Saturday’s narrative-laden match.
Will he start, or won’t he? That’s the big question being asked about Ronaldo after he was dropped by Portugal coach Fernando Santos for the 6-1 win over Switzerland in the round of 16 on Tuesday.
Not only was the five-time world player of the year relegated to the bench, his replacement — 21-year-old Gonçalo Ramos — scored a hat trick to leave Santos with quite the selection dilemma against Morocco.
“I hope he won’t (play),” Morocco coach Walid Regragui said Friday of Ronaldo. “As a coach I know he’s one of the best players in history and so I’d be delighted if he didn’t play.”
The announcement of Portugal’s team about 90 minutes before the game at Al Thumama Stadium is keenly awaited as Ronaldo prepares to play in the quarterfinals of the World Cup for just the second time in his glittering career.
Santos declined to share selection thoughts Friday for what he said would be a different kind of game to the one against Switzerland, while noting that “90 percent of the questions” are about Ronaldo at Portugal’s pregame news conferences.
One inevitable question Santos faced was about reports in national media that Ronaldo threatened to leave the World Cup after being told he was benched. Not true, the coach said.
“He has never told me that he wanted to leave the national team,” Santos said through an interpreter. “Cristiano obviously wasn’t very happy about it. He told me ‘Do you really think it’s a good idea?’”
Portugal are at this stage for only the third time after 1966 and 2006, perhaps surprising given the talent to have come from the country down the years.
Four years ago, Portugal lost in the round of 16 to Uruguay, though a group-stage game against Morocco was “possibly the most difficult match” the team faced, Santos said Friday.
“We won 1-0 but we had to suffer a lot to win that match,” he said. “My players know that.”
As for Morocco, the nation is in uncharted territory after becoming only the fourth African country to reach the quarterfinals at soccer’s biggest tournament, after Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010). None of them reached the semifinals.
Morocco are also the only team from outside Europe or South America to make it to the last eight in Qatar.
The team’s penalty-shootout victory over Spain in the last 16 sparked wild celebrations not just among its many fans in Qatar and at home.
The excitement extended to the Moroccan diaspora of around 5 million people spread mostly around Europe, which has united behind the World Cup run of the team nicknamed the “Atlas Lions.”
Morocco fans poured into the streets of European cities to celebrate the team’s passage to the quarterfinals, which came after Morocco advanced from a group containing second-ranked Belgium and 2018 runner-up Croatia.
“We haven’t got carried away by the euphoria,” Regragui said. “We’ve just surprised a few people and surprised a few algorithms who expected Belgium to get through ... and expected Spain to get through. We are not satisfied with where we have come so far.”
Regragui, who was born in France, and 14 of the 26 players in the squad were born abroad — the highest proportion for any team at a World Cup being held in the Middle East for the first time in the tournament’s 92-year history.
The Arab world’s standard bearer, Morocco are in the quarterfinals on merit, too. The team have only conceded one goal — and that was an own-goal against Canada — and are proving so well-organized, with a sturdy back four headlined by Achraf Hakimi, a dedicated midfield anchored by Sofyan Amrabat, two mercurial wingers in Hakim Ziyech and Sofiane Boufal, and a striker in Youssef En-Nesyri, who occupies defenses with his relentless work rate.
Three key players might be struggling to be healthy enough to play against Portugal, though. Amrabat said he played with a back injury requiring painkilling injections in the match against Spain, during which captain Romain Saiss finished the game with his leg bandaged up after treatment, and fellow center back Nayef Aguerd hobbled off in tears with an apparent thigh injury.
“Yes, they are tired, yes, we have injuries. We are not going to hide it and we are not going to complain,” Regragui said. “We are here on a mission.”
Portugal doesn’t appear to have such problems, with Santos’ squad depth so impressive that he could afford to leave players like Ronaldo, João Cancelo and Rúben Neves on the bench against Switzerland after they started every group game.
Even if he is among the substitutes again, Ronaldo — playing in what is likely his last World Cup — is expected to see some time on the field. Given the drama constantly surrounding him, he’s sure to be a talking point whatever happens.


England out to stop World Cup’s ‘irresistible force’ Mbappé

England out to stop World Cup’s ‘irresistible force’ Mbappé
Updated 09 December 2022

England out to stop World Cup’s ‘irresistible force’ Mbappé

England out to stop World Cup’s ‘irresistible force’ Mbappé
  • Mbappé is the tournament’s leading scorer with five goals
  • He is widely considered the man to succeed Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as soccer’s biggest star

DOHA: England’s players have been asked one question on repeat as they prepare to face France in the World Cup quarterfinals on Saturday. How do you stop Kylian Mbappé?
Hardly surprising, given Mbappé is the tournament’s leading scorer with five goals and is widely considered the man to succeed Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as soccer’s biggest star.
“I’m sure England will have prepared to face Kylian,” France coach Didier Deschamps said at a news conference Friday. “But Kylian is in the position to make a difference.
“Kylian is Kylian and he always will be.”
There is no sense of France trying manage expectations of their star player, even as the hype surrounding him grows with each stellar performance in Qatar.
He has already scored one more goal than the four he managed as his country won the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
In the round of 16, he struck twice as the defending champions beat Poland 3-1, with two thunderous shots past goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.
“He cannot be compared to other players,” said teammate Dayot Upamecano.
“We all believe in Kylian,” added Youssouf Fofana.
Mbappé is being depicted as an unstoppable force in Qatar — something England defender Kyle Walker pushed back against this week.
“I don’t know how to say it even more: I feel he is a top player. I’m not underestimating that one bit, but we are not playing tennis, it’s not a solo sport,” he said after being faced with a series of questions about the Paris Saint-Germain striker.
But France’s players seem happy to feed the narrative that Mbappé is simply unstoppable.
“If he (Walker) can stop Kylian Mbappé, good for him,” added Fofana. “But 19 other teams in Ligue 1 have been waiting for the solution. The truth will come from the pitch.”
Walker will have the job of trying to limit the damage Mbappé can inflict on England’s defense at Al Bayt Stadium. But rather than merely trying to contain France’s biggest threat, discussion this week has been about how bold Three Lions coach Gareth Southgate is prepared to be in response.
England reached the semifinals in 2018 and the final of last year’s European Championships.
On both occasions Southgate was criticized for a cautious approach, even though England only lost on a penalty shootout to Italy at the Euros.
“I very much like Gareth. If I understand correctly, not everyone appreciates him so much in his own country,” noted Deschamps.
England lost 2-1 to Croatia four years ago and the shootout loss to Italy came after a 1-1 draw at Wembley.
England had taken the lead in both matches, and Southgate was accused of adopting defensive tactics to try to protect the lead.
His team has played with more freedom at this World Cup, with a more attacking style leading to 12 goals in four games to tie Portugal as leading scorers.
Southgate has opted to play with a back four in the tournament so far, but could switch to a five-man defense to try to cope with Mbappé.
“Nobody was complaining about us playing a five before we reached the Euros final,” said Walker. “I think it’s a bit harsh to judge him on what we’ve done previously. I think at this tournament we have been playing good attacking football and scoring a lot of goals.”
After coming close in their last two major tournaments, Walker believes England are ready to win this time around. Beating France, he says, would be evidence of that.
“It’s a great opportunity to put a stamp down and to say that we are a good team and we can achieve great things, and give us the belief that we can win this,” he said. “I’m not saying we don’t believe, but to beat a big team like that in a quarter-final, they’re the reigning world champions, that will give us great confidence — not arrogance but confidence.”


Newcastle boss happy to keep Loris Karius after Riyadh clean sheet

Newcastle boss happy to keep Loris Karius after Riyadh clean sheet
Updated 09 December 2022

Newcastle boss happy to keep Loris Karius after Riyadh clean sheet

Newcastle boss happy to keep Loris Karius after Riyadh clean sheet
  • Former Liverpool goalkeeper made his debut for Eddie Howe’s team in 5-0 friendly win over Al-Hilal on Thursday

RIYADH: Eddie Howe is determined to keep former Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius at Newcastle United.

The former Reds No. 1 only signed for the Magpies in September and made his debut for the Magpies in the 5-0 win over Al-Hilal at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium.

In an impressive 45 minutes — he was replaced by Mark Gillespie at the break — Karius made a string of goal-saving stops to keep a clean sheet.

Head coach Howe admits he was impressed by the impact of the former Champions League keeper, and he wants to secure the player on a longer term deal, with his current contract set to run out in January.

Howe said: “I think he did really well. We came under pressure in the first half and I thought he made some good saves.

“Since he’s been with us, he’s steadily improved. His distribution was very good, so a good night for him.

“I’d like him to stay but obviously the two parties have got to agree, so fingers crossed.

“I think he’s been a very calming influence. He’s a goalkeeper with a lot of experience.

“He’s trained well and is a very good character and very popular in the changing room: the lads have really taken to him.

“He’s a positive influence and that’s why I’d like him to stay.

“I think that’s down to how he’s trained because he hadn’t trained a lot when he entered the club.

“We were in a difficult situation after the injury to Karl (Darlow) and, as I say, he was a calming influence. He brought stability behind the scenes.

“Steadily, with the amount of goalkeeping he’s done now, he’s improving all the time.”

Speaking after the game, Karius revealed he is set for discussions about his future.

He said: “We’re going to have some talks and see what we’re going to do, but of course I can see myself here for longer and hopefully get some more appearances in the future, also competitive.

“That’s my aim, that’s what I’m working for every day and, at the same time, I’m supporting all the other guys.

“I think there’s a good chance I can stay here longer, but we’ll have to have that discussion over the next few weeks.”

Howe has been speaking with Newcastle’s owners over the policy the club will adopt in the January transfer window.

When asked how those talks have progressed, he said: “Very well. It’s just conversations at this stage. The big thing is a lot can change between now and January.

“We’ve talked and had discussions over what it may look like but there is such a long time before that window opens and we’re still very flexible over what we’re going to do.”

While co-owners Mehrdad Ghodoussi and Amanda Staveley jetted off to Qatar to witness England’s World Cup quarter-final against France on Saturday evening, the rest of the United group remained at their Olaya base in the commercial heart of Riyadh.

Howe took his players for a recovery session at Optimo leisure complex in the city on Friday.

Much of the club’s staffing operations have switched from the Four Seasons to the Novotel Al-Anoud, a short walk away, due to the arrival of the Chinese entourage of President Xi Jinping in the Kingdom’s capital.


Iconic father-son racing duo, Jan and Kevin Magnussen, take to Yas Marina Circuit track for this weekend’s Gulf 12 Hours

Iconic father-son racing duo, Jan and Kevin Magnussen, take to Yas Marina Circuit track for this weekend’s Gulf 12 Hours
Updated 09 December 2022

Iconic father-son racing duo, Jan and Kevin Magnussen, take to Yas Marina Circuit track for this weekend’s Gulf 12 Hours

Iconic father-son racing duo, Jan and Kevin Magnussen, take to Yas Marina Circuit track for this weekend’s Gulf 12 Hours
  • Danish motorsport powerhouses will unite on the grid for the region’s biggest weekend of GT3 endurance racing

ABU DHABI: Jan Magnussen, four-time Le Mans winner, and son Kevin Magnussen, Haas Formula One Team driver, are joining forces for the 11th edition of the Gulf 12 Hours to take place on Yas Island, from Dec. 9 to 11.

The Danish father-son duo will unite on the grid alongside American driver Mark Kvamme at Yas Marina Circuit to compete in the annual endurance event, combining day and night racing, that will see the biggest-ever line-up of GT cars in the race’s history.

Having started his career with the McLaren F1 Team’s Young Driver Programme, Kevin rose through the junior ranks to represent the British motor racing team in the 2014 F1 Championship and 2014 Australian Grand Prix, where he became the first Dane to claim a podium in F1.  

After a short stint with Renault in 2016, he got behind the wheel for the Haas F1 team, most recently securing their first-ever pole position at the 2022 Brazilian Grand Prix. But with a successful career of his own — and a notably busy schedule — the Roskilde racer has not had many opportunities to drive with his father.

“We’ve both done this our whole life, and you know, done it separately,” he said. “Getting to do this with my dad, it’s very special. It’s a big privilege; I’m grateful to MDK Motorsports and our friend Mark for giving us this opportunity.”

Jan, a former F1 driver himself, shares Kevin’s sentiment and laughs when asked whether his son’s speed on the track is a result of his coaching.

“Unfortunately, I think I taught him too much,” he said. “It’s fantastic to get to compare myself to Kevin. Not just his brilliant lap times, but also to see the data and videos of how we operate the car.”

Magnussen senior boasts an impressive racing history and has competed in a range of prestigious competitions and series, including F1, IndyCar, NASCAR, American Le Mans Series, WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, 24 Hours of Le Mans and FIA World Endurance Championship.

Now, the two Danes are bringing their wealth of driving experience and bold race moves to Abu Dhabi. While the track will be a first-time experience for Jan, Kevin recalls racing at Yas Marina Circuit in the 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix — and again in the 2022 edition.

“I think the changes made to the track over the last two years are good for some things,” he said. “I think before, it was a little more technical, so maybe a bit more difficult. Now, the track has become faster and more enjoyable to drive.”

Despite having raced the circuit before, the second-generation F1 driver is in for an entirely new experience as he steps out of his comfort zone and into an unfamiliar GT car.

“I did it in an F1 car, and GT is going to be completely different. It feels like a new track for me,” he said. “It’s fun to be challenged in different ways as a racing driver. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”

With scheduling conflicts and international travel keeping them occupied, the Magnussens are uncertain when they will drive together next. This weekend’s Gulf 12 Hours will be a unique opportunity for the duo to share in their passion for the sport — with the hopes of winning the race.

“We know each other. When we get into this stuff, it just gets competitive, and we want to do as well as possible,” Kevin said. “That’s the most fun, so that’s really what we’re focusing on – me and my dad.”