Eddie Howe to MISS first Newcastle game, Chelsea ‘in Fofana transfer talks', Steven Gerrard first Villa match – updates

EDDIE HOWE will MISS his first game as Newcastle manager this weekend after testing positive for Covid-19.

Howe will instead be conducting team talks from his hotel room on FaceTime as the Magpies host Brentford.

Newcastle are also putting their January transfer plans into place, with reports linking them to Inter's Marcelo Brozovic and Bayern Munich's Niklas Sule.

Meanwhile, Erling Haaland might be out of action injured at the moment – but that is not stopping speculation about his future.

A number of Premier League clubs are said to be circling the Dortmund superstar, with reports from Spain suggested Real Madrid are expecting him to head to England next.

Chelsea have been handed a boost with Romelu Lukaku returning to training from his recent injury, putting him in contention for a return to action this weekend.

And the Blues have resumed talks with Leicester City defender Wesley Fofana ahead of a potential summer transfer, reports say.

Get all the latest football news, updates and transfer gossip below…

  • Etienne Fermie

    OVERNIGHT FOOTBALL ROUND-UP

    New Newcastle boss Eddie Howe misses his first game in charge through Covid as Premier League action returns today following the international break.

    The Toon host Brentford while Chelsea will go six points clear – if only briefly – should they win this afternoon's early game at Leicester.

    Elsewhere, Steven Gerrard leads Aston Villa out at home to in-form Brighton after succeeding the sacked Dean Smith 

    Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is under huge pressure for the trip to Watford after just one win in six Prem matches.

    And Arsenal will really rev up their revival if they win at Liverpool.

    Victory would leapfrog the Gunners over Jurgen Klopp's fourth-placed side.

    Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta said: “Going to Anfield is always a test, but if you are able to do that, there are not many grounds as good as there to feel that you are a proper footballer.”

    On the transfer front, Jesse Lingard strongly hinted on Instagram he'll join former loan club West Ham after contract talks with the Red Devils collapsed.

    The £10million-rated England midfielder is tipped for a £10million permanent departure in January.

  • Ian Tuckey

    TIME TO CHIL

    Brendan Rodgers hopes Ben Chilwell is welcomed back by Leicester fans today — but knows there can be ‘needle’ when a key player decides to leave.

    The left-back quit the King Power Stadium to join Chelsea 15 months ago in a £50million deal.

    And Foxes fans booed him during the FA Cup Final last May — which Rodgers’ side won after Chilwell had a last-gasp equaliser for Blues ruled out by the VAR.

    He returned to Leicester last season with no fans in the ground.

    But today is set to be back for the first time in front of a crowd.

    England defender Chilwell, 24, upset some fans with comments made after completing his move.

    Rodgers said: “There certainly wasn’t any animosity between us, he was a young player that came through the system here, and he ended up playing for the first team.

    “He decided to move on, and the club did very well as a result in terms of his fee.  

    “It’s difficult, players leave, and there can be a little bit of needle around that.”  

  • Ian Tuckey

    ARTETA: AIM HIGHER THAN FOURTH

    Mikel Arteta challenged Arsenal to aim higher than just a top-four spot as they look to end their Liverpool nightmare on Saturday.

    The Gunners boss believes there is a new spirit of optimism sweeping through the club as a result of his mass Emirates clear-out.

    Arteta was still playing when Arsenal last won a league game at Anfield in September 2012.

    Since then they have managed just two points from eight games and conceded 28 times.

    But now they go to Merseyside defending a ten-match unbeaten run and cautiously optimistic about challenging for Champions League qualification again.

    Arteta said: “For me it is positive when people speak about getting into the top four. It means there is excitement and that people want to push us.

    “But this club is about being the best, not even about being fourth. That history has to be there all the time, giving us the drive and mentality to achieve the biggest targets.

    “If you don’t have that mentality, you cannot play for this club. The level of expectation always has to be the highest.”

  • Ian Tuckey

    VILLA FANS FORGIVE GERRARD

    Aston Villa fans are ready to end their 20-year vendetta against Steven Gerrard according to Vital Villa Fans' Site Editor, Jonathan Fear, writes GRAEME BRYCE.

    Gerrard has been public enemy No.1 at Villa Park for two decades, hated and hounded by the Holte End who refused to forgive him for an over-the-ball tackle on George Boateng – when he was a feisty 21-year-old.

    Although Gerrard's apology was accepted by the Dutchman at the time – and he was punished with a red card and three-match ban – Villa fans have never pardoned him for his 'crime.' 

    In his 2006 best-seller: Gerrard, The Autobiography, Gerrard wrote:  "The Holte End hate me.

    “Ever since the Boateng foul, I get serenaded with ‘Steven Gerrard is a w*****’ whenever I play at Villa Park.”

    However, Fear predicts Gerrard will receive a hero's welcome when he takes charge of Villa for the first time against Brighton tomorrow (Saturday) after making a positive first impression since replacing Dean Smith earlier this week. 

    He said: "Once someone's named Aston Villa manager they have done no wrong in their history.

    "If he hadn't been named our manager then of course he's done no right in his history!

    "The Gerrard we used to abuse was the player and we know as a player he was a winner. He was the same as Roy Keane – not liked by opposing fans because you secretly wanted him in your team.

    "Since becoming our manager Steven Gerrard has said all the right things so far – now he just has to do all the right things!!

  • Ian Tuckey

    RIO: UTD NEED JUDE

    Rio Ferdinand has urged Manchester United to do ‘what ever it takes’ to sign England wonderkid Jude Bellingham from Borussia Dortmund.

    Midfielder Bellingham,18, has already been linked with a summer switch to Old Trafford.

    And United legend Ferdinand believes the former Birmingham hero is the ideal player for now and especially the future.

  • Ian Tuckey

    RICH REWARDS FOR BRAVERY

    Everton star Richarlison has been playing injured with injections to numb the pain and even showed up for international duty with a broken rib.

    The forward had a busy summer after a tough Premier League season as he represented Brazil in the Copa America and then the Tokyo Olympics, which took their toll on his fitness.

    The 24-year-old revealed he had to take shots before games ever since the Olympic quarter-finals to deal with the “wear and tear” his knee had suffered.

    That is why the Toffees favourite decided to miss the last two World Cup qualifiers against Colombia and Argentina, even though he has powered through the pain in the past by playing with an injured ankle and broken rib.

  • Ian Tuckey

    RONALDO RALLYING CALL

    Cristiano Ronaldo has urged Manchester United to dig deep to get back on track.

    The Red Devils return to Premier League action at Watford tomorrow after six losses in 12 games.

    And the United legend posted on social media: “Time to roll up the sleeve once again and just get the job done!

    “Let’s chase what we are trying to achieve this season.”

  • Ian Tuckey

    HOWE MISSES FIRST TOON GAME WITH COVID

    Newcastle boss Eddie Howe will miss his first match in charge of the club after testing positive for coronavirus.

    The 43-year-old was preparing for his first game since succeeding Steve Bruce at St James' Park.

    But he will have to wait at least another week after contracting Covid-19, with his Magpies assistant head coaches Gareme Jones and Jason Tindall to be in charge for the clash against Brentford in his absence.

    A statement from Newcastle confirmed that the ex-Bournemouth gaffer will now self-isolate in line with the government government guidelines.

    Speaking to the club's website, Howe expressed his disappointment at missing out on being in the dugout for Saturday's fixture.

    He said: "I’m very disappointed that I won’t be there with you all at St. James’ Park tomorrow.

    "But it is incredibly important that I follow the guidelines and self-isolate.

    "I’d like to reassure everyone that I feel fine, and while this is unwelcome news for me, I know it hasn’t derailed our preparations for what is an important game.

    "I have been, and will be, in constant communication with my coaching team and the players, both tomorrow and during the week, and I know they will be giving everything on and off the pitch."

  • Ian Tuckey

    OGBONNA BLOW FOR HAMMERS

    West Ham striker Angelo Ogbonna is likely to be sidelined for the rest of the season after suffering a knee injury.

    Hammers boss David Moyes confirmed that Ogbonna will go under the knife in the next few days and may not play again until next term.

    The centre-back sustained the injury during the east Londoners' 3-2 victory over Liverpool at the London Stadium two weeks ago and is estimated to be out for nine months.

    Moyes said: "Surgery will take place over the next couple days.

    "It's really sad because he's a great player. I think it would be hard for Angelo to be back this season."

    Ogbonna was initially substituted during the match with the Reds due to a cut above his eye but subsequently felt discomfort in his knee on the bench.

    A scan the following day revealed the Italian suffered ACL damage.

    According to The Athletic, West Ham will extend the 33-year-old's contract, which expires in the summer, to aid in his recovery.

  • Ian Tuckey

    BALE ABUSED

    Gareth Bale was abused by a small group of Real Madrid fans at the club's training ground on Friday.

    And one furious Real supporter appeared to throw a marker pen at Bale's car window with cries of 'F*** you' heard as he was leaving the Valdebebas facility.

    A group of Real Madrid fans abuse and throw pen at Gareth Bale at the club’s training ground

    Bale returned from international duty with Wales with another injury and that appears to have angered a section of the Bernabeu support.

    The 32-year-old has a calf injury which he sustained on his 100th cap against Belarus last Saturday and is set to be out for at least three weeks.

    Bale missed the 1-1 draw with Belgium as Robert Page's side clinched a home World Cup play-off semi-final in March.

    The forward has not played for Real since the end of August after a severe hamstring injury sustained in training with his club.

    Pundits in Spain have been angry with Wales captain Bale for appearing to put his country ahead of his club.

    Bale wound up the Real supporters in 2019 after the Dragons qualified for Euro 2020 by holding up the flag which read: "Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order."

  • Ian Tuckey

    RON CAN BE THE BOSS – BUT NOT YET

    Cristiano Ronaldo has shown all the hallmarks of a manager but has no chance of succeeding Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

    That’s the verdict of Liverpool legend Ian Rush, who believes the United striker’s touchline antics with Portugal show his passion to direct the play from off as well as on the pitch.

    United visit Watford on Saturday after six defeats in 12 games immediately before the international break.

    And Leicester chief Brendan Rodgers is odds-on favourite for Old Trafford if under-pressure Solskjaer departs.

    The Norwegian has insisted he is no quitter and believes he will turn the Red Devils around.

    But Solskjaer is odds-on to be the next Premier League manager axed and Ronaldo, 36, has risen up the list of contenders to replace him.

    Rush said: “I do see him as a leader. “But unless he has Sir Alex Ferguson alongside him I don’t see him managing Manchester United any time soon.

    “We kind of got a glimpse of Ronaldo as a manager when Portugal won the Euros in 2016, when he had to go off injured. 

    “He was so passionate on the touchline, barking orders and motivating the team, and maybe we saw the makings of a manager there.

    “We know he’s very demanding which you need to be as a manager, and he does like to have control of things too. 

    “But to manage a big club like Manchester United you need proper managerial experience and that’s why I don’t buy into the story of him replacing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.”

  • Ian Tuckey

    POGBA STARTS CLOCK ON UTD RETURN

    Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba is working hard towards making his return from injury.

    The 28-year-old star has taken to social media once again to update United fans on his progress after suffering a thigh injury while on France duty.

    Pogba posted a picture on his Instagram story of himself stretching out his thigh as he continued his warm-weather training in Dubai.

    And he simply captioned the picture ‘tic-tac’ – French for ‘tick-tock’ – with an hourglass emoji.

    The midfielder is counting down the days until he can make his Manchester United return.

    He is currently out in Dubai after jetting out to complete the first phase of his rehabilitation programme for the injury that could keep him out for two months.

    United confirmed the news on Wednesday in a statement that read: “Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba has travelled to Dubai to undertake the next phase of his rehabilitation in warm weather conditions.

    “The 28-year-old reported for international duty with France at the beginning of last week and unfortunately suffered an injury while training. 

    “Pogba is now working diligently on his rehabilitation.”

  • Ian Tuckey

    UTD’S BACK PAIN IS OFFICIAL

    Manchester United’s defending has left a lot to be desired this season, with the Red Devils having the seventh-worst defence in the Premier League.

    The club have kept just four clean sheets in 14 Prem games and ex-Liverpool man John Barnes believes it’s because they don’t defend ‘as a complete team’.

    When it comes to total tackles (139) and duels won (468), United rank BOTTOM of all Premier League clubs.

    And they’re the second worst in the league for aerial duels won (130) and interceptions (81).

    Manchester United’s 17 goals conceded and two clean sheets make up a small amount of dignity, but both stats are still the joint-seventh worst in the league.

    And they can count themselves lucky it’s only the seventh worst, with their expected goals conceded the fifth worse out of the 20 Prem teams.

    The lack of desire to win the ball back is also clear, with United making the fourth-least ball recoveries (606) out of anybody this campaign.

    Error strewn performances from the likes of club captain Harry Maguire mean the club have also made seven mistakes leading to shots – the second worst in the league.

    Three of those have come from Maguire himself, with Luke Shaw contributing two.

    Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, David De Gea and Nemanja Matic are all guilty of one error leading to an opposition shot too.

  • Ian Tuckey

    DANI'S GR-EIGHT TRIBUTE

    Dani Alves has picked the number eight shirt on his return to Barcelona as a tribute to his friends and a former team-mate.

    It will be the FIFTH different number the Brazilian has worn during his time at the Nou Camp.

    The Brazilian, 38, could not opt for the standard number for a right-back – two – because that already belongs to Sergino Dest.

    But with the No8 available due to Miralem Pjanic's summer departure, Alves decided it would be a fitting tribute to a Barca icon – Andres Iniesta.

    He told Barca TV: "I think there are tributes that must be made in life.

    “I’m friends with Andres Iniesta and Hristo Stoichkov. I called Andres and told him it would be an honour to wear it and he told me that it was in my hands.

    “It’s a great honour and must be carried with respect. It’s very special to me.”

    Alves frequently pays tribute to friends and team-mates with his number choice.

  • Ian Tuckey

    TOL-ENHAM HOTSPUR?

    Tottenham have been offered the chance to sign Bayern Munich midfielder Corentin Tolisso, according to reports.

    The Frenchman is set to be out of contract with the Bundesliga champions next summer.

    His chances of an extension appear to be dwindling, having started only one league match this term under Julian Nagelsmann.

    And according to Kicker, Tolisso is being ‘touted’ to Spurs.

    To sign the World Cup winner, however, Antonio Conte‘s side will have to beat off competition from one of his former clubs.

    The report also claims that Inter Milan are being offered Tolisso’s services.

    He joined Bayern from Lyon in 2017, winning the World Cup as part of Didier Deschamps’ 23-man France squad a year later.

    But his time since has been blighted with injuries.

  • Justin Lawrence

    POWERING THROUGH

    Everton star Richarlison has been playing injured with injections to numb the pain and even showed up for international duty with a broken rib.

    The forward had a busy summer after a tough Premier League season as he represented Brazil in the Copa America and then the Tokyo Olympics, which took their toll on his fitness.

    The 24-year-old revealed he had to take shots before games ever since the Olympic quarter-finals to deal with the "wear and tear" his knee had suffered.

    That is why the Toffees favourite decided to miss the last two World Cup qualifiers against Colombia and Argentina, even though he has powered through the pain in the past by playing with an injured ankle and broken rib.

  • Justin Lawrence

    HAMMER BLOW

    West Ham ace Angelo Ogbonna is likely to be sidelined for the rest of the season after suffering a knee injury.

    Hammers boss David Moyes confirmed that Ogbonna will go under the knife in the next few days and may not play again until next term.

    The centre-back sustained the injury during the east Londoners' 3-2 victory over Liverpool at the London Stadium two weeks ago and is estimated to be out for nine months.

    Moyes said: "Surgery will take place over the next couple days.

    "It's really sad because he's a great player. I think it would be hard for Angelo to be back this season."

  • Justin Lawrence

    ABIDAL 'AFFAIR' 

    Eric Abidal's wife has filed for a divorce after he admitted to having an affair with Paris Saint-Germain star Kheira Hamraoui, according to reports.

    Prior to joining PSG, Hamraoui, 31, played for Barcelona while Abidal was sporting director.

    She was attacked earlier this month, with thugs beating her with an iron bar.

    Investigators into the attack initially held Hamraoui's team-mate Aminata Diallo for questioning for 36 hours.

    But they have reportedly since moved their inquiry away from Diallo.

    A connection with Abidal was discovered by detectives, after it came to light that Hamraoui's phone was registered in the Frenchman's name.

    It was this development that led to Abidal admitting to an affair with Hamraoui, wife Hayet claims.

    In a statement sent to AFP by Hayet's lawyer Nicolas Cellupica, she alleges that he admitted 'to an adulterous relationship with Ms Hamraoui'.

  • Justin Lawrence

    MOST BACKED

    More bets have been taken on Manchester United to win the Premier League title than any other top-flight team, according to Betfair.

    Despite struggling in recent weeks, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have been backed more than Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool for 2021-22 glory.

    he Red Devils are anchored in sixth position and trail leaders Chelsea by nine points having won just ONE of their last SIX.

    But clearly punters think a drastic change of fortunes could be just around the corner with 19 per cent of all bets placed going for the Old Trafford heavyweights.

    United were available at 8/1 to wrestle the title away from City at the beginning of the campaign.

    However, they can now be backed at a whopping 109/1 on Betfair Exchange, despite boasting one of the strongest squads in the division.

    Pep Guardiola’s side are currently the favourites to retain the title at 8/11.

    Despite not having the most amount of bets placed on them, they are the team with the most money wagered on them, at £2.2million.

    Chelsea and Liverpool are the next most popular at 14 per cent and 13 per cent respectively.

  • Justin Lawrence

    SEARCHING FOR MAUR

    Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino has hit back at claims his side have no identity and labelled Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea a 'defensive' team.

    The French outfit are already 10 points clear at the top of the Ligue 1 table with just 13 games played.

    But the lack of a style of play from Pochettino's men has still led some to critique their performances.

    However, the Argentine does not understand that assessment of his team.

    When asked why they do not appear to have an identity, he told L'Equipe: “I say this with a lot of respect, but this question translates into a certain lack of respect

    "It is like saying that you have no style in your writing.

    "Of course you have one, you are professional and that is why you are sat here.

    "Every manager, at the highest level and down to amateur, has a style.

    "When you work to become a manager, you develop your style: your tastes, your management, your methods with you staff.

    "We are a staff who have a defined style, a philosophy, ideas. Aside from that, the question is to know how and at what moment you can put on show what truly corresponds with you.

    "And that, that depends on the demands of the club, like we were talking about earlier on.

    "If you look at what I have done at Espanyol, Southampton or Tottenham, you will see the style of play that we like.

    "If you watch a match from our first and one from our third season at Tottenham, it is not the same thing. Because there was a strategy to get to this point.”

  • Justin Lawrence

    CONT SHOWER

    Tottenham boss Antonio Conte has suggested Tanguy Ndombele needs to become more of a team player and warned him he has to work "much more" than others.

    Ndombele joined Spurs two years ago following a club record £53.8million deal with Lyon but has struggled to shine under Conte's predecessors Mauricio Pochettino, Jose Mourinho and Nuno Espirito Santo.

    he Italian head coach admits the midfielder has talent but suggested he needs to show more team spirit.

    The former Chelsea manager hasn't given up on the Frenchman yet but insists he has to work harder than his team-mates to catch up on his demands.

    Conte said: "Yeah, I have seen that many managers struggle about this situation, about the position.

    "For sure Tanguy has the quality. At the same time he has to understand that there is a team and he has to play into the team.

    "I think it means that it is important to keep order and to do what the position asks you to do.

    "For sure with Tanguy we are working. We are working very hard. He has to work much more than the others, because as you say he has talent but he has to put this talent into the team for the best of the team, not for the single player."

  • Justin Lawrence

    HEY JESSE 

    Jesse Lingard looks to be on his way to West Ham in the New Year in a £10million move.

    The Manchester United midfielder has already begun making personal arrangements for the permanent move back to the capital.

    The England international rejected a new contract offer in early September at United and has barely figured in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s plans recently.

    Lingard enjoyed a successful loan spell at the high flying West Ham in the second half of last season.

    His nine goals and five assists in the Premier League helped propel David Moyes side into Europe.

    Moyes wanted to sign Lingard permanently in the summer but said he couldn’t as Solskjaer wanted him back.

  • Justin Lawrence

    ER HOW MUCH?

    Erling Haaland’s transfer will cost a staggering £295MILLION with the fee and wages combined, according to reports.

    The Borussia Dortmund striker, 21, is one of the hottest talents in world football with plenty of admirers at the biggest clubs.

    Chelsea and Manchester United are among the sides leading the chase for his signature next summer – with Manchester City and Real Madrid also interested.

    But whoever can successfully lure the Norwegian away from Dortmund knows it will not be cheap.

    It is well documented Haaland has a £64m release clause in his contract which kicks in next summer – although AS state clubs may have to pay up to £85m.

    And although that will mean the transfer fee is relatively cheap for a potential Ballon d’Or winner and guaranteed goalscorer, that would be just a fraction of the overall cost.

    Haaland’s agent Mino Raiola will ensure the best deal for himself and the player.

    And according to AS, that is likely to mean more than £210m more in investment through wages alone.

    A five-year deal would be a likely contract length for any agreement reached.

    That would equate to Haaland pocketting a whopping £42m per year – or more than £800,000 per week.

    Add into the mix agent fees and bonuses and the total figure would far exceed £300m overall across five years.

  • Justin Lawrence

    DOUBLE DEAL

    Premier League clubs are celebrating a stunning £2BILLION mega-deal for their US TV rights.

    The six-year agreement with NBC — starting next season — almost TREBLES the value of the broadcast giant’s current contract.

    But with the news coming just hours after a £100million payout to struggling lower-league teams was confirmed, the Prem will now be under intense pressure to hand them more from the Stateside cash jackpot.

    Clubs had been hoping to double the value of the existing deal.

    But NBC’s desperation to keep the contract helped the bidding soar as they beat off CBS, ESPN and other rivals.

    The arrangement bolsters the authority of under-pressure Premier League chief executive Richard Masters, who saw chairman Gary Hoffman quit after losing the confidence of the clubs.

  • Justin Lawrence

    SAUCE OF AMUSEMENT

    Antonio Conte chuckled as he was asked about the effects of his ketchup ban at Tottenham.

    But the new Spurs boss quickly turned serious as he warned his side need to improve across the board.

    Conte was brought in after the struggling Nuno Espirito Santo was sacked just four months into his reign in North London.

    The disciplinarian immediately made his presence felt as he banned ketchup and mayonnaise in a bid to cut flab from the Spurs squad.

    Sandwiches, butter and fizzy drinks are also reported to be off the menu at the club’s Hotspur Way training ground.

    Conte was asked about the ban in his press conference ahead of Sunday’s Premier League clash with Leeds.

    And while he would only offer a cheeky grin in response, he was quick to call for improvements from his men as they return from the international break.

    He said: “We are very focused to work on the pitch.”

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