Influential Manchester City centre-back Aymeric Laporte will be out for three to four weeks, says manager Pep Guardiola, following the injury he sustained in Madrid earlier in the week.
More Pep quotes coming up …
Ahead of the Premier League leaders’ trip to Watford tomorrow, Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp says Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Xherdan Shaqiri are making progress as they recover from injury – but all will be ruled out this weekend.
“Hendo is running, Millie is running and even more. It was not enough for this game now, but we will see – especially with Millie – what we can do for Tuesday [the FA Cup tie against Chelsea],” Klopp said.
“I’m not sure about Hendo, and Shaq not yet, but they are all coming closer.”
In Serie A, Juventus v Inter Milan on Sunday night – a crunch clash as far as the title race is concerned – will be played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Bianconeri released a statement last night announcing the move. Juventus top the table on 60 points, Lazio are second on 59 with Inter Milan in third on 54.
Juventus said the decision is part of “urgent measures regarding the containment and management of the epidemiological emergency that is COVID-19.”
Meanwhile on the Reuters news wire, news that the entire Swiss league football programme for the weekend has been called off due to the ever-worsening coronavirus outbreak:
The Swiss soccer league (SFL) has called off all of the weekend’s football matches after the government banned large events expected to draw more than 1,000 people as a measure to curb the new coronavirus epidemic. The SFL also said that it would have to consider playing future matches behind closed doors in order to finish the season.
“The five matches in each of the Super League (top tier) and the Challenge League (second tier), which were scheduled from Friday to Sunday, will be postponed to an indefinite date,” it said in a statement. “The SFL will inform about the further course of the championship in close cooperation with the authorities and the clubs next week.”
The average attendance for the Swiss Super League this season is 11,116. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Switzerland has risen to 15, and more than 100 people are in quarantine.
Now for a story off the wires stemming from Celtic’s 3-1 Europa League defeat by FC Copenhagen last night. Ugly scenes reported by PA media:
A player and steward from FC Copenhagen have been charged over an alleged assault on a police officer during the club’s Europa League match with Celtic. Michael Santos, who scored in the 3-1 victory at Celtic Park, and the steward were spoken to by Police Scotland, according to the Danish club.
Footage from the televised game appeared to show an incident involving another Copenhagen goalscorer, Pep Biel, in which the club say he was grabbed by “an official”.
Copenhagen said a steward “tried to prevent a clash” before being taken away by officers, with Santos also speaking to police. Both have since been charged over the incident.
A statement on the Danish club’s website said: “After Pep Biel’s 2-1-goal at Celtic Park there was turmoil in front of the FCK fan section after an official grabbed Pep Biel during the celebration. One of our stewards tried to prevent a clash and was led away and talked with Scottish police. Michael Santos also talked with the police, who subsequently have charged them both. They travelled home with the team, and we are now waiting to see if the Scottish police will pursue the case. We will co-operate if they want more information from the club.”
Thank you Barry, and good afternoon to our readers everywhere.
Let’s crack straight on with a couple of match previews for this weekend. Will Steve Bruce give Dwight Gayle the nod to start for Newcastle against Burnley?
As for Brighton & Hove Albion, they are winless so far in 2020, something they’ll be desperate to remedy in tomorrow’s lunchtime game against ‘local’ rivals Crystal Palace. Watch out for those Patrick van Aanholt free-kick thunderbolts …
That’s all from me for today, but worry not – I’ll be handing over the reins to Luke McLaughlin, who’ll bring you news from the rest of this afternoon press conferences as they take place.
The Telegraph reports …
“There is no guarantee Liverpool would be crowned Premier League champions if the season was curtailed by the coronavirus,” they say, in news that could cause panic on the red half of Merseyside.
The broadsheet also reports that there is no guarantee the bottom three clubs in the Premier League would not be relegated, with no specific regulation in place governing such a scenario.
Europa League: It’s difficult to imagine Wolves or their supporters being particularly intimidated by anyone left in the draw, but they’ll be happy enough to have got Olympiacos, conquerers of Arsenal in the last round.
Rangers fans, meanwhile, can look forward to a trip to Cologne, which is the place to stay if you’re heading to the BayArena for a day or two. Currently fifth in the Bundesliga just six points behind Bayern Munich, Bayer will prove challenging opponents for Steven Gerrard’s men.
Europa League: As Manchester United fans across the world Google “LASK”, I can reveal they’re an Austrian club, from the Upper-Austrian state capital Linz, who normally play in the 8,000-capacity Waldstadion. As this is not deemed fit for Uefa’s purposes, they have been playing their Europa League home games in the 21,000-capacity Linzer Stadion.
Europa League draw
Istanbul Basaksehir v FC Copenhagen.
Europa League draw: Giorgio is still holding court before an audience who are almost certainly hopeful of getting this over with as soon as possible so they can have lunch. Less jawing and more drawing, please.
Europa League draw: Uefa deputy something-or-other Giorgio Marchetti is currently addressing a fairly bored looking audience of besuited middle-aged men ahead of the big draw. He introduces former Liverpool midfielder Didi Hamann, who will be assisting with the draw.
Europa League draw: Dashing Uefa media man Pedro Pinto is chair proceedings in Nyon. Depending on you whereabouts, you may be able to follow them here …
Europa League draw …
We’re less than 10 minutes away from the draw for the Europa League’s Round of 16 in Nyon.
Brighton news: Speaking ahead of his team’s lunchtime game against Crystal Palace tomorrow, Brighton manager Graham Potter insists Neal Maupay and Glenn Murray provide ample options in the club’s fight for Premier League survival. Potter has been alternating the two strikers in recent weeks, with summer signing Maupay getting the nod last week and scoring in the draw at Sheffield United.
“Both can play together or on their own, we’re lucky to have both of them and they’re different types of players in their own right,” Potter told the club’s official website.
“They’ll both score goals. All things are possible. Everybody’s fired up and ready, everyone’s had a good training week and wants to play. It’s a challenge because you have to choose the right combinations and team. But I’m delighted with the spirit, quality and togetherness that the lads have been showing this week – now we have to transfer it into Saturday.”
Brighton are seven matches without a win in the Premier League, drawing the last three, and they head into tomorrow’s game four points above the relegation zone. Potter has called on the supporters to play their part in helping the team return to winning ways against their rivals.
“My message to the fans is to enjoy the game and get behind the team in the right way in order to help us get the three points,” he said. “It’s a big game for our fans. I understand that football is an emotional experience and that people can get disappointed or frustrated, but our fans are fair-minded and know we need them. They’ve been brilliant with us so far this season and we want to give them something to cheer this Saturday.”
Europa League draw: A gentle reminder that the draw for the last 16 of the competition is coming up at 12pm (GMT). In the UK, fans of Wolves, Manchester United Rangers will tuning in with particular interest to see who their team’s are paired with as we approach the business end of the competition. FYI: unlike in previous rounds, there are no restrictions on teams being drawn against each other, so we could get an all Premier League clash, or an Anglo-Scottish affair.
Those last 16 teams in full: Basel, Bayer Leverkusen, Copenhagen, Eintracht Frankfurt or Slazburg, Getafe, Inter, Istanbul Basaksehir, LASK, Manchester United, Olympiakos, Rangers, Roma, Sevilla, Shakhtar Donetsk, Wolfsburg, Wolves.
Newcastle v Burnley team news: Jonjo Shelvey is back in the Newcastle squad for Saturday’s Premier League clash with Burnley. The midfielder missed the last six games after misplacing his shin-pads, but returned to training this week after finding them under the passenger seat of his car. He was joined by defenders Emil Krafth (ankle) and Javier Manquillo (hamstring).
However, loan signing Valentino Lazaro is suspended following his red card at Crystal Palace last weekend and Ciaran Clark will miss the rest of the season with ankle ligament damage, joining fellow defenders Paul Dummett (hamstring) and Jetro Willems (knee ligaments) and striker Andy Carroll (hamstring) on the sidelines.
Burnley striker Chris Wood will return to contention after missing last week’s home win against Bournemouth with a hamstring injury. He has returned to full training and boss Sean Dyche must decide whether to recall him or retain Matej Vydra, who has chipped in with cracking goals in each of Burnley’s past two games.
Midfielder Johan Berg Gudmundsson has had a minor setback in his recovery from a hamstring problem, while Ashley Barnes (hernia) and Matthew Lowton (knee) are still out.
Southampton news: Ralf Hassenhüttl and his Southampton side travel to West Ham this weekend, hoping to pile the misery on hosts who sit one place above the relegation zone and have not won a league match since New Year’s Day. West Ham will take heart from the fact that they have won all three league games they have played against Saints since Hassenhüttl took charge.
“At home we had very tight games, and West Ham once we were without any chances,” he said. “With two big mistakes we went two down and then it was difficult. So we’re really keen to show a better performance because we have to. This opponent so far was not our best. But records are there to be broken, as always. And it’s important to go there with all the self-confidence we’ve created in away games and show a different face.”
Carabao Cup final: Like a gun-toting maniac in a cheese shop, Aston Villa skipper Jack Grealish has been shooting the breeze withSky Sports ahead of leading out his beloved Aston Villa against Manchester City at Wembley on Sunday. A year after being appointed Villa captain, young Jack says his growing maturity has helped him realise what he wants to achieve in his career.
Grealish previously made headlines as a teenager, earning himself a reputation as a wrong ‘un after being pictured passed out in a gutter on his summer holidays. While most of us who have been there, done that and vomited down the front of the T-shirt could see the funny side, some po-faced commentators felt compelled to clutch their pearls and swoon like Victorian ladies.
“I feel like everything that’s happened in my life, good or bad, football-wise has set me up to be the person I am today,” he said. “I wouldn’t change anything. Everyone knows I had a bit of bad press when I was a bit younger, but like I said, I wouldn’t change that for anything. That’s made me who I am today. When I was young I might have been a bit immature at times, but now I know what I want to do in my career – I want to play for England, I want to play for Aston Villa, I want to win trophies. That’s the aim.”
Watford news: Nigel Pearson’s side will get a chance to end Liverpool’s astonishing 27-game unbeaten Premier League run when the champions elect visit Vicarage Road tomorrow. dropped two points all campaign.
“We’ve got our own agenda and that is to save our own season and I think that is enough,” he said. “For players to go into these games, if they can prove they are capable of playing against the best sides of the country, that is the motivation players need.
“But we have to win games for our own season, not necessarily to change history for another club. It’s about our season, our own circumstances and if that’s a spin-off from it [ending Liverpool’s unbeaten record], it is a spin-off from it.”
Since a 3-0 win at Bournemouth on 12 January, Watford have been knocked out of the FA Cup and dropped back into the relegation zone.
Manchester United news: Ahead of his side’s visit to Goodison Park on Sunday, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is convinced this group will not fold like a deckchair in a similar fashion to the Manchester United side that capitulated and lost 4-0 on their last visit to Everton.
“That was the lowest I’ve been,” Solskjaer said. “I think you all know that and remember that. That was a capitulation. We had absolutely nothing about us, even though their goals were more or less counter-attacks from set plays and long throw-ins.
“Everything you didn’t want to see you saw in that game. Against Everton at home, they’re hard to play against with two up front. They put players in the box and we knew what we were up against. I’m 100 per cent sure we’ll put a better performance up.
“That was the day, the lowest. I knew probably before then but one or two had their last chance, more or less, but we had to get to the summer first. I can with hand on heart 100 per cent say these boys will never give in and never give up like that team did. These are the boys we want to build the next team around.”
Europa League: Bruno Fernandes is shaping up to be a very astute January signing for Manchester United and was on the scoresheet again as they walloped Club Brugge at Old Trafford to go through 6-1 on aggregate. Over to you Jamie Jackson …
Europa League: Wolves ensured they’d be in the last 16 tombola for today’s draw by finishing the job against Espanyol that they started so emphatically at Molineux last week. Sid Lowe saw Nuno Espirito Santo’s side lose on the night at the Estadi Cornellà-El Prat, but breeze through 6-3 on aggregate.
Europa League: Celtic joined Arsenal in crashing out of the tournament, their manager Neil Lennon declaring he and his side “shot ourselves in the foot” as they were put to the sword by Copenhagen. Ewan Murray was there …
Europa League: In case you missed it last night, Olympiacos supporters created one hell of a din at the Emirates last night, getting fully behind their team and making far more noise than the home fans as the Greek side eliminated Arsenal from the Europa League. Nick Ames was there for the Guardian.
Newcastle news: No end of Newcastle United players and coaching staff could be left hanging should they forget their club has introduced a training ground handshake ban in an attempt to guard against the spread of the Coronavirus.
The club has put a stop to a morning ritual of players and staff shaking hands each morning as fears over the spread of the disease increase. “There’s a ritual here that everybody shakes hands with everybody as soon as we see each other every morning – we’ve stopped that on the advice of the docto,” said Steve Bruce. “We’re like everybody else. Thankfully, we’ve got a superb doctor here and he will keep us informed of what we have to do.
We’re like everybody else, we’re glued to the TV for where it’s going to go next and let’s hope it doesn’t get any worse in this country.”
Asked if he had known anything like it in the past, Bruce added: “No, not a all. Look, in confined areas like we’ve got here … there was a time over Christmas when if there’s a virus knocking around – which is not Coronoavirus – then you have to be careful so we’re a bit mindful of it, the fact that a bug can sweep through. “We had four or five at Christmas and two of my staff, so you stay at home, basically. But it’s always something you’re looking at.”
Something for the weekend …
Ahead of Sunday’s Carabao Cup final and another busy weekend of Premier League action, we’re here to bring you all the football news that’s fit to print – and much more that isn’t – as various managers pitch up to training ground media rooms to face a barrage of interrogatory projectiles from the journalists they respect and admire so much.
Away from “pressers” we’ll bring you any other matters of interest (warning: may not be of interest to everyone) that crop up as the day meanders by, before your footballing weekend gets under way when Norwich attempt to get back to winning ways when they host Leicester City tonight.