Riyad Mahrez dedicated his stunning added-time equaliser against Bournemouth to the Leicester City fans who had supported him despite his transfer window attempts to leave the club.
Mahrez’s well-documented attempts to force through a move to Manchester City on transfer deadline day have disrupted City’s season and the draw against Bournemouth means City have still to win in the league since he went missing.
However, since his return Mahrez has been welcomed back by his team-mates and the supporters.
After he curled his free-kick around the Bournemouth wall and past Asmir Begovic in the seventh minute of added-time he raced to celebrate with his team-mates on the touchline.
Afterwards, he said he owed that moment to the fans for their understanding of his situation.
“They have been fantastic – I thank them all,” said Mahrez.
“It was a difficult situation. Like I said, while I am here, I will give everything for the club – that’s how I am.
“I was very pleased with the way the fans have been with me throughout this. It was important for me. That’s why I will keep giving everything for the club.
“I think we deserved more but we will take the draw.”
Mahrez admits he was torn over whether to shoot from distance or whip the ball in for his colleagues lining-up on the edge of the box, knowing it would be the last chance to cancel out Josh King’s first-half penalty.
City were staring defeat in the face despite peppering the Cherries goal in the second half, but Mahrez said he knew he had to throw the dice and take a shot.
“I’m very happy,” he said. “It’s for moments like that that you play football.
“Obviously, we didn’t get the win but at least we didn’t lose so that’s the most important thing.“I know. Phewww! I was like ‘should I cross it’ but I thought I’d have a go. It was brave but sometimes you have to be.
“I saw Harry Maguire at the far post and thought ‘Nah, I’ll shoot!’”
Pep Guardiola looks home and hosed – but Jordan Henderson insists Liverpool will not concede the title race to Manchester City until the mathematicians lay down their calculators.
City’s 13-point lead looks impregnable, but the race for second place could hinge on Liverpool’s trip to Old Trafford a week on Saturday.
Henderson said: “You’ve got to keep going – Manchester City have a healthy gap at the top, and the title is theirs to lose more than anything – but we are Liverpool. We can’t just give up.
“As a club, we have a lot to play for until the end of the season, in terms of Premier League points and, hopefully, more games in the Champions League.
“We’ve got a healthy squad who want to work hard, to win, and it’s still pretty tight in terms of finishing in the top four.
“We go to Manchester United in about 10 days – that’s always a massive game, and this season is no different. It could have a big influence on where we finish.”
Klopp was always the special one for Liverpool
Jordan Henderson knew Jurgen Klopp would be a perfect fit for Liverpool before the German had even set foot at Anfield.
As an intrigued punter, Henderson flew out to Spain and watched Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund survive a Champions League siege in the Bernabeu to beat Real Madrid (Cristiano Ronaldo, right, included) 4-3 on aggregate in a thrilling semi-final five years ago. The German side had beaten Jose Mourinho’s Madrid 4-1 in the first leg thanks to four goals from Robert Lewandoski.
England star Henderson (above, with Klopp) said: “I knew he was special before I even started working with him. His team was outstanding that night in Madrid.
“Although they lost the final against Bayern Munich at Wembley, as a team they were exceptional. You could see how organised they were, how hard they worked for each other. A lot of that was down to Jurgen Klopp.
“A lot of people admired his work at Dortmund and when he came to Liverpool I knew how special he would be. I couldn’t wait to start working with him in training and be part of something special – and I still feel the team he is building at Anfield can be very special in the near future.”
Porto job needs to be completed
Only an unthinkable collapse at home next week will deny Liverpool – five goals to the good from the away leg against Porto – a place in the Champions League quarter-finals.
None of the continent’s big guns will fancy running the gauntlet of Jurgen Klopp’s rampant forwards and the heavy-metal atmosphere only Anfield can generate on European nights.
Jordan Henderson (in the heat of Merseyside derby action, below)agreed. “Let’s take nothing for granted because we have to finish the job in the second leg against Porto next week, but there are not many teams who would want to draw Liverpool at the minute,” he said.
“We’re confident that we’re capable of beating anyone if we play well.
“I’ve been here at Liverpool for nearly seven years and I’ve had some good times, but there’s a lot more I want to achieve.
“Year by year I feel I’ve improved as a player but you are judged on what you do as a team and I feel we belong among the top teams in the world.
“It’s about giving everything to make it happen so we can be the best in the Premier League, and also the best in Europe, over the next couple of years.
Manchester United held Sevilla to a goalless draw in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie, but the game raised questions for Jose Mourinho ahead of their Super Sunday meeting with Chelsea.
United were on the back foot for long periods at the Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium, with David De Gea making fine saves from Steven N’Zonzi and Luis Muriel before the break.
But did Paul Pogba show the defensive discipline Mourinho demands? Is Scott McTominay ready to face Chelsea? And do Manchester United have a creativity problem? We take a look.
Did Pogba take his chance?
Mourinho has dismissed suggestions that his relationship with Pogba has become strained recently, but he did little to dispel that notion in his pre-match interview on Wednesday. “Paul created some doubts by not playing on Saturday, by his own decision, because he was not feeling good,” he said of the Frenchman’s absence against Huddersfield.
The United boss responded by leaving Pogba on the bench at the Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium, but Ander Herrera’s early injury ensured he did not have to wait long for his opportunity, jogging onto the pitch in the 17th minute as his team-mate trudged down the tunnel.
Mourinho’s issues with Pogba’s recent performances have centred on a lack of defensive discipline, but he will take encouragement from his contribution against Sevilla. Pogba was arguably United’s best player with the ball, making nearly twice as many passes in the opposition half as anyone else, but it was also notable that he did not stray too far forward.
In fact, Pogba only had a single touch in Sevilla’s box. Instead, he was defensively switched on and clearly mindful not to leave too much space between himself and his midfield partners. By the end, only Scott McTominay and Ashley Young had won possession more times. “He did a good job,” said Mourinho afterwards.
Is Scott McTominay ready for Chelsea?
Herrera’s injury deprives Mourinho of another midfield option for Sunday’s game after Marouane Fellaini so he will be grateful for McTominay’s assured performance against Sevilla. In difficult circumstances and on by far the most of his high-profile of his nine Manchester United starts, the academy graduate impressed.
McTominay was assigned to stay tight to Sevilla playmaker Ever Banega. It was not easy but he stuck to the task resolutely, hustling and harrying the Argentine and frequently snuffing out danger. Mourinho used the words “fantastic” and “brilliant” to describe his defensive performance and he did well with the ball too.
The 21-year-old was neat and tidy, completing more than 90 per cent of his passes – just as he did in his recent Premier League starts against Huddersfield and Bournemouth. On this evidence, Mourinho needn’t hesitate to throw him in against Eden Hazard et al on Sunday.
Where’s the creativity?
United’s defensive resilience delighted Mourinho but should he worried by a lack of creativity? They rarely looked like notching an away goal against Sevilla, with Romelu Lukaku’s wild volley from Alexis Sanchez’s chipped pass their only notable scoring chance. Over the course of the 90 minutes, they only mustered one shot on target.
That may not seem too surprising given their priority was simply to avoid defeat, but it continues a recent trend. In their last five games in all competitions, against Sevilla, Huddersfield (twice), Newcastle and Tottenham, Mourinho’s men have only managed 11 shots on target. They must find a way to buck the trend against Chelsea at Old Trafford.
Time to unleash Martial, Rashford?
Mourinho opted to start with Juan Mata over Anthony Martial or Marcus Rashford against Sevilla, but it will surely be necessary to take a more aggressive approach against Chelsea. United’s attack lacked pace and penetration against Sevilla and the duo on the substitute’s bench are surely the best men to provide it.
They are unlikely to start simultaneously after Sanchez’s arrival at the club, but Martial in particular can feel aggrieved by recent omissions. The 22-year-old struggled no more than anyone else in the defeats to Tottenham and Newcastle, but with nine goals and four assists in just 1282 Premier League minutes this season, he has shown how effective he can be.
Lindelof still struggling?
Victor Lindelof has endured a difficult debut season since his arrival from Benfica in the summer, losing his place in the team after some unconvincing early performances, but injuries to Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo have opened the door to him again recently.
The Swede helped United keep a clean sheet in his preferred centre-back role against Huddersfield on Saturday, and he was part of another shut-out against Sevilla. He will take heart from the back-to-back clean sheets, but his communication mix-up with De Gea in the first half suggests there is still an underlying nervousness to his game.
If Jones does not recover in time for Sunday, Chelsea will present his toughest test yet.
PARIS — It’s a scenario that has been repeating itself at Paris Saint-Germain.
A scenario where a player becomes bigger than the club, and is basically allowed to do anything he wants.
It used to work that way with Zlatan Ibrahimovic when the Sweden international was the most emblematic figure of the French league. Now it’s Neymar’s turn to call all the shots at PSG, and it does not seem to be a problem for the club’s Qatari owners.
It was with their blessings that Neymar, the world’s most expensive player who just turned 26, hosted a lavish birthday party on Sunday, less than 48 hours before a French Cup game at Sochaux, and only a few days before PSG’s biggest game of the season in the Champions League.
Neymar invited about 250 guests including all of his teammates as well as PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi.
Many videos of the players partying and dancing late circulated on social media. On one of them, left back Yuri Berchiche appeared to be drunk. The videos drew the ire of Sochaux captain Florian Tardieu, who said it showed a lack of respect toward his team.
For PSG coach Unai Emery, who attended the party, it was not a problem at all. He said the event was a rare joyful gathering for his players. “It’s good for our collective mindset to have shared this moment with Neymar,” Emery said.
Fortunately for PSG, the party had no immediate impact on the team’s results. Neymar — who joined from Barcelona for a world record 222 million euros ($260 million) last summer — was granted permission to skip the cup match, and Angel Di Maria scored a hat trick as PSG eased into the French Cup quarterfinals with a 4-1 win.
But Neymar’s party could come back to haunt Al-Khelaifi if PSG fails to produce a good result at Real Madrid next week when the teams meet in their Champions League last-16 first-leg tie.
In any case, the party organized about a month after PSG stars returned from their winter holidays, once again underlined the players’ power at the club.
When Ibrahimovic was at PSG and Laurent Blanc was coach, everything revolved around the athletic forward. Ibrahimovic could mock journalists and the quality of the French league without anyone at the club publicly finding anything wrong with it. Ibrahimovic was allowed to go back to his native Sweden on hunting trips, while Thiago Silva enjoyed tailor-made modifications to his training program.
A serious incident during Blanc’s time spoke volumes about PSG’s lack of authority on its players and stained the club’s image. Just before a Champions League game against Chelsea two years ago, defender Serge Aurier abused Blanc and insulted teammates during a live session with fans on social media. Instead of being fired, Aurier got away with a six-week suspension.
Nothing has really changed under Emery’s leadership. For instance, PSG’s all-time leading scorer, Edinson Cavani, has kept the habit of returning late from his Christmas holidays, doing it again this winter without much consequence.
Emery has failed to make a clear decision on who should be PSG’s first-choice penalty-taker. In September, Cavani and Neymar argued over who should take a penalty kick, and the pair clashed again in November during an 8-0 win against Dijon. That night, PSG was 7-0 up and Cavani needed one goal to become PSG’s outright all-time leading scorer. But instead of showing generosity and letting Cavani take a penalty, Neymar guarded the ball and blanked his teammate when he approached.
Sebastien Tarrago, a reporter who has been covering PSG for years for L’Equipe newspaper, said Emery was not the only one to blame for the anarchy.
“Club officials are obviously the main people responsible for creating the possibility for players to have too much power,” he said. “If club officials were strong, it would never happen.”
16:25: Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain are not prepared to sign Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid.
That’s according to Guillem Balague, who told Sky Sports: “Cristiano wants Real to pay €50m net which they won’t. Nobody else will.
“The link to Manchester United is not going far, they do not want him. But, they don’t want to say they’re not interested.
“They don’t want to be seen as a club not interested in buying the best players in the world. In any case, they don’t see this as a feasible financial or sporting deal and don’t think they can get enough from it.
“So, Manchester United are not in the equation. PSG are not that interested either. Florentino Perez would want a swap deal with Neymar but PSG are not interested.”
Real Madrid cancel training
15:23: Real Madrid have cancelled training today because of heavy snow in the Spanish capital.
Real Madrid train on the outskirts of the city in Valdebebas.
But heavy snow in Spain has forced the first team to cancel training.
Marca report that a message was sent to all players not to try and get to the training ground.
Real Madrid’s training complex only has outdoor pitches.
Karim Benzema has been offered to Manchester United, according to reports in Spain.
Benzema has struggled at Real Madrid this season and looks set to end his stay in Spain.
And according to Diario Gol the French striker has been offered to both Arsenal and Manchester United.
Jose Mourinho though has claimed he doesn’t need any more forward players after signing Alexis Sanchez.
Harry Kane appears to have put a move to Real Madrid on the back burner after scoring his 100th Premier League goal.
Kane has already recalibrated his sights on joining a more exclusive club than the now 26-man group to have reached a hundred in the Premier League.
He is already looking towards joining Alan Shearer (260) and Wayne Rooney (208) in breaking through the 200-goal ceiling.
“That has to be the aim – and hopefully I can get there quicker than I got to 100,” he said.
“It is nice and I am going to enjoy the moment, but let’s see how many I can get this year and go from there.”
11.30: Real Madrid could lose both Isco and Asensio, if they keep up their pursuit of PSG’s Neymar.
The Bernabeu club are tempted by the possibility of bringing the unsettled Brazilian back to Spain, to the annoyance of their talented duo.
The Spain internationals have been positives in a difficult season for the reigning Champions League winners but if they are usurped by the world record signing they could look to ply their trade elsewhere.
James Rodriguez has been successful since leaving to join Bayern Munich on loan, which could pave the way for other players to follow his lead.
Madrid believe they need of a ‘Galactico’ signing in the summer to assist or replace one of the struggling ‘BBC’ trio of Karin Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.
Cristiano Ronaldo turns 33 today, and he will be hoping his birthday can take his mind off Real Madrid’s poor form.
Madrid slipped up again this weekend, this time against Levante, as they were held to a 2-2 draw.
Barcelona’s draw means they didn’t fall any further from the top of La Liga but Atletico Madrid’s win over Valencia means they are 10 points behind second place.
They trail Valencia in third by just one point and have a game in hand, but things are looking ominous.
Zinedine Zidane remains under scrutiny and clinging to his job.
“We controlled the game, especially the first half, but then after we scored the second goal, which was the most difficult, we were not able to avoid an equaliser,” Zidane said at a post-match press conference after the 2-2 draw with Levante.
“It is hard because they are two points that we were not able to get, but this is football and the opponent is there to get you in trouble.
“It bothers me because we work it – we know that the opponent can hurt you on the counter-attack.”
But Zidane insists they are still fighting to defend their title.
“I will always tell you that the league is not over until the end, there are many points (left),” he said. “We had tried to achieve a third straight victory, but we did not get it.
“We are frustrated because the result was in our hands and we did not get the victory, now we have a game next week and after we will think about the Champions League.”
Kovacic to Man Utd
Manchester United are keen on a move for Mateo Kovacic and he’s ready to quit spain.
Kovacic has struggled for games at the Bernabeu and is ready to swap Spain for the Premier League.
The midfielder would help replace Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini who are set to retire and leave this summer.
Miguel Layun is on the move again, but this time to Spain. After being heavily linked with his compatriot Andres Guardado’s team Real Betis, Sevilla FC have swooped in and have closed the deal with FC Porto, pending a medical Tuesday. The move is a loan agreement, with an option to buy at the end of the season.
The defender who has played in various leagues, from Italy’s Serie A to the English Premier League, looks to add to his resume. Miguel whom has had 58 caps for Mexico is attempting to get in form before the World Cup, in which he is almost a lock to start for Juan Carlos Osorio’s side.
Layun has been looking for a new home after only playing around three games this season. Contributing to this is the rise of Brazilian Alex Telles at left-back, and Uruguayan Maxi Pereira starting in the right-back position.
Like Layun, fellow compatriots Diego Reyes and Jesus “Tecatito” Corona have struggled for playing time this season under current FC Porto coach Sérgio Conceição.
Sevilla FC is currently sixth in La Liga and are in need of extra talent as they look to continue to make a deep run in the Copa Del Rey and climb positions in the league table. Layun, though, won’t be available for the Champions League Round of 16 against Manchester United because he has already made an appearance for FC Porto this season. There has been uncertainty in Sevilla’s back-line at times and this addition should help. Although one would think he would have no issues adapting, as he has played left back, right back, midfielder, and even featured on the wing for El Tri
What do you think? Is this a good move for Layun or will he find himself on the bench again?
Tottenham Hotspur will continue talks with Paris St. Germain over a potential £22 million deal for Lucas Moura.
Spurs are determined to sign the Brazil international before Wednesday’s deadline and will step up negotiations in the next 48 hours.
Moura has already been shown around the Spurs training ground and is believed to be keen on moving to the Premier League to play under Mauricio Pochettino.
But sources have suggested that the deal is still far from being agreed, with doubts even surfacing on Saturday night over whether it will be completed.
Spurs will hold more talks with PSG on Sunday as they look to bring in their first signing of the January transfer window.
Moura was left out of the PSG squad for the game against Montpellier on Saturday.
Stoke make £14m Ndiaye bid
Stoke City have made a £14m bid for Galatasaray midfielder Badou Ndiaye.
Paul Lambert, the new Stoke manager, moved for Ndiaye on Friday and the two clubs are continuing to negotiate over a possible agreement.
Ndiaye, a Senegal international, was left out of Galatasaray’s squad for the game against Osmanlispor and has also attracted interest from Watford, West Ham and Newcastle.
Stoke are also set to hold more talks with New York City FC over a deal for England under-21 international Jack Harrison.
The MLS club has rejected two offers for the attacker but Stoke are still hopeful of completing his transfer.
Musonda heads to Celtic
Chelsea are set to send Belgium international Charly Musonda to Celtic.
Musonda is in talks over a loan move and could complete his switch on Monday, snubbing interest from Bournemouth, Leganes and Nottingham Forest.
The winger, 21, is understood to be keen on linking up with Brendan Rodgers, a former Chelsea coach.
Swansea up Ayew offer
Swansea are making an improved offer of £18m for their former player Andre Ayew.
West Ham rejected a £14m bid from Swansea for Ayew last weekend but the Premier League’s bottom club are making a fresh proposal.
Swansea are also growing increasingly confident of signing Atletico Madrid midfielder Nicolas Gaitan on loan. Roque Mesa, the £11m summer signing, is expected to sign for Sevilla in a loan deal.
Forward trio to leave Leicester
Leicester are on the brink of loaning out strikers Islam Slimani, Leonardo Ulloa and Ahmed Musa.
Slimani, the £28m record signing, is a target for Monaco and Chelsea while Brighton are favourites to re-sign Ulloa ahead of Aston Villa and Wolves.
Musa will have a medical at former club CSKA Moscow on Sunday and is poised to sign on loan for the remainder of the season.
Brighton, meanwhile, have seen a £1.5m bid for defender James Justin rejected by League Two leaders Luton.
County hoping to pick McClean up
Derby have made an inquiry for West Brom’s Republic of Ireland international James McClean.