Transfer Gossip: Bale, Vardy, Sanchez, Zabaleta and Barkley

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Every day we will be keeping you updated with the latest transfer rumours as the season draws to a close and the window opens up…

GARETH BALE

Here we go, a transfer story which normally rears its head around this time but according to The Independent a move to Old Trafford for the Wales international is “much likelier” than it ever has been before.

The Real Madrid winger has once again his season punctuated by injuries and Isco has starred in his latest absence from the first team.

It’s led to speculation that the 27-year-old could be heading for the Bernabeu exit with Manchester United his preferred destination should Real decide to sell him.

RATING: 6/10

SPORT360 VERDICT: The rumour does appear to be gathering some momentum and considering the strength in depth of Real it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that they could decide to cash in on Bale – especially given his injury record.

However, the stumbling block may actually be Jose Mourinho with The Independent also saying he is unsure on the Welshman with Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann his top target this summer.

Expect this one to rumble on if Madrid are to sell, now would be as good a time as any.

JAMIE VARDY AND ALEXIS SANCHEZ

The Griezmann to United tidbit leads us nicely onto this next rumour as Atletico Madrid are being linked with moves for Leicester City frontman Jamie Vardy and Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez.

Funny how Vardy is being linked with a move to Atleti after impressing against them in the Champions League but anyway it’s The Independent who are again behind this one.

They do point out, however, that any move to bolster their attack is dependent on two factors: Diego Simeone remaining at the club and having a FIFA transfer ban overturned in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

RATING: 5/10

SPORT360 VERDICT: The thing with this rumour is that Atletico could very well be interested in signing the duo but it seems like a lot of things have to fall into place for either to happen.

First, there’s Griezmann’s situation and if he does decide to stay then you would imagine any move for Sanchez or even Vardy is a little unlikelier.

Then there is the targets themselves. Arsenal will be desperate to keep a hold of the Chilean while at 30 years of age, is Vardy really the man to revitalise Simeone’s attack? Not quite sure on that but we’ll keep an eye out nonetheless.

Leicester City v Arsenal - Premier League

PABLO ZABALETA

West Ham are reportedly interested in signing Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta.

The London Evening Standard says the Hammers face competition for his signature but with the 32-year-old out of contract in the summer it looks certain he will leave the Etihad Stadium.

The Argentine spoke of his love for the club in an interview with us as signs suggest he will indeed end his nine-year association with the club.

RATING: 8/10

SPORT360 VERDICT: Yep, we can believe this rumour. In his interview with us, Zabaleta spoke like a man who knows his career at City is coming to an end.

But while he doesn’t quite have the same spring in his step since arriving from Espanyol in 2008, his vast experience will be a big asset for the Hammers.

He’ll be a wanted man, no doubt, but the appeal of staying in the Premier League should see him make the move to London.

ROSS BARKLEY

Everton boss Ronald Koeman is not messing around. The Dutchman has given Ross Barkley until next weekend to sign a new contract or he will be sold.

This comes on the back of last month’s warning to the 23-year-old, who has a year on his deal, that he could sold but Koeman has gone a step further saying: “We don’t wait till August – next weekend we need an answer.”

The desire to play Champions League football appears to behind Barkley’s stalling so Tottenham would appear the most likely candidates to sign him on that basis.

RATING: 4/10

SPORT360 VERDICT: It’s a bold tactic by Koeman but we believe it will pay off and Barkley will put pen to paper on a new deal.

He’s getting regular first-team football at Goodison Park and the club is heading in the right direction with Europa League football on the cards for next season.

It’s difficult to see him getting the same at Spurs given their plethora of midfield talents.

WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON…

Pochettino looks delighted doesn’t he?

Son, meanwhile, looks like a ray of Son shine

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Henk Ten Cate urges team to make history against Al Dhafra

Denzil Pinto 10/05/2017
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The Arabian Gulf League crown is theirs but Al Jazira coach Henk Ten Cate wants his team to finish the season in style and make history against Al Dhafra tomorrow (Friday).

The newly-crowned champions go into the game knowing victory over the Western Knights would see them become the first team to win 22 matches since the league turned professional. Three points would also see them end a fine season with a 100 per cent home record and Ten Cate has urged his troops to grab the opportunity with both hands.

“I have a full squad to choose from and for the team especially the local players, it’s a chance to make history,” said the Dutchman.

“There are a lot of local players who live in this country and what nicer way to be remember in 20 or 25 years  that you were part of the team. It would be special and I want  a fresh team to finish the season in style and finish it the way we
want it.”

He added: “First of all, it’s our last home game for our supporters and we should win this for them. We can break the record and this is important. We have won all our games and it will be something unique to win 13 home matches.

“There’s a lot of circumstances on why we have to win this game and that’s why I think it’s a really important  match for us. I hope the players can find the focus and I’m working on that. I’m doing the best I can so that they can give their best in the last game of the season. Yes, we are all thinking about the celebrations but we still have to win a game.”

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Juventus vs Monaco: Five ways Monaco can pull off an unlikely comeback

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Last Wednesday, the slick Monaco attack came unstuck against Juventus’ impeccable defence, leaving the French side a mountain to climb in order to qualify for the Champions League final.

As they head into Tuesday’s decisive second leg at Juventus Stadium, here’s a look at five things they can do to overturn the 2-0 deficit.

Force the issue early on

Leonardo Jardim’s side started the first leg very much on the front foot with Kylian Mbappe lively and stretching the Juventus defence in the opening 10 minutes. They maybe caught Juve a little cold but after that the Bianconeri backline readjusted and succeeded at limiting any space Mbappe and Radamel Falcao had to operate behind the defence.

Jardim has something of a conundrum on Tuesday as he needs to attack and force the issue but can’t leave his own fragile defence too exposed as one Juventus goal will almost certainly kill the tie for good.

The counter-argument to that, of course, is that by trying to rattle the Italians early on, Monaco can try and dictate the pace. But for this to succeed, they simply have to score inside the first 10-20 minutes.

Jardim has stayed largely true to his 4-4-2 with Falcao and Mbappe his favoured pairing for much of the last few months, and he continued that in the 3-0 win at Nancy on Saturday. Valere Germain is an option as a third forward but with a focus on fast play in transition, playing him and Falcao together could prove counter-productive.

Leonardo Jardim.

Leonardo Jardim.

Stop the influence of Alves

The Brazilian was simply sensational at the Stade Louis II. Pushed further forward as an auxiliary winger, he tore Monaco full-back Djibril Sidibe apart.

With doubts over regular left-back Benjamin Mendy’s fitness, there’s every reason to suggest Sidibe will start again and Juve coach Max Allegri will target him with Alves. Responsibility then falls on left-midfielder/winger Thomas Lemar to give his team-mate some additional protection by tracking Alves’ runs and double-teaming him in possession.

That, of course, opens up space for others in black and white to exploit – Juan Cuadrado stands out – but Monaco simply cannot afford to give Alves the sort of space they afforded him in the first leg.

Draw a big game from each of their talented trio

As simple as it sounds, Mbappe, Lemar and Bernardo Silva need to click when in possession. Mbappe and Silva showed flashes in the first leg they can damage the Italian champions but the threat needs to be more consistent.

Lemar, on the other hand, had a bit of a stinker a week ago and will be keen to make amends. Mbappe is cementing his status as a generational talent and, based on his performances against Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City, will relish playing in Turin and with the need to score goals against such a legendary figure as Gianluigi Buffon.

He has the legs on Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli – as he does most defenders. The key will be if he can isolate them and receive the service required. That then falls on Lemar and Silva who knit everything together in terms of turning possession into purposeful attacking play.

Juve did a bit of a number on Lemar in the first leg, forcing him to stay wide and cross rather than drift inside and pick passes through to Mbappe or Falcao. It’s a test for the 21-year-old to avoid that trap and try and exert greater influence on the tie.

Mbappe.

Mbappe.

Sensible transition defence

As clinical as both Juve’s goals were last week, both were largely avoidable had Monaco’s defence kept their heads. Higuain’s first arrived as too many Monaco defenders got sucked towards the ball, allowing their men to take a touch, spin and dart into the open space. Tiemoue Bakayoko also totally lost Gonzalo Higuain, looking at the ball as the Argentine moved past his left shoulder.

This is all based on instinct and human nature but Monaco have to expect Juve to attack them when they lose the ball, they just fundamentally have to ensure they are able to switch their men defensively and not leave so many wide open spaces.

Unless they do concede, it’s unlikely Juve will want to commit too many men forward themselves – they don’t need to – but there is considerable responsibility on central midfielders Bakayoko and Fabinho to help their defenders if they get drawn away from position.

Hope for the best

Juve have conceded just four goals at home from open play in Serie A and none in the Champions League; they are as formidable a defensive side as we have seen since the glory days of Arrigo Sacchi and Fabio Capello’s AC Milan. Even if Monaco play to their absolute maximum and Juve misfire at the other end, there’s everything to suggest that this tie still finished 0-0.

With their inexperience, insecurity and doubt may slip in if things don’t go according to plan initially but they absolutely have to keep believing because something could always turn their way: an injury, a booking, a penalty decision, a refereeing error… maybe, just maybe, even an individual mistake.

As long as they stay in the contest any of that could feasibly happen, even against a team like Juventus.

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