Everton will take advantage of a gap in their fixture list to complete a training break in Dubai this week.
The Blues will fly out to the UAE on Wednesday (February 14) following a star-studded Gala Dinner to celebrate 30 years of Everton in the Community (EITC) at St George’s Hall in Liverpool city centre on Tuesday night.
The Toffees are set to bring their entire first-team squad to Dubai, bar long-term absentees James McCarthy and likely Ramiro Funes Mori, who will stay at the club’s Finch Farm training base.
Here, we detail more information about the trip, which has yet to be officially confirmed, as the Premier League club follow the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and Celtic in coming to Dubai in 2018:
WHY ARE EVERTON IN DUBAI?
Following Saturday’s 3-1 success over Crystal Palace at Goodison Park, the Blues’ next Premier League fixture is on Saturday February 24 at Watford.
This sizeable gap in the fixture list, aided by the fact Everton aren’t in the Emirates FA Cup, has provided the Merseysiders with the perfect chance to recharge their batteries with some winter sun.
It is anticipated the camp will last at least five days, with it being possible the Blues will have a behind-closed-doors friendly to help maintain match sharpness.
WHERE ARE THE BLUES TRAINING?
Though it is not confirmed, it is likely Everton will train at Nad Al Sheba, Meydan, known as the best training facility in the Emirate. It is owned by the ruling family in Dubai and the training complex is private, with a number of top European clubs having trained there in the past.
Indeed, Everton trained at the facility this time last year while the Red Devils spent some time there last month.
However, it should also be mentioned Sam Allardyce’s previous clubs, including Sunderland, have trained at Dubai Sports City.
WHERE ARE THE BLUES STAYING?
Situated a stone’s throw away from Nad Al Sheba, The Meydan Hotel will likely be the spot where Everton stay, given Ronald Koeman had his side based there in 2017.
The five-star hotel is ideal given stars can cycle to and from the hotel and training complex.
The relegation-threatened Magpies scrapped their way to a 1-0 win at St James’ Park on Sunday courtesy of Matt Ritchie’s 65th-minute strike, although they were indebted to fine goalkeeping from debutant Martin Dubravka and some last-ditch defending as the visitors launched an onslaught.
Mourinho told Sky Sports: “They fought like animals – and animal is a good word in football and I hope they take it as a compliment.”
He added during his post-match press conference: “I think first of all that the Newcastle United players and obviously staff, they gave what they have and what they don’t have and I think that’s a beautiful thing in football.
“I think they came here today to fight for a point, but they found themselves in the position of winning 1-0 and in that moment, they went over all the limits of the effort, of the sacrifice, of everything a manager likes to see in his team.
“I saw that in my team at 1-0, that desire to play and to try and to go until the last seconds, which we did.
“I can imagine that [Rafael] Benitez is more than pleased with the efforts of his players. Were they lucky? Yes, they were, yes, they were. But sometimes you attract that luck with your state of mind and at 1-0, the Newcastle players fought for their lives and I think that’s a beautiful thing in football.”
Ritchie’s decisive strike came in the midst of a storm as United attempted to turn the screw, and it could hardly have been more timely on a day when Huddersfield’s earlier win had plunged Benitez’s men into the bottom three.
The Spaniard said: “We knew that they had won and at the same time, we knew we needed to try to win the game, that’s it.
“We were very close in a lot of games, but we were unlucky; today, we were working even harder if it’s possible and then we were a little but lucky at the end.
“But it wasn’t because they won that we needed to win. We needed to win anyway and my message to our players before the game was to forget about the other games, just concentrate on this one and try to get three points.”
Victory eased the Magpies into 13th place in the table, while United now trail leaders Manchester City by 16 points.
Real Madrid star Ronaldo won the prestigious world player of the year award for a record-equalling fifth time in December, meaning either he or Barcelona playmaker Messi have claimed the prize every year since 2008.
But the form of De Bruyne in Manchester City‘s outstanding season has elevated the Belgium midfielder to the elite level in the eyes of his manager, and Guardiola believes is a potential winner.
“No doubt,” said Guardiola after watching De Bruyne lay on three more assists in Saturday’s 5-1 thrashing of Leicester. “He is not (just doing it in) one game. It’s the whole season, every three days playing that way. Every three days.
“But he knows and everyone knows, to be there you have to win titles – and titles and titles, especially one. But the way he’s played it’s difficult to find one (better) in Europe.”
When asked if the ‘one’ title he was referring to was the Champions League, Guardiola said: “Of course. You have to be there in the latter stages. Without the latter stages you will not be nominated.”
Guardiola, however, is not looking too far ahead just yet. The quadruple-chasing Premier League leaders resume their Champions League campaign at the last-16 stage in Basel on Tuesday and Guardiola is well aware City exited at this point last season. His immediate aim is negotiating a path into the next round.
He said: “The next step forward from last season is to achieve the quarter-finals. That is our only concern. Against Basel we try to make two good games and do it better than last season.
“We arrive good but we have to know the Champions League is another competition, completely different.
“The Champions League is (about) how you control the bad moments and the emotions. That is the Champions League. We scored six goals last season in the last 16 and were out.”
De Bruyne, who has now provided 18 assists for team-mates in all competitions this season, insists he is not interested in individual praise or talk of the Ballon d’Or.
The influential midfielder said: “To be fair, when I am busy playing football I don’t care (about that).
“I am doing what I have to do. It is something you reflect on after you get something like that. I am not busy with that before.
“I do everything to win titles with the team. What happens after is an extra.
“I am very pleased with the way everything is going for me. I am playing this way because the team is playing this way. It makes it easier for me, it makes it easier for them.
“At the end, if you get an individual honour, it is beautiful.”