Why Roberto Martinez thinks Man City's Kevin De Bruyne will return to action soon

Sport360 staff 15:30 24/09/2018
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Kevin De Bruyne is a naturally quick healer and will be back on the pitch far sooner than initially thought, according to Belgium manager Roberto Martinez.

The Manchester City playmaker injured a ligament in his right knee in training last month and the original prognosis was he would be out of action for at least three months.

But speaking to journalists at the FIFA Football Conference in London on Sunday, Martinez was much more optimistic.

“It was a freak accident, it happens, football is a contact sport,” the 45-year-old former Wigan and Everton boss said.

“The issue is how long he will be out and the reports are very positive. I think we’ll see him on the pitch a lot earlier than other players would take with that injury (and) we think he could be even fresher after his period away.

“No time scale yet but Kevin wants to be on the football pitch as quick as he can and physically he’s got that natural gift of being able to heal quicker than other players.”

Roberto Martinez speaks

Manchester City’s player of the year last season, De Bruyne was also instrumental in Belgium’s World Cup campaign, which ended with victory over England in the third-place play-off.

Last week, the 27-year-old said he still needed “three, four, five weeks, but I’m getting there” and Martinez’s comments suggest it could be the lower end of that scale, which means a possible return after the October international break.

City play Burnley on October 20, then Shakhtar Donetsk, Spurs, Southampton and Shakhtar again, before the Manchester derby on November 11.

The conference Martinez was attending in London was scheduled to tie in with Monday’s the Best FIFA Football Awards ceremony, where De Bruyne has a good chance of being included in last season’s World 11.

That dream team has been selected by 25,000 professional footballers from 65 countries and it is entirely possible that De Bruyne’s compatriot Eden Hazard could also make the cut.

Some observers, most notably Hazard’s new boss at Chelsea, Maurizio Sarri, wonder if Hazard should be setting his sights even higher.

Asked if he thought the 27-year-old attacking midfielder should be aiming to win FIFA’s world player-of-the-year prize, Martinez said: “Individual awards are difficult to put a real meaning on them because they’re very subjective.

EdenHazardHeroBelgiumTunisia (1)

“Everyone will have their own view but when you see an attacking player with that level of consistency – I think he’s been involved in 26 goals in 26 games for the national team – this is world-class. And that is for a player who is always highlighted by the opposition.

“I’ve seen Eden Hazard at a sensational level at the World Cup and I’ve seen that carry on with Chelsea this season.”

Another Belgian player who has caught his eye in the Premier League this season is Christian Kabasele.

The Democratic Republic of Congo-born defender has been a rock for Watford and Martinez admitted he has been “unfortunate” not to add to his single cap in 2016 but was someone “we’re keeping a very close eye on because he’s a fantastic footballer for the future with us”.

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Tottenham's Harry Kane happy to face scrutiny after ending goal drought

Sport360 staff 14:14 24/09/2018
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Target man: Harry Kane.

Harry Kane says he is happy to be under the microscope and insists there is no harsher critic than himself.

The Tottenham striker ended a five-game goalless run for club and country when he put his side ahead in their 2-1 win at Brighton – a result that also ended a three-game losing streak for Spurs.

Kane converted a first-half penalty in typically cool fashion to take him level with Jermain Defoe on 143 goals for the club.

The fitness and form of the England captain has been a hot topic in recent weeks, with many people suggesting he has looked jaded, while he barely had a sight of goal in that spell.

But he looked back to somewhere near his best at the Amex Stadium and could have ended up with a hat-trick after a flurry of late efforts.

“I would 100 per cent rather have the focus than not have it,” Kane said.

“I have scored three goals this season which is not terrible. Obviously when you set standards in other seasons and other games, people will talk if you do not reach them and I am the first to analyse my game and see what I could do better.

“Of course I feel I could have done better in most games this season. Brighton was probably the first game I was truly happy with my all-round performance.

“I felt good. As a striker you are going to be under the microscope more than everyone else.

“That is the life of the striker. You will get chances, miss chances, feel you can hold it up better. All you can do is look forward and try and improve.

“As a striker, you go through good spells, bad spells. The most important thing for me is to work hard for the team – to do a good shift for the team. I am always pleased to score.”

The inquests into Tottenham’s season were already being held after the three consecutive losses, with fatigue a stated factor after nine of their players were in Russia for the duration of the World Cup.

Kane, who says there was no player summit after the loss at Inter Milan, maintains everyone is feeling sharp.

“We all talk around the training ground but there was not an official meeting,” he added. “We are in a tough spell but that is football.

“The only way to get through that is to work harder. Whether that is on the training pitch or during games.

“It was important, as a team, that we were all better and all had more energy.

“A lot of us played in the World Cup and a lot of people have been talking about that but we all feel fit and sharp.

“It is important we proved that. A lot of people speak about tiredness and fatigue but we all feel fine. We all feel good.

“It was important we showed that. We were all pressing and this is when we are at our best.”

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Unai Emery pleased with under-pressure goalkeeper Petr Cech as Arsenal win again

Sport360 staff 07:54 24/09/2018
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Unai Emery admits he has been surprised by the criticism aimed at Petr Cech in recent weeks as the Arsenal goalkeeper put in a man of the match performance in Sunday’s Premier League win over Everton.

Second-half strikes from Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were enough for the Gunners to secure a 2-0 victory, their fourth in a row in the league.

Everton will feel hard done by to leave the Emirates Stadium with nothing to show for a decent performance – and not only because Aubameyang’s goal came from an offside position.

The visitors dominated the first half, with Cech forced to make a number of decent stops to keep out the likes of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Lucas Digne and Richarlison – who looked sharp on his return from suspension.

Cech, 36, has captained Arsenal in all of their Premier League games since Emery took charge but has not been without his critics as he adapts to playing the ball out from the back.

He has kept summer signing Bernd Leno on the bench – except for Thursday’s Europa League win over Vorskla Poltava – and Emery is pleased with his goalkeeping options.

“I’m a little surprised because there have been a lot of questions over Cech,” Emery said after the win.

“In pre-season and also in the first (league) matches with us, he’s played with good performances. Bernd Leno will also improve with us and learn about this competition here.

“Petr has big experience and big quality. He’s started the season very well and we think he’s giving us the performance we want. Today he showed us that he’s very good and continuing to work hard with this spirit every day.”

Lacazette opened the scoring with a well-taken strike, three minutes before Aubameyang’s contentious tap-in secured the win.

But Emery revealed he was preparing to remove Lacazette in the moments leading up to his goal – with Alex Iwobi stripped and ready to replace the France striker.

Asked if he was intending to substitute Lacazette, the Arsenal head coach replied: “I don’t think it’s important, but maybe yes! Football is like that.

“We needed to change something in this moment to give us another individual quality on the pitch. Then we scored the goal and I decided to stop it and think again about who we need next.”

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