Half-Time Report: Tottenham 0-1 Ajax… Visitors draw the first blood

Van de Beek’s early goal gave Ajax the lead, and maintained the one-goal advantage over Tottenham until the break.

The visitors have been able to play more or less exactly how they like: enjoying plenty of possession, passing in triangles as they nudge the play ever higher up the pitch, and ripping through the Spurs back line with regularity. They played some excellent football in the final third, with quick one-two touch football leading to the opening goal as Van de Beek was played through on goal and just had Lloris to beat.

A fantastic performance so far. The almost doubled their lead shortly after, with Van de Beek once again trying to beat Lloris, but this time the Spurs keeper made a good save from close range. Tottenham improved towards the end of the half, with Alderweireld going close from a set piece.

Tottenham withstood the Ajax onslaught after the goal, before Vertonghen’s injury disrupted the game’s flow. His replacement, Sissoko, will come into his own as the second half progresses.

Photo Credit: ajax.nl

Claude Makelele aims dig at Maurizio Sarri over decision to offload one of Chelsea’s key players

Former Chelsea midfield maestro Claude Makelele has criticized Maurizio Sarri for allowing Alvaro Morata to join Atletico Madrid on loan.

The Spanish international left Chelsea the January and joined Atletico Madrid on an 18-month loan deal, while the Spanish club also have the option to make it permanent for a £50 million fee.

Since joining the Los Rojiblancos, Morata has been on fire for the La Liga giants churning out scintillating performances.

But his replacement, Gonzalo Higuain, has struggled since his arrival in the Premier League, scoring just four goals in 12 appearances, while the Argentine was unable to make an impact as Chelsea drew 1-1 with Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Makelele believes Maurizio Sarri should have stuck with Alvaro Morata instead of bringing Gonzalo Higuain to Stamford Bridge, reports the Metro.

But Makelele, who won two Premier League titles and made over 200 appearances for Chelsea, feels his former club were wrong to let the Spain international leave Stamford Bridge.

‘For me, the way I see it I think it depends on the manager and the way he wants to play football,’ Makelele told Stadium Astro.

Either with a target man or with a smart player moving, scoring goals, dribbling.

‘We didn’t know exactly what the manager wanted [at the start].

‘He prefers Higuain because he’s more adapted with Hazard and Willian, he had him before, he knows Higuain very well, so he knows the mentality and spirit [of Sarri’s team].

‘But for me, the one is Morata, he’s a real striker.

‘He’s like [Karim] Benzema a little bit, technically soft, scores goals, not selfish, runs, I think he’s quicker than Higuain and Giroud.

‘It’s difficult [to adapt], it was hard to adapt in the beginning, I needed to change the way I played, the second ball there was always contact.

‘It was so different, you need to be a mix of a fighter and playing football one and two touch.

‘I think any manager who buys a player needs to have the identity of the club.

‘He understands why he’s been bought, he needs to be a fighter and play for his teammates.’

Photo Credit: premierleague.com

Paul Pogba handed huge condition before joining Real Madrid this summer

Reports have emerged that Paul Pogba will be forced to take a pay cut if he leaves Manchester United for Real Madrid this summer.

Both the France international and Zinedine Zidane have spoken recently about the prospect of the midfielder moving to the Spanish capital, but United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has said that he expects the £89 million signing from Juventus to be a part of his squad next season.

The 26-year-old is said to be disillusioned with life in Manchester and has told several teammates that he is hopeful of a change of club, with the outgoing European champions alerted over the situation.

However, according to ESPN FC, the La Liga giants are not prepared to match his £290,000-a-week Old Trafford wages.

The contract offer to the star by Madrid may be dependent on the futures of several of their first-team players this summer, most notably Gareth Bale, Football Espana claims.

He is said by Diario AS to be keen to complete the deal as soon as possible so that the deal does not become a saga, as his move to United from Juve in 2016 became.

ESPN FC, meanwhile, adds that some of Pogba’s club teammates expect him to push for a move this summer if United fail to qualify for the Champions League — an outcome which is now increasingly likely following Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea at Old Trafford which has left United three points adrift of the top four with only two games left to play.

United’s determination to keep Pogba, rooted as much in the player’s commercial value as his contribution to the team, may yet prompt the club to discuss a new contract with his advisors in an effort to put an end to Madrid’s efforts.

Chelsea bent on recalling club’s sensational star on loan in Serie A

Chelsea are reportedly planning to bring back Ola Aina once his loan spell at Torino expires.

Toro have a €10m option to buy Aina at the end of the season,but the full-back signed a new contract with Chelsea before he made the move, reports Football Italia.

That suggests the Blues have a counter-option, and the Evening Standard writes they are ‘reluctant’ to part with their youth graduate, especially if their transfer ban stands.

The 22-year-old has played 29 times for the Granata this season, helping them into Serie A’s top six with just four games remaining.

The newspaper adds Chelsea will send Davide Zappacosta back to Italy this summer, while there are ‘doubts’ over the future of fellow defenders Emerson Palmieri and Marcos Alonso.

Aina – who has also been linked with Fiorentina – would effectively replace any of the three.

Rio Ferdinand contacted for Manchester United top job

There are reports in England that Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand is one of several candidates Ed Woodward has spoken to about becoming their first sporting director.

It’s believed United are keen to appoint a candidate who has an understanding of how the club works.

According to Sky Sports, the person who fills the newly-created sporting director role is expected to focus on the transfer market, the academy and supporting the management team.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who was appointed as United’s permanent manager last month, is willing to work with a sporting director and has been involved in discussions regarding the recruitment.

In contrast, Solskjaer’s predecessor Jose Mourinho was against such an appointment.

United hope to make the appointment before the start of the new season.

Photo Credit: irishnews.com

Manchester United legend identifies Chelsea star giving Maurizio Sarri’s team huge problem

Manchester United legend Paul Scholes has identified Jorginho as the problem of Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea.

Sarri has been criticised for the decision to remove N’Golo Kante from the heart of Chelsea’s midfield and replace him with Jorginho, who arrived in a £57 million deal from Napoli last summer.

According to Scholes, the Italian international’s lack of mobility is becoming a huge problem in Chelsea’s midfield after their 1-1 draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford, reports the Metro.

Jorginho has been criticised for his lack of attacking output this season with just two goals and no assists in 48 appearances so far, but Sarri has remained adamant that the midfielder is a crucial part of the playing style he is trying to implement at Chelsea.

Scholes, however, believes Jorginho has been exposed during Chelsea’s away matches against the top six and believes the 27-year-old’s lack of pace is a problem for Sarri.

‘I don’t think Chelsea are that far away, I enjoy watching Chelsea, I just think there are a couple of issues they need to sort out,’ Scholes told TSN.

‘Right at the start of the season I thought there was always going to be an issue with Kante and Jorginho.

‘Especially in the away games, you’ve seen the away games against the big teams, he doesn’t have the legs to get around the pitch.

‘At Chelsea he’s fine, it’s tight, it’s close, he doesn’t get exposed. ‘I think in away games he gets exposed.’

Maurizio Sarri explains why he wants to keep Gonzalo Higuain at Chelsea

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has defended his intention to keep Juventus loanee Gonzalo Higuain at the club.

Chelsea have options to prolong Higuain’s loan and buy him outright, but his lack of goalscoring form and the club’s transfer ban had left his future at Stamford Bridge in doubt.

According to Football Italia, Sarri replied when asked if the striker was staying: “In theory, yes.

“It’s difficult to adapt to the Premier League. I think in the next season he will be able to score a lot.

“For a striker it is difficult to get used to the Premier League. I remember Suarez at Liverpool in [his] first season only scored three goals, then 16, then 24.”

So does the 60-year-old know what will happen with the former Milan and Napoli hitman at this stage?

“I don’t know. I’m not in charge of the market, so I cannot answer these questions.”

Higuain has netted four times in 14 appearances for the Blues since arriving in January.

Ivan Rakitic sends message to Barcelona board

Ivan Rakitic sent a clear message to the Barcelona board after they lifted the La Liga title – that he wants to stay at the club.

The Croatian is determined to stay at the club despite the impending arrival of Frenkie De Jong

Diario Sport had reported early in the month that Barcelona have no plans to renew the contract of Ivan Rakitic and are open to offers for the midfielder.

His current deal at the club runs through until the summer of 2021 although Barca signed midfielders Arturo Vidal and Arthur Melo last summer and Frenkie De Jong will arrive Nou Camp from Ajax this summer.

“I don’t want to be anywhere else,” the Croatian said.

“I hope the club, the president, the coach and the fans see this the same way I do.

“I hope they tell me that I’ll stay here for another three years.

“I’d like to be able to point to the three more years on my contract and to say I’ll be here three more years.

“Anything can happen in football, but I am very calm about it all.”

His agent Arturo Canales is reported to have said that the midfielder would not be leaving the club this summer although the Spanish media have cast doubt upon such claims.

Real Madrid, Manchester United dealt transfer blow as Borrussia Dortmund say star won’t be sold

There are reports that Borussia Dortmund have insisted that winger Jadon Sancho will not leave the club this summer amid links to Real Madrid and Manchester United.

Zinedine Zidane is reportedly keen to buy the sensational youngster as part of the new players to rebuild his fledging side as confirmed by Bild.

“We do not expect anything and we do not want anything, because he is on our plans. He will play for Borussia Dortmund next season. Nobody needs to get in touch,” said Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc, as cited by ESPN FC.

The 19-year-old and the England international has been a revelation for the German club since joining from Manchester City in the summer of 2017 for a €9m fee and has netted 12 goals this campaign.

Zidane takes swipe at Gareth Bale amid Real Madrid exit speculation

Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane has openly criticised Gareth Bale over his role in the defeat of Los Blancos by Rayo Vallecano on Sunday.

Bale and Zidane failed to see eye to eye over playing style during the Frenchman’s first spell at Santiago Bernabeu.

After a shock 1-0 loss to Rayo, in which the Welshman had little impact, Zidane said he “did not know if he’s focused on Madrid”.

But the winger’s agent insists his client is keen to spend the rest of his career at Real Madrid despite Zidane resolve to reportedly sell him to Manchester United.

Bale’s Real Madrid future will, however, be decided at the end of the season.

Photo Credit: realmadrid.com