Premier League team news, European latest and more: football countdown – as it happened

Luke McLaughlin on 14 February 2020

And to close out today’s blog, here’s Barney Ronay on the weaponisation of Anfield:

Some words from Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta on his summer transfer plans, via PA Media:

“We need to know the direction we want to have and to do that we need to bear in mind different scenarios. With that in mind I have to tell the club what we need, where we think we can improve and where we want to aim, and if we all want to aim for the same things then we put a plan together to try to execute it and make the process as short as possible.”

Since the turn of the millennium West Bromwich Albion have gone: up (2002), down (2003), up (2004), down (2006), up (2008), down (2009), up (2010) and down (2018) and it looks like they’re on course to bounce back once more:

Here’s José Mourinho, speaking earlier on his discussions with Dele Alli:

And some Chelsea news ahead of their game against Manchester United on Monday: Tammy Abraham faces a late fitness test having missed several training sessions this week with an ankle problem. Christian Pulisic (adductor) and Ruben Loftus-Cheek (achilles) will both miss out, with neither man match fit despite being in training.

A bit of Tottenham team news from the Press Association: Steven Bergwijn, Ben Davies and Giovani Lo Celso are all back in the Spurs squad. Erik Lamela (groin) will be assessed, but Harry Kane, Moussa Sissoko and Juan Foyth miss out.

Spurs, by the by, have won on their last five visits to face Villa at Villa Park at an aggregate score of 14-1.

Hello all. We’re on the final straight. Let’s kick off with your bumper* Friday edition of the Fiver:

*may not be bumper

That will be all from me today - thanks for reading, and for sending love on email and Twitter - I’m handing over to my colleague John Ashdown, who will steer you even closer to this weekend’s footballing action. Bye for now.

As reported here earlier on, Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has his Valentine’s Day evening plans well sorted:

“Something like Wolves against Leicester, then maybe a nice takeaway, then Love Island on ITV + 1.”

Lucky Christine!

A couple of match previews for you here - leaders Liverpool v rock-bottom Norwich:

And Southampton v Burnley, a chance for one of these clubs to climb into the top half:

“I say what I think and that’s why I’m not the easiest guy for some coaches.”

Get to know a bit more about new Chelsea signing Hakim Ziyech, thanks to Bart Vlietstra:

Back to that Manchester United press conference ...

In France - in Monaco to be precise - there is a match tonight which will have an impact on the race for Champions League qualification.

Seventh-placed Monaco (35 points) host fifth-placed Montpellier (37 points). Lille, Rennes and Marseille sit fourth, third and second respectively, and of course PSG are running away with the league with 61 points - 12 ahead of nearest challengers Marseille.

Suitably earth-shattering quotes from Monaco defender Fodé Ballo-Touré ahead of this one:

“Winning? Of course it’s good for the team. We have to string together the wins and we are working towards that. Now we want to get closer to the top of the table.”

Ighalo to debut for Man Utd at Chelsea?

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær says on-loan striker Odion Ighalo may make his debut against Chelsea on Monday:

“He’ll be involved with us and he’ll travel down with us and, obviously, now he’s out of that two-week period of precaution and it’s a precaution we’ve made,” Solskjær said.

“He’ll travel with us and let’s see if he’s involved or not.

“He’s done his [training programme] and it was always going to be a case of him having to integrate into the group anyway after having been out in China. He needs to get used to the players and the team and up to speed as quick as he can.

“Odion can help the club. He is a very professional player, a good lad and he’ll give something to the group.”

Quotes thanks to


Over at Borussia Dortmund’s social media dept. they’ve put together a Valentine’s Day video which mainly consists of players kicking each other to classical music:

The Axel Witsel social media dept., meanwhile, have told his fans on Twitter that Dortmund will get the result they need against Eintracht Frankfurt this evening.

Third-placed Dortmund sit four points off the pace set by leaders Bayern Munich, and three behind second-placed RB Leipzig:

Here’s a social media snippet of Inter Milan strike duo Romelo Lukaku and Lautaro Martínez cuddling, for Valentine’s Day and all that ...

Words from Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær will be coming up as soon as humanly possible, by the way.


The IOC have insisted that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be going ahead, despite the increasingly worrying Coronavirus outbreak.

There are men’s and women’s football tournaments as part of the Olympics, of course, with 16 men’s teams due to compete and 12 women’s teams. Sean Ingle reports:


Earlier mention of Tony Cottee (one of only two players to score on PL goals on Valentine’s Day and Halloween, along with Jamie Vardy) got me thinking of my first-ever visit to a football match, West Ham v Nottingham Forest at Upton Park, all the way back in 1987. A youthful Cottee scored twice, including a fairly sensational bicycle kick:

West Ham 3-2 Nottingham Forest, 1987

I’ll be here for the next hour to serve your weekend football countdown needs. Any burning issues that need discussing? Get in touch on email or on Twitter, as above.

It seems Belgium, Croatia, Portugal and Switzerland are all off to Qatar at the end of March for the inaugural ‘Qatar Airways International Tournament’:

Always good to squeeze a few friendly fixtures into the sparse playing schedule, I’d say.


EXCLUSIVE! At the team’s winter training camp in Marbella, Manchester United granted access to ... their own media team:

By the way, it seems that Manchester United press conference has been shifted to 3.15pm GMT.


“For me it was quite an easy conversation.”

Barry Glendenning has the full story on how Spurs manager José Mourinho dealt with Dele Alli’s recent social media controversy:

Mikel Arteta speaks

Some thoughts here from Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta in his press conference - thanks to -

Has he had to sacrifice attacking flair for defensive solidity since taking over?

“I don’t think so. I think we have to generate some defensive stability, but not by defending deep. I don’t like that. It’s by defending high and pressing the opponent as much as possible. But the process - together as many times as possible in the most efficient way - has to be done properly from here. If not in two passes when you arrive there, that transition is impossible to control because you are too far from the opponent. So we need to do that well first to after be able to generate and sustain our attacks as many times as possible during the games.”

What did the squad work on in Dubai, during their winter break?

“It was like a mini pre-season for us in Dubai, we had time to work on a lot of our principles: how we want to set up against different formations, the relevant things we need to work on [both] on and off the ball and apart from that it was great to be together and spend some time together, get to know each other, not just the players but the staff and the backroom staff as well. It was a very productive trip.”

Has he started planning for the summer?

“Absolutely. We have to plan and we need to know the direction we want to head and with that we need to bear in mind different scenarios and with that in mind, I have to tell the club what we need, where we think we can improve and where we want to end. And if we all end with the same thing, we put a plan together to try and execute it and make the process as short as possible.”

The hits keep on coming, as far as press conferences are concerned. Manchester United will be ticking the media box in a little over 10 minutes ahead of Monday night’s meeting with Chelsea in London.

The former England captain Dave Watson has a neurodegenerative disease that was “most likely” brought on by head injuries and repeated heading of the ball during his playing days, his wife has said in a statement released to the PA news agency:

Let’s head briefly to Japan, where the imminent kick-off of the J-League has had players, managers, and player-managers on media duty today.

Striker Kazuyoshi Miura of Yokohama FC (right) is still going strong at the age of 52 (!!!). He made his professional debut all the way back in 1986. The man on the left, of course, is Andrés Iniesta, who is now 35.

So he was a mere two years old when Miura ran on to a pitch as a professional for the first time. More evidence, if it were needed, of the health-giving benefits of the Japanese diet and general way of life.

Andrés Iniesta (Vissel Kobe) and Kazuyoshi Miura (Yokohama FC) shake hands at the J League media day.
Andrés Iniesta (Vissel Kobe) and Kazuyoshi Miura (Yokohama FC) shake hands at the J League media day. Photograph: Aflo/REX/Shutterstock

Sad news from Gigg Lane, where it appears the club are heading for liquidation.

They were promoted to League One for this season, but then expelled from the Football League owing to their financial difficulties.

David Conn reports:


A few more lines from Lampard here, speaking about Morocco winger Hakim Ziyech, who will be joining the club from Ajax in time for next season:

“I think he has an incredible left foot; he has an elegance about him that can find a pass,” said Lampard. “I see a player that hopefully can have a big imprint on our team and the Premier League. At times this season we’ve missed the player with the finishing touch. Hopefully he can be a piece of that puzzle.”


Arsenal team news

Gunners fitness update klaxon! They take on Newcastle at the Emirates on Sunday afternoon:

Kolasinac, Nelson, Saka are all fit. Some of the others, not so much:

Sead Kolasinac - Available following left thigh strain.

Reiss Nelson - Available following right hamstring strain.

Bukayo Saka -
Available for following a knock to right leg against Burnley.

Cedric Soares, Kieran Tierney, Calum Chambers are all still out - Pablo Mari is in full training following transfer from Brazilian pre-season.


Over in Spain, new-ish Barcelona manager Quique Setién has been speaking to media about his shortage of options in the forward line. The club have requested special dispensation to bring someone in outside the transfer window in view of the players on the sidelines.

Ahead of their meeting with third-placed Getafe tomorrow afternoon, Ousmane Dembélé has been ruled out for six months after having surgery on a leg injury, while ex-Liverpool man Luis Suárez is recovering from a knee problem.

“I am always prepared for whatever comes up, work with what I have,” Setién said.

“Everybody would like to have their team better than they are, but we will adapt to the situation. We must wait for the response to see if we can sign (another striker). The club is working on it. If we are given permission to sign a player, it is preferable, but we will always find a plan - because in the end you have to play with 11. We will adapt, find a solution and the way forward.”

In the end, you have to play with 11. He’s not wrong there, is he?

By the way, leaders Real Madrid - who are on 52 points, three clear of Barça at the moment - meet Celta Vigo on Sunday evening.


Daniel Farke speaks at Norwich

Courtesy of the official Canaries website, here are some thoughts from Norwich City manager Daniel Farke, who is preparing his bottom-placed club to take on runaway leaders Liverpool at Carrow Road tomorrow evening:

“The winter break was too short! In Germany we have four-five weeks and I’m lazy! But it was good to be able to calm things down. We had three complete days off but then were back on the training pitch to prepare for the following weeks and months. We never had a full week to prepare in the Championship. Liverpool have had enough time to prepare as well and will be switched on.

“Anfield [where they lost 4-1 at the start of the season] was a huge task for us but we showed that when we are good at our topics we are competitive. We created chances and should have been more clinical and switched on. There is always hope. Everything can happen in one game. In 20 games Liverpool will probably win the most, but our game against Man City showed that when we’re good at our topics we can beat them.

“It’s important to bring the mental attitude to the group, whether fighting for promotion or relegation. I’m responsible for man management and leading the group. I admire Jürgen Klopp because they were so successful last season, but are still so consistent and greedy.

“Teams often choose to sit deep against Liverpool, but they’re too strong against that in counter-attacks. If not, they’ll score from a set piece with [Virgil] Van Dijk. We have to have periods on the front foot, dominating possession and be fully aware there will be periods we have to be solid defending.”


Lampard (continued) on Monday’s match against Manchester United: “It’s a chance to open up a gap against a rival and we need to take that chance ... it’s a game we want to win, you can’t control certain factors, but you can control how you go into it. Sometimes at home we haven’t got what we wanted, maybe what we deserved.”

It’s Valentine’s Day, do you have a special evening planned? “[Laughs] Do you want the details? The finer details? It will look something like Wolves against Leicester, possibly a nice takeaway, then Love Island on ITV + 1.”


Frank Lampard's Chelsea press conference

Fitness update: “Christian [Pulisic] trained with the Under-23s today, he won’t be fit. Ruben [Loftus-Cheek] won’t be fit for this game, he is getting closer ... it’s great to have him nearly back. Tammy [Abraham] is still feeling the effects [of recent injury] and we had to take him out of training a couple of times this week ... we are hopeful, but he is to be assessed over the weekend.”

What will new signing Hakim Ziyech bring to the team? “Quality in what he’s got, in terms of the ability to make assists and score goals ... we’ve had games where we’ve had a lot of the ball but we haven’t had that final bit ... he’ll have to fit into the way we want to work here, working hard off the ball with a lot of energy, but the quality he has got will be there for the fans to see.”

Has the winter break made a different to the players? “I think ... I haven’t seen a visible difference but I think it’s a good thing for them to mentally rest, get away from each other, and spend time with their families as they see fit.”

Did Lampard need the break, it seemed like he was frustrated at the end of January? “The only thing that frustrates me is that I want to be as successful as I can at this club ... looking back I enjoyed having a bit of time away, it was a small reboot for everybody.”

What will Man United bring? “They’ve added in a couple of positions, but they’re a good team anyway, they are always going to be a threat for the top four. I do expect a tough game on Monday and of course it’s a direct rival, they are not too many points behind us, so we need to take that into account. Manchester United and Tottenham coming up are huge games for us.”

(Eighth-placed Manchester United are six points behind Chelsea in fourth.)


Klopp's record-breaking MOTM award

Jürgen Klopp, the smilingest manager in Premier League history, has more reason to beam - he has won the Manager of the Month award for a record fifth time, breaking the previous record of four, set by Manchester City rival Pep Guardiola.

Jurgen Klopp poses with the Manager of the Month award for January.
Jurgen Klopp poses with the Manager of the Month award for January. Photograph: Barrington Coombs/Getty Images for Premier League

“Dele is a great guy” - some quotes here from Tottenham manager José Mourinho regarding the recent furore over Dele Alli’s Snapchat posts, in which he appeared to joke about the Coronavirus outbreak and mock and Asian man:

Mourinho said: “I spoke with him about that but it was quite an easy conversation because he was very sorry about - let’s say, the mistake - but it was never his intention to hurt or offend.

“He immediately regretted and recognised it was a young generation mistake and he apologised. So my conversation was easy. What can I say, I can say he regrets and that is the best feeling he can show.

“I have a son at the same age as Dele and many of the players. I know social media is for his generation but when you are a public person like footballers are, they have to know and they have to be very, very careful.

“Dele is a great guy. The last thing he is is anything connected with racism.”


Newcastle’s big man up front (fitness permitting), Andy Carroll, tried to volley a ball in training and got injured.

Magpies manager Steve Bruce doesn’t sound very happy about it, although he refrained from aiming a volley of abuse in Carroll’s general direction.

“He’s strong-minded and tough mentally, and I suppose he’s had to be. However tough you are mentally though, it affects you if you can’t play. It becomes frustrating and disappointing for everybody, and, for Andy, it’s the worst scenario,” said Bruce.


I’m currently unable to find a live stream of either the Spurs or Norwich press conferences, but there will definitely be something from Chelsea at 1.30pm, and maybe Arsenal too. Stay tuned.

Stats gurus at the official Premier League website tell us that Norwich v Liverpool is the joint highest-scoring match up in the competition:

“The sides have met 17 times in the Premier League and there have been a total of 68 goals, an average of four per fixture.”

The equal highest is the head-to-head between Nottingham Forest and Blackburn Rovers, who have banged in a total of 40 goals between them in 10 Premier League encounters. Even I can work out that’s an average of exactly four per match ...


Spurs team news

Tottenham welcome back Steven Bergwijn, Ben Davies and Giovani Lo Celso for the trip to Aston Villa. Bergwijn was ineligible for Spurs’ FA Cup game with Southampton while Lo Celso (thigh) and Davies (ankle) were unfit.

Kane, Sissoko and Foyth all remain out for Tottenham, with Lamela a possibility to feature against Aston Villa on Sunday afternoon:

Creative genius Giovani Lo Celso is back in training with the squad, after a thigh injury, and is ‘in the frame’ for the Villa meeting.


Just to mark your card for what is coming up, José Mourinho will be speaking at 1pm (so very shortly) and at half past Mikel Arteta will also face the cameras. Frank Lampard is also set for his press conference at 1.30pm, while Ole Gunnar Solskjær is up at 2.45pm.

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard has defended his comments in the wake of his side’s defeat against Kilmarnock in midweek. Gerrard said his team “failed to handle the heat” at Rugby Park, comments which prompted some criticism.

But Gerrard on Friday insisted that honesty is the best policy. “My way of looking back at what I said is that I always try to be honest,” he said. “I don’t want to get in a situation where people don’t believe me or it’s not authentic. At the time, I felt like we’d really let ourselves down and I took responsibility for the group’s performance on the night. So I have no regrets for what I said on the night.”

Joe Howlett has emailed in boasting about his Euro 2020 tickets:

“I got very lucky. Denmark v Finland in Copenhagen. I’ve heard it being touted as game of the tournament already!”

A trip to Copenhagen is never a bad thing, or so I’ve heard. Sounds like fun Joe. Enjoy.

Premier-League wise, Tottenham’s press conference is next on the menu at 1pm. They head to Aston Villa tomorrow and José Mourinho should be along shortly.

Let’s take a quick look at Italy and one of Mourinho’s former clubs, Inter Milan. The Nerazzurri head for Rome and a Sunday evening showdown with Lazio. Antonio Conte’s Inter are top, by virtue of goal difference. But Lazio are only a point behind Inter and Juventus. They could go top with a win if Juve fail to beat Brescia at home earlier on Sunday.

The prolific ex-Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku has scored 12 times away from home for Inter so far this season, the most in Europe’s top leagues. “Road goals,” in US Sports-speak.

But hang on - Lazio striker Ciro Immobile has netted the most home goals of any striker in Europe, with 15. Who will come out on top on Sunday? There is a stats piece here on the Inter Milan website, if you fancy it.


It’s Hull City v Swansea City tonight, as 15th plays 10th in the Championship.

Hull are on a poor run, winless in the Championship since New Year’s Day. That’s partly down to a lengthy injury list, although defenders Matthew Pennington and Ryan Tafazolli may be in line to return tonight.

Visitors Swansea City are six points off the play-off places. They will be without midfielder George Byers for the rest of the season after he picked up an ankle injury, and Mike van der Hoorn and Jordon Garrick both remain sidelined.

Hull City boss Grant McCann told the club’s website: “We want to bring the smile and the enjoyment back and to go out there and express ourselves. We all need to stick together. When results don’t go your way it’s very easy to point fingers and look to put the blame somewhere, but we don’t have that culture here.

“We understand that we haven’t been good enough in our last five or six league games but we have the opportunity to turn it around.”


Things are heating up in the Championship and no mistake. The weekend’s fixtures look like this, with leaders West Brom hosting Nottingham Forest in the lunchtime kick-off tomorrow before second-placed Leeds hosts Bristol City in a good old-fashioned 3pm Saturday KO:


Hull City v Swansea


West Brom v Nottingham Forest
Birmingham v Brentford
Cardiff City v Wigan Athletic
Charlton v Blackburn
Derby County v Huddersfield
Fulham v Barnsley
Leeds United v Bristol City
Middlesbrough v Luton
Preston v Millwall
QPR v Stoke City
Sheffield Wednesday v Reading

If you missed it, here’s a story from yesterday evening by David Conn, regarding AFC Wimbledon’s funding of their new stadium at an old location - Plough Lane.

The club has raised over £4million via a bond scheme:

Uefa have issued a press release this morning outlining the record numbers of fans trying to get their hands on tickets for Euro 2020 this summer, which is being hosted across 12 countries.

“In the ticketing sales phase for fans of qualified teams in December 2019, supporters requested a record number of 8,977,427 tickets, which is more than three times the number of tickets requested during the same sales phase for UEFA EURO 2016,” reads the statement.

“Following on from last summer’s successful general public sales (12 June – 12 July), when there were 19.3 million ticket applications, there has been an unprecedented total of approximately 28.3 million ticket requests for 2.5 million available tickets.

“Significantly, the overall number of tickets requested for EURO 2020 is double the amount of the total tickets requested for UEFA EURO 2016.”

The highest demand has been for the final at Wembley on July 12, which has attracted more than 714,000 ticket requests, eight times the stadium’s capacity.

The group stage encounter between Germany and France at the 75,000-capacity Allianz Arena in Munich on June 16 has received 710,000 applications.

Fans are loving the multiple-country hosting format, basically, and are proving it with an insatiable - indeed, record-breaking - demand for tickets. Did you get lucky in the sale?


Chelsea, Manchester United, Tottenham, Arsenal and Norwich press conferences are all scheduled for between now and 3pm.

There is nothing due before 1pm though, in case you need to nip to the petrol station for a bunch of flowers and a card.

It’s quiz time. Test your knowledge of runaway league leaders, including a curveball on a team from one of Lithuania, Lativa, Estonia or Finland ...

Now then. Is Tatith Chong going to go the same way as Ashley Young, Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku, and sign for Inter Milan from Manchester United?

Fabrizio Romano writes that he is ‘seriously considering’ an offer from the Antonio Conte-managed Italian outfit:

Klopp finishes the press conference by answering a question on the winter break, and the fact that Manchester City’s match was scheduled during it, and then postponed due to weather:

“It just shows the problem with the schedule, that’s how it is. The winter weather, you can’t change … we decided the winter break must be a winter break [regarding Liverpool’s FA Cup replay against Shrewsbury].

“I just hope somebody will find a solution to these problems. I think the next problem will be if Manchester City go through in the FA Cup, then other games will have to be rescheduled. You cannot please everybody. We need to talk [the clubs with the authorities] about these problems, because if we don’t, it will get worse.”

Andy Carroll's fitness setback

Newcastle target man Andy Carroll has suffered a setback in his fight for full fitness, says manager Steve Bruce.

Newcastle host Arsenal in the Premier League on Sunday, and Bruce said: “The big problem we’ve got still is Andy’s not right, so that’s a concern to us going forward. We expected him to be okay and unfortunately, he’s not.”

Asked if the injury is more serious than was first feared, Bruce added: “We don’t think so. Thankfuly, it’s not his ankle, but this hip, hip flexor, whatever it is. When he gets to a certain level in his rehabilitation, he’s still not quite right, so we’ll just have to keep monitoring it and see how he is.”

Is Klopp surprised to see how Norwich have struggled given how well they competed in the team’s first match this season?

“Is it a surprise? I am not sure, this league is so strong. What I admire is that they stick to their principles, they do what they do ... it’s super coaching, you can see all the patterns and the movements on the pitch ... they caused 95 per cent of the teams they played against real problems ... from the outside it looks like this club really sticks together, they know what they have to do, and strange as it may sound, they are in a really good moment in the club. To stay in the Premier League will be difficult ... but no-one questions Daniel Farke because he is doing an incredible job. I was at a similar club, at Mainz ... you need a plan for tomorrow, for next month, for the next few years, and to me it looks like they have that ... they had a lot of chances in the first game [4-1 to Liverpool at Anfield] so it was a good warning for us ... we will feel the quality of Norwich.”

Klopp says James Milner and Sadio Mané are in contention to start against Norwich. “They both trained for Monday on and they are in contention.”


Jürgen Klopp speaks

Liverpool manager Klopp is asked to compare title races in Germany to the UK:

“It’s intense. People ask silly questions, you have to answer [laughs]. If you want to be successful you have to be consistent ... actually the nicest problem you can have in football is to answer or to not answer these questions ... there are a lot of games to come. It’s question two or three [in this press conference] and Norwich hasn’t been mentioned yet, but they are obviously my first concern. We have no other chance to make this game against Norwich the most important of our lives. People think it will be easy, because they look at the table ... we know they can cause problems, but we know we can cause problems too.”

The impact and benefit of the winter break ?

“We sent the players all over the world, we wanted them to rest, and I can see a difference in training. Rest is only one word - it’s rest, it’s recovery, there are a lot of things that start with ‘re-’ that happen in that week. You don’t lose a lot in a week [in terms of fitness and conditioning], but you can gain a lot.”


Klopp speaks!

Will Mohamed Salah go to the Tokyo Olympics with Egypt?

“Do I want to lose a player in pre-season? Of course not, that’s clear … we need more information, how will it look, when will the preparation start and so on … and no-one really contacted us so far, it’s all in the media. So, no decision made yet but we’ll see. We cannot discuss it really because we don’t know a lot about it, really. We need to speak to them [Egypt’s Olympic team management].”

Here, Louise Taylor looks ahead to the weekend’s women’s FA CUp action- she speaks to Sunderland Ladies boss Melanie Reay (cousin of Alan Shearer) who is plotting Birmingham’s downfall in their fifth-round meeting on Sunday:

Tottenham will take on RB Leipzig in the Champions League in north London next Wednesday. Second in the Bundesliga, just a point behind Bayern Munich, Leipzig are first in action against domestic rivals Werder Bremen tomorrow afternoon.

Nick Ames has spoken to midfielder Emil Forsberg, looking ahead to the Spurs match, and looking back on his time in Germany so far:

Ruben Vinagre is the only injury absentee for Wolves tonight for their meeting with Leicester.

Quoted on the Wolves website, manager Nuno Espirito Santo is expecting a stiff test against the Foxes: “Brendan [Rodgers] is doing a fantastic job, very good players, everybody can see the quality they have. So, we know what we’re going to face. They are a very good team, with a lot of quality players, a clear idea of football.”

Fittingly, it’s a Valentine’s Day love-in over on the Leicester City website too, where Rodgers in turn pours praise on the job Nuno is doing with Wolves:

“Nuno’s done an outstanding job there,” he said. “There was a big investment in the Championship. Players came in, but he’s been able to put them into a structure and a format and a way of working. Of course, in the Championship, they were terrific and then they came up, invested again, and then showed that consistency and quality in the Premier League ...

“They play a counter-attacking style, so they’ll be happy to sit a bit deeper and then look to break out with the pace and they have the quality and the understanding to do that.”

Leicester’s Wilfred Ndidi is doubtful with a knee injury while January loan signing Ryan Bennett is ineligible against his parent club. Veteran centre-back Wes Morgan returns to the squad.


Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp is due to be speaking in less than 25 minutes ...

Meanwhile, here’s Reds goalie Alisson Becker with a sumptuous first touch in training. Not so sure about the last touch, though ...

Don’t forget, sports fans - you can contact me on Twitter or on email with any thoughts on the weekend’s imminent footballing action.

I wouldn’t recommend proposing marriage to your significant other via this blog, but all entries will be considered on merit.

Meanwhile, this seems fair regarding social media on Valentine’s Day, from Adam Crafton:


Will Spurs or Arsenal sign Norwich City’s Ben Godfrey this summer? Will José Mourinho also swoop for Max Aarons? Will Manchester United’s goalie Dean Henderson, on loan at Sheffield United, sign for PSG??

Barry Glendenning has this morning’s transfer tittle-tattle for you right here:


Here’s a story we broke last night, regarding the astonishing volume of football match tickets being resold via sites such as StubHub.

“Evidence seen by the Guardian indicates that one person may be behind a large proportion of transactions in English football. Internal StubHub data includes multiple listings with the same “seller ID”. Only StubHub knows who they are but they are responsible for nearly £2m of tickets advertised on one day.”

Rob Davies has all the details here:


Opta’s Duncan Alexander is winning football Twitter, yet again:

Here we have an eclectic mix of 10 things to look out for this weekend - from Nottingham Forest’s date with Championship-leading West Brom, to RB Salzburg’s crunch encounter against title rivals Lask in the Austrian top division tonight.

Nick Ames, Simon Burnton and Paul Doyle muck in for this one:


Who’d have thunk it? Wolves have won 4-3 in both of their home Premier-League era encounters against the Foxes. Will we have another seven-goal thriller tonight?

In keeping with “Global Britain”, meanwhile, Leicester City have kindly provided kick-off times for fans from Vancouver to Sydney and pretty much everywhere in between. If you’re in the UK, it’s an 8pm start.


Italy and Juventus great Gigi Buffon has been adding to his collection of football memorabilia.

The goalkeeper snaffled Daniel Maldini’s shirt after the 1-1 draw in Milan last night, adding another father-son combo to his haul, along with Chiesa, Thuram and Weah:

Now, here’s a round-up of last night’s action in Europe. In Italy Juventus needed a late Cristiano Ronaldo penalty to salvage a 1-1 draw with Milan in the first leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final, while Napoli beat Inter 1-0 on Wednesday:


Paul Pogba is in the news again. He wants to leave Manchester United, says agent Mino Raiola ... but who will stump up the €100m (£83m) the club apparently want?

Here’s Fabrizio Romano:


Good morning everybody, and welcome to this Valentine’s Day-themed weekend football countdown.

There are six Premier League matches across the weekend, starting with Wolves v Leicester this evening, and ending with a semi-seismic clash between Chelsea and Manchester United on Monday night. Plus of course there’ll be a host of matches in the Football League as the romance of the title race(s) ramps up.

On top of that, there are some fascinating fixtures in the leagues across Europe with the business end of the season in Germany, Italy, Spain - indeed, everywhere - fast approaching.

Valencia meet Atletico Madrid in La Liga this evening, with Barcelona taking on Getafe tomorrow and Real Madrid hosting Celta Vigo on Sunday night. In Germany Borussia Dortmund play tonight, against Eintracht Frankfurt, while leaders Bayern Munich travelling to FC Köln on Sunday.

But possibly the biggest fixture in Europe this weekend is Lazio’s meeting with Inter Milan in Rome, the city of love, on Sunday. Inter currently top the table on goal difference from Maurizio Sarri’s Juventus, with Lazio lurking a point behind them both.

There are several Premier League press conferences coming up throughout the day, starting with league leaders scheduled for Liverpool at 11am, so we’ll bring you quotes and news from those, and much more besides. Let’s hope we all come up smelling of roses.

Weekend Premier League fixtures


Wolves v Leicester City


Southampton v Burnley
Norwich City v Liverpool


Aston Villa v Tottenham
Arsenal v Newcastle


Chelsea v Manchester United


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