Niasse joins Cardiff on loan from Everton

Cardiff City have sealed the loan signing of Oumar Niasse from Everton until the end of the season.

The striker has made just five substitute appearances in the Premier League for the Toffees this term and last scored for them in May 2018.

Niasse arrives to boost Cardiff’s battle against relegation, with Neil Warnock’s side a point and a place above the bottom three.

“I’m really pleased to be at Cardiff City,” the Senegal striker told the club’s website after joining.

“Having heard about the manager from other players and met him earlier today, I knew this was the right move for me.

“Other clubs were interested, but I was convinced that this was where I wanted to come.”

Cardiff are also being linked with a club-record move for Nantes striker Emiliano Sala.

Reports have indicated Cardiff are set to pay around £15 million ($23m) for the 28-year-old, who has scored 12 Ligue 1 goals this term.

Speaking about a potential deal for Sala, Warnock said: “We’re optimistic about that. It’s around £15m, but that’s what strikers cost.

“I like him, he’s a hard worker, he’s not going to knock the walls down but we need strikers. So if I could get both [him and Niasse] I would.”

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Cardiff have scored only 19 Premier League goals in 22 games this year, and only Newcastle United (18) and Huddersfield Town (11) have netted fewer.

These attempts to add to their strike force are a aimed at solving those problems going forward, with forward Callum Paterson their current top scorer with four strikes. 

He is then followed by Victor Camarasa and Josh Murphy on three goals, while centre-back Sol Bamba heads up a list of three players to have scored twice. 

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Higuain signing will finally put an end to Hazard as False 9

For the second January in a row, Chelsea find themselves at the centre of a striker merry-go-round. They want Gonzalo Higuain. He’s at AC Milan, on loan from Juventus, where he was pushed out to make room for Cristiano Ronaldo.

Higuain is having a bad season at San Siro and has scored only once in Serie A since October, with that goal coming against SPAL on December 29.

But there remains the tantalising potential of a link-up with Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea, the coach with whom Higuain arguably made his reputation during a record-breaking season with Napoli in 2015-16.

The Blues have reached an agreement with the player, Juventus and AC Milan – no mean feat – but there are further complications.

Indeed, Chelsea have got to clear space in their squad as well as their wage bill. To that effect, they are in the process of punting Alvaro Morata to Atletico Madrid for the rest of the season on loan .

Atleti don’t want to pay for a permanent deal right now and a fee could be settled instead for summer. Neither will Atleti be paying all of the Spain international’s wages if they can help it.

Michy Batshuayi, meanwhile, has been sent back from a difficult loan spell at Valencia. Sarri has not brought the Belgian back to play up front but in the hope of drumming up some cash in the form of a permanent sale.

It’s hoped he will go and join Michael Emenalo and Cesc Fabregas at Monaco but the fee that Chelsea are looking for is proving to be prohibitive.

In short, it’s a mess.

Morata has had numerous opportunities to prove himself at Stamford Bridge and blown most of them. He is not up to leading the line for a Sarri team and is suffering a crisis of confidence in front of goal.

He did not have the full trust of Antonio Conte either, who dipped into the market last year to sign Olivier Giroud.

Alvaro Morata Olivier Giroud Chelsea

While Giroud has been relatively popular with the Chelsea fans, and brought good football from Eden Hazard when they’ve played together, he has not wholly convinced Sarri of his merits.

Last year, Diego Costa was shipped out to Atletico, while Batshuayi was booted to Borussia Dortmund. It’s been a revolving door in the Chelsea striker department and despite the money spent and the deals done, none has been up to scratch.

That’s why Sarri has taken the unusual step of playing Hazard up front this season. The Belgium captain famously did not like playing there under Conte and would hardly have been thrilled to go there under the new coach either.

It has worked for the team, however, and Sarri, in public at least, believes that Chelsea have a better defensive shape when Hazard plays from the front.

Sarri has form of playing a little man up top, having successfully converted Hazard’s Belgium team-mate Dries Mertens into a ‘false nine’ at Napoli following the departure of Higuain for Juventus.

Arkadiusz Milik was brought in as an expensive replacement. A cruciate knee ligament injury put paid to the Pole’s season early on, however, and so Sarri had to go look for solutions within the squad.

Mertens worked. He is one of the most intelligent strikers in world football according to those who know him well.

However, while Mertens and Hazard might be similar heights and share the same nationality, they are very different players.

Eden Hazard Chelsea PS

Mertens is content to wait for his moment to pounce and many of his goals owe a lot to his movement, his anticipation and feature only one or two touches.

Hazard is a natural playmaker. He wants the ball all of the time. Whether he’s dribbling, playing one-twos or looking for a through-ball, Hazard demands involvement. And his teams generally benefit from his ability to run a game.

While he might well do a job for the team up front, it takes a lot away from the side as a whole to isolate him up there. It removes his one-on-one ability and, with that, goes Chelsea’s chances of tilting the numbers game in their favour.

It removes what is described in Spanish as “la pausa”. That is the intelligence to slow the game down until the moment is exactly right to play the pass.

Few players master this trick and if they do, they are world class. Hazard has it but it’s rendered useless if he is not running the game from behind the front man.

Higuain AC Milan PS

But Chelsea’s mess in the market has led them to this point. It is frustrating for Sarri that his best playmaker is also his best striker. And currently he feels he can compensate better for his absence in midfield than up front.

Higuain’s transfer cannot come soon enough. He is a better bet than either Morata or Giroud. He is not as unselfish as Giroud but is more clinical than Morata.

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He has thrived before in the presence of creative, quick attackers such as Jose Callejon and Paulo Dybala. Chelsea have those kind of players.

What his signing will do is deliver the twin benefit of an upgrade in the No.9 position and relief for Hazard because he won’t have to play centrally any longer and can revert to his best position.

For a Chelsea side short of goals, relatively speaking at least, it should be enough for them to establish themselves as at least the third best team in the Premier League.

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Barcelona vs Leganes Betting Tips: Latest odds, team news, preview and predictions

Barcelona welcome Leganes to the Camp Nou this weekend looking to avenge an unexpected La Liga loss earlier this season.

The side from Madrid came from behind to win 2-1 when they met back in September in what remains Barca’s only away league defeat so far. 

Latest odds

Barca remain extremely tough to beat in front of their own fans, where they have only lost one of their last 46 La Liga games.

offer them at 1/8 (1.12) with Leganes available at 20/1 (21.00), a price which reflects their away record of just one win in their previous 25 away matches. The draw can be backed at 8/1 (9.00)

Leganes - Barcelona LaLiga 09262018

Watch and bet on Barcelona vs Leganes

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Team news

Barca are still missing Samuel Umititi and Rafinha who are long-term absentees, with Thomas Vermaelen continuing to be sidelines. Marc-Andre Ter Stegen was rested midweek in the Copa del Rey but will return in goal.

Lega are without forwards Michael Santos and Diego Rolan, while defender Ezequiel Munoz is also missing.

Levante Barcelona Copa del Rey 2018-19

Preview

No team has scored fewer goals than Leganes in La Liga this season.

Los Pepineros head to the Camp Nou to face a Barca side who have notched more than three times as many strikes as them.

Indeed, Mauricio Pellegrino’s men have failed to score in six of their last eight La Liga games away from the Estadio Butarque and there is a temptation to back them to draw another blank on Sunday evening. 

Barcelona Leganes graphic

Tips and predictions

Barcelona are offered at 8/11 (1.72) to win to nil and this bet has paid out in each of their last three home matches.

Leganes have struggled in the final third this season and in the toughest away game of the campaign, there is every chance they will fail to score. 

Odds correct at time of writing. Please gamble responsibly.

Betting Banner - Best BetBarcelona to win to nil at 8/11 (1.72) for a 3pt stake with 

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Fulham vs Tottenham Betting Tips: Latest odds, team news, preview and predictions

Fulham face Tottenham in a crucial clash on Sunday afternoon.

Claudio Ranieri’s side suffered a devastating and damaging defeat against Burnley last week and were architects of their own downfall as they scored two own-goals in the 2-1 loss at Turf Moor.

The Cottagers must now pick themselves up ahead of the visit of Spurs as they scrap for survival but Mauricio Pochettino’s team have lost just one of their last 14 away matches in all competitions.

Latest odds

Given that impressive record on the road, it is unsurprising that Spurs are William Hill’s 3/4 (1.75) favourites to win in west London.

Aboubakar Kamara Fulham 2018-19

Fulham are a 9/2 (5.50) chance to secure a vital victory, while William Hill go 12/5 (3.60) that the match ends all square.

Team news

Ryan Babel could make his Fulham debut after joining the club earlier this week.​ Alfie Mawson and Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa remain out for the hosts, who have no fresh concerns.

Harry Kane sustained an ankle injury last weekend and will not be fit enough to feature until at least March. Son Heung-Min is at the Asian Cup and Lucas Moura remains doubtful, so Fernando Llorente is likely to lead the line for the visitors on Sunday.

Free-scoring Spurs?

Spurs have scored an impressive 16 goals in their last three matches away from home and despite their striker shortage, Pochettino’s team will hope to profit from Fulham’s defensive deficiencies.

Fulham Tottenham graphic

Ranieri’s men have managed just two clean sheets in 22 Premier League matches this season and William Hill go 11/4 (3.75) that Spurs score more than two goals in this game. The same firm offer 15/4 (4.75) that Tottenham win both halves.

Prediction

Better value, though, may lie in backing Spurs (-1) to beat the handicap mark this weekend.

The 9/5 (2.80) selection would have landed in each of Spurs’ last five victories on their travels and would also have paid dividends in each of Fulham’s four league defeats at Craven Cottage this term.

Betting Banner - Best BetTottenham (-1) at 9/5 (2.80) for a 1pt stake with William Hill

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‘I got to hold Kylian’s World Cup medal!’ – Beckham starry-eyed during Mbappe meeting

David Beckham has offered a starry-eyed response to meeting Kylian Mbappe and getting to hold the Paris Saint-Germain forward’s World Cup medal.

A PSG performer of the past has been mingling with one of the present during a visit to the French capital.

Beckham sat down for breakfast with Mbappe on Friday and got a glimpse of one of the few major prizes to have passed him by during an illustrious playing career.

The former England captain enjoyed title and domestic cup success in England, Spain, America and France while turning out for Manchester United, Real Madrid, the LA Galaxy and PSG.

International honours eluded him, though, despite forming part of a so-called ‘Golden Generation’ for the Three Lions.

Beckham has, however, had his hands on a World Cup winners’ medal, with Mbappe having collected the most sought-after of mementos in Russia last summer.

“What a huge pleasure to meet a World Cup winner, great player but more importantly a great person,” Beckham said in a post on his official Instagram account.

“I always love being back in Paris one of my favourite places in the world and it got even better this morning .

“And I got to hold Kylian’s World Cup medal my kids might be slightly jealous sorry boys.”

 
 
 
 
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What a huge pleasure to meet a World Cup winner , great player but more importantly a great person… I always love being back in Paris one of my favourite places in the world and it got even better this morning … And I got to hold Kylian’s World Cup medal my kids might be slightly jealous sorry boys x Merci mon jeune ami, Paris me manque déjà!!! 🇫🇷 @k.mbappe @psg

A post shared by David Beckham (@davidbeckham) on

Mbappe starred for France at the 2018 World Cup, with his efforts at just 19 years of age helping Les Bleus to secure a second global crown.

He became the youngest player from his country to score at football’s showpiece event, while the last of his four goals – which came in a 4-2 triumph over Croatia – saw him become just the second teenager after Brazilian legend Pele to find the target in a final.

With his confidence soaring, the inaugural winner of the Kopa Trophy handed out to the best young player on the planet has added another 18 strikes to his impressive tally in just 22 outings for PSG this season.

Mbappe is now a role model to many and a man being tipped to reach the very top of the game, but he is also still a football fan and was as delighted as Beckham to take in a star-studded meal this week.

He posted on social media: “Breakfast with the legend. It was an honour to meet you, you are an inspiration for all of us.”

 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Breakfast with the legend. It was an honour to meet you, you are an inspiration for all of us @davidbeckham

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A post shared by Kylian Mbappé (@k.mbappe) on

Beckham made 14 appearances for PSG during the 2012-13 season, helping them to the Ligue 1 title.

He took the decision to hang up his boots at the end of that campaign, with an iconic figure heading into retirement at the age of 38.

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