Mohamed Diame focused on Newcastle United’s Premier League survival amid contract talks

Mohamed Diame has stated that he is focused on Newcastle United surviving the Premier League drop rather than a contract renewal.

The 31-year-old’s current deal runs out at the end of the season. And, currently on 22 top-flight appearances this season, he will be offered a year extension if he reaches the 25-game mark, per a clause in his contract.

The former Wigan midfielder, though, is reported to be interested in a deal that runs through till 2021.

However, despite the uncertainty surrounding his future at the St. James’ Park, the former Senegal international is focused on helping his side – placed 16th in the log with a point above the relegation zone – retain their Premier League status at the end of the season.

“My thinking it still the same,” Diame said, per Chronicle Live.
“I’m happy here, but it’s not me who’s going to decide about my future. I just try to help the team to get the target, and afterwards, we’ll see. It’s not the moment to talk about my future. I’m happy and settled down in Newcastle.

“Everything is OK. I’m focused on the target, that’s it. The manager needs me to give everything for this team and it’s what I will do until the end.”

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Since January 2, Diame only returned to action in Newcastle’s last league encounter after recovering from a fractured metatarsal, playing only four minutes in the 1-1 draw against Wolverhampton Wanderers.

He will be looking to get back into Rafael Benitez’s starting plan when they take on Huddersfield Town this Saturday.


‘Nicolas Pepe is strong’ – Jose Mourinho impressed by in-demand Lille star

Lille striker Nicolas Pepe has earned the praise of former Chelsea and Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho.

The 23-year-old has played a key role in the Great Danes’ title race this season, scoring 16 goals in 25 appearances to help them book a spot just behind Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain.

The impressive form has seen him win January’s Ligue 1 Player of the Month – his second this season.

And the Portuguese tactician who is pleased with the performance of Christophe Galtier’s men so far, also lauded the impact of the former Angers attacker.

“Lille, we can say that it is the team feeling of the championship,” Mourinho was quoted as saying by Tribal Football.

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“There were a lot of problems last season and now they are in second position to look to play the Champions League.

“It’s incredible. There are very good young players. Nicolas Pepe is strong.”

Pepe will hope to continue the impressive form when Lille visit Strasbourg for their next league game on Friday.


Fousseni Diabate casts doubt over Leicester City future

Leicester City loanee Fousseni Diabate is enjoying his spell at Sivasspor and, as such, looking to extend his stay at the club.

Diabate joined the Turkish Super Lig outfit in search for regular first-team action after making just one Premier League appearance for the Foxes earlier this season.

Since he switched to Turkey in January, the 23-year-old has made three assists in five league appearances for the Sivas-based club.

And he has not ruled out the option to remain in Hakan Keles’ squad at the end of the six-month loan deal.

“There will be negotiations between my manager and Sivasspor, we can extend depending on the situation,” Diabate told Leicestershire Live.

“I’m very happy with Sivasspor, I’m very comfortable and happy here. I could stay in the new season.

“My goal is not to play in the Champions League or in the World Cup. My main goal is to play football for a long time. Playing football is my hobby. I want to play football in different leagues in different countries.

“The fans are supporting the team, so changing the league did not make much difference for me. The manager, my team-mates and the staff working here welcomed me very well. I’ve integrated quickly thanks to my friends.

“I could not find form in the first period at Leicester City, and my performance is not 100 per cent for the moment. Our manager is helping, I’ve begun to understand in a more technical and tactical sense. I’ve begun to develop more and more myself, you’ll see a better Diabate in the coming weeks.”

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Sivasspor are placed seventh in the Turkish top-flight table with four points adrift of the Uefa Europa League qualifying spot.

When quizzed whether they can seal a European ticket at the end of the season, Diabate said: “If we continue with the same the self-confidence, why can’t we qualify for the Europa League? I believe in our goal.”

The Mali youth international will hope to make his sixth appearance in the Turkish top-flight when the Yigidos host Antalyaspor at the New Sivas 4 Eylul Stadium on Saturday.


Toronto FC hits rock bottom with embarrassing CCL loss in Panama

Just 10 months after coming within a penalty kick shootout of becoming the first Major League Soccer team to lift the Concacaf Champions League title, Toronto FC hit rock bottom. 

Missing out on the MLS playoffs last fall less than a year after being crowned MLS Cup champions may have felt like the worst it could get for TFC, but a new low was reached on Tuesday night after a 4-0 loss to Panamanian side Independiente, a team making its CCL debut. Now, instead of taking a step towards another deep CCL run, Toronto FC returns to Canada faced with the harsh reality that the wheels have come off a team that was being called the best in MLS history just a year ago. 

It feels more like 10 years ago these days. The label of MLS Cup champions is gone. Sebastian Giovinco is gone. A capable defense? Still nowhere to be found. Instead of looking like a powerhouse, TFC looked very much like the same disjointed and lost team that stumbled through the 2018 season, only now this TFC is even worse after the departures of Giovinco and Victor Vazquez. 

It would be one thing if Tuesday’s CCL thrashing came at the hands of some Mexican powerhouse. After all, Liga MX teams have thrashed MLS clubs enough times over the years for it not to carry the same shock value. Seeing an MLS team be run off the pitch by a Panamanian outfit playing in its first Concacaf Champions League match was stunning, even with the caveat that TFC is still in its preseason. The Houston Dynamo didn’t seem bothered by that in their 1-0 road win against Guatemalan side Guastatoya. 

It’s no secret TFC is a team in a state of transition, still searching for Giovinco’s replacement, still waiting for Jozy Altidore to return from injury, and also still paying the price for a 2018 that saw the club fail to really fortify its roster with useful reinforcements. 

All that said, TFC still fielded a squad with Michael Bradley, Laurent Ciman, Jonathan Osorio, Marky Delgado, Justin Morrow and Alex Bono, a collection of talent that should have been able to go to Panama and earn a result, let alone avoid an embarrassing defeat. 

There was plenty of blame to go around, but it starts with the center back tandem of Ciman and Chris Mavinga. They were thoroughly embarrassed by Independiente’s speedy attackers, who had no trouble racing in behind on the counter. You could chalk up one or two mistakes to Ciman still getting familiar with his new teammates, but there is no excuse for the number of times he and Mavinga were beaten badly. 

It was a forgettable match for Bradley, who looked a step slow and never could get a hold of the game on a night when Independiente had too easy a time moving the ball through the midfield in transition. It’s been clear for some time that Bradley has lost a step, but Tuesday’s performance leaves you wondering if having him operating as a lone defensive midfielder in front of the TFC defense is a recipe for disaster in 2019. It certainly was on Tuesday. 

The good news for TFC is that help is presumably on the way. The team is pursuing some attacking options, and Altidore will be back soon. Drew Moor is another veteran who is currently injured, but he isn’t exactly going to help address the team’s lack of defensive pace. 

There will be reinforcements brought in, but Tuesday’s debacle exposed the harsh reality that not only is this TFC side nowhere near the great team we saw win an MLS Cup and nearly capture a CCL crown, but it’s more than one or two players away from being that team. Tuesday’s loss was a brutal reminder that TFC’s window of greatness has slammed shut, and while we still may see the club regroup and be a playoff team in 2019, the days of talking about TFC as the best MLS team in history are long gone and unlikely to return any time soon.