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Newcastle must not accept £16m and this Man Utd player’s brother in a swap deal involving this key first-team star

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Newcastle United Opinion: Magpies should drop interest in Lazio’s proposed Lascelles-Lukaku swap deal

According to The Shields Gazette, Serie A giants Lazio are interested in signing Newcastle United club-captain Jamaal Lascelles, with reports claiming that the Italian outfit are prepared to offer left-back Jordan Lukaku in a player-plus-cash exchange deal.

The Shields Gazette understands that Lazio’s Sporting Direction Igli Tare values Lascelles at around £16million and he is ready to throw in Jordan Lukaku, the brother of Man United striker Romelu Lukaku, as a bait to tempt the Magpies into selling their captain.

This is not the first time, though, that Lukaku has been linked with a move to Tyneside, with the same source claiming that the 24-year-old Belgian was lined up for a loan deal by manager Rafael Benitez back in January. However, the left-back, injured at that time, failed to pass a medical at St.James’ Park and a deal fell through, with Newcastle going on to sign Italian Antonio Barecca on loan from AS Monaco.

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However, Barecca made only a solitary Premier League appearance in the second half of this past season and apparently failed to impress upon Benitez to earn a significant first-team role. While a left-back continues to be high on the manager’s wishlist for the summer, it’s highly unlikely that the Magpies are going to go ahead with a permanent deal for the Italian.

Benitez preferred a back-five system in the Premier League last season, with two wing-backs on either side complementing a three-man central defensive unit. The Spaniard was forced to use Matt Ritchie in a left wing-back role due to lack of suitable personnel in his ranks but the former Bournemouth man showcased his versatility and racked up as a many as 3 goals and 8 assists in 39 appearances across all competitions.

However, one cannot help but feel that Newcastle should try and maximise Ritchie’s potential by using him further up the pitch, meaning that a specialist left-back needs to be brought in to allow Benitez more freedom when it comes to team selection.

To put things into perspective, it is a no-brainer that Newcastle need a new left-back but sacrificing club-captain Jamaal Lascelles for that purpose doesn’t make a lot of sense, given that the 25-year-old is nearing his prime years and is regarded as one of the best central defenders outside the big-six in the Premier League. Also, Jordan Lukaku won’t necessarily be the best possible choice for the Magpies, given his struggles with injuries in recent years.

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Lukaku was regarded as a bright emerging prospect in Belgium during his time at Anderlecht and Oostende but a move to the Serie A with Lazio hasn’t brought the best out of him. The 24-year-old’s performances in Italy have been anything but convincing, and that coupled with his poor injury record, mean that the Newcastle fans should be happy to see the rumours pass by without a deal actually materializing.

The Belgian has started only a single game for Lazio in the Serie A this past season and the Serie A club’s desire to get him off their books perfectly makes sense. The 24-year-old’s ill-fated spell in Italy has seen him make 71 appearances in all competitions over the course of three full seasons but his returns haven’t been all that great, with the Belgian just managing to contribute with a goal and 6 assists.

Lascelles, on the other hand, is not just a solid centre-back but he is also a charismatic leader on the pitch for the Magpies and, undoubtedly, one of the first names on Benitez’s teamsheet. He has established himself as one of the top performers at Tyneside over the past three campaigns and losing him would be a step backwards for the club. Also, he is only 25, meaning that he still has a lot of time to make significant improvements to his game, given his talent and potential.

Newcastle are yet to sort out the future of Benitez at the club, with the Spaniard’s contract set to expire shortly, and it would be foolish for the Magpies to sanction the departure of their highly-rated club-captain in under such circumstances.

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And, if they are really desperate to bring in a new left-back, the Toon army should consider a more direct approach rather than a swap deal involving Lascelles, who is likely to play a key role at the back for years to come. He recently committed his future to the club by signing a new six-year contract, so Newcastle’s decision to sell him would go against all logic and reason.

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Arsenal

Liverpool vs Arsenal: Match Preview, Team news, Predicted XI and more

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Liverpool vs Arsenal: Match Preview, Team news, Prediction and more

Liverpool host Arsenal at Anfield on Saturday with both teams hoping to extend their 100% domestic record with the third win of their Premier League season.

The Reds thrashed Norwich 4-1 in the Premier League curtain-raiser before edging past Southampton 2-1 on Saturday. Sandwiched in between was their UEFA Super Cup triumph against Chelsea in Istanbul, Turkey.

The Gunners have also enjoyed a perfect start to their season, thanks to wins over Newcastle and Burnley, but the trip to Merseyside will represent their first acid test of the new season.

Arsenal’s recent visits to Anfield have been embarrassing, to say the least. Liverpool have scored 22 goals out of 30 in some staggering victories against the north London club in recent times. So, Unai Emery has a mighty task of changing the scenario at the weekend.

Team News

For Liverpool, Alisson Becker has a suspected grade two tear and is not expected to be fit for the Arsenal game. Naby Keita has a muscle problem and will miss Saturday’s game, while Nathaniel Clyne is a long-term casualty.

Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin is continuing his recovery from a cruciate ligament injury, although he won’t be available anytime soon. New signing Kieran Tierney remains unavailable due to a groin problem but Rob Holding has participated in full training with the first-team squad.

Granit Xhaka could return after missing the Burnley win while Mesut Ozil was absent due to illness and is back in full training now.

Predicted XIs

Liverpool (4-3-3): Adrian; Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joel Matip, Virgil van Dijk, Andrew Robertson; Fabinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Georginio Wijnaldum; Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane.

Arsenal (3-5-2): Bernd Leno; Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, David Luiz, Nacho Monreal, Sead Kolasinac; Matteo Guendouzi, Granit Xhaka, Dani Ceballos; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette.

Tactical Prediction

Jurgen Klopp should go with his usual 4-3-3 formation on Saturday. Adrian will continue to deputise in goal, with Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk and Robertson forming the back-four.

Having Fabinho as the shield in front of the back-four, the likes of Wijnaldum and Chamberlain should get the free license to join the attacks often and cause problems to the Arsenal defence.

Liverpool’s high press is very difficult to contain and the onus will be on Chamberlain to help drive the attack from the midfield.

The Reds are powered by their front three of Mane, Firmino and Salah. They are slowly starting to hit form but given their fantastic record at Anfield against Arsenal, Klopp will expect his fiery front three to deliver the goods.

Unai Emery, on the other hand, could revert to a back-three system on Saturday. It is a system in which many of the Arsenal central defenders feel comfortable.

David Luiz is the best ball-playing defender of the lot and he will be accompanied by Sokratis and Monreal at the back, with Maitland-Niles and Kolasinac as wing-backs.

The Gunners will look to use the width while hitting Liverpool on the counter as full-backs Alexander-Arnold and Robertson are defensively suspect and provide a lot of space behind them due to their natural attacking mindset.

Guendouzi has started the season encouragingly and should be partnered in the midfield by Xhaka, and Ceballos, who royally impressed with his performance against Burnley. It’ll be vital for Arsenal’s midfield to nullify the threat of Wijnaldum and Chamberlain while in transition.

As record-signing Pepe is still being eased in, Emery is expected to go with the two-pronged attack of Aubameyang and Lacazette. Liverpool have been shaky at the back so far in the new season, which could present Lacazette and Aubameyang with some chances to pounce on.

Predicted Result

It’ll be a wild contest in front of the ever-boisterous Anfield crowd. Expect Liverpool to dominate possession, press very hard, force mistakes and pounce on it.

Also, expect their backline to make a couple of errors and get punished by Arsenal’s attack. Nevertheless, the game should end in favour of the Reds.

Prediction: Liverpool 4-2 Arsenal

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Arsenal? Manchester United? – Which of the big clubs will achieve a top-4 finish in the PL this season?

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Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Man United- who will miss out on top four?

The 2018/19 Premier League title race went down to the wire, with Manchester City beating Liverpool to the crown by just a point. The team that followed them were Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United respectively.

The new season is just two games old and Liverpool and Arsenal are the only teams to have enjoyed a 100% record thus far, after Manchester United dropped points in the 1-1 draw with Wolves at Molineux on Monday.

We saw an entertaining battle between Manchester City and Tottenham end in a 2-2 draw at the Etihad last weekend, with VAR’s intervention denying the champions a late winner. These are early days but the Premier League table is shaping up very well.

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Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal have comprised the table’s top six in each of the previous three seasons.

Considering City and Liverpool are set to battle it out again for the Premier League title, which two teams amongst Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United will make it to the top four this time? Let’s have a look.

Chelsea

Just two games into the new season, Chelsea manager Frank Lampard is already under pressure to find some tactical answers as he is still seeking his first Premier League victory.

After the opening day mauling at the hands of Manchester United at Old Trafford, Chelsea’s performances improved in the UEFA Super Cup defeat to Liverpool and the 1-1 draw with Leicester City at the weekend, although Lampard’s men were lucky to escape with a point.

The Blues’ transfer window embargo meant Lampard couldn’t strengthen his squad in the summer. The 41-year-old had to be content with the squad set up by Maurizio Sarri but without Eden Hazard, who joined Real Madrid.

Hazard contributed directly to half of Chelsea’s league goals last season, and their attack was almost totally reliant on him. The Belgian’s departure has left a huge void and that coupled with the exits of experienced defenders Gary Cahill and David Luiz, Lampard’s Chelsea are set for a long season.

Prediction: There have been more negatives than positives in Chelsea’s first two league games and while Lampard will take time to give his side a fixed style of play, it’s difficult to see the Blues making it to the top four.

Tottenham

Against all odds, Tottenham reached the Champions League final last season only to fail at the final hurdle. A combination of their European exploits and a failure to make new signings saw their Premier League form suffer.

However, Spurs spent heavily this summer, signing players like Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani Lo Celso and Ryan Sessegnon.

Pochettino’s side have started the new campaign well, taking four points out of a possible six. Despite the departures of Kieran Trippier, Fernando Llorente and Vincent Janssen, Tottenham have been boosted by their new signings and can better last season’s finish.

Prediction: If Pochettino can keep Harry Kane fit throughout the season and get the best out of his new signings, Tottenham can threaten to make it a three-horse title race this time around.

Arsenal

There is a real buzz at Arsenal because of the arrival of new faces at the Emirates and the rollicking start they have made to the new campaign.

Victories over Newcastle and Burnley means that the Gunners have enjoyed a perfect start, although a trip to Liverpool beckons at the weekend. Considering their recent visits to Anfield, it could be all doom and gloom for the North London giants.

Nevertheless, Unai Emery will be happy with the start and would expect things to get better. On loan from Real Madrid, Dani Ceballos made quite an impact on his full debut against Burnley, while the fans also saw glimpses of quality from star man, Nicolas Pepe.

But the Gunners still look defensively shaky and that was visible in the game against Burnley.

David Luiz’s acquisition from Chelsea on the transfer deadline day was a coup but his track-record of clumsy and erratic defending will hardly fill Bernd Leno with confidence.

Then there is the error-prone Shkodran Mustafi, an ageing Sokratis Papastathopoulos and a not-yet-fit Rob Holding in central defence.

Prediction: While Pepe has given a different threat and dynamism to the Arsenal attack, Emery’s defence could again plot his downfall. They’ll miss Aaron Ramsey’s midfield vigour and big-game performances. Frankly, the Gunners won’t make it to the top four this season.

Manchester United

Despite a frustrating transfer window, Manchester United brought three new players in Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire. And all three of the new signings have made an impact in the first two weeks of the new season, helping the Red Devils bag four points out of a possible six.

Ever since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, Manchester United have only made the Premier League top-four twice. This shows just how far they’ve fallen from grace.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants to bring the glory days back at Old Trafford by promoting young players and playing relentless attacking football.

United were defensively shambolic last season and Solskjaer strengthened his backline with the additions of Maguire and Wan-Bissaka. They lacked natural width as well and Solskjaer addressed it by bringing in the explosive Daniel James, who is also direct in his style of play.

The United boss has let go of Romelu Lukaku to Inter but didn’t sign a replacement. This seems like a plan to promote academy starlet Mason Greenwood.

Prediction: Going by the first two games, the Red Devils look more composed and secure at the back. Solskjaer’s army looks weak in the midfield and an injury to either Paul Pogba or any central midfielder could see them sweat.

Genuinely, though, the players seem sharper and fit, attacking with pace and hitting opponents on the counter. Despite some obvious weaknesses, the Red Devils’ immediate objective of steady improvement and a return to the top four seems possible.

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Wolves 1-1 Manchester United – Here’s where it went wrong for Solskjaer’s men

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How Wolves drew 1-1 with Manchester United at the Molineux

Manchester United had travelled to the Molineux Stadium on Monday to face Wolves, hoping to build on their winning start to this Premier League campaign.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side made a bright start to the game and opened the scoring in the 27th minute through Anthony Martial, who scored with a powerful finish from a tight angle.

However, the home team came up with a response in the second half through Ruben Neves’ fantastic long-range strike in the 55th minute.

Paul Pogba earned a penalty and had the chance to win it for the visitors, but his spot-kick was saved by Rui Patricio. In the end, Solskjaer’s Manchester United had to settle with a point as the game finished 1-1 at the Molineux.

The build-up to the game

Manchester United headed into Monday night’s game on the back of a fantastic 4-0 victory over Chelsea. Goals from Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Daniel James gave United a perfect start to the season.

Wolves, meanwhile, booked a place in the Europa League play-off after enjoying a thumping 8-0 aggregate victory over Armenian club FC Pyunik.

Tactical Analysis

Solskjaer dropped Andreas Pereira in favour of Daniel James for the only change he made to the starting lineup against Chelsea, fielding his team in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Wolves remained unchanged from their 0-0 draw with Leicester City, as Nuno Espirito Santo stuck to his usual 3-5-2 formation.

United started the game on the front foot and dominated possession straightaway. Wolves were happy to sit back, defend and wait for the counter-attack.

They defended in a low block with minimal space to work in the midfield as their midfielders Ruben Neves, Joao Moutinho and Leander Dendoncker harried and hassled the United players into relinquishing possession.

As the game progressed and United began to control more of the ball, Wolves’ organised defence means it became difficult for the visitors to find any spaces to exploit. Nuno’s side were quite disciplined and well-drilled, clearing anything that came in and around the box.

Wolves’ deep block defence and intense press in the defensive third posed problems for United’s centrally-oriented attacking play. As a result, the visitors struggled to quickly switch play and execute their plans down the wide areas.

Despite Solskjaer’s men dominating possession, they couldn’t create chances to play centrally and even when they did on a few occasions, it was dealt with by the Wolves defenders.

As it happened

Wolves’ plan, however, was disrupted in the 27th minute when Martial fired home the opener after a Luke Shaw run distracted Coady and pulled him away to open up space for the Frenchman, who made no mistake and scored from inside the box with a left-footed shot.

United were utterly dominant and were unlucky not to double their lead before heading into half-time.

Matt Doherty came off at half time after picking up an injury and was replaced by Adama Traore. It was a forced substitution for Wolves but one that worked wonders.

Wolves came out all guns blazing in the second half, as expected, with Traore isolating Shaw and getting past him on a number of occasions with ease.

Nuno’s men started asking questions to United’s backline as Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota – the duo that rarely got any service from its teammates to thrive, became lively. And it was Traore who won the free-kick for Jimenez’s header that struck the post and was later cleared away for a corner.

From the resulting corner, Wolves equalised through Neves. Moutinho supplied a low cross towards the edge of the box to Neves, who controlled the ball and sorted out of his feet before rifling a shot to the top corner of the net, giving David de Gea absolutely no chance to save.

Solskjaer’s side were rattled after the equaliser and they had only themselves to blame. Before Neves’ goal, United had the chance to go 2-0 up when Wan-Bissaka played a simple pass to Lingard in the opposition box. But the 27-year-old failed to control the ball.

The visitors, however, responded well. Wolves had to deal with spells of wide play from United, who looked to increase the number of bodies inside the penalty area and thus prioritised attacking with crosses into the box.

And for all the possession they dominated after the equaliser, Paul Pogba, dancing his way past a couple of Wolves players and into the box, won a penalty after a foul from Conor Coady.

There was a brief discussion between Rashford and Pogba regarding the spot-kick before the latter took the responsibility. But Pogba’s penalty was kept out excellently by Rui Patricio as it was at a nice height to be saved.

What followed later wasn’t anything significant as the game ended 1-1 at Molineux.

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