CHELSEA have suffered a big blow in their pursuit of Norwegian wonderkid Erling Haaland, with the Dortmund start reportedly set to choose Man Utd, Man City or Liverpool.
We've also got all the latest from the Premier League, as well as an update on Cristiano Ronaldo's future.
BET OF THE DAY: GET GARETH BALE TO SCORE OR ASSIST AGAINST FULHAM TONIGHT AT 40/1
Follow our LIVE blog below to get the latest from around the clubs…
SCOTT TO GO
Scott Parker slammed VAR for ‘killing’ the excitement of football after Fulham were denied a precious point against Spurs.
Video checks ruled out Josh Maja’s 63rd minute goal for handball by team-mate Mario Lemina during the build up.
Fulham boss Parker said: “I understand why the goal was disallowed, but I don’t agree with it. We are trying to make the game so pure and sterile, and trying to control every moment.
“What we want is goals and excitement and VAR is killing every bit of that and the raw emotion of the game that we absolutely love. We are going to get to a point where there will be no emotion in the game.
“Tonight was about common sense and we did enough to win the game because we were superb in the second half. When I look at some of the decisions this season we have been on the wrong end of them. Newcastle and the penalty against Liverpool springs to mind.
“Maybe there should be more common sense applied. Let the referees referee. They have years of experience. We are losing the raw emotion of the game we love. They are trying to control every aspect of the game to a tee.”
Cardiff could take advantage of staging Euro 2020 games if Dublin forfeits its hosting rights.
The FA of Ireland are becoming increasingly resigned to not being able to give Uefa its required guarantees of allowing fans into the Aviva Stadium by next month’s deadline.
And the Welsh capital, rather than another English city, is likely to be given the chance to take up the four matches planned — three group games and a last-16 clash which could involve England — for the Aviva Stadium.
Uefa have reiterated their plan to retain the current 12-country format but there are growing doubts over not just Dublin as hosts but also Glasgow - due to hold three games in England’s group - and Bilbao.
The Welsh capital was one of the two bidding cities to miss out when the host venues were chosen by Uefa in 2014, along with Stockholm and both countries are set to be asked to come to Uefa’s rescue should any of the hosts officially withdraw.
Staging games in Wales would be welcomed by the UK Government and also avoid the scenario of two matches being played in the same country on the same day, as would happen if the Dublin games were switched to England.
BIG MICK ENERGY
Mick McCarthy goes into his 1,000th game as a manager riding high at Cardiff.
McCarthy, 62, has had a stunning impact in the Welsh capital since replacing Neil Harris in January — and Big Mick has been rewarded with a new two-year contract to stay on until 2023.
Ahead of Friday's trip to face Huddersfield, McCarthy said: “I have enjoyed every minute of the time we’ve had at this great club so far and we’re delighted to be staying.
“I’d like to thank Vincent Tan for offering us the opportunity to do that. I was 32 when I became a manager. I’m a bit more comfortable in the role now. I’m cool with my age, my experience, my big nose and my wrinkly forehead.
“My hair is dropping out but I don’t give a flying f***. It’s just all about getting results — and at the moment it’s great. But there is also no point getting carried away and having your head in the clouds.
“I don’t bull s*** anyone or waffle. I tell the players the way it is and what it is I want. Everybody gives you a pat on the back — then suddenly there is a knife in their hand.”
'NOBODY'S GIVEN US ANYTHING'
Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema has revealed his sporting idol is heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson.
The 33-year-old has come from humble beginnings to lead the line for the Spanish giants for more than a decade.
And Benzema sees similarities in his and Tyson's road to success.
Speaking to AS, he said: "I come from a neighbourhood where things were difficult. When I saw older boys well dressed and with beautiful cars, what I wanted was to be like them.
"I have no idols, but I do have role models. In football, I would say that Ronaldo, the Brazilian, was a role model for me. I also admire Mike Tyson, because both he and I came from the bottom and grew.
"Nobody has given us anything."
ED FOR THE HILLS
Manchester United are STILL making money - despite the Covid crisis.
The pandemic has shut Old Trafford for 12 months, costing United around £6million in revenue every matchday.
But qualifying for this season’s Champions League helped plug the money gap, even though United exited at the group stage to go into the Europa League.
United banked £108.7m in broadcast cash for the first three months of the season, up £34m from the same period in 2019.
That more than made up for gate revenue falling off a cliff, with United taking just £1.5, compared to £33.1m 12 months earlier. The club’s total revenue stood at £172.8m, up £4.4m, bringing a profit of £63.9m - although the club's net debt stands at £445.5m.
Unveiling the club’s latest financial results, executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward conceded the club was still in the middle of an unprecedented situation, although he believes there is 'light at the end of the tunnel'.
The Scottish midfielder, 31, is said to be fuming because he felt his boss hung him out to dry over his part in the 1-1 draw with Wolves.
The Mail report claimed Ritchie, who joined the club for £12million in 2016, told Bruce he was ‘done’ with him.
Bruce is said to have hit back, saying: “What are you going to do? Tell Lee Charnley?”
That is claimed to be a reference to allegations that Magpies players have voiced their frustrations at Bruce’s methods to the club’s managing director.
However, BBC Sport says Ritchie has apologised for what he said and that the matter is now considered closed.
Newcastle would reportedly be forced to shell out more than £4million if they were to sack Steve Bruce.
The Times claim Toon owner Mike Ashley is standing by the 60-year-old despite poor form and reports of player bust-ups.
The report adds that Bruce would be entitled to a compensation package of more than £4m if Newcastle perform a U-turn and sack him.
The English manager was already under pressure on Tyneside after a run of three games with a win in the Premier League.
His injury-ravaged squad are just one place and three points outside the relegation zone.
And reports this week revealed that Bruce allegedly barged into Matt Ritchie during a training ground row...
HOUSSE IS LOOSE
Arsenal reportedly face a transfer battle with Juventus for Lyon star Houssem Aouar.
Italian website Calciomercato claims the two European giants are desperate to sign playmaker Aouar, 22, this summer. But whoever wins the race will have to cough up a huge sum.
It’s added that Lyon have slapped a mammoth £47.5million price tag on their star asset. But that still may not be enough to put off either Arsenal or Juventus at the end of the season.
Mikel Arteta was desperate to sign Aouar last summer after winning the FA Cup. However, he only had money for one new midfielder.
And Arteta instead decided that defence-minded Thomas Partey was a more vital acquisition.
But Arsenal have kept tabs on Aouar this season, with the ace scoring six goals in 24 games.
SEALED WITH A CRIS
Khabib Nurmagomedov has had his say on football’s GOAT debate.
The reigning UFC Lightweight champion is a passionate fan, and recently attended Barcelona’s clash with PSG in the Champions League.
Real Madrid is the club closest to his heart, however, and it is a former Bernabeu hero that he ranks as the game’s No1.
The Dagestani fighter told Russian YouTuber Krasava: “Well, I would place Cristiano first.
“Cristiano is the best. Zlatan can also be called a great player in his own way. And in terms of results – Messi is the best.
“So: Cristiano, Messi, Zlatan.”
Liverpool 0 - 1 Chelsea.
Mason Mount's stunning first-half solo goal was enough to give the Blues a deserved win at Anfield.
Chelsea leapfrog West Ham and Everton and move up to fourth while Liverpool stay seventh.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles was ‘too versatile for his own good’ at Arsenal, claims Ashley Cole.
The England international’s preferred position is as a central midfielder but rarely got a chance there with the Gunners.
Maitland-Niles, 23, would fill in across the pitch – especially at full-back – and became a useful squad member without securing his own position.
It was a similar problem to the one Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had before leaving for Liverpool.
And Maitland-Niles also decided to move away – on loan to Sam Allardyce’s West Brom – to get game time in the middle of the park.
Asked if it is showing ambition to make the switch, former Gunners left-back Cole told Sky Sports: “Yes. I think the problem he had was being too versatile for his own good...
“Well, Jurgen, you weren’t running those arguments earlier in the season when you wanted this and that, five substitutions etc – you can’t please all the people all the time Jurgen, expect when you want to be pleased!
“But in this instance he’s absolutely right, it needs to be taken away from the clubs.
“It needs the Premier League to say en masse ‘this is the decision’, it’s not Jurgen Klopp or John Henry or whatever is the chief executive of Liverpool saying to a player, ‘you can’t go’ and creating a situation where that player feels aggrieved.
“It has to be a rule from the people at the top, otherwise guaranteed you’ll have players letting a manager down by saying ‘I want to play for my country, it means a lot to play for my country’.
“No, no, no, your obligation is to us, we are your paymasters.
“So he is absolutely right, this is a situation now where the international federations are being unrealistic and potentially unreasonable.”
PLANE AND SIMPLE
Jurgen Klopp could face a backlash from Liverpool’s players over his hard-line stance on internationals.
Simon Jordan told talkSPORT he fears Klopp risks the wrath of his very own Anfield stars after the German insisted he will not let players depart for international duty if they have to quarantine upon their return to the UK.
And Jordan, who actually supports Klopp’s point of view, believes Premier League chiefs must enforce the decision to take the pressure off the manager and other bosses with similar concerns.
But he reckons the German could upset players desperate to represent their country in the next break, saying: “I think Klopp is right.
“The challenge people like Jurgen Klopp will have, is he and the club will be put into a position by the very people he’s asking to honour their obligations to play for their clubs where they will turn around and say to him, ‘but I want to play for my country’.
“So he’ll be put in an invidious position by the players themselves. He’ll be saying, ‘we must remember who pays these players, you can’t please all the people all the time’...
LAMP STILL LIMPING
Tariq Lamptey has suffered a setback in his long-awaited return from a hamstring injury.
The Brighton whizkid, 20, has been out since mid-December with the problem.
There had been hopes he would be back by now but boss Graham Potter revealed Lamptey is now seeing a specialist to try to solve the issue.
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s home game with Leicester, the Albion chief said: “Tariq won’t be fit.
“He’s had a little setback this week, so it’s disappointing for him.
“We’re trying to get to the bottom of it. The problem is with his hamstring. He is seeing a specialist.”
Chelsea are reportedly preparing a ‘monstrous’ contract offer for Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Italian website Libero claims the Blues are ready to pay the AC Milan goalkeeper £9million a YEAR to bring him to the Premier League.
Donnarumma’s San Siro contract expires this summer and he is yet to indicate his interest in an extension. The 22-year-old is widely considered to be one of the world’s best in his position.
And it is reckoned Paris Saint-Germain are also eager to snap him up. Donnarumma was aged just 16 when he made his senior Milan debut in 2015. And he has since gone on to play 236 times for the Serie A outfit, while also picking up 22 caps for Italy’s national side.
Donnarumma’s arrival on a free transfer would be a huge coup for Chelsea, who have struggled in the goalkeeping department recently.
Kepa Arrizabalaga, the world’s most expensive in that position at £71.6million, isn’t even first choice in London. And summer arrival Edouard Mendy has had a few shaky moments between the sticks during his first Premier League season.
EDDIE SET NO
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has admitted that he is concerned he could stunt Eddie Nketiah’s development due to a lack of football.
England Under-21s’ record goalscorer has not featured for the Gunners since a late cameo in the 0-0 draw with Manchester United back in January.
Nketiah has started just twice in the Premier League all season, scoring just once.
Asked if a lack of minutes could stunt his development, Arteta replied: “Yes there is because he needs to play and we’ve been wanting to use him a little bit more on some occasions and we didn’t.
“To be fair, when he’s played, he’s played well, but at his age and for what he’s done the last two or three seasons, he needs more minutes.
“It’s something we have to talk about openly and make the right decision.”
Bayern Munich superstar Joshua Kimmich has gushed over ‘special’ talent Jamal Musiala.
Having left Chelsea‘s esteemed academy in 2019, teenager Musiala has already gone on to become a key man at Bayern.
After briefly debuting toward the end of last season, the attacking midfielder has made 26 appearances this time around.
And immediately after first training with Musiala, mainstay Kimmich, 26, knew that his team had secured ‘something special’.
He told Bayern TV: “Already in his first training sessions with us, you could see that he can really do something special. He’s full of tricks, unpredictable and also very dynamic when it comes to controlling the ball, especially with his first touch. He always tries to take the ball forward.
“When I think about where I was at his age, I was still in my youth at VfB Stuttgart. He’s very advanced for his age. As a person, he’s very calm and reserved. I think he can and will look to come out of his shell even more as his self-confidence also grows.”
‘YOU NEED TO ARGUE’
Former Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov has revealed he used to tell team-mate Rio Ferdinand how to defend.
He told Betfair: “In the match against Crystal Palace things got a little heated with Marcus Rashford and Harry Maguire, but I like that.
“It’s good in a game to have that fire and passion to fight. Aggression shows you are passionate, and you care about the game. You don’t want to be silent, because that tells me you don’t care.
“These things happened to me when I was playing. I’d tell defenders how to do their job and defenders would tell me how to do my job when I wasn’t scoring goals.
“Rio [Ferdinand] used to always run his mouth and tell everyone what to do, I used to give it back to him by telling him how to defend and to pass it to me, to my feet, instead of clearing the ball high.
“It’s always good to put a bit of fire in your team-mates, it’s a two way street and when you play on that to help you win it’s a good thing.”
Paris Saint-Germain forward Moise Kean is a doubt for their Champions League tie against Barcelona after testing positive for coronavirus.
The French champions announced the news on Wednesday, seven days out from the second leg of their last 16 clash in Europe.
Speaking on Twitter, the club said: “Moise Kean tested positive for Covid-19 this morning.
“He stayed in Paris and will not be available for the match in Bordeaux. He will enter a period of isolation and is subject to the appropriate health protocols.”
Kean will now have to remain in self-isolation until he returns a negative coronavirus test.
As a result, he is in danger of missing the second leg of the Barcelona tie, which PSG currently lead 4-1.
RONNIE CALLS A KHAB
Khabib Nurmagomedov has opened up about his friendship with ex-Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo.
The reigning UFC lightweight champion has previously been pictured hanging out with the Juventus star. And he has revealed that they talk ‘almost every day’, with Cristiano Jr’s prospects one of the topics that they’ve covered.
Khabib, 32, told Russian YouTuber KraSava: “We talk many times, almost every day, but when we met we had a conversation about where we got our motivation from.
“He told me that he wants his son to be his successor. When Cristiano was a kid, he could only dream of having a simple pair of boots. But his son has everything.
“He fears that his son will not feel the same hunger, the same will. People are guided by that will. Feel the desire to achieve things. When you have everything, it’s hard to find the right motivation.
“When he told me that, I’m not going to say I was surprised, but I enjoyed listening to him. I realised that he’s a person who is not content with one, two or three titles.”
Liverpool 0 - 1 Chelsea.
Mason Mount's stunning solo goal after Timo Werner had one ruled out for offside sees Chelsea take a deserved lead in at the break.
Mason Mount made light work of Fabinho before smashing the ball into the bottom right corner at Anfield.
GOOOOOALLLL - MOUNT!
42. Liverpool 0 - 1 Chelsea
Mason Mount with a delightful solo goal.
Received the ball wide on the left after a long diagonal pass.
Jinked into the side of the box, sold Fabinho a dummy, worked it onto his right foot on the edge of the area and smashed it in the bottom right corner.
Chelsea fans have been put off by a ‘horrendous’ leaked concept kit that claims to be based on the upcoming 2021-22 home shirt.
A design put out by FootyHeadlines was the latest leak obtained by the website.
It featured a yellow club badge and Nike logo on a blue kit covered in a faded zig-zag design.
The real shirt is yet to be revealed by Chelsea but insider info purports to have made this concept ’90 per cent accurate’.
The choice of ‘Opti Yellow’ for the crests would be a departure from the Blues’ traditional badge, which was redesigned in 2005 to mark the club’s 100th anniversary.
Only the 2012-13 design altered the blue-and-white appearance of the badge on the home kit, adding a golden shine to mark London’s hosting of the Olympic games.
Rio Ferdinand has revealed he nearly came to blows with former Manchester United team-mate Ruud van Nistelrooy over his treatment of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Speaking on his YouTube channel FIVE, Ferdinand said: “It was mad at United, things could just switch just like that [clicks fingers] in training. I think all training grounds are the same, there’s a lot of testosterone flying about.
“It never really got to that. It’s funny, because I’ve got the biggest mouth on the training ground. I used to always be shouting and screaming and I used to love jokes.
“Obviously I got serious in training, with the games and that, especially on a Friday before the game on a Saturday, everyone’s playing, it would be hard games, fast games.
“One time something happened with Ruud. He smashed Ronaldo a couple of times, and went down his Achilles. And then the ball went into Ruud and I smashed Ruud. I said, ‘What you doing? Why you kicking him?’
“And then Ruud got up and he was [not happy] and all the players just got in the way, so nothing happened. But that’s the way it used to be in training. I was thinking, ‘Ronnie’s a young kid man, leave him alone, what you doing?’ but Ruud was an animal, an animal player.”