By Tim Stannard
1) Zidane stands by his men ahead of Levante
Buoyed by a magnificent winning streak of one, Coach Zizou was in boisterous mood on Friday at Real Madrid’s training ground, speaking ahead of the following day’s visit to take on Levante.
Indeed, the Frenchman was channeling his non-regretting compatriot, Edith Piaf, by announcing that there was no looking back after a lack of activity in the transfer market and that he had “blind faith” in his players, despite being 19 points off Barcelona at the top of the table and in danger of slipping out of the top four with a bad result on Saturday.
“I want to transmit this (feeling) to the players and for them to give it back to me,” announced Zidane. However, there was a warning to his footballers ahead of the encounter against a Levante team on a dreadful run of just one win from the past 16 league games. “We need to be focused from the first minute to the last,” said Zizou.
Zidane looks set to play the BBC from the start for just the second time this season, and may also welcome Sergio Ramos back into the defensive fold after injury. Levante v Real Madrid is live on beIN SPORTS at 2:35PM ET / 11:35AM PT and tune into the Locker Room at 7:30PM ET / 4:30PM PT to get the predictions of our esteemed panel.
2) Flu ruins Arsenal’s Aubameyang outing
Arsenal fans are going to have a wait a little longer to see Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in action. The club record signing from Borussia Dortmund was bagged on deadline day from the Bundesliga but is already a victim of the flu which looks set to sideline the weakened footballer for Saturday’s clash against Everton.
And in a remarkable moment, Arsene Wenger admitted at a press conference on Friday that his backline needed improving and regretted the business done in the transfer market. “Our defensive numbers are not good enough and that’s where we needed some possible strengthening,” intoned the Frenchman going against Zizou’s dig-in-heels philosophy. Arsenal are currently eight points from the top four in the Premier League.
Transfer talk was also a’buzz at Everton with the reasons for midfielder, Davy Klaassen’s non-move to Napoli on loan – the refusal by the player and agent to hand over image rights to the Serie A club. “Even if I was losing money I’d be going because I’d want to play football,” shrugged Sam Allardyce.
3) Mourinho admits defeat in Premier League title chase
Well, it seems that everyone is in on the grand gestures on Friday in the managerial world.
Jose Mourinho has admitted that his Manchester United team is probably not going win the Premier League, what with Manchester City being 15 points ahead in the standings. Indeed, the Special One went a step further by noting that he wanted his team to be “to be the first of the last.” Bill Belichick certainly wouldn’t allow defeatist nonsense like that in his Patriots camp.
United are currently winning the race to be best losers in England, holding second place and hosting Huddersfield at the weekend. King Zlatan will continue to be absent through injury and continue to be linked to LA Galaxy in the meantime.
"We're doing better than last season and it's very important for us to do better than last season," Jose says. "We are trying to win something this season, and if not, we will try to be stronger for next season." #MUFC pic.twitter.com/cvKdHvAMjn— Manchester United (@ManUtd) February 2, 2018
4) Marseille to make second place in Ligue Un
Onwards to Friday’s games across the planet.\
Marseille against Metz is the pick of the bunch – and by excellent luck, on beIN SPORTS at 2:40PM ET / 11:40AM PT. The Ligue Un clash sees third-placed Marseille in a fine run of form with just the single league defeat in 18 games. Yes, Metz may be bottom-of-the-table, but are on a run of just one loss in seven. Could be a belter.
🗣️ LU-IZ GUSTAVO! From Marseille to Janeiro! 🇧🇷— Olympique Marseille (@OM_English) February 2, 2018
😍 The love affair between #TeamOM and @Lgustavo_19 keeps growing!
👉 Check out what happened when the OM midfielder met his support on @Dugout: https://t.co/oY9meJcBgc
⚪️🔵 #DeF pic.twitter.com/fQpniRy3rv
La Liga is offering up a big north Spain rivalry clash between Real Sociedad and Deportivo. A morale-boosting victory needed for La Real, who have been plummeting down the table. Head to beIN SPORTS Espanyol for that game at 3PM ET / 12PM PT.
Borussia Dortmund will be rounding up whatever players are left in the squad – Christian Pulisic is still there! – and taking on bottom-of-the-table Cologne.
Tune into the XTRA for the best of the action at 7PM ET / 4PM PT.
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