Fellaini downplays rival gap

Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini claims the 12-point difference between the Red Devils and Premier League leaders Manchester City is not a true reflection of the gap between the clubs.

United have endured a mixed start to the season under manager Jose Mourinho, while City are flying high at the top of the table with Pep Guardiola.

Despite the current 12-point gap, and City’s recent 3-1 victory against United in the Premier League, Fellaini is adamant there is not a huge difference between the rivals.

Fellaini said: "I don't think so. I remember when I arrived in England it was a top four, now it is a top six, so every year it is more difficult.

"Next season we will see how it changes and in two and three years I think every year it is more difficult, the intensity is higher, so that's why the Premier League is attractive.

"Manchester City are strong, but I think they will lose. Ok, they are very good and they have good players but it's possible to beat them. We lost, but we have the second game at Old Trafford and we will see."

United are 7/2 to finish in the Premier League top four, while City are 1/4 to retain the crown.

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Mourinho rues defensive errors

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho warned his side that they must cut out the mistakes, having been beaten 3-1 in the derby clash with City at the Etihad Stadium.

The Red Devils were 2-0 down to the Citizens shortly after half-time, before pulling a goal back through an Anthony Martial penalty, before Ilkay Gundogan put the game to bed four minutes from time.

And Mourinho felt that his team had given a decent performance, but had been punished heavily for their defensive mistakes.

He told Sky Sports: "I think it is not a bad performance at all. It was a performance with mistakes and we paid for it – all three goals are our mistakes. Against a team like City, if you make mistakes you will get punished."

Of his side's Premier League hopes for the rest of the season he added: "We are outside the top four, how can we speak about the title?

"Let's fight to close the gap to jump into the top four. If we jump into the top four, then let's see the difference."

United are currently priced at 7/2 to finish in the top four, with Arsenal 6/4 and Tottenham Hotspur 1/2.

Meanwhile, Mourinho also admitted that his plans had been upset by the absence of midfielder Paul Pogba due to a slight knock.

The Portuguese concluded: "It is not for me after defeat to speak about a player who is not here. Of course we missed him, it did affect our plan because Marouane Fellaini had to start.

"He is not in a condition to play 90 minutes. His effort was magnificent, but he is not in a position to play all 90 minutes."

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Martinez expects Fellaini to feature

Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez expects midfielder Marouane Fellaini to be fit for Manchester United's major Premier League showdown with Chelsea.

Fellaini was absent as the Red Devils drew 1-1 in a friendly international with neighbours the Netherlands on Tuesday evening, but Martinez says he was just being cautious in omitting the combative former Everton man.

He told reporters: "He should be fine, it's just he wasn't 100 per cent.

"He's got an important game at the weekend and this wasn't the game to use players who weren't 100 per cent. We expect he should be fine in the next couple of days."

Fellaini, who moved to Old Trafford in the summer of 2013, has featured in all eight of United's Premier League games so far this season, making four starts and four appearances as a substitute.

On Saturday the Red Devils head to Stamford Bridge hoping to avoid a fourth straight defeat at the home of the Blues, with that run of losses also seeing United fail to get on the scoresheet.

The last meeting of the two sides came in the FA Cup final last season, when a first-half penalty from Eden Hazard proved enough to decide the Wembley encounter.

Chelsea can be backed at 7/10 to win the game on Saturday, with the visitors 14/1 to claim a 1-0 victory and 9/2 to keep a clean sheet.

The man from Manchester last won at the Bridge in October 2012, when Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez were among the scorers in a 3-2 success.

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Fellaini extends United stay

Belgium international midfielder Marouane Fellaini has pledged his future to Manchester United by signing a new two-year contract with the Old Trafford club.

The 30-year-old joined the Red Devils in the summer of 2013 after spending five years with Everton, and has since scored 20 goals in 156 appearances for United in all competitions.

Fellaini has helped his current club to success in the FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League and is confident that there is more to come from the men from Manchester in the coming campaigns.

He told his club's official website: "I am pleased to be continuing my journey as a Manchester United player.

"I made this decision because I am very happy here. Also, I feel like this team, under Jose Mourinho, still has a lot we want to achieve.

"I would like to say a special thank you to Jose for the faith he has always shown in me. My focus now is on the World Cup and (then) I am looking forward to a successful season ahead."

United have already been active in the summer transfer market, snapping up Portuguese defender Diogo Dalot from FC Porto and Brazilian midfielder Fed from Ukrainian outfit Shakhtar Donetsk.

Last season Mourinho's side finished in second place in the Premier League last season, while they were beaten 1-0 by Chelsea in the FA Cup final and knocked out of the Champions League at the last-16 stage by Sevilla.

United are 7/1 to win the Premier League title next season, with Liverpool available at 5/1 and Arsenal priced at 28/1.

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What an Epic Year that was in Serie A!

It’s been the league that has just kept on giving this season, and when the dust settled after an explosive finale, we saw Juve at the top, Napoli close behind and

Roma and Inter in the Champions League.

There were emotional scenes in Turin as Gianluigi Buffon hung up his gloves, and live football betting thrills in Rome where Inter grabbed a late, late top four spot. And the relegation scrap was a humdinger too, for football betting fans, as five teams battled for survival on the final day, with Crotone eventually losing out.

Napoli matched the Bianconeri stride for stride for much of the season, indeed the online betting sites couldn’t split them as late as April, but it was Max Allegri’s nous and his team’s experience, winning a seventh consecutive Scudetto, which took them over the line. Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri thought his side was right in the chase after an away win over the Old Lady in April, but defeat to Fiorentina the following week all but ended his hopes.

Sarri wasn’t happy that the fixtures dictated his team play after Juventus in 14 of the last 16 rounds, saying that they were constantly playing catch-up. And after his side condemned Crotone to the drop on Sunday, he hinted he may well be on his way, saying: “In life, everything comes to an end. Sometimes it’s better to finish stories while they are good.”

Cheer up, Maurizio!

Meanwhile, Juventus completed the double by spanking Milan 4-0 in the final of the Coppa Italia, and Max Allegri is now prepared to sit down with the Juventus board to discuss his future. He owes much of the season’s success, not only to his legendary defence but to the goals of strike partnership Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain, who netted 22 and 16.

Did you bet online on Lazio to make Final Four in Serie A?

Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi must be reeling after barely missing a UCL spot in Serie A

But I tell you what; if Sarri thinks he’s had a rough time then spare a thought for Simone Inzaghi, after his Lazio side lost a Champions League place at the last gasp of the season. Needing just a draw against Inter to hold on to fourth place, and with a lead going into the final 15 minutes….they lost and Inter took the prize. In the process Mauro Icardi matched Ciro Immobile as the league-leading scorer, following the Lazio star’s injury lay-off.

Now that is hard to take.

So, after holding a top four spot for much of the season, Lazio must make do with a Europa League place, where they will be joined by Milan, rejuvenated following the arrival of Gennarro Gattuso as boss, and Atalanta who finished seventh. With Gattuso in charge Milan looks a different prospect and could be worth watching next year as the boss tries to rediscover former glories.

And as the relegation battle drew to a compelling close, Cagliari, Udinese, Chievo and SPAL all won on the final day to send Crotone down to Serie B, along with Hellas Verona and Benevento, after a bruising campaign.

Who is joining Italy’s Elite?

Empoli returns to the top flight having romped home in Serie B, but there was last day drama as Parma won away to snatch the second automatic spot from Frosinone, who failed to beat Foggia at home and finished on the same points as Parma.

Morino Longo now needs to pick his team up for the nerve-jangling task of negotiating the play-offs, along with Palermo, Unione Venezia, Bari, Cittadella and Perugia.

Early Transfer Rumours

So Gianluigi Buffon has announced he will be leaving Juventus at the end of the season after 17 years and 640 appearances; and with no World Cup 2018 for Italy he can take a well-earned rest.

Buffon’s ex-team-mate Leonardo Bonucci is reportedly a target for Manchester United as Jose Mourinho tries to bolster his defence. Ever the entertainer is Jose!

Transfer rumours claim Marouane Fellaini and Emre Can will be playing Italian football games next season

EPL fans may have seen the last of Marouane Fellaini and Emre Can as they are rumoured to join Juventus next season

Juventus are ready to announce the arrival of Liverpool’s Emre Can as soon as the Champions League final is over, and another Premier League star, Marouane Fellaini, could be on his way from Manchester United to Milan.

Lazio defender Stefan de Vrij is off to Inter and, after conceding a crucial penalty in the two teams’ clash on Sunday, I bet he can’t get there quick enough!

There may be more bad news for Lazio fans though, as Chelsea is apparently sniffing around star striker Ciro Immobile, as Antonio Conte fancies him to partner Alvaro Morata. Now that would be kicking a set of fans when they are down.

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Lukaku sits out league finale

Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku will not feature in the final two games of the Premier League season due to an ankle injury.

The Red Devils ace suffered the problem during the 2-1 win over Arsenal late last month and was forced to sit out the 1-0 defeat at Brighton last Friday, with Lukaku now hoping to be back in contention in time for the FA Cup final against Chelsea.

Midfielder Marouane Fellaini will also miss the trip to the London Stadium to take on West Ham on Thursday evening, but could be back in time for the final game of the Premier League campaign, at home to Watford on Sunday.

However, United will be boosted by the returns of defender Phil Jones and Alexis Sanchez for the clash with the Irons, as they aim to ensure finishing in second place in the table.

Boss Jose Mourinho told reporters: "In terms of injuries, it's Lukaku and Fellaini. They are the two players who are not available for tomorrow. Phil Jones is back, Alexis Sanchez is back and there are no more problems.

"Lukaku will not play in the last league game of the season, Fellaini might – it is a muscular problem and we will wait and see."

Meanwhile, Hammers boss David Moyes is happy to wait until the season is over before discussing a longer-term stay at the London Stadium, having guided his side away from relegation danger following his arrival in November.

He added: "We have always said that we will talk after the end of the season. We will wait.

"It was always the way I wanted it and I won't change my views until after we've got these two games out of the way."

Moyes has a number of injury absentees to cope with against United, with the likes of Javier Hernandez, Michail Antonio, James Collins, Winston Reid and Pedro Obiang all missing, while goalkeeper Joe Hart and forward Marko Arnautovic are doubtful.

West Ham are 18/5 to claim victory on Thursday evening, with the draw priced at 14/5, while United are available at 8/1 to secure a 2-1 win.

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Jose: Pogba dropping no big deal

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho played down his decision to leave Paul Pogba on the bench for the 2-0 win over Huddersfield Town at Old Trafford.

France international midfielder Pogba eventually entered the fray with 25 minutes left to play as United eased to victory thanks to goals from Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez – his first for the club since joining from Arsenal.

And Mourinho was keen to play down the importance of his selection, telling reporters: "To sit on the bench one day is not the end of the world. The intention is not to punish anyone.

"To punish someone I also need someone to punish me, because we are a team. I made a few changes thinking about the characteristics of this game.

"Paul came on very well with a great attitude. No doubts for me, he is one of most talented midfield players in the world."

Meanwhile, Mourinho confirmed that Marouane Fellaini had undergone an operation on a knee problem earlier in the day, although he hopes to have the midfielder available again before the end of the season.

He added: "It's a small intervention in his external meniscus and I want to believe that, by the end of the March, he can be back.

"If he is back by the end of March, I hope we have a big April and a big May and we are still to play in more than one competition."

United are currently priced at 10/11 to win the Premier League without Manchester City this season, with Liverpool available at 11/4 and Chelsea 7/2.

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Fellaini faces spell on sidelines

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has urged Marouane Fellaini to sign a new contract as the Belgian nears the end of his current deal.

The 30-year-old former Everton star, who out of contract at the end of the season, is set to miss several weeks after suffering a knee injury in United's 2-0 defeat at Tottenham on Wednesday.

Fellaini has made 12 top-flight appearances this season but may now be sidelined until mid-March.

"I told him, 'sign the contract and shut up'," Mourinho said. "I told him, 'don't gamble too much, sign the contract before you know the extent of the injury'.

"It is not an ACL, a complete rupture of any structure of the knee.

"But we need him, the Champions League is arriving [United play Sevilla on 21st February] and lots of tough matches to play and probably we are going to lose him for a few weeks. Two, three, four or five, I cannot say at the moment."

United are 1/7 to finish in the top four of the Premier League this season and 14/1 to win the Champions League.

Morata goal beats United

Chelsea beat Manchester United 1-0 at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League, Alvaro Morata getting the decisive goal.

The result means that, with Manchester City beating Arsenal earlier in the day, United are now eight points behind their city rivals at the top of the Premier League table.

Chelsea made changes to the side which lost at Roma in the Champions League in midweek.

Midfielder N'Golo Kante returned to the side after a hamstring injury while Andreas Christensen and Davide Zappacosta came in to replace David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger.

Jose Mourinho, back at his old club, had Marouane Fellaini back with a place on the bench while he made six changes from the side that beat Benfica in midweek.

Chelsea were celebrating inside the first 10 minutes with the ball in the United net with what looked like a Phil Jones own goal but the referee disallowed it for a push by Morata.

It was proving to be an entertaining game with both sides having further chances in a hectic opening period.

Cesc Fabregas headed into the side netting for Chelsea while, at the other end, Marcus Rashford should have done better with a header which went onto the roof of the net.

The game lulled slightly before the interval but Chelsea started the second period strongly and took the lead on 55 minutes, Cesar Azpilicueta feeding Morata, whose header went in at the far post, beating David de Gea.

Fellaini caused problems for Chelsea when he came on and he forced a good save from Thibaut Courtois as United pressed for an equaliser.

However it didn't come and Chelsea take the three points which keeps them fourth in the table.

After the international break Chelsea play West Brom on the 18th November and they are 1/2 for the win. Tony Pulis's side are 5/1 with the draw priced at 10/3.

The other game on Sunday evening saw Watford take on Everton at Goodison Park and they stormed into a two-goal lead, Richarlison and Christian Kabasele scoring for the Hornets.

Oumar Niasse and Dominic Calvert-Lewin pulled it back for Everton and they won it late with a Leighton Baines penalty. Tom Cleverley missed a penalty at the other end to rescue a point for Watford.

Chelsea are 25/1 to win the Champions League this season.

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Jose happy with United progress

Jose Mourinho believes his Manchester United team are in a better position than they were almost exactly 12 months ago when they drew 0-0 at Liverpool.

The two sides meet again on Merseyside at lunchtime on Saturday, with the visitors having dropped just two points from their opening seven Premier League games of the season.

And Mourinho is content with how things are progressing at Old Trafford, although he has to plan without the injured Marouane Fellaini for the next couple of weeks.

He told reporters: "We have more points (than last season). We are in a better position in the table, I think we are playing better.

"I think we are more confident because when you have better results you have more confidence than not (winning)."

United are available at 9/5 to secure victory at Anfield and are 10/1 to win the game by a 2-1 scoreline, with former Everton ace Romelu Lukaku priced at 13/8 to be the first goalscorer for the Red Devils.

Meanwhile, Mourinho played down talk of the hosts not being among the potential title contenders this season.

The Portuguese added: "I don't look at Liverpool at this moment as a team in the middle of table, because at the end of the season they won't be in the middle of the table.

"I look at them with the potential they have, the quality of their players and the team. It's a very difficult match for us and I believe they think it is a difficult match for them.

"Every match is important, no match is easy. If I try this mentality I am not going to say this game is more important than others."

United have only lost one of their last eight meetings with Liverpool and have taken seven points from nine on their last three league visits to Anfield.

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