‘He’s got everything!’ – Keane hails Kane as the best number nine in the world

Former Tottenham and Republic of Ireland star Robbie Keane believes Harry Kane is the best number nine in world football as it stands.

England talisman Kane is currently sidelined after sustaining an ankle injury in the closing stages of Spurs’ loss to Manchester United last month.

But he has already managed 20 goals so far this season having won the Golden Boot at last summer’s World Cup in Russia.

Keane himself is not unfamiliar with scoring goals for Spurs, having netted on 120 occasions in 298 appearances across two spells for the London club.

And in an interview with Spurs TV, the 38-year-old outlined his view that Kane has become the most complete forward in football.

“For me, at this moment in time, I don’t think there’s a better number nine in the world,” Keane said.

“I would say he’s the best number nine at this moment in time. I just think he stands out. He’s got everything.

“He scores goals with his left foot, right foot, headers, penalties, free-kicks.”

Harry Kane Tottenham 2018-19

It’s not just Kane’s goal record that Keane has been impressed with.

The Irishman believes the Spurs star has proved that he is more than comfortable with the ball at his feet and is capable of setting up goals for his teammates.

“What I like about him is how he’s developed into a number nine that can also come short as well,” he added.

“His link up play is very, very good, which we’ve seen when Dele scored that goal against Arsenal when Kane comes deep and plays that long ball.

“His first touch is immense. He can hold people off because he’s so strong.

“He’s got everything you could want for a number nine so for me he’s the best in the world.”

Mauricio Pochettino’s side will be hoping that Kane returns to action sooner rather than later, with a two-legged Champions League tie against Borussia Dortmund on the horizon, as well as league fixtures against Leicester, Burnley and Chelsea in the next month.

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Everton 0 Manchester City 2: Champions take over at Premier League summit

Manchester City moved back to the top of the Premier League table with a 2-0 victory over Everton at Goodison Park.

City were seven points behind Liverpool on January 19 but Wednesday’s win sees them move level with Jurgen Klopp’s Reds, the defending champions taking over at the summit on goal difference.

Aymeric Laporte’s second league goal of the season put City ahead in the final moments of the first half, Everton giving the defender the freedom of the penalty area to head past Jordan Pickford.

The visitors wasted a number of chances to extend their lead before Gabriel Jesus wrapped things up in stoppage time, condemning struggling Everton to a seventh defeat in their last 10 league matches.

Leroy Sane missed the game’s first chance in the third minute and Laporte could do no better with a quarter of an hour played, the unmarked defender somehow heading wide from Ilkay Gundogan’s left-wing corner. 

City’s wastefulness in front of goal continued when Gundogan met David Silva’s low delivery, the Germany international somehow turning the ball onto the crossbar from close range. 

Everton slowly grew into the game and although they began to pose a threat, Ederson was rarely worried as the hosts ran out of ideas in the final third. 

And that proved costly as City broke the deadlock on the brink of half-time, Laporte making amends for his earlier faux pas with a powerful header from David Silva’s precise free-kick.

Ederson was finally called into action early in the second half, the Brazilian having no problems holding onto Idrissa Gueye’s long-range effort.

It did not take City long to re-establish control, however, and Sergio Aguero almost added to his 14 league goals with an acrobatic effort, the striker leaping into action after David Silva had blocked Pickford’s progress to a high ball.

City’s profligacy continued as substitute Raheem Sterling saw an effort deflected over, but Jesus made no mistake in the seventh added minute, sending a looping header into the net after his initial effort had been saved.

What does it mean? Pressure back on Liverpool

For the first time since mid-December, Liverpool are not top of the table. City made the most of this game being moved forward for the EFL Cup final to pile on the pressure. City have 12 games remaining in the 2018-19 season, Liverpool have 13. It looks set for a thrilling climax.

Gundogan shows his worth

Despite all their attacking quality, City’s top man came from a little further back as Gundogan’s all-round display showed his importance to Guardiola’s plans. The midfielder neatly knit together City’s play with precise passing and good movement, his vision created numerous chances and had his team-mates shared his ability to spot a pass, he could have extended City’s lead.

Kenny struggles on recall

Coming in for only your seventh start of the season against City is a thankless task and Jonjoe Kenny understandably struggled at right-back against the lively Sane. Too often the 21-year-old was caught out of position, and he was lucky his side were not punished further – although he got little support from Theo Walcott ahead of him.

Key Opta Facts

– City have scored with their first shot on target in 15 Premier League games this season – six more than any other team.
– Everton have conceded more goals from set pieces than any other Premier League team in all competitions this season (19).
– All four of Laporte’s goals in all competitions for Manchester City this season have been headers from set pieces in away matches.
– Marco Silva has now lost five Premier League games against Manchester City – two more than he has against any other opponent.
– Manchester City have won 10 of their last 11 matches in all competitions (L1), scoring 39 goals and conceding just five.

What’s next?

City could be back in second place when they welcome Chelsea to the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, with Liverpool playing Bournemouth 24 hours earlier. Saturday also sees Everton travel to Watford, Marco Silva making his first return to Vicarage Road.

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Injured Neuer remains on sidelines as Liverpool tie looms

Manuel Neuer has not been included in the Bayern Munich squad to face Hertha Berlin in the DFB-Pokal on Wednesday, as concerns grow over his availability to face Liverpool in less than two weeks time.

Bayern’s skipper missed the weekend defeat to Bayern Leverkusen because of a hand injury sustained in training, and though he travelled to the capital ahead of Wednesday night’s clash, he was not included in the squad.

Sven Ulreich, who will start between the posts for Bayern in Neuer’s absence, said the club’s first-choice stopper had a thumb injury and reports have suggested that potential ligament damage could result in Neuer spending up to three months sidelined.

Neuer had remained in training but despite making the trip to Berlin, Bayern boss Niko Kovac elected not to risk him, with teenager Christian Fruchtl on the bench as back up to Ulreich.

A post on Bayern’s Twiter account said: “For Manuel Neuer the cup match against Hertha Berlin came a bit early.

“The captain had indeed traveled to Berlin. Niko Kovac, however, did not want to take any risk and therefore refrained from using the 32-year-old.”

The first leg of Bayern’s Champions League tie with Liverpool will take place on February 19 at Anfield, with the return leg at the Allianz Arena three weeks later.

It has already been confirmed that Thomas Muller will miss both matches after his two-match suspension was upheld by UEFA.

Muller was sent off for a foul on Nicolas Tagliafico during the 3-3 draw with Ajax in December.

Liverpool, meanwhile, will be without star defender Virgil van Dijk for the first leg after picking up three yellow cards in the group stages, resulting in a one-match ban.

If Neuer is to play a part in the first leg then he will surely need to prove his fitness in Bayern’s upcoming Bundesliga matches against Schalke and Augsburg.

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Why do Barcelona have Chinese names on the back of their shirts against Real Madrid?

Barcelona players are to wear special kits for their Copa del Rey semi-final showdown against fierce rivals Real Madrid on Wednesday evening at Camp Nou.

For the first time ever, Barcelona’s unique shirts feature each player’s name written Chinese characters underneath their regular names in order to honour Chinese New Year which starts this week.

Chinese New Year officially began on Tuesday February 5 to initiate the Year of the Pig but is to be celebrated globally during the rest of this month. The Year of the Rat will arrive next on January 25, 2020.

Traditionally, Chinese New Year commemorates the start of the new year on the country’s traditional calendar. Referred to as the Spring Festival in mainland China, it is observed as one of several Luna New Years in Asia.  

Though it is the first time that Barcelona have placed non-Latin characters on the back on their kits, they are not the first European side to do so.

Paris Saint-Germain honoured the start of the Year of the Dog on February 16, 2018 with Chinese lettering on their shirts as well, and without their names spelled regularly.

FC Barcelona CNY kits 2018-19

The honouring of the Lunar New Year with the addition of the Chinese characters on shirts is part of the club’s ambitions to increase supporters in Asia, with friendlies planned in the Far East later this year.

“This year is also an important one for the strategy of establishment of Barcelona in China, which will experience its most important moment next summer when the first team will visit China and Japan on their pre-season tour,” said the official statement.

The festival is one of the most important in the Chinese calendar and is associated with several myths and customs. The festival was traditionally a time to honour deities as well as ancestors, with various customs and celebrations differing between each region. 

Lighting firecrackers, large family gatherings and red-paper envelopes are popular Chinese New Year traditions along with red and gold decorations that signify good fortune or happiness, wealth, and longevity.

The kits adorned with the Chinese letters will also be available with a limited release at the official Barcelona store.

Barcelona are currently top of La Liga and are aiming to win their fifth Copa del Rey title in a row, with the second leg against their arch-rivals Real Madrid taking place towards the end of the month.

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Godin returns to Atletico training ahead of Madrid Derby

Atletico Madrid received a huge boost ahead of Saturday’s derby after Diego Godin returned to training on Wednesday.

Godin was forced off at half-time during Atletico’s 2-0 win over Getafe last month and Sunday’s 1-0 defeat to Real Betis.

The defender underwent an MRI scan and Atleti confirmed he had suffered “an elongation in the adductor muscle of the right thigh”.

However, Godin has made a quick recovery and was back with Diego Simeone’s squad as they prepare to host Real Madrid in La Liga on Saturday.

“Great morning, back to work with the team,” Godin posted on Twitter in reply to Atletico confirming his return.

Godin, 32, has made 17 league appearances in 2018-19, starting 15 times and scoring twice.

He is out of contract at the end of the current season and has been heavily linked with a summer transfer to Inter, a move that would see him end a nine-year spell with Los Colchoneros.

Atletico are currently second in La Liga and know that a victory over their city rivals will take them five points clear of Santiago Solari’s side, who face a Copa del Rey semi-final against Barcelona on Wednesday.

Last season’s Europa League winners were beaten 1-0 by Real Betis in their most recent league tie, ending a 19-match unbeaten run.

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