Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Newcastle face fresh ownership questions, team news and more – live

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Key events

Birmingham training ground damaged by fire

Per PA Media

Birmingham have been forced to close their Wast Hills Training Ground following a fire in the early hours of Friday morning.

A club statement said there were no injuries during the incident, but the facility has been closed until further notice, disrupting preparations for Saturday’s Championship match away to Wigan.

The statement said: “The club can confirm that Wast Hills Training Ground has suffered damage as a result of a fire. Hereford and Worcester Fire Service attended the scene and remain on site following the discovery during the early hours of Friday 3 March. No one was injured.

“Staff and players have been contacted and the facility remains closed until further notice. The club will continue to liaise with the emergency services and will make no further comment at this time.”

The Club can confirm that Wast Hills Training Ground has suffered damage as a result of a fire.

— Birmingham City FC (@BCFC) March 3, 2023

A shocking story from Argentina.

Gunmen left a threatening message on Thursday for Lionel Messi and opened fire at a supermarket owned by his in-laws in his hometown of Rosario, police said.

Nobody was injured in the early morning attack, and it was unclear why assailants would target the Argentina star or the supermarket, which is owned by the family of his wife, Antonella Roccuzzo.

Police said two men on a motorcycle fired at least a dozen shots into the supermarket in the early hours, and left a message on a piece of cardboard that read, “Messi, we’re waiting for you. [Rosario mayor Pablo] Javkin is also a drug trafficker, so he won’t take care of you.”

Gunmen threaten Lionel Messi in attack on in-laws’ supermarket – video

Eddie Howe sidesteps Newcastle ownership question

In a not-at-all shocking development, Eddie Howe has straight-batted questions on Newcastle’s ownership.

The club have been thrust into the spotlight after court papers filed in the United States claimed chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan is a minister of the Saudi Arabian government – raising questions over the Premier League’s confirmation that it had received “legally-binding assurances” of the separation between the state and its Public Investment Fund, of which he is governor.

Did Eddie want to talk about that? TL:DR: no.

For me, my job is training the players, trying to get them in the best physical, mental, tactical condition to win the game. The minute I deviate from that is the minute I go into dangerous waters for me and I waste energy in areas that don’t help the players. For me, my main job is to coach the players and get them in the best place possible.

Obviously the focus comes on me because I’m sat in front of you every week. But I don’t think – as I’ve said many times – it’s a conversation for me to necessarily brief on these matters because I’m not really qualified to do it.

I’ve had very open communication from the day that I joined with various people connected to the board. But my conversations with them are all football-related, at no stage has it ever gone political. That’s not my area, I don’t want it to be my area, I want to concentrate on how I can improve the team, what tools do I need to do that and the relationships with those people around me at the football club are very important.

Now obviously if I felt there was a time I needed to ask a question, I could. But I haven’t done that.

There are nine other matches this weekend, each of them given a mini-preview like this.

The weekend begins with the “nothing to see here” derby, which could actually be quite watchable. Newcastle and Manchester City thrashed out a frantic 3-3 draw at St James’ Park back in August, with the hosts briefly leading 3-1 in the second half only for Erling Haaland to lumber in like an angry ice giant and, with the help of Bernardo Silva, secure a point. While Newcastle’s form has drifted in recent weeks and they are coming off the back of defeat to Manchester United in the Carabao Cup final, they will still make for tricky opponents. Despite the prospect of a much-hyped meeting with Arsenal at the Etihad next month, City – masters of the inexorable winning streak – know the title will be decided by consistency as opposed to one climactic victory and, as such, every dropped point from here on out could be decisive. Will Magee

Erik ten Hag will be speaking later but there’s off-field matters afoot at Manchester United.

It is understood that if no agreement is reached before the end of the season this may put a deal in jeopardy. The new owner would ideally want to put in place a transfer policy for the summer window.

Thani and Ratcliffe are intent on moving forward a process that has stalled as the Glazers hold out for a price closer to their £6bn valuation. Thani, via his Nine Two Foundation, and Ratcliffe, who owns Ineos, have bid no more than £4.5bn.

Liverpool have not had a single Premier League penalty this season, and for 32 matches, and their fans are beginning to ask why, with things going a bit tinfoil. Jürgen Klopp certainly doesn’t know.

We still had second most possession, second most shots on goal. Stats wise, we are there. We are often in opposition box. I have no clue how that can happen but it happened.

Jürgen Klopp has been speaking ahead Liverpool’s match with Manchester United, and about their north-west rivals.

It’s what I enjoy most [this type of game]. Around these games we pull ourselves out of the sometimes not-so-nice reality, that is when football is the most important for those 90 mins, I love that. The whole world will watch.

It’s impossible to be positive about something at Man Utd when you are Liverpool manager but I am happy for Rashford. He is playing incredible. Speed, calm, a mix of everything.

They have had a better season so far but thank God it means absolutely nothing on Sunday. We have to make sure we show it is still incredibly difficult to play against us. We have to make sure they realise that.

I couldn’t be less interested in what Man Utd are doing, I just respect it. I see them when we analyse them and we will try to cause more problems than [the August game].

Meanwhile, this is the big sports news story on the agenda. When is state ownership not state ownership?

A brief filed in a court case involving the PGA Tour and LIV Golf describes the PIF as “a sovereign instrumentality of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” and Rumayyan as “a sitting minister of the Saudi government”.

The development appears to have stirred longstanding fears of many clubs about the PIF takeover. When it was signed off, the other 19 clubs demanded an emergency meeting with the league, wanting to understand why the deal had been approved. They had previously believed it was blocked and were stunned to learn via the media that it was to be waved through.

Preamble

Welcome once more to our weekly, rolling look ahead to an action-packed weekend. After all that fun in the Carabao Cup and FA Cup, the Premier League retrieves the focus. It’s a bumper Saturday, too, with Manchester City v Newcastle a chance for the champions to put Arsenal under pressure, while Eddie Howe’s team have to revive themselves after Wembley.

Saturday 3pm kick-offs: Arsenal v Bournemouth looks a gimme for the league leaders though they are facing opposition fighting for their lives. Aston Villa v Crystal Palace is about as mid-table as it gets even if the Eagles haven’t won in 2023. Brighton v West Ham gives the Seagulls chance to do the double over the Hammers. Their manager in their early-season win was Graham Potter. Whatever happened to him? Well, Chelsea v Leeds is a must-win for both Potter and Javi Gracia. Wolves v Tottenham sees two wildly inconsistent teams and one of them is in the top four.

Saturday’s late game, Southampton v Leicester, is a big, big game as, if you haven’t noticed it, Brendan Rodgers’ team are dropping into relegation problems, where Saints have been all season.

Then, with Nottingham Forest v Everton seeing Sean Dyche returning to the club where he started his life in football and really needing to find a goal, above all everything, it’s the showpiece of Liverpool v Manchester United, the two biggest clubs in English football, and something of a role reversal of recent years with United in the ascendancy.

All that and the latest news and press conferences throughout the day.

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