Southampton v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League
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Coote was last in charge of VAR for Liverpool’s match against Everton that saw Virgil van Dijk’s season ended.

Last month’s match against Everton saw Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk receive a season-ending injury as the result of a reckless, knee-high, studs-up lunge by goalkeeper Jordan Pickford that appeared to go unreviewed by VAR official David Coote.

Unsurprisingly, then, when it was announced that Coote would again be taking charge of video assistant referee duties for a Liverpool match, this time against Leicester City on Sunday, the reaction of Liverpool fans was shock and annoyance.

Today, though, the league have announced a change to their weekend plans: Coote will instead be refereeing the Saturday match between West Bromwich Albion and Manchester United, and Andre Marriner will be taking charge of VAR at Anfield.

However, the Professional Game Match Officials Limited, or PGMOL, insist that Coote’s widely criticized performance the last time he manned the VAR booth—which was, of course, also for a Liverpool match—has nothing to do with it.

Instead, it’s said to be down to “operational reasons” and that he’s needed on an earlier match. And no matter the how or why of it, such is the state of refereeing in the Premier League it’s hard to know if fans will find any comfort in the switch.

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Egypt v South Africa: Round of 16 - 2019 Africa Cup of Nations
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Salah will remain in self-isolation in Egypt after the star forward returned another positive test.

Mohamed Salah’s case of COVID-19 may well be a minor and asymptomatic one, with the player fully confident of a quick return to action, but quick likely got a little bit longer today following news that the Egyptian superstar had returned another positive test.

Having picked up the virus early last week and delivered his first positive test ahead of the weekend, testing negative now—around ten days later as was the hope of Egypt’s COVID-19 committee as well as one imagines many others—was always pushing up against the edge of optimism.

Even a negative test now, with the player in self-isolation at the Red Sea resort town of El Gouna, wouldn’t have allowed Salah to face Leicester City on Sunday due to the Premier League’s coronavirus protocols, but it would have allowed him to return to Liverpool.

As such, despite the disappointment of today’s new positive test return, Atalanta on Wednesday remains the earliest game Salah could take part in—though even in mild and asymptomatic cases there is a possibility the player could be unavailable for longer.

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Liverpool FC v FC Midtjylland: Group D - UEFA Champions League
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Even Liverpool’s youth centre halves are struggling to stay fit now.

The good news is that it appears Rhys Williams’ withdrawal from the England U21 squad for their match against Albania on Tuesday night was largely precautionary, with manager Aidy Boothroyd telling reporters that it wasn’t a serious issue.

The bad news is that after already losing Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez, likely for the season, and with Fabinho not currently in training, now even players who were meant to provide emergency depth at centre half appear to be struggling to stay fit.

“He had a very minor stiff hip,” Boothroyd said following Tuesday night’s match. “It was in his best interests to get him back to Liverpool. With all the players, if there’s any potential injuries or niggles, our medical staff is in contact with the club.”

With only Joël Matip in training today amongst Liverpool’s established senior centre halves, one of either Williams or Nat Phillips will be expected to start against Leicester City on the weekend when the league’s current top two sides face off.

The Reds will also be without first choice right back Trent Alexander-Arnold, and while left back Andy Robertson was held out for Scotland on the weekend with a hamstring issue, his national team manager is hopeful he can face Israel tonight.

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Liverpool Training Session
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Matip seems to be available though!

Liverpool FC’s brand new AXA Training Centre at Kirkby officially opened its doors on Tuesday, as squad members not away on international duty reported to training. Joel Matip, James Milner, Divock Origi, Adrian and Nat Phillips were seen putting in a shift at the new training centre as we await the return of other key squad members from their national teams.

Previously thought to be nearing a return, Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara were not seen to be participating in the training session. Hopefully, they were just somewhere else in the massive training complex continuing to rehabilitate their injuries because the team sure could use their return anytime now.

Thiago hasn’t played in a month since that fateful game against Everton on the 17th of October. Fabinho hasn’t played since the 28th of that month, limping off with a hamstring injury at the 30th minute mark of the FC Midtjylland game. Here’s hoping for a return, sooner rather than later for these two.

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Manchester City v Liverpool - Premier League
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He’s still likely to miss the Leicester game though.

Mohamed Salah has spoken for the first time since news broke on Saturday that he has been infected by the COVID-19 virus. The attacker is described as having mild symptoms of the virus, and has been forced into self-isolation away from the Egyptian national team while on international duty. Salah released a short statement on Twitter:

How soon, you ask? Mo Salah is still likely to miss the the Leicester game as the Premier League’s coronavirus protocols dictates that a player must quarantine for 10 days after a positive test. On the tenth day, they get retested, and if the result is negative, the player is cleared to return to training.

Assuming Mo got his positive test on Friday or Saturday, he wouldn’t have cleared the 10-day requirement for the Leicester game. He could however, return in time for these fixtures – at home against Atalanta in the Champions League next Wednesday or the trip to Brighton next weekend.

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Croatia v Portugal - UEFA Nations League
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The longest international break in history has finally ended.

The Liverpool faithful were overjoyed to hear about a handful of players making it through their final international matches without injury.

The first player who saw action was Diogo Jota, who successfully made it through 77 minutes with his native Portugal in their victory over Croatia in the UEFA Nations League. The Reds’ newest addition and the player who is most in form so far this season, Jota walked off the pitch of his own volition. No hamstring issues, no knee injuries, no food poisoning. He heads back to training with, at last count, all of his limbs.

The next person who called on his inner Arya Stark and declared unto death, “not today” was Takumi Minamino. He was a substitute in Japan’s loss to Mexico in a friendly that definitely needed to happen. While it was touch-and-go for a bit, Minamino managed to make it to the full time whistle without a groin injury or burst eardrum or broken toe. Not a single angry bear wandered onto the pitch looking for a fight. He too will join the small band of survivors at the new AXA Training Center. Good news from the inside is that there is enough room at the new facility for each remaining player to be allocated their own personal wing. So hey, silver lining.

And lastly, it’s always hard to see children put in harm’s way, which was why many breathed a sigh of relief when Curtis Jones completed his substitute appearance for the England U21s against Albania without incident. England won the game 5-0 on their road to UEFA U21 Euro qualifying. While the match took place at Molineux, home to Wolves, no live wolves were in attendance. Jones didn’t score on Tuesday, but it likely felt as good as a hat trick to him that he avoided sporting a Skrtel-special head bandage or picking up a thigh strain.

The universe is a mysterious place, and the path of destiny is one we all walk down blindfolded. No one knows why these lucky few were spared, but hopefully, with time and hindsight, we’ll come to understand the larger plan.

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Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr has blamed his side’s draw against the Leone Stars in Freetown on the bad state of the pitch.

Rohr said his side endured a torrid time at the Siaka Stevens Stadium, due to the bad state of the pitch and it was the major reason for the stalemate.

 

 

“The pitch is very difficult to play good football and they were playing long balls,”Rohr stated after the game.

 

 

The Super Eagles struggled to hit top gear in the African Cup of Nations qualifying match, although Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi wasted good opportunities to snatch a win for the team.

 

 

The point kept them on top of the log, needing just a win to book a place in the Cameroon 2022 African Cup of Nations.

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Plateau United Coach Abdu Maikaba said the team will be ready for their CAF Champions League game against Simba SC.

Plateau United are currently in Aba for  a pre season tournament.

 

Maikaba feels his team is not fully ready for the CAF Champions League playoffs and questioned his team’s fitness.

 

“We are not fully prepared for the CAF Champions League but I believe in the next 10 days we will perfect all the areas and tactics to execute the match.”

 

“I even told my boys that after this competition we must be ready for Simba FC because we don’t have much time. It seems our fitness level has question mark and I hope tomorrow’s game will be better.”

 

 

Plateau United will host the Simba SC for the first leg, before traveling to Tanzania for the reverse fixture. Both matches will be played next month.

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Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) side, Abia Warriors will play their 2020-2021 league home matches at the Aba Township stadium, the club Management have announced.

On Tuesday, Abia Warriors secured  approval from the LMC to play at the Aba Stadium which is also known as the Enyimba Stadium.

 

 

Abia Warriors played at the Umuahia Township Stadium for several season, but couldn’t obtain approval from the LMC for the grounds to host the new season’s campaign, after a routine mandatory inspection by the League’s regulatory body.

 

The club will now share the stadium with City rivals, Enyimba FC, for the coming season.

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Former Super Eagles defender Sam Sodje has stated that the issues with the National team is no longer with the players quality but the coaching crew.

 

Sodje in a chat with brila.net stated that, the problem of the team right now has gone beyond issues with the players but it’s an issue of the coaching crew, and according to him, the department needs proper assessment.

 

 

“I think the issue is not with the players because the players are playing well, I think the real issues here is with the coaching crew – we need to look into it and really assess that department very well.”

 

 

“I think we need to get the structures right, the players are not bad but the structure needs to be right, he stated.”

 

 

 

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