Chancel Mbemba Exiled to Porto Reserves Less Than a Year After £7m Move From Newcastle

?After a disappointing 2017/18 campaign with Newcastle, Chancel Mbemba was ousted out of the side in the summer transfer window by Rafael Benitez. 

The DR Congo defender was signed by Porto for around £7m, meaning that the Magpies lost only £1m on their initial investment.

Chancel Mbemba

If the 24-year-old’s form at Porto is anything to go by, Newcastle fans will be counting their lucky stars they sold Mbemba when they did. He has only managed to make six appearances throughout the entire campaign this season.

Foot RDC have reported that Mbemba is currently training with the reserves at Porto, describing his spell at the Portuguese club as a ‘nightmare’. 

He has shown determination and character by training with the Porto B team despite a reported move to Besiktas being on the cards in January. Mbemba has also been capped by his country 45 times and is currently captain of the national side, adding to his seemingly impressive resumé.

Despite all of the potential surrounding Mbemba, the defender looks certain to have no part in Porto’s quarter final matches against Liverpool in the Champions League. 

Jamaal Lascelles,Fabian Schaer

Given Newcastle’s current impressive form under Rafael Benitez, fans will not have lost much sleep over Mbemba’s exit. Defenders such as Fabian Schar, Jamaal Lascelles, Deandre Yedlin and Florian Lejeune have all impressed and contributed to Newcastle’s rise up the table. The Magpies travel to Bournemouth next, looking to go level on points with the Cherries.

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Eintracht Frankfurt Set Price for Prolific Luka Jovic as Barcelona Close in on Deal

?Eintracht Frankfurt have set their asking price for striker Luka Jovic with a whole host of clubs said to be interested.

The striker – who is currently in the second year of his two-year loan deal from Benfica – has been on hot form all season long, having bagged himself 15 goals and five assists in 23 Bundesliga appearances as well as seven goals in 10 Europa League matches this campaign, a very impressive feat for a player just 21 years of age.

Luka Jovic

He’s helped Frankfurt up to fifth in the ?Bundesliga table and has helped them progress to the quarter finals of the Europa League, where they will take on his parent club Benfica for a place in the semi finals.

His impressive performances have naturally brought a surge of transfer speculation with them, and according to ?The Metro, Frankfurt have set £40m as their asking price for their prized possession. 

One club who have been paying close attention to Jovic’s developing situation is ?Barcelona who are said to be very keen on the striker. The club sent representatives to Milan on Thursday night to see the Serbian international in action during Frankfurt’s Europa League clash with Inter, and they were not let down.

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Jovic struck after just five minutes, and that was all that was needed as the German side progressed into the next round and the Barcelona chiefs were treated to a solid performance from the front man.

The Catalans look set to pursue Jovic in the summer and with the price for his services now set, all that’s seemingly left is for Barcelona to pull the trigger on the move.

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Edin Džeko Race Hots Up as Inter Prepare to Rival West Ham for Signature of Roma Striker

Edin Džeko won’t be short of suitors if he does decide to leave Roma this summer, with Serie A rivals Inter the new frontrunners for his signature. 

The Bosnian international looks set for a summer departure from I Giallorossi, and he has previously been linked with a move back to the Premier League with West Ham.

Hammers boss Manuel Pellegrini worked with Džeko at Manchester City, where the pair successfully combined to win the Citizens a league and cup double. That prior relationship was believed to have put West Ham in pole position, with the duo reportedly eager to link up again. 

Lorenzo Pellegrini,Edin Dzeko

But Calciomercato now report that Inter are interested in securing a deal for Džeko, with the future of star striker ?Mauro Icardi still up in the air.

The Nerazzurri’s captain is currently at loggerheads with the club following a bitter falling out with the club’s hierarchy, and he has been frozen out of the first team picture as a result – despite his sensational goalscoring record.

Džeko looks likely to leave Roma this summer, with the club unwilling to extend the 32-year-old’s current contract. He is understood to be the highest earner at the club, and the club are eager to reduce the average age of their squad after a disappointing Serie A campaign.

His strike rate remains impressive despite his advancing years, with 12 goals this season following on from the 63 strikes he had racked up in his previous two campaigns.

Marko Arnautovic

That ratio could still perk the interest of West Ham, with Marko Arnautovic’s future again being called into question despite signing a new deal in January.

If the Hammers do revive their interest though, they have to outbid Inter in a bid to persuade Džeko to choose a return to the Premier League.

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Javi Gracia: Why Watford Look to Have Finally Found the Right Manager for Long-Term Success

Javi Gracia has proven time and again this season that he has what it takes to lift Watford to the next level. The Hornets have encountered characteristic patches of inconsistency but remain in strong contention for a seventh-placed finish and a major cup final. 

Gino Pozzo took over Watford in 2012 and immediately made his mark by dismissing a then relatively unknown manager named Sean Dyche. Whilst Dyche went on to provide a stable basis for Burnley to succeed, Watford have endured a tumultuous period of highs and lows.

The club has now had nine permanent managers in the seven seasons that followed, producing a lot of instability and inconsistency. Some of those managers have enjoyed grace periods like Slavisa Jokanovic, who guided the club to the Premier League in 2015. 

Andre Gray,Adrian Mariappa,Abdoulaye Doucoure,Roberto Pereyra

Marco Silva was the last one hit wonder to have taken charge at Watford last season, getting off to a meteoric start before struggling to produce positive results. 

The Hornets have also flirted perilously close to relegation in the 2016/17 season, with no manager able to deliver long term success.     

Gracia may finally be the man the break the curse having gone the opposite way to a lot of his predecessors. The Spaniard wasn’t initially a popular choice and the club’s form actually dipped following his appointment – with Watford dropping out the top 10 and eventually labouring to a 14th place finish.

Watford v Sampdoria - Pre-Season Friendly

It’s been slow progress from Gracia, rather than burning the candle at both ends and Watford are now reaping the rewards for that. The Hornets are on course for their best finish since 1983, when club legend Graham Taylor almost did the impossible by finishing runners-up in the top flight with his newly promoted side. 

Watford currently sit comfortably in eighth just a point behind Wolves in that coveted seventh spot, that will likely produce European football next season. They also overcame Premier League rivals Crystal Palace on Saturday to reach the FA Cup semi-finals.

The last time Watford reached this stage was in 2016 where they were ironically eliminated by Crystal Palace. It means with eight games left it’s all to play for, for Watford something the fans probably wouldn’t have expected at the start of the campaign. 

Javi Gracia

Gracia’s side show no signs of letting up yet and could consolidate their position as best of the rest in the Premier League with a strong summer window. Lasting progress is often slow in football but Gracia is proving so far that he could finally be the man to deliver that elusive long term success for Watford. 

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Watford 2-1 Crystal Palace: Report, Ratings & Reaction as Andre Gray Fires Hornets to Wembley

Andre Gray’s winner just two minutes after coming on earned Watford a hard fought 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace in their FA Cup quarter-final clash at Vicarage Road.

Watford‘s meticulous approach to the game paid dividends just before the half-hour mark, as Etienne Capoue opened the scoring for the hosts after 27 minutes.

A trio of successive corners culminated in the former ?Tottenham man reacting quickest to Craig Cathcart’s cute layoff in the box to side foot into the roof of the net.

?Palace looked a totally different side in the second half, more courageous in attack, with Michy Batshuayi’s pressing from the front resulting in the equaliser after 62 minutes – the Belgian pouncing on Adrian Mariappa’s poor control and charged at Gomes, finishing well into the far corner.

??Just as it seemed Palace were getting control of the match, Roberto Pereyra floated a beautiful ball over the top for substitute Gray to volley home two minutes after coming on. It was scenes of jubilation and desperation at the final whistle, as Watford reached Wembley once more.

Here’s 90min’s report of the action.


Watford

Key Talking Point

It has been a season to remember for Javi Gracia’s team, well in the hunt for European football next term and enjoying a stellar cup run heading into Saturday’s encounter.

FBL-ENG-FACUP-WATFORD-CRYSTAL PALACE

After a slow start to the tie, the Hornets began to assert their dominance that their league position would suggest they would have. After Capoue’s opener, it was the hosts who looked the most likely grab the crucial second goal before half time, however failed to do so, thus allowing Palace back into the game. 

It was a worrying beginning to the second period as the Eagles were in the ascendancy and seemingly the more likely to find a winner after having drawn level. Cometh the hour, cometh the man though, as aastute substitution by Gracia made the desired impact, with Gray needing just two minutes to justify his manager’s decision.

Their performance was not one of glitz and glamour, yet the gritty way they ground out the win was a perfect embodiment of the club’s never-say-die attitude this term.


Player Ratings

Starting XI: Gomes (6); Femenia (6), Cathcart (7), Mariappa (5), Holebas (6); Hughes (7), Capoue (7), Doucoure (7), Pereyra (7); Deulofeu (8*), Deeney (7)

Substitutes: Masina (6), Gray (7), Cleverley (N/A)

STAR MAN – Gerard Deulofeu

Having adopted a new striker role for Watford this season, the Spaniard has flourished this campaign, forging a fine strike partnership with Troy Deeney as the pair complement each other in their contrasting styles.

Gerard Deulofeu

The 25-year-old has blistering pace and showcased that on numerous occasion on Saturday afternoon, pushing his team forward and running at the Palace back line. He had three efforts saved by Vicente Guaita in the first half and had he put one of those away, you feel it would put the game out of sight for the visitors.

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??Crystal Palace

Key Talking Point

This growing rivalry between these two has escalated in recent years, with the clubs facing the next instalment of their FA Cup history in a repeat of the 2016 semi final – where the visitors eventually lost in the final to Manchester United.

FBL-ENG-FACUP-WATFORD-CRYSTAL PALACE

Without key players ?Zaha and Patrick van Aanholt, their approach to the game was one of trying to gain control in midfield and feed Andros Townsend down the left whenever possible. 

They started well, winning the ‘ugly’ side of the game but their lack of quality was noticeable as the hosts began to grow into the tie. 

Their lacklustre performance was in no way due to a lack of trying, with their 3,000 away supporters pushing them on and Hodgson eager for a first ever FA Cup semi final as a manager. 

FBL-ENG-FACUP-WATFORD-CRYSTAL PALACE

A far more adventurous Palace emerged after the break and Batshuayi’s leveller was just rewards for their endeavour. However, their inability to capitalise when on top ultimately cost Hodgson’s men as their lack of cutting edge in the final third payed it’s toll.


?Player Ratings

Starting XI: Guaita (5); Schlupp (6), Tomkins (6), Kelly (6), Wan-Bissaka (7); McArthur (7) Milivojevic (7), Kouyate (6); Meyer (6), Batshuayi (7*), Townsend (7)

Substitutes: Benteke (5)


STAR MAN – Michy Batshuayi

Up front Batshuayi cut a lonely figure, barely getting a touch of the ball in the first half and clearly frustrated with the lack of creativity in his side. Just as the signs of a good goalkeeper are when they can stay focussed to make a key save, an effective forward must do the same when hardly getting a sniff.

The Belgian did just that, first coming close with a rasping drive that struck the stanchion, before pouncing on Mariappa’s mistake and producing a superb finish to haul his side back into contention. His effort and application was clear but he simply wasn’t given enough service to thrive on throughout the 90 minutes.


Looking Ahead

Watford can enjoy a long break with international football returning, so won’t play again until the March 30 when they travel to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United in the Premier League.

Meanwhile, Palace have the same length of break before they travel to the John Smith’s Stadium to face relegation threatened Huddersfield.

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