Guendouzi rules out Morocco switch

Arsenal midfielder Matteo Guendouzi says it is his dream to play for France after being courted by Morocco.

The 19-year-old French born former Lorient midfielder has partial Moroccan heritage and is said to be a target for the Atlas Lions.

His impressive displays for the Gunners have not gone unnoticed by Morocco manager Herve Renard, but Guendouzi is determined to play for the country of his birth, and the World Champions.

Having represented France at every age-group, the young star made his first appearances for the Under-21s during the current international break.

Guendouzi told Canal+: "Since I was young, I've always played with the French teams, it's a dream to play with France A.

"And I'm hoping to get there, it's a dream for me. to make it happen."

Hunt working to strengthen league chasers

Gavin Hunt says it is likely that Bidvest Wits will sign Thandani Ntshumayelo while continuing his search for a new left-sided player.

The 28-year-old midfielder has been training with the Clever Boys in a bid to win a contract having last played for Orlando Pirates.

Hunt knows Ntshumayelo well from their time at SuperSport United and says he is keen on the former Bafana Bafana player.

Ahead of their Telkom Knockout semi-final clash with Baroka, Hunt said that after working hard a the club over the past two months, he feels Ntshumayelo is looking back to his best.

The Wits boss told TimesLive: "He has been doing well at training and like I said he has the quality.

"I think he could play now for about 30 to 40 minutes and we are going to get to a point soon where I would say either or‚ you know."

Hunt added: "There is no expectation and we are taking it day by day. I hope we can sign him‚ it won't be a bad call. I don’t know if we have the budget but I told him he can play for nothing.

"He has the quality and pedigree because he has won league titles‚ he has played in the Caf Champions League final and he knows what it takes to play at this level."

The 54-year-old head coach also revealed he is keen to further add to his side, with George Lebese linked to the club, saying: "I have only (Deon) Otto at the moment and I do need possibly another left sided player to give us a little bit more balance and competition.

"Last year we had Vincent Pule and Daine Klate on the left and now we just have Otto.

"I have converted a few players here and there but we do need another player and I am not saying its George."

Suarez tells Dembele to be more responsible

Luis Suarez says Ousmane Dembele must learn from his teammates if he is to live up to his potential at Barcelona.

The 21-year-old joined the Catalan club for a hefty fee from Borussia Dortmund in 2017 in the wake of Neymar's departure to Paris Saint-Germain.

While the France international has talent in abundance, he has not started a La Liga game since September.

Reports suggest that Dembele, who failed to even make the squad against Real Betis, has been given an ultimatum to improve his attitude.

Ahead of Uruguay's friendly with France on Tuesday, Suarez told reporters: "It's not that [Dembele] has not adapted to the dressing room - the relationship he has with his team-mates is very good. He is happy.

"But as some of my team-mates have said, and Ousmane himself knows, being a footballer is a privilege. I think maybe he should focus more on his football and be more responsible.

"He is very young and can take inspiration from the exemplary professionalism in the Barcelona dressing room. He deserves to be there and to triumph with Barca."

Mbekile can't wait for Soweto Derby

Asavela Mbekile is eagerly awaiting his first Soweto derby experience as Orlando Pirates prepare to take on Kaizer Chiefs in their Telkom Knockout semi-final on Saturday.

The 32-year-old former Moroka Swallows and Mamelodi Sundowns midfielder made his Bucs debut in the TKO quarter-final victory over AmaZulu and has since played in both the 2-1 defeat of Polokwane City and 0-0 draw with Sundowns.

Looking ahead to this weekend's clash at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, Mbekile said: "It could be [my Derby debut]. I think everyone wants to play that game, and we all watch that game.

"When we played Chiefs [in the league] and won, it was very exciting even though we were in the stands," he told KickOff.

"It was like we were on the field because we were cheering just as hard as the guys who were playing, so it was quite a nice feeling."

He added: "I've been to the Derby a few times before to watch, even though I was playing for other teams, because Amigo [Luvuyo Memela] is my friend.

"So, I've been to support him a few times before and experienced the atmosphere."

Mbekile  explained that he has worked hard for his place in the Bucs team, telling Goal: "Having a clear mindset is so important.

"I worked on my fitness and spent time with people who make me happy outside football. It kept me motivated.

"When you are on the sidelines you often work more than those playing. I put in my best performance when I got the chance – I never doubted my ability."

Silva out for Poland clash

Bernardo Silva has been ruled out of Portugal's UEFA Nations League tie with Poland on Tuesday.

The 24-year-old Manchester City midfielder played the full ninety minutes in the 0-0 draw with Italy on Saturday night.

However, a statement from the Portuguese Football Federation confirmed that Silva was sidelined, although without specifying the nature of the injury.

"Following medical and diagnostic tests performed by the FPF Health and Performance Unit, the player Bernardo Silva was considered unavailable for the meeting against Poland," read the release.

Portugal may well rotate their side for the visit of Poland having already secured their place in the Nations League finals.

City, however, could miss the talents of their midfield man as they take on West Ham United on Saturday and Olympique Lyonnais on Tuesday if he fails to recover in time.

Fellaini: Gap between City and Utd is shrinking

Marouane Fellaini feels the Premier League is getting stronger each year and that Manchester United are keeping pace with rivals Manchester City.

The Red Devils ended last season in second place behind league winners City, but by a massive 19 points.

This season Jose Mourinho's charges are currently in eighth place on 20 points after 12 games, some 12 points behind leaders City.

City also defeated United 3-1 at the Etihad Stadium before the international break but Fellaini told Sky Sports that he feels the gap between the sides is smaller than it initially appears.

He said: "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."

He added: "They are very confident, all of them, they play good football, they play attacking football and they have a good dynamic."

McCarthy: We need to make up ground

Benni McCarthy says he's aiming for a strong end to 2018 with Cape Town City having seemingly come through a slump of form.

City have endured a season of mixed results this season but were victorious in their pursuit of the MTN8 title, which they lifted in September.

Since then though the club went on a run of three games without victory against Wits, Maritzburg and AmaZulu, in the Telkom Knockout.

City though have managed two wins on the trot in the Premiership, against AmaZulu and Black Leopards, and will look to continue in that vein for their final four games of the year.

Up next for McCarthy's side are clashes with Polokwane City, Highlands Park, Chippa United and Bloemfontein Celtic.

With City currently in eighth, with just three wins from their 10 games played so far, the UEFA Pro Licensed coach said he wants to end the year on a high.

He told KickOff: "Every game we want three points, so I’m not happy with one point, or zero – I don't think any coach in the league is.

"We had our little slump against all the top teams, and now the middle class and lower end is all coming at once for us. So we want to prove that we are not a miracle team or a one-hit wonder, or that the MTN8 was a fluke or a lucky strike.

"This is the run that we need to prove that we can brush teams below us aside because we should be closer to the top, and that's the main aim."

Lebese eager for gametime with Downs

George Lebese's agent says talks are ongoing with Mamelodi Sundowns to ascertain whether of not the winger has a future with the club.

The 29-year-old former Kaizer Chiefs wideman, made the move to Downs in 2017.

He has since struggled to become a regular member of Pitso Mosimane's squad, and is yet to feature at all this term, prompting him to enquire about his lack of game time.

When quizzed by KickOff about Lebese's inactivity this season, agent Steve Kapeluschnik said: "We are talking to Sundowns to see if they are prepared to let him get some game-time and they've been quite positive.

"So, we just have to kind of take our agency approach and see what happens, but we are speaking to them.

"He is frustrated because he is not playing. We've told them that and they are open to the idea of him going to get some game-time."

Kapeluschnik added that there is currently no interest from other clubs for the former Bafana Bafana player.

He added: "Well, we are not at that stage yet. It's November and the window opens in January. The guy is frustrated and they understand that and they are open to us ... but we haven't started looking."

Lebese has a contract at Sundowns until June 2020.

Konqobe working hard for a deal

Ayabulela Konqobe is hoping to secure a Premiership contract this season, with both AmaZulu and Highlands Park reportedly vying for his services.

The 22-year-old former South Africa under 20 international captain was last with Chippa United and also spent time on trial with Kaizer Chiefs while being linked with Black Leopards.

Konqobe has been reportedly training with the Pride of the North, while Usuthu Team manager Qedi Dlamini was unable to confirm a return for the player who had previously spent time with the Durban-based side.

After leaving AmaZulu, Konqobe joined Thanda Royal Zulu, where he help them win promotion to the PSL, ahead of his spell with Chippa at the start of last season.

Dlamini told IOL: "He is a top talent. I think every club would love to have a player of his calibre.

"We've spoken about him before. The last time I chatted to him was two weeks ago. He was in Pretoria, where he was studying.

"If an opportunity to bring him back arrives, we will love to take it, but he is not in Durban as we speak. Let us wait and see what will happen."

Kerr is new Leopards coach

Black Leopards have announced Dylan Kerr as their new head coach to take over from the departed Joel Masutha.

The 51-year-old Kerr joins Lidoda Duvha after resigning from Gor Mahia last week, having led the club to two league titles in just under a year and a half.

He will be tasked with revitalising the club's Premiership season, after their promotion, with Leopards currently floundering in 14th place from 11 games.

Formally part of the coaching staff at Mpumalanga Black Aces, Kerr has also coached in Vietnam with Hai Phong and in Tanzania with Simba SC.

Leopards announced the move with a welcome message on the club's official Twitter account.

Bafana prepare to face Paraguay

Bafana Bafana turn their attentions to Tuesday's Nelson Mandela Challenge with Paraguay after being held to a 1-1 draw with Nigeria in AFCON qualifying at the weekend.

The stalemate at the FNB Stadium left South Africa needing to avoid defeat against Libya in March next year to make it to the finals in Cameroon, as the Super Eagles booked their place.

Stuart Baxter's side had fought back from an own-goal down to draw the tie through Lebo Mothiba, but there was little time to dwell on the result though as Bafana jetted off from Johannesburg for Durban on Sunday morning. They face the South Americans at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.

While Los Guaranies are a highly respected footballing nation, with seven World Cup appearances, and their best finish a quarter-final place in South Africa in 2010, Paraguay failed to qualify in 2014 and 2018, and have a record of just five wins and 14 losses in their last 19 games.

They come into this game on the back of a 4-2 friendly loss to Japan in June, after a 1-0 defeat to the United States in NMarch.

Former Mexico head coach Juan Carlos Osorio is hoping to turn things around though having taken up the reins in September - replacing interim coach Gustavo Morinigo. He took up the job in December 2017 when Francisco Arce stepped down after missing out on Russia 2018.

Osorio guided Mexico to the knockout stage of the 2018 World Cup, and claimed the scalp of defending champions Germany in the group stage.

Baxter, meanwhile, is expected to make some changes form the side that played Nigeria with a number of fringe players likely to get game-time.

Ahead of the game, the manager said: "As far as the Paraguay game is concerned, it’s important that we’ve spoken about having a positive relationship with clubs.

"If I was a coach of one of those clubs, I wouldn’t want my players to play 90 minutes, I would expect the coach to have a bit of a feeling for South African football in general and say maybe this couple (of players) can play a half in one and a half in another, for example. We’ll approach [Tuesday’s game] with that in mind.”

Bafana will be hoping to make it four Nelson Mandela Challenges wins in a row, after seeing off Egypt 1-0 in 2016, Senegal 1-0 in 2015 and the Ivory Coast 2-0 in 2014.

Marcelo thanks Real fans and...Sergio Ramos

Marcelo says he wakes up 'very happy every day' as a result of playing for Real Madrid.

The Brazil international defender, who joined Los Blancos from Fluminense in 2006, has gone onto play over 450 times in all competitions for Real.

After revealling his joy to play for the 33-time La Liga champions, Marcelo also thanked Sergio Ramos for his contribution to his 12 years at the club.

The 30-year-old told Diario AS: "Throughout my time here I have received lots of advice and help.

“Sergio Ramos is the individual who has stood out in terms of that since I arrived, it has been very helpful and I am hugely appreciative of it all.

“This club is wonderful, I wake up very happy every day because I play for the best club in the world, it is a massive privilege.

“Everything I have achieved here remains in my head and in my heart, to show my family all my medals from here makes me very proud.

“I want to thank everyone at the club and with their fans who have helped me achieve the best days of my life.”

Arnautovic keeping out of move talks

Marko Arnautovic has further fueled rumours that he is set to leave West Ham by refusing to rule out an imminent move away from the Premier League club.

The Austria international sparked fears he was set to leave the Hammers behind as he revealed his ambition to play Champions League football.

Arnautovic, currently on duty for his country against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Northern Ireland, has scored five goals in 10 Premier League matches this season.

And speaking after coming off the bench in the 2-1 win over Northern Ireland on Sunday, the former Werder Bremen and Stoke City striker said: "I don't want to talk about that. I concentrate on West Ham.

"We have a big game on Saturday against Manchester City and I think only on this game and the next games.

"What my agents and the clubs are talking [about] is not my business. My business is to perform on the pitch, that is what I want to do."

Chelsea, Everton were reportedly chasing Arnautovic in January.

 

Jonny injury woe for Wolves

Wolves have been dealt a blow with a knee injury to on loan defender Jonny, sustained while on international duty.

The 24-year-old Spanish international full-back had to be withdrawn in the 51st minute of the friendly international with Bosnia-Herzegovina this past weekend.

Up next for Wolves is a Premier League clash with Huddersfield but it is unlikely that the Atletico Madrid man will be available.

A statement from Spain read: "The pain is localised on the internal side, and the picture is compatible with a medial collateral ligament lesion that, although it is still to be defined, could be a grade II-III.

"MRI will be performed for diagnostic confirmation and other lesions will be ruled out."

Ranieri will assess squad before splashing the cash

Claudio Ranieri is confident that Fulham will back him with funds in the January transfer window.

The former Leicester City Premier League winner, who was most recently in change of Nantes in Ligue 1, took over at the Cottagers following the sacking of Slavisa Jokanovic last week.

With Fulham bottom of the league standings and with just one win all season, some big changes are needed at the west London side.

The 2017/18 Championship play-off winners spent £100m on 12 new players at the start of the current season, but Ranieri says he will initially look to get the most of what he has before needlessly spending more money.

The Italian manager said: "I spoke with the chairman about this. There are some people that are working (on recruitment) and then they put to me some players.

"They show me the name and after I have to choose who is the right player for us - I am happy with that.

"For now I have to work with these players. I haven't met them all yet because of the international break - but already I love them. I want them to bring their best."

He added: "After, if there is something, I can say to the chairman 'I need another player because I need this kind on the team' - that's another thing.

"I spoke with the chairman about it, and he said to me 'Claudio, if you need something, I am here'. But I said I want to see the players because, when you change the manager, the behaviour in the dressing room also changes.

"Some players maybe didn't play under the former manager, and with the new manager will give more, because maybe there is more feeling between the new manager and the player.

"I believe I have very good players, but now they have to show me the fighting spirit."

Rooney: Ex England players are jealous

Wayne Rooney says there are a few former England players who are struggling to come to terms with the Three Lions' improvement under manager Gareth Southgate.

For years the England national side have under performed, with their one success coming back 1966 when they won the World Cup.

A so-called 'Golden Generatioin' of stars including the likes of Rooney, Paul Scholes, Steven Gerrard, David Beckham and Frank Lampard were never able to live up to expectations, while Southgate's crop of young stars made it all the way to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Rooney was welcomed back into the England frame for a friendly international with the United States on Thursday, after retiring last year, and explained how hard it has been for his former teammates.

He said: "I know there are some ex-players who I've spoken to who can't come to terms with England doing well.

"That is wrong. I'm not like that. I'm a fan now. I want England to do well. I am proud to have played for England so many times and I always have been."

He added: "I've had my time. I am happy with what I've contributed to the national team and I look forward now to the next few years and watching this team progress.

"I'm excited for all of them, I'm excited for England. This is a great opportunity for this group of players to make that next step.

"They've already got to a World Cup semi-final, but they can't sit back and be happy about doing what the 1990 team did.

"They have got the potential to go further. This is a young group of players, but I can see the mentality is right and they'll be pushing for more."

Mkhalele backs Serero to shine

Helman Mkhalele says fans shouldn't worry too much about Thulani Serero's performance against Nigeria, following the Vitesse midfielder's return for South Africa.

The midfielder was back in the Bafana frame for the first time in a year but made way for Thembinkosi Lorch on the hour mark.

Prior to the match, head coach Stuart Baxter admitted that it was not ideal to start Serero, but felt he could not leave a player with his stature on the bench for such an important game.

And following the 1-1 draw at the FNB Stadium, Mkhalele said he felt nerves played a part for Serero upon his return to the fold.

He told the Sowetan: "You could see he was very tense. He couldn't express himself, and I think that was because of what happened between him and the nation.

But now that he's played here, I believe the ice has been broken. A player of his capabilities will bounce back. I think he will be key in the last match away to Libya [in March]."

On the match itself, Mkhalele added: "The first mistake we made was to allow Nigeria to be the aggressors in the opening phase. An away team should never dictate the pace so early.

"I was not surprised that they scored first. But we did well to come back and equalise.

"After half-time, Nigeria were content with a draw, and again we didn't push them hard enough. They sat back and slowed down the game, yet Percy Tau had showed they are not comfortable dealing with pace. We didn't unsettle them at all in the second half."

Larsen looking for better balance

Golden Arrows coach Clinton Larsen is working hard to be able to put out a competitive side for the visit of Kaizer Chiefs to the Princess Magogo Stadium next week.

The current international break has allowed Arrows to take a much-needed break while also allow those currently sidelined to work their way back.

Divine Lunga is currently on the Abafana Bes'thende's treatment table following a heavy challenge in the win over Black Leopards in October while fellow defender Zolani Nkombelo is still in recovery after breaking a foot in pre-season.

In midfield, Sandile Zuke, Danny Phiri and Velemseni Ndwandwe are all long-term injury absentees, leaving Larsen with something of a headache as he tries to build on what has been a mixed season thus far.

Larsen told KickOff: We might have Divine Lunga back, but all the others are long-term injuries.

"You look at Zuke, Danny Phiri, Nkombelo, Ndwandwe, and I can go on. There's a few more but I think at least we have one left-footed fullback [Lunga] back, which gives us better balance. When you lose that balance you lose your attacking threat down the side, especially the way we play with our fullbacks giving us lots of offensive mobility.

"So, it limits you to a certain extent. Zwane has always cut back on his right foot, which slows the action down to get attackers on to the ball. So, having Lunga back is going to give us another dimension, which has been missing in the last four or five games."

Arrows are currently in 11th place on the Premiership standings, with 12 points from 12 games.

 

Southgate: The players are starting to believe

Gareth Southgate has challenged his England side to continue to improve after watching them see off Croatia 2-1 in their UEFA Nations League clash on Sunday.

An 85th minute Harry Kane goal sealed the win at Wembley after Jesse Lingard had ten minutes earlier cancelled out Andrej Kramaric's 57th minute deflected strike.

Croatia had looked like they were cruising to victory over the deadlock was finally broken while Marcelo Brozovic had an incredible opportunity to kill off the tie with Croatia leading.

Southgate though had already introduced Deli Alli for Ross Barkley before trading Marcus Rashford for Jadon Sancho and Lingard for Fabian Delph - with the changes paying off as the Three Lions secured their progression to next years finals.

It was a fourth wins in five games for England, with a delighted Southgate telling Sky Sports: "I am very proud first and foremost. I thought we dictated a lot of the game and had some good chances in the first half and should have been ahead.

"We then let a soft goal in and it is a real test of resilience and patience, and for all the great football that we played, we scored from a long throw - maybe we are not a new England, maybe we are more like the England of old!

"I am very proud of what the players have done, not just today, but throughout the whole year. People can see the spirit and I have not heard Wembley like that for a long time.

"We have come out of a very tough group. You can look at the one with France and Germany, but if you look at form and world rankings, ours is the toughest, so this is a real step forward - we have not just sat back after the summer, we have progressed. The players are hungry and are starting to believe. People can see the style, people are starting to believe in what we are doing.

"We have a had a very good year, but we have to make sure that is just the start."

Rohr hails world-class Tau

To say Gernot Rohr was impressed with Percy Tau is something of an understatement, with the Nigeria head coach full of praise for the young South African star.

After trailing to an early own-goal at the FNB Stadium on Saturday, it was Tau's exquisite skills that set up Lebo Mothiba for the equaliser, as he dropped a shoulder and left three defenders in his wake.

The former Mamelodi Sundowns attacker impressed throughout the tie, and helped raise the level of the Bafana performance to being on par with a Nigeria side that boasts four English Premier League players, as well as as few who ply their trade in La Liga.

Rohr, who has plenty experience with African footballers, having also coached Gabon, Niger and Burkina Faso, feels Tau could offer his parent club Brighton & Hove Albion a lot, as he currently lights up the Belgian second division with Union Saint-Gilloise.

Reflecting on Tau's man-of-the match performance, Rohr told the press: "I want to give my congratulations to this wonderful player Percy Tau. I hope to see him again in a big team in Europe.

"He has all the qualities to be a player in England or somewhere in a big championship, and he gave us a lot of problems."

Rohr added that Bafana had a number of top professionals, not least Itumeleng Khune and Thulani Hlatshwayo: "I told you already that you have a wonderful payer, who was man of the match [Tau]. You have a very good goalkeeper [Khune] also. You have the captain [Hlatshwayo], which is also a very, very good player."

Rohr was also confident that he would see South Africa in Cameroon next year, with his side securing their place in the 2019 AFCON with the draw against Bafana.

He said: "Overall, you have a team who can also go to the AFCON – normally, but this last match will not be easy. Fortunately, it's not in Libya – you will play, I think, also in Tunisia.

"We were there, it’s not easy. I can give some advice to your coach, if he wants – give him my number. And I wish you all the best for this difficult match."