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Solskjaer Issues Pogba Fitness Update As Man Utd Near Premier League return

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The France World Cup hero is expected to be available for the opening Premier League clash of the season, while Luke Shaw should face Aston Villa

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says Paul Pogba will miss his club’s friendly with Aston Villa on Saturday – but he is optimistic that the midfielder will return for the Premier League opener against Crystal Palace the following week.

Pogba is one of the players who has been troubled by Covid-19, having tested positive for the virus while he was with the France squad.

He was sent home by Didier Deschamps’ side in order to self-isolate. That prevented him from featuring in training, thereby losing sharpness and any prospect of turning out at Villa Park.

Speaking to MUTV, the Norwegian explained: “Paul’s had a couple of training sessions, so he’s lost out on a few sessions because of the virus, of course. But Paul is quick to get fit…. hopefully, he’ll be ready for next weekend. I am not 100 per cent sure, though.”

The World Cup winner is coming off a frustrating 2019-20 campaign, in which he was able to feature only 22 times in all competitions because of a couple of spells out with an ankle injury.

He played 16 Premier League matches, scoring a single goal, while two of his four assists came in a 4-0 win over Chelsea on the opening day of the season.

Other than the 27-year-old, United are hopeful of having a full squad for the Villa fixture.Solskjaer has confirmed left-back Luke Shaw will be available for the clash.

“Luke is looking really good in training. He’s come back looking strong and will play in the friendly against Villa,” he confirmed.

Meanwhile, Pogba is not the only member of the France squad to have suffered lately from Covid-19, with Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe having succumbed to the virus. Goalkeeper Steve Mandanda was the third member of the initial 23-man squad to be sent home after returning a positive test.Additionally, the man who succeeded Pogba as the world’s most expensive footballer, Neymar, returned to training on Friday ahead of PSG’s fixture against Marseille on Sunday, having returned a negative test after contracting the virus.

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Arsenal Hopeful Of Martinelli Injury Boost With Gabriel And Partey Set To Return

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The Gunners teenager injured his ankle before Saturday’s FA Cup clash with Newcastle 

Gabriel Martinelli will have a scan on Monday, with Arsenal hopeful the Brazilian attacker’s ankle injury is not as bad as first feared.

Martinelli was injured during the warm-up on Saturday night as Arsenal prepared to take on Newcastle in the FA Cup third round and was replaced in the starting XI by Reiss Nelson.

He watched the second half from the stands while wearing a protective boot and Arteta admitted after the game that the initial signs did ‘not look good’ for the 19-year-old.

But, having seen Martinelli at the training ground on Sunday, Arteta is now in a slightly more positive mood and is hopeful the scan results will show the forward does not have to spend too long on the sidelines.

“We don’t know how bad it is, he’s getting a scan this morning,” Arteta said on Monday. “He didn’t look good after the game because he was in a lot of pain, but yesterday he tested a little bit better.

“So let’s hope he has the scan and it’s not as serious and we can have Gabi back really soon. But we will know more on Tuesday.”

Arsenal take on Crystal Palace in the Premier league on Thursday night looking to make it five successive wins in all competitions.

The Gunners could have their two main summer signings available for the clash, with centre-back Gabriel Magalhaes and midfielder Thomas Partey both expected to return following lay-offs.

Gabriel has missed the last four games having tested positive for coronavirus, while Partey hasn’t played since limping off with a thigh injury during the north London derby defeat at Spurs on December 6.

But Arteta is hopeful both could make their returns against Palace later in the week.

“Gabriel had a training session the other day,” said the Arsenal boss. “He tested positive, he had very mild symptoms, so he’s missed a few weeks of training because he had to be isolated.

“He’s better now, we expect him to be training with us the next couple of days and we’ll make an assessment whether we can have him or not on Thursday.

“Thomas has been in full training for the last four or five days. He’s completely asymptomatic. He was a little bit rushed to try to play him against Newcastle, but I think he will be ready for Thursday.”

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Inter Milan Must Sweat To Show We Are Contenders, Says Conte

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Inter Milan head coach, Antonio Conte, warned against complacency and urged his players to show they are credible Serie A title contenders ahead of Sunday’s home clash with relegation battlers Crotone.

Conte’s team, who finished as runners-up last season, cut the gap to league leaders AC Milan to just one point before the 10-day winter break, thanks to a run of seven straight league wins.

That form has put Inter firmly in the mix to end their 11-year wait for a league title, with defending champions Juventus languishing nine points behind them in sixth.

“We must confirm our place among the contenders,” Conte told a news conference.

“We don’t have to send any message, just be credible. We have the duty to fight until the end. When you’re at Inter, this is an obligation.

“It’s a balanced championship. You need to sweat to win every match and there are no easy games.

“In the end important values like hard work and organisation will stand out, things that make you excel and win.”

Inter are favourites to come out on top against Crotone, who are in 19th place having won just twice since being promoted from Serie B.

However, one of those victories came in Crotone’s last match before the break and Conte insisted he will not be underestimating the threat of the visitors.

“We’re expecting a demanding match, as I think they all are in Serie A,” he said.

“We’re facing a team that has been galvanised by finishing last year with a win against Parma.

“This match will require a lot of focus. Starting again after the holidays is always a great unknown, but we know the importance of continuing our positive streak.”

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Pirlo Warns Juventus Players Never To Repeat Fiorentina Display

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Juventus coach, Andrea Pirlo, has warned his players not to repeat the poor performance they produced during their shock 3-0 defeat against struggling Fiorentina in their last match before Serie A headed into its Christmas break.

The Italian champions, who face Udinese on Sunday, slumped to their first league defeat of the season against Fiorentina.

The result left Pirlo’s side 10 points adrift of league leaders AC Milan, albeit with a game in hand, putting their nine-year stranglehold of the Italian title at risk.

“We talked about the game against Fiorentina, we got it completely wrong,” the 41-year-old, who is in his first season as a manager, said.

“It was a good meeting and we discussed our future objectives. It was productive.

“I don’t want to see any more matches like the one with Fiorentina.

“We’ve otherwise made some progress and improved in many aspects, but I’m convinced it can be even better.”

Udinese also headed into the winter break following a 2-0 defeat to Benevento but Luca Gotti’s side were unbeaten in six league matches before then.

Hence Pirlo is not taking the challenge lightly.

“I’m expecting a difficult match, Udinese are on a good run of form and are a very well organised and physical team with players who are very good on the counter attack,” he said.

“The team is eager to redeem itself after the last defeat. We’ve got almost all our players back, so we’re setting out to restart the league season strongly.”

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