Neymar’s Latest Instagram Activity Suggests He’s Still Dreaming of Barcelona Move

?Mercifully there is just one week left of the Spanish transfer window, and mere days before some semblance of sweet relief from the near-hourly updates on the transfer saga to end all sagas: Neymar.

For style purposes I’m obliged to recap this summer’s happenings with the Brazilian, but I’ll keep it brief as the likelihood you’ve somehow stumbled onto an article about Neymar without following the gigabytes upon gigabytes of tedious click fodder these past weeks is pretty remote.

Anyway, Neymar ditched Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain for €222m in 2017 but, like many disappointed Asian tourists, didn’t really take to the French capital. After two years of penalty fiascos, injuries, a fair amount of goals and domestic titles but (crucially) no Champions Leagues – PSG have now admitted Ney wants out, with ?Barcelona desperate to re-sign the one lover that spurned them. Meanwhile, ?Real Madrid are also in the mix because, well, of course they are.

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There have been reports of clandestine meetings, offers and counteroffers but no-one can/will stump up anything close to the €200m-ish that PSG want for Neymar so things are a bit complicated. 

As recently as this weekend, ?one French ‘exclusive’ claimed that Barcelona have increased their bid for the superstar, whilst also offering out Ousmane Dembele to PSG on loan.

?Marca meanwhile have been tracking Neymar on social media in search of a scoop and got themselves one (sort of) by noticing how the Brazilian has liked posts by Antoine Griezmann and Sergi Roberto after their La Liga victory over Real Betis. 


Make of that what you will…except it’s already pretty clear that Neymar wants to go back to Barcelona. Everyone keeps saying it.

Whether or not Neymar completes his journey to becoming the Prodigal Culé seemingly depends on what (or rather who) Barça can offer PSG in lieu of cash. The social media indications are unlikely to deter Real Madrid in any way, if indeed they do have serious designs on Neymar. 

The Brazilian has been a pet project of Florentino Perez for some time and getting one over on the Catalans seems almost as important, if not more, than securing the right player for the team.

Despite promises from the PSG hierarchy to let Neymar rot in the reserves if he caused trouble, injuries to Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe might force the Ligue 1 champions to resist a sale and meekly reintegrate the forward rather than rely on (checks notes) Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting for goals in the short-term.

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Twitter Reacts as Antoine Griezmann Inspires Barcelona to Win in Lionel Messi’s Absence

?Barcelona bounced back from their shock opening day defeat in style to win their first game of the season, as they beat Real Betis 5-2 on Sunday night.

After being humiliated on the opening night in a 1-0 defeat to Athletic Club, Ernesto Valverde’s side were desperate for their first win of the season. In their first game of the new campaign at the Camp Nou, and without star players Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, the reigning champions didn’t disappoint.

?Barcelona had chance after chance in the opening 15 minutes, but found themselves behind in the blink of an eye. Real Betis went up the other end, and Nabil Fekir picked up the ball and placed it into the bottom corner to give the Verdiblancos a shock lead at the Camp Nou.


Barcelona kept pushing as they searched for a way back into the game, but they couldn’t hit the target. The Blaugrana eventually levelled just before half-time, as Antoine Griezmann scored his first goal for his new club to equalise and bring Barca back into the game.



Griezmann secured his brace four minutes into the second half, this time with an even more delightful finish. The Barca striker got the ball on the edge of the box, and curled it into the far corner to turn it around for the reigning champions within a matter of minutes.




After Griezmann scored his first goal for Barcelona, youngster Carles Perez followed suit soon after with a nice driven finish. Having missed a few chances earlier, Perez swept his effort into the bottom corner to put Barca in cruise control.


Minutes later and the three points were sealed for the Catalan side, with full-back Jordi Alba getting in on the action. Sergio Busquets played a killer pass into the box, and Alba passed it into the net to all but wrap up the win for Barcelona.



Arturo Vidal then made it five for Barca after coming off the bench, smashing his effort home. However Loren Moron then responded with an absolute screamer, smashing the ball into the top corner giving Marc-Andre ter Stegen in goal no chance whatsoever.



Barcelona travel across to Osasuna next Saturday, while Real Betis welcome Leganes to the Benito Villamarin on the same day.

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Barcelona 5-2 Real Betis: Report, Ratings & Reaction as Vintage Barca Secure Vital Win

Barcelona sealed their first win of the season in style on Sunday night, as they beat Real Betis 5-2 at the Camp Nou.

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Barcelona had a flurry of chances in the opening 15 minutes, coming withing inches of taking the lead. Yet it was Real Betis who struck first, as out of nothing Loren Moron put Nabil Fekir through on goal, who coolly slotted home to give them the lead with their first chance of the game.

Barca kept pushing for a goal, but couldn’t capitalise on their shots on goal. Barcelona finally drew level four minutes before the break, as Antoine Griezmann scored his first Blaugrana goal. Sergi Roberto floated the ball into the box, and Griezmann poked it home to introduce himself to the Camp Nou crowd and level it up going into the break.


Barca turned it around straight after the restart, as Griezmann got his second of the night. The Frenchman picked up the ball on the edge of the box, controlled it and delightfully curled it into the far corner to put the hosts in front.

With the Blaugrana well and truly in the mood, Carles Perez made it three with a wonderful finish to score his first goal. Jordi Alba added another one minutes later, as Sergio Busquets’ pass cut open Betis’ defence, leaving Alba to sweep it home to well and truly put the game beyond Betis.

Substitute Arturo Vidal got on the scoresheet as well, smashing his effort into the roof of the net. Betis then pulled one back in style, as Moron scored a stunner as he smashed the ball into the top corner. However Barca saw out the win, sealing the three points in style at the Camp Nou.


BARCELONA

Key Talking Point

Antoine Griezmann,Carles Perez

After a devastating ?1-0 defeat to Athletic Club on the opening night, ?Barcelona had to respond in style in their first home game. It was a frustrating first half for the reigning champions, who went behind to Betis’ first effort and missed a flurry of chances before drawing level before the break.

Barca knew that they had to up their game in the second half, and to say they did would be an incredible understatement. The Blaugrana scored a stunning three goals in ten minutes, tearing the visitors apart and playing beautiful football to seal the win with a wonderful performance.

There were question marks about how Barca would deal without both ?Lionel Messi and ?Luis Suarez, and while at first they struggled they truly hit their stride in the second half. It was beautiful, vintage Barca football, as the champions got their season well underway in Catalonia.


Player Ratings

Starting XI: Ter Stegen (6); Alba (8), Lenglet (6), Pique (7), Semedo (6); de Jong (8), Busquets (7), Roberto (7); Perez (8), Griezmann (8*), Rafinha (6).

Substitutes: Vidal (7), Fati (6), Firpo (N/A).



STAR MAN – In a stunning performance, Antoine Griezmann stole all the headlines with his brace on Sunday. The Frenchman scored two wonderful goals and led the Barca attack brilliantly, creating numerous chances and linking up excellently with his teammates.

The Frenchman produced a breathtaking performance at the Camp Nou, as he introduced himself to his new supporters in style.


REAL BETIS

Nabil Fekir

Player Ratings

Starting XI: Fernandez (5); Alfonso (6), Sidnei (5), Bartra (5), Emerson (6); Guardado (6), Carvalho (6); Tello (6), Canales (7), Fekir (7*); Moron (7).

Substitutes: Kaptoum (6), Joaquin (6), Lainez (6).


Looking Ahead

Carles Perez,Cristian Tello

Barcelona take the trip to Pamplona next, as they meet Osasuna next Saturday. The Blaugrana return to the Camp Nou after the international break for an exciting tie, as they host Valencia in a repeat of the Copa del Rey final on 14 September.

Real Betis have back to back home games up next, starting with the visit of Leganes to the Benito Villamarin next Saturday. The Verdiblancos are back at home two weeks later on 14 September, when they host Getafe in Andalusia.

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Lionel Messi Misses Barcelona Training Ahead of Real Betis Clash on Sunday

Lionel Messi was absent from Barcelona training on Saturday, with his spot in the squad now in doubt ahead of its ?announcement.

The Argentina international has been recovering from a calf problem picked up after returning from his summer exploits at the Copa America.

He was absent from Barca’s La Liga opener at Athletic Club, which they lost after Luis Suarez went off injured, Aritz Aduriz scoring a sensation overhead kick late on.

Lionel Messi

As reported by ?Goal, Messi was absent from training on Saturday, having participated in some sessions during the week, with head coach Ernesto Valverde reiterating that he won’t take any risks with his talisman if he isn’t fit.

He said: “We won’t take any risk with Messi. We must wait to see him in the training session to check if he is ready.”

Messi likely wouldn’t have started even if he was fit, but the pressure is again on Antoine Griezmann ahead of Sunday’s clash with Betis.

The Frenchman looked out of sorts against Athletic, struggling to assert himself in the game following Suarez’s exit, who may also be absent from Sunday’s clash. Ousmane Dembele is another high profile absentee, having suffered a hamstring problem.

Lionel Messi,Ernesto Valverde

Speaking on Griezmann’s start to life at Camp Nou, Valverde added via ?Marca: “With each passing day, [Griezmann] is integrating better. If he enters the play and participates, he can be decisive.

“At San Mames, he didn’t do it as much as we would’ve liked. We need players who arrive well [in the box]. With the absences we have up front, it is an option that we must take advantage of.”

?Barcelona are already playing catch up in their defence of the La Liga title, with both ?Real Madrid and ?Atletico Madrid winning their opening games. Betis themselves suffered a surprising 2-1 defeat to Real Valladolid on the opening weekend.

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7 Wonder Goals That Were Somehow Left Out of FIFA’s Puskás Shortlist

?The Puskás Award. 

Rarely has something so insignificant to the world of football caused so much divide for fans, often seeing bang average (at best) strikes from the world’s biggest stars getting the nod ahead of generational goals from lesser-known leagues on the planet.

Was Matheus Cunha’s apparent ‘solo’ effort – he dribbled past one defender, and the defender was only Leverkusen’s Wendell – really among the top 10 goals scored last season?

Was the fact that someone, who has a black belt in Taekwondo, scores a goal using a Taekwondo move, all that impressive?

Sorry, Zlatan.

We felt like there were more than a few glaring omissions from this year’s shortlist, and the chances are that you did too. So with YouTube inevitably open on the next tab, let’s run through seven goals which really should have been in contention for the Puskás Award.


7. Lionel Messi vs Liverpool

Lionel Messi,Joe Gomez,Joel Matip,Fabinho,Roberto Firmino

FIFA, if you’re that desperate to put Lionel Messi in the shortlist, can you at least put his best goal of the 2018/19 season in?

You know, the one which was UEFA’s Goal of the Season.

Now look, that chip against Real Betis was good. I’d even go as far to say that it was really good.

But can something really be nominated for the Puskás Award if we’ve seen Shinji Kagawa score that exact same chip…twice? 


6. Vincent Kompany vs Leicester City

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If the Ballon d’Or is going to completely overlook how good a player actually is and instead award it to someone for finishing as the runner up at a World Cup, then why can’t we do the same with the Puskás Award?

That’s not taking anything away from Vincent Kompany’s long-range effort against Leicester City either, as that could have easily been voted as the Goal of the Season in the Premier League.

But when your captain who is a 33-year-old centre-back scores from what felt like 1,000 yards out with a goal that wins you the Premier League title, that surely has to mean something, doesn’t it?


5. Fernando Forestieri vs Norwich City

Fernando Forestieri

If you though Kompany’s was worth a place on the shortlist, then you’ll probably agree that Fernando Forestieri’s goal against Norwich City last season should too.

From further out, with more power and into the opposite corner of the goal, Forestieri made it look so easy as he picked out the postage stamp at Carrow Road, offering just a small glimpse of what he’s really capable of.

Let’s just cut to the chase, Forestieri’s strike was quite comfortably better than six of the efforts that FIFA selected for their Puskás Award shortlist.


4. Mason Bennett vs Wigan Athletic

Let’s not dwell on it. 

Picture Olivier Giroud’s scorpion kick, throw in a little bit of a swivel and actually meaning to do what you end up doing.

That was Mason Bennett against Wigan Athletic.


3. Gylfi Sigurdsson vs Leicester City

Gylfi Sigurdsson

Straight to the point again.

Almost exactly the same goal as Forestieri’s against Norwich City, except for two reasons.

1) It’s the Premier League, not the Championship.

2) Gylfi Sigurdsson did a Cruyff Turn. And everything is better with a Cruyff Turn.


2. John McGinn vs Sheffield Wednesday

John McGinn,Tammy Abraham

It’s a well-known fact that goals which fly in off the woodwork are automatically better, so go back, re-watch FIFA’s shortlist, and you try to explain why Andros Townsend features in the top 10 but Aston Villa’s John McGinn doesn’t.

McGinn had to shuffle backwards before, from a standing position, volleying the ball from 25 yards onto the underside of the crossbar and over the line. 

It was also his first goal for the club.


1. Eric Bicfalvi vs Dynamo Moscow

Ural Yekaterinburg’s Eric Bicfalvi shouldn’t have been nominated for the Puskás Award.

He should have won it.

In a game against Dynamo Moscow at the start of last season, Bicfalvi found himself facing away from goal, backing into a defender, waiting to get on the end of a looping cross towards the back post.

With the high ball eventually dropping out of orbit, Bicfalvi produced one of the greatest first touches ever to not only control the ball but flick it past his marker, leaving Dinamiki’s unfortunate right-back Aleksei Kozlov in a daze before firing the ball inside the post.

Bicfalvi’s strike shouldn’t have even been in a contest for the 2019 Puskás Award, but instead analysed alongside Dennis Bergkamp’s against Argentina, Roberto Carlos’ free-kick against France and Diego Maradona’s solo effort against England as one of the best goals of all time.

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Neymar Latest: Real Madrid Plan Unveiling & Barça ‘Confident’ But Facing Player Backlash

Real Madrid have already started to plan their unveiling of Paris Saint-Germain winger Neymar, while Barcelona are growing ‘confident’ that they will be able to re-sign the Brazil international ahead of their La Liga rivals.

Neymar’s transfer saga has lasted for the entirety of the summer transfer window and it doesn’t look like it’s going to let up any time soon either, with the latest batch of stories coming out of Spain failing to shed any real light on the 27-year-old’s future beyond 2nd September.

Starting with developments for Barcelona, it’s Madrid-based Marca (via SportsMole) who report that players at Camp Nou are putting pressure on club president Josep Maria Bartomeu to increase his offer to re-sign Neymar this summer.

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The Brazil international’s camp have told players at Barcelona that the club’s highest offer to date stands at just €140m, significantly less than Paris Saint-Germain’s asking price.

Sport (via football.london), however, claim that Barça are still ‘confident’ that they will be able to complete a deal before the European transfer window closes on 2nd September.

The same outlet has also provided an update for Real Madrid’s pursuit of Neymar.

In an unintentional yet unquestionably comedic way, Sport also claims that Los Blancos are currently planning to unveil Neymar at the Santiago Bernabéu next week, even though they’ve reported about Barcelona’s apparent confidence too.

They added that Real Madrid’s recruitment guru for South America, Juni Calafat, was in the French capital on Friday to hold talks with Paris Saint-Germain over the deal.

It’s widely understood that Real Madrid are in the best position to offer a player(s) plus cash deal for Neymar this summer, something which would also suit the decision-makers at the Parc des Princes.

James RodriguezGareth Bale and Keylor Navas have all been mentioned as possible makeweights, while 90min understands that Karim Benzema has also been discussed by Real Madrid this summer.

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But it’s now claimed that the latest name on the list is that of Luka Jovi?, who only joined the club from Eintracht Frankfurt in a £54m deal earlier in the window.

The Express quotes Spanish football expert Guillem Balague saying that Real Madrid’s next offer could include any combination of Jovi?, Navas and Rodriguez.

There’s still very little concrete evidence to suggest where Neymar will end up next month, and the only thing that these constant ‘updates’ from the Spanish media are creating is significantly more confusion surround the entire deal.

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The Footballers With the Best Conversion Rate Since the 2012/13 Season

It’s hard to put into words just how important having a good striker is. A prolific marksman can be the difference between success and failure, and we have seen so many top teams fail because they were missing an elite striker.

?The best forwards are those who can score plenty of goals from minimal opportunities – those who can fire their team to glory with just one chance.

Now, ?Opta have compiled a list of the most reliable strikers from Europe’s top five leagues since the 2012/13 season, ranking their goalscoring pedigree in both league and European competition (but ignoring penalties), and new Monaco signing Wissam Ben Yedder sits atop the standings.

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During his time with both Toulouse and Sevilla, Ben Yedder racked up an impressive 106 goals from just 538 shots in that time period, so 19.7% of his efforts managed to find the back of the net.

That ratio sees him finish ahead of Paris Saint-Germain’s ?Edinson Cavani, whose record of 169 goals from 884 shots earns him a conversion rate of 19.1%. ?Arsenal’s ?Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang managed to finish on the same percentage, having scored 165 of his 866 shots.

?Inter’s ?Mauro Icardi came in fourth, having scored 109 goals from just 577 shots to finish with a rate of 18.9%. Players of that pedigree don’t hit the market too often, so it’s easy to see why so many sides are pursuing the Argentine this summer.

Mauro Icardi

Next up is ?Diego Costa of ?Atletico Madrid, who scored goals at a rate of 18.7%. The Spaniard finished level with ?Lionel Messi, who actually netted the most goals out of anyone on the list. His 275 goals is well ahead of the rest, but the fact it took him 1473 shots means he falls to sixth on the list.

?Alexandre Lacazette (18.6%), ?Karim Benzema (18.3%), ?Luis Suarez (18.1%) and Robert Lewandowski (17.2%) round out the top ten, meaning there is no place for ?Juventus star ?Cristiano Ronaldo.

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The Portuguese international actually finished 20th on the list. Ronaldo racked up 1880 shots – far more than anyone else – but his return of 254 goals means he finished with a conversion rate of 13.5%.

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FIFA 20 Career Mode Transfer Budgets for All Top European Leagues Revealed

The budgets for every club in the Premier League, Bundesliga, Serie A, La Liga, Ligue 1 and more on the upcoming FIFA 20 Career Mode have been revealed.

Courtesy of Twitter user FifaCMTips, the eagerly anticipated transfer window budgets for all the top sides across Europe and beyond have been revealed. FifaCMTips, who unveiled the news on Twitter, started with the Premier League, where it is Manchester United who best the rest with a whopping £167,488,480 at their disposal.


Closely behind them are crosstown rivals, and domestic treble-winners, Manchester City, who boast an admirable £167,020,320 in their accounts.

There is then a dramatic dip, with Champions League winners Liverpool boasting a modest £97m, followed by Europa League winners (and famed transfer absconders) Chelsea on £86m. 

North London rivals Tottenham and Arsenal are behind them on £72m and £69m respectively, while new boys Sheffield United bring up the rear with an oh-so modest sum of £17m, £3m less than the club-record fee they paid for Oli McBurnie IRL.


Over in Serie A, it is unsurprisingly the all-conquering Juventus who sit smugly atop the Italian financial field, with a treasury of £103m, with their Derby d’Italia rivals Inter the closest competition on £48m. Napoli sit behind them on £44m, with Roma right on their rear with £37m and the Nerazzurri’s Milanese rivals AC forced to contend with just £35m.

Over in Germany, it is, yes, Bayern Munich who lead the way, with their coffers capping out at £124m. Borussia Dortmund, meanwhile, can boast a decent £65m.


In Espana, El Careerico is narrowly won by Real Madrid, who have £169,610,000 to Barcelona’s £169,074,000, which makes all the difference. As for plucky Atletico Madrid, they will have to make do with just £61m.


In Ligue 1, well, need I say anything except Paris Saint-Germain? Okay, fine. £165,960,000. For the rest, you’ll have to go here. It’s a sorry sight. Oh, and if you’re hankering for the Colombian Liga Dimayor, or the Irish SSE Airtricity League, they have that too…except for fans of Derry City (you guys deserve some special treatment), your club’s transfer budget is £631,000.

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Barcelona: The XI That Should Start Against Real Betis

?Barcelona kicked off the La Liga season against Athletic Bilbao in the worst possible fashion. A late wonder goal from veteran Aritz Aduriz shocked the reigning champions as they slumped to a 1-0 defeat. 

Without Lionel Messi, Barcelona looked a shadow of the side they should be, and struggled to create anything in the final third throughout the game.

Antoine Griezmann

They now return to the Nou Camp this weekend to take on Real Betis – but this time Messi should be available for selection. However, Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele both miss the game after suffering knocks against Bilbao.

Barca will be desperate to get three points on the board and not give Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid head starts in the title race. Here’s how they should line up against Betis.


Goalkeeper & Defenders

Gerard Pique

?Marc-Andre ter Stegen – No doubts about this one. Ter Stegen has well and truly established himself as the world’s best goalkeeper, and is always certain to start.

Nelson Semedo (RB) – The right back has seemingly made the position his own after pipping Sergi Roberto to the spot last week. Semedo may have given Aduriz too much space for the goal, but he doesn’t deserve to be dropped for that and will continue his run at right back.

Gerard Pique (CB) – Like Ter Stegen, there is no doubt about ?Pique’s place in the team. Similarly to Semedo, he maybe gave Aduriz too much space for the goal. Aside from that, he has been a world class defender for many years and will definitely start this weekend.

Clement Lenglet (CB) – Lenglet came into the team Samuel Umtiti suffered a serious injury, and he’s kept his place ever since. A calm customer who has become a popular figure among Barca fans, he is most certainly going to start again this weekend. 

Jordi Alba (LB) – Alba faces competition for his place from Junior Firpo this season, but right now, he remains a key cog in the Barcelona machine. A lot of the time without Messi, he is the team’s most potent attacking threat, and he isn’t too bad defensively either. 


Midfielders

Frenkie De Jong

Sergio Busquets (CM) – Busquets surprisingly didn’t play a minute against Bilbao, signalling the fact that Ernesto Valverde is looking to rotate the midfielder, and use him sparingly as he gets older. The arrival of De Jong also gives the Spaniard the opportunity to be rested throughout the season. However, after Barca’s shock opening day defeat, Busquets should be restored to the side to inject some much needed class in the midfield.

Frenkie de Jong (CM) – The classy new signing wasn’t able to make a huge mark against Bilbao, but showed some moments of class that suggests he will be one of the world’s best midfielders. Nothing much more to say besides the fact that he is a guaranteed starter.

Arthur (CM) – It is pretty clear now that Arthur is one of the main men in this Barca set up, seemingly taking the place of Ivan Rakitic. He started last season fantastically, but fell away towards the end of the campaign. However, now trusted as one of Valverde’s key midfielders, consistency is the key for Arthur, and he will be allowed to showcase his talent once again.


Forwards

Lionel Messi

Antoine Griezmann (RW) – Griezmann played against Bilbao from the left-wing –  a position he isn’t too familiar with. This was reflected in his performance, as he simply just failed to get going. However, the big money signing will most certainly start this weekend, and probably from an area of the pitch he enjoys more.

Lionel Messi (CF) – Despite just returning to full training, it seems that the main man is set to come straight back into the team. This probably wouldn’t happen if Suarez was fit, but due to a lack of options, it is likely that they will put ?Messi into the XI. 

Carles Perez (LW) – An outstanding opportunity presents itself now for the 21-year-old with Suarez and Dembele sustaining unfortunate injuries. Perez will be looking to take his chance now and let the manager know that he deserves a fair share of first team football. 


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