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Xavi changes Barca training location ahead of Espanyol derby clash



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Barcelona will do some special preparation ahead of their derby clash with Espanyol.

The Blaugrana return to action on Saturday when they compete in the Barcelona derby with local rivals Espanyol.

The fixture will be the first back from the international break for both teams, and it will be the first game in charge for new Barca head coach Xavi Hernandez.

For that reason, this one means that much more for Barca, who have carefully crafted their preparations for this one.

In fact, in a bid to get a feel for the turf, Barcelona will train at Camp Nou in the lead up to the game.

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The fixture itself is not until 9pm, and so Barca will train at Camp Nou at 11pm on Saturday.

The rest of the training sessions throughout the week will remain at the Blaugrana’s usual training base.

It will be interesting to see whether training at Camp Nou on matchdays becomes a regular thing for Barca under Xavi or whether the move is just special preparation for the derby.


Benitez the fall guy for Everton’s long malaise



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If any Everton manager could ill afford the club’s worst home defeat to Liverpool for 39 years, it was Rafael Benitez.

The Spaniard was not accepted by many Toffees supporters from the minute he was appointed in June due to his previous role as a Champions League-winning manager with Liverpool.

A bright start briefly quietened the doubters. Everton sat fifth in the Premier League during the October international break having lost just one of their opening seven games.

They have taken just one point from the seven games since to plummet to 14th, just five points clear of the relegation zone ahead of the weekend fixtures.

Benitez heard his name ring around Goodison Park for the first time on Wednesday, but sadly for the 61-year-old it was coming from the small band of Liverpool fans in mocking celebration.

The relentless Reds ran out 4-1 winners, a scoreline that only flattered the home side, who were Liverpool’s main domestic rivals in the late 1980s.

Everton’s owner Farhad Moshiri took to the airwaves on Thursday to insist Benitez will be given more time.

But he was not present to face the barrage of abuse directed towards chairman Bill Kenwright in the directors’ box at full-time.

Chants of “sack the board” reflected the anger aimed at those in charge just for giving Benitez the job in the first place, never mind keeping him in charge as they slide towards a relegation battle.

Both Moshiri and Benitez have used injuries to key players as the shield for a terrible run of results.

“Rafa is a good manager and underperformance is largely due to the injuries,” Moshiri told Talksport.

“(Over the) next two weeks, we will get to a full squad and, in the meantime, results will improve.”

England international striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin has not featured since August, while Yerry Mina, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Richarlison have also had extended spells out injured.

“We are talking about key players missing and maybe these key players are also really important for the rest of the group to play at the level they can play,” said Benitez.

“We need to bring players back, and then we will be as strong as we were at the beginning (of the season).”

Benitez also pleaded the excuse of being handed limited resources after spending just £1.7 million ($2.5 million) in the transfer window on Demarai Gray.

That is unlikely to change come the January window, with Moshiri’s hands tied by financial fair play restrictions.

The British-Iranian businessman has poured in more than £500 million on players since taking over in 2016 but the vast majority of that money has been wasted, with tens of millions more spent on paying off managers.

Roberto Martinez, Ronald Koeman, Sam Allardyce and Marco Silva have all been sacked in the past five years, while Carlo Ancelotti left of his own accord when a second chance at managing Real Madrid came up in June.

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Read Also: EPL: Howe convinced Newcastle can avoid relegation

Moshiri may be sticking by his bold choice to go against the wishes of the supporters for now, but has previously been quick to react when the threat of relegation arises.

Dropping out of the top flight for the first time since 1954 is even more unthinkable with work under way on a new 53,000-capacity stadium at a cost of £500 million.

Benitez has kept his family home on Merseyside since 2004 despite stints in charge of Inter Milan, Chelsea, Napoli, Real Madrid, Newcastle and Dalian Professional since.

But just six months in, he is already on borrowed time at Goodison.

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EPL: Howe convinced Newcastle can avoid relegation



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Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe said his team can avoid being relegated from the Premier League this season and urged his players to build on their first victory of the campaign with a daunting run of fixtures coming up.

Callum Wilson’s goal handed Newcastle a 1-0 win over Burnley at St James’ Park on Saturday, lifting them off the foot of the table and ending their wait for a victory at the 15th attempt.

Newcastle will face Leicester City and Liverpool away before hosting Manchester City and United this month.

“For sure we can stay up. We’ve come from a difficult position and there is a long road ahead, but I believe in what we are doing,” Howe said.

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Read Also: Moura scores stunner as Tottenham sink Norwich in EPL clash

“We have tried to bring our philosophy to the team, to be front-foot and more aggressive. Confidence is key in any sport and we have lacked that, but (the win over Burnley) goes a long way to rebuilding that.”

“The fixture list doesn’t look kind, but we can only tick them off one at a time. Historically, we have said you need to take points off the top teams and that will be the task in December.”

Newcastle, 19th in the league standings, will take on Leicester next Sunday.

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Moura scores stunner as Tottenham sink Norwich in EPL clash




Tottenham have gone fifth in the Premier League with a slick 3-0 win against Norwich, closing the gap on West Ham in fourth to two points.

Norwich made a bright start to the game with Adam Idah picking out Teemu Pukki early on, only for him to shoot straight at Hugo Lloris. The visitors looked comfortable on the ball and, in what is becoming an encouraging trend under Dean Smith, seemed far less passive than they were under Daniel Farke, though there was a sign of things to come when Oliver Skipp tested Tim Krul after an incisive counter-attack.

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Smith’s side received a punch to the gut after 10 minutes, with Lucas Moura scoring an absolute screamer for Spurs. Skipping past Billy Gilmour and playing a neat one-two with Son Heung-min, he unleashed a fierce shot from distance which sailed into the top corner.

Norwich continued to pass it around nicely, ending the first half with an impressive 62 per cent possession, but Spurs looked more dangerous on the ball and threatening on the break. Harry Kane got the wrong side of Ben Gibson five minutes before the break, only to chip well wide of the far post. Son had carved out a chance of his own not long previous, but his shot ricocheted off Kane’s feet as he charged into the area.

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The visitors picked up where they had left off after the break, dominating the ball as Spurs looked to keep things tight and hit them on the counter. They almost equalised when Brandon Williams beat Japhet Tanganga on the left and crossed for Pukki, whose angled shot fell for Idah five yards out only for his teammate to skew wide.

The game was over as a contest when Davinson Sanchez scored from close range at a corner, however, before Son added a third after a lovely passing move initiated by Ben Davies. It wasn’t quite as one-sided as the scoreline might suggest but, nonetheless, the hosts were deserved winners and are now back within touching distance of the Champions League spots.

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