England's World Cup nightmare: The prospect of England being drawn in a World Cup group of death have increased dramatically after what the Daily Mail terms "the latest power play" by "meddling" UEFA president Michel Platini. The Frenchman, the most influential of the six FIFA confederation chiefs, was the driving force behind the last minute change to the make-up of the pots for Friday's draw, The Guardian reports. That paper adds that the switch - which it labels "a procedural curveball" - may actually work out well for England if they get Colombia, Greece and Honduras instead of the worst-case scenario of Brazil, USA and Italy or Holland.
Paper Round's view: Is this just a case of 'chip-on-the-shoulder-anti-Platini-paranoia'? Or was the procedural switch made deliberately to disadvantage England? Really, no one knows, apart from the six who sanctioned the changes, and they're not going to reveal it was the latter any time soon. So, why don't we all just wait and see what the draw throws up on Friday, which in all likelihood will find the middle ground between a Group of Death and a Group of Life. And anyway, it's not like either eventuality is going to impact on England's chances of winning the World Cup, which currently stand at zero.
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Berbatov wants out of Fulham: Dimitar Berbatov is keen to move away from Premier League strugglers Fulham, the Daily Mirror proclaims. The paper "understands" that the Bulgarian, who has six months left on his contract, wants a move elsewhere in January. It adds that Turkish club Trabzonspor are already on record as being among the clubs keen on signing the former Tottenham star.
Paper Round's view: Berbatov's commitment to his various causes over the course of his career has regularly been called into question and his recent work rate and form for Fulham can only have given his knockers more ammunition. New boss Rene Meulensteen - who worked with Berbatov at Manchester United - will be sure to fight tooth and nail to keep him, but if Berbatov's heart isn't in it, it may be a losing battle.
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Courtois wants Chelsea chance: Thibault Courtois will only return to Chelsea if he is given a fair crack at replacing Petr Cech as the Blues' number one goalkeeper next season, the Daily Mail reports. The Belgium international has just been named La Liga's goalkeeper of the year after impressing during his loan spell at Atletico Madrid and believes the decision over who is Chelsea's first choice keeper should be based on form, rather than reputation. The paper adds that Courtois, who has shown a willingness to return to Stamford Bridge but is yet to accept the offer of a contract extension until 2019, is worried that is not the case.
Paper Round's view: Given Courtois' form, it's understandable that he can expect to challenge Cech for the number one jersey at Chelsea, but whether Jose Mourinho would ditch Cech for the 21-year-old is questionable. And with the paper claiming that the Belgian is happy and settled enough in Spain, it's entirely conceivable that he will turn his back on Chelsea.
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Liverpool target Ings: Burnley striker Danny Ings is at the top of Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers' Christmas wish list, reports the Daily Mirror. Rodgers is keen to find cover for Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge and the England Under-21 hot-shot is his main target. Unfortunately for Liverpool, the paper claims that Burnley would demand a major fee for the hitman, although no figure is mentioned.
Paper Round's view: This, despite yesterday's reports that Rodgers is not willing to spend willy-nilly in January, instead having called on his fringe players to step up to the plate. That said, Ings would not demand regular action at Anfield and know his role would be as a back-up - the ideal squad player. And with Burnley needing cash, this could be a plausible transfer yarn.
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