Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham’s stunning form could be bad news for Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford

20 Sep

With England’s Euro 2020 campaign on the horizon, Tammy Abraham’s stunning start to the Premier League campaign simply cannot be ignored by Gareth Southgate.

The 21-year-old striker, who recently became the youngest Chelsea player to score a Premier League hat-trick, is the joint-top scorer in the top-flight with seven goals in his opening five games.

Tammy Abraham is in the form of his life for Chelsea
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It’s a remarkable start to life at the top level, following various loan spells, and Abraham is already knocking on Southgate’s door for an England call-up.

Despite featuring numerous times for England’s various youth teams, and playing in two Three Lions friendlies, Abraham refuses to rule out switching allegiance to Nigeria if he continues to be overlooked.

“I have heard the talk [about being called up by Nigeria],” Abraham said on Saturday.

“When the time comes, the time comes.

“I have not really focused on that yet. I’m focusing on Chelsea and hopefully scoring goals and getting victories.

“We never know. You can never say never … whatever comes first really.”

Abraham missed out on the most recent England squad, with Southgate selecting Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, and Callum Wilson as his preferred strikers.

However, if Abraham’s form continues, he could be on course to overtake both Wilson and Rashford as second choice ahead of the Euros next year.

Within five games of his Premier League career, the Blues striker finds himself just three goals away from equalling Rashford’s highest ever tally for a season, and halfway towards Wilson’s personal best.

Marcus Rashford’s England place is under threat
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His hat-trick against Wolves on Saturday showed he is capable of scoring every type of goal, which Les Ferdinand highlights as one of Rashford’s weaknesses.

He told talkSPORT: “People talk about natural goalscorers. There’s a desire to get in the box and score goals.

“A lot of modern strikers don’t score scrappy, six-yard goals in the box. They all want to come in from the wing and bend it in the corner.

“I see Marcus as one of those types of strikers. He wants it to be a nice finish, I don’t see him scoring really scrappy goals.

“I’m not sure he’s ever worked at being a pure No.9.”

Meanwhile, the England boss also doubts whether Rashford operates best in a centre-forward role.

“For a long time we have almost wanted Marcus to be that option as a No .9,” said Southgate.

“But I’m still not certain that is where he is happiest and where he does his best work.

“A lot of his development at United was as a ‘wide raider’ and I think he isn’t as strong as Harry Kane with his back to goal holding play up.

“If he plays as a No. 9, he will play it differently to Harry, but a lot of his best work is on the left coming in off the line.”

There can be no doubts, however, about Abraham’s strengths as a No.9, and Southgate will know all about them from his time coaching the striker with the England Under-21s.

Gareth Southgate has put a lot of faith in Marcus Rashford with England
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Rashford, therefore, faces an uncertain future for his country.

With Abraham threatening to overtake him as second-choice striker, Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho are quickly establishing themselves as best pairing either side of Harry Kane.

England’s next round of Euro qualifiers see them travel to the Czech Republic and Bulgaria for two of the biggest tests they’ll face ahead of the tournament next summer.

Should Southgate pick Abraham, the two games could present a fascinating insight into the pecking order for the European Championship.


Check out all the live commentaries coming up across the talkSPORT network this week

  • Napoli vs Liverpool (Tuesday, 8pm) – talkSPORT
  • Borussia Dortmund vs Barcelona (Tuesday, 8pm) – talkSPORT 2
  • Olympiakos vs Tottenham (Wednesday, 5:55pm) – talkSPORT
  • Shakhtar Donetsk vs Man City (Wednesday, 8pm) – talkSPORT
  • PSG vs Real Madrid (Wednesday, 8pm) – talkSPORT 2
  • Eintracht Frankfurt vs Arsenal (Thursday, 5:55pm) – talkSPORT 2

Saturday is GameDay on talkSPORT and talkSPORT 2 as we become your go to destination for all the Premier League action. We’ll bring you LIVE commentary of Premier League games across all three time slots on Saturday – 12.30pm, 3pm and 5.30pm – delivering award-winning coverage to more GameDay listeners than ever.

England 5-3 Kosovo: Declan Rice calls out Twitter user who criticised West Ham star’s performance in Euro 2020 qualifier

11 Sep

Declan Rice responded to one of his critics on social media after an error resulted in England conceding during their defeat of Kosovo on Tuesday.

The West Ham midfielder gave the ball away in the lead up to their second goal, as the visitors put in an impressive second-half performance.

Declan Rice has now made five appearances for England
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England went on to win 5-3 at St Mary’s to preserve their 100 per cent record in Euro 2020 qualifying, though they led 5-1 at the break and struggled after the restart.

Rice admitted England’s mistakes did take the shine off the victory.

“I thought first half I was really good along with the rest of the team,” he said after the game.

“In the second half I made a mistake and that has taken the gloss off it for me.

“We are a real threat going forward but we need to keep it tight at the back and stop making mistakes.

“We need to look at the goals we have let in. A mistake from myself, sloppy, I could have done better there and it takes the gloss off it.”

Rice owned up to his mistake but that did not stop one Twitter user having a dig at him.

After the game the 20-year-old wrote: “2 wins from 2. Another good nights work from the boys. Lots to improve on but we keep working @England.”

One user with the handle @shoutinghorse replied: “Little tip mate, don’t pass the ball to the opposition.”

Rice had the perfect reply, however, quote tweeting the message for all the world to see, and writing: “We all make mistakes. Part & parcel of the game. I will learn from it & improve.”

Rice is widely regarded as one of the best young midfielders in the world game and his performances for West Ham have resulted in interest from the likes of Man United and Man City.

Cristiano Ronaldo: Portugal star scores FOUR including funny blunder from Lithuania goalkeeper

10 Sep

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged four goals as Portugal ran out 5-1 winners over Lithuania in their Euro 2020 qualifier on Tuesday.

The country’s record scorer added further to his tally as he approaches the century for his national team.

Ronaldo was his country’s main man as usual
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Ronaldo scored his 90th Portugal goal from the penalty spot just seven minutes into the game.

His side were then surprisingly pegged back by Andriuskevicius and the game was tied at half-time.

However, come the second half CR7 once again took things into his own hands and fired three more goals to secure victory before William Carvalho added a fifth in added time.

The second goal was particularly eyebrow-raising due to the Lithuania goalkeeper’s hilarious howler, but it matters not as Portugal won comfortably to sit second in their group behind Ukraine.

England 5-3 Kosovo: Jadon Sancho scores first England goals as Three Lions win eventful Euro 2020 qualifier

10 Sep

Jadon Sancho announced himself on the international stage in some style, scoring twice on a night when England’s ruthless edge made up for some shambolic defending in a thrilling, high-scoring win against Kosovo.

A sell-out St Mary’s crowd bore witness to the most entertaining qualifier in many a year as Gareth Southgate’s men continued their march to Euro 2020 with an enthralling, if at times unconvincing, 5-3 victory on the south coast.

Jadon Sancho, Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling were all among the goals
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Defensive errors gifted Kosovo a shock opener and then second-half hope, but a clinical first half proved decisive as Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane goals were complemented by an own goal and quickfire brace from Sancho in a helter-skelter clash.

It was certainly a memorable first senior international meeting between these countries and the tough challenge predicted by Southgate, who always knew the visitors would be a far sterner test than their 120th place in the world rankings suggested.

Valon Berisha’s opener after 34 seconds underlined that point emphatically, even if it was Michael Keane acting as architect thanks to some mindless defending.

The England defender soon breathed a sigh of relief when his header led to Sterling’s equaliser, with the Manchester City star then turning provider as Kane rifled home.

Harry Kane had a penalty saved in the second half
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Soon it was Sancho emphasising his quality, with the 19-year-old’s cross seeing Mergim Vojvoda turn into his own net before becoming the first player born in the 21st century to score for England thanks to a quickfire double as the Kosovans fumed.

But the entertainment did not stop there. Berisha scored a superb second before Vedat Muriqi added a third from the spot after being foolishly brought down by Harry Maguire.

The Southampton crowd were rubbing their eyes in disbelief when Kane saw a spot-kick saved by Aro Muric but gutsy Kosovo were unable to capitalise as England strengthened their grip on Group A to end the visitors’ 15-match unbeaten run.

England vs Kosovo: Watch as Three Lions go 1-0 down after 35 SECONDS thanks to defensive howler

10 Sep

England went 1-0 down to Kosovo after just 35 seconds of their Euro 2020 qualifier on Tuesday night.

Gareth Southgate’s side were coming off the back of a convincing 4-0 win over Bulgaria at Wembley on Saturday and made big favourites against the second-placed side in Group A.

However, the visitors did not read this script and took the lead within the opening minute.

As England passed the ball back not long after kick-off, Valon Berisha pressured Ross Barkley and then Michael Keane, causing him to misplace a pass which landed straight at the feet of Vedat Muriqi.

Muriqi was then one-on-one with Jordan Pickford, but opted to pass back to Berisha who had a better angle on the goalkeeper and finished with aplomb.

Pickford couldn’t keep Berisha’s shot out
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Prior to the match, Kosovo manager Bernard Challandes went on a screaming rant at his press conference.

He promised a ‘crazy game’ with aggressive ‘crazy pressing’, and his team delivered instantly.

The Three Lions responded well though, with Keane assisting for Raheem Sterling to equalise from a corner on eight minutes.

Harry Kane then gave England the lead in the 19th minute, a big relief for Southgate’s side.

The Kosovo players celebrated wildly
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Scotland’s record since Liverpool star Andy Robertson was appointed captain is woeful

10 Sep

Andy Robertson admits he has become stronger since being made Scotland captain, despite the woeful run of form they are experiencing.

The Liverpool left-back has developed into one of the best in his position in Europe, and is no stranger to pressure having played in consecutive Champions League finals.

But back-to-back defeats against Russia and Belgium have led to criticism from some quarters.

Andy Robertson (R) has struggled since taking the Scotland armband
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“Being criticised, rightly or wrongly, it’s maybe stronger now that I’m captain,” said Robertson.

“But these are things I’m made for. If people criticise me, it’s fine. I’d prefer they didn’t because it means I’ve put in a good performance – but sometimes that doesn’t always go your way.

“Some games as captain I’ve not been good enough, some I have been, but that’s me to look at my own performance. That’s what I’ve looked at over the last few games.

“I don’t like getting beaten anyway, but on Friday I maybe dwelled on it longer than usual. I’ve learned a lot. Good things and bad things.”

Robertson has thrived at Liverpool, but has not replicated his form on the national stage
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Robertson was appointed captain by Alex McLeish last September and has kept the armband under present head coach Steve Clarke.

“I said a year ago what a big honour it was, that’s not changed,” Robertson added. “I’m delighted to be the captain of this country, I love doing it and I hope the lads think I’m doing a good job.

“There’s also negatives that come along with it that I need to deal with and it’s about learning how to deal with them. I think I’m getting better at that.”

However, the results suggest there is still much to work on for the 25-year-old.


The Liverpool left-back has endured a tough time as captain of the national team

  • v Belgium – 7/9/18 (L) 4-0
  • v Albania – 10/9/18 (W) 2-0
  • v Israel – 11/10/18 (L) 2-1
  • v Portugal – 14/10/18 (L) 3-1
  • v Albania – 17/11/18 (W) 4-0
  • v Israel – 20/11/18 (W) 3-2
  • v Kazakhstan – 21/3/19 (L) – 3-0
  • v San Marino – 24/3/19 (W) – 2-0
  • v Cyprus – 8/6/19 – (W) 2-1
  • v Belgium – 11/6/19 (L) 3-0
  • v Russia – 6/9/19 (L) 2-1
  • v Belgium – 9/9/19 (L) 4-0

Since being appointed a captain on September 3, Scotland have won just five games out of 12 under Robertson’s tenure.

That means they have a win percentage of just 42% under Robertson’s leadership and qualification for the European Championships in 2020 is now practically impossible.

There are just four games remaining for the Scots in Group I of the qualifying campaign, but they are 12 points off leaders Belgium and nine off Russia in second.

Euro 2020 qualifiers: Germany prove too much for Northern Ireland, Belgium thump sorry Scotland

9 Sep

Here is a round-up of Monday night’s Euro 2020 qualifying games…

Northern Ireland 2-0 Germany

Northern Ireland suffered their first defeat of the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign as Marcel Halstenberg’s thunderbolt sent Germany on their way to a 2-0 win in Belfast.

The first of four crunch fixtures against the powerhouses of Group C – Northern Ireland face Holland in Rotterdam next – ended in defeat after Serge Gnabry rolled in a second in stoppage time, but the 18,000 fans packed into Windsor Park will hardly have been discouraged given their side’s display.

Michael O’Neill’s men played with heart and desire as they were roared on by a boisterous crowd, but ultimately Germany’s superior quality saw them take control.

Estonia 0-4 Netherlands

In Group C’s other match, two goals from Ryan Babel as well as one each from Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum saw off Estonia.

Germany just proved too strong for Northern Ireland
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The Group C table

Scotland 0-4 Belgium

Scotland suffered more Hampden agony as a 4-0 defeat by Belgium made it four losses from six European Championship qualifiers.

Kevin De Bruyne set up first-half goals for Romelu Lukaku, Thomas Vermaelen and Toby Alderweireld as Scotland were punished for poor defending.

Steve Clarke’s men were more competitive after the break but De Bruyne rounded off the scoring in the 82nd minute to make it 11 Belgian goals without reply against Scotland in 12 months.

The defeat left Scotland in fifth place in Group I, nine points off second-placed Russia with four games remaining, the next one a trip to Moscow.

Russia 1-0 Kazakhstan

Figueira Fernandes hit an 89th minute winner to grab all three points for Russia.

San Marino 0-4 Cyprus

In Group I’s other match, Cyprus comfortably beat the continent’s whipping boys thanks go goals from Kousoulos, Papoulis and Artymatas.

Kevin De Bruyne ran the game
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The Group I table

Azerbaijan 1-1 Croatia

Luka Modric gave Croatia an 11th minute lead from the penalty spot, however the World Cup finalists were stunned by a 72nd minute Tamlin Khalilzade equaliser

Hungary 1-2 Slovakia

In Group E’s other match, Mak gave Slovakia the lead before Szoboszlai hit back for Hungary. However, Bozenik grabbed a winner for the away side six minutes later.

The Group E table

Latvia 0-2 North Macedonia

Pandev and Bardhi put the visitors 2-0 up within 17 minutes and the hosts never recovered.

Slovenia 3-2 Israel

In a topsy-turvy game, Verbic put Slovenia ahead before Natcho and Zahavi turned thinks in Israel’s favour. However, Bezjak equalised and Verbic scored a 90th minute winner.

Poland 0-0 Austria

Group G’s other match was a stalemate.

The Group G table

How war-torn Kosovo can stun England and continue their remarkable run on the international stage

9 Sep

England are expected to continue their European Championship qualification cakewalk on Tuesday when they welcome Kosovo to St Mary’s – but the visitors should not be underestimated.

Despite their infancy on the international stage, Kosovo have already established themselves as worthy opponents for any nation.

Kosovo are the surprise package in Group A
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In fact, Bernard Challandes’ men briefly overtook England at the top of Group A on Saturday before the Three Lions beat Bulgaria 4-0 at Wembley.

Earlier that day, the Kosovans stunned the Czech Republic with a 2-1 victory to record the most significant win in their short history as a competitive nation.

The team were only accepted by UEFA and FIFA three years ago, due to the ongoing political tension in the former Serbian province.

Kosovo declared its independence in 2008, a move which Serbia still rejects, and relations remain tense.

At the 2018 World Cup, Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka, both of Kosovar Albanian descent, performed a nationalist ‘Albanian Eagle’ gesture after scoring for Switzerland against the Serbs.

Shaqiri, who was born in Kosovo, sparked a storm at the 2018 World Cup
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Kosovar Albanians were the victims of cultural oppression from the Serb-led regime throughout the nineties, which culminated in the Kosovo War of 1998/1999.

More than 13,000 people were killed and millions of ethnic Albanians displaced during a bloody civil war which brought the country to its knees and eventually saw NATO intervene.

Serbia still does not recognise Kosovo as an independent nation, nor do several United Nations members – or many within UEFA.

Only on Saturday were eight Czechs arrested for flying a banner which read ‘Kosovo is Serbia’ in protest against their UEFA membership.

Kosovan football is the product of the country’s violent recent past. Most of the squad which will line up against England on Tuesday are former refugees, raised outside their homeland, while none of them play domestic football in Kosovo.

Kosovo has been gripped by political tension and war following the break up of Yugoslavia

The match-winner on Saturday, Mergim Vojvoda, was brought up in Belgium after his family fled from the conflict, while the team’s star player, the Swansea forward Bersant Celina, grew up in Norway.

Kosovo’s first recognised match was in March 2014, a 0-0 draw with Haiti, 18 months after Arsenal’s Xhaka and Liverpool’s Shaqiri signed a petition that was sent to FIFA asking permission for the country to play in friendly matches.

Switzerland stars Xhaka and Shaqiri have both previously suggested they would play for Kosovo if the team existed earlier in their careers.

In 2016, Kosovo were narrowly accepted into UEFA, by 28 votes to 24. There was strong opposition from Serbia and Russia, as well as countries such as Spain and Ukraine, who have their own individual states which wish for separation. Who says politics has nothing to do with sport?

They now embark on their first attempt to qualify for the Euros, and unlike their disastrous World Cup qualifying campaign, this is going rather well.

Can Kosovo continue their incredible run against England?
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Two wins and two draws see them enter the clash with England just one point behind their hosts, although they have played a game more.

But their unbeaten run extends way further than the qualifying campaign, all the way back to October 2017.

Kosovo are undefeated in their last 15 international matches – a run which saw them top their Nations League group in the lowest tier of the competition.

It could be argued that, on form, Kosovo represent England’s toughest opponents in Group A.

Take a look at their remarkable run below:

Kosovo's incredible unbeaten run

  • Kosovo 4-3 Latvia (13/11/17)
  • Kosovo 1-0 Madagascar (24/03/18)
  • Kosovo 2-0 Burkina Faso (27/03/18)
  • Kosovo 3-0 Albania (29/05/18)
  • Azerbaijan 0-0 Kosovo (07/09/18)
  • Kosovo 2-0 Faroe Islands (10/09/18)
  • Kosovo 3-1 Malta (11/10/18)
  • Faroe Islands 1-1 Kosovo (14/10/18)
  • Malta 0-5 Kosovo (17/11/18)
  • Kosovo 4-0 Azerbaijan (20/11/18)
  • Kosovo 2-2 Denmark (21/03/19)
  • Kosovo 1-1 Bulgaria (25/03/19)
  • Montenegro 1-1 Kosovo (07/06/19)
  • Bulgaria 2-3 Kosovo (10/06/19)
  • Kosovo 2-1 Czech Republic 07/09/19)

Find out whether Kosovo will shock England on talkSPORT on Tuesday, as we bring you live commentary of the Euro 2020 qualifier at St Mary’s (kick-off 7.45pm)

England vs Kosovo: Predicted Three Lions XI for Euro 2020 qualifier with Liverpool and Chelsea youngsters set to feature

9 Sep

England will look to make it five wins from as many games on Tuesday night when they welcome Kosovo to St Mary’s in their next Euro 2020 qualifier – live on talkSPORT.

Gareth Southgate’s men continued their perfect start to the qualifying campaign with a 4-0 victory over Bulgaria at Wembley on Saturday.

England eased past Bulgaria on Saturday at Wembley
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Harry Kane’s hat-trick and Raheem Sterling’s strike sent the Three Lions back to the top of Group A after they were briefly overtaken by the Kosovans.

Kosovo travel to the Premier League ground on the back of an impressive 2-1 victory the Czech Republic, which extended their unbeaten run to 15 games on the international stage.

Just a point separates England from Kosovo in second, although the hosts have played a game less.

Southgate is likely to rotate the team which started at Wembley, which could see some of England’s exciting young players feature from the outset.

Chelsea starlet Mason Mount, 20, made his senior international debut from the bench on Saturday and could be in line to start on Tuesday.

The Blues midfielder has been favoured at Stamford Bridge this season over fellow England international Ross Barkley, who got the nod against Bulgaria.

Mount has scored twice for Chelsea in the Premier League this season
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Elsewhere, Liverpool full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold is expected to replace Kieran Trippier at right-back, while Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho is likely to start after being benched on Saturday.

Here’s how expects England to line up:

Gareth Southgate EXCLUSIVE: England manager responds to Kosovo boss’ bizarre press conference rant, expects ‘proper game’

9 Sep

Gareth Southgate is relishing England’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Kosovo on Tuesday night after hearing his opposition manager’s pre-match comments.

At his pre-match press conference, Bernard Challandes descended into a screaming rant in which he declared his team will give the Three Lions a ‘crazy game’ with aggressive ‘crazy pressing’.

Challandes’ comments were music to Southgate’s ears
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When asked about the comments, Southgate told talkSPORT’s Nigel Adderley: “Yeah, it’d make it a proper game rather than a sort of exercise of forwards against defence.

“So I understand why teams come and do that, because of the attacking threat that we have.

“But I wasn’t expecting Kosovo to approach the game the way that Bulgaria did.

“I’m not surprised the comments of the coach because that’s the way they’ve played their football.

“Very much front foot, they press high and they’ve got some good players.”

England beat a stubborn Bulgaria 4-0 on Saturday
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Kosovo have raised eyebrows in the early stages of this qualifying campaign as they currently sit second behind England in Group A.

However, Southgate insisted he’s not surprised by their success and added: “That region has always produced outstanding footballers.

“They have the passion that often comes with a relatively newly formed country and the pride that brings through the struggles that they’ve had.

“But, as a team, they’ve got some very good players and we’re certainly well prepared for the game.”