COLE CAREER ON THE BRINK
Tomorrow night at Wembley looms as a massive late career moment for Chelsea fullback Ashley Cole. It may be a friendly, but Cole's future at both club and international level will hinge on turning in a good performance against Germany. Axed at left-back by his Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho, for the right-sided Cesar Azpilicueta, Cole also has the pressure of the flying Leighton Baines, of Everton, threatening his place with England. It's been an amazing - and sudden - fall from grace. It's barely months ago Cole was regarded the best left-back in the game. But now, with his contract also up for renewal, he's having to fight for his professional life. It's a massive night for the 32 year-old tomorrow.
MOYES WATCHING BENTEKE
Strengthening his midfield appears the focus for Manchester United manager David Moyes ahead of the January market. But news yesterday that he's made multiple personal checks on Aston Villa centre-forward Christian Benteke shouldn't surprise. Of course, Dmitry Seluk, the agent of Lacina Traore, confirmed earlier this season that Moyes failed with an August bid for the Anzhi striker. Like Benteke, Traore's game is all about raw power and both men offer something that Moyes obviously feels is lacking in his strikers pool. At Everton, Moyes always counted on a centre-forward option, from Kevin Campbell through to Victor Anichebe. So, seeing the Scot at Villa Park last week to see the hosts beat Cardiff City, shouldn't surprise.
WE NEED KLOPP HEAVY METAL AT GOODISON
Message to the managers of Liverpool and Everton ahead of Saturday's derby: Give us some Klopp heavy metal! What will we see at Goodison Park? Your typical blood n' thunder Merseyside derby? Or a tippy-tappy no score bore? It could be a case of Roberto Martinez and Brendan Rodgers canceling themselves out. Given what happened in the Wear-Tyne derby, you fancy Everton, with their stronger local influence, to have the edge - so long as Martinez takes the hand-brake off. Sorry Sylvain, Saturday is no game for 'patient football'.
BORO KARANKA GAMBLE
Middlesbrough choose a rookie manager to succeed Tony Mowbray - and he's Spaniard. Why Aitor Karanka and not a local candidate? There's so many good things happening at the Riverside, you don't want to be a downer. But amid the strengthening relationship with Jorge Mendes, the access to Peter Kenyon's contacts list and the partnership with Atletico Madrid, Boro chairman Steve Gibson has avoided scrutiny for giving former Real Madrid assistant coach Karanka his first shot at a top job. Karanka interviewed well and was also wanted by Crystal Palace before Jose Mourinho's intervention pushed him towards Boro, where the Chelsea manager is close to Gibson. But the Championship's current top five are all managed by British coaches - and last season's promoted trio were also led by local managers. That can't be a coincidence.
OMERUO CAN SAVE CHELSEA MILLIONS
Despite big concerns about his soft centre, Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho may hold back from buying a new centre-half in January. Working under his nose this season has been Kenneth Omeruo, who didn't let anyone down in Nigeria's World Cup play-off second-leg victory over Ethiopia on the weekend. Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi didn't hesitate to turn to Omeruo, despite having only played one U21 game for Chelsea this season. The 20 year-old's start to his Chelsea career has stalled due to shoulder surgery, but after his heroics on the weekend, he may convince Mourinho to forget about the likes of Kurt Zouma and Eliaquim Mangala in January.
CALIFORNIA KID IMPRESSING AT WEST HAM
One definitely worth watching for West Ham United fans is Djair Parfitt-Williams. Back after missing the past four U18 games with injury, the teenage winger hit a hat-trick for Steve Potts' team in victory over Norwich City on the weekend. The California kid was born in Bermuda and is drawing comparisons with Clyde Best, though is a different type of player. Hailing from the San Jose Earthquakes academy, Parfitt-Williams has Hammers staff excited, though they insist there's still a lot of rough edges in his game to be smoothed.
BIGGEST WINTER MARKET EVER
So can you pick the favourites for this season's title? No? Well, neither can the Premier League's chairmen - and that's why this January promises to be the biggest winter market we've ever seen. The race for the title has never been so wide open and managers - even Arsene Wenger - will be in ears of their chairmen pleading for cash to make that one, or maybe two, big, decisive signings in the New Year. Strap yourself in; it's going to be an intense first four weeks of 2014.
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