May 132016
Liverpool and West Ham have already met four times this season, with West Ham winning on three occasions

West Ham and Liverpool could face a play-off to determine who qualifies for the Europa League.

The Hammers lie sixth in the Premier League before the final round of matches, while Liverpool are eighth.

The Reds also play Sevilla in the Europa League final knowing that a win would secure a Champions League place.

If they have to qualify for Europe through the league, there is a scenario that has both clubs level on points, goal difference and goals scored.

How it could happen

West Ham would have to lose 1-0 at Stoke City AND Liverpool beat West Brom 2-1; or the Hammers lose 2-1 while it finished 3-2 to the away side at The Hawthorns, or so on. In addition, seventh-placed Southampton would have to be denied a win against visitors Crystal Palace.

Those scorelines would leave the London and Merseyside clubs level after 38 matches of a season lasting nine months.

If they were tied, the play-off would only be needed if their finishing spot is in a Europa League position, and Sevilla were to win next week’s final in Basle.

A Premier League spokesperson confirmed an extra game could take place, although the likelihood is small.

League rules state: “If at the end of the season either the league champions or the clubs to be relegated or the question of qualification for other competitions cannot be determined because two or more clubs are equal on points, goal difference and goals scored, the clubs concerned shall play off one or more deciding league matches on neutral grounds, the format, venue and timing of which shall be determined by the board.”

Any date or ground has not been decided upon.

Europa League qualification

Manchester City are already assured of at least a Europa League place after winning the Capital One Cup.

If they finish in the top four, that place in the Europa League third qualifying round will pass to the sixth-placed team.

The same will happen if they secure a place in the Europa League group stage by finishing fifth – and realistically, goal difference means City are unlikely to finish lower than fifth.

If Liverpool win the Europa League, they will qualify for the Champions League group stage. If Crystal Palace win the FA Cup, they will enter the Europa League at the group stage. If Manchester United win, that place will be given to the seventh-placed team.

There are no longer any Fair Play places allocated to the Europa League.

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May 132016
Jermain Defoe has 19 England goals in 55 appearances

Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe says he has “done everything right” to earn a call-up for England’s Euro 2016 squad.

The 33-year-old has hit 15 goals to help the Black Cats retain their Premier League status.

Manager Roy Hodgson names his 23-man squad for the tournament on Monday.

“If I do go it’ll be a dream because it’ll be my third tournament and playing for England is something that I’ve always wanted to do,” said Defoe.

“I’m happy with the way I’ve performed this season I’ve ticked every box and if I don’t go then I can say at least I’ve done everything right,” he told BBC Radio 5 live.

Hodgson has delayed the announcement of his squad to take to France until after the final Premier League fixtures this weekend, with the Football Association citing “fitness reasons”.

He has already lost Arsenal’s Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain and Danny Wellbeck to injury, with Manchester United defender Luke Shaw another to miss out.

Former West Ham and Tottenham striker Defoe said he joined Sunderland last January from Major League Soccer side Toronto, with an England place at the back of his mind.

Defoe, capped 55 times by England, said: “As a forward you get judged on scoring goals. The England managers at the time thought I could always come on and score. When I came back I thought ‘all I’ve got to do is go there, focus, get my goals and hopefully get in the frame and take it from there’.”

Tottenham’s Harry Kane (25) and Leicester’s Jamie Vardy (24) are the only Englishmen with more top-flight goals this season and Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce said his striker could “still do it at the highest level”.

Defoe’s last cap was in November 2013 and he has previously said he would “never be at peace” with missing out on the 2014 World Cup squad for Brazil.

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May 132016
Rafael Benitez took over at Newcastle in March

Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez is an “almost perfect fit” for Everton, says former England defender Danny Mills.

Ex-Ajax boss Frank de Boer is the bookmakers’ favourite to succeed Roberto Martinez, who was sacked by the Goodison Park club on Thursday.

Benitez and Newcastle have had positive talks since relegation was confirmed, but Mills believes the ex-Liverpool boss could return to Merseyside.

“He lives there. His family is there and he’d be happy going back,” he said.

Southampton’s Dutch manager Ronald Koeman is also being linked with the Merseysiders, but Saints centre-half Virgil van Dijk said he was “confident” he would stay.

“I think he has done an amazing job so far. Hopefully we can do it next year as well and then it is about him and the club and what he wants to do,” said the former Celtic player.

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Everton: Are you Wigan in disguise?

Martinez, 42, promised to deliver Champions League football for Everton when he replaced David Moyes in the summer of 2013 – and he finished fifth in his first campaign in charge with 72 points.

But this season his side have won just five league games at home and are guaranteed to finish with their lowest points tally at Goodison Park since 1981.

Benitez, who took charge at St James’ Park with the Magpies second from bottom in March, has a break clause in his contract meaning he could walk away from the club if he wished following their demotion to the Championship.

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Roberto Martinez’s last interview as Everton boss

The case for Benitez

Benitez started the season with Spanish giants Real Madrid but faces the prospect of the second tier of English football if he remains at Newcastle next season.

The 56-year-old led Everton’s city rivals Liverpool to a Champions League win in 2005 and guided Chelsea to a Europa League success in 2013.

Benitez’s family have remained in the north west of England following his six-year spell at Anfield.

“Rafa Benitez goes to Everton, Roberto Martinez goes to Newcastle. That’s not beyond the realms of possibility,” former Leeds United and Manchester City defender Mills told BBC Radio 5 live.

“He’s got experience, I can’t see him staying at Newcastle,” said Mills, who added that the Spaniard’s Liverpool history “doesn’t matter”.

Friday’s local Newcastle paper The Chronicle

But former Tottenham and Newcastle midfielder Jermaine Jenas disagreed, arguing that Everton fans want to see attacking football.

“With Benitez, I can feel them going too defensive and they wouldn’t be happy with that,” he added.

The Newcastle Fans’ Forum issued a direct plea to Benitez on Thursday, asking him to stay on Tyneside.

In a statement, it said: “Whilst we fully accept the short-term prospect of life in the Championship may not be as appealing as other offers, we can certainly promise you the potential rewards of the longer term would exceed any position that you consider.”

The forum members urged the club to use “every possible resource” to try to retain Benitez, citing his “ability to connect with the fans”.

Roberto Martinez had been criticised by sections of the Everton support this season

The case for De Boer

Former Ajax coach De Boer, who left the Dutch club on Thursday, has been linked with the Everton job.

He led Ajax to four straight league titles between 2011 and 2014, but missed out to PSV on the final day this season. His agent Guido Albers said De Boer would be “interested”, while his brother, Ronald, said he “was the right man for the job”.

Michael Ball played alongside defender De Boer at Rangers in 2004, but the 112-cap Netherlands international spent the majority of his playing career with Ajax and Barcelona.

Ball, who made more than 100 appearances for Everton, believes the Dutchman would be “refreshing” for the Toffees.

“He’s defensive-minded, he was a defensive player and a defensive coach,” said Ball.

“He likes to bring a lot of youth into his teams and with the Everton squad being so young it could only be a positive for him.

“I know he’s unproven in England – that’s the only negative. I think De Boer would be refreshing for the Premier League and refreshing for Everton.”

The other contenders

Manuel Pellegrini will leave Manchester City at the end of the season, Mark Hughes has impressed at Stoke City and Brendan Rodgers remains out of a job since being sacked by Liverpool in October.

Rodgers’ last game in charge of the Reds was a 1-1 draw at Goodison Park – and Jenas says the Northern Irishman’s Anfield connection would not go down well with Everton fans.

He added: “I was thinking maybe Brendan Rodgers but you’ve got the Liverpool issue there as well. Maybe Tim Sherwood?”

Former Wales forward Hughes had a spell at Everton in 2000 and has spent the majority of his managerial career in the Premier League with Manchester City and Blackburn Rovers before his move to the Potters.

Asked about Hughes’ future, Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland told BBC Radio 5 live: “We’re confident he will stay, we’ve got a good thing going on despite the tough end to the season – and the manager’s played a massive part in it.”

Ball added: “Everyone knows what you’re going to get with Hughes. Pellegrini is a great manager but similar to Roberto with his style of play.”

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Everton sack Martinez as manager

 Posted by at 2:26 AM
May 132016

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Everton: Are you Wigan in disguise?

Everton have sacked manager Roberto Martinez after three years in charge.

Martinez’s side, 12th in the Premier League, were beaten 3-1 by champions Leicester on Saturday and lost 3-0 at Sunderland on Wednesday.

The Toffees lost in the semi-finals of the FA Cup and League Cup this season.

The club praised the Spaniard, 42, for his “utmost integrity and dignity”, describing him as a “great ambassador” who played a “key role” in developing young players.

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Roberto Martinez’s last interview as Everton boss

A statement on Thursday