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Watford trio available for Chelsea game after apology to club following lockdown party

Watford trio Andre Gray, Nathaniel Chalobah and Domingos Quina will be available for the Hornets’ Premier League clash with Chelsea on Saturday.

The trio were left out of last week’s defeat by Southampton after Gray reportedly breached social distancing regulations by hosting a birthday party at his home on Friday night.

Watford assistant boss Craig Shakespeare said: “We have got to the bottom of it and they have apologised to staff and players individually and collectively.

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“It was a club decision. For the health and safety of all our players and everybody else, we thought it was the right decision to make at the time.

“They have apologised and they are back in training with us and they are fit for selection.”

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BBC bosses ban pundits from wearing Black Lives Matter badges

The BBC has banned football presenters and guests from wearing Black Lives Matter badges.

Senior sources at the corporation told The Telegraph they did not want “visual symbols of support” for the antiracism movement to be worn on screen due to concerns it was becoming political.

Broadcasters Sky and BT – who had previously encouraged pundits to wear the badges and displayed the Black Lives Matter logo on graphics – have now left the decision up to personal preference.

Former Manchester United left-back Patrice Evra reportedly led a move drop the badges for Sky’s Premier League coverage on Tuesday.

But they made a comeback on Wednesday when Evra’s long-time Chelsea counterpart Ashley Cole chose to continue wearing his badge.

A BBC source told The Telegraph they had already made a blanket call: “The BBC cannot be seen to support any kind of cause over another, and Black Lives Matter is certainly a campaign.

“Therefore, we wouldn’t want anyone on-screen to be wearing visual symbols of support.”

They added: “Our presenters and guests can discuss Black Lives Matter, and we've reported on it in depth. We're not impartial about racism. But wearing badges on screen – as with any other campaign – would be a step too far.”

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Concerns came up over the ideology running alongside the antiracism of Black Lives Matter a series of tweets in which the movement’s UK account criticised Israel and its founding principles.

It also called on the British government to “defund the police” in favour of youth services.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola accused the FA of double standards, having received a fine two years ago for wearing a yellow ribbon in solidarity with Catalan politicians put in prison for their role in their independence campaign.

Meanwhile, Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker distanced himself from Black Lives Matter owing to its views on Palestine.

Former Southampton striker Matt Le Tissier said he only wore the Black Lives Matter badge after being asked to do so by Sky and has criticised the group’s “far-left ideology” – saying he could not support its economic aims.

A BBC spokesperson said: “It is long established that BBC broadcasters and journalists don’t tend to wear campaign insignia and badges, and absolutely nothing about that principle has changed.”

Current players are expected to continue wearing shirts emblazoned with ‘Black Lives Matter’ on the back and sleeve, as well as ‘taking a knee’ before every match for the rest of the season, after league chiefs made a distinction between the group and the cause, which was highlighted by the tragic killing of George Floyd.

The Premier League said it recognised “the importance of the message that black lives matter” – opting not to mention the organisation’s name in upper case – but emphasised that it “does not endorse any political organisation or movement, nor support any group that calls for violence or condones illegal activity.”

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Chelsea boss Frank Lampard rages at players’ mentality after West Ham defeat

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard laid into his players' mentality after their winning run was ended by a last-gasp defeat at West Ham.

Andriy Yarmolenko's 89th-minute decided earned a 3-2 victory for the relegation-threatened Hammers, ending Chelsea's run of three straight wins since football's restart.

Willian had given Lampard's side the lead from the penalty spot just before half-time, but the London rivals went into the break level after Tomas Soucek cancelled out the opener.

Michail Antonio gave West Ham the lead six minutes after the restart, but there hope for Chelsea when Willian equalised with just under 20 minutes remaining.

But Lampard was left raging after Yarmolenko's late winner meant Chelsea failed to capitalise on a defeat for their third-placed rivals Leicester.

Furious Lampard, whose team have dropped 18 points from winning positions, said: “We had an opportunity to go third, but you have to do every part of the game well to win.

"I'm not happy with any of the goals. You don't get given victories for scoring two goals, you have to be better than that.

“There's no point in being down but I can't help but say the truth today which is that it's a game we should have won tonight.

“It's not a big surprise – this is something that has happened a few times. We have had opportunities to jump teams above us and close gaps, and we haven't taken them.

“That's a sign of where we are and the reason why the rest of us are chasing Liverpool and Manchester City is the consistency they have developed.

"If you don't get details right in big games, you're going to drop points. I think at times we have played really well this season. As a group we need to find more consistency.

“The players have to show an extra mentality to do those bits to see the game through.”

Lampard had said his side had "got lucky" in their 1-0 FA Cup defeat to Leicester at the weekend – and following Wednesday's defeat, the manager said he felt a defeat like this had been coming.

The result meant they stayed failed to leapfrog Leicester into third place in the Premier League, while their advantage over fifth-placed Manchester United in the race for the Champions League places is now just two points.

"I'm very aware of it, he told Sky Sports. "I get to see the group as closely as anybody because it's my job, and I've seen us play great games, but I've seen us have moments when there have been opportunities around us to capitalise on a situation, close a gap, jump a team.

"And that's the difference at the moment, that shows how much work we've got to do."

Lampard was asked if his side could have done better to defend Antonio's sucker-punch decider, which came on the break as Chelsea went in search of a winner themselves.

"At that point you feel like we're the team that's going to win the game, we're dominating," the Chelsea boss replied.

"But you always know that Antonio he can stick it, and if we we're going to open up to try and score that winning goal we have to be ready to run the other way and defend, and defend better. Yeah we could [have done better]."

The manager called for perspective with Chelsea still in a strong position in the race for the Champions League, but insisted it was a game from which his side should have taken three points.

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"We're two points ahead of Manchester United, who have been playing fantastic, they're on a great run, they've beaten us twice and we're two points ahead of them," he said.

"Wolves are having a great season, they're two points behind us. We're one point behind Leicester who have had a great season.

"We're upset because we've come here and we want to win the game and we're in a decent position. So there's no point in me being down, but I can't help but say the truth, it's a game we should win today."

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Gary Lineker’s plea to the nation as NHS celebrates 72nd anniversary

Gary Lineker will lead sport's birthday tribute to the NHS after calling the nation back out onto our doorsteps to clap for carers.

Former England captain and Match of the Day anchorman Lineker wants “one big, final, nationwide clap” at 5pm on Sunday to recognise “all those who are working so hard and sacrificing so much” to keep Britain going through the pandemic crisis.

Famous names from football, cricket, rugby and other sports are expected to support the Thank You Together moment to mark the 72nd anniversary of the NHS being founded.

Leaders from the Football Association, England & Wales Cricket Board, Rugby Football Union and Team GB's Olympic mission have all backed the gesture.

Lineker said: "It is great to see football, along with cricket and rugby, coming together with the NHS, on its birthday, to thank all the key workers with one big final nationwide clap.

"So at 5pm this Sunday raise a glass, share a cuppa or, dare I say it, watch the football with your neighbours, friends or relatives.

“Applaud all those who are working so hard and sacrificing so much to keep us all going throughout this period.

"But think about how we can all help come together and start to build even better communities and a country we can be even more proud of."

Premier League stars have already raised millions for NHS charities through their #PlayersTogether initiative – a withering counter-punch to Health Secretary Matt Hancock's cheap shot that high-earning footballers should “take a pay cut and play their part” in the fight against coronavirus.

The clap for carers at 8pm on a Thursday night became an established ritual during the Covid-19 plague – and a focal point for unity among neighbours, streets and whole towns.

A week before the return of Test cricket, with England playing West Indies behind closed doors at the Ageas Bowl, ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said: “As we prepare to stage the first international sporting competition in the UK since Covid-19 began, we want to join with the NHS and the other major sporting bodies to say #ThankYouTogether.

“Throughout the #raisethebat Test Series, we will show our gratitude with players wearing the names of key workers on their training shirts to shine a light on their bravery and sacrifice as fans watch live from home.

“I would also like to pay tribute to the way cricket clubs have responded to this crisis. Despite being unable to play a single game of cricket and in the face of major financial uncertainty, they continue to support their local communities and have together raised over £300,000 since May.

“This crisis has shown us that the spirit of the cricket family is stronger than ever and united, we will come through this.”

RFU chief Bill Sweeney said: “Rugby, like the wider sporting community and the nation as a whole, is extremely grateful to and proud of all those who have worked tirelessly through this pandemic going above and beyond to support local communities and the NHS.

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“We have been inspired by many stories across the country showing spirit and resilience in these challenging times to ensure that we will come through this together and emerge stronger.”

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Aston Villa’s survival bid suffers big blow with Matt Targett injury news

Aston Villa's survival bid has been hit by a big blow with left-back Matt Targett facing up to three weeks out.

The £12million signing from Southampton a year ago was forced off 10 minutes into Saturday's 1-0 loss to Wolves.

It was the third time this term the attacking full-back has had hamstring trouble.

Mirror Sport understands Targett,24, is now expected to be sidelined two-three weeks.

The former England U21 defender is set to miss Villa's crunch games against Liverpool, Manchester United and Crystal Palace.

And potentially also Everton too on July 15 as Villa fight relegation in their remaining six games.

It is another headache for boss Dean Smith, whose side are 19th in the Premier League.

Villa are yet to win in four games since the re-start and visit champions Liverpool on Sunday on the back of a nine-game winless streak after also losing the Carabao Cup final to Manchester City.

Targett has made 28 starts for Villa in all competitions this term.

He has linked up well on the left with skipper Jack Grealish as the pair know each from international duty.

But Targett was previously subbed on his debut against Crewe in August and Watford in December with minor hamstring tears.

Experienced Welsh international full-back Neil Taylor,31, came on to deputise against Wolves but he is not as quick as Targett.

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Smith said: “Matt just felt his hamstring tighten, he wanted to give it a go but he could still feel it so we made sure that we got him off quickly.

"Neil Taylor did really well when he came on, so that’s pleasing for us."

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Everton vs Leicester live stream: How to watch Premier League fixture online and on TV tonight

Everton meet Leicester City in the Premier League tonight.

The Toffees took points off Liverpool in their first game of the restart before beating basement-dwelling Norwich City last time out.

Leicester’s charge for the Champions League has faltered with the Foxes yet to win since the campaign resumed.

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They also fell to defeat against Chelsea in the FA Cup quarter-finals at the weekend.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the game.

We may earn commission from some of the links in this article, but we never allow this to influence our content.

When is it and what time is kick-off?

The match will begin at 6pm on Wednesday 1 July at Goodison Park.

How can I watch it online and on TV?

The match will be broadcast live on Sky Sports Action, Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Ultra HD.

If you’re not a Sky customer you can grab a NOWTV Day Pass here to watch without a subscription.

Team news

Yerry Mina and Fabian Delph could return but Theo Walcott remains sidelined for the hosts.

James Maddison will likely be missing for the visitors with Ricardo Pereira also missing.

Predicted line-ups

Everton: Pickford, Coleman, Keane, Holgate, Digne, Iwobi, Gomes, Davies, Bernard, Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin

Leicester: Schmeichel, Justin, Evans, Soyuncu, Chilwell, Ndidi, Praet, Tielemans, Barnes, Vardy, Gray

Odds

Everton: 8/5

Draw: 21/10

Leicester: 15/8

Prediction

The visitors need Jamie Vardy to break his goal drought and he could well do that tonight. You would normally expect goals at Goodison with two sides who like to go forward in numbers but both have struggled to find the net since the restart. Everton 1-1 Leicester.

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Liverpool break nine-year transfer record as net spend tiny compared to rivals

Liverpool are the first Premier League champions to spend less than £10million on transfers in the season they won the league for nine years, having shelled out just £8.6million during their title-winning campaign.

The Reds wrapped up the 2019/20 title – their 19th league success overall but a first in the Premier League era – when Chelsea beat their closest challengers Manchester City at Stamford Bridge last Thursday.

That led to wild celebrations among the squad, who were gathered together to watch the game back on Merseyside.

Among their number was the Japanese attacking midfielder Takumi Minamino, who the Reds spent £7.25million on in January, and the young defender Sepp van den Berg, who was signed from Dutch side PEC Zwolle for £1.35million last summer.

The pair – who have only made five Premier League appearances between them this season, all Minamino's – are the only two players Liverpool have spent money on in the past year.

Goalkeepers Adrian and Andy Lonergan also arrived on free transfers, while Harvey Elliott's fee has yet to be determined as Fulham will take the Reds to a tribunal over a price for the youngster.

That makes Liverpool's title winning season the least expensive – in terms of transfer fees, at least – since Manchester United won the league in 2010/11 having spent just £6.3million that campaign, according to Premier League Productions.

Sir Alex Ferguson brought in the likes of Chris Smalling and Javier Hernandez that summer ahead of clinching his 12th and penultimate Premier League title.

Since that time every other Premier League winner has spent over £60million, bar Leicester's £27.3million in 2015/16.

Liverpool's low fees go alongside their incredibly meagre net spend during Jurgen Klopp's time in charge to paint a healthy transfer picture at the club.

As detailed by The Athletic, at a total of £92.4million the Reds' net transfer spend over the last five years is much less than the likes of Brighton & Hove Albion, Aston Villa, Newcastle United and Watford.

Over the same period, Manchester City's net spend is some £505.6million and Manchester United's is £378.9million.

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Bruno Fernandes has dispelled Ole Gunnar Solskjaer assumption since Man Utd move

Big things were expected of Bruno Fernandes when Manchester United finally got their man in the January transfer window.

The Portuguese playmaker was tipped to change the fortunes of the Red Devils after a tough spell under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

But few could have predicated the immediacy of his impact – including his new manager.

Fernandes has been integral to a 12-game unbeaten run in all competitions ahead of their clash with Brighton tonight.

He has scored four goals and delivered four assists in the process – dispelling Solskjaer’s past assumption that it would take time for any player to adjust.

Speaking after his summer spending spree, landing Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James, Solskjaer said: "It will take time for any player to adjust to Man United.

“Apart from me! It took me six minutes in the first game,” he joked.

“I’m very happy with Wan-Bissaka and James but we’ve got be patient. It’s a long haul and it’s very important that we get the right ones in.”

And whilst Solskjaer has clearly found the “right one” in the form of Fernandes, he has certainly not taken time to adjust.

He instantly impressed on his debut against Wolves and has gone from strength to strength as the focal point of his side.

Solskjaer’s other summer signings have perhaps proved his point.

Maguire and Wan-Bissaka both made a strong start but have reached new heights in recent months, with Maguire integral to the back-line which has tightened up and Wan-Bissaka beginning to unlock his attacking attributes.

But it is testament to Fernandes’ special ability that it is hard to see much room for further improvement given the way he has instantly transformed the Old Trafford outfit.

His team-mate, Nemanja Matic, has also been caught off guard by his immediate impression.

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"I’ve followed him for a long time because I played in the Portuguese league at Benfica," Matic told Sky Sports.

"I knew he would bring quality for us. He played for a big club with a lot of pressure to win, but I didn’t think he would adapt so quick. From the first minute in the Premier League he made the difference.

"I’m happy for him and happy we have him in the team.

"He’s playing in the position where he needs to make the difference. He has all the ability to be the leader on the pitch."

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Football commentary has evidence of racial bias, groundbreaking study finds

Football commentators are six times more likely to be talking about players with darker skin when discussing how powerful they are, according to a groundbreaking study into racial bias.

The result of the study, completed by Danish research company RunRepeat in association with the Professional Footballers’ Association and the largest of its kind in the English language, reveals clear evidence of systemic bias within football commentary as a time when the treatment of black, Asian and minority ethnic (Bame) communities is under the microscope.

Eighty matches from Europe’s top four leagues – the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga and Ligue 1 – were analysed from the 2019/20 season, with a variety of broadcasters represented across the UK, United States and Canada including Sky Sports, BT Sport, NBC, BeinSport, ESPN and Turner Sports.

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It revealed genuine cause for concern that the opinions expressed by the sport’s leading commentators regarding Bame players are vulnerable to racial bias, regardless of intention, with aspects of pace, power and work-rate viewed differently when compared to similar assessments of lighter skin tone players.

Focussing on different 15-minute segments surrounding 643 individual players of various race and skin tones, it was found that commentators are 6.59 times more likely to be talking about darker skin tone players when mentioning power, and 3.38 times more likely when discussing speed. The presence of bias meant that 86.76 per cent of all positive comments about power were aimed at darker skin tone players, with 84.17 per cent for speed.

The study also found that commentators are 60.4 per cent more likely to be describing a player with lighter skin tone when talking about work ethic, with 62.6 per cent of all intelligence praise going to the same group of players. In comparison, 63.33 per cent of intelligence criticism was aimed at darker skin tone players.

Two-thirds of all comments regarding the quality of play were also about lighter skin tone players, with 67.57 per cent of negative comments about darker skin tone players.

While commentators may be completely unaware of the differences in how they describe players by the colour of their skin, the impact of such bias is considerable. Danny McLoughlin, research director at RunRepeat and the lead researcher on the study, believes that commentary is “a pryzm for everyone who watches football” that influences many aspects of life, from conversations between friends to the potential earnings and contracts that players are able to commission. If a player is labelled as work-shy or lacking in intelligence through match commentary, it can have major repercussions for that player further down the line.

The PFA equalities executive Jason Lee has asked broadcasters and commentators to increase their efforts in addressing racial bias, and called on them to offer unconscious bias training to raise awareness of how the use of their language can convey and reinforce stereotypical racially-motivated views.

“To address the real impact of structural racism, we have to acknowledge and address racial bias,” Lee said. “This study shows an evident bias in how we describe the attributes of footballers based on their skin colour.

“Commentators help shape the perception we hold of each player, deepening any racial bias already held by the viewer.

“If you haven’t got people to bounce ideas off and to listen to what’s being said, and you haven’t got an open ear, how are you going to understand that what you’re doing is offending people if nobody is there challenging you and telling you, ‘That’s not right.’

A follow-up study has been planned to look at the issue of ‘stacking’, which was common in American football where influential thinking positions such as quarterback went to white players, with athletic-dependent positions such as running back and wide receiver were allocated more to black players.

The same can be said in football where the role of captain is predominantly handed to white players, as are ‘creative’ or ‘thinking’ positions such as attacking midfielders, centre-backs and goalkeepers, while darker skin tone players regularly fill positions where athletic ability is an advantage.

Of the 80 clubs involved in the study, just 15 of them currently have a Bame captain – 10 of which are in Ligue 1 with five in the Premier League, one in Serie A and not a single Bame captain in La Liga.

“When you’re playing football and someone is painting the picture that you’re powerful, you’re quick, you’re aggressive – I mean they’re great traits to have, but you’re not saying ‘industrious, intelligent, creative’, you’re not using that terminology,” Lee added.

“Already it’s living up to that stereotype of black athletes – you can’t always say that a black athlete is going to be quick and is going to be strong.

“If you keep stigmatising people and saying this, that and the other, how is that athlete going to go from the training and playing field and be taken seriously as maybe a coach, a manager or another position of power?”

To provide a control category, ‘in-game events’ that were based purely on factual statements – rather than opinionated comment – were also recorded, with criticism split 50-50 across the two skin tones and praise slightly in favour of lighter skin tone players. Yet when opinionated comment was recorded, there was clear evidence that racial bias is present in the statements made.

Number of Bame captains across four of Europe’s top leagues

Because 1,361 of the total 2,073 comments were made towards lighter skin tone players, a multiplier of 1.9 to give a total of 1,362 in order for the two to be fairly compared.

Researchers also used the 20 skin tones as marked out by Football Manager 2020, given it sets a predetermined class that removes any interpretation of a players ethnicity or race and judges the comments on skin colour alone. Classes 1-11 were classified as ‘lighter skin tone’, with the remaining 12-20 making up the players with ‘darker skin tone’. With the total sample size of 643 players, 433 were classified as ‘players with lighter skin tone’ and 210 were classified as ‘players with darker skin tone’.

The report states: “Players have been unified in their support of the Black Lives Matter movement, sending a strong message about equality.

“However, the players themselves still have to navigate systemically racist structures, despite their significant platforms and professional success. This racial bias study makes the nuances of that structure apparent.

“We now need everyone in football, including commentators and broadcasters, to consider the part they play in furthering implicit bias towards people with darker skin tones.”

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Liverpool told they won’t have transfer advantage just because they’re champions

Liverpool legend John Barnes has warned that players won't necessarily favour a move to Anfield over the likes of Manchester City this summer even given the Reds' sensational season.

Jurgen Klopp is likely to be keen to add one or two stars to his squad this summer as he tries to retain the Premier League title next season as well as win back the Champions League.

The likes of Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly have been linked, but speaking to BonusCodeBets.co.uk, Barnes said finances will still have a big part to play in any deal.

"If Manchester City offer Koulibaly twice the salary, then he'll go to Manchester City," Barnes said.

"The whole idea that Liverpool are the champions and that means he’ll go to them, that’s not the case. Liverpool is an attractive proposition, as attractive as anybody else, whether they are more attractive than Barcelona or Manchester City I don’t think that’s necessarily true.

"What may happen is that his type of football may suit Liverpool. I don’t think he’s suited to the type of football that Manchester City play."

Some may question why Liverpool need any further signings given the ease with which they won the title this season.

But Barnes thinks it is important that they do not go stale, and has urged them to make moves in the window if there are players available that they think could improve the squad.

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"Liverpool always looking to improve on players and you’re always going to be linked with players if you’re a big club and it’s a good time to buy when you’re at the top," he added.

"I don’t think there’ll be many signings coming to Liverpool. If there’s a signing that they feel will improve them they’ll do that, but that’s no different to any other club."

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