The 24-year-old joined the club from Atlanta United on deadline day.

Benitez: Almiron mentally ready for Premier League challenge

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  • 2019-02-11 06:10:31 1 years ago
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Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez is confident record signing Miguel Almiron is mentally ready to be pitched into the heat of Premier League battle.

The Paraguay forward, who turned 25 on Sunday, completed a deadline day switch from MLS side Atlanta United as Benitez's pleas for financial support from owner Mike Ashley finally paid dividends.

Benitez knows it will take Almiron time to adapt to a very different brand of football and he is equally aware of the physical demands that will place upon a player who is rich in talent, but slight in stature.

However, the Spaniard is confident the playmaker is ready to take on the challenge, starting with a possible debut at Wolves on Monday evening.

He said: "When you talk with him, he is ready, mentally he is ready and he says he wants to play and is available. You can see him in training, he is very dynamic, he is always involved, so that is fine.

"But it is the Premier League and the physicality and all those things, you have to cope with that. We will see how he feels and the other players are doing.

"We are bringing in a player who was in the MLS, so we know he needs to adapt. But he has the pace, the runs and the ability.

"We will see if he is strong enough to do the same thing as he was doing in the MLS on the ball and without the ball."

Almiron has been recruited to add creativity to a side which has proved defensively resilient, but at times short of inspiration, and his invention could prove crucial over the remaining 13 games of the season with the Magpies having seen their five-point advantage over the bottom three evaporate in the last fortnight.

Benitez said: "He is different to the players we have and that is what we were looking for, running in between the lines and behind the defenders and scoring goals and making passes."

The Magpies manager has resigned himself to the race for survival going all the way to the final game of the season at Fulham, although he is not convinced 40 points will be required to stay up this season.

He said: "Hopefully we can get a result against Wolves, Huddersfield and Burnley. Maybe Fulham, the last game, will be the most important game. Hopefully not, but you never know.

"For me, 36-38 points [will secure safety]."

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Benitez: Almiron mentally ready for Premier League challenge

Wijnaldum pleased to help Reds get back to winning ways after defying illness

Georginio Wijnaldum urged Liverpool to "keep it going" after the Dutchman dragged himself off his sickbed to help the Reds' get their title bid back on track with a 3-0 win over Bournemouth.

The Holland midfielder had been struggling with sickness in the 48 hours leading up to Saturday's match, resulting in being ordered by the doctor to stay away from the team hotel the night before the game.

And even though he was still affected during the clash he played a key role, including a brilliant lob over Artur Boruc for Liverpool's second.

"Thursday night I had a tablet from the doctor for my knee. It was a tablet that could induce stomach pains," said Wijnaldum, was named man of the match.

"I took it and I had a pain and thought it was from the tablet. In the end I was vomiting and everyone was a little bit scared.

"I didn't train on Friday and I didn't sleep at the hotel either because they thought I might infect other players.

"The manager called me and said 'Do you think you can play?' I said I was as positive as I can. In the morning I was still weak and had diarrhoea.

"The tablets helped a lot but even at half-time I had to run off to get to the toilet. I was like 'Oh no!'. I ran inside and I managed to control it!"

Wijnaldum's return to the side after missing Monday's draw at West Ham made a significant difference against Bournemouth.

However, what was more important was getting back to winning ways after back-to-back 1-1 draws against the Hammers and Leicester had left critics questioning their mettle for a fight.

Liverpool's win saw them return to the top of the Premier League, although Manchester City regained first place on goal difference following Sunday's thumping 6-0 win over Chelsea.

"We had two draws in a row and that didn't feel that good," he added.

"But if we had been told that at the beginning (of the season) you will have this kind of points (65) everyone would have taken it.

"It could be better but we must appreciate where we stand.

"You can see the improvement. You could see at the beginning of the season we improved. We just have to keep it going."

Georginio Wijnaldum brilliantly lobbed home Liverpool's second goal in their 3-0 win over Bournemouth
Wijnaldum brilliantly lobbed home Liverpool's second goal in their 3-0 win over Bournemouth (Peter Byrne/PA)

Liverpool head to Marbella for a warm-weather training break as they are not involved in next weekend's FA Cup, meaning they return to action in the Champions League at home to Bayern Munich on February 19.

Wijnaldum is optimistic they can realistically fight on two fronts.

"We have to see how it is going to work. I think we can play both," he said.

"You never know but a lot of times it goes well. Last season the Champions League went well and we dropped a lot of points in the league.

"But I don't think it was because of the Champions League."

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Martial has the ability to emulate Ronaldo - Solskjaer

Anthony Martial has the talent to reach Cristiano Ronaldo's level if he puts his mind to it, according to Manchester United caretaker boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The 23-year-old has impressed in fits and starts since moving from Monaco to Old Trafford in 2015, becoming the most expensive teenager in history in the process.

Martial had looked set to leave in the summer after falling out with Jose Mourinho, only to fight his way back into the Portuguese's plans and last month sign a deal until at least 2024 under Solskjaer.

The France international marked his first start since that contract with an assist and a superb second in the 3-0 win against Fulham, where his fine solo goal led ex-United captain Gary Neville to compare it to a Ronaldo effort at Craven Cottage in 2007.

"Yes, it was towards the end of the game and we played a very poor game and Cristiano scored it," Solskjaer said of his former team-mate's goal.

"He does have similarities, of course.

"If he wants to be at Cristiano's level, Anthony knows what he has to do. It's up to him. He has the talent."

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a very similar goal at Craven Cottage in 2007
Cristiano Ronaldo scored a very similar goal at Craven Cottage in 2007 (Rebecca Naden/PA)

Getting anywhere near those heights would be remarkable for a player that Mourinho was keen to sell in the summer.

Had the former United boss got his way, there is a chance Martial may have been lining up for Paris St Germain rather than United in Tuesday's Champions League last-16 first leg.

"I am glad he is in my team," Solskjaer said. "He has contributed to so many chances, so many goals. He is a Manchester United player. He excites the crowd. He excites the manager. He excites his team-mates. And he is a great character around the place."

Tuesday's first leg kicks off a big few weeks for United, whose hopes of progressing past PSG and reaching the quarter-finals have been bolstered by Neymar's absence.

Neymar will miss Paris St Germain's clash with Manchester United due to injury
Neymar will miss Paris St Germain's clash with Manchester United due to injury (Mike Egerton/PA)

"When you play against the best teams, you want to play against the players," Solskjaer said. "The crowd want to see the best players. Too bad for Old Trafford.

"I have played a couple of games when we played Real Madrid and Ronaldo and (Luis) Figo and all those were coming to Old Trafford. That gives it an extra edge.

"Unfortunately for Neymar he is injured, but of course he is a quality player. I think our right-back thinks it is not too bad he will not be here."

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