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 By PA Sport

Jamie Vardy backed by England boss Gareth Southgate to end goal drought

Sir Alex Ferguson says Scotland's World Cup qualifier against England at Wembley next month is a must-win game.
Eddie Howe's work at Bournemouth has not gone unnoticed, as Mauricio Pochettino predicts he will one day manage England.

Interim England manager Gareth Southgate has backed Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy to end his worst goal drought for almost two years.

Vardy, 29, has failed to score in his last 10 appearances for club and country -- his worst run since going 23 matches without scoring between September 2014 and March 2015.

The England international, who has been nominated for the Ballon d'Or, has netted just three times this term, having scored 24 times last season as Leicester won the Premier League title.


ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Scottish FA chief backs plan for new cross-border league set-up

Stewart Regan believes the Scottish game would be boosted by a cross-border league.

The chief executive of the Scottish Football Association has said he believes Scottish clubs should play in a cross-border league, saying the situation "has to change."

Stewart Regan, who serves on a UEFA working party exploring the possibilities of a cross-border competition, said he believed the move would have both footballing and financial benefits.

"There is a recognition that we have to change," Regan said. "We are in danger at the moment of keeping perpetuating the Champions League brand...

 By PA Sport

Stoke boss Mark Hughes understands Peter Crouch's frustration

After beating Hull 2-0, Stoke City boss Mark Hughes says his team is in 'decent shape' at the moment.
After scoring twice against Hull, Stoke's Xherdan Shaqiri said that he's happy to be back in good form with his side.

Stoke City manager Mark Hughes accepts Peter Crouch is frustrated at a lack of game time but says he would not be prepared to sell the striker in January.

Crouch, 35, has started just two games for Stoke this season and not at all since August.

The former England international responded to a tweet lamenting his performances on a football computer game with the quip: "At least I'm getting a game somewhere.''

Saul Niguez happy at Atletico Madrid amid reported Man United interest

Diego Simeone gave many thanks and praise to his players upon receiving La Liga's best coach award.
Stewart Robson feels Jose Mourinho must return to the basics and get back to what made him a successful manager.
ESPN FC's Stewart Robson explains why Jose Mourinho may have lost some confidence after the first month of the season.

Saul Niguez has quashed speculation about a potential move to Manchester United by pledging his future to Atletico Madrid and coach Diego Simeone.

Reports in England and Spain claim Manchester United coach Jose Mourinho wants to sign the highly rated 21-year-old for next season.

However, the Spain international has made it clear he is happy at Atletico, telling Marca: "As long as Simeone stays here, I'll be here." 

Saul Niguez is an Atletico Madrid youth product.

Simeone handed Saul, a youth product of Atletico, his first-team debut...

Is this the beginning of the end for Cristiano Ronaldo?

At age 31, Cristiano Ronaldo is beginning to face serious questions about a decline.
At age 31, Cristiano Ronaldo is beginning to face serious questions about a decline.

In a different context, Cristiano Ronaldo's travails against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday could have been written off as 'one of those days'. The forward somehow unleashed 11 fruitless attempts, seven from inside the box, and could only be relieved to see Alvaro Morata pounce late to give Real Madrid a 2-1 win. Certainly, given how one thumping strike swooshed just wide and another flick went close, you could say Ronaldo was unlucky. Next time, he will surely score.

But that would have been far easier to do had his display not fit into a larger trend, one that may give Madrid some cause for concern. Ronaldo has started the season unusually slowly and has now walked off the Santiago Bernabeu grass four consecutive times without scoring. That has never happened before. So desperately did he want a goal Sunday that he twice ignored teammates in better positions only to squander the chances himself. That triggered accusations of selfishness and boos from his own supporters.

His record in La Liga this season is dreadful. He has 39 attempts and two goals; a conversion rate of 5.1 percent. The goals have come in a 5-2 win over Osasuna and a 6-1 hammering of Betis. His expected goals average (xG) against Athletic ticked in at 2.03, which is more than what all but three of the Spanish top division clubs have averaged per game collectively. On top of that, Madrid's last four home games have been against a weakened Athletic side, plus Eibar, Villarreal and Legia Warsaw.

"He is not taking his chances now, but he will soon, and with calmness," manager Zinedine Zidane assured on Sunday, according to Diario AS.

But will he? Or is the form part of a permanent decline?


 By Mark Lovell

New Robert Lewandowski Bayern Munich deal close - Rummenigge

Carlo Ancelotti believes Augsburg made life difficult for his Bayern Munich side in their 3-1 DFB Pokal victory.

Bayern Munich are making good progress on a contract extension to keep star striker Robert Lewandowski at the club until 2021, CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has said.

Poland international Lewandowski, 28, signed a five-year deal when he joined Bayern on a free transfer from Borussia Dortmund in 2014.

He has been linked with Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and the Premier League after scoring 30 goals last season.

Robert Lewandowski joined Bayern Munich in 2014.

But Rummenigge said: "Talks have progressed well over the last few days. Sometimes good...