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The premiere of Premier League pay-per-view was far from the ‘premium product’ advertised.

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the premiere of premier league pay per view was far from the premium product advertised

You can only assume, somewhere deep in the sacred ‘ecosystem’ football chiefs insist they are trying to protect, that something had been lost in translation.

Before this, the premiere of Premier League pay-per-view, Richard Masters promised a ‘premium product’ with everything we normally expect from top-flight football on the box. All for the additional price of £14.95.

Funny then, as the clock ticked towards kick-off at Stamford Bridge, that those paying for a part in this new era were treated only to a holding screen and blaring tunes. At least the sign-up process was simple enough. (Funny, that.)

The premiere of Premier League pay-per-view saw Chelsea held to a draw with Southampton

The premiere of Premier League pay-per-view saw Chelsea held to a draw with Southampton

The premiere of Premier League pay-per-view saw Chelsea held to a draw with Southampton

Timo Werner netted twice in a thriller but viewers were treated to rushed analysis and issues

Timo Werner netted twice in a thriller but viewers were treated to rushed analysis and issues

Timo Werner netted twice in a thriller but viewers were treated to rushed analysis and issues

Eventually, though as the teams gathered in the tunnel, coverage did begin. And how it was worth the wait – five minutes, three questions and one time-pressed pundit. ‘Short and sweet’ was how BT described it. Our verdict would begin with ‘s’, too.

The poor pundit was Steve Sidwell – a fine player and a shrewd analyst… but not someone who’s ever screamed ‘Box office.’

BT insist this new model is not designed to line their pockets. Rather they are only covering their costs and trying to help an ailing sport.

Steve Sidwell, a shrewd analyst, was on punditry duty for BT Sport but was pressed for time

Steve Sidwell, a shrewd analyst, was on punditry duty for BT Sport but was pressed for time

Steve Sidwell, a shrewd analyst, was on punditry duty for BT Sport but was pressed for time

Viewers were only shown coverage five minutes before the game with the players in the tunnel

Viewers were only shown coverage five minutes before the game with the players in the tunnel

Viewers were only shown coverage five minutes before the game with the players in the tunnel

Fair play – they could hardly be accused of wasting viewers’ cash on bloated coverage or excess production. This felt more like BT Knock Off-ice.

Inevitably, then, there were teething problems. Midway through the first half, commentator Ian Darke referenced a pre-match interview we’d not been shown; other viewers didn’t have commentary at all.

Given the backlash at Steve McManaman’s performance behind the mic during the Merseyside derby, some cynics would say that was no bad thing.

And yet, of course, that was the ultimate irony – or insult, depending on your sense of humour: in this new age, the warm-up act was better than the main event.

Commentator Ian Darke referenced an interview not shown on PPV during teething problems

Commentator Ian Darke referenced an interview not shown on PPV during teething problems

Commentator Ian Darke referenced an interview not shown on PPV during teething problems

The derby – free to subscribers – was treated to the full works: an hour of build-up, a glitzy studio, a trio of A-list pundits, even an in-house referee who was kept busy unpicking all the theatre at Goodison Park.

In fact, while viewers on BT Sport 1 were given surgical analysis of every controversy, us mugs watching Box Office were treated to the sound of silence. 

No wonder one Chelsea supporters’ group called on rivals to join their boycott of this latest show of ‘greed’. At a time when so many are struggling across society, this hardly felt like soothing medicine; ‘ridiculous’ and ‘atrocious’ were among the online reviews.

The only saving grace? Once kick-off did come at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea and Southampton put on some spectacle.

Frank Lampard's Chelsea were forced to settle for a point but had helped put on a spectacle

Frank Lampard's Chelsea were forced to settle for a point but had helped put on a spectacle

Frank Lampard’s Chelsea were forced to settle for a point but had helped put on a spectacle

Those fans who did dip into their pockets saw six goals and also some stunning pieces of skill

Those fans who did dip into their pockets saw six goals and also some stunning pieces of skill

Those fans who did dip into their pockets saw six goals and also some stunning pieces of skill

This draw blended drama, action and no shortage of comedy – not least when Kurt Zouma and Kepa Arrizabalaga played hot potato in the build-up to Che Adams’ equaliser.

Those fans who did dip into their pockets were treated to a first glimpse of Hakim Ziyech in Chelsea blue and the return of Theo Walcott to Southampton. There was also some Timo Werner genius.  

Both of his first two Premier League goals featured stunning pieces of skill. Worth the admission fee alone, as they used to say. But worth this, probably not?

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Eddie Jones set to select experienced line-up for England’s first Test match back against Italy

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eddie jones set to select experienced line up for englands first test match back against italy

Eddie Jones is expected to name an experienced line-up for England’s first Test match since lockdown, led by Owen Farrell as the primary playmaker in a revamped back line.

Seven of the 15 players who started the national team’s last fixture, against Wales at Twickenham back on March 7, are unavailable for the Six Nations finale against Italy in Rome on Saturday. 

With George Ford, Manu Tuilagi, Courtney Lawes, Elliot Daly, Joe Marler and Mark Wilson all ruled out due to injury, and George Kruis preparing for a move to Japan, Jones is destined to fill various voids with established men. 

Eddie Jones will name an experienced team for England's first Test match since lockdown

Eddie Jones will name an experienced team for England's first Test match since lockdown

Eddie Jones will name an experienced team for England’s first Test match since lockdown

Farrell is set to switch back to the No 10 shirt normally occupied by Ford, leaving two midfield spaces to fill as Tuilagi is recovering from Achilles surgery. 

While Worcester rookie Ollie Lawrence has impressed in camp as a powerful carrier, the indications on Wednesday night were that Jones would opt for international pedigree, by pairing Henry Slade and Jonathan Joseph in the centre.

Slade has been in supreme form during Exeter’s glorious campaign which led to an historic double of Premiership and Heineken Champions Cup titles. The 27-year-old has always been a class act with a skilful repertoire but he appears to have acquired an extra layer of authority of late. He has come into camp with considerable personal belief.

Jones has repeatedly emphasised that he does not regard the forthcoming autumn schedule as an opportunity for experimentation.

They will be led by Owen Farrell (left) as the primary playmaker in a revamped back line

They will be led by Owen Farrell (left) as the primary playmaker in a revamped back line

They will be led by Owen Farrell (left) as the primary playmaker in a revamped back line

Farrell is set to switch back to the No 10 shirt normally occupied by George Ford (pictured)

Farrell is set to switch back to the No 10 shirt normally occupied by George Ford (pictured)

Farrell is set to switch back to the No 10 shirt normally occupied by George Ford (pictured)

POSSIBLE ENGLAND XV TO FACE ITALY

Furbank; May, Joseph, Slade, Watson; Farrell (capt), Youngs; M Vunipola, George, Sinckler; Itoje, Ewels; Curry, B Vunipola, Underhill. 

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Instead, he has insisted that England will go into matches at full strength — or as strong as the casualty list allows — with a view to winning Tests as a means to re-engage with the public. 

The cancellation of last Sunday’s non-cap fixture against the Barbarians was a setback in terms of preparation, which in turn has placed an even greater emphasis on experience. 

With that in mind, Jonny May and Anthony Watson are likely to start on the wings in Rome, while Jones thinks highly of George Furbank and the Northampton full back could be named at No 15 despite his apparent form slump in recent months.

Earl and other players who have been in fine club form may have to be patient, although there are a number of replacement roles up for grabs.

Although the front and back rows are likely to have a familiar look, there is a slot to fill alongside Maro Itoje at lock. Joe Launchbury is the most experienced contender, but Charlie Ewels has been in camp for longer so the Bath captain has a strong chance to claim that place. 

England are, however, missing seven of the 15 players that started for them last time out

England are, however, missing seven of the 15 players that started for them last time out

England are, however, missing seven of the 15 players that started for them last time out

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Marcus Rashford compared to ex-Man Utd striker Van Nistelrooy by Paul Scholes after his hat-trick

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marcus rashford compared to ex man utd striker van nistelrooy by paul scholes after his hat trick

Paul Scholes lauded the finishing ability of Marcus Rashford on Wednesday night after the Manchester United striker came off the bench to score a brilliant hat-trick against RB Leipzig. 

After coming on for opening goalscorer Mason Greenwood in the 63rd minute, Rashford netted twice in four minutes with two composed finishes before sealing his treble in stoppage-time at Old Trafford. 

Rashford also scored the match-winner in last week’s victory against Paris Saint-Germain and after his first United hat-trick, ex-United midfielder Scholes was full of praise for the 22-year-old and compared him to a team-mate of old in the Sir Alex Ferguson era, Ruud van Nistelrooy.  

Marcus Rashford came on to devastating effect on Wednesday as he scored a brilliant hat-trick

Marcus Rashford came on to devastating effect on Wednesday as he scored a brilliant hat-trick

Marcus Rashford came on to devastating effect on Wednesday as he scored a brilliant hat-trick

The Manchester United striker scored his first hat-trick for the club against RB Leipzig

The Manchester United striker scored his first hat-trick for the club against RB Leipzig

The Manchester United striker scored his first hat-trick for the club against RB Leipzig 

Former United midfielder Paul Scholes was full of praise for Rashford's finishing ability

Former United midfielder Paul Scholes was full of praise for Rashford's finishing ability

Former United midfielder Paul Scholes was full of praise for Rashford’s finishing ability 

‘You come to expect this from him. I liked his ruthlessness tonight, you felt every time he went through he was not giving the keeper a chance,’ Scholes told BT Sport

‘His finishing has been questioned in the past, but tonight you’re looking at 25 goals from him if he keeps that attitude. 

‘That was like [Ruud] van Nistelrooy, you see him going through and you know he’s going to smash the ball into the corner.’ 

Scholes (left) compared Rashford in front of goal to ex-team-mate Ruud van Nistelrooy (right)

Scholes (left) compared Rashford in front of goal to ex-team-mate Ruud van Nistelrooy (right)

Scholes (left) compared Rashford in front of goal to ex-team-mate Ruud van Nistelrooy (right)

Rashford has actually earlier coughed up the chance to complete his hat-trick from the penalty spot, instead allowing strike partner Anthony Martial to convert the spot-kick that he had won. 

And another former United midfielder, Owen Hargreaves, insisted that moment spoke volumes about Rashford’s character and leadership in a time when he is making headlines both on and off the pitch.  

The Manchester United striker is fighting against child food poverty in the UK with his free school meals campaign – his petition reached over one million signatures a short time before kick-off on Wednesday. 

Rashford allowed Anthony Martial (left) to take a penalty late on despite being on a hat-trick

Rashford allowed Anthony Martial (left) to take a penalty late on despite being on a hat-trick

Rashford allowed Anthony Martial (left) to take a penalty late on despite being on a hat-trick

Owen Hargreaves insisted that moment showed why Rashford will be a future United captain

Owen Hargreaves insisted that moment showed why Rashford will be a future United captain

Owen Hargreaves insisted that moment showed why Rashford will be a future United captain

When asked about the penalty incident, Hargreaves said: ‘I love that – he’s looking out for his team-mates.

‘Marcus knows he’s gonna get his numbers, I love that. That’s being a great team-mate. 

‘That’s why he’s gonna be the captain because he thinks about everyone else.’ 

Rashford himself said on the incident: ‘There was a bit of discussion. I feel confident with Anthony taking them, so no problem. 

Rashford took home the match ball in the end despite passing up the chance from the spot

Rashford took home the match ball in the end despite passing up the chance from the spot

Rashford took home the match ball in the end despite passing up the chance from the spot

‘It’s about the next game now and it’s important to get three points in the league.’

United return to Old Trafford to play Arsenal in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon. 

Ex-United centre back Rio Ferdinand was also full of praise for Rashford following his explosive 27-minute cameo in Europe on Wednesday. 

Former United centre back Rio Ferdinand could not have been more impressed with his cameo

Former United centre back Rio Ferdinand could not have been more impressed with his cameo

Former United centre back Rio Ferdinand could not have been more impressed with his cameo

The 22-year-old striker completed his hat-trick in stoppage-time with another powerful finish

The 22-year-old striker completed his hat-trick in stoppage-time with another powerful finish

The 22-year-old striker completed his hat-trick in stoppage-time with another powerful finish

‘He was head and shoulders above them,’ Ferdinand said. 

‘He made defenders we were marvelling about before the game look like school boys tonight. 

‘The only way I can explain his cameo is being in the playground at school and the six former plays with the first years and just bullies everyone.’ 

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Liverpool ‘receive boost with Fabinho’s hamstring injury not as bad as first feared’

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liverpool receive boost with fabinhos hamstring injury not as bad as first feared

Jurgen Klopp has received a much-needed boost with the reported news that Fabinho’s hamstring injury suffered on Tuesday is not as severe as first feared. 

The Liverpool makeshift centre-half was forced from the pitch after half-an-hour in the Reds’ win against Midtjylland, worsening an already serious defensive injury crisis after Virgil van Dijk‘s long-term ACL injury. 

But concerns amongst the Liverpool staff that the Brazilian had suffered a grade-three tear, which could keep him out up for up to six months, were eased after a scan on Wednesday showed a grade-one or grade-two tear, according to The Mirror. 

Fabinho suffered a hamstring injury in Liverpool's win against Midtjylland on Tuesday evening

Fabinho suffered a hamstring injury in Liverpool's win against Midtjylland on Tuesday evening

Fabinho suffered a hamstring injury in Liverpool’s win against Midtjylland on Tuesday evening

But the Brazilian should not be a long-term absentee much to the relief of Jurgen Klopp

But the Brazilian should not be a long-term absentee much to the relief of Jurgen Klopp

But the Brazilian should not be a long-term absentee much to the relief of Jurgen Klopp

The report details that as a result of the diagnosis, there is optimism that Fabinho could be back after the November international break, meaning he would miss just three games.   

Until then though, Klopp will have to cope with a shortage of options at centre-half, with Joe Gomez the only fully fit senior player currently available who naturally plays in that position. 

Joel Matip is returning to full fitness but is unlikely to be risked for the Premier League clash with West Ham at Anfield on Saturday. 

Joe Gomez is currently Liverpool's only senior fully-fit centre back in the first-team

Joe Gomez is currently Liverpool's only senior fully-fit centre back in the first-team

Joe Gomez is currently Liverpool’s only senior fully-fit centre back in the first-team

As a result, 23-year-old Nat Phillips could be drafted in to make his top-flight debut for the Reds. 

Klopp admitted on Tuesday night that the injury to Fabinho, filling in at centre back, was ‘exactly the last thing we needed.’ 

‘I don’t know… I know he felt a hamstring and that’s not good,’ Klopp added. 

‘[He] didn’t feel it that much, [he] said he could have played on but no sprints anymore which doesn’t help in that position obviously.’

Nat Phillips could make his Premier League debut at Anfield against West Ham on Saturday

Nat Phillips could make his Premier League debut at Anfield against West Ham on Saturday

Nat Phillips could make his Premier League debut at Anfield against West Ham on Saturday

Rhys Williams, 19, came on for Fabinho on Tuesday and kept a clean sheet alongside Gomez

Rhys Williams, 19, came on for Fabinho on Tuesday and kept a clean sheet alongside Gomez

Rhys Williams, 19, came on for Fabinho on Tuesday and kept a clean sheet alongside Gomez

Teenager Rhys Williams came on for Fabinho in the Champions League on Tuesday and performed admirably but Klopp may opt to start the slightly more-experienced Phillips for the clash against the in-form Hammers. 

Phillips spent the majority of last season playing in the Bundesliga, for VfB Stuttgart. 

After the West Ham game, Klopp has to manage difficult trips to Atalanta in the Champions League and Manchester City in the Premier League before the two-week break for internationals.   

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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