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Arsenal manager sceptical over World Cup proposals

Wenger is not convinced the changes are needed. Credit: Reuters

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is "sceptical" about plans to extend the World Cup to a 48-team tournament.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino is pushing for an expanded competition from the 2026 World Cup onwards, with 32 nations competing at the finals under the current set-up.

Infantino favours a structure which would see 16 groups of three teams, with the top two then advancing into the last 32 knockout system.

A decision on the potential World Cup reforms will be made in January but Wenger has already suggested the changes may not improve the competition and could be made for the wrong reasons.

He said on Thursday:

My thoughts on that are is it guided for popular reasons? Or is that guided to improve the level of football? I'm a bit sceptical. If somebody can convince me that it will make football better and that we can live with the time it will take to complete the World Cup, I am ready to listen.

At the moment, I think I am not convinced. We have moved to 24 teams in Europe (for the European Championships), that's basically 50 per cent of the teams we have in Europe.

I can't see that being a huge improvement on the quality of the game. But 48 teams... we have about 300 teams in the world, the percentage looks that it could be accepted.

– Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

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Man Utd clash set to go ahead despite frozen pitch

Ashley Young stands on the frozen pitch. Credit: Reuters

Manchester United's Europa League clash against Zorya Luhansk is expected to go ahead despite concerns over the icy pitch.

United defender Daley Blind said the pitch was "like a rock" when going out to train and the world's most expensive player Paul Pogba laughed, as did several others.

The players' studs clacked on a surface that faced a routine pitch inspection at 10am local time (8am GMT) on Thursday.

UEFA officials said afterwards that the pitch had improved overnight after hot air was blown under the covers. The fact the temperature is set to rise above zero in Odessa also gives the governing body hope.

An official from Zorya said: "Everything depends on the weather.

"The pitch is not brilliant at the moment. We are expecting temperatures to be two or three degrees and everything should be okay."

At the pre-match press conference United boss Jose Mourinho questioned why UEFA allows final group matches to be played in countries where winters hit so hard.

"The pitch is very hard, the pitch is very icy,'' he said. "I think UEFA know the conditions of the pitch and everybody knows that in mid-December the conditions in Ukraine and Eastern Europe are more difficult.

"So if UEFA was worried about it, they should change the fixtures and not allow the last fixtures to be played in mid-December."

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Leeds United owner 'surprised' at prospect of ban

Cellino insists he is not guilty of any wrongdoing. Credit: PA

Leeds owner Massimo Cellino has expressed his surprise at a newspaper's claim that he is facing a ban and a fine in relation to the transfer of Ross McCormack to Fulham in 2014.

The Daily Mail reported the Italian would be suspended from football for 18 months and both he and the club would be fined £250,000 after being found guilty of breaching Football Association regulations.

But Cellino once again protested his innocence in a statement released by the club on Wednesday evening.

He said:

I am surprised to read the news regarding the FA's intentions to ban and fine me, as well as fine the club. I am not guilty and I will take the right steps to defend myself through the tribunal. I feel that I am guilty of one thing, protecting Leeds United since I took charge of the club.

I ask the players, manager and my staff to continue to work with loyalty and professionalism and to keep fighting for the club everyday on and off the pitch. I am sure that the public in this country and the free press will take the time to look into this case and find the truth.

– Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino
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