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Percy Tau could make Brighton debut as soon as Sunday, 10 January

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Brighton and Hove Albion head coach Graham Potter has suggested that South Africa’s Percy Tau could feature in their Round 3 FA Cup clash on Sunday.

Kick-off is at 21:45 SA time.

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The Premier League side are scheduled to face League Two side Newport County away at Rodney Parade – and Tau is in line to make his debut for The Seagulls.

TAU SIGNED FOR BRIGHTON FOR R50 MILLION

Should he play, it will complete a remarkable journey for the Bafana Bafana star who signed for Brighton from Mamelodi Sundowns for R50 million in July 2018, but was unable to secure a work permit.

Tau was then sent on loan to Belgian where he played for three different clubs, most notably Club Brugge and most recently, Anderlecht.

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Percy Tau’s form in the Champions League and domestically in Belgium swayed the decision to get his work permit paperwork in order and Brighton acted swiftly this week to recall him to England’s top-flight.

“It was his first day today and it’s exciting for all of us. He’s been training and playing in Belgium. He’s in the group for Sunday,” Potter said in his pre-match press conference for the FA Cup tie.

BRIGHTON KEPT A KEEN EYE ON TAU WHILE IN BELGIUM

Potter further confirmed that the club’s technical team monitored his progress with a keen eye during his time in Belgium as he now looks to impress at a higher level.

“We’ve closely monitored his performances in Belgium in the last three years,” Potter told the club’s official website.

“He’s been playing at a really good level, particularly with Bruges and Anderlecht where he has been involved in the Champions League, and his next step is to show he is ready to make the transition into the Premier League.

“He brings some different attributes and qualities to the group and he wants to take the next step in his career. We’re looking forward to working with him.”

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English Premier League

SA youngster Kgaogelo Chauke makes Southampton debut in FA Cup win

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South African midfielder Kgaogelo Chauke has made his professional debut for English Premier League club Southampton in their FA Cup victory over Shrewsbury Town on Tuesday.

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Chauke, who only turned 18-years-old on 8 January, was named in coach Ralph Hasenhüttl’s starting XI for the clash against their League One opponents.

Chauke was substituted after 79 minutes as Southampton recorded a 2-0 victory thanks to goals from Dan Nlundulu (16th minute) and James Ward-Prowse (89th minute).

KGAOGELA CHAUKE LOOKED ASSURED IN HIS DEBUT

The young midfielder looked assured during his maiden senior appearance as he helped his side secure a spot in the fourth round of the FA Cup where they will meet Arsenal on Saturday, 23 January.

Kick-off is at 14:15 SA time.

Kgaogelo Chauke is one of six South African-eligible players who were registered to play in the 2020/21 English Premier League season.

The other five are Khanya Leshabela (Leicester City), Bradley Cross (Newcastle United), Nikola Tavares (Crystal Palace), Max McMillan (Leeds United) and Percy Tau (Brighton & Hove Albion).

Tau has made an immediate impression at The Seagulls having played in both the FA Cup and English Premier League to date.

WATCH | NKOSINGIPHILE NGCOBO SCORES STUNNING GOAL

Draw for the fourth round of the FA Cup:

All times SA

Friday, 22 January

Chorley v Wolves – 21:45

Saturday, 23 January

Southampton v Arsenal – 14:15

Barnsley v Norwich – 17:00

Bournemouth v Crawley – 17:00

Brighton v Blackpool – 17:00

Millwall v Bristol City – 17:00

Sheffield United v Plymouth – 17:00

Swansea v Nottingham Forest – 17:00

West Ham United v Doncaster – 17:00

Cheltenham v Manchester City – 19:30

Sunday, 24 January

Chelsea v Luton – 14:00

Brentford v Leicester – 16:30

Fulham v Burnley – 16:30

Manchester United v Liverpool – 19:00

Everton v Sheffield Wednesday – 22:00

Monday, 24 January

Wycombe v Tottenham – 21:45

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English Premier League

What has gone wrong in Liverpool’s title defence?

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After romping to a first league crown for 30 years last season, Liverpool are suffering a hangover in their title defence as Jurgen Klopp’s men have gone four games without a Premier League win for the first time since 2017.

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The champions find themselves down in fourth with Klopp claiming just a return to the Champions League next season would be a success given his side’s struggles of late.

However, an unpredictable season due to empty stadiums and a packed fixture schedule, has meant no side has stormed clear like the Reds did last season.

Liverpool are still just four points off the top, so can their problems be resolved in time to retain their title?

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Injuries

The loss of the talismanic Virgil van Dijk for the season to knee ligament damage would have been a big enough loss on its own to challenge Liverpool’s title credentials.

However, the Dutchman’s absence has been compounded by another long-term injury to a centre-back in Joe Gomez and Joel Matip’s fitness problems.

Without a recognised senior centre-back in recent weeks Klopp has resorted to fielding midfielders Fabinho and Jordan Henderson at the back.

Liverpool’s defensive record since Van Dijk’s injury is still impressive, conceding just eight goals in 13 games.

But that has come at the expense of destabilising the front-foot style that has restored the glory days at Anfield under Klopp.

Without the comfort of Van Dijk and Gomez’s pace to hold a high line and the ball-winning ability of Fabinho and Henderson in midfield, Liverpool’s pressing game has eased off.

Injuries have also taking their toll further forward without Diogo Jota over the past month.

The Portuguese made a blistering start to his Liverpool career, scoring seven times in his first nine appearances.

Since Jota suffered a costly knee injury in a Champions League dead rubber against Midtjylland in early December, Klopp is short on options to provide competition for Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.

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Father time against front three?

Salah, Mane and Firmino will live long in even Liverpool’s storied history as a front three that ended the Reds’ long wait for a league title and delivered a sixth European Cup.

Over the past four seasons they have been the perfect foil for one another, combining to score 248 goals.  

However, all three are at the least approaching the latter end of their peak years. Salah and Mane will be 29 this year, while Firmino turns 30 in October.

Jota’s injury offered little chance for respite over the busy festive schedule and with all three failing to find their form, the goals have dried up.

For the first time since 2005, Liverpool have not scored in three consecutive league games.

Salah’s complaints about not being made captain for the match against Midtjylland in a rare interview with Spanish newspaper AS was interpreted as the Egyptian inviting offers from Real Madrid.

Yet the time may have passed for Liverpool to cash in their major asset at the right time as they did in selling Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona three years ago.

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Hunger gone?

Klopp’s men followed up on an unprecedented title showdown with Manchester City in 2018/19, which saw them miss out despite amassing 97 points, with a club record 99 points last season.

After also reaching two Champions League finals in the past three seasons and the often soulless atmosphere of a season without full stands, it is understandable if Liverpool’s desire has dropped off this season.

City suffered themselves last season after racking up 198 points in the previous two campaigns.

After the record-breaking numbers set by City and Liverpool over the past three years, the points tally required to win the title this season will fall.

The complexities of a coronavirus-affected campaign have been attributed to more surprise results, but an improvement in the Premier League’s middle class has also played its part.

Aston Villa, Everton, Southampton and West Ham have propelled themselves into contention for Europe, while Leicester are again threatening to challenge for the title, asking more questions of the traditional top six.

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