UCL Final: Reaction

Liverpool…

It was supposed to be Liverpool’s big night and given the way they’d stormed through to this year’s final, brushing aside everybody in their path there won’t have been many neutrals betting against the Merseyside club lifting their 6th European Cup.  Unfortunately for those who had made the long, difficult and costly trip to Kiev that wasn’t to be the case.

Despite an encouraging start Liverpool were rocked by the loss of Mohamed Salah after just half an hour.  The Egyptian was forced to leave the field of play with a suspected dislocated shoulder having been involved in a grapple with Sergio Ramos.  Whilst many felt the Real Madrid captain’s actions were pre-meditated I’m not convinced his intention was to eliminate Salah from the game altogether.

Sergio Ramos is in many ways the perfect villain for numerous reasons and in my view that’s what fuels the narrative that he did in fact injure his opponent purposely.  His desire to win often see’s him operating on the peripheries of fair play but it’s that very edge that’s seen him win 4 UEFA Champions leagues, a World Cup, 2 European Championships and 4 La Liga titles during his illustrious career.

Losing a player of Salah’s ability would de-stabilize even the most complete of teams but the injury he sustained that evening highlighted some of the cracks his outstanding individual performances have papered over throughout the season.

Reliance on Mo…

Mo Salah has scored an impressive 44 goals in his first season at Liverpool and has fully deserved all the plaudits and accolades that have subsequently come his way.  On the face of it, having a player as consistent and effective as the Egyptian can only be a good thing right?

However, there is a danger of becoming over reliant on one man and based on the fact the entire Liverpool team looked lost for ideas post his withdrawal it’s safe to say that’s the case at Anfield.  This isn’t down to mis-management and let me clarify that I’m not criticizing Jurgen Klopp for the way his team rely on Salah, this is an issue that arises naturally, over a period of time when you have a standout player heads and shoulders above his team mates.

This isn’t a problem exclusive to Liverpool, we’ve seen similar situations at clubs with far greater resources such as Real Madrid and Barcelona.  It’s totally natural for a team to adjust its patterns of play in order to utilize their star player as effectively as possible even if subconsciously.

The effect Mo Salah’s withdrawal had on the team was amplified by the fact Adam Lallana, his replacement, looked rusty, out of sorts and a shadow of the creative force we all know he can be.  Filling Salah’s boots is a tall order by anybody’s standards and you wonder whether Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain being available from the bench would have made any difference to Liverpools chances?

Karius’ night to forget…

Loris Karius won’t be returning to Kiev in a hurry and if that was to be his last game in the famous Liverpool jersey I don’t think there would be too many complaints.

Liverpools goalkeeping troubles have been well documented in recent seasons and you’d do well to find a supporter confident in Loris Karius or Simon Mignolet.  Both are capable of pulling off brilliant, show stopping saves but equally make costly errors with far greater frequency than a top level goalkeeper should.

Klopp’s loyalty to Karius has ultimately cost him and his team.  There’s no doubt the German goalkeeper has improved as the seasons gone on but his erratic style leaves him prone to such errors. The second mistake was almost certainly a consequence of the first but that’s not the one I take most issue with.

With the ball firmly in his hands, gazing out towards the left wing I was truly mystified as to why a top level goalkeeper would even consider switching the play blindly.  Had he glanced to his right prior to releasing the ball he’d have seen Karim Benzema in close proximity and avoided the entire situation.  The reason I take greater issue with this error as opposed to the second is because this is a case of poor decision making at a time zero pressure was being applied.

We’ve all seen shots slip through a goalkeepers hands and we’re well aware that the modern day football frequently moves whilst travelling, not that I’m excusing the error.  The point being that misjudgment is a bigger crime than the slip of a hand and Klopp is guilty of failing to address a problem area that’s haunted Liverpool since Pepe Reina left the club back in 2014.

For all the brilliant things the managers brought to the table in terms of attacking flair he has struggled to acquire a suitable goalkeeper and that’s something we shouldn’t still be discussing going into his 4th season in charge.

Bale steals the show…

It’s not often Cristiano Ronaldo gets upstaged, particularly in the UEFA Champions League but this was certainly one of those rare occasions.  Gareth Bale has struggled to hold down a place in Zinedine Zidane’s team this season but if the Frenchman had forgotten just how good he is Saturday evening was quite the reminder.

The Welshman entered the field of play just after the hour and wasted no time in stealing the show with an exquisite overhead kick leaving the global audience stunned and Zizou rubbing his head in disbelief – the greatest goal in the history of the competition?

As Bale wheeled away in celebration his team mates rushed over to congratulate him, apart from Cristiano Ronaldo of course.  The Portuguese casually jogged over with half a grin on his face as though he was pleased they were back in front but also envious of the fact Gareth’s name would be the one on everybody’s lips as opposed to his own.

When speaking to the press almost immediately after the game Gareth Bale had this to say “Obviously I need to be playing week-in, week-out and that hasn’t been happening this season, for one reason or another.

I had a five week injury at the start of the season and I’ve been fit ever since.  I’ll have to sit down in the summer and discuss it with my agent and take it from there”.

From his post match comments its clear the Wales international is open to leaving Madrid in search of first team football and at the age of 28 who can blame him?  He may have only featured for the final half an hour but his instantaneous impact and frank comments will have put Europe’s elite cubs on high alert.

In theory, plenty of clubs would be interested in acquiring Gareth Bale’s services but in reality the transfer fee and the player’s personal demands could prove to be a stumbling point. There aren’t many clubs out there with the resources required to land a player of his status and it remains to be seen what Real Madrid would deem a suitable transfer fee, assuming they were willing to offload him.

With the post match talk being centered on Gareth Bale’s contribution it was time for Cristiano to steal some of the limelight he so clearly craves.  In an interview shortly after the final Ronaldo hinted at a summer transfer of his own, an action that reportedly angered his team mates and he’s since apologized for, well sort of.

Ronaldo is believed to be unhappy with his current contract terms and I suspect his comments were nothing more than an attempt to lure Real Madrid president Florentino Perez to the negotiation table.

The 3-1 victory in Kiev secured Real Madrid’s 3rd Champions league title under Zinedine Zidane and in turn, he becomes the first man to win European football’s top prize three times in a row.  Luka Modric described their run of success in the competition as a ‘dynasty’ and you’ll struggle to find a more appropriate description.

Words: @HarrySymeou

We never do it the easy way – LFC

Imagine going into the semi-finals of the European Cup second leg with a 5-2 lead and coming out on the other side 7-6. Yep, that’s Liverpool for you. As fans we don’t have to imagine. We’ve seen it all before. Liverpool never do anything the easy way.

When you look at the numbers, Liverpool have been breath-taking in Europe this season. Following Mane’s strike last night, he, Salah and Firmino are now the highest scoring trio in UCL history with 29 goals (in second place are Bale, Ronaldo and Benzema who collectively scored 28 in 2013/14). Overall it’s 46 goals in 14 games for Liverpool in the Champions League.

Liverpool have shown that they can score against anyone. They have a 20/30 Minute period where the red mist descends onto the pitch and they score goals. Lots of them. The worrying thing is that they often look like they will concede. This is a long standing issue with Liverpool that needs to be addressed before the final. They only have to look at Bayern, arguably the better team in both legs against Real, but due to missed chances and Real’s efficiency in front of goal, they lost.

However, the very fact that Bayern had these chances is a positive for Liverpool. Real Madrid are vulnerable. I watched both games against Bayern and the games against Juventus before that. I’m sure Liverpool were watching too and no doubt Mane, Salah and Firmino were licking their lips at the prospect of facing the Real Madrid defence.

However, despite their defensive fragilities, which they share with Liverpool, Real Madrid do have an advantage that this Liverpool team do not have and they have it in abundance. Experience. This will be Madrid’s 4th final in 5 years. They’ve won the last 3 Champions League finals they have been in and their squad has remained largely unchanged. Both Liverpool and Madrid play attacking football and both have suspect defences. It is this experience and success in big finals that could well separate the two teams and tip the balance into Real Madrid’s favour.

Nevertheless, you can never write off Liverpool, particularly in Europe. From scoring 3 goals in 6 minutes to win the Champions League in Istanbul in 2005, to winning the UEFA Cup 5-4 in 2001 with an own goal, golden goal in the 117th minute. In football, anything can happen.

On the 26th May, Liverpool will go into the 8th European Cup final in their history. More than all other English top flight teams combined and you can be rest assured that if Liverpool were to go on and win it. History has shown us that the chances of it being a simple 2-0 win are very slim indeed.

As Henderson said last night “We never do it the easy way”.

Bring on Kiev!

Words: @Daniel___James

Liverpool 5-2 Roma – Player Ratings

Liverpool

Karius 6 – Did well with crosses but can’t be beaten at his near post like that.

Alexander-Arnold 8 – Great performance, two key passes that eventually led to two goals (get him on the plane Gareth!)

Lovren 6 – Poor defending for the Dzeko goal.

Van Dijk  7 – Decent enough game, not tested much.

Roberston 8 – Great performance, put in some great balls (cross that Gini missed straight after Roma goal in particular) – unlucky not to register an assist.

Henderson 8 – Thought he was great, had De Rossi in his pocket

Milner 7 – Our new Kuyt, non-stop running. another CL Assist. Very unlucky to concede the penalty.

Oxlade-Chamberlain 5 – Early injury. Gutted for him as hes been playing well and the WC is just around the corner.

Salah 10 – Two goals and two assists in a CL semi final. Nothing more needs to be said.

Firmino  9 – Same as above.

Mane 9 – Thought we has awesome. Missed some chances but always looked dangerous. Still think he’s underrated and harshly criticized. His runs opened up play for Salah and Firmino

Liverpool Fan & Contributor: @Daniel___James

Roma

Alisson 4 – Difficult to rate him any higher considering he’s conceded five goals.

Fazio 3– Shouldn’t play in a back three. Question mark over whether he should play at all.

Jesus 3– Error after error. Salah had a field day up against him.

Manolas 5– Got better as the game went on but showing Salah onto his left foot is suicide.

Kolarov 5– As ever better going forward then defensively.

Florenzi – Barely noticed him, but not in a good way

Strootman 4– Failed to get on the ball, Roma will want more for him in the second leg

De Rossi 5– Too slow. A player that usually overcomes this with great positional sense, though that was not the case on the night.

Nainggolan 6- Roma’s star man looked a shadow of his normal self despite being effective during certain periods.

Under 5- A quick and usually dangerous player that didn’t make the second half.

Dzeko 7- Roma’s best player on the night and their only hope throughout the tie.

 SSP Panelist: @Alavi_SSN

Salah leads the way

At the start of the season myself and DDL promised the very dubious Harry Symeou that Mohamed Salah would have a fine season in a Liverpool shirt. However, my money was was on Sergio Aguero to finish as the Premier League’s top goal scorer, as it is every season which is compounded by the belief that I’m betting on the best striker in the league. Possibly the best player, which I firmly still have confidence in.

Nonetheless the race for the race for the 2017-18 Premier League Golden Boot is well and truly on, with Harry Kane and Mohamed Salah leading the way, closely followed by Sergio Aguero. Last season we saw Harry Kane score 29 goals in 30 appearances for Tottenham, whilst Romelu Lukaku a close (ish) second ended up with 25 in 37 games for Everton.

It looked as though history was going to repeat itself after the England striker scored consecutive hat-tricks against Burnley and Southampton, but an ankle injury to Harry Kane  meant Salah  had the chance to strike 4 times in a 5-0 rout of Watford therefore moving 4 goals clear of Harry Kane in the golden boot standings.  This week his vital goal led to another Liverpool victory, his 29th Premier League goal of the campaign and his 37th in all competitions. What impresses me most about Mohamed Salah is that he’s always first to react every time his team win the ball and break away.

The Egyptian is alert enough to pop in pockets of space whether starting from a central area or having cut inside from his natural wide position. He’s selfless too, as are Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero to be fair. He’s also quick to note the impact of “Bobby” Firmino, quoted recently as saying “He is doing everything. Running, fighting for every ball, giving the ball back, trying to get the ball in any position. He’s very good for us, and very important. He’s very, very smart

In some ways I hope the Egyptian wins the Golden Boot because he deserves it for having re-joined the EPL despite things not going his way the first time around but also for the quality of many of his goals.  As short as 1/8 with some bookies you wouldn’t bet against Mohamed Salah. Just for reference he was between 60/1 and 70/1 before a ball was kicked.  Well I at least won’t be making the same mistake twice in one season!

Who do you guys think will end up as this season’s Golden Boot winner?

Words: @Alavi_SSN

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Spurs vs Liverpool Preview

There are some big selection headaches for Mr Pochettino at Wembley today, after a great tactical display in Madrid. Alli and Davies back in the fold, Reckless but at times impressive Aurier or more reliable Trippier? Winksy or powerhouse Sissoko? Reward for Llorente or return for underperforming Alli? Too soon for Rose or throw him back in to the firing line to deal with Mo Salah’s pace. Rose was Spurs’s best player at White Hart Lane last season in the 1-1 draw Liverpool dominated.

Liverpool have caused Spurs the most problems consistently of any team over the last 3 seasons due to their speed and frequency of attacks. A lot of joy may be on the break where we can pick them off, but we need to be as solid Defensively as we were in the Bernabau.

Team I’d start with today:

 

Would give us the opportunity to break fast as I expect Liverpool to try and dictate the pace of the game in the early stages, with some steady hands on the bench should they be needed and still different attacking options like Llorente and Son to try and change the game if needed later on.
Still a bit early for Rose, but some players that didn’t feature or start on Wednesday to hopefully keep the side fresh where a tough night at the Bernabau may have taken its toll.

Prediction: 2-1 Spurs.

Ref Watch with Mark Halsey

Our host Harry managed to grab a few minutes with former Premier League referee to discuss the sending off of Sadio Mane last weekend and the similar challenge by Matt Ritchie in the clash between Swansea and Newcastle.

Here is Mark’s take on both incident.

Do you agree?

Man City vs Liverpool Preview

The international break has been and gone.  Premier League football returns this weekend and the early kick off is a mouth watering clash between two of the most exciting teams the division has to offer.  Manchester City entertain Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool at Eastland’s.

Both of these clubs currently occupy the top four having both collected seven points thus far and you can be sure neither side will attempt to ‘park the bus’ in this one.

The home side have an array of attacking talent in their ranks but one area of the pitch would concern me from a City standpoint.  The heart of the midfield.

Liverpool’s trio of Can, Henderson and Wijnaldum is far more combative and if the likes of Silva and De Bruyne fail to put in a shift you could see the Red’s dominate in that key area of the park.

The City midfield certainly has the talent when in possession and if they click will be difficult to contain but I’m sure Jurgen Klopp will be aware of that.  I expect the Liverpool midfield to go out there, press and impose themselves physically on the game.

If they get that right there’s no doubt the likes of KDB and Silva will be out of their comfort zone and we’ll need to see them dig deep (something that doesn’t come naturally to them).

It can go either way but its clear to me the midfield battle will decide this one.

Team News:

Man City will be without Raheem Sterling, the England internationals red card at Bournemouth last time out means he will have to miss the visit of his former club through suspension.

Vincent Kompany didn’t feature for Belgium during the international break and there are still question marks over his fitness.  Pep Guardiola will have to make a late call and it remains to be seen whether his captain will be available for selection.

Ilkay Gundogan continues to work his way back to fitness after a long term injury but is unlikely to feature this weekend.

Liverpool welcome Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain into their squad but I’d be very surprised if he walked straight into the starting XI.

Philippe Coutinho made his first appearance of the season for Brazil during the international break and is now available for selection, it will be interesting to see how Klopp deals with this one.

The German boss has a number of decisions to make going into this one. Mignolet or Karius? Alexander-Arnold or Gomez? Robertson or Moreno?

Prediction: 

I expect to see an entertaining fixture, all the evidence suggests both sides will feel they can win this.  Neither manager is known for their defensive competency and that can only mean goals.

Liverpool’s away form versus the rest of the top 6 under Jurgen Klopp has been nothing short of remarkable but equally on their day Man City are capable of decimating anyone.

Score draw for me!

@HarrySymeou

@sofasportsnews_

Scouse Talk

It could be argued that Liverpool have the best front four in the league with Mane, Coutinho, Salah and Firmino. However, the thing missing for me is a 20+ goal a season striker. Every title winning team has at least one in their side. Leicester had Jamie Vardy, Chelsea had Diego Costa and Klopp’s Bundesliga winning team had Robert Lewandowski.

Whilst talk of the title may be premature when writing about Liverpool, the point still stands. To challenge, you need a prolific striker. The 4 players mentioned are top quality and will no doubt score goals for Liverpool next season. The issue is, I can’t see any of them reaching that magic number of 20 league goals.

For me, the answer is sitting on the bench in the form of Daniel Sturridge. When he plays, he scores. It’s as simple as that. The Achilles heel with Sturridge (pun intended) is that due to his disastrous injury record, he simply doesn’t get enough game time.

Click on the image to listen to our recent interview with Mark Halsey

In the last three seasons Sturridge has made just 25 appearances (scoring an impressive 15). The last time Sturridge had an extended run in the team was during the infamous 2013/2014 season when he scored 21 goals in 26 league games and before you say something like “that was only because of Suarez”. Let me remind you that Suarez was serving a 10 game ban for tucking into Branislav Ivanovic towards the end of the previous campaign and so, missed the first 5 games of the season.

5 games in which Liverpool won the first three 1-0 with Sturridge scoring the winner in each game (he also scored in 2-2 draw away at Swansea).

It remains to be seen whether he’ll be fit enough to feature predominantly next season and more worryingly for Sturridge, whether he’ll be as effective coming off the bench as its crystal clear Klopp prefers the extra off the ball, tracking back work that Firmino brings to the table. The front four and their interchangeability its key to the way Klopp wants to play and Firmino is seen as the first line of defence in pressing the opposition. Something Sturridge doesn’t do.

Transfers

Spending lots of money doesn’t guarantee success. You can ask any Spurs or Liverpool fan about that, after their clubs famously squandered the large transfer sums they received for Bale and Suarez respectively.

However, it is hard not to be concerned when other clubs are improving their squads whilst your side just aren’t doing the same. Whilst I am delighted with the signing of Salah (I wanted him to join us whilst he was at Basel), the jury is still out on Andy Robertson and Solanke. I am the same as any other football fan. I’m greedy and I want the best to play for my club.

At the time this was written, Liverpool had made only 3 signings with 2 of those seemingly not bought to go straight into the starting 11. Worryingly, clubs that finished above and below Liverpool have all bought players that have improved their starting 11.

Lukaku will score the goals against the “smaller” teams, the goals that were missing for Manchester United so often last season and it doesn’t take a football expert to know that Matic is a vast improvement on Fellaini.

Click on the image to listen to our recent interview with Marlon Harewood

Manchester City have improved both their full back and goalkeeper situations and Arsenal have bought one of the best goal scorers in Europe in Alexandre Lacazette. These are all positions that have been identified by the clubs as areas that needed improving, and they’ve done just that.

Liverpool’s weakness has been the same for a number of years now and that is their defence. They haven’t had a solid defence since the Rafa days.

Every manager that has preceded the Spaniard has tried to improve it. Hodgson bought Danny Wilson and Paul Konchesky. Kenny bought Jose Enrique and Rodgers acquired the likes of Moreno, Sakho, Mignolet, Toure, Cissokho, Ilori and Lovren to name a few.

So far, Jurgen Klopp has signed Karius, Manninger, Klavan, Matip and Robertson whilst being heavily linked with Van Djik from Southampton. It is clearly an area of concern that despite all these changes in personnel, has yet to have been addressed. In the last three seasons, Liverpool have conceded 140 goals in the league alone.

Prediction

In terms of where Liverpool will finish this season I think their starting 11 has more than enough quality to finish in the top 4 maybe even top 3. My concern would be that they are 2/3 injuries away from having a very average side (Lallana is already out for a minimum of 2 months).

To challenge for the top positions and the cups you either need to be exceedingly lucky with injuries (see Leicester in 2015/16 and Chelsea last season) or have at least two quality players in each position.

Last season, up until January, Liverpool were the only ones really challenging Chelsea at the top. After 20 games Chelsea were top with 49 points and Liverpool were second on 44. They had just beaten Man City at Anfield and were flying.

Then came the AFCON, off went Saido Mane and with it, their whole season. Liverpool fell apart during January and February losing at home to Wolves in the FA Cup and falling further and further down the table as a result of poor league results.

Click on the image to listen to our recent interview with Steven Caldwell

The frustrating thing as a Liverpool fan is that the manager knew that we would be losing Mane for two months due to the AFCON and we still didn’t bring any cover in during the summer or winter transfer windows.

It can be forgiven to an extent if they’d lost Mane to an unexpected injury but that wasn’t the case. They were fully aware of the situation during the summer, long before the season even started and they failed to address it.

If they can have another strong start and maintain it throughout the festive period with minimal injuries then I think Liverpool will finish in the top 4 again. However with the fast, pressing style Klopp demands from his players. Injuries are pretty much a certainty during the campaign and I think the lack of squad depth will really have an impact on their season.

Dan 

(Liverpool Fan)

www.sofasportsnews.com

Twitter: @sofasportsnews_

Klopp & Liverpool: The Next Step?

Jurgen Klopp is about to enter his second full season in charge of the Merseyside giants.  The charismatic German arrived at the club back in October 2015 and it wasn’t long before he won the hearts of the Anfield faithful.  Like Jose, Arsene and Fergie he wasn’t the greatest of footballers in his day but took to management like a duck to water.

He began his managerial journey with his beloved Mainz 05 and worked wonders during his 7 year spell at Borussia Dortmund before arriving on the British Isles.

Even as somebody who doesn’t support Liverpool, it’s almost impossible to dislike the man, his charismatic press conferences and interviews often put a smile on my face and many others.

At the start of the 2016/17 season Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool’s primary objective would have been to qualify for Europe’s premier club competition – the UEFA champion’s league.  Job done, the reds finished the season in fourth place, a point clear of Arsenal.

As a neutral I admire Liverpool Football Club, they’re rich in history, ooze class and their European dominance in the past provided the platform that has seen the English top flight become one of the most desirable destinations for footballers all over the world.

Without doubt, the countries second biggest club but their failure to win the title since 1989/90 means they’ve been somewhat left behind.  Brendan and Luis came close but it was not to be.

Klopp has found a way of beating the leagues ‘bigger sides’ and Jurgen’s reds are just a few players away from mounting a serious title challenge.

Away wins at Arsenal, Chelsea and Everton combined with draws at Old Trafford and The Etihad were overshadowed by points dropped at home versus West Ham, Swansea, Bournemouth and Crystal Palace.

Champion’s league participation will increase the strain on what I already believe to be a thin squad.  The Virgil Van Dijk saga continues to drag on and with the Red’s yet to make a marquee signing this summer how do you see them getting on?

The Race for the Title – You get what you pay for!

The transfer market has gone bananas.  Cast your mind back to 2006 and the sum of £38m could buy you one of the world’s most prolific strikers – Andriy Shevchenko.  Fast forward to the 2010/11 season and that kind of money would bring you…Andy Carroll!

The latest Premier League TV deals and an influx of wealthy foreign ownership have contributed to a transformation in the football landscape nobody could have foreseen.  July 2017, and the previously mentioned sum of £38m isn’t even enough to sign half of Romelu Lukaku.

The money men at City have spent in the region of £133m on full backs, Romans Chelsea have laid out a further £119m and the idea of FFP (Financial Fair Play) is beginning to seem like a fairy tale.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…You get what you pay for.

Arsenal smashed their transfer record this summer with the acquisition of French striker Alexander Lacazette.  The Gunners are known for keeping their cards close to their chest and although the fee was officially undisclosed it was believed to be around the £50m mark.

Having splashed the cash on Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi before him, the Gunners are still not competing financially with the likes of Manchester City, United and Chelsea.

To put it bluntly, the Arsenal specialize in second rate signings. The game’s elite players demand the kind of wages that would blow the Gunners wage structure apart.  The power is with the seller and Arsenal’s reluctance to be held to ransom and pay a premium means they’re being left behind.

The same can be said for Liverpool.  Another club who’s fan base are desperate for premier league success.  Ownership who seemingly won’t pay the top dollar and a manager who’s inability to defend will ultimately cost them.

Tottenham Hotspur have exceeded expectations for two seasons now, but that won’t continue.  The financial burden of a new stadium and the move to Wembley will see Mauricio Pochettino’s side struggle to compete on all fronts and I’ve yet to mention their lack of transfer activity.

Throughout recent history, with a few anomalies of course, there has been a clear correlation between the title winners and the most dominant in the transfer market.   The title race will be between the top 3 spenders and the sooner the Arsenal, Liverpool and Spurs fans accept this, the better.

So you can rest assure, the Arsenal Fan TV melt downs will be back next season, the Spuds will end up heartbroken and the Scousers will still be talking about 2005!

@HarrySymeou

sofasportsnews.com

Check out the latest episode of the SSN Podcast!

Steven Caldwell Interview

Why it can’t be the Reds…

“I’d rule them out of winning the title this season…”

I’ve written several articles about Klopp since Sofa Sports News began. Liverpool have had a magnificent start to the campaign, particularly considering the relative difficulty of their early fixtures including trips to the Emirates Stadium, White Hart Lane and Stamford Bridge. Coming off a great win at Everton, and despite picking them in my pre-season top 4, I’ll rule them out winning the league title this year.

I often hear “If they can sort the defence out…..” Yet it’s not just the defence. How many clubs win a title without a top class keeper? How many are there available in January? Don’t get me wrong their fluid, fast-paced and incisive attacking play has been sensational at times, with few sides in Europe likely to be able to cope with them when they’re in full flow.

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But nevertheless they still tend to find themselves under pressure in key periods of games even when dominating. Liverpool have taken apart a number of teams so far, including Hull, Leicester and, in a tremendous 20-minute spell after the interval on the opening weekend, Arsenal.

I appreciate that the defensive frailties haven’t necessarily cost the Reds dearly in terms of points, but  it’s hard to escape the feeling that it could ultimately undermine their bid for the title; while an element of chaos has helped them to blow opponents away in the final third, there’s a chance that the same force will prove costly at the other end of the pitch.

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Every time you watch them, you know there is always the potential for a period of meltdown defensively. I’d love to know whether Klopp has deliberately set up his side in this way as a means to counter the issue. When a team is perceived to have problems in defence, the traditional solution is to offer greater protection in midfield, position the backline closer to its own goal and ensure there are never too many bodies thrown forward in attack. Rather than shutting a game down and tightening up when they’re ahead, they continue to play an open and expansive brand of football- “have a cheap goal on us, we’ll score more than you”. I respect that philosophy, but not if I were a fan of the Reds.

I was looking at the possession statistics in the Premier League. The reds are second to Manchester City, the only two teams to break the 60% mark. Any guess on 3rd place? Spurs. League leaders Chelsea just about make the top 6. The success of their pressing and then quickly counter attacking has given them a different look to last year, where we saw more ball possession in the safer midfield areas.

Currently Liverpool are winning on the Passes and Goals front. However, when it comes to Clean sheets, they only score higher than Arsenal out of the “Big 6”. And the most valuable commodity for title challengers?

Clean Sheets

Now in the last 10 seasons the team with the highest number of goals scored has won the league on seven occasions, while the side with the fewest conceded has only triumphed four times. History would suggest that wining the clean sheet battle isn’t a MUST to win the title, but you WONT win it having the same amount as the likes of Middlesbrough and Bournemouth as per current stats show.

Alavi

sofasportsnews.com

EPL Round up – Week 13

Burnley 1-2 Man City

Another exciting weekend of EPL action kicked off with Burnley hosting title chasers Manchester City at Turf Moor.  Sean Dyche’s side took an early lead through the former Spurs midfielder Dean Marney, a lead the home side fully deserved having made an impressive start to the game.  It wasn’t long before the EPL’s hottest striker Sergio Aguero arrived at the party and with goals on 37 & 60 minutes his brace proved to be the difference.

Liverpool 2-0 Sunderland 

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool faced a stubborn Sunderland side at Anfield this weekend and 75 minutes passed before they finally broke the deadlock.  Belgian striker and substitute Divock Origi broke the Sunderland resistance with around about 15 minutes to go and a late penalty sealed the victory as James Milner calmly dispatched.

Chelsea 2-1 Spurs

In the days late kick off, in-form Chelsea entertained a Spurs side fresh off the back of their Champions League exit midweek.  Many predicted Chelsea to cruise through this one but that certainly wasn’t the case.  An impressive first half performance from Spurs capped by a fine strike from Christian Eriksen had Antonio Conte’s men with their backs to the wall.  Pedro’s curling effort leveled it on the stroke of half time and from then on Chelsea’s superiority was clear for all to see.  Victor Moses’ goal just after the break proved to be the winner and propelled the West Londoners back to the top of the pile.  With Spurs having suffered defeat there are no longer any unbeaten teams in the division.

Arsenal 3-1 Bournemouth

The Gunners ended their run of three straight draws with a far from convincing win at the Emirates.  Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth side will feel hard done by and probably deserved at least a point from the game.  Some contentious refereeing decisions left the cherries feeling aggrieved, Alexis Sanchez’s brace and Theo Walcott’s header were enough to seal the points for the Gunners and ensure they kept in touch with the leaders.  This Bournemouth performance was further evidence that Eddie Howe is a fine manager and has a bright future in the game.

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Man Utd 1-1 West Ham

Jose Mourinho stole the headlines once again when he appeared to lose it on the touchline and was subsequently sent to the stands for the second time this season.  Man Utd got off to the worst possible start when Diafra Sakho gave the hammers the lead just 2 minutes in.  Summer signings Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic combined to draw the home side level around about 20 minutes later but neither side were able to take all three points.  Yet another frustrating result for Jose’s side who now find themselves 8 points behind the current top 4.

Game of the Week:

Swansea 5-4 Crystal Palace

Bob Bradley celebrated his first win as Swansea manager but oh boy did they leave it late!  Two goals in stoppage time from Spanish striker Fernando Llorente turned the game on its head and ultimately decided this 9 goal thriller.  It looked as though Palace were going to return to South London with all 3 points when Benteke netted on 84 minutes but sadly for Alan Pardew it just wasn’t to be.  Having invested heavily in the squad over the summer there is no doubt Alan Pardew will now be under immense pressure.  Both sides find themselves in the midst of a relegation dogfight and it’s no surprise with that sort of defending!

Elsewhere…

Watford suffered a home defeat at the hands of Stoke.  A Gomes own goal and Mazzari’s refusal to shake Mark Hughes hand post game were the major talking points.  Ronald Koeman’s return to St Mary’s was an unhappy one as his Everton side suffered a 1-0 defeat.  Debutant Josh Sims impressed for the Saints and he may be a player to keep your eye on for the future.  Hull City managed to salvage a draw versus an in-form West Brom side leaving both slightly frustrated.  Champions Leicester City  needed a couple of penalties to deny Middlesbrough a win at the King Power.  Leicester’s form may have completely changed this season but the dodgy penalty awards they were getting certainly haven’t, check that out on MOTD.

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Harry

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How clubs are turning the EFL Cup from an opportunity to a hindrance – De Luca.

I don’t know what to make of the League Cup right now. Fans seem delighted to win it, but then it doesn’t ruin their weeks if they are knocked out in the early stages. That’s a good thing.

But then, top Managers don’t seem to care despite what they may tell you. Home fans aren’t particularly bothered, and the noise (or lack of) from the home end at Anfield yesterday qualifies that.

It is though a good opportunity for younger fans to get tickets and has become an opportunity for families to visit at affordable prices, which is a good thing too of course, although the late finishes, especially if there is extra time, can be a problem for them as much as it can cause travel chaos for all fans particularly away fans who have long journeys back to their home town.

The opportunity for a wider net of teams to have a shot at reaching a major Wembley final is a great thing for football, as teams capitalise from some of the bigger sides fielding weakened teams.
That benefit has a flip side to it…

When 21 of the 22 starters of a match were not selected to start by their managers on the previous Premier League weekend the tournament can only be seen at that moment to be taking another knock.

I was at Anfield last night watching Liverpool Vs Tottenham and aside from Liverpool going through I’m struggling to understand much else either side got from the game.

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The Anfield ‘Scarf Show – De Luca’

The positives will be of course that it gives a runout to squad players and the old favourite ‘a chance to see some of the younger players’. The latter is becoming overused and I’m not sure of the value a manager gets from seeing them in this environment.

From a Tottenham perspective last night, 8 of the starting 11 were under the age of 23. So you could argue that’s a positive if you wanted provided they put in a reasonable display. What we learned yesterday is that Spurs have 5 or 6 fringe players in the squad who are decent enough footballers, based on the possession statistics and some of the parts of the game where they were able to keep the ball for periods. Great. I’d expect that from a squad player of a top 6 club anyway.

I assume though that when a younger player is thrown into this competition that a manager is looking to see how close they are to being ready for the bigger games and bigger tournaments. Which leaves my question…How can he establish that when the opponents are reserves or a lower division side too? And also, his teammates will all be of lesser quality than the players he would be surrounded by if he ever needed to be thrown in.
How does that affect his level of performance?

Josh Onomah for example had comfortably the worst game I’ve seen him play for Tottenham, has he sunk to the level of his team mates and opposition on the night? Or is he actually not that good after all? The manager can’t know after last night so is it a pointless experiment?

I was looking forward to seeing Carter-Vickers in the flesh, a highly-rated youngster with a possible great future ahead. What I saw though was an entirely changed back 4, with him paired with Kevin Wimmer who has not played all season either. How do I know then who was really at fault for a horrific defensive display in which Tottenham were carved open several times and struggled massively when asked to play out of the back? How then does Pochettino?

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Surely there would be more benefit in making just 3 or 4 changes and seeing the player in the environment they may find themselves in of they were called upon? Tottenham’s best chance of silverware each season is the league cup, that’s a fact. Liverpool’s too. The same for every team in fact. It was the only trophy Manchester City picked up last season for example. I can’t help but feel last night was a surrender of a trophy opportunity by Tottenham but not a lot gained in return in terms of knowledge or valuable experience.

Liverpool won the match last night and deservedly so and the difference was the one player of genuine quality on the pitch who could get into most teams in Europe’s match day squads although bizarrely doesn’t seem to be wanted at Liverpool.

The league cup a useful platform for him to remind his manager of his quality.

The League Cup is a great opportunity for so many positives for a lot more teams and it would be nice to see the FA and the clubs work together, make some rule changes and commitments around squads, ticket pricing and scheduling, to make the most of a rare opportunity in football where everyone at all levels of the club, and the fans, can benefit, enjoy the game and not feel the lasting pain of a defeat.

The League cup can be a great tournament, for more clubs, for more fans, for more players and for the future of football. Without closing the opportunities for smaller clubs to compete, the people at the top of the game should pledge to do more to make it so.

De Luca

Sofa Sports News

EFL Cup -Betting Tips! (Tuesday)

Tuesday night see’s 5 EFL cup tie’s taking place with the stand out game being that between Liverpool & Spurs at Anfield. (Live on Sky sports)

Betting: EFL Cup

Arsenal: 2/9   Draw: 6/1   Reading: 14/1

Bristol City: 13/10   Draw:  5/2   Hull City: 9/4

Leeds United: 15/8   Draw: 12/5   Norwich City: 8/5

Liverpool: 7/10   Draw: 16/5   Tottenham Hotspur: 4/1

Newcastle: 2/5   Draw: 15/4   Preston: 17/2

Odd’s from Bet365 online…(subject to change)

Harry’s tip:  “I expect Liverpool vs Spurs to be a good EFL cup tie and I think the host’s should just edge it.  However, Spurs at 4/1 is excellent value and I am feeling lucky so I will certainly be backing an away win!

Interestingly, if you like an accumulator a treble of Arsenal, Tottenham and Hull City is at 19/1.  Worth a tenner surely!”

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Sofa Sports News