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Posted in Football

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insists he feels no pressure to win the Club World Cup.

In the wake of their 3-1 victory over Manchester City which opened up an eight-point lead at the top of the Premier League, Pep Guardiola hailed the Reds as “the best team in the world right now”.

Liverpool will get the chance to prove that – and lift a trophy they have never won before – in Qatar next month.

However, Klopp is not concerned about being the man to bring home that particular piece of silverware for the first time.

“I didn’t think about that. I’m not someone who has to be the first on the moon or the first winning the World Cup with Liverpool, but when we are there then we will try with all we have,” he told fifa.com.

“I don’t feel any pressure. I see it as an absolute opportunity as you don’t often have the chance to play for it.

“You have to win the Champions League (to qualify) as the European team, so that already makes it special.”

Liverpool’s participation in Doha has caused more than its fair share of problems with the club faced with fielding two separate sides on two different continents within 24 hours of each other as they also have a Carabao Cup quarter-final to play.

With the club in pole position to secure their first league title in 30 years everything else seems to be taking a back seat but Klopp said when they go to Qatar – a trip which will give their domestic rivals a chance to reduce their advantage while they are away – they will be focused on the task in hand.

“When we go there, we will be prepared and looking forward to it,” added Klopp.

“The boys want to play it, so it will be very interesting, and it will feel big for us, 100 per cent.”


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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Jurgen Klopp has hit back at comments from Pep Guardiola accused Liverpool forward Sadio Mane of “diving”.

Guardiola was speaking after a dramatic day for the leading duo, who both scored late goals as they came from behind to win – City beating Southampton 2-1 at home and Liverpool winning 2-1 away to Aston Villa.

Mane scored Liverpool’s winner in the fourth minute of stoppage time at Villa Park, but had seen yellow for simulation in the first half of the game.

Guardiola told Sky Sports: “Sometimes [Mane] is diving, sometimes he has this talent to score incredible goals in the last minute. He’s a talent.”

The comments have been interpreted as an early attempt at mind games from Guardiola ahead of their clash with Liverpool on Sunday and Klopp responded in his press conference on Monday by defending Mane.

“I am not in a Man City mood at the moment. I am 100% sure he only talks about Sadio,” Klopp said.

“Don’t know how he could have known about the incident so soon after the game. Sadio is not a diver! Contact at Villa, no penalty but was contact. Not like he jumped over.

“I am absolutely not in the mood to talk about Man City. Genk or us, whatever but not Man City.”


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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Former Tottenham midfielder Jamie O’Hara has predicted Scott McTominay will be a Manchester United captain of the future.

The Red Devils are unbeaten in their last four games in all competitions, and the Scottish international has been key to that run.

The 22-year-old produced another solid performance against Chelsea in midweek as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side beat the Blues 2-1 in the Carabao Cup.

“I think he is a future Man United captain. I really think he is that good,” O’Hara told talkSPORT.

“He is going to be there for a very long time and he has been at the club since he was five. It’s in his blood is Man United.

“He has said before that he wants to stay and fight (rather than go on loan) and I love that about him.

“He has got so much to give. We give Man United a bashing sometimes and we have praised players like (Harry) Winks.

“He is playing in the middle of the park for Man United and he’s doing really well.”

O’Hara also added that he McTominay would get into Liverpool’s side under Jurgen Klopp.

“I think he gets into Liverpool’s team. I think he is going to be better than (Jordan) Henderson. He would be a big part of their side,” O’Hara added.


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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has insisted the Liverpool game isn’t a big test but admitted he always looks forward to playing at Anfield.

Spurs head to Anfield for the first meeting between the sides since Liverpool beat Mauricio Pochettino’s side 2-0 in the Champions League final in June.

Liverpool go into the game three points clear at the top of the Premier League, while Spurs are 10th after a stuttering start to the campaign.



Pochettino is relishing the chance to face high-flying Liverpool and is looking forward to another showdown against Jurgen Klopp’s side.

“I don’t believe it’s a big test,” he said.

“Of course, it is going to be difficult. Liverpool are having a fantastic season, last season they were very close in the Premier League with Man City, they won the Champions League final against us and I think they’re doing a fantastic job.

“Jurgen Klopp is a fantastic guy, I admire him and we have a great relationship. It is great to meet him and play against a team like Liverpool that have unbelievable players.

“For me, it is a joy to go there and the motivation is there is there to play in a stadium like Anfield – it always is amazing.

“When you have the opportunity to play this kind of game, you are thankful because you never know if you are going to have the opportunity to play it again.”


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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has laughed off suggestions that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will provide him with a selection headache after his performance in midweek.

Oxlade-Chamberlain scored twice as Liverpool eased to a 4-1 victory over Genk in the Champions League on Wednesday night.

And Klopp says the England international gives him a bigger pool of players to choose from rather than a “headache”.

“If my players playing a good game gives me a headache my life would be really sad,” Klopp told reporters on Friday,

“He’s had a big impact. It’s no secret how much I like him as a person and a player.

“His second goal, especially, was incredible. I didn’t see one like this for a long time, if ever. It was a really special moment.

“So it’s all good – no headache, just a bigger number of players to choose from.”

On Adam Lallana and Naby Keita’s impact as substitutes, Klopp added: “In a good situation you have the possibility to make decisive changes, if possible. Against United that proved really important.

“A lot of subs in that game we brought on had an impact so that is really massive for us. It’s a big key to be successful so I was really pleased, for Adam especially (after scoring a late equaliser), who was really close to making a start in that game.”

The post Klopp laughs off possibility of Ox giving him Liverpool ‘headache’ appeared first on Football365.

Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk insists playing behind a new-look attacking midfield does not make his life more difficult.

Manager Jurgen Klopp opted for his previously-untried three of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita alongside mainstay Fabinho and it paid off handsomely with the England midfielder scoring twice in a 4-1 Champions League win in Genk.

The performance was not without its issues, particularly in the first half, when the space either side and behind Fabinho saw the hosts create a few decent chances which a better side would probably have converted.

After being presented with a challenge by Manchester United’s tactics in Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Old Trafford, it meant Van Dijk and a defence missing 50 per cent of its regular starters were stretched until Oxlade-Chamberlain scored his second to make it 2-0 12 minutes into the second half.

Klopp’s offence-minded midfield combination is one which fans have been crying out for to inject some more creativity in the side – but did that make it more difficult for Van Dijk?

“I don’t think so. We still had Fabinho in front of us who cleans up everything,” said the Holland international.

“They left one or two strikers up front and we tried to get involved. That’s the way we play.

“We just have to do better at winning the second balls and in the transition with the counter-press.”

Ultimately the trade-off worked with Oxlade-Chamberlain scoring twice on his first Champions League appearance in 18 months after recovering from a serious knee injury in the semi-final of the competition in April 2018.

And it was an outcome which was hugely popular with team-mates and supporters alike.

“He’s worked so hard to get back to this point and he deserves a night like that,” said Van Dijk.

“He’s such a great guy, such an important guy for the group. He’s a quality player and he showed it, not only with his goals, but also with his all-round game.

“During a difficult period, he always managed to stay positive. We were all there for him.

“Pre-season was tough for him but he’s showing a lot of great things right now. He’s so sharp. His goals made the difference.

“The first one was so important and the second was a killer for them. It’s just great to see him back out there.”

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp says matches like those against arch-rivals Manchester United are the “salt in the soup”.

The Reds travel to Old Trafford in the late kick-off on Sunday looking to continue their perfect start to the season.

Klopp’s men have a 15 point lead on United and are currently eight points clear of second-placed Manchester City in the Premier League table.

Klopp on dealing with outside talk: “Ignoring. This game is so easy. Not the game against United, the game you all play.

“When on Sky you make a combined line-up and it’s all Liverpool. It’s a joke.

“It’s a circus and we’re in the centre. A couple people want us to win, a couple want us to lose.

“I am aware of the strength of the Man Utd.”

Despite the hectic build-up, Klopp admits he loves these types of matches, he said: “How much do I enjoy these type of occasions? A lot! It’s the salt in the soup.”

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Jurgen Klopp thinks the signing of Joel Matip is “one of best pieces of business” he has done since joining Liverpool.

The Cameroon international swapped Bundesliga side Schalke for the Reds in 2016 on a free transfer and took a while to settle in at Anfield.

Matip was the unlikeliest of heroes in a phenomenal Liverpool season last term, starting it as perhaps the fourth-choice centre-half but ending it as part of a wonderful defence alongside Virgil van Dijk.

And he has now become an integral member of the Liverpool side that has won six out of six Premier League matches so far this term, starting five games.

When asked about Matip’s maturity, Klopp said: “That’s what happens with footballers, with human beings, they grow.”

Klopp added: With the challenges you have, you grow. Joel was always an incredible talent. He was 18 playing for Schalke, that’s not easy.

“In a world of big transfer fees, signing Joel on free transfer was incredible, one of best pieces of business we did.”


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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

The set made it look like the final scene of the first Bill & Ted film, the one with George Carlin, that Robbi Robb song and the low-budget sci-fi scenery.

The Best’s dynamic wasn’t quite that cheerful. The cold chrome and mood lighting were harbingers of something much more sinister. Maybe the world outside had been destroyed and that all that remained was this preposterous demonstration of FIFA’s self-importance.

Perhaps that’s a touch dramatic, but it’s a more than functional metaphor.

Mainly because this is how things seem to be now. These events have a script. Inside the building, of course, with the wooden banter and those strange Euro-American accents, but outside too, where the watching world always seems to respond in the same way. With mockery first, then bemusement, then outright anger.

That represents a strange contradiction. On every other night of the year, The Best is completely benign. It carries no weight whatsoever. Not just because it is only in its fourth year of existence and has none of the Ballon d’Or’s gravitas but rather, those issues aside, because it’s just plainly weird. It’s like a party thrown by someone who has no friends, who has no understanding for how humans interact.

Even now, at this early stage, its history is littered with anomalies. In 2016, for instance, it awarded Falcao – the Futsal player, not the Colombian forward – with a lifetime achievement award. A worthy nod of appreciation, but one never offered again; nobody has been recognised in the same way since.

Also in 2016, at the event’s inaugural running, FIFA recognised Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund supporters for that joint rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone. A fine moment, for sure, but still representative of a central tokenism. Of everything that happened in 2016 – the fan initiatives, the collections for food banks, the stands against fascism, homophobia and racism – that was top of the pile?

In a way, it describes what FIFA are. Or, more accurately, it confirms what those outside the organisation think of FIFA. They run the game, but they’re only interested in certain parts of it. Think of it this way: if there were a football-themed pub quiz contested by hundreds of teams from different countries and all walks of life, FIFA’s Executive Committee would come last. Always and inevitably.

On Monday night, Leeds United, who authored arguably the funniest cheating scandal of the last decade, were awarded a fair play award for allowing Aston Villa to score an uncontested goal. There’s no harm in it, but – again – its indicative of superficiality. You can imagine the meeting in which some of these categories were decided. Sharp suits, sharp haircuts, blank faces.

To say that this event exists only for the sake of sponsorship is hardly original. After all, there are entire sports which are built around the need to iron logos onto shirts, shorts or vehicles. But perhaps The Best’s greatest tell is in its tone.

On Monday night, several award winners used their platform for tremendous good. Jurgen Klopp announced his involvement with the Common Goal charity. Well done to him. Megan Rapinoe took the stage and urged proper action against the societal evils which continue to plague the game. Well done to her. But, then, look at how awkward Gianni Infantino looked at that moment, during the few seconds when the camera framed him.

His expression betrayed discomfort, this sense that – no – this was supposed to be a night of back-slapping. FIFA has always appeared to find football’s real issues deeply inconvenient. While it’s capable of constructing ever more complicated competitions – with more rounds, more teams and more broadcasting revenue – and it sails through the logistical challenges posed by such expansion, it becomes bizarrely impotent in the face of almost anything of real substance.

And we know this. And we talk about it all the time. And we understand how incidental these ceremonies are and how bereft of sincerity and significance they will always, always be.

And yet there’s always this great outrage at who gets patted on the back. The Best’s World XI is still fluttering around social media and people are upset by that. And by Virgil van Dijk not winning his Best Player category. Click further and you’ll find the inevitable retaliation. The statistical testimony which supports Lionel Messi’s case, a mini cultural thesis which proves that, in fact, he should win all awards, always. Go down the internet’s darker hallways and, presumably, the same is being said about Cristiano Ronaldo.

Someone. Even. Made. A. Graph.

So on the one hand the universal position is to mock these nights and to enjoy the ritual of machine-gunning facetiousness into the online ether. On the other, the tendency is to get really, really upset by all the trivialities it throws up. In fact, at the time of writing, there are journalists making serious points derived from voting patterns. Messi voted for this player, Ronaldo didn’t vote for that one; Five Things We Learned.

This is hardly a unique situation. Where there are individual awards, there are always squabbles. What makes this interesting, though, is that The Best is a commonly recognised nadir. For 364 days of each year, it’s ridiculed for the vacuum of self-celebration that it so obviously is. On the 365th day, it holds the power to start furious arguments.

Why is that? Broadly, of course, because supporters are loyal to players who represent their teams. But while that’s undeniably true, it’s also a thickening vein of tribalism. Once upon a time, a team’s defeat used to leave a fan in a days-long sulk. Now, the world’s failure to recognise a particular player can leave a fan fighting back the tears and punching his or her keyboard. Even when the award is meaningless. Even when a footballer’s loyalty is to his contract rather than his club.

Even with something like this, which was concocted and devised by the sport’s Charlatans-on-High and designed just to produce another revenue stream. Even now, it’s not okay just to shrug and move on.


Seb Stafford-Bloor is on Twitter.


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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League