Liverpool have been one of the most unpredictable sides in the Premier League this season, looking like potential title-winners one minute and relegation candidates the next.
Brendan Rodgers has laid the foundations of a potentially excellent side, but there are certain areas of the pitch that definitely need addressing in the summer if they are to challenge for the top four next time around.
Jose Enrique is a solid player who is more than good enough to be in Liverpool’s squad, but is he consistent enough to be first-choice? I’m not so sure. He is capable of having great games and awful games one after the other, and when he is pitted against a lightning fast winger he struggles. Leighton Baines would be a prefect signing, but the chances of him joining Everton’s biggest rivals are slim to say the least. Davide Santon of Newcastle is another possibility.
With Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva in defensive midfield, that is as strong as any duo in the Premier League, but they lack creativity in the center behind the striker. They don’t have a Juan Mata, David Silva or Santi Cazorla. Christian Eriksen has been heavily linked, and he would be a great signing. Players like Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen will do a job there but are not good enough to play there week in week out, while Luis Suarez is wasted if he plays there.
The addition of Philippe Coutinho has been an excellent one, but Rodgers still needs more depth out wide. Stewart Downing has improved in the last few months but he does not represent the solution to their width issues. Newcastle’s Hatem Ben Arfa is a player who Rodgers is believed to be interested in, and he would be a superb signing for the club. Daniel Sturridge can be used out wide but is more effective centrally.
In addition to these three key areas that need improving, Liverpool simply need a stronger squad. The quality they bring off the bench is not a patch on most of their rivals, and Rodgers needs to bring in 5 or 6 new faces at the end of the season.
Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.
Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]
However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.
Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.
They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.
The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.
Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.
[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]
Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.
The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.
[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]
Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.
Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0
Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.
[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]
Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw
Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.
In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.
Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.
[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]
Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.
Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.
Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.