Queens Park Rangers v Wigan Athletic - Premier League

Five worst EPL signings this season

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Okay, so this is one those end of season awards that, as a player, you do not want to receive.

With so much money spent last summer, plenty of Premier League sides splashed the cash with varying degrees of success.

Manchester United spent almost $40 million on Robin van Persie and that paid off, big time. But other clubs took similar gambles and well, Sir Alex Ferguson ended up looking like a genius, once again.

So with the 2012-13 season in the books, shall we take a look at which players underperformed, weren’t worth the hype and proved to be pretty bad buys for their sides? Oh, go on then. Here are five of… well, not the best.

Christopher Samba (Queens Park Rangers)

Arriving to aid Queens Park Rangers survival bid, Samba hampered it. The towering Congolese center back was brought in for $19 million from Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala on wages in excess of $145,000 a week. Needless to say those figures look pretty stupid now. In the past Samba held Blackburn’s porous defense together but after moving to Russia for bucket loads of cash, he admittedly felt the differences in fitness levels when returning to the EPL. Two costly mistakes against Fulham and Twitter rants with fans further cemented his status as one of the worst buys of the season.

Mousa Dembele (Tottenham Hotspur)

Perhaps a little harsh on the Belgian, but after his $23 million transfer from Fulham, Spurs fans would have expected a lot more from him. Dembele has been hampered by injuries but when he was in the team he flattered to deceive, just two goals in 40 games tells the story. Usually his passing is efficient and sharp but it was so sloppy and wasteful. He will need to step things up big time to get back into Spurs staring lineup in midfield.

Marko Marin (Chelsea)

Well, not really sure why Chelsea bought Marin. But then again, we can say that about plenty of their signings. Yes the 24-year-old German winger arrived for a pretty small fee for someone once described as “the German Messi” however just 10 appearances and one goal to show for his efforts this season, suggests his future lies elsewhere. The likes of Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Victor Moses have jumped ahead of Marin. Can the tricky winger get back into the Chelsea side under a new manager?

Jack Rodwell (Manchester City)

Perhaps one of the reasons why Roberto Mancini ended up losing his job, as the front office staff were rumored as trying to bring more homegrown English players into the squad without the Italian managers permission. Their was pressure on Mancini to sign such players, and so City signed Rodwell from Everton for a fee that could rise to $23 million. He scored two goals on the final day of the season against Norwich, his first for the club, after being injured from October to January. However the England international did little to suggest he will threaten the City regulars for their starting spots.

Danny Graham (Sunderland)

Switched Swansea for Sunderland during the January transfer window for $8 million. And not a lot has happened since. Well, apart from being berated by pretty much every Sunderland supporter at the Stadium of Light. Yes, he hasn’t become a bad player overnight. However Graham’s confidence levels are at an all-time low. The striker is from Newcastle (which immediately didn’t win him many friends with the Sunderland fans) and decided a move back to the North-East would be a good idea. Not so much. 11 EPL appearances and zero goals later, Sunderland could be hoping to offload Graham this summer.

AFCON wrap: Tunisia joins Senegal in knockout rounds (video)

Tunisia's Wahbi Khazri smiles during a press conference in Libreville, Gabon, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, ahead of their African Cup of Nations Group B soccer match against Zimbabwe. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
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Half of the field is set for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations knockout rounds, as Group B completed his final day of group play on Monday in Gabon.

[ FIFA: World Cup draw date at Kremlin ]

Senegal will move onto play Cameroon on Saturday, while Tunisia will take on Burkina Faso.

Senegal 2-2 Algeria

Leicester City’s Islam Slimani scored twice, but it wasn’t enough to get Algeria into the knockout rounds of AFCON.

Papakouly Diop and Moussa Sow answered Slimani’s goals, and Senegal enforced its hold on the group it had already clinched after two matches.

Algeria needed a win and help, and looked to get it when Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani carried over their chemistry from the Foxes of England to the Fennecs of Algeria.

Zimbabwe 2-4 Tunisia

Sunderland’s Wahbi Khazri scored of the fourth of Tunisia’s first half goals as the Eagles of Carthage emphatically clinched their knockout round spot. Tunisia lost in the quarterfinals in 2015.

Lille’s Naïm Sliti was also among the goal scorers for Tunisia, with Youssef Msakni (Lekhwiya) and Taha Yassine Khenissi (Esperance de Tunis) also netting markers.

Tendai Ndoro (Orlando Pirates) and Knowledge Musona (Oostende) scored for Zimbabwe.

Three USMNT players leave camp, two with injuries

Kekuta Manneh chases the ball during practice of the U.S. men's national soccer team Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, in Carson, Calif. Manneh has become a U.S. citizen, moving the Vancouver Whitecaps forward closer to eligibility for the men's national team. U.S. Soccer announced Manneh received his citizenship Wednesday, after the opening practice of January training camp under new coach Bruce Arena. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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Less than a week from Bruce Arena’s second debut as USMNT boss, we know three players who won’t be in the Starting XI.

Injuries have felled FC Dallas duo Kellyn Acosta and Matt Hedges, while Vancouver attacker Kekuta Manneh is leaving the squad to join his ‘Caps teammates for preseason in Wales.

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League Playback ]

Acosta has a mild left ankle sprain and Hedges has a mild right knee sprain.

While Manneh may have been a long shot to see significant playing time on Sunday against Serbia or Feb. 4 versus Jamaica, Hedges had a chance to start at center back and Acosta has been capped before as well.

FIFA going to Kremlin for World Cup draw in December

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JULY 25:  Vladimir Putin, President of Russia speaks as FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter looks on during the Preliminary Draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia at The Konstantin Palace on July 25, 2015 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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ZURICH (AP) FIFA says it will stage the 2018 World Cup draw on Dec. 1 at a Kremlin concert hall in Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been allowing FIFA to use high-profile venues for World Cup ceremonies.

In July 2015, the qualifying program draw was made on the grounds of one of Putin’s official residences, Konstantin Palace near St. Petersburg. The summer was home built at the direction of Peter the Great.

The World Cup in Russia kicks off on June 14 at Luzhniki Stadium in the Russian capital, and returns there for the final on July 15.

Jurgen Klopp discusses Liverpool’s title chances

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 21: Jurgen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool reacts during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Swansea City at Anfield on January 21, 2017 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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It was a disappointing weekend for Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp.

[ MORE: New odds for title contenders ]

The German coach watched on as his side lost 3-2 to Swansea City on Saturday in the Premier League and the Reds fell 10 points behind leaders Chelsea with 16 games to go.

Klopp’s men have only won once in six outings in all competitions in January, and ahead of their EFL Cup semifinal second leg against Southampton at Anfield (they trail 1-0 from the first leg) he was asked if they still have hope of overhauling Chelsea and winning the Premier League.

Speaking to the media, Klopp revealed that his team are good enough to at least be in the top four battle.

“We fight in each game, that’s maybe the most important thing. Then we have to see what happens around,” Klopp said. “Of course, in cup competitions the target is to win the competition. In the Premier League, it’s probably the same but it’s not that easy to plan or whatever. In this case, if Chelsea win all their games – which they pretty much do – there is no chance for any other team. For us, it’s still absolutely important to finish the season as well as possible – whatever that means. We’ll see after the season.

“You can imagine we have the quality to fight for the Champions League, that’s what we should do. If we do this and we are then close enough in the decisive moment of the season, you can still fight for a little bit more. But in this moment, it’s nothing we have to think about or we should think about. We now have two games and then we play Chelsea, so that’s when I’ll think about Chelsea but not how we can get them or whatever. We fight for everything we are able to, that’s all.”

He’s right. Liverpool finishing in the top four this season would be a great achievement at this stage of his project.

Perhaps more worrying for Klopp is that his side may now capitulate and finish outside of the top four for a second-straight season.

There’s no doubting that Liverpool have exceeded the expectations of most people so far in 2016-17 but Klopp’s men faded badly last season to finish in eighth place and with no wins in their last three games in the Premier League the pressure is on.

Without leading scorer Sadio Mane, who is away at the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal, they’ve struggled to break opponents down and their defensive issues came to the fore against Swansea with sloppy mistakes costing them dear.

No team in the top seven has conceded more than Liverpool and with the Reds in fourth place and just four points ahead of sixth-place Manchester United and two points ahead of Manchester City who sit in fifth, all of a sudden they are looking over their shoulders instead of up at Chelsea.

Liverpool has lost momentum.

Boy do they need a big win in the EFL Cup against Southampton on Wednesday to regain some confidence and take that into their next PL clash, which just so happens to be against Chelsea at Anfield on Jan. 31.

Whatever he says publicly, Klopp must know that Liverpool cannot afford to lose to Chelsea. If they do and fall 13 points behind the Blues, the Kop can kiss goodbye to their title hopes for another season.