Liverpool lodge $32 milion bid for Diego Costa?

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Drum up those Luis Suarez speculations, there’s been an indirect yet significant development.

It would seem that manager Brendan Rodgers is picking his targets carefully, since Anfield hasn’t exactly been at the forefront of many transfer rumors outside of Suarez this summer.

It also would seem he has found someone he really, really likes.

The Guardian (and many others) are reporting that Liverpool have submitted a €25 million ($32.5 million) bid for Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa.

With Luis Suarez very possibly on the way out as his transfer saga continues, Costa would represent a hand-picked and very capable replacement.

Rodgers has been coerced by the media to give the public a lot of information (I use that word with extreme caution) about the situation surrounding Suarez, although not all of it is entirely…well…believable. Rodgers’ claim that Suarez is “happy” at Anfield could behind the scenes be fueling some movement.

The swoop for Costa would work very well for both parties, it would seem.  Liverpool would obviously gain leverage on Suarez and a replacement for if he were in fact to depart, and a talented one at that.

For Costa, the move would make him the leading number 9 at Liverpool – at least given the amount bid for his services – and would represent a chance for him to firmly remove himself from Radamel Falcao’s shadow.  Primarily a winger at Atletico, Costa is certainly capable of playing up front.  Costa’s had to play second-fiddle to Falcao since his move to Atletico in 2010, even being forced out on loan to Rayo Vallecano for half of the 2011/12 season.

While Liverpool aren’t exactly the biggest stage in England anymore, they certainly represent an opportunity for Costa to really step into the spotlight on his own.

The 24-year-old scored 10 La Liga goals and assisted 12 others last season in 31 appearances (24 starts), and banged in 20 total in all competitions mostly playing on the left wing.  Falcao’s departure for Monaco seemed to have opened up the front for Costa to slide into, but Atletico purchased David Villa from Barcelona, so that door quickly shut.

The biggest knock to Costa’s talents is his discipline, but a chance of scenery could quell that part of his game.

It remains to be seen whether Costa’s arrival would see him slide up front if Suarez goes, or if new boy Iago Aspas would take the number 9 role, but the chance for the Brazilian is there.  The Reds have also purchased left winger Luis Alberto from Sevilla, so Costa would certainly have competition at either position.

UPDATE: According to Spanish outfit AS, Atletico refute the claims of a bid and say Costa is not for sale. Something to keep an eye on.

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”

Boa Esporte goalkeeper back to prison as murder appeal denied

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The risk clearly wasn’t worth it for Boa Esporte.

The Brazilian club signed Bruno Fernandes de Souza in March, not long after the convicted murderer and goalkeeper was released from prison on appeal.

Fernandes, 32, had been jailed for ordering the murder of a lover, who was fed to dogs by the killer. Boa Esporte lost several big sponsors for signing him, but vocally defended the move.

The owner, Rone Moraes da Costa, said he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to revive his career. Fernandes admitted his mistakes but said he wasn’t “a bad guy”.

According to the Associated Press:

“Brazil’s Supreme Court decided on Tuesday to deny an appeal to Boa Esporte goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes de Souza, who was released in March while appealing a 22-year sentence in the 2010 killing of Eliza Samudio.”

So it’s back to jail for Fernandes, and we’ll be waiting with baited breath to hear from Boa Esporte’s owner.

Conte: Chelsea “ready to fight to the end”

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Following Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Spurs and Tuesday’s blowout of Southampton — the 4-2 score line didn’t tell the story of the second half — Antonio Conte is fired up for Chelsea to complete its Premier League title run.

The manager admits that his side was under pressure after Spurs narrowed the table gap to four points last week, but the wins have eased the Blues’ burden.

Chelsea had lost two of four PL matches before the weekend.

From Football.London:

“I think we passed a big, big psychological step after the defeat to United. We lost three points and had to prepare a semi-final against Tottenham and then another tough game in the league. In that moment we had a really important test and our answer was very good.

“We must think that this race is open, we have reached the final of the FA Cup. The situation in the league is totally open. We are ready to fight to the end. We must be proud for the job we are doing and to fight to the end.”

Spurs can bring the gap back to four with a win at Crystal Palace on Tuesday, but have a tougher run-in with five matches to play. As long as the gap is within six points, anything is possible, but the Blues have certainly answered the bell over the past four days.

Chelsea: Big win “feels like a massive step” to title

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“It feels like a massive step to be honest,” said game-changing goal scorer Gary Cahill of Chelsea’s 4-2 win over Southampton at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

Chelsea’s Premier League lead stands at seven points after the win, which saw a dominant second half from the hosts.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Perhaps it was cued up by Cahill’s first half stoppage time header, which boosted the Blues to a 2-1 lead just before the whistle.

Cahill darted in front of Diego Costa‘s scissor kick attempt to power a header past Fraser Forster.

“(Costa) tried to claim it afterward as well,” Cahill said. “When the ball’s just lofted over, it’s dying to be attacked. We went into halftime with our tails up and it was a big boost for us.”

Cesc Fabregas said Southampton surprised the Blues tactically, leading to an entertaining first half that could’ve seen either side ahead before half.

“We needed a little bit of time to adapt to what they did because we prepared for something else,” he said.

Fabregas said the win was big with second-place Spurs watching at home. Tottenham plays at Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

“We needed a good response after the Man United game. We have to keep going with five games to go, to keep it up and make the last push. It would be a big shame if now we relaxed. We just have to push now more than ever,” he said.

“It’s a statement for (Spurs), for us, for everyone, but most of all for us.”
Eden Hazard agreed.
“We scored four beautiful goals,” said the Belgian, who scored the game’s first goal. “It’s good to play before and put pressure on them.”