Liverpool need reinforcements, as Kolo Toure joins walking wounded

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On Tuesday night Liverpool squeezed by League One side Notts County 4-2, after extra-time, in the second round of the League Cup.

And although Brendan Rodgers’ side were delighted to avoid a potential banana skin, it came at a cost.

Three Liverpool stars were injured as Joe Allen and new signing Aly Cissokho limped off and new central defender Kolo Toure was stretched off the field after a nasty looking groin injury.

Liverpool face bitter rivals Manchester United on Sunday in a huge Premier League clash, and Rodgers’ decision to field a strong lineup against lower-league opposition in the League Cup has come back to bite him.

(MORE: Toure makes Premier League Team of the Week for week 2 – Video)

Toure’s injury could see the Ivorian spend a lengthy period on the sidelines.

“Kolo Toure, we need to assess it,” Rodgers said. “His groin opened up a wee bit. He overstretched his groin and it doesn’t look so good, to be honest.”

While the injuries to Allen and Cissokho may not be as severe, as the latter lasted just five minutes of his Liverpool debut before awkwardly twisting his left ankle after a pretty innocuous looking challenge from County’s Jamal Campbell-Ryce.

Those two aside, the injury to 32-year-old Toure is a huge blow to Liverpool. They signed the Ivorian international on a free transfer from Manchester City this summer and the former Arsenal defender had put in two sterling displays during his first outings for the Reds.

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Having Toure stretchered off leaves Liverpool short of defensive options.

Toure’s form was a huge factor in Liverpool recording back-to-back shutouts to start the campaign and this injury will knock him back after impressing in the 1-0 win over Aston Villa on Saturday. Toure rolled back the years at Villa Park as he handled the threat of Christian Benteke superbly, showing he hadn’t lost his physical prowess and reading of the game after a disrupted few years in and out of the team at Man City.

Many fans and pundits were lauding the signing of Toure as one of the best bits of business this summer, as Rodgers aimed to replace the experience and nous of Jamie Carragher after the Liverpool legend hung up his cleats at the end of last season. Toure has done that and more already, galvanizing Liverpool’s backline and looking just like the player City spent $21 million to buy from Arsenal in 2009.

However that nasty incident against Notts County on Tuesday night has put Liverpool in a bit of a pickle at the back as injuries mount up.

Liverpool will need Martin Skrtel back fit for the clash with United and the Slovakian international should be ready to step into Toure’s place in the team. Skrtel has been recovering from a knee injury and won’t be 100 percent for perhaps the biggest games of the season at Anfield this season.

But what choice does Rodgers have?

His other backup central defender, Sebastián Coates, is out for the season and youngster Andre Wisdom is too inexperienced to throw into such a big occasion. Uruguayan international Coates, 22, has knee ligament damage and will miss the rest of this season so out of Liverpool’s four center backs, only Daniel Agger is fully-fit. This could be a huge problem for the Reds on Sunday against a fired up Manchester United.

Rodgers will no doubt be working hard to bring in some defensive cover between now and the transfer deadline on Monday September 2. Liverpool certainly need it if they’re going to make a concerted effort to break into the top four this season.

Ballack acknowledges difficult decision ahead for John Terry

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For the better part of 19 years John Terry has been a staple of Chelsea’s backline.

[ WATCH: Zaha nets first international goal for Ivory Coast ]

With his future at Stamford Bridge becoming more and more in doubt though, it appears it’s time for the 36-year-old to move on from his longtime club, and that’s a decision that another former Chelsea player doesn’t envy.

[ MORE: Everton’s Coleman breaks leg on Ireland duty ]

Ex-Blues midfielder Michael Ballack knows that Terry has options, whether it be in Major League Soccer, the Chinese Super League or even with another Premier League club, but the German says it’s difficult because of what the centerback has meant to Chelsea.

“He is a player with that history and charisma,” Ballack, who spent four years with Chelsea during his playing days, told Sky Sports. “He’s such a Chelsea boy and they love him there.

“I know what it means if your career comes to an end and you’re getting older. You don’t know whether you extend your contract, play for another club or go abroad to America.

“I’m sure he has some options but if you think long-term, you have to feel comfortable with the decision.

For the first time in years, Terry has failed to establish himself as a first-team regular largely due to Antonio Conte‘s three-back system. The 36-year-old has appeared in just five PL matches this campaign, while making 10 appearances overall for the Blues, who currently sit atop England’s top flight and are in position to go for the double with the FA Cup semifinals lurking.

Terry himself has acknowledged that his career is nearing its end, but knowing the competitive drive that has made the Englishman great throughout his almost 20-year career, it’s hard to imagine that he’ll just give up his playing days without a fight.

Gabriel Jesus confident he’ll return for Man City this season

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Gabriel Jesus bursted onto the Manchester City scene upon arrival, but an injury back in February has left the talented Brazilian sidelined ever since.

[ MORE: Everton loses Coleman to leg break on Ireland duty ]

The lively attacker suffered a broken metatarsal last month against Bournemouth, which required surgery, but the 19-year-old remains confident that he’ll be able to feature again this season for the Citizens.

“I don’t know, I have no return prediction,” Jesus told SporTV. “But I hope I can still play some games this season.”

Initial thoughts were that Jesus would miss around three months, all but ending his first Premier League season. Now, Jesus is hoping that he’ll be able to pick up where he left off prior to the devastating injury.

“It’s good,” Jesus said on his road to recovery. “Thank God, the effort, not just mine, but from all the physiotherapists in Manchester, doctors and everyone. It was not easy for me.

“It’s my first injury. Not muscle injury, but it’s the first time something happens that leaves me out of games. So it was not easy.

“But I saw that, of course, no one wants this to happen, but it could be worse. So we operated soon, I decided to operate and give it time.”

In just his first four matches with Pep Guardiola‘s side, the young Brazilian netted three goals and even dethroned Sergio Aguero in the starting lineup.

CONCACAF chief Montagliani seeks World Cup entry for all co-hosts

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A joint-bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup is looking more and more possible, and CONCACAF chief Victor Montagliani believes that if that does happen then all co-hosts should be granted a spot in the tournament.

[ MORE: Making sense of USMNT’s emphatic win over Honduras ]

With FIFA president Gianni Infantino looking to finalize World Cup expansion plans from 32 to 48 teams over the coming weeks, it seems as though Montagliani’s hopes could become a reality for CONCACAF and other regions planning on creating multi-nation bids.

“I don’t think we should be dictating how a confederation allocates their slots from a hosting standpoint. That’s up to them,” Montagliani said.

FIFA will conduct its next meeting on Thursday when Infantino and all six confederation presidents meet in Zurich, Switzerland to decide on World Cup expansion, which Infantino has been adamant about since taking the reigns of soccer’s governing body.

2026 could play an important role for the United States, as it is seen as a critical piece in a joint-bid with Mexico and Canada to host the World Cup.

Additionally, Montagliani has hopes of making a combined Copa America with North and South America a permanent fixture after recently holding discussions with South America’s FIFA vice president Alejandro Dominguez.

[ MORE: Player ratings from Friday night’s massive USMNT victory ]

However, one area that would be left uncertain is the future of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which is currently held every two years.

“If that is the case and we get that done, then we have to have a serious look — is it really tenable to have a Gold Cup?” said Montagliani, whose FIFA stakeholders panel faces tough talks on adding and subtracting dates when clubs must release players on international dates.

“Do we really need it [the Gold Cup]?” he suggested. “Is it just clogging the calendar for the players?”

Lukaku coy on Everton future, says “decision has already been made”

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Romelu Lukaku has made it no secret that he hopes to play Champions League football, and reality may be setting in that the opportunity to do so won’t come at Everton.

[ MORE: Everton loses Coleman to leg break during Ireland match ]

While the Belgium international hasn’t dealt his hand in regards to his future at Goodison Park, it seems as though the Toffees could be losing out on keeping their star striker.

[ MORE: UEFA qualifying roundup — Wales in trouble, Buffon hits 1000 ]

Last month, agent Mino Raiola claimed that Lukaku’s deal with the English side was 99.9 percent complete, however, the 23-year-old has still yet to ink a new contract.

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s UEFA World Cup qualifier against Greece, Lukaku says that his future plans are already made up.

“The decision has already been made so I can’t talk about that,” Lukaku said of his future at Everton.

The former Anderlecht standout has had nothing but success since joining Everton, first on loan and then making a permanent transfer from Chelsea in 2014. Over the combined stints, Lukaku has bagged 83 goals in all competitions for the Toffees, but the young attacker says there’s nothing wrong with having “ambition.”

“There is nothing wrong with ambition. You have to embrace it and where you are as a footballer,” Lukaku said. “I’ve made a long way until now but the road is still long and I know I have to improve and get better. I want to help Everton as much as I can, as well as the national team. I think a lot of stuff can be achieved.

“Sometimes people will mistake things that I say but it’s just ambition that I have; I want to win titles and trophies and I don’t think people should take that as arrogance — people should embrace it.

“This is what footballers need to achieve if they want to become the best, and I think young kids need to learn that too.”