Premier League Preview: Liverpool vs. Southampton

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  • Daniel Sturridge became the first Liverpool player in club history to score in the four opening games of the season
  • Southampton have allowed just nine shots on goal this season, fewer than any other PL team
  • The last five meetings between these two teams have all been won by the home side

On Saturday table toppers Liverpool welcome Southampton to Anfield (10am ET, watch live on NBCSN or online via NBC Sports Live Extra) with the Reds aiming to extend their lead at the top of the standings.

Brendan Rodgers’ side have had a superb start to the Premier League season, winning three of their first four games and still remain unbeaten, and the Reds will see the visit of goal-shy Southampton as the perfect fixture to help keep their momentum going.

However, the Saints were the last team to beat Liverpool back in March last season but since the 3-1 defeat at St. Mary’s the Merseysiders have gone unbeaten in 12 PL games.

Both sides have been extremely solid this season and Pochettino’s Southampton have the second-highest amount of possession per game in the league (59.1%) but have failed to score from open play this season so far.

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The Saints are struggling for goals… can they turn that around against Liverpool?

As for Liverpool, some defensive frailties were exposed against Swansea City on Monday night, as the Reds left the Liberty Stadium with a hard-fought point following the 2-2 draw.

Some negatives came out of that deserved point though, with Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho out for a while as he needs shoulder surgery following a nasty fall in the second half. Huge loss for Liverpool.

Southampton’s England international striker Rickie Lambert will be coming up against the team he supported as a boy… can the Liverpudlian get the Saints going in the hostile atmosphere at Anfield?

On the injury front, Liverpool defender Daniel Agger should return after missing the game against Swansea with a side strain, while we already mentioned Coutinho’s absence. For Southampton there are no fresh injury worries, as Luke Shaw has shaken off the knock he picked up against West Ham.

What they’re saying

Liverpool’s first-team coach Mike Marsh on Southampton: “We’re expecting a tough test – they are a really good side. We went to Southampton just after New Year and were beaten comfortably. We’re expecting a tough game against a good team. It will be important to be patient. We’d like to get off to a good start, to try to settle the nerves. But, like we do in every game, if the goals don’t come early we like to control the game and keep hold of the ball. There’s 90 minutes to score a goal. We understand that teams have traditionally come here, sat in and made it difficult for us. We will have to be patient and we understand that.”

Mauricio Pochettino on Southampton’s goal-shy start: “I’m not worried about it. My main concern is that the team keeps growing and the players keep understanding each other. We have had many good chances, such as in the game against West Ham, so it is not something that worries me. What really worries me is that we keep growing and keep improving and get the three points from every single game we play in. On the defensive side we need to improve also, we need to find the right balance between the two.”

Southampton midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin: “Of course it’s an issue because we can’t win games at the moment, but we have very good players and it’s not like we didn’t create anything [on Sunday]. It’s just a matter of time. The only worry is if we didn’t create anything. You can always say ‘I should have done better’, but all credit to their keeper, he made some very good saves. It’s very hard to take, but that’s football and fair play to him, and now it’s just up to us to score goals.”

Prediction

Given the recent form of both teams, you have to plump for a comfortable home win. Liverpool used last seasons defeat to Southampton as a massive wake up call, and are unbeaten in the league ever since that resounding 3-1 win for the Saints. On Saturday at Anfield they will have to break down a stubborn defense, but with Sturridge red-hot and a chance to extend their lead at the top, expect Liverpool to comfortably beat Southampton.

Dempsey, Sounders steal a point on wild night in Portland

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The game in 100 words (or less): An entire game can change in the blink of an eye. For the Seattle Sounders, that blink came in the 44th minute of Sunday’s 2-2 draw with the Portland Timbers. Up 1-0 by way of Joevin Jones’ opener in the 27th minute, the defending MLS Cup champs were poised to head into halftime with a one-goal advantage and every belief imaginable that they’d been the better team for the entire first half. Blink. Brad Evans wrapped his legs around Darlington Nagbe, giving away a penalty and earning himself a red card, just like that, in the blink of an eye. Fanendo Adi stepped up to convert from the spot, but it still was to be a hard-fought 1-1 scoreline from Seattle’s perspective. Then, Dairon Asprilla got loose, completely unmarked atop the six-yard box, on a corner kick, and it was 2-1 after four minutes of first-half stoppage time. 45 more minutes pass, and the Timbers… blink. Clint Dempsey, 34 years old but fresh off the bench 40 minutes earlier, out-leaps everyone in the box and heads past Jake Gleeson to steal a point for Seattle.

[ MORE: San Jose fire Kinnear after 2.5 seasons ]

Three Four moments that mattered

27′ — Jones gets two chances, puts the second away — It’s a classic case of “I dropped my controller” from Alvas Powell, who just stops as Jones cuts across the penalty area. There’s no reason Jones should get a second look on this one.

44′ — Evans brings down Nagbe in the box, sees red — Goodbye, lead. Goodbye 11 versus 11. Things would unravel very quickly for Seattle.

45+4′ — Asprilla rises above to make it 2-1 — Seattle’s marking of Asprilla was nonexistent, and the Colombian showed off some serious hops to get his head to David Guzman’s corner kick.

90+4′ — Dempsey heads home deep in stoppage time — A costly turnover by Asprilla, a hit-it-and-pray cross by Roman Torres, and Dempsey snatches a point at the death.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Cristian Roldan

Goalscorers: Jones (27′), Adi (45′ – PK), Asprilla (45+4′), Dempsey (90+4′)

Russia has reasons for optimism despite Confed Cup exit

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MOSCOW (AP) When the anger subsides after another group stage exit and another goalkeeping blunder, Russian fans might find they can be proud of their team at the Confederations Cup.

Russia failed to reach the knockout rounds of a fourth major tournament in a row, but there’s no shame in losing by one goal to European champion Portugal and North American champion Mexico.

“We will move on,” coach Stanislav Cherchesov said after Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Mexico. “We have won (the fans’) hearts and minds to a certain extent in this month that we have been together … I think that we have given some reasons to feel optimistic about us.”

If Russia’s fans agreed with Cherchesov that Russia had done well to limit Portugal to a single Cristiano Ronaldo goal, there was frustration that Russia hadn’t done better against a poor Mexican side.

Russia wasted chances to exploit Mexico’s ragged defending and add to Alexander Samedov’s opener, while goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev performed an inexplicable lunge which allowed Hirving Lozano to head in the winner. Akinfeev was lucky not to be red-carded, too, after his foot caught Lozano in the chest.

Akinfeev was the immediate scapegoat for Russia’s exit, with fans and newspapers calling for his removal.

The most-capped player in the squad – the Mexico game was his 101st international appearance – Akinfeev’s bulletproof consistency in the Russian Premier League has kept him the undisputed national-team No. 1 for years.

When the world is watching, though, he gets flustered and makes mistakes.

Against South Korea at the 2014 World Cup, an innocuous long shot slipped from his grasp and went in, paving the way for another early Russian exit from the tournament. There have been more than a few blunders in the 43 games since Akinfeev last kept a clean sheet for CSKA in the Champions League, too.

But it’s hard to see who could replace him. The naturalized Brazilian reserve keeper Guilheme is agile but injury prone, while Vladimir Gabulov is a solid but unspectacular veteran. Zenit St. Petersburg’s Yuri Lodygin challenged Akinfeev for a while, but was brought low by his own tendency for embarrassing errors.

On the positive side for Russia, defender Georgy Dzhikiya was solid in all three group games after having only made his debut on June 5, and Cherchesov’s three-man back line was mostly reliable.

Less successful was Cherchesov’s attempt to bolster the midfield by starting Roman Shishkin – usually a defender – in a defensive midfield role against Portugal and Mexico, while 33-year-old ex-Chelsea winger Yuri Zhirkov did his World Cup hopes no favors with a red card Saturday.

Russia’s run of injuries before the tournament weakened the midfield in particular, with Alan Dzagoev and the promising Roman Zobnin both missing out. Forward Artyom Dzyuba’s absence left Cherchesov relying heavily on Fyodor Smolov, who showed touches of class but missed a good chance against Portugal.

Perhaps the biggest damage from Russia’s Confederations Cup exit will be to Russian pride.

Officials have often bragged that the home advantage for next year’s World Cup could drive Russia to new heights, perhaps a repeat of South Korea’s charge to the semifinals in 2002. Those expectations are now being reviewed.

Just one World Cup host in history – South Africa in 2010 – has failed to get out of the group stage. Avoiding a repeat may be the most Russia can hope for.

FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers host Sounders in PNW showdown

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They don’t get much bigger, or more heated, than this one in MLS — it’s Portland versus Seattle, the Timbers versus the Sounders, tonight at Providence Park (10 p.m. ET).

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers vs. Sounders ]

To keep up-to-the-second informed on proceedings in Portland this evening, hit the above link, or click right here.

Seattle won the first meeting between these sides, 1-0 back on May 27, on their home turf at CenturyLink Field. Cristian Roldan, who’ll depart for U.S. national team camp following Sunday’s game, scored the only goal that afternoon in Seattle, a 4th-minute header from three yards out.

Mustafi: Arsenal players powerless, hope “brilliant” Sanchez will stay

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Shkodran Mustafi admits that he, along with his Arsenal teammates, feels helpless with over the ongoing transfer saga of Alexis Sanchez.

[ MORE: Sunday’s transfer rumor roundup | Saturday | Friday ]

The Chilean superstar is linked with a move away from Arsenal this summer, as the Gunners fell out of the Premier League’s top-four and the 28-year-old’s contract is set to expire next summer. Perhaps most importantly, Sanchez hasn’t so much as publicly stated a desire to remain at the club, which, from the outside, appears to have left his future in even greater doubt.

Mustafi admits he hasn’t a clue how things will shake out in the coming weeks, but he’s quick with a pleading sales pitch for Sanchez to stay — quotes from Goal.com:

“I have no idea. Obviously the other players cannot make that decision, he has to make that decision.

“I’m not too much involved. I hope he stays because he is a really brilliant football player but there’s nothing in my hands that I can do.”

[ MORE: De Boer set to be named new Crystal Palace boss ]

Arsenal would likely have to double (if not more) Sanchez’s current $180,000 weekly wages in order to convince him to forego a season in the UEFA Champions League and commit his long-term future to a club presently trending in the wrong direction.