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The Bundesliga weekend so far: Dortmund, Bayern and Bayer all win

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The Bundesliga is always good for a few goals, and with two matches left to play this weekend, we’ve already seen 26 find the back of the net. The biggest culprits? Dortmund, who were clearly preparing for their midweek Champions League fixture by putting five past relegation-ready Freiburg. Bayern, meanwhile, took it easy, gently playing their way to a 1-0 win over Wolfsburg. Bayer Leverkusen are still lurking close behind, their 2-0 win over Hannover keeping them within a point of the league leaders.

Friday

Augsburg 2-2 Borussia Mönchengladbach

It seemed as though Gladbach were going to come from behind and take all three points on Friday evening. André Hahn had put the hosts ahead in the 27th minute, but Gladbach equalized just five minutes later, off a goal from Max Kruse, his fourth of the season. Branimir Hrgota, on for just three minutes, put the visitors ahead in the 71st minute. But Augsburg came back with their own game-changing substitution, and Arkadiusz Milik grabbed the equalizer in the 88th minute. That leaves both sides even on points, although Gladbach have a better goal difference.

Saturday

Hoffenheim 3-3 Schalke

Schalke are clearly stretched thin, with the squad unable to cope with the demands of the Bundesliga, Champions League and Cup play. They currently sit 13th in the table, while Sunday’s results could push them even lower. But their missteps certainly lead to fun games. Schalke led 3-1 at the break, thanks to goals from Kevin-Prince Boateng, Joel Matip and Marco Höger. Hoffeinheim added to Anthony Modeste’s first half goal with a penalty conversion by Roberto Firmino, and further componded Schalke’s woes with a goal from David Abraham around the hour mark. The visitors seemed too stung to fight back, although Jens Keller’s late substitutions prompted a flurry of attempts in the dying minutes of the match.

Bayern Munich 1-0 Wolfsburg

You’d think, when one of the top sides in the league comes out to play, you might see an exciting, interesting or intriguing match. Not so much here, as Bayern kept the majority of the possession but rarely made any real threats. Their single goal came courtesy of Thomas Müller in the 63rd minute. Perhaps Pep Guardiola simply told his boys to set the cruise control and ride it out, with an eye ahead to the midweek match against Manchester City.

Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 Hannover 

Leverkusen had their win before they’d reached the 40th minute, thanks to goals from Simon Rolfes and Sidney Sam. Hannover may be in third but they’re six points behind Bayer, and this match showed the gap in quality. Apart from a flurry of shots just before the halftime break, it was Bayer that controlled the match, continuing to press for a third even after it was clear they’d collect all three points. The win keeps Bayer just a point below league leaders Dortmund and Bayern.

Hertha Berlin 3-1 Mainz

It’s not often you see a freshly promoted side challenging for Europe — at least, not after the first couple weeks — but after seven rounds, Hertha Berlin are in fifth, a mere point behind Hannover. It was actually Mainz that took the lead, through Nicolai Müller (who, impressively, found himself carded for a foul on Hajime Hosogai before the first minute was up), but a second half brace from Sami Allagui put Hertha in front. Allagui’s second was followed immediately by a goal from Änis Ben-Hatira, after which the hosts settled down, content with three goals and three points.

Borussia Dortmund 5-0 Freiburg

Champions League match? What Champions League match? Jurgen Klopp’s side looked absolutely unafraid of wearing themselves out before the midweek clash with Marseille. It helped, of course, that poor Freiburg were down to ten men by the time the halftime whistle blew, with Fallou Diagne sent off for a foul on Robert Lewandowski. Marco Reus took the resulting penalty, giving himself a brace in the first half.  Lewandowski put himself on the board with his own brace in the second half, and Jakub Blaszczykowski added the final goal with ten minutes to spare. Freiburg are left languishing in the relegation zone, with just three points thus far.

Eintracht Frankfurt 2-2 Hamburg

Hamburg pulled off a late draw against Eintracht, earning themselves a massive point in the process, a point that lifts them out of the drop zone — barring, of course, a shock victory by Nurnberg against Werder Bremen on Sunday.  Johannes Flum gave the hosts the lead, but Pierre-Michel Lasogga equalized for Hamburg just before the interval. Marco Russ reinstated Eintracht’s lead before the hour was up, and the hosts must’ve thought they were cruising to all three points until Marcell Jansen scored with five minutes left to play.

Still to come

Werder Bremen vs. Nurnberg

Braunschweig vs. Stuttgart

How important is Philippe Coutinho to Liverpool?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24:  Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool scores their fourth goal during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Hull City at Anfield on September 24, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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With reports circulating that Philippe Coutinho‘s agent is in talks with Liverpool over a new deal, it is easy to see why the Reds want to reward the Brazilian playmaker.

[ MORE: Klopp on title chances

Coutinho, 24, is undoubtedly the key cog in Jurgen Klopp‘s offensive machine and since he went down with an ankle injury in November against Sunderland they’ve missed him being back to his best.

In the nine games since Coutinho was injured Liverpool have dropped 12 points in the Premier League. In the 13 PL games before his injury they dropped just nine.

Now, this isn’t down to one man but there’s no coincidence here. He makes Liverpool tick and as good as Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino have been, Coutinho is the main man. Even when you look at Liverpool’s defensive record, their much-maligned backline is slightly better with Coutinho in the team. They conceded 14 goals in 13 games before he was injured and they’ve conceded 13 in their last nine games.

Maybe that’s because Coutinho takes the pressure off his teammates by getting on the ball, dipping between the lines of defense and attack and easing pressure to allow Liverpool to dominant play rather than seeing them susceptible to counter attacks like we did against Swansea City.

Klopp’s main man started at Plymouth last week and against Swansea at the weekend, playing over an hour in each game and showing flashes of his ability. Slowly but surely he is getting back to his best and Liverpool need him to be fully fit for a pivotal stretch of games.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

On Wednesday they host Southampton in the EFL Cup semifinal second leg as the Reds trail 1-0 from the first leg. They then play an FA Cup game against second-tier Wolves and host Premier League leaders Chelsea next Wednesday in a game which they simply must win to have any hope of overhauling Chelsea to win the Premier League title.

Top four is the priority for Klopp’s men but keeping Coutinho fit and in-form is a close second.

This season he has scored five goals and added five assists in just 13 starts in the Premier League and Coutinho’s ability to thread balls in-behind to onrushing attackers, always seem to have time on the ball and ability to change the direction of play has been much missed by Liverpool over the past two months. It is inevitable that in recent displays Coutinho hasn’t looked as sharp as he did before he got injured but Klopp will be hoping the rust has been shaken off and he’s back to his best in the next week.

Along with Sadio Mane‘s absence at the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal (which will likely be until the first week of February at least as he led them to the knockout stages) Liverpool’s attack looks less dangerous and that extra bit of quality and pace is missing.

That’s because Mane and Coutinho have been missing.

With Mane away, more pressure is now on Coutinho’s shoulders.

Last season was Coutinho’s most productive of his career with 10 goals and seven assists in all competitions. He is well on the way to breaking that record this season based on goals and assists in the Premier League alone.

If Liverpool is going to at least finish in the top four this season and make at least one Wembley final, they have to keep calm and pass it to Coutinho.

He’ll do the rest.

Yaya Toure slams big money moves to China

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 21:  Yaya Toure of Manchester City looks on during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between Manchester City and Sevilla at Etihad Stadium on October 21, 2015 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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Yaya Toure is sick of hearing about players moving to the Chinese Super League for big money.

[ PLAYBACK: Ref calls cost Man City ]

Toure, 33, is out of contract at the Etihad Stadium this summer but after coming back into the fold at Manchester City in recent weeks (thanks to an apology from his agent to manager Pep Guardiola) he has been a key cog in central midfield and wants to stay at City.

The towering Ivorian midfielder has been instrumental since joining City in 2010 from Barcelona. Toure has won the FA Cup, two League Cups and two Premier League titles with City and has questioned what means more to players.

Money or enjoyment?

“I always say that if I went to China I would end up feeling angry there. Do you play football because you love football, or do you play because you want to make money? What’s the purpose?” Toure said. “Me, I just want to play football because I enjoy it, I love playing. I enjoy helping my team-mates, I enjoy playing against the big players and teams. I want to carry on in that way. Some people have the mentality that they want to do that, to try something different but, for me, my feeling is that I want to play more football.”

Toure also said that he hopes to remain at City beyond the end of his current deal which expires in the summer.

“I’ve said before that I’ve been involved with a lot of clubs but, especially at City, I want to give something back to the fans,” Toure said. “I’d like to continue to work hard for them, keep giving them entertainment, keep them happy – that’s what I want. If I was tired, I’d say ‘no more, move on’, but I don’t feel like that. I feel very, very good. I feel young.”

Over to you Pep and Man City. Toure clearly wants to say.

Toure certainly has a lot more to give and now that Pep is on board, a two-year extension would surely be signed if it was offered.

The song below becomes more and more poignant. All together now…

Hull give latest update on Ryan Mason after skull fracture

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 22:  Ryan Mason of Hull City is examined by a medical staff after the collision with Gary Cahill of Chelsea during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Hull City at Stamford Bridge on January 22, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
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Ryan Mason is making “excellent progress” after fracturing his skull in Hull City’s 2-0 defeat at Chelsea on Sunday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

Mason, 25, collided with Chelsea’s Gary Cahill when challenging for a header in the first half.

The English midfielder has since been diagnosed with a fracture in his skull and has undergone surgery at a central London hospital

On Tuesday the Premier League club gave the latest update on Mason’s condition.

The Club can confirm that Ryan Mason continues to make excellent progress after sustaining a skull fracture in Sunday’s game against Chelsea. He will continue to be closely monitored by staff at St Mary’s Hospital over the next few days, whilst also remaining in contact with our medical team to assess his progress. There will be no further updates from the club until there are any changes in Ryan’s condition. We also ask that people respect Ryan and his family’s privacy whilst he remains in hospital.

Mason has been visited in hospital by Chelsea’s John Terry, Gary Cahill and assistant manager Steve Holland, plus Hull captain Michael Dawson and members of their staff have also been by his side.

This is very promising news.

Sunderland sign Lescott on short-term deal

WATFORD, ENGLAND - APRIL 30:  Joleon Lescott of Aston Villa reacts during the Barclays Premier League match between Watford and Aston Villa at Vicarage Road on April 30, 2016 in Watford, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Sunderland have signed defender Joleon Lescott on a short-term contract until the end of the season.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Lescott, 34, will add plenty of experience to Sunderland’s defense and will link up with former manager David Moyes who helped him become an England international during their time together at Everton from 2006-09.

The two-time Premier League winner with Manchester City in 2011-12 and 2013-14 has bounced around in the past two years since leaving the Manchester club, playing for West Bromwich Albion, Aston Villa and AEK Athens after spending five years at City.

Lescott has also made 26 appearances for England, playing and scoring at EURO 2012 as his header put England ahead against France in their group opener.

Speaking about the deal, see the video below, Lescott is ready to help out the Black Cats in whatever way he can.

With Lamine Kone, John O'Shea and Papy Djilobodji around, Moyes now has options at the back and could play a three-man central defense to help bolster Sunderland’s chances of survival.

The Black Cats currently sit bottom of the table, three points from safety.