Liverpool v Crystal Palace - Premier League

Real Madrid line up audacious bid for Luis Suarez, throw Karim Benzema into mix

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After his stunning return to the Premier League following his 10-game ban at the tail end of last season, Luis Suarez’ stock in the transfer market has risen even higher over the last few weeks.

That may be a good thing for Liverpool… as according to various reports their star Uruguayan striker is still keen to leave the Anfield club and has his heart set on a dream move to Real Madrid.

Suarez, 26, repeatedly confirmed his wish to leave Liverpool over the summer as one of the longest transfer saga’s in recent PL history, and that’s saying something, played out with clubs such as Arsenal and Chelsea hovering and the former making a bid that was rejected for Liverpool’s prized possession.

But if Suarez continues to score, he’s bagged six in four PL games already after his sublime hat trick against West Brom on Saturday, can the Reds afford to not cash in on a want-away player now? Maybe, even if they don’t want to sell Suarez, the time is right.

(MORE: Liverpool 4-1 West Brom – Suarez hat trick sinks Baggies, video)

As talk about the January transfer window is already reverberating around clubs, media outlets and terraces across Europe, Suarez’ name will be on the lips of many as top European clubs circle to snap him up. Liverpool are desperate to keep their main man, and I’m sure that will still be the case if Brendan Rodgers’ side are challenging for the title come January time.

Yet if Real Madrid, who are eager to offload plenty of stars to stop crippling debts mounting up, were to offer one of Karim Benzema, Angel Di Maria and Sami Khedira, plus cash, for Suarez, that has to be hard to turn down?

From a business standpoint it may make sense, but in terms of the ambition of the club, it would reek of settling for second-best. If Liverpool want to become title-contenders again, Suarez needs to stay and American owner John W. Henry needs to keep firm in the brilliant stance he made over the summer by simply hanging a ‘not for sale’ sign around Suarez’ neck.

It worked, and proved the club now has the power in the situation and Suarez realizes he must keep performing on the pitch for the Reds if any massive move to Madrid will ever come off.

Rumors of Suarez leaving Anfield are about to start heating up again, and expect them to intensify between now and the end of January.

If Liverpool are serious about winning the title and making a splash in the PL, their firm stance of a ‘no sell’ must remain. Suarez’ goals and that cutting edge and ‘X-factor’ he provides up top will be the difference between Liverpool being in the top six or challenging for the PL crown. Their squad may not be quite strong enough to do the latter, but with Suarez’ on board they’ll be a damn good bet to finish in the top four.

WATCH: Walcott compares Wenger speech to Pacino

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What if Tony D’Amato of American football was Antoine Dumond of the world’s game?

Theo Walcott says Arsene Wenger inspired him to make that comparison after a recent pregame speech, a fiery number that convinced the Arsenal attacker how badly his manager wanted to win the Premier League.

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Speaking to Arsenal TV for a series of questions on former and current teammates — and Wenger — Walcott shared a pretty funny tidbit:

“The manager did a speech the other day. I won’t be able to do the speech because it was that good.”

“It genuinely reminded me of the film ‘Any Given Sunday’. I actually said that to him, and I was little bit embarrassed.’ You remind me of that film, that speech,’ I didn’t know if he had seen the film.

“Just showing the passion and how hard, and how long it’s been as well. He really wants it, like all of his players.”

Here’s the thing, though: Walcott doesn’t give us the answer as to whether Wenger has seen “Any Given Sunday”. And how about you, Theo, do you see yourself in Willie Beamon or Cap Rooney?

CAS rejects Serbia’s challenge to Kosovo joining UEFA

Supporters of Kosovo's national soccer team raise Kosovo flag during their international friendly soccer match at Adem Jashari Stadium in Mitrovica, Kosovo on Wednesday, May 21, 2014. Kosovo host Turkey for their second friendly match of the country's national football team. Turkey won the match 6-1. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) The Serbian soccer federation’s appeal against Kosovo joining UEFA has been rejected by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The court ruled that Kosovo met the standard of UEFA entry rules because it is “recognized by the majority of the United Nations member states as an `independent state.”‘

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Serbia argued that Kosovo, which joined European soccer’s governing body last May despite not being a U.N. member, should be blocked.

CAS decided that because “there is no formal recognition of countries by the U.N.,” then acceptance of Kosovo’s statehood by most countries was valid for the soccer application.

European soccer federations voted 28-24 in favor of Kosovo’s entry to UEFA after Serbia led opposition to its former province.

Serbia and its allies, including Russia, have not recognized Kosovo since the Balkan republic declared independence in 2008.

UEFA’s decision led to Kosovo joining FIFA one week later, and being fast-tracked into a 2018 World Cup qualifying group.

Still, Ukraine hosted Kosovo in neutral Poland in October, because its government also does not recognize Kosovo’s statehood.

Dempsey returns to training after second heart procedure

SAN JOSE, CA - JULY 28:  Clint Dempsey #2 of MLS All-Stars chases after the ball up field against the Arsenal FC during the second half of the AT&T MLS All-Star Game at Avaya Stadium on July 28, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
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Many were concerned about USMNT and Seattle Sounders attacker Clint Dempsey‘s future when he underwent a pair of heart procedures in 2016.

The 33-year-old Dempsey took another step to allay those fears when he hit the pitch for Seattle’s first day of preseason camp.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

The Sounders won the 2016 MLS Cup despite the absence of Dempsey, and his return would further strengthen the side. General manager Garth Lagerwey said Dempsey won’t be rushed, but could be nearing a return.

EFL Cup second legs preview: Liverpool, Hull City aim for comebacks

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11:  Divock Origi of Liverpool battles with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (L) and Ryan Bertrand of Southampton during the EFL Cup semi-final first leg match between Southampton and Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium on January 11, 2017 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images
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Manchester United and Southampton are 90 minutes from Wembley Stadium.

Hull City and Liverpool would prefer to change that.

After first legs a fortnight ago, the EFL Cup semifinals play out on Wednesday and Thursday ahead of Feb. 26’s final at Wembley.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

First up is Southampton‘s trip to Liverpool, with the Saints nursing a 1-0 lead from the first leg at St. Mary’s. The Wednesday kickoff sees Saints hoping the Reds’ poor run of form will continue at Anfield. Liverpool has one win 2017, and that was an FA Cup replay victory over Plymouth Argyle.

Southampton boss Claude Puel knows the Reds will be ornery:

“We know Liverpool. They lost against Swansea at home, and I am sure they will want to react against us, but it’s important to keep all of our focus about our play.

“We know they are fantastic, a great team, with great players, but you saw in the first leg we have the ability to produce a strong game against them. It will be important to make a strong game – a perfect game – I think.”

Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United got a terrific result in the first leg at Old Trafford, scoring twice and holding Hull City from scooping up a valuable road goal. Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini scored the goals in the 2-0 win, but the KC Stadium will be rocking on Thursday as the Tigers look to reverse the result.

United midfielder Michael Carrick says the Red Devils will play as if they are starting from scratch:

“It’s definitely not over, we all know that. We are telling ourselves that. I think we’ll be pretty much full strength and will approach the game like it’s a 0-0 and starting from scratch.

“It’s dangerous when you go in there defending a lead to tell yourself this result will do or that result will do, or we can afford to do this or that.”