Champions League “dream” fuels Luis Suarez’s decision to stay at Liverpool – Can he deliver?

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After signing his new lucrative long-term deal, Luis Suarez has given us a little bit of insight as to why he dedicated his future to Liverpool Football Club.

The Uruguayan superstar, who leads the Premier League in goals with 17 in 11 games, extended his stay at Anfield following intense speculation over the last six months that his future would lie elsewhere.

Suarez, 26, is aiming to lead the Merseyside outfit back to success domestically and, most importantly, get back into the Champions League for the first-time since the 2008-09 season.

“The first dream for me is to play in the Champions League with Liverpool,” Suarez said. “It’s my hope and my dream. I think when we have very good players, we can try our best at the Premier League. I think if we stay at this level, we can fight with other teams at the top of the table.”

With Suarez on board for the foreseeable future, you have to think finishing in the top four of the PL is a hugely reachable target for Brendan Rodgers’ men. Having him around will attract better players, force stars like Phillipe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge and others to stick around plus his incredible goal ratio will give the Reds a chance of success every single season.

But will the intense pressure heaped on Suarez’s shoulders be too much for him to handle? I doubt it.

(MORE: Luis Suarez signs new long-term deal at Liverpool)

Suarez is one of the most driven individuals to ever play in the PL. The way he leaves every ounce of effort out on the pitch during every game means Liverpool’s fans idolize him, plus the fact that he’s a fantastic talent that can score goals of any kind from anywhere on the pitch adds to his legendary status. His appetite for success will drive his teammates on to strive to get better and when Suarez is on form, Liverpool have been almost unplayable at times this season.

And it is the year that provides the Reds with their best chance in many years to crack the top four once again.

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Luis Suarez has been in terrific form this campaign, scoring sensational goals and plenty of them. Can he lead Liverpool to success in Europe?

With so much uncertainty in and around the upper echelons of the PL standings, Suarez’ huge goal haul has helped his side stay in touch with league leaders Arsenal and they have a chance to go top, albeit temporarily, with a win over Cardiff at Anfield on Saturday. Their pint-sized Uruguayan terror is relentless and is hungry to give something back to the fans, club and city that supported him when he went through an extremely tough spell over the summer.

Banned by the English FA for 10-games after biting Branislav Ivanovic at the end of the 2012-13 season, Suarez said he wanted to leave Liverpool. But the attitude of the fans persuaded him to stay, and that same love and affection now sees him extending his contract for many years to come.

“I like the city; I love the city and the supporters. They help me and I try my best on the pitch for them,” Suarez said. “The summer was a difficult time, but they helped me to come back and play. And I think that when the supporters help you off the pitch, you try your best on the pitch and try to produce fantastic work on the field, so that they are happy.”

Suarez and Liverpool’s fans share the same dream: to make it back to the Champions League.

Liverpool have won that famous trophy five times and with Suarez on board firing on all cylinders, he dreams of adding more UCL and PL titles to one of England’s most successful ever teams.

Podolski goal powers Vissel Kobe to 1st win in J-League

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KOBE, Japan (AP) German striker Lukas Podolski scored late in the second half on Sunday as Vissel Kobe beat Cerezo Osaka 2-0 for its first win of the J-League season.

Naoyuki Fujita gave the hosts a 1-0 lead in the 33rd minute and Podolski secured the win on a left-foot shot with eight minutes remaining in regulation.

It was the first goal of the season for Podolski, who last year moved from Turkish club Galatasaray after signing a deal with Kobe estimated to be worth $5.3 million.

Elsewhere, Thai midfielder Chanathip Songkrasin scored late in stoppage time to lift Consadole Sapporo to a 2-1 win over V-Varen Nagasaki.

Takuma Abe scored midway through the second half to give Vegalta Sendai a share of the points in a 1-1 draw with Shimizu S-Pulse, while Diego Oliveira scored his first goal of the season as FC Tokyo beat Shonan Bellmare 1-0.

Mu Kanazaki scored the only goal as Kashima Antlers beat Sagan Tosu 1-0, Gamba Osaka and Kashiwa Reysol finished 2-2 and Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Jubilo Iwata ended in a goalless draw.

LIVE, FA Cup: Leicester v. Chelsea

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Leicester City host Chelsea at the King Power Stadium on Sunday (12:30 p.m. ET) in an FA Cup quarterfinal clash between two Premier League clubs.

[ LIVE: Leicester v. Chelsea ]

Claude Puel has Leicester in eighth in the Premier League table and the Foxes can smell an upset with Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez in fine form.

Chelsea have had a long week with Antonio Conte‘s men going to Barcelona and being taught a lesson by Lionel Messi as they crashed out of the UEFA Champions League but played well apart from Messi’s heroics. Conte’s admission that he doesn’t see the FA Cup as being too important may give Leicester an extra boost.

In team news Leicester start Kelechi Iheanacho up top after his fine display off the bench last week, while Chelsea are pretty much at full strength with Cesc Fabregas dropped, Thibaut Courtois rested and Alvaro Morata starting up top.


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Hughes defiant after debut win as Saints boss

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Mark Hughes got off to the perfect start at Southampton as the new manager led his team to the FA Cup semifinals.

Saints beat third-tier Wigan 2-0 at the DW Stadium on Sunday to reach the last four of the FA Cup for the first time in 15 years. They are in the relegation zone in the Premier League but are two points from safety with a game in hand.

Second half goals from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Cedric did the job for Southampton as Hughes’ side weathered and early Wigan storm. Speaking to the BBC after the game, Hughes, who was sacked by Stoke in January, was in a defiant mood.

“People have questioned this group before I arrived and maybe questioned my appointment as well. It is only a start but a statement of intent,” Hughes said. “We have work to do in the Premier League but we will enjoy this moment. A Wembley semifinal which will be a great experience for our fans.”

Hughes’ side did what Bournemouth, West Ham and Manchester City couldn’t in knocking Wigan out of the FA Cup as Paul Cook’s team fairytale run was ended.

In truth Saints could’ve won by a more comfortable scoreline in the second half as Manolo Gabbiadini had a penalty kick brilliantly saved by Christian Walton, but given Wigan’s dominance in the first half, 2-0 was a fine result. Saints looked more dangerous in a 4-4-2 formation and Hughes knows there is plenty more work to do but confidence will perhaps grow with a trip to Wembley coming up.

When it comes to Hughes’ future at Saints he only has a deal until the end of this season. He has eight games to turn their fortunes around following Mauricio Pellegrino‘s firing earlier this week after just five wins in 30 PL games this season.

It appears that Hughes believes he can not only get the Saints out of trouble but also make some waves in the FA Cup semifinals at Wembley next month.

“It has been a difficult week for the guys,” Hughes said. “I am really pleased with the amount of talent I have to work with with this group.”

Southampton beat Wigan, reach FA Cup semis

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  • Wigan’s fairytale ended
  • Hojbjerg, Cedric score first Saints goals
  • Saints reach FA Cup semifinal for first time since 2003
  • Gabbiadini’s penalty kick saved

Southampton beat third-tier Wigan Atheltic 2-0 at the DW Stadium on Sunday as Mark Hughes‘ first game in charge ended in a victory in the FA Cup quarterfinal.

Saints were second best in the first half but Wigan spurned several chances, while Southampton went ahead via Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg‘s first goal for the club as he finished well from a corner.

Christian Walton then saved Manolo Gabbiadini‘s penalty kick brilliantly but a late goal from Cedric Soares sent Saints into their first FA Cup semifinal since 2003.

For Wigan, their fairytale run is over as they knocked out Bournemouth, West Ham and Manchester City to reach the last eight.

Wigan started well enough as the Latics settled into the game on a difficult surface. Southampton caused some problems for Wigan goalkeeper Walton who dropped a cross but Guido Carrillo couldn’t make the most of it.

Will Grigg then raced clear after a rapid counter from Wigan and his shot was deflected wide with Southampton caught out. Soon after another deflected shot found Cheyenne Dunkley in the box but he couldn’t get anything on the ball with the goal gaping. A massive chance for Wigan.

Gary Roberts then had another great chance for Wigan as a loose ball found him in the box but he looped his effort over the bar. The Latics continued to look the better team and took the game to Saints with 10 corner kicks, as Max Power’s corner almost crept in at the near post.

Jacobs curled a shot just over after half time as Wigan threatened but Southampton improved. Sofiane Boufal curled a free kick onto the top of the net and then Gabbiadini had a glorious chance.

Dan Byrne accidentally played in Southampton’s Italian striker and 10-yards out he only had to beat Walton but Wigan’s goalkeeper produced a fine stop.

Walton denied Hojbjerg’s header soon after as Saints cranked up the pressure and from the resulting corner they took the lead.

Dusan Tadic‘s corner found Hojbjerg and he finished well to score his first goal for the club and the first of Hughes’ reign.

Southampton should have sealed it late on as Gabbiadini was brought down in the box but his penalty kick was superbly saved by Walton to keep the score at 1-0.

Wigan threw everything at Saints late on as Noel Hunt almost equalised but the visitors broke and sealed the game.

Nathan Redmond released Cedric and the right back, in the left wing position, ran free and finished superbly to make it 2-0 and send Saints to Wembley.