Liverpool 3-1 Cardiff City: Yet another side undone by Luis Suárez (video)

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Things have gone from bad to worse for Malky Mackay. His Cardiff City have just notched their fourth loss in five matches and could very well find themselves down in 17th by the time the weekend is over. However, it seems unfair that the Bluebirds’ boss could see his final undoing at the feet of Luis Suárez, considering the Liverpool star’s amazing form at the moment.

The match started off brightly enough for the visitors, with Cardiff putting plenty of pressure on Liverpool. They launched their attacks down the right, targeting Joe Flannagan, and in the 15th minute, Craig Noone forced a great save from Simon Mignolet. The Bluebirds could be forgiven for thinking they just might get something from this trip to Anfield.

And then, in the 25th minute, Suárez struck. Jordan Henderson looped the ball over the head of a cluster of blue shirts, and Suárez had no trouble catching it on the volley. He fired it into the bottom left corner, giving David Marshall no chance.

But the Uruguayan was only just getting started. Liverpool took advantage of Cardiff pressing forward and, on a fast break, Suárez easily outstripped the defense. He got on the end of another ball from Henderson and, with only one blue shirt standing in the way, Suárez unselfishly slipped the ball over to an on-rushing Raheem Sterling, who had no problem slotting home.

Just three minutes later, Suárez had his second goal, his 19th of the season. A back and forth with Henderson resulted in a cheeky little backheel from the midfielder. Suárez hesitated not at all, letting his shot fly from the edge of the area, the strike curling out of Marshall’s reach and into the top corner.

Cardiff did manage to make things just a bit interesting, however. Before the hour was up, the visitors pulled one back. Glen Johnson fouled Frazier Campbell, on for Gary Medel not three minutes earlier. Peter Whittingham sent in the free kick and, unbelievably, no one was marking Jordan Mutch. The big man had no problem putting a strong header past Simon Mignolet.

Suárez did his very best to secure a hat trick — and to put himself at 20 goals in 12 games. He very nearly grabbed his third in the 90th minute, but Marshall managed to trap the ball between his legs. Instead, Suárez will have to wait until next week to see if he’ll manage to get 20 goals before 2014.

LINEUPS

Liverpool: Mignolet, Johnson, Flanagan (Kelly 55), Skrtel, Sakho, Lucas, Allen, Henderson, Coutinho (Agger 83), Sterling, Suárez

Goals: Suárez 25′, Sterling 42′, Suárez 45′

Cardiff City: Marshall, Theophile-Catherine, Taylor, Medel (Campbell 55), Caulker, Turner, Odemwingie (Kim 55), Mutch, Gunnarsson (Cornelius 80), Whittingham, Noone

Goals: Mutch 58′

Wenger, Kroenke meet; Arsenal board will be told decision Tues.

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Wenger watch is entering its final hours.

The BBC is reporting that Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke met with longtime manager Arsene Wenger on Monday to discuss the Frenchman’s future, and that the decision was going to be made together.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

It seems almost certain that Wenger is going to come back to the Emirates Stadium. From the BBC:

The outcome is unclear but the decision rests solely with Wenger and Kroenke and will be relayed to directors at a Tuesday board meeting.

Fresh terms were agreed in principle some months ago, but nothing is signed.

There have been questions about whether Wenger would accept a sporting director being placed above him, and if Kroenke believes the repercussions of keeping the boss would negatively impact the business.

Barcelona to keep goalkeeper Ter Stegen until 2022

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says it has reached a deal to extend the contract of goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen until June 2022.

The club said the new agreement, which has a buyout clause of 180 million euros ($201 million), will be signed on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Yaya to stay at Man City ]

Ter Stegen has been with the club since 2014, helping it win nine titles in three seasons.

The German goalkeeper has played 93 matches with Barcelona, conceding 90 goals in 71 wins, 10 draws and 12 losses.

Barcelona has already renewed the contracts of Javier Mascherano, Luis Suarez, Neymar, Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic. It is still working on new deals for Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi.

Report: Wenger ready to pay Ozil, Sanchez club record deals

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Arsenal knows its departure from the UEFA Champions League has to be a short one, and that keeping its two best attackers around is imperative.

That’s why Arsene Wenger is preparing to make Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez the top paid players in Arsenal history, according to a report from The Telegraph’s Jeremy Wilson.

The contract status of both players has been a touchy one this season, and Sanchez especially has been linked with some of the biggest clubs in Europe (including London neighbors Chelsea).

[ MORE: Yaya to stay at Man City ]

But perhaps the Gunners’ FA Cup triumph over Chelsea has Ozil and Sanchez feeling good vibes about the Emirates Stadium set, and Arsenal is ready to pounce. According to the report:

Wenger has told the board that he thinks he can win the Premier League if this group stays together and is supplemented by no more than two or three key additions. Ozil is understood already to have been offered more than £250,000 a week and the club are ready to go to around £280,000 for both him and Sanchez.

The Gunners need both players healthy and happy heading into next season, and appropriate additions as well (A top striker is a must. Again). Wage structure is important, but Arsenal will have a blessing in disguise if another player can make a legit case he deserves to be paid like Ozil and Sanchez any time soon.

West Ham, Everton, and the superstar striker’s need for the Champions League

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Come up with a list of active elite level strikers, and it’s likely to be a short one filled with names from UEFA Champions League clubs.

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Diego Costa, Luis Suarez, Robert Lewandowski, Edinson Cavani, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Harry Kane, even Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Rarely do names like these move to a non-UCL club while in their prime, and it’s just as uncommon to see them stay at clubs which have failed to qualify for the UCL.

The money, the prestige, the endorsements; All are amplified by the world stage. Given the massive import of their domestic stage and spotlight, Premier League sides have bucked this trend on occasion — see Romelu Lukaku — but it’s the exception to the rule.

That’s what puts an ambitious club like West Ham United between a rock and a hard place. The Irons have been vocal about their desires to bring in a top-end striker, and it’s likely they’d be happy to spend what it takes to attract Alexandre Lacazette, Aubameyang, or Cavani to town.

Lyon reportedly rejected a $45 million bid for Lacazette last season, admitting that ultimately the player’s desires would determine his future. Higuain, too, was linked to chairman David Gold’s wallet before moving to Juventus. Carlos Bacca also saw his future connected to the Irons.

Instead, Gold landed Andre Ayew from Swansea, and had to hope Andy Carroll could stay healthy or Enner Valencia would deliver. Not a striker, Dimitri Payet apparently decided to skip town soon after West Ham’s Europa League exit at the hands of Astra Giurgiu.

Now it’s Kelechi Iheanacho being linked to the London Stadium, another hopeful swing from the Irons that points a strong finger at the problem: West Ham can be as ambitious as it likes, but it’s going to need a miracle to pull an elite striker to London without European football.

And it shouldn’t happen, but what if Everton is bumped from the UEL in the third qualifying round or playoff next year? Will Lukaku follow Payet’s lead and sink another team from joining the discussion? Though an argument can be made it’s better for Everton to lose those summer games, the Toffees very much need to succeed in the UEL qualifying and also show signs of strength in the early PL docket. That’s the unforgiving life of sitting on the outskirts of the powerful tier.

Every team at every level is searching for the next elite striker. Some, like West Ham, will need to luck into a young buck on the rise or a flawed striker finding his potential. And how do they hold onto that player, one who will have alerted the big boys to his arrival, without qualifying for Europe? It’s improbable.

The ability of teams like Chelsea and Liverpool to compete for a European slot in the PL standings thanks to missing out on the UCL the year before signals hope for clubs like Everton and West Ham. And five Premier League sides competing in the UCL this year could extend an invitation to stay longer in the Top Seven discussion for sides like Southampton and Leicester City, too.

So this summer’s striker captures are huge for Slaven Bilic and David Gold. This is a window the league’s “next group” won’t have open annually, and West Ham’s hopes of barging into the discussion again hinge on who shows up by August.