Brendan Rodgers backs Luis Suarez after accusations of diving from Mourinho

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That man Jose Mourinho loves to stir things up, and he’s done it once again.

Following Samuel Eto’o’s late challenge on Liverpool’s Luis Suarez in the penalty box, during Chelsea’s 2-1 win over the Reds on Sunday, Mourinho accused Suarez of an ‘acrobatic swimming pool jump’ as no penalty was awarded by referee Howard Webb.

Now Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has had a nibble back.

“Anyone watching the game would say it was not a dive,” Rodgers told Sky Sports News. “Luis is an easy target isn’t he? We had a spell over the last year when everyone was jumping on his back, saying he was diving. So he must be the only one that is doing it?”

Simulation is certainly causing plenty of uproar around the Premier League in recent weeks, but Suarez’s claims seemed to be pretty genuine and I have a hard time believing Mourinho really thinks that was a dive.

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

Suarez had shielded the ball from Cesar Azpilcueta inside the penalty box and as the ball ran away, Eto’o came from nowhere and completely took out Suarez with a body check and even left his foot in to make sure he made contact with the Uruguayan. The incident came in the final few minutes of the second half as Chelsea led 2-1 and was complete lunacy from Eto’o who was quickly substituted by Mourinho, presumably so no more moments of madness would ensue.

Rodgers is right, Suarez is an easy target. Yet that comes from so many poor displays of simulation in the past and all of the other controversy surrounding Liverpool’s striker. Can you blame Mourinho for jumping on the anti-Suarez bandwagon?

However, you have to admit that in recent weeks Suarez has seemed completely focused on the job in hand as he’s worn the captain’s armband in Steven Gerrard’s absence and there’s been few, if any, examples of simulation. It seems as though Suarez is trying to clean up his act after signing his new long-term deal to remain at Anfield and in the Premier League.

Mourinho accusations of diving are false in this instance. For once Suarez didn’t take a tumble to win a penalty, so let’s hope that continues.

LIVE – Champions League playoff: Nice-Napoli headlines action

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With Celtic (just about) booking their spot in the UEFA Champions League group stage on Tuesday, four more teams will join them.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ] 

Napoli, Olympiacos, Sevilla and Hapoel Be’er Sheva all have narrow leads heading into the second legs which sets things up rather nicely for the winner takes all second legs. Olympiacos and Be’er Sheva will be feeling particularly nervous after conceding at home in the first leg.

On Wednesday five more ties takes place across Europe with Liverpool looking to book their spot in the UCL group stage against Hoffenheim.

Below is the full schedule for Tuesday’s games, which kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET, while you can click on the link above to follow live commentary on all four matches.


Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League playoff second legs

Nice vs. Napoli (Napoli lead 2-0 on aggregate)
Astana 4-3 Celtic (Celtic advance 8-4 on aggregate)
Rijeka vs. Olympiacos (Olympiacos leads 2-1 on aggregate)
Sevilla vs. Istanbul Basaksehir (Sevilla leads 2-1 on aggregate)
Maribor vs. Hapoel Be’er Sheva (Hapoel Be’er Sheva lead 2-1 on aggregate)

LIVE – Premier League clubs enter League Cup

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Seven Premier League teams enter the League Cup second round on Tuesday with plenty of potential upsets lined up.

[ LIVE: Follow League Cup scores ]

All 13 PL clubs (six more are in action on Wednesday) face teams from the lower leagues with the likes of Crystal Palace, Leicester City, Bournemouth and Swansea City all on upset alert.

U.S. national team players to watch out for include Lynden Gooch who starts for Sunderland and Emerson Hyndman who is on the bench for Bournemouth.

Below is the schedule for the League Cup games on Tuesday with all games to kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET unless otherwise stated.


Tuesday
Crystal Palace vs. Ipswich Town – 2:30pm
Aston Villa vs. Wigan Athletic
Leeds United vs. Newport County
Middlesbrough vs. Scunthorpe United
Norwich City vs. Charlton Athletic
QPR vs. Brentford
Fulham vs. Bristol Rovers
Cardiff City vs. Burton Albion
Carlisle United vs. Sunderland
Doncaster vs. Hull City
Grimsby Town vs. Derby County
Brighton vs. Barnet
Accrington Stanley vs. West Brom
Sheffield United vs. Leicester City
Birmingham City vs. Bournemouth
Watford vs. Bristol City
MK Dons vs. Swansea City
Reading vs. Millwall – 3pm
Bolton vs. Sheffield Wednesday – 3pm

Celtic qualify for UEFA Champions League group stage

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Celtic survived a scare in Kazakhstan to qualify for the group stage of the UEFA Champions League for the second season on the trot.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]

Brendan Rodgers‘ side beat FC Astana 5-0 in the first leg of their playoff last week at Celtic Park but the trip to Kazakhstan proved much trickier with Astana leading 4-1 late in the game which had pulled the score back to 6-4 on aggregate.

However, Scott Sinclair had scored a priceless away goal to make it 1-1 at half time and despite a late flurry of goals for the hosts Olivier Ntcham scored a deflected effort and Leigh Griffiths wrapped things up late on as Celtic lost 4-3 on the night but went through 8-4 on aggregate.

Last season the Scottish champions went out in the UCL group stage after being drawn with Manchester City, Barcelona and Borussia Monchengladbach and will be hoping for a kinder draw this time around.

Premier League clubs on League Cup upset alert

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The second round of the League Cup (known as the Carabao Cup in 2017-18 for sponsorship reasons) kicks off on Tuesday with 13 Premier League clubs in action.

[ MORE: League Cup scores live ]

All 13 have been drawn against lower-league opposition and those klaxons you can hear signify upset alerts.

Below is a look at how each Premier League club will get on as they enter the competition on Tuesday and Wednesday with a ranking on each game out of 10, with 10 being the most likely for an upset to occur.

Remember: the seven PL teams in European competition will enter the League Cup in the third round.


Upset alert ranking for PL clubs

Tuesday
Crystal Palace vs. Ipswich Town – 8/10
Brighton vs. Barnet – 4/10
Accrington Stanley vs. West Brom – 7/10
Sheffield United vs. Leicester City – 6/10
Birmingham City vs. Bournemouth – 7/10
Watford vs. Bristol City – 5/10
MK Dons vs. Swansea City – 5/10

Wednesday
Newcastle United vs. Nottingham Forest – 6/10
Southampton vs. Wolves – 7/10
Huddersfield Town vs. Rotherham United – 7/10
Cheltenham vs. West Ham United – 8/10
Stoke City vs. Rochdale – 6/10
Blackburn Rovers vs. Burnley – 6/10