Liverpool host Aston Villa in Saturday’s late Premier League kickoff, with a win against the suffering Birmingham side almost a certainty. Those three points will be necessary to keep Everton and Tottenham from sneaking into fourth, with the sides a point and two points behind the Reds, respectively.
With Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea filling the top three spots in the Premier League, Brendan Rodgers knows it will be difficult to gain ground – but the Liverpool manager is not about to give up hope of playing in next year’s Champions League. To better his side’s chances, Rodgers has decided to shift club captain Steven Gerrard into a deeper midfield role, allowing him greater opportunities to orchestrate the game and control its flow.
Cynics might believe this is simply a move to extend the 33 year old’s playing career, but Rodgers insists he’s taking Gerrard’s playing style into account: “It’s not as simple as putting him back into that role because he’s Steven Gerrard; it’s because I think he’s got the qualities to play and operate in that position at a very high level.”
And with Daniel Sturridge and, of course, Luis Suárez racking up the goals for Liverpool, Gerrard doesn’t need to expend as much energy getting forward and trying to score. Instead, Rodgers will foster the captain’s other traits, looking to model him after Serie A stars Andrea Pirlo, who is 34, and Javier Zanetti, aged 40. From his deeper role, Gerrard will have better opportunities to coordinate his side, picking out passes to launch attacks while doing defensive work to break up opposition play.
Having their best players on the pitch will undoubtedly help Liverpool secure a Champions League position. But there’s no denying this move was made to help prolong Gerrard’s career as well. Does it matter? Of course not. The midfielder is still a quality player, and if changing his position both keeps the captain at his club longer and helps strengthen the side, it matters little what the main motivation is.
You decide: Liverpool face Villa at 12:30 p.m. ET. Catch it live on NBC, or live online via NBC Sports Live Extra.
Kevin De Bruyne won’t be the main man at Old Trafford this time.
[ MORE: Rooney to leave? ]
De Bruyne, 25, starred in Manchester City’s 2-1 win at bitter rivals Manchester United last month in the Premier League but ahead of the EFL Cup last 16 clash between Manchester’s two clubs, Pep Guardiola confirmed that the Belgian international will play no part after picking up a calf injury in the draw with Southampton on Sunday.
Speaking to the media, Guardiola also confirmed that Pablo Zabaleta will be out, plus Vincent Kompany will likely play a part.
“Kevin, no way, he cannot play,” Guardiola said. “Pablo I think cannot. Vincent I think he can but I don’t know today. I need to see training and regeneration [before making a decision].”
Guardiola also confirmed that he expects to give some of his squad players a chance to play despite the desire to win the big derby game.
“We are going to rotate. Some are going to play. I need to see the players today in training and after we will decide the team,” Guardiola added.
City’s squad is still ridiculously strong with the likes of Nolito, Fabian Delph, Kelechi Iheanacho and Aleix Garcia all set to play a big part in the cup tie.
The Daily Telegraph has struck again.
A few weeks after it’s investigation into corruption in English soccer unveiled plenty of wrongdoing, some of which led to Sam Allardyce stepping down as England manager, The Daily Telegraph has some more damaging evidence.
This time Watford Football Club is at the center of the allegations.
According to a report on Tuesday, Watford submitted forged bank documents back in 2014 when Gino Pozzo became the sole owner of the club from his father, Giampaolo, at the beginning of the 2014-15 campaign which saw them win promotion to the Premier League. The bank documents via HSBC (the Telegraph claims that Watford did not bank with that company at the time) were used to show proof of funding that Pozzo could bankroll Watford.
The English Football League has opened an investigation into the matter, along with an internal one from Watford, and if any wrongdoing is found then the Hornets could be subject to a fine and a points deduction.
An EFL spokesman told the Telegraph:
“We can confirm, following receipt of information from The Telegraph, that we immediately commenced a disciplinary investigation into serious allegations made against Watford Football Club. The club has been formally contacted by the EFL and is now required to provide a full and detailed response to the allegations. Once that response is received, it will be fully considered by the EFL and appropriate action will be taken under our rules and regulations.”
Watford has until next week to respond to the EFL.
The Telegraph also reports that just before the HSBC letter was accepted by the EFL as proof of funds, an earlier letter from Credit Suisse (a bank the Pozzo family and the parent company which owns Watford, Hornets Investment, did use) was rejected by the EFL and that would have put a hold up in the sale of the club.
Wayne Rooney‘s future at Manchester United seems increasingly uncertain.
[ MORE: Tight title race? ]
A report in the Sun newspaper states that United’s captain and talisman, 31, has been told by manager Jose Mourinho that he can leave if it’s regular game time he wants.
Rooney hasn’t started any of United’s last four Premier League games and was left out of their squad for the 4-0 thumping at Chelsea last weekend with a small injury.
Per the report, Mourinho has spoken to Rooney’s advisers and has told them he can not guarantee the England national team captain a starting role.
There’s no doubting Rooney’s huge impact at United over the past 12 years since he arrived at Old Trafford. He’s won five Premier League titles, a UEFA Champions League title, two League Cups and an FA Cup.
Rooney is also just three goals shy of breaking the all-time club record for number of goals scored — he has scored 246 times for United in all competitions — which Sir Bobby Charlton has held for over 40 years and although he has this season plus two more on his huge contract, it seems like he’s reaching a major crossroads in his career.
Even if he is willing to stick around for the final years of his playing days and get stuck into a bit-par role a la Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, you know that Rooney will still make an impact.
The Englishman is stuck in a rut but so are United.
If fit, it would be very surprising to not see him feature heavily in the next few days as United host bitter rivals Manchester City in the EFL last 16 on Wednesday and then Burnley in the Premier League on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports).
VALENCIA, Spain (AP) Antoine Griezmann has won the best player award in the Spanish league for last season.
The Atletico Madrid forward was announced as the winner in a ceremony organized by La Liga in Valencia on Monday. The Frenchman was not at the ceremony.
[ MORE: Ballon d’Or omissions ]
Atletico also had Diego Simeone win the best coach award, Diego Godin earn the best defender award, and Jan Oblak clinch best goalkeeper.
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi was selected as the best forward, and Real Madrid’s Luka Modric as the best midfielder.
Team captains voted for the top players in each position, while a data-analysis system generated the best player award.
Barcelona won the Spanish league last season, ahead of Real Madrid and Atletico.