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.
CHICAGO (AP) The U.S. women’s national team will host Switzerland for two matches this October in Minneapolis and Utah.
The matches for the defending World Cup champions are set for Oct. 19 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, and at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Oct. 23.
The U.S. team has played Switzerland just twice before, with the Americans winning both matches.
The United States is also facing Thailand on Sept. 15 in Columbus, Ohio, before playing the Netherlands in Atlanta on Sept. 18.
The team will be without goalkeeper Hope Solo, who was suspended from the team for six months following comments she made at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. The United States was ousted by Sweden in the quarterfinals for the team’s earliest-ever exit at the Olympics.
Just incase you were unaware, there’s another Pogba. And he too could be playing in the Premier League very soon.
[ MORE: Could David Luiz be making a return to Stamford Bridge? ]
While it was Paul Pogba that stole the spotlight when he returned to Manchester United for a world-record transfer fee, Florentin — his 26-year-old brother — is drawing interest from England’s top flight.
According to the Sun, David Moyes and Sunderland are launching an $8.5 million bid for the St Etienne defender as a potential replacement for Lamine Kone. The Black Cats still anticipate that Kone will exit the Stadium of Light this season after handing in a transfer request earlier this month.
Pogba has played with the Ligue 1 club since 2012 after joining from lower-division club Sedan. Additionally, the centerback has made 13 appearances for Guinea at the international level.
In a shocking twist, Chelsea could be prepared to bring back a former defender.
The Blues are reportedly lining up a bid for Brazilian central defender David Luiz, who exited the club two years ago to head to Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1. According to Daily Mail, Chelsea would pay up to roughly $41 million for the PSG centerback.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]
Back in 2014, Chelsea received an astounding $65 million for Luiz from the French champions, but he has quickly grown out of favor with the club.
New manager Antonio Conte is looking to sure up the backline before end of the transfer window, and Luiz appears to be a final effort to do that after missing out on several defenders, including Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly.
AS is reporting that Tottenham could be in for Real Madrid midfielder Isco.
While Spurs currently boast one of the youngest and most promising teams in the Premier League, Mauricio Pochettino is reportedly keen on adding another playmaker into the fold as Isco’s future in Madrid is unknown.
Isco would leave on a loan deal, and while Spurs are seen as a contender for the Spaniard, Malaga is said to be interested in the player as well.
Manchester City defender Eliaquim Mangala could be on his way to Porto after joining the English side two years ago.
According to the Guardian, the 25-year-old would likely return to the Portuguese side on loan after disappointing for the Citizens since his arrival in 2014.
With the addition of John Stones this summer, Mangala has fallen further down the pecking order with new manager Pep Guardiola.
Middlesbrough has impressed at times during its return to the Premier League this season, and now the club looks to bolster its backline as the transfer window closes.
[ MORE: Aguero could miss Manchester derby after FA charge ]
The club announced the loan signing of Arsenal defender Calum Chambers on Tuesday, providing the Boro with a promising young player to contribute in the back.
Chambers, 21, has made 58 appearances in the PL with both the Gunners and Southampton, while also earning three caps for England.
Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka revaled his excitement over the signing, while also stating that the player addresses a big need on the backline.
“I’m really pleased,” said Karanka. “It’s a position where we’ve been working towards bringing the right player in. We haven’t been in a hurry because Calum was the player we were waiting for, and he’s going to help us a lot.”