Knee injury to sideline Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva for two months

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Sunday’s visit from Aston Villa provided another hint at how important Lucas Leiva is to Liverpool, with the Reds struggling to control the middle of the park with only Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson in midfield. Unfortunately, having suffered a knee injury after coming off the bench, Leiva’s now set to be sidelined until March, the 27-year-old having damaged his right MCL.

According to various reports (this one from The Independent), Lucas is scheduled to miss six to eight weeks, an absence that would leave the Brazilian sidelined until March 18, at the latest. During that time, Liverpool’s most notable games will be against Everton (Jan. 28), Arsenal (Feb. 8), and at Manchester United (Mar. 15). Should he take the full eight weeks to recover, Leiva will miss eight league games, with Liverpool also still alive in the FA Cup.

Given Liverpool’s lack of options in defensive midfield, Leiva’s absence could be a major blow to the team’s Champions League hopes, particularly in the face of a Merseyside Derby next week. Already hard-pressed to protect an injury-stricken and exploitable defense, the fourth place Reds will have to find another player to protect Martin Skrtel and Kolo Touré, with Leiva the only player who has regularly been used in the defensive midfielder’s role. With Everton averaging 55 percent possession (sixth in the Premier League), Liverpool’s midfielders will be challenged to get the ball away from their rivals.

Against Aston Villa, captain Steven Gerrard averaged a slightly deeper position than Jordan Henderson, position that led contributed to a two-goal deficit after 36 minutes. The team soon changed their approach, bringing on Leiva for Philippe Coutinho at halftime. In the 66th minute, after Leiva suffered his injury, Joe Allen was brought on.

Without a true holder, Liverpool may be forced to stick with that three-man midfield over the next two months, the extra man in the middle helping to offset the absence Leiva’s defensive. Though neither Allen nor Henderson are traditional holders, they may be able to do enough work around Gerrard to mitigate their captain’s short comings, allowing the England international to settle into the distributor’s role some have speculated as his future.

More than anything, Liverpool may not have a lot of options. Any two-man midfield selected from Allen, Gerrard, and Henderson is going to be outplayed by three-man units or pairs from better teams. Given Brendan Rodgers’ stylistic preferences and the deficiencies Liverpool has along the back, that’s not something that can happen if the Reds expect to win games. Perhaps the Reds can go out and get another midfielder over the next 10 days, but with Leiva coming back in March, it’s difficult to justify a major expenditure.

Regardless, Liverpool needs to win the midfield battle to play the style Rodgers wants. Without Leiva, they’ll have to think of a new way to do so.

Juan Carlos Osorio to become new Mexico boss

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Mexico looks to have found a new manager in Juan Carlos Osorio.

Osorio, who had stints managing in Major League Soccer with the Chicago Fire and New York Red Bulls, was most recently coaching in Brazil with Sao Paulo.

However, the Brazilian club released a statement today that Osorio had decided to step down from his position in order to take the Mexico job.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

Following Miguel Herrera’s firing in July, Ricardo Ferretti was named interim manager of El Tri, and will coach the side in Saturday’s CONCACAF playoff match against the United States. However, Ferretti has stated he will not stay with Mexico past that match, and will return to Liga MX, where he serves as manager of Tigres UANL.

Osorio had recently been linked with the Mexico job, but said he would take his time in making a decision.

His only other exposure to Mexican football came during a short stint in Liga MX managing Puebla. He lasted just seven matches before resigning and returning to manage in his native Colombia.

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He was in line to take charge of the Honduras national team in 2011, but he was unable to get out of the contract with the Colombian team he was managing at the time.

There has been no official confirmation of the hiring from the Mexican Federation.

Benzema and Benitez in a war of words at Real Madrid

MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 26: Head coach Rafael Benitez (R) of Real Madrid CF gives instructions to his player Karim Benzema (L) during the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Malaga CF at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on September 26, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Karim Benzema has scored six goals in his eight appearances for Real Madrid this season, and is currently the top scorer in La Liga.

Despite being in great form, Benzema has continuously been substituted by manager Rafa Benitez, which has upset the French striker.

Benzema opened the scoring for Real in the Madrid derby over the weekend, but was taken off in the 77th minute. Atletico would go on to score minutes later as the match ended in a 1-1 draw.

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Speaking after the game, Benzema said he was “fed up” with being taken off, but will continue to work to help his team.

Substitutions are what the coach decides, I’m just there to help my teammates.

It’s true I’m fed up of being taken off. I’m calm and will continue to work so I’m not always subtituted. He took me off to get a result, for defensive reasons.

It’s true that the electronic board always shows the No.9. Ask Benitez why that is.

When told about Benzema’s comments, Benitez said he made the change for tactical reasons, as Real was in the lead and he replaced the striker with a more defensive-minded player in midfielder Mateo Kovacic.

I needed to give the team some balance at that point in the game. I’m a huge fan of Benzema. If I were Karim, I’d also be angry at being taken off when I thought I was playing well and was on a great run of form.

What I’d do if I were Karim is score more goals so that next time I don’t have to be taken off and can say, ‘Hey, here I am.’

Benitez’s response comes off as a backhanded compliment, asking Benzema to “score more goals,” despite the player leading La Liga in scoring. In fact, Benzema has averaged a goal every 84 minutes this season, an incredible strike rate.

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Over the summer, Benzema was linked with a move away from Real Madrid, but he constantly denied the rumors and said he never thought about leaving the club, which he called the best in the world. Just a few matches into the new season, there may be some trouble in paradise.