Brendan Rodgers, the Premier League’s Hansel: So hot right now

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A manager playing down his side’s chances of winning the Premier League title has become all the rage.

Pellegrini’s doing it…

Wenger’s doing it…

Mourinho was freaking born doing it…

And now we can add Brendan Rodgers to that esteemed mix. As a result of Liverpool’s formidable form over the last few weeks the Northern Irishman has truly become the Hansel of the Premier League – so hot right now.

In fact, Rodgers’ is such fire that journos have been asking him if Liverpool can win the title, which is kind of hilarious considering they’re 4th in the table, six points off the pace.

But whatever. Doesn’t matter.

Like Men in Blazers say, the Premier League is all about narratives.

And what better storyline than a club that comes out of nowhere to win the title?!

source:
“I was totally fine. I’ve never even been to Mount Vesuvius.”

So, despite having his side barely being within a Champions League spot (Spurs are just three points back), Rodgers answered the title-chance question.

Handled it pretty well, too.  Talked about trying to have the club finish as high as possible, with Champions League the goal. Well PR’d on that one.

For me, if Liverpool are to do the impossible and win they league the key will be to take full points from average Premier League sides.

So far this season they’ve drawn with Swansea City, Newcastle, Aston Villa and West Brom and they’ve lost to Southampton and Hull City.

To win the title, results like that can’t happen. Eliminate the problem, though, and the title questions might not seem so ridiculous after all.

Below are full highlights from Rodgers’ presser earlier today:

“I really only focus on the team and the football club, and make no mistake – I want to get into the Champions League for the people here at the club and the people of the city,” he said.

“I came here to try and inspire the city as much as the team. I know what Champions League football can bring to a city like Liverpool and everything it can generate.

“I keep the focus on improving the players, improving our performance levels, and you can see from the continuation of the development we’ve made over the last 18 months that we’re going to be a match.

“The momentum has been building and building, but I just think it would be unprecedented to go from being where we were last year in seventh position to first.

“We’ve got so many young players, who are still growing and developing and our squad is small. So I feel that we’ve still got work to do.

“But when we play like that and perform like that (on Saturday), people are obviously going to ask the question (can you win the league?).

“We’re five points behind Arsenal, four behind Manchester City and six behind Chelsea and we still have them to play here at Anfield.

“But the main objective is just to finish as high as we possibly can and let’s see where that takes us.

“Right the way through this season and throughout my time here, we’ve started to just chip away in our development and improve.

“It was another wonderful result for us (on Saturday) and what was particularly pleasing was the performance.

“It was an incredible display from a group of young men who are growing and getting better all the time. It was very pleasing.”

Report: Arsenal interested in Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel

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According to a report by The Sun, Arsenal is monitoring the progress of Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

The rumor does make sense. With Petr Cech at 34 years old and having a poor season in front of net and backup David Ospina failing to challenge him for the starting job, the Gunners are looking elsewhere to bring in a potential future starter.

Schmeichel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League the past two seasons. Last season he led the Foxes to the Premier League title, organizing a stunningly good defensive line of patchwork players. This season, the defense has largely regressed and let Schmeichel down, but he has still performed well and has the metrics to remain one of the league’s top shot-stoppers.

The Danish keeper is 30 years old himself, but that puts him in his prime for a goalkeeper. He has been with Leicester City since 2011, and he will tick 250 appearances for the club with his next match. Schmeichel was rumored to be a member of the secret player delegation that worked hard to see Claudio Ranieri pushed out of the club, a sentiment which he and the other players have strongly denied.

Still, with an improbable Premier League title in hand and an appearance in the Champions League quarterfinals now on the cards, there probably isn’t much else for him at Leicester City. It’s possible Schmeichel could look to bank on his past performances and secure a move to a bigger club this summer.

Should Arsene Wenger stay with Arsenal past this season, a possibility that looks more and more likely, he could look to move on from Cech despite signing the former Chelsea goalkeeper just two summers ago.

Diego Costa injured, but will stay with Spain squad for friendly

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Chelsea striker Diego Costa pulled up in Spain training on Sunday, and with the Blues in first in the Premier League and Costa in great form, there were obvious concerns.

With Costa struggling with leg and ankle injuries, the RFEF informed Chelsea that there was an issue, and Costa was pulled from training and sent for tests. X-Rays at the local hospital in Madrid were negative, and he’s rejoined the squad.

According to the RFEF, doctors will continue to monitor the 28-year-old and he will continue with the national team for the rest of the international break. With a World Cup qualification win over Israel already in the books and just a friendly against France to go on Tuesday, it’s odd that Spain would risk Costa moving forward, but they will continue to keep him around.

Costa has scored 18 goals this season to lead the Blues, and he scored in the win over Israel. Spain takes on France in Saint-Denis on Tuesday, with both teams leading their World Cup qualification groups. Spain has a goal-differential lead on Italy with both teams miles above the rest of the Group G, and France is ahead of Sweden by three points in Group A, with the Netherlands back in fourth.

Foul or flop? Player “headbutts” referee, is sent off

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Well, there must be something in the water down in Brasilia, because things got a little weird this evening.

Flamengo drew with Vasco da Gama 2-2, but that was just the start.

In the 54th minute, with Vasco da Gama leading 1-0 at Estadio Nacional Mané Garrincha, 36-year-old Luis Fabiano was sent off for “headbutting” the referee. Headbutting is in quotes because looking at the video, it certainly appears there was little to no contact, and the referee flops.

Yes, the referee flopped. Take a look:

To be fair, Fabiano was already on a yellow, so getting in the referee’s face even without the headbutt/pelvic thrust would likely still have seen him sent to an early shower.

So the former Porto and Sevilla man was sent off, and Vasco da Gama was down to 10 men. Immediately after the red card, Flamengo took advantage, powering in a pair of goals via Willian Arao and Orlando Berrio to take the lead 2-1. But Vasco wouldn’t quit, and they earned a penalty five minutes into stoppage time, which Nene buried for the 2-2 draw.

To top things off, a player named Yago Pikachu scored the opener for Vasco da Gama, which was followed by a delay in the game seven minutes later after a power surge in the stadium. Go figure.

Lletget diagnosed with foot sprain, escaping further damage

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Word has arrived from the LA Galaxy camp that will see USMNT fans feel relieved as Sebastian Lletget has escaped the news many feared.

The young attacker was impressive in the first 18 minutes of the United States’ 6-0 win over Honduras, but was injured minutes after scoring the opening goal and could not continue. Replays showed that Lletget got his foot caught underneath a defender in the process of a hard challenge on the right wing.

There was concern that Lletget would be out for a significant amount of time, but the Galaxy announced that after testing over the weekend, Lletget did not suffer any structural damage and was diagnosed with a left foot sprain.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Paul Arreola to roster, drops Lletget, Brooks, Morris ]

Lletget will visit a specialist on Monday to determine a plan for recovery, and it’s possible that he will still have to miss some time in the near future. The Galaxy visit Vancouver on Saturday, and his status for that match has to be considered up in the air. They then host Montreal on April 7.

While Lletget obviously misses out on the next USMNT game at Panama on Tuesday having already been dumped from the roster, he will most definitely be available for the June games against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico, and will likely be an option for Bruce Arena given the manager’s history with Lletget at Los Angeles.

The United States have been struck with a collection of injuries that all occurred just before the international break, hampering the squad significantly. Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, and Fabian Johnson all went down in the days before reporting for international duty, and the team lost Lletget and John Brooks in the Honduras win. Lletget’s departure could see Alejandro Bedoya into the starting lineup on Tuesday, with the Union midfielder having replaced Lletget in the Honduras match. Also in contention is Jermaine Jones, who could come in after his suspension and push Darlington Nagbe onto the wing.