England v Denmark - International Friendly

Is Adam Lallana the man England should build their World Cup dreams around?

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With England struggling to break down a stubborn Denmark side on Wednesday, the score was locked at 0-0 with just over 30 minutes to do.

Then Adam Lallana skipped onto the pitch to replace Jack Wilshere with a point to prove, and at the final whistle, he’d surely rubber stamped his place in England’s 2014 World Cup squad, and possibly the starting lineup.

Southampton’s 25-year-old captain had dazzled on his first two appearances for England back in November, but this was his chance to solidify himself into Roy Hodgson’s World Cup plans. He did just that, with attacking panache, bravery on the ball and a willingness to create from a central attacking midfield role. In the 82nd minute Lallana jinxed past two Danish defenders before dinking a delightful ball into Daniel Sturridge to head home the game’s only goal which gave England victory. Moments like those prove his quality is needed by England.

Time and time again he pulled off audacious Cruyff turns that the Dutch legend would’ve been proud of, as Saints’ star man shone brighter than any other player in an England shirt at Wembley on Wednesday. England manager Hodgson earmarked Lallana’s second half cameo for special praise.

“From the 60th minute onwards we showed some really good play and Adam Lallana made a big difference.”

The fact that he only played for just over 30 minutes shows that he is still on the outside looking in at Hodgson’s World Cup  squad, and Lallana hadn’t even featured in the entire qualifying campaign. But after moving his wedding forward from June 14 (the date England will face Italy in Manaus) to Christmas Eve 2013, Lallana has perhaps had a quiet word in his ear for quite some time from the coaching staff that he will be heading to Brazil this summer.

source: AP
Will Lallana start for England this summer?

Should England build their side around him? Absolutely. Well, at least their attack.

Lallana brings an energy that has been lacking from England, in the final third, for years. His poise and quality on the ball has already seen him thrive on the international stage and pundits across England are calling for him to be given the chance to run the offense this summer. Left foot, right foot, Lallana is comfortable on the ball and can play anywhere across the midfield or attack. Looking past the World Cup this summer, he is sure to be an integral part of the England setup for many years to come.

His inclusion also satisfies many England fans who would love to see talented players included from teams other than the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool. The fact that Lallana was joined by three of his Southampton teammates (Rickie Lambert, Luke Shaw and Jay Rodriguez) in the latest England squad proves that Hodgson is picking players on merit rather than reputation.

Long may that continue, and long may Lallana be the playmaker for England. He’s the missing ingredient the Three Lions have been searching for, and they’ve found him just in the nick of time before they jet off to South America this summer.

Pep Guardiola: “Maybe I’m not good enough”

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Pep Guardiola has admitted he “may not be good enough” for his players at Manchester City.

Ahead of City’s clash against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com) Guardiola has been defended his squad after severe criticism from the media.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

City were hammered 4-0 at Everton last weekend, their worst league defeat since 2008 and Guardiola’s worst-ever league defeat as a manager.

With plenty pointing the finger of blame at goalkeeper Claudio Bravo and City’s defense, their manager put himself in the firing line.

“They are good players. I have respect for the guys, so why would I say the guys are not good? So I don’t understand the lack of respect for the professionals when they have been amazing players, and [people saying] they are not good enough for me. Maybe I am not good enough for them,” Guardiola said. “They are Manchester City players, top players. They have a lot of quality. They have shown that many times in the past and this season.”

Mind games.

Guardiola, 46, is no doubt facing the biggest challenge of his season as City look to at least seal a top four spot in this his debut season in England. The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager has already “said goodbye to the title” and if they lose against red-hot Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium then more questions will be asked of his tactics and if they can work in the Premier League.

So far the possession-based slow build up style has been hot and cold for City, with plenty of counter-attacking teams in the PL (Chelsea, Spurs, Everton, Leicester etc.) having a field day against a shaky defense.

Despite being 10 points off the pace, Guardiola is sticking by his philosophy. One thing really sticks out to me from his first few press conferences in England: “We will see if my style of play can work in the Premier League.”

So far, it’s not.

Watch Live: Liverpool vs. Swansea City (Lineups, Stream)

SWANSEA, WALES - MARCH 16:  Kyle Naughton of Swansea City is closed down by Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Liverpool at Liberty Stadium on March 16, 2015 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
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Liverpool host Swansea City to Anfield on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with the Reds aiming to stretch their unbeaten run at home in the Premier League to 18 games.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE

Jurgen Klopp is a little concerned with the number of games his team have had to play over the past few weeks, but a victory against the struggling Swans would momentarily move his side just four points behind leaders Chelsea who play on Sunday.

As for Swansea, new manager Paul Clement knows a win would take his team out of the relegation zone and with new signings arriving that would be a massive boost. It would also be a massive ask for the Welsh side to get anything at Anfield but this may be a good time to play Liveprool after their midweek trip to Plymouth in the FA Cup and the EFL Cup semifinal second leg against Southampton coming up on Wednesday.

In team news Liverpool start with Philippe Coutinho once again, while Joel Matip is on the bench after the Reds finally settled the dispute with Cameroon. Swansea hand debuts to new signings Martin Olsson and Tom Carroll.

LINEUPS

Liverpool: Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Klavan, Milner; Can, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Lallana, Coutinho, Firmino. Subs: Karius, Sturridge, Moreno, Lucas, Origi, Matip, Woodburn

Swansea City: Fabianski; Olsson, Mawson, Fernandez, Naughton; Cork, Carroll, Fer; Sigurdsson, Llorente, Routledge. Subs: Nordfeldt, Rangel, Amat, Fulton, Dyer, Borja, McBurnie

Viktoria Plzen set to sign midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz

Obafemi Martins, Oniel Fisher, Andreas Ivanschitz
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
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PRAGUE (AP) Czech champion Viktoria Plzen is close to signing Austrian midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz.

Plzen says Ivanschitz agreed terms for a contract lasting 1 + seasons and will sign it when the team returns from a training camp in Spain. Ivanschitz has already joined the squad at the Oliva Nova resort, the club says.

Ivanschitz helped the Seattle Sounders win their first MLS Cup in December.

[ NEW HOMES: Fonte | Berahino ]

No financial details were given.

The 33-year-old Ivanschitz also played for Rapid Vienna and Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, Mainz in the Bundesliga, Levante in Spain and Panathinaikos in Athens.

Ivanschitz played 69 games for Austria in 2003-14, scoring 12 goals.

FIFA allows Matip to represent Liverpool during AFCON

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: Joel Matip of Liverpool heads to score his team's third goal during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park on October 29, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images
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Joel Matip is going to get to play for Liverpool during AFCON after all.

The center back had turned down the chance to represent Cameroon at the Africa Cup of Nations, and Liverpool was forced to apply to FIFA for a waiver.

[ PL PREVIEW: Swansea vs. Liverpool ]

Matip suffered an ankle injury in December, adding to his desire to stay at Anfield. He declared himself internationally retired and was one of six Cameroon players who refused call-ups for AFCON.

He last played for the Reds on Dec. 11, and can be selected by Jurgen Klopp against Swansea City on Saturday.