Brendan Rodgers asks Liverpool fans to “keep calm” and “enjoy” title race

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Two years ago Liverpool finished in eighth in the Premier League and were looking for a new direction.

Now, Brendan Rodgers has the club once again in position to win the title, bringing the Reds back from temporary obscurity and into their rightful place.

But with fans overjoyed at the job Rodgers has done to build a complete squad, the manager told the Liverpool Echo that he hopes supporters – and players – can bear in mind what got them to where they are now: a long-term vision.

“We’re hoping that last season was the beginning,” said Rodgers of his project. “It maybe didn’t seem that way in the first four to six months but we did a lot of the groundwork last year and we’ve been evolving ever since.”

Pleading with fans, Rodgers wants the crowd to not only back the team, but back the philosophy, even if things can get overwhelmingly in the moment.

“We need the fans to stay calm,” Rodgers told the Echo. “I know when you want something so much that’s easier said than done. They haven’t been in this position for a while. I can understand that sometimes there is that wee bit of trepidation and fear. But what we’re looking to put in place here isn’t just for one season. We’re looking to put something in place for the longer term in order to have sustainable success.”

The project has been a solid, determined one that is built to last.  Luis Suarez appeared to be on his way out, and now he’s the Premier League’s top scorer.  His wildly successful strike partnership happens to be with 24-year-old Daniel Sturridge.  Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, already at the top of his game, is just 26 years old, quite young for his position. Including the backup stopper, there are just three players over the age of 30 on the squad.

So while Rodgers and company gun for the title this year, Rodgers is hoping fans can stay the course no matter what happens and back the team to heights the Liverpool name used to be known for.

“My message to the fans is to enjoy it,” Rodgers proclaimed.

Soccer world reacts to the Manchester attacks

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NBC News is reporting that at least 19 people have been killed and another 50 are injured following a possible suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.

Multiple senior U.S. intelligence officials who are monitoring British authorities told NBC News that preliminary reports indicate that a single explosion took place outside the arena on the southwest side opposite the train station. The explosion occurred as the concert ended, catching people as they exited.

Soccer personalities around the world are reacting to the horrible event.

Juventus purchases Cuadrado from Chelsea

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If you didn’t realize Juan Cuadrado still belonged to Chelsea, you’re forgiven.

The Colombian attacker will complete his second season at Juventus after the UEFA Champions League Final against Real Madrid, and won’t be headed back to Chelsea afterwards.

Juve has purchased Cuadrado, and the fee is $22 million, and Juve will pay it over three seasons. Cuadrado, 28, is now signed through 2020 with The Old Lady.

Cuadrado first went on loan to Juve in Aug. 2015, and has eight goals and 18 assists in 83 career appearances with the club.

Chelsea bought Cuadrado from Fiorentina for around $32 million in the January 2015 transfer window, but made just 14 appearances with the club.

Report: Jermain Defoe meeting with Bournemouth

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Sky Sports is reporting that Jermain Defoe may head back to the south of England following Sunderland’s relegation.

Defoe, 34, spent two seasons with Portsmouth between 2008-09, scoring 15 goals in 31 appearances.

[ MORE: ‘The Moment’ of each PL club’s season ]

The 56-times capped England striker had a clause in his Sunderland contract allowing him to leave the Stadium of Light were the Black Cats to be relegated, as they were this season. He’d have little interest in dropping into the Championship given his desire to stay a part of the England squad ahead of the 2018 World Cup.

Bournemouth’s strike corps includes Joshua King, who scored the most goals of any player not on a Top Seven side this season. King’s 16 goals were one more than Defoe’s 15, though the latter scored just one goal following a brace against Crystal Palace on Feb. 4.

Chelsea’s Conte wins pair of top managerial honors

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Antonio Conte took league and national honors from the League Managers Association on Monday night.

The Chelsea boss was named Premier League Manager of the Year and Manager of the Year after leading the Blues to the PL title and an FA Cup Final in his first year on the job.

Brighton and Hove Albion boss Chris Hughton nabbed another Championship boss of the year award after leading the Gulls to the Premier League. He also won the honor with Newcastle United in 2010.

The League One winner is Chris Wilder of Sheffield United. Wilder won the honor with Northampton Town last season.

In League Two, Paul Cook of Portsmouth was named the winner.