Brendan Rodgers insists Liverpool can handle physical West Ham

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Liverpool travel to East London on Sunday, prepared to finish the Premier League weekend in first once again after a solid win over West Ham.

The Reds fared well in the reverse fixture in December, running out 4-1 winners, with Luis Suárez scoring two. West Ham’s only goal came courtesy of an own goal from Martin Skrtel.

But the Irons haven’t exactly been the easiest of opponents lately. A three game losing streak had them fretting once more, but back-to-back 2-1 victories have moved West Ham up into 11th, just three points shy of the magical 40-point mark. Sam Allardyce would certainly love to reach it at Liverpool’s expense.

Not if Brendan Rodgers has anything to say about it, however. Liverpool will come up against former Red Andy Carroll, who moved to West Ham after being told he did not feature in Rodgers plans. Carroll, still hoping for a place on the plane to Brazil, would probably like nothing more to impress Roy Hodgson while proving his former manager wrong.

Rodgers is not afraid. While he’s admitted that Liverpool did have a problem this season dealing with physical opponents, he believes his players have learned, and that the defense no longer has trouble with strong center forwards.

“There’s no doubt that West Ham’s strength is to be direct, get it up, in and around the box, have runners into the box and from corners,” Rodgers said. “And you saw big Andy the other night score a good header from a corner [against Sunderland] but that is what we have to cope with. We’ve done it before and I’m sure we can do it again.”

Rodgers went on to reference Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke, saying that last year his side managed to restrict the Belgian’s movement, putting two men on him to ensure Benteke did not have a free run at the ball.

Liverpool fans might be forgiven for wondering just what game Rodgers was referencing, as Benteke did score in Villa’s loss to Liverpool last March. They’ll be hoping the manager has refined his strategies and the defense really does know how to handle a physical side. Because with Chelsea just two points behind and Manchester City lurking just a point behind the Blues – and still with two games in hand – Liverpool’s title dreams are still far from being realized.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.

Statement from suspended UEFA president Michel Platini

Michel Platini, UEFA & FIFA
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Statement from suspended UEFA President Michel Platini:

Early this afternoon, I was informed of the FIFA ethics committee’s decision to impose on me a provisional 90-day suspension with immediate effect. That decision, which I will of course contest in the appropriate manner at the appropriate time, had already been the subject of a deliberate leak, and I gave my opinion on that earlier in the day.

I reject all of the allegations that have been made against me, which are based on mere semblances and are astonishingly vague. Indeed, the wording of those allegations merely states that a breach of the FIFA Code of Ethics “seems to have been committed” and that a decision on the substance of the matter cannot be taken immediately.

Despite the farcical nature of these events, I refuse to believe that this is a political decision taken in haste in order to taint a lifelong devotee of the game or crush my candidacy for the FIFA presidency.

I want everyone to know my state of mind: more than a sense of injustice or a desire for revenge, I am driven by a profound feeling of staunch defiance. I am more determined than ever to defend myself before the relevant judicial bodies.

I want to reiterate in the strongest possible terms that I will devote myself to ensuring that my good faith prevails. I have received numerous messages of support today from UEFA’s member associations and the other confederations encouraging me to continue my work serving football’s interests. Nothing will make me give up on that commitment.