Brendan Rodgers says Liverpool could catch Manchester City on goal differential

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Even on 80 points but trailing table-toppers Manchester City by nine goals, most believe the title hopes of 2nd place Liverpool require the leaders to slip up against Aston Villa on Wednesday and/or West Ham United on Sunday.

But Brendan Rodgers is a bold man, confident in Liverpool’s free-scoring ability, and he insists it is not unforeseeable that even if City win out, his side could overturn that nine goal difference to win the Premier League.

“If there is any team that can score goals and turn it around it will be us,” Rodgers said.

“There is no question. That will be our aim. No question about that. I have seen it before. Chelsea beat Wigan 8-0 in the last game of the season [in 2010, when Chelsea won the title]. I am not paying any disrespect to Newcastle at all but if there is a team that has shown it can score goals, it is us. We are not a 1-0 team. We showed that at the beginning of the season but what we have shown since is we can score goals.”

Hard to argue with that.

On 11 separate occasions this season Liverpool have scored four or more goals in a game: West Brom (4-1 Oct. 26), Fulham (4-0 Nov. 9), Norwich City (5-1 Dec. 4), West Ham (4-1 Dec. 7), Tottenham (5-0 Dec. 15 and 4-0 Mar. 30), Stoke City (5-3 Jan. 12), Everton (4-0 Jan. 28), Arsenal (5-1 Feb. 8), Swansea City (4-3 Feb. 26) and Cardiff City (6-3 Mar. 22).

Further boosting hopes of an epic goal surge is the return of Daniel Sturridge, who is near full fitness in his rehabilitation from a hamstring injury meaning he’s likely to start on Monday when the Reds face Crystal Palace (3:00pm ET on NBCSN and streaming via Live Extra).

“Manchester City won the league on goals scored a couple of years ago,” Rodgers continued. “That’s why, when I came in here, I spoke about a team that could score goals because ultimately that is what it could come down to. We scored 47 goals in the first year I was here and now we have 96. That is what gives us the chance. We could sit and get the team to defend and not want to score but ultimately it’s the team that scores the goals that will win.”

While goals will be paramount for Liverpool to pull off a title charge via the goal differential scenario so too will good defending, which has not been the case of late for the Reds. The Liverpool defense has conceded two goals a match for the last three matches, although two of those came against top sides (Manchester City, Chelsea). Either way, Martin Skrtel, Mamadou Sakho, Glen Johnson and Jon Flanagan will need to be at their very best if Liverpool is to upset the odds.

VIDEO: Celtic’s 1st minute goal breaches PSG

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Celtic still have hope of advancing to the UEFA Europa League, but have a new feather in its cap regardless of whether they hold their table advantage on Anderlecht.

Moussa Dembele became the first UEFA Champions League player to score against Paris Saint-Germain, when he side-footed a first minute corner kick off PSG backstop Alphonse Aréola.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Champions League scores ]

Neymar would score just eight minutes later to level the score at the Parc des Princes, but Celtic had its moment and PSG is no longer unbreached despite entering the match with 17 goals scored, conceding zero.

2017 CONCACAF Awards shortlist revealed

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The 2017 CONCACAF Awards shortlist is up, and fan voting counts.

Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, and Christian Pulisic are among the nominees for Men’s Player of the Year. Philadelphia Union’s Jamaican backstop, Andre Blake, is also on the list along with Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and others.

[ MORE: Big American Soccer Survey results ]

The Female Player of the Year is predictably American-heavy, with Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, Becky Sauerbrunn, Julie Ertz, Megan Rapinoe, Sam Mewis, and Tobin Heath competing with a trio of international players.

Tim Howard is the only American up for Male Goalkeeper of the Year, though Blake is again in the running. The female side has American backstops Adrianna Franch, Alyssa Naeher, Ashlyn Harris, Jane Campbell, and Nicole Barnhart.

The full ballot, including Best XI, coaches, referees, and goals, is up for your votes here.

UCL: Chelsea advances vs. 10-man Qarabag (video)

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  • Chelsea into knockout rounds
  • Willian draws two penalties, scores two more
  • Hazard, Fabregas score

Willian scored two goals from the run of play and drew a pair of penalties in Azerbaijan, as Chelsea beat 10-man Qarabag 4-0 on Wednesday.

His second goal was a fantastic thump from atop the arc, and further iced the result in the 85th minute.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]

Qarabag hung tough for the first 20 minutes, but saw its odds of getting a point take a hit with a penalty and red card.

Rashad Sadygov made contact with Willian inside the 18, and Portuguese referee Manuel de Sousa awarded a penalty. That was understandable, but surprisingly he produced his red card to send Qarabag down a man.

Eden Hazard converted his low penalty, wrong footing keeper Ibrahim Sehic, and Chelsea took a 1-0 lead in the 21st minute.

Willian would score a goal of his own in the 36th, part of a terrific team goal with Hazard and Pedro.

The Blues were largely content to let Qarabag have the ball early in the second half, but resumed control around the hour mark and Sehic made an outstanding stop on Hazard before substitute Alvaro Morata dragged a shot wide of the far post.

Willian drew a second penalty in the 71st minute, as Maksim Medvedev tugged on the Brazilian’s jersey on a dribble into the 18. Yellow card for this foul.

Cesc Fabregas scored but two Chelsea players infringed on the 18 thanks to the shooter’s stuttering — and stopping — PK. He finished the second as well as the first. 3-0.

Willian added the fourth with a vicious strike five minutes from the end of scheduled play.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

World Cup-bound Saudi Arabia fires coach Edgardo Bauza

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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) World Cup-bound Saudi Arabia has fired coach Edgardo Bauza nine days before the draw.

The Saudi Arabia Football Federation announced the Argentine coach’s exit after only five friendlies in charge. The team lost to Portugal and Bulgaria this month.

[ MORE: Big American Soccer Survey results ]

Bauza has been fired twice this year by teams in the World Cup lineup. He lost the Argentina job in April, after eight months in charge, when the two-time World Cup champions risked missing out on qualification.

In September, Bauza was appointed by Saudi Arabia to replace Bert van Marwijk, who was fired despite leading the team to its first World Cup since 2006.

Saudi Arabia joins Australia without a coach for the World Cup draw in Moscow on Dec. 1.