Liverpool names 33-man roster for Champions Cup

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Champions Cup matches have become such an important part of preseason preparations, it’s no surprise to see teams name strong squads. In that sense, Liverpool has fallen in line by naming the likes of Steven Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge, and Raheem Sterling to the team that will face Olympiacos (July 27), Manchester City (July 30), and Milan (Aug. 2) in the competition’s opening round.

In another sense, however, there are a number of small eye-openers in the 33-man team Brendan Rodgers is bringing to the United States.

For example, consider the forwards, a corps that now includes former Saint Rickie Lambert. The returning Fabio Borini joins Sturridge in rounding out a group that will look strange until we get used to the idea that Luis Suárez has really moved on.

But Borini’s name sparks another strange sensation: Realizing some big names are returning from loan. The Italian attacker, instrumental in Sunderland’s miraculous spring survival, is one of them, as is Pepe Reina, who spent last season on loan with Napoli. Sebastián Coates and Suso are also back after ending last season at Nacional of Uruguay and Almería, respectively. Whether they’re playing for a spot in the team or waiting for another loan deal remains to be seen.

Perhaps most encouraging for Liverpool fans is the depth. Two months after seeming the thinnest of the Premier League’s title contenders, the club has loaded up on options.

In defense, the team is two-deep along the back, while the additions of Emre Can, Adam Lallana, and Lazar Markovic mean eight or nine midfielders could compete for time. The quality could be better in a few spots, but Rodgers’ shouldn’t suffer from a lack of options this season.

Here’s the squad Liverpool will bring to the States:

Goalkeepers (4): Simon Mignolet, Pepe Reina, Brad Jones, Adam Phillips

Defenders (13): Daniel Agger, Sebastian Coates, Jon Flanagan, Tiago Ilori, Glen Johnson, Martin Kelly, Mamadou Sakho, Jose Enrique, Martin Skrtel, Kolo Toure, Andre Wisdom, Danny Ward, Jack Robinson

Midfielders (13): Joe Allen, Emre Can, Phillipe Coutinho, Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, Lucas Leiva, Lazar Markovic, Raheem Sterling, Connor Coady, Suso, Jordan Ibe, Joao Carlos Teixera

Forwards (3): Fabio Borini, Rickie Lambert, Daniel Sturridge

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images
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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”

Boa Esporte goalkeeper back to prison as murder appeal denied

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The risk clearly wasn’t worth it for Boa Esporte.

The Brazilian club signed Bruno Fernandes de Souza in March, not long after the convicted murderer and goalkeeper was released from prison on appeal.

Fernandes, 32, had been jailed for ordering the murder of a lover, who was fed to dogs by the killer. Boa Esporte lost several big sponsors for signing him, but vocally defended the move.

The owner, Rone Moraes da Costa, said he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to revive his career. Fernandes admitted his mistakes but said he wasn’t “a bad guy”.

According to the Associated Press:

“Brazil’s Supreme Court decided on Tuesday to deny an appeal to Boa Esporte goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes de Souza, who was released in March while appealing a 22-year sentence in the 2010 killing of Eliza Samudio.”

So it’s back to jail for Fernandes, and we’ll be waiting with baited breath to hear from Boa Esporte’s owner.

Conte: Chelsea “ready to fight to the end”

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Following Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Spurs and Tuesday’s blowout of Southampton — the 4-2 score line didn’t tell the story of the second half — Antonio Conte is fired up for Chelsea to complete its Premier League title run.

The manager admits that his side was under pressure after Spurs narrowed the table gap to four points last week, but the wins have eased the Blues’ burden.

Chelsea had lost two of four PL matches before the weekend.

From Football.London:

“I think we passed a big, big psychological step after the defeat to United. We lost three points and had to prepare a semi-final against Tottenham and then another tough game in the league. In that moment we had a really important test and our answer was very good.

“We must think that this race is open, we have reached the final of the FA Cup. The situation in the league is totally open. We are ready to fight to the end. We must be proud for the job we are doing and to fight to the end.”

Spurs can bring the gap back to four with a win at Crystal Palace on Tuesday, but have a tougher run-in with five matches to play. As long as the gap is within six points, anything is possible, but the Blues have certainly answered the bell over the past four days.

Chelsea: Big win “feels like a massive step” to title

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“It feels like a massive step to be honest,” said game-changing goal scorer Gary Cahill of Chelsea’s 4-2 win over Southampton at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

Chelsea’s Premier League lead stands at seven points after the win, which saw a dominant second half from the hosts.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Perhaps it was cued up by Cahill’s first half stoppage time header, which boosted the Blues to a 2-1 lead just before the whistle.

Cahill darted in front of Diego Costa‘s scissor kick attempt to power a header past Fraser Forster.

“(Costa) tried to claim it afterward as well,” Cahill said. “When the ball’s just lofted over, it’s dying to be attacked. We went into halftime with our tails up and it was a big boost for us.”

Cesc Fabregas said Southampton surprised the Blues tactically, leading to an entertaining first half that could’ve seen either side ahead before half.

“We needed a little bit of time to adapt to what they did because we prepared for something else,” he said.

Fabregas said the win was big with second-place Spurs watching at home. Tottenham plays at Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

“We needed a good response after the Man United game. We have to keep going with five games to go, to keep it up and make the last push. It would be a big shame if now we relaxed. We just have to push now more than ever,” he said.

“It’s a statement for (Spurs), for us, for everyone, but most of all for us.”
Eden Hazard agreed.
“We scored four beautiful goals,” said the Belgian, who scored the game’s first goal. “It’s good to play before and put pressure on them.”