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

Defoe walks out Bradley Lowery, scores in England win

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Jermain Defoe’s friendship with terminally-ill Bradley Lowery has been special to watch unfold, and the Sunderland striker brought his little buddy to Wembley today.

Then he notched a match-winner.

Lowery walked Defoe out onto the field in a replica England kit before Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania, and then Defoe scored his 20th goal for country.

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It was his first since 2013, the last year Defoe was called up for the Three Lions.

Here’s the goal, which was followed by a second-half Jamie Vardy tally as England stayed atop Group F with a 2-0 win over Lithuania.

Two Russian soccer fans stabbed in Serbia

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BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) Two Russian fans have been hospitalized with serious injuries after being stabbed following a friendly soccer match between Red Star Belgrade and Lokomotiv Moscow.

Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said Sunday police were looking for the knife-wielding perpetrators who attacked a group of Lokomotiv fans in downtown Belgrade late Saturday.

Serbian media reports said the Russian fans were attacked by supporters of Red Star’s rival Partizan Belgrade.

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The match, which Red Star won 2-1, was meant to promote Serbia’s traditional friendship with Russia.

Stefanovic says “nobody should think they could hurt the Serbian-Russian friendship” with such attacks.

Serbia has seen a surge of fan violence inside and outside stadiums. In 2009, a French football fan was fatally beaten in Belgrade.

VIDEO: Gerrard’s juggle and finish leads Liverpool legends past Real Madrid

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Scoring at Anfield doesn’t get old, especially when your name is Steven Gerrard.

The English midfielder was playing in a friendly match between Liverpool and Real Madrid “legends” on Sunday, when he delivered this tasty goal (and assists to Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, and John Aldridge).

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Gerrard redirects a cross over a lunging defender and into a place where he can lash a goal home to put the Reds up 4-0. He dedicated his Man of the Match performance to club legend Ronnie Moran, who died earlier this week.

Real’s comeback came up just short in a 4-3 final, with Fernando Morientes, Ruben de la Red, and Edwin Congo scoring for the visitors.

On a Sunday waiting for the international matches to begin, Gerrard supplies a nice highlight for the rest of us (Extended highlights free on Liverpool’s site).

Ozil bristles at talk of Arsenal selling him

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Mesut Ozil is on international break, and bristling at reports that Arsenal is going to sell him.

The midfielder’s absence from the lineup last week had plenty speculating on his future, even more than usual. His contract expires in 2018, and several reports claimed he’d join Alexis Sanchez as players destined for elsewhere.

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Ozil was not called up by Germany, and has missed four of his last nine Premier League matches. Three of those were for illness, and he missed last week’s loss to West Brom with a hamstring injury.

From Metro:

“And you think Wenger tells the journalist before he tells me? Then I know him differently,” Ozil told German outlet Welt.

“I have a contract until 2018 in London and I feel very comfortable there. We’ll talk soon and then make a decision.”

Metro notes that Ozil also said he wants to win the Champions League, something that can only happen with Arsenal remaining in the Top Four. We suppose you could make snarky inferences from his “comfortable in London” phrasing, but we’ll leave it there.