Steven Gerrard endured “worst three months” of his life after Liverpool, England heartbreak

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Steven Gerrard’s career has, largely, been one of the most successful of any current player in the Premier League. He’s captained Liverpool to a UEFA Champions League title, led England at two different World Cups, scored some incredible goals and is a player idolized across the world.

Yet since April 27, 2014, things have gone downhill. Rapidly.

[RELATED: Gerrard retires from England]

If you remember back to the end of last season Gerrard, 35, slipped at a crucial moment to set Chelsea on their way to a win at Anfield that delivered a damaging blow to Liverpool’s title hopes. It was a cruel blow for the man who had so often been Liverpool’s savior over the years. Then, after Liverpool blew a 3-0 lead over Crystal Palace in the penultimate game of the season which ultimately cost them the their first-ever PL title, Gerrard suffered the heartbreak of captaining England as they crashed out at the 2014 World Cup.

Over the offseason Gerrard has had to overcome plenty of adversity, in his own mind. Speaking to the Telegraph and Liverpool’s website, Gerrard admitted that the past three months have been the worst in his life.

“It’s probably been the worst three months of my life,” Gerrard said. “I’ve seen it a few times. I don’t have to watch something like that to go through the pain again and again and again. I’ve been through the pain in the dressing room after and in the weeks and months since. When something like that happens you have to face it up and be man enough to take it on the chin. Accept it happened. You can’t change it. I haven’t lost my man at a set-piece. I haven’t missed a penalty. I haven’t made a bad pass or a mistake. That’s why it was cruel. Every single person on the planet slips at some point in their life, whether it is on a set of stairs, on the floor or whatever.”

That slip against Chelsea will be remembered for a long time, as Liverpool’s hero for over a decade made a monster mistake at precisely the wrong moment. Turns out, lightning can strike twice. Sort of. After England lost 2-1 to Italy in their opening game of the World Cup, they knew they had to at least draw against Uruguay to stand a chance of making the knockout rounds. Late in the game with the scored locked at 1-1, a long ball forward saw Gerrard jump for the ball. Instead of winning the header clean, it flicked off the back of his head and found Luis Suarez. His Liverpool teammate drove another dagger into Gerrard’s heart by scoring the goal which knocked England out.

Gerrard wasn’t solely responsible for either Liverpool losing the title or England being knocked out of the World Cup, but his role as captain and the fact that he made pivotal mistakes at crucial times are eating away at him.

“Unfortunately I have had that tough time at club level at the end of the season and then I have gone into a World Cup hoping that it was going to go really well to help me get over it. But it backfired,” Gerrard said. “I have had two massive, unbelievable lows in a short space of time, so it is a good test for me this season. Can I hit form after that? I believe that I can.”

So, can Gerrard dust himself off and lead a new-look Liverpool towards the PL title and success in the Champions League this season? Bouncing back from the disappointment of the past three months could be his biggest challenge yet.

Mexico captain Guardado suffers hamstring injury

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With the World Cup still half a year away, there’s plenty of time to heal from injuries and get the body right after tweaking things during the club season.

And yet, there will still be some concern among Mexico fans.

Team captain Andres Guardado suffered a hamstring tear, his club Real Betis confirmed on Monday, and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks. That’s nothing to write home about when it comes to preparing for the big tournament, but with Guardado 31 years old and struggling with injuries in recent years, Mexico fans will be keenly aware that hamstring injuries can return with a vengeance if not given the right time to heal.

Guardado has shown his age in recent times, not necessarily with his play on the field, which has been critical to his country, but with his fitness. Guardado has just four full 90 minute performances for Mexico dating back to October of 2016, missing time with ankle, leg, and now hamstring injuries in that span.

The 31-year-old has had a fine season so far for Real Betis, scoring one goal and assisting six while appearing in all 15 La Liga matches for the club thus far. The club sits 12th in the La Liga table with 18 points.

Guardado will be fine with plenty of time to spare, but if not fully healed properly, there’s always the risk that muscle injuries can flare back up, and Mexico fans will hope that their captain’s club gives him plenty of rest to recover.

Mark Hughes wants Stoke City to “suck it up”

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Mark Hughes is under fire at Stoke City with the Potters firmly entrenched in the relegation battle, and with that he’s charging his players, staff, and himself to gut the rest of the season out.

With Stoke heading to Turf Moor to take on Burnley, they sit just three points above the drop. The players were faced with jeers from angry fans at the train station following this past weekend’s 5-1 disaster against Tottenham. The fiery Hughes is hoping to use this jarring moment to jolt his squad.

[ PREVIEW: Tuesday’s Premier League action ]

“That is still resonating. It’s good we have a game because it is still fresh in their ears probably, and they can use it as a motivating factor,” said Hughes during his pre-match press conference.

“You either suck it up and do ­something about it or you go under, and we can’t accept players like that. I don’t feel we have players like that.”

With managers nowadays often reaching into the excuses barrel as they hope to save their own skins, Hughes refuses to do just that, instead placing the decision firmly on the players shoulders, telling them they are the only ones who can save the club.

“Maybe some hadn’t ­confronted that before – but sometimes you need a reality check, and understand how our results and ­performances affect people,” Hughes said. “When people criticize you, you have to grow a thick skin in this industry. If you don’t, you’re in the wrong place.”

Louis van Gaal calls Mourinho’s United “far more boring”

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Louis Van Gaal has picked just the right time to pipe up.

The former Manchester United manager, who took flak while in charge for his side being hideous to watch, has now taken shots of his own at his successor Jose Mourinho, kicking Manchester United while they’re down after a 2-1 derby defeat at home.

The Dutchman told Fox Sports Netherlands, “If you ask me how did I do at United, I will say it was my best year ever, given the circumstances I was working under. We played football that was quite alright. But it’s not football that is appreciated in England. And yet, right now, looking at United, I have to conclude Mourinho is not being criticized while it’s far more boring football.”

[ PREVIEW: Premier League Tuesday matches, including Chelsea vs. Huddersfield ]

Van Gaal was blasted consistently for playing a boring style, especially in front of the home crowd, and now Mourinho is being criticized for the same concept. Mourinho was denounced for similar reasons while in charge of Chelsea, but with the club winning multiple titles under his leadership, the noise was always less while the team was winning. With Manchester United still unable to crack the top 4, Mourinho is feeling the heat.

“What United produce now is defensive football,” van Gaal said. “I always played attacking football. The proof is that the opposition were always parking the bus. They don’t do that now because Jose Mourinho plays so defensive.”

To van Gaal’s point, Manchester United is seventh in the Premier League in possession, holding 51% possession this season. They were out-possessed by Manchester City 65-35 at Old Trafford over the weekend. Meanwhile, van Gaal’s last full season with Manchester United, the 2015/16 season, saw the Red Devils hold 54%, which ranked third in the Premier League, just a percentage point behind leaders Arsenal. However, van Gaal’s United ranked 15th in the Premier League in total shots, while Mourinho’s United this season ranks sixth at this point.

Van Gaal made sure to point out he prefers their cross-town rivals.

“I would rather watch City play than United. You need quality in a squad and it’s clear City have a better squad.”

Conte blames fatigue for dip in Chelsea form

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Antonio Conte has figured out what is plaguing his Chelsea side as they sit 14 points back of Premier League leaders Manchester City.

“I think when you play every three days, it is impossible to have a training session and to work on the physical aspects,” Conte said in his pre-match press conference as the Blues get set to play Huddersfield Town on Tuesday. “It’s impossible. It’s impossible because you have to prepare with the players for a game every three days.”

Chelsea has yet to find itself eliminated from a single competition, drawn against Barcelona in the Champions League while navigating fixtures across all four competitions.

And yet, this is nothing new for Conte. The Blues boss is more than familiar with fixture congestion, having taken charge of Juventus and regularly competing at a high level on multiple fronts. In 2012/13, he won the Serie A title, won the Supercoppa Italia, and reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

However, this is new for Conte at Chelsea. Last season, the Blues did not take part in a European competition thanks to their disastrous season the previous year. While they reached the FA Cup final, they were knocked out of the EFL Cup in the 4th round.

“We have to try to do our best,” Conte said. “For sure, some players can be tired, that’s normal because some players are playing from this summer and our tours in China and Singapore. It’s normal. But I repeat we have to find the best solution. We have to find more rotations. I’m doing this, we will try and do our best with hunger and desire. We will fight.”

As an example, Conte said Alvaro Morata will miss the match on Tuesday against Huddersfield Town due to fatigue, with the Spaniard battling a slight back injury. “Morata is out. He is a bit tired and he has a problem in his back.