Sterling to play or be rested vs. QPR?

Can Liverpool recreate last season’s Premier League magic?

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What do you get when you take the Player of the Season, add an unclogged fixture schedule, a pinch of tactical genius, a cup of top goalkeeping, sprinkle in a dash of youthful talent, and garnish with a seasoned on-the-field leader?

Why, you come a slip away from a Premier League championship, of course.

Unfortunately, with last year fallen through the grasp and gone forever, some of those ingredients are missing now, and Liverpool can’t exactly go to the grocery store and pick up another Luis Suarez out of the bread aisle.

Liverpool’s magical season last year should have earned them the Premier League title, except for the part where it didn’t. Now, with it all to do again, it will be hard for the Reds to repeat everything that helped move them to the top.

Now don’t get me wrong, they earned every bit of their second-place finish, and probably should have won it all.

But there were plenty of contributing factors that are no longer around in the brand new season.

First, every team around them got better. Arsenal got better. Manchester United got better. Chelsea got better. Manchester City got marginally better with an already loaded squad. Tottenham will be better. Last season, it seemed nobody wanted to win the league, but somebody had to. This year, that won’t be the case.

Another ingredient to last season’s success was their lack of other fixtures to keep the squad tied down, draw their attention away, and tire the players. They weren’t playing in Europe, were knocked out in the fifth round of the FA Cup, and eliminated in the third round of the League Cup. Across those two domestic competitions, they played just five matches.

This season, all that appears to be different. They’ll have the Champions League to contend with (not that that’s a bad thing by any means, but in a vacuum, it can only distract from their domestic season), and surely will look to progress further in the cup competitions.

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With Luis Suarez gone, the Liverpool attack is Daniel Sturridge’s to command, but his teammates will be needed to relieve some pressure.

But through it all, when asked about what his goals were next season, the only one manager Brendan Rodgers mentioned was the same one he targeted last year. “The first aim is to qualify for the Champions League, and then try to build your way up through. That’s what we did last year, going into every game just focusing on the next game.”

Despite all this, Rodgers doesn’t believe there will be much of a change. “There’s no great difference [from last season],” he told me after Liverpool’s win over AC Milan in Charlotte. “We’ve brought players in that understand the way of working, and obviously there are a lot of players that were retained from last season.”

But then, he recanted just a touch and admitted one difference. One key difference that may just be what the club needs to make up for what they no longer have on their side. “I think what we have this year, we have a greater belief. We were probably surprised for most of last season.”

He then talked about their preseason game against the Italian side. “I think you see tonight with the level of our football…what pleased me tonight was their maturity.”

It will be just that, the club’s experience of having challenged for the title last season, that will carry them through any sort of similar situation this season, should one arise.

Younger players such as Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson, Joe Allen, and Jon Flanagan will have to help take some of the pressure off Daniel Sturridge’s shoulders, and having been through last year’s title fight gave them a priceless wealth of knowledge.

It’s hard to imagine a scenario this year where other clubs haven’t surpassed Liverpool with big-money purchases from abroad and a level playing field in the fixture congestion department. Hard, but not impossible. And even if Liverpool finish as low as fourth, and do maintain their Champions League status, the atmosphere surrounding supporters should be positive.

Brendan Rodgers has, since his arrival, instilled a belief of the long-term project. And even if this club takes a step or two backwards this season, that gold nugget at the end of the tunnel is still very much intact.

And who knows. After laying out next season’s goals, Rodgers said with a smile, “It’s very difficult to forecast in football.” True that. Maybe this season, Gerrard will stay on his feet, and the slipper will fit.

Leicester City inks Ben Chilwell to new contract, warding off Liverpool interest

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Liverpool wanted to get younger at the back, but they’ll have to look elsewhere.

Despite reportedly heavy interest from Anfield, 19-year-old defender Ben Chilwell has signed a new five-year deal with Leicester City, tying him down through the summer of 2021.

The Leicester City defense desperately needs Chilwell’s youth as it ages yet another year following their run to the Premier League title. Robert Huth is 31 years old, Wes Morgan – also on a new deal this summer – is 32, and backup Marcin Wasilewski is 36. On the left edge, where Chilwell is most proficient, first-choice left-back Christian Fuchs is 30, while Jeffrey Schlupp provides the only other true bit of youth at 23. On the right, Danny Simpson is 29 and Richie De Laet is 27.

The youngster was reportedly a high-priority target for Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, lodging a number of bids with the news that Brad Smith would move to Bournemouth. According to reports in England, the Reds made one last effort to bid for Chilwell prior to his extension, but it did not bear fruit.

“Ever since I arrived in Leicester, Ben has been a young player that has shown a lot of promise,” Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri told the club’s official website. “He has all the attributes you would want in a defender and shows a lot of maturity for a player of just 19. He has come back for pre-season in very good condition and is already showing that he is ready to push for a place in the team.”

Chilwell, a Leicester City academy product, has yet to make a Premier League appearance, but has featured for the England youth teams at multiple levels.

Report: Manchester United’s $132 million Pogba deal close to completion

ROME, ITALY - MAY 21:  Paul Pogba of Juventus FC celebrates with the trophy after winning the TIM Cup final match against AC Milan at Stadio Olimpico on May 21, 2016 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)
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The finishing touches are being put on the biggest transfer in history.

A report from ESPN FC claims that Paul Pogba’s agent, Mino Raiola, is locked in talks with Juventus to finalize an offer of $132 million from Manchester United.

[ MORE: Fabregas off in fiery friendly

Pogba, 23, has been chased by United all summer and it finally appears that Jose Mourinho has his man.

The report goes on to state that Pogba could have a medical in Miami on Friday (where he is currently on vacation) as United aim to tie up the deal by the weekend.

This week it had been reported that a major snag in the deal had arrived due to Raiola demanding over $22 million for brokering the deal. However it seems as though any talk of an impasse has now passed and United are now close to sealing the huge deal for the French international midfielder.

Pogba left United for a $1.2 million compensation fee in 2012 after he failed to break into Sir Alex Ferguson‘s team. Now, just four years later, he will return to Old Trafford with four Serie A titles in his trophy cabinet plus he was named as the best young player at the 2014 World Cup.

Real Madrid and Barcelona were previously linked with Pogba but United’s riches, despite the Red Devils not being in the UEFA Champions League next season, seem to have prevailed.

Mourinho said in his first press conference as United’s manager that he wanted four key players to arrive as part of his rebuild.

He got Eric Bailly. He got Zlatan Ibrahimovich. He got Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Now it looks like the fourth, and most important, player will arrive.

Ranking the Olympic teams at Rio 2016

United States' Carli Lloyd (10) scores a goal on a penalty kick against Costa Rica during the first half of a CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament soccer match Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, in Frisco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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There are just six days to go until the Olympic soccer tournament kicks off in Brazil.

We’ve already ranked the top 20 players in the men’s and women’s soccer tournaments at Rio 2016 and now it is time to look each team.

[ STREAM: Watch Olympic soccer here ]

With host nation Brazil the clear favorites in the men’s competition, the U.S. women’s national team is also head and shoulders above the rest as they aim to pick up a fourth-straight Gold medal.

Below you can find the “power rankings” if you will, of the teams competing this summer for a place atop podium.


Men’s

  1. Brazil
  2. Germany
  3. Mexico
  4. Argentina
  5. Nigeria
  6. Portugal
  7. Sweden
  8. Japan
  9. Korea Republic
  10. Denmark
  11. Colombia
  12. Algeria
  13. Iraq
  14. Honduras
  15. South Africa
  16. Fiji

Women’s

  1. USA
  2. Germany
  3. France
  4. Brazil
  5. Sweden
  6. Australia
  7. Japan
  8. China
  9. Canada
  10. Colombia
  11. South Africa
  12. Zimbabwe

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Mustafi to Arsenal, Guzan to Boro, Tello to Saints

LILLE, FRANCE - JUNE 12:  Shkodran Mustafi of Germany runs with the ball during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group C match between Germany and Ukraine at Stade Pierre-Mauroy on June 12, 2016 in Lille, France.  (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
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Arsenal are said to have inquired about Valencia’s German international defender Shkodran Mustafi, 24.

After losing Per Mertesacker until 2017 with a serious knee injury, Arsene Wenger has already spoken about looking for an experienced option at center back.

[ MORE: Latest transfer news

However, it appears he may be looking for a more long-term approach with Mustafi set to cost around $26 million according to report in the Independent. That say that Spanish outlet Cadena Cope believe the German defender is up for sale.

With Laurent Koscielny on an extended break after appearing in the EURO 2016 final for France and Gabriel missing Arsenal’s tour of the USA with tonsillitis, Wenger will use young center backs Calum Chambers and Rob Holding against the MLS All-Stars on Thursday in San Jose, Calif. or maybe even Francis Coquelin as an emergency center back with Mathieu Debuchy and Nacho Monreal either side of him.

Mustafi started and scored against Ukraine in Germany’s 2-0 win in their EURO 2016 opener but only appeared again at the Euros as a second half sub in their semifinal defeat to France.


U.S. national team goalkeeper Brad Guzan is set to seal a move to Middlesbrough, according to the Guardian.

Per the report Guzan will leave Villa on a free transfer and will sign a two-year contract for Aitor Karanka’s side. Skyy Sports is also reporting that Guzan will have a medical on Teeside in the next 24 hours.

[ MORE: Fabregas sent off in fiery friendly ]

Guzan, 31, played for the U.S. at the Copa America Centenario this summer but given Aston Villa’s relegation to the Championship the Illinois native wants to stay in the Premier League.

If the move to ‘Boro does go through then he will be battling with Victor Valdes and Dimitrios Konstantopoulos for the starting spot.

Guzan has become the first-choice goalkeeper for Jurgen Klinsmann since the 2014 World Cup when Tim Howard decided to take a sabbatical. Last season he endured a nightmare campaign as they were relegated from the Premier League for the first-time in history.

Here’s hoping Guzan gets a chance to shine at the Riverside but with Valdes also signing on, it’s difficult to know who will be the first choice.


Southampton are chasing two Spanish players, according to the Sun.

Barcelona’s Christian Tello, 24, has spent the last two seasons on loan at Fiorentina and FC Porto but is now looking for a permanent home and Southampton will be hoping to add to their attack after losing Graziano Pelle and Sadio Mane this summer.

Tello could leave Barca for $13 million and although he’s scored 20 goals in 86 games for his hometown team, he has failed to break through and finally wants to become a regular elsewhere.

Jay Rodriguez and Charlie Austin are both back fit and among the goals during preseason but with their history of injuries perhaps Claude Puel will be looking to sign one more striker as Saints prepare for both the Premier League and the Europa League.

The report also states that midfield reinforcement is being looked at with Malaga’s Recio, 25, linked with a $7 million move to St Mary’s. Saints seem pretty set in that area of the pitch with Jordy Clasie, Oriol Romeu and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.