STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - AUGUST 09:  Geoff Cameron of Stoke City holds off Christian Benteke of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Liverpool at Brittania Stadium on August 9, 2015 in Stoke on Trent, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

League Cup semifinal preview: Stoke City vs. Liverpool

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The best part about the League Cup is that no matter how early you enter the tournament, you’re never more than 720 (regulation) minutes from lifting a trophy at Wembley Stadium.

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When Stoke City and Liverpool take the field at the Britannia Stadium on Tuesday, that number will have been whittled all the way down to 270, with a special day out in the capital city just 180 minutes away (League Cup semifinals are contested over two legs). Manchester City and Everton will face one another in the second semifinal, beginning on Wednesday.

Liverpool hoped to have striker Daniel Sturridge (hamstring) back in time for Tuesday’s clash, but manager Jurgen Klopp announced on Monday that the 26-year-old has suffered another setback in his bid to return from injury, despite proclaiming himself “good to go” barely a week ago.

Meanwhile, Stoke manager Mark Hughes is feeling quite confident given his side’s recent run of results (six wins in their last 10 games – all competitions), coupled with Liverpool’s struggles (two wins in their last seven). Said Hughes: “We are very strong at the moment at home and playing exceptionally well there. We are giving good teams like Liverpool real problems. Teams have to be at their best to withstand us at home. It is a game of significance for us, and these are the games we want to be involved in. Hopefully it is the first of many.”

Stoke defender Geoff Cameron will be available for Tuesday’s first leg after the club successfully appealed the red card levied against the U.S. national teamer on the weekend.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Saturday ]

Injuries/suspensions: Stoke — QUESTIONABLE: Stephen Ireland (hamstring), Peter Crouch (hamstring) | Liverpool — OUT: Daniel Sturridge (hamstring), Martin Skrtel (hamstring), Danny Ings (knee), Joe Gomez (knee), Jon Flanagan (knee); QUESTIONABLE: James Milner (calf), Divock Origi (hamstring)

Path to semifinals: Stoke — Luton Town 1-1 (7-8 PKs) Stoke; Fulham 0-1 Stoke; Stoke 1-1 (5-4 PKs) Chelsea; Stoke 2-0 Sheffield Wednesday | Liverpool — Liverpool 1-1 (3-2 PKs) Carlisle United); Liverpool 1-0 Bournemouth; Southampton 1-6 Liverpool;

League meeting this season: Stoke 0-1 Liverpool (Aug. 9)

League Cups won: Stoke (1) — 1971-72 | Liverpool (8) — 1980–81, 1981–82, 1982–83, 1983–84, 1994–95, 2000–01, 2002–03, 2011–12

Pep Guardiola: “Maybe I’m not good enough”

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Pep Guardiola has admitted he “may not be good enough” for his players at Manchester City.

Ahead of City’s clash against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com) Guardiola has been defended his squad after severe criticism from the media.

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City were hammered 4-0 at Everton last weekend, their worst league defeat since 2008 and Guardiola’s worst-ever league defeat as a manager.

With plenty pointing the finger of blame at goalkeeper Claudio Bravo and City’s defense, their manager put himself in the firing line.

“They are good players. I have respect for the guys, so why would I say the guys are not good? So I don’t understand the lack of respect for the professionals when they have been amazing players, and [people saying] they are not good enough for me. Maybe I am not good enough for them,” Guardiola said. “They are Manchester City players, top players. They have a lot of quality. They have shown that many times in the past and this season.”

Mind games.

Guardiola, 46, is no doubt facing the biggest challenge of his season as City look to at least seal a top four spot in this his debut season in England. The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager has already “said goodbye to the title” and if they lose against red-hot Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium then more questions will be asked of his tactics and if they can work in the Premier League.

So far the possession-based slow build up style has been hot and cold for City, with plenty of counter-attacking teams in the PL (Chelsea, Spurs, Everton, Leicester etc.) having a field day against a shaky defense.

Despite being 10 points off the pace, Guardiola is sticking by his philosophy. One thing really sticks out to me from his first few press conferences in England: “We will see if my style of play can work in the Premier League.”

So far, it’s not.

Watch Live: Liverpool vs. Swansea City (Lineups, Stream)

SWANSEA, WALES - MARCH 16:  Kyle Naughton of Swansea City is closed down by Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Liverpool at Liberty Stadium on March 16, 2015 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
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Liverpool host Swansea City to Anfield on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with the Reds aiming to stretch their unbeaten run at home in the Premier League to 18 games.

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Jurgen Klopp is a little concerned with the number of games his team have had to play over the past few weeks, but a victory against the struggling Swans would momentarily move his side just four points behind leaders Chelsea who play on Sunday.

As for Swansea, new manager Paul Clement knows a win would take his team out of the relegation zone and with new signings arriving that would be a massive boost. It would also be a massive ask for the Welsh side to get anything at Anfield but this may be a good time to play Liveprool after their midweek trip to Plymouth in the FA Cup and the EFL Cup semifinal second leg against Southampton coming up on Wednesday.

In team news Liverpool start with Philippe Coutinho once again, while Joel Matip is on the bench after the Reds finally settled the dispute with Cameroon. Swansea hand debuts to new signings Martin Olsson and Tom Carroll.

LINEUPS

Liverpool: Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Klavan, Milner; Can, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Lallana, Coutinho, Firmino. Subs: Karius, Sturridge, Moreno, Lucas, Origi, Matip, Woodburn

Swansea City: Fabianski; Olsson, Mawson, Fernandez, Naughton; Cork, Carroll, Fer; Sigurdsson, Llorente, Routledge. Subs: Nordfeldt, Rangel, Amat, Fulton, Dyer, Borja, McBurnie

Viktoria Plzen set to sign midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz

Obafemi Martins, Oniel Fisher, Andreas Ivanschitz
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
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PRAGUE (AP) Czech champion Viktoria Plzen is close to signing Austrian midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz.

Plzen says Ivanschitz agreed terms for a contract lasting 1 + seasons and will sign it when the team returns from a training camp in Spain. Ivanschitz has already joined the squad at the Oliva Nova resort, the club says.

Ivanschitz helped the Seattle Sounders win their first MLS Cup in December.

[ NEW HOMES: Fonte | Berahino ]

No financial details were given.

The 33-year-old Ivanschitz also played for Rapid Vienna and Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, Mainz in the Bundesliga, Levante in Spain and Panathinaikos in Athens.

Ivanschitz played 69 games for Austria in 2003-14, scoring 12 goals.

FIFA allows Matip to represent Liverpool during AFCON

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: Joel Matip of Liverpool heads to score his team's third goal during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park on October 29, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
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Joel Matip is going to get to play for Liverpool during AFCON after all.

The center back had turned down the chance to represent Cameroon at the Africa Cup of Nations, and Liverpool was forced to apply to FIFA for a waiver.

[ PL PREVIEW: Swansea vs. Liverpool ]

Matip suffered an ankle injury in December, adding to his desire to stay at Anfield. He declared himself internationally retired and was one of six Cameroon players who refused call-ups for AFCON.

He last played for the Reds on Dec. 11, and can be selected by Jurgen Klopp against Swansea City on Saturday.