Nice has been the class of Ligue 1 so far this season, and Mario Balotelli has a lot to do with that.
The Italian has struggled to stay on the pitch due to a host of injury problems, but when he plays a part, he’s been ruthless.
Balotelli scored two more today as Nice took down 18th-placed Dijon 2-1. He grabbed his first from the spot after Alassane Pléa was fouled by Yunis Abdelhamid in the area. His second was a true poacher’s goal, as Arnaud Souquet fed him from the right and Balotelli expertly struck home from point-blank range. It did appear he was a fair bit offside on the second, but the flag stayed down.
The double gives Balotelli eight Ligue 1 goals in eight matches, and represents his third double of the year. He has 10 goals in 13 appearances across all competitions. Nice has lost just once all year in league play, and they lead the Ligue 1 table by four points over Monaco, and are seven above last year’s champions PSG.
However, Balotelli has not appeared in more than two straight games this season, and he will have a chance to do that when Nice travels to Bordeaux on Monday in their final fixture before the holiday break.
Goals from Mohamed Salah and Philippe Coutinho helped Liverpool come back from an early deficit to win the PL Asia Trophy on Saturday in Hong Kong.
Islam Slimani gave Leicester City an early lead in front of a heavy pro-Liverpool crowd at Hong Kong Stadium, but Coutinho delivered the goods on both goals in a 2-1 win.
The tournament win is Liverpool’s first in its second trip to the PL Asia Trophy Final.
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First he crossed for Salah to head home, and then he scored the above goal by cutting in from the left and lashing a shot past a flailing Kasper Schmeichel.
We’ve seen this one before from Coutinho, just not on this particular continent. The Brazilian remains a Barcelona target, but looks prepared for the season in whatever land he sets foot.
Neymar and Alexis Sanchez to Paris? Brazil and Chile’s finest living as one? Reunited and it feels so French?
The latter’s talents will see Arsenal’s resolve tested by a $46 million bid, according to Sky Sports, though Gunners manager Arsene Wenger has been adamant that Sanchez will not be sold this summer.
Reports circled last year that Arsenal was prepared to offer Sanchez and Mesut Ozil record deals to stay at the club, though PSG has reportedly met with Sanchez and his agent with ideas of incredible $650,000 per week wages at the Parc des Princes.
[ EXCLUSIVE: Strootman talks Roma w/ PST ]
A source also told Sky Sports that it would take “a miracle” for Neymar to remain at Barcelona, so that Sanchez/Edinson Cavani/Neymar trident could be coming to a theater near you.
Southampton manager Mauricio Pellegrino is hopeful of convincing Virgil Van Dijk to stay at St. Mary’s, but for now he’s been forced to ask the defender to take time away from the club.
Van Dijk, hopeful to engineer a move to a UEFA Champions League club, has not been in the preferred mental state for Pellegrino.
“When I was talking with him, the boy said that he is not available to play because he wants to leave. I need to work with a player that works at 100 percent to defend Southampton. This is the decision. I had to say: ‘OK, if you don’t want to be involved because you don’t feel OK, you have to train alone until this period of time.'”
Liverpool publicly ended their interest in Van Dijk following Southampton complaints, and the club maintains it will not sell the influential center back.
West Ham’s loan move for Joe Hart could see both of its 2016-17 goalkeepers leaving the London Stadium. Multiple reports say Darren Randolph could be off to Middlesbrough, with Adrian also heading to the Northeast to play for countryman Rafa Benitez at Newcastle.
Goals from Luka Milivojevic and Bakary Sako led Crystal Palace to a 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion in the third place game of the PL Asia Trophy.
Palace had lost 2-0 to Liverpool in its semifinal, while West Brom fell to Leicester City in penalty kicks after trading goals over 90 minutes.
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Milivojevic’s free kick, won by Wilfried Zaha, was super. Whipped in with force and a wicked curl, Baggies keeper Ben Foster didn’t have a chance to reach it with his dive.
Sako created his goal with a darting move off a long dribble, though it needed a pair of deflections to get behind Foster.
The Baggies had their chances, and Julian Speroni made an outstanding save on Matty Phillips late in the match.
Goals from Bakary Sako and Luka Milivojevic spearheaded Crystal Palace’s 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion in the PL Asia Trophy third place game, and now Liverpool and Leicester City tangle for the title.
The final will be staged at 8:30 a.m. ET, when Liverpool will hope to build on a 2-0 semifinal win paced by Divock Origi and Dominic Solanke goals.
[ LIVE: Stream PL Asia Trophy here ]
West Brom lost to Leicester City in its semifinal when youngster Sam Field missed the side’s seventh attempt in penalty kicks. Jay Rodriguez scored the Baggies goal in regulation of a 1-1 draw.
Here are the lineups for Leicester City and Liverpool: