Preview: Liverpool host Tottenham in top four battle

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  • 1 win in 10 in 2017 for Liverpool
  • Tottenham unbeaten in 11 in all comps
  • Liverpool unbeaten in last 9 games v Spurs

Out-of-form Liverpool host Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com) in a battle between two teams hoping to secure a top four finish.

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Over the past few years there hasn’t been much between these teams with the last three PL games all ending in draws and the high-pressing preferred by both managers somewhat canceling each other out. In terms of form, there’s nothing similar about these two teams at the moment.

Liverpool has yet to win in the Premier League in 2017, securing just one victory in their last 10 games in all competitions as they crashed out of the EFL Cup and the FA Cup to leave the focusing solely on finishing in the top four of the PL.

Jurgen Klopp has still got the backing of most of the home fans but his side have slumped from title contenders to now being 13 points behind leaders Chelsea and sitting in fifth-place. Mauricio Pochettino‘s men appear to be peaking at the right time of the season and Tottenham are in second place, nine points behind Chelsea.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings

In team news Liverpool will check on center backs Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan who both missed the defeat at Hull last weekend. Adam Lallana, who is close to signing a new contract, could be a doubt after suffering an Achilles injury.

Tottenham’s Jan Vertonghen is making good progress from his ankle injury but won’t feature, meaning Eric Dier could continue in central defense. Danny Rose is still out injured but is making good progress, while Erik Lamela is definitely missing for Spurs.


What they’re saying

Klopp on ambition for the rest of the season: “In my dreams we can 14 games – again, I know how that sounds but I cannot change my dreams. That’s what I’m working for.”

Pochettino on the title race: “We are not the only realistic challengers. We are next after Chelsea and it’s a fact we are a contender today. Then there are a lot of teams who are contenders. Nine points is a massive gap but it is not decisive.”

Prediction

This seems like Spurs’ time to throw down a genuine title challenge. A win at Anfield would momentarily close the gap on leaders Chelsea to six points ahead of their trip to Burnley on Sunday. This is a great chance for Tottenham to put some pressure on Antonio Conte‘s men and I think they may sit back and look to hit Liverpool on the counter. With Harry Kane and Dele Alli in top form, Spurs will grab a vital 2-1 win away from home.

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alex Sanchez this weekend ]

The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alexis Sanchez over the weekend ]

The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

[ MORE: Chicharito talks heating up with LA FC ]

On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.