Klopp defends Liverpool: “Not far away from a real challenger”

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NEWCASTLE — Jurgen Klopp cut a frustrated figure throughout Liverpool’s 1-1 draw at Newcastle United at St James’ Park on Sunday.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

The German coach chuntered away at the fourth official on multiple occasions, seemed annoyed by Newcastle coming back onto the pitch later than usual for the second half and was screaming at his players as they allowed Newcastle to dictate the midfield and shut down any rhythm his side created.

Following Philippe Coutinho‘s screamer to make it 1-0, a sloppy, and now characteristic, defensive mistake cost the Reds all three points and Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Daniel Sturridge were all guilty of missing key chances.

Speaking to the media after the game, Klopp was tetchy as one reporter suggested it was a fair result for Liverpool to draw at Newcastle.

“Was it the first football game you saw?” Klopp replied. “Interesting. I thought we were the better and the more active side. We created better chances, didn’t we?”

Klopp went on to try and defend his team after the mistake for the first goal saw Jonjo Shelvey thread through a perfect ball for Joselu to run on to after his two center backs, Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren, were caught napping.

“It was a good goal. A good pass absolutely in the right moment. For me it looks like some of us didn’t see the ball because two or three players are in front of them,” Klopp said. “If they see it they have to make a step and then Joselu is offside and then in the end it is unlucky. We cleared the ball pretty much but the ball then went into the corner.”

Going into the international break Klopp’s side have 12 points after their first seven games of the Premier League season and have just one win in seven games in all competitions.

“It feels not to cool you can imagine. I played a lot of times with different teams in my life and got a point and after it feels like you won a point. We have a problem because we have to play better next game otherwise we will not get a point,” Klopp explained. “We are the better team. Again. We created better chances. Again. We were in very promising situations and then we don’t score. That is of course the problem. I know, I have been in football long enough that one day when the knot opens maybe we will score more than one time. That’s pretty likely.”

Asked further about a poor run of form for his side which has seen them lose in the League Cup to Leicester City, draw with both Spartak Moscow and Sevilla in the Champions League and now draw against Burnley, Newcastle United and lose at Manchester City in the last seven, Klopp believes scoring goals will solve the problem.

“There are different ways to get one win in seven. You can play really bad and lose most games or you can play more than a few games really, really good,” Klopp said. “Most of the games we were the better side. But a few chances are enough for the opponent to score and we need a lot more. That happens too often the last few weeks but the only alternative for us is to carry on.”

When they carry on after the international break they face Manchester United at Anfield on Oct. 14 with the Red Devils flying high along with Manchester City as they have 19 points from their opening seven games and are seven points ahead of Liverpool.

“Now it is the international break and the boys will go away and we all feel not perfect at the moment. The main problem is that football is not fair but people like you write things about it and boys read it. That makes it even worse,” Klopp said. “You feel you have a point but you feel like you lost. I hope they all come back healthy and we go again. In the next game we will probably have different problems to a game like today. It is against United, full of confidence and stuff like this. We force ourselves into quite good shape and a good situation. It is really difficult.”

Klopp continued to defend his Liverpool side, saying they made “one real mistake” in the draw and believes they’ve had their tough patch of the season.

He still believes Liverpool are genuine title contenders.

“We have obviously had our hard moment. Other teams will have hard moments. It is really rare a season is going like this [makes a whooshing sound] so we need to work on our team. I really think it looks like we are not far away from a real challenger,” Klopp said. “If we do what we are good at it, and we score more goals we will win games and we don’t have to think about other teams. We will close the gap, how big it is, and we will see where we are at the end.”

Suspended Villar says Spain in danger of missing World Cup

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The suspended president of the Spanish soccer federation, who is under investigation for corruption, tried Monday to stoke up fears that the country could be kicked out of the World Cup because of government interference.

Angel Maria Villar, who is free on bail, spoke at a news conference in Madrid and again denied any wrongdoing. He also blamed the government for meddling in the federation’s affairs by suspending him.

“This government is putting Spain’s participation in the World Cup at risk,” the 67-year-old Villar said in his first news conference since being arrested in July along with his son, Gorka Villar, and two other officials.

[ BLANC: I turned down USMNT talks ]

“The risk is serious,” Villar said. “The only party responsible for Spain not going to the World Cup will be the Spanish government.”

Villar spoke three days after FIFA said it was concerned about the independence of the Spanish soccer federation and that it would soon send a delegation to analyze the situation. FIFA made no mention of a possible suspension of the federation, which could keep Spain out of next year’s World Cup in Russia or even knock Real Madrid and Barcelona out of the Champions League.

Villar, who has spent time behind bars to impede the possible destruction of evidence, and the other three officials are being investigated for alleged improper management, misappropriation of funds, corruption and falsifying documents.

Villar resigned his vice presidencies of both FIFA and UEFA following his arrest. But he tried to stay on as the head of Spanish federation, a post he held for three decades.

His refusal to listen to pleas for him to step down led the Spanish government to suspend him from the post for one year pending the outcome of the investigation. Court documents allege that besides misappropriated funds, Villar is suspected of corrupting several regional federations by offering favors in exchange for votes.

Villar fired back at the government, saying his suspension had broken FIFA rules since it represented interference in the federation’s management.

“It’s easy to see that the source of concern was my arbitrary and unjustified removal from the presidency of the federation and for not respecting the presumption of innocence,” Villar said, adding that other teams are ready to take Spain’s place at the World Cup.

“Be careful. There are other powerful countries that didn’t qualify like Italy that are waiting to pounce and take our place,” Villar said.

Spain, which won the World Cup in 2010, is considered to be among the favorites for next year’s tournament.

Blanc: I turned down USMNT talks

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U.S. Soccer has not been inactive when it comes to the USMNT coaching search, despite its uncertainty with an impending presidential election.

Le Parisien has an interview with Laurent Blanc in which the ex-Bordeaux, France, and Paris Saint-Germain boss says he was approached by the United States Soccer Federation, but was not interested in the gig.

[ MORE: Making sense of the PL table ]

Blanc said an international job would have to touch his roots, and he’s most certainly not American. The tall 52-year-old had a glittering playing career with Saint-Etienne, Barcelona, Marseille, Inter Milan, and Manchester United amongst other stops.

More important, it shows that Sunil Gulati and his men have to some degree moved forward with keeping their imprint on the national team.

That’s a little worrying on any team: A hierarchy that may not be around much longer may be working to fill a position arguably more important than its own. It’d be nice to have them commit to not hiring anyone until after February’s election.

Premier League Preview: Everton vs. Swansea City

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  • Everton leads all-time 15W-9D-3L
  • BUT Swans unbeaten in 7 vs. Toffees
  • Toffees go ninth with win
  • Swans four back of safety

Everton hopes its up-turn in form can end three seasons of futility against visiting Swansea City when the two sides meet at Goodison Park on Monday (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Gylfi Sigurdsson gets a chance to face his former club for the first time, while longtime Swans man Ashley Williams may also feature for Sam Allardyce.

Swansea has no time to focus on the past, as Paul Clement‘s men sit deep in the drop zone. The last place Swans are four points shy of safety.

What they’re saying

Everton’s Ashley Williams on facing his former club (again)“The game is a little bit more important to me, I would be lying I said it wasn’t. You always want to play against your old teams and it’s a fixture you always look for.  I have been looking forward to this one and it will be nice to see old faces and old friends. It is a game we want to win and to keep a clean sheet in, especially at home, in order to keep our momentum going.”

Swansea City’s Roque Mesa on the match“This is a massive game for us. We need to pick up points because we are bottom and we need to improve our position. Everton have a new manager and their players have done very well under him – you can see their confidence has grown since he joined. But we did well against West Brom and picked up three points, which was very important. Then we faced Manchester City and they proved too good for us. They are the best team in the league, and unfortunately, we couldn’t match them on the night.”

Prediction

Swans need to move past that Man City loss and build on a 1-0 win over West Brom a few days previous. That may not be possible at Goodison, and the Welsh side would be thrilled to escape with a draw. It seems unlikely. Everton 2-1.

Report: Man City, Guardiola to discuss new contract this summer

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Manchester City does not want to let Pep Guardiola start the third year with the club without signing on for longer term.

Guardiola enters the third and final year of his deal in August, and the BBC reports that Man City plans to negotiate a new deal with the Catalan wizard this summer.

[ MORE: Making sense of the PL table ]

This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given City’s outstanding sophomore season under Guardiola.

Unbeaten City has an 11-point lead on the Premier League table after 18 weeks, with one draw and a PL record 16-straight wins. They have 56 goals scored, conceding just 12.

They’ve won five of six UEFA Champions League matches, only losing a match their opposition needed and they did not, 2-1 to Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine. City faces Basel next, and visits Leicester City in the League Cup quarterfinals Wednesday.