Klopp slams defensive Chelsea; Conte calls Liverpool “lucky”

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LIVERPOOL — Jurgen Klopp and Antonio Conte both believed their teams deserved more than a point from their clash at Anfield on Saturday.

It was a draw, which helped neither team in their quest to try and drag themselves back into the Premier League title race.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Mohamed Salah‘s opener was canceled out late on by a Willian goal as both managers were left ruing unlucky breaks after a long week which saw them each travel on the road in the UEFA Champions League before two more games in the next six days matches in the Premier League.

Speaking to reporters after the game, Klopp hit out at Liverpool for a more defensive style of play as he said their plan was to play with “eight defenders” and then give the ball to the excellent Eden Hazard.

“It was a very intense game, very difficult game for us against a very strong Chelsea team who had quite a different approach tonight. Deep defending and then giving the ball to Eden Hazard… Wow,” Klopp said. “It was not the most thankful job to defend him alone, with the second player it was a little easier but the third player you have a good chance and Alvaro Morata running around. That was quite difficult and we had to work really hard.

“Our situation was playing football. We did it. I am happy with big parts of the performances… Everything was good until Willian crossed the ball and still most parts of the game were good but that’s not how it feels. The world is a strange and crazy place at the moment and there are so many more important things that are happening. I can easily live with a point against Chelsea.”

In truth, a draw was probably a fair result. Both goals had more than a hint of fortune to them as Chelsea were dispossessed and the ball ricocheted into the path of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who teed up Salah, then Willian’s attempt was clearly a cross which looped in.

Asked by Pro Soccer Talk if he agreed with Klopp’s comments about Chelsea’s defensive tactics, Conte thought his tactical plan worked a treat and his side deserved to win as he labeled Liverpool “lucky” to get a point.

“I think that today we had a tactical plan and I think for Liverpool it was very difficult to make chances to score today,” Conte said. “I think we prepared the game very well and it was a tactical decision, especially in the first half to be very solid and then to try with the ball to be dangerous. In the second half I think the game changed. In the second half we dominated the game. We created many chances to score and I think that Liverpool was lucky to score and then to draw.”

The reality is that neither Liverpool or Chelsea wanted a draw on Saturday with Manchester City now able to move 11 points ahead of third-place Chelsea and 14 ahead of fifth-place Liverpool if they beat Huddersfield Town on Sunday.

With a third of the 2017-18 season gone, Klopp insists he is not focused on the record-breaking start from Pep Guardiola‘s Man City.

“In our situation, all other clubs, if we all think about Manchester City we would all be really crazy. ‘How can we get Manchester City?’ It doesn’t work. We have to win games but if they go on winning games we can do whatever we want,” Klopp said. “It is really important in life that you have your own targets and right targets and you can be a happy person and you can stay a confident person and a confident person can reach a lot.

“Maybe it is Man City. I have no idea and I’m not interested. Today I didn’t think for a second after the game about Manchester City. What I thought was we should have won the game we could have been even with Chelsea, closer to Tottenham maybe. The position is still okay. We have to improve. We can do better but the boys did well and after a performance like tonight it cannot be taken for granted because it is so difficult. I am happy about that but not happy about the result.”

 

Rio prosecutors launch probe into soccer final violence

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Prosecutors in Rio de Janeiro launched an investigation Thursday into the fan violence surrounding the Copa Sudamericana final between local club Flamengo and Argentine team Independiente.

[ SOURCE: LAFC close to signing third DP, Geraldes of Sporting CP ]

Clashes broke out on the night before Wednesday’s match at Maracana Stadium, and continued throughout the day. There was vandalism inside the stadium during the match and violence afterward, with more than 50 Flamengo supporters being detained over the two days.

The Rio prosecutor’s office said in a statement it would be questioning officials at Brazil’s football confederation, South American soccer’s ruling body, CONMEBOL, and local police about the incidents.

The statement added that “a profound investigation of the facts is needed so we can identify and punish the criminals that disguised as fans to spread chaos, fear and disorder in society.”

Major Silvio Luiz, head of policing for the final, criticized Flamengo’s handling of ticket sales.

Flamengo drew the second-leg match 1-1, and lost the final 3-2 on aggregate. The Copa is the second most prestigious club competition in South American soccer.

Ligue 1 set to use VAR starting in 2018/19 season

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With video replay technology becoming more and more prevalent in soccer across the globe, another major European league has revealed it too will join those ranks.

[ SOURCE: LAFC set to sign third DP with Sporting CP’s Geraldes ]

Ligue 1 has announced that the French top flight will begin to utilize video replay and have a video assistant referee (VAR) starting in the 2018/19 season.

Major League Soccer and the German Bundesliga are just two of the major global leagues to implement the system thus far. In MLS, the technology can be used in four instances; when goals are scored, during penalty situations, when a straight red card is given and during cases of mistaken identity.

French outlet L’Equipe wrote on Thursday that Ligue 1 would also follow a similar structure in what decisions VAR officials will be reviewable.

Spain has also announced that it will introduce VAR in 2018, ahead of the next La Liga season.

Top Premier League storylines — Week 17

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The title is looking more and more like it’s heading to Manchester, so will Tottenham be able to slow the Premier League leaders on Saturday?

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks ]

 

Here are the four biggest storylines ahead of this weekend’s action.

Can anyone stop the Cityzens?

Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

Nobody has found a way to halt Pep Guardiola‘s side yet this season in PL play, so why would that change this weekend? City remain unbeaten through 17 matches, and while Spurs enter the weekend unbeaten in its last four, Mauricio Pochettino and Co. have their work cut out. The City attack, which has scored 52 goals this season, has shown no signs slowing down during the first four-and-a-half months of play, giving Tottenham a big test defensively. Harry Kane and his 12 goals will surely have a say in the get together, but Spurs has been lacking thus far in another go-to finisher.

Will the Toffees keep rolling under Big Sam?

Everton vs. Swansea City — 3 p.m. ET Monday on NBCSN (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

It’s been quite the turnaround recently at Goodison Park, and Everton has the chance to extend its unbeaten streak to six games on Monday. Sam Allardyce has brought life to the Toffees as of late, with Everton scoring 11 goals over the last five matches.

Foxes aim to climb higher, while Palace shoots for safety

Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

The Foxes have found their footing this season, and dare I say there are some glimpses of the team that won the title two years ago? Since Leicester’s 2-0 defeat to Man City, the Foxes have looked the part of a top-tier PL side, winning four of five matches, including victories over Tottenham and Burnley. Meanwhile, Palace has made the relegation battle a very intriguing one, as Roy Hodgson and Co. sit just a point inside the bottom three. Amazingly, Palace is unbeaten in seven of its last eight matches, but the club remains in 18th place.

Clarets aim for third consecutive victory

Brighton vs. Burnley — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBC Sports Gold (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

The Clarets don’t boast a bonafide goalscorer, but Burnley looks like a well-oiled machine as Sean Dyche‘s side sits on the edge of the top four. Although the side likely won’t be pulling off a Leicester-sided feat in 2017/18, what the Clarets are accomplishing is quite amazing given the squad currently in place. Brighton has gone through its share of struggles recently, going winless in its last six matches, and scoring just three goals in that span. They’ll likely have a hard time breaking past Burnley’s tough backline.

NYCFC busy on Thursday with Abdul-Salaam, Stuver additions

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New York City FC is moving on from the club’s first-ever MLS SuperDraft selection, but they’ll be acquiring a solid defensive piece as the team continues to rebuild at the back.

[ SOURCE: LAFC finalizing deal to make Sporting CP’s Geraldes third DP ]

On Thursday, NYCFC announced a trade sending former 2015 first-round pick Khiry Shelton to Sporting KC in exchange for defender Saad Abdul-Salaam.

Shelton, who spent three seasons with NYCFC, struggled to find playing time under manager Patrick Vieira, particularly once the organization drafted England youth international Jack Harrison in 2016.

Vieira and Co. will be getting back a player also selected in the 2015 SuperDraft in Abdul-Salaam.

With the departures of Ethan White, RJ Allen and Andraz Struna this offseason, the move certainly makes sense for NYCFC, who were severely lacking at the right back position heading into this week.

NYCFC signed Malmo defender Anton Tinnerholm on Wednesday to help improve the backline.

The Eastern Conference side also added goalkeeper Brad Stuver from the Columbus Crew on Thursday, with the 26-year-old presumably serving as the backup to Sean Johnson in 2018.