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Jose Mourinho: I should cry every week about injuries

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For now, Jose Mourinho has taken the high road. So he says.

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Speaking ahead of Manchester United’s trip to title contenders, and his former club, Chelsea, on Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), Mourinho believes his side would be getting more credit if he had complained more about recent injuries.

Despite United sitting second in the Premier League table 10 weeks into the season, his side have been heavily criticized for defensive displays in recent weeks.

Mourinho says he doesn’t complain about injuries as much as other managers and that’s probably why his team are getting plenty of criticism.

“It’s my fault because I should cry every week about our injuries and remind everybody, day after day or press conference after press conference,” Mourinho said. “So it’s my fault. It’s my decision. It’s my way of dealing with problems. It’s my way of trying to motivate and respect and give confidence to the players that are going to replace those people. But maybe I have to reconsider my profile. I know that I moan about a lot of things but I don’t with injuries and probably I should.

“I think any other manager would be speaking about Pogba every day. ‘Oh, I don’t have Pogba. Oh, when will I have Pogba? Oh, 10 matches without Pogba. Oh, all the Champions League group phase without Pogba. Oh, all the big matches, against Liverpool, against Chelsea, against Spurs without Pogba. Oh.’ I don’t speak about Pogba one single time. It’s only when you ask me about his situation. And it’s not just Pogba. It’s Pogba, it’s Fellaini, it’s Carrick, it’s Ibra, it’s Marcos Rojo. It’s a big group of players. So I think we are doing very, very well.”

Does he have a point?

Hmmm. This is a tough one. Mourinho has definitley mentioned injuries to Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marouane Fellaini in previous press conferences. What about his rivals?

Manchester City have had to deal with a season-ending injury to Benjamin Mendy, Vincent Kompany out for most of the campaign and a few games without Sergio Aguero. Pep Guardiola‘s men have coped just fine but he has mentioned their absentees on a few occasions.

Chelsea have had multiple absentees across their squad this season (Eden Hazard, Alvaro Morata and N'Golo Kante among them) and there have been a few rumblings from Antonio Conte during their up and down start to the campaign.

Liverpool have been missing Adam Lallana and Nathaniel Clyne for all of the season so far, plus Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane have been out injured for spells. Jurgen Klopp has certainly pointed towards those injuries for some poor displays from the Reds.

The timing of these comments from Mourinho is somewhat expected.

Heading into the final international break of 2017, he knows the likes of Fellaini, Pogba, Rojo and even Ibrahimovic will return within the next few weeks. When they return to full fitness he can have no excuses.

Until then, he will keep reminding us just how good United were early in the season before they were struck by a raft of injuries he doesn’t want to talk about.

“I really think that you and the specialists know the football that we were playing at the beginning of the season,” Mourinho told the media. “You know. Now you pretend that you don’t know. Now you pretend that we never played amazing football, that we never scored lots of goals, that we never scored amazing goals. That we never had our midfield players and our defenders arriving in the opposition box and scoring goals and creating chances.

“I know that you know that. You just pretend, because it’s convenient for you to pretend that these things didn’t exist. But they exist. And we miss our players, of course we miss our players. And we have to play big matches without them, and we are probably going to play one more without them again.”

Tactics Session: Liverpool’s midfield to blame for poor defending, too

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Here’s something said by anyone and everyone who’s watched an hour of the Premier League over the last 24 months: Liverpool won’t win the PL title until Jurgen Klopp sorts out that shambolic defense.

[ PL ROUNDUP: Man City’s historic start; Man United, Arsenal win ]

Well, duh, and thanks for really going out on a limb with that one.

On Saturday, NBC Sports’ Robbie Earle went error-by-error in picking apart one of the Reds’ many defensive breakdowns (above video) during last weekend’s 4-1 defeat at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur. In short, Dejan Lovern, Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and Simon Mignolet were all guilty of critical errors as Harry Kane opened the scoring after just four minutes. There’s another group of players, though, which is worth considering as opponents continue to pick Liverpool apart on a near-weekly basis.

[ PL PREVIEW: Battle of the new bosses; Brighton vs. Southampton ]

Theory: it’s actually Liverpool’s midfield which is most responsible for this season’s repeated disasters at the back. The results are as poor as they’ve ever been under Klopp — they had the worst defensive record of the PL’s “big six” sides during Klopp’s first (partial) season at Anfield, followed by the second-worst of the six last season, and are sixth out of six thus far in 2017-18 — with little reason to expect significant change as the defensive characters remain the same. When called upon in 2016-17, again, it was simply more of the same.

The key difference being: they were better protected, thus forced into action less frequently, in the past. Whether by design or happenstance, the midfield and forward lines aren’t disrupting possession and winning the ball back as consistently as previous iterations of Klopp’s old gegenpress system. Most notably, it’s the early moments (first five seconds, or three passes) of opposition possession which haven’t been challenged with that familiar urgency.

[ MORE: England top Spain, win U-17 World Cup ]

Take, for instance, that loss to Tottenham — while Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Emre Can are probably the three most “defensive” midfield options in Klopp’s squad, they’re also the three least mobile and press-suited. Georginio Wijnaldum is often labeled an “attacking” midfielder, that what makes him perfectly suited for the transition from pressing to attacking. The same goes for Adam Lallana, who’s currently injured and gutting this side through his absence. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, should he ultimately end up in central midfield, is very similar in that regard. Marko Grujic, while still a relative PL unknown, profiles better as a central midfielder than the three who started at Wembley Stadium.

Without that constant on-ball pressure, Mauricio Pochettino was inspired in his tactical tweak to feature Harry Winks, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli in a pass-heavy midfield-three, as the three on-ball technicians were able to play through the middle third of the field with very little resistance and get at the likes of Lovren, Matip and Gomez more directly. The return of starting right back Nathaniel Clyne (hamstring), who hasn’t played a minute this season, will undoubtedly add a bit more mobility and athleticism to an otherwise plodding rearguard.

It’s a trend that, should it continue, will result in more and more — and easier and easier — goals conceded by the Reds.

PL Sunday preview: Spurs take on bogey Reds; Everton vs. Arsenal

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Every club in the world has a bogey team (or teams) that no matter what they try, no matter the circumstances, it always seems to go sideways when they meet — a side that everyone associated with the club dreads when they see their name on the upcoming schedule.

[ PL ROUNDUP: Man United shocked by Huddersfield; City, Chelsea win ]

For Tottenham Hotspur, the thorn currently in their side is Liverpool, who they’ll host at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, following Arsenal’s seasonal trip to Goodison Park to take on Everton.

Everton vs. Arsenal — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

After starting the 2017-18 Premier League season with just two wins from eight games, every game could very well be Ronald Koeman‘s last game in charge of Everton, thus a visit from top-four-chasing Arsenal is anything but well-timed for the distressed Dutchman. What’s worse, the Toffees are also without a win in their last four games (all competitions) and on the verge of crashing out of the Europa League group stage.

“The performance was under level in the first half,” Koeman said following Thursday’s home defeat to Lyon. “We made a lot of mistakes, and the team played with a lot of doubts and little confidence. It’s very difficult (to reach the next stage). Most of the time you get your points at home but we have only got one out of the two we have had at Goodison. Nothing is impossible, but to gain more points — and I think we need six or seven — we need to improve the level and that is more important.”

Sounds similar to their league performances, strangely enough — Everton currently sit 16th in the PL table, mere months after spending in excess of $200 million during the summer transfer window.

European competition has treated Arsenal far better this season, as Arsene Wenger‘s side is three-for-three in the Europa League following Thursday’s win away to Red Star Belgrade. A number of key figures — Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette, Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny, to name a few — were left in London, as a reserve- and youth-heavy side got the job done courtesy of an Olivier Giroud goal five minutes before full-time.

Still, the Gunners are in desperate need of a quick rebound following last weekend’s late defeat to Watford, after which Watford captain Troy Deeney publicly characterized the Arsenal players as mentally weak and said they lack the necessary “cojones” to compete at this level. On the bright side, Deeney’s 71st-minute equalizer (from the penalty spot) was the first goal Arsenal had conceded in 444 minutes in the PL, a streak they’ll look to start anew and build off Thursday’s win in Serbia.

INJURIES: Everton — OUT: Ross Barkley (back), Morgan Schneiderlin (knock), Ramiro Funes Mori (knee), Seamus Coleman (leg), James McCarthy (fitness), Yannick Bolasie (knee) | Arsenal — OUT: Danny Welbeck (hamstring), Shkodran Mustafi (thigh), Calum Chambers (hip), Santi Cazorla (achilles)

[ MORE: Mourinho — “We deserved the punishment of defeat” to Huddersfield ]

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Mauricio Pochettino has never beaten Liverpool in six tries as Tottenham manager (two triumphs in his 18 months at Southampton); in fact, Spurs themselves haven’t beaten Liverpool in the PL since Nov. 28, 2012 (three draws and six defeats in nine tries) — the north London side’s truest bogey club this decade. Having already fallen eight points behind leaders Manchester City, Pochettino’s side will have to clear that mental hurdle on Saturday if they’re to go on and challenge for the PL title for a third straight season. On the other hand, they’re unbeaten in 10 games (seven wins) across all competitions.

Fortunately for Spurs, the Wembley monkey is off their back after narrowly edging past Bournemouth their last time out at home. Harry Kane is without goal in his last 241 minutes for club (two for England during the last international break), which is practically an eternity after scoring seven goals in the previous 188 minutes.

As for Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp‘s side enters Sunday’s clash mired in a month-long slump, having won just one of their last four league games, and just two of their last nine in all competitions. A major part of the problem is more of the poor defending that dogged the Reds last season, but perhaps they’ve been a bit unfortunate as well.

“We had bad luck in the last three or four games,” summer signing Mohamed Salah said this week. “Everyone was confident a good result was coming.”

The tough stretch has seen Klopp somewhat recalibrate his expectations in the direction of reality, dubbing his side the “challenger” when they take on Tottenham.

“(Spurs) are in a really good moment as a club and we are the challenger when we go there, that’s how it is,” he said this week. “But they know it will not be an easy game, so good, let’s play and let’s see what happens.”

INJURIES: Tottenham — OUT: Mousa Dembele (foot), Victor Wanyama (knee), Danny Rose (fitness), Erik Lamela (hip) | Liverpool — OUT: Sadio Mane (hamstring), Adam Lallana (thigh), Nathaniel Clyne (hamstring)

Klopp confirms Liverpool squad for UCL clash; Lallana’s return

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Jurgen Klopp has named his 21-man squad for their next European adventure.

Liverpool face Slovenian champs Maribor in the UEFA Champions League group stage on Tuesday and the German coach has named his starting lineup.

Below is the squad in full for the clash versus Maribor as the Reds have drawn both of their opening two games in their group against Sevilla and Spartak Moscow.

With no Sadio Mane through injury, Klopp hasn’t announced any shocks.

Full Liverpool squad v Maribor: Karius, Wijnaldum, Lovren, Milner, Firmino, Coutinho, Salah, Gomez, Henderson, Sturridge, Grujic, Klavan, Moreno, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mignolet, Can, Robertson, Solanke, Matip, Ward, Alexander-Arnold.


There was good news when it came to England playmaker Adam Lallana who has been out since a thigh injury he suffered in preseason and is yet to make an appearance in 2017-18.

Recently he has been on a trip to Qatar for intensive work to return as soon as possible and it appears to have worked a treat.

Klopp told the club website that he believes Lallana could return in mid-November after the next international break which is good news considering Mane could well be out until early the end of November with his hamstring injury.

“It’s absolutely good news. I cannot say now, but maybe after the next international break he could be back,” Klopp said. “It would be fantastic for us, of course. Everybody knows what kind of a quality player he is, so it would be fantastic.”

The absence of Lallana has perhaps been overlooked in Liverpool’s offensive struggles so far this season. A Klopp favorite, he will likely slot straight back into the team in a central role once he returns to full fitness.

Report: England to play 3-man backline at World Cup

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England National Team fans better get used to seeing their team use a three-man backline because it’s here to stay.

That’s according to a report from the Telegraph, which states that Southgate will use a three-man defense as part of his preferred formation for November’s friendly matches against Brazil and Germany as a way to build the team’s identity ahead of next summer’s World Cup in Russia.

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“We have to focus on a system and really try to hone it, work on it, improve it, that might mean we might have to leave some good players out. But we have to start to make those decisions over the next couple of camps,” Southgate said after England’s 1-0 win over Lithuania.

In the past, England has been criticized for not having an identity, for playing a bland style of soccer with the hopes of individual moments of brilliance taking them forward. While some may criticize the use of a three-man backline, it does allow England to release wingbacks Danny Rose and Kyle Walker farther up the field, as well as give John Stones more cover at centerback.

“For me, in terms of the way we’d want to play from the back, I think it (a three-man defense) is a better option,” Southgate said. “At the moment we turn the ball over too much and when we do we split into two centre-backs wide open, we are still open (against Lithuania) with three. So we will benefit if we don’t keep turning the ball over.”

The decision is a change, or evolution, from the 4-2-3-1 formation used by Southgate through most of the qualifying campaign, but with a changed formation, it could lead to some attackers not getting a chance to start, whether it’s Marcus Rashford or Jamie Vardy.

According to the report, Southgate’s preferred attackers behind Harry Kane include Dele Alli and when fit, Adam Lallana, to play in a similar way to Tottenham, with Lallana playing in Christian Eriksen‘s role.