Virgil Van Dijk

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Barcelona issue statement on Antoine Griezmann

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Hmm, this is an interesting tactic from Barcelona.

On Saturday the Catalan club released a statement about Atletico Madrid and France striker Antoine Griezmann.

The forward has long been linked with a move to Barca and media reports in Spain have gone into overdrive regarding a move to the Nou Camp for the 26-year-old.

Below is the statement from Barca in full.

FC Barcelona strongly denies the information that has appeared over the course of the last few hours in different media regarding Atletico Madrid player, Antoine Griezmann, and an alleged deal with our club.

FC Barcelona expresses its objections in the face of these events and reiterates its full respect for the institution of Atletico Madrid.

This feels very similar to the situation with Virgil Van Dijk between Liverpool and Southampton.

Media speculation reached incredible levels back in June 2017 that VVD had agreed to sign for Liverpool, but the Anfield club then issued a public apology to Saints and ended their pursuit of Van Dijk. He then signed for Liverpool in January in a $100 million move.

With Atletico said to be incredibly unhappy that Griezmann continues to be linked with a move to Barca, plus reports suggesting the Madrid club want to report Barcelona to FIFA for an alleged approach for their star striker, it’s not too surprising to see Barca take this very unusual approach to try and calm the situation down.

Will it work? Who knows. Is it likely Griezmann will end up at Barcelona anyway? This statement suggests that the two clubs are in dialogue and Barcelona are trying to patch up their relationship to try and move for Griezmann in the summer.

Call me cynical, but that’s the way I see this.

Transfer rumor roundup: Fred to Man City; Aubameyang wanted

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Could this January transfer window rival last season’s in terms of activity?

[ MORE: FA Cup replay roundup ]

Last season saw Crystal Palace save its season and Hull City nearly do the same, Morgan Schneiderlin head to Everton, Leicester find a decent N'Golo Kante replacement, and much, much more.

This season has been less active, though Ross Barkley has headed to Chelsea while former club Everton nabbed Cenk Tosun and Liverpool added Virgil Van Dijk.

The BBC has news involving Napoli which could affect two Premier League clubs. The Neapolitans apparently want Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, who wants to be an every week starter, to be a prime part of their push to end Juventus’ Serie A stranglehold.

That would unseat Pepe Reina, who’s been long linked with a reunion with former boss Pepe Reina at Newcastle United. Napoli currently has Luigi Sepe as a No. 2 to Reina, though UEFA Europa League fixtures mean it’s no guarantee Mignolet’s arrival would allow Reina to leave town.

Sky Sports says Manchester City would like to see Fred as a long-term replacement for Fernandinho. Fred went 90 minutes for Shakhtar Donetsk in a pair of UEFA Champions League contests against City, including the 2-1 home win over the Premier League leaders’ B-squad on Dec. 6. The 24-year-old has two goals and two assists in league play, and could cost more than $25 million.

Don Balon proffers news that could unsettle Arsenal fans, as Real Madrid is apparently entering the bidding for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Florentino Perez would like an upgrade to Karim Benzema for his struggling La Liga super powers, and goodness knows Real will tempt Borussia Dortmund’s bank account.

One liners:

— The BBC also says Besiktas want Islam Slimani to join the club from Leicester City.

— Ola Kamara’s move from Columbus to another MLS team may be hijacked by La Liga.

Premier League Power Rankings

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With the festive season over and things starting to settle down, now seems like a good time for our first batch of Power Rankings of 2018.

[ MORE: PL Power Rankings – 2017-18 ]

The last time we fired this baby up was in early December, and you can see the ranking of the clubs back then in the parenthesis after their club name in the list below.

We have some massive movement, both up and down.

Here is the latest batch of Premier League Power Rankings as we sort the 20 clubs based on their current form.


  1. Liverpool (5) — What a few weeks for Liverpool. They won four of their last five games and Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane are scoring goals, plus Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is stepping up with Philippe Coutinho gone. Jurgen Klopp‘s masterplan is showing significant progress. With Virgil Van Dijk on board, Liverpool will be serious title contenders next season.
  2. Tottenham Hotspur (9)Harry Kane leads the PL in goals (shock) and is now getting plenty of help from Dele Alli, Heung-Min Son and Christian Eriksen. Spurs are pushing towards the top four and the only way they will not qualify for the UCL again is if their defensive lapses crop up.
  3. Manchester City (1) — A draw away at Crystal Palace and a loss at Liverpool has seen City stumble of late but they’re still going to win the league. Defensive lapses have cost them but Kevin De Bruyne and Co. still look like they will score two or three goals every game.
  4. Manchester United (2) — Jose Mourinho’s men are looking much better with Paul Pogba back in the team. Four assists in his last two games show Pogba’s importance and United have the best defense in the league.
  5. Crystal Palace (14)Roy Hodgson is working his magic and Palace are pushing for the top 10. One defeat in their last 13 PL games has seen the Eagles soar to 12th place after their disastrous start to the season.
  6. West Ham United (19) — The Hammers are flying under David Moyes with Marko Arnautovic and Manuel Lanzini in form up top. All of a sudden a top 10 finish is very doable.
  7. Chelsea (3) — Four-straight draws in all competitions and three 0-0 stalemates on the spin mean Antonio Conte is under pressure. Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata’s partnership is struggling.
  8. Leicester City (6)Riyad Mahrez is the main man and Claude Puel‘s side began 2018 with a big win v Huddersfield and a draw at Chelsea, where they should have won. Leicester back to their best.
  9. Bournemouth (12) — Really good few weeks for Eddie Howe. Unbeaten in four PL games and big wins against Everton and Arsenal at home. The Cherries have rediscovered their scoring touch.
  10. Arsenal (4) — Wow. What a poor few weeks for the Gunners. One win in the last five in the PL, out of the FA Cup and Sanchez on his way. Ouch. Arsene Wenger is now allow back on the sidelines after his ban. Is that a good thing?
  11. West Bromwich Albion (18)Alan Pardew has his first win as West Brom boss and the Baggies ended their 21-game winless streak. They’re tougher to break down and have regained their threat from set pieces.
  12. Swansea City (20) — Plenty of confidence in the air in South Wales as Carlos Carvalhal has four points from his first three games in charge. Need new faces in January but Swansea have given themselves a chance.
  13. Newcastle United (15) — Solid and steady but badly need attacking reinforcements in January. Two wins and two draws in last five show how steady and tough to beat they’ve become but Rafael Benitez’s needs extra attacking flair.
  14. Everton (10) — No wins in six and just four shots on goal in their last five games has Sam Allardyce‘s boys bang out of form after a good start. Cenk Tosun and Theo Walcott should help them kick on again.
  15. Watford (7) — No PL team has picked up less points than Watford over their last 10 games. Another second half of season slump. Marco Silva‘s fine start evaporating.
  16. Huddersfield Town (16) — No win in their last five games and David Wagner‘s side have conceded seven goals in last two defeats. The Terriers are set for a proper relegation scrap.
  17. Stoke City (13)Paul Lambert has one heck of a challenge on his hands. Stoke in bottom three, have worst defense in Europe’s top five leagues and you struggle to see where their goals will come from. Not a great combo.
  18. Brighton and Hove Albion (17) — 1 win in last 12 games and they’ve failed to score in eight of those games. Ice cold. Slipping fast.
  19. Burnley (9) — Six games without a win and their goal threat has dried right up. Sean Dyche‘s still 7th, but they’re in a huge slump.
  20. Southampton (11) — On the current longest winless run in the PL. Mauricio Pellegrino‘s job will be in serious jeopardy very soon. They keep taking leads but throwing them away and look defensively fragile. Just one point above the drop zone.

‘Historic’ game as Liverpool stun Man City

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LIVERPOOL — We were treated to one of the truly great Premier League games on Sunday.

The roar from the Kop grew louder and louder in a stunning nine-minute spell in the second half as Liverpool ripped apart Manchester City and handed Pep Guardiola‘s men their first defeat of the season in the Premier League.

[ RECAP: Liverpool 4-3 Man City | 3 things ] 

Games, and atmospheres, like the one we witnessed at Anfield on Sunday are what the Premier League is all about. Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola, true soccer purists, were expected to tell their teams to go all-out attack and that’s exactly what they did, even if the defending was shambolic at times.

Like a great defensive duel in Serie A and a titanic tussle in La Liga, the end-to-end, pulsating nature of this game summed up what should be adored about the Premier League. This was not a defensive stalemate between top four rivals scared of losing. Both teams played their part in a mouth-watering, absorbing seven-goal thriller and both wanted to win. It was all wonderfully refreshing and lived up to the drama of recent end-to-end encounters in the PL between Chelsea and Arsenal and Arsenal and Liverpool over the festive period.

All-out attack is now becoming the go-to mode for these heavyweight encounters.

With a tight game locked at 1-1 heading into the final 30 minutes, first Roberto Firmino chipped home to put Liverpool 2-1 up. Two minutes later Sadio Mane lashed home to make it 3-1. Then Mohamed Salah scored from 40-yards out to put Liverpool out of sight. Or so they thought…

Manchester City came roaring back late on — well, more so Liverpool forgot how to defend — scoring with six minutes to go and then in the first minute of stoppage time to make it 4-3 and all of a sudden the jubilant Anfield turned into a palace of nerves. The agony and ecstasy of the Premier League was bundled up into 90 minutes of pure, exhilarating action.

Speaking after the game, Klopp hailed the play from both teams and believes this is a game we will be talking about two decades from now as his side extended their unbeaten run to 18 games in all competitions and moved up to third in the PL table.

“You can watch it as a manager or as a football fan and I prefer to do that – wow! What a game!” Klopp told the BBC. “Two teams, full throttle. This was a historical game you will talk about in 20 years because it looks like City will not lose another one this year. People watched this game all over the world and this is why – take your heart, throw it on the pitch and play like this, both teams.”

All of the talk before this game was about two blockbuster attacks going all out for the win. It’s tough to deliver that when the expectations were so high, but both teams did and their philosophy and identity is now firmly embedded.

Despite the disappointment of losing their unbeaten run of 30 Premier League games and seeing their hopes of an unbeaten season fall, Pep Guardiola saluted Liverpool as his side showcased their defensive deficiencies and succumbed to the cauldron of noise created at Anfield.

“My first words is congratulations to Liverpool for the victory. It was a good game,” Guardiola said. “They start well. We lose a lot of balls, the wide players so aggressive without the ball. After that we start to play much better. We have good chances and especially in the second half we start good. We play good until the goal from Firmino and after that we lost a bit our control for many reasons. You have to try and be stable. We lose that a little bit but we are still fighting and we found two goals so it is our first defeat. You need to live those situations to realize what we have done. Football is unpredictable. You lose today against a fantastic team. You have to be sure to win the next one and fight til the end to win the Premier League.”

Guardiola’s men hadn’t lost all season but they’ve shown signs of cracking against the likes of Crystal Palace and second-tier Bristol City in recent weeks as teams brave enough to attack them came close to ending their run.

Liverpool were brave enough, and good enough, to prevail. They tried to go toe-to-toe with City in September at the Etihad but they lost 5-0 after Sadio Mane was sent off in the first half and Guardiola’s men ruthlessly punished them. Liverpool fought fire with fire again and it was the only way they were going to win.

“You have actually non alternatives to beat City,” Klopp said. “Yes, you can win the lottery and they tackle each other and you can stand deep in your own box and hope in the end that nothing happens but that’s actually not really likely. We are Liverpool. We should not try this way. Then you don’t have a lot of alternatives. You need to be brave. You need to play football. I’m really happy about that.

“Pressing in the second half, around the goals, was on a different planet. Just outstanding. Playing football first half, against a really good organized team. If you talk about City, you always talk about how good they are out playing wise but they are brilliantly organized. Against an organized team like that, playing football in the spaces we played, with the situations we created, chances and good moments, there is no alternative to play against them. That’s why we tried it again.”

Man City will still be at least 12 points clear atop the Premier League table at the end of Week 23, and they are still the overwhelming favorites to win the Premier League title.

Liverpool may well be the best of the rest as they sit level on 47 points with second-place Manchester United who are above them only on goal difference. Despite selling Philippe Coutinho to Liverpool for $197 million, this performance showed that Klopp doesn’t need to replace him right away as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain dazzled with his opening goal and a superb all-around display.

With Virgil Van Dijk (out injured for Sunday’s game) set to shore up Liverpool’s defense, the Reds will only improve and their attack showed it can rip apart any defense in the Premier League.

Liverpool have won more points, and games, against the so-called “top six” since Klopp arrived in October 2015 and their devastating attacking display on Sunday created an incredible atmosphere at Anfield, which rivaled some of the great occasions of the past.

Klopp summed up how we all felt as his team were rewarded for their bravery.

“It was just a joy to watch,” Klopp said. “It is just a nice a commercial for Premier League football. The whole world was watching and if is somebody didn’t like football up until now then probably they will say ‘ah, that’s why you watch it all the time.’ So, I’m really happy about it.”

So was the rest of the watching world.

Three things we learned from Liverpool v. Man City

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LIVERPOOL — What. A. Game. Manchester City’s unbeaten run is over.

Liverpool battered Man City 4-3 at Anfield on Sunday (City scored twice in the dying stages) as Jurgen Klopp taught Pep Guardiola a lesson once again as no manager has beaten Guardiola more than Liverpool’s German boss.

A second half blitz from the Reds destroyed City and ended their bid of becoming just the second team in Premier League history to go an entire season unbeaten.

Here’s what we learned from an absorbing encounter at Anfield as Liverpool beat the PL leaders in stunning fashion.


NO COUTINHO? NO PROBLEM

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain stepped up to make an early claim as the heir to Philippe Coutinho‘s crown at Liverpool.

With Coutinho sold for $197 million to Barcelona last week, the big question around Liverpool was who Jurgen Klopp would try to sign to replace Coutinho. But with Adam Lallana and Oxlade-Chamberlain around, Klopp seems keen to give them a chance to stake their claim as Liverpool’s new No.10 who can feed Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.

The Ox took his chance.

Yes, he isn’t the same cerebral playmaker as Coutinho, but he has the power, drive and pace to get at the opposition. Liverpool used him in what he regards his best role in the center of the pitch and the Ox scored a sublime opening goal. He won the ball, drove into space and drilled home to give Liverpool the perfect start.

Oxlade-Chamberlain also rattled into tackles, whipped in testing deliveries for Man City’s defense and went close early in the second half with another driving run that forced a save from Ederson.

Yes, Coutinho is a special talent who is tough to replace, but the Ox’s performance proved he is more than capable of at least softening the blow of his exit to Barcelona.


MAN CITY  OWN WORST ENEMIES AS UNBEATEN RUN ENDS

It was a devastating nine-minute spell from Liverpool which ended Manchester City’s 30-game unbeaten run in the Premier League.

But Pep Guardiola’s men were their own worst enemies as they lost for their first time in 23 games this season and there hopes of replicating Arsenal’s Invincibles were over.

On paper this trip to Liverpool and the game at Tottenham in April were their toughest games remaining.

Guardiola’s side looked shaky from the start but recovered well in the first half when they equalized and could have taken the lead early in the second half had Nicolas Otamendi’s header gone in and not hit the bar.

Still, Ederson looked shaky all game long as he came and half cleared crosses and took chances with his feet as he handed Salah the chance to lob into an empty net for Liverpool’s fourth.

John Stones was caught flat at the back and bullied by Roberto Firmino for Liverpool’s second and slack passing between Fernandinho and City’s defense set up Sadio Mane for a fine third.

City have bent but not broken in games against Crystal Palace and Newcastle away from home in recent weeks but against a top four opponent with a potent attack their deficiencies were magnified and ruthlessly exposed.

Guardiola’s men will still be at least 12 points clear by the end of Week 23 and should still win the league comfortably, but the cracks are starting to show.


LIVERPOOL MAKE THEIR CLAIM FOR SECOND

With Liverpool now 18 games unbeaten in all competitions and up to third in the table, only behind second-place Manchester United on goal difference, Klopp’s boys are making their claim to be the best of the rest after City.

Once again they dismantled one of the big boys.

Since Klopp took charge of Liverpool in 2015, Liverpool have won more points in games between the “big six” than any other side (42) and have more wins in those games than any other team. Consistent against midtable teams has been their Achilles heel but there’s no doubting than can go toe-to-toe with the best teams in the PL and deliver.

They were at their ruthless best on Sunday, ripping City apart time and time again in the second half as they finished their chances this time, unlike the first half they mostly dominated in the 5-0 defeat at the Etihad Stadium earlier this season as the game changed when Mane was sent off.

There is a growing optimism around Liverpool and among their fans that Klopp’s long-term plans are coming to fruition. With Virgil Van Dijk on board (although he didn’t play on Sunday due to injury) their defense will improve drastically and going forward they can destroy anyone, as City witnessed.

With Chelsea and Man United struggling for form, it seems like Tottenham and Liverpool are the obvious choices to battle for second behind City this season.