Knee injury to sideline Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva for two months

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Sunday’s visit from Aston Villa provided another hint at how important Lucas Leiva is to Liverpool, with the Reds struggling to control the middle of the park with only Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson in midfield. Unfortunately, having suffered a knee injury after coming off the bench, Leiva’s now set to be sidelined until March, the 27-year-old having damaged his right MCL.

According to various reports (this one from The Independent), Lucas is scheduled to miss six to eight weeks, an absence that would leave the Brazilian sidelined until March 18, at the latest. During that time, Liverpool’s most notable games will be against Everton (Jan. 28), Arsenal (Feb. 8), and at Manchester United (Mar. 15). Should he take the full eight weeks to recover, Leiva will miss eight league games, with Liverpool also still alive in the FA Cup.

Given Liverpool’s lack of options in defensive midfield, Leiva’s absence could be a major blow to the team’s Champions League hopes, particularly in the face of a Merseyside Derby next week. Already hard-pressed to protect an injury-stricken and exploitable defense, the fourth place Reds will have to find another player to protect Martin Skrtel and Kolo Touré, with Leiva the only player who has regularly been used in the defensive midfielder’s role. With Everton averaging 55 percent possession (sixth in the Premier League), Liverpool’s midfielders will be challenged to get the ball away from their rivals.

Against Aston Villa, captain Steven Gerrard averaged a slightly deeper position than Jordan Henderson, position that led contributed to a two-goal deficit after 36 minutes. The team soon changed their approach, bringing on Leiva for Philippe Coutinho at halftime. In the 66th minute, after Leiva suffered his injury, Joe Allen was brought on.

Without a true holder, Liverpool may be forced to stick with that three-man midfield over the next two months, the extra man in the middle helping to offset the absence Leiva’s defensive. Though neither Allen nor Henderson are traditional holders, they may be able to do enough work around Gerrard to mitigate their captain’s short comings, allowing the England international to settle into the distributor’s role some have speculated as his future.

More than anything, Liverpool may not have a lot of options. Any two-man midfield selected from Allen, Gerrard, and Henderson is going to be outplayed by three-man units or pairs from better teams. Given Brendan Rodgers’ stylistic preferences and the deficiencies Liverpool has along the back, that’s not something that can happen if the Reds expect to win games. Perhaps the Reds can go out and get another midfielder over the next 10 days, but with Leiva coming back in March, it’s difficult to justify a major expenditure.

Regardless, Liverpool needs to win the midfield battle to play the style Rodgers wants. Without Leiva, they’ll have to think of a new way to do so.

VIDEO: Toivonen chips Neuer; Germany on brink of elimination

Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
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Germany, the defending world champions, have their backs firmly pressed against the wall, less than an hour away from elimination, in just their second game of Group F play at the 2018 World Cup. As of this moment, they’re set to be eliminated with one game still to play.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

After losing to Mexico in the opener, Joachim Loew’s side now trails Sweden in game no. 2, just shy of 45 minutes on the clock. As of right now, Mexico and Sweden (six points each) would go through to the knockout rounds, and Germany and South Korea (zero points) would go home.

Die Mannschaft were utterly dominant for the game’s first 30 minutes, holding more than 75 percent of possession, until Ola Toivonen, who scored all of two goals for Ligue 1 side Toulouse this season, got in behind the German backline and dinked the ball over the head of Manuel Neuer for the game’s opening goal.

Report: Player “coup” has Sampaoli on the outs at Argentina

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The Argentina men’s national team has been a mess for some time, with Lionel Messi retiring the last time controversy reared its ugly ahead, but this is something else.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Reports out of Argentina say manager Jorge Sampaoli has lost the team, who is now making decisions on their own ahead of their World Cup group stage finale against Nigeria.

Argentina drew Iceland in its opener before being embarrassed in a 3-0 defeat to Croatia in the second match, one in which Sampaoli’s lineup choice, tactics, and in-match decisions were skewered in the media.

Sergio Aguero was among the players to bristle at talk of the coach after the game.

This just hours after Sampaoli’s lineup to face Nigeria was “leaked” via training ground photos on Saturday.

More to come…

MLS weekend preview: Busy Saturday following the World Cup

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You won’t have to wait too long after the final World Cup game of Saturday to get more soccer.

Major League Soccer is back with a busy night of fixtures.

[ RECAP: Mexico 2-1 South Korea ]

Here are some 1-2 liners to get prepared for what’s in store.

Philadelphia Union vs. Vancouver Whitecaps — 5 p.m. ET

Carl Robinson’s rising visitors will hope the inconsistent side of the Union hits the field in Pennsylvania.

New York Red Bulls vs. FC Dallas — 6 p.m. ET

Dallas’ seven-match unbeaten run includes four-straight wins, but RBNY has not lost at home since late April.

Orlando City vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET

Orlando has not gained a point of its last available 18, while Montreal is slowly finding form.

Sporting KC vs. Houston Dynamo — 8:30 p.m. ET

The Western leaders host a Houston side with a tough 1-3-3 mark away from home.

Colorado Rapids vs. Minnesota United — 9 p.m. ET

Two-win Colorado has been much better at home than away, and the Loons can’t afford to give the Rapids win No. 3 if they want to stay in the playoff picture.

Real Salt Lake vs. San Jose Earthquakes — 10 p.m. ET

Real has won six of seven at Rio Tinto, and San Jose has just two wins this season (So, MLS rules dictate this will go in the Quakes’ win column).

Seattle Sounders vs. Chicago Fire — 10 p.m. ET

The Sounders’ awful season gets a Chicago with points in five of six.

LAFC vs. Columbus Crew — 10:30 p.m. ET

Traveling across the country without Carlos Vela and beating a very solid Crew side is asking a lot of Bob Bradley‘s expansion side.


Atlanta United vs. Portland Timbers — 4:30 p.m. ET Sunday

Gio Savarese has manufactured some fine away performances for Portland, but this is a long flight and a tall ask in a possible MLS Cup Final preview.

NYCFC vs. Toronto FC — 5 p.m. ET Sunday

TFC has yet to climb back into the East’s Top Six, but will like its chances to make a statement against Patrick Vieira-less NYCFC on the postage stamp pitch at Yankee Stadium.

WATCH: Spurs’ Son scores sensational consolation goal for South Korea

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South Korea has not had a good World Cup, but the Taegeuk Warriors have a fine goal for their tournament highlight reel.

[ RECAP: Mexico 2-1 South Korea ]

Tottenham Hotspur star Heung-Min Son was frustrated by Mexico’s stifling defense for most of the day, but El Tri had little hope of stopping his stoppage time stunner.

Son took a lay-off and then used a pick into his yard of space to rip into a shot in the third minute of extra time.

South Korea must hope for Germany to beat Sweden, then for Mexico to beat Sweden while it beats Germany and builds goals for tiebreakers.

As unlikely as that is, at least Son had this moment.