Exclusive Q&A with Liverpool’s Joe Allen ahead of the Merseyside derby

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LIVERPOOL — On Tuesday night Liverpool and Everton will square off at Anfield (Watch live on NBCSN, 3pm ET and online via Live Extra) with local pride and a place in the top four of the Premier League at stake.

Yeah, it doesn’t get much bigger than that.

So last week I popped up to Liverpool FC’s Melwood training ground for an exclusive one-on-one chat with midfielder Joe Allen and asked him about what it’s like to play in the derby, what Liverpool can achieve this season, about his time on Merseyside so far and much more.

(WATCH: Liverpool vs. Everton live on NBCSN, 3pm ET and online via Live Extra)

Allen, 24, is also in a pretty unique situation as he’s the only Liverpool or Everton player who has played under both managers, Brendan Rodgers and Roberto Martinez, while they were in charge of his hometown club Swansea.

In fact Everton manager Martinez, who Allen is desperately hoping to beat at Anfield under the floodlights and cauldron of noise, gave the young Welsh midfielder his professional debut in 2007. So the respect he has for the Spanish coach is plentiful, as the Red and Blue halves of Merseyside prepare to square off.

(MORE: Merseyside Derby – Liverpool and Everton set for biggest derby in decades)

Having played in the 3-3 draw at Goodison Park back in November, Allen had a glorious opportunity to score that he put wide of Tim Howard’s goal. That miss, and the desire to help Liveprool obtain their goal of a top four finish, sees Allen fired up for what’s set to be an epic Merseyside derby with bragging rights well and truly on the line.

So without further adieu, here he is.

Explain to an American audience, what is it like to play in a derby? What are the differences to a regular game?

Obviously the passion and the intensity in those games are completely different to regular games. As players they are the games you look forward to the most.

For you, where does this derby rank in the Premier League? Is it right up there with the biggest derbies in the world?

Yeah it is, of course it is. In particular the last few seasons the rivalry between Everton and Liverpool has become even more fierce especially in the league table, that gives it even more excitement and build the game up even more. This are the sort of games that when the fixture list comes out, you look for them straightaway.

Is there a buzz around the city with a derby around the corner? Has it helped that both teams have been playing so well?

In the week leading up to the game it is the talk of the city and the people. Everyone is hoping their team comes out on top and they will have the bragging rights that follow that.

source: Getty Images
Liverpool midfielder Allen misses a great chance in the derby earlier this season. He expects another end-to-end clash at Anfield.

It adds to the intensity and the importance of the game. The derby and the rivalry is one thing but we’re competing for similar positions in the table, so it gives it that added spice. That’s certainly the case when that’s at stake. We realize the importance of the match both from the rivalry point of view, but from picking up points off each other.

You have some previous in Derby games, scoring the winner vs. Cardiff as a youngster. How special are these matches? 

Being a player that came through the academy at Swansea, it was a great feeling in the derby match to first of all get my first goal but to be playing in such an important game. It is such a big game, it was great. It’s a moment I will never forget.

What about the derby and the fact you weren’t born in Liverpool? Is it different?

As soon as you join a club in Liverpool, you see how passionate the fans are towards their football club. Everyone knows the score when you go into a derby game. How much it means to everyone in the city and obviously that gives you the added incentive to go out and perform and get the added result.

Do you see this rivalry getting even bigger as both teams and new managers continue to develop in the next few years?

Both teams at the moment are improving, certainly over the last couple of seasons. It’s already a huge derby match. But I think with reasonably young managers, and the young teams developing, I’m hoping to be a part of many great derby days in the future.

Having played in the first game at Goodison in the 3-3 draw, are you expecting a similar challenge this time?

I’m sure from a tempo point of view and the pace of the game it will be very similar, almost every derby game is. I was impressed that Everton had the courage to fight back from a losing position, but then so did we. That game had everything. Hopefully it will be as exciting, but that Liverpool come out on top and win quite comfortably.

What about Roberto Martinez, has it surprised you what he’s done?

source: Getty Images
Allen, right, is expecting a tough test from Everton once again in Tuesday’s derby.

He’s had a big impact and has done really well since he went to Everton. There are no surprises there really. He’s a good manager. It will be strange being on the opposition team but I am looking forward to facing up against him.

What was he like to work for during your time at Swansea?

Martinez has been great, he was a big part of my career as the manager who gave my debut in league football. He helped develop my game a lot with his approach to my style of play and things like that, he played a big part in Swansea’s success as well.

At Liverpool, what would be a successful season this campaign? Top 4? A trophy?

Top four is the main focus. Everyone appreciates that. It is incredibly competitive trying to get those top four places and over the season there’s going to be twists and turns but that’s our main goal. To do that would be an incredible achievement.

Between now and the rest of the season, are you confident your game-changers will make most teams struggle against you?

We’ve certainly got the came-changers and players who have the ability to turn games on their head. We’ve got a great team morale and everyone is really working at 100 percent, we have done all season. The signs are all positive for the rest of the season. Let’s hope we can keep getting the results we are after and lets see where that leaves us at the end of the season.

Personally, how have you found things this season? It’s been stop-start with injuries, how frustrating is that?

It’s the biggest frustration in football. Unfortunately that comes with the territory and is something you’ve got to learn to deal with and try to do everything you can to prevent it happening again. Thankfully I am fit at the moment and looking to keep it that way for as long as possible.

With Lucas out injured for while, do you see this as a chance to play regularly between now and the end of the season?  How was it to comeback against Aston Villa last weekend?

It’s always great to get back on that, unfortunately it wasn’t as part of a winning performance. The aim now is to get a run of games, if I can get my chance in the team I will do everything I can to keep hold of it. The first half of the season has been very stop-start so to get that consistent run of games it what I am striving to do. Touch wood I can make it happen.

With so many quality players in midfield, has it been tough to try and become a starter?

When you agree to join a club like Liverpool you appreciate the competition is fierce. You’re joining a club with fantastic players there already and also they’re always a club that are going to attract players in the future. You know day in, day out you have got to give everything. As an ambitious player, like everyone else in that dressing room, we are the type of characters who are hungry and looking to compete. We’re all hopeful we can come on top, we do appreciate the competition is fierce but you always want to be a part of a team where that’s the case.

source: Getty Images
After an injury-hit campaign, Allen hopes to get his smooth passing game going for the rest of the season.

You are still very young, what are your targets in the short and long term with Liverpool and Wales?

With Liverpool the dream for me is to experience Champions League football. That’s been a dream of mine since a young age. I’d love to have the chance to do that with Liverpool and in my time here. I’m hopeful in my time here I will get the chance to do that.

From an international point of view, Wales’ focus is now on qualifying for the Euro’s. With some of the players we’ve got we are a young developing team, it’s an exciting few years ahead for us. So I hope to have the chance to play in some finals for Wales.

How great has it been to play alongside Steven Gerrard since you arrived at Liverpool?

It’s been great. He’s a player I’ve looked up to for some many years and has been a huge player in the Premier League and for Liverpool. To get the chance to play with him and learn from him day in and day out, it’s been a privilege. I’m looking forward to try and get in the team alongside him and producing some good performances with him.

What do you think of Gerrard dropping back and adopting more of a Pirlo role?

I think he can still do everything. He’s a top player and the best players can play in many different roles. That’s credit to him and the beauty of having a player like Stevie in your team. Wherever he’s asked to do a job, he will do it with flying colors.

source: Getty Images
With the Welsh national team full of youngsters, Allen is hoping they can qualify for the next European Championships in 2016.

There’s been scattered of talk of Gerrard playing center back at the World Cup. Can he do it?

As I said, you feel the best players can play anywhere. If that’s the case you feel he’d certainly do a good job there. Whether it happens or not is a different question.

How has Rodgers change since his Swansea days?

He has a certain philosophy. But of course there has to be change at different clubs, but also as a young manager he’s progressing his career as well. I’ve been lucky to have the chance to work under him at a massive club like Liverpool, so it’s been great.

Who has more jaw-dropping moments in training, Suarez or Sturridge?

They are both at it. You’ve seen it consistently from both of them this season on the football pitch but it’s the same in training. Obviously there’s the likes of Coutinho and Raheem, who have the ability to produce all sorts on the training pitch as well. It keeps you on your toes.

EURO 2024 qualification live! EURO qualifiers schedule, updates, standings

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EURO 2024 qualifying is here, and you’re in the right spot for groups, fixtures, and results.

Italy outlasted England in penalty kicks to win EURO 2020 and is bidding to become the first repeat winner since Spain in 2008 and 2012.

[ MORE: Breaking down Premier League title race ]

England is still seeking its first European Championship and will be favored to emerge from Group C with aforementioned Italy as well as Ukraine, North Macedonia, and Malta.

Netherlands and France are also in a spicy group that has dark horse Republic of Ireland and former champions Greece, as well as Gibraltar.

[ MORE: Live scores, updates, standings from EURO 2024 qualifying ]

A number of nations have guaranteed themselves no worse than a playoff spot due to their performances in the UEFA Nations League: Netherlands, Greece, Italy, Spain, Scotland, Georgia, Croatia, Turkey, Serbia, Kazakhstan.



EURO 2024 qualifying schedule

Thursday, March 23

Kazakhstan 1-2 Slovenia
Slovakia 0-0 Luxembourg
Italy 1-2 England – Video, player ratings as Kane breaks Rooney record
Denmark 3-1 Finland
Portugal 4-0 Liechtenstein
San Marino 0-2 Northern Ireland
North Macedonia 2-1 Malta
Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-0 Iceland

Friday, March 24

Bulgaria 0-1 Montenegro
Gibraltar 0-3 Greece
Moldova 1-1 Faroe Islands
Serbia 2-0 Lithuania
Austria 4-1 Azerbaijan
Sweden 0-3 Belgium
Czech Republic 3-1 Poland
France 4-0 Netherlands

Saturday, March 25

Scotland 3-0 Cyprus
Israel 1-1 Kosovo
Armenia 1-2 Turkey
Belarus 0-5 Switzerland
Spain 3-0 Norway
Croatia 1-0 Wales
Andorra 0-2 Romania

Sunday, March 26

Kazakhstan vs Denmark — 9am ET
England vs Ukraine — Noon ET
Liechtenstein vs Iceland — Noon ET
Slovenia vs San Marino — Noon ET
Slovakia vs Bosnia and Herzegovina — 2:45pm ET
Northern Ireland vs Finland — 2:45pm ET
Luxembourg vs Portugal — 2:45pm ET
Malta vs Italy — 2:45pm ET

Monday, March 27

Montenegro vs Serbia — 2:45pm ET
Netherlands vs Gibraltar — 2:45pm ET
Poland vs Albania — 2:45pm ET
Austria vs Estonia — 2:45pm ET
Sweden vs Azerbaijan — 2:45pm ET
Moldova vs Czech Republic — 2:45pm ET
Hungary vs Bulgaria — 2:45pm ET
Republic of Ireland vs France — 2:45pm ET

Tuesday, March 28

Georgia vs Norway — Noon ET
Wales vs Latvia — 2:45pm ET
Romania vs Belarus — 2:45pm ET
Switzerland vs Israel — 2:45pm ET
Kosovo vs Andorra — 2:45pm ET
Turkey vs Croatia — 2:45pm ET
Scotland vs Spain — 2:45pm ET


EURO 2024 qualifying standings

Group A

Spain
Scotland
Norway
Georgia
Cyprus

Group B

Netherlands
France
Republic of Ireland
Greece
Gibraltar

Group C

Italy
England
Ukraine
North Macedonia
Malta

Group D

Croatia
Wales
Armenia
Turkey
Latvia

Group E

Poland
Czech Republic
Albania
Faroe Islands
Moldova

Group F

Belgium
Austria
Sweden
Azerbaijan
Estonia

Group G

Hungary
Serbia
Montenegro
Bulgaria
Lithuania

Group H

Denmark
Finland
Slovenia
Kazakhstan
Northern Ireland
San Marino

Group I

Switzerland
Israel
Romania
Kosovo
Belarus
Andorra

Group J

Portugal
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Iceland
Luxembourg
Slovakia
Liechtenstein

USMNT kicks off 2026 World Cup cycle with 7-1 win in Grenada

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The USMNT scored early and often, as they cruised to a 7-1 victory over Grenada in CONCACAF Nations League action in St. George’s on Friday.

[ MORE: Player ratings out of 10 for USMNT ]

The victory puts the USMNT (7 points) atop Group D with one game left to play, against El Salvador (5 points – 2nd place) on Monday.

The Yanks got on the board in the 4th minute, and it was a sensational cross from Christian Pulisic which found Ricardo Pepi atop the six-yard box. Pepi used the considerable pace on Pulisic’s cross to head the ball down and out of goalkeeper Jason Belfon’s reach.

[ MORE: Folarin Balogun to USMNT? “It’s something that will come to me” ]

Brenden Aaronson made it 2-0 in the 21st minute, as the Leeds attacker received the ball atop the 18-yard box, turned into open space and cut inside before firing a right-footed finish hard and low to the near post.

Weston McKennie made it 3-0 just after the half-hour mark, as he smashed an off-balance, left-footed volley home after his initial header on Pulisic’s free kick was blocked. Two minutes after Myles Hippolyte fired a laser past Matt Turner (a minute after McKennie’s first goal), the recently acquired Leeds midfielder struck again to make it 4-1, applying the final touch after Auston Trusty headed the ball down after another free kick from Pulisic.

[ MORE: Three key questions for USMNT in March ]

The USMNT jumped on Grenada just as quickly when the second half began, with Pulisic putting his name on the scoresheet in the 49th minute. Luca de la Torre found Pulisic cutting in from the left wing, and the ball somehow found its way past Belfon for 5-1.

Four minutes later, De la Torre played a slightly trickier through ball to spring Pepi in behind the Grenadine defense, and Pepi made no mistake with his one-on-one chance against Belfon. Pepi, who is currently on loan to Groningen from Augsburg, waited for the goalkeeper to go down one way and coolly slotted the ball the other way.

Alejandro Zendejas, who recently elected to represent the USMNT internationally, became cap-tied to the USMNT when he came off the bench in the 64th minute. Eight minutes later, the 25-year-old winger got his first senior international goal.


Start of a new World Cup cycle = a clean slate

For all intents and purposes, the USMNT kicked off the 2026 World Cup cycle on Friday, with the first team reconvening for the first time since the 2022 tournament in Qatar. A new World Cup cycle means brand new opportunities for new players, and a fresh start for those who didn’t get the starts or appearances that they thought they should have.

The net will be cast far and wide as the rest of 2023 sees the USMNT (likely) head to the finals of the Nations League and then the Gold Cup, with a handful of players seemingly coming from out of nowhere to claim consistent call-ups ahead of Copa America 2024 (on U.S. soil once again). There will be even more opportunities than usual for fringe players to make a case, with the Yanks automatically qualifying for the 2026 tournament as hosts.


What’s next?

The USMNT will host El Salvador in a winner-take-all Group D finale on Monday (7:30 pm ET), at Exploria Stadium in Orlando. The group winner will qualify for the finals (four teams) of the 2022-23 CONCACAF Nations League (June 15-18) as well as the 2023 Gold Cup (June 24-July 16); the group runners-up will also qualify for this summer’s Gold Cup.

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How to watch Grenada vs USMNT live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 8pm ET, Friday (March 24)
Stadium: Kirani James Athletic Stadium, St. George’s
TV in English: TNT
TV/streaming en Español: Universo/Peacock

[ LIVE: CONCACAF Nations League scores – Grenada vs USMNT ]


USMNT squad

Goalkeepers (3): Ethan Horvath (Luton Town), Zack Steffen (Middlesbrough), Matt Turner (Arsenal)

Defenders (8): Sergino Dest (AC Milan), Mark McKenzie (Genk), Tim Ream (Fulham), Bryan Reynolds (Westerlo), Antonee Robinson (Fulham), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), Joe Scally (Borussia Monchengladbach), Auston Trusty (Birmingham City)

Midfielders (7): Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo), Weston McKennie (Leeds United), Yunus Musah (Valencia), Alan Sonora (Juarez), Djordje Mihailovic (AZ Alkmaar)

Forwards (6): Taylor Booth (Utrecht), Daryl Dike (West Bromwich Albion), Ricardo Pepi (Groningen), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Alejandro Zendejas (Club America)

EDIT: Tim Weah (Lille) was originally called up, but exited due to a head injury.

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Player ratings: USMNT thumps Grenada in Nations League

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The USMNT kicked off the 2026 World Cup cycle as the Yanks reconvened (the first team, at least) for the first time since the 2022 tournament in Qatar, in a 7-1 victory Grenada on Friday.

[ MORE: Folarin Balogun to USMNT? “It’s something that will come to me” ]

Who stood out (for better and for worse) as the USMNT thumped Grenada?


USMNT player ratings vs Grenada

GK – Matt Turner: 6 – Faced just three shots on target (0.36 xG), made two saves and watched helplessly as a screamer from outside the box hit the back of the net.

RB – Bryan Reynolds: 6.5 – The USMNT focused the vast majority of its attacking play down the left side of the field, making Reynolds the target of a handful of cross-field switches as he played the full 90 minutes.

CB – Mark McKenzie: 7 – Teamed up with his former center back partner from his Philadelphia Union days, McKenzie was tasked with being far and away the senior figure and leader of the defense on Friday (his 10 caps were four more than the rest of the back-four combined).

CB – Auston Trusty: 7 – A solid performance in his USMNT debut for the 24-year-old Arsenal defender (on loan to Birmingham City, where he has appeared in 37 games in the Championship thus far). With nearly 70 percent of possession on the night, there aren’t many better opportunities to get your feet wet at the senior international level.

LB – Joe Scally: 7.5 – Do not get overly excited about a 20-year-old’s performance against Grenada. I repeat, do not get overly excited about a 20-year-old’s performance against Grenada. That said, does the USMNT have… two left backs?


DM – Luca de la Torre: 7 – It would be unwise to assign too much value to a game that finished 7-1 against the no. 173-ranked nation in the world, but one thing is for certain and has been proven on a number of occasions: LdlT is a smooth operator as a ball-playing defensive midfielder, and he showed himself quite capable further up the field, in and around the opposing penalty area, on Friday as well.

CM – Weston McKennie: 8 – Two goals (both off of free kicks) for the newly acquired Leeds midfielder, which would be an incredibly welcome development for a side that hasn’t made enough of its set pieces in recent times.

CM – Gio Reyna: 6.5 – This was the solid, if unspectacular, return that Reyna needed after weeks of off-field controversy surround himself, his family and former (but perhaps future) head coach Gregg Berhalter. There were plenty of fireworks elsewhere in the team on Friday, and Reyna managed to come through the game unscathed.


RW – Brenden Aaronson: 7 – It’s been a tough first season in the Premier League for Aaronson, so his first-half goal will hopefully provide a much-needed boost in confidence (his first goal, for club or country, in any competition, since Aug. 21, his third game for Leeds).

CF – Ricardo Pepi: 8 – Aside from scoring the opening goal, Pepi was active and involved in much of what the USMNT tried to do going forward in the first half. Given how deep Grenada sat defensively to begin the game, the Yanks could have taken the easy way out — staying wide and crossing the ball repeatedly — every time down the field, but there appeared to be a concerted effort to combine through the middle of the field, which meant Pepi had to be sharp and quick with his movement to create space for Reyna, Aaronson and Christian Pulisic. Speaking of building confidence, how about the finish for his second goal…

LW – Christian Pulisic: 8 – Ho hum. Just a one-goal, two-assist performance from Pulisic. As previously discussed, the USMNT found infinite joy down the left side of attack and Pulisic was at the center of most of it (for 64 minutes, at least).

Follow @AndyEdMLS

England vs Ukraine: How to watch live, team news, updates

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England host Ukraine in a UEFA EURO 2024 qualifier at Wembley with an extremely emotional atmosphere expected in London.

[ LIVE: EURO 2024 qualifying scores – England vs Ukraine ]

As the war rages on across Ukraine following the Russia invasion just over a year ago, the United Kingdom have been one of Ukraine’s key partners in the fight against Russian forces.

The English Football Association have given away close to 1,000 free tickets to Ukrainians who were forced to flee their country and resettle with families in the UK. Over 4,200 Ukraine fans will be in the away end at Wembley amid a sea of blue and yellow and you can expect plenty of mutual respect and support from fans of both countries towards each other. This match is Ukraine’s first of 2023, as they narrowly missed out on qualifying for the 2022 World Cup after losing to Wales in a playoff last summer.

[ MORE: Full EURO 2024 qualifying schedule, standings ]

England beat Italy 2-1 in Naples on Thursday as Harry Kane became their all-time leading goalscorer with his 54th goal for the Three Lions and they held on after going 2-0 up as Luke Shaw’s red card with 10 minutes to go complicated matters. Gareth Southgate’s young side are developing but will they be able to finally win a major tournament?

They have to qualify for the Euros in Germany next summer first, but a first win away in Italy since 1961 was a great start to this qualifying campaign.

Here’s everything you need for England vs Ukraine.


How to watch England vs Ukraine live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 12pm ET, Sunday (March 26)
Updates: Via NBCSports.com
Stadium: Wembley Stadium, London
TV: FS1


Key storylines, in-form players

The last time this nations met England ran out 4-0 winners in the quarterfinals of EURO 2020. They will be the heavy favorites in this game but Ukraine should not be underestimate as the No. 26 ranked team in the world have the likes of Oleksandr Zinchenko, Mykhailo Mudryk and Vitalii Mykolenko all playing in the Premier League.

England’s forwards ran riot in the first half against Italy with Harry Kane and Bukayo Saka sensational, plus Jude Bellingham’s driving runs from midfield give this Three Lions side an extra dimension. There is more creativity and cutting edge about this England side compared to recent years and it feels like they are ready to win something. There will be a ceremony before this game to honor Harry Kane becoming England’s all-time goalscorer as he passed Wayne Rooney with his goal in Italy on Thursday.


England team news, lineup options

Luke Shaw will be suspended for this game after his red card in Italy, so Kieran Trippier or Ben Chilwell will come in at left back. It is likely Jordan Henderson will come in for Kalvin Phillips in midfield, while Phil Foden could start over Jack Grealish out wide. Reece James and Conor Gallagher could also come into the team as Bellingham limped off towards the end of England’s win against Italy.

Ukraine team news, lineup options

Andriy Yarmolenko (three goals away from equalling Andriy Shevchenko as Ukraine’s all-time leading scorer) has been struggling with a hamstring injury so he may start on the bench, while Bournemouth’s Ilya Zabarnyi and Shakhtar’s Oleksandr Zubkov are both out. Yevhen Konoplyanka and Roman Yaremchuk offer real quality in attack, while Zinchenko is the heartbeat of this Ukraine side.