Brendan Rodgers says Liverpool could catch Manchester City on goal differential

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Even on 80 points but trailing table-toppers Manchester City by nine goals, most believe the title hopes of 2nd place Liverpool require the leaders to slip up against Aston Villa on Wednesday and/or West Ham United on Sunday.

But Brendan Rodgers is a bold man, confident in Liverpool’s free-scoring ability, and he insists it is not unforeseeable that even if City win out, his side could overturn that nine goal difference to win the Premier League.

“If there is any team that can score goals and turn it around it will be us,” Rodgers said.

“There is no question. That will be our aim. No question about that. I have seen it before. Chelsea beat Wigan 8-0 in the last game of the season [in 2010, when Chelsea won the title]. I am not paying any disrespect to Newcastle at all but if there is a team that has shown it can score goals, it is us. We are not a 1-0 team. We showed that at the beginning of the season but what we have shown since is we can score goals.”

Hard to argue with that.

On 11 separate occasions this season Liverpool have scored four or more goals in a game: West Brom (4-1 Oct. 26), Fulham (4-0 Nov. 9), Norwich City (5-1 Dec. 4), West Ham (4-1 Dec. 7), Tottenham (5-0 Dec. 15 and 4-0 Mar. 30), Stoke City (5-3 Jan. 12), Everton (4-0 Jan. 28), Arsenal (5-1 Feb. 8), Swansea City (4-3 Feb. 26) and Cardiff City (6-3 Mar. 22).

Further boosting hopes of an epic goal surge is the return of Daniel Sturridge, who is near full fitness in his rehabilitation from a hamstring injury meaning he’s likely to start on Monday when the Reds face Crystal Palace (3:00pm ET on NBCSN and streaming via Live Extra).

“Manchester City won the league on goals scored a couple of years ago,” Rodgers continued. “That’s why, when I came in here, I spoke about a team that could score goals because ultimately that is what it could come down to. We scored 47 goals in the first year I was here and now we have 96. That is what gives us the chance. We could sit and get the team to defend and not want to score but ultimately it’s the team that scores the goals that will win.”

While goals will be paramount for Liverpool to pull off a title charge via the goal differential scenario so too will good defending, which has not been the case of late for the Reds. The Liverpool defense has conceded two goals a match for the last three matches, although two of those came against top sides (Manchester City, Chelsea). Either way, Martin Skrtel, Mamadou Sakho, Glen Johnson and Jon Flanagan will need to be at their very best if Liverpool is to upset the odds.

Solskjaer: Pogba ‘desperate to play, fed up of being injured’

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Paul Pogba is “desperate to play” and “fed up of being injured” nearly two-thirds of the way through a season in which he has made just eight appearances in all competitions, says Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

[ MORE: Woodward’s house attacked by Man United fans with flares ]

After missing three months with an ankle injury earlier in the season, Pogba recently made the decision to undergo surgery. The 26-year-old Frenchman recently had his post-operation cast removed and is expected to return sometime after the upcoming winter break. The days aren’t flying by quickly enough, according to Solskjaer  — quotes from Sky Sports:

“Paul’s had a terrible season with injuries, he’s desperate to play football.

“It’s hard to put timescales on long-term injuries. He loves playing and he loves just being out there training as well, and it’s been playing on his mind.

“I see a boy that is fed up of being injured. Paul has always been a top professional. I don’t have any doubts when he comes back he’s going to enjoy himself.”

[ MORE: Spurs complete Bergwijn transfer from PSV ]

For all of the injuries they’ve encountered this season, including those of Pogba, Man United currently sit fifth in the Premier League table and are only six points off the top-four. With a little more luck on the injury front, a signing or two before the transfer window closes and a few world-class performances from Pogba in the final 14 games of the season, United have a fairly straightforward patch back into the Champions League next season.

Of course, it’s just as likely — if not more so — that everything continues in the same vein — if not worse — and Pogba finally gets his wish to leave United after making every effort to do so last summer. There’s one thing you can say about United with absolute certainty these days: They sure aren’t boring.

China’s women’s team quarantined in Australia over virus fears

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BRISBANE, Australia (AP) China’s national women’s soccer team has been quarantined in Australia ahead of an Olympic qualifying tournament as fears spread about the outbreak of a new virus that has killed more than 130 people.

[ MORE: Spurs complete Bergwijn transfer from PSV ]

Health officials in Queensland state said on Wednesday that 32 people, including players, coaches and staff, traveled through the virus-effected Chinese city of Wuhan a week ago. The team was placed in isolation by border officials after arriving in Brisbane from Shanghai on Tuesday, and will be confined to a Brisbane hotel until Feb. 5.

Queensland Health said the squad was traveling with a team doctor and none has shown symptoms.

The Olympic regional qualifying tournament had been relocated from Wuhan to Nanjing before the Asian Football Confederation moved it to Sydney, Australia, because of concerns over the deadly coronavirus. Now it likely will be delayed.

The tournament had been scheduled to kick off next Monday with a double-header of China against Thailand followed by Australia against Taiwan.

It’s the final stage of regional qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics, which begin in July. The top two teams were supposed to advance to a home-and-away playoff for the last spot at the Olympic tournament.

Football Federation Australia on Wednesday placed a hold on ticket sales for the tournament.

[ MORE: Woodward’s house attacked by Man United fans with flares ]

The Chinese team trained in isolation before departing for Australia and players and staff all underwent testing before departure.

“They went through all the same checks that any Chinese national flying in from China would have gone through,” FFA chief executive James Johnson was quoted as saying by Australian Associated Press. “We’re confident in the government’s checks and balances.”

The FFA said it was notified of the latest advice from Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, that health experts believe the coronavirus is contagious before people show symptoms, and contacts of any confirmed cases must be isolated following exposure.

China has cut off access to Wuhan and 16 other cities to prevent people from leaving and spreading the virus further. The outbreak has infected more than 6,000 on the mainland and abroad. British Airways and Asian budget carriers Lion Air and Seoul Air have suspended flights to China and other airlines are reducing the number of flights to the country as demand for travel drops because of the outbreak.

Arsenal sign defender Mari on loan from Flamengo

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Amid an ongoing and injury crisis at center back, Arsenal have signed defender Pablo Mari on loan from Brazilian club Flamengo until the end of the season.

[ MORE: Spurs complete Bergwijn transfer from PSV ]

Th 26-year-old Spaniard spent three seasons on the books at Manchester City, where he never made a first-team appearance and instead was sent out on loan three times, before moving to Flamengo last summer. Flamengo won both the Brazilian league title and the Copa Libertadores during his six months at the club.

Mari’s loan agreement has an option to make the move permanent this summer.

[ MORE: Woodward’s house attacked by Man United fans with flares ]

Arsenal have been without defenders Calum Chambers, Sead Kolasinac and Kieran Tierney, for quite some time due to injuries. Shkodran Mustafi went down with an ankle injury during Monday’s FA Cup victory over Bournemouth and will miss some time as well.

Spurs complete Bergwijn transfer from PSV

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After 18 months without signing a single player, Tottenham Hotspur sure are making up for lost time.

[ MORE: Woodward’s house attacked by Man United fans with flares ]

The club announced on Wednesday that 22-year-old Dutch winger Steven Bergwijn has been signed from PSV Eindhoven, marking Tottenham’s second signing of the January transfer window. Midfielder Gedson Fernandes arrived from Benfica earlier this month.

Bergwijn is a dynamic wide attacking player who put together the best season of his younger career last term (14 goals in 33 league appearances) and followed it up with another solid six months at PSV (5 goals in 16) before Spurs came calling. He arrives a day after Christian Eriksen officially departed Spurs for Inter Milan, and Bergwijn will wear the no. 23 shirt, which stood vacant for less the 24 hours in Eriksen’s wake.

The fee for Bergwijn has been reported at $32 million, making him a relatively low-risk signing in the world of today’s transfers, though his mere presence signals a significant departure from the club’s standard operating practices of the past.

[ MORE: Report: Chelsea may ask Abraham to play through injury

Do Spurs fans have Jose Mourinho to thank for chairman Daniel Levy’s newfound free-spending ways? Not even Harry Redknapp could convince Spurs’ frugal owner to spend in this manner, let alone the likes of Mauricio Pochettino or an Andre Villas-Boas. While requesting and demanding — and getting — big-money signings has been a common theme of Mourinho’s management career, Spurs didn’t seem like a place he’d simply continue to operate in that way.

Rather than learn a new trick himself, it would appear Mourinho taught Levy one instead.