Liverpool names 33-man roster for Champions Cup

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Champions Cup matches have become such an important part of preseason preparations, it’s no surprise to see teams name strong squads. In that sense, Liverpool has fallen in line by naming the likes of Steven Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge, and Raheem Sterling to the team that will face Olympiacos (July 27), Manchester City (July 30), and Milan (Aug. 2) in the competition’s opening round.

In another sense, however, there are a number of small eye-openers in the 33-man team Brendan Rodgers is bringing to the United States.

For example, consider the forwards, a corps that now includes former Saint Rickie Lambert. The returning Fabio Borini joins Sturridge in rounding out a group that will look strange until we get used to the idea that Luis Suárez has really moved on.

But Borini’s name sparks another strange sensation: Realizing some big names are returning from loan. The Italian attacker, instrumental in Sunderland’s miraculous spring survival, is one of them, as is Pepe Reina, who spent last season on loan with Napoli. Sebastián Coates and Suso are also back after ending last season at Nacional of Uruguay and Almería, respectively. Whether they’re playing for a spot in the team or waiting for another loan deal remains to be seen.

Perhaps most encouraging for Liverpool fans is the depth. Two months after seeming the thinnest of the Premier League’s title contenders, the club has loaded up on options.

In defense, the team is two-deep along the back, while the additions of Emre Can, Adam Lallana, and Lazar Markovic mean eight or nine midfielders could compete for time. The quality could be better in a few spots, but Rodgers’ shouldn’t suffer from a lack of options this season.

Here’s the squad Liverpool will bring to the States:

Goalkeepers (4): Simon Mignolet, Pepe Reina, Brad Jones, Adam Phillips

Defenders (13): Daniel Agger, Sebastian Coates, Jon Flanagan, Tiago Ilori, Glen Johnson, Martin Kelly, Mamadou Sakho, Jose Enrique, Martin Skrtel, Kolo Toure, Andre Wisdom, Danny Ward, Jack Robinson

Midfielders (13): Joe Allen, Emre Can, Phillipe Coutinho, Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, Lucas Leiva, Lazar Markovic, Raheem Sterling, Connor Coady, Suso, Jordan Ibe, Joao Carlos Teixera

Forwards (3): Fabio Borini, Rickie Lambert, Daniel Sturridge

Video: Ronaldo scores fourth goal, gives Portugal early lead

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He has four goals in less than two matches, and Portugal is off to another flying start courtesy of their star forward.

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Cristiano Ronaldo gave the Portuguese a 1-0 lead against Morocco in the fourth minute after brilliantly heading home a corner kick.

The Real Madrid star gave Portugal a similar spark at the beginning of their 3-3 draw against Spain in their first Group B match when Ronaldo drew, and scored a penalty kick inside of the opening three minutes.

Is there anything this man cannot do?

Reports: Alli unlikely to play in England’s second Group G match

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The Three Lions may not have taken all good news away from the team’s 2-1 win over Tunisia in their World Cup opener.

[ MORE: Russia races past Egypt, likely en route to next round ]

Several reports are suggesting that England will likely be without Tottenham playmaker Dele Alli in their second Group G match against Panama on Sunday.

Alli was forced out of England’s opener with a thigh strain, which gave manager Gareth Southgate the decision to put in Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

There isn’t a timetable for the 22-year-old’s return to the pitch, but his absence will definitely present a major question for Southgate heading into the rest of group play.

Without Alli in the starting XI, it’ll likely be between Loftus-Cheek and Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard to fill the role where Alli normally sits.

In the case of Lingard, who started against Tunisia, the England boss would have to bring in another starter if Southgate opts to have the Red Devils attacker sit in as the number 10.

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

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Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

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Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.