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Ian Rush talks Liverpool hopes, Klopp, US tour, Wales, praises Klinsmann

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Liverpool legend Ian Rush is incredibly excited about what lies ahead for Liverpool.

Not only on their tour of the U.S. this summer but beyond it as the Reds aim to get back into the Premier League’s top four during the 2016-17 season.

[ MORE: Full PL preseason schedule ]

Rush, 54, is the all-time leading goalscorer for Liverpool and the Welsh national team, winning two European Cups, five league titles and three FA Cups during his distinguished career at Anfield. He is now a Global Ambassador for the club as well as being the Elite Performance Director for the Welsh Football Trust.

In an exclusive chat with ProSoccerTalk via phone ahead of their preseason trip to the USA, Rush spoke to us about Liverpool’s targets for the upcoming season, Jurgen Klopp‘s progress, his thoughts on the growth of the game in the USA, being part of Wales’ incredible success at EURO 2016 and also spoke highly of current U.S. national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

Read the full transcript of our discussion below as Liverpool prepare to face Chelsea at the Pasadena Rose Bowl on Wednesday Jul. 27 and AC Milan in Santa Clara on Jul. 30 in the International Champions Cup before heading to St. Louis to play AS Roma in a friendly on Aug. 1.


How have previous U.S. tours been with Liverpool?
It is the third time I’ve been now on the U.S. tour and the first time we went, we didn’t know what to expect. For me it was amazing. I didn’t realize how many Liverpool supporters there were in the USA. It is absolutely amazing and we are looking forward to it.

There seems to be a huge Liverpool fanbase in the USA, great experience to be around?
Without doubt, not just the players but for the supporters and everything about it. It is a big test for the players because they are playing quality teams. I think it is a great tournament and something that sets the standard as well.

What do you put soccer’s growth in popularity down to in the USA?
First of all I think you put that down to 1994 when they had the World Cup in America, that was a big thing. But I think when Jurgen Klinsmann took the U.S. in the World Cup, he did really well and I think they had a really good World Cup in 2014. When you have a good World Cup, just like in Wales when we had a good Euros, everyone wants to grow up and play soccer. It is amazing what it does, when a country does well in a football tournament. I think that is the reason why.

Liverpool have U.S. owners and obviously the club has close links with the USA. How important is this tour for them?
It is very important, we have an outreach worldwide, not just in Europe. We go to Asia, America and in Asia we all know they’re football crazy but when you go to America, there are so many sports there that you don’t really know what to expect. For me, the last time we went there it was amazing to see how many American people came to watch. That put a new light on it. Soccer in America is getting bigger and bigger all the time.

BOSTON, MA - JULY 25: Francesco Totti #10 of AS Roma takes a free kick against Liverpool during a pre-season tour friendly match on July 25, 2012 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

What is the message the club will look to spread to fans in the USA?
At Liverpool we see ourselves as a family club. At home there are only 54,000 that can come there but there are millions and millions who want to watch Liverpool, so what we have to do is take Liverpool to other parts of the world. Our message is that we don’t come in and get out. As a club we see ourselves as a family club and we want to leave a lasting legacy. We don’t want to go there and leave, we want to put something down there and maybe go back again two years later. That’s how you create a family club and Liverpool has always been a family club.

With Chelsea, AC Milan and Roma coming up, will these be good tests to see where team is at right now?
They are massive tests. As a player the most important thing is that once you get your preseason in you, you are ready for the season then. There’s no good playing easy teams and winning 5-0 or 6-0 but also you don’t want to play really difficult teams right from the start so you will have to try and build yourself up. When you look at the Chelsea game, it is a big test for Chelsea as well. They have a new manager, they don’t know what to expect. With AC Milan and Roma, you always know what you’re going to get, it is always going to be a difficult game. From Chelsea and Liverpool’s point of view it is going to be a big test for us.

Speaking as a player, how important is it to get a good preseason in you?
If you don’t do you preseason you are always playing catch up after. With Jurgen Klopp, if you look when he first took over Liverpool, there were maybe three or four injuries early on because what he demands of a team is to give 100 percent work rate. You look at his teams in the past, they are always teams which give 100 percent. But now he has got the team from the start so once he gets this preseason in, hopefully there won’t be as many injuries, they will know what to expect and I think that will set the standard for the season.

The players having a full preseason under Jurgen Klopp, will that make a big difference?
100 percent. They all know what to expect now. The players who were with him last season, they all know what to expect. Maybe you will get teams that train twice a day but with Jurgen Klopp you will train maybe three times a day. That is the pressure he puts on and those are the demands. If you look at his teams with Dortmund in the past, he plays a high-pressing game. If you don’t give him 100 percent, you will not be playing for Jurgen Klopp. The demands are so high and that is the expectation so far.

Philippe Coutinho

So far, what have you made of Liverpool and the results in preseason?
The results have been fantastic but when you look at it, even the players on the fringe, what you have to do as a player is give the manager a problem. These players that have been playing have to give the manager a problem. Instead of the manager saying ‘this is my automatic starting XI’ he should be saying here’s 20 players… and then the manager has a problem. I think these young players that have come in, they’ve done that so far. It has been fantastic for the fringe players. When the first team players come back then Liverpool will say ‘hold up, we’ve been winning. We’ve got a problem here.’ There is competition for places and that is what Jurgen Klopp has done well so far.

Any players who have stood out in preseason? Danny Ings impressing after his recovery?
There are three or four I could mention but I don’t want to mention them because I don’t want to put the pressure on the players. Let them build their way in. Danny Ings, for me is a breath of fresh air. Hopefully he will be like a new signing. What I like about him is he plays off the shoulder of defenders. He is like an old fashioned center forward. He doesn’t go deep and he wants to get around the back of them and that causes defenders problems. It is really nice to see him get among the goals. For me, let’s see what he can do. He is experienced. He knows the Premier League and hopefully he will be like a new signing for Liverpool.

What about Liverpool’s Premier League hopes. Seems so open this season, so what is the target? Top four? Domestic trophy?
Top four. Simple as that. You are looking to make the Champions League next year. A trophy would be a bonus but because we are not in Europe now, it gives us a little bit more time to concentrate on the domestic trophies but also the league. The most important thing now is to get back in the Champions League. That is a realistic target. Chelsea have a new manager. Manchester United have a new manager. Manchester City have a new manager. Leicester won the league last year… I think we all have to look at Leicester and see what they achieved last year. Personally I think Liverpool have better individuals than Leicester, so if Leicester can do it, why not Liverpool? That’s what we are looking at, to get back in that top four. I would love them to win a trophy and because now we aren’t in Europe we have time to concentrate on the league and one of the trophies as well. That is the target.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 07: Ian Rush of Liverpool FC Legends celebrates after the match between Liverpool FC Legends and the Australian Legends at ANZ Stadium on January 7, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Zak Kaczmarek/Getty Images)
(Photo by Zak Kaczmarek/Getty Images)

This summer Wales excelled at EURO 2016, was is special to witness that in France as a proud Welshman?
It was absolutely amazing. I was out there for three-and-a-half weeks with Wales when they were out there. It just goes to show if Leicester could do it, Wales could do it, it is all about team spirit. If you look at it, England had better individuals than Wales. Wales got to the semifinals, England didn’t. That comes down to the team spirit, the manager, the coaching staff. I look at it similar to Liverpool. It is all about the fanbase and the team spirit. Liverpool have that. Wales have that 100 percent. It was absolutely amazing. It was the first time in 58 years that Wales were in a major tournament and they went over there, the fans responded and the players responded to that. It was an amazing occasion and we want to go on to better things now. We want to qualify for the World Cup. It is like Liverpool. We don’t want to get in and get out. Once you get in there, you want to stay there. Hopefully that is what we want to do for Wales. I am the Elite Performance Director of the Welsh FA. We put in the program eight years ago and it is bearing its fruits now, so it is amazing to see that. As a Welshman I was so proud to see them get to the semifinals.

Can the USA follow the same model as the likes of Wales and Iceland who did so well this summer?
100 percent. There are so many more people in America aren’t there? If you look at Wales and if they can do it, why can’t the USA do it? College soccer has been massive but to break through and to get it ready you need the grass roots in it. I know America has been doing it and I speak to Jurgen Klinsmann quite a lot. It has been bearing its fruit for about 15 years now and once you get the first team to do well, you need to kick on. I am sure the USA could kick on as well.

What are the best memories you have of the USA?
When you got to Disney Land, I went with my kids and it amazing and all that and I’ve been to LA, that was great. Funny enough, in 1994 I went to the World Cup with Nike and we were based in San Francisco and it was great to go and see that part of the world for me. I am looking forward to it. 1994 was the last time I was in San Francisco, going to Alcatraz and things like that, it is going to be amazing to see the difference this time around.

You’ve spoken highly of Jurgen Klinsmann, what do you think about the job he’s done with the U.S. national team?
I think he has done an amazing job. As a German, they want everything to be perfect and for me when you talk about England manager, if they had to be English that’s fair enough but Jurgen Klinsmann would definitely be high up on my list because he knows everything about the technical side. He has been a player, a world class player I played against in Italy and he came to play in England and he knows about all the leagues. Not just the USA. He knows about the German, the Italian… For me, him and Arsene Wenger are perfect examples to be the next England manager.

CARDIFF, WALES - SEPTEMBER 06: Former Wales striker Ian Rush watches the action during the UEFA EURO 2016 group B qualifying match between Wales and Israel at Cardiff City Stadium on September 6, 2015 in Cardiff, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Edouard Mendy to Chelsea: What does it mean for Kepa, Blues’ defense?

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Edouard Mendy to Chelsea: What does it mean for Kepa Arrizabalaga and how much does it improve the Chelsea defense?

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]   

Frank Lampard has confirmed that goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, 28, has arrived from Rennes in a $28 million deal and the Senegalese international will provide ‘competition’ to Kepa.

“Competition is a regular thing. We have brought Mendy in for that competition. It’s in everyone’s hands to get into the squad,” Lampard said. “I think it is the hardest position, because of the individual nature of it. I have to be sympathetic to that point. Last year I changed a few times, it’s a different thought process. We are always striving for the best performance.”

Is anyone buying that?

A couple of high-profile mistakes in Chelsea’s opening two games of the Premier League season has highlighted Kepa’s poor form and Chelsea have moved fast to bring in Mendy.

What does this mean for Kepa Arrizabalaga?

As the ProSoccerTalk lads discuss in the video above, this is probably the end, or at the very least the beginning of the end, for Kepa at Chelsea. Kepa has never really settled at Chelsea and over the last two seasons he hasn’t backed up being the most expensive goalkeeper in the world.

That transfer fee was a little false, as Chelsea were backed into a corner after losing Thibaut Courtois to Real Madrid and paid Kepa’s release clause of $91.1 million to Athletic Bilbao. But they still paid it and even if the fee was half of that, eyebrows would have been raised. Kepa, 25, has failed to command his box, looked nervous with the ball at his feet and shots from outside the box have also given him plenty of problems. Not a great combo for a goalkeeper.

Chelsea may look to loan him out but there’s no doubt that after being dropped for veteran Willy Caballero at the end of last season, the writing was on the wall and Kepa is on borrowed time at Stamford Bridge.

Does Edouard Mendy to Chelsea improve their defense right away?

Not right away, but it will help. His impressive ability to come for crosses and his towering six-foot six-inch frame should provide some stability and confidence from the defenders around him but the way Chelsea play suggests their defensive issues will remain.

Frank Lampard loves to attack and it’s fun to watch. Well, unless you’re a goalkeeper or defender for the Blues. Mendy is one part of the jigsaw and so too is Thiago Silva who will add a calm head and his experience to a youthful defense, and Ben Chilwell at left back will also improve their defensive outlook.

Lampard loves to attack, though, and we must admit that without N’Golo Kante in front of a oft-changed back four, things will be tough. Mendy’s arrival should help settle things down and help Chelsea improve at the back but Lampard needs his center backs to stand tall in the coming weeks and months.

League Cup: How to watch, start times, as Premier League powers enter

League Cup
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Fifteen Premier League teams eye dates in the fourth round when the League Cup returns for another September midweek.

The congested nature of the season will see some PL sides play three matches in as many weeks, though the European qualifying teams are just entering the fray this week.

[ LIVE: Follow League Cup scores ]

That includes Europa League sides Arsenal and Leicester City, who will stage the lone all-PL scrap of the round come Wednesday at the King Power Stadium.

Tuesday was going to see Tottenham Hotspur visit a club sponsored by Spurs striker Harry Kane, but Leyton Orient is in the news after positive COVID-19 tests have threatened to forfeit Spurs into the next round.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Manchester United will hope to snap out of its season-opening funk when it begins its tourney Tuesday at Luton Town, while Chelsea hosts Barnsley on Wednesday.

Liverpool is off to Lincoln City on Thursday, kicking off its League Cup at the same time Manchester City welcomes Bournemouth.

Because of the aforementioned congested September in the tournament, the fourth round draw has already been held and those fixtures are at bottom of the page.


League Cup third round draw

All times ET

Tuesday
Leyton Orient v Tottenham Hotspur — Postponed
West Brom v Brentford — 2 pm
Newport County v Watford — 2pm
West Ham United v Hull City — 2:30 pm
Luton Town v Manchester United — 3:15 pm

Wednesday
Preston North End v Brighton — 2 pm
Millwall v Burnley — 2 pm
Fulham v Sheffield Wednesday — 2 pm
Stoke City v Gillingham — 2 pm
Chelsea v Barnsley — 2:45 pm
Leicester City v Arsenal — 2:45 pm
Fleetwood Town v Everton — 2:45 pm
Morecambe v Newcastle United — 2:45 pm

Thursday
Bristol City v Aston Villa — 2 pm
Lincoln City v Liverpool — 2:45 pm
Manchester City v Bournemouth — 2:45 pm


League Cup fourth round draw

Lincoln City/Liverpool v Leicester City/Arsenal
Millwall/Burnley v Manchester City/Bournemouth
West Brom/Brentford v Fulham/Sheffield Wednesday
Fleetwood Town/Everton v West Ham United/Hull City
Bristol City/Aston Villa v Stoke City/Gillingham
Leyton Orient/Tottenham v Chelsea/Barnsley
Newport County/Watford v Morecambe/Newcastle United
Preston North End/Brighton v Luton Town/Manchester United


How to watch League Cup third round streams and start time

Kickoff: Tuesday through Thursday
Online: Select games on ESPN+
Updates: Follow League Cup scores via NBCSports.com

Transfer news: Dembele to Man United; Sancho deal off

Dembele to Manchester United
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In the latest transfer news there is an Ousmane Dembele to Manchester United report, while Jadon Sancho to Manchester United is said to be off. Again.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Let’s dive into the latest transfer news from around the Premier League, with a big focus on the Red Devils as they try to add key pieces late in the window.

Ousmane Dembele to Manchester United a good alternative to Sancho?

According to the Daily Record, Ousmane Dembele to Manchester United could happen in the final weeks of the window. Ronald Koeman has said Dembele, 23, is one of many players who are surplus to requirements at Barcelona. Per the report, Man United want a season-long loan deal for Dembele while Barcelona want a loan with an obligation to buy clause. They value Dembele at $117 million.

Look, the best thing Barcelona can do here is loan Dembele out and hope he stays fit and has a fine season at Man United so they want to buy him, or another club will buy him, or he could even return to Barca rejuvenated and able to be a key figure in their attack. Dembele’s last few seasons have been ravaged by injury and it is clear that Antoine Griezmann, Lionel Messi and

For Man United, a loan move is a no-brainer. As they continue to chase Jadon Sancho but are more likely to make their move for the English winger next summer (more on that shortly), having a French international winger for a season to plug the gap is smart. If Dembele is up for the challenge of moving to Manchester United and rebuilding his career, he would provide plenty of competition to Mason Greenwood out wide and is a big upgrade on Jesse Lingard, Daniel James and Juan Mata as their other wide attackers.

Jadon Sancho to Manchester United off

It appears that Jadon Sancho to Manchester United will not happen unless the Red Devils panic massively in the latter stages of the transfer window and up their bid.

Sancho, 20, has been the top target for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but the England international hasn’t forced through a move from Borussia Dortmund and our colleagues at Sky Sports in the UK state the German club are ‘bemused’ by the way United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has approached the deal as they’ve failed to get anywhere near Sancho’s valuation.

Speaking to Sport 1, Borussia Dortmund director Sebastian Kehl had the following to say about Sancho’s situation.

“We agreed that we had to show a certain attitude. And €80m are simply not enough for such a player,” Kehl said. “We owed that to the club and the fans. I don’t want to give him up either. Without Jadon this team is worse.”

Kehl went on to admit that Sancho could leave one day but for now he’s happy at Dortmund and vice versa. Is that the end of the summer-long Sancho saga? If it wasn’t over, it pretty much is now.

There’s no doubt that Sancho will end up in the Premier League, and probably at Manchester United, in the future but this deal always seemed like a long-shot considering the current financial situation amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Man United need a new winger to strengthen their already stacked attack and Solskjaer is better off focusing on a short-term solution and then lining up the deal for Sancho to happen over the next few transfer windows.

That said, United’s inability to get deals over the line (Sergio Reguilon, Gareth Bale and Jadon Sancho to name just a few) is starting to wear thing on most of their fans and unless they secure wins galore early in the season, it could be a tough few months for Solskjaer and Co.

USWNT star Alex Morgan eager for Tottenham, WSL debut

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Alex Morgan to Tottenham is a huge move for the FA Women’s Super League.

[ STREAM: Watch WSL live on NBC Sports ]

USWNT star Morgan, 31, will make her debut for Spurs in the WSL in October, and she joins fellow U.S. stars Rose Lavelle, Sam Mewis (both at Man City) Christen Press, Tobin Heath (both at Man United) in England.

Morgan is the biggest star name in the WSL, even though the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal are consistently successful and have attracted some huge names in women’s soccer over a busy offseason for the PL.

Remember: WSL action will make its TV debut in the USA this season as 50 games during the 2020-21 WSL season will be shown across the NBC Sports platforms as part of a season-long partnership with Atalanta Media.

Speaking to Tottenham’s website, here was what Morgan had to say about what she’s hoping to gain from her time in the WSL after moving from NWSL side Orlando Pride.

“I’ve heard so many great things about the WSL and some of my team-mates from the USA National Team have come over and signed with other clubs in the WSL,” Morgan said. “I wanted to challenge myself and play in a different league than what I’m used to, so this was a perfect opportunity for me to come here and just see the progress that the WSL has made and the quality all around the league.

“I hope I provide goals for this team, help to win games, help the team get to the top of the table, and set ourselves up for success within the season. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to be there from the start but the fact that we’re only two games in, I think that I could really help the team moving forward and get back to where I left off at the end of summer last year.”

How did the Alex Morgan to Tottenham move come about?

Well, it all happened very, very quickly for Morgan.

“Everything happened really fast. I was spending time in Orlando with my team in the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) and it just hit me that I needed consistent games and consistent training for an entire season, at least for the remainder of the year. I started looking at the league here and Tottenham is obviously a huge club that was on my radar and within, I think, less than 48 hours, we were able to get the deal signed and completed and within 48 hours after that I am sure I landed here, so it all happened extremely quickly,” Morgan said.

“Obviously, I had to take into account my family, my daughter, and my husband who plays football in the US. I also had to look at how I can get back after not playing for a good amount of time due to injury, also pregnancy and the pandemic, so there’s a lot of things that played into this decision. Just to be a part of this organisation is pretty incredible, you know, the rich history and the fact that the women’s team have continued to improve year after year, I’m really happy to take this next step in my career.”

Tottenham haven’t historically been among the most successful teams in the WSL and the other incarnations of women’s soccer in England, but signing Morgan takes them to the next level.

This will be a lot of fun to watch and it will provide Morgan with the perfect opportunity to get back up to speed ahead of the Olympics in Tokyo next summer.