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Premier League 2016-17 season preview: Liverpool

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Liverpool’s new era officially starts now and anything other than a top four finish in the Premier League will be seen as a failure.

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Coming in midway through last season to rescue a rudderless ship left behind by Brendan Rodgers, it has taken new boss Jurgen Klopp quite some time to make this “his team” but the signs in preseason are promising.

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Klopp has even said it himself and says that this team is his. The charismatic German coach has shipped out 11 players and the additions of Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum will add pace and power to their attacking midfield unit. After reaching the finals of both the Capital One Cup and Europa League last season, Klopp proved he can get his team to play as a unit and deliver his famous “full throttle” style of play.

Now it’s all about delivering that consistently and having an entire preseason, plus time on the training ground during the season with just the PL games and domestic cups to worry about, means Klopp will be fully judged on this season.

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Without European soccer, Liverpool will challenge for the title: This assertion is being made due to Liverpool making a title run the last time they were without the rigors of either the UEFA Europa League or Champions League. With so many teams in transition (Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United) Klopp actually has a head-start on all of the new managers arriving this summer.

Most likely it’ll be a top six finish and a slight push for the top four: Liverpool have a very, very tough start to the season. They face Arsenal, Leicester, Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United in their first eight games. If they get off to a poor start, pressure will be on. New goalkeeper Loris Karius broke his hand in preseason, plus defensive issues haven’t really been addressed in the offseason which remains the biggest concern.


Best Possible XI

—– Mignolet —–

— Clyne — Lovren — Sakho — Moreno —

—– Henderson —–

Mane — Coutinho — Wijnaldum — Firmino

—– Sturridge —–


Transfers in: Sadio Mane ($45 million, Southampton), Georginio Wijnaldum ($30 million, Newcastle United), Joel Matip (Free, Schalke 04), Ragnar Klavan ($5.6 million, Augsburg), Loris Karius ($6.2 million, Mainz 05), Alex Manninger (Free, Augsburg)

Transfers out: Jordan Rossiter ($333,000, Glasgow Rangers), Kolo Toure (Free, Glasgow Celtic), Jose Enrqiue, Samed Yesil (Both released), Joao Carlos Teixeira ($330,000, FC Porto), Jerome Sinclair ($6 million, Watford), Jordon Ibe ($20 million, Bournemouth), Brad Smith ($8 million, Bournemouth), Martin Skrtel ($6.6 million, Fenerbache), Joe Allen ($17.3 million, Stoke City), Sergi Canos ($3.3 million, Norwich City)

Last season: An eighth-place finish was disappointing but Liverpool did flirt, albeit briefly, with a top four finish. Klopp’s side lost in both the Europa League and Capital One Cup final but too many defensive mistakes cost them any chance of salvaging their season after Rodgers was fired in October. Liverpool were not boring to watch as they poured forward in search of goals but left plenty of space in defense.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MARCH 10: Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool scores their first goal from the penalty spot during the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 first leg match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield on March 10, 2016 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Star player: Daniel Sturridge – When he’s fit and on his game there’s no other Liverpool player who possesses the same individual quality as Sturridge. A lethal finisher who comes up with big goals in big games, Sturridge must stay healthy if Liverpool are to challenge for a place in the top four this season. The England international has a huge role to play and is now entering his prime. The entire Liverpool team is set up to get the best out of him. This is his team.

Coach’s corner: Klopp’s project is ticking along nicely but he’s not entering a pivotal period in his tenure at Anfield. An expectant crowd gave him a pass for last season. He arrived in October and without being able to bring in his own players or barely having any time to work with the team on the training ground to implement his new methods, progress was slow. Handed a new long-term contract this summer, the Fenway Sports Group obviously believe in his abilities. He has galvanized the fans and players together and he brings the whole package as a media presence and a master tactician. Now he must deliver success where it matters most: on the pitch.

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - MAY 15: Jurgen Klopp, manager of Liverpool gestures during the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Liverpool at The Hawthorns on May 15, 2016 in West Bromwich, England. (Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)

PST predicts: Without European soccer, Liverpool could push for the top four. If you look at the teams who finished above them last season, the likes of Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham will all be there or there abouts again. Leicester City, West Ham, Southampton all finished above Liverpool but could slip below them and then you have Chelsea, who surely won’t be as bad this season under Antonio Conte. Simply put: plenty of things will have to go right for Liverpool to finish in the top four and although they have the attacking players capable of achieving it, defensive frailties mean a top six finish is much more likely.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Spurs snag Clarke, Arsenal eyeing French youngster

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According to a number of reports across England, Tottenham may have secured its first new player signing in 511 days, rumored to have completed a deal for Leeds United winger Jack Clarke.

The BBC reports that Clarke has flown south to London for a medical and that the $12.7 million deal is finalized. The report states there are further, unspecified add-ons to that base payment should they trigger.

The 18-year-old made 25 appearances for the Leeds first-team last season, scoring two goals assisting two more as they reached the playoff semifinal. Clarke’s arrival will mark the first Tottenham signing since Lucas Moura joined in January of 2018, famously failing to sign a player last summer to much criticism, before making a run to the Champions League final during the season.


Arsenal is reportedly after a pair of transfer targets, one on either end of the pitch.

First, more concretely, reports indicate that the Gunners are set to bat the signature of young French defender William Saliba. The 18-year-old currently plays for St. Etienne and saw significant playing time last season, bagging 16 league appearances good for over 1,200 minutes as he helped the club secure a Champions League place with a fourth-place finish, aided by the third-best defensive record in the league.

According to an ESPNFC report by Julien Laurens, the two clubs have reached an agreement for Saliba in the range of $28 million, with the Gunners beating Tottenham and PSG to the punch. Saliba will stay at St. Etienne on loan next season as he looks to continue developing at his boyhood club.

The Gunners are reportedly also following Monaco winger Keita Balde, with the Senegal international currently on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations. The 24-year-old spent last season on loan at Inter, where he racked up 24 Serie A appearances – mostly off the bench – scoring five goals and assisting three more.

Reports in Italy indicate that while Inter had the option to buy at the end of the loan spell, they declined as they believed the $38 million price to be too expensive. With Monaco struggling mightily this past season and in serious flux, it’s likely that Balde could move on and help the French club gain funds to reinvest.

Balde found the back of the net in Senegal’s opening AFCON match, a 2-0 win over Tanzania, marking his fourth international goal in 24 caps.


Another African on international duty is Kalidou Koulibaly, whose future is still under serious speculation.

Napoli manager Carlo Ancelotti said Wednesday – completely joking, mind you – that he won’t even return from his vacation in Canada if the club sells Koulibaly. That won’t stop the two Manchester clubs from having a go, and to this point Napoli president Aurelio de Laurentiis has held firm that only a bid that reaches his $154 million release clause will pry him from the Italian side.

Koulibaly wouldn’t be drawn into speculation about his future when approached at the tournament in Africa, saying, “I don’t know [if I’ll still be at Napoli next year], I think so, but I have to play the AFCON and then after that I’ll go back to Napoli.”

Manchester United has been much closely linked with Koulibaly than Manchester City, but it may be difficult to convince him to switch with the Red Devils not participating in the Champions League next season.


Everton is reportedly in the hunt for Juventus striker Moise Kean according to the Liverpool Echo, with the 19-year-old breaking out last season with The Old Lady. He scored six goals in 13 appearances down the stretch of the season, coming into the squad after the club had all but secured the league title.

While he is a big strike prospect for Juventus, the club is somewhat crowded at the position with Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala, and Mario Mandzukic at the position. The club surely could take its time bringing him along, but apparently a disciplinary issue while with the Italy U-21 team at the Euros this summer has added to the club’s concern, along with his hesitation at signing a new contract. Kean’s current deal expires next summer, so this would be the time to cash in on his high-rising stock.

The report states it would cost around $34 million to land the youngster and Ajax is also in the mix.

Women’s World Cup mascot costume stolen from Parc des Prince

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According to reports in France, first by news outlet LCI, the World Cup mascot Ettie had its mascot stolen from Parc des Princes in the early morning hours of last Friday, June 21.

L’Equipe reports the mascot costume has subsequently been recovered and police are investigating.

The reports state that a group of five somehow entered the Paris stadium between 4 and 5 a.m. local time, proceeding to walk around and even play a game on the Parc des Princes pitch before leaving the stadium carrying two large bags that contained the mascot costume. After missing for the weekend, the costume was reportedly returned to a lawyer’s office in Paris on Tuesday in anonymous fashion.

Thankfully, since the costume has been returned, Ettie will be able to make an appearance while the United States takes on host nation France at Parc des Princes in a highly anticipated quarterfinal match on Friday.

The L’Equipe report says that very little was been discernible on the Parc des Princes security camera footage, and police have appealed to the public for assistance. FIFA describes Ettie as “a young chicken with a passion for life and football.” Ettie is the daughter of Footix, the rooster mascot of the 1998 World Cup also held in France.

Toni Kroos wants to retire at Real Madrid

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After signing a contract extension in May that runs through 2023, which he said at the time is “probably my last big contract,” Toni Kroos doubled down on that statement, saying he’d like to retire at Real Madrid and will not move to another club as his career winds down.

Speaking to German publication Bild about a new film that documents his life, Kroos said that the end of his current contract is hopefully going to be the end of his career, on his own terms.

“When I am aged 33, that would be a good age to retire,” Kroos told Bild’s subscription service Bild+, as quoted by Marca. “My contract duration was chosen consciously. At 33, that would be a good age to hang up the boots. I will have the opportunity at that moment to choose if I want to do something after that.”

Obviously, it’s possible that something out of his control will take place forcing him to finish his career elsewhere, but he expresses his admiration for Los Blancos and says that he hopes his career will last long enough to ride out his contract and hang up his boots at the club he loves. “Signing for Real Madrid is the best thing I could have done, I will never play in the United States, China or Qatar.”

Kroos also emitted a typical athlete mentality, saying he hoped to make Bayern regret selling him in 2014, something he believes he’s been successful doing. “For me, it was already clear at the time of the transfer that Bayern made a mistake with my sale,” he said. “It’s true that [Bayern president] Uli Hoeness has made it public of late – and it’s a testament to his greatness that he addresses it that way.”

Kroos has won three Champions League titles with Real Madrid as well as a La Liga title since moving to the Bernabeu.

Follow Live: Africa Cup of Nations – Group play reaches round 2

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The first round of group stage matches is complete and now the slate reracks for teams to truly take control of their Africa Cup of Nations destiny.

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Host nation Egypt takes the field for a second time as they meet Democratic Republic of Congo in the late match in Cairo, while Nigeria has the chance to secure advancement as they play Guinea, and Uganda can push Zimbabwe to the brink of elimination.

Egypt and Uganda can each secure passage to the knockout stage through Group A if both should win, while a loss for either side would complicate matters.The host nation will be looking for a better attacking display after Mohamed Salah was isolated in the narrow opening round win over Zimbabwe. Meanwhile, Congo DR likely did not expect to be facing elimination this early, with a team that sports West Ham’s Arthur Masuaku, former Premier League midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu, and Porto’s Chancel Mbemba.

In Group B, Nigeria can secure passage to the knockout phase with a win. The clear dominant side in a collection of countries that includes Guinea, Madagascar, and Burundi, Nigeria looked sluggish in its opener and will require a more complete attacking display to convince supporters they can challenge for the Cup.

2019 Africa Cup of Nations schedule – Wednesday, June 26

Group A
Uganda v. Zimbabwe – 1 p.m. ET
Egypt v. Congo DR – 4 p.m. ET

Group B
Nigeria v. Guinea – 10:30 a.m. ET