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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.

[ MORE: Every PL season preview ]

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.

Top 25 players in the USMNT pool right now

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Christian Pulisic is the best American soccer player in the world.

Of this, there is little debate.

But there is a debate to who is second, third, and well down the line, and we’ve got our last chance to really assess the full crop with Major League Soccer now out of season for a few months.

[ USMNT: Most to gain/lose from November ]

Let’s set some ground rules:

  • The ranking is meant to illustrate who would be most likely to positively affect a USMNT match, regardless of manager or teammates, right now.
  • Health doesn’t matter to our rankings if a current injury isn’t one which could drastically alter the player’s skill set moving forward.
  • Age/potential/experience doesn’t matter either, at least not much; It’s how likely you are to contribute to the team if put on the field right now. Obviously Chris Richards of Bayern Munich II is a better long-term prospect than 32-year-old Tim Ream, but most would rather have the Fulham man in a big spot right now.

Top 25 USMNT players – November 2019

*not currently a part of USMNT squad due to injury
**not currently a part of USMNT squad due to coach’s decision

  1. Christian Pulisic, Chelsea*
  2. Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig*
  3. John Brooks, Wolfsburg
  4. Weston McKennie, Schalke
  5. Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf
  6. Sergino Dest, Ajax
  7. Jordan Morris, Seattle Sounders
  8. Matt Miazga, Reading (on loan from Chelsea)**
  9. Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen
  10. Zack Steffen, Fortuna Dusseldorf (on loan from Man City)*
  11. DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle United
  12. Jozy Altidore, Toronto FC*
  13. Tim Ream, Fulham
  14. Timothy Weah, Lille*
  15. Julian Green, Greuther Furth**
  16. Cristian Roldan, Seattle Sounders
  17. Ike Opara, Minnesota United**
  18. Michael Bradley, Toronto FC*
  19. Fabian Johnson, Borussia Monchengladbach**
  20. Cameron Carter-Vickers, Stoke City (on loan from Spurs)**
  21. Tyler Boyd, Besiktas
  22. Sebastian Lletget, LA Galaxy
  23. Miles Robinson, Atlanta United*
  24. Paul Arriola, DC United
  25. Jackson Yueill, San Jose Earthquakes

Next up, established: Antonee Robinson (Wigan Athletic), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC), Eric Lichaj (Hull City), Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas), Duane Holmes (Derby County), Bill Hamid (DC United).

Next up, youth: Konrad de la Fuente (Barcelona U19), Alex Mendez (Ajax U19), Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund U19), Ulysses Llanez (Wolfsburg U19), Chris Richards (Bayern Munich II), Richie Ledezma (PSV Eindhoven), Donovan Pines (DC United), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids)

Leaked image shows big fines that face Chelsea rule breakers

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Frank Lampard‘s ready to go into his players’ wallets if they disobey his laws.

A posted list of fines for Chelsea players, signed by the manager, has been confirmed and we would completely understand if the Blues were on time all the time.

[ MORE: Salah out for Egypt ]

A player is fined about $640 per minute he’s late to a meeting, and if he misses a practice, well, wow: The fine is nearly $26,000.

If a phone rings during a meeting, that’s gonna be $1,300.

And if any fine isn’t paid within two weeks, it doubles! Seems like Christian Pulisic and his teammates will have a lot of alarms set on their phones.

From The Telegraph:

Lampard has also banned agents from the training ground, unless on official business, and players must inform the club if they intend to travel abroad, even on scheduled days off.

The average Chelsea salary last season was approximately $6.6 million, meaning players make on average $127,000 per week.

The full list of fines is below.

Kompany: Liverpool’s Premier League title ghosts should ‘be to City’s advantage’

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Vincent Kompany says history could help Manchester City climb back into the Premier League title race even after his former team dropped nine points back of first place Liverpool.

[ MORE: Salah out for Egypt ]

Now at Anderlecht, the center back also said history might’ve played a role in City’s 3-1 setback at Anfield. In a rare bit of explicit honesty, the often interesting Kompany said that players do deal with demons of a club’s past.

“We always struggle at Anfield,” he said, according to Sky Sports. “I said that on Super Sunday, you’re fighting 25 years of not winning at Anfield and that’s difficult, it’s two games in one game: You’re playing a great team and you’re fighting history.”

“Flip it around and the same will happen for Liverpool. They will fight the history of not winning the league for 30 years. That should be to City’s advantage I still think.”

Do you buy that? Most of the buzz around the Premier League is that this Liverpool is a different team than even the dominant one of last season, and City has suffered big injury problems. The Reds players almost went out of their way last year to say they weren’t worried about blowing their table lead last season (which was bigger, later in the season).

Kompany also said that he believes City doesn’t need to add a center back in January, which is bonkers unless he’s coming back, but the Belgian has proven time and again that he’s one of the better minds in the game.

The guy did title  his MBA dissertation, “How professional football clubs in the Premier League can benefit from home game advantage and achieve game-changing levels of improvement” after all. Then again, I’m not sure any of our dissertations on the same topic would’ve been approved had we done that.

Liverpool’s Salah to miss Egypt’s first two AFCON qualifiers

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Good news for Liverpool, not so much for Egypt.

Mohamed Salah will not suit up for the Pharoahs this month as Egypt begins qualifying for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

[ MORE: Will Zlatan rejoin LA? ]

Salah has been dealing with ankle problems since a rough tackle from Leicester City’s Hamza Choudhury, and it’s acting up following a tackle from Fernandinho in the Reds’ 3-1 defeat of Man City on Sunday.

Egypt needs Salah, but it’s no surprise he’s erring on the side of caution given the tumultuous relationship between the superstar and his country (and Liverpool’s status as a contender in five (!!) tournaments).

Salah, 27, has 41 goals in 67 caps. The next five leading active Egyptian scorers have a combined 31 goals in their careers over 284 caps. The youngest of those is Aston Villa’s Trezeguet (25), followed by Besiktas’ Mohamed Elneny (27).

Egypt are heavy favorites to finish in one of the top two spots and qualify for AFCON 2020, even with the injury. The 49th ranked Pharoahs (FIFA ranking) are in a group with Kenya (108), Togo (124) and Comoros (142).

Egypt hosts Kenya on Thursday to kick off qualification, and visits Comoros on Monday.