Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP

Everything is coming up Liverpool

1 Comment

Is a Liverpool victory in the UEFA Champions League written in the stars?

While defeating AS Roma is no easy task, Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds avoided Real Madrid and Bayern Munich in Friday’s semifinal draw.

[ MORE: UCL draw | Europa draw ]

A potential 90-minute battle with Real Madrid or Bayern Munich for a sixth UCL title is drastically better than two legs, and don’t sleep on the idea that a final would occur after Liverpool has decided its Premier League standing.

Roma is no pushover, knocking out Barcelona after winning a group with Chelsea and Atletico Madrid, but it’s working way too hard to claim this draw was anything but the best case scenario for the Reds.

Liverpool’s last round defeat of Manchester City was by far the toughest ask of a relatively straight-forward path to the semis, though it started with admittedly the toughest route out of the playoff round with Bundesliga side Hoffenehim.

The Reds drew Porto in the Round of 16, waltzing to a 5-0 aggregate win after facing one of, if not the easiest draws in the group stage (Sevilla, Spartak Moscow, Maribor).

To boot: While Roma was very good over two legs and unlucky in the first, surely Liverpool wasn’t counting on Barcelona blowing a 4-1 first leg advantage to i Lupi.

Even the league fixtures benefit Liverpool’s odds against Roma, with the Reds traveling to West Brom before the first leg and hosting Stoke City before the second.

While Roma’s fixture list isn’t especially tough, it features a pile up. I Lupi have a three-match week ending with a visit to SPAL before the first leg, and hosts Chievo Verona before Liverpool hits Rome for the second leg.

No team in the semifinal has gotten there by luck, and Liverpool may just be taking strong steps toward reclaiming its status as a world power.

There’s no question the Reds’ attack, paced by the incredible Mohamed Salah, is as exciting as any in the world. Virgil Van Dijk has helped improve the defense, but the Reds are doing it with a midfield missing a key box-to-box piece (That void will be filled by Naby Keita next season).

Klopp deserves plenty of credit for doing this without a real disruptor in the center of the park, although Emre Can may be the most under-appreciated piece of his set-up. And he’s been regularly untested full backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson in what’s turned out to be a masterstroke.

In other words, Klopp’s project probably didn’t expect to be challenging for a Champions League win at this stage of his Anfield revolution. And it’s fair to say they should be playing relatively carefree with the house’s money as the final month of the season approaches Merseyside.

Que SeraSera, indeed.

Zidane quizzed on Pogba: “We know what we want to do”

AP Photo/Rui Vieira
Leave a comment

Zinedine Zidane’s open flirtation with Paul Pogba continues, as the Real Madrid manager was asked about Manchester United’s star midfielder again on Saturday.

“We need to respect everybody, but the only thing I can say from the club is we know what we want to do,” Zidane said. “Something could happen before the end of August. We could have some changes.”

[ MORE: Wolves beat Man City in pens ]

On paper the purchase of Pogba makes sense to reloading Real, but the problem here is the sheer amount of paper the Madrid side has spent on players this season.

While sales of James Rodriguez, Dani Ceballos, and Gareth Bale could put Real in okay position regarding Financial Fair Play, buying Pogba would move the needle hard in the other direction considering the club has bought Ferland Mendy, Eden Hazard, Eder Militao, Luka Jovic, and Rodrygo.

Plus, Florentino Perez likes to buy only one Galactico per transfer session, and Hazard is undoubtedly this summer’s model.

That said, Real has assets that United could use in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s overhaul of the Old Trafford set.

UEFA gives partial stadium bans to Bulgaria, Romania for fan racism

UEFA
Leave a comment

NYON, Switzerland (AP) Bulgaria will have to close part of its national stadium for European Championship qualifiers against England and the Czech Republic because of fan racism.

UEFA issued the order, saying Bulgarian fans were racially abusive during a 2-1 loss to the Czech Republic and a 3-2 loss to Kosovo last month.

Bulgaria hosts England on Oct. 14 and the Czech Republic on Nov. 17.

Romania has also been ordered to close part of its home stadium for a future under-21 game after UEFA ruled its fans behaved in a racist manner during the European under-21 championship last month.

Another racism case against Latvia was dropped.

UEFA also handed out various fines to Romania, Ukraine, and Greece for rowdy behavior by fans.

Transfer rumor roundup: Everton join Zaha chase; Matuidi to Man Utd?

Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images
Leave a comment

A roundup of Saturday’s biggest transfer rumors from around the world, including those involving a few Premier League clubs…

[ MORE: PL refs told to defer to VAR more, go to the monitor “sparingly” ]

Wilfried Zaha is one of the most wanted men in England, with Arsenal reportedly hot on his trail all summer. An deal between the Gunners and Crystal Palace is yet  to transpire, though, which has perhaps left the door open for Everton to sneak through and sign the 26-year-old Ivory Coast international.

Arsenal would obviously pay more in wages, but are yet to meet Palace’s valuation of their talisman. If Everton is the club that calls with the requisite figures on offer, it wouldn’t be the worst landing place for Zaha. With Arsenal yet to make a meaningful signing this summer, and the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny already gone or on their way out, the 2019-20 season could see the Gunners take a step back, opening the door for — you guessed it — Everton to break into the top-five… or -four.


Speaking of Ramsey, his arrival at Juventus has perhaps made Blaise Matuidi surplus to requirements, which means he could be available for cut-rate price.

Manchester United seem to be perennially in need of influential central midfielders, especially this summer after the departure of Ander Herrera and the failure of a signing that was Fred last summer. Man United have reportedly been in contact with Juve about the 32-year-old, as have Paris Saint-Germain and Everton.


Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is another midfielder who’s been linked with United, but he’ll likely just as much as, if not more than, the $59-million fee paid for Fred. Milinkovic-Savic seemed a surefire target for the world’s top clubs after a star’s showing at last summer’s World Cup in Russia, but the 24-year-old remained at Lazio and is still yet to move 12 months later.


Patrick Cutrone was one of Europe’s breakout stars of the 2018-19 season, now the 21-year-old AC Milan forward is reportedly high atop Wolverhampton Wanderers’ shopping list this summer. He won’t come cheap — Milan are expected to demand nearly $30 million — but he could offer some serious insurance in the event of an injury to Raul Jimenez.

PL refs told to defer to VAR more, go to the monitor “sparingly”

Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images
1 Comment

Premier League interim chief executive Richard Masters says that referees have ben instructed “to use the referee review area a bit more sparingly” and rely on the numerous video-assistant referees (VAR) at their disposal to make simple calls upon review when video review is instituted in the PL next month.

[ MORE: Lukaku latest: Man United reject $67-million bid from Inter Milan ]

Following the 2019 Women’s World Cup, where far too many trip to the monitor were made by the center referees, the PL is keen on ensuring that “the Premier League or English football [is not] interrupted, or the pace of the game [is not] changed.” It sounds very much like a “less is more” approach  — quotes from the BBC:

“I think fans want to see those clear and obvious mistakes changed and put right. But they don’t want to see the Premier League or English football interrupted, or the pace of the game changed.

“I think the only difference you might see is the referees using the referee review area a bit more sparingly and relying more on the VAR for the more subjective decisions.

“But we are putting something new into the Premier League and if it needs to be refined or improved or tweaked we will look at it when the moment arises.”

In theory, this should work quite well for the PL. Many of the decisions that referees go to the monitor to review themselves could easily be made by the “fifth official.” If it’s obvious to the VAR and he/she can make the call with 100 percent certainty, the center ref should always take their decision in the name of keeping the game flowing. If the VAR isn’t so sure, or it’s a more subjective call that should be made by the person making 99 percent of the game’s calls, go to the monitor. But do so quickly.