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Liverpool, Roma ride major emotions into the UCL semifinals

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Four clubs remain in this season’s UEFA Champions League competition, and while two of the teams have been considered heavy dogs in the fight all year long the other two sides look to continue on their storybook run.

Liverpool, Roma, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid have found themselves in the semifinals of this season’s UCL, creating a strong mix of storylines as the tournament heads towards its most critical point.

[ MORE: Everton gets past Newcastle behind Theo Walcott’s strike ]

Anfield will be the site for Tuesday’s first leg between Liverpool and Roma, with both sides still riding major highs from their victories in the last round.

The Reds enter the final four after having disposed of fellow Premier League side Manchester City in relatively dominating fashion. Meanwhile, Roma completed a seemingly impossible comeback against Barcelona to progress in the competition.

Liverpool is led by three of the year’s top goalscorers, including Mohamed Salah — who has scored eight goals in the UCL and 41 across all competitions.

For Roma, much of the side’s success has been predicated on finding defensive strength at the right moments throughout the tournament.

Despite falling behind 4-1 in their first leg defeat to Barca in the previous round, Edin Dzeko and Co. rallied for a 3-0 win at the Stade Olimpico to stun the Catalan club by holding Lionel Messi and his side in check.

Manager Eusebio Di Francesco will have to find creative ways to halt the Liverpool attack though over the course of two legs, with the Reds boasting the top attack in this year’s UCL.

Liverpool has scored 33 goals in 10 UCL matches, while only conceding seven in the process.

Henry prepares for first Monaco match, cites Guardiola, Wenger

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Thierry Henry in the role of manager is an intriguing endeavor.

The “star player becomes the star instructor” is a tall ask across many sports. For every Pep Guardiola or even Zinedine Zidane, there’s a boatload of Ruud Gullits and Diego Maradonas (Well there’s really only one Maradona, but we digress).

[ MORE: Surgery for Mane ]

Henry, by all accounts and the proverbial smell test, seems the kind of mind who can make it happen for himself. The new AS Monaco boss helped Roberto Martinez organize Belgium to a strong World Cup run, and has been selective about his first coaching opportunity.

And, hey, he served as a pretty decent mentor for Alex Hunter in FIFA 18.

Now he takes over a Monaco team with nowhere to go but up, and that hasn’t happened too often in the club’s celebrated history (though Monaco was relegated to Ligue 2 for two seasons from 2011-13).

Taking his first prematch media day ahead of Monaco’s trip to Strasbourg, Henry pointed to two of his managers as guides on his way: Pep Guardiola and Arsene Wenger.

To be fair, Henry’s praise for Guardiola was much loftier considering he arrived at Barcelona after playing for Wenger at Arsenal:

“Pep is the reference, for me,” said Henry. “The invention he had in the game; he’s well ahead of the game. … We learnt how to play the game when I went to Barcelona under him. With Pep you can talk about the game; he will not even go to sleep and will still talk about the game, you will fall asleep and he’s still talking.”

Henry credits Wenger with awakening the professional inside of him.

“Arsene unlocked a lot of stuff in my mind, made me understand what it was to be a professional, what it was to perform,” Henry said.

A lot of managers look to Guardiola and Wenger as examples, but Henry played for both. Considering the two are likely still in his list of contacts, this can only bode well for 18th place Monaco as it looks to embark on a run up the Ligue 1 table and its Champions League group table.

Williams: ‘Big aim to play for USMNT at Wembley’

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Huddersfield Town midfielder Danny Williams is hopeful his injury issues are behind him and he’ll be able to represent his USMNT against England at Wembley next month.

[ MORE: Surgery for Mane ]

Williams, 29, spent some time with ProSoccerTalk’s lead writer Joe Prince-Wright over the weekend as the NFL staged its latest game in London.

And with Wembley looming in the background, Williams said he’s hoping for cap No. 24 after two years of injury struggles and selection problems under the Bruce Arena regime.

“Everybody likes to represent the country, and it’s the biggest honor for me especially captaining the team against Portugal last year after I missed out on World Cup qualifiers was a huge honor for me. It’s a big aim for myself to play here against England at Wembley. Me personally I have bad memories, I’ve always lost here including when I played here against Arsenal for Reading. … I still think I have a lot more to give.”

JPW and Williams also discussed Huddersfield Town’s rough start to the season and his injury struggles. Check it out.

Wynalda named head coach, technical director of Las Vegas Lights

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Las Vegas Lights FC is staying very on-brand as it announces its new head coach and technical director.

After a season headlined by the lights, glitz and glamour off the field while fortunes on the field struggled, the Lights administration announced on Wednesday that it had hired Eric Wynalda to be its new manager. The former U.S. Men’s National Team striker takes over effective immediately, after Lights FC parted ways with Isidro Sanchez at the end of the 2018 USL regular season last Saturday.

[READ: Wenger could return to coaching in January]

Las Vegas made waves ahead of their expansion season by hiring controversial ex-Chivas USA manager Jose Luis Sanchez Sola, known affectionately as “Chelis.” However, just before the start of the season, Chelis was demoted in a way to technical director while his son, Isidro Sanchez, took over the reigns on the sideline. Chelis was eventually dismissed after a poor run of form and an altercation with a fan led him to receive an eight-game suspension.

However, the hiring of Wynalda perfectly fits within the ethos of the bright and loud club, trying to mimic the stereotype projected by Las Vegas. Wynalda’s comments and opinions on the sport in the U.S. have likely kept him from receiving MLS coaching offers, which is ridiculous because he’s proven to be a successful coach on the field. Not only a great scout of talent, Wynalda is the definition of a player’s manager, a coach that players want to run through walls for. He found success with Cal FC and in a short spell with the Atlanta Silverbacks, where he commuted back and forth from his home in Los Angeles.

Most recently, Wynalda has been out of a job since running for U.S. Soccer president, in which he was defeated early on during the election last February.

There’s likely to be a big overhaul of players this offseason at Las Vegas, but considering Wynalda’s eye for talent, there’s a good chance that the Llamas/Lights should be a more competitive side in 2019.

Sadio Mane undergoes hand surgery

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The “FIFA virus” is hitting Liverpool hard this month.

Sadio Mane, who reportedly broke his left thumb on international duty for Senegal, underwent surgery on Wednesday, Liverpool confirmed. The club did not include a timetable for Mane’s return in its press release, only saying, “Mane’s recovery will be monitored over the next couple of days ahead of the Reds’ return to action at Huddersfield Town on Saturday.”

With the injury, Mane joins Mo Salah, Naby Keita and Virgil Van Dijk as Reds to be injured during the international break.

As an attacker, it’s unlikely Mane really needs the use of his left hand other than to protect himself on aerial challenges on bumps from defenders, but depending on the recovery, it may just be a decision of how much pain Mane could tolerate. With matches against Huddersfield, Red Star Belgrade and Cardiff City to come, maybe this is a good time for Jurgen Klopp to rest some of his starters, including the walking wounded like Mane.