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Klopp hails Real Madrid; plots upset in UCL final

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Jurgen Klopp has placed all of the pressure on Real Madrid ahead of the UEFA Champions League final in Kiev, Ukraine on Saturday.

[ MORE: UCL final projected XI’s ]

The Liverpool manager spoke to the media on Friday ahead of the showpiece final and revealed his admiration for Zinedine Zidane and his superstars, with Real hoping to win a third-straight UCL trophy and a record 13th European title.

Liverpool (five-time winners themselves) are the slight underdogs but the way Klopp was talking suggested this final was a proper David vs. Goliath battle.

It seems as though the pressure is off his players, as Klopp (who has lost all five of his major finals as a manager) believes the experience of Real is key but still thinks his players are quite capable of causing an upset.

“Experience is very important. I am pretty sure in the second before the game Real Madrid will be more confident than we are but the game doesn’t end in that second, it only starts. When you see Real Madrid play you say ‘wow they are really strong’ but they never played us,” Klopp said. “But we are here because we are Liverpool. We are not only a really good football team. This club has it in its DNA that it can really go for the big things.

“Nobody expected us to be here, but we are here. Because we are Liverpool. Because we have the games we had in the Champions League, the most exceptional run to the final, the most goals, I cannot believe that it is true… but it’s us. We scored the most goals, we had exceptional results away and at home, all of that stuff. The experience they have is a big advantage. 100 percent. To feel confident, or whatever, but in the game experience doesn’t help all the time.”

Wow. Okay.

Klopp is clearly trying to take the pressure off his players and the fact that he also lavished praise on Zidane ahead of the final shows how much respect Liverpool have for the team who have won the most European titles in history.

But are the Reds going too far here? Klopp added the following as he continued with the underdog theme.

“We have to make it as difficult as possible for them. That’s the plan of course,” Klopp said. “We cannot try to fight on their level but tactics in football are there to bring a better opponent on your level. When they are on your level you can beat them. That’s hard to do, but I think it’s worth a try.”

This just seems like Liverpool are giving Real a little too much respect ahead of the game. After all, no team has scored more goals than Liverpool in the UCL this season plus they have the hottest player in the world in Mohamed Salah on their side.

It’s tough to question Klopp given what he has achieved in the UCL this season but he does seem to have gone a little over the top here as he portrayed his Liverpool side as massive underdogs in the final.

Vancouver cools off LAFC via Hwang In-beom’s first goal (video)

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Hwang In-beom has added his first MLS goal to his resume, and the 14-times capped South Korean made sure it mattered in a big way.

The 22-year-old midfielder bagged a first-half goal to lead Vancouver past form side LAFC and a first MLS win for his manager, former LA assistant Marc Dos Santos.

[ MORE: Klopp to face Messi for 1st time ]

New-look Vancouver is now 1W-4L-2T on the season, dropping previously-unbeaten LAFC to 6-1-1.

The ‘Caps stopped Carlos Vela despite another five shots, one of which was saved by keeper Maxime Crepeau. Jamaican Peter-Lee Vassell also put two shots on goal.

Seattle now has the best points-per-game in MLS this season, with 2.67.

Pellegrini: Wilshere returning to West Ham lineup soon

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Jack Wilshere has made just five appearances for West Ham United this season, but the number six is coming soon.

The Hammers have very slim hopes for seventh place, but also need to restore some positive vibes at the end of a tough stretch which includes losses to to Everton, Manchester United, and Chelsea.

[ UCL RECAPS: Man City-Spurs | Porto-Liverpool ]

Now it’s Leicester City, a direct rival at mid-table, and Manuel Pellegrini is quick to remind us that West Ham has had plenty of obstacles in the form of injury as he looks to build a European contender. From Sky Sports:

“He’s a midfielder that we need because in that position we have (had) so many times all of them injured. (Andriy) Yarmolenko, Wilshere and Lanzini, so the return for Jack will be a good injection.”

Having played for the U-23s again last week, it sounds like Wilshere may start on Saturday (though Pellegrini says it may take another week).

Liverpool’s Klopp on facing Messi for the first time

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Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool is the only returning club in the UEFA Champions League semifinal, and the manager says that’s worth a bit of celebration.

“I’m happy for all the people in the club that it’s like this, second time in the second year in the semi-final,” Klopp said. “That’s a big statement. However you go there, it’s difficult. Everybody tries it and nobody did it in the last two years.”

[ UCL RECAPS: Man City-Spurs | Porto-Liverpool ]

That also means Klopp’s first “proper game” managing against Barcelona, and Liverpool’s first meeting with the Blaugranas since the 2006-07 UCL knockout rounds. All-time, the Reds are 3W-3D-2L versus Barca in European competition.

It also means an attempt to slow Lionel Messi, who at age 31 is in splendid form with 45 goals and 21 assists in 42 matches. Of those goals, he’s bagged 10 in eight Champions League appearances (two v. Manchester United, two v. Spurs, two v. Lyon, and four against PSV Eindhoven).

From LiverpoolFC.com:

“Thank God I don’t have to think about that tonight and thank God I have a few more nights to think about it! I think everybody tried it so far and nobody can really do it. We still will try it. But we are looking forward to it, but we have so many jobs to do before we meet Barcelona. So let’s first play these games and then let’s prepare for Barcelona. Then we will see. I have never played Barcelona in a proper game, so [it’s] my first time there and I’m looking forward to it.”

Messi went 90 minutes in his only appearances against Liverpool during that 2006-07 series, though he was 19 years old.

He’s just a bit wiser now, but remember it works both ways; As much as Klopp’s never had to stop Messi, he’s certainly had plenty of opportunity to watch what other managers have tried in bids to slow the Argentine. Could Klopp cement his tactical legacy and make another UCL Final, or will he just hope to outgun the genius of Catalonia?

This Alves stunner wasn’t enough for PSG to seal Ligue 1 (video)

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Paris Saint-Germain again failed to clinch the French league title after losing 3-2 at Nantes on Wednesday.

PSG could have sealed it this past Sunday and the weekend before that but picked up only one point from those two matches. The defending champion leads second-place Lille by 17 points with six games left and can celebrate at the fourth attempt by beating Monaco at home on Sunday, or if Lille fails to win at Toulouse earlier in the day.

[ UCL RECAPS: Man City-Spurs | Porto-Liverpool ]

It looked like the celebrations were on at Nantes when the veteran fullback Dani Alves put PSG ahead with a superb dipping shot from outside the penalty area. But the defense crumbled again, letting in an equalizer within four minutes, another goal just before halftime and a third shortly after the break to make it 10 goals conceded in three games.

PSG needed only a draw on Sunday to to seal the eighth league title in its history, but lost 5-1 at Lille – the biggest defeat since Qatari investors QSI took charge in 2011. Before that, PSG needed a home win against Strasbourg but drew 2-2.

PSG let in two goals against Lille from set pieces and did so again this time.

Center half Diego Carlos equalized when he headed in a corner from the left.

Then, one minute before halftime, right back Thilo Kehrer was easily knocked off the ball by Kalifa Coulibaly, and unmarked striker Majeed Waris finished at the back post. A corner from the left in the 52nd led to Carlos turning the ball in from close range, even with three PSG players around him.

Nantes, which moved up to 14th place, missed further chances before PSG substitute Metehan Guclu pulled a goal back in the 90th.

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