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Klopp predicts tight title race in ‘most exciting season for years’

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Everyone who’s watched more than 15 minutes each of Manchester City and Liverpool this season can see the pair of Premier League giants are headed for a season-long title race.

[ MORE: Barcelona taking “cautious” approach with Lionel Messi’s broken arm ]

Everyone sees it coming from a mile away, including Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, who this week went so far as to call this 2018-19 PL season “the most exciting season for years” — quotes from the Guardian:

“We play City twice. The maximum we can lose against them is three points in each of these games, even though I understand why it sometimes feels like six. If we would win all the other games then it’s pretty likely we would finish ahead of City but it doesn’t make sense to think like that because it puts you in a situation where you feel you are not in charge.

“You react on what they do. If they play on Friday and we play on Sunday then for two days you think about the pressure being more on us. But then you miss Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal or United.

“It is like it is, and hopefully it stays like this until the end of the season. It is probably the most exciting season for years. Last year a few teams played really good seasons but there was no chance to catch City because, by October-November, the gap was already that big. I remember when we played City last season, when we lost there 5-0, that was the day that City really clicked. It looked good for them before that but in that game they got all the confidence and we got the opposite and it led to a 25-point gap or whatever. We are really focused on us and that’s the only way I know it will work.”

On one side, you’ve got the defending PL champions who won the title last season by the widest-ever margin; arguably the greatest team in PL history. On the other side, you’ve got a Champions League finalist from six months ago; a side quickly ascending to the top of the world.

There stands, of course, that massive obstacle in the shape of Pep Guardiola‘s side in Liverpool’s way. The next 28 games, which will be played out over the course of seven months, are absolutely, positively, unquestionably not to be missed.

Chelsea issue injury update on Christian Pulisic

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Christian Pulisic is in contention to play against Manchester City on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard spoke to the media and was asked about Pulisic’s availability.

Speaking ahead of Chelsea’s trip to the Etihad Stadium, Lampard confirmed he has been back in training.

“He didn’t go and we had full on communication with the States, manager Gregg Berhalter and their medical team,” Lampard said. “They want their players for top games. He [Pulisic] had a problem going into Palace. He has trained again this midweek. He is in contention to play.”

Pulisic, 21, injured his right hip when scoring Chelsea’s second goal in the 2-0 win against Crystal Palace before the international break.

The American winger missed the international break as the USMNT’s two wins against Canada and Cuba, as they reached the CONCACAF Nations League finals without him.

For Chelsea he will be keen to pick up his sensational form over the last month as he’s scored five goals in his last three Premier League games for the Blues.

With Callum Hudson-Odoi picking up a hamstring issue over the international break, it seems highly likely that Pulisic will start once again for Chelsea in their biggest game of the season so far.

They travel to Man City looking for a seventh-straight Premier League win as they currently sit one place and one point ahead of Pep Guardiola‘s side.

Mohamed Salah an injury doubt for Liverpool

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Mohamed Salah is an injury doubt for Liverpool’s trip to Crystal Palace on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via NBCSports.com).

Salah, 27, has been struggling with a right ankle injury over the last six weeks and he has been subbed off in his last three Premier League appearances for Liverpool as well as missing their draw at Man United last month.

“Yesterday he trained,” Klopp revealed. “He trained the whole time since he was here, but only the things we wanted him to do. Today is another important session to see how it looks and we can make the decision. It’s not that it got worse but it’s still kind of there, that’s the problem. We have to be sensible with things like this. But I didn’t make the decision. If I would have made a decision, I probably wouldn’t have told you now, but it’s true I have to see the session today.”

Andy Robertson and Joe Gomez are also injury doubts and late calls will be made on the duo, while Roberto Firmino, Fabinho, Alisson and Georginio Wijnaldum were all in international action and have only just returned to Liverpool’s Melwood training base.

“From the others, I cannot say 100 per cent, I don’t know 100 per cent,” Klopp said. “Today is a very important session to judge that, especially with the players who came back late.”

When it comes to Salah, he didn’t feature for Egypt during the international break and Liverpool have given him a special program to follow to build up the strength in his ankle.

The Egyptian winger has scored in recent home wins against Tottenham and Man City but his performance levels haven’t been as explosive as last season and that’s because he’s nursing this ankle injury. At some point Klopp needs to give him a rest, and with the busy festive season creeping ever closer, it seems like Liverpool’s boss is ready to rotate his squad a little more as they play in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday against Napoli.

Main takeaways from MLS contract deadline day

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Major League Soccer saw a lot of big names in the news as “Contract Deadline Day” played out across the U.S. and Canada.

— The New York Red Bulls watched two all-timers walk out the door, as Bradley Wright-Phillips did not get a new contract and the club declined its option on Luis Robles (STORY).

— Not a player move, but Austin FC announced the hiring of former NYCFC sporting director Claudio Reyna to the same position.

[ MORE: PST’s talk 1v1 with Reyna earlier this season ]

— Toronto FC is yet to reach a deal to keep Michael Bradley in town, but remains in contract talks with its captain. The same is true for Nicolas Benezet, while Drew Moor is out-of-contract.

— And that’s also what’s happening in Portland with Diego Valeri, the longtime star in talks with the team despite not having his option picked up.

Chicago Fire announced a new branding initiative, changing its logo from a classic crest to something else and dropping the SC for an FC. Like Columbus before them, everyone will still call them the fire and ignore the SC, FC, or whatever see. It’s what happens when you take a formal nickname.

The club also cut ties with playmakers Nico Gaitan and Aleksandar Katai.

— Minnesota United remains in talks to bring back Reading loanee and reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year winner Vito Mannone, and that means longtime backstop Bobby Shuttleworth will hit the open market.

— Orlando declined its option on Dillon Powers, and also let the clock run out on the contract of one-time megastar Sacha Kljestan.

— Real Salt Lake did not reach an agreement with Kyle Beckerman on a new deal, though MLSSoccer.com thinks he’s still in the mix.

— New England is letting Juan Agudelo walk into free agency.

— Atlanta United exercised the contract option for Julian Gressel, but he’s being badly underpaid and the club needs to find salary room for a proper new deal.

— Thierry Henry is keeping his two brightest attacker, with Ignacio Piatti getting another year at the club and Saphir Taider seeing his loan from Bologna made permanent.

— The Philadelphia Union did not exercise their option on Marco Fabian, and are letting Haris Medunjanin leave without a new deal.

— Roman Torres did not see his option exercised by the Sounders, and Kim Kee-hee is also leaving the club.

— Sporting KC waves goodbye to Seth Sinovic, Krisztian Nemeth, Benny Feilhaber, and Gedion Zelalem.

Brazilian player Taison banned in Ukraine for response to racism

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KYIV, Ukraine (AP) Brazilian player Taison has been banned for one game for his reaction to racist abuse in a Ukrainian league game.

The Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder showed his middle finger to Dynamo Kyiv fans who had abused him with monkey chants and kicked the ball into the stands during a game Nov. 10. Taison was shown a red card.

[ MORE: Mou says Spurs can win the PL next season ]

The Ukrainian Football Association ordered Taison to serve a one-game ban plus a suspended two-game ban.

Dynamo has been fined 500,000 hryvnyas ($20,000) and ordered to play one game behind closed doors. Another one-game sanction is suspended.

World players’ union FIFPro says “sanctioning a victim of racial abuse is beyond comprehension and it plays into the hands of those who promote this kind of disgraceful behavior.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports