Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

First-leg draw “not the worst, not a dream result” for Liverpool

Leave a comment

If indifference — and its inherent lack of feeling — could be classified a feeling, it’s the one most Liverpool players, and manager Jurgen Klopp, would use to describe their collective mood following Tuesday’s 0-0 home draw with Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League round of 16.

[ MORE: Liverpool blunted by Bayern, and vice versa, in first-leg draw ]

While the high-quality chances weren’t quite there for a meeting of two sides the magnitude of Liverpool and Bayern, the frenetic pace and end-to-end nature was still on display, which did plenty to keep a scoreless draw plenty entertaining for the neutral observers.

Speaking after the game, Klopp said it “wasn’t a dream result,” but also called it “a good one.” Wishy-washy — quotes from the BBC:

“From a result point of view, it’s OK. It’s not a dream result, but it’s a good one.”

“We made life more difficult with the last pass today – about 10 or 12 times a promising situation [fizzled out]. We can play better. We should play better.

“In the first half we had the bigger chances. I can’t remember any chances for either side in the second half. It wasn’t a Champions League night from that point of view.”

Midfielder and captain Jordan Henderson, who, it must be said, was a titan for the Reds on Tuesday, called it “not the worst result in the world.” Noncommittal.

“It’s not the worst result in the world. The performance level was good but we lacked that bit in the final third.”

“We’re disappointed not to score. But we kept a clean sheet and defended well. We had enough chances, especially in the first half.

“They’re a good team, they’re going to keep the ball. At times we found it frustrating. We were a bit unlucky in front of goal.

“It’s still alive. We’ve got games before the second leg. We’ve got to be confident still. It’ll be difficult but we have experience in the Champions League. We can go there and hurt them.”

In fairness, all of the above is true. The feeling of Liverpool having left so much on the table stems from how effervescent they were en route to reaching last season’s Champions League final. To see them struggle so early in the knockout rounds was, even after just one deep run a year ago, a bit jarring and unsettling.

[ MORE: Lyon strong at home, hold Barcelona to 0-0 draw (video) ]

Take into consideration the 10 days they had to prepare between games, and you get the feeling that Klopp and Co., know they needed to do so much more to give themselves a better chance of advancing to the quarterfinals.

The second leg is set for the Allianz Arena on March 13.

Report: Chelsea to renew contract talks with injured Hudson-Odoi

Getty Images
Leave a comment

According to a report by Matt Law of The Telegraph, Chelsea is gearing up to offer Callum Hudson-Odoi a new contract after the young English international ruptured his Achilles against Burnley on Monday.

Despite Maurizio Sarri‘s stubbornness this season regarding the young winger, Hudson-Odoi has forced himself into the regular Chelsea lineup as the Blues fight for a Champions League place down the stretch of the season. The 18-year-old had started the last four matches before the injury ended his season early.

Due to his inability to crack the lineup before the last month, Hudson-Odoi had reportedly handed in a transfer request and rejected all contract offers with the hopes of finding a new home where he would be more appreciated on the pitch. There were multiple reports that Bayern Munich was heavily interesed in Hudson-Odoi and that the German giants were preparing to make an enticing offer with the youngster’s current contract set to expire next summer. Now, however, things have turned in Chelsea’s favor in the long-term.

According to the Telegraph report, Bayern’s interest in Hudson-Odoi is likely to cool thanks to the injury that will likely see him miss the summer and the start of the next campaign. With this opportunity, Chelsea could come to Hudson-Odoi with a renewed contract offer that reflects his status as a first-team regular.

Hudson-Odoi’s Achilles tear is a brutal blow to Chelsea this season, with the club entrenched in a brutal battle with Tottenham, Arsenal, and Manchester United for the Premier League’s final two Champions League places, as all teams sit within three points of each other. Chelsea is also still fighting on another front as well, as the Blues have secured a place in the Europa League semifinals. While Hudson-Odoi only just recently cracked the Blues’ league lineup, he had been a regular in the Europa League rotation, scoring four goals in his nine European appearances this season.

Still, there could be a significant silver lining to his injury. Considering the likely departure of Eden Hazard this summer plus uncertainty around Chelsea’s ability to sign players in the coming transfer window, securing Hudson-Odoi’s future at the club could be an enormous boost long-term, even with the injury leaving him sidelined for a significant amount of time. Christian Pulisic is arriving this summer thanks to an already-completed deal with Borussia Dortmund, but the two players are more natural on opposite sides of the pitch and could potentially play together. In addition, should a transfer ban come down on the Blues, the club may not even be able to register Pulisic for the first half of the season, leaving an even bigger hole in the squad.

Before the injury, it appeared there was no way back for Callum Hudson-Odoi at his boyhood club. Having joined the club in 2007 when he was just six years old, keeping the teen around long-term would be monumentally positive news for Chelsea moving forward, even if the injury is devastating in the short-term.

Solskjaer backs himself to turn Manchester United around

Getty Images
Leave a comment

As things continue to turn sour at Old Trafford, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is adamant that he can turn Manchester United around.

The Red Devils have lost four of their last five matches across all competitions, with each result proving more and more devastating. The latest loss, a 4-0 drubbing to Everton, cost Manchester United the opportunity to jump into the top four after  Tottenham, Arsenal, and Chelsea all dropped points above them.

With just four league matches remaining, time is running out for Solskjaer to take charge of the situation and secure Champions League play for next season amid a bitter fight with four teams vying for two positions. Still, the Norwegian believes he is the right man for the job now and in the future.

“I’m confident in my team and myself. I’ll be ready to take this challenge on,” Solskjaer said ahead of Wednesday’s enormous Manchester derby that could define their run-in to the end of the season. “I know it’s a big challenge and that’s why, when I came in here, I said I’m going to enjoy every single second. I don’t like losing but it’s a challenge all the managers at this club have had. When you go through bad results, you’ve got to be confident enough to say this is the way we’re going to do it and plan ahead.”

Solskjaer began his tenure in electrifying fashion, winning his first eight games in charge and making it 11 unbeaten, but since he was handed the permanent position at the start of March, things have taken a turn for the worst. The club has lost six of its last eight across all competitions, with elimination from the Champions League and the FA Cup to go along with Premier League losses to Everton, Wolves, and Arsenal. The heavy 4-0 defeat to the Toffees last time out sparked a meeting with the players to help diffuse some tension.

“We had a meeting after the game and all the players were definitely, definitely disappointed but really, really hurt by that performance and the City game is the perfect one,” Solskjaer said about the upcoming game against Manchester City. “There is no hiding place on the pitch and the fans will back you if you give that effort.”

With the all-important derby on Wednesday, Solskjaer sees it as the perfect opportunity to make a statement that the recent slip was a fluke and the team is ready to contend in every match. “We’ve got to be ready for their pressing, so we’ve got to defend well, got to be ready for their aggression, they will snap at your heels and kick you, there will be fouls, absolutely no doubt about it and when you watch those games they commit so many players forward.”

It doesn’t get any easier for United after the derby, with a game against Chelsea at Old Trafford up next in league play before closing out the campaign against Huddersfield Town and Cardiff City. The Red Devils sit sixth in the Premier League table on 64 points, two back of Arenal in front of them and three behind Chelsea and Spurs in third and fourth.

Ryan Babel states he will leave relegated Fulham at end of season

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Ryan Babel has been a bright spot for Fulham since joining in January, returning to the Premier League eight years after departing and displaying positive two-way contributions for the Whites despite their confirmed relegation to the Championship.

The 32-year-old now says he will leave the club at the end of the season, with the hope of staying in the English top flight. While Babel says he’s enjoyed his time at Fulham and is grateful for the opportunity for Premier League redemption, his hope of making the Euro 2020 squad with the Netherlands will see him look to remain at the highest level.

“I am at the stage where I have to make the right decision for my family and the future,” Babel told reporters. “I have enjoyed playing back in the Premier League and I need to play top-flight football next season to be playing at the the Euros if we qualify. I still think I have two or three years ahead of me and of course if I have the opportunity to stay in the Premier League, that would great. Staying in the Premier League would be my first choice.”

Since joining Fulham in January on a short six-month contract, Babel has been a regular in the Whites starting lineup, starting all 13 league games and contributing four goals and three assists, including three goals over the last five matches. He scored a goal and assisted another in the surprise win over Everton two outings ago and is enjoying playing under interim manager Scott Parker.

“I think the intensity of being a team without the ball has changed,” Babel said of the play under the new boss. “Fulham have been playing pretty well all season with the ball but without the ball was the problem. We were conceding, in my opinion, easy goals, and now it is two clean sheets so something has improved.”

One natural link for Babel to stay in the Premier League could be Newcastle. Current boss Rafa Benitez signed the Dutchman back in 2007 at Liverpool, and while there is speculation about Benitez’s immediate future at the club, should he stay there could be interest, with English tabloid The Daily Star already making that connection.

Babel will likely be one of many changes at Fulham this coming summer, with young Ryan Sessegnon also likely to leave the club as the Whites’ front office looks to contend with the fallout from last summer’s failed transfer market where the club spent over $100 million mostly on flops.

PL Tuesday Preview: Tottenham hosts Brighton, Watford faces Southampton

Leave a comment

Thanks to results from Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea over the past two days, Tottenham didn’t lose any ground to its rivals despite its own loss early on Saturday.

Now, Spurs has a chance to earn points to secure another top four finish and keep one of its rivals out when it hosts relegation-threatened Brighton and Hove Albion. Watford, meanwhile, hosts a Southampton side with three wins in its last five games.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE HERE


Brighton and Hove Albion v. Tottenham — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

This match should have just about everything as both sides will be desperate for all three points. Tottenham can take advantage of Arsenal, Man United and Chelsea’s failure to jump ahead or catch ground with a big win on the road, especially after the big win at Man City in the UEFA Champions League. Heung-Min Son showed that Tottenham fans won’t have to miss Harry Kane too badly as he recovers from another serious ankle injury, and Son will be expected again to score and have a big impact in the attack. The team received a boost as well, with Eric Dier returning to fitness and Hugo Lloris set to return to the lineup this week, if not this weekend.

Meanwhile, down in Brighton it’s been a different story all season. The Seagulls have just 34 points after 34 games, sitting just three points above the relegation zone. Before Saturday’s draw with Wolves, Brighton had lost four straight games in the Premier League and five in all competitions, including in the FA Cup semifinals against Manchester City. Now, with only the Premier League on its mind, Brighton can focus on finding an answer to its defensive and goalscoring woes. After a strong start, Glenn Murray hasn’t scored in seven games, and club-record signing Ali Jahanbakhsh has zero Premier League goals this season. Brighton will take one step closer to Premier League survival with a massive win over Tottenham. With Cardiff City facing Fulham this weekend, it’s crucial for Brighton to receive at least a point to maintain space between it and Cardiff.

INJURIES: Brighton and Hove Albion —  OUT: Davy Propper (hamstring), Anthony Knockaert (suspension). | Tottenham — OUT: Moussa Sissoko (groin), Harry Kane (ankle); DOUBTFUL: Harry Winks (groin); PROBABLE: Hugo Lloris (muscle), Eric Dier (illness)


Watford v. Southampton — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold and NBCSports.com/Gold

While much of the Premier League drama focuses on the top four and the bottom three of the table, there’s quietly a very dramatic race for seventh place, which could still end up with a Europa League berth should Manchester City beat Watford to win the FA Cup (if Watford wins, only the fifth and sixth-placed teams would earn Europa League berths).

Watford is among a small group of four teams all within one point of another that could finish anywhere from seventh to tenth by the end of the season. Watford currently sits tied with Everton in seventh place and is looking for a third win in four Premier League games, though its last two wins were over Fulham and Huddersfield. One aspect Watford will have to work on in this match against Southampton is recording a clean sheet. Watford have conceded a goal in eight straight Premier League matches, their longest run this season without a shutout.

Southampton on the other hand are looking to bounce back from a 3-1 defeat against Newcastle. Like Brighton, Southampton is currently safe but still in a precarious situation, just five points clear of Cardiff and the relegation zone. Ralph Hassenhuttl has done a decent job in securing some breathing room for the Saints in his half-season at the club so far. If Southampton can replicate its form from its April 13 3-1 win over Wolves, in which Nathan Redmond scored a pair and even Shane Long found the back of the net, it will surely help towards Premier League survival. Also working in Southampton’s favor is that it has five wins, five draws and one loss in its last 11 matches against Watford.

INJURIES: Watford —  OUT: Troy Deeney (suspension), Jose Holebas, Tom Cleverley, Domingos Quina and Sebastian Prodl (all knee). | Southampton — QUESTIONABLE: Jannik Vestergaard (injury), Yan Valery (illness), Mario Lemina