Fate playing its part in Liverpool title challenge

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LIVERPOOL — To win championships you need luck. Liverpool are getting plenty of it this season.

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Seconds before Mohamed Salah‘s 90th minute header somehow crossed the line and secured a win for Liverpool against Tottenham, a steward at Anfield shrugged at a group of fans heading to the exit.

“Oh well, there’s always next year I suppose…” Hold that thought. It seems like this year could finally be Liverpool’s year.

Any manager will tell you that luck is earned, and that is true. But you can work hard and play well and still lose. At the moment Liverpool are grinding away and lucky breaks are going their way.

It seems like fate is playing an increasingly key role in why they are currently top of the Premier League table. Call it luck. Call it the rub of the green. Call it what you will. Right now it seems like Liverpool are destined to at least push Manchester City all the way this season.

That won them the game against Tottenham at Anfield on Sunday, as Mohamed Salah’s 90th minute header was tamely tipped out by Hugo Lloris and deflected off Toby Alderweireld and dribbled over the line.

Speaking to reporters after the game, Jurgen Klopp acknowledged luck played its part to push Liverpool back to the top of the Premier League table with six games to go.

“Of course it was a lucky punch and a header and the ball rolls in off of Alderweireld,” Klopp said. “I told the boys after the game, there are 500,000 different ways to win a football game and today was rather ugly. No problem. We take that. Without a bit of luck you cannot be in the position we are in. The boys work so hard. They deserve a bit of luck. Again today. I am obviously very happy about the result.”

With luck on their side, Liverpool now sit two points ahead of second-place Man City. The latter have a game in-hand, but it will be a psychological blow for City to see Liverpool grab victory from what was starting to look like a defeat, or at the very least two dropped two points.

Liverpool will have to watch on as City play Cardiff City on Wednesday, as Pep Guardiola‘s men could go back top of the table if they win. But with Liverpool playing against Southampton at St Mary’s on Friday, they will have another chance to go back to the top and grab the initiative again.

Is fate playing its part as they head towards a first-ever Premier League title, and a first league title since 1989-90?

“I don’t go that far but you go through the season of other teams, you will find these things as well. For all the points we have now, we worked really hard. It is not important when you score but what it is on the scoresheet afterwards. Today that is obviously a nearly perfect result for us. That is clear,” Klopp explained. “We take all of that before the game. We spoke about it. Momentum is not a coincidence, it is something you take, you keep and you use. That helped today. We play in five days again against Southampton, they are in a really good moment, Ralph is doing a brilliant job. It is tough place to go. They are fighting to stay in the league. We know they will give us no presents. But, we showed again that the boys are ready to fight and we will be ready again.”

Klopp did admit that winning in this way, at home, against a top four team in Tottenham, thanks to a dramatic late winner, will do wonders for the confidence of his side.

And those dramatic late winners, against Everton earlier this season, and now Tottenham, are stacking up.

“One hundred percent. Of course. If you win today 5-0, I didn’t see that as possible, but if, it could lead you on the wrong path,” Klopp said. “Nine months ago, we started and wanted to go for the highest stakes in two competitions. We did it our way. The boys improved so much. It feels like we always have to apologize a bit that the football last season because people always want the 100 percent package. We have to find a way to win more games than last year. It is all good. If we would be first of the table after the last match of the season, it would be a championship of will. That is how it is. We want it. We get used to situations, step by step. The whole stadium today. It was 1-1. I am here in three-and-half-years, that was the best performance of a Liverpool crowd since I am in after an equalizer. They gave us, but it was completely front-footed, the atmosphere was front-footed. They celebrated when they didn’t score, when you concede a counter-attack like we did, nobody can be completely happy but I am really happy about the attitude.”

Klopp’s opposite number, Mauricio Pochettino, was asked if a feeling of fate is fuelling Liverpool’s title push.

He didn’t want to take anything away from Klopp’s side, but admitted that luck is needed to come out on top after the long slog of a nine-month season.

“In football, sometimes you deserve to win, like us today. Sometimes, in another game, it happens the same, maybe we won when we didn’t deserve too much. It is impossible for Liverpool to play every game and sometimes you cannot keep the performance how you want,” Pochettino said. “They deserve a lot of credit. The manager Jurgen is doing a brilliant job. It is going to be tough, Liverpool and City fighting for the Premier League. It is a shame we are not close. We were but in the last few weeks, our reality, our place but knowing the circumstances, we must be happy.”

Tottenham played well and deserved to win. Liverpool didn’t play well but won.

That is what happens when luck, and perhaps fate, is on your side. It is the one thing we cannot measure or account for in sports, or in life. Just enjoy the ride. Liverpool certainly are.

Pique: Copa-losing Barca still “really hurting” from UCL exit

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Barcelona was the favorite to win La Liga, the UEFA Champions League, and the Copa del Rey for the majority of the season, but only claimed one.

Liverpool’s amazing comeback to beat Barca in the second leg of the UCL semifinals met Saturday’s loss to Valencia in the Copa del Rey Final to give Barca a league title alone.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

Even with that La Liga advantage being decisive — Barca carried the table by 11 points over Atletico Madrid and finished 19 ahead of Real Madrid — there’s a very dour mood and promised change for the Camp Nou set.

And Gerard Pique says it all traces back to the loss against Liverpool. From The Liverpool Echo:

“I believe that if we had gotten through at Liverpool, we would have won the treble. We would have come here [to the Copa del Rey final] with a different mood, and I’m convinced we would have won the Champions League final, but that is football. We are really, really hurting.”

There are hints of a massive clear-out at Barcelona, with Lionel Messi and Pique two of the only safe bets to stay. When will Barca get over it?

Brazilian team tangles in locker room futmesa (video)

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It was defense versus attack in the Brazil dressing room.

Neymar and Gabriel Jesus squared off with international teammates Filipe Luis and Ederson in a game of futmesa/table soccer this week.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

Neymar and Filipe Luis are used to be on different sides of the field from their time in La Liga, while Jesus and Ederson are teammates at Manchester City.

Brazil is hosting this summer’s Copa America and is the favorite to win its first tournament since 2007, when it claimed its fourth in five tries.

It’s really impressive stuff for us normal to subpar athletes, even if standard for those with such deft talent.

Quite a winner from Man City’s young striker.

Jovic could see himself in Premier League, Serie A

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Maybe Luka Jovic’s presumed move to Real Madrid won’t happen this summer.

Or at all.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

The Eintracht Frankfurt striker has been tipped for a move away from the Bundesliga after another strong campaign, and taking the center forward reins from Karim Benzema at Real Madrid.

Several outlets reported the deal as done, but Jovic isn’t speaking that way (or at least the Serbian is throwing us off the scent.

From Goal.com:

“In terms of the physique, the Bundesliga is very demanding, but after the games against Chelsea or Inter Milan, I personally had the feeling that I could feel even better [playing] in the Premier League or Serie A. … The way the teams play there suits me better.”

Jovic scored 27 times in 48 appearances for Frankfurt, adding seven assists at the tender age of 21. Ten of those came in the Europa League, and we’re not talking about flooding the nets of minnows; Jovic scored against Chelsea (twice), Marseille (three), Lazio (two), and Inter Milan (once).

Report: Chelsea, Real $38M apart on Hazard

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How much for Hazard?

Real Madrid are willing to pay $127 million, no small fee, to bring Eden Hazard from Chelsea, but that’s well off the Blues’ evaluation according to Sky Sports.

Chelsea sees Hazard’s price as $165 million. Belgian writer Kristof Terreur told Sky that Hazard wants his future sorted by June 4.

[ MORE: Bayern wins double ]

The Blues’ superstar is entering the final year of his contract, and could begin negotiating with other clubs in January and leave on a free transfer.

Hazard turns 29 in January. He recorded 19 goals and 16 assists in 51 matches this season, his best output in a Blues uniform.

The report says Chelsea feels no pressure to sell Hazard, but it would be a surprise if it dug in its heels too deeply considering the state of the Belgian’s contract.

Even for Chelsea, letting over $100 million walk out the door is wild, and for all Hazard’s won with Chelsea there’s also been consternation under several managers and a more than occasional habit of disappointing on the table.