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Klopp explains poor preseason; stars set to return

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Jurgen Klopp was not a happy bunny when speaking to reporters on Monday.

“Have we had the best preseason of our lives? I cannot say that with the results but the sessions were really good.”

Liverpool’s boss bristled when a journalist the FA Community Shield was called a “curtain-raiser” for the new season, as a poor preseason seems to be annoying the German coach a little.

Following a 3-0 defeat to Napoli in Edinburgh on Sunday, Liverpool have now lost three of their four marquee preseason friendlies with defeats against Borussia Dortmund and Sevilla and a draw against Sporting Lisbon in the USA. They’ve conceded 10 goals in those four games.

Klopp explained why the European champions have been struggling this summer, and the reasons are rather obvious on the face of things.

“I don’t want to find excuses before we play City. But we had a completely different preseason,” Klopp said. “We played without six players and to say this must be the statement for us would be completely mad.

“Good results in the pre-season help to build confidence but that’s not the most important thing. The most important thing is that you build the physical skills for a long, long season because we have to, pretty much, prepare only for the games. There’s not a lot of time to train.”

Klopp then went on to call Liverpool’s week in Evian, France as their “most important of the season” as stars return and the preparation all comes together.

“We had to do intense sessions in the first three weeks. We played the games in different circumstances,” Klopp said. “It’s always been clear Evian would be the most important week of the season, and we have five days after City before Norwich.”

Mohamed Salah, Naby Keita and Sadio Mane were involved in the Africa Cup of Nations, as the latter will return to Liverpool the week the season starts on Aug. 5. Alisson and Fabinho played for Brazil this summer in their Copa America success, while Xherdan Shaqiri has been struggling with an injury.

Given all of that, Klopp seemed a little concerned that his side could get a bit of a spanking against City on Sunday.

“It is a good test of the things that are there [in place]. We have to defend in a good way, because if you don’t defend well against City, we can get a proper knock,” Klopp added.

As for Man City, they have been without Sergio Aguero, Ederson, Gabriel Jesus, Riyad Mahrez and Fernandinho throughout preseason, as Pep Guardiola‘s men will go into Sunday’s traditional curtain-raiser (sorry, Jurgen…) as the favorites.

Liverpool’s squad is able to cope with some key absentees, as we saw that last season when Divock Origi, Shaqiri and Joe Gomez stepped in when needed. But with only two teenagers signed this summer (Harvey Elliott and Sepp van den Berg), is Klopp feeling the pressure to compete with City’s incredible squad depth?

With Salah, Mane, Firmino and Alisson only just arriving back in England after a long summer of tournaments, if you’re playing Liverpool early in the Premier League season you’ll probably be quite happy about that. But long-term, Liverpool will be just fine. A summer of not having superstars around is far from ideal, but the aforementioned names will soon get back up to speed and dominate PL games.

Below is Liverpool’s full squad for their week training in Evian, France before they play Man City on Sunday in the Community Shield.

Liverpool squad: Alexander-Arnold, Alisson, Brewster, Duncan, Elliott, Fabinho, Firmino, Gomez, Henderson, Hoever, Keita, Lallana, Larouci, Lewis, Lonergan, Lovren, Matip, Mignolet, Milner, Ojrzynski, Origi, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Robertson, Salah, Shaqiri, Van den Berg, Van Dijk, Wijnaldum, Wilson.

La Liga Roundup: Messi, Barcelona stunned by inspired Granada (video)

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Granada’s shocking 2-0 win over Barcelona and subsequent rise to the top of the table headlines Saturday’s La Liga action.

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Granada 2-0 Barcelona

Not even Lionel Messi, who made his season debut on Saturday, was able to save Barcelona against a red-hot Granada.

Granada, who are off to their best start in their 88 years of existence, had a perfect night in front of their supporters, convincingly getting past a Barcelona that dominated possession, but lacked the offensive ingenuity needed to score.

Barcelona’s defense wasn’t noteworthily robust, either.

Two minutes in, the newly promoted side scored through a headed goal from Ramon Azeez, following a defensive turnover from Junior Firpo.

Unable to record a shot on target in the first half and looking to wakeup a dormant attack, Barcelona brought on wonderkid Ansu Fati and Lionel Messi at halftime. Despite the duo connecting on several occasion and generating a shot on target, it wasn’t enough to get past Rui Silva.

In the 66th minute, following video review, substitute Alvaro Badillo converted from the spot, handing Granada their third win of the season.

Atop of La Liga, Granada set their sights on Real Valladolid, while Barcelona, who are off to their worst league start in 25 years, host Villarreal at Camp Nou.

Atletico Madrid  0-0 Celta Vigo

For a second consecutive week, Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid dropped points, drawing with Celta Vigo 0-0 at Wanda Metropolitano.

Tied with league leaders Granada and Sevilla with 10 points, the alarm bells are far from going off in Madrid. However, as Saturday’s performance showed, los Colchoneros are having trouble finishing chances this season, despite fielding an attack with the likes of Joao Felix, Diego Costa and Alvaro Morata.

In five games, Atletico have managed to score only five goals, six fewer than leaders Granada. Against Celta, Atletico registered 20 shots, five on target, but were unable to crack a stellar Ruben Blanco, who registered five saves.

Leveled with Granada and Sevilla, Atletico Madrid look to get back into winning ways as they take on RCD Mallorca. Elsewhere, Celta Vigo, who have won win after five games, host Espanyol next.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Villarreal 2-0 Real Valladolid

Levante 0-0 Eibar

Almeyda, Wondolowski sent off in Quakes’ fall against Atlanta (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less): Melodrama took center stage in Atlanta United’s 3-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes, as Matias Almeyda, Chris Wondolowski and Cristian Espinoza were all sent off on Saturday. Josef Martinez, six games away from tying Lionel Messi’s world record for most consecutive goals, left the field in 79th minute following an injury, ending his MLS-record run at 15 games. Playing with 10 players from the 34th minute onwards, the Quakes held on to the draw up until the 90th minute. Unmarked inside the box, Emerson Hyndman rocketed the ball past Daniel Vega, who recorded nine saves throughout the night. In stoppage time, Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez was rewarded for his stellar performance with a goal of his own. With a game at hand, Eastern Conference leaders, NYCFC, are three points ahead Frank De Boer‘s side. The Quakes, on the other hand, have internal fires to put out as they have lost six of their last eight, and are only a point above the red line with three games to play.

Three moments that mattered

27′ — Great run by Espinoza, greater ball by Vega  — Daniel Vega and Cristian Espinoza were players that San Jose were desperately missing last season. This sequence says it all.

 

90′ — Emerson Hyndman wins it for the Five Stripes   — Hyndman, with no one near him, seals three points for the home side.

 

90′ + 2 — Martinez takes advantage of broken San Jose  — Martinez’s goal was only salt in San Jose’s fresh wound.

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Man of the match: Gonzalo “Pity”  Martinez

Goalscorers: Meram (4′), Guzan (27′ – OG), Hyndman (90′), Martinez (90′ + 2)

FIFA sees no obstacles for women to attend games in Iran

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ZURICH — Soccer’s governing body FIFA says an inspection visit to Iran has shown “no noteworthy operational obstacles” to lifting the country’s 40-year ban and letting women attend a World Cup qualifying game next month.

After meeting government and soccer officials in Tehran this week, FIFA says it will work with Iran’s soccer body to also open domestic league games to female fans.

FIFA wants Iran to end its ban on women entering stadiums which breaches international soccer statutes prohibiting discrimination.

Global attention on the ban followed the death this month of a 29-year-old activist, Sahar Khodayari, who set herself on fire outside a courthouse. She had been detained for dressing as a man to enter a soccer stadium in Tehran and faced six months in prison.

Ahead of Iran hosting Cambodia at the 78,000-capacity Azadi Stadium on Oct. 10, FIFA says the visit on Thursday focused on “international relations, security and ticketing matters.”

Iranian officials were told of FIFA’s “firm and clear position that women need to be allowed to enter football matches freely” with tickets sold to as many who wanted to attend.

FOLLOW LIVE: Atlanta v. Quakes, Galaxy v. Impact on a busy MLS Saturday

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Eight games in seven hours, now that’s a jam-packed MLS Saturday.

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Things kickoff with Matias Almeyda’s San Jose Earthquakes visiting red-hot Josef Martinez’s Atlanta United, and comes to a close in Los Angeles, where league leaders LAFC host Toronto FC and LA Galaxy, who look to continue moving up in the Western Conference standings, host Montreal Impact.

In between, the New England Revolution look to remain in the Eastern Conference playoff picture as they welcome Kyle Beckerman and Real Salt Lake, while the Chicago Fire hope to jump level with the Revs in the standings as they take on FC Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium.

Saturday’s full MLS schedule

Atlanta United v. San Jose Earthquakes — 3:30 p.m. ET

Vancouver Whitecaps v. Columbus Crew — 5 p.m. ET

New England Revolution v. Real Salt Lake — 7:30 p.m. ET

FC Cincinnati v. Chicago Fire — 7:30 p.m. ET

Sporting Kansas City v. Colorado Rapids — 8:30 p.m. ET

Houston Dynamo v. Orlando City — 8:30 p.m. ET

LAFC v. Toronto FC — 10:30 p.m. ET

LA Galaxy v. Montreal Impact — 10:30 p.m. ET