Pep, Klopp speak ahead of massive Man City vs Liverpool scrap

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Of all the things the managers of Liverpool and Manchester City could disagree about, this one must carry amongst the lowest possible amounts of animosity.

Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp disagree over whether the former is the best coach in the world as both men spoke Friday ahead of Sunday’s monumental match in Manchester (watch live, 11:30am ET Sunday on USA Network and online via NBCSports.com)

No need for police and an arbitrator… this one’s not a fierce argument.

[ MORE: Premier League title race in focus | Man City-Liverpool history ]

“Pep is the best coach in the world and we all would agree on that,” Klopp said. “If anybody doubts him, I have no idea how that could happen.”

Man City boss Guardiola took umbrage with Klopp’s labeling of the Catalan wizard as the best manager in the world on Friday ahead of their big Sunday meeting to (arguably) decide the 2021-22 Premier League season.

“I didn’t become a manager to be the best — I’m not,” Guardiola said. “Thank you so much, but I’m not. I’d like to say I’m the best, but I’m not.”

Klopp and Pep also traded ideas on what makes the rivalry special.

Klopp, Guardiola contextualize the Man City vs Liverpool rivalry like men’s tennis dominance of Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer

Jurgen Klopp is not going to go as far as to say he’s happy to compete with the best football team of the past 15 years, but he knows that he’s pushed Pep Guardiola and vice versa.

“In sport, I think what helps the most is a strong opponent. In the long term, especially,” Klopp said, drawing a comparison to the best men’s tennis players of this century.  “I think Nadal and Federer enjoyed the rivalry they had. That’s how it is in sport. I wouldn’t say I’m thankful City is that good, but it didn’t harm our development.”

Guardiola was happier to discuss was the nature of the incredible rivalry between Man City and Liverpool than he was his status in the managerial world.

The two clubs have shown lasting dominance in the same league in a way we haven’t consistently seen since Guardiola’s Barcelona matched wits with Real Madrid’s Jose Mourinho in the early part of the last decade.

So, about that tennis comparison, Pep?

“Nadal, Federer, and Djokovic was 20 years and we are five years,” Guardiola said as comparisons have been drawn to the best tennis players of this era. “Footballers run quicker and to maintain success is more difficult than other sports.

“When I remember my period here and watch and play golf I [will] remember here the biggest rivalry was Liverpool. When you achieve 100 points and 98 points you need someone to push from behind to be so close. You have to make another step. Our chairman and CEO, we want to grow. I’m sure Liverpool and other teams are going to try to do it.

“The most credit I give is consistency through the years. Both have had four or five years. That’s why Federer, Nadal, Djokovic have been at the top for so long. Arriving at these stages to win the titles, we try to do it.”

How does Pep Guardiola view Liverpool’s 2021-22 team?

“They make the pitch wider and higher, quality in the middle,” Guardiola said Friday. “Four, five years ago they were more direct, not too much between the lines. Now they have a good build-up with Alisson, Matip, Thiago drops. Threats in behind, Alexander-Arnold is like an exhibition, deep runners in behind. Set pieces, every corner is a threat.

“It’s fascinating, in this situation, we are fighting to be champions, fighting to be in the Champions League next season, that’s the most important title at the start of the season and hopefully our people will come back up. I’m sure our people will respond, they are ready to face it.”

Blowing smoke? Nah

It’s difficult to deny that Pep Guardiola is the best manager in the world given what he’s done this century, though Klopp, Antonio Conte, Max Allegri, and Julian Nagelsmann can’t be considered too far behind.

But these bosses definitely understand that the Man City vs Liverpool rivalry of the Guardiola-Klopp era lives in that special, rarefied air that we’ll only breathe a handful of times in our lifetimes.

Sunday’s going to be the latest example of an incredible match-up of brains, brawn, and massive money spent* and we’re here for it.

And both managers are grateful to have two worldly competitors who understand their place in this world… and that in the end, this is sport.

“Jurgen makes world football a better place to live,” Guardiola said. “A huge competitor, I think it’s good. He knows, we spoke together in Germany, the message and the way his teams play. He’s a good guy and I don’t have any problems with him.”

*by both teams, regardless of what the Liverpool boss and the club’s fans want to claim. Banter.

USMNT reportedly opens contract talks with Gregg Berhalter; Good or bad idea?

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Gregg Berhalter may be sticking around the United States men’s national team program, giving the USMNT coaching continuity as it moves from 2022 World Cup Round of 16 member to 2026 World Cup co-host.

ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle says that Berhalter is beginning contract discussions with the United States Soccer Federation but also interested in taking a job in Europe with his profile having risen alongside the USMNT at the World Cup.

Berhalter’s current contract ends at the end of the calendar year, and the Yanks have scheduled a domestic camp in January and friendlies against Serbia and Colombia.

[ MORE: USMNT transfer rumors for Musah, Dest ]

Berhalter has done some good things for the program, most notably winning the CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup with two different groups. He also straightened out the defending, for the most part, and got out of the World Cup group.

Berhalter successfully recruited Sergino Dest and Yunus Musah, two of the program’s stars at the World Cup. He also convinced Malik Tillman, Gaga Slonina, and Jesus Ferreira that the U.S. was the right place for their national team futures.

He also, subjectively, was slow if not downright stubborn in acquiesing to certain points-of-view that made the team better. From Tyler Adams as a right back at the outset of his tenure to saying Tim Ream didn’t fit how he wanted to play about a month before the World Cup… then playing him every minute of the tournament.

But for the most part when lessons were learned, they stayed learned.

Should Gregg Berhalter continue as USMNT boss?

Let’s start here, because it’s necessary: It’s clear that Berhalter cared about his players and the project, whether you like the way he operated or not. This wasn’t a half-assed operation, but one with passion.

So does he still have that passion? Only he can answer that, and if he’d like to get more matchdays in his life then maybe he does want to go back to the club game.

And frankly, that’s fine either way, because his four years with the program were neither amazing nor pitiful. They can be described as anything from a slight disappointment to a minor success, depending on your perspective and expectations.

If you believe that picking up the pieces from the absolute travesty that was failing to qualify for the World Cup from the richest nation and one of the two most talented nations amongst CONCACAF men’s programs was really hard, then you think Berhalter getting the men to the 2022 World Cup and surviving the group with a young group was a solid step in the right direction and a minor success.

If you believe that the American soccer climate is such that you should always make the World Cup out of one of the world’s lesser confederations and that the Yanks progressed as the second team of a group in which they were the second-ranked team according to FIFA and Elo Ratings, well, you can have a different standard.

The Yanks will never again fail to qualify for the World Cup given the expanded field, but hosts have historically had a drastically-improved chance to reach the semifinals. THe federation would have to be confident that picking the best squad regardless of how it reflects on his previous selections — let alone a Best XI — is going to happen under a given coach.

Berhalter’s 49 and is far from the worst or best boss in USMNT history. Whoever’s in the job four years from now will have a chance to go down as either one. Choose wisely, fed. And Gregg! Who knows how far his star could rise with a solid run in Europe, and history says there will be the chance to reconnect with the USMNT job.

Follow @NicholasMendola

Premier League table, 2022-23 season

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If it’s the 2022-23 Premier League table you’re after, you’ve come to the right place.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]

We’re at the 2022 World Cup break, and the final few rounds of Premier League fixtures caused so many shocks.

Who’s looking like title contenders and/or favorites?

Almost at the halfway mark of the 2022-23 season, Arsenal and Manchester City are looking head and shoulders above the rest.

The Gunners will have their hands full for the duration of their title challenge, as Erling Haaland continues to take the Premier League by storm with an almost impossible goal-scoring record.

Newcastle, Tottenham and Manchester United are locked in a battle for the top four, while Liverpool have improved and will be back in the Champions League scrap and Chelsea are struggling.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Who are the early-season candidates for relegation?

Newly promoted Nottingham Forest moved off the bottom of the table with a win before the break, with Wolves and Southampton currently occupying the other two relegation places.

Leicester have picked up a few big wins, while West Ham, Everton and Leeds all find themselves within a few points of the bottom-three after a topsy-turvy start.

Below you will find the latest Premier League table.


Premier League table – Matchweek 16

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England vs France: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Match 59 of the 2022 World Cup features a pair of European heavyweights duking it out for a place in the semifinals when England faces France on Saturday.

Didier Deschamps’ France is bidding to become a back-to-back World Cup winner, but Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions are tournament-hardened and have shown their explosive nature three times this tournament.

STREAM ENGLAND vs FRANCE LIVE

France beat Poland 3-1 in its Round of 16 match while England overcame a dodgy start to pound Senegal 3-0.

Neither team can say its faced a test like this in the tournament, and this could be a fantastic fight in Qatar.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for England vs France.


How to watch England vs France live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Saturday, December 1
Stadium: Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

England will look to Harry Kane, though the question remains who will flank the Tottenham center forward. Marcus Rashford’s been very good but Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden got the starting spots against Senegal and it paid off for Southgate.

Kylian Mbappe has been borderline unstoppable and will test Harry Maguire, John Stones, and friends and Antoine Griezmann pulls the strings in behind and Aurelien Tchouameni continues to strengthen his reputation in the center of the pitch.


England quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 5
World Cup titles: 1 (1966)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA
Coach: Gareth Southgate
Key players: Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham, Jordan Pickford

France quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 4
World Cup titles: 2 (1998, 2018)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (Won Group D)
Coach: Didier Deschamps
Key players: Kylian Mbappe, Raphael Varane, Antoine Griezmann

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Croatia vs Brazil: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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World Cup-savvy Croatia stands in the way of stylish Brazil’s pursuit of a sixth World Cup crown, and the pair promise a complex match-up on Friday in Al Rayyan.

Match 58 of the 2022 World Cup kicks off the quarterfinals as Neymar leads Tite’s star-studded CONMEBOL powers into a match against the 2018 runners-up.

STREAM CROATIA vs BRAZIL LIVE

Croatia got past Japan in penalties and will now dream of the two wins that could set it back in the final where France could again be waiting for a juicy rematch.

Croatia needed penalties to get past Japan in the Round of 16, while Brazil pasted South Korea 4-1.  Croatia has never beaten Brazil in four meetings, losing at the 2006 and 2014 World Cups.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for Croatia vs Brazil.


How to watch Croatia vs Brazil live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Friday, December 9
Stadium: Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Croatia’s Dominik Livakovic was fantastic in penalties versus Japan to get here, but Luka Modric continues to do the things that get Croatia out of trouble and puts the opponents into heaps of it. Josko Gvardiola has arguably been the defender of the tournament, and the 20-year-old looks to test his mettle again against the Selecao.

Pick a Brazil player who’s failed to impress and you’ve achieved a mighty feat. Neymar’s been fantastic when healthy while RIcharlison is in serious pursuit of the Golden Boot. Alisson Becker flexed his muscles once or twice versus South Korea and figures to be busier as the competition continues to heat up in Qatar.


Croatia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 12
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 6
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (1st place)
Coach: Zlatko Dalic
Key players: Luka Modric, Andrej Kramaric, Mateo Kovacic, Josko Gvardiol

Brazil quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 1
World Cup titles: 5 (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
World Cup appearances: 22
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONMEBOL (1st place)
Coach: Tite
Key players: Neymar, Thiago Silva, Casemiro, Alisson Becker

Follow @NicholasMendola