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Reports: Ramsey to Juventus a done deal

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According to a number of reports in England, Aaron Ramsey has a completed deal in place to join Italian giants Juventus after the end of the season when his Arsenal contract expires.

Both Sky Sports and The Guardian are reporting that Ramsey’s free transfer is complete, with The Guardian claiming he will make $46 million over the life of the five-year contract. That total would make him the second-highest paid player on the Juventus squad.

The 28-year-old has been one of the most coveted free agents this season, with Arsenal revealing they will not re-sign him. He was linked with clubs like Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain, but Juventus has been the front-runner for weeks.

Ramsey, a Cardiff City youth product, moved to Arsenal from Cardiff City in the summer of 2008. He has made 356 appearances for the Gunners over the course of his career, and while injuries have often caused him to miss significant time, his presence in the midfield has proven a consistent factor for Arsenal in his tenure. Ramsey is considered a valuable two-way player adding defensive contributions but also a cutting-edge passing ability from deep in midfield.

Ramsey has 18 Premier League appearances this season, scoring two goals and assisting six others. He will join a crowded but slightly aging Juventus midfield that includes Miralem Pjanic, Emre Can, Sami Khedira, Rodrigo Betancur, and Blaise Matuidi. Khedira may leave the club at the end of the season.

Khedira injured again, likely out for Juventus against SPAL

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At 31 years old, Juventus midfielder Sami Khedira seems to be caught in a never-ending battle with his own fitness, and losing.

The Italian club confirmed early Saturday that Khedira suffered a sprained ankle during a Saturday morning training session and is unlikely to face SPAL next weekend. The German had only just returned last weekend from a six-week absence, playing the final 16 minutes in Juventus’s win over AC Milan.

Khedira joined Juventus in the summer of 2015 on a free transfer from Real Madrid, and has actually maintained a relatively clean bill of health the last two campaigns after just 20 league appearances his first season in Turin. However, this season has been a different story, with just five Serie A appearances and eight overall.

Multiple reports now say he’s a doubt to play against SPAL next weekend, a critical match as Juventus looks to hold its six-point lead at the top of the table. Inter and Napoli behind them play 19th placed Frosinone and 20th placed Chievo Verona respectively, so a win is critical for the Old Lady.

Coming up for Juventus after the SPAL game is a Champions League meeting with Valencia in Spain, followed by league matches against Fiorentina and Inter all by December 7. Ankle sprains can linger depending on the severity, so a spell on the sidelines for Khedira that encompasses those matches is not unfathomable.

Argentine midfielder Rodrigo Betancur has been the most direct beneficiary of Khedira’s absence, without a start through four matches until Kherida’s knee injury, at which point he received seven starts over the next eight Serie A games. Emre Can would be in the mix but he has missed the last three Serie A matches after having thyroid surgery. These absences have forced Miralem Pjanic into a deeper role with Blaise Matuidi alongside him.

Man United hosts Juventus to headline Champions League Tuesday

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The stars align at Old Trafford on Tuesday as Manchester United hosts Juventus at the forefront of the Champions League slate.

Cristiano Ronaldo returns to face his old club and his old manager, while Paul Pogba also takes on his former team as the top spot in Group H is on the line. Ronaldo is back in Champions League action since September 19 when he was controversially sent off, earning a one-match suspension he served in a 3-0 win over Young Boys.

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho told the players after throwing away a late lead against Chelsea to “use the anger to motivate ourselves to play a big match.” They’ll take on a Juventus team that’s slightly banged up, missing Mario Mandzukic, Emre Can and Sami Khedira all out injured. Manchester United also has its own issues, with Alexis Sanchez unavailable with Mourinho confirming he’s “not fit” although no other injury information was given.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, Manchester City travels east to take on Ukranian club Shakhtar Donetsk. Group F is crowded through two matches, with City in second a point behind Olympique Lyon at the top. Kevin De Bruyne is in the squad after returning from injury over the weekend, coming off the bench for 32 minutes of Premier League play against Burnley. They’ll look to attack a Shakhtar defense that choked away a 2-0 lead against Lyon last time out. City has Kyle Walker available as well, announced as part of the matchday squad.

Bayern Munich visits AEK Athens having returned to winning ways over the weekend with a 3-1 victory over Wolfsburg. It’s a welcome sight for Niko Kovac, who was under fire for a terrible stretch of games, but now the Bavarians have a positive result to take with them on the road. Robert Lewandowski and James Rodriguez were both on the scoresheet, with the Polish international grabbing a brace.

Ajax takes on Benfica in Amsterdam as the Dutch side looks to extend its lead at the top of Group E. They’re tied with Bayern on points, but hold a slightly superior goal differential. Since falling to PSV Eindhoven in Eredivisie play, they have blown out Fortuna Sittard, AZ Alkmaar, and Heerenveen 11-0 over their last three games. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar already has 10 goals this season across all competitions, and former Southampton attacker Dusan Tadic is right behind him with 9.

Real Madrid has its best chance to turn around the poor run of play as they host Czech club Viktoria Plzen. Madrid has not won since September 22, a run of five matches that consists of four defeats. The club broke a scoreless streak of over 450 minutes last time out in a 2-1 loss to Levante, but the pressure has only increased on head coach Julen Lopetegui.

Other matches

Young Boys vs Valencia
AS Roma vs CSKA Moscow
Hoffenheim vs Lyon

Klopp defends Ozil as criticism continues after Germany retirement

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Mesut Ozil retired from the German national team earlier this month after saying he was subjected to “racism and disrespect” by the German Football Federation (DFB).

The issue at the heart of his decision to retire from Die Mannschaft was a meeting he and Ilkay Gundogan had with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as a photo was shared by Turkey’s leader and many were outraged due to the actions of Erdogan’s government in Turkey.

Ozil, a three-time winner of the German player of the year award and a World Cup winner for his homeland, is a third generation Turkish-German and was born in Gelsenkirchen. Since his retirement and his in-depth statement which claimed there were deep-rooted issues within the DFB, Ozil has been criticized by many leading figures in German soccer, most notably Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness who again launched an attack against him on Wednesday.

Hoeness said that Ozil “had been playing s— for years” and “last won a tackle before the 2014 World Cup” as well as slamming his public image and saying it hid his ability as a player. Ozil’s international teammate Toni Kroos has also dismissed his claims about the DFB.

Klopp explained his thoughts to Sport 1.

“This is a classic example of absolute misinformation and, of course, complete nonsense. This photo was used – first by Erdogan, then by many other people,” Klopp said. “In politics, little things have always been blown up and big things pushed away in order to continue. Normally intelligent people tend to hold back because it is not easy to say the right thing. I would count myself too. All those who have no idea are very loud in the consideration. I know Ilkay Gundogan  very well, I know Emre Can and Nuri Sahin very well. I do not know Mesut so well, but I would like to take him home. I do not doubt these guys at least about their loyalty to our homeland.

“The difference is that they just have diversity. Where is the problem? That’s beautiful. Cultural diversity, we all thought it was really cool around the 2006 World Cup. I saw these fantastic commercials where the parents of Gerald Asamoah and Mario Gomez had a barbecue party together. We all sighed for how great that works. And now two guys are seduced by a politically quite intelligent people to a photo, and then have relatively few opportunities to say the one hundred percent right. That’s why I find this discussion hypocritical. Bad things happened because people were not informed properly.”

After his initial statement on the matter Ozil hasn’t said anything else about his decision to retire from the German national team.

The 29-year-old has suffered a difficult start to the season with the Gunners as he was hooked off during their 3-2 defeat at Chelsea last weekend and was pushed to work harder defensively by Arsenal’s new manager Unai Emery.

Ozil’s mercurial talents are undoubted after his spells at Schalke, Real Madrid and Arsenal but there is no doubt he is going through a tough time on and off the pitch and this issue could go a long way to explaining why something didn’t seem right behind-the-scenes with the German national team this summer. The reigning World Cup champs crashed out at the group stage and all did not seem well with Joachim Low’s squad.

Season Preview: Liverpool loaded, ready to take the next step

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Liverpool at a glance

Premier League titles: 0 (English First Division titles – 18)

FA Cups: 7 (1965, 1974, 1986, 1989, 1992, 2001, 2006)

League Cups: 8 (1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1995, 2001, 2003, 2012)

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]


Seemingly out of nowhere, Liverpool advanced all the way to the Champions League final in May, so how do Jurgen Klopp and the Reds improve upon that feat in 2018-19?

One could say that the only way to do so would be to unseat Manchester City as Premier League champions, but given the state of the club — the entire institutions wayward trajectory — when Klopp took over in October 2015, additional signs of progress in re-establishing and further solidifying Liverpool as one of England’s — and Europe’s — best will more than suffice.

Sure, they’ve spent nearly a half-billion dollars during Klopp’s 34-month tenure, but they’ve spent it wisely, which is more than can be said for other mega-rich clubs around the world. The entire process from identifying weaknesses/needs, to identifying targets, to assessing targets, to signing incoming players, to integrating them into the first team, to enjoying nearly immediate return on investment, has been nothing short of inspiring to witness over the last two seasons. As we’ll discuss momentarily, they did it again this summer.


Liverpool will win the title because… they were really good — while extremely young — last season, and they only got better this summer. Klopp fashioned a midfield out of shoestring and bubble gum for much of last season, whereas now he has a pair of rising stars to deploy central this time around. Goalkeepers was a problem position for the entirety of his tenure, but now he’s got a 25-year-old who’ll be Brazil’s no. 1 for the next decade. They were a bit thin for depth behind the superstar attacking trio, so they added a 26-year-old with World Cup experience and nearly 100 PL appearances to the ranks.

Liverpool will fall out of the top-four because… they deal with a ton of injuries all season long? Outside of losing Salah and/or Firmino and/or Mane for three or four months at a time, it’s really tough to see how Liverpool finish worse than last year’s fourth-place finish (to which they essentially resigned themselves as the progressed further and further in Europe). Everyone who’s likely to play 30-plus games should be expected to be better this season than last, given their age, ambition and overall individual/club trajectory. If you’re a Liverpool fan, you should be very excited.

Best possible XI:

Alisson

Alexander-Arnold — Van Dijk — Lovren — Robertson

Keita — Henderson — Fabinho

Salah — Firmino — Mane

Transfers In: Naby Keita ($68 million, RB Leipzig), Alisson ($73 million, Roma), Fabinho ($51 million, Monaco), Xherdan Shaqiri ($17 million, Stoke City)

Transfers Out: Emre Can (free, Juventus), Danny Ward ($16 million, Leicester City)

Ranking their offseason: A

Losing Can for absolutely nothing was a tough pill to swallow, but it was hardly a back-breaking departure for a club that could throw down $119 million for not one, but two replacements in central midfield. Keita’s transfer was announced last summer, only to be executed this time around, and Fabinho was announced before June began. There’s something to be said for doing most of your transfer business so early in the window, even if Shaqiri and Alisson weren’t signed until mid-July (still ahead of a number of other clubs’ key business, if any was done at all). A young, energetic squad got even younger and more vibrant this summer. Klopp soared past cloud nine long ago.

Star player: Salah was the star last season, but this year it could just as easily be Firmino who pushes the 30-goal mark (15 last season), or Mane who goes for 20 goals and 15 assists (10 and 7 last season). While Salah was irresistible and captured the world’s collective heart, it’s tough to see him putting up anything close to 32 goals and 10 assists for a second straight season. As opponents become fixated on stopping him, it’ll open up more time, space and chances for his front-line mates, and they’re more than good enough to make the most of it.

Coach’s Corner: Everything outlined above fits Klopp’s personality — and ideal personnel — to a T. His initial partial season in England was something of a slog, and the second season had more downs than ups, but it all came together last fall and resulted in a renewed excitement and raised expectations for everyone at the club.

PST Predicts: If anyone poses a genuine title challenge to Manchester City — as in, they’re within five points on May 1 — it’ll be Liverpool. They looked the second-best side in the PL last season, but their attention was clearly divided. They’re better — maybe a lot better — now than they were then.