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Transfer rumor roundup: Klopp lining up USMNT starlet; Higuain dominoes

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If you blinked, you might have missed the first half of January, along with the first half of the January transfer window.

Don’t worry, though. Given the lack of deals completed thus far, it would appear that most Premier League clubs missed it, too…

[ MORE: Emery on possible exit for Mesut Ozil, reason for his absence ]

U.S. men’s national team midfielder Weston McKennie sits high atop Jurgen Klopp‘s wish list and could be set for a move to Liverpool — most likely in the summer — according to a report from the Sun (from the same reporter who was first on the scene with word of Manchester City’s interest in USMNT goalkeeper Zack Steffen).

A bid — expected to be around $26 million — for the 20-year-old could very well be made this month with McKennie allowed to remain at Schalke through the end of the season. Fellow USMNT star Christian Pulisic will join Chelsea this summer, for $73 million, after completing a similar arrangement with Borussia Dortmund.


Perhaps the highest-profile move we’re likely to see this month could be completed inside the next 24 hours, as Chelsea are doing everything within their power to bring Gonzalo Higuain to London in time for Saturday’s trip to Arsenal (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com).

The Blues reportedly made an official offer to Juventus for a six-month loan, with an option for a further 12 months and/or an option to make the transfer permanent, on Wednesday. Higuain is currently on loan to AC Milan.

According to the Standard, manager Maurizio Sarri is desperate for the 31-year-old to arrive as soon as possible.


With Higuain widely expected to complete his move to Chelsea in the coming hours or days, the dominoes will almost certainly quickly fall, beginning with current Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata. After an up-and-down first season and a half at Stamford Bridge, Morata has fallen out of favor with Sarri and could very well leave the club before the window closes on Jan. 31.

According to a report from Sky Sports, Atletico Madrid are already in advanced negotiations with the club and/or player over a $60-million transfer back to the Spanish capital where he was previously surplus to requirements at Real Madrid. Chelsea paid nearly $100 million for the now-26-year-old in the summer of 2017. Atleti signed Diego Costa from Chelsea, for more than $70 million, not long after acquiring two summers ago.


With Harry Kane set to miss the next two months due to another ankle ligament injury, Tottenham Hotspur will surely be linked with a loan move for every available forward over these next 14 days — no matter unlikely they are to actually make a move.

Today’s fill-in comes courtesy of the Telegraph, who claim Liverpool’s Divock Origi is one player currently considered as an option. Fernando Llorente remains at the club despite rumors linking him with various moves around Europe. Mauricio Pochettino will also consider promoting 16-year-old Troy Parrott from Under-23 team, according to talkSPORT.


  • Arsenal are desperate to shed Mesut Ozil’s $450,000-per-week contract with the German international seemingly not in the plans of manager Unai Emery. The Gunners will almost certainly have to eat a significant chunk of his remaining wages, or accept a heavily reduced fee.
  • At 21 years old, Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong is one of the most sought-after youngsters in the world, with the likes of Man City, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain reportedly hot in pursuit. According to the Mirror, only PSG are willing to meet Ajax’s $85-million valuation of the five-times-capped Dutch international, despite his preference being a move to the defending PL champions.
  • Another Chelsea forward, Michy Batshuayi, remains in limbo as the club attempts to secure a $50-million offer for the 25-year-old. Ligue 1 strugglers Monaco have reportedly already agreed loan terms with Batshuayi and Valencia, where the Belgian has been on loan since the start of the season, but the Blues are holding out for a bid leading to recouping a hefty fee.
  • Bayern Munich claim to be in negotiations with Chelsea and winger Callum Hudson-Odoi after the 18-year-old has shone brightly in limited opportunities with the Blues. In a bid for more first-team action, Hudson-Odoi is said to be open to a move to Germany, following in the footsteps of Dortmund wonderkid Jadon Sancho.

Guardiola to Man City squad: Focus on yourselves, not Liverpool

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For the first time since Pep Guardiola‘s first season at Manchester City, the club are looking up in the standings.

With Man City’s comfortable 3-0 win over 10-man Wolverhampton Wanderers, Guardiola’s side are now just four points back of Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool. With such a tight race, one could forgive some Man City players of keeping an eye on Liverpool’s results while trying to keep winning their own. Guardiola, however, urged his side on Monday evening to focus on themselves.

[RECAP, VIDEO: Man City defeats Wolves]

“We cannot play Liverpool so we can’t do anything about them – all we can do is win our games,” Guardiola told reporters. “We can control what we do and that’s being there (challenging for the title) but if we won’t win, then they will be Champions and I will congratulate Jurgen. That’s why we have to win. We have incredible numbers after what we did last season.

“I don’t have a crystal ball to know (how many points Man City will need). I said to the players: don’t watch the calendar for the Liverpool games because when that happens, you get distracted and lose games. They are one team and have done better so far but we have to be there until the end.”

Interestingly enough, both teams have a decent run of fixtures ahead. Liverpool has Crystal Palace and Leicester City at home before traveling to West Ham, while Manchester City visits Huddersfield Town before cup fixtures against Burton Albion and Burnley. However, come February, the tough fixtures arrive. Liverpool has a pair of matches in the UEFA Champions League against Bayern Munich as well as facing Manchester United, Watford away and then Everton in the first weekend of March. For Man City, it faces Arsenal, Chelsea, and two matches against Schalke all in a row to start February, which will be a difficult run.

The Premier League title wasn’t decided in December, but it could be within the next 30 days, depending on how each club manages that stretch.

What we learned in the Premier League

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Seven games took place in the Premier League on Saturday and we learned plenty at both ends of the table.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

Huddersfield and Fulham will both be frustrated as their bad luck continued, while Liverpool and Chelsea held their nerve and there were big wins for Watford, Southampton, Burnley and West Ham.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Here’s a look at the key takeaways from Saturday’s PL action.


Liverpool respond with gritty away win
It wasn’t pretty but Liverpool regained a seven-point lead atop the Premier League table as Mohamed Salah won and converted a penalty kick to beat Brighton 1-0. This was the kind of test Liverpool had to pass if they’re going to win the Premier League this season. After back-to-back defeats against Man City (in the Premier League) and Wolves (in the FA Cup), this was a big statement from Liverpool. Playing at a well-organized Brighton is always tough but Jurgen Klopp‘s side made relatively light work of it as their defensive injuries didn’t hamper their charge towards the Premier League title. Of course, there are bigger tests ahead but they don’t arrive for a while. The next time they play a top six side is the trip to Old Trafford to play Manchester United on Feb. 24. Between now and then there are plenty of tricky tests against teams they are supposed to beat sandwiched between their UEFA Champions League last 16 clashes against Bayern Munich. Liverpool were far from their best at Brighton, but they got the job done with minimal fuss as they were back to being ruthlessly efficient, and solid, just as they were at the start of the campaign. That is a very good sign for Klopp after the disappointment of the last week.


Emery’s Ozil problem not going away
Arsenal lost 1-0 at West Ham on Saturday and Unai Emery‘s post-game press conference was dominated by one person: Mesut Ozil. The German playmaker was not in Arsenal’s 18-man squad for the London derby and Emery said that was because “the players who were here are the players who deserved to be in this match.” That is yet another ominous statement from Emery for Ozil, as the highest-paid player in Arsenal’s history is the biggest headache Arsenal’s new manager has. The defending wasn’t as bad as it has been at times this season in the defeat at West Ham, but you could say that Ozil’s creativity would have been handy as Arsenal had plenty of the ball but couldn’t break down a stubborn West Ham defense. They are now six points off fourth-place Chelsea and could be overtaken by Manchester United in the next few weeks, and all of the momentum Emery had from that 22-game unbeaten run has evaporated with away defeats at Southampton, Liverpool and now West Ham, as they’ve had no victories in their last four PL away games. This poor away form is all getting very similar to Arsene Wenger‘s final season in charge…

Talking of Wenger, he oversaw Ozil, 30, signing a new bumper contract in January and he is guaranteed huge sums of cash. Ozil has only appeared in 16 games in all competitions this season and Emery clearly doesn’t trust him, as he’s said before, in away games against feisty, dedicated opponents. Ozil is a luxury player who is excellent, when given the chance, against lesser opponents at home but it doesn’t appear that the high-pressing, more defensive style Emery prefers can carry any passengers against more aggressive opponents. If Arsenal aren’t going to use Ozil, they have to loan him out or sell him in January. With his huge wages that will be tough and an argument can be made that Arsenal needed him at West Ham to unlock a defense and create chances in only the way he can. Emery’s issue with Ozil, on or off the pitch, has to be resolved one way or another as it threatens to derail their season.


Puel’s time at Leicester coming to an end
The boos rang out at the King Power Stadium as Leicester City lost 2-1 to Southampton, with Claude Puel‘s time in charge of the Foxes surely coming to an end soon. After their big wins against Chelsea, Man City and Everton over the festive period, all was well. But three-straight defeats to Cardiff, fourth-tier Newport County in the FA Cup and now an injury-hit Saints (who played over 55 minutes with 10-men) have cemented what many Leicester fans have been saying: Puel is not getting the best out of this team consistently. His decision to play three defensive midfielders against Saints was baffling, as the likes of Demarai Gray and Harvey Barnes sat on the bench and made a big difference in the second half. Leicester play extremely well against the big boys as they have less of the ball and their squad of players have perfected the art of counter-attacking. Against the teams they are supposed to beat they just aren’t able to break them down, as Puel’s belief in ball rotation, slow build-up and keeping possession doesn’t play to the strengths of this squad. After a testing year off the pitch for Leicester, Puel has brought some stability. He is a good, honest man who has brought plenty of Leicester’s young players to another level but it looks like he may get the hook soon. There is no chance of Leicester being relegated this season, so now is a good time to bring in a manager who can get the best out of this group and kick them on in their pursuit of Europa League qualification.


Huddersfield, Fulham in danger of being cut adrift
The bad luck continued for two relegation battlers as Fulham scored two own goals to lose at Burnley and Huddersfield had a penalty kick awarded, then overturned at Cardiff. In two six-pointers they both came up short and all of a sudden Huddersfield are eight points from safety and Fulham are five points (basically six points, given their goal difference) from staying up. Given their respective schedules in the next few weeks as they play plenty of the big boys, they are likely to be cut adrift. David Wagner is doing all he can with limited resources at Huddersfield, while the jury is out as to whether Claudio Ranieri was ever the right hire for Fulham. Both teams have shown they can hang in games but the little things are going against them as Saturday proved. Their fortunes will have to change quickly if they’re going to drag themselves out of the relegation zone with 16 games to go. There is almost a resignation among the Huddersfield fans that they are doing down, while Fulham will be at that stage very quickly. 

Klopp: Liverpool win “not an opera… but really nice song”

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Leave it to Jurgen Klopp, the master of heavy metal football, to describe Liverpool’s 1-0 defeat of Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium on Saturday in musical terms.

“I liked the performance,” he said. “It wasn’t an opera of football but it was a really nice song.”

Call it “Clampdown,” as the Reds held Brighton without a goal at home for the first time since March.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Brighton limited Liverpool’s chances on the day, falling victim to the referee’s whistle when Pascal Gross was mismatched on Mohamed Salah and dragged his fellow forward down in the box.

Salah finished his chance, and Liverpool increased its table lead before Man City plays Wolves on Monday.

“It was clear that we had the ball a lot but it is really difficult,” Klopp said. “Chris Hughton is a smart fox. They close the space perfectly. It is really difficult to stay 100% for the whole game. It is a challenge but this is a proper football game which we won and I like that.”

And, as Liverpool chases its first top-flight title in the Premier League era, Klopp was again asked about his team’s long-term focus.

“We have to win each game. That is how it is. We are Liverpool and we have to win football games. That’s nothing new. You don’t want to draw games here but you have to work in each step of the game. Try to create and if you find a way then use it.”

Liverpool is at home for its next two matches, Jan . 19 versus Crystal Palace and 11 days later against Leicester City.

Premier League preview: Brighton v. Liverpool

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  • LFC is unbeaten in 3 PL games vs. Brighton, winning a combined 10-1
  • Liverpool has not lost back-to-back PL games since 2015
  • Brighton has scored in its last 13 PL home games

Brighton puts its stellar home record on alert as the Seagulls host Premier League leaders Liverpool at Falmer Stadium on Saturday, with kickoff at 10:00 a.m. ET live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

The hosts have been fantastic in Premier League play in front of the home fans, with just six losses in its 29 Premier League matches at home over its two-year top flight history. However, five of those six losses have come against the Big Six clubs. They will be without defender Bernardo, who injured his hamstring in early January against West Ham. Also missing is struggling summer signing Alireza Jahanbakhsh who has been out since early November with a hamstring tear.

The Reds, meanwhile, are looking to turn around its first losing streak of the season, with a league loss to Manchester City plus an early FA Cup exit at the hands of Wolves last time out. Virgil Van Dijk is back in contention after missing the FA Cup defeat midweek, but his central defensive partner is still a mystery. Dejan Lovren is out with a hamstring injury of his own, while Joe Gomez and Joel Matip are long-term absentees, so Fabinho could deputize along the back line again. Jordan Henderson, meanwhile, is a game-time decision after a calf problem popped up.

After Liverpool’s riveting loss to Manchester City in league play last time out, the Reds will be looking to turn things around and regain the upper hand in the title race. For Brighton, they sit in 13th place with 26 points, eight above 15th placed Newcastle.

What they’re saying

Brighton manager Chris Hughton on Jurgen Klopp‘I think he’s been outstanding for the game here. When you see how their team work without the ball to get it back and the quality they show, it’s orchestrated by the manager and the demands of the manager. This season shows what a great job that he has done. They are better prepared than any other team with the quality they have got. It is all led by Jurgen Klopp and they are a great team to watch.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp on early Cup exits: “I would love to still be in these competitions, but we are not in them. We have to make the best of the time now. I know Pep [Guardiola] said he would prefer to be in four competitions. I would prefer the same. We have to make the best of the time and get as many points as possible.”

Video preview

Prediction

Defensive injuries, a tough road destination, and a losing streak. There’s plenty going against the Reds in this Premier League away match, but Jurgen Klopp won’t let them lose three in a row. It’s possible this ends in a disappointing draw, but Liverpool guts out a tough 2-1 victory.