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This is now Liverpool’s Premier League title to lose

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LIVERPOOL — November 10 may be too early for the title race to be over, especially if you are Liverpool.

But boy, it feels like Jurgen Klopp‘s side already have one hand on the Premier League trophy.

Right now it is the gigantic elephant in the room for everyone connected with Liverpool.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

They beat Manchester City 3-1 at a raucous Anfield on Sunday to pull nine points clear of the reigning champions as they’re now 12 games unbeaten and eight points clear at the top. Everyone is ready to call them the champs.

“Other people have said, 100 percent, ‘from now on Liverpool can only lose it.’ That is a very negative approach. You can see it like this but I don’t care. I can promise you we don’t care,” Klopp explained afterwards. “Today we were completely focused on this game and not the situation in the table or whatever. How many points we are ahead of City or whatever. That is crazy! Nine points, you cannot imagine something like this happens. But it is not important.

“Who wants to be first in early November!? You want to be first in May. We all know that but we don’t have to say that because it is clear. We just try what we can and in the end we will see what happens. The pressure is not there yet. It will come. At the moment it is only opportunity, go for it, do the work, throw everything in and see what happens.”

With their lead now eight points atop the table, it would take a monumental collapse from Liverpool for them to not win their first league title since 1990. Luck is on their side, they are looking more ruthless than ever and other title rivals are suffering badly timed injuries or a loss of form.

The stars are aligning.

Liverpool have lost just once in their last 51 Premier League games. That defeat came at Man City in January, as Leroy Sane’s late goal effectively cost them the chance to win the title last season.

This season there will be no fine margins deciding the destination of the trophy. There are still six months and 26 games of the season to go, but I’m ready to call it.

Unless Liverpool lose Alisson, Virgil Van Dijk, Sadio Mane and Fabinho all at the same time to lengthy injuries, they’re going to win the Premier League title.

Liverpool’s fans have been here many times before over the past 30 years. Under Roy Evans, Rafael Benitez and Brendan Rodgers, and then Klopp last season.

Nobody connected to Liverpool wants to mention the ‘t word’ right now after all of their near misses. That was evident in and around the city before the game, as even when they welcomed Man City’s team bus to Anfield it was all a little subdued.

Stewards, fans, car parking attendants and those flipping burgers in the vans lining Anfield Road all have that same look in their eye as they smirk. They know they’re so close to the holy grail. But like a banker knowing the biggest deal of his career is 99 percent done, they remain wary of a late rival bid. There’s still a sense of foreboding hanging over Liverpool.

We can’t underestimate the mental strength needed to put aside the pressure Liverpool’s players are under. Even when they were 3-0 up and Bernardo Silva made it 3-1, there were moans and groans inside Anfield. Klopp tried to rally the crowd and liven them up to help get the team over the line. They did. But it was reminiscent of the nervousness shown at very points last season when they were top of the league.

Last season their seven-point lead evaporate due to draws against Leicester, West Ham, Man United and Everton. Liverpool had the title in their grasp but it slipped out, once again.

Even if they draw four games this season and win the rest, that will now be enough to win the title on goal difference at the very least. Man City would have to win all 26 of their remaining games and hope Liverpool slip up a few times. That probably isn’t going to happen, as Pep Guardiola is clearly more focused on winning the UEFA Champions League.

Why the sense of worry, then? Last season Liverpool didn’t have any real challengers outside of Man City. Chelsea, Tottenham, Man United and Arsenal were so far behind. This season Chelsea and Leicester City are much better equipped to take points off both Man City and Liverpool.

There will be twists and turns ahead but this Liverpool juggernaut, hardened by close calls in recent seasons, hurtles on.

An image of Klopp gleaming in front of the Kop at the end of the final home game on May 9 against Chelsea with the trophy balanced on his head just became something we expect. Unless you’re Liverpool.

The only thing that can stop them now is, once again, themselves.

James back in Colombia squad for friendlies in U.S.

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BOGOTA, Colombia — Midfielder James Rodriguez will return to Colombia’s national team after a four-match absence for two friendlies in the United States against Peru and Ecuador.

However, striker Radamel Falcao remains out with an Achilles injury.

Colombia coach Carlos Queiroz announced his squad of 34 players on Tuesday for matches on Nov. 15 against Peru in Miami and four days later against Ecuador in Harrison, New Jersey.

Rodriguez has not played for Colombia since this summer’s Copa America. He returned to Real Madrid this season after a year on loan at Bayern Munich.

Queiroz also called up strikers Juan Fernando Quintero and Rafael Santos Borre, who will play in the Copa Libertadores final for River Plate against Flamengo on Nov. 23.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: David Ospina (Napoli), Camilo Vargas (Atlas), Aldair Quintana (Atletico Nacional), Eder Chaux (Patriotas).

Defenders: Luis Orejuela (Cruzeiro), Stefan Medina (Monterrey), Santiago Arias (Atletico Madrid), Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham), Oscar Murillo (Pachuca), Yerry Mina (Everton), Jhon Lucumi (Genk), Jeison Murillo (Sampdoria), Cristian Borja (Sporting Lisbon), William Tesillo (Leon), Johan Mojica (Girona), Frank Fabra (Boca Juniors).

Midfielders: Wilmar Barrios (Zenit), Gustavo Cuellar (Al Hilal), Jorman Campuzano (Boca Juniors), Juan Cuadrado (Juventus), Jefferson Lerma (Bournemouth), Steven Alzate (Brighton), James Rodriguez (Real Madrid), Mateus Uribe (Porto), Yairo Moreno (Leon).

Strikers: Luis Muriel (Atalanta), Luis Sinisterra (Feyenoord), Steven Mendoza (Amiens), Roger Martinez (America de Mexico), Luis Diaz (Porto), Sebastian Villa (Boca Juniors), Alfredo Morelo

River Plate takes 1st leg advantage over Boca Juniors

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The Superclasico serving as Copa Libertadores semifinal got off to a pro-River Plate start, as Los Millonarios beat Boca Juniors 2-0 in the semifinal first leg on Tuesday.

Rafael Santos Borre converted a 7th minute penalty, and Ignacio “Nacho” Fernandez scored in the 70th minute as River takes a two-goal advantage back across Buenos Aires.

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Fernandez’s goal was the 29-year-old’s first in nine career matches against Boca (He had posted two assists). He had been linked with a move to LA Galaxy earlier this year.

The second leg is Oct. 22 at Boca. The other semifinal kicks off Wednesday, with Gremio hosts Flamengo in an all-Brazil affair.

Serie A: AC Milan falls again, Napoli and Lazio roll

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AC Milan’s nosedive has been nothing but painful, and it continued again this weekend as Fiorentina downed them at home 3-1 behind an early Erick Pulgar penalty and a second half strike by Gaetano Castrovilli. Milan, already down 1-0, fell behind a man when Mateo Musacchio was sent off early second half when he went in studs up over the ball on Franck Ribery. The incident was initially deemed a yellow card but was upgraded to a red, dooming AC Milan to its fate. Ribery scored to make it 3-0 in the 78th minute before AC Milan bagged a consolation goal two minutes later through Rafael Leao to finish the scoreline.

Marco Giampaolo’s seat warmed even further with the club’s fourth loss in their last six games, dropping to 16th in the table. They out-passed Fiorentina 500-300 and still just managed two shots on target to Fiorentina’s six. It could have been even worse as Federico Chiesa missed a penalty that would have put them 3-0 up, but the defeat still stings for a club in regression.

Napoli skated passed Brescia 2-1 despite Mario Balotelli‘s consolation goal with his daughter in attendance. Dries Mertens and Kostas Manolas scored in the first half, the latter in first-half stoppage time, and the home side held on thanks to a VAR review that chalked off a long-range rocket from young Sandro Tonali for a foul in the buildup. The win moved Napoli into fourth one point back of Atalanta, four points behind Juventus and six back of leaders Inter.

Lazio obliterated Genoa at home 4-0 in a comprehensive performance backed by four different goalscorers. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic started things off seven minutes in on a curler from the top of the box, and Stefan Radu made it 2-0 before halftime with a quality left-footed strike from a tough angle. Felipe Caciedo added a third on the hour mark one the break, and Ciro Immobile rounded out the scoring also on the counter 12 minutes from time. Lazio moved to sixth, level with Cagliari on 10 points but above on goal differential.

Edin Dzeko gave Roma a 1-0 road win over Lecce to keep them in 5th in the table. He struck on 56 minutes with a header at the far post to push the visitors through, despite finishing level with the newly-promoted side on shots on target, each with six. Roma fouled Lecce players 20 times during the sloppy match, but Paulo Fonesca’s club pulled out the clean sheet victory.

Stefano Okaka scored just before the half-hour mark and Udinese beat 10-man Lazio 1-0 to pull out of the relegation zone. The goal is the Italian international’s first of the season, and moved them to six points on the year in a crowded bottom half of the table six matches in. Roberto Soriano saw red six minutes into second-half stoppage time for a second yellow card, ending the threat.

Calgiari and Hellas Verona drew 1-1 on goals from Lucas Castro and Davide Faraoni. The goal for Castro is his second in two games, coming after his winner over Napoli last time out.

Golden Boy Award shortlist includes Lainez, Davies, drops Weah

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Canadian winger Alphonso Davies of Bayern Munich and Mexican winger Diego Lainez of Real Betis join a host of Premier League youngsters on the shortlist for the 2019 Golden Boy Award, honoring the best European-based footballer under the age of 21.

American playmakers Christian Pulisic and Timothy Weah were finalist last year, but Chelsea’s Pulisic has aged out of the competition. Lille’s Weah is no longer on the list despite being on the summer’s 100-man watch list.

[ MORE: Spurs shocked at Colchester Utd ]

That doesn’t mean there isn’t a Chelsea player here, as Mason Mount makes the cut.

So does ex-Man City Academy man Tom Dele-Bashiru, now of Watford, and current City midfielder Phil Foden.

Arsenal places Reiss Nelson and Matteo Guendouzi on the list, while Everton’s Moise Kean slides into the shortlist after his move from Juventus.

That said, the competition already feels winnowed to Matthijs de Ligt of Juventus versus Jadon Sancho of Borussia Dortmund the field, with De Ligt a heavy favorite.

Atletico Madrid’s Joao Felix will also like his chances of spinning a surprise outcome.

Previous winners include De Ligt, Kylian Mbappe, Renato Sanchez, Anthony Martial, Raheem Sterling, Paul Pogba, Isco, Mario Gotze, Mario Balotelli, Alexandre Pato, Anderson, Sergio Aguero, Cesc Fabregas, Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney, and Rafael van der Vaart.

Golden Boy Award shortlist

Benoit Badiashile (Monaco)
Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal)
Michael Cuisance (Bayern Munich)
Tom Dele-Bashiru (Watford)
Matthijs De Ligt (Juventus)
Krépin Diatta (Club Brugge)
Giuanluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan)
Denis Dragus (Standard Liege)
Eljif Elmas (Napoli)
Florentino Luís (Benfica)
Phil Foden (Manchester City)
Mattéo Guendouzi (Arsenal)
Erling Braut Haaland (RB Salzburg)
Kai Havertz (Bayer Leverkusen)
Alexander Isak (Real Sociedad)
Joao Félix (Atlético Madrid)
Dejan Joveljic (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Boubacar Kamara (Marseille)
Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich)
Moise Kean (Everton)
Justin Kluivert (Roma)
Ibrahima Konaté (RB Leipzig)
Rodrygo Goes (Real Madrid)
Alban Lafont (Nantes)
Diego Lainez (Real Betis)
KangIn Lee (Valencia)
Andriy Lunin (Real Valladolid, on loan)
Donyell Malen (PSV)
Mason Mount (Chelsea)
Nehuén Pérez (Famalicao)
Reiss Nelson (Arsenal)
Abdulkadir Omur (Trabzonspor)
Strahinja Pavlovic (Partizan Belgrade)
Rafael Leao (AC Milan)
Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid)
Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund)
Luis Sinisterra (Feyenoord)
Jean-Clair Todibo (Barcelona)
Ferran Torres (Valencia)
Nicolo Zaniolo (Roma)