Roberto Firmino

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2019 Ballon d’Or 30-man shortlist released

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The first 30 names for the 2019 Ballon d’Or have been released. There are some usuals, there are some surprises, and there are some head-scratchers.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo both headline the list as expected, as the two share eleven previous awards between them. Behind them are young stars Kylian Mbappe, Frenkie de Jong, and Matthijs de Ligt, with the latter two having made the Champions League semifinals with Ajax. Another pair of Ajax players also make an appearance as Donny van de Beek and Dusan Tadic impressed in that European run.

The goalkeepers on the list are somewhat contentious. Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson rightly appears, having led the Reds to new heights since joining in the summer of 2017. Tottenham netminder Hugo Lloris also shows up, a curious selection given his down form for Spurs the last two or three years. In fact, Lloris has made the most errors leading directly to goals of any Premier League player in the past three seasons, according to Opta. Alongside those two is Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen who has locked down the starting spot at the Camp Nou each of the last four years.

Other Premier League players on the list include whopping six more Liverpool players in Mohamed Salah, Virgil Van Dijk, Sadio Mane, Georginio Wijnaldum, Roberto Firmino, and Trent Alexander-Arnold plus Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Manchester City’s five attackers in Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling, and Riyad Mahrez.

The most glaring absentee left off the list is Paris Saint-Germain attacker Neymar, who spent much of the year injured or suspended but when on the field put up video game numbers. Considering that France Football hands out the award, his exclusion seems to have a hint of troll to it. Luka Modric, the reigning winner, was also left off the list after struggling over the past year with Real Madrid. Others left off include Paul Pogba, Harry Kane, and N’Golo Kante.

The names on the list seem to heavily favor last year’s Champions League. Players like Tadic, Wijnaldum, and Lloris, for example, are excellent players but would be difficult to argue they deserve a spot in the top 30 players in the world. Meanwhile, players like Neymar, Kane, Lautaro Martinez, Sergio Ramos, Joshua Kimmich, Miralem Pjanic, Angel di Maria, Raul Jimenez, and countless others who either departed the competition early or didn’t appear altogether were an afterthought.

The winner will be announced December 2.

Full 30-man shortlist
Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
Hugo Lloris (Tottenham)
Dusan Tadic (Ajax)
Frenkie De Jong (Barcelona)
Sergio Aguero (Man City)
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona)
Kylian Mbappe (PSG)
Donny van de Beek (Ajax)
Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)
Alisson (Liverpool)
Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus)
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool)
Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)
Heung-Min Son (Tottenham)
Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)
Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
Bernardo Silva (Man City)
Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
Riyad Mahrez (Man City)
Kevin De Bruyne (Man City)
Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli)
Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona)
Raheem Sterling (Man City)
Eden Hazard (Real Madrid)
Marquinhos (PSG)
Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid)
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)

Salah saves Liverpool after Red Bull Salzburg erases 3-0 deficit

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Mohamed Salah‘s second goal saved his defense blushes as Liverpool threw away a 3-0 lead at Anfield before finding all three points in a 4-3 win over Red Bull Salzburg on Wednesday in the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Salah was joined by Andrew Robertson and Sadio Mane on the score sheet, and Roberto Firmino had two key assists in the win.

Hee-Chan Hwang scored a goal and an assist en route to 3-3, with young phenom Erling Braut Haland delivering a goal off the bench.

Takumi Minamino also scored for Salzburg, who has the same amount of points as Liverpool. Napoli leads the group with four points.


Three things we learned

1. Liverpool defense needs to get back to basics: Virgil Van Dijk is a tower, a force, a marvel… and just as capable as any other defender of being sent to the concessions stands by a sick cut. Hwang Hee-Chan cooked up the Dutch center back to fire Salzburg back to within two after Salah had stake the Reds to a 3-0 lead.

Perhaps “Van Dijk on Ice” is a fitting way to make a point that may not hold up. Liverpool has now played 12 matches this season and kept clean sheets in just three of them, allowing 13 goals. One clean sheet was against MK Dons, the other two versus Burnley and Sheffield United. Clean sheets don’t matter that much, we suppose, when you’re running teams off the pitch, but the chances have been there and this team has so far been less sound than its predecessor.

2. Salah, Mane, Firmino sensational: The Egyptian King delivered a poacher’s goal off a rebound in the first half before darting onto a Firmino flick to restore Liverpool’s lead in the second. Mane scored the sensational early marker off another Firmino assist, and could’ve easily had it 5-3.

The Reds’ most electric players were on it on Wednesday, and should not be paying for their meals tonight.

3. Marsch enjoys the moment: The twice-capped USMNT midfielder from Wisconsin looked set to see the reverse of a tournament-opening 6-2 score line, but full credit to Marsch’s men in a deserved come back. When the match hit 3-3, Salzburg was out-shooting Liverpool (again, this was at Anfield). The coach celebrated the second and third goals with vigor, leaping into his players’ celebrations at the equalizer. Even in the loss, he’ll be the toast of Austria tonight.

Man of the Match: Salah — Over Firmino, and just.


Liverpool was ready to go from Moment No. 1, with Mane blazing down the left side to work a 1-2 with Roberto Firmino. The Brazilian used perfect speed to cue up Mane’s show.

The Reds earned their second goal via fullback to fullback love, with

Hwang pulled a goal back for Salzburg in the most electric of fashions, putting Van Dijk on skates before finishing for 3-1.

Hwang could’ve easily made it 3-2 on a dynamic team move in the 53rd minute, but flubbed his effort well wide of the goal.

And then it was 3-2, with Minimino belting a bouncing shot past Adrian with Liverpool ignoring an entire half of the field.

Marsch was feeling it now, and introduced leading scorer Erling Braut Haland. The youngster took advantage of half-effort stuff from Van Dijk and Joe Gomez to make it 3-3.

The Reds turned to their stars to deliver the victory, as Mane’s backheel to Salah turned into a partially cleared cross. Firmino soon flicked Salah on goal for 4-3 and Liverpool’s first points of the tournament.

Premier League most underrated XI

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On Twitter, we asked Premier League fans to submit their choice for most underrated player in the English top flight right now. There were a host of fascinating answers, with plenty of different teams represented.

Tottenham and Liverpool players appeared a lot, not surprising given they reached the Champions League final but have just a handful of true superstars on the roster, with Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino preferring to put together a squad that plays as a greater whole than the sum of its parts.

So, with that in mind, we thought we should take it one step further and put together a full-blown starting XI of underrated Premier League players.

While putting these together, obviously being just five matches, prior seasons are of course taken into account, but this season’s early performances are also heavily weighed. Behold, our most underrated players all together in one squad. How well would these lineups perform in the league?

Our Premier League Underrated XI’s

Kyle Bonn: [ ]

Kasper Schmeichel

Ricardo PereiraJoel MatipWilly BolyLucas Digne

Declan Rice — Ruben Neves —

— Emiliano Buendia — James MaddisonHeung-Min Son

Roberto Firmino —

Nicholas Mendola: [ ]

Bernd Leno

Aaron Wan-Bissaka — Willy Boly — Tyrone Mings — Ricardo Pereira —

Harry WinksFabinho

— Heung-Min Son — James Maddison — Felipe Anderson

Callum Wilson

Daniel Karell: [ ]

Angus Gunn

Matt DohertyMaya YoshidaYerry MinaPatrick Van Aanholt

Todd CantwellManuel LanziniJack GrealishRyan Fraser

— Callum Wilson — Raul Jimenez —

The highlights

Heung-Min Son was probably the most often mentioned name in our Twitter question, and so he earns a spot on two of the lineups. A number of Liverpool players also cropped up, and Bonn responded with the inclusion of do-it-all striker Roberto Firmino and defender Joel Matip, who often finds himself in Virgil Van Dijk‘s shadow but has risen from injury substitute to regular starter.

Also appearing twice are Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson, Wolves center-back Willy Boly, Leicester City midfielder James Maddison, and Foxes full-back Ricardo Peirera. Otherwise, the writers all went in their own directions!

Jack Grealish is mentioned on Karrell’s list, and he has already proven a divisive topic amongst our writers. Mendola included Reds midfielder Fabinho while also singing the praises of West Ham attacker Felipe Anderson who is doing his best to make up for the departure of Marko Arnautovic. The Hammers also appear on Karrell’s lineup with Manuel Lanzini, who owns two assists on the young season. Many folks may still be learning Emiliano Buendia’s name, but the young Argentine has been the brains behind Teemu Pukki‘s breakout season at the head of the Norwich attack.

Manchester United full-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka is mentioned, although is he really underrated after moving for $60 million this summer? Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves could lay claim to the label as the best player outside the Premier League top six clubs, although Declan Rice might claim he’s not even the best midfielder. Who is a bang-on starter for your most underrated Premier League squad?

Liverpool overcomes early blip, dominates Newcastle

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Sadio Mane scored twice as Liverpool overcame an early concession to continue its brilliant start to the Premier League season with a 3-1 win over Newcastle United at Anfield.

Roberto Fimino set up Mohamed Salah for Liverpool’s third goal, as the Reds look very ready for their trip to Napoli to start the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday.

The Reds are the fourth team to win 14-straight top flight matches in English history.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Jetro Willems scored a terrific 7th minute goal for Newcastle, which was unable to produce another goal despite a gilt-edged chance for Emil Krafth.

Liverpool is now 5-0, the only perfect team in the league, while Newcastle’s four points through five matches have them above the drop zone for now.


Three things we learned

  1. Soothed, soothed Sadio — Mane’s two goals came in very Mane fashion; The drama of last match week behind him, the Senegalese winger curled a powerful shot home for his first goal, and put off Dubravka with his pace and industry to produce an easier second. This will be exactly what Liverpool wanted: A quick cleansing of whatever residue was left by his very public displeasure with Mohamed Salah, although it is a little bit of an eyebrow raiser that they didn’t celebrate together much over the course of three goals.
  2. Almiron absent — There were not too many signs that Miguel Almiron’s Paraguay goal, his first in 27 appearances for club and country, snapped him out of his slump. Over 67 minutes, the ex-Atlanta United man continued his PL struggles: 64 percent passing, just one successful dribble, and 30 total touches.
  3. Firmino the Man — It’s not often a first half sub makes the opposition feel worse about its chances, but the game changed when Roberto Firmino entered the match for injured Divock Origi. He created a few beautiful moments, none better than the dizzying assist to Salah.


[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Newcastle took a shock lead with a vicious counter attack, Christian Atsu getting behind the back line to collect a long ball before playing Willems into the box for a thunderous shot.

It was all Liverpool going forward, and Jamaal Lascelles was very fortunate not to have conceded a penalty for a foul of Joel Matip in the box.

Mane made it 1-1 within moments, as Liverpool finally got its first shot on target. Andy Robertson fed Mane for a rocket of his own in the 28th minute, as Jonjo Shelvey could not catch up with the Senegalese star.

An Atsu giveaway sent the ball and Mane toward goal, and Martin Dubravka failed to collect the ball with a slide as Mane leapt over him. The striker was there to tap home the loose ball.

Georginio Wijnaldum nearly scored a sensational goal in the 49th minute when he used the outside of his boot to nearly writhe a shot around Dubravka.

Great work from Atsu was nearly redemptive for the score line, as Emil Krafth couldn’t settle the cross and could not take advantage of a slow-to-react Virgil Van Dijk.

The Reds could’ve put it to bed twice in the next five minutes, Firmino unable to head an Alexander-Arnold cross past Dubravka and Robertson missing wide from an acute angle.

Firmino’s assist on Salah’s goal was magnificent, and the match was over with 17 minutes to play.

Liverpool all class in dispatch of Burnley

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Liverpool doesn’t need help to score goals, so Burnley’s decision to give them the ball in dangerous place didn’t help matters in a 3-0 win for the Premier League leaders on Saturday at Turf Moor.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Roberto Firmino had a goal and an assist, Sadio Mane scored, to join a Trent Alexander-Arnold cross that turned into a Chris Wood own goal.

The Reds enter the international break as the PL’s lone perfect team, finally collecting a clean sheet in the process. They’ve won 13-straight league games and are unbeaten in 21.

Burnley isn’t usually as easy to beat as this, and Sean Dyche will have a word for his men after a loss that was far too straight-forward for the Reds.


Three things

  1. The high press kills even when it’s not pressing hard — Burnley’s awful giveaways gave the Reds chance after chance, and Firmino’s cool feed of Mane for an even cooler finish was birthed by the Liverpool attack’s positioning high up the pitch. Yeah, Firmino is a center forward and will normally be in a position in any formation, but the goal is simply our example of a phenomenon which could’ve seen the Reds up several after 45 minutes
  2. Firmino the straw that stirs the drink — Mohamed Salah is the irreplaceable part of the Liverpool trident and Sadio Mane perhaps the fan’s favorite, but its Brazilian center forward is a special part of the club’s force. Firmino became the first Brazilian player to score 50 Premier League goals when he belted a shot through a Burnley defender’s legs to make it 3-0 in the 81st. Goal, assist, win.
  3. Fabinho is a special wrecker — When the Brazilian arrived from Monaco, there were some worries about his yellow card record. Fabinho has proven to be far more than a hatchet man, and looks even calmer now that Klopp has made him a mainstay in the XI.

Man of the Match: Fabinho


Both sides had chances in the first five minutes, with Chris Wood unable to convert for Burnley and keeper Nick Pope touching Mohamed Salah’s smash off the post at the other end.

Lively Salah thought he had Pope beaten when Jordan Henderson picked out the Egyptian with a gorgeous ball from the right, but the ball popped just wide of the far post.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Liverpool fooled Pope when Trent Alexander-Arnold’s accidental goal took a big turn off Chris Wood’s back and looped over the keeper. The expert crosser watched his would be cross fly over a flailing Pope to nestle into the top corner.

Mane made it 2-0 when Ben Mee gave the ball away to Roberto Firmino, who spotted the Senegalese star for a super cool finish.