Roberto

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Transfer rumor roundup: Werner prefers Liverpool, Bentaleb to Newcastle

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Names both familiar and unfamiliar continue to be linked with moves to the Premier League as the January transfer window heats up.

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Earlier we posted about Edinson Cavani and Mbwana Samatta, but a younger prolific scorer is having a run through the rumor mill on Monday.

Bild reports that RB Leipzig free scorer Timo Werner’s preferred destination is a club in the Premier League managed by a famous German.

No, it’s not Daniel Farke‘s Norwich City, rather Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool (you gleaned that already, didn’t you?).

Klopp is a reportedly a long-time Werner admirer, and the 23-year-old’s $67 million release clause is not prohibitive for the Reds.

The move would seemingly have to wait until summer given Leipzig’s status as a Bundesliga table leader and Liverpool’s comfort with Roberto Firmino as its number one.

The 28-year-old Firmino has been  greatfor Liverpool, firing in 75 goals and 56 assists since 2015, but Werner is a beast. He’s bagged 86 goals and 37 assists since arriving from Stuttgart in 2016, including 20 goals and six assists this Bundesliga season through 18 matches.

There’s obviously no guarantee he’d reach Firmino’s levels, but watching him play makes it difficult to believe he wouldn’t.


Inter Milan has lodged a formal bid for Christian Eriksen, offering approximately $14 million for the wantaway Dane.

Spurs want $8 million more than that, but Inter is hoping that some performance-based incentives would be enough to get the job done.

The 27-year-old can negotiate with anyone since his contract runs out this summer, and he’ll be bringing a resume with 95 international caps and a combined 101 goals and 154 assists between Tottenham and Ajax.


Newcastle United is still chasing Valentino Lazaro of Inter Milan, but reports claim they’ve quickly moved on a target for the center of the park.

Nabil Bentaleb is reportedly on Tyneside for a medical, the ex-Spurs man finding a more attacking role at Schalke before being frozen out by new boss David Wagner.

Bentaleb, still just 25, has 19 goals and nine assists in 97 matches for Schalke after getting just one and six in 66 appearances for Spurs.

The 35-times capped Algerian, like Lazaro, would be a loan deal with an option to buy.


Finally, the BBC says Wolves are looking to strengthen its wings with $26 million Olympiacos man Daniel Podence.

The 24-year-old has five goals and five assists in 27 appearances for the Greeks, scoring against Spurs and Krasnodar in Champions League play.

The same report has Wolves looking to the future with 19-year-old Ecuadorian striker Leonardo Campana.

Player Ratings from Liverpool 2-0 Manchester United

Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images
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Liverpool might’ve needed a stoppage time goal to put Manchester United away, but the Reds outclassed their rivals on Sunday at Anfield.

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It was a righteous beatdown of the visitors, who were without Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford but looked more like a relegated-threatened side than one of the most successful clubs in football history.

[ MORE: JPW’s Three Things ]


Liverpool

Alisson — 9 — One of the world’s best gets an extra point for assisting Mohamed Salah‘s insurance goal.

Andy Robertson — 7 — Typical strength from the hard-working Scot.

Joe Gomez — 7

Virgil Van Dijk — 8 — Scored the decisive goal and was almost imperious at the back.

Trent Alexander-Arnold — 7

Georginio Wijnaldum — 7

Jordan Henderson — 8 — One of his best days in the shirt, winning numerous tackles and deprived of a delightful goal by De Gea.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Out 66′) — 7

Sadio Mane (Out 83′) — 5 — If he’s anywhere near his average self, he has a first half hat trick.

Mohamed Salah — 7 — Tied for a match-high shots with Mane, but had more of an edge and found a deserved goal late.

Roberto Firmino (Out 83′) — 7 — A game-high six dribbles to go with plenty of industry.

Subs 

Adam Lallana (66′) — 7

Divock Origi (83′) — N/A

Fabinho (83′) — N/A


Manchester United

David De Gea — 7 — An incredible save on Jordan Henderson on a day he had so little help.

Luke Shaw (Off 87′) — 5

Harry Maguire — 4 — Tried to do too much in his first match as full-time United captain.

Victor Lindelof — 4

Aaron Wan-Bissaka — 6 — One of few standouts on the day, with loads of energy and few ready to meet his level.

Brandon Williams (Out 75′) — 6

Nemanja Matic — 6

Fred — 7 — One of the few United players to bring effort and sharpness, but his shooting was off. Only Van Dijk attempted more passes.

Andreas Pereira (Out 75′) — 3 — Don’t let his ability to produce an edge of your seat moment detract from 16-of-26 passing and dreadful inconsistency.

Daniel James — 5

Anthony Martial — 4 — Blazed a perfect chance to tie the match over the bar, and effort wasn’t there.

Subs 

Juan Mata (In 75′) — N/A

Mason Greenwood (In 75′) — N/A

Diogo Dalot (In 87′) — N/A

Sarri sheds stubborn style at Juventus, finds success

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ROME — Maurizio Sarri must have learned something from those awful losses midway through last season at Chelsea, when he was getting ridiculed for stubbornly sticking with his highly technical passing system.

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Or from those near misses at Napoli, when his teams twice were on top at the league’s midpoint only to miss out on the title on both occasions.

Half a season into his tenure at Juventus, it’s often been difficult to discern traces of “Sarri-ball,” the style of mesmerizing short, vertical passes that boosted Sarri to prominence first at Empoli then at Napoli.

Yes, there were the now-famous 24 touches before Gonzalo Higuain’s winner against Inter Milan in October; but there was also a gritty 2-1 win at Roma on Sunday when Juventus stormed out to an early 2-0 lead then almost fell apart near the hour-mark before holding on for a potentially decisive victory that sent the Bianconeri two points clear at the top of Serie A.

After the game in Rome, Sarri was asked if he felt his current side plays like his previous teams.

“Well, according to the numbers, which are completely different from Juventus’ numbers last season, my answer is yes,” Sarri said. “But you’ve also got to respect your players’ characteristics. Either I coach by myself and I simply don’t care about my players’ characteristics or I (adapt) to them.

“This is a team which is not particularly brilliant from a physical point of view. They don’t have the characteristics that Napoli had in regard to the ability of moving the ball in close spaces. This is an incredibly strong team from other points of view.”

With the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo in attack plus Leonardo Bonucci and Matthijs de Ligt in defense, Juventus possesses more talent than any other squad that Sarri has coached.

“If with my Napoli we had defended in the last 25 meters for the last 25 minutes as we did tonight, we would have lost, that’s for sure,” Sarri said. “So, this team has different qualities and if I tried to re-do what I already did in other teams, I would be coaching myself, not the team.”

Another key difference from his previous teams is that Sarri now appears much more willing to rotate his players from game to game – unlike when he relied on the same starting 11 and same two or three substitutions for nearly every match with Napoli.

“At Napoli it was important to provide continuity,” Sarri said last week. “At Juve it’s totally different from my past experiences. Considering the quality of the players, when you change two or three of them it might change something in terms of individual characteristics but not much in terms of the playing philosophy.”

TEARS OF PAIN

Roma midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo cried on the pitch after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during the loss to Juventus.

The 20-year-old Zaniolo is considered Italy’s most talented young player and the injury will almost certainly rule him out of the Azzurri squad for this year’s European Championship.

Fortunately for Italy coach Roberto Mancini, midfield is the position where Italy is strongest. Marco Verratti and Jorginho have been consistent starters for the national team while other options include Lorenzo Pellegrini, Nicolo Barella, Stefano Sensi and Sandro Tonali.

LAZIO LEAVES IT LATE

Riding a club-record 10-match winning streak, Lazio’s ability to transform matches in the final minutes has been decisive.

Including Ciro Immobile’s 82nd-minute strike in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Napoli, Lazio has scored 13 of its 41 goals in the last quarter-hour of its matches – translating to six games won with late goals.

Aiming for its first Serie A title in two decades, Lazio is in third place, six points behind Juventus and four behind Inter Milan with a game in hand.

The Roman squad also recently won the Italian Super Cup with its second victory over Juventus this season.

Watford soars past miserable Bournemouth

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Abdoulaye Doucoure had a goal and an assist as Watford leapt out of the drop zone with a 2-0 win over Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium.

Troy Deeney and Roberto Pereyra also scored and Ismaila Sarr was a constant threat for the Hornets.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Watford has four wins inside of a five-match unbeaten run under Nigel Pearson and moves 17th with 22 points.

That’s two points better than the Cherries, who sit 19th with 20 points.


Three things we learned

1. Sarr shows what got him to Watford: Senegalese youngster Sarr has experienced in an uneven start to life in the Premier League, but there have been plenty of positives. Last season saw Sarr become a double-digit goal and assist man at Stade Rennais, earning a splashy move to the Hornets.

Sarr’s steal and terrific assist put Watford up 1-0, and he did the lion’s share of the lifting on the second. He entered the day with four goals and two assists in around 1000 minutes for Watford. At his best, Sarr is making himself a huge threat on the other side of Gerard Deulofeu (even if he looks dejected to come off in the 83rd minute).

2. Ice cold Wilson, snake bit Fraser killing Cherries: Callum Wilson had another rough outing to stretch a brutal run into mid-January. He finished a run of five goals in four Premier League matches on Sept. 28. His only goal or assist since that run came against Luton Town in the FA Cup last week. He had 15 and 10 last season.

Ryan Fraser is also struggling, though the effort and craft remain on display sans end product. Fraser was one of the few Cherries to show up on Sunday but has a goal and just three assists this season and nothing since Nov. 23. Last season? Eight and 15.

3. Deputy Travers gets no help : A minor injury suffered by 21-year-old Aaron Ramsdale led to an even younger starting goalkeeper for Bournemouth. Irish backstop Mark Travers got the call, his first PL match of the season after starting in all three of the Cherries’ cup outings. He kept a clean sheet against Spurs in his PL debut last season but then conceded five times in the season finale. It was more of the latter than the former in his two-save Sunday, as Travers gave the ball away a few touches before Watford’s opener.

Man of the Match: Doucoure, Sarr, Deeney, and Etienne Capoue were the standouts for Watford, and Doucoure was ready to go from Moment No. 1 to get our nod.


Ismaila Sarr raced down the right wing off a Bournemouth giveaway, but his touch put him out wide and his ball toward the back post was wide and absent receiver.

At the other end, a long Harry Wilson drive took two turns before Ben Foster recovered it to stifle the threat.

In-form Gerard Deulofeu forced a fine save out of young goalkeeper Mark Travers, who saw the ensuing corner nodded wide of the frame.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Bournemouth had plenty of the play, but Watford went ahead through a Travers giveaway quickly turned into a goal by Sarr and Doucoure.

The game lifted a bit for the Cherries upon the introduction of Philip Billing and Lewis Cook, but Deeney shut it down with an arrow into the back of the net following incredible work from Sarr.

Deulofeu led a break that ended with a Travers save of a Deeney bounded shot.

The Hornets put it to bed when Andre Gray saw his shot cleared off the line and Pereyra settled the rebound and slotted home.

Record breakers Liverpool: We can improve

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LONDON — The scary thing about this Liverpool side is that they think they can get a lot better.

After their 1-0 win at Tottenham they are 16 points clear at the top of the Premier League table with a game in hand. Their lead can be cut to 14 points tomorrow by Man City, but they’d still have a game in hand.

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Jurgen Klopp has created a ruthless, hungry, efficient winning machine. The German is used to things working like clockwork but it shouldn’t be this easy.

The victory means Liverpool are now on their longest unbeaten league run in club history (38 games) and they’ve had the best-ever start to a Premier League season through 21 games (20 wins and a draw) and the best start of any team in Europe’s top five leagues at this point of a campaign.

But Klopp and his players were a little reluctant to celebrate their ninth one-goal win of the Premier League season.

“We want to analyze the game and be much better, but three points is massive, especially here,” Virgil van Dijk told our partners Sky Sports. “We play Spurs who are a good side. They were in the Champions League final and that must still hurt for them and they will want to bounce back. Second half they pressed and made it difficult for us. The league lead gives us all a good feeling. But you see there is still room for improvement; We are in a good situation but there is work we can do to make it easier.”

Klopp was asked by reporters after the game about their record-breaking start to the season but he doesn’t want to dwell on it:  “I really tried to respond in a positive way, but when someone told me I didn’t feel anything.”

Liverpool’s manager and the players were happy at the end of the game as their juggernaut rumbles on. When asked by Pro Soccer Talk about Roberto Firmino’s superb man of the match display, Klopp said the first thing Firmino said to him after the game was that he should have scored more.

“First and foremost the result is the most important thing. One team deserved to win and that was us,” Klopp told Sky Sports. “To win at Tottenham is pretty special. That the game wasn’t decided after 50-60 minutes was our fault. It was very intense for us. You can expect them to defend deep in this stadium, but it was 4-6-0 in the first half. If it was easy to win here, a lot more teams would do it. I’m over the moon about the result, but we have to talk about the performance.

“We should have scored more goals – that’s the truth. We have to be honest with ourselves. We could have scored more and we have to – especially in this stadium against a team like Tottenham. We were on the ground towards the end and they were coming forward. The spell we’ve had, it costs you rhythm. In the second half a couple of our players were slightly exhausted, but we fought through that.”

When Spurs were piling forward late on, Klopp was furiously throwing his hands into the air and barking out orders to his team.

Liverpool are a ruthless winning machine who aren’t satisfied with scrapping through games. They did that against Tottenham on Saturday due to not taking their chances and Spurs badly missing the injured Harry Kane in the final third. But they still found a way to win.

That is why they will win the Premier League title this season and end their 30-year plus wait for the trophy.