Roberto

Sokratis calls it “easier” to defend Liverpool than Burnley

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Arsenal has not fared well at Anfield the last few years, not at all. In fact, the Gunners haven’t shown up against the Reds at all the past two seasons, shipping 13 goals in their last four meetings with Liverpool, and 15 goals in their last four trips to Anfield.

Which made the words out of the mouth of Arsenal defender Sokratis about defending Liverpool even more surprising.

Following 2-1 win over Burnley this past weekend, Sokratis compared playing the Clarets to playing defending Champions League winners Liverpool, whom Arsenal visits this coming weekend. “It is a different game,” Sokratis said. “Maybe it is more easy, because you don’t have to fight a lot, but they also play football.”

Play football they certainly do. Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and Roberto Firmino have all scored each of the last two times the Gunners visited Anfield, resulting in 5-1 and 4-0 drubbings. So…how does that figure to “more easy?”

“If they are on good day and you are having a bad day, it is hard,” Sokratis admitted. “In the end, we know that it is difficult and we respect Liverpool a lot. But I think the best [way] is to go and play our style of game. We will see what happens.”

When asked specifically about last season’s lopsided result, Sokratis believes that was a rare occurance. “The 5-1 last season…it was not the game to take five goals – [there was] the penalty kicks, we made mistakes,” he said. “I think this year will be different, but we have to improve of course from the work we do with the coach and his staff.”

Arsenal will have to avoid the mistakes this time around if they want to find an important three points. Even a draw would be helpful in the Gunners’ quest to attain Champions League qualification for the first time in four years. Sokratis would be wise not to take the Reds lightly.

La Liga roundup: 10-man Real Madrid hold off Celta in season opener

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Spain’s top flight is back, and here’s a roundup of all of Saturday’s action.

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Celta Vigo 1-3 Real Madrid

If Real Madrid and Barcelona are, again, going to battle toe-to-toe for La Liga, consider the former team to have a head start.

Hours after Barca got the Aritz Aduriz treatment, Real Madrid – playing with 10 men for more than 40 minutes – took care of business, calmly beating Celta Vigo behind goals from Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos and Lucas Vasquez. Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric was sent off for a straight red in the 54th minute, while Gareth Bale, who stole headlines this summer after being rumored to leave time and time again, started and played 75 minutes.

Despite not having control of possession, the quality from Zinedine Zidane’s men was too much for Ruben Blanco. For instance, just look at Kroos’ strike from distance:

Celta, on the other hand, had a goal disallowed by VAR right before halftime, but still managed to spoil Thibaut Courtois‘ clean  in the dying minutes when Iker Losada, 18, scored two minutes after taking the field.

Valencia 1-1 Real Sociedad

Four minutes into stoppage time, Kevin Gameiro had the picture-perfect opportunity to record a brace and seal three points for Valencia in their first showing of the new campaign.

In front of an anxious Mestalla, he missed.

And just six minutes later, in the final breathe of the match, Mikel Oyarzabal did what Gameiro failed to do: convert from the spot. The rumored Manchester City target was influential all match and, in the end, rewarded with a goal.

A tough pill to swallow, Valencia will now look to earn their first win against Celta Vigo, while Sociedad next stop in their three-game road trip to start the season is Mallorca.

Villareal 4-4 Granada 

It wasn’t the matchup the majority had circled on their calendars, but Villareal and Granda’s 4-4 draw proved to be the most entertaining game on Saturday. A pair of penalties and an own goal were a few of the goals that made up the eight-goal frenzy.

Santi Carzorla – looking healthier than ever before – opened things up from the spot 35 minutes in. In the 75th minute, another familiar face, Roberto Soldado, put Granada a goal away from the home side. Shortly after, in the 81st minute, Antonio Puertas bagged Granada’s fourth and the night’s final goal.

An eight-goal match in such fashion will be hard to top on Sunday, that’s for sure.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Leganes 0-1 Osasuna

RCD Mallorca 2-0 Eibar

What we learned from a crazy PL Saturday

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Breathe. Take a walk outside. Put your arms above your head and try to drink in what you’ve actually seen today.

It is only Matchweek 2, but few Premier League days will match this.

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Saturday’s games delivered high drama with VAR outrage, howlers, stunning goals and intense battles playing out.

Below is what we learned from a wild seven games across the league.


VAR DRAMA MARS MAN CITY, SPURS CLASH

Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur played out a gripping, enthralling 2-2 draw, but it was marred by VAR at the death. Gabriel Jesus‘ late winner for City was ruled out for a handball on Aymeric Laporte, which enraged Pep Guardiola and delighted Mauricio Pochettino. Man City dominated the game and Spurs had two shots on target and scored with both of them. City will have a bitter taste in their mouth, especially after the late VAR drama against Spurs in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal second leg last season. Pochettino said he is “in love with VAR” and Guardiola said it “needs to be fixed” as it is too subjective. The VAR debate will rumble on, as the ball clearly hit Laporte on the arm but many will have a bad taste in their mouths at the way it impacts the outcomes of games.


GUARDIOLA, AGUERO FALL OUT

Man City’s all-time leading goalscorer was not happy, at all, after being subbed out in the second half of their game against Spurs. He and Guardiola went at it, with words being said, fingers pointed and both had to be separated.

With tensions bubbling under the surface for years over Aguero’s playing style in a Pep side, this looked a lot more personal.

In the coming weeks we will find out just how damaging this public spat will be for both Guardiola and Aguero, as City may be starting to feel the pressure.


LIVERPOOL SHAKE OFF RUST

Liverpool edged by Southampton 2-1 at St Mary’s on Saturday and it was a really strange game. Saints started well and given Liverpool’s 120 minutes against Chelsea for the Super Cup final in Istanbul on Wednesday, it was expected that they’d start sluggishly. But when they kicked through the gears around half time they tore Saints apart with Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino leading the charge. Adrian’s late howler gifted Saints a way back into the game and Danny Ings should have scored his and Saints’ second to snatch an unlikely draw. Liverpool held on and after the travel week they’ve had, Jurgen Klopp was a happy man at the final whistle. Two wins from two for the Reds, and they’ve been far from their best as their stars recover from busy summer tournaments.


PUKKI READY TO STAR FOR NORWICH

Teemu Pukki has four goals in his first two games as a Premier League player. Those questioning whether or not the Finnish striker could translate his form from the Championship to the PL are now having a long hard look at themselves in the mirror. Pukki scored a hat trick in Norwich’s 3-1 win against Newcastle and the first was a stunner. After his spells with Sevilla, Schalke and Celtic, Pukki has finally arrived in the big time and his clinical finishing will be a theme of the season. Norwich have been written off by plenty of teams and the way they hammered Newcastle suggests the Canaries will be well clear of the relegation scrap.


ARSENAL, CEBALLOS CLICKING THROUGH THE GEARS 

Arsenal’s attacking unit now has a deep playmaker as Dani Ceballos starred in their win over Burnley. Ceballos is the perfect replacement for Aaron Ramsey and he not only created chances but worked back defensively. He is the perfect player for Unai Emery to build his attack around. Of course, Aubameyang and Lacazette (who both scored) are stars who can finish, while Nicolas Pepe looked bright off the bench as Arsenal’s attacking options will feel their rivals with serious envy. At the back they had some issues dealing with Burnley’s direct style as David Luiz took a few unecessary risks and Bernd Leno flapped at a few crosses, but overall two wins from two is a very good start for the Gunners. Now come the real tests as they head to Liverpool and host Tottenham in their next two games. Lets see how good the Gunners really are.


Bonus: Harry Wilson and Douglas Luiz scored screamers in a 2-1 win for Bournemouth at Aston Villa. You need to see them.

Liverpool edge past Saints in wild clash

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Liverpool rallied to beat Southampton 2-1 at St Mary’s on Saturday in a wild encounter on the South Coast.

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Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino scored for Liverpool, while Danny Ings scored a crazy goal late on for Saints after a Adrian howler as they set up a pulsating finish.

Ings then whiffed on a glorious chance to make it 2-2 as Liverpool held on for the win.

The wins sees Liverpool make it two from two before they face Arsenal next time out, while Saints have lost their first two games of the season before heading to Brighton.


4 things we learned

1. Red-hot Sadio Mane the difference: He scored a stunner for the first goal, won the ball back for the second and forced Gunn into a brilliant stop from his header and set up Andrew Robertson with an audacious back heel. Mane was the difference and even though he returned late from the Africa Cup of Nations, he looks as a fresh as a daisy.

2. Saints’ defensive issues persist: Southampton were their own worst enemies. They gave Mane too much space for the first goal and then needlessly tried to play out of the back for the second. Saints have brought in Kevin Danso but he didn’t make his debut and moving forward they need to stop silly defensive errors if they’re going to push away from another relegation scrap.

3. Liverpool shake off the rust, just: Jurgen Klopp will not be happy with this display overall. Liverpool turned it on at the start of the second half and almost tore Saints apart, but Adrian’s howler epitomized a shaky display and the Reds were lucky to leave with all three points.

4. Danny Ings should have been the hero: He jumped off the bench to score against his former club and he should have scored a second. Ings whiffed on a great cross from Yan Valery just after he had made it 2-1 and his anger was clear. Ings was left on the bench and came on and made a point, curling just over with another glorious effort. If he stays fit, he is still Saints’ biggest hope of finishing towards the top 10.

Man of the Match: Sadio Mane – Outrageous goal, lovely flicks and tricks and truly showed up against his former club. Wonderful showing from the Senegalese winger.


Saints started well as Che Adams almost nipped in front of Adrian and the goalkeeper then had his clearance blocked by James Ward-Prowse.

At the other end Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain dragged a shot just wide, while Adrian made a fine save to deny Maya Yoshida from close range.

Southampton continued to cause Liverpool problems as Ryan Bertrand‘s cross was pushed away by Adrian and Yan Valery couldn’t finish. Mohamed Salah smashed over on the break as Liverpool struggled to get going in the first half.

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Che Adams nodded just over from inside the six yard box but the home team were then made to pay. Mane was given an extra yard in the box and curled home a stunner against his former club to put Liverpool ahead right on half time.

In the second half Angus Gunn came up with a huge save to deny Salah, who was clean through, while Saints continued to press hard for a way back into the game.

On the break Liverpool were rampant as Mane’s cross found Firmino but the Brazilian striker flicked his effort inches wide of the far post. Danny Ings jumped off the bench and curled inches over the bar as the former Liverpool forward came so close to an equalizer.

Firmino then made it 2-0 up the win as Mane won the ball back and the Brazilian cut inside and finished low. Gunn then denied both Mane and Robertson (the latter was denied after an audacious back heel from Mane) as Liverpool ended the game on fire.

However, Adrian then gifted Saints a way back into the game as he played the ball against Ings who slotted home to make it 2-1. Moments later Ings missed a glorious chance as Yan Valery played him in inside the six-yard box but the former Liverpool man couldn’t handle the bobble and flicked it wide.

Premier League Preview: Southampton v. Liverpool

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Whoever is in goal for Liverpool, Southampton has a mighty task ahead of itself at St. Mary’s on Saturday (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Liverpool was already without Alisson Becker when Adrian was injured in a freak accident after the UEFA Super Cup Final, though the Spaniard may be set to play. If he cannot go, it’ll be a Premier League debut for 35-year-old Danny Lonergan.

Let’s face it: It’s more rational for Southampton to hope the Reds are just a little weary after a busy week.

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Kevin “Futty” Danso looks set to debut at center back against Liverpool, the youngster arriving from Augsburg at the end of the transfer window.

That’s quite a challenge against a front three while may well be Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, and Mohamed Salah.

Thing is, the score line may not be as bad as Saints’ first outing. Southampton was dominated by Burnley in a 3-0 nightmare at Turf Moor.


Projected lineups

Southampton: Gunn; Valery, Vestergaard, Bednarek, Danso, Bertrand, Romeu, Ward-Prowse, Redmond, Ings, Adams.

Liverpool: Alisson, Robertson, Gomez, Van Dijk, Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Keita, Mane, Firmino, Salah


What they’re saying

Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl after canceling a day off: “To invest time in my job is normal because we are in the Premier League where we play against the best teams in the world and the only chance to be successful against these teams is to do more than they do. If you do more than they do then you have the chance to be successful.”

Liverpool’s James Milner on playing under exuberant Klopp“He’s on the side and he’s bouncing around; he wants to be out there. That energy’s big for us when we’re down. He seems to judge it right in terms of when to put an arm round the shoulder after a game, if we haven’t played well or something. He knows what to say at half-time, of if you need a rocket he’ll give you that as well.”


Prediction

Danso is a bit of a wild card here. The 20-year-old Austrian is a remarkable talent, but it’s baptism-by-fire against Liverpool. Something tells us the Saints surprise, especially with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg returning to action. That surprise is just a tight game, though, with Liverpool emerging with a 2-1 win.