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In the Mixed Zone: Liverpool v. Man United

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LIVERPOOL — To make sure you have every angle covered for the marquee Premier League games, our new feature “In the Mixed Zone” will take you behind-the-scenes and into the tunnel areas to hear from the star players moments after their magic has decided games or drama has ensued.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

The idea is to set the scene of being inside the tunnel area in Old Trafford, by the dugouts at Stamford Bridge and in the swanky new players area in Tottenham Hotspur’s stadium as Premier League stars walk out of the dressing room and break down the game with media members around the world.

We will tell you what they are saying and what kind of antics are going on amid the hubbub of the mixed zone as players from both teams have their say on the 90-plus minutes of action we’ve just witnessed.

[ MORE: Rashford injury update

Here’s the scene from deep inside Anfield in the hour or so after the full time whistle blew between Liverpool and Manchester United as the Reds won 2-0 and now sit 16 points clear, with a game in hand, at the top of the Premier League table.

Safe to say one set of players was more keen to stop and chat with us than the other…


6:35 p.m. (local time): Mixed zone open as Virgil Van Dijk is shown on the TV screens speaking to Jamie Carragher preaching “one game at a time” for Liverpool’s title push. Come on, Virgil. Start picking your suit out for the big celebration in May. More from Virgil later on in the mixed zone as he stops to speak with Pro Soccer Talk…

6:42: A Liverpool legend is hanging around the press room. His assessment of the game and Liverpool’s dominance over Man United? “The perch is looking very strong again…” Liverpool’s 19th title, one short of United’s record 20, is in reach.

6:45: The pitch-side monitor for VAR is rolled out by one man, who is crouching over. Not used today, and only used once across the 229 Premier League games so far. What a lonely, lonely job setting up that equipment most be…

6:47: Okay, here come the lads. First up, a coupe of Brazilian midfielders are talking. Fred and Fabinho hug each other then speak to Brazilian TV. Fred has his shirt in a bag, Fabinho has his suitcase on wheels with a No.3 luggage label on it. Fred’s sneakers have some fancy metals studs on the back of it. Fred was Man United’s best player.

6:55: “USA, USA!” Liverpool’s American owner John W. Henry and his wife Linda Pizzuti wander past us and then disappear through a side door. More from them to come.

 

7:02: Man United’s players keep trudging through. Local lads Mason Greenwood, Jesse Lingard and Brandon Williams are all downbeat as they trudge through. Aaron Wan-Bissaka is not far behind with his headphones on and hood up.

7:05: Hello. The referees now roll through. Craig Pawson looks like a deer in the headlights, which seems to be his default look. Fourth official Jon Moss looks far from delighted.

7:06: Owner John W. Henry is back and he and his wife greet the assembled media. One journalists asks “How many games do you reckon, John?” in reference to how many games until Liverpool win the title. His response while wearing a wry smile: “There are 16 games left, right?” The billionaire from Illinois has played this game before…

7:09: Man United’s players are now coming through at a rapid rate as captain Harry Maguire gves it a simple “not today, mate” when asked for an interview.

7:15: Andy Robertson stops to speaks to us and during his interview Ole Gunnar Solskjaer walks out of the main press conference and pats him back. They then shake hands. Lot of mutual respect there. As for Robertson on the game: “We had so many chances we could have put this game out of sight. A really good performance from us but luckily Mo just topped it off at the end and we could relax for 20 seconds. Today, looking back at the game there is room for big improvement. Some of the stuff we did was excellent. I thought our midfield three were different class today and ran the game and that was so important. We were a wee bit sloppy in possession, particularly me in the first half, a few of the balls went out. But we got the goal and I think the goal that got disallowed was a bit soft but that’s football. We started the second half really well, we had them pinned back and it looked like a matter of time until we got the goal. But when you don’t get the goal Man United start to get a bit of confidence from that and we should have killed them off in that moment, but we did in the end.”

7:17: Robertson asked about Liverpool edging closer to winning a first title in 30 years: “We are not getting carried away. Until the champions sign is above our head we don’t believe anything because, yeah, it is a comfortably lead, 16 points, but we know how tough this league is. We beat Man United and then we go away to Wolves who are flying and it is an incredibly tough game. We know in a couple of weeks the table can change. It is up to us to stay 100 percent focus and not allow that to happen.”

7:20: Brazilian TV sum up what Fred said to them earlier: “We should have taken our chances” was his assessment of Man United, who somehow hung in there until the 90th minute. To be fair, United did have one or two glorious chances.

7:23: Virgil van Dijk stops for a chat as we ask him about the fans finally chanting “We’re going to win the league!” and if he agrees with that sentiment. Safe to say VVD isn’t getting carried away.

Focusing on Liverpool’s display against Man United, was this about staying focused as they dominated but didn’t score a second until stoppage time?

“Obviously we want to score more goals. We had quite some opportunities to make it easier but in the end you need to find a way to win a game. We defended a little bit deeper at times because they kept pressing, they kept players up and you need to find a way and we did but we could have made it easier.”

As for his goal, the Dutchman towered above Man United’s Harry Maguire and Brandon Williams to head home the opener to set the tone for a dominant win. Did Liverpool target United on set pieces?

“Obviously every game we try to look at the set-pieces to score. We have players that can be very dangerous including myself but it is not always easy and today I think it was a perfect set-piece. We wanted to target the near post and happy to be very important.”

7:28: James Milner and Adam Lallana then walk through in different directions with their kids. Lallana’s kid in full kit. Good effort. Maybe Lallana Jr. was almost on the bench for the FA Cup win against Everton a few weeks ago…

7:30: Okay, all of the pllayers have gone home. Cameras are turned off. The Mixed Zone is closed.

Lampard calls for Chelsea to finish chances: ‘We know where we need to strengthen’

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Chelsea’s dramatic last-gasp loss to Newcastle United was, in a way, a blessing in disguise for Frank Lampard and company.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The Blues conceded their first first loss since Boxing Day, dropping crucial points in the league’s top-four race. With plenty of chances to score at hand, the visit to St. James’ Park is one of sheer frustration.

But at the same time, the London side learned an invaluable lesson: Chelsea are in dire need of a new striker before the January transfer window comes to a close. Chelsea registered 19 shots (4 on target) on Saturday but squandered most, while Newcastle’s netminder Martin Dúbravka did his job and saved a few.

“We know we have problems at the top of the pitch in terms of we don’t get enough goals,” Lampard said following his team’s 1-0 loss, via the BBC.
“If you don’t score you are always liable for a sucker punch and they got it.”

“If we are looking for people to bring in to the areas to win games when you are controlling it, it is scoring goals.”

From RB Leipzig’s Timo Werner to Lyon’s Moussa Dembele, Chelsea has been linked to a striker all winter long. With Olivier Giroud a signature away from sealing a move to Inter Milan, a replacement is necessary.

Sure, Tammy Abraham‘s return to Stamford Bridge is an outright success – 13 goals and two assists in 22 league appearances – but rotation is visibly needed. Michy Batshuayi replaced Abraham, but failed to show any promising signs. The 26-year-old has scored just once in 13 matches this season.

“We can’t work anymore in training on finishing,” the 41-year-old manager added. “You need to have that killer instinct in front of goal. We need to score more goals from front-line areas if we are going to get to where we want to be.”

Lampard gave no indicator that his side are on the brink of landing a new goalscorer up top. With the transfer window open for just 13 days, however, Chelsea are going to have to get intentional on their search.

“It’s quite clear from what I am saying now that we know where we need to strengthen but we shall see.”

Chelsea’s Lampard prepared to go without January signings

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Frank Lampard is not only prepared for, but almost seems to prefer that, Chelsea make no new signings this month despite the club’s transfer ban being reduced to allow the Blues to sign players in January.

[ MORE: Report: Bruno Fernandes to Man United after Lisbon Derby ]

It’s not that Lampard believes he has the perfect squad, but he fears upsetting the balance and good vibes for a young group of players who have performed admirably thus far. Signing players for the sake of signing players would be “a knee-jerk reaction,” according to Lampard — quotes from the Guardian:

“I don’t want to comment on those deals because I think it’s easy with hindsight. … I think the idea of January being a time to buy players, it’s difficult for everybody: for players coming in — especially if they’re coming from a different league — for the club and for the settlement of the group. I think that’s why we have to think ultra-carefully.

“I don’t want to make some knee-jerk reaction to say: ‘Here’s my first big signing’ because we couldn’t sign anyone in the summer. No, I want to do the right thing for the club. That’s why if I do it I’ll try to consider all things. Hopefully it’s the best thing for us. Whether that’s more of a short-term option or a long-term option, we’ll also have to consider.”

As for potential outgoing players, West Ham United reportedly made a bid to take midfielder Ross Barkley on loan, but Chelsea rejected the offer and have no intention of letting the player leave Stamford Bridge this month.

Premier League Preview: Newcastle United v. Chelsea

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Chelsea visits surprising Newcastle United in a marquee match Saturday at St. James’ Park (Watch Live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

The hosts have scrapped their way to 26 points, five points both clear of the drop zone and back of seventh place. A draw at Wolves last weekend snapped a three-match league losing streak.

Chelsea maintains a five-point gap over Manchester United in its bid to claim a Top Four place, with the Red Devils meeting unbeaten Liverpool this week. The Blues are seeking back-to-back league wins for the first time since Nov. 9.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Newcastle has had a fair bit of success against the big boys this season, beating Manchester United and Spurs while drawing Man City.

Christian Pulisic stole the ball en route to Marcos Alonso‘s late goal in a 1-0 win when the two sides met at Stamford Bridge in October.

Pulisic, of course, is still out injured for Chelsea and Lampard says the American could return near the club’s February break. Newcastle has electric winger Allan Saint-Maximin back in the fold after more than a month on the sidelines. Matt Ritchie and Jonjo Shelvey are also available.


Injuries/suspensions

Newcastle United: OUT — Paul Dummett, Dwight Gayle, DeAndre Yedlin, Fabian Schar, Jetro Willems, Javi Manquillo. QUESTIONABLE — DeAndre Yedlin, Yoshinori Muto.

Chelsea: OUT — Ruben Loftus-Cheek, N’Golo Kante, Pulisic. QUESTIONABLE — Marcos Alonso.


Probable lineups

Newcastle United: Dubravka; Willems, Clark, Lascelles, Fernandez, Ritchie; Hayden, Shelvey; Saint-Maximin, Joelinton, Almiron.

Chelsea: Arrizabalaga, Azpilicueta, Zouma, Rudiger, James; Jorginho, Willian, Mount, Kovacic, Hudson-Odoi; Abraham.


What they’re saying

Newcastle boss Steve Bruce on his meeting with owner Mike Ashley: “It went very well. We showed what we are trying to do, and he was fully supportive. We have plates spinning and hope to add to the squad by the end of the month. We have said that the targets have to improve us. He has been fully supportive of the remit. He agrees we buy quality not quantity. That has to be the mantra.”

Chelsea’s Frank Lampard on Newcastle’s many injuries: “It is still an opportunity, but this is vital. Every game brings challenges, going to Newcastle, the emotion of the crowd and they are an organized side. We won’t take it lightly. We have to take every game head-on. We don’t underestimate there. Bournemouth were down to the bare bones and we lost, it can bring out a different feeling. They have done very well and I don’t look at the bare bones.


Prediction

St. James’ Park has been a tough place to play, but the Blues shake off any travel to collect a 2-1 win over the Magpies.

Transfer rumor roundup: Young, Giroud to Inter Milan; Begovic to AC Milan

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s biggest transfer rumors, including those involving Premier League outfits.

[ MORE: Premier League January transfer needs ]

Manchester United’s Ashley Young and Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud are reportedly heading to San Siro, respectively.

Young, 34, has agreed to personal terms with the Italian giants, according to Sky Sports’ Fabrizio Romano.

Both teams will need to come to an agreement on the transfer before the move is made official. Just days ago, Manchester United offered Young a one-year deal, but the English veteran denied.

Giroud, too, is days away from making his switch out of Stamford Bridge official.

The Frenchman has a two-year contract on the table, with negotiations reportedly set to continue over the weekend. As of late, Giroud has fallen out of favor in Frank Lampard‘s pecking order.

Chelsea are expected to receive around a reported $7 million for the 33-year-old’s services.


With Pepe Reina set to join Aston Villa on Monday, AC Milan are looking for a quick replacement for the substitute role.

His name? Asmir Begovic. AC Milan have their sights set on Bournemouth’s goalkeeper as the desired replacement for the Spaniard, according to Sky Sports.


There has been a lot of talk on Christian Eriksen departing Tottenham, and it seems like it’s coming to an end.

According to Gazzetta dello Sport, the Danish star has reached a personal agreement to join Inter Milan on a four-year deal.

Spurs are looking to get $22 million for the midfielder, but Inter, who still need to reach an agreement with the English club, are expected to negotiate for less.


Donny van de Beek isn’t making a move to Manchester United – or elsewhere – just yet.

The 22-year-old midfielder declared on Saturday that he is staying at Ajax this winter amid links to United and real Madrid.

“It is not that I can or want to do something at the moment,” Van de Beek told Fox Sports Netherlands. “I have said it before and I will say it again: I will remain at Ajax this season. And maybe next season as well.

“These reports about Real Madrid or Man United are a good sign, but it is not important now,” he aded. “I’ve said I will stay at Ajax and I will do so 100 per cent.”


Gedson Fernandes may not be heading to West Ham after all.

Fernandes, 21, was reportedly on the verge of signing a 18-month loan deal with the Irons; however, last-minute interest from Spurs might send the midfielder to North London.