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League Cup preview: Liverpool reserves look to advance

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The League Cup quarterfinals arrive this week with one of the most bizarre circumstances surrounding the round’s first match.

Liverpool, or a Liverpool XI, will travel to Aston Villa on Tuesday. However, this Liverpool team will be devoid of stars like Sadio Mane and Mo Salah, since the main squad is at the 2019 Club World Cup in Qatar. The Liverpool first team plays on Wednesday against CONCACAF champion Monterrey at the Club World Cup.

[READ: Club World Cup semifinal preview]

Instead, we’ll get to see the next generation of Liverpool stars along with a possible sprinkling of veterans, such as Dejan Lovren. England youth international Rhian Brewster is a game-time decision after he undergoes a fitness test, but the majority of this side will come from Liverpool’s U-23s.

While Liverpool is forced into a reserve side, it is huge test against an Aston Villa side that will be desperate for a win. Coming up from the Championship, it will be a huge success for Aston Villa if it can even make the League Cup final.

Elsewhere, Duncan Ferguson reportedly takes on his final game in charge of Everton as it hosts high-flying Leicester City. Jamie Vardy had his eight-game goalscoring streak snapped over the weeked, so should he play, you can expect him to find the scoresheet again. Meanwhile, for Everton, it could be a first match for their new coach – Carlo Ancelotti? – to watch from the stands.

The two Manchester clubs have little to gain and all to lose as they take on lower-league clubs at this stage of the competition.

Manchester United hosts League Two Colchester United, while Manchester City travels to League One’s Oxford United.

Chelsea signs Tomori to new 5-year deal

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Chelsea center back Fikayo Tomori has a new five-year contract with the club.

The 21-year-old has a goal and an assist in 16 matches across all competitions, though he’s spent the past two Premier League outings on the bench.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Tomori joined Chelsea at age 7. He made his Premier League debut 11 years later in the 2016 season finale versus Leicester City.

The Canadian-born back averages 2.3 tackles per game, with 1.7 interceptions, and 2.6 clearances in Premier League action this season.

From ChelseaFC.com:

“The club has been so good to me, looking after and developing me during that time into the player and the person I am today. It’s a dream come true to sign a new five-year contract. I’m really happy the club have shown this faith in me and I’m just excited to carry on.”

Tomori is a full England international after loan stints with Brighton and Hove Albion, Hull City, and Derby County. The latter stop found him under Frank Lampard, and certainly didn’t hurt his opportunity to shine when both arrived at Chelsea this season.

Chelsea has four strong, young center backs in Tomori, Kurt Zouma (25), Andreas Christensen (23), and Antonio Rudiger (26). Christensen and Rudiger are signed through the 2021/22 season, while Zouma’s deal goes one season longer than the duo.

Report: Liverpool favorites to sign Jadon Sancho

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Jadon Sancho could be on the move sooner than we think.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

A report from Norwegian journalist, and former Premier League striker, Jan Aage Fjortoft  from Viasat claims that Sancho wants to leave Borussia Dortmund in January and he says that current Premier League leaders and European champions Liverpool are favorites to sign him.

That has led to #Sancho2020 trending on Twitter as Liverpool fans are having a moment, just as they did when reports a few months ago linked Kylian Mbappe with a move to Anfield.

As for Sancho, the England international, 19, has excelled at Borussia Dortmund over the last 18 months but after he was hauled off by BVB coach Lucien Favre in the first half of a humbling defeat at Bayern Munich last month, then criticized by his coach, Sancho’s future has come into discussion once again after previous fallings out with the hierarchy at Dortmund.

On the pitch he continues to deliver as he scored in Dortmund’s win at Hertha Berlin on Saturday, in their UEFA Champions League defeat a Barcelona last week and against Paderborn before that, as those goals added to two assists in his last five games for the German giants.

Sancho has a host of Europe’s top clubs forming a not so orderly queue to sign him, with Man United, Barcelona, Chelsea and PSG all heavily linked with a move for the teenage sensation.

It is expected that Sancho would cost over $130 million, and Dortmund have previously admitted he won’t be with them for much longer, but do Liverpool need to strengthen in the attacking midfield/wing areas?

Nope. But what was it Sir Alex Ferguson always said about adding new players when you’re in a position of strength…

Sancho would no doubt provide serious competition to Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino for a starting spot right away, but if you look at Klopp’s options after those three, things start to get pretty thin.

Divock Origi is the next man up and aside from his legendary status among Liverpool fans, will he strike fear into the hearts of opponents if he replace one of the aforementioned trio? Probably not. After Origi there is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who can play in a wide role, then teenagers Rhian Brewster and Curtis Jones are up and Xherdan Shaqiri is around but often an injury doubt.

Liverpool are stacked in the defense and midfield but the front three have been so good and have largely remained injury free that they haven’t had to worry about their attack.

Sancho’s arrival could also suggest that one of Mane or Salah may move on in 2020 as both have been linked with moves to Real Madrid in the past. Having Sancho come in to replace them would be ideal, but a move in January seems unlikely.

But maybe Liverpool will want to get in ahead of the competition in January to sign the former Watford and Man City product before he excels at EURO 2020 for England and his transfer value skyrockets. Right now Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford are ahead of Sancho in the England pecking order but the Dortmund winger is pushing them all the way and seems to be a perfect fit for the way Liverpool play. His pace and trickery is a combination of Salah and Mane and at such a young age he has delivered at Dortmund and is starting to for England.

For Liverpool to stay on top, they need to be ruthless and strengthen their squad even when it looks like they don’t need to. Moves like this are when a great team starts to feel like a dynasty is on the way.

Wayne Rooney begins player-coach stint at Derby County

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DERBY, England (AP) Former England captain Wayne Rooney was given a rousing reception before taking his place among Derby County’s coaching staff for the first time at the start of his 18-month stint as player-coach at the second-tier English club.

[ MORE: Mourinho praises “phenomenal” Dele Alli, Spurs supporters ]

Rooney watched from the dugout as 14th-place Derby drew with Queens Park Rangers 1-1 at Pride Park on Saturday.

England’s all-time leading scorer, who is not eligible to play until January, had his name chanted by Derby fans when he was introduced to supporters on the field before kickoff. He applauded in reply.

Rooney left Major League Soccer side DC United in October.

EURO 2020 draw: Group F a nightmare with Germany, France, Portugal

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Germany, France, and Portugal have been drawn into a nightmare Group F at EURO 2020, while England will meet World Cup runners-up Croatia in group play.

Groups A and B are known in full, with Italy, Switzerland, Turkey, and Wales in the former and Belgium, Russia, Denmark, and Finland in the latter.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Four spots remain in play between Groups C, D, E, and F, as 16 teams will contest the playoffs this Spring.

The winner of the playoff path C, contested by Norway, Serbia, Scotland, and Israel, will join Group F.

What do you think?

Group A
Italy
Switzerland
Turkey
Wales

Group B
Belgium
Russia
Denmark
Finland

Group C
Ukraine
Netherlands
Austria
(Playoff winner path D/A – Romania, Georgia, Belarus, North Macedonia, Kosovo)

Group D
England
Croatia
Czech Republic
(Playoff winners path C – Norway, Serbia, Scotland, Israel)

Group E
Spain
Poland
Sweden
(Playoff winners path B – Ireland, Slovakia, Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Group F
Germany
France
Portugal
(Playoff winners path A/D – Bulgaria, Finland, Iceland, Georgia, Belarus, North Macedonia, Kosovo)