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Napoli president accuses Roma and Liverpool of collusion

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Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis has never been one to hold back words, but this one’s quite the accusation. He thinks one of his chief Serie A rivals is in cahoots with a top Premier League side.

“I always had a suspicion that the real owner of Roma is the same as Liverpool, and if this were the case, the two clubs should not be allowed to play in the Champions League,” De Laurentiis said to La Gazetta dello Sport.

Both owners are American, with Liverpool owned by John Henry-led Fenway Sports Group and Roma held chiefly by Massachusetts-born James Palotta. It’s not surprising that De Laurentiis would think this, considering the roots of both men in close proximity. What is surprising is that he’d actually say it in public.

De Laurentiis said that “a little bird has told me a few years ago” that Henry and Palotta were secretly working together, and Napoli’s Italian rivals didn’t take kindly to that.

Roma responded vehemently, with the official Twitter account tweeting a quote from Palotta. “What do you think @ADeLaurentiis is smoking over there in Naples? If he finds that little bird again, he’ll find out we also own Barca and Bayern.”

Roma then released a quote from managing director Mauro Baldissoni, who said jokingly, “He [De Laurentiis] said that this was all suggested to him by a little bird. I don’t know who: I can only think that perhaps Aurelio is listening to the wrong birds! Perhaps we could suggest to him that he should speak a bit with songbirds, who deliver nice melodies rather than speaking nonsense. For our part, we send our best wishes to president De Laurentiis and to Carlo Ancelotti, their coach who remains in the hearts of all Roma fans, along with everyone else at Napoli. We wish them good luck for the new campaign, as we do all the other clubs and players.”

Liverpool owner Henry reflects on history, takes shots at Suarez, Coutinho

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Terrific AP reporter Rob Harris sat down for a chat with Liverpool owner John Henry, and the American businessman didn’t hesitate to unleash some prime quotes.

Liverpool, of course, is preparing for the weekend’s UEFA Champions League Final against Real Madrid, and feeling its oats a bit.

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Henry is no exception, saying of departed Reds stars Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho, “They’ll be watching this weekend and could have been playing.”

And his shots didn’t stop with the Barcelona stars. He extended it to all of La Liga. From the AP:

“You don’t want to be in the position where players want to go somewhere else, even if it is a great club like Barcelona,” Henry said. “It’s hard to understand why players would want to go to a league where the competition is so weak. They must play 30 or so meaningless matches per year waiting for Champions League matches.”

Henry also talks about his takeover, selling Fernando Torres, and how Anfield pushes Liverpool past the competition. Read the whole interview here.

Liverpool to postpone further Anfield expansion after fan protest

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Liverpool owner John Henry says fan protests against ticket prices are causing the club to reassess plans to further redevelop Anfield.

Henry’s Fenway Sports Group apologized to fans earlier this year and reversed planned rises in ticket prices after a walkout during a game.

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But having funded the redevelopment of Liverpool’s main stand over the last year, the next phase of the expansion program might not make economic sense if the club can’t recoup the construction cost. The Anfield Road stand had been next in line for rebuilding at the 54,000-capacity Anfield.

“I don’t know if there is a next step because ticket prices are an issue in England,” Henry said. “That may foreclose further expansion. We’ll have to see.”

Henry was speaking Tuesday at Yankee Stadium where his baseball team, the Boston Red Sox, was playing the New York Yankees.

Liverpool has opened its first full season with Juergen Klopp in charge by winning four of its six Premier League games. The German signed a contract extension in July through 2022.

[ MORE: PL power rankings — Liverpool fall, through no fault of their own ]

“He was a perfect fit for Liverpool, for the culture of the club, for the supporters, for the kind of team that we were trying to build,” Henry said. “We couldn’t have asked for a better fit.”

With no European matches this season, Liverpool is chasing a top-four finish to return to the Champions League.

From the 2018-19 season, entry into the Champions League group stage is easier for English clubs with the Premier League’s fourth-place team no longer having to go through a playoff.

The “market pool” system, which steers UEFA prize money to clubs in England, Germany, and Italy, where the broadcasting deals are bigger, will be changed to reward better historical results in the competition. That should help Liverpool as a five-time European champion but see income drop for Manchester City, which has never won the continent’s top prize.

[ MORE: Tuesday’s Champions League roundup | Wednesday ]

The Champions League changes were agreed by a small number of club officials and UEFA, with the rest of Europe not knowing the outcome until the announcement in August.

Henry said he was aware of other teams in England “obviously not happy with the UEFA deal.”

“The changes weren’t really discussed with us, they were implemented essentially. They unilaterally made changes to the market pool and there should have been I think more discussion. But I can tell you that the (Premier League) owners were not happy … at least among the clubs that I speak with.”

AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.

Ings: It’s time for Liverpool to win for Rodgers

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Depending on whose “sources” you trust, Brendan Rodgers could either be fired as Liverpool manager with a loss to Aston Villa on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on Live Extra), or he could have the rest of the 2015-16 Premier League season to right the ship and save his job.

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While it’s impossible to know what’s going on inside the heads of owner John Henry and chief executive Ian Ayre, Liverpool striker Danny Ings is absolutely sure of one thing: it’s time for the players to step up, do their part, win for Rodgers and ease some of the pressure currently weighing down their manager.

Ings, on the Reds’ must-win mentality for Saturday, from the Mirror:

“We’ve gone through a sticky patch as a team but it is just important for us now to start winning games and go on a run for him.

“As players you just approach every game the same as before all this. It is about us as a team winning games, and that is all we can do for the manager.

“It is important that we get wins under our belt for him and for us so we can move forward.

“All you need to look at is the chances we are creating. You can just sense there is a big result around the corner.”

Of the Reds’ five most recent managers, just one (Roy Hodgson) was relieved of his duties during the season, so giving Rodgers the boot midseason — just seven games into the campaign, to boot — would seem almost counterproductive. As much money as Rodgers has been allowed to spend on players ($390 million over seven transfer windows, including $102 million this past summer), would indicate his job is probably safe, at least for now.

[ MORE: West Ham’s Bilic says refs are biased toward “biggest clubs” ]

Saturday’s showdown with Villa will be made slightly more difficult, as Liverpool will be without Brazilian midfielder Roberto Firmino, who suffered a back injury in the Reds’ penalty shootout victory over Carlisle United on Wednesday.

Liverpool owners reassure fans in message concluding first half of season

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This past May, Liverpool was fighting for the Premier League title in second place, trying to overcome the might of Manchester City.

The Reds narrowly missed this task, two points behind City when the season ended, and the first half of the 2014-15 year hasn’t catapulted off to the start that one would come to expect out of the reigning runner-up.

Yet, their squad makeup was certainly different squad last season, with Luis Suarez was providing manager Brendan Rodgers with great finishing quality at the forward position, and Daniel Sturridge was also dangerous on the pitch to present arguably the most dangerous tandem in England.

“While we did not achieve our ultimate ambition in winning the Premier League, our style of play captured the attention of the world as the club played attacking football, scoring 101 goals,” the statement from American owners John Henry and Tom Werner read. “…There was much to celebrate during our memorable season that ended in May.”

Situated in eighth place fifteen points back from second place, Liverpool doesn’t look ready to spur a winning run large enough to make the league crown a possibility. Because such is the case, Rodgers has felt the pressure as his squad, consisting of new summer transfers Dejan Lovren, Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana, has fallen on inconsistent health.

Still, heading into 2015, the owners pointed what they called “positive signs”, which include the nice run of form, unbeaten in six of the past seven games, being exhibited presently.

And of course, the most “positive” aspect of the coming month will be the imminent restoration of Sturridge, out since August due to an accumulation of injuries.

“We look forward to the return of Daniel Sturridge sometime in late January. We are very encouraged by his efforts and determination to resolve his injuries…Great progress has been made that should help him going forward.”