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Fans urging UEFA to curb Champions League ticket prices

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GENEVA (AP) After Barcelona and Manchester United raised prices for their Champions League quarterfinal matches, UEFA was urged on Thursday to enforce stricter ticketing rules by the group it consults to represent European soccer fans.

Football Supporters Europe criticized “exorbitant pricing” in hikes imposed on visiting fans by two of the world’s wealthiest clubs for their games on April 10 and 16.

After Barcelona set prices at $134 for visiting Man United fans, the English club retaliated with an equivalent 102 pound price for away fans at Old Trafford. That is almost 70 percent more than the base ticket price of $80 for the Champions League final in Madrid.

Man United said $35 from each ticket sold to Barcelona fans will subsidize tickets at Camp Nou for its own fans “again being subjected to increased/excessive prices.”

“Yet again, this is proof that the current regulations for UEFA competitions are not sufficient,” the fan group, described by UEFA as a key stakeholder, said in a statement.

English clubs have long complained to UEFA about opposing clubs, typically in Spain, raising prices for their traveling fans.

UEFA’s current rules prohibit two-tier pricing, and have been used to force Anderlecht and AEK Athens to compensate Bayern Munich fans in the past two seasons. Bayern fans attending the away games were due to get $34 from Anderlecht and $11 from AEK.

However, most Barcelona fans avoid paying the full price charged to visitors. The club discounts prices for season ticket-holders and members.

“We expect UEFA to change the regulations to state that ticket prices for away fans should be the same as the cheapest tickets available for home fans,” Football Supporters Europe said.

The Germany-based group also said Man United responding with “reciprocal pricing is part of the problem.”

“Barcelona fans should not be forced to pay for the sins of their club,” the FSE said. “Indeed, just because elite level football is awash with money does not mean that fans are – quite the opposite. It is incumbent upon clubs to recognize this fact and act accordingly.”

Champions League safety rules currently say away fan tickets “must not exceed the price paid for tickets of a comparable category” for home fans.

A strict interpretation of UEFA rules could see Man United more likely to face a disciplinary case, despite seeking to help its own fans financially by raising prices for Barcelona’s visit on April 10.

UEFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Amid one dispute between two storied clubs, two more former European champions made a fan-friendly deal for their quarterfinals matches.

Liverpool said Thursday it had “extensive discussions” with UEFA and Porto before agreeing its fans will be charged $68 to see the second leg in Portugal on April 17. That is $17 less than Liverpool fans paid last season for a round-of-16 game at Porto.

“(Liverpool) would like to thank Porto for working with the club on a pricing structure,” the English club said , noting other Champions League clubs are working with UEFA “to negotiate the fairest ticket prices for their fans.”

Alexander-Arnold the latest to withdraw from England squad

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Trent Alexander-Arnold will miss out on playing for England this week after withdrawing from the squad with a back injury.

The FA announced the decision on Wednesday afternoon, noting that Alexander-Arnold came into the England camp with the injury and wasn’t able to fully recover in time. Alexander-Arnold suffered the injury during Liverpool’s 4-2 win over Burnley on March 10.

[READ: Sane survives horror tackle]

Alexander-Arnold has had a pretty consistent season for Liverpool, playing 32 times so far in all competitions. Despite being a regular starter for Liverpool, though, he has competition at right back with England from Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker.

At the same time, Alexander-Arnold is the third (or fourth, depending on where he plays) defender to leave the England squad. Alexander-Arnold joins John Stones, Luke Shaw, Fabian Delph and Ruben Loftus-Cheek as walking wounded for England.

The Three Lions play a pair of UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying matches in the next week. First, England hosts the Czech Republic on Friday at Wembley Stadium before traveling to Montenegro on Monday.

Mane to Real Madrid; Manolas to Man United?

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Now that you’ve all recovered from the January transfer window, it is time to focus on the summer transfer window.

[ MORE: Sacramento, St. Louis in MLS?

After all, the transfer window opens in just a few months time for Premier League clubs. With that in mind, here are couple of juicy rumors doing the rounds…

A report from France Football claims that Zinedine Zidane wants to make Liverpool’s Sadio Mane one of his first big signings back at Real Madrid.

Mane, 26, only signed a new contract with Liverpool in November but the Senegalese flyer has been in sensational form in recent months and is carrying their hopes of winning the Premier League and UEFA Champions League. Per the report, Zidane is a huge fan of Mane and wanted to sign him in the summer of 2018 before he abruptly left Real.

Mane has scored 20 goals in 36 appearances in all competitions for Liverpool this season, and has scored 11 times in his last 11 games. And besides his improving goalscoring record he has the one thing modern teams want: blistering pace.

Whether or not Mane could be tempted to leave Liverpool this summer remains to be seen, but if they do win either the PL title or the UCL, is that a good time for Mane to move on?

He may believe it won’t get any better than that, but leaving Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah and breaking up that partnership would certainly upset Liverpool fans and neutrals alike. Zizou plans to rebuild this ageing Real team and it is quite right that he wants Mane to be the future of their attack alongside the likes of Vinicius Junior.


Man United’s plans to sign a new center back haven’t been a secret for some time now. We just weren’t sure if that was a priority since Jose Mourinho left and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer arrived as the new caretaker manager.

It appears getting in a new commanding center half is still a top priority for the Red Devils.

A report from Calciomercato in Italy has linked United with a move for Roma and Greece defender Kostas Manolas, with the 27-year-old said to have a $39.8 million release clause in his contract if Roma do not qualify for the Champions League. They are currently four points off the top four with 10 games left in Serie A.

The powerful Greek defender has been a regular at Roma over the past five seasons and was influential in their run to the Champions League semifinals last season. With Phil Jones and Chris Smalling handed new contracts recently, United’s policy when it comes to retaining their current center backs is strange.

Victor Lindelof has improved drastically under Solskjaer, but it seems like both Eric Bailly and Marcos Rojo will be sold this summer. Toby Alderweireld and Kalidou Koulibaly have both been linked with moves to United, and having Manolas and Alderweireld as center backs, with one of Lindelof, Smalling and Jones alongside them in a 3-4-3 formation could work very well.

Who’s in the running for Premier League Player of the Year?

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The Premier League Player of the Year is missing its easy winner this go-round.

There’s no Mohamed Salah running away with the scoring record, no Eden Hazard or N'Golo Kante as the clear best player on the champion.

[ MORE: Key games left in the PL season ]

So let’s take a look at where the race stands heading into the final international break of the season.

The contenders

Virgil Van Dijk, Liverpool: Like N’Golo Kante before him, there’s a massive underdog status to a non-striker winning the Premier League’s Player of the Year (and you might want to argue that Kante deserved a Ballon d’Or finalist position). Flub against Fulham aside, few Premier League defenders have made their case in the past as well as Van Dijk has this season. Due to his status on a team who has a lot of the ball, it’s difficult to find super gaudy defensive numbers to make his case. Still, when taking into account Premier League center backs to play more than half their teams’ matches this season, no one on advanced stats site WhoScored is close to VVD. He also doesn’t have a “times dribbled past” per-match average on the site.

Eden Hazard, Chelsea: For years, Chelsea has gone as Eden Hazard. The Belgian is unquestionably one of the most talented players in the world, and is effervescent in attack. Sure, Chelsea’s also suffered through periods of head-scratching results and effort — nothing new at Stamford Bridge and he’s one of the only players to be a part of the downfalls of Jose Mourinho, Antonio Conte, and presumably Maurizio Sarri — but his 13 goals and 11 assists make him the only player to reach double figures in both categories this season. And imagine how high that assist total could be with Alvaro Morata or Gonzalo Higuain finishing at an average or above-average clip.

Raheem Sterling, Man City: At Liverpool a few years ago, it would’ve been accurate to call Sterling, “the kid with the abysmal second touch.” But the Englishman has become better and better by the season, and he’s actually the most economical star in the running for the PL’s Golden Boot; His 2.1 shots per game is less than Sergio Aguero (3.7), Mohamed Salah (3.4), Harry Kane (3.6), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (2.6), Hazard (2.6), and Sadio Mane (2.4). Only Hazard and Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser have more assists.

Mohamed Salah, Liverpool: His average second-half of the season is going to make it difficult for him to repeat as PL Player of the Year, especially considering he has just one goal with no assists in eight matches since Jan. 30 (and four of those were 0-0 or 1-1 draws). Yet it’d be wrong to discount his 17 goals and six assists through 24 matches, and a strong finish could make him a Golden Boot, Premier League, and Champions League winner. That’s not crazy.

Sergio Aguero, Manchester City: Eighteen goals and six assists make him one of four players to combine for 24 goals of production this season, and the 30-year-old may be get sympathetic votes given his surprising lack of honors during a torrential tenure in the Premier League. His three hat tricks should live in the memory of some voters, too, especially since two came against Arsenal and Chelsea. He’s there when you need him, that’s for sure.

Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur: Right in the Golden Boot race despite missing four matches with torn ankle ligaments, Kane has 17 goals and four assists for Spurs this season. Not that the League Cup should come into play in a PL season vote, but Spurs’ star could well be holding silverware in voters’ minds if he hadn’t been hurt before the second leg against Chelsea. Three matches against Pep Guardiola and Man City in the next few weeks will either help or hurt his argument (again, only one of those comes in league play).

FINALLY, “THE WILD CARD” — He’s not going to win this award, and probably won’t be on any short lists besides this post, but spare a though for Raul Jimenez of Wolves. The Mexican striker has been a part of 18 league markers for Nuno Espirito Santo (12 goals, six assists) during his first ever Premier League season.

He’s scored against Chelsea twice, Spurs twice, and assisted versus Manchester United, and Arsenal. Wolves are 10W-4D-2L when he gets a goal or an assist, and 2W-3D-9L when he doesn’t produce magic.

And let’s be honest: Is one of the key players above leading their team to a title as impressive as what Jimenez has done keeping his newly-promoted side in the race for a Europa League place (even given what Wolves spent around him)?

Honestly, he’s in my Top Three with Sterling and Van Dijk. Hazard is probably fourth, with Kane, Aguero, and Salah a bit behind.

Klopp: Liverpool’s defeat of Fulham ‘a brilliant afternoon’

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Jurgen Klopp wasn’t grasping for positivity after Liverpool escaped Craven Cottage with a 2-1 defeat of Fulham and a place atop the Premier League table.

As a matter of fact, he felt great about his team’s performance in the win even after a colossal misunderstanding between Virgil Van Dijk and Alisson Becker nearly cost the side all three points through an equalizer from ex-Reds forward Ryan Babel.

[ RECAP: Fulham 1-2 Liverpool ]

Fortunately for Liverpool, Sadio Mane won a penalty and James Milner converted it to give the Reds their win.

“It is clear at 1-0 if you don’t kill it off that can happen,” Klopp said. “Babel was there that is how football is. They deserved a goal but we deserved three points. A brilliant afternoon I have to say.”

Klopp said his side was hampered by its midweek Champions League defeat of Bayern Munich, and that he is not worried about them moving forward in pursuit of a Premier League title.

“I am not the most experienced manager and I have similar problems after Champions League games,” Klopp said, later adding, “I am not in any doubt about my players nerves. It is about intensity. We go for perfection but it is rare that you get it. Burnley, Munich, Fulham – you have to adapt. People will say we need to be more convincing, but we are at the start of a development, not the end.”

As for the mishap that had the score line at 1-1, both Milner and Van Dijk weren’t looking for excuses. Milner butchered a clearing attempt that put Van Dijk on the hook, and the Dutch defender’s pass back to Alisson was poor.

At the time, it had more than a hint of Steven Gerrard‘s infamous slip a few years back, one of the players of the season succumbing to misfortune.

At least Milner had a sense of humor about it.

“The gaffer told me to come on and calm it down and the first thing I do is slice it and put Virgil under pressure which wasn’t ideal,” Milner said.

“I am not giving excuses,” Van Dijk said. “I should have handled it better. They scored but so did we and we have three points and move back to the top of the table. … We knew it would be tough. We made it difficult for ourselves. We weren’t calm on the ball. We got the three points though and we can now focus on the national teams.”

Liverpool has a two-point lead on Man City, who has played one fewer match but that match is currently the Manchester Derby.