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Van Dijk wants to be remembered as ‘a Liverpool legend’

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Virgil van Dijk is setting his sights as high as possible, aiming to first bring the Premier League title back to Liverpool and to then be remembered as a “legend” and “one of [the club’s] greatest servants” when his playing career is finished.

[ MORE: Former US TV execs indicted on charges of World Cup bribery ]

The 28-year-old Dutchman is well on his way to following up last season’s PFA PL Player of the Year award with Liverpool’s first top-division title since 1990 — provided the 2019-20 season is completed after being suspended due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic — and he appears to have a keen interest in how he will be remembered in the hearts and minds of the club’s most ardent supporters for years and decades to come.

[ MORE: Report: Premier League prepares for June return ]

Van Dijk wasn’t at all hesitant to throw around the L-word when speaking to Spanish media outlet Sport this week:

How would you like to be remembered?

“As a Liverpool legend. I want to achieve incredible things here. We have a fantastic team, we don’t lack anything, we have all the tools necessary to on winning: a coach that we identify with, a versatile squad, a style of play that breeds victories, a stadium and supporters that play their part. Yes, I would like to be one of those players that return to Anfield after retiring. I see club legends at games and I feel part of a really big family.”

I have read that you love Disney. It’s quite a contrast to your life as a footballer…

“I like Disney films and I love taking my kids to Disneyland. Seeing them so happy makes my day. I was seven or eight when I went there for the first time and it was fantastic but we did not go much as it was so expensive. I took my wife when we first started dating. We got drunk in a hotel… it was memorable. I like simple things so why complicate things? Why be negative when you can enjoy life and be positive? That’s something I have learned with the years. I always try to be positive. Life is too short to always look at the negatives.”

Another few years of performances at his current level, and Van Dijk should have no trouble talking his way back inside Anfield anytime his heart desires for as long as he lives.

Liverpool reverse furlough decision

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Liverpool have announced they will no longer seek financial help from the UK government to pay non-playing staff during the coronavirus pandemic with the furlough scheme.

[ MORE: Former US TV execs indicted on charges of World Cup bribery ]

Over the weekend Liverpool announced they would take advantage of the furlough scheme from the UK government, which will pay 80 percent of wages of any staff impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. Liverpool had announced that staff not needed over the next few weeks would be paid 80 percent of their wages by the UK government and they would make up the remaining 20 percent as part of the furlough scheme.

That decision by their billionaire American owners the Fenway Sports Group (FSG) enraged Liverpool’s fanbase.

Peter Moore, the chief executive officer of the runaway Premier League leaders, announced on Monday that the decision would be reversed after talks which included supporters groups, the Mayor of Liverpool and FSG.

“We believe we came to the wrong conclusion last week to announce that we intended to apply to the Coronavirus Retention Scheme and furlough staff due to the suspension of the Premier League football calendar, and are truly sorry for that,” Moore said. “Our intentions were, and still are, to ensure the entire workforce is given as much protection as possible from redundancy and/or loss of earnings during this unprecedented period. We are therefore committed to finding alternative ways to operate while there are no football matches being played that ensures we are not applying for the government relief scheme.”

Moore added that Liverpool will be financially impacted by this crisis and they are trying to find ways to offset the loss of revenue due to the season being suspended.

“But in the spirit of transparency we must also be clear, despite the fact we were in a healthy position prior to this crisis, our revenues have been shut off yet our outgoings remain. And like almost every sector of society, there is great uncertainty and concern over our present and future. Like any responsible employer concerned for its workers in the current situation, the club continues to prepare for a range of different scenarios, around when football can return to operating as it did before the pandemic. These scenarios range from best case to worst and everything in between,” Moore continued.

“It is an unavoidable truth that several of these scenarios involve a massive downturn in revenue, with correspondingly unprecedented operating losses. Having these vital financial resources so profoundly impacted would obviously negatively affect our ability to operate as we previously have. We are engaged in the process of exploring all avenues within our scope to limit the inevitable damage. We thank the many amazing people in our club, at all levels, who are committed to helping us do just that, despite the complexity and unpredictability in the world and our industry.”

The backlash against Liverpool’s decision follows plenty of criticism for Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur who did the same, as many leading voices believe that the billionaire owners of Premier League clubs should be paying their staff during this unprecedented pandemic instead of getting help from the government.

Many Liverpool’s fans and former players slammed the initial decision so it is good to those concerns have been addressed, as the Reds recorded a pre-tax profit of $51 million last year alone and $153 million profit the year before that.

Handicapping ‘Premier League March Madness’

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Our esteemed editor Joe Prince-Wright announced Premier League March Madness early Sunday, which use the week ahead to merge two sporting competitions we love dearly.

Read all the seedings and process here, but this post is tasked with looking through the competition to identify potential dark horses in the way of Liverpool’s path to defending its No. 1 seed.

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub ]

Let’s start with one of the great influencers of March Madness 2020.


Social media reach

While many clubs have a vast array of Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram accounts, we’ll focus on their biggest channel on Twitter as a barometer of how many fans they have on the social platform.

Of course, there are some tricky figures here. Some clubs may just have bang-up social media teams that have attracted more eyes than their football. And some may be followed by both fans and gigantic rival fans to keep a close eye on the enemy.

Still, it shows us the challenge for the “minnows” of our tourney.

Twitter followers on main channel
Manchester United – 21.6M
Arsenal – 15.7M
Liverpool – 14.3M
Chelsea – 14.2M
Man City – 7.8M
Tottenham Hotspur – 4.2M
Everton – 2M
West Ham – 1.6M
Newcastle United – 1.5M
Leicester City – 1.5M
Aston Villa – 1.3M
Southampton – 1.2M
Crystal Palace – 952k
Watford – 704k
Norwich City – 699k
Wolves – 593k
Bournemouth – 520k
Burnley – 477k
Sheffield United – 332k
Brighton – 278k


The relegation playoffs

Only one of four teams will keep their PL place through March Madness, as Nos.  17 through 20 on the table square off.

There’s a heavy advantage for the No. 19. seed Aston Villa, which has a much bigger following than the other three clubs.

Anyone other than the Villans winning their two potential matches would be a stunner. No pressure, Dean.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 


Easier/harder paths

For those unfamiliar or in need of a March Madness, the pre-assigned brackets give preferential paths to the Nos. 1, 2, 3 and so-on seeds. Nos. 1 and 2 cannot meet until the final.

In this case, however, the wobbly seasons of so many traditional powers provide plenty of chances for pitfalls.

Consider: No. 1 Liverpool will face No. 16 West Ham, and then the winner of 8-9, which is Tottenham-Arsenal. While the Reds may sleepwalk to round two, the ONLD (Online North London Derby) winner will have already revved its engines in the tournament.

1-16 (LFC, West Ham)
8-9 (Spurs, Arsenal)

5-12 (Man Utd, Everton)
4-13 (Chelsea, Newcastle)

6-11 (Wolves, Palace)
3-14 (Leicester, Saints)

7-10 (Sheffield United, Burnley)
2-15 (Man City, Brighton)

It shouldn’t take too long to deduce the challenge ahead for the big boys, as five of the traditional powers are in the top half of the bracket. And all of the eight teams in the top half have at least  1.5 million Twitter followers.


Predictions
Winners in bold

Relegation playoffs 
Semifinal: #17 Watford v. #20 Norwich
Semifinal: #18 Bournemouth v. #19 Aston Villa
Relegation play-off final: #20 Norwich v. #19 Aston Villa

Sweet 16
Game 1: #1 Liverpool v. #16 West Ham
Game 2: #2 Man City v. #15 Brighton
Game 3: #3 Leicester v. #14 Southampton
Game 4: #4 Chelsea v. #13 Newcastle
Game 5: #5 Man United v. #12 Everton
Game 6: #6 Wolves v. #11 Crystal Palace
Game 7: #7 Sheffield United v. #10 Burnley
Game 8: #8 Tottenham v. #9 Arsenal

Wednesday, April 8 – Elite Eight
Game 9: #1 Liverpool v. #9 Arsenal
Game 10: #2 Man City v. #10 Burnley
Game 11: #14 Southampton v. #11 Crystal Palace
Game 12: #13 Newcastle v. #5 Man United

Thursday, April 9 – Final Four
Game 13: #9 Arsenal v. #5 Man United
Game 14: #2 Man City v. #14 Southampton

Friday, April 10 – Championship Game
Game 15: #9 Arsenal v. #2 Man City

Premier League rivalries: The Merseyside derby

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While the Merseyside derby has been dominated by one side of late, that has not detracted from the spectacle of the most historic matchup in English top flight history.

Uninterrupted in top flight play since 1962/63, the two sides are situated less than a mile apart, with the proximity feeding an already intense matchup.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Despite the incredibly close geographic proximity, the derby is sometimes known as the “Friendly Derby” as there are often families with split allegiances. Still, the matchup has the most red cards in Premier League history with 21, including 17 of those in the especially heated timeframe between 1997 and 2008.

Unfortunately for Everton, the rivalry has become one-sided over the past decade, with the Toffees failing to win since October of 2010. Liverpool has won 11 of the 21 games, with the other 10 ending in a draw. That has somewhat deescalated the vicious nature of the matchup, especially since Liverpool has gone on to become one of the most formidable sides in Europe over the past few years while Everton continues to challenge for a top-half place in the league.

Still, the 228 all-time matches between the clubs continues to fuel one of the great matchups in the English domestic landscape, and sooner or later this rivalry will regain its venom to bring the bite back to this matchup.

Report: Germany line up Liverpool boss Klopp

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Jurgen Klopp will be a man in demand for a very long time and a report claims that Germany want him to become their new boss.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The current Liverpool manager signed a new contract at the Merseyside club in 2019 which runs until 2024 but has openly admitted on several occasions that he doesn’t plan to coach for the next few decades.

Per the report from the Daily Mirror, Klopp, 52, is said to be Germany’s ideal successor to Joachim Low and the former Mainz and Borussia Dortmund manager is keen on making the move to international management when he feels like the time is right to move on from Liverpool.  

He’s previously said he thinks Liverpool will be his last job in the club game and although there’s no indication he will leave the Reds anytime soon, there’s a growing sense that Klopp will be Germany’s main target in the summer of 2022 after Low’s current deal runs out.

Klopp’s previous Liverpool deal was due to run out in 2022 but he extended that by two years in December and is contracted to the Reds until 2024 and there is no break clause or release clause in that deal.

Liverpool have won the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup over the last 12 months and currently sit 25 points clear atop the Premier League table with nine games to go as they close in on their first league title in over 30 years.

Klopp’s methods and personality are perhaps better suited to the club game than the international level as his charisma rubs off on his players day-to-day. Liverpool would of course like him to be their Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger, staying at the club for over 20 years, but Klopp has always been very open that he doesn’t plan on doing that.

Low has spent the past 14 years in charge of Germany and led them to the 2014 World Cup title, the semifinals of the 2010 World Cup and the final of the European Championships in 2008. After a rough 2018 World Cup where the defending champs were knocked out in the group stage, Low rebuilt his national team and they breezed throughout qualifying for EURO 2020 which has now been pushed to the summer of 2021. He is still expected to coach Die Mannschaft through the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to complete an incredible 16-year spell in charge of the national team.

Klopp would obviously be Germany’s first-choice candidate and if he fancies leaving Liverpool in the summer of 2023, it looks like the stars could be aligning for him to head straight to the national team job. He rose to national prominence in Germany as a TV pundit during the 2006 World Cup and Klopp could well see out his managerial career by leading Germany.