Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers rates last season’s 3-0 loss at Old Trafford as the best defeat of his career.The Reds created far more chances against Manchester United in December but the now-departed Raheem Sterling, in particular, found goalkeeper David de Gea, who is set for his first start of the season after signing a new contract after a failed transfer to Real Madrid, in top form.However, the reverse proved to be a catalyst as the Reds went on a 13-match unbeaten run in the league which was only ended by United at Anfield in March.It replicated a pattern which is developing with Rodgers’ teams which has seen them play their best football at the turn of the year.“It was probably the best defeat I’ve ever had,” said the Reds boss.“You never want to lose the game but I saw enough in that day to know we had actually got our identity back.“We should have scored goals but ultimately lost the game because we didn’t defend well enough.“From that moment we then kicked on and had a good spell.” Liverpool 1
Manchester United may have lost to PSV Eindhoven on their return to the Champions League group stages but their Under-19s were impressive as they beat the same opponents 3-0 in the Netherlands.A stunning Callum Gribbin free-kick and a second-half brace from Marcus Rashford ensured they claimed an opening win in the competition, which runs alongside the senior campaign.The Red Devils side, led by Nicky Butt, also saw their opponents go down to ten men when Maarten Peijnenburg received his second booking of the game.You can see the highlights from the clash above…
1 Jurgen Klopp Jurgen Klopp says it is ‘crazy’ to suggest Liverpool could be Premier League title contenders.The Reds produced an impressive display at Stamford Bridge on Saturday lunchtime to beat champions Chelsea 3-1.They are now up to seventh in the Premier League, and fans are feeling optimistic about the club’s prospects under Klopp.But the German was quick to play down talk of a potential title challenge following the win over Jose Mourinho’s men.“Oh please. Are you crazy?” he said, when asked by a journalist if Liverpool can fight for the title.“I’ve been here three weeks, round about. You think after one win at Chelsea we should think about this?“We don’t think about this. We have to think about the next game, about improving our game and our style. We can do much better than today.”
Martin Kelly Crystal Palace have confirmed defender Martin Kelly is safe and well after he was pictured in Paris on the day of the terrorist attacks.Kelly posted a picture on Instagram on Friday evening of a cafe in Paris, shortly before multiple attacks across the French capital left at least 128 people dead.He posted: “Found a decent little spot for tonight #paris #cafelaperle.”That sparked fears for the former Liverpool youngster’s safety, with the cafe in question said to be close to one of the attacks.But Crystal Palace announced late on Friday night that they had made contact with Kelly and he has suffered any harm.They posted on Twitter: “We have been in contact with @MartinKelly1990 tonight and can confirm he is safe and well.”He is due to return to England on Saturday after taking a short trip to Paris during the international break. 1
11 18. Alberto Moreno (left back) 11 11 4. Kolo Toure (centre back) 11 23. Emre Can (centre midfield) Liverpool will play their third game in six days when travel to Norwich City for Saturday’s early kick-off in the hope of getting their Premier League campaign back on track.The Reds have only won twice in their last eight league games and have not claimed three points since beating Sunderland in December.However, manager Jurgen Klopp is likely to keep faith with the majority of the team which lost to Manchester United last week, meaning Christian Benteke may have to settle for a place on the bench again.Jon Flanagan returned from a 18-month injury lay-off against Exeter in the FA Cup in mid-week but he isn’t expected to be risked.Daniel Sturridge will not be fit after being ruled out until February, while Philippe Coutinho, Divock Origi, Danny Ings, Joe Gomez and Martin Skrtel remain unavailable.To see talkSPORT’s predicted XI click the above arrow, right. 17. Mamadou Sakho (centre back) 11 11 11 11 11 7. James Milner (centre midfield) 2. Nathaniel Clyne (right back) – click the yellow arrow above, right, to see the predicted Liverpool line up in squad number order 33. Jordon Ibe (winger) 11. Roberto Firmino (striker) 20. Adam Lallana (winger) 14. Jordan Henderson (centre midfield) 11 22. Simon Mignolet (goalkeeper) 11
Former Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has dismissed claims Jurgen Klopp doesn’t rate Christian Benteke and confirmed the German tried to sign the Belgian striker when he was at Borussia Dortmund.The Northern Irishman signed Benteke for the Reds last summer and, speaking on talkSPORT’s Sports Breakfast show, said that definitive judgements on the £32.5m frontman’s Anfield career are premature. Asked if he believes Benteke has a future at Liverpool under Klopp, Rodgers was clear. “Yes, I think he will. With Christian, I think Jurgen will take his time with him.“In this country, now, everything is very ‘short-termism’, isn’t it? People look at it like, you’ve got to come in, get 20 goals in your first season or you might be deemed a failure.“I don’t think Jurgen’s looking at it as that. He tried to sign him for Dortmund. He knows he’s a good player. He met the boy, he met the agent, he met them in Germany, so he knows he’s a good player.“[Klopp] Coming in to Liverpool, he’ll know that he wants to use him. It’s going to take Christian a bit of time.”LIVERPOOL’S EUROPEAN CUP-WINNING CAPTAIN TELLS TALKSPORT CLUB MUST PERSEVERE WITH ‘PROVEN GOAL SCORER’ BENTEKERodgers also revealed the thinking behind bringing Benteke to the club, despite some people within the game being uncertain about how the striker’s style of play would fit in with Liverpool’s tactics.“I took him to Liverpool in the summer because we were really short on goals and the one thing he does give you is goals, but obviously it’s going to take him time to get up to the way the team wants to play and Jurgen wants to press.”LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW WITH BRENDAN RODGERS ON TALKSPORT HERE
Gonzalo Higuain in action for Napoli 1 Football stats experts WhoScored.com take a look at a rumoured Chelsea transfer target. For more Chelsea stats, check out WhoScored’s Blues page.One of the worst kept secrets in football was finally announced on Monday afternoon as Chelsea confirmed that Antonio Conte would take over the Stamford Bridge reins upon the culmination of Euro 2016. The Italian had been heavily linked with a switch to London in recent weeks, with it more a matter of when, not if, the Blues would appoint Conte as their new manager. As one might expect, gossip columns have been quick to point out a list of potential transfer targets in Serie A that Chelsea’s incoming boss could move for in the summer.One of those recently linked with a switch to Stamford Bridge is Napoli frontman Gonzalo Higuain. The Argentine’s 30 league goals this season – more than any other player in Italy’s top flight – has helped return a WhoScored.com rating of 7.69, the joint-best in Serie A. While Napoli will be keen to retain the services of their star striker, Higuain has long been linked with a move to England and at 28 years of age, there may not be as good a chance as now to ply his trade in the Premier League.It comes at a time when Chelsea are expected to overhaul their attack this coming transfer window. Diego Costa, despite a clear upturn in form, is rumoured to have his heart set on a return to Spain, while Loic Remy, Alexandre Pato and Falcao are all set to depart the Blues at the end of the season. Indeed, their respective departures would leave Chelsea short of offensive options, with Higuain now supposedly topping the club’s most wanted list.The Argentina international has been attracting interest from across the continent this season and should Napoli reluctantly agree to sell, he would have his fair share of potential suitors. An average of 5.4 shots per game is the most of all players in Serie A this season and highlights an unwavering confidence to continuously try his luck against the opposition. It’s clearly a tack that works as his goal return suggests and is a facet of his game that would certainly appeal to Conte.With the creative personnel operating in the final third for Chelsea, it’s fair to say the chances would be readily created for Higuain, who would gobble them up. The Napoli striker has scored more clear-cut goalscoring chances (17) than any other player in Serie A this season, accentuating his statistically calculated WhoScored.com strength of ‘finishing’. Yet, Higuain is hardly a striker who will simply wait for the opportunities to be presented to him, but rather work hard off the ball in order to bring others into play and work the channels as his number of key passes (1.4) and successful dribbles per game (1.5) highlights.Conte is rumoured to be prepared to set his side up in a 3-5-2 formation when he does take charge of Chelsea, meaning Higuain will need to maximise his off the ball form in order to help create space and chances for his teammates. However, if his performances for Napoli are anything to go by, he will be capable of performing the duties needed of him should Conte indeed opt for a three-man backline or a more familiar 4-2-3-1 formation.With the striker now set for a four-match ban following his red card in the 3-1 defeat Udinese at the weekend, it’s possible to think he may well have played his last game for the club. If Chelsea indeed firm up their reported interest in Higuain, even if he does cost a fair bit to sign, they will have themselves a striker more than capable of firing the club back to domestic glory.For more stats on Gonzalo Higuain, click here to view his WhoScored.com player page
1 It’s been a miserable season for the Villans, but they will be lifted by news of their club’s sale Aston Villa have confirmed that an agreement has been reached with Recon Group, owned by Dr Tony Jiantong Xia, to take 100 per cent ownership of the club.The takeover is subject to approval from the Premier League and the Football League.Randy Lerner had made no secret of his desire to sell and current chairman Steve Hollis flew to China to complete the deal as soon as the Villans’ dismal top-flight campaign was complete.A club statement read: ‘Aston Villa Football Club is pleased to announce that an agreement has been signed today for the sale of 100 per cent ownership by Randy Lerner to Recon Group owned by Dr Tony Jiantong Xia subject to the approval of the Premier League and the Football League.‘Once those approvals have been granted and the new board members approved under the fit & proper rules of both leagues, Dr Xia will become Chairman of Aston Villa. The club will announce the appointment of a new manager shortly.’Roberto Di Matteo, according to reports, is understood as the preferred candidate.Recon Group is a holding company which has a controlling interest in five publicly listed companies on the Hong Kong and Chinese stock exchanges. Xia, a former footballer himself, claims to have been a Villa fan for some time.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan is on the verge of joining Man United from Borussia Dortmund.The 27-year-old, who has a year left on his contract, could cost the club around £26m with personal terms between both parties reportedly agreed.Last season Mkhitaryan scored 11 Bundesliga goals and created 15 and you can see every one of those in the video above.He has been a Dortmund player since 2013 after joining from Shakhtar Donetsk in a £24m deal and rejecting the likes of Liverpool in the process.
Germany booked their place in the semi-finals of Euro 2016 beating Italy 6-5 on penalties, after drawing 1-1.It was a coming together of two tournament giants and the match was as closely contested as anticipated.The first half saw few clear-cut chances created and, while the Germans were more positive in possession, the Italians came closest to netting.Mesut Ozil opened the scoring on 65 minutes – his 20th goal for Germany – when he was quickest to meet Jonas Hector’s cross on the edge of the six-yard box, finishing well past Gianluigi Buffon.The Italians could well have folded as they came close to conceding a second, but they were back on terms within 13 minutes, Leonardo Bonucci converting a penalty after Jerome Boateng’s handball.With just over ten minutes left, the clash was taken to extra time – a repeat of their tournament meetings in 1970 and 2006.It eventually went to penalties in Bordeaux, where the Germans were successful, despite misses from Thomas Muller, Ozil, and Bastian Schweinsteiger, as Matteo Darmian’s missed effort proved crucial as Hector netted the winner.The yellow cards flooded in during the second half, with Mats Hummels receiving his second of the tournament, ruling him out of the last-four clash against the winner of France v Iceland.These sides met in a friendly in March, with the Germans winning 4-1 but it would not be so clear this time around. After a tight opening quarter, the Germans had to deal with a setback as Sami Khedira limped off with a groin injury, with Manchester United’s Schweinsteiger replacing him.As opposed to Italy’s meeting with Spain – where they were confident and direct – Conte’s men were set up solidly and respectfully for the clash with the world champions, who were camped in the opposition half for long periods.Substitute Schweinsteiger had a header disallowed after meeting Hummels’ cross into the box, fouling Mattia De Sciglio as he leapt into the air.De Sciglio soon got forward well and he sent a cross towards Sunderland attacker Emanuele Giaccherini, but Boateng tracked back well to make a last-ditch challenge.A game of pinball started in Italy’s box as they could not clear, while the German’s could not get a shot off. It soon fell to danger man Muller, who sent a disappointing attempt well wide in the end as danger was averted. But it was the Italians who nearly led on the break after Giaccherini’s cut-back fell to Stefano Sturaro, whose shot deflected off Boateng just past the post.Germany’s opener came shortly after the hour mark after excellent build-up play. Italy had pushed Low’s side backwards deep into Germany’s half, with Neuer being forced to go with a long clearance. It fell to Alessandro Florenzi on the halfway line and his poorly-cushioned header went straight to Muller, where the attack would start. The Munich attacker laid the ball out to Gomez on the wing, who made progress well before sending a reverse ball into the box for Hector to run on to. Hector – of FC Koln – crossed low along the six-yard box and Ozil beat the Italian defenders to finish past Buffon.It was nearly two just minutes later as a ball over the top found Gomez, who beat the offside trap. He controlled the ball in plenty of space in the box and, although he was through on goal, he could not shape a shot until late on and Buffon made a brilliant save to keep Italy firmly in the clash.Gomez was dealt a cruel blow a short time later when he pulled up and had to be replaced by Julian Draxler – fearing it may be his last appearance of the tournament.The Azzurri were nearly back on level terms when Southampton striker Pelle ran across his marker to meet De Sciglio’s cross, lashing a shot wide of the target. And, shortly after conceding, Italy looked beaten but they were soon back in it when Boateng bizarrely handballed in the box. Who should step up but central defender Bonucci. At the other end his Juventus team-mate Buffon could not look, but the 29-year-old coolly slotted past Neuer into the bottom corner.Neither side could nick a winner in the closing stages as the match entered extra time, followed by penalties.It was a long shootout, with seven misses in total. For Italy Simone Zaza, Pelle, Bonucci and Darmian missed as the Germans advanced due to Hector’s cool finish. Conte ends his Azzurri tenure with defeat and he can now begin work as manager of Chelsea. 1 It was a tight clash in Bordeaux as Jonas Hector’s spot-kick won it