Tagged in: Soccer

Title goes to Liverpool if season over

Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan says it would only be “fair” for opponents Liverpool to be awarded the English Premier League trophy if the season cannot be completed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Gundogan told German broadcaster ZDF that Liverpool deserved to be crowned champions given their massive 25-point lead over second-placed City, the current holders, which has left them just two victories away from the title.

“For me, that would be okay, yes,” Gundogan said, on being asked whether Liverpool should be handed their first top-flight title for 30 years should the season not be completed.

“You have to be fair as a sportsperson,” he added, while conceding that it was a difficult decision for football authorities given the impact that the cancellation of the season would have at both ends of the table.

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“There are different opinions. For clubs who have had a very good season, it obviously wouldn’t be nice if it was cancelled now,” he stated.

“On the other hand, for clubs who aren’t doing as well and are maybe in the relegation places, an abandonment would obviously suit them.”

The Premier League season has been suspended until April 30th, but it is looking increasingly likely that the date may have to be pushed back further.

German international Gundogan also stated he would be open to taking a pay-cut should English clubs follow the likes of Juventus and Borussia Dortmund in asking their players to accept reduced wages so non-playing staff can be paid.

“Of course I think it’s okay, that goes without saying, (but) there’s been no discussion in England yet,” he stated.

“Perhaps that’s because the English clubs are a bit financially stronger than the clubs in Germany at the moment.

“I don’t know who has the final say in that decision. On the other hand, if a player says, ‘no, I don’t want that, I worked hard for it, I get my salary’, then it can go in the opposite direction.

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Serie A halted due to coronavirus outbreak

Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte announced on Monday that Serie A is suspended indefinitely as the country continues to struggle to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Play has been halted until at least April 3, according to the Italian national Olympic committee, as the country comes to a standstill over the outbreak of a disease that has spread to at least 97 countries. Italy on Monday also banned public gatherings and unnecessary travel for the entire nation.

“We’re having an important growth in infection… and of deaths,” he said.

“We all must give something up for the good of Italy. We have to do it now, and we’ll only be able if we all collaborate and adapt to these more stringent measures.

“This is why I decided to adopt even more strong and severe measures to contain the advance… and protect the health of all citizens.”

Italy’s top football division had resumed Sunday with five games played in empty stadiums.

Sassuolo hosted Brescia on Monday, also behind closed doors.

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Teams have either 12 or 13 games to play, with eight-time defending champion Juventus holding a one-point lead over Lazio; Serie A has not been canceled since World War II.

CONI said its decision did not include international competition “for clubs or national teams,” because it does not govern those. Juventus, Napoli and Atalanta are each competing in the Champions League, while Inter Milan and Roma are still in the Europa League.

Events around the world have been affected by the spreading virus, including Champions League matches and Japan’s professional baseball season. Late Sunday, one of the biggest tennis tournaments in the world was postponed.

In France, police said that the Champions League match between Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund at Parc des Princes will be played without fans.

It is the second of the four matches in the competition this week to be played in an empty stadium. Spanish authorities previously recommended restrictions on games involving teams from areas in Italy with high numbers of virus cases and said the Valencia-Atalanta match on Tuesday will take place without fans in attendance.

Leipzig’s match against Tottenham on Tuesday and Liverpool’s home game against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday are expected to be played with fans.

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De Bruyne lauds Pep lineup surprise in City victory

Kevin De Bruyne has admitted Manchester City players were ‘surprised’ when they learnt the line-up before the Real Madrid match on Wednesday night.

Pep Guardiola raised eyebrows by benching Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling, Fernandinho and David Silva, while Gabriel Jesus was pushed out wide and De Bruyne played down the middle.

De Bruyne said: ‘I think, the four years we’re here with Pep, there are some surprises [within the squad], and even the players, they don’t know before the game starts what they need to do.

‘Some [changes] were good. I think we had some lesser moments. In a quality game like this, you’re going to struggle sometimes, but I thought we really fought really well together.’

His remarks were echoed by former England goalkeeper Joe Hart, who said in the studio a conventional City line up would have beaten Madrid by more.

De Bruyne went on to hail his side’s character after they fought back from a goal down to defeat Real Madrid 2-1 at the Bernabeu, putting them in pole position to claim a quarter-final spot.

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City were dealt an early blow when they lost Aymeric Laporte and were forced to draft in Fernandinho at the back again.And a defensive error saw Isco pounce and put the hosts ahead on the 60-minute mark.

Yet Jesus equalled things up when he latched on the end of a De Bruyne cross and headed the ball past Thibaut Courtois, who many may feel should have done more.

Sterling, who came on as a substitute in the 73rd minute, made a darting run at the Madrid defence and was hacked down in the box by full back Dani Carvajal.

After City have failed to convert from the spot countless times this campaign, De Bruyne stepped up to quell fears and roll it past Courtois.

The Belgian’s spot kick made City the first English side to win in the Bernabeu for 11 years.

De Bruyne told BT Sport: ‘It’s a very good start for the first game. The first 15 minutes we struggled for a bit but you have to go through the storm.

‘It was a pretty even first half and we started the second half pretty well. The (Real) goal came at a bit of a bad moment for us because I think we were dominating at the time.

‘I thought our response was brilliant. It was a beautiful goal from Gabi and the second goal, the penalty was very important for us.

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Eden Hazard out for season with broken ankle

Eden Hazard will miss Real Madrid’s Champions League last-16 tie with Manchester City after suffering a broken ankle during Saturday’s La Liga loss at Levante.

The Belgian, who only recently returned from a three-month lay-off due to an ankle problem, was substituted in the second half of the 1-0 loss at the Ciutat de Valencia.

Hazard underwent tests on the injury on Sunday morning, after which Madrid corroborated   1 the extent of the problem.

“Following the tests carried out today by the Real Madrid medical department, he has been diagnosed with a fracture to his right distal fibula,” read a club statement. “His recovery will continue to be assessed.”

Madrid have not said how long they expect Hazard to be sidelined for but reports in Spain suggest he could be out for another two months. That would rule the former Chelsea player out of both Champions League matches versus City, the first of which takes place at the Bernabéu on Wednesday.

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It would also see him miss next weekend’s clásico showdown versus title rivals Barcelona, as well as a host of other matches for Zinedine Zidane’s men.

Hazard has started nine games in the league this season and has one goal, failing to make the expected impact after arriving from Chelsea in the summer.

Hazard suffered a hamstring injury in pre-season, which disrupted his preparations for the season and he missed the first three games of the campaign.

Perhaps as a result of that, he struggled to produce his best form early on. His performances were picking up, before he suffered the microfracture versus Paris Saint-Germain in the UEFA Champions League on November 26.

Real signed the 29-year-old from Chelsea last summer for an initial €100 million, and they could pay the Blues more than half that fee again in potential add-ons.

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Klinsmann leaves Hertha Berlin after 76 days

Having only taken on the role in November, Jurgen Klinsmann has called time on his tenure as Hertha Berlin coach.

Jurgen Klinsmann has resigned as Hertha Berlin head coach after just 11 weeks at the helm.

The former Germany boss, who assumed the role in November following Ante Covic’s departure, confirmed he was resigning on Tuesday.

Writing on Facebook, the 55-year-old said he would revert to his position as a member of the supervisory board at the Bundesliga club.

The former Germany striker was in charge for 10 matches, winning just three of those with four losses. 

They had lost two in a row with last weekend’s 1-3 loss to Mainz coming as the former USMNT coach’s death knell at the helm.

“We were on a very good path in the relatively short time, and thanks to the support of many people, we are now six points away from the relegation places despite mostly difficult games,” Klinsmann wrote on Facebook. “I am firmly convinced that Hertha will achieve the goal – remaining in the league.

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“As head coach, however, I also need the trust of the people involved with this task, which has not yet been completed.

“Unity, cohesion and focus on the essential are the most important elements, especially in the relegation battle. If they are not guaranteed, I cannot exploit my potential as a trainer and therefore cannot live up to my responsibility.”

Sources close to Klinsmann told ESPN last week that he felt unnerved by what he thought was a lack of support over a coaching license issue in January.

Having not coached in Germany since his dismissal at Bayern Munich in early 2009, Klinsmann had not renewed his license, which is mandatory every three years in Germany.

He had to provide documents as proof of continuing education to have his license renewed in time for the Bayern Munich home match, Hertha’s first game of 2020.

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Liverpool go 19 points up with win at West Ham

If Liverpool already had an ironclad grip on the Premier League table coming into Wednesday’s match versus West Ham United, it now has an almost unbreakable one.

The Reds got goals from Mohamed Salah and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain bracketing halftime to skate past the Hammers 2-0 at London Stadium to go 19 points clear at the top and deepen the hosts’ relegation worries.

West Ham looked solid on the break, but they made too many individual errors to overcome against such a dominant side. It could have been even more, but Salah hit the post with 12 minutes to go and West Ham continued to wilt as the clock continued to tick down.

The Hammers’ closest effort was a near own-goal from Trent Alexander-Arnold who luckily struck his own post in the second half. The Reds no longer have their game in hand, but it certainly feels like they no longer require it.

With 14 games remaining, Liverpool has only dropped a staggering two points all year and certainly feels poised to put forth a historic season, whether it be undefeated, a record point total, or both.

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So far Liverpool has navigated this season brilliantly despite a number of injuries and fitness concerns to various players. Alisson has missed time, numerous defenders such as Joel Matip and Alexander-Arnold have spent time on the sidelines, and the midfield has been shuffled constantly.

Yet the attacking trio of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, and Mohamed Salah remained largely untouched outside of the occasional rest. So without Mane, it was interesting to see how the Reds approached a game versus a clearly inferior opponent in the absence of their most consistent attacker.

Liverpool has now beaten all 19 teams in the league at least once this season.

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Inter complete Eriksen signing from Tottenham

Christian Eriksen has completed his protracted €20m (£16.9m) move from Tottenham Hotspur to Inter. The Dane had already agreed personal terms with the Italian club, who are second in Serie A, and the deal was announced on Tuesday. The 27-year-old has signed a four-and-a-half-year contract.

With his contract at Tottenham expiring at the end of the season, Eriksen could have joined Inter for free in the summer. But with Antonio Conte keen to bolster his attacking options right away, a deal was reached sooner, bringing to an end the midfielder’s largely fruitful but ultimately frustrating time in north London.

Spurs announced on Tuesday that they had signed Giovani Lo Celso on a permanent basis from Real Betis. The Argentinian, who has impressed recently after returning from injury, has signed a contract until 2025.

The fee is understood to be €35m and Tottenham waited until Eriksen’s move had been done before confirming Lo Celso’s signing.

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The club have also agreed a fee of €30m for the PSV Eindhoven winger Steven Bergwijn, plus €2m in add-ons, with the player set to undertake his medical and put the finishing touches to the deal.

Eriksen joined Tottenham from Ajax for £11.5m in August 2013 and after an initially slow start he blossomed under the management of Mauricio Pochettino, become a key creative cog in a team that established themselves in the Premier League’s top four and, on occasion, pushed for the title.

The 27-year-old was also part of the Spurs side that reached last season’s Champions League final, which they lost 2-0 to Liverpool and, ultimately, there were no trophies for the team when they were at their best and prior to a downturn this season that led to Pochettino being released in November.

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Chelsea make loan offer for PSG Cavani

Chelsea have offered to take Paris Saint-Germain’s striker Edinson Cavani to Stamford Bridge on loan until the end of the season.

According to The Times, Frank Lampard’s side are prepared to pay a loan fee and cover the Uruguayan’s hefty wages, thought to be over £360,000 a week, until his PSG contract runs out at the end of June.

The fee to secure the wantaway striker’s services is likely to be at least £5million and the Blues will have to fork out an additional £7.2million for the player’s wages.

Boss Lampard has stepped up his interest in signing a striker after his side twice threw away the lead to draw 2-2 with Arsenal.

He said: “You can’t say we will definitely sign a striker but we are looking.

“If you don’t score enough goals then you won’t win enough games.”

There are also concerns over regular lone striker Tammy Abraham who suffered an ankle injury late on at Stamford Bridge after sliding into the advertising hoardings and had to be helped from the field at the end of the match.

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Lampard said he did not know how serious the injury was but the club would assess the extent of the damage today.

With French World Cup winner Olivier Giroud set to depart this month, last season’s Europa League winners are now in need of reinforcements up front.

Cavani handed in a transfer request at the French champions on Sunday in a bid to force a move in this window and Lampard praised the 32-year-old before his side took on Arsenal.

He added: “He is a great player, I played against him.

“I am not sure what the situation is there though.

“He has experience, sometimes it’s good to bring in experience.”

The Uruguayan has been limited to just nine league appearances for PSG this season despite being the club’s record goalscorer with 198 goals in 293 matches in his seven years in the French capital.

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Liverpool defeat Manchester United

Mohamed Salah ripped off his Liverpool jersey at a freezing Anfield after completing a 2-0 win over Manchester United in stoppage time on Monday morning and rousing fans on the Kop to sing: “We’re gonna win the league.”

It’s been a 30-year wait but there is no longer any trepidation from the Liverpool supporters as their team has moved 16 points in front at the Premier League summit.

“Now you’re gonna believe us,” they chanted.

The Reds mathematically need 30 points to secure the title but, as it stands, if they go undefeated they could clinch the Premier League with a win over defending champions Manchester City when they face off in a one-versus-two battle in early April.

It took Salah getting on the end of goalkeeper Alisson’s inspired long ball with the final whistle about to blow for the Liverpool title party to begin with four months of the season remaining.

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A 13th straight league victory since the sides last met at Old Trafford in October continues.

Liverpool’s relentless run towards a first league title in three decades, while United remain five points off the top four in fifth.

Liverpool have now taken 64 points out a possible 66 available this season, having only dropped points versus Manchester United when the teams drew in October.

Liverpool also have a match in hand to come on closest challengers Manchester City and could have been more comfortable winners after seeing two first half goals ruled out and a host of clear chances go astray.

United is the only team to take Premier League points off the European champions this season, but it rarely looked like lightning would strike twice once the hosts went in front on 14 minutes.

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Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez out of Sevilla, signs with L.A Galaxy

The Los Angeles Galaxy have signed Javier “Chicharito” Hernández from Sevilla, according to a report from Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl.

According to Wahl, the Galaxy will make Hernández the highest-paid player in Major League Soccer. That distinction is currently held by Toronto FC and USMNT star Michael Bradley, who makes a reported $6 million a year.

The previous highest-paid player in MLS was Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who left the Galaxy in November and re-joined AC Milan. Hernández, whose “Chicharito” nickname was given to him by his father and means “Little Pea”, will be counted on to substitute Ibrahimovic’s star power goal-scoring output.

Hernández has spent nearly a decade playing in Europe since joining Manchester United from Guadalajara in 2010.

He scored 59 goals for United and won two Premier League titles before moving to Bayer Leverkusen in 2015, and he also played for Real Madrid (on loan) and West Ham United before joining Sevilla last summer.

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But he reportedly was told he doesn’t factor into Sevilla’s future plans, and he didn’t train Thursday and was held out of manager Julen Lopetegui’s squad to face Real Madrid this weekend.

The 31-year-old Hernández is the latest international star to sign with the Galaxy, who have counted Ibrahimovic, David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Robbie Keane and Ashley Cole among their ranks.

Hernández is also Mexico’s all-time leading scorer with 52 goals in 109 appearances.

The Galaxy had been in negotiations with Hernandez for some time and met with him earlier this week to close the deal. The meeting went well, according to ESPN Mexico and the LA Times, but it took three more days to iron out details.

A report from Spanish newspaper Marca put the transfer fee being negotiated for Chicharito at around $10 million.

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