MANCHESTER: Former Liverpool right-back, Glen Johnson, said that only Virgil van Dijk could stop Manchester City’s explosive Erling Haaland in the English Premier League clash at the Etihad Stadium, this Saturday.
“If there is someone who can stop Haaland, it is Van Dijk. The problem with City is not only about Haaland, the threat comes from every direction.
“Liverpool needs to be careful and not just focus on Haaland. But if it’s one-on-one between him and Van Dijk, it’s definitely an interesting clash.
“I want to see if Haaland will try to pass him or pull Van Dijk out of the defensive line,” said Johnson, who has made 200 appearances for Liverpool.
Van Dijk, 32, has been in excellent form for Liverpool and the Netherlands since the start of the season. He’s back to finding his rhythm after an underwhelming season before.
Haaland has also scored 17 goals in 18 appearances for City this season and is still hunting for his first goal against the Anfield club.
BIRMINGHAM: Unai Emery has urged his Aston Villa side to chase their dreams this season after beating West Ham 4-1 and falling just two points behind the Premier League’s top four.
Douglas Luiz scored twice while Ollie Watkins and Leon Bailey also found the target in Villa’s 11th straight league win at home.
Villa have surged since Emery took over just over a year ago, with only Manchester City and Arsenal picking up more Premier League points this year.
Villa are currently fifth in the league, but not far behind leaders City.
“One of our dreams is to at least qualify for the European championship for the second season in a row.
“Playing on the European stage is very important and we have to work to get it. We have to be consistent in what we do,” said Emery whose squad is competing in the European Conference League this season.
Luiz became the first Villa player to score in six consecutive league games at home when he opened the scoring in the 30th minute.
He beat West Ham goalkeeper Alphonse Areola for the second time from the penalty spot early in the second half after Edson Alvarez fouled Ezri Konsa.
Jarrod Bowen closed the gap for West Ham five minutes later for his 100th career goal.
However, the Hammers’ chances of continuing their comeback were blocked by Watkins who scored Villa’s third goal, and his eighth of the season.
Bailey, who was brought on with 15 minutes left in the game, added to the suffering of David Moyes’ men with Villa’s fourth goal.
NEW YORK: Ineos chairman Jim Ratcliffe is ready to pay more than US$1.5 billion for a 25 percent stake in Manchester United Plc with his offer expected to be accepted by the Glazer family, according to close sources yesterday.
The terms of Ratcliffe’s bid, reported in New York for the first time, conclude a valuation of Manchester United of almost US$6.5 billion, excluding its net debt of more than US$600 million, the source said. .
It is slightly higher than rival Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al Thani’s bid for a 100 percent stake in the English Premier League club. Manchester United is currently valued by the stock market at US$3.3 billion.
Sheikh Jassim informed the Glazer family in the past few days that he would not raise his offer further and thus withdrew from any bid.
The Glazers have not reached an agreement with Ratcliffe and negotiations may continue at least until the end of this month, the source said.
The Glazer family, which made its fortune in real estate, retail and healthcare and owns the NFL team Tampa Bay Buccaneers, bought United for £790 million in 2005.
The six heirs of American businessman Malcolm Glazer, who died in 2014, together own 96 percent of Manchester United’s voting stock.
The structure of the deal proposed by Ratcliffe would allow members of the Glazer family, as well as other shareholders, to remove some of the shares, the source said.
Ratcliffe is offering to handle recruitment and talent management at Manchester United if his bid is successful, the source said.
Some of the club’s fans have criticized the Glazers over the years for the way they handled key aspects of Manchester United’s operations.
Ratcliffe founded Ineos in 1998 and is chairman and chief executive of the chemical company group, with a two-thirds stake. Forbes estimates Ratcliffe’s net worth at US$18.7 billion.
The British billionaire is no stranger to business in sports. Ineos owns French Ligue 1 club Nice, Swiss Super League club FC Lausanne-Sport and partners with partner club Racing Club Abidjan in Ligue 1 Ivory Coast. It also sponsors the Grenadiers, one of the most successful cycling teams in the world.
LIVERPOOL: Jurgen Klopp says Darwin Nunez has improved significantly in his second season at Liverpool after the Uruguayan’s stunning goal helped the Reds to a 3-1 win over West Ham last night.
After a sudden drop in standards last season, Liverpool looked to shine again in the opening weeks of the new season with five wins and a draw in the first six Premier League games seeing Klopp’s men two points behind Manchester City at the top of the league.
Nunez’s two goals as a substitute against Newcastle last month played a major role in those points and he produced another quality second with the decisive goal against the Hammers.
Alexis Mac Allister’s header broke West Ham’s defense and Nunez met it with a volley for his fourth goal of the season.
The 24-year-old struggled to meet his 75 million euro price tag during his first season at Anfield and did not start in the starting line-up at the start of the season as Klopp had other options in attack.
“A big step in the last few weeks. He threatened a lot. You saw that goal,” said Klopp.
“The defensive work he’s doing now, he’s probably the main difference. He’s often willing, but he’s less composed. Now he looks better and we’ve found a way to work around him.”
Liverpool have come from behind in four of their first seven games of the season.
This time they took the lead through Mohamed Salah’s penalty but were tied before the break following Jarrod Bowen’s flying header.
Nunez restored the lead after an hour and Diogo Jota made it three points five minutes from time.
LONDON: Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp emphasized that his team wants to win the Europa League and this is not the place to give opportunities to young players who have little action.
The Reds begin their European tournament campaign with a visit to Linz in Austria early tomorrow to take on LASK as many believe they will not be risking big stars such as Mohamed Salah, Virgil Van Dijk and Dominik Szoboszlai.
However, Klopp explained that he would not give privileges to the main team because young players such as Ben Doak and Jarell Quansah were knocking on the door of the main team.
Stars who have missed out on action including Harvey Elliott, Joe Gomez and Caoimhin Kelleher are also hoping to get minutes.
“We are here to compete. Not to give chances. I know we are an option but we are here to play football.
“We take this game seriously and we want to take full advantage. The stadium is attractive, it opened in February, we are not arrogant but we want to compete and win,” said Klopp.
Liverpool last played in the Europa League in the 2016 final – losing to Sevilla – but Klopp admitted the competition was ‘too great’ for his squad.
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MANCHESTER: Rio Ferdinand believes many will be too panicked if Manchester United are having an unconvincing start to the Premier League this season.
Man United beat Wolves 1-0 in the opening game, but lost 2-0 at the hands of Tottenham in London.
They then went two goals down within five minutes against Nottingham Forest, but fought back through goals from Christian Eriksen, Casemiro and Bruno Fernandes for a 3-2 win.
Even though the performance was not convincing, Ferdinand believed that it was not yet time for fans to panic because the season had just started.
“I think they panicked too much. We have only had three matches. No trophy is given after three matches.
“When it’s been 15 matches, then I will start to panic. But at this stage, there is still room to improve the performance of the team and each player. You need to see what is positive,” said Ferdinand.