Klopp Is Happy Ahead Of New Year

LIVERPOOL: The start of 2023 was the worst period in Jurgen Klopp’s career – who entered his sixth year with Liverpool – losing to Brentford and failing to win an English Premier League game until February 13.

After overcoming a lackluster start – his side also lost twice to Brighton and 3-0 at Wolves – the Premier League leaders have gone from strength to strength and ended the year on a high note.

“I’m six times happier (compared to the same time last year). It was the worst period. We were sixth and maybe seventh or eighth. It feels better now.

“This season, the team is trying to do something and we will try to do it as well as possible,” said Klopp ahead of the meeting with Newcastle on Monday.

Klopp will also have the touch of Alexis MacAllister back who started training after recovering from injury at Sheffield United on December 6.

The return of the World Cup champion with Argentina is just in time after another midfielder, Wataru Endo will return to Japan to lead his country’s challenge in the Asian Cup.

Mohamed Salah will also be with the Egyptian team for the Africa Cup of Nations campaign.

Diogo Jota also returned to fitness and came on as a substitute to seal the three points at Burnley on Boxing Day.

Pochettino Amazed That Chelsea’s Young Players Are Shining

LONDON: So far this season Chelsea have been regarded as a team in the making but one thing is for sure they can no longer be called boring – last night’s late 3-2 win with 10 men over Brighton saw them collect 23 goals in their last four games.

When the final whistle blew in the wintry rain at Stamford Bridge, players and coaching staff rushed onto the pitch in relief after the visitors pressed the Blues throughout in another roller-coaster game.

The twelve goals Mauricio Pochettino’s men have scored in their last four games – against Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City, Newcastle United and Brighton – have boosted confidence among Blues supporters that their long attacking drought is over.

But the 11 goals they conceded prove that Chelsea are still far behind the elite teams of the English Premier League.

“Yes, we conceded but to win you have to score. It’s entertaining, that’s football. People like to watch two attacking teams in action,” Pochettino told reporters.

“Of course, I want to score 10 goals and not concede at all but if you want to attack, sometimes you have to take risks and allow the opposition to create chances. But it’s about winning,” he said.

Chelsea looked comfortable again after being beaten 4-1 by Newcastle last weekend when Enzo Fernandez and Levi Colwill both scored their first league goals for the club in the 17th and 21st minutes.

A curling goal drew the visitors from Facundo Buonanotte and Chelsea captain Conor Gallagher’s second yellow card just before the break clearly threatened the hosts’ position.

Fernandez’s goal from the penalty spot in the 65th minute restored a two-goal lead for The Blues, before Joao Pedro’s late header set off a flurry in the final minutes, including a penalty kick for Brighton that was disallowed after a VAR review.

Pochettino praised his youngsters for handling the challenge of playing half a game with 10 men, although he felt Gallagher did not deserve a second yellow card for a tackle from behind on ex-Chelsea player Billy Gilmour.

“I told them at halftime… I’m glad it happened because it’s a great opportunity for us,” he said.

“It’s a big challenge. Come on, now we have to prove ourselves as a team. It’s something that will definitely help us improve.”

Chelsea, who are 10 points behind the top four in 10th place, face Manchester United at home early Thursday morning.

Only Van Dijk Able To Stop Haaland – Johnson

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.

Maguire Is Confident Of Finding His Form

MANCHESTER: Harry Maguire says his decision to stay with Manchester United last summer was the right one as he returned to Erik ten Hag’s starting line-up.

After a lackluster first season under Ten Hag, Maguire came close to moving to West Ham in the last transfer window, but fell through and remained at Old Trafford.

He started the campaign as a substitute, but returned to start the game in United’s last eight games.

“I played a few games last year, 16 or 17 starts, and I think I did well in every game, just not as often as I would have liked.

“Rapha (Raphael Varane) and Licha (Lisandro Martinez) also performed brilliantly and ensured that the goal was not conceded.

“I just have to wait and be patient. I had two or three chances last season to get a place, but was prevented by injuries and health problems.

“So I didn’t have a chance to prove to the operator my true ability. Now I’m back to getting a rhythm.

“I’m enjoying my game now and I’m happy to be playing for this club. I’m willing to stay here and compete for a place.

“We have four or five world-class centre-backs at this club and the competition for those positions is fierce,” Maguire said.

Maguire, who still holds the title of the world’s most expensive defender, returned to his place after Martinez was forced to rest through injury.

Emery Urges Villa To Chase Their Dreams

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.

Ratcliffe Ready To Buy Man United For 1.5 Billion

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.

Klopp Praised Nunez’s Significant Improvement

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.