Four Trophies Within Liverpool’s Reach

LIVERPOOL, England: Liverpool remain in the hunt to give Jurgen Klopp four farewell trophies after thrashing Norwich 5-2 in the English FA Cup earlier this morning, with the manager admitting he would have to be “made of wood” not to be touched by what he went through.

Klopp was greeted with an emotional “You’ll Never Walk Alone” before kick-off and a thank you banner in the first game since the German announced his decision to leave the Merseyside club at the end of the season.

The 56-year-old manager made the surprise announcement last Friday of his departure hoping “the best memories will live on” after winning the Premier League and Champions League during his tenure.

If Liverpool qualify for the FA Cup final, Klopp’s last game will be at Wembley and they are favorites to qualify for the quarter-finals after being drawn at home to face either Watford or Southampton in the last 16.

“It’s emotional but I have to keep calm. I’m getting too many messages. I’m not made of wood,” Klopp said of his efforts to deal with emotions in recent days.

“There will be a moment at the end of the season where we will say ‘goodbye’ and it will be emotional, but between now and then we have a big job to do.”

Klopp’s counterpart, Norwich boss David Wagner, was his best man on his wedding day after the pair played together at Mainz.

The two briefly embraced in the tunnel before kick-off, but Liverpool showed no mercy for Wagner’s men despite Klopp giving some of his youngsters the chance to shine.

James McConnell was handed his full debut in midfield and the 19-year-old opened the scoring when his cross was headed in by Curtis Jones.

Norwich hit back moments later when Ben Gibson fired a powerful shot past Alisson Becker following Gabriel Sara’s corner.

Liverpool led 2-1 at the break when Darwin Nunez headed home his 11th goal of the season after Conor Bradley’s hard work down the right wing.

The Reds have so far not felt the absence of Mohamed Salah following the Africa Cup of Nations to lead by five points at the top of the English Premier League and chase three more trophies – the League Cup, FA Cup and Europa League.

Diogo Jota did his goal-scoring duties in Salah’s absence and the Portuguese fired home after Gibson headed the ball towards him.

Dominik Szoboszlai’s corner was headed in by Virgil van Dijk to make it 4-1 after an hour.

Borja Sainz’s powerful shot from outside the penalty box reduced the deficit for Norwich but the hosts did not remain silent when Ryan Gravenberch scored the fifth goal in stoppage time.

PSG Is The Best Club For Mbappe – Al-Khelaifi

PARIS: Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi says he wants Kylian Mbappe to stay in Paris, claiming PSG is the best club for him.

Mbappe’s contract with the Ligue 1 champions expires this June and he is free to join any club next season.

“I want Kylian to stay here. The best player in the world is Kylian and the best club for him is Paris,” said Al-Khelaifi.

However, PSG has not yet been able to win the European Champions League despite having spent billions of ringgit since the presence of the owner from Qatar in 2011.

Mbappe has been linked with a move to 14-time European champions Real Madrid, who have twice been disappointed with the transfer of the player before.

Last week, Mbappe was reported to be willing to give up a million ringgit bonus from PSG to ensure that a move out of Paris would become a reality this time.

Mbappe signed an extended contract in 2022 that offers a salary of 72 million euros a year, a bonus of 150 million euros for signing the contract and a loyalty bonus of up to 90 million euros a year.

However, Al-Khelaifi emphasized that money is not a factor that will determine whether Mbappe will stay or not.

“We have many important matches, I want you not to disturb Kylian,” he said.

Mbappe has scored 24 goals in all competitions for the Ligue 1 leaders this season.

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.