‘I don’t feel like an underdog’: Jürgen Klopp eager for Real redemption

The Liverpool manager still has raw memories of defeat in a Champions League final but he is undeterred as he prepares for another tilt at club football’s ultimate prizePicture the scene. A sunbed by a hotel swimming pool in Las Vegas in May 2014. A German holidaymaker is trying to relax, to clear his mind of everything involving work, but his repose keeps being disturbed by noises off. “There was a football match on television and a lot of people were watching it,” Jürgen Klopp says, taking up the story. “It was Real Madrid v Atlético in the Champions League final and everyone was shouting in Spanish. I was kind of annoyed by hearing the noise, because I had been trying to ignore the game. I didn’t want to watch it, I had no clue who had scored or who had won, because it was still painful to think Continue reading "‘I don’t feel like an underdog’: Jürgen Klopp eager for Real redemption"

Antonio Conte may be latest to find how little FA Cup glory means now

A Cup triumph used to really matter but Roberto Mancini and Louis van Gaal were sacked regardless and Chelsea’s manager seems set to go whatever happens at Wembley “I didn’t bring the magic, it’s always been here,” Bob Stokoe said modestly after second division Sunderland had toppled mighty Leeds United in the 1973 FA Cup final. “I just came back to find it.” Everyone knows what Stokoe said because the words are inscribed on the plinth of his statue outside the Stadium of Light. That’s how big a deal winning the FA Cup used to be. When Stokoe died in 2004 there was never any doubt about the image that would be used to commemorate the club’s greatest post-war success. Opinion is divided over how accurately the sculptor captured the manager and the moment, but the worst-dressed man at Wembley leaping off the bench at the final whistle to Continue reading "Antonio Conte may be latest to find how little FA Cup glory means now"

Everton’s Sam Allardyce braced for boos from both sides at West Ham

• Former Hammers manager still uncertain of future at Goodison
• Allardyce was unpopular with fans during his spell in east LondonThese are difficult times for Sam Allardyce, who is not only aware of the speculation that suggests he may be preparing an Everton side for the last time but readying his tough exterior for the possibility that he might be jeered by both sets of supporters at the London Stadium on Sunday, writes Paul Wilson. The former West Ham manager has waited in vain for public backing from Everton’s owner that he will be allowed to see out the second year of his contract, with the result that while other managers are looking forward to a break he is waiting to discover whether he gets the thumbs up or thumbs down from Farhad Moshiri. Continue reading...

Jürgen Klopp urges Liverpool not to ‘fall flat on your face’ against Brighton

• Manager tells players to put Champions League to back of minds
• ‘I have not been skipping forward to think about Real Madrid’ Many Liverpool fans have thought about little other than the Champions League final for the last couple of weeks, waiting to find out if they have tickets in the ballot and paying eye-watering prices for day trips to Kiev, but Jürgen Klopp has put it all to the back of his mind. Thanks to the defeat at Chelsea last week Liverpool still need a point to guarantee Champions League football next season and Klopp has not been instructing his players to keep their focus on Brighton on Sunday afternoon without being willing to do so himself. “It would have been nice to do it earlier but now we have to do it on the last day,” the Liverpool manager said. Continue reading...

Premier League farewells: six players who may say goodbye on the final day

Sunday will bring the curtain down on several big-name Premier League careers – whether or not they realise it just yet It is the end of the Premier League season and inevitably it will be goodbye from some of the game’s big names, whether or not they realise it just yet. Not everyone gets to know when the curtain will fall on a top-flight career; some have everything planned, others are overtaken by events, while a few will rage against the dying of the light by seeking new contracts elsewhere. But when the 27th edition of the Premier League commences in August it is likely one or two familiar faces will be missing. Here are some of the high-profile performers whose Match of the Day days are in danger of drawing to a close – or already have done. whose Match of the Day days are in danger of drawing Continue reading "Premier League farewells: six players who may say goodbye on the final day"

Sensible Gareth Southgate goes early with his England World Cup picks | Paul Wilson

The England manager this week names his squad for Russia and has hinted there will be no major surprises

Gareth Southgate has made the sensible decision to name his World Cup squad early, this coming week in fact, perhaps because of his close proximity to the furniture rearranging that took place when Glenn Hoddle trimmed Paul Gascoigne from his list at the last moment in 1998. As Southgate has explained, injuries permitting there is no need to prolong anyone’s agony when you have a couple of weeks to spare and a reasonable idea of the group you would like to select. Better to let everyone know the good or bad news early and give the individuals in the finalised squad as much time as possible to get to know each other. Continue reading...

Sir Alex Ferguson: true to Clydeside and certainly no average pensioner

Ferguson ended his era as Manchester United manager in 2013, but frequent trips to US and demands of lecture circuit found him in high spiritsThe news about Sir Alex Ferguson will have come as a shock to anyone who saw him on the pitch at Old Trafford last Sunday, presenting Arsène Wenger with an award in recognition of his 22 years as Arsenal manager. Though 76, the former Manchester United manager looked in good health and high spirits, as he has done throughout his retirement since standing down five years ago. Ferguson retired from football management in 2013 though in practice he has been far busier than the average pensioner, putting his name to books on leadership, frequently visiting the United States where he has been lucratively in demand as a lecturer and motivational speaker, indulging his love of horse racing and, not least, attending United games. Continue reading...

Jürgen Klopp seeks top-four slot and end to stupid questions at Chelsea

• Draw would confirm Champions League place for Liverpool
• ‘We are strong enough to compete with the best teams in Europe’Liverpool need to take a point or more from their visit to Stamford Bridge this afternoon in order to secure their place in the top four, leave the rest of the season free to concentrate on the Champions League final and give Jürgen Klopp a break from answering stupid questions. The German has become adept at either widening his eyes or letting his jaw drop in response to some of the inanities that come his way during media duties, though to his credit he usually manages a reasoned answer. “Yes of course it is important to this club to play in the Champions League next season,” he said slowly, as if examining the query for a catch it did not contain. “We are strong enough to compete against Continue reading "Jürgen Klopp seeks top-four slot and end to stupid questions at Chelsea"

Everton’s Allardyce defends style and points to Tosun and Walcott signings

• Allardyce: ‘It is simply not true that I always play the same way’
• Everton home to Southampton in Saturday evening gameSam Allardyce has defended his style of football in the face of criticism from Everton fans, arguing he cannot be accused of negativity when he has brought in two key attackers. The manager has a contract at Goodison Park until the end of next season, though some fans have been vociferous in their disapproval of the type of football being played, even though Everton have climbed to eighth in the table. Continue reading...

Eric Bailly dropped because he is not going to World Cup, says José Mourinho

• Defender has not played for Manchester United in nearly a month
• ‘Jones, Smalling, Rojo and Lindelöf are fighting for World Cup place’José Mourinho has revealed why Eric Bailly has been frozen out of the Manchester United first team in the last few weeks – it is because Ivory Coast have not qualified for the World Cup. Related: Chelsea interested in making move for Manchester United’s Anthony Martial Continue reading...

Premier League fight to survive hots up but the drop not always disastrous | Paul Wilson

Clubs at the bottom of the table are battling against relegation, but Burnley have proved in the past that descent to the Championship need not be the end of the worldThe splendid job Roy Hodgson has done at Crystal Palace was emphasised by the five-goal rout of demoralised Leicester at the weekend, though it was merely the culmination of an impressive sequence of six games in which the only defeat came at the hands of Liverpool and Palace managed to either beat or share points with four of their relegation rivals. In the process Palace have climbed above Brighton, Bournemouth and Watford, all clubs who were considered to be having decent seasons, and probably made themselves safe. Hodgson has said he does not like hearing about mathematical possibilities and only described his team as being on the verge of safety with 38 points, though he also said he would Continue reading "Premier League fight to survive hots up but the drop not always disastrous | Paul Wilson"

José Mourinho calls for more respect as United close in on second place

• Manager says United have not received credit for successful season
• ‘It seems hard for people to praise the team and praise the boys’ Manchester United play the bottom team in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon and even though there seems to be a general acceptance that West Brom are as good as relegated, José Mourinho is taking no chances. The United manager stepped up training this past week because he did not want any complacency to creep in following victory in the Manchester derby. Winning at the Etihad meant United have kept up a 100% record since going out of the Champions League to Sevilla and it also allowed Mourinho to make a point. “We have beaten all the big teams around us, but the important thing now is to continue to pick up points in order to finish second,” he said. Continue reading...

José Mourinho calls for more respect as United close in on second place

• Manager says United have not received credit for successful season
• ‘It seems hard for people to praise the team and praise the boys’ Manchester United play the bottom team in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon and even though there seems to be a general acceptance that West Brom are as good as relegated, José Mourinho is taking no chances. The United manager stepped up training this past week because he did not want any complacency to creep in following victory in the Manchester derby. Winning at the Etihad meant United have kept up a 100% record since going out of the Champions League to Sevilla and it also allowed Mourinho to make a point. “We have beaten all the big teams around us, but the important thing now is to continue to pick up points in order to finish second,” he said. Continue reading...

Six of the most dramatic nights in the European Cup and Champions League

From the 1960 final to the miracle of Istanbul, Europe’s top club competition has provided many moments to rival the drama of Real Madrid’s quarter-final against Juventus The almost shocking conclusion to what had been a notable Juventus recovery against Real Madrid at the Bernabéu has not only divided opinion – it was a penalty all day long, one could only admire the stealth with which Medhi Benatia administered his shove in the back of Lucas Vázquez and the bravery of Michael Oliver for punishing it – but has also inspired much talk of the evening being one of the most dramatic in the history of the European Cup and Champions League. However the latter stages of the competition have frequently produced controversy, spectacle and drama. Here are six other notable European nights to consider. Continue reading...

Never underestimate how hard it is to win – and manage in – the Premier League | Paul Wilson

After a rough week for Pep Guardiola, if it is any consolation, he is far from alone in the Premier League in letting standards slip The image of Pep Guardiola with his head in his hands contemplating Manchester City’s Champions League exit from a seat in the Colin Bell stand is likely to be an enduring one. This, the unwritten caption will say, is what England can do to the world’s finest coaching talent. To be strictly accurate it was not English football’s fault that Guardiola lost it so completely at the end of the first half against Liverpool, it was more a combination of Martin Atkinson and the Spanish referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz. Continue reading...

Manchester City must keep Raheem Sterling, says Pep Guardiola

• City to open negotiations on an improved deal at end of season
• ‘Maybe other clubs are now interested because he is playing so well’Pep Guardiola has stressed the importance of Manchester City keeping hold of Raheem Sterling after the 23-year-old impressed again for England in midweek. It is barely a year since the winger’s future at the Etihad appeared to be in doubt, but Guardiola is aware Sterling’s transformation this season into both a goalscorer and effective attacking threat will not have gone unnoticed. The former Liverpool player is already under contract until 2020, but it is understood City will open negotiations on an improved extension at the end of the season. Continue reading...

Gareth Southgate says loyalty and spirit will play part in World Cup selection

• Jake Livermore retained in England squad despite club form
• England play Netherlands in Friday friendly and Italy on TuesdayWhen Gareth Southgate named his first England squad of this World Cup year for the forthcoming friendlies against the Netherlands and Italy there were a few surprise omissions – Gary Cahill, Chris Smalling and Danny Drinkwater among them – but the inclusion that stood out was that of Jake Livermore. The midfielder has not been enjoying the best of seasons at West Bromwich Albion, where he has not always been a regular starter, and thanks to Twitter we know Alan Shearer for one thought Jonjo Shelvey has made a more pressing case for selection. Yet Southgate is the loyal type, perfectly willing to defend his decision in a way that reveals a lot about his thought processes for Russia this summer. Continue reading...

Wigan’s FA Cup run fuelled by Paul Cook’s love in the age of negativity

League One club’s run is forged on a team spirit they hope will knock out a fourth Premier League side in SouthamptonWigan are on an old-fashioned Cup run and Paul Cook will cheerfully admit to being an old-fashioned manager. He believes in the FA Cup for a start, as might be surmised from the fact his League One side will on Sunday be attempting to knock a fourth Premier League side out of the competition. Possibly distracted by the scale of their achievement against Manchester City in the last round, Wigan’s promotion push has suffered a wobble over the last couple of months, though a first win in three games at Bradford in midweek calmed a few nerves. Cook, confronted before Sunday’s game against Southampton with the old chestnut about whether he would choose promotion over a Wembley semi-final, unhesitatingly opted for promotion. Then he thought about it a Continue reading "Wigan’s FA Cup run fuelled by Paul Cook’s love in the age of negativity"

Liverpool’s Jürgen Klopp fumes about ‘breakfast’ kick-off for Merseyside derby

• Klopp’s side face Everton at 12.30pm after Champions league tie
• Guardiola has his own problems with 5.30pm start for United game Jürgen Klopp was happy with the Champions League draw until he realised that after playing Manchester City on the Wednesday his Liverpool side would face an early kick-off on the Saturday – against Everton. The Merseyside derby was originally scheduled for Sunday 8 April but was brought forward by a day for TV purposes. Manchester City are in a somewhat similar situation – their game between the two legs of the quarter-final is against Manchester United – and it could be the one that sees them crowned Premier League champions, but that game kicks off at a more reasonable 5.30pm. Continue reading...