Daily Archives: January 25, 2017

League Cup semi-final preview: Liverpool vs Southampton

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Southampton holds a slim 1-0 lead heading into their semi-final replay against Liverpool, but will be without key defender Virgil van Dijk.

Van Dijk limped out of the Saints’ 3-0 win over Leicester City last weekend with an ankle problem.Jack Stephens, an England Under-21 international could feature if Van Dijk is deemed unfit.

Club manager Claude Puel says he has no fears going into the second leg at Anfield even as Southampton aims for a first cup final since 2003.

“Of course, it is special to play at Liverpool but I think it will be an exciting game,” Puel said. “It is important for all of the players, the squad, to play this game with a positive attitude. It will be dangerous and not good to just defend and try to preserve this lead.”

On the other hand, while Liverpool has been stumbling slightly in the Premier League, the return of defender Joel Matip could make a crucial difference for the Reds.

Matip was included in the provisional Cameroon squad for the Africa Cup of Nations but was one of seven players to say they did not want to play. While FIFA could impose a ban on players on such grounds, Matip had since been cleared to play.

However, Reds boss Jurgen Klopp could also see that as the Merseyside club stumbles in the Premier League race, so does their enthusiasm for the other trophies declines too.

“You cannot just give up on a season when it still holds so many possibilities,” Klopp said. “We are in two cups and we must fight for a place in the Champions League. We are still close enough to fight for nearly everything. Is anyone really saying that if we cannot be champions we cannot enjoy the season?”

“We can improve on last season and that’s what we should all be aiming for. That is what I would regard as taking the next step. And if this is a long-term project, obviously that means we need to make a few steps. As long as we keep developing, that’s fine for me.”

Prediction:
Liverpool (2) – (0) Southampton

Borussia Dortmund beats Real Madrid to sign Alexander Isak

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Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund has beaten Real Madrid to the signature of 17-year-old Swedish striker Alexander Isak from Swedish side AIK Solna.

The youngster was set to join Real Madrid last week, but a change of heart saw him opting for the Bundesliga club instead.

Isak and his advisers, who were in Dortmund on Sunday to conclude the deal, are likely to have taken to heart the struggles of another Scandinavian prospect, Martin Odegaard.

Odegaard found life hard at Real Madrid since joining Los Blancos as a 16-year-old in January 2015 — the Norwegian had made only one appearance for the European champions since then, and was loaned to Dutch club Heerenveen this month.

Borussia Dortmund sporting director, Michael Zorc, said: “Alexander Isak is a hugely-talented striker, who many top clubs in Europe wanted to sign. We are delighted that he has chosen Borussia Dortmund. Both BVB and the player himself are convinced that this transfer has great potential.”

However, as Isak is under-18, the transfer deal reported to be worth 10 million euros needs approval by football world governing body FIFA.

The teenager previously debuted for AIK in February 2016, scoring 13 goals in 29 games.

He subsequently became Sweden’s youngest ever goalscorer when he netted against Slovakia on 12 January this year. Aged 17 years and 113 days at the time, Isak broke a 105-year record in the process.

He had already became the second youngest Swedish player ever four days previously when he made his debut against Ivory Coast.

Sweden national coach Janne Andersson, said after the two games: “Isak is rewriting history and I am not surprised. I knew that he would do well. He is calm and incredibly stable. It’s been fun to get to know him.”

Federer cruises past Zverev to set up Wawrinka semi-final

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Four-time Australian Open champion Roger Federer trumped unseeded MIscha Zverev to cruise into the semi-final of the grand slam event, setting up an encounter against fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka.

The 17-time grand-slam winner won against Zverev 6-1, 7-5, 6-2 on day nine of the Australian Open, in a punishing match that lasted just 92 minutes — with 65 winners and only 13 unforced errors.

While Zverev did not perform badly after the match in which he bested World No.1 Andy Murray, he was thoroughly outclassed in the first set — which lasted just 19 minutes — up unto Federer’s final classy forehand winner that left the German rooted to the baseline.

As Federer is now the oldest player to reach a slam semi‑final since Jimmy Connors, then 39, did so at the US Open in 1991. The Swiss Maestro will also be the oldest semi-finalist here in Melbourne, breaking the record set by 34-year-old Arthur Ashe, in 1978.

However, he was surprised as he did not expect to go so far in the tournament after a six-month hiatus through injury — it was also his first competitive return after last playing at Wimbledon in July.

“My expectation was not to play Stan Wawrinka in the semis. I thought maybe I could get to the fourth round or quarters — that’s what I told the Swiss press,” Federer said.

“I will probably never be able to play 27 tournaments a year any more, we all know that,” he added in reply to how long he thinks he can extend his illustrious career.

“But, maybe instead of playing 22, you play 18, instead of 20 you play 17. That could totally happen. You always need the right balance, I feel like, enough practice, enough matches, enough time off. I guess as you get older, everything becomes a bit different.”