Monthly Archives: September 2013

Lucas delighted with ‘world-class’ Suarez’s Liverpool return

The Uruguay international scored twice against Sunderland in his first Premier League appearance since being handed a 10-match ban for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic last term

Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva has hailed the return of “world-class” frontman Luis Suarez and believes the forward will be crucial to the club’s successes this season.

The Uruguay international featured in his first league match since April on Sunday, after serving a 10-match suspension for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic.

The 26-year-old marked his return in style, scoring twice against Sunderland in a 3-1 win, and Lucas believes his team-mate will be vital to the Anfield outfit’s push for silverware.

“He is showing again just how good he is,” the Brazilian midfielder told the club’s official website.

“He is a world-class player and it is so important to have players like that if you want to fight for good things this season.

“Hopefully he will have another fantastic season for us like he did last year.”

The former Ajax forward had been heavily linked with a move away from Liverpool in the transfer window, with Premier League rivals Arsenal having two bids rejected, but Lucas feel Suarez’s display at Sunderland confirmed his loyalty to Liverpool.

“Luis showed with his performance that he is really committed to the team and to the club,” he added. “He just wants to help us, and we will try to help him too.”

Daniel Sturridge took his tally in the Premier League this season to five goals, also creating both of Suarez’s strikes, and Lucas is excited by the blossoming partnership between the England international and the Uruguayan.

“When Dan [Sturridge] arrived here, within a few months Luis got the ban so they didn’t have much chance to play many games together,” Lucas added.

“But you could see how well they linked up. The understanding between them is really good and it will only get better. It will improve over the course of the season and hopefully they will keep helping us with goals and assists.”

Mou makes up his own rules to master the mind games

Correspondent’s Column: The Spaniard’s display against Tottenham showed his manager might know what he’s doing after all, although his Vertonghen outburst was uncalled for


MOURINHO’S PLAYED A MATA MASTERSTROKE

If Juan Mata were to pick up the phone and call Cristiano Ronaldo, he would probably receive some reassurance.

He would be told that Ronaldo, too, was asked to adapt his game by Jose Mourinho when the Portuguese took over at Real Madrid – but the coach’s demands turned the forward into a better player.

Much has been made of Mata’s absence from the Chelsea team in the early part of the season – and quite rightly given his stunning performances since joining the club in 2011.

But six league titles and two Champions League winners’ medals suggests Mourinho knows what he is doing in the dugout and he may have pulled off a masterstroke with his treatment of Mata.

The 50-year-old was derided for leaving the Spaniard out of his starting XI and publicly calling on the former Valencia playmaker to work harder defensively, while making it clear that Oscar was his first choice for the No.10 role.

Mourinho, though, has always used psychology to motivate even his best players.

On Saturday, he got the response he was looking for as Mata came on at half-time against Tottenham with a point to prove and turned the game and helped earn his side a draw.

After a listless first-half performance in which Chelsea were overrun and fortunate to be trailing only by a single goal, Mata inspired a complete turnaround.

All of Chelsea’s best moves were orchestrated by him and it was no surprise it was he who put John Terry’s equalising goal on a plate from one of his trademark free kicks.

Mata will now start in Tuesday’s crucial Champions League game at Steaua Bucharest with a spring in his step and determined to keep his place in the team.

But while Mourinho may have played a masterstroke with Mata, there was more than a touch of hypocrisy in the Portuguese’s accusations of Jan Vertonghen cheating to get Fernando Torres sent-off.

Mourinho blasted Vertonghen for making the most of his aerial clash with the striker. Of course, no Mourinho player – say Didier Drogba, or Pepe – has ever behaved in such a manner, have they?

And just as bad was his refusal to condemn Torres’ ugly face scratch on Vertonghen earlier in the game, for which he should have been sent-off and could yet receive retrospective punishment.

ARSENAL MUST BELIEVE THEY ARE CONTENDERS

They say the Premier League table starts to take shape after six games of the season – in which case it looks pretty good for Arsenal.

The Gunners are top of the pile having won five matches in a row since their opening day defeat at home to Aston Villa – talk of a crisis has long been forgotten, but now Arsenal must start to believe they can occupy top spot when it really matters next May.

Aaron Ramsey, the country’s most in-form player, was hesitant, almost sheepish, after Saturday’s win at Swansea when asked about Arsenal’s title chances. Even Arsene Wenger went only as far as to say his side were in with a “chance”.

Given the current Premier League landscape Arsenal’s players and management have every right to be bullish about their targets for the campaign ahead, but their reluctance make a verbal statement of intent is the consequence of eight years without a trophy.

They have started the season in the same fashion that they finished the last campaign, and added more star quality with the deadline day signing of Mesut Ozil.

But the question with this Arsenal team will always be how they can cope if and when results slip – is there the same drive and determination in this squad that characterised Wenger’s earlier sides?

In reality, Arsenal have had the easiest fixture list of the top six and are only where they should be. In fact, in comparison with the corresponding fixtures last season they are three points down.

Arsene Wenger’s side are playing the best football in the league, they have a stable squad and a manager who is part of the furniture.

Summer changes at Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City means this season is Arsenal’s best opportunity in years to reclaim a title last won by ‘The Invincibles’ in 2004.

This is not the perfect squad, there will be bumps in the road and questions to be answered – but there is no need for them to adopt an inferiority complex as they strive to claim their first league title in a decade.

SAS: STURRIDGE AND SUAREZ HAVE THE MAKINGS OF A FINE DOUBLE ACT

The fashion across Europe at the moment is to play a lone central striker, but Brendan Rodgers looks like he could be on to something in reviving the old-fashioned double act with Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez.

A trip to bottom-of-the-table Sunderland provided a perfect opportunity to pair them together and it worked a treat, with the speed and movement of both players suited to counter-attacking away from home.

Sturridge scored his fourth league goal of the season before putting two more on a plate for Suarez to convert from close range on his first league game since his 10-match ban for biting Branislav Ivanovic.

After the 3-1 win at the Stadium of Light, upcoming games against Crystal Palace, Newcastle and West Brom will provide further opportunity to develop a potentially devastating partnership ahead of sterner tests.

POCHETTINO PROVING THE DOUBTERS WRONG

The common response last season to Southampton’s decision to sack Nigel Adkins and replace him with Mauro Pochettino was one of either ignorance or brazen xenophobia.

The Argentinian is proving to be an inspired appointment as the Saints sit giddy in fifth in the Premier League table. The dark days of administration and languishing in League One long forgotten.

They have been aided so far by a kind fixture list – last week’s winning trip to Anfield aside – but the signs of progress are undeniable, especially when you remember their ragged defending at the start of last season.

Southampton have already kept four clean sheets and conceded just two league goals this term. Pochettino is building the right base to take Southampton to the next level, to turn attention from survival to challenging for a European place.

Barcelona edge out AC Milan as the Champions League’s most successful team

The Blaugrana come out on top in Goal’s analysis of the greatest clubs in the modern era of the European Cup competition

ANALYSIS
By Kris Voakes

Barcelona are the most successful club in the modern era of the Champions League, according to a Goal study.

The world’s biggest football website collated the yearly records of every club ever to qualify for the European Cup under its new banner since 1992 and found that the Catalan outfit pip AC Milan to the title of the greatest team in the greatest club competition in the world.

Using the Fibonacci points formula of ascending value, teams reaching the first stage of any one edition were given one point, those making the round of 16 gained two, quarter-finalists three, semi-finalists five, finalists earned eight and winners were allotted 13 points. And, over the course of the 21-year history of the new-style tournament, three-time winners Barca collected a total of 92 points compared to the Rossoneri’s 86.

TOP 20 | The Champions League’s greatest clubs

Real Madrid come in just behind the pair with 85 points, meaning all of the podium positions are taken up by clubs with three Champions League wins to their name. Double winners Manchester United (1999 and 2008) and Bayern Munich (2001 and 2013) complete a star-studded top five, with sixth-placed Juventus a full 23 points behind the current holders, emphasising the superiority of the leading quintent.

COUNTRY-BY-COUNTRY STANDINGS

1
2
3
4
5
Country
SPAIN
ENGLAND
ITALY
GERMANY
FRANCE

Points
249
228
216
172
113

Barcelona have been particularly boosted by their performances over the past six seasons in Europe, with their victories in 2009 and 2011 helping them to record 46 points since 2007. Their first 46 points took 15 years to achieve, during which time Milan had racked up 75 points. The Italian giants’ recent stuttering form on the continent has seen their lead evaporate since their most recent triumph in Athens six years ago.

While the likes of Ajax, Juve, Porto and Marseille may all have suffered somewhat in recent times, they remain in the top 20 thanks to their previous form in the Champions League. New superpowers, on the other hand, are nowhere to be seen. Paris Saint-Germain are placed 33rd with just one semi-final appearance in 1995 to their name, with fellow big-spenders Manchester City sitting joint-83rd having made it only as far as the group stage in their two efforts.

The Blaugrana’s presence at the top, together with Madrid’s placing of third, has tipped the scales towards Spain in the battle between the continent’s nations. Primera Liga clubs have tallied a combined 249 points since 1992, with even the likes of Mallorca, Real Betis and Real Sociedad having qualified for the event over the years.

Predictably, English clubs come in second with a total of 228 points, while Italy sits third in the rankings just 12 points further back. Bundesliga clubs are placed fourth, ahead of France in fifth. In Champions League history, a total of 152 clubs have made it past the qualifying stages, representing 38 different nations.

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Rodgers: Sturridge & Suarez best strike partners in Premier League

The Englishman opened the scoring in the Reds 3-1 win at Sunderland before assisting his Uruguayan team-mate for both his strikes

Brendan Rodgers has suggested Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge are the best strike partners in the Premier League following Liverpool’s 3-1 win at Sunderland.

Suarez was handed his first Premier League start since the completion of his 10-match ban on Sunday and grabbed two goals courtesy of assists from his fellow forward at the Stadium of Light.

Sturridge had earlier opened the scoring for the Merseyside club and Rodgers believes the pair’s performance proves they are among the best in the English top flight.

“I’m not sure there are two better [strikers] in the league,” he said.

“There are some wonderful partnerships around, you’ve got [Robin] van Persie and [Wayne] Rooney up there who’ve been outstanding.

“We’ve changed the structure of our team a bit to allow us to pass it better and we’ve still got an awful lot of work to do – but also to fit in with the types of players we have.

“And those two are right up there with the best in the country and you saw that today.

“For the goal, Steven Gerrard makes an absolutely breathtaking pass out of pressure and Daniel’s touch, pace, power takes him in and he’s shown that quality to roll the ball in for Luis to get his finish.

“I think those two will only get better, you see the understanding, we’ve done a lot of work with them together in training and they looked very bright today.”

Liverpool came into Sunday’s game having suffered a league defeat to Southampton and a Capital One Cup exit at the hands of Manchester United over the past week.

And Rodgers was pleased with the way his team bounced back against a team out to impress following the sacking of manager Paolo Di Canio.

“I was delighted with the result. We had a really good performance but didn’t get anything in the week at Old Trafford so to come away and get the result and perform in parts of the game as we did today was very pleasing,” he added.

“Kevin (Ball, caretaker manager) had a reaction from his team, he’s only been in charge of them for a short period of time but you could see the intensity and the focus they had in the game.

“So we always had to be alert and I thought we defended very well and on the counter-attack we looked very, very threatening so (it is) a great victory for us.”

Liverpool boss Rodgers lauds Sturridge & Suarez partnership

The Englishman opened the scoring in the Reds 3-1 win at Sunderland before assisting his Uruguayan team-mate for both his strikes

Brendan Rodgers has hailed Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge’s blossoming partnership following Liverpool’s 3-1 win at Sunderland.

Suarez was handed his first Premier League start since the completion of his 10-match ban on Sunday, and grabbed two goals courtesy of assists from his fellow forward at the Stadium of Light.

Sturridge had earlier opened the scoring for the Merseyside club and Rodgers believes the pair’s performance proves they are among the best in the English top flight.

“I’m not sure there are two better [strikers] in the league,” he said.

“There are some wonderful partnerships around, you’ve got [Robin] van Persie and [Wayne] Rooney up there who’ve been outstanding.

“We’ve changed the structure of our team a bit to allow us to pass it better and we’ve still got an awful lot of work to do – but also to fit in with the types of players we have.

“And those two are right up there with the best in the country and you saw that today.

“For the goal, Steven Gerrard makes an absolutely breathtaking pass out of pressure and Daniel’s touch, pace, power takes him in and he’s shown that quality to roll the ball in for Luis to get his finish.

“I think those two will only get better, you see the understanding, we’ve done a lot of work with them together in training and they looked very bright today.”

Liverpool came into Sunday’s game having suffered a league defeat to Southampton and a Capital One Cup exit at the hands of Manchester United over the past week.

And Rodgers was pleased with the way his team bounced back against a team out to impress following the sacking of manager Paolo Di Canio.

“I was delighted with the result. We had a really good performance but didn’t get anything in the week at Old Trafford so to come away and get the result and perform in parts of the game as we did today was very pleasing,” he added.

“Kevin (Ball, caretaker manager) had a reaction from his team, he’s only been in charge of them for a short period of time but you could see the intensity and the focus they had in the game.

“So we always had to be alert and I thought we defended very well and on the counter-attack we looked very, very threatening so (it is) a great victory for us.”

Sunderland 1-3 Liverpool: Suarez strikes twice on winning Premier League return

Luis Suarez struck twice on his Premier League return to help Liverpool record a 3-1 win over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Sunday, a result which sees the Reds move up to second place in the table.


Just moments after Sebastian Larsson had hit the bar for the hosts, Daniel Sturridge controversially gave the away side the lead, appearing to use his arm to nudge the ball goalwards, before Suarez doubled the advantage just eight minutes later.

Emanuele Giaccherini netted immediately after half-time as Sunderland hinted at a comeback, but, in pushing forward for an equaliser, they were stung on the break as Liverpool’s Urguayan frontman grabbed his second goal late on.

More to follow…