Suarez opens contract talks with Liverpool

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High-flyer: Suarez has propelled Liverpool to second in the Premier League.

Liverpool have opened contract talks with the agent of Luis Suarez over a new deal for the Uruguayan striker.

The deal is reported to potentially make the 26-year-old the highest paid player in the club's history.

Liverpool's Managing Director, Ian Ayre, returned to Merseyside on Tuesday having spent the previous 24 hours in Spain discussing a deal with Pere Guardiola, Suarez's agent.

The club's owners have given the go-ahead for the deal, however it is unknown whether Suarez is ready to commit his future to the five-time European Champions.

The former Ajax striker's current deal ends in June 2016 and with Real Madrid retaining an interest, it is uncertain that Suarez will extended his stay.

But Reds boss Brednan Rodgers recently said how content Suarez was on Merseyside.

"He is really happy here. He is playing with a smile and enthusiasm," he said.

"The whole profile of the club fits him perfectly. The supporters idolise him and you can see the connection there."

It is believed that a contract offer of around £200,000 per week, double Suarez's present pay, will be required to persuade him to sign a new deal.

Such an offer seemed unlikely in the summer, with the Uruguayan famously falling out with the club and owners over his desire to move to Premier League rivals Arsenal.

His relationship with everyone at the club, supporters included, has improved greatly since then.

The Gunners tried relentlessly to sign Suarez in the summer, offering a club record £40million and £1 in an attempt to a trigger an apparent release clause in his contract.

The bid was rejected, as was the presence of any clause.

Liverpool's top scorer this season debated handing in a transfer request and even court action if the dispute was not resolved, believing the clause was in the contract he signed back in 2011 when he joined for £22.7million.

Such threats led Rodgers to force Suarez to train alone in pre-season, however the striker was reunited with the first team squad on August 16 after successful talks with the Liverpool manager.

After missing the first six games of the season as part of a 10 match ban for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic, Suarez returned to the action against Manchester Untied on September 25.

He has gone on to score 17 goals in just 12 games.

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Barca hold no fear for Man City boss Pellegrini

Alam Khan 17/12/2013
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No fear: Pellegrini does not believe Barcelona are the force they once were.

Manuel Pellegrini says Barcelona will be “very concerned” about taking on his Manchester City side in the Champions League last 16 because the Spaniards are not as good as when they last lifted the trophy in 2011.

The Chilean knows all about the four-time European champions having tried to outwit them in La Liga with former clubs Villarreal, Real Madrid and Malaga.

And Pellegrini believes that having three different coaches – Pep Guardiola, Tito Vilanova and now Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino – since last winning the prize has made Barca beatable.

“Barcelona are not the team they were two years ago,” said the City boss. “I don’t know exactly what happened inside Barcelona, but they changed three managers in the last three years.

“Maybe the performance of the players are not the same, maybe the players are older. There are a lot of reasons why teams change their performance.

“They continue to be a very good team, but two years ago they were more unbeatable than today.”

The clash is the pick of the first knockout stage along with the reigning champions Bayern Munich meeting Premier League leaders Arsenal.

Barcelona coach Martino insist the English club will be anything but happy with the tie.

Although City had been as identified the team to avoid by the Spanish media, local sports daily El Mundo Deportivo’s front page had stated simply “El City, No!”, Martino pointed out that assessment works both ways.

“I’m sure they weren’t happy to be paired with Barcelona either,” he stated.

Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti, meanwhile, attempted to claim he was not overjoyed his team’s very winnable clash with German side Schalke, who are already 17 points adrift of Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga.

“It’s the last 16 of the Champions League and we’ll have to play at our maximum,” said Ancelotti. “Schalke are experienced and being drawn against them is neither good nor bad luck.”

The other two English sides had, on the face of it, easier draws for the first knockout round with Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea facing their former striker Didier Drogba’s Galatasaray, while David Moyes’ Manchester United take on Greek champions Olympiacos.

Elsewhere, Dortmund were paired with Zenit St Petersburg, Paris Saint-Germain will play Bayer Leverkusen while Atletico Madrid are preparing to provide a retort to AC Milan star Sulley Muntari, who said before the draw that he regarded the Spanish club as their weakest possible rivals.

“He will be happy,” smiled midfielder Raul Garcia. “But we know we can win.”

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Manchester City v Barcelona

Olympiacos v Manchester United

AC Milan v Atletico Madrid

Bayer Leverkusen v Paris Saint-Germain

Galatasaray v Chelsea

Schalke 04 v Real Madrid

Zenit St Petersburg v Borussia Dortmund

Arsenal v Bayern Munich

EUROPA LEAGUE

Slovan Liberec/AZ v Anzhi/Genk

Lazio/Ludogorets v D.Kiev/Valencia

Porto/Frankfurt v Swansea/Napoli

Chornomorets/Lyon v V. Plzen/Shakhtar

Maribor/Sevilla v Betis/Rubin

Dnipro/Spurs v PAOK/Benfica

Maccabi TA/Basel v Ajax/Salzburg

Juventus/Trab’spor v Esbjerg/Fiorentina

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Pellegrini confirms Man City without Aguero till 2014

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Flying high: Aguero has 12 goals in his last 11 games.

Manchester City's Premier League title challenge has been dealt a serious blow with Manuel Pellegrini announcing Sergio Aguero will be out for at least a month.

The Argentina striker has been one of the Abu Dhabi owned club's star performers this season, scoring 12 goals in his last 11 games.

Following their 6-3 mauling of Arsenal on Saturday, City have moved to within three points of the leaders, but news of Aguero's injury will come as a bitter blow to Pellegrini.

The 25-year-old striker had to be taken off during City's 8th home win of the season, with the striker complaining of a problem in his calf.

Speaking on Monday, Pellegrini confirmed that the injury will sideline Aguero until the new year.

"I think he will be at least one month out," the Manchester City manager said. "He has a calf injury. Maybe the doctor can say exactly how many weeks he will be."

News of Aguero's absence comes at an unwanted time for City, who face a crucial encounter with title rivals Liverpool over the busy festive period.

The Argentine also stands to miss league games against Swansea City and high flying Newcastle United, as well as a trip to Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup third round.

In the former Atletico Madrid striker's absence, Pellegrini is likely to turn to either Edin Dzeko or Stevan Jovetic to fill the void left by City's top scorer.

Jovetic recently returned to action following a calf injury and could be in line to start the team's Capital One Cup quarter-final against Leicester City on Tuesday.

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