Liverpool boss Klopp calls Manchester City 'the best team in the world'

Eleanor Crooks 19:28 02/01/2019
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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp insisted Manchester City remain the best team in the world ahead of their crunch clash at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday.

The Reds go into the meeting with a seven-point lead over their title rivals at the top of the Premier League.

Klopp was keen to push aside the hype, saying he saw it “as a normal game against Manchester City”.

He added: “A very difficult one, one of the most difficult games you can play in the modern football world. We felt that plenty of times. It’s a really strong football team with an outstanding manager.

“We have to be prepared as good as possible, we have to be brave, we have to be full of desire, angry, like in all the other games.

“But with the knowledge the opponent is, for me, still the best team in the world. Only the points changed, not the preparation for the game.”

Klopp and Pep Guardiola have both talked up the strength of their opposition, with the City boss returning the compliment by hailing Liverpool as the world’s premier side.

“He said, ‘in the moment’,” said Klopp. “Yes, with the record we had in December, we had a good moment and we have a very, very, very good football team.

“That’s why we have the amount of points, that’s why we had the results. But we prepare for one game.

“A couple of weeks ago we were a point behind and then (the talk) was if we lose, then it’s four points, can you close that gap. It’s all only talk. It has nothing to do with the reality.

“A big part of the football world is talking about it before it happens. But we are there to let it happen. We are very excited because it’s a very interesting game, we’re looking forward to it, but apart from that it’s a normal situation.”

Liverpool go into the clash having won three of the last four meetings between the sides but their last league trip to the Etihad ended in a 5-0 defeat last September.

Pep Guardiola.

Pep Guardiola.

Guardiola has already labelled it a must-not-lose game for his team, stating the title race would be finished should City slip 10 points adrift.

Klopp expects the situation to fire up City, saying: “If we would be 10 points behind, would the first thing I say be, ‘We’ll catch them’. Of course not, it’s difficult with the qualities all the teams have.

“But it’s January 3. It’s a very, very important game for both teams, obviously. I would use it as motivation for the other team. They will be ready and we have to make sure we are ready.”

WINNING RUN

Liverpool remain unbeaten in the league having dropped just six points this season and go into the match on a nine-match winning streak.

Klopp highlighted the run to last season’s Champions League final, which they lost to Real Madrid, as the moment when a switch flicked.

“I think we got rid, finally, of the backpack when we reached the Champions League final,” he said.

“We didn’t win it, yes, but not 20 teams in the past reached the Champions League final. That was the moment when we did something really special. Since then it feels different.”

While City wait on Kevin De Bruyne, Klopp must decide whether to throw in James Milner, who missed the Boxing Day win over Newcastle with a minor muscle injury and returned to full training on Tuesday.

“He’s very, very important for us, of course,” said Klopp. “His influence on the team is massive.”

The German, meanwhile, welcomed the signing by Chelsea of exciting USA international Christian Pulisic from his old club Borussia Dortmund. Pulisic had been linked with a switch to rejoin Klopp at Liverpool in the past but will see out the rest of the season in Germany before moving to Stamford Bridge in the summer.

Klopp said: “He’s a good player. I’ve known him for a while, followed him. Good signing for Chelsea but good deal as well, Dortmund can keep him. Another really skilled boy playing in England. Good.”

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Premier League clubs would benefit from B teams says Man City CEO Ferran Soriano

Nick Watkins - Writer 19:03 02/01/2019
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English B teams needed: Perran Soriano (r) thinks the Premier League would benefit from second teams

The Premier League would benefit from allowing clubs to have B teams, according to Ferran Soriano.

The CEO of the City Football Group, which overseas operations for clubs around the world including Manchester City, New York City FC and Melbourne City FC, believes English teams would improve if clubs were able to give young players experience in a second team, much like they do in leagues across Europe.

“We call it the development gap,” said Soriano, speaking on a panel discussion about the economic impact of football clubs at the 13thannual Dubai International Sports Conference. “The one thing that they do very well in Europe but not so well in England is B teams, where you can have young players playing for clubs before they are ready for the first team.

“Taking young players to the first team has advantages in that if you have a consistent method of playing football, they already know how to play the style if they are home-grown players. It’s something Barcelona does very well.

“There’s also a financial incentive with bringing players into the first team from having them as a youngster in that you can recover your investment if you develop a teenager into a first-team player.”

Soriano was addressing a packed audience, which included former Real Madrid and England head coach Fabio Capello, at Madinat Jumeirah ahead of the Globe Soccer Awards in Dubai.

Soriano, a former vice-president of Barcelona, also spoke of the importance of buying players purely for footballing reasons, insisting clubs like Manchester City bring in personnel for their talent on the pitch over shirt sales.

Panel talk: Soriano was speaking at the Dubai International Sports Conference

Panel talk: Soriano speaking at the Dubai International Sports Conference

“We [Manchester City] never ever buy a player for their commercial value,” he said. “If we have good players and they play beautiful football we will benefit commercially. If we try and buy a player to bring the club money, it’s like taking a shortcut and we will fail.

“I think it’s a myth that people are now supporting players instead of clubs. There are a few exceptions like David Beckham, Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo who can take large amounts of fans with them when they move clubs but I can mention thousands more players where the rules do not apply.”

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Son Heung-min sorry to leave high-flying Spurs for Asian Cup

Sport360 staff 17:20 02/01/2019
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Son

Son Heung-min admits he is sad to be leaving Tottenham‘s trophy chase to play at the Asian Cup.

The South Korea forward has been in tremendous form and scored his eighth goal in nine games as Spurs reclaimed second spot in the Premier League with a 3-0 New Year’s Day win at Cardiff.

But Son will head for international duty after Tottenham’s league game against Manchester United on January 13, and could miss up to five matches because of the tournament in the UAE.

“Of course I feel very sorry because I miss already in September,” said Son, referring to his involvement for South Korea at the Asian Games earlier this season.

“I feel sorry for my team-mates, the fans and the coaching staff. It’s difficult.

“Sometimes you think it’s a bit sad, but it is also important for my country.

“I hope I can keep my form for the national team and when I come back here again as well.”

Should tournament favourites South Korea reach the Asian Cup final in Abu Dhabi on February 1, Son could potentially miss five league and cup games for Spurs.

This would include league games against Fulham, Watford and Newcastle, as well as the second leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final tie with Chelsea.

Tottenham’s concern will be that Son was sluggish after he played at the Asian Games, a tournament which South Korea won.

It was only after Son had a break from international duty in November that he found the form which has seen him become one of the hottest properties in the Premier League.

Son Heung-Min

“I was tired after the Asian Games because in that tournament it was playing after (every) two or three days,” Son said.

“It is very important to be right mentally at the Asian Cup and to come back with a strong mind and be strong physically.

“It (November) was a turning point for me because I was tired and I didn’t travel.

“It was good to have this time, some days off, and hard sessions with the team. But the Asian Cup is big for us because we have not won it for 59 years.

“I’m going there not just to enjoy it, I am going there to win something and come back with confidence.”

Tottenham’s win completed the double over Cardiff after their 1-0 victory at Wembley in October.

Cardiff are battling against relegation and boss Neil Warnock feels Spurs should be forced to play at Wembley for the rest of the season not to give their rivals an advantage.

Spurs were due to move into their new White Hart Lane stadium in September, but the project has suffered construction delays.

“The league should enforce they play at Wembley for the rest of the season,” Warnock said. “There shouldn’t be any chance of an advantage for our opponents.

“It’s not our fault – we should have been playing at the new stadium ourselves.

“I think they should step in now and rather than seven or six weeks, they should make it until the end of the season now and enforce it now.” 

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