Liverpool don't deserve to be in UCL Napoli game is lost, says James Milner

Carl Markham 30/11/2018
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James Milner

Liverpool midfielder James Milner accepts they do not deserve to be in the Champions League if they cannot win at home to Napoli.

Jurgen Klopp’s side are faced with the challenge of beating their Serie A rivals 1-0 or by two clear goals to progress to the knockout stage.

Anfield has become something of a fortress for them as they have lost there just once – September’s EFL Cup tie against Chelsea – since January and they have already dispatched Paris St Germain and Red Star Belgrade this season.

Another great European night is in store but Milner was typically blunt in his assessment of what lies ahead.

“We know it was a tough group all along, the Champions League is tough,” said the Reds’ vice-captain.

“But to have it in your own hands going into the last game and having a home game – we’d like to have it sewn up by now sure we would – I don’t think you can ask for more.

“If you had said ‘You have to win your last home game to get through the group’ I think everyone would have been fine with it.

“If you can’t win your home games in the Champions League then you don’t deserve to go through.

“I’m not concerned, we’ve played pretty well this season.

“We’re not that experienced in the Champions League. We had a good run (to the final) last year and that will definitely help us but we got through in the final group game last year and look where we ended up.

“You don’t see any of the lads panicking, we are comfortable we can go and finish the job at home.”

Failure to win would likely mean a drop into the Europa League seven months after they were playing in the Champions League final against Real Madrid in Kiev.

It is not a scenario which is being considered by the players.

“I don’t think that’s crossed anyone’s mind to be honest,” added Milner.

“Our aim is to get out of the group: get the result and get through.

“If we don’t do that we don’t deserve to be in the Champions League and we’ll take whatever happens from there – Europa League or whatever.

“At this moment in time we’re just focused on getting through the group.”

Before that there is the small matter of Sunday’s Merseyside derby at Anfield, where Everton have not won since 1999.

“I think it’s going to be a good game, the atmosphere will be good and that will help,” said Milner.

“But as players we should be able to bounce back either way but it is a nice game, they are always great games to play in derbies.

“They are on an OK run as well so it’s going to be a tough game. It’s down to us to continue our league form and bounce back.”

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Tottenham show their class as win over Inter Milan keeps Champions League hopes alive

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Tottenham are still in with a shout of making the knockout stages.

Tottenham picked up a vital win on Wednesday night, beating Inter Milan 1-0 at Wembley to keep their Champions League hopes alive.

Christian Eriksen rounded off a sweeping Spurs move to score the late winner which means that as long as Spurs beat Barcelona on the final matchday of the group, they will be through to the round of 16.

Here’s a look at the talking points from Tottenham’s hard-fought win.

SPURS SHOW THEIR CLASS AGAIN

They didn’t quite tear Inter apart the way they had Chelsea on Saturday – the visiting defence was far better on this occasion – but Tottenham looked the better side throughout on Wednesday night.

Inter had their chances, with Hugo Lloris pulling off a couple of vital saves and also on occasion playing his team into trouble. But, by and large, in a must-win game against high-quality opposition, Spurs were dominant. That, in itself, is a statement.

Though for the longest time it seemed as if their dominance wouldn’t pay off, as attacking moves often broke down in the final third. Harry Winks’ long-range effort that thundered off the crossbar was the closest they came to scoring until Eriksen’s goal. Samir Handanovic didn’t have any difficult saves to make for all of Spurs’ attacking pressure.

That Spurs could pull off the move that won them the game when they could easily have started to tire, or let their heads get down, is a testament to the character and quality of this side. It was a typical Spurs goal, free-flowing, full of thrust. A mark of class.

Now, they need to show it again in their toughest test yet. Beat Barcelona in their final game, and Spurs will show Europe they are a team to fear.

WHERE WAS ICARDI?

Almost all top players are destined to go through a stage where their big-game prowess is questioned. That might just start to happen for Mauro Icardi.

Though he’s scored eight times in 10 games against Juventus, his record otherwise is spotty. He has five goals in 12 Milan derby appearances, and three of those came in one game. In four European knockout ties, Icardi has yet to register a goal. And he may not get a chance to rectify that after Wednesday’s display.

It was the second straight time against Tottenham that Icardi drifted through the game – though at least the first time around, he popped up out of nowhere to score a wonder goal that sparked a late comeback win. But Inter’s chances of qualifying out of the group stage are now precarious, when they could easily have been much more comfortable.

In fairness, Icardi was well-marslhaled by the Tottenham defence and didn’t always get the best service, but that’s no excuse for a player who has enough experience playing the lone warrior role.

Only Radja Nainggolan, who went off with an injury in the first half, had fewer touches among Inter’s starting XI than Icardi, which shows how little he was involved in such a crucial game.

Mauro Icardi was anonymous on Wednesday.

Mauro Icardi was anonymous on Wednesday.

SISSOKO CONTINUES TO SHOW HIS WORTH

If there’s one player who can stand as testimony to Mauricio Pochettino’s managerial acumen, it has to be Moussa Sissoko at this point.

The Frenchman seemed like a panic buy in 2016, and in the last two seasons has done little to justify the £30million outlay Spurs forked over to Newcastle on deadline day that summer.

Yet, possibly more out of necessity to begin with than anything else, Pochettino has persisted with the midfielder, and it’s finally paying off. Sissoko has been so good in recent games, Spurs have hardly missed Mousa Dembele – a state of affairs that would have been hard to believe when Dembele was the toast of Tottenham last season.

Once again, Sissoko helped Spurs dominate midfield – no mean feat when coming up against the likes of Nainggolan, Marcelo Brozovic and Matias Vecino. Alongside Harry Winks, Sissoko looked in complete control of the game, surging forward and tracking back depending on Spurs’ needs at the time.

And speaking of surges forward, the run that set up Tottenham’s winner was vintage Sissoko. Powerful, direct and skillful, from his ball control to the way he picked out Dele Alli. Sissoko has finally arrived in a Spurs shirt.

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Christian Eriksen steals the show to keep Spurs alive in the Champions League

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Christian Eriksen starred again for Tottenham - this time off the bench.

Christian Eriksen came off the bench to score a vital winner for Tottenham in the Champions League on Wednesday night.

Spurs knew they needed to beat Inter Milan to keep their chances of qualifying for the round of 16 alive, but though they dominated the game it took until Eriksen’s 80th-minute strike to break the deadlock and ease their nerves.

Here’s a look at how the players performed.

STARTING XI

Hugo Lloris 7 – Pulled off a couple of crucial saves to keep Spurs in the game when Inter broke, but also had a couple of shaky moments – as has become his custom this season.

Serge Aurier 7 – Aurier is giving Mauricio Pochettino a welcome problem with his form, as he put in a solid display at right-back yet again. The Spurs manager will have a decision to make when Kieran Trippier returns to fitness.

Toby Alderweireld 7 – Dealt wit the threat of Mauro Icardi well, and pulled off one vital acrobatic clearance late on when Inter could have hit Spurs on the counter.

Jan Vertonghen 7 – Though Juan Foyth was playing well in Vertonghen’s absence, the Belgian’s return to fitness is a welcome boost for Spurs. He missed a glorious chance to score, but was solid in defence throughout.

Ben Davies 7 – Davies was required more in attack than in defence on Wednesday, though he was excellent on both counts as he delivered another assured performance at left-back.

Moussa Sissoko 8 – The Frenchman has finally come into his own after a rough two years. This was another dominant, accomplished performance from Sissoko, who controlled the game for Tottenham.

Harry Winks 7 – Came close to scoring with a thunderous first-half strike that hit the bar. His inexperience showed in the second half as he grew frustrated, but his ball retention and distribution remained excellent.

Lucas Moura 7 – Speaking of welcome problems for Pochettino, having to choose between Moura, Erik Lamela and Son Heung-min is another one. Moura put in another eye-catching performance on Wednesday.

Dele Alli 7 – His touch to assist Eriksen was perfect – quick but composed and measured, and thoughtful; he could have easily tried going for goal himself but spotted the better option. Another excellent display.

Erik Lamela 6 – Lamela was busy while on the pitch, but he was guilty of trying too hard, and at times of overplaying. One of his more frustrating displays.

Harry Kane 8 – On a night where he was starved of service, Kane showed off the other aspects of his game. His hold-up and link-up play was excellent, and the way he worked to win the ball back showed why Spurs fans love him.

SUBSTITUTES

Son Heung-min 6 – It was a surprise that Son didn’t start, but he wasn’t as effective as Pochettino would have hoped after bringing him on.

Christian Eriksen 9 – Even when he’s only on the pitch for 20 minutes, he delivers a virtuoso performance. His first touch as a substitute was a perfectly-delivered free-kick that should have been an assist. Then he scored a great goal.

Eric Dier N/A – Came on late looked to defend Spurs’ hard-earned lead.

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