Diaz, Henderson and Konate return for Liverpool against Villarreal

By Sports Desk April 27, 2022

Jurgen Klopp has made three changes to his starting line-up for Liverpool's Champions League semi-final first leg against Villarreal.

With his side having claimed a 2-0 Merseyside derby victory over Everton last time out, the German has looked to freshen things up in defence, midfield and attack.

As has become customary during two-game weeks this season, Ibrahima Konate comes into the centre of defence to replace Joel Matip.

In the centre of the park, the captain Jordan Henderson takes the place of Naby Keita.

And up top, January signing Luis Diaz joins Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, with Diogo Jota dropping to the bench.

Roberto Firmino is not among the substitutes as he recovers from injury, while Curtis Jones and Kostas Tsimikas are both out with illness.

Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson, Fabinho, Thiago, Henderson, Salah, Mane, Diaz.

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    Vincenzo Montella defended his decision to bench Arda Guler against Portugal, insisting the teenager "wasn't fit to play" in Turkiye's 3-0 defeat.

    Eyebrows were raised as Guler was forced to settle for a place on the bench, while only appearing for the final 20 minutes of his nation's loss in Dortmund, despite making such a positive impact in their opener against Georgia.

    The Real Madrid prodigy scored a sublime long-range effort in the 3-1 victory, becoming the youngest player to find the net on his European Championship debut in the process.

    The 19-year-old only played 10 times in LaLiga last season, with Montella believing a lack of competitive action is a concern for his players.

    "Arda wasn't fit to play," the Turkiye head coach said. "I can say clearly he could not play more than 30 minutes without increasing the risk.

    "There was also a temptation of not putting him 20 minutes from the end, but I finally gave in because good players must play, in my opinion.

    "Because we often tend to forget that most of our footballers are not used to playing with continuity in their clubs, and I am talking about one game a week. When you play once every four days, it's another sport. You need to be physically fit, you need to be prepared.

    "Arda is a great, smart guy. He is very passionate about his country, is proud of his country. But even though he knew that he was risking an injury by playing, he wanted to be on the pitch."

    Despite that Portugal defeat, Turkiye are second in Group F with three points, and a draw from their final game against Czechia would be enough to secure their place in the last 16.

  • Scotland ready to 'prove people wrong' against Hungary, says McGinn Scotland ready to 'prove people wrong' against Hungary, says McGinn

    John McGinn believes Scotland have the mentality and capability "to prove people wrong" heading into their final Group A fixture against Hungary in Stuttgart. 

    Steve Clarke's side know a victory is a must to give them the best chance of qualifying for the knockout stages of a major international tournament for the first time in their history. 

    Scotland have won two of their last three meetings with Hungary (L1), with this their first encounter since a 1-0 away win in March 2018. 

    Following their 5-1 thrashing to hosts Germany in their opening game, an injury-hit Tartan Army got a point on the board against Switzerland to keep their hopes of qualification alive. 

    "We've obviously had a lot of injuries along the way - but us Scots are best at enduring adversity," said McGinn. "Hopefully we can prove a lot of people wrong.

    "We have players who've been involved in high-pressure matches, but we're not feeling pressure, we feel anticipation about being that team who changes things for Scottish football.

    "I don't think a lot of people across Europe thought we could do it, so we want to be the ones who do.

    "We all know the magnitude of the occasion. We have the chance to write our name into the history books."

    A win for Clarke's side would put them on four points from their three group games which in previous tournaments, has proved enough to qualify as one of the best-ranked third-placed sides. 

    Hungary arrived in Germany on the back of a 14-game unbeaten run, but are winless in their last eight Euros matches (D4 L4). However, the Scotland head coach is not underestimating his opponents despite their form at the tournament. 

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    "Everybody knows how big a game it is. You can talk and talk and talk about it.

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    Roberto Martinez says he will rotate his Portugal side for their final Group F game against Georgia, with qualification to the Euro 2024 knockout stages already secured.

    The 2016 champions booked their place in the last 16 with a game to spare following their 3-0 win over Turkiye on Saturday.

    Strikes from Bernardo Silva and Bruno Fernandes sandwiched Samet Akaydin's calamitous own goal to move Portugal onto an unassailable six points after their first two matches, while sealing top spot in Group F.

    Martinez's side have now won more group-stage games than they did in the 2016 and 2020 editions combined (one win, four draws, one defeat). 

    And the Spaniard is thrilled with the strides made by his side, who came from behind to beat Czechia 2-1 in their opener, and the head coach revealed he will shuffle his pack when they face Georgia on Wednesday.

    "Securing first place is good because there are a lot of players in the dressing room who deserve to play, and we need to give them opportunities to show what they've got and create a competitive environment," he said.

    "I was very happy with the attitude and them showing that we're growing game by game. It's good to see progress and a good level of play in two consecutive matches, and I feel that we are ready for the knock-outs."

    After operating with three centre-halves against Czechia, Martinez reverted to a back four against Turkiye, and he believes having different options will stand Portugal in good stead heading into the next phase of the tournament.

    "It's important to balance our abundance of individual talent and the best way to do it is to be tactically flexible," he added.

    "To have that flexibility in a national team is difficult, so I think it's great that we have players talented enough to play different roles according to the situation and the rival."

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