EPL

Klopp eyeing perfect run-in from Champions League-chasing Liverpool

By Sports Desk May 08, 2021

Jurgen Klopp believes four wins from the final four games of the season will be enough to secure Liverpool a place in the Premier League top four.

But the German is taking nothing for granted as his side ready themselves for a rescheduled visit to rivals Manchester United on Thursday evening.

The Reds moved within six points of fourth-placed Leicester City with a game in hand on Saturday as they claimed a hard-fought 2-0 win over Southampton.

Speaking at full-time, Klopp shared his belief that Champions League qualification remains in the champions' hands, though he does not expect earning the required results to be a straightforward task.

"Yes. If we do that, I think it will be enough," he told Sky Sports. "But that's a big if. We play Manchester United on Thursday.

"I know they play Tuesday and they play Sunday and they have a big schedule, but if you look at the squad they have, they can make changes, there's no doubt about that.

"It's of course not good for them to play three games in a week. It's absolutely crazy, I really don't understand that. But it's how it is.

"All the other games, we will see. If West Brom is still fighting for the league, Burnley maybe as well, all these kinds of things.

"All the teams have their targets, and if they don't have the targets any more because they reached them already, then they can play completely without pressure – and that's not nice as well.

"We will have pressure. As long as we win, we will have pressure, because then we can reach something. If not, then not."

Thiago Alcantara later echoed his manager's sentiments, admitting that Liverpool are far from favourites to leapfrog Leicester and West Ham into fourth spot before the season's close.

But the Spaniard, who grabbed his first goal for the club to seal victory over Southampton, promised that he and his team-mates will give everything in pursuit of that aim.

Asked about his maiden strike, he said: "It's an amazing feeling.

"But the most important thing is the three points and that we keep fighting for this small miracle that we can have.

"We try to be as objective as possible. There is a very small chance, but I think we've had chances in the past.

"The door is sometimes closed for us, but the window is open – so we try to get through the window."

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  • France star Pavard: I was knocked out for 15 seconds France star Pavard: I was knocked out for 15 seconds

    Benjamin Pavard revealed he was knocked out for "10 to 15 seconds" before returning to the field in France's 1-0 win over Germany at Euro 2020.

    Pavard sustained a head injury following a collision with Germany's Robin Gosens as world champions France opened their Group F campaign with victory on Tuesday.

    France defender Pavard was left on the floor before receiving treatment for several minutes in Munich, where he was eventually allowed to continue.

    "I took a hell of a shock," Pavard told beIN Sports post-match.

    "I was a little knocked out for 10 to 15 seconds. After that, it was better."

    A "concussion charter" was signed by all 24 teams at Euro 2020 – a commitment to taking a series of measures to improve the care of players and includes neurological baseline testing and access to in-match television replays for team doctors.

    But the incident involving Pavard has raised further questions about concussion protocols in football.

    FIFPro has long called for temporary concussion substitutions and the enforcement of a minimum six-day gradual return to play.

    "The issue of concussion is a very serious issue. It's a health and safety issue, which is related to their work place. In my point of view, I don't think it's been addressed in the proper manner it should be addressed," FIFPro vice-president Francis Awaritefe previously told Stats Perform.

    "We've seen the medical data around the long-term risks of concussion and how they can have a deleterious long-term effect for people who suffer concussion when it's not managed properly.

    "We're really worried about it because football seems to be a long way behind some of the other sports in terms of protocols and just in terms of the way how seriously they're taking concussion.

    "For me, it's a massive issue. We don't want to wait until a player has a serious injury that it might end their career or worse, we have a player die on the field or soon after because of a concussion issue that wasn't treated properly.

    "As a sport, we need to reflect on this and get together with experts to come up with smart and proactive solutions to deal with this really, really serious issue."

    Brendan Schwab – executive director of the World Players Association – also told Stats Perform previously: "When concussed, it's not the time for the player to make a decision as to whether they should continue in a game. That is a decision that needs to be placed in the hands of independent medical assessors who have no duty other than to act in the best interests of the player.

    "There needs to be independent medical assessors on the sidelines. But we do expect this to be resisted because it is resisted in other sports. We now have independent medical assessors on the sidelines of the NFL and it's only because the NFLPA fought for that right. It was a battle.

    "Now the suggestion that the club doctor knows the player better than another doctor, again, is not a medically-based comment. What we do know, however, is that the club doctor who is employed by the club has a conflict of interest. That conflict of interest needs to be minimised and voided in circumstances when dealing with head injuries.

    "If FIFA doesn't change, what we will see is football leagues at the national level collectively bargain their own variation of the laws of the game. In Australia, the knowledge is clear that the clubs as employers would be in breach of health and safety requirements, and acting against the wishes of the unions, by putting players back into the game when they're clearly in a vulnerable position. What's to prevail there? Laws of the game or national health and safety laws? National health and safety laws have to prevail. It won't be a defence to any action for an employer to say 'we were simply providing an unsafe work practice at the behest of FIFA'."

  • France must accept favourites tag at Euro 2020 – Pogba France must accept favourites tag at Euro 2020 – Pogba

    Paul Pogba insisted France must deal with being labelled as favourites to win Euro 2020 after he led the way with a supreme performance against Germany.

    Mats Hummels' own goal gifted Euro 2016 runners-up France a 1-0 win over Germany in their opening Group F encounter in Munich on Tuesday, putting Les Bleus well on their way to progressing to the last 16.

    France – who finished with just one attempt on target – had opportunities to add to their lead, with Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema having goals disallowed for offside, though Joachim Low's Germany ultimately failed to make their luck count as they lost their opening game of a European Championship for the first time.

    The winner came in fortuitous circumstances, with Hummels turning in from Lucas Hernandez's cross.

    Pogba's exceptional pass played in France's left-back, however, and the Manchester United midfielder was on top form, attempting more passes (52) and more in Germany's half (31) than any Les Bleus player.

    He also amassed a team-high 78 touches – albeit that total was 50 less than game-leader Toni Kroos (128) – and went in for 20 duels, the most of any player.

    With the world champions having been tipped to lift the trophy they missed out on against Portugal on home soil five years ago, Pogba is adamant France must live up to the billing.

    "The performance of the team is the most important. Without them, I would not have been so efficient," Pogba, who was also involved in a flashpoint with Antonio Rudiger when he appeared to complain that the Germany defender had bitten him, told M6.

    "They helped me, they have everyone made the effort. This victory is for everyone, those who are also on the bench and in the stands to support us.

    "Everyone was talking about our status as favourite, our attack, the group of death. We must assume our status with humility."

    Didier Deschamps is aiming to become the first person to win the European Championship and World Cup as both a player and coach, and was delighted with a resilient display.

    "We had a big match against a very good opponent," Deschamps told M6.

    "I knew that my players were going to be ready, we were fighting for everything, even if in the first half we could have got the ball out a little better. We did not suffer that much in the second period. It's a tough game.

    "This is our first game. In our group, taking these three points is important. We were at the level, this victory is good for us."

    Deschamps' counterpart Low said he could not have asked for any more effort from his Germany side, who mustered 10 attempts to France's four, albeit only one of them hit the target.

    "We really gave everything. We fought until the end, for 90 minutes," Low told beIN Sports.

    "What we missed was a goal. We conceded a goal that we could have avoided, but otherwise I have no criticism to make. We lost a match, but we continue."

    Germany next host defending champions Portugal, while France travel to Budapest to face Hungary.

  • France 1-0 Germany: Hummels' own goal settles heavyweight clash France 1-0 Germany: Hummels' own goal settles heavyweight clash

    Mats Hummels' Germany comeback was marred by an own goal as Euro 2020 favourites France started their campaign with a 1-0 victory in Munich.

    Hummels, who scored the winner when Germany knocked France out of the 2014 World Cup, had been in international exile since 2018, yet his return hardly went to plan as he turned into Germany's net 20 minutes into the Group F encounter.

    Joachim Low's side never seemed to settle against France's press, and were perhaps fortunate to see Antonio Rudiger go unpunished for a possible bite on Paul Pogba.

    Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema had goals disallowed for offside, but Les Blues – who also hit the post through Adrien Rabiot – were not made to pay as they went unbeaten in a Euro opener for a ninth straight time.

    A scrappy opening should have been punctuated by a France goal, yet Paul Pogba sent a free header over after meeting Antoine Griezmann's excellent corner.

    Making his 100th start for Germany – the first goalkeeper in the nation's history to do so – Manuel Neuer had to parry Mbappe's strike as France purred.

    France soon had their opener, however. Mbappe was well placed to finish from Lucas Hernandez's cross, but instead it was Hummels who sliced into his own net with Germany's defence caught cold by an exquisite Pogba pass.

    Thomas Muller wasted an immediate chance to equalise, before Pogba seemed to complain Rudiger had bitten him, though the replays were inconclusive. 

    France looked all set to double their lead early in the second half, only for Rabiot to hit the near post from close range after ignoring a simple pass to the waiting Griezmann.

    Rabiot's chance kicked Germany into gear – Serge Gnabry's volley skidding off the turf and just over Hugo Lloris' crossbar.

    A delayed offside flag denied Mbappe a spectacular solo strike in the 66th minute, before the Paris Saint-Germain star skipped beyond Hummels with ease.

    To his credit, Hummels recovered with a last-ditch tackle, and though Benzema then had a goal on his major tournament comeback disallowed, three-time champions Germany failed to make their good fortune count.

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