Jurgen Klopp laughed off any holes in his Liverpool side’s performance after a chaotic 3-3 second-leg draw against Benfica saw them through to the Champions League semi-finals.
Klopp had criticised the Reds’ hectic schedule ahead of the fourth out of nine games they will play in April and made seven changes to the team that started the 2-2 draw at Manchester City on Sunday for the second leg of their quarter-final at Anfield.
Ahead 3-1 from the first leg in Portugal, progression appeared a relatively straightforward prospect, especially after Ibrahima Konate nodded the hosts into an early lead.
Liverpool would conspire to throw away 1-0 and 3-1 leads on the night to leave Benfica believing until the end, but given the raft of changes made to his starting line-up, Klopp appeared neither bothered nor surprised by the erratic nature of his side’s defending.
“The day when we qualify for the semi-finals of the Champions League and I’m not happy, come here and knock me out – it would make no sense,” he told BT Sport. “We made seven changes for good reason, and played a really good first half where I liked a lot of things.
“But 3-1 up, the last line have never played together and it’s about details. It’s difficult to keep 100 per cent concentrated, the opposition will celebrate that they got a draw, a result here, but we didn’t have the perfect mindset in that moment.
“Of course, it wasn’t exactly what we wanted to do, but it’s not important. Playing the best game of the season tonight or our whole time together, wouldn’t have made it any more likely to get into the final. We played the game we played, we’re through and that’s all I wanted. I’m happy.
“I was never in doubt about our line-up. We knew it would be hard, the backline have never played together and it was three centre-halves in there, you lose the voice without Virgil van Dijk, but the rotation in other positions was never a problem.”
Villarreal now await Liverpool in the semi-finals of the tournament, the same side who beat Klopp’s Liverpool in the Europa League final in his first season at Anfield, back in 2015/16.
Unai Emery’s team stunned Bayern Munich on Tuesday night to complete a 2-1 aggregate win over the 2019/20 Champions League winners, taking them into the final four of the competition for only the second time in their history and the first since they were beaten by Arsenal at that stage of the tournament in 2005/06.
Klopp – who still has three games in eight days to navigate before the first leg of the semi-final at Anfield – said he had not had time to analyse Liverpool’s next round opponents, but paid tribute to former Arsenal boss Emery, who is now unbeaten in 13 Champions League and Europa League knockout games at the helm of the La Liga club.
He said: “I saw the result last night, the game was very impressive – really good defending, last week I only picked up pieces from their match but whoever kicks out Juventus and Bayern Munich from the Champions League deserves to be in the semi-finals.
“They have an extremely experienced manager, the king of the cups, it’s unbelievable what Unai is doing.”
April 16 – Man City (Wembley) FA Cup semi-finals
April 19 – Man United (h) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
April 24 – Everton (h) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
April 26/27 – Villarreal Champions League SF first leg
April 30 – Newcastle (a) Premier League
May 3/4 – Villarreal Champions League SF second leg
May 7 – Tottenham (h) Premier League
May 10 – Aston Villa (a) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
May 14 – FA Cup final *
May 15 – Southampton (a) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
May 22 – Wolves (h) Premier League
May 28 – Champions League final *
* Subject to progress
Chelsea FC: Brilliant Badiashile leading way for new signings as Thiago Silva partnership blossoms
His promising early form at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea will hope, hint at better times to come through their new signings.
The arrival of French centre-back Badiashile at the start of last month kick-started a record January spending spree of more than £300m.
After Chelsea were sent spiralling into crisis with defeats by Manchester City and Fulham, Badiashile made his debut in a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace.
After the Blues claimed a further two clean sheets in 0-0 draws away at Liverpool and at home to Fulham, he is building an impressive partnership with Thiago Silva.
Badiashile was one of five new signings to feature in Friday’s 0-0 draw with Fulham. He started alongside £106.8m Enzo Fernandez, who started well but faded over 90 minutes, £89.5m Mykhailo Mudryk, who struggled over 45 minutes while carrying a cold, and £30m Noni Madueke, who was bright after being brought on at half-time.
“What a waste of money” was the regular chant from the Fulham fans in the away end.
That felt harsh in Badiashile’s case. With his size and speed, he looks like a perfect partner for 38-year-old veteran Silva.
In addition, he showed the ability to play brilliantly out of Fulham’s well-drilled press and he coped in his duels against Aleksandar Mitrovic.
There is still adaption to be done, as Graham Potter barked instructions about his positioning in relation to Silva.
However, using French to communicate with the former Paris Saint-Germain captain, Badiashile has helped steady the ship in the absence of the injured Wesley Fofana, and with Kalidou Koulibaly out of form.
While still only averaging just 1.05 goals per game in the Premier League, Chelsea will draw more than they win unless their new midfielders and forwards step up.
Arriving in the weeks after Badiashile, the likes of Fernandez, Joao Felix, Mudryk and Madueke have not had as much time to adapt to their surroundings.
With Chelsea still in 10th place and increasingly falling behind in the race to qualify for Europe, they must follow Badiashile’s lead and hit the ground running before time runs out.
Reporter’s notebook: Jesse Marsch’s Leeds side showed encouraging signs at times but lack of points cost him his job | Football News
Jesse Marsch was approaching his one-year anniversary as Leeds United head coach before the decision was taken on Monday to relieve him of his duties.
The defeat to Nottingham Forest a day earlier had been the final straw for the Leeds board, who were all aligned in the view that a change was necessary after almost three months without a Premier League win.
The recent statistics paint a grim picture for Leeds. Seven Premier League games without a win and just two wins in the last 17 league games. And against Forest, although they dominated in the first half and created the better chances, a worrying pattern had started to develop which had become a huge concern for fans. Leeds were producing performances with lots of positives, but not enough points.
There is little doubt that a large proportion of the fan base had lost patience with Marsch, and they made their frustrations clear at the full-time whistle on Sunday with calls for a change of head coach.
What is very evident is that Leeds have not kicked on this season. At times there have been really promising signs, but the fans and the board at Leeds wanted more. Marsch will feel that with time he could have delivered more, but he was also realistic enough to know that he was walking a tightrope.
I got to know Jesse well during his 12 months at Elland Road and it was abundantly clear he cared passionately about the club. He understood what it meant to be head coach of Leeds United and what the club meant to the city and the fans. And he has to be given great credit for keeping Leeds in the Premier League last season.
Although it hasn’t worked out for Marsch this season, there is a strong argument to suggest that the next Leeds boss will be in a great position to move the club forward.
Patrick Bamford and Luis Sinisterra are now fit, and the January additions should make the starting line-up stronger. The club has also invested heavily in young players and one of those, Willy Gnonto, has emerged as one of the shining lights of the season.
Those factors have created an expectation that Leeds are better than their current league position, and that means a reluctance to accept another season fighting to avoid the drop. It also means that there are reasons to be optimistic about the future.
The process of finding a replacement for Marsch is already underway and Leeds hope to make a swift appointment. A move for Marcelo Bielsa is highly unlikely, but West Brom boss Carlos Corberan, who worked under Bielsa, is a candidate, while Ange Postecoglou at Celtic has also been linked.
It is also worth noting Leeds have a track record of leftfield appointments, so as they work through their list of targets, there is a good chance that a candidate emerges that could surprise everybody.
In the meantime, Michael Skubala, Paco Gallardo and Chris Armas will take training at Thorp Arch, and will be in the dugout for Wednesday’s Premier League fixture against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
February 8: Manchester United (A) – kick-off 8pm
February 12: Manchester United (H) – kick-off 2pm, live on Sky Sports
February 18: Everton (A) – kick-off 3pm
February 25: Southampton (H) – kick-off 3pm
March 4: Chelsea (A) – kick-off 3pm
March 11: Brighton (H) – kick-off 3pm
March 18: Wolves (A) – kick-off 3pm
Tom Brady in his underwear is taking over Twitter
It’s Super Bowl week, and if you thought Tom Brady was going to let this week go by without being all up in your timeline…well. Just a week after announcing he’s retiring from football (you’ll never convince me he didn’t play an extra year just to stick it to Adam Schefter), Tom Brady has dropped his first thirst trap on Twitter. Or, attempted thirst trap. Actually, IS this a thirst trap?
As will many things Tom Brady, the attempt to be cool and edgy just winds up being sterile, boring, and kinda sad. A beige man in a beige room in beige underwear with a “pleass clap” look on his face.
And because OF COURSE:
Yes, Tom. We all knew the plug as coming. I’m not sure what color “heather crimson” is supposed to be, but I believe this is what we used to call “puce,” which… meh. The fact that there is something called the “Brady Boxer Brief” is enough to make me want to stick my head in the oven, because you know there are guys in New England burning up the internet right now to wear the same undies as their hero. And even more so because no amount of refusing to mask during COVID, vouching for Antonio Brown, stumping for Donald Trump, or getting a PPP loan during a nationwide pandemic is enough to get people to stop buying what this guy is selling. He’s even gotten to Jane Fonda, for crying out loud.
Of course, this entire thing was set up by Brady’s own brand:
So…whatever. It’s Super Bowl week and everyone is talking about Tom Brady, which is exactly how he wants it to be.
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