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Premier League

Liverpool give up on top-four finish

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A resurgence in form is unlikely to help Liverpool qualify for next season’s Champions League as fourth-placed Manchester United are unlikely to slip up on the home stretch, manager Juergen Klopp said on Friday.

Liverpool are on a five-match winning streak that lifted them up to fifth in the Premier League, four points behind United who have a game in hand, but Klopp does not expect their rivals to drop points.

“Other teams are in much better positions, as long as they win games we have no chance,” Klopp told reporters ahead of Saturday’s clash against ninth-placed Brentford.

“We have to keep teams behind us. We have 59 points and United has 63, so we can get 71 maximum (at the end of the season). United needs eight points in five, from 15 (and) I think they will do that.

“We have enough to do with ourselves. Tomorrow, Brentford is a difficult game to play. We can control the whole game theoretically and one set piece can kill you.”

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However, Klopp said they will squeeze everything out from the remainder of the season.

“If our performances put pressure on other teams that is not in our hands. The way they played over this season, the top four teams, no one looks like losing more games than they win, Klopp said.

“For us the plan is finishing as high as we can, now that means fifth but that is not given. Sixth is not given. Aston Villa, Tottenham (Hotspur), Brentford are all fighting for that and so are we.”

James Milner is expected to leave Liverpool after eight years at the end of the season and Klopp described how highly he valued the 37-year-old midfielder.

“He is an incredible part of this team and I would have loved to work together with him even longer,” Klopp said.

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“Nothing will change. Nothing in the last seven-and-a-half years, the positive things, would have happened without James Milner.”

Klopp said Diogo Jota and captain Jordan Henderson will be assessed ahead of the match while Roberto Firmino remains sidelined.

The German added that midfielder Thiago Alcantara is expected to be fit for pre-season after his hip surgery.

-Reuters

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Sancho back in training with Man United after positive meeting with Ten Hag

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Jadon Sancho was back training with Manchester United for the first time in 10 months, with a club source confirming the winger and manager Erik ten Hag have resolved their differences following their public fallout last year.

Sancho and Ten Hag had a positive meeting at Carrington Training Centre and the two have decided to draw a line under last season’s drawn-out argument, the club source said.

The 24-year-old Sancho made just three appearances for United last season, spending the second half of the campaign on loan to Borussia Dortmund after his relationship with Ten Hag soured in September.

Ten Hag had left the winger out of his squad for United’s 3-1 loss to Arsenal, saying Sancho’s performances in training had not warranted a place in his team. Sancho immediately lashed out on social media, accusing Ten Hag of making him a “scapegoat.”

He was banished from the first team and trained with United’s youth squad before returning to his former club Dortmund in January, where he shone during their Champions League semi-final victory against Paris St Germain, earning praise from Ten Hag. Dortmund were beaten by Real Madrid in the final.

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“(Sancho) is a very good player… he showed why Manchester United bought him and he showed he represents a high value for Manchester United, which is good,” Ten Hag told reporters following Dortmund’s 1-0 win over PSG in the first leg.

“I’m happy for Jadon, for the performance, and we’ll see what is going to happen in the future.”

Sancho will not travel with the team to Norway for their pre-season opener against Rosenborg since he began training later than the other players but the club source said he would be available for selection after that.

-Reuters

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Another Nigerian blood replaces Ndidi at Leicester

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Wilfred Ndidi who has just left Leicester City will have another Nigerian blood replacing him.

Leicester has never been without a Nigerian since Ahmed Musa joined in 2016. Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho joined in 2017.

Another Nigerian blood, Caleb Okoli, a centre back, has just been signed from Italian  Serie A side Atalanta on a five-year contract. Born in Itali, Caleb Okoli is Igbo and Yoruba by descent.

The 22-year-old, who spent the last season on loan at Frosinone Calcio, represented Italy at the European Under-21 Championship last year.

“I think now is the right moment (for me) to make a step forward and a very big one. I’m very happy with the choice I made, so I’m very excited to start in the Premier League,” Okoli said in a statement. The clubs did not disclose financial details of the deal.

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Ruud van Nistelrooy returns to Man United

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United legend Van Nistelrooy is expected to be announced as one of Erik ten Hag's assistants

Manchester United legend, Ruud van Nistelrooy has been spotted being driven into Carrington, the training ground of Manchester United.

Ruud van Nistelrooy (left) and Rene Hake arrived at Manchester United’s training ground

Reports have it that the Dutchman is set to be appointed as one of Erik ten Hag’s new assistant coaches.

He played for Manchester United from 2001 to 2006.

Now  48, he reportedly turned down job offer from Burnley to return to his old club, having previously led PSV Eindhoven to second place in the Eredivisie and victory in the Dutch Cup.

He is being joined by Rene Hake, 52, who was persuaded to give up his job as Go Ahead Eagles manager despite leading the Deventer-based club into Europe for only the third time in their history.

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