Reds hurt­ing for change of for­tune

Poor form, in­juries put host at a dis­ad­van­tage against surg­ing ri­val Manch­ester United

The Province - - SPORTS - Bob Le­nar­duzzi

Liver­pool hosts Manch­ester United in Satur­day’s early match in the Pre­mier League in a clash of old ri­vals.

Liver­pool’s early sea­son con­fi­dence took a mighty blow with last month’s 5-0 loss at Manch­ester City. Dis­ap­point­ing draws with Burn­ley and New­cas­tle fol­lowed, as well as League Cup elim­i­na­tion against Le­ices­ter. Now the Reds are with­out star for­ward Sa­dio Mane, who in­jured his ham­string Satur­day play­ing for Sene­gal. As well, Brazil­ian at­tack­ers Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino won’t ex­actly be fresh af­ter a long jour­ney back from World Cup qual­i­fy­ing.

United, mean­while, is off to a great start thanks to a fe­ro­cious at­tack and the league’s best de­fence. Romelu Lukaku has seven goals in his first seven games with United and would set a club record if he scores Satur­day. Re­cent his­tory also favours the vis­i­tors as the Red Devils have four wins and two draws in their last six vis­its to An­field.

On the other hand, United has had an ex­tremely easy set of open­ing fix­tures, play­ing seven of the league’s bot­tom nine teams. Satur­day’s match is United’s tough­est test so far and man­ager Jose Mour­inho has a his­tory of be­ing cau­tious in big games. Both these teams pre­fer to hit on the break, so it could be a cagey af­fair with nei­ther side open­ing up. If United gets the lead, though, then Liver­pool could be in for a rough af­ter­noon.

Ta­ble top­pers

There’s a feast of games in Italy this week­end as the big six Serie A sides go head to head. On Satur­day, sec­ond-place Ju­ven­tus hosts fourth­place Lazio, while leader Napoli vis­its Roma, which is in third. The Ju­ven­tus match fea­tures the league’s two hottest at­tack­ers with Lazio led by Ciro Im­mo­bile, while the home side has young Ar­gen­tine sniper Paulo Dy­bala, who tops the league with 10 goals in seven games.

If that wasn’t enough, Sun­day fea­tures the Mi­lan derby with In­ter serv­ing as host. In­ter is in third place thanks to its league-lead­ing de­fence, while AC Mi­lan has dropped to sev­enth fol­low­ing back-to-back losses.

The ac­tion isn’t lim­ited to Italy as it’s first against fourth in both Ger­many and Spain on Satur­day. Bun­desliga lead­ers Borus­sia Dort­mund hosts young RB Leipzig, while in La Liga, Barcelona trav­els to Madrid to face Atletico. With the po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in Spain over Cata­lan in­de­pen­dence, the Barcelona match could be very heated.

Match­day 3

UEFA Cham­pi­ons League play con­tin­ues next week. Tues­day’s big game has Real Madrid host­ing Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur with both teams hav­ing won their open­ing pair of matches to top Group H. Madrid has its galaxy of stars, while Spurs have Harry Kane, who is ar­guably the best striker in the world right now. Kane isn’t flashy, but he has an unerring tal­ent for putting the ball in the net.

Other big games on Tues­day in­clude Group F lead­ers Manch­ester City host­ing Napoli, while in Group G Be­sik­tas and Canada’s Atiba Hutchin­son look to con­tinue their strong play away to Monaco.

On Wed­nes­day, Chelsea hosts Roma in a top-of-the-ta­ble clash in Group C. The Blues are off to a strong start in the com­pe­ti­tion, but are with­out mid­field dy­namo N’Golo Kante, who in­jured his ham­string play­ing for France and is out for a month.

Messi­est place on Earth

A Lionel Messi theme park plans to open in China in 2020, giv­ing fans a chance to learn about the five-time world player of the year through dozens of at­trac­tions. Called the Messi Ex­pe­ri­ence Park, the $250-mil­lion fa­cil­ity will be in the city of Nan­jing and aims to at­tract mil­lions of vis­i­tors each year for all-day fun.

The project was orig­i­nally en­vi­sioned as a Messi mu­seum, but was changed to a theme park to make it more ap­peal­ing for young­sters. De­tails of ex­actly what will be on of­fer are so far rather vague, but the park will in­clude a lot of tech­nol­ogy with in­ter­ac­tive dis­plays, ro­bots, holograms and vir­tual re­al­ity.

While the fo­cus will be on Messi, the park plans to pro­mote soc­cer in gen­eral. That fits with gov­ern­ment ef­forts in China to raise the pro­file of the sport there.

It may not be Dis­ney­land, but it might be worth keep­ing an eye on.

Bob Le­nar­duzzi is pres­i­dent of Van­cou­ver White­caps FC. Tick­ets: visit white­­ets


Manch­ester United man­ager Jose Mour­inho, left, and Liver­pool’s Jur­gen Klopp go head to head on Satur­day when their Pre­mier League clubs meet at An­field in an ea­gerly awaited clash of his­toric ri­vals.

Ju­ven­tus sniper Paulo Dy­bala leads Serie A with 10 goals head­ing into the week­end.

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