Reds hurting for change of fortune
Poor form, injuries put host at a disadvantage against surging rival Manchester United
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.
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.
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 whitecapsfc.com/tickets
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.