Sports

May 062016
 
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has played 33 times for Arsenal this season

England winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been ruled out of this summer’s European Championship after suffering his second knee injury of the season.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger says the 22-year-old, capped 24 times, will be out for a further six to eight weeks.

Oxlade-Chamberlain suffered his initial knee injury in the Champions League defeat by Barcelona on 23 February.

“There is no chance of the Euros for him,” said Wenger. “He will be back at the beginning of July.”

Oxlade-Chamberlain, who made his England debut against Norway in 2012, had been scheduled to feature for the Gunners’ Under-21 side earlier this week.

“He was out for a while and was not overloaded with games,” Wenger added.

“You want a guy of 22 years of age to go to the European Championship, so it is very sad.”

Oxlade-Chamberlain was a surprise call-up to Roy Hodgson’s squad for Euro 2012, becoming the third-youngest England player to feature at a major tournament when he started the 1-1 draw with France in Donetsk.

He was part of Hodgson’s 23-man World Cup squad in 2014, but did not feature after injuring a knee during England’s final warm-up game against Ecuador.

England will face Russia, Slovakia and Wales in Group B at Euro 2016, which begins on 10 June.

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May 062016
 

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How good is Liverpool’s record in European competitions?

Liverpool will “take the opportunity” when they play holders Sevilla in the final of the Europa League on 18 May, says Reds manager Jurgen Klopp.

After losing the first leg of their semi-final 1-0 in Villarreal, Liverpool produced a dominant display at Anfield on Thursday to win 3-1 on aggregate.

“When you perform like we did then you want to have it all and that is what we will try,” said Klopp.

“We will go there and try to do everything for this wonderful club.”

The match – at St Jakob-Park in Basel, Switzerland – will be Liverpool’s first European final since losing 2-1 to AC Milan in the Champions League in 2007.

The Reds have won eight of the 11 European finals they have appeared in – five of seven in the European Cup/Champions League and three of three in the Uefa Cup/Europa League.

Should they beat Sevilla, who are trying to win the Europa League for the third successive season, they will join the Spanish side as the most successful in the competition with four victories and earn a place in next season’s Champions League.

Liverpool fans gathered outside the ground before Thursday’s match to cheer the team’s arrival at Anfield

“I don’t know what it means that it is nine years between Liverpool’s last final,” said Klopp, who replaced Brendan Rodgers as manager in October.

“A lot of teams want to go to finals, it is not too easy, but it is a real opportunity and we will take the opportunity.”

An early Bruno Soriano own goal set Liverpool on their way, before second-half strikes from Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana completed victory over their Spanish opponents, who finished the match with 10 men after Victor Ruiz was sent off.

‘100,000 Liverpool fans for the final’

Liverpool, Champions League winners in 2005, were backed by impressive support from the moment the team bus arrived at the stadium.

Hundreds of fans packed Anfield Road to welcome their players and continued their vociferous support throughout the game.

Klopp says as many as 100,000 Liverpool fans could travel to Switzerland for the final, though FC Basel’s stadium can only hold 38,000.

Klopp hails ‘unbelievable’ Sturridge

Daniel Sturridge scored one goal and was involved in the others

Klopp did not named a recognised striker in his starting line-up for the first leg, with Sturridge left on the bench.

However, he restored the England international to the first XI and was rewarded with an impressive performance.

Sturridge scored Liverpool’s second after being the closest Reds player to Soriano when he put through his own net – and he was also involved in Lallana’s goal.

Klopp said the 26-year-old had a “great game”, adding: “When Daniel Sturridge is fit he is an unbelievable striker, but even he needs players to play with and I know about his quality, I knew before I came here. Great player.”

Special times ahead for Liverpool?

Liverpool famously beat AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League final after they were losing 3-0 at half-time in Istanbul

Liverpool produced another memorable European performance at Anfield, after coming from 3-1 down to knock Borussia Dortmund out in the previous round.

It means Klopp is into his second final with the club since taking charge just seven months ago. They lost on penalties to Manchester City in the League Cup final in February.

“In 2016, the team have shown a lot of times what they could be capable of in the future so that’s a good sign and that is more important for me as a manager,” said Klopp.

Former Liverpool striker Michael Owen said on BT Sport: “Over the last few months we’ve really seen something special.

“There’s such high energy levels, the pressing we all knew Jurgen Klopp was going to bring over. But he’s just improving players – the likes of Adam Lallana, Simon Mignolet and Dejan Lovren – as well.

“There’s special times ahead. It’s almost like they are unbeatable here. It’s becoming a fortress.”

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May 062016
 
Adam Clayton for Boro (centre) and Brighton’s Tomer Hamed (left) are key to their respective sides hopes

Promotion to the Premier League will be worth at least £170m to the winner of Saturday’s Championship decider between Middlesbrough and Brighton, according to financial analysts Deloitte.

That figure could expand by around 41% to £290m if they avoid relegation in their first season in the top flight.

The £170m is made up of a minimum £95m for a year in the Premier League, plus two seasons of parachute payments.

Burnley have already been promoted after a 1-0 win over QPR on Monday.

The Clarets bounced back at the first attempt after being relegated to the Championship last season.

“Promotion to the Premier League provides clubs with the resources to make strategic investments on and off the pitch,” said Richard Battle, senior manager in Deloitte’s sports business group.

“While the short term priority is usually investment in the playing squad, a strong emphasis on ongoing financial stability can leave a club well positioned for the future – whether or not they survive that first season.

“Burnley bouncing straight back to the top flight of English football is evidence that short-term financial restraint can support medium-term success.”

Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore said he was excited by the final-day encounter and the interest it had generated.

“It’s been excellent. Burnley, obviously, we welcome them back. Sean Dyche has done a great job. But then the one next Saturday is tantalising,” he told BBC Sport.

“I was looking to see if I could get from there to Leicester in time but I don’t think I can.

“Middlesbrough, Brighton – either of which would be great to have in the league and then we still have the play-offs to come.”

Confidence and calm on Teesside

Aitor Karanka (right) says his players’ confidence at this stage has rubbed off on him

Middlesbrough are in the stronger position going into the game, with home advantage and knowing that avoiding defeat will take them into the Premier League.

Head coach Aitor Karanka has steered his side on a nine-game unbeaten run, although the past three matches have ended in draws.

“Even when we couldn’t win the last three games the performances kept me calm,” Karanka told BBC Tees.

“I don’t need to say anything, they’re calm, they’re looking forward to the game, they know how important this game is for everybody.

“They’re ready, they’re training really well so we’re just carrying on.”

‘Fans fought to save Seagulls’

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Promotion would be ‘massive reward’ – Barber

Brighton are looking to return to the top flight for the first time since 1982-83, having been one game away from relegation from the Football League in 1997.

Like Swansea and Bournemouth, two clubs that made it from one end of the pyramid to the Premier League, Brighton can follow in their footsteps with victory at the Riverside.

“Promotion would be the culmination of a lot of work from a lot of people,” chief executive Paul Barber told BBC Sussex.

“The fans fought so hard to save the club and keep the club alive when it was playing at Gillingham and Withdean. It would be a massive reward for those people.

“For everyone, it would be an amazing achievement and an amazing occasion.”

‘I will prepare us to win’

Middlesbrough have lost just two home games in 2015-16

Brighton face a Boro side that has lost only twice and conceded only seven goals at the Riverside.

Despite Middlesbrough needing one point for promotion, Karanka said he would urge his team to get all three.

“I don’t know how to prepare a game just to draw, in my experience, if you go to the pitch looking for the draw at the end you lose the game,” the Spaniard added.

“I will prepare my team to win the game.”

The significance of returning top-tier football to the Riverside is firmly in the mind of captain Grant Leadbitter.

It is seven years since the Teessiders were relegated from the Premier League and after last year’s play-off final defeat by Norwich, Leadbitter said the emotions need to be channelled correctly.

“It’s more than three points. We have to play with our heads rather than our hearts.” Leadbitter told BBC Tees.

“I’d be lying to say it’s a normal game but in the back of minds it has to be, it has to be another 90 minutes of football.

“We have to be drawn into the occasion because it’s a big game but we’ve got to be calm, collected and use our ‘noggin’.”

History has no bearing for Brighton

Chris Hughton’s side has lost just once since mid-January, with 13 wins

The Seagulls know the full force capable from Saturday’s opponents, having seen their proud unbeaten record ended by Middlesbrough in a 3-0 hammering at the Amex Stadium in December.

It triggered a mini-slump over the festive period, but one defeat in the past 19 games has propelled Albion right back into contention.

“Middlesbrough were probably the best side we played at home this season, but that was a while ago. It’s all about timing,” Brighton manager Chris Hughton told BBC Sussex.

“They’ve got the quality they’ve got. If we want to get a result on Saturday then we’re going to have to play well.

“They got to the play-off final last year and lost – and I think they’ve learnt from that.”

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Liverpool 3-0 Villarreal (agg 3-1)

 Posted by at 5:10 AM
May 062016
 
Daniel Sturridge scored his 12th goal of the season

Jurgen Klopp remains on course for silverware in his first season in charge after Liverpool beat Villarreal to reach the Europa League final.

Trailing 1-0 from the first leg, Liverpool levelled the tie on aggregate after Bruno Soriano’s early own goal.

Daniel Sturridge, left out of the team in Spain, then put the hosts in command with a low finish after good work from the excellent Roberto Firmino.

After Villarreal’s Victor Ruiz was sent off, Adam Lallana made the win safe.

Ruiz received a second booking after stepping on Lallana’s foot in a game where Liverpool’s energetic pressing ruffled their opponents.

Klopp, who took over from Brendan Rodgers in October and celebrated wildly with supporters after the final whistle, has now taken the Reds to a second final of the season, following defeat by Manchester City in the League Cup final.

They will face Europa League holders Sevilla in Basel on 18 May, after they beat Shakhtar Donetsk 3-1 to win their semi-final 5-3 on aggregate.

Despite sitting nine points and 19 goals behind fourth-placed Manchester City in the Premier League, Liverpool would qualify for next season’s Champions League should they win in Switzerland, representing a fine return for Klopp in such a short spell in charge.

Liverpool fans formed a message which read ‘The Greatest Football Family’ around Anfield after the Hillsborough inquest found that 96 supporters were unlawfully killed at a FA Cup semi-final in 1989

Anfield enjoys another sparkling European night

On another memorable night at Anfield, Liverpool reached their first European final since losing the 2007 Champions League showpiece to AC Milan.

While it was less dramatic than the quarter-final win over Klopp’s former team Borussia Dortmund, the players seemed galvanised by an electric rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone before kick-off as home fans paid tribute to those who died in the Hillsborough disaster, following last week’s inquest verdict where 96 fans were found to be unlawfully killed.

The early opener came after Nathaniel Clyne crossed to the back post and Firmino put it back into the danger area. Sturridge missed the ball, but Bruno nudged into his own net.

Boosted by the goal, the hosts pressed Villarreal to distraction with James Milner, Philippe Coutinho and Lallana indefatigable in midfield.

Added to the poise offered by the returning Emre Can, who has been out injured for the past three weeks, and the trickery of Firmino, the visitors could not cope.

Sturridge, who has finally been able to enjoy a run of games after a shocking injury record, scored what appeared to be his most important Liverpool goal to put Klopp’s side ahead in the tie.

Lallana then sparked more renditions of Liverpool’s famous anthem when he tucked in from close range after more enterprise from Firmino.

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How good is Liverpool’s record in European competitions?

Yellow Submarine sinks under pressure

Villarreal, who have already reached next season’s elite European competition by securing fourth place in La Liga, came up against a pacy team which did not let them settle.

Marcelino’s side are well drilled and operate in a 4-4-2 formation, but they were overwhelmed in midfield and began to lose their tempers as Liverpool’s superior numbers started to count.

Former Tottenham striker Roberto Soldado reacted to one Dejan Lovren challenge by swiping the Liverpool defender’s feet away, and was later booked for chopping down Coutinho.

Villarreal’s Victor Ruiz gets a second booking for a foul on Adam Lallana (pictured on the floor)

Former Manchester City forward Denis Suarez was lucky not to follow him after berating referee Viktor Kassai and, when Ruiz received a second booking, there appeared no hope for a side who were only promoted back to La Liga three seasons ago.

Once Simon Mignolet parried Mario Gaspar’s early shot and Jonathan dos Santos fired over, the Liverpool goalkeeper had little to do.

Villarreal, who had been on a 12-game unbeaten run in the competition, have now reached three Europa League semi-finals, previously losing twice to the eventual winners.

Liverpool will hope they can continue the Spanish side’s unfortunate record.

Man of the match: Roberto Firmino

Jurgen Klopp congratulates Roberto Firmino after the Brazilian had a hand in all three goals

What they said

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, speaking to BT Sport: “Wonderful night, brilliant game from my side. What a performance. The first half an hour was a big emotion. It was great. The last 15 minutes of the first half we lost patience. The second-half plan was to keep going with the emotional football but using the brain a bit more and in the end, brilliant.

“Everyone spoke a lot about this team before I came here. It was all about quality and not good transfers. I came here because I thought they had a nice squad and now we are in the final.”

Villarreal boss Marcelino: “Things didn’t work out how we had planned them. It hit us hard conceding that early goal, it was a hammer blow.

“It was tough against an opponent who played with a huge amount of intensity, maybe on the margins of the rules at times, but it was allowed.

“Liverpool played better than us but for all their superiority they didn’t create too many chances. When we got to the sending off it was pretty much game over by then.”

Stats you need to know

  • Liverpool have only failed to score in one of their 21 home Europa League games (0-0 v Braga in December 2010)
  • Daniel Sturridge has scored in four of his past five appearances at Anfield in all competitions
  • Only James Milner (14) has more assists in all competitions for Liverpool this season than Roberto Firmino (9)
  • The Reds will face Spanish opposition in a European final for the third time, having played Real Madrid in the 1981 European Cup Final (won 1-0) and Alaves in the 2001 UEFA Cup (won 5-4 after extra-time)
  • Villarreal have lost each of their four major European semi-finals

What next?

Liverpool are at home to Watford in the Premier League on Sunday as they aim to secure a place in the Europa League, at least, next season.

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