Juan Antonio Pizzi in search of firepower for Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi is on the lookout for attacking talent.
Updated 30 January 2018

Juan Antonio Pizzi in search of firepower for Saudi Arabia

LONDON: Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi said he will be scouring the Saudi Professional League in search of a goalscoring striker to solve what he describes as “a deficiency” in the team’s attack after he named his squad for Saudi Arabia’s international friendly against Iraq in Basra next month.
The Green Falcons scored just two goals in 270 minutes of football during a camp in Portugal under former coach Edgardo Bauza and scored only 17 goals in 10 matches during the third and final round of World Cup qualifying. Only six of those goals were scored by strikers, Al-Nassr’s Mohammad Al-Sahlawi leading the way with two. Pizzi, a forward himself during his playing days, knows he needs to find a cutting edge up front if his Saudi Arabia team are to make an impression in Group A at this summer’s World Cup.
“We know about the deficiency in attack we have in the team but in our opinion all the players here, the doors are open for them to be with us and we will attend matches in the Saudi league and look at all the players and all the strikers,” Pizzi said.
“All the players here that want to play, will be with us and we will call them all up. But that does not mean the first squad list at the training camp will be the ones at the World Cup. They have a long way to go and we have a long time to look at the players and hopefully we will select the best players who will perform well at the World Cup.”
Pizzi is yet to take charge of a game since replacing Bauza but spent all of last week with 25 players at a Riyadh training camp.
“The experience of the first training camp has been a very good one, we are very happy because all of the players were present so we could get to know them,” he said.
“It was a very good experience and hopefully in the second training camp, the experience will be the same and we will have more players. For sure we will converse with them and we will be present to watch the players in the Saudi league.
“Fundamentally the first training camp was to get to know the players, to understand the style of play, what they needed, to have a look at their capacities and capacity so we wanted the first training camp to be without a friendly match but in the second training camp there will be a friendly match.”
The Green Falcons will reconvene on Feb. 21 for another training camp followed by a friendly with Iraq in Basra six days later. Pizzi, who used to be in charge of Chile, is pleased with what he saw.
“For us the capabilities and capacities of the players are of a high ability and they have good ability with the ball and play in a very good way and we have shown them our ideas and the style of play which hopefully they will accept and learn,” he said.
Pizzi has coached in Argentina, Peru, Spain and Chile and encountered his fair share of problems. He is hoping for a smoother ride in charge of the Green Falcons.


Free-scoring Salzburg pose serious threat to leaky Liverpool

Updated 10 December 2019

Free-scoring Salzburg pose serious threat to leaky Liverpool

  • Injury-hit Reds have consistently leaked goals despite streaking clear at the top of Premier League

LONDON: Liverpool travel to Salzburg on Tuesday needing to avoid defeat to the confident Austrian champions to guard against an embarrassing Champions League group stage exit for the holders.

Jurgen Klopp's men are used to getting through to the knockout stages the hard way. In each of the past two seasons they have needed home wins to secure a place in the last 16 before going on to make the final.

However, the specter of a free-scoring Salzburg, led by the Champions League's top scorer in Erlin Braut Haaland spells trouble for an injury-hit Liverpool backline that has consistently leaked goals this season despite streaking clear at the top of the Premier League.

The Reds' recorded a first clean sheet in 14 games in Saturday's 3-0 win at Bournemouth, but lost another center back as Dejan Lovren limped off in the first half.

Should the Croatian miss the trip to Austria, Joe Gomez will be Klopp's only fit partner for Virgil van Dijk in central defense.

Van Dijk narrowly missed out to Lionel Messi in the battle for the Ballon d'Or last week in recognition of the transformative effect he has had on Liverpool's fortunes over the past two years.

But even the towering Dutchman has been incapable of stopping the steady flow of goals against in recent months.

Injuries have meant there has been a constant rotation of Lovren, Gomez and Joel Matip alongside Van Dijk, while the attacking impetus offered by fullbacks Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold leaves space in behind to be exploited.

Goalkeeper Alisson Becker also missed the first two months of the season due to a calf injury to further unsettle the backline.

The Brazilian is now back, but another injury to Fabinho has robbed the back four of the best player to protect them in the holding midfield role.

"I forgot how it feels, to be honest," said Klopp on finally ending the long wait for a clean sheet at the weekend.

"It's great, we should have them more often. It was the most-used word in the dressing room by the boys — "clean sheet, clean sheet, clean sheet."

"Obviously everybody was desperate for that, now we have it so let's have it more often.

"The next game where a clean sheet would be useful is already around the corner, against Salzburg on Tuesday."

That is easier said than done as Liverpool know from their first meeting with Jesse Marsch's men in October.

The hosts seemed to be cruising to another Anfield win in the Champions League as they raced into a 3-0 lead, but Salzburg hit back to level at 3-3 before Mohamed Salah's winner ensured Liverpool edged a seven-goal thriller.

Salzburg have scored 87 goals in 24 games in all competitions this season, 28 of which have come from Norwegian wonderkid Haaland in just 21 appearances.

The 19-year-old started on the bench when the sides met at Anfield due to injury, but came on to inspire the visitors' revival in the second half and scored one of his eight Champions League goals.

"He's not the only threat from Salzburg but he's a proper one," said Klopp of the danger posed by Haaland ahead of the sides' first clash.

Salzburg need to win to make the last 16 on their first appearance in the group stage in 25 years.

A point would be enough for Liverpool to progress, but they need to win to secure top spot in Group E ahead of Napoli.

Given Liverpool's paucity of clean sheets and Salzburg's thirst for goals, attack would appear to be the best form of defencse for the European champions.