Algeria star Riyad Mahrez urged to ‘get his head right’

Riyad Mahrez has not played for Leicester since they beat Watford on Jan. 20. (Reuters)
Updated 08 February 2018

Algeria star Riyad Mahrez urged to ‘get his head right’

LONDON: Leicester manager Claude Puel says he hopes Riyad Mahrez can “get his head right” and rejoin the team, confirming the Algeria international will not feature against Manchester City on Saturday
The match at the Etihad will be the third consecutive league game the winger has missed since Pep Guardiola’s City failed to get their man on Jan. 31, transfer deadline day.
Mahrez, 26, has not featured for the mid-table Foxes, in matches or training, since his dream move to the Premier League leaders stalled.
“I think Riyad is not available for Saturday’s game,” Puel told reporters at his pre-match press conference on Thursday. “I hope Riyad can get his head right and come back with us and work hard. The best way is for him to come back and enjoy his football.
“He is a magnificent player and he enjoys his football. He loves his team-mates, and that’s important. He loves to touch the football but he needs to come back right. I hope he can come back with a good attitude and prepared to work, but he will need time, and time to be match-fit.
“It’s important this remains inside the club and private, not in the public. The most important thing for me is to keep Riyad and the club and the fans united and in a good way about this. It is important to keep a good feeling together through these difficulties.”
Despite a second transfer request from the player in eight months, Leicester reportedly held out for a deal worth £80 million ($112 million), with even City’s cash-rich Abu Dhabi owners unwilling to go beyond a reported £50 million plus an unnamed player they valued at £15 million.
Mahrez is unhappy that Leicester were determined to secure such a huge profit on a player they bought for a reported £350,000 from French second-division side Le Havre in 2014 and who played a pivotal role in the club’s rise from the Championship to Premier League champions.
He was crowned players’ player of the year during Leicester’s remarkable title-winning campaign in 2015-16, scoring 17 Premier League goals, and then signed a four-year deal to help lead their Champions League charge.
Adding to Mahrez’s anger is that other heroes of Leicester’s title-winning triumph — N’Golo Kante and Danny Drinkwater — have been allowed to leave the club and join Chelsea with far less resistance.
— AFP


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.