Liverpool aim to maintain perfect record against Newcastle on Saturday

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah plays against Manchester City in Champions League. Salah has been one of the club’s most successful players. (File/Reuters)
Updated 14 September 2019

Liverpool aim to maintain perfect record against Newcastle on Saturday

  • Klopp’s side enjoy a two-point lead over second-placed Manchester City

LONDON: Liverpool’s sizzling start to the Premier League season has left their title rivals breathless and the red-hot leaders are expected to maintain their perfect record against Newcastle on Saturday.

Jurgen Klopp’s side have seized the early initiative in the league with four successive wins to open up a two-point lead over second-placed Manchester City.

The European champions’ relentless tempo has overwhelmed Norwich, Southampton, Arsenal and Burnley, sending a message that they are determined to make amends for narrowly failing to pip City to the trophy last season.

Arsenal’s Dani Ceballos is new to English football after joining on loan from Real Madrid and the Spain midfielder admitted to being gob-smacked at the intensity Liverpool displayed in their 3-1 victory against the Gunners in August.

“I had never seen anything like it. I’ve not seen up until now a team that plays better, that presses better. That game had quite an impact on me,” Ceballos told the Daily Mail.

“They suck the air out of you. You spend so much time defending and when you want to catch your breath and get on the ball for a bit, they’ve taken it from you again.

“I think Jurgen Klopp now has the team he first had in mind when he started four years ago.”

That glowing testimony underlines the size of the task facing City as they try to stop Liverpool winning their first English crown since 1990.

City may have won the last two Premier League titles in scintillating fashion, but Liverpool look better than ever this term and Newcastle are unlikely to halt their progress at Anfield this weekend.

With City playing Norwich in Saturday’s late game, the champions could be five points behind Liverpool by the time they kick off at Carrow Road.

Pep Guardiola’s team are unbeaten and have already thrashed West Ham and Brighton, but their lone slip — a draw against Tottenham — allowed Liverpool to seize pole position and they can’t afford another against second-bottom Norwich.

Across Manchester, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United can only dream of gate-crashing the title race after a disappointing start showed how far they have fallen off the pace.

United have won only once in their first four games, adding to the incentive for their England defender Harry Maguire to inspire a victory against his former
club Leicester.

Maguire is the world’s most expensive defender after his £80 million close-season move from Leicester, but he is yet to play like it, as his creaky showing in England’s midweek Euro 2020 qualifier against Kosovo emphasized.

Leicester will arrive at Old Trafford above Maguire’s men in the table after an impressive unbeaten start.

But, whatever his shortcomings in some areas, Maguire’s personality has made an impression on his new teammates, who expect him to come good soon.

“It’s been seamless,” said United reserve keeper Lee Grant. “Harry has definitely slotted straight in, in terms of the social side and in terms of his mentality and attitude, which has been first class.”

“The most important thing, though, is his quality and he was able to show that against Chelsea. We could all see he is quite at home in front of the Old Trafford crowd and quite at home as a Manchester United player.”

Mauricio Pochettino must hope the closure of the European transfer window lifts the mood at Tottenham, who host fourth-placed Crystal Palace looking to secure only their second win.

Pochettino was concerned that speculation over the futures of several Tottenham players, including Christian Eriksen, had unsettled his squad.

But Eriksen remains with Tottenham in the final year of his contract and Pochettino said: “He was always happy. He never said he wasn’t happy here.

“Everyone of course has aims, goals, challenges. His qualities are there and important for the team.”


Mayor of town in north Japan bemoans lack of Olympic funds

Updated 15 September 2019

Mayor of town in north Japan bemoans lack of Olympic funds

  • Tokyo is reportedly spending about $20 billion to prepare the city to host the games
  • Tokyo organizers have faced a series of hurdles as they prepare to host the games

TOKYO: The mayor of a town in northeastern Japan that will host Olympic soccer games says his city has received no funding from the central government that has promised to use the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to help in the reconstruction of the region.

The Japanese government and Tokyo 2020 organizers are hoping to use the Olympics to showcase Japan’s recovery from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Several Olympic events, including soccer and baseball, will be held in northeastern Japan.

But with less than a year to go before the opening ceremony, Yutaka Kumagai, the mayor of Rifu in Miyagi Prefecture, says his city has seen no funding from the central government.

“There is no help from the government, we don’t have any budget from them, none,” Kumagai said on Saturday. “Tokyo 2020 is said to be a symbol of the reconstruction but when it comes to the budget, we don’t have any budget from the Olympic games here in Rifu.”

Kumagai made the comments during a media tour of Miyagi Stadium, a 49,000-seat facility in Rifu that will host men’s and women’s football at the 2020 Olympics.

About 50,000 people are still displaced in the Tohoku region as of August, according to the Reconstruction Agency. Yoshiaki Suda, the mayor of Onagawa in Miyagi Prefecture, concurred with Kumagai. Like Rifu, Onagawa is a coastal city that sustained heavy destruction.

“We haven’t received any subsidy, even one yen, from the central government,” Suda said. “Whatever we do for the venues, for the hospitality for the Olympics, we have to do ourselves.”

Some media reports have made the claim that the Olympics have hampered the reconstruction efforts, taking workers away from the region to help with construction in Tokyo.

Japan is one of the most earthquake- and tsunami-prone areas in the world. On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 quake offshore caused a tsunami that triggered meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The quake and tsunami heavily damaged coastal neighborhoods in northeastern Japan and took more than 18,000 lives.

Tokyo, which projected total costs of about $7.5 billion in its winning bid for the games in 2013, is reportedly spending about $20 billion to prepare the city to host the games.

A group of anti-Olympic activists, many from outside Japan, have held small protests and other events this summer under the Japanese title “Han-gorin no Kai” — which translates roughly to No Olympics. They oppose Olympic spending, which they say cuts into budgets for housing and environmental issues.

They also call for more money to rebuild Fukushima prefecture located northeast of Tokyo. Organizers say Fukushima is a main focus of the Olympics, staging baseball, softball and soccer games there to persuade the world the area is safe.

Tokyo organizers have faced a series of hurdles as they prepare to host the games. In August, Tokyo’s summer heat forced an Olympic women’s triathlon qualifying event to be shortened because of high temperatures that are likely to impact next year’s games.

Tsunekazu Takeda, the head of the Japanese Olympic Committee, was forced to quit earlier this year when he was implicated in a vote-buying scheme to land the games. He has denied wrongdoing, but acknowledged he signed off on about $2 million that French investigators allege went to buy votes.