Liverpool the team to beat as Champions League returns

Liverpool players celebrate their victory over Norwich City on Saturday. (AP)
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Updated 16 February 2020

Liverpool the team to beat as Champions League returns

  • Liverpool remain on course for a potential five-trophy haul this season

LONDON: Liverpool return to the scene of their Champions League triumph when they visit Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano on Tuesday very much the team to beat for those hoping to succeed Jurgen Klopp’s men as European champions.

Liverpool are coasting toward a first Premier League title in 30 years having dropped just two points all season and are likely to be crowned English champions before the Champions League quarter-finals commence in early April.

Liverpool remain on course for a potential five-trophy haul this season. They have already lifted the UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup and are used to reaching European finals under Klopp.

The German has overseen three in four seasons at Anfield, losing the Europa League final to Sevilla in 2016 and Champions League to Real Madrid two years later before getting over the line against Tottenham in the Spanish capital last year.

“I have no clue if we can win the Champions League again but we should be ready to go for it,” said Klopp. “What I know and what we showed last year is that we can beat the best.”

On current form Atletico are little match for the holders.

For the first time in over eight years in charge, the future of Diego Simeone has been questioned with Los Rojiblancos languishing well off the pace in La Liga and battling just to qualify for next season’s Champions League. A chronic struggle to score goals has hampered Simeone’s side all season.

Joao Felix has failed to deliver on his €126 million ($138 million) price tag and the Portuguese wonder kid is a doubt for Tuesday’s first leg.

By contrast, Liverpool have hit the money with almost every major signing in recent years.

With Alisson Becker, Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, they have built a side capable of not just winning, but retaining the Champions League.

Simeone’s Atletico sides that came so close to winning the competition in losing two finals to rivals Real in 2014 and 2016 were built on the most miserly defense.

But even the Argentine would be impressed by Liverpool’s run of winning their last 11 league games by the combined score of 24-1.


NBA star LeBron James opts out of wearing social justice message on Lakers jersey

Updated 12 July 2020

NBA star LeBron James opts out of wearing social justice message on Lakers jersey

  • ‘It is just something that didn’t seriously resonate with my mission, with my goal’
  • But Lakers star still working behind the scenes to improve the lives of others

LOS ANGELES: NBA superstar LeBron James said Saturday he would opt out of wearing a social justice message on the back of his jersey because it doesn’t “resonate with his mission.”
James, who has often spoken out against racism and police brutality in America, is passing on the NBA’s plan to help bring attention to racial inequality by having players wear messages like “I Can’t Breathe” instead of their family names.
“I didn’t go with a name on the back of my jersey,” the Los Angeles Lakers forward James said Saturday. “It was no disrespect to the list that was handed down to all the players.”
“I commend anyone that decides to put something on the back of their jersey. It is just something that didn’t seriously resonate with my mission, with my goal.”
James says he wishes he had had some input into the jersey change.
“I would have loved to have a say on what would have went on the back of the jersey. I had a couple of things in mind, but I wasn’t part of that process which is OK.”
“I don’t need to have something on the back of the jersey for people to understand my mission and what I’m about and what I am here to do.”
The vast majority of NBA players have decided to pick a social justice message when play resumes in Orlando, Florida.
James is one of just about 17 players out of 285 so far who have opted to continue using their family names on the back of their uniforms.
The list of suggested messages, agreed on by the players union and NBA owners and then made available to players, includes “I Can’t Breathe,” which is what George Floyd said more than 20 times before he died with a white police officer kneeling on his neck.
Other messages include: Black Lives Matter; Say Their Names; Vote; Justice; Peace; Equality; Freedom; Enough; Power to the People; Justice Now; Say Her Name; Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can); Liberation; See Us; Hear Us; Respect Us; Love Us; Listen; Listen to Us; Stand Up; Ally; Anti-Racist; I Am A Man; Speak Up; How Many More; Group Economics; Education Reform; and Mentor.
James said even though he isn’t taking part in the jersey messages, he is still working behind the scenes to improve the lives of others, especially people in the Black community.
“Being able to use my platform, use the NBA’s platform, to continue to talk about what’s going on. Because I will not stop until I see real change for us in Black America, for African Americans, for people of color. And I also believe I can do both, though.”
James said he always expected to play in the restart to the season: “I am here for one goal and one goal only and that is to win a championship.”