Who is Piotr Zielinski?

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Sam May profiles Liverpool’s rumoured £11 million summer target Piotr Zielinski, currently on-loan to Empoli from Udinese. So who is he?

Factfile:

 Age: 21

 Place of birth: Ząbkowice Śląskie, Poland

 Club: Udinese (on-loan at Empoli)

 Position: Centre Midfield

Background & Style of Play

Piotr Zielinski has been with Udinese since joining the club from Zaglebie Lubin in 2011, aged 17. He started his career with Polish side playing for the Under 19’s at the age of 16, moving on to play for their second team, before moving to the Italian side.

He made his debut for the Serie A side on 2nd November 2012, replacing veteran Antonio Di Natale in the match against Cagliari. Since, then he has been a consistent performer in his second season on-loan at Empoli. The young was handed his debut by new Swansea manager Francesco Guidolin and has settled quicky.

The 21-year old found chances limited at the back of the end of the 2012/13 season hence his loan move away. Having made nine appearances, including four starts, in the league in the previous campaign, he was restricted to 127 minutes of Serie A action, over 10 games.

Udinese have hit a stumbling block having sold Juan Cuarado, Mehdi Benatia, Antonio Candreva and Pablo Armero. Manager Guidolin has also left – will Zielinski follow suit?

The 5ft 8 youngster has made 28 starts to date and made over 50 appearances for Empoli since going out on-loan. He is a technically gifted midfield player who can also play on either wing or in the number 10 role behind the strikers. He also has blistering pace and enjoys playing short passes. The Pol is also creative and can thread a ball.

This season, Zielinski has averaged 1.7 key passes per 90 minutes this, which is equal to that of Philippe Coutinho, whilst making four assists. He has a similar playing style to Joe Allen and could support the attack, should Liverpool make a move. He may be brought in to replace Allen, whose future looks uncertain.

He could be the perfect option for Jurgen Klopp. The Kop boss has previously worked with a Polish midfielder in Jakub Blaszczykowsi at Borussia Dortmund. He could be a hidden talent and somebody who could potentially take the Premier League by storm.

Report: Tranmere 2-1 Torquay United

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Taylor-Fletcher stunner and Norwood strike gives Rovers the three points.

Rovers made it a three wins in a row as they beat Kevin Nicholson’s Torquay United 2-1 at a cold and blustery Prenton Park.

Tranmere manager Gary Brabin made two changes to the side, which started against Bromley last weekend with Liam Ridehalgh and Gary Taylor-Fletcher with Matt Hill and Jeff Hughes missing out through injury.

There was a place on the bench for new signing Jack Mackreth while former Tranmere loanee Nathan Blissett started for Torquay.

Tranmere got the game underway attacking the Kop in the first half and had most of the ball in the opening stages but failed to create any clear-cut changes as the Torquay defence stood strong.

The hosts’ first real chance came on 20 minutes when Gary Taylor-Fletcher picked out James Norwood whose header was saved by Daniel Lavercombe.

Steven Jennings later hit a powerful strike over the bar from 20 yards.

Tranmere made the break through on 37 minutes when Gary-Taylor Fletcher hit a stunning strike into the top left corner of the net leaving Lavercombe with no chance. Shortly after, Torquay’s Danny Butler delivered a dangerous ball into the Tranmere box but Davies gathered.

It seemed the goal gave Rovers a lift as they began to grow in confidence. Adam Mekki had a chance to make it 2-0 but could only fire his 25 yard piledriver fly over the bar as Tranmere went into the break a goal to the good.

Rovers made their first change at the start of the second half with Ritchie Sutton replacing Steve McNulty. Tranmere nearly made it 2-0 right from the off, only for Lois Maynard’s low effort to drift wide of the left hand post from 20 yards.

On 62 minutes, Maynard had a similar effort after taking the ball down via his chest, but could only find the gloves of Lavercombe.

New signing Jack Mackreth was introduced on 71 minutes as Gary Brabin was forced into a change due to a knock to Mekki.

Tranmere did manage to grab a second goal eight minutes later as James Norwood fired hard and low into the bottom right corner following a Taylor-Fletcher diagonal ball. With only 10 minutes remaining, Torquay scored a consolation through Harrad whose arrowed header fell into the back of the net at the back post.

Despite a nervous final five minutes, Rovers held on to take all three points and a place in the play-off zone.

Tranmere: Davies, Vaughan, Ihiekwe, McNulty (Sutton 46), Ridehalgh, Jennings, Harris, Maynard, Taylor-Fletcher, Norwood, Mekki (Mackreth 71).

Substitutes: Turner, Kirby, Stockton.

Torquay: Lavercombe, Berry, MacDonald, Smith, Nicholson (Chaney 46 (Geohaghon 87)), Richards, Rees, Butler, Ajala, Harrad, Blissett (Wright 63).

Substitutes: Fisher, Hancox.

Referee: Jason Whiteley (Yorks)

Yellow cards: MacDonald (28), Smith (69)

Red cards:

Goals: Taylor-Fletcher (37), Norwood (79); Harrad (82)

Attendance: 5053 (134)

Keeper set for loan move

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Liverpool goalkeeper Adam Bogdan, is set to for an end of season loan move to French club Reims, according to Sam May.

The Reds Hungarian shot stopper, 28, only joined the club last summer from Bolton Wanderers, but has failed to make an impact following his move.

He has endured a nightmare spell on Merseyside since his free transfer and made a number of high profile errors, most noticeably against Watford and Exeter City. His performances have not been helped by a shaky back line which has been hampered by injuries.

Bogdan has made five appearances in total and one of those a Premier League start away against Watford.

Jurgen Klopp isn’t keen on letting Liverpool’s second choice goalkeeper leave, having allowed Scotland Under 21 goalkeeping starlet Ryan Fulton, 19, to join League 2 side Portsmouth earlier this month on a short-term loan.

Whether he will depart before the winter window closes is yet to be clarified but having brought back Welsh stopper Danny Ward from his loan at Aberdeen, it seems Liverpool could let Bogdan leave.

Lucescu gives Reds hope

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Shakhtar Donetsk manager Mircea Lucescu has given Liverpool hope in their pursuit of Alex Teixeria, writes Sam May.

The Reds have been heavily linked with the 26-year old Brazilian over the last couple of weeks with various sources stating the deal is all at different levels of negotiations. Nobody will really no where it is at – only to the two clubs, player himself and agent.

The 70-year old Romanian, has recently revealed he will not stand in the way should a deal be finalised between the two clubs.

He was recently quoted stating: “I don’t want to keep a player against his desire. He wants to play in a big championship. He’s worth €50m (£38m). He’s incredible, very fast, very good technique. I compare him with other players of the same age who changed [the fortunes of] a club, Di Maria for example at Paris Saint Germain.

“Teixeira can be at the same level, better even. He doesn’t get injured, and every year he gets better and better.”

The player himself is said to be keen on a move to Anfield this winter stating it’s his preferred destination. He will be looking to break into the Brazil squad for the first time – through high profile Premier League performances.

If the deal doesn’t go through the manager knows he will be left with an unhappy player and no additional funds to bring in new blood.

Teixeira himself won’t break into the Brazilian squad as he wont have any high profile games to shine in such as what the Barclays Premier League provides. Therefore, Liverpool should issue final take or leave it fee and move on.

Alex Teixeira: What do we know so far?

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Sam May takes a look at the latest developments of Liverpool’s potential new addition Alex Teixeira.

The Reds seen an initial £24.5 million offer rejected by Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk last week. The 26-year attacking midfielder who plays in the number 10 role would be the perfect player for Liverpool due to his skillful ability, attacking threat, blistering pace and eye for goal. He was signed by Shakhtar in 2010 with Douglas Costa now of Bayern Munich.

Jurgen Klopp refused to comment on the situation when asked in his press conference on Monday. The Merseyside club have also seen a second bid rejected by Mircea Lucescu’s side, for the playmaker who has also attracted attention from the Reds Premier League rivals Chelsea and Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich.

While he helped Shakhtar win a fifth straight league title, it has been in the last two years, when he has been playing in more advanced positions, that he has really hit the headlines and earned the nickname ‘King Alex’.

The Ukrainian league leaders rebuffed Liverpool’s opening offer of £24.5m last week after chief executive Ian Ayre met with Shakhtar officials in Miami. The Rio De Janeiro born player has scored an impressive 22 goals in just 15 league appearances this season, so he would clearly add the firepower Liverpool are lacking.

When quizzed about Liverpool raising their bid on Monday, Klopp rebuffed the question, saying: “There’s absolutely nothing to say. Maybe it surprises you. I have nothing to say to things like this.”

While averaging 61.4 minutes per goal domestically, Teixeira also netted three times in a Champions League group that included Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain.

The player told reporters: “I would like to move in this transfer window and have told them [Shakhtar] that. They have received a very good offer and they are working on a solution. But if I don’t go now then I will leave in the summer.”

He also added: “After six years in Europe and with Shakhtar we are ready to move and I have spoken to my wife and daughter. It is my desire to move to a big league and I know that the English league is very strong. I am ready and I know that I will grow up a lot there. I am aware that two big clubs such as Liverpool and Chelsea are interested but I haven’t given my word to either of them.”

It seems Liverpool are way off signing him but could return with a third bird very soon.

Watzke: Bundesliga should have no fear of Premier League

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Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke has stated that the Bundesliga should put up more fight for publicity with England’s Barclays Premier League after the Bundesliga returns from its winter break, writes Sam May.

Watzke was quoted stating: “I have no fear of the English league, we must make sure our qualities are in the foreground. There is no need for the Bundesliga to be shy. From a football perspective, it’s just as good as the Premier League. We have superb stadiums filled with passionate fans, the average attendance is much higher, we play great football and we have first-class academies.

He also added: “We are the world champions, while the English will be able to celebrate a great milestone in the summer: 50 years without a title,” he added with tongue planted firmly in cheek.”

There could be a higher demand for Bundesliga management with Jurgen Klopp leaving Dortmund and joining Liverpool, whilst Bayern Boss Pep Guardiola is also set to manage in England.

“The English clubs also only have four teams in the Champions League and I can’t imagine that good players from Borussia Dortmund will move to Norwich City or Crystal Palace”. He also added: “Dortmund is among the top ten clubs in Europe: we are a first-class address.”

He is happy that Dortmund have overcome their slump in form, when being quoted saying: “You only have to look at the table: we stand 12 points in front of VfL Wolfsburg. We have regained our former position.”

Watzke claims that Bayern under Guardiola gives them no chance of repeating their successive title wins in 2011 and 2012.

“One must not forget that we weren’t champions for those two years because we were so strong, but also because Bayern didn’t do everything quite right,” he said.

“Since then, Bayern has improved unbelievably. “In order to bring some excitement back, Bayern would need to start making mistakes again. Bayern haven’t made mistakes for years.”

Reds snatch victory in nine-goal thriller

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Liverpool snatched the most dramatic of wins in the 95th minute to beat Norwich in a NINE-goal thriller, writes Sam May.

Maybe the team talk collectively from both camps was “let’s play, and first to five wins”. The professional standards of both defenses went missing – and they all could have been playing on the local park with jumpers for goalposts such was the ebb and flow of the game.

The result, 5-4 to the redmen doesn’t tell half the story. There were more twists and turns in this 95 minutes of Premiership Football than any Ski Sunday slalom- with an even tighter finish!

A drab opening 15 minutes belied what was to come. The only excitement in the first encounters was a crunching tackle on Lucas by the ex Everton Naismith. Late and over the top – was it because he was ring rusty having not played for a while, or an old score settled from a Merseyside derby encounter?

On 18 minutes a well-worked move on Liverpool’s left enabled Firmino to scuff a side foot shot in off a post. Firmino and Ibe celebrated with play shooting of guns – I think they shot the defenders of both sides- as the game went into another sphere.

Milner should have made it 2-0 with a one on one but hesitated and the chance was gone. Norwich had a corner – and you guessed it- they scored. A half cleared ball was allowed to bounce on the six yard line- and MBOKANI back healed in through Sakho’s legs – who then through himself to the ground in despair- maybe if he had done this with the ball in play he may have helped keep it out!

Norwich with tails up had success through simple one twos in midfield as Can, Lucas and Milner of Liverpool simply watched on. Naismith made it 2-1 to the home side on 41 minutes as again the Liverpool midfield did what it did best – watch on – to allow the debutant to smash in a low cross shot to Mignolet’s right. Keeper at fault as he was slow to go down to push it away?

Half time came early for Norwich but not early enough for the Anfield side. The second half started as the first – both teams playing as if it was a Saturday morning chore.

Naismith was lively though and found space on the Liverpool left. Moreno caught the wrong side of the attacker dived in and brought him down – penalty surely. No to the surprise of all – including Moreno, who then kicked him again to make sure Lee Mason didn’t miss it this time and the penalty was awarded. Moreno stood arms outstretched as if to say, “what have I done” Crazy defending.

Wes Hoolahan stepped up and tried his best to chip it to Mignolet in the Liverpool goal, but the keeper dived out of the way 3-1 Norwich. Game Over? You must be joking! Within 90 seconds Liverpool were back in it as an unmarked Henderson side footed from 14 yards.

Now Liverpool had the initiative – which was rewarded on 63 minutes when Bassong went walkabout and allowed Lallana who had come on for a subdued Ibe, to cross from the left to Firmino who had time to take a controlling touch before coolly pushing the ball past the on – rushing Rudd to the delight of the travelling Kop. Now it really was game on.

A flurry of substitutions saw Olsen and Jerome for Norwich and Benteke for Liverpool join this crazy game. On 75 minutes Russell Martin the Norwich skipper gifted Milner with a blind back pass, which went straight to the Liverpool man. Milner had learned from his earlier miss and coolly slotted in to the keepers left. Liverpool were in dreamland and the traveling faithful went mental – probably as much as in disbelief – Liverpool were now ahead 3-4.

Surely the class of Liverpool and the organisation practiced on the training ground would now see them see out the game? None of it. The defences of both had forgotten why they were on the pitch. Norwich pressed. Caulker was brought on to protect the back four for Liverpool- he didn’t.

As the fourth official showed 5 minutes added time, and Klopp in deep discussion with the official showing his disgust and disbelief Norwich equalised, and what a strike it was.

Benteke caught offside for the umpteenth time allowed Rudd to pump a hopeful ball forward to the edge of the box. Jerome won it and it bounced to Bassong who had gone up. His left foot sweep rifled the ball into the right corner of the net from 20 yards on 90+2 minutes and Norwich were level 4-4.

Only 3 minutes left, again surely the game wouldn’t have yet another twist? – But it did.

Caulker was pushed up with Benteke. Liverpool pressed. Can put in a left foot hopeful cross, Benteke challenged, Caulkers goal bound shot was blocked, he headed the resulting ricochet forward, Hoolahan headed away desperately but only straight into the path of the onrushing and unmarked Adam Lallana who hit a sweet left foot shot into the ground, and more importantly for Liverpool into the top corner of the net. His shirt now off he ran to Klopp- who was now on the pitch running to Lallana – with all of the Anfield team following suit.

Hugs and high fives all-round. Christian Benteke even managed to break Klopp’s expensive designer glasses in the celebration. Relief, excitement, and disbelief from the Reds, and disbelief and despair for Norwich, and the home fans. There was only time for the restart before Lee Mason brought this craziest of games to an end.

Stating the obvious, Klopp later admitted that they need to learn to defend from set plays and that the defending in his team today was rubbish. The only way he can improve this – is to change the personnel. Mignolet today wasn’t at fault even though four goals were put passed him .The defence let him down. The midfield let the defence down as nobody took charge.

Henderson is not a captain and neither is Milner. They are armband wearers. They are certainly no Stevie G and he is sorely missed as Emre Can also flatters to deceive. Norwich were Kamikaze today. 3-1 at home up having been 1-0 down should have seen them hold their well-earned lead. They didn’t and paid the price.

Post-match Alex Neil – the only Scotsman managing in the Premiership was despondent obviously having thrown away a good lead. He stated “we turned a good performance into a bit of a shambles”. The crest fallen Manager left Carrow Road in angry mood having nothing to show for scoring four goals.

The result leaves both with too many wrongs to put right. Liverpool cannot turn out a similar performance on Tuesday night when they take on Stoke City in the second leg of the Capital One Cup, having won 1-0 at Stoke.

If this Liverpool turns up then it will be Stoke who will make the trip to Wembley. Norwich are in a perilous position – just above the drop zone, and need to tighten up defensively if they are to avoid the drop. Today though the winner was the neutral watching the craziest game ever in the Barclays Premier League.

One to watch, over and over again – but not if your name is Neil or Klopp.