Liverpool pay the penalty – 5 things we learned


Liverpool 1-2 Manchester City (AET) – Yaya Toure shootout penalty settles Capital One Cup Final and secures the first trophy of the season for Manchester City – 5 things we learned.

Sam May was at Wembley Stadium for narrow victory for the Sky Blues.

Liverpool fans were left to hold their head in their hands after seeing Manchester City secure the Capital One Cup by the narrowest of margins.

Two-second half goals from Fernandinho and Philippe Coutinho shared the spoils after normal time, with the game going to a penalty shootout.

Sergio Aguero had the best chance of the game on 23 minutes when he skipped past Mamadou Sakho – only to see his low effort tipped onto the post by Simon Mignolet.

Liverpool grew into the game in the second half and shown signs that they could take the lead, but the Reds failed to create enough chances.

Yaya Toure stood out in the midfield for Manuel Pellegrini’s men and calmly slotting his winning penalty in the bottom left corner past Mignolet showed why he’s been the driving force for Manchester City.

But what did we learn? Sam May was at Wembley…

1. Liverpool can’t take penalties

It was the worst set of penalties probably ever seen at Wembley. There was a glimour of hope for the Reds after Emre Can calmly chipped Willy Caballero and Fernandinho’s spot kick hit the post.

Man of the match for Liverpool – Lucas stepped up to press home Liverpool’s advantage, only to see his well-taken spot kick spectacularly saved by the 32-year old Caballero, diving to his left. That was it for Liverpool as they fell apart with further misses from Coutinho and Lallana.

2. Possession wins you nothing

Despite Liverpool having 64% to Manchester City’s 36%, it clearly showed with no cutting edge the possession was wasted. Klopp’s men made ‘pretty patterns’ – but they don’t win you matches. They certainly don’t win you cup finals.

Having had just 10 shots in the match, the Reds found it hard to hit the target having found it once – Coutinho’s equaliser in normal time.

It was just not good enough, despite the spectacular support from the travelling KOP.

3. Liverpool’s best centre halve is Lucas

Klopp needs to ensure the Brazilian is penciled in first at the back.

The way the 28-year old marshaled the defence, shackled Aguero and played his heart out for the badge was a throw back to true Liverpool players. A pity his penalty was saved.

4. There is no spine to the team

Unlike Manchester City, who have Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero as their spine, Liverpool have no commanding player in each section of the pitch. Defence, midfield and attack.

Klopp is lacking leaders, as it’s clearly evident that he needs to dip into the transfer market in the Summer. Yes, he already has Joel Matip onboard but the 46-year old will have to sign a new midfielder or two and another centre back.

5. Benteke has no future

With the game crying out for some muscle to put Kompany and Otamendi under pressure, Liverpool’s £32.5 million striker was left warming his hands on the bench.

Obviously, Brendan Rodgers’ panic buy will go the same way as Andy Carroll. Having made 31 appearances in all competitions, he has bagged just seven goals. However, with Kompany just back from injury and the City defence tiring it’s a mystery as to why a target man was not employed to feed off the excellent wide work from both Liverpool flanks.

Finally… The two teams meet again on Wednesday night at Anfield. Klopp should now use the youngsters, as the Reds have nothing to play for in the Premier League.

He should save the regular starters for the UEFA Europa League double header against Manchester United – as this is all what is left to play for this season.



Preview: Reds on-route to Anfield South


Sam May will follow Jurgen Klopp as he takes his Reds to Wembley on Sunday in search of his first trophy as Liverpool manager. This will be the first time the two clubs meet in a final of a competition.

It will be Liverpool’s 12th League Cup final, a record. Of the previous 11, they have lifted the trophy eight times between 1981 and 2012 – most recently against Cardiff on penalties. They will be hoping to do the same tomorrow and claim their ninth.

Meanwhile, Manuel Pellegrini will be looking to end his final year at Manchester City on a high with a piece of silverware. The Chilean fielded a weakened side against Chelsea in the FA Cup, losing 5-1 with the midweek Champions League game and tomorrow’s mouthwatering encounter in mind.

Adam Lallana who has a calf strain and Joe Allen and Martin Skrtel who have slight hamstring injuries are all back in training, but could be set to feature.

In the cup competition, Liverpool are unbeaten in their last eight games against the Sky Blues, only losing in an FA Cup fourth round replay in 1973.

Dejan Lovren has recovered from a recent illness, but Jurgen Klopp may continue to play Lucas Leiva at centre back, having used him in that position in Thursday’s 1-0 victory over Augsburg at Anfield.

Klopp gave his thought on the encounter: “They will be fit. We will be fit. It is a final and no one cares where you played your last game. I should not talk here about tactics – I think even in Manchester they have televisions so that is not for the press conference. You can be sure we will have a plan but it is not allowed to go with exactly the same plan in a completely different game.”

“If I think about it I have a few nice pictures in my mind of after the game at Wembley, being together with our fans and a real reason to celebrate together with no doubts about why we do that”, Klopp added.

Manchester City’s Wilfried Bony, Jesus Navas and centre back Eliaquim Mangala could all be in contention for tomorrow’s game. Vincent Kompany, Bakary Sagna and Raheem Sterling will play their part having taken part in recovery sessions earlier this week. Fabian Delph, Samir Nasri and Kevin De Bruyne are all out with injuries.

The last eight meetings in all competitions between the sides have produced 32 goals, both teams finding the net in each match – so it seems more goals will follow tomorrow.

Having lost 4-1 to Liverpool in November, Manuel Pellegrini’s gave his thoughts:

“Liverpool made a very good game here at the Etihad. We make a lot of mistakes in the first 15 minutes so they decide the game early, but all the games are different. After we finish on Sunday we have to return to the Premier League, we have another 36 points to fight for.”

“We are six points behind the leaders but we will continue fighting until the end and we are not giving up. It gives you a lot of trust if you win this title”, Pellegrini said.

Sam May’s observations and thoughts from Block 543 in the Liverpool End will follow after the game.

Who is Riechedly Bazoer?


Sam May profiles Ajax’s latest teen sensation, targeted in a summer move by a number of Europe heavyweights. So who just is he?


Age: 19

Place of birth: Utrecht, Netherlands

Club: Ajax

Position: Centre Midfielder

Background & Style of Play

Riechedly Bazoer has been with Ajax since joining the club from archrivals PSV in 2012. The 19-year old starlet is one of the hottest prospects in the Netherlands and rejected the chance to join Napoli in January.

He started his career with Elinkwijk before moving to Eindhoven to join PSV in 2006, aged nine. He spent six years with the club before moving to Amsterdam to join Ajax in 2012 on a free transfer.

The youngster made his Ajax debut on June 29 2013 in the 4-1 pre-season friendly win over SDC Putten, but made his professional debut in the Eereste Divise for Jong Ajax in the 2-0 win over Telstar on August 5, in the same year. He started his days playing the back four before being moved in the middle of midfield.

Having impressed, he was included in Frank De Boer’s 2013-14 Champions League squad. The wonderkid scored his first goal on 15 February in the 4-2 win over FC Twente and made his European debut in the 1-0 win over Legia Warsaw in the UEFA Europa League.

Dubbed the new ‘Frank Rijkaard’ and ‘Patrick Viera’ his commanding performances have seen him linked with many of Europe’s top clubs including: Manchester United, Arsenal, Newcastle United, Liverpool Barcelona. His concentration and calmness on the ball is something to note, but it’s his tricky feet and tough tackling that is a key strength to his game as is his long shots.

He has recently been linked with Chelsea and Manchester City, with Pep Guardiola keen to secure his services for £24 million, according to reports. He had made 25 appearances this season for the Dutch outfit and is continuing to impress.

It is understood that his favored move would be to the Camp Nou with Bazoer keen to play for Barcelona. “I hope I can leave in two or three years to my join dream club Barcelona,” he was previously quoted saying. “That tiki-taka style of football suits me.”

“At the moment, I am not scoring enough goals, but I’m working on that. I must become even more important for the team.”

“My ultimate dream is to pull my car up at Barcelona in five years and win trophies. Hopefully everyone knows me by then.”

Guss Hiddink is keen to persuade the youngster to move to South West London, having worked with Bazoer during his time working with the Ajax Academy. Making 31 appearances in all competitions to date, he has scored four goals and made four assists. He has a similar playing style to that of Benfica’s 18-year old attacking midfield starlet Renato Sanches who has also attracted interest from many clubs around Europe.

Bazoer received his first call up to the senior Netherlands team in October 2015, replacing the injured Davy Klaassen and made his senior debut against Wales on November 13.

He really is the one to watch and will have clubs fighting it out for his signature in the summer.

Why Barca must pounce for Laporte


Barcelona must capture Athletic Bilbao’s ‘world class’ centre back Aymeric Laporte ahead of other rivals this summer, writes Sam May.

The Catalan giants have previously been linked with the 21-year old French U21-International, who has been a key figure in Bilbao’s backline, and an outstanding performer in La Liga this season.

Being a San Mames regular and only the second Frenchman to represent the club, he has being tipped for a big money move. This hasn’t faised the youngster who is continuing to grow in the Spanish game and has made 21 appearances in La Liga to date, scoring three goals and making one assist. Joining the club at the age of five, he has a bright future ahead of him and can go on to become one of the best defenders in world football.

“If someone had told me when I was 13 or 14 that I’d be a centre-back at a leading European team, it would have really surprised me. I’ve worked hard for it. I left home very young. I was away by 12, although I was very attached to my family”, Laporte was previously quoted saying.

“When I was 15 I came here (Athletic Bilbao) without my family, even if they did help me a lot, especially on the phone. I’ve made sacrifices, but it’s been worth it. All that gives me even more desire to work hard and be a success.”

He would fit the bill at Barcelona. With Javier Mascherano, 31, Jeremy Mathieu, 32, and 30-year old Thomas Vermaelen suffering a frustrating time since his move from Arsenal in 2014 due to injury, it seems there really is only one man to step in – Aymeric Laporte.

At 6ft 2 ins, he is good in the air having won 52% of aerial duels and is rated as the 11th best defender for headed duel battles. It’s his calmness and reading of the game, which is a strong factor in his play having made 171 clearances and 67 interceptions across his 30 appearances in all competitions this term. This would only develop further under Barcelona manager Luis Enrique who would take the starlet under his wing and turn him into even more of a talent.

Helping his side to secure a place in the last 16 of the Europa League, he was previously described as one of the “pillar of the team” by current Bilbao boss Ernesto Valverde. Having made seven appearances in the competition, he has made 26 interceptions, 40 clearances and four blocks and is a“rock” at the back.

“It’s true that he is still young and needs to improve some things, but he is a real player already”, Valverde was quoted saying.

“He is already pretty mature despite his young age and you can see that on the pitch. The position he plays comes with a lot of responsibility. He can initiate moves really well, he is fast and physically very strong.”

“Experience is always important for a centre-back and there are experienced centre-backs who just know how to position themselves. So if you’re already gaining that experience at the age of 21, just imagine what is ahead of you.”

Ernesto Valverde’s reversion to a higher defensive line has seen Laporte become more effective due to his outstanding pace enabling him to get back should a striker breach the Bilbao back four.

Being deployed as a left back and not just his favoured centre position would be beneficial to Barca and the Blaugrana, as he would offer defensive cover to Jordi Alba. Athletic loaned out Jon Aurtenetxe to Celta Vigo, who has a similar playing style to Laporte and could see him, as his replacement should the youngster move away in the future. The french U21 captain is a commanding figure at the back, vocal and would learn from the ‘powerhouse’, Gerard Pique should he make the short journey to the Camp Nou.

He boasts fine comfort and balance on the ball which helps the defender to link-up with his two holding midfielders positioned in-front of the defence, usually Andre Iturraspe and Mikel Rico, helping Bilbao to build from the back.

His movement up the field with the ball is always a measured process with Laporte, emerging from deep positions with caution and a thoughtful approach, careful not to surrender possession with a mistake or a misplaced pass.

Laporte has also been a target for Manchester United in the recent past but speculation has since moved across the City to the Sky Blues. Incoming Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola is said to be a huge admirer and is understood to be targeting him in a £40 million deal. He would be the shining star of any team, it’s a fact in years to come that France will have the best centre back pairing with Laporte and Varane – could City have the same with Laporte and Stones?

He would take the Premier League by storm should he move to the English to the game. If Barcelona are to sign the youngster then they need to act fast.

Reds keen to bring Marin to Merseyside


Liverpool are said to be interested in a summer swoop for Chelsea outcast Marko Marin, according to Sam May.

Remember him? Yes, he is still a Chelsea player but is on-loan at Trazbonspor and is said to be available in a cut-price deal at the end of the campaign.

However, Liverpool would have to offer a lucrative deal should he move to Merseyside, as the Turkish side has the first option to buy the winger.

The German International, 26, failed to settle in South West London having been drafted in from Werder Bremen in 2012 for £7 million and made just 16 appearances for the Stamford Bridge side.

He does however have a vast knowledge of the game having played for Sevilla, Fiorentina and Anderlecht on-loan and is a versatile player meaning he play in the number 10 role not just along both flanks.

The Reds were keen to secure his services when Kenny Dalglish was at the helm, only for the player to join Chelsea and snub Liverpool and Tottenham. He has two goals and four assists in all competitions for Trabzonspor this season with the club keen to keep him next season.

He admitted last week that he was unlikely to return to Stamford Bridge at the conclusion of his loan spell at Trabzonspor but insists he can still play at the highest level amongst Europe’s elite.

“It’s difficult,” he said. “You not only need a few good matches at Trabzon, but a very strong year. You never know, but right now it does not look like it.

“My career only starts now. I am in the best age for a footballer. I have collected a lot of experience, lived in London, Seville, Florence, Brussels, got to know many new languages and leagues.”

“I could have left for the UAE last summer but I want to show my worth in Europe, and I am on a good path.”

Reds target the next ‘Buffon’


Liverpool are interested in a swoop for young AC Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, according to Sam May.

The 16-year-old, dubbed “the new Buffon” was drafted into first-team action earlier this season and has since made 17 appearances in Serie A for the seven-time European champions.

With Milan suffering a poor start to the Serie A season, manager Sinisa Mihajlovic sprung a surprise when he included young Donnarumma in the starting 11 back in October against Sassuolo.

The youngster had previously played in a pre-season friendly against Real Madrid last summer but the game against Sassuolo was his professional debut for the Rossonerri.

He beats legend Gianluigi Buffon to the youngest player in Serie A history, with the Juventus keeper making his debut aged 17. He is seen as his “natural” long-term replacement, with the veteran expected to retire in 2018. Buffon made his debut in goal for Parma two months short of his 18th birthday and became first choice the following season.

Paolo Maldini was 17 when he was promoted to the first team at Milan, after coming on as a substitute six months earlier. Both Maldini and Buffon had an immediate impact, but nothing compared to the sensational start of Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Donnarumma was born close to Vesuvius and his family home in Castellammare di Stabia is close to the ruins of Pompeii. Currently Donnarumma is on a contract of €160,000 a year. The deal awaiting him is said to be worth €1m net.

It is probably too early for Donnarumma to stake a claim for a place in Italy’s squad for the summer. He is yet to be capped for the under-21 side.

Empoli coach Marco Giampaolo recently gave his thoughts on him when he was quoted saying: “He has footballing intelligence that does not end with standing in the goal. He is always inside the game, when there is a back-pass he always moves. He has personality, he goes in search of passes.”

Franco Baresi, a youth coach at Milan also said: “Occasionally I ask myself if he really is 16 because he shows an extraordinary character and command in a role that is not easy.”

Another Milan legend, Enrico Albertosi, who was Italy’s goalkeeper in the 1970 World Cup, believes the club has found a player “who can bring them fortune for years to come”.

Jurgen Klopp is believed to be interested in securing a replacement for Simon Mignolet.

Manchester United and Chelsea have both been linked with the sensation, with the Italian Giants reportedly considering a giant £30million bid. In recent times, Ajax and Juventus have since joined Liverpool in the race for the starlet’s signature.

Milan are said to be planning a contract extension 2023 when he turns 18 in February 2017.

Granit Xhaka: “Everybody has a dream”


Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Granit Xhaka has said it would be a ‘dream’ to play in the Premier League, writes Sam May.

It is understood that Jurgen Klopp has recently met with the 23-years old’s agent, with Liverpool keen to secure his services.

The Switzerland International, who has Albanian decent, joined Gladbach from hometown club Basel in 2012 and is under contract with the Bundesliga club until 2019.

He has made 24 appearances this season, scoring three goals and making one assist and is said be worth £40 million.

Xhaka, who was once dubbed the ‘young Bastian Schweinsteiger’ by former Bayern Munich head coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, admitted he could potentially move to the Premier League in the future.

“I think everybody has a dream,” Xhaka said. “Everybody has a childhood dream and that’s my childhood dream. If my dream comes true, it remains to be seen. At the moment I cannot say how realistic it is.”

Xhaka’s comments suggest that contact has been made with the midfielder ahead of the summer, though it is unclear from which club.

Having already signed Matip, Klopp may raid the Bundesliga once more. Xhaka would add that creative spark which is missing in the midfield and would take the pressure off Coutinho.

The Reds do however face competition from Arsenal, with Arsene Wenger keen as well as Manchester City’s incoming coach Pep Guardiola, who is keen to secure his signature.

In January, Xhaka said “it’s difficult to say no when Manchester City want you and you could play there.

“That much I have to admit,” he added, “but I’m certainly not the only one.”

It seems City have the edge over the Reds, although Klopp could persuade him to Anfield in the summer.