‘I won’t be intimidated’ – Loftus-Cheek ready for World Cup pressure

Ruben Loftus-Cheek is excited by the challenges awaiting England at next month’s World Cup and is relishing the pressure that comes with it.

Loftus-Cheek, 22, has regained his place in the England squad after recovering from an ankle injury, which threatened to end his season early and rule him out of World Cup contention.

The midfielder made an impressive debut against Germany in a November friendly and is confident he is prepared for the intensity of tournament football.

“One hundred per cent I feel ready. I know how to deal with pressure,” Loftus-Cheek said.

“I won’t be intimidated by any player or team. I think that is fundamental in football if you want to do well and I’ll take that mindset into the World Cup.”

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Loftus-Cheek is part of a largely inexperienced England squad, but said they shouldn’t be taken lightly in Russia.

“I think it would be stupid to rule us out,” he said.

“In training, you look about at the talent and it’s frightening. I think we have a good chance.

“The squad is so young but so good at the same time. If we can deliver when it matters – and the boys can do that – we could have a really good tournament.”

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Having represented his country in multiple younger age groups, Loftus-Cheek knows exactly what to expect when putting on the England shirt.

“As a youth team player growing up and playing for England you deal with it and get used to it,” he said.

“You just carry it on into the bigger stages and it becomes natural for me. Playing on the World Cup stage excites me to do well and help the team.”


‘It is still a family’ – Klopp explains choosing Liverpool over Man United

Jurgen Klopp revealed why he chose Liverpool over Manchester United , saying he fit in better with the Anfield giants.

The German was linked with numerous clubs after his stint at the helm of Borussia Dortmund came to an end in 2015.

But Klopp opted to take over at Liverpool, who are preparing for the Champions League final against Real Madrid on Saturday.

The 50-year-old said the Premier League club accepted his approach and it was part of his decision to head to Anfield.

“I love the history. I really am a football romantic. I knew I probably can help. They maybe really need me, in this time. I know what I’m good at,” Klopp told Robbie Fowler in an interview in the Mirror .

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“When they told me about the problems they had I thought, ‘OK, yeah, I am probably the really right manager for that club’.

“A little thing. Liverpool is a world class brand, big, big, big, but in Melwood, you know it Robbie, it is still a family, nothing else, and you can go in and feel that.

“I have to develop and improve, sure, but I don’t want to go into the office in the morning to wear a tie. That is not me.”

Klopp is yet to win silverware with Liverpool, but Saturday’s decider in Kiev will be his third since taking over.

He suggested other clubs interested in his services were too focused on aspects outside of what he liked.

“It is a football club. A football club. I had talks with other clubs and they didn’t sound like a football club,” Klopp said.

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“It sounded like marketing, image, you need to sign this, you need to sign that. And I thought wow, that’s not the game I love. It’s all part of football, but it can not be the number one, two, three, four, priority.

“First of all please try to improve the game we play. And that’s what I am good in. All the rest can happen but it’s not so important for me.”


Johnston ‘surprised’ and ‘amazed’ to see Liverpool in Champions League final

Liverpool ‘s spot in the Champions League final has come as a complete surprise to former midfielder Craig Johnston, who is “amazed” as the Reds attempt to dethrone Real Madrid.

Jurgen Klopp’s high-flying Liverpool will go head-to-head with two-time reigning champions Madrid in Kiev on Saturday , the Anfield side looking to top the European summit for the first time since the ‘Miracle of Istanbul’ in 2005.

Liverpool finished fourth in the Premier League this season but have dazzled in Europe – unbeaten until their semi-final second-leg defeat to Roma as they earned a showdown against the Spanish giants, having crushed Manchester City en route to the showpiece.

Klopp, who is yet to win silverware since replacing Brendan Rodgers in 2015, has been on a long-term mission to establish Liverpool among the English and European elite but Johnston has been caught off guard by the club’s run to the final.

Johnston – a five-time league winner and European Cup and FA Cup champion during Liverpool’s dominance in the 1980s – told Omnisport : “I am surprised because it’s been such a long time. You look at the list of the people they beat along the way, and how they beat them and the amount of goals they scored.

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“I think there were five goals for each match. The answer is yeah, I was like: ‘wow! where did this come from?’ I think it came from the good form that Liverpool do show in the league from time to time. But living on a knife-edge, like the Roma replay, it just makes such exciting stuff. Probably if you’re not a Liverpool fan. If you are it’s like heart-stopping stuff.

“I’m very surprised to see them there. I’m amazed and it’s marvellous and good on them.”

Madrid struggled domestically, finishing third and 17 points adrift of La Liga winners Barcelona, however Zinedine Zidane’s men are only one win away from a third successive Champions League crown and 13th in total.

Johnston conceded Liverpool face a difficult task against the European masters but the Australian insisted the high-octane Reds are more than capable of stopping Cristiano Ronaldo and the defending champions in a “goal-fest”.

“I think there’s no doubt given the amount of medals Madrid have won and their history in the tournament, that is an enormous benefit to them,” the 57-year-old added.

“Just looking through the stats and the medals the current squad have won, like 40 and Liverpool? Zero. So in the squad, you have 40 cup winners’ medals compared to none. What a marvellous gap in experience of winning titles like this.

“Then you see the stat that Zidane has won his last six finals and Klopp has lost his five. So you say oh my goodness, on experience there is only one team in this. Then you think of Liverpool on fire and you think if anyone can beat them. As Klopp said, they will be on fire. I think he has read the tea leaves. That’s what they will have to be to beat this very accomplished and experienced European Cup-winning giant.”

Johnston continued: “It’s absolutely critical [to stop Ronaldo] like if you’re Madrid you’ll say it’s critical to nullify [Mohamed] Salah… then there’s [Sadio] Mane and [Roberto] Firmino.

“They are both very attack-minded teams. Given the history of both teams, it could be a real goal-fest like 4-3 or 5-4. They’re both vulnerable at the back.”


Suarez: Iniesta ‘practically impossible’ to replace at Barcelona

Barcelona midfielder Denis Suarez admitted that departing captain Andres Iniesta will leave a big void both on and off the field at Camp Nou.

Spanish great Iniesta is poised to join Vissel Kobe in Japan after 16 seasons with boyhood club Barcelona.

The 34-year-old won nine La Liga titles and four Champions League crowns among others during his illustrious career in Barcelona.

And as Iniesta prepares to take the J.League by storm, Suarez believes the veteran is irreplaceable.

“[I have learnt] lots of things. He is a player that also is in my position and I focused on him in each training session, what he does in games so as to improve.” Suarez said via Marca . “I think it will be practically impossible to replace him with another player, but it is what we face.

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“It will be a big gap to be filled in football, personal and human terms with the departure of our captain.

“He will be remembered as a legend. On a football level it is a big vacuum because he was here for a lot of years and leaves an important legacy. In the dressing room he is our captain and while someone will take his place, we wish him all the best because he deserves it.”

Suarez, who returned to Barca from Villareal in 2016, is looking for more game time under Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde.

The 22-year-old mainly featured as a substitute this season but he is realistic about his position at the club.

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“Clearly I expected to play more and I am not happy with this as you always want more,” Suarez said. “I have had periods where I have played more and others when I was less involved, but I prefer to remember the positives of the final month when I had more minutes on the pitch.”

Suarez also reflected on another good season for Barcelona as they recorded the double – winning La Liga and the Copa del Rey – but added there was one major blemish.

“Clearly the Champions League upset [against Roma in the quarter-finals] has marked the season a little because at Barcelona when you a lose a game, it is as though everything has gone wrong and we lost in the worst kind of way,” he said. “Hopefully next year we can win the double again and add the Champions League.”


Ancelotti a ‘real coup’ for Napoli as Insigne thanks Sarri

Shocked by Napoli’s ability to lure Carlo Ancelotti to the Serie A club , star forward Lorenzo Insigne welcomed the Italian great’s arrival, while he thanked former boss Maurizio Sarri.

Former Bayern Munich and Real Madrid coach Ancelotti was appointed on a three-year contract on Wednesday, replacing fan favourite Sarri.

Sarri – who guided Napoli to their second runners-up finish in three seasons this term – has been linked with Premier League giants Chelsea and Russian side Zenit .

Italy international Insigne lauded the capture of former AC Milan boss Ancelotti – a Serie A and Champions League winner during his tenure at San Siro – as Napoli look to take the next step in 2018-19 and claim their first Scudetto since 1990.

“I wish Carlo Ancelotti all the best and hopefully he can help us,” Insigne told Sky Sport Italia .

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“He’s a great coach. I didn’t expect this, but we know our president [Aurelio De Laurentiis] has these cards up his sleeve. The arrival of Ancelotti is a real coup, he’s a great tactician.

“As for Sarri, we can only thank him. He gave us so much and taught something to all of us. We’ve all improved under his tenure and that is thanks to him.”

Insigne flourished under Sarri’s leadership, scoring eight Serie A goals and tallying 11 assists in 2017-18.

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The 26-year-old finished with 14 goals across all competitions.