It was perfect for 80 minutes – Klopp pleased despite Roma recovery

Jurgen Klopp acknowledged Liverpool rarely do it the easy way after a late rally at Anfield kept Roma alive in their Champions League semi-final.

Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino both scored twice, while Sadio Mane was also on target, as Liverpool raced into a 5-0 lead after 68 minutes of the first leg.

Yet Roma – who rallied from a 4-1 first-leg defeat to knock Barcelona out on away goals in the previous round of the competition – gave themselves a lifeline with two goals of their own before the final whistle.

Eden Dzeko scored before Diego Perotti made it 5-2 from the spot after James Milner was penalised for handball, though Klopp felt the decision was harsh.

Still, with a healthy lead to take into the return fixture at the Stadio Olimpico, Liverpool’s manager praised his players for a “fantastic result” on home soil.

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“It was pretty much a perfect performance for 80 minutes or so,” Klopp told BT Sport.

“We made one mistake defensively where Dzeko could use the situation. That can happen, we knew before the game they have quality and we could not avoid that all through the game.

“I think we agree the penalty is not a penalty. It’s not even handball, let alone a yellow card.

“But that’s the situation and it’s 5-2. I’d be much happier, of course, if we had won 5-0 or 5-1, but 5-2 is a fantastic result.

“I could not have imagined that was possible [before kick-off], so the boys did outstandingly well and we will go there and try to win again.”

Liverpool started the game in subdued fashion before ripping Roma apart either side of the half-time interval.

Salah was the catalyst for the chaos, tormenting his former club with a brace before the break. The Egyptian forward turned provider in the second half, supplying two assists before being substituted.

While conceding twice in the closing stages took the shine off the performance, Klopp insisted he would focus only on the positives once the dust had settled.

“You always have to learn from the game. I really thought how we played them, with all these runs in behind, was brilliant,” he said.

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“It changed the game completely – they could not cope with that. We scored these goals, but we could have scored more. It sounds crazy in a semi-final, but we could have scored more. We missed a lot of chances.

“That’s all positive. At the moment it doesn’t feel that positive because they scored two goals. But, believe me, I will see the good parts of the game.

“We are Liverpool – that obviously means it’s all-inclusive football. Everything is involved. We obviously have to do it the hard way, but we’ve no problem with that.”


Klopp accepts Salah substitution sparked Roma fightback

Jurgen Klopp accepts he may be criticised for substituting Mohamed Salah after the forward ran riot against former club Roma in the Champions League semi-final.

Salah scored a first-half brace then set up Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino after the break as Liverpool raced into an incredible 5-0 lead against the Serie A side at Anfield on Tuesday.

But when Klopp opted to withdraw Salah for Danny Ings with 15 minutes remaining, the switch sparked a stunning Roma fightback, late Edin Dzeko and Diego Perotti goals leaving the tie somewhat improbably balanced.

Roma overturned a three-goal first-leg deficit in the last round against Barcelona but Klopp explained he was not prepared to risk Salah’s fitness, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain having suffered a first-half knee injury that could end his season.

“Outstanding. Pretty much can’t defend [against him],” Klopp told a post-match news conference of Salah’s spectacular showing.

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“The way we played after the first 15 minutes and adapted to their formation, we played how we played, he has a massive impact. 

“I like the other boys too but the first goal is a genius strike. He scored a few like this, it is even more special as it is no coincidence.

“Second goal is brilliant play, Bobby between the lines, and he is cool in the moment. Then he made the other two goals, right?

“So if anyone wants to say it’s my mistakes we conceded the last two goals because I changed the striker I have no problem with that.

“I didn’t think we prepared our passes that well after [the substitution]. Mo was running for all of them and we don’t want him to get injured.”

Despite being full of praise for the newly crowned PFA Players’ Player of the Year, Klopp stopped short of saying Salah has eclipsed Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo due to his staggering form.

“What a player. You always create stories,” Klopp said. “If you think he’s the best in the world write it or say it, whatever, he is outstanding and world class, 100 per cent.

“To be the best in the world you must do it over a long period and there are other guys who are not bad. He’s fantastic and I am very happy to have him.”

Klopp also rejected a suggestion the match would have been different had Salah still been playing for his former side.

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“I’m not interested in that to be honest, it is like it is,” Klopp added. “If Neymar does not go to PSG from Barcelona, [Philippe] Coutinho is still here, so it’s all different then. It is like it is.

“We hoped he had that impact yes, and he plays a season that is not normal. We hope and try to help him to continue, that’s the job we have to do.

“It’s a team game but we need players to make decisions and do the decisive things, he is really good at this and we are really happy that we could get him in the summer.”


Transfer news & rumours LIVE: Real Madrid to move for Mbappe

Madrid to move for Mbappe

Real Madrid are preparing a €200 million offer for PSG striker Kylian Mbappe, Don Balon reports.

The Blancos were hoping to land Mbappe last summer, but were beaten out by a €180m loan-to-buy offer from the Ligue 1 side. 

Now Madrid president Florentino Perez is hoping to entice PSG to sell the teenager by promising he will abandon his pursuit of Neymar if his club lands the France international. 

Spurs to demand £40m and Shaw for Rose

Manchester United will have to offer £40 million and Luke Shaw to land Tottenham left-back Danny Rose, according to The Sun.

Rose has suffered through injuries and poor form this season, but United are still keen on signing the 27-year-old this summer. 

But Spurs not only want Shaw, who is five years younger than Rose, they’ll also demand a hefty transfer fee to part with the England international. 

Chelsea to resist offers for Morata and Bakayoko

Chelsea will not sell Alvaro Morata or Tiemoue Bakayoko this summer unless either player asks for a transfer, according to The Telegraph.

Both players have endured difficult opening seasons at Stamford Bridge, leading to speculation that the duo could be set for a swift departure. 

But Chelsea have learned from selling Kevin De Bruyne and Mohamed Salah too quickly, and are determined to remain patient with the striker and midfielder. 

Pochettino considers Madrid move

Mauricio Pochettino is considering leaving Tottenham and taking over as Real Madrid manager this summer, reports Yahoo Sport UK. 

Madrid president Florentino Perez is planning on sacking Zinedine Zidane should the Frenchman not bring home a third straight Champions League title.

And according to the report, Perez has made Pochettino his top candidate to replace Zidane should he depart his post. 

Man City to move for teenage defender

Pep Guardiola is hoping to bring Brazil U-20 defender Lucas Halter to Manchester City, reports the Mirror

Halter, who turns 18 next month, has already been involved with the first-team squad at Atletico Paranaense and is considered one of Brazil’s top defensive prospects. 

Atletico Madrid and Roma have also registered an interest in Halter. 

PSG hoping to land new left-back

Paris Sanit-Germain are hoping to have a new starter at left-back next season, reports Le10Sport

The club aren’t satisfied with the performance of Layvin Kurzawa or Yuri Berchiche this season, and have identified Alex Sandro of Juventus and Faouzi Ghoulam of Napoli as prime targets.

However, incoming manager Thomas Tuchel could also choose to make a move for Raphael Guerreiro, his former player at Borussia Dortmund. 

Arsenal believe they have Luis Enrique edge

Arsenal believe that a club connection to Barcelona will give them the advantage in the race for Luis Enrique, reports the Mirror

The former Blaugrana boss is a prime candidate to replace Arsene Wenger as Gunners manager, and he is demanding £15 million per year to sign. 

Arsenal head of football relations Raul Sanllehi was director of football at Barca when Luis Enrique was manager, which has the Gunners convinced they have a leg up in the race for the 47-year-old. 

Man City won’t sell Stones

Manchester City will not sell defender John Stones this summer, according to the Manchester Evening News.

The England international has not started a Premier League game since January, leading to reports that he would be available on the market.

But City still consider the 23-year-old centre-back a crucial part of their future, and won’t be entertaining offers for his services.

‘I didn’t want James to leave’ – Zidane

Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane says he did not want James Rodriguez to leave the club last summer. 

After falling down the pecking order at Madrid, the Colombian international departed on a two-year loan deal to Bayern Munich, with the Bundesliga champions having an option to buy. 

But with Madrid and Bayern set to meet in the Champions League semi-finals, Zidane has insisted he never had an issue with James.

Read the full story on Goal!

Paulinho price tag rising

Juventus may pull out of the race for Vasco da Gama teenager Paulinho due to his escalating price, Calciomercato reports.

The 17-year-old winger has drawn the attention of Manchester City, Borussia Dortmund, PSG and Bayern Munich.among others, and a bidding war could see his price tag reach as much as €30 million.

That figure would put off Juventus, who are interested in Paulinho but unwilling to shell out that much for the Brazil U-20 international. 

Wolves interested in Mangala

Wolves are hoping to land out-of-favour Manchester City defender Eliaquim Mangala this summer, according to The Sun. 

Mangala went on loan to Everton in January, but only made two appearances before suffering a knee injury. 

And Wolves, who will be in the Premier League next season after winning the Championship this term, want to offer the 27-year-old a fresh start. 

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Ancelotti offered Italy job

Carlo Ancelotti has been offered the chance to take over as Italy national team manager, reports Sky Sports.

Ancelotti has been without a club since being sacked by Bayern Munich in September and has been linked with the opening at Arsenal, and potential openings at Chelsea and PSG. 

But the 58-year-old could end up with the Azzurri, who are looking to rebuild after shockingly failing to reach the 2018 World Cup. 


De Rossi blames long balls for Roma ‘blackout’ at Anfield

Daniele De Rossi felt Roma had a “blackout” against Liverpool at Anfield and were punished by their opponents’ persistent long balls forward.

Eusebio Di Francesco’s side lost 5-2 in the first leg of their semi-final tie, meaning they must replicate their 3-0 win over Barcelona in the quarter-final second leg if they are to progress to the final.

Liverpool were 5-0 up with 68 minutes played, with Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino scoring twice and Sadio Mane also on the scoresheet, as the visitors failed to deal with the Reds’ quick-fire passes to the front three.

However, late goals from Edin Dzeko and Diego Perotti gave the visitors some hope ahead of the return fixture in the Italian capital, and De Rossi is refusing to give up.

“We have to hold on to what we did in the quarter-finals,” he told Mediaset Premium. “That tells us it’s not impossible and that we have a duty to try, for ourselves and, above all, the people who love Roma.

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“The only difference is that, against Barcelona, I felt it was an unlucky game, with dubious incidents. We had a good first 20-25 minutes here, then we were less good at covering the space, but it’s difficult to do that when they’re much faster than you.

“It’s not right to put conceding so many goals on the defence. We all played very aggressively, even though we had the feeling of being able to affect little in midfield because they often bypassed it. They constantly went for the long ball, from any area of the pitch.

“Today was a case of our blackout and their great quality. It won’t be easy, but we have to start from here. It’s not impossible and we know that.”

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De Rossi also praised the performance of Salah, his former team-mate having produced arguably his best performance of a spectacular season, with two goals and two assists.

“We know Salah well, we know he is a great player as well as a great person,” he said. “He’s improved his quality in the final third and he’s becoming decisive, as we thought he would.”


What is the secret behind Real Madrid’s Champions League-winning machine?

If you’re looking for the secret formula underpinning Real Madrid’s success then you might find yourself chasing an illusion.

There appears to be no grand overarching philosophy like there is at Barcelona; no emphasis on one way of playing over another. Instead there is at its very core a relentless pursuit of trophies.

That’s how success is defined at Santiago Bernabeu; trophies and the Champions League above all else. They’ve survived the managerial sackings of Carlo Ancelotti and Rafa Benitez but have nonetheless won three of the last four European titles. They are on a run of eight successive semi-finals.

And clubs who have come on the European scene in search of glory needn’t bother looking to Madrid for a template to follow because there is little in Madrid’s methodologies that the likes of Paris St-Germain or Manchester City can glean besides winning.

Madrid are custom-built for this competition; there is a patch on their sleeve denoting the 12 times they’ve won the trophy and it may as well go over their hearts. Real Madrid and the European Cup are inseparable.

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“How do you explain the Real DNA in the Champions League?” asks former defender Manolo Sanchis, who captained Madrid to the title against Juventus in 1998. “It’s something that new investors in this sport – people who come from being very successful in other business activities – do not understand properly.

“They are used to being able to buy practically everything with money. But not this.

“You cannot buy the 116 years of history that Real Madrid has, nor the legacy that so many superb players have left in the locker room, nor the genetic line that reaches [Sergio] Ramos and Cristiano [Ronaldo] since the time of [Alfredo] Di Stefano and [Raymond] Kopa.

“And it also makes the man who is on the other side with the chequebook ask himself: ‘How could I buy it?’ Well, you cannot. I’m sorry.”

Del Piero Juventus Sanchis Real Madrid

It’s been that way down throughout Madrid’s history but it could be argued that the Madrid modern era truly began with that title under Jupp Heynckes in 1998. It was their first European Cup success in 32 years and gave them a renewed taste for the highlife. They have won five more since then. Success is addictive; winning breeds winning.

Zinedine Zidane – who has represented Madrid both on the field of play and in the dugout – understands this as well as anyone. And that is why he is aware their season hinges on these semi-finals. It won’t be enough to come up just short and try again next year. Either this trophy comes or Zidane goes.

Each player who comes to Real Madrid must understand too that they will be expected to build upon the legacy of those gone before them. That is in part why this recent group has been so serene in its quest for titles. The continuity in the playing staff means the newer breed can look to their elders and see guys who have seen it and done it before. Every new final they play brings another player or two into that band of winners. Eventually you have a team of multiple title winners all together. Look through this squad and you’ll see exactly that. 

It creates unity, purpose and – crucially – belief. Madrid don’t go to finals hoping they can win, they go there expecting to. And regardless of their league form, they always feel they are favourites when it comes to the crunch in Europe.

Marcelo Zinedine Zidane Real Madrid

They weren’t playing particularly well in Spain before they won the Cup in ’98. They finished fourth that season and Heynckes was sacked. Similarly, the team who beat Valencia in the 2000 final underperformed in the league. They were fifth. When they won La Decima in 2014, they were only third. And they still have work to do this year to recover from their bad start and finish second behind Barca. 

Madrid have demonstrated time and again that you needn’t be the best team in Europe to win the European Cup. It’s not to do with luck or pragmatism. It’s to do with responsibility and with a pact with history to uphold.

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The club doesn’t always concern itself with a promotion plan for its young players. There is no Real Madrid tactical document that dominates the club from top to bottom and that could be used as a template for success for other teams to follow suit. Coaches have used the means at their disposal to get results and keep the furnace burning.

Madrid fans have had domestic and European titles delivered to them by coaches as diverse as Heynckes, who is Wednesday’s opposition coach, Vicente del Bosque, Fabio Capello, Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti. If you’re looking for a constant tactical formula among that lot you won’t find one. What matters more than style or that overused catchword ‘philosophy’ is an understanding that the club’s previous historical standards – forged across the decades – must be met. 

With additional reporting by Alberto Piñero in Madrid