Mark Lawrenson Backs Joel Matip for Starting Role in Champions League Final Against Spurs

​Liverpool legend Mark Lawrenson has hailed Reds centre-back Joel Matip, insisting that the former Schalke man defender must start the Champions League final against Spurs in Madrid.

Matip has become a key player for Jurgen Klopp, despite starting the season as fourth choice behind Virgil van Dijk, Dejan Lovren and Joe Gomez. 

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Matip managed just 95 minutes in Liverpool’s first 14 Premier League games, but injuries to Lovren and Gomez opened the door to the Cameroonian – who has impressed alongside Van Dijk in the second half of the season.

Former Reds defender Lawrenson has identified Matip as crucial to Liverpool’s brilliant form, telling the club’s website: “He has been a bonus because he has been coming out with the ball and committing opposition midfield players.

“If you’re a midfield player in that team, you’re looking at that and thinking it’s great because he’s giving you a little bit more room to play.”

Liverpool’s backline has been a major strength this season, keeping 21 clean sheets in the ​Premier League and conceding just 22 goals.

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Van Dijk has taken many of the plaudits and won the PFA Player of the Year award, while £66.8m summer signing Alisson won the Golden Glove award.

Joe Gomez impressed alongside Van Dijk at the start of the season and is finally available again, but Lawrenson insisted Klopp must stick with Matip when the Reds face off against Mauricio Pochettino’s ​Tottenham at the Wanda Metropolitano.

“It would be tough on Matip [to not start the final]. He has been really, really good – and not just defensively. I think it’ll be Joel Matip and Virgil van Dijk [in the final], I can’t see any other combination.”

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While Matip looks set to start in Madrid, he may have a battle on to keep his place next season. Gomez will push for a starting spot next to Van Dijk if he can keep fit, while ​Liverpool have also been linked with a move for Ajax captain ​Matthijs de Ligt.

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Jurgen Klopp Explains How He Wants His Liverpool Side to Play in Champions League Final

​Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has instructed his players to play ‘LFC football’ when they face Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League final.

The Reds are known for their aggressive, fast-paced, attacking football under the German coach and the 51-year-old has insisted wants his side to showcase those qualities against Spurs at Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano stadium on June 1.

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Speaking to Liverpool’s official website, Klopp stressed how difficult a game he expects to face against the north London side, and claimed the best hope his team has to be victorious is to play in their usual style.

The German said: “There are no easy games. In the Champions League there are no easy games, so why should the final be easy? Certainly not. So far we’ve always used our experience in these moments, during every moment in our season.

That’s what we have to do. We have to play the football we stand for. We have to play LFC football. That’s the plan, and then it will still be difficult, but it was difficult in all the other games as well.

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We know that already, so why should we think too much about it? If we are really at our absolute top level then we are a difficult team to play against, but we know Tottenham are as well.”

Despite ultimately falling short in their attempt to lift the Premier League trophy, Klopp’s side have been outstanding all campaign and now find themselves in a second European Cup final in as many years, while Spurs are competing in the first in their club’s history.

Both sides will be high on confidence heading into the showpiece event, with each having secured a remarkable comeback in the semi-finals.

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Liverpool overturned a three-goal deficit against Spanish champions Barcelona with an incredible 4-0 victory at Anfield in their second leg, while Tottenham also found themselves three behind against Ajax with just 35 minutes remaining before a Lucas Moura hat-trick saw them through on away goals.

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Inter Kit Leak: Images of I Nerazzurri Away Shirt for 2019/20 Season Emerges Online

​Pictures of Inter’s new away kit for the 2019/20 season have been leaked, revealing a break from tradition with a bold and distinctive new colour that’s sure to divide opinion. 

Many fans may have predicted a fresh new look, after images of the new home kit surfaced earlier in the week. Whilst the change here was nowhere near as drastic as the away strip, the inclusion of a section of diagonal stripes to break up the traditional vertical black and blue was clearly a sign of change. 


The new Nike kit is a basic design, with the stripes of the home jersey replaced with a one-toned strip of teal. The striking colour combines with the classic Pirelli logo emblazoned across the front, as well as the Nike swoosh and Inter badge finished in an understated black and gold design.

The same colour scheme is used for the v-neck collar, the sleeves, and the back neck taping – all of which feature a black base with a thin gold line running through the middle.

Whilst the kit is yet to be confirmed by Inter themselvesFooty Headlines boast an impressive record of accurately leaking new strips ahead of schedule.

The I Nerazurri faithful will be hoping that a new look might help them to freshen things up in Serie A next season, and break the eight-year vice grip that Juventus have held on the league. 

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However, there is still business to be attended to this season, with Inter needing to navigate their way through a difficult fixture away to Napoli followed by a showdown against Empoli at the San Siro, in order to ensure qualification for next season’s Champions League.  

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Salomon Rondon Drawing Interest From West Ham & Wolves as Race Heats Up for West Brom Striker

​West Ham United are one of several Premier League clubs looking to sign Salomon Rondon, after the striker impressed during his loan spell at Newcastle last season. 

The Venezuelan international was crucial in ensuring the Magpies avoided relegation during this campaign, scoring 11 goals and providing eight assists in all competitions. This form did not go unnoticed by his peers, and with current side West Brom failing to secure promotion, Rondon is likely to look elsewhere for Premier League football next season.

One of the striker’s potential suitors are West Ham, with Football London reporting that bringing a new striker to the London Stadium is manager Manuel Pellegrini’s main priority during the summer transfer window.

Rondon has moved to the top of West Ham’s striker wish list after their pursuit of Celta Vigo frontman Maxi Gomez hit a stumbling block in the form of a reported £40m release clause. 

The Hammers hierarchy had been hoping that Celta Vigo would succumb to relegation from La Liga, which would have resulted in a sharp decrease in the Uruguayan’s asking price. However, after picking up nine points in their last six fixtures – including a sizeable scalp against Barcelona – Celticos ensured they would be playing in Spain’s premiere division next season. 

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This has resulted in the Hammers looking elsewhere for a replacement to partner Marko Arnautovic up top next season, with Rondon’s significantly lower release clause of £16.5m more in keeping with West Ham’s budget.

However, they will face competition in their attempt to lure the Venezuelan away from West Brom next season. Newcastle are reportedly very interested in making St James’ Park a more permanent home for Rondon, following last season’s impressive loan spell, with Wolves also keen on acquiring the striker’s services. 

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At 29 years of age, Rondon is in the prime of his career and will undoubtedly be looking for regular first team football next season. It is this factor that potentially hands West Ham and Newcastle an advantage in securing his signature, as he is unlikely to displace Raul Jiminez at Wolves after the Mexican’s sensational Premier League debut season.  

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Watford 2018/19 Review: End of Season Report Card for the Hornets

A devastating 6-0 hammering to Manchester City in the FA Cup final meant a season full of promise ultimately ended in disappointment for Watford, but there is plenty for Hornets fans to be optimistic about as they look ahead to the future.

​Despite also ending their league season on a low with a poor 4-1 defeat at home to West Ham United they have enjoyed a strong campaign, spending the majority of their league campaign hunting down seventh spot and a place in Europe.

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While they did not end up lifting their first trophy since winning the Championship play-off final in 2006, the foundations put in place this season mean they may well have the chance to earn silverware again soon.

Here’s a look back at their campaign as a whole and an overall grade for the report card.


League Performance

Premier League – 11th

Having spent so much of the season in the top half of the Premier League, a run of three defeats and a draw from their final four matches meant Watford ultimately ended up slipping outside the top 10 come the end of the campaign.

Despite that, it has still been an extremely good year for Javi Gracia’s side where they have shown real progress in the top flight.

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The Hornets ended the season on 50 points which is their highest amount in the Premier League era, finishing nine points and three places better off than last time around.

A total of 52 goals is their best since promotion from the Championship in 2015 while they also conceded fewer than the last two campaigns, having let in 59 compared to 68 and 64 previously.


Domestic Cup Performance

Carabao Cup – 3rd Round

A penalty shoot-out defeat away to Tottenham Hotspur at Stadium:MK ended Watford’s bid for a first League Cup title at the third round stage of this season’s competition.

Having comfortably beaten Reading in round two Watford seemed set to go through again as they led 1-0 going into the final 10 minutes. 

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However, a remarkable end to the game saw Hornets centre back Christian Kabasele sent off, with Dele Alli scoring the resulting penalty. Spurs then went 2-1 ahead soon after before Etienne Capoue pegged them back in the last minute, sending the game to penalties. 

Misses from Capoue and Domingos Quina ultimately ended their hopes of a place in the last 16.

FA Cup – Runners-up

​Watford’s entire campaign has come to be defined by their excellent run in the FA Cup, with the club reaching just the second final in their history. 

Despite suffering such a heavy defeat in the final, the supporters will be delighted they had two days out at Wembley and were able to add to their one and only appearance at the showpiece event from 35 years ago, when they were defeated 2-0 by Everton.

Watford’s campaign saw Woking, Newcastle UnitedQueens Park Rangers and Crystal Palace dispatched in the early rounds before one of the most incredible semi-finals of all time against Wolves.

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With Watford 2-0 down with 25 minutes to go, Gracia brought on Gerard Deulofeu and changed the course of the game completely.

Deulofeu was outstanding, scoring twice as Watford came from behind to win 3-2 after extra time.

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The club’s fans did not just have the former Everton and Barcelona player to thank however, with captain Troy Deeney winning and scoring a penalty in the fourth minute of added time to send the game into a final 30 minutes which would end in delirium for everyone associated with the club.

Losing to treble champions City is no disgrace although Gracia and his players will be gutted about the final result.

There is no doubt they will want to put that right as soon as possible with another tilt at the famous trophy next year.


Best Player

Following a season of such highs for the club, there is no surprise that they have a few contenders for their player of the year.

While the likes of Deulofeu, Capoue and Ben Foster have all been excellent this season once again it is Deeney who has been the club’s key man.

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He may not be as pretty on the eye as some other players in the league or even at his own club, but the Watford skipper is crucial to the way they play and they are a much worse side without him in it.

The bottle it took to slam home the last minute penalty against Wolves at Wembley says everything about his character and he is always a vital factor if they are to have a chance of winning football matches.

Troy Deeney

He makes the other members of his side play better with his leadership skills as well as the way he uses the ball and brings people into play as the team go forward.

Deeney is so important for the club both on and off the pitch and, having overcome so many troubles in his personal life, there are few who are more deserving of lifting a trophy for their side than the 30-year-old.


Worst Player

Watford haven’t had too many players who have underperformed this season but manager Gracia is allowed to expect more from forward Isaac Success, who has once again flattered to deceive in a Watford shirt.

Isaac Success

The 23-year-old has been given plenty of chances throughout the campaign, but a return of just one goal in 23 Premier League appearances is not good enough.

He has pace and power but his technique and decision making are not of the required standard and he should be moved on in the summer.


The Manager

Gracia has had an excellent campaign, proving he is the right man for the job in his first full season in charge.

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The 49-year-old was a shock replacement when the club sacked Marco Silva last January but he has been a steady influence since joining, with his summer signings being particularly impressive.

Deulofeu has responded to the faith put in him by his Spanish counterpart while the free transfer of Foster in goal was a masterstroke, the former England keeper being outstanding for most of the season.

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The board are known for their trigger-finger when it comes to managers but they may just have found the man to stay in charge at Vicarage Road for the next few years.


Overall Grade

Best league finish since promotion, highest amount of goals since promotion and they reached the FA Cup final; this has been an excellent season for Watford and, had they topped it off with victory at Wembley on Saturday, it may well have gone down as the best in the club’s history.

As it is, everyone associated with the club will have to reflect on a year of missed opportunities, but also one of real progression both on and off the pitch.

Grade: A-

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