Liverpool injury fears eased as Salah, Van Dijk and Milner train ahead of Huddersfield clash

Liverpool have received a potential boost ahead of Saturday’s visit to Huddersfield Town as Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk and James Milner all featured in training on Thursday.

The trio were part of the Reds mounting injury worries that began when Milner came off with a hamstring injury against Manchester City and grew increasingly concerning for the club during the international break.

Salah limped out of Egypt’s first game of the international break against Swaziland  with a thigh injury, followed by  Van Dijk’s withdrawl from the Netherlands camp to nurse a rib injury after opening the scoring in the Oranje’s 3-0 Nations League win over Germany.

More bad news followed as Naby Keita suffered a hamstring injury while featuring for Guinea  while it was confirmed  Sadio Mane underwent surgery for a broken thumb sustained while training with Senegal.

The spate of injuries threatened to leave Liverpool shorthanded for their clash against the Terriers, but the Reds can be buoyed by some good news in training.

The club released photos of Van Dijk, Salah and Milner taking part in Thursday’s session , indicating they are on the right path.

Van Dijk had been tipped to play by Netherlands manager Ronald Koeman , and there had been reports of Salah’s fitness improving, though Milner was seen as more of a doubt ahead of the clash.

Mane and Keita did not appear in the photos, with the Reds waiting on the results of a scan on the latter before making any decision on his inclusion in Jurgen Klopp’s squad at the John Smith’s Stadium.

Liverpool may receive another boost in the form of Adam Lallana, who has featured for just three minutes in the Premier League season after suffering a groin injury in September.

Klopp confirmed the midfielder is in contention for the matchday squad though he did admit the club still wishes to be careful with Lallana as he works his way back to full fitness.

“Yes, of course,” Klopp told the club’s official website when asked if Lallana could be part of the squad for Huddersfield.

“Now it’s getting a bit difficult with judging how fit he is really. But training looks tremendous; he obviously enjoys playing football. It’s easy to enjoy watching [him].

“We will see what we do. Nobody, not even he, knows how long he can [play] and stuff like that. We still want to be careful – not too careful but, of course, careful [so] that we reach the point where we don’t have to think about it anymore.

“A few things happened in the past that are already over, that’s good. But we cannot forget it completely or ignore it. But he is 100 per cent back and looks really good in training.”

Liverpool will no doubt be grateful for any extra depth they can muster with three games upcoming in seven days.

The trip to Huddersfield is followed by Wednesday’s clash with Red Star Belgrade in the Champions League before a home date with Cardiff City on October 28 as they look to end a four-match winless run.

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How Kepa rose from the Spanish third division to chase down De Gea

Kepa Arrizabalaga might be the most expensive goalkeeper in the world following his £71 million ($93.4m) transfer from Athletic Club to Chelsea back in August , but it was not all smooth sailing for the 24-year-old earlier in his career.

The Basque shot stopper started his career at Athletic, making a one-and-a-half hour round trip from his home in Ondarroa to the club’s Lezama complex on a regular basis from the moment he joined them at the age of 10.

He was just 17 when he made the bench for the Bilbao outfit, but he needed four years in the lower divisions to make his dream come true and play in La Liga.

Kepa earned the interest of Getafe after lining up for Athletic’s B team as a 17-year-old, but it was Ponferradina that eventually managed to lure him away from Bilbao on a temporary basis.

He immediately made an impact at his new club, and then Ponferradina coach Jose Manuel Diaz, who now works at Real Madrid, was particularly blown away by the determination of the young goalkeeper to take his chance on loan.

“I already knew him from his time with the Under-15s and Under-18s,” Diaz told Goal . “We had also faced him with Bilbao Athletic (the Athletic youth team). I asked for his signing at the beginning of the season, but could not make it happen until the winter transfer window.

“I spoke with him to get him to join the team as soon as possible. I told him ‘if you arrive on Wednesday you will play the next match against Racing Santander’ and he arrived on Tuesday. He is a great professional, even being so young as he was and he still is.

“He is a very nice guy, affable and with very clear ideas. I – and many people [at the club] – knew that he had a great future and we saw it happening before our own eyes.”

 
 
 
 
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Kepa became the first Ponferradina player ever to be called up to Spain’s Under-21 squad, and they were keen to renew his loan spell ahead of the following season. However, Athletic opted to send him to Real Valladolid instead in an attempt to speed up his development.

In Miguel Angel Portugal, Kepa had a manager who used him 40 times that season and who had little doubt the shot stopper had a great future ahead of him.

“Kepa played for me at Valladolid,” Portugal told Goal in India, where he now manages Pune City. “He was a big, big goalkeeper. I sent him a message [after he joined Chelsea] that he might be young but that he is ready to play for the best teams in the world.

“I am not surprised [he cost Chelsea £71m]. When you know Kepa, you understand what he is worth. The value of a player is not necessarily the price that a team pays for that player. The price has nothing to do with the player. It is the price that the market sets.

“For me, he is the future of Spain. He is the future goalkeeper for Spain, I am sure of this.”

Kepa Arrizabalaga Chelsea 2018-19

Following his loan spells at Ponferradina and Valladolid, Kepa went on to make his Liga debut for Athletic in September 2016 and quickly established himself as a top goalkeeper.

He even appeared to be on his way to Real Madrid in January 2018, but the deal eventually fell through, with the Santiago Bernabeu outfit then going for Thibaut Courtois instead ahead of the 2018-19 campaign.

His failed move to Madrid meant he played alongside new arrival Inigo Martinez in the second half of last season and the centre-back is confident his former team-mate is here to stay.

“He’s a great goalkeeper. He attended the World Cup while being so young,” Martinez told Goal . “Chelsea signed him for €80m, nobody pays that amount just for the sake of it, but because he is worth it. He is proving it, in fact. He is playing, performing well, winning games.

Inigo Martinez on Kepa

“He has personality, he is a great goalkeeper who performs well with his hands and his feet. Maybe [David] De Gea is ahead of him for Spain now, but we have three great goalkeepers and if one decreases his level, the other will soon take his place. Here not only the goalkeepers, but we all have to give 100 per cent because we all want to be a starter.”

De Gea is now arguably setting the standard for goalkeepers all over the world and certainly in English football. He has been regarded as one of the undisputed best around in the game for quite some time, whereas Kepa had not even started playing in the third division in Spain when De Gea joined Manchester United.

Yet the Chelsea man now finds himself battling his compatriot for the No.1 jersey at the national team as they come prepare to face-off in the Premier League for the first time on Saturday at Stamford Bridge. That feat shows just how fast Kepa’s rise has been. 

Additional reporting from Alberto Pinero & Nikhil Jitendran.

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ASUS ROG Army replace UNILAD in the Gfinity Elite Series

The Gfinity Elite Series returns for its fourth season next week, kicking off the action on Friday, October 26 with the first set of FIFA 19 matches.

FIFA was added to the Elite Series last season and proved to be a huge success, acting as a qualifier towards the FIFA eWorld Cup Playoffs.

While there are no new games this year, a press release sent to Goal mooted a new 2v2 format but did not go into detail into what games will be involved or how it could work.

Another major difference this season is the collapse of UNILAD. After the website went into administration, the future of their esports division was in doubt and those fears have come to fruition.

Shaun ‘Shellz’ Springette had previously tweeted that he left the organisation and was looking for a new team, while their demise has now been made official.

It has also been confirmed that UNILAD will not compete in the Gfinity Elite Series this season, with ASUS ROG Army taking their place, the first Spanish team to enter the UK-based league. Their FIFA roster will be headlined by veteran player Fernando ‘Ferperry’ Martinez who competed in the FIFA 18 eWorld Cup Playoffs.

Additionally, reigning Premier League champions Manchester City have partnered with Epsilon to take charge of their FIFA team in the Gfinity Elite Series. Meaning, this year we will see some of the world’s best players like Kai ‘Deto’ Wollin and Marcus ‘Marcuzo’ Jorgensen.

The complete team rosters, this year’s tournament format and more details will all be revealed next week.

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Roma supporter found not guilty of inflicting GBH on Liverpool fan Sean Cox

Roma supporter Filippo Lombardi has been found not guilty of inflicting grievous bodily harm on Liverpool fan Sean Cox prior to last season’s Champions League semi-final tie at Anfield.

Lombardi, 21, was cleared by a jury at Preston Crown Court six months after being charged over an incident that left 53-year-old Cox in a critical condition. 

During the trial, the jury was told by Cox’s brother, that the Reds fan can no longer sit up or talk following the attack.

“He can’t talk, he just whispers,” Martin Cox said. 

The Italian, who had argued that he had become lost, feared he was walking into trouble and therefore wrapped his belt around his wrist but had not noticed Cox until he had seen him lying on the ground, was jailed for three years for a separate charge of violent disorder, which he admitted in September.

The jury was told that it was not the student but another man who caused Cox’s injuries, although footage showed Lombardi, who was in a group of between 20 to 30 Roma fans, apparently swinging his belt in Cox’s direction as he fell to the ground.

Recorder of Preston Judge Mark Brown said in his summing up of the case: “Football has been described as the beautiful game but the terrible events that took place outside Anfield stadium when Sean Cox was assaulted, and suffered catastrophic injuries, surely have blighted its reputation.”

Speaking to Lombardi he said: “There is no doubt in my mind that your purpose was to cause a violent clash with the Liverpool fans… demonstrated vividly in film footage.

“The footage shows that you had an active role and your assertion in evidence and in your basis of plea that you were just looking for signs for away supporter sections and were suddenly confronted by Liverpool fans is, in my judgement, nonsense.” 

Liverpool’s first-leg 5-2 win over Roma in April was marred by the ugly scenes, which erupted outside the ground before kick-off.

The Reds advanced despite a 4-2 loss in the return leg at Stadio Olimpico, after which Jurgen Klopp’s players celebrated on the pitch with a banner bearing Cox’s name.

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Bale back in full Real Madrid training

Gareth Bale has returned to full training with Real Madrid to provide a boost to under-pressure coach Julen Lopetegui.

Bale was replaced towards the end of a 1-0 La Liga loss away to Deportivo Alaves in Madrid’s last match before the international break.

That defeat extended Madrid’s run without a goal to four matches in all competitions, the longest they have gone without scoring since 1985.

Bale still reported for international duty for Wales, but ultimately did not feature for his nation.

The winger missed the friendly with Spain, and then left Wales prior to their victory over the Republic of Ireland in the Nations League with what head coach Ryan Giggs called muscle fatigue. 

Prior to coming off early against Alaves, Bale had suffered through injury woes after departing his side’s scoreless draw against local rivals Atletico on September 29.

Bale would go on to miss the midweek Champions League visit to CSKA Moscow before his abbreviated return the following weekend. 

The 29-year-old looked sharp in a clip posted on Madrid’s Twitter account, racing onto a pass and rounding goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois before finishing well.

Bale and Madrid are in action at home to Levante on Saturday before taking on Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League three days later.

Looming over those matches, however, is the Clasico against Barcelona, which takes place October 28 at the Bernabeu.

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