TENSION RISES

Lazio president Claudio Lotito has increased the tension between his club and archrivals Roma by suggesting that Roma will falter towards the end of the season to miss Champions League qualification for next campaign. Roma are currently second in the table after being involved in a title race with Juventus for most of the season, but their poor form in recent weeks have allowed Antonio Conte’s men to open a 14 point lead with only a few matches remaining in the season. Their third successive title has been virtually sealed after the recent 1-0 defeat for Roma against Napoli.

This result meant that Roma have just two wins in the last five matches and it has allowed Napoli to close the gap on the second place. There are just three points behind Roma, but with a far greater momentum leading into the final few matches. This will lead to the downfall of Roma according to Lotito, whose team has not done themselves great this campaign. Lazio have been consistently slipping down the table since the turn of the year and they are currently eighth with only 38 points. They face a huge fight just to qualify for the Europa league.

Lotito also predicts that Juventus will win a third straight title with Napoli coming second.

“Juventus will win the title, Napoli will finish second. For third place, I don’t know. I don’t want to make predictions. Now, the gap (on Juventus) is fairly significant. We just have to keep on going and stay focused on reinforcing second place. It’s been a few years since Roma breathed in the air of European competition, only that of Serie A,” said Lotito. Roma have not been seen in the Champions League since the 2011 season when they were knocked out of the competition by Shakhtar Donetsk.

SAGNA MOVING ON?

Bacary Sagna has a contract with Arsenal that ends at the end of the current campaign and there are doubts whether or not he will be extending his contract with the Premier League club and now Liverpool are preparing an offer for the French defender as they want to sign him when the transfer window reopens in the summer.

There are no signs of the Frenchman having any talks or interest of extending his contract with Arsenal and the possibility of him leaving the club is becoming more likely as each day passes on and the transfer window edges closer.

Chelsea’s Ashley Cole will be allowed to leave the club of Jose Mourinho at the end of the current campaign and he is being taken in consideration as a player that can solve some of the problems that Liverpool have been experiencing in this season.

Liverpool has conceded 32 goals in just 26 league matches which is not the best of records that a high-profile team which is aiming for the Premier League title to have.

Ashley Cole has already fallen behind in the pecking order of Jose Mourinho as Cesar Azpilicueta is the player that is being taken more into consideration by the Portuguese coach and it does not seem to be changing anytime soon and a move to another club might just be the best decision he makes for what remains of his career.

Richairo Zivkovic is another player that is on the radar of Liverpool, Richairo is a 17 years old forward who has already attracted the interest of Manchester City and more recently Ajax. He has been compared to Arjen Robben with his capabilities on playing anywhere across the front three but the player considers himself to be more comfortable as a centre-forward than anything else.

LIVERPOOL MISS OUT

Having already lost the race to sign Juan Mata and Mohamed Sala to some of their biggest rivals of the Premier League, Liverpool does not have the same budget that other clubs have at their disposal which is why Brendan Rodgers is at a huge disadvantage in this transfer market.

Liverpool kick-started this season by winning 3 of their 4 initial matches including a triumph against Manchester United and they continued on getting positive results but after a number of draws and defeats against Chelsea, Arsenal and most recently Aston Villa, the side of Brendan Rodgers dropped points and slipped into the 4th spot of the Premier League standings.

Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge were some of the better signings that Liverpool has made in modern times and they have to continue doing that if they want to secure a Champions League spot for the upcoming season.

Lucas Leiva suffered from a knee ligament injury that will be leaving him out of action for up to 2 months. The midfielder picked up the injury during Liverpool’s match against Aston Villa.

According to Brendan Rodgers, Glen Johnson will be sidelined with injury for an indefinite amount of time.

“The timeline he’ll be out will be indefinite really,” said Rodgers, who is not prioritizing defensive signings. I just think it’s now at that point where we need to get him right.”

“Glen has played a lot of the season having been injured and really put himself out for the team but unfortunately he’s struggled a lot with a number of injuries,” added Rodgers, 40, whose side face Bournemouth in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday. He’s had a real bad ankle for a period of time and just one or two other issues that haven’t allowed him to be 100%.

Steven Gerrard is another player that sustained an injury not too long ago and this is one of the main reasons why Rodgers should take a look in the transfer market and try to bring in new players allowing him to rotate the squad whenever needed and avoiding unnecessary injuries.

AJAX COPE WITH BARCA

Ajax had to cope against Barcelona having only 10 players in the pitch after the defender Joel Veltman tackled down the Brazilian striker Neymar in the opening few minutes of the 2nd half but the Dutch team still managed to come out on top with a 2-1 triumph that maintains their Champions League hopes alive.

Even with Barcelona’s loss they are still qualified and have secured their place into the knockout stages of the tournament but Ac.Milan and Ajax will be fighting for the 2nd spot of Group H.

San Siro is the final stage that will be seeing both clubs leaving it all on the pitch as they desire to come out from the group alongside the Spanish titans Barcelona.

Ajax had to deal with a number of injuries that included Siem de Jong, Kolbeinn Sigthorsson and Bojan Krkic but their replacements still managed to push their team forward and overcome a Barcelona team that was clearly being felt with the absence of Lionel Messi who is out for the remainder of the year due to an injury.

Danny Hoesen scored the 2nd goal for Ajax at the 42nd minute when he received a rebound from a shot of Viktor Fischer and got past Carles Puyol before firing it into the back of the net.

Following the end of the match, the 22 years old player expressed what it feels like to score against a team like Barcelona.

“You can only dream about this,” Hoesen said. “I had a good feeling before the match. They are probably the best team in the world and to be able to score the winning goal is amazing.”
The morale and confidence level of the team is as high as ever but now the real test awaits them as they have to get a victory against Ac.Milan in order to proceed into the next rounds of the Champions League meanwhile the Italian team are in need of a draw to advance further.

LIVERPOOL ON THE UP

The partnership of Gerrard and Suarez has pushed Liverpool into the 3rd place of the Premier League which is proving to be a game-changer for the club. Gerrard managed to net 2 goals and provide 2 assists in the last 5 league matches meanwhile his partner in crime Luis Suarez is enjoying his time in this season with 6 goals being scored in the last 6 matches.

He was Liverpool’s most expensive signing in 2010 as the English club had to splash out £22.8 million for the Uruguayan forward, the only other player surpassing that price tag was Andy Carroll who Liverpool signed some hours after sealing the transfer for Suarez.

The partnership might soon be over as Suarez has faced problems with the club and he has even made claims of requesting wanting to exit the club. Not only him but also the vice-captain of the squad, Daniel Agger could be playing his last season with Liverpool.

When asked what it would take for him to leave Liverpool, Agger said: “If I don’t play. If the manager doesn’t think I’m good enough that could make me leave Liverpool.

“I’m here to play football, nothing else. So if I don’t play football, then I don’t want to be here.”

His last appearance with Liverpool was back in September when they lost against Southampton but from there on out it has been in a dry run. Brendan Rodgers preffered options are Martin Skrtel, Kolo Toure and Mamadou Sakho.

“In the run of games Martin Skrtel has had, he’s gained confidence and that has meant I’ve acknowledged and recognised that he’s playing at a really good level,” said Rodgers.

“I’ve always tried to show fairness with the players.

“If you are playing well, you’ll play. If you’re not, you’ll be in and out of the team.”

Ryan Babel

Ryan Babel is a Dutch professional footballer who currently plays for the Turkish Super Lig club Kasimpasa as well as the Netherlands national team as a winger or a second striker. Babel spent six years at Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam where he was one the stars of their fabled youth academy and quickly made the progression into the senior squad in 2004, scoring 14 goals in 73 league appearances for the club.

This performance brought the youngster to the attention of several European heavyweights and ultimately, Liverpool won the battle for his signature as they paid a £ 11.5 million transfer fee to bring the 21 year old to England to partner Fernando Torres upfront. His spell at Liverpool, however, proved to be a lot less successful as he spent four years at the club, playing 91 matches and scoring just 12 goals for the club.

This came in spite of Ryan Babel being given a vote of confidence by Liverpool and Celtic legend Kenny Dalglish who stated that the player has the ability to terrorize and outrun any defender in the Premier League.  After his horror spell in the Premier League for the club, Liverpool sold the Dutchman to TSV Hoffenheim 1899 who paid a transfer fee reported to be in the region of £ 8 million as he signed on to a two and a half year deal.

However, he failed to make a mark for the German club and having been there for 18 months, was released from his contract.

The free agent was snapped up by Ajax Amsterdam as Ryan Babel returned to his spiritual home but he couldn’t repeat the exploits of his first stint at the club and was not handed a new contract, meaning he was free to move to his present club.