Jurgen Klopp faces Roberto Firmino decision while Liverpool mull midfield move

Liverpool are next up against Man City in the Community Shield, with Jurgen Klopp facing some selection poses (Author: Gardener)

Jurgen KloppLiverpool's Roberto Firmino and Fabinho during pre-season training camp in Austria on 28 July 2022 Liverpool's truncated pre-season draws to a close with just eight days away from the start of their Premier League season. The Reds have played four warm-up friendlies, most recently losing 1-0 at Red Bull Salzburg on Wednesday. After spending a week in an intensive training camp in Austria, Liverpool face champions Manchester City at Leicester City's King Power Stadium on Saturday for the Community Shield. READ MORE: 'I can't accept the lie' - £18m Liverpool star banned by Jurgen Klopp after mysterious row READ MORE: 'They called me donkey' - Luis Suarez can't escape the controversial truth when Liverpool star nears move Liverpool's biggest pre-season injury concern has been the availability of their goalkeepers. Adrian took a heavy blow at Salzburg but will continue between the posts despite Alisson's intensified training on Thursday. Isaac Mabaya and James Milner have played at full-back in recent weeks but with Kostas Tsimikas suffering a knock this week and new signing Calvin Ramsay not ready just yet, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson appear to be starting right-and-left-back, with Klopp has indicated many of the starters will play the full 90 minutes. Joe Gomez appears more likely to start Sunday's friendly against Strasbourg at Anfield, while Nat Phillips has had limited minutes lately. Naby Keita has had a decent pre-season and, unlike the other midfielders, was only given 45 minutes against Salzburg and could drop into the eleven against City. Otherwise, Fabinho, Thiago Alcantara and Jordan Henderson, who have all played in Austria for the last half hour, appear ready to start the game. Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott, Fabio Carvalho and Milner are other options, although it would be a surprise if youngsters Stefan Bajcetic and Tyler Morton started either against City or the Strasbourg friendly. Darwin Nunez has received a number of cameos this summer as he settles with his new teammates and scored four goals against RB Leipzig last week. Still, the impressive impact of the fully fit Roberto Firmino means Klopp has an important decision to make with the Brazilian, particularly among those who only featured in the stronger eleven that made up Wednesday's game. With Diogo Jota and Oxlade-Chamberlain injured and young Kaide Gordon still building up her fitness, Elliott and Carvalho represent alternatives for Klopp. However, Mohamed Salah and Luis Diaz are expected to play on the right and left flanks respectively, with Liverpool largely believing in their regular 4-3-3 formation in pre-season.


Jurgen Klopp calls for changes amid regular Liverpool concerns

Liverpool are preparing for a busy start to the season which will see them play two friendlies between the Community Shield and their Premier League opener with Fulham (Author: Gardener)

Jurgen KloppLiverpool are preparing for a busy start to the season, with two friendlies played between the Community Shield and their Premier League opener with Fulham. Jurgen Klopp has again called for changes to the game plan as the Community Shield comes too early for his Liverpool side. The Reds are preparing to take on Manchester City in their traditional season opener at Leicester City's King Power Stadium on Saturday. Klopp's side were in Austria preparing for the grueling campaign pushed ahead due to the Qatar World Cup's enforced hiatus in November and December. Liverpool begin their Premier League season at Craven Cottage on August 6 against newly promoted Fulham. But the early planning is underscored by the fact that they face Strasbourg in a friendly the day after Man City - and even schedule another game for the day after the Fulham game to bring players up to speed. Klopp appreciates the Community Shield - in part because he never won it - but has returned to his favorite subject in the run-up. "I like the competition, but I think it would be possible to find another date," he said. The season starts again in two days and we are really looking forward to it. It's important as we've played this game a few times and it would be nice to win it. Liverpool ended the Austrian round of their pre-season training on Wednesday evening with a 1-0 defeat by Red Bull Salzburg. Klopp was without star goalkeeper Alisson for the friendly and the Brazilian is also absent from the Community Shield through a minor injury. Does Jurgen Klopp have a point on the game plan? Liverpool prepared for the new season at a training camp in Austria. The game against Salzburg showed Klopp's argument that his players weren't given enough time to prepare for the upcoming season. He fielded a second-rate side in Austria in the first half before introducing his regulars after the hour. With the sale of Sadio Mane to Bayern Munich, there will be a new look for the front three, who started with Harvey Elliott, Fabio Carvalho and Darwin Nunez before ending on Wednesday with Luis Diaz, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino. Klopp admitted his approach to pre-season training in Austria was all about improving his side's level of fitness. "We have to do that, because I think we'll be playing every three days from mid-August, so there's no time for training," he said.


Iconic Liverpool club loved by those who 'lived for the weekend'

The nightclub was the first of its kind and unlike anything else in Liverpool city center at the time (Author: Gardener)

LiverpoolLook back at great photos and memories from years ago with our Days Gone By newsletter. Look back at great photos and memories from years ago who were instrumental in pioneering black music in the UK with our Days Gone By newsletter. In the 1970s, The Timepiece nightclub on Fleet Street was the pinnacle of dance music in the city. With mostly funk, soul, R&B and reggae, The Timepiece was ahead of its time. The club's resident DJ, Les Spaine, grew up in Toxteth and went on to collaborate with some of the most renowned music artists of the 20th century. He's back in Liverpool this week for Return To The Timepiece on Friday 29 July at the District and spoke to the Liverpool Echo about how it all started. READ MORE:Liverpool's lost roads, why they disappeared and what replaced them In the 1970s Les had made a name for himself playing at US Air Force bases in the UK including RAF Burtonwood in Warrington. Les told ECHO: "The Timepiece was previously called The Time And Place but it didn't really do anything. I was playing up the road at a place called the Pum Club which was on the same street as The Blue Angel but further down the other side. We had a good reputation in London and people came from all over England. One of the things that has irked me over time is this myth that everything up north is Northern Soul, but places like Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, they were satellites that were different. Due to his success at Pum Club, the owner of The Timepiece offered the DJ a deal to work there. The Liverpool in the 1970s that Les describes, especially nightclubs, sounds like a very different experience than today. While there were clubs in the Toxteth area that were popular with blacks, this was not the case in the city center. Les said: "The Timepiece thing was in town at the time because you know nobody wants to talk about it but there was th is horrible racism in the sense that people of color don't really subscribe to The Rialto (Club in Toxteth) have ventured past. He added: "The Timepiece wasn't a club stuck on Parliament Street (8 Liverpool), it could hold just over 2,000 people - it was nice more nostalgia stories, sign up for our Liverpool Echo newsletter here." was a place to dig the music, it was cool, you didn't feel intimidated. And I think if people of color went there they wouldn't have that "it's full boy" crap or you got the wrong socks on or whatever. Coke wasn't even a thing back then and people just came to dance.” Another element of The Timepiece that Les pioneered was the projection of music videos onto the walls inside. Les said: "You must remember the 70s, you heard the song but you never knew what your idols looked like. "I used to go around all the record companies asking if they had movies of the stuff we play and half the time they didn't make the charts." He added, "We have a rear projector and would playing it up with an album cover and this big screen next to my DJ box. And the thing about it, because those songs weren't mainstream pop, you haven't seen it anywhere else." Though the music is predominantly black, Les said The Timepiece was an inclusive place that drew everyone in. Les said, "It was a safe haven for a lot of people." People could go to Toxteth and go out because there were clubs there, but it was that middle ground for both sides. I think a lot of people from Toxteth were proud of The Timepiece, and a lot of people who coming from other places could hear cutting edge music and feel safe." He added, "The other thing that was a little different at the time was Creme and that came with it, the art of dancing was more about the hands than that Feet. Now there are many things that can catch your attention but I heard them say they live for the weekend. It was this vibe, they lived for the weekend, they gave all the money they had left , for her clothes and plate n out and danced." Les had been so successful with The Timepiece that he was offered the opportunity of a lifetime and began working for the legendary Motown Records label with some of the biggest music acts in the world. Even after quitting his DJ job at the club, Les returned to The Timepiece one night with soul music icon Marvin Gaye. Tell me about this club and let's go." So I took him there, we parked a limousine outside and went in," he added. "He loved The Timepiece, he loved the vibe." Group Memories and History of Liverpool After The Timepiece, Les embarked on a successful career in the music industry, working with the likes of Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Lionel Ritchie, The Commodores, Rick James and Smoky Robinson, but none of that has kept Les from returning to his decks, specifically he is in Liverpool for this year's Liverpool International Music Festival (LIMF).Does The Timepiece bring back any memories for you?On Friday 29th July Les will join Ben Osborne of eight DJing late into the night at Return To The Timepiece in the District Regarding The Timepiece nightclub's legacy, Les had some thoughts, saying: "The Timepiece h at a legacy that spilled over into the North West because the governments of the time weren't really interested in Liverpool from a political point of view.” The legacy of The Timepiece was to give people hope, from a musical point of view. And I also think, without being conceited, that we were responsible for a lot of the modern music that was emerging at the time, especially up north - we broke things that didn't happen in London.


Liverpool could sign the former Manchester United star if forced to complete an unwanted transfer

Alisson and Caoimhin Kelleher have missed both of Liverpool's pre-season games through injury (Author: Gardener)

Manchester UnitedConsidering Liverpool have an undisputed first-choice goalkeeper in Alisson for club and country, one of the best goalkeepers in the world and reigning Premier League Golden Glove winners, it's been an odd summer between the posts for the Reds. The Brazilian started the summer in goal as Liverpool were beaten 4-0 by Manchester United. The lasting image of that preseason outing was the sight of compatriot Fred cracking the Reds' number one. Substituted at half-time against the Red Devils, he has not played since due to a stomach injury. After missing out on Liverpool's friendly defeat by Red Bull Salzburg, Jurgen Klopp confirmed on Thursday afternoon that Alisson will also sit out Saturday's FA Community Shield against Manchester City at the King Power through injury. READ MORE: 'I can't accept the lie' - £18m Liverpool star banned from Jurgen Klopp after mysterious row. Diogo wasn't with us, so how could he play a soccer game? Under normal circumstances, Alisson's absence, while obviously noticeable, wouldn't be a huge hit with Caoimhin Kelleher in reserve. After all, Klopp dubbed the Irishman "the best number two goalkeeper in the world" after his heroic performance in Liverpool's League Cup win over Chelsea in February. "Alisson Becker is the best goalkeeper in the world for me," Klopp told reporters at Wembley. “There are other good goalkeepers out there but this goalkeeper is absolutely crazy. But to be honest, Caoimhin Kelleher is also the best number two goalkeeper in the world for me. “The game he played tonight was absolutely incredible. However, the 23-year-old remains sidelined himself and did not play at all in pre-season due to an unspecified injury sustained on international duty with the Republic of Ireland last month. Club sources described his setback as "a blow" after missing the Reds' pre-season tour of Asia, but he also failed to return to Austria for the Liverpool training camp. To further unsettle his situation, Kelleher had hinted he could attempt to leave the Reds this summer in search of first-choice status speaking on international duty. "I'm not sure what's going to happen yet," the goalscorer told reporters when asked about his future with the Republic of Ireland during June's international break. "Obviously I'll have to play those couple of games and see what happens with those and maybe decide after that." Regardless of Kelleher's transfer status, third-choice goalkeeper Adrian has, in his and Alisson's absence, the Reds' pre-season battles with Crystal Palace, RB Leipzig and Red Bull Salzburg, with youngsters Harvey Davies and Fabian Mrozek coming on as substitutes. And while the Brazilian is close to a return, memories of his injury record over the past few seasons, in which he played 14 games in 2019/20 and six games in 2020/21, could be recalled missed, understandably causing a bit of unease when placed next to Kelleher's own absence and potential desire to leave. Could they therefore be forced to reconsider this stance and sign a new back-up goalkeeper despite Liverpool's transfer deal seemingly being done for the summer? Looking to the agent market for more reserves would certainly not be the first time, as was proven back in August 2019 when Alisson suffered another calf injury on the opening day of the season nst Norwich City, prompting Klopp to sign on with trialist Andy Lonergan on a permanent basis to keep. Meanwhile, the aforementioned veteran goalkeeper is one of four players the German signed on a Bosman transfer during his time at Anfield without the need for a court fee or compensation package. Joel Matip is also recruiting Adrian and Alex Manninger on a free transfer and is the only one of this quartet who isn't a backup goalkeeper. After all, why pay a large transfer fee for a backup goalkeeper you rarely expect to play? Having signed just nine experienced players without having to part with a transfer fee since taking over the club in 2011, Adam Bogdan and Doni ensure that more than half of those are in goal. The quintet have now played 20 Premier League games for the Reds, with Adrian accounting for 14 of those. So who's available if Alisson and Kelleher's injuries force Klopp back into the Bosman market? The 35-year-old, who helped the Azzurri win Euro 2020 last year and was a four-time Ligue 1 champion with Paris Saint-Germain, has spent the last five seasons in Serie A after losing his starting spot in Paris. First choice for Genoa last year after enjoying similar status at Torino for four years, he has been linked with Napoli and Lazio after finding himself as a free agent. With ample Champions League experience thanks to four seasons as PSG's first-choice goalkeeper, he would certainly be a capable replacement for Alisson should the need arise. The Italy international isn't the only recognizable name to emerge as a free agent from Serie A this summer, however, as former Manchester United goalkeeper Sergio Romero is also available on a Bosman following his sacking by Venezia. Making 61 appearances in six seasons for the Red Devils, he proved a solid reserve option for David De Gea during his time at Old Trafford. However, his time at United did not end well as they blocked an exit for the Argentina international. Perhaps the 2014 runners-up, previously linked with the Reds, may have no qualms about moving to Liverpool and could be an option. Whilst Sirigu and Romero are perhaps the most talented names on the Bosman list, there are also a couple of alternative options if Liverpool are looking to increase their home quota like they did when Lonergan signed three years ago, although admittedly that would be a downside . in quality. Former Manchester United goalkeeper Ben Foster is a free agent after leaving Watford and has spent over a decade as a first-choice goalkeeper in the Premier League. Meanwhile, the Reds could even turn to former Liverpool backup goalkeeper David Martin to fill that 'Lonergan role' following his sacking from West Ham United. The 35-year-old has only played five games for the Hammers but having spent four and a half years at Anfield earlier in his career he would actually be considered coached by the club for UEFA competitions. Admittedly, Liverpool are unlikely to join the ranks at the moment, but that was the case in 2019 before they joined Lonergan through injury. In an ideal world, the Reds keep Kelleher in reserve and he remains fit alongside Alisson and Adrian. But if history has repeated itself and pre-season bodes ill for the future, there are at least available options on the market for Klopp to consider.


Liverpool were willing to "pay anything" for the midfielder, who Klopp is "obsessed with".

The plan is to exploit the midfielder's poor relationship with Carlo Ancelotti - but will Liverpool really sign a midfielder? (Author: Gardener)

KloppLiverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is reportedly desperate to sign Real Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde with the Uruguayan's future hanging in the balance. Most reports suggest the Reds are done with their incoming transfer deal for this summer following the signings of Fabio Carvalho, Darwin Nunez and Calvin Ramsay. Recently, transfer expert Fabrizio Romano opened the door to the possibility that they could seal another transfer before the window closes, but only if a good opportunity arises. Liverpool, Roberto Firmino and a seven-year itch that could end in an amicable divorce. Speaking to Wondergoal Podcast last week, Romano said: "Liverpool are super happy with the market they had with Darwin Nunez, Fabio Carvalho and Ramsay but I would always keep the market open for Liverpool. “And then they had the opportunity to sign Luis Diaz because they've seen a lot of clubs like Tottenham and West Ham. Jurgen Klopp decided within 24 hours, of course together with a board, to step in and sign Luis immediately. "The markets are sometimes not just strategy but also reaction and that's why Liverpool have been very good with Luis Diaz and that's why I would keep the situation open for Liverpool until the end. “They wanted (Aurelien) Tchouameni this summer. He had some talks with Jurgen Klopp. So Liverpool really made an effort for Tchouameni but in the end he chose Real Madrid. “I see Liverpool are in talks right now to sign a top midfielder next summer. But I'm sure there will be a mad struggle to sign Bellingham in the summer of 2023 because it's not available on the market this summer and Borussia Dortmund will keep him at the club." And now Spanish newspaper Nacional insists that Jurgen Klopp is 'waiting' for Real Madrid midfielder Valverde, with the Liverpool boss being 'obsessed' with the Uruguay international. After the Champions League final, which Liverpool lost 1-0 to Real Madrid in May, Klopp "left the door wide open for him should he plan to end up at Anfield in the future". If Valverder is "considering his future" at Real Madrid, it will take Liverpool "very little time to come to his rescue", with the Reds ready to "pay whatever it takes" to seal a transfer . The article Liverpool preparing to 'pay anything' for the midfielder Klopp is 'obsessed' with appeared first on


Liverpool vs Manchester City Community Shield odds, tips and predictions July 30th

Community Shield odds, tips and predictions for Liverpool vs Manchester City for July 30th. Community Shield betting tips for side, overall and more. (Author: Gardener)

July 30thThere's always an electric atmosphere when these two teams play, and with the Community Shield at stake it gives them something to play for. There's always an electric atmosphere when these two teams play, and with the Community Shield at stake it gives them something to play for. Find out in our Liverpool vs. betting preview. Find out in our Liverpool vs Manchester City betting preview. Manchester City. On Saturday, the top two teams from last season's Premier League campaign will clash with the Community Shield on the line. Liverpool qualified as FA Cup winners and Manchester City as Premier League winners, narrowly beating the Reds to lift the trophy. There's always something going on when these two teams meet and this game will be no different. Man City betting tips and predictions to see who will win the Community Shield. When you sign up for some Club Friendly bets at a new sportsbook, here are two of the best bonuses available*: A) New users can wager $20 and get $200 in free bets at Caesars! B) New users can get two risk free bets up to $2,000 at PointsBet! Our side and total predictions are based on our analysis of the line and total score in that game. Our best bet is our favorite pick across all markets. This weekend, alongside the Premier League, all of England's domestic leagues start, highlighted by Saturday's Community Shield. Each year, the final acts as the start of the season between the winners of the FA Cup and Premier League. It will be Liverpool versus Man City but in an unusual twist as the game will be played at Leicester's King Power Stadium as Wembley host the Women's Euro 2022 final on Sunday. The two sides of Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola have been vastly superior to the rest of the English game for some time and this game will give us an indicator of who will be top of the table at the end of the year. Both teams appear to be largely familiar with last season, but have both made several steps ahead. Liverpool have sold Sadio Mane to Bayern Munich and the Senegal star will be a huge loss. Rival fans were quick to pounce on some mistakes in front of goal in friendlies but we saw during his Champions League appearances last year that he is lethal in front of the net. His crude tools are dangerous enough and with his speed and cunning he will cause problems for Man City. Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus left Manchester for London but Erling Haaland came in their place. If you've been anywhere near the sport for the past three seasons, you'll be familiar with the name. Now he joins a team that scored more goals than anyone in the Premier League last season and has a wealth of creative talent. These teams put up exciting games last season - both Premier League games ended in a draw - resulting in three draws in the last five meetings. Both sides will go into this game with full force, even if it's technically a friendly game. It is worth noting that they drew in Liverpool's regular-time finals last year. I expect this game will go like this with teams trading shots but eventually ending in a tie. At +245, it offers the best stat for a game that could really go either way. When you have Mohamed Salah and Erling Haaland on the field - let alone the rest of these great squads - there is a lot of firepower. So we can expect a lot of goals. When the teams meet, neither team plays defensively as both play their regular style and go on offense. Across all competitions, we've seen six of their last seven meetings end over 2.5 goals. Notably, two of those results were also draws. It says a lot about the expectations surrounding Erling Haaland that he has yet to play a single competitive game for Man City and he's still just +115 points shy of that game. Although he struggled with injuries last year, he scored 22 goals in 24 Bundesliga games. Now he joins a Man City squad crammed with creative players and without a traditional number nine for years. Still, they scored more goals than anyone in the league last year and should give Haaland plenty of chances to bury one here. His only appearance for Man City so far, a friendly win over Bayern Munich, may give us a blueprint for how he'll score. In that game, City came to the touchline and the ball went back across the box and found Haaland who put it inside. He scored many such goals at Dortmund and City found themselves in such positions often last year - but without the traditional strikers poaching for chances. We talk a lot about Haaland's physical attributes, his great speed and strength, but his best trait is reading the game and putting himself in positions to put the ball in the net. The price might be close at +115 - especially against a talented Liverpool defense - but one has to consider that City's talented new forward is opening his account here. If you're looking for a higher prize, it might also be worth combining Haaland and Liverpool's Salah to both score in a same game parlay, which would give you +500 chances of both men scoring.


Formula 1 driver Carlos Sainz, a big Real Madrid fan, refuses to sign a fan's Barcelona shirt

Formula 1 driver Carlos Sainz, who is a huge Real Madrid fan, had no attempt from fans to get him to sign a Barcelona shirt. (Author: Gardener)

Carlos SainzAfter you register, we use the email address you provided to send you the newsletter. After you register, we use the email address you provided to send you the newsletter. You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the newsletter email. You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the newsletter email. We all love the clips of footballers refusing to sign their opposing clubs' shirts, with former Celtic striker Craig Bellamy's famous disgust at a Rangers shirt being presented in front of him springing to mind. As well as the more recent clips of Paul Pogba and Raheem Sterling refusing to sign Manchester United and Manchester City shirts respectively, having recently moved to new clubs. Very rarely, however, do we see the athletes of another sport refusing to sign the football shirts that fans have on hand to sign! In a clip circulating on Twitter, F1 driver Carlos Sainz is hilariously seen refusing to sign a Barcelona shirt given to him by a fan before the driver zooms away, unimpressed. While the Ferrari driver signed and greeted other fans with great patience and warmth, the Spaniard's tone suddenly changed upon seeing the famous blue and red stripes of the Barcelona shirt. While some on social media have interpreted Sainz's behavior as unwarranted, the majority of reactions online and we as sports fans can't help but respect Sainz's loyalty as a professional athlete. The Madrid-born racer has openly shown his love for Real Madrid over the years, being spotted in the famous Los Blancos shirt and even appearing previously on the club's social media channels. Comments on Twitter in response to Sainz's loyalty included: "Hala Madrid!" and described the racer as a "true madridista". Therefore, the fan should have done his research before letting Sainz sign a Barcelona shirt with Lionel Messi printed on the back as now he may never get the chance to get the signature of the 27-year-old who signed the Season has its life this year.


Here's what we learned after her final testimony from Brittney Griner's trial in Russia

This week's court case in Russia over the detention of WNBA star Brittney Griner has shed more light on the details of her arrest, including her statement that she was not given key information about her rights granted under Russian law. (Author: Gardener)

RussiaThis week's court case in Russia over the detention of WNBA star Brittney Griner has shed more light on the details of her arrest, including her statement that she was not given important information about her rights granted under Russian law. Griner, who was sitting in a courtroom near Moscow on Wednesday, dismissed prosecutors' allegations of drug smuggling and said she had no intention of even bringing cannabis oil, which was found in her luggage in February, to Russia. Griner pleaded guilty to charges earlier this month to have her sentence reduced, which could be up to 10 years in prison. Her arrest and trial have sparked international outcry, and the US State Department has ruled her detention unlawful. With her trial expected to continue into the next month, CNN has learned that the Biden administration has offered Russia a prisoner swap of Griner and fellow American Paul Whelan, who is also in prison, for a convicted Russian arms dealer who is serving a 25-year sentence in the US is serving - a suggestion Griner's Russian lawyers say they caught her off guard. Brittney Griner holds photographs in an accused's cage before a hearing at a court outside Moscow on Wednesday. After being stopped by Sheremetyevo International Airport staff on February 17 and told to open her bags, less than a gram of cannabis oil was found in Griner's luggage, according to Russian prosecutors. Griner testified that no lawyer was present and she said her rights were not explained to her, which under Russian law should have happened within three hours. Griner signed documents that were unclear to her, she said, and she had to use Google Translate on her phone to try to make sense of what was happening. Griner's detention, search and arrest were "unreasonable," Alexander Boykov, one of her attorneys, said Wednesday. The two-time Olympic gold medalist was aware of Russia's drug laws, she testified, and the cannabis oil was in her luggage in a hurry due to "stress packing". "I still don't understand to this day how they ended up in my pockets," Griner said. Griner "confirmed that she had a doctor's prescription for the use of medicinal cannabis," which "is a fairly popular treatment among professional athletes. She emphasized that she never intended to bring it to Russia and use it," lawyer Maria Blagovolina told reporters after the hearing. A knee injury forced her into a wheelchair for four months, Griner said in court, and she used the substance on inflamed knee and ankle joints. Griner "told the court that she knows and respects Russian laws and never intended to break them," Blagovolina said. Griner also told the court that she enjoyed playing basketball in Russia during the WNBA off-season and that her club, UMMC Ekaterinburg, has become a second home to her, Blagovolina said. "We continue to insist that she packed her suitcase in a hurry out of indiscretion and did not pay attention to the fact that substances authorized for use in the United States ended up in this suitcase and arrived in the Russian Federation," Boykov said. Amid Griner's imprisonment and trials, months of internal debates in the Biden administration culminated in a US offer to swap Griner and Whelan - whose Russian prison sentence the US condemned as unjust - for convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout, about whom people were informed of the report the matter to CNN. The plan has received the support of President Joe Biden and defies opposition from the Justice Department, which generally frowns on the prisoner trade, the sources said. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Biden was "directly involved" and signed off on the proposal presented to Moscow, but declined to give further details or confirm Bout as part of the proposal. Blinken said he also intends to speak to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the coming days - their first meeting since Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Griner's attorneys, Blagovolina and Boykov, learned about the possible swap through news reports, they said. In any case, we would be very happy if Brittney could come home and hope it will be soon," they said. Griner is expected to return to the Khimki Regional Court on August 2. Since coverage of the proposed swap became public, officials said families have been kept up to date on specific developments and supporters have expressed hope that the deal will be accepted by Russia. National Security Council communications coordinator John Kirby said a senior administration official spoke to the families prior to Blinken's announcement of the proposal. Biden recently spoke to Griner's wife, Cherelle, and Whelan's sister, Elizabeth, over the phone. David Whelan, Paul's brother, said in a statement: "Our family appreciates the Biden administration, which is seeking Paul's release with the resources available. We hope the Russian government will respond to the US government and accept this concession or some other concession that will allow Paul to come home to his family." Trevor Reed, a Navy veteran who served on a prisoner exchange earlier this year in returned to the US after being imprisoned in Russia for more than two years, told CNN's Jake Tapper that he thinks Griner and Whelan have "a really good chance" of getting home, "especially given the transparency that's been going on." "I think if the Russians aren't stupid, they'll take that offer," Reed said. Texas Rep. Colin Allred, who is working to pass a bipartisan House resolution calling for Griner's release, said it was important to hear Griner's testimony and that she had done her best to speak up in court present, but it may not be enough depending on how the Russian government reacts. "The only reason we're having this conversation is because they're trying to use them as leverage against the United States," Allred told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "Of course we must do everything to bring them home and I hope that this package will be accepted by the Russians."


The US offers Russia a deal to release Griner

The Biden administration has offered Russia a deal aimed at bringing home WNBA star Brittney Griner and another jailed American, Paul Whelan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. (Author: Gardener)

RussiaWASHINGTON -- The Biden administration has offered Russia a deal aimed at bringing home WNBA star Brittney Griner and another jailed American, Paul Whelan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday. In a sharp reversal of previous policy, Blinken also said he expects to speak to his Kremlin counterpart for the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine. The S. government has publicly announced all the concrete measures it has taken to secure the release of Griner, who was arrested at a Moscow airport on drug-related charges in February and testified at her trial on Wednesday. Blinken did not offer the Russians details on the proposed deal, but a source familiar with the matter said the US government offered to trade convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for Whelan and Griner. While it is unclear whether the proposal will be enough for Russia to release the Americans, public acknowledgment of the offer at a time when the US has otherwise shunned Russia reflects mounting pressure on the administration over Griner and Whelan and its determination to them to get home. It also signals a growing acceptance by the White House of prisoner swaps as a solution to cases involving Americans imprisoned abroad, particularly after an April deal that secured the release of Marine veteran Trevor Reed and gave the government a much-needed publicity win. "We put a significant proposal on the table weeks ago to facilitate their release," Blinken said. "Our governments have communicated repeatedly and directly about this proposal, and I will use the conversation to personally investigate and hopefully move toward a resolution." President Joe Biden, who approved the Reed prisoner swap after meeting his parents, signed off the deal offered by the US in this case, officials said. "The President and his team are ready to take extraordinary steps to bring them home," John Kirby, a White House national security spokesman, told reporters. Should a phone call take place with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, it would be the first conversation he and Blinken have had since Feb. 15, about a week before Russia invades Ukraine. Officials said the desire for a response to the prisoner's offer was the main reason, but not the only reason, why the US requested a new call from Lavrov on Wednesday. Blinken said he would also speak to Lavrov about the importance of Russia complying with a U. "It's useful to send clear, direct messages to the Russians about the top priorities for us," including the release of Griner and Whelan, said Blinken Whelan, a Michigan corporate security executive who was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2020 on espionage charges Luggage, testified at her trial Wednesday that she had no criminal intent in bringing them into the country and packed in a hurry for her return to play in a Russian basketball league during the WNBA's offseason. During her testimony, Griner said, she still doesn't know how the cannabis oil ended up in her luggage, but explained that she had a doctor's recommendation to use it to treat chronic pain from her sports injuries Griner faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of drug transport. Officials had tried for months to deflect criticism over the apparent lack of momentum in the Griner and Whelan cases, saying the work was being done in secret and behind closed doors. That stance made Wednesday's announcement all the more surprising, but Kirby said the administration decided to clarify that a deal was on the table. "We believe it is important for the American people to know how hard President Biden is working to bring Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan home," he said. Russia has for years expressed an interest in the release of Bout, a Russian arms dealer once dubbed the "merchant of death" who was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2012 on charges of illegally selling millions of dollars worth of weapons . The S. stab operation, and the judge who sentenced him, told The Associated Press this month that she believed he had already served enough jail time could lead to more hostage takings and false allegations Opening the door for similar resolutions in the future, and the Biden administration has been pursued with political pressure to bring home Griner and other Americans who have been wrongfully imprisoned. There was no indication that Blinken and Lavrov c communicated to secure Reed's release. Their last public contact was on February 22, when Blinken wrote to Lavrov to cancel a meeting they had planned as a last-ditch effort to avert the Russian invasion, saying Moscow had shown no interest in serious diplomacy on the matter . The State Department later said that Russia's diplomacy was "Kabuki theater" — all show and no substance. The two last met in person in Geneva, Switzerland, in January to discuss Russia's then-massive military buildup along Ukraine's border and Russian demands for NATO to reduce its presence in Eastern Europe and permanently deny Ukraine membership, according to the Blink and Lavrov avoided each other earlier this month when they were next in the same place at the same time: a G20-nation foreign ministers meeting in Bali, Indonesia. The two men will next be in the same city at the same time next week in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where they will both attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum. It wasn't immediately clear if the phone call ahead of that meeting, scheduled for August 4-5, would announce an in-person interview.


The US has made a "significant proposal" to bring Brittney Griner home

The United States has made a "substantive proposal" to bring home WNBA star Brittney Griner as well as another American currently detained in Russia, Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed Wednesday. (Author: Gardener)

Brittney GrinerJuly 27 (UPI) - The United States has made a "significant proposal" to bring home WNBA star Brittney Griner as well as another American currently detained in Russia, Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed Wednesday. Blinken did not go into the details of the proposal while answering questions from State Department reporters. CNN reported the proposal involves the replacement of Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms dealer, with Griner and Paul Whelan, a former marine and former security guard serving a 16-year hard labor sentence in a Mordovia prison camp. President Joe Biden reiterated his support for bringing Whelan home in early July. "We put a significant proposal on the table weeks ago," Blinken told reporters. Blinken said he would discuss the proposal with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the coming days. Bout is currently serving a 25-year US prison sentence after being found guilty in 2011 of conspiring to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to a designated foreign terrorist organization based in Colombia to target Americans in that country to kill. The State Department considers both Whelan and Griner "wrongly imprisoned." Griner testified in a Russian court on Wednesday that she had no intention of bringing hash oil vape cartridges into Russia, saying she was not read of her rights and did not understand what was going on during her arrest. "I still don't understand to this day how it ended up in my pockets," she said during her testimony. Griner testified that she uses medical cannabis after a knee injury, but not before tournaments, adding that she has a medical marijuana prescription from the state of Arizona. Griner pleaded guilty to possessing less than a gram of hash oil, but told the court she brought the vape cartridges to Russia unintentionally and had no intention of breaking the law. In Russia, the process continues even after a guilty plea. Griner testified that she used medical marijuana for a bad knee injury, but never before tournaments. According to her lawyer, Maria Blagovolina, during her testimony, Griner stated that she knows and respects Russian laws and never intends to break them. The 31-year-old Phoenix Mercury star and Olympic gold medalist arrived with vape cartridges containing less than a gram of hash oil and was taken into custody at Moscow Airport on February 17. Griner has been in court for days on multiple counts and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of drug charges. Griner's appearance on Wednesday came after medical witnesses testified on her behalf Tuesday that professional athletes use cannabis to treat sports injuries and that Griner had been prescribed hash oil by a doctor to treat "severe chronic pain." Earlier this month, several Russian citizens also testified in support of Griner -- including Maxim Ryabkov, director of a Russian basketball club in the city of Yekaterinburg, where Griner plays during the WNBA off-season, and team doctor Anatoly Galabin. If convicted, the women's basketball star has an opportunity to appeal - but her family and supporters have urged Biden to push for her release. Griner decided to plead guilty this month in hopes it would lighten her sentence. S.'s State Department changed Griner's official status to "wrongfully detained" -- a move that allows the federal government to explore more aggressive options to release Americans abroad. A Russian judge has ordered her detention for the entire duration of the trial.