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Liverpool supporters group Spirit of Shankly hail the reform decision amid concerns about 'ESL 2.0'

Liverpool supporters group Spirit of Shankly have welcomed the decision to set up an independent regulator (Author: Gardener)

LiverpoolGeneral view outside the stadium as Liverpool fans arrive at the stadium ahead of the Premier League match between Liverpool and Everton at Anfield on April 24, 2022. Liverpool supporters group Spirit of Shankly have welcomed the UK government's decision to back proposals for an independent regulator of English football. Following the release last year of the Crouch Report, the fan-led report on the state of football at national level authored by Conservative MP Tracey Crouch, the government committed to making legal changes to the way the football is regulated. The new regulator will have the power to impose sanctions on those violating financial and other rules, while introducing a new ownership test and giving fans more say in match management. The Crouch report had made 10 recommendations when it was released late last year, with the introduction of an independent regulator needed to stop the game "tumbling from crisis to crisis". The report itself came against the backdrop of April's failed European Super League plan, in which Liverpool were heavily involved, before abandoning its intentions along with eight other teams. After the failed ESL plot, much anger was directed at Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group for their part in bringing the Reds into the conversation. Such was the outcry that John Henry, FSG's principal owner, recorded a video apology to Liverpool fans for his part in the conspiracy, which collapsed in just 48 hours, and the club then took steps to reassure fans' confidence by forming a Supporters Board, which would need to give its approval if such a move is to be made into a breakaway competition in the future. This Supporters Board, which is about to be formed, consists of 10 members from the Spirit Of Shankly Committee, plus six other representatives from other supporters organizations including Liverpool Disabled Supporters Association, Kop Outs, Spion Kop 1906, Official Liverpool Supporters Clubs, Liverpool Women's Supporters Committee and faith and ethnic groups. Greater fan representation at clubs through shadow bodies was one of the Crouch report's recommendations and Spirit of Shankly chairman Joe Blott welcomed the decision but shared concerns that a possible delay in the introduction of the independent regulator could be expected until 2024 be when the regulation comes into force. "From the Crouch report's recommendations, we understand that we have made progress with the club to ensure most, if not all, are ticked and that the report serves more as an endorsement of what we are doing than." being told what we need to do.” We believe independent regulation is the way forward, although it is a pity the Premier League does not share this stance. The Premier League has shown it can't take care of itself and control billionaire owners and nefarious owners and that's why we think independent regulation is crucial. “Not every club has made the progress that we have in introducing a supporters board and it is important that the introduction of a regulator is swift and not postponed. Delays mean there is less work to do and some clubs are getting sucked into the kicking and yelling, leading to tokenism. Had we had more fan representation prior to the ESL conspiracy it would not have happened from an English point of view, certainly not with the way we are setting up the Supporters Board. The whole English game needs that, in previous seasons we lost clubs like Macclesfield, Bury and Chester City and it was up to the fans to help build those clubs back up. Independent regulation may have been welcomed by some, and its need was further underscored by the crisis that emerged from the ESL and more recently the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund's controversial takeover of Newcastle United and Roman Abramovich's forced sale of Chelsea due The Premier League does not believe there is a need for an independent regulator of English football due to its ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin following the Russian military invasion of Ukraine. "We welcome the government's clarity on its position and commit to working with it during this next phase of consultation, although we will continue to maintain that it is not necessary for there to be a legally backed regulator. “Since the publication of the Fan-Led Review, the Premier League and our clubs have worked flat out to understand the full impact of the Review's recommendations and to design and implement policies in response to its objectives; including by reviewing our test for owners and directors. “We agree that the fans are vital to the game and their voices should be better heard across the league. "We are reassured that the Government recognizes the success of the Premier League and the importance of making changes that also protect the league's position as one of this country's top global exports. "It creates the exceptional football we see on pitches across the country every week and has enabled our continued commitment to supporting football at all levels by raising an unprecedented £1.6billion outside the Premier League over the next three seasons have reinvested.” But the Football Supporters Association issued a statement urging the government not to hesitate any further, setting out how important it sees the introduction of independent regulation to address some of the critical issues facing football. A statement from the FSA said: "The Government has recognized that 'the free market will not fix football' - the FSA urges them to act swiftly and implement the fan-led review recommendations now welcoming the announcement that "IREF" will oversee financial regulation at all levels and introduce a new, reinforced owner and director test. Supporters have long argued that clubs, with stadiums and heritage that deserve special protection, are an important common good - and the Government supports this position while acknowledging that clubs' supporter engagement "often falls far short of what the fans do." rightly expect. "The announcement that 'women's football should be treated equally and subject to its own scrutiny' is an important step that the FSA has long supported, as is the objective of giving the IREF a role in evaluating policies on equality, diversity and Transferring inclusion to football “But time is of the essence – as the government says, there are “serious concerns about the fragility of football's finances”. Since the Government committed to a fan-led review of football governance in its 2019 manifesto, we have seen: Macclesfield Town disappear, Project Big Picture, the European Super League, ownership controversies at many clubs, billionaire owners sabotaging them Reform of the Premier League and existential crises at Coventry United, Derby County and Oldham Athletic, among others. Another day for a shady owner to get his hooks into a club. Another day for remote billionaires to try and make the European Super League 2.0.

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Vinicius Junior crushes Manchester City, Villarreal frustrates Liverpool

Is the English club's success inevitable early in the semi-finals? (Author: Gardener)

Manchester CityThe Champions League semi-finals are upon us, with action starting Tuesday on CBS and Paramount+. Manchester City host Real Madrid on Tuesday before Liverpool and Villarreal meet the following night. Real Madrid didn't get that far because they were clearly the better team over the entire two rounds in the previous rounds. Both Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea left the Champions League believing they had outplayed their conquerors throughout the game. Rather, in the greatest moments, they had the best players on the pitch in Luka Modric or Karim Benzema. With 12 goals to his credit, including two consecutive hat-tricks in the knockout rounds, Benzema is likely to be a attacker for the individual awards of this competition and perhaps overtake Robert Lewandowski to win the golden boot. But a word of caution is in order when comparing his actual torrent return to his expected goal tally (xG) of 6.46. True greats like the Frenchman should easily outperform against their xG over the long term too, but not at such a gaudy level that he's scoring almost twice as many goals per 90 minutes as the quality of shots would suggest. Put more simply, Benzema's two headed goals against Chelsea were remarkable precisely because such positions rarely resulted in goals. Even the best cannot conjure up such moments at will. City, on the other hand, could be an overall more awkward matchup for Benzema than his last two opponents. This was most notable in the win at Stamford Bridge, where the game's most devastating striker registered more touches at right-back positions than the three he had in the penalty area. He would spot the Frenchman, too far up front to fall back and give way to Modric and Kroos, too deep for Thiago Silva to field. That might not happen that often against Manchester City, where Rodri will be anchored in midfield. On occasion this season they've been more drawn to a 4-2-3-1 with Bernardo Silva dropping low to help build up, but essentially it's clearly Rodri's responsibility to protect the spaces, which Benzema likes to fall into. Still, there will be other positions Madrid can exploit. This could well be a game for Vinicius Junior who will almost certainly attack a player who isn't up to the task. Joao Cancelo's suspension was a headache for Pep Guardiola but both Kyle Walker and emergency right-back John Stones are struggling with injuries. The City boss gave a relaxed assessment of what that could mean for his team following Saturday's win over Watford. That may be so, but Vinicius will do no favors for those who try extra hard. Realizing he is dealing with the weak link on the pitch, as was the case with Andreas Christensen at Stamford Bridge, he is relentless. If City don't have the best defender at this level, it might be Vinicius rather than Benzema who does the damage. Of course, it's not just City who have injury headaches. The Brazilian has traveled to England with the squad but reports in Spain suggest he has serious doubts about being included in any capacity. Without him, can Madrid really hope to quash Kevin De Bruyne's drives? Having been in overdrive for the last few weeks, the Belgian has had something of another great Manchester City in his game. He picks up the ball on the turn, shoots past a player and then commits more in a way that's extremely reminiscent of Yaya Toure. Where earlier in the season De Bruyne might have carried the ball less than 100 yards on the field with seven or eight progressive carries, those numbers are up now. In recent games, notably against Brighton, he's been over 150 yards progression and in double figures for progressive carries. In the fifth minute of the 2-2 draw with Liverpool, he rushed forward twice, first playing a through ball to Raheem Sterling which then led to Gabriel Jesus before scoring the opening goal. He did the same against Atletico Madrid who looked like they had few ideas to quell him other than fouling him and it's fair to ask who exactly can get in his way and slow him down. Almost certainly not the answer, an unfortunate one for those convinced of Villarreal or indeed those wanting just a bit of spice in the latter stages of the Champions League. On the other hand, you could have written exactly the same thing in this competition. Villarreal had just enough to get past Atalanta but it won't work against Juventus. Villarreal had just enough to get past Juventus but it won't work against Bayern Munich. Of course, all the stats and underlying metrics point to a rift between these two teams. After 10 Champions League games, Liverpool's goal difference is twice as good as Villarreal's with seven. The Reds average 2.15 xG for and 1.1 xG against per European game. Unai Emery's team is 1.86 for and 1.46 against. One of these teams has nine players in our top 25 of our top 50 still in competition. Villarreal have very good players like Arnaut Danjuma and Pau Torres. But pit them against their peers in red (Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk for example) and it becomes clear that these are very good players against the best in the world. Over time, you would expect this talent gap to be reflected in results. In his previous Champions League appearances, Villarreal has given up 4.85 expected goals and two goals actually scored in the first half, as opposed to 9.73 and nine in the second. In the second leg of the quarter-finals, when Bayern were down by one goal overall, those were the shots they fired. The size of the bubble reflects the xG value of each shot. This is what 0.38 xG from eight shots looks like. But in the first half of the second leg, Villarreal seemed to come to the conclusion that they would win this clash and their belief wasn't quelled even by Robert Lewandowski's goal. The same could happen again, in this stage or the next. If the starters didn't win it for Bayern, it would be fair to ask if the bench could. The same cannot be said for Liverpool, who could make a pretty devastating front three out of anyone not in Klopp's starting XI. Against Inter Milan, Roberto Firmino was their match winner off the bench, for Everton in the Merseyside derby Divock Origi at Thanos level was inevitable. Flip the script of recent Villarreal games and when Klopp needs to tighten things up he tends to have a quality fresh-legged midfielder on the bench. Recently, Jordan Henderson has excelled in that more intimate role. If he really needed it, he would also have one of Ibrahima Konate or Joel Matip waiting on the bench. Whatever the circumstances, Liverpool can change them with fresh legs against the tiring heads of Villarreal. This seems to be the end of the road. Here's one that's been sizzling in the background for a while, not ready to be unleashed on the world until Barcelona are eliminated from the Europa League. Now is the time to boldly declare this Premier League state of emergency. English teams will win everything. In the case of the Champions League, that certainly doesn't come as a huge surprise, where Liverpool and Manchester City have been ahead for some time. From the top of European football to base camp, Leicester approach Roma as relative underdogs, but a squad that has been plagued by injuries for most of this season is looking a little stronger now that Jamie Vardy has returned from injury. On the other hand, Inter Milan showed the rewards to be gained from the kind of direct counterattacks the Foxes can excel in... if their manager is willing to give up the possession game he's been gravitating to lately . Leicester might not be favorites for the Europa Conference League, but that wouldn't be a very bold prediction if they were. West Ham are in a similar position, with RB Leipzig the most likely side to lift the Europa League trophy in Seville next month. David Moyes showed on Sunday he is willing to sacrifice Premier League form in order to have the best possible chance against Eintracht Frankfurt, veteran experts in the competition. For Thursday's first leg, Michail Antonio, Jarrod Bowen and Declan Rice will be as rested as can be expected at this stage of the season. A defense that may only have Craig Dawson as a fit centre-back will be tested, but this is a side that is steadfast at both ends of the pitch in Europe. With London Stadium behind them, they could do enough this week to control the clash and book their trip back to Seville, where their journey to the knockout stages began. Who would doubt then that West Ham's sheer will to win this competition would not prevail?

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Liverpool is keeping up with Man City in the title race, Bayern Munich wins the Bundesliga, PSG dampened joy for the title

If Liverpool win the Premier League, will their derby win be the most important? PLUS: Bayern and PSG win their titles and Barca lose again. (Author: Gardener)

PSGLiverpool kept the pressure on Manchester City at the top of the Premier League, Barcelona lost another shocker in LaLiga to jeopardize their top-four hopes a bit and Bayern Munich clinched their 10th straight Bundesliga title. Also, Paris Saint-Germain won Ligue 1 (but nobody seemed too happy about that), Inter Milan and AC Milan continued their Serie A title chase and Arsenal added to Manchester United's woes with a comprehensive win. - ESPN+ Viewer Guide: LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, FA Cup, more It's Monday and Gab Marcotti is reacting to the biggest moments in world football. Jump to: Liverpool derby joy | | The muted title of PSG | Problems for Xavi, Barcelona? | Will Gabriel leave Jesus City? | Milan remain in Serie A title race | Arsenal injured Man United | Spores run out of breath | Pulisic saves Chelsea | Dramatic victory for Inter | Joaquin's Copa joy | Napoli crumble The joke that made the rounds was that Everton had stuck to Atletico Madrid's playbook for Sunday's trip to Anfield. Line up tight defensively, get physical, try to gain every possible advantage, psychological or otherwise (relive Jordan Pickford's time waster in the first half, later brilliantly mocked by Alisson), go to the referee limits (Exhibit A: Anthony Gordon's dive, which was penalized; Exhibit B: Richarlison's fall, who should have been penalized as well) and try to outlast the competition. When you play like this, the goal is to stay in the game as long as possible and hope something breaks your way. But in a one-off game, especially a derby, it can work and in many ways it has worked for a long time. Liverpool's high-octane attack didn't even muster a single shot on target (let alone on target) for the first 20 minutes. By the time Andy Robertson scored after the hour, Liverpool's xG was 0.24. Sure, Everton accomplished little apart from Abdoulaye Doucoure's breakaway and a few gushing goals from Demarai Grey, but that didn't matter: they were in the game. The problem is that Jurgen Klopp has plenty of weapons to fall back on (not just his substitutes who came on just before the opening game, although both Divock Origi and Luis Diaz played big roles) and an experienced, battle-hardened squad. Everton turned it into a battle of nerves and Liverpool were more than up to the task. Maybe their 81% possession brought only two goals, that's all they needed. And while I think Joel Matip was happy not to concede a penalty against Gordon - the sort of incident that could have changed the game in the Simeone/Lampard approach - it was just one moment. Football games are full of them and many more have paved the way for Liverpool. - Ogden: Liverpool win shows golf on Merseyside - Klopp hails Origi as Liverpool's 'best finisher' - Report: Liverpool 2, Everton 0 With Manchester City beating Watford 24 hours earlier, the win wasn't a given. The way Everton played made it even tougher. But Liverpool were up to the task. And it's the kind of day that can give you more confidence than an outright win. Managing Bayern Munich means grappling with – and being constantly challenged by – the Statlers and Waldorfs in the upper tiers of Säbener Strasse, the club's headquarters. Taking over Bayern when Julian Nagelsmann did, following the sudden departure of Hansi Flick, with the club tackling financial problems and losing David Alaba to Real Madrid, makes it all the more difficult. Add to that the fact that the guy is 34 years old, has never faced serious scrutiny (let's face it, Hoffenheim and Leipzig are what they are) and it's never easy taking on a team filled with veterans who were there and did that and, well... - Highlights: Bayern lift Bundesliga by beating - Week in review: Brilliant Bayern, Liverpool shake up rivals - Rae: Biggest off-season questions for Bayern, Dortmund While critics her early DFB After the humiliation against Villarreal, Bayern are on course to finish with the highest number of points since 2018 and the second-highest goal tally of all time. His back three is not (yet) convincing, but the tactical side will come; Meanwhile, he showed the personality and grip to handle the dressing room and avoid controversy even when the going got tough. Nagelsmann is the way forward and Bayern willy-nilly believe it too: hence the massive fee to get him out of his Leipzig contract as well as this five-year deal. (Even Pep Guardiola only got three years.) Critics may downplay his performance, citing the huge talent (and budget) gap between Bayern and the rest of the league. Good, but he didn't challenge the Bundesliga as much and others in his role seemed less convincing than he did. The test now, of course, is next season's Champions League. Saturday's 3-1 win over Borussia Dortmund underlines what we already know about both teams. Motivated by the big stage, Dortmund started brilliantly but it took a Serge Gnabry strike and a monumental blunder from Dan-Axel Zagadou to send them back down their hole. They came out again in the second half, cut the lead to 2-1, probably should have had a penalty (for Benjamin Pavard's foul on Jude Bellingham) and then conceded again, with a worse defence. I've already said it: Borussia Dortmund is a basket case and summer can't come soon enough. Robert Lewandowski's future is in the stars: his contract expires in June 2023. Some positions (right-back) have not been properly filled for years, key roles still lack depth. But Nagelsmann can now confidently bring them forward. The 1-1 draw with Lens confirmed mathematically what we had already predicted: Paris Saint-Germain become French champions for the tenth time. They're still mad at the players and the club and prefer to party alone, away from the stadium. As a result, there was no lap of honor; on a half-empty ground it wouldn't have made sense. Equally odd was the fact that Lionel Messi's jewel of a goal was only his fourth in Ligue 1 this year. The last time he scored fewer league goals in a season was in 2004/05, when he was 17 and came on for a total of 82 minutes in just seven games. He's 34 now and sure, time flies for everyone. But he only won the Ballon d'Or a few months ago, which makes that level of production (or lack thereof) all the more inexplicable. In other words, it's been a twilight zone season for PSG. A lot will change (or should change). ) in the very near future, and the muted celebrations only reflected that. Barcelona coach Xavi rightly points out that there is no common thread to his side's three straight home defeats (Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League, Cadiz and now Rayo LaLiga) On Sunday, Barcelona conceded early and didn't play particularly well, but worked through still had enough chances that would have resulted in victory on another day and beat Real Sociedad away in a good game. That's football, that's the way it works. They're still six points clear of fifth place, although the game against Real Betis in Seville on May 1 is a classic match that you can't lose if you want to avoid one bumpy end of the season. How much worse is this team without your t Pedri's creativity and Gerard Pique's leadership? Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's return of goal speaks for itself, but is he the type of center forward Xavi needs, especially in situations where creativity and connection play are called for? At the same time, this is what you call a "teachable moment" for him. I have no problem with managers making unorthodox decisions — like replacing Frenkie De Jong with Nico or waiting to send Memphis Depay — but if they don't work, there must be a learning curve that comes with it. Xavi is a bright guy who knows this club inside out and where he needs to grow. He's had ups and downs at Barca but never as a man in charge. He had scarcely six months into the prime; he will grow into the role. Looking ahead to the Champions League and Real Madrid's visit this Tuesday, Pep Guardiola mixed things up a bit in Manchester City's 5-1 win over Watford, leaving them a point ahead of Liverpool at the top of the Premier League. We've seen a partnership between Rodri and Fernandinho in midfield and we've seen Gabriel Jesus start in La Liga for just the second time since the New Year. He made the best of it, too, scoring four goals to bring his season total to 11. He's an interesting case - one of those footballers who were thought of when he arrived and are seen very differently now. He was just 19 when he arrived from Palmeiras for around $37m (plus bonuses) and some saw him as Sergio Aguero's heir: a tricky centre-forward who ends with a dead eye. - Dawson: Jesus sends Guardiola message on Man City win - Jesus: "No time" to talk about City's future - Ogden: No more excuses for City, Guardiola in Champions League It didn't work out that way. Not only did he fail to topple Aguero even when the Argentine was hampered by injuries, but Guardiola often opted for an attacking midfielder in the centre-forward, edging out Jesus to play on the flank. His minutes started to drop, as did his goals, which is inevitable when you're further from the box. (According to StatsBomb, his non-penalty goals per 90 increased from 0.77 when he first arrived to 0.37 last year and 0.33 this season.) His contract expires in June 2023, and Guardiola Heaps praise on him for his humility and pace of work , clubs tend to lock up people they want to keep. Would he be a center forward with a more traditional coach? Or is its future now more solid as a broad pioneer? Sometimes an overtime winner is a quirk of chance, a random accident. After a sluggish first half, Milan dominated after the break and clinched the three points against Lazio, putting them back at the top of the Serie A table. Manager Stefano Pioli couldn't resist a zoological analogy after the final whistle, likening his team to a pride of lions. “The lion is not the smartest animal on the savannah; that would be the chimpanzee, he is more intelligent. The lion isn't the largest animal on the savanna either; that would be the elephant. The lion is also not the fastest animal on the savannah; that would be the cheetah. A lion gets hungry, he has to eat every day.” I'm not sure the analogy works, Stefano, but who cares? That second-half performance earned you the right to say what you want. After the away win at Stamford Bridge, Arsenal picked up another three points at home against Manchester United, putting them two points ahead of Tottenham in the contention for fourth place. What you saw in the first half was one side that were ambitious and hungry to achieve something and another that felt like they were counting down the days until the end of the season. But before we get carried away, the games last 90 minutes and the second half honestly told a different story: United looked sharper and let Bruno Fernandes convert his penalty (instead of competing with Jorginho for the worst-taken penalty of the weekend). maybe we're telling a different story now. But the breaks fell to Arsenal (not just Fernandes' penalty but Granit Xhaka's long-range screamer) and just like they did at Stamford Bridge, they exploited them skillfully. - Olley: Arsenal's savage victory over more than the top four - Scholes: Man United 'a disaster' There was little to celebrate at United apart from Cristiano Ronaldo's 100th Premier League goal and a few moments in the second half. There was a reaction in the second half but it soon turned sloppy and how Fernandes was not sent off (for the second game in a row) remains a mystery. A shot on goal, 1.22 xG and a point tell their own story when it comes to Tottenham's last 180 minutes in the Premier League against Brighton and Brentford. (If you really want to take a close look at them, their 4-0 win over Aston Villa, the game before these two, was one in which the score didn't reflect the result.) In fact, the 0-0 draw against Brentford would have ended in a defeat like that at Brighton if Ivan Toney's aim had been marginally better. Spurs are now fifth, two points behind Arsenal with five games to play. And while they have a better goal difference, there's no question who has the momentum (and it's not Spurs). There was irony in the fact that Brentford's biggest threats came from Christian Eriksen - the very same Eriksen who joined Conte at Inter Milan just over two years ago as the 'last piece in the puzzle' and ended up being used sparingly by the Brentfords Italian manager. Chelsea's 1-0 win over West Ham practically guarantees them Champions League football next season and that's crucial (also in terms of selling the club). Break the game down into its component parts - Chelsea's xG was close to 3 - and this might have felt like a run-of-the-mill win against opponents with their eyes set on the upcoming Europa League semi-finals. Chelsea played virtually nothing in the first hour, forcing Thomas Tuchel in a treble with 15 minutes to go, replacing Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz with Christian Pulisic, Romelu Lukaku and Hakim Ziyech. It felt like a line change in hockey, but at least it roused Chelsea from its slumber. Lukaku, looking good in the short amount of time he had, won a penalty which Jorginho (another obviously still in slumberland) tamely rolled onto the goalkeeper. But it was left to Pulisic, well prepared by Marcos Alonso and Mason Mount, to score the winner in added time. Mission accomplished and confirmation for Thomas Tuchel that his work for next season starts now (if it hasn't already). Inter put on a performance against Roma that makes you think momentum is really a thing. It's not so much the 3-1 win - leaving Milan two points down after Sunday night's win - but with a game in hand - it's the way it came about. Roma also played their part - they were passive and the three-point defense doesn't seem right for a side that are all too often under-inflicted in midfield - but there's no question Inter are flying with five straight wins at the moment. When they click, they click like few other teams in Europe. Manuel Pellegrini's Real Betis needed penalties to make the most of a lively Valencia (is there any other way under Javier Bordalas?) but it was a deserved victory considering they hit the woodwork twice in the process. The man of the moment was inevitably Betis winger Joaquin, who won the Copa del Rey 17 years ago and won it again on Saturday after converting his penalty in a shoot-out. - Highlights: Real Betis beat Valencia on penalties to win the Copa del Rey (U). Perhaps that's why, at 40, he's still entering his 23rd season in top-flight football. These days his minutes have dropped and for the first time in his career he has yet to score a league goal this season. After 880 club games (and 51 for Spain), if Joaquin wants to call it quits, he more than deserves his rest. But that's part of you hoping he comes back next season... With 10 minutes to go Napoli were 2-0 up at Empoli and went on. They were third in the Serie A title race but poised to take advantage if either Milan or Inter stumbled. Yes, they had screwed up a number of games at home – teams who lose five at home don't usually win trophies – but that was on the way. Napoli were still reeling when Pinamonti (who happens to be on loan from Inter) scored 3-2, all in seven horrendous minutes, Napoli only holding the record in the title race but it's clearly over It's not over - and won't be over for a while - is the psychological trauma of a season in which the Serie A title was theirs.

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The Liverpool star was the only player who 'did something really bad' in the derby.

Forget Richarlison, Sadio Mane was the only player in the Liverpool v Everton game "who did something really bad"... (Author: Gardener)

LiverpoolForget Richarlison, Sadio Mane was the only player in the Liverpool v Everton game "who did something really bad"... I'm an Everton fan, tough as it is right now. It's looking pretty bleak for us but if we go down I won't feel sad, this is the result of years of absolute mismanagement over the last few years and we will deserve whatever we get. Having said that, I'm surprised at how much hypocritical crap I've read from Liverpool fans since yesterday's game, although I know they're going to really enjoy it and many of the more sane ones will just carry on blowing the wind like we would if it did would be vice versa. I can't say I want my team to play like this all the time, but we're at a point now where there is a need. Let's face it, Liverpool are a far better football team than Everton at the moment. I think every other team in the league has been better than Everton in the last 6 months. I've seen comments from 'Norwich, Burnley and Newcastle all came and played better football'. Maybe they did, but they lost (I guess I haven't really checked) so wouldn't you try something else? You sound a lot like Arsene Wenger at the moment, moaning that anyone wouldn't just let Arsenal play triangles around them. There was plenty of commentary on diving, something Liverpool would never do (err, Suarez, Gerrard, Salah - it's almost like every team has their share). I'm not going to defend Richarlison, he's been doing it since he joined the club and I keep wishing he wouldn't. Gordon is also going under very easily now, which has crept in over the past few months. However, my personal view was that his booking wasn't a pin, but it wasn't a big dive either. I read the comments section under 16 Conclusions and there was someone who got quite aggressively angry with the author for having the audacity to suggest Everton looked more menacing in the opening hour. Of course we all have our own biases but to be honest Liverpool hardly created a chance up until the goal. Everton had the best chance of the first half through Doucoure (just because he didn't put it on target doesn't mean it wasn't a good chance) and in the first 15 minutes of the second half Gordon scared their left cross, TAA had to slamming him down once, he came through and dragged his shot once and then of course there's the penalty call. It's a pencil in my eyes (and surprisingly, even Carragher agreed, which tells you something). And if it had been a pen, I think Matip should have walked too. The other thing that surprised me was Liverpool fans moaning about the referee. Yes it was a waste of time but in the first half alone TAA should have been booked for that early push on Gordon (the guy who does the Guardian liveblog says it could have been a red but I think it is a bit much), Jota elbowed Coleman, and then Mane could easily have been sent off for getting quite handy with some faces. If TAA had booked that early I would have been interested in how he would have done the rest of the game when Gordon had him on toast. RIcharlison could of course have left in the end, but apart from that it was a very normal red derby referee. If we can play with that kind of desire for the rest of the games etc, the problem is that we've already shown that we probably won't, but we hope. If we go down I think we could easily do a Sunderland. Last but not least, the comments section is a pretty gross place to be in general. There are some massive trolls on all sides, but please, can the rest of us try to be polite. I would like to know if the 4 or 5 emails this morning about hoping we go down are from Liverpool fans. I guess so and I want to apologize on behalf of EFC for not coming to Anfield and playing expansive attacking football. It was terribly rude of us to try to disrupt your normal play patterns, which is what we were thinking! Regarding yesterday's game, I have no problem passing the ball and getting 10 men behind the ball. Also the waste of time and general handling of Liverpool players and fans doesn't bother me that much (especially given the reply in the mails). I have a problem faking injuries and diving and wish it was less yesterday, it's a fine line between giving up and getting angry and just cheating. Not that Everton have done it any differently than countless other clubs in that regard, I put it on par with the cynical and tactical fouling practiced by some of the best clubs in the world. Judging by some reactions from Liverpool fans, one would think that Everton took the act of skill to new heights and employed some of the worst tactics football has ever seen. In fact, there was only one player who did something really bad in the first half and that was Mane, who probably should have been sent off. (Richarlison probably should have been sent off in the second half). The non-punishment could cost us dearly in the end. It was a punishment (and you know it was), but you also saw that it hadn't been given in the past. You would have thought VAR would have looked at this but any Liverpool fans who were outraged by VAR's penalty decision against Man City can now sleep a little easier as it evened itself out, at Everton's expense of course. As an Everton fan, yesterday was difficult to watch simply because it appeared to be the culmination of years of financial mismanagement. Terrible decisions about the club's management, about player recruitment, about the club's direction and ethos. It's like Manchester United but with a quarter of the resources. I've been mentally preparing for the descent for the past few weeks and it's getting to the point where I can't see any other result. In the end if we go down it will be because we couldn't beat Burnley when it mattered or our absolutely terrible form away from home. Not because we lost 2-0 to one of the best football teams in the world. Clearly their incompetent manager is caught between a rock and a hard place and if the appalling anti-football, anti-sport, anti-entertainment and anti-decency tactics had worked it would be difficult for even the most ardent Liverpool supporters not accepting that the end justifies the means. Yesterday was the darkest of days for Everton. They spent the week planning all the Jose-focused Corruption tactics instead of preparing to win the game, a game they had to win. And then they get beaten and every football fan who enjoys watching football for spectacle is now praying for Everton to go under. Richarlison was embarrassing and is the worst bullshit. And Pickford kept the ball for twelve seconds and fifteen seconds twice in two minutes – when was the last time a goalkeeper was pulled up for breaking the six-second rule? Lampard made her practice every trick in the book and bet - wildly - that a side as good as Liverpool wouldn't score in 90 minutes. How many times would they have to play this game for Everton to actually get a point let alone win? Shitty tactics from a shitty manager who shouldn't be anywhere near the club. People can - and I'm sure there will be plenty of letters (without) punishment about this incident. It's debatable, but Gordon would go down like a sack of potatoes every time he made contact (José Playbook again). From the referee's point of view, who kept knocking him down, doubts were sown by a player who was caught cheating. And if you don't think he got caught cheating, then why was he holding his leg? That's the funniest thing I've seen on a soccer field in years. Mat (No Ryan, I blocked you because you can't help but troll. After the Mersey derby, many commentators, pundits and fans were quick to say that Everton take comfort in all the struggle and determination they showed can and how they can be proud of it. All teams where this "battle" would have been much more useful than a derby match against a team so far ahead of them that their results don't matter to each other. If you have this "battle" just being able to summon a derby game whilst allowing all the teams you are up against to roll over you deserve relegation I was pissed that the same effort wasn't made for both games I haven't seen Everton much but if They've played like that all season I'm not surprised you're at the relegation mark It's become a staple of Mersey derbies that they get dirty games ie aran is innocent in the past nobody verpool were just as bad. But the constant diving (Gordon) wasting time (Pickford) was a disgrace to football. Richarlison has faked an injury so many times that the one time he actually went down with an injury, we refused to throw the ball out, boy who called wolf. This is exactly why we need a rule that forces players who feign an injury off the field for 10 minutes of treatment. If you're really injured it helps, if not it deters players from faking it. Every Everton player did it, even when it came to clear jumps. But Mane went down slightly in the first half and just hopped back up, no rolling around, no holding his head, and no screaming like his leg was broken. Jose's Chelsea were masters of the dirty game and the art of the game, but they also had talent. All Everton had was skill. And I'll be glad that's gone from the Premiership for at least one team. If Everton are relegated, they are relegated. I won't feel sorry for them and I won't miss them when they play like that. Is there a fan base with an inflated claim to itself as Liverpool FC? Like in God's name, did they expect a relegated side to do anything but get men behind the ball to fight every tackle, slow the game down and try to play it with quick breaks or dead-ball situations calculating is a mystery to me. Everton can be proud of their performance for a large part of the game and had VAR done their job Liverpool would have been looking from a goal deficit. Because despite what LFC Dublin's Red Derek will have you believe, two things were clear. Gordon won the battle to get over his man (which Salah regularly does and waits for or makes contact to win a pin). I suppose my point is that Liverpool have an excellent side but ffs show a certain humility. My hope for the season is City win the league and then Liverpool lose the CL and FA Cups. I find it appalling and disgusting that Liverpool fans are angry at the shit thrown at them by Everton. If I remember correctly, just last week a Liverpool fan wrote and said something along the lines of saying if they miss the league it should be held to the referee and VAR's decision not to award a penalty to Everton after a handball by Rodri in the game against City at the Goodison. Please watch this game to see the same pricks that City had to deal with; they didn't whine about it. Giving Everton a penalty that day would have been confirmation of their negative play. It's wrong if it's done to another team. I hate when the agenda is pushed and popularized just because it affects Liverpool. I hope they lose the championship title. Liverpool 😏 Lots of hand wringing from my Liverpool fans over Everton and I respectfully think they are wrong. Everton shit incredibly well - they didn't play dangerously or try to break anyone's legs, they just did everything they could to finish the game. It was cynical and it was a crappy game to watch but it was the right thing. It would have been misconduct to field the league's worst away team against the league's best home team to play the 4-4-2 Queensbury rules. They had some excellent counterattacks, they didn't give away fouls in stupid areas, their defenders were deep enough to be able to attack the ball instead of being constantly rotated. They absolutely got under Liverpool's skin and on another day it would have worked. However, I have little understanding of the criminal claims. Yes, you saw them given, but mostly you didn't see them, and in a game where Richarlison and Gordon had already played repeatedly, I don't think a referee will ever give a softy. Richarlison If Richarlison put so much effort into diving, cheating, and wasting time, he'd be a world champion instead of being an above-average, mediocre player (IMO). Anthony Gordon seems to dive / go down easily / make contact every game I see him in. Besides kicking a soccer ball, was he trained in the dark arts? Are all young players trained and developed in this way? Not just him, but other English players too, it's just sad when the player in question is otherwise exciting to watch and has decent potential. Tom, Leeds fan at Wallend Now coming to the business end of the European season I've been wondering about different permutations and how they affect European qualification etc. I've read a bit and there are quite a few possibilities including the unprecedented scenario of England will compete in Europe next year with 9 teams. Here's how it could play out: For now, the top 7 in England will be in Europe. These are the top 4 in the Champions League, 5th place in the Europa League, 6th place for the FA Cup Europa League place (since the final is between 2 CL teams) and the Europa Conference place League from the League Cup going to 7th place. However, Leicester and West Ham could also find their way to Europe via their respective European competitions. So what happens if West Ham and Leicester finish 8th and 9th and win their European competitions? Does that affect the teams in 6th or 7th place? A team cannot be denied a place in Europe because of another team's success in Europe (there is a scenario where 4th place would earn a team a place in the Europa League instead of the CL, but that can this year not happen). However, if West Ham/or Leicester win in Europe but finish outside the top 7, there are extra spots for England. So in theory, England could have 5 teams in the Champions League, 3 in the Europa League and one in the Conference League. But what if West Ham or Leictester finish in the top 7? (unlikely for Leicster but theoretically possible) Will league places go up? These respective places are simply lost. E.g. if West Ham finish 6th and win the Europa League, England would only have one Europa League representative. If they finished 7th, England wouldn't have a team in the Conference League (oh, too bad). There is a European final result that could have a huge impact on the domestic season in England. I hadn't noticed that until now, but West Ham are playing Man City 3 days before the Europa League final. If West Ham reach the final they will almost certainly rest their entire starting XI for that game and give City an easy 3 points. If they don't reach the final, they may need 3 points to qualify for Europe next season. It's the difference between Man City having their toughest match of their remaining games and a walkthrough and it could have a major impact in the title race. I would love to see a team like West Ham win the Europa League but as a Liverpool fan it's undeniably better for them not to reach the final. Mike, LFC, London Our win at the weekend was an odd reversal of how things used to be against United. Under Wenger we were often the team to boast of how Fabregas sprayed balls into attackers to score a lonely beautiful goal while United took the points as agricultural players like John O'Shea smacked our players up and down. But on Saturday, when United played the better football, it was Arsenal who missed their chances and managed to get the rub off the green with VAR decisions. United could rightly feel hurt, but if they really want to reverse their fortunes and fire Fernandes again, they need to move Ronaldo on or hope he retires. Can you really imagine one of those United attackers having the confidence to shoot when CR7 barks at them to pass the ball to them? The current difference between Arsenal and United on Saturday was no better demonstrated by each team's star players - Saka tells you everything you need to know about where Arsenal wants to go as a club, while Ronaldo tells you everything you need to know about United were - not where they are going. Can anyone answer a real question - what was the difference between Chelsea's penalty (Dawson red card) and Arsenal's penalty (Telles yellow card)? Surely both instances, when given as penalties, thwarted a clear scoring opportunity? Dawson's red card struck me as very harsh - was it because the referee had already given a yellow card and then VAR intervened and recommended a red upgrade? If the VAR awards the penalty for the Saka/Telles incident, shouldn't the red card be recommended automatically as well? In Northern Ireland, the title race between Linfield (80 points) and Cliftonville (79 points) goes into the final day. Linfield has the easier game on paper - away from Coleraine (usually the most resilient team in the league but whose form has quickly faded). Cliftonville goes to Glentoran, but the Glens are Linfield's archrivals, which will provide plenty of fuel for conspiracy theorists in the days to come. It will be interesting to see what kind of team Glentoran has put together. Both play-offs will be played in Belfast, so no Moira roundabout or Nutts corner shenanigans are required for the Gibson Cup. I don't think this current Linfield team is good enough to win four straight titles (they remind me of a late-era Fergie Man Utd team) but if they beat Coleraine that will be the result. If Cliftonville makes it while still operating a part-time model, questions will have to be asked of the full-time teams. As for the cup final, Crusaders still don't know who their opponents will be. Ballymena United meet Newry in the second semi-final, which comes just 11 days before the final. This is because Glentoran fielded an ineligible player in their 1-0 win over Newry in the quarter-finals. It was a very embarrassing episode for the Glens and their manager Mick McDermott — at least it would be if McDermott felt ashamed. There was much goodwill towards the Glens (mainly from the media, it should be said) as their new investment helped re-establish themselves as a major force, but this sad episode coupled with McDermott's arrogance put an end to all of that. There was much rejoicing among Irish League fans as the Glens were eliminated from the title race (no wins since 'the split') and then knocked out of the cup. When the Crues beat the Glens 4-0 a few weeks ago, the Crues fans told the Glens exactly where to start their arbitration. PS: how embarrassed was Carragher (sorry, "Carra") co-commenting on the Merseyside derby?

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Man City-Real Madrid, Villarreal-Liverpool

Pep Guardiola can complete a historic hat-trick when Manchester City meet Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals. (Author: Gardener)

Man City-Real MadridManchester City's Spanish manager Pep Guardiola attends a news conference at Manchester City's training ground in Manchester, north-west England April 25, 2022, on the eve of their UEFA Champions League semi-final soccer match against Real Madrid. Manchester City and Liverpool will put their epic Premier League title race on hold for a few days as they ponder the minor matter of the Champions League semi-finals. City are hoping to do even better than last year after losing to Chelsea in the final. Standing in their way in the bottom four are Real Madrid, who eliminated the holders in the quarter-finals and have a striker in Karim Benzema who has scored 12 goals in nine Champions League games this season. Also facing LaLiga is Liverpool, although Villarreal are unlikely to be the side they were expecting at this stage of the competition. Led by a knockout football specialist in Unai Emery, Villarreal cannot be taken lightly by the Reds, even if Emery's men have historically struggled in games in England. Ahead of the first legs, Stats Perform breaks down some of the best Opta numbers from around the two semifinals. Madrid might be feeling like it's their year right now, having progressed after notable knockout ties against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea. Los Blancos have not won in any of their last three trips against Manchester City in European competition (draw two, lose one), the last two coming in the knockout stages of the Champions League - a 0-0 draw in Champions League semi-final first leg 2015/16 and 2-1 defeat in round of 16 second leg 2019/20. Pep Guardiola doesn't need extra motivation as he looks to finally end his wait for a Champions League triumph with City and the Barcelona legend can complete a historic hat-trick by overseeing a Madrid elimination. In fact, Guardiola has already eliminated Madrid twice from the Champions League knockout rounds, beating them 3-1 on aggregate in the 2010/11 semi-finals against Barcelona and 4-2 on aggregate in the 2019/20 round of 16 with City. He wants to become the first manager to eliminate Madrid from the competition three times. Madrid won the first leg away at Chelsea in the quarter-finals, their only win in their last six away games against English sides in the Champions League. Never has a team beat two different English teams away from home in the knockout rounds in a single Champions League season. However, Champions League history between the two managers rests with Madrid's Carlo Ancelotti. He and Guardiola have met six times, with the City boss claiming four wins to Ancelotti's two. However, all of Guardiola's four wins have come with City against Ancelotti's Everton, while the Italian saw his Madrid side beat Guardiola's Bayern Munich in both games of the 2013/14 Champions League semi-finals to a 5-0 aggregate win. Villarreal is arguably the 2021-22 Champions League story after sensationally beating Juventus and Bayern Munich to reach this stage. However, games in England have been a problem for the Yellow Submarine in the past. Since beating Everton 2-1 in August 2005, Villarreal have failed to win their last eight away games in England in all competitions (draw three, lose five) and suffered a defeat by Manchester United at the Old Trafford group stage earlier this season. During his managerial career, Villarreal manager Emery has played against Liverpool five times (once against Sevilla and four times against Arsenal), in those games scoring 26 goals (5.2 per game on average), with both teams scoring one goal each. Of the 12 teams that have reached the semi-finals of the European Cup/Champions League at least five times, only Benfica (seven wins out of eight) and Milan (10/12) have a higher percentage of reaching the final than Liverpool (82%) , who have managed to reach the final in nine of their eleven semi-final appearances so far. Only in 2017/18 (10) did Salah score more Champions League goals in a single season than eight this season, taking his tally for the club to 33. The Egyptian sits just three behind Didier Drogba (Chelsea) and Sergio Aguero (Man City) for most goals in the competition for an English side (both 36). The only European meeting between Emery and Liverpool was the 2016 Europa League final, in which Emery's Sevilla side defeated Klopps Reds 3-1. In addition, since the start of 2009/10, the year of the inaugural UEFA Europa League season, Emery has survived 84 per cent of his Europa League/Champions League knockout games (31/37). This is the second-best rate of any manager who has played at least 10 duels, after Zinedine Zidane (14/16 – 88%).

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Should Man United have had two pens? Plus Bruno Fernandes' red card and more in The VAR Review

We take a look at the big VAR talking points of the weekend, with Arsenal vs Man United and Liverpool vs Manchester United. (Author: Gardener)

UnitedVAR causes controversy in the Premier League every week but how are decisions made and are they right? After each weekend we take a look at the most notable incidents and examine the process both in terms of VAR protocol and the Laws of the Game. - VAR's wildest moments: Alisson's two red cards in one game What happened: Arsenal were 1-0 up in the 23rd minute when United's Jadon Sancho tried to charge into the box in front of Cedric Soares. VAR decision: No penalty. The VAR, Jarret Gillet, ruled that Cedric's arm position was justified by his body movement and therefore no penalty should be awarded. VAR recap: This is a subjective handball decision that would certainly have remained a penalty if referee Craig Pawson had pronounced it on the pitch. In fact, a handball would have resulted in a red card for Cedric for thwarting a scoring opportunity. The VAR took two important points into account when making his decision: - Not every contact between the hand/arm and the ball is a handball offence. - The referees must assess the "validity" of the hand/arm position in relation to what the player is doing in that particular situation. In fact, refereeing guidelines specifically state that this should not be considered handball. Did Cedric shovel the ball instead of just hitting his arm? It's fair to say nobody would have been too surprised if the VAR had recommended a red card here, but the Premier League's high bar means we don't always make the decision we might expect. Goal disallowed: Offside v Nketiah What happened: Arsenal were still 1-0 up when Eddie Nketiah thought he had added a second goal. As the ball went through, Bukayo Saka went down under a challenge from Alex Telles. VAR decision: First, the VAR checked the goal and Nketiah was ruled offside when the ball came from Saka. There was then a second review for Telles' challenge against Saka and a penalty was awarded. VAR recap: The first decision to disallow the goal for offside was undoubtedly correct as Nketiah was ahead of the last defender when the ball hit Saka. But the penalty decision is rather subjective. It's an area of ​​VAR that will always create perceived disagreements, as each VAR judges individual situations and takes into account what the referee says they saw. Each VAR will have their own subjective judgement, just as referees often disagree on penalty kicks. There is no doubt that Saka is on the verge of controlling the ball in this incident as Telles uses his upper body to unbalance the Arsenal forward. But would that have resulted in a VAR penalty if Nketiah's shot had been saved by David de Gea? In fact, referee Pawson had already ruled the challenge a penalty but allowed play to run for Nketiah to score. But once Nketiah has scored, the goal cannot be awarded for offside. Pawson and the VAR had yet to go through the VAR log to review the incident on the monitor, although the referee already believed it was a penalty. With that penalty handed down, United fans will have questions about two challenges to Tavares' Anthony Elanga. On these, Gillet decided it was not a clear and obvious error by the referee. Telles' challenge against Saka was certainly more powerful and there was no attempt to play the ball, but many will feel that there wasn't much of a difference in Nuno Tavares' challenges against Elanga. There is no doubt that if referee Pawson had awarded a penalty in one of these situations, VAR Gillet would not have advised the referee that he would have made a mistake. What happened: Cristiano Ronaldo thought he had made it 2-2, but after his goal the flag was flagged for offside. VAR decision: The VAR upheld the linesman's decision, with Ronaldo seen as just ahead of Arsenal's last defender, Ben White. VAR recap: Earlier in the season there was a change in the way VAR offsides are managed across all major leagues and in UEFA competitions to eliminate toenail offsides. What that actually means has been slightly misunderstood, because although the really tight decisions have now been removed, you'll still get marginal offsides. There will always be a point at which a player is 0.1 cm offside, wherever the "when in doubt" tolerance limit ends. Offside is when the blue defensive line and the red offensive line do not touch. In Ronaldo's case, it's one of the closest decisions of its kind we've seen, but the lines don't touch so the only decision can be offside. It is similar to Brighton's disallowed goal in the 78th minute against Southampton as Pascal Gross was shown to be just ahead of the last defender. What happened: Granit Xhaka scored Arsenal's third goal in the 70th minute by firing home from long-range. Nketiah appeared to be offside in De Gea's field of view when the shot rang out. VAR decision: The goal was allowed to stand as Nketiah had no significant impact on the goal due to the distance the ball had traveled and the Arsenal striker being nowhere near the keeper. VAR recap: Subjective offside, particularly when a player is in the goalkeeper's line of sight, has been a big topic of conversation this season. What has been made clear is that the VAR will only be involved in such decisions when he believes there has been a clear offense and this is largely left to the on-field officials. When goals were disallowed because of disputed subjective offside decisions, for example both Leicester's goals at Brighton earlier in the season, the decision was made on the pitch. Since the decisions were not subjectively wrong, the VAR did not interfere. We've seen several examples similar to Nketiah's offside situation and in each case the VAR hasn't recommended a rollover due to the distance the ball has travelled, meaning the goalkeeper has time to react. Had the assistant disallowed that goal, it would not have been allowed by VAR. What happened: In the 76th minute, when Arsenal were 3-1 up, Bruno Fernandes caught Tavares with a late tackle. Referee Pawson, who could clearly see the challenge, gave the Portugal international a yellow card. VAR decision: No red card. The VAR ruled that a yellow card was justifiable and should not be upgraded. VAR Review: That depends on how VAR is used in the Premier League and the high threshold for intervention. Most would say this should have been a red card for Fernandes. Fernandes has previously championed this type of challenge, including catching Xhaka after the ball went in January 2021's encounter between those teams. The VAR will try to judge whether the referee's decision to show a yellow card is wrong or not. Because of this, showing a yellow card would not be a clear and obvious mistake. That means the Premier League 'high bar' makes it harder for the VAR to recommend a red card, but you would expect that to be a red card in every other top flight and in UEFA competitions. What happened: Players from both sides exchanged heated blows after Richarlison was out for a long time and the ball stayed in play. VAR decision: Neither incident was worth a red card, so the VAR, Darren England, advised referee Stuart Attwell not to go to the monitor. VAR Review: This covers how referees now judge players who raise their hand and the limitations of the VAR protocol. It used to be considered a red card offense if a player raised their hands to another player's face, but that has changed. If this is not available, only a yellow card is shown. In the case of Mane, the on-pitch refereeing team saw the Liverpool striker raise his hands once and he was booked for it. Very simple, it would just be a yellow card and VAR cannot intervene. Only direct red cards can be recommended by the VAR, not second yellow leading to red. Referee Attwell waved away calls for a penalty. VAR Ruling: Reviewed for a possible penalty but ruled not a clear and obvious error by the referee. VAR recap: Many people might think this should have been a penalty for Everton and there's no doubt it wouldn't have been overturned had Attwell pointed to the spot. Which of course brings us back to the high threshold in the Premier League. We've seen many incidents like this throughout the season and it's not too dissimilar to the first incident between Elanga and Tavares in Arsenal vs. There is no definitive evidence in the replays of a clear foul by Matip, even with his arm on his shoulder, which is why the VAR advised against a pitchside check for a penalty. It seems consistent with other such VAR decisions. What happened: In the first minute of stoppage time, there was a fight on the touchline and Richarlison rammed his leg into Jordan Henderson's. VAR decision: As referee Attwell had shown a yellow card, this, like other decisions, was not ruled wrong. VAR recap: The key factor is Richarlison didn't withdraw his leg and connected to Henderson, using force as part of the challenge. While he did prevail on Henderson's leg, it was understood it didn't have the intensity needed to justify a VAR red card - although it wouldn't have been downgraded had Attwell sent the player off the field. What happened: Chelsea were awarded a penalty in the 85th minute after Romelu Lukaku was dragged back into the box. Referee Michael Oliver showed Craig Dawson a yellow card. VAR Decision: The VAR, Paul Tierney, informed Oliver that Dawson had denied Lukaku a clear scoring chance and advised him to upgrade the yellow card to red. Triple jeopardy, where a player is cautioned inside the penalty area solely for thwarting a clear scoring opportunity, does not apply when the offense is drawing. VAR recap: Was it a clear and obvious mistake by Oliver to only receive a yellow card in the incident? It's hard to say that was the case when you factor in other incidents that we've discussed under this banner and the Premier League high bar for intervention. It's arguable that Lukaku was denied a clear scoring chance, but it's also arguable that goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski would have gotten the ball before the Chelsea striker. It's a hard red card for VAR and reminds us again that VAR's subjectivity is key. On another day with a different VAR this would not have been recommended as a red card. That doesn't mean the red card is wrong, just that VAR probably didn't need to be turned on.

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Who is the best of Liverpool, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Villarreal?

Our writers agreed on who was number 1 (Author: Gardener)

LiverpoolWith just four teams remaining in the UEFA Champions League, the action returns with the semi-finals on CBS and Paramount+ on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Tuesday, Manchester City host Real Madrid while Liverpool host Villarreal at Anfield. A total of 44 players will be called up to the starting line-up, with several coming on each, but before kick-off let's examine and dissect the top 50 players remaining in the competition. Our football team voted for our top 50 and collected the grand totals so please leave our official compiled list below. That's how things ended in terms of representatives per team: Pino, one of Spain's best young players, has already been capped for the Spain national team and has an insanely bright future ahead of him if he stays healthy. The Las Palmas native started out for the Yellow Submarine, scoring seven goals last season and tying the same this season. He has technical ability, pace and plays smart beyond his years. While starting against Liverpool might be a bit much to ask, don't be shocked if he comes off the bench and produces. Foyth is possibly the most active defender in the Champions League, having won the second-most tackles at 37 despite only playing in just eight games. Foyth doesn't shy away from a challenge and his bravery embodies the way Villarreal play. His career could have taken a few different paths after leaving Tottenham, so the drive to make it to the Champions League semi-finals is impressive. The Liverpool skipper. He won't wow you with incredible skill but he's consistent, works hard and is a reference point down the middle for the Reds. He does a little bit of everything, keeps his teammates engaged and is a fan favorite. He has the ability to deliver some excellent passes, although they're usually trumped by his teammates' incredible passing ability. But he will have to play a crucial role if Liverpool want to win everything. It's been an exciting season for the former Real Madrid centre-back who is now a key player in Unai Emery's system. He's been able to contain incredible forwards like Juventus' Dušan Vlahović and Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski in recent games. His partnership with fellow centre-back Pau Torres is one of the secrets that will see Villarreal reach the Champions League semi-finals. Who knows how deep they will get in this tournament. Overshadowed by Konaté's goal, Matip was always there when Jürgen Klopp needed it. Matip's name doesn't often come up when he plays but that's the goal for a centre-back as he doesn't need to make flashy tackles when he's already in a good starting position. Not as established for Liverpool in the middle as Fabinho, Thiago Alcantara or Jordan Henderson, the Guinea international is still a hugely talented midfielder and able to step in when Jurgen Klopp needs him. Perhaps he lacks the consistency that could allow him to face the likes of Henderson on a more regular basis soon, but he has the ability and he's still only 27 years old. The Frenchman is now well established in front of the aging Marcelo on the left side of Real's defence, well up front and has also shown his skill from long-range at times. Not the most defensive full-back, but very few are left these days and it suits Carlo Ancelotti's men to have such an enterprising presence on that flank. The Argentine goalkeeper was once thought to be the next great goalkeeper from South America but injuries derailed the former Estudiantes player's career. But he rediscovered his form and brought glory to his team, winning the Europa League with his great performance against Manchester United last year. To do it again will take something extraordinary as Liverpool will get their chances. He's good enough to help his side push the Reds to the edge. Stones isn't always part of the central first-choice pairing for Pep Guardiola, but ready when called upon. It's a tough job when Manchester City have long possession, but Stones is just as comfortable on the ball as he is off it. Stones executes 95 percent of his passes and jumps attacks while also protecting Ederson. The Argentine schemer has been at PSG, Real Betis, Tottenham Hotspur and now Villarreal for some time. He's still only 26 years old but hopefully he'll find a home at El Submarino Amarillo like Juan Roman Riquelme did with the 2006 vintage. Despite these ups and downs, however, Lo Celso has offered glimpses of his quality, such as his role in Spain's crucial goal away at Bayern Munich to get here. It wasn't as bad as some would suggest, but it would be fair to say Grealish hasn't lived up to the hype that comes with a £100m transfer fee. The England international, stationed on the left touchline, wasn't the same goalscorer and creator he was in an Aston Villa shirt and appears to have dropped a spot in Pep Guardiola's top XI in recent weeks. He can't win it back until the season is over. The Brazilian striker has already scored three goals in eight Champions League games, including the decisive one against Chelsea in the quarter-final second leg, after the English side had previously scored three goals and sent the game into extra time. Carlo Ancelotti likes to play him, especially in the second half when he needs something different that can change the end result of the game. And that's working fine at the moment. The Spanish forward is one of the most valuable players in the Villarreal squad with two goals scored. His second ended up in the clutch when he sparked a 3-0 win over Juventus for Unai Emery's side at the Allianz Stadium, effectively eliminating the Bianconeri in a historic away win for the Yellow Submarine. He also provided the crucial assist for Samuel Chukwueze, who secured an unexpected semi-final qualification after a draw against Bayern Munich. Author of four goals over the weekend against Watford, it's very likely these will be the last few weeks in the sky blue for Gabriel Jesus. The Brazilian winger is expected to leave Manchester City in the summer after talks about a new deal recently stalled. The club are targeting Erling Haaland to fill the massive gap in the forward. In his six Champions League games this season, Jesus has scored three goals - all in the group stage. He may have lost the argument with Diogo Jota over who starts alongside Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane (and Luis Diaz also looks set to skip him in the pecking order), but if Firmino gets his chance he'll let Jurgen Klopp do it not regret. His underappreciated header skills came into their own as he scored the most significant goal of Liverpool's Champions League season to date, heading the opener in a hard-fought Round of 16 first-leg win over Inter Milan. Gündoğan never seemed quite comfortable in the spotlight last season as City's goals clinched the title. This season, he's still making those late runs into the box and combining them with the stabilizing build-up work and solid possession. The Uruguayan midfielder can do it all and is one of the most versatile players left. A box-to-box threat with an improving attacking quality, he may not have made much noise this season, but don't count him against Manchester City. It's needed to shake up the City attackers a bit to slow the pace. Strong in the air Militão has protected the heart of Real Madrid's defense as they came under repeated attacks. He's also sufficiently aware of his movement to deflect oncoming attacks with a timely interception to lead the team. Militão is a good all-around centre-back and offers enough threat not to be a burden with the ball at his feet. En route to the semi-finals we saw the best and worst of the 22-year-old Frenchman with three goals from four games, including one home and one away against Benfica, but also naïve defensive mistakes that he needs to address in time. Far from being the finished article but his current profile is already impressive and fits Liverpool's needs well. The German veteran might not be in the role he once had and you might get bored with so many of his short, square passes, but he carries a lot of responsibility in Real Madrid's midfield. His ability to quickly play left or right, the opposite of where he got the ball, is tremendous. It allows for quick movement into space and potentially knocking defenses out of position. Chronically underestimated by those who don't work with him for club and country, Walker is not a player Guardiola would want to be without in big games. If you need proof, just look at the City boss' ballistic reaction to a stupid red card that saw him miss three Champions League games; Guardiola could still harbor a grudge over this. Walker's pace and composure are key to making sure City's highline doesn't get punctured in the back by runners. The peanut butter to Danjuma's jelly, Parejo makes Villarreal tick. 19 goal chances, although the team generally plays without the ball, show how good the overview of the noble Spaniard is on the pitch. With over 400 La Liga appearances, there's not much Parejo hasn't seen in his career and he's using that experience to lead the Yellow Submarine into battle - Chuck Booth It's been a strange few years for Sterling, not quite the 20+ year old top scorer and first name on Pep Guardiola's team sheet that he was a few years ago. Indeed, he seems as plausible a candidate as anyone to make way for Erling Haaland's arrival. And yet the England international has been scoring more than a goal in every other game this season and is an increasingly trusted starter as the season reaches its crucial stage. He will certainly play a role. Alaba came as a free agent from FC Bayern Munich and immediately became the most important defender alongside Carlo Ancelotti. It wasn't easy at all to replace Sergio Ramos as the leader of the back line, but he's done well in La Liga and the Champions League. He is chasing his third UCL title which would effectively put Real 14th. Although he doesn't receive as many accolades as teammate Alexander-Arnold, Robertson is in the midst of one of the best seasons of his career. Robertson is one of the most complete left-backs in the world, capturing wingers coming up against him while delivering dangerous crosses from corners and open play. Since joining Liverpool from Porto in January, Díaz has scored four times this season, with no goal more important than that against Benfica that sent Liverpool through to the semi-finals. He also provided an acrobatic assist in the derby against Everton at the weekend to keep Premier League hopes afloat. Jurgen Klopp is playing him more and more because he proves he deserves to be a starter of this team. The Brazilian defensive midfielder is something else. Not only can he frustrate the living of you, but he's also a bit underrated for what he has to offer going forward. Real managed to get past PSG despite missing the second leg through suspension but will need to show his game to slow down Kevin de Bruyne. The poacher of the 1990s is reborn in this relatively small center forward. Once a tricky winger, Jota is now a master at predicting where in the box the ball will land and positioning himself to convert. He may yet have to light up the Champions League and has only scored in three of his 17 games so far, but his consistent returns in domestic games suggest it's only a matter of time. Electrifying and occasionally terrifying (who else would try to dodge a tackle down their own goal-line) with the ball, Ederson's wide passing range is vital in helping Manchester City prevail against opposition. On rare occasions he is asked to be a goalkeeper as he is reliability personified. For the third time in the last four seasons, he is on track to keep a clean sheet in more than half of his Premier League games. Not always a guaranteed starter at Etihad Stadium, the French-born Spain international has brought consistency and maturity to his game to carve his place in Pep Guardiola's preferred starting XI alongside Ruben Dias and largely at the expense of John Stones. He is City's most prolific defender and a useful goalscorer as well as a loyal defender. Defensive midfielders tend to take a backseat to some viewers, but not Rodri. He's a master at directing traffic to good positions for his centre-backs, caring for dangerous attacks and pinging passes in the park when teams give him room to operate. Rodri, such an intelligent midfielder, is crucial in making Pep Guardiola's attack work and keeping the game going consistently. In a team that chooses in attack like Villarreal, strikers can find it difficult to score from limited opportunities. But that didn't hurt Danjuma as his six goals accounted for a third of Villarreal's total goals during the Champions League game. Always there at critical moments to score a crucial goal, the star striker has played a key role in the Yellow Submarine's dream run to the UCL semi-finals. Although the Portuguese isn't in the same hot form we saw from him earlier in the season, he's returned to a goal-scoring move of late that could prove timely for Pep Guardiola. The 27-year-old often proves deadly alongside the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez and is already scoring double figures in all competitions this season. As he was for the daring Monaco side a few years ago, Fabinho has established himself as an underrated player for Liverpool and a fixture in Jurgen Klopp's midfield. The versatile and consistent 28-year-old is one of the first names on the squad list and occasionally contributes useful goals. If Thiago Alcantara begins to flourish at Anfield, it's definitely partly due to this Brazilian's stabilizing influence in the middle of the park. Quite simply, Pau Torres is a star. The 25-year-old Spain international is improving year after year and always seems to be in the right place at the right time. He rarely makes a noticeable mistake, he's good on the ground and in the air and he has a knack for delivering in the biggest moments. Although he doesn't top the Champions League goalscoring charts overall, the Algerian international is City's most successful figure of the season with six goals so far. Spurred on by the failure of the Africa Cup of Nations, the 31-year-old is a constant threat in attack, scoring three goals in four against PSG to reach the final final. One of the top five young players in the world, Foden is the future in attack at Manchester City. He has incredible pace, excellent technical ability and knows how to deliver in the biggest moments. So often with young superstar talent they want to overdo it and force it. But he's just as happy with an assist as he is with a goal, and that's quite indicative of his desire to see the team thrive beyond personal accomplishments. The Brazilian goalkeeper is part of the heart and soul of that prosperous Liverpool era and his lengthy absences in recent years have only added to his value to this squad. He is definitely in the top three talks for the best goalkeeper among European clubs and with 10 Champions League games to date he has conceded three goals for Liverpool. Defending in 2022 isn't supposed to be as easy as Van Dijk makes it seem. The ACL injury that ruined his and Liverpool's season hasn't slowed him down on his return. Now that he's back, Jurgen Klopp's side have risen again from top-four contenders to perhaps the best team in the world. Alcântara has overcome a slow start to his Liverpool experience and has become one of the team's regulars. This season in particular, he's proving the importance of his role in the side with one of the most skillful goals you'll ever see in the Champions League against Porto, as his wicked low shot found its way past Diogo Costa to set the tone for the Reds in a tricky group stage with AC Milan and Atletico Madrid. The former Bayern Munich player is now fully part of Jurgen Klopp's blueprint and his performances will be fundamental to a positive end to the season. The spark plug for Los Blancos, Vini Jr. is a threat for the team at both ends of the field. The connection between Vini and Benzema is one of the main reasons Real Madrid have made it this far in the competition, but his energy is second to none. Teams have defenders keen to cover him and that hasn't stopped Vini Jr. from creating the most chances and collecting the most assists in Champions League play. As a forward who doesn't shy away from his defensive responsibilities, he did a great job turning defense into offense. Real Madrid's defense hasn't been at its best this season, so Courtois has a lot to do at the net and he's risen to the occasion and then some. Courtois has the highest save rate of any goalkeeper to have played more than one game in the competition and has prevented 2.78 goals for Los Blancos to keep their Champions League hopes alive. Cancelo is a player like no other out there and it's all thanks to the coaching of Pep Guardiola, who has used the Portugal international as his Swiss Army knife. He terrorizes you left or right and sometimes as a pseudo winger for Manchester City's tactical system. Even though he plays defensively, he can be considered an offensive player in many parts of the game. What a year 2022 has been for the Senegalese superstar so far. Africa Cup of Nations success was followed by World Cup qualification, while a hot run in front of goal has now taken him to five goals from his last six appearances. Despite Mo Salah leading Liverpool to goals this season, the 30-year-old remains an equally important component in Jurgen Klopp's attack. For many, he is the best central defender in the world. He has the size and strength, but it's that composure that sets him apart. He's so cool and calm on the ball, his positioning is second to none and he's the bedrock of Man City's defence. The team's defense used to be lacking, but with the ex-Benfica man at the helm, they could win anything. For all the world-class talent on this list, there's no one who challenges the sport's prejudices about what a player should do in their position quite like Trent Alexander-Arnold. He's a better defender than he's given credit for, but he shines as a devastating creator. Leading the continent in expected assists by a sizable margin in Europe's top five leagues and continental competitions, his arsenal of crosses, through balls and runs to the touchline is a challenge few opponents can match. Modrić, the heart of Real Madrid's midfield, continues to age like fine wine. His assist for Benzema in Real's comeback win over Chelsea was one of the best passes in the Champions League this season. His vision is second to none. When it comes to picking teammates, few do it better than Modrić, as evidenced by his 14 chances created so far in the tournament. At the start of this season, De Bruyne looked set to enter his post-prime phase, with injuries becoming more common for the Belgian while Bernardo appeared to be enjoying his primary duties as playmaker. But in recent weeks he's peaked again, wreaking havoc on the biggest occasions and showing new creases in his game as a more progressive, ball-carrying creator. It's another way he can beat teams. This could be one of Salah's best Champions League campaigns as he has scored eight goals in 10 games so far at a rate of 0.98 goals per 90. In his 2017/18 season he scored 10 goals in 13 games ( and four assists), which equates to a rate of 0.97 goals per 90. He is marching towards a second UCL crown but his future with the Reds seems a bit bleak considering his current deal expires in the summer of 2023 and negotiations for an extension have so far been unsuccessful. At the absolute peak of his powers, the France international is arguably the top contender for the next Ballon d'Or in his current form. Back-to-back hat-tricks against PSG and then Chelsea have helped put him within one of Robert Lewandowski's 13 goals, which he is unable to add to this season, giving the Real Madrid man a keen eye on becoming top scorer in this edition . Los Blancos' hopes of a record-breaking 14th Champions League title rest heavily on the 34-year-old's shoulders.

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Who is the best of Liverpool, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Villarreal?

Our writers agreed on who was number 1 (Author: Gardener)

LiverpoolWith just four teams remaining in the UEFA Champions League, the action returns with the semi-finals on CBS and Paramount+ on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Tuesday, Manchester City host Real Madrid while Liverpool host Villarreal at Anfield. A total of 44 players will be called up to the starting line-up, with several coming on each, but before kick-off let's examine and dissect the top 50 players remaining in the competition. Our football team voted for our top 50 and collected the grand totals so please leave our official compiled list below. That's how things ended in terms of representatives per team: Pino, one of Spain's best young players, has already been capped for the Spain national team and has an insanely bright future ahead of him if he stays healthy. The Las Palmas native started out for the Yellow Submarine, scoring seven goals last season and tying the same this season. He has technical ability, pace and plays smart beyond his years. While starting against Liverpool might be a bit much to ask, don't be shocked if he comes off the bench and produces. Foyth is possibly the most active defender in the Champions League, having won the second-most tackles at 37 despite only playing in just eight games. Foyth doesn't shy away from a challenge and his bravery embodies the way Villarreal play. His career could have taken a few different paths after leaving Tottenham, so the drive to make it to the Champions League semi-finals is impressive. The Liverpool skipper. He won't wow you with incredible skill but he's consistent, works hard and is a reference point down the middle for the Reds. He does a little bit of everything, keeps his teammates engaged and is a fan favorite. He has the ability to deliver some excellent passes, although they're usually trumped by his teammates' incredible passing ability. But he will have to play a crucial role if Liverpool want to win everything. It's been an exciting season for the former Real Madrid centre-back who is now a key player in Unai Emery's system. He's been able to contain incredible forwards like Juventus' Dušan Vlahović and Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski in recent games. His partnership with fellow centre-back Pau Torres is one of the secrets that will see Villarreal reach the Champions League semi-finals. Who knows how deep they will get in this tournament. Overshadowed by Konaté's goal, Matip was always there when Jürgen Klopp needed it. Matip's name doesn't often come up when he plays but that's the goal for a centre-back as he doesn't need to make flashy tackles when he's already in a good starting position. Not as established for Liverpool in the middle as Fabinho, Thiago Alcantara or Jordan Henderson, the Guinea international is still a hugely talented midfielder and able to step in when Jurgen Klopp needs him. Perhaps he lacks the consistency that could allow him to face the likes of Henderson on a more regular basis soon, but he has the ability and he's still only 27 years old. The Frenchman is now well established in front of the aging Marcelo on the left side of Real's defence, well up front and has also shown his skill from long-range at times. Not the most defensive full-back, but very few are left these days and it suits Carlo Ancelotti's men to have such an enterprising presence on that flank. The Argentine goalkeeper was once thought to be the next great goalkeeper from South America but injuries derailed the former Estudiantes player's career. But he rediscovered his form and brought glory to his team, winning the Europa League with his great performance against Manchester United last year. To do it again will take something extraordinary as Liverpool will get their chances. He's good enough to help his side push the Reds to the edge. Stones isn't always part of the central first-choice pairing for Pep Guardiola, but ready when called upon. It's a tough job when Manchester City have long possession, but Stones is just as comfortable on the ball as he is off it. Stones executes 95 percent of his passes and jumps attacks while also protecting Ederson. The Argentine schemer has been at PSG, Real Betis, Tottenham Hotspur and now Villarreal for some time. He's still only 26 years old but hopefully he'll find a home at El Submarino Amarillo like Juan Roman Riquelme did with the 2006 vintage. Despite these ups and downs, however, Lo Celso has offered glimpses of his quality, such as his role in Spain's crucial goal away at Bayern Munich to get here. It wasn't as bad as some would suggest, but it would be fair to say Grealish hasn't lived up to the hype that comes with a £100m transfer fee. The England international, stationed on the left touchline, wasn't the same goalscorer and creator he was in an Aston Villa shirt and appears to have dropped a spot in Pep Guardiola's top XI in recent weeks. He can't win it back until the season is over. The Brazilian striker has already scored three goals in eight Champions League games, including the decisive one against Chelsea in the quarter-final second leg, after the English side had previously scored three goals and sent the game into extra time. Carlo Ancelotti likes to play him, especially in the second half when he needs something different that can change the end result of the game. And that's working fine at the moment. The Spanish forward is one of the most valuable players in the Villarreal squad with two goals scored. His second ended up in the clutch when he sparked a 3-0 win over Juventus for Unai Emery's side at the Allianz Stadium, effectively eliminating the Bianconeri in a historic away win for the Yellow Submarine. He also provided the crucial assist for Samuel Chukwueze, who secured an unexpected semi-final qualification after a draw against Bayern Munich. Author of four goals over the weekend against Watford, it's very likely these will be the last few weeks in the sky blue for Gabriel Jesus. The Brazilian winger is expected to leave Manchester City in the summer after talks about a new deal recently stalled. The club are targeting Erling Haaland to fill the massive gap in the forward. In his six Champions League games this season, Jesus has scored three goals - all in the group stage. He may have lost the argument with Diogo Jota over who starts alongside Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane (and Luis Diaz also looks set to skip him in the pecking order), but if Firmino gets his chance he'll let Jurgen Klopp do it not regret. His underappreciated header skills came into their own as he scored the most significant goal of Liverpool's Champions League season to date, heading the opener in a hard-fought Round of 16 first-leg win over Inter Milan. Gündoğan never seemed quite comfortable in the spotlight last season as City's goals clinched the title. This season, he's still making those late runs into the box and combining them with the stabilizing build-up work and solid possession. The Uruguayan midfielder can do it all and is one of the most versatile players left. A box-to-box threat with an improving attacking quality, he may not have made much noise this season, but don't count him against Manchester City. It's needed to shake up the City attackers a bit to slow the pace. Strong in the air Militão has protected the heart of Real Madrid's defense as they came under repeated attacks. He's also sufficiently aware of his movement to deflect oncoming attacks with a timely interception to lead the team. Militão is a good all-around centre-back and offers enough threat not to be a burden with the ball at his feet. En route to the semi-finals we saw the best and worst of the 22-year-old Frenchman with three goals from four games, including one home and one away against Benfica, but also naïve defensive mistakes that he needs to address in time. Far from being the finished article but his current profile is already impressive and fits Liverpool's needs well. The German veteran might not be in the role he once had and you might get bored with so many of his short, square passes, but he carries a lot of responsibility in Real Madrid's midfield. His ability to quickly play left or right, the opposite of where he got the ball, is tremendous. It allows for quick movement into space and potentially knocking defenses out of position. Chronically underestimated by those who don't work with him for club and country, Walker is not a player Guardiola would want to be without in big games. If you need proof, just look at the City boss' ballistic reaction to a stupid red card that saw him miss three Champions League games; Guardiola could still harbor a grudge over this. Walker's pace and composure are key to making sure City's highline doesn't get punctured in the back by runners. The peanut butter to Danjuma's jelly, Parejo makes Villarreal tick. 19 goal chances, although the team generally plays without the ball, show how good the overview of the noble Spaniard is on the pitch. With over 400 La Liga appearances, there's not much Parejo hasn't seen in his career and he's using that experience to lead the Yellow Submarine into battle - Chuck Booth It's been a strange few years for Sterling, not quite the 20+ year old top scorer and first name on Pep Guardiola's team sheet that he was a few years ago. Indeed, he seems as plausible a candidate as anyone to make way for Erling Haaland's arrival. And yet the England international has been scoring more than a goal in every other game this season and is an increasingly trusted starter as the season reaches its crucial stage. He will certainly play a role. Alaba came as a free agent from FC Bayern Munich and immediately became the most important defender alongside Carlo Ancelotti. It wasn't easy at all to replace Sergio Ramos as the leader of the back line, but he's done well in La Liga and the Champions League. He is chasing his third UCL title which would effectively put Real 14th. Although he doesn't receive as many accolades as teammate Alexander-Arnold, Robertson is in the midst of one of the best seasons of his career. Robertson is one of the most complete left-backs in the world, capturing wingers coming up against him while delivering dangerous crosses from corners and open play. Since joining Liverpool from Porto in January, Díaz has scored four times this season, with no goal more important than that against Benfica that sent Liverpool through to the semi-finals. He also provided an acrobatic assist in the derby against Everton at the weekend to keep Premier League hopes afloat. Jurgen Klopp is playing him more and more because he proves he deserves to be a starter of this team. The Brazilian defensive midfielder is something else. Not only can he frustrate the living of you, but he's also a bit underrated for what he has to offer going forward. Real managed to get past PSG despite missing the second leg through suspension but will need to show his game to slow down Kevin de Bruyne. The poacher of the 1990s is reborn in this relatively small center forward. Once a tricky winger, Jota is now a master at predicting where in the box the ball will land and positioning himself to convert. He may yet have to light up the Champions League and has only scored in three of his 17 games so far, but his consistent returns in domestic games suggest it's only a matter of time. Electrifying and occasionally terrifying (who else would try to dodge a tackle down their own goal-line) with the ball, Ederson's wide passing range is vital in helping Manchester City prevail against opposition. On rare occasions he is asked to be a goalkeeper as he is reliability personified. For the third time in the last four seasons, he is on track to keep a clean sheet in more than half of his Premier League games. Not always a guaranteed starter at Etihad Stadium, the French-born Spain international has brought consistency and maturity to his game to carve his place in Pep Guardiola's preferred starting XI alongside Ruben Dias and largely at the expense of John Stones. He is City's most prolific defender and a useful goalscorer as well as a loyal defender. Defensive midfielders tend to take a backseat to some viewers, but not Rodri. He's a master at directing traffic to good positions for his centre-backs, caring for dangerous attacks and pinging passes in the park when teams give him room to operate. Rodri, such an intelligent midfielder, is crucial in making Pep Guardiola's attack work and keeping the game going consistently. In a team that chooses in attack like Villarreal, strikers can find it difficult to score from limited opportunities. But that didn't hurt Danjuma as his six goals accounted for a third of Villarreal's total goals during the Champions League game. Always there at critical moments to score a crucial goal, the star striker has played a key role in the Yellow Submarine's dream run to the UCL semi-finals. Although the Portuguese isn't in the same hot form we saw from him earlier in the season, he's returned to a goal-scoring move of late that could prove timely for Pep Guardiola. The 27-year-old often proves deadly alongside the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez and is already scoring double figures in all competitions this season. As he was for the daring Monaco side a few years ago, Fabinho has established himself as an underrated player for Liverpool and a fixture in Jurgen Klopp's midfield. The versatile and consistent 28-year-old is one of the first names on the squad list and occasionally contributes useful goals. If Thiago Alcantara begins to flourish at Anfield, it's definitely partly due to this Brazilian's stabilizing influence in the middle of the park. Quite simply, Pau Torres is a star. The 25-year-old Spain international is improving year after year and always seems to be in the right place at the right time. He rarely makes a noticeable mistake, he's good on the ground and in the air and he has a knack for delivering in the biggest moments. Although he doesn't top the Champions League goalscoring charts overall, the Algerian international is City's most successful figure of the season with six goals so far. Spurred on by the failure of the Africa Cup of Nations, the 31-year-old is a constant threat in attack, scoring three goals in four against PSG to reach the final final. One of the top five young players in the world, Foden is the future in attack at Manchester City. He has incredible pace, excellent technical ability and knows how to deliver in the biggest moments. So often with young superstar talent they want to overdo it and force it. But he's just as happy with an assist as he is with a goal, and that's quite indicative of his desire to see the team thrive beyond personal accomplishments. The Brazilian goalkeeper is part of the heart and soul of that prosperous Liverpool era and his lengthy absences in recent years have only added to his value to this squad. He is definitely in the top three talks for the best goalkeeper among European clubs and with 10 Champions League games to date he has conceded three goals for Liverpool. Defending in 2022 isn't supposed to be as easy as Van Dijk makes it seem. The ACL injury that ruined his and Liverpool's season hasn't slowed him down on his return. Now that he's back, Jurgen Klopp's side have risen again from top-four contenders to perhaps the best team in the world. Alcântara has overcome a slow start to his Liverpool experience and has become one of the team's regulars. This season in particular, he's proving the importance of his role in the side with one of the most skillful goals you'll ever see in the Champions League against Porto, as his wicked low shot found its way past Diogo Costa to set the tone for the Reds in a tricky group stage with AC Milan and Atletico Madrid. The former Bayern Munich player is now fully part of Jurgen Klopp's blueprint and his performances will be fundamental to a positive end to the season. The spark plug for Los Blancos, Vini Jr. is a threat for the team at both ends of the field. The connection between Vini and Benzema is one of the main reasons Real Madrid have made it this far in the competition, but his energy is second to none. Teams have defenders keen to cover him and that hasn't stopped Vini Jr. from creating the most chances and collecting the most assists in Champions League play. As a forward who doesn't shy away from his defensive responsibilities, he did a great job turning defense into offense. Real Madrid's defense hasn't been at its best this season, so Courtois has a lot to do at the net and he's risen to the occasion and then some. Courtois has the highest save rate of any goalkeeper to have played more than one game in the competition and has prevented 2.78 goals for Los Blancos to keep their Champions League hopes alive. Cancelo is a player like no other out there and it's all thanks to the coaching of Pep Guardiola, who has used the Portugal international as his Swiss Army knife. He terrorizes you left or right and sometimes as a pseudo winger for Manchester City's tactical system. Even though he plays defensively, he can be considered an offensive player in many parts of the game. What a year 2022 has been for the Senegalese superstar so far. Africa Cup of Nations success was followed by World Cup qualification, while a hot run in front of goal has now taken him to five goals from his last six appearances. Despite Mo Salah leading Liverpool to goals this season, the 30-year-old remains an equally important component in Jurgen Klopp's attack. For many, he is the best central defender in the world. He has the size and strength, but it's that composure that sets him apart. He's so cool and calm on the ball, his positioning is second to none and he's the bedrock of Man City's defence. The team's defense used to be lacking, but with the ex-Benfica man at the helm, they could win anything. For all the world-class talent on this list, there's no one who challenges the sport's prejudices about what a player should do in their position quite like Trent Alexander-Arnold. He's a better defender than he's given credit for, but he shines as a devastating creator. Leading the continent in expected assists by a sizable margin in Europe's top five leagues and continental competitions, his arsenal of crosses, through balls and runs to the touchline is a challenge few opponents can match. Modrić, the heart of Real Madrid's midfield, continues to age like fine wine. His assist for Benzema in Real's comeback win over Chelsea was one of the best passes in the Champions League this season. His vision is second to none. When it comes to picking teammates, few do it better than Modrić, as evidenced by his 14 chances created so far in the tournament. At the start of this season, De Bruyne looked set to enter his post-prime phase, with injuries becoming more common for the Belgian while Bernardo appeared to be enjoying his primary duties as playmaker. But in recent weeks he's peaked again, wreaking havoc on the biggest occasions and showing new creases in his game as a more progressive, ball-carrying creator. It's another way he can beat teams. This could be one of Salah's best Champions League campaigns as he has scored eight goals in 10 games so far at a rate of 0.98 goals per 90. In his 2017/18 season he scored 10 goals in 13 games ( and four assists), which equates to a rate of 0.97 goals per 90. He is marching towards a second UCL crown but his future with the Reds seems a bit bleak considering his current deal expires in the summer of 2023 and negotiations for an extension have so far been unsuccessful. At the absolute peak of his powers, the France international is arguably the top contender for the next Ballon d'Or in his current form. Back-to-back hat-tricks against PSG and then Chelsea have helped put him within one of Robert Lewandowski's 13 goals, which he is unable to add to this season, giving the Real Madrid man a keen eye on becoming top scorer in this edition . Los Blancos' hopes of a record-breaking 14th Champions League title rest heavily on the 34-year-old's shoulders.

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Who is the best of Liverpool, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Villarreal?

Our writers agreed on who was number 1 (Author: Gardener)

LiverpoolWith just four teams remaining in the UEFA Champions League, the action returns with the semi-finals on CBS and Paramount+ on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Tuesday, Manchester City host Real Madrid while Liverpool host Villarreal at Anfield. A total of 44 players will be called up to the starting line-up, with several coming on each, but before kick-off let's examine and dissect the top 50 players remaining in the competition. Our football team voted for our top 50 and collected the grand totals so please leave our official compiled list below. That's how things ended in terms of representatives per team: Pino, one of Spain's best young players, has already been capped for the Spain national team and has an insanely bright future ahead of him if he stays healthy. The Las Palmas native started out for the Yellow Submarine, scoring seven goals last season and tying the same this season. He has technical ability, pace and plays smart beyond his years. While starting against Liverpool might be a bit much to ask, don't be shocked if he comes off the bench and produces. Foyth is possibly the most active defender in the Champions League, having won the second-most tackles at 37 despite only playing in just eight games. Foyth doesn't shy away from a challenge and his bravery embodies the way Villarreal play. His career could have taken a few different paths after leaving Tottenham, so the drive to make it to the Champions League semi-finals is impressive. The Liverpool skipper. He won't wow you with incredible skill but he's consistent, works hard and is a reference point down the middle for the Reds. He does a little bit of everything, keeps his teammates engaged and is a fan favorite. He has the ability to deliver some excellent passes, although they're usually trumped by his teammates' incredible passing ability. But he will have to play a crucial role if Liverpool want to win everything. It's been an exciting season for the former Real Madrid centre-back who is now a key player in Unai Emery's system. He's been able to contain incredible forwards like Juventus' Dušan Vlahović and Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski in recent games. His partnership with fellow centre-back Pau Torres is one of the secrets that will see Villarreal reach the Champions League semi-finals. Who knows how deep they will get in this tournament. Overshadowed by Konaté's goal, Matip was always there when Jürgen Klopp needed it. Matip's name doesn't often come up when he plays but that's the goal for a centre-back as he doesn't need to make flashy tackles when he's already in a good starting position. Not as established for Liverpool in the middle as Fabinho, Thiago Alcantara or Jordan Henderson, the Guinea international is still a hugely talented midfielder and able to step in when Jurgen Klopp needs him. Perhaps he lacks the consistency that could allow him to face the likes of Henderson on a more regular basis soon, but he has the ability and he's still only 27 years old. The Frenchman is now well established in front of the aging Marcelo on the left side of Real's defence, well up front and has also shown his skill from long-range at times. Not the most defensive full-back, but very few are left these days and it suits Carlo Ancelotti's men to have such an enterprising presence on that flank. The Argentine goalkeeper was once thought to be the next great goalkeeper from South America but injuries derailed the former Estudiantes player's career. But he rediscovered his form and brought glory to his team, winning the Europa League with his great performance against Manchester United last year. To do it again will take something extraordinary as Liverpool will get their chances. He's good enough to help his side push the Reds to the edge. Stones isn't always part of the central first-choice pairing for Pep Guardiola, but ready when called upon. It's a tough job when Manchester City have long possession, but Stones is just as comfortable on the ball as he is off it. Stones executes 95 percent of his passes and jumps attacks while also protecting Ederson. The Argentine schemer has been at PSG, Real Betis, Tottenham Hotspur and now Villarreal for some time. He's still only 26 years old but hopefully he'll find a home at El Submarino Amarillo like Juan Roman Riquelme did with the 2006 vintage. Despite these ups and downs, however, Lo Celso has offered glimpses of his quality, such as his role in Spain's crucial goal away at Bayern Munich to get here. It wasn't as bad as some would suggest, but it would be fair to say Grealish hasn't lived up to the hype that comes with a £100m transfer fee. The England international, stationed on the left touchline, wasn't the same goalscorer and creator he was in an Aston Villa shirt and appears to have dropped a spot in Pep Guardiola's top XI in recent weeks. He can't win it back until the season is over. The Brazilian striker has already scored three goals in eight Champions League games, including the decisive one against Chelsea in the quarter-final second leg, after the English side had previously scored three goals and sent the game into extra time. Carlo Ancelotti likes to play him, especially in the second half when he needs something different that can change the end result of the game. And that's working fine at the moment. The Spanish forward is one of the most valuable players in the Villarreal squad with two goals scored. His second ended up in the clutch when he sparked a 3-0 win over Juventus for Unai Emery's side at the Allianz Stadium, effectively eliminating the Bianconeri in a historic away win for the Yellow Submarine. He also provided the crucial assist for Samuel Chukwueze, who secured an unexpected semi-final qualification after a draw against Bayern Munich. Author of four goals over the weekend against Watford, it's very likely these will be the last few weeks in the sky blue for Gabriel Jesus. The Brazilian winger is expected to leave Manchester City in the summer after talks about a new deal recently stalled. The club are targeting Erling Haaland to fill the massive gap in the forward. In his six Champions League games this season, Jesus has scored three goals - all in the group stage. He may have lost the argument with Diogo Jota over who starts alongside Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane (and Luis Diaz also looks set to skip him in the pecking order), but if Firmino gets his chance he'll let Jurgen Klopp do it not regret. His underappreciated header skills came into their own as he scored the most significant goal of Liverpool's Champions League season to date, heading the opener in a hard-fought Round of 16 first-leg win over Inter Milan. Gündoğan never seemed quite comfortable in the spotlight last season as City's goals clinched the title. This season, he's still making those late runs into the box and combining them with the stabilizing build-up work and solid possession. The Uruguayan midfielder can do it all and is one of the most versatile players left. A box-to-box threat with an improving attacking quality, he may not have made much noise this season, but don't count him against Manchester City. It's needed to shake up the City attackers a bit to slow the pace. Strong in the air Militão has protected the heart of Real Madrid's defense as they came under repeated attacks. He's also sufficiently aware of his movement to deflect oncoming attacks with a timely interception to lead the team. Militão is a good all-around centre-back and offers enough threat not to be a burden with the ball at his feet. En route to the semi-finals we saw the best and worst of the 22-year-old Frenchman with three goals from four games, including one home and one away against Benfica, but also naïve defensive mistakes that he needs to address in time. Far from being the finished article but his current profile is already impressive and fits Liverpool's needs well. The German veteran might not be in the role he once had and you might get bored with so many of his short, square passes, but he carries a lot of responsibility in Real Madrid's midfield. His ability to quickly play left or right, the opposite of where he got the ball, is tremendous. It allows for quick movement into space and potentially knocking defenses out of position. Chronically underestimated by those who don't work with him for club and country, Walker is not a player Guardiola would want to be without in big games. If you need proof, just look at the City boss' ballistic reaction to a stupid red card that saw him miss three Champions League games; Guardiola could still harbor a grudge over this. Walker's pace and composure are key to making sure City's highline doesn't get punctured in the back by runners. The peanut butter to Danjuma's jelly, Parejo makes Villarreal tick. 19 goal chances, although the team generally plays without the ball, show how good the overview of the noble Spaniard is on the pitch. With over 400 La Liga appearances, there's not much Parejo hasn't seen in his career and he's using that experience to lead the Yellow Submarine into battle - Chuck Booth It's been a strange few years for Sterling, not quite the 20+ year old top scorer and first name on Pep Guardiola's team sheet that he was a few years ago. Indeed, he seems as plausible a candidate as anyone to make way for Erling Haaland's arrival. And yet the England international has been scoring more than a goal in every other game this season and is an increasingly trusted starter as the season reaches its crucial stage. He will certainly play a role. Alaba came as a free agent from FC Bayern Munich and immediately became the most important defender alongside Carlo Ancelotti. It wasn't easy at all to replace Sergio Ramos as the leader of the back line, but he's done well in La Liga and the Champions League. He is chasing his third UCL title which would effectively put Real 14th. Although he doesn't receive as many accolades as teammate Alexander-Arnold, Robertson is in the midst of one of the best seasons of his career. Robertson is one of the most complete left-backs in the world, capturing wingers coming up against him while delivering dangerous crosses from corners and open play. Since joining Liverpool from Porto in January, Díaz has scored four times this season, with no goal more important than that against Benfica that sent Liverpool through to the semi-finals. He also provided an acrobatic assist in the derby against Everton at the weekend to keep Premier League hopes afloat. Jurgen Klopp is playing him more and more because he proves he deserves to be a starter of this team. The Brazilian defensive midfielder is something else. Not only can he frustrate the living of you, but he's also a bit underrated for what he has to offer going forward. Real managed to get past PSG despite missing the second leg through suspension but will need to show his game to slow down Kevin de Bruyne. The poacher of the 1990s is reborn in this relatively small center forward. Once a tricky winger, Jota is now a master at predicting where in the box the ball will land and positioning himself to convert. He may yet have to light up the Champions League and has only scored in three of his 17 games so far, but his consistent returns in domestic games suggest it's only a matter of time. Electrifying and occasionally terrifying (who else would try to dodge a tackle down their own goal-line) with the ball, Ederson's wide passing range is vital in helping Manchester City prevail against opposition. On rare occasions he is asked to be a goalkeeper as he is reliability personified. For the third time in the last four seasons, he is on track to keep a clean sheet in more than half of his Premier League games. Not always a guaranteed starter at Etihad Stadium, the French-born Spain international has brought consistency and maturity to his game to carve his place in Pep Guardiola's preferred starting XI alongside Ruben Dias and largely at the expense of John Stones. He is City's most prolific defender and a useful goalscorer as well as a loyal defender. Defensive midfielders tend to take a backseat to some viewers, but not Rodri. He's a master at directing traffic to good positions for his centre-backs, caring for dangerous attacks and pinging passes in the park when teams give him room to operate. Rodri, such an intelligent midfielder, is crucial in making Pep Guardiola's attack work and keeping the game going consistently. In a team that chooses in attack like Villarreal, strikers can find it difficult to score from limited opportunities. But that didn't hurt Danjuma as his six goals accounted for a third of Villarreal's total goals during the Champions League game. Always there at critical moments to score a crucial goal, the star striker has played a key role in the Yellow Submarine's dream run to the UCL semi-finals. Although the Portuguese isn't in the same hot form we saw from him earlier in the season, he's returned to a goal-scoring move of late that could prove timely for Pep Guardiola. The 27-year-old often proves deadly alongside the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez and is already scoring double figures in all competitions this season. As he was for the daring Monaco side a few years ago, Fabinho has established himself as an underrated player for Liverpool and a fixture in Jurgen Klopp's midfield. The versatile and consistent 28-year-old is one of the first names on the squad list and occasionally contributes useful goals. If Thiago Alcantara begins to flourish at Anfield, it's definitely partly due to this Brazilian's stabilizing influence in the middle of the park. Quite simply, Pau Torres is a star. The 25-year-old Spain international is improving year after year and always seems to be in the right place at the right time. He rarely makes a noticeable mistake, he's good on the ground and in the air and he has a knack for delivering in the biggest moments. Although he doesn't top the Champions League goalscoring charts overall, the Algerian international is City's most successful figure of the season with six goals so far. Spurred on by the failure of the Africa Cup of Nations, the 31-year-old is a constant threat in attack, scoring three goals in four against PSG to reach the final final. One of the top five young players in the world, Foden is the future in attack at Manchester City. He has incredible pace, excellent technical ability and knows how to deliver in the biggest moments. So often with young superstar talent they want to overdo it and force it. But he's just as happy with an assist as he is with a goal, and that's quite indicative of his desire to see the team thrive beyond personal accomplishments. The Brazilian goalkeeper is part of the heart and soul of that prosperous Liverpool era and his lengthy absences in recent years have only added to his value to this squad. He is definitely in the top three talks for the best goalkeeper among European clubs and with 10 Champions League games to date he has conceded three goals for Liverpool. Defending in 2022 isn't supposed to be as easy as Van Dijk makes it seem. The ACL injury that ruined his and Liverpool's season hasn't slowed him down on his return. Now that he's back, Jurgen Klopp's side have risen again from top-four contenders to perhaps the best team in the world. Alcântara has overcome a slow start to his Liverpool experience and has become one of the team's regulars. This season in particular, he's proving the importance of his role in the side with one of the most skillful goals you'll ever see in the Champions League against Porto, as his wicked low shot found its way past Diogo Costa to set the tone for the Reds in a tricky group stage with AC Milan and Atletico Madrid. The former Bayern Munich player is now fully part of Jurgen Klopp's blueprint and his performances will be fundamental to a positive end to the season. The spark plug for Los Blancos, Vini Jr. is a threat for the team at both ends of the field. The connection between Vini and Benzema is one of the main reasons Real Madrid have made it this far in the competition, but his energy is second to none. Teams have defenders keen to cover him and that hasn't stopped Vini Jr. from creating the most chances and collecting the most assists in Champions League play. As a forward who doesn't shy away from his defensive responsibilities, he did a great job turning defense into offense. Real Madrid's defense hasn't been at its best this season, so Courtois has a lot to do at the net and he's risen to the occasion and then some. Courtois has the highest save rate of any goalkeeper to have played more than one game in the competition and has prevented 2.78 goals for Los Blancos to keep their Champions League hopes alive. Cancelo is a player like no other out there and it's all thanks to the coaching of Pep Guardiola, who has used the Portugal international as his Swiss Army knife. He terrorizes you left or right and sometimes as a pseudo winger for Manchester City's tactical system. Even though he plays defensively, he can be considered an offensive player in many parts of the game. What a year 2022 has been for the Senegalese superstar so far. Africa Cup of Nations success was followed by World Cup qualification, while a hot run in front of goal has now taken him to five goals from his last six appearances. Despite Mo Salah leading Liverpool to goals this season, the 30-year-old remains an equally important component in Jurgen Klopp's attack. For many, he is the best central defender in the world. He has the size and strength, but it's that composure that sets him apart. He's so cool and calm on the ball, his positioning is second to none and he's the bedrock of Man City's defence. The team's defense used to be lacking, but with the ex-Benfica man at the helm, they could win anything. For all the world-class talent on this list, there's no one who challenges the sport's prejudices about what a player should do in their position quite like Trent Alexander-Arnold. He's a better defender than he's given credit for, but he shines as a devastating creator. Leading the continent in expected assists by a sizable margin in Europe's top five leagues and continental competitions, his arsenal of crosses, through balls and runs to the touchline is a challenge few opponents can match. Modrić, the heart of Real Madrid's midfield, continues to age like fine wine. His assist for Benzema in Real's comeback win over Chelsea was one of the best passes in the Champions League this season. His vision is second to none. When it comes to picking teammates, few do it better than Modrić, as evidenced by his 14 chances created so far in the tournament. At the start of this season, De Bruyne looked set to enter his post-prime phase, with injuries becoming more common for the Belgian while Bernardo appeared to be enjoying his primary duties as playmaker. But in recent weeks he's peaked again, wreaking havoc on the biggest occasions and showing new creases in his game as a more progressive, ball-carrying creator. It's another way he can beat teams. This could be one of Salah's best Champions League campaigns as he has scored eight goals in 10 games so far at a rate of 0.98 goals per 90. In his 2017/18 season he scored 10 goals in 13 games ( and four assists), which equates to a rate of 0.97 goals per 90. He is marching towards a second UCL crown but his future with the Reds seems a bit bleak considering his current deal expires in the summer of 2023 and negotiations for an extension have so far been unsuccessful. At the absolute peak of his powers, the France international is arguably the top contender for the next Ballon d'Or in his current form. Back-to-back hat-tricks against PSG and then Chelsea have helped put him within one of Robert Lewandowski's 13 goals, which he is unable to add to this season, giving the Real Madrid man a keen eye on becoming top scorer in this edition . Los Blancos' hopes of a record-breaking 14th Champions League title rest heavily on the 34-year-old's shoulders.

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Liverpool's win over Everton highlights the gulf between Merseyside rivals

Sunday's derby win kept Liverpool on course for an unprecedented quadruple while deepening the relegation threat for local rivals Everton. (Author: Gardener)

EvertonLiverpool's quadruple bid continues and they could also get the added bonus of hastening Everton's slide towards relegation after a 2-0 win at Anfield in the 240th Merseyside derby. Frank Lampard's Everton will need a dramatic revival in the final month of this season to ensure the 241st edition of this 128-year-old game takes place in the Premier League next season. But this game was what a football rivalry boils down to when one team is up and the other is down. Liverpool could win everything there is to win this season, but Everton are now struggling desperately not to be relegated from the top division for the first time since 1951. They are far apart and Liverpool's goals from Andy Robertson and Divock Origi could have a major impact on both sides in the coming weeks. "Everton did what he had to do, but we deserved the three points," said Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp. "If anyone thinks we're flying through these games, my apologies: that's not going to happen." "When we can create such atmospheres as we did today, it's difficult to deal with us for 95 minutes, but thank God the game has two halves because we didn't play particularly well in the first half." Tolerating Liverpool's success was Tough enough for Evertonians in recent years but imagine how it will feel this time around as the Reds scoop all four trophies and the Blues are relegated to the EFL Championship, with that defeat at Anfield Everton bottoming out leaves three for the first time since December 2019. And add to that the fact that the two sets of supporters really don't like each other - some of the chants that were broadcast at Anfield highlighted the animosity that has been growing since the days when it was referred to as the 'Friendly Derby' in the 1980s - and it was definitely a case of fear and loathing on Merseyside. Fear was felt on both sides, with fear of their neighbors dealing a damaging blow to a season's goals, while disgust was there when Everton fans turned their backs on them as the home fans chanted 'You'll Never Walk Alone”, along with songs related to the 1985 Heysel Stadium disaster when 39 Juventus fans were killed in riots ahead of the European Cup final against Liverpool in Brussels. In response, Liverpool fans taunted their city neighbors with chants of "This is your last trip to Anfield!" and 'Going Down' as Klopp's players clinched the win that once again put them within a point of leaders Manchester City in the title race. City and Liverpool both have five games left and both don't look set to drop points until the final round of the game on May 22 in the League, where they meet Villarreal in the semi-finals, and Chelsea in the FA Cup on May 15 . However, this was a game that neither team would have liked, as the opponent's motivation was higher than in a routine game. Disrupting the rhythm of a big team is often the only tactic available to an unpopular side and that was Everton's approach here. Tough, attacking and ready to fight, Lampard's players wrecked the game with time-consuming and tactical fouls. They tried to draw Liverpool into a fight and it worked in the first half as referee Stuart Attwell was unable to control the two teams. In Anthony Gordon, Everton had a young, spirited winger who caused problems for Liverpool with his pace and direct drive. Unfortunately, the 21-year-old, who was cautioned for diving in the penalty area in the first half, had not won a penalty when he appeared to be knocked down by Joel Matip eight minutes into the second half. "I think they could have both taken penalties," said Lampard. The second was a foul [elsewhere] on the pitch. As is often the case, the top sides find a way to victory when the opposition is tenacious and persistent and Liverpool have found a way, with Klopp's substitutions in the 60th minute proving crucial. Origi and Luis Diaz replaced Naby Keita and Sadio Mane and within two minutes Origi had created the opening for Mohamed Salah to cross for Robertson, who scored his first goal at Anfield since September 2020. Origi has earned a place in Liverpool folklore with his game-winning contributions as a substitute and the Belgium striker did it again as he made it 2-0 by heading in from close range after Diaz attempted an overhead kick. That made it six goals in 12 games against Everton - twice as many as he has scored against any other team. It was a goal that secured victory and banished Liverpool's nerves, bringing them another win closer to an unprecedented success. With relegation rivals Burnley taking on second-bottom Watford on Saturday, there's a real prospect of Everton getting into even greater trouble ahead of Sunday's kick-off against Chelsea. They have six games to salvage their season and avoid relegation. That's in Everton's hands.

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