Willian or Coutinho – or both? Time running for Brazil boss Tite to make final tweaks

The Selecao go into October’s qualifiers with just two more squads to be selected – and with plenty of fine-tuning to be done ahead of Russia 2018

With just two more chances to summon squads ahead announcing his final group for World Cup 2018, Brazil coach Tite has little room left for error.

This month’s qualifiers against Bolivia and Chile will be the final competitive matches in which he can assess the group hoping to seal the Selecao’s sixth world title.

After racing to nine wins and a draw in his 10 competitive tests on the job, and sealing qualification for Russia with four games to spare, time is now the biggest obstacle facing Tite.

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And he still has some big decisions to make.

One of them is to choose between Willian and Philippe Coutinho. Since Tite’s arrival, Liverpool star Coutinho is the only player to work his way into the coach’s starting XI. Chelsea’s Willian, however, is fighting desperately to regain his place and impressed last month after Coutinho joined the squad short of match practice.

Tite is also trialing ways in which to field them both, dropping Coutinho from wide right to a deep role in the centre of midfield, where he has operated with some success for his club.

Willian Philippe Coutinho Brazil Haiti Copa Ameria 06092016

The experiment didn’t quite go to plan when the Brasil Global Tour hit Melbourne in June, but there were more encouraging signs last month when Coutinho impressed in the role against Ecuador, if not in the follow-up versus Colombia.

Given that there is still no clear reserve for first-choice creative hub Renato Augusto, fielding both Coutinho and Willian currently appears to be little more than an alternative to his preferred system. It may be something he utilises against weaker teams, but the lack of defensive strength offered by Coutinho makes it unlikely scenario against some of world football’s big hitters in Russia.

Indeed, the biggest questions facing the coach are all alternates, with seemingly only reserve places up for grabs in his squad. A deputy to Dani Alves is yet to be identified, meaning Tite will be keen to get a close look at Danilo this month after the Manchester City full-back joined the squad for the first time under the current boss.

GettyImages-836770380 danilo

He is back in form since finding an escape route from Real Madrid this past summer, and his versatility may yet be crucial in earning a place in TIte’s final 23. 

Diego Tardelli will also be out to impress in October. Finding a like-for-like backup to No.9 Gabriel Jesus is still high on Tite’s priority list, with reserve forward Roberto Firmino offering a very different type of central striker.

Pacey, China-based Tardelli impressed under former coach Dunga before being cast aside following his switch to Asian football.

Tardelli Paulinho I Brasil I 02 10 17

The mental strength of his squad overall is something else Tite will be keen assess this month, particularly how they react to the altitude of La Paz, and their ability to avoid cards in their final match with Chile so as not to pick up any suspensions for the World Cup.

The Selecao host Chile in Sao Paulo and that too will be a keen barometer by which the coach can analyse his players emotional state, with a part atmosphere set for a match that could yet decide whether or not great rivals Argentina join them in Russia.


Newcastle United 1 Liverpool 1: Coutinho beauty not enough as Reds’ defensive woes strike again

Philippe Coutinho’s superb opening goal was not enough to earn Liverpool three points as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Newcastle United.

Liverpool’s season so far was summed up in 90 minutes at St James’ Park as Philippe Coutinho produced a spectacular opening goal before a defensive lapse allowed Newcastle United to salvage a 1-1 draw.

Coutinho’s strike after 29 minutes epitomised the qualities that made him a target for Barcelona and while he continues to inspire Liverpool’s attack this season, Reds fans may fear what a January departure would do to their side’s potency.

The Brazilian is the Premier League’s leading exponent of long-range goals, having scored 17 from outside the box since his Liverpool debut, but he is playing in front of a defence that regularly proves the Reds’ undoing.

Joselu’s 36th-minute equaliser was the ninth goal Liverpool have conceded in their last four league outings, which matches the total they shipped in their previous 12 games combined and Jurgen Klopp must find a way to eradicate their momentary lapses if they are to challenge for honours this season.

Liverpool have now won only one of their last seven games and, with Manchester United and Tottenham awaiting them after the international break, Klopp could find himself under considerable pressure by the end of October.

Jonjo Shelvey’s return to the Newcastle team had a galvanising effect and after 12 minutes he picked out Matt Ritchie, whose angled drive from the edge of the box forced a diving save from Simon Mignolet.

Daniel Sturridge should have opened the scoring three minutes later when he dribbled to within five yards of goal only to have his low shot blocked by Jamaal Lascelles, before Mohamed Salah’s touch let him down when he had the chance to go one-on-one with Rob Elliot, allowing DeAndre Yedlin to recover and dispossess him.

Newcastle were let off the hook after 23 minutes when Georginio Wijnaldum struck the post from close range and both Dejan Lovren and Sadio Mane squandered opportunities to score as the ball bounced around the penalty area uncontested by anyone in a black and white shirt.

After almost half an hour of dominance, Liverpool capitalised through a moment of sheer brilliance from Coutinho, who collected the ball on the left wing and cut inside before curling a powerful right-footed shot into the top-left corner of the net from 25 yards, leaving Elliot no chance.

But Liverpool’s defence has been their Achilles heel this season and so it proved when Shelvey’s pass caught them napping after 36 minutes and Joel Matip, rushing back to try and tackle Joselu, kicked the ball against the Spaniard’s shin before it rolled beyond Mignolet and into the corner of the net.

Ciaran Clark gift-wrapped a chance for Sturridge after five minutes of the second half, slicing an attempted clearance on the edge of the box into the path of the England striker, who shot straight at Elliot before Salah blazed the rebound over the crossbar.

Just after the hour mark, Mignolet hesitated over a Ritchie cross that drifted all the way to the far post before eventually being cleared, and at the other end Elliot made a brilliant interception to prevent Sturridge from scoring, sliding out and snatching the ball away from the on-rushing striker’s toes.

Newcastle sent on Dwight Gayle as they sought a late winner but it was Liverpool, rejuvenated by the introduction of Dominic Solanke and Roberto Firmino, who pressed hardest in the closing stages.

Shelvey headed a Lovren header off the line in the 77th minute to keep his former employers from snatching three points before Solanke went agonisingly close with a diving header that flew just wide seven minutes from time.


– Newcastle have lost only one of their last seven home Premier League games against the Reds (W4 D2).
– The Magpies have only lost once at St. James’ Park in the Premier League under Rafa Benitez (W5 D3).
– Liverpool haven’t lost any of their last 24 Premier League matches in October (W13 D11), since losing 2-0 to Everton in 2010.
– Liverpool have scored 295 Premier League goals from outside the box, 33 more than any other side.
– Joselu is yet to lose a Premier League game in which he has scored (W5 D1).
– Joselu has scored two goals from three shots on target at St. James’ Park in the Premier League this season.


Wijnaldum: Liverpool stars would’ve been happy for Coutinho to get dream Barca move

Liverpool’s players were torn over the Philippe Coutinho summer transfer saga, Georginio Wijnaldum has admitted.

The Brazilian forward made no secret of his desire to head to Barcelona once interest was shown, with the 25-year-old going as far as handing in a transfer request.

Sturridge 7/2 FGS with dabblebet

He was, however, to be blocked from leaving Anfield, with Liverpool snubbing several big-money offers.

“On one side we would have been happy for him if he could have gone as he really wanted to make the move, but on the other side as team-mates you want him to stay because you know with Phil because we’ll be better, the Netherlands international told the Liverpool Echo.

“There were two thoughts in your head. You can see it from both sides. Someone was going to be disappointed at the end of the transfer window and it was Phil.”

Wijnaldum concedes it was a tricky time for everyone involved, with the Reds wanting the best for a top talent but also eager to ensure that he was not allowed to slip the net.

“It was difficult,” he said. “Phil is a really good person and we understood why he wanted to make the move.

“He’s someone who has always given everything for Liverpool. He has done a great job fighting for Liverpool.”

Georginio Wijnaldum Phillpe Coutinho difficult

Having been forced to stay put, Coutinho has set about putting his Barca disappointment to the back of his mind.

He was eased back into the Reds fold by Jurgen Klopp and has slowly recaptured his confidence and form.

Two goals have been netted in his last two outings, against Leicester and Spartak Moscow, with Wijnaldum quick to highlight the value of his match-winning qualities.

He added: “He’s an important player who can win games for us and make the team better.

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“It was normal that the club tried so hard to keep him.

“You never know what will happen in the future. But Phil is a good person and no matter how long he’s here, I know he will always give everything for Liverpool. We’re so happy that he stayed.”

While Barca could rekindle their interest in January, for now, the focus for Liverpool and Coutinho is a Premier League clash with Newcastle on Sunday, which sees them reunited with former boss Rafa Benitez.


Fantasy Football: Defenders dominate Goal’s Premier League Team of the Week

This was a very good week for defenders, with four of them scoring goals and eight top-flight teams earning clean sheets. This is obviously reflected in our Team of the Week, which includes five defenders, but it also seems to be a trend this season on the whole with defensive players taking eight of the top 15 points earners in the Goal game.

Considering this trend, it may be time to rethink your team’s make up. In the interim though, here are the 11 best Fantasy players from the last week of Premier League before international football takes centre stage once more.


GK: Kasper Schmeichel – Leicester City – 1 Game, 4 Saves, 1 Clean Sheet = 9 Points

DF: Ben Davies – Tottenham – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 1 Assist, 1 Clean Sheet = 17 Points

The Wales international is currently the best Fantasy option on one of the best defences in the league. He currently boasts the most chances created of any defender in England (16) and is actually five ahead of Aaron Cresswell, who sits second in that statistic. There are reports that Danny Rose is set to return to first team training soon, but Davies could well hold onto his job even when Rose is fully fit.

Nacho Monreal Arsenal Premier League

DF: Nacho Monreal – Arsenal – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 1 Clean Sheet = 14 Points

Don’t look now but Arsenal have now kept four clean sheets in a row. Monreal has been pushed inside and now operates as a centre back in a three man defence which negates a lot of his Fantasy value, but through seven weeks only three players ahead of him in points are less expensive and all of them are owned by more managers.

DF: Kieran Trippier – Tottenham – 1 Game, 2 Assists, 1 Clean Sheet = 13 Points

DF: Ashley Young – Manchester United – 1 Game, 1 Assist, 1 Clean Sheet = 10 Points

DF: Hector Bellerin – Arsenal – 1 Game, 1 Assist, 1 Clean Sheet = 10 Points


MF: Marouane Fellaini – Manchester United – 1 Game, 2 Goals = 14 Points

MF: Philippe Coutinho – Liverpool – 1 Game, 1 Goal = 8 Points

Coutinho is currently third in goals scored for Liverpool… despite starting just three matches this season. With Mkhitaryan and Eriksen both drawing blanks in two of their last three matches a lot of heads will start turning the Brazilian’s way but, with two consecutive matches against top three defences coming up, it’s probably best to hold off until match week 10.

MF: Kevin De Bruyne – Manchester City – 1 Game, 1 Goal = 8 Points

Harry Kane Tottenham

FWD: Harry Kane – Tottenham – 1 Game, 2 Goals = 12 Points

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After a barren August, again, Kane has come back firing with a vengeance. He has three braces in the last four weeks and made our Team of the Week each time he did it. Tottenham have an incredibly rough schedule on the horizon facing Liverpool and Manchester United in the league, plus Real Madrid twice in the Champions League, but anyone that bets against Kane does so at their own peril.

FWD: Richarlison – Watford – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 1 Assist = 10 Points



Fantasy Football: Premier League stars dominate Champions League Team of the Week once more

The Premier League teams have continued to have success abroad with four of their five entrants winning their Champions League matches this week. They are, therefore, well represented in the Team of the Week alongside stars from PSG and, surprisingly, Basel after their thumping victory. The reigning Swiss champions have not one, but two representatives this week!


GK: Alphonse Areola – PSG – 1 Game, 7 Saves, 1 Clean Sheet = 10 Points

DEF: Dani Alves – PSG – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 1 Clean Sheet = 14 Points

Alves was the highest scoring defender in the Goal Champions League game last season, and is picking up right where he left off. PSG impressively held German giants Bayern Munich goalless and, stands an excellent chance of picking up loads more points in their next match against Anderlecht who have yet to score a Champions League goal.

Dani Alves PSG Paris Saint-Germain

DEF: Michael Lang – Basel – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 1 Clean Sheet = 14 Points

DEF: Toby Alderweireld – Tottenham – 1 Game, 1 Assist, 1 Clean Sheet = 10 Points

DEF: Kieran Trippier – Tottenham – 1 Game, 1 Assist, 1 Clean Sheet = 10 Points

Against APOEL, Trippier did what he does best: cross the ball. He was shunted out on the left for the better part of an hour and is in danger of losing his spot to newcomer Serge Aurier and, with Real Madrid on the horizon for the next two rounds, it’s probably best to avoid the english right back.

MID: Henrikh Mkhitaryan – Manchester United – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 1 Assist = 11 Points

The Armenia international had been lighting up the Premier League this season with five goals in just six matches, and was, perhaps unsurprisingly, just as dangerous against a disappointing CSKA team. We always knew this was a kind draw and, considering the lack of threats to his place, Mkhitaryan is a must-start against a Benfica side who have already conceded seven goals in the group.


MID: Philippe Coutinho – Liverpool – 1 Game, 1 Goal = 8 Points

MID: Kevin De Bruyne – Manchester City – 1 Game, 1 Goal = 8 Points

FOR: Dimitri Oberlin – Basel – 1 Game, 2 Goals, 2 Assists = 18 Points

Well this came out of nowhere. Not just in the fact that most people aren’t intimately knowledgeable of the Swiss league, but that Oberlin matched his two domestic goals with two of the Champions League variety in 178 fewer minutes. It’s difficult to make too many bold projections for the Basel forward off the back of just one game but, at just £5.8m, he could be a steal for those brave enough to roster him.

Harry Kane Tottenham

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FOR: Harry Kane – Tottenham – 1 Game, 3 Goals = 17 Points

FOR: Wissam Ben Yedder – Sevilla – 1 Game, 3 Goals = 17 Points



Coutinho vows to put Barcelona transfer saga behind him

Philippe Coutinho has insisted that the transfer wranglings this summer between him, Liverpool and Barcelona are now in the past as he focuses on excelling at Anfield. 

The Brazil playmaker found himself in the middle of a tug-of-war, with Barca making multiple bids for his services that were turned down flat by the Reds. 

Coutinho 6/1 to score 1st vs. Newcastle

A series of ambiguous comments on his future suggested that Coutinho had hoped for a move to Camp Nou, and he missed the start of the season with a succession of fitness niggles. 

Now back in the Reds first team, however, and having scored in his last two outings, the player believes he is ready to move on from the drawn-out saga.

“I’m calm. It’s all passed by. I’m here to defend the colours — to give my maximum,” he said after scoring during Liverpool’s 1-1 draw with Spartak Moscow on Tuesday, which leaves Jurgen Klopp’s men with just two points from their opening two Champions League games. 

“It wasn’t really the result we wanted, but we have to keep working and there are more games, another four games to come.”

Coutinho has added motivation for wanting a strong season at Anfield this term. 

Brazil have already clinched qualification for the World Cup in Russia next June, and places in Tite’s starting line-up look set to be fiercely fought over as the coach enjoys a rich pool of talent in the creative positions. 

“I hope to get called up,” he said of his chances of making the cut for Russia 2018.

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“With every call-up I want to develop and for us develop as a team in order to be successful.” 


Spartak Moscow 1 Liverpool 1: Klopp’s men held again

Liverpool settled for a second successive Champions League draw to kick off their campaign as their clash with Spartak Moscow finished 1-1.

Philippe Coutinho’s brilliance was not enough to secure Liverpool’s first Champions League win since 2014 as Spartak Moscow earned a 1-1 draw.

Jurgen Klopp’s side dominated for much of Tuesday’s Group E contest at the Otkrytiye Arena, but had to settle for the point earned by Coutinho cancelling out Fernando’s effort.

Liverpool entered the fixture with added urgency following a disappointing home draw against Sevilla to open their campaign.

But they got off to a nightmare start as Fernando put the limited hosts ahead with a curling free-kick.

The visitors showed great resolve over the remainder of the first half and entered the break level thanks to Coutinho’s second goal in as many games.

Yet Spartak tightened up in the second period and Liverpool, back in the competition for the first time since the 2014-15 campaign, failed to find a winner.

Klopp’s team selection suggested he felt three points were a necessity, with an attacking line-up featuring a front four of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Coutinho.

For all those were expected to post the biggest threat, young full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold was first to go close when volleying just wide following a one-two with Salah.
The visitors stepped on the gas thereafter as Mane sent in a cross for Firmino, whose fine header was parried away by Artyom Rebrov.
Despite their dominance, Klopp’s men fell behind midway through the half through a superb free-kick from Fernando.
The midfielder was afforded his chance when slack play from Emre Can preceded a rash challenge from Coutinho.
And he made Liverpool pay, curling home a delicious 20-yard effort – although Loris Karius, selected ahead of Simon Mignolet, will feel he should have done better.
They were behind for just seven minutes, though, as Coutinho atoned for his error by curling home following a fine one-two with Mane.

Liverpool could have gone ahead just before the break, only for a thrilling four-on-two counter-attack to be thwarted by Mane drifting offside.

Picking up where they left off, Klopp’s team threatened quickly after the break when the lively Coutinho’s free-kick forced Rebrov into action.

But that proved the only real chance during the opening exchanges of the half as Spartak largely nullified their opponents’ threat.

They were dealt a blow in the 68th minute, however, as Rebrov was forced off after colliding with Salah.

Yet his departure did not noticeably alter the pattern of the game, with Klopp sending on Daniel Sturridge and Georginio Wijnaldum in search of inspiration.

Alexander-Arnold continued to look as likely as anybody, capping another fine run by hammering narrowly over.

Even better openings fell Sturridge’s way before the end, but the England man failed to control when six yards out and volleyed over from similar range soon after.

And the final confirmation it would not be Liverpool’s night came six minutes into injury time when Rebrov’s replacement, Alexander Selikhov, made a sublime one-handed save to keep out Salah’s bullet header.


Fantasy Football: Alvaro Morata is the star performer in the latest Team of the Week

This week was largely a return of the stars. After a few surprise packages in recent weeks, the past few days were a reminder that the traditional top six are so highly regarded for a reason. Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, and Tottenham accounted for an impressive 10 of a possible 11 spots in the latest Team of the Week.

Goal-Fantasy-Football-registertowinGK: Mat Ryan – Brighton – 1 Game, 5 Saves, 1 Clean Sheet = 9 Points

DF: Cesar Azpilicueta – Chelsea – 1 Game, 2 Assists, 1 Clean Sheets = 13 Points

He and Alvaro Morata seem to have started out on about the best foot possible. Azpilicueta is currently third in assists in the league with four, and every single one of them has gone to his teammate and countryman, including two on Saturday. Four assists on just six chances created is not very sustainable, but the 28-year-old should still finish top five at his position come the end of the season.

DF: Marcos Alonso – Chelsea – 1 Game, 1 Clean Sheet = 7 Points

DF: Sead Kolasinac – Arsenal – 1 Game, 1 Clean Sheet = 7 Points

Sead Kolasinac Arsenal

MF: Raheem Sterling – Man City – 1 Game, 2 Goals = 14 Points

Pep Guardiola’s constant rotation is a thorn in the side of all Fantasy owners but basically whoever wears sky blue and starts in attack ends up on this list. This week it’s Sterling who netted twice, albeit in a less than stellar overall performance. Usually a good Fantasy day is all that matters, but the last thing you want is Sterling giving Pep any possible reason to rotate him out of Premier League starts.

MF: Philippe Coutinho – Liverpool – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 1 Assist = 11 Points

The prodigal son returns. After angling for a move to Barcelona, the Brazil international got his first start of the season and only went and notched an assist and a beautiful free kick goal. He’s always been a bit of a hot and cold Fantasy player but it may be worth waiting to buy him until the Manchester United and Tottenham matches are in the rear-view mirror.

MF: Leroy Sane – Man City – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 2 Assists = 14 Points


MF: Mohamed Salah – Liverpool – 1 Game, 1 Goal = 8 Points

FWD: Alvaro Morata – Chelsea – 1 Game, 3 Goals = 17 Points

Right as everyone was tripping over themselves to stack Aguero, Lukaku, and Kanein their teams, Morata goes out and scores a hat-trick. With the aforementioned link up with Azpilicueta and Eden Hazard set to return to the fold, even more chances should start flowing the Spaniard’s way.

Harry Kane Tottenham 2017

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FWD: Harry Kane – Tottenham – 1 Game, 2 Goals = 12 Points

FWD: Alexandre Lacazette – Arsenal – 1 Game, 2 Goals = 12 Points



Klopp considers starting ‘artists’ against Spartak

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is considering starting all of his “artists” in his side’s Champions League clash against Spartak Moscow.

With Philippe Coutinho back and Sadio Mane available, Klopp may opt to start the duo alongside Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino in Russia on Tuesday.

Liverpool 7/1 to beat Spartak 2-0

Injuries and suspensions have prevented the quartet from starting together, but Klopp said he would consider it.

“The balance has to be right. We are an offensive-orientated team, but this is about Champions League football,” the German told UK newspapers.

“We need results. In the right moments, you need to be able to do the right things. It is not about being spectacular, it is about being good, and being clinical and having perfect timing and perfect protection.

“We cannot just bring all the artists, but if it fits together we will do it.

“It is good to have them all, it is cool everyone is in the game, but that doesn’t mean anything. I don’t believe in names. I believe in performances. They all have to fit together and that is what we have to try.”

While Mane and Trent Alexander-Arnold appear set to be in the XI in the Group E clash, one man certain to start is Loris Karius.

The goalkeeper is desperate to make the most of his opportunity after Klopp confirmed he would start.

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“Of course I’m very excited to play in this competition, the Champions League,” the 24-year-old Karius told the club’s website.

“It’s my first season in the Champions League, so on top of that I see it as a big chance to perform well and show myself to the manager, tell him I’m ready for whatever.

“If you need me in the Premier League I’ll be there, so it’s a chance for me.”


Liverpool must ‘pray’ they can keep Coutinho – Gerrard

Steven Gerrard believes it will take a stroke of divine intervention for Philippe Coutinho to not leave Liverpool for Barcelona.

The attacker was involved in a summer tag-of-war that saw him go AWOL from the Reds’ squad towards the end of the transfer window in a bid to force a deal through.

Liverpool 20/1 to win Champions League

Jurgen Klopp’s side saw off the danger, but Gerrard believes there is only so long they can keep hold of the Brazil international.

Asked on BT Sport how Liverpool can keep him at the club, the club legend replied: Pray! He’s South American, his dream is to go to Barcelona. 

“I think the key in this situation is do Barcelona come back? Or are they upset that he hasn’t come? 

“Liverpool will want to keep him for a long, long time, there’s no doubt about that. They love him.”

Coutinho, 25, was vital as Liverpool defeated Leicester 3-2 on Saturday, and Gerrard was happy to sing the player’s praises.

“He produces moments of genius and he’s a world class footballer.

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“Barcelona don’t come for you for that amount of money unless you’re world class. 

“Liverpool need to try and keep hold of him for as long as possible because with him in the team, when Sadio Mane comes back, we know Liverpool will score heavily and they will be one of the most exciting teams in the league.”

The Reds are sixth in the standings, five points behind leaders Manchester City after six games.