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English Premier League

Sevilla triumph will have Everton fans regretting Steven N’Zonzi failure

The French midfielder was heavily linked with a move to Everton in January.

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Manchester United were sent crashing out of the Champions League last night, with Spanish side Sevilla doing the damage at Old Trafford. Two goals from substitute Wissam Ben Yedder sent United on their way and fans were left frustrated at their side’s negative and reactive tactics. United were dominated in midfield, with Steven N’Zonzi in fine form.

His performance would have been hard to take for Everton fans. In January it certainly looked as though the Frenchman was on his way to Goodison Park. The Liverpool Echo reported that Everton were keen, with the player valued at £25 million.

SEVILLE, SPAIN – AUGUST 22: Steven N’Zonzi of Sevilla FC reacts during the UEFA Champions League Qualifying Play-Offs round second leg match between Sevilla FC and Istanbul Basaksehir F.K. at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on August 22, 2017 in Seville, Spain. (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)

Toward the end of December Everton manager Sam Allardyce made his interest in the midfielder clear, being quoted by the Daily Mail as stating:

“I’d be very interested in Steven but if you have a look at how many footballers there are at the club, then it is impossible for me to block that up even more.

“We would be better served in other areas – like another goalscorer, maybe a full-back. After that who knows.”

It seemed that Everton’s litany of midfield options put paid to any actual deal. Allardyce, who had tried calling N’Zonzi up for England duty and first brought him to England with Blackburn Rovers, was clearly a fan. But unless Morgan Schneiderlin or another midfielder moved on a deal was off the cards for the player.

NOTTINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM, SEPTEMBER 22: Robert Earnshaw of Nottingham Forest competes for the ball with Steven N’Zonzi of Blackburn Rovers during the Carling Cup third round match between Nottingham Forest and Blackburn Rovers at The City Ground on September 22, 2009 in Nottingham, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

At the time the French midfielder’s Sevilla career looked over. He had fallen out with manager Eduardo Berizzo and was in danger of being frozen out. When Italian Vincenzo Montella replaced Berizzo, N’Zonzi was back in favour.

Everton therefore never managed to bring in the player in January. Based on the evidence of last night they are clearly missing out. The French international provided the perfect basis for Ever Banega to pull the strings in midfield for Sevilla. N’Zonzi, who also had a successful spell at Stoke City, was composed, athletic and commanding in the midfield.

Everton have struggled to find consistency this season. Much of that has been down to the fluctuating performances of their central midfielders. N’Zonzi would have been an immense January arrival for the Toffees.

Allardyce is a massive fan, but his future at Everton looks to be on the ropes itself. Any dream Everton have of bringing in N’Zonzi looks to be dead. After watching him dominate United last night, that is a bitter pill to swallow.

Liverpool

Three Liverpool men who need to capitalise on rotation

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Photo: Getty Images.

With the Champions League semi-finals occupying all of Liverpool‘s mind and attention, it has represented a fresh chance for some players on the fringes of the squad.

For three men in particular, the next few seemingly meaningless Premier League fixtures could represent a chance to rescue their Anfield careers.

Danny Ings

The ex-Burnley striker had rotten luck in picking up a serious knee injury in training days after Jurgen Klopp’s appointment and has only just started his first two Premier League games under the German coach up against Everton and West Brom.

His poachers’ finish at The Hawthorns was an emotional moment for the striker and whilst it seems inevitable that his future lies on loan next season at least, good form from the Englishmen could see him make a case to be a back-up option in 2018/19.

With Dominic Solanke not pulling up trees when given the chance earlier on in the campaign, Danny Ings may feel that there is a place up for grabs.

(Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)

Ragnar Klavan

The Estonian central defender was never signed as a long-term solution at the back and whilst usually reliable, he has let the team down at times.

The arrival of Virgil Van Dijk has pushed him further down the pecking order and it still looks likely that another defender may arrive in the summer to join the Dutchman in favour of Dejan Lovren or Joel Matip.

Klavan has seen the latter half of this season disrupted by injury but by leading the way in an inexperienced backline in the upcoming league fixtures could be pivotal to defining his Anfield future.

Alberto Moreno

The Spaniard has always been a controversial figure on Merseyside, but at the start of this season he appeared to be on the right track and became a regular in Jurgen Klopp’s selections.

An injury picked up in the Champions League forced him onto the sidelines and led to the emergence of Andrew Robertson, who rapidly became a fan favourite and one of the first names on the team-sheet.

The left-back had shown his defensive improvements earlier on in the season and will need to maintain that if he is to convince Klopp that he is worth keeping around for 2018/19.

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English Premier League

Tottenham fans reminded why they sold Federico Fazio for just £3.8m

The Argentine was poor against Liverpool, reminding Tottenham Hotspur fans why he was sold.

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Last night Liverpool put one foot in the Champions League final. They raced into a 5-0 lead against AS Roma at Anfield. Inspire by the best attacker in the world right now, Mohamed Salah, Liverpool put the Italians to the sword. Whilst the Giallorossi did manage to grab two goals to make the second leg a contest, Liverpool will feel confident of progress.

For Tottenham fans, the game represented a reminder of why they sold a player they were regretting a couple of weeks ago. When Roma turned around a 4-1 deficit against Barcelona, the performance of Federico Fazio caused a stir. He was a man-mountain in the Stadio Olimpico, as Roma won 3-0.

It left some Tottenham fans wondering why they sold him for a fee in the region of £3.8 million in 2017 – as reported by talkSPORT – after just 32 appearances for the North London club.

Last night showed exactly why.

(Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images)

Fazio, along with the other members of the Roma back three, was poor against Liverpool. He was not helped by the decision to play a high-line. However, his physical attributes were exposed by Liverpool. Slow, sluggish and clumsy, this looked like the Fazio that Tottenham fans remember from his time at White Hart Lane after joining from Sevilla in the summer of 2014.

But a high-line is not his game, he is a combative defender who is excellent in the air. Well, that did not look the case when he wimpishly challenged Roberto Firmino for a header that the Brazilian dispatched.

Tottenham fans were impressed with his performance against Barcelona in the last round and, with Toby Alderweireld set to leave, having Fazio around again might have appealed to some Spurs fans. Based on this performance v their Premier League rivals, they will be happy he is in the Italian capital.

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Liverpool

Statistics show Jordan Henderson’s display against Roma was his best for Liverpool

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Photo: Getty Images.

In the build-up to the Champions League semi-final, there was one joke which was repeatedly told, “imagine the sight of Jordan Henderson lifting the Champions League trophy”. On Tuesday night, the Liverpool captain showed just why it’s a distinct possibility.

The midfielder completely dominated the experienced Italian trio of Daniele De Rossi, Kevin Strootman and Radja Nainggolan, teaming up perfectly with James Milner and Georgino Wijnaldum, who replaced the injured Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, to put their stomp on the game and dictate the tempo.

Sitting deep and playing balls over the top, Henderson showed what he can do as a playmaker with his impressive range of passing on show once again, completing as many passes in the final third as Sadio Mane.

Of his 54 passes, only 16 were backwards, compared to 22 forwards, and Henderson was consistently looking to move the ball forward and find a breakthrough against Roma’s high defensive line.

(Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)

Defensively, Henderson was even more impressive. No player completed more ball recoveries than Henderson’s 12, so much so that the next best tally on his team was seven, almost half of what the captain contributed.

The location of his recoveries too showed his influence, playing in the holding midfield role and breaking up play before looking to rapidly start counter-attacks.

Restricting himself to an entirely central role, Henderson got the better of the likes of De Rossi and Strootman and put them on edge right from the off, causing them to be sloppy in possession and panic, which only got worse as the goals started flowing for the Reds.

In addition, he was successful in more tackles than any other Liverpool player as he made the midfield his own in arguably the highest profile fixture he has ever played in.

Many have questioned the credentials of the former Sunderland man, who is also in contention for the England captaincy, but performances like on Tuesday should soon convince any doubters that he is a key piece of Jurgen Klopp’s puzzle. Post-match, a number of fans and pundits aired their praise for his display.

The tie may only be at half-time but Jordan Henderson must show such leadership on the field of play again in Rome after his team lost their focus in the closing stages of their first leg clash.

Leading by example is pivotal to Henderson’s style and displays like his performance on Tuesday night at Anfield go a long way to justifying his role as captain of Liverpool.

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