Liverpool may have been surprise title contenders last season but as the new campaign kicks off manager Brendan Rodgers is targeting a trophy and a top-four finish. The Reds were pipped by Manchester City in the final week of the campaign despite an extraordinary run, which saw them record their highest league finish since 2009. Disappointment at missing out on a first championship for 24 years was only slightly tempered by a return to the Champions League but Rodgers knows if they are to maintain their progress they have to at least secure a long-term place among Europe’s elite. New Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana will miss the visit of former club Southampton on Sunday as he continues his recovery from a knee injury. Fellow summer signing Lazar Markovic (ankle) will also not be fit but both players are expected to return to full training next week. Striker Rickie Lambert and centre-back Dejan Lovren, who also both moved from the Saints this summer, are available but defenders Jon Flanagan (knee) and Daniel Agger (calf) are sidelined by injuries. Southampton could hand out a number of debuts. Only new defensive acquisition Florin Gardos (hamstring) is a certain absentee. Ronald Koeman believes his first game in charge of Southampton will come against a Liverpool side stronger than last season, despite the departure of Luis Suarez. The Uruguay forward, named player of the year for his efforts as the Reds fell just short in the Premier League title race, left for Barcelona following a biting scandal at the World Cup. However, Liverpool boss Rodgers has invested heavily in his squad over the summer, bringing in almost £50million worth of talent from Southampton alone with the signings of Lallana, Lambert and Lovren. Further additions have been made in the shape of Markovic, Javier Manquillo and Alberto Moreno, with Koeman expecting a tough assignment from his maiden game in charge of Saints as he looks to replicate the 1-0 victory the south-coast club achieved at Anfield last year. “Luis Suarez is a great player who scored a lot for them,” he said. “But if you look through the squad of Liverpool they have so many good football players. Liverpool for this season is much stronger than last season. “It’s a great start for us to play away against Liverpool, we know it’s a tough one but everybody starts on nil. “The players know how to win at Anfield, I know as a manager what is winning at Anfield and we are ready to play.” As a result he has tried to lessen the expectations of another title challenge – at least until their primary aim is achieved. Asked whether his side were contenders the Northern Irishman said: “Not according to the bookies we’re not. “I’ve seen some odds and I don’t think we are even in the top four. “I think people will look at Manchester City and Chelsea, with their squads. “We probably arrived a year early to where we were but we will look to be up there challenging again this season. “What happened last year counts for nothing, that’s all gone now. The one thing that will carry on from that is the belief. “Our aim is to be competitive. Like the top teams, we want to win a trophy. That would be an aim. In the league, it’s about sustaining Champions League football. “For that you want to arrive in fourth. Once you have consolidated that, you can look beyond that. That’s certainly our aim this season.” Press Association
After rising to a No. 3 rank, the women’s water polo team will look to add its third-straight title victory at the Barbara Kalbus Invitation this weekend. The Trojans have won the last two years’ tournaments, which have been hosted by UC Irvine. Photo by Emily Smith | Daily TrojanOver three days, the team will have the chance to face four opponents, including top competitors such as No. 1 Stanford, No. 2 Cal and No. 4 UCLA. The tournament is a chance for the top teams in the MPSF and the nation to face off. From year to year, it is a consistently competitive weekend, but this year, the tournament will feature 16 top-20 teams, providing a truly elite lineup of competition.The weekend for the Trojans will start out with a matchup against San Jose State on Friday. The No. 18 team will provide a solid challenge to begin the weekend, but the team’s eyes will be set on the second game of the tourney. A win over San Jose State would result in a game against the winner of the opening game between No. 6 Arizona State and No. 15 UC San Diego on Saturday. An opportunity to face the Sun Devils this early in the tournament would be a welcome trial for the Trojans, who often duel with them in the MPSF tournament.A pair of opening victories would give the Trojans a berth into the semifinal game on Saturday night. The ultimate goal of the tournament is to reach the championship game on Sunday, which could set the team against any of its in-state foes. The Trojans already took down the Bruins in a 6-4 victory in the title game of the Triton Invitational two weeks ago. The win gave the Trojans their fifth-straight championship in the tournament, highlighted by two goals from standout freshman driver Paige Hauschild, who scored the final goal to clinch the 2-point advantage. Hauschild went on to win MPSF Newcomer of the Week following her performance in the tournament. The award was her second in only six weeks of NCAA play.Although the Trojans took home the title thanks to a ferocious offensive effort — with senior captain driver Brianna Daboub notching her 100th career goal in the semifinal victory over UC Irvine — it was the defense that held down the championship for USC. Goalkeepers senior Victoria Chamorro and junior Amanda Longan split time in the net, with Chamorro earning 27 saves on the weekend and Longan picking up 23 in the semifinal and championship match.A similar defensive effort will be necessary for the Trojans this weekend, as they will most likely face off against two of the top four teams in the nation. The team has yet to face Cal and Stanford so far this season, but all three teams are well-acquainted as they will play each other a handful of times in regular season games and tournaments, as well as in the MPSF and NCAA tournaments. The matchups are not set in stone yet, but the Trojans can expect a challenge no matter which of their in-state rivals they face at the finish line.
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