Jurgen Klopp hits out at January fixture schedule

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has hit out at the congested Christmas and New Year fixture schedule which he believes will hamper the Merseyside club. The Reds match against Manchester City has been moved back to a 5:30pm (1730 GMT) kick-off on New Year’s Eve, leaving Liverpool with less than 48 hours before their next match away to Sunderland at 3:00pm (1500 GMT) on January 2. “Now I have seen the fixtures and I am not too happy,” said Klopp on Friday. “We have less than 48 hours between our game against Man City on December 31 and in Sunderland on the 2nd. “Forty-eight hours is an interesting idea but less than 48 hours I cannot believe.” The German boss added: “I learn more and more about this league…

AFA hired firm to fly Argentine team without knowing plane BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) - Argentina’s Football Association hired a company that charters flights to transport superstar Lionel Messi and the rest of the national team for a World Cup qualifying game without knowing the name of the airline or the model of the plane, an official said Friday. The plane was the same British Aerospace 146 Avro RJ85 jet operated by Bolivia-based charter company LaMia that later crashed in Colombia, killing 71 people, including most of a Brazilian soccer team. Argentine Football Association spokesman Miguel Hirsch said Friday the AFA was forced to look for options for a roundtrip Buenos Aires-Belo Horizonte flight after the plane they often use from the Andes airline was sent for technical revisions. The Associated Press had access to offer sheets that...

Toronto Raptors’ Lucas Nogueira making big contributions but still earning trust of his ... In three games, Lucas Nogueira has gone from an end-of-the-bench guy, to being on the floor in the most crucial minutes a competitive NBA game has to offer. That, of course, would be the final minutes and through these past three games — wins in Oklahoma City, Charlotte, and at home against the New York Knicks — Nogueira has been on the floor in the fourth quarter for 33 minutes and 22 seconds of a possible 36 minutes. Only Kyle Lowry and Patrick Patterson have played more in the closing quarter over that span. Starting centre Jonas Valanciunas was not in uniform for the first game of the three and, according to Raptors head coach Dwane Casey, is still not all the way back to full health...

Mike Tomlin: Scoreboard watching not in Pittsburgh Steelers' game plan PITTSBURGH -- With four regular-season games remaining, the Pittsburgh Steelers are on the outside looking in of the AFC playoffs. But Mike Tomlin and his players say they don't scoreboard watch to see how the division rival Baltimore Ravens are doing. They know full well that if they take care of their business, they'll win the division and earn a spot in the playoffs. "I don't because I know that if we handle the business in our stadium we don't have to look outside at Baltimore or anyone else," Tomlin said following the Steelers' 24-14 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday, their third consecutive victory to remain in a tie with the Ravens atop at the AFC North division. "We're going to stay singularly focused...

Report: Chapecoense to receive Copa Sudamericana title Nothing can bring back the Chapecoense soccer players who were killed in a plane crash Monday. But Saturday brought a gesture that could go some way toward brightening the spirits of the surviving players and other members of the organization, not to mention millions of mourning Brazilians and soccer fans around the world. The plane was taking the players to Medellin, Colombia, where they were set to face Atletico Nacional in the championship round of the Copa Sudamericana tournament. In the wake of the tragedy, Atletico Nacional requested that Chapecoense be awarded the title, and on Saturday, Chapecoense’s interim president confirmed that will indeed happen. “CONMEBOL South American soccer’s governing body have testified that they will crown Chapecoense as champions of the Copa Sudamericana,” Ivan Tozzo ...

La Liga: Lionel Messi downplays his impact at Barcelona, says club ‘isn’t dependent ... Lionel Messi's prodigious talent is matched by his startling humility, which he displayed again on Thursday by denying that Barcelona's fate is determined by his presence in the team. File photo of Lionel Messi. AP The Argentina forward scored both goals in Barca's 2-0 Champions League win at Celtic on Wednesday, days after they had been held to a goalless draw at home to Malaga in Messi's absence. Talk of Barcelona being overly dependent on their all-time record scorer is nothing new, although it has been less frequent in recent seasons as fellow forwards Luis Suarez and Neymar have also flourished.  Yet the weekend stalemate and Messi's brilliant double on Wednesday, which took his Champions League total to 92 goals, including nine in this season's group stages alone, ...

Eli Manning, Odell Beckham lead New York Giants to fifth straight win CLEVELAND -- Eli Manning kept the New York Giants on the heels of the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday by throwing three touchdown passes in a 27-13 victory over the Cleveland Browns. The Giants (8-3) have won six straight games and trail the Cowboys (10-1) by two games in the NFC East. The Browns (0-12) are the only winless team in the NFL. "There's a feeling of disappointment because we haven't won a game yet," said Browns left tackle Joe Thomas, a 10-year veteran. "Today we felt offensively we didn't do enough to help the team win. "The defense played one of their better games. We were able to move the ball at times, but we had some critical mistakes and I think that was the...

Maten, Frazier lead Georgia past GW 81-73 in CBE Classic KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Yante Maten and J.J. Frazier scored 18 points apiece, and Georgia kept George Washington at arm’s length most of the way in an 81-73 victory Monday night in the semifinals of the CBE Classic. Derek Ogbeide added 11 points and eight boards, and Juwan Parker had nine points and 11 rebounds, as the Bulldogs (3-1) celebrated former coach Hugh Durham and Dominique Wilkins getting inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday night with their third straight win. Georgia led for 31 minutes but never by more than eight points. Tyler Cavanaugh had 21 points and Matt Hart added 17 for the Colonials (3-1), who tied the game up at 68-all on three-point play by Yuta Watanabe ith just over four minutes remaining. Georgia...