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Rodgers rests key players ahead Bordeaux clash

Brendan Rodgers

Brendan Rodgers' side faces Bordeaux in France today after losing to West Ham and Manchester United in the Premier League.

Playmaker Philippe Coutinho has called for calm as Liverpool seeks a positive start to their Europa League campaign following two successive defeats.

"It is vital to stay calm, mainly because we are just at the beginning in all competitions," said Coutinho.

"We have a long season ahead and many things can happen."

The Brazil international added: "The Premier League is tough - all clubs have great teams - and we know twists and turns will happen.

"We have to not only remain calm but also to work hard to achieve what we want on the pitch."

Coutinho was suspended for the defeat by Manchester United following his sending off against West Ham but will be available to face Bordeaux.

"After two consecutive defeats, we're conscious there's going to be more pressure from the outside - we have to do things right on the pitch so we can achieve good results," he added, speaking to the club's website.

Rodgers has left a number of first-team players out of the squad for the trip to France, with Christian Benteke, James Milner, Nathaniel Clyne, Martin Skrtel, Dejan Lovren and Lucas Leiva not travelling.

Mamadou Sakho could make his first appearance of the season by partnering Kolo Toure in central defence.

Belgium striker Divock Origi is in line for the first start of his Liverpool career, while midfielder Adam Lallana has returned to fitness following a thigh problem and is available.

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Shaky Germany out to get even with Poland

Thomas Mueller

Thomas Mueller says Germany need to recapture their 2014 World Cup-winning form and settle a score against Poland in the first of two key Euro 2016 qualifiers on Friday.

By their own admission, Joachim Loew’s side have been below-par since winning the World Cup final in Rio de Janeiro. They find themselves in the unusual position of being second in Group D, a point behind the group leaders, Poland.

The Germans host Poland, then face Scotland, who are in third position, in Glasgow on Monday, and as Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer says, "we need six points".

First up, Loew’s team are out to avenge their historic 2-0 defeat to Poland in Warsaw last October the Germans’s first loss to their neighbours which was followed by a 1-1 draw at home to the Republic of Ireland.

"We have a score to settle with Poland," said Bayern Munich star Mueller. "They are first, we are second, of course, we want to pass them in the table, but it’s going to be tough work, we know that. "We need to play the sort of football again which we haven’t seen for a while."

His Bayern teammate Robert Lewandowski will lead Poland’s attack and Mueller says keeping the hot-shot striker quiet is a factor.

"But it’s not just about Lewandowski, we have to stop their counterattack and defend the space as well."

As German daily Die Welt pointed out, a poll of Germans suggest the euphoria of the Brazil triumph has faded with only 13% believing their side will win the Euro 2016 title in France.

"After a year of not really playing like World Cup winners, we are in a bit of a tight spot and these are two games of truth," surmised Loew.

Poland arrive in Frankfurt looking to complete the double over their neighbours to stay top of the group.

"Before the first match in Warsaw nobody believed we could beat them, but we did," said defender Kamil Glik.

"Impossible is nothing in football.

"I can see that in general, more and more teams in Europe want to avoid Poland as an opponent and that means we’ve become a good team.

"We have nothing to lose in Frankfurt. We want to confirm our qualities," Glik said.

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Hodgson Challenges his Players to Win Euro 2016

Roy Hodgson

Roy Hodgson has challenged his England squad to "go up another level" and triumph at Euro 2016 next summer.

England can secure qualification when - rather than if, surely - they beat San Marino away on Saturday and if Slovenia then fail to beat Switzerland away the same evening which appears a likely scenario.

It means that England will have gone through from Group E, one of the weaker qualification groups, with a 100 per cent record so far and with three ties to spare -giving Hodgson even more time to prepare for France. They also face the Swiss at Wembley on Tuesday.

Hodgson knows that - with his contract running out next summer - his future as England manager will be decided by how the team performs in the finals.

The 22-man squad gathered at St??George's Park with Hodgson -deprived of key players such as

Jack Wilshere, Jordan Henderson, Fabian Delph and Adam Lallana in his midfield, as well as the likes of Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge, which has led to a recall for Jonjo Shelvey three years after he earned his only cap so far - also against San Marino when he came on as a second-half understitute.

Shelvey, 23, revealed Hodgson's challenge to the squad in the team meeting. "He just said we can either go one way, keep winning and stay the way we are, or we can go up

another level in our performance," he said. "There's no reason why the England team with the players we've got in this country can't go to the European Champion-ship and win it. And that's what Roy Hodgson wants us to do and what we want to do.

"It was quite an upbeat meeting. He kept a few senior players behind afterwards to keep us in the unit meetings. He wants us to win and I'm sure we can."

The 'unit' meetings are something Hodgson has introduced - -dividing his squad into the units of defence, midfield and attack with a player from each of those areas chosen as a leader to pass on details to the others - since he was appointed as manager ahead of the last European Championship finals.

That tournament, in Poland and Ukraine, amounted to a 'free pass' for Hodgson given that he was brought in late following the resignation of Fabio Capello and only -after he had completed his club -season as head coach of West Bromwich Albion. Then, however, at the World Cup finals in Brazil in 2014 England failed to progress out of their group.

Martin Glenn, the Football Association chief executive, has made public the fact that Hodgson has to make a better fist of a tournament if he hopes to remain in his post -beyond next summer. If England again flop, Hodgson will be out.

Shelvey said that he had been spurred on by another challenge he has been set - by his club manager at Swansea City, Garry Monk, who accused the midfielder of being "lazy" and needing to "wise up" -after he was sent off against his former club Liverpool last Boxing Day. "It is either going to go one way or the other," Shelvey said of that rebuke. "You either just sit around and sulk on the bench or you get the bit between your teeth and really kick on and listen to what he has got to say. And I did that and that is paying off now."

Shelvey's involvement with England has been tainted by contro-versy with Hodgson having suggested previously that he was "reticent" about playing for the -under-21s.

"I can assure you that I have never refused to play for England in my whole life and if I did my dad [Ricky] would kill me," Shelvey said. "I remember what I think the mix-up was. When Gareth Southgate took over [as under-21 coach]... he made a phone call to me. We [Swansea] were playing a lot of Europa League games at the time and he said to me, 'By the time the Euros come around I don't expect you to be with the -under-21s. I expect you to be with the seniors.'

"And that is where it got mixed up I think, but then I got off the phone and sent a text to Gareth Southgate saying, 'If I am not [in the seniors] then I am available to play'. And I would never turn my back on my country. I always want to play and my dad would, literally, if I had hair he would rip it off. He is a big football man himself.

"As a boy you want to play for your country. I would never turn my back on my country and I get a bit of upset when it keeps getting mentioned in the press.

"I can assure you on my daughter's life that I have never ever refused to play for my country."

Nevertheless Shelvey admitted that he was no stranger to confrontation such as when, in 2012, he was at Liverpool and was sent off in a game against Manchester United and then involved himself in an ugly spat with Sir Alex Ferguson.

"I was a bit immature then and a bit silly, I pulled him aside afterwards and apologised to him and he was spot on with me, he said, 'No, I like it, it shows you've got a bit of balls about you' - but it was silly to do that, it's under the carpet," Shelvey said.

"I can understand why people don't like me. I'm a bit like Marmite, you either love me or hate me. But I don't have as many rows on the pitch as I did before. There's no need to row on the football pitch."

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Robben is new Oranje captain

Arjen Robben

Ahead of Euro 2016 qualifiers against Iceland and Turkey, Netherlands head coach Danny Blind has named Arjen Robben the nation's captain moving forward.

While the Dutch are likely still going to qualify for the tournament, they currently sit in third place and five points behind Iceland!

"I need a skipper who's more present on the pitch," said Blind when asked about the change from Van Persie to Robben. The Bayern winger acknowledged that it was a "great honor", but he wanted "to stress that we have to achieve it with everyone."

"It's do or die time. We have to win both games," declared Robben, although the winger remains optimistic. "I'm very confident we can do it." One would expect the Netherlands to eventually grab at least second place in this group, as only Iceland and Czech Republic sit ahead of them in the group.

Full Squad

Goalkeepers: Jasper Cillessen, Tim Krul, Jeroen Zoet

Defenders: Gregory van der Wiel, Bruno Martins Indi, Daley Blind, Stefan de Vrij, Jeffrey Bruma, Terence Kongolo, Jairo Riedewald, Kenny Tete

Midfielders: Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, Ibrahim Afellay, Georginio Wijnaldum, Memphis Depay, Luciano Narsingh, Quincy Promes, Vernon Anita, Davy Klaassen

Forwards: Robin van Persie, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Luuk de Jong

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Conte eyes two Italy wins

Antonio Conte

Italy coach Antonio Conte said his team can all but secure Euro 2016 qualification with wins against Malta and Bulgaria.

Conte's men sit second to Croatia in Group H of qualifying, but they are two points clear of Norway and four ahead of Bulgaria.

Ahead of hosting Malta on Thursday and Bulgaria three days later, Conte said qualification - a top-two spot will guarantee their place in France - was close for his team.

"This is an important week for us. We face Malta and Bulgaria," he said.

"We can be really close to qualification if we win these matches. But qualification has not been achieved yet."

Despite being early in the season, Conte backed his players to perform for their country.

Among the players left out were Mario Balotelli and Claudio Marchisio, while Sebastian Giovinco withdrew due to an adductor injury.

"It is important to be focused on the players that we have got. Otherwise we start thinking about impossible solutions and wasting time. We have to do our best with these players," Conte said.

"However, I will be really careful with the players who play. This time I called up the group of players based on last season's performances. I trusted them and they deserve the chance to prove they can continue to do the job for us.

"If some of these players don't play during the season, then of course they risk not being called up. I have to be honest and respectful with the players who are playing. I want to be clear about that."

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