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Defeat has dented City's confidence says Iheanacho

Kelechi Iheanacho has admitted Manchester City will head to Real Madrid with their confidence damaged by Sunday's 4-2 Premier League defeat at Southampton.

Nigeria hitman Iheanacho struck twice as City's sole positive in a bleak south coast thumping at the hands of Ronald Koeman's Saints, for whom Sadio Mane scored a hat-trick.

The 19-year-old hopes to have earned a start for City's Champions League semi-final second leg at Real on Wednesday night, but admitted Manuel Pellegrini's side saw their preparations dented in defeat at Saints.

"This was not good preparation, this game didn't give us enough confidence but we'll put it behind us as soon as we leave here and focus on the game on Wednesday," said Iheanacho.

"We need to put it behind us, it's gone, it's not going to come back.

"So many things went wrong in the game, we lost so many balls and we didn't defend well.

"We lost so we're not happy, but we'll put it behind us and come back stronger."

But will he start in the week? Only time will tell.

Klopp optimistic about future

Jurgen Klopp insists Liverpool's future is in safe hands despite his youngsters suffering a painful lesson at Swansea.

Klopp named the youngest starting line-up in Liverpool's Premier League history as he took the opportunity to rest key personnel ahead of Thursday's Europa League semi-final second leg against Villarreal.

Spanish midfielder Pedro Chirivella made his league debut and there were also starts for fellow teenager Sheyi Ojo, Brad Smith and second-choice goalkeeper Danny Ward, as Klopp sent out a side with an average age of 23 years and 218 days.

But it proved a tough afternoon for Liverpool with the ineffective Chirivella replaced at half-time and Smith sent off in the second half for two bookable offences.

"I can't change my mind every two days like you can (about the strength of the squad)," manager Klopp said after making eight changes from the side which lost 1-0 to Villarreal in Spain last week.

"After Bournemouth, after Stoke, after these games, everybody said 'oh my God, how good are these young players?'

"They are good, but that is how it is - life as a professional football player is not always a honeymoon.

"You have to prove, you have to deliver. It did not work too well, but it is not a problem for the future, it is only a problem for today.

"A result or a game like this would only be completely senseless if you do not use the information for the future - and that's what we will do for sure.

"It's not about the squad or something, it's only about this performance."

Swansea's win inflicted successive defeats on Klopp for the first time in his seven months at Liverpool.

But Klopp insists his side are fine ahead of the Villarreal return at Anfield and a game which could define their season.

"Maybe this performance was influenced by the number of games we have had," he said.

"I'm not too much interested in that because I can't change it, but hopefully we have influence on the number of games we will have in the future.

"Ten days ago we were in brilliant shape and now we are not in bad shape."

Swansea's first win over Liverpool after five straight defeats preserved their top-flight status and ensured a sixth season of Premier League football.

It has been a turbulent campaign for Swansea, with Garry Monk sacked in December and Alan Curtis taking interim charge before Francesco Guidolin was appointed in January.

Guidolin's reign is set to be a short one as Swansea, who are currently in takeover talks with an American consortium, are expected to appoint a new manager this summer.

But midfielder Jack Cork believes the club can kick on, whoever is in charge next season.

"It's nice to get it (safety) mathematically done," said Cork after scoring his second goal in 49 Swansea appearances against Liverpool.

"Considering how tough the season's been it's great to do it with two games left.

"But if you look at our results since January we've been playing really well.

"We've had some good results and if we can maybe add a couple more players to this group then I think we'll be fine.

"Against the bigger teams we've done similar to what we did last year, and maybe one target next season would be to get more points from the teams around us."


Practice makes perfect for Andros Townsend

Andros Townsend has revealed the free-kick which hauled Newcastle out of the relegation zone was honed on Tottenham's training pitches.

Just a few months ago, the 24-year-old England international was out of favour at White Hart Lane and training with the second team, although all the while, he was awaiting his next chance.

That came when the Magpies invested £12million in his services in January, and his most telling contribution yet came on Saturday when he smashed a 58th-minute free-kick past Crystal Palace keeper Wayne Hennessey to clinch three priceless points.

Townsend said: "At the back end of last year, I used to stay out for hours practising free-kicks, left foot then right foot.

"It was frustrating, but all that hard work on the training field eventually pays off. It paid off in dividends against Palace - in front of 52,000 fans."

It was Townsend's fourth goal in 11 appearances in a black and white shirt and his third in the last five, but it was by some distance the most important yet.

He said: "I have scored goals when we were 5-0 down and 3-0 down, then a third goal in a 3-0 win against Swansea. But this is what you live for, moments like this when your team really needs it.

"I'm glad to repay the faith and hopefully in the last two games, I can contribute with more goals and assists."

Townsend and his team-mates have two games left in which to secure what just a few weeks ago looked like an unlikely escape, and they know they may have to win both - away to relegated Aston Villa and at home to high-flying Tottenham - if they are to survive.

However, with relegation rivals Sunderland and Norwich both having a game in hand, even that may not prove enough during what is sure to be a dramatic conclusion to the campaign.

Jamie Vardy voted Football Writers’ Player of Year

Leicester City forward Jamie Vardy Credit: Nick Potts/PA Wire

Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy has been voted the 2016 Football Writers’ Player of Year by the Football Writers' Association.

The 29-year-old has scored 22 goals for Leicester this season, with impressive performances for the Foxes earning him a call-up to the England squad for the first time.

Vardy won 36% of the votes from 290 sports journalists, ahead of Leicester teammates Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kanté.

In total, seven Leicester City players were nominated - captain Danny Drinkwater, goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and defenders Wes Morgan and Danny Simpson.

FWA chairman Andy Dunn said: "It is testament to their all-round excellence that so many Leicester players polled votes from our members. The Jamie Vardy story, though, clearly captured the imagination of so many writers."

"His record-breaking feat of scoring in 11 consecutive matches is the jewel in what will surely be Leicester's Premier League crown. The Footballer of the Year award is not just a reflection of his fantastic season, but recognition of a remarkable journey from non-league to the international stage," he added.

Vardy will collect the prestigious award at a glittering ceremony in London on May 12.


Starting line-ups: Southampton V Manchester City

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