“Van Persie and Bale are on fire. Van Persie has been a very important player for Manchester United this season and Bale is doing very well – in the last few games, Spurs have won because of Bale’s goals. “It will be difficult for him but, of course, I think he deserves it. “But Luis is my friend, so I would like him to win the Player of the Year award.” Last weekend’s 4-0 rout of Wigan made it back-to-back league wins with nine goals scored and none conceded but the quality of Sunday’s opposition means the test posed at Anfield will be far greater. “I think we are playing well and we must look to continue like this but Tottenham are also playing well,” Enrique told liverpoolfc.com. “We made some additions in January, in Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge, and they have given us a lift because they are two good players. “The aim for us is to try to win as many games as we can. It’s going to be really difficult to finish fourth but it won’t be impossible. We have to start with a performance against Tottenham because they are one of the teams fighting for the same thing as us.” Press Association In scoring terms, Suarez went two clear of Manchester United’s Robin van Persie and five clear of Gareth Bale, who visits Anfield on Sunday with Tottenham, with a hat-trick against Wigan last weekend. However, with United and Spurs currently in Champions League qualification spots, Enrique thinks that may help their respective players while Liverpool are playing catch-up in seventh. “Judging the award is really difficult because a lot of the time it depends on where a team is in the league and Tottenham and Manchester United are both in better positions than us,” said the Spaniard. Defender Jose Enrique believes Liverpool’s league position does not help Luis Suarez’s bid to be named player of the year but confirmed the Uruguay international has earned his vote.
Sometimes, fans assume that sports are like algebra.If Team A beats Team B by 21, and if Team B beats Team C by 14, then it follows that Team A should beat Team C by 35.Right?No — at least, not according to Lane Kiffin and the Trojans.Kiffin dismissed any thought of that this week, when reporters brought up the fact that Minnesota — the Trojans’ opponent Saturday — just lost to South Dakota, 41-38.Yes, that South Dakota, a Football Championship Subdivision team that, on its official site, features a poll that about 90 percent of voters have said yes to: “Was USD football’s 41-38 win over Minnesota the biggest win in program history?”On that note, it’s safe to say that Minnesota has had a bad week.But that doesn’t mean that the Trojans can overlook the Golden Gophers, because, well, you saw what happened when they played a lesser-hyped team in Virginia.Sophomore quarterback Matt Barkley, one of five captains on the 2010 squad and maybe the most outspoken player on the team, agrees with that sentiment.“You can’t really approach games differently, I don’t think,” Barkley said this week. “Or grade them based on who you’re playing, because anything can happen. So we’re approaching it just like any other week with our same preparation. We’re not thinking this is gonna be a cakewalk, but going at it full and trying to do our best – like we always do.”The word “cakewalk” is particularly interesting. In most situations, games such as the USC-Minnesota game and the USC-Virginia game and the USC-Hawai’i game are expected to be just that — cakewalks.Except the first two weren’t, for a variety of reasons. And now the Trojans are trying to combat those same reasons that prevented them from strutting their stuff against the Warriors and Cavaliers.Judging from this week of practice, that seemed like a very viable possibility, with the team looking supremely sharp and focused and on a mission.And then Thursday’s practice happened.Three interceptions happened. A focus- and intensity-free two hours happened.And now we’re back to last week again, aren’t we?“I thought it started really well,” Kiffin said of the Trojans’ game-week preparation for Minnesota following a 17-14 win over Virginia, which he called the most disappointing victory of his coaching career. “Tuesday and Wednesday were very good for the most part. [Thursday] was just OK. We’ve got a long ways to go. They need to understand that this is a very serious game and not take this opponent lightly just because of what happened last week, which doesn’t mean anything [next Saturday].”He has a point. There are many instances of teams playing significantly worse against teams that are worse than them, and significantly better against teams that are better than them — in other words, taking them lightly.Coaches will tell you that it’s because of a bad matchup, an injury to a specific player or guys not executing.In reality, however, it’s just the players being humans and not getting as amped up for a lesser opponent as they would for a big-time opponent.It only makes sense, right?How else do you explain the Los Angeles Lakers splitting two games and being outscored by 13 points in the season series with the Charlotte Bobcats last season, then going on to win the league title for the second-straight year?How else do you explain USC losing to lowly Stanford at the Coliseum on that fateful day in October 2007 when the Trojans hadn’t lost at home in 35 games?The only connecting factor between those games is an obvious amount of decreased intensity from the players on the losing team.I imagine we’ll know fairly soon on Saturday afternoon whether the Trojans have found that lost intensity, located that displaced focus and prepared properly to face the Gophers in a nationally televised game that will determine a lot of what people will say about USC football over the next several weeks.But we don’t know yet. In Kiffin’s words, they still have ”a long ways to go.”Maybe that involves figuring out their math, after all.“Looking Past the X’s and O’s” runs every other Friday. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or e-mail Pedro at [email protected]