Reds' road to glory strewn with injury and deficiencies, says Richard Buxton

Injury woes and defensive deficiencies could derail Reds' hopes

WEAKEST LINK? Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet's Jekyll-
and-Hyde showing is proving to be the Reds' undoing.

SEMI-FINAL, 1ST LEG

VILLARREAL v LIVERPOOL

(Tomorrow, 3.05am, Singtel TV Ch 112 & StarHub TV Ch 212)

Liverpool have never tended to do things the easy way in their pursuit of glory.

But perhaps never quite like this.

In a season that has seen extreme highs and lows engulf Anfield, hedonism and heartache continue to go hand in hand.

Even Juergen Klopp, a firm advocate of transforming cynics into believers, may struggle to put a positive spin on the current predicament.

The perennially upbeat German would do well to find upsides, heading into their Europa League semi-final, first-leg clash with Villarreal tomorrow morning (Singapore time).

He will lead a side that is injury-ravaged, defensively haphazard and devoid of various totems into battle - nothing new, there.

That has been the story of Liverpool's season in a nutshell.

Without Mamadou Sakho, however, the Reds risk being submerged by the "Yellow Submarine".

Not so long ago, the France international was considered an incredibly poor fit in Liverpool's mismatched backline.

He appeared, physically, better suited to rugby than football while his ungainly stance in possession sparked mass panic among the Kop's ranks.

Yet at both ends of the field, he has become both a cult hero and one of the standard-bearers of Klopp's high-intensity brand of football.

Goals have been added to composed and resolute defensive performances.

HEROIC

He was heroic against Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund and Everton in recent weeks.

Louis van Gaal's side mustered just one goal in the Round of 16, while in the EPL, a shot-shy Everton were incapable of wearing him down.

Dortmund's three-goal haul in an ultimately unsuccessful quarter-final encounter was rendered a mere blip.

Only the stigma of a potentially damaging failed drugs test curtailed Sakho's recent rise to prominence.

That foolishness is already set to cost him a place in his country's squad for Euro 2016 this summer.

An imposed absence, pending Uefa's regulatory outcome, threatens to see Liverpool's season also become collateral damage as it enters its most crucial moments.

Deprived of Sakho's services, a premonition of what potentially lies ahead at El Madrigal tomorrow morning was laid bare by Newcastle last Saturday.

The Reds threw away a two-goal lead, after a Simon Mignolet-inspired horror show, to gift the EPL strugglers, winless on their travels this year, a much-needed lifeline.

Calling it an unassailable advantage would be disingenuous. Nothing about Liverpool's various capitulations have been as comfortable as the erstwhile scorelines suggested.

How many times has that narrative repeated itself this season alone?

Other key absences will be keenly felt on Spain's eastern coast, but have been lessened by the depth in Liverpool's other well-stocked departments.

The loss of Divock Origi's pace and goal supply has been supplemented by Daniel Sturridge's long-awaited return to both fitness and form, however long that lasts.

A wealth of midfield options, meanwhile, has cushioned the respective injury lay-offs of Jordan Henderson and Emre Can.

At a time when defensive cohesion has been in short supply, Sakho's blossoming partnership with Dejan Lovren appears to have put paid to concerns over Liverpool's backline deficiencies.

But, as Champions League qualification hopes now hinge on victory in next month's Europa League final, that road to Basel is heading dangerously towards a cul-de-sac.

BY THE NUMBERS

11

Villarreal are unbeaten in 11 Europa League fixtures (eight wins, three draws). They have won all six home games in this season's competition.

1

Liverpool are unbeaten in this season's Europa League (five wins, seven draws). They won one and drew five of their away continental matches.

Dr Chee: Care for residents must be 'unconditional'

ON THE GROUND: 
Dr Chee Soon Juan greeting two SDP supporters, 
Ms Lim Li Li and Mr Michael Hwang, after his press conference.
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Tags: SCDF, suicide and Singapore

Man locks himself in Serangoon North flat, threatens to jump

Stand-off at Serangoon North lasts five hours

INJURED: The man was carried out by the Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team.
INJURED: He had bruises on his face, neck and shoulder.

She was at work when she received a call from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) telling her to return home to open her grille door.

The SCDF wanted to use her Serangoon North flat to carry out rescue operations.

That was how the resident found out that her neighbour, who lives a storey below, had threatened to jump.

"I was told that he had a knife with him as well," said the woman, who declined to give any details about herself.

The stand-off yesterday, which lasted about five hours, attracted a steady stream of curious residents to Serangoon North Avenue 4.

It ended after police and emergency services acted to defuse the tension and took the man to safety.

It was classified as a case of attempted suicide, a police spokesman said.

It all started with the 42-year-old threatening to jump out of his ninth-storey flat at Block 540, residents told The New Paper.

It is believed he was holding a knife.

Then he locked himself in a room in his four-room flat and refused to come out.

The police were alerted to the incident at about 1.55pm yesterday.

PRECAUTIONS

By 3pm, a crowd had gathered, their eyes fixed on the SCDF team as they set up rescue nets at the rear window of the unit.

At the foot of the block was a safety life air pack.

The police cordoned off access to the ninth storey. Officers could be seen shuffling in and out of the flat.

Police also activated the Special Operations Command (SOC) team, armed with shields.

The man was carried out of the flat by the Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (Dart) at about 7.30pm.

There were bruises on his face, neck and shoulder.

An SCDF spokesman said the man was taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital conscious.

When the TNP team went to the ninth storey after the stand-off, seven knives and five pairs of scissors could be seen outside the unit.

They are believed to have been retrieved from the man's flat.

Residents TNP spoke to said they were unaware of the incident until the authorities turned up.

A technical adviser who wanted to be known only as BJ said: "We could hear a bit of cracking noises, as though something was falling. It sounded like glass, but we aren't sure."

Mr BJ, 32, lives next to the unit.

Some, like a student, pointed to an argument that took place on Tuesday evening.

The 21-year-old, who lives on the 10th storey, said she heard a girl screaming: "Mama, don't hit didi (Chinese for younger brother)!"

This was confirmed by another resident who gave her name as Ms Tan.

The self-employed 46-year-old said she saw the argument from her 12th-storey flat opposite Block 540.

She said the argument created a ruckus and police had to be called in.

The man is believed to be the father of a boy and a girl who are of schoolgoing age.

Mrs Rose Ng, who lives on the seventh storey, said she greets the family occasionally.

When asked if she noticed any problems in the family, the 59-year-old said: "They seem like a normal family. They are usually quite polite. How could (the incident) have happened?"

The police spokesman confirmed that the man has been arrested in relation to the case.

They seem like a normal family. They are usually quite polite. How could (the incident) have happened?

- Mrs Rose Ng, 
a neighbour

President Tony Tan visits CID

HANDS-ON: President Tony Tan Keng Yam using a forensic light source to search for evidence in a staged crime scene.
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Tags: Singapore, police and crime

'Military aid in globalised world needed'

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