Liverpool are set to trigger Christian Benteke’s £32.5million release clause after changing their valuation of the Aston Villa striker. Chief executive Ian Ayre is currently in Brisbane with Rodgers and his squad for the second leg of their pre-season tour but will still handle negotiations with Villa for the purchase of the 24-year-old. Rodgers has been keen to add some strength to his attacking options but also wants a frontline striker who can withstand the rigours of the Premier League. England international Daniel Sturridge made just 18 appearances last season after missing virtually the first five months of the season with injury. He is likely to be sidelined until at least September after undergoing surgery on a hip problem which prematurely ended his campaign in April. That would have left Rodgers with youngster Divock Origi, playing his first season in English football after spending last season on loan at Lille, and summer signing from Burnley Danny Ings as his two choices having decided Mario Balotelli, Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini are all surplus to requirements. The club have invested heavily in Hoffenheim’s Brazil international Roberto Firmino, who could cost them up to £29million, but he is not an out-and-out forward and so Rodgers needed to recruit someone else to play as his spearhead. Liverpool have already bought six new players, including England right-back Nathaniel Clyne at a cost of £12.5million, and Benteke’s arrival would push their summer spending to around £80million despite Rodgers saying 12 months ago, after an outlay of £110million, that there would not be a huge amount of recruitment to follow. However, the loss of Champions League status and the failure of number of last year’s signings – plus the sale of Sterling – has forced a re-think. Manager Brendan Rodgers made the Belgium international his primary target to strengthen his forward line but for a long time the club were reluctant to meet the figure needed to spark a move. Villa were adamant they would not budge on the clause and, after selling Raheem Sterling to Manchester City in a £49million deal this week, Press Association Sport understands Liverpool have now relented and will make their approach to the midlanders. Press Association
When the Saints (9-2) travel to face the Falcons (3-8) in an NFC South battle on Thanksgiving, they won’t be just looking for revenge after losing to their rivals in New Orleans three weeks ago. They also can clnch a third consecutive division title, as with a win, they would be up 4.5 games up on the Panthers (5-6) with only four left to play.The Saints lost that shocker in Week 10, 26-9, but they have since routed the Buccaneers and edged the Panthers in NFC South play. The Falcons routed the Panthers on the road in Week 11 but got ripped by the Buccaneers at home in Week 12. Stat that mattersThe Falcons have the No. 27 pass defense in the NFL, allowing on average 266.4 passing yards per game. The Saints have the No. 9 passing offense, averaging 260.5 yards per game. With Brees fully back and Atlanta getting burned badly downfield by Jameis Winston and the Bucs last week, this bodes well for New Orleans to stay moving on the road in a controlled environment.Saints vs. Falcons predictionThe Saints’ passing game is red-hot and their running game is starting to find its groove at the right time of the season. The Falcons can’t run effectively even with Freeman and Ryan and the passing game tend to be disappointing in what looks like favorable situations. The Saints will remember what happened in the Big Easy and won’t take it easy on the Falcons, celebrating another division title in the visitors’ locker room.Saints 27, Falcons 20 It’s a holiday, but there won’t be much love given from the Saints to the Falcons as they look to take their latest crown.Here’s everything to know about betting on Saints vs. Falcons in Week 13, including updated odds, trends and our expert’s prediction for the 2019 NFL Thanksgiving game.MORE: Get the latest NFL odds & betting advice at Sportsbook ReviewSaints vs. Falcons odds for Thanksgiving 2019Spread: Saints by 7Point total: 49Odds: Saints +104, Falcons -114The Saints have been around touchdown favorites since the initial line came out, which means they would be 10-point favorites again if this game was in the other Mercedes-Benz monikered venue. Although New Orleans had to fight hard not to be upset by Carolina, Atlanta regressed to looking terrible against Tampa Bay.Saints vs. Falcons all-time seriesThe Falcons lead the series 53-48. Before their Week 10 game, however, they had dropped three straight in the rivalry. Before that, it was the Falcons who enjoyed a three-game winning streak. That’s been the nature of this tight, up-and-down matchup over the years as the teams have competed in both the NFC West and NFC South.Three trends to know— 67 percent of bettors like the Saints to cover the spread. 54 percent of moneyline bettors also are on the Saints to even the season series.— 60 percent of bettors like the point total to go over with Drew Brees and Matt Ryan quarterbacking two potent passing games, despite the defenses’ recent successes.— The Saints are 7-4 against the spread this season. The Falcons are 3-7-1 against the spread this season.Three things to watchFreeman healthier, but Jones notFalcons running back Devonta Freeman is set to return from his foot injury, but now go-to wide receiver Julio Jones has a shoulder injury. The Falcons will do their best to get their running game back on track, but with Brees on the other side, they will need to throw more to win the rematch. Should Jones be limited and Ryan continue to slump, that’s not bound to happen.Kamara and MurrayThe Saints have their dynamic backfield duo working extremely well together. The Falcons have been good against the run, averaging giving up only 3.9 yards per carry. But Kamara is a nightmare on the edge and in the short passing game, while Murray has great power and burst with which to change the pace.Thomas and CookMichael Thomas continues to be a beastly record-setting presence as the Saints’ top wide receiver. But now he has a real running buddy in tight end Jared Cook, emerging as a consistently dangerous No. 2 option. The Falcons don’t really have combined coverage answers for them.