Rumours of a move for Nicolas Pepe have been fueled by the claim that Liverpool are “well placed” to sign the Lille winger.
Pepe has been repeatedly linked with a move to Anfield this summer, following an impressive season that saw him contribute 23 goals and 12 assists for his club.
French publication L’Equipe claimed on Thursday that Liverpool had made a bid of €80 million (£71.2m) plus bonuses. And now RMC Sport’s Mohamed Bouhafsi says the Reds are “well placed” to sign the Ivory Coast international.
“Liverpool and Bayern Munich negotiate with Lille and the player,” Bouhafsi wrote on Twitter.
“It is not advanced at the moment because the player wants to think a little more.
“A very important third club will position itself quickly.”
Bouhafsi is best known to Liverpool fans as the journalist who first reported Fabinho’s switch to the Reds last summer, so it might be worth paying attention to what he has to say.
Pepe has caught the interest of Europe’s top clubs with a string of fine performances, and should there be any truth to the rumours of Liverpool’s interest it appears that Bayern Munich will be their main rivals for the 24-year-old’s signature.
Whether there is any serious interest from Klopp is debatable. There is no doubting Pepe’s talent but with an established front three it was thought that Liverpool would only be in the market for a backup forward this summer. At £70m+ this transfer doesn’t really fit the bill.
That hasn’t stopped some keen fans backing the move though. One top online casino reported a $10k bet placed on the transfer happening, whilst many online sports betting sites are offering odds that reflect they believe the move is possible though unlikely.
Should these rumours come to anything and the player ultimately signs, there is no doubting he would add some serious quality to a front line already up there as one of the best in the world.
Wolves have made an offer for Liverpool’s highly-rated youngster Rafa Camacho.
That’s according to Football Insider, who report that Nuno Espirito Santo is poised to make a move for the £10 million rated player.
Sporting Lisbon and RB Leipzig are also reported to be interested in the versatile 19-year-old, who can play as a winger or full-back, but it appears Wolves the first to make a concrete move.
Camacho has one year left on his contract with the Reds, and has previously made it clear he wishes to move on from the club. It appears very likely the player will be sold rather than losing him for next to nothing in 12 months time.
The youngster is regarded as one for the future by Jürgen Klopp, but appears intent on getting first team football now – something that won’t happen just yet at Liverpool. There’s a wealth of talent ahead of him in the pecking order, and it seems the odds would be better at winning the online slots than seeing regular first team action any time soon.
As a Portuguese youth international, Molyneux would seem a sensible destination for Camacho – with Wolves featuring fellow countrymen Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho in their lineup, as well as manager Santo.
Camacho made two first team appearances for Liverpool in the 2018/19 season.
So here we are again. Runners-up in a Premier League title race. It’s happened every five years for us in recent times. We lost out in 2008/09 and 2013/14 to create the pattern and have perpetuated it in 2018/19. But it feels different this time.
Few would believe you if you’d said that we would amass 97 points, lose just once and end up finishing second. But we live in the Manchester City and Pep Guardiola era. They won the title last season with 100 points, a record, and were just two shy of matching it. The standards they have set in the past two campaigns have not been seen before and it means that you cannot afford to make (m)any errors in trying to pip them to the crown. They won their final fourteen Premier League games in order to beat us by that single point. Rival fans have labelled us as bottlers, but that just doesn’t ring true on any level. Yes, we drew seven games this past season – but City were beaten four times. Does that make them bottlers? You wouldn’t have thought so. The dropped points against Leicester City and West Ham stung us, there’s no denying it, but it didn’t derail us. And if that’s the worst blip you’re going to have in a season, then you can probably expect to be champions. In most seasons, anyway.
Manchester United and Everton fans will gloat in claiming that the two 0-0 draws at Old Trafford and Goodison Park were the deciding factors in us finishing behind City in second place. But they would be wrong. If the season can be narrowed down to a key moment, then look no further than City’s 2-1 victory over us at The Etihad in January. It was our sole loss in the league this season and it was the game that made the difference overall. Leroy Sane’s winner was probably the single most important goal of City’s season – and that includes Vincent Kompany’s stunning winner against Leicester last week. Had we drawn, or even won that game, we could very well be sat here now with the Premier League trophy in the cabinet. We had just had a superb December – while they stuttered and fell seven points behind us. They absolutely had to win that game to keep us in their sights and close the gap to four points. Looking back over the season, it was that game that made the difference in the end.
We can certainly feel a little hard done by with regards to that loss though. Kompany should have been shown a straight red card in the first-half for what was a wild lunge at Mohamed Salah. Yes, it was barely in their half, but the Egyptian had a clear run at goal and the nature of the challenge was reckless. That moment favoured City and so did John Stones’ last ditch clearance off the line in the same match did. 11mm was all that was stopped us from opening the scoring thanks to some calamitous defending from Stones and goalkeeper Ederson. But the England international redeemed himself, somehow, and City went on to win.
The failure of Anthony Taylor to dismiss the City captain is probably the main bone of contention we can have this season in terms of injustice. There were other moments such as David Silva getting away with a second booking against Leicester, Bernardo Silva’s dubious penalty against West Ham and Kelechi Iheanacho quite possibly purposely skewing a chance wide against his old club last week. We also should have had a penalty when Naby Keita was taken over at 1-1 in the clash with Leicester at Anfield. We earlier had a goal incorrectly chalked off against Arsenal in another drawn match. City fans will come back with accusations of soft penalties for Salah against Newcastle, Brighton and Cardiff and the generous free-kick for our winner at St James’ Park recently. They could also mention our offside goals against West Ham both home and away this season, so it’s pretty much swings and roundabouts when it comes to arguing over incorrect decisions by officials.
Some will feel that this season was a missed opportunity, and they may well have a point given how close we came, and that we should have been more adventurous in the games we drew. Few could deny that we should have had more of a go against United at Old Trafford when an already depleted side suffered yet more injuries during the first half. But who would have thought that a draw there would not end up being good enough? Many went into that game saying that a point would do on the basis that City were surely likely to drop points elsewhere themselves. They didn’t – but we weren’t to know that at the time. The next away game after that saw us travel to Goodison Park to take on an Everton side whose season was already long over. All they had left was the chance to put a dent in our title challenge. And the 0-0 draw that day turned out to be the last time we dropped points this season – something which they will claim was the decisive blow in the race. It wasn’t. While we could, and should, have beaten them that day, a point from the Merseyside derby across Stanley Park isn’t a terrible result – especially when you factor in that it’s their most important game of each season. Salah had a fantastic opportunity to win it for us, but his tame shot was saved by Jordan Pickford. Most onlookers felt that City were likely to at least draw a game elsewhere – and they came agonisingly close to doing just that when they scored a winner against Burnley by a narrow margin before Kompany shocked Leicester with his strike. This is more evidence of just how fine the margins were in the highest quality title race this country has seen.
Others will counter the claims that we blew this chance by saying that Jurgen Klopp and his players could not have done a great deal more than they did in challenging City for the title. But this one shouldn’t feel like a chance that won’t come along again for another five seasons – we have got a squad that will be back again next year. And it is likely to be an even stronger set of players. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who was missed this season, will be back to fitness and desperate to help make a difference. Keita will have the benefit of a full season at Anfield under his belt after a tough baptism since his long-protracted arrival last Summer. Joe Gomez will be back and challenging Joel Matip for the spot alongside Virgil Van Dijk at the heart of our defence. There will also be a few new faces in the squad, who will add more depth and quality to what we already have. What the squad has proven this season is that it is capable of kind of consistency that is required to become champions. It wasn’t quite enough this time, but City now know that they have some genuine competition after storming off into the distance in 2017/18. United were their main competition that season and you couldn’t even call what they did a title challenge. It’s hard to see any of the other top six clubs closing the gap on the top two next season. Chelsea look likely to be hamstrung by their transfer ban and the impending exit of star man Eden Hazard, Spurs appear to be too frugal in the transfer market to bring in the quality and depth they need to catch up and Arsenal and United are light years behind with years of rebuilding to undertake. It looks very much like it’s down to us to give City some competition again.
This team deserves some silverware for their efforts this season and the Champions League final is the ideal chance to provide it. It’s our second in succession, only this time we are the favourites to bring it home. Real Madrid are quite clearly not the same force they were a year ago, but they were too strong for our team in Kiev. This time we are faced with the hurdle of a Spurs side who have lost 13 league games this season after ending up 26 points behind us in the table. They also lost another six cup games and look like a much more beatable prospect than the Spanish giants. That’s not to say that they should be taken lightly in Madrid next month, far from it, but their form, especially in 2019, should give us plenty of hope that we can win the competition for the first time since Istanbul in 2005. The chance to return to that same city for the Super Cup early next season should also not be missed either. This side doesn’t lack belief, heart and courage and so we can expect them to go out and give everything they’ve got in three weeks’ time. Having this final to look forward to meant that our season didn’t end in disappointment on Sunday when news of City’s ultimately comfortable win over Brighton filtered through. Few realistically expected Chris Hughton’s side to do us any favours, given that their season had stalled some time before, but when Glenn Murray put them ahead there was a brief glimmer of hope. Sergio Aguero and Aymeric Laporte soon put paid to that, of course, but there was a brief time where we were top ‘as it stands’ on the final day of the campaign. It’s been a while since that last happened. It wasn’t to be the only high point at Anfield on Sunday afternoon, however, as the squad got the send off they deserved at full-time. They could be under no misapprehension that the fans in the stands were anything less than proud of their efforts in trying to lift a first domestic championship since 1989/90. It just wasn’t to be. This time.
Emotions are running high in the fanbase after a disappointing week. But some perspective is required for many Liverpool supporters.
Not a single one of us will be anything but frustrated that the chance to go seven points clear was passed up by drawing with Leicester City at Anfield last week. The 1-1 draw with a side who came in poor form was not what we wanted and it looked like we would be heading into a lead that would take Manchester City three games to catch up with. But Sadio Mane’s early strike was cancelled out by Harry Maguire’s equaliser on the stroke of half-time. We can justifiably have all kinds of complaints about it as well. The England international could have been sent off for hauling down Mane earlier on when the forward was about to run clear on goal and the referee should have blown the whistle when the ball was cleared from the free-kick. Andrew Robertson’s needless foul was also something we can be frustrated by. But the goal stood and we came away with a five point lead rather than the seven we wanted.
There was clearly tension both on and off the pitch that night and the conditions did not help that. It’s hard to get into full flow, both as a player or a fan, when the temperature is close to freezing and there’s snow and ice around. But the weather wasn’t the only factor in the cool atmosphere around the club that evening. We all know what’s at stake and how costly dropped points could be this season, given how many the top three are collecting. There is little room for error and that is much of the reason as to why opportunities like that are not to be passed up. But we didn’t win and City were let off the hook after their surprise loss against Rafa’s Newcastle side. It also allowed Spurs to get two points closer after their late winner against Watford.
Roll forward to Monday evening and we needed to beat West Ham to maintain the five point advantage, which was the consolation prize after the draw with Leicester. And once again we took the lead, despite a slow and cagey start, through a goal from Mane. But we were pegged back again and could not find the way through to reclaim the advantage. Unlike the Leicester game, we were fortunate to come away with a point – even if the offside Divock Origi had the chance to win it at the death. West Ham had a lot of chances to go ahead, but showed why they are in the bottom half of the table with some average finishing. It was ultimately a point gained rather than two dropped when you look at the performance.
2019 has so far seen our performance levels drop – and gradually get worse. We were slightly unfortunate to lose against a City side desperate for the points in early January. Vincent Kompany should have been sent off and the game was decided on fine margins as they shaded it 2-1. It meant that our seven point lead was neither maintained or extended to ten as Pep Guardiola’s men closed in to just four points behind. And they stayed that many back as we shaded a tight game against Brighton 1-0 thanks to a penalty and then rode our luck in the 4-3 win over Crystal Palace. But that luck ran out against Leicester and West Ham, with injuries and nerves taking their toll. James Milner and Jordan Henderson each filled in at right-back as Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold remain sidelined. They are two players who will never give anything less than their all, but neither is a full-back. That also meant that they weren’t able to play in midfield in these games, which further limited our options. As did Gini Wijnaldum being ruled out of the trip to London on Monday.
Naby Keita started both games and has been a big talking point for supporters. The Guinea international should have had a penalty against Leicester and showed his quality with some excellent forward passes against West Ham. But he also suffered with some defensive lapses, the most notable of which helped to allow West Ham to grab a point. He is still adapting to life as a Liverpool player and is going to need a lot more time than most expected to get acquainted. It’s frustrating for most as the expectations placed on the African were very high when he finally arrived in the Summer. He’s still relatively young and doesn’t speak English, so patience will continue to need to be provided. Minor injuries have also played their part in his start to life at Anfield. It would be a real bonus if he can get in the swing of things and chip in with some goals before the season ends.
Adam Lallana will have felt that he finally made a contribution to our season when his neat footwork played Milner in to provide the assist for Mane to open the scoring against West Ham. He had a few tidy moments elsewhere in the game, but his overall impact was again underwhelming. The England international has really struggled with injuries since his best run of form in a Liverpool shirt a couple of seasons back and will be keen to make his mark. But few will be hoping to see him back in the side in the coming games with Bournemouth and Manchester United.
The manager may well have little choice when it comes to team selection for Saturday’s match with Eddie Howe’s players. Injuries and the loan of Nathaniel Clyne to the visitors have restricted his options of late and there have been a lot fewer choices to make when picking the starting eleven. Wijnaldum and Henderson could well be missing again, but Alexander-Arnold might make a timely return to fitness. His predecessor at right-back won’t be able to play a part for the visitors due to Premier League rules. Clyne’s departure made little sense to most fans and the decision has been questioned a lot since Gomez and Alexander-Arnold were both ruled out. The former Southampton man put in a solid performance against United at Anfield before Christmas – but he was only called upon as a last resort thanks to Milner being ruled out late on. It seems that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to his situation at the club and Klopp had no problem with letting him go. More attention needs to be given to that.
A lot has been made of the lack of signings made in January – with the decision not to bring in additional cover at centre-back the main talking point. We knew that Gomez, Lovren and Matip are all injury prone in the Summer and it became clear that Fabinho would be next in line should we get down to fifth choice. Few would have expected that to happen, but it did and the Brazilian put in some fine performances against Brighton and Wolves. Being required to do so against Bayern and United would be another matter altogether, however. Teenage prospect Jan Hoever didn’t let anyone down with his outing against Wolves in the FA Cup last month, but few will have an appetite to see him come into the side in the coming months – especially if the unthinkable happens and Van Dijk is ruled out for any period of time. He’s probably the last player we need to get injured or suspended. He will miss the first leg against Bayern as it is, so we will see how we cope without him at the Allianz Arena. Let’s hope we don’t see the same domestically. Much of our hopes rest on him.
The two draws over the past week have been seen as a blip by many and as evidence that the team are ‘bottling’ the title race. Time will tell if either is true, but if we get back to winning ways on Saturday then we will all be happy for two draws to represent our blip. City lost to Chelsea to end their unbeaten start before getting beaten by Crystal Palace, Leicester and Newcastle. Few were questioning their bottle after those surprise defeats, so we can ask why our fortitude is being put under the microscope when we have lost just once so far. Hopefully City and Spurs will both continue to lose at the rate they have so far this season while our disappointments come in the shape of draws. That would go a long way to helping to get us over the line.
A win on Saturday will be the best way to get things back on track. We cannot go to Old Trafford desperately needing three points from a game against a resurgent United. They will be absolutely desperate to win for their top four hopes and to put a big dent in our title aspirations. A draw from that game would be a good result for us, but we will all be hoping for a morale boosting victory. But getting the points from our next game is the current priority and the players will need all of our support for that – and every time they step out on the pitch.
So let’s make some noise on Saturday and get the good vibrations going again.
Paris Saint Germain midfielder Adrien Rabiot has rejected a January switch to Tottenham Hotspur, as he hopes to join Premier League rivals Liverpool ins the summer instead.
Tha player is out of contract in the summer, and Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino had been expected to swoop with a cut-price offer, but according to L’Equipe the 23-year-old is willing to run down his contract and ensure he has his pick of clubs in the summer – with Anfield his preferred destination.
The decision has not gone down well with PSG manager Thomas Tuchel, and Rabiot has been forced to train with the club’s under-23 squad for the past month. The French club appear to be determined not to lose the player for free and have reportedly been trying to secure a deal during this transfer window.
Pochettino is been eager to strengthen his Tottenham squad following recent injuries to Harry Kane and Dele Alli, and were reported to have offered a lucrative contract to tempt the Frenchman into signing, but it seems the Klopp revolution is proving a bigger pull for a player already at one of the world’s top clubs & no doubt keen to remain at that level.
Barcelona has also been linked with a move, but speculation on that front has dried up since the Catalan club signed another midfielder in Frenkie De Jong this week. This left Liverpool and Tottenham as the two clubs seriously linked with the player.
It was reported that Pochettino was ready to guarantee the midfielder a starting role and that former team-mates Serge Aurier and Lucas Moura had also tried to convince him to make the switch, but his camp have now officially declined a move to north London with the club’s trophy-winning credentials believed to be the sticking point.
Whilst this has left the media speculating that a summer switch to Anfield is on the cards, it is yet to be seen if the club actually need or want the player. Central midfield certainly isn’t the weakest area of the Liverpool squad, with Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum, Naby Keita, Fabinho & James Milner all competing for a place – with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain set to return to the side as well.
The rumours continue to roll though, with the footy predictions for today again backing the player to be plying his trade for the Reds next season, so maybe there is something in the speculation that refuses to die.
Rabiot has spent seven seasons at the Parc des Princes, scoring 24 times in 227 appearances.
It’s the beginning of a new year and a new transfer window. With Liverpool at the top of the table, they won’t want to take anything for granted while shifting players, but despite this there is still room for improvement for the Reds. Jurgen Klopp has had fans guessing if he’s making room for new players within the squad following the shift of fringe players such as Nathaniel Clyne and Dominic Solanke, but the guesses as to who it might be are still flooding in. Betting sites like Infogol will be making their predictions on who will be arriving at Anfield before the transfer window is over – these are four of the players that are currently expected to join the team.
Brighton’s Pascal Gross has been linked with a move to Anfield, following an 18 month stay on the South Coast. With Xherdan Shaqiri signed over the summer, fans have realised that there’s value in looking at the bottom half of the Premier League. While Brighton and Hove Albion aren’t enjoying the view from the top of the table, in Gross they definitely have a player that could make a big impact for the Reds. Klopp has been known to maximise the type of potential that Gross has so this could be a beneficial choice for Liverpool.
Bookies are favouriting the move of American-born Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie for a transfer to the Reds. At only 20 years of age, McKennie has just eight league starts under his belt but he’s an interesting prospect that rivals Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs are all showing an interest in as well, with odds of 8/1 to complete a deal. McKennie has real talent and would be a great fit under Klopp at Liverpool, but with plenty of talent in the midfield department already, there’s a strong likelihood that he’d have to be patient with his hopes of regular first-team action.
Signed from Borussia Dortmund just 18 months ago, it’s been made clear that Ousmane Dembele hasn’t exactly proven his £135.5m worth, with his Barcelona career remaining somewhat underwhelming. But while he’s not scored a huge amount of goals for Barca, several have been important strikes in the league. He’s been linked on numerous occasions with a move elsewhere and the 21 year old’s become a surprising contender for a switch to Liverpool this month.
With arguably one of the most threatening attacks in the world of football, Liverpool have managed to cope without a pure striker as their main source of focus. Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohammed Salah have caused enough mayhem for defenders for the team to be able to survive without up until now, but it could be time for Klopp to take a new tactic and develop a different strategy before the team’s rivals have a chance to catch on. Timo Werner could be that tactic, currently 6/1 joint favourites at the bookies alongside Bayern Munich to land the skilled striker.
The defeat against Manchester City on Thursday evening was heralded by many onlookers for the quality and intensity as Liverpool were clawed back in the Premier League title race. Pundits and supporters of both teams recognised that it was decided by fine margins and could easily have been a win for either side or a draw. Sadio Mane hit the post, John Stones just about got away with some poor defending with a last gasp clearance, Leroy Sane hit the post and scored, Vincent Kompany should have been sent off after a nasty foul on Mohamed Salah when the last man, the Egyptian saw a chance well saved by Ederson…so many close moments that helped to decide the outcome.
There isn’t a great deal that can be learnt from those key moments, but we are past the point where Jurgen Klopp should have realised that selecting Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Gini Wijnaldum together as his midfield three, especially away from home in a big game, isn’t going to work for him. They don’t offer anything like enough quality going forward as a trio and that makes their perceived defensive solidity less valuabe. They were outfought and outplayed by City’s midfield. Fernandinho wasn’t troubled by any of them and had to wait for the introduction of compatriot Fabinho until he had a real fight on his hands. The Brazilian made a clear case for why he should have been in the starting eleven when he came on and played his part in the team play that led to Roberto Firmino making it 1-1. For a player considered to be defensive, he makes a lot more forward passes than those who started and was much more positive in trying to drive Liverpool back into the match. Things could have been quite different had Klopp shown faith in his Summer signing.
The German spent a fair amount of money to add new talent to his midfield in the Summer, but he hasn’t shown the same sort of faith in Fabinho, Xherdan Shaqiri and Naby Keita when it’s come to the crunch. He clearly identified a need to rejuvenate his options in midfield after seeing Emre Can walk out of Anfield to sign for Juventus on a free transfer and the hopes were high when he brought in the new trio. Most was expected of Keita, who Klopp was prepared to wait for over a year to sign, but he has fared the least well so far of the three. Injuries have played their part in preventing the Guinea international from reaching the kind of form that persuaded Klopp to spend £50m+ to bring him in to the squad. But he just hasn’t got going, despite promising performances against West Ham and Burnley, and his manager will be hoping that he can spark into life in the second half of the campaign. Fabinho was slowly integrated after his arrival from Monaco and has become one of the most consistent midfielders in the squad after adapting to life here. He showed real quality in the 3-1 win over Manchester United, which included a sublime pass for Mane to open the scoring. He also opened his own account with a late goal in the 4-0 win over Newcastle United on Boxing Day. A start against City would have been a fitting reward for his improving form, but a shaky outing against Arsenal at the weekend may well have given Klopp the jitters when it came to moving away from the trio he seems to trust above all others. Shaqiri, meanwhile, has shown desire, urgency, confidence and passion from the first time he kicked a ball in a red shirt. He is obviously more attack minded than most of his midfield colleagues, which is shown with the goals he’s scored, but he proved against Arsenal that he can take responsibility when defending against possession. He too could have been a very useful player to have had in the starting eleven against City. His impact off the bench in the win over United might well have counted against him here, but he couldn’t replicate that against the other club from that city this week.
Klopp needs to start showing more belief in his Summer signings when it comes to the big games, as the trio of Henderson, Milner and Wijnaldum just don’t have the track record when playing together to justify his faith in them. They started against Napoli and we got the 1-0 win we needed, but it tends to be the away days that expose their lack of variation and attacking prowess. The 2-1 loss against Paris Saint Germain was another game where they failed to justify their selection together. The 1-0 defeat away to Napoli saw them play the last seventy minutes together after Henderson replaced the injured Keita early on. It was another toothless display. They did play the majority of the 5-1 win over Roma together after Oxlade-Chamberlain was forced off last season, but that is a rarity among a row of poor performances and defeats together. The collective groans of many Liverpool fans when their names are seen together on the teamsheet are becoming increasingly justified.
Another player who has struggled to justify the continued faith in his abilities is Dejan Lovren. The much maligned Croatian had a night to forget against City. He got an early booking for an unnecessary foul on Sergio Aguero before the Argentinian turned him with far too much ease to score his customary goal against us at The Etihad. That followed Sane striding past Lovren with equal ease shortly before. He didn’t cover himself in glory for the German’s winner later on in the game either, along with some sloppy passes too. It saw some much deserved criticism go his way along with some disgusting abuse from the moronic portion of fans who take to social media after a defeat. He’s got a growing catalogue of errors in a Liverpool shirt and hasn’t won over many fans despite some improved performances since Virgil Van Dijk arrived a year ago. But there seems little point in having a world class centre-back partnered by a liability at the heart of our defence. Joe Gomez cannot come back to fitness soon enough to reform the superb partnership he was forging with the Dutchman. When the young England international was injured against Burnley, the trip to take on City was the first game I was sad to see him sit out. Had he played I suspect the result would have been somewhat different.
Klopp clearly had no choice but to pick Lovren for the City game and would likely have done so even if Joel Matip were fit and available. The former Schalke man was in fine form before suffering the injury which is currently sidelining him. He had put in some fine performances against Bournemouth and Napoli last month. But he showed that he remains quite brittle at times in the 2-0 loss against Red Star Belgrade earlier on, so having him in the side against City wouldn’t have necessarily changed a great deal. Many fans have been calling for Klopp to bring in another more reliable defender to supplement Van Dijk and Gomez, with the likes of Kalidou Koulibaly and Mathijs De Ligt mentioned. But they would each expect to be first choice alongside Van Dijk, which would cause issues in the development of Gomez. It’s not an area for regular rotation.
We will all be hoping that Liverpool bounce back against Brighton next week to reinforce the grip on top spot, but few will be desperate to see the same midfield selected for the game. It’s time for Klopp to show a bit more faith in his Summer signings.
Liverpool head to Manchester City on Thursday aiming to strengthen their grip at the top of the Premier League table.
The Reds head into the game with a six-point lead over second-placed Tottenham Hotspur, with City a further point adrift in third.
Liverpool are still without defenders Joe Gomez and Joel Matip, but James Milner has returned to training and is expected to be in the squad.
Kevin De Bruyne is doubtful after missing City’s victory over Southampton, while Fabian Delph misses the game through suspension. Benjamin Mendy and Claudio Bravo are long-term absentees.
Liverpool have held the upper hand over City since being demolished 5-0 in the corresponding fixture back in September 2017.
Jurgen Klopp’s side won the return league game 4-3 and also triumphed in two Champions League meetings later in the campaign.
This season’s first meeting between the two teams ended in a 0-0 draw after Riyad Mahrez missed a late penalty at Anfield.
Liverpool haven’t dropped a point in the Premier League since the start of November when they were held 1-1 at Arsenal. They’ve reeled off nine wins in a row since then, bagging 27 goals in the process.
By contrast, City have lost two of their last three games although they returned to something like their usual form in their 3-1 victory at St Mary’s on Sunday.
Three points on Thursday would take Liverpool nine points clear of Spurs and set them up nicely for a favourable run of fixtures during January.
Games against Brighton & Hove Albion (A), Crystal Palace (H) and Leicester City (H) all look winnable, but a defeat this evening would certainly put a different complexion on the title race.
A lot of supporters of our rival clubs make claims that Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp isn’t in the same class as Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola or former Manchester United and Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho because the German hasn’t won as many trophies as they have. But that is a simplistic view to take – with some doing it because it suits their agenda of pushing him down to raise the others and others because they simply don’t understand how football works.
During his career as a professional manager, Klopp has been in charge of Mainz, Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool. He got Mainz promoted to the Bundesliga back in 2003/4 after just over three years in charge before they were relegated back down to the second tier in 2006/7. He remained with them, but resigned from his position after failing to return them to the top flight at the end of the following campaign. The relegation did little to harm his growing reputation, however, as he was offered the chance to take over at Dortmund soon after. They had just finished thirteenth in the Bundesliga and were struggling to challenge for the title having not won it since the 2001/2 season. He led them to a respectable sixth place finish during his first season and the following campaign saw Klopp steer them one more spot up the Bundesliga table to fifth. He had laid the foundations in place to challenge Bayern Munich, champions in 2009/10, and went on to win the title in both the 2010/11 and 2011/12 campaigns. Dortmund were champions by seven and eight points in each of the two Bundesliga winning seasons and Klopp had cemented his place as a legend at the club. He came agonisingly close to furthering his already golden reputation with their supporters by reaching the 2012/13 Champions League final at Wembley, where a last gasp goal by Arjen Robben won it for rivals Bayern. Dortmund went on to finish second behind Bayern in each of the following two seasons, before Klopp announced that he would be leaving Dortmund after a disappointing 2014/15 campaign. He left them after winning three major trophies after adding the DFB-Pokal to the Bundesliga title during the 2011/12 season. He was likely to be on the wanted list of several of the top clubs around Europe – but he insisted that he wanted to take a break from the game.
Klopp did take some time away from football. But it proved to be just a matter of months as he decided to accept the offer to take over from Brendan Rodgers at Anfield in October 2015. He had been linked with the manager’s job at the likes of Bayern, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City. He was reported to have rejected more than one of those clubs as they made approaches to him, but the pull of managing Liverpool was too strong for him to turn down as he cut short his self-imposed sabbatical from the game. Klopp managed to get the squad he inherited from Rodgers to the League Cup final, which was lost to Manchester City, and the Europa League final, where Sevilla won it for the third time in a row at his side’s expense. Manchester United fans pointed to Mourinho’s success in those two competitions the following season as evidence as to why ‘The Special One’ was a superior manager to ‘The Normal One’. But they need to remember that United faced Southampton and Ajax respectively in their finals in 2016/17. Hardly the same level of challenge. Their route to the Europa League final saw them overcome Saint Etienne, Rostov, Anderlecht and Celta Vigo. Liverpool had faced Augsburg, United, Dortmund and Villarreal in the previous season and, while you can only beat the team put in front of you, that shows the difference in achievement right away – and that’s before the amount of money spent to get to these finals is taken into consideration. Klopp didn’t make any permanent signings in the January of 2016, his first transfer window, and waited until the following Summer to start rebuilding his squad. So that puts how well he did to reach two cup finals in a matter of months after taking over at Liverpool with what was someone else’s squad – a struggling one at that. Mourinho had a full preseason and spent £150m on Paul Pogba, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Eric Bailly and Zlatan Ibrahimovic before a ball was kicked in anger.
Klopp was never a big spending manager during his time in Germany and has only recently started making the most of the money on offer to him in the Premier League. He made bargain signings for peanuts, such as Robert Lewandowski, Mats Hummels, Ilkay Gundogan and Neven Subotic – who cost around £15m combined. His record signing for the Bundesliga club was Mkhitaryan, who cost less than £20m in the Summer of 2013 – when he pipped Liverpool to sign the Armenian international. Germany international Marco Reus only cost around £11m, which further highlights Klopp’s eye for talent. His net spend during his seven years in charge of Dortmund was £45m thanks to £130m worth of signings and £85m recouped from sales at an average of around £6.5m per season. When you consider that he won two consecutive titles, you realise just how much he can get out of the transfer market and his players. He was up against Pep Guardiola during his final couple of years at Dortmund after the Spaniard took over at Bayern during the Summer of 2013. The former Barcelona coach spent £184m during his three years in charge of the Bavarian giants, while £110m was brought in through sales. That is a net spend of £74m – which is almost £30m more than Klopp had in more than twice the time. Guardiola won the German title in each of this three seasons at Bayern, but he could not manage to reach a Champions League final before leaving at the end of the 2015/16 campaign. His spending at Barcelona prior to his move to Germany was also huge, with £307m worth of signings offset by £161m of sales. That is a net spend of around £145m – which is more than twice as much as he spent strengthening Bayern’s grip on German football – where had former Dortmund stars Lewandowski and Mario Gotze in his squad. Klopp not only faced a club with a far larger transfer kitty, but they were also plucking his star players away almost at will.
Klopp has been accused of being a hypocrite this year after spending big on the likes of Virgil Van Dijk and Alisson Becker – but the critics might want to look a little closer at the net spend table. Liverpool sold Brazil international Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona for around £145m back in January, which put a massive amount in the kitty and allowed the German to do the world record deals for the duo. His net spend during his time in charge at Anfield is roughly £112m. That’s based on player purchases worth £382m and sales of £270m. Mourinho spent £392m during his two and a half years in charge at Old Trafford, with a net spend of £307m following the deduction of £85m worth of sales. That isn’t far off triple the money Klopp has spent in essentially the same amount of time – and doesn’t take into the consideration United having the biggest wage bill in the Premier League. For Klopp to have built a nineteen point lead over United having been afford a net spend which is dwarfed by theirs is testament to the quality both he and the off-field employees have at the club. Mourinho was able to spend £90m+ on two players, Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku, during his spell at United. Liverpool’s record signing is Virgil Van Dijk at £75m – which remains a world record for a defender. United spent £53m on Brazilian midfielder Fred in the Summer – which is more than Liverpool have ever spent on a player barring the Dutchman and Alisson Becker. Guardiola, meanwhile, has spent more than half a billion since taking over at Premier League champions in the Summer of 2016. His first transfer window saw him splash out £186m before he upped the ante the year after with a spree adding up to £276m – which saw them storm the title last season in record breaking fashion. His spend of £63m ahead of the current season looks incredibly restrained by comparison, but things such as the Spaniard already having the majority of his squad in place and Financial Fair Play (pfft) need to be factored into the equation. City’s net spend since the Summer of 2014 is in excess of £500m in itself, which puts Klopp’s achievement of simply competing with them into further perspective.
The German would no doubt have won more than three major trophies in his management career had he opted to take jobs at clubs such as Bayern, Barcelona, City or Real Madrid. They are all considered to be the top dogs in their respective leagues – at least in terms of the financial backing they have available. But the Liverpool boss is not the kind of manager who moves from league to league by taking over at the club who are expected to win their domestic title and reach the final of the Champions League. That he has reached that stage of the competition with both Dortmund and Liverpool goes to show just how able he is to compete against the dominant clubs. He clearly enjoys the challenge of pitting himself against them as he takes charge of under dog clubs who are passionately supported by a fanbase he can connect with on both a personal and professional level. He clearly factors in more than the financial backing he will receive before he chooses which club he will manage and we as Liverpool supporters can all be pleased that he wanted to come to Anfield to take on the challenge of not only beating one Bayern Munich, but three or four. United, City and Chelsea can all outspend us in the transfer market and on wages, with Arsenal also potentially having more clout from their bank account. That Klopp has been able to persuade the likes of Van Dijk, Alisson, Keita, Fabinho and Shaqiri to reject some of our rivals in favour of playing under his management at Anfield further highlights just what an asset he is to the club.
Klopp’s head to head records against the likes of Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho should also be taken into account when considering where he lies in the pecking order of elite level managers in the game. His record against the two is as follows:
MANAGER P W D L Win%
Pep Guardiola 15 8 2 5 53.28
Jose Mourinho 10 4 4 2 40.00
He has the better record from his games against the two, so trophies aren’t the only measure of how good a manager is and I would not swap ours for any other right now.
Liverpool’s win over rivals Manchester United on Sunday afternoon highlighted the growing gap between the two clubs – both on and off the pitch.
Jurgen Klopp’s side had a plan, purpose, hunger, desire and an understanding of what was expected of each and every single one of them. While Jose Mourinho’s United team looked like a group of players who had barely played with each other before the game. The Reds absolutely dominated the game with 65% possession, 36 shots to 6 and 13 corners to 2. It was as one-sided a game between the two most successful clubs English football has produced that you are likely to see. Such was Liverpool’s dominance that the 3-1 scoreline ultimately flattered the visitors, as a 5-1 or 6-1 outcome would have been a much fairer reflection of the balance of play seen at Anfield.
The three points claimed by Klopp’s side moved them back above champions Manchester City to the summit of the Premier League table and kept the record of being the only unbeaten team left in the division. United barely looked capable of changing that, with their goal a touch of luck thanks to a poor bit of goalkeeping from the usually reliable Alisson Becker handing them an undeserved equaliser in the first-half. Few would have expected them to take the lead after Jesse Lingard’s bundled strike, despite Andrew Robertson denying substitute Marouane Fellaini what looked like being a certain goal after the break. Liverpool looked the only side capable of claiming the spoils and duly did so when Xherdan Shaqiri came off the bench to grab two deflected goals. Mourinho called them “fortunate”, but the Portuguese can have few complaints about going away the loser from such a heavily one-sided clash. His side was setup to try and frustrate Liverpool, but such was their lack of organisation that it became clear early on that goals were on the cards.
There are parallels between the situations the two clubs find themselves in which dates back to the early nineties. Liverpool were coming to the end of a period of intense domination of English football and were reeling from the loss of manager Kenny Dalglish, who needed time away from the game following the emotional turmoil and toll of Hillsborough. His compatriot, Alex Ferguson, was finally beginning to find his feet as United boss after taking over from Ron Atkinson in 1986. He made the claim that he set out to “knock Liverpool off their f**king perch”, but the truth of that matter was that his United side simply filled the space left behind by a club in decline. Anfield legend Graeme Souness arrived from Rangers to replace Dalglish in April 1991 and tried to change too much, too soon. He moved on too many experienced and successful members of the squad and replaced them with players who should never have been given the chance to play for the club. His first full season in charge saw him steer the club to a mediocre sixth place in the First Division, but they did claim the FA Cup at Wembley thanks to a 2-0 win over Sunderland. Another sixth place finish followed in the 1992/93 season – the year in which Ferguson won his first title with United. The following year saw United collect a second successive Premier League title, while Liverpool languished down in eighth place behind clubs like Wimbledon and Sheffield Wednesday. It hardly backs up Ferguson’s claim that he had “knocked Liverpool off their f**king perch”.
Roll forward to 2013 and the Scot was calling it a day as United boss. He was replaced by Everton boss David Moyes, who didn’t manage to see out the season at Old Trafford. Dutchman Louis Van Gaal replaced him following a short caretaker stint by Ryan Giggs to finish off the 2013/14 campaign. Liverpool had challenged for the title that season while United finished a lowly seventh and didn’t manage to qualify for European competition. Van Gaal managed to steer them into fourth place in the 2014/15 campaign, while Liverpool missed out in sixth place. Neither qualified in the 2015/16 season with United opting to sack Van Gaal, despite him winning the FA Cup. Few were surprised when they decided to appoint former Chelsea manager Mourinho that Summer – but they should have been. The mouthy manager has a proven track record of short-term success wherever he has been and that is proving to be the case yet again at Old Trafford. He managed to win the League Cup and Europa League trophies in 2016/17, but things have declined since and United now find themselves with a squad that lacks cohesion, a board without a plan and a manager predictably reverting to self-preservation mode as he prepares himself for another sacking.
While Liverpool have a squad carefully put together by a strong and cohesive off-field team, United have got a team in disarray. Their best player is still goalkeeper David De Gea, who was at Old Trafford when Mourinho took over, and the Spanish remains unchallenged by any signings made by the former Inter Milan and Real Madrid boss. His inability to get anything like the best out of club record signing Paul Pogba continues to grab headlines, while this past Summer yielded only deals for Brazilian midfielder Fred and young defender Diogo Dalot. It was not what United needed after their second place finish last season failed to paper over the glaring cracks in their squad. Mourinho would have cast several jealous glances in the direction of Anfield as the likes of Naby Keita, Alisson Becker, Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri arrived – with the latter pair reportedly rejecting interest from United to move to Anfield. Klopp had got his business done early and was preparing his carefully assembled squad for the difficult task of beating Manchester City to the title. Meanwhile, Mourinho was busy preparing his excuses for failure during preseason – and it set the tone for the start of the season.
Sunday’s win meant that Liverpool moved a remarkable nineteen points clear of United – whose goal was only the seventh conceded by Klopp’s team in the league so far this season. United’s goal difference is balanced at zero, with the twenty-nine goals conceded already eclipsing the total they let in last season by one. There have only been seventeen games played so far. It is another microcosmic representation of the different directions in which these two clubs are travelling. Another marker of the gulf in class between these two sides is highlighted when you consider that Shaqiri came off the bench to score two goals against United – Liverpool haven’t conceded twice in a single Premier League game so far this season. United are seventeen points clear of Fulham, who are bottom of the table, which is two points less than the gap up to Liverpool at the summit.
Liverpool supporters can empathise, but not sympathise, with United supporters. The nineties saw the club descend into being a shadow of what it was, with mediocre and poor signings made by managers who weren’t cut out to lead the team back to the glory days. David Moores and Rick Parry had the best of intentions during their time overseeing things at the club, but they couldn’t match the nous on display over at Old Trafford. Their stranglehold on English football under Ferguson was only tightened when David Gill was appointed as chief executive in 1997. The duo oversaw a period of dominance only tested by Arsenal before Roman Abramovich changed the game with his billions at Chelsea. Manchester City followed suit and had their place at the top table paid for by incredibly wealthy new ownership. Liverpool were seen by many as yesterday’s news and an also-ran, despite winning the European Cup for the fifth time in 2005. Opportunities weren’t taken to build on that remarkable success and Rafa Benitez was always left with the deck stacked against him as he tried to beat United, Chelsea and Arsenal domestically – especially under the woefully inept ownership of Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
Klopp is working under a much brighter set of American owners, however, and can rely on the innovative skills of Michael Edwards behind the scenes to get the kind of deals that were well out of Liverpool’s reach in years gone by. There would have been little chance the club could have beaten our rivals to the likes of Virgil Van Dijk, Alisson Becker, Sadio Mane etc a decade ago. But the charm and charisma of the German is backed up with a genuine plan for success at executive level and the club has been able to see off rival bids on offer both domestically and on the continent. Klopp has the final say on the players that are signed by the club and he is being given every chance to get the names at the top of his list. He is also backed up by a group of superb coaches, physios and medical staff – some of which have been lured away from the likes of Bayern Munich and Manchester City. There is a young, bright and hungry dynamic both on and off the pitch at Anfield and the collective is building something to rival even City’s financial power.
It is an exciting time to be a Liverpool supporter – while it is clearly a very depressing time to be a fan of Manchester United.