EPL

Thiago on Liverpool bench as Kovacic returns for Chelsea

By Sports Desk September 20, 2020

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp included Thiago Alcantara on the bench for the Premier League clash with Chelsea, while Fabinho was named in defence due to injuries. 

Midfielder Thiago only completed his move to the reigning champions from Bayern Munich on Friday, signing a four-year contract. 

Despite a lack of preparation time with his new team-mates, the Spain international could make his debut on Sunday after being named among the substitutes for the game at Stamford Bridge. 

However, Klopp is without centre-backs Joe Gomez and Joel Matip due to injuries. 

With Dejan Lovren having departed in the transfer window, Fabinho partners Virgil van Dijk at the heart of the defence, the Brazilian's inclusion the only change from the XI that started the 4-3 victory over Leeds United last time out. 

As for hosts Chelsea, Frank Lampard also made only one alteration to the side that began the 3-1 triumph away at Brighton and Hove Albion. 

Mateo Kovacic missed the league opener through suspension but comes back into midfield, taking the place of Ruben Loftus-Cheek. 

Kai Havertz and Timo Werner - who was linked with Liverpool before signing for Chelsea - both make their home debuts for the Blues. Fellow new recruits Hakim Ziyech and Ben Chilwell remain sidelined, though, along with Christian Pulisic.

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    Jurgen Klopp is confident centre-backs Joe Gomez and Joel Matip will have little issue forming an effective partnership in the absence of Liverpool talisman Virgil van Dijk.

    Van Dijk is set to miss at least the majority of the current campaign after suffering knee ligament damage in a challenge from Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford during last week's Merseyside derby.

    Matip missed the midweek win over Ajax, meaning Fabinho stepped into defence, but Klopp's options are limited moving forward.

    Dejan Lovren left at the end of last season, leaving Gomez and Matip as the club's only remaining natural centre-backs.

    Klopp expects the duo to adapt and "fight together", although they are yet to start alongside each other in this role due to Van Dijk's dominance.

    "The reason for that is because I think Virg played pretty much all the games and one of them was injured," Klopp said.

    "As long as Dejan Lovren was still here and Dejan was in that moment fit, [he could play].

    "I didn't know they had never played together, I didn't know that, but they can play together – not a shadow of a doubt.

    "As I said for the Fabinho and Joe pairing, they need to get used to each other and the full-backs need to get used to them. The more stability you have in this line, the better.

    "We never had that really – especially one position was always with a lot of changes.

    "They will fight together, there is no doubt about that. It is football and it didn't become rocket science overnight. We can help them with information but then they will get tested every three days – that's the situation."

    Meanwhile, Klopp was asked for his thoughts on Marcus Rashford's work campaigning to end child hunger.

    The Manchester United forward spent Friday promoting offers of free meals from restaurants around the United Kingdom on his social media pages after the government voted against maintaining a scheme to serve this purpose through school holidays.

    "It's just nice to show in a time when obviously a lot of people who are really in charge of something and don't show any sign of proper leadership, that a boy grown up in difficult circumstances, blessed with a sensational talent obviously, never forgot his roots and where he is coming from," Klopp said.

    "That he has to do it then is a bit of a shame but is wonderful as well. I hope his mother is really proud of him. I don't know him but even I am.

    "He plays for United, which makes it really tricky. But it's really an absolutely wonderful, wonderful thing."

  • Guardiola reiterates defence of Aguero over Massey-Ellis incident Guardiola reiterates defence of Aguero over Massey-Ellis incident

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    "I didn't speak to Sergio about this, but I'm pretty sure if she felt bad, he will apologise without a problem," Guardiola said.

    "All the people looking from outside judge, but I know the intention from Sergio. Sergio put his hands in a normal way, like he does many times to me, on or off the pitch.

    "Or when I hug him, when there is a substitution, or when sometimes he touches the referee as well or an opponent.

    "If I'd seen some aggression, maybe. But I think it was normal as I know him perfectly. He's been a huge star in the world, but he's humble, one of the nicest people I've met.

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    Silva apologised after posting a picture of a cartoon character promoting a chocolate brand in Spain next to a photo of Mendy with a caption reading: "Guess who?"

    The apparent reference to Mendy's race led to a one-match ban and a £50,000 fine, while Silva was ordered to undergo educational training.

    "It's the same with what happened with Bernardo. I know him perfectly well, it was a joke and this was a normal situation," Guardiola added.

    "I know perfectly, it's like Bernardo and what he had with Mendy. They are brothers and he was suspended."

  • Bamford emulates Cantona with hat-trick as Leeds hand Villa first defeat Bamford emulates Cantona with hat-trick as Leeds hand Villa first defeat

    Patrick Bamford emulated Eric Cantona as he continued his prolific start to the season with a hat-trick in Leeds United's 3-0 win over Aston Villa on Friday.

    Leeds striker Bamford opened the scoring in the Premier League clash at Villa Park in the 55th minute when he pounced on the loose ball after Emiliano Martinez saved an effort from Rodrigo Moreno. 

    The 27-year-old then lashed a stunning 20-yard drive into the top-right corner for his second and showed great feet and composure in the box before digging out a fine finish to complete a 19-minute treble. 

    Bamford's tally for the season now stands at six, with Cantona (1992-93) the only other Leeds player to have reached that amount after the first six games of a Premier League campaign. 

    The former Chelsea forward became the ninth Leeds player to net a Premier League hat-trick and only the second for the club to score in each of their opening three away games in a top-flight season, after Gordon Hodgson in 1937-38. 

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