Sergio Aguero's mood is "better than ever" as he tentatively nears the end of an injury nightmare, according to Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.

Guardiola confirmed City's all-time top scorer will start Sunday's FA Cup third-round tie against Birmingham City at the Etihad Stadium as he looks to put the after-effects of meniscus surgery behind him.

Aguero underwent an operation in June and has been forced to manage ongoing discomfort in the joint since a hamstring injury at West Ham curtailed his initial return in October.

Despite being ravaged by a coronavirus outbreak among their squad, City head into the weekend buoyed by their two finest performances of the season - a swashbuckling 3-1 win over Chelsea preceding a 2-0 win against rivals Manchester United in the semi-finals of the EFL Cup.

Four minutes from the bench at Stamford Bridge was the sum of Aguero's action across the those games, as he was an unused substitute at Old Trafford.

Nevertheless, his goalscoring prowess has been an obvious miss across the course of the campaign. In their most recent title-winning season, City averaged 2.6 goals per game in the Premier League with Aguero in the side.

That has fallen to 1.6 in all matches this time around, with a win percentage of 53.9 per cent, set against 84.8 with Aguero in harness two seasons ago. Shots per 90 minutes are also down from 18.1 to 15.6 when the two data sets are compared.

"Just look at the numbers, the quality he has in the box, Sergio is unique," Guardiola told a pre-match news conference.

"He has a tough, tough injury. The important thing is his mood is exceptional, I would say better than ever.

"It's important that the feeling, the last two weeks, his knee's reaction was really good after training. This is the best news we can have.

"He’s going to start, the minutes his performance level or knee will dictate. What's important is good quality minutes, as much as possible, we start from the beginning and after we'll see what happens.

"It will be great to have Sergio fit. He’s so optimistic. He says 'I will score goals' and that is the most important thing."

Aguero is out of contract at the end of the season, as is fellow fans' favourite Fernandinho.

The 35-year-old Brazil international has returned to his customary central midfield position this season, having deputised at centre-back for much of last, and completed the scoring with a sweetly struck volley against United in midweek.

Following the departure of David Silva over the close season, Fernandinho has stepped up as club captain and impressed Guardiola greatly with his leadership skills.

"With the players in this part of the season, everything is open," Guardiola said, when discussing the prospect of the veteran earning a fresh deal.

"I am more than impressed with the first captain role of Fernandinho, he is leading in an exceptional way. In the good moments and the bad, bad moments.

"If everyone can take an example of what he has done so far, the team will be stronger."

Pressed for examples of how the quietly spoken star commands the dressing room, Guardiola replied: "How he talks with his mates, how he talks with my assistant coach, before the game, at half-time.

"Not just talking to players about football matters, in life, how to behave in training, every single day. He's the first who proves that he's able to do it.

"That's why he goes to Old Trafford, plays holding midfielder there. It was not easy for Bruno Fernandes to control him.

"At the beginning of the season he stepped forward and showed how to be a captain."

City will have Ederson, Ferran Torres and Tommy Doyle available for selection once more, provided they returned negative COVID-19 tests on Friday.

The trio tested positive ahead of the postponed Premier League match at Everton on December 28.

Jose Mourinho warned Tottenham would be left in an "impossible situation" if their game at Aston Villa is postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak and called on the Premier League to show "leadership".

Villa are expected to field a young side in the FA Cup third-round tie against Liverpool on Friday, as a large number of first-team players and staff tested positive for coronavirus this week.

Spurs already had a derby at Fulham called off on December 30 after the Cottagers were hit by the virus and a scheduled trip to Villa Park next Wednesday is now in doubt.

Tottenham will also face Manchester City at a later date of April 25 due to the pandemic and given they are fighting for honours on four fronts, Mourinho suggested they would refuse to accept any more postponements.

Speaking ahead of Sunday's FA Cup tie at Marine, he said: "I believe that is a completely impossible situation for a club to have three matches postponed, especially if that club plays in Europe. If that club doesn't play in Europe, of course there are the UEFA fixtures.

"For a Europa League team to have three matches postponed is impossible. Completely impossible. That's the only thing that I can say."

Asked about the prospect of facing Fulham instead of Villa, he added: "I don't know. It's not for me to find solutions. I'm not going to lie to you, I've been doing that hypothetical exercise with my staff.

"Of course, we have no influence and we don't want to have influence. The only thing that we can say is that what we did in the beginning of the season is impossible to repeat and we refuse to repeat.

"We have to defend our players, the integrity of our competitions and we would never accept to play seven matches in three weeks like we did before. One thing is [the] beginning [of the season], another thing is mid-season.

"And also because of the difficulties and demands of the matches. One thing is to play with all the risks, the Europa League play-offs, another thing is to play Europa League knockout where all the best teams are there.

"We cannot be put in an impossible situation. To have three matches postponed... it is the moment for the Premier League to show leadership, make decisions, that of course a club like us, is trying every day to be ready to play, to follow the rules that we had in our hands.

"We cannot be punished. If we don't play against Aston Villa, we will have three matches postponed and that is impossible. Because after the season we have the Euros, and of course the matches cannot be moved."

Mourinho revealed Gareth Bale trained on Friday and could travel to eighth-tier minnows Marine, while Jack Clarke and Harvey White will be in the squad.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has no doubt his Manchester United side are ready to bounce back to their EFL Cup disappointment against Manchester City when they host Watford this weekend.

The Red Devils were defeated 2-0 by Pep Guardiola's side at Old Trafford and have now lost each of the four semi-finals they have contested under Solskjaer.

Saturday brings another opportunity when United face the Hornets to start their FA Cup venture this season and Solskjaer expects his team to respond to this latest setback.

"The reaction has been as expected, of course you're disappointed when you go out, we wanted to go one step further but we've shown many times this season we can bounce back after a disappointment," he told a news conference ahead of the third-round tie.

"We did it after defeat against Arsenal, did it after we lost to Tottenham, after we went out of the Champions League - the boys have reacted well.

"I don't envisage anyone with any other mindset than we have to win. We enter the competition wanting to win.

"We have a few players with a few knocks, so there'll be a few changes, but I'll still field a team I feel confident in."

Odion Ighalo was drafted in as emergency cover a year ago following an injury to Marcus Rashford but his loan stint from Shanghai Shenhua comes to an end this month.

Solskjaer expects to give the striker game time against his former club, while he also offered an update on Argentine duo Sergio Romero and Marcos Rojo – both of whom are being tipped with January exits with their contracts to expire at the end of the season.

"It's special for him [Ighalo] against Watford, he will be involved," Solskjaer added.

"He's training really well, I don't know how many goals he scored today but by miles he was our top scorer in the round robin in training. 

"He's not lost sharpness or quality, it's difficult to be out of the squad of course. He did well until the summer. This season he's not had as many opportunities but he's never let himself down as a professional or a human being. 

"In training he always works hard. He's in the squad, hopefully I don't need to put him on to need goals but hopefully he can join in."

On Romero and Rojo, he added: "Both of them have contracts until the summer, they're not gonna be extended so we're looking for them to find clubs. 

"Marcos has been given time to go home, so he's still in Argentina. Sergio he has been back home as well to see family but he's back in England now. They're professionals, working hard and ready if they're called in for us. Marcos would have to travel in and do quarantine before."

Solskjaer, who confirmed Facundo Pellistri has tested positive for coronavirus but has not been involved with the first team, was asked about the worrying rise in COVID-19 cases across the Premier League.

The Norwegian acknowledged the growing concern for society but is keen for the competition not to be halted.

"First of all, you're worried what's happening in society and in and around the country," he said. 

"I personally feel safe within our bubble, I think we've taken all the steps that we've had to follow protocols, guidelines. The club have been good and the players are following the rules as well as they can. 

"Of course what's happening at different clubs and society is frightening, we have a duty to try and stay clear, stay within bubbles.

"I hope we can continue playing, I think it's [football] had a positive impact – I feel it as well at home when you don't have a game you're looking forward to watching football on the tele. The mental wellbeing of football has been a big positive, I think."

Mikel Arteta knows how he wants to improve Arsenal's squad this month but warned the transfer market is "very complicated" in the current climate.

Julian Brandt is among the reported targets for the Gunners during the January window, although Borussia Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc insisted there had been "no offers at all" for the midfielder.

Arsenal boss Arteta this week revealed Mesut Ozil could be on the move after DC United and Fenerbahce were linked with the out-of-favour playmaker.

The London club allowed Sead Kolasinac to return to Schalke, but there has been very little transfer activity just over a week since the window opened.

Arteta would like to do get his business done early in the window, but in a week that saw Arsenal take a short-term £120million Bank of England loan due to the impact of the coronavirus crisis, the Spaniard is being realistic with his expectations.

Asked about the prospect of making early signings, he said ahead of the FA Cup third round tie with Newcastle United on Saturday: "I don't know. At the moment the market is really complicated and the situation around every club is not easy.

"To get the negotiations going it's not easy, it makes it harder because you can't be face-to-face and you cannot travel to another country to make that happen, it has to be on the phone or Zoom.

"It can go either way. I can tell you what I would like, with the players out and in sorted, but I think it's really complicated."

Arteta says it is important to understand that players may want to move on due to the pandemic.

He added: "It's affecting everything. It's affecting things transfers financially, it's also affecting some players who are here and they are stuck here for a year and realise 'I need to go back home, I need my family to be happy, to be next to me'.

"It's a bit of a mixture, but players are experiencing different feelings that probably are new to them and that's why I keep insisting this virus is about mental health as well as how you are feeling physically. Mental health is a big, big thing that we have to pay more attention to."

One player who has arrived at Arsenal is 19-year-old defender Omar Rekik, who joins the under-23 squad from Hertha Berlin.

West Ham record signing Sebastien Haller has completed a move to Ajax for a cut-price fee of £20.3million (€22.5m).

The striker has agreed a four-and-a-half-year contract with the Eredivisie giants, having previously enjoyed a spell in the Dutch top flight with Utrecht.

West Ham spent a reported £45m to bring Haller to England in July 2019 after he starred for Eintracht Frankfurt in the Bundesliga, scoring 19 goals in all competitions in 2018-19 as part of a formidable forward partnership with Luka Jovic.

However, his time in the Premier League proved largely disappointing, the 26-year-old scoring 14 times in 50 appearances in all competitions.

The Ivory Coast international was usurped by Michail Antonio as first-choice centre-forward under David Moyes and did not start a league match this season until October 31, when Antonio was struggling with injury.

"West Ham United would like to thank Sebastien for his contribution to the club and wish him all the best for his future career," the Hammers said.

According to reports, West Ham are interested in signing Lyon striker Moussa Dembele to bolster their attack, although the former Celtic forward is said to have little interest in a move to London Stadium.

Liverpool are reportedly interested in Sergio Ramos, while Real Madrid have a successor for Zinedine Zidane lined up.

Premier League champions Liverpool are linked with centre-backs due to long-term injuries to Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez.

And Ramos is apparently a target.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL INTERESTED IN RAMOS

Liverpool are interested in Real Madrid defender Ramos, according to El Chiringuito.

The 34-year-old's future at Madrid is uncertain with his contract expiring at the end of the season.

Also at Liverpool, Fabrizio Romano reports they are yet to open talks to sign Lille defender Sven Botman.

 

ROUND-UP

- Zidane was under pressure at Real Madrid earlier in the season, and the LaLiga giants have his replacement in mind. AS reports Raul – who is in charge of Real Madrid Castilla – is seen as the natural heir to the Frenchman.

Christian Eriksen is expected to leave Inter, but just where to remains to be seen. CalcioMercato reports the Serie A giants are yet to receive an offer for the midfielder, who has been linked to Paris Saint-Germain and Arsenal.

- With Diego Costa having departed, Atletico Madrid are said to be looking for another forward. The Daily Mail reports Napoli striker Arkadiusz Milik is at the top of their list, while Espanyol's Raul de Tomas and Real Betis' Loren Moron are of interest.

Manchester City are linked to Barcelona star Lionel Messi, but they may have a younger version to target. talkSPORT reports the Premier League club are plotting a move for 17-year-old Estudiantes winger Dario Sarmiento, who has been dubbed "mini Messi".

- Sergio Romero looks set to leave Manchester United. The Manchester Evening News reports the goalkeeper has bid farewell to his team-mates ahead of an expected move to Boca Juniors.

Borussia Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc insisted there had been "no offers at all" for reported Arsenal target Julian Brandt.

Brandt, 24, has been linked with a move to the Premier League club in January.

But Zorc said no offers had arrived for the midfielder, who is contracted at Dortmund until 2024.

"I don't want to answer any rumours that were made by the media. Now there is permanently a name [Brandt] coined that we don't even think about giving up on," he told a news conference.

"Overall, we look at many different scenarios primarily due to an economical background that is simply not the best due to the ongoing pandemic.

"But I can only repeat myself again. We have no offers at all."

Dortmund, who are fourth in the Bundesliga, visit RB Leipzig on Saturday.

Jurgen Klopp says he has no problem with Liverpool not dipping into the transfer market in January as owners Fenway Sports Group are only acting in the best interests of the club. 

The Premier League champions have been badly depleted this season, particularly in the heart of their defence with Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez long-term absentees and Joel Matip struggling to stay fit. 

Klopp is unlikely to add to his squad during the mid-season window, but the Reds boss understands it is difficult to do business at this time even without the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Liverpool boss insists he is on the same page as club ownership, no matter the key absences that could undermine their push for trophies. 

"In good times everyone thinks our owners are really generous – 'My God, big signings, whatever’ – and in bad times everyone thinks they are really tight – maybe because they are from a different country – but they are not, they are absolutely concerned about the club and success of the club," Klopp said. 

"And that is an understanding how we have it. They see exactly the same things I see about necessity of players and stuff – it's not that I say 'By the way a centre-half would be really nice’ and they say, 'Wow, a centre-half. Really? Why?' 

"It is all clear, all on the table, we work on that. It is the situation and on top of that we have January, not the easiest transfer window, having not the money exactly like we want. 

"It is a window where other clubs say, 'No, we have enough [money] to survive' so we don't do anything on our targets. 

"It is nothing to do with worrying [about whether it will impact their chances of winning trophies] or not. These are the facts.

"My job is to deal with the circumstances which I always do. If the world would be in a completely normal place, we would try everything to do the right stuff now but the world is not in a normal place so I don't know why we constantly try to treat the football like it is independent of other issues around."

Liverpool are due to be in FA Cup action on Friday, though their tie with Aston Villa is in doubt due to a coronavirus outbreak in their opponents' camp.

Villa announced on Friday they had closed their training ground as a consequence, while the Football Association will make a decision on whether the game goes ahead following further testing.

The Football Association (FA) is still hopeful Aston Villa's meeting with Liverpool can go ahead as planned on Friday, with a final decision to be made after further coronavirus testing.

Villa announced on Thursday they had closed their Bodymoor Heath training ground after "a significant coronavirus outbreak" at the club, with first-team training cancelled after players and staff returned positive results.

Their FA Cup third-round clash with Premier League leaders Liverpool was consequently thrown into doubt, though it is hoped the fixture will not have to be postponed.

An FA statement read: "The Football Association and Aston Villa are working closely together to try to ensure that the club's FA Cup third round proper fixture with Liverpool can go ahead as planned at Villa Park.

"Final confirmation will be made tomorrow pending the results of additional COVID-19 testing."

It was announced earlier on Thursday that the third-round clash between Shrewsbury Town and Southampton would not go ahead on Saturday after "several" members of the League One side returned positive coronavirus results.

Derby County this week revealed they will select a side made up of Under-18 and Under-23 players for their tie at non-league Chorley on Saturday, with interim boss Wayne Rooney and his first-team squad staying at home following a coronavirus outbreak at the Championship club.

The Football Association (FA) panel accepted Edinson Cavani did not mean to cause offence with a social media post which resulted in the player receiving a three-match ban. 

A three-man independent regulatory commission deemed Manchester United striker Cavani should only be imposed with the minimum sanction possible for a response to praise from a friend on Instagram. 

Following his decisive double in a 3-2 Premier League win at Southampton on November 29, Cavani used a Spanish word often used as a term of endearment in Latin America. He later deleted the post and apologised when it was made clear to him that the phrase could be construed as having racist connotations in English.

When the FA published the written reasons for Cavani's punishment on Thursday, it was suggested the 33-year-old - who arrived at Old Trafford in October - should have been given media training by United. 

Among the explanation for the verdict, the FA revealed: "The commission readily concluded that it was satisfied that there was no intent on the part of the player to be discriminatory or offensive in any way. 

"The commission were satisfied that the player wrote his reply in affectionate appreciation of a message from his Uruguayan friend and that it was not designed or intended to be racist or offensive either to his friend or others reading the content of the Instagram post. 

"Such a conclusion was supported by all the available evidence relevant to the circumstances in which the post was made and having regard to the character and response of the player." 

Cavani was fined £100,000 and ordered to attend a mandatory face-to-face education programme, as well as serving a three-game suspension. 

The commission also stated: "In light of the player's high profile in the game, his inability to speak English and the fact that he had approaching eight million Instagram followers, the commission were surprised that no such 'training’ had been specifically put in place for the player by his club. 

It did, however, acknowledge United had "taken steps to ensure that the player has a greater understanding of his responsibilities on social media".

Manchester United have completed the signing of teenage winger Amad Diallo from Atalanta, and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reckons he has landed a future star. 

Diallo has signed a four-and-a-half-year contract, tying him to the Premier League giants until June 2025.

United's pursuit of Diallo began in 2016 and the 18-year-old has since broken through in Serie A, playing five first-team games and scoring once for Atalanta. 

A deal had been agreed in October and now a work permit has been secured that allows the move to take place. 

United said, in a statement on their website, that Diallo would join up with them as soon as he receives a visa.

Reports have indicated the transfer will cost United £37million, but Solskjaer believes they are getting a rare talent. 

Solskjaer said: "As a club, we have followed Amad for a number of years and having watched him myself, I believe he is one of the most exciting young prospects in the game. 

"Manchester United has such a proud history of developing young players and everything is in place to enable Amad to reach his potential here. 

"It will take time for him to adapt but his speed, vision and fantastic dribbling ability will stand him in good stead to make the transition. He is a player with all of the raw attributes that are needed to be an important player for Manchester United in the years to come." 

Diallo is relishing his big chance at United, saying: "After waiting since the summer, it is finally a dream come true to complete my move to Manchester United. I am hugely ambitious and there is so much that I want to achieve in the game; when I spoke to the manager I knew that I had joined the perfect club. 

"This is a really exciting squad with so many great players, I can promise that I will work hard every day to learn from them and give everything to develop my game. The coaches have been fantastic since I signed, we have been in touch regularly and they have already given me a lot of great advice. 

"I have had time to prepare for this move, both physically and mentally, and I have worked really hard to be ready to make the step up to this amazing club."

Liverpool are set to stick with their threadbare options at centre-back rather than recruiting a January replacement for Virgil van Dijk or Joe Gomez. 

The Reds have played much of the season so far with midfielder Fabinho in defence alongside a rotating cast of partners after long-term injuries to their starting duo. 

Joel Matip has been limited to just eight Premier League appearances due to his own fitness issues and is facing a race to be back for a vital game against Manchester United next week. 

Academy graduates have stepped in, with Nathaniel Phillips playing three times and Rhys Williams twice in the league, while captain Jordan Henderson lined up at centre-back in Monday's defeat to Southampton. 

Although Henderson and Fabinho won nine of the 11 duels they contested between them in that match and still ranked second and third for total touches, it is not an ideal fix. 

And such issues have prompted reports of interest in Schalke's Ozan Kabak and Lille's Sven Botman, although The Athletic reported on Thursday that Liverpool will not pursue either option in the mid-season window. 

Jurgen Klopp said prior to the game against Southampton that the club would do "the right thing" this month - and that appears to mean opting against a new signing. 

Asked if he could rule out a transfer as he previewed the scheduled trip to Aston Villa in the FA Cup, Klopp replied: "I cannot say definitely we will not bring one in. It's just not likely because of the situation in the world. 

"We should not forget that the [coronavirus] situation is a tough one for all people and for football clubs as well.

"There might be some clubs with absolutely no financial problems, but this club always was and will always be - with these owners, for sure - very responsible with the things we do. 

"If the world would be in a normal place, everything would be fine, we won the league, won the Champions League, the club is in the best possible situation, and you have three senior centre-halves all injured, is that a situation where you would normally do something? Yes, definitely. 

"But we are not in that situation, so I don't know if something will happen or not. 

"We maybe could do something, but it would be a short-term solution and we don't have a short-term solution, so it's not right because it does not help. 

"We have to get through this. It's not the best moment for the whole planet, so why should it be for this football club?" 

While rotation has been enforced in the middle of the defence, full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson have remained automatic picks. 

Alexander-Arnold tested positive for COVID-19 in pre-season and has also battled a calf injury, yet has still played 15 of Liverpool's 17 league matches. 

The right-back's performance level has dipped this season and his first error leading to a goal handed Southampton a 1-0 win on Monday. 

There was criticism of Alexander-Arnold after that match, in which he was substituted, and Klopp acknowledged on Thursday it was "not his best game", though backed the England international to recover. 

"The reason is he was out for a while with COVID and had an injury which didn't help," Klopp said. "He had no pre-season really. 

"Then with the quality he has and the situation we were in, he played pretty early. He's now getting there. 

"Physically he's fine, he just has to find his top shape again, and that will happen sooner rather than later."

Aston Villa closed their training ground on the eve of Friday's FA Cup third-round clash with Liverpool due to a "significant" coronavirus outbreak.

Villa on Thursday revealed a large number of first-team players and staff are isolating after testing positive for COVID-19 this week.

The first team did not train the day before they are due to face Premier League champions Liverpool at Villa Park and talks are being held over the scheduling of the tie.

"Aston Villa can confirm that the club has closed its Bodymoor Heath training ground after a significant coronavirus outbreak," a club statement said.

"A large number of first team players and staff returned positive tests after being routinely tested on Monday and immediately went into isolation.

"A second round of testing was carried out immediately and produced more positive results today.

"First team training ahead of tomorrow's FA Cup match with Liverpool was cancelled.

"Discussions are ongoing between medical representatives of the club, the Football Association and the Premier League."

Jurgen Klopp acknowledged Liverpool are enduring a tough run but insisted performances have not been as bad as results suggest.

The defending Premier League champions are top of the table again but have won just two of their past six matches – and two of seven in all competitions.

Rivals Manchester United, who have a game in hand, have moved level on points with the Reds at the summit ahead of the two sides meeting next weekend.

"We were not waiting for [this run of form] and we do not enjoy it, but it's not unlikely that these kinds of things happen," Klopp told a news conference on Thursday.

"I think we only won two of the last six – that's not the standard we expect from ourselves, obviously.

"So, we don't take it easy, but we still see what we can improve, what we have to improve, and don't think everything was bad in the last few weeks.

"The league is too strong, and if you struggle a little bit, immediately the results go the other way because the opponents are fighting with everything they had. You saw that against Southampton [a 1-0 defeat on Monday]."

Liverpool must first focus on the FA Cup, however, with Aston Villa hosting Klopp's men in the third round on Friday.

Last season's run to round five was Liverpool's best under Klopp, with the Anfield outfit eliminated from four of their past six ties against fellow Premier League sides, only beating Everton (in 2018 and 2020) in this time.

The Reds had reached the semi-final in the final season before Klopp's appointment, losing to Villa in the last four to end a six-match winning run against Friday's opponents in the competition.

Despite his underwhelming record in the competition, the manager says Liverpool have always been determined to succeed.

"It's important. It's the FA Cup," he said. "We didn't go far so far in this competition.

"I didn't think we were blessed so far with sensational draws so far and now we go to Aston Villa, which is a tough one as well.

"We always took it very seriously and will do this time as well, but we cannot forget the intensity of the period we are in and all these kinds of things.

"It's important – football games are important. We are professional football players or coaches or managers and the only thing we have to do is to win football games and to try to make sure that we really can do that. It's a very important competition, so we will try to win that."

Liverpool were beaten 7-2 by Villa in the Premier League this term, shipping seven goals in a single match in any competition for the first time since 1963.

Klopp is therefore reluctant to name a weakened team, even with the United game on the horizon.

"We need to find the balance to field a team where we didn't change too much," he said. "We bring in fresh legs again.

"The rhythm [for returning players] is a different issue. That's step by step. We cannot do that in one game. We can't use the FA Cup to give players rhythm – the opponent is just too strong for that.

"After the Aston Villa game, we have eight days between Villa and Man United, so that's a long training week where we can do a lot of stuff in 11-v-11 situations, which will help the players a lot, especially the players who were out for a while. After that, we will be in a different place."

Pressed on specific injuries, Klopp added Naby Keita would return "soon" but not this weekend and Liverpool "will try" to have Joel Matip back for Manchester United, although Diogo Jota is still wearing a brace on a damaged knee.

Wolves have recalled forward Patrick Cutrone from his loan spell with Fiorentina, bolstering their attacking options while Raul Jimenez recovers from a serious head injury.

Mexico striker Jimenez sustained a fractured skull in a clash of heads with Arsenal's David Luiz during a 2-1 win at the end of November and does not appear close to a return.

Since then, 18-year-old Fabio Silva, a pre-season recruit from Porto, has filled in as Wolves' main centre-forward and looked lively, if unspectacular.

The youngster has featured seven times in the Premier League and scored once, his eight shot attempts fewer than Ruben Neves, Romain Saiss (both nine) and Pedro Neto (10).

Wolves' options in that part of the pitch are limited, making Cutrone's recall less of a surprise.

The Italian joined for a reported £16million (€17.7m) from Milan in 2019 but he scored just three times in 24 appearances across all competitions before being sent to Fiorentina on a planned 18-month loan in January last year.

However, he fared no better with the Viola, netting only four times in 30 Serie A outings and laying on just six chances for team-mates.

He will hope to take advantage of a clearer run at a first-team spot with Wolves, as Jimenez still has not been given a return date.

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