Liverpool are reportedly prioritising a new deal for Virgil van Dijk over Mohamed Salah, while they could be beaten to Dayot Upamecano by Manchester United.

Salah's future has been a talking point in recent weeks, although the forward is contracted until 2023.

Van Dijk also has an agreement at Anfield until 2023, but the injured defender is apparently Liverpool's focus.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL PRIORITISE VAN DIJK DEAL OVER SALAH

Liverpool are prioritising a new contract for Van Dijk over Salah, according to Eurosport.

Van Dijk, 29, is recovering from a serious knee injury and his absence has been felt by the Premier League champions.

Salah, meanwhile, has scored 13 goals in 18 league games this season, but in an interview with AS last month the 28-year-old refused to rule out a move to Real Madrid or Barcelona.

The report also says Liverpool may look at West Ham midfielder Declan Rice, with Georginio Wijnaldum set to leave as a free agent at the end of the campaign.

ROUND-UP

- With Van Dijk and Joe Gomez injured, Liverpool have been linked with a move for RB Leipzig defender Upamecano. But The Sun reports Manchester United are poised to sign the centre-back for £38million (€42.7m).

- Amid uncertainty over his future at Barcelona, Ousmane Dembele is being looked at by numerous European giants. Sport reports Chelsea, Manchester United, Juventus and Bayern Munich are monitoring the forward's situation. Dembele is out of contract in 2022 and the Catalan giants could sell him if he does not extend his deal.

- Frank Lampard is under enormous pressure at Chelsea as the Premier League side struggle for form. The Mirror reports Chelsea could turn to Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers if they move on from Lampard.

- Yet to re-sign with Southampton with his contract expiring next year, Danny Ings is linked with a move. 90min reports Leicester City and Everton have joined the race for the forward, who has also been linked to Tottenham.

Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy will be out for "a few weeks" as he needs a hernia operation, manager Brendan Rodgers has revealed.

The 34-year-old has scored 11 goals in 18 Premier League appearances this season, with only Son Heung-min, Harry Kane and Mohamed Salah above him in the scoring charts.

Vardy has averaged a league goal approximately every 134 minutes, a rate that only six players can better this term, although he has not found the net in any of his past five appearances.

Rodgers is therefore confident Leicester's season will not be badly impacted by the loss of Vardy as they prepare for a run of matches that includes meetings with Everton, Leeds United, Wolves and Liverpool before the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie with Slavia Prague.

"Jamie Vardy will be out for a few weeks," Rodgers said on Friday. "As you know, we've been managing him over this last number of months, and he's been absolutely fantastic.

"We have a window now that allows him to have a minor operation on his hernia and then he'll be back within a few weeks. He'll be out for that period.

"It's one that doesn't keep him [Vardy] out for too long, but it's just a repair in and round that hernia area. It's one we feel he can't really put it off much longer.

"We were hoping to do it a few weeks back, but this is a window where we can get it done and that will obviously leave him with a good part of the season where he can be really influential for us."

Leicester, who are two points behind league leaders Manchester United, travel to Brentford in the FA Cup fourth round on Sunday.

Frank Lampard is adamant he can handle the pressure that has come with Chelsea's slump in form, which continued with a 2-0 defeat to Leicester City on Tuesday.

Goals from Wilfred Ndidi and James Maddison sent Leicester top of the Premier League, nine points clear of a Chelsea side that has now won just two of their last eight league games.

Lampard's team are five points adrift of the top four, with their 29 points the fewest Chelsea have had at the midway point of the season since 2015-16, when Leicester won the league and the Blues finished 10th.

Asked about his future at a post-match media conference, head coach Lampard said: "I can't control it. I've been asked before, I understand it, it's the expectations of this club.

"It's a developing team but I can't get caught up in the reaction. I took this job knowing we would have difficult times.

"We just have to fight. Where everything was rosy in mid-December, it isn't so rosy now. I am good at handling pressure."

Chelsea have taken seven points from a possible 24 since going top of the Premier League in December with a win over Leeds United.

On his side's form, Lampard told BBC Sport: "We were in a really good place in December, second in the league and two points from the top. Maybe complacency set it. There's only one way out of it which is hard work. Today Leicester were in better form than us.

"It is clearly concerning. It is a period we are not happy with, other clubs have been in that period. All we can think about is getting through the period, working hard. The important thing is the players bounce back. This is the cut-throat nature of what it is.

"The players have to keep their heads up but also keep their eyes open and review the game and see there was an energy in the Leicester team we didn't have.

"You cannot be sluggish and slow because it won't work against a team like Leicester that are firing."

Leicester are top after 19 games or more for the first time since they lifted the trophy in 2016, but Brendan Rodgers' focus is not on their status as potential title challengers.

"It is still too early. But it shows in the first part of the season consistency has been good and performance levels have been very high," Rodgers said to BBC Sport.

"This gives the belief to the players. It keeps the momentum going and keeps the concentration. In order to stay there at the top you need desire and hunger and I feel we have seen that from the team."

Frank Lampard stated Chelsea do not have players to compare to the calibre and experience of Eden Hazard and Diego Costa as he again sought to temper expectations around his youthful stars.

A 1-0 win over 10-man Fulham last weekend was the Blues' first three-point haul since before Christmas and they are seventh in a Premier League table they briefly topped early in December.

Throughout the subsequent slump, when critics have highlighted a moderate return on considerable transfer investment, Lampard has pointed to the fact the likes of Kai Havertz, Timo Werner - the Germany duo who have underwhelmed since arriving for a combined cost in the region of £125million - and a host of other youngsters still have their best years ahead of them.

For now, though, he feels the elite winners from his own playing days at Stamford Bridge are something Chelsea lack and must work towards

"When you look at the Premier League going forward, around us, when people were sort of lauding us to be title challengers and stuff like that, we do have a squad when you look at the composition of it that is very young, particularly in the forward areas," he told reporters ahead of Tuesday's match against third-placed Leicester City.

"We don't have that history of players: goal machines or assist machines or those things that win you games. With our team, it's potential.

"The club hasn't got an Eden Hazard contributing 50 per cent of goals and assists, it hasn't got a Costa scoring 30 goals.

"We're trying to develop those players and I believe in them strongly, but at the moment we're not quite there, where other teams around us possibly are at the front end of the pitch.

"I think for us, and I should just focus on us, there could be tough times. That's why it's important for me, and I've said this to the players, to keep working, but also to be patient and stay calm around that."

Another figure from the club's past, Brendan Rodgers, will be in the opposite dugout to Lampard at the King Power Stadium.

Leicester manager Rodgers was appointed to Chelsea's academy staff during Jose Mourinho's first spell in charge, although he infamously said he did not wish to "destroy" his career when touted as a possible replacement for Andre Villas Boas in 2012 while at Swansea City.

"I don't know, that's a difficult one, I've got to be careful with this one," Lampard replied when asked whether the Chelsea he leads is a more "nurturing" environment than the one Rodgers experienced.

"I don't want to speak for Brendan when he said that. I suppose at that time, there was a turnaround of managers. I was a player here, so I get that.

"Whether he would give the exact same answer tomorrow after the game, maybe not. For me, all I can do is tackle the job that's in front of me and at the moment we, as Chelsea, are not the Chelsea of when Brendan made those quotes.

"I'm presuming they were made at the time of Chelsea having [Didier] Drogba, [Petr] Cech, [John] Terry, I'm not going to name myself, [Claude] Makelele, whoever, and it would have been a team that was always challenging and the benchmark was different.

"At the moment, we're not a team that has Costa, [Cesc] Fabregas, Hazard, any of the era that came slightly after that.

"We're a team relying on players at the front end of the pitch [who] are clearly new to the Premier League, young to the Premier League."

Lampard was keen to highlight his pitch was not one for sympathy.

He added: "We've seen a couple of big clubs and big managers be questioned within one or two or three weeks, a couple of results this year.

"That's the modern world; I'm not crying about this because it's the Premier League, we all have different expectations, [and] if we're seen to not be getting to them, the pressure comes. That's why we're in this job."

Leicester City defender Jonny Evans has signed a two-and-a-half year extension to his contract that will keep him at the Premier League club until the end of the 2022-23 season.

The 32-year-old former Manchester United centre-back joined Leicester from West Brom in June 2018 and has made 89 appearances in all competitions.

Evans has played 74 Premier League games for Leicester and been on the winning side 34 times with 15 draws and 25 losses.

Leicester boast a marginally better win percentage in the Premier League with Evans in the team (45.9 per cent) than without him (44.4 per cent).

The Foxes also have a higher average points per game total (1.6) when Evans has been in the team than when he has not (1.4).

"I've loved it here since the first day I came in. It's a great atmosphere around the place and it's a club with a lot of ambition," Evans told Leicester's website.

"The players are ambitious and the signings that they've made over the years, they've signed young, hungry players and it’s been great for me to come in alongside that and be a part of it."

Brendan Rodgers' side are currently third in the Premier League, four points behind leaders Liverpool, and play Newcastle United away on Sunday.

Brendan Rodgers has declared striker Jamie Vardy fit for Leicester City's Boxing Day clash with Manchester United.

Vardy was substituted late on in Sunday's 2-0 win over Tottenham as Leicester climbed to second in the Premier League, a point above United having played a game more.

He netted from the penalty spot at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to make Premier League history, becoming the first player to score away to an opponent at three different grounds following previous goals at White Hart Lane and Wembley Stadium.

It took the 33-year-old's tally for the season to 11 goals in 13 outings, placing him behind only Mohamed Salah in the Premier League scoring charts - the Liverpool forward scoring 13 times in the same number of appearances.

Vardy has also now scored 43 goals since Rodgers' first game in charge of Leicester in March 2019, more than any other player in that time.

And Rodgers is expecting to have Vardy available for the visit of United as Leicester aim to improve on a return of five losses in six Boxing Day fixtures since their promotion in 2014.

"Vardy will be fine for the game, it's just a bit of soreness. It will be pretty much the same squad," the manager said at a pre-match news conference on Tuesday.

"[Caglar] Soyuncu may be close. If not for Saturday, he could be ready for Monday [away to Crystal Palace]."

Leicester have lost more games (19) and conceded more goals (60) against United than they have versus any other side in the Premier League.

United enter the game on the back of a 10-match winning run away from home in the Premier League, one short of the record jointly-held by Chelsea and Manchester City.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was under intense pressure following elimination from the Champions League earlier this month, but Rodgers has praised the work being done by his opposite number.

"I think Ole's doing a fantastic job," he said. "They'll be disappointed to go out of the Champions League because it's a competition they have history in.

"Ole has reshaped the club in terms of the values, and he's looking to develop young players. I think he's done a very good job. They've got big quality."

Manchester United claimed just their second home win of the Premier League season in emphatic fashion as they swatted aside Leeds United 6-2.

Marcelo Bielsa's team have gone toe-to-toe with most teams this season, but came off on the wrong side of a rout in an encounter which saw 43 attempts on goal.

United leapfrogged Tottenham to move into the top four, with Jose Mourinho's side going down 2-0 to Leicester City earlier on Sunday.

Sam Allardyce got his West Brom tenure off to a losing start, while Brighton and Hove Albion denied Sheffield United their first victory of 2020-21.

Manchester United 6-2 Leeds United: McTominay sets the tone

Sunday's headline fixture wasted no time in serving up the entertainment. Man United shared the points with Manchester City in a dismal derby in their previous home match, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side mustered 26 attempts as they thrashed Leeds this time out.

Scott McTominay got things up and running with a quickfire double – his opener coming after just 66 seconds, with the midfielder then doubling his tally with a tidy close-range finish.

McTominay's efforts put Man United 2-0 within 170 seconds, the quickest a team has scored twice from the start of a Premier League game since Arsenal netted two inside 164 seconds against Newcastle United in February 2011, a 4-4 draw.

The double also made McTominay the first player in Premier League history to score twice in the first three minutes of a match, and Bruno Fernandes drilled in to make it 3-0 in the 20th minute, the earliest the Red Devils have scored three times from the start of a top-flight game since August 2006.

Goals from Victor Lindelof and Daniel James, combined with a penalty from Fernandes, saw United score six times in a Premier League game for the first time since their 8-2 win over Arsenal in 2011.

United have played more home Premier League games against Leeds without losing than against any other club (P13 W9 D4), while it is the first time a club side managed by Bielsa have conceded six goals in a competitive match since his Newell's Old Boys team lost 6-0 to San Lorenzo in the Copa Libertadores in February 1992.

Since his debut in February, Fernandes has both scored and assisted a goal in seven different Premier League games – only Matt Le Tissier in 1994 (eight) and Mohamed Salah in 2018 (nine) have done so on more occasions in a single calendar year in the competition's history.

Tottenham 0-2 Leicester City: No more Mourinho woe for Rodgers

Tottenham suffered a second straight Premier League defeat as Leicester returned to winning ways in style, with Brendan Rodgers claiming his first victory in all competitions against a Mourinho team.

Leicester's opener came from the spot, with Jamie Vardy lashing in his sixth penalty of the season after Serge Aurier's foul on James Justin was spotted by the VAR in first-half stoppage time. The Ivory Coast full-back has conceded four penalties in the Premier League since 2017-18, second only to David Luiz (five).

Vardy has now been directly involved in seven goals (five goals, two assists) in seven Premier League away games against Spurs, with the 33-year-old becoming the first player to score an away goal against an opponent at three different venues in the competition (White Hart Lane, Wembley Stadium and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium).

James Maddison had a goal disallowed by the VAR for a marginal offside, but Vardy was involved again as Leicester got their second midway through the second half, his header diverted in off Toby Alderweireld, who has scored three own goals for Spurs in the Premier League, a joint-high with Harry Kane.

The victory moved Leicester into second place, and the Foxes will be in the top two places of the top flight at Christmas in consecutive seasons for the first time in their history.

West Brom 0-3 Aston Villa: No Big Sam bounce for Baggies

A 1-1 draw at Manchester City was not enough to keep Slaven Bilic in the hot seat at West Brom, but his successor got off to a dismal start.

Allardyce's team went down 3-0 to Aston Villa, with captain Jake Livermore seeing red as goals from Anwar El Ghazi and Bertrand Traore claimed the points.

Villa's return of 22 points after 12 games is their best in the Premier League since 2001-02, when they finished eighth, while West Brom have only one win 14 games into a league season for just the third time, after 1985-86 and 2004-05.

It was only the second time Allardyce lost his first Premier League game in charge of a side (W5 D1), the previous occasion coming against West Brom as Sunderland manager in October 2015.

Allardyce has plenty of work to do. In England's top four tiers, only Southend United (-20) have a poorer goal difference than West Brom (-19).

Brighton and Hove Albion 1-1 Sheffield United: Ten-man Blades made to wait

Chris Wilder's Sheffield United looked set to clinch their first victory of the season, only to be denied late on by Danny Welbeck, who snatched a 1-1 draw for Brighton.

The Blades had John Lundstram sent off in the first half, but Jayden Bogle's goal on his Premier League debut put them ahead – three of the full-back's four league goals have come away from home.

Bogle joins Brian Deane (1992), Willie Falconer (1993), Rob Hulse (2006) and Billy Sharp (2019) in netting on his Premier League bow for the Blades.

Brighton, meanwhile, are winless in their past 11 league home games – only once in their league history have they gone longer without a win at home (12 games between October 1997 and February 1998).

United sit bottom on two points from 14 games. It is the lowest total by an English top-flight side at this stage of a campaign (counting three points for a win).

Brendan Rodgers praised the fighting spirit of his Leicester City side after they battled back from a goal down three times to draw 3-3 with Braga and qualify for the last 32 of the Europa League.

Leicester trailed at the interval in Thursday's clash through goals from Al Musrati and Paulinho either side of Harvey Barnes' equaliser.

Teenage defender Luke Thomas struck to level up but the visitors looked to have thrown away the point they needed to advance when Fransergio slotted in on the counter in the 90th minute.

However, substitute Jamie Vardy rounded off a move he started to snatch Leicester a point in the fifth minute of added time and with it a place in the knockout stage.

Leicester are three points clear of second-placed Braga with two rounds of fixtures to go, and Rodgers is hopeful of finishing top of Group G, which means avoiding one of the Champions League drop-outs in the next stage.

"We've achieved the first objective, which is to qualify," he told LCFC TV. "Now, we want to try and ensure that we go on and win the group.

"It was a really good game. I thought in the second half, we were outstanding. We came from behind three times.

"We weren't very good in the first half at all, we were too slow, and that means that defensively and offensively, it was too static. So, they were the better team in the first half, then we made some changes in the second half. 

"That brought a different dynamic to the team - better movement, better speed in the game. We were excellent in the second half.

"In saying that, we made a mistake in our pressing and they had the chance to win it, but it just typifies the mentality in the group to keep going and to get that equaliser right at the end. 

"We thoroughly deserved it and that was obviously an important point for us. It says everything; they're never beaten, and that's what is important."

Leicester had 48 per cent of the ball in the first half at the Estadio Municipal de Braga but that increased to 63 per cent in an improved second-half display that saw them attempt four shots on target.

The European draw comes four days on from a 3-0 loss to Liverpool in the Premier League that halted a six-game winning streak in all competitions, and Rodgers was pleased with the way his men bounced back.

"It's important for us coming off a disappointing result against Liverpool that we come in and perform well," he said.

"I think there was a little bit of a hangover from that in the first half. Obviously, I'm having to make changes to manage the physicality of the team. Our challenge in the second half was to come back and not lose the game.

"I thought we did that, and I thought we were excellent in our play. We got into some great areas and maybe should have won the game.

"But we'll take the point, away from home in Europe. A point is important and we're really happy to qualify."

Youri Tielemans was only introduced at half-time yet no player on the pitch played more passes in the opposition half than the Belgium midfielder's 34.

"We wanted Youri to be the controller," Rodgers said at his post-match news conference. "He dictated the tempo of the game.

"In the second half, we were excellent in our football and he and James [Maddison] were the catalysts for that. It was a much better second half and it was an exciting game."

Brendan Rodgers questioned the narrative about Liverpool being "depleted" after Leicester City were well beaten on Sunday.

Rodgers' Leicester suffered a 3-0 loss at Anfield as Liverpool extended their unbeaten home run in the league to 64 games – a club record.

Jurgen Klopp was without the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Mohamed Salah, Jordan Henderson, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Thiago Alcantara for the Premier League encounter.

But Leicester manager Rodgers suggested there had been too much focus on the injury concerns of his former side, who moved level on points with Premier League leaders Tottenham.

He also pointed to Leicester's own absentees, with Ricardo Pereira, Caglar Soyuncu, Timothy Castagne and Wilfred Ndidi all missing from the game.

"We don't dwell on it. We've had a terrific start. We were beaten by the better team," he told a news conference.

"Everyone talked about Liverpool's injuries and that was the narrative leading into this game but it's still a top-class team with players at the front end of the pitch who can hurt you.

"There's still a number of players out but the players have been great, doing everything and it just wasn't our night, so we move on."

With Van Dijk and Joe Gomez out, Fabinho slotted into the centre of defence alongside Joel Matip, while James Milner started at right-back due to Alexander-Arnold's calf injury.

Rodgers said it was still a strong Liverpool defence, as Klopp's side kept their fourth clean sheet in seven games in all competitions.

"I don't really see it as a depleted backline," he said.

"I know they're missing Virgil van Dijk, but Matip is a top defender, Fabinho has filled in, he played there against Chelsea and played there against top players.

"Andy Robertson has always played, Alisson is the number one goalkeeper and wherever James Milner plays he does an incredible job. I don’t go with that narrative, they're still very strong with top players.

"You look at their midfield, players who have always played. They're just an outstanding team, super organised, play really hard with quality and were the better team."

After Jonny Evans' 21st-minute own goal, Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino scored for Liverpool, the result leaving Leicester in fourth in the table – two points adrift of Spurs and Klopp's men.

Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers believes British managers are just as talented as their foreign counterparts and deserve more respect for their achievements.

Rodgers took over at the Foxes in February 2019 and steered the club to a fifth-place finish in the 2019-20 campaign, missing out on a Champions League spot on the final day of the season.

His side have enjoyed a stellar start to the new season too, and sit top of the Premier League after winning six of their opening eight games. 

Rodgers is widely considered to be one of the best British managers of his generation, having come close to winning the Premier League with Liverpool in 2014. 

He also led Celtic to seven domestic trophies during his two-and-a-half seasons in charge of the Scottish club before he joined Leicester.

The Northern Irishman has got the better of Pep Guardiola, Marcelo Bielsa and Mikel Arteta already this season and sarcastically said "because I'm a British manager, I got lucky" following a 4-1 win over Bielsa's Leeds United on November 2. 

Speaking ahead of Sunday's trip to former club Liverpool, Rodgers talked up the merits of British managers and believes they have it tougher than their continental colleagues. 

"As an island we produce very good coaches," he told a media conference on Friday. "The systems in place in the last 15 years have ensured we do well in game. 

"As British managers we are always judged in the most difficult league in the world. 

"There was a question after the Leeds game about Bielsa, Pep and Mikel but, with all due respect, Mikel has been a manager less than one year. 

"We've got a load of great coaches. You just want respect for your work."

Rodgers goes up against the man who replaced him as Reds boss following his dismissal in October 2015 this weekend, with Jurgen Klopp's side just a point behind Leicester at the Premier League summit. 

Klopp guided the Merseyside outfit to their first top-flight title in 30 years last season and Rodgers is impressed with everything the German has achieved at Anfield. 

"I know first-hand the job he's done," he added. "The expectation was huge and it's not all plain sailing.

"He had great support from the board to get the right profile of players. But the whole package of what he's done is a brilliant job. He has a great connection with the supporters and the players."

Whoever is left to line up for Liverpool on Sunday, they will have the chance to set a new club record against Leicester City.

The Reds have not lost at home in the Premier League since April 23, 2017. Back then, Donald Trump was settling into life as the 45th president of the United States, Brexit negotiations were still weeks away from formally opening and Antonio Conte's Chelsea were running away in the title race.

While much has changed since then, Liverpool being unbeaten at home in top-flight action has remained a constant. The current stretch of 63 games without defeat matches a club record, set between February 1978 and December 1980. Now they want to take the record outright.

A Crystal Palace team inspired by ex-Reds striker Christian Benteke were the last visitors to prevail at Anfield in the league. Joel Matip played that day, while Trent Alexander-Arnold came on as a late substitute and Joe Gomez was unused off the bench.

This weekend, though, Matip is set to be the only one of that defensive trio in action; Alexander-Arnold was injured in the 1-1 draw at Manchester City, while Gomez has joined fellow centre-back Virgil van Dijk as a long-term absentee.

With Mohamed Salah testing positive for COVID-19 while on duty with Egypt, the depleted champions appear more vulnerable than ever. Leicester – the club who ended Liverpool's long unbeaten run 40 years ago – have every reason to fancy their chances.

 

A familiar face returns to Anfield

To add a little extra narrative, Brendan Rodgers has the chance to scupper his former club's quest to set a record.

Leicester spent the November international break sitting pretty at the Premier League summit, their total of 18 points after eight games three more than they managed at the same stage of a 2015-16 campaign that ended with Claudio Ranieri's squad defying pre-season odds of 5,000-1 to be crowned champions. Could history be repeated in this craziest of crazy seasons?

Rodgers has admittedly struggled against the 'big six' since taking charge, winning just five of 17 games. However, two of those successes have come on the road in recent months, as his Foxes spectacularly dismantled Manchester City 5-2 before sucker-punching Arsenal in a 1-0 triumph in north London.

The scorelines were vastly different, yet the Leicester blueprint was similar – defend deep, press at the appropriate moments and, when a turnover comes, capitalise on the open spaces to strike. Playing possum is paying off spectacularly.

Against City, they had just 28.3 per cent possession but scored five goals from seven attempts, allowing Pep Guardiola's side to keep the ball yet still posing the greater threat as they waited to counter. The same happened at Leeds United too, Marcelo Bielsa's side dominating the ball but falling into well-set pressing traps, like bugs simply unable to resist the oncoming car lights.

"It's the evolution. You need to have more than one way to play in the modern game," Rodgers told Sky Sports after the 4-1 triumph at Elland Road. "My teams will always look to dominate and control where we can, but you can also control the game without the ball, especially against teams who have big, big quality."

Rodgers now has the chance to steer Leicester to victory in their first five away fixtures in a league season for the first time. All he has to do is plot the downfall of Liverpool, where he came so close to winning the league in 2014.

To borrow a phrase from opposite number Jurgen Klopp, a few more should turn from doubters to believers if the early pacesetters prevail on Merseyside.

 

Vardy to have a party against depleted defence?

With Jamie Vardy in your side, there is always a chance of grabbing a goal - no matter how little possession you have.

The striker – a pivotal part of Ranieri's title-winning group – keeps on churning out the goals. He has eight already this term, including five successful penalties. He has won four of those spot-kicks while Leicester have had nine overall, the highest number in the top five leagues in Europe.

Stretching back into the previous campaign, nine of Vardy's previous 10 league goals have come in away outings. He seemingly relishes upsetting the perceived hierarchy; since his debut top-flight season in 2014-15, the 33-year-old has scored more goals (38) against the 'big six' sides than any other player in the division.

Liverpool have suffered against him previously – only Andy Cole (11) and Thierry Henry (8) have managed more than Vardy's total seven against the Reds in the competition - while Vardy should be well-rested now his England career is in the rearview mirror.

Leicester's threat will be a constant throughout proceedings, no matter how much control Liverpool exert. Vardy has a 50 per cent conversion rate through eight games and averages a goal every 70 minutes.

His total for the campaign could easily be higher too, had he not been substituted by the time his team were awarded late penalties against City and Leeds. They have developed a nice habit of scoring late, leading the way in the Premier League with seven goals between 76-90 minutes.

 

High lines and taking chances

It is quite possible that Rhys Williams, on loan at National League North side Kidderminster Harriers this time last year, or Nathaniel Phillips, seemingly heading for the Anfield exit not too long ago, could be tasked with playing alongside Matip and making sure Vardy does not add to his tally.

The cracks in the Liverpool back-line that anchored the championship-winning campaign had appeared before the spate of injuries, most notably in a 7-2 loss away to Aston Villa, but Liverpool have not started a Premier League game without one of Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk or Gomez since May 21, 2017.

Worryingly for Klopp, they have kept just one clean sheet in their previous 13 Premier League games, with the propensity to play a high line picked out as a potential reason for the sudden issues.

That tactic was utilised in home wins over Leeds and Arsenal, as well as a 2-0 triumph at Chelsea, according to the Opta numbers for average starting distance from goal. However, they have dropped deeper in more recent outings, including home fixtures against Sheffield United (41.7 metres) and West Ham (43.9m).

Whether this is through necessity or choice is unknown. Still, Liverpool's average starting position for this season sits at 45.7m, a number only topped by Guardiola's City.

Leicester do not rely heavily on high turnovers, as demonstrated by their total of 28 so far, which positions them well inside the bottom half of the table in the statistic. However, they have been clinical when chances do come along. In their four away fixtures, they have hit the target with 24 of 36 attempted shots, boasting a conversion rate of 36 per cent.

On the brink of club history, Liverpool must avoid becoming the latest opponent to be caught out by Rodgers' road warriors if they are to keep the impressive home streak alive.

Jamie Vardy and Leicester City believe they "can beat anyone" in this season's Europa League and have quickly set about proving their point.

The Foxes clinched a 2-1 away win over AEK Athens on Thursday to maintain their 100 per cent start in Group G thanks to a penalty from Vardy and a fine strike from Hamza Choudhury.

Aged 33 years and 292 days, Vardy became Leicester's oldest European goalscorer, beating team-mate Wes Morgan's record by 240 days.

Leicester's star striker, whose goal came from one of his two shots, while he created a further pair of chances, backed his side to make a major impression in the competition.

"We believe we can go far in this tournament," Vardy told reporters after the win in Greece.

"We just want to keep going. Every single game, we'll put in 100 per cent. On our day, we can beat anyone, so we're looking forward to it.

"We've not got the biggest squad, but we're picking up wins and playing well. We're keeping that close-knit togetherness and it shows, seeing games out like that.

"I think we were better in the first half. They got a goal back and started putting a bit of pressure on us, but we've held in there and we've defended really well."

Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers hailed the attitude shown by his players to secure victory after AEK had responded through Muamer Tankovic early in the second half.

"I thought it was a great mentality and a great effort by the team," Rodgers said, his side having restricted the hosts to three shots on target.

"They had a little bit of momentum second half - we have to dig deep and stay strong - and I thought we did that very well. 

"Then it's just about being professional. Away from home in Europe, it's always tough, but I thought we saw the game out very well.

"I always think if you can start well, and we've done so with two good wins, then you're absolutely delighted."

The win was Leicester's first away from home in the Europa League or UEFA Cup, having lost the away legs of first-round ties against Atletico Madrid in 1997-98 and Red Star Belgrade in 2000-01.

Mikel Arteta questioned the decision to rule out Alexandre Lacazette's early goal in Arsenal's 1-0 loss to Leicester City at Emirates Stadium.

Lacazette steered home a header inside four minutes in Sunday's Premier League clash, but it was ruled out because Arsenal team-mates Granit Xhaka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were stood in offside positions.

France forward Lacazette missed a big chance later in the first half and Arsenal's profligacy came back to haunt them when Leicester substitute Jamie Vardy scored a winner 10 minutes from time.

But while Arteta was unhappy with the decision to chalk off Lacazette's goal, the Gunners manager accepted more is required from Arsenal after back-to-back Premier League losses.

"The game went the way it went. I felt we had total control in the first half and restricted them to nothing," Arteta told BBC Sport.

"We were winning every ball, created a few chances and scored a goal - I don't know how it got disallowed. 

"They defended deeper in the second half, waiting for the mistake and in one moment they did it."

Elaborating on the disallowed goal at his post-match news conference, Arteta added: "Granit is behind [Kasper] Schmeichel so it's nothing to do with him. 

"They made the decision and we can't change it now."

Leicester failed to muster a single shot on target before Vardy, introduced after an hour, converted fellow substitute Cengiz Under's cross for his 11th league goal against Arsenal.

Arteta bemoaned the Gunners' lack of cutting edge in front of goal before Vardy's match-winning impact, with his side managing 12 shots in total.

"Against this block, against so well organised teams, when you open them up you have to put the ball in the back of the net," he said.

"They were similar against Manchester City, they scored with two set pieces and credit to them for what they have done but our players responded and I feel sorry for them.

"We have so many alternatives in the team and can have fluidity. It worked in some moments and there are options we can manage."

The defeat for Arsenal is their first at home in the league this calendar year and their first against Leicester in any competition in 28 games since 1973.

Visiting boss Brendan Rodgers, whose side had previously lost back-to-back top-flight matches without scoring, hailed Vardy – still not fully fit after recently sustaining a calf injury - for his huge impact from the bench.

"Every game he looks like scoring," Rodgers told reporters. "He's disappointed he didn't have another. 

"He's a world-class striker and he's a guy who stretches the game, gets in behind. He's an incredible talent and we would've loved to have started him.

"For us to be the first team to win here this calendar year show the work Arteta has done here. 

"It was a great win, a great night, and it's just a shame the supporters couldn't be here to celebrate. It is four wins from six now and the team is moving along very well."

Liverpool ruthlessly capitalised on playing against 10 men in the second half as they eased to victory over Chelsea on Sunday.

The reigning champions have won two from two at the start of the new campaign, as is also the case for Leicester City after they saw off Burnley in the late kick-off.

Brighton and Hove Albion are up and running after a worthwhile journey north, while Tottenham leaned heavily on two of their superstars to put Southampton to the sword.

With help from Opta data, here is a recap of the four fixtures to take place on another busy day in the Premier League.

Chelsea 0-2 Liverpool: Thiago makes debut as champions triumph

A close contest at Stamford Bridge changed complexion when Andreas Christensen was sent off in first-half stoppage time.

Sadio Mane, the player fouled by the defender, went on to score twice after the break, making him just the third Liverpool player to get a brace of goals at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League era. The others? Steve McManaman, back in December 1995, and Philippe Coutinho, who did so in October 2015.

However, the scorer was overshadowed somewhat by new team-mate Thiago Alcantara, who replaced the injured Jordan Henderson at half-time having only completed his move on Friday.

Still, the Spaniard managed to complete more passes (75) than any Chelsea player in the entire match. Indeed, since full passing data became available for the Premier League in the 2003-04 season, his total number of successful passes is the most by a player who featured for a maximum of 45 minutes.

Jorginho missed a penalty for Chelsea too, his first failure in nine attempts for the Blues in all competitions. Alisson not only produced his first save from the spot for Liverpool since joining the club but also his first save of the season.

Southampton 2-5 Tottenham: Bale force! Son and Kane steal the show 

Saturday was all about a returning hero for Spurs fans, as the club confirmed Gareth Bale was coming back from Real Madrid on a season-long loan. Less than 24 hours later, Son Heung-min became the headline act for Tottenham, aided by Harry Kane playing a sublime supporting role in a comprehensive win.

Son scored four of his side's goals at St Mary's Stadium. All of them were set up by Kane, who became just the sixth player to assist four goals in a single Premier League game. No Englishman had previously achieved the feat.

To put that into context, Kane – who also scored Spurs' fifth in the rout – only provided two assists in the 2019-20 season, albeit he did miss a large chunk of that due to injury. 

All this came after Southampton had taken the lead, though their failure to hold onto the advantage given to them by Danny Ings should hardly be a surprise. Since Ralph Hasenhuttl took charge in December 2018, no side has squandered more points from winning positions in the Premier League. 

Still, this was a day to admire the victors, not the vanquished. Son and Kane were simply too much for Southampton; the dynamic duo have now combined for more league goals (24) than any other pairing in the competition since the South Korean joined in August 2015. 

Newcastle United 0-3 Brighton and Hove Albion: Seagulls soar thanks to Maupay

What a difference a week makes. Newcastle United were so impressive in their opener at West Ham, while Brighton were well beaten at home by Chelsea. However, the Seagulls' long journey provided plenty of positives, Graham Potter's team running out comfortable winners against accommodating hosts who failed to muster a shot on target. 

Neal Maupay had Brighton two ahead inside seven minutes, the earliest brace for a player in the Premier League since Manchester City's Edin Dzeko scored twice in the opening four minutes against Norwich City back in December 2012. 

Maupay also set up Aaron Connolly for a third goal late on, with the only disappointment for the visitors the late red card shown to the impressive Yves Bissouma, who had more touches (65) than any other player while also recording a 92 per cent passing accuracy. 

Leicester City 4-2 Burnley: Flying Foxes make it two from two

Could history be repeated this term? Leicester have won their first two games of a Premier League season for the first time since their famous title-winning campaign in 2015-16.

For Brendan Rodgers, there was a personal milestone. The Foxes boss recorded his 100th victory in the Premier League, becoming the 23rd different manager to reach a century and needing 210 games. Alex Ferguson (162 games), Kenny Dalglish (197) and Kevin Keegan (209) are the only British managers that did it faster.

James Justin scored his first league goal for Leicester while Harvey Barnes was also on target, meaning he has now been directly involved in five goals in his past three Premier League games against Burnley.

The visitors did not help themselves with Erik Pieters' own goal, Burnley's sixth in the Premier League since the start of the 2018-19 season; the most of any current team in the competition.

Liverpool dominate the nominations for the Premier League Player of the Season, Young Player of the Season and Manager of the Season awards for 2019-20.

Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year Jordan Henderson, along with team-mates Trent Alexander-Arnold and Sadio Mane, are up for the league's Player of the Season prize.

Manchester City star Kevin De Bruyne, Golden Boot winner Jamie Vardy, Southampton striker Danny Ings and Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope are the other nominees.

Alexander-Arnold is also up for the inaugural Young Player of the Season, as are Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish and Chelsea duo Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount.

There are four Manchester United players on the shortlist: Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Dean Henderson, who is on loan at Sheffield United.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp leads the nominees for the Manager of the Season prize, with Leicester City's Brendan Rodgers and Sheffield United's Chris Wilder also selected.

Frank Lampard, who took Chelsea to a fourth-place finish and lost the FA Cup final to Arsenal, is the other nominee.

Each award will be decided through a combination of fan votes and input from a panel of experts.

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk was named the Player of the Season in 2018-19, while Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has won the manager's accolade for the past two campaigns.

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