Luis Suarez was hailed as "amazing" by Diego Simeone after firing Atletico Madrid seven points clear at the top of LaLiga.

A late penalty was Suarez's second strike of the game and secured a 2-1 win over Eibar on Thursday night, taking the striker's haul to 11 goals in 14 league games.

Such has been the Uruguayan's impact since arriving from Barcelona, it even sparked a post-match question to Simeone as to whether he might be the coach's best signing.

In a little over nine years in charge of Atletico, Simeone has brought a host of notable players to the club, with Jan Oblak and Antoine Griezmann among them.

Simeone recognises Suarez's impact, but he was reluctant to compare the signings he has made during his reign.

"I don't stop in mid-season to think about such an argument," Simeone said. "He is amazing and we are very happy that he is with us.

"He is a great player with great characteristics. He knew how to play the game and gave us an important victory with a great defensive effort from the team."

The handsome lead that Atletico now hold over second-placed Real Madrid makes them favourites to land a first LaLiga title since 2013-14. They even have a game in hand.

But rather than take glee from toiling rivals Real Madrid exiting the Copa del Rey to third-tier minnows Alcoyano on Wednesday night, Simeone said such a result served as a reminder there are no certainties in football.

"It makes us pay attention and understand that football is more complex every day," Simeone said.

"Barca also won [against Cornella] in extra time ... Bayern [Munich] also lost in their cup, football is not simple.

"The opposition compete, they do it well and it makes us always be alert. Football is wonderful because it always gives you the chance to win."

Suarez, who sits third on Barcelona's list of all-time leading scorers, was a remarkable close-season acquisition by Atletico.

He has now scored 12 times in LaLiga against Eibar, more than he has managed against any other team.

The one-time Ajax and Liverpool frontman has looked sharp for his new team and puts his success down to the warm reception he was given, having at one stage appeared reluctant to leave Barcelona.

"I'm very happy. The team has been very welcoming," Suarez said. "They make me feel at home. I try to help the team the best I can, but we are all doing it too.

"We are showing everyone that we want to fight for important things.

"We need to keep working. We need to keep fighting for all the goals we set at the beginning of the season."


After Falcao and Griezmann, Suarez becomes new Atletico goal hero

It will be how well he sustains his early form that dictates how Suarez is eventually remembered at Atletico, but there can be no denying he has made a spectacular start.

He is averaging one goal every 92.18 minutes in LaLiga and has a 25.58 per cent shot conversion rate in the competition.

No player with more than one league goal during the Simeone era has a better average minute-per-goal record than Suarez, although Radamel Falcao comes close, with his 43 LaLiga goals under the Argentinian coach coming at one every 109.58 minutes.

Of all the players with more Atletico goals than Suarez in Simeone's time as coach, only Kevin Gameiro (27.14 per cent) has a better shot conversion percentage.

Suarez has so far had 13 goalscoring opportunities defined by Opta as 'big chances' and has gobbled up eight of those for an immensely healthy 61.54 per cent strike rate, better than any Atletico player with 10 goals or more in Simeone's time.

Griezmann remains Atletico's LaLiga leading scorer during Simeone's tenure, with 94 goals from 180 games, snaffling 53.04 per cent of his 115 big chances with an overall shot conversion rate of 21.22 per cent.

Only across one season of his Barcelona career did Suarez score at a faster rate in LaLiga than he has to date for Atletico.

In the 2015-16 campaign he plundered 40 goals from 35 games at a clip of one every 78.75 minutes on the pitch.

He eclipsed Lionel Messi in the scoring stakes that season as Barcelona edged out Madrid and Atletico in a three-team title battle.

This term, Suarez, who turns 34 on Sunday, is threatening to barge the Clasico giants out of contention and help Atletico make it a one-horse race.

 

The Premier League takes a back seat this weekend as the FA Cup returns at the fourth round stage.

While Aston Villa and Newcastle will contest the sole top-flight match, most of the big boys are hoping to continue their respective quests for silverware in the cup.

For the second weekend running, most eyes will likely be on Manchester United and Liverpool – though fans and neutrals alike will surely be hoping for more of a spectacle than their rather anti-climactic Premier League contest last weekend.

Elsewhere, Wolves face non-league opposition, while Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham all take on teams from lower in the football pyramid.

Before the action begins, test your knowledge with our Opta-fuelled quiz! You can check your answers below.

1. Wolves will be big favourites when they play Chorley on Friday, but they did lose their most recent clash with non-league opposition. When was that defeat to Luton Town?

2. Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored in all four of his appearances in the FA Cup, netting six goals in total in the competition. Who was the last Gunners player to score in five consecutive FA Cup appearances between May 1998 and February 1999?

3. Liverpool go to bitter rivals Manchester United on Sunday in the pick of the weekend's action. The Reds have only reached the FA Cup fifth round in one of Jurgen Klopp's five previous seasons at the club. When was that and who ended their run?

4. Last season's beaten finalists Chelsea host Championship side Luton this weekend. The Blues have progressed from 51 of their last 53 FA Cup ties against sides from a lower division – who was the last such team to beat them and when?

5. Luton have a history of big upsets in the FA Cup and were the first non-league side to beat a Premier League team back in 2013 when they eliminated Norwich City. Which current Tottenham star was in the Canaries' starting XI that day?

Answers:

1. January 2013
2. Marc Overmars
3. In 2019-20, Chelsea
4. Bradford City in January 2015
5. Harry Kane

Silvio Berlusconi, Adriano Galliani, Cristian Brocchi, Mario Balotelli, Kevin-Prince Boateng and Gabriel Paletta.

There is a real Milan vibe about Monza, who are nestled 15 kilometres north of the Lombardy capital, as the ambitious club stand closer than ever to achieving their goal of Serie A promotion after spending their entire existence in the lower leagues.

Monza are owned by former Milan president and Italy prime minister Berlusconi, who returned to football in 2018 after selling his beloved Rossoneri a year earlier.

After purchasing the club through his Fininvest company, Berlusconi turned to his trusted right-hand man Galliani – who was born in Monza – as CEO. Their partnership helped turn the Rossoneri into a superpower, with eight Serie A titles and five Champions League/European Cup crowns among the 29 pieces of silverware between 1986 and 2017.

Monza are also coached by former Milan midfielder and boss Brocchi, while the Serie B outfit also boasts ex-Rossoneri players Balotelli, Boateng and Paletta.

After completing their rise from Serie C to the second tier of Italian football amid the coronavirus pandemic in 2019-20, Monza are well and truly in the promotion mix – fourth and six points adrift of leaders Empoli, while they are only two points behind Cittadella, who occupy the final automatic spot through 18 games.

Moving up to Serie A would mean a Milan reunion for many of Monza's staff and players, as well as Brocchi – who won the Scudetto and two Champions League titles among other honours at San Siro between 2001 and 2008 before spending a brief period in charge eight years later.

"It is a dream that hopefully will come true. To have brought the Milan mentality coming from our board – always striving to build an important organisation similar to the Milan that won so much worldwide," Brocchi told Stats Perform News.

"Board, manager and some players have worn that shirt and the dream to recreate Milan here in Monza is beautiful and emotional."

"It is a tough season. There are many strong clubs, the ones relegated from A [in 2019-20] who have retained all the important players and those who last season had built up a squad for promotion and failed, so I think this year's Serie B is the hardest of recent times," he continued.

Monza – back in Serie B following a 19-year absence – are no ordinary second-tier team in Italy, with all eyes on the Bagai due to Berlusconi.

Berlusconi's presence has changed the landscape for Monza, who tried to sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic before the star striker opted to return to Milan in January last year. However, Monza have since lured Balotelli and Boateng to the club.

"Working for Berlusconi and Galliani's club is grand because all media attention is on you. For sure everybody thinks Monza have to win every game because these two people have gone down in football history winning so much. And this is exactly our goal," Brocchi said.

"I know very well Berlusconi and Galliani's wish is to reach Serie A and win every game. We share the same mindset because I have grown up with them since I was nine. To me it is an honour to be the manager here.

"For sure it is beautiful and important for me to manage in a club like Monza that are very ambitious. It is not easy to take a club from Serie C to Serie A but it is emotional because you have a lot of responsibilities and adrenaline is always rushing. As I said, to face strong clubs with your own aim and manage to overcome them, would make this even better." 

Brocchi, who oversaw just seven matches as Milan coach before being replaced by Vincenzo Montella, continued: "Monza's aim is to improve. We started from C, we are in B and we want Serie A. The difference between us and other clubs is that once in Serie A we won't have the goal of avoiding relegation at the last game, but to rank in the top 10.

"Mr Galliani wants us to always be a strong team going for great objectives. This is what will happen should we win this league."

Balotelli and Boateng are set to play a key role in Monza's push for promotion following their high-profile arrivals.

Boateng has made an immediate impact, with the former Milan and Barcelona midfielder – on average – scoring a goal every 243 minutes in Serie B this season, the best average among Monza players with at least 90 minutes played.

Only Dany Mota has fired more shots on target than Boateng (23 to 10) among Monza players this term and the talented Portuguese forward has four league goals.

Balotelli – coming off a difficult spell at Brescia before their relegation from Serie A – scored with his first touch in Serie B on debut for Monza last month before being sidelined through injury.

"They [Balotelli and Boateng] arrived here in Serie B thanks to the acquaintance they had with Berlusconi and Galliani and even with me as a manager, since I trained them at Milan and we had a great relationship," said Brocchi, who was handed his first senior head-coaching role at Milan after replacing Sinisa Mihajlovic almost five years ago, having previously worked with the club's youth team.

"They settled in very well, they always train hard, they lead by example by showing the will to take me, Berlusconi, Galliani and Monza to Serie A. So far they have been important, let's hope they can give us even more in order to make this dream come true."

The experience of Balotelli and Boateng complements an exciting core of Monza players, including Mota and Brazilian full-back Carlos Augusto, as well as talented loanees Davide Frattesi (Sassuolo), Andrea Colpani (Atalanta) and Davide Bettella (Atalanta).

Both Balotelli and Boateng have tasted Serie A success in their careers to go with respective Premier League and LaLiga honours, with the latter part of the last Milan team to celebrate Scudetto glory in 2010-11.

The strategy of sporting director Filippo Antonelli and Brocchi to invest in promising young talent has continued to deliver results on the pitch.

Monza have allowed the fewest headed goals (one) in Serie B this season, while Brocchi's side have conceded 10 goals from inside the box – the least in the league, while they have scored five goals inside the opening 15 minutes of play – the joint most in 2020-21.

"Monza are a mix of experienced players and great young talents. The right mix to achieve our goals. Players like Balotelli and Boateng can help Mota, Carlos Augusto, Frattesi, Colpani or Bettella, all under-21 players for Italy and Portugal," the 44-year-old Brocchi said.

"You can't only field experienced players, you have to look for the right mix and this is what Antonelli and I looked for. I think experience helps youngsters and their exuberance helps the expert ones."

Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis provided a scathing assessment of his form despite another road win for the NBA champions, saying "I suck right now".

The Lakers extended their franchise away record to eight consecutive wins on the road to start the season by topping the Milwaukee Bucks 113-106 on Thursday.

LeBron James posted a season-high 34 points, while All-Star team-mate Davis had 18 points, nine rebounds, six assists and two blocks for the Western Conference-leading Lakers (12-4).

Davis, though, was far from pleased with his performance after shooting just eight-of-18 from the field and missing his only three-point attempt.

"Right now, to be hard on myself, man, I think I suck right now," Davis said post-game.

"I'm not making shots, I'm not making free throws. But I think tonight my aggressiveness, just being a poster and getting to the paint allowed guys to get open."

David added: "My aggressiveness tonight. That's the only way I feel like I'm gonna get out of this funk or whatever that I'm in.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself to be a better basketball player every game, and that's what I'm gonna continue to do."

"I trust my team-mates. AC [Alex Caruso] hit one for me. Bron hit one and Kenny [Kentavious Caldwell-Pope] hit one, and they're in the right spots where I want guys when I have the ball in the post," Davis continued.

"And just [am] able to make the read with their guys doubling or collapsing to the paint when I get there, and was able to kick it out and those guys made shots."

 

The Los Angeles Lakers stayed perfect on the road after beating the Milwaukee Bucks 113-106 in the NBA on Thursday.

LeBron James posted a season-high 34 points as defending champions the Lakers extended a franchise record after winning their eighth consecutive away game to start the season.

James also tallied eight assists and six rebounds to help the Lakers – 8-0 on the road – bounce back from a loss in the first of a seven-game road trip, upstaging reigning two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo in the process.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 23 points for the Western Conference-leading Lakers (12-4) in Milwaukee, where the Bucks (9-6) dropped back-to-back games.

Antetokounmpo's double-double of 25 points and 12 rebounds were not enough for the Bucks, who also had solid contributions from Jrue Holiday (22 points) and Khris Middleton (20 points).

 

Curry stars

Stephen Curry put up 30 points, but the Golden State Warriors still went down 119-104 at home to the New York Knicks. The two-time MVP moved into fourth place on the franchise's all-time games played list after making his 714th regular-season appearance, surpassing Paul Arizin. RJ Barrett's 28 points for the Knicks were a career high.

Golden State's Eric Paschall scored his 1,000th career point in his 74th game, reaching the 1,000-point mark in the fewest amount of games played by a Warriors second round draft pick in the Modern Draft era (since 1966). Previously, Gilbert Arenas did so in 79 games.

Donovan Mitchell's season-high 36 points fuelled the Utah Jazz's 129-118 win over the New Orleans Pelicans. Mitchell was 11-of-19 shooting from the field, while he made six of eight three-point attempts. The Jazz have won seven straight games.

 

Schroder struggles in Milwaukee

Dennis Schroder failed to get going for the Lakers. The offseason recruit was just two of 10 from the field, while missing all three of his attempts from beyond the arc for four points in 33 minutes.

Kelly Oubre Jr. did not perform much better for the beaten Warriors. His seven points were on two-of-11 shooting from the field at home to the Knicks. Oubre also missed all four of his three-point attempts.

 

Steph with the behind-the-back pass

While the Warriors were unable to claim the win, Curry produced a couple of highlight moments. His behind-the-back pass to set up Draymond Green for the three-pointer was the pick of the bunch.

 

Thursday's results

Los Angeles Lakers 113-106 Milwaukee Bucks
Utah Jazz 129-118 New Orleans Pelicans
New York Knicks 119-104 Golden State Warriors

 

Celtics at 76ers

The Boston Celtics (8-5) and Eastern Conference rivals the Philadelphia 76ers (10-5) will do battle again at Wells Fargo Center on Friday after Joel Embiid's 42-point double-double inspired Doc Rivers' team midweek.

Jurgen Klopp dismissed talk about the Premier League title race after Liverpool's surprise 1-0 loss to Burnley.

Liverpool's 68-game unbeaten home league run came to an end after Ashley Barnes netted a late penalty.

Reigning champions Liverpool have gone four league games without scoring and are winless in five, leaving them six points adrift of leaders Manchester United.

Klopp said it would be ridiculous to discuss the title race given his side's form.

"Look, how silly would that be if I sit here now, losing against Burnley, didn't score for the last three or four games – I don't know exactly – and now I talk about the title race? How silly would that be?" the Liverpool manager told a news conference.

"It's just we have to win football games – it was always like this. For this we have to score goals, there is no doubt about it. That's what we have to change and have to do better. If things don't work, you have to work harder, do the right things more often, longer and more consistent, all these kinds of things.

"But not talking like it is an easy situation, it's not. It shows a lot of things. It's incredible how consistent the boys were but that was never something that anybody should have taken for granted because now we see they are all human beings, that's how it is. And now I have to make clear about what we have to do in the right moments and then we will score goals again."

Liverpool had 27 shots without scoring against Burnley, the most they have had in a single league match without finding the back of the net since April 2013.

Klopp said his players were lacking some confidence amid their poor run of form.

"We can do more with this group, we can play much better football, that is my concern. That is what I am thinking about," he said.

"The confidence is not on the highest level, I think that is so obvious that I don't have to mention it – you can see it in specific moments. It is like 90 per cent of all what the boys did all of the time is still there, but the decisive 10 per cent in the moment is missing.

"So, now we have to work on this decisive 10 per cent. That's how it is – we always work on them, but now we have to dig a little bit deeper to get them back."

Liverpool face Manchester United in the FA Cup fourth round on Sunday before visiting Tottenham four days later.

Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur warned of Tom Brady's "great feel" ahead of the blockbuster NFC Championship Game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

It will be a battle of the titans when Aaron Rodgers leads the top-seeded Packers at home to Brady's Buccaneers, with a Super Bowl berth on the line on Sunday.

Brady – a six-time Super Bowl champion with the New England Patriots – will start his 14th conference championship when the Buccaneers travel to Lambeau Field.

The 43-year-old superstar has more conference championship wins (nine) than any other quarterback has starts, per NFL Research.

LaFleur is wary of the four-time Super Bowl MVP, telling reporters on Thursday: "I think every game plan is a little bit different, but he's got such a great feel.

"He knows when to get the ball out. Whether you're rushing four or five it doesn't matter. If he feels that rush he gets the ball out of his hands and conversely, if you're rushing four and you're not hitting home he'll hold the ball as long as he needs to, to allow people to get open.

"That's just one of those things that I think is tough to coach. Some guys have great feel in the pocket and that's a tremendous luxury when you have a guy like that."

Not since winning Super Bowl XLV have the Packers reached the showpiece event – beaten by the San Francisco 49ers in last season's NFC Championship Game, having also lost title deciders in 2017 and 2015.

Rodgers will play a conference title game at home for the first time in his stellar career following the Packers' 32-18 win over the Los Angeles Rams in the Divisional Round – his four previous NFC Championship appearances have been on the road.

Green Bay's Rodgers – a Super Bowl champion in the 2010 season – recorded his 12th career playoff game with 250-plus passing yards and two-plus passing touchdowns against the Rams.

According to NFL Research, the only other payers in NFL history with 10-plus such games are Brady (17), Joe Montana (12) and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (10).

MVP favourite Rodgers also eclipsed Brett Favre for most playoff completions (439) in Packers history.

Per Stats Perform, Rodgers has thrown for multiple passing TDs in eight consecutive postseason games, tied with Joe Flacco for the longest streak in history. Now with 233 in his career, Rodgers also passed Favre for the most touchdown passes thrown at Lambeau Field (regular and postseason).

"I think when he speaks he is so well thought out in what he says and he has such a great delivery to our team I think everybody really, truly, takes it to heart," LaFleur said of the two-time MVP.

"Obviously he's a huge part of our football team both on the field and in that locker room. I think those just kind of naturally occur, whatever feels natural in the moment. He's a guy that everybody on this football teams looks to in terms of that leadership role."

On Rodgers and Brady, added: "They've seen everything. There's not a lot you can throw at them that they haven't seen. Now, the whole key is that I think a lot of times when you're playing quarterbacks like this you've got to make sure that you have identical looks, or shells, or contours and you're switching the picture on them on the snap of the ball. I think that's always imperative any time you're playing quarterbacks of this calibre."

Brandon Hagy carded an eight-under 64 to take a one-stroke lead after the first round of The American Express on Thursday.

Hagy made 10 birdies and two bogeys during his first round on the PGA West Nicklaus Tournament Course in California.

The American sits a shot clear of Byeong Hun An, who fired a 65 on the same course.

Hagy is in the lead through 18 holes for the second time in his PGA Tour career and first since the 2017 Canadian Open.

Kim Si-woo produced the best round of players who started on the PGA West Stadium Course, his 66 – which featured an eagle at the fifth hole – seeing him sit tie for third.

Martin Laird and Max Homa are alongside Kim, two shots adrift of Hagy.

A group of nine players opened with 67s, including Charl Schwartzel and Alex Noren.

Defending champion Andrew Landry, meanwhile, carded a two-under 70 on the Stadium Course to be back in a tie for 61st.

Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said Patrick Mahomes is feeling good as the Super Bowl champions monitor the star quarterback ahead of the AFC Championship Game.

Mahomes is in concussion protocol but continues to practice after leaving last week's win over the Cleveland Browns following a hit from Mack Wilson.

It remains to be seen whether the Super Bowl MVP and the 2018 Most Valuable Player, who did not return against the Browns, will face the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

But speaking after Thursday's practice, Reid told reporters: "Pat looked good out there.

"He did a nice job when he was doing it. It looks like he's moving around well.

"He feels good. It's just important that we follow the protocol and that's what we're doing.''

Mahomes became just the second player in NFL history – after Steve Young – to have both passing and rushing touchdowns in three straight playoff games. 

He has thrown for 14 touchdowns and two interceptions across six playoff games, with a career postseason QB rating of 106.6, the best in league history.

Kansas City's offensive co-ordinator Eric Bieniemy added: "He looks like Pat to me.

"He's been great in meetings. He's fun. He's energetic. You can always count on Pat being Pat.''

Top seeds the Chiefs are appearing in the AFC Championship decider for the third consecutive season as they prepare to welcome the Bills to Arrowhead Stadium.

After thrashing Crystal Palace 7-0 on December 19, Liverpool were six points clear at the Premier League summit. 

Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah were all on target in the clinical rout at Selhurst Park, after which Jurgen Klopp said: "It was really difficult to play against us."

The reigning champions had seemingly found top gear again. 

Fast forward to January 21 and, following a stunning 1-0 loss to Burnley at Anfield, Liverpool were left to wonder just where it had all gone so badly wrong.  

For a fourth successive outing in the league they had failed to score, while the shock result sees them stuck in fourth position in the table, six points behind leaders Manchester United. 

Never mind moving through the gears: the wheels have well and truly come off. 

BARNES HARMS AILING CHAMPIONS

Ashley Barnes' penalty condemned the Reds to a first home defeat in the league since April 23, 2017. It had been three years and 273 days since former Liverpool player Christian Benteke struck twice for Palace in a 2-1 triumph. 

The run of 68 games unbeaten was the second longest in English top-flight history. During the streak, there were 55 wins, 176 goals scored and 36 clean sheets. A total of 43 players were used, too.

Joel Matip, Georginio Wijnaldum, Firmino and Divock Origi were also in the starting XI that were beaten by Palace, managed by Sam Allardyce, nearly four years ago, while Trent Alexander-Arnold came on as a late substitute.


GOAL-SHY LIVERPOOL MISS CAPTAIN

Since Mane's early strike in the 1-1 draw against West Brom on December 27, Liverpool have registered 87 shots in the Premier League without managing to find the net. Eighty. Seven. Shots.

It was not for a lack of trying against Burnley, admittedly. They had 27 total attempts, their most in a single league match without scoring since April 2013 versus Reading (28).  

The absence of Jordan Henderson did not help. Even prior to kick-off, Liverpool had lost more of their 11 Premier League games without their captain (3) than they had in 45 games with him (2) since the start of last season.

KLOPP STREAK CAUSES CONCERN

This is not yet uncharted territory for Klopp at Liverpool; he previously went five league games without a win between January and February in 2017. 

That barren run four years ago included fixtures against Sunderland and Hull City – clubs now in the third tier of English football – and a home defeat to current Championship side Swansea City, who were celebrating at Anfield thanks to goals from Fernando Llorente (two) and Gylfi Sigurdsson.

However, Klopp has never previously gone four without a goal during his Reds tenure. The previous time that happened in his coaching career was while in charge of Mainz, who suffered a drought in the Bundesliga late in 2006.


POPE SAVES ALL AS REDS PAY THE PENALTY

Nick Pope excelled when Burnley ended Liverpool's 100 per cent home record in their title-winning campaign – and the goalkeeper was once again in outstanding form on Merseyside.

The England international made six saves to keep a clean sheet, having produced eight in his side's 1-1 draw in July at the same ground. Since the start of the 2019-20 season, no keeper has made more saves against a single opponent in the Premier League than Pope against Liverpool (19).

Barnes' penalty was the second spot-kick Liverpool have conceded at home this season too – they had only given up two penalty goals at Anfield under Klopp before 2020-21.

There is plenty for the German to ponder, then. While retaining the trophy is far from out of reach, what appeared to be a temporary blip is in danger of turning into a full-blown crisis.

Liverpool slipped to a first league defeat at Anfield since April 2017 as they went down 1-0 to Burnley, leaving Jamie Carragher struggling to explain the Reds' dip in form.

Ashley Barnes' late penalty settled a contest which Liverpool dominated on Thursday, ending a 68-game unbeaten run at home in the league for Jurgen Klopp's side.

Liverpool had 71.9 per cent possession and 27 attempts – with six on target – yet could find no way through to goal for the fourth Premier League match in succession.

The Reds have had a total of 87 shots since Sadio Mane's opener in a 1-1 draw with West Brom on December 27, and their tally of efforts on Thursday is the most they have had in a single league match without finding the net since April 2013 and most at Anfield since April 2012.

Their last league win was a 7-0 thumping of Crystal Palace prior to Christmas, and Liverpool are now six points adrift of league leaders Manchester United, while they have also played a game more than second-placed Manchester City.

It is a situation which has left former Anfield stalwart Carragher puzzled.

"We were talking about a blip for Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp has come out and defended his players as you would expect because these players have done so much for Liverpool," the Sky Sports pundit said.

"I think they have got to get back to scoring goals and winning games before they start thinking about someone taking the title off them. They have just been so poor. You cannot quite believe what has happened to Liverpool in the last few weeks."

However, Carragher also fears that Liverpool could become embroiled in a battle for Champions League qualification, never mind their chances of retaining their crown.

"At this moment it looks like the title is slipping away," Carragher added. 

"Six points can still be recovered but the form Liverpool are in and the fixtures they have in the coming months, I think Liverpool fans will be worrying a little more about their top-four position than the title.

"You go from that 7-0 win at Palace to so many players out of form at the same time. It is his job to fix it – whether that is formations, personnel, however they go about it – but there are so many teams challenging for that top four it will be a worry for Liverpool until they get out of this little run that they are on."

Liverpool sit fourth on 34 points, having played a game more than fifth-placed Tottenham and two more than sixth-placed Everton, while West Ham are also only two points behind.

Chelsea and Southampton are also within touching distance, while Arsenal have propelled themselves up the table and Aston Villa have three games in hand.

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman was furious that his side missed two penalties in their Copa del Rey victory over Cornella.

The Catalans required extra time to overcome the Segunda B side, with Ousmane Dembele and Martin Braithwaite eventually securing a 2-0 win.

Cornella goalkeeper Ramon Juan had otherwise kept Barca at bay, making seven saves including two from the spot to deny Miralem Pjanic in the first half and Dembele in the second.

Those missed opportunities forced Barca to go to extra time for the third game in a row - after two Supercopa de Espana draws - for the first time in their history.

Barca have now missed five of their past eight penalties in all competitions, including their most recent four in a row, and Koeman slammed their success rate as ill-fitting of a club of their stature.

"The most important thing is always to go through, but we can't be happy because we scored goals," he said.

"We missed two penalties and you have to have more responsibility in these types of games.

"Again, 120 minutes, it's an important topic because we've had three games [like that] and that's on us. We created chances and two penalties... that cannot be.

"I can't complain about the effort but it's not only running, but also creating and being effective. It was really tough today. It cannot be and it can't be accepted.

"You have to win matches earlier. We missed two penalties, we had chances. It cannot be that a team like Barca misses so much.

"I don't understand it, either, because we usually have enough players who can score a penalty. It can be scary. I truly don't know why we've missed so many penalties. You can't miss two penalties as Barcelona players. This isn't serious."

Barca are next in action away to Elche in LaLiga on Sunday.

The list of Kobe Bryant's accomplishments during his 20 NBA seasons is almost too long to recount.  

Yet among his All-Star selections, championships and signature moments, his 81-point game stands out both for its historical significance and its representation of Bryant's personality and career.  

Friday marks the 15th anniversary of this astounding feat, the closest anyone has ever come to Wilt Chamberlain's NBA scoring record, a seemingly impossible 100 points.  

Chamberlain reached triple digits on March 2, 1962, in a much different NBA than the one Bryant faced. Chamberlain averaged 50.4 points per game that season while playing every minute of every game. In scoring 100 points, he led the Philadelphia Warriors to a 169-147 win over the New York Knicks.  

Bryant's feat, while falling short of the century mark, remains the gold standard for scoring in the modern game.  

On January 22, 2006, the Toronto Raptors travelled to Los Angeles to face the Lakers and were gaining confidence. After a desperate 1-15 start, Toronto's season had stabilised, and the Raptors entered Staples Center having won 10 of their previous 16 games. But Toronto had just allowed 113 points in a win against Seattle and entered the game giving up 102.2 points per game, third-most in the NBA.  

Bryant went on to make history, making 28 of his 46 field goal attempts – including 7-for-12 shooting from beyond the arc – and hitting 18 of 20 free throws.  

Perhaps the greatest testament to Bryant's achievement is that no player over the 15 years since has come particularly close to scoring 81 points in a game, despite several factors working in their favor.  

In 2005-06, a team got 79.0 field goal attempts per game on average, the fourth-slowest pace of all time. Almost any other season in NBA history would have been more likely to have an astounding scoring outburst.  

In the 1961-62 season, when Chamberlain made history, teams averaged 107.7 shots per game and attempted 37.1 free throws per game, nearly 11 more than in 2005-06.  

The league has picked up its pace since Bryant's feat as well, with teams attempting 88.8 field goals last season, giving the modern player more opportunities than Bryant had.  

The other advantage that current players have in piling up stats is the three-point shot.  

Bryant's 7-for-13 performance from deep was dynamic in 2006. Twice in the 2005-06 season, Chicago Bulls guard Ben Gordon made nine three-pointers in a game to lead the league. Only four players made more than seven threes in a game that season. The average team attempted 16.0 threes per game.  

Teams are launching an average of 35.1 three-point attempts during this young season, on pace to be the 10th in a row with an increase in long-range shooting. Ten players have already made eight or more threes in a game this season, despite most teams having played about 15 games.  

Even with a faster pace and increased frequency of long-distance barrages in the modern game, Bryant's 81-point mark still appears virtually unobtainable.  

Since that date, Devin Booker's 70 points are the high mark. There have been 19 games in which a player scored 60 or more, four by Bryant himself.  

One integral element to Bryant's scoring explosion was the composition of that Lakers team. Bryant did have Lamar Odom, but LA's other starters on that historic night were Kwame Brown, Chris Mihm and Smush Parker. The Lakers finished that season 45-37, far from a bad team, but Bryant scored 35.4 points per game as the Lakers relied on him almost entirely for scoring.  

Bryant scored 34.7 percent of the Lakers' points that season, the fourth-highest scoring share of all time. Only Chamberlain and Michael Jordan have scored a higher percentage of a team's points in a season.  

Given that profile, there are a few players who stand out as possible candidates to make a run at a historical scoring game in the foreseeable future.  

Booker, James Harden and Kemba Walker all have at least one 60-point game in their careers but now find themselves on teams with better supporting casts, making it unlikely they could get enough shots to chase history.  

Damian Lillard, however, could fit the mould perfectly. Team-mates CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic will both miss significant time due to injuries, and Lillard has crossed the 60-point barrier three times, all within the past 15 months. Add his 36.2 minutes per game – top 10 in the league – and 10.1 three-point attempts per game, and Lillard seems as likely as anyone to produce a dazzling scoring total.  

Stephen Curry scored a career-high 62 points on January 3 and will be a constant centerpiece in the Golden State Warriors' offense without Klay Thompson. While Curry is 25th in the league at 34.4 minutes per game, his historic three-point shooting makes him a constant threat.  

League scoring leader Bradley Beal remains in the mix, despite the Washington Wizards acquiring ball-hungry Russell Westbrook in the offseason. Westbrook has often taken games off due to rest, and Beal scored 60 on January 6. He also carries the advantage of getting to the free throw line 9.5 times per game, fourth in the NBA this season.  

That list ignores perennial MVP candidates Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant and LeBron James, as well as young dynamos like Trae Young and Luka Doncic.  

The fact that there are so many candidates to make a run at 81 points without anyone coming close in the past 15 years indicates just how phenomenal Bryant's accomplishment was.  

Whether Bryant's mark lasts forever or is eventually bested, it will always be a brilliant snapshot of an all-time great player. He won championships before and after his 81-point game, but Bryant's legacy is as a scorer and a relentless competitor, perfectly represented by that gaudy scoring total 15 years ago.  

Bryant wore number eight and number 24 during his decorated career, but 81 is just as important to his legacy.

Jurgen Klopp accepted full responsibility after Liverpool's 68-game unbeaten home run in the Premier League came to a stunning end against Burnley on Thursday.

The Reds' title defence spluttered further as they failed to score for a fourth successive league outing, Ashley Barnes' 83rd-minute penalty consigning them to a shock defeat on Merseyside.

Liverpool had not been beaten at their own ground in the top flight since April 2017, three years and 273 days ago. Crystal Palace were the last visiting team to triumph at Anfield.

Klopp saw the hosts have 27 total shots - the most Liverpool have had in a single league match without finding the net since April 2013 - and 72 per cent possession, yet they once again drew a blank.

"We lost the game, which I think is actually impossible to lose but we did it," Klopp told Sky Sports. 

"That's my fault because my job is to make sure the boys have the right feelings, the right amount of confidence, they make the right decisions and all these kinds of things and that obviously didn't work out for tonight because we had the ball a lot.  

"We created some situations, it was all okay, but in the final moment obviously our decision-making is not right at the moment and that's the problem.  

"You have the ball in the right place, then you don't shoot, then you pass, I'm pretty sure I said the same thing last week and the problem is if something doesn't work you have to try harder, longer, more often and again and again and make better decisions. 

"It obviously didn't work out tonight and that's what we have to admit. Nothing to say about it, that's why we lost the game."

Since Sadio Mane's 12th-minute strike in the 1-1 draw with West Brom on December 27, Liverpool have had 87 shots without scoring.

The shock loss leaves them six points behind leaders Manchester United, while they have gone five Premier League games without a win for just the second time in Klopp's tenure.

Asked to explain his side's problem finding the net, Klopp said:  "I never thought about us as a free-scoring side or unit. We have to do a lot of things right to arrive in these positions.

"It's not the first time it has happened in football and it won't be the last time. The good thing is we can change it - we just have to work on it.

"Tonight we cannot do that for this game, but we can use it for the next one.

"It's not that we don't create the chances because the players don't have the ability to do so, it's our decision-making that's the problem."

Liverpool are back in action on Sunday in the FA Cup, travelling to Old Trafford to take on United in the fourth round of the competition.

Liverpool's incredible unbeaten home run in the Premier League was ended in a shock loss to Burnley on Thursday.

After going 68 league games unbeaten at Anfield, the defending champions were stunned 1-0 after Ashley Barnes' 83rd-minute penalty.

It was the first time Jurgen Klopp's side had lost at home in the top flight since they went down to Crystal Palace in April 2017.

The Reds' run started with a 0-0 draw against Southampton and featured 55 wins and 13 draws, scoring 176 goals and conceded just 44 in the 68 games.

They also managed to keep 36 clean sheets, creating a fortress that helped propel them to a first league title since 1990 last season.

Liverpool are second on the all-time list for top-flight unbeaten runs at home, behind Chelsea's record of 86, which ended in October 2008.

But they have struggled for consistency this season and the loss to Burnley left them in fourth in the table, six points adrift of leaders Manchester United.

Liverpool are without a goal in their past four Premier League games, their longest such run since May 2000 (five games), taking 87 shots without netting, while it is the first time a Klopp side has gone four league games without scoring since his Mainz team did so in the Bundesliga, between November and December 2006.

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