Jordan Henderson believes Thiago Alcantara has been a "brilliant" addition for Liverpool despite significant struggles for Jurgen Klopp's side of late.

Klopp conceded Liverpool's Premier League title defence was effectively over after a 3-1 weekend defeat at Leicester City left them 13 points shy of leaders Manchester City having played a game more.

The Reds are back in Champions League action against RB Leipzig in the first leg of their last-16 tie on Tuesday, bruised by a run of five defeats in seven domestically and three in succession.

Spain playmaker Thiago arrived as a coup of a close-season signing from European champions Bayern Munich, billed as the man to take Klopp's phenomenal winning machine to the next level.

He sparkled on his debut from the bench in a 2-0 win at Chelsea but a bout of coronavirus them preceded a maiden start in the Merseyside derby against Everton, one cut short by Richarlison's red-card lunge.

That meant a lengthy spell on the sidelines until the December 30 0-0 draw at Newcastle.

Thiago returned to the starting line-up at Southampton next time out and the 1-0 defeat was the first of six reverses in his subsequent 10 outings in all competitions - culminating in the nightmare unravelling at the King Power Stadium.

Nevertheless, club captain Henderson holds his team-mate in the highest regard.

"Thiago's been brilliant since he's come to the club. I think everyone knows how good a player he is. He's a world class player," he said.

"Even off the field he's a really good person, leads by example and you learn a lot from him.

"He's been a fantastic addition to the squad."

Pass master interrupted by injuries

Injury means Thiago is yet to play a minute in the Champions League this season, making comparisons with his purring form in Bayern's treble run last time around tricky.

But judging per 90 minutes played, the former Barcelona man's main stock in trade appears to be in good order.

Thiago averages 78.1 successful passes each match for Klopp's men, second only to Henderson (81.1) this term, set against 84.3 last season for a Bayern team a little more noted for their ball retention.

He creates 1.2 chances per game for Liverpool, up on 1.1 for the Bavarian giants in 2019-20, while his overall passing accuracy has only dropped fractionally from 90.6 per cent to 89.2.

Complaints that Thiago has neutered Liverpool as an attacking force can be countered by the fact that no Reds player averages more than his 30 passes ending in the final third per game, suggesting a progressive element of his game is very much present. He passed into these danger areas 24 times per 90 at Bayern last season.

Perhaps concerns should be more centred upon what happens when Thiago doesn't have the ball.

A liability in the tackle?

Having started the Leicester match on the bench, only to be pressed into action by James Milner's first-half injury, his foul on Harvey Barnes inside the final 15 minutes led to the hosts' equaliser and started the meltdown.

Thiago's tracking of Barnes for Leicester's third also left plenty to be desired but he can be a danger to himself and his team when he engages opponents.

Despite his limited game time, the 29-year-old's 28 fouls this season are second to Sadio Mane (49) in Klopp's first-team squad. Among first-team regulars, his 2.6 challenges per 90 are only behind Milner (2.9).

He might want to dial back this more unhelpful part of his work rate, although the other side of this is 7.5 recoveries (behind Henderson's 8.3 among outfield regulars) and 2.2 interceptions (joint second with Naby Keita to back-up defender Neco Williams on 2.4) every game.

Of course, the most important statistic of all arrives at full-time, and so long as Liverpool are winning 59.1 per cent of their games without Thiago and 30.8 per cent with him, the doubters will remain.

Not that Henderson is among them, as opponents and a competition that have seen his colleague thrive await.

"He probably knows Leipzig better than anyone, so he'll be telling us a few things over the next 24 hours," he added.

"He's settled in very well, like I knew he would. He's a phenomenal player and hopefully he can keep improving every time he plays for us and getting used to the way we play as a team."

Jordan Henderson has dismissed the rumour of a bust-up between Liverpool team-mates Alisson and Andy Robertson in the aftermath of the 3-1 defeat to Leicester City.

After the Premier League champions conceded three times in the space of seven minutes to lose at the King Power Stadium on Saturday, speculation circulated on social media over the possibility of Jurgen Klopp sensationally leaving the club. 

There were also posts online relating to an alleged altercation between goalkeeper Alisson - who was involved in a mix-up with Ozan Kabak for Leicester's second goal - and defender Robertson in the dressing room after the game. 

Speaking ahead of Tuesday's Champions League tie against RB Leipzig, Henderson revealed the players saw the funny side of the rumours as he made clear the squad remains united in a bid to turn their fortunes around. 

"I don't think I even need to comment on something like that," Henderson told the media.

"Someone's sitting behind a keyboard making rumours up about the manager or the players in the dressing room. 

"I quite like the one where Robbo and Ali were having a fight. That made us chuckle a bit."

Henderson also offered praise to Klopp - who stated in his pre-match media conference that he has no plans to leave his job – and called on the players to put in a performance to reward their manager's unwavering support during a difficult period. 

"The manager is really good in situations like this. Through adversity he's the one we'll listen to the most. He's always there for us as players and tries to protect us as much as possible," the England international said.  

"Deep down, we know as players we take full responsibility and it's down to us to change this tough period. 

"There are no question marks over how he reacts after games. He probably reacts the opposite to how people would think and he handles situations like that very well. 

"That's why we want to go and put a performance on - for the team, but for him as well." 

Liverpool will play the away leg against Leipzig in Budapest due to travel restrictions currently in place in Germany amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

The Reds will hope a resumption of their Champions League campaign can help lead to an improvement in results on the pitch, having lost three on the spin in their domestic title defence. 

Leipzig reached the semi-finals in the previous season and qualified for the knockout rounds this term ahead of Manchester United. However, their tally of 12 goals conceded in the group stage was the highest of any team to reach the last 16. 

Jurgen Klopp insists he and his Liverpool players are ready to fight and turn their form around, while strongly rejecting suggestions he could be ready to walk away from Anfield.

A 3-1 weekend defeat to Leicester City, after Mohamed Salah gave the Reds a second-half lead at the King Power Stadium, led Klopp to concede his defending champions will be unable to catch Premier League leaders Manchester City.

In their previous match, Liverpool were beaten 4-1 at home by City, who are 13 points better off with a game in hand.

Attention now turns towards the Champions League, where Liverpool will look to continue an impressive recent record in Europe's premier competition when they face last season's semi-finalists RB Leipzig.

The rumour mill went into overdrive after the Leicester defeat, with unsubstantiated online speculation suggesting Klopp might step down amid dressing room ructions.

The 53-year-old also experienced personal tragedy when his mother Elisabeth died last week, with coronavirus travel restrictions preventing him from attending the funeral.

Despite being kept away from matches, a group of Liverpool fans looked to rally around Klopp by hanging a banner in his honour outside the Kop end of Anfield - a gesture he appreciated but felt was unnecessary.

"The banner is nice, not necessary I don't think. I don't feel like I need special support in the moment [but] it's nice, very nice," he said ahead of Tuesday's match, which has been moved to Budapest.

"What was the other thing? That I get the sack or leave by myself or what? Neither, nor. I don't need a break.

"The last thing I want to do is talk about a private thing in a press conference. Everyone knows that privately we [Klopp's family] had a tough time. That wasn't only for three weeks, that was a much longer time.

"We always deal with it as a family 100 per cent.

"When I come here at the football club to work, I can split things. I can switch off. I don't carry things around. If I'm private, I'm private. If I'm in my work place, I'm here. Nobody has to worry about me.

"I might not look like this because the weather's not cool and the beard gets more and more grey, I don't sleep a lot. That's all true. But I'm full of energy.

"The situation is a challenge. I don't want the situation but, now we are in it, I see it as an interesting challenge."

Liverpool's five Premier League losses since the turn of the year is one more than they suffered over the course of the previous two completed seasons.

Klopp is realistic over the magnitude of such a fall but insisted he and his players are ready to roll up their sleeves.

"Nobody wrote a book about being in a situation like this and how you sort it," he said. "But we will sort it by playing football, by sticking even more together, by fighting with all we have, by learning more than we have in each season we played before. That's the plan we have.

"We've learned a lot but in the moment a lot of people aren't happy for the results. I am responsible for that, 100 per cent. But we played still some pretty good stuff. You can forget that, we cannot because that is the start of changing things.

"Do you change a situation like we are in with bad football. I've never heard of that.

"We have to be dominant. Massive challenge, I'm ready, the boys are ready and we will give absolutely everything to sort it."

Klopp added: "Thanks for all the support. I'm very, very grateful for these kind of things. But they can really think about other things because no one has to worry about me."

Naby Keita will not be fit enough to face his former club despite returning to training this week. The midfielder has not featured since December's 7-0 win over Crystal Palace.

Dayot Upamecano will be a Bayern Munich player in 2021-22, meaning Liverpool and Chelsea must go back to the drawing board.

The Premier League rivals had each been linked with a move for the RB Leipzig centre-back as they look to add to their options at heart of defence.

Now they each must look to different targets come the end of the season, with injuries and poor play at the back having derailed the Reds' hopes of winning a second successive league title.

But which centre-backs could be part of Liverpool and Chelsea's plans to pose a more serious challenge to Manchester City next season?

Here we look at four players who could be playing their football at Liverpool or Stamford Bridge next season.

Bremer

The Torino defender is reported to be Liverpool's top close-season target after an impressive season in Serie A.

His 75 clearances are the second-most in the Italian top flight among defenders, while Bremer has also excelled at making recoveries.

Indeed, he has tallied 114, putting him 11th among defenders to have played at least 10 league games. Only four defenders have won more aerial duels than Bremer's 47.

David Alaba

Chelsea have been linked with the man Upamecano is seemingly set to replace, though Alaba’s wage structure may reportedly be a sticking point for the Blues.

Alaba's versatility to play across the back four and in midfield would certainly appeal to Chelsea and former Borussia Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel.

The Austria international has consistently demonstrated his prowess in attack as well as at the back.

He has created at least 17 chances in every season since 2010-11 and has crafted 10 in 19 league appearances this season.

Ibrahima Konate

Could Leipzig be raided again? Both Chelsea and Liverpool have been linked with Konate, the France Under-21 international signed from Sochaux in 2017.

Injuries have been a problem for Konate, who has played only 15 league games since the start of last season.

However, when he has played extensively, he has shown his quality. 

Konate featured 28 times in the Bundesliga in 2018-19 and was sixth in the league with 100 aerial duels won, contributing to 12 clean sheets, a tally only bettered by two players – his Leipzig team-mates Marcel Halstenberg (15) and Willi Orban (13).

Jules Kounde

Liverpool are thought to be keen on Kounde, but they will likely face competition from across Europe for the Sevilla defender's services.

Kounde has emerged as one of the finest young defenders in European football is again excelling this season.

With 106 recoveries in 2020-21, Kounde – who has also previously been linked with Barcelona and Manchester City – has proven a reliable presence in the heart of defence, while he can also start attacks.

His 136 successful passes into the final third are more than Barca's Clement Lenglet (132) and Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos (128).

Ramos (84.77) and Lenglet (80.49) have a higher accuracy percentage on those passes than Kounde's 76.84, but at just 22 he has the time and the talent to develop into one of the world's top centre-backs.

Hansi Flick welcomed the signing of Dayot Upamecano but said "our task is to perform right now" as Bayern Munich prepare to return to Bundesliga action against Arminia Bielefeld.

On Sunday, Bayern announced that they have triggered a €42.5million release clause to land defender Upamecano from domestic rivals RB Leipzig.

The in-demand France international will join the newly-crowned FIFA Club World Cup champions on July 1 after agreeing terms on a five-year deal.

Flick is delighted to have beaten off competition to secure the services of the 22-year-old centre-back, who was linked with the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool

The Bayern head coach's focus for now is ensuring Bayern extend a seven-match winning streak by beating Bielefeld at Allianz Arena on Monday, when a victory would put the leaders seven points clear of Leipzig.

Flick said: "I'm pleased we've managed to sign Dayot. But our task is to perform right now, and the same goes for Dayot at Leipzig. But that's how I've got to know him."

Leipzig chief executive Oliver Mintzlaff expressed his disappointment that Upamecano will be departing, but knew his exit was inevitable.

He told the club's official website: "Of course, we would have liked to keep Dayot Upamecano at RB Leipzig.

"However, Dayot indicated to us very fairly and in good time that he would like a new challenge this summer and take the next step. The talks with Dayot and his agent as well as with FC Bayern were transparent and constructive at all times.

"It was well-known that Dayot's contract contained a buy-out clause. Our task was therefore to prepare for the situation that he would one day leave us, and we've done our homework in that regard.

"Dayot has shown outstanding development during his time in Leipzig, which is exemplary for our philosophy of finding young talents and consistently bringing them to the top level.

"Dayot has been and remains an important factor in our success and FC Bayern can look forward to an outstanding footballer and great person. We are now looking to the tasks ahead and want to give Liverpool a great fight on Tuesday in the Champions League last 16."

Flick expects to be without Leon Goretzka (calf) when the champions face Bielefeld, while Thomas Muller and Javi Martinez will be monitored.

Bayern Munich have confirmed the signing of Dayot Upamecano from RB Leipzig.

Upamecano, 22, had long been linked with a move away from Leipzig after developing into one of Europe's most-promising centre-backs.

While Liverpool and Chelsea were both thought to have designs on purchasing the France international, Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic signalled his imminent capture on Friday.

Salihamidzic claimed Bayern had committed to paying Upamecano's €42.5million release clause, with the defender agreeing a five-year contract.

Bayern have now made that official with a club statement.

It read: "Dayot Upamecano (22, RB Leipzig) will play for FC Bayern Munich from July 1, 2021.

"The defensive player and the record German champions agreed on a five-year collaboration until June 30, 2026."

Salihamidzic added: "We are happy that we were able to win Dayot Upamecano for FC Bayern. Dayot will be a very important building block for our team in the coming years, we are convinced of that."

The transfer will see Bayern once again strengthen themselves while seemingly weakening a direct domestic rival.

Nevertheless, Leipzig have been expecting Upamecano's departure for a while and are preparing for life without him.

They secured a deal last year for highly rated Croatia Under-21 international Josko Gvardiol, who returned to former club Dinamo Zagreb on loan for the 2020-21 season.

Leipzig are also reportedly close to agreeing a deal for Strasbourg defender Mohamed Simakan in a deal that is said to be worth up to €18m.

Bayern Munich have confirmed the signing of Dayot Upamecano from RB Leipzig.

Dayot Upamecano will join Bayern Munich from RB Leipzig next season having agreed a five-year contract, the German champions' sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic has confirmed.

Upamecano has long been linked with a move away from Leipzig after emerging as one of Europe's most highly-rated defenders.

In recent weeks the speculation had ramped up, with Liverpool, Chelsea and Bayern said to be the three clubs in the hunt for him.

Upamecano's agent recently confirmed the presence of a €42.5million release clause in the defender's contract, which he only signed last year.

And that is the figure Bayern are preparing to pay, with Salihamidzic revealing conversations reached their conclusion in the past week.

When asked by Sport Bild if he could confirm the transfer, Salihamidzic said: "I can do that, and we are very happy about that at FC Bayern.

"We had very good, intensive and professional discussions with Dayot and his advisor Volker Struth for many months.

"We knew we had very tough competition. Upamecano is a young player, 22, whose qualities are already exceptionally developed.

"I was always convinced that we came up with a good concept. We presented him with our vision of his career at FC Bayern.

"During the past week in Doha, I spoke to everyone involved again. At the end of a long process, the players, family and management were convinced that FC Bayern was the right partner."

It was then put to him that Bayern were committed to paying the release clause and giving Upamecano a five-year deal, to which he replied: "Correct. Dayot Upamecano will play for FC Bayern for the next five years."

The transfer will see Bayern once again strengthen themselves while seemingly weakening a direct domestic rival.

Nevertheless, Leipzig have been expecting Upamecano's departure for a while and had been preparing for life without him.

They secured a deal last year for highly rated Croatia Under-21 international Josko Gvardiol, who returned to former club Dinamo Zagreb on loan for the 2020-21 season.

Leipzig are also reportedly close to agreeing a deal for Strasbourg defender Mohamed Simakan in a deal that is said to be worth up to €18m.

Manchester United are considering putting together a blockbuster deal to sign Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos.

Ramos is in his 16th season with LaLiga champions Madrid but the upcoming free agent has reportedly rejected a two-year contract extension to stay in the Spanish capital.

The 13-time European champions are not expected to go back to the 34-year-old with an improved offer, leaving the door open for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side to swoop.


TOP STORY – UNITED TO DECIDE ON RAMOS

Manchester United will decide in the coming months whether or not to lure the 178-cap Spain international to Old Trafford, according to Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano.

Ramos' contract expires in June 2021 and the Red Devils are yet to make an approach, although Champions League rivals Paris Saint-Germain are said to be interested.

Mauricio Pochettino's PSG will only pursue Ramos if he is available on a free transfer. That will remain the case unless Madrid make a late move to keep the club icon at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain are still eyeing Barcelona star Lionel Messi.

Unsurprisingly, Messi's future remains a talking point with his contract with the LaLiga giants expiring at the end of the season.

And the two clubs most strongly linked with the six-time Ballon d'Or winner remain interested.

 

TOP STORY – PSG, MAN CITY STILL EYEING MESSI

Paris Saint-Germain are quietly continuing their push to sign Barcelona star Lionel   Messi , according to France Football.

The Ligue 1 giants have angered Barca boss Ronald Koeman as those connected with PSG have regularly discussed Messi.

ESPN says Manchester City are also still tracking Messi, but will wait until March or April before making more of a move.

ROUND-UP

- Out of contract at Real Madrid in 2022, Raphael Varane 's future is unclear. Marca reports the LaLiga giants suspect the defender will not renew and they could sell him for €50million at the end of this season as a result, with PSG and Manchester United interested.

- Madrid are favourites to land Bayern Munich star David Alaba . The Telegraph reports Alaba's wage demands, believed to be around £20m per year, are too high for Chelsea . Alaba is set to leave the Bundesliga giants when his contract expires at the end of the season.

- United 's sights may be elsewhere. The Independent claims RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate is their main centre-back target ahead of 2021-22. Konate has also been linked to Liverpool and Chelsea .

- Arsenal want a young left-back to learn from Kieran Tierney, according to The Athletic.

Budapest will stage the first leg of the Champions League last-16 tie between RB Leipzig and Liverpool, UEFA has confirmed. 

The fixture had to be moved after Germany imposed travel restrictions on entry for arrivals from areas affected by COVID-19 mutations until at least February 17 – a day after the game was due to be played in Leipzig. 

Exceptions are in place for German citizens or residents but there are no special regulations for professional athletes, meaning Liverpool's squad would not be allowed entry into the country.

Rules put in place by UEFA do allow last-16 ties to be switched or, alternatively, moved to a neutral venue. 

In partnership with both clubs, the governing body has announced Leipzig and Liverpool will go up against each other at the Puskas Arena in the Hungarian capital instead.

"UEFA would like to thank RB Leipzig and Liverpool for their close cooperation and assistance in finding a solution to the issue at hand, as well as the Hungarian Football Federation for their support and agreeing to host the match in question," a statement from UEFA read. 

The fixture will remain on the original date on February 16, with the return leg then scheduled for March 10 at Anfield.

David Alaba could well be on his way out at Bayern Munich but Michael Ballack does not believe Dayot Upamecano is ready to replace him.

Versatile defender Alaba will be out of contract at the Allianz Arena at the end of June and has been heavily linked with a move to Real Madrid.

Bayern have been tipped to bring in Upamecano should the Austria international opt to leave, with the RB Leipzig centre-back reportedly available for €42million.

Prior to Saturday's Bundesliga games, Upamecano had been involved in more clean sheets (seven to four) and made more tackles (22 to 14), recoveries (149 to 110), blocks (11 to nine) and clearances (41 to 38) than Alaba in the top flight this season.

While he has contested significantly more duels than Alaba (134 to 79) their success rate is similar, with the Bayern defender having the slight edge at 55.7 compared to 54.5.

Ballack acknowledges Upamecano's physicality would be useful and thinks he could improve at Bayern, but he does not see him as someone capable of immediately filling the void Alaba would leave.

"He is a completely different kind of player to David Alaba, who had a substantial part in building this new era of Bayern. He was a flagship for them, after all he was a product of their youth system and played there from a very young age," Ballack told Stats Perform News.

"He is now at an age where he wants to try out something different. You have to respect that and accept it as well. Of course, you can talk about the reasons, but this is the way it is.

"He is a very versatile player who lately played as a centre-back. He fulfilled this role completely. He can also play in the midfield and is therefore an all-round player who is hard to replace for Bayern due to his character and standing within the team. If Bayern will lose him, then it will be a significant loss for them.

"Upamecano is a player on their wish list. I heavily doubt whether he is ready for the role at Bayern. He is still very young and has outstanding moments, primarily due to his physicality.

"I'm very, very certain that he will improve a lot at Bayern. When you play together with high-class players, then you will improve automatically even in training.

"If it comes to an agreement, then this will be expected from Bayern. In terms of physicality, he brings in enough qualities to be of value."

Upamecano has shown he is good with his feet, starting on average 14.6 open play sequences per 90 minutes in the Bundesliga this season prior to kick-off in Leipzig's match against Schalke; that compares to 11.3 for Alaba.

He also ranks closely to Alaba (54.1) in terms of open play build up involvements with 53.6 per 90 minutes, suggesting he could fit in quite nicely with Bayern's style of play.

Chelsea are not giving up in their pursuit of Bayern Munich star David Alaba.

Alaba, 28, is linked with numerous European giants, with Real Madrid reportedly leading the race to sign the defender.

But it seems Chelsea are unwilling to give up.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA STILL EYEING MADRID TARGET ALABA

Chelsea will attempt to hijack Real Madrid's move for Bayern Munich defender Alaba, according to The Guardian.

It was reported Alaba, who is out of contract at the end of the season, had agreed to a four-year deal with Madrid.

Chelsea have been linked with numerous centre-backs.

Goal reports the Premier League club's signing plans are linked to Bayern Munich's transfer plans as the Bundesliga giants are favourites to sign RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano.

Upamecano and Niklas Sule, another Bayern defender, are also said to be targets for Chelsea.

 

ROUND-UP

- Can Manchester City land Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland? The Daily Star reports City bosses believe winning the Premier League will help them beat Chelsea to Haaland in a £100million (€114m) deal.

- Tottenham have won just two of their past 10 Premier League matches, leading to talk about Jose Mourinho's future. The Telegraph reports the Spurs head coach is under pressure but not in imminent danger of being sacked.

- Manchester United are targeting a deal for Norwich City right-back Max Aarons as they seek competition for Aaron Wan-Bissaka, according to the Daily Express.

- Following Andre Villas-Boas' exit, Marseille are looking for a new coach. Le 10 Sport reports Atletico Mineiro boss Jorge Sampaoli is the favourite to take charge of the Ligue 1 club.

Is Erling Haaland's future becoming clearer?

Haaland's exploits for Borussia Dortmund have attracted interest from far and wide.

But Manchester City appear to be the frontrunners for his signature…

 

TOP STORY – CITY LINING UP BIG HAALAND BID

Manchester City are confident of landing Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland in a £100million (€114m) deal, according to the front page of Friday's Mirror.

Haaland is one of the most sought-after players in Europe, having been linked with the likes of Real Madrid, Liverpool, Barcelona, Manchester United and Juventus.

But City believe winning this season's Premier League will help them sign Haaland at the end of the campaign.

 

ROUND-UP

- Goal claims Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi will wait until season's end before deciding his future. Messi has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain and City on a free transfer.

Sergio Aguero is tempted by a move to Barca if Messi remains at Camp Nou, reports Cadena Ser. Like Messi, City forward Aguero is out of contract at the end of the 2020-21.

- Defensa Central says Chelsea are interested in re-signing Eden Hazard, but at a huge discount. Hazard has struggled for form and fitness since leaving Chelsea for Madrid in a big-money move in 2019.

Milan will miss out on signing Ajax teenager Brian Brobbey as he is set to join RB Leipzig, according to Calciomercato and widespread reports in Italy. But Milan are close to signing Marseille's soon-to-be free agent Florian Thauvin.

- Calciomercato claims Madrid have put veteran full-back Marcelo up for sale amid links to Juventus.

Liverpool will not be allowed to travel to Germany for the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against RB Leipzig, government officials have said. 

The Reds are scheduled to face the Bundesliga side at the Red Bull Arena on February 16 at the start of the knockout stages in the competition. 

However, restrictions have been imposed in Germany since Saturday on entry for all arrivals from areas affected by COVID-19 mutations until at least February 17. 

Exceptions are in place for German citizens or residents but will not be extended for elite sports. 

"The Corona Protection Ordinance passed by the German government last Friday provides for only a few exceptions and no special regulations for professional athletes," read a widely released statement from the German government. 

"The Federal Police informed the club RB Leipzig today that the described case does not fall under the exceptions." 

Rules were put in place by UEFA allowing last-16 ties to be switched, so Anfield could yet theoretically host the opening contest. The game could also be held at a neutral venue, with the possibility open for the tie to be reduced to a single fixture.

When contacted by Stats Perform News, European football's governing body said it remains in dialogue with both clubs and also the German Football Association, who in turn are in contact with the German government. 

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