On a day when Donny van de Beek hoped to show why he deserves more minutes for Manchester United, up stepped Bruno Fernandes to show why that simply isn't happening.

The eye-catching selection of Van de Beek ahead of Fernandes for this FA Cup clash of giants at Old Trafford was all about "rotation", according to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

United's manager clearly felt his team could combat a faltering Liverpool team without their star man, albeit leaving him on the bench in case of emergency.

"Donny needs to be playing games as well and it's a big game for Donny to come into," Solskjaer told the BBC.

Van de Beek has not started a Premier League game since he was hauled off with United trailing at half-time at West Ham in early December, and he might not be starting any soon either given how this game transpired.

A 66th-minute switch of the Portuguese for the underwhelming Van de Beek proved pivotal, and the delightful free-kick from Fernandes that settled an absorbing game 3-2 in United's favour was one that had been conceived on Saturday.

"I think he stayed about 45 minutes after training yesterday shooting free-kicks, so I was quite confident that he was going to hit the target," Solskjaer said.

Solskjaer, the erstwhile supersub, knew the calibre of replacement that was up his sleeve, and the rotation worked in a roundabout way. Are we looking at more proof that United's once-maligned Norwegian boss is actually a tactical master?

Liverpool's season, meanwhile, takes another negative turn.

Donny fluffs his big chance

With a mere 18 passes and 23 touches, Van de Beek was peripheral in a midfield where Paul Pogba shone and Scott McTominay fought for every ball.

The former Ajax man had a glorious early chance to stamp his mark on the game when he burst into space on the right and looked sure to dart towards the penalty area, as Edinson Cavani waited for a pass in the centre.

But no. Van de Beek paused and decided to go backwards, and the chance was gone.

This game was a world away from the Anfield snore draw seven days previously in the Premier League, yet Van de Beek largely let it pass him by.

By the time Fernandes cracked his sublime winner into the right corner, Van de Beek must have been wondering when such an opportunity will arise again.

Salah shows he must start

Like Fernandes, Salah has seen his form and contribution questioned in recent weeks, and just as United's match-winner dispelled such criticism, so did Liverpool's main man.

After all the talk about front threes, and which of these sides had the most deadly attacking trio, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp went with a two-man strikeforce, Salah and Roberto Firmino linking up and Sadio Mane on the bench.

Both Salah and Firmino had been substitutes on Thursday for the defeat to Burnley, but they were a combination that United struggled to contain at times here.

Salah struck twice, the first a sublime chip, and Firmino set up both. The Brazilian has now assisted Salah for 18 goals during their time together at Liverpool, the most any player has set up another during Klopp's reign.

Unlike Firmino and Mane, Salah has exceeded his expected goals (xG) in the Premier League this season, with eight non-penalty goals from an xG of 5.3, and if Liverpool are to resurrect their season, the bench is surely no place for the Egyptian.

Glorious Greenwood

Mason Greenwood has not scored in the Premier League since that West Ham game, when he helped United turn their half-time deficit around and earn a 3-1 victory.

Here he looked lively from the early stages, albeit with one too many lollipops and insufficient tasty final product until he cancelled out Salah's opener.

The way the 19-year-old ended an 10-game barren spell spoke volumes of his belief, with Marcus Rashford's sweeping pass over the Liverpool defence finding his wing twin on the right and allowing Greenwood to thump a low shot past Alisson.

With Rashford also on target, this was quite a day to savour for the hosts.

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer left Bruno Fernandes out of his starting line-up for Sunday's FA Cup clash with Liverpool.

Fernandes, who has been United's shining light since arriving from Sporting CP almost 12 months ago, was only a substitute for the fourth-round game.

This season he has scored 15 goals and supplied nine assists in 28 games across all competitions from his advanced midfield role, but there have been questions asked about his form in recent weeks.

He has just one goal and no assists in four Premier League appearances since the turn of the year.

Into the United team went former Ajax midfielder Donny van de Beek as Solskjaer decided the game presented a chance to rotate his squad, making five changes to the side that won 2-1 at Fulham on Wednesday.

Solskjaer explained why Fernandes did not start, saying on BBC One: "It's rotation in the squad.

"Donny needs to be playing games as well and it's a big game for Donny to come into.

"He's done nothing wrong when he's been around the club so I'm looking forward to seeing him in there."

Premier League leaders United also brought in goalkeeper Dean Henderson, centre-back Victor Lindelof, midfielder Scott McTominay and forward Marcus Rashford, as David De Gea, Eric Bailly, Fred and Anthony Martial dropped out.

Liverpool also showed five changes as Jurgen Klopp looked for a response to Thursday's shock 1-0 home defeat to Burnley, which ended a 68-game unbeaten run at Anfield in the Premier League.

Teenage centre-back Rhys Williams came in for the absent Joel Matip, while James Milner and Curtis Jones were selected as Xherdan Shaqiri and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain dropped to the bench.

Sadio Mane and Divock Origi were also substitutes as Klopp gave starts to Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, with the Old Trafford clash coming a week on from these two sides battling out a dreary goalless draw at Anfield in the league.

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 have been handed a boost by the return of Joel Matip for their meeting with Burnley, but Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino must settle for a place on the bench.

A run of four Premier League games without a win has seen the Reds drop down to fourth, six points behind leaders Manchester United, ahead of Thursday's clash at Anfield.

Jurgen Klopp's side have scored just once in that run and have not managed a goal in any of their last three outings.

Their talisman Salah has summed up their struggles, with the Egypt star having failed to score in any of his last four league appearances – his current drought lasting 365 minutes.

Only once has Salah gone longer without a goal for Liverpool and the 28-year-old has been rotated out by Klopp, alongside fellow forward Firmino.

Since Salah joined Liverpool in 2017, they have won four of their five Premier League games when both he and Firmino have been absent from the starting XI, including two wins over Burnley.

Sadio Mane is the only member of Liverpool's first-choice front three to start, with Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri named alongside the Senegal forward.

Along with Firmino, Mane has netted four times in his last four league appearances against Burnley.

Further back, Jordan Henderson misses out through what Liverpool described as a "minor fitness issue", with Georginio Wijnaldum named as captain.

Under Klopp, Liverpool's league win rate without Henderson featuring is 56 per cent, down from 66 when the England international plays.

The main positive for the Reds comes at the back, with Matip – who went off injured in a 1-1 draw with West Brom on December 27 – joining Fabinho in the centre of defence.

Matip and Fabinho will be up against Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood, who has only played more games (seven) and minutes (435) against Southampton without scoring in the Premier League than he has against Liverpool (six games, 400 minutes).

Indeed, Burnley have failed to score in six of their last seven away Premier League fixtures, with their only goal in this run an own goal from Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and the Clarets have lost their last two matches.

Jurgen Klopp is adamant Liverpool's recent woes in attack are simply down to poor decision-making in the final third rather than teams getting wise to their style of play.

The Reds head into Thursday's Premier League clash with Burnley having failed to score in any of their previous three top-flight games.

They beat Crystal Palace 7-0 just over a month ago but have since won just three points in the league, scoring once and seeing Manchester United rise to the summit. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men can return to the top with a win over Fulham on Wednesday.

Much of the focus on Liverpool's attacking issues has somewhat unsurprisingly been centred on Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, all of whom were disappointing in the 0-0 draw with United.

But Klopp seemed irritated when it was suggested a factor could be that other teams have learnt how to play against them.

"You can make of it what you want, it's football, it's not a new game, we didn't invent it new and then surprise the teams last year and they were like, 'oh my god, so that's how they attack'," Klopp said in his news conference.

"No team is to defend for a whole game, well, maybe a whole game but not then the next one. Other teams know what we're doing, last year they knew what we were doing, but we were still difficult to defend.

"Most of the good chances - we didn't miss them because they defended them, we missed because we didn't use them, so that is a massive difference. There are chances where we just have to finish them off better. That's the reason.

"Teams defend against us with all they have, that's not new. So, at the moment we have an 'offensive crisis', next headline will be everyone knows how to play against us.


"You smile as you ask the question but you know exactly what this kind of headline creates and what people are thinking, but it's normal. It's the situation we are in.

"I think I heard somewhere I have to rebuild this team? The world is a crazy place, not only because of the pandemic. It's because no one has time anymore, in football we know that.

"I've been in football long enough to know you never get time, you only get time if you make steps forward.

"After last season we haven't made steps forward, we know that, but we only make steps forward by playing not talking."

Of his first-choice attacking trio, Firmino seems to be the one receiving most of the criticism – after all, the Brazilian has only scored five times in the Premier League this season.

His goals (0.26) and assists (0.15) per 90 minutes this term across all competitions are the worst he has posted at Liverpool under Klopp, while his chance creation frequency is also at a low of 1.2 every 90 minutes.

It was put to Klopp that Liverpool have been less effective with regards to pressing this term, though Klopp dismissed the importance of that.

When asked how Firmino can get back on track, Klopp said: "By training, let's start with that, that's how it is.

"We didn't score a lot of goals in these games, it doesn't mean Roberto's performance dropped or whatever the counter press stats say – in this game it was not the case because a player wasn't there or we didn't do it well enough, we had a lot of great counter-pressing in this game, in other games before we press they may play a long ball, that's how it is.

"It's not always about your game, it's about the other team's approach as well, but we know we're not exactly where we want to be, there are some reasons but that’s not important, it's that we have to fight and we do."

Liverpool registered a historic win in their seven-goal blitz of Crystal Palace and the records of an unwanted kind kept coming for Arsenal in their defeat to Everton.

The reigning Premier League champions opened up a five-point lead at the top, with Merseyside rivals Everton their closest challengers after beating an Arsenal side slipping further into the abyss with each passing game.

Manchester City also got back to winning ways thanks to a Raheem Sterling-inspired success at Southampton, while Newcastle United and Fulham played out a draw at St James' Park in the late kick-off.

Here is the pick of the Opta facts from Saturday's action in the Premier League.

Crystal Palace 0-7 Liverpool: Reds run riot as Klopp overtakes Rafa

Jurgen Klopp registered a landmark victory in a historic win for Liverpool at Selhurst Park as the Reds won an away top-flight match by a margin of seven goals for the first time in their history.

German coach Klopp overtook Rafael Benitez (126) for the most triumphs as a Liverpool boss in the Premier League with his 127th success.

It was the first time the Merseyside outfit scored seven goals in a league game - each assisted by a different player - since a 9-0 triumph over Palace in September 1989, with the Eagles conceding seven in a home match for the first time.

Substitute Mohamed Salah netted a brace and laid on an assist for fellow two-goal forward Roberto Firmino - the 17th time the pair have combined for a Premier League goal for Liverpool, placing them behind only Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman (24).

Takumi Minamino, Jordan Henderson and Sadio Mane were also on the scoresheet, the latter becoming only the fourth player in Premier League history to score in seven successive appearances against an opponent.

Southampton 0-1 Manchester City: Sterling sinks Saints again

Sterling's sweeping finish proved enough for City to return to winning ways at St Mary's Stadium as they became the first team to stop Southampton from scoring in the Premier League since the opening weekend of the season.

Match-winner Sterling has been directly involved in 11 goals in 16 Premier League meetings with Southampton – only against West Ham (14) has he had a hand in more.

Kevin De Bruyne set up that goal and now has 15 Premier League assists in 2020, which is three more than anyone else. The only time the Belgium playmaker set up more goals in a single calendar year in the competition was in 2017 (18).

City kept their opponents at bay from that point on and now boast the best defensive record in the division, conceding the fewest goals (12) and keeping more clean sheets (six) than any other team.

Everton 2-1 Arsenal: Arteta Holding on after latest defeat

Two days ahead of the one-year anniversary of his Everton appointment, Carlo Ancelotti celebrated victory over Arsenal to guarantee the Toffees a place in the top four at Christmas for the first time since 2004-05.

Rob Holding's own goal - the third by an Arsenal player in the Premier League this season - gave Everton the lead before Nicolas Pepe converted from the penalty spot for a team-high eighth goal involvement this term.

But Yerry Mina scored what proved to be the winning goal just before half-time to inflict an eighth defeat of the campaign on Arsenal, whose return of 14 points from 14 games is their fewest since 1974-75 (12 points when converted to three for a win).

Each of Mina's past four goals have come in the 45th minute - only Chris Eagles has scored as many consecutive goals in the same minute before, notching four times in the 90th between 2007 and 2011.

Goals are something Arsenal are still struggling for, meanwhile, having now failed to score from open play in their past five Premier League away matches, their only two goals in that run coming from the penalty spot.

Newcastle United 1-1 Fulham: Visitors pay the penalty in St James' stalemate

Newcastle benefited from another penalty - their third in six Premier League home games - as they recovered to earn a point against an improving Fulham side at St James' Park.

Callum Wilson made no mistake from 12 yards as he took his tally for the campaign to eight in 12 top-flight appearances, matching his return from 35 games with Bournemouth last term.

Fulham have conceded a league-high five penalties this season, including three in their past four outings, and had Joachim Andersen dismissed for the incident leading to the spot-kick - the third Danish player to see red for Fulham in the competition after Leon Andreasen and Claus Jensen.

However, Scott Parker's men - who led through Matt Ritchie's first-half own goal - held on to pick up at least a point when finishing a Premier League game with 10 men for the first time since they beat QPR 3-2 in April 2013, having lost on each of the five subsequent occasions.

Newcastle have failed to keep a clean sheet in their 11 most recent Premier League games on home soil, their longest run since February 2005 (also 11 games), but they still climbed two places into 12th.

Robert Firmino and Mohamed Salah scored twice as Liverpool ended a five-game winless run away from home in the Premier League with an emphatic 7-0 win over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.

Jurgen Klopp's champions had drawn four and lost one of their top-flight games on the road following a 2-0 win at Chelsea on September 20, but a return to winning ways away from Anfield was never in doubt after Takumi Minamino's opener after 125 seconds. 

They followed that up with fine goals from Sadio Mane and Firmino before half-time, while Jordan Henderson, Firmino and a brace from substitute Salah sealed a stunning victory in the second period. 

The dominant win stretched Liverpool's lead at the summit to six points, although Tottenham could reduce that back to three with a win over Leicester City on Sunday.

Liverpool wasted little time asserting their authority on the game, Minamino lashing his first Premier League goal into Vicente Guaita's bottom-right corner from 10 yards after being teed up by Mane.

The Reds doubled their advantage against the run of play 10 minutes before the interval, Mane flashing a fine strike past Guaita from 15 yards after collecting Firmino's pass.

They then capped a wonderful first half in the 44th minute, Firmino controlling Andy Robertson's cross before superbly flicking past a helpless Guaita with the outside of his foot.

Things went from bad to worse for Palace after the restart as Henderson grabbed his first goal of the season, the captain expertly whipping into the far corner from 22 yards after being set up by Trent Alexander-Arnold. 

Firmino then added his second in the 68th minute, lifting over Guaita from Salah's incisive pass before the Egypt international added a sixth with a close-range header nine minutes from time.

Salah added further gloss to the scoreline three minutes later, curling into Guatia's top-right corner from outside the penalty area.

A team not so long ago considered an unstoppable force meets one now deemed an immovable object when Liverpool host Tottenham on Wednesday, a battle of the Premier League top two in a race that feels like it will be a case of survival of the fittest.

The Reds have won the previous four league meetings between the teams, all by a solitary goal. However, that was then – now they are stretched by injuries amid a demanding schedule that is only getting busier in the coming weeks.

This is also the first time Spurs have visited Anfield during Jose Mourinho's reign. The Portuguese has had his successes at the ground in previous roles, though a 3-1 defeat on Merseyside ended his Manchester United tenure.

If there were any concerns that Tottenham were appointing yesterday’s man when choosing for Mourinho to replace Mauricio Pochettino, they have been dismissed by results so far in the 2020-21 season.

The north London club stuttered out of the gate with a home loss to Everton, but since then are unbeaten in the league. That run has included victories over both Manchester clubs, as well as rivals Arsenal. There was a draw – including a clean sheet – at Mourinho's former employers Chelsea, too.

Mourinho has devised a cunning plan: defend in numbers, deny space through the middle and yet still maintain a consistent threat on the counter, utilising runners against defensive lines pushing high due to a dominance of possession to sucker punch opponents. Liverpool, minus Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez, may be ripe for the picking.

KANE ABLE TO SCORE AND CREATE

It is hardly a surprise that Harry Kane holds the key for Spurs. The talismanic striker has scored nine league goals this term. His long-range strike against Crystal Palace on Sunday means he has been involved in 14 (eight goals and six assists) in his past eight away league games. 

The England international's playmaking abilities have garnered plenty of attention, and rightly so. He is creating 1.9 chances (including assists) per 90 minutes in the 2020-21 season so far, more than double his tally for the previous campaign. 

In part, this has been a function of continuing the pattern of dropping deeper into midfield, as demonstrated with the opener he created for Son Heung-min against Arsenal.

Per Opta's zonal maps for time spent in certain areas of the pitch, Kane has spent 19.11 per cent of league games in a central position between the opposing team's penalty area and the halfway line. That is actually a slight decrease from 2019-20, when the figure was 20.91 per cent. 

He is spending slightly less time inside the box (5.93 per cent compared to 7.08 per cent), yet his total shots have risen – 2.8 to 3.9 – along with his goals ratio, sitting at 0.8 per 90 minutes through 12 appearances.

And on top of that, Kane's 18 Premier League goals (excluding penalties) since Mourinho's appointment is a significant 5.1 increase on his expected goals (xG) figure, further highlighting his ruthlessness in attack.

But that's not to say Spurs are relying only on the England star. Son's relationship with Tottenham's talisman has proven vital so often, with their 12 goal combinations this term already just one off equalling the all-time record for a single campaign.

The South Korea star's dynamism in the final third makes him the ideal partner for Kane: as he drops deeper, Son's pace and off-the-ball movement frequently helps create overloads and goalscoring opportunities.

Mourinho has managed to exploit this, though Son's finishing ability has also proven a key factor as evidenced by the fact his 18 Premier League goals under the Portuguese manager is, remarkably, almost double his xG rating of 9.3.

The Reds will almost certainly have to get a handle on them if they are to see off Spurs on Wednesday, but whether they have the defensive capabilities without Van Dijk remains to be seen.

SALAH MAKING UP THE SLACK

It's fair to say Liverpool haven't quite met expectations this season, but let's not get carried away – after all, ahead of Wednesday's match they are only behind leaders Spurs on goal difference.

Additionally, they have clearly been impacted by a spate of injuries to key players, and regardless of Mourinho dismissing the importance of such a situation at a big club, one cannot expect a team not to be affected.

Nevertheless, the Reds are not quite as fluent in the final third as they were last term.

The focus of many Liverpool critics – and even fans – has been the form of Roberto Firmino, who, while still able to be influential, does appear to be struggling to reach the heights most expect of him.

The Brazilian has two goals in 12 league games at an average of 0.19 every 90 minutes, which is down from 0.27 last term. He is also producing fewer assists (down from 0.24 per 90 mins to 0.19) and seen a decrease in key passes (1.56 per 90 mins to 1.12).

Sadio Mane's productivity has also declined somewhat, his goals per 90 minutes down to 0.4 from 0.6, while last term he was creating just shy of two chances every game – that's now at 1.6.

But the same cannot be said of Mohamed Salah, whose 10 Premier League goals in 11 games has him netting at a frequency of 0.94 per 90 minutes (up from 0.59) and his chance creation has increased from 1.9 to 2.16.

Diogo Jota has proven a welcome addition as well, though long-term injury robs Liverpool of the Portugal international's flexibility.

Defensively, Liverpool aren't as impressive as they were either. While Van Dijk's loss is clearly a factor, he did also feature in the 7-2 drubbing by Aston Villa in October.

Only four times this season has Liverpool's expected goals against (xGA) figure not surpassed 1.0 in Premier League games, and that is surely a worrying omen with Kane and Son coming to town.

Diogo Jota was dropped to the bench for Liverpool's Premier League clash with his former club Wolves.

The Portuguese has scored nine goals in just 15 appearances for the Reds since making a £45million move from Molineux in September.

However, having started the crucial midweek Champions League win over Ajax, Jota was left out as Roberto Firmino returned to form a familiar front three alongside Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.

The 24-year-old recently became the first Liverpool player in history to score in his first four top-flight home appearances for the club and could still extend that run into a fifth game should he score from the bench.

Elsewhere, Caoimhin Kelleher retained his place in goal after impressing the absence of Alisson on Tuesday, seeing off the challenge of previous second-choice Adrian once more.

Jurgen Klopp's options were also boosted by the return of Naby Keita and Trent Alexander-Arnold from injury, the pair claiming a place on the bench.

As for Wolves, they made just one change from their last Premier League outing – a win at Arsenal – as the injured Raul Jimenez was replaced by Ruben Neves.

Jurgen Klopp reiterated Roberto Firmino's importance to Liverpool and hailed the forward as a "complete footballer" amid recent criticism.

Firmino's place in the side has been called into question by some given his lack of goals and the form of recent signing Diogo Jota, who is the first player to score in his first four top-flight home games for the club.

However, the Brazil international looked back to his best in Sunday's 3-0 win over Leicester City as he scored his second goal of the season in an impressive all-round display.

His 48 passes, 41 successful passes and six shots were the most he has managed in a Premier League game this season.

Klopp has constantly stuck by Firmino and used a musical anology to stress his game is about far more than just putting the ball in the net.

"Scoring is always important but Bobby is a complete footballer," he said at a news conference ahead of Wednesday's Champions League meeting with Atalanta.

"A football team is like an orchestra - you need people for different instruments. Some are loud and some are not that loud but all are important for the rhythm, and Bobby plays like 12 instruments in our orchestra. 

"I'm not concerned about anything for Bobby. The main thing I liked about his goal was the celebration. It was almost emotional because the players read newspapers and there's been some criticism."

Firmino is in contention to start against Atalanta, as is fellow attacker Mohamed Salah after testing negative for coronavirus.

Salah missed Liverpool's win over Leicester after contracting COVID-19 on international duty with Egypt, but he was cleared to return to training on Monday in a big boost for Klopp.

"Mo has trained and looked really good. He gave a negative test like the rest and is available," the German coach said. "We have to see what we can do with that."

Liverpool were without a number of injured key players at the weekend and Klopp is not expecting too many changes to his squad for Wednesday's match.

"All the others, there is no news," he said. "One looks to be a little closer, the others not so. That is the situation we are in. I don't want to talk about that too much."

Curtis Jones is one of those to have profited from the likes of Jordan Henderson and Thiago Alcantara being out injured, featuring in nine of their 15 matches in all competitions this season.

No Liverpool player attempted more passes in the opposition half (37) than Jones against Leicester - tied with Andy Robertson - and he also recovered possession nine times, a joint-high alongside James Milner.

Klopp has been pleased with the way the young midfielder has seamlessly slotted into the side, which has also aided his development off the pitch.

"It is very positive. I'm not too surprised about it," Klopp said. "He is an exceptional talent. Everyone can see what an exceptional player he can be. 

"When you are in an environment like a top-class football team and are one of the top talents, it will add things to him as a person, too. I'm pleased for him."

Liverpool lead the way at the top of Champions League Group D thanks to three wins from three, including a thumping 5-0 victory away to Atalanta in the reverse meeting three weeks ago.

The Reds have not won multiple games against Italian sides in European competition since 2007-08, when seeing off Inter in both legs of the Champions League last 16, and Klopp is anticipating a tougher test at Anfield.

"They are a threat even without a point to prove," he said. "We were exceptional [in Italy]. We did everything right. It all came together. 

"We know that game has nothing to do with tomorrow. They're a top team with a special way to play. I expect problems in this game."

Liverpool made light work of Leicester City to move level on points with Premier League leaders Tottenham on a day that saw a couple of records broken at Anfield.

Inspired by another impressive Diogo Jota showing, the Reds eased to a routine victory to keep their positive momentum going at a time when their squad is getting more depleted by the week.

Merseyside rivals Everton were also victorious in Sunday's top-flight action with a narrow win at Fulham, while West Ham saw off Sheffield United and 10-man Arsenal were held by toothless Leeds United.

Using Opta data, we take a look at the key facts from the day's four Premier League fixtures.

 

Fulham 2-3 Everton: Calvert-Lewin at the double as Toffees inflict more capital punishment

Dominic Calvert-Lewin maintained his impressive scoring run with a couple of goals as Everton returned to winning ways in the early kick-off at Craven Cottage.

The England international scored after just 42 seconds – the earliest league goal Everton have netted since April 2017 – before Bobby Decordova-Reid's temporary leveller.

That made it goals in back-to-back home league games for Decordova-Reid for the first time since April 2018 when he was playing in the Championship with Bristol City.

Calvert-Lewin restored Everton's lead for his 10th league goal in nine outings this term, Lucas Digne setting up both that goal and Abdoulaye Doucoure's six minutes later.

Since making his competition debut in August 2018, only Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson (both 26) have more assists among defenders than Digne's 15.

A struggling Fulham side wasted a chance to get back into the game when Ivan Cavaleiro became the latest player for the south London side to miss from the penalty spot.

They have missed five of their past eight top-flight penalties, including the previous three, which have each taken by different players (Aleksandar Mitrovic, Ademola Lookman and Cavaleiro).

Ruben Loftus-Cheek did pull one back but Everton, who have conceded twice or more in six straight league games for the first time in 12 years, held on for a third straight league win in London – their best such run since April 1987.

Sheffield United 0-1 West Ham: Blunt Blades still seeking first victory

Sebastien Haller scored from outside the box for the first time in his top-flight career, on what was his 190th such appearance, to earn West Ham a slender victory at Sheffield United.

The striker, who has also previously played in the Eredivisie and Bundesliga, scored from range after 56 minutes for his sixth goal in all competitions this season – double the number of any other West Ham player.

United were unable to respond and are now without a win in 13 games in all competitions, making this their worst run since October 2013.

Chris Wilder's men have lost four top-flight matches in a row and are only the third side in Premier League history to pick up one point or fewer from their opening nine games, after Manchester City in 1995-96 and Sheffield Wednesday in 1999-2000.

West Ham are now unbeaten in their past 12 Premier League games against sides starting the day bottom, winning five in a row, and they are the first London club to win at Bramall Lane in the competition in 12 attempts since October 2006.

Leeds United 0-0 Arsenal: Hot-headed Gunners fire another blank

Arsenal failed to score for the fourth time in five Premier League outings as they played out a stalemate with Leeds at Elland Road.

Firing blanks has become the norm for Arsenal but there was nothing usual about the scoreline from Leeds' perspective – only their third goalless draw in 101 league games under Marcelo Bielsa.

Leeds now have 41 clean sheets across those 101 matches, not including play-offs, which is more than any other side in the top four tiers of English football in that period.

The Gunners have scored just nine league goals in the same number of league games in 2020-21 – their lowest tally at this stage since 1986-87 when scoring six times.

Mikel Arteta's side had to play almost an entire half with 10 men after Nicolas Pepe was given the first red card of his career in Europe's top five leagues, this being his 146th such appearance.

That was the fifth red card Arsenal have received in the league since Arteta took over in December 2019 – at least two more than any other club.

A point can be considered a good result on the balance of things given Leeds had 25 shots – the third most a team has managed in the Premier League this term, behind only Manchester United v Newcastle United (28) and Leeds v Aston Villa (27).

Liverpool 3-0 Leicester City: Rampant Reds win again at fortress Anfield

A lot has been made of Liverpool's depleted backline but makeshift centre-back pairing Fabinho and Joel Matip withstood everything Leicester chucked at them, the Reds keeping a fourth clean sheet in seven games and conceding only three times in that run.

Jonny Evans' own goal after 21 minutes put Liverpool on their way – the sixth time the former Manchester United defender has put into his own net in the Premier League, which is behind only Richard Dunne (10), Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel (both seven)

Jota doubled the hosts' advantage before half-time against his favourite opponents to become the first Liverpool player ever to score in his first four home top-flight league appearances.

It was a special goal in more ways than one, too, as it came after a sequence of 30 passes – the most in the build-up to any goal by the reigning champions since Opta started collecting data in 2006-07.

Jurgen Klopp's side added a deserved third goal to their tally late on through Roberto Firmino, who has now scored in two of Liverpool's five home league matches this term, compared to one in 19 such outings in 2019-20.

The routine home win makes it 64 home league matches without defeat for Liverpool – now officially the longest run in the club's history, with 53 of those games ending in victory.

It was another unhappy reunion with Liverpool for their former boss Brendan Rodgers, meanwhile, as he has lost all three league encounters with the Reds since taking charge of Leicester, conceding nine goals in the process.

Jurgen Klopp praised Roberto Firmino for a "super game" after Liverpool's 3-0 win over Leicester City in the Premier League.

Firmino headed in the sealer at Anfield on Sunday as Liverpool extended their unbeaten league run at home to a club record 64 games.

Often criticised, Firmino scored his second goal of the season and the Brazilian's 48 passes, 41 successful passes and six shots were the most he has managed in any Premier League game this campaign.

Klopp hailed the forward and said he was pleased to see the 29-year-old also get on the scoresheet, heading in James Milner's 86th-minute corner.

"We were really happy and relieved. He deserved it so much. He played a super game, he played a super game and was so important for us again," the Liverpool manager told a news conference.

"You could see in the face of all the players when he scored that everybody thought, 'Yes, exactly the right goalscorer'."

Firmino's goal came after Diogo Jota doubled Liverpool's lead following Jonny Evans' 21st-minute own goal.

Klopp was proud of his players for setting a club record with their unbeaten league run at home, but said it was something he would reflect on at another time.

"Look, my problem is that in the moment I spoke so much about football, I have so much to think about how we can play the next game and things like this," he said.

"So, it doesn't feel it. Maybe it's not right but there will be a moment, for sure, in the future when I think back – and hopefully it will be a different number and not only 64.

"It's absolutely incredible, but it's all about the boys. It's really difficult to achieve something like this but when you think about how tight a lot of games were then it doesn't happen just like this. You have to really dig in for that and the boys did that.

"I said it a few times before, we really enjoy playing here. It's our ground, it's our home, everything feels home – even when the people are not here. It doesn't feel right but we have to do it and we are happy that we can play.

"So, what the boys put out there on the pitch performance-wise is absolutely incredible and it's the only reason for the number. Obviously it's pretty tricky and pretty difficult to set records for this incredible club because our fathers or grandfathers, they were obviously pretty good. So having this record now, I'm happy for the players but it doesn't feel like a big moment, to be honest, because we play on Wednesday and that's actually my only concern at the moment."

Roberto Firmino has denied he is locked in a "personal battle" with Diogo Jota for the number-nine spot at Liverpool.

Jota's form since his move from Wolves for a reported initial fee of £41million has been a huge positive for Jurgen Klopp.

The 23-year-old has scored three goals in six appearances in the Premier League and a further four in three Champions League games, including a hat-trick in the 5-0 win at Atalanta.

Although he has made two fewer appearances in the league than Firmino this season, Jota has attempted as many shots (13) as the Brazil international, who has scored just once.

That gives Jota a shot conversation rate of 27.3 per cent, far higher than Firmino's 14.3, while he also boasts a better conversion percentage when it comes to big chances (67 per cent compared to 50 per cent).

Such an impact has placed Firmino's position in the first XI under threat, but he insists he is not simply competing with the new signing for minutes on the pitch.

"Liverpool have a great squad of players, so earning a starting position here is not easy at all, and I am used to that," Firmino said ahead of Sunday's game with Leicester City, according to the Mirror.

"Diogo is an excellent footballer and another companion in the squad. We all work hard during the week and then the coach decides who comes out. So, I don't have any personal battle with him."

Firmino has become a mainstay in Klopp's plans thanks in part to his more selfless work alongside Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.

Indeed, the former Hoffenheim forward has created nine chances in the league this season - seven more than Jota - and has two assists, the most of any of the Reds' attackers in 2020-21.

Firmino thinks Liverpool's overall attacking strength gives them a forward line to match that of any team in the world.

"Liverpool's attack line is spectacular, and I would say comparable to any in the world, in any of the major leagues," he said. "Now this year I see it as being even better. And it's not emotion that makes me say this, but simply a result of looking at the statistics.

"As for me, I work hard in training – and then on the field, I do what Jurgen Klopp tells me. That is my working philosophy, always."

Brazil made it three wins from three games in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying after grinding out a 1-0 victory over Venezuela.

Brazil were frustrated by Venezuela in Sao Paulo, but Roberto Firmino's 67th-minute strike proved enough for the Selecao on Friday.

Firmino popped up with 23 minutes remaining in the absence of Neymar as Brazil stayed perfect to top the standings by two points ahead of rivals Argentina.

Back in action following last month's 4-2 win in Peru, Tite made four changes – some enforced – to his starting XI, with the unfit Neymar, Casemiro (coronavirus), Philippe Coutinho and Weverton dropping out and Gabriel Jesus, Allan, Everton Ribeiro and Ederson coming in.

Brazil – who drew 0-0 against Venezuela at last year's Copa America – found the back of the net inside seven minutes but the linesman raised his flag. Richarlison had scored after Renan Lodi's mishit shot was palmed into the path of the Everton forward.

The South American champions controlled possession, but had nothing to show for it, struggling to create clear-cut chances.

An unmarked Jesus was unable to turn the ball towards goal just past the half-hour mark, instead scuffing an effort to Richarlison, who could only steer his close-range effort wide of the post.

Venezuela were rarely threatening, though Yeferson Soteldo slalomed into the penalty area and slid a cross into the six-yard box but Marquinhos intervened at the last moment to clear the danger.

Brazil had the ball in the back of the net again prior to half-time however Douglas Luiz's effort was waived off for a foul on Venezuela goalkeeper Wuilker Farinez.

After a VAR review for handball was waived way nine minutes into the second half, Brazil finally broke Venezuela's resistance 13 minutes later when the ball was headed into the path of Firmino, who made no mistake from close range.

 

What does it mean? Brazil roll on

It was not perfect, nor was it pretty, but Brazil got the job done behind closed doors. Without Neymar due to a groin strain and key midfielder Casemiro, Brazil were missing star quality against a stubborn Venezuela side. Despite not creating many clear-cut opportunities, Brazil managed to extend their winning streak to four matches, while they are unbeaten in their last 20 World Cup qualifying fixtures.

Firmino with confidence-boosting goal

Much has been said about Firmino, especially amid Diogo Jota's remarkable run of form at Liverpool. But Firmino popped up when Brazil needed him most. It was his first goal in four matches and just his second since netting twice against Bolivia on October 9.

Brazil lack spark

While Brazil walked away with maximum points, it was far from convincing. Tite's men appeared sluggish, and predictable in attack against the impressive visitors – lacking creativity in the final third.

What's next?

Brazil are away to Uruguay in Montevideo on Tuesday, while Venezuela host Chile on the same day.

Jurgen Klopp says it was a "tough decision" to play Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino from the start against Manchester City but believes the element of surprise worked in his side's favour. 

Talk before the game had centred on whether Jota – who had scored six goals in his previous four games, including a Champions League hat-trick against Atalanta in midweek – would start ahead of Firmino alongside Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah in attack. 

Klopp, though, plumped for all four from the start at the Etihad Stadium, with Salah giving the Reds an early lead from the penalty spot before Gabriel Jesus equalised before the break of the 1-1 draw.

Kevin De Bruyne missed the opportunity to claim a precious win for the hosts when he dragged a penalty wide before half-time, but Klopp thinks anything less than a point for his side would have been unfair. 

"It was a super football game from all points of view," he told Sky Sports. "Two top teams ready for a massive fight.

"The energy level of both teams was incredible. You could see after 10 or 15 minutes everyone was breathing hard.

"It was tough for all the 22 on the pitch. Apart from the penalty they got I liked the game a lot.

"How we started was top, with a little surprise for the opponent with a different system. We won the balls, we broke through, we had counter-attacking moments but didn't finish it off.

"Apart from that, it's so tricky. It was a tough decision to change a system before we play City. But the boys are ready to adapt and perform. In a lot of moments we could have created bigger chances. It was really good football, the counter-attacks were really good.

"Of course, we could have played more football but it is difficult against them. We were dangerous, the build-up play was good."

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