Diogo Jota scored twice in the first half as Liverpool romped to a comfortable 4-0 victory over Southampton at Anfield on Saturday.

The Portugal forward grabbed his first with less than two minutes played, turning Andy Robertson's low ball in before adding a second from close range after being set up by Mohamed Salah half an hour later.

Thiago Alcantara fired in a deflected third to give the Reds a commanding half-time lead before Virgil van Dijk steered a corner home to round off the scoring shortly after the restart.

The victory sees Liverpool keep the pressure up on league leaders Chelsea, moving to within a point of the Blues – although the Reds have played an extra game.

Liverpool got off to a flying start as Sadio Mane and Robertson combined on the left before the latter fizzed a low cross into the middle that Jota converted on the stretch.

A couple of chances fell Southampton's way after that, but Liverpool remained the side on top and doubled their lead in the 32nd minute as Salah squared for Jota to tap in his second after playing a neat one-two with Jordan Henderson on the right.

The Reds made it 3-0 just five minutes later as the ball fell to Thiago on the edge of the box and the midfielder advanced into the area before lashing a left-footed strike into the top-left corner via a hefty deflection off the knee of Lyanco.

Van Dijk extended Liverpool's advantage even further in the 52nd minute, volleying Trent Alexander-Arnold's corner under Alex McCarthy – who perhaps should have done better – and in.

Jota spurned a glorious chance to grab his hat-trick, diverting Robertson's cross wide of the target as Jurgen Klopp's men eased their way to the final whistle.

What does it mean? Reds put pressure on Chelsea

Liverpool's victory moves them to within one point of Thomas Tuchel's table-topping Chelsea side, with the Blues set for a heavyweight clash with Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Salah races to Premier League goal involvement landmark

Salah has now been directly involved in 150 Premier League goals in his 171 games in the competition (108 goals, 42 assists) – only Alan Shearer (148 games) and Thierry Henry (163 games) reached as many goal involvements in fewer games than the Egypt star in the competition.

Salah has also been directly involved in 25 goals in all competitions this season (17 goals, eight assists), more than double the return of any other Premier League player.

Jota matches Wolves league tally

Jota has now scored 32 career Premier League goals, evenly split between Wolves and Liverpool (16 each).

He has reached the tally for the Reds in 36 fewer appearances, however (67 for Wolves, 31 for Liverpool) and with a better shot conversion rate (12.6 per cent with Wolves, 21.9 per cent with Liverpool).

What's next?

Liverpool's next fixture is a Merseyside derby with Everton at Goodison Park on Wednesday, while Southampton host Leicester City on the same day.

Liverpool superstar Mohamed Salah has reached 150 direct goal involvements in the Premier League, becoming the third-fastest player to do so.

Salah, who already had 11 league goals for the season heading into Saturday's game with Southampton at Anfield, squared for Diogo Jota to make it 2-0 to Liverpool in the 32nd minute.

It was Jota's second goal of the encounter, with the Portugal forward having put the Reds in front inside two minutes, and came after Salah himself had curled just wide, with Sadio Mane also having had a goal disallowed.

Thiago Alcantara then made it 3-0 to Liverpool before the break to put Jurgen Klopp's team in complete control.

By setting up Jota's goal, Salah moved onto 42 assists across his Premier League career, which combined with 108 goals took him to the 150 goal involvements landmark.

The Egypt forward has achieved that feat in just 171 games, with only Alan Shearer (148) and Thierry Henry (163) reaching the milestone in fewer appearances.

Salah's assist was a 25th direct goal involvement across all competitions this term (17 goals, eight assists), more than double that of any other Premier League player as it stood.

Liverpool then made it 4-0 early in the second half when Virgil van Dijk converted from Trent Alexander-Arnold's corner.

Robert Lewandowski can consider himself hard done by. The Bayern Munich striker would almost certainly have won his maiden Ballon d'Or in 2020, only for France Football to decide not to hand out the award due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, world football's most prestigious individual accolade is back up for grabs this year, with the ceremony set to take place on Monday.

Lewandowski, who scooped The Best FIFA Men's Player award for 2020 and has had another sensational year for Bayern, is among the favourites on a 30-man shortlist.

Will it finally be his time, or will old voting habits die hard to put Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi in pole position? Using Opta data, Stats Perform assesses the credentials of the Ballon d'Or favourites.

Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich, Poland)

Has anybody outperformed Bayern star Lewandowski in 2021?  While there was no repeat of the treble-winning heroics of the 2019-20 campaign, he has been in astounding form and last season broke Gerd Muller's 49-year record for goals scored in a single Bundesliga campaign, netting 41 as Die Roten were crowned champions for a ninth straight campaign.

With 25 to his name already across all competitions this term, Lewandowski leads the way for goals from players in Europe's top five leagues, nine clear of anyone else. When taking the whole year so far into account, Lewandowski has netted 53 times in 41 games, putting him 16 clear of nearest challengers Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland. Unsurprisingly, his scoring rate – a goal every 65 minutes – is comfortably the best of any player to net 10 or more in 2021.

 

Lionel Messi (PSG, Argentina)

It has been a momentous year for Messi. He finally achieved success on the international stage, leading Argentina to a Copa America triumph. Following that, he was expected to sign a fresh deal at Barcelona, but we all know how that turned out. Now at Paris Saint-Germain, the 34-year-old marked his final season in Spain with one last trophy, the 2020-21 Copa del Rey. 

Across 39 appearances in 2021 for Barca and PSG combined, Messi has 32 goals, nine assists and 81   chances created. But it is Messi's triumph with Argentina that really puts him in the running for a seventh Ballon d'Or.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United, Portugal)

Like Messi, Ronaldo – a five-time Ballon d'Or winner – made a big move of his own in 2021, returning to Manchester United after three seasons at Juventus. The 36-year-old has already scored 10 goals in his second spell at Old Trafford. While the team's struggles are well known – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer losing his job after last week's dismal defeat at Watford – Ronaldo's strike against Villarreal on Tuesday took him to 799 career goals for club and country, a remarkable feat.

While it has not been the finest year at club level for Ronaldo, with Juve missing out on the Serie A title, albeit winning the Coppa Italia, he did become the record goalscorer in men's international football, scoring his 110th and 111th goals in a double against the Republic of Ireland in September to overtake Ali Daei (109); the forward now has 115. His agent, Jorge Mendes, told France Football: "All these achievements, which represent the greatest performance in football history, should be pivotal in awarding the trophy, as he continues to demonstrate that he is, without doubt, the best world football player of all time."

Karim Benzema (Real Madrid, France)

Since Ronaldo departed Real Madrid in 2018, Benzema has stepped up to become Los Blancos' talisman. Although a LaLiga title evaded Madrid last season, it has been another fantastic year for Benzema. He earned a recall to the France squad for Euro 2020 and, despite the team's disappointing campaign, his stellar performances caught the eye, before he excelled again in World Cup qualifying and the Nations League Finals.

Indeed, Benzema's goal against Finland last week made him the first France player to score in four successive matches since he did so himself in five games between November 2013 and June 2014. There is no doubting he is a serious contender for this year's award.

Mohamed Salah (Liverpool, Egypt)

Liverpool star Salah cannot be ignored. Jurgen Klopp has labelled the Egypt forward as the world's best player and, based on the season so far, it would be hard to argue too much with that suggestion, with Lewandowski the only player across Europe's top five leagues to be directly involved in more goals (27) than Salah (24) to this point.

Only four players have topped Salah's goals tally of 32   in 2021, although Liverpool's failure to retain their Premier League crown last season probably counts against the 29-year-old when it comes to this prize.

 

Kylian Mbappe (PSG, France)

While players in their thirties dominate the bookmakers' list of favourites, could this be the year that Mbappe steals the crown? The 22-year-old could well have left PSG in August, but the Ligue 1 giants held firm despite three bids from Madrid, who seem likely to get their man on a free transfer at the end of the campaign.

In the meantime, Mbappe is forming a formidable front three with Messi and Neymar, whose own Ballon d'Or hopes seem extremely slim. Mbappe missed the decisive penalty as France slipped out of Euro 2020, but his 37 goals from 47 appearances for PSG across all competitions in 2021 tell their own story, while his shot conversion rate of 24.3 per cent betters that of Salah, Benzema, Messi and Ronaldo.

Jorginho (Chelsea, Italy)

An outsider for the award, perhaps, but nevertheless a player who has been widely tipped, Chelsea midfielder Jorginho played a pivotal role the Blues' Champions League triumph and then Italy's Euro 2020 success, although he did miss a penalty in the final shoot-out against England. In fact, he has now missed his past three spot-kicks for Italy, after having scored each of his first six taken for the Azzurri.

Jorginho has already scooped the UEFA Men's Player of the Year award, and it is not too long ago that another deep-lying playmaker in Luka Modric won the Ballon d'Or, even if the competition this time around seems a little too stacked.

 

N'Golo Kante (Chelsea, France)

Might Jorginho's Chelsea midfield partner have a shout? Kante is still dominating midfields with his boundless energy five years on from his title triumph with Leicester City. He was already an elite performer before Thomas Tuchel's arrival at Stamford Bridge, but he seems to have gone up another level since the German coach came in.

Across all competitions in 2021, Kante boasts a tackle success rate of 63.2 per cent and has made 193 recoveries. Freed by a box-to-box role in Tuchel's system, Kante has won 151 of 277 duels and registered an impressive 42 interceptions.

Thiago Alcantara's sublime long-range strike set Liverpool on their way to a 2-0 Champions League win over Porto at Anfield.

The Reds had already qualified as Group B winners with two matches to spare, so teenager Tyler Morton made his Champions League debut as Jurgen Klopp rung the changes.

Liverpool maintained their perfect record in Europe this season despite being without key men, Thiago scoring his first goal of the season in style with a magnificent second-half finish.

Mohamed Salah added a second as Porto were made to pay for missed opportunities, leaving them facing a decisive final group match against Atletico Madrid in the battle for a place in the round of 16 along with Liverpool.

Porto should have had an early lead when Otavio somehow failed to hit the target with the goal gaping after Luis Diaz showed great pace to burst away and unselfishly set him up.

The Primeira Liga leaders had a let-off when goalkeeper Diogo Costa's poor attempted clearance struck Sadio Mane on the head and fell nicely for Salah, but the prolific forward could not apply the finish.

Porto lost captain Pepe to an injury before Mane had a goal disallowed for offside in a first half that saw Sergio Conceicao's side pose a threat without having a cutting edge.

Mateus Uribe almost capitalised on slack Reds defending when he spun sharply in the penalty area and drilled a right-foot shot narrowly wide as Porto continued to probe after the break.

Thiago made them pay for their profligacy seven minutes into second half, firing into the bottom-right corner from 25 yards out with a stunning first-time drive after Porto failed to clear an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain free-kick.

Takumi Minamino had a goal ruled out for offside, but Salah doubled Liverpool's lead when he took a pass from Jordan Henderson and surged inside before finding the bottom-right corner with his left foot to take his tally for the season to 17.

Premier League football was back with a bang this weekend following the international break.

It left Ole Gunnar Solskjaer feeling especially frustrated as he paid the price for another defeat, while Mikel Arteta's Arsenal were brought back to reality by Liverpool.

That win for the Reds further highlighted their excellent record in meetings with other members of the 'big six', while Rodri once again showcased his effectiveness from distance.

Below, Stats Perform looks at some of the weekend's quirkier Opta facts.

Salah's collector's item

Another weekend, another devastating performance from Mohamed Salah.

After a quiet start, the Egyptian once again proved to be extremely effective against Arsenal, even if he was only able to score once.

Salah's goal was something of a collector's item as it was with his right foot, which in itself brought to light just how much he relies on being so good with his left.

Of his 108 Premier League goals, 87 have been with his strongest foot – that equates to 80.6 per cent, which is the greatest proportion of strikes netted with the left foot among the 31 players with at least 100 goals.

Interestingly, his Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mane is also in the top six (26.5 per cent) despite being predominantly right-footed.

Solskjaer has no defence

A 4-1 defeat at Watford brought Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's time as Manchester United manager to an end, and he could have few complaints about that.

While the Norwegian's work at United has largely been well received, as he leaves the club and squad in much better shape than when he took over from Jose Mourinho, it's fair to say the writing had been on the wall.

United have been especially poor defensively this season, not just in the Premier League, averaging 1.7 concessions every match across all competitions.

Remarkably, relegation-threatened Newcastle United (2.08) and Norwich City (2.14) have a worse record in that regard among Premier League clubs.

Whoever his interim replacement is will surely look at sorting United's ailing defence out as soon as possible.

Liverpool's big-six domination

For much of the Premier League era, Manchester United were the team to beat, and while they obviously wouldn't win every game, they seemed to rise to the biggest occasions.

But since Alex Ferguson's departure in 2013, it's Liverpool who have arguably become the best at dealing traversing contests with the other so-called 'big six'.

Liverpool's defeat of Arsenal took them to 142 points from such matches since the start of 2013-14, putting them ahead of Manchester City by a point – though the Reds have played one game less.

Granted, City boast the most victories (42 to Liverpool's 39), Liverpool have suffered eight fewer defeats.

Chelsea's 124 points is the third-most, while Man Utd are on 110 points, having lost to both City and Liverpool comprehensively in the past month.

Arsenal and Tottenham are a fair way adrift with 86 and 85 points respectively.

Acts of Rodri

Manchester City haven't been doing too badly without a recognised striker this season, with Pep Guardiola boasting plenty of midfielders who can find the net.

Defensive midfielder Rodri might not be one of those whom you'd associate with goalscoring, but he's making long-range piledrivers something of a habit.

His latest, in the defeat of Everton, was a blistering 25-yard drive.

That was his fourth goal from outside the box for City, with only Kevin De Bruyne (seven) and Riyad Mahrez managing more since Rodri joined in 2019.

Rodri's four is 57.1 per cent of his overall Premier League haul, which is the highest proportion in the City squad during that same period.

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Mohamed Salah have all been nominated for the 2021 The Best FIFA Men's Player award.

Chelsea midfielders Jorginho and N'Golo Kante, Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski and Paris Saint-Germain stars Kylian Mbappe and Neymar are also on the shortlist.

Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne and Real Madrid's Karim Benzema complete the 11-man list.

There are seven nominees for the Best FIFA Men's Coach prize, including City boss Pep Guardiola and Italy coach Roberto Mancini, who led his side to Euro 2020 glory.

Hansi Flick is nominated after significant success with Bayern before taking the Germany job, along with Chelsea's Thomas Tuchel, Atletico Madrid's Diego Simeone and new Tottenham head coach Antonio Conte.

Lionel Scaloni, who guided Argentina to a Copa America triumph, completes the list.

Liverpool's Alisson, PSG's Gianluigi Donnarumma, Chelsea's Edouard Mendy, Bayern's Manuel Neuer and Kasper Schmeichel of Leicester City are up for the Best FIFA Men's Goalkeeper award.

The shortlist for the Best FIFA Women's Player includes four Barcelona players, among them Alexia Putellas and Jennifer Hermoso.

Pernille Harder leads a four-woman Chelsea contingent, while City duo Ellen White and Lucy Bronze are nominated, as is Arsenal's Vivianne Miedema.

Barcelona's Lluis Cortes, Sweden's Peter Gerhardsson, Chelsea's Emma Hayes, Canada's Beverly Priestmann and England boss Sarina Wiegman are up for the Best FIFA Women's Coach prize.

The candidates for each category were selected by respective panels of experts for men's and women's football. A public vote will run until 23:59 CET on December 10, after which three finalists in each category will be announced ahead of the ceremony on January 17.

Lewandowski won the Men's Player prize in 2020, ahead of Ronaldo and Messi, while Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp took the Men's Coach award.

Bronze was named the Best FIFA Women's Player and Wiegman the Best FIFA Women's Coach.

Arsenal's unbeaten run came to a shuddering halt as Liverpool cruised to a thumping 4-0 victory at Anfield.

With Liverpool losing to West Ham last time out, Arsenal went into Saturday's match holding the longest unbeaten run of any side in the Premier League, but their streak was ended in emphatic fashion.

Sadio Mane put Liverpool ahead in the 39th minute, with Diogo Jota capitalising on Nuno Tavares' error to double the lead.

Aaron Ramsdale did his best to keep the score down but Mohamed Salah got in on the act before substitute Takumi Minamino scored within 56 seconds of coming on to add further gloss to a win that sends Liverpool second.

It took a touchline fracas that resulted in both managers being booked to spark the match into life, shortly after Alexandre Lacazette had a goal rightly disallowed for offside.

That incident seemed to fuel Liverpool's fire and Salah should have opened the scoring but instead directed a close-range attempt at Ramsdale, who subsequently flicked over Trent Alexander-Arnold's shot.

Yet the pressure finally told when Mane met Alexander-Arnold's brilliant free-kick, with Ramsdale unable to keep the header out despite getting a hand to it.

Liverpool's second was of Arsenal's making. Tavares' dreadful pass across his own box fell to Jota, who coolly rounded Ben White and Ramsdale to slot home.

Ramsdale denied Jota a second before the hour, lunging bravely at the forward's feet after Salah's wonderful first-time pass, before making a fantastic save from the Portugal international in the 68th minute.

But Arsenal's run of conceding at least three goals at Anfield was extended to six league matches when Salah nudged in from Mane's cross, with Minamino then prodding in with one of his first touches to round off the scoring.

What does it mean? Mind the gap

Arsenal's previous defeat was the 5-0 hammering at Manchester City, and despite their form since that loss, Liverpool served up a reminder of just how big the gap is between the Premier League's leading lights and the chasing pack.

Yes, all of City, Chelsea and Liverpool have slipped up recently, but as far as title contenders go they are way out in front on their own. As Salah tucked in Liverpool's 100th Premier League goal against Arsenal, it was difficult to imagine the gulf in quality between these two sides has ever been quite so prominent.

Familiar foes haunt Arsenal

Only against Crystal Palace (13) has Mane scored more Premier League goals than he now has against Arsenal (eight), with the Senegal star finding the net in five of his six such games at Anfield.

Jota also loves going up against the Gunners, with his strike his fifth goal against them, more than he has netted against any other team.

Tavares' Anfield nightmare

It seemed a brave decision from Mikel Arteta to play youngster Tavares at left-back, up against Salah and Alexander-Arnold, despite having Kieran Tierney available, and it is safe to say it did not pay off.

Tavares' performance will be remembered for his calamitous mistake for Liverpool's second goal, but he was run ragged all match, with Salah revelling in the space he found, having a game-leading four attempts, while Alexander-Arnold joined in the fun, creating a game-high four chances.

What's next?

Already sure of their place in the last 16, Liverpool host Porto at Anfield in the Champions League on Wednesday. Arsenal welcome Newcastle United to Emirates Stadium in their next outing in a week's time.

Mohamed Salah has unsurprisingly won the Premier League's Player of the Month award for October after a scintillating few weeks.

The Liverpool talisman has been in irresistible form all season, but he took himself to another level last month as he scored five goals and set up another four.

His five goals came from an expected goals value of just 2.7, highlighting just how deadly Salah was over the period in question.

No one else scored or assisted more than three goals in October, while Salah's total of nine involvements was more than double his nearest challengers Mason Mount, Phil Foden and Roberto Firmino on four each.

In fact, the last player to register as many as nine goal involvements in a single calendar month was Salah himself in December 2018 (10).

Salah's first goal of October was a wonderful solo effort in the 2-2 draw with Manchester City, and he then went on to score a hat-trick in Liverpool's 5-0 humiliation of Manchester United.

That was the first treble scored by a visiting player at Old Trafford since Ronaldo for Real Madrid back in April 2003.

Scoring against United also ensured Salah became only the fourth player for a club within the big five European leagues to score in 10 straight appearances in all competitions since 2017-18, while his exploits at Old Trafford ensured he usurped Didier Drogba as the Premier League's top-scoring African player as well.

Ben Chilwell, Maxwel Cornet, Foden, Tino Livramento, Aaron Ramsdale, Declan Rice and Youri Tielemans were also nominated, though there was only ever likely to be one winner this time.

Salah is the third Player of the Month this season, following on from Michail Antonio and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Best FIFA Football Awards 2021 will be held as a virtual event from Zurich on January 17 next year.

FIFA's alternative to the Ballon d'Or has been held consecutively every year since 2017, with Cristiano Ronaldo scooping the first award as Best Men's Player.

Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski took that accolade for the 2020 awards and will be hoping his record-breaking efforts in the Bundesliga last season will be enough to defend that title.

Competition is likely to come from Liverpool's Mohamed Salah, who came third in 2018 and has enjoyed a remarkable start to 2021-22, while France duo Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema seem set to be in the running too. Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, of course, cannot be discounted.

The Best Men's Goalkeeper and Best Men's Coach are also up for grabs, as are the equivalent of all three awards for the women's game. 

The FIFPRO Men's and Women's XIs will also be named.

With coronavirus cases around Europe still rising, FIFA has chosen to host the event virtually, rather than have attendees present.

A FIFA statement read: "The Best incorporates the views of the four pillars of the footballing world.

"The recipients of the trophies for the top players and coaches in both women's and men's football will be determined through a combined voting process involving the captains and head coaches of all national teams around the world, an online ballot of fans and submissions from a select group of more than 300 media representatives."

Voting will commence on November 22 and close on December 10.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's future is in doubt as Manchester United continue to struggle.

United were outclassed effortlessly by neighbours Manchester City in Saturday's Premier League derby.

Struggling for form, Solskjaer could pay the price at Old Trafford.

 

TOP STORY – SOLSKJAER SET FOR AXE?

Manchester United are considering the departure of under-fire manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, according to the Daily Mail.

Manchester City eased past United 2-0 in the Premier League derby showdown at Old Trafford, where Solskjaer's side were left sixth and nine points off the pace.

There are reports of a player revolt as Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo grow frustrated with life in Manchester.

Zinedine Zidane and Ajax boss Erik ten Hag have been linked as possible replacements.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato claims Real Madrid and Newcastle United are interested in Liverpool star Mohamed Salah. The Egypt international, who is contracted to Liverpool until 2023, is keen to sign a new deal at Anfield.

City are weighing up a move for Juventus and Netherlands centre-back Matthijs de Ligt, says El Nacional. De Ligt has also been linked with Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United.

Karim Benzema is open to joining Paris Saint-Germain should Madrid sign Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund, per El Nacional. Benzema has reportedly snubbed a move to Newcastle, while Haaland has been linked with City, United, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Liverpool, PSG, Chelsea and Juve.

Gerard PiqueSergio BusquetsSergi Roberto and Jordi Alba will be allowed to leave Barca under new head coach Xavi, according to El Nacional. Fabrizio Romano adds Xavi will look to re-sign Pablo Gavi and Ousmane Dembele.

- Calciomercato claims Atletico Madrid are interested in Udinese's Nahuel Molina, who is also wanted by Inter.

This weekend sees Manchester United host Manchester City in a derby that feels like it may play a pivotal part in where each teams' season heads, and there is an outside chance that the match-winner might not even be Cristiano Ronaldo.

Elsewhere, there is a certain Egyptian King who will be worth consideration for the handful of people who for some reason do not already own him in their fantasy team, along with a Newcastle player who could prove a useful differential.

There is also a former fantasy football favourite at Wolves who could be due a run of form.

Below are Stats Perform's weekly suggestions for fantasy football players, powered by Opta data...

 

JOAO CANCELO (Manchester United v Manchester City)

Try to predict the potential difference-maker ahead of the Manchester derby and you will likely say Kevin De Bruyne or Phil Foden, unless you expect United to win in which case you will probably say Cristiano Ronaldo or… Cristiano Ronaldo.

How about another Portugal international, though?

Manchester City's Joao Cancelo has been involved in more shot-ending sequences of play (66) than any other full-back in the Premier League this season, while he also leads all players in his position for the total xG of the sequences that he has been involved in (6.96).

With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer running out of fit defenders, there may be plenty of space for Cancelo to maraud into at Old Trafford on Saturday.

 

AARON RAMSDALE (Arsenal v Watford)

This feels slightly unimaginative as we also tipped Ramsdale last week, but in fairness the former Bournemouth and Sheffield United stopper was sensational in Arsenal's 2-0 win at Leicester City.

Ramsdale made eight saves against the Foxes and deservedly took home the man of the match award, and may well be called upon to shine again this weekend.

Watford showed in their recent 5-2 thrashing of Everton that they can attack well on the road, having 20 shots at Goodison Park and hitting the target eight times.

Only Edouard Mendy (90 per cent) has a better shot save percentage than Ramsdale's 85.7, and given the Gunners continue to allow several shots against, he could put plenty of points on your board as well as his own team's.

 

MATT RITCHIE (Brighton and Hove Albion v Newcastle United)

It will be a tough game for moneybags Newcastle down at Brighton, with Graham Potter's men starting the season superbly, culminating in a well-earned draw against Liverpool at Anfield last time out.

You are never entirely sure what to expect with the Seagulls, though, especially defensively, and the Magpies may fancy troubling their opponents in the battle of the bird nicknames on the south coast.

Only Trent Alexander-Arnold (26) has created more chances among defenders than Newcastle's Matt Ritchie (24) in the Premier League this season. Ritchie, however, does jointly lead all players in the competition this term for chances created from set-plays (13), along with Alexander-Arnold.

With Callum Wilson back and scoring goals, you could look to Ritchie as a potential differential before he is inevitably replaced by a £60million player in January.

 

JAMES WARD-PROWSE (Southampton v Aston Villa)

The Friday night football from St Mary's promises to be an enticing clash between two teams that cannot decide if they are good or not.

Aston Villa have lost four in a row in the league, and the very last thing they will want to see is James Ward-Prowse lining up against them.

Ward-Prowse has been directly involved in more Premier League goals against Villa than he has versus any other side in the competition (5 – 2 goals, 3 assists). These five goal involvements have come in his last five games against them, with three coming in Southampton's 4-3 win at Villa Park last season.

 

RAPHINHA (Leeds United v Leicester City)

Having the fans back at Elland Road this season was supposed to be the not-so-secret weapon for Leeds to push on after an impressive first year back in the Premier League.

That has not quite been the case so far as the Yorkshire side have only won two of their six home games, but with the impressive Raphinha at his disposal, boss Marcelo Bielsa will be hoping to make it three against Leicester.

As well as scoring 40 per cent of Leeds' Premier League goals so far this season (4/10), the Brazilian has created the most chances (18), had the most shots (32) and completed the most dribbles (26) of any player for the Whites so far this term.

 

MOHAMED SALAH (West Ham United v Liverpool)

It may not be the most ambitious shout in the world, but you would need to have a very good excuse to not have Mohamed Salah in your fantasy team right now.

The Egyptian is averaging a goal or assist every 56 minutes in the Premier League this season; the best ratio of any Liverpool player in a campaign in the competition with at least 10 appearances.

He has also scored nine goals in eight games against the Hammers since joining Liverpool, the joint-most he has scored against any Premier League team apart from Watford (also 9).

RAUL JIMENEZ (Crystal Palace v Wolves)

It was a delight to see Jimenez return at the start of this season after nine months out with a fractured skull. Prior to the injury, the Mexican striker was a talisman at Molineux, and he is starting to look like he might be ready to return to form.

Although his strike in the 2-1 win against Everton last week was only his second of the campaign, he is still making a big difference for his team.

His two goals and two assists have been worth seven points to Wolves in the Premier League this season – only Michail Antonio (9) and Son Heung-min (8) have been more valuable to their sides through goals and assists.

Atletico Madrid are hoping to recover from losing to Liverpool on matchday three with a repeat of their Anfield heroics last March.

Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City will look to take bigger steps towards the last 16, while Real Madrid will go in search of another big win against Shakhtar Donetsk.

Inter can put themselves in a good position to progress, too, although city rivals Milan have got much more of a fight on their hands.

Here are some of the key Opta facts for Wednesday's Champions League matches...

 

Liverpool v Atletico Madrid: Can Suarez improve rotten recent record?

Atletico were winners at Anfield on their last visit as they claimed a 3-2 victory in the last-16 second leg in March 2020. Indeed, Liverpool have only twice beaten Spanish teams at home in 13 attempts in the European Cup and Champions League.

That said, the Marcos Llorente-inspired game last year was one of only two out of 22 at home that Jurgen Klopp has lost in this competition as Reds manager, while Diego Simeone is chasing what would only be the second instance of a third successive away win in the tournament with Atleti.

Luis Suarez will hope to haunt his old side, although recent history is against him: he's only scored one for Atleti in nine Champions League games, and none from open play. Mohamed Salah, meanwhile, needs one more goal to equal Steven Gerrard as Liverpool's top scorer in the competition at Anfield (14).

Manchester City v Club Brugge: Bad omens for Belgian champions

City's 5-1 triumph in Bruges on matchday three took their tally to six wins in seven European games against Belgian opposition, while Brugge are now without a victory over English teams in 13 attempts dating back to February 1995.

Since Pep Guardiola took charge, City have won 80 per cent (20 out of 25) of home Champions League matches, which is the best record for a coach at a single club in the competition among those to take charge of 20 or more. A first win on English soil for Brugge looks unlikely.

Might this be a chance for Raheem Sterling to impress? The England forward has been directly involved in 24 goals in 27 home Champions League games for City, a tally surpassed only by Sergio Aguero (27).

 

RB Leipzig v Paris Saint-Germain: Nkunku could outshine Messi

PSG have only lost one of their past nine away games in the group stage, but that defeat was against RB Leipzig last season. It was the only time in the previous seven meetings with French sides that Leipzig emerged victorious.

He might be enduring a difficult time in Ligue 1, but Lionel Messi has managed three goals in three games in Europe for PSG. His double in the reverse fixture was his 34th in the competition, something only Cristiano Ronaldo (37) can better.

However, perhaps the most in-form player in 2021-22 is Leipzig's Christopher Nkunku, who has been involved in the most open-play sequences ending in a goal (six) among Champions League midfielders this season. And he has four goals of his own from the first three matches.

Real Madrid v Shakhtar Donetsk: Another big win on the cards with Benzema

Madrid's 5-0 win over Shakhtar on matchday three means the past five meetings between these teams have seen an average of 4.6 goals scored per game. In fact, Los Blancos have scored 15 times in five Champions League matches against Shakhtar: that average of three per game is their best figure against a side they have faced on at least five occasions, apart from Galatasaray (3.4 per game).

Shakhtar are one of just three sides yet to score in this season's group stage, but with Madrid having lost three of their previous eight home games in the competition, this could be a good opportunity.

They will need to stop Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior, though: they are the two players with the most involvements in shot-ending sequences in 2021-22 (31 and 34, respectively). Plus, Benzema is on a run of 10 goals in 10 home games in the competition.

 

Sheriff v Inter: Nothing shot-shy about Inzaghi's men

Inter ended Sheriff's 11-game unbeaten run in Europe last time out and will now look to secure consecutive Champions League victories for the first time since October 2018.

The Nerazzurri have lost just once in their previous five Champions League away matches, but Sheriff are unbeaten in their most recent five European games on home soil, excluding qualifiers. They've also won the past two.

Inter certainly have the variety to break down Sheriff's stubborn defence. Each of their previous 17 away goals in the competition have come from open play, while their 29 shots in the meeting on matchday three were the most by an Italian side in a Champions League game since at least 2003-04.

Other fixtures:

Borussia Dortmund v Ajax

45 – Ajax's 4-0 win over Dortmund last time out was the biggest victory by a Dutch side over a German team in Europe since November 1976, when Feyenoord defeated Kaiserslautern 5-0 in the UEFA Cup.

8 – Sebastien Haller has been directly involved in more Champions League goals this season than any other player (eight – six goals, two assists). Among debutants in the competition since 2003-04, this is the highest such figure over a player's first four appearances and one more than Erling Haaland managed.

Milan v Porto

3 – Milan are one of just four sides this season to have lost all three group games. They are on a five-game losing run in the competition, the worst such streak in their history.

1 – Since scoring four for Chelsea against Sevilla in December 2020, Olivier Giroud has scored only once in 250 minutes of play in the Champions League.

Sporting CP v Besiktas

5 – Paulinho has been directly involved in three of Sporting's five goals (two scored, one assisted) in this season's Champions League. Their last player to manage more goals and assists combined in a single season was Nani in 2014-15 (six).

10 – Michy Batshuayi has attempted 10 shots for Besiktas in the Champions League in 2021-22 without scoring. Over the first three matchdays, only Inter's Lautaro Martinez (12) had more shots without finding the net.

Luis Suarez has appeared 67 times at Anfield. On Wednesday, with Atletico Madrid, that will become 68. The former Liverpool favourite will hope this is nothing like his last visit.

Anfield outing #67 – Suarez's first not in Liverpool colours – saw the striker's Barcelona side sensationally beaten 4-0 in 2019, crashing out of the Champions League despite a 3-0 home win in the first leg of their semi-final.

Suarez, who had passionately celebrated his Camp Nou goal, was jeered with each of his 31 touches on Merseyside, starting from the very first second when he took the kick-off.

The Uruguay great later described himself as "so sad" to get such a reaction, but he will surely again this week be greeted with a hostile reception entirely out of keeping with the adoration afforded Liverpool's latest leading man, Mohamed Salah.

Salah was in the stands when Suarez returned back in 2019, missing a Champions League match for the only time in his Liverpool career to date due to concussion. Divock Origi was the hero instead.

 

Since then, though, the 'Egyptian King' has firmly laid to rest any claim Suarez had to being the Reds' greatest modern forward.

According to Jurgen Klopp and several others, Salah is now the best player in the world – and Liverpool supporters will revel seeing him prove it against Suarez's Atletico.

Two standout seasons

There were several similarities between the 2013-14 season of Suarez and Salah's 2017-18 campaign, as each inspired Liverpool to the cusp of history.

On both occasions, the individual errors of team-mates – Steven Gerrard against Chelsea in the Premier League, Loris Karius versus Real Madrid in the Champions League – left the superstar forwards agonisingly short of the finish line.

Suarez had scored an outstanding 31 goals that year – all in the Premier League, matching the 38-game benchmark that belonged jointly to Alan Shearer (1995-96) and Cristiano Ronaldo (2007-08).

Like so many standards Suarez set, though, Salah reached and then surpassed that mark four years later.

Salah had 30 goals by Valentine's Day, becoming the first Liverpool player to tally as many in a season since Suarez, but then kicked on from there.

His four goals in a single game against Watford the following month again made him the first Reds star to celebrate such a haul this side of Suarez (versus Norwich City in December 2013).

Salah finished with a new record 32 league goals among an astonishing 43 in all competitions, joining Suarez in scooping the PFA Player of the Year award – the sixth and seventh Liverpool players to be recognised.

Crucially, too, whereas the 2013-14 season was Suarez's last at Anfield, 2017-18 was merely the first of many for Salah, who has moved well clear of his fellow Kop icon as a result.

Salah on track again

While Salah has not come close to that 43-goal total again – at least until now – he has maintained a high level throughout his Liverpool career.

Only in 2019-20 did the forward fail to net 20 times in the Premier League, and Klopp's men won the title that year.

But Salah's current form is hinting at the sort of season that would blow away his own previous performance, let alone Suarez's.

Going into the game against Atleti, Salah has 15 goals and six assists in just 13 appearances this season.

His run of scoring in 10 straight games in all competitions – a feat never previously achieved by a Liverpool player – ended in Saturday's draw with Brighton and Hove Albion, but the Egypt international still provided an assist for Jordan Henderson. This sequence of goal involvements in 11 matches in a row is the best of Salah's Reds career.

By comparison, Suarez never scored in more than five successive appearances – also his best run of goals and assists.

 

Salah has never been better and enters the Atleti match one shy of Gerrard's record of 14 home goals in the European Cup. Due to the timing of his departure for Barca, Suarez never even played a Champions League game for Liverpool, although he did win the competition in his first season at Camp Nou.

Whether on Wednesday or later in the season, that Anfield honour will surely soon belong to Salah, but it is not yet out of the question that he could follow Suarez in leaving Liverpool before the club might hope.

There are now less than two years to run on Salah's Reds contract and, as Europe's premier performer, he is in complete control of his destiny.

An ear towards the Liverpool fans when Suarez gets the ball this week might inform Salah of the worth of staying put, though. There are undoubtedly more records still to break, too.

Paul Pogba's future at Manchester United remains unclear with his contract winding down.

The 28-year-old midfielder has so far opted against re-signing with the Red Devils.

Pogba had started the season brightly with United but was sent off in Sunday's 5-0 loss to Liverpool.

TOP STORY – UNITED WILLING TO LET POGBA GO FREE

Manchester United will not sell Paul Pogba in January despite the France international becoming a free agent at the end of the season, reports The Telegraph.

United face missing out on recouping some of the £89million they spent on Pogba in 2016 when he joined from Juventus, who are one of the teams who have shown an interest in signing him.

Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain have also been linked with the World Cup winner.

 

ROUND-UP

Nicolo Barella will re-commit to Inter and sign a new five-year contract with the Italian champions next week, reports Fabrizio Romano. Barella had been linked with the likes of PSGAtletico Madrid and Liverpool.

Eden Hazard will be permitted to leave Real Madrid by boss Carlo Ancelotti if he wants to go, according to Marca. Former club Chelsea and Newcastle United have been linked with the winger.

Tottenham are making plans for Hugo Lloris' exit with Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, formerly of rivals Arsenal, top of their list, claims the Independent.

Liverpool are hoping for Mohamed Salah to agree to a bumper new deal before the January transfer window opens, reports Football Insider.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says it "would be a crime" to rest Mohamed Salah and key players for Saturday's Premier League clash with fifth-placed Brighton.

Salah has started every Premier League game this season, netting 10 goals and only failing to score once in the league this term, against Burnley in August.

The second-placed Reds, who are the only remaining unbeaten team in the league, host Brighton who have been a surprise this season, prompting Klopp to insist he would not be taking any risks on team selection.

"He wants that, that's true," Klopp told reporters when asked if Salah wants to play every minute. "To rest players against Brighton, that would be a crime actually. Brighton is much too good.

"They had a brilliant start. Yes, now the last few results were maybe not exactly like they wished for, but it's a real special game in the league. It's a real special game.

"If you didn't watch it yet, watch the City game back and you understand immediately what I'm talking about. None of them [want to be rested]."

Klopp's side have netted a league-high 27 goals in nine games this term, including back-to-back 5-0 wins over Manchester United and Watford.

The consecutive five-goal wins was only the second time Liverpool that achieved that in its top-flight history, dating back to April 1935 when they won 5-0 over Stoke City and 6-0 against Chelsea on consecutive days.

Liverpool's attack has won plenty of plaudits but defensively they have also kept six clean sheets this term too, with new signing Ibrahima Konate coming into the side for his second start against United.

"Ibou is an incredible talent, obviously," Klopp said. "He's built for the Premier League. Physical-wise, he's a machine, has the speed we need, likes challenges, has a really good football knowledge, anticipating situations early, all these of kind of things.

"It's a real good package. But how I said, we have now a bunch of really good centre-halves, to be honest, so we just have to make sure we use them in the right moments.

"He's a really good boy, completely in the group here and that helped obviously."

Liverpool are also on a 23-game unbeaten run in all competitions, dating back to April 7 when they went down 3-1 to Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals.

"In general we know when we are on top of our game, when we are difficult to play that means we have a chance to win the game – and that's what we try," the German added.

"Obviously we didn't win all of them – we drew a lot – but most of the draws were probably closer to a win than we could have lost the game, so that just shows."

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