The Premier League witnessed drama at both ends of the table on an absorbing Saturday, as Manchester City and Liverpool continued to trade blows in the title race.

Jurgen Klopp's men downed in-form Newcastle United thanks to Naby Keita's first-half strike, before City responded by cruising to a 4-0 thrashing of Leeds United at Elland Road.

At the other end of the table, Norwich City were condemned to a record sixth Premier League relegation at Aston Villa, and Watford look destined to join them after Burnley continued their incredible upturn in form at Vicarage Road.

After another frantic day of action, Stats Perform looks at some of the key Opta facts from Saturday's contests.

Newcastle United 0-1 Liverpool: Keita continues Reds' run

Liverpool's bid for a remarkable quadruple faced a tough test when they travelled to Eddie Howe's in-form Newcastle in the first clash of the day.

However, Naby Keita's 19th-minute goal proved the difference in a competitive encounter, and was Liverpool's earliest winning goal in a 1-0 Premier League victory since December 2016, when Georginio Wijnaldum netted after eight minutes against Manchester City.

Klopp's side had chances to extend their lead, with home goalkeeper Martin Dubravka making nine saves, his highest tally in a single Premier League match. Since 2003-04, when Opta data began, the only Newcastle goalkeepers to make more saves in a Premier League game are Tim Krul (14 against Tottenham in November 2013) and Karl Darlow (11 against Tottenham in September 2020).

However, a 21st clean sheet of Liverpool's league campaign was enough to move them to the top of the table - only in 2005-06 (22) have the Reds kept more shutouts in a single Premier League campaign.

Liverpool have now picked up 40 points from the last 42 on offer in the competition, and the win turned up the pressure on City ahead of their trip to Leeds later on Saturday.

Leeds United 0-4 Manchester City: Visitors draw on set-peice prowess to reclaim top spot

The Reds were not top of the table for long, however, as City claimed a 4-0 win over relegation-threatened Leeds at Elland Road. Goals from Rodri and Nathan Ake both came from set pieces, meaning City have now scored 18 set-piece goals (excluding penalties) this season, their most in a Premier League campaign since 2013-14 (22).

Pep Guardiola's men have also kept five consecutive away league clean sheets, the best such sequence in the club's history.

After Gabriel Jesus had made the points safe, Fernandinho stuck a superb fourth goal late on, becoming the club's oldest ever Premier League goalscorer at 36 years and 361 days old, overtaking Frank Lampard in 2015 (36 years and 338 days old).

Leeds, meanwhile, are looking over their shoulders after another heavy defeat. They have conceded a remarkable 20 league goals against the two Manchester clubs this season (11 against City, nine against Manchester United) – a new top-flight record for goals conceded against the duo in a single season.

Watford 1-2 Burnley: Clarets' revival continues after Cork ends barren run

Elsewhere, Burnley continued their incredible revival by coming from behind to defeat Watford, making Mike Jackson the first Clarets boss to win three of his first four league games in charge since Jimmy Mullen won his first four in 1991.

After James Tarkowski's own-goal put Watford ahead, Jack Cork ended his run of 84 Premier League games without a goal with his first strike since December 2018 (against Liverpool), before Josh Brownhill scored a late winner.

The Clarets are now five points above the bottom three after winning three consecutive Premier League games for the first time since April 2019, having won just three of their previous 21 games.

Roy Hodgson's Watford, meanwhile, look destined for relegation after becoming the first side in English top-flight history to lose 11 consecutive home league matches.

Aston Villa 2-0 Norwich City: Canaries suffer another relegation at Villa Park

Burnley's win had other ramifications, contributing to Norwich suffering their sixth relegation from the Premier League – the most of any club in the competition's history – after the Canaries were beaten at Villa Park.

Remarkably, Norwich have been relegated in each of their last four Premier League seasons (2013-14, 2015-16, 2019-20 and 2021-22). They are only the second side in English league history to suffer relegation in four consecutive campaigns in the top-flight, after Crystal Palace (1992-93, 1994-95, 1997-98 and 2004-05).

 

Dean Smith's men saw their fate sealed after becoming the first team to concede 70 Premier League goals this season after just 34 games, representing the earliest point in any league campaign they have reached 70 concessions since 1956-57 (in their 34th game in the old Third Division South).

Ollie Watkins set the tone for Villa's win with his first-half strike, and he has now scored at least 11 more goals than any other Villa player since his September 2020 debut (25 goals in all competitions).

Naby Keita scored the only goal as a much-changed Liverpool beat in-form Newcastle United 1-0 at St James' Park to climb above Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.

Jurgen Klopp, who this week signed a contract extension to keep him at Anfield until 2026, had complained about the timing of this early kick-off and made five changes following Wednesday's 2-0 win over Villarreal in the Champions League.

Mohamed Salah, Thiago Alcantara and Trent Alexander-Arnold watched on from the bench as Keita – one of those recalled – drilled in a contentious goal with 19 minutes gone.

Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka kept his side in the game but Liverpool saw out the victory to move two points above City ahead of the reigning champions' trip to Leeds United.

Keita's winner came after he exchanged passes with Diogo Jota and rounded Dubravka, though Newcastle's players felt the goal should have been ruled out for a James Milner foul on Fabian Schar.

However, while Milner did catch his opponent, replays showed the Liverpool midfielder cleanly won the ball first and referee Andre Marriner was not instructed by VAR to review the goal.

Newcastle had a Miguel Almiron goal rightly disallowed for offside and otherwise struggled to create any openings, with Liverpool going close to a second before half-time when Jota's header was palmed over.

Jota was denied by Dubravka three times in the second half and Sadio Mane planted a shot wide from a good position in his final meaningful involvement before being replaced by Salah.

Newcastle had won four games in a row heading into this contest, though they only really tested Alisson through a Bruno Guimaraes drive as Liverpool picked up a 13th league victory in their past 14 outings.

Liverpool midfielder Thiago Alcantara was withdrawn from the Reds' starting XI for the EFL Cup final against Chelsea at Wembley Stadium after suffering an injury in the warm-up.

Naby Keita replaced the Spain international, with Harvey Elliott taking Keita's place among the substitutes.

Thiago – who was seen to be crying on the bench – has been in excellent form for the Reds, including playing 68 minutes in the 6-0 demolition of Leeds United on Wednesday before being subbed for Jordan Henderson, presumably to ensure he was fit for Sunday's final.

It had earlier been confirmed that Diogo Jota had made the bench after missing Premier League wins over Norwich City and Leeds United following a knock picked up against Inter in the Champions League on February 16.

Romelu Lukaku was named on the bench for a second straight game by Thomas Tuchel, while Chelsea opted for Edouard Mendy ahead of Kepa Arrizabalaga in goal.

Jurgen Klopp does not believe there is any team that would not miss Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, after Liverpool felt the duo's absence against Arsenal.

Salah and Mane, along with midfielder Naby Keita, are on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Mane scored a last-gasp winner on Monday for Senegal against Zimbabwe, and he and Guinea's Keita go head-to-head when their nations face off on Friday.

Salah, meanwhile, was kept quiet as Egypt slipped to a 1-0 loss to Nigeria in their opening group game. The forward, who has netted 23 times across all competitions this season for Liverpool, had just four touches in the opposition box and managed just one attempt, which did hit the target, in Monday's game.

Klopp would have loved to have the star duo at his disposal on Thursday, however, as Liverpool were frustrated by 10-man Arsenal in the first leg of their EFL Cup semi-final at Anfield.

Granit Xhaka's dismissal midway through the first half resulted in Mikel Arteta switching to an incredibly compact 5-3-1 system, which Liverpool were unable to break down.

The Reds had 78.1 per cent of the ball and 17 attempts to Arsenal's three, though only one of them – a stoppage-time effort from Curtis Jones – troubled Aaron Ramsdale.

Arsenal's goalkeeper had gifted Takumi Minamino a golden opportunity in the 90th minute, but the Japan international, who had a game-leading six attempts, failed to keep his shot down with the goal gaping. The chance was Liverpool's best of the game, according to Opta, with an expected goals (xG) value of 0.384.

 

Asked in a post-match news conference if Liverpool could have been better prepared for the absences of key players, Klopp replied: "Any team would miss Salah, Mane and Keita.

"Could we be prepared for it? I don't think so.

"We've known that already for years. This team was what we had tonight, it can play and score, definitely."

The Anfield leg of the semi-final had originally been set to be the second fixture, but a COVID-19 outbreak at Liverpool saw last week's game at Emirates Stadium postponed.

Klopp will now take his side down to north London next week knowing it is winner takes all for a place in the final against Chelsea.

"We weren't creative enough. We didn't do some things well enough but in the end it's 0-0, half-time [in the tie]," he said.

"We don't think this tie is over for us. We will give it a proper try next Thursday."

Should they progress to a Wembley showdown with Chelsea, Liverpool – who face Brentford in the Premier League on Sunday – will be bidding to win the EFL Cup for a record ninth time.

Premier League managers are already feeling the strain amid cascading numbers of COVID-19 cases and mid-season injuries. Now many top bosses stand to lose stars to the Africa Cup of Nations.

Africa's greatest football show – now commonly known as AFCON – gets under way on Sunday in Cameroon.

Although the 2019 edition was held in June and July, it has historically been a January-into-February tournament and has returned to that place on the calendar.

A host of Premier League big names are hoping to make an impact during the four-week tournament, which falls slap-bang in the middle of European club campaigns, causing a major clash of competitions.

Premier League clubs certainly cannot complain of a lack of fair warning. It was June 2020 when African football chiefs decided the 2021 edition of the tournament would have to be pushed back by 12 months to a January 2022 start, in the hope the coronavirus crisis would have eased.

Here, Stats Perform takes a look at which teams from the English top flight might feel its impact the most.

Can Reds cling on in title battle?

If Liverpool lose no further ground on leaders Manchester City by the time their stars return from AFCON, then Jurgen Klopp would surely settle for that.

The 2019-20 Premier League champions have taken two points from a possible nine to leave the title as effectively City's to lose, and now Klopp is going to have to get by without Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita.

Egyptian striker Salah is the Premier League's leader in goals (16) and assists (9, level with Trent Alexander Arnold) so far this season. He has taken 80 shots in 20 games (38 of these have hit the target), played 12 throughballs and created 40 chances from open play: in each of those categories he is at the top of the Premier League charts for players defined by Opta as forwards.

How do you cope without such a contribution? Having Mane on hand would help, but Mane will be turning out for Senegal, a team who, like Salah's Egypt, are firmly in the mix as serious trophy contenders. Don't expect either back at the end of the group stage.

Mane has eight Premier League goals this term, including the opener at Chelsea recently. That goal return puts Mane joint-second among African scorers in the Premier League this season, level with Watford's Emmanuel Dennis, who is not in Nigeria's squad.

Mane has played 19 throughballs and has made 23 tackles to boot, which is the seventh highest number of tackles by a forward in the league this season, a rarely mentioned attribute of his game. He does not always tackle with his elbow, either.

Keita will presumably be less of a miss, with the Guinean's Anfield contribution remaining underwhelming, but Liverpool have been so hard hit by absentees recently that to lose anybody for up to five weeks is an inconvenience.

They are at least assured of Joel Matip's presence this month. The centre-back last played for Cameroon in 2015 and has retired from international duty. That is bad news for the AFCON hosts but helps Liverpool, given Matip remains a sturdy presence, with a duel success of 69.47 per cent this season ranking him third among Premier League defenders with 10 or more appearances, and a passing accuracy of 88.89 per cent putting him eighth in that metric.

Liverpool only have two league games inked in between now and the end of AFCON, against Brentford and Crystal Palace, but the Reds also have two postponed fixtures to be slipped in somewhere along the line.

Wintertime Blues?

Pep Guardiola's Manchester City hold a 10-point lead over second-placed Chelsea, with Liverpool a point further back but possessing a game in hand on the top two. Reigning champions City have won 11 straight Premier League games and the Citizens have the resources to be able to cope with the short-term loss of Riyad Mahrez, who will captain Algeria.

Mahrez's six goals and four assists this season have come at a startling rate. Given the depth in City's squad, he does not always start, so to appreciate his contribution it is worth looking at his numbers per 90 minutes on the pitch.

The former Leicester City forward is averaging 0.64 goals and 0.43 assists per 90 minutes – impressively close to Salah's return of 0.81 and 0.45 in those categories – and is one of only four Premier League players with 10 or more appearances to average at least 1.00 goal involvements per 90 (Michael Olise 1.43, Salah 1.26, Roberto Firmino 1.24, Mahrez 1.07).

The Blues of Chelsea may have concerns over the absence of goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, given the Senegalese's stabilising influence at the back. His save percentage of 77.14 has only been beaten this season in the league by Wolves' Jose Sa (80.82) and Arsenal's Aaron Ramsdale (77.46).

Spaniard Kepa Arrizabalaga struggled in the early stages of his Chelsea career and is now the undoubted understudy.

Yet Kepa's form when given an opportunity this season has not given such cause for concern. The former Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper has been chiefly used in cup action, and he has achieved a remarkable save percentage of 81.48, suggesting that for a short run of games, he could be a perfectly able deputy.

Can an exodus to Africa affect the race for Europe?

Will fourth-placed Arsenal miss Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang? It seems unlikely now, given he was dropped and stripped of the captaincy after a disciplinary breach before heading off to join Gabon. He has not played for a month. The Gunners won five games in a row without him, including four in the league, before being unlucky to lose to Manchester City.

Cold facts tell us Arsenal have a points average of 1.9 per Premier League game when Aubameyang has started games this season, and 1.5 when he has been either a substitute or out of the team, but those figures may not be significant given the momentum Mikel Arteta's players have built in the recent absence of the 32-year-old. His continuing exile from the first team seems unlikely to cause much consternation.

For manager Arteta to lose Thomas Partey (Ghana) at this point is a blow though, with the former Atletico Madrid player having been excellent in the 2-1 defeat to City, having been slowly building up to such a performance. He had more touches, won more duels, made more tackles and played more successful passes than any other Arsenal player.

Arsenal have a big derby at Tottenham coming up on January 16, and they might feel Partey's absence that day, particularly given Spurs, who currently sit sixth, are sending no current first-teamers away to AFCON.

Splitting the north London rivals for now are West Ham, in fifth, and it will surely have hurt David Moyes to wave off Said Benrahma for a month of Algeria duty. The playmaker has five goals and four assists in the league this season, as well as making 83 ball recoveries and creating 21 chances in open play. That makes him one of only 13 players in the competition to top both 80 recoveries and 20 open-play chances created, and one of only five Premier League stars to tick both boxes and score at least five times. Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha, away with Ivory Coast, is another member of that small group.

Seventh-placed Manchester United will lose Eric Bailly to Ivory Coast too. But with Phil Jones back in the first team, will Bailly be missed? The former Villarreal centre-back has played just 217 minutes in the Premier League this season. United youth prospect Hannibal Mejbri is also away, in his case with Tunisia.

Further into mid-table, Wolves must find an alternative to the excellent Romain Saiss (tackle success rate 72.73 per cent) on the left side of their defence, after he joined up with Morocco. Brighton and Hove Albion powerhouse Yves Bissouma has the highest tackle success rate among midfielders to have made more than 40 such challenges in the Premier League this season (50 attempted, 35 won: 70 per cent hit rate) and he will line up for Mali after ending an international exile.

Leicester City sent away striker Kelechi Iheanacho (2 goals, 4 assists this season) for Nigeria service at a bad time for the Foxes, given injured Jamie Vardy faces several weeks out of action.

Palace are firmly in favour of players heading away to represent their countries, but the Eagles never particularly like to be without Zaha (5 goals, 1 assist, 86 dribbles). Since his return from Manchester United in August 2014, Palace have averaged 1.2 points and a 32.9 per cent win percentage with Zaha in their starting line-up, and 0.9 points and a 24.5 win percentage when he has not been in that matchday XI. The loss of Cheikhou Kouyate (80.56 per cent success rate from 36 tackles) to Senegal duty may also diminish the sturdiness of Patrick Vieira's Eagles spine.

Can Clarets cope without Cornet?

The relegation scrap seems more likely to be affected by transfer market activity than departures to AFCON.

Newcastle United and Norwich City, the league's bottom two, are sending nobody away, while fourth-bottom Watford have kept Dennis (8 goals, 5 assists) and it remains to be seen what happens to Ismaila Sarr (5 goals), who has been absent with injury of late but has headed for checks with Senegal doctors.

Burnley, who sit 18th, are seemingly the team to watch carefully here. Maxwel Cornet, now away with Ivory Coast, has scored six Premier League goals from just 10 shots on target, and Sean Dyche must find a way to make the Clarets impactful without the former Lyon man.

Liverpool are not worried about being without Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita while they are on Africa Cup of Nations duty, according to assistant Pep Lijnders.

The trio all played in Sunday's thrilling 2-2 Premier League draw with Chelsea in their final outing before linking up with their respective national sides.

Mane and Salah were both on target at Stamford Bridge as Liverpool raced into a two-goal lead, while Keita was introduced in the second half after Chelsea had levelled up through Mateo Kovacic and Christian Pulisic.

Key attacking pair Salah and Mane have played in 26 of Liverpool's 29 matches this term – the joint-most of any Reds players, with Jordan Henderson (25) next on the list.

Between them, they have scored 33 of their side's 77 goals in 2021-22, while chipping in with a combined 10 assists.

Liverpool could now potentially be without both players, as well as midfielder Keita, until the second week of February depending on how far their countries advance at the Africa Cup of Nations.

But Lijnders, who filled in for Jurgen Klopp against Chelsea after the German tested positive for coronavirus, is confident others in the squad can now step up.

"You can try to plan it, but you can never prepare it," he said.

"It is not a worry because we have faith in the boys we have and a few boys are coming back as well.

"We know that certain players can play more offensively as well, they have been playing in midfield, but they can play more offensively as well."

Salah and Mane will link up with Egypt and Senegal respectively, while Keita is part of Guinea's squad for the tournament in Cameroon.

Losing three regulars during a hectic period in the season and with others out through coronavirus and injury is not ideal for Liverpool, but Lijnders has wished the trio well.

"I just told the boys that they should try to win the AFCON because it is a prize to catch and the careers are never long and they deserve to fight for each prize," Lijnders said.

"This prize now comes in front of them – it’s a tournament with so much passion, so much culture and it is a really proud situation if you can play for your country.

"If it's England or Germany or Holland or whoever, that's what they have and feel.

"So they are African legends, they are legends for me, but if they win it they will probably be even bigger legends so they should try with all they have to win it."

Roberto Firmino missed the Chelsea game after contracting COVID-19, while Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi are currently nursing injuries.

Asked when those players are expected to return to training, Lijnders said: "Let's see. 

"Some of the boys plan to be back, but they still didn't start team training, so we have to see."

Lijnders confirmed Klopp will still be absent for the first leg of Liverpool's EFL Cup semi-final tie with Arsenal on Thursday as he continues to self-isolate.

Karim Adeyemi is inspired by the former Salzburg stars who have gone on to establish themselves as household names in European football as he plots a move of his own.

Adeyemi joined Salzburg in 2018 after spending six years with his local side in Germany, Unterhaching. He had joined them shortly after leaving Bayern Munich's academy.

While he did not fit in with the culture at Bayern, Adeyemi developed into a highly sought-after talent at Unterhaching, attracting the attention of clubs such as Chelsea before ultimately becoming the most expensive under-18 German player ever at the time when joining Salzburg for €3million.

After spending a season and a half at sister club Liefering, Adeyemi returned to Salzburg in January 2020 and has steadily built up his minutes. The 2020-21 season was something of a breakout campaign as he scored seven times in 29 appearances, though in 2021-22 he has established himself as the club's latest star and a full international with Germany.

Numerous big clubs such as Liverpool, Chelsea and Borussia Dortmund have been linked with him in recent times, with the 19-year-old seemingly unlikely to be in Austria next season.

While some might urge him to be cautious and choose another club that will help his development, Adeyemi is aiming high.

Asked about Salzburg's impressive list of alumni, Adeyemi told Tuttosport: "It's true, in recent years a lot of young players have matured in Salzburg and then landed at the best international clubs.

"I'm thinking of Erling Haaland, but also of Sadio Mane and Naby Keita of Liverpool, or Dominik Szoboszlai, who moved to RB Leipzig.

"Obviously, I also have this goal: I would like the next stage of my career to be at a top club."

Adeyemi is enjoying a wonderful campaign and does appear to be outgrowing – or have outgrown – the Austrian Bundesliga.

The 19-year-old had previously been used across the front, but this term he has really nailed down a spot as Salzburg's main striker. He may not be the tallest, but he has bulked up, possesses immense speed and is proving a reliable finisher.

Adeyemi has 11 goals in 15 Bundesliga appearances – excluding penalties, his tally of nine is only slightly higher than his non-penalty expected goals (8.1 xG) as well, which suggests he is not just in the midst of a lucky streak.

His 26.8 per cent conversion rate is also the third-best in the division among players with at least 20 shots, evidence of impressive maturity in terms of shot selection, especially given his age.

Another key dimension to his style of play is running with the ball. He has attempted 14 more dribbles than anyone else in the division this season (79) and completed the most (32) as well – granted, his success rate of 40.5 per cent is not extraordinary, but it is worth remembering as a striker he will be attempting those dribbles in the most congested areas of the pitch.

In terms of end product at the end of a ball carry, only five players can better his 16 shot involvements (shots taken and assisted), and Adeyemi is well aware of the role Salzburg have played in nurturing himself and other young players.

"The experience at Unterhaching was very important, but for the first time I played at a really high level with Salzburg," he continued.

"It's a fantastic club for young people like me. They throw you in right away and give you the chance to get to a high level quickly.

"Competing for the title of the Austrian championship is very helpful for the growth of a young person, it gives you experience.

"Equally important is the possibility of being protagonists in international competitions. This year we are in the group stage of the Champions League for the third season in a row, a fact that is far from obvious for a club in a small league like the Austrian one.

"In the Champions League we face the best teams and top players in the world: these experiences are priceless."

Liverpool head coach Jurgen Klopp has confirmed Roberto Firmino has sustained a "serious hamstring injury" and is set for a spell on the sidelines.

Firmino was introduced at half-time in the Reds' 2-0 Champions League win over Atletico Madrid at Anfield on Wednesday, but was forced off in the 78th minute.

When the striker will return to action is not clear, but Klopp expects the Brazil international to be out for at least four weeks.

"Bobby is not good news with a serious hamstring injury, really unfortunate," Klopp told Liverpool's official website. "We don’t know exactly how long he will be out, but it will be not now after the international break directly. We have to work on that."

Klopp reiterated the significance of the 30-year-old's absence in his pre-match news conference ahead of a Premier League meeting with West Ham on Sunday:

The German boss said: "Losing Bobby Firmino is a blow. I don't think I need to say how big it is. It's a serious injury.

"We talk about weeks - more than four I consider as a serious injury. Then we have to see. Bobby is a quick healer."

Joe Gomez (calf) and Curtis Jones [eye] are also out of the Reds' trip to London, but Klopp expects both to return after the upcoming international break. 

Klopp was less sure about Naby Keita and James Milner, but hopes they will be back in action before long as they recover from thigh injuries.

"Curtis is a completely different story [to Firmino], he was very unlucky in training – he got a finger that scratched the eye," Klopp continued to Liverpool's official website. 

"I had a lot of injuries to players in my career, that was not [one]. He is on the way back but we have to see how long exactly. 

"He will be back after the international break, for sure, but in the international break we have to see when he can start doing proper stuff again. And Joey, hopefully, after the international break as well.

"We will see [about Keita and Milner]. For them, I have hope for after the international break but I don’t know exactly. We have to wait. That’s two weeks and a few days from now on, so that’s what I would really wish for but I cannot promise that. But that’s what we are working on."

Jurgen Klopp does not expect Naby Keita to be involved in Liverpool's Champions League clash against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday after sustaining a hamstring injury.

The Guinea midfielder had to be withdrawn just 19 minutes into Saturday's 2-2 draw with Brighton and Hove Albion, for which he had been a doubt after being clattered by Paul Pogba in last weekend's 5-0 hammering of Manchester United.

Klopp could not offer much information about Keita's condition immediately after the match, simply confirming it was a hamstring injury and that he "can't say more".

But at the very least, it appears Klopp will be preparing to face Atletico at Anfield without Keita as the Reds look to seal top spot in Champions League Group B with two matches to spare.

Klopp told Liverpool's official website: "He told me, he showed me [the] hamstring. So, I don't know, we will see; obviously [Sunday] or the day after he will have a scan and then we will know [the extent of the injury].

"But if somebody feels the hamstring, it would be the first time that he is ready for the next game. So, I can't see that."

A lengthy spell on the sidelines would not only be a blow for the Reds, who are already struggling for numbers in midfield, but also for Keita himself amid arguably his best run of form in a Liverpool shirt.

Injuries have been a regular frustration for the central midfielder, whose 16 Premier League starts in his first season (2018-19) remains the most he has managed in a single campaign since joining from RB Leipzig.

In 2020-21, Keita played just 10 league games as five different injury problems restricted his impact severely, but he is already up to seven appearances this term.

His off-the-ball tenacity has been a real asset to Liverpool as well, with Keita's 4.0 tackle attempts per 90 minutes second only to Alexis Mac Allister (4.9) among those to have played at least 180 minutes in the Premier League this season.

He is also averaging 2.5 successful tackles each game, with only Mac Allister (3.7) and Todd Cantwell (3.2) winning the ball back with greater regularity.

Mohamed Salah maintained his scintillating form with a hat-trick and Paul Pogba was sent off as Liverpool hammered Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's shambolic Manchester United 5-0 at Old Trafford.

Liverpool humiliated their fierce rivals to pile more pressure on Red Devils boss Solskjaer, with Jurgen Klopp celebrating 200 wins as manager of the Merseyside club in dream fashion.

United were blown away as they went in at half-time four goals down for the first time in a Premier League game, making it all too easy for the Reds as Naby Keita and Diogo Jota were on target before Salah struck twice.

The magnificent Salah completed his hat-trick early in the second half, taking his goal tally for the season to 15, before substitute Pogba was dismissed for a poor challenge on Keita.

Salah has now scored in 10 consecutive games and Liverpool are unbeaten in 21 matches, while United are in disarray after the most chastening of defeats in their own backyard.

Keita silenced the United faithful when he capitalised on poor defending to slide beyond David de Gea with his right foot after being slipped in by Salah.

That strike in the fifth minute was the Reds' earliest at Old Trafford in the Premier League and they did not have long to wait for a second, Trent Alexander-Arnold's cross giving Jota a tap-in after a mix-up between Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw.

Liverpool, already without the injured Fabinho, lost James Milner midway through the first half but Salah put them out of sight with a double before the break after Alisson had denied Mason Greenwood.

The abysmal Red Devils were all over the place and the ruthless Egypt forward made them pay, finishing with his right foot when he was picked out by Keita and tucking home with his left from close range just before a half-time whistle that was greeted with loud boos.

Salah completed his treble five minutes into the second half, racing onto Jordan Henderson's incisive pass before beating De Gea with a clinical left-foot finish after Cristiano Ronaldo had a goal ruled out for offside.

United's day took yet another turn for the worse when Pogba was dismissed for a reckless lunge on Keita following a VAR check, having initially been shown a yellow card on the hour mark.

Keita was unable to continue and the United players look like they would rather not, as only a brilliant save from De Gea prevented Alexander-Arnold adding a sixth.

Andrew Robertson's block sent the ball crashing against the crossbar late on to prevent Edinson Cavani from finding the back of the net and there were inevitably more boos at the final whistle to end a totally one-sided contest.

Mohamed Salah made history by scoring in a ninth successive match for Liverpool to earn the Reds a dramatic 3-2 win over Atletico Madrid, who had two-goal Antoine Griezmann sent off and a late penalty contentiously overturned.

In-form forward Salah opened the scoring inside eight minutes in Tuesday's breathless Champions League tie before Naby Keita volleyed in a second five minutes later as the visitors took complete control at Wanda Metropolitano.

That was the earliest Atletico had gone two goals down in a Champions League match, though they hit back before half-time through Griezmann's double.

Griezmann was sent off early in the second half for a high boot on Roberto Firmino and Liverpool made the man advantage count when Salah scored a second of his own from the penalty spot.

Liverpool, who were given a late reprieve when a penalty awarded for Diogo Jota's shove on Jose Gimenez was overruled following a check of the pitchside monitor, now hold a five-point lead over Atletico and Porto at the top of Group B.

At 29 years and 130 days, Liverpool fielded their oldest starting line-up in a match since September 1953 and their experience showed in a fast start that saw them open the scoring early on.

Salah's left-footed shot from outside the box took a deflection on its way past Jan Oblak and was later credited to the Egypt forward after some initial confusion over who the final touch came off.

Atleti continued to be pushed back and they found themselves two goals behind soon after when Felipe's poor defensive header fell nicely for Keita to thump home with a dipping first-time shot from 18 yards.

But the home side soon settled and were back in the game thanks to a slight touch from Griezmann to help Koke's shot into the bottom-left corner, the goal allowed to stand after a lengthy VAR check for a possible offside in the build-up.

Griezmann was then denied by Alisson when played clean through on goal, but the France international made amends by taking Joao Felix's pass in his stride and coolly slotting past the Liverpool goalkeeper.

Alisson and Oblak continued to be called into action in a frantic end-to-end match, but momentum shifted back in Liverpool's favour with 52 minutes played with Griezmann's straight red card.

Jurgen Klopp's side made a spell of pressure count 12 minutes from time as Mario Hermoso barged into Jota inside the box and Salah, who missed a penalty against Milan in Liverpool's opening group match, buried the spot-kick.

There was still time for more drama in the Spanish capital, with referee Daniel Siebert pointing to the spot for Jota's challenge on Gimenez, but the decision was controversially overturned before substitute Luis Suarez could step up and take the penalty.

Erling Haaland is the name on everyone's lips.

Europe's elite are reportedly queuing up to sign the Borussia Dortmund and Norway sensation.

If Haaland leaves Dortmund, the Bundesliga outfit have a replacement in mind.

 

TOP STORY – HAALAND OUT, CHIESA IN AT BVB?

Borussia Dortmund see Juventus forward Federico Chiesa as a replacement for in-demand star Erling Haaland, according to Calciomercato.

Haaland is tipped to leave Dortmund at the end of the season amid links with Real Madrid, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Barcelona, Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain.

Should Haaland depart, Dortmund are eyeing Juve and Italy star Chiesa, who has previously caught the attention of Chelsea and Liverpool.

 

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- Calciomercato reports Juve, Inter and Milan are interested in Madrid forward Luka Jovic, who has been linked with a January exit.

- A contract extension for Liverpool's Naby Keita is not as close as previously thought, claims Bild. It comes as Liverpool reportedly eye Dortmund sensation Jude Bellingham.

Tottenham will make a January move for Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic, according to Calciomercato. The Serbia international forward has also been linked with City, Arsenal, Juve and Atletico Madrid.

Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah sent Liverpool top of the Premier League with a 3-0 win over Crystal Palace as they stole a march on Manchester City. 

A shaky start eventually gave way to the anticipated Liverpool control, which did not yield a goal until Mane's close-range strike shortly before half-time, his 100th for the club in all competitions.

The Reds had to see out some dangerous forays forward from a Palace side that demonstrated plenty of attacking ambition. 

Yet moments beyond the opening minutes where Alisson was truly tested were rare, Salah making the game safe as Liverpool moved three points clear of City, who drew at home with Southampton, as well as Manchester United and Chelsea. Naby Keita added late gloss to the scoreline with a superb volley. 

Palace went agonisingly close twice in the first three minutes, Alisson scrambling to turn a goal-bound Wilfried Zaha effort onto the post after he had latched onto Conor Gallagher's lofted ball into the box, before Christian Benteke then headed against the left upright, although replays showed the striker to be in an offside position. 

Vicente Guaita was forced into a fine save at the far post from Liverpool's midweek Champions League hero Jordan Henderson, but the Reds initially struggled to make their dominance of possession count following Palace's bright start. 

Diogo Jota should have put Liverpool in front when the ball rebounded to him at point-blank range after Guaita repelled Thiago Alcantara's header, however, he blazed a seemingly simple chance high over the bar. 

Mane made no such mistake two minutes before half-time as he was alert to tuck home the rebound and break the deadlock following Guaita's diving stop from Salah's near-post header. 

The busy Guaita produced a double save to deny Keita and Salah while at the other end Odsonne Edouard was let down by his first touch with a gilt-edged chance to restore parity. 

And the Eagles' failure to find a leveller was punished 12 minutes from time when Salah settled matters by lashing home after Virgil van Dijk had flicked on Konstantinos Tsimikas' corner, with Palace's inability to defend another set-piece situation allowing Keita to add the finishing touch in some style. 

 

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has declared Virgil van Dijk fit to face Leeds United on Sunday after the defender's injury scare on international duty.

The Netherlands captain picked up a slight knock in the 6-1 demolition of Turkey on Tuesday, which would have concerned Liverpool given Van Dijk's absence for most of last term.

However, the centre-back quickly calmed Klopp's concerns before returning to Liverpool, who are on the second-longest unbeaten run in England's top four tiers (13).

The Liverpool manager confirmed the £75million man's fitness.

"With Virgil [van Dijk], that was obviously a scary moment, you can imagine," Klopp told Liverpool's official website.

"I sent him a message after the game, 'Are you all right?'."

Klopp was immediately sent a message or reassurance, and he then asked whether Van Dijk was "100 per cent", and was told he was actually "200 per cent" healthy.

The Reds boss said he then sent a message that read: "Come on, send me a video of you without limping…"

"So he called me from the bus and said, 'Boss, I’m fine!'," Klopp said.

"I said, 'Why are you limping then?’. He said, 'My wife asked the same!'.

"So, yeah, that was a bit of a tricky moment but apart from that, no, all fine [for the international players]."

Klopp will have been briefly sweating on his star defender's fitness, given Liverpool missed Van Dijk's leadership and defensive attributes last term, with only one Premier League defender (Burnley's James Tarkowski: 199) bettering his 191 aerial wins during the Reds' title-winning campaign of 2019-20.

Despite the encouraging news on Van Dijk, Klopp will be without Roberto Firmino for the trip to Elland Road as the forward suffered a hamstring injury against Chelsea.

However, Harvey Elliott is back to full fitness after withdrawing from England's Under-21 squad. Prior to the international break, Elliott became the third youngest Liverpool player ever to start against Chelsea, after John McLaughlin in 1970 and Raheem Sterling in 2012.

Klopp also confirmed Naby Keita's safe return from Guinea, having managed to leave his home country after a military coup.

"Naby is fine," said Klopp. "Yesterday he was not here [at Liverpool's training ground] but he was in Liverpool again."

Lionel Messi has spent his entire career with Barcelona. 

That bond will not sway Barca's off-season plans, though.

The Spanish giants have reportedly turned their eyes to a younger option. 

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA PREFER HAALAND TO MESSI STAY

Barcelona are so desperate to lure Erling Haaland to Camp Nou that they would be willing to let superstar captain Lionel Messi walk away if they can sign the Borussia Dortmund star, according to The Sun.

Barca's financial situation would make it difficult to pay both players, and the report claims Messi might see his wages cut in half if he stays with the LaLiga powerhouse amid links to Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City

Numerous clubs are circling for Haaland, including City, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Chelsea, PSG, Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Juventus.

 

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- Marca says Raul is favourite to take over as Madrid head coach next season if Zinedine Zidane leaves. Madrid great Raul is chasing promotion with the club's Castilla side.

Barca are set to complete the double free transfers of City star Sergio Aguero and Lyon captain Memphis Depay, according to Sport.

Arsenal and Martin Odegaard have a mutual interest in extending the Norway international's loan stay at the Premier League, according to Football London. He has two goals in 18 appearances in all competitions since arriving on loan from Madrid.

- Diario AS reports PSG are set to swoop in for Sergio Ramos by offering the Madrid captain and soon-to-be free agent a two-year contract. Ramos has also been linked to United.

- Though Juventus may be facing an exodus if they miss out on Champions League football next season, the Bianconeri are interested in Milan midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu, says Calciomercato. 

United may shore up their midfield with a bid for Getafe's Mauro Arambarri, Diario AS reports. The 25-year-old is under contract through 2023. The Mirror, meanwhile, says United remain keen on Atletico Madrid star Marcos Llorente.

Atletico are interested in Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita, claims the Daily Star. Keita has struggled for form and fitness since moving to Anfield from RB Leipzig in 2018.

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