Lazio star Sergej Milinkovic-Savic cited Manchester United's Paul Pogba as an inspiration as speculation grows over a transfer to Old Trafford.

Milinkovic-Savic has played an integral role at Lazio since joining from Genk in July 2015, appearing over 200 times in Serie A.

The Serbia international has again delivered for Maurizio Sarri's side this season, providing 10 goals and 11 assists in the league, while no Serie A midfielder can match his 21 goal contributions.

Meanwhile, no Lazio player has started more Serie A games than the 27-year-old this term, while he also ranks top for tackles (67) and duels won (247).

A creative presence as well as a dominant midfielder, only Luis Alberto (64) has created more chances than Milinkovic-Savic (47), but reports in Italy suggest Lazio are ready to sell their star midfielder.

Paris Saint-Germain and United are among the favourites to sign him, with Lazio's preference not to sell to fellow domestic side Juventus, and Milinkovic-Savic has referenced two Premier League players as his idols.

Pogba, who appears set to depart United at the end of the season, came under special praise from Milinkovic-Savic, while Thiago Alcantara's creativity for Liverpool was also cited.

"Comparisons between me and Pogba? I learned a lot from him at the beginning when I arrived in Italy and he was at Juventus," he told DAZN.

"He is tall like me, has the technique and always makes a difference."

On Thiago, he added: "Against shorter players, I struggle more because I have to lower myself too. Who do I get my cue from? I always look at Thiago from Liverpool.

"I developed some body movements thanks to Futsal, a sport I practised as a child."

Milinkovic-Savic acknowledged he was pleased to continue developing after producing arguably his best season and spoke long term about harbouring Ballon d'Or ambitions.

"My best year? For a few years, the statistics say, I play a little better," he added. "If I feel undervalued? I don't think about this, when I finish the game if I have time I see it again and then I decide if I did well or not, I'm honest with myself.

"In the movements without the ball I have grown a lot over the years. Little by little I have worked and this year you can see the results.

"Five years from now? I don't think so much about the future, I look day by day and I don't think too much about things. Ballon d'Or? Of course, I'd like to win it!"

Thiago Alcantara is "excited" at the prospect of playing in the FA Cup final against Chelsea, having narrowly missed out on appearing in Liverpool's previous showpiece game this season.

The Spain international was named in the starting line-up for the EFL Cup final in February, also against Chelsea, but had to pull out after injuring his hamstring in the warm-up.

Thiago could be seen in tears on the substitutes' bench, though was in a better mood later on as he watched his team-mates triumph 11-10 on penalties at Wembley.

Speaking to Liverpool's official website ahead of Saturday's clash, the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich playmaker explained why he got so emotional that day, and what it meant to the players to lift a trophy after a difficult previous season.

"We fought a lot to arrive in that moment, that you can play in a final, and then suddenly because I had a bad thing, a bad neck problem and it caused just like a chain of movement that in the end caused me an injury in the hamstring," he said.

"It's a moment where you are just frustrated. You just calm down a bit, you try to be cold enough to face the final. It was as it was. 

"We won it and, for sure, it's bittersweet that you don't play that game, but you're happy for the team.

"Lifting a trophy is a special moment but it was more for the frustrating situation that everybody had the last few years. It was because of what we have been through and was a kind of celebration of overcoming that situation."

 

Liverpool have not won the FA Cup since 2006, and this will be their first final since 2012, when they lost 2-1 to Chelsea.

Thiago is excited for the occasion, which will be the 150th FA Cup final, and though he played in the semi-final victory against Manchester City at Wembley, the 31-year-old is looking forward to now being able to play in a final at the world-famous stadium.

"We came from other countries – not just me but other players – and just met this amazing competition, the oldest in the world," he added.

"We are really excited to play – not just the competition itself but a final. We're ready for it. 

"It doesn't matter if we didn't win [it] before or for a long time. It's just about a trophy that we can win and we add in our backpack this new challenge. We're looking forward to it. 

"Wembley is an amazing stadium. It's special itself but then you know that Wembley is used for special moments. There's different context and we're ready to go to London."

Liverpool fans are a creative bunch, particularly when it comes to making up songs for their idols.

The latest favourite of the Kop is a little ditty about Jurgen Klopp to the tune of 'I feel fine' by The Beatles, though it has also been re-worked to be about the Reds' manager's wife Ulla after her husband revealed the part she played in convincing him to sign a new deal at Anfield.

While Klopp appreciates the sentiment, he has always said he prefers to hear songs about his players, and there are plenty of those too.

You have to be quite a special player to get your song before you have even signed for the club, though, and it was testament to the excitement around the arrival of Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich in 2020 that not only did he already have a song by the time he was signed, but he even whistled it in his own announcement video.

It is a fairly simple number, as most of the best football songs are, where fans just sing "Thiago, Thiago Alcantara!" to the tune of 'Cuba' by the Gibson Brothers.

Arguably the best part about it, though, was the accompanying video that found its way onto social media, which showed Thiago's head superimposed over a woman walking by, while three men, made up to be Klopp, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, danced in the background.

Reds fans certainly feel like dancing right now, seeing their team still in the hunt for an unprecedented quadruple in early May, with the EFL Cup already in the bag, and Thiago is very much at the centre of the march on the remaining three fronts in the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup.

The 31-year-old had a tricky first season in England, having to contest with playing in stadiums with no fans, then picking up an injury that kept him out for several months, before returning to a team whose season had fallen apart after practically the entire defence had also been wiped out by injury.

Thiago showed his class by the end of the campaign to help Liverpool qualify for the Champions League, and although some still cast doubt on his suitability for Klopp's team, he has certainly proven his importance this year as the Merseysiders look to cement their legacy as one of the best teams of all time.

He has continued to suffer from injury issues, and has so far only managed to start in 15 of Liverpool's 34 Premier League games, but it is clear to see the difference he makes when he is available.

In those 15 games, Liverpool have won 14 (93 per cent) and drawn one, which was the recent 2-2 at title rivals Manchester City. When Thiago has not been in the starting XI, the Reds have won 11 of those 19 outings (58 per cent), drawing six and losing two.

They have conceded just four times in the 15 games he has started, compared to 18 in the games without, while averaging 2.9 goals for per game when he starts opposed to 2.3 when he does not.

It is only really of late that the player has been getting recognition for his impact, which is not entirely surprising as he has certainly stepped things up in recent games.

It is not the first time he has done so towards the business end. In 2019-20, his final season at Bayern, he came through to play a crucial role in the German giants' run to the Champions League final, starring in the 1-0 win against Paris Saint-Germain in Lisbon as the Bavarians went on to win a Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League treble.

Thiago has finally been able to put a run of games together at Liverpool without being interrupted by injury, and Klopp's team are very much reaping the benefits.

He is not a player you particularly want to measure by numbers alone, such is the beauty with which he plays the game when in top form, but it is equally hard to ignore the increase in his figures of late.

Having not even attempted 100 passes in a game this season beforehand, in his last three starts, Thiago attempted 113 against Manchester United, completing 108, attempted 121 against Everton, completing 119, and attempted 103 against Villarreal, completing 99, as Liverpool went on to win all three with relative ease, not conceding any goals.

Speaking of which, it is not just his passing that makes him one of the best midfielders in the game. He has also shown the best of his defensive ability, particularly in the Champions League.

Of midfielders to have attempted at least 10 tackles in the competition this season, only Villarreal's Giovani Lo Celso (86.67) and Thiago's Liverpool team-mate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (83.33) have better tackle success percentage than his 81.82.

As well as increasing his already impressive medal haul, one other inspiration for producing such fine form could be Thiago wanting to give Spain boss Luis Enrique something to think about ahead of the World Cup later this year.

La Roja will be among the favourites in Qatar, though such are the riches in midfield they can boast, Thiago has found himself largely out of the squad since last year's rescheduled Euro 2020 tournament, where he only played 66 minutes as Spain reached the semi-finals.

During the tournament when questions were raised as to why the former Bayern and Barcelona man was not featuring more, Luis Enrique said: "Thiago is a very good player. You know and everybody knows about his quality, but we are a strong team and I try to give them minutes.

"He's helping the squad a lot because he's an experienced player and we are very happy to have him in the squad.

"After that, I have to decide and my decision speaks much better than me."

It could be that the Spain head coach is trying to leave space for young prospects such as Pedri and Gavi to come through, but at a major tournament like the World Cup, you would imagine those two and others could only prosper from sharing a squad with someone like Thiago.

The player's club boss certainly thinks so, with Klopp telling reporters at a news conference ahead of Liverpool's Champions League semi-final second leg in Villarreal: "When Thiago is in the shape he's in now, he would play for any team in the world and that is Spain as well.

"They are an incredibly talented team but the shape he's in, he'd play for every national team. Thiago needs to be fit and gain rhythm and he can show his best form."

Thiago will take to the field in Spain on Tuesday to try and guide himself and his team to another Champions League final, with Liverpool leading the Yellow Submarine 2-0 from the first leg.

As he has proven in recent weeks, Thiago's best form is quite a thing to witness, and whether it is in the red of Liverpool or the red of Spain, it is well worth singing about.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp insists the Reds still have work to do to secure a spot in the Champions League final, and expects Villarreal to try "with all they have" in Tuesday's semi-final second leg.

The Reds are still chasing a historic quadruple after beating the Yellow Submarine 2-0 in last week's first leg at Anfield, with goals from Andrew Robertson and Sadio Mane putting Klopp's team on the brink of a third Champions League final during his seven-year tenure.

Klopp's team produced a dominant performance at Anfield to restrict Villarreal to no attempts on target, and could become the first team since Porto in 2003-04 (against Deportivo La Coruna) to not concede a single shot on target across a two-legged Champions League semi-final.

Liverpool also recorded 22 high turnovers as they suffocated Unai Emery's team, the most by a team in a Champions League knockout game this season and the most Klopp's Reds have ever produced in the competition.

However, Klopp insisted his team would have to withstand a fierce Villarreal response on Tuesday, and said Liverpool would not take anything for granted.

"No [the tie is not over], we know that. It's half-time. In the best possible way, we ignore the result from the first game," Klopp told his pre-match press conference.

"As if it was a cup tie with only one leg and it would be decided in Villarreal, we will try to win there, that's what we want to try, knowing that they will go with all they have, that was clear with all the things Unai said after the game.

"It will be another tough one, but it's fine, the Champions League semi-final should be tough. We never expected it to be easy and this will not be easy. We played a good game at home, and we had better play a good game there as well.

"The Champions League semi-final is the second-most important game you can play [after the final]. That's why whatever happened in the last few weeks is not important.

"You never know if you will reach the semi-final again, if you will ever have another chance to go to the final, you never know. We have an exceptional team here, but nothing is taken for granted, you better treat it carefully and be ready, and we will be ready."

 

Liverpool have won on all five of their Champions League road trips this season. Should Klopp's side win in Spain, they would have played the most away games while maintaining a 100 per cent record by any team in a single European Cup/Champions League campaign.

With the Reds on a 13-match unbeaten streak on their travels in all competitions, Klopp highlighted the importance of having extra options available in his squad compared to previous seasons.

"In general, our last periods of the season are pretty intense, because the Premier League is so difficult," Klopp added.

"It helps that we know, historically we are in the best possible shape [physically], where we don't have to push the boys through like we did in 2018, where we arrived at the final [a 3-1 loss to Real Madrid] pretty much on three wheels, with players coming back from injury and these kinds of things.

"We have to make sure we can make changes here and there and keep them all in rhythm, and to win the football games, that's what it's about."

Tuesday will also see midfielder Thiago Alcantara return to Spain after an outstanding first-leg display in which he attempted over 100 passes, and Klopp said the in-form 31-year-old would start for any team in world football.

"When Thiago is in the shape he is in now, he would play in each team in the world, and he would perform for Spain as well," he added. "He had problems when he arrived here, he got injured, and Spain obviously has a lot of options in midfield because it's an incredibly talented football team.

"But in the shape he's in at the moment he would play for each national team, and not only play in it, he would probably be the outstanding performer. 

"Every person needs to be fit and to gain rhythm and then he can show his best football. If he's in the right place physically, he will show everyone how good he is."

Mohamed Salah, Thiago Alcantara and Trent Alexander-Arnold were all named among the substitutes for Liverpool's Premier League clash with Newcastle United on Saturday as Jurgen Klopp heavily rotated his side.

The Reds travelled to St James' Park in the early kick-off aiming to pick up the win that would see them overtake Manchester City at the top of the Premier League, albeit having played a game more.

Klopp has complained about the timing of the match, coming three days on from facing Villarreal in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final, with the return fixture to come on Tuesday.

The German coach made five changes to face Newcastle on the back of the 2-0 win over Villarreal, with Premier League top scorer Salah and fellow first-team regulars Thiago and Alexander-Arnold among those to drop out.

Fabinho and Ibrahima Konate were also named on the bench, with James Milner, Naby Keita, Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and Diogo Jota all recalled, the latter making his 50th league appearance for the Reds.

Divock Origi, who starred from the bench in last week's 2-0 win over Everton, was ruled out of the squad due to illness not related to COVID-19.

Newcastle, who had won four in a row heading into the Liverpool match, made three changes as Fabian Schar, Jonjo Shelvey and Miguel Almiron all came into the starting line-up.

Newcastle United XI: Dubravka; Krafth, Schar, Burn, Targett; Bruno Guimaraes, Shelvey, Willock; Almiron, Joelinton, Saint-Maximin.
Subs: Dummett, Lascelles, Ritchie, Manquillo, Wood, Murphy, Darlow, Gayle, Longstaff.

Liverpool XI: Alisson; Gomez, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Milner, Keita; Mane, Diaz, Jota.
Subs: Kelleher, Fabinho, Konate, Thiago, Salah, Jones, Tsimikas, Alexander-Arnold, Elliott.

The Premier League's longest-serving manager is to remain in his post until 2026 after agreeing a two-year contract extension to his deal at Anfield.

Having already led the Reds to their first ever Premier League title, ending a 30-year wait for top-flight glory, and a sixth European crown since arriving in England in 2015, Klopp is looking to become the first boss to win a historic quadruple in another fine campaign.

Liverpool finished eighth when Klopp replaced Brendan Rodgers during the 2015-16 season but the German's canny recruiting has helped restore the club to one of the game's global powerhouses.

And Stats Perform has used Opta data to run through the club's best signings of the Klopp era.

Sadio Mane

Having led the Reds to EFL Cup and Europa League finals after inheriting a squad built by predecessor Brendan Rodgers, Klopp went about remodelling his team in 2016, with then-Southampton forward Mane representing the biggest arrival ahead of his first full campaign at the helm.

Mane registered 13 goals and seven assists in his debut season, with only Phillipe Coutinho managing more goal contributions for the Reds (14 goals and nine assists). The Senegal forward managed his best campaign to date when scoring 26 goals in all competitions two years later, also winning a vital penalty in the opening stages of their Champions League final win over Spurs.

Including this season, Mane has hit 20 goals in four of his last five campaigns at Anfield, more than paying back his £30million price tag.

Mohamed Salah

If Mane's arrival was a success, where do you start with the debut campaign of Salah, who joined Mane and Roberto Firmino to form a fearsome Reds front three in 2017?

In all competitions, Salah scored an unbelievable 43 goals and registered 14 assists during his first season with the club as Liverpool finished as Champions League runners-up. Salah has hit 117 goals in 176 Premier League appearances for the Reds, has scored in a Champions League final victory and won two Premier League golden boots to date, with another extremely likely to follow this term.

Not bad for a player Chelsea let go for a reported £13.5million back in 2016…

Virgil van Dijk

While Salah and Mane have arguably provided the most magical moments for Klopp's Liverpool, would any of their incredible successes have been possible without the acquisition of Van Dijk in January 2018?

With former club Southampton receiving a reported £75million for his services, Van Dijk certainly did not come cheap, but it could be argued no other player can rival his impact at Anfield. Having conceded 38 league goals in 2017-18, Liverpool shipped just 22 in Van Dijk's first full season with the club as they were crowned European champions and narrowly missed out on the Premier League title.

Indeed, after racking up 97 points that season, Liverpool earned 99 when winning their first Premier League title in 2019-20, 30 more than they earned in the 2020-21 campaign when Van Dijk was sidelined by an ACL injury.

Allison 

The 2018 Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid was a turning point for Klopp's Liverpool. The heavy metal football that propelled Klopp to stardom had gotten the Reds so far, but Loris Karius' costly errors demonstrated their need for a safer pair of hands.

For all that Van Dijk's brilliance contributed to Liverpool's incredible defensive record in 2018-19, Allison's arrival must also be credited after he kept 21 clean sheets and recorded a save percentage of 77.08 per cent that term. The Brazilian could yet better those statistics this season, posting 19 Premier League clean sheets to date.

Liverpool's shot-stopper even popped up with a vital goal against West Brom last season to help secure Champions League qualification.

The Hull City left-back, the silky Spaniard and Liverpool's next great attackers: The best of the rest…

Klopp's Liverpool have generally recruited brilliantly since his arrival, and while the aforementioned quartet have arguably had the greatest impact on the team's development, there are numerous others who warrant a mention.

In terms of pure value-for-money, no signing can match the £7million purchase of Andrew Robertson, with only Trent Alexander-Arnold (17) beating the Scot's 15 assists in all competitions this season.

Thiago Alcantara, who arrived from Bayern Munich ahead of lasts season, took a while to convince some doubters, largely owing to the silky midfielder's bad fortune with injuries, but the Barcelona man has been inspirational in recent weeks and no regular Reds midfielder can match his passing accuracy of 89.56 per cent this term (all competitions).

If Liverpool could be said to have had one weakness in recent seasons, meanwhile, it was a lack of reliable back-ups for Salah and Mane.

However, the form of Diogo Jota and January arrival Luis Diaz has been crucial to Liverpool's quadruple bid. With Jota averaging a goal every 134.6 minutes in the Premier League this term, and Diaz recording five goal contributions (three goals, two assists) in just seven league starts, the duo could be crucial in Klopp's next cycle.

Dirk Kuyt believes Thiago Alcantara is the best midfielder in the world and has backed Liverpool to complete an unprecedented quadruple.

Thiago moved to Anfield from Bayern Munich for £20million (€23.8m) on a four-year deal in September 2020, but failed to live up to expectations during a first season at the club that was hampered by injuries and COVID-19.

Jurgen Klopp's side lost nine of the first 21 games in which the Spain international featured, including six home defeats in a row, while they were dumped out of the FA Cup and Champions League.

However, Thiago has come to the fore this season, with the Reds a point behind Premier League leaders Manchester City, through to the semi-finals of the Champions League and in the FA Cup final after already winning the EFL Cup.

The Merseyside club have won 14 of 15 top-flight games when Thiago has started this season, in comparison to 10 victories in 18 games without him in the line-up. They also score 2.9 goals on average when he is in the starting XI, as opposed to 2.3 without, and have conceded less (0.3 versus 1).

Thiago has kept Liverpool ticking with his magnificent range of passing, with no Reds player who has featured more than once in the league completing more passes (77.9) per 90 minutes or more in the opponents' half (46.9).

The former Bayern and Barcelona maestro's quality was again on show in the 2-0 win over Everton on Sunday as he made more successful passes (119) than Frank Lampard's entire side (95).

Former Liverpool forward Kuyt was quick to highlight the class of Thiago as he hailed the 31-year-old, but was unsure about the comparisons with Anfield hero Xabi Alonso.

"I think they are slightly different and I'm very happy for Thiago because in the beginning, he needed a bit of time, which is normal in life and in football is to just adapt to the system and to the team and to his new players," Kuyt told Stats Perform. 

"But he's playing such a great football and before he came he was one of the best midfielders in the world for me but now how he's playing on the level he's playing against top, top sides and performing week in week out.

"For me, he's the best midfielder out there at the minute."

Former Netherlands international Kuyt, who played 208 times for Liverpool between 2006 and 2012, also believes his former club have the credentials to win all four trophies.

"They've got the squad to do it. They've got the players and the manager to do it," he added.

"But it's just small details will decide whether they win the quadruple or maybe only the Premier League or the Champions League, but it will be amazing and very well deserved if Liverpool can achieve it all."

Klopp's team host Villarreal in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final tie on Wednesday.

Jurgen Klopp declared "thank God these people don't make decisions" when asked if in-form Liverpool midfielder Thiago Alcantara had won over his doubters.

Thiago arrived from Bayern Munich ahead of the 2020-21 season with many pundits questioning whether he would slow down Liverpool's high-octane game and if he could adapt to the rigours of the Premier League.

A maiden campaign disrupted by injury, and one that saw depleted Liverpool scramble to secure Champions League football, may have given rise to those who hold such a viewpoint.

But it always looked a sketchy opinion at best and Thiago is sparkling in a Reds side who still hold aspirations of a sensational quadruple.

Having dominated Manchester City in last week's FA Cup semi-final with his exquisite range of passing, the Spain international repeated the trick in a 4-0 dismantling of rivals Manchester United in midweek.

For Liverpool boss Klopp there was never any doubt about the qualities Thiago would bring to his midfield.

"People questioned if he suits us? Thank God these people don't make decisions," Klopp said ahead of Sunday's Merseyside derby against Everton.

"If a player calms games down in moments, it's just of course nothing we thought. Thiago wanted to join us and he knew how we play. He thinks a lot about football.

"I don't like to talk too much about one player. Not that he doesn't deserve it but I leave this room and I can hear that such and such a player is injured, so let's just carry on."

Liverpool have already secured the EFL Cup this season, are in the final of the FA Cup, have a semi-final against Villarreal in the Champions League on the horizon, and trail City by a solitary point in a thrilling title race.

Klopp concedes such pressure is not always the most enjoyable experience for this star-studded squad.

"[They don't enjoy it] all the time, but a lot. It's an incredibly tough situation and we play pretty much all the time," he added.

"We love the situation we are in. You cannot plan being in everything. We won one competition, that's great, but there are still three more competitions to go.

"We are looking forward to everything that is coming up."

While the red side of Merseyside is rocking, Everton are in a perilous position.

The Toffees are just a point above the drop zone after Burnley defeated Southampton on Thursday, albeit with a game in hand, and are in a desperate situation as the season draws to a close.

Klopp hopes Frank Lampard's side can find a way to stave off the drop.

"Of course [I would miss playing Everton]," he said.

"Playing United the other night makes it different, usually the full week before you play Everton there are full talks about the derby."

Sadio Mane pledged Liverpool will fight for a "dream" quadruple after scoring twice in the Reds' thrilling FA Cup semi-final win over Manchester City.

Mane added to Ibrahima Konate's opener with a first-half double, closing down stand-in City goalkeeper Zack Steffen to score in bizarre fashion before netting a brilliant volley on the stroke of half-time to make it 3-0.

Goals at either end of the second half from Jack Grealish and Bernardo Silva hauled City back into the contest, but Liverpool held firm.

Having scored in a thrilling 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium last week, Mane has now netted 10 goals against City in all competitions, only finding the net more often against Crystal Palace (12) amongst Premier League teams.

After becoming the first Liverpool player to score a Wembley double since Steve McManaman did so in the 1995 EFL Cup final against Bolton Wanderers, Mane told BBC Sport: "I think from the start of the game we played very well. We started very well, everybody was on the front foot, we pressed them high. 

"We pushed them to make a mistake [for his first goal] and for that we got our reward.

"That's Liverpool, that's our style of play. Of course, it was not easy for them. I think that made the difference.

"I think today is special because we faced one of the best teams in the world. If you win this kind of game – especially a semi-final – of course, it's a big dream, a big win. We are very pleased and very happy to qualify for the final."

With the Reds progressing to their first FA Cup final since 2012, in addition to battling City for the Premier League title and facing Villarreal in the Champions League semi-finals, they could yet win an unprecedented quadruple.

"We'll see," he said. "We have a lot of games to go, we will try to do our best. 

"It's a dream, for sure. We'll go for it, we'll fight for it."

 

Mane's brace also made him the first Liverpool player to score an FA Cup semi-final double since Robbie Fowler netted twice in a 3-0 win over Aston Villa in 1996, and team-mate Thiago Alcantara was keen to highlight Mane's contribution.

"It talks about us, it talks about our hunger when we press like Sadio's [first] goal, it talks about the players we have in terms of Sadio's second goal, and also the great passers we have," he told Liverpool's official website.

"He [Mane] is a fighter with a lot of technique, so he knows how to mix it up and to do what we need. He was unbelievable.

"I think the first half was amazing, our best first half this season. Suddenly in the second half we just threw away the first half, but we are really happy with the qualification."

Liverpool's win was their first against City at Wembley, having lost both of their previous head-to-head clashes at the national stadium on penalties after 1-1 draws (the 2016 League Cup final and the 2019 Community Shield).

Thiago Alcantara is relishing the most "exciting" month of his career as Liverpool prepare for a crunch April schedule.

Jurgen Klopp's side face eight matches in April as they strive to pull off an unprecedented quadruple. 

The Reds are in the hunt for the Premier League title, the FA Cup and Champions League glory after lifting the EFL Cup.

They face leaders Manchester City in the Premier League and an FA Cup semi-final against Pep Guardiola's side following two Champions League quarter-final showdowns with Benfica.

Spain midfielder Thiago is excited about playing in so many matches with so much at stake.

"The other day I was talking with some friends about it," he told the club's official website.

"I never had, in the years that I have been involved in football, I never had a month so exciting like this with such important and exciting matches every three days. So it will be amazing.

"For sure it is exciting because you are competing against the best, in the best competitions as well, but also because it reminds you that we are in finals. 

"It looks like a World Cup, a European Cup, where every game is a final. With that we are in a one-mission mood and we are there."

Liverpool can go top of the table if they avoid defeat to Watford at Anfield on Sunday, with City travelling to Burnley later in the day.

Thiago does not believe that would give the Merseyside club a psychological boost in the title race.

"No, I don’t think so," he added. "I don’t think to see us on top before City plays would be a boost.

"No, it’s just that we are in a moment where every three points count and we are really glad to arrive at this position and fight and depend on us."

Jurgen Klopp is very wary of the threat posed to Liverpool by Inter ahead of their Champions League last-16 second leg, but he has been boosted by positive injury news.

The Reds head into the second leg at Anfield 2-0 up thanks to a commendable win in San Siro last month, even if the scoreline flattered them.

Klopp suggested the two-goal advantage is somewhat precarious, however, claiming it to be the most overturned scoreline in football.

But only once in Champions League history has a team ever lost the first leg of a knockout tie by two or more goals at home and still gone on to progress, with Manchester United doing so against Paris Saint-Germain at this stage three years ago.

That is the only such example in 41 previous instances of the scenario, meaning that, despite Klopp's concerns, Liverpool are in a very strong position.

Klopp is not risking complacency, though, reminding his team that Inter will not be on Merseyside as "tourists".

Asked what he feels the main danger is ahead of Tuesday's second leg, Klopp told reporters: "It's a danger everyone knows about: it's a lead that gets turned over the most in the history of football I think.

"You can't have a team at half-time that thinks they are already through. Then you are on the wrong path.

"It's a much better result than we expected if I'm honest. The game didn't look like we would win it 2-0 for most of it. It is a tough tie and was a really difficult game.

"We knew they had quality but now we know they have real quality. They will show up here after winning their last game 5-0. Yes, against bottom of the table, but still really impressive. [Lautaro] Martinez scored [a hat-trick], [Edin] Dzeko scored, [Robin] Gosens is back.

"I'm really happy [Nicolo] Barella isn't playing because he set up three or four chances. That's a really good, experienced team who don't come here as tourists.

"They want to chase the game and that's what we want to do, we're not a team that defends results. We want to attack the game, so let's see what we can do."

Liverpool's cause should be aided by the likely returns of at least two important players, with Thiago Alcantara and Joel Matip back in contention following brief absences through injury.

"All trained yesterday, fully," Klopp said of them and Roberto Firmino. "Not sure what we make of that yet exactly to be honest, we have to see how they react.

"Thiago was only a week out so should be fine but I have to wait for it. Joel was only three or four days so is fine.

"Firmino was a bit longer, [Sunday was his] first session so we will see. It might make sense to give him a few more days as we don't train fully today as it's MD-1, and Bobby might need more intense work."

Despite Klopp's apparent concerns about the scoreline, the omens are good for Liverpool.

They have kept more home clean sheets in the competition since the start of 2017-18 than any other team (15 in 24) – that is 63 per cent, the best proportion of shutouts of all clubs to play at least 10 home games in the Champions League in that period.

Jurgen Klopp expects Thiago Alcantara to be in contention to face Inter after the Liverpool midfielder was forced to miss the EFL Cup final due to a hamstring injury.

The Spain international was in tears after dropping out of the starting line-up against Chelsea at Wembley.

Liverpool went on to win 11-10 on penalties after a goalless 120 minutes, Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, who was brought on for the shoot-out, missing the decisive spot-kick.

Thiago will miss Wednesday's FA Cup clash with Norwich City at Anfield and will likely sit out the Premier League game with West Ham on Saturday, but Klopp hopes he will be available for the second leg of the Champions League last-16 tie with Inter, in which Liverpool hold a 2-0 lead after the first leg.

"He's not crying any more," the Reds manager told reporters on Tuesday. "This was a very emotional moment.

"We were all surprised. I watched the whole warm-up, didn't see anything, and I came in the dressing room and he's on the bed, telling me he feels something in his hamstring, which is not good obviously.

"We had to make the decision that he could not start at this moment, when you are that close to playing a final.

"For the one player who won probably the most silverware in the whole squad, or as much as the whole squad together, to show this emotion... I didn't like that he didn't feel that good, but the desire to play the final I liked a lot.

"He's fine again but not fit again. For the weekend, I'm not sure; maybe Milan. After that, definitely."

Thiago has made 20 appearances for Liverpool in all competitions this season.

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.

With the EFL Cup final upon us, focus turns to who can be the biggest difference makers when Chelsea take on Liverpool at Wembley on Sunday.

One player emerging as one of the chief influences for the Merseyside giants is Thiago Alcantara, who made his 50th appearance for the club in Wednesday's 6-0 thrashing of Leeds United.

He was a certified medal collector at Bayern Munich, and Sunday sees the former Barcelona midfielder's first opportunity to win a trophy with Liverpool. It has not all been a bed of roses for him, though.

A statement of intent

Liverpool were champions of England for the first time in three decades after romping to the Premier League title and had won the Champions League a year earlier.

Then in September 2020, the club announced the signing of Thiago.

The cultured midfielder was fresh off winning a treble of the Bundesliga, DFB Pokal and Champions League with Bayern.

However, doing so seemed like the perfect place to end things after seven years in Bavaria. After all, how could you ever top that?

So, he opted for a new challenge in England.

On his arrival, Thiago made clear his intention to continue adding to his trophy haul at Anfield.

"When the years are passing, you are trying to win as much as you can – and when you win, you want to win more," he told Liverpool's website after his move for a reported fee of £20million (€23.8m).

His debut immediately showed what a difference he could make, as he came on at half-time against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge with the score 0-0, but the hosts reduced to ten men after Andreas Christensen's red card. 

In his 45 minutes on the pitch, Thiago completed more passes (75) than any Chelsea player did across the entire game. Two Sadio Mane goals gave Liverpool a win that seemed to suggest they could potentially march to another title in 2020-21, though that would ultimately be far from the case. 

After missing nearly a month with COVID-19, his second appearance came in the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park in October where he shone once again, but it was a game that saw Virgil van Dijk suffer a season-ending knee injury.

On top of that, Thiago was on the end of a rash Richarlison challenge. The former Barca man would not play again until December.

He returned when Liverpool were down to the bare bones in defence. Joe Gomez was also out for the season and Joel Matip would not be far behind.

Midfielders Jordan Henderson and Fabinho were regularly having to play at centre-back, meaning Thiago came into an unsettled team that could not stop dropping points.

Liverpool lost nine of the first 21 games in which Thiago featured, including six games in a row at Anfield, while they were dumped out of the FA Cup and Champions League.

Klopp was eventually able to stop the rot by utilising Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams, who performed admirably in defence as Liverpool rescued a third-place finish, but fielding relative rookies at the back completely changed how the Reds played.

Some pundits surmised the player was unsuited to Klopp's high press, high tempo approach, but quite simply, Liverpool were not playing Klopp's football during the second half of last season. As seen since the return of Van Dijk and Matip, as well as the addition of Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig, he needs a certain grade of centre-back to be able to do that.

Thiago came into his second season looking forward to playing in a team with its regular spine for the first time since that fateful game at Goodison Park, and on the occasions where he has been able to, he has shown just why he is rated so highly.

He scored a stunning goal against Porto in the Champions League group stage, hitting the ball from range with such delicate precision that it seemed to glide an inch off the ground all the way from his foot until it nestled in the corner of the Kop-end net.

Thiago is not a goalscorer though, or even much of a goal creator, directly anyway. In his 235 appearances for Bayern he scored just 31 goals and provided 35 assists, while so far in England he has three goals and one assist in his 50 outings.

However, he is clearly making a difference to the 2021-22 iteration of Liverpool.

Thiago has missed 20 games this season either through injury or COVID-19, and Liverpool have played 28 fixtures in all competitions without him in their starting XI.

Of those, they have won 18 (64.3 per cent), drawn eight and lost two, with an average of 2.5 goals for per game, and one goal against.

Yet Liverpool have won all 12 matches in which Thiago has started, with an average of 2.9 goals for per game, and just 0.2 goals against.

A prime example of his increasing influence came against Norwich City. Thiago was introduced in the 62nd minute with his team 1-0 down. Five minutes later, Liverpool were 2-1 up.

Only six of Liverpool's starters attempted more than his 48 passes despite his short time on the pitch, and Thiago completed 45 (93.8 per cent). Of those passes, 34 were in Norwich's half.

Thiago carried that form on in the rout of Leeds, completing 52 of his 56 passes (92.9 per cent, the highest in the game, but he also showed another side to of his ability, making four tackles, twice as many as the next most from a team-mate (Fabinho), before being substituted in the 68th minute.

Keeping him fit is the big challenge, but should he be able to do so, Klopp potentially now has the depth to challenge on all fronts.

With a quadruple still in the offing, having Thiago available could be the difference between success and failure in multiple competitions for 

Who knows? If Liverpool overcome Chelsea on Sunday and win the EFL Cup for a record ninth time, perhaps he can even eclipse that sensational final season at Bayern after all.

Jurgen Klopp says it is vital for Liverpool to keep Thiago Alcantara fit after he came off the bench to pull the strings in Liverpool's 3-1 Premier League win over Norwich City.

Milot Rashica's deflected strike gave the relegation-threatened Canaries a shock lead in the 48th minute at Anfield on Saturday, but the Reds stormed back to extend their winning run to eight games.

Sadio Mane equalised with an acrobatic volley and Mohamed Salah put Liverpool in front three minutes later with his 150th goal for the club.

Luis Díaz opened his Reds account nine minutes from time as they reduced Manchester City's lead at the top of the table to six points ahead of the champions' clash with Tottenham, also taking their tally of goals for the season to the 100 mark.

Klopp was without the injured Roberto Firmino and made seven changes to his team following the Champions League victory over Inter in midweek.

Thiago was brought on along with Divock Origi just before Mane equalised as Klopp altered Liverpool's shape and the Spain midfielder was outstanding in the middle of the park.

Klopp told Match of the Day: "Thiago with his passing, really fresh, really relaxed, full of confidence, that helped as well. He is a good player, we just have to make sure we can keep him fit.

"Diogo [Jota] was not available and we don't know how long it will take, Bobby Firmino has a muscle problem and is out for a while, so we have to keep the boys fit and create a spirit like the boys did today in the game."

Norwich gave a great account of themselves as they defended for their lives and posed a threat on the break.

Klopp praised the Canaries and was pleased with the way his side rallied to stretch their unbeaten run to 11 matches.

"It had its moments, the longer the game went on the more I could enjoy it, obviously. A week ago when we played at Burnley, they give you a proper fight and over the years you learn to deal with these situations, again today," the German said.

"Norwich have a very different style but played a proper game, defended deep, had their counter-attacks, made it really tricky for us.

"We had moments and then the game can look completely different, then a deflected ball can be pretty decisive, but these boys just don't give up, we could help from the bench, bringing really good players on and that was like three days ago the game changer.

"We played really good football and scored wonderful goals. The coaching team, we changed the system as well, go for 4-4-2 and that is necessary in a moment like this that you throw all the knowledge you have together - it gave them a proper challenge to deal with because all of a sudden we were a threat in all moments."

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