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.

Louis van Gaal feared the Netherlands would blow their chance to secure automatic qualification for the 2022 World Cup.

The Netherlands wrapped up top spot in Group G on Tuesday after a cagey 2-0 victory over Norway thanks to late goals from Steven Bergwijn and Memphis Depay.

Netherlands head coach Van Gaal had suffered a fall from a bike and injured his hip ahead of the game so was forced to watch the match from the stands in a wheelchair.

Van Gaal cut a nervous figure as Danny Blind relayed his instructions via telephone on the touchline in a fixture played without any fans at De Kuip due to growing coronavirus cases.

Despite a tense game, the Netherlands got the job done as their stubborn defence – which has conceded just eight goals in qualifying – stood firm.

The Netherlands are now unbeaten in seven matches since Euro 2020, winning five times.

"The mood was a bit down the day after [the draw with] Montenegro, then I was afraid that it might go completely wrong," Van Gaal told NOS Journaal.

"But all in all it was a fantastic week despite everything. We got to know each other through lows and highs.

"We scored two goals today, and Jasper Cillessen kept a clean sheet. We dominated and controlled the game for 90 minutes. Norway may have had half a chance.

“I complimented the team at half-time, but also told them to play a little more forward.

"We played provocative pressing in the second half, which gave us a little more space. And of course we have the attackers for that."

Netherlands captain Virgil van Dijk made a team-high four clearances, two tackles and won 88.9 per cent of his duels as Norway failed to register a single shot on target.

The Liverpool defender spoke of his excitement at potentially playing at his first major international tournament, having missed out on the rescheduled Euro 2020 earlier this year through injury.

"We are going to Qatar and it's well deserved, we almost didn't give anything away. In my opinion, nothing at all," said Van Dijk.

"We had to show a reaction after last Saturday and we did. Of course there are many things that could be improved, but the result was the most important.

“I am extremely proud of this team. It can be tricky to play around with the idea that any mistake can be fatal, but we've embraced it. 

"We showed real character, it was not easy to switch quickly after the 2-2 in Montenegro, but we did it.

"I was very sorry that the national coach was there from a distance and the fans were not there at all. We're going to celebrate well inside. I can't wait for the World Cup."

Louis van Gaal feared the Netherlands would blow their chance to secure automatic qualification for the 2022 World Cup.

The Oranje wrapped up top spot in Group G on Tuesday after a cagey 2-0 victory over Norway thanks to late goals from Steven Bergwijn and Memphis Depay.

Head coach Van Gaal had suffered a fall from a bike and injured his hip ahead of the game so was forced to watch the match from the stands in a wheelchair.

He cut a nervous figure as Danny Blind relayed his instructions via telephone on the touchline in a fixture played without any fans at De Kuip.

Despite a tense game the Netherlands got the job done as their stubborn defence – which has conceded just eight goals in qualifying – stood firm.

The Netherlands are now unbeaten in seven matches since the European Championships, winning five times.

"The mood was a bit down the day after [the draw with] Montenegro, then I was afraid that it might go completely wrong," Van Gaal told NOS Journaal.

"But all in all it was a fantastic week despite everything. We got to know each other through lows and highs.

"We scored two goals today, and Jasper Cillessen kept a clean sheet. We dominated and controlled the game for 90 minutes. Norway may have had half a chance.

“I complimented the team at half-time, but also told them to play a little more forward.

"We played provocative pressing in the second half, which gave us a little more space. And of course we have the attackers for that."

Netherlands skipper Virgil van Dijk made a team high four clearances, two tackles and won 88.9 per cent of his duels as Norway failed to register a single shot on target.

The Liverpool defender spoke of his excitement at potentially playing at his first major international tournament, having missed out on the rescheduled. Euro 2020 earlier this year through injury.

"We are going to Qatar and it's well deserved, we almost didn't give anything away. In my opinion, nothing at all," said the Liverpool defender.

"We had to show a reaction after last Saturday and we did. Of course there are many things that could be improved, but the result was the most important.

“I am extremely proud of this team. It can be tricky to play around with the idea that any mistake can be fatal, but we've embraced it. 

"We showed real character, it was not easy to switch quickly after the 2-2 in Montenegro, but we did it.

"I was very sorry that the national coach was there from a distance and the fans were not there at all. We're going to celebrate well inside. I can't wait for the World Cup."

Netherlands head coach Louis van Gaal insisted his "brain still works" following a bike accident left him temporarily in a wheelchair.

Van Gaal suffered a hip injury after falling off his bicycle on Sunday and oversaw Monday's training session from a golf buggy ahead of the Netherlands' crucial World Cup qualifier against Norway.

The Netherlands require at least a draw from their Group G decider on Tuesday to clinch a berth at Qatar 2022.

Van Gaal, who will be able to coach his nation when the Netherlands and Norway clash in Rotterdam, was keen to stress his brain remains intact following the incident.

"Physically, I'm bad. But my brain still works," former Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Barcelona boss Van Gaal told reporters via video link.

Asked if it hurt a lot, Van Gaal replied: "Yes, a lot. That's why I'm in a wheelchair. That's why I led the training session from my buggy.

"Look, it's the lesser trochanter, that’s a bone, and that's broken. And the iliopsoas, that’s a muscle, is attached to that. That's a stabilising muscle. I hope you can all understand what I'm saying.

"I had to learn about every single bone in the human body when I used to study for gymnastics teacher. That comes in handy now."

"I can do everything, because my brain works. There are things I can use, such as that buggy and my wheelchair. I look stupid, I know that too," the 70-year-old added. "But coaching is verbal, and you use your brain to do so. And the presentation has to convince the squad."

Netherlands star Virgil van Dijk added: "It's just sad and unfortunate for him. He now has to recover the next weeks.

"It's a physical thing, luckily it's not mental. He is still focused on reaching the World Cup, like we all are."

The Netherlands missed the chance to seal qualification for the 2022 World Cup as Montenegro produced a late comeback to snatch a 2-2 draw on Saturday.

Memphis Depay had Group G leaders the Netherlands on track before Montenegro overturned the two-goal deficit.

The Netherlands will now look to clinch against a Norway side missing injured superstar Erling Haaland.

Van Gaal acknowledged Haaland's absence changes the dynamic of the fixture.

"Haaland has the quality to always show up behind a defence," Van Gaal said. "He also did so in their home game against us, three of four times. That were also their only chances.

"Now, they'll have to find another solution. At least, that's what they'll be trying to do. But Haaland has specific qualities that they'll miss now. We can, in principal, play a bit further from our own goal now too."

Virgil van Dijk was left fuming with a "scandalous" second-half performance after the Netherlands missed a chance to seal qualification for the World Cup when they drew 2-2 with Montenegro.

The Oranje knew a win at Podgorica City Stadium would seal top spot in Group G and their place in the tournament in Qatar next year following Norway's goalless draw with Latvia earlier in the day.

It appeared to be mission accomplished when Memphis Depay doubled their lead early in the second half, having opened the scoring from the penalty spot.

But Montenegro struck twice in the final eight minutes to stun Louis van Gaal's side, Ilija Vukotic rounding Justin Bijlow and slotting home before fellow substitute Nikola Vujnovic rose above Daley Blind to head home.

The Oranje go into what promises to be a tense final group game against third-placed Norway on Tuesday leading their opponents and Turkey by two points.

Captain Van Dijk offered a frank and scathing assessment of his side's collapse.

The Liverpool defender told NOS: "It is just scandalous how we played the second half. We all want to have the ball, we all want to play football, attack and score. 

"But we have to make sure that we also think defensively. Spaces were created for them on the counter. And if you don't have the organisation right... It's just awful."

Van Dijk says there can be no excuses for the group leaders failing to get the job done with a game to spare.

He added: "We just had to secure qualification here. With all due respect to Montenegro, but as the Netherlands you just have to win here.

"Especially if you are leading 2-0. Maybe it was a bit of laziness. We need to discuss that carefully. Now it just has to happen on Tuesday in an empty stadium.

"We are going to prepare well. We keep faith in our group and are going to give everything, we can't do more. But it should definitely be better than tonight."

The Netherlands had not let a 2-0 lead slip in a competitive game since a 2004 clash with the Czech Republic at Euro 2004.

Depay is the leading European scorer in this World Cup qualifying campaign with 13. The Barcelona forward has scored 37 times for his country, the joint-fourth highest along with Dennis Bergkamp and Arjen Robben.

Virgil van Dijk questioned the standard of refereeing during Liverpool's defeat to West Ham, claiming "no one knows exactly what is allowed".

The Reds saw their 25-game unbeaten run across all competitions – their joint-longest streak since joining the Football League in 1893 – come to end on Sunday.

Alisson, under pressure from Angelo Ogbonna, gifted the lead to the Hammers – who had not beaten Liverpool in 10 previous top-flight attempts – in contentious fashion before Trent Alexander-Arnold levelled for the hosts.

Pablo Fornals restored West Ham's lead and Kurt Zouma all but sealed victory when he headed home as Jurgen Klopp's team conceded twice from corners in a single Premier League game for the first time since August 2017.

Despite substitute Divock Origi's late goal, David Moyes' side managed to hold on for the win, but Van Dijk's focus post-match was on the officiating.

"Listen, the goal counts, it stands," Van Dijk responded to Sky Sports after the game.

"I don't know exactly what happens but I saw the whole time that Ali was being man-marked and stuff, so with the rules nowadays no one knows exactly what is allowed, yes or no, sometimes they give it and sometimes they don't and today counts.

"But what I said, there was nothing wrong. Even after that we still had almost the whole game to come back from it, but obviously we were disappointed to come 1-0 down."

Asked whether Liverpool could do more to protect Alisson from set-pieces, the centre-back responded: "Obviously you can’t because the striker in this case was standing next to him, so you can't push him away because they might give a penalty, so it's just on the officials to see if it’s a foul, yes or no.

"It could have been a foul but what can you do now after the game? You can't change it and what I said, we still had the whole game to come back."

While Van Dijk was left confused by the refereeing decisions, he conceded the Reds were not good enough as he implored for improvements after the international break.

"We played OK, I think in moments played well," he continued. We tried to find the spaces in between their lines and obviously they defend well.

"We had to be patient and scored the deserved equaliser, in my opinion, then second half we were a bit too rash maybe. We wanted maybe to score the 2-1 a bit too much.

"Obviously we just focus on the next game but now it’s the international break.

"Everyone is going away so it’s just making sure that you recover well, play well, play for your country and come back fresh and healthy and clear-minded for a very tough game against Arsenal. That's the only thing we can do."

Virgil van Dijk praised Justin Bijlow for his injury-time save against Latvia as the Netherlands scraped a 1-0 win in World Cup qualifying.

Davy Klaassen's volley after 19 minutes proved enough for Louis van Gaal's men to take all three points in Riga on Friday.

The Oranje were largely uninspiring, though, with 78 per cent of the possession yielding just four shots on target against a side who have won only three World Cup qualifiers since 2013. In their previous six qualifiers, they had averaged 11 attempts on target per game.

Latvia twice came close to an equaliser, the first just a minute after the goal when Van Dijk lost possession near halfway and Klaassen was forced into two blocks in the penalty area.

Then, in second-half stoppage time, Feyenoord goalkeeper Bijlow made a one-handed save to deny Igors Tarasovs after the visitors failed to clear a corner.

"It's a game everyone expects you to win," Van Dijk told NOS. "That's only normal, I think. Luckily, we did that.

"We created a lot of chances, and they had a few dangerous moments after our mistakes. But yes, it's three points. That's very important in terms of World Cup qualification. It's what we came for.

 

"We analysed Latvia well, and they're a team who don't give up. They keep running. It's not that they put you under a lot of pressure, but they play very opportunistically when they have the ball. We knew it wouldn't be over with a 1-0 lead.

"I think we had chances, but the second goal didn't come in the end. Then you have to do everything you can to keep the clean sheet and take the three points. We were successful in that, partly thanks to a good save by Justin at the end."

The victory allowed the Netherlands to move two points clear at the top of Group G after Norway drew 1-1 away to Turkey.

With their next match at home to Gibraltar, who have lost all seven of their games, Van Gaal's side could put themselves in a strong position to qualify for Qatar 2022.

"[The Norway draw] was a very favourable result for us, but we have to do things ourselves. It's in our own hands," said Van Dijk.

"On Monday, we have to take another three points against Gibraltar, hopefully with a great atmosphere in the stadium."

Ibrahima Konate wants to emulate the success of Virgil van Dijk, who he ranks as the best defender in the world.

Konate signed from RB Leipzig for a reported £36million (€42.5m) during the last transfer window and idolises Van Dijk, who played a key role as Liverpool captured their first top-flight title in 30 years during the 2019-20 season.

In that term, only Burnley's James Tarkowski (191) won more aerial duels than Van Dijk (191) and Jurgen Klopp's side struggled without the injured centre-back the next campaign as they failed to muster a worthy title defence.

The former Leipzig man boasts a similarly impressive aerial record. Out of the 742 defenders to play at least 20 games in Europe's top-five leagues since the start of the 2019-20 season, only Bruno Alves (81 per cent) posted a better aerial duel success rate than Konate (78).

However, after making his full debut against Crystal Palace last Saturday, Konate appreciates he has a long way to go to reach the levels of his defensive team-mate.

"I cannot compare with Virgil [van Dijk] because he showed to the world that he's the best defender in the world," Konate responded to Sky Sports when asked about the comparisons.

"Me? No. But I hope, with time, I will show this."

Frequently without Van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip the previous season, Liverpool struggled and the arrival of Konate has now bolstered an already impressive backline.

And Klopp pinpointed his defence as a driving factor for if his side are to be successful once again.

"Ali[sson] in moments, could just make brilliant saves, it's not as though nobody had a shot on target against us," Klopp said on Friday.

"But as a unit, we defended so far pretty well. We said it before the season, nobody wanted to hear it, but we had three new players without buying them in Joel [Matip], Joe [Gomez] and Virgil [van Dijk]. We brought in Ibrahima [Konate].

"This year, we had time in pre-season to work on it, and you see that now. That doesn't mean in matchday 38 we'll still have only one goal conceded, but it means we are more stable at the moment.

"That's what we need to be successful. To be successful, you have to be consistent; if you are consistent, you have to defend well, because you cannot fly every day and score a lot of goals. You have to defend, you have to grind out results from time to time."

The Premier League table already looks to be taking shape, with a thrilling title race potentially in store.

And fantasy leagues are no different, with the best players quickly racking up early-season points to pull clear.

Want to avoid being left behind? Why not take a look at our Opta-powered picks for matchday five...

 

ALISSON (Liverpool v Crystal Palace)

Liverpool have started the season in fine form and Alisson has been central to their defensive solidarity, which has seen them keep three clean sheets in four games.

Since the start of last season, only Hugo Lloris (7.7) has prevented more goals than the Brazil goalkeeper (6.2) according to expected goals on target data, while only two can boast a better save percentage than his 74.2.

Crystal Palace may have cruised past Tottenham last time out but beating Alisson will provide a different challenge and the Liverpool man could be a guarantee for much-needed clean sheet points.

JAMES TARKOWSKI (Burnley v Arsenal)

Burnley are winless this term, but James Tarkowski remains a wonderful bargain option for your shaky backline.

While the Clarets may concede against Arsenal, Tarkowski offers returns at the other end of the pitch and boasts the highest xG (4.3) among Premier League defenders since the start of last term.

Only the more expensive Andrew Robertson, Joao Cancelo and Trent-Alexander Arnold have had more touches in the opposition box in that time period, too, meaning the centre-back could prove an alternate option on matchday five.

VIRGIL VAN DIJK (Liverpool v Crystal Palace)

From one end of the budget to the other, Virgil van Dijk may set you back but he has been the Premier League's most dangerous defender so far.

The centre-back has produced nine shots, with only Cancelo (13) and Alexander-Arnold (11) managing more opposition-box touches among defenders than Van Dijk's 11.

Given Liverpool look likely a good bet for a clean sheet as well – conceding only five goals in eight straight wins against Palace – Van Dijk could provide a perfect double threat despite the off-putting outlay for the Netherlands captain.

ABDOULAYE DOUCOURE (Aston Villa v  Everton)

Abdoulaye Doucoure may not be your typical fantasy midfielder in the ilk of Mohamed Salah, Bruno Fernandes or Paul Pogba.

However, the Everton midfielder is in fine form and provides a wonderful budget option, having been involved in four goals in his past four games in the competition for the Toffees.

Aston Villa have managed just two shutouts in their past 16, too, so Doucoure's box-to-box prowess could cause carnage once more at Villa Park.

PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (Burnley v  Arsenal)

Some fantasy players may have given up hope with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but he repaid the faith of those loyal to him with a goal against Norwich City last Saturday.

The Gabon forward, who many discounted after a poor last campaign, will be central to Mikel Arteta's revival and he has netted eight times in seven top-flight matches against Burnley.

Given Burnley have not kept a clean sheet in their past seven and Arsenal attempted 30 shots last time out, Aubameyang could provide more returns at Turf Moor.

SADIO MANE (Liverpool  v Crystal Palace)

Salah appears the obvious option as always for the visit of Crystal Palace; however, Sadio Mane offers an alternate differential at Anfield.

Liverpool have fired in 100 shots already this term – just the second side to register a century in their opening four Premier League games since 2003-04 – and Mane has accounted for 22 of those.

The Senegal star has also scored in each of his past eight against Palace, making him one of the best picks for matchday five.

DANNY INGS (Aston Villa v Everton)

Danny Ings has been a fantasy favourite from the start of the season but has not delivered as of yet with Aston Villa.

That could change against Everton, however, as the Toffees are his favourite opponent having scored five top-flight goals against them.

The omens are in Ings' favour, too, given he has managed to score against Everton with all three of his previous Premier League clubs – could he make it a fourth with Villa?

Jurgen Klopp confirmed Harvey Elliott suffered a horrific ankle injury in Liverpool's win over Leeds United, as Virgil van Dijk promised the youngster all of the club's support.

Elliott, who has made a bright start to the season for the Reds, suffered the injury in a challenge with Leeds defender Pascal Struijk midway through the second half at Elland Road on Sunday.

Liverpool were leading 2-0 at the time thanks to goals from Mohamed Salah and Fabinho, with Elliott receiving lengthy treatment on the pitch before being transferred to hospital.

Struijk, who got the ball with his sliding challenge, was given a straight red card by referee Craig Pawson, with Liverpool going on to cap off a fine performance with Sadio Mane adding a third late on.

Speaking to BBC Sport, Klopp said: "Harvey Elliott is in hospital, a bad ankle injury for sure. It looked like it was dislocated, the medical department put it back.

"Massive pain, shock for him, for us and we don't know more. We have to wait."

Klopp went onto the pitch and also talked animatedly to the fourth official while Elliott was receiving treatment, though he insisted he was unconcerned with whether Struijk would see red.

"I couldn't care less [if it was a red], it is not my business," he continued. "It is a serious injury, definitely for an 18-year-old boy. The red card is not important. Two or three weeks we can play on, Harvey will not.

"We played a really good game until Harvey had to go, the whole team was shocked and we lost rhythm. That is normal, human.

"We played as good as we can against Leeds. You have to be ready for brutal intensity. The crowd was there and an exciting football game with us as the deserved winner.

"I spoke to the boys afterwards, we have to speak a little bit about the football but Harvey overshadows it. I like intense football so I probably liked the game."

Klopp was also emotional in his interview with Sky Sports.

"Do I want such a young boy to have this experience in his career? No. We will play football without him, but we will wait for him as well because he is a top player," he said.

"I saw the situation. I could see his foot was not in the right place. That is why we were all shocked."

Last season, Liverpool's Van Dijk suffered a similarly serious injury when he sustained anterior cruciate ligament damage due to a challenge from Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

The injury kept Van Dijk out for the rest of the campaign as Liverpool relinquished the Premier League title they won for the first time in 2019-20.

"First and foremost all of our thoughts and prayers are going to Harvey, hopefully he recovers quickly and as good as possible from it," Van Dijk told Sky Sports.

"We have no idea of the diagnosis of it but obviously it looks bad. For the moment it happened I think you saw Mo [Salah] already shouting to the side that it was really serious, then you look at the reaction of Harvey, you know that it’s really serious."

Asked if his personal experience will mean he can provide support to Elliott, Van Dijk replied: "Yes, 100 per cent.

"I've experienced all the players, staff, everyone around Liverpool, the fans had my back and were there for me in difficult times too. I'm sure we will all be there for him and the club will be there for him no matter what."

Shortly after full time, Elliott posted a message to his official Instagram account.

"Thank you for all the messages guys," the post read. "Road to recovery. YNWA."

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."

Louis van Gaal insisted "it will only get better" for the Netherlands after turning on the style in Tuesday's 6-1 World Cup qualifying win over Turkey in Amsterdam.

Memphis Depay scored his first international hat-trick and was joined on the scoresheet by Davy Klaassen, Guus Til and Donyell Malen in a dominant display from the Dutch.

The Netherlands opened the scoring inside 54 seconds and were three up with 38 minutes played, the fastest they have led 3-0 in a competitive match in a decade.

Turkey lost Caglar Soyuncu to a red card before half-time but profited from a mix-up at the back to add a late consolation through Cengiz Under, though it was still their heaviest defeat since losing 8-0 to England in 1984.

Oranje have won two and drawn one of their three games since van Gaal replaced Frank de Boer, scoring 11 goals in the process, yet van Gaal can see room for improvement.

"If you win 6-1, you can expect a lap of honour," he told NOS. "This is what I signed up for, for the competition. 

"I projected my vision onto the players. I did a lot of what the players wanted. I said after the Norway and Montenegro games that it was a fantastic group, and I'm saying that again now.

"They boys have lasted the whole game, which is not normal. The first goal was college football. We haven't worked on that in training, it just comes out. 

"I'm dealing with a very happy group. I have passed the first threshold and I'm very happy with it. From now on it will only get better. We were too careless in possession."

 

Depay has scored five goals for the Netherlands in their last two games and has 12 in total for 2021, equalling the record for goals in a calendar year set by Patrick Kluivert in 2000.

The Barcelona forward is now joint eighth on Oranje's all-time top-scorers list, level with Johan Cruyff and Abe Lenstra with 33 goals in 71 caps.

Depay, who made his debut under in the first of van Gaal's three spells in charge in 2013, is now looking to climb further up that legendary list.

"Cruyff and Lenstra are legends," Depay told NOS. "They have meant so much to the Dutch national team and put our football on the map.

"You can't compare anyone with that. I now have to make sure that I remain important for the team with my game and with my goals.

"I am now in the top 10 of top scorers, but I want to be in the top three one day."

The only blemish for the Netherlands came in added time when Virgil van Dijk failed to get to a short Justin Bijlow pass under pressure from Halil Dervisoglu.

Under walked the ball into an empty net and van Dijk stayed on the ground after being caught by Dervisoglu in what appeared to be an injury scare for Liverpool.

However, the centre-back – who led the way with 88 passes at the Johan Cruijff ArenA – has provided a positive update on the ankle issue.

"I'm lucky. I'm already over it," he said. "Maybe because I am so big, they think I am acting.

"But all-in-all it was a very nice evening. There is no doubt in our minds that the next two games are very important in a month's time."

The Netherlands are top of Group G with four games to go, ahead of second-placed Norway – who they still have to face at home – on goal difference.

Virgil van Dijk was flattered by Erling Haaland's belief the Netherlands captain is "the best defender" in the world.

The pair are set to face off when the Oranje travel to Norway for their 2022 World Cup qualifier on Wednesday.

An intriguing duel should challenge both players, with Haaland full of praise for Van Dijk when he addressed the media on Monday.

"I think he is the best defender. I think quite a few others in the room agree with me on that," the Borussia Dortmund forward said.

"He is fast, strong and smart, and those are three important things you must have."

Those comments were on Tuesday put to Van Dijk, who replied: "Did he say that? That's nice of him."

The Liverpool man is relishing his return to the international stage, having missed Euro 2020 due to injury.

"I'm incredibly happy that I'm here again, with the guys, working towards a very important game," Van Dijk said.

"Everyone is sharp, looking forward to playing. Everyone is focused, which is great to see."

This will also be the Netherlands' first game since the return of Louis van Gaal, who is back for a third spell in charge.

Norway are tied with the visitors on six points from three games in Group G, one shy of early leaders Turkey.

A common perception in 2020-21 was that Liverpool's struggles at home were partly down to playing in an empty Anfield, with their raucous support not there to get the Reds over the line.

How important that actually was is difficult – or maybe even impossible – to quantify, though Liverpool did endure a club-record run of six successive league defeats last term.

But Anfield was full on Saturday and rocking for their first 'big' match of the season with Chelsea on Merseyside, and once again Liverpool looked a shadow of the inventive side that won the 2019-20 Premier League season so impressively.

They were even given the boost of seeing Reece James sent off, yet Jurgen Klopp's side failed to make the most of that advantage in their 1-1 draw.

So much of the build-up centred around arguably the most anticipated duel since Anakin Skywalker v Obi-Wan Kenobi, as Romelu Lukaku – fresh from bullying Arsenal last week – went up against Virgil van Dijk.

Of course, the Dutchman missed most of last season with a knee injury and endured a pretty tough second match back last time out against Burnley.

His 41.7 per cent success in aerial duels was way down on his league average of 74.3 per cent since the start of 2018-19, highlighting just how "intense" – as Klopp put it – Burnley were.

While few would've expected a similarly direct approach from Chelsea, Lukaku's second Blues debut last week really increased the anticipation for his contest with Van Dijk.

Lukaku was certainly involved in a gruelling opening 45 minutes, his first proper duel with Van Dijk coming in the 18th minute as he rather easily shrugged the defender off out on the right before seeing a cross dealt with.

The Belgian was brutal with his desire to get into the danger zone last week and he showed similarly impressive movement just before the half-hour mark – but first N'Golo Kante failed to spot his run and then Kai Havertz did as well when a first-time pass would've set Lukaku through on goal.

Havertz had just given Chelsea the lead with a header Lukaku would've been proud of, otherwise he would likely have got an earful from his team-mate.

Lukaku's excellence then should've made it 2-0 10 minutes before the break, as he brilliantly rolled Joel Matip and fed Mason Mount, only for the England star to shoot wide of the bottom-left corner.

Van Dijk's anticipation when predicting Lukaku would try to let the ball run past him in the 43rd minute drew the biggest cheer of the day from Liverpool fans up to that point, and just a few moments later the game was turned on its head, rendering their personal duel almost irrelevant.

James handled on the line and, after a VAR check, was shown a red card. While the dismissal may have seemed harsh, it was ultimately inevitable with the wing-back denying a goalscoring opportunity, and Mohamed Salah converted the penalty.

The incident forced Thomas Tuchel into a significant re-think.

When Chelsea came out for the second half, their setup had changed dramatically. Having looked effective in the first half with a low defensive block, a very high front three occupying Liverpool's backline and an energetic midfield ensuring the gap wasn't too much of an issue, after the break their forwards simply couldn't continue in the same vein.

That, therefore, took away a key component of Tuchel's system. The 8.9 opposition passes allowed outside of Chelsea's own defensive third before a defensive action (PPDA) was second only to Leeds United (8.2) in this fledgling season before Saturday, indicating a high level of pressing.

Unable to maintain this with 10 men, Van Dijk and Matip were far more relaxed.

This translated to 77.1 per cent possession for the Reds in the 15 minutes that followed half-time, yet for their dominance of the ball, Liverpool's opportunities were hardly clear-cut.

Before a late onslaught in the final six minutes, only one of Liverpool's 10 second-half shots had an xG (expected goals) value over 0.1 – that was a Sadio Mane effort in the 56th minute, it's 0.105 xG value essentially equating to a scoring likelihood of just over 10 per cent. Not exactly nailed-on.

In the end, Liverpool's predictability in attack gave Chelsea the upper hand. The Reds constantly looked to the flanks, with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson playing five and four key passes respectively.

Salah (three) was the only other Liverpool player to play more than one, and again he was most prominent out wide rather than inside.

Chelsea, with their packed defence, rarely looked particularly worried and were ultimately good value for the point.

This was a wonderful opportunity for Liverpool to make a "statement" against a likely title contender, but Klopp's men lacked the imagination to overpower Chelsea's resilience.

Thomas Tuchel is relishing the battle between Romelu Lukaku and Virgil van Dijk when Chelsea travel to Liverpool on Saturday.

Both sides have made perfect starts to the Premier League season with two wins from two, scoring five goals without reply.

Lukaku, who rejoined Chelsea in a club-record deal this month, marked his second debut with a goal in last weekend's win over Arsenal.

The Belgium international is set to line up against Liverpool's defensive anchor Van Dijk in what promises to be an intriguing duel at Anfield.

Blues head coach Tuchel is confident the striker will rise to the occasion when he comes up against the Dutchman, whose return from injury he feels has provided the Reds with a huge boost since Chelsea's 1-0 win when the sides met in March.

"I am looking forward to it; I think many fans of football are looking forward to that battle," he said.

"For Romelu, it is a big challenge. He had a very good start, so now we are into details, connecting better and better. 

"The stress is on tomorrow at Anfield, but we knew we were getting a big and experienced player. He loves these kinds of matches.

"Liverpool with Van Dijk is different. It is not only his isolated capacity and ability; he also makes everybody around him feel more comfortable and stronger. They have a huge upgrade from last March."

Tuchel also praised counterpart Jurgen Klopp and the former Paris Saint-Germain boss is anticipating a special atmosphere on Merseyside.

"He has my full respect; he is one of the best managers in the world," the Blues boss added.

"He has the ability to make huge footprints and impact at any club. We need to be careful when he talks too good about you!

"We're super happy that the fans are back. We have to cope with energy that Anfield can create.

"The challenge is on and we're excited to be in the middle of it."

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