Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was happy with the cameo from new signing Luis Diaz after the Reds beat Cardiff City 3-1 at Anfield in the FA Cup fourth round.

Second-half goals from Diogo Jota, Takumi Minamino and Harvey Elliott secured Liverpool's passage to the fifth round, where they will play Norwich City at home.

Diaz arrived in the game as a 58th-minute substitute and had a hand in a goal just 10 minutes later as he won the ball from Perry Ng, before some neat dribbling allowed him to pull it back – via a flick off Jota – towards Minamino to score Liverpool's second.

Klopp was impressed with the Colombian's impact and also assuaged fears that Diaz picked up an injury after the former Porto man looked in pain when Cardiff defender Aden Flint accidentally landed on his knee.

"He's good, thank god," Klopp confirmed. "The goal he set up for Taki [Minamino] was incredible. High press, I love it!

"He goes down, holds his knee. He is bruised on his knee. It's red. 'Welcome to England!' He has his first assist and first scar. I don't think it'll be serious."

Diaz completed 19 of his 20 passes on his Liverpool debut, and successfully executed all 11 of passes made in the opposition half.

The Reds boss also had words of praise for Elliott, whose 76th-minute strike at the Kop end was his first goal for the senior team and arrived in his first game back after five months out with a dislocated ankle.

The 18-year-old suffered the injury in the 3-0 win at Leeds United in September, but his manager said he handled the setback admirably.

"He's a kid, yes. On the pitch not so much," Klopp added. "He was buzzing. He was waiting for this moment. We were all waiting but the fact we could do it today was so nice.

"I was in a worse mood than he was after the injury. He was like, 'Come on boss, head up. I'll be back!'"

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is excited for either Sadio Mane or Mohamed Salah to "achieve something really big" after reaching the final of the Africa Cup of Nations.

Senegal and Egypt will face each other for the right to be crowned champions of Africa on Sunday at the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde.

Mane scored the third goal in Senegal's 3-1 semi-final defeat of Burkina Faso to take his personal tally for the tournament to three, while Salah helped Egypt to a 3-1 penalties win over hosts Cameroon after a 0-0 draw on Thursday.

Klopp has previously been accused of disrespecting the AFCON on several occasions. In 2020, he called the tournament's move from June to January a "catastrophe", then, in November last year, he referred to it as a "little tournament" before claiming he meant the comment in an "ironic" manner.

Now, with two of his best players set to grace the final, Klopp is thrilled to see both with the chance to create history for their nations.

Asked if he had arranged something of a viewing party with the squad, Klopp said: "I have nothing planned yet.

"I didn't think about it, but we've followed it pretty closely. It's a great achievement for both. Naby [Keita] played exceptional in the tournament, too.

"So far it's been a really successful tournament for our boys. It's exciting, but not so easy because one will be really happy after, one much less so.

"Both have a good chance to achieve something really big."

Speaking to the media ahead of Sunday's FA Cup fourth-round clash with Cardiff City, attention soon turned to when Salah and Mane will be available for the Reds again.

Klopp thinks there is a chance both could be available for Thursday's Premier League visit of Leicester City, though he accepts whoever loses in Sunday's final has a better chance of that.

"I think they will be available but we will see," Klopp added. "If one wins they'll probably fly back to home country for a celebration, that's how it is.

"I think Tuesday or Wednesday [is the] latest the winner will be back, the other one slightly earlier.

"Then I have to talk to them. One thing is they have rhythm, played quite a few games, but I have to speak to them."

Jurgen Klopp concedes it would be "really strange" if Luis Diaz was able to immediately show his best form for Liverpool but is "really happy and excited" about what he can bring to the Reds.

The Colombia winger joined from Porto after signing a long-term contract at Anfield in a deal reported to be worth an initial £37.5million with a further £12.5m in add-ons.

Diaz was a man in demand with Liverpool reportedly beating off competition from Premier League rivals Tottenham, while Everton had previously been linked with his signature.

At Liverpool, Diaz joins an already stacked attacking line-up that includes Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota.

Klopp accepts there is likely to be a bedding-in period for his new signing but has no doubt he can make a huge contribution at the club.

"Luis, let me say it like this, if he now came and stepped on the pitch and was immediately at his best and playing better than everyone else it would be really strange," Klopp said ahead of Liverpool's FA Cup fourth-round tie with Cardiff City.

"He needs time to adapt, but that doesn't mean I speak about four or five months, I haven't even seen him yet in training so maybe we should wait a little bit.

"But I'm really happy and excited about the signing, it's a really good sign that we work on all fronts to improve this team, that's how it always is in football. Obviously how it works is we have to be successful now and in the future. He can help with both that's a really good thing.

"We signed him because we like pretty much everything about him. I followed him now for a while not only since we played them twice in the Champions League. 

"He has the speed, skillset, and character to have a really good career. We want him to have that career with us. 

"I'm really happy we could get him in now, he can help us, we can help him. His story so far is a special one. Now he's one of us, we can't wait to welcome him here."

 

Klopp's options are set to be further boosted this weekend, with Naby Keita back from Africa Cup of Nations duty. Thiago Alcantara has also been back in training having been absent since December due to a thigh issue but a chest infection may curtail his chances of a return, while Divock Origi could be in contention after a knee injury.

And in further good news, talented midfielder Harvey Elliott is set to play against Cardiff this weekend after five months out as a result of a horrific fracture-dislocation of his ankle sustained against Leeds United.

"Very impressed with his rehabilitation. Harvey was the perfect client, he did pretty much everything we told him," Klopp added.

"He is in a good place, we have to see if it's right for him to start or come on but he'll definitely be in the squad for the Cardiff game.

"He has now step-by-step to get back to his best but he's close, very close."

Erling Haaland would suit playing for Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, according to Ruud Gullit. 

Borussia Dortmund striker Haaland is expected to be one of the most in-demand players when the transfer market re-opens in the close season. 

The 21-year-old reportedly has a clause in his contract that means he will be available for €75million (£68m), a fee that looks like a bargain given his goalscoring exploits. 

Manchester City are believed to be the frontrunners for his signature, while Manchester United, Liverpool and Real Madrid have also been heavily linked. 

Gullit does not believe United will be able to beat the competition to Haaland's signature, with the former Netherlands international claiming Liverpool will be the best place for the Dortmund star to take the next step in his career. 

"I see him in England, but I don't think he'll go to Manchester United," Gullit told Bild. 

"City would be good for him because of Pep Guardiola. But Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool would also be great. What Jurgen has done with the club is unbelievable. You just have to love him, and he's always hungry. That suits Haaland. 

"In Spain, only Real Madrid is an option. These are the three clubs that will be in the running for Erling." 

Since his debut for Dortmund on January 18, 2020, Haaland has been involved in 97 goals (80 scored, 17 assisted) in 79 appearances in all competitions for the club. That is over double the number of goal involvements Sadio Mane has had for Liverpool in the same time frame (43) and 14 more than Mohamed Salah, who has played in 18 more games.

Another player linked with a move to the Premier League is Bayern Munich defender Niklas Sule. 

Sule will be out of contract at the end of the season and will be available on a free if he does not agree to a renewal with Bayern beforehand. 

Should the Bundesliga champions need to dip into the market to reinforce their squad, Gullit believes Juventus' Dutch defender Matthijs de Ligt would be a good solution. 

"Matthijs has experienced and learned a lot at Juventus. He could make a very good contribution to Bayern," he said. 

Liverpool have completed the signing of Colombia star Luis Diaz from Porto after beating Premier League rivals Tottenham to a January deal.

The player will join up with Jurgen Klopp's side on a "long-term" contract – reported to be until the end of the 2026-27 season – with the fee believed to be an initial £37.5million (€45m), with a further £12.5m (€15m) in add-ons.

Diaz, who is currently on international duty with Colombia and played in the 1-0 defeat to Peru on Friday, passed a medical after a Liverpool delegation flew out to Argentina to complete the deal.

Colombia play against the Copa America holders on Tuesday as they desperately bid to keep their hopes of qualifying for the World Cup in Qatar later this year alive.

The 25-year-old had reportedly been subject to a bid from Tottenham earlier in the January transfer window, but the Reds have stepped in to bring the player to Anfield instead.

In August, Liverpool's Merseyside rivals Everton attempted to sign Diaz in a deal that would have involved his Colombia team-mate James Rodriguez returning to Porto. However, the deal fell through late on.

Diaz joined Porto from Colombian side Atletico Junior in 2019 and registered 12 goals and seven assists across his first two Primeira Liga campaigns.

 

After impressing at the 2021 Copa America where he top-scored alongside Lionel Messi with four goals, Diaz has stepped up his attacking output significantly this season, scoring 14 times and providing four assists across 18 league games, as well as netting twice from six Champions League outings.

Only Benfica's Darwin Nunez (15) has scored more Primeira Liga goals this season, and only Braga's Ricardo Horta (41) has created more chances than Diaz (39), while he leads the league for touches in the opposition penalty area by a distance (162) ahead of second-placed Porto striker Mehdi Taremi (120).

It is also notable that another Porto winger, Otavio (22), is the only player to have won possession more often than Diaz (18) in the attacking third of the pitch, a characteristic Klopp's attackers are often renowned for, given the German's high-press system. 

Diaz's pace and dribbling ability are also real assets. Indeed, only two players in Portugal's top tier this season have completed more dribbles than his 46.

Liverpool will be hoping that Diaz can aid them in their quest for silverware this season, with the Reds still in the Champions League and FA Cup, as well as having reached next month's EFL Cup final against Chelsea, though they are nine points behind Manchester City in the Premier League with a game in hand.

Diogo Jota was "on fire" against Arsenal and Jurgen Klopp took it as evidence he has become a "world-class" attacker at Liverpool. 

Liverpool spent £41million to sign Jota from Wolves in September 2020 and he has provided stiff competition for Roberto Firmino. 

The Portugal international took his tally for the Reds to 27 in 57 appearances with a double in the EFL Cup semi-final second leg against the Gunners on Thursday, clinching a 2-0 aggregate win that set up a meeting with Chelsea at Wembley in February. 

Despite only playing two games for Liverpool at Emirates Stadium he is already the club's top scorer at the ground with four goals, while he has five in his past four appearances against Arsenal in all competitions. 

Jota stepped up to play a decisive role with Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah away on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations, but it came as no surprise for Klopp. 

"The mood in the dressing room is that we are over the moon. It was a difficult game, difficult time in general … but what the boys did tonight against this really strong Arsenal side was absolutely exceptional," Klopp told Sky Sports. 

"First half, Arsenal were pretty lively, then we calmed it down, played good football and created not plenty but quality efforts were not so easy. The second half was pretty similar. 

"We scored two wonderful goals, I have to say. Wow, Diogo Jota on fire. But the passes were – on the first goal it was super play and the second one, I don't think a lot of people in the stadium saw Diogo in that position but Trent saw it, which was helpful. Then he finished it off. Absolutely outstanding. 

"We were completely convinced when he arrived at the club that he would help us massively. Nowadays you can watch 100 games if you want [before signing a player], so we were really comfortable. 

"Since he is here, he has made another step. It's helpful. He has just turned into a really world-class striker." 

Arsenal hit the bar through Alexandre Lacazette in the opening period and the France international missed a great chance to work Caoimhin Kelleher early in the second half. 

The Gunners' were left with a bitter taste when Thomas Partey picked up two bookings in three minutes after returning from AFCON duty earlier in the day.

Arsenal have had a player sent off in three of their past four games – none of which have ended in victory – and have received a total of 14 red cards in all competitions since Mikel Arteta took over in December 2019. No other Premier League side has received more than eight.

"We are really disappointed but we played against a top side. We had big moments in both halves and we have to score," said Arteta. 

"We had chances and were pushing for the game but we have to convert if we were to beat a team like Liverpool. 

"I have no regrets [about sending Partey on]. I cannot use him now, so it is what it is. He made the effort to come ... we had to make a decision and we decided to use him and unfortunately that happened.

"We have played the last three games with 10 men and at this level it is extremely difficult to win like that. I am proud of the boys and how committed they were without any training sessions." 

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.

Jurgen Klopp is confident that Mohamed Salah will sign a new contract with Liverpool amid speculation around the forward's future.

Salah, who is currently on international duty with Egypt at the Africa Cup of Nations, recently gave an interview to GQ in which he stated he is not asking for "crazy" money during negotiations, adding that he wants to stay but that the decision rests with the club.

Speaking at a news conference ahead of Thursday's EFL Cup semi-final first leg against Arsenal, Klopp was asked about Salah's interview and whether he was at all worried the star might not re-sign, with just 18 months remaining on his current deal at Anfield.

"I know that Mo wants to stay. We want Mo to stay. That's where we are," Klopp told reporters. "These things take time. I think it is in a good place. I'm very positive about it.

"There is nothing to worry about, it is a normal process. He has a contract here for this season and next season. It is all fine."

 

Klopp was also asked about his comments after the win against Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup third round on Sunday that his players had returned "false positive" COVID-19 tests, which led to the first leg of the tie with Arsenal that had been scheduled to be played last week being postponed.

Liverpool requested that the game at the Emirates Stadium be pushed back by two weeks due to a COVID-19 outbreak at the club that led to the training ground being closed for 48 hours.

But the German coach seemed to suggest many of those cases turned out to be false positives, with only Trent Alexander-Arnold returning another positive after re-testing.

"You get a positive test, then when you do a re-test a day, day and a half later, you get a result that makes it seem like a false positive because this test was negative," he clarified. 

"That doesn't change anything for your quarantine or whatever but if you need to know, you have to do a third test.

"Between the first and second, and second and third test you cannot use the players, so that's how the rules are.

"If you get a third test and that's negative as well, then that's it. It was now four days later, so we couldn't do anything different. When we got the positive tests, we had to consider that this was the right result."

Klopp confirmed that Alexander-Arnold is back in training along with Alisson, but Thiago Alcantara and Divock Origi remain sidelined by injury.

He also had a positive update on the status of Harvey Elliott, who has not played since suffering a fractured ankle in the 3-0 win at Leeds United in September.

"Harvey Elliott looks really promising out on the pitch now," said the Reds boss. "He didn't train with the team yet, but I don't think he's too far away from team training.

"What he's doing at the moment looks really good."

Jurgen Klopp allayed concerns over Thiago Alcantara's hip injury after Liverpool beat Shrewsbury Town 4-1 in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Sunday.

Thiago has missed the last three matches, raising fears the midfielder could be set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

Reds manager Klopp does not expect the Spain international to be out of action for too long, though.

Asked if Thiago could be out for the rest of the season, Klopp said: "No, neither March nor [the] end of the season is in my mind.

"It is something around the hip, that is the situation and it needs time now. He didn't train this week but we expect him to be back to do rehab stuff from tomorrow on and then we will see.

"No, it is not that he is out until the end of the season, not at all."

Klopp praised Kaide Gordon and was impressed with the way his Liverpool side fought back to set to an FA Cup fourth round time at home to Cardiff City.

Daniel Udoh gave the Shrews a shock lead, but their joy was short-lived on Merseyside.

Gordon became the second-youngest goalscorer in the Reds' history at the age of 17 years and 96 days, equalising with a clinical finish after taking a good touch to control the ball inside the penalty area.

Fabinho put Liverpool in front with a penalty just before half-time and struck again with the final kick of the game after Roberto Firmino came off the bench to find the back of the net with a cheeky backheel.

Klopp, back on the touchline following an absence due to his positive COVID-19 test, was not surprised to see former Derby County teenager Gordon make his mark.

He told BBC Sport: "He's a real talent and his main strength is his finishing."  

With Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita away at the Africa Cup of Nations, Liverpool were further depleted by the loss of Trent Alexander-Arnold to COVID-19 for the tie.

Elijah Dixon-Bonner and Max Woltman made their first senior starts as Klopp went with a mixture of youth and experience.

The German said: "We've trained since Friday pretty much and that is what we decided with this line-up. The boys really fought hard.

"When you get the first goal against you so many things can happen, but I liked the way we responded.

"We started with five really young boys. They are really good players. We played so many safety passes in the first half. We knew we could play better football in the second half."

Jurgen Klopp will take charge of Liverpool's FA Cup third-round tie with Shrewsbury Town at Anfield after recovering from coronavirus.

The Reds boss missed the 2-2 Premier League draw with Chelsea last weekend after testing positive for COVID-19.

However, assistant Peter Krawietz revealed on Saturday that Klopp was "feeling fine" and Liverpool have now confirmed the 54-year-old has been cleared to return to the dugout.

Klopp's right-hand man Pep Lijnders will be absent, however, as he continues his own stint in isolation after registering a positive test last week.

An "escalating number" of suspected COVID-19 cases forced Liverpool to shut their training centre last week.

Thursday's EFL Cup semi-final with Arsenal was subsequently postponed, but the clash with third-tier Shrewsbury will go ahead.

The Reds have progressed from nine of their last 10 FA Cup third-round ties, losing the other 2-1 against Wolves in 2018-19.

They have only lost two home games in the competition against sides outside the top-two tiers since joining the Football League in 1893 – Norwich City in 1908-09 and Bolton Wanderers in 1992-93.

 

Jurgen Klopp is feeling fine after recently contracting coronavirus and could return to the dugout for Liverpool's FA Cup third-round tie against Shrewsbury Town on Sunday.

The Reds boss missed the 2-2 Premier League draw with Chelsea last weekend after testing positive for COVID-19.

Liverpool assistant Pep Lijnders also tested positive on Wednesday amid an "escalating number" of suspected COVID-19 cases that forced the club to shut their training centre.

The Reds' EFL Cup semi-final with Arsenal on Thursday was subsequently postponed, but this weekend's clash with third-tier Shrewsbury will go ahead.

And one of Klopp's other right-hand men, Peter Krawietz, is hopeful the 54-year-old will be able to take charge of the match at Anfield.

"We hope he will be involved," Krawietz said. "He is fine. He has to do tests, but we hope he will be fine for tomorrow."

 

Alisson, Roberto Firmino and Joel Matip missed the draw with Chelsea after testing positive for coronavirus.

Krawietz was unwilling to divulge how many players Liverpool are without for the Shrewsbury tie, but admitted it has been tough to prepare for the game given the circumstances.

"I can't tell you exact numbers but obviously the situation is like that for the game tomorrow," he said. "We have a squad, we have a team and will try to win this game.

"It's a difficult situation out there. We had a couple of injuries, illness, COVID cases. This is the situation we have to deal with.

"We're still waiting on a few results with players who are not here today. They have to do their test before they can join the building. This is why I cannot give exact numbers.

"The training ground being shut means nobody could come here. We tried to stay in contact with our players during this period, just like we did in lockdown. 

"Everyone is on their own and, thanks to our great working department, we were able to find solutions for the players."

However, Krawietz did go on to confirm that centre-back Matip is now back in training after returning a negative test and may feature against Shrewsbury, fitness depending.

Liverpool have progressed from nine of their last 10 FA Cup third-round ties, losing the other 2-1 against Wolves in 2018-19.

The Reds have only lost two home games in the competition against sides outside the top-two tiers since joining the Football League in 1893 – Norwich City in 1908-09 and Bolton Wanderers in 1992-93.

But Krawietz, who will be the third different person to manage Liverpool in their last three games if Klopp and Lijnders are absent, is taking nothing for granted.

"Shrewsbury will tough because of their quality," he said. "They're a team who play proper football, want to attack, have strong strikers and a compact defensive formation. 

"They are a team that is well-managed, you can see that. They will have targets, and our situation is not ideal."

Jurgen Klopp railed at Paul Tierney after accusing the referee of blundering by failing to send off Harry Kane and snubbing Diogo Jota's penalty appeal in Liverpool's dramatic draw at Tottenham.

The Liverpool manager said the game needed "an objective ref" – a comment that could land him in trouble – and questioned if there was anything personal to read into Tierney's decisions.

"I have really no idea what his problem is with me," said Klopp, who spoke to the referee at half-time and full-time.

Former Borussia Dortmund boss Klopp was convinced Kane should have been ordered off for a first-half lunge on Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson, who was himself dismissed late in the game for fouling Emerson Royal, as the game finished in a 2-2 draw.

And Klopp was dismayed when Tierney refused to award Liverpool a spot-kick after Jota went over as Emerson and Davinson Sanchez slid in.

Addressing the incidents that left him frustrated during the game, and booked for his behaviour on the touchline, Klopp told Sky Sports: "Some of these questions, it is probably best to ask Mr Tierney what he thinks."

Asked whether the wild challenge by Kane, which earned the Tottenham striker a yellow card, should have resulted in a heavier punishment, Klopp said: "Definitely.

"We can give Robbo a red card... that's not the smartest challenge of his life, that's how it is, but that's definitely a red card [for Kane], no doubt about that.

"People will say his leg was in the air, but that's pure coincidence. Harry cannot judge that and if Robbo's leg is on the ground then it's a broken leg.

 "We have VAR sitting there and he looks again at the Robertson situation, fine, that's what he's there for. What did he do in that [Kane] situation?

"And the penalty situation with Diogo Jota, Mr Tierney told me he thinks Diogo stops on purpose because he wants the foul.

"First and foremost, if you want to shoot you have to stop because you cannot run and shoot in the same moment. It would always be helpful if you play football yourself in the past.

"When you see the situation back and the VAR's there, where is he stopping? You have two challenges against one player and the player's down. I don't understand that."

Reflecting on a pulsating game, Klopp added: "The draw is okay, we are not that crazy that we think we cannot draw at Tottenham, that's fine, but these situations are crucial; they are decisive situations.

"I have really no idea what his problem is with me. Honestly, I have no idea."

Klopp was without his first-choice three-man midfield due to COVID-19 and illness, along with powerhouse defender Virgil van Dijk, meaning Liverpool were majorly depleted for the clash in north London.

"You cannot expect us to play our best football game of the season. You have to fight through it and that's what the boys did and I'm really happy with that," Klopp said.

"Just we need an objective ref who sees the situation and judges them and not, like, opinions. He told me he thinks [Jota] stops on purpose. He had the best spot on the pitch, he was eight yards away and doesn't give it to him.

"I said, 'Boys, how is that? You have to ask him: what's his problem with me?'."

When Steven Gerrard was appointed Aston Villa boss at the start of November, there was one fixture fans, pundits and, possibly even Gerrard himself, will have immediately looked for.

Villa visit Liverpool on Saturday, as Gerrard makes his first managerial return to the club where he became a legend.

Gerrard won the Champions League, two FA Cups, three EFL Cups, the UEFA Cup and a European Super Cup across his Liverpool career. The Premier League title, of course, evaded him. His tally of 710 games in all competitions is the third-most in the club's history.

A first league title of his career did arrive last season, as manager of Rangers, who ended Celtic's quest for a 10th successive Scottish Premiership title.

Now, Gerrard heads back to his former stomping ground on the back of an impressive start with Villa. He has won three of his four matches in charge, losing only to Liverpool's title rivals Manchester City.

But history is not on Gerrard's side when it comes to former Liverpool greats going up against their former side at Anfield.

Ex-players managing against the Reds at Anfield in the Premier League have lost 14 of their last 16 visits (W1 D1), with the last win coming in 2003. Will Gerrard be able to buck that trend?

 

Return of the king(s)

Stats Perform has dived into Opta's archival data to assess how three great Liverpool players coped in their respective returns to Anfield as managers of opposition teams – Graeme Souness, Kevin Keegan and Kenny Dalglish. 

Those three club legends visited Anfield on 18 occasions in the Premier League, across a span of 16 years from 1992 to 2008. Between them, the trio managed just three wins.

Souness did not claim any victories from six trips back, across spells with Southampton, Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers. Indeed, five defeats and one draw (one point from a possible 18) makes his record the poorest of the three. His worst result was a 4-0 defeat with Blackburn in 2004.

Keegan also lost on five occasions at Anfield in the Premier League, but did claim two wins as well, guiding Newcastle to a 2-0 success in 1993-94 and earning a 2-1 triumph with Manchester City in May 2003.

However, Keegan's most memorable return to his former club was a defeat. In April 1996, with Newcastle fighting Alex Ferguson's Manchester United for the title, they went down 4-3 in a Premier League classic.

Stan Collymore scored a famous stoppage-time winner to deal an ultimately fatal blow to Newcastle's title challenge – the Magpies having squandered the 10-point lead they held at Christmas.

 

Just under a year before, in May 1995, 'King' Kenny Dalglish took his Blackburn side to Anfield needing a win to guarantee the Premier League crown. They were also going up against United in the title tussle.

Liverpool had little to play for. They were already sure of a European place and a victory would mean United could win the title by beating West Ham.

"The only thing in our minds that afternoon, though, was winning the game," ex-Liverpool midfielder Jamie Redknapp told the Reds' website. "We're professionals and we want to win every game we play."

Liverpool did indeed inflict a 2-1 defeat on their former player-manager, who won three First Division titles in his first spell at the club, with Redknapp scoring a stunning winner. 

"It was one of the strangest moments of my life on a football field," Redknapp said. Fortunately for Dalglish, Blackburn and Liverpool's fans, the Reds' win did not hand United the title, with Ferguson's team only able to draw with the Hammers.

That loss was one of four Dalglish suffered at Anfield as an opposition manager. He claimed one win, in 1993.

Remarkably, Dalglish took Newcastle to Anfield in the 1996-97 season and, just under a year on from Keegan's famous defeat on Merseyside, the Magpies again lost 4-3. Steve McManaman, Robbie Fowler and Patrik Berger got the goals for Liverpool.

The new kid on the block

Gerrard will have to ignore the history books heading into this one, but he should not head to Anfield with in fear.

Villa have made an impressive start under their new manager. Across their four league games under Gerrard, they have scored 7 goals, with only four teams (Liverpool, Manchester City, Watford and Chelsea) netting more in that time.

They may have only created 34 chances, ranking them 12th in the league, but their nine opportunities crafted from set-pieces during Gerrard's first few weeks puts them second in the competition behind Watford (12).

 

That average of 2.25 chances from set-pieces per game under Gerrard is an improvement on the 1.6 each match across Dean Smith's his 10 Premier League games in charge this term, while the new-look Villa have also managed seven shots from set-piece situations already, the joint-most in the league.

Villa's defending has also improved. Whereas the Villans' defence was the third-poorest in the competition throughout the opening 10 top-flight matches (19 conceded), Gerrard's side have only let in four goals.

While Liverpool are in excellent form – even if they did only snatch a 1-0 win in the dying embers against Wolves – Gerrard can return with confidence.

And given he is often cited as a Liverpool manager in the making, this could be the first of several auditions for the Anfield hot seat.

Jurgen Klopp hailed his record-breaking Liverpool following their 2-1 win over Milan as the Reds made it six wins from six games in the Champions League.

Liverpool became the first English team to win all six Champions League group-stage games in a single season thanks to Tuesday's triumph at San Siro.

Despite only Alisson, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane retaining their places in the starting XI from last week's Premier League win at Wolves, Liverpool still preserved their perfect record in Group B.

Salah and Divock Origi struck to cancel out Fikayo Tomori's 28th-minute opener in Milan, where Liverpool were already assured of the knockout phase pre-match.

 "Honestly, I don't feel pride a lot in football because most of the time I expect good things to happen, to be honest, but tonight fills me with a lot of pride," Klopp told reporters post-match.

"It was an exceptional performance. I don't mean that because we won six games, the reason is especially this game because it was so good. With that many changes, it's easy for me to make the changes, but in the end, the boys have to then be confident enough to show how good they are.

"I saw so many good football things tonight, it was absolutely incredible. As a side effect, we won all the games, which is absolutely incredible and is just another chapter in the history of this wonderful group of players."

Salah scored his 20th goal of the season in all competitions for Liverpool, in his 21st appearance – he the first player to score 20-plus goals in five consecutive campaigns for the Reds since Ian Rush (six between 1981-82 and 1986-87).

Liverpool's Salah has been involved in 29 goals in all competitions this season (20 goals, nine assists), more than twice as many as any other Premier League player.

Origi, meanwhile, scored his first goal in 15 Champions League games, since netting the Reds' second in their 2-0 final victory over Tottenham in June 2019.

"In football, it's all about: again and again giving everything," Origi said. "The results come by doing the right things at the right time in the right moment. Being in the moment.

"Of course, for the outside world there's a lot of speculation but for us it's having training from tomorrow – recovery – then training again and again and again. At the end of the season, we'll see how we end – but obviously, we want to end in the highest way possible."

Jurgen Klopp has questioned what more Robert Lewandowski could have done to win the Ballon d'Or after the Bayern Munich striker missed out on the award.

Lionel Messi scooped the accolade for a seventh time on Monday, but many felt this would be Lewandowski's time to take the glory.

Klopp benefited from the brilliance of Lewandowski when both men were at Borussia Dortmund, with the Poland international scoring 103 goals before switching to Bayern.

At club level, Lewandowski has scored 53 goals already in 2021, with six assists taking him to 59 goal involvements, the most in Europe's top five leagues.

Messi sits fifth on that list (32 goals, 12 assists) but helped Argentina to win the Copa America, thereby winning one of the few trophies that had eluded him.

That likely tipped the vote his way, with Messi's form since leaving Barcelona to join Paris Saint-Germain in August having so far been sketchy by his mercurial standards.

Asked initially whether he was surprised there were six players who ranked higher than Liverpool's Mohamed Salah, Klopp said: "I was surprised to be honest, but it's not in my hands. If you think he should be higher up, then you'll have to convince your colleagues."

Then Klopp turned his focus to Lewandowski, a player he once described as the best he has ever coached. Lewandowski was second to Messi for the coveted Ballon d'Or, which is voted for by journalists from across the world.

The 33-year-old scored 41 Bundesliga goals last season, breaking a record for the most in the division that was previously held by Gerd Muller.

"I think that you always can give it to Lionel Messi for the career he has and the footballer he is, all these kinds of things, but if you don't give it to Robert Lewandowski this time then it's quite tricky to get it at all," said the Liverpool boss.

"And yes, Mo definitely should have been high up."

 

Lewandowski would also have been a frontrunner in 2020, only for organisers France Football to cancel the awards due to the impact of the COVID-19 enforced break in the football year.

He managed 57 goals involvements (45 goals, 12 assists) in 2020, which was 10 more than Cristiano Ronaldo (41 goals, 6 assists), who had the second-most in the elite leagues, and 12 ahead of Messi (26 goals, 19 assists).

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