Go behind the scenes of Liverpool's pre-Chelsea session on Thursday with Inside Training.
The Reds are now building towards their opening fixture of 2022: a trip to Stamford Bridge in the Premier League this Sunday.
Their latest workout included rondos, small-sided games and a stunning finish from Andy Robertson. Take a look in the video here.
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A four-part drama series will air on ITV next week, telling the incredible story of Anne Williams, who lost their 15-year-old son, Kevin, in the Hillsborough disaster.
Anne, who passed away in 2013, campaigned tirelessly for justice for her son and the other victims of the disaster, including presenting her case to the European Court of Human Rights.
The initial inquest had ruled that Kevin was dead by 3.15pm, the so-called cut-off time the coroner had given. But Anne was certain that her son was alive as late as 4pm and that he, and others, could have been saved.
Williams found the evidence, which was later used in the Hillsborough Independent Panel report in 2012 and subsequently saw the Attorney General overrule the initial verdict of accidental death in December 2012.
In 2016, three years after William’s death due to cancer, the resulting public inquiry and inquest ruled that Kevin and 95 others (now 97 in total) were unlawfully killed at Hillsborough.
The drama, from the creators of BBC’s Line of Duty, runs on four consecutive evenings from Sunday, January 2 to Wednesday, January 5 (9pm).
An additional documentary on Thursday 6 January (9pm) is called The Real Anne: Unfinished Business.
A mural (below) commemorating Williams was created near Anfield last year.
FTFull Time AETAfter Extra Time LIVEThis is a live match. ETExtra Time HTHalf Time
Chelsea vs Liverpool. Premier League.
4:30pm, Sunday 2nd January 2022.
Stamford BridgeAttendance: Attendance40,072.Chelsea 2
Having only left Liverpool in August, Xherdan Shaqiri could be set for another transfer in the near future, with claims that Lyon are already looking to sell.
When Shaqiri told Jurgen Klopp he was looking to move on after three years on Merseyside, the manager was resolved not to stand in his way.
As the Reds continue to evolve, and Shaqiri neared his 30th birthday, the decision was made to sanction a sale and bank up to £9.5 million as he joined Lyon.
Lyon announced the deal as being worth an initial €6 million, with a further €5 million to be paid in various add-ons, while he is claimed to have become their highest earner.
But four months and 13 games later, and it is reported that Lyon are already seeking a transfer for their big-money attacking midfielder.
That is according to L’Equipe, with it claimed that the Ligue 1 club are “very attentive to offers” as they look to raise money in a bid to sign Zenit St Petersburg’s Sardar Azmoun.
Get French Football News relay that Shaqiri earns around £300,000 a month, which they described as a “frankly ridiculous expense for a club in financial difficulty.”
GFFN adds: “Especially when the Swiss player’s performances have been poor and Peter Bosz is barely giving the ex-Liverpool man a start.”
Shaqiri has only started two of the last nine games in all competitions for Lyon, though he did assist the opening goal in a 2-2 draw with Bordeaux during that time.
So far, the Swiss has one goal and two assists to show for his 13 outings, but it seems as though the feeling surrounding his move to France has already soured.
He is not the only player to have left Liverpool in the summer only to find himself in a worse position, with Gini Wijnaldum struggling to settle at Paris Saint-Germain.
The Dutchman has made 22 appearances for the Ligue 1 giants, and has recently found himself back in starting contention, but earlier in December, Sky Sports claimed he was “open to” a loan back to the Premier League.
It is highly unlikely Liverpool would consider a reunion with either Wijnaldum or Shaqiri.
The Reds have now reached the halfway point in the campaign and sit second in the Premier League, having taken 41 points from their first 19 games.
They boast a goal difference (+34) at least 25 higher than any club outside of the top three, with their return double that of bottom side Norwich (-34).
But Liverpool came out of their Tuesday night trip to the King Power despondent, with genuine concerns over whether their title race was already run.
“It was not our plan to give City the chance to run away,” Klopp explained after Ademola Lookman’s goal consigned the Reds to defeat.
“If we play like tonight we cannot think about catching up with City.
“If we play our football and we can win games, we can see how many points we can get and what that means.”
While Klopp insisted that his “main concern” is “not City,” but to find “a proper explanation for tonight,” the focus in the aftermath of this loss is undoubtedly the gulf between first and second.
Though the postponement of the Boxing Day clash with Leeds skews the table, Liverpool reached the halfway mark six points behind the league leaders.
No problem, right? As Virgil van Dijk said: “We’re in December. The season is so, so long. Anything can happen.”
As recent history shows, though, it will be a much tougher task to reduce their deficit and overtake City than it would have been in seasons gone by.
If they keep up that form, which is easy to imagine, City will end the campaign with 94 points; if Liverpool maintain their course, they will finish with 82.
Incredibly, that 94-point tally would be the second-lowest produced by a Premier League champion in each of the last five seasons.
City would have won four of the last five campaigns, then, with an average of 95 points per season.
That includes the 42-game campaigns of 1992/93, 1993/94 and 1994/95, during which period an average of 88 points was required to top the table.
The current English top flight has been running in a 38-game format since 1994, and in the 22 seasons between then and 2017/18, the champions averaged 86 points.
Man United (twice), Arsenal (once) and Chelsea (three times) have all taken 90+ points, but those seasons are very much an outlier: the lowest title-winning tally was just 75, when United lifted the trophy in 1996/97.
It all changed, though, with the appointment of Guardiola at the Etihad in 2016, and the strengthening of City’s financial grip of football.
Guardiola deemed it a “failure” to end his maiden season without a trophy, but since then he has picked up eight major trophies including three Premier League titles – with City on course to clinch another this time around.
In reality, those figures could be much, much higher at the Etihad.
At least publically, Klopp and his players have never looked to use the spending power of their main title rivals as an excuse – more so, it serves as a motivational tactic, painting Liverpool as perennial underdogs.
But the strength and quality in depth available to Guardiola means that every point dropped is almost a disaster, and three dropped at the King Power makes a mountain to climb.
“It is really tricky to be ahead of them.
“So far at least we are not completely out of reach, it’s not at the absolute no chance anymore but of course, you know City will not drop a lot of points so you better not drop points yourself.”
The irony in those comments coming ahead of only the second loss of the season will not be lost on Klopp, nor will it that it was Leicester – who had lost 6-3 to City two days previous and made five changes to their lineup in between – who inflicted that defeat.
Leicester have suffered with both COVID-19 and injuries throughout this festive period, with two of their fixtures postponed so far, and their plight is shared by almost every other club.
There is certainly an element of luck to this, but it also highlights the exceptional depth available to Liverpool’s two title rivals and City in particular.
While other games are postponed because clubs cannot name 14 eligible players, City can afford to drop Jack Grealish and Phil Foden for disciplinary reasons, while also sanctioning Ferran Torres’ January move to Barcelona.
On the face of it, while Klopp can call upon 11 world-class players and a more-than-capable band of deputies, Guardiola invariably has two or three genuine game-changers on his bench at any one time.
Riyad Mahrez, Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne are among City’s four most subbed-on players in the league, and each could at least contend for a starting spot at Anfield.
With Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi currently injured, just over a week before the tournament kicks off in Cameroon, Klopp could be desperately short of attackers at a time when his side cannot afford to drop any more points.
The landscape of the Premier League – in a global pandemic, with one major tournament held midway through this season and another, the ridiculous World Cup in Qatar, held halfway through the next – makes the achievements of Klopp’s condensed squad all the more impressive.
It is simply unfortunate that they have found themselves up against the richest, strongest and most consistent side in Premier League history.
Such quips are indicative of a man who, according to those who work closest with him, knows when it is a moment for humour and when it is time for hard work.
It is an approach that has helped him to make a remarkable impact — even if it also inspired one player to label him as being like a “funny uncle”.
Cooper has been at the helm for three months and the transformation he has overseen has seen Forest go from fighting relegation to pushing for the play-offs. Fans have gone from despair to daring to dream and the style of play has been transformed.
Hughton struggled to forge any kind of bond with the Forest fans. Cooper’s fist-pumping celebrations with fans have already become a trademark.
There is unity, there is belief and there is hope. And much of it stems from one man.
The Welshman, 42, arrived in Nottingham with a solid reputation, built on the back of consecutive top-six finishes in the Championship in what was his first role in senior management with Swansea. Cooper, who had also coached at youth level with Wrexham, Liverpool and England, was no stranger to the Forest players, who had seen him in the opposition dugout. But there was still an element of the unknown.
“There is a tiny bit of pressure,” Lewis Grabban tells The Athletic when asked what it is like on the first day under a new boss. “For me, it is slightly different because I am a senior player here. I have seen this before. But there is still pressure, you want to have a good first few training sessions and show the new boss what you have got. Cooper certainly did that with the players.”
From day one, Cooper began a series of one-to-one meetings with his new squad. He wanted to know what made them tick.
It's advantage Man City at the end of 2021 - but where do Chelsea and Liverpool stand after the recent round of Premier League games?
In a pivotal midweek, which saw Liverpool lose at Leicester and Chelsea pegged back by a last-minute equaliser by Brighton, Manchester City pulled eight points clear at the top of the table with a 1-0 win at Brentford.
Chelsea are second, with Liverpool nine points behind Pep Guardiola's side, with a game in hand - although that gap could stretch further before Chelsea and Liverpool meet on Super Sunday.
Here, we run through the contenders, their festive schedules, injury lists, stats and more...Analysis of the midweek results: Man City take control as Chelsea, Liverpool falter
Sky Sports' Adam Bate on Liverpool
Jurgen Klopp's finely-tuned machine was not functioning as it should have done in Leicester. The space was out wide for Liverpool but the midfielders were too slow to find it. When they did, the delivery from the flanks was not quite what it should have been.
Chances were still created but when they were, they were wasted. Most notably by Mohamed Salah in squandering the chance to score from the spot but there was also a huge miss by Sadio Mane and a series of half-chances spurned by the wasteful Diogo Jota.
Fatigue should not have been a factor and Klopp appreciated the irony of losing to a team that had played on Boxing Day given his fixture complaints. But the feeling persists that the sheer relentlessness required to keep pace with Manchester City has caught up with them.FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Leicester’s win against Liverpool in the Premier League.
Sky Sports' Lewis Jones on Chelsea
Chelsea were three points clear of Liverpool and four points ahead of Manchester City after 12 Premier League games at the end of November.
They now trail leaders City by eight points and are just one ahead of Liverpool having played a game more.
The west Londoners have gone from 15/8 shots with Sky Bet for the title all the way out to 16/1. And there won't be many takers at that price considering Manchester City's form, and Chelsea's for that matter. Despite only losing their lead in stoppage time vs Brighton, they were second best for large parts to a team who pressed efficiently, passed intelligently and looked more confident than their supposed title challenging rivals.
Such is the relentless pace at the top of the Premier League, you simply can't afford to go through a spell of winning just four out of 10 games like Chelsea have. In the blink of an eye, the title has slipped out of their grasp.
Sustaining attacks and creating quality chances is becoming a real problem for Thomas Tuchel, who cut a frustrated figure in his media duties after dropping yet more points. Their lack of sustained, quality attacks can be showcased through an expected goals figure of just 0.67 in the 1-1 draw.
Romelu Lukaku's goal came from a set-piece, as did most of Chelsea's chances. Remember this is a team that against Arsenal on the second week of the season created 18 chances from open play in one fixture. Such is their current malaise, they have created a total of 18 chances from open play in their last three fixtures combined against Brighton, Aston Villa and Wolves.
It was the same story in the 3-2 win over Leeds where two Jorginho penalties got them out of jail and papered over the cracks of their lack of cutting edge in the final third. This is now more than just a blip for Tuchel and Chelsea. They have questions to answer.FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Chelsea’s draw with Brighton in the Premier League.
Sky Sports' Ben Grounds on Man City
The title contenders are fine teams but are made to look like they have too many flaws, when up against this runaway City train. Here, they were at their ruthlessly efficient best, scoring through Phil Foden 56 seconds after Joao Cancelo had cleared the ball off his own goal line.
'Boring, boring City' sang the Brentford fans as their opponents stroked the ball around in the closing stages. Boring, maybe. But given the Liverpool and Chelsea results over the past 24 hours or so, a win here was extremely valuable to City in the bigger scheme of things.
They roll on, perhaps over the hill now in the title race.FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester City’s win against Brentford in the Premier League. How the table stands
Man City are pulling away, with an eight-point gap between them and second-placed Chelsea. Third-placed Liverpool have a game in hand so could close that difference to six points - but Guardiola's side are in control now.The title chase Current form: City pulling away?
Ten in a row for City and they're in ominous form.
As for Liverpool, they followed up their draw at Tottenham with defeat and failed to score for the first time in 29 Premier League games.
Chelsea have drawn three of their last four.Festive fixtures: Crunch Super Sunday clash
Live Renault Super SundaySunday 2nd January 4:00pm
It's all eyes on Stamford Bridge for the Super Sunday match-up between Chelsea and Liverpool, live on Sky Sports.
Guardiola and his City players will be watching that one with interest. Incredibly they could be 11 points ahead of Chelsea by that point, with their next match against Arsenal coming on Saturday lunchtime.
With the way this fixture has fallen, we could see Chelsea or Liverpool knock their opposition out of the title race altogether, while a draw would only really suit City at this stage.Top scorers and creators
Liverpool dominate the top of the goals, shots assists and chances created standings...Injury lists Who could be off to AFCON?
The Africa Cup of Nations will run from January 9 to February 6, with 40 Premier League players potentially being called up for duty for the tournament in Cameroon.
Those called up to AFCON could miss at least one Premier League round (weekend of January 15/16), the FA Cup third round (weekend of January 8) and the Carabao Cup semi-finals (w/c January 3 and January 10) in the best-case scenario.
However, depending on when clubs release their players, and how fit they are on return, in the worst case, players could miss more Premier League rounds, both Carabao Cup semi-finals and both the FA Cup third and fourth rounds.Watch title race unfold on Sky Sports
Sunday January 2: Chelsea vs Liverpool, kick-off 4.30pm
Saturday January 22: Southampton vs Manchester City, kick-off 5.30pm
Sunday January 23: Crystal Palace vs Liverpool, kick-off 2pm
Sunday January 23: Chelsea vs Tottenham, kick-off 4.30pm
As things turned out on Tuesday night, there was a subtly inverted air of comeuppance once again, just with a massively frustrating punchline.
Liverpool were the conductors of their own downfall at the King Power. A game which sat in the palm of their hand, Jurgen Klopp’s players failed to clench their fist, and the chance to grasp three utterly vital points was thrown away, rather than lost.
Some people contend that Brendan Rodgers cost us the Premier League title in 2013/14, but in reality, he has done infinitely more damage to our 2021/22 hopes than he ever did eight years ago.
Not the ideal way to end a testing year – six points adrift of the leaders, a trip to Stamford Bridge up next and a visit to the Etihad to navigate somewhere or other over the horizon – if Liverpool turn it around from here, then it will arguably be Klopp’s greatest moment.
Modern, contemporary football dictates that any hint of carelessness can end designs on glory in the blink of an eye.
A tough run of games and a Boxing Day postponement on one hand, with just two league reversals at the turn of the year, in black-and-white terms nobody should be fatalistic about our hopes, but the mountain has certainly grown exponentially across the Christmas period, and football isn’t black and white.
A couple of weeks ago, on the back of two points dropped away to Tottenham, to a degree of eyebrow-raising I suggested that we had backed ourselves into a corner that we would have to claw our way out of.
At the time, the points differential wasn’t massively significant, but the minefield which lay in wait was.
For varying reasons, we haven’t added a single point to our league situation since the injustices of north London, and that six-point gap will likely become a nine-point chasm before 2021 hands the baton on to 2022.
An ugly distance to be travelling to Chelsea with, these were weeks in which we needed to be sticking in there and doing the trans-mundane, maybe even ugly things to make sure we had plenty to play for by the time the FA Cup third round weekend rolled into view.
Stubbornness was required in the second half of December, and it just hasn’t happened.
Games like the one on Tuesday night don’t come along very often. A missed penalty, an array of excellent opportunities spurned and a goal conceded to our opponents’ only effort on target.
It was an insult of a football match, but not a result in which we should be shaking our fists at a lack of fortune.
You make your own luck, and Klopp refused the media’s invitation to cling on to a narrative of his team being conspired against, not just against Leicester, but across the panorama of the last fortnight.
Football happens, and you must adapt to the cards you are dealt.
Liverpool, under Klopp, have been the masters of dealing with the uneven playing field, be it the resources available to build a team of great purpose with, or the slings and arrows of misfortune.
The 2021/22 Premier League is now a very tilted playing field, and the next 19 games will skim by in no time at all. Liverpool will learn a lot about themselves, and they may not necessarily like some of the questions raised, nor the answers settled upon.
Liverpool’s predicament is going to be a battle of mind over matter. We know the talent they possess; we know the magnificence they are capable of, and this is what made Tuesday night so painful.
The three points dropped is one thing, but the manner of the giveaway is another thing entirely.
Precarious days lay ahead, and there needs to be a riposte at Stamford Bridge. Stomach in, chest out, and a display of substance to go along with the style.
Of course, there is harshness in the words being showered on Liverpool right now. After all, this is a team that has just failed to register a league goal for the first time in 29 games, yet the demands of modern-day Premier League success are far more exacting than they were even a decade ago.
There is no scope for carelessness, and it is carelessness that has proved to be our projected downfall this season.
Be it an inability to beat a 10-man Chelsea, a mad 3-3 draw at Brentford, advantage thrown away against City, gifting Brighton a point, losing at West Ham after clawing our way back to level terms, giving away a 2-1 lead at Tottenham, or defeat against a Leicester side that had conceded nine goals in their last two games.
You can’t win them all, but Liverpool have been careless too many times this season. Focus is required, and sharpish.
Fair to say, we’re not ending the year on the high we had hoped to following a defeat at Leicester – but the word from Anfield is about a strong response which is all we can hope for now.Keita’s team-mate to be watched during AFCON
We’ve been linked with Aguibou Camara for a while now and we’re set to place some heavy emphasis for our eventual decision on how he fares at a major tournament.
Olympiacos are willing to raise his price above €15m if he performs well, which is a risk for those hoping to sign him, but if we learn more about him in a key environment then perhaps it’ll be worthwhile.
Or maybe we’ve no plans to make a move for him anyway, who knows – we ‘monitor’ dozens of players, after all!Reds know a big reaction is a must
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Cracking thread and some mega memories, enjoy!
Top 3 Liverpool images of 2021?
Here’s mine. pic.twitter.com/q7cebwPy5w
— K. SHORTY (@KeithLFC6) December 24, 2021
Ademola Lookman’s second-half winner condemned the Reds to just their second defeat of the season.
Boss Jurgen Klopp believes his men can forget about catching City if they drop their standards and Van Dijk wants the squad to focus on themselves.
The defender told the club’s official website: “Things can change there. There is no point for us to look at them or look at Chelsea or the teams around us at this point in the season – and we won’t.
“We should look at our performance. We have to improve and take it with us into the next game. We all wanted to do better, that’s a fact and unfortunately, we weren’t good enough.
“I think they deserved the win, but it was obviously down to us. We were poor in the last third, in my opinion.
“It was just overall not a good performance and obviously they didn’t create much, but they looked dangerous on the break, which is what they are obviously good at.
“So credit to them and we have to look at ourselves. Everyone has to look in the mirror and improve and that’s what we will do. That’s part of football as well.”
“This week’s been such a tough week. You’ll struggle to find a harder week in world football, playing Liverpool twice and Man City,” midfielder Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall told the club website.
“It’s just a momentous effort from everybody to regroup, dust ourselves down and go again, basically 48 hours after playing Man City.
“It’s such a rewarding win. Everyone’s so happy and there’s some tired legs in there but that’s what you have to do to beat teams like Liverpool.
“We know what Liverpool are going to bring. They’re a very attacking team and they’re very talented.
“It’s a great save by Kasper to keep it (Salah’s penalty) out and that lifted the crowd and they were great because we need them, especially with quick turnarounds.”
Liverpool’s latest run without a defeat ended in lacklustre fashion as Leicester landed a sucker punch that the Reds never recovered from, leaving a lot of points to make up for.
It left Klopp to say that “there were too many performances below normal level,” and that is never conducive to the results Liverpool need in the title race.
BEN: I think a few might place a lot of emphasis on either Mo Salah’s penalty miss or Sadio Mane squandering that crucial opportunity, but I was more disappointed in the overall reaction to going a goal behind.
We were unrecognisable at times, with our normal never-say-die mentality lacking and the high tempo pressure absent. We’ve played with such decisiveness of late that teams have been getting torn apart with the speed and accuracy of our ferocious football, but at Leicester, it resembled the opposite – indecisive, especially in attack and at times, lethargic.
JOANNA: I certainly agree with that, Ben. I thought the body language throughout the squad was woeful and so far and away from what we usually see and expect from this team.
We were looking as though we had played 48 hours earlier and not the other way around, there just wasn’t anyone looking to take the game on aside from Joel Matip and that said everything.
BEN: I also felt that we really didn’t capitalise from set-pieces, which has been widely highlighted as one of Leicester’s weaknesses and yet, many were either overhit or out-swinging which didn’t play to our attributes.
Klopp’s honest post-match assessment actually made me feel positive, by recognising (and not sugar-coating) how we lacked our normal identity and calmness.
DAVID: For me, there’s only one place to start and it’s the gilt-edged chances.
Salah’s penalty was poor, and the rebound was agonising to watch. This was his worst game of the season, and he didn’t really have an impact against Spurs either, but it goes without saying that he has plenty of credit in the bank.
Mane, on the other hand, has become a serious worry. I felt coming into this game that his goal drought had gone slightly under the radar, but that miss brings it into sharp focus. As far as I remember, he started the season fairly strongly, making last year look like a blip, but after this stretch, it seems like he may well have peaked after all.
JOANNA: And a word for the defending for their goal, terrible. The initial defending from Trent and Henderson was sloppy at best, they twice let the runner go and left Matip to deal with it.
DAVID: Adding to that Joanna, Liverpool only gave up six shots and Lookman’s goal was the solitary effort on target. The counter-press in the opposition’s half is largely very effective, but on the rare occasions it’s bypassed, we’re so vulnerable.
It seems like all it takes is a fairly simple movement or combination, and you’re in. Overall, the balance doesn’t feel quite right.
And finally, I have to mention the clearly audible chants of ‘feed the scousers’, ‘sign on’ and ‘always the victims’. It was genuinely horrible. I just want to hear one broadcaster call it out.What does that result do to the title race?
DAVID: There’s no denying that this was a damaging defeat. I for one expected a pretty comfortable night given Leicester’s defensive frailties, which had been compounded by the injuries they’ve suffered.
Six points is a lot, but it’s not over. City are on the kind of run many of us were expecting at some point of the season, but this is the strongest Premier League in history, so I’m hopeful that it won’t be the kind of juggernaut we saw in 17/18, 18/19 or even last season.
I’m not hugely optimistic, but it’s worth saying that the situation could look very different in a month’s time.
BEN: In terms of the title race, I actually think it’s nowhere near a foregone conclusion at this point, and although a disappointing result, there’ll be plenty of points dropped from Manchester City and Chelsea.
I understand the reactiveness on social media to a point, because we’ve been here before and against such an unrelenting opponent, there’s little room for error.
Although, we’ve lost the same amount of times as them and the only difference is a few draws, which suggests this title race can remain very close until its conclusion. I mean, Chelsea were deemed favourites early on and haven’t been excluded from this title race, yet have the exact same points deficit as us. Never say never with Liverpool is all I’ll say.
JOANNA: We’re up against a competitor that demands nothing but near perfection to run them close, a competitor that shows no mercy for nights such as these.
We’re still not in 2022 and you cannot definitively say the title race is, in fact, over, but it is a major dent in our bid as we could very well be 12 points behind by the time we next kick a ball.
Man City could go through a rough patch but we’d need to be able to capitalise and we’ll be asked enough questions over the coming month without three players due to AFCON.
If we needed near-perfection before, we need nothing but straight up perfection now as the margin for error just got smaller. It’s not over until it’s over though.
DAVID: You do feel, though, that Liverpool can’t really afford to drop further back, and so they’ll need to win at Chelsea this weekend. They’ll probably need to win at City too, something they haven’t done when both teams have been competing for the title.
Having said that, winning both those fixtures might not mean all that much if there are more Brighton/Brentford/Leicester-like results to come. We got 41 points from the first half of the season. We’ll need considerably more from the second.And the trip to Chelsea just became that much more important…
BEN: The Chelsea game was already such a significant game in the context of this title race, but now it’s absolutely crucial that we take maximum points.
Regarding team selection, I would only make minimal changes, with Thiago coming in, pending on his fitness. I believe his precise passing and ability to control the midfield would be the ideal antidote against Chelsea.
As much as I’d like to see Naby Keita start, I think Klopp will opt for Jordan Henderson and Fabinho, plus ideally Thiago for a more robust midfield – although, Keita is a great option off the bench in a game like this.
Finally, I think an argument could be made to either revert back to the original front-three of Mane, Firmino and Salah or play Diogo Jota on the left in place of Mane. Would love nothing more than seeing Firmino facilitating the false-nine role, dropping in-and-out of the midfield and causing mayhem with his pressing and interplay.
This might read as slightly idealistic, but losing to Leicester could and should be used as extra motivation for the clash with Chelsea. Let the pundits criticise, let the fans doubt, let them all underestimate this team. A big performance and win would disprove them all.
JOANNA: Not that it wasn’t before, but it’s huge. There can be no dropped points as come kick-off we could find ourselves 12 points behind City.
I definitely agree with you Ben, that should Thiago be fit, he’s straight into XI and then you have an argument for switching Firmino with Jota, in my mind, after a quiet and ineffective night at Leicester for the No. 20 – although that could be said of most of his teammates!
We’re usually pretty good at bouncing back straight away so, hopefully, this time is no different!
DAVID: As you say Ben and Joanna, hopefully, Thiago is back. I think we’ll all feel much more confident if he’s fit. Thiago for Ox would leave us with near enough our strongest line-up (Tsimikas certainly isn’t too much of a downgrade on Robertson).
You could certainly make the case for dropping Mane, but I’m not sure how much faith I have in Roberto Firmino either. And if restoring him means moving Jota away from the centre forward position, it may not be worth it.
While Jurgen Klopp‘s squad is currently unhampered by Covid bar an unnamed youngster and two staff members, daily testing will continue in order to detect positive cases.
For Arsenal, however, their preparations are troubled by Arteta’s absence, after the Spaniard contracted Covid for the second time.
Arteta’s initial case sparked the suspension of English football back in March 2020, and though this time the situation is seen as less of a concern, it represents a major blow to the Gunners.
The manager will now be required to isolate for seven days, which could see him return to work the day before the League Cup semi-final.
It also rules Arteta out for Arsenal‘s clash with title favourites Man City on New Year’s Day, which could be seen as a setback for Liverpool as they look to challenge Pep Guardiola’s side this season.
There is a chance that Arteta’s isolation is cut from seven days to five, with the government facing calls to follow US health officials in reducing the quarantine required for asymptomatic cases.
But either way, his absence for training sessions could have a big impact on the League Cup semi-final – the second leg of which is to be held at Anfield on January 13.
Liverpool FC is deeply saddened by the passing of former player Steve Peplow.
Peplow, who joined the club as an apprentice in 1964, made three first-team appearances for the Reds.
The Scouser signed professional terms with Liverpool at the start of 1966 and was a prolific goalscorer for the reserves.
Having bagged 19 goals for the reserves in 1968-69, the forward earned opportunities with Bill Shankly's senior team in the following campaign.
He made his debut for the club at Anfield in a 2-0 win over West Ham United in November 1969 – the first match televised in colour on the BBC's Match of the Day – and then started the next two matches.
A loan to Swindon Town in 1970-71 turned into a permanent move, before Peplow enjoyed spells at Nottingham Forest, Mansfield Town and Tranmere Rovers, where he made 272 appearances.
The thoughts of everyone at LFC are with Steve’s family and friends at this time.
RIP Steve Peplow, 1949-2021
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Diogo Jota combined to send Mane scampering clear of Timothy Castagne shortly after the break. It should have been the moment when the heavily depleted hosts’ stubborn resistance was ended.
Mane had time to pick his spot but, inexplicably, with the net gaping he lifted his shot over the bar. It was a shocking miss at a pivotal moment. Just five minutes later Ademola Lookman showed him the way as he punished some shoddy defending with a clinical finish.
This was a night when standards slipped alarmingly in all departments as Liverpool’s title challenge suffered a major setback. The intensity and rhythm was non-existent, they moved the ball too slowly, the number of careless errors was off the scale and the decision making was appalling. No-one was blameless.
“We were just not good enough,” admitted Klopp. “We played a really bad game so it was well deserved for Leicester. There were so many performances below our normal level.
Liverpool brought the curtain down on 2021 with an awful defeat at Leicester, with uncharacteristic misses blighting our hopes of closing the gap at the top.Leicester City 1-0 Liverpool
Premier League, King Power Stadium
Tuesday 28 December, 2021
Goals: Lookman 59′Virg and Fab return…
Klopp welcomed back his Nos. 3 and 4 for the trip and can be pleased with both overall.
For Virgil van Dijk, it took 28 minutes for his first real test as Vardy looked to streak in behind. Big Virg had time to glare at the assistant, put on the afterburners, make a fierce block and turn again to the official – who by then had got the message and duly flagged for offside anyway.
He did not, however, cover himself in glory (or Matip, or Trent, or Henderson) for Lookman’s goal, failing to block the angle or close down enough.
Fabinho was slightly different, and it’s something we’ve seen before from the Brazilian: after a stint out of the side he can take a couple of games to regain rhythm and timing in the pass and tackle.
It was a little quicker this time thankfully – about half an hour.
Twice early on his loose touches led to losing possession and committing a foul which may have seen him booked, while a couple of times he was slightly slow in adjusting to a team-mate and again saw the Reds lose the ball as a result.
Then he woke up before the break when the Foxes started to dominate a bit and made three really important tackles and interceptions.
All back to normal until he was subbed on 63′ in a pre-planned change. Didn’t get booked, which would’ve ruled him out of Sunday at Chelsea.Salah and Mane: One game left
Worth considering what happens next for Liverpool, with Mane and Salah off to AFCON duty after our next game with Chelsea.
Salah hasn’t quite been in clinical form as usual of late, exemplified by when he won and missed a penalty on 15 minutes.
There was plenty of effort, a few dribbles and some attempts to combine down the right, but all told it was a bit of a low-key first hour other than the penalty.
Sadio Mane was a lot more involved and no better with his end product.
There’s a debate going on in TIA Towers recently as to how good or otherwise he has been this term, and whether he has enough effect on matches – particularly end product. A skied effort when through on goal after 55 minutes didn’t help one side of the argument, that’s for sure.
But even with neither in golden form: has anyone else looked like stepping up enough over the next month?Not enough guile against a fragile defence
This is of course partly to do with that forward duo, but far from just pointing at them.
Diogo Jota missed a couple of chances to make an earlier pass, Jordan Henderson‘s decision-making to consistently volley from range was abysmal and the delivery from wide was arguably the poorest it has been all season.
Against a defence that has been repeatedly breached of late (including six times at Man City just over 48 hours ago…), it couldn’t have come at a worse time – our first blank in 34 games.
Leicester had two midfielders at centre-back but they weren’t tested enough, not with runners in behind and not with movement and quick passes in front of them.
Set-pieces, too, have been a big issue for Leicester all season – but our delivery on them was poor until the final stages. Too little, too late.Festive frustration
Heading into Christmas, pretty much every Liverpool fan would have thought that the two games in the festive run – even though Klopp hates them – would have meant six points in the title race.
Leeds, loads of injuries and rubbish all season, denied us the chance through a postponement.
Leicester, smashed 6-3 by City only days earlier, should have been a game we approached with fury and energy – we cost ourselves the points this time with an all-too-passive approach at times and a wasteful one at others.
Even in second or third gear we still had the chances to win this: Salah’s penalty, Mane’s one-on-one. Should have been 2-1, instead we got a big fat zero for Christmas.
“So many individual performances today were below the normal level,” admitted Klopp post-match. “We just were not good enough.”Goodbye 2021…goodbye another title push?
It is too early to definitively call a Premier League title race over.
But it’s not too early to look at a six-point gap at the top and wonder where City will drop them, considering they’ve dropped 10 in total in the first half of the campaign.
They don’t just need to drop six, after all, as we won’t take every available point between now and May.
We’re going to have to have a near-perfect second half of the season to get back into this battle, and let’s not forget we’re now level on points with Chelsea again too – if we’re in it, so are they.
On to 2022, and let’s get back to relentless consistency in the new year.
Maybe it’s time to turn attentions to No.7 and not No.20 in 2022.
Here are three key points from the boss after the defeat:A ‘funny story’…
There was plenty of acceptance for what Klopp saw on Tuesday night and he congratulated the opposition for the role they played, especially after his words on the fixture schedule.
“For some reason, it didn’t click tonight really,” Klopp said.
“When they scored the goal it was clear we are now under pressure, the crowd was there and we were pushing them but didn’t use the chances, missed free headers.
“In the end, what I told everybody who was responsible for the Leicester performance tonight, it was well deserved because the story is actually nice.
“One of the guys who is constantly talking about that you shouldn’t play the 26th and 28th and only plays the 28th and loses against the team who plays 26th and 28th – a funny story I know.”The title race
Liverpool could find themselves 12 points behind Man City before they kick off at Chelsea on Sunday and while it’s far from ideal, Klopp is only focused on Liverpool’s performance getting back on track.
“Sorry for that! It was not our plan tonight to give City the chance to run away or whatever.
“But if we play like tonight we don’t have to think about catching up with City but if we play normal football than we can win football games.
“Then we have to see how often and how many points we can get. Finding the explanation is my main priority, not the gap to City.”Those missed chances
They were decisive moments but usually the team is capable of bouncing back from those setbacks in the game, they were not this time around and there wasn’t much to take from the outing – other than to never replicate it again.
“[Salah] scores usually from these situations, tonight he didn’t.
“Usually, he is better in this situation like the team is usually better in a football game, tonight we weren’t and that’s why we lost.
“It’s easy to say, but if we won it 2-1 I wouldn’t have liked the game anyway.
“You can say the dirty games are important, it’s true, but tonight I didn’t like a lot in our football game, it’s not cool.”