With the Reds no longer firing on all cylinders, opportunists have looked to spread a number of rumours about both the squad and the manager across social media.
The rumour goes that Alisson and Robertson were involved in a scuffle at Leicester that left the Scot with a busted lip, Jordan Henderson had already debunked the story and now the left-back has had his say.
And it’s fair to say he was not impressed by his designated role in the ‘fight’ as he found the humour in the nonsense.
“I don’t look like the boxing type, do I?” Robertson said in an interview with Sky Sports’ Soccer AM. “The least [likely] two people to fight in the changing room are Ali and myself, to be honest.
“When you get a couple of bad results I think people are sitting at home a bit bored and obviously somebody made up a rumour that the gaffer didn’t come home, whereas me and Ali were fighting.
“I love how I was the one who ended up with the burst lip! I would rather it was the other way about but beggars can’t be choosers!
“The stuff that was getting written was a lot of nonsense. For the players and everyone in the training ground, we just need to block all that out.”
The Scot’s humorous take on it is what is needed during times like these and it goes to show that online rumours are just that and one cannot take them as gospel.
Jamie Carragher has looked to clear up the criticism he’s aimed at Liverpool, explaining that the loss of Virgil van Dijk is “not an excuse” to lose individual games, especially at Anfield.
The former Reds defender was in the commentary box for Liverpool’s derby defeat over the weekend, where he came in for some criticism of his own regarding his analysis of Jurgen Klopp‘s side.
The defeat was the fourth in succession at Anfield for the first time since 1923 and the first time the Reds had lost a derby on home soil since 1999 – a new low in a season to forget.
Liverpool are in relegation form having picked up just seven points in the league in 2021, where only three teams are worse off – all of whom have taken points off the Reds.
And while the loss of Van Dijk was always going to derail title ambitions, Carragher was quick to say that it can not be used as justification for individual games which are winnable for a side boasting domestic and European title winners.
“I was very critical of Liverpool on commentary in the derby game and I seemed to upset a section of supporters that I wasn’t more supportive,” Carragher said on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football.
“I have analysed this Liverpool team for three years under their best with Klopp and I come off shows like this and other fans say Carra is biased for Liverpool because all he says is positive things.
“Premier League champions, European Cup winners and best team in the world. There is nothing negative to say. Right now, there is.
“If I have upset Liverpool fans I don’t want to apologise for it. What this team has done is amazing, we love them, but it doesn’t mean they are exempt from criticism.
“I said ‘I’m sick of talking about Virgil van Dijk‘ and what I mean about that is we’ve highlighted on this show the bigger picture.
“Liverpool can’t win the league, I said that after the last derby game. They can’t win it with Van Dijk being out for the whole season I didn’t feel.
“It’s not an excuse for individual games. No matter what problems you have as a Liverpool player, you can’t not win at home for six games. That is not acceptable. It’s not.”
Klopp’s men have 13 league games to turn it around and clinch a top-four spot and with little going to plan at this juncture, Carragher feels a tweak is needed to spark the attack and protect the makeshift defence.
“They have to find a way to win. [When I played] we beat Everton twice with ten men,” he continued.
“That is why I’m saying it is not an excuse in individual games. The bigger picture for the league and qualifying for the top four, I get.
“It’s not ripping anything up, but there could be a tweaking of the system, a 4-2-3-1, bring an extra attacking player in.
“Defensively, is there a case for putting the defence 10 yards further back? [Ozan] Kabak is struggling early on, [Ben] Davies is coming in, [Nat] Phillips is going to play and they need a bit more protection.”
Dominic Corness' gifted left foot earned him the nickname 'The Wand' throughout Liverpool's youth set-up.
The midfielder has caught the eye for Marc Bridge-Wilkinson's U18s this season with his overall play and sublime execution from set-pieces.
Living up to his tag, the Scouser scored directly from a corner on two occasions in the same game back in September.
Having joined the Academy at the age of five, Corness has progressed through the ranks at Kirkby – earning his alias along the way – and signed his first professional contract with the club earlier this month.
"This has been a nickname for years now," 'The Wand' tells Liverpoolfc.com. "All the coaches at the Academy over time have just given me the nickname due to my passing and the things I do with my left foot really. It's not bad at all.
"It's just carried on over time and it's still going now. I think it was around the age of 12 or 13 and it's carried right through to the U18s."
Read on for more from our interview with Corness in the latest edition of our Meet the Academy series...
Let's start at the beginning. You've been at Liverpool since the age of five – how did that come about?
I played for my local team, Netherley Woodlane Legion, and I actually played with Layton Stewart as well. We both got brought into the Academy at the age of five. From then on, it's just been Liverpool through and through. I'm a Red myself and every single minute at the club is a dream come true.
Have you always been a midfielder?
No, I haven't. I used to be a left-back when I was younger. I only got moved into midfield when I was U14s. Sometimes I still do have a bit of exposure at left-back but I'm mainly a midfielder now.
Who do you look up to as a player?
I love to watch Thiago really. I just try to base myself off some of the things he does. Obviously he plays for the first team and that's just the level you want to try to get to. I just try to get on the ball as much as I can. I've always liked the way Thiago played. He came from Barça as well, so he automatically had that side of football where he just has the ball as much as he can and tries to play. I haven't seen him knocking about Kirkby yet, but with the new campus it's an opportunity every time you train now because you don't know who's watching. So you've just got to make every session the best you can because you never know what's going to happen.
How much do you work on set-pieces? It's apparent how much of a threat they pose in matches...
Set-pieces have been a massive part of my game throughout my whole time at the Academy. I've worked on them loads. Over the past one or two years, I've focused on them a lot more. I've had people working towards it with me, like Tyler Morton – the quality he has is unbelievable. So when I am working on set-pieces with him, the quality that he shows, it automatically improves my level as well. What we have been doing is just grab as many balls as you can after training – 10, 15 minutes – and just practise as much as you can. There's always balls everywhere at the end of the session!
As a Liverpool fan, did you go to the games much? What's the best game you've been to?
I used to go to the games all the time but due to COVID you can't anymore. I'd probably say the best game I've been to was Man City away in the Champions League quarter-finals a few years back. It was unbelievable. We used to be ballboys nearly every home game in the U15, U16 season. I never got any assists but I always used to put myself in the corner so I could get right up close to all the players when they were taking their set-pieces. It just gives you that drive and motivation to get where you want to be in many years to come. Being that close, it's just surreal. It's different on the telly, you don't realise until you're up close, you're just amazed and your breath is taken away every time.
What are your targets, short term and long term?
Short term, I've just signed my first professional contract, so I just want to kick on now and carry on doing what I'm doing. Hopefully try to take that jump to the U23s this season – if not, then next season it'll come as well. Long term, I just want to keep doing what I'm doing, try to progress as much as I can, and try to get close and around the first team, like other players have done.
Carlo Ancelotti was the secret behind Everton ending their 22-year Anfield hoodoo in Saturday's Merseyside derby, says ex-Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher.
Everton won at Liverpool for the first time since 1999, with their 2-0 success ending a run of 24 games without victory against their oldest rivals.
They led inside three minutes through Richarlison and doubled that advantage late on courtesy of a Gylfi Sigurdsson penalty. However, the main man to credit for the Toffees' success was manager Ancelotti, Carragher told Monday Night Football.
"I never gave a man of the match in the game for whatever reason, maybe it slipped my mind. There was probably three or four Everton players you could have given it to, but I watched the game again yesterday morning when I got up and their man of the match was the manager, Carlo Ancelotti," said Carragher.
"It's 22 years since they won at Anfield, 1999. But that's just the Premier League; notoriously, Everton's record at Anfield is horrendous. So, to actually win at Anfield for Everton is huge. They're celebrating like mad, and rightly so.
"Before Saturday, this was Everton's league record at Anfield since 1962/3 - 58 games, six wins in 58. That's why that was so big, what happened on Saturday night.
"Forget the '22 years, Everton's record at Anfield'. Even with the greatest team, you go through the 60s - Everton won a title in the 60s, an FA Cup, got to another final - only won once at Anfield. They won the league in 1970. Again, the 70s, only one win at Anfield. The 80s, Everton's greatest-ever team - only won twice there."
Carragher played in his fair share of Merseyside derbies himself as a Liverpool defender, and was left feeling his former club had enjoyed a mental edge over their near-neighbors which had inhibited Everton's hopes of taking the bragging rights in games between the pair down the years - something Ancelotti managed to overcome last weekend.
"I'll tell you the reason, in my experience, the record is so poor, and also at Goodison in the last 20 years as well," he said. "Everton never get the derby right emotionally. They're either too up for it, and they get players sent off, or they're absolutely terrified going into games, certainly at Anfield.2:58 FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Everton's win over Liverpool in the Premier League
"And the reason I say Ancelotti won Everton that game, is that he took the emotion out of the game, with the team he picked. So when that team came in, Evertonians, getting ready for the game, their heart sank. No Calvert-Lewin, and no Allan. Now, Allan hasn't played for two months. Calvert-Lewin was coming back from a hamstring injury. So it's the right decision.
"But emotionally at times, Everton see the derby as the biggest game you have to win. Roberto Martinez told me a story where he almost felt pressured to play Gareth Barry in a derby game at Anfield and he wasn't 100-per-cent fit.
"He got injured, they lost the game, and he missed an FA Cup semi-final, and he always looks back at that as a huge regret. Ancelotti, again, ended up saying this is three points for our European ambition, forget Liverpool."The tactics behind Everton's historic victory
While much of Ancelotti's work to win the derby was done ahead of kick-off, the game could not be won, even with Liverpool's nightmare run of form, without Ancelotti's players executing a solid plan to stifle the reigning Premier League champions.
Carragher credited the former Chelsea, Real Madrid and AC Milan boss with winning the tactical joust against Jurgen Klopp - and pointed out exactly how he set up his side to finally break their Anfield duck.
He said: "In the first derby, Liverpool scored after two or three minutes with Mane, because they exposed Rodriguez, who at times can leave his right-back really exposed.
"So he didn't do that in this game, he played off the front - and he's massively involved in the first goal. He gets in between the lines. When he gets on the ball in these positions, it's, 'can he deliver?'3:04 Carragher says that the Liverpool side has been so good that they should not be losing home matches to the likes of Brighton and Burnley, even if they have midfielders plugging their centre-back positions
"And in that position, with that pass on to Richarlison, there's very few who can deliver that pass better than James Rodriguez. Tactically, they got that right playing him in a 10 position, because he does what he's in the team for, to deliver that pass - and Everton get off to a great start.
"The next thing is the debate on, were Everton playing with a back four or a back five? Now Carlo said before the game he wasn't changing too much, and then I looked down and thought it's a back five. And then I saw Holgate taking throw-ins, and thought maybe it's a back four. It was both.
"I think was primarily a back four, but there was a man-marking system on this right side. It was Holgate with Mane, and it was Seamus Coleman with Andy Robertson, and that's what caused the confusion.
"When you play against Liverpool, they're a team that press really well. The way you stop that is to just kick along, and it took me back to Jose Mourinho with Chelsea when Liverpool almost won the league under Brendan Rodgers, and we highlighted on this show, Mark Schwarzer kicked everything long - it beats the press.
"Then you go to Calvert-Lewin. And I was talking in commentary about when he probably will come on - I thought the only way he was going to come on was if Everton were losing and he'd join Richarlison, but he brought him on at 1-0.
"And that's what won them the game, keeping the two attacking players on the pitch. I said at the time I don't actually think [their second goal] was a penalty but it doesn't matter, it didn't affect the result."
A dismal, dreadful derby defeat in a senseless, stupid, season. Upon reflection, it appears there’s not much sense in anything this term, so why should Liverpool be different?
If there’s one big advantage to be taken from watching teams and leagues beyond ‘your own’ – our own, in this case – it’s the broader scope for comparison and judgement it brings.
You’re not just looking at Liverpool now versus Liverpool then. You’re not just seeing a points tally decline and a growing list of injuries that is isolated to L4.
It wasn’t a day of easy reflection for Liverpool supporters, after the defeat to Everton. But it’s even less easy for those fans to make sense of the campaign overall – not helped by the flawless approach Man City have been able to plan, manage and execute.
But in that regard, they are almost without peer this year, not just in the Premier League but pretty much in the entire elite footballing universe.
This is a season where Bayern Munich can become 2020 Club World Cup champions without even playing in that competition during that year – then go home and immediately fail to beat Arminia Bielefeld and Eintracht Frankfurt in back-to-back games.
This is a season where Kylian Mbappe and PSG announce their ‘arrival’ as the world-leading replacements for Lionel Messi and Barcelona, yet follow it up with a sixth league loss of the season. The last time they lost that many, they weren’t even owned by Qatar Sports Investment.
This is also a season where PSG aren’t even in the top two of their domestic league, where LaLiga’s big two are seen as an irrelevance on the European scene (and neither are top of their domestic league), where Juventus are at best third in Serie A (they are sixth but play Monday night) and Borussia Dortmund are sixth.
So Liverpool are a million miles from being the only champions or title-fighting side who are, well, failing to do so.
And yet even by those standards, Saturday was a culmination of abominable misfortune and timing.
Nearly four years without a home league defeat, now we can’t buy one. Ninety-eight years without four straight home league losses, until now. More than 20 years since Everton won at Anfield, but now they have.
This was a footballing equivalent of not just seeing Halley’s Comet, but getting hit by it.
We all know the biggest and baddest reason for the dropoff: those absent central defenders. It destabilises everything, from buildup play to, obviously, actually defending.
At one stage we had the entire diamond of goalkeeper, centre-backs and holding midfielder missing – bad enough at any time, worse when three of the quartet can claim to be at least world class, and quite possibly best-in-class.
Put another way, Liverpool have played more centre-back partnerships this season than two clubs have Premier League points.
And despite these issues at one end of the pitch, it’s pointless trying to pretend there aren’t problems in attack, too.
The movement off the ball is non-existent at times, which has a knock-on effect of limiting link play, one-touch exchanges, allowing good crosses and disrupting the opposition’s own defensive line.
Without question, movement is the single most important attribute an attack can have, and that increases exponentially when the back line has eight well-drilled players in it.
Teams know how Liverpool play now and know how to defend against it; previously, we’ve still been able to beat even those best-set-up teams by sheer relentlessness, self-belief and speed of movement. All three are now absent, so we don’t.
A change seems likely to be needed, whether by formation or a different overall style – tough to implement mid-season – to get back to troubling teams in the attacking third.
Putting players into different areas of the pitch forces different buildup patterns and gets different individuals combining in new (better, hopefully) areas, which is less predictable for defences.
The other change we’ll see from clubs beyond Anfield is likely to be a shifting of focus from domestic tables to European hopes.
Spurs are well outside the top four, for example, and in even worse form than Liverpool – but Mourinho knows how to win games over two legs. They could get in the Champions League by winning the Europa League, even if they finish 30 points behind us.
Similar approaches might well be seen by Real Madrid or Atalanta, as well as Man United and Leicester – both of whom look safe for top four, but with no chance of the title.
Do Liverpool even get allowed to make the distinction? Probably not. There’s very little chance we could reasonably look at our style, our in-form players and our consistency and say: we’d beat Bayern. Or City, come to that.
So a full focus on league results is probably the priority still, despite having ‘more chance’ of success in Europe.
In the summer comes the Euros, but there will be a period of reset for some. Hopefully, those involved for more than a couple of weeks will be given an enormous rest afterwards, because it’s badly needed for some.
After three such terrific years of style and results, this year is very hard to explain or to deal with for some Liverpool supporters. It’s understandable, and it’s also natural to want to vent at something, someone, but sadly that doesn’t mean there is a single person who bears the blame.
Cause isn’t the same as fault, and it’s important to remember that when frustrations rise.
There unquestionably have been missteps, poor judgement, under-performance, misfortune, bad timing, pure coincidence and false dawns.
Yet every single one of those factors can also be applied to the wider global landscape over the past 15 months, which has had the knock-on effect of belting the football world off-kilter for nearly a year.
Liverpool have suffered from that, just like others have, but the jolt has compounded and been magnified for Reds supporters – and players, it can be argued – simply because they were at a higher point at the moment of shaking the tree.
This is a crazy, stupid, largely awful year to deal with and football should have been a big way to balance it out somewhat, but for Reds fans it isn’t.
And there’s little sense rationalising or reasoning through much of it – beyond the obvious – because it’s not just Liverpool who are affected.
This is an outlier season, an opportunity for some and a car crash for others, the real campaign with an asterisk beside it, and it’s far from over yet.
Highlights of Liverpool U18s' 6-0 win over Sunderland on Saturday are now available to watch on LFCTV GO.
Marc Bridge-Wilkinson's side netted some superb strikes with all the goals coming in the second half at the Academy of Light.
On the mark for the Reds were Isaac Mabaya, Max Woltman, Mateusz Musialowski, Jarell Quansah, James McConnell, and a sublime free-kick from Dominic Corness.
Click play above to watch highlights of the game via LFCTV GO.
Another rebuilding and planning week for Liverpool then, an important week off to somehow get over the malaise infecting the team before next weekend’s game.Jota on his way…but now Hendo’s out too
As of midweek, the Reds should have their numbers boosted by precisely one in training, with Diogo Jota almost ready to return to full training.
The Portuguese forward has been a big miss over the last couple of months, with a real lack of pace and direct running contributing to the Reds’ attacking threat diminishing on a regular basis.
But he’s now likely to return to full team training by Wednesday, all being well, giving him a handful of sessions before the Sheffield United game at the weekend. Even if he’s not ready to feature in that, the options should be on the increase for the attack in general as Naby Keita – unused sub in the derby – will have had another week getting back up to speed, too.
All well and good in attack…but we’re facing being without Jordan Henderson for around five games after he went off injured against Everton.
Hopefully we’ll also get Fabinho back in the meantime, so at least one of our midfielders-turned-defenders can play, even while none of our actual centre-backs are available.
Another new partnership to develop!Mbappe ‘wants release clause’ to join Reds in new deal
Kylian Mbappe is being linked with the Reds on a weekly basis now, so expect to see the story continue to develop with regularity.
By “develop” we obviously mean “be spun out for clicks in new and interesting ways”.
Thankfully for you, that’s what we are here for: collecting all the ‘updates’ and letting you know exactly where they rank on the bulls**t-o-meter.
Today’s is quite high on that scale – FootMercato say Mbappe is keen for his departure from PSG to be a headline-making one, like a world record fee, which he probably can’t do unless he signs a new deal.
But he also wants to be able to leave when he chooses, not be tied down for another four years at the French club, so an agreement akin to a release clause is on the cards for specified clubs…including the Reds, of course.
Just one issue: they are illegal and irrelevant in French football law.Problems and paradoxes
When Fantasy Football is causing real-world issues, we know we’ve reached a bit of a tipping point…Quickfire LFC news
Jose Mourinho has decided his team’s run of losing six of the last eight, or five of the last six in the league, or winning three of the last 13 in the league, is not his fault, but the team’s.
“I would say a bad, a really bad, run of results. That is obvious. We’re losing too many matches.
“No, not at all [my management style’s responsibility]. Mine and my coaching staff’s methods are second to nobody in the world.
“I think for a long, long time, we have problems in the team that I cannot resolve by myself as a coach.”Tweet of the day
New career goal: kick people in the head and then claim that they have impeded me twice pic.twitter.com/Sk8ZxIjoC7
— Lubo 19* (@lubomerkov) February 22, 2021Worth watching tonight
Tempted to say ‘nothing’, but we’ve been linked with several players from either Juve (Demiral!) or Sevilla (Kounde! Ocampos! – but he’s injured) so pick one of those this evening and remind yourselves what a win looks like.
Liverpool could see up to 10,000 fans return to Anfield for the final day of the Premier League season after the UK government announced its plan to move out of lockdown.
The 2020/21 Premier League season has been played primarily behind closed doors, with the exception of a handful of games back in December which hosted no more than 2,000 fans.
But that figure is to rise to up to 10,000 fans on May 17, at the earliest, after the government announced its route out of lockdown on Monday, so long as each COVID-19 measure is safely met prior to that date.
The move would enable all English stadiums to open their gates to fans, where stadiums with 40,000 seats will be allowed a capacity of 10,000 while smaller grounds will be limited to a quarter of their capacity.
It could act as a vital boost should Jurgen Klopp‘s side still have something to play for at that stage, with a top-four battle currently on their hands.
It is all, of course, dependent on England navigating these next few months without a rise in COVID-19 cases, which are on a decline thanks to the rollout of the vaccine.
Pilot events are to take place in April “using enhanced testing approaches” and to see how they can be hosted with “reduced social distancing.”
Fans are set to return to sporting events from Monday, May 17 as Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined his road map for easing coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
Supporters have been prevented from attending sporting venues across England since the scrapping of the tier system in December.
However, the Prime Minister has now revealed plans in the House of Commons to ease restrictions step-by-step across the whole country simultaneously instead of on a regional basis.
From May 17, indoor events will be capped at 50 per cent capacity or 1,000, whichever is lower, and for outdoor events this will be 50 per cent capacity or 4,000, whichever is lower.
Larger outdoor seated venues such as football stadiums will be allowed up to 10,000 people or be a quarter full, whichever is lower.
The proposals rule out the possibility of fans attending any further regular-season matches in the EFL, but it would mean the final weekend of the Premier League season, set to be played on Sunday, May 23, could potentially be played in front of a limited number of fans.
With Manchester City top of the league, 10 points clear of second-placed Manchester United, supporters could see Pep Guardiola's side lift the Premier League trophy against Everton at the Etihad.
Although the FA Cup final is set to be played on Saturday, May 15 - two days before the initial plans to allow fans to return, it could be used as a test event.Which clubs will be at Wembley?
Tottenham face Manchester City in the 2021 Carabao Cup final on April 25
Eight teams are left in the FA Cup. The quarter-finals will see Leicester vs Manchester United, Chelsea vs Sheffield United, Bournemouth vs Southampton and Everton vs Manchester City.
Sky Sports News reported last week the FA and EFL were working with the Government to get fans inside Wembley for the two showpiece finals of the FA and Carabao Cups.
It is hoped to have one-third of Wembley full of spectators by the time the finals are played, in late April and mid-May, providing it is safe to do so.
The EFL has already moved the Carabao Cup final from February 28 to April 25 to give it the best chance of having supporters inside Wembley.
Both finals have been identified as key milestones for the wider game, and - crucially - ahead of this summer's Euros.
And with Wembley set to host seven matches at this summer's delayed Euro 2020, including all three of England's group games, a last-16 clash, both semi-finals and the final, Monday's announcement is seen as a positive step for fans to attend.
The proposals also leave open the possibility of spectators returning over the summer for Wimbledon, Royal Ascot, the British Grand Prix and cricket internationals and county matches, depending on whether the conditions for easing restrictions have been met by May 17.2:00 Rob Dorsett explains that football authorities are hoping that 30,000 fans could be in attendance at Wembley Stadium for the FA Cup and Carabao Cup finals. Non-elite sport in England to resume in March
The Prime minister has also revealed non-elite sport - including grassroots football - can resume in England from March 29.
Johnson also confirmed schools in England will reopen to all pupils on March 8, with children's after-school sports and activities also allowed to resume.
On the same date, outdoor recreation with one other person will also be permitted, meaning people will be allowed to sit together in a park with a coffee, drink or picnic.
However, adults will have to wait a further three weeks to restart organised sports, with grassroots football set to resume along with the reopening of tennis courts, golf courses and other outdoor sport facilities.
From April 12 at the earliest, use of indoor leisure facilities such as gyms for individuals or household groups will be possible.
All children will be able to attend any indoor children's activity including sport, regardless of circumstance.
Sky Sports' Paul Merson gives his verdict on the race to finish in the Premier League's top four.
With Manchester City continuing to pull clear at the summit, Manchester United, Leicester, Chelsea, West Ham, Liverpool, Everton, Aston Villa, Tottenham and Arsenal all have hopes of securing a top-four finish.
As it stands, 15 points divide second-placed Man Utd and 10th-placed Arsenal - while the Gunners remain 11 points shy of fourth spot and are just about in contention to qualify for the Champions League with 13 games left in their season.
So, who does the Magic Man think will be playing Champions League football next season?
Here he goes through each contender before prediction who will finish in the top four...Manchester United 3:08 FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester United's win over Newcastle in the Premier League.
Games played: 25
Merson says: "You'd like to think Manchester United will get into the top four from here. However, it's all still so tight with plenty of points to play for in the coming weeks. All it takes is a really poor dip in form and you can quickly find yourself down in sixth with the games coming so thick and fast.
"United have three consecutive away games against Chelsea, Crystal Palace and Manchester City and a bad run, coupled with some good results for the teams around them and things can change. They can change quickly in this league at the moment. That being said, if United beat Chelsea you'd have to think Thomas Tuchel's side won't catch them.
"United have the platform and they should secure a top-four finish. Are they looking up rather than behind them?
"I don't really get Ole Gunnar Solskjaer saying the title race is not over. A few weeks ago, when they were in a better position, he said they weren't ready to win the title. Now, they are further back, and it's not done. I'm really not sure what game he is playing?"Leicester 2:19 FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Leicester's win over Aston Villa in the Premier League.
Games played: 25
Merson says: "Leicester fell away last year when looking like securing a Champions League spot, but I don't think that will happen this time around. They look a really good outfit under Brendan Rodgers.
"The club has upset the apple cart before, and I'll think they'll do it again this season. They are a really good team."West Ham Image: Jesse Lingard celebrates his goal against Spurs
Games played: 25
Merson says: "Twenty-five games in and West Ham are in the top four. It's phenomenal what David Moyes has done.
"This is not just five or six games; this is 25 football matches. That's a big chunk of the season so to get them where they are now is an absolutely phenomenal achievement,
"It was a great result for them against Spurs. At the end of the day, they are going to have times when they are hanging on in games, but it was job done for the Hammers. They defended well, put their bodies on the line and rode their luck, which is what you need. You make your luck, though.3:00 FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from West Ham’s win over Tottenham in the Premier League.
"I just look at West Ham's fixtures and they have Man City away next where you don't give them much of a chance. Then it is Leeds at home which is another hard game. Then it's Manchester United, Leicester and Arsenal at home and Wolves away. They are hard football matches, so it will be difficult for Moyes' men.
"I said on transfer deadline day I thought Jesse Lingard was the signing of the window. To get someone of his quality from Manchester United is a great coup for West Ham. He was always going to be better than what they had so it was a great signing
"At the moment, he is doing well, and he could well prove to be the difference, who knows?"Chelsea 2:42 FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Southampton’s draw with Chelsea in the Premier League.
Games played: 25
Merson says: "Chelsea have had kind fixtures in recent weeks, but you still have to beat these teams. Liverpool have had relatively kind fixtures, but they didn't beat Newcastle, Brighton, Burnley or West Brom. You have to put these teams away and to be fair, Chelsea have done that.
"What follows easy games, though? Hard games and Chelsea face that now.
"Chelsea play Manchester United and Liverpool and then they've got Everton, who are flying. Leeds away is in there too, which is a hard game, and in the middle of that is two games against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League. Before you know it, they could get nothing out of those four games, and they are completely out of it. But, if they can get results against United and Liverpool and can beat Everton and Leeds, then they've got a far easier run of games and then they are favourites. It's madness.
"This period now and until the end of March is a defining time for Tuchel and Chelsea. It's the be-all and end-all of their season, without a doubt. The real test starts now for this Chelsea side. They have five or six matches coming up which will define their whole season."Liverpool Image: Jurgen Klopp
Games played: 25
Merson says: "Liverpool need to get back to winning ways, and fast!
"They've got Sheffield United next and then Chelsea and Fulham at home. The game against RB Leipzig in the Champions League should be finished, so that should mean they will be able to rest players when the second leg comes around. Then there are games against Wolves and Arsenal.
"They've got some nice fixtures coming up and they need to get back on track.0:26 Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says his side are 'really critical' over their performance during their first loss against Everton at Anfield since 1999.
"Their luck at the moment is rotten. Ozan Kabak came in from Germany and wasn't very good against Leicester but was good against Leipzig. He then got lost for the first goal in the Merseyside derby. It's hard. And now, Jordan Henderson's not going to be playing and they will end up with two kids at the back.
"I don't care what anyone says, the injuries have made a huge difference. Having the injury list they've had will affect any club and Liverpool have had injuries to big-time players.
"If they don't get into the top four it will be a disaster for Liverpool. It will be a nightmare, but at the moment, I still can't see Liverpool not being in the top four."Everton 2:58 FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Everton's win over Liverpool in the Premier League.
Games played: 24
Merson says: "If there is a difference for Everton this season, it will be Carlo Ancelotti.
"Fair play to Everton for what they did at Anfield at the weekend, but it just shows you where Liverpool are, at the moment. I watched the last couple of games and Fulham and Man City ripped Everton to shreds. Man City played in second gear and Fulham, who are in the bottom three, gave them the run-around.
"So, to go there, do what they did, defending brilliantly and holding on for a brilliant result, I thought it was real good management. He brought Dominic Calvert-Lewin on, knowing his side needed a second goal and it worked a treat. You also have to give credit where credit is due, I thought Jordan Pickford was outstanding. He was solid and made some really good saves. He was England's number one and that's what I expect from him every week. If he doesn't have the game, he has then I think Liverpool probably get a result.
"Everton have got some really good fixtures coming up, but we are talking about Everton here. They are very inconsistent.
"They go and put a performance in like they did against Fulham at home after scoring three at Man Utd and hitting five past Spurs in the FA Cup. Then they go to Anfield and win so they need to go and get that sorted. They need to find some consistency and if they can, with the games they've got against Southampton, West Brom, Chelsea, Burnley, Crystal Palace and Brighton.
"The Chelsea game aside, they are winnable football matches for Everton. After that, there are only seven matches left in the season. They have got the nicest fixtures coming up out of every team, but they have to be consistent. You can't keep throwing in a Fulham at home result.
"These chances aren't coming along again. You have to take advantage now. Liverpool are not going to be this bad again, Chelsea will be better again next season, Man City are Man City and Man Utd keep on improving. You'd like to think Tottenham will get better, plus there will be crowds back next season.
"This chance is not coming along again and there are reasons for that.Aston Villa Image: Aston Villa missed Jack Grealish during their defeat to Leicester
Games played: 23
Merson says: "Aston Villa have got no chance!
"Let's be honest, watching them yesterday, if Jack Grealish isn't playing, they are not far off being a relegation team.
"If Grealish left at the end of the season, they'd be back fighting where they were last year. I have no doubt about and there is no shame in that.1:37 Paul Merson says Jack Grealish is one of the best players around and he would buy him tomorrow if he was in charge at Barcelona.
"We've seen a team of Liverpool's stature, with international footballers all over the pitch, crumble without Virgil van Dijk. Without him, they are a completely different team.
"Villa without Grealish are a completely different team and there's nothing wrong with that because that haven't got the players Liverpool have got.
"But if he's not fit then Villa re not winning too many football matches."Tottenham Image: Jose Mourinho's side are on a difficult run
Games played: 24
Merson says: "If Tottenham win their game in hand, they are back in the mix in terms of points. But the problem is winning that game in hand after a run after a run of five defeats in their last six league games.
"But you look at their fixtures coming up and you think they could go on a role. They've got Burnley at home, Fulham away and Crystal Palace at home. They are all winnable games and if you get nine points you are right back in it.
"Then it is Arsenal and Aston Villa, so they do have some nice fixtures coming up.1:06 Jose Mourinho admits his Tottenham side are on a bad run, but denies there is a crisis following a fifth Premier League defeat in six games.
"When you are in this position you just have to keep going one game at a time and you see where it takes you. As I said with Liverpool the other week, they are out of the title race but if you win your next six games you can have another look. That's exactly what Man City did. They won six straight games and Liverpool hardly picked up a point. All of a sudden that's a big turn around in points.
"Spurs just have to consolidate and take it at a game at a time. Get a few wins ad see where it takes them because the gaps that are there now can disappear very quickly with a run of wins. That's the nature of this league this season.
"At the moment, I think the gap is too big for Spurs, but we've seen other teams do it. A run of wins can change things in terms of confidence and the table, and that's what Spurs need to hold onto. Confidence is a massive thing in football and for me, it goes hand in hand with luck. If you can get some confidence back and a have a bit of luck go your way, you can be unstoppable."Arsenal Image: Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta gives instructions to Kieran Tierney
Games played: 25
Merson says: "I can't see Arsenal doing anything between now and the end of the season to get into the top four.
"I played at Arsenal for a good number of years a long time ago and it is just a phenomenal football club. It's a Rolls Royce of a football club but when you look where they are now, it's just hard to watch.
"Man City used to be a million miles away and talk about turning things on its head, they are so far ahead of Arsenal. The only thing that can give you hope if you are an Arsenal fan is that you can watch City and think things can turn around.
"I was so disappointed yesterday. It's so easy for me to sit and say Arsenal should have had a right go at Man City because I know you can end up losing 4-0 or 5-0, and then it looks an awful result. But if you look at Arsenal's performance, they looked out of their depth and that was really worrying.Image: Arsenal are approaching a pivotal run of fixtures
"When they got to 75 minutes and were only a goal down, they had to have a right go. But it looked like the players just didn't have that belief. It seems a long time ago now and it was a long time ago that Arsenal had that. They had that fear factor for teams playing them. I found it a really hard watch.
"It's probably now time to focus on the Europa League for Arsenal, but they'd do well to win that with the way things are going. There are some really good teams in that competition - some good English teams as well.
"It's a real massive rebuild job at the Emirates Stadium and I think it's going to take a long, long time. That's unless they've got some money from somewhere and they have a right go, but we've seen Chelsea have a right go and look where they are. We are talking about whether they will get in the top four and that was a lot of money, so there are no guarantees.
"It's a really hard one to take for Arsenal at the moment."2:42 FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester City's win over Arsenal in the Premier League. And finally, Merson's top-four verdict… Image: Merson is sticking with Liverpool to qualify for next season's Champions League
Paul Merson's Premier League top four: Man City, Man Utd, Leicester City and Liverpool
Merson says: "Man City are in, obviously - that's the easy part!
"Next, I have to stick with Manchester United and Leicester, who are a very good team. The top three now will stay there, in my opinion.Image: Leicester will qualify for the Champions League, according to Merson
"After that, this is so difficult. You know me, I don't like to sit on the fence, but I'm finding it really hard to pick a team for the final spot.
"Despite their superb season so far, I don't see West Ham lasting the distance, and that means a spot is up for grabs. Moyes' side have been brilliant, but I saw enough in that second half against Spurs to tell me it's just too much for them to do in the reminder of the season.
"Everton have got the fixture list to make a challenge, but I do worry about their consistency.
"For me, it's between Chelsea and Liverpool for that final spot.0:32 Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel says his side 'lacked precision and composure' in their 1-1 draw at Southampton
"If Chelsea have a good March, that's it, they are in. But, I worry about Chelsea scoring enough goals. I can't see them blowing teams away.
"I've always said Liverpool will make it but when push comes to shove, it so hard to stick with them, at the moment. It's hard to get away from their form and the fact the luck is not with them.
"You look at the games they've lost, and you look at the games they have coming up and wonder if they can turn it around. They should beat Sheffield United but there is doubt there, especially with no defenders.0:34 Jurgen Klopp says Jordan Henderson's injury 'doesn't look good' and that his medical staff are not feeling positive as the Liverpool captain faces a scan.
"I've shown so much faith in them, but the players keep dropping like flies. The one player I want on the pitch out of all of their players at the moment is Jordan Henderson. When things are not going well, he's the leader. He's the player that gets people going. With him now being out of the team it's a bit of a worry.
"It feels like I'm just going with the name and not looking at the performances and results. The teams they haven't beaten is very worrying. I don't know why, but I have to stick with Liverpool. Please don't ask me why but I'm keeping the faith with Jurgen Klopp and his side."
Premier League clubs have been told their players and staff will now be forced to self-isolate for 10 days when they return from any overseas trip.
It comes as the Premier League confirmed just two new coronavirus cases for the third straight week - the joint-lowest of the season so far.
There had previously been no specific restrictions on those arriving back from Champions League, Europa League and international ties outside the UK.
But the new UK Government guidelines were provided to all 20 Premier League clubs on Sunday.
Players will still be allowed to train and play in matches but will have to quarantine in the same way as the general public and can only leave home when entering their elite sporting environment.
Players can reduce the isolation period to just five days on the provision of a negative COVID-19 test.
The rules state that anyone who goes on international duty must remain in their sporting bubble at all times while away, in order to avoid a spell of unconditional isolation once they return.Image: Arsenal will play the second leg of their Europa League tie with Benfica in Greece on Thursday
If a player exits the national team's bubble - to visit friends or family - that will invalidate their quarantine exemption and they must self-isolate for 10 days.
The latest guidance also removes the quarantine exemption for new signings, as well as managerial and coaching appointments.
It will have a direct impact on teams involved in European competitions this week.
Chelsea play Atletico Madrid Bucharest in the Champions League on Tuesday while Manchester City face Borussia Monchengladbach at the Puskas Arena in Hungary on Wednesday.
Arsenal travel to Greece on to play Benfica for the second-leg of their Europa League last-32 tie on Thursday due to Portugal being on a 'red list' of countries drawn up by the UK government.PL records two Covid-19 cases for third straight week
Across two rounds of tests between February 15-21, there were two positives out of the 2,633 players and club staff tested.
That figure is the same as last week and the week of February 1-7, making it the joint-lowest total of the season so far, and a significant drop from the record 40 cases between December 28 and January 3.
"Players or club staff who have tested positive will self-isolate for a period of 10 days," the Premier League said.
"The Premier League is providing this aggregated information for the purposes of competition integrity and transparency.
"No specific details as to clubs or individuals will be provided by the League and results will be made public on a weekly basis."Previous Premier League test results
Sean Wilson has signed his first professional contract with Liverpool FC.
The 17-year-old defender, who has been at the Academy since the age of seven, made his debut for the U18s last season.
Wirral-born Wilson has been a regular at right-back for Marc Bridge-Wilkinson's team this term, with his versatility also enabling him to play at left-back and centre-half.
He is one of a number of players at the Academy who emerged from the junior team Greenleas FC in Wallasey.
Sir Kenny Dalglish visited Anfield's COVID-19 vaccine centre on Saturday to personally thank GPs, vaccinators and volunteers.
Two weeks ago, Liverpool FC’s home stadium joined a growing list of GP-led vaccination locations opening across the city.
And ahead of the Merseyside derby between the Reds and Everton, Sir Kenny paid a visit to the site to show his support for the vaccination programme.
“I really wanted to visit the vaccine centre at Anfield to personally thank some of the incredible NHS staff and volunteers who have been tirelessly working to help protect people from this virus,” said the LFC icon.
“Football plays such an important role in the city of Liverpool, so it feels right that there’s a vaccination site here at Anfield, helping to reach out to people who live in the local communities around it.
“I have already had my COVID-19 vaccination, and I want to encourage everyone else to get one when invited to. Having the vaccine is the best way to protect you and your loved ones, and help get life back to normal.
“Also, the more of us who are protected, the sooner we can get back on the terraces to cheer on our team – whether you’re Red or Blue.”
Dr Fiona Lemmens, chair of NHS Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We were delighted to have Sir Kenny visiting staff at our Anfield vaccination site this weekend.
“The delivery of the vaccination programme in Liverpool is going really well, and it’s such a huge team effort, with everyone from GPs and vaccinators to admin staff, stewards and volunteers, all playing a hugely important role.
“The fact is that it simply wouldn’t have been possible for us to have achieved the kind of vaccination rates that we have so far across the city without these teams working so hard behind the scenes, and it’s wonderful to be recognised in this way.”
To date, more than 100,000 people have been vaccinated across the city of Liverpool, including the vast majority of over 70s, care home residents, health and social care staff, and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable (advised to shield).
But anyone in one of these groups who still has not had a vaccine is encouraged to get in touch with the NHS as soon as possible to arrange it.
You can do this by booking an appointment at www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination or by calling 119 any time between 7am and 11pm, seven days a week (free of charge). If a suitable slot is not available through this national booking service, you can also call your GP practice to request one.
In addition, the NHS is continuing to see lower rates of take-up amongst people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups attending appointments to be vaccinated, so eligible individuals from these communities are especially encouraged to book an appointment, too.
This week, the local NHS has also begun extending vaccination invites to people aged 65 and over, those aged 16 to 64 with certain underlying health conditions, and any carers in receipt of a carer’s allowance or acting as the primary carer for an elderly or disabled person who is identified as clinically vulnerable.
If you are in one of these new priority groups, you will be contacted by the NHS and invited to book an appointment soon. The NHS expects to complete vaccinations for these groups between now and the end of April.
The final days of the mid-season window were particularly busy for the Reds’ recruitment staff, with Joel Matip‘s season-ending ankle injury forcing a late scrabble.
A number of enquiries were made for centre-backs across the world, while unsuccessful bids were reported for Marseille’s Duje Caleta-Car and Braga’s David Carmo.
Kabak eventually joined on loan from Schalke, while Ben Davies arrived from Preston for £1.6 million, though Jurgen Klopp is still facing problems at centre-back due to injuries to Fabinho and Jordan Henderson.
Marcelo has now confirmed that Liverpool were hoping to bring him to Anfield from Lyon, but his commitment to the Ligue 1 club saw him turn down the opportunity.
“Liverpool? My agent spoke with them, but I feel good here. My dream is to win the championship with Lyon,” he told Canal+.
The 33-year-old – who has found a home in France after a journeyman career that has taken in spells with Santos, Wisla Krakow, PSV Eindhoven, Hannover and Bestikas – is in the final six months of his contract with Lyon.
This would have presented him as a cut-price option similar to Davies, albeit with considerably more experience at the level Liverpool require.
However, it is telling that Marcelo opted to turn down the Reds’ advances as he seeks an extension at Parc Olympique Lyonnais, with the prospect of arriving as emergency cover clearly not the most appealing.
Liverpool’s strategy in the closing stages of the winter window appeared to be to bring in at least two centre-backs, with one a higher-potential option for the future and the other a low-cost veteran.
Marcelo would clearly have fit into the second category, but it is likely he would have played considerably more football than Davies is expected to were he to have joined.
A 25-minute blitz from the Liverpool under-18s saw them seal a 6-0 win at Sunderland, with six different goalscorers capping an excellent morning for Marc Bridge-Wilkinson.Sunderland U18s 0-6 Liverpool U18s
U18 Premier League, Academy of Light
February 20, 2021
Goals: Mabaya 53′, Musialowski 60′, Woltman 62′, Corness 67′, Quansah 77′, McConnell 78′
The young Reds took to the Academy of Light four days after a frustrating stoppage-time loss to Blackburn, eager to respond with a morale-boosting victory.
Bridge-Wilkinson handed new signing Kaide Gordon his second start, naming an unchanged side including all three of his summer arrivals in goalkeeper Fabian Mrozek, midfielder Melkamu Frauendorf and forward Mateusz Musialowski.
A slow first half ended with neither side finding the back of the net, despite Liverpool dominating throughout, as Sunderland goalkeeper Adam Richardson held strong.
The floodgates opened eight minutes after the break, however, as Max Woltman laid it on for Isaac Mabaya to break the deadlock and begin a flurry of six goals in just 25 minutes.
Musialowski was next on the scoresheet, beating Richardson on the hour, before Gordon teed up Woltman to make it 3-0 and Dominic Corness added another with a brilliant free-kick.
A full 10 minutes went by without a goal before Mabaya turned provider for captain Jarell Quansah, with substitute James McConnell rounding off the win with a strike just two minutes after replacing Gordon.
The occasion gave Bridge-Wilkinson the opportunity to hand under-16s regular Tommy Pilling his competitive U18s debut off the bench, with Liverpool firing 20 shots on goal to Sunderland‘s two.
Liverpool U18s: Mrozek; Wilson, Quansah, Miles (Jonas 43′), Norris; Corness, Mabaya, Frauendorf; Gordon (McConnell 76′), Woltman, Musialowski (Piling 79′)
Subs not used: Hewitson
Florian Neuhaus has chosen not to upend his relationship with current club Borussia Monchengladbach amid a flurry of transfer rumours linking him to Liverpool.
Last week Kicker wrote that Liverpool were readying an offer for Neuhaus, however the midfielder downplayed the suggestion his mind might be wandering to places beyond the Bundesliga.
The 23-year-old "can't say what will happen" beyond the current campaign, which sees Monchengladbach in the Champions League last-16 as well as in a league scrap to qualify for Europe next season.
Full story: Goal.com
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