Sheffield United forward David McGoldrick recognises that the Liverpool side who he considers the “best team” he’s ever played against have seen their jigsaw unfold due to injury.
Jurgen Klopp has overseen a dramatic rise and transformation at Liverpool since his arrival more than five years ago, turning nearly men into a relentless force.
Consistency was at the heart of the Reds’ success in the Premier League last season, as was an unwavering relentlessness that McGoldrick even likened to a team of “robots.”
But the side that travels to meet Sheffield United today is a much-changed one from the side who broke countless records as they rampaged to the title.
A long list of injuries has been at the heart of Liverpool’s woes and the Blades’ striker was quick to acknowledge the domino effect that the absence of key players can have on performances and results.
“It sums it up [the craziness of the league with Liverpool’s recent results]. It’s crazy, you would never have thought that playing against them last year and how strong they were,” McGoldrick told Sheffield United’s club website.
“I think they were the best team I’ve ever played against, I thought they were unbelievable.
“It was like robots at times and then a few injuries and this is what happens.
“Injuries are key, we’re missing key players and they’re missing key players and when that happens, a piece of the jigsaw unfolds and things like this happen.”
Chris Wilder’s side are no strangers to a long injury list themselves, with his first-choice back three unavailable tonight in addition to potentially being unable to name a full complement of players on the bench.
McGoldrick’s assessment is an honest one and while he may fancy his chances against a makeshift Liverpool backline this time around, he knows the Reds still pose a threat in attack – and his eyes are on Sadio Mane.
“I just remember playing against [Mane] last year and he was a robot. He was working hard, skipping by people, he was strong,” he added.
“He was just a joy, not to play against because I couldn’t get near him, to see.
“Obviously, Salah’s goal record speaks for itself and if you wanted the goals you’d go for him [as a strike partner], but as an all-round player Mane really stands out for me.”
The Egyptian has been one of the main topics of discussion regarding potential departures at Anfield in the near future, with his own comments only adding fuel to the fire.
Salah had praised “top clubs” Real Madrid and Barcelona in an interview with the Spanish press late last year, teams who remain linked with the 28-year-old.
And with a journalist recently throwing a wild claim out that Salah is not happy at Liverpool, his importance to the team was looked to once more in England.
Salah himself has not shown any signs of restlessness, in fact, the opposite with a recent promise to fans and Klopp praised his winger and the hope for a long stay on Merseyside.
“He’s very important, it’s a bit awkward when I have to praise my own players, which I like to do, to be honest, but I think in Mo’s case the numbers speak for themselves,” Klopp told reporters.
“But Mo is not only a goalscorer. He has developed football-wise as well, he is a very, very important player for us.
“And hopefully he will be that for a long, long time, of course.”
The 28-year-old is contracted at Anfield until 2023 which leaves Liverpool in the driving seat regarding his immediate future, but few signs internally suggest it is a concern.
While the season has been tough-going, Salah has been a shining light with 24 goals and four assists in 35 appearances – a tally that has seen him nestle into joint-13th in the club’s all-time goalscorers list.
He sits level with Ian St John having taken his total to 118 goals in 187 appearances, an incredible return that has played a key role in the Reds’ recent success.
Salah is one who sits in the underappreciated category outside the club’s walls, and sometimes even within them, but as the boss noted, his numbers really do speak for themselves.
Andy Robertson is in no doubt that “not one” team in world football would be able to navigate Liverpool’s injury pile-up which has led to 18 different centre-back partnerships to date.
The Reds have been dealt blow after blow this season as injury has besieged the squad and taken with it all three senior centre-backs they started the season with.
It has led to the likes of Nat Phillips, Rhys Williams, Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, Billy Koumetio and most recently Ozan Kabak to slot in and form part of Liverpool’s 18 different centre-back combinations to date.
And the instability in addition to blooding inexperienced players into the system has put a lot of pressure on Robertson’s shoulders with roles and responsibilities continually changing.
“If you tell any team in world football that they’re going to have 18 different partnerships in a season at centre-back, no team in the world deals with that, not one,” Robertson told Sky Sports.
“Usually we have, for instance, Virg who’s very vocal, we have Joey Gomez that leads by example, and Joel who leads by example. We’ve had Fabinho, Hendo.
“But now we’ve got Nat Phillips, who obviously wasn’t here last season, he was out on loan. We’ve got (Ozan) Kabak who’s a young lad who’s just come in. We’ve got Ben Davies, who’s been signed from a Championship club and needs to take time and big Rhys (Williams), of course.
“All of them are relatively inexperienced and it’s trying to help them, but also trying to help the team by focusing on yourself.”
“It’s been tough for me personally but it’s part and parcel of it.
“I’m probably the leader at the back, I’m probably the most vocal at the back now and it’s just trying to make sure that we do as well as we can and we try to keep as many clean sheets as we can because that’s the only way we’re going to win games.”
No one could have expected the turns this season would take for Liverpool off the back of their title success, but the Scot is not wrong in his view that the absence of so many key figures could be easily overcome by any team in the world.
The knock-on effect has been just as profound throughout the entire squad, not just in defence, and it would be foolish to overlook when passing judgement on the Reds this season.
Jake Cain took his goal tally for the season up to seven, as the Liverpool under-23s midfielder struck twice in a comprehensive 4-0 victory over Arsenal on Saturday.Liverpool U23s 4-0 Arsenal U23s
Premier League 2, Kirkby
February 27, 2021
Goals: Stewart 14′, Cain 45′ 47′, Woodburn 68′
Up against an Arsenal side including Reiss Nelson, Barry Lewtas’ U23s took to the field with three changes from their 3-2 win over Chelsea last time out, with Marcelo Pitaluga, Leighton Clarkson and Luis Longstaff all missing out.
Liam Hughes came in for his debut between the sticks, while Tom Clayton returned to the No. 6 role and Elijah Dixon-Bonner joining him in midfield as Ben Woodburn shifted into attack.
The first half was hallmarked by the relentless pressing work of Lewtas’ youngsters, who capitalised twice on Arsenal errors to go 2-0 up before the break.
First, Layton Stewart added to his maiden U23s goal against Chelsea as he latched onto a sloppy pass following great pressure from Woodburn, opening his body up and finishing well inside the box.
And after holding firm as Arsenal looked to trouble the assured Hughes, a big header from Morgan Boyes led to a poor touch at the back which Cain picked up before – having shifted well into space on his left – firing into the top corner.
HT: Liverpool U23s 2-0 Arsenal U23s
Having struck on the cusp of half-time, Cain then scored again within two minutes of the restart, picking up the ball from Woodburn’s pass and firing past Tom Smith after more excellent off-ball work from Stewart.
Conor Bradley was required to make an impressive last-ditch challenge to deny Nelson a one-on-one with Hughes, and the young Reds then went up the other end to cap the victory as Cain fed Woodburn for his first goal since returning from Blackpool.
A resounding lead gave Lewtas the opportunity to first reintroduce Paul Glatzel, who took the place of an outstanding Stewart, and then Abdi Sharif, who replaced Cain late on following a long period out with injury.
Having at one point gone six games without a win, losing four, the U23s have now taken back-to-back victories for the first time since the start of November.
The return of senior players such as Boyes and Woodburn, plus the cutting edge of Cain and Stewart, has give Lewtas’ side the stability they require – and no doubt Jurgen Klopp and his staff will be impressed watching on.
Liverpool U23s: Hughes; Bradley, Boyes, Koumetio, Beck; Clayton, Dixon-Bonner (Hardy 88′), Morton; Cain (Sharif 88′), Woodburn, Stewart (Glatzel 78′)
Subs not used: Davies, Savage
Next match: Derby (H) – Premier League 2 – Sunday, March 7, 1pm (GMT)
As injuries continue to plague his team-mates, Andy Robertson has hinted that there is a mental challenge for the Liverpool squad as they look to avoid becoming next out.
Robertson is the only Liverpool player to start every Premier League game so far this season, and has clocked the most minutes on the pitch in all competitions (2,908).
Having been part of the top flight’s best defence last term, the Scot has seen all three of his regular colleagues at the back struck down with injury this time out.
Joel Matip, Thiago, Diogo Jota, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita, James Milner, Fabinho and Kostas Tsimikas are among those to have also struggled for fitness, with Jordan Henderson the latest long-term absentee.
This has left doubt in the back of Robertson’s mind which he admits he and his team-mates “need to try to get away from,” instead of worrying who will join the injury list.
“It’s probably part luck and everything that goes along with it,” he told the club’s official website of his consistency.
“With all the injuries round about me, it has obviously been tough in terms of, mentally, you need to try to get out of your head that ‘am I going to be next?’ or ‘who is going to be next?’.
“That’s the attitude we need to try to get away from because it looks like every game or every couple of games we’re losing somebody; it’s not been a nice season on that front.
“Obviously we have lost a lot of key players in key positions, and it has really been tough to adapt.
“But we get paid to play and paid to do what we do, and we need to get back to doing it to the highest level possible.
“I’m determined to do that and so are the rest of the lads that are fit and still able to play.”
Even though he has remained an ever-present for Jurgen Klopp so far this season, it is clear that Robertson has suffered with fatigue of late, with issues at centre-back ensuring a start for Tsimikas is more of a gamble.
But his admission that he and his team-mates have concerns over picking up injuries is an indictment of the demand on players in this ridiculous season.
At this point, Robertson can only hope that he does not join the likes of Gomez, Henderson and Van Dijk on the treatment table, and on a broader scale, the hope will be that these fears do not further impact on Liverpool’s form.
The Liverpool under-18s scored in the first and last minute of the game as they earned a 2-1 win at Everton, surviving a stoppage-time scare to take Merseyside derby glory.Liverpool U18s 2-1 Everton U18s
U18 Premier League, Kirkby
February 27, 2021
Goals: Frauendorf 1′, Musialowski 90+4′; Cannon 90+2′
Following their six-goal thrashing of Sunderland last weekend, the U18s welcomed Everton to the Kirkby sunshine on Saturday morning looking to put together consecutive wins for the first time since December.
Marc Bridge-Wilkinson made just one change from his side at the Academy of Light, with Lee Jonas replacing the injured Terence Miles at centre-back, with the young Reds’ manager looking for consistency.
The game got off to the perfect start as Melkamu Frauendorf weaved through the Everton defence and saw his shot deflect off Reece Welch and in for a first-minute opener.
A close-fought first half played out following Frauendorf’s fortunate strike, with the Blues having more chances on goal throughout despite Liverpool edging the possession.
Everton midfielder Charlie Whittaker struck the bar with a free-kick after Fabian Mrozek brought down Tom Cannon outside the box, but the young Reds remained in front heading into the break.
HT: Liverpool U18s 1-0 Everton U18s
Both Mrozek and his Everton counterpart Zan-Luk Leban were busy after half-time, with the latter required to make a save as Isaac Mabaya found Kaide Gordon in the box in a smart move.
Leban later stopped a free-kick from Dominic Corness, who was then forced off through injury, as under-16s Ethan Ennis and Tommy Piling were given a chance to make their mark.
Everton looked to have halted celebrations in stoppage time, however, as Jonas brought down Rafael Ferreira in the box to allow Cannon to step up and send it past Mrozek for a late equaliser.
But Mateusz Musialowski, who was culpable in the buildup to the Blues’ opener, emerged as the derby hero two minutes later, finishing well with his left foot to take the victory in the last minute of the game.
Liverpool U18s: Mrozek; Wilson (Ennis 67′), Quansah, Jonas, Norris; Corness (Piling 84′), Mabaya, Frauendorf; Gordon, Woltman, Musialowski
Subs not used: Hewitson, Hayes-Green
Jurgen Klopp has another big decision to make at centre-back as Liverpool head to Sheffield United, and he could be required to make a change between the sticks too.
On paper, the Reds face the perfect opportunity to get back on track this weekend with a visit to the Premier League‘s bottom-placed side.
Sheffield United have endured a miserable campaign so far, and are one of few sides to have experienced a similar injury nightmare to Liverpool, with six defenders sidelined among others.
But there is no guarantee for the champions as they arrive at Bramall Lane, with absences ensuring no fixture is a formality.
The big talking point for Klopp ahead of every game revolves around his centre-back options, and it is no different this time around, with Jordan Henderson now expected to be out for the majority of the remaining fixtures with an adductor problem.
This could see the manager name another new pairing at the back, with a possible debut.Another season-ender?
Speaking in his pre-match press conference, Klopp said that he “hopes there’s a possibility” that Henderson can “play a few games this season,” which cast a negative view on the captain’s injury.
Initial reports suggested Henderson would be back after the March international break, but the manager’s doubtful stance hints that he may well be out for the rest of the campaign.
“The way he came back in training is very positive,” the manager said.
“So we just have to make a decision about what makes sense for him, when does it make sense for him and all these kind of things.”
Though there are doubts over the involvement of Alisson, Klopp revealed on Friday that no decision had been made on whether the Brazilian will make the trip to South Yorkshire.
If the No. 1 opts to play on, he will start, but further up the pitch there is uncertainty over who will take Henderson’s place at centre-back.
Ozan Kabak is a shoo-in, as are Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson at full-back, and following his introduction in the Merseyside derby last time out, Nat Phillips may be the most likely candidate to come in.
However, the possible absence of Alisson and the prospect of changes elsewhere on the pitch could see an alternate XI take to the field.
As a left-sided centre-back, the winter signing could be a more natural partner to the right-sided Kabak, but their lack of experience – and lack of chemistry as a duo – may be a red flag.
Meanwhile, Klopp could shake up his midfield ranks with the introduction of Naby Keita, who is now back fit following an extended rehabilitation, having returned to the matchday squad after two months out last weekend.
The Guinean could provide more thrust and creativity against a busy, deep-sitting defence, in support of Salah, Mane and Firmino:
Given the circumstances surrounding Alisson‘s possible absence, the player coming in to take his place is of little significance – the Brazilian should be provided as much time as he needs.
But with the Premier League champions coming up against the favourites for the drop, there should be enough quality elsewhere on the pitch to ensure a return to winning ways regardless.
Chris Wilder insists he has nothing but admiration for the “incredibly talented” Jurgen Klopp following the public spat between the two managers earlier this season.
Wilder said the Liverpool boss was being selfish when he advocated a return of the five substitutes rule, believing it would give those with much bigger squads and resources an advantage, and later described the German as a “world-class politician”.
Klopp then responded with several jibes at Wilder in his media interviews, including pointing out that the Blades only had one point on the board at the time.
The pair will meet for the first time since that war of words in November when Liverpool travel to Bramall Lane on Sunday evening.
Ahead of the Premier League clash, Wilder insisted: “The relationship is absolutely fine.
“I’ve got nothing but admiration for Jurgen, he’s a top-class manager. That’s what happens, people talk and things get said. If I was precious about things being said I wouldn’t be doing this job.
“If I took notice of people in the media and what the majority have said through my time as a manager I don’t think I would be sat here and I think that’s the same for the manager at Liverpool.
“He’s an incredibly talented manager, he’s a winner and we all try to win. He has done that in incredible fashion. Heat of the moment, or whatever.
“If it was personal, I didn’t take it personal, and I have moved on and for me to worry about stuff like that is way down the pecking order.”
Indeed, the Blades, bottom of the table with just three league wins this campaign, head into the weekend’s round of fixtures 14 points from safety, with only 13 matches left to bridge the gap.
It has been a season of struggle for United, who finished ninth last term on their return to the Premier League, and Wilder admits there have been times when he has felt more like a counsellor than a football manager.
“These players have swum the channel to get in the position they are,” said Wilder, who has shared winning the League One title and promotion from the Championship with many of the players in his current squad over the past five years.
“I’m not going to smash them over the head. I support them. Sometimes, what they have done in such a short period of time, is overlooked a bit. We want more.
“Am I being a counsellor as much as a manager? Yes, it seems that way, because we are trying to keep spirits high and positive.
“It’s one of the hardest periods I’ve been through in my managerial career, because of my connection to this club. We just want to get through it.”
Jayden Bogle (shin) has joined the Blades’ lengthy injury list after he was injured by a tackle from Fulham goalkeeper Alphonse Areola last weekend, becoming one of six defenders now unavailable to Wilder.
Chris Basham (hamstring) is also out having been injured at Craven Cottage, while Jack Robinson (foot), Jack Rodwell, John Egan (toe) and Lys Mousset are still out.
Jack O’Connell (knee) and Sander Berge (hamstring) remain long-term absentees.
Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Florian Neuhaus is available this summer for £34.7 million, and it is claimed that Liverpool are interested in the 23-year-old.
The Reds face an important summer ahead in the transfer market, following a frustrating title defence and the likely departure of a number of senior players.
Gini Wijnaldum is chief among those expected to depart, with the Dutchman’s contract due to expire, and given his status as a first-choice starter, identifying his replacement is paramount.
Liverpool have been linked with a number of midfielders in recent months, and Neuhaus is one of the latest to have been touted with a move to Merseyside.
German journalist Christian Falk has told BILD that the club have been “watching the player for a while,” and with the No. 32 available due to a £34.7 million release clause in his contract, he “asks to play” at Liverpool.
“It’s true that they’ve been watching the player for a while,” Falk said, according to Sport Witness.
“The whole thing is not yet concrete according to our information, but it can, of course, become concrete, and he asks to play there.”
Falk went on to rule out both Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich as destinations, with the upcoming move of manager Marco Rose from Gladbach to Dortmund ensuring the club has “distanced itself” from Neuhaus.
“Dortmund has distanced itself after the Rose transfer and will not take any player from its team,” he explained.
“Bayern has to save money after the €42.5 million transfer of Upamecano; it is currently rather unlikely that they will put another €40 million on the table.
“That means it must be another league if Neuhaus wants to change, and there is the Premier League and Liverpool, of course.”
Whether he would serve as a like-for-like replacement for Wijnaldum is questionable, however, with Neuhaus better in more advanced positions, which has helped him score six and assist six in 31 games for Gladbach already this season.
It is likely that, as with his Gladbach team-mate Denis Zakaria, Liverpool are just monitoring the situation with Neuhaus at present – with Wijnaldum yet to even confirm his intention to leave – but it is one to keep an eye on.
Jurgen Klopp has insisted he does not think it is time for a “massive rebuild,” but readjustments are to happen alongside the current squad needing a chance to play together.
The Reds have been dealt a lethal hand in 2020/21, with a considerable injury list wiping out key figures and ensuring a settled XI has been all but impossible.
That, in addition to a condensed and taxing season in the midst of a pandemic has knocked Liverpool off their stride and into a rough patch of form.
With the title off the table and eyes already been cast to the future, questions have been raised about the evolution of Klopp’s side and the need for a rebuild.
With 14 members of the current squad aged 27 and over, including the entire front three, the age of the team is a growing concern, as is injecting fresh blood.
And while first questioning if a “rebuild means 10 out or 10 in,” Klopp insisted that a “massive rebuild” was not in order but that tweaks are certainly needed – if timing and finances allow.
But there is also a desire to see his current squad, who were robbed of the opportunity through injury, provided with the chance to play together consistently.
“I don’t think it’s the time for a massive rebuild for how I understand it, six or seven out, [players with] running contracts but try to get rid of them and then bring in new faces,” Klopp said.
“The squad of this year did not have the chance to play together one time really, I think it would make sense to have a look at that as well.
“On top of that, of course, little readjustments, or whatever, will happen. Reacting on the situation but at the same time planning for the future.
“Not sure if we can do that in the summer, but that’s what we will try.”
But with a lack of depth on show once more, largely due to injury, tiring legs and increased competition needed, the Reds need to act and Klopp needs the backing from the owners to do so.
In an ideal world, the Reds need at least a new centre-back, midfielder and forward player of starting XI quality, but off the back of a pandemic it may only be hopeful thinking.
Liverpool’s main involvement in the rumour mill on Friday is the central midfield revolving door, while we’ve all the build-up ahead of our clash with Sheffield United.Midfield pair linked once more
Well, at least it’s not another two centre-backs, right? It seems inevitable at this stage that Gini Wijnaldum will depart, particularly given the big role he has had to play this season – he’ll feel more than ever that he deserves a big salary bump, and the club structure appears unwilling to play.
Different national media have two different players as the front-runner to replace the No.5: in Italy, they are clear that Jurgen Klopp really wants Rodrigo De Paul and our ability to pay the €40m asking price – even though it’s more than we wanted – makes us favourites to sign the Udinese man ahead of Inter Milan.
In Germany, Bild say we’re still keen on ‘Gladbach’s Florian Neuhaus, who has a release clause of €40m.
That seems about the going rate, which is a lot to replace a player who will leave on a free, though Bild do state our intentions to sign the German man are “not concrete” yet.
Who wants to bet we end up with neither and it’s a totally unexpected name?!Jota looking ready ahead of Blades test
Not gonna lie: it would be really helpful if Diogo Jota could just hit the ground running again and fire in about five goals from eight shots once he gets back on the pitch for the Reds.
His pre-injury strike rate might not be sustainable over the long term, but we could really do with a quickfire boost in attack right now.
There’s no guarantee he’ll play this weekend – the boss offered the usual caveats of having to see “when does it make sense” for his return and the like – but as we’re able to select a bigger bench right now, and few others than Mo Salah look capable of sticking the ball in the net, it seems probable he’ll at least be in the squad.Weekend team news
You may have read by now that it’s not good news for Jordan Henderson, and the manager is hinting that it’s even worse than that.Quickfire LFC news
“The Reds will pursue a striker in the summer transfer window.”
What it actually says: Poor form and lack of goals mean Klopp might have to consider signing another one. Bad work, BBC/Echo combo.Tweet of the day
The best thing I can say about these injuries is that it will never get more ridiculous than this in another season. It's impossible.
Wonder if any team has ever had their 3 best CBs out for the season, and also the two midfielders filling in there out injured, too.
— Henry Jackson (@HenryJackson87) February 26, 2021Worth watching tonight
Werder Bremen vs Eintracht Frankfurt to get you in the mood for the weekend. 7:30pm, BT Sport, lots of crosses from Kostic and clever stuff from Kamada. Lovely.
Jurgen Klopp insists his side are not feeling the pressure despite a run of four consecutive league defeats, and he is expecting a plucky Sheffield United on Sunday.
The Reds will have had eight days to rest and bounce back following their latest defeat when they meet Sheffield United in the late Sunday kickoff.
The game pits a side with top-four ambitions against one looking to climb out of the relegation zone, ensuring it will not be played in second gear.
And while Liverpool are in a rough patch, the manager is not looking to carry the baggage of previous games to Bramall Lane, where his side will have a fight on their hands.
“We don’t feel pressure at Anfield, even when we lost now a couple of games at Anfield; it’s not that we go there and are shaking or whatever. That’s not the case,” Klopp told reporters.
“And an away game is the same and Sheffield United is a strong side with a difficult, difficult start in the season.
“Meanwhile, the last 10 games I think, the results were much different. You can see that, they are much more confident, all these kind of things.
“They will fight with all they have, we will fight with all we have. It’s not important if it’s dangerous or difficult or the best moment, it’s the only game we have this weekend and that’s the way we want to go into it.”
And on the atmosphere in the squad, Klopp spoke of simply how the next game provides another chance to turn it around.
“It’s a very challenging time for this squad, you can imagine, for different reasons,” he added. “But that’s how it is; in these times you have to show your real face and that’s what the boys do.
“During the week we work hard, we’re looking forward to the next game, the next chance for us to turn it around, to win a football game and all these kind of things. That’s all we are thinking about.”
The Brazilian has been out of the side since the defeat against Man City, missing the last three games with a muscle injury.
He had been considered a half-chance of featuring in the Merseyside derby but having not returned to training that was soon scuppered, as it will once more for the trip to Sheffield United.
Fabinho has not yet featured in team training since his point of injury and with just two days until the trip to South Yorkshire, it will likely be too soon for the No. 3 as Klopp revealed he is only now returning to training.
“Fab not yet with the team, that can happen I think tomorrow – if I’m 100 percent right. He will have his first session with the team,” he told reporters.
“And same for James Milner, that’s it.”
The good news is that Diogo Jota is to be included in the matchday squad after looking “very good” on his training return.
The injury crisis at Liverpool is best summarised by having all three senior centre-backs you started with the season out for the season and the two midfield back-ups both in the treatment room.
Alisson has expressed his appreciation for the widespread support he and his family have received after his father, Jose Becker, tragically passed away on Wednesday.
Jose Becker drowned after going for a swim in a dam at his property in Brazil and was later found on Wednesday night after being reported missing.
The tragic news was met by an overwhelming show of support from Liverpool fans and the wider football family, and Alisson showed his appreciation on his social media channels on Thursday.
The 28-year-old, who followed in his father’s goalkeeping footsteps along with brother Muriel, penned his gratitude for all those who sent their best wishes and tributes.
“I would like to thank everyone for the messages and tributes to my beloved father,” he said.
“Our family feels loved by everyone. May God bless each one’s life.”
The outpouring of support and condolences from fans, teammates and those in the football world was touching and heartfelt in equal measure:
Truly awful news that Alisson Becker’s father, Jose has lost his life by drowning. Thoughts are with him and his family. RIP
— Gary Lineker ? (@GaryLineker) February 25, 2021
O Fluminense Football Club lamenta profundamente o falecimento de José Agostinho Becker, pai dos goleiros Muriel e Alisson. Desejamos toda a força aos amigos e familiares.
— Fluminense F.C. (@FluminenseFC) February 25, 2021
— Robbie Fowler (@Robbie9Fowler) February 25, 2021
We are all with you pic.twitter.com/mLG2noMpXO
— David de Gea (@D_DeGea) February 25, 2021
Our thoughts are with Alisson and the Becker family, You’ll Never Walk Alone.
Jordan Henderson is to miss, at least, Liverpool’s next nine games after undergoing surgery on a groin injury which is to keep him out of action for six to eight weeks.
The captain was playing his seventh game in a row when he went to ground against Everton at the half-hour mark in Saturday’s defeat.
After the game, Jurgen Klopp noted the groin injury was one nobody “was positive about” as immediate suggestions were it would not be a quick turnaround.
And following scans, Henderson has now undergone successful surgery and is expected to be ruled out of the Reds’ next six to eight weeks of action, which will see him miss up to nine games – a timescale provided by the Times‘ Paul Joyce.
It means he will not be available for the upcoming all-important league meetings against the likes of Chelsea, Wolves, Arsenal and Aston Villa in addition to the second leg last-16 tie against Leipzig in the Champions League and potentially the quarter-finals.
The setback is one that will also see him ruled out of international duty with England in March, with his return not expected until mid-April.
Games Henderson is expected to miss:
It’s another massive blow to Klopp and Co. just when it looked as though the skipper could shift back into midfield with Fabinho on the cusp of a return.
Instead, the injury crisis continues and the 19th partnership at centre-back is on the horizon as the Brazilian is likely to be paired with Ozan Kabak on his return.
It continues the trend of one step forward and two steps back in 2020/21 with more strain to be put on existing personnel as a result.
With Roberto Firmino experiencing a continued downturn in form and influence at Liverpool, it is time to provide the No. 9 with more competition for his starting spot.
If this relentless, congested campaign has shown us anything, it’s that constant football is, in fact, not very good at all.
Sure, over the festive period, it would normally be considered a treat to be able to stretch out and watch the Premier League almost every day for a fortnight.
But in this sterile, commercial season, dogged by the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic and the farce of VAR, it has become a largely joyless affair, to be weathered rather than relished.
That would be the case were Liverpool still riding high, and were not hampered by a ridiculous injury list that could see Jordan Henderson join the out-for-the-season brigade.
It is a situation that could shorten careers, and at youth level may even halt them before they begin such is the stop-start nature of their fixture list, with there a very real possibility that 2020/21 will be looked back on as a watershed campaign.
Within this, and moving forward, Jurgen Klopp is tasked with overseeing the evolution of his squad, who are not only spread thin but, on the majority, also edging past their peak years.
This could well be the case with Roberto Firmino, who is in the throes of an 18-month malaise that has seen patience on the virtual Kop close to wearing out.
For so long the “engine” of Klopp’s Liverpool side, Firmino has been the model for a new brand of No. 9; not an out-and-out goalscorer, not a target man, not a player shoehorned into a ‘false’ role – a groundbreaking centre-forward.
Firmino’s exact role is so difficult to pin down, operating predominantly in the space not necessarily deemed tangible in the straightforward tactical assessment of the game. Or in other words, between the lines.
Only once in his five full seasons at Anfield so far has Firmino scored more than 20 goals in all competitions, that being in 2017/18, when 15 came in the league, one in the FA Cup and, incredibly, 11 on the road to the Champions League final.
That has, at least publicly, been accepted by Klopp as an occupational hazard, explaining as such back in December, albeit with the caveat that “Roberto wants to score goals.”
“It’s really important that each player knows the job he has to do in a game. They are different,” he told reporters.
“In the end, it’s important the team scores and that happens thankfully most of the time often enough. Not always, but most of the time.”
But there are too convergent issues with Firmino within this current setup, and in particular this over-demanding season.
Firstly, for a long period he has not sustained a consistent level of influence that negates his blunt edges in front of goal; and secondly, when Mane and Salah are not firing, Liverpool’s third attacker has been woeful in his own finishing.
To use Klopp’s engine analogy: if it is not working to a functional capacity, does it not require maintenance, or at worst replacing entirely?
That is the conundrum that may face the manager as he looks ahead to the summer transfer window, working alongside Michael Edwards and the club’s recruitment staff.
Not only are Firmino’s rates of goals and assists following a downward trajectory, so too are his underlying statistics, according to FBref, such as his shot creating actions and successful pressures per 90:
* FBref defines a ‘shot creating action’ as “offensive actions directly leading to a shot, such as passes, dribbles and drawing fouls.”
* FBref defines a ‘successful pressure’ as “the number of times the squad gained possession within five seconds of applying pressure.”
Firmino is by no means ‘done’, despite the increasing number of supporters erring towards that conclusion, but it can certainly be argued that this non-stop schedule is affecting the No. 9 more than most.
One of Firmino’s best qualities is his availability, with only two players throughout Klopp’s entire managerial career making more appearances than his 272.
James Milner is the next-closest Liverpool player, with 229, while last season no one played more times than the 29-year-old, who is on course to repeat this feat as top appearance-maker this time out, too.
Klopp is clearly aware of the physical demand on his first-choice striker, subbing him off comfortably more times (130) than any other player during his time at Mainz, Dortmund and Liverpool.
But as his performances noticeably suffer at this stage in his career, it seems now is the time to give Firmino more competition and cover in leading the line.
This has already been acknowledged, of course, with the signings of Takumi Minamino and, more so, Diogo Jota, but the decision to allow Minamino to join Southampton on loan, coupled with the diminishing returns of Divock Origi up top, shows that more is needed.
It was fitting that on the night that saw Firmino fire three of his four shots off target in the Merseyside derby, Erling Braut Haaland was at his clinical best yet again with a brace in Dortmund’s 4-0 thrashing of Schalke.
Real talk, do we actually have any proof that Haaland wasn't made in a factory?
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) February 21, 2021
Haaland is a different breed of striker; a preeminent, generational talent who has made the jump from the Austrian Bundesliga to its more distinguished German counterpart with ease.
After scoring 29 and assisting seven in just 27 games for Red Bull Salzburg, the Leeds-born Norwegian is currently on 43 goals and 10 assists in 43 appearances for Dortmund.
Ten of those goals have come in seven outings in the Champions League, and with his 21st birthday not until July, it is clear Haaland is on course to become one of world football’s leading strikers – if he isn’t already.
Firmino’s rise at Liverpool is a prime example of the club’s ethos of avoiding deals for the best of the best in favour of nurturing rough diamonds, but as their Premier League crown teeters miserably, perhaps Haaland is an opportunity too attractive to overlook.
A €75 million release clause was negotiated into the youngster’s contract upon his move from Salzburg to Dortmund, but this can only be activated from the summer of 2022.
But perhaps its existence could see Dortmund do business for slightly above this as early as this summer – if that is the case, Liverpool should look to front the queue for his services.
Haaland will not be short of suitors when the time comes to leave the Westfalenstadion, of course, and that may leave Klopp, Edwards and Co. to consider other options, but if so, it could still be advantageous to look for a player of a different profile to Firmino himself.
Firmino is still tied to Liverpool until 2023, with two years left on his contract as of this summer, which ensures he can remain part of Klopp’s squad moving forward.
But the vagaries of this particular campaign, and their likely lasting impact on the No. 9’s output, has illuminated the need for another genuine, reliable, top-class centre-forward at Anfield as soon as possible.
Liverpool are only linked with one new face today, a relative rarity, but a couple are supposedly heading the other way out the door! And the countdown to Sheffield United is on.Klopp hasn’t given up on signing Bremer
Apparently, he impressed so much in a friendly that the boss sought out our chances of signing him and, despite it not happening at the time, his admiration has not departed since then.
Now our summer plan for a defensive restructure revolves around going back in for the Brazilian and we’ll offer him a salary four times bigger than his current one – if we get back in the Champions League.
Torino don’t want to lose their man, so they’ll be offering a new deal to one of the “pillars” they want to build the team around.
Are we bored of summer centre-back rumours yet?Poch wants one of the men who broke his heart
You may vaguely remember a sunnier, brighter, happier time all of 21 months ago, when Liverpool defeated Tottenham 2-0 in a type of game known as a final, where the winner typically collects a big, shiny piece of furniture which is colloquially known as “Big Ears”.
Gini Wijnaldum was a key part of the team which won on that occasion, leaving Mauricio Pochettino – among others – in tears on the sidelines.
Now, he wants his revenge, by taking the Dutch midfielder away from Anfield and forcing him to play teams like Dijon, Angers and Nimes for the rest of eternity.
Or else PSG want him on a free because he’s boss and will give him the massive pay rise he wants. You decide which is true.Senior moments
LFC is once more in mourning and our thoughts are with Alisson Becker.Quickfire LFC news
“To have Dele back at this level, is amazing.”
That’s Jose Mourinho, after Dele scored one and assisted two against Austria’s fifth-best side Wolfsberger in the Europa League after being 4-1 up from the first leg.
Two questions: Who coached him ‘down’ from that level in the first place and left him out the team for so long? And who probably won’t pick him to play at the weekend anyway?Tweet of the day
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) February 25, 2021Worth watching tonight
Europa League tonight and the best-looking ties with lots riding on them are Ajax vs Lille (early) or Leverkusen vs Young Boys (late).
A Spanish journalist has made the wild claim that Mohamed Salah “confirmed to him” that he is not happy at Liverpool, in an interview with an Egyptian TV network.
Speculation over Salah’s future with the Reds has mounted throughout the current campaign, fuelled by a number of comments from the No. 11 to various outlets.
Most notably, the Egypt international spoke to Spanish publication AS back in December, conceding that while he wants to “break every record” at Liverpool the situation is “in the club’s hands.”
Salah described Real Madrid and Barcelona as “top clubs,” and it appears that the media in both Spain and his native Egypt are gearing towards a high-profile transfer to LaLiga.
Cornago is said to have claimed that “Salah has confirmed to me that he is not happy at Liverpool,” before arguing that, out of Real and Barcelona, the Madrid club would “suit him better.”
This follows another interview with OnTime Sports on Wednesday, that being with ex-Bolton forward Jay-Jay Okocha, who strangely advised Salah that he should join Barcelona.
It appears as though the workings are in place to force through a move away from Anfield, though whether they come from the player himself is questionable.
Salah is Egypt’s biggest star, and it would work in the favour of the media in both his homeland and in Spain if he were to swap Liverpool for either Real or Barcelona.
Liverpool are in a strong position when it comes to Salah’s future, however, with his contract not set to expire until 2023, and there is no indication he is looking to leave when it comes to his performances.
The 28-year-old has scored 24 and assisted four in 35 games this season, taking his goal tally to 118 in 187 appearances since arriving from Roma in 2017.
He is a legendary figure on Merseyside, and currently sits joint-13th in the club’s all-time top scorers list, level with Ian St John, excelling this season when fellow forwards Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have struggled for consistency.
During the Reds’ recent run of poor form, he pledged his commitment to the cause and to supporters, taking to Instagram to write: “We are champions and we will fight like champions, until the very end.
“We will not allow this season to be defined by the recent results we’ve had. That is my promise to all of you.”
Gini Wijnaldum is expected to leave Liverpool on the expiry of his contract this summer, but Barcelona may not be the only club vying for the Dutchman’s signature.
This comes despite the Dutchman entering the final six months of his deal earlier this year, and with no breakthrough on the horizon when it comes to an extension.
At this stage, it seems highly likely Wijnaldum will join the likes of Adam Lallana, Nathaniel Clyne, Daniel Sturridge, Alberto Moreno, Emre Can and Lazar Markovic from recent years in leaving Anfield on a free.
Barcelona are widely considered his most probable next destination, but now French publication Le Parisien claim the 30-year-old’s availability will “strongly interest” Paris Saint-Germain.
PSG are presented as new suitors for outgoing Bayern Munich utility man David Alaba, but it is also mentioned in Frederic Gouaillard’s report that Wijnaldum is on a list of free agents the Ligue 1 club will consider.
This may come as no surprise given PSG have utilised the free agent market to bring in Rafinha, Ander Herrera, Gianluigi Buffon, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Lassana Diarra, Dani Alves and Hatem Ben Arfa over the past five years.
Furthermore, the presence of Mauricio Pochettino as manager points to a feasible interest in Wijnaldum, with the Argentine having held talks with the midfielder over a possible move from Newcastle to Tottenham in 2016.
Wijnaldum opted to join Liverpool after a similar conversation with Jurgen Klopp, but five years on he could link up with Pochettino in Paris.
Given his contract situation, and the issues separating him and his current club, it would make sense for Wijnaldum to head to PSG.
It is claimed he is looking for a wage befitting his status as one of the most important players within Klopp’s squad – having been earning the same, relatively low salary of £75,000 a week for the entire time he has been at Anfield – but also the stability of a lengthy deal.
But given his age, it is a difficult demand for Liverpool to agree to, as despite his remarkably consistent record of fitness, handing a player over the age of 30 a long-term contract – with a wage increase – is always a gamble.
PSG are more likely to provide the package Wijnaldum arguably deserves, and could present fierce competition for Barcelona if he does depart Merseyside this summer.
Liverpool have suffered another season-ending injury this week, with under-23s forward Jack Bearne undergoing surgery following ankle ligament damage in training.
Van Dijk is hoping to make his comeback before the end of the season, but as the Dutchman returns to light training outside at Kirkby, doubts swirl over the availability of Jordan Henderson between now and the end of May.
Though less damaging, it is a similar situation elsewhere at the training ground, with Barry Lewtas’ U23s dealt a blow with injury to Bearne.
Bearne has been a regular for the young Reds this season, starting 11 games and coming off the bench for another two, scoring three goals and laying on a further three assists.
But the 19-year-old, signed from Notts County in 2017, has had surgery on an ankle ligament injury suffered in training last week, which rules him out for the rest of the season.
“Today I have had ankle surgery to repair my ligament that I damaged last week while training, meaning that I will be out of action for the rest of the season,” Bearne wrote on Instagram.
“This is the second surgery I’ve had on this particular ankle which is very frustrating.
“But it only drives me on to come back stronger than ever, and to give my rehab everything to try and get back to my best!”
It is not the first season-ending blow in the academy, either, with Tom Hill sidelined for the long term with a knee injury sustained back in September.
Paul Glatzel and Abdi Sharif have both spent much of the season on the treatment table, too, returning in a 3-1 friendly win over Salford City earlier this week.
Marcelo Pitaluga and Leighton Clarkson both suffered injuries during the U23s’ most recent competitive outing – a 3-2 win at Chelsea – while the likes of Joe Hardy, Elijah Dixon-Bonner and Billy Koumetio have also spent time out.
In the under-18s, James Balagizi, Melkamu Frauendorf, James Norris and Harvey Blair have all struggled for fitness at points, with this unique campaign have a big impact.
Bearne will be given the support of Liverpool’s top-class medical staff, and can use the likes of Glatzel and Sharif as examples of the commitment required during his lengthy layoff.