Liverpool’s 2-1 win over Wolves extended their lead at the top of the Premier League, in a season in which they are matching the heroics of the greats.
I mean, I grew up on the gods of the late 1970s and early 1980s; I grew up on heroes whose names still trip off the tongue with a casual reverence.
Dalglish, McDermott, Case, Souness, Kennedy (both of them), Johnson, Hansen, Thompson, Neal, Clemence, Heighway and Fairclough.
That record-breaking 1978/79 side that won 30 out of their 42 league games, conceding only 16 goals along the way, to make themselves the Liverpool title-winning team that all other Liverpool title-winning teams have since been measured against.Impressionable Teenager
By the time the 1987/88 vintage rolled into town, I was locked within my most impressionable teenage years.
They were a glorious collective of names that trip off the tongue with an almost obscene nonchalance.
Grobbelaar, Nicol, Ablett, Hansen, Gillespie, Lawrenson, Venision, McMahon, Whelan, Spackman, Houghton, Johnston, Barnes, Beardsley and Aldridge. Throw in an unfit Molby while you’re at it, you know, just because we can.
And now here we are, in 2020, witnessing this new form of Anfield greatness. A team that wins 99.9 percent of its games and doesn’t adhere to any of the previously written laws of footballing logic.
A band of names that are proudly shouted from the rooftops.
Throw in a recently arrived Minamino and a previously untrusted Lovren into the mix, while the kids are alright too.
The startling thing about this Liverpool is just how the awe of right-minded, football loving, non-Liverpool supporters is growing at an exponential rate.
After this latest victory at Wolves, a win which we rode our luck to attain to a degree, the BT Sport and ITV commentator Seb Hutchinson was compelled to comment:
Watching as a neutral I just find this astonishing – surely you must feel you're in a dream?
— Seb Hutchinson (@Seb_Hutch) January 23, 2020
For the record, yes, yes I do feel it’s a dream. A glorious dream that is slowly but surely edging toward a barely believable reality.
Seb’s take on proceedings also has an opposite. It is balanced by the militancy of those in denial about just how good this Liverpool are.
For examples of this, track back to any of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s most recent Liverpool-related moon-howling.Alternative Parallel Universe
This is essentially a Liverpool that is on the brink of transporting us to an alternative, parallel universe.
One in which our 30-year title drought has ended; one where the monkey that has been residing on our back since 1990 has finally clambered down and headed off to jump on Man United’s instead.
Successfully complete the ascent to the top of this mountain and we’ll find a beautiful horizon that stretches far, far into the distance; a horizon that can be anything that Jurgen Klopp and his players want it to be.
We didn’t make it easy for ourselves at Molineux. We invited early pressure and the chance that flashed close to Alisson’s six-yard line was quite literally a shot across our bows.
In riposte, the magnificent Jordan Henderson made it 1-0 when he lashed the ball in from a corner with his left ear. It wasn’t even his stronger ear at that.
Other chances tripped along over the course of the following 82 minutes, plus time added on for stoppages. Two of them were taken. One for Wolves, by Raul Jimenez, the other in almost inevitable circumstances by Bobby Firmino.
In the case of Firmino, it was after he’d missed earlier and simpler opportunities.
When all is said and done, try as you might—and Wolves tried harder than any other team we have faced this season—you just can’t keep these Redmen out.
At one point, Van Dijk eased the ball and his opponent out for a goal-kick, while his facial expression was set to a majestically disdainful frequency.
If you aren’t enjoying these halcyon days, then you really need to get your kicks elsewhere.Request
The one request I would put in is that we now ditch the all-green goalkeeper’s kit.
Alisson should be in all black, rather than in all green. He looks three times bigger and 100 times more imposing when in all black.
When in all black, he strikes the image of a Jason Bourne version of the Milk Tray man, while when his beard is more unkempt, he looks like a bear of a goalkeeper.
It is the Lev Yashin effect and Jamie Carragher agrees:
Been saying that for weeks!
— Jamie Carragher (@Carra23) January 23, 2020
Mane has been the most consistent of our front three this season, so the hope must be that his hamstring isn’t going to put him out of the picture for too long.
A short, personalised winter break will leave him fresh for the projected festivities of a spring clinching of the league title though.Hungry Like the Wolf
They put in a massive amount of effort against the best team in the world. It is a compliment to Liverpool that on an ‘off night’ they still won away to a team riding their own compelling wave of intent.
While Wolves sit on the same number of points as Tottenham and United, it is entirely unrepresentative of the seasons they are all having.
A win of inevitability perhaps for Liverpool, most certainly the type of win champions procure.
This was another significant step forward, as January was meant to be a month where our lead at the top of the Premier League would be ripe for shrinking, rather than being extended.
The points clock continues its countdown. Twenty-seven points to go and 15 games in which to do it.
Liverpool beat Wolves on Thursday night and are immediately preparing for a cup game this weekend, but there’s also transfer news and a squad fitness update.
The Premier League transfer window rule change hasn’t worked particularly well in favour of England’s top-flight clubs, after switching the deadline to before the season starts.
With other leagues still able to do business beyond that date, some teams feel they have lost out—so a hybrid compromise appears to be on the agenda.
The Times report that at least one big club are set to vote in favour of the proposal, which would see the window shut before the season starts with the exception of dealings with overseas clubs.
Loans between Premier League teams could also not happen after the season starts.
In related news, one of the first Brexit-related impacts on the game can be seen with this being the final summer where European players aged 16 and 17 can be signed by Premier League clubs. Thereafter it will be 18 and over, in line with FIFA rules.
That would rule out future deals for players similar to Ki-Jana Hoever, who was 16 when he switched football in his home nation of Netherlands to join the Reds.Isco rumour rolls around again
It’s difficult to put into words just why Isco isn’t well-suited for a Jurgen Klopp team. Well, it’s not difficult to put into words, just to keep those words down to a short enough length to fit into our round-up, such are the many, many reasons why.
But here’s one for starters: Spanish publication Eldesmarque, which has this season emerged as the new Don Balon for crap and frequent rumours, say that Klopp wants Isco…sort of.
What actually is suggested later in the piece is that Real will offer Isco to Liverpool, but don’t really want to sell him, and that they’ll only accept €70 million or more—because the alternative for the Reds is to go for Napoli’s Fabian Ruiz, who would be even more expensive.
As far as reasons to sign a player go, it’s not really up there at the top of the list, is it?
Other reasons can be that he’s 28 come the end of the season, can’t hold down a place in the Real Madrid team, is about as consistent as your average VAR decision and has actually been less creative this season than Jordan Henderson.Title talk and one step closer
Jurgen doesn’t want any thoughts of easing up after a hard-fought win at Wolves, with the hard work still ahead. Here’s the best post-match news:Looking ahead to a weekend of FA Cup action
Klopp has given plenty of positive information in his press conference, all of which you can watch here.
In terms of the team news, Naby Keita should be back in training as of Friday, while the trio of Fabinho, Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren should all play—that gives a great defensive base to build from for the match, with Adrian also likely to play in goal.
No doubt there will be a fair few youngsters on the sides of the lineup, but that spine has some serious experience—although is lacking in recent fitness after injury.
Meanwhile, there’s a debate to be had on whether Takumi Minamino starts or not, given he got more time on the pitch than expected against Wolves. Klopp was impressed with his fighting spirit, but the physical aspects need to be taken into account for weekend involvement.Quickfire LFC news
You know when you love a former player from back in the day, but they just won’t accept football has evolved? Steve Nicol simply won’t have it that Liverpool have made serious and significant gains by utilising a throw-in coach. The data is there, Stevie!Tweet of the day
What a player!
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) January 24, 2020What we’re reading
Sadio Berahino has spoken to BBC Sport about that failed move to Spurs back in 2015 and his ridiculously poor career since then – he only has 12 club goals in the past four seasons.
Dortmund vs. Koln is the pick of the Friday night European action. Kick-off is at 7:30pm and it’s live on BT Sport 3.
Liverpool’s trip to Goodison Park for the third Merseyside derby of the season has been moved for TV, with three fixtures rescheduled in March.
The Reds have already played Everton twice this season, winning both, and could do the treble over their city rivals when they head across Stanley Park.
Given the tight turnaround between the Champions League last 16 second leg at home to Atletico Madrid and the initial date, the fixture has been moved to Monday, March 16.
Kickoff at Goodison Park will be at 8pm, and the game will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in the UK.
The Cherries will now visit Anfield on Saturday, March 7 for a 12.30pm kickoff, while Palace make the trip for a 5.30pm start on Saturday, March 21.
This provides a reasonable gap between every game that month, though the clash with Palace could still be moved again, depending on the two sides’ involvement in the FA Cup quarter-finals.
Those ties will be played on the weekend of March 21/22, and therefore the Eagles would likely head to Merseyside the following midweek instead.
Liverpool could, of course, clinch the Premier League in the Merseyside derby, which could be a problem for those hoping to book work off the following day.
No long weekend for the Reds!Liverpool Fixtures, March
* Fixture pending FA Cup dates.
Liverpool came through an incredibly difficult test at Molineux to record yet another win, 2-1 this time over Wolves in the Premier League.
Premier League, Molineux
January 23, 2020
Goals: Jimenez 50′; Henderson 8′, Firmino 84′From all-action to all-rounder
Box-to-box, holding mid, goalscorer extraordinaire. Possibly not extraordinaire, not with two for the season, but it was a very timely intervention from the skipper to pop up with a header (or a shoulder) and get the Reds on the front foot.
Of course, Henderson’s not really in the team to be on the end of moves, he’s there to disrupt them from the other team – and once again he was exceptional in this regard.
Henderson continually picked up the loose pieces, won challenges, directed his team-mates off the ball and ensured there was cover all over the park.
Henderson’s form and confidence is sky high and the captain is leading us to glory once again.Containing Adama
One of the most relentless and difficult opponents to face this season for any Premier League defence, Adama Traore provided an exhibition in how to be the focal point of a team’s attack and be non-stop and direct without diverting away from the skill-set he has in the slightest.
Traore was awarded Man of the Match by UK TV, but in truth this felt more down to the number of times he was the outlet and in possession, rather than because he was magical and hugely productive all game long.
Most of the time, while Liverpool struggled to contain the former Barcelona man, they did do well with his deliveries, with the centre-backs clearing the majority of his 10 crosses.
Van Dijk cut out his clips and cut-backs on at least six occasions—three with his head, three with his feet—while Gomez also got on the end of a couple to clear the lines.
Andy Robertson had a bit of a torrid night due to Traore always getting the ball, and perhaps he was tired when he cost the Reds a goal: poor position to start with, poor decision to step forward and tackle and certainly a poor execution of that challenge, which left the Reds totally open and skewed on the cover.
That meant Traore’s assist, but thereafter his impact was once more minimal until the very last moment of the game, when Wolves skied their big chance for 2-2.Minamino’s Premier League debut
One beautiful early flick over a defender’s head showed his awareness and technique, but he came on at a time when the Reds were largely concerned with controlling the game and getting to the break.
After the restart it was quickly apparent that he and Oxlade-Chamberlain had switched sides, perhaps with the intent of replicating the pace down that left flank which Sadio Mane usually provides, but with the Reds in more of a 4-4-2 shape off the ball.
A difficult start to the second half saw a lot of running and not much else for the Japanese attacker, but one snap-shot forced Rui Patricio into a save on the hour mark.
One mitigating factor must be noted though: Other than perhaps playing Man City, it could hardly have been a more tricky introduction for the new No. 18—a Merseyside derby alongside plenty of youngsters, and the toughest test the Reds have faced in a long time.Biggest test of 2020
Little doubt in the minds of players and fans, that this fixture was the most difficult one that Liverpool have had to get through in ages, perhaps since Man City came to Anfield.
Adama Traore was a big part of it, but not the only part; set-piece delivery was good, the wing-backs pushed on constantly and the runners from deep—Neto, Doherty, later Jota—often caused problems on the second balls after crosses.
The Reds didn’t enjoy possession and territorial dominance the way they usually do and weren’t able to constantly counter-attack, especially after losing Mane’s pace.
But, even so, this incredible team once more found a way to win.
Bobby Firmino’s clever footwork and 10th away goal of the season lands a massive three points, and inflicted what must be a hugely demoralising and deflating blow to other clubs who were hoping for a few dropped points.Cup and game in hand
Sixteen points clear again, count them. 22 wins from 23 games. Count them, too.
It’ll be a hectic time again now for the Reds, but only for a few short weeks until the winter break, so keeping the relentless form going is critical.
Hopefully, too, another warm body or two might boost Jurgen Klopp‘s options; James Milner and Naby Keita should be reasonably close to returns, while Xherdan Shaqiri will presumably be called upon at some point, too.
The biggest hope of all will be that Mane’s injury is not too serious, and these next couple of matches, at least, are ones the Reds should be able to come through without him in any case.
Another test down and the Reds keep marching on.
Liverpool could lose six of their remaining 15 games and still win the title… the suggestion, Klopp said post-match makes him “feel sick.” They won’t lose six and they might not lose any…
Jurgen Klopp acknowledged Liverpool had come through a very difficult challenge away to Wolves, but stressed the hard work was far from over.
The Reds were made to work hard, suffer under pressure and have to find another late winner to see off Wolves 2-1 in the end in the Premier League on Thursday.
The boss was full of praise in his post-match press conference for his team for dealing with the somewhat unique challenge that Wolves present, with a 3-4-3 set-up led by the speed demon outlet of Adama Traore.
“We knew beforehand it would be a really, really tough game,” Klopp told journalists.
“Wolves are so different to everything else you face this year. The way Nuno sets it up is really good.”
Even with the late win it wasn’t a night without drawbacks; one of the big questions at full-time was on the injury sustained by Sadio Mane.
The Reds’ No. 10 went off midway through the first half and Klopp doesn’t expect he’ll feature much across the next few games, suggesting it may be a hamstring strain.
“Don’t know exactly. It’s probably a muscle; he felt something, a hamstring. We have to wait. We will see.”
Klopp further praised the “worldie” strike from Firmino which won the game and stressed the importance of being ready for the upcoming games.
Rotations can be expected for the weekend cup game, which may give a chance for one or two who were on the bench tonight—including Premier League debutant Takumi Minamino, who Klopp felt did “exceptionally well” in difficult circumstances.
Roberto Firmino’s late strike moved the champions-elect 16 points clear at the top after a 2-1 win at Wolves.
It came after Alisson ensured they extended their unbeaten league run to 40 games with vital saves from Adama Traore and Raul Jimenez.
Jimenez had earlier hauled Wolves level in the second half after Jordan Henderson’s opener.
Liverpool are closing in on a first title in 30 years but Klopp insisted he is not fixated on their position.
Klopp said: “I don’t think about it, I had to ask about exactly the amount of points, that’s the truth, I really forgot in the week.
“That’s three games in seven days which is a lot. We lost Sadio Mane and that’s the pressure I think about. All the rest is no pressure.
“We said it before it would be a really tough game, Wolves are doing so unbelievably well, they are so different to everything else you face.”
“They scored a super goal and had a big chance from Ali saves,” Klopp added.
“We scored our wonderful goal after a set-piece but not a second or third means everything is open and then it gets intense.
“We had chances, Mo and Bobby in front of the goalkeeper and then a worldie from Bobby, it was a super goal.
“This ball can go wide and we know the sound of that. That we have different options to score gives us the opportunity to stay in the game.”
Liverpool make the trip to Wolves tonight on the hunt for their 22nd win of the season. Here’s how to watch on TV around the world.
With 21 currently under their belt, Liverpool’s tally of 64 points sees them placed 13 ahead of Man City – who have played two more games.
The trip to Molineux pits the Reds against a Wolves outfit who have won one game from their last six in all competitions, one of which includes the 1-0 defeat at Anfield.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side were a tough unit to breakdown in the reverse fixture and Liverpool are to expect similar tonight, but they have recent history on their side.
The Reds have won the last six meetings in the topflight, restricting Wolves to just one goal in that time – will Klopp’s men make it seven this evening?
Check This Is Anfield for the latest team news ahead of the match.
You can also follow the game by downloading the This is Anfield app, including lineups, live coverage and all the reaction and analysis.
The match gets underway at 8pm (GMT)—or 3pm in New York, 12pm in Los Angeles, 7am (Friday) in Sydney, 12am (Friday) in Dubai and 11pm in Nairobi.UK Viewers
Wolves vs. Liverpool is being shown live on BT Sport 1 and BT Sport Ultimate, which are available to live stream with NOW TV.
Wolves vs. Liverpool is being shown live on NBCSN in the US, which is available to live stream with FuboTV.
Live audio commentary of Wolves vs. Liverpool and a full match replay and highlights will also be available on LFCTV GO here.
Check our Rest of the World TV guide below for a list of TV broadcasters showing the match live.
[embedded content]Rest of the World
Supporters can find the Reds’ latest Premier League clash on the following channels worldwide:
beIN Sports HD 2, beIN SPORTS CONNECT, SuperSport Maximo, SuperSport 3 Africa, Supersport 2 Digitalb, DStv Now, ESPN Play Sur, ESPN2 Sur, Optus Sport, RMC Sport 1, RMC Sport en direct, Armenia 2, RUSH, Sky Go, Sky Sport Austria, Sky HD, Sky Sport 1 HD, Idman TV, Canal+ Sport 2 Afrique, Canal+ Sport Online, SportKlub 2 Serbia, Watch ESPN Brasil, ESPN Brasil, Astro Go, Astro Supersport 3, Play Diema Xtra, Diema Sport 2, DAZN, QQ Sports Live, PPTV Sport China, ESPN2 Colombia, Sportklub 2 Croatia, Cytavision Sports 1, Cytavision on the Go, DIGI GO, Premier Sport, Viaplay Denmark, Xee, ESPN2 Andina, TV3 Sport, Viaplay Finland, Viasat Football HD, Viasat Sports Premium, Canal+ Decale, Free, Now E, Spiler 1, Sport 1, SíminnSport, Mola TV, Sky Sport Uno, SKY Go Italia, Sky Sport Football, Sentanta Sports Kazakhstan, SPOTV ON, SPOTV, MaxTV Go, TSN2 Malta, GO TV Anywhere, Blue To Go Video Everywhere, SPS HD, Ziggo Sport Select, Ziggo Sport 14, Spark Sport, TV2 Sumo, TV2 Sport Premium, Canal+ 4K Ultra HD, nc+ GO, Canal+ Sport 2 Poland, Sport TV LIVE, Sport TV1, Eurosport Romania, Okko Sport, SportKlub 1 Slovenia, Viaplay Sweden, S Sport+, S Sport, K+PM, Sentanta Sports Ukraine, UNIVERSO, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo
You can follow all the action today and throughout 2019/20 with us by downloading the This is Anfield app for iPhone and Android for free.
Liverpool’s relentless Premier League title chase sees them head to Wolves on Thursday night; here are all the best stats ahead of kick-off.
Liverpool look for a second successive league double over Wolves, having last season won 2-0 both home and away.
In the last 29 league meetings home and away the Reds have prevented Wolves from scoring on 18 occasions.
The Premier League meetings have seen Liverpool win eight and draw two of the 11 encounters – with the Reds scoring 17 of the 20 goals netted in the fixture.
At Molineux, the Reds are undefeated in the last three visits after losing the previous two in the Premier League era.
In the last five league trips to Wolverhampton, Liverpool have conceded just one goal: a 90th-minute Kenny Miller equaliser almost 16 years ago to the day.Key faces
Sadio Mane has found the net three times in his last two appearances against Wolves.
Roberto Firmino has scored five goals in his last four games away from Anfield. All of his nine league and cup goals during this campaign have come on the road.Aboard the title train
Liverpool are unbeaten in the last 18 away league games (14 victories and four draws) with 12 of those wins coming in their last 13 away outings.
They have conceded five goals away from home in the league this season – fewer than any other team in the top four divisions in England plus the National League and the top four divisions in Scotland.
It is more than two years since Liverpool lost to a team outside of the so-called ‘big-six’. That came at Swansea on 22 January, 2018 when Alfie Mawson scored the only goal of the game. That evening Virgil van Dijk made his league debut.Records tumbling
In the win over Manchester United last Sunday, Liverpool set a new club record by scoring in each of their opening 22 games of a top-flight league campaign. They are the first to achieve the feat in the Premier League since Arsenal in 2001-02.
The Reds have kept a clean sheet in each of the last seven league games, for the first time since December 2006. The last time they did so in eight in succession was in December 2005 when they equalled the club record – also set in 1922/23 when the Reds went on to win the title.
The last team to achieve the feat in the top-flight were Manchester United during the 2008/09 campaign, in a record-breaking sequence of 14.
Jurgen Klopp’s men have won 13 successive league games—their second-longest ever sequence in the league.Scary form
Liverpool have not lost a league game for 385 days. The Reds have suffered one top-flight loss in the last 627 days.
The Reds have currently accumulated 64 points from 22 games, a tally that is more than what 415 teams recorded in an entire Premier League season.
They have taken 91 points out of a last possible 93 and 164 out of the last 183 on offer.
Excluding the Carabao Cup defeat at Villa Park, Liverpool have conceded just one goal in their last 1,065 minutes of action – against Monterrey in Qatar.
In the league they have not conceded in 675 minutes – comfortably a record under Jurgen Klopp.
Wolves’ last league victory over the Reds came at Anfield in December 2010 thanks to a Stephen Ward goal.Eye of the wolf
This will be Wolves’ 40th game of the campaign, six fewer than they played in the whole of last season.
Conor Coady has started 108 of Wolves’ last 109 league games.
Raul Jimenez has now scored more goals for Wolves than any other player in the Premier League era: 23.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s men have recovered 18 points from losing positions in the top-flight this season – more than any other team.
In all competitions they have kept one clean sheet in the last nine league and cup matches.
Since the beginning of last season, Wolves have accumulated 24 points from 19 meetings against all of the so-called ‘big-six’ which is more than any other team.
Liverpool: Mane 15, Salah 15, Firmino 9, Origi 5, Oxlade-Chamberlain 5, Milner 4, Van Dijk 4, Keita 3, Wijnaldum 3, Alexander-Arnold 2, Matip 2, Robertson 2, Fabinho 1, Henderson 1, Hoever 1, Jones 1, Lallana 1, Lovren 1, Shaqiri 1, own goals 3.
Wolves: Jimenez 19, Jota 9, Doherty 5, Traore 5, Cutrone 3, Dendoncker 4, Neves 3, Saiss 3, Neto 3, Vinagre 2, Boly 1, Bennett 1, Castro Otto 1, Gibbs-White 1, Joao Moutinho 1, Jordao 1, own goals 4.
The duo have often invaded each other’s social media accounts to leave funny remarks or get one-up on each other.
Then we’ve had videos laughing at each other, quizzes which bring out the competitive spirit and plenty more on-the-pitch action to admire too.
Now, though, comes the real crossover: that desire to win we see on show regularity is pitted with sporting prowess, with Liverpool FC matching them against each other in a table tennis challenge – with the winner taking home a trophy!
It’s a rivalry which apparently emerged in pre-season and Jurgen Klopp has previously won the competition, but between this duo, Mo got the edge over Dejan across the summer.
Hard as it was for our No. 6 to admit the fact, the forward was the better player—so Lovren was fired up to win this time, while Salah wanted to retain his crown.
We won’t spoil the end result for those who want to watch, but the fiercely combative game went very quickly from friendly encounter to a must-win battle for supremacy.
Salah almost demanded an official rulebook when one shot from Lovren hit the net and bounced over, while Lovren’s frustrations grew when he missed a few easy finishing shots when going for the big hit.
The defender took the first set, the forward the second—leaving it all to play for heading into the final stretch.
Who took home the trophy?! Watch on and find out!
Liverpool make the trip to face Wolves on Thursday evening aiming to keep up their record-setting pace atop of the Premier League table.
Sunday, January 23, 2020 – 8pm (GMT)
Referee: Michael Oliver
The Reds’ 21st win of the campaign was secured with a 2-0 victory over Man United, where the scoreline failed to reflect Liverpool’s superiority.
While Man City’s win over Sheffield United on Tuesday closed the gap to 13, they have played two more games than Liverpool and now the 22nd win of the season is on the agenda.
It will be a tricky outing, however, with Wolves awaiting at Molineux off the back of their 3-2 comeback win at Southampton last time out.
The Reds will enter the clash off the back of a four day break, an encounter which is the second game in a run of five within 13 days.
Confidence is surging for Liverpool both on and off the field and while the hosts have won only one game in five across all competitions since their 1-0 defeat at Anfield, they will pose a real threat to Klopp’s men on Thursday evening.
Another win here, against the strongest level of opposition they’ll face within the next six games, would no doubt provide yet another boost and move us one step closer to clinching the league in record time.Team News
The former pair have yet to return to training after picking up their respective injuries at the turn of the new year, while Shaqiri is still absent after a minor tweak to his calf prior to United’s visit.
A place on the bench could again come the way of Curtis Jones should Liverpool’s No. 23 fail to recover in time as the youngsters’ star continues to shine.
Fabinho, on the other hand, is “growing closer and closer” to his first starting berth since sustaining ankle ligament damage against Napoli in late November having featured for the final 10 minutes against United, but Klopp was coy on whether that will be at Wolves.
The hosts, meanwhile, will continue to be without Ruben Vinagre due to a hamstring injury, while Diogo Jota and Willy Boly are back in the mix to feature.Last 5 away to Wolves (All Competitions)
Lost 2-1 – January 2019 (Jimenez, Neves; Origi)
Won 2-0 – December 2018 (Salah, Van Dijk)
Won 3-0 – January 2012 (Carroll, Bellamy, Kuyt)
Won 3-0 – January 2011 (Torres x2, Meireles)
Drew 0-0 – January 2010
Away fans’ pubs: The Blue Brick is right next to Wolverhampton train station, with a 10-minute walk to the stadium.
But a popular move is to enjoy pre-match in Birmingham and make the move up to Wolverhampton, a journey which takes approximately 25 minutes.Did You Know?
Recent topflight history against Wolves make for very good reading as Liverpool have lost just once against Thursday’s hosts in the last 11 Premier League meetings.
The Reds have emerged victorious in the last six and have restricted Wolves to just one goal within that period.
And while the recent FA Cup meeting did not fare well for Liverpool, the Molineux has proved to be a happy hunting ground in the league as we have not left the ground with the taste of defeat since August 1981.
It is a run which could continue as both history and recent form is on our side, not to mention we have won each of our last eight evening league kick-offs.Form
Liverpool – Last five results (all competitions)
Wolves – Last five results (all competitions)
Speaking in his pre-match press conference, the boss was clear that anything less than a “50-60 percent” effort against Wolves would not secure the desired result against such a “difficult” outfit:
““Wolves are really difficult to play, they play a similar system to other teams defensively, three, five in the back but they do it differently.
“They make pitch the pitch really big and they ask for a lot of footwork, they run a lot. There are solutions for all that, but not without working a lot.
“You can’t play on a 50-60 percent basis against Wolves [otherwise] you’ll have absolutely no chance.”TV & Liveblog Info
Liverpool’s trip to Wolves will be shown live on BT Sport 1and BT Sport Ultimate from 7pm (GMT), with kickoff set for 8pm.
Chris Williams will be taking you through all the action and keeping you entertained on This Is Anfield’s matchday liveblog, starting from 7.15pm.
Liverpool are building up to the Thursday night game against Wolves, with Jurgen Klopp holding his press conference today. Oh and new transfer rumours, too.
A host of Premier League teams have been rumoured to be in for Boubakary Soumare this winter—but a move away from Lille appears remote now before the end of the month.
French outlet Le10 Sport say the Reds are ready to challenge their domestic rivals for the energetic midfielder’s signature.
Soumare has been rated at between £30m and £60m, depending on the publication you choose to believe, and it’s well-known that Lille must sell one big-money player per summer in line with their investor plans.
Team-mate of Soumare, Victor Osimhen, is another who has been linked with the Reds – he’s a forward.Klopp ready for Reds’ next test
The boss has been preparing the boys for our next league fixture, the away trip to Wolves.
It’s a tough place to go and a tough team to face, but the Reds have shown extraordinary consistency this term and this should be but the next challenge to face the same way.
The best news of the presser was that Fabinho is looking in great shape and is getting closer to starting a game – though we’ll see whether that comes midweek or in the FA Cup against Shrewsbury at the weekend.
There’s praise, too, for Alisson as Klopp explains his personal traits which make him such a perfect No. 1, as well as his thoughts on the goalkeeper’s outrageous knee-slide celebration against Man United!
As usual, we have the entire press conference available for you to see.Nothing but positive
Everything surrounding the Reds appears to be good news this week!Talented youngsters, but not for us
Seemingly, the pair have a great relationship and “speak regularly” by phone.
Don’t read too much into it in terms of a transfer back to Anfield, but it’s another indication of the manager’s approach, going well beyond being just a coach in the dressing room and taking a full interest in his players’ lives.
Meanwhile, one which won’t be happening is the Reds signing Brazilian talent Reinier, who has now joined Real Madrid.
It might have been different though, with the Reds cited as one of several clubs who tried to agree a move with his agent before the Spanish side closed the deal.
There’s no suggestion a move was ever close, and it’s no surprise to see the Reds keeping tab on talented youngsters.Quickfire LFC news
“He is the best left-sided central defender in the world.”—Pep Guardiola on the returning Aymeric Laporte.
Liverpool’s No. 4 waves hello from his lofty perch, 13 points above Laporte and Co.Tweet of the day
Ex-Newcastle full-back Olivier Bernard, complete with really weird Twitter handle, pays special homage to Divock’s favourite goalkeeper after yet another howler.
— olivier bernard (@seedorf77) January 21, 2020What we’re reading
Have you seen Rayan Cherki play yet? If not, you’re in for a treat when Lyon next cross your screens. The 16-year-old is a huge talent, though this piece from Goal’s Robin Bairner cautions him from following the path of a player he has been likened to: Hatem Ben Arfa.
And for the Athletic, Adam Hurrey presents an A-Z of the transfer window, including “W” for “warchest” and “wantaway striker,” because that’s what January is all about.Worth watching tonight
Nobody wants to be bored to tears by United vs. Burnley, let’s face it. The best game of the night isn’t on TV, Spurs vs. Norwich. So grab a stream or fly overseas for the evening for a 7:30pm kick-off. Juve vs. Roma is your Coppa Italia offering at 7:45pm on BT Sport 3.
Jurgen Klopp has identified Liverpool’s “concentration levels” as a key area from improvement as the Reds look to continue their upward trajectory.
From ending last season one agonising point behind Man City to amassing a
record 64 points from a possible 66, it is fair to say Liverpool are not leaving anything to chance in 2019/20.
The disappointment of the second-place finish was relieved by a European Cup triumph and importantly provided the Reds with the belief and recognition that they were a force to be reckoned with.
Lessons were learned and invaluable experiences of a title race were under the belt, but for Klopp it was not the one point differential which was the catalyst for the current campaign rather the plotting of the natural steps of progression.
“The one point deficit made absolutely no impact, why should it?” Klopp told the media.
“It was just the situation last year, what we learned from last year is that we are a good football team.
“We thought we should use that in the new season as well. You don’t have a lot of difference, you meet all the opponents and you meet Man City twice a year.
“The results [against City] were a draw at home and a loss there, it is clear we wanted to improve that but all the rest is nothing to do with the opponents.
“It’s all about using your football skills, attitude, character, team play, individual skills – all that stuff in all the Premier League games.
“That’s what we have to do, but being one point down if we were that angry and thought that next year we will catch them, nobody had an idea before the season started if we can be even close because they can make their next steps as well.
“We thought about our next steps and tried to do them, nothing to do with the situation last year.”
And they have certainly taken the right next steps as Liverpool have amazed the masses and have left various opponents in their wake to date, having dropped points on just one occasion in the league so far this season.
To the naked eye, Liverpool are as close to perfect as you could wish to see.
However, within the camp from the manager and all the players, there is still plenty of improvement to be had.
And the boss pointed to the Reds’ “concentration level” as a prime example, with a dip in output inviting pressure, as seen against Man United, when the fixture should have already been tied up.
Liverpool’s superiority within a 90 minute spell has rarely been reflected on the scoreboard to date, setting up a few tense and nervy finishes – and Klopp is eager to see an improvement in the level of focus and intent deployed at various moments throughout a game.
“Concentration level. The last five minutes of the first half and the last 20 minutes [of the game] when United came back the game should have been decided already,” Klopp explained in regards to an area for improvement.
“I get it 100 percent, we are all human beings and that is normal. We do a lot of things right in the right way, dominate the game but don’t finish the situation off.
“The quality in the Premier League is just too high.
“There is a lot of space for improvement. How can we help ourselves? How lively can we stay even without creating constantly?
“We need to find a common way in these situations to still dominate the game in a slightly different manner.”
Alex Malone takes an unapologetic look at the current state of play between ourselves and our most bitter rivals.
The explosion of joy when Mo Salah slotted the second goal on Sunday not only took the roof off Anfield, it resonated around the world.
I was in Lucky Baldwin’s Pub, home of the Pasadena, California LFC fan club, and the jubilant reaction, screams of joy, strangers-hugging-strangers and high-fiving hysteria, mirrored the scenes in the stadium 6,000 miles away.
This win felt different – because it was different.
It wasn’t just that it sent us 16 points clear with a game in hand. It wasn’t just that it calmed the nerves in what had become a nail-biting finale. It was because it resulted in us going 16 points clear, our largest margin to date, by beating them.
Make no mistake, they were absolutely desperate to win this game. If they couldn’t win, then at least not lose. They wanted to be the only team that remained ‘unbeaten’ against this amazing Liverpool team in what will finally be the title-winning year.
They wanted to be the first team to beat us since last season, destroy our chances of an ‘invincible’ season, and prove that – at least in head-to-head games – they remain our equal.
Instead, by almost any measure, it became one of the most one-sided Liverpool vs. United mismatches in living memory.
The reactions I saw from their ex-players, and their fans on social media, were, to say the least surprising. But they also told the story of where they are now regarding their level of expectation. They were, in general, ‘happy’ with a 2-0 defeat because they ‘had a go’, ‘tried hard’ and ‘never gave up’. Once believers, their conversion to doubters is complete.
Let’s be honest, we absolutely battered them. Yes, Martial should have scored and Pereira was a boot’s length away from doing so, but these were fleeting moments and their only two genuine chances in the entire 90 minutes.
In contrast, we scored two, had another one VARed out and another ruled out because Wijnaldum’s shoulder is bigger than Maguire’s bum.
Mo Salah missed a sitter, while Mane and Firmino also missed very presentable chances. De Gea saved superbly from Mane and Henderson, with both hitting the post. If you go with ‘genuinely score-able chances’ as the measure, the final score would have been something like 7-2, such was the Reds’ dominance.
For too many seasons just before the Klopp days, the limit of our ambition seemed to be a Champions League place. As a result, we rarely achieved even that, because once the height of your ambition is to finish fourth, that’s as high as you are ever likely to get. The vicious circle then begins, as failure to qualify for the Champions League means the harder it is to attract players to get you back there.
This is exactly where Man United are now.
‘Not losing heavily’ to a rampant Liverpool side was deemed some sort of moral victory.
Achieving top four this season (which is unlikely) will be celebrated as a ‘successful’ campaign.
I was there in the ’70s and ’80s when we won just about everything put in front of us. I watched on in envy when United did the same in the ’90s and ’00s.
But rarely has there been a chasm between the two clubs of the size we are witnessing today. After 22 games, United are 30 points behind us – and they’ve played a game more. Last season we finished a whopping 31 points clear of them. So, over the last 60 league games, we have amassed a mind-boggling 61 points more than them.
Of those 60 games, Liverpool have lost just one. United have lost 17.The Managers
In the dugout, we have the greatest manager in the modern game; a manager who, against all odds, took mid-table Borussia Dortmund and toppled the mighty Bayern Munich; a manager who has taken a mediocre Liverpool squad, and with a net spend that is dwarfed by United’s taken it to unprecedented heights of excellence.
Alex Ferguson, celebrated by many as the ‘best ever’ (he wasn’t, Bob Paisley was) never put together a team capable of 64 points in 22 games – nor did Guardiola, Mourinho, Ancelotti, Cruyff, Trapattoni or any of the other generally accepted managerial greats.
And that is just this season – if you go back to last season, Jurgen Klopp’s world champions have achieved an extraordinary 94 points from the available 96. Thirty-one wins and one draw from 32 consecutive games has quite simply never been achieved before – ever!
Meanwhile, in their dugout, they have the hapless and hopeless Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. A man whose prior managerial experience was at Molde in Norway and relegating Cardiff.
As a Liverpool fan, I smile with satisfaction every time I see the likes of Roy Keane, Gary Neville and Rio Ferdinand beg the United board to ‘give him time.’ I can only hope their board is listening. He has neither the experience, the pedigree nor the tactical nous required to fix them, yet they all want to keep him. It might be the first time I’ve ever agreed with Gary Neville.
Since being given the job permanently, Solskjaer has the worst win percentage record of any United manager since Herbert Bamlett’s 31% in 1931.
Good old Herbert was a referee before becoming a manager. In an FA Cup quarter-final in 1909, he abandoned the game between Burnley and Man United with 18 minutes left. Burnley were winning 1-0 at the time. United won the replay 3-2 and went on to lift the FA Cup for the first time.
The United hierarchy were so enamoured with good old Herbert that he eventually became their manager. Herbert’s United were relegated in 1931, 20 years into a 41-year title drought.
Did you know United once went 41 years without winning the title? Doesn’t really ever get mentioned does it?
Ole’s current 35% win rate is similar to the 30% he achieved at Cardiff and the longer his United tenure, the more he spirals towards that magical 30% number.
If you take into account all competitions, where opposition tends to be inferior in the early rounds of domestic cups and the Europa League, his win percentage improves to 50%. United’s three prior managers to him – Moyes, Van Gaal and Mourinho – each of whom were sacked, had winning records of 53%, 52% and 58% respectively. In other words, I can state with a high level of confidence that they’re actually getting worse under Solskjaer.
Now, before promising to never mention Gary Neville again, it would be remiss of me not to include his quote from earlier this season:
“I guarantee you as clear as day, Manchester United will win again. They’ll win again, no problem; they’ll probably win the league again before Liverpool, in my opinion.”
A soothsayer he is not. Incidentally, he picked Paul Pogba as his ‘player to watch’ this season too. The reasons for his failed tenure at Valencia are becoming clear. He did at least manage to equal Solskjaer with a 35.71% win rate of his own in Spain.
Jurgen Klopp meanwhile has an overall win record of 61.5%. When you take into account he took over a team in mid-table, and has tended to field the kids in domestic cup competitions it’s exceptional and one that supersedes even the legendary Shanks (52%), Bob Paisley (58%) and Sir Kenny’s first stint (60.9%).Record Breakers
Going back to the record-breaking run of the last two seasons, it gets even more stunning. P60 W51 D8 L1 for an 85% win rate.
This season alone 21 wins from 22 games is 95%. No other manager in Europe’s top five leagues comes even close to these numbers.
It gets better still. In the last 61 games, we have achieved 164 points of 183 available. That’s 19 points dropped in 61 games. To put our current situation into perspective, we can afford to drop 18 points in the next 16 games and still be crowned Champions, even if Man City win every game.
There is talk about this Liverpool team being the greatest ever seen in the Premier League era. I would go further than that. It is the greatest ever seen in any era. No club in the top division has ever come even close to these figures. Not even the great Liverpool teams from back then.
There are only really three other teams in the Premier League era with a claim to be ‘the greatest’. Here’s why they’re not:
United’s treble winners, 1998/99 – after 22 games of that season, they had 41 points. No, it’s not a typo. That’s 23 points behind this current Liverpool team after the same number of games. They won the league that season with 79 points after 13 draws and three defeats. Sorry, but that doesn’t qualify as ‘great’ by anyone’s measure.
Arsenal’s Invincibles, 2003/4 – unbeaten yes, but they drew 12 games. 90 points was commendable, but this Liverpool team just achieved 97 and will undoubtedly achieve far more than 90 this season too. The Invincibles also achieved nothing in Europe getting knocked out in the quarter-final by Chelsea.
Man City’s current team – City’s team, who were the first to achieve 100 points, then went on to pip us by a point last season, are the closest challengers to the ‘greatest ever’ title, but even they fall short.
Again, they achieved nothing in Europe during this time and in the last season and a half Liverpool have won the Champions League while suffering just one defeat in 60 games. In those same 61 games (they’ve played one more as it stands this season) they have tasted Premier League defeat no less than nine times.Recruitment
It’s fair to say that Liverpool’s recruitment under Klopp has been close to perfect.
Other than Naby Keita, who is yet to fulfil his potential or justify his price tag due to constant injury, every other recruit has either been a huge success, or, in the cases of e.g. Karius, Solanke, Klavan who haven’t quite worked out, they’ve been moved on. Every player in the Liverpool squad now is a quintessential ‘Klopp’ type player.
United’s in comparison has been dismal. The list of failures as long as your arm, far exceeds their successes, and many of those failures remain as first choice. The gulf in recruitment is such that not a single Manchester United player would get into Liverpool’s first XI. Not one.
That includes their three so-called (by the media, not me) ‘successful’ recruits under Solskjaer. Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire and Daniel James are all virtual ever-presents this season. Two of them are defenders sourced from Palace and Leicester, yet without them both clubs have superior defensive records than United this season.
They’ve also conceded 93% more goals than Liverpool. How does this rate as success? James has three goals in 22 appearances, but after two goals in his first three league games, he has one in his last 19. After an adrenaline-driven start to his United career he’s now finding out there’s far more to being a top Premier League player than simply being able to run fast.
Maguire, Wan-Bissaka and James cost United £145 million. Klopp has put together this almost-perfect squad with a quite extraordinary net spend of £74.5 million. That’s £5.5 million quid less than the cost of one Harry Maguire.The Perch
Unless the biggest capitulation in the history of football occurs, the fabled holy-grail of No. 19 will be coming to Anfield in a matter of months.
While revelling in United’s misfortune over recent seasons has been fun, it’s also been somewhat hollow given their 20-18 titles advantage has remained intact. It also served to disguise the secret relief that the two-title gap was not increased.
Thankfully, not only have they failed to add to their title haul, but their fall from grace has been nothing short of spectacular. Who could possibly have predicted the sequence of events to follow once Ferguson and Howard Webb hung up their watch and whistle?
It’s obvious now, that the only credible challengers to our current dominance is no longer the red side of Salford, but the light blue side of Manchester.
As if their current plight isn’t depressing enough for their fans, we also extended the gap in European Cups to 6-3, the catalyst from which this hugely impressive Liverpool team has since excelled. The addictive drug of choice for any footballer is the winning one. It is habit-forming and one to which all involved with Liverpool FC are now addicted.Living The Dream
The stage is set and the foundations are in place for a new era of glory. The club, in terms of manager, squad, finances, backroom staff, structure and management team is in possibly the greatest overall shape in its 128-year existence.
One of the simplest, yet most iconic banners unfurled at Anfield in recent years read ‘Make Us Dream’. For a long time we were dreamers; Jurgen made us believers; now we are achievers. We are European and World Champions and within touching distance of that elusive title.
It will be the first league title in the modern era. With this squad, this backroom staff, this management structure and this manager in place, it may not be the last.
And I think, now, you’re gonna believe us.
Liverpool are still fending off interest in Xherdan Shaqiri, but we’re also preparing for a very tough-looking midweek game away to Wolves.
It’s clear that Xherdan Shaqiri is good enough to play a major role for a big team, but he remains on the fringes at Liverpool.
Both only want him on loan, and we’ve absolutely no reason to do that, so it’s encouraging to see the price tag set at a reasonably modest £25 million or so – and only then in summer.
It would mean a double-our-money deal on Shaq in the space of a couple of years, while he has also had big moments against the likes of Man United and Barcelona.
Would it be the right move at the end of the season?Jurgen reveals all
In the video above (click here if you can’t see it) Jurgen Klopp gives a typically insightful interview with Sky Sports, covering everything from what’s best about managing the Reds to what’s the most important aspect of his approach.
The boss also gives his views on the tracksuits vs. suits debate on the touchline, as well as explaining why he doesn’t have social media profiles:
“Maybe one day I will do it but I don’t understand it, I don’t know why you would do it!”
Another interesting aspect of the chat sees him refer to the managers who have influenced his own approach, with Arrigo Sacchi notably coming up. Check out here James Nalton’s in-depth piece on how the two boss’ styles span generations.Present players and title talk
Sami Hyypia was a brilliant defender for the Reds but his managerial career hasn’t hit the same heights yet. Perhaps this is one inkling why…Our tremendous two at the back
That right side of defence is properly locked down these days, with youth, pace, no shortage of on-the-ball excellence and brilliant consistency.
Trent at right-back, Gomez at centre-back – it’s a nightmare for opposing forwards to get past. They’re both in the news today, with Trent being spoken about by Kylian Mbappe.
The French striker says our No. 66 is an amazing talent and loved that he performed Mbappe’s signature celebration after scoring, and had enormous respect for the consistency Liverpool are showing.
Gomez, meanwhile, spoke of his admiration for centre-back partner Virgil van Dijk, explaining he brings much more to the team than just defensive ability:
I don’t think it’s easy to measure what he does for us as a team. He’s such a dominant character, a dominant player.
He’s a special player and we’re lucky to have him at the club – he’s my big brother!
He’s a top player and a top person to be alongside.clear that friendship and respect has continued this term. Quickfire LFC news
Largely everything in this from Ole Gunna Solskjaer, the latest United’s “accepting mediocrity” offensive.Tweet of the day
The only man we need on National Hug Day!
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) January 21, 2020What we’re reading
An article on BBC Sport looks at how betting on the football is rife even among players in Scotland.
For a more continental flavour, Napoli play Lazio in the Coppa Italia quarter-finals, on BT Sport/ESPN at 7.45pm.
Vicky Jepson praised her new match-winner after Liverpool’s first Women’s Super League win, a game which Fran Kitching missed after a horror injury.
Jepson called upon December signing Rachel Furness for only the second time on Sunday, with the Reds making the trip to Bristol City.
With City three points above Liverpool at the bottom of the WSL table, it was a crucial game for both sides, and one headlined by an brilliant performance from the ex-Tottenham midfielder.
Furness played an excellent through ball for Rinsola Babajide to hit the post in the first half, before opening the scoring with a poacher’s effort at the far post and, later, hitting the crossbar after the break.
Her goal brought the first three points of the WSL campaign for Liverpool, and speaking to LFCTV after the game, Jepson hailed her No. 27.
“I’m delighted with Furney. It’s her presence on the pitch, not just what she can bring when she’s on the ball,” she said.
“We said get Furney in the box, deliver the balls in and she’ll get on the end of it.
“[It was] fantastic for her to get a goal, well-deserved, and then she nearly had another one when she hit the crossbar in the second half.
“So she deserves to be celebrating that goal with the rest of the girls, I know they’ll be absolutely delighted on that coach back.’
The game was notable for the absence for Kitching, however, after a run of four starts for the 21-year-old that had seen her wrest the gloves from Anke Preuss as first choice.
Kitching took to Instagram to share a graphic photo of an injury she sustained in training last Tuesday, which left her with multiple stitches in her forehead and two black eyes.
“So this happened in training on Tuesday hence why I’m not with the girls for today’s game,” she wrote.
“This has got to be the worst injury I’ve ever had as a goalkeeper.
“But after a lot of swelling and pain (and looking like a cabbage patch doll) I can finally say I’m feeling a lot better and ready to get back out there with my girlies!
“I’m supporting them every minute from home.”
It is a sickening injury for the young stopper, and Kitching may face a challenge to reclaim her starting spot when she returns.
Preuss, starting in her stead, saved a penalty from Charlie Wellings to secure the result in Stoke Gifford—which saw Liverpool leapfrog City into 11th.
Van Dijk and Gomez featured in six of those matches, the pair missing the FA Cup win over Everton, and since Gomez came into the team as a regular starter on December 14 their record is eight clean sheets in nine games.
However, the Netherlands captain said praise had to be shared around.
“Everyone is involved in that. We have a fantastic goalkeeper, the full-backs doing their job, our midfielders and stars obviously up front so it is a whole collective thing,” said Van Dijk.
“But obviously as a defender we are very pleased to keep clean sheets because we all know that with us if we keep a clean sheet there is a big chance to win the game so it is a good feeling.”
Liverpool have lost just one of their last 61 league matches and need just 10 more victories to lift a first title in 30 years.
But for Van Dijk and his team-mates it is just business as usual.
“We can’t deny that we are in a good situation but we don’t get carried away,” he added.
“These things don’t mean anything at the moment, only at the end of the season. Hopefully it does mean something at the end of the season.
“We all know why we are doing it. We all know why we work so hard for each other. I think the very good thing about this is that we are always trying to find a way.
“It will never be easy, we all know that, but I think the good thing is we know it is never going to be easy so you can adapt to deal with certain situations.
“Also the mentality we have we know there are going to be setbacks in games, we know there will be difficult moments in games, but if you are ready to face them it makes it a little bit easier.”
The next challenge to Liverpool’s invincibility comes at Wolves on Thursday.
“They give everyone a big test. Massive respect for them, how they play and how they are doing it at the moment,” said the Dutchman.
“Good team, fantastic manager. It is always going to be tough. They showed it against everyone already in the league. We have to be ready again.”
Liverpool have leapfrogged Man City partly thanks to an ability to deal more effectively with opposition threats, but the Reds are about to face the most dangerous player in Europe.
No sooner has the dust settled following Alisson’s length-of-the-pitch gallop to celebrate Mohamed Salah’s goal against Man United, than the Premier League is back and Liverpool face a potentially tricky trip to Wolves.
It was less than a month ago that Jurgen Klopp and his team had to work out Wolves at Anfield, emerging with a 1-0 win in the heart of a busy festive period.
Both sides had 10 shots that day but Liverpool created the better chances with Sadio Mane scoring the only goal.
Following this defeat, Wolves went on a run of four games without winning, but over the weekend they managed an impressive comeback win at Southampton, and go into this second meeting with Liverpool on a high.Major Threat
It could be argued that the West Midlands club have one of the most dangerous players in the league outside of Liverpool.
Adama Traore is the best carrier of a football since they started collecting stats for these things.
This season in the Premier League he averages 5.7 successful dribbles per game, and only one other player has even attempted more than his 126 successful dribbles in total—more on that player later.
In total, he has attempted 169 take-ons giving him a success rate of 75 percent which, especially given the sheer amount, is an almost unbelievable number.
To take this beyond the Premier League for a moment for some context, Lionel Messi—football’s benchmark—has been successful with 79 of his 107 attempted dribbles giving him a success rate of 74 percent, and averages 5.3 take-ons per game.
When it comes to dribbling, Messi is compared to Traore, not the other way around!
Liverpool’s opposition analysts may have come up with a plan to stop Traore, and in the past Virgil van Dijk has been one of few players able to keep up with the Spanish speedster.
But it would be no surprise to see Traore leave a number of Liverpool players in his wake in the upcoming game at Molineux.
How do you defend against Adama Traore?
— James Nalton (@JDNalton) December 27, 2019
The 23-year-old is much more settled this season and has done what every opposition team dreaded: he’s added an end product to all this dribbling fun.
Liverpool have Traore to thank for six of the points the defending champions have dropped this season, but on Wednesday they will be hoping Wolves rotate their lineup leaving him on the bench, as was the case at Anfield.Wilf and Cenk’s Palace Party
It’s a result, combined with Liverpool’s defeat of Man United, which left the Kop singing “we’re gonna win the league” at the end of the weekend.
Credit has to go to Roy Hodgson for the way he set his side up, even though the 72-year-old was not eager to take the credit for himself after the game.
Palace did what a lot of teams do at the Etihad in terms of defending, but it was in attack that they had something more about them than most.
That something more is Wilfried Zaha, who is second to Traore in terms of his ability to take people on, having attempted more (181) but completed fewer (114).
This take-on success of 63 percent can lead to some frustration as he regularly loses the ball, but it’s better for Palace to have a player like this than not, and the partnership between him and the new signing from Everton, Cenk Tosun, was encouraging for the Eagles.
The City game wasn’t Zaha’s best, either, but it was noticeable that he worked hard off the ball, often closing down high up the pitch to no avail, but still going again at the next opportunity.
It was his late surge, dribbling to the byline before crossing for Fernandinho to turn into his own net, which secured a point for Palace.
They took the lead before conceding twice to Sergio Aguero who looked like he had won the game for City, but Pep Guardiola’s side don’t have the ability in defence to hold on to anything if they are being pressured.Man City Lose Defensive Battle
This inability to stop opposition dangermen, even if the opposition as a whole haven’t provided much danger, has been one of the biggest problems for City this season.
The loss of their best defender Aymeric Laporte has hurt them, but they have two players in Nicolas Otemendi and John Stones who cost around £75 million combined but don’t look anywhere near the level of, for example, Joel Matip and Joe Gomez, who cost Liverpool £3.5 million.
Stones and Otamendi are not bad players (contrary to popular belief, especially in the case of the latter) but something has gone wrong somewhere with both at City.
The Argentinian looked slightly more comfortable under Manuel Pellegrini in his first season, and though he has had good spells since, he has never felt like the answer.
Stones should have been the answer. A ball-playing centre-back who Guardiola can mould into his ideal defender, but somewhere along the line they seem to have forgotten about the defending part.
Zaha’s canny dribbling and Stones’ tendency to make daft mistakes combined when the City man clumsily put his foot across Zaha’s path for what looked like a nailed-on penalty, but it wasn’t given.
The excuse made was that Zaha had stepped across Stones to engineer the contact, something which would be seen as clever play if it were another player, but some such as Zaha, Salah, Mane and Raheem Sterling seem to be judged differently to others when it comes to this kind of incident.
The error was on Stones’ part, and he was lucky he was not punished, but in the end City were punished by Zaha as the dangerman did his job.
Liverpool need to do what City couldn’t against Zaha and Traore if the latter starts the upcoming game.
They will need to watch out for the most dangerous ball-carrier in Europe, and the calm, cool, unruffled and positionally astute Van Dijk might even have to break into a sprint.
If the top flight’s leading teams keep up their current point averages, the Reds would clinch the trophy after their game at Goodison Park on March 14.
With eight games remaining, that would be comfortably a record for the earliest title coronation in the Premier League era as well as a chance to lord it over their neighbours.
Liverpool’s near-perfect record had their fans singing “we’re going to win the league” as they beat Man United on Sunday, though Klopp insisted he and his players “will not be part of that party yet.”
They lead by 16 points with a game in hand and average 2.9 per game compared to second-placed Man City’s 2.1—those rates have them on course to lead by 24.7 points, rounding to 25, with eight games remaining and therefore 24 to play for.
That would obliterate the record set by United in 2001 and matched by City two years ago—both of those squads won the league with five games to go.
Liverpool’s current lead is a record at this stage of the season—they have played 22 games, compared to 23 for all of their rivals—with City’s 100-point 2017/18 campaign providing the only real precedent.
Pep Guardiola’s men were 15 points clear after 22 games and though that was briefly cut to 12, they pulled away again to an eventual record winning margin of 19.
United led by 11 from surprise challengers Sunderland at this stage of their 2000/01 title win. The Black Cats faded to finish seventh, leaving Arsenal and Liverpool in pursuit as United’s lead peaked at 16 points with five games left—they finished 10 clear.
The Red Devils had won by 18 the previous season—also a record until beaten by City’s centurions—but their lead did not hit double figures until their 31st game and was constant at 13 for much of the run-in before a final flourish.
Arsenal’s “Invincibles” of 2003/04 only re-took top spot in the table by winning game 22 of their season, though they won the title with four games to spare and by an eventual 11-point margin.
Victory on Sunday also stretched Liverpool’s lead over opponents United to 30 points—just one fewer than the final margin between the two sides last season.
Liverpool’s breathtaking pursuit of champions City last term brought them 97 points, a record for a Premier League team not winning the title and 31 clear of United’s sixth-placed tally of 66.
Even then, the gap was ‘only’ 16 at this stage of the season.
For much of the Premier League era, Sir Alex Ferguson’s United teams dominated Liverpool—and most of the other competition—and it is only in recent years that the balance has shifted.
Liverpool finished 20 ahead of United in 2013/14, when Brendan Rodgers’ side were runners-up to City, but took until the 26-game mark for the margin to reach double figures.
Liverpool are basking in the glory of yet another Premier League win and as the title inches closer, focus switches to transfers and squad fitness.
Or, if you wish to be cynical about transfer rumours, a convenient excuse.
Shaqiri has, of course, been linked with Roma recently—but he told the club website that he picked up the latest issue in training and hopes to return some time in the next few days.
“It is just slight, I had a little problem in training. So I hope I might be back later this week. Let’s see, I cannot say now but it will be good if so.
“I didn’t have a lot of playing rhythm. I missed pre-season also and there were different reasons why I got some knocks maybe.”
Not much chance we’ll see him against Wolves on Thursday, then, but the weekend FA Cup trip to Shrewsbury might be on the agenda for our No. 23.Timo Werner chooses the Reds…should we choose him?
Germany international and RB Leipzig forward Timo Werner prefers a move to Liverpool out of all his reported options—that’s the line out of Germany today.
The likes of Chelsea and Bayern Munich have been most often linked with Werner, along with the Reds, but Jurgen Klopp, the style of play and likelihood of trophies are all cited as reasons for opting for Anfield.
There isn’t any suggestion of whether it’ll definitely happen in the summer, as although Werner has a €60 million release clause, there’s no actual confirmation that Liverpool want the player himself.
Would he make a good addition? He certainly had a good weekend, moving to the 20-goal mark for the season in a brilliant performance for Leipzig.Reaction to the weekend win
A win over Man United is always to be savoured, especially when it leaves us 30 points above them, unbeaten, top, en route to a title and setting records every single game.
Here’s the best of the reaction…Weekend catch-up
Many congratulations to young striker Rhian Brewster, who scored his first-ever senior goal at the weekend, helping Swansea to 2-1 win over Wigan – in just his second appearance in the Championship.
And if you still want more about our win over United, take a look at what the national media had to say about the performance, the victory and the team as a whole.Quickfire LFC news
“In the last 35 to 40 minutes, we were the better side.
“But it’s hard. If you don’t score against this kind of team it’s hard to draw or to win.
“I think everyone on the pitch from our team felt that we were in control, completely in control, so that’s the model of how we should always play against top teams.”
Nemanja Matic there, blithely ignoring that “last 40 minutes” period where Jordan Henderson hit the post, Salah rolled one wide, Mane missed a couple, Ox had one saved, they didn’t score and then the Reds scored a second.
We agree: that’s the model of how they should always play against us.Tweet of the day
Take a bow, Alisson Reina!
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) January 19, 2020What we’re reading
Over in Serie A, the magical Atalanta are in action against rock-bottom SPAL. Kick-off is at 7:45pm on Premier Sports 1 and don’t be surprised by a 4- or 5-0 scoreline.
Premier League, Anfield
January 19, 2020
Goals: Van Dijk 15′, Salah 90+3′Oxlade-Chamberlain’s second starting chance
As was the case at Spurs, Ox was replaced just after the hour mark.
But this was a much-improved performance, important tactically and on the front foot in possession, and his frustration after going to the bench wasn’t needed in this instance, other than for wanting to remain involved.
It was Ox who won the telling corner for the opening goal with his industry and running; and Ox who created several presentable openings with positive passes and bursts into the final third.
With a little more fortune he may have scored in the second half, but it was still a good showing.
Perhaps, though, it just wasn’t the absolutely dominant display he wanted, and which might have prolonged his run in the side.We don’t know what’s a foul anymore
OK, confusion reigns. Van Dijk was penalised, in the end, for a foul on David de Gea to prevent Roberto Firmino scoring his first Anfield league goal of the season.
The referee didn’t think it was a foul initially, but the VAR was certain it was and expressed surprise that it wasn’t immediately blown up for.
None of Graeme Souness, Roy Keane or Gary Neville thought it was a foul, two of which have rarely if ever given anything 50-50 Liverpool’s way.
Yet there seems an inevitability in the modern age that every time the goalkeeper is touched, the whistle blows accordingly.
In truth, it would have been a total shock if the goal was allowed to stand, such is the level of protection stoppers are usually afforded—and it allowed Victor Lindelof (for losing the ball) and De Gea (for not making the subsequent save) to escape further scrutiny.The gulf, the gap
If United thought they were doing well enough to warrant being only a goal behind at the break, the Reds came out determined to rectify that misconception.
Within 10 minutes of the second half it could have been two, three or even 4-0, as the Reds clocked up seven shots without reply in a dominant period where United simply couldn’t touch them.
Jordan Henderson went closest as he smashed a shot against the post, but Mane and Oxlade-Chamberlain also had good chances and Firmino left players sprawled on the floor with a brilliant twisting, turning run in the box.
In that period of the game, the distance between what the two clubs are capable of at this moment in time was made abundantly clear, both on the ball and off it while trying to regain possession.
And while the scoreline remained close, the reality was of the Reds being in a different league to their rivals.Salah finally makes his mark
Mo Salah should have had about four goals—most particularly a close-range effort in the second half which he somehow steered wide after an Andy Robbo cross.
The Egyptian hadn’t scored previously against United and, in the buildup to the game, joked that it was because he was absent on the day that the only game the Reds hadn’t won this season was at Old Trafford.
After a somewhat tight and tense end to the game, Mo made sure none of that mattered: a great show of pace, strength and composure to hold off Daniel James and nutmeg De Gea for 2-0.
That’s 11 league goals for the season, level with Sadio as our top scorer, and his value to the team continues to be shown.“And now you’re gonna believe us…”
The Anfield crowd decided this was the day we’d let it be known: we feel this is the year, this time we’re going to complete the job.
Of course there’s an element of fear in some parts about tempting fate, giving ammunition for any potential errors, but the truth is this team just don’t look capable of losing so much ground. This is very different to 2014.
Sixteen points clear is an enormous gap at this stage, and the form and determination remains entirely intact.
? "And now you're gonna believe us…" pic.twitter.com/SCqqZXha0k
— This Is Anfield (@thisisanfield) January 19, 2020
Liverpool are back in action on Thursday night, away to Wolves, in what will be an exceptionally tough game, likely harder than the away trip to Spurs was.
Until then, though, we can bask in being 30 clear of United, 30 short of sealing the title.
Now you’re gonna believe us.