Last Updated22 hours agoSep 19, 202111:17 UTC +00:00Comments
The German head coach insists that there is "a lot more to come" from the Reds' big-money summer signing
Jurgen Klopp says Ibrahima Konate learned "harsh lessons" on his competitive debut for Liverpool against Crystal Palace.
Konate was made to wait for his first outing for the Reds, having initially been signed from RB Leipzig for £36 million ($54m) back in June.
The 22-year-old sat out Liverpool's opening four Premier League fixtures and a 3-2 Champions League win over AC Milan in midweek, but finally took his bow in a home fixture against Palace on Saturday.Editors' Picks What's been said?
Konate slotted in at centre-half alongside Virgil van Dijk and helped Klopp's side record a clean sheet in a comfortable 3-0 victory, but did have a few shaky moments against the Eagles' formidable attacking unit.
Asked if the Frenchman was made to adapt to his system, the German head coach told reporters post-match: "Definitely and I think that is very important. We all saw what potential the boy has, it is incredible, physically, his technique, his game-understanding, it is all there.
"But when you are a young boy already skilled then you rely sometimes on those skills and the Premier League teaches you harsh lessons sometimes. Today against Palace was a good example, Wilf Zaha, Ayew, Edouard, these were proper strikers.
"Maybe it is not so nice when you play a completely new last line but together with Virg and Milly (James Milner, at right-back) it worked really well. Kostas Tsimikas played a superb game too.
"Konate is in a good way, I am really happy. But there is a lot more to come from Ibou, he is still young and yes he has to adapt, they have all had to adapt to the way we play and to the league as well because it is a special league."Klopp on rotation
Konate's introduction was one of six changes Klopp made to the side that beat Milan, and the Liverpool boss has promised to continue tinkering with the starting XI as his side negotiate their way through a punishing domestic and European schedule.
“You want to line up the best possible team and there are different factors; one is who played together?” he said. "It was ‘rhythm or freshness?’ and we decided for freshness. Otherwise, we could have played one or another again, but we didn’t want that.
“I don’t know what it says exactly, but we had to do the changes, that was clear. We will rotate, we always rotated, but you see in the last line in the last years we couldn’t rotate really because there were always a maximum of two fit [centre-backs] very often – and the third one was already a midfielder.
“In midfield, hopefully we have the numbers to do it and we need that because this is the engine room of the team and we need to make the changes there. Up front, we have different opportunities as well, so that’s good. How often we do it, I didn’t make a plan already for the season, but as often as necessary and possible.”What's next?
Liverpool will now look ahead to a third-round Carabao Cup meeting with Norwich on Tuesday, before their focus switches back to the Premier League and a trip to newly-promoted Brentford on September 25.Further readingComments
Last Updated16 hours agoSep 19, 202107:00 UTC +00:00Comments
Saturday's 3-0 win over Crystal Palace was a perfect riposte to those that don't believe Jurgen Klopp has much quality in reserve as his main rivals
No Trent Alexander-Arnold, no Andy Robertson, no Joel Matip.
No problem, as far as Liverpool are concerned.
Jurgen Klopp’s men are back in familiar territory. Top of the Premier League, winning games and reminding the world that those who have written them out of this season’s title race better think again.Editors' Picks
While Manchester City stuttered on Saturday, drawing at home to Southampton, the Reds were able to take full advantage. Their 3-0 victory over Crystal Palace sends them to the summit, another tricky fixture negotiated with the minimum of fuss.
Those who doubt the strength and depth of Liverpool’s squad may need to revise their opinion. That’s three wins in seven days for Klopp’s side, with the manager able to rotate and re-jig throughout.
He changed his whole defence for this game.
Virgil van Dijk returned after being rested for the Champions League win over AC Milan in midweek, and the Dutchman had a new centre-back partner in Ibrahima Konate, the summer signing from Leipzig making his competitive debut for the Reds.
Neither of Liverpool’s world-class full-backs played. Trent Alexander-Arnold awoke feeling unwell – not Covid-19, the club confirmed – while Andy Robertson was left on the bench after a heavy workload for club and country.
It was the first time since December 2018 that Liverpool had started a Premier League game without those two, and the first time at Anfield since November 2017, but Klopp will have been delighted to see how his replacements fared.
Kostas Tsimikas had a hand in two goals, while James Milner, a reluctant right-back as well as a veteran one, did admirably against the dangerous Wilfried Zaha as Palace’s dangerman was kept on a short leash.
The 35-year-old remains an important figure in Klopp’s side, bringing experience, versatility and hunger whenever called upon.
How Anfield enjoyed this, even if Palace kept the home side honest for much of the afternoon. It wasn’t until the 78th minute that Liverpool got the all-important second goal, and Mo Salah’s celebration – removing his shirt in delight – said plenty.
Salah moves on to 99 Premier League goals for Liverpool, and earlier Sadio Mane had notched his 100th in all competitions for the club.
The Senegal star has been criticised for missing chances of late, but he finished the one that mattered here. Mane has now scored in nine successive appearances against Palace, a Premier League record.
Klopp will be delighted to see his main men firing, and Diogo Jota should have joined them on the scoresheet too, but he will have been just as pleased to see another of his squad players, Naby Keita, cap the win off in fine style.
Keita had replaced Thiago Alcantara, who had suffered an injury just after the hour mark, and grabbed his first goal in nearly 14 months with a beautifully-controlled left-foot volley a couple of minutes from time.
All in all, a good day’s work for the Reds, who were able to give Matip and Alexander-Arnold the day off and who still boasted the likes of Robertson, Joe Gomez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Takumi Minamino in reserve.
As weak squads go, it’s pretty strong.
It may only be September, but these look like big weeks at the top of the table. With City having dropped five points already, the pressure is already on the reigning champions. Pep Guardiola’s side visit Chelsea next weekend, before a mouth-watering trip to Anfield on October 3.
As for Liverpool, they’ll be happy to keep plugging away. Klopp will rotate at Norwich in the Carabao Cup, where the likes of Gomez, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Minamino and Curtis Jones will all expect to play, and knows a win at Brentford next Saturday would set them up nicely for the visit of City.
The chance is there for them to make a big move in the next fortnight.Article continues below
It may not have been an eye-catching summer, but it's certainly been an eye-catching start to the campaign. Four wins from five, 12 goals scored and only one conceded.
Title contenders? You bet.
They didn’t even need their full artillery for this one. What does that tell you about the Reds' strength this season?Comments
Former Malaga and Villarreal playmaker Pablo Fornals has chipped in with a few goals for West Ham over the past couple of seasons. His recent form for the Hammers has seen him restored to the Spain squad and he got off the mark for his country with a strike against Kosovo in September 2021. If he can continue his early season form, Fornals will be looking to register double figures in the Premier League this term.
Last Updated19 hours agoSep 18, 202108:00 UTC +00:00Comments
The Reds boast a superb record in this fixture having scored nine goals against the Eagles last season and another strong showing from them is likely
Liverpool welcome Crystal Palace to Anfield in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon with Jurgen Klopp's men looking to continue their strong start to the season.
The Reds produced an excellent comeback against AC Milan to win their first Champions League game of the campaign on Wednesday and face a Palace team buoyant after their first victory this term against Tottenham last weekend.Liverpool vs Crystal Palace latest odds
Liverpool have recorded four wins and two draws in their last six home league matches and bet365 price a home win at 1/5 (1.20).Editors' Picks
The hosts are without Roberto Firmino who has not featured since the international break with a thigh injury and Harvey Elliott who suffered a serious ankle injury against Leeds United last weekend and faces an extended period on the sidelines.
Divock Origi was substituted against Milan with cramps but should be available while Neco Williams is a doubt.
The Eagles for their part are without injured trio Jeffrey Schlupp, Nathan Ferguson and Eberechi Eze.Liverpool vs Crystal Palace preview
Klopp's side have been in strong scoring form this season, netting at least twice in four of their five competitive matches and backing them to get among the goals against Palace makes plenty of sense.
This fixture has seen Liverpool run riot in recent seasons, netting 19 times in their last five games against the side from Selhurst Park and this season Patrick Vieira's men have already conceded three goals against Chelsea and two goals against West Ham.
Palace have endured some difficult away defeats in 2021 and another tough afternoon looks in store for the capital club at Anfield.Liverpool vs Crystal Palace tips & predictions
The Reds are offered at 5/6 (1.83) to score over 2.5 goals and should be backed once again to put in a strong showing in the final third against the Eagles.
Odds correct at the time of writing. Please gamble responsibly.Comments
Last Updated16 hours agoSep 17, 202121:30 UTC +00:00Comments
The Spain international arrived on Merseyside 12 months ago this weekend and is now ready to take the Premier League by storm
Jurgen Klopp insists there is “much more to come” from Thiago Alcantara, as the Liverpool midfielder completes his first 12 months on Merseyside.
Thiago arrived at Anfield on September 18 last year, the Reds having agreed a deal worth £25 million ($34.5m) with Bayern Munich for the Spanish international.
And while his first year at the club has been mixed, mainly due to an injury sustained at Everton in his first Premier League start, Klopp believes we will soon see the 30-year-old’s full range of skills.Editors' Picks What did Klopp say about Thiago?
Speaking ahead of Liverpool’s game against Crystal Palace this weekend, Klopp told reporters: “The start was not perfect. He got Covid, got injured early which of course makes things much more difficult. But he showed what kind of player he will be for us. There is much more to come of course.
“It has been a year, but if you want it is only half a year because of all the things which happened. Coming to a new club, in the most difficult period in all our lives, he settled really well. His family is here, he loves it here, he was in the middle of the team very quickly. He’s a really good character, really good personality and obviously a world-class player. It is all fine!”‘He’s like a world-class golfer!’
Discussing Thiago’s role in the Liverpool team, and the specific tactical instructions he is given, Klopp compared the former Barcelona man to a golfer.
He said: “He played more often at Munich in a double-six role, but for us it’s a complex position; you have to be offensive, you have to be defensive, you have to be between the lines, you can drop into the last line to receive the ball, but not always.
“But he is such a natural footballer it is not like we have to give him 15 or 16 different things to do in the game. I don’t ask him for constant runs beyond the last line. He is a playmaker, obviously, who can sometimes be a little deeper, but he must be there in the two ‘interesting’ lines of the opponent as well.
“He has great vision and can change things with his passing. In a closed area with his passing he is really good, and he can chip balls into each area like a golfer, actually. A good golfer. A world class golfer! He does that without even thinking.
“I love the way he plays. It’s a complex position to be the No.8 for us. We have different skill sets and we use different skill sets from time to time when we think a particular skill set makes more sense against a particular opponent.”Liverpool team news
Klopp will be without striker Roberto Firmino for the visit of Palace, the Brazilian having yet to return to training following the hamstring injury suffered against Chelsea last month.Article continues below
There are no fresh concerns, though the Reds boss hinted he would make changes again to his starting XI having rested the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Mo Salah for the Champions League win over AC Milan on Wednesday.
“We spoke a lot about the schedule but this one is normal for us, three games a week," he said. "We did these kind of things and thank God we came through, the boys did really well but we will have to make changes again, that is clear."Further readingComments
Liverpool's chief attacking outlet, Mohamed Salah both scores and sets up goals for his team-mates. While his assists total in the Premier League last season was just five, Salah has previously contributed double figures for the Reds in that department too.
Pick Your LanguageBackBackOther English editions
Assistant Features Editor
Last Updated23 hours agoSep 16, 202111:00 UTC +00:00Comments0
Chelsea are defending champions but a host of Europe's biggest clubs are also in the running to lift the continent's biggest trophy
Cue the music – the Champions League is back!
Europe's biggest and best clubs got their group-stage campaigns under way over the course of the past 48 hours, after a historic summer transfer window.
Chelsea are the defending champions but there are arguably more contenders this time around than in any previous iteration of the competition.Editors' Picks
So, who are the favourites, and which teams will be sent packing before Christmas?
Goal's Champions League Power Rankings are here to lay it all out...
(Previous rankings published pre-tournament, September 14)
Getty ImagesMalmo | Last time: 30th
At 1-0 down heading into the final minute of the first half at home to Juventus, Malmo would have felt that they were still in the game.
So, to then find themselves losing 3-0 by the break must have been absolute sickening.
They could not lift themselves to muster a fightback, and the difficult task of competing at this level now seems almost insurmountable.
Getty ImagesSheriff Tiraspol | Last time: 32nd
If you did not know who Sheriff were before the competition started, then you somehow managed to avoid the myriad of profile pieces written about the Moldovan minnows ahead of their Champions League debut.
You likely do know a little more now, though, after they stunned Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday evening, ensuring that neither Real Madrid nor Inter will view them as walkovers in the group games to come.
Getty ImagesShakhtar Donetsk | Last time: 22nd
When you are drawn into a group with two traditional European heavyweights and a first-time qualifier from one of the continent's smallest nations, you cannot afford to drop points against the latter.
Shakhtar did exactly that in Moldova against Sheriff, and now they will need to at least match their results against Real Madrid and Inter from last season to force their way into the knockouts.
Getty ImagesSporting CP | Last time: 21st
Sporting conceded four goals to Sebastien Haller.
One dreads to think what will happen when they come up against Erling Haaland on matchday two...
Getty ImagesBesiktas | Last time: 26th
Things might have been a lot different for Besiktas against Borussia Dortmund had Gregor Kobel not pulled off a superb save to deny Michy Batshuayi with the score 0-0, but the Turkish champions were otherwise largely outclassed in Istanbul.
They will need to improve markedly in defence if they are to get anything out of their trip to Amsterdam to take on Ajax next time out.
Getty ImagesYoung Boys | Last time: 29th
It may have come against a team playing with 10 men for more than half the game, and they were gifted a stoppage-time winner, but take nothing away from Young Boys and the performance they put in to beat Manchester United.
It remains to be seen just how long they can remain top of their group but, for now, David Wagner & Co. can revel in one of Swiss football's most famous nights.
Getty ImagesZenit | Last time: 25th
Zenit proved a tougher opponent to break down than many expected against Chelsea, and with question marks remaining over fellow Group H opponents Juventus, the Russian side cannot be counted out just yet.
The deck is stacked against them still, but they are unlikely to be pushovers in this group.
Getty ImagesClub Brugge | Last time: 31st
No one gave Club Brugge a prayer against Paris Saint-Germain, who finally unveiled their new 'MNM' forward line for the first time on Wednesday.
But the Belgian champions' 1-1 draw was thoroughly deserved, and though they remain huge underdogs in Group A, the confidence this display will give them could yet carry them to greater heights.
Getty ImagesDynamo Kyiv | Last time: 28th
In a group containing Bayern Munich and (an admittedly under-par) Barcelona, Dynamo Kyiv really needed to beat Benfica at home to give themselves a real shot at reaching the knockout stages.
Only a tight VAR call on a stoppage-time goal denied them that, but the goalless draw means the Ukrainian champions now face an uphill task to qualify.
Getty ImagesBenfica | Last time: 23rd
Though their performance was not to the level that they would have wanted, that Benfica got out of Kyiv with a draw at least gives them some hope of climbing out of the group.
Jorge Jesus' side will have to improve greatly, though, if they are to take down both Bayern Munich and Barcelona in the coming months.
Getty ImagesLille | Last time: 24th
Despite the poor start they have made to defending their Ligue 1 crown, Lille looked back to something close to their best in their draw with Wolfsburg on Tuesday.
That said, they failed to take advantage of playing against 10 men for the final 30 minutes, and though their group is an open one, home wins will likely be vital when it comes down to the final reckoning.
Getty ImagesRed Bull Salzburg | Last time: 20th
Salzburg were awarded three penalties inside the opening 35 minutes and played against 10 men for almost an entire half against Sevilla, so to only come away with a 1-1 draw was sickening for the Austrian champions.
Matthias Jaissle named the youngest Champions League starting line-up for any club since 2009, and his side's lack of big-game experience certainly showed in a game they really should have won.
Getty ImagesPorto | Last time: 27th
Despite reaching the quarter-finals last season, Porto were seen as the underdogs in Group B having been drawn against Liverpool, Atletico Madrid and AC Milan.
Their goalless draw away at Atletico, however, illustrated all the discipline and tactical awareness that helped them progress in 2020-21, and only a laughable handball decision against Mehdi Taremi denied them all three points in the Spanish capital.
The tough tests keep coming, but this was a massively encouraging showing from Sergio Conceicao's charges.
Getty ImagesRB Leipzig | Last time: 16th
We'll start with the good news: RB Leipzig scored three goals at the Etihad Stadium.
The bad? They conceded six, with their defending and overall openness against Manchester City suggesting that they do not have the discipline to compete in a group that also contains Paris Saint-Germain's attack.
Jesse Marsch is a talented coach, but he needs to strike a balance if his side is to cause a surprise and reach the last 16.
Getty ImagesSevilla | Last time: 13th
Sevilla went into the first round of games as the favourites to qualify from Group G, but their performance against Red Bull Salzburg was so underwhelming that one could be forgiven for thinking Julen Lopetegui's side would be more at home in, say, a competition like the Europa League...
Getty ImagesWolfsburg | Last time: 19th
Mark van Bommel's success at Wolfsburg has been built on strong defending, and his side held firm in the wake of John Brooks' red card at Lille to record a creditable goalless draw.
Given how open their group is, that could prove to be a key point come December.
Getty ImagesVillarreal | Last time: 18th
Having got themselves ahead in the closing stages against Atalanta, Villarreal will be disappointed that they could not hold on to secure a home win in what felt going in like a crucial match-up in Group F.
A draw is not the worst result given Manchester United's loss against Young Boys, but Unai Emery will feel that a chance to take an early grip on the group has slipped through his fingers.
Getty ImagesAtalanta | Last time: 15th
On the other side of things, Robin Gosens' strike seven minutes from time in Villarreal might be just what Atalanta needed to lift themselves after a sluggish start to the new Serie A season.
Gian Piero Gasperini's men weren't quite at their swashbuckling best in Spain but their late leveller, coupled with a home game against Young Boys in two weeks' time, could kickstart their campaign.
Getty ImagesAC Milan | Last time: 14th
AC Milan can take plenty of positives away from their defeat at Liverpool, even if Stefano Pioli will feel like it was an opportunity missed for the Rossoneri.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic's return will likely be crucial for them going forward, and they must hope that he can prove his fitness ahead of a must-not-lose game against Atletico Madrid in a fortnight's time.
Getty ImagesAjax | Last time: 17th
So, this is what happens when you remember to register Sebastien Haller for European competition?!
Ajax sliced through Sporting with ease on Wednesday, and though their star striker will do well to replicate this week's performance on a regular basis, it will at least give Haller confidence that he can perform at this level going forward.
GettyBarcelona | Last time: 11th
Not much was expected from Barcelona ahead of their opener against Bayern Munich, but the fact that they still managed to underwhelm illustrates just how far they have fallen behind the rest of the European elite.
Ronald Koeman's side will still fancy their chances of making it out of the group, but expect one or two more bumps along the road before December comes around.
Getty ImagesInter | Last time: 12th
If not for Thibaut Courtois, Inter likely would have cruised to victory over Real Madrid, with the Serie A champions looking every bit a potential contender for long periods at San Siro.
As it was, they were hit by a late sucker-punch from Rodrygo that will leave a nasty taste in Simone Inzaghi's mouth.
The Nerazzurri should still make it through given their future opponents, but this felt like a missed opportunity to make life a little easier.
GettyManchester United | Last time: 8th
Surely it's not happening again for Manchester United in the Champions League, is it?
Last season, it was Istanbul Basaksehir, this time it might be Young Boys, after the Red Devils' abysmal defeat in Bern on Tuesday evening.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has plenty of questions hanging over him this season, and he needs to start answering the European-themed ones quickly.
Getty ImagesAtletico Madrid | Last time: 7th
Many observers' dark horses for this year's competition, Atletico Madrid yet again highlighted why they remain narrowly outside of the European elite with their draw against Porto.
Diego Simeone's side toiled for long periods at the Wanda Metropolitano, and the debate over whether 'Cholismo' can be successful in continental competition is bound to rage on over the course of the group stages.
GettyJuventus | Last time: 10th
After their poor start to the Serie A season, Juventus just had to win against Malmo on Tuesday, and win they did after a late first-half blitz in Sweden.
Tougher tests will come, starting with the visit of Chelsea to Turin on September 29, but for now Massimiliano Allegri's side can be content at getting up and running without too many concerns.
GettyBorussia Dortmund | Last time: 9th
Is this the year it all comes together for Borussia Dortmund in Europe?
If Erling Haaland and Jude Bellingham can replicate their performances against Besiktas when they face more experienced European opponents, then they are certainly in with a shout of going deep into the competition.
Getty ImagesReal Madrid | Last time: 6th
It's an old adage, but it continues to ring true: Real Madrid might not be the best team in Europe, but they know how to become champions of Europe.
Their smash-and-grab win over Inter suggested that Carlo Ancelotti's side will remain among the challengers, even if the Italian will be hopeful of more convincing performances going forward.
GettyLiverpool | Last time: 5th
Champions League nights at Anfield are almost always special, and Wednesday night's opener against AC Milan certainly delivered, as Reds fans delivered a raucous atmosphere for what was their first European game for 18 months.
The tub-thumping nature of Liverpool's 3-2 win, sealed by a stunning Jordan Henderson strike, only added to the feeling that any side who has to visit Merseyside in the competition this season will have a tough task on their hands.
GettyParis Saint-Germain | Last time: 1st
When Paris Saint-Germain made the decision to form a front three of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, they did not foresee results such as a 1-1 draw at Club Brugge on the horizon.
The much-talked up tactical issues facing Mauricio Pochettino when picking all three of his star attackers were laid bare in Belgium, while an injury to Mbappe is unlikely to raise the mood in the French capital.
All of a sudden, the visit of Manchester City to Parc des Princes on matchday two takes on even more importance.
Getty ImagesBayern Munich | Last time: 4th
Bayern Munich's goals against Barcelona may all have come with a touch of fortune, but they were not underserved as the Bundesliga champions laid a beat-down on the beleaguered Blaugrana.
From here, the group stage should be a cakewalk for Julian Nagelsmann's side, but this at least put down a marker for their rivals to consider later in the tournament.
Getty ImagesChelsea | Last time: 3rd
The defending champions were not at their best against Zenit, but ensuring they had a goalscorer who could get them over the line in difficult games was exactly why Romelu Lukaku was brought to Chelsea this summer.
The Belgium striker stood up to be counted at Stamford Bridge, allowing the Blues to kickstart their campaign despite never making it out of second gear.
GettyManchester City | Last time: 2nd
The three goals conceded to RB Leipzig will be a concern for Pep Guardiola, but in scoring six his side sent a message to the rest of Europe.
Manchester City's array of attacking midfielders all played their part in a victory that puts the Premier League champions in early control of what looked their most difficult Champions League group for around five years.
Last Updated18 hours agoSep 16, 202108:00 UTC +00:00Comments
Paris Saint-Germain are favourites to crowned European champions this season, and they are joined by Man City and Bayern Munich
The Champions League has returned for the 2021-22 edition, and Europe's elite will battle it out to be crowned continental champions.
Chelsea are defending champions, having beaten Pep Guardiola's Manchester City in 2020-21, but will they be in the running this year?
From the likes of Paris Saint-Germain to Barcelona and Real Madrid, Goal has everything you need to know about the Champions League favourites, underdogs and outsiders.Editors' Picks Who are the favourites to win the Champions League?
Paris Saint-Germain are 10/3 via bet365 to lift their first ever Champions League title this year. The continental European trophy has been a coveted honour for the Ligue 1 giants for quite some time now, appearing in the 2019-20 final but ultimately losing to Bayern. Blockbuster summer signing Lionel Messi certainly has experience winning the Champions League, and a sensational strikeforce of himself, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe will be one that is sure to be reckoned with.
Manchester City 's odds to win the Champions League are at 7/2 following their first-ever appearance in the final under Pep Guardiola last season. The Citizens will be ready and raring to go following their final loss to Premier League rivals Chelsea, while also contending with their defense of the Premier League title. Man City now have the added striking prowess of Jack Grealish at their disposal, and their quest to finally clinch a Champions League title could be in sight.
Both Bayern Munich and Chelsea, champions of the last two competitions, have odds of 7/1 to be crowned UCL winners once more. Chelsea will be keen to defend their Champions League title and win a third trophy, while Bayern will want to add to their trophy cabinet. Chelsea have been strengthened with the summer signing of Romelu Lukaku from Inter, while Robert Lewandowski is always a goal-scoring menace on the Champions League stage.
Who else is in the running to win the Champions League?
Six-time Champions League winners Liverpool are 9/1 to lift the trophy this year, after they were knocked out of the competition last season at the hands of Real Madrid. The Reds were crowned 2019 winners of the tournament but their subsequent Champions League outings have been somewhat disappointing, though perhaps this year will be different.
Manchester United also have odds of 9/1, following the starring acquisitions of both Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho over the summer. Ronaldo will be eager to lift the Champions League again, last doing so while playing for Real Madrid, unable to guide former team Juventus to European glory. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side are a dangerous threat this season, both domestically and in Europe.
Real Madrid's odds of winning the Champions League under manager Carlo Ancelotti are at 14/1, and they will be tasked with navigating the European tournament without the leadership of longtime former captain Sergio Ramos, who transferred to PSG. Los Blancos are record-holders as the team that has won the Champions League the most times, but haven't won the competition since 2018.
Who are the outsiders to win the Champions League?
Liga champions Atletico Madrid have odds of 20/1 following Antoine Griezmann's surprise return to his former club in the Spanish capital. He and Luis Suarez could form a lethal team as the Liga team try to go for the top European prize.Article continues below
Barcelona are slated at odds of 20/1 as well, and they will be appearing in the Champions League without the presence of beloved former star Messi. The Catalan side have Memphis Depay to call on now, but it's hard to think of the Blaugrana as the European powerhouse they once were without the starpower of Messi.
Juventus have odds of 28/1, and they are in a similar situation as Barcelona with a Ronaldo-shaped hole in their attack. The Italian side had signed the Portugal captain in 2018 with a view for him to guide them to the Champions League trophy, but ultimately failed to do so.
Borussia Dortmund are also outsiders to clinch the Champions League title with odds of 33/1, having finished in the group stage last season. The Bundesliga side haven't posed a serious threat as competition contenders since their appearance in the final in 2012 that they lost to Bayern, but perhaps Erling Haaland can inspire some confidence.Comments
Here's your comprehensive guide to all things Champions League, from details of each draw to the results and fixtures
Europe's showpiece competition the Champions League has returned for 2021-22, as the continent's heavyweights battle it out for one of the biggest honours in football.
The likes of Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester City, Liverpool, Bayern Munich will decide between themselves who can claim victory.
Goal has everything you need to know about this year's edition of the competition, from draw dates, fixtures, groups, results and more.Editors' Picks Contents
The forward nearly left the Reds this summer, but his manager is happy to have him still at the club
Jurgen Klopp admits he was shocked that a 'proper offer’ did not arrive for Liverpool striker Divock Origi this summer.
The Belgian made his first appearance of the season, and his first start since January, in the Reds’ 3-2 Champions League win over AC Milan on Wednesday night.
He marked it in style, too, providing a sumptuous assist for Liverpool’s second goal, scored by Mo Salah, before departing shortly after the hour mark with cramp.Editors' Picks What did Klopp say?
Speaking to BT Sport after the game, Klopp expressed surprise that no clubs had sought to buy Origi during the transfer window, and paid tribute to the 26-year-old, who had not even been on the bench for Liverpool in their last three matches.
"People forget how good he is,” Klopp said. “It's difficult to get in this team. In the summer transfer window we all thought there would be a proper offer, but obviously people don't watch football enough!
“Div is a sensational striker and did really well today."Klopp’s gamble pays off
Klopp had raised eyebrows with his team selection for the Reds’ opening Group B match.
He left out both Virgil van Dijk and Sadio Mane, with Joe Gomez brought in for his first competitive start since November 2020, and Origi a surprise inclusion in the forward line.
The rotation was a necessity, said the Reds boss.
"It's difficult to tell everyone warming up tonight why they aren't playing,” he said.
“But we need to be sensible. Players are coming back from injuries. [Naby] Keita started, [Jordan] Henderson played a super game, Fabinho too. Origi? An outstanding striker. He did well tonight."Article continues below
Asked what Origi had shown him in training, Klopp added: “Nothing really special. He's a great guy. He'll be seen as a legend when he leaves.
“He could have left in the summer but football is a crazy place and people forgot how good he is. We have to decide the positions. He did nothing wrong."Further readingComments
Last Updated12 hours agoSep 15, 202121:20 UTC +00:00Comments
The Reds captain delivered a moment to remember to give Jurgen Klopp's men a hard-fought 3-2 victory in their opening Group B clash
Steven Gerrard would have been proud.
Jordan Henderson left the comparisons with his Liverpool predecessor behind a long time ago, to be perfectly honest, but they were unavoidable here.Editors' Picks
A big Champions League night, elite European opposition and a raucous, expectant Anfield? That was Gerrard’s stage, and now it was Henderson’s.
‘Stevie H’, you could call him.
Henderson’s 20-yarder, beautifully controlled and emphatically dispatched, ensured Liverpool began their Champions League campaign with a win, and ensured AC Milan had more reason to curse the men from Merseyside.
Not quite as painful as 2005, but painful nonetheless for Stefano Pioli’s team, who had led at half-time but found themselves swept away by a side intent on giving its fans something to savour, 18 months after their last taste of European football.
How those supporters have missed this. Even the Milan fans, packed away in the Anfield Road end, applauded as ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ rang out prior to kick off. There really is nothing like this famous old place on a European night.
Liverpool started as if eager to get the job done inside half an hour, and had they been a bit more clinical, they might have managed it too.
They needed just nine minutes to strike, Trent Alexander-Arnold bursting onto Mo Salah’s pass and seeing his cross deflected in off Fikayo Tomori.
Five minutes later the ball was on the penalty spot and Milan were staring down the barrel. Salah had not missed any of his last 17 spot-kicks, a run stretching back to October 2017, but Mike Maignan was equal to his strike in front of the Kop. It remained 1-0.
Liverpool looked rampant. They had a dozen shots in the opening half-hour and forced seven corners, attacking at will.
They did not, however, get that all-important second, and by half-time they had been punished severely.
Ante Rebic levelled with Milan’s first shot of note, and within 108 seconds the Italians, improbably, had the lead, former Manchester City youngster Brahim Diaz finishing after Andy Robertson’s goalline clearance from Alexis Saelemaekers.
Liverpool were stunned, behind when they should have been home and dry. Half-time came at a good time, a chance to recover and refocus, ready to attack the second half.
Attack it they did. They were level inside four minutes of the restart, Salah on target after a beautiful scooped pass from Divock Origi.
Origi was a surprise inclusion, making his first start since the end of January, but the Belgian contributed when needed. He lasted an hour before making way for Sadio Mane, and deserved his applause as he left the field.
The loudest roar was to come, though. Twenty-one minutes from time, Diogo Jota forced a corner which was swung in from the right by Alexander-Arnold. Ismael Bennacer got a head on it, but directed it only as far as Henderson, lurking on the edge of the box. The strike was sublime, and flew into Maignan’s bottom right-hand corner.
It was Henderson’s first goal in the Champions League for nearly seven years, his first in any game for nine months. It was worthy of winning any game, let alone one as enthralling as this.
"I don't get many goals, so it's nice to get on the scoresheet," Henderson told BT Sport afterwards.Article continues below
Liverpool saw the game out. A key result, with Atletico Madrid and Porto drawing in the group’s other match.
They will be thankful those two minutes of slackness did not cost them, and aware of the need to make their lives easier by being more ruthless in front of goal. If they start taking their chances, nobody will stop them.
But as opening nights go, they will certainly take it. The Champions League rollercoaster is off and running again, and Liverpool are in the front seat.Comments
That's all for today, goodbye!
Liverpool go top of Group B after the opening round of group games and their unbeaten start to the season continues. They have Crystal Palace next in the Premier League. Milan's return to the Champions League didn't begin the way they'd have wanted, but Pioli will be hoping they can bounce back against Juventus in the league on Sunday.
Liverpool come from behind to beat Milan 3-2. The hosts started brilliantly and Tomori's own goal gave them an early lead before Salah saw a spot-kick saved. Against the run of play, Milan went into half-time 2-1 up with Rebic and Diaz turning things around with two goals in two minutes. Kjaer had a goal ruled out for offside seconds after the break before Salah equalised for Liverpool minutes later. Henderson sealed the win though with an excellent half-volley from the edge of the box.
90' + 6' FULL-TIME: LIVERPOOL 3-2 MILAN.
90' + 5' CHANCE! One last opportunity for Milan here as Diaz finds himself in a pocket of space just outside the box. He chooses to go for goal himself, but there's not enough dip on the shot and it sails over Alisson's crossbar.
90' + 3' Diaz gets away from Milner and the substitute sticks out a leg to trip the midfielder which earns him a yellow card.
90' + 1' Into five minutes of added time here and Mane looks like he's through again for Liverpool after Oxlade-Chamberlain picks him out. Mane takes it past two Milan defenders before taking a heavy touch next to Kjaer and the chance is gone.
89' Alexander-Arnold's free-kick from the left is cut out by Florenzi, but his clearance only goes as far as Milner. He plays a great throughball back into the right-back, but he can't find a way past Calabria.
87' Tonali swings a good corner into the box and Kjaer pulls away from his defender to glance it on at the near post. It bounces between Gomez and Milner, but Diaz can't get there in time to poke it past Alisson before the keeper collects it.
86' Maignan comes out of the penalty area to clear a long ball over the top, but Tomori doesn't realise and tries to head it back to his keeper. He chases it back into his box, with Mane close to him, but the offside flag saves Milan this time.
84' And Henderson also goes off to a standing ovation from the crowd as he hands the armband onto his replacement, Milner.
84' Liverpool are making a double change now as well with Salah the first to make way for Oxlade-Chamberlain.
83' Fourth change for Milan now as Rebic goes off for Maldini.
82' Calabria nicks the ball off Robertson and then plays a hopeful long pass over the top out towards Florenzi. There's not enough on it though and Alisson comes out of his box to intercept it.
80' Calabria is down holding the bottom of his back after a coming together with Thiago as the Spaniard brushed past him. He's back to his feet quickly after treatment though and will be able to carry on.
79' Hernandez gets away from Alexander-Arnold on the left and whips a good cross into the box for Giroud. The substitute rises above Gomez, but can't get the contact he needs and his header ends up bouncing well wide.
77' Liverpool are knocking the ball around in Milan's half again now and Fabinho tries to slide it forward for Mane down the left. Kjaer and Calabria both read it well though and manage to get it clear between them.
75' A rare attack for Milan now in this second half as Kessie curls an early cross into the box towards Giroud. He's in through the middle, but Alisson reacts quickly to sweep it away ahead of him.
73' Liverpool have another corner and this one is taken short to Alexander-Arnold. He curls a cross into the middle which is headed away by Kjaer to Thiago. He's a long way out but drills a shot on goal, and it's blocked by Tomori.
71' And Milan are also bringing on a substitute, with Tonali on in place of Bennacer.
71' Thiago is also coming on to replace Keita.
71' Liverpool are making a double change now, with Jones being brought on for Jota.
69' HENDERSON SCORES! Another corner is swung in by Alexander-Arnold and it's cleared at the near post by Bennacer. He just ends up glancing it to Henderson on the edge of the box and he hits it first time on the half-volley. It's a brilliant hit from the Liverpool captain and it skids into the bottom corner. 3-2 Liverpool!
67' More patient play from the hosts as they work it down the right through Salah and Alexander-Arnold. The Egyptian picks out Henderson again, but he overhits this cross and it's over everyone and out for a throw-in on the far side.
65' Liverpool are still dominating possession and Fabinho switches it out to the right to try and get in behind Milan. Henderson tries to curl a cross into the box, but Hernandez is there to block it.
63' Origi went down off the ball in the centre circle, and after receiving some treatment, he's going straight off to be replaced by Mane.
62' Saelemaekers is also going off, with Florenzi on to replace him.
62' Milan are making a double change here and Leao is the first to go off, with Giroud on for him.
61' Diaz is giving Jota no space as he closes the forward down and he's shown a yellow card after clipping the back of his heels.
60' Salah is now Liverpool's joint-highest scorer in European Cup/Champions League games at Anfield, with his 14th taking him level with Steven Gerrard.
58' Robertson's cross from the left is poor and Bennacer cuts it out before sliding in Diaz. He cuts inside from the right and tries to curl an early low cross into Rebic with the outside of his boot. Matip reads it well though and cuts it out for Liverpool.
56' Rebic breaks on the counter for Milan down the left and he does well to hold off the two Liverpool defenders tight to him. He whips a cross into the middle, but there's no one up with him and Alisson collects it.
54' Milan just can't get a touch on the ball at the moment as Liverpool push forward down the right again. Salah plays a one-two with Fabinho but is closed down by Hernandez before he can swing a cross into the box.
52' Another sloppy pass from Milan is intercepted with Fabinho sliding an early throughball into Origi. He spins away from Bennacer to open up the space for a shot but drags it wide of the far post from the edge of the box.
50' Milan are struggling to get on the ball again, and Liverpool have regained their control in the game for now. It's switched out to Robertson on the left, who whips it into Origi, but his first touch is heavy and Kjaer hooks it clear.
48' Origi just scoops the ball over the top of Tomori to pick out Salah with the return ball and set up the goal.
48' SALAH EQUALISES! And just like that, Liverpool are back level! Salah plays a one-two with Origi to just open up a pocket of space as he pulls off the back of the defender. He lifts his shot over the stranded Maignan and into the bottom corner. After a quick VAR check, the goal stands. 2-2!
46' OFFSIDE! Milan have an early corner here which is played short and Henderson completely misses his clearance at the near post. Hernandez touches it through to Kjaer, who is left with a simple tap-in, but the offside flag is up and the goal won't stand.
46' Milan get us back underway for the second half!
Liverpool looked rattled heading down the tunnel and it will be interesting to see if Klopp changes anything. His side piled on the pressure from the first whistle and he'll be wondering how they're not ahead at the break. Milan struggled to get into the game until late on, but they have a lead to protect now, and Pioli will want to see them start the second half as they finished the first.
An incredible turnaround from Milan sees them come from behind to lead Liverpool 2-1 at half-time. The hosts started brilliantly and got their reward when Alexander-Arnold's cross looped in off Tomori. They then won a penalty for Bennacer's handball, but Salah was denied by Maignan before the keeper saved Jota's follow-up. In the 42nd minute, a lovely sweeping move from Milan ended with Rebic finding the back of the net before Diaz tapped in a second less than two minutes later.
45' + 1' HALF-TIME: LIVERPOOL 1-2 MILAN.
44' MILAN LEAD! Liverpool look completely shocked after dominating the game for 40 minutes, they're not 2-1 down! Leao's driving run cuts open Liverpool's defence and he slides it through to Rebic and he picks out Hernandez. His shot is blocked by Alexander-Arnold on the line and Diaz follows in to tap it in.
42' Saelemaekers pulled off a good turn to get away from Fabinho before picking out Leao, and he plays a good squared pass into Rebic.
42' MILAN EQUALISE! Completely against the run of play, Rebic has pulled one back! It's a lovely move from the visitors, with Diaz threading a throughball into Saelemakers, who squares it to Leao. He slides it through for Rebic and he curls a low shot past Alisson and into the far bottom corner. 1-1!
40' Hernandez is caught on the ball by Salah, who instantly tries to square it into Origi. Tomori rushes in and makes a great tackle to stop it from reaching him, but just catches the player. He stayed down holding his ankle but gets back to his feet without needing treatment.
38' It's a good bit of footwork from Alexander-Arnold that gets him away from the backtracking Kessie and he goes for the switch out to Robertson again. He overhits this one though and sends it out into the stands.
36' Robertson is chasing Bennacer down and he's trying to force the midfielder into a mistake. Bennacer manages to knock it back to Maignan, with Robertson continuing his run, but the keeper gets Milan out of danger.
34' Liverpool still aren't letting up the pressure on Milan and the visitors are scrambling back towards their own box once again. Alexander-Arnold cuts inside from the right and hits a shot with his left foot, but it's a big block by Bennacer.
32' Alexander-Arnold goes for another switch of play out to Robertson on the left but it's intercepted by Calabria ahead of the left-back. He knocks it back to Maignan, but the goalkeeper stumbles at the last second and ends up helping it out for a corner.
30' GOOD SAVE! Jota lets it run for Henderson and he just tees up Salah on the edge of the D. He curls a great effort on goal and Maignan watches it all the way before pushing it over the bar at his far post.
28' Kjaer goes long when he spots Leao peeling off the back of Matip and the winger stops it from going out near the corner flag. He whips an early cross into the box, but it's over Rebic in the middle and Saelemaekers can't do anything with it either.
26' It's patient play by the visitors as they're knocking it around in their own half and just slowing the pace of the game down. Calabria almost plays Maignan into trouble with a short backpass though, but he gets there just before Salah to hook it clear.
24' Milan's frustration is starting to show now as they just can't get out of their own half here. Hernandez tries to slide it through to Leao ahead of him on the left, but it's a poor pass into him and Liverpool have it back again.
22' Salah has failed to convert a penalty for just the second time in 19 attempts for Liverpool, with this his first since failing to score versus Huddersfield in October 2017.
20' Robertson's cross is half-cleared by Milan but Alexander-Arnold recycles it on the opposite flank. He whips another great cross into the middle of the box which Matip heads towards goal, but Maignan is behind it.
18' Hernandez is taking his time over the throw-in to try and give his side a breather due to the game's quick pace, but Liverpool win the ball back straight away. The hosts are pushing forward down the right again, but Kessie intercepts Salah's cross.
16' Milan are trying to get themselves upfield, but Liverpool's high press is still causing them all sorts of problems. Hernandez drives down the left but has no one up with him in support and it's cleared by Gomez.
14' It was a good save by Maignan as he was already diving to his right but he stayed alert after pushing the ball back into the danger zone and denied Jota's follow-up at his near post.
14' IT'S SAVED! It's a big run-up by Salah as he swerves before firing the shot down the centre. Maignan is diving to his right and gets both hands behind it to push it away. Still 1-0!
13' Bennacer is shown the first yellow card of the game for that handball.
13' PENALTY TO LIVERPOOL! The ball bounces up nicely in front of Robertson on the left of the box and he hits the shot across goal on the volley. Bennacer turns to block it, but his arm is out in front of him. The ball hits it and the referee points straight to the spot.
12' BLOCK! It's a clever bit of footwork by Salah as Hernandez commits himself and the Egyptian opens up a pocket of space in the box. He hits the shot towards the near post, but Tomori gets back to throw himself in front of it and block the shot.
11' Milan are on the back foot again after the restart with Liverpool already pushing for a second. Origi touches it back to Henderson, who hits it first time from just outside the box, but it's a comfortable one for Maignan.
9' LIVERPOOL LEAD! Alexander-Arnold plays a one-two with Salah and drives forward, away from Leao, when he gets the return ball. It looks like he's trying to cross it in as he gets his head up, but a big deflection off Tomori wrongfoots Maignan and helps it into the back of the net. 1-0 Liverpool!
8' Liverpool have made a lightning-quick start to this game and Milan are struggling to cope with the hosts' high press. Alexander-Arnold curls another corner into the box to pick out Matip, but his header is straight at Maignan, who holds onto it.
6' BLOCK! Kessie's pass out to Calabria is cut out by Robertson who pulls it back for Jota on the edge of the box this time. He drills a shot on goal, but Tomori gets enough of a touch to help it wide for a corner.
4' CHANCE! It's a great throughball from Henderson to pick out Robertson's overlapping run down the left and he whips a first-time cross into the near post. Origi flicks it on but ends up firing the shot just wide.
2' Liverpool are applying a lot of early pressure onto Milan here and Keita has the first attempt with a shot from range. It's blocked by Kjaer before bouncing to Origi, who switches it out to Robertson, but his cross is too high for Salah.
1' Salah gets the game underway for Liverpool!
The teams are out on the pitch now, with kick-off just moments away!
Liverpool and Milan have only met on two previous occasions in European competition, with both coming in the final of the Champions League. The Reds won 3-2 on penalties in 2005 before losing 1-2 in normal time in 2007.
Stefano Pioli makes three changes to his team after their win over Lazio last time out, with Kjaer, Bennacer and Saelemaekers all brought into the team. Romagnoli, Tonali and Florenzi start on the bench, where Giroud is also named after recovering from coronavirus.
Jurgen Klopp makes four changes to the side that beat Leeds United on Sunday. Gomez makes his first start since last November after recovering from knee surgery, with Keita, Henderson and Origi also coming in. Van Dijk, Mane and Thiago drop to the bench, while Harvey Elliott is ruled out due to a dislocated ankle he suffered in that match.
MILAN SUBS: Andreas Jungdal, Pierre Kalulu Kyatengwa, Alessio Romagnoli, Olivier Giroud, Alessandro Florenzi, Matteo Gabbia, Ciprian Tatarusanu, Daniel Maldini, Fode Ballo-Toure, Sandro Tonali.
MILAN STARTING XI (4-2-3-1): Mike Maignan; Davide Calabria, Simon Kjaer, Fikayo Tomori, Theo Hernandez; Franck Kessie, Ismael Bennacer; Alexis Saelemaekers, Brahim Diaz, Rafael Leao; Ante Rebic.
LIVERPOOL SUBS: Adrian, James Milner, Caoimhin Kelleher, Curtis Jones, Sadio Mane, Thiago Alcantara, Virgil van Dijk, Takumi Minamino, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Konstantinos Tsimikas, Nathaniel Phillips, Ibrahima Konate.
LIVERPOOL STARTING XI (4-3-3): Alisson; Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joel Matip, Joe Gomez, Andy Robertson; Naby Keita, Fabinho, Jordan Henderson; Mohamed Salah, Divock Origi, Diogo Jota.
Liverpool have made an unbeaten start to their season, winning three and drawing one of their opening four games in the Premier League, keeping three clean sheets in that run. They're looking to get out of a tough group that also contains Porto and Atletico Madrid to try and improve on last season when they were knocked out in the quarter-finals by Real Madrid. Milan are making their first appearance in the Champions League in eight years and come into this game having made a perfect start to Serie A with three wins out of three so far.
Hello and welcome to live coverage of the Champions League Group B meeting between Liverpool and Milan at Anfield!
Last Updated8 minutes agoSep 15, 202109:54 UTC +00:00Comments
Liverpool's Harvey Elliott has come out in support of Pascal Struijk after Leeds United lost their appeal against his red card in Sunday's Premier League clash between the two teams.
Strujik was sent off for a strong challenge on Elliott in the second half of Leeds' 3-0 defeat at Elland Road, which left the midfielder with a dislocated ankle.
Replays showed that the defender clearly won the ball, but the Whites have seen their bid to get the red card overturned rejected, which has prompted an empathetic reaction from Elliott.Article continues below Editors' Picks What's been said?
The Liverpool starlet took to social media to comment on the breaking news from Sky Sports' official Instagram account on Wednesday morning.
"Sorry about this Pascal! I think its wrong!" Elliot wrote. "But it'll soon be over brother and you'll be back in no timer smashing it again. Keep positive."
More to follow.
Last Updated45 minutes agoSep 15, 202108:00 UTC +00:00Comments
The Reds begin their European campaign at Kirkby on Wednesday, in a competition that has seen plenty of talented players emerge in recent years
It’s not all about Anfield, as Liverpool get their European campaign up and running on Wednesday.
Jurgen Klopp’s senior Reds side begins its quest for Champions League glory against AC Milan; it will be a historic, noisy, colourful occasion.
Before that, though, it is the youngsters’ turn. Six miles away at Kirkby, Marc Bridge-Wilkinson will lead the club’s Under-19 team as they return to action in the UEFA Youth League.Editors' Picks
It is a competition which has proved more than useful for Liverpool in recent seasons. The likes of Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott, Neco Williams and Rhys Williams, for example, were all blooded there before progressing to the first team.
This year’s crop is similarly gifted, with a number of Lewtas’ squad having spent some or all of pre-season with Klopp’s senior group in Austria and France.
Plenty left a good impression, and none more so than Kaide Gordon, the 16-year-old who has lit the place up since arriving from Derby County back in January.
The Reds could end up paying £3 million ($4.1m) for Gordon, but the early evidence is that it would be a bargain. The lithe, left-footed wide-man looks every inch a star of the future, and could well get his senior Liverpool debut in next week’s Carabao Cup tie at Norwich.
He’s already played professionally, given his bow by Wayne Rooney, no less, as a substitute for Derby against Birmingham last December.
And he’s already played – and scored – at Anfield, impressing in a pre-season friendly against Osasuna in front of nearly 40,000, before netting in a behind-closed-doors game against Aston Villa the following week.
The likes of Thiago Alcantara, Jordan Henderson and Joe Gomez all played that day, and all were said to have been struck by the teenager’s confidence, ability and maturity.
“A proper player,” is how one Reds source described Gordon during the summer.
He doesn’t turn 17 until October 5, but he has already pretty much by-passed Liverpool’s U18 side. He made his debut for Lewtas’ U23s at Leicester back in May, scoring as a second-half substitute, and has started this season with the older age-group too.
“I just try and stay away from him in training,” laughed captain Tom Clayton after the 23s had beaten Everton last month. Gordon scored the Reds’ opener that day, terrorising his opponents with speed, trickery and, most pleasing of all, an awareness which goes way beyond his tender years.
He’s the one of the watch for Liverpool in the UEFA Youth League, though Lewtas will be able to call upon a number of other promising prospects.
Centre-back Billy Koumetio, for example, has already played in the Champions League proper, appearing away at FC Midtjylland last December. The 18-year-old Frenchman is strong, excellent in the air and a good passer of the ball off his left foot. Anfield sources see first-team potential there.
Attacking midfielders James Balagizi and Mateusz Musialowski, meanwhile, were key players as the U18s reached the final of the FA Youth Cup last season, losing narrowly to a superb Aston Villa team.
Balagizi joined the Reds from Manchester City as an U11s player, and possesses an intriguing mix of power and guile, while Musialowski was one of the stars of the academy last season after arriving from LKS Lodz. Compared tentatively to Eden Hazard, the Polish youth international, is a crowd-pleaser with his dribbling and one-twos.
Others play a more orthodox game. Home-grown midfielder Tyler Morton, who has been with the club since the age of seven, is one to keep an eye on with his passing range, energy and eye for a goal, while full-backs Conor Bradley and Owen Beck have both made their mark with Klopp.
Bradley is already capped by Northern Ireland at senior level, while Beck, as the nephew of club legend Ian Rush, will have plenty willing him to succeed at Anfield. Good players, both of them.
It is good to see the Youth League back, after the coronavirus pandemic forced its cancellation last season. Liverpool are yet to make it past the quarter-final stage, but the competition is seen as a valuable one, in terms of readying young players for the rigours and the challenges of senior football.
It also represents a chance for supporters to catch a glimpse of the next big thing.Article continues below
Liverpool fans may have first become aware of someone like Jones, for example, during the 2018-19 competition, but they may also have spotted the likes of Karim Adeyemi and Luka Sucic (Salzburg), Adil Aouchiche (Paris Saint-Germain), Tahith Chong and Brandon Williams (Manchester United) and Goncalo Ramos (Benfica) playing against their side in recent years.
Others, such as Moussa Diaby (PSG), Ryan Gravenberch, Sven Botman and Sergino Dest (Ajax), Mohamed Ihattaren (PSV Eindhoven), Joshua Zirkzee (Bayern Munich) and Albert Sambi Lokonga (Anderlecht) have all furthered their reputations in the competition. All are now thriving at first-team level, some at senior international level.
Could Gordon follow in those footsteps? He certainly has the talent, and with Atletico Madrid and Porto joining Milan in Liverpool's group this season, the Youth League could offer the perfect stage on which to show it off.Comments
Last Updated2 hours agoSep 15, 202108:00 UTC +00:00Comments
Both sides have started the season strongly and their first game in the Champions League should bring more goals on Wednesday night on Merseyside
Liverpool welcome AC Milan to Anfield on Wednesday evening in Group B of the Champions League as the Rossoneri make their return to Europe's premier club competition after seven years.
The Reds meanwhile were quarter-finalists last season, knocked out in convincing fashion by Real Madrid, and Jurgen Klopp's men will be aiming to reach the latter stages of the tournament once more.Liverpool vs Milan latest odds
The last two editions of the Champions League have seen Italian sides take points from their group-stage visits to Merseyside.Editors' Picks
Atalanta won 2-0 at Anfield last year while Napoli recorded a 1-1 draw in 2019.
The game is being shown live on BT Sport 2 in the United Kingdom (UK). The BT Sport app will be streaming the game live online.Liverpool vs Milan team news
The hosts are without teenager Harvey Elliott who suffered a serious ankle injury in the weekend win over Leeds United, while Roberto Firmino and Neco Williams also remain sidelined.
Former Chelsea man Tiemoue Bakayako had to go off injured during Milan's victory over Lazio on Sunday and is unlikely to be able to feature, although another ex-Blues player Olivier Giroud should be clear to feature having recovered from coronavirus. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been ruled out through injury.Liverpool vs Milan preview
Both teams have begun their respective domestic seasons strongly, with Liverpool claiming 10 points from a possible 12 and Milan recording three wins from three games.
The Reds' three victories have all come without conceding a goal yet they were against modest opponents in Norwich City, Burnley, and Leeds.
The most challenging game Liverpool have faced was against Chelsea which ended 1-1 and Milan will feel they can score on Wednesday night.
Stefano Pioli's team have scored eight goals in their three games, with five different players finding the back of the net and the seven-time champions of Europe should be backed to get on the score sheet once more.Liverpool vs Milan tips & predictions
Odds correct at the time of writing. Please gamble responsibly.Comments
Last Updated53 minutes agoSep 14, 202108:49 UTC +00:00Comments
The midfielder, who joined Paris Saint-Germain in the summer transfer window, has insisted that he originally wanted to extend his stay with the Reds
Georginio Wijnaldum says that a lack of faith from Liverpool officials led to his departure from Anfield, as he has claimed that they "did not give me the feeling of wanting to keep me".
Liverpool paid £23 million ($32m) to bring Winaldum to Merseyside from Newcastle in the summer of 2016, and he went on to establish himself as one of the most influential members of Jurgen Klopp's squad.
The Dutchman helped the Reds win a sixth European Cup and first league title in 30 years, but wasn't given a contract extension beyond the 2020-21 campaign and ended up joining Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer in June.Editors' Picks What's been said?
Wijnaldum has now revealed that he never wanted to leave Anfield, but felt as though he was pushed through the exits after unsuccessful negotiations over a contract renewal.
“You follow your feeling," the 30-year-old told L'Equipe. "Several months ago, I had expressed the desire to stay in Liverpool but, without going into details, Liverpool did not give me the feeling of wanting to keep me.
"In these cases, we have to move forward."Why did Wijnaldum choose PSG?
Barcelona was initially touted as the most likely next destination for Wijnaldum, but a deal never came to fruition amid the Catalan giants' struggles to reduce their overall wage bill.
The Netherlands international has now confirmed that PSG swooped in and made him an offer he couldn't refuse, adding: "Barcelona came. I was really happy because, since I was a child, as for the majority of Dutch players, it was the club of my dreams even if I must admit that my idol was Zinedine Zidane.
“I had a good idea to commit to Barca. But the negotiations lasted a very long time and Paris came in. Unlike six years earlier, the club showed me their desire to recruit me. It was time for me to have something else.”Article continues below How has Wijnaldum started in Paris?
Wijnaldum has already appeared in five games for PSG at the start of the 2021-22 season, helping them rise to the top of the Ligue 1 standings.
The midfielder looks set to continue playing a key role in Mauricio Pochettino's plans as the campaign progresses, with a Champions League group-stage opener against Club Brugge up next on Wednesday.Further readingComments
Pick Your LanguageBackBackOther English editions
Assistant Features EditorSep 14, 202108:45 UTC +00:00Comments0
Chelsea begin the defence of their title, with a host of Europe's biggest clubs all in the running to lift the continent's biggest trophy
Cue the music - the Champions League is back!
Europe's biggest and best clubs are primed and ready to go for the start of the group stages after a historic summer transfer window.
Chelsea are the defending champions, but there are arguably more contenders this time around than in any previous iteration of the competition.Editors' Picks
So who are the favourites, and which teams will be sent on their way before Christmas?
Goal's Champions League Power Rankings are here to lay it all out...
Getty ImagesSheriff Tiraspol
The undoubted minnows of this season's competition, Sheriff had to come through four rounds of qualifying just to reach the group stages for the first time in their history.
The Moldovan champions' reward for all that was being pooled alongside Real Madrid, Inter and Shakhtar Donetsk, meaning their first trip to the Champions League's main draw is unlikely to make it past Christmas.
Getty ImagesClub Brugge
After being drawn into the group containing Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig, it seems that Club Brugge will, for the fourth season running, be out of the competition before we reach the knockouts.
They have won three of their four league games so far this season, but a 6-1 defeat against Gent suggests they are not in great shape to take down some of Europe's most expensive squads.
Another team who went through four rounds of qualifying, Malmo have it all to do if they are to emerge from a group containing Chelsea and Juventus, as well as Zenit St Petersburg.
A run of just one win in five league games suggests that they have been saving their best performances for continental competition, but the step up in class should now be too wide to bridge.
Getty ImagesYoung Boys
Young Boys made it through three rounds of qualification to reach the group stages for the first time since 2018-19.
The Swiss champions will take on Manchester United, Atalanta and Villarreal in a group that, while not daunting, is likely to prove difficult for new manager David Wagner to overcome.
Getty ImagesDynamo Kyiv
Having regained the Ukrainian title for the first time since 2016, Dynamo Kyiv face the daunting task of trying to finish above at least two of Bayern Munich, Barcelona or Benfica to reach the last 16.
That looks unlikely, though their good young squad are in decent form, having won six of their first seven league games of the season, conceding just two goals in the process.
Porto reached the quarter-finals of last season's competition, knocking out Juventus on the way, and therefore should not be underestimated heading into this season's tournament.
That said, of the three Portuguese sides who qualified this time around, they undoubtedly got the toughest draw, with Liverpool, Atletico Madrid and a resurgent AC Milan standing between them and the knockout stages.
Besiktas may have only edged the Turkish title race on goal difference last season, but Sergen Yalcin's side could cause a surprise if they can get some early momentum in the competition.
A group of Borussia Dortmund, Ajax and Sporting C.P. is difficult but not unmanageable, and with Michy Batshuayi and Miralem Pjanic having arrived on loan with points to prove, a place in the knockout rounds is not totally beyond them despite being underdogs.
Zenit last made it into the Champions League knockout stages in 2015-16, and the odds of ending that run are against them with Chelsea and Juventus also in Group H.
The likes of Malcom, Claudinho, Sardar Azmoun and Artem Dzyuba do give them plenty of firepower while Dejan Lovren is a recognisable face at the back, but a third-placed finish and fall into the Europa League seems the most likely outcome.
Lille stunned French football last season after they beat Paris Saint-Germain to the Ligue 1 title, but the start of their defence suggests that a similar run in the Champions League this term is unlikely.
They have won just one of their five games to start the new campaign, and the only saving grace for Les Dogues is that they are in the most open group of the draw, facing Sevilla, Wolfsburg and Red Bull Salzburg in the coming weeks.
The impressive way in which Benfica held off PSV with 10 men away from home to qualify for the group stages suggests that they are beginning to find their feet under Jorge Jesus after a difficult campaign in 2020-21.
Finishing above Bayern Munich still looks difficult, but a Barcelona in full rebuild mode could be vulnerable as the Portuguese outfit aim to make it out of the groups for the first time since 2016-17.
Getty ImagesShakhtar Donetsk
Perennial qualifiers Shakhtar are back, and having shaken off Manchester City as their usual group-stage foes, they now face reunions with two of the sides they met in last season's competition in Real Madrid and Inter.
Despite the size of those clubs, they should not be daunting opposition for the Ukrainian outfit after they beat Madrid twice and drew both games against the Nerazzurri, though that was not enough to secure a place in the knockout stages.
It is difficult not to think it was an opportunity missed and one that might be difficult to replicate this time around.
Getty ImagesSporting C.P.
Sporting came agonisingly close to an unbeaten season as they won Liga NOS last season for the first time in 19 years, and Ruben Amorim's young team will certainly fight for a place in the knockout stages.
A group containing Borussia Dortmund, Ajax and Besiktas should be fairly open with plenty of exciting, emerging talents on display, and a top-two finish is not beyond any of the teams involved.
Getty ImagesRed Bull Salzburg
Salzburg continue to develop some of the best young talents in European football, but as yet that has not helped them emerge as a European force.
That could change in 2021-22, though, after the Austrian champions received a favourable draw that will have teenage forward duo Karim Adeyemi and Benjamin Sesko licking their lips.
They may be the least heralded of the four Bundesliga sides in this year's competition, but Wolfsburg could be a team to keep an eye on through the group stages.
Mark van Bommel's side have won all four of their league games so far this season after their mean defence helped lead them to a top-four finish last term, and with their group more resembling one from the Europa League than the Champions League, there is confidence that they will earn a place in the knockout rounds.
Having earned qualification by winning the Europa League, Villarreal have been handed a reunion with beaten finalists Manchester United in Europe's premier club competition.
Unai Emery's side will also face Atalanta and Young Boys, but after drawing each of their opening three matches of the Liga season, they do not come into the competition in the greatest of form.
The 2019 semi-finalists may have been picked apart since that run to the final four, but they continue to churn out talented youngsters while picking up decent value signings from elsewhere.
The Dutch champions have a decent shot of qualifying from their group this time around after missing out on the knockout stages in the last two seasons, with Dortmund, Sporting C.P. and Besiktas their opponents.
It has been all change at Leipzig over the summer, with Julian Nagelsmann, Dayot Upamecano and Marcel Sabitzer all having left for Bayern Munich.
New boss Jesse Marsch has struggled to replicate his successor so far, with his new team having lost three of their opening four Bundesliga games, and they will face an uphill task to knock out either Manchester City or Paris Saint-Germain in the groups if that form continues.
Atalanta have defied all expectations to reach the Champions League knockout stages in each of the last two seasons, and they will certainly fancy their chances of making it three in a row given how manageable their group is.
There are some concerning signs, with Gian Piero Gasperini's side having won just one of their first three Serie A games of the season, but if they can return to their free-scoring best, then they can trouble pretty much every team in the draw.
Getty ImagesAC Milan
Back in the Champions League for the first time since 2014, AC Milan are out to make up for lost time after their resurgence in recent years.
They could not have asked for a tougher group, with Liverpool, Atletico Madrid and Porto their opposition, but with Zlatan Ibrahimovic continuing to roll back the years and a good, largely young support cast around him, the Rossoneri cannot be counted out of contention.
Sevilla remain in that zone between being too good for the Europa League and not quite good enough to make a major impression on the Champions League, but Julen Lopetegui's side are at least moving in the right direction.
They have a real chance of topping their group this time too, which could help them as they aim to progress into the latter stages.
While Antonio Conte brought domestic success back to Inter during his time in charge, his struggles in Europe continued, and as such the Nerazzurri will hope the Italian coach's Champions League curse has left San Siro this season.
After finishing bottom of a group containing Real Madrid and Shakhtar Donetsk last season, the Serie A champions should perform much better when faced with the same opponents, alongside Sheriff Tiraspol, this term.
In years gone by, it would have been unthinkable to imagine Barcelona starting a season outside the top 10 favourites to win the Champions League, but that is how far they have fallen in recent times.
Ronald Koeman faces the unenviable task of rebuilding the Blaugrana in the wake of Lionel Messi's exit, and a group containing a powerhouse like Bayern Munich and tricky customers Benfica and Dynamo Kyiv is not what he would have wanted.
Barca should still make it through the group, but going any further seems unlikely right now.
Massimiliano Allegri's return to the Juventus dugout was meant to bring to an end the Bianconeri's struggles from last year, but after picking up just one point from their opening three Serie A games, these are concerning times at the Allianz Stadium.
Despite Cristiano Ronaldo's exit, Juve do still possess a squad capable of going far in the tournament if they can rediscover their best form, though they will likely have to do it as an unseeded team in the last 16 after drawing defending champions Chelsea in the group stages.
Borussia Dortmund may flatter to deceive more times than their fans would like, but any team with Erling Haaland up front has a more than decent chance of Champions League success.
The Norway international will lead a BVB outfit that has performed encouragingly under new manager Marco Rose, and having secured a favourable group-stage draw, there is a real chance they enter the knockout stages as a seeded team.
From there, they will need Haaland to continue delivering if they are improve on their quarter-final exit of 2020-21.
Getty ImagesManchester United
You need only ask Juventus whether signing Cristiano Ronaldo guarantees Champions League success, but there is no doubt that Manchester United are in a stronger position to challenge for the trophy with the Portugal star back in their ranks.
Ronaldo's presence should help them top a group that contains a couple of potential banana skins in Villarreal and Atalanta, while fellow new arrival Raphael Varane may need to come into his own during the knockout stages if the Red Devils are to reach the latter rounds.
Arguably the favourites to win La Liga again this season, Diego Simeone seems to have got his mojo back in recent years, even if Atletico Madrid dropped out of the Champions League in disappointing fashion last term.
A group containing Liverpool, AC Milan and Porto is all that is holding them back from being further up these rankings after a summer in which they made some key additions in forward areas, including the returning Antoine Griezmann.
Getty ImagesReal Madrid
The Real Madrid team that won four Champions League titles in five years may have been further broken up over the summer, but they remain a formidable foe for any side in European competition.
Karim Benzema is showing no signs of slowing down while Vinicius Junior is finally delivering on his undoubted potential this term.
The signings of David Alaba and Eduardo Camavinga, meanwhile, should help freshen up what remains an ageing squad.
With fans back, the Anfield factor cannot be understated when it comes to Liverpool in the Champions League, even if their fortress is not impregnable.
Jurgen Klopp's knows how to reach the final and win this competition, and though they have been handed the toughest of all eight groups, their form to start the season suggests they are getting back to their form of a couple of years ago.
Getty ImagesBayern Munich
The 2020 champions have boosted their squad over the summer with the arrivals of Dayot Upamecano and Marcel Sabitzer, and with Julian Nagelsmann seemingly getting his ideas across after a shaky pre-season, Bayern Munich must be considered one of the favourites to reign over Europe once more.
Drawing Barcelona in the groups should not faze them, and there are only a handful of teams anywhere in the world that could realistically fancy their chances of beating Bayern in the knockout rounds.
Thomas Tuchel's defending champions have been in ominous form to start the season, with Romelu Lukaku seemingly the piece they were missing from the jigsaw to mount a Premier League title challenge.
Playing Juventus in the first round will offer them a test while not being so daunting that they will be concerned about failing to top their group, and no team will then want to play one of the most organised teams in Europe in knockout football.
Is this the year City finally make it over the hump?
Pep Guardiola's side fell at the final hurdle last season, but they have at least proven to themselves that they can make it to the showpiece event, which for so long seemed destined never to happen.
A rare tough group draw may also help harden them for the knockout stages, and though they failed to land an out-and-out goalscorer over the summer, they still possess one of the most talented groups of attacking midfielders anywhere in the world.
Yes there are questions over their balance, and yes they might not even win their group, but right now it is difficult to bet against a team with a forward line of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar winning the Champions League.
No team had a better summer than Paris Saint-Germain in terms of the calibre of their signings, and if they do not win the biggest competition of them all this season, then serious questions will be asked of Mauricio Pochettino.
They will probably not have it all their own way as the competitions wears on, but they are the team to beat heading into matchday one.
Chris BurtonSep 14, 202107:04 UTC +00:00Comments
The Reds legend believes a man that now has 100 Premier League goals to his name has shown that he deserves another pay rise at Anfield
Mohamed Salah is "as professional as Cristiano Ronaldo" and an all-time great at Liverpool, says Jamie Carragher, with one Reds legend calling for another to be handed a lucrative new contract.
Several senior stars in Jurgen Klopp's squad have penned fresh terms over recent weeks, with the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho and Andy Robertson committing their respective futures to Merseyside heavyweights.
Salah is said to be next in line, after reaching 100 Premier League goals in his last top-flight outing, and Carragher believes an Egyptian forward destined to secure a standing among Anfield greats of the past is deserving of another substantial pay rise.Editors' Picks What has been said?
Carragher has told Sky Sports: "While Liverpool have not spent big this summer like other teams, they have had a lot of players sign new contracts. The one that is yet to sign is Mo Salah.
"Now, he obviously wants a few quid. And rightly so. Good luck to him. He deserves it. He deserves to be one of the highest-paid players in the Premier League for what he has done since he came to Liverpool, he really does.
"He is never injured and year after year he is top goalscorer. He just is. That is what he is.
"I will say something else. When you pick your all-time Liverpool XI, there are positions where you just think, 'He is in.' Alan Hansen, Graeme Souness, John Barnes, Steven Gerrard, Ian Rush and Kenny Dalglish. You could fill all those positions no matter what this team does.
"There is nobody you ever think of on the right. Mo Salah will be in that position when he finishes his Liverpool career. He will be in that all-time Liverpool XI. There is no doubt for me about that.
"When you think about strikers getting to 29 or 30, we talk about Cristiano Ronaldo being 36, that guy is a machine in terms of how he looks after himself.
"I think Mo Salah is as professional as Ronaldo, he looks after his body and I think there are a lot of years left in Mo Salah so I just hope this gets sorted sooner rather than later.
"You always debate about money, the player wants a bit more, the club wants a bit less, but that needs to be sorted. Fingers crossed it will because he deserves it for what he has done for Liverpool."What is Salah's record at Liverpool?
Liverpool spent £36.5 million ($51m) bringing former Chelsea flop Salah back to English football from Roma in the summer of 2017.
An immediate return was offered on that investment during a 44-goal debut season that saw Salah land a Golden Boot and PFA Player of the Year award.
There was no stopping him from there, with Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, Club World Cup and Premier League titles secured in one memorable 12-month spell - along with another top scorer prize.Article continues below
Salah has remained a model of consistency throughout his time at Anfield, with 128 goals recorded through 207 appearances.
His current contract is due to expire in 2023, but Liverpool are making every effort to ensure that he gets nowhere near the final 12 months of that agreement.Further readingComments
Last Updated3 hours agoSep 13, 202107:00 UTC +00:00Comments
Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United will all fancy their chances of glory, while the traditional heavyweights struggle
“I’ll be stunned if we don’t get at least two teams in the semi-finals. I think we’ll probably get three, and maybe even four!”
As predictions go, Joe Cole’s is bold to say the least. Bold but understandable.
The former Chelsea and Liverpool midfielder is looking ahead to the Champions League, which gets underway this week, and anticipating a season, maybe even an era, of Premier League dominance.Editors' Picks
“The top four clubs just look so strong,” Cole tells Goal. “There’s so much quality there already, and when you look at the signings that have been made this summer on top of that, it’s hard to look past the Premier League when you’re talking about the main contenders.”
Cole has a point. Last season’s final, after all, was an all-English affair, and all four Premier League participants - Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool and the holders Chelsea - look stronger this year than they did last.
So much for the bubble bursting, so much for a new era of caution and prudence in the transfer market. While the rest of the football world - with one notable exception, which we’ll come to later - counts the cost of the coronavirus pandemic, Premier League clubs have smelt blood.
The summer window was the ultimate flex in that regard, with English clubs spending an estimated £1.1billion (€1.3bn/$1.5bn) on new players. They have, according to research from the CIES Football Observatory, been responsible for 45 per cent of all transfer spending among Europe’s big five leagues during the last three windows - up from 35 per cent for the period between January 2012 and January 2020.
With La Liga at a low ebb, and while the Bundesliga and Serie A struggle to hold onto their biggest names and their biggest talents, Manchester City were able to make Jack Grealish the most expensive English player of all time. They would have done the same with Harry Kane, too, had Tottenham played ball.
Manchester United, meanwhile, did a bit of everything, landing the vast potential of Jadon Sancho, the class and pedigree of Raphael Varane and, of course, the internet-breaking signing of Cristiano Ronaldo. No excuses now, surely, for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his side.
And don’t discount Liverpool, either. Their summer was a little less eye-catching, though the purchase of Ibrahima Konate from Leipzig was a good one. The return from injury of Virgil van Dijk, among others, is of more importance to Jurgen Klopp, who can still call upon the bulk of the team which won the Champions League in 2019.
Their draw is tough, but you’d either be brave or stupid, or perhaps both, to write them out of the script.
So who is going to stop the Premier League’s fearsome foursome, then? Which of Europe’s heavyweights are still standing, post-Covid?
Paris Saint-Germain, naturally, are the competition favourites with most bookmakers, having added the likes of Gigi Donnarumma, Achraf Hakimi, Sergio Ramos, Gini Wijnaldum and a little-known Argentine called Lionel Messi to their already star-studded squad.
They may not even have won Ligue 1 last season - the side that did, Lille, were picked apart within days - but Mauricio Pochettino’s side will be expected to go for everything this time around. How could they not, with an attack off Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe?
“Maybe they’re the ones who can break the [Premier League] mould,” says Cole, though he, like many others, waits to see how Pochettino will balance his team with so many star names present and jostling for space and attention.
But having reached the semi-finals last season and the final the year before, PSG should be expected to be there or thereabouts once again. Their group-stage clashes with City could offer a fascinating insight into how much stronger they are this time.
Bayern Munich? Can the 2020 champions regain their crown? With the free-scoring Robert Lewandowski, anything is possible - it was the Pole’s absence which cost them so dearly in last season’s quarter-final defeat to PSG - but the Bundesliga champions are not without their problems, despite an impressive win at title rivals Leipzig on Saturday.
Their reliance on Lewandowski is absolute, and defensively there are more than a few concerns despite the signing of Dayot Upamecano.
What about the Spanish challenge? Real Madrid held the monopoly on this competition not so long ago, after all, and reached the semi-finals last season despite their issues. Carlo Ancelotti is a five-time winner as player and manager, but does he really have the team to make it a half-dozen?
Ramos and Varane have gone, their move for Mbappe failed and the squad looks a mix of the ageing and the emerging, with little in between. Karim Benzema remains key, but can Eden Hazard or Gareth Bale turn back the clock and deliver?
Unlikely, too, is the idea of a serious challenge from Camp Nou. Barcelona’s has been a farcical summer, their dirty laundry aired for all the world to see. They started the summer with Messi and ended it with Luuk de Jong, allowing Antoine Griezmann to return to rivals Atletico Madrid for good measure.
However good the likes of Pedri and Ansu Fati are - and they could well be world-class before long - it just isn’t enough. The Blaugrana’s fall has been a mighty one, and it might not be over yet.
Atletico are a more interesting proposition, given their style and the fact they have been able to nab Griezmann from a rival, just as they were able to pinch Luis Suarez 12 months previously. They’re La Liga champions, and look comfortably the most rounded and well-coached of the Spanish outfits. Dogged, consistent and defensively superb, few sides will relish facing them.
Diego Simeone’s side did, however, disappoint when exiting to Leipzig in the 2020 quarter-finals and were surprisingly meek against Chelsea in the last 16 last season. They have a bit to prove, and their group, which includes Liverpool, AC Milan and Porto, looks one of the toughest to call.
It would be a surprise, to say the least, if Serie A were to yield a contender. Inter ended an 11-year wait for a league title in May, but have lost their manager, their star striker and the brilliant Hakimi since, while Juventus have been stuck in reverse for a few seasons. They haven’t been past the quarter-finals since 2017, losing to Ajax, Lyon and Porto in the last three campaigns.
They look a team short of genuine star quality following the departure of you-know-who. Federico Chiesa can be special, but Juve look to have too many question marks over them, evidenced by their dreadful start to the new domestic campaign.Article continues below
It looks a five, or perhaps six, horse race, then. PSG versus the Premier League, with Bayern Munich waiting intently at first slip and the rest hoping .
Not since the mid-late 2000s has English football looked so strong. The Premier League had three semi-finalists in both 2008 and 2009, and provided at least one finalist in seven out of the eight seasons between 2004 and 2012. Those titanic tussles involving Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal will live long in the memory.
Is history about to repeat? Messi and Co. will have something to say about that, but the Premier League will take some stopping - this season and beyond.Comments
Pick Your LanguageBackBackOther English editions
Assistant Features Editor
Last Updated1 hour agoSep 12, 202123:00 UTC +00:00Comments0
The awarding of the prize was cancelled in 2020 and the world's best players are again making their cases to claim the coveted individual honour
After being cancelled in 2020, the Ballon d'Or is back, with the great and good of the football world again eyeing the biggest individual honour the game has to offer.
The prize will not be handed out until December, meaning that players can still make their cases to succeed 2019 winner Lionel Messi over the coming months, despite most of the major club and international silverware having been won already.
So, by using the performances of the contenders so far, as well as predictions of what is likely still to come in 2021, who holds the most power in this year's race?Editors' Picks
Goal ranks the runners and riders...
Getty/GoalPhil Foden (Manchester City)
Last time: 19th
In 2021: 11 goals, seven assists. Won Premier League & Carabao Cup.
Foden is yet to get his season started as he continues his recovery from a foot injury that ruled him out of the latter stages of Euro 2020.
He could face a fight to get back into the Manchester City team too, with club-record signing Jack Grealish having made a strong start to life at the Etihad Stadium.
Last time: 20th
In 2021: Three goals, six assists. Won Copa del Rey & Olympic silver medal.
Pedri finally got a chance to rest over the past week after a year which has seen him play 76 matches for club and country, most of which the teenager has started.
Euro 2020's Young Player of the Tournament now has an Olympic medal to show for his achievements, though Barcelona will hope that the midfielder's exertions will not affect his performance level over the coming campaign.
Getty/GoalIlkay Gundogan (Manchester City)
Last week: 18th
In 2021: 17 goals, six assists. Won Premier League & Carabao Cup.
Gundogan got off the mark for the new season with a header against Arsenal, and the Germany international will be hoping that was a sign of things to come after seeing his goals dry up towards the end of the 2020-21 campaign.
Getty/GoalMason Mount (Chelsea)
Last time: 17th
In 2021: Nine goals, seven assists. Won Champions League & UEFA Super Cup.
Chelsea look well set to make a push for the Premier League title this season, and Mount is likely to play a key role in being a bridge between the Blues' midfield and attack.
Getty/GoalNeymar (Paris Saint-Germain)
Last time: 16th
In 2021: 13 goals, 12 assists. Won Coupe de France & Trophee des Champions.
Back in 2017, Neymar left Barcelona in part so he could emerge from Lionel Messi's shadow and prove his Ballon d'Or credentials elsewhere.
That dream, however, has not become a reality, and four years on he has reunited with his close friend after the Argentine moved to PSG this summer.
So will Messi's arrival in the French capital kill Neymar's hopes of ever winning the Ballon d'Or? Only time will tell.
Getty/GoalGianluigi Donnarumma (Paris Saint-Germain)
Last time: 15th
In 2021: 19 clean sheets. Won Euro 2020.
Euro 2020's Player of the Tournament is yet to make an appearance since the final at Wembley, with Donnarumma having been made to wait for his PSG debut.
It seems inevitable that the Italy international will beat out Keylor Navas for the starting berth at Parc des Princes eventually, but it remains to be seen how loyal Mauricio Pochettino will be to his current No.1.
Getty/GoalHarry Kane (Tottenham)
Last time: 14th
In 2021: 28 goals, five assists.
Defeat in the final of Euro 2020 and admitting defeat in his bid to join Manchester City - this has not been the summer Harry Kane envisaged back in May.
That said, Kane's goalscoring ability has never been in doubt, and expect him to truly hit the ground running for Tottenham in the coming weeks, even if his exploits go a little more under the radar without Champions League football.
Getty/GoalRuben Dias (Manchester City)
Last time: 13th
In 2021: One goal, one assist, 23 clean sheets. Won Premier League & Carabao Cup.
Dias may not have had the outstanding Euro 2020 that he would have hoped for, but normal proceedings have resumed for him at City, where Aymeric Laporte may now be becoming his favoured defensive partner.
His performances over the past 12 months have also earned him a new six-year deal at the Etihad Stadium, with the Premier League champions well aware of what a major asset they have on their hands.
Getty/GoalRaheem Sterling (Manchester City)
Last time: 12th
In 2021: 13 goals, seven assists. Won Premier League & Carabao Cup.
After his Euro 2020 heroics, Sterling has returned to Manchester City and found that he remains on the outside looking in when it comes to being a regular starter at the Etihad Stadium.
Though he did score against Norwich City, the England star has never been less sure of his place in Pep Guardiola's team as he is right now.
Getty/GoalKarim Benzema (Real Madrid)
Last time: 11th
In 2021: 27 goals, 10 assists.
Benzema might not be the main man at Real Madrid for too much longer if Florentino Perez gets his way in the transfer market, but for now the veteran forward continues to live up to his star billing.
The France international has two goals and three assists from Madrid's first three Liga games of the campaign as they aim to regain the title they failed to defend last season.
Getty/GoalFederico Chiesa (Juventus)
Last time: 10th
In 2021: 15 goals, five assists. Won Euro 2020, Coppa Italia & Supercoppa Italiana.
With Cristiano Ronaldo having left Juventus, the door is now open for someone new to become the attacking leader of the Bianconeri.
Chiesa's performances over the past year suggest he is up to the job, though Juve's loss to Empoli on Saturday hinted that the rebuild required at the Allianz Stadium is bigger than many people believed.
Getty/GoalErling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund)
Last time: 9th
In 2021: 38 goals, 13 assists. Won DFB-Pokal.
While the majority of the world's elite players spent their summers playing major tournaments, Erling Haaland was out there, waiting, getting stronger.
The Dortmund star has returned from two months without competitive football with a bang, scoring six goals and laying on three assists in his first five games of the new campaign.
The newly-crowned Champions League Forward of the Year is showing no signs of slowing down.
Getty/GoalCristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)
Last time: 8th
In 2021: 31 goals, four assists. Won Coppa Italia & Supercoppa Italiana.
Ronaldo is back at Manchester United, and while he is not the same player he was when he left Old Trafford back in 2009, there is no doubt that he can still have an impact on the Red Devils.
The Portugal international should also become the top men's international goalscorer of all time before the year is out, meaning his place among the Ballon d'Or's top 10 should be secure.
Getty/GoalKevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
Last time: 7th
In 2021: 10 goals, 10 assists. Won Premier League & Carabao Cup.
The middle third of De Bruyne's 2021 has been dominated by injuries, with both the Champions League final and Euro 2020 ending with the Belgian playmaker facing fitness problems.
There remains no doubt that the Man City schemer is the best playmaking midfielder in the world right now, but De Bruyne will hope that this current run of bad luck does not stretch too far into the new campaign.
Getty/GoalKylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain)
Last time: 6th
In 2021: 33 goals, nine assists. Won Coupe de France & Trophee des Champions.
Speculation over Mbappe's future looks likely to dominate the final days of the transfer window, but on the pitch he is showing no signs of feeling the pressure.
The France international has three goals and two assists in PSG's first four Ligue 1 games of the season, and though they could yet be his last for Les Parisiens, he at least would be going out on a relative high.
Getty/GoalRomelu Lukaku (Chelsea)
Last time: 5th
In 2021: 28 goals, eight assists. Won Serie A.
Lukaku's return to Chelsea looks like a match made in heaven for the Belgium international, with the Blues believing they have found the missing piece to Thomas Tuchel's jigsaw.
His goal against Arsenal on his second debut was a perfect illustration of what Lukaku is about at this stage of his career, and few would bet against him winning the Golden Boot this season.
Getty/GoalN'Golo Kante (Chelsea)
Last time: 4th
In 2021: One assist. Won Champions League & UEFA Super Cup.
After being named Man of the Match on four occasions during the knockout stages of the Champions League - including in both semi-final legs and the final - Kante was the rightful winner of the competition's Midfielder of the Year award.
Niggling injury concerns are a worry heading into the new season, but Kante has already done plenty to ensure he will remain in the Ballon d'Or conversation all the way through to December.
Last time: 3rd
In 2021: Five goals, two assists. Won Euro 2020, Champions League & UEFA Super Cup.
If anyone was still doubting whether Jorginho was a genuine Ballon d'Or contender before, then the Chelsea midfielder winning UEFA's Player of the Year prize is a sure sign that he will be in contention for the biggest individual prize of them all too.
As this column has explained previously, 'Modric's Law' is a real thing when it comes to end-of-year awards, and there is no one better placed to take advantage in 2021 than Jorginho.
Getty/GoalRobert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
Last time: 2nd
In 2021: 45 goals, seven assists. Won Bundesliga, Club World Cup & DFL-Supercup.
Lewandowski is not about to give up on claiming the prize he should have won in 2020 without a fight after making a fast start to the new season at Bayern Munich.
The Poland international has netted seven goals in four games for the Bavarians thus far, and should have brought up a half-century of goals for the year by the end of September if his form holds.
Getty/GoalLionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain)
Last time: 1st
In 2021: 36 goals, 14 assists. Won Copa America & Copa del Rey.
Despite him moving clubs, the Ballon d'Or remains Messi's to lose in 2021, with his role in Argentina's Copa America triumph currently the deciding factor.
The fact that PSG have been drawn into the most intriguing Champions League group means he will remain in the spotlight through the final months of the year, while playing for the dominant side in Ligue 1 should offer him opportunity to stack up the goals and assists too.