LFC NEWS

Real Madrid dealt major injury blow for Liverpool clash in Champions League last-16

Liverpool.com - Tue, 01/31/2023 - 21:00

Real Madrid has been dealt a major injury blow going into their Champions League tie with Liverpool in February.

The two sides meet in the first leg on February 21, but the reigning European champions will have to do it without first-choice left-back Ferland Mendy.

The injury setback was confirmed in a statement on Tuesday, which read: "Following tests carried out today by the Real Madrid Medical Services on our player Ferland Mendy, he has been diagnosed with an injury to the semimembranosus muscle in his left leg. His recovery will be monitored."

READ MORE: Pep Guardiola has gone too far as ‘impossible’ verdict on Liverpool transfer model backfires

READ MORE: Liverpool already made new January midfield 'signing' as $18m transfer stance now justified

Mendy suffered a hamstring in the 3-1 Madrid derby win over Atlético Madrid in the Copa del Rey last week, and according to Spanish source Diario AS, he could be out of action until the beginning of April.

This would mean Mendy would miss both legs against Liverpool, with the second one due to be played in mid-March, with Álvaro Odriozola his likely replacement.

Liverpool has injury issues of their own, with defender Ibrahima Konaté a doubt for the first leg after picking up an injury against Brighton and Hove Albion in the FA Cup fourth-round defeat.

Liverpool and Madrid will meet less than a year after squaring off in the final of the Champions League, with the Spanish side winning 1-0 in Paris.

GO DEEPER: Why the fixture list has handed Liverpool an edge over Real Madrid ahead of Champions League clash.

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Pep Guardiola has gone too far as ‘impossible’ verdict on Liverpool transfer model backfires

Liverpool.com - Tue, 01/31/2023 - 20:00

Liverpool's long-time Premier League rival Manchester City has sprung a late surprise in the January transfer window by allowing João Cancelo to join Bayern Munich.

Cancelo will move to the Bundesliga giants on an initial loan deal that can be made permanent at the end of the season for a fee of $76m (£62m/€70m).

Up until recently, the full-back had been one of Manchester City's most important players, making the team of the year in 2020/21 and 2021/22 after helping the club win back-to-back Premier League titles.

READ MORE: Liverpool has midfield boost for Jürgen Klopp as injury setbacks can form one key advantage

READ MORE: Liverpool already made new January midfield 'signing' as $18m transfer stance now justified

Following the sales of Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko, this deal has been cited as yet another example of Pep Guardiola being ruthless.

All four players had been key contributors to the team's success but were nonetheless moved on for various reasons.

Cancelo, as explained here, has fallen out of form and out of favor. His relationship with the manager has become strained (via The Athletic), and Guardiola seems to have little interest in repairing it.

Sterling, meanwhile, was allowed to leave after expressing frustrations about his standing within the squad, having been left on the bench for both legs of the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid.

Jesus was sold following the arrivals of Julian Álvarez and, of course, Erling Haaland, while Zinchenko, ironically, was deemed surplus to requirements because Cancelo was ahead of him in the pecking order.

João Cancelo of Manchester City against Liverpool (Image: Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

And, more generally, Guardiola has already explained the importance of a high turnover of players at an elite-level club.

"You have to shake [things up]," he told BT Sport in 2021. "You have to move. With the same guys, it's always impossible. We change. After a defeat or a win, we change."

There's a marked contrast here with the approach taken by Liverpool, where Jürgen Klopp has been accused of excessive loyalty.

Some argue that part of the reason things have gone stale for the Reds this season is that they have kept much of the same group together for too long rather than refreshing the squad. They allegedly needed to make some cold-hearted business decisions regarding key players and introduce replacements earlier, and have subsequently left themselves with an 'impossible' task.

But, on the other hand, Guardiola has also demonstrated how this strategy can backfire.

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Of the three (soon-to-be four) headline sales this season, only Sterling has offered Manchester City vindication. The Englishman has managed just six goals in 22 appearances for Chelsea, and one in the Premier League since the end of August.

But on the other end of the scale, Jesus contributed 11 goals and assists (and a whole lot more off the ball) in his first 14 Premier League appearances for Arsenal pre-injury, and Zinchenko has established himself as one of the Gunners' most important players.

The Ukrainian, as a rotational full-back, looked to be the 'lowest-stakes' departure but it may actually be the deal that Manchester City and Guardiola rue the most. He's started all but one game for Mikel Arteta's side and could end up in the team of the season himself.

It's clear now that Manchester City underestimated Arsenal, inadvertently playing a key role in its rapid ascent from Europa League-level side to title favorite.

And now, the process could repeat itself on the European stage. If Cancelo can recapture his best form at Bayern Munich, then it's no exaggeration to say he could help make the Bavarians frontrunners for the Champions League, not just this season but in years to come should the loan be made permanent.

If Bayern Munich does go on to win the competition, the one that Manchester City desperately wants, and Cancelo plays an instrumental role, then the club's policy will come under yet more intense scrutiny.

Manchester City, then, has taught Liverpool that while 'ruthlessness' can bring renewal, it can also bring regret. And while Guardiola thinks it is 'impossible' to win anything without change, Klopp will point to the fact that his tight-knit group has won the lot — Champions League and all.

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Liverpool has midfield boost for Jürgen Klopp as injury setbacks can form one key advantage

Liverpool.com - Tue, 01/31/2023 - 19:00

This season is starting to appear like a lengthy experiment in how many disappointing blows Liverpool supporters can take.

Fresh from seeing their FA Cup hopes ended by Brighton, and at the conclusion of a transfer window that has brought no much-needed midfield reinforcement, the news has emerged that Ibrahima Konaté is facing a stint on the sidelines.

The Frenchman has been one of the few bright spots of this painful campaign, and it feels unlikely that improvement across the team as a whole will arrive in his absence.

READ MORE: Liverpool already made new January midfield 'signing' as $18m transfer stance now justified

READ MORE: Pep Guardiola may just have settled Trent Alexander-Arnold and Liverpool debate with $76m call

It is also incredibly difficult to imagine Liverpool keeping their sole trophy hope alive in the Champions League against Real Madrid without Konaté in their lineup.

Of course, bigger shocks have happened, while the magic of Anfield on a European night is well worth factoring in. But unless one such Kop-inspired miracle is imminent, then it is perhaps time to start thinking about the remainder of this campaign differently.

Yes, Jürgen Klopp will be determined to win as many games as possible between now and May with this overworked, broken squad.

However, with every further player lost to injury, every point dropped, and every trophy aim dashed, the German will also simply start to look to whatever small upsides he can scrape out of this forgettable season.

Thankfully, one of those has emerged in rather emphatic fashion in recent weeks in the form of teenage midfielder Stefan Bajčetić. The Spaniard has been a revelation in the holding midfield role effectively vacated by Fabinho’s alarmingly sudden loss of form.

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His composure in possession and nous off it are simply remarkable for a teenager, and it is no coincidence that the engine room has looked far more solid as a whole since his introduction.

Of course, his tender years mean that he has mistakes to make and difficult moments to endure, but that is where one small positive of the fact this is a season in which little remains at stake comes in.

Currently, Bajčetić looks like the only central midfield option Klopp will be able to rely on in the long-term, particularly given Thiago's contract situation and age.

As such, allowing the 18-year-old to learn on the job in the months ahead looks particularly attractive given that the stakes are not as high as they might usually be.

If that ensures Bajčetić can emerge as a genuine option for next season — one who should be complemented by a raft of summer signings, of course — then maybe some value can be eked out of this painful season.

As things stand, it is difficult to imagine much other good coming from a campaign that continues to test Liverpool supporters’ resilience.

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Liverpool’s biggest issue might be the one thing Jurgen Klopp can improve

ThisIsAnfield.com - Tue, 01/31/2023 - 18:00
Jurgen Klopp is constantly calling for more room in the schedule for training and his wish has been granted this season, but instead of improvements, we’ve actually got worse as training time has increased.

“In football, there are two ways to improve. One is to sign good players and the second is training, having time together is always good.” – Jurgen Klopp, 2019

Klopp has a long, and successful, track record of improving and developing players, irrespective of if he inherited them or if he actively pursued them in the transfer market.

The German values the time he has on the training pitch and it forms the foundations from which his team thrive as individuals and as a collective.

But consistent sessions at the AXA Training Centre, previously Melwood, have not always been on the cards due to Liverpool’s success on the pitch resulting in more games and less time for training.

In 2022/23, however, the Liverpool manager has never had more time with his squad on the training track, and yet we’re not seeing the level of improvement we ought to have.

Klopp got his wish

 Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson (L) and manager Jürgen Klopp (R) during a training session at the AXA Training Centre ahead of the UEFA Champions League Group A matchday 4 game between Glasgow Rangers FC and Liverpool FC. (Pic by Jessica Hornby/Propaganda)

 Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson (L) and manager Jürgen Klopp (R) during a training session at the AXA Training Centre ahead of the UEFA Champions League Group A matchday 4 game between Glasgow Rangers FC and Liverpool FC. (Pic by Jessica Hornby/Propaganda)

Roberto Firmino, Ilkay Gundogan, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mario Gotze, Robert Lewandowski, Marco Reus and Trent Alexander-Arnold are just some of the players who have publicly credited Klopp for making them better players.

The list could go on and on.

Klopp knows how to get the best out of a player and his support staff are just as invaluable to the process as he is.

In the words of Liverpool’s elite development coach, Vitor Matos, Klopp “has the gift of reaching into everyone’s heart and demanding the most. It is almost as if in each training session I receive a masterclass.”

His record of improving players is tremendous, even with training limitations and a gruelling schedule.

 Liverpool's Darwin Núñez (R) during a training session at the AXA Training Centre ahead of the UEFA Champions League Group A matchday 6 game between Liverpool FC and SSC Napoli. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

 Liverpool's Darwin Núñez (R) during a training session at the AXA Training Centre ahead of the UEFA Champions League Group A matchday 6 game between Liverpool FC and SSC Napoli. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“In any sport, the basic requirement for any performance is training. But we don’t have time to practice because we play all the time,” Klopp said back in 2022.

In 2021/22, Liverpool played in every fixture possible, amounting to 63 games for an average of a game every 4.5 days, inclusive of every international break.

When you factor in recovery days and a game every weekend and midweek, there was limited, if any, opportunity for training sessions to take place beyond tactical work for the next opponent.

If you compare that to this season, the Reds have played 31 games to date, which makes for an average of a match every 5.9 days – also inclusive of international breaks, namely the World Cup.

For a team that has had training time restricted in recent years, that’s a significant difference.

And let’s not forget they spent 12 days in Dubai for a mini-preseason before domestic action returned after the World Cup, and only seven Reds featured in Qatar.

“In these 10, 11 days, the kids especially, everybody made a real step forward,” Klopp said of the time spent in Dubai. Sadly, it’s not been a consistent theme on their return to England.

 Liverpool players look dejected as Brighton & Hove Albion score the first equalising goal during the FA Cup 4th Round match between Brighton & Hove Albion FC and Liverpool FC at the Falmer Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

 Liverpool players look dejected as Brighton & Hove Albion score the first equalising goal during the FA Cup 4th Round match between Brighton & Hove Albion FC and Liverpool FC at the Falmer Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Early exits from domestic cup competitions have freed up Liverpool’s schedule and their first 10 games of the year take place over 50 days, from Brentford to Real Madrid, a game every five days.

The time between the last match at Brighton to the next at Wolves (Feb 4) is six days, a nine-day break then follows before five days separate Everton‘s visit (Feb 13) and the trip to Newcastle (Feb 18).

Plenty of time to train, then – although Klopp still, bemusingly, continues to state otherwise.

But that won’t fill many with confidence as increased training time throughout the season so far has yet to consistently translate on the pitch, both with performances and results.

Even Andy Robertson admitted after defeat at Brighton in the FA Cup that despite wanting a “new start” at the turn of the year, “we’ve probably been worse.”

So what is going on?

The big issue

Pepijn Lijnders during the pre-match warm-up before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leicester City FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 2-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Pepijn Lijnders during the pre-match warm-up before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leicester City FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 2-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Pep Lijnders has said “training is our transfer” and for many years Klopp and his staff have found solutions to Liverpool’s issues on the training track, working out any kinks.

The Reds’ problems are only mounting this season and we have seen tweaks to the formation, changes to personnel and recently a renewed emphasis on becoming compact.

But Liverpool have just one win from their last six games, have lost four since returning from the World Cup break and have conceded 15 goals in the last nine.

After uninterrupted time in Dubai and a ‘kinder’ schedule to start the year, you expected the work on the training pitches to start to translate into a markedly improved Liverpool, even if results lagged behind to start.

So has the intensity of training sessions dropped? Are they no longer as effective? Is there a lack of fresh stimulation? Is cumulative fatigue from years of sessions under Klopp only adding to the tired legs and minds?

The latter would not be surprising in the least!

 Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold during the FA Cup 4th Round match between Brighton & Hove Albion FC and Liverpool FC at the Falmer Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

 Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold during the FA Cup 4th Round match between Brighton & Hove Albion FC and Liverpool FC at the Falmer Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It can only be speculation but for how much Klopp and Lijnders stress the importance of training, something is amiss, whether that be from application, fatigue or the messages delivered.

Klopp never hides his desire for more time to work with his team and his wishes have been delivered, now at the cost of involvement in two cup competitions.

And the improvement you’d expect to see in individuals and as a collective have not been forthcoming — Stefan Bajcetic being the obvious exception — an issue that should not be so easily overlooked amid all the transfer talk, as Klopp has complete control over training.

“The talk of Plan B shows a lack of understanding,” Klopp said back in 2017. “In the moment when you are not feeling confident, you cannot change too many things – that’s insecurity.”

 Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (L) during a training session at the AXA Training Centre ahead of the UEFA Champions League Group A matchday 5 game between AFC Ajax and Liverpool FC. (Pic by Jessica Hornby/Propaganda)

 Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (L) during a training session at the AXA Training Centre ahead of the UEFA Champions League Group A matchday 5 game between AFC Ajax and Liverpool FC. (Pic by Jessica Hornby/Propaganda)

It’s an ideology that will not have changed drastically in the last six years for Klopp, but Liverpool need to rediscover their confidence and their principles, and it all starts in training.

With a maximum 26 games left this season in the next 157 days, should Liverpool spectacularly make it to the Champions League final, the Reds will have an average of a game every six days.

That offers ample training time, affording Klopp the platform to turn one of the biggest current issues into a springboard from which to bounce back.

“In football, there are two ways to improve. One is to sign good players and the second is training” – with the former off the table, the latter is where Klopp has to hone his focus.

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No move for Phillips, another injury & 1 loan signing – Latest LFC News

ThisIsAnfield.com - Tue, 01/31/2023 - 17:37

Nat Phillips is unlikely to secure a move before the transfer deadline after another injury for Liverpool, while Matt Beard signed a familiar striker to his Women’s squad.

No move for Phillips, again?!

Phillips was expected to make a move on deadline day having served as Liverpool’s fifth-choice centre-back throughout the season so far.

He attracted interest from Galatasaray and clubs in the Bundesliga and Liverpool were open to either a permanent transfer, a loan-to-buy deal or a straight loan.

But that all looks to be off the table after news of Ibrahima Konate‘s hamstring injury, which is to keep him sidelined for up to three weeks, another untimely blow for Phillips and the Reds.

It’s the story of Phillips’ Reds career, with an injury to a senior centre-back having continually blocked his chance at first-team football elsewhere, with Jurgen Klopp not eager to repeat the horrors of 2020/21.

Joel Matip and Joe Gomez are currently the only fit senior centre-backs, with Rhys Williams also in the fold after his early return from a loan spell at Blackpool.

While the hope is that Virgil van Dijk and Konate will be back in a matter of weeks, it looks like it will be enough to keep Phillips at Anfield.

A move in the summer must come to fruition, surely?!

When it rains, it pours!

  • Liverpool fans lamented the position Phillips finds himself in after Konate’s injury, and many are ready to see the back of this season.
  • The refusal to sign a midfielder in the January window had Reds rightly airing their frustrations, it leaves a major overhaul to do in the summer.
  • A report has claimed that the club have yet to start the search for the next sporting director and Julian Ward‘s successor, it would be negligent if so!
Police apology, nearly 34 years late

 Tributes to the 97 Liverpool supporters who died as a result of the Hillsborough Stadium Disaster pictured at the eternal flame memorial at Anfield ahead of the FA Cup 3rd Round match between Liverpool FC and Shrewsbury Town FC. This week MP's have proposed a Hillsborough Law that would require authorities to disclose all information after a public disaster to avoid the cover-ups that followed the 1986 tragedy. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

 Tributes to the 97 Liverpool supporters who died as a result of the Hillsborough Stadium Disaster pictured at the eternal flame memorial at Anfield ahead of the FA Cup 3rd Round match between Liverpool FC and Shrewsbury Town FC. This week MP's have proposed a Hillsborough Law that would require authorities to disclose all information after a public disaster to avoid the cover-ups that followed the 1986 tragedy. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)
  • Police chiefs ‘profoundly apologise‘ for Hillsborough disaster failures, it comes nearly 34 years after the tragedy. But still no justice.
  • With eyes starting to move toward the tie against Real Madrid, we take a look at how they’re getting on – a lot better than Liverpool, it’s safe to say!
  • Liverpool Women have signed Natasha Dowie on loan for the remainder of the season – the striker previously played for the Reds under Matt Beard 11 years ago.
Deadline day activities

 Chelsea's Jorge Luiz Frello Filho 'Jorginho' attempts to shush the fervent Liverpool supporters after he scored his side's fifth penalty during the shoot-out after the Football League Cup Final match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Wembley Stadium. Liverpool won 11-10 on penalties after a goal-less draw. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

 Chelsea's Jorge Luiz Frello Filho 'Jorginho' attempts to shush the fervent Liverpool supporters after he scored his side's fifth penalty during the shoot-out after the Football League Cup Final match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Wembley Stadium. Liverpool won 11-10 on penalties after a goal-less draw. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)
  • Man United have acted swiftly to cover for Christian Eriksen’s injury, with Bayern’s Marcel Sabitzer on route to Manchester to complete a loan move, as per the Telegraph‘s James Ducker
  • Chelsea have agreed to a £12 million deal for Jorginho join Arsenal, the Gunners moved on from Moises Caicedo after Brighton rejected both of their bids. Nice to see someone signing a midfielder…
  • Chelsea, meanwhile, are still pushing to get a £105 million deal for Enzo Fernandez over the line, with Sky Sports reporting a medical is taking place in Portugal. The deadline is at 11pm.
Match of the night

Tonight’s offerings include the second leg of Newcastle and Southampton‘s Carabao Cup semi-final, Eddie Howe’s side hold a 1-0 advantage. Kick-off is at 8pm (UK).

Another deadline day without too much excitement for Liverpool, I’m afraid. There could still be some loan deals in the pipeline for the club’s youngsters, we’ll keep you informed.

Enjoy your evening, Reds!

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Liverpool FC Women complete loan signing of Natasha Dowie

LiverpoolFC.TV - Tue, 01/31/2023 - 17:30

Liverpool FC Women are delighted to announce the signing of Natasha Dowie on loan from Reading.

The striker returns to the Reds for a second spell on a deal which runs until the end of the 2022-23 campaign.

She previously enjoyed a hugely successful three seasons with the club under current LFC Women manager Matt Beard from 2013 to 2015.

That period produced two Women’s Super League titles, with Dowie the division’s top scorer and FA Players’ Player of the Year in the first triumph.

In 2016, she followed Beard to the USA where she joined him at the Boston Breakers until it folded in 2018. 

She made Melbourne Victory her next permanent home, helping them to a W-League Premiership title in her two years before a spell in Italy with AC Milan.

Dowie joined Reading in 2021, where she has continued to ply her trade in the English top flight.

Beard told Liverpoolfc.com: "I think the biggest thing for us is that Tats is a goalscorer. If you look at her record, it’s consistently a goal every other game throughout her career.

"When the opportunity arose to bring her in – the fact she’s a Liverpool fan as well – we felt it was a good move for us and a good move for her."

In total, Dowie scored 45 goals in 66 appearances for the Reds in her first spell, and she will be eligible for the league clash with Leicester City on February 12.

She said: "It’s been a surreal last couple of days and it’s all happened quite quickly, to be honest. But I’m over the moon to be back. This is my home and it’s where I’ve had such great memories – the best memories of my football career, winning the league here. 

"I’m just really excited for the next four months. I'm on loan from Reading but I just really want to help Liverpool get up the table as much as I can and be involved."

Dowie was warmly welcomed to The Campus training ground by some old teammates and members of staff, as she collected the No.29 shirt that she will wear in this spell.

"It was great to see everyone’s faces this morning, it just feels like yesterday I was here," the 34-year-old continued.

"I’m a player that wants to feel involved and be involved. I’ve scored goals throughout my entire career. The girls have been doing well here and Katie Stengel is having an amazing season, but I want to add some experience, some knowledge. I’ve travelled, I've played in six or seven different countries, and I've won things.

"I've worked with Beardy as well and he is someone who knows how to get the best out of me. 

"I’m here for four months and who knows what the future holds? For me, I just want to be a positive player, really help the girls, lift the girls, and hopefully score some goals. 

"It's so nice to be wearing the Liverpool shirt again."

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Liverpool FC Women complete loan signing of Natasha Dowie

LiverpoolFC TV - Tue, 01/31/2023 - 17:30
Liverpool FC Women are delighted to announce the signing of Natasha Dowie on loan from Reading.
Categories: LFC NEWS

Real Madrid the chasers and face relentless schedule ahead of Liverpool tie

ThisIsAnfield.com - Tue, 01/31/2023 - 16:30

The first leg of Liverpool’s last 16 Champions League tie with Real Madrid is in less than 21 days, and it’s fair to say the two clubs are in contrasting form.

A replay of last season’s Champions League final takes place in the first knockout stage, with Anfield hosting the first leg on February 21 before a trip to the Bernabeu on March 15.

Jurgen Klopp‘s side will contest three Premier League fixtures before the first leg, while Real could have six games to navigate.

The tie looms on the horizon and, now out of both domestic Cups, eyes are being cast in its direction, both with hope and pessimism.

Injuries and form are to play a part, but how are Real Madrid shaping up before the last 16 tie?

Chasing Barcelona

 UEFA Men's Player of the Year, Karim Benzema of Real Madrid CF and UEFA Men's Coach of the Year, Carlo Ancelotti, Head Coach of Real Madrid CF pose for a photograph after the UEFA Champions League 2022/23 Group Stage Draw at Halic Congress Centre on August 25, 2022 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by UEFA)

 UEFA Men's Player of the Year, Karim Benzema of Real Madrid CF and UEFA Men's Coach of the Year, Carlo Ancelotti, Head Coach of Real Madrid CF pose for a photograph after the UEFA Champions League 2022/23 Group Stage Draw at Halic Congress Centre on August 25, 2022 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by UEFA)

Carlo Ancelotti’s side are currently second in La Liga, five points behind leaders Barcelona after 18 games.

They’ve dropped points on five occasions and lost just twice, with only the Catalan giants laying claim to a better record (one defeat) in Spain’s top division.

Liverpool, on the other hand, have dropped points 11 times in the league, losing six, which accounts for 57.9 percent of the 19 games played so far this season.

Real’s record across all competitions stands at 21 victories, five draws and four defeats, with only Barcelona inflicting a loss by more than a single goal, in the Spanish Super Cup final.

The Spanish outfit have scored the most goals in La Liga to date with 38, only one team have kept them scoreless — Real Sociedad — and have conceded, on average, 0.88 goals per game in the topflight.

 Thibaut Courtois of Real Madrid speaks to the media during the Real Madrid Press Conference at Stade de France on May 27, 2022 in Paris, France. Real Madrid will face Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League final on May 28, 2022. (Photo by UEFA)

 Thibaut Courtois of Real Madrid speaks to the media during the Real Madrid Press Conference at Stade de France on May 27, 2022 in Paris, France. Real Madrid will face Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League final on May 28, 2022. (Photo by UEFA)

A stark contrast to the Reds’ current defensive form, with an average 1.3 goals conceded per game in the Premier League.

Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema leads their goalscoring charts with 16 across all competitions, with Vinicius Junior (12) and Federico Valverde (8) rounding out the top three.

Real have lost two of their last nine games since returning from the World Cup break, in the same run of games the Reds have lost four.

Those numbers do not tell the whole story for Real Madrid, however.

Thibaut Courtois’ heroics have been required more often than Ancelotti would deem acceptable since the return from the World Cup break, and they’ve become more reliant on late goals.

They know how to turn it on in the moments that matter, though, as witnessed last season, and they’re still capable of that even amid a period of transition away from their veterans.

50% more games

 Real Madrid's head coach Carlo Ancelotti (L) and Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp embrace before the UEFA Champions League Final game between Liverpool FC and Real Madrid CF at the Stade de France. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

 Real Madrid's head coach Carlo Ancelotti (L) and Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp embrace before the UEFA Champions League Final game between Liverpool FC and Real Madrid CF at the Stade de France. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

In the lead-up to the first leg, Real Madrid will play six more games before they arrive at Anfield, compared to Liverpool’s three over 14 days.

Klopp’s side are contained to England but Real Madrid will venture to Morocco for the Club World Cup in mid-February, and they will play those six games in the space of just 16 days.

Ancelotti does not currently have injury concerns that are likely to extend to the trip to Liverpool, although their relentless schedule could play its part.

Klopp, meanwhile, will hope to be able to call upon Virgil van Dijk, Ibrahima Konate and Diogo Jota by the time they arrive.

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Police chiefs apologise for Hillsborough failures: ‘Policing got it badly wrong’

the Athletic - Tue, 01/31/2023 - 13:26

Police chiefs have issued an official apology for failures that led to the death of 97 people in the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) and the College of Policing issued a joint response on Tuesday to a report published in 2017.

An inquest jury ruled in 2016 that the supporters who died as a result of a crush at a match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on April 15, 1989 were unlawfully killed amid a number of police errors.

The 2017 paper, commissioned by former Prime Minister Theresa May when she was Home Secretary and published by former Liverpool Bishop James Jones, made 25 recommendations — with 11 of them directly concerning policing.

Police chiefs promised “cultural change” and admitted “policing got it badly wrong”.

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

Life after Hillsborough, told by the men and women who survived

Chief Constable Andy Marsh, the College of Policing’s chief executive officer, said: “For what happened, as a senior policing leader, I profoundly apologise. Policing got it badly wrong.

“What we’re talking about is cultural change and cultural change takes a long time, but my goodness we have started.”

Marsh said new recruits would study the report into the experiences of the Hillsborough families.

All forces in England and Wales have signed up to a Charter for Families Bereaved Through Public Tragedy, which says police organisations must acknowledge any mistakes.

In his report, Mr Jones urged the Government to give full consideration to a Hillsborough Law, including a “duty of candour” for police officers.

NPCC chairman Martin Hewitt said legislation was a matter for Parliament.

“What we have really focused on is doing that which is really within our power,” he said. “The issue of candour is very clear within the charter for bereaved families and it will be incorporated explicitly in the review of the code of ethics.

“We have been robust as possible and it’s for Parliament to make any legislation that they feel is necessary.”

Mr Hewitt said the response to Mr Jones’ report had not published earlier due to legal processes.

He said: “It was really important to us to ensure that the report was a full response to all the points raised by the bishop and a really clear response to the families around what we have done, but I absolutely accept that every week or month that has gone by has added to the pain of the families and not being able the whole process to conclusion.”

The police response also said there would be a new code of practice on police information and records management to prevent the problems faced after the Hillsborough disaster, when records were lost or destroyed, as well as new guidance for family liaison officers.

(Photo: Getty Images)

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Liverpool defender Ibrahima Konate facing two to three weeks out with hamstring injury

the Athletic - Tue, 01/31/2023 - 11:36

Liverpool defender Ibrahima Konate is facing two to three weeks out with a hamstring injury.

The France international, 23, complained of discomfort following Sunday’s FA Cup defeat to Brighton and a scan subsequently confirmed the extent of the damage.

It’s a major blow for Jurgen Klopp, who is already without fellow centre-back Virgil van Dijk. The Dutchman, who has missed the past five matches due to a hamstring problem, is expected to be fit by mid-February.

Konate will miss the upcoming Premier League matches against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Everton. He’s also a major doubt for the trip to Newcastle United on February 18 and the first leg of the Champions League last 16 tie against Real Madrid at Anfield three days later.

In the absence of Van Dijk and Konate, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip are set to be partnered together at the heart of Klopp’s backline.

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GO DEEPER

Konate epitomises the resilience Liverpool have been missing

(Photo: Getty Images)

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PGMOL accepts Fabinho should have been shown red card for Evan Ferguson tackle

the Athletic - Tue, 01/31/2023 - 10:04

Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), the organisation responsible for officiating in English football, has accepted that Liverpool midfielder Fabinho should have been sent off for a tackle on Brighton forward Evan Ferguson in their FA Cup fourth-round tie. 

Fabinho received a yellow card for his challenge on Ferguson in the second half at the Amex Stadium.

The VAR, Neil Swarbrick, did not intervene or overturn the decision made by the on-field referee David Coote and Fabinho remained on the pitch for the rest of the game. 

PGMOL believes the challenge by Fabinho warranted a VAR intervention for a possible red card for serious foul play. 

PGMOL says that although the challenge was of relatively low intensity, there was a full point of contact from the studs above the ankle from behind. There was therefore enough evidence for a review at Stockley Park to take place, with the expectation that a red card be shown.

Brighton have yet to confirm the extent of Ferguson’s potential injury, who left the stadium on crutches. 

Roberto De Zerbi’s side went on to win the match 2-1, with 25-year-old winger Kaoru Mitoma scoring an injury-time winner to knock Jurgen Klopp’s men out of the cup.

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GO DEEPER

Brighton were without their spine against Liverpool but proved to be a team with backbone

(Photo: Getty Images)

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Fabinho should have been shown red card at Brighton, say PGMOL

ThisIsAnfield.com - Tue, 01/31/2023 - 09:25

Fabinho was incredibly lucky to avoid a red card at Brighton, but the PGMOL have accepted that the wrong decision was made and the midfielder should have been given his marching orders.

It was a cameo to forget for Fabinho at the AMEX after being introduced in the 84th minute, with the Brazilian a second too slow on the ball and off it.

A studs-up tackle on Brighton striker Evan Ferguson followed, who had to be helped off the field, and Fabinho and everyone watching expected a red card to be shown by referee David Coote.

The No. 3’s reaction spoke volumes but he was only shown a yellow card and there was no invitation from VAR to review and subsequently upgrade the decision.

However, on Monday night the BBC reported that the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) have accepted that Fabinho should have been sent off.

“As part of a drive for transparency within PGMOL, the organisation has privately let it be known there was enough evidence to warrant a red card,” the report states.

While the force of the challenge was “of low intensity” there was contact “above the ankle from behind” and this type of challenge is viewed as one that invites a red card.

Brighton are still assessing Ferguson’s injury and after the incident, Brighton manager Roberto De Zerbi said, “I think Fabinho is a quality player. It can happen on the pitch, these accidents.”

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As for Jurgen Klopp‘s view on the challenge, the Liverpool manager said: “The Fabinho challenge, there’s no dynamic [movement] in it, but I just saw it once, not the second time.

“I think with dynamic, we can talk about the red card. But he was more lying [down] and then he hit him. It’s not cool.”

Fabinho may have escaped punishment from the officials but he has an uphill battle to reclaim his spot in Liverpool’s midfield – he’s started from the bench in the last three matches.

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QUIZ – Name the 20 Liverpool players with the most PL substitute appearances

ThisIsAnfield.com - Tue, 01/31/2023 - 09:00

We can all think of a substitution that turned the tide for Liverpool but here we want you to name the Reds with most appearances off the bench in the Premier League.

Whether it is for a calming presence, an experienced head or to chase that last-gasp goal, substitutes have the power to shift momentum and flip results.

The introduction of five substitutes has allowed for greater flexibility for in-game changes but it has not always been the case, with managers needing to be more considerate with their decisions.

Over the years there have been consistent names turned to off the bench and we want to see if you can name Liverpool’s top 20 from the Premier League.

We’ve given you a few clues to help you out, including an asterisk to signal that it is a current player.

Remember, this is players subbed ON to the pitch in the Premier League only.

Good luck!

5 minutes, 20 subs… Finished that? Try these!

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When does the Champions League resume?

ThisIsAnfield.com - Tue, 01/31/2023 - 07:00

Liverpool have reached the knockout rounds of the Champions League for the sixth season in a row, but when does their European campaign resume?

Jurgen Klopp‘s side are doing their best to be without Champions League football next season, or European competition entirely, but, for now, they’re still in the running for 2022/23.

The Reds meet Real Madrid in the first round of the knockout stages, a replay of last season’s final and a team that Liverpool have lost against in five of the last six meetings.

The wait is now almost over for the return of the Champions League knockout stages, starting with the last 16.

When does the Champions League return?

 Real Madrid's Karim Benzema (L) and Liverpool's Thiago Alcântara wait for a VAR decision during the UEFA Champions League Final game between Liverpool FC and Real Madrid CF at the Stade de France. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

 Real Madrid's Karim Benzema (L) and Liverpool's Thiago Alcântara wait for a VAR decision during the UEFA Champions League Final game between Liverpool FC and Real Madrid CF at the Stade de France. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

There is a fortnight blocked out for both the first legs and the second legs, in February and March respectively:

  • First-leg: February 14/15 or 22/23
  • Second-leg: March 7/8 or 14/15

Liverpool’s first leg against Real Madrid is at Anfield on Tuesday, February 21, their second leg at the Bernabeu is scheduled for Wednesday, March 15 – both 8pm (GMT) starts.

Full last 16 draw

 during the UEFA Champions League 2022/23 Round of 16 draw at the UEFA Headquarters, The House of the European Football, on November 7, 2022, in Nyon, Switzerland. (Photo by Kristian Skeie ? UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images).

 during the UEFA Champions League 2022/23 Round of 16 draw at the UEFA Headquarters, The House of the European Football, on November 7, 2022, in Nyon, Switzerland. (Photo by Kristian Skeie ? UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images).
  • AC Milan vs. Tottenham: Feb 14, Mar 8
  • PSG vs. Bayern Munich: Feb 14, Mar 8
  • Club Brugge vs. Benfica: Feb 15, Mar 7
  • Borussia Dortmund vs. Chelsea: Feb 15, Mar 7
  • Liverpool vs. Real Madrid: Feb 21, Mar 15
  • Frankfurt vs. Napoli: Feb 21, Mar 15
  • Leipzig vs. Man City: Feb 22, Mar 14
  • Inter vs. Porto: Feb 22, Mar 14
Dates for draws and later rounds

 A view of the UEFA Champions League 2022/23 Group Stage match ball next to the UEFA Champions League trophy during the UEFA Club Competitions 2022/23 Match Balls Shoot at the UEFA Headquarters, The House of the European Football, on August 2, 2022, in Nyon, Switzerland. (Photo by UEFA)

 A view of the UEFA Champions League 2022/23 Group Stage match ball next to the UEFA Champions League trophy during the UEFA Club Competitions 2022/23 Match Balls Shoot at the UEFA Headquarters, The House of the European Football, on August 2, 2022, in Nyon, Switzerland. (Photo by UEFA)

Once the last 16 is complete and the final eight teams are confirmed, the draws for the quarter-final, semi-final and final will swiftly follow on March 17 at 11am (GMT).

There are no seedings or country protection at any of these stages, which take place on:

Quarter-finals: April 11/12 and 18/19
Semi-finals: May 9/10 and 16/17
Final: June 10 (Ataturk Olympic Stadium, Istanbul)

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Liverpool man branded 'worst signing of the season' as Mohamed Salah narrative now flipped

Liverpool.com - Tue, 01/31/2023 - 04:00

Liverpool reached the halfway point of its Premier League campaign with its 0-0 draw against Chelsea earlier this month. The result left the Reds ninth in the table, seven places and 12 points adrift of where they were at this stage in 2021/22.

Liverpool's collapse has been one of the biggest surprises of the season, in tandem with Arsenal's stunning title charge.

A number of journalists at The Athletic said as much as they reflected on the first half of the campaign, with Jürgen Klopp's side featuring in other categories too.

READ MORE: Liverpool already has own N'Golo Kanté as free transfer dilemma exposes size of FSG rebuild task

READ MORE: FSG must justify $24m Liverpool contract decision as Jürgen Klopp proven wrong on two counts

One picked out Crysencio Summerville's late winner for Leeds United at Anfield in October, ending a Premier League home unbeaten run in front of fans that stretched back to April 2017, as their favorite moment. Liverpool fans would certainly disagree, having seen an all-too-rare open-play goal for Mohamed Salah rendered redundant by the last-minute drama.

And another said the Reds had been involved in one of the games of the season when they went down 3-1 at Brentford at the start of January.

But Liverpool also got an undesirable mention when it came to the 'worst signing' discussion.

You might assume that a journalist or two nominated Darwin Núñez, the potential club-record signing who has only managed five goals in his first 14 Premier League appearances and missed more big chances than anybody else.

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But no, it was a forgotten man in Arthur who was named instead.

"Liverpool needed to beef up their midfield this summer and the form of their midfielders plus some injuries meant that on deadline day they went for the Brazilian as a stop-gap signing from Juventus," Ahmed Walid recalled. "One month and a single 23-minute first-team appearance [it was actually 13] later, he needed surgery on a thigh injury and is yet to return to action."

Liverpool is so used to producing signing-of-the-season contenders, be it Salah, Sadio Mané, Virgil van Dijk, Alisson, Luis Díaz or Ibrahima Konaté. The Reds have previously been the envy of the rest of the Premier League when it comes to the success rate of their transfers, but now the narrative around the club has been turned on its head.

There are principally two ways in which you can look at signings — one with hindsight, and one without.

The former is concerned with how the player has fared, but the latter is concerned with the idea to sign him in the first place.

Arthur of Liverpool (Image: Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

With Arthur, the issue isn't performances. That's because there haven't really been any. We'd only be looking at the 11 passes he played in his one outing for the club as a late substitute in the 4-1 Champions League defeat to Napoli.

While there were initial concerns about Arthur's level when he arrived — he hadn't in any way lived up to the hype of an $89m (£72m/€82m) move from Barcelona to Juventus — the risk has backfired in a different way.

Arthur's injury record was another big worry as Liverpool hurriedly did the deal. Since December 2017, he'd missed 52 matches with a whopping 18 separate injuries.

Most of them were minor, with only two keeping him out for more than five games, but it was the frequency that should have had alarm bells ringing.

Nobody could say it's a surprise that injury has derailed the move, even if it hasn't happened in the manner that may have been expected. A succession of niggles seemed likelier than than one long-term issue.

In the circumstances, Liverpool could have cut its losses in January and sent Arthur back to Turin but they may retain hope that he can make a positive contribution.

Klopp said prior to the FA Cup trip to Brighton that the 26-year-old would rejoin team training in 'two, three weeks' if 'everything is well'. With the player already undertaking extensive running work, the end of his lay-off is finally in sight (via This is Anfield).

Maybe Walid will be eating his words at the end of the season. But it feels unlikely, particularly as Arthur will need a 'proper build-up' before he can log significant minutes.

And besides, much of the damage is already done. This was a signing of critical importance for Liverpool, and that's also a factor in Walid's judgment.

The Reds should have proactively addressed their glaringly obvious midfield weakness earlier in the January transfer window — that much is clear — and their options were always bound to be limited when they performed such a late U-turn. It was August 26 before Klopp admitted the club had recognized the error of its ways and decided to go for a midfielder.

But even in that time, it could still surely have found someone who, at the very least, alleviated its crippling issues and helped them to limit the damage this season.

In the end, it went with a player beset by one of the very problems that forced it into the market in the first place — injuries. The transfer was flawed from its conception, and the midfield woes have continued to hinder the likes of Salah in finding their previous 'best signing' worthy form.

With Klopp ruling out any further activity after the Brighton defeat, Arthur will remain Liverpool's only midfield addition of 2022/23. He was its one and only attempt to solve its biggest problem.

And, for reasons beyond the player's control, it has failed miserably. Where Salah was once proof Liverpool was the best in the business, Arthur is the unfortunate evidence of a slipping status.

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Liverpool already has own N'Golo Kanté as free transfer dilemma exposes size of FSG rebuild task

Liverpool.com - Tue, 01/31/2023 - 03:30

Without wishing to give the link too much credence, the prospect of N'Golo Kanté to Liverpool is certainly an interesting one. A free agent at the end of the season as things stand, the move has some baseline appeal to FSG as it looks to commit the bulk of its transfer resources to other parts of the midfield reconstruction.

If a report from El Nacional (via Football365) is to be believed, Jürgen Klopp is certainly on board, having ‘requested’ that Liverpool bring him to Anfield in the summer. Whether that’s true or not, it’s a proposition worth exploring for a player who was until recently considered one of the very best in the world.

It goes without saying that it would be an uncharacteristic move from FSG, given that Kanté will be 32 in March. But there is precedent of sorts — while Thiago was a fair bit younger when Liverpool made an exception for him, much the same premise applies, particularly with no transfer fee attached.

READ MORE: FSG must justify $24m Liverpool contract decision as Jürgen Klopp proven wrong on two counts

READ MORE: Liverpool transfer rage goes beyond poor form as Man City and Arsenal dig up lingering title hurt

Also like Thiago, Kanté has the benefit of having relatively few miles in the tank in the grand scheme of things. Neither have yet tipped beyond the 30,000-minute mark in their careers, meaning they have played more than 5000 minutes fewer than Fabinho.

Unfortunately, this is a mixed blessing. In both cases, a big reason for the reduced career workload is a long-held tendency to pick up injuries. Kanté’s issues only really started at Chelsea, while Thiago can trace his troubles all the way back to his Barcelona days, but the bottom line is the same: while both still have plenty to offer when fit, that comes at the cost of reliability.

This is hardly the kind of profile FSG needs for its rebuild, especially given that Naby Keïta falls into much the same category. Between the three of them, they would theoretically make up the ‘best’ Liverpool midfield, but they could easily share a dressing room for five years without once being fit at the same time.

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Of course, the Guinean is another one who looks like he could be leaving on a free transfer at the end of the season, and Kanté would actually be a highly suitable replacement in terms of style. As it happens, Thiago can be thrown in there as a pretty accurate profile match as well. But there is a reason that Keïta has been allowed to reach this position, even if an extension could yet be agreed — Liverpool has been hesitant because the fitness concerns are undeniably a major problem.

And therein lies the real conundrum for FSG, one that extends far beyond Keïta or Kanté. If it is set on pushing for Jude Bellingham, or else a suitably big-ticket transfer alternative in the event of failure, it effectively forces Liverpool to look towards the bargain basement for the rest of its midfield rebuild, which undoubtedly requires more than one player.

After all, as well as Keïta, the club also needs to navigate the potential departures of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner. In the latter case, even if he stays, it is clear that his game time needs to continue to reduce as he enters his 38th year. Meanwhile, though Fabinho and Jordan Henderson are not as old as that, their struggles are well-documented, and Thiago is not getting any younger either.

Shopping in more untested markets is probably the most realistic solution to the problem of acquiring midfield talent on the cheap, one which Brighton has made to look like child’s play. But even this comes with massive inherent risks. And as for the free transfer market, as Keïta and Kanté neatly illustrate, there is always a reason why a contract has been allowed to run down.

In one sense, then, landing Bellingham would just be the start of the challenge for Liverpool. He would be powerless to turn the team’s fortunes around single-handedly, even if his elite all-round skill-set means he is the closest thing on the market to a quick fix. FSG would need to equip him with competent partners, and would presumably need to do so on a tight budget.

When ideas like getting Kanté on a free transfer are thrown around, it is easy to think that signing some solid options on a budget will not pose too big a challenge for Liverpool. But in fact, that might be even harder for FSG than buying Bellingham — and with the need for a rebuild so great, the margin for error is wafer-thin.

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FSG must justify $24m Liverpool contract decision as Jürgen Klopp proven wrong on two counts

Liverpool.com - Tue, 01/31/2023 - 03:00

Rewind to the end of April last year, and things couldn't have looked more different for Liverpool.

The Reds were a point adrift of Manchester City in the Premier League, dreaming of a second title in three seasons after remarkably wiping out a 14-point deficit.

They were also on course to reach the Champions League final after a 2-0 win over Villarreal in the first leg of the semis.

READ MORE: Liverpool transfer rage goes beyond poor form as Man City and Arsenal dig up lingering title hurt

READ MORE: Sadio Mané can help fix new Liverpool problem as Jürgen Klopp must consider Harvey Elliott fact

And with one domestic cup already in the bag, a 3-2 victory over Manchester City at Wembley had set up a rematch with Chelsea in the FA Cup final.

Liverpool was the envy of almost every club in world football, and so it wasn't much of a surprise to see Jürgen Klopp sign a contract extension. Why, in a sporting sense at least, would he want to leave?

Klopp didn't even demand a pay rise, instead simply agreeing to extend his reported $12m (£10m/€11m) p/a terms for another two years (via Goal/The Athletic).

One of the big reasons he made the decision, after repeatedly insisting that he'd like to take a break, was Liverpool's long-term planning (via The Guardian). Klopp saw the pieces being assembled for the future and was said to be 'enthused'.

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"There is a freshness about us a club and this energizes me," he explained. "For as long as I have been here, our owners have been unbelievably committed and energetic about this club and it is clear that right now this applies to our future as much as I’ve ever known."

In many respects, Fenway Sports Group (FSG) has indeed been laying the foundations for sustained success.

The signings of Cody Gakpo, Darwin Núñez, Luis Díaz and Diogo Jota have refreshed the attack, addressing fears around the iconic front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané, who were all aging.

In defense, Liverpool can build its next generation around Ibrahima Konaté, alongside academy graduate Trent Alexander-Arnold and, potentially, pre-Klopp signing Joe Gomez.

Fábio Carvalho and Harvey Elliott were also recruited to be key players by the mid-2020s.

Off the pitch, the seven-thousand-seat expansion of the Anfield Road stand will create a new source of revenue, and the move to the AXA Training Centre has truly brought the club into modern era. The impressive new facilities, levels above Melwood, will not only aid match preparation, but make the club a more appealing destination too.

But FSG has failed in one crucial, well-documented area — refreshing the midfield.

Yes, Carvalho and Elliott have arrived but they're not truly ready to start Premier League matches in that position just yet.

And that leaves Liverpool with a group of aging, declining or injury-prone options, with some players fitting into more than one category.

FSG has been paying the price for years of underinvestment in that area, Thiago being the only major arrival in that department in the last nine transfer windows. To make matters worse, one of the club's most important and reliable midfielders has left in that period too.

Liverpool must decisively remedy this situation in the summer, because right now Klopp's assessment has aged very poorly.

Rather than looking 'fresh', things have gone painfully stale, and rather than being 'energetic', the club has been debilitatingly passive.

If it is to restore its long-term trophy prospects, make the most of this manager and justify his faith, then FSG needs a huge spending spree this summer.

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Why Liverpool are struggling: Nunez woes, Salah form & transfer strategy

Liverpool FC on Sky Sports - Mon, 01/30/2023 - 12:00

Liverpool suffered a 2-1 defeat at Brighton in the FA Cup on Sunday and now sit 21 points shy of league leaders Arsenal - so what's gone wrong?

Jurgen Klopp's side have already lost six times in the Premier League, with only 19 games played - which is more than they lost during each of their 2018/19, 2019/20 and 2021/22 seasons.

The Reds' defence appears to be the primary cause behind their lacklustre standing, having already conceded 25 goals - which is more than they shipped during the complete 2018/19 campaign and merely one shy of last season.

Dropping points has clearly been an issue, losing 28 this term - six points more than all of last season.

Monday 13th February 7:00pm Kick off 8:00pm Sky Sports Premier League HD Sky Sports Premier League HD What do the stats say?

The graphic below highlights how Liverpool are only slightly off the boil up top - recording marginal dips for goals scored and expected goals.

The Reds have converted only 0.84 'big chances' per game this term - their lowest ratio since 2015/16.

Liverpool have been widely accused of dropping their customary intensity levels when pressing from the front and the statistics reveal how the average number of regains in the final third has nearly halved this season - dropping to levels on a par with five years ago.

They also appear to be retreating, recording their lowest average number of passes in the final third under the German, while regaining possession in their defensive third more than ever.

The graphic below shows how far upfield Liverpool typically start open-play passing sequences and shows how the side have retreated more than three metres this term and now rank behind Manchester City, Arsenal, Leeds, Newcastle, Chelsea and Brighton.

While it is difficult to isolate one issue as a primary cause, when success typically stems from holistic balance, the defensive metrics are most striking.

Liverpool are shipping 1.32 goals per game this season, which is their joint-worst ratio since Klopp's first term. The issue is even starker when it comes to expected goals conceded, rising to 1.46 per game - the highest ever under Klopp.

It gets worse: Klopp's team are facing 4.68 shots on target per game and only keeping clean sheets in one game out of four - also their worst ratios since the German took charge.

And Liverpool's opponents are becoming more accurate

The maps below show every shot Liverpool have faced over the past two seasons and reveal how opponents are achieving a far higher proportion of accurate shots this term - with attempts on target marked in blue and almost matching the entirety of last season.

GRAPHIC Alexander-Arnold's drop-off

Critics often target Trent Alexander-Arnold's defensive abilities but his attacking talents are unquestionable. However, the full-back has failed to reach his full potential this season with just one assist to date.

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Liverpool defender, Trent Alexander-Arnold says he is not interested in the criticism he faces and believes his side's form and results will turn around given time

The 23-year-old has hit double digits for assists in three of his past four seasons and his current drop-off represents a fivefold dip from last term.

However, his expected assist ratio almost quadruples his actual return, which, once again, highlights potential issues with team-mates finishing good opportunities.

GRAPHIC

The maps below show every chance Alexander-Arnold has created over the past two campaigns and highlights a dearth of long passes fired from deeper areas down his right channel this season.

GRAPHIC Nunez finding his feet

Liverpool splashed a cool £85m to prise Darwin Nunez from Benfica in the summer and the Uruguay forward has blown hot and cold during his early days at Anfield.

He has taken 56 shots in the Premier League, hitting the target with fewer than half of those attempts and scoring only five goals.

GRAPHIC

Nunez should have netted more than seven times, according to expected goals - with his deficit of -2.43 ranking as the sixth-worst ratio in the division. Notably, much-lauded Arsenal forward Gabriel Jesus has a worse differential.

While many praise the broader attributes Jesus offers the Gunners, likewise, Nunez shows clear signs he can deliver the goods - provided his accuracy improves.

The chart below plots the average number of shots, non-penalty expected goal ratios and total fast breaks per 90 minutes for every player to have clocked 360 minutes or more in the Premier League this season and reveals how the 23-year-old is in a league of his own with prolific Manchester City striker Erling Haaland - but he also applies the afterburners far more frequently than the Norwegian.

Salah struggling?

While declines can be found across the board, it becomes abundantly clearer when Mohamed Salah suffers a dip in form. The Egypt forward has scored seven goals and created four for team-mates - representing a twofold dip.

GRAPHIC

One reason is a 25-per-cent drop for touches in the opposition box - plummeting from 11 per game to 8.3 - which ranks as his lowest season ratio ever in the Premier League.

Don't overlook the injuries

Injuries played a large part in Liverpool's lacklustre start to the 2020/21 season and has affected this campaign in a similar fashion. Currently, the Reds have seven players sidelined - only Chelsea (10), Manchester United (nine) and Leicester (eight) have more players on the treatment table.

To compound matters, defensive kingpin Virgil van Dijk has seen a specialist after sustaining a hamstring injury but could return to action in mid-February, according to Premier Injuries.

Are Liverpool an ageing side?

Liverpool's 'mentality monsters' have reigned supreme in recent years due to their intense pressing power, but the team has gradually aged beyond the prime average age of 27 for a side and now averages at over 28. Only Fulham, West Ham and Tottenham have fielded older teams this term.

But Klopp has invested in youth with Nunez, new signing Cody Gakpo, Harvey Elliott, Ibrahima Konate and Fabio Carvalho, while increasingly handing game-time to graduates such as Stefan Bajcetic.

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Jamie Carragher says the signing of Cody Gakpo will help Liverpool in an area that 'needed strengthening' Recent transfers

Liverpool secured the signing of Netherlands forward Gakpo from PSV Eindhoven in a deal worth between £35m and £45m this month and the 23-year-old becomes the latest addition to Klopp's all-star firing line.

Cody Gakpo has completed his move to Liverpool Image: Gakpo completed his move to Liverpool in early January

However, one of Liverpool's greatest achievements has been achieving their success while spending a comparatively low £717m on signings since the summer of 2016 - half the sum splashed by rivals Chelsea, while also less than Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal.

Arguably, the ageing side needs an injection of youthful energy in the middle of the park to maintain their high-intensity style - but the club has not spent a penny on midfielders since the turn of 2021.

Arthur Melo has clocked only 13 minutes for the Reds since signing on loan from Juventus in September last year after undergoing surgery on a thigh injury in October, while fellow midfielder Naby Keita has been handed recent game-time after recovering from a long-term hamstring injury - but his contract expires this summer.

Klopp must now prepare his side to face struggling Wolves at Molineux this weekend, before hosting the Merseyside derby in front of the Sky cameras on February 13.

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Jamie Carragher thinks Liverpool will not finish in the top four if they do not sign a midfielder in the January transfer window Follow the January transfer window with Sky Sports

Who will be on the move this winter? The January transfer window opened on Sunday January 1, 2023 and closes at 11pm on Tuesday January 31, 2023.

Keep up-to-date with all the latest transfer news and rumours in our dedicated Transfer Centre blog on Sky Sports' digital platforms. You can also catch up with the ins, outs and analysis on Sky Sports News.

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