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Liverpool issue injury update on key players

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Jurgen Klopp will have spent most of his weekend sweating on the fitness of key players ahead of Liverpool’s trip to Manchester City on Tuesday.

Leading 3-0 from the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarterfinal, Klopp and his squad are in a pretty good place. But with Mohamed Salah and Andrew Robertson both missing the Merseyside derby through injury at the weekend, there are injury concerns for Liverpool as they look to reach the UCL semifinals.

Speaking ahead of Liverpool’s clash with City, Klopp gave the following update on top scorer Salah, plus left backs Andrew Robertson and Alberto Moreno.

“With Mo, Robbo and Alberto, we have to wait a little bit but of course [we have] big hope they will be back,” Klopp said.

Asked in more detail about Salah’s injury, with the Egyptian winger left out of the clash at Everton on Saturday with a groin problem, Klopp was cautious but was quoted as saying “everybody thinks he will be ready” for the City game.

“We have to see,” Klopp said. “We have to wait for the reaction tomorrow. Then we’ll make a decision. That’s it.”

The German coach added that he was still uncertain about the fitness levels of most of his squad and would wait until later on Monday to assess them fully.

“No real clue in the moment because we have to wait a little bit. You can imagine, in this short period between games, it is quite difficult so I have to wait each minute I can and that’s what I’ll do. There’s nothing new in the moment, we will see. We will see in five hours until we train and we’ll know who is involved in that. I don’t know in the moment 100 per cent, but I am quite hopeful we will have a bigger squad than we had at Everton.”

One player who will not be fit is Emre Can as the German midfielder continues to struggle with a back injury. Klopp didn’t set a timeline for Can’s return.

“That is not in the best place. [He is receiving] treatment and we’re still hoping it will be a little bit quicker than maybe we thought in the first moment. But we cannot say anything else,” Klopp added.

As for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Roberto Firmino and Trent Alexander-Arnold, who all started on the bench during Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Everton in the Merseyside derby, Klopp revealed they are all in good shape and ready to roll.

So, a real mixed bag for Klopp.

The main man everyone wants to know about is Salah and at this point it seems likely he may not start against City with Liverpool 3-0 up and the likes of Sadio Mane and Firmino around.

Why would Klopp risk further damaging his star player who has scored 38 goals in all competitions this season?

Player ratings: Liverpool v. Man City

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Liverpool battered Manchester City 3-0 at Anfield on Wednesday in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarterfinal.

[ MORE: Recap | 3 things we learned ]

Jurgen Klopp‘s men have one foot in the semifinals as Pep Guardiola got his tactics badly wrong and his team froze in the cauldron of Anfield.

Here’s a mark out of 10 for the players who took part in the all-Premier League battle.


Liverpool

Loris Karius – 6 – He really didn’t have much to do. No shots on target from City and a dodgy kick early on. All good apart from that.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 7 – Solid display after a shaky one at Palace at the weekend. Dealt with the threat of Leroy Sane superbly.

Dejan Lovren – 7 – Did what he had to do well enough. Wasn’t tested by Gabriel Jesus who hardly had any service.

Virgil Van Dijk – 7 – See above. A few loose passes but had little to do apart from keeping his position and clearing a few crosses.

Andrew Robertson – 8 – Some fine surging runs from left back and dealt with Gundogan well. Another terrific display.

James Milner – 9 – Great pass to set up Salah on his way to scoring the first and an all-action display. A proper leader.

Jordan Henderson – 8 – Didn’t put a foot wrong and led Liverpool from the heart of their midfield. Captain’s display.

Alex Oxalde-Chamberlain – 9 – A wonderful goal for Liverpool’s second and a committed, tireless display. Terrific.

Sadio Mane – 8 – Headed home their third goal and caused so many problems with his pace. Well and truly back to his best.

Roberto Firmino – 7 – Did so well to set up Salah for his goal and his runs in-behind rattled Kompany and Otamendi.

Mohamed Salah – 8 – Came off injured in the second half with what looked like a slight groin strain. Calm finish to make it 1-0, then set up Mane with a peach of a cross for Liverpool’s third. Same old Salah, always scoring and that’s 38 for the season now.

Subs
Georginio Wijnaldum on for Mohamed Salah (53′) – 6 – Solid enough and added extra legs to midfield as Liverpool tired.
Dominic Solanke on for Roberto Firmino (71′) – 6 – One good run behind the City defense and tried his best to hold up the ball.
Alberto Moreno on for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 6 – Late sub to help Liverpool keep a clean sheet.


Manchester City

Ederson – 6 – Didn’t have a lot to do apart from picking the ball out of his net three times.

Kyle Walker – 4 – Really poor first half display. Caught napping by Firmino for the first and let Mane go for the third goal. Maybe he should just play as a right-sided center back going forward?

Vincent Kompany – 4 – Not a great night for the City skipper. Struggled to deal with the movement of Firmino and couldn’t galvanize City’s shaky backline.

Nicolas Otamendi – 3 – A poor night for the Argentine center back. Came waltzing out of the back to give the ball away for Liverpool’s killer third goal.

Aymeric Laporte – 5 – Did okay out of position at left back after a slow start but dealing with the threat of Salah never easy. Caught out of position by Milner for Liverpool’s first goal.

Fernandinho – 4 – Failed to shield City’s backline and looked nervous in possession. Lost the battle to Milner and Henderson and couldn’t cope with the Ox running at him.

Ilkay Gundogan – 4 – Started on the right instead of Sterling and it didn’t work. Failed to protect Walker and didn’t add anything going forward.

David Silva – 6 – Did better in the second half as he tried to drag City back into the game and didn’t anticipate a loose ball falling his way in the box as he could have scored.

Kevin De Bruyne – 5 – A rare off night for KDB as he couldn’t get on the ball in the first half and then struggled out wide in the second half early on, then moved back into the center.

Leroy Sane – 6 – A rare bright spark for City in the first half and he was always a threat but couldn’t do it all on his own.

Gabriel Jesus – 4 – Hardly touched the ball all game long. An isolated figure and seemed to freeze on the big night.

Sub
Raheem Sterling on for Ilkay Gundogan (57′) – 4 – Didn’t impact the game at all and was predictably booed by fans of his former club. Should have started. Could have easily won a penalty kick late on after Robertson caught him in the box.

Premier League Preview: Liverpool vs. Swansea City

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  • Swansea has only won once at Anfield in PL play – last year
  • The last 9 PL matches between Liverpool and Swansea has seen 35 goals
  • Liverpool has not lost on Boxing Day since 1982 vs. Manchester United

Liverpool is one of three teams in a dogfight for the fourth spot in the Premier League table, and things are heating up on Boxing Day. The Reds host 20th-placed Swansea City at Anfield (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com) with a chance to at the least keep pace with Tottenham and Arsenal.

The Reds are coming off a wild 3-3 draw against Arsenal which, following a pair of clean sheets against Bournemouth and West Brom, the defense reverted back to old habits despite dominating the game for long spells. Jurgen Klopp admitted Liverpool has “obvious problems” in defense, ones that Swansea will look to capitalize on. However, Liverpool has fared much better this campaign against the bottom half of the table than they did last season.

Swansea, meanwhile, plays three of its next four matches away from home (four of its next five if you count the FA Cup match at Wolves) and will need to pick up points wherever possible to close the gap towards safety – currently four points. Leon Britton, who took charge of Swansea’s draw with Crystal Palace, will remain as interim manager for the trip to Anfield.

Team news

Liverpool: Out – Jordan Henderson (hamstring), Alberto Moreno (ankle), Marko Grujic (finger), Joel Matip (muscle), Nathaniel Clyne (back), Adam Bogdan (knee).

Swansea City: Out – Kyle Naughton (groin), Wilfried Bony (hamstring), Ki Sung-Yueng (calf), Kyle Bartley (knee). QuestionableLeroy Fer (back).

What they’re saying

Jurgen Klopp on drawing matches this year: “The draw [against Arsenal] is really not good, but it’s good because again we were the better side in draw number eight, and we should have won like all the other draws we had. So that’s…in development, even though nobody wants to hear that, it’s a very important thing, that’s a very important thing. In a very difficult league, performance-wise we are very consistent so far.”

Leon Britton on the permanent managerial position: “The fans have been great with me, as player or manager, you could hear them being very vocal which I appreciate, but in terms of the job, nothing has changed and I’m not looking for the job full time. [Management] need[s] to make the right decision, make sure it’s clear what they want, whether that’s before Liverpool, after Liverpool or in January. They have to make sure they take their time and get the right man.”

Prediction

As mentioned earlier, Liverpool has been quite good against the bottom half of the table, most recently holding Bournemouth and West Brom both goalless, plus beating Brighton 5-1 and Stoke City 3-0. It’s hard to look past a free-flowing Liverpool in this game, by a 4-1 scoreline in a game that could get out of hand late.

PL preview: Arsenal vs. Liverpool

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  • Top-four hopefuls have struggled of late
  • Arsenal seek revenge for embarrassment in August
  • Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain returns to Arsenal

The top-four credentials of both sides will be put to the test on Friday, when Arsenal host Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium in a battle of fifth versus fourth in the Premier League (Watch live, 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

While the two sides enter Friday’s primetime clash in identical form — two straight draws against far lesser opposition, followed by slump-busting victories last weekend — recent history hugely favors Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds in facing Arsene Wenger‘s Gunners. Liverpool have won the last three PL meetings between the two sides, by a combined score of 11-4. That dominance was most recently exhibited in the 4-0 thrashing at Anfield back in August.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

In each of those three games, it was Liverpool’s rabid, incessant pressing and quick counter-attacking which continuously frustrated and dismantled Arsenal. That strategy has only been strengthened by the arrival and emergence of Mohamed Salah, who’ll likely go down as the PL’s signing of the season, as the Egyptian has amassed a league-leading 14 goals through the first 18 games this season. Having recently rotated the other three members of the Reds’ “fab four” attacking quartet — Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino — Klopp’s side will be fresh and on the front foot from the opening whistle.

Arsenal, meanwhile, will be just 72 hours removed from their League Cup quarterfinal victory over West Ham United, and in the midst of another mounting injury crisis. As such, star attackers Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil were rested on Tuesday. Midfielder Aaron Ramsey and forward Olivier Giroud are both out with absolute certainty, while defender Shkodran Mustafi remains a doubt now six weeks into his recover from a thigh injury.

[ MORE: Top 5 PL storylines — Week 19 ]

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Olivier Giroud (hamstring), Aaron Ramsey (hamstring), Santi Cazorla (achilles); RETURNING: Shkodran Mustafi (thigh) | Liverpool — OUT: Alberto Moreno (ankle), Nathaniel Clyne (back); QUESTIONABLE: Joel Matip (thigh), Daniel Sturridge (illness)

What they’re saying

Wenger, on Liverpool’s attacking options: “I have to analyze that well and you have to guess a little bit who will play. It is not always the same — it depends on their personnel. They have plenty of offensive players and, looking at them recently, they have changed a lot their teams so it is difficult to guess. But I will try to see what I do. For me, the most important thing is we turn up with a positive performance. We have been strong at home and it is important we continue to dictate our game at home.”

Klopp, on defending proactively: “We are a team that are very offensive-orientated, but that doesn’t mean you have to give any space away. The boys did well in different systems, which I really like because that’s the biggest improvement, but only because they now do the jobs more often. But even against Bournemouth, which was obviously an impressive performance, when Jermain Defoe hit the post, that’s not good defending. It was a good pass, but it should be defended. Not by the center-halves — earlier. Then keeping the line for the offside or if you’re a bit deeper you have to react in the situation differently.”

Prediction

Over the last year or so, Wenger has shown a willingness to adopt rigid, defensive tactics for big games against irresistible attacking sides. He would be wise to do so against Liverpool and avoid another lopsided beatdown. 1-1 draw.

PL Sunday preview: Can Man United, Liverpool keep pace?

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Highly unlikely to overcome 14- and 21-point deficits in the title race, respectively, Manchester United and Liverpool — along with the rest of the Premier League’s top-six — are merely in a race for second. West Bromwich Albion and Bournemouth — their opponents on Sunday, respectively — fear relegation.

[ PL ROUNDUP: Man City untouchable; Chelsea, Arsenal win narrowly ]

West Brom vs. Manchester United — 9:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Try telling Jose Mourinho, the only man in the PL still refusing to concede the title to Manchester City, that the title race is over. The performances have often been ugly and ground out until the final whistle — especially in the absence of Paul Pogba, who’ll once again be unavailable through suspension — but Mourinho’s men have won five of their last six (the only defeat coming last weekend, to Man City) as they head into Sunday’s annual trip to the Hawthorns, where they’ll face 19th-place West Brom. The Baggies haven’t won in their last 15 PL outings (eight draws), a woeful run which dates back to the second week of the 2017-18 season.

While United have been nearly impenetrable defensively (11 goals conceded in 17 games), a pair of costly errors — each committed by star striker Romelu Lukaku — cost the Red Devils dearly against City, as did their recurring inability (against the PL’s top teams) to control the game through possession and create scoring chances with consistency. The same struggles reared their ugly heads in a 1-0 victory over Bournemouth on Wednesday.

As poor as the results have been over the course of four months, West Brom can hang their hat on a decent defensive record — just 22 goals conceded in 17 games, which puts them squarely in the middle of the table. If Alan Pardew‘s side sets out to defend for 90 minutes, the Baggies might just get something out of Sunday’s clash. Pardew was quite pleased by the improvements he saw during Wednesday’s 0-0 draw with Liverpool, and he’s hoping for a repeat performance against United.

“We kept them very quiet and created on transition better moments, in the limited number that we had, than we did at Swansea,” he said. “That’s an improvement, but still an area to work on. We had some really strong performances — and if you get four or five ‘eights’ in your team that normally constitutes points.”

INJURIES: West Brom — OUT: Nacer Chadli (hip), Matt Phillips (hamstring), Craig Dawson (knee), James Morrison (achilles); RETURNING: Gareth Barry (thigh)| Man United — OUT: Paul Pogba (suspension), Eric Bailly (ankle), Marouane Fellaini (knee), Michael Carrick (heart)


Bournemouth vs. Liverpool — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Every time Liverpool take a step or two forward, they take a step or two right back to where they began. Case in point: back-to-back wins over Stoke City and Brighton & Hove Albion, by a combined score of 8-1, which briefly vaulted them ahead of Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur in the race for the top-four; followed by back-to-back draws against bottom-half sides Everton and West Brom.

With that side, Jurgen Klopp‘s side is unbeaten in its last eight league games and boasts one of the league’s most potent attacking records (34 goals scored in 17 games — third-most behind the two Manchester clubs).

Cherries boss Eddie Howe was encouraged by his side’s performances in that narrow loss to United, and the 40-year-old can sense that better days are on the near horizon.

“We’re disappointed because we’ve been beaten, but I’m really pleased with the performance,” he said. “I thought we were very good today and were very disciplined out of possession. We were also very good with the ball and created numerous chances. We really did establish ourselves in the game very early and there were some really good individual performances today. The team functioned very well.”

INJURIES: Bournemouth — OUT: Tyrone Mings (back), Brad Smith (hip), Adam Federici (knee) | Liverpool — OUT: Alberto Moreno (ankle), Adam Lallana (fitness), Joel Matip (thigh), Nathaniel Clyne (back), Emre Can (suspensions); QUESTIONABLE: Daniel Sturridge (hamstring)