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Keita, Zaha injured on international duty

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Naby Keita and Wilfried Zaha have joined the likes of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk, Danny Rose, Alex McCarthy and others in picking up injuries while on international duty.

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Keita was substituted in the first half of Guinea’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Rwanda, with the midfielder said to have suffered a thigh injury.

The $70 million signing from RB Leipzig has been in and out of Liverpool’s first team early in the season but with James Milner suffering a recent hamstring injury, plus Adam Lallana out and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain out for the season, all of a sudden Jurgen Klopp was counting on Keita and now he is facing a mini injury crisis.

Sadio Mane has reportedly broken his thumb while playing for Senegal over the international break, while both Virgil Van Dijk and Mohamed Salah have returned to Liverpool early after suffering from minor rib and muscle injuries respectively.

Ahead of their trip to Huddersfield Town on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com), Klopp may have to give plenty of star players a rest with a busy schedule coming up for the Reds in both the PL and UEFA Champions League. We bet he’s pretty happy right now that he bought in Xherdan Shaqiri and Fabinho this summer.

As for Zaha, his importance to Crystal Palace is undoubted and the Ivory Coast winger has suffered a reported abductor injury in training and has left his national team squad ahead of their Africa Cup of Nations game against the Central African Republic and is back with Palace.

Zaha, 25, suffered a similar injury in early September as he missed Palace’s 2-0 defeat at home against Southampton. The winger has been out of form in recent weeks but he has scored three of Palace’s five goals this season and assisted on another.

Although it is only believed to be a small injury, any knock for Zaha will be a huge concern for Palace, especially ahead of their trip to Everton and an extremely tough run of games coming up in the Premier League as they face Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United in four straight games.

PL Sunday preview: Title-race showdown at Anfield

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Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures consists of three games featuring four of the six sides with top-four aspirations, including the big one: the one we’ve all been waiting for since they met in the Champions League quarterfinals in April, Liverpool versus Manchester City.

[ MORE: What did we learn in the Premier League, Week 8? ]

Fulham vs. Arsenal — 7 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Arsenal seek their sixth straight PL win on Sunday when Unai Emery and Co., make the short trip south to the River Thames and head west until they float up to Craven Cottage. Emery has settled in quickly — and quietly — since back-to-back defeats to Man City and Chelsea to begin his first season at the Emirates Stadium. While they’ve managed more than a handful of goals en route to five straight wins, it’s the defensive record (just four goals conceded, including back-to-back clean sheets against Everton and Watford) which has given the Gunners a foundation to build upon. Just two points separate Arsenal from fourth-place Chelsea.

Down at the other end of the table — 17th place, to be exact — Fulham are winless in their last four league games and have just five points to show for their first seven outings after spending more than $130 million this summer after winning promotion from the Championship. Injuries have been a key cause the Cottagers’ early-season struggles, as manager Slavisa Jokanovic has already used nine different defenders in PL play. American defender Tim Ream returned last weekend after missing the start of the season with a back injury and should do his part to stabilize a side that has conceded 16 goals in seven games.

INJURIES: Fulham — OUT: Timothy Fosu-Mensah (shoulder), Joe Bryan (hamstring) | Arsenal — OUT: Petr Cech (hamstring), Laurent Koscielny (achilles), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (illness)


Southampton vs. Chelsea — 9:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

The good news for Chelsea: they’re still unbeaten to start the PL season. The slightly-less-great news: it’s been three weeks since they last won a PL game and they’re in danger of falling away from the leading pack, which presently consists of Liverpool and Man City. The Blues have won six straight games against Southampton (all competitions), including the FA Cup semifinal in April.

“We have lost two points in both our last two (league) games, so obviously we want to get three points as much as we can,” defender Cesar Azpilicueta said this week. “We weren’t able to in the last two games so we need to improve because every time we go onto the pitch, we want to win.”

Southampton, on the other hand, currently sit 16th in the midst of a three-game winless skid, including back-to-back defeats to Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers. It’s been 205 minutes since Saints last scored a goal in PL play, and they have a bottom-five offensive record this season (six goals in seven games). Mark Hughes will be desperately hoping that edging past Everton on penalty kicks in the EFL Cup third round on Tuesday gives his side a much needed boost with the busy winter period not so far away now.

INJURIES: Southampton — OUT: None | Chelsea — OUT: Marco Van Ginkel (knee)


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

The last time Man City visited Anfield, they conceded three times in the game’s opening half-hour on their way to a 3-0 first-leg defeat, and a disheartening exit from the Champions League. The visit before that, Pep Guardiola‘s side conceded four times — including a three-goal barrage that lasted just nine minutes — as they watched their 22-game unbeaten start to the season vanish at Anfield. It’s been more than 15 years since City last beat Liverpool on Merseyside, as they’ve lost 11 times at Anfield since May 3, 2003.

Guardiola has not yet revealed whether or not Kevin De Bruyne (knee) will return after two months on the sidelines, though City have managed just fine — thus far — without their play-making genius. A run of four straight wins (by a combined score of 12-1) have vaulted City back ahead of Liverpool for the top spot in the table, thanks to the Reds’ 1-1 draw with Chelsea last weekend. Jurgen Klopp‘s side was perfect up until its trip to Stamford Bridge.

Klopp was very quick to downplay his side’s recent success against City, knowing his side is in for another colossal battle on Sunday.

“We won the last three games against City — twice in the Champions League and once in the league. After none of these games do you go into the dressing room and think, ‘Now we’ve got it, now we know how to beat Manchester City.’

“There is no real way; there isn’t one thing you have to do so you can beat them. That’s not there. You need a fantastic football team — which I have, thank God — with an outstanding character, ready for being really brave, ready for making mistakes in a very difficult game against an outstanding opponent.”

INJURIES: Liverpool — OUT: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Naby Keita (back), Adam Lallana (groin) | Man City — OUT: Claudio Bravo (achilles); QUESTIONABLE: Kevin De Bruyne (knee), Ilkay Gundogan (hamstring), Benjamin Mendy (foot)

Report: Liverpool deny contact with PSG’s Rabiot

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Liverpool are “baffled” by stories linking them with interest in Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Adrien Rabiot.

ESPN reported that Liverpool had spoken with Rabiot’s mother and agent, and that Klopp had spoken with Rabiot by phone. The report said Reds are hoping to land the player, preferably on a free transfer after the season.

For the record, nearly every team on earth with wages available to pay the 23-year-old is going to be interested in signing Rabiot on a free transfer.

[ MORE: USMNT vs. Brazil preview: Sarachan, meet gauntlet ]

Alas,The Liverpool Echo says the Premier League outfit is happy with its options in central midfield, with Naby Keita, Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, James Milner, and Georginio Wijnaldum in the fold. Oh, and don’t forget injured Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Believe them? We don’t on the interest side, though certainly there’s precedent for agent-driven, embellished stories.

In an embarrassment of riches, $52 million Fabinho has not even made the 18 for Jurgen Klopp this season. As a goofy but timely reminder of his skill set, the Brazilian was ranked as the 85th best player in the world in the FIFA 19 ratings.

Henderson signed a new long-term deal with Liverpool this week, and Keita is a key piece of their future, but there are questions with the rest (including Fabinho). Milner is 32, Wijnaldum has been a luxury piece rather than a crucial starter, Oxlade-Chamberlain will be returning from a major injury, and Fabinho’s yet to feature.

Of course it’s fair to believe the report that Liverpool hasn’t spoken with Rabiot or his representation, but to say the club isn’t interested in a 23-year-old with over 12,000 minutes played for club and country would be a leap. We imagine almost all of the top clubs in England and abroad are kicking the proverbial tires on Rabiot.

Henderson signs new long-term Liverpool deal

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Jordan Henderson is sticking around at Liverpool.

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The Liverpool skipper, 28, has signed a new long-term deal at Anfield, with the England international a mainstay in the team since he arrived from Sunderland in the summer of 2011.

Speaking about his new contract, Henderson revealed his delight at extending his stay as Jurgen Klopp‘s skipper.

“I’m very happy to have signed a new contract for a long period of time. I’m absolutely delighted,” Henderson said. “It doesn’t seem like too long ago when I signed my first one – it feels like yesterday, really – but a lot has happened since then. I feel it’s been a progressive journey for me throughout my time here and one I’ve enjoyed so much.

“There is no other place in the world I would rather play football. I want to be here for as long as I can be. I’m so privileged to have been a part of this club for so long, and hopefully even longer now.”

Henderson has improved during his seven years at Liverpool and is a regular for Gareth Southgate‘s England in central midfield.

When he signed for Liverpool he was supposed to be the replacement for Steven Gerrard but his role has developed into a more defensive one in recent years. His range of passing has always been impressive and his high levels of energy is perfect to spark Klopp’s pressing style from midfield.

Henderson doesn’t often get the praise he deserves but he does a lot of the dirty work for Liverpool and England.

Injuries have hampered his career at key times but he’s still made 283 appearances for Liverpool, scoring 24 goals.

This season could well be his toughest challenge yet to nail down a regular spot in the starting lineup with James Milner, Adam Lallana, Naby Keita, Fabinho, Georginio Wijnaldum and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, when he returns from injury, as his competitors for a role in central midfield.

Henderson’s reliability in the engine room made this new deal a no brainer for Liverpool to set up.

PL Preview: Liverpool vs. Brighton

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  • Liverpool has won 5 in a row against Brighton
  • Christ Hughton has never secured a PL point at Anfield
  • Liverpool is unbeaten in its last 22 home league games

For as good as Manchester City has looked to start the Premier League season, Liverpool has followed suit. Now a new team is in their sights as Liverpool hosts Brighton on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. ET at Anfield.

The Reds have scored six goals in two games, and Liverpool remains the only Premier League team yet to concede a single goal. Mohamed Salah has picked up where he left off last season, and new signings Naby Keita and Alisson appear to have hit the ground running.

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Brighton will be a tough opponent, but it will be an uphill battle for the Seagulls after last week’s upset win over Manchester United. Both Chris Hughton and Brighton have terrible history playing at this park, and that could come into play yet again. The Reds have made their home park an absolute fortress, without a single league loss at home in nearly 17 months.

Liverpool is still without defender Dejan Lovren, who the club confirmed will not be back until after the international break due to a pelvic injury. That, however, remains Liverpool’s only injury at the moment, other than Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who is likely to miss most – if not all – of the season.

Brighton, meanwhile, is without defender Lewis Dunk who played every single minute of last year’s Premier League campaign. Dunk picked up an ankle injury in the Manchester United match, while club captain Bruno has only managed 26 minutes this season due to a hamstring injury. Jose Izquierdo is out still as he regains fitness from a leg injury suffered on World Cup duty with Colombia.

What they’re saying

Brighton manager Chris Hughton on upset of Man United: “We certainly need to show a lot of the qualities that we showed in last week’s performance. Hopefully it allows us to go to Liverpool with a little bit more confidence, a little bit less pressure.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp on the PL competition: “Here you can give a few more points away and you have to be ready for all the games. I don’t want to compare it but if you could beat Bayern [with Dortmund] it was good because usually they had won all their other games. That will not happen here. Even City couldn’t do that last year. They got 100 points but that was a rare thing to do.”

Prediction

This match will be tough on Brighton. They seem to have Manchester United’s number, but they have struggled against other top teams, and Liverpool is a juggernaut. The Reds win 3-0 and continue to rock the early portion of the season.