Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

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Premier League Preview: Liverpool v. Wolves

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Wolverhampton Wanderers look preserve their good form – most recently showcased against Manchester City – when they visit Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday (Watch Live at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Sunday’s bout will see both clubs meet for the first time this season.

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With an instant-classic, 3-2 comeback win against City on Thursday, Wolves sit fifth on the table, while Liverpool – as we all know – are unbeaten and on pace to break the all-time most points record (100) set in 2018.

With four games in two days, are either side set to make drastic changes to their side? With the chance to leapfrog Chelsea with a win, it’s unlikely Wolves will, although it’s likelier Liverpool will elect to make a change or two.


Injuries/suspensions

Liverpool: OUT —  Dejan Lovren (hamstring), Fabinho (hamstring), Joel Matip (knee), Nathaniel Clyne (ACL), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (ankle)

Wolves: OUT — Willy Boly (ankle), Morgan Gibbs-White (back)


Probable lineups

Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson; Lallana, Milner, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane.

Wolves: Rui Patricio; Dendoncker, Coady, Saiss; Doherty, Neves, Joao Moutinho, Vinagre; Traore, Jimenez, Jota.


What they’re saying 

Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp on how dangerous Wolves will be: “Very – very, unfortunately. I really think the job Nuno is doing there is incredible with all the Europa League stress. I think at the beginning of the season they realized a little bit, ‘Oh, that’s different’. But now they are settled completely there, they are there again, Jimenez and Jota are scoring again. They had to change a little bit the last line to last year; Bennett and Boly are not playing consistently so they had to change that, but they have good options there. Traore finally found his manager, who found a position for him – he started as a wing-back and now he can even play in the front three. An exceptional player, as a kid he was already exceptional when he played for Barca I think, probably the quickest player in the league. So, a lot of really good things there and that makes it really difficult to play against them, of course. But it should be difficult against us as well, that’s the plan.”

Traore on Wolves’ thrilling comeback against Manchester City: “This team is amazing. We fight until the end, whatever the situation. That’s what we did today and I’m so happy for the team. Every one of us has worked so hard, we believed we could get this result.”

“Liverpool are a great team and are many points in front. We will fight to give our best.”


Prediction

13 points clear of Leicester City and with a jam-packed schedule ahead, it’s expected for Klopp and company to go into Sunday’s game with bit of a free-and-easy attitude. That said, an inspired Wolves will still remain outweighed by the Reds’ chemistry and excessive firepower, but the bout should still be an authentic showdown. Liverpool, 2-1.

PL Preview: Leicester City v. Liverpool

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Among the Boxing Day fixture list, one game stands above all the rest. Leicester City v. Liverpool, live Thursday at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

While it doesn’t present the potentially enormous stakes it could have had the Foxes downed Manchester City last weekend, it still looms largest among the festive fixtures and could still be one of the final true tests for the Reds as they march towards not just a Premier League crown but also a potentially unbeaten league campaign. With a ten point lead and a game in hand, Liverpool could give itself a nearly insurmountable advantage atop the table should they emerge victorious, but defeat will procure doubt among the supporters with half the season still to go.

Leicester City will consider themselves very much in the title race despite the mountain to climb, given their narrow defeat at Anfield in the last meeting, a game that required a James Milner penalty in the dying seconds to secure victory for the Reds. The Foxes will be buoyed by the home crowd, unbeaten at King Power Stadium this year while conceding just five goals and keeping four clean sheets.

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The Reds have a tougher task than anticipated given the litany of injuries across the squad. Alongside long-term absentees Joel Matip, Fabinho, Dejan Lovren, and Nathaniel Clyne, they are also missing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who picked up an ankle problem at the Club World Cup. Jurgen Klopp was forced to move Jordan Henderson into the defensive unit during the semifinal in Qatar last week, and any other potential issues in the squad through the festive period could force a similar emergency shift for the Reds.

Leicester City is in much better shape health-wise, but will be monitoring the status of Harvey Barnes who also finds himself saddled with an ankle injury after the Man City loss, while Matty James is still out for a while longer as he builds up his fitness from a long-term Achilles injury.

Brendan Rodgers has prior history with Jurgen Klopp, beating the German handily while managing Liverpool in a pre-season game against Borussia Dortmund in 2014.

Injuries/suspensions

Leicester City: OUT – Matty James (Achilles). QUESTIONABLE – Harvey Barnes (ankle).

Liverpool: OUT – Dejan Lovren (hamstring), Fabinho (hamstring), Joel Matip (knee), Nathaniel Clyne (ACL), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (ankle). QUESTIONABLE


Projected lineups

Leicester City: Schmeichel; Chilwell, Evans, Soyuncu, Pereira; Ndidi, Tielemans, Maddison; Barnes, Vardy, Perez.

Liverpool: Alisson; Robertson, Gomez, van Dijk, Alexander-Arnold; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Keita; Mane, Firmino, Salah.


What they’re saying

Leicester City boss Rodgers on long-term Liverpool domination: “I think that’s pretty difficult now in this modern time. But it doesn’t take away that they’re a fantastic team. And now they have that feeling of winning which gives that hunger to win even more. For us, they and Manchester City are a great benchmark for a lot of the teams at this level. We always have to fight and improve and get as close as we possibly can to that level.”

Liverpool manager Klopp on Jamie Vardy“He is a massive threat obviously. He’s an exceptional striker what can you say? Since I’m in England he’s one of the top three. He’s always scoring, he’s difficult to defend, always on your shoulder running at your back playing the offside line. Really, really dangerous. The only thing you can do in football is try and avoid as many passes as you can to him and that’s what we’ll try. Leicester is not only Jamie Vardy. Brendan has done an excellent job there.”


Key stats

  • Leicester City is winless in its last five PL meetings against Liverpool, losing four and drawing one (last win: Feb 2017)
  • Neither side has kept a clean sheet in any of the last 7 PL meetings against one another
  • Liverpool has won its last 4 Boxing Day fixtures by a combined 11-0 score
  • Jamie Vardy has scored 29 goals in 2019, the most in the league – he has scored in each of his last three home games against Liverpool (5 goals)
  • Liverpool is unbeaten in its last 34 Premier League fixtures, and are the only PL side to have scored in every game so far this season

Prediction

The Reds are banged up, but in all other respects are the better side. Leicester City showed weaknesses against Manchester City, and they are ones Jurgen Klopp could exploit. Still, Jamie Vardy is on an undeniable tear, and his presence alone gives the Foxes a chance. An exciting 2-2 draw should give both sides a coveted point and keep Liverpool as clear favorites to win the league.

Klopp issues Oxlade-Chamberlain injury update

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Jurgen Klopp has issued an update on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain‘s injury and the Liverpool midfielder will not be available until 2020 at the earliest.

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Oxlade-Chamberlain injured his ankle in their FIFA Club World Cup final win against Flamengo in Doha, Qatar on Saturday and after he was shown on crutches the extent of his injury has now been confirmed ahead of Liverpool’s trip to second-place Leicester City on Boxing Day (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

“The ankle [is] what we probably expected; you have three ligaments on the outside of the ankle, one of them is damaged,” Klopp said. “Now we have to see how quickly we can fix that. I don’t know exactly. I had that injury myself, but it was years ago and it can take a while or can be quick, we have to see. No chance for Thursday and no chance for this year; Oxlade will not play anymore [in 2019] that’s clear. Then we have to see how quickly it can settle.”

So, the Ox is out for Liverpool’s big games against Leicester City and Wolves but luckily they have pretty of options in central midfield right now.

Despite Fabinho being out injured, they still have Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum, Naby Keita and James Milner available in central midfield.

Oxlade-Chamberlain has shown flashes of his brilliance since returning from his long-term injury, as Klopp has nursed him back to full fitness and the England midfielder has suffered a few smaller setbacks in recents months.

Firmino winner sends Liverpool into Club World Cup final

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Jurgen Klopp planned to give a number of regular Liverpool starters the day off, but the best laid plans go to waste. With Monterrey matching Liverpool in Qatar, Roberto Firmino was on hand to save Liverpool from extra time and penalties, scoring in the 91st minute to put Liverpool into the Club World Cup final via a 2-1 win over the Mexican club.

The Reds were was forced into a few changes and Jurgen Klopp made a few more on his own, most notably sitting Virgil Van Dijk due to illness while resting Trent Alexander-Arnold, Firmino, and Sadio Mane, although they would all eventually be required. That left Jordan Henderson to deputize at center-back while James Milner took a spot at right-back. Xherdan Shaqiri took a spot along the top three, while Adam Lallana played in a defensive midfield role behind Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

[ MORE: New Arsenal manager? | Everton? ]

The Reds still showed an attacking intent and got on the board early as Keita was filtered through the middle by crowd favorite Mohamed Salah, and the Guinea international finished expertly one-on-one past Marcelo Barovero for an 11th minute lead. Monterrey would not be deterred, however, and found an immediate response just three minutes later. The Mexican side caught the injury-riddled Liverpool defense ball-watching at the far post, with an initial shot by Jesus Gallardo saved by Allison, but the rebound fell to Rogelio Funes Mori alone at the back post for the equalizer.

Dorlan Pabon had a go on 26 minutes but forced a quality save from Alisson, and Monterrey came close again past the half-hour mark as Alisson just barely wrong-footed a counter-attack by getting his fingertips to a Pabon cross that just trickled behind a racing Funes Mori. Salah was bright up front to the delight of the Doha crowd, while Keita came close to a double just before halftime but was thwarted in his efforts to round the keeper after being released down the left edge of the six-yard box.

After the second-half restart, Liverpool thought it had the lead past the hour mark but Divock Origi‘s strike was flagged for offside on a great trap by the Monterrey back line. Monterrey began to grab hold of the game, and Klopp responded by bringing Mane, Alexander-Arnold, and Firmino off the bench.

The latter was the man to grab the decisive touch. As Salah did hard work down the right edge of the box before being shut off, he tapped back to Alexander-Arnold who delivered a perfect ball into the box for Firmino. The Brazilian poked it past a wrong-footed Barovero and into the back of the net to send Liverpool through.

The Reds will play Brazilian club Flamengo in the championship game on Saturday, while Monterrey will take on Saudi side Al-Hilal.

Keita powers Liverpool past injury-hit Bournemouth

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Naby Keita and Mohamed Salah each had a goal and an assist as Liverpool blew out Bournemouth 3-0 at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday.

There was some bad news in the mix for both team’s already injury-hit center back corps: Nathan Ake and Dejan Lovren both left the match early.

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Its lead over Leicester City is back up to 11 points before the Foxes play at 9 a.m. ET Sunday, while Man City is 14 behind the Reds before Saturday afternoon’s Manchester Derby.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored Liverpool’s first goal of the win.


Three things we learned

1. Keita shoots his shot (literally and figuratively): When Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool captured Naby Keita, it felt like the beginning of something special. Instead it’s been fits and starts, with plenty of reports saying struggles with the language and the system might be holding hims back.

Well, if he’s back to his Leipzig-infused best, then look out world, because Keita was simply marvelous in his first PL start of the season. He had his goal and his assist, combining so well with Salah, but also completed 89 of 94 passes, 110 touches, three key passes, five of eight duels won, three tackles, and two interceptions.

2. Ake injury a huge hit: Nathan Ake has been a force for a poor Cherries side this season, and his injury did not look good. With Chelsea now able to buy players and possessing a buyback clause on their former stud, was this the last we saw of the Dutchman in a Bournemouth jersey? It could be the difference between Bournemouth staying comfortably midtable and dipping into the relegation zone.

3. Lovren injury a worry: Whether Lovren misses a long time or just a bit is still a problem for the Reds, who are going to be taxed heavily with Joel Matip already out and matches all over the world in the coming weeks.

Remember that Liverpool isn’t yet through to the Champions League knockout rounds, and that Virgil Van Dijk and Joe Gomez could need to play every minute including Tuesday’s massive trip to dangerous Red Bull Salzburg. The good news, of course, is that Joe Gomez at his best has not been a downgrade from Lovren.

Man of the Match: Keita.


Bournemouth had a moment in the 26th miniute, Dominic Solanke unable to find a deflected cross that worried Adrian.

The Cherries lost their best player to injury, and that seemingly opened the doors at the back. Nathan Ake was felled by a muscle strain.

Moments later, Oxlade-Chamberlain got on the end of a Jordan Henderson long ball and took advantage of a sleeping Aaron Ramsdale to make it 1-0.

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The visitors made a sub soon after the goal, Dejan Lovren exiting for Trent Alexander-Arnold to send Joe Gomez to center back.

That’s when the Reds got their second goal from Keita, via Salah’s lovely pass.

A bad mistake from debutant Jack Simpson allowed Keita to cue up Salah for a return gift, the Egyptian calmly slotting past a struggling Ramsdale.