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First-leg draw “not the worst, not a dream result” for Liverpool

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If indifference — and its inherent lack of feeling — could be classified a feeling, it’s the one most Liverpool players, and manager Jurgen Klopp, would use to describe their collective mood following Tuesday’s 0-0 home draw with Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League round of 16.

[ MORE: Liverpool blunted by Bayern, and vice versa, in first-leg draw ]

While the high-quality chances weren’t quite there for a meeting of two sides the magnitude of Liverpool and Bayern, the frenetic pace and end-to-end nature was still on display, which did plenty to keep a scoreless draw plenty entertaining for the neutral observers.

Speaking after the game, Klopp said it “wasn’t a dream result,” but also called it “a good one.” Wishy-washy — quotes from the BBC:

“From a result point of view, it’s OK. It’s not a dream result, but it’s a good one.”

“We made life more difficult with the last pass today – about 10 or 12 times a promising situation [fizzled out]. We can play better. We should play better.

“In the first half we had the bigger chances. I can’t remember any chances for either side in the second half. It wasn’t a Champions League night from that point of view.”

Midfielder and captain Jordan Henderson, who, it must be said, was a titan for the Reds on Tuesday, called it “not the worst result in the world.” Noncommittal.

“It’s not the worst result in the world. The performance level was good but we lacked that bit in the final third.”

“We’re disappointed not to score. But we kept a clean sheet and defended well. We had enough chances, especially in the first half.

“They’re a good team, they’re going to keep the ball. At times we found it frustrating. We were a bit unlucky in front of goal.

“It’s still alive. We’ve got games before the second leg. We’ve got to be confident still. It’ll be difficult but we have experience in the Champions League. We can go there and hurt them.”

In fairness, all of the above is true. The feeling of Liverpool having left so much on the table stems from how effervescent they were en route to reaching last season’s Champions League final. To see them struggle so early in the knockout rounds was, even after just one deep run a year ago, a bit jarring and unsettling.

[ MORE: Lyon strong at home, hold Barcelona to 0-0 draw (video) ]

Take into consideration the 10 days they had to prepare between games, and you get the feeling that Klopp and Co., know they needed to do so much more to give themselves a better chance of advancing to the quarterfinals.

The second leg is set for the Allianz Arena on March 13.

Premier League or UCL more important for Liverpool?

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Jurgen Klopp has admitted that Liverpool’s fans care more about winning the Premier League than the UEFA Champions League this season.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Ahead of Liverpool’s UCL last 16 first leg tie against Bayern Munich on Anfield on Tuesday, Klopp spoke to the media and was asked if they are prioritizing either of the two competitions they are left in.

“It’s difficult for me to answer the question but for all Liverpool fans it’s the Premier League. That’s clear,” Klopp said. “But for now it’s the Champions League and we have to do our best tomorrow. Thank God we don’t have to decide that right now.”

The more cliched response came from Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson, who was sat alongside Klopp in the press conference.

“If we had to choose? We’d choose both. It’s not about favouring one competition. We’ve got a good enough squad to challenge in more than one,” Henderson said.

Shoot for the stars, Hendo…

It is an intriguing situation for Klopp and Liverpool to ponder heading into the crucial final months of the season. Liverpool have won five European Cups and have reached the final three times in the last 14 years, last winning the tournament in 2005. That is more than a decent record in the UCL.

As for league, well, I think we all know Liverpool last won the Premier League title 29 years ago and despite sitting second behind Manchester City in the table only on goal difference, Klopp’s men have their game in hand this Sunday at Man United.

Klopp’s team selection on Tuesday will go a long way to showing us exactly which competition is more important to him and team this season.

In terms of team news for the visit of Bayern, Klopp revealed that Dejan Lovren will be given the chance to play right up until it is possible he can return from injury. That is key as Virgil Van Dijk will miss Tuesday’s clash through suspension and Joe Gomez is out injured. If Lovren isn’t fit, Fabinho is likely to feature alongside Joel Matip in central defense.

Premier League Preview: Liverpool v. Bournemouth

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  • Liverpool is on a club-record 33-game home unbeaten run
  • 2 goals for Salah in the next 4 games would make him the quickest to 50 PL goals
  • Bournemouth has lost 7 PL away games in a row

With four points dropped over their last two Premier League matches and Manchester City capitalizing, all eyes will be on Liverpool on Saturday as they host Bournemouth at 10:00 a.m. ET live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE

With a win over Everton on Wednesday, Man City took over the top spot in the Premier League on goal differential, but Liverpool can wrestle back the lead with any result this weekend. Still, fans will be looking for all three points in the hopes of keeping City and Tottenham at arms length.

Mohamed Salah in particular will be watched intently, with the Egyptian on a nine-goal burst over an eight-match span before Liverpool’s two game skid, in which he has not found the back of the net. Salah has not gone three league matches without a goal in his entire Liverpool career, and you have to track all the way back to his Roma career to find his last three-match stretch of league play without a goal, spanning the turn of the 2015/16 calendar year, a spell that was interrupted by both injury and international duty.

On the flip side, Salah can write Premier League history if he gets back on the scoresheet. Salah needs just two goals in his next four matches to become the quickest player to 50 goals with one club in Premier League history, topping Alan Shearer’s 66 games. He currently stands on 48 goals in 61 matches.

Liverpool has dealt with injuries aplenty over the last month, but they could return a core of players that have missed significant time. Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum and Trent Alexander-Arnold have all returned to training and are in contention to play on Saturday. Dejan Lovren, however, is not healed yet from his hamstring injury, while Joe Gomez is still missing with his broken leg, unsure of his return.

For Bournemouth, Callum Wilson and David Brooks are still missing with injuries, leaving 17 goals this season on the sidelines. Still, the Cherries are playing for European positioning in the Premier League table and could be motivated by the chance to jump as high as eighth with a win.

What they’re saying

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp on the title race: “It’s getting exciting now. The only chance to improve our position, even though it is a good position, is by winning football games. I know that with each fibre of our bodies we will be ready to fight for everything. The only thing I want to say after the season is we gave our everything.”

Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe on a potential season-defining win: “In the Premier League every game when we first came into the league was a case of rewriting history and proving we could do things for the first time. I think we tend to look at these things as a nice thing to do, to try and write new history for the club all the time.”

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Prediction

Too much is on the line for Liverpool, at home, against a banged up offense and a porous defense on poor away form. It would be against all notions to pick against Liverpool in this match, and the Reds will come home with a convincing 3-0 win to put fans at ease before a key run of matches against Bayern Munich and Manchester United. Anything less than all three points in this match will instill serious doubt into their title chase.

Klopp defends ‘scared’ Liverpool after wobble at West Ham

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LONDON — Whether he admits it or not, Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool were rattled by West Ham United on Monday.

The Premier League leaders drew 1-1 at the London Stadium but were lucky to not succumb to a damaging defeat at the hands of the fired-up Hammers.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Sadio Mane‘s goal to give Liverpool the lead was clearly offside but stood, while West Ham spurned several glorious chances to leave their manager Manuel Pellegrini “disappointed” they couldn’t secure a huge win.

Liverpool are now just three points ahead of second-place Manchester City and five points clear of third-place Tottenham, who Klopp said are “100 percent” in the title race. He added that “if you want to win big things you have to be ready for these tight races. That is how it is.”

Speaking to reporters after the game, Klopp pointed to a raft of injuries unsettling his team on the eve of the trip to east London as Jordan Henderson, Dejan Lovren and Georginio Wijnaldum all missed out.

With those injuries adding to the absence of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez, Klopp’s side struggled to cope and were all over the place defensively, especially in the first half from set piece situations.

“Because of our situation, last night we trained and had to change three positions. That is of course not perfect,” Klopp explained. “You saw that with the set pieces, you saw that with the organization. That is where we struggled a bit, but apart from that it is a game where I think if Divock [Origi] scores the late goal it will be a lucky moment, but the point is absolutely deserved.”

Whether or not his team deserved that point is a massive point of contention.

Mane’s goal should have been ruled out, West Ham missed several big chances and Origi was clearly offside (although the linesman didn’t flag) as he missed a huge chance to win the game in stoppage time.

Liverpool weren’t at it, and West Ham captain Mark Noble said he knew why when speaking to Sky Sports after the game: “We scared them. You have to do that against the top teams. I’m just gutted we didn’t come away with the three points.”

Klopp took exception to those comments, as he perhaps showed that the ups and downs of a title race are starting to show.

“I like that really. I wish for all West Ham fans that Mark Noble and his team would scare more teams and not only us tonight,” Klopp said. “I don’t know him really well, so I don’t know why he speaks about us like that. They defended well, that is true. They didn’t scare us. It is just a normal away game.”

But this wasn’t a normal Liverpool display. In midfield the trio of Fabinho, Naby Keita and Adam Lallana were overrun and although Liverpool had more of the ball West Ham looked quite capable of slicing them open on the counter whenever they had the chance.

Klopp was almost trying to reassure himself that everything was fine after Liverpool have now dropped points in back-to-back games against Leicester and West Ham to almost see their lead atop the table evaporate.

“We had a difficult situation, it is a long season. I don’t want to think about it, but in general we’ve lost one game in the whole season. The team is doing well. We have a tough situation at the moment,” Klopp said. “The injuries, I don’t know where they come from, Millie [James Milner] was ill and Virgil had three, four days out where he lost four kilos, obviously they doesn’t help as well. It is a difficult situation with the center half and right back positions but the boys still fight. Could we have played better, even in that situation? 100 percent. That is what we expect from ourselves. These games are difficult. You have to accept the quality of the opponents and then use their weaknesses they have.”

The Liverpool manager perhaps showed some his weakness at the end of the game as he and West Ham boss Pellegrini had a heated exchange at the final whistle. Pellegrini smiled when asked about that afterwards and pointed back to a UEFA Champions League quarterfinal in 2013 when his Malaga side lost to Klopp’s Dortmund on an offside goal in stoppage time.

“Klopp is used to win because of offside, because he beat me and Malaga with Borussia Dortmund with a goal that was seven meters offside. So he cannot complain about nothing,” Pellegrini said.

Pellegrini added that he was pleased to do his old club Man City a favor, and that could have riled Klopp further.

“I said during the week we need to win this game for our fans, and if we are going to give a hand to Manchester City, that was also my club,” Pellegrini said. “Maybe that is why the manager of Liverpool didn’t like it.”

The manager of Liverpool, once again, said that the preparation for the game was “far away from being perfect” but they still got a point, even if he couldn’t explain to his players how to defend well enough in certain set-piece situations.

Is Klopp confident that his boys will not crack under the intense pressure in situations coming up?

His answer, again, seemed more about reassuring himself and those around him that everything was fine, despite a wobble at West Ham which was clear for all to see.

“I am confident about this. I think since five, six, seven, eight weeks now we have talked about a two horse race and now Tottenham have come from behind. They have a difficult situation and dealt with it brilliantly well, all credit to Poch [Mauricio Pochettino] and his team for how they did it, winning games very late and a lot of injury problems as well. That is great. For me, they [Tottenham] are 100 percent in the race. If you want to be top of the table at the end of the season, you have to deal with much tougher situations than we had today. That is the truth. It is clear.

“Of course, you need players fit and available, that helps. Midfield players tonight apart from Shaq [Xherdan Shaqiri], would have been 18 years old. Brilliant boys and if needed we would have played them tonight, of course. That is not perfect in the moment. We have to fight. It is not about pressure. It is about enjoying the situation you are in. We have 62 points, we lost one game in a full season so far and that is very positive. I see your faces already, you feel a bit sorry with us. You don’t have to. We are fine. Everything is good. Of course, tonight was just a tough game. If you have a day like that, the things that happened yesterday and you get a point at West Ham, for me that is absolutely fine.”

This is fine. Absolutely fine…

Three things we learned: West Ham v. Liverpool

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LONDON — Liverpool dropped two more points in the Premier League title race, as they drew 1-1 at West Ham United.

Pressure does strange things to teams at this part of the season.

Monday’s trip to the London Stadium offered Jurgen Klopp‘s men the chance to open up a five-point gap atop the table, but a spirited Hammers side cancelled out Sadio Mane‘s controversial opener as Michail Antonio grabbed them a well-earned point. And West Ham could’ve easily won the game had they taken their chances.

With Liverpool now drawing to both Leicester and West Ham in their last two games, Manchester City can jump top of the table with a win at Everton on Wednesday and put the pressure back on the Reds.

Here’s a look at what we learned from the London Stadium, as the title race is well and truly on.


LIVERPOOL SHOULD BE HAPPY WITH A DRAW

In the first half West Ham should have been at least 3-0 up. Liverpool were all over the place from defensive set piece situations, holding a high line for no apparent reason. Antonio scored from one situation. Declan Rice somehow nodded wide from another and both Aaron Cresswell and Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez drilled just wide from counters which stretched Liverpool’s defense easily. It was as if Liverpool’s defenders were keen to keep their high-line no matter what, and in the second half they were lucky both Felipe Anderson and Mark Noble lost their cool in the penalty box when big chances arrived. Liverpool had chances themselves, as they always do, but this was far from a game where they played well and had to settle for a draw against a stubborn West Ham side. Klopp’s men got away with one by not losing at West Ham and now they are just three points ahead of Man City atop the Premier League table, and must expect City to beat Everton on Wednesday and slip to second place, albeit with a game in hand. Injuries are impacting Liverpool, but Klopp’s men are showing signs that they are cracking under the pressure. The nervous tension emanating from Liverpool’s fanbase is seeping into the previously carefree players. The 29-year wait for a league title is weighing heavy on everyone connected with Liverpool right now.


WEST HAM COUNTER TO PERFECTION

Man United, Arsenal, Chelsea and now Liverpool have all failed to win at the London Stadium and for Pellegrini this was a perfect response after three-straight defeats for the Hammers in embarrassing fashion. Like Leicester City, the Hammers are one of those teams outside of the top six who frighten the life out of the big boys. When they aren’t forced to possess the ball, create chances and take the games to opponents, that is when they are at their best. Sure, Manuel Pellegrini has brought a certain panache and control to their game since arriving in the summer, but the fact that both Marko Arnautovic and Samir Nasri were missing through injury did them a favor. Anderson, Antonio and Chicharito pounced when they could on the counter and the pace of full backs Cresswell and Ryan Fredericks was helpful in supporting attacks and stopping Mane and Salah from running riot. In truth, West Ham’s wasteful finishing let Liverpool off the hook. Yes, West Ham’s fans want them to be more attractive to watch but when they counter this well, it’s hard to see them not deploying these kind of tactics on a regular basis against the big boys. They lost their impetus when Andy Carroll came on late in the game and that proved what direction the Hammers must move in going forward. They have the squad to hurt teams on the counter and must realize, and play to, their strengths.


INJURIES MOUNT UP FOR KLOPP

The news that Joe Gomez now requires surgery on a fractured leg was bad enough for Liverpool fans to wake up to Monday, but when Jordan Henderson, Dejan Lovren and particularly Georginio Wijnaldum missed the game at West Ham due to injury, the alarm bells were ringing. A midfield trio of Naby Keita, Fabinho and Adam Lallana should have had enough quality to wrestle control of this game but Mark Noble, Robert Snodgrass and Declan Rice won that battle rather easily. Joel Matip appears to frighten the life out of his fellow defenders when he plays and even the usually placid Virgil Van Dijk was caught out as Liverpool’s undoubted defensive leader failed to settle things down. James Milner, playing at right back, was targeted throughout and both Snodgrass and Anderson had a field day drifting out to his flank. Liverpool’s squad is not quite large enough to deal with injuries to five key players, as Milner and Henderson at right back in recent games has shown. Letting Nathaniel Clyne leave on loan in the January window and not adding another defender as back up could be the difference for them in this title race.