Naby Keita

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UCL preview: Messi back for Barcelona v. Dortmund, Liverpool visits Napoli

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The Champions League group stage is back. So is Lionel Messi.

Tuesday kicks off the 2019/20 Champions League in earnest, with a litany of powerhouse matchups dotting the landscape. Most notably, Barcelona’s five-time Ballon d’Or winner is in the squad for the trip to the Rhur valley to take on Borussia Dortmund, potentially set for his first appearance of the season after missing Barcelona’s first four matches of the season with a calf injury.

[ PST writers predict the CL group stage ]

Those two teams are both roaring back from disappointing league losses, and come into this match in good attacking form. Barcelona fell to Athletic Bilbao on the opening weekend of the La Liga season, but is unbeaten in their last three with 12 goals in those three games. Dortmund, meanwhile, fell to Union Berlin at the end of August but crushed third-tier Ergenie Cottbus in cup action before blowing out fellow Champions League participants Bayer Leverkusen 4-0 this past weekend. 19-year-old Jadon Sancho provided two assists in that most recent game and will get his first crack at the La Liga giants.

Defending champions Liverpool are on the road at Napoli, with the Italians having integrated Hirving “Chucky” Lozano into the squad. The Mexican international got his first start against Sampdoria over the weekend in a 2-0 win, playing 65 minutes. The Reds fell in this same fixture last season en route to the title, losing 1-0 at San Paolo Stadium in one of their worst performances of the season. This time around they are top of the Premier League through five matches – all wins – but will be without Divock Origi, Alisson, and Naby Keita through injury while Andy Robertson is a game-time decision.

[ Villa, West Ham meet in scoreless draw ]

Chelsea hosts Spanish side Valencia in an absolutely wide-open and loaded Group H that features four quality sides, meaning every game will be a significant challenge. The Blues’ defense has been quite poor so far this season, and will again be without Antonio Rudiger thanks to a groin problem picked up after just making his return over the weekend from knee surgery. Chelsea has never lost to Valencia in six European meetings, their joint-most games without losing against any European opponent.

On the other end of that brutal Group H, new-look Ajax hosts French side Lille. The visitors finished second in Ligue 1 last season and have three wins in their first five this campaign, proceeding without Nicolas Pepe after his sale to Arsenal this summer. Ajax has also lost highly valued young talent, with Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt having left for greener pastures, although they have thus maintained an unbeaten record this season, earning a berth in the group stage while proceeding through two qualifying stages.

Benfica hosts RB Leipzig in another brutal group, Group G that also features Zenit St. Petersburg and Lyon who match up in France. Leipzig leads the Bundesliga with an unbeaten first four matches, including a draw against defending champions Bayern Munich. Striker Timo Werner has a fabulous five goal haul through RB Leipzig’s first four league matches including a hat-trick against Borussia Monchengladbach. Benfica has also started its league campaign well with four wins in five, a solid sign after the loss of young star Joao Felix to Atletico Madrid.

FC Salzburg takes on Genk in Austria, with Salzburg boss Jesse Marsch set to become the first American head coach of a Champions League side. He has quite the home record to protect, with the Austrian side unbeaten in 18 European home matches.


Tuesday Champions League matches:

Inter v. Slavia Prague (12:55pm ET)
Lyon v. Zenit St. Petersburg

Ajax v. Lille (3:00pm ET)
Benfica v. RB Leipzig
Borussia Dortmund v. Barcelona
Chelsea v. Valencia
FC Salzburg v. Racing Genk
Napoli v. Liverpool

Preview: Liverpool v. Newcastle

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  • Liverpool unbeaten in 23 home games v. Newcastle
  • Newcastle have won 3 of last 5 PL away games
  • Bruce has just 4 defeats in 17 PL games v. Liverpool

Liverpool host Newcastle United on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as the international break is over and the Premier League action resumes.

Hurrah!

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

Jurgen Klopp‘s men have a 100 percent record so far and sit top of the table, where they hope to stay all season long. On paper this should be a comfortable home win for the Reds but Steve Bruce‘s Newcastle have already won on the road at Tottenham Hotspur this season and will sit back, soak up pressure and look to hit Liverpool on the counter.

In team news Liverpool are still without goalkeeper Alisson, while Naby Keita has returned to training but won’t be ready to play this weekend.

Newcastle are without promising midfielder Sean Longstaff who turned his ankle in training, while DeAndre Yedlin, Florian Lejuene, Matt Ritchie, Allan Saint-Maximin, Andy Carroll and Dwight Gayle are all still out.


Possible lineups

Liverpool: Adrian; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane.

Newcastle: Dubravka; Krafth, Schar, Lascelles, Dummett, Willems; Almiron, Hayden, Shelvey, Atsu; Joelinton.


What they’re saying

Klopp on Alisson’s calf injury: “Funnily enough, we had lunch together [just now]; he looks good and he is improving, but we cannot put any pressure on it. It was a really serious injury in the calf. It is now much better, of course, and that’s good for us and good for him, but we don’t know exactly [how long it will be]. The target was always after the next international break [that] he could be ready, but we don’t know. So, as I said, there is no pressure and hopefully everything will be fine for the rest of the season, that’s the plan.”

Steve Bruce on facing Liverpool: “They have been together for a couple of years. The core are really really honest and a genuine group of players. When you’ve got that, you’re capable of doing anything. Let’s go and have a crack and enjoy the occasion and see if we can pull off a shock.”


Prediction

Liverpool may chop and change a few players due to their UEFA Champions League game at Napoli on Tuesday, but Klopp will be focused that his side continue their great start to the season. This should be an easy home win. I’m going for 3-0, and more importantly I think Mohamed Salah will pass to Sadio Mane…

Premier League Preview: Burnley v. Liverpool

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Liverpool can set a club record with victory over Burnley as the two sides meet at Turf Moor on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. ET, live on NBC or live online at NBCSports.com.

The Reds are gunning for 13 straight top-flight wins, something never been achieved before in the club’s history. Liverpool currently stands as the last remaining 100% league record in any of the top six tiers of English football.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

The last time Liverpool failed to record victory in top flight action was back in early March, a 0-0 draw with nearby rivals Everton at Goodison Park. Their last loss in Premier League play was all the way back in early January, a 2-1 defeat to Manchester City that famously featured a Liverpool goal ruled out by goal-line technology by the tiniest of margins, setting the stage for Man City’s ruthless run to the title.

The Reds are mostly healthy, with just Naby Keita and Alisson sidelined due to injury. The former is still recovering from a hip flexor strain and will reportedly not be fit until after the international break, while Liverpool’s first-choice goalkeeper is still on the mend with a calf problem that Klopp would not commit to a timetable, only saying Friday during his pre-match press conference that it is a “proper injury” and “it will take some time.”

Burnley will be without Johann Berg Gudmundsson, whose calf injury is less serious than initially feared but still troublesome enough to hold him out this weekend. Robbie Brady and Steven Defour are also likely missing from action for the Clarets. The start to the season has been a mixed bag for Burnley, who sit on one each of a win, loss, and draw in that order. A 1-1 result against a solid Wolves side last time out will prove promising, despite the match featuring two points dropped as the opponents scored deep into stoppage time to share the spoils.

However, an embarrassing loss to Sunderland in League Cup last time out will leave manager Sean Dyche looking for a reaction, with yet another defeat in league play turning what has been a fairly solid start to the season somewhat spoiled, while a shocking result against an in-form Liverpool side would provide a valuable spark. History is not on their side, having picked up just four of a possible 30 points all-time against Liverpool in Premier League play.


Injuries/suspensions

Burnley – OUT: Robbie Brady (rib), Steven Defour (calf). QUESTIONABLE: Johann Berg Gundmusson (calf).

Liverpool – OUT: Naby Keita (hip flexor), Alisson (calf).


What they’re saying

Burnley midfielder Jack Cork on playing the best teams: “It’s a good challenge and a good test. When you’re young and growing up you want to be playing against these sort of teams; you dream of playing for the Liverpools and Manchester Uniteds. It’s good to play them and say ‘I’m good enough to do this at this level.’ It’s good to test yourself against the best players in the world and there’s nothing better than the current European champions. You can’t look past that. We know it’s going to be a difficult game.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp on previous confrontation with Sean Dyche: “Probably everybody will write that it didn’t look like Sean Dyche and I were best friends after the last game. It was an intense game, Joe Gomez got injured, we had a couple of discussions. But both coaching staff, myself and Joe are just proper competitors, so we don’t hide our emotions obviously. That can happen. But from my point of view, it was always completely respectful because I respect them and I respect Sean a lot, what he is doing there, to keep a team like Burnley really always on that level of motivation, determination and desire and all that stuff. It’s so difficult and they are doing that.”


Projected lineups:

Burnley: Pope; Pieters, Mee, Tarkowski, Lowton; McNeil, Westwood, Cork, Lennon; Wood, Barnes.

Liverpool: Adrian; Robertson, Van Dijk, Matip, Alexander-Arnold; Wijnaldum, Fabinho, Henderson; Mane, Firmino, Salah.


Prediction:

While Sean Dyche won’t face the same dilemma Arsenal botched last time Liverpool took the field in pushing full-backs further up the pitch, this is still a difficult game for Burnley in a slightly different sense. Sure, Liverpool doesn’t look as defensively hardened as they did last campaign, but this is still one of the best back lines in the European game, and Burnley’s attacking options aren’t up for the task. Unless Ashley Barnes can channel his good form to next-level heights, Burnley will fall 1-0 to a good Liverpool attack that will work hard to find a way through and hold firm once going in front.

Premier League Preview: Liverpool v. Arsenal

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  • Top of the table: 1st-place Reds host 2nd-place Gunners
  • Liverpool won 5-1 at Anfield last season
  • Both sides nearing full fitness but a few injuries linger

Thanks to one half of north London, Liverpool enter Matchweek 3 atop the Premier League table. To maintain their two-point lead on two-time defending champions Manchester City, they must knock off the other half of north London, Arsenal, who also double as the PL’s second-place side 180 minutes into the campaign, at Anfield on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

When the margins between champions and runners-up are as fine as one point, every clash with a fellow top-six side could ultimately prove to be the difference maker in the title race. Yes, even in the third week of the season.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

Neither side was overwhelmingly dominant in picking up a 2-1 victory last weekend — Liverpool away to Southampton; Arsenal at home to Burnley — though the Reds were coming off a midweek trip to Istanbul for the UEFA Super Cup and the Gunners are still in the process of working club-record signing Nicolas Pepe into the team as well as bringing Mesut Ozil and Sead Kolasinac back into the fold.

Dani Ceballos, on the other hand, has hit the ground running and appears set to become a hugely influential figure for Arsenal, even if he only spends one season at the club before returning to Real Madrid. The Spanish midfielder made his first start in the win over Burnley and provided assists on both goals, scored by Alexander Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Injuries/suspensions

Liverpool: OUT – Alisson (calf), Nathaniel Clyne (knee); QUESTIONABLE – Naby Keita (hip)

Arsenal: OUT – Kieran Tierney (groin), Hector Bellerin (knee), Rob Holdin (fitness); QUESTIONABLE – Mesut Ozil (fitness), Grant Xhaka (back)


Projected lineups

Liverpool: Adrian – Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson – Henderson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum – Salah, Firmino, Mane

Arsenal: Leno – Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Luiz, Kolasinac – Torreira, Guendouzi, Ceballos – Aubameyang, Lacazette, Pepe


What they’re saying

Jurgen Klopp, on the early-season challenge of facing Arsenal: “We have to be brave, have to play your own football, you have to try to keep possession, you have to be direct. There are a lot of things to do and consider, against a very strong opponent. That’s why I’m really looking forward to it. It’s the early part of the season but these games will come up anyway. Now it’s pretty early and we have to show we are ready again.”

Unai Emery, on testing his side against Liverpool: “We really are in a very good position, but we only played two matches in the Premier League. We know it’s only the beginning but we can be positive and optimistic for that match and wishing to show our moment against them, but knowing that it is going to be difficult but it is a very big challenge and a very big opportunity for us to do something.”


Prediction

While Arsenal spent big in the summer, they didn’t actually address their team’s biggest area of need: the defense. Thus far, it hasn’t mattered, against Newcastle United and Burnley. Liverpool are, shall we say, slightly more prolific going forward and will cause the Gunners considerably greater problems — particularly Salah anytime he gets isolated one-on-one with Ainsley Maitland-Niles. A 2-0 victory for Liverpool which is far more comfortable than the final score would suggest.

Player ratings: Liverpool v Man City

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LONDON — Manchester City beat Liverpool 5-4 on penalty kicks to win the Community Shield, after an intense game between the Premier League’s top two teams from last season.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned

How did the players get on, out of 10?

Below we reveal our ratings from Wembley.


Liverpool

Alisson: 5 – Could have done better with Sterling’s goal and looked a little shaky.

Trent Alexander-Arnold: 6 – Rattled into some challenges but far from his usual marauding display.

Joe Gomez: 5 – Caught in possession a few times at center back and them moved out to right back.

Virgil Van Dijk: 7 – Stood tall and set up the equalizer. Classy player who grew into the game.

Andrew Robertson: 6 – Given a tough time by Bernardo Silva, but stood up to the challenge.

Jordan Henderson: 5 – Struggled to get going and took a knock in the second half.

Fabinho: 5 – Couldn’t stop City gliding through Liverpool’s defense.

Georginio Wijnaldum: 5 – Really struggled. Few loose touches and only player to miss a penalty.

Mohamed Salah: 7 – Could have scored three in the second half alone. Dangerous but didn’t score.

Roberto Firmino: 6 – One superb effort in the first half and decent movement, as always.

Divock Origi: 4 – His teammates couldn’t find his runs out wide. Ineffective.

Subs
Joel Matip on for Trent Alexander-Arnold (67′): 7 – Headed home the equalizer.
Naby Keita on for Fabinho (67′): 6 – Provided some surging runs. Good shot saved.
Adam Lallana on for Jordan Henderson (79′): N/A
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on for Divock Origi (79′): N/A
Xherdan Shaqiri on for Roberto Firmino (79′): N/A


Man City

Claudio Bravo: 7 – A few dodgy moments in the second half but saved the crucial spot kick. A very good back-up goalkeeper.

Kyle Walker: 6 – Dug deep defensively but rarely threatened going forward.

John Stones: 7 – Calm on the ball and did his best to hold City’s defense together.

Nicolas Otamendi: 6 – Dragged out of position quite a lot but made some great last-ditch interventions.

Oleksandr Zinchenko: 6 – Tough outing against Salah but kept plugging away. Scored his pen.

Rodri: 5 – Caught on the ball so many times. Has to get use to the pace of the game in England. Fast.

David Silva: 7 – Proper magician. Glides around the pitch with ease and set up Sterling’s goal.

Kevin De Bruyne: 8 – Constant threat, even though his final pass or shot was a little off.

Leroy Sane: 4 – Injured early on, which is a big shame. Last minutes in a Man City shirt?

Raheem Sterling: 8 – Scored one, but should have scored a few more. Superb pace, but poor finishing.

Bernando Silva: 7 – Another classy and tireless display. Criminally underrated.

Subs
Gabriel Jesus on for Leroy Sane (14′): 6 – Scored the winning penalty kick and put himself about.
Ilkay Gundogan on for David Silva (61′): 3 – One of the worst sub displays ever. Gave the ball away countless times. Scored his penalty kick though.
Phil Foden on for Kevin de Bruyne (89′): N/A