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Sarri believes Chelsea still far from competing with Liverpool

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Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri checked the Blues fixture list, saw Liverpool twice in one week, and groaned. Probably.

After Chelsea drew 0-0 with London rivals West Ham on Sunday, Sarri looked ahead and told reporters that Liverpool has the continuity he craves.

“They are a step forward of us at this moment,” said Sarri when asked about Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool. “We have to play against a very, very good team who have worked with the same coach for three years. We have started to work together 40 days ago, less 10 days for the international break, so for us it is a bit early. We have to work and then, maybe, in one year we will be at the same level as Liverpool.”

Klopp was hired as Liverpool manager on October 8, 2015 and has slowly built the Reds squad into not just a Premier League title contender, but a formidable Champions League power as well, reaching the tournament final last campaign. Sarri believes the Liverpool attack is one of the most dangerous they’ll face, and while it might be entertaining for fans, it will stress him out.

“It will be a really difficult match,” Sarri said. “Maybe spectacular but for us, difficult. I don’t think there is an easy game against Salah, Firmino and Mane.”

Chelsea first faces Liverpool in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday at Anfield, and Sarri says he could make “five or eleven changes” with one less day to rest. Then, the clubs meet in the Premier League on Saturday at Stamford Bridge at 12:30 p.m. ET.

PL Preview: Liverpool vs. Southampton

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  • Southampton has not scored a PL goal vs. Liverpool since 2016, a run of 4 games
  • Liverpool has never won its first 7 matches in a season in club history
  • Southampton has not won vs. any of last season’s PL top 6 teams in 24 games

Liverpool finally showed a weakness. Liverpool was finally human.

Until they weren’t.

When the Reds toppled Paris Saint-Germain in the 91st minute on Tuesday, it struck fear into the hearts of the rest of Europe. Can anyone actually stop this whirring machine? Sure, you might score some goals against Liverpool, but can you score enough?

[ WATCH LIVE: Liverpool vs. Southampton on NBCSports.com ]

Southampton visits Anfield hoping to avoid becoming Liverpool’s next victim Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m. ET live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com. The Saints have been a mixed bag so far this season, but coughing up a 2-0 lead at home to Brighton last weekend was a less than ideal way to send the team off to Anfield. Not only that, but they’ll have to match the Reds without top scorer Danny Ings, who is ineligible to play against his parent club.

That thrusts strike partner Shane Long into a solo role, or forces Mark Hughes to bring on the misfiring Manolo Gabbiadini to pair with Long, although the Italian is struggling with a hamstring injury himself and will require a late fitness test to make the squad. Either way, it appears a daunting task for the visitors to Merseyside.

For the Reds, Roberto Firmino is fully healthy, having recovered completely from his eye injury suffered last weekend against Tottenham. Adam LallanaDivock Origi, and Dominic Solanke are all out injured but otherwise the squad is nearly complete. Only Dejan Lovren remains on the sidelines, but even the Croatian is nearing a return from his pelvic injury.

What they’re saying

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp on playing at home: “Are we ready to create the best atmosphere of all games? That would be cool. We need to show Southampton how difficult it is to come to Anfield.”

Southampton manager Mark Hughes on playing Liverpool: “It’s a game that is going to test us because the team we are facing looks on top of their form in terms of individuals and the collective functioning really well.”

Prediction

Southampton has looked promising this season in spurts, but this isn’t the game where they put it all together. Liverpool is a nearly unstoppable force at home, and there’s no reason that should change. The only concerning bit of information for Liverpool heading into this match is last season’s record following Champions League games, when they won just once while losing once and drawing four, but this year has proven Liverpool has a new gear. The Reds will win 3-1, with things shaky for some time down the stretch until a late insurance goal puts the game away.

Klopp: Liverpool “changed the system” to beat PSG

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Bullet dodged via Roberto Firmino, Liverpool can reflect on a thrilling start to a new UEFA Champions League season.

The Reds built a two-goal lead against Paris Saint-Germain and very much looked the part of the favorite even after allowing Thomas Meunier to pull the visitors back to 2-1 before the break on Tuesday at Anfield.

[ RECAP: Liverpool 3-2 PSG ]

But a Mohamed Salah giveaway led to a Kylian Mbappe goal, and the Reds were in danger of giving two points away to start life in a group which also includes Napoli and Red Star Belgrade (who played to a 0-0 draw in Serbia).

Enter the man they call Bobby, who came off the bench days after a scary eye injury that earned reports of possible long-term damage.

A goal, and an eye-patch celebration that will live in the Anfield memory for some time.

That the match needed late heroics was a sign of some worry for Liverpool, who have taken their foot off the gas more than a few times in recent seasons. For example: the blowing a pair of leads in draws against Sevilla in last season’s group stage.

That’s not a trend, but a complete win over Paris Saint-Germain would go a long way to cementing the Reds’ status as a UCL finalist threat. And that would need

“It was really important we started like we did,” said Jurgen Klopp. “We were so strong and good with the ball. We changed the system because we expected a change from them. We needed all of our focus and we covered a lot of yards and closed all of the gaps.”

Liverpool came out of the gates with vigor, and showing an urgency which laid plain their angst from last season’s final loss to Real Madrid.

“This club and the fans have been waiting for the Champions League to come back since May,” said Andy Robertson.

The Reds scored early from Daniel Sturridge, then took advantage of a lazy Juan Bernat challenge to get a penalty conversion from Mr. Reliable, James Milner.

Faced with another disappointing stalemate, Firmino stepped up. And it’s possible that winning in the manner they did may mean more to their hopes than cruising to 2-0 or 2-1.

“It is the perfect start for us,” Milner said. “Hopefully we can build on that. I think it would have been very disappointing not to win. They didn’t create too many and we had a number of chances.

“I can’t say enough good things about Bobby (Roberto Firmino). To come off the bench after his injury at the weekend is incredible really.”

Next up: a visit to Southampton, followed by a League Cup date at Chelsea, a Blues visit to Anfield, and then a trip to Napoli.

Klopp backs ‘fantastic, outstanding’ Neymar ahead of Champions League match

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Jurgen Klopp isn’t having any of the criticism of Brazilian superstar Neymar.

Ahead of Liverpool’s Champions League match against Paris Saint-Germain at Anfield, Klopp sang Neymar’s praises and said the team will do its best to cope with “Neymar, the full football package.”

“I don’t think he’s a person who wants to act or something like that, because if you are like that you can’t play the football he plays,” Klopp said in his pre-match press conference on Monday. “So I don’t think about these kind of things, to be honest. He got rested over the weekend so he will be 100% fresh for us, he’s not injured anymore, so we will see the full package, Neymar the football package, so we have to cope with that, and that’s what we’ll try.”

Neymar was criticized throughout the World Cup for his acting, diving and rolling to earn fouls. The Brazilian was the most-fouled player at the tournament at the time of Brazil’s elimination in the Round of 16, and their early departure added more fuel to the fire. Klopp says that while teams in Russia this summer looked to hack Neymar as a purposeful tactic, his side will avoid that strategy during Tuesday’s match.

“We play football. We want to win the ball and we don’t try to act in these kind of things. We try to avoid passes to him, we try to avoid him winning challenges and all that stuff which is a big job to do, to be honest. I’m not sure if it’s even possible to avoid his quality 100%…I’m pretty sure it’s not, so that’s all. He’s a fantastic footballer, an outstanding player.”

Klopp even backed Neymar’s behavior on the pitch, saying, “When I saw a few games at the World Cup…I know what a few people were talking about when it looked like he made a bit more of the situation than it was. That’s, for me, a completely normal reaction because players are really going for him, that’s the truth, and he wants to protect himself and I understand that as well.”

The Liverpool boss said that Neymar was also injured during the World Cup, and claimed that Brazil would have beaten Belgium in the Round of 16 had its superstar been fully fit.

Neymar is just the start of the PSG attacking presence Liverpool will be forced to deal with. Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani also pose serious threats, with the trio combining for 11 goals so far this season. Angel Di Maria also looks on his game, with four goals himself this campaign. PSG was without Neymar and Mbappe this weekend, with the Brazilian rested and his French teammate suspended, and the defending champions still defeated St. Etienne 4-0 with Cavani and Di Maria on the scoresheet plus a goal from Julian Draxler and late substitute Moussa Diaby.

Jurgen Klopp hails Liverpool’s progress

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LONDON — Jurgen Klopp was trying to not get ahead of himself, but he couldn’t quite make it to the end of his post-match press conference without positivity flowing through his words.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Liverpool beat Tottenham 2-1 at Wembley on Saturday to extend their 100 percent record to start the season as they sit top of the Premier League table with five wins from five.

It is only the third time in their history that they’ve opened up a top-flight season with five wins on the spin and although it’s early days, plenty of fans and pundits believe they’re the main contenders to Manchester City for the title.

Klopp knows it is early days, but he is delighted with the progress his team has made as he hailed their best performance of the season so far.

“The performance today was better than the result. Result is perfect and winning here is so difficult, unbelievably difficult,” Klopp said. “It was a really outstanding performance that the boys delivered today. We could have scored more. We controlled the game in a way and let me say it was the best game of the season for us, for sure. We had 85 brilliant minutes.”

Klopp acknowledged that Spurs had a chance to grab a point at the end as Erik Lamela scored in injury time and then Heung-Min Son went down in the box for what looked like a penalty kick, at least from Mauricio Pochettino‘s point of view, but Liverpool were the dominant side throughout and were wasteful on the break.

The German coach said his team would have lost if they’d been ‘5 percent less’ with their performance, but they weren’t and they won again as talk about them winning the title continues.

Klopp knows issues will arise throughout the long and winding campaign, but that air of positivity reared its head once again.

Liverpool has a wonderful vibe surrounding them right now, but they do have a gruesome schedule coming up.

Two games against Chelsea (PL and League Cup), plus a crunch league game with Manchester City and UEFA Champions League clashes with PSG and Napoli await.

“I don’t have the personality to wait for problems, but I’m old enough to know they will come,” Klopp said. “It’s not often in my life I’ve had surprised. We all have the same situation in a football team. I am long enough now in this business to know nobody will play the perfect season. Not even City last season played the perfect season. That’s no problem. I only say it is still early, five games, fantastic we won all the game. Fantastic the improvement we had. The best game so far was the first matchday, but it depends a bit of the opponent maybe. This today was by far the best performance of the season. I like that development. Now we have to prove that and do it again and again and again. We will see if we can do so.”