Naby Keita

Liverpool's Klopp rips AFCON move
Photo by Amin Mohammad Jamali/Getty Images

Liverpool’s Klopp rips AFCON move, says FIFA needs to step in but won’t

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Jurgen Klopp is furious about Cameroon moving the Africa Cup of Nations to January 2021, something that would hinder the Reds’ likely title defense.

(No, Klopp is not counting his title chickens before they hatch, even if it’s a foregone conclusion).

Cameroon moved the tournament from summer to winter due to its climate, which seems like a decision that could’ve been made ages ago. The nation had hosting rights stripped away for the 2019 tournament, but will host in 2021.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The Reds could be without Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and Naby Keita for the better part of a month should Senegal, Guinea, and Egypt all qualify for the tournament. Joel Matip could be there with hosts Cameroon if the federation is successful in convincing him to return to the international fold.

Klopp went on a lengthy and mostly understandable diatribe against the move. We write mostly because there’s something lost in translation regarding the import of the tournament.

He’s upset at how it will tax his squad and how he keeps the players happy if he needs to add players just to deal with one month of the schedule.

“Do we really want to open this book? I couldn’t respect Africa Cup of Nations more than I do, I like it, I’ve watched it a lot. Difficult circumstances a lot of times,” Klopp said, via The Liverpool Echo. “It is another tournament, there are too many of them. Other thing is it doesn’t help African players. We won’t sell Naby, Mo or Sadio because of it but if we bring someone in, it affects the decision. Normal process. We have to think about that. Players aren’t asked. … FIFA, who should [step in] doesn’t look like being involved. It’s a strange situation. If we want lesser games they will say take less money. I will say, I am ready to do so. Yes.”

He continued.

“For us it’s a catastrophe, If we say (a player) can’t go, he’s suspended. How can the club who pay his salary not decide. If he’s injured and we say he cannot play for us, we have to send him to Africa so they can have a look. We don’t have any say. We just plan the route. These are all things that should not be like this. I speak about it now and no one will listen. The moaner from Liverpool again. It’s a complete waste of time. As long as nothing changes, I will keep saying it. It’s about the players, not me.”

Manchester City (Riyad Mahrez), Arsenal (Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang), and Leicester City (Wilfried Ndidi) are among the many clubs who could lose stars for a month.

Klopp reacts to incredible unbeaten league year

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It was just too easy.

Liverpool swarmed over Sheffield United with class and precision, posting a 2-0 win at Anfield on Thursday.

The win came with all the trimmings. Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah scored as the Reds out-attempted the Blades 19-3.

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Liverpool had 74 percent of the ball and attempted nearly 1000 passes, completing better than 90 percent of them.

It was no contest, nearly from Moment No. 1, and made Liverpool unbeaten in league play over a calendar year. From the BBC:

“It says a lot of positive things. I have not enough words for it, it is exceptional. We did not think about the year tonight. Our New Year starts at the end of May, so we have season resolutions not New Year resolutions.”

The Reds, of course, will keep taking it one match at a time.

It will be stunning if Liverpool fails to win its first title of the Premier League era. The 13-point lead with a match-in-hand would have to combine a stunning turn of form with someone else going darn near invincible.

That term, though. Trent Alexader-Arnold has it in his head, and the Reds are clearly cognizant of what it would mean to complete the unlikely task of going unbeaten over a league campaign.

“So far we are invincible but we have only just passed the halfway mark so there’s still a long way to go,” said Alexander-Arnold. “It is harder than what people say. We got beaten once last season and that wasn’t enough. We need to keep our concentration in every game.”

The match wasn’t all good news. Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita pulled up in warm-ups and needed to be replaced by James Milner in the Starting XI.

Klopp said Keita will miss the FA Cup derby tie against Everton with a groin injury.

The boss also had big praise for Jordan Henderson.

Alexander-Arnold drives Liverpool thrashing of Leicester City

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Trent Alexander-Arnold had a goal and two assists as Liverpool wore down sloppy Leicester City 4-0 at the King Power Stadium on Thursday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Roberto Firmino scored twice to join James Milner on the score sheet as Liverpool moved 13 points clear of the second place Foxes, who’ve played one more match. The Reds are 14 ahead of Man City.


[ MORE: JPW’s Three Things ]


Notes from an onslaught

1. Alexander-Arnold at full bandwidth: Twenty-one years old and oozing with class, Liverpool’s English right back was nearly impeccable on Thursday.

The pinpoint crosses are nothing new, though they seem to grow in audacity, but the young Liverpool right back showed some show-stopping defensive chops in the first half when he raced back to cut out a Leicester City counterattack.

No one will be mistaking him for Philipp Lahm any time soon — he was dribbled by Caglar Soyuncu late, but Thursday’s showing was reason to believe he can become the total package.

2. Liverpool joins Man City in putting Foxes in proper place: Over two matches in four days, Leicester City did almost nothing to inspire belief that they are a legitimate threat to Liverpool or Man City.

There’s no shame in that; The Man City and Liverpool projects are a lot further along than Brendan Rodgers‘ efforts at the King Power Stadium, but the Foxes’ miraculous history had plenty prodding their second place status as the harbinger of something more.

Look at these numbers from Leicester’s three matches versus the Reds and Citizens this season.

City will drop into third place if Man City gets a point or more on Friday at Wolves, and it seems more likely they’ll have to worry about fending off Chelsea, Spurs for a Top Four place than dislodging either of the two teams above them.

3. Qatar awakening spurs Firmino forward: The Brazilian center forward scored in the Club World Cup semifinal and final, and made it four goals in three matches with his brace on Thursday. Firmino has not scored in the Champions League and has just one goal in his last 11 Premier League matches before leaving for Qatar. He’s back.

Man of the Match: Alexander-Arnold.


Liverpool didn’t look jet lagged in the opening minutes, flying out of the gates to trouble Kasper Schmeichel twice in the first 90 seconds.

Leicester had a rare look at a 10th minute counter attack cut out by Trent Alexander-Arnold for a corner.

Naby Keita then used a counterattack to set up Mohamed Salah, who shot clumsily into the outside netting instead of cutting back for Sadio Mane.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Ben Chilwell was exposed at the back post as Liverpool opened the scoring with a second chance ball off a corner kick. Alexander-Arnold served a ball to the back post and Firmino rose high to nod home.

The second half was essentially an exercise in wondering if Liverpool would find the second goal to erase thoughts of a dramatic equalizer. Firmino just missed turning a cross home in the 56th.

Jamie Vardy won a rare free kick in the 62nd minute, but James Maddison sent a wayward effort high and wide of the goal.

Caglar Soyuncu conceded a penalty in the 70th minute with a handball in the box, and substitute Milner did what he does from the spot.

Liverpool react to UCL advancement v. familiar Salzburg

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Liverpool knew the score and the scene when it walked into Red Bull Arena Salzburg for a UEFA Champions League decider versus Jesse Marsch’s Austrian champs, so they weren’t surprised when it remained 0-0 nearing the hour mark.

[ RECAP: Salzburg 0-2 Liverpool ]

“We knew they were trying to make history for their club,” said Andy Robertson (video at bottom). “They feel as if they’re a Champions League team and they are very confident. It was all about coming here, riding that wave, and we had the biggest chances in the first 45. We knew if we kept going chances would come.”

A pair of former Red Bull Salzburg players changed the fortunes of their current and former club, as Sadio Mane and Naby Keita scored within two minutes to provide the lone goals of the game and a spot for the Reds in the UCL knockout rounds.

Jurgen Klopp was brimming with praise for both his side and the hosts, saying of Keita and Mane, via ProSoccerUSA.com’s Manuel Veth:

“Both were excellent. It appears [Salzburg] produce some very good players. Keïta, in particular, was very good. I moved him to the ten and that improved his performance. He was a bit tired towards the end but very good.”

Mane admitted it was both a joy to return and a bit bittersweet to be tasked with ousting the club which catapulted him to the attention of PL suitors Southampton.

“Always nice to come back here because it’s where everything started for me and really grateful to this club and the fans,” Mane said. “Sorry guys, but it’s football we have to do it, and that’s it.”

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.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

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.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

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.