Virgil van Dijk paid tribute to Liverpool team-mate Roberto Firmino for his impressive display off the bench in Saturday's 3-1 win over Newcastle United – and is grateful he does not have to play against the Brazilian.

Firmino played two matches for his country in the United States during the international break and, with Liverpool beginning their Champions League defence away to Napoli next week, Jurgen Klopp opted to rest the forward.

But an injury to Divock Origi in the first half saw Firmino introduced earlier than planned and he had a swift impact, playing the pass that led to Sadio Mane's second goal.

He then claimed a delightful assist with an outrageous flick for Mohamed Salah's clincher 18 minutes from time and Van Dijk was impressed.

"He is a very important player for all of us," Van Dijk told BT Sport. "I know how difficult it is for a defender when the striker drops his position.

"He is making life difficult for any defender in the world, I think. He is so good and I am very happy he is on my team."

Andrew Robertson was similarly complimentary of Firmino, particularly with the assist for Salah that made sure of all three points.

"It was a special goal," he added to BBC Sport. "Bobby's [Firmino] vision is frightening and Mo's [Salah] finished it off. Winning 3-1 after a tough international break is always a good result."

If it's true that familiarity breeds contempt it is perhaps understandable why Sadio Mane uncharacteristically lost his cool with Mohamed Salah a fortnight ago at Burnley.

Mane and Salah have formed two thirds of a devastating triumvirate alongside Roberto Firmino at Anfield since the latter's arrival on Merseyside in June 2017 and the trio seem to have an almost telepathic understanding on the pitch.

Which is why there were a few raised eyebrows at Mane's very public tantrum during the most routine of 3-0 wins at Turf Moor before the international break, with the rapid forward seemingly irate at Salah's decision to shoot rather than tee him up for a second goal.

Manager Jurgen Klopp and captain Jordan Henderson were quick to shrug off the spat and Salah's posting of a social-media video making light of their argument on Friday also suggested the incident was nothing more than a tiff between friends.

Still, the sight of Mane celebrating alongside his team-mate after a match-altering double in a come-from-behind 3-1 win over Newcastle United will certainly have eased any nagging doubts among Klopp and the Reds faithful.

With the matter now seemingly put to bed, Mane and the Reds - who are the first team in top-flight history to win 14 straight games scoring more than once in each victory - can reflect on some impressive home comforts as Newcastle suffered more Merseyside misery at Anfield.


MANE 50 UNBEATEN IN A REDS SHIRT AT ANFIELD

Mane is in his fourth season with Liverpool and incredibly he is still yet to lose a Premier League fixture at Anfield. Saturday's fixture was his 50th at the ground in a Reds shirt and if you add in his one appearance at the stadium with Southampton he is unbeaten in 51 top-flight matches overall.

HOME GOALS MEAN HOME WINS FOR MANE

Perhaps just as impressive is the Senegal star's record when scoring a home Premier League goal. Mane has scored in 35 home league fixtures in England and has now won 33 and drawn two of those games in which he has netted.

MORE MAGPIES WOE AT ANFIELD

Newcastle fans of a certain generation will not have even been born the last time their side last won a Premier League fixture at Anfield. The date was April 16 1994 and Andy Cole and Rob Lee were on target in a 2-0 victory. Since then it has been an unhappy hunting ground for Newcastle, who have now failed to win in 24 league visits to Anfield (L20, D4). Prior to this fixture, manager Steve Bruce had lost just four of 17 Premier League fixtures against Liverpool but he could do nothing to stop the rot.

IT'S RAINING GOALS

Mane and Liverpool's second of the game was particularly significant insofar as it was a landmark 100th scored in matches with Newcastle in the Premier League. It marks just the third time a team has registered a century of strikes against a single opponent in the competition. Both Arsenal (107) and Manchester United (100) achieved the feat versus Everton, meaning Liverpool are the first team to reach the milestone against an opponent who have not been an ever present in the Premier League.

Sadio Mane continued his electrifying Liverpool form by scoring twice as the Reds came from behind to beat Newcastle United 3-1 and maintain their 100 per cent start to the season.

The Senegalese was seen venting his frustration at Mohamed Salah – who got the Reds' third – despite scoring against Burnley before the international break, though he seemed rather more relaxed as he took his domestic tally to four for the season.

Jetro Willems opened the scoring early on with a stunning first Premier League goal, but Mane levelled 21 minutes later with a similarly impressive finish and then punished a Martin Dubravka howler to ensure Liverpool led at half-time.

Salah eventually finished Newcastle off 18 minutes from time, justifiably going it alone after criticism for apparent greediness at Burnley, as the Reds became the first Premier League team to win 14 games in a row while scoring more than one goal in each match.

Visitors Newcastle took a shock lead after seven minutes, as Willems' fierce strike darted into the top-right corner from the left side of the box.

Jamaal Lascelles was fortunate to avoid conceding a penalty in the 26th minute when he appeared to pull Joel Matip back in the air.

But Liverpool got a deserved equaliser two minutes later – Mane picking out the top-right corner after Andy Robertson's cut-back.

A throughball from Roberto Firmino – introduced for the injured Divock Origi – then forced Dubravka into action and the goalkeeper made a mess of it, allowing Mane an easy finish just before the break.

Emil Krafth almost restored parity early in the second half, blasting over at the back post after Liverpool failed to pick him up from Joelinton's cross.

At the other end, Dubravka produced a string of saves to keep the Magpies in the contest, denying Trent Alexander-Arnold and Firmino twice, all from close range.

There was no denying Salah, however, as the Egyptian burst past Fabian Schar and swept home.

Liverpool were denied further goals in the latter stages, as Dubravka thwarted Alexander-Arnold from point-blank range and Mane had what would have been a hat-trick clincher disallowed for offside against Firmino.
 

What does it mean? Reds still perfect despite warning signs

Whatever happens the rest of the weekend, Liverpool will remain top of the Premier League as the only side with a 100 per cent record.

However, Saturday's win was by no means flawless and again the full-back areas looked somewhat exploitable, with Alexander-Arnold failing to stop Willems for the opener and Robertson caught out in the second half when Krafth blazed over.


Sadio on the Mane

The form of Mane in recent months has been key for Liverpool and Saturday's game displayed much of what he is good at, as his first goal combined fine movement and technique, while the second came about through his leading of the line and positional awareness, even if Dubravka gave him some help.


Almiron fails to inspire

While Miguel Almiron would probably admit a 5-4-1 formation is not likely to get the best out of him, even with that in mind he disappointed, failing to hold on to the ball for long enough to offer any creative spark.


What's next?

After Liverpool go to Napoli in the Champions League, they face a Premier League trip to Chelsea next Sunday. Newcastle host Brighton and Hove Albion the day before.

Liverpool chalked up a Premier League landmark against Newcastle United with their second goal in Saturday's encounter at Anfield.

Sadio Mane tapped in his second of the match to make it 2-1 after a Martin Dubravka error shortly before the break on Merseyside.

It marked the 100th goal Liverpool have scored against Newcastle in the Premier League, becoming just the third team to rack up a century of strikes against a single opponent in the competition.

Arsenal (107) and Manchester United (100) both achieved the feat against Everton, meaning Liverpool are the first side to reach the milestone number against a team that has not been ever present in the Premier League.

Newcastle have not won a top-flight fixture against Liverpool at Anfield since April 16, 1994 and were needing a turnaround to alter that fact.

Roberto Firmino will start Liverpool's visit of Newcastle United on the bench after playing twice on international duty, giving Divock Origi the chance to impress.

Firmino started both of Brazil's international friendlies, against Colombia and Peru, in the past week, playing a total of 146 minutes across the two outings in Miami and Los Angeles.

Given Brazil's 1-0 defeat to Peru took place only a little over three days ago, Jurgen Klopp has opted to keep him in reserve.

The only other change to the side that beat Burnley 3-0 before the international break sees Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain come in for Jordan Henderson in midfield.

Klopp's decision to rest Firmino is made even less surprising by the fact the Reds begin their Champions League defence away to Napoli on Tuesday.

"Of course, we have to think about these things," Klopp told BT Sport. "Hendo [Henderson] is ready, Bobby [Firmino] is probably ready, but it's not about being ready – it's a bigger picture and we have to think about that.

"We could have made more changes, but we need the rhythm as well and it makes not too much sense. A lot of games are coming up.

"We really want to have the best starting line-up we can have for the specific opponent and that's what we thought is the right one."

Former Red Jonjo Shelvey starts in midfield for Newcastle, who will be hoping to stop Liverpool's 100 per cent start to the season.

David de Gea has finally committed his long-term future to Manchester United.

The goalkeeper was out of contract at the end of the season, with plenty of speculation regarding his future at Old Trafford.

But the Spain shot-stopper has now agreed to a new deal.

 

TOP STORY – DE GEA FINALLY SIGNS MAN UNITED DEAL

De Gea has signed a long-term contract with Manchester United, according to the Daily Record.

The 28-year-old's five-year deal is worth more than €15million per season, the report says.

De Gea has been linked with a move away amid the ongoing contract saga, with Juventus among those reported to be interested.

ROUND-UP

- Christian Eriksen's Tottenham future remains up in the air, but the Premier League giants seem eager to keep the midfielder amid apparent interest from Real Madrid and Juventus. Football Insider reports Spurs have offered the Denmark international a new deal worth £60m in total.

- Mario Mandzukic appears to be nearing a Juventus exit. The Croatia striker has rejected Qatari club Al-Gharafa, according to CalcioMercato, but is evaluating offers from elsewhere, including MLS, with the 33-year-old seemingly not in Maurizio Sarri's plans in Turin.

- Napoli are to chase Atalanta playmaker Josip Ilicic again in January, according to CalcioMercato. The 31-year-old was considered by Napoli during the close season and they are set to intensify their interest again at the start of 2020.

- Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha missed out on a move before the transfer window closed, and he is reportedly on the look-out for a new agent. The Daily Mail reports Mino Raiola is one of several agents circling the attacker, who is unhappy about not getting his move from Selhurst Park.

- Keita Balde enjoyed his season on loan at Inter in 2018-19, but the Serie A side opted not to use their buy option on the Monaco attacker. CalcioMercato reports the Senegal international wanted to stay in Italy and AC Milan are now considering the 24-year-old.

Mauricio Pochettino warned the Tottenham players who wanted off-season moves to refocus or face being dropped.

Spurs endured a close season of uncertainty amid talk over several of their players, with Christian Eriksen, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen among those spoken about as each entered the final year of their contract.

After all that talk, the Champions League runners-up made a slow start to the season, collecting just five points from their opening four Premier League matches.

Now, Pochettino – whose side host Crystal Palace on Saturday – wants to see his players concentrate, or be prepared to watch from the sidelines.

"I think we are all agreed that Tottenham always have more rumours than other clubs," he told UK media.

"In one month, I think it will start again with the rumours, for sure, because the situation of the squad is going to help those rumours appear. I think we talk a lot.

"Now it is a time to be positive. Victor Wanyama is in my plans. Christian is in my plans. Now they are going to have the same possibility as another player to play.

"Before, I understood that they were in a difficult situation and of course always we try to help them, to help the club, to do their business. But I said to you, it's not easy.

"When it's one player [who wants to leave], OK, but when it's a few players, who start to make it difficult to create a good dynamic, a positive dynamic... but now it's time to be positive.

"Now we need to start to win games. That is our objective. Be refocused, and who is not refocused is going to be out."

Tottenham are reportedly still keen to re-sign Eriksen, who extended his previous deal in 2016.

But Pochettino expects the Denmark midfielder to remain committed to Spurs regardless of whether he extends his contract.

"When you sign the contract, like Christian who signed for five or six years, you need to be committed from day one to the last day," he said.

"He isn't not going to show the commitment because there's only one year left. The difference is whether he wants to extend the contract or not. Different players have different goals."

Frank Lampard accepted Chelsea are facing a challenge to finish in the Premier League's top six amid a changing landscape.

Chelsea have claimed just five points from their opening four league games, sitting 11th in the table ahead of a trip to Wolves on Saturday.

Wolves, Leicester City and Everton are among the clubs considered challengers to the usual 'Big Six' this season and Lampard expects his side to be pushed.

"Yeah, they should [sense an opportunity]. They should do because from almost being able to write the top four down at the start of the season, certainly now you can't," the Chelsea head coach told UK newspapers.

"A top six you can't write down because, with the playing field of what we have got now, where teams are investing heavily, you have to respect them. They are well managed, they have good players, they are competitive. There are no easy games in the Premier League, more than ever.

"We've seen it changing before our eyes because I remember last year people talking about Everton and Leicester. And Wolves probably came on their own, competing towards the top six and I think that is the landscape."

It shapes as being particularly challenging for Chelsea, who were banned from making transfers and saw Eden Hazard leave for Real Madrid.

Lampard said it was important that the Premier League club's circumstances were taken into consideration.

"We always want to be competitive but we're all very honest about the situation here," he said.

"Eden moved on, and two number nines [Gonzalo Higuain and Alvaro Morata] moved on who were the number nines generally last season.Younger players are coming in."

Mohamed Salah posted an incredible video to dismiss suggestions he had fallen out with Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mane.

Mane reacted angrily after being substituted during Liverpool's 3-0 win over Burnley on August 31, supposedly because Salah had failed to pass to him for a scoring opportunity.

However, the Egypt international moved to play down any supposed animosity between the star forwards.

After a video of two toddlers running to one another and hugging went viral, Salah tweeted it with his and Mane's heads superimposed on the children and manager Jurgen Klopp also walking down the street smiling.

With Liverpool returning to action against Newcastle United on Saturday, Salah's video seemed perfectly timed for the Premier League leaders.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisted Manchester United were still heading in the right direction, but the manager is eager for improved results.

The Premier League giants have won just three of their past 16 competitive games ahead of hosting Leicester City on Saturday.

Despite that run, Solskjaer – who took over in December last year – sees no need to change his approach at United.

"There's always pressure when you're here, but of course I'm confident in what we're doing," he told UK newspapers.

"We've got a plan and the performances haven't told me that we need to change direction. Results, that's a different matter, but when you concede three goals from four chances, there's not a lot you can control.

"There are games we should have won. We know that, but that's another matter. We can control how we play, how we practice and how we prepare."

United are eighth in the Premier League table, already seven points adrift of leaders Liverpool and five behind Manchester City.

While third-placed Leicester could be among the clubs challenging Manchester United for a top-four finish this season, Solskjaer preferred to focus on his own side.

"I don't want to talk too much about Leicester. I see them as a good team. I see Man United as the biggest and best club in the world, that's the thing," he said.

"I'm sure they want to get into the top four as we do."

Manchester City will do all they can to help Raheem Sterling get to the same level as "absolute legends" Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, says Pep Guardiola.

The England international has been in outstanding form in the early stages of the 2019-20 season, following on from two highly productive campaigns that saw him score 35 league goals as City won back-to-back Premier League titles.

Sterling also found the net in Euro 2020 qualifying wins over Bulgaria and Kosovo while away on international duty, though Guardiola played down comparisons to superstars Messi and Ronaldo ahead of his side's clash with Norwich City.

Still, the Spaniard sees no reason why the former Liverpool forward, 24, should not have ambitions to match the lofty standards set by the duo.

"Right now he is not in that level, I wish maybe in the future," Guardiola told the media.

"It would be a dream for him, for all of us and for him, but right now these two guys the last decade have scored 50, 60 goals every season and I don't know how many assists.

"They have won the Ballon d'Or and all the individual prizes every single season, except maybe last season.

"So the consistency of these two guys – they are legends, they are something unique in world football. And if Raheem can target that level, wow.

"We will be here to help him and of course he can do it, I will not be the guy to say don't think about that. No, absolutely not, I want it.

"But right now, nobody, not in this club but in all the clubs in the world, nobody can compare to what they have done every single week for 10 years. They [Messi and Ronaldo] are absolute legends and nobody can compare, nobody."

England manager Gareth Southgate said after the win over Bulgaria that the biggest change in Sterling's attitude had been his desire to score goals.

"I think with Brendan Rodgers in Liverpool, he played incredibly well, and with the national team he's played incredibly well," Guardiola said.

"So, I think his style, his desire, I think, the most I saw from the beginning is the fact he has an incredible mentality, he's a winning player.

"Before he made good actions but didn't finish too much. And now he's a player who can win games for himself."

Players subjected to racist abuse are powerless and football must do more to protect them, according to former England striker Emile Heskey.

The start of the 2019-20 season has been marred by incidents involving black players, with Romelu Lukaku targeted during a Serie A game and Tammy Abraham, Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford all subjected to abuse on social media after missing penalties.

Lukaku called on football authorities and players to "unify" in the fight against racism after monkey chants could be heard during Inter's win away at Cagliari prior to the international break.

Heskey, who played for Premier League clubs including Leicester City and Liverpool, suggested it will be tough to stop people abusing players online - and insisted points deductions are not the solution.

"They're all conducting themselves well [racially abused players]. But there is nothing they can do," Heskey told Omnisport. 

"They're calling for people to help, as in authorities, to do something to stop it.

"Because it's not fair, it's not right. You've got lads who are having their family members in the stadium, and they're being abused. It's not right.

"For what? For what reason? Because you're black or because you're different to someone else?

"No. So there's something that's got to happen but we haven't really sussed out what we need to do.

"They would have to implement a lot of things. You have to know who actually owns this account or that account, so you'd need I.D.

"Honestly, I'm not too sure where they're going to go with it but they need to do something because it's just too easy to go and attack someone now. You can't start deducting points."

Aymeric Laporte's long-term knee injury has hurt Manchester City, Pep Guardiola has conceded, but he does not expect the club to sign a replacement in January.

Guardiola confirmed on Friday that Laporte would be out for up to six months after he damaged cartilage and the lateral meniscus in his right knee during City's 4-0 win against Brighton and Hove Albion on August 31.

The centre-back, who received a long-awaited France call-up prior to his injury, has undergone surgery but like team-mate Leroy Sane is now set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

John Stones – who has not featured since the opening fixture – and Nicolas Otamendi are now City's only fit senior centre-backs, with midfielder Fernandinho seemingly set to provide a third option.

But despite City's lack of depth at the heart of their defence, Guardiola does not foresee the club pursuing a January signing.

"It is hard, the same as Leroy. We are disappointed for him, for both of them," Guardiola told a news conference ahead of Saturday's game against Norwich City.

"Leroy is important. Aymeric in that position is important too, for his left foot and his personality. Unfortunately he is injured. So we're going to live without him for a long time and we have enough resources to move forward and see what we can do.

"My advice to you is not to write too many names about the winter transfer window, because you are going to make a mistake. I don't think it's going to happen.

"I heard already we are interested in this player or the other player. I would like to say to all the clubs in the world don't be nervous, because we are not interested in any players or central defenders in Europe.

"We are going to wait with the players we have, with the two central defenders, with Fernandinho, with Eric Garcia and Taylor Harwood-Bellis, even some players in different positions we can use there. We're going to move forward."

Stones was not in England's latest squad as he continued his comeback from a thigh strain, while the 25-year-old was sidelined as Vincent Kompany was preferred as Laporte's partner in last term's run-in.

Guardiola, though, has no doubt in Stones' ability to fill the void left by Laporte.

"He's going to play incredible this period, while Laporte is not with us. He is going to play well. I don't have any doubts about his quality," Guardiola added of Stones.

"The same case with Otamendi. I don't know how many games they play together but I think a lot. Before Aymeric came they were a partnership and they played many games."

Daniel Farke revealed the sobering state of his injury list could leave Norwich without up to 11 players for Saturday's visit of champions Manchester City, but he remained surprisingly chirpy given the situation.

Farke's pre-match news conference on Friday was verging on farcical, as the German steadily went through a list of players who are either injured or a doubt for the match against City.

The Canaries' defence has been utterly decimated by the crisis, as they will definitely be without Max Aarons, Timm Klose and Christoph Zimmermann, while Grant Hanley is only fit enough for a place on the bench, Ben Godfrey is a major doubt after sustaining a groin strain on England Under-21 duty and Tim Krul is struggling.

That leaves them with only Jamal Lewis, Sam Byram and Philip Heise as recognised first-team defenders.

They also have problems in midfield, with Tom Trybull, Mario Vrancic, Moritz Leitner and Onel Hernandez ruled out, and Patrick Roberts is ineligible against his parent club.

Despite the issues, Farke has no plans to go all-out defensive in an attempt to salvage a point.

"Manchester City are exceptional, they are so special," Farke told reporters. "If you just try to park the bus then you have no chance.

"It is important that you have periods where you control the ball and are in possession. We will have to be top class in our defending and be disciplined.

"It will be also important that we bring our style and try to dominate possession and be good with the ball.

"Even if I wanted to, I can't park the bus because I have no defensive players anymore. We will have to concentrate on our skills.

"There were more lads today [Friday] on the physio bench than on the training pitch. It is a tricky situation for us.

"We are playing one of the best teams in the world, if not the best, and as a newly promoted side you always have to be at your best."

Farke, though, was still able to remain light-hearted about Norwich's situation.

"Our injury situation is not easy at the moment, but we will try to handle it anyhow. I will return to my darkened cave after this [news conference] and cry," he quipped.

Alexandre Lacazette has been ruled out until October due to an ankle injury, Arsenal have announced.

Lacazette has hit two Premier League goals this term but will sit out Sunday's trip to Watford.

He will also be sidelined when Arsenal get their Europa League campaign up and running away to Eintracht Frankfurt next week.

Arsenal indicated Lacazette has been playing through pain in his left ankle but is "likely" to return next month.

"After assessments to an ongoing ankle issue, we have advised that Alex will need to rest and strengthen his ankle to regain full fitness," said a club medical statement.

"Alex has been playing through this injury for several weeks."

Matches set to be missed by Lacazette include a trip to Manchester United in the Premier League on September 30.

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