EPL

Firmino denies 'personal battle' with Jota for Liverpool striker spot

By Sports Desk November 22, 2020

Roberto Firmino has denied he is locked in a "personal battle" with Diogo Jota for the number-nine spot at Liverpool.

Jota's form since his move from Wolves for a reported initial fee of £41million has been a huge positive for Jurgen Klopp.

The 23-year-old has scored three goals in six appearances in the Premier League and a further four in three Champions League games, including a hat-trick in the 5-0 win at Atalanta.

Although he has made two fewer appearances in the league than Firmino this season, Jota has attempted as many shots (13) as the Brazil international, who has scored just once.

That gives Jota a shot conversation rate of 27.3 per cent, far higher than Firmino's 14.3, while he also boasts a better conversion percentage when it comes to big chances (67 per cent compared to 50 per cent).

Such an impact has placed Firmino's position in the first XI under threat, but he insists he is not simply competing with the new signing for minutes on the pitch.

"Liverpool have a great squad of players, so earning a starting position here is not easy at all, and I am used to that," Firmino said ahead of Sunday's game with Leicester City, according to the Mirror.

"Diogo is an excellent footballer and another companion in the squad. We all work hard during the week and then the coach decides who comes out. So, I don't have any personal battle with him."

Firmino has become a mainstay in Klopp's plans thanks in part to his more selfless work alongside Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.

Indeed, the former Hoffenheim forward has created nine chances in the league this season - seven more than Jota - and has two assists, the most of any of the Reds' attackers in 2020-21.

Firmino thinks Liverpool's overall attacking strength gives them a forward line to match that of any team in the world.

"Liverpool's attack line is spectacular, and I would say comparable to any in the world, in any of the major leagues," he said. "Now this year I see it as being even better. And it's not emotion that makes me say this, but simply a result of looking at the statistics.

"As for me, I work hard in training – and then on the field, I do what Jurgen Klopp tells me. That is my working philosophy, always."

Related items

  • Pogba could make Champions League return as Solskjaer denies Henderson wants loan move Pogba could make Champions League return as Solskjaer denies Henderson wants loan move

    Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has denied Dean Henderson wants a move in January and revealed Paul Pogba could return against Istanbul Basaksehir on Tuesday.

    It was reported by The Sun at the weekend that goalkeeper Henderson is eager to make another loan switch to give himself every chance of being selected in the England squad for Euro 2020 next year.

    Henderson was outstanding for Sheffield United in the Premier League last season but signed a new long-term deal with United after returning to Old Trafford.

    The 23-year-old has been limited to two EFL Cup appearances and one Champions League outing in Istanbul in the 2019-20 campaign, with David de Gea Solskjaer's first-choice keeper.

    Henderson is thought to be set to start when Group H leaders United go in search of revenge against the Turkish champions and Solskjaer says further opportunities will come his way.

    He said in a press conference on Monday: "Dean wants to stay at Man United and play for Man United.

    "I can't see the logic in [Henderson making] only one more appearance before Christmas. Do you know how many games we have?

    "He is training well, he has potential to be one of the best. I don't buy the argument it is make or break for him [on Tuesday]."

    There was further speculation over Pogba's future after the midfielder was not included in the squad for a 1-0 win over West Brom on Saturday, an absence Solskjaer revealed was due to a knock.

    The France international may be back at Old Trafford for a crunch encounter with a side that beat them 2-1 earlier this month.

    Jesse Lingard is unavailable as he has gone into self-isolation after coming into contact with an individual who tested positive for coronavirus.

    Asked about Pogba's fitness, Solskjaer said: "We hope he is going to be available. We will see when we report tomorrow. [Luke] Shaw, [Phil] Jones out. Lingard is self-isolating after contact with a positive case."

  • Pirlo to unleash Ronaldo-Dybala-Morata trident as Juventus battle defensive crisis Pirlo to unleash Ronaldo-Dybala-Morata trident as Juventus battle defensive crisis

    Andrea Pirlo is keen to experiment with a three-pronged forward line for Juventus featuring Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Alvaro Morata despite an injury crisis in defence.

    The trio have not yet started together in any competition this season due to injury and illness.

    Ronaldo, Juve's top scorer this season with eight goals in six appearances, missed four matches across Serie A and the Champions League after testing positive for coronavirus in October.

    Dybala has battled injury and ill health and has only recovered full fitness in the past week, and Morata, who has six goals in nine games, needed time to settle after signing on loan from Atletico Madrid in September.

    Pirlo thinks all three are ready to start against Ferencvaros on Tuesday, as Juve aim to secure their place in the last 16, although he is wary of leaving the team too unbalanced.

    "We've been thinking about it from the start. Unfortunately, we never had them together in good condition," he told reporters on Monday.

    "Dybala was injured, Morata wasn't there right at the start, Ronaldo had COVID... they trained together for a few days. Now, we'll try to balance the team, and then we'll look for a solution to let them play together, if possible."

    He said of Dybala, who missed Argentina's World Cup qualifiers this month with illness: "He's better, he's ready. He trained continuously during the international break, apart from the first few days when he was on antibiotics.

    "He moved better, he got strength back in his legs and we'll see if we can play him from the start."

    Juve's attacking riches are in stark contrast to a depleted defence, made worse by the news Merih Demiral will be out for around 10 days with a muscle issue.

    With Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini also sidelined, Pirlo will be forced into something of a makeshift defence against Ferencvaros.

    "There are four left at the back and they'll play. Danilo will be at centre-back and Alex Sandro will return at full-back," he said.

    "We'll see about the rest. [Dejan] Kulusevski has played a lot of games and [Federico] Chiesa, I don't think he's ready to play from the first minute yet. Let's see how they are tomorrow."

    Juve's clean sheet in last weekend's 2-0 win over Cagliari was only their fourth in all competitions in 2020-21.

    They conceded three times in their first three Champions League group games and faced 36 shots in total, only nine fewer than Tuesday's winless opponents.

    However, victory will guarantee their place in the next round if Dynamo Kiev fail to beat Barcelona.

  • Lampard offers assurances to Giroud over Chelsea game time but open to discussions on future Lampard offers assurances to Giroud over Chelsea game time but open to discussions on future

    Frank Lampard assured Olivier Giroud he will get plenty of opportunities in the coming weeks but is willing to discuss his future if the France star feels he needs more game time.

    Giroud appeared headed for the exit door last January but remained at Stamford Bridge and helped the Blues to a top-four finish, scoring eight goals in the final 12 games of last term.

    But the arrival of Timo Werner from RB Leipzig coupled with the early season form of Tammy Abraham has seen Giroud struggle for minutes under Lampard in 2020-21.

    Speaking to Telefoot this week, Giroud stated he may have to ponder his future in the next transfer window as he aims to nail down a spot in France's Euro 2020 squad.

    Lampard understands Giroud's concerns but with matches coming thick and fast, the Blues boss says the veteran forward will feature prominently.

    "I do have plans to have Oli with us, he's a very important player in our squad, and was a big part of our squad last year," Lampard told a news conference ahead of Tuesday's Champions League clash with Rennes. 

    "When you look at his Chelsea career in terms of league starts he's played a relative amount. He's a big part of us going forward. 

    "I want him to stay here, I have a very good relationship with Oli. If ever he felt it was going to go a different way I'd talk to him. At the moment he's very important to me."

    He added: "When he doesn't play he's a great support, we have really grown up conversations as we did in January. 

    "I'll be relying on top players, top strikers as I see it for us. I'll always be honest with Oli I think he's still got a big contribution for us. I don't want to be drawn in November about conversations that might happen in January."

    Lampard, who as expected confirmed Kai Havertz is fit after recovering from coronavirus and Thiago Silva travels having been rested for the win over Newcastle United, has been impressed by the form of Abraham.

    The England striker, who has five goals in 13 games this season, is showing signs of a promising partnership with Werner and Lampard says his task now is to show more consistency.

    "Yeah I'm really pleased with him, he's playing really well at the minute, his all round game off the ball work for the team, link up play is good," Lampard said. 

    "In some parts I think it got forgotten how good he was the first half of last season, he was a big reason for us finishing fourth. 

    "The second half was more difficult for him. That's normal for a young player, he's still young, but now he's seeing a mirror of how he is in training. He's training brilliantly, he's enthusiastic, that's when he's at this best. I hope that continues.

    "When they play like Tammy is at the minute they make my decisions easier because he's playing so well. Tammy should take credit, his next challenge is to remain consistent."

    Lampard also talked up the qualities of Mason Mount, who has faced suggestions on social media of receiving favouritism from the Chelsea boss and his England manager Gareth Southgate.

    For Lampard, Mount epitomises what managers look for in a player and believes social media has changed the way footballers face scrutiny.

    "We have a big fanbase, it's very easy for someone to sit on a phone and make very harsh statements," he added. "With Mason he looks clean cut, he did an advert with his top off and that's about as edgy as he gets! 

    "There are a hundred things in his game to impress his manager. He's a different type of footballer. When I say that I don't want to add fuel to the fire of people saying he's my son!

    "He's got a lot to improve on, he can add more goals, add more assists, but he's a quality football player who can only get better. 

    "Mason Mount or anyone will not be getting favouritism. In midfield we have options, out wide we have options, no one gets the edge from me other than how they train and perform."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.