Manchester City's hopes of winning a third Premier League title in succession are already over, says midfielder Ilkay Gundogan.

City suffered a fourth defeat of the domestic season at home to local rivals Manchester United last weekend, leaving them 14 points behind runaway leaders Liverpool after 16 matches.

Gundogan was a key member of the side that edged out Jurgen Klopp's men in an unrelenting battle last time around but feels standards have clearly slipped this term.

Asked how far City are from their best form ahead of Wednesday's Champions League match at Dinamo Zagreb, Gundogan told BT Sport: "Quite far, to be honest.

"Obviously it's so far a difficult season for us. There's already a huge gap in the Premier League between Liverpool and us.

"We can't deny that the title race is already over for us, so we have to compete to qualify for the Champions League again next season.

"That's disappointing, to be honest. Also, this early in the season to have such a huge gap is something that we're not really used to."

Pep Guardiola's team won the Premier League with a record 100 points in 2017-18 and backed that up with haul of 98 last time around.

Gundogan does not feel there is any discernible difference in the atmosphere among the City squad, but conceded this could be interpreted as a sign of complacency or staleness.

"I don't feel like the dynamic in the group is worse than it was before. I think it's still similar," he said

"Maybe that's also a problem, that it's too similar. Maybe there needs to be a change.

"I don’t really know to be honest, I just think that the next weeks will show us and prove to us the right way to go.

"If you don't know the feeling of frustration, of anger, of disappointment, I ask myself sometimes: 'What is it really worth to be successful? What is it worth to be happy?'.

"Obviously we need these emotions."

City are already through to the last-16 of the Champions League as Group C winners and Gundogan will start the dead rubber in Zagreb as part of a much-changed side featuring teenagers Phil Foden and Eric Garcia.

"No one says that if you are not successful in the Premier League you cannot be successful in the Champions League," he added. "In the Champions League, all chances are open."

Aaron Wan-Bissaka has been rewarded for his brilliant display up against Raheem Sterling in the Manchester derby, earning inclusion in FIFA Ultimate Team's latest Team of the Week.

Manchester United claimed a fine 2-1 win at the home of the champions on Saturday, with Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial getting the goals.

But arguably just as vital was the performance of Wan-Bissaka at right-back, as the England Under-21 international played an integral role in nullifying Sterling, one of the Premier League's form players.

Wan-Bissaka completed a match-high five tackles – one a last-ditch challenge to deny Sterling what looked set to be a certain goal – and also made seven clearances.

Liverpool star Sadio Mane is back in the TOTW for the second time, while Serie A's chief creator Luis Alberto lines up in midfield having set up another two goals in Lazio's 3-1 win over Juventus, taking his campaign tally to 11, five more than anyone else in the competition.

Unsurprisingly there is also a place in the team for Real Betis' Joaquin after he became the oldest player in LaLiga history to score a hat-trick, while Memphis Depay and Marco Reus lead the line.

Below, we take a look at the latest squad in full.

FUT TEAM OF THE WEEK

GK: Martin Dubravka (Newcastle United) – 83

CB: Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Manchester United) – 82

CB: Martin Hinteregger (Eintracht Frankfurt) – 83

CB: Raphael Varane (Real Madrid) – 86

LM: Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – 90

CDM: Charles Aranguiz (Bayer Leverkusen) – 85

CDM: Luis Alberto (Lazio) – 87

CM: Morgan Sanson (Marseille) – 82

RM: Joaquin (Real Betis) – 83

CF: Memphis Depay (Lyon) – 86

CF: Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund) – 89

SUBSTITUTES:

GK: Luigi Sepe (Parma) – 81

CB: Guillermo Maripan (Monaco) – 82

LM: Cristian Ansaldi (Torino) – 82

CAM: Matheus Pereira (West Brom) – 81

ST: Jamie Vardy (Leicester City) – 84

ST: Cristhian Stuani (Girona) – 82

RF: Lukas Podolski (Vissel Kobe) – 81

RESERVES:

CM: Cristian Battocchio (Brest) – 78

CM: Carlos Sierra (America de Cali) – 73

ST: Vinicius (Benfica) – 79

ST: Adam Le Fondre (Sydney FC) – 78

ST: Josh Maja (Bordeaux) – 75

Alisson has challenged Liverpool to sustain the defensive focus that has helped them secure back-to-back clean sheets for the first time since September.

The Champions League holders reached the last 16 on Tuesday thanks to a 2-0 win away to Salzburg, with Naby Keita and Mohamed Salah scoring the goals.

It was also Liverpool's second clean sheet in a row, following last Saturday's 3-0 Premier League win at Bournemouth, a result that leaves the Reds eight points clear at the top of the table.

Since losing the Community Shield on penalties in August, Klopp's side have only lost once in all competitions - a 2-0 defeat to Napoli in September - but their defence has nonetheless come under scrutiny following a run of 13 matches in which they conceded at least one goal.

However, with the Reds having now recorded consecutive clean sheets for the first time since victories over MK Dons and Sheffield United almost three months ago, Alisson - who played in neither of those September games - is eager to keep that run going.

"It was just a matter of time and of focus," the goalkeeper told Liverpoolfc.com when asked how their defence has improved.

"The last two games, we were focused for the full game. Even if they had chances we were there, the defenders were there, and I was there to help the team.

"We just need to keep going with this focus because we know our quality and we know what we can do on the pitch when we put in our whole intensity.

"You need to do that for 90 minutes – it's hard, we know, but I think we showed we can do this."

Alisson had to make a string of saves in the first half to keep Salzburg at bay before two goals in quick succession after the interval put Liverpool in control.

"In the first half they made our job more difficult with their intensity they put in," he said. "They had chances, of course, but we neutralised them in the chances, I could make the saves.

"I'm happy with the result and happy with what we did on the pitch.

"It was a difficult game for us, but we did very well, everybody playing together and moving together, defending in a good way and attacking in a good way.

"I'm glad about the score, I'm glad about the clean sheet – but the three points were the most important thing we needed."

Virgil van Dijk believes Liverpool again proved their quality in a 2-0 win over Salzburg in the Champions League on Tuesday.

The Premier League leaders kept their European defence alive thanks to second-half goals from Naby Keita and Mohamed Salah, moving into the last 16 as Group E winners.

Van Dijk felt Jurgen Klopp's side showcased their quality during a tricky away clash.

"I think it says a lot about the quality we have, first of all," the defender told reporters.

"I think it's tough to come here. It's their chance of a lifetime to go through to the knockout stages.

"We knew what to expect, especially in the beginning, it was tough. They're a very good side. They have good players, a lot of pressure on the ball, a lot of hard work, a lot of desire.

"We had to manage that and deal with it and I think we did that pretty well."

The win extended Liverpool's unbeaten run to 18 matches in all competitions ahead of hosting Watford on Saturday.

Liverpool hold an eight-point lead over Leicester City in the Premier League, but Van Dijk said his side were only concentrating on themselves.

"We're going to think about ourselves, not about the rest. We are not even halfway through," he said.

"For us now it was important to give everything [against Salzburg]. We did that, we go through to the knockout stages and then we'll focus on Watford on the weekend, and after that we go to Qatar [for the FIFA Club World Cup]."

Jurgen Klopp is hoping the knock suffered by Dejan Lovren during Liverpool's crucial Champions League win over Salzburg is a not a serious one.

Lovren, who limped out of Liverpool's 3-0 win at Bournemouth at the weekend in the first half because of cramp, was forced off 53 minutes into their 2-0 success in Austria, which clinched top spot in Group E.

Klopp believes Lovren may have been have affected by a recurrence of cramp, the German knowing his side can ill-afford to lose Lovren with their Club World Cup campaign looming.

"We hope Dejan is nothing serious," Klopp told BT Sport.

He later added in a post-match media conference: "We hope that it's exactly the same as last time. He felt something and we made the decision. It's of course not cool.

"He played really well and was very important. We don't know more in the moment. It felt similar like last time, that's it. We have to see."

Liverpool host Watford at the weekend and then face Aston Villa in an EFL Cup quarter-final clash in which they are expected to rest many of their senior players.

Following their trip to Villa Park, Liverpool travel to Qatar for the Club World Cup.

Jurgen Klopp conceded he had "no idea" how Mohamed Salah managed to score Liverpool's second goal in the 2-0 Champions League win over Salzburg.

The holders booked their place in the last 16 as Group E winners courtesy of Tuesday's battling victory in Austria, Naby Keita and Salah scoring in the space of 100 second-half seconds.

Salah's right-footed effort after rounding goalkeeper Cican Stankovic came from an extremely tight angle as the Egypt international netted for the second straight game.

Asked how Salah had managed to do it, Klopp said to BT Sport: "I have no idea! No idea. 

"To be honest with his quality, with how he well did in one of or two of the other situations, I have no clue [with those] as well. Just great, that's how it is.

"In a perfect night everyone can score goals especially with the quality of the boys. But when it looks like, 'It's not my night' and then staying on track and scoring, that is the big thing in football.

"When we had the ball and when we played calm we were immediately in front of their goal and we had sitters, pretty much. 

"But we didn't score these situations. Then we scored a wonderful goal [through Keita] and then Mo, with the most difficult situation of the whole night, he scores that goal, so all good. That is what a striker has to do.

"There were so many sensational performances and showing this kind of great attitude again, I'm really happy."

Klopp was impressed by Salzburg and thought his players had been given a stern examination, even if they could have ended up scoring many more.

The German added: "I could not have more respect for what Salzburg did here - what a team, what an effort, it was really a tough game, a tricky one.

"They started so direct, all the little things they worked for, they did so many smart things.

"But the really big chances we had obviously. They did a lot of things but we were there, we were ready to defend it. You cannot always defend it in the first moment but then we did in the last line. We had to put a proper shift in.

"It was just a very intense game and second half they [Salzburg] obviously couldn't cope with the intensity after the first half. We then scored the two goals, wonderful goals.

"In a game like this we could have scored six, seven goals which is crazy. But it's completely okay that we didn't do it - we won the game, won the group, all good."

Liverpool have won four consecutive matches in all competitions and have not been beaten since their loss in this group to Napoli back on September 17.

Liverpool are "greedy for more" after advancing to the last 16 of the Champions League as Group E winners by beating Salzburg 2-0 on Tuesday, said Andy Robertson.

Two second-half goals in the space of 100 seconds from Naby Keita and Mohamed Salah ensured the holders finished ahead of Napoli, who beat Genk 4-0, in their section.

Keita headed home following a brilliant run and cutback from Sadio Mane, while Salah slotted home from an acute angle at the edge of the box after rounding Cican Stankovic.

"Of course, we're greedy for more. We've got people saying we've struggled through and we've got four more points than we did last year," Robertson told BT Sport.

"Top of the group and now we go on to the last 16. We know what we can do there and it's all about us doing it on the big stage and we've proven over the past two years we can do it and we'll hopefully do it again.

"We knew they were trying to make history for their club - they've never been in the last 16. They feel they're a Champions League team and they're very confident in that. It was all about coming here and riding that wave.

"We had the biggest chances in the first 45, so it was up to us to be a bit more clinical. We knew if we kept going that chances would come and, luckily, we put them away, and then the lads defending as a whole team to keep a clean sheet when you need to is so important."

On Salah's goal, he added: "It was probably his toughest chance of the game. Mo had a couple of great chances and they [Salah, Mane and Roberto Firmino] put so much pressure on themselves to score goals and stuff.

"It was a ridiculous goal, to be fair. I didn't know how it got in from there - a fantastic finish on his weaker foot."

The opening goal was created and scored by former Salzburg players in Mane and Keita, and the Senegalese forward sympathised with his former club.

"It was a really tough game today, but we expected that. We created many chances in the second half and Naby scored a wonderful goal, so I'm happy for him against his former club. We deserved to win tonight and we are happy," said Mane.

"It's always nice to come back here because it's where it all started for me. I'm really grateful to the club, the fans and the people here. Sorry guys, but it's football, we have to do it and that's it!"

Liverpool overcame a thorough examination from Salzburg to prevail 2-0 in Austria and book their place in the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Jurgen Klopp's men needed to avoid defeat to be sure of continuing their European title defence – something that looked far from assured in a high-octane first half, where there were openings at both ends.

Naby Keita made the 57th-minute breakthrough before Mohamed Salah added a wonderful second 100 seconds later, although goalkeeper Cican Stankovic will rue his part in both goals

Highly-rated Salzburg striker Erling Haaland was unable to add to his eight Champions League goals this season, but few Europa League opponents will relish facing him and his relentless team-mates when they drop down after the turn of the year.

Stankovic was forced into a save from Salah when the Liverpool forward beautifully brought down Dejan Lovren's raking ball, but Salzburg made much of the running in a frenetic opening.

Hwang Hee-chan and Takumi Minamino's invention and clever movement was causing the Reds problems and Alisson made a brilliant double save in the seventh minute to deny each man from close range.

Haaland's pursuit of a goal in every Champions League group game ran into Alisson in the 24th minute after he sprung onto a Minamino pass behind Lovren.

Salah dragged woefully wide of the near post and Stankovic stood firm when the Egypt star played Keita through in first-half stoppage time.

Haaland blasted a promising chance into the side netting and Salzburg would rue their marksman's unusual wastefulness as they conceded twice in quick succession before the hour.

Stankovic had charged out boldly to check Salah near the edge of his box shortly after the restart but was too ambitious when Sadio Mane rounded him down the left channel and crossed for Keita to head in.

Salah then danced around the over-zealous Austria international but still had plenty to do – the finish from a tight angle on his weaker right foot was sublime.  

Roberto Firmino, Salah and Mane all went close to a third goal during the closing stages as Salzburg's exertions took a clear toll.

Champions League holders Liverpool need at least a point against Salzburg to secure their progression from Group E, though they will come up against an Erling Haaland in sensational form.

Salzburg's youngster has found the net in all of their group games so far this season and will become the first player to convert in his first six Champions League appearances should he score for Salzburg against the Reds.

Barcelona have top spot in Group F secured but Inter still have it all to play for on Tuesday as they look to edge out Borussia Dortmund, and Antonio Conte's side have no Lionel Messi to worry about, with Ernesto Valverde resting Barca's talisman.

Chelsea will look to end a five-match winless run at home in the Champions League to ensure their place in the last 16, while Dortmund are aiming to reach the second round in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2015.

Salzburg v Liverpool 

8 - Salzburg's Haaland has scored eight goals from five appearances in this season's Champions League. No player has ever scored in their first six matches in the competition.

11 - Since the start of the 2017-18 campaign, the two players with the most Champions League assists are Liverpool duo Roberto Firmino and James Milner, with 11 each.

16 - Only Tottenham (17) and Bayern Munich (21) have scored more goals than Salzburg's 16 in this season's competition.

2 - Liverpool have only won two of their 11 most recent Champions League away group stage games, losing four of the past five. The Reds last won consecutive group matches on the road in the competition back in September 2008.

Napoli v Genk

6 - Carlo Ancelotti appears to be under pressure at Napoli, though his side are unbeaten in their past six home matches in the Champions League.

14 - Dries Mertens, who wears number 14 for Napoli, has been involved in 14 goals in his past 14 Champions League starts, scoring 10 times and providing four assists.

Inter v Barcelona

0 - Inter have never lost a home game against Spanish teams in the Champions League or European Cup.

5 - Lautaro Martinez is aiming to become the first Inter player to score in five successive Champions League/European Cup appearances.

0 - Barca have failed to score in two Champions League matches this season. Never before in the competition have they fired blanks in three group games in a single campaign.

Borussia Dortmund v Slavia Prague

13 - Dortmund are unbeaten in 13 of their past 15 Champions League group stage matches at Signal Iduna Park, winning eight times.

3 - Julian Brandt already has three assists for Dortmund in Group F. The playmaker failed to assist a single Champions League goal for Bayer Leverkusen in 21 appearances between 2014 and 2017.

22 - Slavia have failed to score with each of their 22 most recent shots from open play in the Champions League, with their goal in a 3-1 defeat to Inter on matchday coming via a penalty by Tomas Soucek.

Benfica v Zenit

1 - Victory for Zenit would see the Russian side reach the knockout stages in successive appearances in the Champions League for the first time.

29 - Both teams have scored 29 per cent of their Champions League goals from outside of the box so far this season.

Lyon v RB Leipzig

88 - Leipzig have scored 88 per cent of their Champions League goals this season in the second half of matches, while their only goal in the first half came in added time against Zenit.

80 - Dayot Upamecano has made 80 progressive ball carries upfield this season in the UEFA Champions League - more than any other player.

Chelsea v Lille

5 - Chelsea are winless in their past five Champions League games at Stamford Bridge. It is their longest run without a home win in the competition.

10 - Willian has netted 10 goals for Chelsea in the tournament. If he scores against Lille, it would make him their outright fourth-highest scorer in the competition, behind Didier Drogba (36), current coach Frank Lampard (23) and Nicolas Anelka (12).

1 - Lille have taken just one point in the Champions League this season. Under the current group stage format, the only French side with fewer in a single campaign in the competition was Marseille in 2013-14 (0).

Ajax v Valencia

9 - Since the start of last season, only three teams have managed more wins in the Champions League than Ajax, who have nine victories under their belts in that time.

52 - Excluding own goals, Hakim Ziyech has either scored or assisted 52 per cent of Ajax's goals in the Champions League in 2019.

143 - Quincy Promes averages a goal every 143 minutes in the Champions League, placing him behind only Ruud van Nistelrooy (109) in terms of Dutch players in the competition.

With Neymar's future far from certain, Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly planning for life without the star forward.

Neymar appears to covet a Barcelona reunion, after leaving the LaLiga champions two years ago.

Should Neymar's wish be granted, an African sensation lighting up Anfield is said to be on the agenda.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR OUT, MANE IN

Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain want Liverpool star Sadio Mane to replace Neymar, report France Football and Mundo Deportivo.

PSG star Neymar wanted to leave Paris during the previous transfer window, but a proposed return to Barcelona did not materialise.

Doubts remain over Neymar – who left Barca for PSG in a €222million transfer in 2017 – and the French powerhouse are said to have identified Mane should the Brazilian depart the capital.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to Calciomercato, Napoli have agreed a deal for former Milan boss Gennaro Gattuso to replace head coach Carlo Ancelotti. It comes with Ancelotti on the brink amid a nine-match winless streak ahead of Tuesday's crucial Champions League clash against Genk.

Manchester City are set to rival Chelsea for Bournemouth's Nathan Ake, says Sky Sports. Chelsea want to bring Ake back to Stamford Bridge following his exit in 2017. However, Premier League champions City are reportedly interested amid their defensive woes.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been offered an 18-month contract by Napoli, reports Gazzetta dello Sport. The 38-year-old is a free agent after leaving MLS outfit LA Galaxy and he has been linked to Milan and Inter.

- Sport claims Inter want to sign either Ivan Rakitic or Arturo Vidal from Barcelona in January. Antonio Conte is determined to bolster his squad as Inter challenge for Scudetto honours and juggle Champions League commitments. Rakitic has also been linked to Serie A holders Juventus.

Everton hope to have Vitor Pereira installed as manager for Sunday's Premier League fixture at Manchester United, according to Sky Sports. After sacking Marco Silva, the Toffees are ready to offer the Shanghai SIPG coach a three-year deal. It comes as Sky Sports also reports former Arsenal boss Unai Emery was approached about the Everton job.

- The Mirror says Manchester United are ready to show their faith in manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer by backing him in moves for Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez and Salzburg sensation Erling Haaland. The spotlight was on Solskjaer following a poor run of form and Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham exit. However, the Norwegian has overseen consecutive victories over Tottenham and Manchester City.

Bayern Munich and Manchester City are monitoring the progress of Rangers teenager Kai Kennedy, says the Daily Record.

Jurgen Klopp was in "competition mood" at Monday's media conference ahead of Liverpool's crunch Champions League clash with Salzburg, taking exception to a translator's response in German.

The Reds require a point from Tuesday's trip to Salzburg to guarantee a place in the last 16 of the Champions League, a competition they won last season.

Klopp was unhappy with how his compatriot translated Jordan Henderson's answer in front of the assembled media, taking particular issue with the translator's assertion that the Liverpool captain said his team would "go easy in this game".

Liverpool boss Klopp said: "It's s**t when next to the translator sits a coach who speaks German. The question was if the Champions League title from the last year helps us because we have always delivered in situations like this.

"He [Henderson] doesn't talk about going easy in this game. We are aware of this challenge. He is speaking about all this normal stuff. You should really listen. Otherwise, I can do it by myself. It's not too difficult."

Switching to English, he then told the media: "I am in a competition mood already, I can tell you."

Klopp will surely hope his side show the same fight in Salzburg.

Jurgen Klopp has insistsed keeping his Liverpool players motivated is not an issue as they are "ambitious like crazy" in their pursuit of major honours on multiple fronts.

The Reds are eight points clear at the top of the Premier League and require a point from Tuesday's trip to Salzburg to guarantee a place in the last 16 of the Champions League, a competition they won last season.

Liverpool will compete in the Club World Cup later this month and are also through to the last eight of the EFL Cup, with the fixtures coming thick and fast in the final month of the year.

Klopp has urged his players to take it one game at a time, starting with their big showdown against Salzburg, who need all three points to qualify.

"It's not that I expect us to go through. I expect us to play the best game we can play," he said at Monday's pre-match news conference.

"Salzburg were very happy that they won against Genk last time out and that we draw against Napoli, so they have a final against us. Napoli were happy because they know they only have to play Genk. 

"We are prepared for that. Salzburg have to win against Liverpool. It's possible and I like that. We are still ambitious like crazy, we will run for our lives. It's not that we come here and think we have to dominate Salzburg.

"We have to focus on the next game. It's tough because we play every three days. Tomorrow night is the most important game in our life because there is no other one."

Liverpool conceded three times in the reverse meeting with Salzburg at Anfield in October - a thrilling 4-3 home win - with highly-rated teenage striker Erling Haaland among the visitors' scorers.

Klopp's men kept their first clean sheet in 14 matches last time out against Bournemouth, but the German coach is hopeful his side can deal with free-scoring Haaland.

"Keeping clean sheets is not really important for the game tomorrow," he said. "Conceding goals happens. We defend well, I think. 

"We didn't defend so well against Salzburg in the first leg. They are a team that surprisingly makes a lot of goals out of counter-attacks. We know their strengths very well and we hope that we can eliminate these strong points.

"How do you defend a very good striker? Try and stop balls into the box. He is a really big talent."

Liverpool will play their third game of the month on Tuesday and have five more to come - on two continents - before the end of the year.

Klopp reiterated that a lot is being asked of his players but is eager for them to enjoy the winning feeling.

"We know our schedule," he added. "We played a tough game two days ago. Six days ago a very tough game. We don't expect drops, we don't accept drops, the boys as well. 

"We ask ourselves for highest concentration. We are in the most intense period of our lives but we will try to enjoy. It is difficult, no doubt about that, but it's not something that can stop us."

Erling Haaland is not finding it difficult to deal with the transfer speculation that has unsurprisingly followed his remarkable run of goalscoring form.

The teenage Salzburg striker is enjoying an excellent campaign and has scored eight goals in five Champions League games to go with 16 in 14 in the Austrian Bundesliga.

Should Haaland score against Liverpool on Tuesday in their Group E finale, in which Salzburg could knock out the holders, he will become the first player to score in his first six Champions League matches.

Manchester United – managed by Haaland's former Molde coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – have been heavily linked with a move for the 19-year-old, while Borussia Dortmund, Juventus, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Liverpool have also been credited with interest in his services.

Haaland, however, has little interest in such rumours.

"I just focus on my job, playing football, and to enjoy what I do every day and to go in with a clear mindset, to be in the present, and enjoy the moment right now," he told a media conference.

"That's my focus, to focus on Salzburg and me as a player. So, it's not hard at all [dealing with transfer speculation]. I'm enjoying every day and playing football."

Liverpool have their sights set on a first Club World Cup title in Qatar, but may need to overcome a club that has denied them intercontinental glory in the past to add the trophy to their cabinet.

The Reds head to the Middle East as clear favourites to take home the trophy, and have given the competition precedence as they have named a strong squad despite a fixture pile-up that has come as a result of their participation in the tournament.

Jurgen Klopp's men will aim to clinch UEFA Champions League progression on Tuesday before facing Aston Villa in the EFL Cup a week later, with those fixtures sandwiched by the visit of Watford in the Premier League.

It is the trip to Villa Park that is set to see Liverpool rotate their squad and go with a young team for that quarter-final.

A star-studded forward line that has tormented the Premier League and opponents across Europe is therefore poised to face opposition they should be able to wreak even greater havoc against.

Fourteen years on from their 1-0 defeat to Sao Paulo in the final, Liverpool have another crack at Club World Cup glory. Their relentless domestic form suggests there will be no such let down this time around.

 

VAN DIJK RELISHING DIFFERENT CHALLENGE

Though it adds another two games to their workload at a time of the season when the fixture list is already packed, Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk is relishing the chance to make history for the Premier League leaders on the world stage.

"This squad can be the first Liverpool side to win the Club World Cup," Van Dijk told FIFA.com. "It'll be a great experience. We're all looking forward to going out there and hopefully get that trophy as well.

"We're at the stage right now where we have the experience of playing international football [with national teams]. We have players who've played all over the world anyway.

"It's going to be a totally different challenge for us but it's something that we're definitely looking forward to."

Having missed out on winning the Ballon d'Or and being recognised as the world's best footballer, centre-back Van Dijk will look to play an instrumental role in ensuring Liverpool finish the year as the planet's premier club side.


FLAMENGO OUT TO SPOIL THE PARTY

Liverpool's only appearance in the Club World Cup final saw them lose to a Brazilian side, and the first of their two defeats in the old Intercontinental Cup came at the hands of Flamengo in 1981.

The Rubro-Negro have an opportunity to repeat that feat after a hugely dramatic Copa Libertadores final win over River Plate, which saw Gabriel Barbosa score twice in three minutes in a frantic finale to earn a 2-1 victory.

Like Liverpool, Flamengo enter at the semi-final stage, though forward Bruno Henrique has allowed himself to think about a prospective showpiece with Klopp's side.

"Our goal is to become world champions," Bruno Henrique told FIFA.com. 

"Like us, Liverpool aren't guaranteed a place in the final, despite their favouritism. We're thinking about the semi-final first. But without doubt it would be amazing to face a team as good as Liverpool."


NEW FRONTIER FOR AMATEURS HIENGHENE

The winners of the second-round clash between AFC Champions League winners Al Hilal and CAF Champions League kings ES Tunis will face Flamengo in the last four.

CONCACAF Champions League holders Monterrey must wait to learn their opponents in the second round, with an amateur side from New Caledonia out to make an impression in Doha. 

OFC Champions League winners Hienghene Sport face Qatari side Al Sadd in the curtain raiser in Doha, and will be significant underdogs to book a meeting with Monterrey.

However, Hienghene's Tahitian coach Felix Tagawa expects his side to be undaunted by their status as tournament minnows.

"I'm waiting for my team to play without fear," Tagawa told FIFA.com. "We have players who like to play offensively and who are good footballers. It will be necessary to play with our forces, to play with our qualities, to play our football.

"We will discover the very high level of world football, but I trust my players and I know their potential. In any case we want to leave Qatar without regrets."

Saif Rubie, the agent of former Liverpool forward Bobby Duncan, has been banned by the Football Association (FA) from acting as an intermediary for six weeks and fined £10,000 for messages posted on Twitter.

Duncan completed a permanent move to Fiorentina on September 2 following a turbulent few days that saw Rubie take to social media to accuse Liverpool of attempting to block a transfer.

Rubie singled out Reds sporting director Michael Edwards for criticism and alleged the treatment of the 18-year-old – who is Steven Gerrard's cousin – showed "zero consideration" for the player's mental health.

Liverpool described the allegations as "inaccurate" and "inflammatory", while club legend Jamie Carragher and supporters rounded on Rubie, who later deleted his Twitter account.

The FA has now taken action against the agent by suspending him from December 4 until January 15, handing him a hefty fine and sending him on an Educational Programme for improper use of social media.

Rubie has been accused on bringing the game into disrepute with his social media messages, although the FA has not specified which posts the punishment is for.

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