Andy Robertson believes Liverpool need to cope better with Toni Kroos and Luka Modric if they are to stand any chance of overturning their 3-1 Champions League quarter-final deficit to Real Madrid on Wednesday.

Liverpool were considered fortunate to avoid suffering a worse defeat at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano last week, as Madrid appeared the far more accomplished of the two teams.

Kroos completed more passes (68) than anyone else on the pitch, though Liverpool enjoyed a slightly larger share of the ball (54.4 per cent). Despite this, Jurgen Klopp's men managed just one shot on target to Madrid's seven.

The issue, seemingly, was that Madrid used the ball better and focused much of their play down the left, with Vinicius Junior operating in the spaces vacated by Trent Alexander-Arnold. In fact, 44.3 per cent of their forays forward came down that side of the pitch.

Kroos was deployed on the left of Madrid's midfield three, allowing him to work closer to the area Los Blancos appeared to target – as such, the fact his four key passes was double the amount of anyone else on the field proves Zinedine Zidane's set-up worked like a charm.

Robertson, though, is convinced Liverpool could have done more without the ball, a suggestion supported by Fabinho being the only one of the Reds' four central midfielders involved (Naby Keita, Thiago Alcantara and Georginio Wijnaldum the others) to make more than one tackle (three).

"Real Madrid are one of the best at controlling games. When they're in winning positions, they've got the likes of [Luka] Modric and Kroos that can just stand on the ball for what feels like 10 minutes and you can't get it off them," Robertson told Liverpool's official website.

"But we need to put these players under pressure, we need to put them all under pressure, we need to make their life a bit more uncomfortable than we did last week. It felt as if we gave all of them too much time on the ball, really, so we need to make it uncomfortable for them.

"If we lose the ball, we need to get it back quickly and our pressing game needs to be top level, and that's the basis for all our good games. When you look at all the big games we've played and all the good games we've played, it's been down to the pressing being so good. So, we need to try to create that.

"It doesn't just happen, we need to make it happen. We need the hard work and we need everyone willing to do it. The lads are always willing to do it, so I've got no doubt about that, but it's just about us trying to get close to the ball.

"We know that when we've got it we can hurt teams, but when we don't have it we need to get it back quickly and we need to close the spaces, which we probably weren't good enough at last week. We can learn our lesson from that and hopefully we can put in a better performance."

Despite their injuries and subsequent frequent personnel changes, Liverpool have continued to be effective with their pressing this season, with their PPDA (opposition passes allowed per defensive action) of 10.6 slightly higher than the 10.3 they managed last term in the Premier League.

Only Chelsea (10) and Leeds United (9.2) have better such numbers than the Reds domestically, yet against Madrid their PPDA dropped significantly to 14.8, suggesting they were guilty of perhaps showing Zidane's men too much respect.

Manchester United's opening-day 3-1 defeat to Crystal Palace was a chastening reminder of the team's frailties, but there was a somewhat surprising voice behind the subsequent call-to-action for the club's hierarchy.

Luke Shaw provided undoubtedly the most honest assessment of the situation among United players, this from a player who had rarely come across as a natural leader during his time at the club.

"We have a very good group, but personally I think we need more players to strengthen the squad," he told Norway's TV2. "It can give us a boost. When you look around at how other teams are strengthening their teams, then we must also do it to keep up with the others."

Perhaps the fact he wasn't speaking to a British outlet resulted in a more relaxed, open response from Shaw, who then also went on to criticise their pre-season.

But it was a new, authoritative look for a player who has always seemingly preferred to keep away from the media spotlight, and few United fans would have disagreed with him.

What happened next, however, he probably didn't expect – among the four players signed on deadline day in October was a new left-back, a Brazil international with the kind of attack-minded profile many had hoped Shaw would develop at United.

While Shaw definitely showed signs of progress in 2019-20, Alex Telles' arrival was the clearest sign that his position was no longer assured – he needed to respond.

 

A SHAW THING

The fact Telles has made just six Premier League starts in his debut season at Old Trafford is as good a starting point as any when highlighting Shaw's improved standing, and in fairness to the new signing, he's hardly put a foot wrong.

Telles has looked a solid acquisition and certainly fits the bill as a forward-thinking full-back who is also capable defensively, but Shaw has reached a level he has arguably never shown before in his career.

As an attacking outlet, Shaw's output has improved almost across the board, as such he has made himself almost undroppable.

 

His five assists is already a personal high for a Premier League season, having only managed seven in total before 2020-21, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. He is creating 2.3 chances per 90 minutes, which is up from one last term and well clear of his previous best of 1.2 each game for an entire campaign.

Undoubtedly one reason for that is the fact he is taking more set-pieces, yet his average of 1.4 open play chances created per 90 minutes remains a frequency he has never matched before over the course of a season, proving his increased familiarity with dead-ball duties isn't skewing the data.

A quick glance at his average position activity maps shows his involvement in the left-hand channel of the attacking third is up on each of the past two seasons, as well as his final year with Southampton.

 

This shows Shaw is embracing greater attacking responsibility, and where that is reflected most is the number of passes (including crosses) he is playing into the box each game (7.4). His last season with Saints had been his best in this regard (4.4), yet he's way up on that, and his productivity here is more than two-and-a-half times what it was in 2019-20 (2.9).

Shaw's early days with Southampton appeared to promise much. Finally, he appears to be back on track, not that it's been smooth sailing.

 

COPING, OUTLASTING, PROGRESSING

Shaw's relationship with Jose Mourinho became something of a distraction at times during the Portuguese's ill-fated reign.

Granted, Shaw wasn't the only player Mourinho seemed to have a problem with, but his treatment of Shaw in particular did leave a sour taste.

In two-and-a-half years playing for Mourinho, Shaw only made 33 Premier League appearances. While he did have injury and fitness problems, the manager's attitude seemingly did little to endear himself to the player.

Mourinho publicly criticised him after a 2016 defeat to Watford, saying: "For the second goal, [Nordin] Amrabat on the right side, our left-back is 25 metres distance from him, instead of five metres. But even at 25 metres, then you have to jump and go press. But no, we wait."

Mourinho then used Shaw's positive performance against Everton in 2017 against him. He said: "He had a good performance, but it was his body with my brain. He was in front of me and I was making every decision for him."

This isn't to say Shaw has been faultless this season. In fact, his defensive focus has been questionable at times in 2020-21, such as against Tottenham and Manchester City, for example.

But it's fair to say the greater attacking impetus he is showing this term compared to under Mourinho means he is more than making up for the occasional defensive lapse, and it's not like he's being beaten time after time – on average Shaw is dribbled past once every two games, the second lowest frequency for a single season in his entire career.

The difference? Well, according to the man himself, belief and competition.

"I feel really good, obviously big credit to Ole for that for believing in me and pushing me," Shaw said last month. "Alex [Telles] as well, we have a great relationship and he pushes me each day in training. We get on really well. It's nice to have that type of competition, but we push each other to get the best from ourselves. When he plays, I want the best for him, and it's the same the other way round. It's a positive way for both of us to look at it and push each other."

 

THE BEST?

There was a time – not even that long ago – when the very suggestion of Shaw being among the Premier League's best full-backs would have drawn a chuckle of derision in response.

Granted, across the four seasons prior to 2020-21, Shaw's best record of open play chances created per 90 minutes was 0.2, but there can be no doubt he is now at least in the conversation.

 

Liverpool's Andy Robertson is generally seen as the standard-bearer for left-backs in England's top flight, and Shaw compares well from an attacking sense with the Scotland international.

Shaw's 40 chances created this term is one more than Robertson, while the latter is just ahead in terms of key passes in open play (29 to 24) – though the United man has made 20 appearances to his rival's 24.

Robertson is proving a more regular source of service, with his 213 passes into the box and 201 total crosses/corners far more than Shaw's respective numbers (129 and 105), but the United left-back's deliveries are far more reliable.

Shaw's 37 successful crosses/corners is just five fewer than Robertson despite playing almost half the amount of overall deliveries.

But what really highlights Shaw's growth is his xA (expected assists) figures. His xA per 90, so the amount of assists he would ordinarily be expected to get per game, is 0.21 in 2020-21. Not only is that better than his previous best by some distance (0.12), Joao Cancelo (0.24) is the only full-back doing better here this term.

 

Shaw has made himself almost indispensable to United, his influence all the more important given Aaron Wan-Bissaka isn't particularly refined as an attacking outlet and they very rarely play with conventional wingers on either flank.

Therefore, Shaw offers the kind of threat from the wings that arguably no one else in the United squad does – and as his xA record shows, he is proving a consistent danger that marks him out as one of the league's best.

After being plagued by questions relating to his mentality for years, it's fair to say he is responding in the ideal fashion, with Telles' signing seemingly an important catalyst.

While it might be a little early to declare him outright the Premier League's best, his current trajectory at least shows that to be a realistic aim.

Andy Robertson said Liverpool are not in the Premier League title race "at this moment" after they suffered a surprise 1-0 home defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion.

Steven Alzate's first Premier League goal in the second half further eased the in-form Seagulls' relegation fears on Wednesday.

Brighton's first win over Liverpool since January 1984 left the champions seven points behind leaders Manchester City, who also have a game in hand ahead of their trip to Anfield on Sunday.

The lacklustre Reds had only one shot on target and have failed to score in three consecutive home league games for the first time since October 1984, when Joe Fagan was in charge.

Jurgen Klopp's side have also suffered back-to-back home defeats, having also been beaten 1-0 by Burnley, after going 68 unbeaten at Anfield in the Premier League.

Left-back Robertson admitted well-drilled Brighton deserved all three points and knows Liverpool must respond when they face City this weekend.

He told BT Sport: "The better team won. Brighton were better at pretty much everything. They pressed us, won the ball back and created chances.

"First half was okay, it was a nothing game and you got the sense that one goal was going to be enough to win it. In the last three games at home we have been really disappointing and we have to get back to it, we are a long way off it.

"Brighton played four centre-backs and they were all outstanding but we have been disappointing. We are not finding the way to win."

Robertson added: "We were hugely disappointing all over the park. You have to give the team credit for playing well. They created chances, pressed us – did everything we wanted to do.

“We didn't really do anything of note. With a long record of going unbeaten we've lost two. When you don't show up you don't get results.

"We prepare for every game different. It's just not clicking. We need to find a way to get results, especially at home. You can do everything in training.

"Any game against Man City is a big one. At this moment, we're not in the title race. We are seven points behind them and they have a game in hand.

"I'm sure they'd say the same if they were potentially 10 points behind. We need to get back to the Liverpool everyone knows. We're still a good team. We don't turn into a bad team overnight."

It is December 16, 2018 – Liverpool have just beaten Manchester United 3-1 at Anfield in Jose Mourinho's final match in charge of the Red Devils.

Victory sends Liverpool to the top of the Premier League, and while they ultimately narrowly missed out on the title that season, hindsight shows it was a signpost for their potential and depths United have plumbed.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came in soon after on an interim basis and, despite there being critics who consistently call his abilities into question, there can be no doubt of the impact he has had.

Sunday January 17, 2020 – United go to Anfield top of the Premier League, three clear of their bitter rivals. It is an achievement in itself, though Solskjaer has taken every opportunity to play it down – his terse response when asked in his pre-match news conference if he had received messages of congratulations from former team-mates highlighted his indifference.

After all, in an ideal world for United, this is just the start – they must now look to make the summit their permanent residence in the table and continue to develop.

While Solskjaer would surely not say so publicly, there is one area in particular where United should seek inspiration from their old nemesis.

 

FULL-ON FULL-BACKS

One of the Liverpool's greatest strengths over the past few years on their ascension back to the top of the pile in English football has been their first-choice full-backs.

Generally speaking, it is quite rare for a side to have a right-back and left-back who are both effective at either end of the pitch, yet Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold are just that, and especially so from an offensive perspective.

They can help to create overloads in attack, with their presence in the final third still ensuring they carry a threat out wide even if the likes of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah have tucked inside, as they frequently do.

It's difficult to say United find themselves in a similar situation, however.

Luke Shaw has demonstrably improved as an attacking presence, suggesting the signing of Alex Telles motivated him to work harder.

The left-back is producing more crosses, successful crosses, key passes and passes into the box than he was last season, whereas Aaron Wan-Bissaka has regressed in each of those areas.

A reported £50million signing from Crystal Palace in 2019, Wan-Bissaka was billed as potentially United's right-back for the next decade, but at the moment he looks out of place in a team that generally attacks with speed, precision and commitment.

 

WAN-BISSAKA'S REGRESSION

Of course, a full-back's primary function is – for the most part – to defend, but as champions Liverpool prove, having players comfortable with both sides of the game provides a real advantage.

Wan-Bissaka certainly did not look to be a lost cause last season – his tally of three open-play crosses per game, while not outstanding, at least showed a desire to get forward. This season, there are only 13 players who have featured at least 10 times in the league to have averaged more than three.

But in 2020-21, Wan-Bissaka's numbers have shot down. Now he is delivering just 1.1 crosses per 90 minutes and his overall key passes total of eight only puts him level with United's back-up left-back Telles, who has played just six games.

Robertson leads the way among defenders with 32, while Alexander-Arnold, Joao Cancelo and Aaron Cresswell have 25 each, and next is the improved Shaw on 22.

 

UNBALANCED UNITED

So, what does this mean for United?

Above all it contributes to them being lopsided. It's no secret that they have issues on the right side of their attack, with Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford both preferring to operate from the left if not through the middle, while Mason Greenwood simply hasn't managed to recapture his form from last term yet.

This arguably makes it even more important to have a presence on the right, but seemingly Wan-Bissaka's team-mates do not have the same kind of trust in him as they do Shaw and Telles on the left.

Just 33 per cent of United's passes from the wing into the box this season have come from the right flank, which means they go down the left about twice as often.

There is no such disparity for Liverpool, though.

Even in a season when Alexander-Arnold's level is being criticised, Liverpool still frequently look to try their luck down the right.

In fact, 52 per cent of their passes from the wing into the opposing penalty area have been from his side of the pitch. They have much greater balance, and therefore this ensures they are less predictable.

Of course, this isn't just on Wan-Bissaka. As mentioned, it highlights an overriding issue with United's right wing, but it does also raise questions about whether they feel he is their best bet long-term at right-back.

In Wan-Bissaka's first season, his remarkable tackling numbers – which do remain impressive this term – and effort to get forward fairly frequently showed promise, even if some fans expected more from a £50m full-back.

But with United hoping this is the start of them establishing themselves among the leading powers of English football once again, there's little doubt a right-back with greater attacking presence would offer them another dimension.

Andy Robertson complained "slack" Liverpool did not deserve more than a point from their Premier League stalemate with West Brom.

Liverpool went ahead in the first half on Sunday through Sadio Mane but were unable to secure the points with a second goal before Semi Ajayi equalised for the Baggies eight minutes from time, earning a 1-1 draw.

Jurgen Klopp's side had controlled the opening 45 minutes at Anfield with 81.8 per cent of the possession and 10 shots to West Brom's one, although only Mane's strike troubled the target.

The Reds failed to turn their dominance into goals after the break and were increasingly vulnerable on the counter-attack, as the visitors had a further four efforts, of which three hit the target - including Ajayi's header.

It was the first time Liverpool had dropped points from a winning position in a Premier League home game against a side in the bottom three since December 2016, and Robertson bemoaned an error-strewn display.

"When you go slack, you get what you deserve," Robertson told Sky Sports.

"We created a lot of chances in the first half and then in the second half it was as if we didn't want to do it again. We went slack. 

"Every one of us made a mistake in the second half which can't happen. Credit to West Brom for the way they played the second half.

"We should be experienced enough to see it out and build on the 1-0. We should have been 2-0, 3-0, maybe 4-0 up at half-time.

"We were dominating and it was up to us to take the chances, but we also should be professional enough to win 1-0 if we have to. We will take the point and move on. We can't dwell on it but it's a huge disappointment."

The result gave new West Brom head coach Sam Allardyce a first point and continued his impressive recent record at Anfield.

His past four visits to the home of the Reds have come with different sides (Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Everton and now West Brom), but he has not lost any of them (W1 D3).

Indeed, Allardyce was in charge of Palace when Liverpool last lost at home in the Premier League - 2-1 in April 2017.

Robertson felt Liverpool needed to show greater professionalism against the pragmatic approach of an Allardyce side.

"When you come up against a Sam Allardyce team, you know they will stay in it and take the one chance they get," explained the Scotland defender.

"You know they will look to frustrate you and play the game down and hit you on the counter-attack. We didn't let them do that in the first half, but then they grow with confidence the longer it goes 1-0. 

"I've been in a Championship team that has come up and you want to frustrate the big teams and get that one chance you can get and that's exactly what happened. 

"Credit to them. They were great in the second half but we need to be so much more professional. We didn't do that enough and that is frustrating."

The festive season is here once more and that means a full round of Premier League action in the days following Christmas.

There are distractions aplenty, with presents to wrap and food to prepare, but do not let your fantasy team fall by the way side.

Our Opta-powered picks should see you safe once more this weekend.


EMILIANO MARTINEZ

Aston Villa are at home to Crystal Palace on Boxing Day and looking for a fourth consecutive Premier League clean sheet for the first time since February 2010.

Martinez is the obvious pick to make the most of this hot streak in a chilly December, having kept more clean sheets (seven) than any other top-flight goalkeeper this season.

That tally has already matched Villa's total for the 2019-20 campaign.


TYRONE MINGS

Why stick to one Villa man when you can have two? Mings has been just as important as Martinez to their defensive form.

Indeed, the England centre-back has played the full 90 minutes in all seven of those clean sheets.

Mings, who also has two goals and an assist this season, only had six clean sheets in the entirety of the previous campaign.


ANDY ROBERTSON

Capable of delivering the goods all year round, back Robertson to perform again this Christmas.

Robertson leads all Premier League defenders in assists (five), chances created (26) and touches in the opposition box (44) this season.

Any fantasy player who has so far resisted the urge to call up the Scotland captain might consider struggling West Brom's trip to Anfield on Sunday.


BRUNO FERNANDES

The curtain is coming down on a year that has belonged to Fernandes, signed by Manchester United in January.

Since his debut the following month, the Portugal playmaker has been involved in 29 goals (17 scored, 12 assisted) in the Premier League, more than any other player.

In fact, Fernandes has either netted or created half of United's 58 goals and should be heavily involved again in Saturday's Christmas cracker at Leicester City.


JAMES WARD-PROWSE

Southampton visit Fulham on Boxing Day, with Ward-Prowse again set to be at the heart of their midfield as they aim to bounce back from a narrow defeat to Manchester City.

With four goals and three assists this season, his seven involvements are already the third-most he has managed across a campaign in his Premier League career.

The set-piece expert has played just 14 matches but could match his best ever tally with another goal or assist this festive season.


KEVIN DE BRUYNE

It is a little late for last-minute shopping, but City's De Bruyne still has time to get his wish this year.

The midfielder has 15 Premier League assists in 2020, three short of his record for a calendar year (18 in 2017).

He will welcome the visit of Newcastle United then, having provided five assists in seven league games against the Magpies, along with a pair of goals - including one of the strikes of the season at St James' Park in 2019-20.


JAMIE VARDY

Like Santa and Rudolph, Vardy and Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers make quite the team.

The striker has scored more goals (43) than any other Premier League player since Rodgers took charge, while only Luis Suarez (54) has netted more times under the former Liverpool boss in the competition.

Do not bet against Vardy ruining United's Christmas; he remains an obvious choice.

This most peculiar of Premier League seasons resumes this weekend with leaders Everton facing Southampton – and a notable nemesis.

Champions Liverpool tackle an out-of-sorts Sheffield United and last season's runners-up Manchester City meet West Ham, who produced that utterly amazing comeback against Tottenham last week.

Spurs are good value to bounce back against Burnley, particularly given Harry Kane's recent record, and Hugo Lloris might fancy a first clean sheet of the season.

There's also the small matter of Manchester United versus Chelsea, where Bruno Fernandes will hope to keep racking up those fantasy points. He's just one of our Opta-powered tips for you this week.

HUGO LLORIS

Spurs will want to get that collapse against West Ham out of their system swiftly, and a trip to Burnley might just be exactly what they need.

The Clarets have only beaten Spurs twice in 12 Premier League meetings and Jose Mourinho has never lost to them in nine games as a manager.

Lloris will hope this is the moment for a first shutout of the season. He's certainly earned one: of Premier League keepers to play at least 10 games since August 2018, only Emiliano Martinez (81 per cent) has a better save percentage than Lloris (75.4 per cent). Lloris has saved 193 of the 252 most recent shots on target he has faced.

 

AARON CRESSWELL

If you're looking for full-back value, look no further than Aaron Cresswell.

Okay, West Ham are likely to concede at least one goal against Manchester City, but Cresswell has more assists (three) and more chances created (12) than any other Premier League defender in 2020-21.

And City are not exactly impregnable at the back – they have already conceded seven times this term.

 

ANDY ROBERTSON

Andy Robertson is probably the safest swap for those having to take Virgil van Dijk out of their defences.

Liverpool's left-back has more assists (three) and more overall goal involvements (he's also scored twice) since the restart in June than any other Premier League defender.

The Reds face Sheffield United, who have looked decidedly shaky of late.

 

BRUNO FERNANDES

It might be a stretch to predict another 4-0 win for United at home to Chelsea as it was at Old Trafford last season, but few would bet against Bruno Fernandes being involved in the thick of it.

Since his debut in the Premier League, Fernandes has scored 11 and assisted nine goals, and no other player has reached 20 goal involvements in the competition in that time.

Chelsea have also conceded three goals in two of their past three league matches.

RAHEEM STERLING

Simply put, Raheem Sterling loves playing against West Ham.

The City forward has six goals and five assists in his past six league starts against the Hammers, a run that includes a hat-trick in a 5-0 win at London Stadium last season.

In fact, Pep Guardiola has won all nine games against West Ham as a manager, his joint-best record against a single opponent alongside Watford and Bournemouth.

 

DANNY INGS

Everton are tough opponents for anyone right now, but that does not change the fact that Danny Ings has always rather enjoyed facing them.

The Southampton striker has scored in four of his five appearances against the Toffees in all competitions, including in both games last season.

Only against Spurs (five) has he scored more goals for Saints.

 

HARRY KANE

Harry Kane has been flying this season and there is every chance his form continues against Burnley on Monday.

Kane has managed six goals and two assists in his past four Premier League games against the Clarets and hit a hat-trick at Turf Moor three years ago.

Spurs have also scored 11 in just two away games in the league this term.

With an international break on the horizon, this is the last opportunity for a couple of weeks for fantasy football manager to get some significant points on the board.

It's been a tricky season for predictions so far as well, making it a bit hazardous for picking fantasy teams, with home advantage seemingly going out of the window.

While there were five home wins on matchday two, matchday three produced just two of them.

Even just a single player change can have a massive points swing in fantasy football, so ahead of the weekend action, take a look at our Opta-powered picks – they might just give you the advantage in your league.

KARL DARLOW

With Burnley visiting St James' Park this weekend, Newcastle United fans might just fancy their chances of a clean sheet.

Given Karl Darlow's start to the season, you can see why. He has made more saves (18) than any other goalkeeper, while he also boasts the best saves per 90 minutes average (six).

Only Emiliano Martinez has a better save percentage (100 per cent) than Darlow (81 per cent) – but the Argentinian has played just one game. Burnley have only scored twice this term, so Newcastle will surely be confident.

 

ANDY ROBERTSON

Liverpool's left-back needs little introduction – over the past few years he will have certainly been among the most popular players in fantasy football given he is routinely part of a good defence but also impacts the game in attack.

He is in one of the most impressive periods of his career as well. He has had a hand in seven goals in his past eight Premier League games for the Reds (two goals, five assists).

Since the 2019-20 season restarted in June, he has six assists in total – that's more than any other player in the division, but Sunday's hosts Aston Villa are yet to concede a goal this term.

TIMOTHY CASTAGNE

Wing-backs are always a popular choice in fantasy football as they are often a great bet for attacking and defensive points – Timothy Castagne encapsulates that.

In three Premier League games since joining from Atalanta, he already has a goal and two assists (the same amounts he managed in all of 2019-20) – that makes him the most productive defender this season.

Leicester have won all three of their matches and host West Ham next. The Hammers showed they are not to be underestimated against Wolves, though the Foxes will expect to have too much for them.

 

WILFRIED ZAHA

If ever you consider sticking Wilfried Zaha in your team, history suggests it should be before games against Chelsea.

With three goals and three assists in 12 games against the Blues, they are his favoured opposition in the Premier League along with Leicester.

It's also worth considering that Chelsea have been shaky defensively so far, conceding six times in three matches.

SADIO MANE

Expensive he may well be, but if you have Sadio Mane in your team, there's always a strong chance you're going to rake in a few points.

He's already got three in as many games this term, while the stats show that he loves playing against Aston Villa, scoring six times and setting up another two in just six meetings with them.

Southampton fans in particular might remember three of those goals, as they came in a spell of just two minutes and 56 seconds in May 2015, and that remains the Premier League's quickest hat-trick.

 

CHE ADAMS

Danny Ings isn't the only Southampton striker in good form – Che Adams is worth a look given his recent output.

In his past five Premier League games, Adams has scored three times and got an assist. Overall, that's one more goal involvement in his previous 28 top-flight games.

Saints host West Brom next, the leakiest defence in the league, so introducing Adams – a low-cost option for the time being – could be a masterstroke.

 

ALEXANDRE LACAZETTE

Predicting Mikel Arteta's choices in attack have proven a little difficult since he took over from Unai Emery. Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah have both been used as that focal point, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang also lining up.

But Lacazette is in particularly fine fettle this season, the Frenchman having scored in all three of Arsenal's Premier League matches.

On top of that, he has been involved in six goals (four scored, two set up) in his past seven home matches in the competition. Sheffield United are up next, and given their struggles in recent weeks, Lacazette looks a solid option.

Andy Robertson and Steve Clarke felt Scotland were on a "hiding to nothing" as they scraped past a makeshift Czech Republic side 2-1 in Monday's Nations League clash.

The Czech Republic had to play the match with an entirely different squad and coaching team having seen two people within their delegation test positive for COVID-19 prior to a 3-1 win over Slovakia on Friday.

Jakub Pesek put the plucky hosts in front after 11 minutes in Olomouc, but Lyndon Dykes' first international goal and a Ryan Christie penalty had Scotland ahead.

There were a couple of nervy moments, including the Czech Republic twice hitting the woodwork, but Liverpool full-back Robertson said taking the points was ultimately all that mattered.

"Yeah, look we probably were [on a hiding to nothing], that's part and parcel of it," he told Sky Sports. 

"It was far from ideal for them and it wasn't ideal for us. Friday night we we're coming out of a game thinking it's cancelled and are we getting home? Then Saturday it's uncertain and Sunday we have to focus on the game. I think we did that but it's an uncertain weekend for us, not ideal at all. 

"We dealt with the cards we were given. But we're top of the group, it was a hiding to nothing, people would have found negatives in whatever we did tonight, but we're not really bothered. We got the three points, we're top of the group and five unbeaten now, let's take some positives."

Scotland manager Clarke added: "We have to pay the coach and players from the Czech Republic a big compliment, it would have been a fairy-tale night for them.

"We were always on a hiding to nothing, everyone told us we had to win the game, we won the game, so we take the points and go home."

Scotland's win followed an unconvincing draw against Israel last time out, a side they meet again next month in the play-offs for next year's rescheduled European Championship.

"We're going into a play-off where it's a one off so let's get the country behind us and let's everyone push forward to try and get us into the Euros cause that was the aim since we started this Nations League two or three years ago," Robertson added. 

"We're five unbeaten now and we look forward to a big October because it's make or break."

Liverpool have confirmed the signing of defender Konstantinos Tsimikas on a long-term deal.

A Greece international who plays at left-back, Tsimikas joins the Premier League champions from Olympiacos for a reported fee of £11.7million (€13m).

The arrival of the 24-year-old provides an additional option to Andy Robertson, covering an area of need in Jurgen Klopp's squad ahead of the 2020-21 season.

Liverpool had also been linked with Norwich City's Jamal Lewis, though reports suggested they were unable to come close to agreeing a fee for the Northern Ireland international.

"I'm very happy, I'm very proud to be here. For me, [it's] the biggest club in the world," Tsimikas told Liverpool's official website. "It's an honour to be here and I will give my best."

"The league here, I like a lot. I watch it on the TV and it was always one dream I had from when I was a kid to come to play in this league and to come through.

"With a lot of work and focus on what I do and what the coach wants, and every day working hard in training, I can be on the highest level.

"[I want] to achieve [our] goals. To win the league again and also to win the Champions League."

Tsimikas played in both legs as Olympiacos knocked Arsenal out of the Europa League, though their run in the competition was ended by Wolves in the following round.

His addition provides competition at a position Robertson has made his own. The Scotland international played in 36 league games in the title-winning campaign, with Klopp also using midfielder James Milner in the role.

Jurgen Klopp and Andy Robertson have discussed their experiences of mental health challenges - revealing anguish over loved relatives not living to witness their greatest achievements.

Liverpool manager Klopp and his star left-back have taken part in the #SoundOfSupport series for the Heads Up campaign, which Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, is spearheading.

Scotland international Robertson, now a Champions League and Premier League winner with the Reds, recalled the difficulties he encountered as a teenager being released by Celtic and the struggle of losing his aunt, a prominent supporter of his when growing up.

Speaking of his Celtic exit, Robertson said: "I was a normal 15-year-old lad so there were probably a few tears but my mum and dad got me my favourite curry that night.

"My auntie came up to the house and she told Mum: 'I'm telling you, he'll make it as a footballer.' And that's something that's always stayed with me.

"When I was at Dundee United, on Christmas Day, sadly she passed away. She was one that always believed I was something special even when probably nobody believed it when I was younger.

"But that is something that does bug me a little bit, that she's not seen me lifting the Champions League, lifting the Premier League and things like that."

That prompted Klopp to recall a similar experience when he lost his father shortly before becoming a manager.

"My dad never saw me as a manager. He died four months before I became a manager," the former Borussia Dortmund boss said.

"He pushed me through my [playing] career pretty much, with really harsh criticism and stuff like this, but now my real career, he never saw. That's hard from time to time."

The series is attempting to use the reach of football to get people to open up about their mental health, an issue particularly prominent over the past few months with the coronavirus pandemic consigning people to spend large periods of time at their homes.

"Uncertain I think, for all of us," Robertson said when asked about how he coped with lockdown.

"We have parents that are older, we have family that are in the so-called bracket of high risk. 

"I think football kind of took a step to one side, but we were all wanting the season to end."

Klopp replied: "There were moments in the lockdown when we thought it is a proper setback from all of our dreams.

"So it was a setback but it was a setback for all of us together, and we could calm each other down.

"[It] helps if you don't feel all the burden on your own shoulders. If you have a group of friends or a group of colleagues and you can create an atmosphere like this, that helps.

"I think there is no problem big enough or small enough that you cannot talk about it."

Robertson spoke about how his own experiences were exacerbated once he made it in the game.

"When I started making it professional that's when I struggled the most," he said.

"I was down in Hull on my own and people thought 'okay, he's a Premier League footballer, he's playing for Hull, he's getting a good wage' so then people would stop asking 'how are you?'. I used to be one who blocked everything up and thought 'my problems are my problems'.

"Now I feel so much better. I remember speaking to [my partner] Rach a year ago about something daft, something that was playing on my mind and after a 10-minute conversation with her I felt everything was off [my shoulders] and thought, 'yeah, I should do this a bit more often'."

Manchester City duo Ilkay Gundogan and Phil Foden, and Manchester United midfielder Jesse Lingard, appeared in separate videos for the campaign.

Germany international Gundogan spoke about the feeling of isolation during lockdown away from his family.

"For me growing up, the most important thing was always family. They were kind of like the psychologists for myself. [Now] I am in a different country, I don't know many people apart from the people from the club," he said.

"I have one friend over here who I saw during lockdown. The fact that I have spent a lot of time on my own and without family and friends during lockdown just showed me how important it is to have your loved ones close to you."

Lingard, who appeared alongside TV and radio presenter Maya Jama, revealed family issues had affected his performances on the pitch.

"Last season, I was going through some things off the field with my family so it was difficult for me to perform on the field," Lingard said.

"I'm very family orientated and my mum was going through some things last year with depression. So, in the meantime, I had to look after my little brother and sister who are 12 and 15. I was still performing at the same time.

"You just get to that point where you're like, I've got to actually say something. I spoke to my family and stuff like that. It felt so much better."

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will work "100 per cent" on finding the next Trent Alexander-Arnold or Andrew Robertson and has high hopes for "real prospect" Neco Williams.

The Reds' star full-backs have once again been providers-in-chief for the Premier League champions, with both providing 10-plus top-flight assists for the second straight season.

With the coronavirus pandemic causing a three-month suspension before this season resumed in June, there will only be a short break before the next Premier League campaign starts on September 12.

Klopp has no doubt Robertson and Alexander-Arnold can fire on all cylinders despite a short break, but says Williams has shown he can be one alternative option. 

"We think constantly about our situation and we know we need to find solutions for that [the quick turnaround between seasons] but that's how it is," Klopp said. 

"With Neco Williams we have a real prospect there in the team already, it's really nice to have. 

"We will have other solutions for those problems but again finding the next Trent, the next Robbo is difficult but maybe possible and we will work on that 100 per cent."

Klopp also spoke about the challenges of squad building and says it is important not to stockpile players, even if having recognised cover in every position provides comfort.

Losing goalkeeper Alisson early this season was provided as a specific example, but the German boss says no team can fully prepare for losing players to injuries.

"If it's down to luck, it [losing Alisson] wasn't lucky that day - we all want to be prepared for these situations but we aren't, nobody is really," he added.

"It always hits the wrong player if you want. If you think you are okay in this department where you think you have alternatives then it hits somebody in a different department where I don't have enough alternatives and you have to get creative immediately. 

"So, we build a squad and everybody feels he is needed. That means sometimes we can be a little bit short with that one 'A' solution but we always have a solution and as long as we have that we have to work with that.

"For a club like us it's not possible on the bench to have like 20 world-class players, we have to perform on a world-class level and that's possible on different line-ups and all our players have all the potential to be world-class but sometimes they don't play often enough they can show that. 

"Squad building is pretty tricky and a big challenge every year, but the answer is never to have more players than you need actually, that is not the answer.

"It feels comfortable for a moment but then over the whole year you have different problems.

"That's why it's difficult to decide the right number or the right alternatives, but that's the job to do, so far we've done okay, hopefully it will stay like this."

It may have taken a few months longer than it should have because of the coronavirus pandemic, but at long last Liverpool are Premier League champions.

Manchester City's 2-1 defeat at Chelsea on Thursday finally made it mathematically impossible for Pep Guardiola's men to catch the Reds, leaving Liverpool to celebrate a first ever Premier League title.

Having come close to ending their barren run a few times over the past three decades before falling short, Liverpool were plagued by suggestions they may not be able to handle the pressure in their quest to claim a first league championship since 1990.

But in reality this was a forgone conclusion for a long time, having dropped points just once in their first 27 league matches this term.

Following confirmation of their historic achievement, we crunched the Opta numbers and looked at the key areas of their squad this season.

Dynamic and dependable at the back

Liverpool's excellence in attack is obvious – few clubs in Europe can boast a more effective front three, but at the back they are similarly impressive.

Virgil van Dijk is the key figure, of course, and the Dutchman has led by example from the back again this term. He has started all 31 of Liverpool's matches, the only Reds player to do so, and he has helped keep a league-high 14 clean sheets.

But Alisson's importance is also easy to highlight. The Brazilian missed a chunk of the season due to injury, yet he's only two shy of Van Dijk in the clean sheet stakes.

But in the modern game there is more to defenders than just ensuring the opposition don't score – full-backs are expected to be creative, and Liverpool embody that perfectly.

Trent Alexander-Arnold has laid on 12 assists this season – a figure bettered only by Kevin De Bruyne – and created 78 chances, 29 more than the Reds' second most creative player. On top of that, Andy Robertson has eight assists to his name, the joint-fourth best in the league.

Henderson the unsung hero in midfield

Throughout his career, Jordan Henderson has polarised opinion – but the only point of view that counts here is Klopp's, and the data shows the former Sunderland star's influence.

Since Klopp joined the club, Liverpool's win frequency in the league is 13 per cent better with Henderson in the team than when he is absent.

Indeed, their solitary league defeat this term – at Watford in February – came when Henderson was not in the team.

Henderson has played 125 Premier League matches for Klopp, losing just 11. In the same period, the Reds have lost 10 times from just 50 games without him.

He may not attract the plaudits like those scoring and creating the goals, but there's little doubt his functionality helps Liverpool and aids their more technically gifted superstars.

Triple threat

Is there a better front three in world football than Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah? While difficult to absolutely prove, they are undoubtedly vital to this Liverpool team.

All three are in double figures for goal involvements, with Firmino on 15 (eight goals, seven assists), 22 for Mane (15 goals, seven assists) and Salah in front with 24 (17 goals, seven assists).

Salah has found the net every 137 minutes in the league this term, the best in the team, though Mane's 25 per cent conversion rate is significantly better than the Egyptian's 17 per cent.

All three have a habit of being decisive when it matters too. No one in the entire league has scored more winning goals than Salah (seven), though Mane and Firmino are just behind him with six.

Similarly, Mane's 15 goals have led to 18 points, a Premier League-high in 2019-20.

Liverpool have been utterly ruthless this season, their remarkable 23-point cushion after 31 matches undeniable proof of their relentlessness and brilliance.

Having achieved levels of consistency that have effectively never been seen before in the Premier League era, one has to wonder what it will take to stop Klopp's Reds.

Jurgen Klopp admits Liverpool holding a 20-point lead over Manchester City is "pretty unthinkable" after watching Pep Guardiola's side thrash Burnley.

The reigning Premier League champions followed up a 3-0 win over Arsenal in the first game back following the coronavirus-enforced break to the season with another impressive display on Monday.

City scored five without reply to brush aside Burnley and, with Liverpool only able to manage a 0-0 draw in Sunday's Merseyside derby, the Reds' huge cushion at the summit has been reduced.

Klopp's side get the chance to respond on Wednesday when they host Crystal Palace at Anfield, with a first league title in 30 years within touching distance ahead of a trip to the Etihad Stadium on July 2.

"The only thing I realised from watching the game last night was how is it possible that anybody is 20 points ahead of this team? That's pretty much unthinkable, actually," Klopp told the media.

"So we must have done, obviously, a couple of things really well and right that we can have the situation here.  

"But, no, I don't think about City catching us, or whatever. I think about Crystal Palace. 

"I watched them because we play them in eight or nine days, and not watching them to hope that they lose – it was never like this.  

"Maybe I wanted them to lose last season against Leicester, but that didn't work very well so that's why I stopped doing that. That was one time and it didn't help. 

"I respect them a lot, I've said that plenty of times. They look like they will win all their remaining games because they are really strong, but they were always strong. 

"We are not so bad, so let's think about that."

Mohamed Salah – who was an unused substitute – and Andy Robertson were not involved in the stalemate at Goodison Park due to fitness concerns, though Klopp confirmed both could feature against Palace.

However, James Milner and Joel Matip are ruled out after the pair were forced off with injuries against Everton.

"[Salah] trained yesterday completely normal, he will train today completely normal I would guess and then he is available. What I make with the line-up, you have to wait until tomorrow," Klopp said on Tuesday.

"It is the same with Robbo; he trained yesterday completely normal as well, so it's the same.

"Millie and Joel will not be available for tomorrow. We have to figure out exactly how long it will take, but tomorrow they will not play."

Jurgen Klopp urged Liverpool to stop relying on late goals following the physically taxing 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Roberto Firmino prodded home an 85th-minute winner at Selhurst Park to preserve the Premier League leaders' eight-point advantage over second-placed Leicester City.

Sadio Mane put Liverpool ahead early in the second half, before Wilfried Zaha equalised eight minutes from full-time.

Firmino's intervention means the European champions have now snatched vital points with goals in the 85th minute or later from four of their past six league fixtures.

"You can't take it for granted," Reds boss Klopp told reporters.

"I don't like to talk about it. I understand why you are asking. It's not like 'very good, seven minutes to go, let's start winning now'. That's not what we are like.

"We don't think about it, we just know. We have had four years together. I know a lot about my team. 

"I know what we want, I know what we have to do for it. But we're not the only team who knows that. It was difficult fitness-wise at Palace because there were so many different things.

"We know a lot, but we don't know exactly what the boys have been doing with their national teams. They are nine or 10 days away with their national teams. That's a lot of sessions."

Liverpool forged their fruitful habit last season, notably squeezing past Tottenham and Newcastle United in the final weeks of an absorbing title battle with Manchester City.

Andy Robertson, scorer in a thrilling turnaround against Aston Villa earlier this month, admitted decisive goals must start to come earlier.

"Scoring late is good and enjoyable but we would much rather be 2-0 or 3-0 up and see out the game," the left-back said.

"We cannot keep relying on it but it is good we have that mentality and we did not panic because we have been in this position so many times.

"I think that is why we took control of the game and scored the winner."

Page 1 of 2
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.