Lautaro Martinez's future continues to dominate headlines.

Martinez was tipped to leave Inter for Barcelona at the start of the season, but a move did not materialise amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, Manchester City are emerging as a serious suitor.

 

TOP STORY – CITY WANT LAUTARO

Manchester City are continuing their pursuit of Inter star Lautaro Martinez, according to the Mirror.

Martinez has been heavily linked with LaLiga giants Barcelona, as well as Real Madrid and City, where Pep Guardiola is eyeing a long-term replacement for Sergio Aguero.

The Argentina international has made his demands clear to Inter, who are hoping to re-sign Martinez.

 

ROUND-UP

Barca are open to the idea of selling Ousmane Dembele, says Mundo Deportivo. Dembele was wanted by Manchester United prior to the previous transfer window closing and Barca are reportedly aware of contacts between the France international and the Premier League side.

Arsenal are ready to part with club-record signing Nicolas Pepe, reports the Daily Star. Unconvinced about the Ivory Coast international, the Gunners are even reportedly open to a loan move amid links to Milan.

- The Sun claims Leeds United want Sevilla boss Julen Lopetegui once fan favourite Marcelo Bielsa leaves Elland Road.

- The Mirror claims United want to sign former defender Jonny Evans from Leicester City. Evans – who won three Premier League titles at Old Trafford – left United for West Brom in 2015 before joining Leicester in 2018.

- Barca have offered Philippe Coutinho to Juventus, according to Calciomercato. Barca need to raise funds as they look to recruit Lyon captain Memphis Depay and City defender Eric Garcia.

Brendan Rodgers praised the fighting spirit of his Leicester City side after they battled back from a goal down three times to draw 3-3 with Braga and qualify for the last 32 of the Europa League.

Leicester trailed at the interval in Thursday's clash through goals from Al Musrati and Paulinho either side of Harvey Barnes' equaliser.

Teenage defender Luke Thomas struck to level up but the visitors looked to have thrown away the point they needed to advance when Fransergio slotted in on the counter in the 90th minute.

However, substitute Jamie Vardy rounded off a move he started to snatch Leicester a point in the fifth minute of added time and with it a place in the knockout stage.

Leicester are three points clear of second-placed Braga with two rounds of fixtures to go, and Rodgers is hopeful of finishing top of Group G, which means avoiding one of the Champions League drop-outs in the next stage.

"We've achieved the first objective, which is to qualify," he told LCFC TV. "Now, we want to try and ensure that we go on and win the group.

"It was a really good game. I thought in the second half, we were outstanding. We came from behind three times.

"We weren't very good in the first half at all, we were too slow, and that means that defensively and offensively, it was too static. So, they were the better team in the first half, then we made some changes in the second half. 

"That brought a different dynamic to the team - better movement, better speed in the game. We were excellent in the second half.

"In saying that, we made a mistake in our pressing and they had the chance to win it, but it just typifies the mentality in the group to keep going and to get that equaliser right at the end. 

"We thoroughly deserved it and that was obviously an important point for us. It says everything; they're never beaten, and that's what is important."

Leicester had 48 per cent of the ball in the first half at the Estadio Municipal de Braga but that increased to 63 per cent in an improved second-half display that saw them attempt four shots on target.

The European draw comes four days on from a 3-0 loss to Liverpool in the Premier League that halted a six-game winning streak in all competitions, and Rodgers was pleased with the way his men bounced back.

"It's important for us coming off a disappointing result against Liverpool that we come in and perform well," he said.

"I think there was a little bit of a hangover from that in the first half. Obviously, I'm having to make changes to manage the physicality of the team. Our challenge in the second half was to come back and not lose the game.

"I thought we did that, and I thought we were excellent in our play. We got into some great areas and maybe should have won the game.

"But we'll take the point, away from home in Europe. A point is important and we're really happy to qualify."

Youri Tielemans was only introduced at half-time yet no player on the pitch played more passes in the opposition half than the Belgium midfielder's 34.

"We wanted Youri to be the controller," Rodgers said at his post-match news conference. "He dictated the tempo of the game.

"In the second half, we were excellent in our football and he and James [Maddison] were the catalysts for that. It was a much better second half and it was an exciting game."

Jamie Vardy scored a last-gasp goal amid a dramatic finale as Leicester City clinched their place in the knockout stages of the Europa League in an enthralling 3-3 draw at Braga.

With AEK Athens losing to Zorya Luhansk in Group G's other game on Thursday, the Foxes needed a point to book their place in the last 16, and thought they had it when Luke Thomas scored his first senior goal in the 78th minute to make it 2-2.

Yet Braga, who led at half-time thanks to goals from Al Musrati and Paulinho either side of Harvey Barnes' equaliser, seemed to have snatched the win when substitute Fransergio slotted in on the counter.

It was not to be, with Leicester's talisman Vardy on hand to tuck home Marc Albrighton's cross in the final minute of stoppage time and claim a precious, progression-sealing draw.

Liverpool made light work of Leicester City to move level on points with Premier League leaders Tottenham on a day that saw a couple of records broken at Anfield.

Inspired by another impressive Diogo Jota showing, the Reds eased to a routine victory to keep their positive momentum going at a time when their squad is getting more depleted by the week.

Merseyside rivals Everton were also victorious in Sunday's top-flight action with a narrow win at Fulham, while West Ham saw off Sheffield United and 10-man Arsenal were held by toothless Leeds United.

Using Opta data, we take a look at the key facts from the day's four Premier League fixtures.

 

Fulham 2-3 Everton: Calvert-Lewin at the double as Toffees inflict more capital punishment

Dominic Calvert-Lewin maintained his impressive scoring run with a couple of goals as Everton returned to winning ways in the early kick-off at Craven Cottage.

The England international scored after just 42 seconds – the earliest league goal Everton have netted since April 2017 – before Bobby Decordova-Reid's temporary leveller.

That made it goals in back-to-back home league games for Decordova-Reid for the first time since April 2018 when he was playing in the Championship with Bristol City.

Calvert-Lewin restored Everton's lead for his 10th league goal in nine outings this term, Lucas Digne setting up both that goal and Abdoulaye Doucoure's six minutes later.

Since making his competition debut in August 2018, only Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson (both 26) have more assists among defenders than Digne's 15.

A struggling Fulham side wasted a chance to get back into the game when Ivan Cavaleiro became the latest player for the south London side to miss from the penalty spot.

They have missed five of their past eight top-flight penalties, including the previous three, which have each taken by different players (Aleksandar Mitrovic, Ademola Lookman and Cavaleiro).

Ruben Loftus-Cheek did pull one back but Everton, who have conceded twice or more in six straight league games for the first time in 12 years, held on for a third straight league win in London – their best such run since April 1987.

Sheffield United 0-1 West Ham: Blunt Blades still seeking first victory

Sebastien Haller scored from outside the box for the first time in his top-flight career, on what was his 190th such appearance, to earn West Ham a slender victory at Sheffield United.

The striker, who has also previously played in the Eredivisie and Bundesliga, scored from range after 56 minutes for his sixth goal in all competitions this season – double the number of any other West Ham player.

United were unable to respond and are now without a win in 13 games in all competitions, making this their worst run since October 2013.

Chris Wilder's men have lost four top-flight matches in a row and are only the third side in Premier League history to pick up one point or fewer from their opening nine games, after Manchester City in 1995-96 and Sheffield Wednesday in 1999-2000.

West Ham are now unbeaten in their past 12 Premier League games against sides starting the day bottom, winning five in a row, and they are the first London club to win at Bramall Lane in the competition in 12 attempts since October 2006.

Leeds United 0-0 Arsenal: Hot-headed Gunners fire another blank

Arsenal failed to score for the fourth time in five Premier League outings as they played out a stalemate with Leeds at Elland Road.

Firing blanks has become the norm for Arsenal but there was nothing usual about the scoreline from Leeds' perspective – only their third goalless draw in 101 league games under Marcelo Bielsa.

Leeds now have 41 clean sheets across those 101 matches, not including play-offs, which is more than any other side in the top four tiers of English football in that period.

The Gunners have scored just nine league goals in the same number of league games in 2020-21 – their lowest tally at this stage since 1986-87 when scoring six times.

Mikel Arteta's side had to play almost an entire half with 10 men after Nicolas Pepe was given the first red card of his career in Europe's top five leagues, this being his 146th such appearance.

That was the fifth red card Arsenal have received in the league since Arteta took over in December 2019 – at least two more than any other club.

A point can be considered a good result on the balance of things given Leeds had 25 shots – the third most a team has managed in the Premier League this term, behind only Manchester United v Newcastle United (28) and Leeds v Aston Villa (27).

Liverpool 3-0 Leicester City: Rampant Reds win again at fortress Anfield

A lot has been made of Liverpool's depleted backline but makeshift centre-back pairing Fabinho and Joel Matip withstood everything Leicester chucked at them, the Reds keeping a fourth clean sheet in seven games and conceding only three times in that run.

Jonny Evans' own goal after 21 minutes put Liverpool on their way – the sixth time the former Manchester United defender has put into his own net in the Premier League, which is behind only Richard Dunne (10), Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel (both seven)

Jota doubled the hosts' advantage before half-time against his favourite opponents to become the first Liverpool player ever to score in his first four home top-flight league appearances.

It was a special goal in more ways than one, too, as it came after a sequence of 30 passes – the most in the build-up to any goal by the reigning champions since Opta started collecting data in 2006-07.

Jurgen Klopp's side added a deserved third goal to their tally late on through Roberto Firmino, who has now scored in two of Liverpool's five home league matches this term, compared to one in 19 such outings in 2019-20.

The routine home win makes it 64 home league matches without defeat for Liverpool – now officially the longest run in the club's history, with 53 of those games ending in victory.

It was another unhappy reunion with Liverpool for their former boss Brendan Rodgers, meanwhile, as he has lost all three league encounters with the Reds since taking charge of Leicester, conceding nine goals in the process.

Brendan Rodgers questioned the narrative about Liverpool being "depleted" after Leicester City were well beaten on Sunday.

Rodgers' Leicester suffered a 3-0 loss at Anfield as Liverpool extended their unbeaten home run in the league to 64 games – a club record.

Jurgen Klopp was without the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Mohamed Salah, Jordan Henderson, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Thiago Alcantara for the Premier League encounter.

But Leicester manager Rodgers suggested there had been too much focus on the injury concerns of his former side, who moved level on points with Premier League leaders Tottenham.

He also pointed to Leicester's own absentees, with Ricardo Pereira, Caglar Soyuncu, Timothy Castagne and Wilfred Ndidi all missing from the game.

"We don't dwell on it. We've had a terrific start. We were beaten by the better team," he told a news conference.

"Everyone talked about Liverpool's injuries and that was the narrative leading into this game but it's still a top-class team with players at the front end of the pitch who can hurt you.

"There's still a number of players out but the players have been great, doing everything and it just wasn't our night, so we move on."

With Van Dijk and Joe Gomez out, Fabinho slotted into the centre of defence alongside Joel Matip, while James Milner started at right-back due to Alexander-Arnold's calf injury.

Rodgers said it was still a strong Liverpool defence, as Klopp's side kept their fourth clean sheet in seven games in all competitions.

"I don't really see it as a depleted backline," he said.

"I know they're missing Virgil van Dijk, but Matip is a top defender, Fabinho has filled in, he played there against Chelsea and played there against top players.

"Andy Robertson has always played, Alisson is the number one goalkeeper and wherever James Milner plays he does an incredible job. I don’t go with that narrative, they're still very strong with top players.

"You look at their midfield, players who have always played. They're just an outstanding team, super organised, play really hard with quality and were the better team."

After Jonny Evans' 21st-minute own goal, Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino scored for Liverpool, the result leaving Leicester in fourth in the table – two points adrift of Spurs and Klopp's men.

Manchester City will reportedly opt against making a move for Barcelona star Lionel Messi.

Messi, 33, sensationally requested to leave Barca during the close season, but ended up staying with the LaLiga giants.

Still, talk about his future continues, with City the most strongly linked.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY WON'T TRY TO SIGN MESSI

Manchester City will not try to sign Barcelona star Messi, Spanish football expert Semra Hunter told Sky Sports News.

The report says Messi's age and wage demands are a major reason the Premier League giants will not pursue him.

Messi, a six-time Ballon d'Or winner, is out of contract at the end of the season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Are Real Madrid looking for a replacement for 35-year-old midfielder Luka Modric? Fichajes.net reports Madrid see Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic as the ideal replacement for Croatia star Modric.

- Barcelona will try to sign Manchester City defender Eric Garcia in January amid an injury crisis in defence, according to Sport. Gerard Pique (knee) and Sergi Roberto (thigh) are both set for spells on the sidelines. Meanwhile, Marca says Barcelona are set for a meeting to decide whether they should sign a replacement for Pique.

- Fabian Ruiz has impressed for Napoli, leading to interest from elsewhere. CalcioMercato reports Paris Saint-Germain are still targeting the midfielder.

- Amid uncertainty over his future at Inter, Christian Eriksen is linked with a return to the Premier League. Corriere dello Sport reports Manchester United and Arsenal are considering the former Tottenham star.

- With Memphis Depay and Moussa Dembele linked with moves, Lyon may be eyeing replacements. Le 10 Sport says Reims and Senegal forward Boulaye Dia and Leicester City forward Islam Slimani are both targets.

Jurgen Klopp praised Roberto Firmino for a "super game" after Liverpool's 3-0 win over Leicester City in the Premier League.

Firmino headed in the sealer at Anfield on Sunday as Liverpool extended their unbeaten league run at home to a club record 64 games.

Often criticised, Firmino scored his second goal of the season and the Brazilian's 48 passes, 41 successful passes and six shots were the most he has managed in any Premier League game this campaign.

Klopp hailed the forward and said he was pleased to see the 29-year-old also get on the scoresheet, heading in James Milner's 86th-minute corner.

"We were really happy and relieved. He deserved it so much. He played a super game, he played a super game and was so important for us again," the Liverpool manager told a news conference.

"You could see in the face of all the players when he scored that everybody thought, 'Yes, exactly the right goalscorer'."

Firmino's goal came after Diogo Jota doubled Liverpool's lead following Jonny Evans' 21st-minute own goal.

Klopp was proud of his players for setting a club record with their unbeaten league run at home, but said it was something he would reflect on at another time.

"Look, my problem is that in the moment I spoke so much about football, I have so much to think about how we can play the next game and things like this," he said.

"So, it doesn't feel it. Maybe it's not right but there will be a moment, for sure, in the future when I think back – and hopefully it will be a different number and not only 64.

"It's absolutely incredible, but it's all about the boys. It's really difficult to achieve something like this but when you think about how tight a lot of games were then it doesn't happen just like this. You have to really dig in for that and the boys did that.

"I said it a few times before, we really enjoy playing here. It's our ground, it's our home, everything feels home – even when the people are not here. It doesn't feel right but we have to do it and we are happy that we can play.

"So, what the boys put out there on the pitch performance-wise is absolutely incredible and it's the only reason for the number. Obviously it's pretty tricky and pretty difficult to set records for this incredible club because our fathers or grandfathers, they were obviously pretty good. So having this record now, I'm happy for the players but it doesn't feel like a big moment, to be honest, because we play on Wednesday and that's actually my only concern at the moment."

Liverpool star Mohamed Salah will return to training on Monday after testing negative for coronavirus, manager Jurgen Klopp said.

Salah missed Liverpool's 3-0 win over Leicester City in the Premier League on Sunday after testing positive for COVID-19 while on international duty with Egypt.

But in a boost for Klopp's injury-hit side, Salah is set to return to training in the lead up to Wednesday's Champions League clash at home to Atalanta.

"That's what I've heard, yes, it [was] negative today. I think he is from now on pretty normal in testing," the Liverpool manager told a news conference.

"Tomorrow we have the UEFA testing for the Champions League and I am pretty sure he will be in that.

"He can now train with us tomorrow, that's it. He will have two tests in the next two days, so, yes, he will be tested like all of us."

Since arriving at Liverpool in 2017, Salah has missed just seven Premier League games – and Klopp's men are unbeaten, although their win percentage drops to 57.1, compared to 73.3 when the star forward plays. They also average more goals for (2.3 to 1.9) and points per game (2.4 to 2.1) with Salah.

Against Leicester, Liverpool extended their unbeaten home run in the league to a club record 64 games after Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino scored following Jonny Evans' first-half own goal.

But they suffered yet another injury concern, with midfielder Naby Keita hurting his hamstring in the win.

Klopp also confirmed Xherdan Shaqiri was sidelined with a muscle injury.

"Shaq, how I know it, he had a muscle injury with the national team which he didn't really realise," he said.

"Now he trained with us, we gave him a day off and then he came back and was involved in the session, but was not fully involved and all these kind of things. He just did a little bit, after that he felt a little bit. Then we did a scan and they found he has an injury from five or six days ago.

"Nobody knew about that, not even Shaq knew about it, but that's how things sometimes are and so he was not able to be involved."

Jurgen Klopp was overjoyed by the performance and emphatic result in Sunday's 3-0 win over Leicester City, surmising that his team was "on fire".

Liverpool's problems have been well-documented this season and they only got worse during the international break, as Joe Gomez, Jordan Henderson and Mohamed Salah became the latest to join the lengthy absentee list due to injuries and illness.

They were expected to at least be put under pressure by Leicester City on Sunday, with the Reds fielding a makeshift back four and the Foxes having won all four of their previous away games in the Premier League this term.

But in reality Liverpool were utterly dominant and cruised to a straightforward win that not only took them level with leaders Tottenham on 20 points, but set a new record of 64 unbeaten top-flight matches at Anfield.

Jonny Evans' own goal was added to by Diogo Jota – who became the first Liverpool player ever to score in each of his first four Anfield league games – and Roberto Firmino rounded the win off late on, leaving Klopp thrilled.

He told Sky Sports: "We deserved it, 100 per cent.

"The boys played an incredible game against a top, top, top opponent and playing them like we played tonight, I don't take things like this for granted to be honest.

"The boys were really on fire football-wise. They played and played and played. Obviously Leicester defends in a specific way, Jamie Vardy was much deeper than last season, so it makes it even more tricky.

"The front line defended really well and offensively we were incredible, we should have scored more goals. That is a top sign for a big game."

One of the Liverpool players featuring out of position in the defence was James Milner, who filled in at right-back with Trent Alexander-Arnold out until December.

The experienced midfielder has become known for his reliability and versatility in recent years, and it was his performance that pleased Klopp most.

"We scored three goals and didn't concede one, we defended exceptionally well, controlled the game," he told BBC Sport.

"There were a lot of good things, I can't pick one that pleased me most - maybe the performance of James Milner at right back. He played an exceptional game, first there and then in midfield.

"That is what we expect from ourselves. Injuries were a massive shock in that moment but the boys have to offer solutions."

Liverpool have set a new club record of 64 top-flight home matches without defeat following their 3-0 Premier League win against Leicester City.

Jurgen Klopp was without a host of key men on Sunday, but Liverpool produced a dominant performance and clinched a victory that helped secure a slice of history and take them second in the table.

Liverpool's previous record of 63 matches unbeaten in the league at Anfield was set in December 1980, the run having started more than two years earlier in February 1978.

Leicester were the team to end the run on that occasion, though they were unable to inspire a repeat of history.

Jonny Evans' own goal was added to by Diogo Jota, who himself set a new Anfield record as he became the first Liverpool player in history to score in his first four home league games.

Roberto Firmino then completed the scoring late on with a header.

Liverpool's immense 64-match streak began rather unremarkably on May 7, 2017 with a 0-0 draw against Southampton, having last lost at home in the Premier League on April 23.

A Crystal Palace team inspired by ex-Reds striker Christian Benteke were the last visitors to prevail at Anfield in the league.

Leicester travelled to Merseyside having won all of their previous five away games in the league this term, but former Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers could not mastermind what would have undoubtedly been a satisfying feat for the Foxes manager.

Liverpool cruised to a 3-0 win over Leicester City on Sunday to set a new club record of 64 top-flight home matches unbeaten as Diogo Jota continued a remarkable Anfield streak of his own.

Jurgen Klopp was without a host of key men, with Joe Gomez, Jordan Henderson and Mohamed Salah among the latest to join their lengthy absentee list, but they dealt with the threat posed by Leicester with impressive ease considering their circumstances.

Leicester had won all four of their away Premier League games this term prior to Sunday but once they fell behind to Jonny Evans' unfortunate own goal – the sixth of his top-flight career – they never looked likely to end the Reds' run.

Jota made it 2-0 just before half-time, becoming the first Reds player in history to score in his first four Anfield league games, and from there it was plain sailing, Liverpool finally adding a third late on through Roberto Firmino – the Brazilian have previously hit the post twice.

The Reds' positive start belied the depleted nature of their squad, as Sadio Mane headed into the side-netting and Curtis Jones tested Kasper Schmeichel from a tight angle before Evans put into his own net from a corner in the 21st minute.

But they were given a warning soon after when Leicester spurned a glorious chance – Harvey Barnes shooting agonisingly wide of the top-right corner first-time from Jamie Vardy's cut-back.

That was not the start of a Leicester resurgence, however, and Liverpool increased their lead just before the break, Jota glancing an Andrew Robertson cross into the net for his own slice of Anfield history.

Although Liverpool lost Naby Keita to an apparent hamstring problem early in the second half, they continued to dominate and carve out chances.

Schmeichel produced a strong save from the marauding Mane, and then Firmino hit the goal frame with a close-range header.

Firmino, scorer of just two goals in his previous 23 league games, struck the other post again 13 minutes from time in a remarkable sequence that also saw Schmeichel turn a Mane effort on to the woodwork.

But the Brazil international's misfortune finally ended late on when he sent a towering header beyond Schmeichel, as Liverpool ensured they would end the day second in the table.   

What does it mean? Depleted or not, Reds always a force

Producing such a professional and dominant performance – and translating that into a similarly comfortable win against fine opposition – is a real accomplishment for Liverpool.

Much has been made of their general defensive issues this season, yet there was little sign of vulnerability there in spite of such a makeshift back four – Leicester only managed four shots on target in the match.

Similarly, going forward Liverpool gave Leicester's defence so much to contend with, their 24 attempts indicative of the control they exerted.

Robertson rampant on the wing

Scotland star Robertson was a doubt for this game having suffered a knock on international duty – not that you would have been able to tell from his performance. The left-back was menace on the flank, creating three chances and setting up Jota's header with a fine cross. That was his 31st Premier League assist for the Reds – only Kevin De Bruyne (41) has more than him in that timeframe.

The tonic for Firmino's frustrations

It looked like being another infuriating outing for Firmino, who had hit the right post from just a few yards and then the left when one-on-one with Schmeichel. He eventually found the mark with Liverpool's third of the day, only his second Premier League goal of the season.

What's next?

These two turn their attentions back to European football in midweek, as Liverpool host Atalanta in the Champions League on Wednesday and Leicester face a Europa League trip to Sporting Braga a day later.

Diogo Jota is the first player in Liverpool history to score in his opening four top-flight home matches for the club following his header against Leicester City.

Jota has enjoyed a scintillating start to life at Anfield following his reported £41million move from Wolves in pre-season.

Before Sunday's visit of Leicester, Jota had scored seven goals in 11 matches for the Reds across all competitions, forcing his way into the team despite the settled nature of their first-choice attack of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.

That haul included strikes in three successive Premier League home games, equalling a club record, and he went one better against Leicester.

Arriving on to Andrew Robertson's precise cross from the left, Jota got in front of his marker and sent a glancing header past Kasper Schmeichel in the Foxes' net to make it 2-0 just before half-time.

Jota was starting in the Liverpool attack in place of Salah, who was ruled out due to contracting coronavirus during the international break. 

His goal came after a sequence of 30 passes; since Opta have this data available from 2006-07, this is the most in the build up to any Premier League goal by the Reds.

Jurgen Klopp welcomed the news Pep Guardiola has committed his future to Manchester City, but the Liverpool manager is wary of challenges from elsewhere in the Premier League.

Liverpool and City have been England's two leading teams in recent seasons, with Guardiola's men winning consecutive titles before the Reds - narrowly beaten in 2018-19 - took their crown last term.

That battle is set to continue, even with both sides facing problems, after the City manager signed a new two-year contract at the Etihad Stadium.

Klopp is looking forward to further tussles with the Catalan coach, yet he does not see a two-horse race resuming at the top of the table.

"I'm happy about Pep signing the new contract, but I'm a little bit afraid that it will be Guardiola versus Klopp, or something like that, over the next few years," Klopp said.

"Because it looks like Frank [Lampard] and Chelsea are building a proper team there, Manchester United will not stay without trying and Arsenal will do the same.

"Tottenham look really dangerous this year, Leicester are already really good and 100 per cent Wolves, too, because I see the development and watch a lot of football.

"I see the stats they are making, that's a threat for all of us. [But] I'm happy that Pep stayed with me for longer."

Klopp's future is similarly secure, despite a potential opening with the Germany national team, where pressure is building on Joachim Low after a sensational 6-0 defeat to Spain.

It is a role that interests the Liverpool boss - just not yet.

"Wow! This is one of the questions I have answered most often in my life," Klopp said when asked about coaching his country. "In the future? Maybe. Now? No.

"I have no time for it; I have a job. I'm not sure if anyone has asked for me, or after me, in public, but if they don't know, I have a job here at Liverpool.

"I am responsible for a lot of things here, so I will not go and search for another challenge out there. I have enough challenges after waking up in the morning, so that's enough."

Having only just returned from injury himself, Joel Matip has suddenly become pivotal for Liverpool as they prepare for a busy finish to 2020.

Matip is the last experienced centre-back left standing for the reigning Premier League champions, leaving him to take on the role of leader in a defence that has seen a slip in the lofty standards set during the title-winning season.

With Virgil van Dijk – an ever-present in the previous Premier League campaign – already a long-term absentee, Liverpool lost Joe Gomez to a serious injury while away on England duty.

So, ahead of a stamina-sapping run of 11 games prior to the end of the year, Matip goes from supporting act to leading man in a makeshift defence also minus Trent Alexander-Arnold as club football returns following the November international break.

It is a tough task for the former Schalke player, too. Ahead of hosting Leicester City at Anfield on Sunday, Liverpool have kept just one clean sheet in their last 13 Premier League games, conceding in each of their previous six outings at home in the competition.

Unsurprisingly, Jurgen Klopp talked up Matip's qualities – and defended his durability amid a concerning injury record – ahead of the visit of the in-form Foxes.

"Since he's been with us, he's been incredible," the Liverpool boss, who had seen plenty of Matip before linking up on Merseyside following his time in charge at Borussia Dortmund, said. "He's an incredible football player, it's unbelievable how good he is.  

"Yes, he was unlucky with injuries. Before he arrived, no injuries - he played through for Schalke for four, five, six years. He comes here and it starts, but they're all different.  

"The last injury he had from someone cutting the tendon on his toe, in the Everton game, then you're out and you look vulnerable. Now he's back - and hopefully for a long time.  

"If he is in the best moment of his career, I don't know. But I am really happy with this moment of his career, for how he's been for the past three years. Super player."

Klopp has every right to suggest the 29-year-old is "super" - at least he is when fit, which has not always been the case during his club career.

In 76 league starts for the Reds – 58 of which he has ended up on the winning side, as well as helping record 29 clean sheets – Matip has committed only two errors that have led to goals for the opposition. 

His tackle success rate in those games sits a fraction under 70 per cent and, considering the importance of playing out from the back for a team likely to control possession in so many of their contests, his pass completion rate has never dropped below 80 per cent.

What Liverpool need from him most, though, is a sustained run without another spell out of action. As Klopp suggested, the injury issues have been varied but an already weakened back-line could do with a consistent presence at the heart of it.

Matip has suffered ankle, hamstring and thigh problems since joining on a free transfer, as well as a fractured collarbone. His involvement in the 2019-20 campaign was limited to nine league appearances due to a knee injury, and already this term he has missed games.

Liverpool can ill-afford to be without him too often from now on, considering the centre-back cupboard is so bare. Rhys Williams and Nathaniel Phillips are young and still untested at the top level, despite recent experiences in the first team, while the versatile Fabinho – so often used as a holding midfielder – can fill in.

A January move to strengthen may be in the pipeline behind the scenes – Dayot Upamecano at RB Leipzig has been strongly linked, along with another Bundesliga player in Schalke's Ozan Kabak.

For now, though, Klopp must make do with the current options in his depleted squad. The Reds boss will hope that, most weeks, Matip is among them.

James Milner is "devastated" by Joe Gomez's latest injury lay-off but is confident his Liverpool team-mate will return even stronger.

Gomez sustained a knee injury during a training session with England last week and will miss "a significant part" of 2020-21 after undergoing surgery.

The 23-year-old recovered from a long-term anterior cruciate ligament injury during his first season at Anfield and also bounced back from a broken leg in 2018.

Fellow centre-back Virgil van Dijk is out for the rest of the season, meanwhile, and makeshift defender Fabinho has also recently had a spell on the sidelines.

From the 52 matches Gomez and Van Dijk have played in together, Liverpool's win percentage is 76.9, compared to 74.5 from the 47 in which one or both has not been present.

Despite Gomez's untimely setback, Milner believes the former Charlton Athletic man has the right mindset to fully recover and pick up from where he left off once he returns.

"We've spoken about Virg a lot, Joe is exactly the same. I'm devastated for him," he told Premier League Productions.

"He's an amazing guy, first and foremost and most importantly, and you don’t want to see it happen to anyone but [especially not] someone like him. 

"As a player, how good he is as well. People forget how young he is and what he's done at this club already and how much he has improved and continues to improve.

"He's still really young. He's been through this once before with a bad injury and came through it stronger, so if anybody has got the mental fortitude to deal with this, it's him. 

"He has been through it before and he came back stronger, and I'm sure that will be the case again.

"Obviously we're gutted for him and how well he's been playing as well. Not only for him as a player and a person, but also for us as a team it's obviously a big miss.

"But, like I say, he's mentally very strong and he'll get through it and come back stronger. We're obviously all here with him and supporting him as much as we can."

Jurgen Klopp faces a selection headache at the back for Liverpool's Premier League clash against high-flying Leicester City with a dearth of fit and available senior centre-backs.

Joel Matip looks certain to start Sunday's match, with Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams contenders to play alongside the 29-year-old in the heart of defence.

Phillips impressed on his league debut against West Ham last month, his nine clearances being six more than next best Gomez, while no Liverpool player managed more interceptions (2).

Fabinho is another option after returning to training this week following three weeks out and Milner is adamant his side have enough quality to cope without key players.

"We're blessed to have a lot of good players in the squad, there's always competition for places," he said. 

"The guys who have stepped into the team in recent weeks, at centre-half and any position, have done very well. Rhys and Nat as well. There's options there. 

"Fabinho has done very well when he has played. That's what you have to do as a squad – you have to make changes and adapt to new formations and new positions. 

"We're fortunate to have a lot of good players in the squad and players who can adapt to different positions and deal with that.

"We're lucky to have those options, and I'm sure the manager will work out the best way we’re going to go and go from there."

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