Robbie Keane has questioned why any player would swap Liverpool for Bayern Munich amid strong speculation that Sadio Mane could be on his way to the German champions.

Bayern are reported to have had a second bid of €35.3million (£30m), a part of which is made up of bonus-related add-ons, rejected by Liverpool earlier this week.

Mane has won six major trophies across his six seasons at Anfield and has another 12 months to run on his contract.

However, speaking while away on international duty with Senegal last week, the 30-year-old hinted he is open to departing the English giants this window.

But ex-Liverpool striker Keane has suggested Mane would be making a backwards step in his career if he moves from the Premier League runners-up to the Bundesliga winners.

"If Mane goes obviously it's a big loss for Liverpool," Keane told Stats Perform at a media day ahead of his participation in Sunday's Soccer Aid charity match.

"If the rumours are true and he goes to Bayern Munich, it's a great signing for them. It looks like they're going to lose [Robert] Lewandowski. 

"I can't really see why would you leave Liverpool to go to Bayern Munich at this moment in time.

"Especially when you got a manager like Jurgen Klopp and what they're doing at the moment in winning two cups, and could've easily won four of them. 

"I'm surprised by it. Obviously he's a top, top player. I'm sure, wherever he goes, any team will be happy with him."

 

Mane has scored 90 goals in 196 Premier League appearances for Liverpool since joining from Southampton for £34m at the start of the 2016-17 campaign.

Only Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy (104), Liverpool colleague Mohamed Salah (118) and Tottenham's Harry Kane (134) have scored more in the competition in that period.

He would undoubtedly leave a huge void to be filled, but Jurgen Klopp's side appear to be close to signing Benfica forward Darwin Nunez as a likely replacement.

Nunez has scored 48 goals in 85 games for Benfica in all competitions, 61 of those being starts, and averaged 1.2 goals every 90 minutes in the Portuguese Primeira Liga last season.

That compares to 0.5 goals per 90 minutes in the Premier League for Mane, albeit across six more matches in the 2021-22 season and in what is a tougher division.

Keane, who spent a season at Anfield in 2008-09, believes Nunez will provide something a little different for Liverpool should a deal be agreed with Benfica.

"I've watched him a few times and I think he's a good player," Keane said. "He's obviously young and he's more of a number nine, which Liverpool haven't had for a few years.

"They have [Roberto] Firmino, of course, but Firmino drops into 10. They haven't had a typical number nine. 

"So it'll bring a bit more of a target man up there who others can play off. I think it will be a good signing."

Keane is also looking forward to playing in this weekend's Soccer Aid in association with UNICEF, a charity match that will help raise money to give kids the best start in life.

"We're here so UNICEF can raise as much money as possible, which is an incredible cause," he said.

"What they've done over the last 11-12 years, the amount of money they've raised is incredible. But it's also good to come here and mix with completely different people."

Sebastian Vettel does not believe there has been a "changing of the guard" in Formula One, saying older drivers would thrive with "the right tools" 

Max Verstappen won his first F1 world title last season, dethroning Lewis Hamilton in the most dramatic fashion in the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi.

Red Bull's Verstappen leads Charles Leclerc by nine points in the battle for the 2022 title, with the 37-year-old Hamilton sixth.

Vettel, 34, has picked up only five points for Aston Martin, while the 40-year-old Fernando Alonso having 10 points to his name

Verstappen, Leclerc and George Russell – all aged 24 – have emerged as a new generation of drivers with long careers ahead of them.

Four-time F1 champion Vettel says they are fortunate to have cars that enable them to challenge for victories. 

Asked about the young drivers coming through, the German told Stats Perform: "I think it very much depends how competitive your environment is.

"Obviously, usually you're saying that there's a changing of the guard, Lewis has been arguably fighting for the title until the very last lap last year, so it's not too long ago.

"I think it depends always on the situation you're in for sure. There's drivers that are a little bit older like Fernando and Lewis then myself, but I'm sure that you give us the right tools, we still can do the right work."

Vettel hopes Ferrari can give Leclerc every chance of winning his first F1 title.

He said: "Obviously, Charles is one of them and in a good car he deserves to be up there. Hopefully the car will be good enough for him to fight for the title this year until the end.

"We will see, throughout the field you have more that one or two drivers that will be able to battle for victories.

"But usually the right drivers get the right package at the right time, so I'm very happy for him and hopefully he has the car to do it until the end."

 

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Bayern Munich and Robert Lewandowski should not have any bad blood between them if the striker moves on, says Holger Badstuber.

The Poland captain has made it clear he wants to leave the Bundesliga champions, with Barcelona eager to bring him to Camp Nou.

But with a year left on his contract and no obvious successor to the two-time European Golden Shoe winner, Bayern are playing hardball.

That has led to a particularly testy war of words between Lewandowski and the club - but former Bayern man Badstuber believes there should be no animosity if he departs.

"I think that the mutual appreciation should be here," Badstuber told Stats Perform.

"Bayern did a lot for Robert Lewandowski and Lewandowski did his job, which is scoring goals and he always represented Bayern well.

"So, in this case there should not be bad blood if Lewandowski decides to choose another path again."

Badstuber is intrigued to see who the Bavarian grants would bring in if the prolific Lewandowski leaves.

"It’s clear that Bayern must find an heir, an interesting candidate," he added. "Who knows who’s already on the radar or who they already have an eye on.

"It for sure is going to be interesting what comes, whenever that will be.

"For Hasan Salihamidzic it again is a task which he must solve with his team, and I think also with the coach."

Newcastle United should ignore the temptation to buy "big stars" and focus on more players like Bruno Guimaraes and Joelinton.

That is the view of Shaka Hislop, the ex-Magpies goalkeeper, who has been hugely impressed by the performances of the Brazilian midfield pair.

Newcastle signed Guimaraes in January for a fee that could eventually surpass the club-record figure of £40million previously spent on compatriot Joelinton.

Brazil international Guimaraes hit the ground running at St James' Park, scoring five goals in 17 appearances before the end of the season – more than in 71 outings over two years for former club Lyon.

Joelinton endured a considerably trickier start to life in England following his 2019 arrival, toiling as a striker as he netted only 10 times in 80 games across his first two seasons.

Yet Eddie Howe has transformed the ex-Hoffenheim man into a dominant, destructive midfielder, contesting the second-most duels in the Premier League this season (529).

Guimaraes and Joelinton were key to Newcastle's impressive late-season form, winning six of the nine games they started together, but Howe's XI could look very different next term after another transfer window.

Since a lucrative takeover last year, Newcastle have been linked to Neymar, Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard and Ousmane Dembele, among others.

But Hislop says his former club should be looking for more players like Guimaraes.

"If big stars become available at the right price and the right fit for Newcastle, I don't see why not," he told Stats Perform.

"But at the same time, while I think there's this temptation, if not an expectation to go for those big stars, one of those January signings was Bruno Guimaraes, who was not a big star, but goodness me, what a player he's turned out to be.

"And I think that's in keeping with what the transfer policy will be.

"At the same time, while I mention Bruno Guimaraes, I've got to mention Joelinton, whom many had dismissed and thought was on his way out.

"And Eddie Howe found his position for him as a defensive midfielder, and he ended up winning [Newcastle's] player of the season – and justifiably so.

"Those are the kind of players, because when you see them, and you see their performances, that's exactly what you want from Newcastle players.

"So while the temptation will be to go for the big names, I don't think that is how they'll do their business – that's not going to be their M.O. so to speak.

"It will be finding those gems and those gems that fit with what Newcastle United stands for."

Hislop was at Newcastle's 2-0 win over Arsenal, watching Guimaraes score the second goal, and he said: "Seeing him live, as I did against Arsenal, just painted his talents in a very different light for me.

"He is so calm under pressure, and I think that feeds to everybody else. He's calm under pressure when he's in possession, he's first to press the ball, he, of course, popped up with the second goal against Arsenal.

"He really is an incredible talent and, again, he epitomises so much about Newcastle or the way that they play under Eddie Howe."

Hislop believes Newcastle may not need as much investment as has been suggested, having earned the fourth-most points in the Premier League in 2022 (38) and the third-most points per game (2.0) – behind only Liverpool and Manchester City.

"Given that stat, where is the urgent need to strengthen?" Hislop said. "Listen, I also understand that when you're playing well that is a perfect time to bring fresh faces in to add competition in the squad.

"I believe that those players who performed so well in the second half of the season deserve the chance to build on that.

"So, if I am adding to the squad, it's around competition for places; having real strength in depth is a need for every Premier League team now.

"Newcastle are not yet competing in Europe, but the hope will be that they put together some decent cup runs and, if you do that, again, your squad will be tested. So, right now, my thinking is just in terms of our squad depth."

Shaka Hislop is willing to be patient with Newcastle United's rebuild and believes fans are too, knowing the club will "be there to stay" once they reach the top of the Premier League table.

Newcastle have been struggling in the bottom half of the top flight for many years, but supporters' optimism was renewed by a lucrative takeover last year.

A consortium backed by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund bought Newcastle from Mike Ashley, in theory making the club the richest in world football.

No team spent more than Newcastle in the January transfer window, as an outlay of around £90million brought in the likes of Kieran Trippier and Bruno Guimaraes and inspired a surge up the table.

Bottom at the start of December, a sensational run under Eddie Howe took Newcastle up to a comfortable 11th by the season's end.

Further spending is anticipated ahead of the 2022-23 campaign, when Newcastle will be expected to have loftier ambitions, although former goalkeeper Hislop suggests success will not be immediate.

"A lot of the thinking is that this ownership isn't going to come and spend that kind of money straight off the bat," he told Stats Perform.

"Many thought they would like PSG are doing, or for argument's sake [Manchester] City may have done, [but] it's going to be a slow, gradual and deliberate process in bringing back some of those glory days.

"The signings have to make sense, they have to make fiscal sense, while the ownership are going to focus on building out the infrastructure so that once Newcastle are back and competing at the top end of the table, it's just sustained effort, it is not just fuelled by big spending and transfer windows, but they're going to build out the infrastructure.

"Now, building out infrastructure is going to take years, but I think the fanbase is understanding of that. They are okay with that. That's what they want.

"They are happy to take their time to get back to competing for Premier League honours. As long as it's a sustained effort, I think that's tying into everybody's feeling around the club and one that just comes together so well.

"So, the short answer is it's going to take time, but there's no doubt in my mind that they will be competing for honours before long. We'll see how long, but once they do, they'll be there to stay."

Hislop's thoughts were informed by a visit to Newcastle's training ground to chat to former Portsmouth team-mate Howe and members of backroom staff who remain at the club from his time on Tyneside in the 1990s.

Following those conversations, the 53-year-old – who was awarded the freedom of Newcastle for his work with Show Racism the Red Card – suggested "rekindling" an atmosphere that is "like nothing else" was more important than any promises of investment.

"The way that they felt the club was going under Mike Ashley, to them, it felt like it's lost its way, it lost its direction and sense of significance around the city, around the north-east in general," Hislop explained.

"And they felt that that had been renewed under the new ownership.

"Nobody at the club, nobody at the city is talking about the wealth of the new owners and any big spending there is to come.

"Everybody's just focused on rekindling that atmosphere that we saw and loved during the 90s and having some of that football back into the place, having a sense of optimism, because it felt that that had been taken away and neglected over the last few years."

John Aldridge has compared Real Madrid talisman Karim Benzema to a "bottle of Rioja" who has got better with age ahead of the Champions League final against Liverpool.

France striker Benzema has scored a staggering 44 goals in 45 appearances for Los Blancos this season.

The Madrid captain is the leading scorer in the 2021-22 Champions League, finding the back of the net 15 times in 11 matches – including back-to-back hat-tricks against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea.

Benzema's penalty settled a pulsating semi-final second leg against Manchester City and the 34-year-old also helped himself to a brace in the first leg.

Former Liverpool striker Aldridge spoke of his admiration for the prolific Benzema ahead of Saturday's Champions League showdown at Stade de France.

He told Stats Perform: "I always thought that Benzema was a good player. But what he's done the last couple of years, and they've had the big players leave, he's become like a bottle of wine.

"He's matured very well. He's got better with age, which I did, because I was a late developer. I found the older I got, the more experience I got, the better I was.

"I played until I was nearly 40. He has a great football brain and all I can say is, he’s like a nice bottle of Rioja, red, that is. He's matured very, very well. And it's very expensive."

Aldridge stressed that the Reds must not allow 36-year-old midfield maestro Luka Modric to dictate the final in Paris.

"It's down the middle, we can hurt them in certain places," he said. "Vinicius [Junior] and Benzema, for me are our main threat.

"They have great players all over the pitch. In midfield, Modric, what a player, what a player he is, whatever age he is, I watched him against Man City, you let him run the show.

"And I've seen him run the show for Tottenham at Liverpool, one of the best appearances I've ever seen from an away player. Some years ago, we got beat, and he was unbelievable.

"So, you can't give him any room. You've got to watch the space in behind Trent [Alexander-Arnold], obviously where they'll capitalise with the pace of Vinicius.

"And Benzema, you can't give him any room in the box, they're the main threats. When you've got [Sadio] Mane, [Diogo] Jota, [Luis] Diaz and [Mohamed] Salah, they've got a little bit to think about as well."

Aldridge also hailed Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti, who won the LaLiga title for the first time this season after leaving Everton for a second spell in the Spanish capital.

He said: "Apart from Everton? It's mad with Ancelotti, he went to Everton and walked away, and he got another crack at Madrid which to be quite honest, how that has happened is like, it's crazy isn't it?

"And he's been brilliant. You have to say he's very intelligent, he's a class act, he's been in these occasions quite a few times as we know. He has set the stall out, he's right up there with the best coaches and managers in the world. Absolutely."

Mohamed Salah and Son Heung-min were more deserving winners of the Premier League Player of the Season award than Kevin De Bruyne.

That is according to Liverpool legend Phil Thompson, who also told Stats Perform that Erling Haaland will not necessarily make Manchester City a stronger side next season.

City playmaker De Bruyne last week edged out Son, Salah, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joao Cancelo, Jarrod Bowen, Bukayo Saka and James Ward-Prowse for the award.

The Belgium international played a key part in City's successful title defence with 15 goals in 30 league appearances and a further eight assists.

Remarkably, the 30-year-old's 15 goals came from an expected goals (xG) return of just 6.2, meaning he scored nine goals more than expected from the quality of his chances.

However, his 23 direct goal involvements were fewer than Salah (36), Son (30) and Harry Kane (26) managed, albeit having played at least five games fewer than any of those.

De Bruyne ranked above each of those players for chances created (87), though, and was behind only Alexander-Arnold (90) and Bruno Fernandes (89).

But Thompson believes that Liverpool forward Salah and Tottenham's Son – who shared the Golden Boot with 23 goals – were more consistent than De Bruyne over the season.

"I think it has to be Mo. I know the players have all given it to Kevin De Bruyne and he's a wonderful player," Thompson said. 

"He's been wonderful for the last couple of months, but it's over a season and people get swayed by people who finish the season well. 

"That is still in their minds when they're just putting their name on that form, or whether it's all done on phone now. 

"But I would like to think over the whole year, and yes, Mo hasn't been rattling them in for the last six weeks or so, but overall, he has been.

"They were talking around Christmas time that this is the best player in the world. He's not gone from being the best player in the world to playing second fiddle to De Bruyne. 

"I'm sorry. Mo Salah was the player of the season and then probably Son has probably been more consistent over the whole nine months."

City's title triumph was their fourth in the past five seasons and they have already moved to bolster their squad with the signing of Haaland from Borussia Dortmund.

Haaland scored 86 goals in 89 games for Dortmund, a tally only bettered by Kylian Mbappe (90) and Robert Lewandowski (123) since January 18, 2020. 

But, citing a rather mixed campaign for British record signing Jack Grealish, Thompson questioned whether Pep Guardiola will get the most out of Haaland.

"He is a wonderful player, a great player," said Thompson, who won 17 major honours across 13 years playing for Liverpool, before a stint coaching the Reds.

"Is he a missing piece for the jigsaw for them in the Champions League? They can still do things, but it might upset them a little bit. 

"As you see with Grealish, who was £100million, has that worked? He's playing as a left-winger because it's the system that Pep likes. 

"So you've got an out-and-out centre-forward who, yes, is full of energy, but he doesn't understand the press that City use. It'll be a change for them. That might change things." 

Liverpool, who have seen Luis Diaz hit the ground running since joining from Porto in January, are themselves expected to be active in the upcoming transfer window.

A deal for Fulham teenager Fabio Carvalho is already in place, but Thompson is not sure if signing a big name is really necessary in order to keep pace with champions City.

"We have a set pattern, though I still hope that we'll sign a couple of players," he said.

"I do believe that's what you have to do all the time to give that little bit of a buzz in the dressing room, to change things up on the pitch. And we have just come up short."

The 92 points accrued by Liverpool this season is the joint-eighth most in Premier League history, yet it was not enough to pip City, who finished one point better off.

Thompson added: "We have to find the magic ingredient to go that extra couple of points to win that league, but we don't have to do too much. 

"Chelsea signed Romelu Lukaku and he played well those first half a dozen games. They were going to win the league the way the season started and look how that's unravelled.

"It's not necessarily a gimme that it always works."

Pep Guardiola would be an ideal coach for Brazil as his style of play would benefit the likes of Neymar and Vinicius Junior, according to Julio Cesar. 

Brazil are on the hunt for a new boss with Tite leaving the role after the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and Guardiola has been linked with the position.

The Catalan is under contract at Manchester City, who he could lead to Premier League glory on Sunday, until June 2023 but has previously expressed a desire to move into international management.

Julio Cesar thinks he would be a great fit for the Selecao as his possession-based approach would help Brazil's most talented players.

"He has all the qualities to do it. He is one of the best in the world, his style of play is very Brazilian," Julio Cesar told Stats Perform courtesy of Enterprise Rent-A-Car. 

"Everyone knows that Brazilian players love to keep the ball; the majority of them also play in Europe and they are learning to play better on the pitch.  

"We have so much quality on the Brazilian national team: Neymar, Raphinha, [Lucas] Paqueta, Vinicius Junior. All these players are very talented and having a manager like Guardiola would give these players the opportunity of playing the ball more. 

"Every player would love to work with a manager like him. It wouldn't be a bad idea, although we also have really good managers in Brazil. He is a big name in the football world and it wouldn't be a bad thing having him representing our national side. I like the idea." 

Tite's only previous World Cup campaign with Brazil ended in a quarter-final defeat to Belgium in Russia four years ago. 

He steered the Selecao to Copa America glory in 2019 but they were unable to defend their title two years later, with Argentina defeating them in the final. 

Julio Cesar already believes Tite will leave a lasting legacy but has no doubt that leading Brazil to glory in Qatar would achieve him an even higher status. 

"This is what the World Cup gets you, it will level you up. If you can bring the World Cup to Brazil, you can leave with your head held high, you have done your job," he said. 

"He won the Copa America in 2019, he got to the final again against Argentina. He did very well so far, even in the [World Cup] qualifiers he got first place ahead of Argentina.

"He can leave with his head held high, but winning a World Cup with Brazil will take him to the top." 

Shota Arveladze says Erik ten Hag will bring "something special" to Manchester United but must be given time.

Ten Hag left Ajax to take charge at Old Trafford, succeeding interim boss Ralf Rangnick.

The 52-year-old has been charged with the task of turning around the Red Devils following another disappointing season, which saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer get the sack.

Former Ajax forward Arveladze - who now coaches Hull City - believes Ten Hag can make a big impact at United, but there will be no quick fix. 

"Erik has grown very smart," he said. "[With] his career, he has done really good in choosing his previous teams, his previous works.

"At Bayern Munich, he was head coach of the second team, and then he moved to Utrecht and made a great football team

"Then Ajax, again, he took them to the top level in Europe, winning all the trophies, and now, to England.

"He is very principled. He knows his ideas, his philosophy and he will definitely bring something special there.

"He will need time to do, to show, to explain the way he wants to play [but] I'm quite comfortable with that, that he definitely will succeed."

United have not won a trophy since 2017 and they will not play in the Champions League next season.

Dirk Kuyt believes Thiago Alcantara is the best midfielder in the world and has backed Liverpool to complete an unprecedented quadruple.

Thiago moved to Anfield from Bayern Munich for £20million (€23.8m) on a four-year deal in September 2020, but failed to live up to expectations during a first season at the club that was hampered by injuries and COVID-19.

Jurgen Klopp's side lost nine of the first 21 games in which the Spain international featured, including six home defeats in a row, while they were dumped out of the FA Cup and Champions League.

However, Thiago has come to the fore this season, with the Reds a point behind Premier League leaders Manchester City, through to the semi-finals of the Champions League and in the FA Cup final after already winning the EFL Cup.

The Merseyside club have won 14 of 15 top-flight games when Thiago has started this season, in comparison to 10 victories in 18 games without him in the line-up. They also score 2.9 goals on average when he is in the starting XI, as opposed to 2.3 without, and have conceded less (0.3 versus 1).

Thiago has kept Liverpool ticking with his magnificent range of passing, with no Reds player who has featured more than once in the league completing more passes (77.9) per 90 minutes or more in the opponents' half (46.9).

The former Bayern and Barcelona maestro's quality was again on show in the 2-0 win over Everton on Sunday as he made more successful passes (119) than Frank Lampard's entire side (95).

Former Liverpool forward Kuyt was quick to highlight the class of Thiago as he hailed the 31-year-old, but was unsure about the comparisons with Anfield hero Xabi Alonso.

"I think they are slightly different and I'm very happy for Thiago because in the beginning, he needed a bit of time, which is normal in life and in football is to just adapt to the system and to the team and to his new players," Kuyt told Stats Perform. 

"But he's playing such a great football and before he came he was one of the best midfielders in the world for me but now how he's playing on the level he's playing against top, top sides and performing week in week out.

"For me, he's the best midfielder out there at the minute."

Former Netherlands international Kuyt, who played 208 times for Liverpool between 2006 and 2012, also believes his former club have the credentials to win all four trophies.

"They've got the squad to do it. They've got the players and the manager to do it," he added.

"But it's just small details will decide whether they win the quadruple or maybe only the Premier League or the Champions League, but it will be amazing and very well deserved if Liverpool can achieve it all."

Klopp's team host Villarreal in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final tie on Wednesday.

Gianluigi Donnarumma "still has a lot to give", says former Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar, despite the Italy shot-stopper's recent spate of high-profile errors on the biggest stages.

The 23-year-old ended last season on the high of a Euro 2020 triumph with the Azzurri, shortly before a move to Paris Saint-Germain alongside fellow new recruits Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos.

But fast-forward nine months, and he has struggled with costly performances for club and country, resulting in Italy's failure to reach the World Cup and PSG's Champions League exit.

Ex-Selecao goalkeeper Julio Cesar feels Donnarumma has possibly struggled with expectations since his arrival at the Parc des Princes.

"Being a keeper is tough," he told Stats Perform courtesy of Enterprise Rent-A-Car. "Donnarumma made his debut at AC Milan when he was 16, then he joined the national team.

"He has already won a European Championship at such a young age, and then to join one of the strongest teams in the world, which is full of champions.

"Many positive things happened to this young man, sometimes it is not easy to have that personality you need to get on the pitch after all the things he has been through down the years.

"From being the strongest keeper of the world, to become the player making the mistake that kicked PSG out of the Champions League.

"Everybody was expecting PSG to reach the final simply because the club brought [Sergio] Ramos, [Achraf] Hakimi, [Lionel] Messi and him [Donnarumma]."

Donnarumma may not have been solely at fault for Italy's World Cup play-off exit to North Macedonia or PSG's elimination at the hands of Real Madrid, but Julio Cesar believes the ex-Milan star needs to learn to maintain his level amid the peaks and troughs of the game to become one of the best in the business.

"In football there are ups and downs, but you need to be consistent if you want to become a great keeper," he added. "If you make a mistake during a match, you cannot miss the next 10 or 20 balls.

"Otherwise, you are out. This is what I think, however, the team did not help. I am talking about both club and national team.

"PSG did not do a nice game against Real Madrid, same for Italy when they had the chance to qualify for the World Cup.

"He is a lad who still has a lot to give to football, he can offer a lot to this sport. He is very young, and fans will be happy to watch him playing, because he is a young talent."

Liverpool have nothing to lose in their engrossing Premier League title battle with Manchester City, according to former Reds defender Jose Enrique.

Jurgen Klopp's side trailed City by 14 points on January 15, but 10 wins in a row has moved them within a point of the leaders with eight matches to go.

Liverpool beat Watford on Saturday to move above their rivals for the first time since November 27, but City reclaimed top spot later in the day with victory at Burnley.

The two sides face off at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday in what is being billed as a title decider, and Jose Enrique insists Liverpool are under less pressure than their opponents.

"Before there was a 14-point difference and now they are stuck with Manchester City, so it depends on the fight," the Spaniard, who spent five years at Anfield, told Stats Perform. 

"I think Liverpool have an advantage because they have nothing to lose. In January everything seemed lost and now they are there and it will be very nice. 

"Hopefully they win everything, but if it's just the Premier League or the Champions League it's going to be a very good season."

Indeed, like opponents City, Liverpool are still in the hunt to win the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup, on top of the EFL Cup they have already secured.

The Reds have been in particularly good form in 2022 and Jose Enrique believes the addition of Luis Diaz in January helped the club's relentless quest for a quadruple.

"April will be the month in which everything will be defined, although the Champions League final is later, and first you have to get there," he said. 

"But in April everything is played: Manchester City, the quarter-finals of the Champions League, and we will have to see what happens. The team is going to go all out. 

"The signing of Luis Diaz in January did the team a lot of good on a mental level because they needed a player who could compete with the other three and also Diogo Jota."

Liverpool risk damaging their long-term transfer policy if they offer Mohamed Salah a bumper new contract.

That is according to former Reds goalkeeper David James, who also told Stats Perform that the frustration of missing out on the World Cup is having a detrimental effect on Salah.

Salah is into the final 16 months of his existing deal at Anfield and is reportedly holding out for fresh terms that could make him the highest-paid player in the Premier League.

The 29-year-old has 28 goals in all competitions this season, a tally bettered only by Real Madrid's Karim Benzema (37) and Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (45) from Europe's top five leagues.

However, while Salah has once again proved his worth to Liverpool this campaign, James does not believe the club should bow to the Egypt forward's alleged wage demands.

"Quite simply, Liverpool won't offer him a contract that is wrong for them. As they say, no one is bigger than the club," James said.

"If he feels he could get more [money] elsewhere, and that's what he wants, then he'll have to go somewhere else.

"That would be the best business Liverpool can do with regards to sticking to whatever their policy is, rather than changing it to cater for an individual and upsetting the model."

 Amid the ongoing questions over his future, Salah's form has dropped in recent weeks, the former Chelsea attacker having scored in just one of his last seven club games.

That coincides with double heartbreak at international level for Salah, with Egypt losing to Senegal in the Africa Cup of Nations final and last month's World Cup play-off.

Indeed, since returning from AFCON duty in February, Salah has averaged fewer goals (0.66 compared to 0.81) and fewer assists (0.16 compared to 0.45) per 90 minutes.

He is also creating fewer chances (1.97 compared to 2.07), all of which James puts down to Egypt's recent woes.

"There's been frustration because he's trying to score goals, rather than trying harder for the team," James added. "What I'd seen this season up to AFCON was Mo helping out.

"It was perfect harmony. But all of a sudden it was almost like 'I'm going away for a month, let me try and get my goals now because I can't score them when I'm away."

"That sort of frustration is more detrimental to his performance. With the negative experiences of the AFCON and World Cup, you start asking 'Where's the desperation?'

"Is there a desperation to his performances to try to make up for those other losses?"

Salah's struggles in front of goal over the past month have coincided with Luis Diaz's instant impact since arriving from Porto in the January transfer window.

Diaz has three goals and one assist in 13 appearances, providing Jurgen Klopp with even more depth in the final third of the field, where they also have Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota.

But James says that should come as no surprise given the impressive work of Liverpool's scouting department in recent times.

"I have to say, I didn't know a lot about him until he was rumoured to be going to Tottenham, so I did my homework on him," James said of Diaz.

"I was amazed at what a player he was. I'd like to think any Premier League club who plays against Diaz will know exactly what they are coming up against.

"But we shouldn't be surprised. One of the most impressive things about Liverpool is that Diaz isn't an exception – there's also Diogo Jota, Thiago [Alcantara], and so on.

"Players come into the team and look as though they have been there for years. That's all part of the system and environment. When players get an opportunity they just fit in.

"That is credit to Liverpool, who have allowed Diaz to fit in and feel part of the team in a short period of time. It's like he's been there all season."

Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe is capable of continuing his goalscoring form long into his career similarly to Cristiano Ronaldo, regardless of where he is plying his trade from next season.

That is according to Louis Saha, who also told Stats Perform that he expects Lionel Messi to blow Ligue 1 opponents away once he regains full fitness in the new year.

Mbappe is into the final six months of his existing contract at the Parc des Princes and is free to sign a pre-contract agreement with clubs outside of Ligue 1 from January.

Real Madrid had two bids turned down for the France international in the previous transfer window and remain the strong favourites to land the superstar in 2022.

Mbappe has scored 15 goals and assisted 12 more in 24 outings in all competitions this term in a star-studded attack that also contains Messi and the currently injured Neymar.

Only Mohamed Salah (31) and Robert Lewandowski (33) have been directly involved in more goals than Mbappe this campaign among players from Europe's top five leagues.

And while glad to see Mbappe remain in Ligue 1 for the 2021-22 campaign, Saha understands that his compatriot has a big decision to make on his future in the coming weeks.

"The main thing for me was for him to stay at PSG this year," Saha said. "Whatever he does next year, for me, that was logical for football in general throughout the world. 

"We wanted to see this trio of Mbappe, Messi and Neymar. It's incredible to see and today he has his destiny in his hands. He's a player who is exploding and he's reaching more milestones."

 

Mbappe recently became the youngest player in Ligue 1 history to score 100 goals for a single team with his second of the game for PSG against former club Monaco.

Since making his debut for PSG in September 2017, the 23-year-old has averaged a goal every 104.63 minutes in all competitions.

That ranks Mbappe behind only four others among Europe's elite attackers over that period and marginally ahead of Ronaldo, who averages a goal every 105.8 minutes at club level.

With Ronaldo still scoring regularly as he approaches his 37th birthday, Saha has challenged Mbappe to hit similar heights.

"If he can match Ronaldo's 40 goals a year average from the age of 20, that's something we want to keep seeing from Kylian," Saha said.

"That is not to put pressure on him. Kylian quite simply has the potential to do that."

Mbappe's 27 direct goal involvements this season is substantially more than PSG's next biggest attacking threat, with Messi second on the list with six goals and four assists.

The record seven-time Ballon d'Or winner has scored just once in 10 Ligue 1 appearances from an expected goals (xG) return of 4.7.

To put that in some context, Mbappe's nine goals in the competition this term have come from an xG of 10.9.

 

But while Messi's PSG career has yet to truly take off, Saha can see that changing once the Barcelona legend gets some regular starts under his belt.

"You can already see players who are not necessarily in great shape like Messi – imagine when he starts to find his form again!" Saha said. "I don't know how teams will cope. 

"PSG are an extraordinary team. I prayed for Mbappe to stay at PSG to see these three exceptional players. Neymar's injury has delayed that, but they have an incredible team. 

"Don't be surprised to see them win the league by 20 or 25 points come the end of the season."

Edwin van der Sar says he and Marc Overmars are "not ready yet" to leave their roles at Ajax and believe they can help take the club to the next level.

Van der Sar has been Ajax's chief executive since 2016, while Overmars took on the role of director of football in 2012.

The Dutch giants have claimed two Eredivisie titles and two KNVB Cup triumphs in the five years since the former goalkeeper was appointed, also appearing in a Champions League semi-final.

However, the 51-year-old claimed he is not satisfied with his achievements at the club he started his professional career with, as he expressed his desire to achieve even more success.

"I think Marc and myself are enjoying it very much here at Ajax," Van der Sar told Stats Perform. "The freedom and rewards, the level of the club is still growing. That brings joy to yourself and gives you a lot of confidence. We're easy in that way.

"For the moment I'm really happy in Amsterdam. I think we're not ready [to leave] yet. We can make a step higher and that's something we're aiming for. To be really, really successful on the pitch. It's not easy, but we're going [to give it a] go."

Van der Sar explained that players and coaches often feel they outgrow Ajax and look to move on, but he is determined to delay the departure of head coach Erik ten Hag for as long as possible.

"You see it also with players, sometimes they think they're finished at Ajax and want to take the next step," Van der Sar said continued.

"I've seen it myself when I went from Ajax to Juventus – it wasn't a natural fit. The level of football, the family, the expectations, it can be difficult abroad.

"But someone with the quality of Erik and the way he lets Ajax play and tick for the last four years, it's obvious there's a lot of interest in him. He is named among the big clubs in Europe.

"Eventually, he will take the next step, but we will try to delay it as long as possible but of course, at a certain point it's up to him. But we have to challenge him and make sure he maybe sees will there be a next level – can we be even better?

"That's what we're working hard for to make sure the players are staying, the scouting brings new talents and the structure around him are ready for a successful period."

Ten Hag will be hoping for another deep run into the latter stages of the Champions League after being drawn against Benfica in the round of 16.

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