Donny van de Beek has struggled to make much of an impression since his £35million move to Manchester United from Ajax in September 2020.

The Netherlands international was overlooked for regular selection by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and is also a fringe player under interim boss Ralf Rangnick.

But Van de Beek, who previously starred in a talented Ajax side, could be offered a route out of Old Trafford this month.


TOP STORY – DORTMUND, NEWCASTLE IN FOR VAN DE BEEK

Van de Beek is reportedly considering a move away in order to win back his place in the Netherlands side.

According to the Manchester Evening News, Bundesliga heavyweights Dortmund and Premier League strugglers Newcastle United are possible suitors for the midfielder.

However, United will have the final say on any loan deal, which would not be expected to contain an option to make the deal permanent at the end of the campaign.

The 24-year-old has featured 49 times for the Red Devils – just 19 of those being starts – since arriving at the club 16 months ago.


ROUND-UP

– Barcelona will make one final effort to sign Alvaro Morata this month, according to Sport. Memphis Depay could be used as part of any deal.

– Liverpool want to sign Jarrod Bowen and the West Ham forward is keen on the move, says Football Insider. It will not be in January, though.

– Desperate for a replacement for Kieran Trippier, Atletico Madrid are interested in Manchester United's Diogo Dalot, according to AS.

– Tuttomercatoweb says Arthur is keen on the idea of joining Arsenal on loan, but Juventus and Massimiliano Allegri have yet to okay any departure.

– Meanwhile, TMW also claims Paulo Dybala is not yet prepared to listen to offers from other clubs, with a contract summit with Juventus set for February.

– The Daily Mail reports that Arsenal are frontrunners to sign Youri Tielemans after Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers admitted the midfielder may leave the club.

Mikel Arteta may be confident that his side can still recruit any player in the world, but Arsenal may have to wait if they are to sign Dusan Vlahovic from Fiorentina.

The in-demand Serbia international is the joint-fourth highest scorer in Europe's top five leagues this term and is wanted by an array of clubs across the continent.

While a January move has been touted, however, Fiorentina appear to be playing hardball when it comes to the future of the 21-year-old striker.


TOP STORY – FIORENTINA DEMANDS PREVENTING ARSENAL'S VLAHOVIC PURSUIT

Arsenal are reportedly willing to match Fiorentina's €75million (£62.62m) asking price for Vlahovic, which would make him the second-most expensive player in their history.

However, The Independent reports that the Serie A side want the majority of that money paid upfront, whereas Arsenal intend to spread the cost over the next four years.

The Gunners may therefore have to wait until the end of the campaign, at which point Vlahovic will have a year to run on his contract, before renegotiating with Fiorentina.

 


ROUND-UP

– It is shaping up to be a busy conclusion to the January window for Arsenal as Goal reports that the Premier League side have made contact with Juventus over a loan move for midfielder Arthur Melo, while Leicester City's Youri Tielemans is another potential target.

– L'Equipe claims that Paul Pogba remains a target for Paris Saint-Germain as he nears the end of his Manchester United contract. The midfielder has not featured since November due to injury and is not expected to return until next month.

– According to The Mail, Man Utd are eyeing a move for Brighton and Hove Albion's Tariq Lamptey as an upgrade on Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Diogo Dalot. Interim boss Ralf Rangnick is said to be a big fan of the right-sided player's versatility.

– Sticking with Rangnick and United, the German coach has put Ajax boss Erik ten Hag's name forward as the best option to replace him when his interim spell at Old Trafford ends in June. That is according to Le Parisien, with the French outlet also suggesting PSG's Mauricio Pochettino still remains in the frame.

– Ambitious Newcastle United have already brought in Kieran Trippier this month and more players look set to follow. Tuttomercato suggests that Roma's Chris Smalling could be lured to St James' Park as the Magpies desperately attempt to strengthen at centre-back.

Freiburg's Nico Schlotterbeck is attracting plenty of interest this month, with Bayern Munich and Real Madrid among those being linked. Bayern appear to be leading that particular race if reports from Spain are anything to go by, with the defender supposedly keen to stay in the Bundesliga.

Premier League managers are already feeling the strain amid cascading numbers of COVID-19 cases and mid-season injuries. Now many top bosses stand to lose stars to the Africa Cup of Nations.

Africa's greatest football show – now commonly known as AFCON – gets under way on Sunday in Cameroon.

Although the 2019 edition was held in June and July, it has historically been a January-into-February tournament and has returned to that place on the calendar.

A host of Premier League big names are hoping to make an impact during the four-week tournament, which falls slap-bang in the middle of European club campaigns, causing a major clash of competitions.

Premier League clubs certainly cannot complain of a lack of fair warning. It was June 2020 when African football chiefs decided the 2021 edition of the tournament would have to be pushed back by 12 months to a January 2022 start, in the hope the coronavirus crisis would have eased.

Here, Stats Perform takes a look at which teams from the English top flight might feel its impact the most.

Can Reds cling on in title battle?

If Liverpool lose no further ground on leaders Manchester City by the time their stars return from AFCON, then Jurgen Klopp would surely settle for that.

The 2019-20 Premier League champions have taken two points from a possible nine to leave the title as effectively City's to lose, and now Klopp is going to have to get by without Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita.

Egyptian striker Salah is the Premier League's leader in goals (16) and assists (9, level with Trent Alexander Arnold) so far this season. He has taken 80 shots in 20 games (38 of these have hit the target), played 12 throughballs and created 40 chances from open play: in each of those categories he is at the top of the Premier League charts for players defined by Opta as forwards.

How do you cope without such a contribution? Having Mane on hand would help, but Mane will be turning out for Senegal, a team who, like Salah's Egypt, are firmly in the mix as serious trophy contenders. Don't expect either back at the end of the group stage.

Mane has eight Premier League goals this term, including the opener at Chelsea recently. That goal return puts Mane joint-second among African scorers in the Premier League this season, level with Watford's Emmanuel Dennis, who is not in Nigeria's squad.

Mane has played 19 throughballs and has made 23 tackles to boot, which is the seventh highest number of tackles by a forward in the league this season, a rarely mentioned attribute of his game. He does not always tackle with his elbow, either.

Keita will presumably be less of a miss, with the Guinean's Anfield contribution remaining underwhelming, but Liverpool have been so hard hit by absentees recently that to lose anybody for up to five weeks is an inconvenience.

They are at least assured of Joel Matip's presence this month. The centre-back last played for Cameroon in 2015 and has retired from international duty. That is bad news for the AFCON hosts but helps Liverpool, given Matip remains a sturdy presence, with a duel success of 69.47 per cent this season ranking him third among Premier League defenders with 10 or more appearances, and a passing accuracy of 88.89 per cent putting him eighth in that metric.

Liverpool only have two league games inked in between now and the end of AFCON, against Brentford and Crystal Palace, but the Reds also have two postponed fixtures to be slipped in somewhere along the line.

Wintertime Blues?

Pep Guardiola's Manchester City hold a 10-point lead over second-placed Chelsea, with Liverpool a point further back but possessing a game in hand on the top two. Reigning champions City have won 11 straight Premier League games and the Citizens have the resources to be able to cope with the short-term loss of Riyad Mahrez, who will captain Algeria.

Mahrez's six goals and four assists this season have come at a startling rate. Given the depth in City's squad, he does not always start, so to appreciate his contribution it is worth looking at his numbers per 90 minutes on the pitch.

The former Leicester City forward is averaging 0.64 goals and 0.43 assists per 90 minutes – impressively close to Salah's return of 0.81 and 0.45 in those categories – and is one of only four Premier League players with 10 or more appearances to average at least 1.00 goal involvements per 90 (Michael Olise 1.43, Salah 1.26, Roberto Firmino 1.24, Mahrez 1.07).

The Blues of Chelsea may have concerns over the absence of goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, given the Senegalese's stabilising influence at the back. His save percentage of 77.14 has only been beaten this season in the league by Wolves' Jose Sa (80.82) and Arsenal's Aaron Ramsdale (77.46).

Spaniard Kepa Arrizabalaga struggled in the early stages of his Chelsea career and is now the undoubted understudy.

Yet Kepa's form when given an opportunity this season has not given such cause for concern. The former Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper has been chiefly used in cup action, and he has achieved a remarkable save percentage of 81.48, suggesting that for a short run of games, he could be a perfectly able deputy.

Can an exodus to Africa affect the race for Europe?

Will fourth-placed Arsenal miss Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang? It seems unlikely now, given he was dropped and stripped of the captaincy after a disciplinary breach before heading off to join Gabon. He has not played for a month. The Gunners won five games in a row without him, including four in the league, before being unlucky to lose to Manchester City.

Cold facts tell us Arsenal have a points average of 1.9 per Premier League game when Aubameyang has started games this season, and 1.5 when he has been either a substitute or out of the team, but those figures may not be significant given the momentum Mikel Arteta's players have built in the recent absence of the 32-year-old. His continuing exile from the first team seems unlikely to cause much consternation.

For manager Arteta to lose Thomas Partey (Ghana) at this point is a blow though, with the former Atletico Madrid player having been excellent in the 2-1 defeat to City, having been slowly building up to such a performance. He had more touches, won more duels, made more tackles and played more successful passes than any other Arsenal player.

Arsenal have a big derby at Tottenham coming up on January 16, and they might feel Partey's absence that day, particularly given Spurs, who currently sit sixth, are sending no current first-teamers away to AFCON.

Splitting the north London rivals for now are West Ham, in fifth, and it will surely have hurt David Moyes to wave off Said Benrahma for a month of Algeria duty. The playmaker has five goals and four assists in the league this season, as well as making 83 ball recoveries and creating 21 chances in open play. That makes him one of only 13 players in the competition to top both 80 recoveries and 20 open-play chances created, and one of only five Premier League stars to tick both boxes and score at least five times. Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha, away with Ivory Coast, is another member of that small group.

Seventh-placed Manchester United will lose Eric Bailly to Ivory Coast too. But with Phil Jones back in the first team, will Bailly be missed? The former Villarreal centre-back has played just 217 minutes in the Premier League this season. United youth prospect Hannibal Mejbri is also away, in his case with Tunisia.

Further into mid-table, Wolves must find an alternative to the excellent Romain Saiss (tackle success rate 72.73 per cent) on the left side of their defence, after he joined up with Morocco. Brighton and Hove Albion powerhouse Yves Bissouma has the highest tackle success rate among midfielders to have made more than 40 such challenges in the Premier League this season (50 attempted, 35 won: 70 per cent hit rate) and he will line up for Mali after ending an international exile.

Leicester City sent away striker Kelechi Iheanacho (2 goals, 4 assists this season) for Nigeria service at a bad time for the Foxes, given injured Jamie Vardy faces several weeks out of action.

Palace are firmly in favour of players heading away to represent their countries, but the Eagles never particularly like to be without Zaha (5 goals, 1 assist, 86 dribbles). Since his return from Manchester United in August 2014, Palace have averaged 1.2 points and a 32.9 per cent win percentage with Zaha in their starting line-up, and 0.9 points and a 24.5 win percentage when he has not been in that matchday XI. The loss of Cheikhou Kouyate (80.56 per cent success rate from 36 tackles) to Senegal duty may also diminish the sturdiness of Patrick Vieira's Eagles spine.

Can Clarets cope without Cornet?

The relegation scrap seems more likely to be affected by transfer market activity than departures to AFCON.

Newcastle United and Norwich City, the league's bottom two, are sending nobody away, while fourth-bottom Watford have kept Dennis (8 goals, 5 assists) and it remains to be seen what happens to Ismaila Sarr (5 goals), who has been absent with injury of late but has headed for checks with Senegal doctors.

Burnley, who sit 18th, are seemingly the team to watch carefully here. Maxwel Cornet, now away with Ivory Coast, has scored six Premier League goals from just 10 shots on target, and Sean Dyche must find a way to make the Clarets impactful without the former Lyon man.

The Premier League has confirmed rearranged dates for three fixtures that were postponed over the festive period.

In total, 18 matches were postponed over Christmas as rising coronavirus cases at clubs across the league led to large-scale disruption.

The issues have continued into the new year, with the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Arsenal having to be pushed back, while the Reds' FA Cup clash with Shrewsbury Town this weekend is also in doubt.

Three top-flight games were rearranged last week, with Southampton versus Brentford, Everton versus Leicester City and West Ham versus Norwich City to be played on January 11 and 12.

Now, three more games have been confirmed to be taking place the following week, including fixtures for Manchester United and Tottenham.

Brentford host United on January 19, while Leicester and Spurs face each other in the day's other fixture.

January 18 sees Burnley host Watford and Chelsea visit Brighton and Hove Albion.

The latter game was set to take place in February, but has had to be moved forward due to the Blues' participation in the FIFA Club World Cup. The teams drew 1-1 at Stamford Bridge on December 29.

Arsenal's match with Burnley that was planned for Saturday, January 22 has now been pushed back to January 23, with the Gunners set to play Liverpool in the rearranged EFL Cup fixture on January 20.

The Premier League has confirmed three of the fixtures postponed over the festive period will now be played in January.

Rising coronavirus cases at clubs across the league has led to large-scale disruption of the top-flight schedule in recent weeks.

In total, 18 games have been postponed since Brighton and Hove Albion's match with Tottenham was called off due to a COVID-19 outbreak in Spurs' camp in mid-December.

Three of those fixtures have now been rearranged, with the games to be played midway through next month.

Southampton were due to host Brentford on December 18, but the Bees will now travel to St Mary's for a 19:45 GMT kick-off on Tuesday, January 11.

Everton, who last played on December 16, will welcome Leicester City to Goodison Park at 20:00 GMT on the same day.

January 12 sees West Ham and Norwich City face off, with that game also rescheduled from December 18.

The latter match clashes with the second leg of the EFL Cup semi-final between Tottenham and Chelsea, though the Premier League have had little choice but to attempt to slot fixtures into any free weeks in the calendar.

Leicester City will have to wait to follow up their stunning win over Liverpool after the Foxes' New Year's Day home game against Norwich City was postponed.

The decision to call off the January 1 fixture was made by the Premier League board after a request from the Canaries, who warned they would struggle to field a team.

Norwich confirmed the postponement, saying it came "after PCR test confirmation of positive COVID-19 results and injuries" within their squad.

It becomes the first Premier League game of the new year to be postponed, after a spate of matches were called off in December amid a surge in coronavirus cases.

"Those individuals who have returned a positive COVID-19 test result are completing a period of self-isolation, as per Premier League protocols and government guidelines," Norwich added in a statement.

"The club regrets any inconvenience caused to Leicester City and both sets of supporters."

The Premier League said in its own statement that it ascertained Norwich, the league's bottom side, "do not have the required number of players available for the match, due to COVID-19 cases and injuries".

The minimum player availability required by the league to allow a game to go ahead is 13 outfield players and one goalkeeper.

Leicester scored a 1-0 home win over high-flying Liverpool on Tuesday, allowing them to climb to ninth place. Their next Premier League fixture is scheduled to be a trip to Burnley on January 15, with Norwich  due to be in action on the same day as they host Everton.

Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy is set to be sidelined for up to four weeks with a hamstring injury.

Manager Brendan Rodgers revealed Vardy initially sustained the injury in the EFL Cup clash against Liverpool, in which the Foxes were eliminated on penalties after a 3-3 draw.

The 34-year-old was rested for the 6-3 defeat against Manchester City as a result, but played the full 90 minutes in the 1-0 Premier League clash with the Reds, where he aggravated the problem.

It comes as a huge blow to Leicester, with Vardy – their top scorer in the Premier League on nine goals – set to miss the next four games. As it stands, he would be back in contention to face Liverpool again in February.

"[Vardy] wasn't sure whether it was [a challenge from Joel Matip] or he felt something before, but you could see he could sort of run on and soldier on and wanted to," Rodgers said.

"But the scan has shown up that he could be [out for] three to four weeks. 

"He felt it in the game at Liverpool in the [EFL] Cup. If you saw that game, you could see the last half hour it was hindering his performance, but it felt like it could play on and obviously, we couldn't make any more changes.

"We didn't involve him at the weekend [against City] to give them that sort of maximum rest, even though he was on the bench, but he was never really going to be available to play.

"And then obviously, the other night he just felt it towards the end of the game. I just think the combination of games we've had affects the recovery time. It's just a difficult period for players, especially for recovery."

Vardy is Leicester's third most used Premier League player, having played 1321 minutes – behind only Kasper Schmeichel (1620) and Caglar Soyuncu (1418).

With Patson Daka still recovering from an injury of his own and Kelechi Iheanacho set to link up with Nigeria at the Africa Cup of Nations after the upcoming clash with Norwich City, the Foxes are set to endure a spell without a fit senior striker.

Liverpool suffered a major blow to their title hopes when they stumbled to a 1-0 defeat at Leicester City.

Ademola Lookman scored, netting in consecutive Premier League appearances for the first time in his career, having grabbed a goal in the 6-3 Boxing Day defeat at Manchester City.

The former Everton player's contribution, after a rare penalty miss from Mohamed Salah, means City's lead in the title race stands at six points at the halfway stage in the season.

West Ham and Crystal Palace also won on Tuesday, while Southampton battled for a point against Tottenham.

After a big result in the context of the title race, Stats Perform takes a look at the pick of Tuesday's Opta data.

Leicester City 1-0 Liverpool: Salah miss hurts as ex-Everton man Lookman sinks Reds

After converting 15 consecutive Premier League penalties, Salah missed at Leicester, and it was that kind of frustrating game for Liverpool.

It was just Salah's second ever miss from the spot in the English top flight and his first since October 2017 against Huddersfield Town. From then on, he had been immaculate, so when Kasper Schmeichel pulled off a save at the King Power Stadium it was a major surprise. Having said that, since the start of 2020, Schmeichel has saved more penalties in the Premier League than any other goalkeeper, with the latest stop his third in this period.

The result was also a major turn up, Leicester winning consecutive league matches against Liverpool for the first time since April 1999, thanks to Lookman's second-half strike.

Liverpool failed to score for the first time in 29 Premier League games and for the first time in 28 away fixtures across all competitions, as Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers celebrated a big win against one of his former clubs.

The Reds had been unbeaten in 35 December games since a 4-3 loss to Bournemouth in 2016, but their year ends on a negative note.

Southampton 1-1 Tottenham: Kane scores again but Spurs denied a winner

Tottenham's Harry Kane has made a habit of getting the better of Southampton's defence during his stellar career, but this time he had to settle for a penalty equaliser at St Mary's Stadium. By firing past Fraser Forster to level up after James Ward-Prowse's opener, Kane ensured Antonio Conte became the first Tottenham manager to go unbeaten in the first seven league games of a Spurs career.

Kane has now been directly involved in 17 goals in 12 Premier League starts against Southampton (11 goals, six assists), and he was only denied a winner by a controversial VAR offside call.

A fine early strike from Ward-Prowse gave the Saints midfielder a goal for a third successive game. The last time he scored in three straight matches was back in March 2019, and the third goal in that run also came against Spurs.

Perhaps Southampton fans were not expecting their team to hold on. After all, the last time they won their final game of a calendar year was all the way back in 2010, when they beat Huddersfield Town 4-1 in a League One fixture.

The dismissal of Mohammed Salisu, who fouled Son Heung-min to give away the penalty that Kane tucked away, certainly hurt Southampton. Indeed, since Ralph Hasenhuttl’s first Premier League game in charge of Southampton in December 2018, only Arsenal (13) have been shown more red cards in the competition than Saints (11).

Crystal Palace 3-0 Norwich: No Zaha, no Gallagher, no problem for Eagles

Wilfried Zaha was suspended and Conor Gallagher was also absent, but Palace were three goals to the good by half-time against bottom side Norwich.

It was Odsonne Edouard who stepped up to shine, scoring the home side's opening goal from the penalty spot before claiming assists as Jean-Philippe Mateta and Jeffrey Schlupp boosted the lead.

His three goal involvements followed the former Celtic striker having just four (three goals, one assist) across his previous 15 games in the Premier League.

Palace finished the day in 10th place and have impressed many under the leadership of manager Patrick Vieira, losing just once and scoring 18 goals in their 10 Premier League home games since the Frenchman came in, taking 17 points from those fixtures.

This was just Palace's fourth win in their last 25 games without star man Zaha (D3, L18), but they have not lost in their last five when he has been absent.

Norwich have conceded a league-high six penalties this season and have only scored eight goals in 19 games – the joint-lowest tally in a top-flight season after as many matches, alongside Leicester in 1977-78.

Watford 1-4 West Ham: Worrying times for Ranieri

Despite impressive wins over Everton and Manchester United early in Claudio Ranieri's reign, the Italian's Watford team are in trouble now after a fifth consecutive defeat.

An early opener here from Emmanuel Dennis was a red herring. Watford were mauled as Tomas Soucek, Said Benrahma, Mark Noble and Nikola Vlasic scored for the Hammers.

The result means West Ham won 22 Premier League games in 2021, and only in 1959 (23) have they enjoyed more top-flight league wins in a calendar year.

West Ham have also clawed back 12 points from losing positions this season, more than any other side.

Captain Noble netted the Hammers' third from the penalty spot, his first Premier League goal for 706 days since he scored in January 2020 against Leicester.

It was Noble's fifth successful penalty against Watford in the competition, with only the Premier League's record scorer Alan Shearer having put away more spot-kicks against a team in the competition, netting seven against Everton.

Jurgen Klopp accepted Liverpool can have no complaints with their defeat to Leicester City and warned his players to learn from their below-par performance.

The Reds lost 1-0 at the King Power Stadium on Tuesday as they failed to close the six-point gap on Premier League leaders Manchester City.

Liverpool, beaten for just the second time in 28 games in all competitions this term, saw Mohamed Salah miss a penalty and Sadio Mane waste a big chance of his own at 0-0.

Former Everton player Ademola Lookman's strike three minutes after being brought off the bench proved the difference as Leicester made it successive league wins against Liverpool.

Klopp's side finished with an expected goals (xG) return of 2.3, compared to 0.6 for Leicester, who scored from their only attempt on target.

Yet Klopp conceded his side were lacking in too many departments to consider themselves hard done by in their final match of 2021.

"It was well deserved [for Leicester]," he told Amazon Prime. "It was a very strange game. We were just not good enough, even if we did still have enough chances. 

"What we did with the balls was just not right. We played a really bad game, so it was well deserved.

"Our decision-making [was poor], maybe a little bit of luck was missing. That's how it is. We should have had more of those moments. 

"I think we started okay, then we completely lost our rhythm and didn't get it back. From then we forced it, so there's nothing else to say. 

"The circumstances too – Leicester played two days ago, they deserve it, absolutely.

"They had one shot on target. They didn't have plenty of chances. We should have defended better. We do that usually, why we didn't do it today is hard to explain. 

"There were so many performances below normal level, there's no explanation."

It is the first time since 2016 that Liverpool have lost a league game in the month of December, ending a run of 35 such fixtures without defeat, 27 of which had been victories.

The Reds trail City by six points with 19 games of the season played and are level with Chelsea, who they face in their next match on Sunday.

"It's a big gap [to City]. In this moment it is not my problem," Klopp added. "If we play our normal football, Liverpool football, we have the chance to win more football games.

"A defeat is a defeat. We have to learn, and we will. The first thing is not to do it ever again like this. We lost our rhythm and weren't calm enough to get it back. That's our fault."

Salah's penalty miss ended a streak of 15 successful spot-kicks in the Premier League for the forward, with Kasper Schmeichel making a further three saves to thwart Liverpool.

Klopp's men had found the net in their previous 34 matches in all competitions, and defender Virgil van Dijk agreed that his side were not good enough on the day.

"I think they deserved the win but that was obviously also down to us," the Netherlands international told Amazon Prime. 

"I think we were poor in the last third. A lot of crosses they defended well. Overall, it was not a good performance. 

"They didn't create much but looked dangerous on the break, which they are good at. Credit to them. We have to look at ourselves and improve, which we will do. 

"It's part of football. We will keep trying until the very end. We created good chances but unfortunately today wasn't the day it went in the back of the net. 

"What can we say? We're in December. The season is so, so long. Anything can happen. You have seen it with COVID and injuries – lots of things can change. 

"There's no point looking at [Manchester City] or Chelsea or the other teams around us. We should look at our performance today and improve. 

"We all wanted to do better. That's a fact. We weren't good enough and they deserved the win." 

Mohamed Salah's rare penalty miss proved costly as Liverpool were beaten 1-0 by Leicester City in Tuesday's Premier League clash.

The Reds were aiming to close the gap on leaders Manchester City from six points to three, but they fell to a first defeat in 11 games in all competitions at the King Power Stadium.

Former Everton man Ademola Lookman's strike just short of the hour mark, moments after being introduced from the substitutes' bench, gave Leicester the lead after Salah had earlier had a first-half spot-kick saved.

Liverpool, who eliminated Leicester from the EFL Cup at the quarter-final stage last week, could not find a response as their run of scoring in a club-record 34 successive matches in all competitions came to an end. 

Liverpool's early penalty was awarded as a result of Salah being clipped by Wilfred Ndidi in the box, but the Egypt international's attempt was kept out by Kasper Schmeichel and he headed the follow-up against the crossbar.

Schmeichel again denied Salah before half-time by palming the forward's angled drive over the frame of the goal as Leicester, who had shipped nine goals in their previous two games, continued to hold firm.

Sadio Mane wasted a big opportunity of his own when lifting the ball over the bar having been sent through on goal with 55 minutes played and those misses came back to haunt Liverpool shortly after.

The impressive Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall played in Lookman, who had only been introduced three minutes earlier, and the RB Leipzig loanee fired past Alisson at his near post after getting away from Joel Matip.

Leicester lost James Maddison to injury but showed good defensive resilience to hold on for just a second clean sheet in the league since the opening weekend of the season, inflicting another big title blow on Liverpool in the process.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp confirmed Fabinho, Virgil van Dijk, Thiago and Curtis Jones are all out of their coronavirus-enforced isolation ahead of the trip to Leicester City.

The Reds called upon Thiago but were without the other three for the 3-1 victory over Newcastle on December 16 after the club announced the trio were isolating following suspected positive COVID-19 tests.

Thiago then returned a positive test before Liverpool's 2-2 draw at Tottenham three days later, with all four also missing the Reds' victory on penalties against Leicester in the Carabao Cup, prior to the postponement of their Boxing Day clash with Leeds United due to a coronavirus outbreak in Marcelo Biela's camp.

"The boys who had to isolate are back - Fab, Virg, Curtis and Thiago," Klopp told reporters as he provided an update at Monday's pre-match news conference. "Thiago trained yesterday with the team.

"We have one young player who is isolating and two staff members. We don't know which variant our guys get. We've seen our cases over the past two years. When you are vaccinated and boosted, you don't get symptoms."

Klopp added that his side were capable of facing Leeds on Sunday, though he understands the fixture had to be called off due to coronavirus issues coinciding with injury problems within Bielsa's squad.

However, the former Borussia Dortmund head coach again vented his scheduling concerns amid a chaotic festive period.

He continued: "The situation should not be like this. I say it every year. Playing on 26th [December] and 28th is not right. I say it because it's true. I think we can find solutions, it's not difficult. It would help players, even with no Covid.

"Is it the toughest [season]? I don't know. This time of year is always tough. I can say that. It's not a problem, it's what we're used to. We prepare for a long season and part of that is December/January."

The Reds boss expects another tough task against Leicester after the Foxes were outscored in a 6-3 thriller against leaders Manchester City, who Liverpool sit six points behind with a game in hand.

"Leicester are not in a good situation," Klopp said of Tuesday's opponents. "They have injuries. We went out for training when it was 4-0 [to City] and then I was told it was 4-3.

"Wow! They were obviously close. They are a good team and what Brendan [Rodgers] is doing is exceptional."

History favours Liverpool heading into their final clash of 2021, given the Reds have not lost their final league game in any of the last seven calendar years and have won three of their last four away top-flight games at the King Power Stadium.

Rodgers is likely to be without Timothy Castagne and Jonny Evans as the Foxes' defensive issues persist, having already conceded 63 goals in 39 Premier League games this year.

Liverpool have also been boosted by the news of a delayed departure for Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Naby Keita, making them available for the visits to both Leicester on Tuesday and Chelsea on Sunday.

Brendan Rodgers admitted he is going through the toughest period of his managerial career after Leicester City lost 6-3 to Manchester City on Sunday.

The Foxes found themselves 4-0 down after just 25 minutes at the Etihad Stadium before three goals in 10 minutes in the second half saw them threaten a fightback.

However, an Aymeric Laporte header put the Premier League leaders back in control before Raheem Sterling made certain of all three points with his second of thrilling game.

Leicester have won just one of their past six games in all competitions and only three since October 27. Their run has left them 10th in the Premier League, seen them exit the EFL Cup and drop from the Europa League into the Europa Conference League.

Rodgers, who must prepare his side to face his former club Liverpool in two days' time, accepted he is enduring his most difficult spell in management but insisted they are "not getting the violins out".

"It definitely is," he said when asked if this is the most challenging period he has faced.

"There's no doubt this is a huge challenge. We're not getting the violins out. You see what we're missing. The players aren't available.

"Offensively we're really good but if you're missing the players [we are], it's a real challenge.

"Take [Jonny] Evans, [Caglar] Soyuncu, [Ricardo] Pereira, James Justin and Wesley Fofana out of our squad then it's huge. We have to keep trying to find the solutions. We'll continue to fight. We competed at the top of the league disrupting everything when we had players available.

"The results are obviously disappointing, but you have to look at the condition of the team and the players we have missing. We're not a deep enough squad, like a Manchester City, Liverpool or Chelsea, to be able to carry it out. But what I do expect is what I saw in the second half which was incredible spirit and quality when we had the opportunities."

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola paid tribute to Leicester City for playing their part in the epic 6-3 Boxing Day thriller at the Etihad Stadium.

The Premier League champions moved six points clear at the top of the table, but they were given a scare by the Foxes.

Guardiola’s side raced into a 4-0 lead inside 25 minutes, only for Leicester to reduce the deficit to a single goal after striking three times in the space of 10 second-half minutes.

However, further goals from Aymeric Laporte and Raheem Sterling - his second of the game - eventually sealed a ninth consecutive top-flight victory for City.

Guardiola reflected on a "weird" and highly entertaining seventh successive home Boxing Day win for the leaders.

"It was a Boxing Day game. It was a nice game to watch and three more points. We keep going," he told BBC Sport.

"The quality of players we have produced this amount of actions to score goals. No manager and tactics can solve it without the quality.

"It was weird. Even at 4-0 in the first half, every time they had the ball, they arrived in the final third delivering good passes. They have a lot of quality; they are a master of counter-attacks.

"They changed in the second half. They didn’t play to press high. They were close. 

"The game was so dangerous. We didn’t play bad in the second half. The game was not over. With set-pieces, we could win the game."

Sterling found the net for the fourth successive Premier League match; doing so for the first time since between August and September 2017.

The England international was also full of praise for the spirit demonstrated by the Foxes.

"The manager warned us at half-time," he said.

"Leicester conceded four in the first half but every time they attacked, they created chances.

"It's disappointing. We just had to control the game. At 4-0 up, you have to kill the game. 

"Leicester have some really good players. They didn't get disheartened and kept going; Credit to them."

Manchester City survived a spirited Leicester City fightback to prevail 6-3 winners in a thrilling Boxing Day encounter at the Etihad Stadium.

Though pegged back to 4-3 from 4-0 up, Pep Guardiola's men moved six points clear at the top of the Premier League table following a ninth successive victory.

Kevin De Bruyne scored the first of four goals for the hosts inside the opening 25 minutes, while a pair of penalties from Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling sandwiched Ilkay Gundogan's strike.

The Foxes came roaring back after the break as James Maddison, Ademola Lookman and Kelechi Iheanacho threatened the most unlikely comeback, but Aymeric Laporte and Sterling got the Citizens back on track and secured the points.

Man City took the lead in the fifth minute following neat interplay as De Bruyne controlled Fernandinho’s lofted pass into the box before sweeping past Kasper Schmeichel.

The hosts doubled the advantage with Mahrez, who had lost in all five of his previous Premier League appearances on Boxing Day, firing home from 12 yards after Youri Tielemans bundled over Laporte.

Gundogan made it 3-0 after another lovely exchange of passes culminated in Schmeichel parrying Joao Cancelo's low cross straight to the Germany international, who made no mistake from close range.

Three became four soon after, with Tielemans the offender again as he brought down Sterling, who picked himself up and emphatically swept his penalty into the top corner.

Nevertheless, Leicester responded brilliantly after the break. The visitors halved the deficit by the hour mark with a couple of quickfire counters resulting in Iheanacho well-timed throughballs for Maddison and Lookman to finish.

Former Man City forward Iheanacho then got in on the act to reduce the arrears to a single goal, but the hosts pulled clear from two Mahrez corners, with Laporte and Sterling profiting. 

Jack Grealish and Phil Foden were again named as substitutes by Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola for the visit of Leicester City.

The England pair were pictured on a night out after City's 7-0 rout against Leeds United earlier in December and dropped out of Guardiola's starting line-up for the 4-0 win over Newcastle United last Sunday.

City staff were reported to be disappointed by the condition of the pair when they reported for a recovery session after the Leeds game and Guardiola reminded City players of their responsibilities once more on Friday.

Guardiola again decided Grealish and Foden should be among the substitutes for the Boxing Day clash with Leicester.

Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez were the three selected to start in the frontline for the reigning Premier League champions, tasked with breaching Leicester's shaky defence.

The visiting Foxes also named Jamie Vardy on the bench for the game at the Etihad Stadium, where the forward scored a hat-trick in a 5-2 win in this fixture last season.

Vardy scored a first-half brace before the EFL Cup penalty shoot-out defeat against Liverpool in midweek, with the striker not fit enough to take a spot-kick after suffering from a hamstring injury.

Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers opted for caution with his selection, given his side again face Jurgen Klopp's side in the league on Tuesday, with Vardy dropping to the bench as former Manchester City forward Kelechi Iheanacho started up top.

The visitors were without Timothy Castagne and Jonny Evans as Rodgers remained hampered by injuries in defence, while Harvey Barnes also missed out with Ademola Lookman taking over his usual slot on the left wing.

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