Liverpool are reportedly prioritising a new deal for Virgil van Dijk over Mohamed Salah, while they could be beaten to Dayot Upamecano by Manchester United.

Salah's future has been a talking point in recent weeks, although the forward is contracted until 2023.

Van Dijk also has an agreement at Anfield until 2023, but the injured defender is apparently Liverpool's focus.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL PRIORITISE VAN DIJK DEAL OVER SALAH

Liverpool are prioritising a new contract for Van Dijk over Salah, according to Eurosport.

Van Dijk, 29, is recovering from a serious knee injury and his absence has been felt by the Premier League champions.

Salah, meanwhile, has scored 13 goals in 18 league games this season, but in an interview with AS last month the 28-year-old refused to rule out a move to Real Madrid or Barcelona.

The report also says Liverpool may look at West Ham midfielder Declan Rice, with Georginio Wijnaldum set to leave as a free agent at the end of the campaign.

ROUND-UP

- With Van Dijk and Joe Gomez injured, Liverpool have been linked with a move for RB Leipzig defender Upamecano. But The Sun reports Manchester United are poised to sign the centre-back for £38million (€42.7m).

- Amid uncertainty over his future at Barcelona, Ousmane Dembele is being looked at by numerous European giants. Sport reports Chelsea, Manchester United, Juventus and Bayern Munich are monitoring the forward's situation. Dembele is out of contract in 2022 and the Catalan giants could sell him if he does not extend his deal.

- Frank Lampard is under enormous pressure at Chelsea as the Premier League side struggle for form. The Mirror reports Chelsea could turn to Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers if they move on from Lampard.

- Yet to re-sign with Southampton with his contract expiring next year, Danny Ings is linked with a move. 90min reports Leicester City and Everton have joined the race for the forward, who has also been linked to Tottenham.

Mikel Arteta was unable to offer any further update on the progress of a deal to sign Martin Odegaard as the Arsenal boss defended the performances of under-fire duo Nicolas Pepe and Willian.  

Media reports suggested the Premier League club could complete the loan signing of midfielder Odegaard on Friday. 

However, the Norway international still remains a Real Madrid player for now at least, while his prospective new club exited the FA Cup on Saturday away at Southampton.  

After the holders bowed out 1-0 following a Gabriel own goal at St Mary's Stadium, Arteta revealed he expects to receive further news about potential signings. 

When quizzed over the situation regarding Odegaard, he replied: "I don't know. Obviously we played today. Since last night I don't have any news.

"Probably I will get a few phone calls today and see where we are with every deal."  

The Arsenal boss was also asked if Odegaard coming in could stifle Emile Smith Rowe, who has impressed since being drafted into the first team during the busy festive period.  

"I cannot talk about any player who is not ours," Arteta replied. "We have a clear idea of how we want to develop our players."  

Smith Rowe was not involved against Southampton as Arsenal's FA Cup defence came to a disappointing end on the south coast.  

Willian and Nicolas Pepe were given the chance to impress but neither was able to help the visitors find a way through, leaving Arteta to face questions over their output this season.  

Willian has played 919 minutes in the Premier League this season, providing three assists and creating 12 chances in open play. The Brazilian has yet to score for Arsenal since signing a three-year deal in the previous transfer window, though.  

Pepe, meanwhile, has managed five goals so far in his second year at the club following a big-money move from Lille, a deal that was completed prior to Arteta's return to the north London club.   

However, in just 479 minutes in the league this term, he has not managed to create a single opportunity for a team-mate in open play.

"They tried to give their best, you can see how hard they tried, sometimes with more or less quality," Arteta said of the pair.  

"The intention is there; the willingness is there. This is what we demand of them to do. After that, the decision-making, the final pass, the final ball, the opportunities they had, the hardest thing is the end product.  

"We are going to keep supporting them as much as we can, as a coaching staff and as a club, because that's what it needs. 

"They need to keep working hard and try to improve their performances." 

Arsenal are back at Southampton on Tuesday for a Premier League fixture, followed by a showdown with Manchester United next Saturday. 

Mikel Arteta was unsure when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang would return as he reflected on a "really sad" FA Cup elimination for Arsenal.

The Gunners went down to a 1-0 defeat at Southampton on Saturday, their hopes of retaining the trophy ended in the fourth round.

Arsenal played without captain Aubameyang, who had to leave the team in the hours before kick-off for personal reasons.

Amid reports attacking midfielder Martin Odegaard is set to join from Real Madrid, Arteta expressed regret at his side's exit. 

"Really sad to be out of the competition," he said to BT Sport. "Disappointed to be out and the way we conceded.

"We are looking in the market and will see what we can do."

The teams meet again at St Mary's on Tuesday for a Premier League clash and Arteta is unsure whether Aubameyang will be back.

"I don't know, he needs to address that issue and see how it evolves," the Arsenal boss said at his post-match news conference.

"We are here, we will have to support him. He needs to take the time that is needed because that is a priority at the moment."

Gabriel Magalhaes' first-half own goal settled a scrappy contest where Arteta felt Arsenal had improved after the break.

Arteta added: "We had issues in the first half and unforced errors as a result of the high-press they do. 

"In the second half we had two or three big chances but not enough. It was an even game.

"In the first half they won a lot of second balls. In the second half we added more quality. We became more dominant and created chances but it wasn't enough."

Arsenal have conceded four own goals in all competitions this season.

Opta statistics show this is more than any other Premier League side and the most they have conceded in a single season since 2015-16 (five).

Asked if Gabriel had been rusty, Arteta said: "Maybe. He hasn't played enough minutes in the last month or so since he had the Covid. 

"He had to stay at home, he hasn't trained as much as we would like him to. He is a player that has done so well since he has joined us. Credit to Southampton because they make it really hard for you."

Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl was impressed with the way his team played, though suggested it had not been a perfect display.

"It was a good team performance," he said. "In general our work without the ball was good.

"We had in the first half more punch and more power. In the second half it's normal they have a lift. We must make the second goal. 

"We made one or two chances - Shane Long should have got a penalty. We had early ball wins, but our last decision-making was not always the best." 

Arsenal have now failed to make the fifth round of the FA Cup in three of the last four seasons.

Holders Arsenal were dumped out of the FA Cup as the unlucky Gabriel Magalhaes settled a scrappy clash at Southampton with an own goal.

Southampton's 1-0 win at St Mary's came against an Arsenal side who were without Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, their two-goal hero in last season's final, for personal reasons.

Gabriel turned a cross-shot from Kyle Walker-Peters beyond Bernd Leno for the only goal, his slight touch meaning a ball that looked like going wide squeezed just inside the left post.

Without Aubameyang, Mikel Arteta's Arsenal carried little threat against a side who sit one place above them in the Premier League.

The visitors almost fell behind early on, a corner from James Ward-Prowse curling in from the right and touched onto the crossbar by Bernd Leno.

Che Adams and former Gunners winger Theo Walcott threatened to find the breakthrough for Southampton before it arrived in the 24th minute.

The optimistic effort from Walker-Peters skidded low through a crowd of players and caught a flick off Gabriel on its way into the corner.

It meant Arsenal's defence had finally been breached after going 508 minutes without conceding a goal.

Southampton's Danny Ings smashed a shot against the foot of the right post early in the second half, although he had strayed a fraction offside.

Walcott thumped a shot high over the Arsenal bar as the hosts looked to make sure of their place in the next round.

In a largely underwhelming contest, Eddie Nketiah saw a shot palmed away by home goalkeeper Fraser Forster, while Ward-Prowse cleared off the line from substitute Bukayo Saka, but a flag for an earlier offside would have seen that ruled out.

Mikel Arteta hopes Frank Lampard is given time at Chelsea as Premier League managers continue to deal with the challenges posed by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

Chelsea went top of the table with a 3-1 triumph over Leeds United on December 5 but have collected just seven points in their eight games since then. 

The worrying run included a 3-1 defeat away to Arteta's Arsenal on Boxing Day, a result that ended a seven-match streak without a win for the Gunners in the top flight. 

Lampard insisted on Friday he does not pay any attention to speculation over his future at Stamford Bridge and has now received support from the man in charge of a rival club. 

"I've known Frank for a few years as well and I've spent some time with him," Arteta told the media. 

"I would like [Chelsea] to support him and give him a chance. He has huge experience as a player, he is an icon over there. 

"He's done some really good things, but you need time and if there's something we haven't had in this calendar year, it's time to work on anything."

Arteta, who found his own position in the spotlight during Arsenal's struggles earlier in the campaign, feels clubs will benefit in the long run if they show some patience. 

"Fortunately, if [clubs] see what you're trying to do is going to have rewards in the future and they are a little bit patient, most of the time it pays off, if everybody is convinced that we are doing things the right way," the Spaniard said. 

"I speak with a lot of managers and some of them have been in the game for over 30 years, and they said, 'I never experienced something like that'. This is a new game, new rules. There are so many things we cannot control. It's out of our hands in a lot of moments. 

"I listen a lot to that because we tend to put more and more pressure and demand a lot of ourselves. It's a very strange league this season, and you can see that in many teams."

Holders Arsenal continue their FA Cup defence on Saturday when they travel to Southampton.

All four previous meetings between the teams in the competition have ended with Arsenal victorious; they also went on to win the trophy on three occasions, in 1979, 2003 and 2017.

Southampton have won just one of their previous nine meetings with Arsenal in all competitions, a 3-2 league victory in December 2018.

Jose Mourinho has insisted he is happy with his striker options at Tottenham amid speculation linking the club with a move for Southampton star Danny Ings.

Ings is reportedly a top target for Spurs with his contract due to expire in 18 months and the England international seeking Champions League football.

Mourinho was adamant he would not directly respond to questions about Ings given he is employed by another club.

But the Spurs boss is happy with his options at centre-forward, which include on-loan Benfica forward Carlos Vinicius.

"Let's go bit by bit," Mourinho said.

"[We have] two strikers, we are not a team that needs a third striker because the third striker is Sonny [Son Heung-min]. 

"Of course we have the best [Harry Kane] and we are happy with Carlos.

"Carlos is not our player, he is a Benfica player, but he is a player we are helping to develop and he is helping the team so we are happy with the situation.

"Ings of course I refuse totally to say any word about him because he is a Southampton player and I respect that."

Mourinho was also asked about reports linking Gedson Fernandes with Torino, having previously said the player's 18-month loan with the club could end early.

Fernandes is, like Vinicius, on loan from Benfica, but the midfielder has not started a single Premier League game in a year at the club.

"We don’t speak with other clubs," Mourinho said of the Torino reports.

"We speak with Benfica. Since the moment where we felt that we were not giving to Gedson the possibilities of playing many matches, we felt that we didn't have the right to keep him. 

"If he stays, great. Every time he plays he does always well. But we never felt the right to keep a player that is not our player and is not playing. 

"Benfica knows we are open to cooperate with a friendly club like they are. If there is any other club involved, that I cannot confirm."

Spurs are away to Championship side Wycombe Wanderers in the FA Cup fourth round on Monday.

Inter star Lautaro Martinez's future could be closer to being sorted, while Frank Lampard is under enormous pressure.

After impressing at Inter, Martinez, 23, has been strongly linked with a move to Barcelona.

The Argentina international is contracted at Inter until 2023, but that could be set to change.

 

TOP STORY – INTER OPTIMISTIC OVER MARTINEZ RENEWAL

Inter are optimistic about reaching an agreement for a new contract with Lautaro Martinez, according to Sky Sport.

The report says Martinez's agents met with Inter on Wednesday.

Martinez has scored nine goals in 18 Serie A games this season, having netted 14 in 35 in the league in 2019-20, leading to interest from Barcelona.

 

ROUND-UP

- As Chelsea's struggles continue, Lampard is under growing pressure as head coach. Sky Sports reports the former England international will lose his job unless results improve immediately. Chelsea have lost five of their past eight Premier League games to slip to eighth in the table. The Independent, meanwhile, reports Chelsea are not interested in an interim replacement. Former Paris Saint-Germain boss Thomas Tuchel, RB Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann, Southampton's Ralph Hasenhuttl and ex-Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri have been linked.

- Previously linked to Arsenal, Houssem Aouar may be looking elsewhere if he leaves Lyon. ESPN claims the midfielder is eager to join Barcelona or Real Madrid.

- Set to stay at Manchester City until the end of the season, Eric Garcia has been linked with a move to Barcelona when his deal expires in June. However, Mundo Deportivo says PSG are planning a move for the defender.

- Arsenal could make moves in January. Sky Sports reports they have approached Real Madrid about a move for Martin Odegaard, while Cuatro claims Sevilla are hoping to loan the midfielder.

Could Harry Kane land in Paris?

With Kylian Mbappe tipped to join Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly eyeing replacements.

Mauricio Pochettino has a familiar face in mind…

 

TOP STORY – POCH WANTS KANE IF MBAPPE LEAVES

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino wants to sign Tottenham striker Harry Kane, according to El Chiringuito de Jugones.

That is if PSG star Kylian Mbappe leaves the Ligue 1 champions for LaLiga holders Real Madrid.

Pochettino coached Kane for five years at Tottenham before he was sacked by Spurs in November 2019.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sky Sport Germany claims Bayern Munich star David Alaba will not decide on his future until he has spoken to Barcelona. Marca reported that Madrid had struck a deal to sign Alaba on a free transfer at the end of the season. However, Alaba is reportedly holding out for Barca as the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United and PSG try to lure the Austria international.

Martin Odegaard has asked to leave Madrid on loan due to his lack of game time, reports Marca and Diario AS.

Romelu Lukaku has no intention of leaving Inter for City, says Express Sport. Lukaku spent two years at United before moving to Italy in 2019. Pep Guardiola's City have also been linked with Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland amid doubts over Sergio Aguero's future.

- Mundo Deportivo claims Manchester City defender Eric Garcia could join Barca this month or at the end of the season.

Milan are eyeing Barca's Junior Firpo on loan, while Serie A rivals Napoli are also interested, according to Calciomercato.

- Eurosport reports Tottenham are looking to prise Danny Ings away from Southampton. Ings is reportedly stalling on a new contract as he eyes a Champions League club.

Chelsea needed a late intervention from Mason Mount to overcome Fulham 1-0 on Saturday, relieving the pressure on boss Frank Lampard. 

Brendan Rodgers - a man tipped to take over at Stamford Bridge if Lampard is removed as boss - saw his Leicester City side climb up to second in the table with a 2-0 win over Southampton. 

There were also wins for Brighton and Hove Albion, West Ham and struggling West Brom. 

Here is the pick of the Opta facts from Saturday's action in the Premier League.

 

Fulham 0-1 Chelsea: Mount settles west London derby

Chelsea left it late to overcome Fulham at Craven Cottage, Mason Mount scoring with 12 minutes remaining to end the Blues' run of three straight away Premier League defeats. 

The scoreline perhaps should not come as a surprise, given Chelsea have won 131 Premier League games by that margin - the most common winning score for a single team in the competition's history. 

The result also marked Chelsea's fourth away clean sheet of the season - a feat they managed just once last season. 

It could have been a different outcome had Antonee Robinson not seen red shortly before half-time for a wild lunge on Cesar Azpilicueta. That dismissal was Fulham's third in the Premier League this season - no side has had more so far this term. 

Defeat for Scott Parker's side means they are winless in their last 19 top-flight London derby matches since a 2-1 win over West Ham in January 2014.

Leicester City 2-0 Southampton: Maddison and Barnes on target for flying Foxes

Leicester moved up to second in the Premier League after earning their first home league win against Southampton since April 2016, ending a run of four without a win against the Saints at the King Power Stadium. 

They were set on their way by James Maddison, who has now scored in consecutive top-flight games for the Foxes for the first time since October 2019, matching his goal tally at the King Power Stadium from each of the previous two campaigns.

Harvey Barnes' 10th goal of the season sealed all three points, the winger equalling his best ever goals return in a single campaign. 

Southampton, meanwhile, have now failed to score in four of their last five Premier League games, as many as they had in their previous 34 in the competition.

The Saints' first 12 Premier League games this season saw 41 goals scored (F24 A17), at an average of 3.4 per game, while their last six games have seen just six goals scored (F2 A4).

Wolves 2-3 West Brom: Pereira brace gives Allardyce lift off

Sam Allardyce got off the mark with his first win as West Brom boss to revive his side's survival hopes against out-of-form Wolves.

The veteran manager, previously without a win in five matches in all competitions since taking over, is now without defeat in six Premier League games against Wolves - his best unbeaten return against any side in the division.

Matheus Pereira gave West Brom the lead from the penalty spot early on - the ninth league game in a row Wolves have conceded first - before Fabio Silva and Willy Boly turned the game in the home side's favour.

In doing so, Boly became the first Wolves player to concede a penalty, assist and score a goal in the same Premier League game since Adlene Guedioura in May 2011 - also against West Brom at Molineux.

Semi Ajayi levelled the game up with his ninth headed goal since the start of 2018-19 - no defender in England's top four tiers has scored more, level with Virgil van Dijk and Aaron Pierre - and Pereira scored the winner with another spot-kick.

Wolves, who last lost successive home league games against West Brom between 1929 and 1931, are without a clean sheet in 12 Premier League matches - the longest ongoing run among sides in the division.

Leeds 0-1 Brighton: Maupay haunts Bielsa's men again

Brighton ended a nine-game winless run in the Premier League with a narrow victory at Leeds thanks to Neal Maupay's close-range finish after 17 minutes.

Maupay rounded off a slick team move for his 10th away goal for Albion in the competition, making him just the second player to reach that tally for the Seagulls after Glenn Murray (11).

It was the striker's fourth goal in five league appearances against Leeds and ensured a first ever away top-flight victory in this fixture for his side at the fourth attempt.

Leeds, whose two shots on target was their second fewest in a home match under Marcelo Bielsa, have lost their first three games in a calendar year for the first time since 2014.

West Ham 1-0 Burnley: Antonio hits milestone goal in narrow win

Michail Antonio made the difference as Burnley fired another blank, the versatile forward becoming the fourth West Ham player to reach the 40-goal mark for the club after Paolo Di Canio (47), Mark Noble (46) and Carlton Cole (41).

All 40 of those goals have been scored inside the penalty area - only Tim Cahill (56), Javier Hernandez (53), Gabriel Jesus (43) and John Terry (41) have netted more with 100 per cent coming inside the box.

No team has failed to score in more different Premier League games than Burnley this season (10), while no team has netted in more different games than West Ham (15).

It was also a third successive clean sheet in the league for David Moyes' men for the first time since September 2019 as they picked up an eighth win of the campaign in their 18th game, a tally it took them 32 games to reach last time around.

Jamie Carragher has criticised Liverpool's performance after a 1-0 away loss to Southampton continued their recent slump.

The Premier League champions went down to defeat courtesy of an early goal from their former striker Danny Ings on Monday.

Liverpool had drawn their previous two games against West Brom and Newcastle United, while they also recently dropped points against Brighton and Hove Albion and Fulham.

Manager Klopp felt the Southampton defeat was down to an early mistake by Trent Alexander-Arnold and a failure to award his side penalties.

But Carragher was baffled to see Liverpool not bombarding the Southampton goal in the latter stages.

Aside from their 7-0 win over Crystal Palace, the former Reds defender has been concerned by their lack of creativity, particularly away from home.

"The big worry is where are the goals and creation coming from, because it has been non-existent," Carragher said on Sky Sports.

"This Liverpool team is amazing but it is going through one of its first real rough patches it has been through in the past two seasons.

"I did not see that coming, I expected a reaction from Liverpool on the back of two really poor performances. We have just seen another one."

LACK OF SHOTS ON TARGET

Fraser Forster – who kept his first top-flight clean sheet in over three years - made a save from Sadio Mane in the 75th minute in what proved to be Liverpool's only shot on target.

That was also their longest wait for an attempt on target in a Premier League match since December 2015. 

Klopp's men have failed to score in back-to-back Premier League games for the first time since May 2018, having found the net in each of their 21 previous outings.

Opta data shows that after having eight attempts on target in the astonishing win over Palace, Liverpool have mustered just seven across their last three Premier League matches.

Carragher added: "Liverpool's away form this season is so poor. 

"When it comes to chances created, they have not looked like scoring. Did Fraser Forster have to make a good save, a big save? Did anyone miss a real chance where they had to score?

"That is a really big worry for Liverpool at the moment, in terms of what they are creating away from home. It is nowhere near enough.

"If you take that Aston Villa result out, Liverpool have done quite well defensively and that is quite worrying.

"At times I watch them and think where is the goal coming from.

"The big problem for me, if you go back to the last game against Newcastle, yes, [Mohamed] Salah missed chances and Mane missed chances, but if they don't score then who else is going to score?

"Take out the Crystal Palace game and nobody else has scored away from home for Liverpool who was available. The other one is Diogo Jota who scored against Brighton."

MIDFIELD STRUGGLES TO CREATE

Starting midfielders Thiago Alcantara, Georginio Wijnaldum and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain combined for just one created chance.

When it comes to chances created from open play per 90 minutes this season, Liverpool only have two players in the Premier League's top 30 - forwards Salah (1.67, 12th) and Mane (1.55, 18th).

Aston Villa standout Jack Grealish (3.13), Manchester United attacking midfielder Bruno Fernandes (2.97) and Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne (2.50) lead the statistical category. 

"There was the freak result against Crystal Palace but look at chances created from open play," continued Carragher.

"Last season's average was 10 from open play. But they are not creating what you would associate with a top team this season.

"Look at the average chances created from open play away from home [7.8 this season] and they are down in seventh.

"When you are a top team like Liverpool you should be in the top two or three for everything offensively."

Southampton made Premier League history on Monday, as they became the first team to beat all seven winners of the competition in the season after they lifted the crown.

Ralph Hasenhuttl's men defeated Liverpool 1-0 at St Mary's, prevailing in the fixture for the first time since 2016 thanks to Danny Ings' second-minute lob against his former club.

Southampton have now beaten Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Blackburn Rovers, Leicester City, Chelsea and Arsenal in the campaign following a title triumph.

Here is a look back at the matches that make up that run.

Blackburn Rovers

Southampton sold Alan Shearer to Blackburn in 1992, and three years later the England striker led Rovers to their first and only Premier League title. In the following season, Blackburn finished seventh, while Southampton avoided relegation on goal difference.

They claimed three crucial points in that survival battle on April 6, 1996, with Matt Le Tissier's 80th-minute penalty sealing a 1-0 win over Blackburn at The Dell.

Manchester United

Southampton sensationally beat defending champions United 6-3 on October 26, 1996, with Eyal Berkovic and Egil Ostenstad both scoring braces as the mercurial Le Tissier starred once more

They also beat a title-defending United side in 1997-98, 2000-01 and 2003-04.

Arsenal

The Gunners were top dogs in 2001-02, but came unstuck at St Mary's in November the following season, with James Beattie scoring twice and Kolo Toure's own goal settling the game 3-2 in Southampton's favour.

Manchester City

Early in Mauricio Pochettino's tenure, Southampton defeated defending champions City at St Mary's 3-1 in February 2013.

Their win included a quite sensational own goal from Gareth Barry, who steered a fine, inadvertent finish into the bottom-right corner of City's net to cap off the victory. They beat City last season, winning 1-0 in July, though Liverpool already had already deposed Pep Guardiola's side by that point.

Chelsea

Southampton were relegated to when Chelsea won their first Premier League title under Jose Mourinho, losing both of their games to the Blues on the way down.

However, they beat Chelsea in October 2015, with Steven Davis, Sadio Mane and Graziano Pele doing the damage in a 3-1 win as Mourinho's second spell in charge at Stamford Bridge hurtled towards a premature conclusion.

Leicester City

The Foxes charged to a remarkable Premier League success in 2015-16, but they were thrashed 3-0 at St Mary's in January 2017.

James Ward-Prowse, Jay Rodriguez and Dusan Tadic were on target in what was Southampton's biggest home win in the Premier League since a 4-1 victory against Crystal Palace on the final day of the previous season.

Liverpool

History was made as, despite Liverpool having 16 attempts – albeit with only one on target – Southampton held on to claim a hard-fought, well-deserved win.

The result left Hasenhuttl in tears at full time and also lifted Saints to within four points of the Premier League leaders.

Jurgen Klopp felt Liverpool's loss at Southampton was down to an early mistake by Trent Alexander-Arnold and a failure to award his side penalties.

A goal from former Reds striker Danny Ings in just the second minute was enough to secure a 1-0 win for Saints at St Mary's Stadium on Monday.

James Ward-Prowse chipped a free-kick into the penalty area and, after Alexander-Arnold failed to intercept, Ings looped a clever finish over goalkeeper Alisson.

Liverpool pushed hard in the second half but only hit the target with one of their 17 shots, while they had penalty appeals waved away when Sadio Mane tangled with Kyle Walker-Peters and when a Georginio Wijnaldum shot struck the arm of Jack Stephens.

Those incidents rankled with Klopp, even though he accepted their poor start gave the champions a difficult task.

"It made life massively difficult," he told Sky Sports.

"The idea was nice but we have a player there who is able to hit the ball, and he misses it. All these things can happen to human beings, but as great as the set-piece is, we knew they would do it, we had a player there and missed the ball and then of course the next one is the finish.

"The possession we had, with the way we played, Fraser Forster should have had much more to do, but that's the situation we put ourselves in. We had a long, long spell in the second half where Southampton had nothing to do with the game, no counter-attacks, so that's good.

"But the best situations we had were when Sadio has the ball and then... if anybody will ever say again that Sadio Mane is a diver, it's the biggest joke in the world. This boy tries to stay on his feet.

"Other teams will get a penalty for it, let me say it like this. Then the handball, I don't know who will explain that to me.

"That doesn't make our performance better and doesn't take anything away from Southampton, but in these situations we were unfortunate, at least."

The result ended a run of six consecutive league defeats for Southampton against Liverpool and marked the first time Ralph Hasenhuttl has ever taken points off Klopp in a league fixture.

The Saints boss, who was clearly emotional at full-time, said: "I've never taken a point against Jurgen so far, so, I think I started believing we could do it in the 92nd minute and not earlier!

"The way we defended was amazing. The effort the guys put in, everybody, was key to winning. The mentality was maybe even better than this mentality monster team.

"It was an important step forward, I think."

Liverpool have taken just two points from their past three games and will be overtaken by Manchester United at the top of the table if the Red Devils win their game in hand.

"It's a rather rusty moment and we have to admit that," said Klopp. "Only if you know the problem can you solve the problem, and we are not blind to our problems.

"We just have to fight through this and play through this. That's with proper opponents around, they want to have points, I have to say the attitude of Southampton was exceptional. That's why we lost tonight and didn't have the results in the last few weeks that we wanted."

Liverpool's frustrating run continued as they slipped to a 1-0 Premier League defeat against Southampton, handing further impetus to Manchester United and the chasing pack.

Having drawn their final two games of 2020 to West Brom and Newcastle United, Liverpool were downed by an early goal from their former striker Danny Ings at St Mary's.

They remain top, above United on goal difference having played a game more ahead of a crunch clash between the two old rivals at Anfield on January 17.

Ings' earliest goal of his Premier League career came after Liverpool switched off from a James Ward-Prowse free-kick.

Southampton might have added to their lead before half-time, but although Jurgen Klopp's champions dominated after the restart, they could not avoid a second league defeat of the season.

Liverpool were boosted by the return of Thiago Alcantara, yet it was the Spain international's foul that resulted in Southampton's second-minute opener.

Ward-Prowse's clever free-kick caught the visiting defence cold and, with Alisson stranded, Ings delicately lofted in his 50th Premier League goal.

Making his first Premier League appearance since May 2019, Fraser Forster was beaten by Roberto Firmino moments later, but the Brazil forward dragged his effort wide.

Moussa Djenepo succumbed to a hamstring injury with half-an-hour played and his replacement Nathan Tella was inches away from a first senior goal when he curled wide of the right-hand post.

Liverpool wanted a penalty when Giorgino Wijnaldum's shot struck Jack Stephens' arm from point-blank range, but Andre Marriner remained unmoved.

Stephens made another vital block in the 58th minute, lunging across to deny Sadio Mane as Liverpool turned the screw.

For all Liverpool's dominance, however, Forster did not have a save to make until the 75th minute, as he got down to Mane's scuffed shot.

Jordan Henderson’s last-ditch clearance from Yan Valery’s effort kept Liverpool in the contest late on, but Southampton nevertheless held firm to end a four-match winless run and reduce an emotional Ralph Hasenhuttl to tears of joy at full-time.

Thiago Alcantara has been named in Liverpool's starting XI for just the second time in the Premier League this season following a lengthy lay off due to a knee injury.

Former Bayern Munich playmaker Thiago's only previous start for the Reds came in the Merseyside derby against Everton in October.

Late on in the 2-2 draw at Goodison Park, Thiago was the subject of a rash lunge from Richarlison, who saw red for the challenge.

Thiago carried on to help tee up what seemed to be a last-gasp winner for Jordan Henderson, though it was subsequently ruled out by VAR, but the Spain international then missed the next two months of action.

Having made his return to training in December, Thiago came on from the bench for just his third Reds appearance on Wednesday, yet could not inspire Jurgen Klopp's champions to a win over Newcastle United, who held on for a goalless draw.

In his 22 minutes on the pitch, Thiago completed 21 of 23 passes. Only four Newcastle players attempted more throughout the course of the match.

Klopp had spoke of his unwillingness to take any undue risks with Thiago, who tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after making his Liverpool debut against Chelsea, but the Reds boss restored the 29-year-old to his starting lineup for Monday's game at Southampton.

With Liverpool looking to snap a two-game winless streak, Thiago came in as one of three changes, along with Georginio Wijnaldum and former Southampton player Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who makes his first league start of the season.

Jordan Henderson was placed into a makeshift defence alongside Fabinho, with Joel Matip out due to a groin issue. Liverpool's captain also played at centre-back in the second half of a 1-1 draw with Fulham last month.

Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino got the nod in attack.

Liverpool are unbeaten in their last eight Premier League meetings with Southampton, keeping a clean sheet in six of those matches, though their recent slip-ups have allowed Manchester United to move level on points with them at the top.

The festive period may not have gone quite to plan for Liverpool but the return of Thiago Alcantara provides a reason for optimism at the start of 2021.

The Spaniard came on as a second-half substitute against Newcastle United on Wednesday, having not featured since suffering an injury when caught by Richarlison in the Merseyside derby back in October, a challenge that saw the Everton forward dismissed late on in a 2-2 draw. 

Yet despite the lengthy absence, Thiago hardly showed no signs of rust at St James' Park. While unable to help Liverpool fashion a late winner as they drew for a second successive outing, his appearance off the bench provided a welcome reminder of just what the Reds have missed in recent months. 

After replacing James Milner in the 73rd minute, the midfielder had 29 touches, completed 21 of his 23 pass attempts and won all six of his duels. It was as if he had never been away. 

Having stuttered in their last two outings - they were held at home by West Brom before the 0-0 result at Newcastle - there must be a temptation to put the 29-year-old in the starting line-up at Southampton on Monday, as Liverpool aim to move clear of Manchester United at the Premier League summit.

Jurgen Klopp, though, is understandably unwilling to take any undue risks with a player who has also had to deal with testing positive for COVID-19 since moving to England.

"We will see. That he could play 20 minutes is special, I would say. He's had only two sessions with the team - that's it," the Liverpool boss said after the 0-0 result at Newcastle. 

"This game gave us an opportunity to do it, because it was mainly about creating and that's obviously his best skill.

"Honestly, the boys who did the job so far did exceptionally well. It's not that we could not survive if he cannot start the next game, but it's very good that he's fit and in contention. I like that a lot." 

Liverpool fans should like it too, considering what they have witnessed in the limited glimpses of the big-name signing from Bayern Munich so far. 

Thiago completed 75 passes of 83 attempted (90.24 per cent) against Chelsea on debut – and that was just in one half. Since Opta began collecting full passing data in 2003-04, his tally sits as the most made by a player to have played a maximum of 45 minutes. 

He was even more accurate with his passing when handed a first start against Everton, finishing up at 92.41 per cent. He also completed 80 per cent of his attempted dribbles in that game, having 99 touches in total at Goodison Park. 

Liverpool's midfield - so often without Fabinho this season, with the Brazilian having to switch to fill in for injuries at centre-back - has performed admirably so far. Yet Thiago provides something different, something a bit special.

It may well be Klopp, with his focus only on the bigger picture, leaves him in reserve once more at Southampton, but the Reds will only benefit from having the playmaker back involved again.

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