Mohamed Salah scored two penalties as Liverpool closed to within three points of Premier League leaders Manchester City with a 6-0 hammering of Leeds United at Anfield.

Salah netted either side of Joel Matip's superb strike to give Jurgen Klopp's team a comfortable advantage, before Sadio Mane added a late double of his own and Virgil van Dijk completed the scoring.

The stunning victory gives Liverpool renewed hope of catching Pep Guardiola's league leaders, who lost at home to Tottenham on Saturday and must still welcome the Reds to the Etihad Stadium.

City could have expected few favours from Leeds, however, with Marcelo Bielsa's men firmly in a relegation scrap with the league's most porous defence.

After a high-octane opening, Liverpool were awarded a 13th-minute spot-kick when Stuart Dallas handled a cross, allowing Salah to fire into the bottom corner.

Raphinha saw a tap-in ruled out for offside as Leeds looked to respond, but they found themselves two down after half an hour when Matip surged forward from the back, playing a one-two with Salah before thumping home his first goal of the campaign.

Rampant Liverpool earned a second penalty moments later, when Luke Ayling brought down Mane. Salah elected to smash the ball into the top corner this time, scoring two penalties in a single game at home to Leeds for a second season running.

Chelsea once again downed Tottenham at Stamford Bridge in the headline clash of the weekend's Premier League fixtures.

Fellow title hopefuls Liverpool, who still have a game in hand, closed the gap on leaders Manchester City to nine points with victory over Crystal Palace in south London.

Staying in the capital, Arsenal were held to a goalless draw by lowly Burnley as they lost ground in the race for the top four, while Leicester City shared the points with Brighton and Hove Albion.

With the action all over for a couple of weeks, Stats Perform unpacks the pick of the data from Sunday's fixtures.

Crystal Palace 1-3 Liverpool: Reds down Eagles again as Robertson delivers

Liverpool reduced Manchester City's advantage at the top to nine points after a 3-1 victory over Palace, who have lost each of their last 10 league meetings with the Reds.

Virgil van Dijk placed Jurgen Klopp's side in control after just eight minutes at Selhurst Park with his 10th headed goal in the competition – only Sami Hyypia (17) has scored more headers for the Reds in the Premier League.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain added a second after the half-hour mark as he scored in back-to-back top-flight matches for the first time since February 2020.

Both of those goals were created by Andrew Robertson, who now sits joint-second with team-mate Trent Alexander-Arnold (both 43) for the most assists in the league since the start of the 2017-18 season, with only Kevin De Bruyne boasting more (52).

Odsonne Edouard halved the deficit in the second half, but Fabinho secured three points with Liverpool's 169th Premier League spot-kick – the joint-most awarded to a team in the competition's history along with Manchester United.

Arsenal 0-0 Burnley: Gunners fail to fire against Clarets

Arsenal have failed to win any of their opening five games of a calendar year for the first time since 1995 after being held to a 0-0 draw by Burnley.

Nick Pope was in excellent form, while Alexandre Lacazette spurned a glorious open-goal opportunity, as the Clarets conceded 20 shots – the most they have faced in the Premier League without conceding since May 2021 (21 versus Fulham).

Lacazette's profligacy meant the Gunners have failed to score in four consecutive matches across all competitions for the first time since December 2005.

Arsenal will be desperate to improve upon their torrid run of form to challenge for the top four, with this stalemate being the first time the Gunners have failed to beat the team starting the day bottom of the table at home for the first time since October 2008.

Leicester City 1-1 Brighton and Hove Albion: Foxes tamed by away specialists

Leicester remained unbeaten at home to Brighton in the Premier League, though Brendan Rodgers may feel they should have claimed victory after a 1-1 draw.

Patson Daka broke the deadlock as he became just the second Foxes player to score in each of his first three home starts in the competition, after Leonardo Ulloa in the 2014-15 season.

The Zambia striker found the net just 26 seconds after the interval, the quickest goal scored in the second half of a top-flight game since February 2020.

However, Danny Welbeck levelled things up as he scored his fourth goal against Leicester in the Premier League, only bettering that haul in games with Aston Villa (five).

Neither side could find a late winner, ensuring the Foxes remain unbeaten at home to the Seagulls in the top flight since December 1980, while Graham Potter's side have only lost one of their last 11 away leagues games – a joint-low with Manchester City.

Chelsea 2-0 Tottenham: Blues make London derby history  

Chelsea registered their fourth win in all competitions this season – and third in January alone – over London rivals Tottenham with a 2-0 triumph at Stamford Bridge.

Harry Kane thought he had struck first before the break but a slight push on Thiago Silva saw his finish ruled out before Hakim Ziyech expertly curled in his fifth league goal for Chelsea – all five of those having come at different venues.

Silva added a second soon after as he became the oldest player (37 years, 123 days) to score in the Premier League since February 2013 to condemn Antonio Conte to his first top-flight defeat as Spurs head coach.

The defender's header was set up by a free-kick from Mason Mount, who provided his 20th assist since the start of the 2019-20 campaign – the most by any Chelsea player across all competitions in that period.

Spurs were unable to breach the Blues' goal, meaning they have now gone six matches across all competitions since last scoring against Chelsea, who became the first side to collect 500 points in Premier League London derby matches (501 points from 272 derbies).

Jurgen Klopp insisted "the distance is too far" between Liverpool and Manchester City to talk about the Premier League title race after a 3-1 win at Crystal Palace.

Virgil van Dijk and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain offered the Reds control with goals in the first half at Selhurst Park, but Odsonne Edouard's second-half strike teed up a nervy ending on Sunday.

Fabinho sealed all three points from the penalty spot after Vicente Guita was ruled to have fouled Diogo Jota, though Klopp's side owed much credit to goalkeeper Alisson for victory.

The Brazilian was required to make four saves, the joint-most of his 2021-22 campaign along with performances against Brighton and Hove Albion and Leeds United, as Liverpool managed a 10th straight victory over Palace in the league.

It leaves them nine points behind leaders City, while still boasting a game in hand, and manager Klopp refused to start speculating about a potential chase for the title just yet.

Asked by the BBC about Liverpool's title challenge, Klopp said: "No. The distance is too far to talk about it, but we don't have to. We just need to win football matches. 

"Each Premier League game is difficult, like we saw today. We made it more exciting than necessary! We will see what happens in the final few months."

Liverpool recorded victory without the likes of Mohamed Salah, Naby Keita and Sadio Mane, who are still away on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations.

The Reds trio should return to Merseyside before their next Premier League fixture, which sees them take on Leicester City at Anfield on February 10, and Klopp was delighted to have negotiated a challenging January period.

"Massive. It is obviously January which is a tricky period for us historically - well at least during my time," Klopp said. "You play without three players in Africa and a few others, so we had a small group to get through this, but the boys did incredible.

"It showed how insanely good we can be and how bad as well! For 35 minutes we were outstanding.

"We looked really sharp and ready to play in small spaces, then two or three sloppy passes and the stadium is back, Palace is back, and we did not start well in the second half. We had our moments, but we did not control it anymore.

"If you lose a little bit of focus it showed how tired we could be as Palace played a really good game. We opened the door for them and they ran through."

Van Dijk opened the scoring after just eight minutes in south London with his 10th headed goal in the competition – the only defender to have scored more headers in the Premier League for the Reds is Sami Hyypia (17).

The Netherlands international praised Andy Robertson's delivery as the centre-back reiterated Liverpool were not getting ahead of themselves in the title race.

"It was a very good corner from Andy Robertson," Van Dijk told Sky Sports. "We practised a lot for this, so important to finally get on the scoresheet again.

"I'm just happy to get the three points because it was a tough one. You can't deny it's [the title race] in your mind but as we have said many times we take it game by game. It sounds a bit boring, but it is like that.

"We are not looking at them because there is no point. There are so many games to play. We focus on ourselves."

Liverpool closed the gap on Premier League leaders Manchester City to nine points with a 3-1 victory at Crystal Palace on Sunday.

Jurgen Klopp's side recorded a remarkable 7-0 victory in this exact fixture last season and were soon in command as Virgil van Dijk and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain struck in the first half at Selhurst Park.

Palace deservedly pulled one back through Odsonne Edouard just after the break, but Fabinho sealed all three points from the penalty spot in the closing stages.

Victory saw Liverpool reduce City's lead at the summit after they were held by Southampton on Saturday, while the Reds still have a game in hand.

A deflected Jordan Henderson strike forced the first save of the contest from Vicente Guaita, but the Palace goalkeeper had no chance of stopping Van Dijk's thumping header from Andrew Robertson's out-swinging corner a minute later.
 
Liverpool doubled their lead just past the half-hour mark as Oxlade-Chamberlain brought down Robertson's inviting delivery and hammered home.
 
Alisson then denied Michael Olise as Palace looked to respond, while Jean-Phillipe Mateta saw his strike deflected wide after rounding the Brazil international.

Conor Gallagher headed a glorious point-blank chance wide immediately after the interval, before Alisson thwarted an inventive Edouard flick.

Palace eventually breached the Liverpool goal after 55 minutes when Mateta latched on to Jeffrey Schlupp's immense throughball and selflessly squared to Edouard for a tap-in.

Joachim Andersen fired narrowly wide moments after and Alisson had to race back to parry Olise's chip, as Liverpool negotiated a spell of sustained pressure.

Klopp's side secured all three points after a lengthy VAR check adjudged Guaita to have fouled Diogo Jota, with Fabinho converting from 12 yards.

Netherlands head coach Louis van Gaal insisted his "brain still works" following a bike accident left him temporarily in a wheelchair.

Van Gaal suffered a hip injury after falling off his bicycle on Sunday and oversaw Monday's training session from a golf buggy ahead of the Netherlands' crucial World Cup qualifier against Norway.

The Netherlands require at least a draw from their Group G decider on Tuesday to clinch a berth at Qatar 2022.

Van Gaal, who will be able to coach his nation when the Netherlands and Norway clash in Rotterdam, was keen to stress his brain remains intact following the incident.

"Physically, I'm bad. But my brain still works," former Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Barcelona boss Van Gaal told reporters via video link.

Asked if it hurt a lot, Van Gaal replied: "Yes, a lot. That's why I'm in a wheelchair. That's why I led the training session from my buggy.

"Look, it's the lesser trochanter, that’s a bone, and that's broken. And the iliopsoas, that’s a muscle, is attached to that. That's a stabilising muscle. I hope you can all understand what I'm saying.

"I had to learn about every single bone in the human body when I used to study for gymnastics teacher. That comes in handy now."

"I can do everything, because my brain works. There are things I can use, such as that buggy and my wheelchair. I look stupid, I know that too," the 70-year-old added. "But coaching is verbal, and you use your brain to do so. And the presentation has to convince the squad."

Netherlands star Virgil van Dijk added: "It's just sad and unfortunate for him. He now has to recover the next weeks.

"It's a physical thing, luckily it's not mental. He is still focused on reaching the World Cup, like we all are."

The Netherlands missed the chance to seal qualification for the 2022 World Cup as Montenegro produced a late comeback to snatch a 2-2 draw on Saturday.

Memphis Depay had Group G leaders the Netherlands on track before Montenegro overturned the two-goal deficit.

The Netherlands will now look to clinch against a Norway side missing injured superstar Erling Haaland.

Van Gaal acknowledged Haaland's absence changes the dynamic of the fixture.

"Haaland has the quality to always show up behind a defence," Van Gaal said. "He also did so in their home game against us, three of four times. That were also their only chances.

"Now, they'll have to find another solution. At least, that's what they'll be trying to do. But Haaland has specific qualities that they'll miss now. We can, in principal, play a bit further from our own goal now too."

Virgil van Dijk was left fuming with a "scandalous" second-half performance after the Netherlands missed a chance to seal qualification for the World Cup when they drew 2-2 with Montenegro.

The Oranje knew a win at Podgorica City Stadium would seal top spot in Group G and their place in the tournament in Qatar next year following Norway's goalless draw with Latvia earlier in the day.

It appeared to be mission accomplished when Memphis Depay doubled their lead early in the second half, having opened the scoring from the penalty spot.

But Montenegro struck twice in the final eight minutes to stun Louis van Gaal's side, Ilija Vukotic rounding Justin Bijlow and slotting home before fellow substitute Nikola Vujnovic rose above Daley Blind to head home.

The Oranje go into what promises to be a tense final group game against third-placed Norway on Tuesday leading their opponents and Turkey by two points.

Captain Van Dijk offered a frank and scathing assessment of his side's collapse.

The Liverpool defender told NOS: "It is just scandalous how we played the second half. We all want to have the ball, we all want to play football, attack and score. 

"But we have to make sure that we also think defensively. Spaces were created for them on the counter. And if you don't have the organisation right... It's just awful."

Van Dijk says there can be no excuses for the group leaders failing to get the job done with a game to spare.

He added: "We just had to secure qualification here. With all due respect to Montenegro, but as the Netherlands you just have to win here.

"Especially if you are leading 2-0. Maybe it was a bit of laziness. We need to discuss that carefully. Now it just has to happen on Tuesday in an empty stadium.

"We are going to prepare well. We keep faith in our group and are going to give everything, we can't do more. But it should definitely be better than tonight."

The Netherlands had not let a 2-0 lead slip in a competitive game since a 2004 clash with the Czech Republic at Euro 2004.

Depay is the leading European scorer in this World Cup qualifying campaign with 13. The Barcelona forward has scored 37 times for his country, the joint-fourth highest along with Dennis Bergkamp and Arjen Robben.

Virgil van Dijk praised Justin Bijlow for his injury-time save against Latvia as the Netherlands scraped a 1-0 win in World Cup qualifying.

Davy Klaassen's volley after 19 minutes proved enough for Louis van Gaal's men to take all three points in Riga on Friday.

The Oranje were largely uninspiring, though, with 78 per cent of the possession yielding just four shots on target against a side who have won only three World Cup qualifiers since 2013. In their previous six qualifiers, they had averaged 11 attempts on target per game.

Latvia twice came close to an equaliser, the first just a minute after the goal when Van Dijk lost possession near halfway and Klaassen was forced into two blocks in the penalty area.

Then, in second-half stoppage time, Feyenoord goalkeeper Bijlow made a one-handed save to deny Igors Tarasovs after the visitors failed to clear a corner.

"It's a game everyone expects you to win," Van Dijk told NOS. "That's only normal, I think. Luckily, we did that.

"We created a lot of chances, and they had a few dangerous moments after our mistakes. But yes, it's three points. That's very important in terms of World Cup qualification. It's what we came for.

 

"We analysed Latvia well, and they're a team who don't give up. They keep running. It's not that they put you under a lot of pressure, but they play very opportunistically when they have the ball. We knew it wouldn't be over with a 1-0 lead.

"I think we had chances, but the second goal didn't come in the end. Then you have to do everything you can to keep the clean sheet and take the three points. We were successful in that, partly thanks to a good save by Justin at the end."

The victory allowed the Netherlands to move two points clear at the top of Group G after Norway drew 1-1 away to Turkey.

With their next match at home to Gibraltar, who have lost all seven of their games, Van Gaal's side could put themselves in a strong position to qualify for Qatar 2022.

"[The Norway draw] was a very favourable result for us, but we have to do things ourselves. It's in our own hands," said Van Dijk.

"On Monday, we have to take another three points against Gibraltar, hopefully with a great atmosphere in the stadium."

Louis van Gaal insisted "it will only get better" for the Netherlands after turning on the style in Tuesday's 6-1 World Cup qualifying win over Turkey in Amsterdam.

Memphis Depay scored his first international hat-trick and was joined on the scoresheet by Davy Klaassen, Guus Til and Donyell Malen in a dominant display from the Dutch.

The Netherlands opened the scoring inside 54 seconds and were three up with 38 minutes played, the fastest they have led 3-0 in a competitive match in a decade.

Turkey lost Caglar Soyuncu to a red card before half-time but profited from a mix-up at the back to add a late consolation through Cengiz Under, though it was still their heaviest defeat since losing 8-0 to England in 1984.

Oranje have won two and drawn one of their three games since van Gaal replaced Frank de Boer, scoring 11 goals in the process, yet van Gaal can see room for improvement.

"If you win 6-1, you can expect a lap of honour," he told NOS. "This is what I signed up for, for the competition. 

"I projected my vision onto the players. I did a lot of what the players wanted. I said after the Norway and Montenegro games that it was a fantastic group, and I'm saying that again now.

"They boys have lasted the whole game, which is not normal. The first goal was college football. We haven't worked on that in training, it just comes out. 

"I'm dealing with a very happy group. I have passed the first threshold and I'm very happy with it. From now on it will only get better. We were too careless in possession."

 

Depay has scored five goals for the Netherlands in their last two games and has 12 in total for 2021, equalling the record for goals in a calendar year set by Patrick Kluivert in 2000.

The Barcelona forward is now joint eighth on Oranje's all-time top-scorers list, level with Johan Cruyff and Abe Lenstra with 33 goals in 71 caps.

Depay, who made his debut under in the first of van Gaal's three spells in charge in 2013, is now looking to climb further up that legendary list.

"Cruyff and Lenstra are legends," Depay told NOS. "They have meant so much to the Dutch national team and put our football on the map.

"You can't compare anyone with that. I now have to make sure that I remain important for the team with my game and with my goals.

"I am now in the top 10 of top scorers, but I want to be in the top three one day."

The only blemish for the Netherlands came in added time when Virgil van Dijk failed to get to a short Justin Bijlow pass under pressure from Halil Dervisoglu.

Under walked the ball into an empty net and van Dijk stayed on the ground after being caught by Dervisoglu in what appeared to be an injury scare for Liverpool.

However, the centre-back – who led the way with 88 passes at the Johan Cruijff ArenA – has provided a positive update on the ankle issue.

"I'm lucky. I'm already over it," he said. "Maybe because I am so big, they think I am acting.

"But all-in-all it was a very nice evening. There is no doubt in our minds that the next two games are very important in a month's time."

The Netherlands are top of Group G with four games to go, ahead of second-placed Norway – who they still have to face at home – on goal difference.

Virgil van Dijk was flattered by Erling Haaland's belief the Netherlands captain is "the best defender" in the world.

The pair are set to face off when the Oranje travel to Norway for their 2022 World Cup qualifier on Wednesday.

An intriguing duel should challenge both players, with Haaland full of praise for Van Dijk when he addressed the media on Monday.

"I think he is the best defender. I think quite a few others in the room agree with me on that," the Borussia Dortmund forward said.

"He is fast, strong and smart, and those are three important things you must have."

Those comments were on Tuesday put to Van Dijk, who replied: "Did he say that? That's nice of him."

The Liverpool man is relishing his return to the international stage, having missed Euro 2020 due to injury.

"I'm incredibly happy that I'm here again, with the guys, working towards a very important game," Van Dijk said.

"Everyone is sharp, looking forward to playing. Everyone is focused, which is great to see."

This will also be the Netherlands' first game since the return of Louis van Gaal, who is back for a third spell in charge.

Norway are tied with the visitors on six points from three games in Group G, one shy of early leaders Turkey.

Virgil van Dijk has signed a new long-term contract with Liverpool on the eve of their first game of the 2021-22 Premier League season.

The Netherlands captain, who made his return from a serious knee injury in pre-season following a nine-month absence, has committed his future to the Reds "well into the coming years".

Van Dijk's previous contract ran until 2023 but the big-money signing from Southampton has agreed to extend his stay on Merseyside.

He told Liverpoolfc.com: "Amazing. It is something to be very proud of, that I am very proud of, that my wife and my kids are very proud of and obviously my agency.

"All the hard work we've put in so far continues and I am looking forward to what the future brings together with Liverpool. I'm delighted, very happy and proud."

The commanding centre-back became the most expensive defender of all time when he left the Saints to join Liverpool for a fee of £75million in January 2018.

Former Celtic defender Van Dijk has been key to the Reds' success, helping Jurgen Klopp's side win the Premier League, Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup.

He has made 130 appearances for the club, scoring 13 goals, and follows Trent Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho and Alisson in signing new contracts in recent weeks.

Van Dijk and fellow defender Joe Gomez, who also suffered a serious knee injury, were sorely missed by Liverpool last season as they failed to defend their Premier League crown but were able to secure a Champions League spot.

They will travel to Norwich City for their opening game of the 2021-22 campaign on Saturday, with Klopp having suggested Van Dijk will not be rushed back into action – although the player feels ready to return after a good pre-season.

"I feel good. Obviously [they were] friendlies, you get your match fitness up, get into repetitions of doing things again and again," he said.

"I feel like I am ready for the weekend, so we'll see what the manager decides. It is going to be a totally different atmosphere and mindset for me personally as well. It is something we fight for, for the points, and hopefully we can get a positive result out of it."

Virgil van Dijk has signed a new long-term contract with Liverpool on the eve of their first game of the 2021-22 Premier League season.

The new Premier League season has not even begun yet and we're already enjoying some enthralling narratives.

Beyond the mundane matter of who might win the league, who will beat the drop and how thick the VAR lines will be, there are some tantalising stories we'll be following closely in the coming weeks.

Below, Stats Perform takes a look at some of the big talking points...

 

Blue Benitez

Predicting football is often a fool's game – especially in an era when Lionel Messi no longer plays for Barcelona – but Rafael Benitez at Everton? Who saw that coming?

The Spaniard is back in the Premier League, two years after walking away from Newcastle United, having been tempted by the same project that won over Carlo Ancelotti before the lure of a Real Madrid return became too great.

Benitez was a fans' favourite at Newcastle, arguably as much as he was at Liverpool, where he reached two Champions League finals including the unforgettable triumph in Istanbul. His connection to the red half of Merseyside meant his decision to head to Goodison Park raised the eyebrows of some and the blood pressure of others. In fact, only one man has ever managed both clubs: William Edward Barclay, Everton's first boss in 1888 and Liverpool's manager from 1892. We'll forgive you if you don't remember.

The scrutiny on Benitez, who has recorded 11 wins against Everton in his coaching career, will be severe. He has the credentials, but if he cannot quickly prove he is the man to realise the dreams of owner Farhad Moshiri and challenge the 'big six', the pressure could become pretty uncomfortable.

 

Virgil return lifts Reds

For a while, it seemed everything would be okay. In the first 11 games after Virgil van Dijk was injured against Everton last October, Liverpool conceded just six goals and kept as many clean sheets. Perhaps the loss of the Netherlands colossus would not be quite so damaging.

Of course, as injuries in defence piled up and confidence in their title chances waned, Liverpool's season ended up being one of major disappointment even though a strong final few weeks saw them snatch a Champions League spot.

Van Dijk's impact cannot really be disputed: since his move to Anfield in January 2018, Liverpool have won 75.8 per cent of matches with the centre-back in the side and only 54.3 per cent without him. They average 2.4 points per game with him (compared with 1.9 without), and even score more goals on average (2.3 compared with 1.8) when he's playing. No wonder fans began to count down the days to his return.

On Saturday, we can finally expect to watch Van Dijk in competitive action again, with Jurgen Klopp confirming he is fit to start the season. He could even begin his partnership with new signing Ibrahima Konate against Norwich City at Carrow Road. How Liverpool's campaign progresses over the opening few weeks, and how Van Dijk's return goes, might just tell us whether another title tilt is on the cards.

 

Rom-ember us?

Two of the biggest transfers in this pre-season have seen stars returning to England: Jadon Sancho, who finally got his Manchester United move for £72.9million a year after Borussia Dortmund had demanded a sizeably bigger sum; and Romelu Lukaku, who is heading to Chelsea for roughly £93m.

Sancho left Manchester City for the Bundesliga as a teenager and promptly became one of Europe's standout attacking players, with 50 goals and 57 assists in 137 appearances. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wanted a player to get fans on their feet, and he's almost certainly found it: Sancho completed 48 multi take-ons (beating more than one player with a dribble) in the Bundesliga, at least 14 more than any other player in his time in Germany.

For Lukaku, it's a case of unfinished business at Chelsea, the club he left back in 2014. The standout performer for Inter last season, with 30 goals and 11 assists in all competitions, he propelled his side to their first Serie A title since 2010 before taking up the chance to return to Stamford Bridge, where a consistent goalscorer could be decisive to their Premier League title hopes.

Sancho and Lukaku initially struggled to convince managers to give them a shot as youngsters in the Premier League. They return as elite players determined to prove a point. Given the costs involved, the pressure will be on both to perform – and quickly.

 

Did Jack hammer Harry's City hopes?

Manchester City are not exactly frugal in the transfer market, but rarely will they willingly pay over the odds for an individual. That's what made their willingness to spend £100million on Jack Grealish, a player with 12 senior international caps and zero Champions League experience, a touch surprising.

This is not to suggest Grealish is not a good player, of course. This is a man who was involved in a remarkable 376 open-play attacking sequences over the past two seasons for Aston Villa, a team who finished 17th and 11th in those campaigns. It's just notable that Pep Guardiola felt it was warranted to smash City's transfer record by nearly £40m to sign yet another midfielder, especially given what's going on – or not going on – with Harry Kane.

Kane was expected to be City's marquee signing in this window but, as of now, his future is unclear. He is finally due to return to Tottenham training this week but whether he is involved against City in their opening game is harder to know. And if City were willing to spend nine figures on Grealish, you can expect Spurs chairman Daniel Levy to demand top dollar for last term's golden boot winner, who has three years left on his contract.

Will City stump up the cash? Will Kane try his best to force Spurs' hand? Will he be staying in north London for at least a few months more, his form undimmed, the goals flowing as normal? It will be fascinating to watch.

 

Pep Guardiola's quest to conquer Europe and continue domestic domination with Manchester City has seen him sign Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish in a deal reportedly worth £100million.

Grealish becomes the most expensive signing in Premier League history after being prised away from Villa Park, where he had spent his entire career and captained his boyhood club since 2019.

The England international, who helped the Three Lions to a first major final appearance in 55 years at Euro 2020, has regularly been linked away from Villa but committed his future after rumoured interest from Manchester United, signing a long-term contract in 2020.

In the 2020-21 campaign, the 25-year old contributed with six league goals and 10 assists, while also creating 81 chances across 26 appearances for the Villains.

Dean Smith will no longer have the playmaker to call upon, though, as Guardiola has demolished the previous Premier League transfer record – set by Paul Pogba's return to United in 2016 – to secure Grealish's services.

After City's record-breaking acquisition of Grealish, Stats Perform looks at the other most expensive signings in English top-flight history.

PAUL POGBA – Juventus to Manchester United, £89.3m

Jose Mourinho's first transfer window with the Red Devils saw the France midfielder return to Old Trafford in a then-world record transfer.

Since making that reunion in 2016-17, only Marcus Rashford (78) and Anthony Martial (64) have been involved in more Premier League goals for United than Pogba (57 – 28 goals, 29 assists), while the midfielder has created more top-flight chances (207) than any other player for the club during this period.

He scored and assisted one apiece for France at Euro 2020, while only Antoine Griezmann (10) created more chances than Pogba's eight for Les Bleus.

HARRY MAGUIRE – Leicester City to Manchester United £80m

United broke the world transfer record for a defender in 2002 when they signed Rio Ferdinand for £30m and 17 years later they acquired Maguire for more than double that fee.

The centre-back endured a tricky start to life in Manchester, however, his quality eventually shone through as he strung together 71 consecutive appearances for United.

Despite missing the last four games of the 2020-21 campaign, Maguire ranked second in the Premier League for aerial challenges won (135) and fifth for successful duels (203) before featuring prominently at Euro 2020 for England.

 

VIRGIL VAN DIJK – Southampton to Liverpool, £75m

Jurgen Klopp, albeit under contentious circumstances, convinced Van Dijk to move away from St. Mary's Stadium in December 2017.

The commanding Netherlands captain guided Liverpool to their sixth Champions League success in 2018-19 before playing a key role as the Reds ended their 30-year wait for an English title.

Van Dijk's absence severely affected their Premier League defence last term. Klopp's men have won 75.8 per cent of their league matches with Van Dijk in the side since his debut in January 2018, a figure that falls to 54.3 per cent in his absence.

 

ROMELU LUKAKU – Everton to Manchester United £75m

The Belgium forward never settled in at Old Trafford and left after two seasons, despite converting 42 times in 96 games for United.

Lukaku scored twice in United's stunning Champions League last-16 comeback victory over Paris Saint-Germain in 2019 before completing a switch to Inter, where he helped Antonio Conte's men to their first Scudetto since 2009-10.

During the title-winning campaign, Lukaku shunned doubts over his finishing as he converted almost one in four chances to bag 24 goals and improved his link-up play to form an effective partnership with Lautaro Martinez. Since his Inter debut only five players have scored more goals in Europe's top five leagues than Lukaku (64).

He has now been linked with a return to former club Chelsea in a deal which could shatter Grealish's new record.

 

JADON SANCHO – Borussia Dortmund to Manchester United £73m

After leaving Manchester City in 2017 for Borussia Dortmund, Sancho found himself signing for the red half of Manchester four years later. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer pursued Sancho for multiple transfer windows and finally got his man in the wake of England's Euro 2020 shoot-out heartbreak.

Since the start of the 2018-19 campaign, the 21-year-old has been directly involved in the joint-most goals of any English player across the top five European leagues (78), while he has played fewer minutes than Harry Kane – also on 78 – in this period.

Sancho also became the first Englishman to reach at least 10 assists for three consecutive seasons in Europe's top-five leagues since David Beckham, who achieved the feat between 1997-98 and 2000-01 for Alex Ferguson's United.

Netherlands head coach Frank de Boer agrees with Virgil van Dijk's decision to sit out Euro 2020 and expects Georginio Wijnaldum and Matthijs de Ligt to fill the leadership void.

Dutch skipper Van Dijk confirmed two weeks ago that he will miss the tournament to focus on getting fully fit for the start of pre-season with Liverpool.

The 29-year-old missed the majority of the 2020-21 campaign due to an anterior cruciate ligament injury sustained against Everton in October, though he is now back in individual training.

De Boer accepts Van Dijk will be a big loss for Oranje in their quest to win a second European Championship title, but understands the decision taken by the centre-back.

"Virgil made the decision himself," De Boer said at a news conference on Wednesday. "I think that's the way it should be. 

"We all hoped that he would have been able to join us, that he would have had the same scenario as Daley Blind, that he would have been able to play one or two games. 

"If we would reach the final, he would have been fit to play, that's what he said himself. In the end, it's been a very well thought out choice of his, even though it sucks for us. 

"We hope we'll reach the World Cup, too, which will be played pretty soon. He doesn't want to miss two big tournaments and he also wants to be important for his club next season. 

"We have all seen how big of an impact his absence has had on us and on Liverpool."

Wijnaldum took over captaincy duties from club-mate Van Dijk last November and will wear the armband at the delayed Euro 2020 finals.

De Boer can also call upon the likes of Inter's Stefan de Vrij and Juventus defender De Ligt, who became the youngest captain in Ajax's history in 2017.

Asked who in his squad will spur the players on, De Boer said: "At this point, it's our captain [Wijnaldum]. 

"But there's different types of leaders: some are charismatic, some are very vocal. That's why you're asking this.

"I think Virgil van Dijk has everything: he has charisma, he's vocal and he looks like a true leader. Now we need to find others. 

"Matthijs de Ligt was captaining Ajax at 19. He is also a similar leader. Stefan de Vrij has proven to be able to do so as well in his recent years at the highest level at Inter. 

"It's something that has to grow within the squad. Daley Blind might not be a very physical leader, but he's very vocal and clear about what he wants others to do – a big plus for us.

"I don't think we have one single leader that has all of those qualities, but it's now time for multiple leaders to stand up and work as one, both on and off the pitch."

De Boer was speaking after naming his finalised 26-man squad for the Euros on Wednesday.

Tottenham forward Steven Bergwijn was the biggest casualty of the eight players cut from the initial 34-man group.

Anwar El Ghazi, Hans Hateboer, Rick Karsdorp, Marco Bizot, Jeremiah St. Juste, Kenny Tete and Tonny Vilhena were the other players omitted by De Boer.

The Netherlands begin their Group C campaign against Ukraine in Amsterdam on June 13, before facing Austria and North Macedonia.

 

Netherlands squad in full:

Jasper Cillessen (Valencia), Tim Krul (Norwich City), Maarten Stekelenburg (Ajax); Nathan Ake (Manchester City), Daley Blind (Ajax), Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus), Stefan de Vrij (Inter), Denzel Dumfries (PSV), Jurrien Timber (Ajax), Patrick van Aanholt (Crystal Palace), Joel Veltman (Brighton and Hove Albion), Owen Wijndal (AZ); Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona), Marten de Roon (Atalanta), Ryan Gravenberch (Ajax), Davy Klaassen (Ajax), Teun Koopmeiners (AZ), Donny van de Beek (Manchester United), Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool); Steven Berghuis (Feyenoord), Luuk de Jong (Sevilla), Memphis Depay (Olympique Lyonnais), Cody Gakpo (PSV), Donyell Malen (PSV), Quincy Promes (Spartak Moscow), Wout Weghorst (Wolfsburg).

Virgil van Dijk will ultimately make the decision on his participation at the upcoming Euros, according to his Netherlands defensive partner Matthijs de Ligt.

Liverpool star Van Dijk has been out since October, with the centre-back having sustained a serious knee injury after a challenge from Everton and England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

Jurgen Klopp has consistently stressed caution over the return of Van Dijk, who stepped up his rehabilitation at a facility in Dubai before heading back to Merseyside.

It remains to be seen whether the 29-year-old will be fit to play again before the season is out, and as such his participation in the Euros is doubtful.

Netherlands boss Frank de Boer claimed in the build-up to Wednesday's defeat to Turkey that Van Dijk had another eight weeks left on his recovery, with the Oranje coach claiming he was not relying on the former Southampton and Celtic man to return in time for the tournament.

De Ligt, however, was less pessimistic, with the Juventus defender revealing Van Dijk is in good spirits, and will return when he feels the time is right.

"We had a meeting yesterday, [Van Dijk] was there too," De Ligt said on Friday.

"He looked very good, he seemed very fresh and free. Of course, I don't know how he feels physically, he doesn't really want to put any pressure on himself either.

"He has a clear mind and looks at it day by day. He is calm and wants to see where he's at, at moment the Euros are starting. I think it's important for him to be calm, and to be able to recuperate from his injury without any pressure from us or from the country.

"He will decide if he will be at the Euros. If he's there, he’s there. If he's not there, other guys will have to fill his shoes. But yesterday he looked well."

With Inter's Stefan de Vrij having contracted coronavirus, De Ligt's former Ajax team-mate Daley Blind partnered the 21-year-old in defence against Turkey.

It was neither of the duo's finest performances, with Burak Yilmaz scoring a hat-trick in a 4-2 win for Netherlands' World Cup qualification rivals.

Asked who he would prefer to have next to him should Van Dijk fail to make the Euros, De Ligt replied: "That's a question that’s not really relevant to me.

"In the end, it's the manager who decides who plays, what we need. In possession, Daley is one of the best defenders I have ever played with.

"Stefan plays in Italy, is more physical and is stronger than Daley. So it might also depend on our opponents. We also have Nathan Ake and other guys. There are enough options.

"I might not even be playing. That's something the manager decides, that depends on the game. We simply have to respect the manager's decisions."

Page 8 of 9
© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.