Virgil van Dijk insists Liverpool will not listen to suggestions they are favourites against Villarreal when the two sides meet in the Champions League semi-finals.

Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool defeated Benfica while Villarreal rallied past Bayern Munich to reach the final four and set up just the third meeting between the two teams in European competition.

The Reds will boast home advantage in the first leg on Wednesday, Villarreal having not managed victory in any of their past eight away games in England in all competitions since August 2005.

That last triumph on English soil was over fellow Merseysiders Everton, who Liverpool defeated 2-0 on Sunday to keep their Premier League title and quadruple hopes alive.

While Klopp's team have impressed on all fronts this season, winning the EFL Cup and reaching the FA Cup final as well, Van Dijk warned that Unai Emery's side will pose a threat.

"No, these are press debates that we prefer not to listen to," he told Spanish outlet EFE when asked if Liverpool were favourites. 

"We don't listen if they tell us that we're favourites or not. We will play on Wednesday as we try to play every game, that is, going out to try to win and, if we can, reach the final. 

"Villarreal are a great team, with great fans and a great coach. We really want these two games to start now.

"It will be very difficult because Villarreal is a very difficult team. Obviously, I have seen the games against Bayern Munich and they are a fantastic team defensively.

"The players work hard, have a lot of experience and, above all, play like a collective. In this round only the best remain. There is no easy rival in a semi-final.

"We are aware of the difficulty of these games and these rivals. The return there in Spain is going to be very hard and we expect it to be very intense."

Gerard Moreno has registered four assists in the Champions League this term, with only three players managing more. Indeed, since 2003-04, this is the joint-most by a Spanish player in their debut campaign in the competition, along with Gabi (2013-14) and Isaac Cuenca (2011-12).

Meanwhile, only Karim Benzema (15) has created more secondary chances – the pass played before the ball that sets up a shot or goal – than Dani Parejo (14), highlighting his influence in building Villarreal's attacks, and Van Dijk pinpointed the dangerous pair.

"[Their] central defenders are incredible. Raul Albiol and Pau Torres. They are very experienced and fantastic," the Netherlands international added. 

"Then in the centre of the pitch they have the calm and the touch of Parejo and up top Gerard Moreno [if he is fit] is very fast and can surprise you. 

"We already know a lot about [Arnaut] Danjuma from his time at Bournemouth. It's going to be a very complicated match-up, but this is the Champions League semi-final. We knew it wasn't going to be easy."

Along with the talent on the pitch, Klopp will also face off against Emery, who has progressed from 84 per cent of his Europa League and Champions League knockout ties (31/37) since the start of the 2009-10 season.

Only former Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane (14/16 – 88 per cent) boasts a better win rate in that period among managers to take charge of at least 10 games, and Klopp will be looking to make amends after Emery’s Sevilla beat Klopp’s Liverpool 3-1 in the 2016 Europa League final.

Virgil van Dijk described Liverpool achieving a quadruple as "almost impossible" but did not rule out the Reds doing so after taking another step towards it last Saturday. 

Having won the EFL Cup in February, the Reds reached the FA Cup final with a 3-2 win over Manchester City.

They are a point behind Pep Guardiola's men in the Premier League and through to the semi-finals of the Champions League, where they could also potentially meet City in the final, after just facing each other twice in the space of a week.

Van Dijk downplayed the probability of Liverpool completing quadruple, but could not deny the gravity of that possible achievement.  

"Nobody did the quadruple and there is a reason for it – because it is almost impossible to do," he said.

"All this talk about quadruple or treble is from the outside world and could put extra pressure on us.

"It is something that everyone would dream about, to win every competition you participate in, but we will see what it brings. Anything can happen, with other teams as well."

The Reds will have a gauntlet to run to claim the quadruple, with midweek games at both domestic and continental level all the way from now until the FA Cup final in May.

This week will see Liverpool face a pair of fierce rivals, hosting Manchester United on Tuesday before taking on Everton on Sunday.

Virgil van Dijk insists he is "just enjoying the moment" ahead of a run of games that could define Liverpool's season.

The Reds remain in the hunt for an unprecedented quadruple, having already won the EFL Cup, as they are into the last four of the FA Cup, the last eight of the Champions League and just a point behind Manchester City in the race for the Premier League title.

Ahead of the Champions League quarter-final first leg away at Benfica on Tuesday, Van Dijk told reporters he is calm about the upcoming period, and is pleased that Liverpool currently have a full squad to use across the three remaining competitions.

"If you would say at the start of the season that you will still be in all competitions by this time of the year, also having a full squad, which last season wasn't really the case, we would have taken it easily," he said.

"I'm just enjoying the moment. We all as footballers want to play games – it asks a lot physically from us, but I'm just going for it and enjoying every moment."

Van Dijk missed most of last season with a knee injury, but has been a near ever-present since his return for Jurgen Klopp's men, making 39 appearances in all competitions so far this campaign, with 24 clean sheets to his name. 

Liverpool have conceded just three goals in their last 13 games in all competitions, and the 30-year-old was asked if he feels the defensive side of their game sometimes goes unnoticed.

"I must say, before the [January] international break, I did care a little bit," he said. "I think I said it in [another] interview, I felt a bit taken for granted, coming back from a long-term injury, that everything was normal, everyone expected the same [level of performance], and it's quite difficult.

"But after the break, I really didn't. Maybe that helped also the performances, but at the moment we're just doing it together. Everyone is playing their part, everyone is involved, the back four plus Alisson changes at times as well. If you look at the [EFL] cup final, with Caoimhin [Kelleher] coming in, the hero in the cup competitions.

"Kostas [Tsimikas] coming in, Joe [Gomez] coming in now as well, everyone is getting involved in the success we have as a defensive unit, but the way we defend is we do it all together, and everyone feels responsibility for that as well."

Questions have been asked of Liverpool's high line in recent weeks, despite the impressive defensive record, and Van Dijk was keen to question why, believing people are forgetting to discount opportunities against them that would have been given offside had a goal been scored.

"It's now being highlighted, but I think if you look back at the last couple of seasons we always try to play with a high line," he said.

"This season, and last season I think, we started with the rule that [we] keep playing on, and then the linesman puts the flag up. It looks like we are conceding chances against us.

"Even the other day [against Watford] when Ali had to make the save, it looked like we are vulnerable when he is offside, so I think that rule first of all has to get out of the way, but the other thing is the high line, we don't speak about it a lot but on the pitch you definitely have to communicate and I'm always trying to do that."

No team has caught opposition players offside in the Premier League as often this season, with Opta stats showing the Reds have successfully caught players offside on 124 occasions, well ahead of City (76), Wolves (70), Leicester City (62) and Brentford (59).

The Netherlands captain also had words of encouragement for his national team boss Louis van Gaal, who revealed on Dutch TV on Sunday he is undergoing treatment for prostate cancer.

"I was in shock last night when I heard his interview, because obviously he is getting his film out next week so I was just wondering how he would promote it and speak about his life, and then obviously this was a big shock," he added.

"I messaged him after the interview, but it definitely says a lot about him [as a person]... He's not the type of guy that needs a lot of sympathy, that's how he is, but I told him we are definitely going to be there for him as a group whenever needed, and also we can also hopefully make it for him a World Cup to never forget."

Virgil van Dijk has backed Liverpool team-mate Mohamed Salah to "turn disappointment into success" after Egypt failed to qualify for this year's World Cup.

Salah, who had lasers directed at him from the crowd as he lined up his spot-kick, blazed over in the penalty shoot-out on Tuesday as it was Senegal – spearheaded by fellow Liverpool star Sadio Mane – who booked their spot in Qatar following a 1-1 aggregate draw across two legs.

It was the second time this year that Salah and Egypt have suffered shoot-out agony against Senegal, who triumphed in the same way in the Africa Cup of Nations final.

Salah has been one of the standout players in European football this season, yet will not get the chance to show his quality on the biggest international stage.

While Van Dijk is disappointed for Liverpool's talisman, he is confident the forward will use Egypt's failure to spur the Reds on to more success this season, with a quadruple still on the cards for Jurgen Klopp's team.

 

"Well obviously, I feel sorry for Mo and for Egypt, but football is sometimes like this," Van Dijk told reporters after featuring in the Netherlands' 1-1 friendly draw with Germany.

"I am sure he will turn the disappointment into success for the rest of the season.

"We still have everything to play for so there is a lot of things still to achieve for him."

While Salah will return to Liverpool disappointed, Mane will come back knowing he is set to lead Senegal, who exited in the group stage in Russia in 2018.

Van Dijk was thrilled for Mane, but could not resist firing a warning shot his team-mate's way.

"As for Sadio, I wish him all the best and if he is in our group, he is going to need that good luck," the defender added.

Virgil van Dijk and Jordan Henderson both hailed Liverpool's "special" EFL Cup triumph over Chelsea after sealing a dramatic penalty shoot-out victory on Sunday.

An enthralling final that saw both teams have goals disallowed had to be settled from the spot, and after a run of 21 successful spot-kicks, Chelsea's substitute goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga blazed over the bar to hand the Reds record success in the competition.

Van Dijk netted the Red's third kick of the shoot-out but he was instrumental in another of the match's key turning points.

Joel Matip had a second-half goal disallowed after his centre-back partner was ruled offside when blocking defender Reece James.

Speaking to Sky Sports after lifting the trophy, Van Dijk praised his team's maturity and work-rate but expressed his confusion at the decision to disallow Matip's goal.

"[It was] very special," the 30-year-old said of the victory.

"There was a lot of hard work, as we expected before the game, a lot of calm nerves [needed]. The penalties overall were all quite good apart from the last one [from Kepa].

"We have matured and been through quite a lot over the last two seasons, the way we play and additions we have made.

"It was an intense game and offside goals were also a thing, and that rule of playing on until whenever [when an offside call is tight] is annoying. It is something we have to consider taking out for next season.

"I told the ref I don't understand [the offside decision]. I wasn't even participating, the ball went over my head and I did not even go for the ball. It is a game of challenges, and you are allowed to block a move. 

"I think when Manchester United played away at Burnley [in a Premier League draw earlier this month], there was a similar thing that was also disallowed and I don't understand it."

Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk hailed Joel Matip after both men found the net in a 6-0 thrashing of Leeds United, saying he wishes he had his defensive partner's technical ability.

Between two Mohamed Salah penalties, Matip strode forward to open his account for the season with a superb goal, while Van Dijk later completed the scoring after Sadio Mane had struck twice against the strugglers.

The dominant victory moved Jurgen Klopp's men to within three points of the Premier League summit, while Van Dijk and Matip contributed to Liverpool's 14th Premier League clean sheet of the campaign – only leaders Manchester City (15) have more.

However, it was Matip's dribbling ability that came in for praise from his partner, after the German defender's fantastic goal.

"It [dribbling out from the back] is a big quality of his," Van Dijk told the club's website after the win. "I wish I had that quality at times.

"He just can go without any fear at all and hope for the best a little bit.

"But he has that quality. It's a big strength of his and obviously it's useful because it drags other players from their position. Today, obviously, the space was there to make that run and finish it off. 

"I said to him before the game I felt it coming because he had an assist for Diogo [Jota, in a recent 2-0 win over Leicester] and I said, 'A goal is next!'

"So I'm obviously very happy for him."

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp admitted his side will have to win virtually all of their Premier League games to stand a chance of winning the title after a 6-0 hammering of Leeds United.

Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane both hit doubles against Marcelo Bielsa's strugglers, while central defenders Joel Matip and Virgil van Dijk joined them on the scoreboard as the Reds moved to within three points of leaders Manchester City. 

The gap between the Premier League's top two is now at its shortest since Christmas Day, when it also stood at three points, while Liverpool are unbeaten in 26 home matches in all competitions.

However, speaking to the BBC after the win, Klopp was keen to stress that the Reds will have to be near-perfect in order to push City close, and shifted his attention to Sunday's EFL Cup final against Chelsea.

"We have 10 days until we play the next league game, and we have two games in between, in completely different competitions," the head coach said.

"One is a final [against Chelsea] and the other a last 16 [the FA Cup fifth-round clash with Norwich City]. They will be different games, and we have to be ready for them.

"It [the gap] is three points until the weekend, and then City will probably win, and it will be six points. 

"If we win all our games, pretty much, there will be a chance for us.

"For people outside [of the club], it is better to have a three or six-point gap than to have a 20 or 30-point gap, so it is more exciting, but we have to win a lot of games against difficult opponents, and that will be a tricky task. 

"We will give it a try."

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.

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." 

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.

Liverpool will be without Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho and Curtis Jones for Thursday's Premier League clash with Newcastle United after they returned suspected positive COVID-19 tests.

The Reds revealed just over an hour before kick-off that defender Van Dijk will miss the match at Anfield along with midfielders Fabinho and Jones.

Ibrahima Konate partners Joel Matip at the heart of the Liverpool defence in the absence of Van Dijk.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, captain Jordan Henderson and Thiago Alcantara make up Jurgen Klopp's midfield, with forward Diogo Jota coming into the starting line-up.

Soaring numbers of coronavirus cases have led to further Premier League matches being postponed this weekend, with Everton's trip to Leicester City, West Ham's home game against Norwich City, Watford's match against Crystal Palace and Southampton's clash with Brentford off.

It was earlier announced that Manchester United will not face Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday due to an outbreak in the Red Devils camp, while also led to their match at Brentford on Tuesday being postponed.

Leicester's home game against Tottenham on Thursday was also called off due to positive cases in the FA Cup holders' squad, while Burnley's home fixture with Watford could not be played on Tuesday.

The Premier League said in a statement: "The board assesses applications to postpone matches on a case-by-case basis, based on existing rules and COVID-19 postponement guidance issued to all clubs.

"It will assess a number of factors, including the ability of a club to field a team; the status, severity and potential impact of the COVID-19 outbreak at the club; and the ability of the players to safely prepare for and play the match.

"The board must also consider the wider risks to the opposition and other people the club representatives may come into contact with.

"With the health and wellbeing of all players and staff the priority, and in light of the recent rise in COVID-19 cases across the country, the Premier League has reintroduced emergency measures.

"These include protocols such as more frequent testing, wearing face coverings while indoors, observing social distancing and limiting treatment time."

Jurgen Klopp backed Virgil van Dijk to power through his return to Goodison Park with Liverpool but believes the Dutchman will have his emotions stirred.

Last season's Merseyside derby at Everton saw Van Dijk clattered early on by Jordan Pickford and hobble out of the game, suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury that ended his season in October.

The Dutch defender was sorely missed as Liverpool's Premier League title defence collapsed amid a drastic set of injuries that left Klopp struggling to piece together a backline at times.

Now he has Van Dijk back and close to as good as ever, with Liverpool in great shape as they prepare to face Everton, who are under the instruction of former Reds boss Rafael Benitez.

When asked about Van Dijk ahead of Wednesday's tussle with their struggling neighbours, Klopp suggested it would be naive to expect no reaction.

"We're all human beings, so it's probably difficult to ignore something like that," Klopp said.

"It was a situation that should not happen in football and doesn't happen very often. I can't remember one since then in any other game.

"Virgil is very experienced, and he has these situations constantly since he's been back where he's in challenges and has to be completely free of all things he could have in his mind because of one issue in his past.

"So slightly more different [against Everton] because it's in the same place, but apart from that it's just a football game again."

Van Dijk has been an ever-present for Liverpool in their 13 Premier League games so far this season, and in that time he has been dribbled past only once by an opponent. No defender with 10 or more appearances has bettered that, and Klopp has been reassured by his increasingly imposing form.

"He came back brilliant. People are really quick if something's not exactly like it was before to say 'he's not the same anymore' and stuff like this, and this is of course not right," Klopp said. "These kind of judgements make absolutely no sense because everybody needs time to get back.

"He had a full pre-season which is absolutely helpful. His comeback was absolutely brilliant since he came back, it's been really good.

"If some things are not exactly as they have been, it's only a matter of time because of his quality, there's no doubt about that."

The Liverpool manager said his team would need "a cool head" for the likely raucous atmosphere awaiting them.

"We are still an emotional team, but you have to use the emotion in the right way and that's the plan for tomorrow absolutely," Klopp said.

Everton won 2-0 at Anfield in their last Premier League game against Liverpool, ending a 20-game winless run against them in the competition. Wednesday's hosts have not won back-to-back league Merseyside derbies since beating Liverpool in both meetings in the 1984-85 campaign, with Everton then on their way to winning the First Division title.

Eight of the last nine Premier League derbies at Everton have finished level, including each of the last four in a row.

Liverpool can break a long-standing record on Wednesday, which is one of numerous incentives. Klopp's team have scored at least twice in each of their last 17 games in all competitions, the joint-longest such run in history by an English top-flight side, level with Sunderland in 1927.

Benitez will be out to prevent that happening, but his Everton side are in free-fall having lost five of their last six games.

Former Liverpool managers have lost 13 of their last 14 Premier League games against the Reds, with Brendan Rodgers' Leicester City the exception, winning 3-1 in February, with Van Dijk by then on the injured list.

Klopp does not entertain the theory that form goes out of the window for a derby.

"I think previous form matters," he said. "Especially when it's good."

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