Liverpool’s injury crisis continues to deepen with forward Diogo Jota ruled out for “months”, while there is no return date pencilled in for midfielder Curtis Jones or goalkeeper Alisson Becker.

Jota and Jones were added to a list which now extends to nine senior players unavailable and is less than ideal with the Carabao Cup final against Chelsea to come on Sunday as the club continues to fight on four fronts.

“We have Diogo with a knee issue ruled out – it will obviously take months,” said manager Jurgen Klopp ahead of the midweek visit of Luton.

“Not available are Ali (Alisson), muscle injury – we don’t know how long it takes but it will take some time to come back – and Curtis with a bone/ligament issue is ruled out.

“Then we have the others where we think we will deal with it day by day. Longer term like Trent (Alexander-Arnold) and Dom (Dominik Szoboszlai) are on their way back but are not in team training yet so they are not available.”

Other players absent include midfielders Thiago Alcantara and Stefan Bajcetic and centre-back Joel Matip (ACL), while striker Darwin Nunez was replaced at half-time of Saturday’s win at Brentford as a precaution.

Mohamed Salah scored on his Premier League return as Liverpool eased to a 4-1 win at Brentford.

Coming off the bench for his first appearance since injuring a hamstring on duty with Egypt at the Africa Cup of Nations, he netted his side’s third goal moments after making a brilliant assist for Alexis Mac Allister to make it 2-0.

Darwin Nunez had opened the scoring with a superbly-taken chip to cap a wonderful counter attack in the first half as Jurgen Klopp’s league leaders ensure they would finish the weekend still on top.

Ivan Toney continued his goalscoring form since returning from his gambling ban to briefly give Brentford hope at 3-1.

It was a fleeting moment of optimism, quickly extinguished when substitute Cody Gakpo stroked home Liverpool’s fourth in the closing minutes.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says there is pressure on his side to win every remaining Premier League match this season as even an eight-point lead over Manchester City would not be enough of a cushion.

With City not playing until Monday Liverpool could extend the current five-point gap with victory at third-placed Arsenal.

Pep Guardiola’s side would have two matches in hand but their run-in record in recent years – they won their last 14 games in 2018-19 to pip their north-west rivals by a point and dropped just six points in the final 12 matches of 2021-22 to again win the title by a single point – means there is no margin for error from the Reds.

“Shall I go to the boys in the dressing room and say, ‘If we win against Arsenal we are eight points between us and them…’? Everybody knows that,” said the German, whose team have lost just once in the league.

“If we lose we are still two points ahead (if City win their game in hand as it stands), but then City are the big winner of a game they are not even involved in.

“That’s outside talk and fine. Inside, we just focus on the things we have to do.

“I think what we learned over the years is if you want to be around City then you better win all your football games because they do. That’s all.

“This is the time where City is dominating, that’s how it is. They play incredible stuff and would probably consider themselves not playing their very best season but are where they are.

“We play a very good season and are in the moment two points ahead of City. We will try to make it as hard as somehow possible for everyone who wants to finish the season above us.”

While there is a doubt over striker Darwin Nunez, who has a foot injury, Liverpool are almost back to full strength fitness-wise with only Mohamed Salah (hamstring) and Wataru Endo (Asian Cup) still unavailable in the short-term.

And while the forward line has so far not missed the input of Salah the midfield too has coped without Endo, their only genuine defensive midfielder.

Alexis Mac Allister has been tasked with the job for most of the season to allow Endo time to acclimatise to English football but the Argentina international was also learning a new role himself.

In recent weeks the defensive side of his game has improved markedly and in his last two league appearances against Bournemouth and Chelsea he made nine and eight tackles respectively – the most by any Liverpool player in the last three seasons – and won 25 duels across those two matches.

“I’m over the moon. Macca is just like a football doctor,” added Klopp.

“Playing the position the way he plays is very special. (He is) super-smart and his contribution for all our play in possession is extremely important.

“This is the best league in the world and we are top of the table, what does that say? Are there any bad players in this team? No.

“One thing in each footballer’s life, it is always consistency. You want to see it again.

“For the moment, the base is good, still to be extended to make sure we are in a good position for the run-in.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says it is a credit to their academy players that his side have emerged unscathed from a difficult January to lead the Premier League by five points.

The 4-1 victory over Chelsea was the Reds’ sixth win in seven matches in the month, with the other a draw in the second leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final at Fulham having gone into the game with a lead from the home tie.

During that period the side have been without three senior full-backs, as well as the likes of midfielders Dominik Szoboszlai and Alexis Mac Allister at varying times and, of course, Mohamed Salah.

Deputy right-back Conor Bradley has impressed hugely and put in his second successive man-of-the-match display with his first Liverpool goal and two assists in the victory.

But with Trent Alexander-Arnold close to full match fitness after two substitute appearances, it has given Klopp a decision to make ahead of Sunday’s trip to Arsenal.

“There is no situation. It is just how it is,” said Klopp.

“We had seven games in January with 11 days off in between. We couldn’t have put the string of results together without the kids, (Jarell) Quansah, Conor and we had midfielders out so we played with James McConnell at six.

“These boys used this situation. I am happy they all could perform the way they did. The academy is doing an incredible job.”

Striker Darwin Nunez had one of those games where he did everything but score, becoming the first player since Opta records began in 2003 to hit the woodwork four times, once from the penalty spot.

It was at the extreme end of what has become a frequent trademark from the Uruguay international, who set up the fourth goal for Luis Diaz, but Klopp is not concerned.

“Insane first half, unbelievable. Outstanding. Why do we speak about Darwin? Obviously because he has so many situations where he missed,” he added.

“The first time since we count a player hits the woodwork four times in a game. Think you are in his boots and how that feels. Missing a penalty you could see at half-time he was really upset with himself.

“It’s just crazy that he creates that many. Imagine for a second he would take them all. The numbers would be absolutely insane, to an extent where we wouldn’t understand it any more so it’s normal.

“For us, it’s unimportant. We scored four goals, who cares if we could have scored a fifth or sixth?”

It would not have flattered Liverpool to have added two or three more such was their dominance over opponents who they will meet again in the Carabao Cup final in a month’s time.

Chelsea head coach Mauricio Pochettino admitted his side were second best and even penalty shouts in the first and second halves would not have done much to alter the direction of travel.

“I think it is not to find excuses. The performance was not good enough from us. They deserved to win, they were better than us,” he said.

“We didn’t perform in the way we wanted to. In this type of game you need to say ‘well done Liverpool’.

“In the final (next month) we need to compete in a different way. If we compete the same way as today for sure it is going to be the same result.

“For us it is about learning. We are competing against a team that is on the top and is consistent to always be challenging for the big trophies.”

Youngster Conor Bradley registered his first Liverpool goal and two assists as the Premier League leaders thumped Chelsea 4-1 at Anfield to go five points clear at the top.

The 20-year-old right-back fired into the bottom corner in the 39th minute to double the Reds’ lead having earlier provided the pass that led to Diogo Jota’s opener midway through the first half.

After Darwin Nunez sent a penalty against the post in first-half stoppage-time – one of four times he hit the woodwork – the advantage was extended in the 65th minute when Dominik Szoboszlai headed in from Bradley’s cross.

Christopher Nkunku replied before Luis Diaz wrapped things up for Jurgen Klopp’s men as they made it 15 league matches unbeaten, and four successive wins, in their first top-flight outing since the German’s announcement that he is to step down as boss at the end of the season.

A miserable evening for Mauricio Pochettino’s Chelsea ended a three-match winning run as they stayed 10th.

Manchester City, who have played a game fewer than Liverpool, returned to second place with their fourth league victory on the bounce, beating struggling Burnley 3-1 at the Etihad Stadium.

Julian Alvarez netted twice on his 24th birthday and Rodri also got on the scoresheet before top-scorer Erling Haaland make his comeback from injury as a 71st-minute substitute.

Ameen Al-Dakhil netted a stoppage-time consolation for second-bottom Burnley, managed by ex-City captain Vincent Kompany, as Pep Guardiola’s treble-winners went above Arsenal on goal difference.

Tottenham moved into the top four after a flurry of goals early in the second half helped them come from behind to beat Brentford 3-2 at home.

Neal Maupay’s effort for the Bees on the quarter-hour mark was cancelled out three minutes into the second half by Destiny Udogie.

Brennan Johnson then put Spurs ahead a minute later, with Richarlison adding a further goal for the hosts seven minutes on from that.

Ivan Toney subsequently reduced the deficit in the 67th minute but Ange Postecoglou’s team emerged with the three points to leapfrog Aston Villa in the table.

Premier League leaders Liverpool restored their five-point advantage with a 4-1 win over Chelsea on a memorable night for youngster Conor Bradley and a typically frustrating one for Darwin Nunez.

With Manchester City beating Burnley and Arsenal winning on Tuesday, victory in the first of their major double-header – a trip to the Emirates is up next – was imperative but Jurgen Klopp’s side could not have expected to have had such a comfortable time.

Goals from Diogo Jota, Bradley – his first for the club – and Dominik Szoboszlai put the game beyond a woeful Chelsea inside 65 minutes but it could have been a rout as Nunez hit the woodwork an incredible four times – once from the penalty spot.

Thankfully for Liverpool his input was not needed as there was another star performer in the form of academy graduate Bradley, deputising for Trent Alexander-Arnold who was on the bench as he continued to make his comeback from injury, on only his second league start.

Bradley, man of the match against Norwich on Sunday, has been directly involved in six goals in his last four appearances and he deservedly departed to a standing ovation when Alexander-Arnold eventually took over.

Darwin Nunez and Diogo Jota claimed second-half doubles as Premier League leaders Liverpool moved five points clear with a crushing 4-0 victory away to Bournemouth.

Jurgen Klopp’s Reds initially struggled to create at the Vitality Stadium in the absence of top scorer Mohamed Salah.

But Nunez broke the deadlock early in the second period and completed the scoring in added time following Jota’s quick-fire double.

Victory on a soggy south coast afternoon stretched Liverpool’s unbeaten run to 14 league fixtures as they fully capitalised on a weekend off for second-placed Manchester City.

In-form Bournemouth were competitive for large parts of a frenetic encounter, but rarely threatened en route to only their second defeat in nine games.

A difficult outing for Andoni Iraola’s hosts could have been worse as Justin Kluivert was perhaps fortunate to escape a red card for a first-half challenge on Luis Diaz.

Liverpool were back in top-flight action for the first time since New Year’s Day, but without talisman Salah, who has sustained a hamstring injury at the Africa Cup of Nations with Egypt, in the league for the first time this season.

The Reds were unable to find fluency in the opening stages as Bournemouth began brighter, albeit without testing Alisson.

Klopp’s men grew into the game and eventually enjoyed some meaningful territory.

Alexis Mac Allister fired wide from distance, before long-range efforts from Nunez and Diaz were comfortably collected by Cherries goalkeeper Neto.

Bournemouth, who had also not played a league fixture for three weeks, then breathed a sigh of relief in the 35th minute when Kluivert avoided punishment after catching Diaz with a high, studs-up tackle.

Ryan Christie eventually registered the hosts’ maiden attempt at goal in the 39th minute – a tame effort straight at Alisson – and was then unable to turn home Kluivert’s dangerous low centre just before the break.

Following a fairly forgettable first half devoid of clear chances, Liverpool capitalised on sloppy defending to edge ahead four minutes after the restart.

Ibrahima Konate’s cross-field ball was chested down by the unmarked Curtis Jones and then moved on to Jota, whose first-time pass was confidently slotted into the bottom right corner by Nunez.

Nunez, who was unfavourably compared to former Liverpool striker Andy Carroll by gloating home fans in the first half, was also involved in his side’s 70th-minute second.

The powerful Uruguay forward caused problems for Bournemouth defender Chris Mepham, allowing Reds substitute Cody Gakpo to pounce on the loose ball and slip in Jota to find the net via the base of the right post.

Jota extinguished any hope of a Cherries fightback just nine minutes later.

The Portugal forward miskicked his first effort following a pass from Premier League debutant Conor Bradley, but swiftly silenced ironic cheers by rifling into the bottom left corner.

Cherries substitute David Brooks wasted a golden chance to claim a consolation when he dinked wide in 90th minute.

And Nunez, who claimed the winner when the clubs met in the Carabao Cup fourth round at the start of November, rubbed salted into Bournemouth wounds three minutes into added time by registering his second with a fine close-range finish.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insists his belief is endless in his forwards whether they score or not after Darwin Nunez had an impactful but not ultimately decisive role in the 2-1 Carabao Cup semi-final first-leg win over Fulham.

After coming off the bench in the 56th minute, the Uruguay international provided the assist for Curtis Jones’ deflected equaliser and then the cross from which fellow substitute Cody Gakpo swept home the winner.

On another day Nunez, who has scored just once in the last 16 matches, could have had a late hat-trick after being denied by goalkeeper Bernd Leno which would have virtually put Liverpool in the final ahead of the second leg in a fortnight.

“He plays outstanding, I have to say it. There are so many things I love about his game,” said Klopp.

“The first year was a year to adapt and he scored here and there but now he contributes in all games.

“The boys don’t start because they score or not score. My belief and trust in them, as long as they behave properly, is endless. They deserve it because of the effort they put in.

“I don’t know how to explain the Darwin situation. I’m so happy about Darwin’s reaction and how he takes it but you cannot be more unlucky in these finishing situations, that’s not possible.

“He does absolutely everything right, yet ball not in. And then he still sets up the other goal. I think that is really special to do that again.”

Liverpool’s substitutes have contributed 15 goals and 15 assists in all competitions this season, 12 better than any other Premier League team, and Nunez has been responsible for three goals and four assists.

His contribution was crucial as Klopp had no other options as the six other outfield substitutes were all academy graduates, the oldest of whom was 21-year-old left-back Owen Beck, recalled from a loan spell with Dundee.

The players currently absent, either with injury or international duty, are Mohamed Salah, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Thiago Alcantara, Dominik Szoboszlai, Joel Matip, Andy Robertson, Wataru Endo, Kostas Tsimikas and Stefan Bajcetic.

“We have more players available usually but the boys who came on have real quality, obviously, already,” added Klopp.

“That we can bring Cody and Darwin from the bench, that is a proper change. On top of that, we changed the system and the formation and the set-up.”

Fulham boss Marco Silva was grateful to still have a chance in the second leg after they failed to capitalise on Willian’s 19th-minute opener.

“Two different halves. It wasn’t our best performance, even so first half we had a plan. We were ruthless from the first moment and really good from Willian when we scored,” he said.

“The second half was different, we struggled a bit more. We should manage them in a different way.

“They were a bit lucky the first goal, a deflection that changed completely the game, and the only thing that is disappointing is the way we managed the next 10 minutes.

“In a competition where we are playing two legs we cannot concede a fast attack like that. Liverpool had one or two chances to score the third and the reality is that Leno kept us in the game.”

Substitutes Cody Gakpo and Darwin Nunez came off the bench to help turn around Liverpool’s Carabao Cup semi-final first leg at home to Fulham and ensured they will take a 2-1 lead to Craven Cottage.

The pair were introduced early in the second half with the hosts trailing to Willian’s 19th-minute goal after a Virgil van Dijk error.

Liverpool were struggling for creativity without the injured Trent Alexander-Arnold – who helped turn a 3-2 Fulham lead into a 4-3 Reds win in last month’s Premier League meeting – but as at Arsenal in the FA Cup at the weekend Jurgen Klopp’s changes altered the game.

Nunez added a directness which had been lacking while Gakpo brought the composure and control to midfield Ryan Gravenberch had not before he was replaced by his Netherlands team-mate.

And the pair combined for Gakpo to score in the 71st minute, just three minutes after Curtis Jones’ deflected equaliser.

The last team to win at Anfield was Real Madrid in February. Before that it was another side in white, Leeds in October 2022, and Fulham – in their first League Cup semi-final – must have been encouraged by the start they had.

Klopp made six changes from the weekend and while that saw 20-year-old Conor Bradley deputise for Alexander-Arnold in only his second start of the season, it also included the return of Van Dijk.

The Netherlands captain was back after illness but his decision to head a ball aimlessly sideways on the edge of his area proved costly.

Andreas Pereira nipped in behind and cut the ball back to the penalty spot where a couple of neat touches from Willian opened up the space for him to fire through the legs of the recovering Dutchman and give goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher little chance.

Moments later Van Dijk was booked for catching Pereira in the face with an arm as his travails continued.

But his personal difficulties were matched by his team, who were too one-paced in their build-up.

Harvey Elliott was given Mohamed Salah’s position on the right wing but his role often seemed to require filling the space usually occupied by Alexander-Arnold, which meant dropping deep with Bradley pushing forward as an orthodox over-lapping full-back.

But apart from an early Jones attempt straight at Bernd Leno and a Diogo Jota narrow-angle shot across the face of goal chances were rare with Fulham having more on target in the first half.

The tempo increased after the break with Gravenberch shooting wide and Jota delaying a fraction too long having created space for himself with a square run across the penalty area allowing Antonee Robinson to block.

But as the hosts pressed for the equaliser Fulham were able to expose the space opening up in Liverpool’s defence and Kelleher got down low to parry a Bobby Decordova-Reid shot.

Alexis Mac Allister’s cross was turned over by Leno but the equaliser had an element of good fortune when Jones took aim from distance and went in off Tosin Adarabioyo’s back.

Leno was beaten again when Gakpo turned home Nunez’s near-post cross after linking with Jota.

Liverpool’s all-action Uruguay international could have all-but sealed Liverpool’s passage to Wembley before the return leg but a full-stretch Leno tipped over his header, pushed away a fierce drive and blocked his close-range effort.

Liverpool’s Cody Gakpo is confident the forward line will step up to cover for the pending absence of Mohamed Salah.

Darwin Nunez ended a run of 12 matches without a goal, while Diogo Jota came off the bench to score after a month out injured in Tuesday’s 2-0 Premier League win over Burnley which took Jurgen Klopp’s side top of the table.

Salah has one more game – at home to Newcastle on Sunday – before he departs for the African Nations Cup with Egypt and the 16-goal winger is likely to be away for a month.

Therefore, Jota’s timely return boosts the numbers up top, while Nunez’s confidence has been lifted by his first Premier League goal since October.

Gakpo himself has seven for the season, the latest coming in last week’s Carabao Cup romp against West Ham after he was denied a goal at Turf Moor when referee Paul Tierney adjudged Nunez to have committed a foul in the build-up, and he believes they have enough firepower to see them through in Salah’s absence.

“For every attacking player who didn’t score for a few games, it’s always nice to get back on the scoresheet and Darwin did it with a very good goal,” said Gakpo.

“For Diogo as well. When you are injured and you come back and score that’s always nice and good for the confidence. So really happy.

“Mo is gone after the Newcastle game so we need the goals. Of course, I think I can contribute even more.”

Liverpool captain Virgil Van Dijk is also of the opinion they can handle Salah’s expected lengthy absence despite the Egypt international being their main threat for so many seasons.

“It’s always important for the guys up front to score goals. I am delighted for Darwin. Diogo, it’s the same story. It’s good to see the boys back on the scoresheet,” said the Netherlands defender.

“I also want to say that Cody was outstanding, in the first half especially. It’s good to see. Everyone has to keep pushing each other. That’s the only way we can get better.

“Others have to step up anyway. We have to deal with losing Mo and we have the players up front who can make the difference. Let’s see how we deal with it.”

Liverpool’s return to the Premier League summit probably has more significance to the outside world than it does within the squad, who are refusing to look beyond their next game.

“The table is not looking in a bad place but we have to take it one game at a time, don’t let our heads go everywhere all over the place, just stay focused and keep doing what we are doing now and even improve more,” added Gakpo, who is enjoying his first taste of the English festive programme.

“It’s the first time I played with this intensity – a lot of games in a few days – and it’s nice as if you play a good game you can play again and if you play a not-so-good game, you can make it good in the next game as it’s coming nice and quick,” he added.

“Everybody wants the three points – also the opponents – so you have to work really hard every game and you have to be able to win games different ways.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was delighted to see both Darwin Nunez and Diogo Jota score – for different reasons – in the 2-0 win at Burnley.

Nunez ended a run of 12 games without a goal with the first-half opener and Jota came off the bench after a month out to kill the game off in the 90th minute – his 50th goal for the Reds.

“(Nunez) is an incredible finisher but if a striker doesn’t score, the whole system is not the same,” said Klopp.

“You question everything. It’s not just the outside world, but you question everything. But it was just in the moment and he has it so it’s all good.”

Jota’s return could not be more timely with top scorer Mohamed Salah set to depart to the African Nations Cup after the weekend’s visit of Newcastle.

“Diogo is an incredibly important player for us. Having him changed the whole dynamic, that’s true. The goal he scored today is the goal of a boy full of conviction,” Klopp added.

Victory returned Liverpool to the top of the table, with Arsenal not due to play until Thursday.

“So, 42 points, that’s really pleasing, to be honest. That’s really cool because the first part of the season (is) done and it was absolutely alright what we did. Not perfect but it was alright,” Klopp said.

“And if I’m right, we cannot be more than a point away from the top of the table, if Arsenal win (against West Ham on Thursday). That’s obviously in punching distance, let me say it like that.”

Burnley boss Vincent Kompany said deficiencies up front cost his side the chance of getting something from the game and admits the chance of him adding a proven quality striker in January are slim.

“We had our moments, we can’t prevent them from having their moments as they are a top side, but we had our moments as well,” he said.

“The team fights, the team is alive, the team is entertaining – it just lacks the little bit of final touch to reward ourselves.

“The problem is that final touch in the Premier League, what is that? Down the bottom it is (Dominic) Solanke, (Raul) Jimenez – that’s the level you need and it’s difficult to go out in the market and find that level of player for us.

“We have to see a progression in the players we have but if there is something smart we can do we will see.”

Liverpool moved top of the Premier League after Darwin Nunez ended his goal drought in a 2-0 success at second-bottom Burnley.

Nunez fired Jurgen Klopp’s men into a sixth-minute lead at Turf Moor with his first strike in 13 matches in all competitions before substitute Diogo Jota sealed victory late on with his 50th goal for the club.

Mohamed Salah hit the crossbar and Harvey Elliott saw his second-half strike ruled out for offside with the score still 1-0, while Jacob Bruun Larsen almost snatched an equaliser for the Clarets.

Victory for the Reds lifted them two points above Arsenal, who host West Ham on Thursday, while lowly Burnley are five points from safety following a 14th defeat of the season.

Chris Wood retuned to haunt Newcastle with a stunning hat-trick as Nottingham Forest handed new boss Nuno Espirito Santo the first Premier League victory of his reign.

Wood, who joined Forest from the Magpies in January, produced two fine second-half finishes to secure a 3-1 comeback success at St James’ Park.

Newcastle went ahead through Alexander Isak’s 23rd-minute penalty but slipped to a sixth defeat in seven games in all competitions after Wood tapped home Anthony Elanga’s cross just before the break and went on to complete his treble in style.

Forest remain two points above the relegation zone after 18th-placed Luton pulled off a 3-2 success at bottom club Sheffield United thanks to two late own goals.

Blades pair Jack Robinson and Anis Ben Slimane each turned the ball into their own goal during the final 14 minutes of a chaotic clash at Bramall Lane.

Chris Wilder’s hosts had looked set for a vital three points after second-half strikes from Oli McBurnie and Anel Ahmedhodzic overturned Alfie Doughty’s 17th-minute opener.

In-form Bournemouth continued their remarkable resurgence by moving into the top half of the table thanks to a thumping 3-0 victory over Fulham.

Justin Kluivert put the Cherries ahead just before half-time at Vitality Stadium before Dominic Solanke’s eighth goal in seven games – a penalty after Joao Palhinha brought down Antoine Semenyo – doubled the lead.

Substitute Luis Sinisterra sealed an emphatic success late on as Andoni Iraola’s hosts made it 19 points from the last 21 available.

Luis Diaz scored twice as Colombia stunned Brazil 2-1 in a World Cup qualifier, days after his father was released by kidnappers.

The Liverpool striker netted twice in four minutes late in the second half, watched by his father Luiz Manuel Diaz who was held for 12 days before his release last week.

Arsenal’s Gabriel Martinelli had put Brazil in front after just four minutes.

Colombia’s first win over Brazil for eight years lifts them into third in the South American qualifying table with Brazil, who suffered a second successive defeat in the competition, down to fifth.

On a night of surprises, goals from Ronald Araujo and Darwin Nunez saw Uruguay beat Argentina 2-0.

Lionel Messi struggled to impose himself, hitting the crossbar in the second half as Argentina’s 100% record since lifting the World Cup was ended.

Uruguay’s win lifts them to second in the table, two points behind Argentina.

Venezuela are in fourth after a goalless draw with Ecuador, Chile and Paraguay also drawing a blank while Bolivia won the battle of the bottom two with a 2-0 win over Peru.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes his “smart” players understand and embrace the increased competition for places up front.

The five forwards he has at his disposal have contributed 30 goals so far this season but only Mohamed Salah, who has 10, is a guaranteed starter every week.

Darwin Nunez, Diogo Jota, Cody Gakpo and Luis Diaz -unavailable for the last two matches due to his father’s kidnapping in Colombia – have all made an impact when they have been selected and despite Klopp’s rotation they all appear to gel well together.

“The boys are all smart. The good thing is we have really only smart players, that means they understand they cannot play all the games,” he said.

“It’s not, ‘I want to play Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday, Tuesday, Thursday.’ That’s just not possible but everybody sees (it that way) as well.

“That’s how a smart footballer should think and our boys do that: ‘If I can’t play then it’s better we have another really good player who can play the position’. That’s exactly how I see it.

“It’s only four (because of Diaz’s absence) all of a sudden but there are a lot of games still coming if you see the schedule – after the international break it turns completely crazy – so in that time we have to be ready.

“If you want to play a successful season and not only have successful spells, you need the boys through all these different phases.

“We have to get through this and with not a lot of injuries (and then) we have really the joys but if not the boys have just to fight through it.

“For the moment it’s OK, but we need it like this for pretty much the rest of the season, to be honest.”

Of all their front five Cody Gakpo is probably the unsung hero.

The Netherlands international has scored on his last four starts, netting the first goal in three of those, but has been the player sacrificed the most to accommodate holes in the squad as he started the campaign in midfield.

“If we have everybody available it was never the plan to put Cody there but it was for him something new after (playing) the false nine last year,” added Klopp.

“But he’s a super-smart player so he can adapt to that and we want him to adapt.

“He’s just a versatile striker, he can play everywhere up front there. For us it’s super-important. He arrives in the box, he is a good shooter, he has a good nose for the situation.

“How I said, the boys up front all like each other, there’s not this battle of ‘Will I start?’ They know they can all play together.”

Liverpool head to Luton on Sunday looking for their first clean sheet away from Anfield in any competition this season but are on six-match unbeaten run, winning the last four.

As it stands they are in a four-way race for the title but Klopp is keen not to get too excited about how well they have started.

“It’s so early. I’m so happy that we have a really good team together but look at the other teams, they are really good as well,” he said.

“A lot of really good teams are out there and it’s the Premier League so it’s not about celebrating the moment and being relieved that we kind of can play football again.

“No, it’s really about digging into the season, use the full potential of this group, get everything out of it and then let’s see.”

Jurgen Klopp hailed the desire of his players after Liverpool booked a Carabao Cup quarter-final spot by battling through Storm Ciaran to beat Bournemouth 2-1.

Substitute Darwin Nunez settled a challenging fourth-round tie staged in driving rain and swirling winds with a stunning 70th-minute winner.

Cody Gakpo gave the much-changed Reds a half-time lead at Vitality Stadium before the Cherries threatened an upset thanks to Justin Kluivert’s first goal in English football.

“It’s a top, top, top cup game,” said Reds boss Klopp, who made eight changes from Sunday’s 3-0 Premier League win over Nottingham Forest.

“It’s all about winning, it’s all about getting through.

“The good thing today is I don’t have to speak about the circumstances because everybody saw it and felt it.

“It was really difficult, for both teams obviously.

“First half we could have scored more goals, we didn’t, and second half we realised it would have been a good idea to score more goals because the wind changed the game again in the second half.

“We scored our second goal, a wonderful goal, and then we fought extremely hard, we had good moments.

“But it’s all about attitude in these moments.

“Both teams obviously wanted it. Everybody can expect it from the home team but I saw my team as well how hard we really wanted it and I’m really happy about that.

“It was a top cup game in strange, strange circumstances.”

In-form Uruguay forward Nunez unleashed a thunderous finish into the top right corner to claim his third goal in as many games just 10 minutes after coming off the bench.

Underdogs Bournemouth looked well placed to push for a winner at that stage following Kluivert’s close-range header from an Alex Scott corner, which cancelled out Gakpo’s 31st-minute finish at the second attempt.

“It was a difficult game, Bournemouth did really well, they had their moments,” said Klopp.

“But in life, in football from time to time you need luck and tonight for sure in one or two moments Bournemouth could have finished the situations off a little bit better.

“Then Darwin shows his class and pretty much puts the game to bed for us with an unbelievable goal. We had much better chances in the whole game – five, six, seven – but that was the goal we needed, he did it.

“Now we drive home, long trip – we would have had to do that anyway – but going into the next round feels much better.”

Bournemouth picked up their first top-flight victory under head coach Andoni Iraola by beating Burnley 2-1 on Saturday.

But the spirited Cherries were unable to build on that landmark win with a place in the last eight.

“We were really close,” said Iraola. “One moment in the second half, the game was going our side.

“We were struggling first half. It was difficult with the wind. Both teams were struggling with the build up. It looked as if we could score a second goal and win the game but in the end they made the difference with Darwin’s strike.

“We had a big chance to be in the last eight with some big teams out but we knew it would not be easy.

“They finished the game with most of their starting 11 and had to push really hard to beat us.”

Page 1 of 2
© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.