Lessons to be learned from City loss

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Liverpool's Brazilian midfielder Fabinho (L) vies with Manchester City's Portuguese midfielder Bernardo Silva (R) during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on January 3, 2019. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

The game against Manchester City on Thursday evening was heralded by many onlookers for its quality and intensity as Liverpool were clawed back in the Premier League title race. Pundits and supporters of both teams recognised that it was decided by fine margins and could easily have been a win for either side or a draw. Sadio Mane hit the post, John Stones just about got away with some poor defending with a last gasp clearance, Leroy Sane hit the post and scored, Vincent Kompany should have been sent off after a nasty foul on Mohamed Salah when the last man, the Egyptian saw a chance well saved by Ederson…so many close moments that helped to decide the outcome.


There isn’t a great deal that can be learnt from those key moments in isolation, but we are past the point where Jurgen Klopp should have realised that selecting Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Gini Wijnaldum together as his midfield three, especially away from home in a big game, isn’t going to work for him. They don’t offer anything like enough quality going forward as a trio and that makes their perceived defensive solidity less valuable. They were outfought and outplayed by City’s midfield. Fernandinho wasn’t troubled by any of them and had to wait for the introduction of compatriot Fabinho until he had a real fight on his hands. The Brazilian made a clear case for why he should have been in the starting eleven when he came on and played his part in the team play that led to Roberto Firmino making it 1-1. For a player considered to be defensive, he makes a lot more forward passes than those who started and was much more positive in trying to drive Liverpool back into the match. Things could have been quite different had Klopp shown more faith in his Summer signing.

The German spent a fair amount of money to add new talent to his midfield in the Summer, but he hasn’t shown the same sort of faith in Fabinho, Xherdan Shaqiri and Naby Keita when it’s come to the crunch. He clearly identified a need to rejuvenate his options in midfield after seeing Emre Can walk out of Anfield to sign for Juventus on a free transfer and the hopes were high when he brought in the new trio. Most was expected of Keita, who Klopp was prepared to wait for over a year to sign, but he has fared the least well so far of the three. Injuries have played their part in preventing the Guinea international from reaching the kind of form that persuaded Klopp to spend £50m+ to bring him in to the squad. But he just hasn’t got going, despite promising performances against West Ham and Burnley, and his manager will be hoping that he can spark into life in the second half of the campaign. Fabinho was slowly integrated after his arrival from Monaco and has become one of the most consistent midfielders in the squad after adapting to life here. He showed real quality in the 3-1 win over Manchester United, which included a sublime pass for Mane to open the scoring. He also opened his own account with a late goal in the 4-0 win over Newcastle United on Boxing Day. A start against City would have been a fitting reward for his improving form, but a shaky outing against Arsenal at the weekend may well have given Klopp the jitters when it came to moving away from the trio he seems to trust above all others. Shaqiri, meanwhile, has shown desire, urgency, confidence and passion from the first time he kicked a ball in a red shirt. He is obviously more attack minded than most of his midfield colleagues, which is shown with the goals he’s scored, but he proved against Arsenal that he can take responsibility when defending against possession. He too could have been a very useful player to have had in the starting eleven against City. His impact off the bench in the win over United might well have counted against him here, but he couldn’t replicate that against the other club from that city this week.


Klopp needs to start showing more belief in his Summer signings when it comes to the big games, as the trio of Henderson, Milner and Wijnaldum just don’t have the track record when playing together to justify his faith in them. They started against Napoli and we got the 1-0 win we needed, but it tends to be the away days that expose their lack of variation and attacking prowess. The 2-1 loss against Paris Saint Germain was another game where they failed to justify their selection together. The 1-0 defeat away to Napoli saw them play the last seventy minutes together after Henderson replaced the injured Keita early on. It was another toothless display. They did play the majority of the 5-1 win over Roma together after Oxlade-Chamberlain was forced off last season, but that is a rarity among a row of poor performances and defeats together. The collective groans of many Liverpool fans when their names are seen together on the teamsheet are becoming increasingly justified.

Another player who has struggled to justify the continued faith in his abilities is Dejan Lovren. The much maligned Croatian had a night to forget against City. He got an early booking for an unnecessary foul on Sergio Aguero before the Argentinian turned him with far too much ease to score his customary goal against us at The Etihad. That followed Sane striding past Lovren with equal ease shortly before. He didn’t cover himself in glory for the German’s winner later on in the game either, along with some sloppy passes too. It saw some much deserved criticism go his way along with some disgusting abuse from the moronic portion of fans who take to social media after a defeat. He’s got a growing catalogue of errors in a Liverpool shirt and hasn’t won over many fans despite some improved performances since Virgil Van Dijk arrived a year ago. But there seems little point in having a world class centre-back partnered by a liability at the heart of our defence. Joe Gomez cannot come back to fitness soon enough to reform the superb partnership he was forging with the Dutchman. When the young England international was injured against Burnley, the trip to take on City was the first game I was sad to see him sit out. Had he played I suspect the result would have been somewhat different.

Klopp clearly had no choice but to pick Lovren for the City game and would likely have done so even if Joel Matip were fit and available. The former Schalke man was in fine form before suffering the injury which is currently sidelining him. He had put in some fine performances against Bournemouth and Napoli last month. But he showed that he remains quite brittle at times in the 2-0 loss against Red Star Belgrade earlier on, so having him in the side against City wouldn’t have necessarily changed a great deal. Many fans have been calling for Klopp to bring in another more reliable defender to supplement Van Dijk and Gomez, with the likes of Kalidou Koulibaly and Mathijs De Ligt mentioned. But they would each expect to be first choice alongside Van Dijk, which would cause issues in the development of Gomez. It’s not an area for regular rotation.

We will all be hoping that Liverpool bounce back against Brighton next week to reinforce the grip on top spot, but few will be desperate to see the same midfield selected for the game. It’s time for Klopp to show a bit more faith in his Summer signings.


Liverpool fancied to retain unbeaten record at Manchester City

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Liverpool head to Manchester City on Thursday aiming to strengthen their grip at the top of the Premier League table.

The Reds head into the game with a six-point lead over second-placed Tottenham Hotspur, with City a further point adrift in third.

Liverpool are still without defenders Joe Gomez and Joel Matip, but James Milner has returned to training and is expected to be in the squad.

Kevin De Bruyne is doubtful after missing City’s victory over Southampton, while Fabian Delph misses the game through suspension. Benjamin Mendy and Claudio Bravo are long-term absentees.

Liverpool have held the upper hand over City since being demolished 5-0 in the corresponding fixture back in September 2017.

Jurgen Klopp’s side won the return league game 4-3 and also triumphed in two Champions League meetings later in the campaign.

This season’s first meeting between the two teams ended in a 0-0 draw after Riyad Mahrez missed a late penalty at Anfield.

Liverpool haven’t dropped a point in the Premier League since the start of November when they were held 1-1 at Arsenal. They’ve reeled off nine wins in a row since then, bagging 27 goals in the process.

By contrast, City have lost two of their last three games although they returned to something like their usual form in their 3-1 victory at St Mary’s on Sunday.


Three points on Thursday would take Liverpool nine points clear of Spurs and set them up nicely for a favourable run of fixtures during January.

Games against Brighton & Hove Albion (A), Crystal Palace (H) and Leicester City (H) all look winnable, but a defeat this evening would certainly put a different complexion on the title race.

Predicted starting line-ups:

Man City: Ederson; Walker, Stones, Laporte, Zinchenko, Bernardo, Fernandinho, Silva, Sterling, Aguero, Sane.

Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson, Wijnaldum, Henderson, Fabinho, Mane, Salah, Firmino.

Man City vs Liverpool Betting Tips

Mohamed Salah has scored 13 Premier League goals this season. Bet on the forward to get on the scoresheet with betUK.com at 27/20.

The two sides have scored 102 league goals between them this term. Over 3.5 goals in the match is priced at 8/5.

City are priced at 21/20 to win the match, with Liverpool on offer at 49/20. However, a tight game could be on the cards and the draw looks the call at odds of 11/4.

Klopp cannot be judged on trophies alone

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Liverpool's German coach Jurgen Klopp looks on before the UEFA Champions League Group C second-leg football match between Red Star Belgrade and Liverpool FC at the Rajko Mitic Stadium in Belgrade on November 6, 2018. (Photo by Andrej ISAKOVIC / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images)

A lot of supporters of our rival clubs make claims that Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp isn’t in the same class as Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola or former Manchester United and Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho because the German hasn’t won as many trophies as they have. But that is a simplistic view to take – with some doing it because it suits their agenda of pushing him down to raise the others and others because they simply don’t understand how football works.

During his career as a professional manager, Klopp has been in charge of Mainz, Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool. He got Mainz promoted to the Bundesliga back in 2003/4 after just over three years in charge before they were relegated back down to the second tier in 2006/7. He remained with them, but resigned from his position after failing to return them to the top flight at the end of the following campaign. The relegation did little to harm his growing reputation, however, as he was offered the chance to take over at Dortmund soon after. They had just finished thirteenth in the Bundesliga and were struggling to challenge for the title having not won it since the 2001/2 season. He led them to a respectable sixth place finish during his first season and the following campaign saw Klopp steer them one more spot up the Bundesliga table to fifth. He had laid the foundations in place to challenge Bayern Munich, champions in 2009/10, and went on to win the title in both the 2010/11 and 2011/12 campaigns. Dortmund were champions by seven and eight points in each of the two Bundesliga winning seasons and Klopp had cemented his place as a legend at the club. He came agonisingly close to furthering his already golden reputation with their supporters by reaching the 2012/13 Champions League final at Wembley, where a last gasp goal by Arjen Robben won it for rivals Bayern. Dortmund went on to finish second behind Bayern in each of the following two seasons, before Klopp announced that he would be leaving Dortmund after a disappointing 2014/15 campaign. He left them after winning three major trophies after adding the DFB-Pokal to the Bundesliga title during the 2011/12 season. He was likely to be on the wanted list of several of the top clubs around Europe – but he insisted that he wanted to take a break from the game.

Klopp did take some time away from football. But it proved to be just a matter of months as he decided to accept the offer to take over from Brendan Rodgers at Anfield in October 2015. He had been linked with the manager’s job at the likes of Bayern, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City. He was reported to have rejected more than one of those clubs as they made approaches to him, but the pull of managing Liverpool was too strong for him to turn down as he cut short his self-imposed sabbatical from the game. Klopp managed to get the squad he inherited from Rodgers to the League Cup final, which was lost to Manchester City, and the Europa League final, where Sevilla won it for the third time in a row at his side’s expense. Manchester United fans pointed to Mourinho’s success in those two competitions the following season as evidence as to why ‘The Special One’ was a superior manager to ‘The Normal One’. But they need to remember that United faced Southampton and Ajax respectively in their finals in 2016/17. Hardly the same level of challenge. Their route to the Europa League final saw them overcome Saint Etienne, Rostov, Anderlecht and Celta Vigo. Liverpool had faced Augsburg, United, Dortmund and Villarreal in the previous season and, while you can only beat the team put in front of you, that shows the difference in achievement right away – and that’s before the amount of money spent to get to these finals is taken into consideration. Klopp didn’t make any permanent signings in the January of 2016, his first transfer window, and waited until the following Summer to start rebuilding his squad. So that puts how well he did to reach two cup finals in a matter of months after taking over at Liverpool with what was someone else’s squad – a struggling one at that. Mourinho had a full preseason and spent £150m on Paul Pogba, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Eric Bailly and Zlatan Ibrahimovic before a ball was kicked in anger.

Klopp was never a big spending manager during his time in Germany and has only recently started making the most of the money on offer to him in the Premier League. He made bargain signings for peanuts, such as Robert Lewandowski, Mats Hummels, Ilkay Gundogan and Neven Subotic – who cost around £15m combined. His record signing for the Bundesliga club was Mkhitaryan, who cost less than £20m in the Summer of 2013 – when he pipped Liverpool to sign the Armenian international. Germany international Marco Reus only cost around £11m, which further highlights Klopp’s eye for talent. His net spend during his seven years in charge of Dortmund was £45m thanks to £130m worth of signings and £85m recouped from sales at an average of around £6.5m per season. When you consider that he won two consecutive titles, you realise just how much he can get out of the transfer market and his players. He was up against Pep Guardiola during his final couple of years at Dortmund after the Spaniard took over at Bayern during the Summer of 2013. The former Barcelona coach spent £184m during his three years in charge of the Bavarian giants, while £110m was brought in through sales. That is a net spend of £74m – which is almost £30m more than Klopp had in more than twice the time. Guardiola won the German title in each of this three seasons at Bayern, but he could not manage to reach a Champions League final before leaving at the end of the 2015/16 campaign. His spending at Barcelona prior to his move to Germany was also huge, with £307m worth of signings offset by £161m of sales. That is a net spend of around £145m – which is more than twice as much as he spent strengthening Bayern’s grip on German football – where had former Dortmund stars Lewandowski and Mario Gotze in his squad. Klopp not only faced a club with a far larger transfer kitty, but they were also plucking his star players away almost at will.


Klopp has been accused of being a hypocrite this year after spending big on the likes of Virgil Van Dijk and Alisson Becker – but the critics might want to look a little closer at the net spend table. Liverpool sold Brazil international Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona for around £145m back in January, which put a massive amount in the kitty and allowed the German to do the world record deals for the duo. His net spend during his time in charge at Anfield is roughly £112m. That’s based on player purchases worth £382m and sales of £270m. Mourinho spent £392m during his two and a half years in charge at Old Trafford, with a net spend of £307m following the deduction of £85m worth of sales. That isn’t far off triple the money Klopp has spent in essentially the same amount of time – and doesn’t take into the consideration United having the biggest wage bill in the Premier League. For Klopp to have built a nineteen point lead over United having been afford a net spend which is dwarfed by theirs is testament to the quality both he and the off-field employees have at the club. Mourinho was able to spend £90m+ on two players, Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku, during his spell at United. Liverpool’s record signing is Virgil Van Dijk at £75m – which remains a world record for a defender. United spent £53m on Brazilian midfielder Fred in the Summer – which is more than Liverpool have ever spent on a player barring the Dutchman and Alisson Becker. Guardiola, meanwhile, has spent more than half a billion since taking over at Premier League champions in the Summer of 2016. His first transfer window saw him splash out £186m before he upped the ante the year after with a spree adding up to £276m – which saw them storm the title last season in record breaking fashion. His spend of £63m ahead of the current season looks incredibly restrained by comparison, but things such as the Spaniard already having the majority of his squad in place and Financial Fair Play (pfft) need to be factored into the equation. City’s net spend since the Summer of 2014 is in excess of £500m in itself, which puts Klopp’s achievement of simply competing with them into further perspective.

The German would no doubt have won more than three major trophies in his management career had he opted to take jobs at clubs such as Bayern, Barcelona, City or Real Madrid. They are all considered to be the top dogs in their respective leagues – at least in terms of the financial backing they have available. But the Liverpool boss is not the kind of manager who moves from league to league by taking over at the club who are expected to win their domestic title and reach the final of the Champions League. That he has reached that stage of the competition with both Dortmund and Liverpool goes to show just how able he is to compete against the dominant clubs. He clearly enjoys the challenge of pitting himself against them as he takes charge of under dog clubs who are passionately supported by a fanbase he can connect with on both a personal and professional level. He clearly factors in more than the financial backing he will receive before he chooses which club he will manage and we as Liverpool supporters can all be pleased that he wanted to come to Anfield to take on the challenge of not only beating one Bayern Munich, but three or four. United, City and Chelsea can all outspend us in the transfer market and on wages, with Arsenal also potentially having more clout from their bank account. That Klopp has been able to persuade the likes of Van Dijk, Alisson, Keita, Fabinho and Shaqiri to reject some of our rivals in favour of playing under his management at Anfield further highlights just what an asset he is to the club.

Klopp’s head to head records against the likes of Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho should also be taken into account when considering where he lies in the pecking order of elite level managers in the game. His record against the two is as follows:

MANAGER P W D L Win%
Pep Guardiola 15 8 2 5 53.28
Jose Mourinho 10 4 4 2 40.00

He has the better record from his games against the two, so trophies aren’t the only measure of how good a manager is and I would not swap ours for any other right now.

Liverpool win over United highlights growing gap

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Manchester United's Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho (R) and Liverpool's German manager Jurgen Klopp shake hands after the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on December 16, 2018. - Liverpool won the game 3-1. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Liverpool’s win over rivals Manchester United on Sunday afternoon highlighted the growing gap between the two clubs – both on and off the pitch.

Jurgen Klopp’s side had a plan, purpose, hunger, desire and an understanding of what was expected of each and every single one of them. While Jose Mourinho’s United team looked like a group of players who had barely played with each other before the game. The Reds absolutely dominated the game with 65% possession, 36 shots to 6 and 13 corners to 2. It was as one-sided a game between the two most successful clubs English football has produced that you are likely to see. Such was Liverpool’s dominance that the 3-1 scoreline ultimately flattered the visitors, as a 5-1 or 6-1 outcome would have been a much fairer reflection of the balance of play seen at Anfield.

The three points claimed by Klopp’s side moved them back above champions Manchester City to the summit of the Premier League table and kept the record of being the only unbeaten team left in the division. United barely looked capable of changing that, with their goal a touch of luck thanks to a poor bit of goalkeeping from the usually reliable Alisson Becker handing them an undeserved equaliser in the first-half. Few would have expected them to take the lead after Jesse Lingard’s bundled strike, despite Andrew Robertson denying substitute Marouane Fellaini what looked like being a certain goal after the break. Liverpool looked the only side capable of claiming the spoils and duly did so when Xherdan Shaqiri came off the bench to grab two deflected goals. Mourinho called them “fortunate”, but the Portuguese can have few complaints about going away the loser from such a heavily one-sided clash. His side was setup to try and frustrate Liverpool, but such was their lack of organisation that it became clear early on that goals were on the cards.

There are parallels between the situations the two clubs find themselves in which dates back to the early nineties. Liverpool were coming to the end of a period of intense domination of English football and were reeling from the loss of manager Kenny Dalglish, who needed time away from the game following the emotional turmoil and toll of Hillsborough. His compatriot, Alex Ferguson, was finally beginning to find his feet as United boss after taking over from Ron Atkinson in 1986. He made the claim that he set out to “knock Liverpool off their f**king perch”, but the truth of that matter was that his United side simply filled the space left behind by a club in decline. Anfield legend Graeme Souness arrived from Rangers to replace Dalglish in April 1991 and tried to change too much, too soon. He moved on too many experienced and successful members of the squad and replaced them with players who should never have been given the chance to play for the club. His first full season in charge saw him steer the club to a mediocre sixth place in the First Division, but they did claim the FA Cup at Wembley thanks to a 2-0 win over Sunderland. Another sixth place finish followed in the 1992/93 season – the year in which Ferguson won his first title with United. The following year saw United collect a second successive Premier League title, while Liverpool languished down in eighth place behind clubs like Wimbledon and Sheffield Wednesday. It hardly backs up Ferguson’s claim that he had “knocked Liverpool off their f**king perch”.

Roll forward to 2013 and the Scot was calling it a day as United boss. He was replaced by Everton boss David Moyes, who didn’t manage to see out the season at Old Trafford. Dutchman Louis Van Gaal replaced him following a short caretaker stint by Ryan Giggs to finish off the 2013/14 campaign. Liverpool had challenged for the title that season while United finished a lowly seventh and didn’t manage to qualify for European competition. Van Gaal managed to steer them into fourth place in the 2014/15 campaign, while Liverpool missed out in sixth place. Neither qualified in the 2015/16 season with United opting to sack Van Gaal, despite him winning the FA Cup. Few were surprised when they decided to appoint former Chelsea manager Mourinho that Summer – but they should have been. The mouthy manager has a proven track record of short-term success wherever he has been and that is proving to be the case yet again at Old Trafford. He managed to win the League Cup and Europa League trophies in 2016/17, but things have declined since and United now find themselves with a squad that lacks cohesion, a board without a plan and a manager predictably reverting to self-preservation mode as he prepares himself for another sacking.

While Liverpool have a squad carefully put together by a strong and cohesive off-field team, United have got a team in disarray. Their best player is still goalkeeper David De Gea, who was at Old Trafford when Mourinho took over, and the Spanish remains unchallenged by any signings made by the former Inter Milan and Real Madrid boss. His inability to get anything like the best out of club record signing Paul Pogba continues to grab headlines, while this past Summer yielded only deals for Brazilian midfielder Fred and young defender Diogo Dalot. It was not what United needed after their second place finish last season failed to paper over the glaring cracks in their squad. Mourinho would have cast several jealous glances in the direction of Anfield as the likes of Naby Keita, Alisson Becker, Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri arrived – with the latter pair reportedly rejecting interest from United to move to Anfield. Klopp had got his business done early and was preparing his carefully assembled squad for the difficult task of beating Manchester City to the title. Meanwhile, Mourinho was busy preparing his excuses for failure during preseason – and it set the tone for the start of the season.

Sunday’s win meant that Liverpool moved a remarkable nineteen points clear of United – whose goal was only the seventh conceded by Klopp’s team in the league so far this season. United’s goal difference is balanced at zero, with the twenty-nine goals conceded already eclipsing the total they let in last season by one. There have only been seventeen games played so far. It is another microcosmic representation of the different directions in which these two clubs are travelling. Another marker of the gulf in class between these two sides is highlighted when you consider that Shaqiri came off the bench to score two goals against United – Liverpool haven’t conceded twice in a single Premier League game so far this season. United are seventeen points clear of Fulham, who are bottom of the table, which is two points less than the gap up to Liverpool at the summit.

Liverpool supporters can empathise, but not sympathise, with United supporters. The nineties saw the club descend into being a shadow of what it was, with mediocre and poor signings made by managers who weren’t cut out to lead the team back to the glory days. David Moores and Rick Parry had the best of intentions during their time overseeing things at the club, but they couldn’t match the nous on display over at Old Trafford. Their stranglehold on English football under Ferguson was only tightened when David Gill was appointed as chief executive in 1997. The duo oversaw a period of dominance only tested by Arsenal before Roman Abramovich changed the game with his billions at Chelsea. Manchester City followed suit and had their place at the top table paid for by incredibly wealthy new ownership. Liverpool were seen by many as yesterday’s news and an also-ran, despite winning the European Cup for the fifth time in 2005. Opportunities weren’t taken to build on that remarkable success and Rafa Benitez was always left with the deck stacked against him as he tried to beat United, Chelsea and Arsenal domestically – especially under the woefully inept ownership of Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

Klopp is working under a much brighter set of American owners, however, and can rely on the innovative skills of Michael Edwards behind the scenes to get the kind of deals that were well out of Liverpool’s reach in years gone by. There would have been little chance the club could have beaten our rivals to the likes of Virgil Van Dijk, Alisson Becker, Sadio Mane etc a decade ago. But the charm and charisma of the German is backed up with a genuine plan for success at executive level and the club has been able to see off rival bids on offer both domestically and on the continent. Klopp has the final say on the players that are signed by the club and he is being given every chance to get the names at the top of his list. He is also backed up by a group of superb coaches, physios and medical staff – some of which have been lured away from the likes of Bayern Munich and Manchester City. There is a young, bright and hungry dynamic both on and off the pitch at Anfield and the collective is building something to rival even City’s financial power.

It is an exciting time to be a Liverpool supporter – while it is clearly a very depressing time to be a fan of Manchester United.

Klopp’s Liverpool signings ranked

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Liverpool's German coach Jurgen Klopp (L) gives instructions to Liverpool's Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah during the UEFA Champions League Group C second-leg football match between Red Star Belgrade and Liverpool FC at the Rajko Mitic Stadium in Belgrade on November 6, 2018. (Photo by Andrej ISAKOVIC / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images)

Jurgen Klopp has been Liverpool manager for just over three years now and the German has put together a squad that looks capable of making a serious challenge for the Premier League title. But how do those signings rank?

Let’s take a look.

17 – Alex Manninger

The Austrian veteran was signed in the Summer of 2016 to bring some experience and wisdom to the squad. He spent one season at Anfield and didn’t make a first-team appearance. His presence was seemingly more about acting as a mentor for Loris Karius, who had arrived at the club a few weeks earlier. He quietly left last year and few will have noticed.

16 – Steven Caulker

The English defender was a surprise loan signing during the January transfer window of 2016. Klopp brought him in to add cover to the centre of his defence, but he was mostly used as a makeshift striker off the bench. He now plays for Dundee up in Scotland and few will be surprised.

15 – Loris Karius

The German goalkeeper arrived at Anfield in the Summer of 2016 from Klopp’s former club Mainz. Much was expected of the former Manchester City trainee following his fellow professionals voting him the second best stopper in the Bundesliga. He never quite managed to convince over his two seasons with the club and will always be remembered for his howlers in the Champions League final.

14 – Marko Grujic

The Serbian was signed in January 2016 on the advice of former assistant manager Zeljko Buvac. He didn’t arrive from Red Star Belgrade until the following Summer and struggled to break into the side. Had a promising loan spell with Cardiff City in the Championship as they got promoted to the Premier League last season and is currently enjoying his time in Germany with Hertha Berlin. Could well move up the list.

13 – Dominic Solanke

Was a surprise signing from Chelsea in preseason before the 2017/18. Has a superb record at youth level for club and country but has never got going at club level. Made plenty of appearances off the bench in his debut campaign, but missed some good chances. Finally scored his first goal for the club on the final day of the domestic season against Brighton in May. Looks to be well down the pecking order this year and needs a loan move to show what he can do. If he can transfer his England form, he could be a good player to have around.

12 – Ragnar Klavan

The Estonia international was a surprise signing in the Summer of 2016. He arrived from FC Augsburg for a little over £4m and provided valuable experience as a backup during his two seasons at Anfield. Left as something of a cult hero in the Summer when he joined Italian club Cagliari. Might well have proved useful this season after injuries to Joe Gomez and Joel Matip.

11 – Joel Matip

The Cameroon international centre-back arrived on a free transfer from Schalke in Klopp’s first Summer. A deal was agreed in the January of that year and fans were excited to see if he could solve the defensive issues at the club. He made a solid start, but injury problems hampered his progress and form. Has played well recently, but suffered another injury blow against Napoli. A good player to have as fourth choice for the position.

10 – Naby Keita

Much is expected of the Guinea international midfielder and hopes were raised further after his performance against West Ham on debut. But injuries have meant that his progress has been somewhat slow. He’s shown flashes of what he can do against Burnley and Bournemouth and is likely to move up the list if he regains the form that saw Klopp willing to wait a year to sign him.

9 – Fabinho

The Brazil international was signed soon after the Champions League final in May. He built himself a fine reputation playing for Monaco and was a man in demand. Klopp has eased him into the team so far this season, but he has shown what he’s capable of with some encouraging performances. Looks a good replacement for Emre Can.

8 – Xherdan Shaqiri

The Swiss international finally moved to the club after being linked many times over the past five years or so. Looks an absolute steal at £13m following Stoke City’s relegation. He always looks eager to impress and has notched a few goals so far. Another who will want to push up this chart in the future.

7 – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Made a very underwhelming start, but once he got up to speed fans saw why Klopp wanted to bring him to Anfield. Was key to wins over Manchester City both domestically and in Europe last season before being dealt cruel injury blow against Roma. His absence has been felt this season and that is testament to how well he was playing.

6 – Georginio Wijnaldum

Another player signed from a relegated club when he joined from Newcastle United in the Summer of 2016. Works his socks off in midfield and is one of Klopp’s most trusted players in the centre of the park. Could score more goals, but has a knack of hitting the back of the net on the bigger occasions.

5 – Andrew Robertson

The third player to be signed from a relegated club on this list. Few expected much of the Scotland skipper when he arrived from Hull City for just £8.5m last year. But he has gone from strength to strength and is now arguably the best left-back in the Premier League. A huge upgrade on Alberto Moreno and is rock solid in his place.

4 – Sadio Mane

The Senegal international arrived from Southampton in the Summer of 2016 after turning down Manchester United – which got him off to a great start. He showed just what he was capable of by scoring what proved to be the winner against Arsenal in a 4-3 opening day win. Snatched a late derby winner against Everton that Christmas and also got his name on the scoresheet in the Champions League final last season. His pace and goals have proved invaluable to Klopp’s side.

3 – Alisson Becker

The Brazil international is everything that a modern goalkeeper should be, and one of the best new betting sites for 2019 is backing him to win the golden glove in his debut season. He’s excellent positionally and makes some fantastic saves. The former Roma man is also very good with the ball at his feet and his quick thinking has been key to a few goals already. Is the number one the club has needed since Pepe Reina lost form and left. Is probably already better than the Spaniard – which is saying something.

2 – Virgil Van Dijk

Could easily be number one on the list given the impact he has made since his world record arrival just under a year ago. Was well worth the wait given his leadership and the quality he brings. Touted by many fans as the best defender in the game and that is without a hint of bias. He’s that good.

1 – Mohamed Salah

The Egyptian almost signed for the club in 2014, but joined Chelsea instead. All of that has been forgiven since he arrived from Roma last year. Has looked an absolute steal at around £35m. Scored a record thirty-two Premier League goals last season, including just one penalty, and was key to getting to Kiev. Has been labelled a one season wonder by rival fans but is currently joint top of the scoring charts this season. Klopp neeeded persuading to bring him to Anfield after Julian Brandt rejected a move from Bayer Leverkusen. I bet he’s relieved.

Do Liverpool need another defender?

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The reaction to the injury Joe Gomez suffered against Burnley last week goes to show just how highly rated the young defender has become this year.

A robust tackle from Ben Mee saw the England international suffer a fracture in his leg and the announcement was made the following day that he was going to be out of action for around six weeks – meaning he would be sitting out the crucial festive fixtures. That run of games was to include the visit of Napoli in the Champions League decider this week along with massive Premier League clashes with rivals Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City. It is a measure of how well the former Charlton Athletic man has performed since moving to centre-back at the start of the season. He has been rewarded for his form with an improved and extended contract along with more caps for England. He could very well go on to become the best defender of his generation for the Three Lions, such is the potential of his talent.

His absence opened the door for Joel Matip to come back into the side after struggling for game time over the past year or so. And the Cameroon international was showing some fine form in the wins over Bournemouth and Napoli before his fragility was again exposed with a fractured collarbone against the Italian side. He had reminded people why fans were so up in arms back in early 2017 when his nation wanted him to be banned from club football after refusing his callup to their squad. When Virgil Van Dijk was first being linked with a move to Anfield in late 2016, it was the former Schalke man they wanted to see him partnered with. Injuries have interrupted his claim to be the man to partner the Dutchman, but he certainly reminded fans of what he is capable of over the past week or so.

His injury has opened the door for Dejan Lovren to reassert his claims on the place next to Van Dijk at the heart of the defence. There was a lot of speculation that the Croatian international would be the man to make way for the world’s most expensive defender, but Lovren’s form improved over the second half of last season. His Liverpool career looked to be in serious threat after a woeful performance against Spurs saw him substituted during the first half at Wembley, but he bounced back and managed to appear in both the World Cup and Champions League finals this year. He was on the losing side in each, but he did his reputation no harm in helping both club and country to reach them. But his return to Merseyside for preseason saw him carrying a stomach injury he had kept quiet and that did not go down well with his manager. Jurgen Klopp opted to use Gomez in the centre and he has risen to the first-choice partner for Van Dijk.

His absence will give Lovren the chance to try and force Klopp into a rethink, however, as he is now one of only two fit and available central defenders in the squad going into the busy festive period. He will be picked to face Manchester United at Anfield on Sunday, should he be passed fit, and will expect to keep his place against Wolves, Newcastle United and Arsenal. That will see Liverpool through to the end of the calendar year, with a trip to take on champions at The Etihad the first game of 2019.

Klopp is unlikely have time to bring in a new signing by then, despite last year’s Christmas deal to sign Van Dijk, and so will have to rely on either using Fabinho as a makeshift defender or calling on the unproven talents of Nat Phillips. Neither is likely to fill supporters with confidence should they have to be drafted in for the crucial game against Pep Guardiola’s team.

But it is hard to see Klopp dipping in to the transfer market. He has not made that much use of the January window since his arrival, with the surprise loan signing of Steven Caulker and the world record deal for Van Dijk exceptions. He started the season with four central defenders, and the knowledge that three of them aren’t alien to injury, with backup from Fabinho and Phillips. He has been linked with offers for the likes of Kalidou Koulibaly and Matthjis De Ligt in the past, but it seems unlikely that such big money deals are going to happen in the new year. He is also unlikely to want to bring in a player who would expect to be a first-choice, given how well Gomez has performed. Lovren and Matip are also unlikely to be happy at seeing one of those players arrive – and then there’s the unlikely prospect of Napoli and Ajax being prepared to part with them halfway through the season.

So a stop gap player seems the most likely option should Klopp opt to dip into the market. Few, if any, names spring to mind and the German has shown that he is quite particular about who he brings in to his squad. Michael Edwards and his scouting team will no doubt have a shortlist of names ready and waiting for Klopp should he want to seek out a new defender, but by the time that player is signed and ready to play, it’s likely that at least one of Gomez and Matip will be fit and ready to return to action.

So a January deal for a new centre-back looks unlikely to happen unless the right player becomes available and a deal can be done quickly. There are a couple more weeks left of the year to do negotiations and the player could be in the squad for New Year’s Day, like Van Dijk last year. But I wouldn’t be banking on it.

Van Dijk and Alisson are key to defensive improvement

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Liverpool's Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk controls the ball during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and West Ham United at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on August 12, 2018. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has overseen a remarkable defensive improvement in 2018 and a big catalyst for that has been the signings of Virgil Van Dijk and Alisson Becker. The duo both cost what were world record fees for their positions at the time, with the £75m paid for Van Dijk still the highest, and questions were asked about whether the club were paying too much. Nobody is querying that now.

Supporters all over the world were calling for Klopp to sign a new goalkeeper when he arrived back in 2015, but he handed a new and improved contract to Simon Mignolet in January 2016, which was met with confusion my many fans. However, the German did answer the calls to bring in a new stopper the following Summer when he spent a modest fee to sign compatriot Loris Karius from former club Mainz. But things didn’t go well initially for the former Manchester City trainee and he lost his place back to the Belgian after some costly errors, most notably in the 4-3 loss against Bournemouth.

Karius was handed the gloves for the Champions League campaign last season and also regained his place in the Premier League side after Mignolet cost points with some poor performances, particularly against Arsenal in the 3-3 draw, and was installed as the number one keeper in the squad. Things were improving for him over the course of the second half of the campaign and it looked like Klopp might well have found himself a potential long-term option. But, as we all know so well, Karius had a meltdown in the Champions League final against Real Madrid and conceded two very soft goals after some very basic errors. That lost the faith of some of his team-mates and his social media account helped to do further damage with the squad. Klopp once again needed to look for a new goalkeeper.

The name of Alisson Becker had started to be linked with Liverpool after some impressive performances for Roma and Brazil saw him receive rave reviews from scouts along with the media. He was a key factor in the Italian side reaching the Champions League semi-finals, where they lost to Liverpool, and he was high on the list of targets for the club. Atletico Madrid stopper Jan Oblak was touted as the other possible target, but signing him would have required a huge outlay thanks to the way contracts operate in Spanish football. If Roma were prepared to do a deal for Alisson, then Liverpool were certainly going to be interested – but the Reds weren’t the only ones sniffing around. Chelsea and Real Madrid were both being heavily linked with bids and so Klopp would need to again work his magic to get his man signed. And he did, with an initial bid worth around £60m turned down, before a second offer of around £67m was accepted by the Serie A club. Alisson was keen to make the move and things were wrapped up quickly.

The situation was not so straightforward when Van Dijk arrived at Anfield. Klopp would have preferred to have got the Dutchman in during the Summer of 2017, but Southampton made an accusation of an alleged illegal approach to their captain and Liverpool decided to release a statement stating that no bid would be forthcoming. Van Dijk had made it clear that he wanted to leave St Mary’s, despite signing a new contract with them just over a year before and he all but said he had his heart set on moving to Merseyside. He started last season with the south coast club, but Klopp finally got his man when Southampton accepted a £75m offer at Christmas and he arrived in January – just in time to make his debut against Everton in the FA Cup. He became an instant hero thanks to a late headed winner in front of The Kop. The former Celtic man quickly settled into his new side and looked to have brought a calming influence to those around him, such was the instant improvement of the Liverpool defence. His impact on his team-mates has been huge and he has shown that you don’t need the armband to be a leader.

Something that should be pointed out, and credit given to Klopp, is that these two world-class talents had their hearts set on moving to Anfield from the start. Their heads were not turned by lucrative offers from Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United in the case of Van Dijk and Chelsea and Real Madrid for Alisson. In years gone by, there would have been little chance that players of their reputation and calibre would have turned down those clubs to join Liverpool. It is a clear measure of just how much pull the former Borussia Dortmund boss has – he sweeps you up in his desire and will to win and the players want to play and win for him. He has given Liverpool a magnetic pull to some superb talents – and some of them are signing lengthy contract extensions thanks to the belief he instills into them. We may well see Alisson and Van Dijk putting pen to paper on new deals down the line – because they could certainly be seen as long-term options for their roles in the team.

The impact the duo have had on the team this season can be highlighted in one statistic alone – only six goals have been conceded in the Premier League so far this season, which is the lowest by three. At the same stage last year, Liverpool had conceded twenty. Another point which highlights how well the team have done at the back so far during this campaign is the number of clean sheets kept – ten, which is the highest in the division. Only six had been kept at this point last season. Alisson also leads the way in terms of individual clean sheets and saves per goal – and he has also been key to a few goals being scored thanks to his quick thinking. The Brazilian has been a huge upgrade on the goalkeepers previously at the club and some are already asking whether he’s the best the club has had ever had in the position. It’s a fair shout.

Not all the credit can go the duo, however, with Andy Robertson and Joe Gomez also playing key roles over the course of 2018. The duo have become superb defenders in their own right and have made some crucial blocks, tackles and clearances to keep the goals against column down. Trent Alexander-Arnold, Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip have also played their part in the defensive improvements seen at Liverpool over 2018 and will be looking to keep improving into 2019 and the second half of the campaign.

Klopp has put together a superb defensive unit and the future is looking very bright ineed.

Time is right for Klopp to get win against United

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LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 14: Jose Mourinho, Manager of Manchester United looks on during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield on October 14, 2017 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is yet to beat rivals Manchester United in a Premier League game since taking over as Reds boss just over three years ago in October 2015. The German has beaten them once so far, with that victory coming at Anfield in the first leg of a Europa League tie back in early 2016. But three points from a clash with the Old Trafford club still eludes him.

His first clash with United came a few months after he replaced Brendan Rodgers as manager and hopes were high that he could steer his new team to victory against Louis van Gaal’s men. But the Dutchman came to Anfield with a game plan and his players stuck to it as they looked to avoid defeat. A late Wayne Rooney goal gave them an undeserved win, however, and they went away from the game with the spoils.

Klopp soon had a chance to gain a measure of revenge when the two sides were drawn to face each other in the last sixteen of the Europa League just under two months later and he saw his side run out deserving 2-0 winners in the first leg thanks to a Daniel Sturridge penalty and a second-half strike from Roberto Firmino. It was the least Liverpool deserved and they had the chances to make the tie more comfortable. The second leg at Old Trafford saw Klopp’s side go behind to a penalty by Anthony Martial midway through the first-half, but a superb solo goal by Philippe Coutinho restored Liverpool’s two goal cushion and added a priceless away goal. There was no coming back for United and Liverpool went through the quarter-finals of the competition.

Three Premier League draws followed that clash in continental competition, with two stalemates at Anfield sandwiching an entertaining 1-1 draw at Old Trafford in the 2016/17 season. A penalty by James Milner gave Liverpool the lead and it looked like the points would be coming back to Anfield before a late Zlatan Ibrahimovic header, after an offside cross into the box, stole a point for Jose Mourinho’s men in January 2017. The Portuguese manager oversaw two dull goalless draws at Anfield either side of that game after setting out to park the bus and spoil Liverpool’s counter attacking threat. A strong penalty claim was dismissed in the game on Merseyside last season, as Coutinho was brought down in the United box. Spain international David De Gea was the man of the match as he made crucial saves from the Brazilian, Joel Matip and Emre Can to claim a point for the visitors.

United broke the sequence of draws with a 2-1 victory at Old Trafford in March this year as two goals from Marcus Rashford were enough to see them over the line after Eric Bailly’s own goal in the second half. Liverpool could feel hard done by as three strong claims for a penalty were waved away by the match officials. It was an uncharacteristically quiet performance from Liverpool’s attacking players and a steep learning curve for young England international Trent Alexander-Arnold as he was caught out for both United goals.

Roll the clock forward to today and Liverpool sit at the top of the Premier League table with United way off the pace in sixth place, a hefty sixteen points behind. The Reds have scored thirty-four goals so far this season, which is six more than United, and conceded just six – a huge twenty less than Mourinho’s men. The Portuguese coach has built his reputation on having his players setup in a manner which makes them hard to score against and subsequently hard to beat. But they have been shipping goals left, right and centre this season and have kept just two clean sheets so far – with Liverpool leading the way on ten. Brazil international Alisson Becker has been in superb form since his world-record arrival at Anfield from AS Roma in the Summer and is currently winning the battle with De Gea and Manchester City number one Ederson, who has eight clean sheets to his name.

Sunday afternoon’s game at Anfield represents a wonderful opportunity for Klopp to claim his first Premier League success against the club’s fiercest rivals and also to lay down a marker by leaving United nineteen points behind – which would keep the Reds top of the table and make their chances of getting into the top four even slimmer this season. Only Cardiff City, Southampton, Fulham, Huddersfield Town and Burnley have conceded fewer goals than United and Liverpool are in fine form with five wins from the last five games – United having won just once in their most recent five league fixtures.

Liverpool supporters would be delighted to see the team claim another three points in this fixture and it would represent a great early Christmas present for the Anfield faithful. But United fans would be absolutely made up to see their side end the unbeaten start made to the campaign by Klopp’s men. So there’s plenty to play for on each side as the most watched game in world football approaches.

Manchester City losing 2-0 against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday evening opened the door for Liverpool to replace them at the top of the table and make a genuine claim as title challengers. The 4-0 win over Bournemouth earlier in the day put pressure on Pep Guardiola’s side going into their match at Stamford Bridge and they faltered. It was the first time in a few rounds of fixtures that Klopp’s side had been playing first and in the position to put the heat on City – and it worked. The same won’t happen this weekend, with Everton heading to The Etihad on Saturday in the first part of the Merseyside v Manchester double header. Liverpool fans will be hoping that Marco Silva’s men can take a point or three off City – while there’ll no doubt be plenty of their supporters hoping that they lose to avoid doing Liverpool any favours!

It promises to be an eventful weekend in the Premier League and Liverpool supporters will be hoping to see the team still sat at the top of the table on Sunday night.

Will Liverpool get past Napoli?

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NAPLES, ITALY - OCTOBER 03: Jurgen Klopp manager of Liverpool during the Group C match of the UEFA Champions League between SSC Napoli and Liverpool at Stadio San Paolo on October 3, 2018 in Naples, Italy. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Liverpool have still got one last chance to qualify from the Champions League group stage.

Serie A side Napoli arrive at Anfield tonight knowing that they will progress at the expense of their hosts as long as they avoid defeat – or even if they lose 2-1 or by similar scorelines thanks to the complex permutations. Their manager, Carlo Ancelotti, has played down the task that faces his men and recently said that an away day against Atalanta would be more of a challenge for them. But is he right?

Liverpool may well have been poor away from home so far in the competition, with three defeats on their travels, but Paris Saint Germain and Red Star Belgrade have both been beaten at Anfield and manager Jurgen Klopp will he hoping to make it three from three to ensure his side progresses to the knockout phase. He will he keen to go one better than last season – when his team went all the way to the final in Kiev, where they were defeated by Real Madrid.

Napoli are unbeaten so far in the group and beat Liverpool thanks to a 1-0 victory in Italy earlier on in the season – which was snatched thanks to a very late goal by Lorenzo Insigne. The Reds put in a very underwhelming performance that night and are expected to rise to the occasion in front of a roaring atmosphere at Anfield tonight.

Anfield is famous for providing colourful and loud backdrops for European nights under the lights and the supporters will be expected to provide nothing less when the gates open ahead of kick-off. Banners, scarves and flags will be unfurled to help give the players the extra lift they can always depend on as they look to claim the priceless win to qualify for the last sixteen.

The attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane will be expected to fire Liverpool on with the backing behind them from the likes of Andrew Robertson, Virgil Van Dijk and Alisson Becker. Klopp has built a strong squad which should be getting to the latter stages of this competition and would represent failure should they not make it out this group – despite having to face the quality of Paris Saint Germain and Napoli.

There has been plenty of speculation that the German will select a midfield field comprising Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum – which has been met with mixed responses by fans. But those who are unhappy with the prospect of the trio starting tonight should look back to the visit of Roma in the semi-final first leg last season. Wijnaldum came off the bench after just over fifteen minutes to replace the injured Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the Reds won 5-2.

If you think that Klopp will get his team over the line and into the next round, you can bet on Liverpool with winningsportsbets.co.uk and make a few quid should they pull of another great escape in European competition at Anfield. Should any fans or the players themselves need any inspiration or motivation for the game, they need look no further than the last group phase game in 2005 against Olympiakos. Liverpool needed to win that game by two clear goals and went behind shortly before the break when Rivaldo scored a free-kick. But three goals, including a Steven Gerrard thunderbolt, won it for Rafa Benitez’s side and they famously went on to win the competition that season.

Who would bet against that happening again this season if Liverpool get through the game tonight?

The abuse of Raheem Sterling needs to end

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The abuse of former Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling has gone way too far – regardless of whether the Chelsea fans were racially attacking him or not on Saturday evening at Stamford Bridge.

He is a young, successful and confident black man and some people just cannot accept that. It seems to be a stereotypical type of middle aged white man that is most troubled by his success, along with the likes of Formula 1 Champion Lewis Hamilton, and they appear to see it as some sort of social injustice. It isn’t. It is representative of how diverse and multicultural Britain is and how opportunities to succeed are opening up more and more for people of ethnic minority. But these racists cannot handle that and it seems the far right are having one last go at bringing back white supremacy.

Footballers of Asian descent are still struggling to make the breakthrough into the professional game and homophobia still runs rife in the sport. Things need to move on, but these bigoted white men still hound and terrify the gay players in the game and they do not feel able to come out and be who they are. It’s a shameful state of affairs given how far society in general has moved on and things need to change. Some former players have come out following retirement and have offered to advocate for and support others to be the first to make that stand. But nobody has come forward through fear of the response they will get from the stands. It’s beyond sad – it’s appalling.

A Spurs supporter was arrested after he threw a banana skin at Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang last week. It was an utterly shameful act by a fan of a club whose supporters should know all about being abused for being a minority. He needs to be named, shamed, banned and disowned by Spurs and their supporters. It was a disgraceful and abhorrent act that has no place in the game whatsoever. The men who stood at the front of the stand at Stamford Bridge and unleashed a torrent of aggressive abuse towards Sterling as he collected the ball from in front of them are also a disgrace to themselves, their families, their club, their city and society in general – regardless of whether there was racial abuse. Their basic behaviour was unacceptable. Middle aged men conducting themselves like that towards a man playing football is disgraceful. By all means they should support their team and can boo and jeer the opposition, but they went so far past the line with their conduct on Saturday evening even before the potential issue of racism is addressed. What is that makes them think they have the right to treat another human being in that manner? Would they do it in the street? I would hope not.

A key moment for Sterling appears to be the manner in which he went about leaving Liverpool. He was accused of being a snake and a money grabber by a lot of fans when he decided to leave Anfield to join Manchester City in 2015. Forgiveness seems unlikely with plenty of supporters at the club for the way he, and his agent Aidy Ward, went about forcing the move to The Etihad. But how different was it to Fernando Torres pushing for a switch to Chelsea? Both left a team that was nowhere near matching their ambitions and neither was a player who had grown up as a Liverpool fan. The Spaniard had spent longer at the club and scored more goals, but he ultimately left with nothing to show for his efforts. He went on to win the Champions League with Chelsea. Sterling has won the Premier League with City. Liverpool have won nothing since he left. So is he justified in his choice? Many fans will be so blinkered by the feeling of betrayal that they will be adamant that he was not.

I personally have no issue with a bit of banter and having a pantomime style bit of fun when it comes to the the likes of Sterling and Torres. I don’t see an issue with booing them or jeering when they make a poor pass or miss a shot. It’s part and parcel of the game. But personal abuse on the level we have seen of Sterling goes too far. He decided to leave a football club to join another. That’s all he did. I’m sure many fans reading this will have left a job to go and work for someone else in their life. Should their old company or employer start calling them a snake and giving them vile abuse on social media? They wouldn’t think so.

I’ve not seen or heard racist abuse towards Sterling from Liverpool fans and I hope to never see or hear such a thing. Our fan base should know better given the way John Barnes was treated when he was at the club. He had banana skins chucked from the stands when he played. There are plenty of parallels between him and Sterling. Both were born in Jamaica and went on to play for Liverpool and England. And the pair of them have each been given a very hard time for their performances for the Three Lions. Neither have ever been given the kind of breathing space that white British born players have had from fans or the media. It’s worrying that thirty plus years since Barnes made his England debut we are again seeing the same pattern of behaviour towards Sterling. The media should take a lot of the blame for that.

The difference is how other young black England internationals such as Marcus Rashford, Kyle Walker, Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold are treated is stark as well. Sterling isn’t given the same kind of support or patience as any of them. Is it because they live quieter private lives? It might well be. Walker agitated for a move away from Spurs to join City for essentially the exact same reasons Sterling did. He gets his fair share of stick from Tottenham supporters, but his treatment in the media is nothing like Sterling. Is it because he was born in England? Is it because he is perceived to have a quieter and less flashy personal life? Perhaps.

Chelsea have had previous issues with racism and anti-semitism. This is the latest in a series of problems they have had with some of their supporters accused of abusing rivals based on creed or religion. It’s a staggering indictment on the city of London as well. It is the most diverse and multicultural place in the world. These fans should be used to seeing a plethora of ethnicities and religions. They should be used to hearing a tapestry of languages and accents. The football club they purport to support was one of the first to start bringing in players from all over the world. They were the first club to select a starting eleven with no British players when Italian manager Gianluca Vialli sent out his team to take on Southampton on Boxing Day in 1999. It’s double standards and hypocrisy to target rival players for their nationality or ethnicity.

It’s also utterly disgusting and has no place in football or modern society.