Liverpool win over United highlights growing gap

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

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?


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

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

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?

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 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


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.

Is Lallana on borrowed time at Anfield?

Red Star Belgrade's Comorian forward El Fardou Nabouhane (L) and Red Star Belgrade's Montenegrin defender Filip Stojkovic (R) vie for the ball with Liverpool's English midfielder Adam Lallana (C) 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 Pedja Milosavljevic / AFP) (Photo credit should read PEDJA MILOSAVLJEVIC/AFP/Getty Images)

Adam Lallana is facing a race to prove that he can have a future at the club beyond the end of the season. The England international has had an injury hit year or two as is looking like the forgotten man at Anfield.

After Jurgen Klopp took over from Brendan Rodgers, the manager who brought Lallana to the club from Southampton, the attacking midfielder looked like one of the players who understood what the German wanted from his players most. He moved from a wide attacking role, a position which did not suit him, to a deeper midfield position which allowed him to influence the game more with his pressing and ability to keep hold of possession. He quickly became one of Klopp’s most trusted and called upon players.

But things changed when he picked up an injury against Atletico Madrid in a preseason friendly. He missed a big chunk of the 2017/18 campaign, which was a very promising one for the Liverpool squad. He managed to regain fitness in time to come off the bench in the Champions League final after Mohamed Salah was injured in the first-half. But he looked way off the pace and couldn’t have any positive impact on the game. It was a microcosm for many supporters of where Lallana stood at that point and some felt that he needed to be moved on this past Summer.

He has had an injury plagued start to this season as well, with niggly issues limiting him to starts against Cardiff City in the Premier League and Red Star Belgrade in the Champions League. He came close to scoring against the Welsh side with a headed chance cleared off the line, but his performance against the Serbians was much-maligned by many fans. He struggled to have much impact, aside from helping to create a clear cut chance for Daniel Sturridge in the first-half, and looked too slow and laboured in the main. He was criticised for holding on to the ball for too long by some, while there were others who were more sympathetic to the imbalance between patience and his lack of match action.

Lallana will turn thirty-one in May and will need to prove his worth to the team if he wants to see his situation develop into something similar to that of James Milner, for example. The first thing he needs to do is maintain fitness, so that he can be available from the bench or to start when Klopp wants to rotate his options in busy periods – such as the upcoming congested festive fixture list.

Liverpool are not currently resplendent with attacking midfield options in the squad, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s directness missing thanks to the injury he suffered against Roma last season and Harry Wilson being unproven and out on loan at Championship side Derby County. Lallana has a great opportunity to challenge for a role in the side to link up the midfield and attack – something which has been an issue for the team so far this season. But all the time he is struggling to regain full fitness and match sharpness, he represents a gamble and is unlikely to be afforded many chances to show what he can do.

The signing of Xherdan Shaqiri won’t have helped the former Southampton man’s situation in the squad. The Swiss international has got better and better as he’s been given opportunities to adjust to the way Liverpool are setup to play this season. He is scoring goals and linking up well with his new team-mates. The return to fitness of Naby Keita is also likely to restrict Lallana’s chances to get into the side as well, with the Guinea international showing more of what he can do with a man of the match performance against Burnley this week.

The news that Wilson is unlikely to be recalled from his loan spell in January is likely to come as a relief to Lallana. The Wales international has been in fine form for Frank Lampard’s side and has got a lot of fans excited about what he could bring to the side if he were to come back in the new year. But the decision to leave him where he is will only delay the inevitible – he will return to Anfield next Summer and is likely to have earnt the chance to be given an opportunity in the first-team next season. That could leave Lallana’s future in serious jeopardy if he is unable to start playing more in the second half of the campaign.

There are still Liverpool supporters who believe that he can reclaim a place in the side once he gets back to fitness, but their number is dwindling and the strong faith placed in him by Klopp has to be decreasing over time as well. It’s going to be make or break for Lallana in the first part of next year – or he could see his future elsewhere in the 2019/20 season.

Can Clyne come back in from the cold?

WATFORD, ENGLAND - MAY 01: Nathaniel Clyne of Liverpool arrives prior to kickoff during the Premier League match between Watford and Liverpool at Vicarage Road on May 1, 2017 in Watford, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Nathaniel Clyne has become a forgotten member of the Liverpool squad. The England international has barely featured since returning from the back injury that ruled him out for most of last season. He managed to make five appearances last season, but has faded into obscurity since. And a few Reds are beginning to ask why that might be.

Clyne has been at Anfield since the Summer of 2015, when the club paid Southampton a reasonable fee of £12.5m to make him a part of Brendan Rodgers’ squad. He didn’t play under the man who signed him for long, with the Northern Irishman being sacked a couple of months later. But Jurgen Klopp kept him in the side and he was a regular for the first his first two seasons at the club before suffering that back injury during the Summer of 2017.

While he was working on regaining fitness last year, he had to watch on as young English duo Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold rotated his right-back position in the side, with both going on to get international recognition for their fine form at club level. Clyne missed out on the World Cup and was an unsued substitute in the Champions League final as Liverpool went down 3-1 to Real Madrid in Kiev. He will feel that a lot has happened while he has been getting himself back to fitness – and he’s missed out.

So far this season, he has been limited to one start and two appearances on the bench for the first-team. The start came in the 2-1 League Cup defeat against Chelsea at Anfield back in September – which meant that further chances in the competition for him this season were gone. He was an unused substitute against West Ham for the season opener in the Premier League and didn’t reappear until the 3-0 win at Watford last month. Things are not looking good for his prospects at Anfield.

And other clubs are taking note of his situation, with the likes of Fulham and West Ham reported to be keen on trying to convince Liverpool to part with Clyne when the transfer window opens next month. It is unlikely that Klopp will allow the defender to make an exit midway through the season, especially since Gomez is going to be out for up to six weeks following his fractured leg injury suffered against Burnley. It leaves Trent Alexander-Arnold as the only fit right-back in the squad, although Brazil international Fabinho has shown that he can fill in there. But having a player of Clyne’s quality and experience in reserve can only be seen as a good thing and he may yet be called upon to take the pressure off young Alexander-Arnold over the busy festive period.

Quite why Clyne has been frozen out by Klopp is a matter for debate and discussion. Many feel that the German has taken the opportunity to move him out of the picture while he was injured having become unsatisfied with his performances. Clyne is a solid, all-round full-back. He has reasonable pace, energy and technical ability and will always give his all on the pitch when called upon. But he doesn’t offer enough going forward. He only got one goal and two assists across his first two seasons at Anfield, when he was a regular, and that isn’t enough in a system where the full-backs have plenty of attacking licence. His crossing is an area in serious need of improvement, with many promising attacks broken down with a poor ball into the box by the defender during his time in the side.

It looks increasingly likely that he will leave the club during 2019, but January doesn’t look to be the right time for that to happen. His value isn’t going to dramatically drop from then to the end of the season and he could prove valuable if we have further injury issues in his position. He is also able to play left-back, if desperately needed to, and that could prove useful should Robertson and Moreno both be absent for any games. Klopp has recognised the need to add depth to his squad, especially if he wants to push Manchester City all the way in the title race, and letting a player in Clyne’s situation go in the new year could prove foolish.

When the campaign is over and the Summer transfer market kicks into life, there will be plenty of interest from other Premier League clubs in Clyne and he will have his pick from at least two or three. He will just have to sit tight until then and do his best if called upon.

How have the players done so far this season?


The season is now four months in and we are about to hit the busy festive period, which can prove to be make or break for a lot of aspirations in the game. So it seems a good opportunity to take stock and look at how the squad have fared so far during the campaign.

Brazil international Alisson Becker arrived at the club during the Summer for what was a world record fee at the time after Liverpool agreed a deal with Italian club AS Roma. He has been absolutely superb in the main. Rival fans were rubbing their hands together after his error in possession against Leicester City followed up a near miss at Anfield against Brighton – but he learned his lesson very quickly and has been immaculate with the ball at his feet since. He’s conceded the fewest goals in the Premier League so far this season and has the best save percentage. His quick thinking has helped lead to goals against Fulham, Everton and Burnley recently and that only adds to his value to the team. Nobody is talking about how much he cost anymore and he is very much in the mix when talking about not only the best goalkeepers in the country, but in the world. He’s exactly what we’ve needed since Pepe Reina lost his best form and left the club. A+

Another player who cost a world record fee, which still stands, when he signed is central defender Virgil Van Dijk. The Dutch international skipper has put down a serious claim to be considered the best in the business since arriving at Anfield in January this year in a £75m deal from Southampton. Some onlookers were staggered by the kind of fee Jurgen Klopp was prepared to shell out to bring him to Merseyside, but few are still querying that now. Van Dijk has composure, leadership, power, pace, aerial ability and can ping a pass forward with casual ease. He has been a major catalyst in the defensive improvements that have seen Liverpool become a title contender this season and is the defensive organiser we’ve missed since Jamie Carragher called it quits in 2013. The only criticism which could be levelled at him is that he doesn’t score enough goals given his physique and presence in the opposition box, but he more than makes up for that with the tasks in his remit. A+

England international Joe Gomez has come of age in 2018. The former Charlton Athletic defender has come into the side to play centrally alongside Van Dijk and few have questioned why he is getting picked ahead of Dejan Lovren. He has shown composure, confidence and a calmness which has been missing from a string of defenders charged with playing in the middle of the Liverpool defence. The injury he has suffered in the 3-1 victory over Burnley this week could be a real blow to the side. Gomez has formed a partnership with Van Dijk which is developing alongside their friendship off the pitch. Hopefully he can make a quick recovery and continue setting about becoming the best English centre-back around. A

Right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold, who is also an emerging England international, has had a breakthrough year in 2018. He not only played his way into the Liverpool side last season, but also managed to snatch himself a place on the plane to the World Cup as part of Gareth Southgate’s squad. He recently found the net for both club and country and is quickly developing into one of the most promising talents Anfield has seen over the past fifteen years or so. Needs to work on his crossing and corners, but his set piece strike against Watford showed that he can place a dead ball well. Is still young and has plenty of developing to do, but looks solid as the first-choice option on the right-hand side of the back four. B+

It has been a year of mixed emotions for Croatia international Dejan Lovren, having played in and lost both the Champions League and World Cup finals. He looked to be forging a promising partnership alongside Van Dijk after the Dutchman’s arrival midway through last season, but he started the campaign injured and has been unable to reclaim his place from Gomez. Is a very good option to have as third choice in the squad and will be looking to stake his claim to be upgraded back up to regular status during the absence of the young defender over the festive period. Seemed to blossom playing alongside a more composed and authoritative defender in Van Dijk and could focus more on his own game. He hasn’t let the side down when he’s been called upon and remains as determined to succeed as ever. B

Scotland international captain Andrew Robertson is quietly going about installing himself as the best left-back in the Premier League. His tireless energy and endless work-rate have seen him cement his place in the side. He works well in tandem with left-sided forward Sadio Mane and the two have doubled up to terrorise opposition defences since he broke into the side midway through the 2017/18 campaign following a gentle integration after his arrival from relegated Hull City. Looks increasingly more a steal at around £8m with each passing game and has become one of, if not the, most consistent performers in Jurgen Klopp’s squad. A

Former Schalke defender Joel Matip looks to be fourth in the queue for regular football at the heart of the Liverpool defence as things stand. Is an able footballer, but often looks a touch lightweight for the rigours of Premier League action. Can be a little too hesitant and lacking in assertiveness, which could potentially be due to a rustiness thanks to the inconsistency of his appearances. Few could argue, however, that having a player who was previously considered one of the best centre-backs in the Bundesliga before his arrival at Anfield in 2016 as fourth choice is a good thing. Grabbed himself a goal in the 3-0 win over Southampton in September and has stated his desire to ignore interest in January in order to stay and fight for his place. He will hope that the absence of Gomez through injury will present opportunities for him to show what he can do. He will want to perform better than he did against Red Star Belgrade recently though. B-

It looks like the much-maligned Alberto Moreno will finally be leaving the club when the contract he signed upon his arrival from Sevilla back in 2014 expires at the end of the campaign. He has been used more sparingly by Klopp as time has gone on, but his determination to give it all he’s got and not let anyone down remains in tact. Moreno seems so focused on giving it 100% that his attention and concentration can move away from the game and see him caught out of position at times. Had a fairly poor game at home against Chelsea in the defeat which saw the club exit the League Cup back in September, but didn’t let the team down against Cardiff City or Burnley when called upon. Will not be short of offers from his homeland when he comes to choose who he will join on a free transfer at the end of the season. C+

The future does not look bright for Nathaniel Clyne when it comes to his prospects of staying at Anfield beyond the end of the campaign. The England international right-back had a long spell out injured before returning earlier this year to find Alexander-Arnold and Gomez rotating his position in the side. He’s been unable to win it back, having barely played, and looks nailed on to be leaving Liverpool in 2019. He won’t be short of offers from other Premier League clubs, with a few believed to be lining up offers to try and tempt the club in to letting him go in January. His experience could prove useful while Gomez is out injured over Christmas as he would offer some respite for Alexander-Arnold as the fixtures pile up. Klopp is unlikely to want to let him go halfway through the season, but is likely to allow it when the campaign is over. D

Captain Jordan Henderson is unlikely to have seen so much competition for places in the Liverpool midfield since his arrival at Anfield back in 2011. He has faced plenty of scrutiny over his spot in the side since taking the captaincy back in 2015 when Steven Gerrard left and has a fight on his hands to keep hold of his number 6 role in the team. The arrival of Brazil international Fabinho and emergence of Georginio Wijnaldum as a genuine option for the deep-lying position means that he is under pressure to perform consistently or he will face being rotated or dropped to the bench. Klopp has always rated him and recently gave him further backing as skipper when announcing that the squad had voted over who should be third and fourth vice-captains. Injuries and suspension have seen him come in and out of the side this season, which has meant a struggle to maintain consistency. Will be very keen to show what he can do over the second half of the campaign. B-

Former England international James Milner has continued to be a trusted lieutenant for Klopp. His workrate continues to be staggeringly high for a player of his age and he offers a calmness from the penalty spot lacking in some of the attacking players further up the pitch. Loves to get stuck in, which makes him a great option for battles of attrition against the likes of Burnley on a wet Wednesday night in December. He too faces more competition for a place in the team than he’s been used to at Anfield, but will treat it the same as he does any other challenge – with belief and gusto. B+

Dutchman Georginio Wijnaldum continues to be one of Klopp’s most used players this season. There are fans who question what he brings to the team, with plenty of performances that some perceive to be quiet. But his effectiveness can be seen by those who dig a little deeper than surface level. The former Newcastle United midfielder is never going to a prolific goalscorer and he doesn’t have the defensive prowess of a player like Javier Mascherano, but his recycling of the ball and neat passing make him a very proficient element of the midfield. He offers versatility as well, which can prove useful when tactical switches are required to adapt during a game. B+

There was plenty of hype, most of which was justified, when Naby Keita finally arrived at the club following a long wait after the deal was agreed with RB Leipzig during the Summer of 2017. Many thought he was going to hit the ground running following his impressive debut in the 4-0 win over West Ham on the opening weekend of the season. A few bright moments against Crystal Palace only increased the expectation that Liverpool now had a roving box to box midfielder to link the departments of the side together. But he had a quiet spell, with injuries helping to block his progress, before again showing what convinced Klopp to wait over a year and spend a fairly big fee on his services against Burnley this week. He put in a man of the match performances and has got fans excited that he is about to start showing his best form. B-

Brazil international Fabinho has had to be a patient man so far this season. He has been slowly integrated into the side and has not been given the chance to start a series of games as yet. Some very encouraging performances against Red Star Belgrade, Cardiff City and Everton have made people question why he isn’t being given the chance to show what is capable of over an extended period. But others will point to the Arsenal game as an example of why Klopp has been gentle with the introduction of the man he signed from AS Monaco shortly after the Champions League final in May. Fabinho has offered defensive protection in midfield, with his interceptions and tackles often sparking attacks. He is likely to be used more frequently as the season progresses if he continues his adaptation to the system as he has so far. B

Before some long spells out injured, Adam Lallana was one of Klopp’s most trusted players. But things have changed a lot for the England international and he now faces a serious battle to get back into the Liverpool side. The lack of creative midfielders in the squad should be a positive factor for the former Southampton man, but he has struggled to get going and is starting to look like someone who the team has left behind during his absences. While some fans have been patient and forgiven some underwhelming performances, others have been quick to point out that Lallana looks too slow and laboured in possession for the way the team plays. Talk of Christian Pulisic being a transfer target and the progress shown by Harry Wilson on loan at Championship side Derby County will not be doing his long-term prospects any favours. D

And nor will the Summer signing of Swiss international Xherdan Shaqiri from Stoke City. The former Basel, Bayern Munich and Inter Milan man has come close to moving to Anfield so many times in the past that he must have thought the boat had sailed on his chances of being a Red. But he finally got his chance when his old club were relegated from the Premier League last season and has looked an absolute bargain at £13m odd. He has managed to score three goals so far and has chipped in a couple of assists too. Looks our most dangerous attacking midfielder by a country mile and has provided the link between the midfield and attack so sorely missing on several occasions since Philippe Coutinho left in January and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain got injured. Shaqiri could have shown frustration with his lack of game time earlier on in the season, and some would have expected it of him given his reputation, but he has kept being positive and is seeing the benefits. He is getting more comfortable in the side with each appearance and will be a key player for us going into the second half of the season. A-

A lot of football fans were predicting that Mohamed Salah would be unable to carry the explosive form of his first season as a Liverpool player over into his second campaign at the club. Some will feel that they were right to predict that, as his prolific form in front of goal has slowed down this season. But others will point to the setback of the shoulder injury suffered in the Champions League final being followed up by premature return to action for Egypt at the World Cup. He’s still managed to find the back of the net nine times in twenty-one appearances so far this season, but does need to step up somewhat in the bigger games. Is finding his feet in the more calm system being deployed this season and faces the problem of being doubled up on by opposition defenders. Could also benefit from more form from his attacking colleagues. B+

Former Southampton winger Sadio Mane started the season well. He was scoring regularly and looked to have carried his sparkling form over from last season. But things slowed down a little for the Senegal international and he has been in generally mixed form over the past couple of months. He has managed to score seven goals in eighteen appearances so far this season, which perhaps indicates that the standards set last season are perhaps too high a demand to be replicated. His agreeing to sign a contract extension is a big positive and he now joins Salah and Firmino in being committed to Anfield long-term. Is still finding goalscoring positions regularly, but has left his shooting boots in the changing room on a few occasions – most notably against Everton at the weekend, when he could easily have had a hat-trick. If he, and his strike partners, can spark into life in the second half of the season then we could really push Manchester City all the way. B+

Forward Roberto Firmino has struggled to carry over his the form that saw him notch twenty-seven goals in all competitions last season. He has looked a lot more quiet and there are concerns that the Brazil international is jaded after such an energy-sapping 2017/18 campaign, with some claiming he is suffering with a World Cup hangover. Has managed to score just six goals so far this season and isn’t showing the same level of selflessness that saw him become so integral to the side last season. His workrate and determination were key to Salah and Mane last season and the three of them having found quite the same level of understanding yet this season. B-

The return to fitness of Daniel Sturridge was greeted by joy from a lot of Liverpool supporters – and his goalscoring form in preseason only served to fire up the coals further. He came off the bench to instantly get his name on the scoresheet against West Ham in the opening game of the season and that saw expectations grow in the stands. Goals against Paris Saint Germain and Chelsea have shown his worth to the squad and he has seemingly moved into the role of super sub off the back of his wonder strike at Stamford Bridge. Things were dampened by a dire first-half showing against Red Star Belgrade, in which he missed a sitter, and he is not under quite the same level of expectation now. Is a handy option to have on the bench at present, but his big wages won’t be on offer next Summer should the club decide to try and extend his stay. B

Belgian international Divock Origi looked nailed on to leave Anfield in the Summer after a relatively disappointing loan season with VfL Wolfsburg last year. But he has worked really hard in training and spoken positively about his desire to make the most of his return to the club this season. Many will feel that there was poetic justice in his late winner against Everton after a nasty foul by their former defender Ramiro Funes Mori ended his 2015/16 campaign. He didn’t really seize his moment against Burnley when handed a rare start, but has shown that he at least offers something as a squad player going into the business end of the campaign. C+

Things looked to be a bit more bright for Dominic Solanke after he finally notched his first goal for the club in the last Premier League fixture of last season against Brighton at Anfield in May. But he has struggled to even get on to the bench much of the time this season and a loan move in January looks his only realistic option of playing regular football during the current campaign. D