Rodrygo Goes is making waves at Real Madrid but could have been shining at Liverpool were it not for his former Santos coach Elano.

Madrid paid out a reported €45million to seal Rodrygo's signature in June 2018, by which time he had only made 13 appearances in the Campeonato Brasileiro, though he remained at Santos for another year.

The 18-year-old has made a quick impact at the Santiago Bernabeu, with his hat-trick in the 6-0 Champions League thrashing of Galatasaray on Wednesday moving him onto five goals in six appearances for Los Blancos.

Premier League giants Liverpool held an interest in Rodrygo before Madrid made a formal approach, but Elano felt their bid was insufficient.

"There was a time when there was very strong interest from Liverpool for him to leave when he was still in the youth team," Elano told ESPN.com.br.

"The values were very low, but they wanted to go. Real's offer afterwards was around €30million more.

"I had a conversation with the staff and said the boy was worth the risk and we should promote him because I wanted to work with him. Thank God everything worked out.

"He already had good decision-making at the professional level at you age. Different players have it early on. When they can control it, they get better and better.

"Despite his young age, he has already formed a maturity and game personality. He has technical ability and very precise control of his movements. It did not take long for him to adapt to the senior level. It was very fast.

"I believe so much in his personality and his football. He still has room to grow."

Fernandinho believes Manchester City showed the battling qualities they will need to end their Anfield hoodoo during the second half of Wednesday's eventful 1-1 Champions League draw against Atalanta.

Pep Guardiola's side led 1-0 at the interval thanks to Raheem Sterling's sublime seventh-minute opener and should have made their superiority weigh more heavily, with Gabriel Jesus dragging a dismal penalty wide.

But Ederson was withdrawn before the restart due to a thigh injury and substitute goalkeeper Claudio Bravo's first task was to pluck Mario Pasalic's emphatic 49th-minute header from his net.

City struggled to regain their earlier rhythm as Gian Piero Gasperino's men found a frenetic and effective tempo, and Bravo's outing got worse when he was sent off for charging out of his area to foul Josip Ilicic.

That meant Kyle Walker being introduced as an emergency keeper – the right-back's tentative save from Ruslan Malinovskiy's free-kick bringing chants of "England's number one" from the travelling supporters at San Siro.

City held out for a 1-1 draw that left them five points clear at the top of Group C, their progress to the last 16 virtually assured as attention turns towards Sunday's mouth-watering Premier League showdown with Liverpool.

Jurgen Klopp's league leaders are six points ahead of the reigning champions, who last won at Anfield in 2003.

"I think the main thing was the mentality of the guys," said Fernandinho, who was again deployed at centre-back. "In difficult situations like this we have to stick together and we did.

"This is important because we are building a team to be champions and sometimes to be champions you have to play games like this.

"Now it is good because everybody is understanding what we are building."

Guardiola reported Ederson's thigh injury was "not big" but he is unsure whether his influential number one will be available to face Liverpool.

Irrespective of whether his fellow Brazil international recovers in time, Fernandinho feels City will try to end 16-and-a-half years of Merseyside frustration with confidence.

"The mentality is always try to win the game," he added.

"There's always a first time in life, no? We are searching for this first time to win at Anfield. I am confident we can go there and try to win the game.

"Of course, we will see with Ederson's situation. We are going to train and the medical staff are going to check him and we are going to see if he will be fit or not for Sunday."

Liverpool will not face any action from UEFA after supporters displayed an inappropriate banner of Divock Origi ahead of last month's Champions League clash at Genk.

Reds fans unfurled the banner during the warm-up before the clash in Belgium and the club later condemned it as "offensive", suggesting it "perpetuated a racist stereotype".

However, the incident was not included in any official reports and so UEFA will not open a case, Omnisport understands.

Jurgen Klopp's side won the game 4-1 and also beat Genk in the return fixture on Tuesday to sit top of Group E in defence of their European crown. 

Some players thrive under the spotlight more than others – Liverpool will hope Sadio Mane proves his mettle against Manchester City, when the focus will be on him for more than one reason.

Mane has established himself as one of the Premier League's great entertainers and arguably Liverpool's biggest attacking threat, yet he has also earned himself a reputation as a purveyor of the dark arts – or "diving", as Pep Guardiola put it on Saturday.

Earlier that day, Mane had gone down very easily in the penalty area during Liverpool's 2-1 win at Aston Villa. Under pressure from Frederic Guilbert, the forward theatrically went to ground and was swiftly shown a yellow card for simulation by referee Jon Moss.

Jurgen Klopp and Mane have had their say since and come to the conclusion that the Senegal forward is not a "diver" – and even Guardiola appeared to backtrack – yet this weekend he will come under intense scrutiny over his conduct, performance and attitude, particularly given that this was by no means the first time the former Southampton star courted flak for diving.

Considering Mane's importance to Liverpool, Klopp will be desperate for him to harness that attention to the Reds' benefit on the big stage, something Sergio Aguero has become remarkably adept at. 

Aguero the benchmark

Since joining City from Atletico Madrid in 2011, Aguero's productivity in games against the so-called "big six" has been truly remarkable.

In 67 matches, Aguero has scored 44 goals from 241 shots with a conversion rate of 18.3 per cent. Against any standard of opposition that would be considered outstanding – to boast such a record against the Premier League's best is astonishing.

But he is yet to score in seven trips to Anfield, making it his least favourite away ground. 

Jamie Vardy is the closest to Aguero in terms of goals, with 31 in 59 matches. While that may not be as impressive, the fact that haul comes from 109 shots – giving him a startling 28.4 per cent conversion rate – suggests he relishes such occasions like few others.

Mane's record of 18 goals in 53 matches against the top sides may pale in comparison, but it remains impressive and is bettered by only six players.

Sadio the main Mane at Anfield

There is little doubt Mane has become the most influential attacker at Liverpool this season, with 12 goal involvements (nine goals, three assists). Mohamed Salah has 10 split equally between goals and assists, while Roberto Firmino is on nine (five goals, four assists).

Mane's nine goals across all competitions may not be groundbreaking, but it is only one shy of Raheem Sterling and two fewer than Aguero.

He has proven to be a vital creator for the Reds as well, laying on 29 chances for team-mates, six more than Firmino and eight better than Salah.

It is also worth pointing out Mane's 20.9 per cent conversion rate, as that too is significantly better than those posted by Salah (7.9 per cent) and Firmino (13.2 per cent).

Mane out to make a splash

Mane's reply to Guardiola after Liverpool's Champions League win over Genk suggested he is handling the situation rather comfortably.

Not only did he admit he would do what he did against Villa – what he considered to not be a dive – again, he insisted Guardiola's comments won't change him.

Given he has established himself as Liverpool's chief attacking threat, that'll be music to the ears of Klopp as he prepares his side to potentially go nine points clear at the Premier League summit.

Klopp will hope Mane can make a splash of the right kind against the champions at Anfield.

James Maddison and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have won recalls to the England squad for this month's Euro 2020 qualifiers.

Leicester City playmaker Maddison was called up by Gareth Southgate in October but withdrew from the squad due to illness, and there was then some controversy when he was pictured in a casino during England's 2-1 defeat to the Czech Republic in Prague.

However, his fine club form has seen him handed another chance to make his senior Three Lions debut, while Oxlade-Chamberlain also returns after impressing for Liverpool in recent weeks.

Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi has also been brought back into the senior fold, having featured for the Under-21s last month.

There is no room for Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish, while Tottenham's Dele Alli and Manchester United's Jesse Lingard have failed to win back their places.

Chelsea midfielder Mason Mount is included despite concern about an ankle injury, while Manchester City centre-back John Stones also returns.

England face Montenegro at Wembley on November 14 needing only a point to secure their place at the Euro 2020 finals.

Southgate's men then take on Kosovo in their final Group A match on November 17.

 

Kevin De Bruyne is relishing the prospect of a pumped-up Anfield when champions Manchester City travel to face Premier League leaders Liverpool on Sunday.

City are six points in arrears, having suffered surprise losses to Norwich City and Wolves in their pursuit of a third straight title, while Jurgen Klopp's men remain unbeaten domestically.

Aside from needing to knock Liverpool off their unrelenting stride, City are also faced with overturning a dismal record on the red side of Stanley Park.

Their previous win at Anfield came in May 2003, while Pep Guardiola's vintage suffered the first Premier League defeat of their dominant 2017-18 campaign on Merseyside before being dumped out of the same season's Champions League by Liverpool.

The atmosphere created by the home supporters has been cited as a factor in City's struggles in the fixture, although it is of no concern to midfield maestro De Bruyne.

"I prefer to play in that [rather] than when there is nobody," he said.

"Professionals want to play in front of 50, 60, 70, 80 thousand people and it makes it worthwhile.

"You train all your life to get to the big stages. I want to compete for titles and to be the best, and to do that you have to win against the best.

"Obviously it’s a big gap, but four weeks ago people were saying it was Liverpool’s [title] to lose. I’m not keeping track of what people say – we play so many games.

"The media will make a lot of it, and people have been talking about it for the whole week, even before the Champions League, but we just do our job, keep calm and prepare ourselves."

City's midweek Champions League outing certainly proved eventful, with right-back Kyle Walker helping to see out a 1-1 draw against Atalanta as an emergency goalkeeper after Ederson and Claudio Bravo were injured and sent off respectively.

Walker enjoys putting himself between the posts during penalty contests in training but De Bruyne did not sense much of that bravado as the England defender prepared to enter the fray at San Siro.

"He's buzzing. Sometimes he jokes in training about playing in goal but obviously he will have been shaking a little bit," the Belgium international said.

"He did what he had to do, and we didn’t give them many opportunities. It happens, and you have to improvise, and he did his job."

City led through Raheem Sterling's wonderfully worked seventh-minute goal and should have been in a far more comfortable position before the goalkeeping carnage ensued.

Gabriel Jesus tamely missed a 43rd-minute penalty – an untimely reminder of his side's frailties from the spot given Riyad Mahrez blazed over during last season's goalless draw at Liverpool.

"It doesn't matter," De Bruyne replied when asked whether City should have ended their Anfield hoodoo last term.

"It's a different game, different season, with other players on the pitch. Everyone is at a different stage. We just have to prepare ourselves."

On that barren run stretching back 16-and-a-half years, he added: "It's for you guy to keep track, I don’t care. A lot of circumstances will decide the game. What can a player do with statistics like this?"

Jurgen Klopp insists he could not hold Pep Guardiola in higher esteem despite the Manchester City manager's recent comments about Liverpool "diving".

Mane scored a late winner for Liverpool in Saturday's 2-1 Premier League win at Aston Villa but was earlier shown a yellow card for simulation, having previously been criticised after winning a contentious late spot-kick against Leicester City.

Guardiola seemed to take a swipe at the Senegal forward by telling BBC Sport "sometimes he is diving", prompting Klopp to defend his player and hit back at City by accusing them of the "tactical fouls" the Catalan has often insisted he does not encourage.

The issue has dominated much of the build-up to Sunday's huge showdown between the top two at Anfield, but Klopp has sought to move on by underlining his respect for his opposite number, after Guardiola backtracked by saying he did not mean to accuse Mane of cheating.

"I am in the same situation as him: we constantly get asked questions and sometimes we say at that second what is in our minds without thinking about anything else," Klopp told Sky Sports.

"He explained it well, he said when he speaks to his kids it's like this, was it a penalty or not – that's a discussion they had at home.

"I am completely fine with that. I couldn't have more respect for Pep Guardiola, I've known him for so long. It's still a big thing to be his contender. To me, he's the best manager in the world and we have the chance to win against his team, which is very difficult but it's possible. We've had a few good results against them so from my side there is nothing but respect."

Klopp also admitted he would prefer to take back his comment on tactical fouls, saying: "I then said what I said but come on, I can't let it go completely without a comment! But I am really not interested. I think there's enough to write about, it's not necessary that we make it bigger.

"If I could do it again, I wouldn't say it [the line about the tactical fouls] because it's just not necessary. I know from the other side as well, there is a lot of respect there. Everything else will be decided on the pitch."

Liverpool, whose last Premier League defeat was away to City in January, are six points clear of the champions at the top of the table heading into the encounter on Merseyside.

Klopp certainly plans to go for the win rather than focus on avoiding defeat, but he does not think the match will prove decisive in the title race.

"We know about the situation last year and we only lost one game, against City, and that was decisive at the end, and that's how people maybe see it, but you have to play all the games. If we win against City and don't win another game after that, there's no use," said the Reds manager.

"There is so much still to come. November, December and January are coming.

"Maybe other people [who] are smarter than me can see it like this. For me it's a 100 per cent win game. This must-win thing I've never understood.

"For us to prepare for a game like this, you have to do the right things again and again.

"I can imagine people are saying we must not lose and they must win. I don't really care – we want to win. And then we will see what the situation is. It's a big one, we know that. The whole world will be watching and I'm looking forward to it.

"In the last couple of years, we've gained a lot of respect for each other, not that I didn't have respect for City and Pep Guardiola teams already. City's performance at Anfield last year was the biggest show of respect I ever got because they played differently to what they usually do.

"I like to think about what we can do. We play at home but the game there we lost by 11 millimetres because the ball was not in. Without that it would be another draw and it would be deserved. I expect a tight game."

City goalkeeper Ederson is a doubt after going off at half-time of the 1-1 Champions League draw at Atalanta on Wednesday, but Klopp expects the Brazil international to play.

"If he couldn't play it would change [things] because he's an important part of their game," he said. "[Claudio] Bravo can do certain things he can do but I expect him to play 100 per cent. Last night was precautionary."

Talk of diving and tactical fouls has only added fuel to the fire as Liverpool and Manchester City face off in a mouth-watering top-of-the-table Premier League clash at Anfield.

The unbeaten league-leading Reds needed an 87th-minute header from Andy Robertson and an injury-time winner from Sadio Mane to defeat Aston Villa 2-1 last time out and preserve a six-point cushion over City.

Champions City needed to rally themselves to overcome Southampton, after which manager Pep Guardiola stoked the fires by saying of Liverpool's star forward Mane: "Sometimes he [Mane] is diving. Sometimes he has this talent to score incredible goals in the last minute. He's a talent."

It was a suggestion Klopp bridled at and, although Guardiola later sought to clarify the meaning of his comments, Liverpool's German boss could not resist a cheeky jibe at past accusations his rival's side commit "tactical fouls".

It has undoubtedly added an intriguing sub-plot ahead of one of the most eagerly awaited Premier League matches in recent memory as Liverpool seek to significantly boost their bid to end a near 30-year wait for top-flight glory.

Last season, Liverpool lost just once in the league but still missed out by a solitary point to City, who it is fair to say have failed to excel when playing at Anfield.

 

PEP'S KLOPP HOODOO ENDING?

Guardiola's record would stand up against any coach he has faced, but in Klopp he undoubtedly has a genuine rival.

Since becoming Barcelona boss in 2008, Guardiola has lost more matches across all competitions against the former Borussia Dortmund coach than any other manager, with the German triumphing on seven occasions.

City's Catalan boss is unbeaten in his past three encounters with Klopp; however, never before has he gone four games without losing against him.

In the Premier League, there is no splitting the duo with Guardiola and Klopp holding two wins apiece and a couple of draws from the six times they have faced one another in the competition.

Klopp should take solace from some home comforts. Five of the seven wins he holds over Guardiola have come when his team have been at their own stadium, including three with Liverpool at Anfield.

Under Guardiola, City have failed to score in just six of 62 Premier League away games and three of those have come on Merseyside – two against Liverpool and once against Everton.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: ALISSON V EDERSON

Alisson and Ederson are not just rivals for the gloves at international level with Brazil, they are also crucial to the way Liverpool and City play.

The Reds forked out a reported £66.8million to sign Alisson from Roma in July 2018 and that outlay was repaid during a fine Golden Glove-winning debut season that yielded 21 clean sheets and saw just 22 goals conceded.

Injury has restricted Liverpool's first-choice keeper to just four league outings this term, including the opener against Norwich when he was subbed off with a calf problem, and he has an impressive minutes-to-goals-conceded ratio of 103.

Crucial to modern-day goalkeeping is the ability to play out from the back and Alisson brings that to the Reds, boasting a passing accuracy of 83.9 per cent.

Ederson has been equally crucial to City's domestic dominance under Guardiola, winning the Premier League title in his first two campaigns at the Etihad Stadium, including a league, FA Cup and EFL Cup treble in 2018-19.

This term, he has kept five clean sheets in 11 league appearances, conceding 10 goals and possessing a save percentage of 74.4.

As expected, Ederson's passing accuracy is high – 90.1 per cent – and he will have to be typically quick with his feet against the brilliance of Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.

FORM GUIDE: ANFIELD A FORTRESS FOR LIVERPOOL

Liverpool are unbeaten in 28 consecutive Premier League games, which represents the eighth best streak in the competition's history.

At Anfield, Klopp's side are on an even more impressive run having not tasted defeat on home soil in 45 league games – only Chelsea's 86-game run that ended in October 2008 can beat that.

City will have to go some to prevent Liverpool from finding the back of the net, with the Merseysiders scoring in 20 straight league matches – the last time they failed to register was a goalless draw with Everton in March.

Guardiola's side have lost two of their last seven league games, having been beaten just once in 23 prior to that, but they have won 13 of their past 15 away matches.

Liverpool only have one win from their most recent five league encounters with City – a 4-3 triumph at Anfield in January 2018 – but have not lost at home against the Citizens since May 2003.

Impressively, Liverpool have taken a league-high 10 points from losing positions already this season, winning their last two Premier League games despite conceding first – they have never achieved the feat in three straight matches in the competition.

HISTORY SAYS...

Liverpool have a formidable home record against City, losing just one of their last 28 games at Anfield against this Sunday's visitors – the lone defeat being a 2-1 setback in May 2003.

Indeed, their most recent 16 encounters with City at Anfield have returned 11 wins and five draws.

However, Liverpool's only defeat in their past 50 Premier League games against all opposition came against Guardiola's side in January.

City should be wary of the fact Liverpool have won more Premier League games against reigning champions (21) than any other team in the competition's history, last losing a home match in such a circumstance against Manchester United in December 2007.

Sadio Mane has no plan to change his style of play after Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola accused the Liverpool forward of diving ahead of their crunch clash this weekend.

Mane was shown a yellow card during Liverpool's 2-1 win at Aston Villa last weekend after referee Jon Moss adjudged him to have simulated contact under pressure from Frederic Guilbert.

Guardiola pointed the finger at Mane later that day, saying "sometimes he is diving" after being asked about the Reds' star man ahead of City's trip to Anfield this Sunday.

Although Guardiola clarified his comments on Tuesday, claiming it was not his intention to call Mane a diver, Jurgen Klopp defended his player by insisting there was contact in the incident against Villa.

Mane is not letting Guardiola's comments get to him.

"There was contact, for sure," Mane told reporters. "Maybe it was not a penalty and he [the referee] didn't give it, and he gave me a yellow card. To be honest I don't have any problem about it.

"For sure, it can happen in football and we have seen many people, some diving and get penalties, some got a penalty and the referee didn't give it. That's football. You have to deal with it.

"I think it's a bit clever from him to get the attention of the referee, but I will just play my football like I'm always doing.

"I don't pay attention to what he's saying because it's part of football. Even though I saw him commenting about it, what he said, for me, I think it's positive.

"[I will keep playing] like I'm always doing. It's what I want to keep doing. If I get a penalty, yeah it's a penalty. If no penalty, no penalty, but [I will never] change the way I'm playing or the way I'm doing my things."

Liverpool head into Sunday's match six points clear of the defending champions after only failing to win one of their first 11 matches this term and it was put to Mane that Guardiola's comments came from a position of fear.

"Maybe, I don't know, you guys [reporters] know more than me," he said. "The only thing I can say I will be for sure ready for the team, to give everything possible, and to help my team.

"If it could be a penalty for sure I will 'dive' again. If the dive will give me a penalty, then I will do it to get it back. Why not? But what Jurgen said is correct; I do not dive."

Pep Guardiola has been known to readily remind journalists in his news conferences that he understands how to cope with an injury crisis.

The Manchester City manager likes to recall his first Champions League final, when Barcelona faced a rampant Manchester United in Rome with Yaya Toure at centre-back, Carles Puyol shunted out to right-back and veteran Sylvinho in the other wide defensive position.

Barca dazzled during a 2-0 win that sent one of the greatest club teams in history on their way into the stratosphere.

So, when all Guardiola's senior City centre-backs were injured this season, no problem. Defensive midfielders Fernandinho and Rodri could play there - and they did exactly that during back-to-back wins over Crystal Palace and Atalanta.

It was the same when Benjamin Mendy missed the bulk of the past two seasons, as career midfielders Fabian Delph and Oleksandr Zinchenko simply became very passable left-backs. Zinchenko still is one.

David Silva's addition to a weighty Etihad Stadium injury list last weekend meant namesake Bernardo starting in a central attacking midfield position alongside Kevin De Bruyne for Wednesday's 1-1 draw against Atalanta at San Siro.

What glorious riches, and they were cashed in as the Portugal playmaker arrowed a pass for a first-time backheel by Gabriel Jesus that fell into Raheem Sterling's stride for a first-time finish. Sterling, one of the outstanding attackers in world football, was darting in off a left flank that Leroy Sane will be unable to occupy until he recovers from cruciate ligament damage.

There are answers to most conundrums Guardiola has to address and the impression is he often revels in doing so. But the scene that unfolded from half-time onwards at San Siro will have done nothing to whet his appetite ahead of City's crunch trip to Liverpool in the Premier League this weekend.

Claudio Bravo was warming up. Fairly extensively. He was coming on.

Ederson made way as a precaution, with a thigh injury to shake off before Sunday. Guardiola will hope the injury is as minor as a miner driving a Morris Minor. And maybe a little more minor than that.

For all the exquisite talents in his outfield array, no Guardiola signing has been more pivotal to his back-to-back Premier League titles in England than his Brazil international between the posts.

It should be added that the first trophy the Spaniard won with his current employers, the 2018 EFL Cup, arrived with Bravo in goal having been a penalty shoot-out hero against Wolves and Leicester City in the earlier rounds. But what came before in his debut campaign marks the former Barcelona man's standing with the City faithful.

If Wednesday at one of European football's most famous arenas represented a fresh page for Bravo, he promptly poured some of that oil Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have been talking about this week and set it on fire.

He could do little about Mario Pasalic powering home a 49th-minute equaliser, but his first act was still to pick the ball out of the net. It recalled that mid-season spell during his nightmare 2016-17 when every shot on target seemed to herald an opposition goal. Willy Caballero was eventually called up to spare him.

There were plenty of other things Bravo might have done in the 81st minute instead of belying the experience of his 36 years and a career that has yielded two Copas America and LaLiga titles, among multiple honours.

His rash challenge on Josip Ilicic was a clear red card. Bravo became the first substitute goalkeeper in Champions League history to be sent off.

When emergency keeper Kyle Walker - apparently an enthusiast in the role during training ground penalty contests - nervously kept out the resulting free-kick from Ruslan Malinovskiy to earn harrumphing chants of "England's number one" from the City faithful, he had made more saves in the game than Bravo. It was not a statistically strong few minutes for the veteran.

The stats that loom largest over this pivotal week are Liverpool's six-point lead over the champions at the Premier League summit and the 16-and-a-half years that have passed since City last won at Anfield.

Guardiola can take heart from the resilience his depleted team showed before a baying crowd as opponents in Atalanta had the bit between their teeth.

However, if he is to be without Ederson, the inimitable thread who brought his whole tapestry together, the chances of overturning those numbers on Merseyside have shifted uncomfortably close to improbable.

Pep Guardiola is uncertain if he will have goalkeeper Ederson available for selection when Manchester City face Liverpool in Sunday's crunch Premier League encounter.

Ederson was taken off at half-time with a "muscular problem" in City's chaotic 1-1 draw with Atalanta in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Having not had to make a save in the first half, Ederson was replaced by Claudio Bravo, whose first act was to pick the ball out of his net after Mario Pasalic's brilliant header cancelled out Raheem Sterling's early opener.

Matters were made worse for City late on as Bravo saw red for a reckless lunge on Josip Ilicic, meaning right-back Kyle Walker was called upon from the bench to play the closing stages in goal.

City's focus now turns to Anfield, where Premier League leaders Liverpool would extend the gap at the top to nine points with a victory, and Guardiola acknowledged Ederson may be unable to feature.

"I don't know right now. It is a muscular problem. It was not big but [we replaced him] to avoid more risk," Guardiola told reporters when asked for an update on Ederson during a news conference.

"He did not feel comfortable in the last minutes of the first half. That's why we decided to make a substitution. But for now we don't know."

Pointing at his thigh, Guardiola added: "It was muscular, in front of here. He is strong. We want to try with him, but we are not going to take a risk."

Bravo never looked settled after coming on for the second period and failed to make a save before he became the first substitute goalkeeper in Champions League history to receive a red card.

However, Guardiola has no concerns over starting Bravo, who protested his red card before the decision was eventually upheld by VAR, at Anfield if Ederson is not fit.

"It's a red card – it was given so it's a red card," Guardiola said. "He's ready. He's an incredible, experienced professional. He's ready.

"It is what it is. If Ederson is ready, he is gong to play. If not we will play Claudio. We trust him. Why should I doubt any players I have in my squad?"

Guardiola also hailed the mentality of Walker, who was immediately called into action to keep out Ruslan Malinovskiy's free-kick.

"Xavi Mancisidor, our goalkeeper coach, suggested him for his courage, because he is quick," Guardiola said of the England defender. 

"We are lucky we only conceded one shot on target when he was in goal but congratulations for the courage and desire to help the team in this position."

Jurgen Klopp jokingly suggested Liverpool will ask Aston Villa to play their upcoming EFL Cup quarter-final in Qatar after it was confirmed the tie will take place the day before a Club World Cup contest.

The EFL announced on Tuesday that Liverpool will face Villa on December 17 as initially planned, despite the club attempting to rearrange it because of their commitments in Qatar, with a semi-final scheduled for December 18.

Although a change was not possible, Liverpool did reach a compromise with organisers that will allow them to select a squad for the EFL Cup that will be entirely different to the group of players heading to Qatar.

Klopp is remaining positive about the situation, however, and joked that Villa might fancy heading abroad with them to play their match.

"We asked Aston Villa if they would come to Qatar and we can play the game there," Klopp quipped after Liverpool's 2-1 Champions League win over Genk on Tuesday.

"We don't know about logistics, we have a decision to make, but we have a bit of time to think about [how the club will approach the two games].

"In these next couple of weeks we will make a decision on how it will look exactly.

"We respect the competitions. We want to play the EFL Cup, the only thing I don't like is the two-legged semi-finals. I don't understand.

"The Club World Cup you can only play if you win the Champions League – this doesn't happen five million times.

"You hope the team goes out and everything is fine. We ignored that, our boys just want to play football and we qualified [for the EFL Cup quarter-finals].

"I don't want to cancel competitions. I've talked about the problems, they are obvious. They can't carry on like this and we need a solution."

Victory in the Champions League on Tuesday allowed Liverpool to go top of Group E, as they capitalised on Napoli only managing a 1-1 draw at home to Salzburg.

And while Klopp was grateful to avoid a scare – particularly given Genk went into the break at 1-1 – he focused on the importance of avoiding injuries, with a potentially vital Premier League clash with Manchester City looming large on the horizon.

"The most important thing; we won and nobody is injured," Klopp said. "The result is the result because we didn't finish our situations off like we should and could have done, which keeps the game pretty exciting and kept Genk alive.

"We top the group, but we want to top it at the end. We have two tough games.

"The longer the game goes the more the momentum goes to the other team. Ali [Alisson] had to make a good save. Job done is the headline for the game, but the group is not decided."

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain continued his fine form in front of goal by getting the winner as Liverpool saw off Genk 2-1 in the Champions League on Tuesday, meaning the Reds usurp Napoli at the top of Group E.

It was far from a vintage display from Jurgen Klopp's men, who for a period looked to be in danger of dropping points after Mbwana Samatta's fine header, but the impressive Oxlade-Chamberlain justified his selection with the winning goal that ensured Liverpool capitalised on Napoli's 1-1 draw with Salzburg.

Georginio Wijnaldum opened the scoring early on with a clever finish, but Liverpool lacked a clinical edge for the remainder of the first half and were pegged back by Samatta five minutes before the interval.

Still, Liverpool were dominant after the break and restored their lead with 53 minutes on the clock – Oxlade-Chamberlain getting his fourth goal in as many games to potentially put himself in contention for a start against Manchester City at the weekend.

A purposeful beginning had Liverpool leading after just 14 minutes, with Wijnaldum doing well to prod the ball into the top-left corner from close range despite it landing awkwardly in front of him.

The Reds wasted numerous chances to increase their advantage, Naby Keita drawing a fine save from Gaetan Coucke before Mohamed Salah and James Milner both missed the target.

And Samatta made them pay just before half-time, steering home a powerful header from Bryan Heynen's corner after Fabinho allowed him a free run at the ball.

But Liverpool showed renewed focus after the restart and Oxlade-Chamberlain made a decisive impact, taking a touch and then shooting left-footed on the turn after receiving Salah's pass, picking out the bottom-right corner.

Genk should have levelled late on when Heynen was released into the left side of the box, but Alisson palmed away his strike and the hosts held on despite the visitors' late pressure.

 

What does it mean? Liverpool take charge

Napoli slumping to a surprise draw at home to Salzburg means Liverpool will be confident of going on to finish top of the group.

Tuesday's performance was by no means a classic, yet it highlighted Klopp's strength in depth as he shuffled his pack and they were able to claim the win that puts them in control.

Ox in the box

Starting in attack in the place of Sadio Mane, Oxlade-Chamberlain was a real positive for the Reds. His build-up play was effective and he looked arguably the biggest danger to Genk, deservedly scoring in the second half.

Defensive concerns present again

While Genk were by no means a constant threat, it can be argued Liverpool allowed them to look dangerous. The Reds appeared particularly shaky when defending set-piece situations, with the visitors' goal coming from a corner. As such, it was the eighth successive game across all competitions in which they have conceded, their worst run under Klopp.

What's next?

Liverpool host Man City on Sunday in a match that could have significant consequences in the Premier League title race, while Genk host Gent the same day.

Pep Guardiola insisted he did not mean to suggest Sadio Mane is "this type of player" in relation to the diving row he triggered ahead of Manchester City's crunch trip to Liverpool this weekend.

Guardiola stoked pre-match tensions before Sunday's top-of-the-table clash at Anfield by accusing Liverpool forward Mane of simulation.

Mane was booked for diving during the Reds' dramatic 2-1 win at Aston Villa last Saturday, where he brilliantly headed home a stoppage-time winner.

The Senegal international also won decisive penalties during recent wins over Leicester City and Tottenham that helped to preserve Liverpool's six-point lead over champions City at the summit.

Speaking after his side's own 2-1 comeback win over Southampton on Saturday, Guardiola told BBC Match of the Day: "Sometimes he's diving, sometimes he has this talent to score incredible goals in the last minute."

Klopp bridled at that suggestion on Monday when he spoke before Liverpool's Champions League match against Genk, going to allude to inferences made previously by Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that Guardiola's City commit "tactical fouls".

The former Barcelona boss faced a news conference on the eve of City's Champions League match against Atalanta at San Siro – where a win coupled with a draw between Dinamo Zagreb and Shakhtar Donetsk would see them seal top spot in Group C – and Mane, Klopp and Liverpool were predictably on the agenda.

"My son and my daughter, all the times, when Liverpool win in the last minutes, they ask me, 'How lucky, how lucky they are'. I said at the time, 'It's not lucky'," Guardiola explained.

"What Liverpool has done this season and last season many, many times is because they have this incredible quality and incredible talent to fight to the end. That's why I say to my players – not just my son and daughter – that is not lucky.

"If it happens once or twice, yes, but it happened maybe 10 or 12 or 14 times.

"Then in the 94th minute in the game Leicester, it was a penalty – wow, like this, like that [questionable]. That was the intention of my comment but far away from the intention to say Sadio Mane is this type of player because I admire him a lot.

"For Jurgen it is a penalty, for the referee it is a penalty, for the VAR it is a penalty. I was wrong as the guy to maybe think it was [not] a penalty.

"Like Jurgen said, he knows Sadio Mane better than me. Of course, I have an incredible respect. When he says he's not like this, he's not like that."

Guardiola also suggested the edited footage of his post-match interview made his comments appear more inflammatory than they were.

"My comments, the speech is not long on the BBC. It is longer than [what appeared] on all the highlights [saying that] that I am accusing. I know how interesting it is for all of you guys," he said.

"It was praise for Liverpool, to say it was not just one action and they are lucky again. Hopefully I can clarify everything with Jurgen too."

When Klopp's observation that the City manager was overly fixated with Liverpool was mentioned, Guardiola claimed he "didn't listen" to what his opposite number had said – although his next answer to a question about the allegations of tactical fouling bellied this.

"No comment. I don't put oil on the fire," he grinned in a direct quote of one of Klopp's Monday comments.

Liverpool will play Aston Villa in the EFL Cup on December 17 as initially planned, despite their Club World Cup campaign beginning just 24 hours later.

The club have been in talks with the EFL over the possibility of rearranging the match due to their commitments with the FIFA tournament in Qatar.

Liverpool have reached a compromise with organisers that will allow them to select a squad for the EFL Cup quarter-final that will be entirely different to the group of players who will head to Qatar.

"The club would like to take this opportunity to underline that, while this is not an ideal scenario, it is an outcome which was arrived at with the best interests of the competition, our fellow clubs and ourselves as the sole motivating factor," Liverpool said in a statement.

"We would like to thank the EFL for their efforts to accommodate us, and we can confirm alternative dates were discussed, but ultimately none were considered suitable without compromising the scheduling of the competition itself or placing an undue strain on our playing staff."

Although EFL Cup rules state all clubs must play with "full available strength in and during all Cup Competition matches, unless some satisfactory reason is given", the EFL has granted Liverpool leave to name separate squads given the "exceptional circumstances" and the fact that Jurgen Klopp fielded a much-changed line-up in the previous round against Arsenal.

EFL Football Services Director, Dave Cookson, said in a statement: "The EFL is very aware of the challenges clubs face when participating across numerous competitions at home and abroad, and whilst we will always look to work with clubs our overwhelming priority has to be to protect the integrity of the [EFL] Cup and ensure any decisions taken are in the best interests of the competition.

"The EFL has long-acknowledged that this competition provides those clubs with large resources with the opportunity to rotate their squads knowing that teams who wish to be successful have to be prepared to play a large amount of matches over the course of the season.

"Therefore, in these exceptional circumstances, the decision was taken having received clear assurances from the club that there will be a level of consistency in team selection, a feature which is key to ensuring integrity is maintained.

"We recognise the challenges Liverpool face in this matter and appreciate the efforts made to find a practical solution. Finally, I would like to wish the club well in representing the English game at the upcoming FIFA Club World Cup in Qatar."

The Liverpool squad that will stay in England for the clash at Villa Park is expected to be similar to the one used in the thrilling 5-5 draw with Arsenal, a match the Red won on penalties.

James Milner, Joe Gomez, Naby Keita, Adam Lallana, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Divock Origi were the senior players to start that match.

Liverpool are scheduled to play five matches in the space of 11 days from December 10 to December 21: they face Salzburg in the Champions League and Watford in the Premier League before the cup meeting with Villa and then two matches at the Club World Cup.

They will then have five days of rest before facing Leicester City away.

The decision keeps Liverpool in both competitions, despite Klopp's warning in the aftermath of the Arsenal game that the club could withdraw if "a proper date" was not found. Rivals Manchester United notably pulled out of the 1999-2000 FA Cup due to their own involvement in the Club World Cup.

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.