Liverpool might be cruising towards the title but the runaway Premier League leaders could still face a crucial fight in the near future.

According to a new report, star centre-back Virgil van Dijk has become a top target for Italian giants Juventus.

Could a record-breaking transfer to Turin appeal to the Netherlands international?

 

TOP STORY – JUVE SET SIGHTS ON VAN DIJK

Maurizio Sarri's Juve have identified Reds defender Van Dijk as the man to help achieve their Champions League dream, according to The Sun.

The Bianconeri are said to be preparing a €178.5million (£150m) offer that could force Liverpool to consider parting company with the 28-year-old, who swapped Southampton for Merseyside in a £75m move in January 2018.

The report claims Van Dijk "may be open to a move abroad" if he wins the Premier League this term, which now appears a mere formality.

The proposed fee would eclipse the £80m that saw Harry Maguire leave Leicester City for Manchester United and again make Van Dijk the world's most expensive player in his position.

 

ROUND-UP 

- After signing Maguire, the Red Devils appear to be pining for another expensive defender. The Daily Star suggests the club will ramp up their attempts to capture Kalidou Koulibaly in the close season - although the Napoli centre-back could cost up to £90m.

- Arsenal rejected a deadline-day approach for Mesut Ozil from an unnamed Qatar club, the Mirror states. Ozil, 31, reportedly "would have been willing to listen" to an offer, but the contact came too late for the Gunners to arrange a replacement.

- LaLiga leaders Real Madrid considered signing teenage attacker Amine Gouiri and contacted Lyon before deciding against lodging a formal January bid, according to L'Equipe.

- Their title rivals Barcelona are close to agreeing a deal that will see Chelsea winger Willian arrive on a free at season's end, reports Marca.

- Gouiri is not the only Lyon youngster attracting interest. Milan, already planning for next season, are monitoring the Ligue 1 club's promising right-back Pierre Kalulu, claims CalcioMercato.

Jurgen Klopp was full of praise for his side's second-half transformation in Saturday's resounding 4-0 win over Southampton at Anfield.

The Reds were far from their fluid best during a chaotic first half and were lucky to not go in at the break behind, with Danny Ings, Shane Long and Nathan Redmond guilty of squandering presentable opportunities.

It was a different story after the interval, though, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain settling any nerves with a 47th-minute strike before a Jordan Henderson effort and two goals from Mohamed Salah sealed a 24th win in 25 Premier League games this season.

Klopp, whose side now hold a 22-point lead over Manchester City, was impressed with Southampton's display and accepts the result could have been a lot different had they taken advantage of their early chances.

He told a media conference: "First and foremost, I really have to say, wow, Southampton – what a team that is. I have been in football for so long and have never seen a turnaround like that.

"When I saw them playing at home against Chelsea months ago, I was really worried. That kind of turnaround is just exceptional.

"The set-up they have is constantly causing you problems. Their defending is really good and then their counter attacks are exceptional. [Danny] Ings and [Shane] Long, what they do there up front, how they are supported by the midfield and the wingers, is just exceptional.

"That's why we had the problems in the first half, because we lost the balls in the wrong moment.

"We had to change two or three things; most importantly we had to change the involvement of Fabinho. We played much calmer and used Fabinho better. It was just a better game and, in the end, we won it.

"The strange thing about this game is that it's not even too high a scoreline; it's just strange that Southampton could have won it as well. That just shows how difficult it was. Even more so, we are really pleased about the outcome."

Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl was delighted with his side's first-half display and hailed his players' ability to go toe-to-toe with the world champions for so long.

"Everybody who was at the game saw a very brave Saints squad and I would like to see this game again if we had scored the first goal," he said.

"I think for everybody it was fantastic to see that we can compete against such a team. It was a fantastic signal of how good we are and how it can go and how we can win."

Liverpool opened up a whopping 22-point lead over Manchester City at the top of the Premier League as four second-half goals saw them cruise past Southampton 4-0 at Anfield on Saturday.

The Reds were lucky to not be behind at the break after a chaotic first half, but normal service was resumed after the interval as they racked up a 16th consecutive top-flight triumph.

Merseyside rivals Everton, meanwhile, came from two goals down to edge past Watford 3-2 in a thrilling game at Vicarage Road.

Antonio Rudiger scored twice as Chelsea and Leicester City played out an entertaining 2-2 draw at the King Power Stadium, while there were wins for Sheffield United and Bournemouth over Crystal Palace and Aston Villa respectively.

Brighton and Hove Albion came from two goals down to draw 3-3 at West Ham, while bottom side Norwich City held Newcastle United to a goalless draw at St James' Park.

SALAH AT THE DOUBLE FOR RELENTLESS REDS

Mohamed Salah scored twice as runaway leaders Liverpool produced a second-half surge to seal a comprehensive victory over Southampton.

Jurgen Klopp's world champions secured a 24th win from 25 top-flight games this season, with Salah striking twice in the last 18 minutes.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain opened the scoring in the 47th minute against his former club, unleashing a low drive past Alex McCarthy, before Jordan Henderson doubled their lead on the hour mark.

RUDIGER HEADS BRACE IN LANDMARK MATCH

Rudiger marked his 100th appearance for Chelsea with an unlikely brace but Frank Lampard's side were unable to secure maximum points.

Chelsea went ahead a minute into the second half at the King Power Stadium when Rudiger nodded in Mason Mount's corner.

Their lead lasted less than 10 minutes, Harvey Barnes drawing Leicester level with the aid of a deflection off Reece James to give Willy Caballero - picked ahead of Kepa Arrizabalaga - no chance.

Ben Chilwell put the hosts ahead with a cool finish in the 64th minute, but the Blues claimed a share of the spoils to stay eight points behind third-placed Leicester when Rudiger headed home his second 19 minutes from time.

TOFFEES STING HORNETS WITH LATE STRIKE

Everton's Theo Walcott scored in the 90th minute to complete a remarkable turnaround against Watford.

Adam Masina and Roberto Pereyra had put the Hornets 2-0 up, but defender Yerry Mina scored twice in first-half stoppage time to haul Carlo Ancelotti's side level.

Everton's hopes of sealing all three points looked to be over when Fabian Delph was dismissed 13 minutes from time for two yellow cards, but Walcott steered home after a quick break to send the travelling faithful into raptures.  

Mohamed Salah scored twice as runaway leaders Liverpool produced a second-half surge to seal a comprehensive 4-0 victory over Southampton at Anfield on Saturday.

Jurgen Klopp's world champions racked up a 16th consecutive Premier League triumph - and 24th from 25 top-flight games this season - with Salah striking twice in the last 18 minutes.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain opened the scoring in the 47th minute against his former club, unleashing a low drive past Alex McCarthy, before Jordan Henderson doubled their lead on the hour mark.

Salah produced a sweet finish for his first in the 72nd minute and showed his composure again at the death to send the Reds 22 points clear of second-place Manchester City, who travel to Tottenham on Sunday.

 

The January transfer window is over, meaning the top clubs in Europe have to go with what they have got for the remainder of the season.

There have been some huge deals across the continent, with much of the major action was completed early on in the window.

Namely, Erling Haaland joined Borussia Dortmund, and the Norwegian sensation has already made a flying start in the Bundesliga.

Haaland's former Salzburg team-mate Takumi Minamino has joined runaway Premier League leaders, while there was also the small matter of Zlatan Ibrahimovic returning to Milan.

Here, we take a look at the best deals that went through.

Erling Haaland: Salzburg to Borussia Dortmund (€22.5m)

Haaland was arguably the most sought-after player in the January transfer window, with Dortmund reportedly beating RB Leipzig, Juventus and Manchester United to his signature. It already looks like the striker will take the Bundesliga by storm, having scored five goals in two substitute appearances that have lasted a cumulative 59 minutes.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: LA Galaxy to Milan (free transfer)

At 38, not many players would have their pick of clubs, but Ibrahimovic certainly did. He took his time in deciding his next move after leaving LA Galaxy but, amid links to Bologna and Napoli, the Swede plumped to join his former club Milan. His impact at San Siro has been instant, with Milan unbeaten since his return, winning five of their six games in all competitions.

Takumi Minamino: Salzburg to Liverpool (£7.25m)

Haaland may have been the Salzburg player who drew the most attention, but Japan international Minamino should prove to be a bargain for Liverpool. The European champions moved quickly to bring in the 25-year-old for a measly fee of £7.25m. Able to play anywhere in the front three or even as an attacking midfielder, Minamino scored nine goals for Salzburg in all competitions this season before getting his big move and is a great back-up for Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah.

Dani Olmo: Dinamo Zagreb to RB Leipzig (up to €35m)

A star of Spain’s triumphant side in the Under-21 European Championships, Olmo has carried on his sparkling form from last season to become one of the most in-demand youngsters in European football. Having scored five Champions League goals this term, the 21-year-old was linked with a return to Barcelona, but ultimately opted to join Bundesliga leaders RB Leipzig – a team which would seem to be an ideal place for the playmaker to continue his development.

Raul de Tomas: Benfica to Espanyol (€20m)

Another club-record signing in LaLiga, De Tomas seems a gamble for such a fee, although one worth taking for an Espanyol side at serious risk of the drop. He might not have settled in Lisbon, but De Tomas was a persistent goalscorer at Real Valladolid and Rayo Vallecano and €20m will seem a snip if he keeps Espanyol in the top flight.

Paco Alcacer: Borussia Dortmund to Villarreal (€23m)

Ruthless in a Valencia shirt and too-often unused at Barcelona, Alcacer returns to LaLiga after scoring 23 goals in 37 Bundesliga appearances, despite problems with injury, after he was deemed surplus to requirements at Dortmund following Haaland's arrival. It might be a club-record purchase but, if he can fire Villarreal into top-four contention, it will be money well spent.

Julian Weigl: Borussia Dortmund to Benfica (€20m)

Weigl has had some of Europe's biggest clubs following his every move in recent seasons, with Manchester City said to be keen and Paris Saint-Germain reportedly prepared to pay up to €75m to reunite him with Thomas Tuchel. Having struggled for form and minutes under Lucien Favre, Weigl decided his best bet at this stage of his career was to pursue regular game time with Benfica. Still only 24, he will look an absolute bargain if he can recapture his early promise in Portugal.

Alvaro Odriozola: Real Madrid to Bayern Munich (loan)

It would be fair to say things have not quite worked out for Odriozola at Real Madrid, with the full-back having made just 18 LaLiga appearances in total for Los Blancos since his move from Real Sociedad. However, the 24-year-old has been handed the opportunity to prove he can cut it at the highest level at Bayern Munich, who were in desperate need of defensive reinforcements due to injuries to Lucas Hernandez and Niklas Sule.

Pablo Mari: Flamengo to Arsenal (loan with option to buy)

Mikel Arteta was desperate for a left-footed centre-back and in Mari he has found one that, after a string of loan spells away from Manchester City, made good on his potential at Flamengo, where he won the Campeonato Brasileiro and Copa Libertadores in the space of six months. He could be just what Arsenal needed and there is minimal risk involved in the deal.

Carles Perez: Barcelona to Roma (loan with option/obligation to buy)

After a bright start to the season, Perez found game time increasingly hard to come by at Camp Nou. The exciting winger will only cost an initial €11m if targets are met that turn Roma's option to buy into an obligation, which looks like it would be a snip. Given he is only 21, if Perez performs well there would be a good chance of significant profit further down the line.

Liverpool will win the Premier League and match the Arsenal 'Invincibles' as there are no teams good enough to stop them, according to Robert Pires.

Jurgen Klopp's side are 19 points clear at the top of the table after winning 23 and drawing one of their 24 top-flight matches.

The Reds have not lost a league match in more than 12 months and look destined to win a first league title in 30 years, while they could also match Arsenal’s feat of going the entire league season unbeaten in 2003-04.

Pires, a key part of Arsene Wenger's fabled side during that astonishing campaign, sees no reason Liverpool cannot surpass their achievement as he believes the quality in the Premier League is not as high.

When asked if Liverpool could go unbeaten for the season, Pires told France Football: "Yes, because they have everything going for them: the team, the results, the luck, the coach... I think there are a lot of people who will agree.

"Considering how they have been playing for some time, I can't see who would trouble them. Even Manchester City... when I look at the match against City [a 3-1 win for Liverpool at Anfield in November], there is too big a difference.

"It's how they all defend. They play in a 4-3-3 and as soon as they lose the ball, especially in the middle, they are strong, physical.

"I thought they would have a little drop in speed because they don't stop playing and they keep travelling. After Boxing Day, I thought they would fall apart anyway, and no the guys are still there physically.

"Today, technically the Premier League has dipped a little. It's a bit of an observation people make here. When you see the squads of Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham or Arsenal, it's not as strong as it was a few years ago. The only ones who can trouble them are Manchester City.

"They will be champions by going unbeaten, but they can also beat our record. Everything has changed today. People will compare, but I think it was much, much harder in our time.

"As I said before, technically, many teams, particularly the big ones, have gone down a notch. There were no cameras, no VAR. When the guys wanted to get stuck in...

"And, above all, when you played away. I remember the matches at Leeds [United], Blackburn [Rovers], Bolton [Wanderers]... you had to get used to them."

Pires sees similarities between Liverpool and his old Arsenal side in the way in which they do not rely on one player to carry the team.

However, the former France star thinks the Gunners of old had more individual quality.

"I think we're quite close, fairly similar in terms of players, but not in terms of tactics since we were playing in a traditional, very old-fashioned 4-4-2. But physically and technically, I think we're very similar," he said.

"They, like us, have several players capable of making a difference, not only one or two. That's the strong point.

"Sadio Mane is Pires! [Roberto] Firmino is Thierry Henry. Again, I don't think anyone can match Thierry Henry, even though Firmino is very good. Titi is too far ahead.

"That's why I would have liked to see a Virgil van Dijk-Thierry Henry duel. It would have been really interesting.

"Henderson... no, Pat Vieira is stronger, I'm sorry. Gilberto Silva, too. "

Arsenal's unbeaten run came to an end with a 2-0 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford in October 2004, and they went on to lose a further four times that season as they lost their title to Chelsea.

Pires says Liverpool's acid test will come when their own run without defeat is ended.

"You win, you win, you win - there's no problem. You feel euphoric, invincible, which is normal. But when you lose, it's a real blow. You're not used to it. Psychologically, you take a hit, and you have to be careful afterwards," he added.

"They've been telling you for months that you're invincible, that you're the best team, and it can be brutal when that stops."

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is relishing the opportunity to catch up with former Reds striker Danny Ings when Southampton visit Anfield on Saturday.

Ings' time on Merseyside was ravaged by injury and he opted to relaunch his career at Southampton with a loan move in August 2018 which became permanent before the start of this season.

It has proved a shrewd move for Saints, with the 27-year-old scoring 14 times in 24 starts in 2019/20 to help Ralph Hasenhuttl's men climb the table after a slow start and spark talk of an England recall.

Klopp was effusive in his praise for Ings but hopes he can be kept quiet this weekend with table-topping Liverpool looking to edge closer to their first league title in 30 years.

The Liverpool manager said: "Everybody here is so happy with the situation of Danny, he is still our boy.

"We celebrate the goals he scores, although that will be different tomorrow.

"Apart from the games against us, we cannot wish him any better. He is such a wonderful person.

"He didn't have enough game time here for some good reasons and the decision he made to go Southampton was perfect. He needed time to get his rhythm back and now he is on fire, a bit like their whole team.

"We are happy to see him tomorrow, we wish him the best season of his life but not tomorrow obviously."

Ings spoke earlier this week of the special relationship he enjoyed with the medical staff at Anfield, a point echoed by Klopp.

The German added: "That's what these people do with every player. With Ingsy, he's a very likeable person, very staff orientated, he had a very good relationship with all the staff members.

"When I came in in October 2015, he got injured in my first training session, not a good start, and from that moment all the medics worked their socks off to get him back.

"There were a lot of worries about him, but he's a very positive person and seeing him now performing like this is wonderful."

Liverpool have made just one addition in the January window - Takumi Minamino from Salzburg - but Klopp insists transfer talks are always ongoing for the longer term.

"No one here is relaxed," he said. "At the moment we are not really busy with transfer decisions, but we are constantly in talks and exchanging ideas about what will help us in the long term."

Asked how he could improve a squad that has dropped just two points in 24 league games, Klopp said: "It's not easy but it's possible.

"We just prepare for potential situations and we always try to strengthen.

"That could mean looking at our own squad. We believe we can do a lot with this existing squad.

"It would be really strange to improve easily a squad like this. It needs to be 100 per cent the right player."

Jurgen Klopp admitted Liverpool were short of their best in their 2-0 victory over West Ham, producing what he described as a "normal performance" at the London Stadium.

The Reds sauntered to three points as Mohamed Salah scored a first-half penalty before setting up Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for his second Premier League goal of the season after the interval.

Manuel Lanzini missed clear chances for the Hammers in either half amid some sloppy Liverpool defending, though Klopp opted not to criticise his players and insisted the result was all that mattered.

"We could have done a lot of things better but there was only one team who deserved to win," the Liverpool boss told Sky Sports.

"We could have passed better, defended better. Who cares? These players played outstanding football so often, it was a normal performance.

"We never had 100 per cent rhythm, it is tough to play against such a defensive-orientated team."

Liverpool's players left the pitch to the sound of travelling supporters singing confidently about becoming Premier League champions, though Klopp is still refusing to get too carried away despite holding a 19-point lead at the summit.

"They can sing whatever they want," the German said. "Singing it doesn't mean you are it."

Defeat leaves West Ham still teetering above the relegation zone, with only their marginally superior goal difference keeping them above 18th-placed Bournemouth.

After the game, Hammers boss David Moyes discussed the arrival of Czech Republic midfielder Tomas Soucek on loan from Slavia Prague, describing the 24-year-old as "a big, athletic midfield player who has scored a lot of goals".

Moyes indicated that the club could yet make more additions before the January transfer window closes, adding: "I would like to bring in players who can help the team. If we can add, we will."

Mohamed Salah and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored the goals as Liverpool moved 19 points clear at the top of the Premier League with a 2-0 win at West Ham.

The Reds completed the full set of top-flight scalps – they have now beaten every team in the division this season – even though Jurgen Klopp's side were nowhere near their best at London Stadium on Wednesday.

While they dominated possession and frustrated their hosts for long periods, the Reds still allowed Manuel Lanzini chances in either half that a forward with more confidence may well have taken.

Still, all the swagger came from Liverpool, who took the lead when Salah lashed home a penalty in the 35th minute. They then put paid to West Ham's hopes of a second-half recovery when Oxlade-Chamberlain netted in a one-on-one situation with Lukasz Fabianski.

Manuel Lanzini fired wide with only Alisson to beat after 14 minutes and, though an offside flag was raised against the Argentina international, Liverpool looked momentarily rattled.

The visitors only began to threaten when Andrew Robertson beat Fabianski with a delicate chip, but his effort lacked accuracy and the hosts, working hard to stay on terms, cleared their lines.

However, West Ham's game plan faltered when Issa Diop was judged to have fouled Divock Origi in the six-yard box and Salah rammed the ensuing penalty into the net, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way.

Lanzini fluffed another golden chance to score early in the second half and his miss paved the way for Liverpool to double their lead. On a counter-attack from a West Ham corner, Salah's pass with the outside of his left boot put Oxlade-Chamberlain through on goal and the midfielder applied a cool low finish to beat Fabianski.

Declan Rice powered through the Liverpool defence and stung Alisson's palms with a fierce drive before Trent Alexander-Arnold inadvertently hit his own post from the rebound.

Salah shook the frame of the West Ham goal at the other end with a sweetly struck first-time shot in the closing stages but two goals were more than enough for Liverpool to continue their title charge.

Liverpool number one Alisson is the best performing goalkeeper in the Premier League according to a metric from Stats Perform.

Looking at clean sheets, goals conceded and save percentages only provides a limited analysis of a keeper's performances, as the metrics can be biased by team and defensive strengths.

The expected goals on target (xGOT) model moved things forward and provided a comparison to the performance of an 'average' keeper, but with each of them facing different shots it was difficult to compare the values.

By taking goals conceded away from the xGOT, Vicente Guaita is the best-performing keeper, preventing 6.6 goals (an xGOT of 29.6 minus the 23 goals he has conceded, excluding own goals), while Alisson has a differential of just 0.3 (an xGOT of 6.3 minus the six goals conceded).

The Stats Perform Goalkeeper Index, however, builds on the xGOT model, personalising the estimates to each keeper and simulating how they would perform over the exact same sample of shots.

On top of the start and end location of shots, the index considers a keeper's historic ability to make saves based on factors including shot destination (left, middle or right of the goal) and the angle to the shot trajectory (straight at them, to the left or to the right).

Premier League keepers have faced 2,108 shots this season and the Goalkeeper Index simulates how many goals every number one would have conceded against that set.

When looked at on a game-by-game basis, as well as in comparison to the league average, the impact becomes clear.

At the top of the Goalkeeper Index is Alisson, who is expected to prevent 0.58 more goals per game than the league average – putting him comfortably clear of Manchester City counterpart Ederson (0.27) in the rankings.

Tottenham captain Hugo Lloris' back-up Paulo Gazzaniga (0.16), Manchester United's David de Gea (0.16) and Bernd Leno (0.13) of Arsenal round out the top five.

At the other end of the scale for keepers to play in at least 10 games, Southampton keeper Angus Gunn is expected to concede 0.50 more goals per game than the league average.

Alisson would therefore be expected to prevent 1.08 more goals per game than Gunn.

The Brazil international has conceded one goal every 214 minutes in the Premier League this season. If he maintains his form, he could break Petr Cech's record for minutes per goal conceded by a keeper in the Premier League (242).

Jurgen Klopp defended his decision to rest players and not take charge of Liverpool's upcoming FA Cup fourth-round replay with Shrewsbury Town, insisting he is taking a stand for the good of English football.

Liverpool were held to a 2-2 draw by Shrewsbury at the New Meadow on Sunday, meaning the League One side will play a lucrative replay at Anfield next week.

But that match is due to fall within the Premier League's inaugural mid-season break, when Klopp had promised his senior players they would be afforded time off to recover before the campaign's final push.

Klopp received criticism for his decision, with some suggesting he was disrespecting the FA Cup and others calling him "lazy", but the German will not renege on his promises.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday's Premier League meeting with West Ham, Klopp launched a lengthy and impassioned defence of his plans.

He said: "I have to make decisions based on the situation we are in, some people made other decisions before the season. Whoever it was – and okay, the FA tried to do something with moving games to midweek to decrease intensity – but it came out and whoever was involved, if someone from our club was involved and forgot to say no, I don't know exactly how it was discussed.

"The situation ends up, we are given two weeks [off]. In the first moment I thought, okay, two weeks, but it was not clear which week you get, and then we started going a bit into it and then we saw if we get the second week we probably get a Champions League game in that week.

"We cannot make then a week off and say there are two days to prepare for Atletico Madrid in this case, so the other week was the first week, for the Champions League teams it's the better week as there's no Champions League games.

"And then it came up, 'Oh, there could be a potential [FA Cup] replay.' Because we plan in the long term, I cannot plan like this [at short notice], especially in a really decisive period of the season coming up, so I decided we will have a mid-season break, based on a letter [from the FA] that we got in April 2019 when we were asked to respect a mid-season break.

"I know how it sounds now and I don't want to be in the middle of all discussions, I'm not a revolution guy or trying to show the whole world how strong I can be or whatever, it's not the reason. If people think that I'm lazy because I'm not here [for the match], I cannot change that.

"People can name me whatever, I'm not too interested in that because the only responsibility I have is for my players, and for all the [Premier League] players as well.

"If we react now in the way we always react, like, 'We have to sort it somehow, we'll be here and find a way to do it,' then nothing will change. I think all people in football agree that something has to change, and people have to speak.

"I don't know who was there [at the FA meeting to discuss the mid-season break], I know the FA said all the clubs agreed, but no sports-responsible people were there. There was not a manager or a sporting director there, that's what we need, that must change as well, otherwise next year we have exactly the same.

"I made a decision and now it looks like people want something different from me, so I cannot do what all the people want. Could I be here for the game? Of course I could, but that's again a complete misunderstanding of managing and coaching.

"The mid-season break is now something that has to be settled for the next years and all the different parties need to find a solution, so it will not be like this year again, where it's possible that you have one [a break], but you may not.

"We do it to make a clear standpoint, and again, if people call me lazy or disrespectful to cup competitions, it's all not true.

"Every year we are trying to find our way through the season and it's absolutely okay, it's our job, but if then part of these long-term plans is a mid-season break, then it has to be a mid-season break and you cannot get it [taken] away a week before you have it. That's not possible."

Jurgen Klopp has confirmed forward Sadio Mane is likely to miss Liverpool's next two matches with a small muscle tear.

Senegal international Mane pulled up in the first half of Liverpool's 2-1 win at Wolves last Thursday with a hamstring complaint.

The 27-year-old was absent for the 2-2 draw with Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup fourth round on Sunday and will miss the Premier League trip to West Ham on Wednesday.

However, Klopp only expects Mane to miss one other match - a home clash against his former club Southampton on Saturday - as the damage is not as bad as first feared.

"Sadio will not be involved for West Ham and probably not Southampton," Klopp said at a news conference on Tuesday.

"Afterwards he should be fine, then the week after that should be perfect for him to get back on track. 

"He has a small muscle tear, which is serious enough to rule him out, but we've been a little bit lucky with the injury as well so it's not that serious. 

"But when you have three games in a week it means he's out for three games."

Mane has started 21 of Liverpool's 23 Premier League matches this season and has been used 31 times in all competitions.

Real Madrid have long been touted as favourites to tempt Kylian Mbappe from Paris.

Mbappe idolises Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane, who has made no secret of his desire to sign the Paris Saint-Germain forward.

But should Liverpool splash the cash, Mbappe could reportedly find himself at Anfield.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE OPEN TO REDS

Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe would be open to joining Premier League leaders and Champions League holders Liverpool, according to journalist Julien Laurens.

Mbappe has long been tipped to eventually swap PSG for LaLiga giants Real Madrid, where he is coveted by fellow Frenchman and head coach Zinedine Zidane.

However, Laurens claims Liverpool could be an option, should the English side meet PSG's demands.

 

ROUND-UP 

Manchester United want Alexis Sanchez to return to the club at the end of the season, says the Daily Star. On loan at Serie A outfit Inter following a horror spell in Manchester, the Red Devils have decided to give the Chilean forward another chance to prove himself.

- West Ham have offered €40million (£33.7m) to Cagliari for Uruguay international Nahitan Nandez, reports Tuttomercatoweb.

- With Carles Perez edging closer to Roma, Barcelona could also sell Ivan Rakitic. According to Marca, Juventus are keeping tabs on the experienced midfielder.

- Sky Sport Italia claims Roma have contacted Chelsea over veteran forward Pedro, who is out of contract at season's end.

Flamengo have agreed terms with Inter to sign Gabriel 'Gabigol' Barbosa on a permanent basis, reports ESPN Brazil, Globoesporte and Sportitalia.

Juventus are still pondering a swap deal that would see full-back Mattia De Sciglio move to PSG in exchange for Layvin Kurzawa, according to Gianluca Di Marzio.

Liverpool will play Chelsea in the fifth round of the FA Cup if they come through a replay with Shrewsbury Town.

Jurgen Klopp's Premier League leaders were stunningly held to a 2-2 draw by the third-tier club on Sunday.

The Reds will be expected to come through the replay at Anfield but face a tricky test in the last 16 should they do so in the form of a trip to Stamford Bridge to face Frank Lampard's Blues.

Holders Manchester City were handed an away tie at Championship promotion chasers Sheffield Wednesday, while Manchester United could renew acquaintances with record goalscorer Wayne Rooney if his Derby County side defeat fourth-tier Northampton Town in a replay.

There will be an all-Premier League tie regardless of who comes through the replay between Tottenham and Southampton, the winner set to host relegation-threatened Norwich City.

Arsenal, who have won the competition a record 13 times, can secure their place in the fifth round on Monday with victory at Bournemouth, whose south-coast neighbours Portsmouth await the victor.

The fifth-round ties will be played from March 2-5 with no replays.

Draw in full:

Sheffield Wednesday v Manchester City
Reading/Cardiff City v Sheffield United
Chelsea v Shrewsbury Town/Liverpool
West Brom v Newcastle United/Oxford United
Leicester City v Coventry City/Birmingham City
Northampton Town/Derby County v Manchester United
Southampton/Tottenham v Norwich City
Portsmouth v Bournemouth/Arsenal

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has confirmed he will not take charge of his side's FA Cup fourth-round replay against Shrewsbury Town, with Neil Critchley to lead a young squad.

Jason Cummings came off the bench to score twice on Sunday, earning a 2-2 draw that means League One side Shrewsbury will play a lucrative replay at Anfield early next month.

That game is set to fall within the Premier League's inaugural mid-season break, with Klopp having previously promised his senior stars they would get time off to recover ahead of the run-in.

That means Critchley will be in the dugout, the Liverpool Under-23s coach having overseen an EFL Cup exit to Aston Villa earlier in the season when the Reds were on Club World Cup duty.

"Look, our situation is the following: we have known that for a couple of weeks it is like this," Klopp told a news conference.

"Actually, we knew it a bit longer because it was always clear when we came through into the next round it would be like this. 

"In April 2019, we got a letter from the Premier League where they asked us to respect the winter break, not to organise international friendlies and not to organise competitive games in respect of it. 

"I have said to the boys already, two weeks ago, that we will have a winter break, so it means we will not be there – it will be the kids who play that game because they cannot deal with us like nobody cares about it. 

"I know it is not very popular, but that’s the way I see it and, how I said, the Premier League asked us to respect the winter break and that’s what we do it. If then the FA [Football Association] do not respect it then we cannot change.

"But we [the first-team squad and staff] will not be there."

Klopp explained he plans to give his team a week's rest, during which they will undergo individual training regimes away from Melwood in order to stay fit.

He added: "That's what the winter break is about and then another competition tells us it's not that important, so we had to make these decisions before because the boys have family.

"And the international players like Jordan Henderson, Virgil van Dijk, Gini Wijnaldum, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, all these guys they have never [time] off so this is the week. 

"I said in the moment it was clear there would be a winter break months ago, before I knew the FA Cup could come in between, then we would respect it and we do."

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