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.

Sergio Aguero believes the Premier League will again be a two-team title race this season as Manchester City seek to overhaul leaders Liverpool.

City pipped the Reds to top spot last term but now trail Jurgen Klopp's men by six points in their bid to go three in a row.

The deficit will be halved as soon as Sunday if the champions prevail in a top-of-the-table encounter at Anfield.

But defeat could leave them behind Chelsea and Leicester City, who are two points further back, by the end of the weekend.

Despite the form of the teams below, star striker Aguero expects the challenge to come solely from Merseyside.

"Liverpool has always been a tough opponent," Aguero told France Football.

"But when I arrived, the team we were fighting for the title was [Manchester] United. Initially, it was something strange in the city that City competes against United. Then there was Chelsea.

"But these last four seasons, Liverpool have become a very strong team and are now fighting with us to win the Premier League.

"It's the only team in the league that can hurt us. They have been chasing a new league [title] for years. Last season, they didn't go all the way, so they are very motivated. This year, they are in front of us and will try to go to the end."

Argentina international Aguero knows plenty about winning the Premier League, with his name forever etched in City history as the scorer of the dramatic goal that delivered the title in 2011-12.

He claimed another winners' medal in 2013-14 and has been at the forefront of the club's sustained excellence over the previous two title-winning seasons, scoring 42 Premier League goals in that time.

Aguero did not always seem to fit under Pep Guardiola but the 31-year-old insists the pair now share a strong understanding.

"We have come to know each other since his arrival and everything is clear between us," he said.

"I know how he is and vice versa. When he picks me, I try to do the best possible, because I know that behind me I have Gabriel Jesus, an attacker who scores goals whenever he has the opportunity to be on the field."

Tuesday's Champions League schedule presents the chance for Marco Reus to set a new record for Borussia Dortmund, while Erling Haaland will hope to maintain his scoring run.

Reus drew a blank last time out in Europe, the Bundesliga side losing 2-0 to Inter, but will hope to make club history in the return fixture in Germany.

Barcelona are top of the table in the same group and the reigning LaLiga champions will be eager to preserve their unbeaten home run when they take on Slavia Prague at Camp Nou.

Liverpool are another team who seem to relish having home comforts, plus history tells us Chelsea should be feeling confident when Ajax visit Stamford Bridge.

We have picked out some of the notable numbers from Opta ahead of the eight games taking place at the start of matchweek four.

 

Barcelona v Slavia Prague

15 - Following his goal last time out, Lionel Messi has now scored in 15 consecutive UEFA Champions League seasons he has appeared in (since the start of 2005-06), a feat only matched by Real Madrid icon Raul (between 1995-96 and 2010-11).

33 - Barcelona are on a run of 33 home games without defeat in the competition. That is the longest streak in Champions League history, while they have only lost once in their last 55 outings at Camp Nou.

 

Borussia Dortmund v Inter

3 - Lautaro Martinez will look to become the first player to find the net in three consecutive Champions League appearances for Inter since Samuel Eto'o, who scored in four in a row in 2010

17 - Marco Reus has scored 17 Champions League goals for Borussia Dortmund, making him the club's joint-top scorer alongside former team-mate Robert Lewandowski.

 

Chelsea v Ajax

10 - Willian has created 10 goalscoring chances for his Chelsea team-mates so far in Europe this season. However, he is still yet to provide an assist!

100 - Chelsea have won every Champions League match when they have faced Eredivisie opponents. They overcame Ajax in the reverse fixture last time out, adding to home and away victories over Feyenoord in the 1999-2000 season.

 

Liverpool v Genk

11 - Alisson has kept 11 clean sheets in his Champions League career - six for Liverpool and five for Roma. Only Barcelona's Marc-Andre ter Stegen (12) has posted more since the start of the 2017-18 season.

23 - Liverpool have not lost at home in all European competitions since October 2014, a run of 23 games. The last visiting team to celebrate success at Anfield? Real Madrid (3-0).

 

Lyon v Benfica

0 - Benfica have won none of their four away Champions League matches played on French soil (D2 L2). In fact, they have failed to score a single goal so far!

6 - Lyon have drawn each of their last six home Champions League matches – the longest such run in the history of the competition.

 

Napoli v Salzburg

13 - Will Napoli get lucky at home for a 13th time in the Champions League? They have won 12 of their last 18 played out in front of their own fans, including four of the last five since a 4-2 loss to Manchester City in November 2017.

19 - Erling Haaland (19) is aiming to become only the second teenager in the history of Europe's top-tier club tournament to score in four consecutive appearances. Only Kylian Mbappe has previously achieved the feat.

 

Valencia v Lille 

10 - Valencia have conceded at least once in each of their last 10 home Champions League matches. They have been beaten in their last two European home games and will be aiming to avoid losing three in a row at the Mestalla for the first since November 2007.

14 - Including qualifiers, Lille are winless in their last 14 European games (D7 L7). Their last victory was way back in July 2014.

 

Zenit v RB Leipzig

14 - Zenit have won their previous 14 group-stage matches at home in the Europa League and Champions League combined, a run stretching back to November 2014, when they beaten 2-1 by Bayer Leverkusen.

10 - At 32 years and 105 days, Leipzig boss Julian Nagelsmann will become the youngest coach to reach the milestone of 10 Champions League matches in charge.

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson is annoyed at the amount of "stupid" goals Liverpool have conceded this season.

Jurgen Klopp's side have amassed three clean sheets in 18 matches this term and are without a shutout in their past seven games in all competitions.

Aston Villa's Trezeguet became the latest player to breach Liverpool's defence after being left completely unmarked to steer home John McGinn's free-kick on Saturday.

The European champions recovered from that setback to win 2-1 at Villa Park, but Alisson is frustrated his side are having to do things the hard way.

"It annoys me always when we concede," he told reporters. "Stupid goals! When we concede that way, it annoys me and the team. 

"We always have a common goal to win the game and keep a clean sheet. You are closer to the victory with a clean sheet and you always have a draw.

"When you concede, the games become more difficult. We need to work better than that if we want to do great things."

Alisson has failed to keep a clean sheet in all four matches since returning from a 10-week lay-off due to a calf injury, including in last month's 4-1 Champions League win against Genk.

The Belgian club travel to Anfield on Tuesday and Alisson demanded an improvement from his team-mates.

"We can do better in our concentration. Against Genk we conceded late on, so this annoyed me and the team. We need to keep our focus," he said.

"We need to learn from these moments to make sure it does not happen again."

Liverpool boss Klopp can understand Alisson's frustrations, adding at Monday's pre-match news conference: "For me, it is more important the other team don't create. 

"If a team score with one shot, it is not nice but it is something we can't work on. Ali is annoyed without clean sheets, but he is happy as everyone when we win games. We have to score goals."

Jurgen Klopp has defended Sadio Mane after Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola suggested the Liverpool forward is "sometimes" guilty of diving.

Mane scored a late winner for Liverpool in Saturday's 2-1 win at Aston Villa but was earlier shown a yellow card for simulation, having been criticised previously when winning contentious penalties.

Guardiola stoked tensions ahead of next weekend's top-of-the-table showdown with Liverpool by taking a swipe at the Senegal international for going to ground too easily.

"Sometimes he is diving," Guardiola told BBC Sport, speaking after both City and Liverpool pulled off late Premier League comebacks at the weekend.

"Sometimes he has this talent to score incredible goals in the last minute. He's a talent."

However, Klopp responded that contact was made on Mane inside the box and claimed City's players would have likewise gone down, before insisting he did not want to talk about Liverpool's domestic rivals.

"I don't know how [Guardiola] could have known about any incident in our game so quickly after their game," Klopp told a pre-match news conference ahead of Tuesday's Champions League meeting with Genk.

"Sadio is not a diver. There was a situation in the Villa game when he got a contact and went down but there was contact.

"I am 100 per cent sure if something like this happened to Man City, they would want to have a penalty. I am absolutely not in the mood to talk about Man City. I really want to talk about Genk."

Klopp was pressed on the looming clash with City, though, as Liverpool remain six points clear at the top of the league table.

Despite the magnitude of Sunday's match at Anfield, Klopp has no concerns his players will be distracted against Genk.

"You can say the words Man City, you just cannot think about it," he said. "I don't doubt my players at all. I would feel a bit embarrassed if I had to tell them, 'Don't think about Man City already'.

"The story we have written over the last three years is only possible because we always focus on the next game. We have big ambitions in the Champions League and it's an open group. 

"We have to be 100 per cent spot on, make a good atmosphere and get the points. For the people at Anfield, we need to focus on this match, just like the players will be."

Liverpool have no fresh injury concerns ahead of the visit of Genk, who were beaten 4-1 when the sides met in Belgium two weeks ago.

That results contributes to making Liverpool heavy favourites for the return fixture, and Klopp said of the expectation of victory: "It will be a challenge but a nice one to have.

"It means we have a good team. It's not the biggest problem to have. It's 100 per cent clear we have to put in a proper shift to get the win.

"We have to use the spaces. The group is still open and we need everyone. [Genk] can still make Europa League so they still have targets. 

"We need to respect them. The story of the last two years is that we have always been spot on when we needed to be."

Jurgen Klopp has praised Adam Lallana for making the most of his opportunities but remains unsure if the midfielder will still be a Liverpool player next season.

The 31-year-old was preferred to the likes of Fabinho, Naby Keita, James Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for Saturday's 2-1 comeback victory at Aston Villa.

Lallana was replaced six minutes from time with Liverpool a goal behind at Villa Park, but Klopp was pleased with his performance and said it was an easy decision to start him in holding midfield.

"It was not so difficult because we had a look at the things we needed against Villa and I think you saw how good Adam Lallana worked in that system," he said.

"It's a game where we had a lot of possession. We had to see how Adam recovered from midweek, but at the moment he is fine. The decision was not so difficult.

"Adam did really well, he played a really good game. In a game like this, you need that kind of deeper playmaker. That's how it is.

"From that position, pass the ball, chip the ball, all that stuff. And he did that. He had a lot of ball recoveries, was good in the air, it was a good game."

Lallana is into his sixth season with Liverpool but is out of contract at the end of the campaign and has emerged as a rumoured target for clubs in MLS and China.

He has struggled with a number of injury issues in recent years and Klopp cannot guarantee the England international will remain at Anfield beyond next year.

"I don't know what happens in May - for anybody, actually - but the best thing as a footballer is when you get the opportunity to play well, to do so. That is what Adam is doing," he said.

"When he came on against Manchester United he was good. He has played really good games and is brilliant in training.

"After a long time with some injuries, he is in outstanding shape physically. That's the most important thing for his career. As for the rest, we will see."

Andy Robertson and Sadio Mane scored late on in Saturday's match as Liverpool stretched their unbeaten run in the Premier League to 28 matches since January.

The Reds came from behind to win three matches in the space of a week in all competitions, having also done so against Tottenham and Arsenal, which Lallana puts down to a never-say-die attitude.

"It's almost like a sixth sense," he said. "We knew at half-time against Villa that, if we got one goal, it's going to count. We got it late but we still had time. It doesn't surprise me that we got a second goal.

"Even though we weren't at our best in the first half, it helps towards the 'never say never'. We've just got that momentum."

Pep Guardiola insists Manchester City's trip to Liverpool next weekend is not make or break for his side's Premier League title hopes.

The reigning champions head to Anfield sitting six points behind the pacesetters following dramatic comeback victories for both sides on Saturday.

City snatched a 2-1 win at home to Southampton thanks to a late Kyle Walker strike, while Liverpool left it even later to see off Aston Villa by the same scoreline.

However, Guardiola will not panic if his side fail to close the gap on Sunday, having made up a seven-point deficit in the second half of 2018-19 to pip Liverpool to top spot.

Asked if his side needed to end a 15-year wait for a league victory at Anfield to keep their title aspirations alive, Guardiola said: "We're going to try, but I don't think so. How many centuries have they not lost at Anfield?

"We know what happened on Saturday beyond the result - they beat Aston Villa in the last minutes. There are a lot of games to play.

"Many things are going to happen and there are a lot of games to play."

City first travel to Italy for a Champions League group-stage meeting with Atalanta on Wednesday, 24 hours after Liverpool host Genk in the same competition.

Guardiola's side are top of Group C with a perfect record after three matches, but the Catalan coach intends to name his strongest starting line-up against Atalanta.

"We're going to play with the best team possible to win at Atalanta and after that we go to Anfield," he said.

"Nobody can assure me that if we don't do what we have to do at Atalanta, then we're going to make a better performance against Liverpool.

"The best way to face Atalanta is the way we played against Southampton, and the best way to go to Anfield is to play a good game against Atalanta, who have been fighting with the top clubs in Italy for the last two or three seasons.

"They can score four, five, six goals every game, so we're going to play with what we believe is the best team and try to qualify for the next stage of the Champions League."

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp did not bother to enquire about Manchester City's result against Southampton at the weekend as he is only focused on how his own side perform.

Late goals from Andy Robertson and Sadio Mane earned Liverpool a 2-1 win at Aston Villa, while City snatched a dramatic 2-1 comeback victory in their home fixture with Southampton.

Pep Guardiola's side had closed to within three points of the leaders at one stage on Saturday, but the gap remains at six points ahead of next week's showdown between the top two at Anfield.

Liverpool first host Genk on Tuesday and Klopp insists the huge match with City will not enter his thoughts until after the midweek Champions League tie.

"I never thought for a second about the Man City game and the Aston Villa game together," Klopp said, quoted in several British newspapers. "I was never thinking 'we should win there because maybe we could lose next week'.

"I didn't even ask about other Premier League results after our game. It's not important. We play Genk and then we play Man City.

"Yes it's important to win at Aston Villa. The way they set up, it was really difficult. But we did it.

"Now we have to collect the bones and prepare for the next challenge against Genk."

Both of Liverpool's goals at Villa Park came from crosses into the box and Klopp is happy to see his side switch it up.

"As a top team, you always have to find a way," he said. "If the centre is closed, then it makes sense to use the wing. But if you use the wing constantly, then usually the centre opens up a little bit.

"Our plan isn't to pass the ball wide and then get it into the box. If you have situations like this, then it's not a bad idea. But it's not like a long-ball idea where you are always hitting it long and going for the second ball.

"It's just one option for us and it's difficult to defend. Everybody can be compact and they are allowed to be really deep, that makes it really difficult and you want to come in behind their last line.

"But I haven't analysed all the other teams so far this season. With Man City, we'll have a look next week. Maybe there will be a crossing championship next week, we will see!"

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