EPL

Salah wants to Kop new Anfield deal - 'I can't see myself ever playing against Liverpool'

By Sports Desk October 22, 2021

Mohamed Salah has declared he wants to stay at Liverpool for the rest of his career.

The Egyptian forward is rated by his club boss Jurgen Klopp as the best player in the world currently, after scoring 12 goals in 11 games for the Reds this season.

His current deal runs through to the end of the 2022-23 season, but Liverpool are eager to secure his future as soon as possible.

It is clear that in-form Salah is happy at Anfield, but there is more to it than that, with the club needing to satisfy his financial demands.

He is putting all the onus on Liverpool to come up with the attractive offer that will persuade him to make a long-term commitment, knowing there would be clubs queueing up to offer him big-money deals should he leave.

At the age of 29, the next contract he signs will likely be Salah's last major deal of his career.

"This doesn't depend on me. If you ask me, I would love to stay until the last day of my football [career]," Salah told Sky Sports.

"But I can't say much about that, it is not in my hands. It depends on what the club want.

"At the moment, I can't see myself ever playing against Liverpool. That would make me sad.

"It's hard. I don't want to talk about it, but it would make me really sad. Let's see what will happen in the future."

On Sunday, Salah is set to line up for Liverpool at Manchester United, where he scored three times in two visits last season, netting twice in an FA Cup defeat and then once late on in a 4-2 Premier League win.

No Liverpool player has ever scored in three consecutive away games against Manchester United, but Salah has netted in his last nine outings across all competitions.

It would almost be a surprise, therefore, if he failed to find the net at Old Trafford, with the fact United have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last nine home league matches another factor to consider.

Comparisons have been drawn between Salah and United forward Cristiano Ronaldo, and they will continue on Sunday, with the performance of each man likely to be pivotal to the outcome.

In his first season at Liverpool, in 2017-18, Salah broke Ronaldo's record of 31 Premier League goals in a 38-game campaign, scoring 32 times and averaging a strike every 91 minutes.

Salah's shot conversion rate of 22.22 per cent that season (from 144 attempts in total) is the best either he or Ronaldo have managed in their Premier League careers.

In terms of assists, Salah has twice reached 10 for a campaign, in 2017-18 and Liverpool's title-winning season of 2019-20. Ronaldo's best figure of eight was recorded in 2006-07.

This season, Salah sits alongside Jamie Vardy on seven goals at the top of the Premier League scoring chart, heading into the weekend programme.

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    Sequels rarely live up to the standard of the original. While Cam Newton's return to the Carolina Panthers stands as one of the most sentimentally fulfilling stories of the 2021 NFL season, the odds of him living up to his achievements during his spectacular first spell with the team are slim.

    Yet through two appearances and one start, Newton's second act in Charlotte appears to be one worthy of the price of admission, if not one that will yield the honours that came during their initial nine-season association.

    The Panthers lost in Week 11 with Newton starting at quarterback, a 27-21 defeat to the Washington Football Team and former Carolina coach Ron Rivera dealing a significant blow to hopes of securing a Wild Card berth in the NFC.

    But the Panthers are a long way from being dead in the water and, while Newton is not the player he was when he won the MVP in 2015, his performance against Washington at least suggested his encouraging play in preseason for the New England Patriots was not a mirage.

    At 5-6, Carolina can ill-afford too many more slip-ups if the Panthers are to return to the playoffs, raising the question: can Cam Newton save their season?

    An upgrade over Darnold

    It's a very small sample size, but the early evidence indicates Newton, the man head coach Matt Rhule and the Panthers let go after the 2019 season, represents an upgrade of his most recent batch of successors.

    In the defeat to Washington, Newton delivered an accurate, well-thrown ball on 81.5 per cent of his passes, according to Stats Perform data, and did not throw a single interceptable pass.

    Newton was brought back to replace the injured Sam Darnold, whom the Panthers traded for in the offseason. Darnold's well-thrown percentage of 80 for the season is still above the league average of 78.5, but his pickable pass rate of 4.21 per cent is inferior to the league-wide average of 3.62, Carolina's hopes of turning around his career after a dismal start with the New York Jets quickly fading.

    The threat posed by Newton's athletic upside was also apparent last week. He averaged 5.86 yards per carry on designed runs, including a 24-yard rushing touchdown on a perfectly executed zone-read.

    Prior to that score, Newton threw the Panthers' first touchdown of the game by faking a quarterback draw up the middle to draw up the two safeties and a middle linebacker guarding the endzone, giving him a much simpler throw to D.J. Moore on the slant route.

    Darnold can himself make an impact with his legs, however, the combination of Newton's accuracy throwing the ball and his more pronounced threat on the ground led to an exciting albeit losing effort that gives optimism the Panthers' offense can be more potent as he digests Joe Brady's playbook.

    Yet one element of his supporting cast may limit the ceiling of a Newton-led attack.

    Protection issues a pressing concern

    Newton is not short of elite talent around him. Christian McCaffrey delivered a reminder of his status as one of the game's top all-round running backs last Sunday. He demonstrated his burst by averaging 3.7 yards before contact per attempt and his ability to evade defenders in the backfield with an average of 5.5 yards per carry on rush attempts where there was a rush disruption.

    Additionally, McCaffrey hauled in a 27-yard touchdown pass from Newton, one on which the quarterback showcased exquisite touch and placement to loft the ball over the outstretched arm of a linebacker and into the running back's grasp.

    Top receiver Moore is producing a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup with a defender when he is targeted, 68 per cent of the time, with his burn yards per route average of 3.3 putting him tied for 11th among wideouts with at least 10 targets.

    Newton and McCaffrey being on the field at the same time can put defenses in a significant bind when faced with the zone-read, as Newton's rushing score against Washington proved, with both substantial threats to gain major yardage on the ground.

    Moore's continued ascension gives Newton a bonafide number one receiver, yet the impact of having two top-tier skill-position weapons will be mitigated if the Panthers cannot improve on the offensive line.

    Indeed, the Panthers entered Week 12 ranked 30th in pass protection win percentage while only the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets have allowed more quarterback pressures than Carolina's 204.

    Even in his 11th season, Newton boasts a skill set ideally suited to the modern game and has the weapons to succeed, yet his ability to do so will be restricted if he is under duress as much as Panthers signal-callers have been in 2021.

    Home stretch filled with obstacles

    The hope for Carolina this month comes in the form of that Dolphins offensive line, which a Panthers defense allowing the second-fewest yards per play (4.91) in the NFL faces in Week 12.

    Yet beyond this week and games with the Atlanta Falcons and a seemingly crumbling New Orleans Saints team, the schedule offers little for the Panthers to get excited about.

    They face defending Super Bowl champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and quarterback Tom Brady, unlikely to be daunted by the Carolina defense, twice before the end of the regular season, while a Buffalo Bills team whose defense is well-positioned to take advantage of poor pass protection and whose offense is tied for the league lead with 37 touchdowns host the Panthers in Week 15.

    Carolina's remaining schedule is the eighth toughest in the NFL by winning percentage and, in a race for the Wild Card spots with three surging teams in the Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles, the chances of the Panthers overcoming such a hurdle look small, particularly given the potentially fatal flaw they have up front.

    Still, the combination of Newton, McCaffrey, Moore and one of the most efficient defenses in the league at least offers reason for hope. Can Newton save Carolina's season? Probably not, but he gives them a better shot than any other quarterback they have started this season.

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    The first Test between India and New Zealand swung back in the hosts' favour on Saturday thanks to the brilliance of Axar Patel.

    The left-arm spinner accounted for Tom Latham, who was just five runs short of a century, before making light work of the lower order to finish with figures of 5-62.

    It was the fifth five-four Axar has recorded in his previous seven innings in Test cricket and it seemed to inspire the rest of India's attack as they left New Zealand all out on 296.

    Latham and Will Young had put New Zealand in a commanding position of 129-0 at the close of day two, and their partnership of 151 steered the Black Caps to 213-2 despite the best efforts of Axar and Ravichandran Ashwin (3-82).

    However, the match changed course in the afternoon session. Umesh Yadav trapped Kane Williamson lbw after the captain managed just 18 off 64 deliveries, and Axar took the wickets of Ross Taylor (11) and Henry Nicholls (2) while only giving up 14 runs in an 11-over spell.

    Tom Blundell and Tim Southee were then skittled by Axar, who capped his performance by catching Kyle Jamieson just as he was building up steam on 23.

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    India will resume on day four on 14-1 with a lead of 63 runs.

    Axar hogging the limelight

    New Zealand looked to have the match under their control at 196-1 until Axar intervened. It was his fifth five-wicket haul of 2021; the last player to record as many in the year of his Test debut was Australia's Rodney Hogg back in 1978.

    "Taking five wickets in seven innings is something the other team-mates have been teasing me about. It's like a dream within a dream start," he said.

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    After failing to make the most of Latham and Young's impressive opening stand, New Zealand heads were down as India began their second innings.

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    Manchester United striker Edinson Cavani spent the international break in Uruguay stepping up his recovery, but he remains a doubt to feature against Chelsea on Sunday.

    A tendon problem has prevented Cavani from featuring for United since a substitute appearance in the Red Devils' 2-2 draw with Atalanta on November 2, missing the losses to Manchester City and Watford that spelled the end of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's reign, as well as the most recent victory over Villarreal.

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    The veteran striker is now eager to get back out on the pitch after spending the international break in his homeland to focus on his rehabilitation.

    Cavani also revealed that the trip gave him an opportunity to spend valuable time with his family.

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    Eighth-placed United face Premier League leaders Chelsea on Sunday in caretaker manager Michael Carrick's second game in charge and will be hoping for another positive result after the 2-0 Champions League win over Villarreal on Tuesday.

    It remains unclear if Cavani will be able to boost his side's chances with his availability, or if his comeback will have to wait until the Red Devils' subsequent game against Arsenal at Old Trafford on December 2.

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