This week sees the end of the group stages for this season's Champions League with honour, ambition and, yes, prize money on the line.

Two Spanish giants are being made to sweat on matchday six as Atletico Madrid need a win and a favour to stay in the competition, while Barcelona quite probably need to beat Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena to avoid dropping into the Europa League.

Atalanta and Villarreal will battle it out for second place in Group F, while Real Madrid and Inter face off at the Santiago Bernabeu to determine who will win Group D.

Group G will perhaps be the most dramatic, with all four participants in with a chance of finishing first or second, but what exactly does each team need from their final group game? Stats Perform has the answers for you here...

 

Group A

Manchester City have already secured top spot after beating Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 on matchday five, with the French side definitely finishing second, sitting four points behind City and four points ahead of both RB Leipzig and Club Brugge.

Leipzig, who sacked coach Jesse Marsch over the weekend, host City and need to match or better Club Brugge's result to clinch third place and a Europe League spot.

The Belgians must get something from their trip to Paris and hope that they achieve a better result than Leipzig.

 

Group B

Liverpool have had first place sewn up since they beat Atletico Madrid at Anfield on matchday four and now sit 10 points ahead of second place in what had been labelled a 'group of death' when the draw took place.

It's all to play for otherwise, though, with Porto second. A win for them at home to Atletico will confirm their passage to the knockout stage. A draw will also be fine as long as Milan do not beat Liverpool at San Siro.

Milan need to win against the Reds and hope the other game is a draw, while the Spanish champions have to beat Porto and hope that the Italians fail to beat Liverpool.

 

Group C

The most straightforward group of all as every position has already been confirmed, with Ajax top, Sporting CP joining them in the knockout stage as runners-up, while Borussia Dortmund will go into the Europa League and Besiktas are out.

 

Group D

Real Madrid and Inter have both qualified, with Carlo Ancelotti's men only needing to avoid defeat to the Italians at the Santiago Bernabeu to top the group. Inter need to beat Madrid to overtake them.

Sheriff will go into the Europa League having already been confirmed in third place above Shakhtar Donetsk.

 

Group E

Bayern Munich have won the group and Dynamo Kyiv will finish bottom, but the battle for second and third is going to the wire.

Barcelona have a two-point advantage in second place, but travel to Bayern, while Benfica host Dynamo, with the Portuguese side boasting the superior head-to-head record over the Catalans.

A win in Germany sees Xavi's men safely through, but should they draw or lose, they will be reliant on Benfica failing to win as well.

 

Group F

Manchester United sealed top spot with their 2-0 win at Villarreal on matchday five.

The Yellow Submarine are a point ahead of Atalanta in second, so only need to avoid defeat in Italy, while Gian Piero Gasperini's side must win to take the other qualification place.

Young Boys can still claim a Europa League spot if they beat United at Old Trafford and Atalanta lose.

 

Group G

The tightest of groups where it all comes down to the final round.

Lille sit top on eight points, and a win at Wolfsburg will secure that spot, while a draw will still see them qualify as they have a superior head-to-head with Sevilla.

Salzburg will go through if they avoid defeat at home to Sevilla, winning the group if they win and Lille do not.

Sevilla have to win in Austria to go through. They will at least secure third and a place in the Europa League if they lose and Wolfsburg also fail to beat Lille.

Wolfsburg actually cannot finish third but can finish first or second with a win against Lille.

 

Group H

Chelsea and Juventus have both qualified from the group, and Thomas Tuchel's side will secure top spot with a win at Zenit. Juventus must better Chelsea's result when they host Malmo.

Zenit have already confirmed their place in the Europa League, while Malmo are out.

Chelsea slipped from first to third in the Premier League over the weekend after a costly defeat at West Ham, which included a bizarre late winner for the hosts.

Divock Origi was told to "Be Divock" by Jurgen Klopp, so duly went and scored a 94th minute winner for Liverpool at Wolves, while Ralf Rangnick achieved something his fellow German didn't in his first game as interim boss at Manchester United.

Antonio Conte and Steven Gerrard also continued their positive starts to respective gigs at Tottenham and Aston Villa in a sentence that feels like it's straight from your favourite football management simulation game rather than real life.

With all that and more, here are some of the weekend's quirky stats from the Premier League...

 

Chelsea Hammered

Did he mean it? Arthur Masuaku says no but your West Ham supporting mates say yes.

Masuaku's kick of the ball in the 87th minute at the London Stadium flew past Edouard Mendy to inflict Chelsea's second league defeat of the season, toppling them from the summit of the Premier League.

It was the Frenchman's first Premier League goal in his 96th appearance for the Hammers, from his 29th attempt at goal, if you can even call it that.

The 3-2 defeat was Chelsea's first in the Premier League after leading at half-time since December 2018 against Wolves under Maurizio Sarri – they had been unbeaten in 48 league games when ahead at half-time before Saturday (W40 D8).

It is no time to panic for Blues fans, though. The future looks bright with all their talented young players, accompanied by Brazil's answer to Steve Buscemi with a skateboard over his shoulder.

Aged 37 years and 73 days, Thiago Silva became the oldest player to score for Chelsea in the Premier League, breaking Didier Drogba's record from April 2015 against Leicester City (37 years, 49 days).

The Late Late Show with Divock Origi

You could say there was an air of inevitability about it as Divock Origi arrived on the Molineux pitch in the 68th minute on Saturday.

The Belgian is a man who arguably deserves a statue more than a starting place at Anfield, having scored just once in the league prior to this game since the last day of the 2019-20 season, but who has famously bagged late goals just when his team has needed them.

His dramatic strike in the closing seconds of this game was Liverpool’s 39th winner scored in 90+ minutes in the Premier League, at least 13 more than any other side. It was also his 10th as a substitute in the Premier League for the Reds, with no player having netted more from the bench for the club in the competition.

It felt harsh on Wolves, though they had hardly done much to bother their opponents at the other end of the pitch, having just three shots in this game, their fewest in a Premier League match since March 2019 (two vs Chelsea).

One particularly sore loser will have been skipper Conor Coady. Although a former Liverpool player, he will have been hoping his heroic goal-line block of Diogo Jota's effort, with an xG of 0.604, would have at least secured a point for his team, particularly as the ball hit him square in the Divocks.

 

King Ralf

There had not been such anticipation about the future of Manchester United since that bloke Ole was at the wheel. Remember him?

United's interim gaffer Ralf Rangnick became the sixth German to manage in the Premier League as he stood in the Old Trafford dugout to see his new team beat Crystal Palace, and he was the first to win his debut game in charge in the competition (Felix Magath, Klopp, Jan Siewert, Daniel Farke and Thomas Tuchel all failing to do so before him).

Following the 1-0 success, six of the last seven managers (including caretakers) have won their first game in charge of the Red Devils in all competitions, with Louis van Gaal being the only exception (he suffered a 2-1 loss against Swansea City at Old Trafford in August 2014).

United also kept their first clean sheet at home in all competitions since April against Granada in the Europa League, having conceded in 15 consecutive home matches prior to Sunday.

Fred's impressive winner was his second goal of the season in 12 Premier League matches, as many as he scored in 76 appearances in his first three seasons in the competition beforehand.

More capital chaos for Canaries

After their 3-0 defeat at Tottenham, Norwich City have now lost 12 of their past 13 Premier League games in London (W1), conceding 29 goals and scoring just three.

Antonio Conte became the third Spurs manager to win his first three Premier League home games, after Ryan Mason and Harry Redknapp, but will be hoping that Kane will start to find the net again soon, with the England captain having only scored once in 13 league games this season.

Norwich manager Dean Smith felt his team were hard done by, and perhaps he had a point when you consider how close the xG of the contest ended, with Norwich's 1.33 only just behind Spurs' 1.52. It was little surprise that Conte's men were more deadly in their finishing though, particularly with Son Heung-min about.

The South Korea forward has been directly involved in 50 per cent of Tottenham’s league goals this season (six goals, two assists), with only Teemu Pukki (63 per cent) and Emmanuel Dennis (55 per cent) being involved in a higher share of their side's tally.

Son both scored and assisted in a single Premier League game for the 19th time. Since 2015-16, only Mohamed Salah (22) has done so more often in the competition.

 

Steve Gerrard, Gerrard, seems management isn't hard

Doing a stellar job at Rangers is one thing, but Steven Gerrard's management capability was really going to come under the microscope when he moved south to the Premier League.

It is still early days of course, but so far, the former Liverpool and England midfielder must be wondering what all the fuss was about as he saw his Aston Villa side win again with a 2-1 victory against Leicester City and his former boss Brendan Rodgers.

Having only won three of their first 11 Premier League games of the season under Dean Smith (D1 L7), Villa have since won three of their first four under Gerrard, with the only failure coming in the narrow 2-1 defeat at home to champions Manchester City.

Gerrard emphasised on his arrival that he wanted to improve the defence, but Ezri Konsa must have thought he meant at the other end as he bagged a brace on Sunday. In his 216th professional appearance in all competitions, Konsa scored twice in a game for the first time. In doing so, he was the first defender to score a brace for Aston Villa in a Premier League match since Ciaran Clark against Arsenal in November 2010.

Leicester, meanwhile, are now the first side to both score and concede a goal in 15 consecutive away games in England's top flight since Burnley from April 1961 to March 1962 (16 in a row).

Liverpool are in the market to add depth and quality to their midfield.

The Reds are currently second in the Premier League, after four straight wins.

Liverpool have scored a Premier League-high 44 goals in 15 games.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL CHASING FABIAN RUIZ

Liverpool want to sign Napoli's Spain international Fabian Ruiz next off-season to bolster their midfield, reports Fichajes.

The Reds view the 25-year-old as an ideal player on an upward trajectory in his career.

Georginio Wijnaldum exited Liverpool for Paris Saint-Germain last off-season with no obvious replacement added.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fichajes reports that Atletico Madrid are considering a move for Ajax's Argentinean left-back Nicolas Tagliafico.

- Milan are interested in Fiorentina's Nikola Milenkovic and Real Madrid's Luka Jovic as they look to add depth to their squad reports Gazzetta dello Sport.

- Inter are tracking FC Zurich's 20-year-old Switzerland international defender Becir Omeragic claims Calciomercato.

- The Athletic reports that Southampton will sign ex-Chelsea and Manchester City goalkeeper Willy Caballero as emergency cover. Caballero, 40, is a free agent.

After a grand total of one day without Premier League football, the action returned on Saturday and there was a change at the top of the Premier League.

That's right, Chelsea slipped up again and handed the initiative to Manchester City and Liverpool, both of whom were victorious later in the day.

There was also a change at the bottom as Newcastle United left the foot of the table – at least until Sunday – meaning there are three sides all on 10 points in the relegation places.

Without any further ado, let's look at the best of the day's action with a pick of Opta's post-match facts…

West Ham 3-2 Chelsea: Blues dealt Hammer blow

Chelsea are off the Premier League summit as a result of their defeat at London rivals West Ham, who continue to confound doubters under David Moyes.

They found themselves behind at the break but came on stronger in the second half, becoming the first team to beat Chelsea after the Blues had been leading at half-time since Wolves in December 2018 – that was a run of 48 games unbeaten when ahead at the halfway mark of a game.

Further to that, it was only the third time in Thomas Tuchel's 53 games in charge that Chelsea have conceded more than one goal in a game.

One of West Ham's goalscorers surely felt confident – after all, Manuel Lanzini's goal was his 11th in London derbies, or 48 per cent of his Premier League total (23), the highest ratio of any player in the competition's history with at least 20 goals scored.

There was also a first to celebrate. Arthur Masuaku opened his West Ham account in his 96th match, with the left-back's momentous goal also proving to be the winner.

The win moved West Ham to within six points of their visitors, with the Hammers fourth.

Watford 1-3 Manchester City: Hornets are cannon fodder

Even if Pep Guardiola's City did not arrive in fine form, few would have given Watford a chance here – and the match went just as most were expecting.

Watford's record against City was woeful at best already – now they've conceded 41 goals in 13 meetings with them in the Premier League, the most they have let in against any single side in the competition.

Similarly, the 3.2 goals per game they concede on average in this fixture is the most by one side against another among all Premier League fixtures played at least 10 times.

That one-sided nature also reflects on Guardiola, who has won all 10 of his managerial games against Watford in all competitions by an aggregate score of 42-4, his best 100 per cent winning record over any side.

City are now unbeaten across their past 19 meetings with Watford (W17 D2, all competitions), netting 62 goals in this run – they've only ever had a longer unbeaten run once before against a specific team (22 games against Norwich from 1965-1981).

Wolves 0-1 Liverpool: Origi comes up trumps as Reds steal it at the death… again

It wasn't a classic by any stretch of the imagination, but Liverpool got the job done to move above Chelsea and stay just a point behind new leaders City.

Only just, though.

Divock Origi spared Jurgen Klopp's blushes with a stoppage-time winner, the Belgian continuing his habit of being a decisive and useful option off the bench.

That was his 10th goal as a substitute in the Premier League for the Reds, a club record.

Liverpool have now scored the winning goal after the 90th minute on 39 occasions in the Premier League, at least 13 more than any other team.

There was also good news for Mohamed Salah – he didn't score, but his assist for Origi's winner ensured he's been involved in a goal in each of his last 13 top-flight appearances, a record only Jamie Vardy (15) has ever surpassed.

Newcastle United 1-0 Burnley: Howe's about that?

At long last, every team in this season's Premier League now has at least a one in the wins column – Newcastle defeated Burnley at St James' Park to finally get off the mark.

Newcastle had not won any of their previous 15 matches in all competitions, losing seven and drawing the other eight.

Additionally, it was only their second clean sheet of the season, the other also coincidentally coming against Burnley in the EFL Cup back in August.

Of course it was also Eddie Howe's first win since being appointed by the club, with Callum Wilson – who also played under the manager at Bournemouth – delivering the goods.

It was Wilson's 43rd Premier League goal for Howe, a record only Joshua King (48) has bettered for him.

While it remains to be see if Howe is able to keep Newcastle up, there's no doubt he's got them playing on the front foot more, as they are averaging 15 shots (five on target) each game compared to 11 (three) prior to his arrival in 2021-22.

Southampton 1-1 Brighton and Hove Albion: Saints give it up

Just when Southampton thought they had the points in the bag, Brighton pulled it back.

Brighton were down to 10 men, having had Leandro Trossard taken off injured after using all their substitutes, but Neal Maupay struck deep into stoppage time to seal a draw.

That was Brighton's fourth (of eight) away Premier League goal to have been scored in the 89th minute or later this term, and the third netted by Maupay.

Brighton remain winless in 10 league games, their longest top-flight run since 1983, but they celebrated it like a win – for Southampton, it felt like a defeat.

Saints have now dropped 71 points from winning positions in the league under Ralph Hasenhuttl, 15 more than any other team since his December 2018 appointment.

Jurgen Klopp described Divock Origi as a Liverpool "legend" after the Belgian's stoppage-time strike snatched a dramatic 1-0 win against Wolves at Molineux.

The Reds had been frustrated by a stern home defence on Saturday, before the super-sub came on to fire the only goal of the game after good work from Mohamed Salah.

The win saw Liverpool leapfrog Chelsea in the Premier League table after the Blues lost 3-2 at West Ham earlier in the day.

Speaking on Sky Sports, Klopp was effusive in his praise of Origi, saying: "Divock Origi, the legend, finished it off and it's a great story. He's an incredible striker. For different reasons he did not play that often, but I hope one day he finds a manager that plays him more than I do.

"He's one of the best finishers I've ever seen in my life. In this great team, with our [front] three, he doesn't play all the time, but he is a very positive boy, loves the club, wants to contribute, and he did in an incredible way."

Origi's powerful close-range strike in the fourth added minute was his 10th goal as a substitute in the Premier League for Liverpool – no player has netted more from the bench for the club in the competition.

It was also Liverpool’s 39th winning goal scored after 90-plus minutes in the Premier League, at least 13 more than any other side has managed.

Liverpool manager Klopp insisted Chelsea's result had no bearing on how his team approached the Wolves game, and he appreciated the fight his players showed.

"Other results are not really important, we just want to win football games," Klopp said. "We played three days ago and the derby [when Liverpool earned a 4-1 win against Everton] is easy to focus on as it's the game of the year, then we start the machine again and I like how we fought today."

Liverpool have scored in each of their last 25 Premier League outings, since losing 1-0 against Fulham in March. Their 18-game record run of scoring two or more goals in every match across all competitions has now ended, but victory tasted no less sweet for it.

Origi was asked by Sky Sports what instructions his manager had given him before he replaced captain Jordan Henderson in the 68th minute. He said that Klopp's words had been: "Be Divock. Try and contribute and in the end, help the team."

Origi said: "I try to be in the moment, play by play. Play in the moment. Sometimes you score goals like this and today was a good day!

"We worked so hard to get the three points and being able to get there and keep the momentum going is the best feeling.

"We prepare so much. Honestly, it's the feeling that we had a successful week."

Stefano Pioli hopes Milan have the quality to exploit the Liverpool defence in their crucial Champions League clash at San Siro on Tuesday.

The Rossoneri ended a three-game winless run at home in all competitions with a routine 2-0 victory over Salernitana three days before their crunch meeting with the Reds.

After beating Atletico Madrid 1-0, Pioli's side enter the final round of games in third place in Group B, a point behind Porto in second.

Should they beat Liverpool – who are already through to the last 16 as group winners – and Porto draw with Atleti, Milan will progress to the last 16.

Although the odds are against them – Milan have not beaten English opposition in Europe since February 2012 – Liverpool could elect to field a weaker side, while their defence has not looked as impregnable as it sometimes has under Jurgen Klopp.

While their 12 clean sheets before December 4 was the joint-most in Europe's top five leagues this season, they have conceded 17 goals from an expected goals against total of 23.4, suggesting they should have let in at least six more given the quality of chances faced.

Pioli hopes to exploit any possible weakness in the Reds rearguard, telling DAZN: "Having faced them already gives us more information about them.

"Liverpool have a thousand strengths: they have fantastic strikers, and one of the strongest teams. We'll try to do our best in a great atmosphere that we'll try to make the most of.

"We wanted to be in this position and now we can only try to give our best. We know Liverpool will inevitably cause us some problems, but spaces can open up too because they are certainly not unbeatable or impenetrable in defence."

Milan dominated Salernitana on Saturday and should really have added to their two goals, firing in 22 shots and eight on target while facing just two from Serie A's bottom side.

They attempted 14 in the first half alone, the most they have managed in the opening 45 minutes of a game this season, as they eased to a win that moved them two points clear at the top ahead of Inter's trip to Roma.

"I leave with the satisfaction of a good performance and a good victory. Of course, scoring a few more goals would have been better," Pioli said.

"I'd predicted a balanced league. It looks like the top four are becoming separated. I expected Juventus, Roma and Lazio to be closer but, in a league, it's the details that will make the difference.

"To win the title, you need great consistency and that's what we're trying to achieve. We need to keep the level high all year round. We're satisfied with what we're doing but we don't need to look at the table while staying focused to have a great Christmas."

Divock Origi hit a stoppage-time winner to send Liverpool above Chelsea in the Premier League table as the Reds overcame Wolves 1-0 at Molineux.

A dramatic breakthrough arrived in the fourth added minute when Mohamed Salah raced down the right and pulled the ball back for Origi, who controlled, turned and fired past Jose Sa to decide a game that looked certain to finish goalless.

The Reds, who had scored at least twice in each of their last 18 games, dominated possession and had two particularly presentable chances, but they were mainly handled well by a strong Wolves defence until the late drama.

A determined home side grew into the game, and threatened on occasion, with Adama Traore particularly troubling the Liverpool midfield and backline with his power and pace, but ultimately it was not enough to avoid defeat.

After a quiet start, the game came to life around the half-hour mark as Trent Alexander-Arnold and former Wolves man Diogo Jota missed opportunities from crosses, but it was Salah who came closest to breaking the deadlock in the first half.

The Egyptian was about to tap in an Andy Robertson ball across the box when Romain Saiss somehow nicked the ball away from the Premier League's top scorer at the last moment.

The visitors continued to probe for an opener in the second half and could not believe they were not ahead on the hour. Jota seized on a mistake between Jose Sa and Saiss but inexplicably smashed the ball straight at Conor Coady on the goal-line.

After trying to blow the Wolves' door down, the winner finally arrived when Salah squared for Belgian substitute Origi, who made no mistake to send his team top of the table for at least a few hours.

Jurgen Klopp has claimed the improvement he has seen in Nat Phillips reminds him of Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski.

The Liverpool boss managed Lewandowski at Borussia Dortmund between 2010-2014, where the Poland striker scored 103 goals in 187 games before moving to Bayern.

Klopp was forced to rely on Phillips for much of last season after injuries decimated his defensive options.

The Bolton-born centre back - who also has some German football experience from a loan period at Stuttgart two seasons ago - became a regular part of Liverpool's backline after Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip had all been sidelined with long-term injuries.

While the Reds fell away from the title race in the second half of the campaign, with the help of Phillips, they were able to secure third place and Champions League football thanks to a late-season resurgence.

Phillips particularly showed his aerial prowess, winning 96 aerial duels in his 17 Premier League games. Only nine defenders won more, all of whom played at least 13 more games than the 24-year-old.

Klopp sees a lot of similarities in the improvements shown under him by Lewandowski and Phillips.

"People often ask me which player made the biggest improvements under my leadership, and I say Robert Lewandowski," he said.

"That's probably right, but not far off that is Nat Phillips, just in a completely different department.

"I remember when I saw Nat Phillips first. I spoke to him after the game and he's one of the smartest players I ever worked with. I told him, 'You know you are not the easiest on the eye, eh?'

"He improved in pretty much everything since, and he's not playing. Life is sometimes not fair and I can't blame him."

Phillips has been linked with a move away from Anfield in the January transfer window after making just three appearances this season, with Van Dijk, Gomez and Matip all back from injury and Ibrahima Konate signed from RB Leipzig at the end of last season.

"We cannot keep him forever, that's clear," Klopp added. "We needed him, just to be safe, for that half-year. We will see what happens in the window. He was fine doing it because he's a great guy.

"His development is absolutely insane. You saw it last year, you would have said 'Nat Phillips, oh my god, he plays in the last line?'

"People love him because of his heading but with his feet he is unbelievable. He's a late starter, but his development is unbelievable. I would sign him for any club except Liverpool, because we have him."

Kylian Mbappe has had an extended flirtation with Real Madrid.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward is out of contract at the end of this season.

Mbappe has stalled on signing a new deal with PSG amid speculation of a move.

TOP STORY – REAL CONVINCED OF MBAPPE DEAL

Real Madrid are convinced they will win the race for Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe's signature, according to AS.

Los Blancos are certain the 22-year-old France international will join the club on a free transfer at the end of this season.

Mbappe has long flirted with Madrid and has decided he will not renew with PSG. The LaLiga giants are already planning Mbappe's arrival at the sporting and commercial level.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester City have joined the race to sign Fiorentina's hot property forward Dusan Vlahovic, claims La Repubblica.

- Barcelona have held discussions with Manchester City about the potential to sign Spanish forward Ferran Torres in January, according to ESPN.

- Fichajes reports that Liverpool are interested in signing Lille's Portugal midfielder Renato Sanches. Lille have valued him at £34m.

- Arsenal are homing in on Lille's Canada international forward Jonathan David, according to the London Evening Standard. David is currently Ligue 1's leading scorer.

- Calciomercato claims Christian Eriksen is close to terminating his deal with Inter, having been unable to play since his cardiac arrest at Euro 2020.

- Bayern Munich midfielder Marc Roca is in the sights of Roma who have considered a move for the Spaniard, claims Corriere dello Sport.

- Chelsea have opened talks with goalkeeper Edouard Mendy over a new deal, claims Football Insider.

- Everton have joined the race to sign Zenit striker Sardar Azmoun, according to 90min.

Jurgen Klopp described Diogo Jota as "an incredible package" as the Liverpool striker prepares for a birthday return to Wolves.

Portugal international Jota was acquired by Liverpool in a deal worth up to £45million in September 2020, with his arrival bringing instant competition for Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah.

Firmino is sidelined for now and in his absence Jota has been enhancing an already strong case to be a preferred pick to the Brazilian, delivering hard-working and goalscoring performances.

As he celebrates his 25th birthday on Saturday, Jota will be back at Molineux with Liverpool, facing the club where he made his name in the Premier League.

Jota has already been back once to his old stomping ground, scoring the only goal as Liverpool won 1-0 at Wolves back in March.

After hitting nine goals already this season, Jota will fancy inflicting another blow on his former employers. He and Mane are both one away from double figures for the campaign, while Salah is one shy of reaching the 20 mark already.

Jota leads the way among Liverpool's forwards for ball recoveries (50), managing marginally more than Salah (49) and Mane (48) despite playing fewer minutes (Jota - 1,205; Mane - 1,457; Salah - 1,661). This is also an area where Firmino excels (29 recoveries in 515 minutes), with Klopp demanding hard work from his front players.

Asked about Jota in a news conference on Friday, Liverpool manager Klopp said: "He's an incredible package. From a personality point of view, he's a really incredible boy, really smart, really organised.

"I remember when I saw him for the first time, I thought he could be a player for me. The intensity he puts in makes a real difference, because at our level all the players are technically of incredible quality.

"You can make a difference with your attitude. That's what I was most excited about with Diogo."

Jota hit 13 goals in 42 games in his final year at Wolves, then repeated that haul in just 30 games for Liverpool last season.

He is firmly on course to beat that total this term, and after accumulating his 2019-20 haul for Wolves at an average of one goal every 205.4 minutes, Jota has gone from netting at a rate of one every 135.6 minutes last season to one per 133.9 minutes in 2021-22.

Klopp was always sure being a prolific goalscorer was in Jota's armoury, with Raul Jimenez having been the focal point of Wolves' attack and the Portugal international deployed in a wider role during their time as team-mates.

"People will say he didn't score an awful lot of goals," Klopp said of Jota, "but the problem is Wolves had probably the most intense style of play for wingers.

"He was very young then. For us, it was clear he would make the next steps with us and that's what he did."

Jurgen Klopp warned his Liverpool team they can throw away all hopes of Premier League title glory if they show signs of weakness over Christmas.

A strong start to the season has seen Liverpool gain a firm foothold in the title race, even if Klopp refuses to see it as such a battle at this relatively early stage of the campaign.

After 14 games, Liverpool have a healthy 31 points and sit two points behind leaders Chelsea and one shy of Manchester City, with fourth-placed West Ham seven points further back.

It looks like a long run to the finish line for the top three, and Reds manager Klopp wants his team to keep their focus during a testing run of games, starting with Saturday's trip to Wolves.

A healthy start to December saw Liverpool win 4-1 at struggling neighbours Everton on Wednesday, and Klopp hopes to be in a position later in the season where his team remain firmly in the hunt.

"Is it already a title race? I don't know. It's a very, very good, highest-quality league. It's unbelievable how good you have to be to win a single football game in this league," Klopp said in a news conference on Friday.

"We cannot win the league in November or December, but you can lose it, maybe. That's possible. You have to be around, you have to keep contact and be up there.

"That means we have to chase everybody, each player from each team we face from all directions, and just make sure we are this one goal better in pretty much all the games.

"I can't see it already in this moment as a title race, but it's exciting, obviously."

From December 19 to January 2, Liverpool must face Tottenham, Leeds United, Leicester City and Chelsea in the Premier League, and they also host the Foxes in the EFL Cup in that time. That testing run of games could go a long way to defining how their season plays out, with Klopp reminded of the agony he felt when Vincent Kompany fired Manchester City to the brink of the 2018-19 title after a thrilling race that saw Liverpool miss out on the silverware despite posting 97 points.

Liverpool of course made amends by streaking to the title the following year, before City were again top dogs last season.

"I think everybody knows I watched the Leicester game when they played Man City and Kompany scored that screamer," Klopp said.

"It's not that I'm watching City and Chelsea games [at the moment] and thinking, 'It'd be good if they lose' or whatever. Most of the time I don't know if they played or when they played, but hopefully it will happen at some point in March or April.

"That would be great and would mean we're still around, but between now and then obviously there are a lot of games to play and let's focus now on the next one."

Klopp has won all six of his Premier League games against Wolves, his best 100 per cent winning record against any opponent in his top-flight managerial career, so that bodes well for the trip to Molineux.

Indeed, Wolves have won just one of their 14 Premier League meetings with Liverpool (D2 L11), a 1-0 success at Anfield in December 2010. They have lost their last nine against the Reds in the competition by an aggregate score of 20-2.

Liverpool have not lost any of their last eight away league games against Wolves (W5 D3), with their most recent league defeat at Molineux coming in the days of the old First Division, a 1-0 loss back in August 1981.

In former Wolves forward Diogo Jota, who turns 25 on Saturday, Liverpool also have an attacker in form. The Portuguese talent has nine goals already this season and has created 23 chances for others.

Jota could become just the third player to score a Premier League goal on his birthday against a side he previously played for in the competition, after Emmanuel Adebayor for Tottenham against Arsenal in 2012 and Juan Mata for Manchester United versus Chelsea in 2019.

Klopp still finds English football's routine of playing through the winter hard to justify, given the heavy workload players face through December and January.

Two years ago he labelled it "a crime", and it is a refrain as familiar as any Christmas carol to hear Klopp chirping away in December about the harsh nature of the Premier League calendar.

"It's crazy. It was always crazy and will always be crazy, I think," he said. "Everything's fine until you reach Christmas time. To play on the 26th and 28th, it's still not right.

"We have to accept that, and we do that, and it's a tradition, and I get all that, but it's really tough. Generally it's not getting better. We have now two months ahead of us that will be really difficult to deal with."

Cashed-up Newcastle United are currently sitting last on the Premier League table, without a win with the season into December.

As a result, the Magpies are expected to be busy when the transfer window opens in January.

Newcastle are the only team yet to win a Premier League game this season.

TOP STORY – NEWCASTLE TARGET ENGLISH SEXTET

The Telegraph claims that Newcastle United have six English players on their January shortlist, including Manchester United's Jesse Lingard, Tottenham's Harry Winks, Chelsea's Ross Barkley and Atletico Madrid's Kieran Trippier.

According to the report, the club will hand over a blank cheque to manager Eddie Howe to land players who can make an instant impact.

Newcastle's owners are confident they can act swiftly in January despite their ongoing search for a sporting director. Burnley's James Tarkowski and Liverpool's Nat Phillips are also on their radar.

ROUND-UP

- The Mirror reports that Arsenal are tracking Everton's England international forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin with a view to an end-of-season move, as Alexandre Lacazette's replacement.

- Manchester United's veteran Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani wants to join Barcelona next season claims The Times.

- Milan and Internazionale are both lining up bids for Manchester United's Brazilian full-back Alex Telles according to The Sun.

- The Sun claims that Chelsea loanee Saul Niguez is unhappy at the club and wants a switch in January after joining the Blues on loan from Atletico Madrid in August. However, Saul cannot join a third European club this season, complicating matters.

- Talks between Barcelona and Ousmane Dembele have failed to progress, putting in doubt his future at the club, reports Sport.

Karim Adeyemi is inspired by the former Salzburg stars who have gone on to establish themselves as household names in European football as he plots a move of his own.

Adeyemi joined Salzburg in 2018 after spending six years with his local side in Germany, Unterhaching. He had joined them shortly after leaving Bayern Munich's academy.

While he did not fit in with the culture at Bayern, Adeyemi developed into a highly sought-after talent at Unterhaching, attracting the attention of clubs such as Chelsea before ultimately becoming the most expensive under-18 German player ever at the time when joining Salzburg for €3million.

After spending a season and a half at sister club Liefering, Adeyemi returned to Salzburg in January 2020 and has steadily built up his minutes. The 2020-21 season was something of a breakout campaign as he scored seven times in 29 appearances, though in 2021-22 he has established himself as the club's latest star and a full international with Germany.

Numerous big clubs such as Liverpool, Chelsea and Borussia Dortmund have been linked with him in recent times, with the 19-year-old seemingly unlikely to be in Austria next season.

While some might urge him to be cautious and choose another club that will help his development, Adeyemi is aiming high.

Asked about Salzburg's impressive list of alumni, Adeyemi told Tuttosport: "It's true, in recent years a lot of young players have matured in Salzburg and then landed at the best international clubs.

"I'm thinking of Erling Haaland, but also of Sadio Mane and Naby Keita of Liverpool, or Dominik Szoboszlai, who moved to RB Leipzig.

"Obviously, I also have this goal: I would like the next stage of my career to be at a top club."

Adeyemi is enjoying a wonderful campaign and does appear to be outgrowing – or have outgrown – the Austrian Bundesliga.

The 19-year-old had previously been used across the front, but this term he has really nailed down a spot as Salzburg's main striker. He may not be the tallest, but he has bulked up, possesses immense speed and is proving a reliable finisher.

Adeyemi has 11 goals in 15 Bundesliga appearances – excluding penalties, his tally of nine is only slightly higher than his non-penalty expected goals (8.1 xG) as well, which suggests he is not just in the midst of a lucky streak.

His 26.8 per cent conversion rate is also the third-best in the division among players with at least 20 shots, evidence of impressive maturity in terms of shot selection, especially given his age.

Another key dimension to his style of play is running with the ball. He has attempted 14 more dribbles than anyone else in the division this season (79) and completed the most (32) as well – granted, his success rate of 40.5 per cent is not extraordinary, but it is worth remembering as a striker he will be attempting those dribbles in the most congested areas of the pitch.

In terms of end product at the end of a ball carry, only five players can better his 16 shot involvements (shots taken and assisted), and Adeyemi is well aware of the role Salzburg have played in nurturing himself and other young players.

"The experience at Unterhaching was very important, but for the first time I played at a really high level with Salzburg," he continued.

"It's a fantastic club for young people like me. They throw you in right away and give you the chance to get to a high level quickly.

"Competing for the title of the Austrian championship is very helpful for the growth of a young person, it gives you experience.

"Equally important is the possibility of being protagonists in international competitions. This year we are in the group stage of the Champions League for the third season in a row, a fact that is far from obvious for a club in a small league like the Austrian one.

"In the Champions League we face the best teams and top players in the world: these experiences are priceless."

Is Robert Lewandowski's time at Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich coming to an end?

Lewandowski has called Bayern home since arriving from Borussia Dortmund in 2014.

However, the 33-year-old Poland international is reportedly ready for a new challenge.

 

TOP STORY – LEWANDOWSKI SET ON MADRID MOVE

Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski has ordered his agent to finalise a transfer to LaLiga giants Real Madrid, according to Diario AS.

Lewandowski has repeatedly excelled for Bayern, where he has broken numerous records, while he was unfortunate not to win the 2021 Ballon d'Or.

Previously linked with a move to the Premier League, Lewandowski appears to be set on a switch to Madrid, where his former team-mate David Alaba now calls home.

 

ROUND-UP

- Tuttosport claims Fiorentina want to sell Dusan Vlahovic abroad but the Serbia international is not interested in Arsenal as he eyes Juventus. Vlahovic has also been linked with Manchester City, Manchester United, Inter, Atletico Madrid, Tottenham and Bayern. It comes as Sky Sport Italia says Fiorentina are close to signing Lille forward Jonathan Ikone.

- Interim United manager Ralf Rangnick will try to convince Erling Haaland to leave Dortmund for Old Trafford, per Bild. Rangnick and Haaland worked together at Salzburg. Haaland is a player in demand amid interest from Madrid, Barcelona, Juve, Bayern, City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain. Since Rangnick's arrival, United have also been linked with RB Leipzig pair Christopher Nkunku and Amadou Haidara, as well as Chelsea forward Timo Werner.

- Record reports Dortmund are keen on Benfica and Uruguay attacker Darwin Nunez amid uncertainty over the future of Haaland.

- Premier League champions City have scouted Bologna and Sweden sensation Mattias Svanberg, according to Nicolo Schira.

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