Salzburg starlet Karim Adeyemi says he would love to one day join Barcelona but the player's agent has ruled that out in the near future.

The 19-year-old German striker has been linked with several clubs, including Barcelona along with Liverpool, Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund.

Adeyemi attended the Golden Boy ceremony in Turin on Monday where he claimed the web-voted prize, with Pedri winning the major award.

"Barca is a great club, it is a source of pride that they love me and of course I can see myself playing there if given the option," Adeyemi told reporters after the Golden Boy ceremony.

"Now they are feeling the departure of Messi but they will always be in the Champions League."

Adeyemi also clarified that he had not spoken to Barcelona president Joan Laporta who attended the function.

However, Adeyemi's agent Thomas Salomon came out after his player's comments, ruling out a Barcelona move in the near future.

"A few days ago we said 'no' definitively to Barca's proposal for Adeyemi," Salomon said according to Sport. "Barca is no longer an option for Karim. The best thing for him is a German club."

He continued: "They [Barcelona] made a proposal to us, but they never came to present anything to Salzburg."

Salomon did clarify that Adeyemi could potentially move to Camp Nou at another point in his career, keeping his options open.

"In two or three years we will see what can happen," he said.

One title race ended in controversial fashion this past weekend, but the Premier League's charge to the top is only just clicking into gear.

Lewis Hamilton will not be the only one left feeling harshly penalised after events over the last few days, after eight spot-kicks were awarded across the latest round of top-flight fixtures.

Chelsea were a major benefactor, as their win over Leeds United saw them keep pace with title rivals Manchester City and Liverpool.

Ralf Rangnick's Manchester United also scored from the spot in a win over Norwich City, while Conor Gallagher inspired Crystal Palace to a victory over Rafael Benitez's Everton.

Benitez's former club Newcastle United, meanwhile, suffered another damaging defeat in their quest to make it to the January transfer window with a fighting chance of staying up.

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

 

Penalties galore

The season of giving is approaching and it seems Premier League referees were more than willing to hand out goalscoring gifts.

Brentford beat Watford thanks to a last-gasp penalty on Friday, when the fun started. Bryan Mbeumo's resultant strike saw the Bees become the first team in Premier League history to have each of their first 10 home goals in the competition scored by different players.

Champions City then needed a spot-kick to defeat 10-man Wolves, with Raul Jimenez receiving his marching orders for blocking a free-kick from being taken, just 31 seconds after he had received his first booking. Raheem Sterling put it away, scoring his 100th goal in the Premier League. He is the 32nd player to reach that landmark in the top flight.

Chelsea's clash with Leeds really boosted the penalty numbers, with three awarded at Stamford Bridge. Antonio Rudiger became only the second Chelsea player to win two penalties in a single Premier League match, after Yuri Zhirkov against Aston Villa in March 2010. Jorginho put away both penalties to secure a 3-2 win, with Raphinha having put Leeds ahead from 12 yards.

Cristiano Ronaldo made no mistake at Carrow Road and Youri Tielemans was also on target for Leicester City in their demolition of Newcastle. Mohamed Salah converted a penalty he won in order for Liverpool to see off Aston Villa and club legend Steven Gerrard at Anfield.

Each penalty at Stamford Bridge resulted in a side taking the lead, a Premier League first, while Saturday was the first matchday to have three 1-0 wins all settled by spot-kicks.

Seven penalties awarded eitiher on Saturday and Sunday ranks second in Premier League history across a single weekend, after September 13-14 in 2003 (eight). Last season saw 125 spot-kicks given, the most ever in the competition, at a rate of 0.33 per game. The count for 2021-22 so far stands at 41.

Records set to go

Sterling's goal for City was the 499th scored in the Premier League under Pep Guardiola, in what was his 206th top-flight match in charge.

Guardiola is set be the Premier League manager to have seen his side score 500 goals in the fewest games, with Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp the current record-holder on 234.

Staying with City, they have already won 32 league games in 2021, one shy of Liverpool's top-tier record for a calendar year, set back in 1982. With four games remaining before the turn of the year, that is surely another record the champions are set to take.

Meanwhile, Liverpool are now on 1,999 top-flight victories, and will become the first team to reach the 2,000 milestone with their next success.

Benitez on thin ice?

It was always going to be a difficult task for Benitez to win over the Everton faithful. Given the chants directed his way by the travelling support at Palace on Sunday, he is as far away as he ever was from achieving that. A 3-1 defeat at Selhurst Park means Everton are on a run of one win in 10 league matches.

The wonderful Gallagher was their downfall, scoring twice either side of James Tomkins bundling home from a corner. The on-loan midfielder has now scored six goals and laid on three assists, contributing to nine of Palace's 22 league goals this season (41 per cent).

That ranks him eighth in the league when it comes to goal contributions for a side, and top among English players in the competition, and first for players aged 21 or under.

Everton have come from behind to claim 10 points this season, which already marks their best total since 2017-18 (14) and is the most in the competition this season, but based on the frustration directed Benitez's way, the former Liverpool boss might be in need of a Christmas miracle.

Howe's that defence staying up?

One place Benitez would certainly feel the love is St James' Park. Newcastle finally claimed their first win of the season by beating Burnley, but they were on the end of a 4-0 pasting at Leicester.

Newcastle's defence is the primary course for concern. They have already conceded 34 goals, the worst in the league. After 16 top-flight matches, they have conceded as many goals on eight other occasions, the last being in 1977-78.

Newcastle went down in that season, as they did in the 1960-61 campaign, but Eddie Howe might at least take some solace from the fact that the Magpies survived on the other six occasions.

Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos will come up against Real Madrid after Paris Saint-Germain were paired with Los Blancos in the Champions League round of 16, which had to undergo a re-draw.

PSG were initially drawn against Manchester United on Monday, throwing up a tantalising encounter between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

However, a technical error meant the draw had to take place again and while Messi will not meet Ronaldo just yet, the Barcelona great will go up against his former club's Clasico rivals.

Having finished second in Group A behind Manchester City, who were handed a favourable tie against Sporting CP, PSG will host Madrid in the first leg in February before visiting the Santiago Bernabeu in March.

That means Mbappe, who is a high-profile target for Madrid and could well have already signed a pre-contract agreement with Los Blancos by the time these fixtures roll around, will go up against his suitors.

It also sees Madrid legend Ramos go up against his old club, and it is the same story for Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti, who coached PSG from 2011 to 2013.

United, on the other hand, will face Atletico Madrid, who had initially been due to play Bayern Munich. The Bundesliga giants have been drawn against Salzburg.

Liverpool may well lament their luck. Salzburg had been their original opponents, but Jurgen Klopp's team now have to prepare for a tie against Serie A champions Inter - albeit they made light work of the Nerazzurri's rivals Milan in the group stage.

Coincidentally, holders Chelsea were again drawn against Lille, having been set a tie with the Ligue 1 champions during the initial draw. 

Villarreal will take on Juventus and Ajax go up against Benfica.

Champions League last 16 draw in full:

Salzburg v Bayern Munich
Sporting CP v Manchester City
Benfica v Ajax
Chelsea v Lille
Atletico Madrid v Manchester United
Villarreal v Juventus
Inter v Liverpool 
PSG v Real Madrid

UEFA has confirmed the Champions League last-16 draw will have to be re-done after a technical error with the initial procedure.

Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain were set to face each other in the knockout stage, but that headline fixture and the other ties will have to be redrawn after what UEFA labelled as a "technical problem with the software of an external service provider that instructs the officials as to which teams are eligible to play each other."

United were initially drawn to face Villarreal, but the sides were unable to play each other as they had previously featured in the same group.

After complaints from affected clubs, including Atletico Madrid, UEFA later announced the draw would take place again at 1500 CET (1400 GMT).

UEFA's deputy general secretary, Giorgio Marchetti, spotted the mistake involving United's ball and ordered the tie to be drawn again. Manchester City were instead picked to go against Villarreal.

Yet United, due to the technical error, were subsequently blocked from being selected as one of the teams eligible to play the next team, which was LaLiga champions Atleti.

Bayern Munich were ultimately picked to face Atleti, while United were drawn in the glamour tie of the round against PSG – a game that would have seen Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi meet in the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time since the 2010-11 semi-finals.

The re-draw could well benefit United, given the challenge of facing PSG. However, holders Chelsea and Liverpool were handed favourable draws against Lille and Salzburg respectively.

Inter had been due to face Ajax, while Sporting CP were up against Juventus. Real Madrid had been drawn against Benfica.

UEFA has confirmed the Champions League last-16 draw will have to be re-done after a technical error with the initial procedure.

Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain were set to face each other in the knockout stage, but that headline fixture and the other ties will have to be redrawn after what UEFA labelled as a "technical problem with the software of an external service provider that instructs the officials as to which teams are eligible to play each other."

United were initially drawn to face Villarreal, but the sides were unable to play each other as they had previously featured in the same group.

After complaints from affected clubs, including Atletico Madrid, UEFA later announced the draw would take place again at 1500 CET (1400 GMT).

Lionel Messi will once again face off with old foe Cristiano Ronaldo after Paris Saint-Germain were drawn against Manchester United in the headline fixture of the Champions League round of 16.

Former Barcelona star Messi meets Ronaldo in the knockout stages, with United visiting the Parc des Princes in February before the return leg at Old Trafford will take place in March. The legendary duo also met in last season's group stage when Los Cules went up against Juventus.

PSG finished second behind Group A winners Manchester City, while United were top of Group F.

If Messi against Ronaldo was not enough to look forward to, the tie also sees Mauricio Pochettino face the side that he has long been touted as a possible manager of.

Ex-Spurs boss Pochettino remains among the favourites to replace interim boss Ralf Rangnick, who is in charge until at least the end of the season.

United have met PSG in two of the previous three seasons. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer masterminded a 3-1 win at the same stage in March 2019, a victory that saw United through 4-3 on aggregate and secured him the job on a permanent basis.

The sides played each other again in the group stage of the 2019-20 campaign, with Thomas Tuchel's PSG winning at Old Trafford after losing the home game 2-1.

There was, however, a nervy moment for UEFA's officials when United were initially drawn against Villarreal, but due to teams who played each other in the group stage not being able to face each other in the last 16, the tie had to be re-drawn.

It remains to be seen whether any clubs lodge a complaint, with initial reports suggesting the draw will stand.

United's rivals and last season's runners-up City were instead drawn against Villarreal, who were victors of the 2020-21 Europa League.

Elsewhere in Monday's draw, holders Chelsea were paired with Ligue 1 champions Lille and Liverpool landed a favourable draw against Salzburg.

Atletico Madrid, who scraped through in second place behind Liverpool in Group B, face a daunting tie with Bayern Munich.

Benfica went through in Group E at the expense of Barcelona, and the Portuguese giants were drawn against the Blaugrana's Clasico rivals and 13-time European champions Madrid.

Ajax topped a Champions League group for the first time since 1995-96, and were drawn against Inter, with Juventus meeting Sporting CP, who are making their first appearance in the knockout stage since 2008-09.

Champions League last 16 draw in full:

Benfica v Real Madrid
Villarreal v Manchester City
Atletico Madrid v Bayern Munich
Salzburg v Liverpool
Inter v Ajax
Sporting CP v Juventus
Chelsea v Lille
PSG v Manchester United

Paul Pogba's club future continues to be a major topic of speculation.

The 28-year-old is into the final year of his Manchester United contract.

Pogba has flirted with the idea of an extension but has been stalling on a decision.

 

TOP STORY – REAL AND PSG HOME IN ON POGBA

Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain are both ready to ramp up the race to sign Paul Pogba from Manchester United, claims Marca.

Pogba is running down his United contract, meaning he will be a free agent in mid-2022.

Real and PSG will rekindle their interest after new United interim manager Ralf Rangnick said Pogba should not need to be convinced to stay.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United forward Edinson Cavani has offered his services to Juventus, according to Calciomercato. The Uruguayan veteran has also been linked with Barcelona.

- Barcelona are plotting moves for Chelsea's trio Cesar Azpilicueta, Christian Pulisic and Antonio Rudiger, reports Mundo Deportivo.

- Milan are circling to sign Liverpool's super-sub Divock Origi as they seek a long-term replacement for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, claims Tuttomercato. Atalanta are also interested.

- Calciomercato reports that Roma are considering a move for Spezia midfielder Jiulio Maggiore. The 23-year-old is out of contract in 2023 and valued at €8m (£6.8m).

- Roma are also interested in a move for Norwich City's Max Aarons, according to Corriere dello Sport. Tottenham and Everton are also in the race.

- Lyon are interested in a move for Villarreal's Arnaut Danjuma, claims Todofichajes. Manchester United and Barcelona are also tracking the ex-Bournemouth winger.

Manchester United's search for a permanent new manager continues to roll on.

Ralf Rangnick has taken over on an interim basis following Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's axing.

Several big names have been linked with the vacant post.

 

TOP STORY – TEN HAG TOP OF MAN UTD'S LIST

Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag has moved to the head of the queue to be Manchester United's new manager, claims The Mirror.

Ten Hag guided Ajax through a record-breaking Champions League group campaign where they won all six games.

United have now made appointing him their priority as he ticks all the boxes for the 20-time English champions.

 

ROUND-UP

- Newcastle United have reached out to Manchester United about the prospect of a January move for Jesse Lingard, claims The Sun.

- Tottenham are tracking Chelsea's Andreas Christensen, joining Manchester City and Manchester United in pursuit of him, reports the Daily Star.

- Liverpool have set a £10million asking price for West Ham target Nat Phillips, according to The Sun.

- The Reds are also interested in signing Real Madrid winger Rodrygo and are willing to pay £68m (€80m), reports El Nacional.

- La Gazzetta dello Sport claims that Inter have not held any talks with Stefan dr Vrij amid links with Tottenham and Newcastle United.

- Brazilian powerhouse Corinthians have enquired about Manchester United's veteran Uruguayan forward Edinson Cavani, claims Globo Esporte.

The Premier League provided its usual drama on Saturday with decisive penalties awarded in all but one of the fixtures.

Chelsea left it late against Leeds United in a game that saw referee Chris Kavanagh award three penalties, while Manchester United earned a narrow win thanks to another Cristiano Ronaldo spot-kick.

Liverpool also profited from the penalty spot as Steven Gerrard made his return to Anfield with Aston Villa, and another conversion from 12 yards aided Manchester City at home to Wolves.

Elsewhere, Arsenal cruised past Southampton, who are yet to win at Emirates Stadium in 23 Premier League attempts – the longest winless run for one club away to another in the competition's history.

With tons of action to unpack, Stats Perform takes an in-depth look at the pick of Opta facts from Saturday's clashes.

Manchester City 1-0 Wolves: Jimenez moment of madness gifts Citizens win

Raheem Sterling reached a century of Premier League goals as City scraped by 10-man Wolves, who could not hold on after Raul Jimenez's bizarre red card for two yellows in a matter of seconds.

Jimenez became the first ever Mexican player to receive a red card in the Premier League, making Mexico the 76th nation to have a player dismissed in the competition.

Sterling then scored from the penalty spot after Joao Moutinho was adjudged to have handled, becoming the 32nd player to 100 Premier League goals and the eighth-youngest at 27 years and three days.

Pep Guardiola's side held on to that slender lead and have now won 32 of their 40 league games in 2021 (D2 L6) – only Liverpool in 1982 (33) have won more matches in a single calendar year in English top-flight history.

Chelsea 3-2 Leeds United: Spot-kick drama condemns Whites to another London loss

Leeds have a miserable record in London and that was extended to just two wins in their past 33 matches in all competitions in the capital despite Raphinha finding the net when a first penalty was awarded in the visitors' favour at Stamford Bridge.

Mason Mount cancelled out that opener, before Raphinha became the 13th player – and first Leeds star – to both score and concede a penalty in the same Premier League game when he brought down Antonio Rudiger, allowing Jorginho to score.

Although Joe Gelhardt netted Leeds' first top-flight goal by a teenager since James Milner versus Everton in April 2004 to level the match again, Rudiger won a second penalty – the first Chelsea player to earn two in a Premier League game since Yuri Zhirkov against Aston Villa in March 2010 – deep into stoppage time.

Jorginho settled the result with his second from 12 yards after 93 minutes and 11 seconds, the Blues' latest winning goal in the competition since Florent Malouda's strike against Stoke City in September 2009 (93:36).

Liverpool 1-0 Aston Villa: Salah downs shot-shy Villans

Returning hero Gerrard was greeted with a standing ovation back at Anfield, but the latest king of the Kop ensured his Villa side went away empty-handed. 

Mohamed Salah again made the difference, the Egypt international converting his 15th straight Premier League penalty – the second-longest ever such run in the competition after Matt Le Tissier (23 between 1994 and 2000).

Salah is also now just one game away from Jamie Vardy's record of either scoring or assisting in 15 straight Premier League matches between August and December 2015.

This was Liverpool's 100th 1-0 win in the competition and their second in a row for the first time since December 2015, requiring just the one goal as Villa failed to register a single shot on target in a league match for the first time since December 2019 against Sheffield United.

Norwich City 0-1 Manchester United: Another Ronaldo rescue act for Red Devils

Ralf Rangnick has pinpointed United's defensive issues as a key area to fix and there were more positive signs on that front – at least on the stats sheet.

Rangnick became just the second Manchester United manager to register a clean sheet in his first two league games after Ernest Mangnall in 1903.

United were far from convincing in either defence or attack, though, again relying on David de Gea and match-winner Ronaldo, who won and scored United's 50th successful away Premier League spot-kick – only Liverpool (60) have netted more such goals in the competition's history.

Ronaldo also became only the third player to score for three different United managers in a single season after James Hanson and Joe Spence both did so in 1926-27.

Jurgen Klopp says he did not feel under pressure pitting his wits against Steven Gerrard but likened the way Liverpool made hard work of beating Aston Villa to "tooth pain".

Reds legend Gerrard suffered a 1-0 defeat on his return to Anfield as Villa manager, Mohamed Salah scoring the only goal of the game from the penalty spot after Tyrone Mings brought him down midway through the second half.

Liverpool dominated the game and Villa failed to register a shot on target, but they might have had a late penalty of their own for a challenge from Alisson on former Reds striker Danny Ings.

That is seven wins in a row in all competitions for the second-placed Merseyside club, who are a point behind Premier League leaders Manchester City.

Gerrard was given a great reception by the fans who adored him during his outstanding career, but Liverpool manager Klopp has no problem with the club legend constantly being talked up as his successor.

He told Match of the Day: "The good thing is I have no problem with this sort of thing. I will not be here forever, so I would love it to be Stevie! But no I did not feel under pressure today."

Klopp did have an issue with seeing his side have a few nervy moments with such a slender lead as Villa showed more ambition late on after spending the majority of the game camped in their own half.

He said: "The first 75 minutes was incredible football. It's difficult. The opponent defended compact. It looked really good, we played in the spaces we wanted to play, but we did not finish the situations, which is tricky.

"We came out in the second half and knew we had to keep going – and improve in moments. We were not calm enough in the last pass. We kept going.

"We scored with the penalty, then the relief was obviously too big and it was an unnecessary open game. Like tooth pain, nobody needs that. There are areas to improve even when we win football games, which is good."

Salah has either scored or assisted a goal in 14 consecutive Premier League appearances, just one off Jamie Vardy's record of 15 between August and December 2015.

The Egypt forward's goal was his 21st of the season, and he has converted his past 15 penalties in the Premier League, with only Matt Le Tissier (23) scoring more in a row in the competition between January 1994 and April 2000.

Mohamed Salah scored his 21st goal of the season as Liverpool beat Aston Villa 1-0 on the day Steven Gerrard returned to Anfield.

Villa boss Gerrard was given a great reception by fans who worshipped him during an outstanding playing career that saw the former captain establish himself as a Liverpool legend.

Gerrard was unable to prevent Liverpool from extending their winning run to seven matches, Salah tucking home a 67th-minute penalty after he was brought down by Tyrone Mings.

Jurgen Klopp's in-form side dominated Villa, although Danny Ings may have been unfortunate not to be awarded a late penalty, and second-placed Liverpool remain a point behind Premier League leaders Manchester City.

Sadio Mane thought he had been pulled back by Matty Cash in the penalty area early on, and Emiliano Martinez showed sharp reactions to keep out Andy Robertson's header as the Reds applied pressure from the start.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's dipping long-range drive was just over the crossbar before the dangerous Robertson went down under a challenge from Marvelous Nakamba, but both referee Stuart Attwell and the VAR again saw nothing untoward.

The agile Martinez stuck out his left hand to superbly deny Salah at his near post after the prolific forward had cut in from the right, with Villa standing firm to weather the storm in the rain.

Martinez palmed the unmarked Virgil van Dijk's powerful header into the Kop and Diogo Jota replaced Oxlade-Chamberlain 12 minutes into the second half.

There was huge relief for the majority of a packed crowd when Salah made the breakthrough midway through the second half, firing into the bottom-right corner after Mings upended the Egypt international with a clumsy challenge.

Alisson might have been lucky not to concede a penalty when Ings went down late on after a mix-up between the Liverpool goalkeeper and Joel Matip, as Villa were unable to force a late equaliser.


What does it mean? Relentless Reds march on

Salah was Liverpool's match-winner yet again as he earned and converted the decisive penalty to end battling Villa's resistance.

The Merseyside club have only conceded twice in seven matches and stay just behind City, who beat Wolves 1-0 earlier in the day, while third-placed Chelsea needed a last-gasp Jorginho penalty to see off Leeds United 3-2.

This was a second defeat of his Villa tenure for Gerrard, who made 710 appearances for Liverpool, and they did not pose a threat until late in the game.

Spot-on Salah

Salah has now found the back of the net with his last 15 penalties in the Premier League. Only Southampton great Matthew Le Tissier (23 in a row between January 1994 and April 2000) has scored many consecutive spot-kicks in the competition.

Former Chelsea and Roma man Salah had six goal attempts here, hitting the target with two.

Marauding Robertson a massive threat

Robertson was a standout performer for the Reds and gave a Cash a tough afternoon. The Scotland left-back provided three key passes and made the most passes by a Liverpool player in the Villa half with 50. He also came close to an opening goal in the first half.

What's next?

Liverpool face struggling Newcastle United at Anfield on Thursday, two days after Villa are reunited with their former boss Dean Smith when they travel to tackle Norwich City.

Barcelona are in disarray – out of Champions League and out of money.

Funds are limited at Camp Nou and it is forcing the embattled LaLiga giants to make some tough decisions.

Frenkie de Jong and Marc-Andre ter Stegen could be sold.

 

TOP STORY – DE JONG AND TER STEGEN TO LEAVE CAMP NOU?

Barcelona are willing to sell Frenkie de Jong and Marc-Andre ter Stegen due to the club's finances, according to Diario AS.

Eliminated from the Champions League at the group stage, Barca are in the midst of a financial crisis, having been forced to part with superstar captain Lionel Messi at the start of the season.

Barca head coach Xavi faces a rebuilding job but needs to raise funds, and star midfielder De Jong and goalkeeper Ter Stegen could be sacrificed.

De Jong has been linked with Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Bayern Munich, who have also eyed Ter Stegen.

 

ROUND-UP

- Football Insider says Real Madrid are weighing up a move for former superstar Cristiano Ronaldo if he does not fit into the system of United interim manager Ralf Rangnick.

- ESPN claims Borussia Dortmund's Jude Bellingham, RB Leipzig midfielder Amadou Haidara and Kalvin Phillips of Leeds United are key targets for Manchester United. Erling Haaland is also a long-term target of United.

Chelsea are eyeing Leicester City's Wesley Fofana as a replacement for soon-to-be free agent Antonio Rudiger, per Goal. Rudiger has been linked with Real Madrid and Bayern on a free transfer. Preparing for life after Rudiger, Chelsea have also been linked to Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde.

Paris Saint-Germain are looking to move on Mauro Icardi, Rafinha and Abdou Diallo, says L'Equipe. Icardi has been linked with Juventus, Milan, Newcastle United and Tottenham.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is expecting Steven Gerrard to "fight with all he has" when Liverpool host Aston Villa in the Premier League on Saturday.

Reds legend Gerrard was appointed manager of Villa last month following the dismissal of Dean Smith and has won three of his first four games in charge of the Midlands club.

The former England midfielder won a multitude of trophies during his playing days at Liverpool, including the Champions League in 2005 along with three EFL Cups, two FA Cups, the UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup.

He started his coaching career leading Liverpool's Under-18s side before joining Rangers in 2018, and last season led the Gers to their first Scottish Premiership title in a decade, ending Celtic's dominance.

Speaking ahead of their meeting at Anfield, Klopp was glowing in his praise of Gerrard as a person, saying: "To have this kind of relationship with people says a lot about Stevie.

"Honestly, since I've been here, I haven't heard one [bad] word... 'Stevie is a great player, great player, but…' there was not one 'but'. Everybody's only positive. 

"Then you meet him and you realise what a great guy he is actually. The talent he had could have led to a lot of strange characteristics, but obviously he's a really good guy. Which is nice.

"So everybody's happy for him that he's doing well. Now he's coming back to his club, it is his club. Not for 95 minutes I know, all fine. It will be strange for him, but he will fight with all he has."

Klopp was also asked about the future of Nat Phillips. The centre back started the 2-1 Champions League win against Milan at San Siro on Tuesday, but suffered a facial injury that his manager said is likely to keep him out of action for "four to five weeks". 

Phillips played 20 games for Liverpool last season, with 18 starts, after injuries to Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip, but his start in Milan was his first in any competition this season, and the 24-year-old has been linked with a move away in the January transfer window.

"I'm very happy that Nat is here, to be honest," Klopp told reporters. "But we will not block anything – I think, at least, it's not the plan anymore. But who knows what happens until January, then we would talk completely new.

"It's of course not the luckiest moment for this, but by the end of January he will be completely fine, definitely – or probably in the middle of January, I don't know exactly.

"So we will see that it will be completely fine. It's not complicated, it's just not cool. We will see what that means exactly, but in the long-term, it's no problem. Everything will be fine for Nat, definitely."

Steven Gerrard insists he is focused on delivering "a positive result for Aston Villa" ahead of his return to Anfield, claiming the "noise" surrounding the game does not affect him.

Gerrard played 710 times for boyhood club Liverpool, winning the Champions League, two FA Cups, three EFL Cups, the UEFA Cup and a UEFA Super Cup in the process.

The Liverpool legend will face his former club for the first time on Saturday as Aston Villa boss, having won three of his first four games since leaving Rangers to replace Dean Smith.

"The noise is for other people to get excited about," Gerrard said ahead of Saturday's game. "For me, it's about preparing the team in the best way I can to try to get a positive result for Aston Villa.

"For everyone else, it's a massive occasion. For me, it's three points, it's a big game of football, and it's 90 minutes that we need to focus on.

"If I'm on the bus, heading back down the M6 towards Birmingham, and I’m not the most popular at Anfield, so be it."

Gerrard did, however, say that he understood why his return had generated excitement and acknowledged he is looking forward to the reunion.

"I really respect and understand all the noise around the game for obvious reasons, because I'm going back to a club [where] I spent many years," Gerrard said. 

"It brings a smile to my face for a couple of reasons. One, because, obviously, I've got a good relationship with a lot of people at the club.

"I had a fantastic time there, a really good journey, I'm a local boy, [they're] the team I supported growing up, and I always will support that team – of course I will.

"But at the same time, it brings a smile to my face because I have the opportunity to go there and compete against a good team, a good manager with the opportunity to try to win the game, and that's my main focus."

Gerrard has overseen defensive improvement in his short Villa tenure, conceding four goals in four games versus 20 in 11 before that, but he is keen to see his side on the front foot.

"We're a good team, we've got top players, we're a threat, and we want to make it as difficult as we can for Liverpool," Gerrard added.

"We're at our best when we play with controlled aggression and we're on the front foot. At this level, if you're passive in any area of the pitch, you can be punished quickly."

Jurgen Klopp is certain that Steven Gerrard will go on to become a Liverpool manager.

Gerrard takes his Aston Villa side to Anfield on Saturday, returning to his former club for the first time as a manager or a player.

The former England midfielder, who is a club great at Liverpool, won the Champions League in 2005 along with three EFL Cups, the FA Cup and UEFA Cup with the Reds during a glittering career.

He started his coaching career within Liverpool's youth set up before joining Rangers in 2018. Last season, he led them to their first Scottish Premiership title in a decade, ending Celtic's dominance.

Villa came calling at the start of November in the wake of Dean Smith's dismissal and Gerrard has overseen three victories from his opening four Premier League games in charge, only losing to Liverpool's title rivals Manchester City.

Gerrard has long been tipped to take over at Liverpool, possibly even from Klopp, whose current deal runs until the end of the 2023-24 season.

And Klopp – who began Friday's news conference by joking he would not take any questions over Gerrard – has no doubt the 41-year-old will manage Liverpool, though believes the right timing is crucial.

"Yes, I think, absolutely - the only problem is when is the right moment for that?" Klopp said about the prospect of Gerrard managing the Reds.

"Not only with Stevie but look at Frank [Lampard] at Chelsea, a similar story. Stevie's doing really well, he's very young from a manager's point of view.

"So it's about when he takes the job, not that he's not able to do it, but when does he want to do it?

"Is it the last job, the second or third job or whatever? Those are questions I can't answer but yes, I think it will definitely happen and it will be good for everybody."

Asked if Gerrard must first prove his credentials with Villa, Klopp added: "I'm not the right person to answer that.

"It's not up to me to make those kind of decisions, I don't know what you have to do before you become Liverpool manager.

"I know people say you have to win things but I think it's more important to win things while you are here. You can win things in the past but never win something again.

"Everything Stevie has done so far looks good and is going in the right direction. I cannot see a scenario where I am involved in that decision, but who knows what the future will bring!"

It is set to be a highly emotional return for Gerrard, who made 710 appearances across all competitions for Liverpool, though the German insisted there is no room for sentiment during the contest.

"It's a wonderful story," Klopp said. "Stevie is already an experienced coach, he's doing the job for a while, knows exactly how to approach games. He probably has no idea how it will feel when he steps into the dug-out.

"I had a similar feeling the first time I went back to Mainz, and the times I went back with Liverpool to Dortmund. It's strange. But I could handle it, Stevie can handle it. 

"Before I will shake hands, after I will shake hands, but in between I will go full throttle and he will go full throttle.

"I remember when we scored with Dortmund at Mainz, I forgot everything about my history, I was celebrating like a crazy devil. He has every right to do that as well, I just hope he has no reason for it."

Klopp also suggested Liverpool need to use the emotion of the occasion to create a vibrant Anfield atmosphere as they look to either keep pace with or leapfrog current leaders City, while third-place Chelsea are also in action on Saturday.

"Stevie might say there is no sentiment but from our point of view there is sentiment, we love Stevie, but we are all professionals," he said.

"Stevie can get the best reception in the world because he deserves it but in the 95 minutes we need everybody behind us. We have to throw everything in, use Anfield, and then it's difficult for each opponent."

History is not on Gerrard's side. Former players managing against the Reds at Anfield in the Premier League have lost 14 of their last 16 visits (W1 D1), with Kevin Keegan the last ex-Liverpool player to win there in 2003.

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