Manchester City twice rallied to secure a 2-2 draw against Liverpool after a pulsating encounter between the previous two Premier League champions at Anfield.

Kevin De Bruyne's left-footed shot pegged back the Reds for a second time after a sensational solo Mohamed Salah effort had put Liverpool ahead again, the Egyptian holding off Joao Cancelo before moving beyond Bernardo Silva and Aymeric Laporte to rifle in a right-footed drive from a tight angle.

Uncharacteristically passive in the first 45 minutes despite playing towards the Kop, Liverpool went ahead when Sadio Mane slotted home Salah's throughball, only for Phil Foden to respond for City.

Fabinho appeared set to put the Reds ahead once again only for a brilliant Rodri block to prevent him from slotting into an unguarded net, meaning a point apiece for both teams.

All the drama after the break was in stark contrast to a first half that saw City dominant. Foden was twice denied by Alisson and also felt he should have been awarded a penalty when clipped by James Milner, who was then fortunate to avoid a second yellow card for a foul after the break.

The closest Liverpool went to scoring in the first 45 minutes came when a Ruben Dias back pass nearly caught out Ederson, but Jurgen Klopp's half-time words worked a treat as the hosts came alive after the interval.

Diogo Jota finally tested Ederson before Salah's run and throughball allowed Mane to slot home his 99th Premier League goal.

Foden’s response was emphatic, his left-footed strike flashing beyond Alisson, yet Salah appeared to have landed a knockout blow in the heavyweight battle with a glorious run and finish.

City, however, climbed off the canvas to make sure they avoided a knockout defeat, the scorecard finishing level thanks to De Bruyne, whose first-time attempt from the centre of the penalty area clipped Joel Matip on the way in.

Jordan Henderson believes it is Manchester City who set the standards in the Premier League and Liverpool will have to keep up with Pep Guardiola's men if they are to stand of chance of winning back the title.

Liverpool welcome City to Anfield on Sunday in what Henderson feels is undoubtedly the biggest match of the season so far for Jurgen Klopp's men.

The Reds can return to the summit with a win after Chelsea knocked them off top spot by beating Southampton 3-1 on Saturday.

Historically Liverpool boast a good record against City, having not lost consecutive home games against them since 1937 and losing just one of their past 18 meetings at Anfield.

But that solitary defeat came via a 4-1 thrashing in February as City cruised to the title, and although Liverpool are on the longest unbeaten run (16) in the top four tiers of English football, City's quality is not lost on Henderson

Writing in his programme notes, Henderson said: "There's no doubt that this game is our biggest of the season so far. The Premier League table tells us this, recent history and the aims of the two clubs tells us this.

"As an opponent, Manchester City are as strong as they come and we welcome them to Anfield in the knowledge that having got a great result at Chelsea last weekend they will be looking for another one today.

"City's record under Pep Guardiola speaks for itself. From a Liverpool perspective, they set the standards that we had to live up to before we could become champions and any team which wants to win the league this season will know that their chances of doing so will be maximised if they finish above City.

"They are the reigning champions and someone will have to take their crown because City won't be handing it over."

Henderson then turned his attention to talk of "respect", which could possibly be seen as a veiled message to supporters after Guardiola pleaded for Liverpool fans to not attack the City bus, eager to avoid a situation similar to that prior to their Champions League clash in 2018.

"There is a lot of talk about the rivalry between our two clubs, but for the most part this is built on respect and competition," he added. "You can't slug it out as we have in recent seasons and not have a rivalry, that wouldn't make sense.

"But by the same token, if you go toe-to-toe with a team like City it would be ridiculous if you didn't recognise their quality and respect them for it.

"Yes, there will be headlines, stories and flashpoints because all of this is part and parcel of elite sport in which one team is vying with another, but I can guarantee that when the game kicks off the overriding factor will be respect.

"It is only by having this kind of approach that you give yourself the best possible chance of being successful on the day. If you don't know how good the opposition are and respect that, how can you possibly beat them?"

The Liverpool captain also spoke of his bemusement at some of the criticism directed at City earlier in the season, and he felt there were similarities with the reaction to the Reds' shock 3-3 draw with Brentford last weekend.

"The mad thing is it's only a couple of games ago that reactionary questions were being asked of City after a home draw against Southampton," Henderson continued. "Honestly, that baffles me. This Man City are without question one of the most consistently successful teams of the modern era.

"But it is the world we live in now I suppose. A result and performance in isolation is analysed to death, ignoring wider context.

"The flip-side to that sort of reaction is it speaks volumes about the standards being set. It was similar for us last weekend when we drew at Brentford. Was it the perfect result? No. Did we want a better one? Of course.

"But the reality is that every team will play games throughout the season when points will be dropped against opponents whom you're supposedly favourites to beat, because that is just what the Premier League is like.

"There were positives, but these were undermined by individual and collective shortcomings at key moments and this cost us two points. This is why it was so important that we responded in the manner that we did against Porto in midweek. It is one thing to have an off-day, it is another thing to allow it to turn into two or three."

Could Darwin Nunez be the next Benfica star to make a big move?

Portuguese sensation Joao Felix swapped Benfica for Atletico Madrid in a club-record deal in 2019.

Now, Uruguay international Nunez is attracting interest from across Europe.

 

TOP STORY – CITY FRONT OF QUEUE FOR NUNEZ

Manchester City are leading the race to sign Darwin Nunez from Portuguese giants Benfica, according to the Daily Star.

Premier League champions City are desperate to sign a forward amid links with Tottenham's Harry Kane, Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland and Fiorentina forward Dusan Vlahovic.

Nunez has also reportedly attracted interest from BarcelonaLiverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Milan, Inter and Atletico Madrid.

 

ROUND-UP

– United forward Edinson Cavani could join Real Madrid in January, claims Mundo Deportivo. It comes as Cavani finds himself battling Cristiano Ronaldo for regular game time at Old Trafford, where the club's hierarchy are concerned amid their form under manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

- The Daily Star reports Arsenal are weighing up a move for out-of-favour City forward Raheem SterlingBarca are also believed to be interested in Sterling, according to The Sun, as they face the prospect of missing out on Leipzig's Dani Olmo. The Spain international has been linked with United, Juventus and Bayern.

Liverpool are eyeing Pogon Szczecin midfielder Kacper Kozlowski, says the Mirror. The 17-year-old has been linked with Bayer Leverkusen, Milan, RB Leipzig and Salzburg.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp likened players and people refusing the coronavirus vaccine to drink-drivers amid a reluctance to receive the COVID-19 jab.

Klopp discussed the COVID-19 vaccination ahead of Liverpool's blockbuster showdown with Premier League champions Manchester City at Anfield on Sunday.

While Klopp said "99 per cent" of his squad are fully vaccinated, many Premier League clubs are reportedly yet to reach half of their players receiving both jabs.

"I didn't have to convince the players, it was more a natural decision from the team," Klopp told reporters. "I cannot remember really talking to a player in a one-on-one situation and explaining to him."

"It sounds like we are not allowed to give people advice," Klopp added. "Where did I get the knowledge from that I think it makes sense to get the vaccine? I called doctors that I've known for years and I asked them: 'What should I do?'

"That's how I usually work: when you don't know, you call a specialist and the specialist tells you. That's why I took the vaccination because I am in an age group [54] where it is not that easy anymore, the virus could be tricky, and I was really happy when I could get it. The specialists out there say the vaccination is the solution at the moment.

"If I say I am vaccinated, other people say: 'How can you tell me I should be vaccinated?' It is a little bit like drink-driving. We all probably were in a situation where we had a beer or two and thought we still could drive but, [because of] the law, we are not allowed to drive so we don't drive. But this law is not there for protecting me when I drink two beers and want to drive, it's for protecting all the other people because I'm drunk and we accept that as a law.

"I don't take the vaccination only to protect me, I take the vaccination to protect all the people around me. I don't understand why that is a limitation of freedom because, if it is, then not being allowed to drink and drive is a limitation of freedom as well.

"I got the vaccination because I was concerned about myself but even more so about everybody around me. If I get [Covid] and I suffer from it: my fault. If I get it and spread it to someone else: my fault and not their fault."

Liverpool – the only side still unbeaten in the Premier League this season – can return to the top of the table with victory at home to Pep Guardiola's City on Merseyside.

The Reds have not lost consecutive league games against City since a run of four between 1935 and 1937, going down 4-1 the last time the sides met in February.

Liverpool are unbeaten in 16 league games (W12 D4) – the longest current run without defeat in the top-four tiers of English football. However, Klopp's men conceded more goals in their 3-3 draw at Brentford last time out than they had in their previous eight league games combined (two).

Guardiola has lost more games against Klopp in all competitions than he has against any opposing manager in his career (eight). Meanwhile, of sides he has faced at least 10 times in all competitions, the Spaniard's lowest win rate is against Liverpool (30.8 per cent - W4 D4 L5).

"All these kind of feelings have to be there - excitement, nervousness, pressure, emotions," Guardiola said. "If you don't have those feelings in important games, like the previous ones or for the biggest ones, this business is not for you.

"Maybe you don't sleep better the day before, or sleep good when it's over or not if the performance is not good, but this is how you live this life.

"I still have it before the games. If you don't feel that you are not for the business. You have to feel it."

Paul Pogba has been the subject of constant speculation over the past 12 months.

Manchester United's French midfielder is into the final year of his contract.

Pogba has been in excellent early season form, with seven assists in the league already.

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID MOVE LOOMS FOR POGBA

Real Madrid are Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba's most likely destination at the end of this season, claims El Nacional.

The France international is out of contract at Old Trafford at the end of this season and could leave on a free transfer.

Pogba's agent Mino Raiola is trying to persuade Pogba to join Madrid, despite interest from Paris Saint-Germain.

 

ROUND-UP

Liverpool target Karim Adeyemi is being chased by German pair Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg, reports Sport Bild. RB Leipzig are also monitoring the 19-year-old Salzburg striker.

Marco Asensio appears destined to leave Madrid given his current role, with Sevilla hoping to sign the midfielder, according to El Gol Digital.

– Fichajes reports that Milan are plotting a January move for out-of-favour Manchester United midfielder Donny van de Beek.

– The Sun claims that Tottenham have revived their interest in West Brom goalkeeper Sam Johnstone as they seek a successor to Hugo Lloris.

Roma head coach Jose Mourinho wants to reunite with Tottenham midfielder Tanguy Ndombele by signing him, reports Calciomercato.

– Marca claims that Manchester City are considering tabling an offer to sign Villareal forward Pau Torres .

With another international break almost upon us, fantasy football players will be able to rest easy for a couple of weeks at the start of October.

But first, there are plenty of important points to be had.

With Liverpool hosting Manchester City, Chelsea eager to get back to winning ways and Arsenal preparing for a tricky test at Brighton and Hove Albion, there is plenty of value to be had with some wise selections.

Allow Stats Perform to lend a guiding hand, with the help of Opta data...

 

EDOUARD MENDY (Chelsea v Southampton)

Back-to-back defeats to Manchester City and Juventus have somewhat derailed Chelsea's good start to the season, and Thomas Tuchel will expect a response against Southampton.

Saints have failed to score in their past three league matches and, in Edouard Mendy, they will be facing the goalkeeper with the best save percentage in the division this season (90 per cent), out of those to have played more than once in the competition.

Mendy is conceding just once every 225 minutes on average, a stat likely to worry winless Southampton but bring encouragement to fantasy football players.

 

ANDY ROBERTSON (Liverpool v Manchester City)

Since the start of last season, Andy Robertson has provided eight Premier League assists. The only defender with more is, you guessed it, Liverpool team-mate Trent Alexander-Arnold (nine).

The England right-back is also the only defender since last September with more passes into the box and chances created than Robertson, who has managed 329 and 52 respectively.

With Alexander-Arnold ruled out by Jurgen Klopp due to injury, Robertson could play an even more pivotal role for the Reds against the reigning champions.

 

JOAO CANCELO (Liverpool v Manchester City)

If you are looking for value in both boxes, Joao Cancelo may well be your best bet.

No Premier League defender has had more touches in the opposition box (16), while only Cancelo and team-mate Ruben Dias can boast five clean sheets in the competition in the 2021-22 season so far.

With 10 shots and one assist to his name, Cancelo will be another full-back to watch with interest at Anfield.

WILFRIED ZAHA (Crystal Palace v Leicester City)

Leicester could be vulnerable after a Thursday Europa League trip to Poland, especially with Palace having gone three home games without defeat while conceding just once.

The Foxes also happen to be among Wilfried Zaha's favourite opponents. The Ivory Coast international has six goals and two assists against them in 12 games, more than he has against any other side.

It is perhaps also worth mentioning that, as a player, Palace boss Patrick Vieira played 11 times against Leicester and never lost.

 

ALLAN SAINT-MAXIMIN (Wolves v Newcastle United)

Aside from being one of the most fun players in the top flight, Allan Saint-Maximin is also Newcastle's greatest goal threat.

With two scored and three assisted, he has been directly involved in 71 per cent of all the Magpies' league goals this season and has had a hand in at least one in each of his past four appearances.

Newcastle have only won one of their most recent nine league encounters with Wolves, who themselves have not beaten their next opponents at home since April 1993. Perhaps Saint-Maximin is the man to tip the balance.

 

NEAL MAUPAY (Brighton and Hove Albion v Arsenal)

Speaking of key players, Brighton owe half of their eight league goals this season to Neal Maupay, who is looking to score in three consecutive top-flight matches for the first time in a year.

Arsenal are one of his preferred opponents, too: he has scored the winner in two out of three league meetings with the Gunners.

Mikel Arteta's side should be feeling positive after their derby win, but the Seagulls have won three of their past four home matches in the league, as many as they had managed in their previous 22.

 

ROMELU LUKAKU (Chelsea v Southampton)

After drawing a blank in his previous four outings in all competitions, Romelu Lukaku will be keen to get back among the goals.

Chelsea's record signing will be glad of his next opponents, then: he has nine goals in 12 previous Premier League games against Southampton and has never scored more against a single side in the division.

The Blues have scored six first-half goals in 2021-22 – only Liverpool can match that tally – so an early Lukaku strike may well be on the cards.

Pep Guardiola is "happier than ever" with the way Manchester City are playing and says Liverpool are just one of "many" Premier League title contenders ahead of Sunday's clash at Anfield.

City were beaten 2-0 by Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on Tuesday following an impressive 1-0 win at Chelsea last weekend.

The champions could go top of the table if they beat leaders Liverpool on Merseyside, where they won 4-1 last season to end a run of 17 away games without a league win over the Reds.

Guardiola feels his side, who trail the Reds by only a point after six games, are in great shape despite their setback in the French capital.

Asked about the importance of keeping pace with the leaders, the City boss said: "I never thought about this.

"Ten games is so important to not be far away from the leader. The year we won the second league [title] in a row back-to-back [in 2018-19), we were seven points behind Liverpool in January and we won the league.

"I'm not going to make a step back the way we're thinking, just improve is what we have to do. We can be better in some departments. In general, [with] the team I am more happy than ever the way we behave and play.

"We played in Chelsea as a great team, a real team. This is what I like. We are trying, this is my job."

He added: "I start to see the table after 10-15 fixtures. Now to be one point ahead or down is not important. it's the way we play."

The top six teams in the Premier League are separated by just a point and Guardiola believes City have plenty of competition in their battle to retain the title.

Asked if Liverpool are contenders along with Chelsea, the Spaniard said: "And United, no? Liverpool since I arrived here, the first year maybe not, after the year we won 100 points Liverpool always was there.

"Last season they had many problems in the same position. Otherwise it would have been different, and we were excellent again.

"The last four years all the time we were both there. It's the biggest compliment both clubs were there. In the Premier League there are not just one, two, there are many teams who can fight for the league."

Ilkay Gundogan and Oleksandr Zinchenko will miss the trip to Anfield, but Guardiola says the duo return from injury after the international break.

City will be looking to secure back-to-back league victories at Liverpool for the first time since January 1953 against a Reds side that are unbeaten in 16 top-flight matches.

Jurgen Klopp hailed Manchester City as the "best team in Europe" as Liverpool prepare to host the reigning Premier League champions on Sunday.

Liverpool are the only side still unbeaten in the Premier League after six matches and have not lost in 16 league games as they sit a point clear at the top.

However, City have conceded the fewest top-flight goals this term (one) and the Reds have won just one of their seven games against Pep Guardiola's side in the competition.

Klopp, who has inflicted the most defeats on Guardiola in all competitions (eight), is aware of the challenge that awaits him as two title contenders face off at Anfield.

"Manchester City are for me the best team in Europe at the moment," Klopp told reporters at Friday's pre-match news conference.

"Last weekend they played Chelsea and they are good but City were clearly better that day. That's the team we face.

"We have to score, so that's been helpful but we have to defend on our highest level. We have to be brave, front-footed, cheeky in moments, really your best version and then and only then do you have a chance.

"What we did last week or the other day was okay but we need a complex football challenge.

"It's better that we don't have to boost the confidence of the players right now. Sometimes you do from time to time.

"We have a positive view but we know we haven't played City yet. We'll use the Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain games. This is a special game."

Liverpool may boast the only unbeaten start but they were downed 4-1 the last time the two sides met in February.

However, the Reds have not lost consecutive league games against City since a run of four between 1935 and 1937 as Klopp warned that his team's start is only the beginning if they want to be successful.

"We have to defend as a unit," he continued. "It will be tricky of course and the individual quality will shine on both sides and hopefully it will be good enough for us.

"I just want to play the best season we can play. So far, so good, but it's just a few games in.

"A draw would mean we're still unbeaten. Would I take it now? It's early, let's play the game and ask me after that. So far the start is [fine] but it's not that we think we couldn't have done better.

"If we win, I'd think it was a 'proper' start. But then we play Watford, Atletico Madrid and Manchester United."

Mohamed Salah is already a Liverpool legend and the Reds must tie the forward down to a new contract whatever the cost, according to Jamie Carragher.

Salah recently became the fastest Liverpool player to 100 top-flight goals, achieving the feat in 151 matches – one game fewer than the late, great Roger Hunt took to reach the landmark.

The Egypt forward also became the 30th different Premier League player to hit a century of goals since the competition began in 1992 as he poked in against Leeds United on September 12.

However, the 29-year-old's future remains in doubt, with his current contract due to expire in 2023 and no signs suggesting a new deal is imminently forthcoming.

Former Reds centre-back Carragher, who made more than 700 appearances for Liverpool, explained in the Telegraph how the situation with Salah needs to be resolved quickly.

"The heartfelt tributes to Roger Hunt following his passing are a reminder that the best footballers are often most appreciated long after they stop playing," Carragher wrote.

"Jurgen Klopp said recently you cannot be called a legend until after retirement. There is a tendency to hesitate before recognising true greatness when it is in front of us, and the bittersweet reality is that sometimes only in death is a player's legacy fully acknowledged. 

"Occasionally, we must take more pleasure from those in the modern era who are so freakishly good, they deserve to be spoken about as reverentially as the greats of the past.

"Mohamed Salah is such a footballer.

"There is no sign that [a new contract] is imminent. Worryingly, it is possible Salah will leave on a Bosman free transfer.

"It would be a serious mistake to let the situation drag on that far.

"I understand it is not as straightforward as saying 'just give the player what he wants' without thoroughly considering the financial consequences. The cash has to come from somewhere.

"It is well documented how Liverpool run their business, and they do not want to set precedents that will cause long-term financial damage by agreeing wages in excess of £400,000-a-week.

"My counter-argument is that exceptional players warrant being treated as an exception."

Indeed, Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, Alisson, Andy Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Virgil van Dijk have all secured new long-term deals at Anfield.

But Salah remains in wait to seal a new contract with Jurgen Klopp's side and Carragher, who believes the former Roma and Chelsea forward has already achieved legendary status, implored Liverpool to complete negotiations.

"Klopp vowed captain Jordan Henderson's deal would 'get sorted' after a brief stalemate and it immediately was, yet says he is 'not involved' with Salah's negotiations," he continued.

"That seems odd. If there is a sound reason for not resolving the Salah contract situation with the same urgency, it is yet to be satisfactorily explained.

"Whenever we talk about Liverpool's renaissance, we often focus on the influence of Van Dijk and Alisson, taking the team to another level.

"That’s fair, but we should not forget that the foundations were in place because of the immediate impact of Salah, who was already on his way to scoring 44 goals in his first season when Van Dijk signed.

"Twenty-five years from now, fans will examine this era and consider how lucky they were to witness Salah’s goal feats. They will rewatch the videos and see his statistics with a sense of awe.

"I hope they will not look back and ask this: Why on earth did he leave before he had a chance to beat Roger Hunt’s record?"

Trepidation has been a common feeling among Manchester City fans when it comes to the adaptation of new signings under Pep Guardiola.

That's not necessarily down to doubts over the players generally, or Guardiola, but rather how those two factors will come together.

After all, it's been noted for a while now just how common it seems to be for Guardiola's signings to perhaps underwhelm in their first season at City, only to then kick on and really make an impact in their second season.

While it's hardly an exact science, numerous players fit into that category; Riyad Mahrez, Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva are certainly among them, and there's even a case to be made that Ferran Torres could qualify given he's made a solid start to 2021-22 after an up-and-down 2020-21.

Jack Grealish probably wouldn't have had too many supporters concerned, though you could argue the pressure on him to succeed straight away was far greater and that in itself might've been a burden.

Yet his transition from key man at Aston Villa to a similarly central figure has been impressively seamless.

If it ain't broken…

Much of the focus around Grealish's £100million move to City centred on where he would be deployed by Guardiola.

There were a lot of suggestions that he was actually set to be tried in more of a central position, perhaps with the idea being to make the most of his ball-carrying abilities.

While Grealish's name has seemingly been spotted in various starting positions on line-up graphics and the like, he's still unmistakably been more prominent out on the left flank – 73 per cent of his actions have been localised to the left side of the pitch in the opposition's half, up from 51 per cent at Villa last term.

Of course, at City he is in a team that spends more time on the front foot and in possession than Villa in 2020-21, so such an increase isn't exactly a surprise, but it does suggest Guardiola hasn't tried to make major changes just yet.

Instant influence

Tuesday's 2-0 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain was probably Grealish's trickiest game yet for City – as one might expect.

That's not to say he played especially poorly, as he did manage to record a couple of key passes, but generally he was frustrated. Achraf Hakimi's athleticism helped the Moroccan do a good job on Grealish, while referee Carlos del Cerro Grande was rarely sympathetic to the England international.

It wasn't a huge surprise when Guardiola opted to withdraw him with 22 minutes remaining, but despite that blip, there has been plenty to be optimistic about Grealish's settling-in period at City.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Grealish's trademark comfort on the ball has been a particular factor, and his start at City speaks to his own self-belief.

He's averaging 25 carries (defined as movements of at least five metres in possession) each game in the Premier League, more than any other player, while his total carry distance of 1,787.5 metres is second only to a man who seems to know no other skill, Adama Traore (1,844.5m).

His forays on the ball are helping to drive City forward as well, with Traore (55) and Allan Saint-Maximin (48) the only players to record more progressive carries of at least 10m. The one other City player with more than 34 is Aymeric Laporte.

Additionally, those carries have led to 11 goalscoring opportunities, with three ending in a shot by Grealish or eight leading to a key pass. Again, only five have been more effective with their end product when running with the ball.

To come into the champions' team and instantly become such an influence is an impressive feat in itself.

More than meets the eye

Of course, some might be tempted to point towards Grealish's rather modest return of two goal involvements (one goal, one assist) in six Premier League appearances this term, but that would be too reductive.

Having a solitary assist, for example, certainly doesn't tell the whole story. After all, his 2.9 chances created per 90 minutes is second only to Bruno Fernandes (3.0) in the league, while Grealish's 0.26 expected assists (xA) each game is bettered by just five players.

It's also worth pointing out his xA per 90 is greater than his assists per 90 (0.17), suggesting he's actually being let down by the finishing of his team-mates.

As for his goalscoring efforts, we all know Grealish is capable of the spectacular but his shot selection at City has seemingly been focused on ensuring maximum threat to the goalkeeper, with all but one coming from inside the box. With his shots averaging 0.12 xG as opposed to 0.09 last season, there's every reason to expect greater long-term results.

Furthermore, there is evidence to support the idea Grealish is slightly more involved in general build-up play as well, his open-play sequence involvement going up from 43.7 per 90 to 47.8 – though City do see more of the ball, so it is probably too soon to make any meaningful conclusions from that.

Nevertheless, it is another example of how Grealish has quickly become a key influencer in the City team. While those early reports of him literally playing a central role may not have quite come to fruition, he has at least in a figurative sense, with Rodri the sole City player involved in more sequences (53.8) each game than him.

It's already been a hectic period for City, given they've faced Chelsea and PSG in less than a week, and it will ramp up again with another big test in their attempts to become early runaway leaders when they face Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.

The following day will be exactly a year on from Grealish's devastating display in Villa's 7-2 win over the Reds, during which he had a hand in five goals (three assists, two goals), a haul that has only ever been bettered twice in a single Premier League match.

While no one will be expecting quite an astonishing performance this time, it's at least evidence of what Grealish is capable of if Liverpool cannot keep him under wraps.

Paris Saint-Germain continue to plan for Kylian Mbappe's potential departure. 

The Ligue 1 giants have been linked with several possible replacements. 

Robert Lewandowski is the latest rumoured target.

 

TOP STORY – PSG EYE LEWANDOWSKI AS MBAPPE REPLACEMENT

With seemingly everyone expecting Kylian Mbappe to depart Paris Saint-Germain after the season, the club have been linked with several potential attacking options. 

Robert Lewandowski is the latest, with Le10Sport reporting the Bayern Munich and Poland striker could make a lucrative move to PSG. 

The 33-year-old is under contract with Bayern through 2023, though, and could end up agreeing to a new deal to remain in the Bundesliga. 

 

ROUND-UP

Real Madrid are set to take another run at Manchester United's Edinson Cavani during the January transfer window, says El Nacional. 

Andrea Pirlo and River Plate's Marcelo Gallardo are candidates to replace Ronald Koeman if he is sacked by Barcelona in the coming days, the Express reports. 

PSG are eyeing midfield help, with Inter's Nicolo Barella a possibility, according to Calciomercato, along with N'Golo Kante, Paul Pogba and Franck Kessie.

Liverpool are interested in Bayer Leverkusen winger Moussa Diaby, according to Calciomercato. 

Timo Werner could look to leave Chelsea if he does not receive more playing time the rest of the season, says the Telegraph.

Liverpool will be without Trent Alexander-Arnold and Thiago Alcantara for Sunday's Premier League clash with Manchester City.

Full-back Alexander-Arnold sat out the 5-1 Champions League win at Porto on Tuesday due to a muscle problem, while Thiago has missed the Reds' previous three games with a calf injury.

Manager Jurgen Klopp does not expect either to be available until after the international break.

Speaking to the club's website on Thursday, he said: "No 'news' means they are doing well but they won't have enough time for being back against City, but I expect them both to be back after the international break. 

"But we have a good team so we still have solutions and we have to use them and yeah, after the international break the boys will be back I think."

City won 4-1 at Anfield last season to end a 17-game run without an away league win over Klopp's men.

Liverpool, who are on a 16-game unbeaten run in league football, will be hoping to avoid suffering back-to-back defeats to City for the first time since 1937.

The Reds go into the latest round of matches at the top of the table, one point ahead of a five-team chasing pack that includes City, Chelsea, Manchester United, Everton and Brighton and Hove Albion.

Arsenal are set for a shake-up after missing out on European football for the first time in 26 years.

Mikel Arteta's side started the new Premier League campaign slowly.

But three wins in a row have offered hope and rumours are swirling about transfer activity.

 

TOP STORY – ARSENAL PLOT SWAP FOR EN-NESYRI

Arsenal will offer Alexandre Lacazette as part of a deal to land Youssef En-Nesyri from Sevilla, according to La Razon.

Morocco international forward En-Nesyri has sparked Arsenal's interest after netting 24 goals in all competitions in the 2020-21 season.

Lacazette has only made one league appearance for the Gunners this term and was reportedly shipped around during the off-season.

ROUND-UP

– Fabrizio Romano reports Lorenzo Pellegrini is set to sign a new long-term contract with Roma, which will remove his €30million release clause. Pellegrini was previously pursued by Liverpool and Tottenham.

– Liverpool scouts kept a close eye on Villarreal's Arnaut Danjuma at Wednesday's Champions League game against Manchester United as they plan for Sadio Mane's successor, claims the Daily Mirror.

– Real Madrid midfielder Marco Asensio remains in Arsenal's sights, reports the Daily Star.

Inter are not considering signing Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno, with Ajax's Andre Onana their preferred acquisition, claims Fabrizio Romano.

Youri Tielemans has not yet committed his long-term future to Leicester City.

Tielemans is only contracted with the Foxes until the end of the 2022-23 season.

And Leicester may consider selling their FA Cup final hero at the end of this season if they cannot strike a new deal.

 

TOP STORY – SPANISH GIANTS KEEN ON TIELEMANS

Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid are circling for Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans, reports The Athletic.

The 24-year-old Belgium international publicly said he is "keeping his options open" as he negotiates a new Leicester deal.

Barcelona and Madrid would be interested in Tielemans, who has also been linked with Liverpool, should he become available next off-season.

 

ROUND-UP

– Football Insider reports Tottenham are still planning to sell Dele Alli, although they will wait until the end of this season. Spurs are hoping Alli's value will rise throughout the season to land a significant transfer fee.

– Everton are considering moves for Real Madrid pair Isco and Luka Jovic in January on six-month loan deals, according to Defensa Central.

– Liverpool are keeping an eye on Porto's Colombian star Luis Diaz, reports The Independent, with the two sides having met in the Champions League on Tuesday.

– Juventus have joined Chelsea in showing interest in Monaco midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni, claims the Daily Mail.

– Newcastle attacker Allan Saint-Maximin has interest from Chelsea and Liverpool, according to the Express.

Curtis Jones may have not started the 2021-22 season quite as he hoped, but the Liverpool midfielder has been making up for lost time in his recent outings for the Reds.

After a breakout campaign that saw him go from talented prospect to first-team squad member, Jones' desire to hit the ground running this term was held up by a concussion diagnosis, having suffered a blow to the head in a pre-season friendly.

Absent for the opening win over Norwich City, the midfielder saw Harvey Elliott emerge in the opening weeks to provide further competition for a place in the team, only to then suffer a serious leg injury in the away win at Leeds United.

With Naby Keita once more missing time and Thiago Alcantara sidelined, Jones has capitalised on his opportunities. A first start against Norwich in an EFL Cup tie was followed by a goalscoring appearance from the off at Brentford, as he played 67 minutes in the pulsating 3-3 draw.

Jurgen Klopp retained Jones in the starting XI once more on Tuesday, lining him up alongside captain Jordan Henderson and anchor Fabinho, a midfield trio that made sure Liverpool seized control after a somewhat shaky start. His work in combination with full-back Andy Robertson and Sadio Mane on the left-hand side helped lead dominate possession, with the visitors enjoying 66.8 per cent of the ball as they coasted to a 5-1 win. The solitary surprise with the scoreline was that Porto even managed to get one.

Only centre-back pairing Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip made more successful passes than Jones in the lopsided contest, though no player wearing red managed more than his total of 49 in the opposing team's half.  

Klopp was pleased with what he saw from a player who had to learn on the job in 2020-21, part of a Liverpool squad that had to come through a defensive injury crisis and produce a fast finish just to secure a place at the top table of European club football once again.

What made Jones' performance in Portugal even more impressive was how he had not been feeling well beforehand, as his boss revealed to the media.

"Curtis played a good game. He had some problems a little bit with the stomach before the game. They told me I need to keep an eye on him, but I told him after the game whatever it is, keep it because it was really a good game," Klopp joked.

"He played a really good game, he was everywhere, he was involved in everything. Set up the first goal with a surprising finish, goalie cannot save it. In a lot of other situations he was really there - maybe not as spectacular as the offensive stuff, but defensively he played a top-class game.  

"He defended really well, pressed from the blind side, a lot of things I liked a lot about his performance tonight. So, let's keep going, Curtis, it was not bad tonight."

"Not bad" is an understatement. It was Jones' effort after cutting inside that led to Mohamed Salah tapping in to make it 1-0, while his determination to work his way out of a tight spot late in the game when under pressure led to a ball in behind that set up Roberto Firmino for the first of his late brace, albeit with plenty of help from wandering goalkeeper Diogo Costa. 

That shot for Salah's opener was one of four attempts as he looked to follow up his rocket of a strike at Brentford. He had shown his willingness to have a go in the previous season too, averaging 1.69 shots per 90 minutes. His eye for goal led to him scoring four times in 34 appearances, including a Champions League winner against Ajax in December 2020. 

While his defensive work may not get the same level of attention, but his manager certainly appreciated his efforts against Porto, which included winning seven of his 10 duels. 

"I know, on paper, he’s so young, but I feel as though he has been around the first team for a few years now, he has settled in really well, he has matured really well," Henderson told BT Sport. 

"Now you're starting to see what a good player he is over the last few weeks. He has had to be a little bit patient at the beginning of the season but he’s come in and he's done fantastically well.  

"You can see he has got all the attributes to be a top player. I feel as though he is maturing all the time and he’s putting in some really good performances to help the team."

Patience has certainly paid off for Jones, who has made a compelling case to remain in the team when Manchester City visit Anfield on Sunday, as well as pushing for inclusion in Gareth Southgate's England squad for the upcoming October internationals. 

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