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What would constitute a successful January for Liverpool?




January has been a strange month for Liverpool in recent years. Last season, in four weeks they went from title contenders to clinging onto a top four place, yet this year it could be even more decisive.

Last January, Sadio Mane’s trip to the African Cup of Nations was given as the main reason behind a lack of clinical finishing which saw the Reds drop points against the likes of Sunderland and Swansea, whilst being knocked out of both cup competitions by Southampton and Championship side Wolves.

This campaign, Mane has never got up to speed after missing out on the start of pre-season as he still overcame a knee injury picked up in the Merseyside Derby in April.

He had five more goals at this stage last season and he has struggled to come to terms with the fact that it is Mohamed Salah who has taken up his role as the star man in attack. If Mane can regain that form which saw him heralded as one of the best signings of last summer, then it will be like a new signing for Jurgen Klopp.

Injury to Salah, who is expected to be sidelined for two weeks, has the potential to throw a spanner in the works. Like Mane’s absence in January 2017, others must step up in his place.

The positive for Liverpool is that there is now a much greater strength in depth in the squad, and they should be able to cover him, but that assumption is based on a reliance that the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain produce the goods when it matters most.

At the other end of the field, the best news of January came in December with the signing of Virgil Van Dijk. His rapid integration will be crucial, as it is now a year since he was at his best. Injury saw him miss the second half of the season last year and it was clear that his head was already at Anfield after the transfer window closed in the summer.

There mere presence of the Dutchman may be enough to spark an improvement from the likes of Dejan Lovren, but Jurgen Klopp will want to see him get up to speed as quickly as possible and become a fixture in the Liverpool defence.

In the immediate future, there is not a major need for more signings from Liverpool. Most recent rumours have been regarding further reinforcements for the summer, with Klopp having made it clear that he is not keen on January reinforcements unless absolutely necessarily.

That reluctance last January cost Liverpool dearly as it exposed their lack of depth, but this year there is no such weak link in any one particular position. Improvements are needed in goal and in midfield, but it seems unlikely that Klopp will look for a quick fix in either of those roles.

More importantly, the club will be desperate to retain the services of Philippe Coutinho. It seems inevitable that his long term future lies away from Liverpool, but Mundo Deportivo say that Barcelona will return with a renewed attempt to sign him this month.

With a Champions League campaign to focus on and a top four place to seal, Coutinho’s presence for the second half of the season could prove to be make or break.

Emre Can is also a major concern, which is not attracting anywhere near as many headlines. Another young player with potential to be a key figure for years to come, he is now into the final six months of his contract.

Sky in Italy say that Juventus are tracking the German, but Liverpool do not appear to have given up on hopes of convincing him to remain on Merseyside. If they can tie him down, it would be a great piece of January business by the club.

Finally, there are results on the field. Cup progress against Everton in a derby in the FA Cup is crucial and could represent their best chance of silverware this season.

Then comes a tough fixture at Anfield against Manchester City. Whereas the Reds’ record last season against their nearest rivals was impressive, this campaign it has been less convincing. City are by far and away the best side in the league, and if Liverpool want to push for second spot they will need to show their credentials in this clash.

The two final games of the month are the kind of games which cost the club dearly only a year ago. Trips to Swansea and Huddersfield are potential banana skins which Liverpool must prove that they can overcome, just like they did with a tricky visit to Burnley in the first game of 2018.

There is no denying that this Liverpool side has huge potential, but it remains a work in progress. The fruits of Jurgen Klopp’s labour may not be ready just yet, and January is unlikely to prove a pivotal moment in that journey, but it must not be a time in which the club let their progress wane away either.

Sam is a football journalist focusing on English football at all levels and Spanish football. He also writes for Spain's biggest daily sports newspaper, MARCA, as well as The Boot Room. Find Sam on Twitter at @samleveridge.

Crystal Palace

Three potential England replacements for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

The Liverpool midfielder has been ruled out of the summer’s World Cup.

Jake Jackman



Photo: Getty Images

It looked bad for Liverpool and England when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was stretchered off during the first half of the Reds’ game against AS Roma in the Champions League and their worst fears were confirmed on Wednesday.

The 24-year-old has suffered a knee injury, which will keep him out of the rest of the season and this summer’s World Cup.

This is incredibly harsh news to take for the midfielder, who had been playing the best football of his career under Jurgen Klopp.

Last summer, he made a huge career decision as he chose to leave Arsenal to join top-six rivals Liverpool and, in hindsight, it has been a great move for him.

His influence and consistency have stood out from the centre of the park and England would have benefitted from that in Russia.

However, Gareth Southgate needs to readjust quickly and find a suitable alternative to the Liverpool midfielder.

Here are three players that could replace Oxlade-Chamberlain and receive a World Cup call this summer:

Ruben Loftus-Cheek – Crystal Palace

The injury to Oxlade-Chamberlain has opened up an opportunity for Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who will now have a chance of making the plane for Russia.

The midfielder has impressed at Crystal Palace and he delivered an assured performance against Germany on his international debut. Although injuries have hindered his progress since he remains one of the only dynamic midfielders available to Gareth Southgate.

Against Germany, he completed 96.2% of his passes and completed four successful dribbles. There were a lot of people that thought the call came too soon, but he looked at home on the international stage and he will be unknown to a lot of the teams England are due to face.

Oxlade-Chamberlain was going to provide the power and pace in the England midfield. Loftus-Cheek may not be as experienced as the Liverpool man, but he can step up and perform a similar role. If he can finish the season strongly, he will have a great chance of making the squad.

England Training Session And Press Conference

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Jonjo Shelvey – Newcastle United

There are growing calls for the Newcastle United midfielder to be called up by Gareth Southgate and they will only increase with the news of Oxlade-Chamberlain’s injury.

Shelvey won’t be able to step into the same role, but he can provide different qualities and could be a worthy selection for England.

Newcastle’s recent surge up the league table have shown Shelvey in a good light and he has been a major reason for his team’s success.

The 26-year-old dictates the game from deep and has a passing range that can’t be matched by any other English player.

Against Arsenal, he was putting his team-mates in on goal at will and there is a place for his skills in the national set-up.

England have a number of quick attacking players and against better teams, Shelvey would provide a good option.

Southgate will need to set his side up to counter-attack and there is no better player to pick out the runs of Raheem Sterling and Jamie Vardy than the Newcastle midfielder.

There are risks to selecting the 26-year-old, but he deserves to be considered for the summer’s tournament.

(Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Dele Alli – Tottenham

The Tottenham midfielder is going to go to the World Cup. Nobody can debate that, but he has found himself out of the starting eleven during recent friendly matches.

The injury to Oxlade-Chamberlain may benefit him, as there will now be a midfield position up for grabs.

Alli isn’t as comfortable in a central role as Oxlade-Chamberlain, but his goal threat and intelligent movement means that he could step into the starting eleven and play well.

The 22-year-old has had his critics this season, but a return of eight goals and ten assists in the Premier League underline the quality that he provides to a team.

Southgate will need to make sure Alli knows his defensive responsibilities and that the player carries them out to the letter, as England can’t afford to carry a midfield player.

At the age of 22, this summer could be an opportunity to break out for the Tottenham man.

It would be a risk to start him in a deeper role, but the rewards may be worth it.

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English Premier League

Liverpool fans licking lips at potential Mohamed Salah duel with Marcelo

Liverpool v Real Madrid is now the likely Champions League final, and Salah could leave Marcelo exposed.



Real Madrid are now looking likely to be in the Champions League final against Liverpool after they defeated Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena. After Joshua Kimmich gave Bayern the lead, it seemed the Bavarians might manage to upset the bookmakers and send Real crashing out. But goals from Marcelo and Marcos Asensio saw Real pick up a vital away win.

With Liverpool winning their first-leg against Roma 5-2, the two sides look well placed to make the final in Kiev.

Real Madrid might have won the game, but it was a performance that left Liverpool fans hopeful of facing Los Merengues in the Champions League final.

The Reds currently have perhaps the best player in world football today. Mohamed Salah has been a revelation since joining the side in the summer. Since arriving at Anfield from Roma he has scored 43 goals for the club and put his former side to the sword last night.

(Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

He infiltrated Roma’s weak and attack-minded left side over and over again in the first-leg and Liverpool fans believe he will do the same if they face Madrid.

Whilst Marcelo may have scored in the game, he did not put in the best of performances.

He left an acre of space for Kimmich to run into for Bayern’s goal. He struggled to deal with Thomas Muller at times, but if Arjen Robben had remained on the pitch it is fair to wonder if Marcelo may have had a more torrid time.

Liverpool fans are certainly excited at the prospect of Salah perhaps facing off with Marcelo in the Champions League final. Defending is not the Brazilian’s favourite aspect of his job and fans at Anfield feel that Salah might be able to leave him embarrassed if they go toe-to-toe.

Based on the evidence of the past two nights, it is hard to disagree with the Liverpool fans who feel Salah can leave Marcelo trailing…

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Kevin Stewart has not proven Liverpool wrong for £8 million sale

Liverpool sold the midfielder to Hull City in the summer.



Photo: Getty Images

In the summer Liverpool decided to let midfielder Kevin Stewart leave the club. The 24-year-old had caused a stir when he followed Academy Director Alex Inglethorpe from Tottenham Hotspur to Liverpool in 2014.

The versatile player soon spent time out on loan with the likes of Cheltenham Town, Burton Albion and Swindon Town before finding his way into the Liverpool first-team picture under Jurgen Klopp.

He played 111 times for the club in the 2015-16 season, an impressive tally for the youngster who had established his best position as a holding midfielder.

(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

But after just nine appearances last term he made a permanent move from Liverpool in the summer. The Reds decided to let him go after recently relegated Hull City made a bid to bring him in, as a replacement for the Derby County-bound Tom Huddlestone.

It was reported by The Telegraph that the deal was worth around £8 million for the player to head to the KCOM Stadium. The Hull Daily Mail have since reported that the initial fee for the player is just £4 million, but it could rise to £8m with add-ons.

So far, Liverpool will not feel they made a mistake letting him go. Stewart has had a tough season with The Tigers.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

He suffered an injury during his Hull debut against QPR back in August and that essentially sums up his season. He has played just 16 times in the Championship this season whilst Hull have been fighting a relegation battle. In fact, there improved form came at a time when Stewart was out of action.

In February, Hull were on the end of a 4-0 thrashing in the FA Cup against Chelsea. The result reflected a poor performance from Hull but the local media pointed the finger at the former Liverpool man. The Hull Daily Mail, in fact, labelled him Hull’s ‘weak link’ in their match report.

At times during his stay at Liverpool, it looked as though Stewart might have a future at the club. But that has not proved to be the case after a series of disappointing displays and injury turmoil.

Hopefully, next season Stewart can have more of an impact at Hull. But, right now, it seems Liverpool will have no regrets about his sale.

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