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Jurgen Klopp has Arjen Robben with an edge in Mohamed Salah

Mathew Coull

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Jurgen Klopp is edging closer to his second Champions League final as a manager. The Liverpool boss guided his side to a 5-2 win over AS Roma in the first-leg of their Champions League semi-final last night.  

It means Roma need to win by three clear goals in the return leg to have any chance of progressing. Liverpool are now on the cusp of something exciting but, of course, Klopp has been stung in the Champions League final before.

He took his heavy-metal football to Wembley in 2013 to take on domestic rivals Bayern Munich. Goals from Mario Mandzukic and Ilkay Gundogan had the even affair level until the final minute of the 90 when Arjen Robben scored a dramatic winner.

It was a sickener for Klopp and the perfect end to the season for Robben, who had struggled with injury problems throughout the campaign.

(during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final First Leg match between Liverpool and A.S. Roma at Anfield on April 24, 2018 in Liverpool, United Kingdom.

Watching Liverpool cut through the Roma defence last night, it was hard not to make comparisons between Klopp’s current superstar and the man who ended his Champions League dream five years ago.

Mohamed Salah plays just like Robben from the right-hand side of an attacking triumvirate. Defenders know exactly what Salah wants to do. He wants the ball on his left foot to get a strike at goal. But the Egyptian wizard shifts the ball with such pace that opposing forces cannot stop him doing so, just as Roma found out last night.

Then, much like Robben, he is also a threat running centrally from the wing. His lobbed finish over Alisson Becker last night was the perfect example. His run was very similar to the one Robben conducted to score that late winner at Wembley that left Klopp flabbergasted.

But the best and most flattering comparison you can give Salah regarding Robben is his brain. Roberto Firmino’s first goal was crafted throughout the game by Salah. After constantly coming inside and having Juan Jesus changing direction the Brazilian felt he had learned Salah’s game. He showed the Liverpool star the outside, daring him to go on his right foot. It was exactly what Salah wanted. He ghosted past the defender and produced a sublime low cross on his right foot to find Firmino.

(Photo credit should read CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

That goal, where the mental fragility of the opponent was exposed, was vintage Robben.

The difference between Salah and Robben, however, is a killer instinct. The Dutchman’s highest tally for a season is just 23 goals. Salah has 44 goals this season alone.

What Klopp has is Robben with an edge, a dangerous prospect for anyone who stands in Liverpool’s way before the end of the season.

On this occasion, it could be Salah making Klopp jubilant in a Champions League final come May. With Bayern Munich facing Real Madrid in the semi-final, it could be at the detriment of his 2013 nemesis.

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Everton

Heurelho Gomes would be perfect back-up for Everton under Marco Silva

The Brazilian veteran would be a great option for Everton.

Mathew Coull

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Everton certainly do not need a new first-team goalkeeper. The Toffees have an excellent young stopper in Jordan Pickford who, in the long-term, has the potential to be a star for both club and country. This summer it appears he will be the number one goalie for England at the World Cup in Russia.

However, Everton may need to bring in a new stopper to back him up. Joel Robles is out of contract this summer and Maarten Stekelenburg continues to suffer from a long-term hip problem.

Everton, who are also after a new boss, are therefore likely to bring in a new face this summer. Well, if they make the managerial choice they clearly desire, the best option for back-up ‘keeper becomes clear.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

The Toffees want former Watford boss Marco Silva to become the new boss at Goodison Park. His appointment would surely see a move for veteran Hornets stopper Heurelho Gomes become a possibility.

The 37-year-old has established himself as a top keeper in English football at Vicarage Road. After a mixed spell at Tottenham Hotspur, he has been fantastic for Watford for the past four years.

The 11-cap Brazilian international might be on his way this summer. Javi Gracia, Silva’s replacement at the club, was clearly not his biggest fan and dropped him for Greek international Orestis Karnezis.

(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Therefore, if Silva does get the Everton job, bringing Gomes to Goodison would appear something of a no-brainer.

With years of experience in the English game, he would be a brilliant back-up and mentor to young stopper Pickford. When called upon, Everton would be able to relax in the knowledge that the still talented shot-stopper was coming off the bench to do his duties.

The 37-year-old could be a cheap and shrewd piece of recruitment from Everton this summer.

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Derby County

Newcastle United should take advantage of Matej Vydra’s low asking fee

The Czech international has scored 20 goals in the Championship this season.

Josh Kerr

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Matej Vydra
Photo: Getty Images

Newcastle United ensuring another season of Premier League football represents one of Rafael Benitez’ most impressive achievements in football to date.

The job done by the Spaniard is all the more admirable considering the Magpies striker options have been thin for large periods of the season, and the arrival of a goal-scorer is surely imminent for the Tyneside club.

According to The Telegraph, Derby County are likely to list their top-scorer Matej Vydra for sale after their failure to earn promotion to the Premier League.

This comes as massive news to a number of clubs in England’s top-flight, and Newcastle should be one of the front-runners queuing for the 26-year-old’s prolific services.

The Czech Republic international has been excellent this season firing 20 goals in 35 appearances for the Rams.

Reports suggest the club may be forced to sell their star striker in order to reduce the club’s £35 million wage bill ahead of next season.

The 26-year-old’s sale this summer will be Derby’s attempts to slash their budgets and form a strategy that is going to enable the club to push for promotion once again next season.

A fee of around £8 million could prove a major boost for Newcastle, considering the club’s financial restraints, and a 20-goal striker would surely be an improvement on Benitez’s current front-line options.

(Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

Islam Slimani’s loan move from Leicester proved to be a disaster, and the arrival of Joselu was one of the most disappointing transfers of the season.

The club are in desperate need of a goalscorer, with Perez leading the club’s individual efforts, despite being a number 10 and not an out-and-out goalscorer.

Vydra also has rare Premier League experience with West Bromwich Albion, as well as Watford, and his graft in the Championship may mean he’s ready for a return back to the top-flight.

The former West Brom striker guarantees goals and if there is one thing Tyneside supporters have missed in recent years, it is a goal-scoring hero.

At a little over £8 million, he could still prove a real bargain and a relatively insignificant risk.

Benitez has been wanting to break the bank since his arrival in 2016 but may be tempted do a deal on the cheap for the highly-rated striker.

Newcastle will be looking to improve on their impressive 10th place finish next season and the firepower of a genuine goalscorer could see them surpass the highs of this campaign.

Vydra offers pace and is even an aerial threat at just 5ft 2, so it has to be a priority for Newcastle to capture one of the bargains of the season and bring Vydra to St James’ Park.

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Everton

How Sam Allardyce’s failure to prove preconceptions wrong resulted in Everton exit

The 63-year-old was relieved from his duties at Goodison Park last week.

Martyn Cooke

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Photo: Getty Images

Sam Allardyce was sacked by Everton earlier this week, bringing an end to his brief and somewhat controversial six-month reign at Goodison Park.

On paper, the 63-year-old has fulfilled the remit that he was given when he accepted the role in November.

Poor early-season form had left the Toffees with genuine fears of being drawn into a relegation battle and Allardyce successfully guided the team away from trouble and to a respectable top-half finish in the Premier League.

However, his dismissal came as little surprise and the reality was that the former England manager was nothing more than a short-term solution to Everton’s immediate problems.

Allardyce has a reputation for being a survival specialist who utilises a pragmatic, rigid style of football to grind out results.

This was highlighted during his recent spells with Sunderland and Crystal Palace where his philosophy and methods were able to produce enough results to pull both clubs out of the relegation zone and to safety.

However, his style of play is a means to an end. There is little aesthetic appeal and supporters only tend to tolerate it if their club is desperate for points or it is facilitating significant success on the pitch.

The decision of the Everton hierarchy to appoint Allardyce was logical and made business sense.

In short, the 63-year-old would guarantee that the Toffees retained their Premier League status, allowing the club to rebuild in the summer.

The question was, could Allardyce prove that the preconceptions about him being a nothing more than a survival specialist and only being able to produce a pragmatic style of football as false?

If so, then maybe there was a long-term role for him to play at the club.

Ultimately, the 63-year-old was only successful in cementing those preconceptions.

It has been a miserable six months for Everton supporters and there has been little for them to cheer over the cause of what has been a chaotic and disappointing season.

Allardyce’s reign was characterised by some positive results that came courtesy of a dire, pragmatic and, at times, just downright negative style of football.

Yes, Allardyce inherited an imbalanced squad, but the notion that the club was destined for relegation is completely false.

When he was appointed Everton were five points clear of the relegation zone and David Unsworth has just secured a 4-0 victory against West Ham in his final game as caretaker manager.

A seven-game unbeaten start to the 63-year-old’s tenure at Goodison Park effectively meant that The Toffees were well clear of trouble by the turn of the year.

There was no need to grind out results anymore – it was time to build to the future and give the supporters something to look forward to.

(Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images)

However, Allardyce made no attempt to take off the shackles and the pragmatic style remained unaltered.

In the end, Everton supporters, and ultimately the club hierarchy, were left frustrated and struggled to buy into a future where Allardyce led the rebuilding process at Goodison Park.

There was no surprise to see the club opt to move in a different direction.

For Allardyce, his spell at Everton has only helped to reaffirm the perception that his role will always be that of a survival specialist and that his style of football simply does not suit progressive clubs looking to establish themselves in the top half of the Premier League.

His approach is begrudgingly accepted when results are the priority but is cast aside when entertainment and progress comes to the fore.

Everton and Allardyce were always a mismatch – now it is time for both to find more appropriate appointments.

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