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LONDON, August 14, 2018 (News Wires) - New Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson’s commanding presence and skill on the ball is boosting the defensive players’ confidence, Dutch centre-back Virgil van Dijk has said.

Brazil international Alisson made his competitive debut in Liverpool’s 4-0 win over West Ham United in the Premier League on Sunday and the 25-year-old impressed as he began his spell in English football with a clean sheet.

“We speak a lot. He’s very vocal and that helps. It helps me and everyone in the backline. I think his presence is very good as well,” Van Dijk told British media.

“He has a lot of qualities on the ball that help us playing. We’ve worked on it the whole pre-season and we’ll keep building and practising. There’s still a lot to do.

“West Ham was just one game. We can do a lot better in certain moments and it’s just the start. We’re trying to build something.”

Liverpool’s defensive solidity since Van Dijk’s arrival in January has seen them keep clean sheets in their last six home league matches and the club have not conceded a league goal at Anfield since February.

LONDON, August 12, 2018 (News Wires) - Last season's Premier League top scorer Mohamed Salah was on target again as Liverpool kicked off their season in style with an easy win at home to West Ham United.

The Egyptian gave Juergen Klopp's side the lead after 19 minutes from
Andy Robertson's precise low cross.

West Ham's new manager Manuel Pellegrini gave debuts to five of their 10
close-season signings, but his revamped team rarely threatened Liverpool's
expensive new Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson.

Poor defending cost them a second goal just before the interval, to Sadio
Mane, who added a third after 53 minutes from an offside position.
Substitute Daniel Sturridge made it four just seconds after coming on.

Liverpool haven't been crowned champions of England since 1989/90 and
finished 25 points behind City last season.

But after reaching the Champions League final last season and spending
more than anyone else in the Premier League in the off-season, there is
palpable belief that near three-decade wait can come to an end in May.

Midfielder Naby Keita and Alisson were the only debutants to start from a
reported £170 million summer splurge in the transfer market as Fabinho
and Xherdan Shaqiri had to make do with a place on the bench.

However, there was little tinkering for Klopp to do up front after Salah,
Mane and Roberto Firmino combined for 91 goals last season, and they
again provided the firepower to outclass a sorry West Ham despite their
own near £100 million outlay on nine new players.

Salah and Mane's pain at international level was Liverpool's gain as early
exits at the World Cup with Egypt and Senegal meant they could join the
club's pre-season tour of the United States, unlike a host of Premier League
stars who returned to training just last week after their exertions in Russia.

A revelation in his first season at Anfield with 44 goals in all competitions,
Salah is now a marked man.

Yet, he was given the simplest of tasks to tap home the opener into an
empty net on 19 minutes from Andy Robertson's pinpoint cross after he
was freed down the left by the impressive Keita.

Salah should have had more as he was well picked out by a bursting run by
Firmino only to place his shot too close to Lukasz Fabianski, who also
made a brilliant save to turn Trent Alexander-Arnold's free-kick behind.

Fabianski was by far the busier 'keeper with Alisson making just one
comfortable save and impressing far more with his feet to launch a series of
Liverpool attacks.

 

LIVERPOOL, August 11, 2018 (News Wires) - Jurgen Klopp is trying to keep a lid on expectations, but ahead of the new Premier League season, Anfield is brimming with excitement that Liverpool could finally end a near three decade wait to be crowned champions of England.

Often outgunned by the riches of fierce rivals Manchester United and the oil-backed wealth of Chelsea and Manchester City in recent times, this summer Liverpool were the Premier League’s biggest spenders in a reported £170 million splurge.

“We had to create a squad which is strong enough and wide enough to cope with the Premier League and to be as successful as possible,” said Klopp.

The club’s business was also done early to give Brazil’s number one Alisson Becker and midfielders Fabinho, Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri time to bed in before their campaign kicks off at home to West Ham tomorrow.

Just as importantly, unlike Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho who were lured away from Anfield to Barcelona in recent years, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino signed new contracts as a statement of intent of what is to come for Klopp’s Liverpool.

Despite not winning a trophy since the charismatic German coach took charge in 2015, the Reds are also building from position of strength.

A run to the Champions League final in May before losing out to Real Madrid showed both how far Liverpool had come in his time in charge, but also where there was room for improvement.

Two monumental errors by Loris Karius forced the club to bite the bullet and spend big for a top class goalkeeper.

The €72.5 million fee paid for Alisson was a world record for a ‘keeper, but just a few weeks on seems reasonable compared to the €80 million Chelsea splashed out for the far more inexperienced Kepa Arrizabalaga from Athletic Bilbao.

Madrid also outclassed Liverpool in midfield in Kiev, as they have done to most sides in winning three straight Champions League titles thanks to the talent of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.

But the additions of Fabinho and Keita significantly improve Liverpool’s quality in that area of the field and crucially fit perfectly into Klopp’s high pressing system.

Despite thrashing Manchester City 5-1 over two legs in the Champions League quarter-finals, Klopp’s men finished 25 points adrift of the record-breaking Premier League champions last season.

“The champions are Manchester City; they didn’t lose any player and they brought in (Riyad) Mahrez, so that doesn’t make them weaker,” warned Klopp, insisting Liverpool are still the underdogs.

“We are still Rocky Balboa and not Ivan Drago. We are the ones who have to do more and fight more — that must be our attitude.”

But with such a tight turnaround with less than a month between the World Cup final and Premier League kick-off, Klopp’s preparations have also been far less affected than other sides in England’s top six.

Salah and Sadio Mane were able to join the club’s pre-season tour in the United States are being knocked out in the group stages in Russia with Egypt and Senegal, while Andy Robertson, Virgil van Dijk, Keita, Fabinho and James Milner had the summer off.

“Liverpool have waited 28 years. Not just for the league title, but for a pre-season where so many pundits and supporters believe they can win it,” wrote former Liverpool captain Jamie Carragher in The Telegraph.

Even the legendary Pele jumped on the Liverpool bandwagon yesterday in support of countrymen Alisson and Firmino.

“I think it’s the year of Liverpool, Alisson and Firmino!” tweeted the Brazilian great.

Liverpool have spent nearly three years surpassing expectations under Klopp. Now the pressure is on to meet them.

 

LONDON, August 10, 2018 (News Wires) - Liverpool's reinforced squad must build on their ruthless form from last season if they are to challenge defending Premier League champions Manchester City for the title, manager Juergen Klopp said on Friday.

Klopp has made four big money signings, adding goalkeeper Alisson, midfielders Naby Keita and Fabinho and winger Xherdan Shaqiri, giving supporters genuine optimism ahead of the new campaign.

But the German insists they are still underdogs in the battle for the league crown, saying: "We are still Rocky Balboa and not Ivan Drago.

"We have to be more consistent. More clinical. More aggressive in the right moments. We need to improve everything.

"We have to be in a championship mode. We jump into the water and we dive until we don't have oxygen anymore. That's the plan. A lot of people think because of the transfer window we will (challenge more) - but that's not how it is."

Klopp accepts the pressure ahead of Sunday's opening match against a much-changed West Ham United but said his team will also need a change in luck if they are to catch last year's runaway champions City.

"Someone gave me the unluckiest team article," Klopp added, referring to a study released this week that said Liverpool dropped the most points last season, 12, in matches affected by wrongly disallowed goals or incorrect decisions.

"You ask me about the gap with City. We had three points from City and they had three points from us. It's about losing them in other games."

Klopp said there could be further departures from Anfield, with the transfer window still open for major leagues in Spain, France, Italy and Germany.

"The window is only one way closed so we cannot buy any more but we can sell not in Premier League - but it is clear things will happen," he said.

 

 

MANCHESTER, August 7, 2018 (News Wires) - Liverpool’s run to the Champions League final and their impressive three wins over Manchester City in the last campaign have raised hopes on Merseyside that they could be the closest challengers to Pep Guardiola’s side this season.

Their work in the transfer market has also added to the positivity around the club after German manager Juergen Klopp made some major moves that have clearly strengthened his squad.

The most glaring weakness in last year’s team was in goal, where Loris Karius’s nightmare performance in the Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid exposed their lack of a reliable top-class keeper.

Klopp responded by signing 25-year-old Brazil international Alisson Becker from AS Roma, smashing the world record for a goalkeeper in a deal worth up to €72.5 million.

The departure of Emre Can to Juventus and the long-term injury absence of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain left Klopp short of options in the centre of midfield.

Yet the arrivals of Brazilian Fabinho from AS Monaco and Guinea international Naby Keita from RB Leipzig have provided plenty of additional quality.

Liverpool’s strength last season was their attack, which remains unchanged, with Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane a potent trident that will trouble any defence in the Premier League.

The surprise purchase of Swiss international Xherdan Shaqiri from Stoke City offers some cover and flexibility, rounding out what has been an impressive transfer window for Klopp.

As well as the close-season signings, the arrival in January of Virgil van Dijk brought much-needed solidity and stability to the centre of defence and with Joe Gomez and Nathianel Clyne back to fitness, there are increased options at fullback.

While City start as title favourites, Liverpool know they are capable of outgunning Guardiola’s side - they beat them 4-3 in the league at Anfield in January before a 3-0 victory in the Champions League quarter-final, first leg.

Klopp is well aware that Liverpool need to eliminate some of the sloppy performances, which left them trailing City in the league last season, and while he is not promising silverware, he expects to see progress.

“Improvement, development, using our football last season as a basis and make the next steps. More consistency - we were not inconsistent, but we can be more consistent,” he said.

“The mood in the club at the moment is really good and we want to build on that, we want to come even closer.”

LONDON, August 6, 2018 (News Wires) - Liverpool face potential defensive problems ahead of Sunday’s Premier League opener against West Ham United, with Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez their only senior centre backs fit and available, manager Juergen Klopp said.

Joel Matip (hip) and Ragnar Klavan (hamstring) both missed Saturday’s 5-0 thrashing of Italian side Napoli due to injuries and are doubtful for Liverpool’s final pre-season match against Torino.

“Joel, we’ll have to see. Klavan, shouldn’t be too serious, but if Tuesday is too early I don’t know yet,” Klopp told the Liverpool Echo.

“Maybe we will do some magic things with the formation on Tuesday. I don’t know how we will do it.”

Croatia international Dejan Lovren will rejoin the squad today after an extended break following the World Cup but is a doubt for the next two games.

“Dejan didn’t train so far. He probably won’t play Tuesday and Sunday will be very difficult as well,” Klopp added. “The first two league games at least are in the ‘pre-season’ (for the World Cup players).”

Liverpool finished fourth last season and reached the final of the Champions League where they were beaten by Real Madrid.

“The league will be difficult,” Klopp said. “It is not about judging our situation and thinking ‘wow, really good’.

“We need to be ready each week, not only for a few games. That is our challenge.”

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