‘Is that it?’ – Mertens unimpressed by historic ‘This Is Anfield’ sign ahead of CL showdown

Napoli attacker Dries Mertens has suggested that Anfield’s fear factor is exaggerated, ahead of the Serie A giants’ trip to Liverpool in the Champions League.

The Italian side are currently top of Group C with nine points and can book their place in the knockout phase with a draw in Tuesday night’s heavyweight encounter.

Meanwhile, Liverpool must secure a 1-0 victory or win by a two-goal margin to qualify, with second-placed Paris Saint-Germain also in action against Red Star Belgrade in Serbia.

Mertens has experienced the Anfield atmosphere on a European night already, as a Utrecht player 10 years ago in the Europa League, and he has questioned the ground’s famous reputation as one of the toughest venues to play at in European football.

“My strongest memory is that they have a sign saying ‘This is Anfield’ and everyone was talking about it, so I was thinking it’s very big, you know,” he told The Times.

“I came through the tunnel and I asked, ‘Where is the thing?’ and they said you missed it and I hadn’t noticed it.

“So, in the second half, I’m looking at this small thing and asking, ‘Is this so special?’”

The 31-year-old winger went on to concede that he expects a far more raucous crowd than the one he encountered on his previous visit to Anfield but also insists he can cope with the pressure to elevate his own performance.

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He added: “Football in Italy is crazy and the people are very crazy, too, so I think we are used to it. For me, it will push me to a different level, these are the nights we want to play.”

Napoli come into the match fresh from a 4-0 win against Frosinone in Serie A on Saturday, which kept them in touch with league leaders Juventus at the top of the table.

Liverpool also head into the crucial Group C clash full of confidence, having reached the Premier League summit with a 4-0 win at Bournemouth at the weekend.


Mohamed Diame calls for Newcastle United’s improvement at home

Mohamed Diame has urged his Newcastle United teammates to improve on their results in home games.

On Sunday, Rafael Benitez’s men suffered a 2-1 loss to Wolverhampton Wanderers at the St James’ Park to condemn them to a seventh home defeat in nine games.

The unimpressive results meant that the Magpies are only three places and three points above the bottom three.

And the former Senegal international has charged his colleagues to avoid losing points in front of their fans, especially against lowly-placed sides.

“At home all the bottom teams we face we need to take the three points. When you play away it is different but we should be looking to beat teams in the bottom half when we are at home,” Diame told Chronicle Live.

“I don’t know what to say about the run [seven home defeats from nine]. It’s bad. We know that. We need points and we need to change that as soon as possible.”

Although the midfielder acknowledged the effort of the team against Wolves, he is disappointed with the outcome of the tie.

“It was a really bad result. We can say everything about how we fought, we showed good attitude but we lost the points, especially at home that is disappointing,” he continued.

“We had a good point against Everton last Wednesday and Wolves was a good opportunity for us with all the results from Saturday, now we are disappointed not to have done our bit to get the result we wanted.

 “When you lose there is always something to blame. I know a lot of people will say we have worked hard, gave a lot but not everything because we lost and we are left disappointed again

“Of course it’s difficult to be playing against a good team like Wolves with ten men and we don’t know whether a couple of the decisions were right for us.”

Mohamed Diame PS

Newcastle take on Huddersfield Town and Fulham in their next two games and Diame wants his side to claim positive results in the encounters.

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“We need to make sure we don’t lose even if we don’t win. Huddersfield is another final for us now,” he added.

“Nothing really has changed in terms of the next two games, what we need is points and we need those in the next two matches, and we needed those whatever the result against Wolves.

“The attitude and desire we showed, we have to keep that up, and hope we get more than a last-minute goal scored against us to lose. Even with ten men we have to be more concentrated than we were at the end because we conceded that goal and lost the game.”


Will Mohamed Salah form and Anfield factor be enough for Liverpool?

COMMENT    By Seye Omidiora     Follow on Twitter

For a guy who had just lost an important Champions League game, Jurgen Klopp seemed particularly optimistic after Liverpool’s 2-1 defeat against Paris-Saint Germain.

The slender loss to Thomas Tuchel’s side, which has put the Reds in a must-win situation against Napoli on matchday six, didn’t tell the full story on a night that saw the Reds outplayed, outfought and outthought – the marginal defeat flattered them.

“Now we have to use Anfield one more time,” he quipped. “We are calling Anfield right now and we’ll see what happens.”

On the one hand, one could brush it off as the German messing about. However, when one takes into account the Merseyside club’s Anfield record, that’s seen them lose just once in 20 matches since late January, one could begin to share his sentiments.

The Reds have kept 14 clean sheets in that time, and the one loss they suffered was with a much-changed side in the 2-1 Carabao Cup defeat by Chelsea in late September.Mohamed Salah

Equally, the renaissance of ‘one season wonder’ Mohamed Salah has contributed to that surge of confidence. The Egyptian’s hat-trick at Bournemouth on Saturday, which took his league tally since the start of last season to 42, saw him move to second place behind only Lionel Messi (45) for the player with the most league goals across the big five European leagues since 2017/18.

Locally, the forward’s hit the 40-goal mark in 52 games, which sees him lie in third place behind Alan Shearer and Andy Cole, both of whom needed just 45 games apiece to net 40, in the Premier League. In Liverpool colours, he sits joint-top with Fernando Torres and ahead of Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen (77) as well as Luis Suarez who needed 78 games to score 40 league goals.

The fact that Salah isn’t an out-and-out centre-forward makes his achievements even more admirable, and he’ll be vital to the Anfield giants’ efforts against Napoli on Tuesday night.

Having scored a meagre three times between mid-August and mid-October, the wideman has followed that up with nine strikes in 11 games, and more importantly, seems to be playing with fire in his belly again, following his post-World Cup struggles.

Mohamed Salah | 2018-19 Premier League stats

In European competition since his move in the summer of 2017, the hard-working forward has hit the back of the net nine times in the same number of appearances in games at Anfield. He has failed to make the net bulge in only two games within that period – a goalless draw against FC Porto and the Reds’ 3-2 success over PSG in September.

Digging deeper, the Egypt international was only introduced in the final 15 minutes against the accomplished Portuguese side in the Round of 16 second-leg, having triumphed 5-0 at Estadio do Dragao in the pair’s initial meeting. With next to nothing at stake at the time of his introduction for the final quarter, it shows the attacker has failed to score just once in a home game that actually mattered.Mohamed Salah Liverpool 2018-19

He’s often decisive on European nights at Anfield, and it will not be out of place tipping him to do some damage to Carlo Ancelotti’s Blues.

With Tuchel’s PSG expected to show their superior class against Red Star Belgrade (who, it has to be noted, are still unbeaten at Rajko Mitic Stadium with four points) and consequently move to 11 points, the other qualification slot ostensibly seems to be between Klopp’s side and Ancelotti’s charges.

The former, on six points, need a 1-0 win or a win by two goals against the Italian side (nine). The Naples-based club currently sits atop the standings with nine points, which leaves them needing a point to guarantee qualification.

In an event whereby the Parisian giants fail to secure a win in Serbia, Salah and co. will need to trump tonight’s visitors as any kind of victory will see them through.

While all the attention has been firmly placed on the Reds’ amazing form in front of their supporters, it should be emphasized that the Italians are still unbeaten after five matchdays in this season’s competition. They haven’t suffered any sort of defeat since their 3-1 setback against Juventus in late September, which leaves them on a 12-game undefeated streak.Insigne Napoli Liverpool Champions League

The visitors certainly won’t be pushovers, so it’s been strange seeing pre-match predictions suggesting the Reds have this one sealed owing to their fortress that is Anfield.

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While home advantage can’t be understated, Ancelotti’s players have played in front of hostile crowds before and that shouldn’t see them cower in fear. The fact that they also dominated the five-time European champions at Stadio San Paolo will have them believing they can do damage on Merseyside.

Asking Klopp to go all Chicken Little concerning their qualification hopes may have been out of place, but there could’ve been a balance. There seems to be a false sense of accomplishment that’s spread across the fans, who have so much confidence in their strength at Anfield, that complacency may creep in.

Salah will surely be out to produce another pivotal home performance as he and his teammates seek to prevent last year’s finalists from suffering the ignominy of group-stage elimination months after coming so close to securing a sixth title.


Fantasy Football: Mohamed Salah masterclass dominates Goal’s Team of the Week

Another round of Premier League action has come and gone with title favourites Manchester City suffering their first defeat of the campaign. It was better news for the traditional “Big Six” though as Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal, and Manchester United all picked up wins, re-establishing their grip on the leading positions.

Naturally, that success bled into the Fantasy sphere as well, which is quite evident in our Team of the Week as eight of the 11 members coming from those five clubs.


GK: Kepa Arrizabalaga – Chelsea – 1 Game, 5 Saves, 1 Clean Sheet = 9 Points

DEF: David Luiz – Chelsea – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 1 Clean Sheet = 14 Points

In Chelsea’s last high-profile match, against Tottenham, Luiz was an absolute liability. Well, Luiz made sure that would not be the case in the Manchester City match this weekend. Not only did the Brazilian defender help keep the league’s best attack at bay, but he also added the match’s second goal which sealed the win for the Blues.

David Luiz Kepa Chelsea 2018-19

Now, the London outfit rank second in clean sheets with eight and, considering their easy run of fixtures, Luiz looks a solid Fantasy prospect going into the new year.

DEF: James Tarkowski – Burnley – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 1 Clean Sheet = 14 Points

DEF: Ashley Young – Manchester United – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 1 Assist, 1 Goal Conceded = 11 Points

DEF: Andrew Robertson – Liverpool – 1 Game, 1 Assist, 1 Clean Sheet = 10 Points

Mohamed Salah Liverpool Bournemouth

MID: Mohamed Salah – Liverpool – 1 Game, 3 Goals = 20 Points

After what some considered a slow start from last season’s Golden Boot winner, Mohamed Salah has now reclaimed his throne in the Goal game, leading all players with 106 points.

This comes off the back of his hat-trick performance against Bournemouth on Saturday which was more than enough to make him our Fantasy Player of the Week.

With Eden Hazard falling off the pace, and the continued rotation issues amongst the Manchester City midfielders, Salah is an easy must-own, with captaincy potential each and every week

MID: Juan Mata – Manchester United – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 1 Assist = 11 Points

MID: Diogo Jota – Wolves – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 1 Assist = 11 Points

Son Heung-min Tottenham 2018

MID: Son Heung-min – Tottenham – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 1 Assist = 11 Points

Through 12 weeks Son had started just three times and failed to contribute towards a single goal. Since then, however, the Tottenham man has started every match with only Salah (eight) scoring more goals than the South Korea international.

There are obviously a lot of mouths to feed in the Tottenham attack but, with the kind of form he’s in, if you see Son in Mauricio Pochettino’s squad, he should probably be in yours as well.

MID: Felipe Anderson – West Ham – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 1 Assist = 11 Points

FOR: Marcus Rashford – Manchester United – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 2 Assists = 13 Points

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Where has this Manchester United been all season? Jose Mourinho’s side scored four goals against Fulham on Saturday, their highest tally in any match this term.

Marcus Rashford was largely the catalyst for the attacking drive. contributing heavily to three of the goals. His four assists in the last three matches are joint-best in the division and the fact that the 21-year-old seems to have carved out a starting place definitely puts him on the Fantasy map. That said, It’s probably wise to avoid most Manchester United players this week as they come up against Liverpool’s league-best defence.



‘I called Sterling a ‘Manc c***’, not a black c***,’ claims Chelsea fan accused of racial abuse

A Chelsea fan accused of racially abusing Raheem Sterling has denied using racist language in his insults towards the Manchester City attacker.

Colin Wing, 60, has admitted to berating Sterling during the Blues’ 2-0 victory, but insists that he called him a ‘Manc c***’ rather than a ‘black c***’.

Wing, of Beckenham, South-East London, has had his season ticket suspended and has reportedly lost his job amid a joint investigation by Chelsea and the Met police.

If racial abuse is proven, Wing is likely to receive a lifetime ban from the club.

Speaking about the accusations, as quoted in the Daily Mail, Wing said: “I’m deeply ashamed by my own behaviour and I feel really bad. But I didn’t call him a black c***, I called him a Manc c***.

“I’ve been going to Chelsea for 50 years now and, because of where I sit, I’m picked up on the camera most weeks. If I had a history of saying this sort of thing I would’ve been caught by now.

“Nobody around me said they heard anything. I want to apologise unreservedly to Raheem and hope he can be a better man than I am by accepting it.

“I offer him an unreserved apology. Even if it wasn’t racist, it’s not right what I said. Even the swearing is bad – but I got carried away.

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Good morning I just want to say , I am not normally the person to talk a lot but when I think I need my point to heard I will speak up. Regarding what was said at the Chelsea game as you can see by my reaction I just had to laugh because I don’t expect no better. For example you have two young players starting out there careers both play for the same team, both have done the right thing. Which is buy a new house for there mothers who have put in a lot of time and love into helping them get where they are, but look how the news papers get there message across for the young black player and then for the young white payer. I think this in unacceptable both innocent have not done a thing wrong but just by the way it has been worded. This young black kid is looked at in a bad light. Which helps fuel racism an aggressive behaviour, so for all the news papers that don’t understand why people are racist in this day and age all i have to say is have a second thought about fair publicity an give all players an equal chance.

A post shared by Raheem Sterling x 😇 (@sterling7) on

“I was completely out of order, but I’ve lost my job and my season ticket now so everybody’s got what they wanted. So why can’t they leave me alone?”

Police spoke to Wing twice on Saturday, and are expected to do so again on Tuesday.

A spokesperson from Scotland Yard said: “Police continue to investigate an incident where is it is claimed racial abuse was directed at a player during the Chelsea v Manchester City game at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. 

“Officers continue to review footage and CCTV to determine whether any offences have been committed. 

“Officers are in possession of the details of those reportedly involved – there have been no arrests at this time. 

“The Met continues to work with both clubs and a number of enquiries are ongoing.”

Sterling himself has since spoken about the incident, while the England international has been offered support by a multitude of famous names within football, including Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, Gary Neville, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and former England international John Barnes.