Premier League reveals 68% of players have been fully vaccinated

The Premier League have revealed that 68 per cent of players in the league have had both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.

The announcement suggests there has been a significant uptake in the vaccine as at the end of September there were only seven Premier League clubs where more than 50 per cent of players were fully vaccinated.

The league now has 81 per cent of players who have had at least one jab.

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In a statement, the Premier League said: “Vaccination rates are collected by the Premier League on a weekly basis and the league continues to work with clubs to encourage vaccination among players and club staff.

“No specific details as to clubs or individuals will be provided by the league and player vaccination rates will be communicated at appropriate intervals in the future.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said earlier this month that “99 per cent” of his players have been vaccinated.

He said he has not had to convince any of his players to be vaccinated.

“I don’t understand why that is a limitation of freedom,” he said. “Because if it is, then not being allowed to drink and drive is a limitation of freedom as well – but we accept that.

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I got the vaccination because I was concerned about myself but even more so for everyone else around me. If I get it and suffer – my fault. If I get it and spread it around to everyone else – my fault and not their fault.

Some players have expressed their scepticism over the vaccine and England manager Gareth Southgate believes conspiracy theories on the internet have played a role in a lower uptake among the younger generation.

They seem to be more susceptible to social media posts or living their lives on social media, where a lot of those theories maybe abound. We [the older age group] might just talk to our GP and do things that way.

“But look, who knows, I could be sitting here in five years’ time and have been wrong. With some of the other issues it’s been very clear what’s right and what’s wrong.

“I’ve been willing to speak about that, but could I 100 per cent say that the vaccination programme is safe? Well, I couldn’t because I’m not a chemist and I’m not a doctor and I’m not a scientist.

“I would imagine we wouldn’t be in the position we are on the mass vaccination programme without research having happened and without governments and medical people being totally sure, so I am comfortable in taking that risk.”

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Atletico 'intensity' will pose problems for Klopp – Inside Europe

Liverpool and Atletico Madrid renew acquaintances in the Champions League for the first time since a hugely dramatic round of 16 tie in 2020.

The Spaniards came out on top on that occasion following a thrilling 3-2 win at Anfield and 4-2 on aggregate to dump Jurgen Klopp’s then-reigning European Champions out of the competition.

Paired together in this year’s group stage, all eyes will be on both fixtures, the first of which takes place at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.

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Eurosport Spain’s Felix Martin tells us what shape the current La Liga champions are in ahead the game against the Premier League challengers.

Results aside, how have Atelti been performing this season? What is going well and what isn’t at the moment?

I wouldn’t say results aside since their results have been good so far. Atleti have 17 points having played one less game than the current Liga leaders, Real Sociedad.

Win that and they would be top, which to me is remarkable baring in mind the problems they have scoring goals this season – they have only scored 11 times in their 8 matches), the least of the current top eight in La Liga.

Liverpool obviously present a tough challenge but what will how will Simeone feel he can combat their threats? Mohamed Salah is in great form, can Atleti stop him?

Atleti’s way of playing is based on having a strong defence and intensity throughout the whole match. They have already faced Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino, so I don’t think they will be very worried about that.

It is true that a group phase match is way different from a knockout stage one, but I guess that Atleti’s intensity when playing a Champions League match is “unnegotiable”.

Simeone silenced the Anfield crowd back in 2020

Image credit: Getty Images

Conversely, who should Liverpool be worried about from the Atleti team?

Atleti’s attacking line is always dangerous even if they’re having problems scoring goals.

The last match they played was against Barça and they were much better. It is true that Joao Félix isn’t having a great season but Luis Suárez, Yannick Carrasco, Thomas Lemar or even Marcos Llorente are some of the players Liverpool should be worried about.

What is the reaction to Klopp’s quotes saying ‘he doesn’t like’ how they play?

This is the same old story for Jürgen Klopp every time he has to play against Atleti. He doesn’t like the intensity with which Atleti plays. Or maybe he isn’t much of a ‘good loser’ and still remembers what happened in Anfield the last time he faced Atleti.

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Why Man Utd's backing of Solskjaer is bizarre but also very real – Inside Football

The unequivocal support of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer within Manchester United is slightly bizarre yet also very real.

To date, no matter the situation or crisis he appears to be faced with, there has been no danger of the Norwegian losing his job.

In the hours since that humiliating 4-2 defeat to Leicester City that same message has been relayed. The United board remain fully behind the man in charge and have faith that he will deliver success in the shape of silverware.

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With so little evidence to support this belief, we can only assume the combined vision of Solskjaer and those in charge of the club is so entwined that trying anything else seems too big a risk at this stage. Insiders say private conversations within the club have led to a greater insight to the end goal and, ultimately, the board see something in Solskjaer that a fan or pundit never will.

Their confidence in him on the back of a start to the season that has included four defeats and two draws from 11 matches, though, is extraordinary. Very few managers, if any, could have survived in this job as long as he has with the same record. Yet every knowledgeable source around United delivers that same message: “There is full support of him”.

Wednesday night’s Champions League fixture with Atalanta is key for Solskjaer as the match-going fans are beginning to lose faith for the first time. Until now, Old Trafford has been complete, too, in support of the boss. Yet the tone changed after the defeat to Leicester and that feeling of concern will deepen if they lose a key European game that will leave their chances of reaching the knockout stage in severe doubt.

Failure to make it out of this group has to be seen as a failure – and perhaps would be the first time Solskjaer has to accept that he is underperforming.

This is now his team, playing his way, after all. Yet still, even defeat to Atalanta is very unlikely to lead to the club considering a change of manager.

United are not actively looking for a Plan B but are obviously aware of the situation they would be faced with in replacing their current boss.

Only two men are being even vaguely considered worthy of taking over if Solskjaer was to leave. Those figures are Antonio Conte and Zinedine Zidane.

Antonio Conte and Cristiano Ronaldo amid links of the Italian moving to Old Trafford

Image credit: Eurosport

Conte, in particular, is understood to be very keen on the idea and would love the chance to pitch his ideas on how to turn this current team into winners. Both him and Zidane certainly have a certain pedigree to their name yet both completely lack any attachment to United – and that is one of the underlying factors that is keeping Solskjaer so safe.

The board and owners love his deep-rooted connection and the fact he is engrained in their history from his playing days. “He’s United through and through,” is how one source helped describe why Solskjaer is considered so important to their direction right now.

In his defence, this team is much better than the one he inherited from Jose Mourinho and there have been signs that they are on their way back to being one of the best teams on the continent. That has, of course, been helped by the level of investment in big-name signings, though, and so far he seems to be struggling to bring together a collection of individuals and turn them into a team.

United handed Solskjaer a new three-year contract in July, with the option of a further year. At a time when major changes are happening at the club – executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward is stepping down soon – United do not want the hassle of changing manager and rocking foundations that have just been built.

Yet soon the club may be faced with something that has not yet been a problem since Solskjaer took over. They may have to deal with disgruntled fans inside Old Trafford.

In his defence, Solskjaer usually delivers a big win when he needs to ease pressure on himself. If that is going to happen this time then it will indeed be impressive.

After the Atalanta game, United face Liverpool at home, Tottenham away, Atalanta away, and then Manchester City at home.

Their European and domestic credentials are on the line, and this really does feel like the most significant test so far of Solskjaer’s resilience.

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Klopp still not a fan of Atletico's style ahead of CL rematch

Jurgen Klopp says he still “does not like” the way Atletico Madrid play as they prepare to meet for the first time since an emotional clash in March 2020.

The two teams are set to face off in Madrid almost 17 months after Atletico beat Liverpool in the last 16 of the Champions League at Anfield in the final game before the season was suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Klopp fumed after the match that Atletico failed to play “proper football” despite the talent in their squad, and he hasn’t backed down from his comments ahead of the rematch on Tuesday.

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“Look, first and foremost I think I said this after the second game, I was angry and disappointed about a lot of things…about life, a little bit, that things were going so wrong with the world at that moment.

“Then we had to concentrate on football in really strange circumstances. Then, of course, we played against a team full of world-class players. They defended with all they have and that is probably the reason I said the things I said.

“Look, Diego Simeone is doing absolutely everything right. He is the current Spanish champion, he is at Atletico for a long, long time, very successful there, has a bunch of world-class players, keeps them on their toes, they fight with all they have for their lives. That says a lot about the quality of Diego.

“So I couldn’t respect more what they do. Do I like it? Not too much. But that’s normal, because I prefer a different kind of football. But that’s me. Other coaches prefer other styles of football.

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“So nobody has to like it, it just has to be successful and that’s what Atletico is for sure. What I said was for sure influenced by the mood I was in on that specific day one-and-a-half years ago.”

Liverpool are top of Champions League Group B on six points from two games, with Atletico second on four points.

Asked for his response to Klopp’s comments, Simeone simply said in English: “Nothing.”

Curtis Jones will not be available for Liverpool, having missed the 5-0 victory over Watford at the weekend after suffering a muscle problem with England Under-21s.

He has been pictured back in training, but Klopp said: “Unfortunately Curtis was only with us in the warming up and will be here in Liverpool to hopefully make the final steps to full training.

“Today he did only warming up and then did his stuff, but still individual training and we decided to leave him here to continue that. And then hopefully he is ready for United.”

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Opinion: Klopp is right – Salah is currently the best in the world

For most players, the goal Mohamed Salah scored in Liverpool’s 5-0 demolition of Watford would have been a once-in-a-career moment. For the Egyptian, though, it was just another trademark strike. Indeed, it was only two weeks ago that Salah scored a similar goal against Manchester City.

There is no other player in world football capable of keeping the ball under control under such pressure and producing a goal. Salah plays with a unique combination of technical ability with the ball at his feet and upper body strength. Then there’s his eye for goal and consistency at finding the back of the net.

Salah isn’t just a great goalscorer, he is a scorer of great goals. The 29-year-old has been a giant of the English game for a number of years, but he is currently setting a new standard for himself. Salah might even be the best player in the world on the basis of his recent form – better than Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski and all the rest.

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Jurgen Klopp certainly believes this to be the case. “For sure right now the best player in the world,” the Liverpool boss commented after Salah’s stunning performance at Vicarage Road on Saturday. “Come on, we all see it – who is better than him at the moment? At the moment, there is nobody better in world football than him.”

With the nominees for the 2021 Ballon d’Or announced last week, the discussion around the best player in the world is particularly pertinent right now. The debate is also sharper than it has been for a number of years with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo no longer the untouchable forces of nature they once were.

Messi might still add another Ballon d’Or to his collection – his fallow years are still better than most players can ever hope to achieve – but the likes of Karim Benzema and Jorginho are widely seen as genuine contenders to be crowned the best individual football player in the world for this year.

Timing might count against Salah, who is also a nominee, in the voting given that he has hit another level in the second half of 2021. What’s more, the Egyptian didn’t play at a major tournament like many of his Ballon d’Or rivals, something that carries a lot of weight in the assessment of candidates for the award (see Jorginho).

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But looking at the standard of the game’s great and good at this specific moment in time, Salah stands alone. He has scored in each of his last eight matches for Liverpool – the longest run of goalscoring performances for the Anfield club since Daniel Sturridge in February 2014.

Nobody has scored more Premier League goals this season than Salah (seven) with the 29-year-old also notching four assists for good measure. Liverpool look back to their fast and furious best and much of that is down to the influence of Salah. Opposition defenders have yet to find a way to stop him, as demonstrated by the number of Watford players who watched Salah’s goal on their backside.

The 2021 Ballon d’Or is unlikely to end up in Salah’s hands, but that shouldn’t mask how well he is playing right now. The Premier League hasn’t seen a forward perform at such a high level for a long time, perhaps since Cristiano Ronaldo’s first spell at Manchester United. Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne, Sergio Aguero, Gareth Bale – none produced what Salah is producing at this moment.

It’s got to the point that Salah’s form is now transcending the Premier League and even his generation. Comparisons are being drawn with players around the world and players through the years. No matter the discussion, no matter the frame of reference, Salah measures up against anyone.

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'Right now, he is the best' – Klopp hails Liverpool star Salah after Watford wonderstrike

Jurgen Klopp hailed Mohamed Salah as the best player in the world “right now” after the Egyptian helped Liverpool to a 5-0 demolition of Watford at Vicarage Road.

Roberto Firmino scored a hat-trick as Claudio Ranieri’s Watford reign got off to the worst possible start but it was Salah who will hog the headlines having produced another goal of the season contender.

Salah had already laid on Sadio Mané’s opening goal early in the first half when he wriggled away from three defenders to curl Liverpool into a 4-0 lead less than nine minutes into the second period.

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It was a strike to rival the wondergoal he scored in the 2-2 draw with Manchester City a fortnight ago and took his Premier League tally for the season to seven in eight games.

“His performance was massive today,” Klopp said. “The pass for the first goal was great and the second goal was special.

“He is top. We all see it. Who is better than him? We don’t have to talk about what Messi and Ronaldo have done for world football and their dominance. But right now, he is the best.”

Mané put Liverpool in front inside eight minutes and Liverpool dominated their hosts from start to finish of a disappointing first outing under Ranieri.

Klopp had made his frustration with the early kick-off time clear in a BT Sport interview ahead of the match, but he was delighted with how his side performed at Vicarage Road.

“It was good! I cannot say differently. After international break it is hard to find the rhythm after playing different systems, but the boys were so good despite only having one session before today,” Klopp said.

I am confident at the moment, helping the team win points which is the most important thing.

“I think Watford had ideas, but we didn’t let them play. The goals were really brilliant, there was great attitude, energy and character.”

Salah’s strike was his ninth in his last eight games in all competitions but the Egyptian forward refused to be drawn on whether he is currently in the form of his career.

“I don’t know. Sometimes I don’t have the luck to score goals but I am always trying 100 per cent to help the team,” he said.

“I am confident at the moment, helping the team win points which is the most important thing.”

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Firmino nets hat-trick, Salah scores stunner as Liverpool hammer sorry Watford

Mohamed Salah scored one of the goals of the season and Roberto Firmino scored a hat-trick as Liverpool hammered Watford 5-0 in Claudio Ranieri’s first game in charge at Vicarage Road.

Receiving the ball just inside the box, Salah drew three defenders then drove towards the right by-line before turning back, leaving two players in his wake, and clipping a ball past Foster inside the far post.

Before this fourth goal Liverpool had long ended the game as a contest with Sadio Mane opening the scoring with a cool first time effort after Salah’s fine through-ball and then Firmino hitting two tap-ins either side of half time. The first was created by Milner driving deep into the penalty area before unselfishly squaring the ball and the second after Craig Cathcart’s despairing lunge at Andy Robertson’s low cross. The Brazilian added a third in stoppage time after fine work from substitute Neco Williams.

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While Watford could do little about Salah’s genius, their effort over the course of the 90 minutes left a lot to be desired and their new manager under no illusions of the task ahead of him to keep the club in the Premier League.

TALKING POINT – RANIERI HAS A LOT OF WORK TO DO

Claudio Ranieri could not have had a sterner examination to expose the limitations of his side than that posed by Jurgen Klopp’s side. To say they were found wanting is an understatement. For most of the first half, the ball was only in Liverpool’s territory when the Reds were passing the ball around the defence, as they averaged ten passes for every one of Watford’s.

WATFORD, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 16: Claudio Ranieri, Manager of Watford FC gestures during the Premier League match between Watford and Liverpool at Vicarage Road on October 16, 2021 in Watford, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Image credit: Getty Images

The lack of desire from Watford’s players to close down Liverpool players, especially in midfield was even more damning. Moussa Sissoko was often on a one-man mission racing from one the edge of his penalty area to the other trying to cover runs from the Liverpool midfield or Mo Salah, who Danny Rose at this stage of his career was nowhere near equipped to deal with the Morroccan. By the time, Milner raced forward to set up the second, Sissoko looked too exhausted to go with him.

It is astonishing to think there are five teams below the Hornets in the Premier League, but this number will soon dwindle if there is not a shift in attitude.

MAN OF THE MATCH – MOHAMED SALAH (LIVERPOOL)

As good as he was, it was not the Egyptian’s best display. If he had been a little sharper in the first half he could have scored a couple from stylish through-balls from Trent Alexander-Arnold. That said, even if he had not scored the probable goal of the season his pass for Mane’s opening goal would have been a contender for the best assist, inch-perfect with the outside of his boot curling around the Watford centre backs.

Sadio Mané célèbre avec Mohamed Salah son centième but en Premier League, le 16 ocotbre 2021 sur la pelouse de Watford.

Image credit: Getty Images

There was warning of what was to come moments before his coup de grace, as he forced Ben Foster to tip over the bar from his trademark curling effort from the right edge of the penalty area. The Hornets stopper had no chance when he did hit the target though, with an unerring finish which matched his sparkling skills which set up the chance.

Best player in the world? He has to be in the conversation.

PLAYER RATINGS

Watford: Foster 6; Femenia 5, Troost-Ekong 6, Cathcart 5, Rose 3; Sarr 5, Kucka 5, Sissoko 6, Masina 4; Hernandez 5, Dennis 5.

Subs: Cleverley 5, Ngakia 6, Pedro 6.

Liverpool: Kelleher 6, Alexander-Arnold 8, Matip 7, Van Dijk 7, Robertson 7, Milner 8, Henderson 7, Keïta 7, Salah 9*, Mane 8, Firmino 8.

Subs: Tsimikas 7, Oxlade-Chamberlain 6, Williams 7.

KEY MOMENTS

9′ GOAL FOR LIVERPOOL! It has been coming. A fantastic ball for Salah, after he eased Danny Rose out on the right flank, behind the Watford defence and Mane hit it first time with his right foot giving Ben Foster no chance.

37′ GOAL FOR LIVERPOOL! A fine combination between Firmino and Mane, sees Milner through in the left hand side of the six-yard box and he squares for Firmino to tap into an empty net.

53′ GOAL FOR LIVERPOOL! Firmino with another tap in. Robertson’s low cross towards Salah was diverted by the sliding Cathcart to Foster’s right and he could only parry the ball into the path of the Brazilian striker.

55′ GOAL FOR LIVERPOOL! Salah with remarkable feet in the penalty area, getting the ball just inside the 18-yard box, he beat three players before dragging back on the edge of the six-yard box and scoring past Foster inside the far post.

90+1′ GOAL FOR LIVERPOOL! Firmino has a third tap in after Williams beats Rose on the right wing and slides a ball across the six-yard box which gifts the Brazilian a hat-trick.

KEY STAT

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Klopp seethes at Newcastle takeover, Brazil and Southgate in angry Liverpool press conference

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp took aim at several hot-button issues in a fiery press conference ahead of his side’s Premier League meeting with Watford.

The German noted his scepticism over the takeover of Newcastle United, expressing surprise at the lack of a statement from Premier League chief executive Richard Masters after a Saudi-led consortium completed their deal to buy the club from Mike Ashley.

He did predict that the wealth of the new owners’ will see Newcastle become a “new superpower”, but compared the deal to the bungled plans for a European Super League and highlighted the widely-reported human rights concerns in the Middle Eastern petrostate.

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“I was waiting for some official statement about it from Richard Masters or someone else as there are obviously concerns over human rights issues. It didn’t happen in the first place,” Klopp explained.

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It means there is a new superpower. Money can’t buy everything but over time they have enough money to make some wrong decisions and then make right decisions. The Premier League obviously thought ‘let’s give it a go’. It’s now the third club owned by a country. It’s basically like the Super League now – just for one club.

Klopp further seethed at the unavailability of Brazilians Fabinho and Alisson, and Curtis Jones.

The former pair will return late from international duty in South America and will prepare for Tuesday evening’s Champions League visit to Atletico Madrid in Spain

Jones, meanwhile, came back from England Under-21 duty with an injury having been called for off the bench against Andorra.

Klopp added: “When we talk about federations, Curtis Jones came back from England U-21s injured. Great!

“It’s hard to get in touch with them. They played Andorra – [it was] really important he played there…”

Senior England men’s manager Gareth Southgate did not escape Klopp’s scattergun spree, with the German perplexed by Joe Gomez’s absence from the international squad and suggesting that Southgate has double standards when selecting John Stones of Manchester City.

“Sometimes Gareth reacts if you are not playing for your club you can’t play for the national team. Obviously there is a special thing for Mr [John] Stones.

“[Gomez] is in a top shape – he looks really good. I know that Gareth reacts on if players aren’t playing regularly. He is an exceptional centre-half.”

Liverpool will have the chance to go top of the Premier League as they visit Watford at lunchtime on Saturday 16 October.

Klopp will encounter fellow former Premier League winning manager Claudio Ranieri as the Italian takes charge at Vicarage Road for the first time.

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Fabinho and Alisson set to miss Watford match

Fabinho says himself and Alisson are set to miss Liverpool’s Premier League match against Watford on Saturday afternoon.

Both players are in the Brazil squad to take on Uruguay on Thursday night.

“I believe that match against Watford will be very hard for us, I don’t think we will play. Neither Alisson or myself,” Fabinho told reporters in a press conference ahead of the Uruguay match.

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“The match against Uruguay will be Friday overnight here (in the UK) and the match against Watford will be at half past noon.

“With all of what is involved, including travel, I don’t know how much time we will have between one game and the other.”

Because Brazil played Colombia and Venezuela recently, who are on the United Kingdom’s travel red list, the players would be required to do a 10-day quarantine if they returned straight to England.

Fabinho said Liverpool are considering sending the duo straight from international duty to Spain ahead of their Champions League group stage match against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday evening.

“I believe that we won’t be playing,” the 27-year-old added.

“We will also need to quarantine, but the club is still studying whether it is better to go straight to Spain to play Atletico and quarantine there, without staying in a hotel in England.”

Trent Alexander-Arnold and Diogo Jota are expected to be available for the match. The duo have recovered from muscle problems.

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