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Chelsea hero Joe Cole says Frank Lampard set to make big transfer decision in January

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard has a big decision to make over the future of Olivier Giroud, according to Blues hero Joe Cole. Giroud is out of contract at Chelsea at the end of the season. But the Frenchman is keen to play more first-team football having not started a Premier League match this term.

Giroud is closing in on Thierry Henry’s all-time France goalscoring record.

But his international boss Didier Deschamps has suggested the 34-year-old may have to leave Chelsea to make sure of his place in the squad for next summer’s European Championship.

Giroud scored a vital late winner against Rennes on Wednesday to send Chelsea through to the knockout stages of the Champions League.

And Cole says Lampard has to weigh up whether to make a decision to benefit Giroud or benefit his team.

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“Do you know what, it’s a big test for Frank now,” Cole said on BT Sport.

“Olivier Giroud, it’s special for him to play for France clearly, he’s a World Cup winner, he knows he needs to play, his manager’s told him that.

“Frank knows what a great lad he is and he knows what a great servant he has been to the club and how much he produces when called upon.

“And it’s going to be one of those situations come January where you’re like: ‘Do you let him go for the lad? Or do you do what’s right for the club?’.

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“It’s a real tough decision Frank’s going to have to make because Giroud is such a good professional, but more importantly such a good affective player for the club.

“I’d love to see him stay because that won’t be the last time he bails Chelsea out.

“He’s brilliant off the bench and I think he’s one of the most underrated players we’ve seen over the last five years in the Premier League.”

Following the 2-1 win at Rennes, Lampard insisted Giroud would play more if he stayed at the club.

“Oli will get his minutes because we have a busy schedule, we play every few days,” Lampard said.

“And the things behind the scenes, everybody kind of feels from the outside what a great professional he is and how highly regarded he is by his team-mates and myself.

“So for him to get a goal, you saw the reaction of his team-mates, he’s so professional in how he trains and looks after himself that age isn’t even a factor for him.

“He’s getting better with age if anything in terms of how he looks after himself.

“So he offers a lot for us and I keep saying it but the big schedule coming up and the way we play means I will rely on players.”

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USWNT midfielder Kristie Mewis makes the most of 2020

    Graham Hays covers college sports for espnW, including softball and soccer. Hays began with ESPN in 1999.

The grass grew so high in Houston-area public parks this spring that Kristie Mewis could scarcely see where she was going.

With the start of the NWSL season on hold during early days of the coronavirus pandemic, pressing forward each day proved a challenge as the soccer player sought to hone her foot skills.

“It was a mental battle,” Mewis recalled of lockdown workouts. “Just getting through every single day like, ‘Why am I doing this, are we even going to have a season?’ And then with everything else going on in the world, it was like, ‘Is this even important anymore?'”

But soccer was that important to her. Not just important, but integral. On some level she knew she was closer to her goal than she had been in a long time. Closer to playing for the United States, something she did in more than a dozen games in 2013 and 2014 but never since. Closer to again playing alongside Sam Mewis, her younger sister who grew into a world champion and international star in those intervening years. Closer to being one of the best in the world at the game that consumes her.

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She is almost there. Kristie was named to the U.S. roster for the national team’s game against the Netherlands on Friday (12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2), the first game for the defending world champions since March. The conversation is no longer about the rising star of American soccer that she was supposed to be or about a player in search of an NWSL home. The narrative is no longer about the player that she could have been if not for a knee injury, or the player that her sister is for the United States and Manchester City.

“I’m not shy to say soccer is a huge part of just who I am as a person — it is everything to me,” Kristie said. “It is my job, it is my passion, it is literally my entire life. I’m not ashamed to say that, I just love it so much. So when your goal and your dream of being on the national team is taken away from you, it obviously does affect you personally as well. I think I did lose a sense of who I was off the field as well — and on the field. And it took me a long time to get it back.”

A place on the field this week marks a fitting finale for someone who made more of 2020 than almost anyone in the sport. Kristie starred as the Houston Dash won the NWSL Challenge Cup — the bubbled event in June and July that marked the return of professional team sports in the United States. The midfielder repeated her efforts in the league’s abbreviated fall schedule, totaling two goals and a league-best five assists as the Dash again excelled in compiling the second-best record.

Not that U.S. national team coach Vlatko Andonovski needed an introduction. As FC Kansas City’s first coach in 2013, Andonovski selected Kristie with the third overall pick in the inaugural NWSL college draft. That partnership lasted only a season before she moved on to Boston, Washington, Chicago and finally Houston, but few coaches know her better than one who has studied her for the past eight years.

“The 2020 version of Kristie Mewis is almost like a different person, different player,” Andonovski said. “She’s more mature, understands the game, she’s more into it, definitely more intense. Her approach to the game, mentally, is totally different.”

Pass through Kristie’s apartment these days and the television will likely be tuned to a soccer game from somewhere in the world. Sometimes she watches what is on screen, more often she studies it. Her favorite case study is Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne, a midfield master craftsman who emerged as the best in the world only after struggling through a high-profile move to Chelsea when he was still a young prospect rising through the European game.

Kristie, too, was a rising star who hit a snag. An All-American who stayed close to her Massachusetts home and took Boston College to the College Cup in 2010, she played for the United States in the 2008 Under-17 Women’s World Cup and 2010 Under-20 Women’s World Cup. But at some point she became a player without a clear role.

Was she best suited to play in wide spaces, dominating the touch lines the way midfielder Tobin Heath has for so many years? Was she better suited to a central role, providing the kind of bold attacking imagination Rose Lavelle now serves up in front of Kristie’s sister in the U.S. midfield? Or was she, as first Tom Sermanni and then Jill Ellis came to believe with the national team, a fullback prospect at the international level, asked to do what Kelley O’Hara and Crystal Dunn have done?

“I was with the national team at the time, but I didn’t really have an identity as to where I belonged on the field,” Kristie said of those years. “I think I was obviously a good player, but I was just a little bit confused about my identity, my soccer identity. I think now that I’ve matured, I’ve been able to become more comfortable with who I am as a player and more confident in it.”

It’s how she made an impact for the Dash, not just this year but while starting 20 games last season after returning from an ACL tear that cost her much of the 2018 NWSL season. That injury proved a turning point after several seasons spent bouncing around the league.

“I think it was kind of hard for me for a while to admit to myself that it wasn’t over,” Kristie said. “I just remember I was OK with being average for a couple of years there. I had some injuries. I just lost a lot of confidence, I lost a lot of belief in myself.”

Kristie said the experience made her realize her dream of returning to the national team was slipping away. She returned more committed to fitness and to the game.

“It’s obviously a tough injury to go through,” her sister Sam said, “And I think it made her realize how badly she wanted to push to get back to being the best that she could be.”

Thus when Andonovski visited Houston this fall and spent a morning talking with Dash coach James Clarkson, it wasn’t a conversation about shoehorning Kristie’s skills into some other position of need. The coaches talked about her ability to consistently influence games from an attacking position.

“We even changed the formation going into this year, playing with one holding [midfielder] and two high, in order to get her higher up the field and use her qualities, which are her ability to run into space, run with the ball, her passing, her shooting,” Clarkson said.

There is still room for improvement in turning her creativity and intensity into more tangible goals and assists.

“She is an absolute winner,” Clarkson said. “She has a very bubbly personality, and she’s happy and says some goofy things at times and makes everybody laugh. But she’s really focused.

“She sees what her sister has achieved at the international level, and she wants some of it.”

Kristie and Sam, who attended UCLA, played together just twice for the senior national team — both in the 2014 Algarve Cup. They talk just about every day, with Sam serving as Kristie’s closest friend and support system for years.

“Being a professional player can be difficult and challenging at times,” Sam said. “For a lot of people who have never done this, it is kind of hard to understand all the ups and downs. … Whether it’s an injury or getting cut from a team or winning a big tournament, I think having someone that you’re so close with that is in your family that can share those moments with you is really special. It’s brought us closer in a whole different way than I think anything else could have.”

Yet as Sam emerged as a cornerstone of both the 2019 World Cup title and the national team’s future, Kristie remained on the outside looking in.

“I was able to separate it, and I was so, so happy for her,” Kristie said. “But I obviously wanted to be next to her doing it. I’m still trying to push for that, that’s obviously my ultimate goal is to be considered for the national team. But I was able to separate it.

“A little bit of her success, I felt it also a little bit. Just because she’s my sister, she’s my blood, we did everything together growing up. I do feel like I’m a part of her. I do feel like her having success, I felt like I had a little success too. And it also pushed me even harder to try and play with her again at some point.”

And now Kristie and Sam will spend Thanksgiving together in the Netherlands.

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Everton suffer major injury blow which affects Chelsea, Arsenal and Man Utd clashes

Everton left-back Lucas Digne could be out for up to two months with an ankle injury, which may require surgery. The Frenchman has enjoyed a fine start to the campaign with the Toffees but now looks set to miss the festive period following the problem.

Digne is said to have picked up the injury in training, joining a long list of sidelined Premier League stars.

He assisted twice last weekend in the 3-2 win at Fulham and has nailed down a spot in Didier Deschamps’ France side ahead of the European Championships.

Now he will begin the road to recovery with Niels Nkounkou expected to fill in.

According to The Times, Everton fear that they may be without Digne for up to eight weeks.

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Sergio Aguero wife: Who is Giannina Maradona? Meet the mother of Aguero’s son

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has confirmed Sergio Aguero is back training with his Man City teammates. Aguero has missed four months after a serious knee injury which needed surgery in June. However, Guardiola suggested Man City’s clash against Olympiacos would not see Aguero play.

Aguero was back on the pitch for the Premier League clash against Arsenal in October but was substituted at half-time with another injury concern.

Who is Giannina Maradona? Meet the mother of Aguero’s son

Aguero met his most serious partner three years before he joined City, while he was hitting the net for Spanish club Atletico Madrid in 2008.

Giannina Maradona, the daughter of Argentina legend Diego Maradona, first encountered Aguero in 2008.

Now news has come of the footballing legend’s death at the age of 60.

A fiery figure with a high profile in Argentina, Giannina Maradona has more than 654.3K followers on Instagram.

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She is the doting mother of Aguero’s son, Ben, having given birth in 2009.

The couple parted ways in 2012 and have experienced a turbulent relationship since then.

Maradona was furious after Aguero was pictured taking a break with Argentinian singer Karina Tejeda, telling him on social media: “It makes me very sad that having so many people around you, not one of them can tell you that your son comes first.”

Aguero, who was labelled a “wimp” by Maradona’s iconic father in the aftermath of the pair’s split, told Argentine newspaper Ole of the heartache he felt at being separated from his son.

Maradona took Ben with her when she returned home to Buenos Aires, causing Aguero to admit: “In these last few months I’ve been trying to adapt myself to a new stage of my life following my separation.

“It’s not easy after so many intense years living together and so many experiences with Gianni.

“I try to be as professional as possible. I believe it doesn’t affect my sporting performance, but to be so far away from your child is not easy. It’s impossible not to miss Ben.”

Writing to her fans on her 30th birthday yesterday, Maradona issued an emotional message but did not name Aguero.

She said: “I reached this age with a billion moments and anecdotes that make me who I am today.

“I would not change anything I have lived through. I have the best family in the world – dysfunctional, unorthodox, different but unique.

“I am crazy at times, stubborn, good-natured and love my family unconditionally.”

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Argentina soccer legend Diego Maradona dies at 60 following heart attack

Argentine football legend Diego Maradona has passed away at the age of 60 after suffering a heart attack. 

The Gimnasia coach had been hospitalised at the start of November, days after celebrating the landmark birthday, after complaining of low spirits and fatigue. 

Tests at the La Plata clinic revealed a blood clot on the brain, which doctors later revealed was operated on successfully. 

Maradona was subsequently released from hospital as an outpatient to continue his convalescence, which he carried out in his dwelling in a private neighbourhood near Tigre, northern Buenos Aires. 

But on Wednesday morning he suffered cardiac arrest, and paramedics at the scene failed to revive him. 

The Argentine national team’s official Twitter account confirmed the news on Wednesday, paying tribute to one of the nation’s favourite footballing sons. 

“You will be eternal in every heart of the football world,” the message stated as it bade farewell to the superstar.

Argentina Football Association president Claudio Tapia also expressed his “deep grief” after learning the news.

Maradona began his professional career with Argentinos Juniors at the age of 16 and went on to be considered one of the greatest players ever to step onto a football field. 

The diminutive left-footed forward went on to represent Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla and Newell’s Old Boys as a player, and the likes of Racing Club, Dorados, Gimnasia and the Argentina national team later as a coach. 

It was with the Albiceleste, though, that his name was immortalised. 

Diego was instrumental in taking Argentina to their second World Cup triumph in 1986, captaining the team that prevailed over West Germany in the final under the stewardship of Carlos Bilardo. 

He scored five goals over the course of the tournament to finish second behind England’s Gary Lineker in the top scorer rankings, with the pair meeting in a quarter-final match which has entered the annals as perhaps the most iconic, and certainly most controversial, in the World Cup’s 90-year history. 

The Argentina No. 10 scored twice to take down England in a 2-1 victory, the first scored with his infamous ‘Hand of God’ and the second after dribbling around several opponents in what would soon be dubbed the ‘Goal of the Century’. 

Maradona also helped his nation reach a second consecutive World Cup final four years later, only to fall to West Germany. 

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Man Utd devise new director of football plan after £108m transfer failure

Manchester United haven’t started drawing up a shortlist for potential candidates for a new director of football-style role at the club, but could bring in a new official to work within the current transfer setup. That’s the belief of The Athletic’s David Ornstein.

United have long been tipped to hire a director of football to help with transfers.

Currently, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer works closely with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and chief negotiator Matt Judge to find and sign new players.

The three were criticised during the summer due to the club’s failure to sign Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund.

The winger was United’s top transfer target this summer, and Dortmund stated early on in the summer that they would not sell for less than £108million.

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However, United failed to match their asking price, and were ultimately left scrambling around for an alternative.

After the window closed, fans again called for the club to make changes to their transfer structure before the next transfer window.

And according to Ornstein, there is a chance they will look to recruit someone to come in and work within the existing framework at the club.

Speaking on his Ask Ornstein YouTube show, he explained that while there are plans to bring someone in, they are yet to create a shortlist or formally act on those plans in any way.

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Reports have suggested United are looking at Marcel Brands, who currently holds the director of football role at Everton.

Brands is out of contract at the end of the season, but still has a good relationship with Carlo Ancellotti.

But former Arsenal player Perry Groves believes the Toffees chief wouldn’t be the best candidate for the role.

He explained: “I’m not keen on directors of football and directors of recruitment.

“If you get the right manager, then the manager should have the final say on who comes into the football club.

“There has to be a trust between the manager and the director of football.

“If you look at Marcel Brands who you were talking about, he’s one who spent £80million on [Jean-Philippe] Gbamin, [Michael] Keane and Alex Iwobi. £80m.

“I said at the time for Alex Iwobi when he left Arsenal for £35m that I’d have driven up there myself to be honest.

“He played well in the wing-back position yesterday against Fulham but as a winger and as a forward he didn’t have enough end product, he didn’t score enough goals.

“So that sort of baffles me, why Manchester United would want someone like Marcel Brands when he hasn’t got an exemplary record, completely not proven.

“There’s too many players that have gone in that they’ve paid big money for that haven’t performed.

“Richarlison has been a brilliant signing for them but there’s too many that they’ve got wrong.”

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Chelsea ‘definitely’ keen on Lionel Messi transfer if Barcelona star leaves for free

Chelsea will definitely be in the race to sign Lionel Messi if the Argentine does not extend his contract at Barcelona, according to Spanish football expert Guillem Balague. Messi is out of contract at Barcelona at the end of this season and is therefore free to speak to foreign clubs in January regarding a move next summer. The 33-year-old wanted to leave the Nou Camp this year but Barca chiefs demanded interested clubs pay his entire release clause of £630million.

Messi has struggled to hit top form in a below-par start to the season for Barca, having scored just six goals in his 11 appearances.

Speculation continues that he will not extend his stay with his boyhood club.

Manchester City are the favourites to sign Messi if he does end up leaving Barca.

But Balague says Chelsea will also be interested in bringing him to Stamford Bridge.

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“Chelsea, definitely in the equation if Messi becomes available. All that is true,” Balague said on his YouTube channel.

After missing out on Messi in the summer, Balague says City will attempt to sign the six-time Ballon d’Or winner again.

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He added: “Would City try again? Yes they would. Obviously there’s no transfer fee attached to it now.

“They will be willing to pay the €25m or £25m-plus net that they’ll have to pay for him [in wages], much more than that, this is just a minimum requirement I think.

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“I know Pep Guardiola has said as a fan of Barcelona he would like him to stay at Barcelona.

“But as manager of Manchester City, you’re talking about a different proposition.

“With a renewal of the squad, with more energy being brought into the squad, you’ve got the possibility of actually using him.

“Perhaps not next to Kun Aguero because they’re not the best pressuring the opposition, of course.

“But with him in the side, there will be adjustments to be made.

“But I’m pretty sure that they’ve thought of what that means and they’ve got weapons to convince Messi to come to Manchester City.

“One of them was ‘look, Pep Guardiola is staying’, something that perhaps he couldn’t say before.”

City boss Guardiola penned a new two-year extension at the Etihad last week but insisted he wants Messi to stay at Barca.

Guardiola said: “Messi is a Barcelona player. I said it a thousand times. As a fan, I want Leo to finish there,” Guardiola said.

“His contract finishes this year [season] and I don’t know what will happen in his mind.”

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Why Ainsley Maitland-Niles may be the answer to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Arsenal woes

Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should be hoping for a recall for Ainsley Maitland-Niles to help him rediscover his goalscoring touch. Aubameyang has looked a shadow of himself since he signed his new contract in September. He has failed to score a Premier League goal from open play since the opening day win over Fulham.

Mikel Arteta has played Aubameyang on the left, on the right and most recently against Leeds United through the middle.

But whatever position the Gabon international plays, he cannot get into the game.

It is not as though he is missing a load of chances either, having just 13 shots in total in his nine league outings.

According to Wyscout, the most shots Aubameyang has registered in a single league game is four in the 3-0 victory at Fulham.

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Coincidentally, the match at Craven Cottage was one of Maitland-Niles’ two starts in the league so far this season.

On the face of it, that means nothing. But delve a bit deeper and you will find perhaps the missing link for Aubameyang so far this term.

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Aubameyang led Arsenal to FA Cup glory last season, with a brace in both the semi-final and final wins over Manchester City and Chelsea respectively.

Maitland-Niles started both matches at left wing-back, a role which ultimately earned him his first call-up to the senior England squad.

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The 23-year-old did not have a direct influence on any of Aubameyang’s four cup goals but his presence on the left-hand side is a different proposition for opposition defenders.

Maitland-Niles is right-footed, so his natural instinct when on the left is to drift inside rather than making a run on the outside.

And that was showcased brilliantly in both the Community Shield win over Liverpool and easy victory over Fulham.

Aubameyang scored an almost identical goal in each match, cutting in from the left and curling an unstoppable shot past the helpless goalkeeper.

On both occasions Maitland-Niles made his run inside, causing the opposition to think about him as well as Aubameyang.

Kieran Tierney was also present, bursting to the outside of Aubameyang, giving another headache to the defenders.

The runs from Maitland-Niles and Tierney allowed Aubameyang that extra bit of time to shift the ball onto his right and score what had become a customary finish for the former Borussia Dortmund star.

Since the short trip to Craven Cottage, Maitland-Niles has started just one league match – the 3-1 loss at Liverpool. Replicating their link-up is much harder at the home of the champions.

But it is something Arteta needs to look at. He needs to get Aubameyang into as many shooting positions as possible and if purely the presence and movement of Maitland-Niles does that, it’s certainly worth giving a go.

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Liverpool star Firmino tipped for secret goal target as Salah, Mane, Jota challenge set

Troy Deeney believes Roberto Firmino remains one of the best strikers in the Premier League and the Watford captain claims the Liverpool striker is well aware he has to score more goals. The Reds cruised to a 3-0 win over high flyers Leicester last night at Anfield as Firmino added gloss to the scoreline by heading in the third.

It was the least his performance deserved after he missed several big chances to get on the scoresheet.

After he hit the post and had one cleared off the line in the same sequence of play, it looked like another one of those frustrating evenings for Firmino.

The 29-year-old’s goals appear to have dried up in the past year after he netted just once in the Premier League at Anfield last season, despite helping the Reds end their 30-year wait for top-flight glory.

His only Anfield strike came in the final home game of the campaign against Chelsea, after much was made of the barren run in front of goal.

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While Firmino has already found the net at home this season against Sheffield United, the former Hoffenheim man is under increasing pressure to perform following the emergence of £40million signing Diogo Jota.

The Portuguese international has now scored in all four of his Premier League outings at Anfield and already has eight goals to his name for Liverpool, as he looks to cement his place in the starting XI.

According to Deeney, Firmino’s place in the side is not under threat but he does claim that the false-nine needs to add more goals to his game, something the forward will be well aware of.

He told talkSPORT Breakfast: “I said it before, I got pelters for saying that I still think he’s one of the best No 9s in the league.

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“There’s not many players that can link the play like him and look what you’ve got coming in behind him. Especially with Jota coming in as well.

“I think he’s needed and you look at Klopp trying to play around and get him in, even as a No 10 at times, shows how important he is to that team.

“He will know he has to score more goals. You can’t have [Mohamed] Salah, [Sadio] Mane and Jota all scoring goals.

“Even if the team is winning, you want to be the one scoring all the goals. That’s the reason you play as a striker.

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“He’ll be happy that the team is winning but there will be a certain part of him that says, ‘right, I need to get up to 15-20 goals’.”

After the win over the Foxes, Liverpool boss Klopp paid tribute to his No 9 for getting the goal he richly deserved.

“We were really happy and relieved. He deserved it so much. He played a super game, he played a super game and was so important for us again,” Klopp said.

“You could see in the face of all the players when he scored that everybody thought, ‘Yes, exactly the right goalscorer’.”

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Liverpool suffer yet another injury blow as Naby Keita limps off against Leicester

Liverpool suffered yet another injury in the Premier League this evening as Naby Keita limped off with a muscle injury in the match against Leicester. The Reds were 2-0 up when Keita pulled something in his leg and was replaced by Neco Williams.

That meant James Milner moved from right-back into midfield as Liverpool looked to hold onto the victory.

A Jonny Evans own goal had given Liverpool the lead before Diogo Jota netted in his fourth straight match at Anfield to continue his fine start at the club.

Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher indicated he thought it was a hamstring injury suffered by Keita.

He said: “He’s stretching his hamstring. It certainly wouldn’t be cramp at this stage. I think he knows he has done something.”

JUST IN: Diogo Jota tipped for Liverpool transfer exit after impressive start for Reds

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