Mohamed Salah a winner again with Liverpool in Premier League

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Mohamed Salah’s dream debut season at Liverpool just keeps getting better after he was named Premier League Player of the Month for the second time.

The Egypt star scored four times in three Premier League games in February – including a brace in the 2-2 draw against top-four rivals Tottenham.

Salah will now look for his 33rd goal in all competitions when he plays at Old Trafford against Manchester United for the first time in a Liverpool shirt on Saturday.

However, he was quick to credit the support of manager Jurgen Klopp and his team-mates for his latest accolade.

“The players make it easier and the coach also makes it easier for me,” said Salah, who became the first Egyptian to win the award when he was handed the trophy in November. “It’s nice to win it again especially because it’s the Player of the Month of the Premier League so that’s something good.

“I say always try to help reach the three points and to be in a better position.”

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Antonio Conte hopes Chelsea won't be left feeling Blue by Crystal Palace as Premier League relegation battle heats up

Matt Jones 9/03/2018
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Crystal Palace players celebrate Christian Benteke's goal against Chelsea last April.

Manchester United and Liverpool lock horns in the Premier League in the match of the weekend on Saturday, but there’s plenty of other fixtures for fans to get their teeth into across the weekend.

Antonio Conte’s Chelsea, vying for a top-four finish, will hope to ground the visiting Eagles as Crystal Palace fly to Stamford Bridge. And despite struggling in the relegation zone, Roy Hodgson’s side have won on their last two trips to west London.

Two sides looking to put some daylight between them and the relegation zone meet at St James’ Park as Newcastle United (16th) host Southampton, just a point behind them in 17th.

Elsewhere, Brighton will hope to consolidate their new-found status as a top half side and aim to build on their 2-1 win against Arsenal as they go to Goodison Park to take on Everton, with the two teams level on 34 points.

Leicester City are on a five game winless streak in the Premier League but have the perfect chance to snap that run and put another nail in West Brom and manager Alan Pardew’s coffin with victory at the Hawthorns.

West Ham will hope to put their own woes behind them when they entertain Burnley, David Moyes’ boys have slipped back into relegation trouble and will want to end a run of consecutive 4-1 defeats.

In the other game, another two teams hoping to edge to safety will be Swansea and Huddersfield who meet at the John Smith’s Stadium. It’s sure to be a scrap between the Terriers and the Swans.

Here, we take a look at the key stats ahead of GW30.

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CHELSEA V CRYSTAL PALACE

Crystal Palace could become only the second team to win three consecutive away Premier League games at Stamford Bridge, after Blackburn Rovers (1993/94 to 1995/96).

NEWCASTLE V SOUTHAMPTON

Only Tottenham (5) are on a longer current unbeaten away run in the Premier League than Southampton (four – W1 D3).

EVERTON V BRIGHTON

After picking up 12 points from a possible 18 in Sam Allardyce’s first six games in charge (W3 D3 L0), the Toffees have earned just seven from the last 27 available (W2 D1 L6).

WEST BROM V LEICESTER

The home side has never previously won in the seven Premier League meetings between these sides, with five away wins and two draws. Indeed, it’s most played fixture in Premier League history that hasn’t seen a single win for the home side.

WEST HAM V BURNLEY

Burnley have won just one of their last 16 away top-flight games against the Hammers (D3 L12), with that win coming in October 1973 (1-0).

Sam Vokes scored the winner the last time in a 2-1 win in the Championship in December 2011.

HUDDERSFIELD V SWANSEA

Swansea are looking to do the league double over Huddersfield for the first time since 1992/93, when the two teams were in the third tier together.

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Paul Pogba and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to take centre stage as Man United host Liverpool

Alex Rea 9/03/2018
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Paul Pogba and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in action for their national teams

Manchester United host Liverpool at Old Trafford on Saturday to renew hostilities between the fiercest of rivals.

The two are separated by just two points, sit second and third in the Premier League but are both some way off runaway leaders Manchester City.

Yet the narrative is one of a United side fragmented by its individual qualities with Jose Mourinho struggling to bind his talented stars into a cohesive unit.

The Reds by contrast have connected the dots, their fluid attack now matched by a hardened backline and behind the usual regional context, there is an added layer of intrigue to the clash.

Much of that is down the players and so we compare the key assets for both teams.

ALEXIS SANCHEZ V MOHAMED SALAH

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Mourinho was justifiably vilified for United’s suffocating approach to the reverse fixture back in October but his side are unlikely to swing too far the other way given what happened against Tottenham in January.

The Portuguese boss fielded Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard in the starting XI but it left his midfield painfully exposed.

He will likely curb that unusual enthusiasm, meaning the presence of Sanchez on United’s left takes on even greater gravitas.

The Chilean lost possession an incredulous 34 times against Crystal Palace and congested United’s deeper midfield space to crowd out Paul Pogba.

Ultimately, Mourinho bought him to make runs inside and then get into finishing positions but he’s looking to make key passes rather than complete attacking phases.

A wideman with a frightening ability to convert is what Liverpool have in Mohamed Salah.

The Egyptian has the most goals (24), assists (eight) and shots (113) for the Reds this season and forms the fulcrum of a truly fearsome front three.

Salah is on fire right now and if you need an indication of the confident mood he’s in, check out his first touch after being introduced for the final 20 minutes of the draw with Porto.

Incidentally, the 25-year-old will be rejuvenated by that break in midweek and having scored once against Manchester City and Chelsea added to three against Spurs this season, he’ll fancy another on Saturday.

DAVID DE GEA V LORIS KARIUS

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There is an art to a pragmatic philosophy when the backline is a bolted one. But United owe their defensive solidity almost entirely to De Gea.

The Spaniard is not just the Premier League’s most outstanding goalkeeper but there’s an argument to be made that in the absence of an injured Manuel Neuer he shares the best-in-the-world tag with Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

The 27-year-old is the reverse of what Salah is to Liverpool – a game saver. He has the most clean sheets in the league so far this season (15), has made the second-highest amount of saves (85) and has conceded only 22 goals in 29 games.

His save percentage in the league stands at an immense 81 per cent and in reality, when you talk about United’s defence, you’re talking about De Gea.

Of course, the goalkeeper topic has also been a central narrative for Liverpool this season, only for negative rather than positive reasons.

Indeed, Jurgen Klopp has rotated his No1 but has settled on Karius since the turn of the year. The German possesses the same raw athleticism De Gea brought to the Premier League in 2011 and, like the Spaniard was then, he’s looked undersized for the physicality of English football.

However, the calming influence of Virgil van Dijk has breathed confidence into the 24-year-old and he has made a string of outstanding stops in recent weeks.

His propensity to get Liverpool on the front foot has married perfectly with Klopp’s style but a true test of his mental fortitude awaits on Saturday.

PAUL POGBA V ALEX OXLADE-CHAMBERLAIN

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Ah the Pogba Pogba puzzle. Quite how Mourinho solves the enigma that is Pogba is anyone’s best guess but with each passing game, the pieces to the jigsaw become ever more distant.

Pogba is United’s yin and yang – his arrogance both his finest quality and his biggest vice. In one sense, his audacious mind is the avenue to some truly genius pieces of creative play.

In the other, he almost sees himself above the graft and determination to be a driving force from midfield.

Pogba is a bit like a lavish yacht. He’s expensive, coasts across the surface with elegant poise but is ultimately a luxury.

In reality, Mourinho wants a battleship capable of torpedoing the opposition and Pogba’s straying displays have been indulged for too long.

The recent switch tactically to 4-3-3 should allow him more freedom but then Sanchez drifting into his midfield has been blamed for negating his impact.

The excuses are fast drying up and starting in his favoured formation should surely bring the best out of him soon enough.

Switching to a preferred position is what is benefitting Oxlade-Chamberlain. Operating as the No8 in Klopp’s three-man midfield, the 24-year-old is finally starting to show exactly what he can do.

Breaking the lines with his direct running, the England international has struck up a deadly partnership with Salah which has yielded goals for the former in the last two league games.

He’s the right player in the right system, a position Pogba will hope to find himself in soon enough.

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