Mohamed Salah and Co need to be more clinical: Liverpool vs Maribor talking points

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Liverpool face Maribor in Champions League Group E on Tuesday.

Here’s a look at some of the talking points surrounding the game in Slovenia.

MISFIRING REDS

This time 12 months ago Liverpool were brilliant up front, smashing goals past all-comers with relative ease.

It is not so much the brakes have been put on so much as the radar is offline. Incredibly Jurgen Klopp’s side have had more shots in the Premier League than leaders Manchester City but have scored 16 fewer goals.

They do not have a fully-functioning out-and-out striker like their north-west rivals but the fluidity of their forward line was meant to compensate for that.

Without Sadio Mane, out for six weeks with a hamstring injury, their impact has been lessened and while Mohamed Salah is their leading scorer he showed against Manchester United at the weekend he is not the clinical finisher the Reds require.

Mohamed Salah

Mohamed Salah

WAITING FOR CHAMPIONS LEAGUE BREAKTHROUGH

Liverpool’s last away win in the Champions League came against Debrecen in November 2009.

In mitigation, this is only their second appearance in eight years in the competition but they have had chances to break that run – not least against Spartak Moscow last time out when they dominated but left with a draw.

Two points from their opening two matches is not what Klopp would have expected, especially after conceding a winning position late on at home to Sevilla in their opening game.

Jurgen Klopp

Jurgen Klopp

CAN KARIUS CONVINCE?

The German has been designated Champions League goalkeeper by Klopp but his performances so far have done little to vindicate the manager’s faith.

He was criticised for not reacting quickly enough to the free-kick which allowed Spartak to take an early lead in Moscow last time out which put his side under pressure.

Due to Klopp’s rotation policy Karius has not played since then but needs to put in a dominant, confident display in order to prevent more questions about his suitability for such high-profile games.

Loris Karius

Loris Karius

Provided by Press Association Sport

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Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane wary of 'complete player' Harry Kane ahead of Champions League tie with Tottenham

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Harry Kane

Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane highlighted the threat posed by Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane as the English side travel to the European champions on Tuesday battling for top spot in Champions League Group H.

Kane has scored as many goals (43) this year for club and country as Cristiano Ronaldo but in fewer games, sparking rumours Real could try to poach another rising star from Spurs after taking Luka Modric and Gareth Bale to the Bernabeu in recent years.

“I don’t know what will be of Kane’s future, but I can talk about the here and now,” Zidane said on Monday.

“He’s a fundamental player for Spurs. He’s very good at everything, but what he does is score goals.

“He’s not a static player, he always finds space and is quick. He’s a complete player.”

Both sides are well placed to reach the last 16 having beaten Borussia Dortmund and APOEL Nicosia in their opening two group games.

And Zidane expects the two meetings on Tuesday and in two weeks’ time at Wembley between the sides to decide who progresses as group winners.

“We have two games versus Spurs. The first final of the group is tomorrow.

“We want to play well and I think anyone who enjoys football will see a good game.”

Bale is Madrid’s most notable absentee as a calf injury means he will miss a reunion with his former club, whilst Dani Carvajal and Mateo Kovacic are also still absent.

However, goalkeeper Keylor Navas returned to training on Monday and Zidane looks set to recall Casemiro, Modric and Isco, who were rested for Saturday’s 2-1 win at Getafe.

Provided by AFP Sport

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Strong start to Champions League campaign delights Man United boss Jose Mourinho

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Manchester United romped to a convincing 4-1 victory at Moscow.

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho believes he has now arrested the decline in the club’s Champions League away form.

The 4-1 win over CSKA Moscow in Russia gave his side a three-point advantage at the top of Group A after only two games and qualification for the knock-out stage should be a mere formality considering the poor quality of their opponents.

Basel, who lost 3-0 at Old Trafford earlier this month, beat Benfica 5-0 while Mourinho’s pre-match assessment that CSKA’s current team were the best he had faced in all his visits with Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Chelsea looked generous at best.

Having won the Europa League last season the Portuguese has United back on an upward curve in continental competition after their standing went into a downward spiral under Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor David Moyes and his replacement Louis van Gaal.

Mourinho may have been having a dig at the Dutchman in particular when he pointed out how things had turned under his guidance after four defeats and just one win in their last eight Champions League games away from Old Trafford.

“Before results away from home in the Champions League were not the best,” he said.

United raced away to a 3-0 lead before half-time.

United raced away to a 3-0 lead before half-time.

“After one season outside (the competition) we come back and we come back in strongly with a strong performance away.

“Did the players play well? Of course they did. I think all of them for an hour had a very good performance.

“It was a strong performance, a strong start with great personality and no-one is speaking about the players who couldn’t play. I am really happy with the performance.

“I came here and faced very good teams (in the past) but I think this was the strongest performance.

“With Real Madrid we came in the knockout phase and we came to play for a specific result.

“Three-nil at half-time is unexpected. We had the game in our hands and then it was just control so it was really good.”

On his return to Manchester Mourinho has to assess his options for Saturday’s 3pm kick-off at home to Crystal Palace having travelled to Moscow without seven senior players, including the likes of Paul Pogba, Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini, Phil Jones and Antonio Valencia.

It is a chance to extend their unbeaten Premier League record to seven matches and take the outright lead at the top of the table as neighbours Manchester City face a much more difficult task against defending champions Chelsea.

“We play Saturday three o’clock against a fresh team and we have to play after this match,” he added.

“We have to keep our feet on the ground, stay humble and follow our direction because we are having a very good start to the season.”

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