THURSDAY'S BIG STORIES

Liverpool keep a clean sheet!

Liverpool took their first step into a Virgil van Dijk-less world yesterday … and they won! Not easily, not comfortably, arguably not deservedly, but three points and job done and all the rest.
Transfers
Liverpool make contact with Dybala as contract nears end - reports
26/01/2022 AT 14:08
Klopp will doubtless be pleased with the win, but we reckon he'll be extra pleased with the performances of Not Alisson and Not Van Dijk. Adrian was skittish but made a couple of sharp, crucial saves, while Fabinho capped a solid performance with an overhead clearance from his own goal-line. And he was having fun, too, according to his manager.
Fabinho can play the position, he likes playing it actually. If I would have asked him to play right-back I don't think he would enjoy it as much as he's enjoying the centre-half position. I'm not surprised he plays well in the position otherwise we would have thought about a different solution, even when that would have been properly tricky. I'm really pleased for tonight, pleased for him. It was a really good performance but there's a lot to improve on.
Those are the relieved sounds of a coach who has come out of a game of football with nothing disastrous happening, and it's our guess that Fabinho has earned himself that starting spot, at least for the moment. He doesn't offer the whole Van Dijk package — few do — but he does have the knack of putting himself in the most annoying place for opponents, and that's the first principle of defending. Everything else is decoration.
Liverpool now have a run of three home games — Sheffield United, FC Midtjylland, West Ham — in which to do all that improvement, before trips to beautiful, terrifying Atalanta, who won 4-0 last night, and then to Manchester City. But Plan B didn't collapse at the first fence, and that's a start.

Shock Zidane sacking talk with Real boss 'under pressure' - Euro Papers

This is the best team

Quite a few of the bigger sides in Europe struggled on their return to Champions League action. PSG, last season's finalists, lost to plucky upstarts Manchester United. Real Madrid got rolled at home by Shakhtar Donetsk. Manchester City had to come from behind to beat Porto, while Chelsea laboured to a nil-all draw with Sevilla.
Bayern? They won 4-0. Obviously. And Joshua Kimmich did this.
Atletico don't ship four very often. Very few teams manage to do this to Jan Oblak. But by the end of the last campaign Bayern Munich looked a step ahead of the rest of the continent, and if this round of games is anything to go by, that's now two steps. Maybe even three. No wonder Hansi Flick was purring after the match.
Our game was just good tonight. It was a tough task but we mastered it. Our efficiency was good today and I am very satisfied. It is very important to win that first game. We had a match plan and we applied it, playing out four beautiful goals.
Last season, as they battered their way to the trophy, Bayern scored 43 times in 11 games: that's four goals a game, near as dammit. If they carry on at this rate through a full-length tournament, they'll get more than 50. More than 50! Assuming they make the final, that is. But the Warm-Up won't be betting against them.

Zidane: 'Things need to change' after latest Real Madrid loss

St. Marcus

You know, if the Warm-Up scored a late winner away to Paris Saint-Germain, we'd probably treat ourselves to the next day off. Float around the house, bask in the glow of being the hero. Relax into the warm embrace of our own magnificence.
This is one of the many, many reasons that we are found wanting when measured next to Marcus Rashford. Manchester United's matchwinner spent his Wednesday campaigning to ensure that kids in the UK won't go hungry over the school holidays. And then, after the vote in Parliament went against feeding schoolkids, he issued a quietly devastating statement of recommitment:
I don't have the education of a politician, many on Twitter have made that clear today, but I have a social education having lived through this and having spent time with the families and children most affected. These children matter. These children are the future of this country. They are not just another statistic. And for as long as they don't have a voice, they will have mine. You have my word on that.
Nothing but respect for our Prime Minister.

IN OTHER NEWS

This isn't a pass. This is a crazy golf shot. Through the rotating windmill, into the clown's mouth and out again — sorry, Inter midfield — and then down the tube before dropping perfectly next to the hole. Imagine if Jonas Hofmann had missed.

RETRO CORNER

Don't worry, Real Madrid fans. In the present your side may be embarrassing themselves at home against Shakhtar reserves, but in the past they were pretty good. Happy birthday to Paco Gento, winner of (a record) 12 Spanish titles and (also a record) six European Cups.

HAT TIP

Over at the New York Times, Rory Smith asks if Bayern completed a team rebuild without anybody noticing. And while winning a treble. Which doesn't sound fair, quite frankly.
The effect is clear. Bayern’s core may boast some reassuringly familiar names, but its squad is dotted with youth: Richards is 20, Davies is 19, Musiala is only 17. Regulars like Leon Goretzka, Serge Gnabry, Joshua Kimmich and Benjamin Pavard are all 25 or younger. This is a club thinking about starting a dynasty, not commemorating one.

COMING UP

Today is a fine day, friends, for the greatest tournament in world football is back to warm the heart against the autumn chill. It's Europa League time! Celtic vs. AC Milan, Spurs vs. LASK, Leicester vs. Zorya … look, there's approximately a million games on, so one of them has to be amazing. Right?

'I'm not going to answer!' - Mourinho refuses to talk about his team

And Tom Adams will be here tomorrow to tell you about Arsenal's 1-0 over Rapid Wien.
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Premier League
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