Virgil van Dijk praised his Liverpool teammate Alisson Becker after his late save denied Napoli a objective to make sure the Reds progressed into the knockout stage of the Champions League.
Alexis Nunes and Stevie Nicol predict this weekends Premier League fixtures, together with a heavyweight match up between Liverpool and Manchester United.
Stewart Robson previews Manchester United’s journey to Anfield the place they appear to finish league leaders Liverpool’s unbeaten run and acquire floor again on the highest 4.

There has by no means been a Premier League goalkeeper as dominant as Manchester United’s David De Gea.

Sure, there have been extra profitable goalkeepers: De Gea, who was named the world’s greatest keeper within the ESPN FC 100, has won only one Premier League title. He additionally has just one “Golden Glove” award for the very best variety of clear sheets in a season — final season, by the way — and over a dozen goalkeepers have saved extra clear sheets.

However these figures are largely dependent upon the standard of De Gea’s teammates. Assess one other issue, the variety of instances he is been voted into the PFA Workforce of the 12 months, and De Gea is in a world of his personal. 5 instances he is been named the league’s greatest by his friends, together with every of the previous 4 campaigns. No different goalkeeper in Premier League historical past has earned that honour on greater than three events.

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De Gea’s reign, although, is seemingly over. We’re lower than midway by way of the marketing campaign, but it surely’s unattainable to make a case for De Gea after his alarming dip in type since final season. In 2017-18, De Gea not solely saved the very best variety of clear sheets within the division, he additionally carried out greatest statistically. Opta’s knowledge suggests he conceded 14 fewer targets than you’d anticipate primarily based upon the photographs he confronted, by far essentially the most spectacular document within the high flight.

One thing, nonetheless, has modified. De Gea endured a disappointing World Cup marketing campaign, notably letting a Cristiano Ronaldo shot squirm beneath him in Spain’s thrilling Three-Three draw with Portugal. That prompted nearer inspection of his worldwide type, which merely did not examine together with his Manchester United shows.

Now, they’re roughly equal. Slightly than De Gea’s performances for the nationwide staff enhancing, his Manchester United shows have dipped. The statistics this season make for grim studying, and the headline determine is simply two clear sheets in 16 matches.

Extra alarmingly, De Gea merely is not saving sufficient photographs. A 67 % save charge places him within the backside half of goalkeepers, whereas Opta’s statistics now recommend that his performances have prevented solely Zero.76 price of targets this season. His mistake final week towards Arsenal, the place he virtually pushed Shkodran Mustafi’s weak header into the air and over the objective line behind him, has prompted additional scrutiny of his performances. De Gea might nicely return to type, and it might be unreasonable to write him off on the idea of a six-month dip in type after half a decade of brilliance. In 2018-19, although, De Gea just isn’t the Premier League’s high keeper.

This weekend, he faces the person who in all probability is. On Tuesday evening, Alisson, the No. four keeper on this planet within the ESPN FC 100, produced his most memorable second in a Liverpool shirt, a point-blank save from Napoli’s Arkadiusz Milik that successfully earned his staff qualification to the Champions League knockout stage. Was it an amazing save, or did Milik hit the ball straight at him? Most likely someplace in between: The end wasn’t significantly spectacular, however Alisson had superior a few yards to shut down the angle and, maybe, power Milik to rush.

Alisson has saved 10 clear sheets in 16 video games within the Premier League this season and has one of the best save charge.

Both method, the mere truth the save was robotically hailed as sensible spoke volumes about Alisson’s status: He is already thought-about the Premier League’s greatest. It is troublesome to recall one other Premier League aspect ever upgrading so considerably between the posts. Simon Mignolet by no means appeared something greater than a mid-table goalkeeper, and Loris Karius merely transmitted an air of uncertainty and nervousness that finally culminated in his notorious error within the 2018 Champions League last. On one hand, that was a freak accident, a mistake the German won’t repeat for the remainder of his profession. On the opposite, it wasn’t unsurprising.

Alisson did not come low cost — £67 million was a world document for a goalkeeper, though that document was damaged by Chelsea’s buy of Kepa Arrizabalaga a few weeks later. But it surely was an funding Liverpool wanted to make. Virgil van Dijk had accomplished their defence, and Liverpool desperately wanted a top-class goalkeeper to cement their standing as title contenders.

Initially, Alisson impressed together with his distribution. After a quiet residence debut towards West Ham, his first Premier League away journey, to Selhurst Park, noticed him knocking pretty passes out to the flanks in a 2-Zero win, switching play in a fashion Liverpool followers have not witnessed since Xabi Alonso’s departure 9 years in the past. His fast distribution resulted in a break for a Mohamed Salah one-on-one, which the Egyptian could not fairly reap the benefits of, but it surely set the tone for subsequent counter-attacking targets: Salah’s breakaway opener at residence to Fulham, and Xherdan Shaqiri’s strike final week at Burnley.

The Brazilian additionally recovered from a significant blunder, when his tried flip towards Leicester noticed him dispossessed by Kelechi Iheanacho, with Rachid Ghezzal sticking the ball residence. It might be inaccurate to recommend Alisson ploughed on together with his favoured technique regardless. The following weekend, when confronted with an identical state of affairs away at Spurs, he thumped the ball into the stands to sarcastic cheers from opposition followers. Alisson, like his compatriot Ederson at Manchester Metropolis, was already famend for taking dangers, historically frowned upon in English soccer.

Even those that favour a safety-first method, although, cannot argue with Alisson’s shot-stopping. Except for the Napoli save, there was an important cease two minutes from the tip of a nervy 1-Zero residence win over Brighton in August that straight won two factors, and a one-on-one save from Eden Hazard away at Stamford Bridge that saved Liverpool within the recreation, permitting them to launch a comeback and take a draw. That three-point swing may show extraordinarily essential come the tip of the marketing campaign.

In all, Alisson has 10 clear sheets from 16 Premier League appearances. His save charge of 86 % is one of the best within the Premier League by an enormous margin, and he is conceded 6.9 targets fewer than you’d anticipate primarily based upon the shot areas. The worth of getting a goalkeeper snug in possession is commonly thought-about a trade-off with an absence of conventional shot-stopping skill — that was clearly an issue for Manchester Metropolis when Claudio Bravo was their No. 1 and barely saving something — however Alisson is a goalkeeping all-rounder. His distribution is not the main focus of his recreation, as was the case after the Leicester blunder, however a bonus.

Maybe the one space the place there’s room for enchancment is Alisson’s method to crosses. He is been constantly eager to punch the ball away, typically unconvincingly again into the hazard zone, and one tried punch towards Arsenal resulted in him lacking the ball, touchdown his fist on Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and the ball dropping simply extensive of the far publish. He’ll even be dissatisfied together with his concession at Burnley, the place Jack Cork prodded in after Alisson spilled James Tarkowski’s tame header, however these are minor quibbles.

Ederson may show able to difficult Alisson for the standing as this season’s star goalkeeper, however a few unnecessary penalty concessions have harmed his status. Moreover, the very fact Alisson is Brazil’s No. 1 speaks volumes about that exact battle.

Alisson’s conflict towards De Gea at Anfield on Sunday is intriguing. The Spaniard has recurrently proved the distinction on this fixture, rescuing United’s defence whereas his teammates have benefited from goalkeeping errors on the different finish. For now, although, it’s Alisson who’s the extra dependable goalkeeper, and primarily based purely upon the present standings, is on his method to equaling De Gea’s document of 1 Golden Glove award and one Premier League title.

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