Jurgen Klopp has admitted to concerns over Thiago Alcantara and his injury-plagued start to life at Liverpool.
The Spain international was a top transfer target over the summer after he told Bayern Munich he wanted to leave.
The Bundesliga champions were almost forced into a sale with his contract set to expire the following year and Liverpool struck.
They managed to land the midfielder for a fee of around just £20m.
It represented a huge bargain at the time for a player that would be named in the FIFA Team of the Year.
But the 29-year-old has been fraught with injuries since his arrival, making just three appearances this season so far.
And Klopp has admitted he has worries over the ex-Barcelona star going into the future.
When asked about his fitness ahead of Liverpool’s match against Southampton tonight, Klopp said: “Unfortunately, I don’t know him that long.
“A few months only. So if I would like to answer the question, I don’t know exactly what to say.
“That he could play 20 [minutes against Newcastle ] is pretty special, I would say, because [he had] only two sessions with the team; one of the sessions he was the joker, so I’m not sure you can count that really.
“But this game [at Newcastle] gave us the opportunity to do it because it was mainly about creating and that’s obviously his best skill.
“So we will see. There’s a chance. He played 20 [minutes] so there’s a chance.
“But I don’t even know how he reacts until [Thursday], we will see if he can get out of bed or not!
“Or if he has kind of muscle soreness or something like that. He enjoyed the few minutes obviously and then we will talk new.
“But, how I said, I like speaking about Thiago, it’s absolutely no problem, but honestly the boys who did the job so far did exceptionally well, I have to say.
“It’s not that we could not survive if he cannot start the next game.
“But it’s very good that he is now fit and is obviously in contention. I like that a lot.”
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The pressure remains on Frank Lampard with more points dropped.
It is now just one win in their last five Premier League games and that sort of form is unlikely to keep Chelsea fans happy after more frustration at Stamford Bridge.
Quite how quickly some have begun to doubt one of their all time great players is baffling in what is clearly an incredibly challenging season for every club.
But maybe that is what you get when you spend £200m in the summer because expectation levels appear to have been raised to sky high levels when anything less than a title challenge will suffice.
That seems a long way off for Chelsea who do look as if they are struggling for confidence and belief while the opposite is true for Aston Villa.
Another impressive away performance, an important point salvaged after going behind and that will be a big comfort for Dean Smith’s men who moved into fifth, just six points off the top with a game in hand.
That is quite some return for Villa who continued to defy the odds and they certainly upset Chelsea in what finished as a bad tempered, niggly but end-to-end and exciting contest.
There are of course no fans allowed in Stamford Bridge but with the Chelsea substitutes sat in the stands they took great delight in screaming protests at referee Stuart Attwell and giving Villa captain Jack Grealish some stick.
That just about summed up Chelsea’s frustrations because it is not quite happening for them right now and, from what looked like a season of promise a few weeks ago, they have slipped off the pace.
Suddenly, it does look a worrying scenario for Lampard.
And, interestingly, just days after calling out his players, publicly insisting they must take responsibility for the defeat at Arsenal, Lampard made six changes, went for experience and that decision reaped rich rewards with Olivier Giroud.
If ever there was a man for a crisis then it must be the 34-year-old France striker who has been priceless for Chelsea this season and it was his ninth goal of the season – making him top scorer in all competitions – which put the home side ahead.
Christian Pulisic played the ball wide with Ben Chilwell making a perfectly timed overlapping run before drilling in a near post cross which was an open invitation for a 34th minute opener.
No centre forward is quite as good as Giroud at making a near post run just as he did this time to head in from close range. Not only was it another goal for Giroud but also Chilwell’s fourth assist and the £50m left back has quietly become an integral player for Chelsea.
But Villa these days are a tougher nut to crack and their 50th minute leveller was shrouded in controversy.
Andreas Christensen flew into a challenge with Grealish, the Chelsea defender stayed down and, to the home side’s disgust, Villa played on before Matt Cash put over a brilliant cross and Anwar El Ghazi stormed in at the back post to fire through Mendy.
The Chelsea bench were fuming, the players surrounded Stuart Attwell but Villa clearly felt they did not need to stop as it was Christensen who fouled Grealish.
Suddenly, it turned up the heat and temper level. Pulisic had a header cleared off the line by Ezri Konsa and then Villa midfielder John McGinn crashed a 20 yard shot hit the bar. Chilwell slashed a shot just wide in injury time.
It was frantic, nervous and yet ultimately finished all square.
A good point for Villa, frustration for Chelsea and not enough for Lampard.
Where will Chelsea finish this season? Have your say in the comments below
It seems to be a case of carry on with the new normal for professional football.
But the increasingly draconian Covid measures and fearful Government language has set the game’s alarm bells ringing.
And while the party lines from the Premier League, the English Football League and the Football Association all stress their intention to continue in the way they have been doing since Project Restart, there is a growing fear amongst clubs that the season could be wrecked by the latest coronavirus development.
So far, the regulations allowing elite competition to go ahead remain in place but with the likes of health minister Matt Hancock suggesting the mutant strain of Covid is now ‘out of control’, there is scepticism within ALL sports about the prospect of remaining unaffected.
The Premier League has done a remarkable job in finishing last season and starting this one with few alarms.
The bio-secure regimes implemented by football’s top tier – both at stadiums and training grounds – are the strictest imaginable.
Only one game, Newcastle ’s match against Aston Villa, has been called off for coronavirus reasons.
But there have been an number of issues further down the pyramid, the latest seeing Millwall’s next two Championship fixtures cancelled because of an outbreak of Covid in the squad.
On January 9, Millwall are scheduled to travel to Boreham Wood for a third round FA Cup tie.
While the Football Association says its competition is an elite event and will go ahead as scheduled, the FA Cup will now come under scrutiny in the light of the latest, dramatic Covid upsurge.
Inevitably, as you go down the professional ladder, facilities are not as extensive as at the very top.
Eight Premier League clubs visit lower league opposition with, for example, Spurs travelling to Marine’s tiny Rossett Park stadium and Brighton going to the Covid hotspot of Newport, where the latest figures showed there to be 912 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 people.
Premier League clubs are being diplomatic about the situation but will privately ask for clarification over what Covid protocols are in place at host grounds.
Premier League players are tested twice a week and exist in their bio-secure bubbles.
That level of detail is impossible to implement in the lower tiers.
With travel into and out of tier 4 areas banned, elite sportsmen and women remain exceptions.
But that Government position could change as more regions face the prospect of falling under the severest restrictions in the coming weeks, if not days.
Premier League officials says they are continually monitoring their Covid protocols and making sure they are enforced rigorously.
They also point out that a game was staged at Leicester when the city was in local lockdown.
Even if the United Kingdom goes back into national lockdown, the Premier League would hope to carry on.
But with travel from here to Europe disappearing, there are also concerns about the Champions League and Europa League.
In the end, it will be scientists and politicians who decide the future of a season already under pressure from an intense club fixture schedule and the Euros in June.
And while the game’s authorities remain outwardly optimistic, the chances of football remaining unaffected by the latest Covid twist seem slim.
Paul Scholes feels Chelsea will fall short in this season’s Premier League title race despite praising Frank Lampard’s work in the Stamford Bridge hot seat.
Despite a summer of heavy investment, Chelsea were regarded as outsiders to top the table come May, though now look every bit likely to challenge amid an unpredictable campaign.
The Blues were hot on the heels of the league leaders after a nine-match unbeaten run before suffering a minor setback at the weekend with a shock defeat to Everton.
But Scholes feels there are key questions that still need to be answered before Lampard’s men can be considered as potential title winners.
Asked if they can go all the way this season, Scholes told Amazon Prime Video : “I’m not sure to be honest. They’re a really good team.
“What Frank has done has been excellent over the last season and this season. But I think they will fall a little bit short of Liverpool and Manchester City. They’re the teams to beat.”
Chelsea are currently three points off Liverpool,though are three ahead of City.
“I still think he [Lampard] has a couple of issues,” the United legend explained.
“Thiago Silva coming in at 36 years of age. He’s going to have to manage him carefully to get him through games. He’s going to want him to play in all the important games.
Chelsea are perhaps the most intriguing side to watch in the Premier League this season, so make sure you don’t miss a single thing by signing up to the brilliant Mirror Football newsletter!
Frank Lampard’s team made waves during the summer by splashing over £250million to bring in the likes of Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell, Hakim Ziyech, Edouard Mendy and Thiago Silva.
It has given them one of the Premier League’s most potent attacks – but behind them remains a defence that continues to leak goals, with 3-3 draws against West Brom and Southampton already behind them.
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“Can he do that for the full season? There’s no doubting he’s brought a solidness back to Chelsea along with the keeper [Edouard Mendy].
“And in the forward positions. [Olivier] Giroud, [Tammy] Abraham, can they get the combination right up there?”
Chelsea have shown a big improvement on last season, particularly with the additions of Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech and Kai Havertz to their ranks.
Who will win the Premier League title this season? Have your say below.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp even suggested Chelsea were the “favourites” and hailed their “unbelievable” squad.
But Scholes will find no opposition to his comments from Lampard, who insists title talk is still premature as far as his side are concerned.
“It’s a long season,” Lampard said at the weekend. “If it makes some people who are talking about us, ‘we’re going to win the league, we’ve got the best squad in the league’, it’s ridiculous stuff because, when you talk about best squads, you have to look at the teams that have won it in the last two, three, four years.”
Prominent artificial intelligence scholar Timnit Gebru helped improve Google’s public image as a company that elevates Black computer scientists and questions harmful uses of AI technology.
But internally, Gebru, a leader in the field of AI ethics, was not shy about voicing doubts about those commitments — until she was pushed out of the company this week in a dispute over a research paper examining the societal dangers of an emerging branch of AI.
Gebru announced on Twitter she was fired. Google told employees she resigned. More than 1,200 Google employees have signed on to an open letter calling the incident “unprecedented research censorship” and faulting the company for racism and defensiveness.
I was fired by @JeffDean for my email to Brain women and Allies. My corp account has been cutoff. So I’ve been immediately fired 🙂
The furor over Gebru’s abrupt departure is the latest incident raising questions about whether Google has strayed so far away from its original “Don’t Be Evil” motto that the company now routinely ousts employees who dare to challenge management. The exit of Gebru, who is Black, also raised further doubts about diversity and inclusion at a company where Black women account for just 1.6 percent of the workforce.
And it’s exposed concerns beyond Google about whether showy efforts at ethical AI — ranging from a White House executive order this week to ethics review teams set up throughout the tech industry — are of little use when their conclusions might threaten profits or national interests.
Gebru has been a star in the AI ethics world who spent her early tech career working on Apple products and got her doctorate studying computer vision at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.
She’s co-founder of the group Black in AI, which promotes Black employment and leadership in the field. She’s known for a landmark 2018 study that found racial and gender bias in facial recognition software.
Gebru had recently been working on a paper examining the risks of developing computer systems that analyse huge databases of human language and use that to create their own human-like text. The paper, a copy of which was shown to The Associated Press, mentions Google’s own new technology, used in its search business, as well as those developed by others.
Besides flagging the potential dangers of bias, the paper also cited the environmental cost of chugging so much energy to run the models — an important issue at a company that brags about its commitment to being carbon neutral since 2007 as it strives to become even greener.
Google managers had concerns about omissions in the work and its timing, and wanted the names of Google employees taken off the study, but Gebru objected, according to an exchange of emails shared with the AP and first published by Platformer.
Jeff Dean, Google’s chief of AI research, reiterated Google’s position about the study in a statement Friday.
The paper raised valid points but “had some important gaps that prevented us from being comfortable putting Google affiliation on it,” Dean wrote.
“For example, it didn’t include important findings on how models can be made more efficient and actually reduce overall environmental impact, and it didn’t take into account some recent work at Google and elsewhere on mitigating bias,” Dean added.
Gebru on Tuesday vented her frustrations about the process to an internal diversity-and-inclusion email group at Google, with the subject line: “Silencing Marginalized Voices in Every Way Possible.” Gebru said on Twitter that’s the email that got her fired.
Dean, in an email to employees, said the company accepted “her decision to resign from Google” because she told managers she’d leave if her demands about the study were not met.
“Ousting Timnit for having the audacity to demand research integrity severely undermines Google’s credibility for supporting rigorous research on AI ethics and algorithmic auditing,” said Joy Buolamwini, a graduate researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who co-authored the 2018 facial recognition study with Gebru.
“She deserves more than Google knew how to give, and now she is an all-star free agent who will continue to transform the tech industry,” Buolamwini said in an email Friday.
How Google will handle its AI ethics initiative and the internal dissent sparked by Gebru’s exit is one of a number of problems facing the company heading into the new year.
At the same time she was on her way out, the National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday cast another spotlight on Google’s workplace. In a complaint, the NRLB accused the company of spying on employees during a 2019 effort to organise a union before the company fired two activist workers for engaging in activities allowed under US law. Google has denied the allegations in the case, which is scheduled for an April hearing.
Google has also been cast as a profit-mongering bully by the US Justice Department in an antitrust lawsuit alleging the company has been illegally abusing the power of its dominant search engine and other popular digital services to stifle competition. The company also denies any wrongdoing in that legal battle, which may drag on for years.
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India continues to remain engaged with China on its plans to build a massive hydel project on a tributary of the Brahmaputra and has urged Beijing to ensure that the interests of lower riparian states are not harmed.
Hydel development legitimate right
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a media briefing on Thursday that “hydropower development in the lower reaches of Yarlung Zangbo river is China’s legitimate right”.
“When it comes to use and development of cross-border rivers, China always acts responsibly,” she said.
Closely monitoring issue
“We have taken note and are carefully monitoring the issue,” said External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava.
The MEA spokesperson was referring to China’s plan to build a large hydropower project on the Yarlung Zangbo river that has raised concerns in India over potential political and ecological threats.
“We have taken note and are carefully monitoring the issue,” said External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava during a media briefing here on Thursday. The MEA spokesperson was referring to China’s plan to build a large hydropower project on the Yarlung Zangbo river that has raised concerns in India over potential political and ecological threats. The two downstream riparian states in this respect are India and Bangladesh.
“As a lower riparian state with considerable established user rights to the waters of the trans-border rivers, the Indian government has consistently conveyed its views and concerns to the Chinese authorities and urged them to ensure that the interests of downstream states are not harmed by any activities in upstream areas,’’ he said.
The MEA put India’s concerns in perspective by pointing out that it is a lower riparian state with considerable user rights to trans-boundary rivers. China has been urged to ensure that the downstream interests are not harmed. In response, the Chinese side has conveyed that these are run-of-river hydel projects and involve no diversion of river waters.
“India intends to remain engaged with China on trans-border rivers to safeguard our interests,” added Srivastava.
There is concern in India that China will use the project as a tool to promote a political strategy in the region, with their border conflict as the backdrop, to potentially restrict India’s right to utilise downstream water resources.
The Chinese side says China’s water resource development along the Yarlung Zangbo river was put off for years due to India’s protests. It says the dam on the Yarlung Zangbo river can generate the largest amount of power from the section closest to the border.
Beijing has also said India should not have “any anxiety” over the project and it would continue to have “good communication” with lower riparian states – India and Bangladesh.
Formula One chief Ross Brawn has called on the sport to find out why Romain Grosjean’s car exploded into a fireball.
Grosjean was lucky to escape with minor injuries after his Haas car speared through metal barriers, splitting in two and bursting into flames on the opening lap of Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
The sport’s governing body, the FIA, have already started their investigation and will analyse data from Grosjean’s car to determine what caused the crash.
There will also be careful scrutiny into why Grosjean’s car veered through the metal barriers and F1’s managing director Brawn says it is vital that they uncover just how the F1 machinery was split in two.
Brawn said: “The FIA, working with the team, have to understand the dynamics of what happened in the accident to see if improvements are possible.
“It was a pretty severe impact and there are limits as to what you’d be able to contain or control.
“But penetrating the barrier like that has to be understood. It also has to be understood why there was a fire and why the car broke in two.
“These are the things that the FIA will now take the time to analyse and work out what can be done better. Hats off to everyone involved, because the driver walked away from a huge accident.
“And the FIA did a super job getting everything back in shape so that we could run the race in as safe a way as possible.”
Grosjean scrambled to get out of his burning wreckage for almost half a minute before leaping to safety and amazingly escaped with just minor burns to his hands.
But despite F1’s safety measures, drivers including Sebastian Vettel have been critical over the failure of the trackside safety barriers.
Indeed, the way in which Grosjean’s car was carved in two after smashing into the barriers before exploding has left F1 chiefs understandably concerned.
However it was testament to the modern-day regulations that the once-controversial halo safety device saved Grosjean from suffering serious injuries.
Brawn added: “Seeing Romain jump out of the car was a massive relief. Our producers didn’t put the footage out until they knew Romain was safe, which is our protocol.
“I think everyone is proud of the safety measures which have been developed over the last few years. The halo played a huge part.”
The FIA will also ensure the same Bahrain track – which is due to host this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix – is safe to host the F1 circus again on Sunday.
However Grosjean will play no part in the penultimate race of the season, as Haas said on Monday that treatment on his hands is “going well”, but that he will spend another night in hospital.
The American team said it is anticipated that Grosjean, 34, will be discharged on Tuesday.
He will be replaced by the team’s Brazilian reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi, who is the grandson of double world champion Emerson Fittipaldi and will be handed his F1 debut.
Grosjean’s participation at the season-concluding race in Abu Dhabi a week on Sunday, which is set to be his last in the sport, is uncertain.
Shane Richie’s family were so worried about his behaviour in camp they wrote him a book of dos and don’ts – but he has already broken two of them.
Actor and TV star Shane, 56, is the centre of attention in camp, making jokes, being grumpy and doing trials.
His wife Christie, 41, revealed: “When he was in isolation, in his suitcase was a package from us containing a booklet… a long list of everything we wanted him to do, like ‘Be Yourself’, and things that would be absolutely mortifying watching him doing.
“So far he’s done all right but… the first ‘Not’ was ‘Don’t Fart’ but he did ‘pull my finger’ – so you can imagine how well that went down with my 12-year-old.
“And then it was ‘Please Eat With Your Mouth Closed’ and again he didn’t do that because he did his Donald Trump impression.”
Christie added on This Morning: “He can be a little bit unpredictable and he is flawed.
“But he is funnier than I thought he was.”
During her appearance on the ITV show, Christie also opened up about their children’s reactions to discovering their dad would appear on I’m A Celeb.
She revealed that he had been asked to go into the first series but had declined at the time.
This year, the celebrities have braved the torment of critters and grim eating trials from chilly North Wales, rather than the usual spot in Australia’s warm South Wales jungle.
“We don’t see any of the perks this year,” joked Christine over not being able to stay in the famous luxurious Versace hotel. “We were really excited, it was fantastic… the children, not so much!”
Christie revealed that their eldest son together Mackenzie, 14, “wasn’t bothered” after discovering that his dad was taking part while she said Lolita, 12, was “mortified”.
But their youngest, nine-year-old Romani-Skye, was only thrilled over the prospect of meeting TV heroes Ant and Dec.
*I’m A Celebrity returns tomorrow at 9pm on ITV.
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I’m A Celebrity fans have hit-up Ofcom with 607 complaints amid concerns over animal welfare during trials.
Viewers of the ITV show have already complained to the watchdog within its first week of returning to screens.
They furiously sent their complaints to Ofcom over worries about the use of live animals during the gruelling challenges.
Over the course of last week, Ofcom received a total of 607 complaints – with the second episode making fans the angriest as it racked up 200.
It was the episode which saw Shane Richie and Jordan North go head-to-head in Viper Vault, where they were lowered into underground coffins before being covered in snakes.
After the backlash from the trial, the RSPCA released a statement which read: “Since I’m a Celebrity was first aired, animals have been dropped, thrown, handled roughly, crushed, chased, overcrowded, scared by contestants and prevented from escaping from stressful experiences.
“There have also been incidents where animals have been killed for no other purpose than entertainment.”
Fans of the long-running show have since signed a petition, which already has 5,000 votes, to ban live animals from trials.
It comes after I’m A Celeb was hit with fix claims by viewers.
The app stopped working when fans tried to cast their votes, with many saying they thought producers had tampered with it to stop people from voting for Jordan North.
Jamie Carragher’s concerns about Fabinho ahead of Liverpool’ s Premier League clash with Leicester were well and truly allayed by the Brazilian.
The midfielder returned to the starting XI on Sunday evening, with Jurgen Klopp deploying him at centre-back.
Fabinho’s deployment at the heart of Liverpool’s defence – which was down to Liverpool’s ongoing defensive crisis – concerned Carragher as the former Monaco man, who had just recovered from a hamstring injury, would have to deal with the pace of Foxes hitman Jamie Vardy.
“It’s an interesting decision,” Carragher said of Fabinho’s deployment at centre-back.
“He has had a hamstring problem and you are certainly going to test your hamstring against Jamie Vardy.
“I thought there was a case for Fabinho going into midfield on his first game back…the midfield certainly isn’t as strong as normal.”
Fabinho’s hamstring, however, held up just fine – with the 27-year-old keeping pace and marshalling Vardy well when required.
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An own goal from Jonny Evans and strikes from Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino saw Liverpool move level on points with table-toppers Tottenham.
Klopp was delighted with the victory, telling Sky Sports, he said: “I think the fact that coming into this game, there was talk of Leicester ending this unbeaten run or Liverpool dropping points.
“Psychologically this feels like a big win. It almost feels like the season starts now.
“Not just this season, but every season once you get the international football out of the way, teams can get into a real run and gather some real momentum.
“It did feel like a big win, and the fact that Manchester City lost this weekend, who I still feel are Liverpool’s biggest title rivals.”
Liverpool will be back in action on Wednesday night, welcoming Atalanta to Anfield for their fourth Champions League Group D match.