Everton's Richarlison in action with Liverpool’s James Milner and Andrew Robertson. Photographer: Carl Recine/ Reuters
Liverpool: Jurgen Klopp has seen Liverpool's title ambitions given a major boost from the most unlikely source ahead of Sunday's eagerly-awaited Merseyside derby at Everton.
The Premier League leaders were under pressure in Wednesday's home meeting with Watford following an exhilarating run of form from their closest rivals Manchester City.
But a Liverpool side looking for their first league title in 29 years came through that test with flying colours, recording a thumping 5-0 victory that kept them one point clear of second placed Manchester City.
However, while Liverpool's attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have grabbed so many headlines over the past two seasons, it was Klopp's full-backs who took star billing in that win.
Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson provided the assists for all five goals on a raucous Anfield evening, the former actually recording a hat-trick of assists with two crosses for Mane goals and a free-kick that was headed in by Virgil van Dijk.
That was an indication not only of the excellent seasons being put in by both but also the evolution of Liverpool's play and the game in general.
"It's important. That's modern football," Klopp said.
"If you ask a young boy 'what's your favourite position?' I don't think a lot of boys will say 'I want to be a full-back!'
"But football changed. They became much more important. I was a full-back myself for a decent part of my career, it looked completely different to what the boys are doing.
"But at least I know the things to do; you have to be really strong defensively, but on the other side a lot of teams clear the wings for the full backs offensively.
"You have to be able to be open-minded enough and clear enough to see some people in the box with the same shirt. That helps a lot.
"In that game it was exceptional. I don't think I was ever part of a game where somebody had a hat-trick of assists. It was special.
"Trent wanted the match ball, so he got it! It was really cool. Now let's try to do something like that again."
Scotland international Robertson has been a particular revelation in Klopp's defence this season, at both ends of the field.
For so long, an unheralded hero among Liverpool's galaxy of big-name stars, the unassuming defender is finally receiving the plaudits his play and attitude deserve.
His link-up play on Wednesday with Divock Origi, in for the injured Firmino, was a key element in the resounding win.
Firmino remains an injury doubt for the short trip to Goodison Park, although Origi would hardly be a bad option given his role in Liverpool's previous meeting with their local rivals.
Simona Halep kept alive hopes of regaining the world number one ranking Sunday, beating Polona Hercog 5-7, 7-6 (7/1), 6-2 to reach the last 16 of the WTA and ATP Miami Open.
Carl Jenkinson, Alex Lacazette and John-Jules were on the target as Arsenal rallied to beat Al Nasr 3-2 in a friendly match at the refurbished Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai on Tuesday.
Mixed martial star Conor McGregor said Monday he had retired from the sport, vowing to hang up his gloves for the second time in three years.
The trash-talking Irish star of the Ultimate Fighting Championship wrote on Twitter that he had decided to call time on his career inside the octagon.
A Formula One season delayed by the coronavirus is due to start in Austria in July and Wolff told a conference call on Wednesday he hoped to have an agreement in place “pretty soon” with Hamilton.
Passion is the biggest driving force – this was once again evident when Young Talent Cricket Academy (YTCA) invited former Paksitani spin legend Saqlain Mushatq to share the tips of the game with the cricket aspirants via a videoconference on Thursday.
More than 1,300 male and female players from 20 countries are competing in the Arab Individual Chess Championship hosted by Abu Dhabi remotely.
Novak Djokovic had built up a real head of steam before the COVID-19 pandemic shut the tennis season down and it will be interesting to see if the world number one can regain that momentum, 18-time Grand Slam champion Chris Evert has said.