EPL: Troubled Liverpool Look To End Dismal Start, Arsenal On The Up

Arsenal's Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus (C) and Arsenal's Norwegian midfielder Martin Odegaard (3rd R) celebrate with teammates after winning at the end of the English Premier League football match between Bournemouth and Arsenal at the Vitality Stadium in Bournemouth, southern England on August 20, 2022. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP)
In this file photo, Arsenal’s Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus (C) and Arsenal’s Norwegian midfielder Martin Odegaard (3rd R) celebrate with teammates after winning at the end of the English Premier League football match between Bournemouth and Arsenal at the Vitality Stadium in Bournemouth, southern England on August 20, 2022. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP)

 

Troubled Liverpool will be desperate to get their first win of the Premier League season when they face Bournemouth on Saturday.

As the Reds splutter, leaders Arsenal, who host Fulham this weekend, have emerged as the Premier League’s only team with a 100 percent winning record after three games.

READ ALSO[FULL LIST] Bayern To Play Barcelona In Champions League, Liverpool Face Ajax

Liverpool must stop the rot

Liverpool's Uruguayan striker Darwin Nunez reacts as he leaves the pitch after being sent off by the referee during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Crystal Palace at Anfield stadium, in Liverpool, north west England on August 15, 2022. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)
Liverpool’s Uruguayan striker Darwin Nunez reacts as he leaves the pitch after being sent off by the referee during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Crystal Palace at Anfield stadium, in Liverpool, north west England on August 15, 2022. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)

 

Just months after coming within two games of an unprecedented quadruple, Liverpool suddenly look vulnerable after making their worst start for 10 years.

Jurgen Klopp’s side were denied the Premier League title by Manchester City on the last day, then lost the Champions League final to Real Madrid, leaving them with the FA and League Cups as consolation prizes for their tilt at football immortality.

At present, Liverpool, beset by injuries, are suffering a heavy hangover from their nearly-historic season.

Unusually error-strewn draws against Fulham and Crystal Palace were followed by Monday’s shock 2-1 defeat at Manchester United, who ended their own spluttering start with a dynamic display that exposed the fault-lines in Klopp’s team.

The sight of James Milner giving Virgil van Dijk a tongue-lashing after Jadon Sancho scored United’s opener was a jarring insight into the stresses of Liverpool’s current predicament.

Toothless in attack without Sadio Mane, now at Bayern Munich, and the suspended Darwin Nunez, Liverpool were out-fought in midfield and creaky at the back.

Facing promoted Bournemouth at Anfield offers an opportunity for Liverpool to get back on track, one they must take to avoid falling even further behind in the nascent title race.

Arsenal urged to keep calm

Arsenal's Brazilian midfielder Gabriel Martinelli (centre right) celebrates with teammates after scoring the opening goal in the English Premier League football match between Crystal Palace and Arsenal at Selhurst Park in south London on August 5, 2022. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)
Arsenal’s Brazilian midfielder Gabriel Martinelli (centre right) celebrates with teammates after scoring the opening goal in the English Premier League football match between Crystal Palace and Arsenal at Selhurst Park in south London on August 5, 2022. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)

 

As optimism grows in north London, Oleksandr Zinchenko has warned Arsenal not to get carried away by their surprising surge into pole position.

Ukraine left-back Zinchenko knows exactly what it takes to thrive in the Premier League after his successful spell with champions Manchester City.

Having made the switch to Arsenal in the close-season, Zinchenko and fellow former City star Gabriel Jesus have made an immediate impact on Mikel Arteta’s side with their wealth of title-winning experience.

Arsenal have won their opening three matches for the first time in 18 years.

But after last weekend’s eye-catching 3-0 win at Bournemouth extended Arsenal’s perfect opening, Zinchenko was at pains to urge his team-mates to keep their feet on the ground.

“It’s just the beginning of the season. There’s a lot of games ahead of us, there’s a lot of things to improve,” Zinchenko said ahead of Fulham’s visit to the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

“We need to analyse what we have done well, what we should improve, what we should change and we know the manager is going to tell us. We need to show our best performance every single week.”

Tuchel’s Chelsea feeling the strain
From touchline rows with rival managers to blaming buses for defeats, Thomas Tuchel has cut an agitated figure during Chelsea’s chaotic start to the season.

Frustrated by Chelsea’s failure to kill off Tottenham in a stormy draw, Tuchel earned a one-game ban after twice clashing with Antonio Conte.

A week later, Tuchel was hot under the collar again as the German made the bizarre claim that a travel snafu that forced his coaching staff to travel to Leeds by bus was partially to blame for a dismal 3-0 defeat.

With only one win from their first three games — and that a narrow 1-0 success at struggling Everton — Tuchel is showing signs of cracking under the strain.

He risked dressing room discontent with a critical assessment of his team’s defending and keeper Edouard Mendy’s costly blunder against Leeds.

In the circumstances, Leicester’s visit to Stamford Bridge on Saturday could be perfectly timed as the Foxes have endured an even worse start.

Brendan Rodgers’ winless team are second bottom, with Wesley Fofana left out amid Chelsea’s attempts to buy the centre-back and James Maddison linked with a move to Newcastle.

EPL Fixtures This Weekend

Saturday (1400 unless stated)

Southampton v Manchester United (1130), Brentford v Everton, Brighton v Leeds, Chelsea v Leicester, Liverpool v Bournemouth, Manchester City v Crystal Palace, Arsenal v Fulham (1630)

Sunday (1300 unless stated)

Aston Villa v West Ham, Wolves v Newcastle, Nottingham Forest v Tottenham (1530)

AFP

Real Madrid Dispatch 10-Man Inter To Go Through Top Of Group


Real Madrid’s Spanish midfielder Marco Asensio (2R) celebrates scoring his team’s second goal during the UEFA Champions League first-round group D football match between Real Madrid and Inter Milan at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on December 7, 2021. OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP

 

Real Madrid will go through as group winners to the Champions League last 16 after Toni Kroos and Marco Asensio each scored in a 2-0 win over Inter Milan on Tuesday.

A comfortable victory at the Santiago Bernabeu, aided by Nicolo Barella’s red card in the 64th minute when Inter were one goal down, sent Madrid through top of Group D, five points ahead of the Italians, who advance as runners-up.

Inter had to win to claim first place but after weathering an early storm, Madrid were superior and Kroos’ goal put them in control before Barella’s sending off and then a superb strike from Asensio made the result secure.

Madrid’s reward is a guarantee they will avoid the likes of Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Manchester City when the draw for the knock-out stages is made on Monday, although Lionel Messi’s Paris Saint-Germain will be among those in the runners-up pot.

“We wanted to finish first in the group to avoid the stronger teams and we’ve done that,” said Luka Modric.

Other than the shock defeat away at Sheriff in September, Madrid’s group stage has been relative plain-sailing, with five wins, including two victories over Inter.

But the challenge now for Carlo Ancelotti’s team will be to show they can still mix it with the very best in the latter stages after they were outplayed last season by Chelsea in the semi-finals.

Karim Benzema was absent after picking up an injury against Real Sociedad on Saturday and while Luka Jovic filled in, Madrid will hope to have Benzema back for the derby at home to Atletico Madrid in La Liga on Sunday.

“We have a few days to see if Karim recovers, I think he will,” said Ancelotti.

READ ALSOMbappe And Messi Double Up In PSG Victory

Fine Start For Ancelotti 

Real Madrid’s Brazilian forward Vinicius Junior (L), flanked by Real Madrid’s Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti, celebrates after scoring a goal during the Spanish league football match between Real Madrid CF and Sevilla FC at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on November 28, 2021. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

Madrid are already eight points clear in Spain and, together with their impressive showing in the Champions League, it has been an accomplished first few months for new coach Ancelotti.

Inter were the sharper team early on, popping the ball around Madrid, whose best chances came on the break.

Inter went closest when Marcelo Brozovic sent a dipping effort onto the roof of the net.

Madrid, though, grew into the game, with Luka Modric and Kroos increasingly influential in midfield.

Vinicius Junior looked dangerous but lacked the composure that Kroos then showed for the opener in the 17th minute.

Casemiro dummied a pass from the right, allowing Kroos to collect and while he wanted the shot on his right foot he reluctantly took it on his left, driving straight and hard into the far corner.

The goal knocked the confidence out of Inter, who were on the back foot for the rest of the half.

Vinicius wanted a penalty but fell too easily and then fluffed a four against three on the counter.

Jovic was slid through but fired wide and Rodrygo twice went close, one shot on the turn clipping the post before another hit the side-netting.

After half-time, Inter’s Barella blazed over from inside the box and then just after the hour, he was sent off.

Barella was barged out of play and into the sideboards by Eder Militao and he reacted by swinging his right hand into Militao’s left leg while on the ground. Militao earned a yellow card for the resulting confrontation and Barella saw red.

That killed any hope Inter had of a comeback and all that was left was for Asensio, on as a substitute, to add Madrid’s second in the 79th minute with a wonderful curving shot that flew in off the post.

AFP

Premier League Top Three Set For Titanic Title Battle

Chelsea’s English defender Reece James (C) celebrates with teammates after he scores his team’s second goal during the English Premier League football match against Newcastle United at St James’ Park in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, north east England on October 30, 2021. Lindsey Parnaby / AFP

 

Chelsea, Manchester City, and Liverpool have set a fearsome pace in the Premier League that no other team can live with as a thrilling three-way title race takes shape.

Thomas Tuchel, Pep Guardiola, and Jurgen Klopp are in charge of three of Europe’s hottest sides, with Liverpool, in third place, already seven points clear of fourth-placed West Ham after 14 matches.

AFP Sport looks at how the contenders are shaping up heading into a hectic few weeks of action.

READ ALSOBenzema Not Upset After Ballon d’Or Snub – Ancelotti

Chelsea – 33 points

The European champions hold a slender one-point advantage over City at the top of the table.

Tuchel admitted his side were lucky to escape with a 2-1 win at Watford on Wednesday but felt Chelsea were due some good fortune after dropping points despite dominating games against Burnley and Manchester United.

The Blues have coped impressively without club-record signing Romelu Lukaku, who has not started a league match since mid-October.

Without the Belgian, goals have had to be shared around — wing-back Reece James is the club’s top scorer so far this season, with five.

The bedrock of Tuchel’s first year in charge at Stamford Bridge has been a rock-solid defence. Chelsea boast the best record in the league, with a miserly six goals conceded in 14 games.

But they have yet to hit the heights shown by City and Liverpool in spells this season and have benefited from a gentle run of fixtures in recent weeks.

Back-to-back clashes with Liverpool and City in January will be the iron test of their title credentials, while the impact of the Club World Cup in February will leave them playing catch-up in games later in the season.

Man City – 32 Points

Manchester City’s Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus (R) celebrates with Manchester City’s Portuguese midfielder Bernardo Silva (L) and Manchester City’s Portuguese defender Joao Cancelo (C) after scoring their second goal during the UEFA Champions League Group A football match between Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on November 24, 2021. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Only unexpected dropped points at home to Southampton and Crystal Palace have kept the champions from establishing a comfortable lead at the top of the table.

Despite the lack of a recognised striker, City still look like the side to beat as they aim to win a fourth title in five years.

Guardiola’s men have so far saved their best for the big occasion. They dominated in their away trips to Stamford Bridge and Anfield, inflicting Chelsea’s only defeat of the season and feeling they deserved more from a 2-2 draw at Liverpool.

Manchester United were also swept aside with ease at the beginning of a four-game winning streak in the league that looks ominous for the other contenders.

This time last year City turned a slow start into a 21-game winning run in all competitions to storm clear at the top of the table.

Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden, and Jack Grealish are returning to full fitness and City could even address their striker shortage in January, adding more firepower to their already impressive arsenal.

Liverpool – 31 points

Liverpool's Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring their third goal during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on November 20, 2021. Paul ELLIS / AFP
Liverpool’s Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring their third goal during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on November 20, 2021. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Liverpool have the outstanding player in the league in Mohamed Salah, who took his tally for the season to 19 goals in as many games in all competitions in a 4-1 hammering of Everton on Wednesday.

It was the third consecutive Premier League game in which Liverpool have scored four goals and they have racked up 43 in the competition.

After a series of injuries to key players ruined their title defence last season, the Reds are matching their best form of the Klopp era, which yielded a Champions League triumph in 2019 and a first league title in 30 years in 2020.

However, they are not blessed with the same strength in depth as City and Chelsea and that could show when Salah and Sadio Mane head off to the Africa Cup of Nations in January.

AFP

Klopp ‘Surprised’ That Liverpool Have Stayed With City

Liverpool’s German manager Jurgen Klopp watches his players warm up for the English Premier League football match / AFP

 

Jurgen Klopp admitted his pleasant surprise at how hard Liverpool have pushed Manchester City in the race for the Premier League title, stating that this season is a stepping stone for even better things to come from his side.

Liverpool, chasing their first top-flight title since 1990, have lost just once in the league all season but still trail Pep Guardiola’s defending champions by a point with three games remaining.

Klopp, whose side host Huddersfield on Friday, told reporters at his pre-match press conference that he was calm while watching City’s 2-0 victory against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

“It was the result I expected,” said the German.

“United tried whatever they can, in the first half especially, they were a bit unlucky in one or two moments but then over the 95 minutes it was clear that they can’t stand City at the moment so I was not surprised by the result.”

READ ALSO: Premier League Run-In: Who Do City And Liverpool Have Left To Play?

Klopp said he agreed with Guardiola that both teams deserved to win the Premier League but that there could be just one champion.

“One of us, it’s like with the Highlander, will be there at the end,” said a buoyant Klopp, referring to the famous phrase from the film — “There can be only one”.

“But we don’t only play for being champions at the end of the season. Yes, it’s a main, a big target. This team tries it for the first time and we are obviously pretty close in the moment and we still have a chance to do it. We will see what happens until the end of the season.

“But it’s the first time not the last time. That’s how it is and only because the club is waiting for a long time, the people are waiting, that doesn’t make it more likely.

“That we are that close is already I would say rather surprising because last year we were 25 points behind. That doesn’t look like that will happen this year again so that’s really, really good.”

Klopp said winning was not the be all and end all for his team, despite their long title drought.

“We want to play the best football we can play every single day, that’s the truth,” he said. “Sometimes we have to accept it didn’t happen but we still try it and that’s all what we are interested in and at the end of the season you see where you end up.”

“If we do it we will do it,” he added. “If we will not do it there are no regrets as long as we give always our best. I saw that the whole season from the boys but still the season, however it ends up, is only the first step in that area. We are not the finished article.”

Man City Were Right To Destroy Burton, Says Jesus

Manchester City’s Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus celebrates after scoring their third goal during the English Premier League football match between West Ham United and Manchester City at The London Stadium, in east London.  Ben STANSALL / AFP

 

Gabriel Jesus insists Manchester City have no reason to apologise after they crushed minnows Burton 9-0 in the League Cup semi-finals.

Jesus scored four times as City refused to take their foot off the gas in a ruthless demolition job at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.

Pep Guardiola’s side were four up by half-time but didn’t spare the third tier Burton’s embarrassment after the interval as they piled on the goals.

The clinical display effectively booked City’s place in the League Cup final before they have even played the semi-final second leg at Burton later this month.

Some pundits suggested Guardiola should have shown mercy for tiny Burton, whose unheralded players were completely out-classed by the Premier League champions’ star-studded line-up.

But Brazil forward Jesus was adamant City were right to go for the kill.

“Every time we respect the opponent. We know we have more quality than Burton but when you don’t work hard, you don’t play very well, and it is difficult to win the game,” Jesus said.

“That is what we did, played very well and worked hard. We go onto the pitch thinking, ‘win the game’ and we played very well to win.”

Coming after a 7-0 hammering of Rotherham in the FA Cup on Sunday, City have strong momentum as they resume their pursuit of Premier League leaders Liverpool against Wolves next Monday.

Jesus, now with 13 goals this season, is feeling confident after his spluttering start to the season.

“It is the first time I have scored four goals in the same game so it is very special to me,” Jesus said.

“I am so happy because last year I didn’t score a lot and at the beginning of this season. That is difficult because I am a striker and need to score.

“I work very hard every day to play. When I have the chance to play for City, I help the team, I work hard and play well.”

AFP

City Can Survive Without Injured De Bruyne – Guardiola

Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola reacts ahead of the UEFA Champions League second leg quarter-final football match between Manchester City and Liverpool, at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England on April 10, 2018.
Anthony Devlin / AFP

 

Pep Guardiola insists Manchester City can survive without Kevin De Bruyne after the inspirational Belgian playmaker was ruled out for up to six weeks due to a knee injury.

De Bruyne sustained ligament damage to his left knee in the closing stages of City’s League Cup victory over Fulham at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday.

It was just the second start this season for De Bruyne, who injured ligaments in his right knee during the first week of the campaign, forcing him to the sidelines for the next two months.

The latest problem will keep him out for “five to six” weeks but, while City boss Guardiola is upset about De Bruyne’s absence, he is confident that it will not prove too damaging to the Premier League leaders’ bid to win silverware.

“We are a stronger team with Kevin than without him. But we have to live without him and we have to be there when he comes back, that’s all we can do,” he told reporters on Friday.

“I was so sad. I didn’t see him after the game. The doctor said he was sad – today he was less sad and the next day he’ll be strong again.

“He’ll spend the time with his new boy and his family. Hopefully, after the international break, there’ll be two or three more games and after that, he’ll be back.

“By then hopefully we’ll be in the knockout stages of the Champions League when he comes back and up there in the Premier League.

“That will help us in the last part that he will be fresh in mind and body and help us reach our targets.”

Even though De Bruyne’s period of convalescence will include an international break, he is still facing the prospect of missing seven games for his club, including the Manchester derby and a trip to Chelsea.

And the question remains whether Guardiola might have been advised to take De Bruyne off before the 86th minute against Fulham, when he was injured in a collision with Tim Fosu-Mensah.

No Messi move 

“Football is football, it’s a dynamic game, a lot of contacts and it sometimes happens,” Guardiola said.

“This kind of injury is unlucky, I think he’s so strong and he’s recovered so well, the other was more dangerous than this one. He’ll recover well. We have an excellent department.

“I’m more concerned about when it’s muscular injuries, that’s more concern. When it’s a trauma he’s unlucky with that situation.”

Guardiola has also responded to reports in Spain linking City, once again, with a move for Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi.

And, while City’s vast financial wealth would obviously mean such a transfer would be possible, Guardiola insists he will never attempt to sign the Argentine icon from his former club.

“I said many, many times since I came here when I left Barcelona, Bayern and now City, that never have I asked Lionel Messi to join Bayern Munich or here,” he said.

“I never went to both clubs and said I want this player. Never. I know how important he is to Barcelona.

“Myself I have never spoken, never made the first step – and I’d never do that. I’ve said one thousand times about that.”

Guardiola has also repeated his intention to persuade Spanish teenager Brahim Diaz to sign a new contract with City after he scored twice against Fulham, his first senior goals for the club.

Talks are ongoing with the 19-year-old who is understood to be concerned about the lack of first-team opportunities in City’s star-studded team.

“We want him. It’s a market and it’s what it is. We go to other clubs and buy players, we try to take care of them, we try to give them the best education and facilities and we try to do everything,” he said.

AFP

Liverpool’s Van Dijk Set For City Acid Test

Liverpool’s Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk attends a press conference on the eve of the UEFA Champions League second leg quarter-final football match between Manchester City and Liverpool, at City Football Academy in Manchester, north-west England on April 9, 2018. 
PAUL ELLIS / AFP

 

Virgil van Dijk has lived up to his billing as the world’s most expensive defender in his short Liverpool career, but shutting out a desperate Manchester City in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday will be his biggest test yet.

Runaway Premier League leaders City could line up with the most expensive defence ever assembled for their rescue mission, but they may regret letting Van Dijk get away if they fail in their mammoth task to overturn a 3-0 first-leg deficit.

Liverpool beat off competition from City to sign Van Dijk for £75 million ($106 million) in January from Southampton, six months after their first attempt to land the Dutchman failed.

Jurgen Klopp was much-criticised early in the campaign for refusing to splash out on a backup option to Van Dijk as Liverpool’s chances of challenging City for the title vanished quickly due to defensive deficiencies.

However, Klopp’s patience to get his prime target has been rewarded as Van Dijk has spearheaded a turnaround in Liverpool’s ability to keep opponents at bay.

“What we need at Liverpool are these kind of players who are leaders,” said Klopp recently on Van Dijk’s influence.

The Dutch captain will be examined to the full at the Etihad, though, where Liverpool lost 5-0 earlier in the season.

“They have so much quality, they are going to win the league that’s pretty clear, that’s not for no reason,” said Van Dijk on Tuesday.

“We feel we are in a great moment at the moment and I think we can make it difficult for any team in the world.

“But we still need to show it, be ready for a fight, ready for a big game.”

Klopp’s men were also thrashed 4-1 by Tottenham and involved in thrilling 3-3 draws at Arsenal and Sevilla as they were routinely torn apart on their toughest travels before Van Dijk’s arrival.

Often overshadowed by the prolific front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane at the other end of the field, Liverpool’s improvement at the back, though, is not down to Van Dijk alone.

All those early-season collapses on the road also came prior to Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold establishing themselves as Klopp’s first-choice full-backs.

Bargain solutions

Despite their more illustrious history, Liverpool struggle to compete financially with Abu-Dhabi backed City’s budget.

Even Van Dijk’s signing was financed by the £142 million sale of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona in January.

But Liverpool have proved far more adept at finding bargain solutions.

City spent over £130 million on full-backs alone last summer in buying Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy and Danilo.

By contrast, Robertson was a £10 million pick-up from Hull City, who were relegated from the Premier League last season, whilst Alexander-Arnold has been at the club since the age of six.

“We know as a team we can defend very well,” added Van Dijk. “Pretty compact as you could see in the second half against them (in the first leg.)”

Alexander-Arnold was constantly targeted by City up against the pace and trickery of £37 million German international Leroy Sane.

Yet, rather than being intimidated by the opposition, or the frenzied atmosphere of Anfield on a big European night, the 19-year-old right-back produced the performance of his career to date in nullifying Sane and winning man-of-the-match.

“It’s really pretty rare that Sane had pretty much nothing for finishing, making goals, stuff like that,” said Klopp afterwards. “It was outstandingly good, to be honest.”

Patience was also key with Robertson. The Scot found himself sidelined for the majority of the first half of the season until an injury to Alberto Moreno in December handed him a run in the side.

Five-time European Cup winners, Liverpool have waited a decade to get back into the Champions League semi-finals. But as Van Dijk shows, good things come to those who wait.

AFP

City Power Worries Conte As Chelsea Struggle To Keep Up

City Power Worries Conte As Chelsea Struggle To Keep Up
(Files) Chelsea’s head coach Antonio Conte addresses a press conference at Chelsea’s Cobham training facility in Stoke D’Abernon, southwest of London, on October 17, 2017, on the eve of their UEFA Champions League Group C football match against Roma. GLYN KIRK / AFP

 

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte fears Manchester City’s “incredible” improvement this season could turn the Premier League race into a procession as the defending champions struggle to stay in touch.

Conte’s men rescued a late point at Liverpool on Saturday, with Willian’s unexpected cross-shot finding the top corner to cancel out Mohamed Salah’s opener but they are now 11 points adrift of top spot.

Chelsea’s Italian boss believes Pep Guardiola’s work in the summer transfer market was crucial in taking City to the next level and is mindful another round of spending could be coming when the window reopens.

“Manchester City’s path is incredible, no?” said the Italian.

“I think Manchester City in this season is a strong team. Also last season, Manchester City was a fantastic team. Then, after the transfer market, they bought their first targets and then they have improved a lot.

“They can do this also in January maybe, in the future. For this reason, we must be worried because if we want to compete with Manchester City we have to work and then make the best decisions in the transfer market.”

Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois said the hectic winter fixture list could prove tricky for City and let the chasing pack back into the title race.

“We have to be there to keep on winning and hopefully close down on them, then towards the end of the season maybe overtake them. But at the moment they are the best team in the league and it’s hard for them to drop points.”

Conte’s spirits have been lifted by the return to fitness of wing-back Victor Moses, meaning the only absences from his first-team squad are Michy Batshuayi, Charly Musonda and Kenedy — none of whom are regulars.

“Now, first of all I have all my players,” he said.

“To have all my players will be very important because we have to face a game every three days and it will be very important.

“I only ask for one thing: to have all my players available, because in our squad there are 16 senior players and I trust them.”

AFP

Manchester City Extend Lead With Sterling’s Late Strike

Manchester City Extend Lead With Sterling’s Late Strike
Manchester City’s English midfielder Raheem Sterling celebrates after scoring their second goal during the football match against Huddersfield Town on November 26, 2017. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Raheem Sterling grabbed a late winner for the second time in six days as Manchester City came from a goal down to beat Huddersfield 2-1 and secure a club-record equalling 11th straight league win.

Sterling’s dramatic intervention meant Pep Guardiola’s table-topping side were able to re-establish an eight-point lead over second-placed Manchester United in the Premier League title race.

United had briefly closed the gap with a win against Brighton on Saturday.

Huddersfield absorbed a barrage of pressure to go in front in first-half stoppage time at the John Smith’s Stadium as Nicolas Otamendi diverted Tom Ince’s corner into his own net.

City equalised less than two minutes after half-time as Sergio Aguero converted a penalty awarded for a foul on Sterling by Scott Malone.

Sterling, who scored the 88th-minute winner as City beat Feyenoord 1-0 in the Champions League on Tuesday, then bundled in a fortunate goal with six minutes left.

As tempers boiled over following Sterling’s winner, Huddersfield winger Rajiv van La Parra was sent off at the final whistle for a shove on Leroy Sane.

Huddersfield, looking to respond to a 4-0 thumping at Bournemouth eight days earlier, showed great discipline as they sat back and frustrated City for long periods.

City had more than three-quarters of the first-half possession but struggled to create clear chances before the home side shocked them seconds before the interval.

Vincent Kompany headed well wide under pressure following a corner from Kevin De Bruyne, who then took a quick free-kick that Aguero swept into the net from an offside position, with the goal disallowed correctly.

Aguero just failed to connect with a low Sane cross that whizzed across goal, and the Argentina international was only denied by an outstanding tackle from Christopher Schindler after De Bruyne and David Silva combined to play him clear on goal.

City’s best first-half opening came six minutes before the interval.

Aguero was played in by Silva’s flick, and his angled drive was beaten away by keeper Jonas Lossl.

Sterling looked certain to blast in the rebound but somehow blazed wide from eight yards.

Huddersfield, having survived that, then caused a major surprise as they went in front in first-half stoppage time.

– Bad tempered –

Ince delivered a near-post corner that Schindler flicked on at the near post, with the ball diverted in off Otamendi’s shoulder.

City, though, were awarded a penalty just 55 seconds after the restart, as Malone dragged down Sterling.

Aguero sent Lossl the wrong way from the spot to score his 11th goal of the season for his club.

That was the signal for City to increase the pressure on the home side, with Lossl pushing the ball aside after Aguero had been played in by Fernandinho.

Sane then struck a dipping free-kick against the bar following a foul by Jonathan Hogg on Silva.

The visitors continued to enjoy virtually all of the possession after that.

It became an increasingly bad-tempered contest, though, with Fernandinho booked for an outrageous dive, team-mate De Bruyne perhaps fortunate to escape a yellow card for a body check on Van La Parra, and Huddersfield head coach David Wagner spoken to twice by referee Craig Pawson.

City looked as if they would go in front when De Bruyne fed a perfectly weighted through pass to Silva, but the Spain playmaker was forced wide and delivered a tame cross straight to Lossl.

But the pressure finally told as City got the lucky break their superiority deserved with six minutes left.

De Bruyne’s through pass played in substitute Gabriel Jesus, and when Lossl made the save, the loose ball looped into the net off Sterling’s thigh.

Huddersfield might still have equalised late on as Aaron Mooy’s free-kick brushed the side-netting.

But victory took Guardiola’s side another step closer to a league title that already looks theirs for the taking.

AFP

Mourinho Fumes As City Pull Away After United Loss

Manchester United’s Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho (R) gestures on the touchline during the League clash match between Huddersfield Town and Manchester United on October 21, 2017. Lindsey PARNABY / AFP
Jose Mourinho lambasted his Manchester United players after Saturday’s shock 2-1 defeat at Huddersfield Town enabled Manchester City to move five points clear at the Premier League summit.
Aaron Mooy and Laurent Depoitre scored at the John Smith’s Stadium to give Huddersfield a first win over United since 1952 and condemn Mourinho’s side to their first loss of the campaign.
“It’s another chapter in the fairytale we started nearly two years ago,” said Huddersfield’s German manager David Wagner.

“Today was our moment. It makes everyone very happy and very proud.”

City took full advantage of United’s slip by beating Burnley 3-0, with Sergio Aguero equalling Eric Brook’s club scoring record of 177 goals.

Defending champions Chelsea closed to within four points of second-place United by beating Watford 4-2 and Tottenham Hotspur can draw level with Mourinho’s men if they beat Liverpool on Sunday.

United’s defeat followed their 0-0 draw at Liverpool last weekend and a laboured 1-0 victory away to Benfica in the Champions League.

A furious Mourinho said: “When I lose matches, I like to lose because the opponent was better, had more quality. When you lose because of attitude, that is really bad.”

Things started to go wrong for United in the 23rd minute when Phil Jones was forced off by an apparent hip injury, with Victor Lindelof taking his place.

Huddersfield went ahead five minutes later when Australian Mooy, a former City player, robbed Juan Mata and followed in to score after David de Gea had saved from Tom Ince.

Lindelof was at fault as Depoitre added a second in the 33rd minute, his failure to cut out goalkeeper Jonas Lossl’s kick allowing Depoitre to round De Gea and score.

United substitute Marcus Rashford headed in Romelu Lukaku’s cross with 12 minutes remaining, but Huddersfield held firm for a famous win.

Pep Guardiola’s City have won their last 11 games in all competitions, equalling the club record, and have scored 20 goals in their last four home matches in the league.

Argentina striker Aguero netted from the spot on the half-hour after Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope was contentiously adjudged to have fouled Bernardo Silva.

– Batshuayi lifts Chelsea –

Second-half goals from Nicolas Otamendi and Leroy Sane completed victory.

“I’m so happy to continue our winning mentality,” said Guardiola.

“Of course it is not easy to win 11 in a row, so it’s good.”

Michy Batshuayi came off the bench to inspire Chelsea to a 4-2 home win over Watford that lifted some of the pressure on manager Antonio Conte.

Beaten in their two previous league games, Chelsea took a 12th-minute lead when Pedro curled a magnificent effort into the top-left corner.

Goals either side of the interval from Abdoulaye Doucoure and Roberto Pereyra put Marco Silva’s hard-working visitors in front.

But Batshuayi headed in a 71st-minute equaliser and after Cesar Azpilicueta put Chelsea in front late on, Batshuayi completed victory in stoppage time.

“The performance was a good performance because to concede the equaliser at the end of the first half and then go down in the first part of the second half, our confidence in that moment was low,” said Conte.

“But my players showed me that we have the attitude to fight and change the situation and get a different result.”

After the sacking of Craig Shakespeare, Michael Appleton begins his stint as Leicester City caretaker manager with a 2-1 win at Swansea City.

A Federico Fernandez own goal and a Shinji Okazaki effort put Leicester 2-0 up before Alfie Mawson replied for Swansea.

Junior Stanislas teed up Andrew Surman and scored a penalty to give Bournemouth a 2-1 victory at Stoke City, who reduced the deficit through Mame Biram Diouf.

Mikel Merino’s late header earned Newcastle United a 1-0 home win over bottom club Crystal Palace.

A staggering 70-yard solo goal by Sofiane Boufal in the 85th minute brought Southampton a 1-0 victory at home to West Bromwich Albion.

AFP

Jamie Vardy Agrees New Contract With Leicester City

Jamie Vardy. Leicester CityEngland striker and Arsenal target, Jamie Vardy has agreed a new deal with Premier League champions Leicester City.

This is according to a statement on the club website.

“Leicester City have today (Thursday) agreed with the representatives of Jamie Vardy to extend the England international’s contract with the Premier League champions for a further four years.

“Both parties hope that this announcement will end recent speculation regarding Jamie’s future and confirm his long term commitment to Leicester City Football Club.

“Jamie will continue to focus all of his efforts on trying to achieve success with the England team at the European Championships in France.

“There will be no further comment from either the Club or the player on this matter until the conclusion of the tournament,” the statements reads.

Vardy was the subject of a reported £20m bid from Premier League rivals Arsenal before the start of Euro 2016.

That bid activated a release clause in his contract, with the Gunners offering him a deal reported to be worth £120,000 a week.

Leicester responded with an offer said to be worth £100,000.

He is currently on duty with England at Euro 2016 in France and scored in the 2-1 win over Wales in the group stage.

Roy Hodgson’s side eventually finished second in Group B to make it through to the last 16, where they will face Iceland on Monday.

Premier League: Arsenal Finish Second As Tottenham Crash

Arsenal, Spurs, Premier LeagueA hat trick by Olivier Giroud ensured that Arsenal finished second, above London rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League.

The Gunners defeated relegated Aston Villa 4-0 with three Giroud goals in the 5th, 79th and 80th minute capped by a Mark Bunn own goal in the 90th.

Tottenham went into the final match day of the 2015/16 season needing just a draw to finish second but Spurs who were title contenders a fortnight earlier collapsed 5-1 away to relegated Newcastle United.

The Gunners keep their bragging rights as they maintained the record of not finishing below Spurs in Premier League history.

Arsenal’s hat-trick hero Olivier Giroud said; “We were hoping to finish in top three but to finish second is very nice. We are really pleased to finish second and hopefully next year we can grab one more place.

“We wanted to start strongly, we knew it wouldn’t be easy and we thought Villa would fight, and they did well. But we were efficient up front and could have scored 3 or 4 more.”

Meanwhile, in other EPL final day matches, Champions Leicester City drew 1-1 at Chelsea as they win the title by 10 points.

Manchester City also finished in fourth place and secured Champions League football with a 1-1 draw away to Swansea.

Southampton defeated Crystal Palace 4-1 to move into fifth position but may be knocked out of it by Manchester United. Nevertheless, they have secured Europa League football for next season even if they end up in sixth.

West Ham have their ambition to play in Europe dented after losing away to Stoke City 2-1 courtesy a Mame Biram Diouf late strike.

Their fate is now solely dependent on the result of the FA Cup between Manchester United and Crystal Palace. If Man-U beat Crystal Palace in the FA Cup final a Europa League place filters down to seventh. If Palace win they are in the Europa League at the group stage.

Everton end the season on a high with 3-0 win against Norwich City, while West Brom and Liverpool played 1-1.

Man United’s final-day match against Bournemouth was called off on Sunday because of a suspect package found in the North West Quadrant of the ground.

Results

Chelsea 1-1 Leicester

Arsenal 4-0 Aston Villa

Watford 2-2 Sunderland

Swansea 1-1 Manchester City

Everton 3-0 Norwich

West Brom 1-1 Liverpool

Newcastle 5-1 Tottenham

Southampton 4 – 1 Crystal Palace

Stoke City 2 – 1 West Ham United