EPL: Man City Compound Arsenal’s Woes, Take 10-Point Lead At Summit

Manchester City’s English midfielder Raheem Sterling (L) jumps to head home the opening goal of the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium in London on February 21, 2021. Julian Finney / POOL / AFP

 

Manchester City moved a step closer to the Premier League title as Raheem Sterling’s early goal gave the runaway leaders a 1-0 win against Arsenal on Sunday.

Pep Guardiola’s side made it 18 successive victories in all competitions thanks to Sterling’s second-minute header at the Emirates Stadium.

With 13 games left, City are 10 points clear of second-placed Leicester, who had closed the gap to seven with a 2-1 win at Aston Villa earlier on Sunday.

City have equalled the club record of 11 successive away victories in all competitions, set from May to November 2017.

READ ALSO: Osaka Aims To Inspire New Generation But Says Williams Is Still The Queen

They are the first top-flight team to win their opening 11 league matches in a calendar year.

Storming towards a third title in four seasons, City have won 13 consecutive league matches and are unbeaten in 25 games in all competitions since a defeat at Tottenham in November.

Incredibly, that was the last time they trailed in any league fixture.

Guardiola’s men weren’t even at their best on their return to north London, but they still had enough in the locker to hand Arsenal a third defeat in their last four league games.

Borussia Monchengladbach have the next chance to stop City’s incredible winning streak in the Champions League last-16 first leg on Wednesday.

If anyone would have the secret to stopping City’s march to the title, it might have been Gunners boss Mikel Arteta.

The Spaniard served as Guardiola’s City assistant before taking charge of Arsenal last season.

But Arteta had to make changes as several of his players were fatigued after their midweek Europa League draw in Benfica.

– Ruthless City –
City ruthlessly pounced on the uncertainty in Arsenal’s reshuffled line-up as they took the lead after just 80 seconds.

Ruben Dias played a superb long pass to Riyad Mahrez and the Algeria winger lofted a cross into the six-yard box, where Sterling defied his diminutive stature as he rose above Rob Holding to head into the far corner.

Arsenal’s Spanish defender Pablo Mari (R) looks on as Manchester City’s Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne (C) vies with Arsenal’s Norwegian midfielder Martin Odegaard (L) during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium in London on February 21, 2021. John Walton / POOL / AFP

 

Sterling’s 13th club goal of the season was his sixth in his last nine appearances.

He should have had another moment later when Kevin De Bruyne’s pass split the Arsenal defence, but this time Sterling delayed his shot and Bernd Leno was able to save at the forward’s feet.

Mahrez was tormenting Arsenal left-back Kieran Tierney and he danced past him for a shot that deflected wide.

City’s De Bruyne was making his first start for over a month after a hamstring injury.

The Belgium midfielder, who came off the bench in the win at Everton in midweek, tried to pick out Ilkay Gundogan but his errant pass betrayed a little rustiness.

City had monopolised possession but couldn’t deliver the knockout blow.

They nearly conceded against the run of play when Tierney’s volley forced a good save from Ederson.

By the time Arsenal winger, Nicolas Pepe shot into the side-netting, Guardiola’s frustrated voice could be heard exhorting his players to press harder.

City regained their momentum at the start of the second half and De Bruyne was just wide with an audacious chip from the edge of the area.

Leno had to save well from Gundogan’s 20-yard drive before De Bruyne’s volley whistled wide.

De Bruyne, not quite at his sharpest following the injury, was taken off after 63 minutes.

Joao Cancelo nearly gifted Arsenal an equaliser when his high backpass was volleyed straight to Mohamed Elneny by Ederson, but the midfielder blazed just wide.

Adding to Arsenal’s woes, Holding was forced off with a potential concussion in the closing stages.

AFP

EPL:  Man City Eye Spurs Revenge As Liverpool Face Leicester Test

File photo: Manchester City’s English midfielder Phil Foden (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring their fourth goal during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on February 7, 2021. Tim Keeton / POOL / AFP

 

 

Rampant Manchester City will relish a shot at revenge against Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham on Saturday while fading Liverpool face a tricky trip to Leicester hoping to benefit from a rare week off.

City hammered Liverpool 4-1 at Anfield last weekend to open up a five-point lead over second-placed Manchester United at the top of the table with a game in hand.

Pep Guardiola’s men have not tasted defeat in 22 games in all competitions, since they faced Tottenham in November.

Victory for Mourinho’s men that day took them top of the table and eight points clear of City. But there has been a 22-point swing between the sides since as Spurs have tumbled down to eighth.

Once fierce rivals vying for superiority at Barcelona and Real Madrid, a 25th meeting between Guardiola and Mourinho comes at a time of contrasting fortunes for two of the world’s most-decorated coaches.

Mourinho is under pressure after a run of four defeats in five games, while Guardiola is targeting an unprecedented quadruple of trophies.

City set a new English record of 15 consecutive victories for a top-flight team by reaching the FA Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday.

“It means and shows how special these players are,” said Guardiola. “In this toughest period, in the Christmas and winter time, to do what we have done so far is quite remarkable.”

A big week for City could go a long way to securing a third league title in four years. They visit Everton for their game in hand on Wednesday and then travel to Arsenal next weekend.

“The important thing is the way we are still playing and our consistency,” added Guardiola. “We are just thinking of the next one and we have an incredibly tough week ahead of us.”

Leicester test for LiverpoolJurgen Klopp admitted the height of Liverpool’s ambitions was now finishing in the top four to guarantee Champions League football next season.

The Reds have won just three of their past 11 games, culminating in their collapse late on to City.

A stubborn injury crisis has left the defending champions looking physically and mentally drained, so a rare midweek off due to their early exit from the FA Cup may come as a blessing ahead of their visit to the King Power.

Leicester sit third and are determined to avoid the mistakes they made last season, when they let a promising position slip in the final months of the campaign to finish fifth.

The Foxes will be boosted by the return of talisman Jamie Vardy after the 34-year-old made his first start since groin surgery against Brighton in the FA Cup in midweek.

Liverpool centre-backs Ben Davies and Ozan Kabak, signed on transfer deadline day, could feature after Klopp opted not to throw them in at the deep end against City.

Baggies bounce for Man Utd?If Manchester United are to have any chance of keeping the title race alive, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men must snap out of a slump in which they have won just one of their past five games without the need for extra-time.

United could not ask for more inviting opponents this weekend, with West Brom showing no signs of a revival since Sam Allardyce’s appointment in December to maintain their top-flight status.

The Baggies have conceded 24 goals in their past six home games and are 12 points adrift of safety, in 19th spot.

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Saturday 

Leicester v Liverpool (1230), Crystal Palace v Burnley (1500), Manchester City v Tottenham (1730), Brighton v Aston Villa (2000)

Sunday

Southampton v Wolves (1200), West Brom v Manchester United (1400), Arsenal v Leeds (1630), Everton v Fulham (1900)

Monday

West Ham v Sheffield United (1800), Chelsea v Newcastle (2000)

AFP

Manchester City Demolish Liverpool To End 18-Year Anfield Hoodoo

Manchester City’s English midfielder Phil Foden (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring their fourth goal during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on February 7, 2021. Tim Keeton / POOL / AFP

Manchester City ended an 18-year wait to beat Liverpool at Anfield in style with a 4-1 win on Sunday to take a firm grip on the Premier League title race.

Ilkay Gundogan scored twice and missed a penalty as Pep Guardiola’s men moved five points clear of Manchester United, with a game in hand to come, at the top of the table.

A third consecutive home defeat leaves Liverpool 10 points off the top in fourth, having also played a game more than City.

Raheem Sterling and the outstanding Phil Foden were also on target for the visitors on a day to forget for Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker, who was at fault for three of City’s goals.

After a club record-breaking run of 68 league games unbeaten at Anfield, Liverpool have now lost three consecutive home league games for the first time since 1963.

 

Manchester City’s English midfielder Raheem Sterling (L) celebrates with Manchester City’s Portuguese midfielder Bernardo Silva after scoring their third goal during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on February 7, 2021. Jon Super / POOL / AFP

 

The margin of defeat was also the Reds’ biggest in the Premier League era as City landed a knockout blow to their title defence.

City’s club record run of 14 consecutive wins, 10 of which have come in the league, has seen them pull away from the pack at the top of the table from what seemed a wide-open title race just a few weeks ago.

That run is reminiscent of the City and Liverpool sides at their best over the past three seasons as they have ran up record points tallies in combining to win the last three league titles.

However, Liverpool appear to have run out of gas in an injury-hit campaign after ending a 30-year wait to win a league title by taking City’s crown as champions last season.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp again paired midfielders Fabinho and Jordan Henderson together at centre-back, despite new loan signing Ozan Kabak being available on the bench.

READ ALSO: Man Utd Title Charge Falters As Everton Snatch Late Equaliser

The Liverpool backline had been rarely tested until Sterling ran at them eight minutes before the break and the former Reds winger was upended by Fabinho.

Kevin De Bruyne missed a penalty for City when the sides met earlier in the season, while Riyad Mahrez blazed over from the spot in a 0-0 draw at Anfield in 2018 – the only time Guardiola had previously avoided defeat away to Liverpool as City manager.

The Catalan threw his arms up in disgust as Gundogan also failed to hit the target as his spot-kick flew well over the bar.

Not for the first time in City’s fine run, Guardiola started without a recognised striker, but a half-time tinkering of his formation to push Bernardo Silva closer to Foden in attack paid immediate dividends.

Another purposeful burst from Sterling fed Foden and after his low shot was saved by Alisson, Gundogan this time made no mistake on the rebound to score his seventh goal in 11 league games.

City had conceded just twice in their 13 league games, thanks in large part to the formidable partnership of Ruben Dias and John Stones in central defence.

In contrast, Liverpool had not scored at Anfield in over six hours until a rare error from Dias handed the champions a lifeline just after the hour mark.

The Portuguese’s attempted clearance was blocked by Mohamed Salah, who was then pulled down by Dias.

Salah has not missed a penalty for Liverpool since 2017 and made no mistake when he fired straight down the middle.

But Liverpool could not build on that reprieve as the normally dependable Alisson gifted away two goals in comical fashion.

The Brazilian cleared the ball straight to Foden, who wriggled clear inside the area before squaring for Gundogan to tap home his second off the underside of the bar.

Seconds later, Alisson’s confidence seemed to have gone as another wayward attempted clearance picked out a City player as this time Silva crossed for Sterling to score his first goal at Anfield since leaving Liverpool six years ago.

Foden then completed the rout and an outstanding personal performance with a blistering shot seven minutes from time that also escaped Alisson’s grasp.

AFP

Liverpool Thrash Mourinho’s Spurs, Record First Win In Six League Games

Liverpool’s Senegalese striker Sadio Mane (L) celebrates scoring their third goal during the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, on January 28, 2021. Shaun Botterill / POOL / AFP

 

Senegalese forward Sadio Mane netted a goal on Thursday as Liverpool defeated Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspurs 1-3 to record their first win in the last six Premier League games. 

The English champions had not even scored in their last four league games, but Jurgen Klopp said he recognised his side again as their front three sparked back into life after Roberto Firmino ended a 492-minute goalless drought in first-half stoppage time.

Kane had soldiered on after twice receiving treatment on ankle knocks in the first-half and was eventually replaced at the break with Jose Mourinho predicting the England captain will be absent for at least a few weeks.

READ ALSO: Man Utd Title Hopes Hit By Sheffield United Defeat

“Two injuries in both ankles, the second one worst than the first one,” said Mourinho. “A few weeks, I don’t know for sure.

“There are some players you can’t replace. When it happens it happens, but I believe we have to fight against it, we cannot do anything else.”

Liverpool’s worst run in the league since 2017 had seen them slip from the top of the table to fifth before kick-off with Klopp admitting his first priority is now to secure Champions League qualification for next season.

But the German was delighted with the response from the Reds as they clicked back into gear, particularly after going in front.

“What I saw today it’s not about shape or form it’s about who we are. That was us, second half especially it was us,” said Klopp.

“Tonight we knocked a wall down – that’s good. It is easier to lose (confidence) that’s how it is, but it is possible to get it back as well. It is not a light you can switch on and off. You have to show it in the right moment.”

A return to the Champions League is also Spurs’ target in Mourinho’s first full season in charge, but Tottenham’s chances may now depend on how long Kane is sidelined.

Kane and Son Heung-min have been the most deadly duo in the Premier League this season and thought they had combined for the opening goal inside the first five minutes.

Son finished coolly from Kane’s through ball, but the South Korean had just strayed offside in the build-up and the goal was ruled out by a VAR review.

There were signs of life in Liverpool’s attacking play despite a 3-2 defeat to Manchester United in the FA Cup on Sunday and they created many more clear-cut chances than in recent weeks as Hugo Lloris twice denied Mane with excellent saves.

With Kane clearly hobbling, Tottenham were clinging on for half-time when Liverpool finally struck.

Sadio Mane got in behind and squared for Firmino to bundle in at the back post for his first goal in eight games.

Trent Alexander-Arnold’s drop off in form has been another major part of Liverpool’s regression from the side that romped to the title last season with 99 points.

However, the England right-back connected sweetly to drill in his side’s second after Lloris could only parry Mane’s initial effort into his path.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s brilliant strike from outside the box halved the deficit just two minutes later.

Liverpool, though, rarely looked troubled after Kane departed and could have won far more convincingly.

Mohamed Salah’s powerful strike was ruled out after a VAR review for a handball by Firmino earlier in the move.

But Mane restored the two-goal cushion when he pounced on an error from Joe Rodon to fire high past Lloris.

Victory takes Liverpool back above West Ham, who they face on Sunday, into fourth.

Tottenham’s early season form saw them being touted as contenders for a first top-flight title in 60 years ahead of their last clash with Liverpool last month.

Now a run of just two wins in eight games has plummeted Mourinho’s men down to sixth, four points adrift of the top four.

AFP

 

Man Utd Face Acid Test of Premier League Title Credentials At Liverpool

A photo combination of Mo Salah and Bruno Fernandes.

 

Liverpool and Manchester United face off on Sunday as the Premier League’s top two teams for the first time since 1997 — with the rivalry between England’s most successful clubs rekindled by a fascinating title race.

United top the table after the New Year for the first time since Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013 thanks to an 11-match unbeaten run to take them past Jurgen Klopp’s men.

Liverpool have surrendered top spot after three league games without a win and could drop to fifth place on Sunday if results go against them.

READ ALSO: Rooney Loses First Game In Charge Of Derby

The last time United and Liverpool locked horns in a title race was 12 years ago.

Back then United were hardened winners under Ferguson, who saw off Rafael Benitez’s challengers to win a third consecutive league title.

Now it is United who Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admits are the “hunters” chasing the champions.

Ferguson, who arrived at Old Trafford in 1986 with United firmly in Liverpool’s shadow, once famously said his goal was to knock them “off their perch” and he went on to win 13 league titles.

But United have been displaced as top dogs even in their own city by Manchester City.

And fans have been forced to watch Klopp spearhead another era of glory at Anfield, winning the Champions League in 2019 before ending the club’s 30-year wait for a league title last season — putting them just one behind United’s record tally of 20.

But, in a strange and at times soulless season in empty stadiums, the relentless consistency shown by Liverpool in recent years has dropped off.

Hampered by a series of injuries, most notably to talismanic centre-back Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool have already dropped more points in 17 games than they have in either of the past two seasons.

That has allowed United to overtake them despite a slow start to their own campaign.

Solskjaer’s men won just two of their opening six games, suffering a humiliating 6-1 reverse at the hands of Tottenham at Old Trafford.

– ‘We’re in it’ –
But, on the road, United’s form has been remarkably consistent. Come Sunday, it will be almost a year to the day since they last lost an away game in domestic competition — on their last visit to Anfield.

File photo: Liverpool’s German manager Jurgen Klopp attends a press conference at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, north-west England on October 1, 2019, on the eve of their UEFA Champions League Group E football match against FC Salzburg. Lindsey Parnaby / AFP

 

Since then Bruno Fernandes’ arrival has helped transform United’s fortunes. On Friday, the Portugal playmaker won his fourth Premier League player-of-the-month award in 2020 by picking up the prize for December.

“Unfortunately a good signing for United,” said Klopp. “He is a very influential player for United obviously, involved in a lot of things.

“I know people talk mostly about the goal involvements, which is very important stuff, but he is a link-up in a lot of other situations as well.”

Without the silverware on his CV to rival Klopp or City boss Pep Guardiola, Solskjaer’s credentials for one of the biggest jobs in football are questioned every time he has a couple of bad results.

File photo: Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reacts at the final whistle during the English League Cup semi-final first leg football match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Ol d Trafford in Manchester, north-west England, on January 6, 2021. PETER POWELL / POOL / AFP

 

 

But the Norwegian has guided United into a position his more storied predecessors, Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal, could not manage.

“The last few years, there have been two teams running away with it already by the end of October,” said Solskjaer.

“Now, at least, we’re in it at half-way. We’re a much better side now than a year ago.”

Questions remain over whether United’s revival is for real or another false dawn, of which there have been several in the post-Ferguson era.

Liverpool’s three-decade drought without a league title stands as a warning of how far even giants can fall.

One of Klopp’s first iconic phrases when taking charge in 2015 was his ambition to change the fatalism around the club’s mentality from “doubter to believer”.

Should United become the first visiting side to win at Anfield in the league for nearly four years, it is they who will have the new-found confidence that a 21st league title in 2021 is possible.

AFP

Liverpool Vs Man United: Three Key Battles In Sunday’s EPL Showdown

A photo combination of Mo Salah and Bruno Fernandes.

 

When Liverpool and Manchester United clash at Anfield on Sunday, there will be more at stake than just the usual bragging rights.

The bitter rivals are engaged in a battle for the Premier League title, with leaders United sitting three points clear of second-placed Liverpool.

AFP Sport takes a closer look at three duels that will define the vital showdown:

Jordan Henderson v Bruno Fernandes

Bruno Fernandes has played a major role in transforming Manchester United from also-rans to title contenders.

Widely credited with reviving United with his fierce will to win and positive attitude, as well as his classy performances, the Portugal playmaker’s next mission is to stamp his authority on the biggest game of his time with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.

READ ALSO: Rooney Loses First Game In Charge Of Derby

Fernandes, signed from Sporting Lisbon last January, will head to Anfield as the first star to win the Premier League Player of the Month award four times in a calendar year after earning the prize for December.

Overall, he has 15 goals and nine assists in all competitions this term, making it 27 goals and 17 assists in 48 United appearances.

No wonder Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is a huge admirer and will task Reds captain Jordan Henderson with subduing the midfielder on Sunday.

“He’s an outstanding player. Before he joined United, we played against Sporting in the USA on the tour and in that game already you could see, ‘Wow!’,” Klopp said.

“He is settled, he is a very influential player for United obviously, involved in a lot of things. So, yeah, a good signing, unfortunately, for United.”

Mohamed Salah v Eric Bailly

With 17 goals in all competitions this season, Mohamed Salah will pose the biggest threat to United, but the Egypt forward can expect a stern challenge from the revitalised Eric Bailly.

Bailly has struggled for form and fitness throughout his United career, but the Ivory Coast centre-back has been key to their winning streak.

In six games with Bailly in the team, United have won five and drawn once, conceding just three goals.

Harry Maguire looks more comfortable alongside Bailly, whose out-going personality kept his team-mates relaxed during their difficult periods earlier this season.

United manager Solskjaer could also revert to the three-man central defence he has deployed against Liverpool in the past.

Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino are a formidable test for United’s rearguard, although they have gone through a barren patch of late, with Liverpool netting only once in their last three league games.

Fabinho v Marcus Rashford

Ravaged by injuries to his top centre-backs, Klopp will be forced to deploy Brazil midfielder Fabinho as a makeshift defender once again.

Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez are long-term absentees, while Joel Matip has spent the last week battling to return from the adductor injury the last three games.

Matip has returned to training but if he is not deemed ready then Klopp will have to choose between youngsters Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips to partner Fabinho.

That puts the onus on Fabinho to maintain his solid form at the position, but it won’t be easy against a lively United attack led by Marcus Rashford.

Rashford and Anthony Martial have the pace and poise to hurt Liverpool, while Edinson Cavani’s experience and physical presence make him an intriguing option.

“We know that we can beat anyone, anywhere on any given day, so to go into a game like this feeling that if we play to our best we can win is a good feeling,” Solskjaer said.

“It’s a test and reality check of where we’re really at because we’ve won many, many tight games, scored a few goals in injury time, showed that mentality.”

AFP

Salah, Mane Also Guilty Of Diving, Clattenburg Slams Klopp

A file photo combination of Sadio Mane and Mo Salah.

 

Mark Clattenburg has criticised  Liverpool boss, Jurgen Klopp over his comments about Manchester United, claiming certain Liverpool stars were equally guilty of diving to trick referees into awarding penalties.

Klopp had said United had more penalties in two years than the Reds had had in five-and-a-half years. This was after Liverpool lost 1-0 to Southampton.

But Clattenburg, known not to spare one’s blushes when it comes to the beautiful game, tore into the Red’s boss claiming he (Klopp)  “sounds like a hypocrite” after he inferred that United players sort to win games by penalties.

”The likes of Mo Salah and Mane are just as capable of employing similar tactics,” the 45- year-old referee wrote in an article on Daily Mail.

The Englishman noted that “there were a couple of things to take from Klopp’s comments after that game. First, he sounds like a hypocrite if he is suggesting United’s players are looking to win penalties.”

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He also remarked that the former Dortmund boss hates losing and makes him irritable while also dismissing any form of favouritism given to the Red Devils.

File photo: Liverpool’s German manager Jurgen Klopp attends a press conference at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, north west England on October 1, 2019, on the eve of their UEFA Champions League Group E football match against FC Salzburg. Lindsey Parnaby / AFP

 

”But he is wrong to suggest there is an aura around United that sees them given favourable decisions,” he added. “There used to be when Fergie was there, but that has eased massively since he left.”

Ole Gunnar Solkjaer’s men will face their next test as they travel to Anfield on Sunday to face defending champions Liverpool to solidify their top spot on the Premier League log.

 

 

 

 

Can Man Utd Sustain Premier League Title Push?

Manchester United’s French midfielder Paul Pogba is mobbed by teammates after scoring the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Burnley and Manchester United at Turf Moor in Burnley, north west England on January 12, 2021. Clive Brunskill / POOL / AFP

 

Manchester United are top of the Premier League table with nearly half the season gone but are they title contenders or mere pretenders?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men beat Burnley 1-0 at Turf Moor on Tuesday courtesy of a Paul Pogba goal to move three points clear of champions Liverpool after 17 games.

It was the first time United had ended the day top of the table so far into the season since their last title-winning campaign in 2012/13 under Alex Ferguson.

AFP Sport looks at whether United can win their first top-flight title for eight years as they prepare to travel to Anfield on Sunday.

READ ALSO: YouTube Suspends Trump Channel For Week Over Violence Fears

Squad strength
Manchester United’s success in the transfer market has been more miss than hit since Ferguson guided them to a 20th top-flight title.

But a glance at the substitutes’ bench at Turf Moor shows Solskjaer has quietly put together a powerful squad that gives him enviable options.

The Norwegian started with Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic and Bruno Fernandes in midfield, with in-form Scott McTominay, Fred and Donny van de Beek on the bench.

 

Manchester United’s French midfielder Paul Pogba is mobbed by teammates after scoring the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Burnley and Manchester United at Turf Moor in Burnley, north west England on January 12, 2021.
Clive Brunskill / POOL / AFP

 

Edinson Cavani was back as the focal point in attack after a three-match ban, with academy graduate Mason Greenwood used as a late substitute.

In central defence, Eric Bailly is impressing alongside Harry Maguire, offering United real pace at the back.

But it is not just the personnel that catch the eye — there is a palpable sense of togetherness at the club, shown by the players’ wild celebrations when they recently beat Aston Villa 2-1.

Manager
Solskjaer — who won six Premier League titles as a player at Old Trafford — has not had an easy ride in charge.

Whenever the club have hit a rocky patch the pressure has been ramped up, with suggestions he does not have the experience or nous to go toe to toe with Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola.

An impressive 29 points from a possible 33 show the strength of their revival after a poor start to the campaign but Solskjaer is not getting carried away.

“We’re almost halfway through the season so it’s a little bit of an indication of where you’re at,” said the 1999 treble hero.

“But no one will remember the league table on the 12th of January.”

Rivals
Despite their fine run of form, bookmakers still have United as third favourites for the Premier League title, behind Manchester City and Liverpool.

Klopp’s men have failed to hit the heights of last season but are still firmly in the title picture despite a defensive injury crisis this term.

United will travel to the home of their fierce rivals with a spring in their step — a far cry from last year, when defeat at Anfield left them 30 points behind the Merseyside outfit.

Solskjaer, whose side are unbeaten in domestic away fixtures since losing to Liverpool in January 2020, said United were looking forward to the challenge.

“We just want to go there, knowing we’re playing the best team in the country by a mile over the last year and a half,” he said. “They are champions by right and it will be a great test of where we are.”

For their part, City have quietly put together an impressive run to move to within striking distance of the top of the table.

They are seven points behind United but have two games in hand and are favourites to win their third title in four seasons.

Former United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, who played alongside Solskjaer at Old Trafford, is not sure his old side are “quite there yet” but believes they are not far away.

“If we could add players like (forward Erling) Haaland from Dortmund or (defender Dayot) Upamecano from Leipzig I would say then we would be championship challengers,” he told the BBC.

It is up to his ex-teammate to prove him wrong.

AFP

Manchester City Duo Of Gabriel Jesus, Walker Contract COVID-19

A file photo combination of Kyle Walker and Gabriel Jesus.

 

Manchester City duo of Gabriel Jesus and Kyle Walker have contracted COVID-19, the English Premier League side said in a statement on Christmas Day. 

Two unnamed staff of the Manchester side were also confirmed to have tested positive for the disease.

READ ALSO: Aubameyang Urges Young Arsenal Players To ‘Be Patient’

“All four personnel will now observe a period of self-isolation in accordance with Premier League and UK Government protocol on quarantine,” the club added.

“Everyone at the Club wishes our colleagues a speedy recovery over the Christmas period ahead of their return to work, training and competition.

The City players join the long-list of sports stars who have tested positive for the disease which has disrupted sporting activities across the world, a development which is set to cause major concern for manager Pep Guardiola ahead of the side’s clash with Newcastle United.

 

 

I Couldn’t Eat When I Got Super Eagles Call-Up – Henry Onyekuru

 

Super Eagles star, Henry Onyekuru, has said he was so excited he could not eat when he received a call up to the team.

Onyekuru who now plays for Monaco in the French Ligue 1 said this on Friday as a guest on Channels Television’s Sports This Morning.

The former Anderlecht man made his debut for the three-time African champions in June, 2017 against Togo in a friendly match.

READ ALSO: Salah, Vardy, Aubameyang In Hot Race For Topscorer

He has since then gone on to  make 11 appearances for Gernot Rohr’s men and was part of the team that clinched a bronze medal at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.

While speaking during the show, the winger revealed that his mother was the first person he called when he got an invitation to play for the Nigerian side.

According to him, while he did not cry due to excitement following the development, he could not eat for a while.

“I was very happy I called my mum; you know she named me after Henry Nwosu,” he explained.  “I didn’t cry but could not eat.”

 Right Path

Onyekuru assured that he would give his best to the Super Eagles whenever he is called up, adding that the team is young and in a couple of years, would be a weapon.

He said the Nigerian side has a bright future ahead with coach Gernot Rohr especially with a blend of youth and experience in the team.

 

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Onyekuru believes the future is bright for the Super Eagles.

 

“It has been a good experience so far with the Super Eagles; we are on the right path with a good coach, young talents; everyone is on the same goal,” Onyekuru added. 

Unlucky Eagles

On his maiden AFCON in Egypt where the Nigerian side lost out narrowly to Algeria in the semi-final, the forward said the 2013 continental kings were unlucky against the Desert Foxes.

He said he was ready to give everything to ensure the team won that match and lamented Nigeria’s inability to take their chances in the game.

EPL Dream

The 23-year-old who was signed by Everton from where he went on several loan spells, admitted that playing in the Premier League is his dream.

Even though he did not feature for Everton who signed him in 2017, Onyekuru is not giving up on his dreams of playing in one of the most competitive leagues in the world.

“Premier league has always been my dream and I hope to return someday,” the player said.

Football Not The Same

On the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on sporting activities, he said football without fans is not the same, but expressed optimism that everything will get back to normal once a vaccine is found for the disease.

“I think spectators will be back when the cure is found, playing without the fans is not the same,” the AFCON 2019 bronze medalist explained.

 

 

Coronavirus: The Final Twist In Liverpool’s Premier League Title Tale

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This is Liverpool’s first EPL crown in 30 years. Photo: Twitter/Liverpool FC

 

The delay to Liverpool’s title celebrations caused by the coronavirus was just the latest twist in the tale of the Reds’ 30-year wait to be crowned champions of England.

A stunning run of 26 wins and one draw from their opening 27 games of the Premier League season ensured Jurgen Klopp’s men were champions-elect long before football was shut down in March.

Despite some self-interested calls to “null and void” the season by those closer to the bottom of the table, UEFA’s insistence that any leagues not completed on the pitch should be decided on “sporting merit” meant Liverpool would not be denied their title.

The return of the Premier League even allowed them to seal it themselves rather than by votes via video conference.

Liverpool were crowned champions on Thursday after Manchester City fell 2-1 at Chelsea.

It is not the way fans would have chosen to seal the deal and there will be no celebrations to match those following Liverpool’s sixth European Cup win last year.

Klopp has promised a parade when it is safe to hold one but, in delivering the title, he has already banished the demons that haunted Liverpool for so many years.

AFP looks at Liverpool’s near misses.

Benitez’s ‘Facts’

Like Klopp, Rafa Benitez also delivered the Champions League to Anfield.

However, the Premier League eluded the Spaniard as the pressure of a thrilling title race in 2008/09 against old foes Manchester United and Alex Ferguson caused Benitez to crack.

Liverpool were top of the table in January when Benitez turned a routine pre-match press conference into an astonishing tirade against Ferguson.

Benitez reeled off a series of “facts” highlighting Ferguson’s behaviour towards referees and complaints about fixture scheduling after the Scot claimed Liverpool would get nervous in the run-in.

“I could not believe what I was hearing,” wrote then Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard in his autobiography. “I was grabbing the couch, digging my fingers into the arms, feeling embarrassed for him.”

Liverpool went on to draw the next three games, handing the advantage in the title race to United and could not recover despite winning 10 of their final 11 league games, including a 4-1 victory at Old Trafford.

– Gerrard’s slip –

Five years on, Liverpool were even closer to the title, with destiny in their own hands just three games from the end of the season.

An 11-game winning run had propelled Brendan Rodgers’s men to the top of the table ahead of Chelsea’s visit to Anfield.

Jose Mourinho even rested most of his key players, with the clash falling between the two legs of Chelsea’s Champions League semi-final against Atletico Madrid.

But one moment of ill-fortune famously cost Gerrard his last chance of winning a league title for his boyhood club as his slip allowed Demba Ba to open the scoring.

Mourinho then revelled in spoiling the party as Chelsea held out before breaking away in stoppage time to add a second when former Liverpool striker Fernando Torres teed up Willian.

Liverpool’s implosion was complete eight days later when they let a 3-0 lead at Crystal Palace go to draw 3-3 and allow Manchester City to claim the title by two points.

97 points not enough

The gap between City and Liverpool was even smaller last season as Klopp’s men missed out despite amassing the third-highest points tally in English football history.

Only City’s century of points in 2017/18 bettered the 98 they posted in retaining the title, with Liverpool’s 97 only good enough for second place.

Previous Liverpool sides of the past three decades have been broken by falling short.

This team showed they were made of sterner stuff by bouncing back to win the Champions League straight away and then streaking clear of City.

Liverpool Win First Premier League Title In 30 Years

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This is Liverpool’s first EPL crown in 30 years. Photo: Twitter/Liverpool FC

 

Liverpool have won their first Premier League title in 30 years after Chelsea beat Manchester City 2-1 on Thursday. 

 

Jurgen Klopp’s men sealed a 19th league title for the club with a record seven games left to play after City’s defeat left them 23 points adrift of Liverpool at the top.

Liverpool had moved within two points of the title with a 4-0 demolition of Crystal Palace at Anfield on Wednesday.

Their 28th win in 31 league games this season prompted Liverpool star Mohamed Salah to declare “now is our time to win the league” and 24 hours later his wish was granted.

Liverpool got the favour they wanted from Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Willian’s 78th minute penalty, awarded for a handball by Fernandinho, ended City’s two-year reign as champions after Kevin De Bruyne had cancelled out Christian Pulisic’s opener.

Liverpool have clinched the title earlier than any other Premier League champions, breaking the previous record of five games left shared by City and Manchester United.

It has been an agonising wait for Liverpool fans across the world, with the coronavirus hiatus forcing them to put the champagne on ice after the Premier League was suspended in March with Klopp’s team two wins from the title.

The three-month delay was a final obstacle on Liverpool’s long road back to the pinnacle of English football.

Liverpool spent years in the shadow of arch-rivals Manchester United during the Alex Ferguson era before being left behind by the massive spending of Manchester City and Chelsea.

Then managed by Brendan Rodgers, they infamously squandered a golden opportunity to win the title in 2014 when Reds captain Steven Gerrard made his costly slip in a late-season defeat against Chelsea.

But Klopp’s team are deserved champions after an incredible campaign that could end in record-breaking style.

Liverpool, who are now one title behind Manchester United’s English record haul of 20, are on course to beat Manchester City’s record points total of 100 set in 2017/18.

Klopp’s men could smash the record for the biggest winning margin, set by City when they finished 19 points clear at the top in that same season.

They are also within touching distance of the most victories in a Premier League season — 32 by City in 2017/18 and 2018/19.

– We can play pretty good –

Klopp, the first German manager to win the Premier League, has been the architect of Liverpool’s renaissance since the former Borussia Dortmund boss arrived at Anfield in 2015.

Infusing his players with a belief in his “heavy metal” football and high-tempo “gegen-pressing” game-plan, the charismatic Klopp has earned his place alongside Liverpool’s iconic former managers Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley and Kenny Dalglish.

When Dalglish led Liverpool to the title in 1990, the prize Shankly once described as the club’s “bread and butter” was almost taken for granted after two decades of dominance.

Following years of underachievement, Klopp has brought his unique style and major trophies back to Liverpool.

They won the Champions League last season, when they beat Tottenham in the final, 12 months after losing to Real Madrid at the same stage of the competition.

Liverpool were pipped to the title by Manchester City on the final day of last season, finishing with a record 97 points for top-flight runners-up.

But with Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino forming a formidable front three, Jordan Henderson a tireless presence in midfield and Virgil van Dijk imperious at the back, Liverpool have left City trailing in their wake this season.

It was fitting that Liverpool saved one of their most eye-catching performances for the week the title was won.

After destroying Palace, Klopp said: “Imagine if the stadium could have been full and people could have experienced that live. It would have been amazing.

“This game will last a while in my mind, this is what we want to be.

“We cannot play like other teams, but we can play pretty good stuff.”

Klopp’s frustration that matches are being played behind closed doors at present will fade in time.

It will be the memories left by his transcendent team that linger longest.

Historians on the Kop will surely rank this Liverpool side, also crowned Club World champions in December, alongside the 1979 and 1988 vintages as one of the greatest to wear the famous red shirt.