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Frustrating Night for Liverpool as They Lose 1-0 to Atletico Madrid

It was not the finest Liverpool performance yesterday as they failed to get a shot on target against Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their last-16 Champions League draw at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium. The former Champions League winners must now score at least two to go through at Anfield next month and defend their much-coveted title.

As of recent, Atletico Madrid have not played to their best. We have witnessed surprisingly clumsy football from the Spanish giants this season. However, in last night’s Champions League showdown, what we saw was a typical Atletico, defensive Simeone-led performance. They frustrated Liverpool, disrupted their rhythm, won 1-0 with an early strike and were happy with the result. If Atletico can mount a similar defensive performance in two weeks’ time at Anfield Stadium, then the world champions will be in trouble.

Can The Reds muster up the strength to overcome Atletico’s goalkeeper with such huge pedigree? Since the start of the 2013-14 season, Jan Oblak has kept 26 clean sheets in 49 Champions League fixtures. Liverpool failed to upset the sharp performance from Atletico Madrid which was both tenacious and disciplined. We saw some of the brilliance that Atletico Madrid demonstrated last season, displaying what they do best; defend deep and hit on the break.

Of Liverpool’s front three, Sadio Mane was taken off at half-time. Many suspected that the winger was suffering once again with hamstring issues. However, Jurgen Klopp has since revealed that he was concerned Mane would be targeted and receive a second yellow card. Mo Salah was also taken off on the 72-minute mark, having missed multiple opportunities throughout the game, whilst Jordan Henderson staggered off the pitch due to hamstring injury with just 10 minutes to go.

Despite the loss, Liverpool still remain confident about their Champions League journey. Virgil van Dijk said ‘we knew it would be a proper battle. We have 90 minutes to set it straight’, whilst Andy Robertson commented, ‘we gave them the best possible start. They got the fans behind them. They got under our skin. But we know we can be better.’

Jurgen Klopp praised Liverpool’s ‘exceptional’ press but admitted there were problems in the final third. ‘Their defence in the box was incredible’ but added, ‘we will take it like it is. It is only half time. It is not over yet.’

Liverpool have only really struggled twice in what’s been a fantastic season for the Premier League Champions elect and the Champions League Winners but maybe what’s more concerning for Jurgen Klopp is that on both occasions, it’s come against teams who have mastered the 4-4-2 formation in Napoli and Atletico Madrid. Most of Liverpool’s creativity stems from their full-backs and coming up against a flat midfield four means that oppositions have been able to track and screen a lot of what Liverpool’s full backs do. That then means that the midfield three that Klopp selects is key to how creative Liverpool can be. The midfield trio of Henderson, Wijnaldum and Fabinho offers a lot of legs and cover but not necessarily the creativity and drive to get into the half spaces behind the opposition defence and break the lines.

Atletico Madrid came at Liverpool from the off and The Reds did the worst thing possible; allowed them to get a goal after just 4 minutes. A corner slung over, Liverpool’s defenders were not decisive, didn’t deal with it, it pinged off Fabinho’s foot straight to Saul Niguez who slotted past Alisson. The luck certainly went the way of Atletico Madrid but it was a poor performance from a Liverpool perspective.

Full-backs Sime Vrsaljko and Renan Lodi were tight on Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold while the experienced Stefan Savic and Felipe dominated the middle. Indeed, they could have grabbed a second but failed to do so. Robertson, last defender and facing a potential two on one, managed to get it out for a corner. Then Alvaro Morata had a big chance but couldn’t make it count.

Liverpool had it in the net but Salah was a mile offside in the build-up. Otherwise restricted to pot-shots from 25 yards, Robertson well wide and a Fabinho effort high and mighty over the bar. Liverpool’s set pieces were woeful; not moving the ball around fast enough – very unlike the always offensive-minded Merseysiders.

The second half was more of the same – massive Liverpool possession, but ponderously put together attacks with Atletico Madrid trying to steal a second. Thankfully, they couldn’t because that would have put them in pole position but Liverpool have plenty to do.

Salah spurned the best opening when heading a beautiful Joe Gomez ball wide when he should have scored but then Morata slipped with the goal at his mercy, evening itself out.

Diego Costa, the villainous centre-forward, once of Chelsea, came on for Atletico Madrid, but managed to scuff well wide. Jurgen Klopp got a yellow card for going mad on the touchline as the referee failed to spot a blatant hand ball. Which pretty much said it all.

Yesterday was certainly not Liverpool’s finest hour but hopefully they can learn from last night’s mistakes and make a comeback at Anfield next month and be on the road to becoming Champions League winners once again. The trophy is still all to play for.

Premier League Top 4: Will it be Chelsea, Spurs or Manchester United?

It’s been a strange season in the Premier League. We’ve not seen such a dominant campaign from a team since the birth of the Premier League and Liverpool look on course to smash every record going. Despite what you may think of Liverpool or where your allegiances lie, you have to admire the work that Jurgen Klopp has undertaken in the last few seasons at Anfield. It’s a certainty that the League title will return to Merseyside for the first time since 1990 and it’ll be the first time that Liverpool have won the Premier League since its creation in 1992.

The second and third places look to be mutually competed by both Leicester City and Manchester City but they are both 25 and 26 points behind first.

The top three places, barring a major miracle look to be wrapped up with the only uncertainty being who’ll finish second and third out of Leicester and the Citizens. It’s the challenge for fourth place that’s arguably the most competitive in the Premier League – with as many as 8 clubs fancying their chances of Champions League football.

Who has the best chance of finishing in the Premier League Top 4?

Chelsea

Considering Chelsea lost Eden Hazard in the summer and have been under a transfer embargo for 6 months, Frank Lampard has done a tremendous job of blooding the youth of Chelsea into the first team whilst still competing. In recent weeks, Chelsea’s form has been indifferent and having lost to Manchester United last night, it’s blown fourth place wide open. Chelsea had a chance to put some daylight between them and 5th place Tottenham Hotspur but that loss means just a point separates the two with Spurs coming into some form.

Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs look a completely new side under the guidance of Jose Mourinho and have started to churn out wins that they may not have necessarily won under Pochettino. Wins against Manchester City, Aston Villa and Norwich City have seen Spurs soar up the league and put themselves right back in contention for Champions League qualification. The only real black cloud cast over Spurs’ season is the long term injury to Harry Kane. He’s not expected to return until the last game of the season.

Sheffield United

The surprise package thus far. Most fans would’ve tipped the Blades for relegation but Chris Wilder has done a miraculous job and has to be a contender for manager of the season. With their direct style of play, overlapping centre-halves and endless energy, Sheffield United have become a very hard team to beat but may lack the experience towards the latter end of the season. We’re not writing them off though, that’s for sure!

Manchester United

What has happened to Manchester United? Years of poor decisions from the top-down has finally caught up with the Red Devils. Problems on and off the pitch have led to United no longer being a serious Premier League or Champions League contender. However, they’re still a commercial powerhouse with some talented players and have slowly crept back into contention for the top 4. There’s still a lot of work to be done at Old Trafford but that win over Chelsea last night will have boosted the teams’ confidence no end as they find themselves just four points off 4th.

Wolves, Everton & Arsenal

It’s crazy to think that these three clubs are dubbed at having an outside chance of finishing in the Premier League top 4 when they are both 4 and 6 points off 4th place Chelsea. Both Wolves and Arsenal have Europa League commitments and will feel that’s their best way of qualifying for the Champions League. Everton only have the league to focus on having been knocked out of the FA Cup by a youthful Liverpool side. Under Carlo Ancelloti, Everton are unbeaten in their last 5. They’ve certainly improved since the departure of Marco Silva.

5th place for Champions League qualification

Manchester City have been banned from European football for two years having failed to comply with Financial Fair Play (pending an appeal) meaning that 5th place could well be enough for Champions League qualification should City finish in the top 4. This news has put a real spanner in the works for the Premier League and it could mean that 6th, 7th and 8th could also qualify for the Europa League too.

A huge weekend in the race for 4th place

This weekend could have a massive say in the Premier League landscape. Leicester City host Manchester City in a game that could put some daylight between the two should City win. 9th placed Everton travel to 10th placed Arsenal but neither of these games are as important in the race for 4th spot as Chelsea vs Tottenham Hotspur.

Chelsea face Spurs on Saturday in the 12:30pm kick-off at Stamford Bridge and this game will have a massive say in the race for the top 4. London derbies are always a hotly contested affair but with so much riding on this game, it’s sure to be a momentous occasion.

Tickets for Chelsea vs Spurs

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  • A selection of savoury snacks served in your suite at half-time
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Aston Villa Secure Carabao Cup Final at Wembley

Aston Villa are going to Wembley for what is the third time in three years after they reached the Carabao Cup Final at Wembley Stadium, beating Leicester City 3-2 on aggregate.

Champions League Highlights & Results: Matchday 3

There were wins all around for the England teams on matchday 3 of the Group Stage in the Champions League. Spurs made a thrilling comeback to defeat Red Star Belgrade 5-0, Man City didn’t come away with a clean sheet but matched Spurs in number of goals, thrashing Atalanta 5-1. Chelsea walked away from Amsterdam ArenA with three points and Liverpool, the reigning Champions of Europe continue their undefeated flight to the top after a 4-1 win over Genk.

Spurs bounce back

Mauricio Pochettino has said that Spurs Champions League victory “has restored hope in his men” and there is no doubt that they will want to carry this winning momentum on throughout the season.

Spurs

(Photo by Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)

The runners-up of last years Champions League had only won four of thirteen fixtures in all tournaments this season, and the probability of a repeat of last year’s ascent to the Champions League final was looking, well, improbable. Both the boys, and the fans were beginning to seem a little disheartened, especially after the 7-1 defeat to Bayern Munich but Tuesday night erased all thoughts of doom and gloom.

Spurs displayed the level of football we had seen last year; a level of football we know they are capable of – high-quality and tactical. Harry Kane and Son Heung-min both scored twice and creative midfielder, Erik Lamela bagged one too, after a number of near-misses and excellent assists.

Kane started with an early header, landing it on the inside of the far post. Less than ten minutes later Son added another to the scoring sheet, doubling Tottenham’s lead. Unmarked, the forward came running down the left flank, to roof the ball off a sublime cross from Lamela. Red Star didn’t look like they had a chance as Pochettino’s men were running riot all over the Serbian side.

Before half-time Spurs made it 3-0 and it was Son again, who came charging down the left like a rocket on fire to receive the ball from Tanguy Ndombele. Red Star’s, Marko Marin had left the ball behind him after performing what was supposed to be an elaborate trick, though he was the one being laughed at the end. Ndombele wasted no time to collect the ball and Kane provided the perfect decoy for the two defenders as he ran up towards the right post, freeing up space for Son, who slipped it past the keeper down the left.

Son was rightly rewarded man of the match for his world-class performance and gave Pochettino more than enough reason to remain in the starting XI. He was a constant threat for Red Star and his promising performance was met by the encouraging chants of the fans in Spurs Stadium.

Lamela provided Spurs with their fourth. Aurier sent a low cross to Lamela, who had time to turn around with his back to the goal and drive it into the middle of the net – appalling defending from the home side. This was the midfielders 200th appearance for Tottenham and he made it a special one too.

Kane made it five, side-footing a pass into the bottom corner. That’s more like it COYS!

It was exactly what Spurs needed, which was echoed by Harry Kane after full time. The England international and Tottenham Hotspur captain then went on to say, “It can’t stop here, though, it was a game we were expected to win.”

Only time will tell how Spurs will continue in their race for the Champions League title but let’s hope that this new confidence breeds the same results.

Raheem Sterling scores a hat-trick for Man City

Though Atalanta put an end to Manchester City’s clean sheet in this season’s Champions League, the Citizens were in a league of their own against Gian Piero Gasperini’s men, who fall further to the bottom of Group C.

Manchester City F.CMan City were unfortunate to miss out on a place in the Champions League semi-finals last season, losing out to Tottenham Hotspur’s in the quarter-finals based on away goals as it was 4-4 agg. This year they’ll be hoping to make two colossal achievements – successive titles in the Premier League and overthrow Liverpool to walk away from Europe with the Champions League trophy too. If we think back to Liverpool’s semi-final game against Barcelona, well, that tells us all that even the impossible is possible so who’s to say Man City won’t do it?

Man City did what they do best at the Etihad and that is – make winning look easy. Aside from Phil Foden picking up two yellow cards following an unnecessary offence against Atalanta’s, Martin de Roon, Man City breezed through this game. Arguably, City were poorer in the first quarter of the game but after Atalanta converted the penalty, Pep Guardiola’s men quickly jolted to life.

Sergio Aguero opened the goal-scoring for Man City, with two in the first half. The Argentine forward has already broken a number of records at City, including being the all-time highest goal-scorer for the club and now closes in on Chelsea legend, Didier Drogba’s Champion League goal-scoring record of 36, as Aguero sits on 34.

His first goal came off a wonderful cross from Sterling at the edge-of-the-box, Aguero guided the ball past the keeper and Man City had equalised with the visiting side. Five minutes later and Sterling is sent down in the box, opening up another opportunity for Aguero to double his tally and he makes no mistake, driving a low ball into the net.

Having set up two shots now, Sterling took a hold of the scoring reigns. The Man City forward really is an extraordinary player, creating three goals in just 11 minutes. The first with assistance from Kevin Du Bruyne, who teed up with Foden to claim the third for Man City. It was magnificent play from the youngster, who wasn’t selfish at all, sending a short and quick pass to Sterling who was able to thrash it home for the Citizens.

An excellent pass from Ilkay Gündogan set up the second. Sterling raced onto the ball, leaving the defenders in the wind before slicing it into the back of the net. The Etihad was roaring. And Sterling is not even considered to be the finished article yet and is already a phenomenal player.

Mahrez set up the third, firing a cross towards the back post and Sterling finds the space. He was sharp, clinical – a whole lot of things compared to anyone else and Man City deservedly ended the game 5-1 Atalanta.

City still seem to be having defensive issues as Rodri was forced to come off in Tuesday’s Champions League game, suffering a hamstring injury. Let’s hope that this doesn’t become a problem for Pep Guardiola, who is already strained at the back.

Chelsea’s young side impress against Ajax

Chelsea FC

(Photo by Clive Howes – Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Chelsea join Ajax on six points after defeating them at home on Wednesday. Michy Batshuayi put Chelsea ahead with a late goal and boost their chances of qualifying from Group H. Whilst it wasn’t a five-goal lead like we had seen from some of the other England sides, Ajax are much fiercer opponent and this will definitely be one of the biggest successes of Frank Lampard’s career as a Chelsea manager thus far.

Ultimately, it was a game that could have gone either way as both sides missed some near opportunities but Chelsea had a little more to offer in the final third and made a big statement to defeat last season’s semi-finalists. A young manager and a young team achieving this kind of result speaks a lot about the maturity of the team and the commitment of the manager. It goes without saying that Frank wants every one of his team members to feel valued and the team seem to have found a rhythm now following a shaky start in the 2019/20 campaign.

Christian Pulisic teed up with Batshuayi, also known as Captain America and Batsman, as the fans have quickly addressed them as super-duo and scored the winner. The goal came in the 85th minute and it was an emphatic finish from Batshuayi, as the shot bounced in off the underside of the crossbar.

It was Chelsea’s second successive win under Lampard in the Champions League and a huge step towards a top-of-the-group finish.

Oxlade-Chamberlain leads the way for Liverpool

Liverpool continue their undefeated run to the top in the Champions League following victory against KRC Genk on Wednesday. The Reds ended their winning streak against Manchester United at Old Trafford in the Premier League last Sunday, scoring a late equaliser to take a point a piece and cut their lead at the top to six points.

But Wednesday night made up for all of that.

Liverpool Champions of EuropeJurgen Klopp gave fans the trio of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita and Fabinho which they had been so strongly yearning for and it proved to be a successful change to the line-up. Oxlade-Chamberlain opened the scoring after just two minutes of play, sending a divine low-shot into the far corner.

The midfielder had been missing most of last season, suffering from a serious knee and hamstring injury after colliding with Aleksandar Kolarov during the semi-final leg against A.S. Roma. He seems to be back in his prime now and fans should continue to see a lot more of him on the pitch.

Genk did provide fierce opposition to the Reds, almost equalising in the first half before the goal was overruled by VAR for offside. Mbwana Samatta had fired a sublime header into the far corner and they were unfortunate not to equalise. But Oxlade-Chamberlain soon put any fears of an equaliser to bed with an outrageous goal, coming off the outside of his foot.

Firmino played the pass and Oxlade-Chamberlain spun it into the back of the net – all from the outside of the box. It was a stylish, sublime goal that hit the underside of the bar before hammering home.

Forwards, Mo Salah and Sadio Mane add to the scoresheet too. Salah finds Mane, who sprints into the 16-yard-box and lifts it above the keeper. Ten minutes later, Mane returns the favour, providing Salah with the assist. Like water he slips through Genk’s defence and whips the ball into the far post.

Genk did deny Liverpool a clean sheet but not enough to stop Liverpool from achieving their first away win in the Group Stage in over two years. The Reds now sit at the top of Group E – as to be expected – and will no doubt qualify to the Round of 16.

Matchday 9: Premier League Weekend Review

Yet another interesting weekend of football in the Premier League, full of highs and lows. Here we examine the wins, draws and losses of the most significant games from the past couple of days.

Manchester United v Liverpool

Perhaps the most stand out football game of the weekend, Liverpool finally end their winning streak at Old Trafford. The Reds drew 1-1 against Manchester United on Sunday but still remain top of the table, six points clear.

Funnily enough, Liverpool has failed to win on their last six visits to United, comprising three losses and three draws. Liverpool were well short of their best but substitute, Lallana, rescued a point for the misfiring visitors. This was a significant moment for Lallana, having not scored a goal in 29 months. The Midfielder stated that ‘It’s been a tough couple of years for me, so it’s pleasing. I know my boy at home would have been watching and been delighted when that went in, so it’s a big moment and a massive point for us…we will take that.’

Missing the injured Mohamed Salah, Liverpool rarely displayed the intensity and attacking verve that has become their trademark. The match proved that Liverpool are not invincible but as the team are quick to point out, they still remain unbeaten so far this season. As it stands, their status as football Goliaths remains unscathed. Will we see their fighting spirit rekindled as they play Tottenham this weekend?

Tottenham v Watford

Speaking of Tottenham, their indifferent form continued with a 1-1 draw with bottom of the league Watford. There was some VAR confusion as Dele Alli scored Spurs’ only goal. The video assistant referee reviewed the goal and decided it was correctly awarded. The big screen, however, indicated the decision was ‘no goal’. After a spell of confusion, the goal was finally accepted. Alli stated. ‘It was my first start and great to be back in the team but overall a disappointing result.’

Football fans have taken to Twitter to voice their disappointment, many questioning Poch’s management. Speaking post-match, Poch mentioned how Spurs’ confidence has been knocked since the plundering Bayern Munich defeat. He was confident that the team could have scored a second goal if they were just given five more minutes.

Whilst a draw is better than a defeat, fans are desperately hoping that Spurs are able to put up more of a fight going forward. How will they fare against Red Star Belgrade tomorrow night?

Chelsea v Newcastle

Chelsea claimed a narrow victory against Newcastle during their match at Stamford Bridge last Saturday. This was Chelsea’s fifth uninterrupted victory across all competitions. The key to The Blues’ success this time around was most definitely their persistence. Manager, Frank Lampard, noted how ‘in the second half you saw a spirit and energy in the team. Today was tough, we had a bit of a problem and we solved it with the way we played in the second half.’

Their next battle will be against Ajax on Wednesday. Will the Blues be able to continue their winning streak and win their sixth consecutive game of football?

Crystal Palace v Manchester City

The biggest victory over the weekend was Man City who won 2-1 against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. Guardiola’s men were quiet until the 39th minute as Gabriel Jesus met Bernardo Silva’s cross with a shrewd header. As if by magic, just 93 seconds later, David Silva then repeated the success with a second goal.

City have certainly proved that they are a force to be reckoned within football. Crystal Palace manager, Roy Hodgson, said of Man City ‘They are just a very good team. Could we have done more? Could we have created more chances? Yeah, maybe. If we spend £250 million and bring some of the best players in Europe. We are playing against a team picked from some of the best players in the world.’

City have admitted that there were opportunities in the second half to score further goals but as it stands, two was all they need to secure victory.

Once again, the weekend’s results proved that football can be full of surprises. Let’s see how next weekend’s highly anticipated games play out. 

 

England stand firm in Euro Qualifier against Bulgaria

Last night’s game will stand as a particularly significant one in the timeline of racism within football. England put up a crushing performance against floundering Bulgaria, securing a 6-0 Euro qualifying victory in Sofia. This should have been a joyous occasion but instead, the moment was marred by the sound of shameful racist chants from Bulgarian supporters.

The shocking abuse continued throughout the match with threats even made about abandoning the game. Sadly, the warnings did not eliminate the toxic atmosphere created by Bulgarian fans. The game carries significance not simply because of the disgraceful behaviour displayed by the home fans but ultimately the inspiring way that England handled the tense situation.

England were well within their rights to walk off the pitch. They could have chosen not to be subjected to such injustice but instead did something even more powerful. They persevered and stood strong in the face of adversity.

Rather than giving any power to the abusers, they instead made a statement that they would not let racism defeat them. The fact that they persisted and went on to secure a thrashing victory, professed a more profound message.

England Manager, Gareth Southgate, stated that ‘in the second instance, we could have walked off but the players were very keen to finish the first half and talk it through. Not one player wanted to stop, they were absolutely firm on that.’

Bulgaria captain, Ivelin Popov, even addressed fans at half time in an attempt to curtail the abuse. However, the reaction that ensued following the warning over the tannoy, suggested that Bulgarian fans did not see any issue in their actions.

What was even more shocking was Bulgaria coach, Krasimir Balakov, claimed that he did not hear any racist chanting but was quick to point out that British fans whistled during the Bulgarian national anthem.

England soldiered on with a strong first half which saw effortless goals from Marcus Rashford, two from Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling, who went on to win Man of the Match. Sterling then went on to score his second goal in the second half and it was none other than Harry Kane who scored the sixth.

Tyrone Mings made his England debut, also putting up an impressive first performance. Speaking to ITV he said ‘It was a great occasion, I made my debut, slightly overshadowed by a few disappointing chants. It was quite clear to hear on the pitch but I think we showed a great response and showed a great togetherness and hopefully let football do the talking.’

There was no denying that Bulgaria simply put up a poor performance yesterday. All efforts were futile as their flimsy attempts to take control allowed England to move the ball from side to side at will. England football fans have taken to Twitter to argue that the monumental loss was payback for the actions of Bulgaria fans.

Football fans are hoping that England will continue this fighting spirit in their next game against Montenegro in November at Wembley Stadium.

Racism has noticeably become more prominent within football this year. This game has not only highlighted the severity of this issue but also what can happen when a team unites and perseveres through the chants and the taunts. In the words of Marcus Pickford, the game was ‘not an easy situation to play in and not one which should be happening in 2019’. Despite the jeers, England have come out victorious and have proved that their spirit will not be broken by bigotry.

 

 

A Man City loss, Chelsea victory & Liverpool lead eight points clear!

Manchester City suffered a 2-0 defeat to Wolves at Etihad Stadium, leaving the reigning Champions eight points behind Liverpool in the title race. Adama Traoré left City dazed at the Etihad with a late double in the final ten minutes of the game.

Wolves first capitalised on a mistake by Joao Cancelo, who gave the ball away cheaply. Raúl Jiménez came racing down the left flank and sent an excellent cross into Traoré’s path. Ederson had also come out of the six-yard box, leaving the goal exposed allowing Traoré to fire it home with ease.

Rui Patrício did have to make some key saves against City, blocking efforts from Raheem Sterling and David Silva, who had also missed out on a goal earlier in the game when his attempt hit the crossbar.

Traoré slotted the second one home into extra time, with Jiménez providing the assist again. Fernandinho made pace but wasn’t quick enough and the Spaniard drilled a low ball into the net without having to get into a tussle with the midfielder-turned-defender.

Wolves had put an end to the Premier League Champions winning streak on home turf and their first win at the Etihad since 1984. It was a morale-boosting performance from the Midlands team who have experienced a shaky start this season.

Both sides had been in European combat in midweek, City in the Champions League and Wolves in the UEFA League. But City were at home whilst Wolves had to travel 4,000 miles to Turkey and back.

City have now shelled five points in their opening four home games of the 2019/20 Premier League campaign. In the whole of last season, they dropped just three and then seven the year before that. Though, Pep’s men are having to contend for the title without key players at this stage of the season.

Kevin Du Bruyne, Leroy Sane, Aymeric Laporte and John Stones are all out due to injury, with the former two arguably being City’s most creative players.

Fernandinho has had to step in as a centre back to make up for City’s dwindling defence and though he has flourished as a stand-in during some games, it’s becoming apparent that this makeshift defence is proving to cost Pep Guardiola.

City are the best in England and potentially, even in Europe but with so many players out are they still capable of closing the eight-point gap, or more importantly overtaking their Northern rivals? Last season they did well to beat Liverpool to the line but this latest setback has sparked reason for concern.

Nuno Santo’s forwards ran free three times in the first half, more times than Man City should be allowing if they want to achieve the triple title.

In an interview with BBC Sport, Pep Guardiola said: “We were not at our best. We had chances to score but it was a bad day and we lost the game.”

A bad day indeed.

Leicester City miss out on a point in the final minutes

Meanwhile, James Milner, one of the unsung but most effective players of his era, notched an injury-time penalty to maintain Liverpool’s winning streak in a controversial victory over Leicester City.

Mane, pressing hard for the win, came under contact from Marc Albrighton and the referee awarded the Reds with a penalty, sparking controversy and an on-pitch scuffle. Some pundits accused the Senegalese striker as diving after the contact with Albrighton but VAR allowed the penalty and so Liverpool maintain their flawless start to the Premier League this season.

Liverpool now have 17 successive Premier League victories under their belt, beaten only by Manchester City’s 18 wins that took place between August and December 2017. They also top the table for the longest unbeaten home run in any of Europe’s five elite leagues (Premier League, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, La Liga & Serie A), being undefeated in 44 consecutive league games at home.

But Leicester City continue to present themselves as a top four force as Brendan Rodgers’ side posed a real threat to the Reds and looked to be on course to end Liverpool’s winning run at Anfield. It came after Perez found James Maddison, who scored a low finish between the legs of Adrian to equalise ten minutes before time.

The Foxes, well organised by Rodgers continued to show resistance and came close when James Vardy received a brilliant ball from Albrighton but the former England International couldn’t see it through. Then, moments before City equalised Dennis Praet’s effort just skimmed wide.

On BBC’s Match of the Day, Klopp acknowledged: “It was a super game. We upped the tempo. The football we played was so important.”

“The penalty was obviously a penalty. We knew it would probably happen, we knew we were going to fight for the win – and we did. Without luck, we cannot win the amount of games we have won, but over the 90 minutes we deserved it – we deserved the three points. Milner held his nerve and that was superb.”

Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers had other thoughts, stating: “It’s cruel to concede so late. I am very proud of the team. We’re playing against the European champions and we looked like we could get goals. We were always a threat in the game, we had the confidence to pass the ball. We are showing our personality in how we played.”

Spurs suffer a 3-0 defeat

Sadly, Tottenham Hotspur‘s woes continued as they fell at the hands of Brighton & Hove Albion following a disappointing result at home to Bayern Munich. For Brighton it was good news as the Seagulls picked up their first win of the 2019/20 campaign at the AMEX Stadium.

After Spurs 7-2 loss in the Champions League, head coach Mauricio Pochettino was expecting his players to have a much better performance on the South Coast but perhaps it was a game damned from the start, as within the first three minutes, goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was being carried off on a stretcher.

The French man dislocated his elbow after falling awkwardly in his attempt to keep hold of Pascal Gross’s cross. Pochettino stated that losing Lloris “changed the emotions of the game, the team suffered a lot and couldn’t find the way to be solid and play football.” Lloris has now been ruled out of the EURO 2020 Qualifiers against Iceland and Turkey.

Aaron Connolly added insult to injury for Tottenham by doubling Brighton’s lead and in his first Premier League start too. Gazzanga, who replaced Lloris denied the 19-year-old Irishman’s first attempt but couldn’t clear his second effort.

And although Spurs picked up in the second half, renewing hope with a change of formation, they couldn’t recover. Brighton continued to threaten and Connolly sought the double, producing a well-taken strike in the 65th minute to seal Brighton’s first home win since March.

The youngster described it as, a “dream come true” and it was a truly remarkable debut for the teen, who is the first teenager to appear and score for the club in this Premier League era.

Spurs had some opportunity after the third goal, as Lucas Moura was denied twice by Matthew Ryan, Harry Kane fired over the crossbar and Son Heung-Min just failed to get a foot on the ball following a pass from Moussa Sissoko.

Manchester United head further down the league table

One team it’s not looking good for is Manchester United, who lost 1-0 to Newcastle United last weekend. The Red Devils now sit in twelfth position on the Premier League table, having won only two of eight games played so far this season and talks have already ignited about Ole’s future at Old Trafford as Man United seem to be in a crisis.

Whilst Man United struggled to find their groove, Newcastle were dancing after Matty Longstaff’s decisive goal. In his Premier League debut for the club, the 19-year-old drove a low finish home, leaving the Red Devils just two points above the relegation zone and fifteen points behind leaders, Liverpool who they will go head-to-head with after the international break.

And Matty, playing in midfield alongside his brother Sean Longstaff, could have made the score 2-0, after a first-half effort rattled the crossbar with a 25-yard drive.

This has been Man United’s worse start to the league since the 1989-90 campaign, where the Red Devils finished 13th in the league. Solskjær is missing six of his first team players to injury but that cannot be used as an excuse for much longer, given United’s downwards spiral has been apparent since the start of the campaign. But who would takeover should they decide to get rid of Ole?

He needs to find a solution, and quickly at that.

Chelsea climb to fifth

Down at St. Mary’s Stadium, ‘Super’ Frank Lampard could have put his feet up as Chelsea made an example of the Saints. Tammy Abraham scored his eighth league goal of the season, with Mason Mount, N’Golo Kante and Michy Batshuayi also all going down on the score sheet for the Blues.

Chelsea dominated from the outset, taking the lead after Abraham drilled a shot into the home sides net following a cross from Callum Hudson-Odoi. Saints defender, Maya Yoshida attempted to volley it clear before it had crossed the line but his efforts turned out to be in vain.

Mount soon doubled the Blues lead, firing a lovely ball from Willian at close range, before Danny Ings halved the deficit, to give Southampton a foothold back in the game. But they were no match for Lampard’s men.

From the edge of the box came N’Golo Kante with a stunning strike that took a destructive deflection off Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and past Saints goalkeeper, Angus Gunn.

Batshuayi and Christian Pulisic combined to seal the fourth. Pulisic sent a fine pass to Batshuayi, who came on just six minutes from time before slotting it home. The duo has since acquired the nicknames of Batman and Captain America following their impressive link-up.

Chelsea continue to improve week by week and Lampard has made sure to mention that his side have much more to offer. Let’s hope Chelsea continue as they mean to go on after the international break, when they will take on Newcastle.

Champions League Round-Up

It was a mixed week for English teams competing in the Champions League this week against some of Europe’s elite. Both Manchester City and Liverpool picked up three points in their respective groups. The Citizens top Group C with two wins from two, whilst the Kopites are second in Group E.

Chelsea earned all three points on the road, getting their first win in Europe this season against Lille but Tottenham Hotspur were dealt a crushing defeat at the hands of five-time Champions League winners Bayern Munich.

Tottenham Hotspur 2-7 Bayern Munich

It was certainly a night that Spurs fans will want to forget for a number of reasons. Spurs took the lead through Son Heung-min in the early stages of the game but unfortunately that is about as good as it got. Bayern Munich showed no signs of remorse and looked nothing like the side that had failed to win their last four out of five European games on English soil.

Ruthless in front of goal, the German Champions eased to victory against a Spurs side who looked void of any confidence which will concern Mauricio Pochettino. Sometimes you witness games where teams are clinical in front of goal and fail to miss any of the chances that come their way and that’s exactly how Bayern were. Serge Gnabry, a player who Arsenal let go for £5 million scored four goals on the night and ran Spurs ragged.

If you’re one to read into statistics and analysis then Spurs had a higher xG than Bayern Munich, meaning they were more likely to score more goals than the German side which just goes to show the clinical nature of their front line. A night to forget for Spurs but they’ve still got a good chance to get out of the club.

Manchester City 2-0 Dinamo Zagreb

Manchester City continue their European charge with a routine win over Croatian team Dinamo Zagreb. City had almost 82% possession throughout the match and registered 20 shots at goal so the score line really did flatter Dinamo Zagreb.

Goals from English starlets Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden sealed the three points for Man City. They’re the only team in their group with a 100% record and Pep Guardiola will be desperate to win the competition with Manchester City this year.

Pep Guardiola apologised to Foden in his post-match interview over the youngsters playing time. Pep said: “He deserves to play. I want to give him minutes. Every time I don’t play him, I am in front of him saying I’m sorry. But it’s Kevin De Bruyne there, Rodri, Bernardo Silva, David Silva, Gundogan, I’m so sorry. I know the best way to grow up is to play minutes, but he’s so young.”

With many other young English players moving on from their respective clubs for minutes, including former City man Jadon Sancho, the club will certainly look to include Foden more in the future.

Liverpool 4-3 Red Bull Salzburg

Is there ever a dull game involving Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool team? We don’t think there is. Liverpool squandered a three goal lead against an underrated Red Bull Salzburg side.

Three sumptuous goals from Liverpool in the first half gave them the lead. It’s something we just expect from this team now with its rock and roll football. Sadio Mane scored against his old club, much to the delight of the Anfield faithful.

However, Salzburg scored three and they were fully deserved as Klopp branded this team as ‘one of the most underrated sides in the competition.’ They levelled through Erling Haland, the son of former Man City defender Alf Haland. He’s been closely monitored by a whole host of European clubs after already netting four hat-tricks this season, aged just 19.

Anfield was stunned into silence but not for long as Mo Salah saved Liverpool’s blushes as he scored the winner. Liverpool are second in their group to Napoli as they picked up a point away.

Lille 1-2 Chelsea

Chelsea’s European quest is well underway as they gained their first win in the competition this season with a victory of LOSC Lille.

In-form Tammy Abraham got the Blues off the mark before Lille levelled the scoring in the first half. It was looking as if a point on the road was better for Chelsea than it was for Lille but Willian scored in the latter stages of the game for Chelsea, earning them a huge three points. The Brazilian scored from a near impossible angle, hitting his volley into the ground and over the keeper.

Frank Lampard was delighted after the game and said: “It feels really good. This was a really hard place to come, added to the pressure of not beating Valencia. And it was the first time for a few travelling in Europe. ‘Now Ajax have set their stall out in the group. This gives us confidence and points. Now the hard work begins.”

Premier League Weekend Review

It was a weekend of challenging football, with all winning teams having to work hard for their victories. So far, the Premier League seems to be mirroring last year’s results. Once again, football giants Liverpool and Manchester City remain at the top of the table. Only seven games into the new season and Liverpool are the leaders, standing five points ahead of City. Despite their victories, each team proved that they are not untouchable. Discover the highs and lows of the weekend as we examine the most notable Premier League games.

Sheffield United v Liverpool

It was a narrow victory for The Reds on Saturday who managed to win 1-0 against The Blades at Bramall Lane. Georginio Wijnaldum was responsible for the singular goal and although Dean Henderson attempted to spoil his efforts, the ball made its way to the back of the net regardless.

Sheffield United proved that they are able to put up a fight against the European Champions despite their loss. Although they played a good game of football, there were chances where The Blades could have pushed further and gone on to equalise.

Likewise, there were missed chances where Liverpool could have squeezed in extra goals. Sadio Mane came close but hit a post and Mo Salah blew a one-on-one with Henderson for what would have been a match settling second goal.

It seems as though The Reds have been lucky the past couple of weekends. Manager, Jurgen Klopp stated that Liverpool ‘need a complete performance to win football games, especially in this tough league.’

Ultimately, when it comes down to it, a win is still a win. In the words of Wijnaldum, ‘It was not the best game we had. But another win, that’s the most important thing.’

It will be interesting to see how The Reds fair against Red Bull Salzburg on Wednesday.

Everton v Manchester City

Manchester City reigned supreme against Everton on Saturday at Goodison Park. It was Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling who struck in the final 20 minutes to give City a 3-1 victory.

The Toffees certainly put up a good fight against City regardless. There were promising performances from Alex Iwobi, Seamus Coleman and Calvert-Lewin, who scored the equalising goal.

Ultimately, it was Mahrez who stood out from the crowd. City manager, Guardiola labelled Mahrez’s performance as ‘outstanding’ and went on to praise ‘the action on the first goal, the second one, the two assists he did, especially the one to Raheem. I’m happy for him because he’s playing at an incredible level.’

Chelsea v Brighton

There were raucous cheers from Stamford Bridge last Saturday as Chelsea were victorious against Brighton, securing their first home win with a 2-0 result.

Football legend, Frank Lampard, has not had the best Blues manager record thus far but his men managed to dominate the pitch against The Seagulls in what Super Frank has labelled as a ‘much needed win’.

Chelsea also made a Premier League record as the victory means they have won all nine League football games played against Brighton.

The Blues led when Jorginho scored a penalty after Adam Webster fouled Mason Mount.

Brighton, who have not won in the league since the opening day, nearly equalised, but Dan Burn’s header struck the crossbar.

Willian sealed Lampard’s first home win as a Premier League manager with a deflected strike from Callum Hudson-Odoi’s pass.

It will be interesting to see if this victory kickstarts a further run of success for The Blues.

Tottenham Hotspur v Southampton

Tottenham managed to shake off their recent defeats and persevered to gain a 2-1 home win against Southampton last Saturday. The team showed true resilience as they were reduced to 10 men for one hour and a blunder by keeper Hugo Lloris.

Having lost to Leicester City a week previously and by Colchester in the Carabao Cup, Spurs soldiered on to secure the win. It was Tanguy Ndombele and none other than Harry Kane who provided the goals as Lloris redeemed himself with two excellent second-half saves from James Ward-Prowse and Maya Yoshida.

Naturally, there was much relief for football fans watching at home and at their new stadium, following their previous disappointments.

Let’s see how spurs fair against Bayern Munich on Tuesday.

Aston Villa v Burnley

It’s been a struggle so far for Aston Villa as they remain in the bottom three after drawing 2-2 to Burnley at Villa Park on Saturday.

Villa have faced tough competition so far this season and as a result, seem to be failing to dominate the field. Manager Dean Smith believed that this game was Villa’s ‘best first half performance of the season but ultimately we’re disappointed. There’s still work to be done’.

Football fans have taken to Twitter to offer their suggestions of what needs to be done to improve Villa’s position. Many are of the opinion that Smith need to switch up the line-up.

Above all, the weekend’s matches prove that there is certainly never a dull moment of football in the Premier League with surprises popping up left, right and centre. No game was without its difficulties, verifying that the League is full of tough competition.

Let’s see what happens during this week’s Champion’s League fixtures.

 

Villa Made Light Work of Brighton in Carabao Cup

Aston Villa visited the Amex Stadium on Wednesday to face Brighton and Hove Albion in what was supposed to be a challenging game but turned out to be the very opposite. It was an all Premier League affair in this Carabao Cup fixture, with the newly promoted Villans and three-year running Brighton.

Graham Potter, ridden with a team full of injuries started with the youngest ever XI of this season. His side averaged an age of just 22 years and 35 days and featured nine senior debutants. That’s not to say Aston Villa started at any advantage as both teams went into the match having won just one Premier League game apiece, with Dean Smith’s side sitting at 19th position in the Premier League’s current stats.

Aston Villa gave an impressive run nevertheless, swarming all over the Seagulls to win 3-1. Jota gave the visitors the lead, scoring his first goal since his Summer switch from Villa’s West Midland rivals, Birmingham City. The midfielder sent a fine left-footed drive into the back of the net following a nice set up from Matt Targett and Conor Hourihane.

Great movement could be seen down the left flank from Villa, though Albion’s youngsters had the Lions acting fast on their feet with the ball. Villa amassed 70% possession and an excellent ten shots on target, compared to Albion’s six. The Seagulls goalkeeper, David Button was forced to make some key saves and did well to do so too, given the ball was in his sides box so often.

More success came for Aston Villa in the form of Hourihane. He hasn’t seen as much playing time as he would have liked to so far this season and the midfielder definitely proved that he deserves to be in the starting XI every time. He was expertly picked out by Keinan Davis, who came charging down the left flank after collecting the ball from a link-up between Trezeguet and McGinn. Hourihane smashed Davis’s cutback into the corner of the net – staking his first goal since last season’s Championship play-off semi-finals. Villa were 2-0 up and asserting their authority at Amex Stadium.

But Brighton & Hove Albion soon got a foothold back in the game. 17-year-old Haydon Roberts, halved the hosts deficit with a sublime goal to put the Seagulls back in the game. Brighton may have even drawn level with Villa had Aaron Connolly’s shot not hit the crossbar!

But in the 77th minute, Villa made sure they would progress by re-establishing their two-goal lead. Just 11 minutes after coming on, captain and striker, Jack Grealish hammered one home for Aston Villa, sealing their win in this round of the Carabao Cup. Grealish is yet to score in the Premier League so no doubt will be very pleased with his performance at the Amex Arena.

Albion manager, Graham Potter said that his young players shouldn’t be too disheartened by the loss and was impressed by their performance. He also inferred that the fact Dean Smith resorted to bringing on Jack Grealish speaks volumes about how well his side were performing. Smith responded with saying that his side aren’t “take winning lightly” in the Carabao Cup.

This victory is Aston Villa’s first against Brighton & Hove Albion at the Amex since the 1981/82 European Cup campaign. Progression sees Villa host the Wolverhampton Wanderers in the fourth round after Wolves defeated Reading 4-2 in a penalty shootout. The last time Villa played Wolves, Villa ran riot on their Midland rivals, winning 4-1 although the Wolverhampton Wanderers ultimately won the league that year. The all Midlands Derby, which is set to take place in late October is set to be electric as the pair renew their rivalry on the pitch at Villa Park.

Will Nuno Santo’s men struggle against the Lions?

They had a much harder time than the Villans in their third round fixture against Reading at the Molineux Stadium. It was Wolves debutant Bruno Jordao, that gave the hosts their lead. In the 27th minute his shot slipped through Joao Virginia’s fingers to mark his first goal for his side but his dream debut soon turned sour when he was later carried off in a stretcher after suffering a twisted ankle. Wolves midfielder, Meritan Shabani also went down in a traumatic way during the match and had to be carried off in a stretcher, adding to Nuno’s list of injured players.

Wolves still lead 1-0 for over 70 minutes of the game but couldn’t build on that first goal. The second-half was a much slower game, without as much creative play and any resolute chances being made. John Ruddy made a good save in the second-half to prevent it from being 1-1 earlier on in the game and though Wolves were the better team overall, Reading did well to apply pressure to their midfield and defence but nevertheless and in dramatic fashion, Reading drew level.

It was well into stoppage time, at the 99th minute when Lucas Boye headed a stunning cross from John Swift into the hosts net causing a deadlock. In the penalty shootout Ruddy eased some of the pressure off of Wolves – diving to the left to save Swift’s shot and then Wolves saw more relief when Boye blasted his attempt over the bar. Albion’s Virginia just couldn’t redeem himself after the error with Jordao and allowed Wolves to scrape through after being unable to deny any of their shots, sparking outrage amongst the Seagulls fans.

Top form from both sides will be needed when Wolves travel down to Villa Park, though Aston Villa and Wolves would probably be better off without this clash so they can focus on Premier League success. But this is the furthest Villa have got in the Carabao Cup for a number of years and the Lions are hungry for the win, will they be able to slay the Wolves?