Liverpool's Sturridge celebrates scoring against Manchester United with Martin Skrtel during their English Premier League soccer match at Anfield

Liverpool 1-0 Manchester United: Reds continue torrid start with hard-fought win (Video)

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Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool squad kept their season-long clean sheet intact and earned a vital three points in front of the home fans as an early Daniel Sturridge strike sunk Manchester United 1-0.

The win gave the home side sole possession of the top of the table in addition to a great win over their bitter rivals.

The Reds never found a second goal but they were the side with more cutting edge as Robin van Persie and company were left shaking their heads in frustration.

Liverpool banged their way ahead early as birthday boy Sturridge redirected a Daniel Agger header goalbound in just the third minute to put Liverpool up.  The corner from Steven Gerrard came in from the right corner and Aspas got a head to it and sent it to Sturridge near the goal line who flicked it on into the net.

The Liverpool midfield dominated possession throughout the early portions of the match with accurate passing, as Jordan Henderson, Aspas, and Philippe Coutinho linked up well and built from the back.  On the other end Ryan Giggs, making his 38th appearance against Liverpool, struggled to settle into the match and made a few rash challenges to give Liverpool free kicks.

Tom Cleverley showed his frustration in the 34th minute as he angrily took down Coutinho very late, and found himself in the referee’s book for the vicious challenge.  The following kerfuffle also saw Iago Aspas booked. Meanwhile Phil Jones hobbled off after twisting his ankle, replaced by Antonio Valencia.

source: Getty ImagesAlso frustrated was Michael Carrick, who resorted to wrestling down Aspas to prevent a counter, receiving a booking for his efforts.  With Robin van Persie also having been booked earlier, all the yellows provided a glimpse into the physicality the United players were falling back on.  The match remained chippy as Gerrard and van Persie got in each others’ faces towards the end of the first half, having to be separated by the referee.

Those frustrations boiled over into the second half, as Carrick and others received early words from the referee.  United then began a spell of pressure that saw Ashley Young take a crack at a volley off a corner but his bullet of a strike was blocked comfortably by Glen Johnson.

The match then transformed into a bitter battle in the midfield, offering little in the final third but keeping viewers entertained with hard-fought possession.  United began to retain more of the ball but could offer little on goal.  Manager David Moyes brought on Javier Hernandez in the 73rd minute to add some punch to the attack, but Liverpool instead took the initiative.

United pressed and pressed as time wound down, but as van Persie missed from a tight angle in the 88th minute, it was clear they wouldn’t be finding the goal today.  Substitute Raheem Sterling almost had a stunner in extra time but a wonderful save by David De Gea denied the second score.

Lineups:

Liverpool – Simon Mignolet; Glen Johnson (Andre Wisdom, 78′), Jose Enrique, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel; Steven Gerrard, Philippe Coutinho (Luis Alberto, 84′), Lucas, Jordan Henderson; Iago Aspas (Raheem Sterling, 63′), Daniel Sturridge.

Manchester United – David De Gea; Patrice Evra, Phil Jones (Antonio Valencia, 37′), Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic; Ryan Giggs (Javier Hernandez, 73′), Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverly; Danny Welbeck, Ashley Young (Nani, 63′); Robin van Persie.

Men In Blazers podcast: Leicester, Spurs continue to defy the odds

Men In Blazers - Sept. 22
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Rog and Davo break down Leicester City’s 3-1 win at Manchester City, marvel at Spurs going second in the table, and talk about the headlines surrounding the mid-table clash between Chelsea and United.

Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.

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VIDEO: Previews of all 10 Premier League games in Week 26

Arsenal v Burnley - Premier League
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You ready for the weekend? It’s only Thursday, but of course you are.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Week 26 of the 2015-16 Premier League season promises to be a pivotal one at both ends of the table with seven games on Saturday and three on Sunday.

[ MORE: Latest PL standings

In the 10 videos below yours truly takes a look at the key headlines, news, injuries and more on each PL game.

Enjoy.


Arsenal vs. Leicester City, Sunday (Watch live, 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra)

Aston Villa vs. Liverpool, Sunday (Watch live, 9:05 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra)

Bournemouth vs. Stoke City, Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on Premier League Extratime and online via Live Extra)

Crystal Palace vs. Watford, Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on Premier League Extratime and online via Live Extra)

Chelsea vs. Newcastle United, Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via Live Extra)

Everton vs. West Brom, Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra)

Norwich City vs. West Ham, Sunday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on USA and online via Live Extra)

Man City vs. Tottenham, Sunday (Watch live, 11:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra)

Sunderland vs. Man United, Saturday (Watch live, 7:45 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra)

Swansea City vs. Southampton, Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on Premier League Extratime and online via Live Extra)

Ahead of huge top four showdowns, who are the title favorites?

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This weekend is massive. Huge. Monumental.

[ VIDEO: Arsenal-Leicester preview ]

In terms of the Premier League title race having two games between all of the current top four means one thing: bedlam.

Following the Arsenal vs. Leicester City (Watch live, 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) and Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur (Watch live, 11:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) encounter, we should be provided with a much better idea of where the title is heading.

[ VIDEO: Man City-Tottenham preview

Then again, if Arsenal beat Leicester and Man City draw with Spurs, there will be just five points between all four teams. With 13 games to go this is tight and tense and the most open title race we’ve had in decades. It is also awesome.

[ MORE: Arsenal to play in 2016 MLS All-Star Game ] 

Let’s take a look at all four title contenders and try to see who has the best chance of winning this thing on May 15.


Leicester City
Current position: 1st (53 points)
Biggest plus: No pressure, they were meant to be relegated
Biggest negative: None of their current squad have ever been in this situation. How will they cope?
Key man: Jamie Vardy – A few off days in front of goal recently for the PL’s main man. If he regains his touch, the Foxes will win it.
3 key games: Feb. 14 at Arsenal, Apr. 30 at Man United, May 15 at Chelsea
Strength of remaining schedule (1 is weak, 10 is tough): 2/10 – The best of any of the title contenders, on paper, and no cup games.


Tottenham Hotspur
Current position: 2nd (48 points)
Biggest plus: Mauricio Pochettino. He’s met every major challenge head on.
Biggest negative: Having the FA Cup and Europa League to contend with. Relatively small squad compared to the rest.
Key man: Harry Kane – If he can hit yet another purple patch, combined with Spurs’ solid defense, then that will be huge.
3 key games: Feb. 14 at Man City, Mar. 5 vs. Arsenal, Apr. 9 vs. Chelsea
Strength of remaining schedule: 3/10 – A very soft run-in for Spurs between now and the end of the season.


Arsenal
Current position: 3rd (48 points)
Biggest plus: They have the biggest squad and with Cech in goal their defense looks very settled.
Biggest negative: How many times have we been here before? Have to get over mental barrier, plus UCL and FA Cup to focus on too.
Key man: Alexis Sanchez – Hasn’t quite hit top form since returning from his hamstring injury. Can he hit top gear during crunch time?
3 key games: Feb. 14 vs. Leicester City, Mar. 5 vs. Tottenham, May 7 at Man City
Strength of remaining schedule: 6/10 – Probably the toughest out of all the contenders. Really need Sanchez and Mesut Ozil to pull through.


Manchester City
Current position: 4th (47 points)
Biggest plus: Strongest squad and Vincent Kompany should be returning soon. That, and wanting to send Pellegrini out on a high.
Biggest negative: Guardiola arriving means plenty of uncertainty. If Aguero or Kompany go down injured, title run could be over.
Key man: Vincent Kompany – City will always score goals with Aguero, Sterling, Silva and De Bruyne but they need Vinny back. Big time.
3 key games: Mar. 2 at Liverpool, Mar. 20 vs. Man United, May 7 vs. Arsenal
Strength of remaining schedule: 5/10 – Marginally easier than Arsenal’s because they play United and the Gunners at home. Still. Very tough.


 

Arsenal named as 2016 MLS All-Star Game opponent in San Jose

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28:  Mesut Ozil (C) of Arsenal celebrates scoring his team's second goal with his team mates Hector Bellerin (L) and Aaron Ramsey (R) during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and A.F.C. Bournemouth at Emirates Stadium on December 28, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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Arsenal is coming to San Jose, California.

On Thursday it was announced that the Premier League giants will take part in the 2016 MLS All-Star Game at Avaya Stadium, home of the San Jose Earthquakes.

[ VIDEO: Ferrell – “I got Mourinho fired”

The decision to play against another PL opponent makes it the ninth time that’s happened and MLS’ best will have faced seven different PL clubs in Fulham, Chelsea, West Ham United, Everton, Manchester United, Tottenham and now Arsenal.

The venue for the 2016 ASG will be San Jose’s splendid, yet slightly compact, Avaya Stadium and the game will take place on July 28 at 9 p.m. ET.

[ VIDEO: Arsenal-Leicester preview

Gunners fans in North America hoping to get tickets for the clash will have to act fast as the ‘Quakes home only holds 18,000 people, but there will be another chance to watch Arsenal play as they will face Chivas Guadalajara at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. on July 31.

Safe to say Arsene Wenger won’t need to don his famous long padded jacket for matches in California this July…

As well as seeing Arsenal stars Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Petr Cech, Olivier Giroud and more, the chance to watch young U.S. international Gedion Zelalem in action will excite many. That said, with the game coming late in July, plenty of Arsenal’s top stars may be on extended breaks due to their exertions for their national teams at the 2016 European Championships and the 2016 Copa America Centenario also being staged in North America.