Liverpool

Tottenham 0-5 Liverpool: Reds pummel erratic Tottenham defense to go second – Video

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Luis Suarez and Jordan Henderson put on a Batman-and-Robin-type display as the Uruguayan starred and his understudy supported well in a Liverpool thrashing of the Spurs back line for a 2-0 win.

Suarez opened the scoring after hard work by Henderson, and it was exactly the opposite for the second which assured victory against a broken Spurs defense giving way too much space to the Reds playmakers.

Both teams showed an attacking edge early, with each side trying to work the ball wide.  Tottenham especially made a point of targeting their right flank, with runs by Mousa Dembele and Paulinho from the midfield tracking towards the touchline.

It was a struggle though for Spurs to find anything of quality, with Liverpool pressing high up the pitch and challenging every Spurs pass.

Liverpool took the first 15 minutes to find their footing, but they began to push in to the Spurs box, with Lloris forced into stopping a cross from Raheem Sterling.

It didn’t take much longer though for Liverpool to open the books on the scoring, 18 minutes to be exact, who else but Luis Suarez with his 16th goal of the season.

Suarez initially sent a low ball into the box for Jordan Henderson, but it was cut out by Michael Dawson. Henderson worked well to get back on the ball, and he found a trailing Suarez.

The Uruguayan dribbled around the one defender left in front of him, and slid the ball by Hugo Lloris to put Liverpool ahead.

Tottenham continued to work possession into the Liverpool third, but they had trouble finding anything to pester Simon Mignolet, finishing without a single shot on target.  Liverpool worked a bit on the counter, and it forced Michael Dawson into an early yellow card challenge.

The latter stages of the second half provided some fireworks, but no goals to show for it.  The Reds continued forward, and a quick spell Phillippe Coutinho hit the bar with a bouncing shot, and then the rebound came well out to Glen Johnson who nearly ripped a stunner past Lloris but it went millimeters over.

source: Getty Images
Paulinho’s 63rd minute red card allowed a bright Liverpool attack even more space to work.

Tottenham came close in the 30th minute as Nacer Chadli latched onto a corner but his header went just over the bar.

Suarez had a golden opportunity to double the lead just after when a long ball from deep in the visitors defense caught the Tottenham back four sleeping, and Suarez got the ball by Lloris who came out of his own box.  Suarez took a bit long to settle though, and it allowed the defenders to recover and get in the way of his attempts.

Andre Villas-Boas saw how his team needed to find more space and were struggling to deal with the pressing Reds midfield, so he swapped Sandro for Louis Holtby.  The substitute got in on the action early, getting a ball from Roberto Soldado on the end line but dragged a shot wide.

Liverpool did cash in on another opportunity before halftime, with Tottenham’s defense again proving nothing better than frantic.  A ball from the wing found Coutinho, and he picked out Henderson for an open shot. Lloris saved, and the ball fell to Suarez who took aim and fired, with Lloris saving again with a jump.

The third attempt would be the charm, as it fell to Henderson and with the goalkeeper on the ground it was an easy finish into the bottom corner for a 2-0 lead.

A heavy touch from Mignolet as the half came to a close nearly gifted a chance to Soldado, but as the two vied for the ball Soldado shoved the Liverpool ‘keeper, and as he slid the ball into the empty net referee Jon Moss pulled it back for the foul.

The second half brought more chances, and also driving rain.  Soldado got things started, blazing just over on 47 minutes.  Liverpool defenders also wanted in, as Mamadou Sakho hit the Spurs crossbar with a header and Martin Skrtel’s rebound attempt went well over.

Spurs frustrating began to show with their lack of creativity, and it ended up hurting them in a big way. Luis Suarez got a ball near the mid line that outran him, and Paulinho’s attempt to get a foot on the ball got his studs way too high, catching Suarez square in the chest with a flying kick.

It was a terribly errant boot by Paulinho, and Jon Moss showed him a straight red for the effort.  Suarez went down injured on the play, as the boot got him not only the chest but his right hand as well, it appeared.

Tottenham were no match for the sparkling Liverpool attack once they handed the visitors a man advantage.

It would be 3-0 after long, with a talismanic goal for a young Liverpool native.

A long ball found Jordan Henderson on the wing, who picked out Suarez on the edge of the box.  The Uruguayan saw Flanagan all alone on the far side of the box, and his cross was perfect for 20-year-old Jon Flanagan to volley home.

Luis Suarez would add his second of the match in the 84th minute, making it 4-0 and Raheem Sterling added a fifth in the dying minutes of regulation.

The win pushes Liverpool up to second in the Premier League table, ahead of Chelsea on goal difference and just two points behind Arsenal for the lead.

Spurs, with the five goals allowed, have conceded 15 goals now in their last five matches, and remain seventh position.

GOALS:

Liverpool – Suarez 18′, 84′; Henderson 40′; Flanagan 75′, Sterling 88′

RED CARDS:

Tottenham – Paulinho 63′

LINEUPS:

Tottenham Hotspur – Lloris; Walker, Capoue, Dawson, Naughton (Fryers 45′); Paulinho, Sandro (Holtby 30′); Lennon, Dembele (Townsend 61′), Chadli; Soldado.

Liverpool Mignolet; Flanagan, Sakho, Skrtel, Johnson; Allen, Lucas (Luis Alberto 79′), Henderson, Sterling, Coutinho; Suarez.

Barcelona tops Levante, ties club record with 28 unbeaten

VALENCIA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 07:  Jordi Alba of Barcelona celebrates scoring his team's first goal with his teammate Andres Iniesta during the La Liga match between Levante UD and FC Barcelona at Ciutat de Valencia on February 07, 2016 in Valencia, Spain.  (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)
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Sir Alex Ferguson described the 2010/11 Barcelona team as the best team he ever faced.

This year’s Barcelona side has matched them.

With a 2-0 victory over La Liga basement-dwellers Levante on an own-goal forced by Jordi Alba plus a late score from Luis Suarez, Barcelona has gone 28 matches unbeaten in all competitions, without a loss since a 2-1 defeat to Sevilla on October 28.

Manager Luis Enrique, though, is unmoved. “What matters to me are the team’s objectives,” said Enrique after the win. “These are nice numbers, if they help us win titles at the end of the season, fantastic. We are in good position, but there is still a lot left.”

The Levante victory marked Luis Enrique’s 100th game in charge of Barcelona.

That 2010/11 season, led by Pep Guardiola, Barcelona came a Copa del Rey finals loss to Real Madrid from a quadruple, winning the league, Champions League, and Supercopa de Espana. This time around, they’ve already secured the Supercopa, sit atop the league table by three points over Atletico Madrid and seven above Real Madrid, have yet to lose a game in the Champions League, and the second leg of their Copa del Rey semifinal against Valencia is a complete formality. What’s more, the numbers from this streak are eerily similar to that wildly successful squad five years ago.

That campaign, Lionel Messi scored 31 league goals and 53 overall. An injury sapped him of time in this go around, but Suarez and Neymar have picked up the slack. There has been just one league game in which all three of Messi, Neymar, and Suarez has been held scoreless this season, and to find it you have to travel all the way back to the second game of the year, a 1-0 win over Malaga that saw Thomas Vermaelen score the winner. Those three have combined for 48 league goals this year, more than every team in the Spanish top flight save Real Madrid.

Paris Saint-Germain has a similar streak going at the moment, currently unbeaten in league play throughout the entire season, but their 1-0 loss to Real Madrid in the Champions League on November 3 means their streak across all competitions sits at 19 games.

Watch Live: Bournemouth vs Arsenal (Lineups & Live Stream)

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28: Mesut Ozil of Arsenal and Adam Smith of Bournemouth compete for the ball 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 hoping to break its four-game winless streak as it travels to Vitality Stadium to take on Bournemouth, live on NBCSN at 8:30 a.m. ET or live online at NBC Sports Live Extra.

The Gunners have drawn three and lost one over its last four matches, leaving them unable to keep pace with Leicester City at the top of the table. With Leicester again winning this week and a matchup with the Foxes looming next time out for Arsenal, this match seems a must-win for Arsene Wenger and company if they wish to remain serious title contenders.

[ WATCH LIVE: Bournemouth vs Arsenal live online at NBC Sports Live Extra ]

Wenger has chosen to leave veteran defender Per Mertesacker on the bench in favor of Gabriel. Francis Coquelin also remains among the substitutes for the second straight match, meaning either Wenger prefers Mathieu Flamini in midfield, or Coquelin remains unfit for a full 90 minutes. Tomas Rosicky was injured last weekend and will be out up to three months, which could end his season.

Eddie Howe has named an unchanged starting lineup from their 2-1 away win at Crystal Palace last week. Winger Junior Stanislas is back on the bench after missing last week. In contrast to Arsenal, the Cherries are unbeaten in four and have won four of their last six, a stretch which has propelled them five points off the relegation zone and the same distance away from the top half of the table.

[ MORE: Premier League Sunday Preview ]

There are no new injury concerns for either side. Both have long-term absentees who are on the mend but still not close to a return. Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere, and Santi Cazorla are all out for the Gunners, while Bournemouth duo Max Gradel and Callum Wilson are also sidelined for a while but could return before the end of the season.

LINEUPS

Bournemouth: Boruc; Smith, Francis, Cook, Daniels; Surman, Gosling; Ritchie, Arter, Pugh; Afobe.
Subs: Federici, Distin, Stanislas, O’Kane, Iturbe, King, Grabban.

Arsenal: Cech; Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal; Flamini, Ramsey; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sánchez, Özil; Giroud.
Subs: Ospina, Gibbs, Mertesacker, Walcott, Campbell, Coquelin, Iwobi.

FIFA candidate Prince Ali claims voting pledge from Liberia

Jordan's Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, flanked by school-age soccer players in uniforms, speaks before about 300 guests during an event at a Roman amphitheater in Amman, Jordan, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015. The prince is running for FIFA president, saying Wednesday he will fight "deep-seated corruption and political deal-making" and make soccer's scandal-scarred governing body more transparent. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)
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AMMAN, Jordan (AP) FIFA presidential candidate Prince Ali of Jordan says the Liberia soccer federation has pledged its vote to him.

Liberia follows Egypt as the second African voter claimed by Prince Ali since the Confederation of African Football’s leadership endorsed Asian confederation president Sheikh Salman of Bahrain on Friday.

The CAF executive committee urged the 54 African voters among FIFA’s 209-strong membership to back the sheikh in the Feb. 26 election.

Prince Ali’s campaign team on Saturday published a three-page letter of endorsement signed by Liberia federation president Musa Bility.

Bility writes that Prince Ali “represents real change” while other candidates are “not even prepared to criticize” the FIFA system.

Bility was himself an applicant in the presidential contest, then failed an integrity test judged by FIFA’s election monitoring committee.

LVG says Mourinho speculation is false, calls the whole thing “nonsense”

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Louis Van Gaal is sick and tired of the media speculating about his employment (or potential lack thereof), as well as reports linking the presently unemployed Jose Mourinho to his job, so what we’re going to do now is speculate on those reports a bit more.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

But first, we’ll give Van Gaal the chance to tell his side of the story. Who better to explain what’s going on at Manchester United than the manager of Man United, right? OK, Louis, take it away, mate — quotes from the Guardian:

“The last two months have been very difficult for my wife, my kids, my grandchildren and my friends to cope with. For me too, but I can cope. In the Netherlands they know I am too arrogant to doubt myself, but I also know that such a nonsense is being created about me. I do not believe that there is already a relationship between José Mourinho and Manchester United.”

“It is logical when you have lost four matches in a row, people are bound to be doubting. … I criticize the media for inventing stories. I never hired security. Never ever. And I am walking on the streets without security and all the people I meet are very positive.”

OK, now that that’s out of the way, Jose Mourinho is definitely talking to Manchester United, or someone is doing so on his behalf. There’s arguably never been a more sitting-duck manager in world football than Van Gaal is right now — not only have the results been extremely “meh” for nearly two seasons now, but he’s also got less than 18 months left on his contract, which means it would cost the club considerably less to make him go away than, say, David Moyes, who still had more than five years(!!!) left on his deal when he was fired in April of his first season.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL preview — Leicester hammer Man City, Spurs go 2nd ]

Also, they were totally in for Pep Guardiola, too, and since they didn’t get him, they’ll have to respond thusly, and since Carlo Ancelotti has already been named Guardiola’s successor at Bayern Munich, Mourinho is the last “big name” out there right now. Unless, of course, they wanted to tap up Manuel Pellegrini, who’s on his way out to make room for Guardiola. Could be fun. But not as fun as Jose back in the Premier League, at Man United, in the same city with Pep. Remember the last time those two were employed on opposite sides of a heated rivalry?

As spectacular as this year’s PL season has been — and it’s bordering on the best of all time, still with 13 weeks to go — think about what that means for next season. It’s going to have be even more bonkers, so as not to seem boring by comparison. Louis van Gaal seems like a nice enough guy, but his team’s football isn’t that exciting on the field, and he offers little more off it. Mourinho isn’t the hero we deserve, but he’s certainly the one we need.