Three things we learned from Liverpool’s huge win vs. Manchester City

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LIVERPOOL — Following Liverpool’s dramatic 3-2 win over Manchester City on Sunday, the home side took a massive leap towards winning their first-ever Premier League title.

Brendan Rodgers’ side are rampant, after they sealed their tenth-straight win to keep them top of the standings on an emotional game at Anfield with the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster being remembered.

But what did we learn from Liverpool’s win? Here’s three things that stuck out.

Liverpool’s midfield just as good as S.A.S.

On Sunday Liverpool’s game-winner Philippe Coutinho curled in a deft finish to seal a massive three points late on. However the little Brazilian was getting stuck in more than anybody else in Red, as his teammates were inspired by his uncharacteristic feisty side. Smashing into City’s left back Gael Clichy at every opportunity, Coutinho was a beast, and the home fans around me at Anfield were applauding and cheering his relentless high-pressure. The diminutive playmaker came up with the game-winning goal so he will, of course, get all the headlines.

source: AP
Liverpool launched themselves ahead, as their midfielders flew out of the traps.

Yet Steven Gerrard put in another monumental display in the middle, Jordan Henderson worked tirelessly to overcome City’s marauding attackers and Raheem Sterling was a wizard on the wing. The teenager’s composure when put clean through in the first six minutes was marvelous and with Roy Hodgson watching on, Sterling looks to be a shoe-in for England’s World Cup squad. We often talk about Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez (but of whom failed to score but created plenty of problems) and rightly so after their 52 goals combined this season, but Liverpool’s midfield came up big when it really mattered.

David Silva can still win City the title

Missing vast swathes of the season through injury, in recent weeks David Silva has been the difference for City. His class shone through and he single-handedly dragged Man City back into the game in the second half. Even when Liverpool were 2-0 up and cruising midway through the first half, every time Silva got on the ball Liverpool’s defense dropped off and a sense of nervousness came over the home fans. Silva proved why in the second half, as he scored the first, his shot was deflected in for the second and his probing passes and clever runs had Liverpool reeling. You sensed he would be the game-winner and in the 75th minute he sent a stretching toe poke just wide of Simon Mignolet’s post as the Kop breathed a huge sigh of relief with the ‘Silva show’ in full flow.

That miss woke Liverpool up and Coutinho’s winner came moments later. Despite this damaging loss, if City win out they can still put pressure on Liverpool and win the title. With six games to go they are seven points behind the Reds, but have two games in hand. If Silva’s star continues to shine brightly in the final few weeks of the season, they have half a chance.

Still question marks over Liverpool’s defense

source: AP
Liverpool’s defense still looked leaky, but a mistake from Kompany saved them.

As mentioned, Silva orchestrated City’s surging second half comeback, yet that came after some slack defending from Liverpool which let the Citizens back into the game. Time and time again in the first half they gave the ball away just in front of their own back four and they started doing that in the second half too. Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho were solid, yet unspectacular, and every time they got on the ball and were urged forward by the home crowd, they hesitated. Full backs Jon Flanagan and Glen Johnson also looked nervy, as James Milner skinned Flanagan several times in the second half, while Johnson failed to deal with Nasri on a regular basis as the English right back stuck out a lazy leg to deflect a shot past his own ‘keeper for City’s second goal.

In the end a defensive mistake from City sparred Liverpool’s blushes, but the fact that they almost chucked a 2-0 lead away, at home, in the biggest game of the season, shouldn’t be overlooked. In the run-in they must get better at the back, but with their incredible offensive power the Reds may neglect their defensive duties. That could cost them in four tight games to come.

Wenger: Sanchez, Giroud will both be with Arsenal next year

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Arsene Wenger thinks Alexis Sanchez will sign a new deal at Arsenal this summer, whether the manager changes or not.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s visit from Leicester City, Wenger did not offer any clues as to his future with the club. He also said it does not hinge on how the Gunners finish the current campaign, and that he is working on transfers for the benefit of Arsenal regardless of his future.

[ MORE: Will Real open door for Barca? ]

That’s no surprise, given his reputation and fidelity to the club. What may surprise some is Wenger’s confidence that Sanchez will stay at the Emirates Stadium.

From Sky Sports:

“I personally think he will stay and sign. First of all he is happy here, his desire is to stay, that is what I deeply believe.

“I don’t think you would sell him to any Premier League club, that is for sure. The question is why would you sell him to another club? You want to be as strong as you can be and not strengthen the other teams.”

Wenger said both sides want to work out a deal and that the hold-up resides in agent-related matters. He also said Arsenal does not have interest in selling Olivier Giroud, who backed Wenger just over a month ago.

Title fight in Spain: Will Real slip up again?

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Barcelona’s dramatic 3-2 win over Real Madrid has set La Liga’s title race on its ear, with both clubs level on points with 75.

Real still controls its own destiny in a bid for its first league title since 2011-12, but a single loss puts Barcelona in pole position for its fourth title in five seasons.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

The tiebreaker is head-to-head, which Lionel Messi lifted from Real with his thrilling stoppage time thriller on Sunday at the Bernabeu.

Here are the run-ins for both sides, with Real facing a more congested schedule thanks to its status as a UEFA Champions League semifinalist.

Real Madrid

Only two of Real’s remaining five La Liga matches are at home, a boon for Barcelona considering Real boasts a strong home mark. The loss to Barca was Real’s first at the Bernabeu this season, and the Merengues only drew three matches at home (Villarreal, Eibar, Atletico Madrid).

Those home matches, however, are against teams that beat Real in the sides’ other league meetings this year, Sevilla and Valencia.

Wednesday – at Deportivo de la Coruna (16th)
Saturday – vs. Valencia (12th)
May 2 – vs. Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 6 – at Granada (19th)
May 10 – at Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 14 – vs. Sevilla (4th)
May 21 – at Malaga (14th)

Barcelona

Barca is home for three of its remaining five matches. The Blaugranas drew Villarreal and blew out Osasuna and Eibar ahead of the return visits.

As for the road matches, Barca has the Derbi barceloni with Espanyol, having taken the Camp Nou meeting 4-1, as well as a trip to Las Palmas (5-0 at home).

Wednesday – vs. Osasuna (20th)
Saturday – at Espanyol (9th)
May 6 – vs. Villarreal (5th)
May 14 – at Las Palmas (13th)
May 21 – vs. Eibar (8th)
May 27 – vs. Alaves (Copa del Rey Final)

The verdict

Any whiplash Real faces from schedule congestion should be offset by Barcelona’s much tougher schedule. Real could lose again, perhaps versus Sevilla, but Barca will likely finish second thanks to dropped points against Espanyol, Eibar, or Villarreal.

Premier League Weds. preview: Desperation on display

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Two London powers face a race to stay alive for their lofty season goals, while two Northeast sides see their last chances to claim hope for another year in the Premier League.

[ STREAM: All PL games here ]

That’s what’s on the docket for Wednesday’s PL matches, one day after Chelsea buried Southampton 4-2 t0 move seven points clear of Spurs in the race for the league’s 2016-17 crown.

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

No team has looked better than Spurs lately, though Palace won’t be bowed by a big name or good form. Sam Allardyce‘s Eagles boast wins at Liverpool and Chelsea, as well as a home defeat of Arsenal. Those have all come in 2017, as Palace has leapt to within striking distance of the top half.

Spurs need to win at Selhurst Park to keep pace with Chelsea and sit four points back of the No. 1 spot with five matches to play. Lose, concede, and feel like last April all over again. It was a year from Tuesday that Spurs coughed up a home lead to Leicester and saw any hopes of catching Leicester fade into the sunset.

Middlesbrough vs. Sunderland — 2:45 p.m. ET

This Tees-Wear Derby oozes desperation, with Sunderland knowing it needs to win its matches-in-hand on Hull City and Swansea to have any hope of staying up, and Middlesbrough nearly as desperate.

Boro’s 24 points is three more than Sunderland, who has played one less game. Hull sits 17th with 33 points while Swansea holds 31.

Middlesbrough hasn’t won in the Premier League since Dec. 17, a run of 16 matches. Their only wins of the year are over lower league opposition, a trio of victories against Sheffield Wednesday, Accrington Stanley, and Oxford United.

Sunderland has just one league win since that same date in December, and that came at Crystal Palace. The Black Cats have lost six of eight, and look destined to join Boro in the second tier as Northeast neighbors Newcastle comes up.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images )

Arsenal vs. Leicester City — 2:45 p.m. ET

Did Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Manchester City snap Arsenal out of its funk, or was it just a matter of Alexis Sanchez’s class squeezing a bit of excellence out of the tube?

Arsene Wenger will hope for the latter, because Arsenal’s Top Four hopes hinge on winning its matches-in-hand on Liverpool and getting significant help from Man City and Manchester United. Their opposition will also be rested, having rested since bowing out of the UEFA Champions League on April 18.

Leicester’s five match winning streak, part of Craig Shakespeare’s new manager bounce, has died down a bit. The Foxes lost at Everton and drew at Palace, and get a third tricky road test in a row at the Emirates Stadium.

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”