Three things we learned from Liverpool vs. Chelsea

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LIVERPOOL — Chelsea went to Anfield and upset the apple cart on Sunday. Big time.

Jose Mourinho’s side used every trick in the book to frustrate Liverpool, as the Reds lost in the league for the first time since December 29, 2013. Their last defeat came against Chelsea too, as the Blues have now beaten both Liverpool and Manchester City home and away.

(MORE: Jose Mourinho – “The best team won” but Chelsea has “no chance” of title)

Demba Ba proved decisive up top, Steven Gerrard made a horrific mistake to give Chelsea the advantage and Liverpool ran out of ideas.

We learned an awful lot about both teams following an absorbing victory for the away team on Sunday, but here are three things that stood out.

Mourinho’s defensive masterclass

He is the king of parking the bus and Jose did it once again against Liverpool. In fact, he parked two. If you ever want to watch a defensive masterclass, then Chelsea’s display was marvelous. With inexperienced central defender Tomas Kalas making his full debut, Mourinho shuffled his backline superbly ahead of the UEFA Champions League semifinal with Atletico Madrid on Wednesday. Cesar Azpilicueta and Ashley Cole were faultless at full back and Branislav Ivanovic stopped Luis Suarez with ease. Coupled with the defensive midfield duo of Nemanja Matic and John Obi Mikel (more on those two later) Chelsea looked impenetrable the entire match.

(MORE: Liverpool 0-2 Chelsea – Blues stun leaders after Gerrard’s blunder)

Stand-in ‘keeper Mark Schwarzer had three decent saves to make from Joe Allen, Steven Gerrard and Suarez but that was after 73 percent possession from the home side. Chelsea allowed Liverpool to have the ball wide and whip it in, as Schwarzer claimed crosses easily and Chelsea’s center backs cleared up the rest. Chelsea clicked into the gameplan they know best as they recorded a league-high 17th clean sheet of the PL campaign.

Liverpool’s lack of pace in midfield

This time last season, Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson was lambasted by most and was hardly a player many thought would be pivotal in any future success for the Reds. Think again. On Sunday Henderson, who is serving a three-match suspension after being sent off against Manchester City late on two weeks ago, was missed in Liverpool’s engine room. The England international is Steve Gerrard’s legs in midfield and with Joe Allen and Lucas Leiva alongside Gerrard, the Reds passed sideways and backwards the entire game to no avail. That played into Chelsea’s hands perfectly, as Liverpool missed Henderson’s speedy runs through the heart of the oppositions defense. Chelsea were never caught on the back foot, as young attackers Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling ran out of ideas. Gerrard tried to break in behind but the demoralizing mistake he made to let in Ba for the first meant the Reds’ skipper had an off day despite his best efforts. None of his teammates stepped up to the plate, especially in the middle.

Matic and Mikel key

Crucial to Chelsea’s success on Sunday was a wall of muscle, grit and sacrifice in front of their back four. Take a bow, Matic and Mikel. Both players won’t play in Chelsea’s UCL semifinal against Atletico on Wednesday (Matic through ineligibility and Mikel through suspension) but they did a perfect job when their team needed them most in the league. Coutinho, Sterling, Gerrard, Lucas and Allen all tried to break through and get at Chelsea’s back four but M&M didn’t let them. David Luiz and Matic combined to beat Man City away earlier this season and this time Mikel stepped in to do a job. Mikel and Matic won’t win the Player of the Year award or be fans favorites but they did a perfect job in match which could claw Chelsea back into the title race. Of course they need Liverpool and Man City to slip up, but we may look back in awe at this incredible display of self-restraint and selflessness when all is said and done.

Arsenal finishes atop UEL group despite defeat to Cologne

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The Gunners didn’t take care of business on Thursday in Germany, but luckily they got some help from two of their other Group H counterparts.

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks, video previews ]

Cologne defeated Arsenal, 1-0, at the RheinEnergieStadion, but Red Star Belgrade and BATE Borisov ended in a scoreless draw to give Arsene Wenger‘s side the top spot in the group.

The difference on the day proved to be Sehrou Guirassy’s penalty kick, which came in the 62nd minute after he had been taken down by Matthieu Debuchy a moment prior.

Arsenal were forced back early on by the hosts, with Jhon Cordoba nearly breaking the deadlock inside the opening five minutes.

Meanwhile, the Gunners struggled to break down Cologne’s defense throughout the encounter, despite having an overwhelming amount of possession.

Arsenal will close out Group H play on Dec. 7 against BATE, while Cologne battles Red Star Belgrade for a shot at reaching the Round of 32.

Report: Earthquakes to name Mikael Stahre as new manager

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The San Jose Earthquakes are prepared to hire a new manager, leaving Chris Leitch’s status with the club unknown moving forward.

[ MORE: Michael Bradley issues strong views on Crew’s potential relocation ]

ESPN FC is reporting that the Major League Soccer side will hire Swedish coach Mikael Stahre in the coming days, replacing Leitch. The story was first reported by Swedish outlet Expressen.

The 42-year-old has primarily spent his managerial career in Sweden, but has also coached teams in Greece and China.

The Earthquakes qualified for the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2012 this season under Leitch, but were bounced in the first round by the Vancouver Whitecaps — 5-0.

Leitch, who formerly played for the Earthquakes in his MLS-playing days, finished 2017 as both the manager and technical director for the Western Conference club.

Pending Stahre’s hire, the Quakes will be on their third coach in a span of roughly five months after Dominic Kinnear had been previously fired by the team back in June.

Study to look at long-term health risks of playing soccer

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LONDON (AP) A major study into whether soccer players are at risk of degenerative brain disease has been commissioned amid concerns that the sport’s authorities in England haven’t done enough to tackle the issue.

The Football Association and Professional Footballers’ Association have appointed a research team, based in Scotland, to undertake a study entitled “Football’s Influence on Lifelong Health and Dementia Risk” from January 2018.

FA chief executive Martin Glenn said it will be “one of the most comprehensive studies ever commissioned into the long-term health of former footballers” because “we feel compelled … to fully understand if there are any potential risks associated with playing the game.”

Researchers will address the question: “Is the incidence of degenerative neurocognitive disease more common in ex-professional footballers than in the normal population?”

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks, video previews

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Ready for Week 13 in the Premier League? Let’s do this.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ] 

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Listen carefully, because this is very specific.

[ STREAM: Premier League “Goal Rush”

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the longshots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.

Click play on the videos below for quick previews on each game complete with a score prediction from yours truly.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Huddersfield vs. Manchester City – (Sunday, 11 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Manchester United vs. Brighton – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Tottenham vs. West Brom (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, CNBC) – [STREAM]

Burnley vs. Arsenal (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, CNBC) – [STREAM]

Swansea City vs. Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]

DON’T TOUCH THIS… 

Southampton vs. Everton – (Sunday, 8:30 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

Crystal Palace vs. Stoke City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

 

Newcastle United vs. Watford – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]

“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Liverpool vs. Chelsea – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM

West Ham vs. Leicester – (Friday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]