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Premier League preview: Liverpool vs. Stoke City

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  • Liverpool (3rd) 9 points back of leaders Chelsea
  • Reds top scores in the PL
  • Stoke (12th) would go 9th with a win

The Premier League title race — if it’s not been won by Chelsea already — feels like it’s been whittled down to a three-horse race, with Manchester City and Liverpool quickly losing sight of the runaway leaders. Simply put, when Stoke City visit on Tuesday (Watch live, 12:15 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), is a must-win for Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds. Making the issue all the more pressing, Liverpool have never lost a home, top-division game to Stoke in the two clubs’ histories (53 all-time top-division meetings at Anfield). However, Stoke were the last away side to win at Anfield (all competitions), winning 1-0 in the League Cup semifinal second leg, though Liverpool advanced to the final on penalties.

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Man City’s trip to Anfield, which comes on Saturday, will almost certainly cut the chasing pack down to one. The Reds’ dramatic, late triumph over Everton in Monday’s Merseyside derby gave Klopp’s side back-to-back wins for the first time since Oct. 29 and Nov. 11. All the while, Chelsea haven’t dropped a single point, moving to a dozen victories in a row seven days later, on Boxing Day.

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Joel Matip (ankle) will be unavailable once again, as will Philippe Coutinho (ankle) and Danny Ings (knee surgery) for Liverpool, while Stoke will be without Marko Arnautovic (suspension), Geoff Cameron (knee), Jack Butland (ankle) and Phil Bardsley (knee).

What they’re saying

Klopp, on the busy holiday schedule: “It is a run that could do that [end a title challenge] but I am the type of guy who thinks you can make it work the other way around. It is all the same for all the teams, or nearly all the teams. We all have to go through it and in the end the teams who use all the different situations in the best way will be top of the table.”

Mark Hughes, on Joe Allen‘s return to Anfield: “I think Joe will want to do well when he goes back there, that is natural. He has nothing to prove there though in fairness, because I know that he was appreciated there by supporters and players alike.”

Prediction

Perhaps more so than any other side in the PL, once Liverpool get rolling, they’re just about impossible to slow down. They should thrive during the upcoming congested series of fixtures, solidifying their place as Chelsea’s most legitimate title competition.

Coutinho rocket helps LFC to PL Asia Trophy (video)

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Goals from Mohamed Salah and Philippe Coutinho helped Liverpool come back from an early deficit to win the PL Asia Trophy on Saturday in Hong Kong.

Islam Slimani gave Leicester City an early lead in front of a heavy pro-Liverpool crowd at Hong Kong Stadium, but Coutinho delivered the goods on both goals in a 2-1 win.

The tournament win is Liverpool’s first in its second trip to the PL Asia Trophy Final.

[ EXCLUSIVE: Strootman talks Roma w/ PST ]

First he crossed for Salah to head home, and then he scored the above goal by cutting in from the left and lashing a shot past a flailing Kasper Schmeichel.

We’ve seen this one before from Coutinho, just not on this particular continent. The Brazilian remains a Barcelona target, but looks prepared for the season in whatever land he sets foot.

Transfer rumor roundup: Latest on Alexis, Neymar to PSG; Van Dijk

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Neymar and Alexis Sanchez to Paris? Brazil and Chile’s finest living as one? Reunited and it feels so French?

The latter’s talents will see Arsenal’s resolve tested by a $46 million bid, according to Sky Sports, though Gunners manager Arsene Wenger has been adamant that Sanchez will not be sold this summer.

Reports circled last year that Arsenal was prepared to offer Sanchez and Mesut Ozil record deals to stay at the club, though PSG has reportedly met with Sanchez and his agent with ideas of incredible $650,000 per week wages at the Parc des Princes.

[ EXCLUSIVE: Strootman talks Roma w/ PST ]

A source also told Sky Sports that it would take “a miracle” for Neymar to remain at Barcelona, so that Sanchez/Edinson Cavani/Neymar trident could be coming to a theater near you.


Southampton manager Mauricio Pellegrino is hopeful of convincing Virgil Van Dijk to stay at St. Mary’s, but for now he’s been forced to ask the defender to take time away from the club.

Van Dijk, hopeful to engineer a move to a UEFA Champions League club, has not been in the preferred mental state for Pellegrino.

“When I was talking with him, the boy said that he is not available to play because he wants to leave. I need to work with a player that works at 100 percent to defend Southampton. This is the decision. I had to say: ‘OK, if you don’t want to be involved because you don’t feel OK, you have to train alone until this period of time.'”

Liverpool publicly ended their interest in Van Dijk following Southampton complaints, and the club maintains it will not sell the influential center back.


West Ham’s loan move for Joe Hart could see both of its 2016-17 goalkeepers leaving the London Stadium. Multiple reports say Darren Randolph could be off to Middlesbrough, with Adrian also heading to the Northeast to play for countryman Rafa Benitez at Newcastle.

Must watch Milivojevic free kick leads Palace past WBA (video)

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Goals from Luka Milivojevic and Bakary Sako led Crystal Palace to a 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion in the third place game of the PL Asia Trophy.

Palace had lost 2-0 to Liverpool in its semifinal, while West Brom fell to Leicester City in penalty kicks after trading goals over 90 minutes.

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Milivojevic’s free kick, won by Wilfried Zaha, was super. Whipped in with force and a wicked curl, Baggies keeper Ben Foster didn’t have a chance to reach it with his dive.

Sako created his goal with a darting move off a long dribble, though it needed a pair of deflections to get behind Foster.

The Baggies had their chances, and Julian Speroni made an outstanding save on Matty Phillips late in the match.

STREAM LIVE: Liverpool-Leicester duel for PL Asia Trophy

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Goals from Bakary Sako and Luka Milivojevic spearheaded Crystal Palace’s 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion in the PL Asia Trophy third place game, and now Liverpool and Leicester City tangle for the title.

The final will be staged at 8:30 a.m. ET, when Liverpool will hope to build on a 2-0 semifinal win paced by Divock Origi and Dominic Solanke goals.

[ LIVE: Stream PL Asia Trophy here ]  

West Brom lost to Leicester City in its semifinal when youngster Sam Field missed the side’s seventh attempt in penalty kicks. Jay Rodriguez scored the Baggies goal in regulation of a 1-1 draw.

Here are the lineups for Leicester City and Liverpool: