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

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Liverpool edged out Manchester City on New Year’s Eve to win 1-0 and keep pressure on Chelsea as they head into the second half of the Premier League season just six points behind the Blues.

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Georginio Wijnaldum‘s early header was the only goal of the game as Man City huffed and puffed in the second half but couldn’t break down a stubborn Liverpool defense and City are now 10 points behind league-leaders Chelsea.

Jurgen Klopp got the better of Pep Guardiola in this battle between two managerial heavyweights.

Here’s what we learned from a tense game at Anfield.


CONTRASTING STYLES CLEAR

There’s plenty of mutual respect between Klopp and Guardiola about how their respective teams play the game.

But when it comes down to how their teams play, that could not be more different.

That was clear for all to see on Saturday as Liverpool came flying out of the traps, scored their goal and pinned City back for most of the opening 60 minutes. However, particularly in the second half, Guardiola’s side dominated possession and looked the more likely to score.

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City improved in the second half drastically because they stuck with their patient possession-first philosophy and because Liverpool tired and were unable to keep up their high-tempo approach. Both approaches are very different and both have their ups and downs.

Even though there were very few clear cut chances apart from Wijnaldum’s goal, it was in intriguing tactical battle as two teams challenging for the title are going about it in completely different ways. Of course, Klopp is eight months further along the line than Guardiola and that showed in this game but over the next two years these teams will challenge for the title.


SLOPPINESS CONTAGIOUS

Okay, we will cut both of these teams some slack but there’s no doubting that the number of turnovers in possession was abnormally high for both teams at Anfield on New Year’s Eve.

Part of that had to be fatigue as the busy festive season is in full flow with Liverpool playing twice in the past four days and City having one extra day of rest.

The other part of that was City still not being comfortable with what Guardiola is asking them to do on the ball, plus Liverpool’s high-press worked very well.

It’s safe to say neither manager will be totally satisfied with the performance but Klopp will certainly be happy with the three points as Liverpool has ground out wins in recent weeks.


CENTER BACKS SHINE FOR LIVERPOOL

One of the main reasons Liverpool is still in the title hunt with Chelsea is because they’ve shored things up at the back in recent weeks.

Klopp’s side have now kept three clean sheets in their last four games, as they’ve secured big 1-0 wins against Everton and Man City. Their two center back against City, Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan, were key to victory as they locked Sergio Ageuro down and did all of the simple things well.

Unlike City’s central defenders John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi who made mistakes with passes out of the back, Liverpool’s two bruising center halves cleared their lines and never truly let City get in behind.

The big Achilles heel for Liverpool was always going to be in defense as they’ve had so many issues with changing goalkeepers and not spending big money on defenders. If they can stay this solid in the big games, they have the players going forward to hurt and score goals against the PL’s best defenses.

As for City, oh what Guardiola would do to have his captain and defensive leader Vincent Kompany back fit and at the top of his game in central defense. Instead Kompany was in the stands with the City fans at Anfield as he watched his side go 10 points behind Chelsea.

Watch Live: West Brom v. Liverpool

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West Bromwich Albion host Liverpool on Saturday at the Hawthorns (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as the Premier League’s bottom team aim to pull off another shock win to keep their faint survival hopes alive.

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The Baggies won 1-0 at Manchester United last time to delay their impending relegation as well as hand Manchester City the title and interim boss Darren Moore will want to grab another big win as the Baggies aim to try and pull off the greatest of escapes. Anything other than a win could see West Brom relegated this weekend.

As for Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp‘s men have cemented their spot in the top four and will have one eye on a big week of European action.

In team news West Brom have Jonny Evans back fit and on the bench but are unchanged from the win at Man United, while Liverpool rest several players ahead of their UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg against Roma.

Andrew Robertson, Roberto Firmino, Alexander-Arnold and Oxlade-Chamberlain are all on the bench with Joe Gomez returning to the starting lineup.

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West Brom

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VIDEO: Sporting KC’s Medranda scores wonder goal in win over Vancouver

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Sporting KC showed again on Friday night why they’re the rightful leaders at the top of the Western Conference, pulling four points ahead of the LA Galaxy and the Vancouver Whitecaps with a dominating 6-0 win over the Whitecaps at home.

Scottish forward Johnny Russell bagged a hat-trick in the game, all by the 48th minute, but the highlight of the night came off the foot of 24-year-old Jimmy Medranda. The Colombian scored an absolute worldie from a ridiculous angle, taking the space given to him outside the top-left corner of the box and sailing it over the head of Vancouver goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic and into the back of the net.

It was, of course, massively beneficial to Sporting KC that Vancouver went two men down in the 40th minute after a huge skirmish that saw Yordy Reyna and Efrain Juarez both sent off. Reyna earned his marching orders for throwing Russell to the ground, while Juarez reportedly used unacceptable language.

Still, KC was already up 3-0 when the incident occurred, and credit must go to teams that take advantage of what has been handed to them. Sporting KC certainly did that as Russell becomes the first Scotsman to score an MLS hat-trick since Colorado’s John Spencer in 2001, and Medranda’s wonder goal sealed the deal past the half-hour mark.

Jurgen Klopp already wants a piece of Man City next season

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Manchester City may have run away with the Premier League title this year, but Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp can’t wait for a clean slate to try and challenge City’s title defense next season.

The Reds are into the Champions League semifinals and also looking to finish the Premier League season strong in a battle for positioning in the top four, but when asked about next year, Klopp was giddy.

“Of course I don’t fear the challenge,” Klopp said in his prematch press conference ahead of Liverpool’s Premier League visit to West Brom on Saturday morning.

The German made it clear he wants a piece of Manchester City next season. “This year, if City plays a normal season – which they didn’t do – then it would have been really close until the end because we are now all close together.”

“United is four points ahead [of Liverpool], Tottenham is two points behind. It’s a real fight for these positions. All big six pretty much delivered this year but City delivered the best. We will see. It’s difficult to deal with success as it is difficult to deal with other things in football but I’m pretty sure they will be strong again.”

Liverpool is one of only two teams to beat City in league play this year, with Manchester United being the other. Klopp and company torched the City back line in a wild 4-3 victory that ended City’s 22-match unbeaten run. Ultimately, though, Klopp knows they have to look at the entire season as a whole to best the defending champs next year, not just their matches against each other.

“It’s not important how good City will be, it’s about how we can get all the other points, plus the points we got so far again,” he said. “That’s the job to do. That is why it is always possible that it is closer. But are they able to dominate? They don’t have a limit to spending and all that stuff so I don’t know.”

VIDEO: Goalkeeper sends Memphis Depay flying with skillful touch

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Former Manchester United attacker Memphis Depay has one of the brightest spots for Lyon this season that sees them battling with Monaco and Marseille for 2nd place behind a dominant PSG. He has scored 15 goals and assisted 11 others this Ligue 1 campaign, adding to his tally just four minutes into Friday’s 5-2 win over Dijon, the sixth win in a row for the club that pulled them within a point of Monaco.

However, there was a moment to forget for Depay in the victory as well.

With the score still at 1-1 in the 19th minute, Depay was sent high up the pitch to press Dijon goalkeeper Baptiste Reynet, owner of the leakiest net of the Ligue 1 season. Nevertheless, sometimes the underdog prevails, and that’s what happened as Depay flung himself at the ball to put Reynet under pressure.

One silky touch by the netminder was all it took for Depay to end up on his backside.

The 24-year-old Dutch winger has had a fantastic season and one that could potentially propel him back to the biggest stage and a bigger paycheck, but for now, we can all poke fun at his misery in the moment.