Three things we learned from Liverpool v. Man City

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LIVERPOOL — What. A. Game. Manchester City’s unbeaten run is over.

Liverpool battered Man City 4-3 at Anfield on Sunday (City scored twice in the dying stages) as Jurgen Klopp taught Pep Guardiola a lesson once again as no manager has beaten Guardiola more than Liverpool’s German boss.

A second half blitz from the Reds destroyed City and ended their bid of becoming just the second team in Premier League history to go an entire season unbeaten.

Here’s what we learned from an absorbing encounter at Anfield as Liverpool beat the PL leaders in stunning fashion.


NO COUTINHO? NO PROBLEM

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain stepped up to make an early claim as the heir to Philippe Coutinho‘s crown at Liverpool.

With Coutinho sold for $197 million to Barcelona last week, the big question around Liverpool was who Jurgen Klopp would try to sign to replace Coutinho. But with Adam Lallana and Oxlade-Chamberlain around, Klopp seems keen to give them a chance to stake their claim as Liverpool’s new No.10 who can feed Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.

The Ox took his chance.

Yes, he isn’t the same cerebral playmaker as Coutinho, but he has the power, drive and pace to get at the opposition. Liverpool used him in what he regards his best role in the center of the pitch and the Ox scored a sublime opening goal. He won the ball, drove into space and drilled home to give Liverpool the perfect start.

Oxlade-Chamberlain also rattled into tackles, whipped in testing deliveries for Man City’s defense and went close early in the second half with another driving run that forced a save from Ederson.

Yes, Coutinho is a special talent who is tough to replace, but the Ox’s performance proved he is more than capable of at least softening the blow of his exit to Barcelona.


MAN CITY  OWN WORST ENEMIES AS UNBEATEN RUN ENDS

It was a devastating nine-minute spell from Liverpool which ended Manchester City’s 30-game unbeaten run in the Premier League.

But Pep Guardiola’s men were their own worst enemies as they lost for their first time in 23 games this season and there hopes of replicating Arsenal’s Invincibles were over.

On paper this trip to Liverpool and the game at Tottenham in April were their toughest games remaining.

Guardiola’s side looked shaky from the start but recovered well in the first half when they equalized and could have taken the lead early in the second half had Nicolas Otamendi’s header gone in and not hit the bar.

Still, Ederson looked shaky all game long as he came and half cleared crosses and took chances with his feet as he handed Salah the chance to lob into an empty net for Liverpool’s fourth.

John Stones was caught flat at the back and bullied by Roberto Firmino for Liverpool’s second and slack passing between Fernandinho and City’s defense set up Sadio Mane for a fine third.

City have bent but not broken in games against Crystal Palace and Newcastle away from home in recent weeks but against a top four opponent with a potent attack their deficiencies were magnified and ruthlessly exposed.

Guardiola’s men will still be at least 12 points clear by the end of Week 23 and should still win the league comfortably, but the cracks are starting to show.


LIVERPOOL MAKE THEIR CLAIM FOR SECOND

With Liverpool now 18 games unbeaten in all competitions and up to third in the table, only behind second-place Manchester United on goal difference, Klopp’s boys are making their claim to be the best of the rest after City.

Once again they dismantled one of the big boys.

Since Klopp took charge of Liverpool in 2015, Liverpool have won more points in games between the “big six” than any other side (42) and have more wins in those games than any other team. Consistent against midtable teams has been their Achilles heel but there’s no doubting than can go toe-to-toe with the best teams in the PL and deliver.

They were at their ruthless best on Sunday, ripping City apart time and time again in the second half as they finished their chances this time, unlike the first half they mostly dominated in the 5-0 defeat at the Etihad Stadium earlier this season as the game changed when Mane was sent off.

There is a growing optimism around Liverpool and among their fans that Klopp’s long-term plans are coming to fruition. With Virgil Van Dijk on board (although he didn’t play on Sunday due to injury) their defense will improve drastically and going forward they can destroy anyone, as City witnessed.

With Chelsea and Man United struggling for form, it seems like Tottenham and Liverpool are the obvious choices to battle for second behind City this season.

VIDEO: Chelsea score stunning team goal

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Take a bow, Chelsea.

Willian put the Blues 2-0 up at Brighton early on Saturday and the goal was a thing of beauty.

Latching onto an error from Brighton, Chelsea surged forward through Willian who played the ball into Eden Hazard.

The Belgian played a delicious back heel to Michy Batshuayi and the forward then followed suit to flick the ball into Willian’s path who fired home.

Take a look at the stunning goal in the video above.

Watch Live: Brighton v. Chelsea

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Brighton & Hove Albion host Chelsea at the Amex Stadium on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

With just one win in their last 12 games, Brighton are being dragged into a relegation battle, while Chelsea aren’t in glittering form with five draws on the spin in all competitions.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

In team news, Brighton start with Tomer Hemed up top and have top scorer Glenn Murray on the bench. New club-record signing Jurgen Locadia isn’t illegible to make his Brighton debut after his signing was only confirmed late Friday, plus the former PSV Eindhoven forward is struggling with an injury..

Chelsea are without star goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois who has suffered an ankle injury in training, with Willy Caballero coming in to replace him. Alvaro Morata and Pedro are suspended, while Ross Barkley is on the bench and he could make his Chelsea debut.


LINEUPS

Brighton: Ryan; Goldson, Duffy, Dunk, Suttner, Schelotto; Stephens, Propper; March, Gross, Hemed. Subs: Hunemeier, Kayal, Baldock, Murray, Izquierdo, Rosenior, Krul

Chelsea: Caballero; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; Moses, Bakayoko, Kante, Alonso; Willian, Batshuayi, Hazard. SubsEduardo, David Luiz, Zappacosta, Sterling, Ampadu, Barkley, Musonda

PL Preview: Manchester City vs. Newcastle

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  • Newcastle has lost 8 PL away matches in a row
  • Man City last lost at home in PL play to Chelsea in Dec 2016
  • Newcastle has picked up 1 of a possible 30 points vs. PL top half this season

Manchester City has a great chance to rebound from its first loss of the season as they host struggling Newcastle at the Etihad on Saturday, live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC or live online at NBCSports.com.

WATCH LIVE, HERE

The Magpies have picked up their terrible mid-season form of late, but still remain just three points above the drop. They are unbeaten in three, with a win and two draws, and have lost just once in their last five.

Through Newcastle’s losing streak, the Magpies struggled to keep the ball out of their own net, with defensive issues all over the place. They suffered through a nine-game winless run where they conceded 19 goals. However, of late, the roles have reversed, and suddenly they can’t score. In their last four games, they have just two goals.

City, meanwhile, have a few injuries to deal with on the defensive side of things, where they cannot afford them. Fabian Delph went down in the last match and could be out for significant time, along with Vincent Kompany who continues to show his age and history of fitness issues.

INJURIES: Manchester City – OUT: Fabian Delph (knee), Benjamin Mendy (knee). QUESTIONABLE: David Silva (illness), Vincent Kompany (fitness). Newcastle – OUT: Jesus Gamez (ankle). QUESTIONABLE: Dwight Gayle (knock).


What they’re saying

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola on build-up of injuries: “In these situations, it always depends on the mentality of the players, if they can make a step forward. If they can they play in positions that are not natural positions and the other guys help them, everything is going well.”

Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez on not having a full squad: “When you have a short blanket, if you pull it to your face, your feet are cold, if you cover your feet, your top half is cold.”

Prediction

Newcastle has been ok of late, but not nearly enough to keep Manchester City out of the back of the net. This could get ugly, with the Citizens looking to rebound from their season’s first loss. 3-0 Man City with the possibility that it could get much worse if Newcastle gives up.

PL Preview: Burnley vs. Manchester United

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  • Burnley has 1 win vs. Man United in last 23 meetings
  • Manchester United has not conceded a goal in 2018
  • Paul Pogba is joint-top of the league with 9 assists

A critical top of the table battle comes our way from Turf Moor (!!) on Saturday as Manchester United travels to Burnley live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

WATCH LIVE, HERE

Since losing at Chelsea back in early November, Manchester United in unbeaten away from home and has won four of the five road matches. Burnley, meanwhile, has lost three matches in a row to start the new year and has not won in Premier League play since December 12th against Stoke City.

The goalscoring form of each team is also in stark contrast. Manchester United has not allowed a goal in any competition in 2018, and last conceded back on Boxing Day in a 2-2 draw with this Burnley side. The Clarets, meanwhile, have just one goal in their last three Premier League games and just three goals in their last six.

INJURIES: Burnley – OUT: Chris Wood (knee), Stephen Ward (knee), Jonathan Walters (knee). QUESTIONABLE: Chris Taylor (ribs). Manchester United – OUT: Daley Blind (undisclosed), Eric Bailly (ankle), Michael Carrick (heart), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (knee). QUESTIONABLE: Marouane Fellaini, Antonio Valencia.

What they’re saying

Burnley manager Sean Dyche on the gap in riches between clubs: “I don’t think any of us are surprised by the gap in the Premier League – I think it’s been there a long time and it’s getting harder year on year since the business model of football has changed.”

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho on focusing despite transfer rumors: “In this moment, [Henrikh] Mkhitaryan our player, [Alexis] Sanchez an Arsenal player and with a match tomorrow, I want to switch off and focus on the most important thing, which is the match.”

Prediction

Burnley may be coming back down to Earth, but they are still a formidable team with great organization, and Manchester United will be once again held to a draw, this time 1-1.