Premier League Playback: Naive Liverpool, overachievers, Championship Sunday

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SWASHBUCKLING LIVERPOOL PAY THE PRICE

At Selhurst Park on Monday, Liverpool’s title charge took a devastating blow for the second time in a week. 3-0 up with 11 minutes to go, somehow the Premier League’s long-time leaders chucked it all away as they tied 3-3 in dramatic fashion against Crystal Palace. Standing at the back of the old main stand of Palace’s home stadium, as soon as their second goal went in I sensed the game was only going one way.

Despite the horrendous nature of their late collapse against Palace, the real damage was done for Brendan Rodgers’ side when they lost 2-0 at home to Chelsea last Sunday. Liverpool only needed a point from that match but went for the win and paid the price for their naive tactics. They didn’t learn from their cavalier approach going wrong against Chelsea, as Palace picked the Reds apart with Rodgers’ side pouring forward to try and score more goals in order to help their goal differential and their title chances.

Following the game, Rodgers was reserved and slightly stunned in front of the assembled media in South London as he conceded the Premier League title to Man City.

“It is hugely disappointing,” Rodgers said of Liverpool’s collapse. “For 78 minutes we were outstanding, looked solid defensively, didn’t have many scares, got three goals and looked like we could have got more. I think we got a little bit carried away looking to get one or two more goals and lost the defensive structure to our game. To lose those three goals at the end of the game was hugely disappointing. We said at half time that the most important thing was to win the game. I thought we started playing “Roy of the Rovers” football and trying make up the goal difference. Tonight was about winning the game.”

Liverpool didn’t win, and heading into the final game of the 2013-14 Premier League season they know a win at home against Newcastle is unlikely to be enough to hand them their first league title in 24 years. Manchester City — who have remarkably only spent 11 days at the time of the standings the entire season due to the scheduling of their matches — only need a point against West Ham on the final day as their goal differential is 13 better than Liverpool’s and they are two points ahead of Liverpool at the top of the PL standings.

So, did Rodgers really not tell his squad to go for more goals against Palace?

Before the match Rodgers gave a rallying cry that his side had all guns blazing and were trying to erase City’s advantage in terms of goal differential. If I was a Crystal Palace player listening to those words, it would’ve made me determined to scupper Liverpool’s title charge. Don’t get me wrong Liverpool’s free-flowing style, which has seen them score 99 goals this season, is exciting, exhilarating and easy on the eye. Yet it is also extremely naive. Glen Johnson and Jon Flanagan were bombing on from their full back positions even after the Reds let their first two goals in and both were exposed horribly, alongside Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho who were beaten by a long hoof up the pitch late on for the equalizer.

Here is what Johnson, who didn’t have a night to remember, said on Twitter in response to severe criticism after the game.

When it comes to experts…. would Arsene Wenger or Sir Alex Ferguson have gone all-out attack when they were 3-0 up away at Palace to try and whittle down goal difference? No. They would have made sure they won the game and made their competitors win their final match of the campaign. Now City don’t have to and Liverpool have let them off the hook. Rodgers’ game management, once again, was poor. Even if he didn’t instruct his side to grab the ball after every goal and race back to the halfway line to try to score more, the way the Northern Irishman has conditioned his side to play came back to bite him. Liverpool’s players don’t know any other way to play and if you concede 49 goals in 37 games and can’t adapt your style to grind out wins then, unfortunately, you are never going to win the Premier League crown.

In the video below you can see the utter devastation from Liverpool’s players, especially Luis Suarez who was inconsolable, and their fans alongside the jubilation of Palace’s faithful. In a nutshell, Monday’s 3-3 draw at Selhurst Park epitomized the Premier League. Drama, despair and delight all wrapped into a pulsating 90 minutes. It doesn’t get much better than that.

CHAMPIONSHIP SUNDAY SET

With City still needing to get a point from their final match of the season at home to West Ham, all eyes will be on the Etihad on Sunday. You can watch their match live on NBC at 10 a.m. ET, so will we have another dramatic fashion on the final day similar to win City won their first PL title two seasons ago?

Premier League Schedule – Week 37

Result Recap & Highlights
Arsenal 1-0 West Brom Recap and watch here
 Aston Villa 3-1 Hull City Recap and watch here
Chelsea 0-0 Norwich Recap and watch here
Crystal Palace 3-3 Liverpool Recap and watch here
Everton 2-3 Manchester City Recap and watch here
Manchester United 0-1 Sunderland Recap and watch here
Newcastle 3-0 Cardiff City Recap and watch here
Stoke City 4-1 Fulham Recap and watch here
Swansea 0-1 Southampton Recap and watch here
West Ham 2-0 Tottenham Recap and watch here

In case you didn’t know, you can also watch all 10 PL games live across NBC’s umbrella of channels on Sunday as “Championship Sunday” takes over your TV sets. Here are all the details, as games will be played on NBCSN, CNBC, MSNBC, E!, Bravo and many more.

MORE: Championship Sunday focus, all 20 teams

For one last time this season sit back, relax and get your remote ready for a good old bashing as you flick between the 10 games being played simultaneously. Plus, you can catch every game live online via NBC Sports Live Extra.

10 games, 10 channels, one Championship Sunday.

THE OVERACHIEVERS

It is that time of the year again when awards are handed out and we are no different here at ProSoccerTalk.

Next week look out for our Premier League reviews, as from Monday to Thursday we will be awarding several accolades and reviewing one of the greatest seasons in PL history.

Many of the same teams or individuals have and will win most of the awards, and rightly so. Yet which teams have overachieved this season in the PL? For me, Southampton, Stoke City, Crystal Palace and Hull City could all fight for that accolade. Okay, even top five teams like Liverpool and Everton can be roped into the “overachievers” bracket, but those sides will get awards and in fairness they are massive clubs. The four aforementioned teams are not and they have punched well above their weight in the Premier League. Here’s a quick look at all four, as you may not have hear about them too much all season long.

  • Southampton: It has been a remarkable season on the South Coast for Mauricio Pochettino’s men. Teenagers Luke Shaw, Calum Chambers, Harrison Reed and Sam Gallagher have all come through the academy as Saints are the envy of most PL clubs as they run a sustainable ship. Adam Lallana, Shaw and until injury wrecked his World Cup dreams, Jay Rodriguez, have been the stars as they team have equaled their best-ever PL finish of eighth and recorded their best-ever PL points total off 55 and counting. Can they keep all of their stars together and mount a serious challenge to the top five next season?
  • Stoke City: The Potters will finish in the top half of the standings for the first time in PL history as Mark Hughes men recovered superbly after a slow start. Even up until January there were lingering doubts around relegation at the Britannia Stadium but Hughes’ first season in charge has seen massive home wins over Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United as Stoke have shone. They still have a solid defensive core but now a silky style has started to seep through. Can they kick on and fight for the top six next season.
  • Crystal Palace: Tony Pulis is right up there for the manager of the year award and the job he has done at Palace deserves it. On the four previous occasions they had been promoted to the PL they were relegated at the first attempt but that isn’t the case this time around. When Pulis arrived in late November they had just four points in the standings and were dead and buried… now they are 11th and have amassed 44 points in an astonishing turnaround. Selhurst Park is a hostile stadium to visit and the fans are enjoying “Crystal Pulis'” progression. What are they capable of next season?
  • Hull City: The Tigers’ season has petered out in terms of their PL success, just two wins in their last 10 tell that story. However with a first-ever FA Cup final hanging over them against Arsenal on May 17, its not all doom and gloom for Steve Bruce’s side. Far from it. If you had said the Tigers would have stayed up at the start of the season, any Hull fan, player or staff member would have ripped your hand off. They are difficult to beat and have a chance of silverware at the end of a landmark season back in the big time.

CAN MAN UNITED SEAL A EUROPEAN SPOT?

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With plenty of permutations still around for Championship Sunday, there are a few things to be decided. One of those if whether or not Manchester United will be playing in the Europa League next season. If the Red Devils beat Southampton at St. Mary’s on the final day of the season then they will hope for a Tottenham defeat at home to Aston Villa, which would seal a sixth place finish for Ryan Giggs’ men.

After the final whistle blows on the 2013-14 campaign, do we think United would be happy to finish sixth and have European soccer to attract better players to sign this summer? Personally, I don’t think it makes a difference. If anything United’s rebuild will be hampered by Thursday night matches in far flung corners of Europe. As we’ve seen with Liverpool this campaign, not having the distraction of European nights can be a huge plus point in terms of a charge towards the PL title. The big question still remains about their manager and who will be at the helm next season, as Giggs played himself in the midweek win over Hull and spoke to the United faithful from the pitch. Watch that video above.

Whether or not Ryan Giggs, Louis van Gaal or whoever else is in charge at the start of the next season, Europa League soccer is not a necessity at Old Trafford if England’s most successful club are to make a quick return to glory amongst the PL’s elite.

Premier League Playback takes an alternative look at all the weekend’s action from the PL, it comes out every week.

The 2 Robbies podcast: Liverpool, Chelsea through to UCL knockouts

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle on Liverpool’s nervy 2-0 win against Red Bull Salzburg to take first place in Group E of the Champions League (1:55), Chelsea’s 2-1 win over Lille to secure a place in the Round of 16 (13:15) and who is the current favorite to win it all (20:45).

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Plus, what Arsenal’s come-from-behind 3-1 win at West Ham means for both London clubs (29:10) and the Robbies discuss what they’re looking forward to most at the next Live Premier League Mornings Fan Fest in Miami Beach (46:05).

To listen to more lively conversations and passionate debate from Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe, subscribe to The 2 Robbies Podcast on Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

And you can follow them on Twitter @The2RobbiesNBC here.

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

PL Club Power Rankings: Week 16

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The Premier League didn’t issue too many surprises at the bottom of the table this week, but two top-tier sides didn’t behave as such and shook up our rankings.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Chelsea and Man City have dipped low, and Bournemouth’s skid doesn’t have it sinking lower (yet) because of the teams beneath it.

Green: New season-high ranking
Red: New season-low

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings archive ]


20. Watford — Liverpool and Manchester United are next, and it’s looking a long way back to safety.
Last week: 20
Season high: 17
Season low: 20
Last match: Drew 0-0 v. Crystal Palace
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday at Liverpool

19. Norwich City — Outshot, out-passed, our possessed Sheffield United at home and still lost. Bad vibes, man.
Last week: 18
Season high: 10
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Sheffield United
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Leicester City

18. West Ham United — Just feels like there’s something lurking below the surface here. Doesn’t smell right given the Irons talent.
Last week: 17
Season high: 5
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 3-1 v. Arsenal
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Southampton

17. Bournemouth — Losing to Liverpool is no shame, but it’s almost officially time to worry.
Last week: 16
Season high: 6
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 3-0 v. Liverpool
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Chelsea

16. Aston Villa — Tom Heaton is a heck of a goalkeeper but he can’t be expected to save four A-plus danger chances per game.
Last week: 14
Season high: 8
Season low: 16
Last match: Lost 4-1 v. Leicester City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Sheffield United

15. Southampton — West Ham and Villa back-to-back have to provide four points if Saints revival is to be believed.
Last week: 15
Season high: 13
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Newcastle United
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday v. West Ham United

14. Everton — Duncan Ferguson gives the Toffees board reason enough to be patient with their managerial hire, and then Napoli goes and fires Carlo Ancelotti.
Last week: 19
Season high: 5
Season low: 19
Last match: Won 3-1 v. Chelsea
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Manchester United

13. Burnley — The defending against Spurs — we know, Spurs are good — was enough to drop them far lower than four spots. Abject stuff from a Sean Dyche side.
Last week: 9
Season high: 5
Season low: 15
Last match: Lost 5-0 at Spurs
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Newcastle

12. Arsenal — Freddie Ljungberg started Nicolas Pepe, and Nicholas Pepe was his best player. Stunning stuff, really. Look at the assist below.
Last week: 13
Season high: 4
Season low: 12
Last match: Won 3-1 at West Ham
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday v. Man City

11. Crystal Palace — I want to believe, but am holding out for something more. A derby win versus Brighton would suffice.
Last week: 7
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Drew 0-0 at Watford
Up next: 2:45 p.m. ET Monday v. Brighton

10. Newcastle United — Again, Steve Bruce‘s men are getting tremendous Fortune and he’s pushing almost all the right buttons (It takes guts to start Andy Carroll over the struggling record signing Joelinton). This could be a sign of the Geordie Apocalypse.
Last week: 11
Season high: 11
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 2-1 v. Southampton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Burnley

9. Sheffield United — A little wobbly lately, but still a good comeback at Carrow Road.
Last week: 10
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Won 2-1 at Norwich City
Up next: 10 a.m ET Saturday v. Aston Villa

8. Brighton and Hove Albion — Doesn’t it say something that a country who starves for young, strong English coaches had one sitting in Sweden for eight years? Graham Potter is legit.
Last week: 12
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Won 2-1 at Arsenal
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday v. Wolves

7. Chelsea — Some of those young guys who’ve played so well, so early, are looking a little ragged. It’s a shame Frank Lampard is still waiting on Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who will really help things take another step.
Last week: 5
Season high: 2
Season low: 12
Last match: Lost 3-1 at Everton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Bournemouth

6. Manchester City — It probably has nothing to do with the system, and a lot to do with not having Aymeric Laporte, Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sane… Still, it needs to be better than a home derby loss to a Paul Pogba-less United.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 6
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Manchester United
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday at Arsenal

5. Tottenham Hotspur — We’re gonna need multiple screens on Sunday morning, as Wolves-Spurs and Man Utd-Everton are both must-monitor.
Last week: 8
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Won 5-0 v. Burnley
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Wolves

4. Manchester United — Ole’s at the wheel, and still doesn’t feel like Lewis Hamilton or anything but we’re not worried about heading off a cliff.
Last week: 6
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Won 2-1 at Man City
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Everton

3. Wolves — Beat Spurs on Sunday and I’ll go ahead and bet on them as a Top Four finisher, even after the Brighton draw failed to deliver the goods.
Last week: 3
Season high: 3
Season low: 17
Last match: Drew 2-2 at Brighton
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Spurs

2. Leicester City — Wow.
Last week: 2
Season high: 2
Season low: 10
Last match: Won 4-1 at Aston Villa
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Norwich City

1. Liverpool — Wow, only atop the table.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 3-0 at Bournemouth
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday v. Watford

Champions League Weds. preview: Two spots remain

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Only two spots remain in the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds, and those will be settled Wednesday afternoon.

In Group C, hosts Shakhtar Donetsk need to beat Atalanta to go through, while the visitors can also go through with a win if Dinamo Zagreb fails to defeat Man City.

[ MORE: Ancelotti reportedly speaking w/ Everton ]

In Group D, Atletico Madrid is through with a win over Lokomotiv Moscow, though Bayer Leverkusen can complete a remarkable comeback from an 0-3 start to the group stage if they beat already-qualified Juve and Atleti loses to their Russian visitors.

You certainly wouldn’t be against Diego Simeone there, though.

“Tomorrow is a great opportunity, every day that you wear the Atletico shirt is,” Simeone said, via Marca. “I believe in my team, in the humility that they have at the moment. The results will come based on what they are demonstrating on the field.”

Premier League sides Man City and Tottenham Hotspur both have their fortunes settled, with City having won Group C and Spurs settled into Group B’s second spot, but they still have plenty to figure out on Tuesday.

Jose Mourinho’s Spurs are going up against a Bayern team that walloped them at home, while City is living an unusual 2W-3D-2L lull in form.

Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League action

12:55 p.m. ET
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Atalanta
Dinamo Zagreb v. Man City

3 p.m. ET
Club Brugge v. Real Madrid
Atletico Madrid v. Lokomotiv Moscow
Bayer Leverkusen v. Juventus
Paris Saint-Germain v. Galatasaray
Olympiacos v. Red Star Belgrade
Bayern Munich v. Tottenham Hotspur

Ancelotti fired by Napoli as Everton, Arsenal lurk

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Carlo Ancelotti won a place in the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds, then lost his job.

The Napoli’s boss strained relationship with club president Aurelio De Laurentiis came to a head, with the Neapolitan side advancing in Europe to end a nine-match winless run.

[ MORE: Sporting KC adds Liga MX top scorer ]

That run may’ve included seven draws, but it also saw Napoli dip into seventh on the Serie A table. They are seven points back of sixth and 17 points behind leaders Juventus.

A strained relationship got worse when Ancelotti refused to take the team on a De Laurentiis-ordered “team retreat” following a draw against Salzburg in early November.

Gennaro Gattuso is rumored as Ancelotti’s replacement, and the fired coach himself is being mentioned as an immediate target for Arsenal and Everton.

In fact, the Toffees are in discussions with the Italian legend already, according to Sky Sports. Football Italia claims Arsenal is in on the action, too.

Ancelotti has won the Champions League with AC Milan twice and a third time with Real Madrid. He’s claimed domestic titles in five of Europe’s top leagues, with silverware at Chelsea, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, and Real Madrid.