Mourinho wins tactical battle, calls out “defensive” Liverpool

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LIVERPOOL — Jose Mourinho went to Anfield to get at least a point. In true form, he got it.

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Despite most seeing it otherwise, Mourinho thought that Liverpool set themselves up for a draw on Monday night in the 0-0 draw, even though Jurgen Klopp‘s side had 65 percent of the possession and three very good chances in the second half.

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Speaking to the media after the game, Mourinho wasn’t in a mood to mince his words when referring to United’s bitter rivals Liverpool and had a subtle dig at their overly defensive display.

“They are a very good team. You like to say that they are the last wonder of the world in attacking football but they are also a team that defends and thinks defensively,” Mourinho said. “I think the fact that they played Can and Henderson together to control the position where Paul should be more in control. We thought they were going to play with only one player there but they played with two.”

Okay, Jose.

There was no doubt United’s manager and fans would have been the happier with the draw as Klopp and Liverpool (the top scorers in the Premier League in 2016 and this season) were left frustrated. Liverpool’s manager spoke of his disappointment about being drawn into a “hectic” game and not being better when they had the ball.

They payed into United hands and Mourinho thought his side put in a mature display.

“We controlled the game tactically. We controlled the game emotionally. It is not easy to do both things. The result is acceptable,” Mourinho said. “We wanted more. For long periods in the game we thought that could be possible but we didn’t score. You don’t score you don’t win. I think it was a very positive performance. We stopped them to play but they also did very well on the defensive point of view. They played Can and Henderson for some reason and they did that for 90 minutes. They normally present more players in attack. They were very cautious. I think it was their intention to try and control this, which they also did well.”

As for United’s defensive display, which was very good as Antonio Valencia and Daley Blind shut down the flanks and Daniel Sturridge was a virtual spectator up front, we’ve seen this so many times before.

Remember two years ago at Anfield when Mourinho’s Chelsea side sat back and beat Liverpool 2-0 with two counter attacks (aided by that slip from Steven Gerrard)? Yep, we all remember Mourinho pounding his chest in glee at full time as Chelsea dashed Liverpool’s title hopes.

This was another classic Mourinho away day display as his team sat back, harassed opponents into rushing their play and then waited for one or two chances to pounce. A glorious chance arrived early in the second half in this game as Paul Pogba crossed for Zlatan Ibrahimovic but he should’ve done better with a tame header across goal.

Mourinho admitted Zlatan’s header was “a great chance” but also praised Pogba, and his entire team, for their defensive work.

“I think like everybody else the defensive side of the game I think it was perfect, even the goalkeeper who was on holiday for 90 minutes. He had two big saves to do and he did,” Mourinho said. “When we recovered the ball I was expecting the team to be more dangerous in spite of us having a couple of dangerous chances.”

There was no doubt that Ander Herrera was United’s man of the match. He epitomized this stingy defensive display, if not walking a fine line with some of his fouls, especially in the first half. The Spanish midfielder was the key man in midfield, clogging things up and stopping Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino getting on the ball.

ProSoccerTalk asked Mourinho for his thoughts on Herrera.

“Ander played well but he was surrounded by people who played well. Fellaini played well. Ashley Young played well. Marcus Rashford played well. We closed the sides so well,” Mourinho told ProSoccerTalk. “Ander was completely on the job on Coutinho. He played very well, recovered a lot of balls, gave always a way to get out of their pressing and was very calm in possession.”

So, with United only having 35 percent of the play (Mourinho later came back into the press room to argue his side had 42 percent of the ball) and seemingly focused more on restricting Liverpool than attacking, is this a style we will see deployed by United away from home under Mourinho? He didn’t miss a chance to have another subtle dig at Liverpool.

“You have to be critical of Liverpool not us,” Mourinho said, sharply. “65 percent possession and two shots is there problem. Not our problem.”

Same old Mourinho. Then again, what did we expect?

In the Mixed Zone with JPW: Episode 2

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NBC Sports’ Pro Soccer Talk lead writer and editor Joe Prince-Wright shares his behind-the-scenes access into the Premier League mixed zones highlighting the intriguing interviews from this week’s marquee matches.

This week, JPW shares his mixed zone interviews from Southampton-Aston Villa, Chelsea-Tottenham and Man United-Watford, talks Champions League and previews Matchweek 28.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

He also spoke exclusively with Will Smallbone, Southampton’s latest top academy product who made his PL debut in their win against Aston Villa.

“We’ve had quite a lot of players come through the ranks and you look up to them when you’re younger. To come through myself and hopefully do the best I can, it is very special,” Smallbone said.

To listen to more from the mixed zone with Joe Prince-Wright as he takes you deep inside stadiums, subscribe to In the Mixed Zone with JPW Podcast on Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

And you can follow him on Twitter @JPW_NBCSports here.

Click here for In the Mixed Zone with archive ]

Click play below to listen to Episode 2 in full.

Handshake bans as coronavirus precautions hit soccer

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The threat of coronavirus has already led to Europa League games being played behind closed doors, games in Serie A being postponed and now clubs across Europe are telling their staff to not shake hands as the virus continues to spread.

Premier League clubs are taking extra precautions as both Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have asked visitors to their training grounds to fill in a health form when they arrive, Bayern Munich have told players not to sign autographs for fans or take selfies for them, while games across Europe have been impacted as Switzerland have banned all games until mid-March and five Serie A games will be played in empty stadiums.

Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce explained to reporters that staff and players will no longer be encouraged to shake hands when they arrive each day around their training ground.

“There’s a ritual here that everybody shakes hands as soon as we see each other every morning – we’ve stopped that on the advice of the doctor,” Bruce confirmed. “Thankfully, we’ve got a superb doctor here and he will keep us informed of what we have to do. We’re like everybody else, we’re glued to the TV for where it’s going to go next and let’s hope it doesn’t get any worse in this country.”

Bruce was asked if he remembered any precautions like this is in the past.

“No, not at all. Look, in confined areas like we’ve got here… There was a time over Christmas when if there’s a virus knocking around – which is not coronavirus – then you have to be careful so we’re a bit mindful of it, the fact that a bug can sweep through. We had four or five at Christmas and two of my staff, so you stay at home, basically. But it’s always something you’re looking at,” Bruce added.

West Ham’s manager David Moyes has revealed that West Ham have a similar plan in place, with fist bumps allowed but no handshakes and every Hammers player has been given some hand gel to use.

“After consulting with the medical team, we have supplied all the players with hand gel to keep with them,” Moyes said. “We’ve also agreed to no shaking hands at the moment, just fist bumps. If we score tomorrow, of course they’ll be able to celebrate.” 

Latest injury news from Chelsea, Liverpool, Man City

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Ahead of Matchweek 28 in the Premier League plenty of the big boys have released some interesting injury news with stars out for Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City.

Below we round up the latest injury news, which could be very handy for your Premier League Pick ‘Em selections this weekend.

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Okay, now to the injury news…


In another big blow for Man City and Aymeric Laporte, the Frenchman will be ruled out for another three to four weeks after injuring his hamstring in their UEFA Champions League win at Real Madrid on Wednesday.

Laporte has missed a huge chunk of the season so far and Pep Guardiola was sad to see his star center back unavailable once again this season.

“Three weeks out more or less, a month. Unfortunately this happens after four or five months out. Life is not easy and always in the world the people who survive are the ones who cope with the bad moments. It is what it is. Accept it, work hard to come back as soon as possible,” Guardiola said.

When asked about Laporte’s latest injury and the impact not having their main man in defense has had on their non-existent title battle with Liverpool, Guardiola was in a buoyant mood as he replied to Laporte’s injury being the big difference between Man City and Liverpool. “Absolutely,” said Guardiola. “A manager needs the players to rotate, to be fresh. The manager depends on the quality of our players.”

Fernandinho and Nicolas Otamendi will now be the first-choice pairing at center back for the rest of this month as City have the League Cup final against Aston Villa on Sunday, plus the second leg against Real Madrid and big Premier League games against Man United and Chelsea.

Leroy Sane will make a big step on his recovery from the knee injury he suffered in August, as he will play for City’s U23 side against Arsenal on Friday.

“I don’t want to put targets on him, we want him to play the game then speak with him, (about) how he felt,” Guardiola said.


Frank Lampard has started every news conference in recent weeks by listing off the injuries.

That list is getting longer ahead of Chelsea’s trip to Bournemouth on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

“[Christian] Pulisic is injured. [N’Golo] Kante injured and Tammy Abraham is injured. We are trying to find a solution with Tammy. It’s the same,” Lampard confirmed.

Abraham’s injury is one which has got worse over the past few weeks as he’s been in and out of the team while he struggles to overcome the ankle issue.

“I don’t know, we need to see. I speak to the doctors every day about it but we are not actually clear on that one. At the minute he’s not doing anything active for the next couple of days. So I don’t know. And I don’t know how long that will be,” Lampard added.

The one positive for Chelsea is that Ruben Loftus-Cheek will be on the bench again as he continues the final stages of his nine-month recovery from an Achilles injury.

“Ruben [Loftus-Cheek] is in the squad again tomorrow. It would mean a lot for him. It is a lonely place to be injured. With the ability that he has got he is one of the most exciting English midfield players,” Lampard said.


Moving on to Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp confirmed that Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Xherdan Shaqiri are all recovering well but the trio will not play against Watford this Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Klopp revealed that Milner could return for the FA Cup fifth round clash at Chelsea on Tuesday.

“[They are] all coming closer, much closer. Hendo is running, Millie is running and even more. It was not enough for this game now, but we will see – especially with Millie – what we can do for Tuesday,” Klopp said. “I’m not sure about Hendo, and Shaq not yet, but they are all coming closer.”

With Liverpool four wins away from winning the Premier League, Klopp will not rush any players back and risk long-term injuries.

That said, with the FA Cup last 16 clash and the second leg of their UEFA Champions League last 16 tie against Atletico Madrid coming up, Klopp can now start looking at other trophies to win given their 22-point lead atop the table.

Tottenham issue Kane, Son injury update

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Tottenham have issued an injury update on Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son and Jose Mourinho seems increasingly positive that they will play together again this season.

Kane hasn’t played since he suffered a hamstring injury on Jan. 1 which required surgery, while Son broke his arm in their 3-2 win at Aston Villa which has left Mourinho without his two first-choice strikers.

Speaking ahead of Tottenham’s mouthwatering clash against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday (Watch live, 9 a.m. ET online via NBCSports.com), Mourinho revealed that Kane is ahead of schedule with his recovery and is back in training on the pitch.

“I would say he is a little bit ahead. It gives me a hope that instead of (being fit for) one or two matches, three, four, five. Just speculating a bit, the feelings are good. He is doing what he can do at this stage but always with a good feeling. Everything is going well. When he was injured I said ‘forget him’, then I said ‘one or two games’. At this moment I have better hopes than that, hopefully that feeling is right and he can help us in the last few games of the season. He’s obviously a great pro and a fighter and wants to be back as soon as possible. But what is that soon as possible? I don’t know. I cannot imagine when (Heung-min Son will be back) but there is a good possibility that before the end of the season we have Harry and Son playing together.”

This is a boost for Tottenham and Mourinho had previously said he feared that neither Kane nor Son would be available to play again this season.

It appears that both will be able to play a handful of games which could be crucial in helping Tottenham reach their goal of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League. Son could wear a special cast to help him play as he recovers from arm surgery in his homeland of South Korea, while Kane’s return may be a little longer as Tottenham will not risk rushing their star striker back from injury once again.

Son stepped up admirably in Kane’s absence but his injury has left Tottenham woefully short in attack with Steven Bergwijn, Lucas Moura and Giovani Lo Celso their main attacking threats, while Dele Alli and Erik Lamela have both suffered a dip in form.

Mourinho has bemoaned his lack of attacking options and Tottenham’s sluggish attacking displays in their defeats against RB Leipzig and Chelsea proved how much they are missing Kane and Son. If the duo can get back and feature by the end of March or start of April, the final months of the season will look a lot different for Tottenham.