Liverpool stay perfect, edge past Sheffield United

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It was far from pretty but Liverpool secured their seventh-straight Premier League win on the trot to start the season, as Georginio Wijnaldum‘s second half goal was enough to see them past a spirited Sheffield United side on Saturday.

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The Blades were compact and tough to break down at Bramall Lane, but a mistake from goalkeeper Dean Henderson was the difference between the teams.

With the win Liverpool move on to 21 points for the season and are momentarily eight points clear atop the Premier League table. Jurgen Klopp‘s side have now won 16 games on the spin in the PL and are unbeaten in 24 matches.


3 things we learned

1. Liverpool grind out another win: It hasn’t been pretty for most of this season, but Liverpool lead the PL and have won seven games on the spin to kick off the campaign. Klopp’s men struggled to get going against the Blades and a lucky goal won them the game. You need a lot of luck to win the title and Liverpool have made the most of it early in the season.

2. Brilliant Blades hold their shape: Chris Wilder‘s side should be commended for their superb defensive display which gave Liverpool a real headache. Their overlapping center backs forced Liverpool to change their formation and switch wing backs, as they held their shape defensively and were a threat when they did go forward. There were so many positives for the Blades to take from this defeat.

3. Henderson makes another costly error: He is 22 years old, and Henderson will progress. But he’s now made a couple of errors in his first season as a Premier League goalkeeper and he’s still growing up. He was devastated after the game-winner went in and after at the final whistle. He has the quality to be a PL player, but he has to develop the concentration.

Man of the Match: Fabinho. He stepped in to stop Sheffield United on so many occasions and on a day when Liverpool’s attack faltered, Fabinho


United set up in a defensive 5-3-2 formation and were tough to break down, as Liverpool struggled to get going in attack. At the other Callum Robinson dragged an effort wide as the home fans were buoyed by a good start.

Mohamed Salah was quiet but curled wide, as Liverpool began to find their feet and fine a little more space.

A long ball over the top found Mane who was clean through on goal but he shanked a glorious chance over the bar, much to the relief of the Blades defense.

Robertson and Robinson both went close, as the latter should have done better with a header in the box after a fine cross from Enda Stevens. Right on half time Firmino found Mane but his shot crashed off the post and out.

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In the second half Liverpool had to switch their shape as they couldn’t break the Blades down, with Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold swapping flanks as wing backs and Fabinho momentarily dropping into midfield.

But it was Sheffield United who had a host of chances to take the lead, as Ollie McBurnie and Oliver Norwood went close and Liverpool’s defenders were throwing themselves heroically in front of the ball.

Then came the moment which decided the game, and one Henderson will not want to see again.

A routine shot from Georginio Wijnaldum was straight at the Sheffield United goalkeeper but the ball somehow squirmed through his grasp and over the line. A horrible moment for the youngster, on loan at Sheffield United from parent club Man United.

As the Blades pushed forward in search of an equalizer late on, Salah went clean through but Henderson made a superb stop with his foot to somewhat make amends for his error.

In the final minutes Sheffield United came close to grabbing a point but substitute Leon Clarkes skied a chance over the bar, even though he looked to be just offside when the cross came in.

Leicester City’s Rodgers: ‘Good news’ on Vardy injury

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Brendan Rodgers says there’s good news when it comes to the injury suffered by Jamie Vardy in Leicester City’s 4-1 blowout of West Ham United on Wednesday.

Vardy hurt his glute in the win, temporarily returning to the match after treatment from the trainer but ultimately subbing off before halftime.

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“It wasn’t his hamstring, so that’s good news for us,” Rodgers said, via The Leicester Mercury.

“He just felt a twinge in his glute, so we just have to wait and see on that in the next day or so. Thankfully his hamstring is okay and he just felt some pain in his glute, so we will have to assess that over the next few days.”

Vardy has a Premier League-best 17 goals, one more than Man City’s Sergio Aguero.

He was replaced by Kelechi Iheanacho, who assisted one of Ayoze Perez’s two goals on the day. Perez’s seven goals are second on Leicester, while James Maddison‘s six are third.

Iheanacho has six goals and three assists in 485 minutes and there’s reason to believe he can feast off Leicester’s playmaking if Vardy needs a match or two to heal.

Whether he can fill Vardy’s shoes in the long-term is a big question, especially as Leicester aims to return for the Champions League.

Transfer rumor roundup: Willian Jose to Spurs, Bournemouth after Croatian CB

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London could get itself another Willian.

Willian Jose, 28, was left out of Real Sociedad’s squad at his request on Wednesday, with the club Tweeting that he’d prefer not to play until his situation is resolved.

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Jose Mourinho said he would not comment on another team’s players, but Willian Jose could help Spurs bridge the gap to Harry Kane‘s return.

Willian Jose has been a double-digit scorer for Real Sociedad in La Liga for the previous three seasons, and is well on his way to another 10-goal campaign. He’s got eight goals in 20 matches this season.

Bournemouth needs defensive help, and is reportedly rivaling Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers for Portuguese giant Toni Borevkovic.

The 22-year-old Croatian has one goal in just over 3000 minutes with the side since arriving from domestic side NK Rudes.

He’s averaging 1.3 interceptions, .9 tackles, and 3.3 clearances per game in league play.

Rio Ave sits seventh in Portugal’s top flight and is managed by former Premier League boss Carlos Carvalhal.

Dropped points in Top Four race point to wild February

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Regardless of whether Wolves end Liverpool’s unbeaten Premier League season on Thursday, there will be five teams within seven points of fourth place heading into Matchweek 25.

Chelsea has 40, a comfortable-enough six-point lead on Manchester United, Spurs, and Wolves (who meet Liverpool at 3 p.m. ET Thursday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com). Sheffield United has 33 points.

February, specifically the next three matchweeks, will see the teams inside that group learn a lot more about their fates, and give Chelsea and Sheffield United big opportunities to cement their places in the Top Four and Seven, respectively.

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In the case of the latter, it’s because the Blades are the only team in the bunch who don’t face a Top Four six-pointer; Chris Wilder‘s men will meet Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, and Brighton, while the others will be beating up each other.

Chelsea’s path is fraught, but a big opportunity. The Blues travel to Leicester City before hosting both Manchester United and Spurs. Nine points there would effectively Top Four-proof Frank Lampard‘s side.

By the way, how’s this for a hot take? If any of Chelsea, Man Utd, or Spurs find their center forward or playmaker help in the window, they’ll have a leg up on their Top Four rivals. And, really, is that extra few million pounds worth the spoils of the Champions League? Yup.

Bruno Fernandes is not (yet) with United, and the Red Devils face Wolves and Chelsea in their next two matches. Spurs have City and Chelsea. Tumult is probable!

A draw with Newcastle and loss at Watford dampened Wolves’ hopes of riding into fourth. Beginning with Thursday’s visit from Liverpool, however, Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men face three of the Top Seven and then a visit from Norwich City. It’s not over.

And don’t entirely rule out Leicester City from dropping into the fray; The Foxes host Chelsea and Man City, and visit Wolves.

One more nod, however improbable: Arsenal sits 10 points back of fourth but meets Burnley, Newcastle, and Everton over those three match weeks. A perfect run could have the Gunners thinking big (Man City is after that, alas).

Matchday 25
Leicester City v. Chelsea
Crystal Palace v. Sheffield United
Manchester United v. Wolves
Spurs v. Man City

Matchday 25
Sheffield United v. Bournemouth
Wolves v. Leicester City
Chelsea v. Manchester United
Aston Villa v. Tottenham Hotspur

Matchday 27
Chelsea v. Tottenham Hotspur
Leicester City v. Man City
Wolves v. Norwich City
Sheffield United v. Brighton
Manchester United v. Watford

Spurs play Wolves the next week, too!

Mourinho: Spurs don’t have attacking depth, but do have ‘family’

Mourinho on Spurs win
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In this “whole new Jose Mourinho” world, the key word is family.

Mourinho said it six times in his post-match presser after Tottenham Hotspur scrapped to a 2-1 defeat of Norwich City on Wednesday in London.

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Spurs had an early lead disappear when Ryan Sessegnon gave away a penalty to Max Aarons, and Teemu Pukki converted it for a 70th-minute deadlock.

Heung-Min Son scored nine minutes later. It was a win that is good for the whole family.

From Football.London:

“It was fantastic what happened after the 1-1, which happens in a difficult moment for us where I look to the bench and I don’t have attacking players to change the game the team is a little bit fatigued, especially Lucas, Son and of course Lamela. I took him off because he was in trouble and he is a player who is coming from very important and long injury, so very difficult.

“How can we change the game? With the family spirit, the family character and desire.”

Mourinho also praised Giovani Lo Celso‘s work on the wing for attack-short Spurs as “a good experience for the family,” and Paulo Gazzaniga‘s support for returned goalkeeper Hugo Lloris as “a good member of the family and he is such a special friend of Hugo.”

I mean, I’m getting the warm and fuzzies.

Clearly, Mourinho is stressing unity and there’s a bit of bunker mentality involved, as the manager mentioned some dicey calls not going their way against Watford, Liverpool, and now Norwich.