Four things we learned: Liverpool v. Tottenham

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LIVERPOOL — Jurgen Klopp‘s boys regained their six-point lead atop the Premier League table as they fought back from 1-0 down to beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 at Anfield on Sunday, as the Reds are still unbeaten.

Harry Kane gave Tottenham the lead after 47 seconds to stun Anfield, and although Liverpool peppered the Spurs goal in the first half, Paulo Gazzaniga was in inspired form to stop Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Virgil Van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold. In a feisty encounter tempers often boiled over as the repeat of the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League final didn’t disappoint.

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At the start of the second half Spurs almost went 2-0 up as Heung-Min Son rounded Alisson but his shot clipped off the crossbar, and then Liverpool pinned Spurs back further. Gazzaniga twice denied Firmino at the near post but he could do nothing to deny Jordan Henderson who popped up at the back post to make it 1-1.

Georginio Wijnaldum then missed a glorious chance for Liverpool as the Reds piled on the pressure and Spurs occasionally threatened on the break. Serge Aurier then clipped Sadio Mane in the box to give away a penalty kick as Mohamed Salah scored the winner to extend Liverpool’s lead to second-place Man City to six points. Spurs went close through Danny Rose, Son and Kane late on, but Liverpool held on to stay unbeaten.

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Here’s a look at what we learned from a dramatic encounter at Anfield.


Man of the Match: Paulo Gazzaniga – Stepping in for the injured Hugo Lloris, the young Argentine goalkeeper was superb as he made a string of fine stops in the first half to keep Spurs ahead. He was confident in possession and when Spurs’ defense was all over the place ahead of him, Gazzaniga kept his cool. The man from Pochettino’s hometown of Murphy, Argentina stood tall on the big stage, even if he couldn’t help his team grab a point.


LIVERPOOL’S INCREDIBLE RUN CONTINUES

Liverpool last lost a Premier League game on January 3 and that is their only defeat in their last 49 games in the competition. They are unbeaten through the first 10 games of the season and they fought back to beat Spurs with another gritty, committed display. Klopp’s side have been far from their best for most of this season but they sit top of the table and the way they dug deep, stayed patient and beat Tottenham proved that they are confident they can go all the way this season. They just aren’t used to losing and like the draw at Man United last week, they never know when they’re beaten. Especially at home as they’ve now gone 45 games unbeaten at Anfield, with Klopp leading the chorus of chants and cheers in the stands with his fist pumps on the sidelines.


KANE PROVIDES CUTTING EDGE FOR SPURS’ MIXED FOUR

Harry Kane produced a fine finish to put Spurs ahead but their front four didn’t click on Sunday. Kane and Son were dangerous throughout but Dele Alli was anonymous and Christian Eriksen had a nightmare. Son hit the bar twice and Kane was a constant menace but Alli and Eriksen look so short in confidence and Pochettino was pulling his hair out on the sidelines over some of their decisions on the ball and with their defensive positioning. These four have only started four games together in 2019 and it showed. They will take some time to get back to their best as a fluid unit. If they ever do.


LOVREN PROVES DOUBTERS RIGHT

Joel Matip has now become indispensable to Liverpool. Dejan Lovren was preferred over Joe Gomez at center back and he had another shaky display as he was caught out on Tottenham’s goal to start a poor performance. From getting beaten for pace by Kane and Son, to taking too much time in possession, every time Lovren got on the ball there was a sharp intake of breath among the home fans at Anfield. Matip and Virgil van Dijk are Liverpool’s preferred center back partnership and Gomez should now start ahead of Lovren.


GAZZANIGA PAPERS OVER POCHETTINO’S PROBLEMS

As we mentioned earlier, Gazzaniga was sublime. But the back four in front of him made sure he had plenty of work to do. Aurier and Danny Rose had tough outings, with both full backs caught out on Liverpool’s two goals. Spurs have tinkered with back threes and fours in recent weeks and Pochettino’s men just don’t seem to be able to defend as a unit. In truth, they should have lost by three or four on Sunday and the scoreline was kind to them. Gazzaniga’s brilliance papered over the cracks. Spurs have so much room for improvement  and the top four seems a long way off, as things stand.

How will USMNT line up versus Costa Rica?

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Saturday brings a first look at the United States men’s national team in 2020, though Gregg Berhalter’s bunch won’t look anything like its best self.

The Yanks have an almost exclusively MLS roster for the match, with Hobro’s Christian Cappas, Wolfsburg II’s Uly Llanez and unattached 17-year-old Bryang Kayo in the fold.

Many of Berhalter’s best MLS stars won’t be in Carson either for the 3:55 p.m. ET Saturday kickoff. Jordan Morris, Jozy Altidore, and Michael Bradley are the biggest names.

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Ronald Gonzalez’s Ticos will be similarly hampered, although more of Costa Rica’s A-side play in MLS and domestically.

We’ll leave the breakdown of the visitors for a later date, but who will rep the U.S. in Saturday’s Starting XI?

The travel roster includes keepers Sean Johnson, Bill Hamid, and Matt Turner, as well as defenders Aaron Long, Walker Zimmerman, Reggie Cannon, Julian Araujo, Chase Gasper, Justen Glad, Mark McKenzie, and Sam Vines. Listed midfielders Sebastian Lletget, Jackson Yueill, Brenden Aaronson, Cappis, Kayo, and Brandon Servania are joined by forwards Gyasi Zardes, Paul Arriola, Jonathan Lewis, Jesus Ferreira, and Ulysses Llanez.

Goalkeeper is anyone’s guess, but Johnson’s got the most run of the three during the Berhalter era. The younger Turner or more accomplished Hamid may step in there.

It would be surprising to see any other center backs besides Walker Zimmerman and Aaron Long given what we know of Berhalter and his respect for regulars. Reggie Cannon should start at right back and it’s between Chase Gasper and Sam Vines for the left. We’ll choose Vines out of intrigue.

Jackson Yueill, Paul Arriola, Sebastian Lletget, and Gyasi Zardes are safe bets to start, and this would seem a spot to give Jonathan Lewis more than subs’ run. That leaves one spot, and we’re pegging Brandon Servania to be the one chosen of four midfielders aged 17-20.

There’s also the matter of whether FC Dallas striker Jesus Ferreira will be internationally cleared to play Saturday. We sure hope he will be!

How do you think Berhalter will line them up?


How Berhalter may go

Johnson

Cannon — Zimmerman — Long — Vines

Yueill — Servania

Arriola — Lletget — Lewis

Zardes


What we’d like to see

Turner

Cannon — Zimmerman — McKenzie — Vines

Yueill — Cappis — Servania

Arriola — Ferreira — Lewis

Watch our transfer deadline day show from 6-8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com.

Report: Sheffield United in ‘advanced talks’ for $22M Norway star

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Sheffield United is ready to add one of the game’s brightest young talents to its blossoming Premier League side.

Norway midfielder Sander Berge is the name, and he’s been linked with Liverpool amongst others over the past few months.

Berge turns 22 next month and already has 20 caps for Norway in addition to 113 senior appearances for Genk in Belgium and 43 more for Valerenga in his home country.

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The defensive midfielder has chipped in six goals and four assists. He won the Belgian Super League with Genk last year and has a career-best four goals so this season.

It shows what success brings to a club, as Sky Sports reports that Berge turned down a move to Bramall Lane in the summer.

The fee is said to be $22 million, which isn’t small but completely reasonable given his stature for club and country.

This may move may join the Lys Mousset purchase as one of the Blades’ smartest bits of business, especially as Chris Wilder‘s men look for success on multiple fronts. Their success as a newly-promoted side is one of the great stories of the European season, and a place in Europe would be a fantastic achievement.

From The Yorkshire Post:

“It is going well, no doubt about it,” Wilder said. “On the Premier League front and in the Cup. You probably would not think it, but the win at Millwall has given me an enormous amount of pleasure in confirming, not even seeing, what my team is about. Players have come in with the likes of the skipper (Billy Sharp) and other players who are really driving it forward and want to produce individual performances and the atmosphere is good.”

Watch our transfer deadline day show from 6-8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com.

Espanyol identify 12 fans who racially insulted player

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BARCELONA, Spain — Spanish club Espanyol says it has identified 12 fans who racially insulted an Athletic Bilbao player in the Spanish league last weekend.

Espanyol said on Monday in a statement that nine of the fans were club members and would face punishment that could include suspension or a full-time ban.

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It said a report of its analysis of the video images of Saturday’s game at RCDE Stadium were sent to authorities.

The club reiterated its “categorical condemnation of any displays of violence and racism.”

The fans made monkey noises directed at Athletic forward Inaki Williams, who is black. Television images showed Williams confronting the section of Espanyol fans who taunted him after he was substituted late in the game in Barcelona.

The Spanish league said it will seek a partial stadium closure for Espanyol and will raise the incident with the Spanish soccer federation’s competition committee, which handles disciplinary issues.

Transfer rumors: West Ham want $44M midfielder, Barca eyes Rodrigo

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West Ham United is being linked with a big transfer splash, and it’s not even a striker.

Uruguayan midfielder Nahitan Nandez is the man in question, and West Ham is reportedly tempting Cagliari with a $44 million offer this January.

Nandez, 23, arrived from Boca Juniors for less than half that fee this summer, and has chipped in a goal with three assists for Tommaso Giulini’s sixth-place Serie A side.

He’s got 31 caps for his national team, and is averaging 1.5 tackles per match with Cagliari. Nandez is also averaging a key pass and 1.1 successful dribbles per league outing.

Football-Italia says that Cagliari will try to tie Nandez to a new deal with a $44 million release clause if the move to West Ham is unsuccessful.

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Meanwhile Barcelona’s pursuit of a Luis Suarez replacement isn’t limited to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, according to Marca.

Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu admits that Valencia striker Rodrigo Moreno is interesting his coaches.

“We don’t talk about players from other teams. But [Rodrigo’s] name is on the table of the coaches, and a replacement will arrive. I do not know whether it will be from Barcelona B or from outside. I like many players.”

The Spaniard has eight goals in 21 caps, and turns 29 in March. Rodrigo has four goals and 10 assists in 23 matches across all competitions this season.

Valencia beat Barcelona this weekend to send the Blaugranas three points back of La Liga leaders Real Madrid.