10 things we learned in the Premier League – Matchweek 26

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What did we learn during matchweek 26 of the 2021-22 Premier League season?

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]

Here’s a look at 10 things which stood out, as our writers Joe Prince-Wright (JPW) and Andy Edwards (AE) share their observations from across the most recent Premier League games.

VIDEO: PL highlights ]

Let’s get to it.


1a. Title race back on (Manchester City 2-3 Tottenham/Liverpool 3-1 Norwich): Liverpool were victorious, while Manchester City lost on Saturday, cutting the defending Premier League champions’ lead to six points. Liverpool’s three points earned turned to three points gained with Man City’s defeat, with them now having played one more game again. Liverpool, winners of five straight (by a combined score of 12-2), can pull to within three points when they play their game in hand, against Leeds United, next Wednesday. Liverpool are still to visit the Etihad, on April 9. (AE)

1b. Kane nearing return to his best (Manchester City 2-3 Tottenham): He’ll need some more weeks and months of prolific goal-scoring to match the raw numbers of his best seasons for Tottenham, but Kane is more frequently showing flashes of brilliance when he drops into midfield to facilitate play with his long-range passing. The timing of his run for Tottenham’s second goal was also a familiar sight with Son Heung-min picking him out with an inch-perfect cross. His ability to receive and retain the ball in transitional moments not only makes Spurs a threat in attack, but it relieves immense pressure on the defense when a simple ball out to midfield isn’t immediately returned to the final third. He scored twice (and had another disallowed for offside – VAR) and provided the assist-before-the-assist on the other goal, perhaps leaving Manchester City with deeper regrets over their failure to sign him in the summer. (AE)

2. Strength in numbers (Liverpool 3-1 Norwich): Jurgen Klopp is currently in possession of an embarrassment of riches in attack. Diogo Jota arrived last season to make the trio a quartet, and Luis Diaz was signed in January to round out the quintet (likely with an eye toward someone, or perhaps someones, leaving in the summer). On Saturday, though, Jota (12 Premier League goals this season) and Roberto Firmino (4 goals, 3 assists) were unavailable due to injuries, but it mattered very little in the end. It was simply a matter of time before Mane and Salah would do what they always do. (AE)

3. Chaos in the pouring rain (Leeds 2-4 Manchester United): This was the Premier League at its absolute best. Man United raced into a lead. Leeds scored two goals in quick-succession to equalize. Then it was end-to-end for the final 20 minutes but the Red Devils won. The atmosphere at Elland Road was electric throughout, even though it boiled over as objects were thrown at several United players from the stands as they celebrated goals. The conditions added to the chaos as the wind swirled, rained poured down and shots flew in. This is a game which will be shown again and again to sum up the madness of the Premier League. It was beautifully nuts. Leeds played their part and could have easily won it, but injuries continue to hit them hard and Marcelo Bielsa’s boys dug deep to get back in the game. Leeds and Manchester United on their own are crazy teams. Put them both together in horrendous conditions at a fired-up stadium and this is what happens. (JPW)

4. Lukaku, Chelsea an incompatible match (Crystal Palace 0-1 Chelsea): Romelu Lukaku’s first spell at Chelsea can easily be written off as a player being too young to arrive into one of football’s most chaotic clubs and find success through all the surrounding noise. Lukaku’s second spell at Chelsea appears much the same, as Thomas Tuchel deploys a tactical system which isn’t suited to the $135-million striker, who in turn looks beyond miserable in his present predicament. Here’s a very real stat: Lukaku touched the ball twice — two times — in the first half of Saturday’s game, and one of the two started the game in the center circle with 0:00 on the clock. In 45 minutes, Lukaku touched the ball once during open play, in the 5th minute, meaning he went 43 minutes between touches of the ball (he finished his 90-minute shift with 7 touches). Everyone appears to be at fault in this costly mistake of a transfer, with a swift resolution likely in the summer. (AE)

5. Top-four is on for Arsenal (Arsenal 2-1 Brentford): West Ham, Tottenham and Man United are also showing signs of inconsistency but Arsenal are looking the most likely right now to finish in the top four. They are getting stronger defensively and their young attacking stars are getting better as the season goes on. The only issue is whether or not Lacazette will score enough goals late in the season but the Gunners are going to go very close to being back where they believe they belong: in the Champions League. (JPW)

6. Top-four not so far away (Wolves 2-1 Leicester): Not only are Wolves within six points of the top-four after being Leicester, but they’re beginning to rival the quality of the other, more established sides in the chase. While Manchester City choke the life out of teams through possession and own the league’s best defensive record as a result, there’s not a better side in the Premier League when it comes to the actual act of defending, individually and collectively, than Wolves. Bruno Lage’s side simply doesn’t make mistakes, nor does it miss assignments or rotations, and that gives them a shot at three points every time they take the field, no matter the opponent.

7. Sarr undoubtedly a star (Aston Villa 0-1 Watford): All five of Watford’s wins this season have come with Sarr in the starting lineup — they haven’t won a game without him all season. Given that he missed nearly three months (10 games) due to injury and international duty, the Senegalese forward’s presence, and absence, have been the story of Watford’s season. The last time they won, Sarr injured his knee in the same game. (AE)

8. Burnley finally click in attack (Brighton 0-3 Burnley): This was the game they had waited for. They scored with three of their four shots on target and this was peak Burnley under Sean Dyche. Burnley have drawn so many games this season and remain tough to beat. However, in attack they just haven’t had the right combinations of luck, clinical finishing and nastiness. That changed at Brighton. Weghorst and Cornet caused so many problems and Brownhill’s goal summed up that their luck may well be changing. (JPW)

9. Saints’ high-line is risky, but works (Southampton 2-0 Everton): Calvert-Lewin thought he had given Everton the lead early in the second half but Saints’ high-line worked very well once again from set pieces. They take a big risk because all it takes is for one man to get his timing wrong, but Saints are so well-drilled on set pieces defensively and they charge out together. That left three Everton players offside and moments later Saints took the lead. It is all about the small margins for Hasenhuttl and his coaching staff. (JPW)

10. Magpies continue to dig deep (West Ham 1-1 Newcastle): They were missing some big players in Trippier, Wilson, Lascelles and Allan Saint-Maximin, but Newcastle dug deep and got a valuable point on the road. Newcastle are now six games unbeaten in the Premier League and they’ve conceded just four goals in that run. That shows you how much they have improved defensively under Eddie Howe and that wasn’t something many thought he could do. Dan Burn and Matt Targett have hit the ground running since their arrival in January and both were superb at West Ham. Going forward Newcastle were dangerous on the break and Newcastle have given themselves a great platform to pull away from the relegation zone in the coming weeks. (JPW)

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South Korea vs Portugal: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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South Korea have a must-win Group H finale against Portugal, who have already made it through to the last 16 of the World Cup.

STREAM LIVE SOUTH KOREA v PORTUGAL

Heung-min Son has struggled and South Korea have just one point on the board so far from their games against Uruguay and Ghana. Last time out they lost 3-2 to Ghana in excrutiating fashion after fighting back from 2-0 down to make it 2-2. Now more than ever, Son’s country needs him to deliver as he has failed to score or assist in the opening two games and looks extremely frustrated. South Korea must win to have a chance of reaching the last 16 ahead of Uruguay and Ghana.

[ MORE: Group H standings, schedule, rankings ]

The opposite emotions are true for Portugal who beat Ghana 3-2 and then Uruguay 2-0 to breeze into the last 16 and they only need a point to secure top spot in Group H. Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva have been pulling the strings and this Portugal side is stacked in attack with Rafael Leao and Joao Felix rotated in and out of the team to support Cristiano Ronaldo.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub

Here is everything you need for South Korea vs Portugal. 


How to watch South Korea vs Portugal live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET – Friday, December 2
Stadium: Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Obviously the stage is set for Heung-min Son. He is a hero in his homeland and he’s worked so hard to be fit for this tournament after the nasty facial injury but looks out of sorts on the left. Perhaps he can moved inside or slightly deeper to get on the ball more? Cho Gue-sung scored two beauties against Ghana and if South Korea can put more quality deliveries into the box, they will cause problems. They simply have to go all-out for the win and that approach saw them deliver their best play of the tournament in the second half against Ghana. However, South Korea’s Portuguese coach Paulo Bento was sent off at the end of that disappointing defeat to Ghana as he was unhappy with a late corner not being allowed as the final whistle was blown. He will miss this game through suspension. 

For Portugal it’s about resting key players and warming up for their last 16 clash. Winning the group is essential as that means they would face one of Serbia, Switzerland or Cameroon in the last 16 rather than Brazil. It is very unlikely Portugal won’t finish top, but it could happen. Basically, Ghana would have to win big to overturn a three-goal difference by beating Uruguay and Portugal would also have to lose against South Korea. It could happen but Fernando Santos can rotate his team and still have so much quality on the pitch as Goncalo Ramos, Diogo Dalot, Matheus Nunes and Rafael Leao could all start.


South Korea quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 28
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 10
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from AFC
Coach: Paulo Bento
Key players: Heung-min Son, Young-gwon Kim, In-beom Hwang, Woo-yeong Jeong

Portugal quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 9
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 8
How they qualified: Qualified from UEFA via playoffs
Coach: Fernando Santos
Key players: Cristiano Ronaldo, Ruben Neves, Bruno Fernandes, Joao Cancelo


Ghana vs Uruguay: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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This is going to be an epic Group H finale as there is so much history between Ghana and Uruguay and both teams still have a chance of reaching the last 16.

STREAM LIVE GHANA V URUGUAY

When you say Luis Suarez, Ghana and World Cup together, most people think of his incredible handball to deny the Black Stars victory in the quarterfinals of the 2010 World Cup. We all know what happened next as Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan missed the spot kick after Suarez had been sent off, then Uruguay won on penalty kicks to deny Ghana an historic semifinal berth.

The whole of Ghana has never forgot that and the Black Stars get their chance for revenge in this clash.

[ MORE: Group H standings, schedule, rankings ]

Focusing on this game, Ghana provided superb entertainment in their 3-2 win against South Korea and know a point against Uruguay will be enough to reach the last 16 if South Korea fail to beat Portugal in the other final Group H game. Thomas Partey has been superb in midfield, Mohammed Kudus scored twice up top in their big win and the additions of Tariq Lamptey and Mohammed Salisu just before this tournament has made a big difference.

As for Uruguay, they’ve huffed and puffed in their opening two games but have failed to score as Darwin Nunez, Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani have all looked off the pace. Rodrigo Bentancur and Federico Valverde have been great in midfield but is this one tournament too far for Uruguay’s incredible, but ageing, core? They need to win to have a chance of reaching the last 16.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub

Here is everything you need for Ghana vs Uruguay. 


How to watch Ghana vs Uruguay live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET – Friday, December 2
Stadium: Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Ghana will likely start the same team which started against South Korea as they looked dangerous in attack but they will have to improve defensively and keep the ball a bit better. The Ayew brothers (Jordan and Andre) provide so much experience, while Inaki Williams and Kudus knit everything together well in the final third.

Uruguay have to go for it, so does that mean starting Suarez, Cavani and Nunez up top together? If they do that they could cause Ghana, who have looked shaky at the back, plenty of problems. They may go back to a back four and the trio of Bentancur, Vecino and Valverde to hold down midfield.


Ghana quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 61
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 4
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CAF via playoffs
Coach: Otto Addo
Key players: Jordan Ayew, Andre Ayew, Thomas Partey, Jeff Schlupp

Uruguay quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 14
World Cup titles: 2 (1930, 1950)
World Cup appearances: 14
How they qualified: Qualified from CONMEBOL
Coach: Diego Alonso
Key players: Luis Suarez, Federico Valverde, Darwin Nunez, Rodrigo Bentancur


Cameroon vs Brazil: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Cameroon needs to upset qualified Brazil and get help from the other Group G game when the World Cup group stage hits Lusail on Friday.

The Indomitable Lions lost 1-0 to Switzerland before drawing Serbia 3-3 In a thrilling second encounter.

STREAM LIVE CAMEROON vs BRAZIL

Beating tournament favorites Brazil is a big ask but it will be a heavily-rotated and Neymar-less Selecao who faces Cameroon. Brazil blanked Serbia 2-0 in Lusail before beating Switzerland 1-0 in Doha.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for Cameroon vs Brazil.


How to watch Cameroon vs Brazil live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Friday Dec. 2
Stadium: Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Cameroon defender Jean-Charles Castelletto has joined forwards Vincent Aboubakar and underappreciated Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting in becoming one of the stories of Group G.

Brazil still needs to find its answer if Neymar cannot return to the fold this tournament. Richarlison and Raphinha have impressed but still need to show they can really carry the attack without Neymar. Could Gabriel Jesus shine in his absence?


Cameroon quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 43
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 8
How they qualified: Qualified from CAF playoffs
Coach: Rigobert Song
Key players: Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, Vincent Aboubakar, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting

Brazil quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 1
World Cup titles: 5 (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
World Cup appearances: 22
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONMEBOL (1st place)
Coach: Tite
Key players: Neymar, Thiago Silva, Casemiro, Alisson Becker

Serbia vs Switzerland: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Serbia and Switzerland seek a win that could seal a place in the World Cup Round of 16 when they meet Friday in Doha.

The Swiss can qualify with a win, or a draw if Cameroon beats Brazil and tiebreakers stay in Switzerland’s favor. The Swiss beat Cameroon 1-0 in Al Wakrah but lost to Brazil by the same score in Doha.

STREAM LIVE SERBIA vs SWITZERLAND

Serbia started its tournament with a 2-0 loss to Brazil In Lusail before drawing a wild six-goal thriller with Cameroon In Al Wakrah.

Serbia qualifies with a win if Cameroon doesn’t beat Brazil. If Serbia and Cameroon both win, Serbia would need to take the lead in goal differential.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for Serbia vs Switzerland.


How to watch Serbia vs Switzerland live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Friday Dec. 2
Stadium: Stadium 974, Doha
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Three different goal scorers hit the sheet in the draw with Cameroon, and Fulham star Aleksandar Mitrovic remains a threat to score every game. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic continues to show huge value in the center of the pitch.

Breel Embolo has Switzerland’s only goal and will be continue to be a focal point, while Man City defender Manuel Akanji, Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka, and Nottingham Forest’s Remo Freuler make the Swiss a tough team to break down.


Serbia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 21
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 12
How they qualified: Qualified from UEFA via playoffs
Coach: Dragan Stojkovic
Key players: Aleksandar Mitrovic, Luka Jovic, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Dusan Tadic

Switzerland quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 15
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 12
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (1st place)
Coach: Murat Yakin
Key players: Granit Xhaka, Xherdan Shaqiri, Yann Sommer, Remo Freuler