Five things we learned from midweek PL

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Before we start with the specifics, we learned that the midweek games were crazy in the Premier League.

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For the first matchday since 2010 all 20 teams scored, as there were upsets, goals galore, huge mistakes and plenty of talking points.

Lets dig in on five specific things we learned from what occurred over the past 48 hours.


1. Gutsy Liverpool prove the strength of their squad
Trailing at Burnley in the second half, this was a huge test of Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool. They passed with flying colors. Klopp left Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino out of his starting lineup and it looked like they could pay the price. But Salah and Firmino came on in the second half after James Milner pulled Liverpool level and the rest is history. Alisson made a fine save late on to keep the score at 2-1 and Xherdan Shaqiri finished plucky Burnley off. Klopp hit out at Burnley’s rough tactics after the game as Joe Gomez suffered a lower leg fracture in the first half, and it was a gruelling test to win at Burnley even if the Clarets are nowhere near the team they were last season. Shaqiri, Divock Origi, Daniel Sturridge, Joel Matip, Alberto Moreno, Naby Keita and others stepped up to help Liverpool get the job done as they sit two points behind leaders Manchester City heading into the busy festive period. Liverpool’s squad this season is so much stronger than last year and they have considerable, and game-changing, options on the bench each game.


2. Man United’s defensive issues likely to cost them top four spot
Jose Mourinho wanted two new center backs in the summer and he didn’t get them. At every opportunity Manchester United’s manager is reminding Ed Woodward what a monumental mistake he made for not releasing the funds for United to buy new defenders. Then again, Mourinho did want Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof to join United… Before the game against Arsenal he said he had no center backs fit. He played three of them in Bailly, Smalling and Rojo on Wednesday. Individuals aside, the 2-2 draw with Arsenal underlined the good and the bad about United. The good: they have a wealth of attacking options who are actually scoring goals and creating opponents problems. The bad: they can’t defend for toffee. That is very unlike a Mourinho team. David De Gea‘s blunder and an own goal from Marcos Rojo gifted Arsenal two goals at Old Trafford and Mourinho lambasted the defensive play of his side. If they’re going to reach the top four this season at all (not just by Mourinho’s previous prediction of early January) they will have to shore things up defensively. As bad as United have been this season, and leaving the Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku situation to one side, they are only eight points off the top four. But they do have the sixth-worst defensive record and also have a negative goal difference. That says it all.


3. Chelsea’s title charge may already be over
The way Chelsea folded at newly-promoted Wolves on Wednesday suggests they are nowhere near ready for a title push. Maurizio Sarri said he is “very worried” after watching his side surrender a 1-0 lead as they were pushed over and roughed up by a hungry, out-of-form, Wolves to lose 2-1. Chelsea’s tremendous early-season form relied heavily on Eden Hazard and the Belgian has been off the boil in recent weeks. He hasn’t scored since early October and unlike Liverpool, those who Sarri brought into the team at Wolves struggled. Alvaro Morata had another off day, Cesc Fabregas was overpowered and Andreas Christensen was hardly rock solid. 10 points behind Man City who they face on Saturday at Stamford Bridge, it is fair to say Chelsea’s title bid is pretty much over before it ever began.


4. Hasenhuettl has plenty of defensive work to do too
Southampton’s new manager Ralph Hasenhuettl met the media on Thursday and he has quite the way with words. He also knows the one area where he needs to improve the team immediately: defense. It is often cliche to say a manager ‘needs to sort the defense out’ when he first comes in midseason, but this is so very true in this case. Saints lost 3-1 at Tottenham and trailed 3-0 early in the second half before Spurs stopped playing. Hasenhuettl has a bloated squad at Saints and the likes of Yoshida, Stephens, Vestergaard, Bednarek and Hoedt have all been used this season without finding a successful combination. Sorting out their backline is the main issue for Hasenhuettl early on as Saints have let in seven goals in their last three games in the PL, although they have scored five in that period. Going forward they have weapons to hurt their opponents but building a solid foundation is key. Then, and only then, will Hasenhuettl be able to promote his 4-2-2-2 formation which relies on high-pressing and relentless running. Southampton will be hoping Hasenhuettl has the same impact as the last manager they brought in midseason, Mauricio Pochettino back in January 2013.


5. Fulham improving slowly under Claudio Ranieri
Even though they coughed up a late goal at home against Leicester, the signs are good for Fulham under Claudio Ranieri. Fulham led the Foxes 1-0 and although they will be disappointed to not open up with two wins from Ranieri’s first three games in charge, there are encouraging signs that the players are grasping his ideas. Fulham’s defense has conceded just three times over the past two games and after the 2-0 defeat at Chelsea at the weekend, Ranieri revealed he was more pleased with how his team played there than he was in the 3-2 home win against Southampton on his debut. They look solid in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Chambers and Seri shoring things up in front of the back four. Ranieri is getting this Fulham side back to basics and the pace of Kamara and Sessegnon on the break works well with Mitrovic’s hold-up play. Working Andre Schurrle back into the team will also help, but shoring up Fulham’s defense is key to Ranieri’s philosophy.

Hazard’s magnificent goal puts Chelsea past Liverpool (video)

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Eden Hazard and Emerson scored goals as Chelsea overcame a marker from ex-player Daniel Sturridge to beat Liverpool 2-1 at Anfield in League Cup play on Wednesday.

The two teams meet again on Saturday at Stamford Bridge (12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Both sides kept stars on the bench or off the 18, as Hazard and Liverpool star Mohamed Salah were used as substitutes. Roberto Firmino and N'Golo Kante also came off the bench, while Virgil Van Dijk, Alisson Becker, and Kepa Arrizabalaga were rested.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box scores ]

Chelsea nearly gave away the farm in the 46th minute on a terrible back pass by Andreas Christensen.

Daniel Sturridge read it well and ran onto a 1v1 chance that Wily Caballero slapped to the side but still on the striker’s path. Sturridge couldn’t get his body around the shot and missed the wide open goal.

Alvaro Morata nearly nodded Willian‘s cross into the Liverpool goal moments later.

Ross Barkley made a worse play than Christensen before him, but Caballero again rescued the Blues to keep it 0-0 in the 53rd.

Sturridge got his goal in the 59th minute, leaving his feet to thump a Naby Keita rebound past Caballero.

But Chelsea equalized through Emerson, who poked past Mignolet after the goalkeeper pushed Barkley’s header to the top of the six.

It didn’t take longer for Chelsea to go ahead through substitute Hazard, who started and finished an exceptional goal with, well, just scroll back up to the top of the page. Hazard cooks Alberto Moreno at the end, as the Liverpool man raises his hands to say, “At least I didn’t foul him.”

Liverpool issue injury update on key players

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Jurgen Klopp will have spent most of his weekend sweating on the fitness of key players ahead of Liverpool’s trip to Manchester City on Tuesday.

Leading 3-0 from the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarterfinal, Klopp and his squad are in a pretty good place. But with Mohamed Salah and Andrew Robertson both missing the Merseyside derby through injury at the weekend, there are injury concerns for Liverpool as they look to reach the UCL semifinals.

Speaking ahead of Liverpool’s clash with City, Klopp gave the following update on top scorer Salah, plus left backs Andrew Robertson and Alberto Moreno.

“With Mo, Robbo and Alberto, we have to wait a little bit but of course [we have] big hope they will be back,” Klopp said.

Asked in more detail about Salah’s injury, with the Egyptian winger left out of the clash at Everton on Saturday with a groin problem, Klopp was cautious but was quoted as saying “everybody thinks he will be ready” for the City game.

“We have to see,” Klopp said. “We have to wait for the reaction tomorrow. Then we’ll make a decision. That’s it.”

The German coach added that he was still uncertain about the fitness levels of most of his squad and would wait until later on Monday to assess them fully.

“No real clue in the moment because we have to wait a little bit. You can imagine, in this short period between games, it is quite difficult so I have to wait each minute I can and that’s what I’ll do. There’s nothing new in the moment, we will see. We will see in five hours until we train and we’ll know who is involved in that. I don’t know in the moment 100 per cent, but I am quite hopeful we will have a bigger squad than we had at Everton.”

One player who will not be fit is Emre Can as the German midfielder continues to struggle with a back injury. Klopp didn’t set a timeline for Can’s return.

“That is not in the best place. [He is receiving] treatment and we’re still hoping it will be a little bit quicker than maybe we thought in the first moment. But we cannot say anything else,” Klopp added.

As for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Roberto Firmino and Trent Alexander-Arnold, who all started on the bench during Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Everton in the Merseyside derby, Klopp revealed they are all in good shape and ready to roll.

So, a real mixed bag for Klopp.

The main man everyone wants to know about is Salah and at this point it seems likely he may not start against City with Liverpool 3-0 up and the likes of Sadio Mane and Firmino around.

Why would Klopp risk further damaging his star player who has scored 38 goals in all competitions this season?

Player ratings: Liverpool v. Man City

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Liverpool battered Manchester City 3-0 at Anfield on Wednesday in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarterfinal.

[ MORE: Recap | 3 things we learned ]

Jurgen Klopp‘s men have one foot in the semifinals as Pep Guardiola got his tactics badly wrong and his team froze in the cauldron of Anfield.

Here’s a mark out of 10 for the players who took part in the all-Premier League battle.


Liverpool

Loris Karius – 6 – He really didn’t have much to do. No shots on target from City and a dodgy kick early on. All good apart from that.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 7 – Solid display after a shaky one at Palace at the weekend. Dealt with the threat of Leroy Sane superbly.

Dejan Lovren – 7 – Did what he had to do well enough. Wasn’t tested by Gabriel Jesus who hardly had any service.

Virgil Van Dijk – 7 – See above. A few loose passes but had little to do apart from keeping his position and clearing a few crosses.

Andrew Robertson – 8 – Some fine surging runs from left back and dealt with Gundogan well. Another terrific display.

James Milner – 9 – Great pass to set up Salah on his way to scoring the first and an all-action display. A proper leader.

Jordan Henderson – 8 – Didn’t put a foot wrong and led Liverpool from the heart of their midfield. Captain’s display.

Alex Oxalde-Chamberlain – 9 – A wonderful goal for Liverpool’s second and a committed, tireless display. Terrific.

Sadio Mane – 8 – Headed home their third goal and caused so many problems with his pace. Well and truly back to his best.

Roberto Firmino – 7 – Did so well to set up Salah for his goal and his runs in-behind rattled Kompany and Otamendi.

Mohamed Salah – 8 – Came off injured in the second half with what looked like a slight groin strain. Calm finish to make it 1-0, then set up Mane with a peach of a cross for Liverpool’s third. Same old Salah, always scoring and that’s 38 for the season now.

Subs
Georginio Wijnaldum on for Mohamed Salah (53′) – 6 – Solid enough and added extra legs to midfield as Liverpool tired.
Dominic Solanke on for Roberto Firmino (71′) – 6 – One good run behind the City defense and tried his best to hold up the ball.
Alberto Moreno on for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 6 – Late sub to help Liverpool keep a clean sheet.


Manchester City

Ederson – 6 – Didn’t have a lot to do apart from picking the ball out of his net three times.

Kyle Walker – 4 – Really poor first half display. Caught napping by Firmino for the first and let Mane go for the third goal. Maybe he should just play as a right-sided center back going forward?

Vincent Kompany – 4 – Not a great night for the City skipper. Struggled to deal with the movement of Firmino and couldn’t galvanize City’s shaky backline.

Nicolas Otamendi – 3 – A poor night for the Argentine center back. Came waltzing out of the back to give the ball away for Liverpool’s killer third goal.

Aymeric Laporte – 5 – Did okay out of position at left back after a slow start but dealing with the threat of Salah never easy. Caught out of position by Milner for Liverpool’s first goal.

Fernandinho – 4 – Failed to shield City’s backline and looked nervous in possession. Lost the battle to Milner and Henderson and couldn’t cope with the Ox running at him.

Ilkay Gundogan – 4 – Started on the right instead of Sterling and it didn’t work. Failed to protect Walker and didn’t add anything going forward.

David Silva – 6 – Did better in the second half as he tried to drag City back into the game and didn’t anticipate a loose ball falling his way in the box as he could have scored.

Kevin De Bruyne – 5 – A rare off night for KDB as he couldn’t get on the ball in the first half and then struggled out wide in the second half early on, then moved back into the center.

Leroy Sane – 6 – A rare bright spark for City in the first half and he was always a threat but couldn’t do it all on his own.

Gabriel Jesus – 4 – Hardly touched the ball all game long. An isolated figure and seemed to freeze on the big night.

Sub
Raheem Sterling on for Ilkay Gundogan (57′) – 4 – Didn’t impact the game at all and was predictably booed by fans of his former club. Should have started. Could have easily won a penalty kick late on after Robertson caught him in the box.

Premier League Preview: Liverpool vs. Swansea City

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  • Swansea has only won once at Anfield in PL play – last year
  • The last 9 PL matches between Liverpool and Swansea has seen 35 goals
  • Liverpool has not lost on Boxing Day since 1982 vs. Manchester United

Liverpool is one of three teams in a dogfight for the fourth spot in the Premier League table, and things are heating up on Boxing Day. The Reds host 20th-placed Swansea City at Anfield (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com) with a chance to at the least keep pace with Tottenham and Arsenal.

The Reds are coming off a wild 3-3 draw against Arsenal which, following a pair of clean sheets against Bournemouth and West Brom, the defense reverted back to old habits despite dominating the game for long spells. Jurgen Klopp admitted Liverpool has “obvious problems” in defense, ones that Swansea will look to capitalize on. However, Liverpool has fared much better this campaign against the bottom half of the table than they did last season.

Swansea, meanwhile, plays three of its next four matches away from home (four of its next five if you count the FA Cup match at Wolves) and will need to pick up points wherever possible to close the gap towards safety – currently four points. Leon Britton, who took charge of Swansea’s draw with Crystal Palace, will remain as interim manager for the trip to Anfield.

Team news

Liverpool: Out – Jordan Henderson (hamstring), Alberto Moreno (ankle), Marko Grujic (finger), Joel Matip (muscle), Nathaniel Clyne (back), Adam Bogdan (knee).

Swansea City: Out – Kyle Naughton (groin), Wilfried Bony (hamstring), Ki Sung-Yueng (calf), Kyle Bartley (knee). QuestionableLeroy Fer (back).

What they’re saying

Jurgen Klopp on drawing matches this year: “The draw [against Arsenal] is really not good, but it’s good because again we were the better side in draw number eight, and we should have won like all the other draws we had. So that’s…in development, even though nobody wants to hear that, it’s a very important thing, that’s a very important thing. In a very difficult league, performance-wise we are very consistent so far.”

Leon Britton on the permanent managerial position: “The fans have been great with me, as player or manager, you could hear them being very vocal which I appreciate, but in terms of the job, nothing has changed and I’m not looking for the job full time. [Management] need[s] to make the right decision, make sure it’s clear what they want, whether that’s before Liverpool, after Liverpool or in January. They have to make sure they take their time and get the right man.”

Prediction

As mentioned earlier, Liverpool has been quite good against the bottom half of the table, most recently holding Bournemouth and West Brom both goalless, plus beating Brighton 5-1 and Stoke City 3-0. It’s hard to look past a free-flowing Liverpool in this game, by a 4-1 scoreline in a game that could get out of hand late.