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Henderson, Bronze recognized as England Players of the Year

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Jordan Henderson and Lucy Bronze were named men’s and women’s England Players of the Year for 2019 on Tuesday.

Liverpool midfielder Henderson surpassed the 50-cap mark during the year, playing a critical role in England’s qualification for Euro 2020. He assisted a goal in the 5-1 victory over Montenegro in March, the same game in which he earned his 50th cap. Henderson also came off the bench for the Nations League semifinals loss to the Netherlands, arriving in the 77th minute and playing all of extra time.

It likely didn’t hurt Henderson’s case that he has captained Liverpool during the club’s most successful run in decades. The Reds won the Champions League final last summer and are on track to blitzkrieg their way to the Premier League title as it stands. Raheem Sterling finished second for the international award, while Harry Kane came in third.

Bronze was a critical figure for the Lionesses as they competed at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, reaching the semifinals. The full-back was constantly a dangerous threat up the flank, scoring against Norway in a 3-0 win and eventually earning the Silver Ball award as the tournament’s second-best player, finishing behind Megan Rapinoe of the United States.

Her success made her well-known, something she says has been difficult but also enjoyable. “We were successful [at the SheBelieves Cup] and I scored a couple of goals and I think my football life changed overnight,” Bronze said last summer before the World Cup began. “People knew my name and who I was, and I had a target on my back when I was playing, but it was something I enjoyed and always wanted.”

Since the World Cup, England manager Phil Neville has experimented with Bronze in midfield, likening her to Philipp Lahm who made a similar move under Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich. The award the second of her career, also winning England Women’s Player of the Year back in 2015.

Klopp reacts to incredible unbeaten league year

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It was just too easy.

Liverpool swarmed over Sheffield United with class and precision, posting a 2-0 win at Anfield on Thursday.

The win came with all the trimmings. Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah scored as the Reds out-attempted the Blades 19-3.

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Liverpool had 74 percent of the ball and attempted nearly 1000 passes, completing better than 90 percent of them.

It was no contest, nearly from Moment No. 1, and made Liverpool unbeaten in league play over a calendar year. From the BBC:

“It says a lot of positive things. I have not enough words for it, it is exceptional. We did not think about the year tonight. Our New Year starts at the end of May, so we have season resolutions not New Year resolutions.”

The Reds, of course, will keep taking it one match at a time.

It will be stunning if Liverpool fails to win its first title of the Premier League era. The 13-point lead with a match-in-hand would have to combine a stunning turn of form with someone else going darn near invincible.

That term, though. Trent Alexader-Arnold has it in his head, and the Reds are clearly cognizant of what it would mean to complete the unlikely task of going unbeaten over a league campaign.

“So far we are invincible but we have only just passed the halfway mark so there’s still a long way to go,” said Alexander-Arnold. “It is harder than what people say. We got beaten once last season and that wasn’t enough. We need to keep our concentration in every game.”

The match wasn’t all good news. Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita pulled up in warm-ups and needed to be replaced by James Milner in the Starting XI.

Klopp said Keita will miss the FA Cup derby tie against Everton with a groin injury.

The boss also had big praise for Jordan Henderson.

Liverpool sweeps aside Blades at Anfield

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The party plan for Liverpool’s arrival as Premier League champions appears to be a waltz.

The Reds danced past Sheffield United 2-0 at Anfield with little worry, getting goals from Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.

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Liverpool increases its lead to 13 points and still holds a match-in-hand on the chasing pack. The Reds outshot the Blades 19-3 and had 74 percent of the ball.

The two goals come against the third stingiest defense in the league. Sheffield United now sits eighth with 29 points.


Three things we learned

1. Reds score on Blades two let-downs: It’s nothing new that Liverpool is quality on the break, but the Premier League leaders were merciless given two chances at Anfield. The first was Baldock slipping to the turf to allow Robertson to set up Salah, but the second was like a mouse who spied free cheese.

Alisson claimed a looping cross and saw acres of space on his left. A throw to Robertson was quickly at the feet of Mane, who tore down the left before combing with Salah to make it 2-0.

2. Henderson adds to his highlight reel: Twenty-two year old Dean Henderson continues to make a case to both England and parent club Manchester United. The Blades loanee made an incredible stop on Mohamed Salah early in the contest, and had clear command of his box aside from a freak chipped cross from Salah that tapped the post.

3. Keita injury concern: Naby Keita picked up an injury in warm-ups, plugging James Milner into the Starting XI. Keita had been a revelation in recent weeks, looking exactly like the player he was for RB Leipzig before arriving at Anfield. Liverpool is deep but Keita gives them another level, their best midfield three likely involving him, Fabinho, and Georginio Wijnaldum.

Man of the Match: Salah and Roberto Firmino each had five shot attempts, but the Egyptian’s lightning quick finish to open the scoring was it. Andrew Robertson was also quite good for the presumptive champs.


The festive gifts are carrying over to the New Year for Liverpool, as George Baldock fell down tracking a cross. That allowed Andrew Robertson an unimpeded path to cross for Salah. No problem. 1-0.

It could’ve been two, but Dean Henderson leapt to paw a Salah flick away from frame after Jordan Henderson spotted the Egyptian’s run.

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Mane came down the left and fed Georginio Wijnaldum, who maneuevered in traffic to whip an 18-yard shot wide of the goal.

Henderson saved a Salah shot again in the 30th minute.

The Blades kept the damage at one until the 65th minute, a break fired down the left side. Henderson stopped Mane’s close-range effort, but the Senegalese was first to the rebound.

Liverpool recalls center back Phillips from Stuttgart loan

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Liverpool have recalled center back Nathaniel Phillips from his loan in Germany, sparking worries that Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip may’ve experienced set backs.

Phillips, 22, had been with Stuttgart since August, making seven starts in his 11 appearances with the 2.Bundesliga outfit.

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Sofascore rates Phillips as one of Stuttgart’s top performers this season, an 88 percent passer out of the back.

He’ll arrive back at Anfield in January.

The Premier League leaders have Virgil Van Dijk and Joe Gomez as healthy center backs. Dejan Lovren is out until next month and Joel Matip is just nearing a return after a late October injury.

The club also has youngster Sepp van den Berg, but he’s only played thrice in the League Cup.

Emergency option Jordan Henderson picked up a knock against Leicester City, and Fabinho remains out, too.

The defender is the son of longtime Middlesbrough and Bolton midfielder Jimmy Phillips.

Three things we learned: Leicester v. Liverpool

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Liverpool beat Leicester City 4-0 on Boxing Day to extend their lead atop the Premier League table to 13 points, as the Reds also have a game in hand over the Foxes and have taken 52 points from a possible 54 points.

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Man City sit in third and 14 points behind Liverpool as the halfway point in the season is almost here and at this rate Liverpool will have the title wrapped up by March…

Jurgen Klopp‘s side were dominant throughout as Roberto Firmino set them on their way, James Milner scored a penalty kick and then Firmino and the brilliant Trent Alexander-Arnold finished things off.

Here’s what we learned from a one-sided encounter at the King Power Stadium.


FIRMINO HAS FOUND HIS MOJO

In the last week the real Roberto Firmino has returned. With winning goals in the Club World Cup semifinal and final, he helped Liverpool become world champions and his powerful header and calm finish on Boxing Day at the King Power Stadium has gone a long way to making Liverpool Premier League champions. Before this purple patch Firmino had scored just once in 17 games in all competition for Liverpool, as his excellent early season form had evaporated and it was put down to a busy summer with Brazil at the Copa America.

Firmino has rediscovered his mojo and his penchant for delivering in the big moments has returned. Seeing his pearly whites on full show is always a good sign that he is back to his best and he even popped up with a few other chances on Boxing Day but didn’t bury them. Firmino’s hunger, and mojo, has returned.


FOXES FLAT AS TITLE HOPES ALL BUT OVER

They’ve now drawn with Norwich and been hammered by Man City and Liverpool in their last three games and Leicester City’s bubble has burst. They may still finish in the top four this season, which would be an incredible achievement, but against Liverpool they were their own worst enemies as they gave the ball away time and time again and never looked like threatening the league leaders.

This was a humbling day for former Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers, as the focus will now switch to regrouping and making sure they can finish in the top four with a solid second half of the season but they are only 10 points clear of fifth place Tottenham. The way they were battered by Liverpool could be more harmful than just a single defeat, and it will be Rodgers’ job to now pick his young side up after so many had off days, with the likes of James Maddison and Youri Tielemans totally dominated. This Leicester side had the best defensive record going into this game but they were simply ripped to shreds.


FIT-AGAIN KEITA, TAA ADD EXTRA DIMENSION TO RAMPANT LIVERPOOL

Liverpool’s machine continues to roar on as they took a huge step towards winning their first league title in over 30 years. They were dominant throughout against Leicester and a few different players are stepping up time and time again this season. Naby Keita has been sublime since returning from injury, while Trent Alexander-Arnold’s form has been otherworldly. His goal and two assists were added to by his incredible long-range passes, and TAA is still just 21 years old, which is amazing.

He and Keita add an extra dimension to Liverpool and even though Salah and Mane were fairly quite on Thursday, it didn’t matter. With Jordan Henderson digging deep in midfield, Keita’s forward runs and dribbling add an extra cutting edge. We often focus on individuals but this is a total team effort. Liverpool have lost just one of their last 57 Premier League games and have won 26 of their last 27 PL outings, with the only dropped points coming away at Man United earlier this season. They are a winning machine and key cogs, and new ones, are coming to the fore time and time again.