What did we learn from the Premier League?

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What did we learn from the eight Premier League games on Saturday?

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Week 6 gave us plenty of gifts (noticeably lopsided wins) as three big boys eased to victory, while another stumbled.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Below is a look at the key takeaways.


Mohamed Salah shaking off some rust
He scored a tap-in against Southampton on Saturday and almost scored an audacious back heel, but there are signs that Mohamed Salah is still shaking off some rust after his shoulder injury at the end of last season. The Egyptian magician looked frustrated in a more central role against Saints with Roberto Firmino switched out to the flank. Salah scored a goal when offside late on and seemed to rush a few chances where last season he was calmness personified. Salah has scored three goals in the current PL campaign but he hasn’t quite looked himself thus far with Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino stepping up and delivering.

Jurgen Klopp won’t be too concerned about giving Salah a rest in the League Cup against Chelsea this week, especially with Xherdan Shaqiri impressing in a 45 minute cameo on Saturday too. Salah isn’t at his marauding best, as we pointed out following Liverpool’s win at Tottenham last week, but the fact that is the case and Liverpool have won their opening seven games of the season (in all competitions) is testament to how solid the rest of the team have been. At times last season you could accuse Liverpool of being a one man team. Not anymore. That’s a good thing, even if Salah isn’t firing on all cylinders. Liverpool changed up their system against Saints in the first half and Klopp wasn’t too happy with the way it was working so changed things back to a 4-3-3 in the second half. The team, and Salah, looked more comfortable in that system and ahead of a huge few weeks with games against Chelsea, Man City and Napoli coming up, the Reds are on fire. Even if their star man isn’t. Yet.


Wolves the real deal

They’ve played Manchester City and Manchester United this season and drawn with both 1-1. And on both occasions after those draws with the Manchester giants Wolves have felt a little hard done by that they didn’t nab all three points with David De Gea forced to make several key saves to keep Wolves at bay. Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men have brought in plenty of top class players over the summer, including Raul Jimenez, Rui Patricio and Joao Moutinho, and it was the latter who curled home a beauty after Jimenez’s layoff to grab Wolves a deserved point at United.

There is a serious debate to be had that the runaway winners of England’s second-tier last season could be one of the best newly-promoted teams in history. Of course, nothing will beat Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest who won the top-flight in 1978, the season after they were promoted. Wolves aren’t going to win the title this season but they have shown they can easily be the best of the rest in the PL and finish in the top seven. The depth in their squad is impressive and so too is the understanding of what Santo wants them to do each week. They have a settled squad littered with quality and a solid 3-4-3 system which suits them. Name a better newly-promoted team in the PL era. I’ll wait.


Tottenham ease the pressure. For now…

It has been a rough few months for Tottenham Hotspur. After three-straight defeats, they needed a response at Brighton & Hove Albion. They got it. Harry Kane‘s first half penalty kick and a second half strike from Erik Lamela got Mauricio Pochettino‘s men back to winning ways after plenty of critics suddenly poked their heads over the fence to tell them what has been going wrong. Of course, a lot of the issues at Spurs are nothing to do with Pochettino and his players. With no money spent on new signings this summer and a long delay to their new stadium at White Hart Lane, chairman Daniel Levy has a lot to answer for.

On the pitch, Spurs showed plenty of grit to get by Brighton in the pouring rain on the South Coast with the bright lights and the TV cameras fixated on their every move and waiting for them to slip up and lose a fourth-straight game. They were in control throughout, with the only moment of worry when Anthony Knockaert didn’t make the most of a glorious opportunity in the second half. After a narrow defeat at Watford, a loss to red-hot Liverpool by one goal and a late collapse against Inter Milan at the San Siro, the narrative around Spurs seemed to shift from ‘they’ll get it right and prove their doubters wrong’ to ‘well, that is it they’re finished’ in a matter of days. Pochettino’s side reminded everyone not to write them off and even though Kane and Co. don’t seem anywhere near their best (we can save the tiredness debate for another week), they did what they had to do to silence their doubters. At least for another few days.


Legends return: Sir Alex Ferguson and Clint Dempsey
It was wonderful to see returns for two legendary figures on Saturday who have both been struggling with health issues over the past few years. Firstly, Sir Alex Ferguson seems to have made a superb recovery from a brain hemorrhage in May which required surgery and time in intensive care. The most successful manager in British history returned to Old Trafford on Saturday for the first time since April and Fergie received a warm welcome back and looked emotional to return to Theatre of Dreams.

And another legendary figure (okay, not quite on Fergie’s level, but still a hero) returned to the Premier League with Clint Dempsey heading back to Fulham for their draw against Watford. Dempsey, 35, retired late last month and Fulham’s all-time leading goalscorer in the Premier League was on hand to head back to Craven Cottage to see his former team.

Deuce looked as chilled as ever and Fulhamerica is still going strong.

Liverpool issue injury update on Virgil van Dijk

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Life is pretty good at Anfield right now.

Liverpool made it six wins from six to open up the Premier League campaign — they have seven wins on the spin in all competitions to set a new club record for wins at the start of a season — as Jurgen Klopp‘s side eased past Southampton thanks to three first half goals.

[ MORE: Wolves draw at Man United ]

Yet the one negative was the fact that former Saints star Virgil Van Dijk came off in the second half with a rib injury.

With a pivotal stretch of games coming up in the League Cup, PL and UEFA Champions League, it seemed like Liverpool didn’t want to risk any further damage to their star center back.

Speaking about VVD’s injury after the game, Klopp told BBC 5 Live that Van Dijk “has a bruise on his rib, he’s uncomfortable but I don’t think it’s much more.” And Klopp also told Sky Sports that the center back had an injury in the same spot last week and that it isn’t anything too serious.

It will be intriguing to see if Virgil van Dijk is risked for the League Cup third round game against Chelsea at Anfield on Wednesday, especially with Joe Gomez and Joel Matip around and Dejan Lovren recently returning to training.

VVD has been influential in turning Liverpool’s defense into a stingy unit in recent months, with the Reds keeping eight-straight clean sheets at home in the Premier League. They last conceded at home in the PL to West Ham in February. Van Dijk arrived in January for $100 million, a world-record fee for a defender.

That is exactly why Liverpool won’t risk his fitness.

Smart move from Klopp to whip him off on Saturday as Liverpool have bigger fish to fry this season in all four competitions as their perfect start continues.

Liverpool stay perfect, ease past Southampton

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  • Liverpool win first 7 games of season for first time
  • Southampton are winless in 25 PL games vs. “top six”
  • Hoedt own goal, Matip header, Salah tap-in does damage

Liverpool eased by Southampton 3-0 at Anfield on Saturday, with Jurgen Klopp‘s side top of the Premier League after six wins from six to open the new season.

Wesley Hoedt‘s early own goal set them on their way, then Joel Matip’s header and Mohamed Salah‘s tap-in extended their lead.

Liverpool have now won their opening seven games in all competitions and sit top of the Premier League on 18 points, while Saints have five points from their first six games.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ] 

Saints started brightly as a move down the left saw Matt Targett cross but Liverpool cleared just before Long could get on the end of it.

But Liverpool took the lead in comical circumstances. Xherdan Shaqiri‘s cross deflected off Shane Long and then Hoedt before it trickled over the line.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Cedric Soares then denied Salah with a wonderful last-ditch tackle but from the resulting corner Matip nodded home to put Liverpool 2-0 up.

At the other end Trent Alexander-Arnold cleared just when it looked like Matt Targett would tap home at the back post, then Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg mishit a volley after a fine break from Saints down the left.

Salah was then set free by Roberto Firmino on the break and his audacious back heel squirmed inches wide of the far post, but right on the break Salah did score. Shaqiri’s free kick smashed the crossbar and Salah was on hand to tap home and make it 3-0.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Shaqiri was replaced by James Milner at half time as Liverpool were content with their 3-0 lead. Occasionally the Reds looked dangerous on the break but Southampton had most of the ball.

That said, Mark Hughes‘ side didn’t do much with it.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Late on Sadio Mane raced in on goal but couldn’t get his touch right but the game was done and dusted after a clinical first half display.

PL Preview: Liverpool vs. Southampton

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  • Southampton has not scored a PL goal vs. Liverpool since 2016, a run of 4 games
  • Liverpool has never won its first 7 matches in a season in club history
  • Southampton has not won vs. any of last season’s PL top 6 teams in 24 games

Liverpool finally showed a weakness. Liverpool was finally human.

Until they weren’t.

When the Reds toppled Paris Saint-Germain in the 91st minute on Tuesday, it struck fear into the hearts of the rest of Europe. Can anyone actually stop this whirring machine? Sure, you might score some goals against Liverpool, but can you score enough?

[ WATCH LIVE: Liverpool vs. Southampton on NBCSports.com ]

Southampton visits Anfield hoping to avoid becoming Liverpool’s next victim Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m. ET live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com. The Saints have been a mixed bag so far this season, but coughing up a 2-0 lead at home to Brighton last weekend was a less than ideal way to send the team off to Anfield. Not only that, but they’ll have to match the Reds without top scorer Danny Ings, who is ineligible to play against his parent club.

That thrusts strike partner Shane Long into a solo role, or forces Mark Hughes to bring on the misfiring Manolo Gabbiadini to pair with Long, although the Italian is struggling with a hamstring injury himself and will require a late fitness test to make the squad. Either way, it appears a daunting task for the visitors to Merseyside.

For the Reds, Roberto Firmino is fully healthy, having recovered completely from his eye injury suffered last weekend against Tottenham. Adam LallanaDivock Origi, and Dominic Solanke are all out injured but otherwise the squad is nearly complete. Only Dejan Lovren remains on the sidelines, but even the Croatian is nearing a return from his pelvic injury.

What they’re saying

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp on playing at home: “Are we ready to create the best atmosphere of all games? That would be cool. We need to show Southampton how difficult it is to come to Anfield.”

Southampton manager Mark Hughes on playing Liverpool: “It’s a game that is going to test us because the team we are facing looks on top of their form in terms of individuals and the collective functioning really well.”

Prediction

Southampton has looked promising this season in spurts, but this isn’t the game where they put it all together. Liverpool is a nearly unstoppable force at home, and there’s no reason that should change. The only concerning bit of information for Liverpool heading into this match is last season’s record following Champions League games, when they won just once while losing once and drawing four, but this year has proven Liverpool has a new gear. The Reds will win 3-1, with things shaky for some time down the stretch until a late insurance goal puts the game away.

Premier League Club Power Rankings: Week 5

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We’re a full month into the 2018-19 Premier League season, which means we can begin — yes, only just now — to make more definitive statements about where everyone is headed for the season.

Not much change at the top of the power rankings this week, but plenty of movement in the middle and bottom thirds…

[ MORE: UCL preview: Real, Ronaldo debut apart; Man City, United, too ]

20. Burnley — Bottom of the table after four straight losses, Sean Dyche worked an unthinkable miracle last season but he might not survive another month of results like the one just completed.
Last week: 16
Season high: 15
Season low: 20

19. Cardiff City — Nailed-on favorites to be relegated before the season started, the Bluebirds haven’t shown anything to suggest they’ve got a trick up their sleeves. Their stay in the PL will, however, be lucrative, if brief.
Last week: 19
Season high: 19
Season low: 20

18. Huddersfield Town — Teams wishing to avoid relegation must beat other sides in the relegation battle — Cardiff, for example. The Terriers couldn’t do it a couple weeks ago, followed by five more points dropped against Everton and Crystal Palace.
Last week: 18
Season high: 18
Season low: 20

17. Newcastle United — Three straight losses is better than four, but not by much. The Magpies get something of a free pass for facing Chelsea, Man City and Arsenal in consecutive games. The fact they lost each game by one goal (all 2-1)? Encouraging.
Last week: 17
Season high: 13
Season low: 18

16. West Ham United — The four teams below them in these rankings — and the real-life table — have been so bad that all the Hammers needed was one win to move from last place (with zero points) to outside the relegation zone.
Last week: 20
Season high: 16
Season low: 20

15. Fulham — Lost 3-0 to Man City this weekend. They’re supposed to lose 3-0 to Man City.
Last week: 14
Season high: 11
Season low: 17

14. Southampton — Only six goals conceded in five games is a top-six defensive record that could keep Saints up on its own. Only six goals scored, however, is firmly in the bottom half — dull and painful to watch, at best; a half-dozen defensive mistakes from relegation, at worst.
Last week: 13
Season high: 13
Season low: 17

13. Leicester City — Hammered by Bournemouth at the weekend, the Foxes undid any goodwill they might have accumulated in a narrow defeat to Liverpool pre-international break. Plus side: games against the Reds and Man United out of the way.
Last week: 10
Season high: 8
Season low: 13

12. Brighton and Hove Albion — Back-to-back draws, against Fulham and Southampton, in games Chris Hughton would have targeted as winnable fixtures.
Last week: 11
Season high: 9
Season low: 19

11. Crystal Palace — Snapped a three-game losing skid by beating Huddersfield, now the Eagles need to avoid being the lesser side against which Newcastle breaks out of its early-season slumber.
Last week: 15
Season high: 6
Season low: 13

10. Everton — Sure, half the team was out due to injuries or suspension, but losing 3-1 to the last remaining team without a point remains an unavoidably bad look.
Last week: 6
Season high: 5
Season low: 11

9. Wolves — After spending wildly in the summer, Wolves took just two points from their first two games in the PL. Back-to-back wins, against West Ham and Burnley, have shown they’re perhaps a cut above the relegation battle.
Last week: 8
Season high: 8
Season low: 13

8. Spurs — Back-to-back defeats, against Watford and Liverpool, and Mauricio Pochettino‘s side is outside the top-four (and -five) just like that. Harry Kane isn’t scoring (just two goals this season — zero in the defeats), and no one else has stepped up to fill the void.
Last week: 5
Season high: 3
Season low: 8

7. Manchester United — Wins over Burnley and Watford are nice, but let us know when they’re ready to handle a giant like Brighton.
Last week: 9
Season high: 4
Season low: 14

6. Bournemouth — Pop quiz: Who’s the fifth-place side in the PL table right now, ahead of both Spurs and Arsenal? ‘Tis the Cherries.
Last week: 12
Season high: 7
Season low: 12

5. Watford — No longer perfect, no longer unbeaten. The hard work begins now, with a winnable trip to Fulham. The fall from fourth — where the Hornets currently reside — could be quick.
Last week: 4
Season high: 4
Season low: 7

4. Arsenal — The only non-top-two team with three straight wins. The problem is, of course, the season-opening losses to Man City and Chelsea have them sitting seventh nonetheless.
Last week: 7
Season high: 4
Season low: 9

3. Chelsea — Pop quiz no. 2: Who’s the current PL leaders? ‘Tis the Blues, so why aren’t they no. 1 (or 2) on this list? Does Arsenal count as a signature win in their second week under a new manager? Probably not, so we are in a holding pattern until they take on Liverpool in 10 days.
Last week: 3
Season high: 3
Season low: 4

2. Man City — It still feels blasphemous to not have them no. 1, but Pep Guardiola knows it’s not necessary to blow the doors off everyone in August and September in order to win the title; that it’s more important to pace yourself for the whole of 10 months, if you want to win the Champions League.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 2

1. Liverpool — Speaking of signature wins, going away to Spurs and completely controlling and dominating the game was a surefire signal of intent from Jurgen Klopp‘s men. What they did against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday doesn’t necessarily count for these rankings, but it shows they’ve got staying power.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 2