Naby Keita

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Season Review: Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal

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The 2018-19 Premier League season is officially in the books, and while we know who finished where, it’s time to discuss who did (or didn’t) live up to expectations.

[ REVIEW: Man United, Wolves, Everton, Leicester & West Ham ]

Manchester City are champions; Liverpool are record-breaking runners-up; Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal round out the top-five, in the order.

[ REVIEW: Burnley, Bournemouth, Newcastle, Crystal Palace & Watford ]

Arsenal

Finishing position/points total: 5th / 70 points
High point: Beating Tottenham back in December might be the greatest single accomplishment of Arsenal’s season, which says a lot about where the club is today.
Low point
: Three straight defeats — to Crystal Palace, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester City, by a combined score of 9-3 — at the same time Tottenham were tripping over their own feet and leaving the door wide open for a top-four heist.

Our opinion: Arsene Wenger left, but did anything really change around the Emirates Stadium?
Star player
: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Most memorable goal
: The goal that wasn’t — Aubameyang’s 91st-minute penalty kick against Spurs — was one of many moments that wound up being the difference between fourth and fifth.

Manager grade: Unai Emery: C+
Hopes for next season
: In a perfect world for Arsenal, Spurs won’t sign a player for the third straight transfer window and Arsenal will have signed a soon-to-be world-class replacement for the departed Aaron Ramsey, at which point Arsenal could accidentally finish above Spurs for the first time in four seasons.


Tottenham Hotspur

Finishing position/points total: 4th / 71 points

High point: Reaching the Champions League final is the obvious answer, but we’re only talking about the PL here. Finishing the season’s last game with 11 upright players was quite the accomplishment given Spurs’ season-long injury crisis.
Low point
: Predictably, a club that signed no new players in the summer, and is still competing in the Champions League, ran out of gas down the stretch. Spurs won just three of the final 12 games, while losing seven.

Our opinion: Mauricio Pochettino has proven himself to a miracle worker year after year, and he deserves better from chairman Daniel Levy.
Star player
: Harry Kane
Most memorable goal
: Son Heung-min didn’t score his first PL goal until the end of November, but it was worth the wait and kicked off a brilliant second half of the season for the South Korean.

Manager grade: Mauricio Pochettino: A-
Hopes for next season
: If Spurs sign some players in the summer — hardly a given — the existing core has yet another level (or two) to reach. They’re as likely as anyone else to solidify their place as the third-best side in the PL.


Chelsea

Finishing position/points total: 3rd/ 72 points

High point: Starting the season unbeaten in their first 12 games, though in hindsight the early-days discussion of a three-horse race for the title was premature and misguided.
Low point
: Losing 3-1 to Spurs to break the unbeaten start was bad, but losing 6-0 to Man City (just days before losing in the League Cup final to them) was worse.

Our opinion: For a team with just one capable midfielder (N'Golo Kante) for the vast majority of the season (Ruben Loftus-Cheek came on strong once given a chance to play), finishing third almost seems like an overachievement.
Star player
: Eden Hazard
Most memorable goal
: Hazard is irreplaceable, which Chelsea will quickly find out if he leaves this summer.

Manager grade: Maurizio Sarri: B-
Hopes for next season
: If Hazard can be convinced to stay another season — until the transfer ban has passed — they’ll scrap for a top-four place again. If he leaves and Christian Pulisic is the only player they can register, it could be a long season.


Liverpool

Finishing position/points total: 2nd / 97 points

High point: How about the 30 games that they won? Or, the 37 games that they didn’t lose?
Low point
: The lone league defeat, to Manchester City at the start of January, comes to mind.

Our opinion: Finishing with 97 points is bafflingly impressive, but conceding just 22 goals in 38 games is equally impressive. To match Man City step for step all season was something not many thought the Reds could do. 97 points would have won the title in all but two seasons — last season and this season.
Star player
: Virgil Van Dijk
Most memorable goal
: You’ll notice it doesn’t say “best” or “favorite” goal. Divock Origi‘s 96th-minute winner was stranger than anything else.

Manager grade: Jurgen Klopp: A+
Hopes for next season
: They’re still young and awaiting breakout seasons from Naby Keita and Fabinho. If either of those players ascend to PL stardom next season, they could very well end City’s run.


Manchester City

Finishing position/points total: 1st / 98 points

High point: Leroy Sane’s game-winning goal to top Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium. Without it, Liverpool might have never lost the lead in the title race.
Low point
: Losing three of four games during the December holiday period to fall seven points behind Liverpool.

Our opinion: The team that broke ever conceivable PL record last season, then went out and signed a player of Riyad Mahrez‘s ability, bordered on unbeatable once again. Though slightly more defensively fragile this season, Pep Guardiola‘s men are worthy champions.
Star player
: Raheem Sterling
Most memorable goal
: Vincent Kompany‘s winner against Leicester City in the penultimate game of the season, with Liverpool two points ahead after playing earlier in the weekend. He’ll never ever score another one like it.

Manager grade: Pep Guardiola: A+
Hopes for next season
: Newsflash: They’re going to be good again, and again, and again. Here’s hoping for another brilliant title race between City and Liverpool, one with even more many twists and turns.

PL preview: Newcastle v. Liverpool

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  • Newcastle has scored at least 2 goals in 6 of their last 7 home league games
  • Liverpool has won 7 league games in a row with a +15 goal differential
  • Rafa Benitez has failed to beat Liverpool in 5 tries

Liverpool looks to rebound from its brutal loss at the hands of Barcelona as the Reds head to St. James Park to take on Newcastle United with kickoff Saturday at 2:45 p.m. ET, live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Defeat at the Camp Nou midweek left Liverpool’s Champions League campaign in tatters, but the title race is still very much alive. With two games to go, Liverpool will need to be near-perfect to capitalize on any slip by Manchester City. The Reds trail by a point with the final two games at the doorstep.

Liverpool didn’t just suffer defeat midweek, as they lost a player for the season as well. Midfielder Naby Keita suffered a groin injury that will sideline him for two months, leaving the Reds with yet another player down. Roberto Firmino is a game-time decision with a muscle problem leaving him as a late substitute in the Champions League loss, while Klopp confirmed that

Newcastle, meanwhile, is safe from relegation and simply looking to prove to Rafa Benitez that they can challenge for a European place in the near future. They will have critical components in Ayoze Perez and Jamal Lascelles both returning to the field after recent injuries, while DeAndre Yedlin misses out with a groin problem. Miguel Almiron, Florian Lejeune and Sean Longstaff are all long-term absentees.

What they’re saying

Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez on his contract situation: “I know the fans are supporting me and are trying to go the emotional way as they did in my first way. I am very happy with that. I can say that ‘yes’ it seems that things are moving forward a little bit, and we will see where we get to in the end.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp on rebounding from Barcelona loss: “We didn’t need to pick players up in Barcelona and give them a hug. It’s in us. If you want to win in football you have to accept that you can lose. I had more positive thoughts about the game than negative because of what we did on the pitch. The boys are completely on fire. When you’re in the race, you don’t get tired. We are ambitious like hell.”

Prediction

Despite the midweek loss, Liverpool is on a tear, and they will be motivated to keep with Manchester City. All the pressure is off now as City controls the table, so Liverpool can play with freedom and not worry about outside noise. Points-wise, this season has been a success no matter the result, and while missing out on the title will sting, there’s little pressure at the end of the season. Newcastle is a strong opponent in decent form, but they won’t be up to this. Liverpool wins 2-0 comfortably.

Naby Keita groin injury to sideline him for two months

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Naby Keita‘s groin problem picked up in the first leg of the Champions League semifinal loss to Barcelona is as bad as feared, and will add the 24-year-old to the growing list of big names set to miss the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations with late season injuries.

Keita was forced off in the 24th minute of Wednesday’s match at the Camp Nou, and on Friday Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp confirmed his midfielder suffered a torn adductor muscle that will keep him out of action for two months.

“It is a high grade adductor injury where the tendon is ruptured, which keeps him out for at least, I would say two months,” Klopp said at his pre-match press conference ahead of Liverpool’s Premier League clash with Newcastle on Saturday. “So bad news for us obviously but bad news for Guinea as well, because Africa Cup of Nations is coming up.”

Keita has become a key player for the Guinea national team, a regular in the squad since his introduction in qualifying for the 2015 AFCON tournament. He has missed just six matches since his debut in September of 2014, but will now be forced out of this summer’s tournament which begins on June 22. Guinea has been drawn into Group A with Nigeria, Madagascar, Burundi.

“[Keita’s injury is] not a really good moment, but it happened. Sometimes football and life aren’t too nice, but yeah, very serious,” Klopp said.

He joins a growing list of important players who have picked up late-season injuries that will keep them out of the competition, including Manchester United and Ivory Coast defender Eric Bailly and Leicester City’s Ghanan midfielder Daniel Amartey.

Report: Liverpool’s Keita to miss Premier League run-in, UCL 2nd leg

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It’s the time of year when “out for the season” is thrown around a little too dramatically, but Naby Keita‘s absence threatens to hurt Liverpool’s chances of a Premier League title in some jeopardy.

Only some because the Reds got this far in their campaign without a ton from the 24-year-old Guinean, who will miss about a month with a groin injury which caused him to sub out of Liverpool’s Thursday loss to Barcelona after just 24 minutes.

[ MORE: Messi reacts to win ]

The Reds fell 3-0 at the Camp Nou in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League semifinal and will have to make their improbable comeback bid without Keita, who appeared in Liverpool’s first eight Premier League matches but has been his most consistent in the latter stages of the campaign.

He has two Premier League goals, both coming in his last four matches, and only Virgil Van Dijk and Georginio Wijnaldum have completed more of their passes this season. Keita has seen his numbers dip in several areas since arriving from RB Leipzig, where he was a much important part of the team.

Liverpool suffers harsh 3-0 loss in Barcelona

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Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez…

Well, if Liverpool supporters knew the recap was going to start like that, they might not have tuned into the first leg of the UEFA Champions League semifinal against Barcelona on Wednesday.

Messi scored twice, including a breathtaking free kick, after Luis Suarez netted early in a 3-0 win over the Reds at the Camp Nou.

Liverpool was quite good in the second half, and the score line flattered to deceive the hosts, but there is no doubting the Reds are behind the 8-ball.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Liverpool was hit with an injury and then with a deficit, as Naby Keita pulled up with a groin injury before Barcelona took the lead.

Jordi Alba’s curling pass from the left was deftly finished by Suarez, the ex-Liverpool man cutting between Joel Matip and Virgil Van Dijk to flash the ball inside the near post as Alisson Becker flailed to find only air.

A fantastic piece of work from Jordan Henderson nearly cued up an equalizer, but Sadio Mane‘s effort to snap a first touch shot past Ter Stegen sailed over the bar.

The first quality shot of the second half came via Mohamed Salah, who drilled a low shot through traffic which was pawed out for a corner kick.

And the Reds were certainly the better money to score in the second half, which will mean very little considering Barca netted next.

Barcelona made it 2-0 through Messi, who started a dribble through the middle that popped into the path of Suarez. The Uruguayan used his thigh to redirect the ball off the cross bar, and Messi was quicker than Van Dijk at reacting to the rebound.

If that goal was easy, then this one, well, just watch it.

That’s scintillating stuff from the best player in the world, who may just be the actual GOAT.

Liverpool nearly climbed back into it with a pivotal away goal, but the Blaugranas goal line clearance onto the path of Salah was clanked off the post.