Sir Alex Ferguson

What Liverpool need to officially secure Premier League title

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It is a long-held belief that there is only a matter of time until Liverpool officially secures the Premier League title, and currently with a 25 point lead over second-place Manchester City, that milestone is fast approaching.

The Reds are on track for their first Premier League title in club history and first top flight title in 30 years, with their last celebration coming at the conclusion of the1989/90 season.

There are a number of scenarios that see Liverpool win the Premier League title in the next few weeks. Here are all the facts you need to know about Liverpool’s title chase this season:

  • Liverpool’s magic number: 6

Liverpool’s “magic number” is the key to Premier League glory. This means any combination of six points gained of their own and dropped by the team in second place (Manchester City) would see them to securing the crown mathematically.

  • Two wins and they’re in

At the current juncture, the maximum point total for Manchester City with 10 remaining fixtures on the schedule is 87 points. Therefore, with two more wins, Liverpool would eclipse that with total to 88 and be officially out of reach. If Manchester City fails to drop any points over the next few weeks, two wins would be enough for the Reds to do the job on their own.

Liverpool’s remaining schedule: @ Everton, Crystal Palace, @ Man City, Aston Villa, @ Brighton, Burnley, @ Arsenal, Chelsea, @ Newcastle.

  • Liverpool can potentially secure the title without kicking another ball

An unlikely but notable scenario could see Liverpool win the Premier League title without even taking the field again. Manchester City has two Premier League matches scheduled before Liverpool again sees the field in league play, meaning theoretically if the Citizens were to lose to both Arsenal and Burnley, that would satisfy the magic number of six points dropped and clinch the crown for the Reds. It would also force Everton into the nasty proposition of having to give Liverpool a guard of honor before the Merseyside derby.

Manchester City’s remaining schedule: Arsenal, Burnley, @ Chelsea (postponed, date TBA), Liverpool, @ Southampton, Newcastle, @ Brighton, Bournemouth, @ Watford, Norwich City.

  • Liverpool could beat Man City to win the Premier League

Should the Reds fail to secure all three points against both Everton and Crystal Palace while Man City holds serve against Arsenal and Burnley (and maybe Chelsea?), it would give the Reds the chance to secure the title with a win (or maybe even a draw) against Manchester City. That would represent revenge for last season when Liverpool collected a blistering 97 points but finished a single point behind Man City.

  • Liverpool likely to win Premier League in record time

The record for earliest official title grasp was Manchester United back in 2000/01 when Sir Alex Ferguson won the seventh of his eventual 13 Premier League crowns. The Red Devils officially put their hands on the trophy on April 14 with five matches to go in the campaign, winning the league by 10 points over Arsenal thanks to three meaningless losses to end the season. Manchester City’s 2017/18 title-winning campaign also secured the crown with five matches to go, but just missed their rivals’ date mark by a day, forced to wait until April 15 when West Brom upset second-placed Manchester United 1-0.

Unless it takes Liverpool nearly a month and a half to pick up six points, they will beat both marks by a significant margin.

PL Sunday preview: All eyes on Manchester derby

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Two critically important matches to the Champions League picture take the field on Sunday as Chelsea hosts Everton at Stamford Bridge and Manchester United welcomes cross-town rivals Manchester City to Old Trafford.

Both Chelsea and Manchester United are hunting for European places, and the race is still wide open as ever after Saturday’s results. Chelsea currently holds the final Champions League place on 45 points, but both Wolves and Sheffield United are nipping at their heels on 43 points while Manchester United is right in the mix with 42 points.

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This week proves a critical opportunity for Manchester United especially given Chelsea’s heavy list of scratches. The Red Devils have the opportunity to catch and pass the Blues should the

Chelsea v. Everton  — 10:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Chelsea currently hold the coveted fourth spot in the Premier League table, but the Blues are limping to the finish line this season with a walking wounded squad that could ultimately cost them a place at the Champions League table. Tammy Abraham, N’Golo Kante, and Callum Hudson-Odoi all remain confirmed out for the Blues. Add to the list Christian Pulisic who remains unlikely to play in the match with his lingering thigh injury plus new injuries for Mateo Kovacic and Willian, with the former ruled out and the latter requiring a late fitness test to prove his availability. Sprinkle in a yellow card suspension for Jorginho and the Blues look seriously undermanned.

All that gives Everton a valuable opportunity to move back into the top half of the table, currently logjammed in 12th among the rabble. They could move as high as 10th with a win at Stamford Bridge, potentially pulling level with ninth-placed Arsenal on points. Carlo Ancelotti‘s side has looked far better and more organized since the Italian arrived, but the results remain inconsistent. The Toffees have won just two of their last six league matches, but have lost just twice in their last 13. The next step for Ancelotti is converting draws to wins, an important hurdle to clear before the end of the seasons.

Ancelotti has also admitted his return to Stamford Bridge, where he used to manage, will be an “emotional” one. Everton fans will hope he can bottle that emotion and save it for after the final whistle.

Manchester United v. Manchester City  — 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com

Champions League race aside, this rivalry has plenty of sting on its own. Manchester United is looking to complete a league double over its bitter rivals for the first time since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.

Man City seems firmly entrenched in second and does not appear to have much else to play for in league play, but their failings against United are a microcosm of what has gone wrong at times this season for Pep Guardiola‘s side. City out-passed United 588-199 in early December but created little in terms of good chances on net, able to put just five of its 23 shots on target. John Stones and Rodrigo were exposed on the counter, with Stones then left out of the squad for the entire rest of December.

Still, City come into this game in great form, having won their last five matches in a row across all competitions and conceding just two goals in that span. They have also won three straight at Old Trafford among all competitions and could record a fourth straight road victory at Manchester United for just the second time in club history. With Aymeric Laporte the only serious injury concern for the visitors, Manchester United will have to work hard for its place among the Premier League European places.

Guardiola ‘so proud’ of Man City comeback; KDB, Jesus react to tactics

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Pep Guardiola was grinning widely after his tactical moves set up Manchester City in a 2-1 comeback win over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.

“I’m so proud,” Guardiola said. “This is the first step. It’s not over. We can enjoy the moment.”

Why wouldn’t he be smiling? Guardiola became the first manager to win Champions League games at the Bernabeu with two different teams, and did it during one of the most controversial periods in club history.

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What was different? Well, Guardiola played Kevin De Bruyne as a sort of second striker and took center forward Gabriel Jesus and deployed him as a left-sided midfielder.

“In the four years we are here with Pep, sometimes there are some surprises,” De Bruyne said. “Even the players don’t really know before the game starts what we need to do. Some were good. We had some lesser moments but in a quality game like this you’re gonna struggle but we fought really well together.”

Jesus had it even weirder, playing as a sort of left midfielder or even wingback with plenty of responsibility going back and forward.

The Brazilian said he has some experience playing wide, but — again — you have to be ready for the full Pep Guardiola experience.

“I can remember my time in the Palmeiras academy and I play like a winger and then become a striker,” he said. “But I go to the pitch to help my team-mates. It doesn’t matter if I have to run back or forwards. I have to help my team-mates. We are learning a lot. We have to play different positions sometimes.”

Guardiola knows the second leg is going to be tough, as Real will put everything into attack.

“When we were better, we conceded a goal,” Guardiola said, via the BBC. “When they were better, we scored a goal. That’s football. I remember the quarterfinal a few seasons ago at Anfield when we played incredibly well and they scored all their shots on target.”

Real will be without center back Sergio Ramos, who was sent off late, while Man City could be missing its best center back. Aymeric Laporte subbed off in the first half.

Woodward ‘pleased with the progress being made’ in Man Utd project

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Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward released a lengthy statement lauding the club’s transfer process, including manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the long-term plan.

While the United manager has struggled after a hot start in charge of the Red Devils, his chairman seems to see him as part of the solution.

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Woodward points to the acquisitions and financial outlay that brought Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire, and Bruno Fernandes to Old Trafford, and says it’s only going to get better.

He says that Solskjaer and his staff are in lockstep with the club’s transfer staff. From ManUtd.com:

“Significant work has already been done – and investments made – to strengthen the Academy and we’re pleased with the progress being made behind-the-scenes to ensure we have the right players, the right infrastructure, and the right culture to sustain long-term success.

“Similarly, there has been extensive work on our recruitment process, with considerable investment in scouting, data and analytics. The Recruitment Department is working to a clear plan and philosophy, along with Ole and his coaching staff. Our focus is on bringing in a combination of experience and the best young players with potential to develop further, fusing graduates from our Academy with high-quality acquisitions.”

It hasn’t been a great time for Woodward, whose house was shockingly attacked while he was not home (his family was in the building).

Speaking frankly, United’s current plight is down to long-term mistakes, and Woodward’s been at the wheel. Maguire’s price tag was hilarious, but all three of the aforementioned transfers make them better.

According to The Manchester Evening News, “United have promised ‘unequivocal’ backing for manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, despite an unconvincing 11 months as permanent manager.”

That’s saying something. United should have a ton of money to spend this summer, assuming a sale of Paul Pogba amongst others. Marcus Rashford getting fit and Mason Greenwood maturing could give them a terrific attack in front of Fernandes.

Whether Solskjaer is the right man to execute that, who knows? One would have to think that Sir Alex Ferguson is on board with the way things are going now, as he still seems to loom over proceedings.

But come next season, when United is looking at something like $400 million in transfer outlay under Solskjaer, you better believe the fuse will be lit if the Red Devils aren’t firmly in the top four.

Unai Emery: Some Arsenal stars ‘asked for more than what they were giving back’

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Former Arsenal boss Unai Emery is not holding back in discussing why the Gunners failed to get the job done on his watch.

Emery said “Arsenal was a club on a downward slope for two years” when he was hired and that the club took positive steps in reaching last season’s Europa League Final and finishing a point off the Top Four.

Arsenal had Champions’ League qualification in our grasp and it went wrong in the end.”

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Emery says that the exodus of four leaders this summer was too big of a problem to address by the time he was fired in December.

“We lost our four captains: Koscielny, Cech, Ramsey and Monreal,” Emery told France Football. “They were personalities that we missed this season to stay on the right track. And some stars did not have a good attitude and asked for more than what they were giving back.”

Well, those words point in the direction of several well-worn targets for fan unrest, don’t they Mesut? This is where Lionel Messi will have wanted Emery to name names.

Emery seems to accept that he played his part in the failure but also name-dropped the club’s biggest summer signing in addressed the terrible first half of this Premier League season.

“We needed time to succeed with our transition to a new Arsenal which is what I wanted,” he said. “For example, Nicolas Pepe, who was the club’s choice, clearly needed time to adapt. But I accept the rule of thumb and that I am poorly placed to criticize because I also benefited from such judgement in the past.”

This where we feel required to point out that Pepe must have some sort of personality issue with both of his coaches, because advanced stats say he’s been one of, if not, the most effective Gunner.

There’s a comparison to be made between the long rebuilds after the tenures of Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger at Manchester United and Arsenal. Certainly United was left in a better position, but Arsenal had the better replacement.

Either way, the ends of two eras have led to a pair of substandard new ones.