AP Photo/Rui Vieira

Jimenez, Neves lead Wolves past Liverpool in FA Cup

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It’s one-and-done for Liverpool in the FA Cup.

Wolves beat a weakened Liverpool 2-1 at the Molineux Stadium on Monday to cap off the third round of the FA Cup.

[ MORE: Celtic takes Weah on loan ]

Raul Jimenez and Ruben Neves scored for the hosts, with Divock Origi scoring for Liverpool.

It was an even-enough match in terms of chances. Liverpool started the match with Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, and Roberto Firmino on the bench, the latter two emerging as subs with Liverpool trailing in the second half.

Virgil Van Dijk did not make the trip to the Molineux, and a sixth-minute injury to Dejan Lovren meant 16-year-old Ki-Jana Hoever paired with Fabinho at center back.

A James Milner mistakes helped cue Jimenez up for the opener, but Origi responded with a pretty goal through traffic to make it 1-1.

But Neves, who’s proven capable of stunners, added another goal from distance to restore Wolves’ lead.

And Xherdan Shaqiri‘s late free kick was just altered by a flying John Ruddy and hit the post and bounded away from goal.

The Reds also bowed out of the League Cup in the first match, falling at home to Chelsea.

Premier League Preview: Man City v. Liverpool

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  • Reds unbeaten in four vs. City
  • Sides drew 0-0 at Anfield
  • Liverpool leads all-time 89W-47D-45L

Manchester City can watch its title hopes disappear if it fails to take care of Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

That’s not an overstatement; City enters the day seven points back of leaders Liverpool, and 10 might just be a bridge too far considering the Reds’ power and depth after a series of summer buys brought Alisson Becker, Xherdan Shaqiri, and Fabinho to Anfield.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

And so the question everyone is asking is whether Jurgen Klopp will high press its way to attack, attack, attack against City’s possession-requiring system, or try something different knowing that even a draw will sting the reigning champs.

One thing’s for sure: Thursday at 3 p.m. will find the soccer world glued to its screens.

What they’re saying

Man City’s Pep Guardiola on Liverpool, his challenge: “Liverpool will punish for mistakes. They are so, so good. I learn about my team in good moments and how we react in tough competitions, like against Hoffenheim after we went down after one minute. I said after the Leicester defeat, it won’t change how I feel about my squad. We fought a lot and have problems and how we react, even after 3-0 down in Champions League. They showed me that even in first season, we never give up.”

Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp on the task at hand“We have to be brave, we have to be full of desire, angry again, all that stuff like in all the other games but with the knowledge that the opponent is, for me, still the best team in the world. I said it weeks ago because it’s 100 per cent my opinion; the way they play and all the things they have achieved and the things they will achieve. Nothing changed, only the points changed, but not the preparation for the game.”

Prediction

It’s hard to bet against Liverpool at this point, but the idea of City failing to win for a fifth-straight time against one club is wild. It just may happen, though. Call it 2-2.

Player ratings: Liverpool dismantle Arsenal at Anfield

AP Photo/Rui Vieira
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Liverpool put the sword to Arsenal on Saturday, thrashing the hapless Gunners to the tune of 5-1 at Anfield.

[ MORE: Liverpool go nine points clear with dismantling of Arsenal ]

It was a banner day for the Reds’ free-flowing attacking quartet; not so much for the porous Arsenal defense.

Liverpool

Alisson: 6 – Only asked to make two saves, he made one of them.
Trent Alexander-Arnold: 7 – Salah is brilliant on his own, no doubt, but TAA’s overlapping runs give him the freedom to roam the entire field, making him even more dangerous.
Dejan Lovren: 6 –
Virgil Van Dijk: 8 – An imperious mountain of a man, Van Dijk walked the field with Aubameyang tucked into his back pocket for 71 minutes.
Andrew Robertson: 6 – Completely lost track of his man on the game’s opening goal. Fortunately, it mattered very little in the end.
Georginio Wijnaldum: 7 – As solid as ever in midfield, Wijnaldum keeps the Liverpool clock ticking over minute after minute.
Fabinho: 8 – Quickly growing into his role as the midfield engine.
Mohamed Salah: 8 – One of the best, and simultaneously coolest, assists you’ll see all season (WATCH HERE). Affecting the game in so many ways beyond scoring goals.
Xherdan Shaqiri: 6 – Given the contributions of his running mates, someone had to have the “quiet” game.
Sadio Mane: 7 – Scored goal no. 3 and wasn’t required to be brilliant.
Roberto Firmino: 9 – Genuinely unplayable in the first half, and that goal. Oh, this goal. Got his hat trick, albeit from the penalty spot, and deservedly so.


Arsenal

Bernd Leno: 4 – Despite giving up five goals, still made five saves.
Stephan Lichtsteiner: 3 – On a day of terrible defensive performances, Lichtsteiner made a strong case for the worst.
Shkodran Mustafi: 4 – Subbed off at halftime. In fairness, it was a tough game to return after three weeks out injured.
Sokratis: 3 – Gave away a penalty on a half-hearted challenge after being wildly out of position.
Sead Kolasinac: 4 – Arsenal’s best defender for 60 minutes, until he gave away a silly penalty of his own.
Lucas Torreira: 4 – Far and away his worst performance in an Arsenal shirt.
Granit Xhaka: 5 – Along with Torreira, completely and helplessly overrun by Liverpool’s attacking quartet.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles: 6 – Scored the game’s opening goal before disappearing, through little fault of his own.
Aaron Ramsey: 6 – Arsenal’s best player going forward should have scored early in the second half to make it 4-2.
Alex Iwobi: 5 – Assisted the opening goal and nearly scored one of his own.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: 5 – Thoroughly uninvolved, through little fault of his own.

Three things learned: Liverpool v. Arsenal

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Liverpool took another huge step towards winning their first-ever Premier League title on Saturday, as Jurgen Klopp’s men demolished Arsenal 5-1 at Anfield.

[ MORE: Player ratings ]

Unai Emery‘s Arsenal took the lead through Ainsley Maitland-Niles, but a quick double from Roberto Firmino and a goal each from Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah did the damage before half time, with Firmino completing his hat trick after the break.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Here’s what we learned from a lopsided encounter at Anfield, as Liverpool extended their lead at the top of the table.


FIRMINO HAUNTS ARSENAL AGAIN

Roberto Firmino had been going through a bit of a barren stretch before facing Arsenal on Saturday, but the Brazilian once again destroyed the Gunners with ease. Firmino hadn’t scored in his last five games for the Reds, but he scored twice in 60 seconds in the first half to swing the game in Liverpool’s favor. He then completed his hat trick in the second half to make it 5-1.

Firmino’s direct running twice caught out Arsenal’s defense, as it hurried them into making a hash of the clearance for his first and then he ripped up their entire defensive unit for his majestic second.

Robbie Fowler is the only Liverpool player to have scored more than Firmino’s eight goals against Arsenal in the Premier League, and the livewire has now been involved in 11 goals (eight goals, three assists) in seven games against the Gunners.

He may not have been red hot in recent months, but Firmino turned up when Liverpool needed him most to start their rout. When he’s at his best, he brings out the best in Salah and Mane too. He may not get all of the credit he deserves, but Firmino is pivotal if Liverpool is going to win the title this season. The no-look finish on his first goal proved his trademark swagger is finally back and that is great news for Klopp.


ARSENAL’S RAGGED DEFENSE STILL THEIR BIGGEST PROBLEM

The Gunners have looked solid enough when they have their best defensive unit fit and available. But that wasn’t the case, once again, at Liverpool as a makeshift defense which included veteran Stephan Lichtsteiner and a banged up Shkodran Mustafi (replaced at half time by Laurent Koscielny) and Sokratis at center back. Can we judge this Arsenal team based on the defense they put out? We can, even though they have struggled against the big boys in recent years, and especially Liverpool’s jet-fuelled offense.

They’ve now won just one of their last 13 PL away games against teams starting the day top of the table, losing the last seven on the trot by an aggregate score of 3-22. And they’ve now lost their last six PL games at Liverpool, conceding at least twice on each occasion.

Even if this is an Arsenal defense missing Hector Bellerin, Nacho Monreal and Rob Holding, they should be able to not implode in the manner they did at Anfield. This theme cannot continue, especially away from the Emirates Stadium.

Having conceded three goals at Southampton, two at Manchester United and another at Brighton in their last three Premier League away games before visiting Anfield, Arsenal have now conceded 11 goals in their last four PL away games and picked up just two points in that run. Emery’s men were on a run of 22 games unbeaten in all competitions until two weeks ago, and a lot of that was down to a newfound defensive toughness.

That has evaporated as injuries have stacked up, but with Lucas Torreira struggling as their midfield terrier in front of the back four once again, Arsenal must plug the gaps which keep on appearing in their backline away from home. A porous defense away from home led to the eventual demise of Arsene Wenger last season and it threatens to derail the progress made by Emery early on this season too.


RAMPANT LIVERPOOL CONTINUE TITLE CHARGE

Liverpool have now won nine PL games on the spin and they’re unbeaten through their first 20 games. Heading into their clash at Manchester City on Jan. 3 (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) they are momentarily 10 points clear of City — who play on Sunday against Southampton — and Klopp’s side may well have the chance to all but end the challenge of their rivals with Tottenham (nine points back) slipping up this weekend too.

Who on earth can stop them? In truth, it is one team: themselves.

They are simply in imperious form. Unbeaten in 31 games at home, the last time Liverpool lost at Anfield was in April 2017. Klopp’s men have an air of confidence each time they walk out onto the pitch and they have the ability to rotate their squad with Fabinho, Xherdan Shaqiri coming in, and a wealth of options in midfield and attack. If injuries are kind to Liverpool, the strength in depth they have this season proves they can go all the way with Adam Lallana, Nathaniel Clyne and Jordan Henderson coming off the bench against Arsenal, as the likes of Naby Keita and Daniel Sturridge watched on from the sidelines.

Klopp’s team are a well-oiled machine and although they will be focusing on one game at a time between now and May, they are surely now allowed to dream of winning the title. Everyone connected with Liverpool Football Club is in dreamland. But if City beat Southampton tomorrow and then beat Liverpool, the lead atop the table for Klopp’s men will be back to four points. Lot of ifs there, but given their long wait for another league title and previous heartbreaks, nobody connected with Liverpool will be allowing complacency to creep in.


Liverpool breezes past Newcastle United

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  • Lovren scores in 1st half
  • Salah wins, converts penalty
  • Shaqiri, Fabinho add insurance

Liverpool clobbered Newcastle United 4-0 on Boxing Day at Anfield, moving six points clear of second place Tottenham Hotspur.

Dejan Lovren, Mohamed Salah, Xherdan Shaqiri, and Fabinho scored for the Reds, who are now unbeaten in 20-straight Premier League matches. They have a seven-point advantage on third place Man City.

Newcastle is five points clear of the drop zone, but began a daunting run of fixtures at Anfield.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Matt Ritchie supplied a terrific cross over the head of Virgil Van Dijk in the 8th minute, but Joselu failed to turn it on goal and Liverpool were off the hook.

The Reds quickly answered with a chance of its own, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane teaming up to find Xherdan Shaqiri. The Swiss midfielder missed the mark.

Lovren put Liverpool ahead when Jamaal Lascelles‘ poor clearance of an Andy Robertson cross was lashed into the top of the goal from 16 yards.

The Reds were off-and-running, with Anfield behind them, and it was all Martin Dubravka could do to stop Mane from making it 2-0 when the keeper sprawled in front of the Senegalese man’s effort.

Ritchie took a ball off of Robertson following a partially-cleared cross, stinging a shot wide of the far corner from 20_plus yards.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Paul Dummett got a hold of Salah and the Egyptian wizard hit the deck to ask for a penalty. He got it, and converted, for 2-0 in the 48th.

Shaqiri then put it to bed — not like Newcastle looked in danger of scoring more than once in the half — when Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s smart pass along the six capped off a long spell of threats from the hosts.

Fabinho got in front of Mohamed Diame to finish the scoring.