Youri Tielemans

Gorgeous goals lead Leicester City at Newcastle

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James Maddison and Hamza Choudhury scored audacious goals as Leicester City smashed injury-ravaged 10-man Newcastle 3-0 on Wednesday at St. James’ Park.

The Magpies were down to 10 men shortly after halftime due to three injury-forced substitutions by half and a Fabian Schar 46th minute leg ailment.

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Ayoze Perez also scored for Leicester City, who move onto 45 points. That total is 20 better than the 12th place Magpies.


Three things we learned

1. Magpies mistakes again put them under fire: Former Newcastle striker Perez scored 42 Premier League goals for Newcastle, and the Florian Lejeune made sure the Spaniard felt right at home. The Frenchman made a horrible mistake to gift Perez his opener, then another bad pass that set up Maddison for his remarkable goal. Speaking of which…

2. Talisman Maddison delivers: Maddison’s sixth goal of the season and first six matches was sensational. The Foxes are now 7-1-1 in league play when the 23-year-old ex-Norwich City man scores or assists.

3. Injuries hamper any comeback bid: It’s unlikely that Steve Bruce‘s preferred three subs to chase a result were two fullbacks and a tempo-keeping midfielder. Injuries to Jonjo Shelvey, Javi Manquillo, and Jetro Willems meant that the Magpies used all of their subs by the start of the second half. That’s when Fabian Schar pulled his hamstring. Scathing fixture list comments forthcoming, we’re sure.

Man of the Match: Maddison, with a nod to Wilfred Ndidi.


Leicester sounded the first alarm of the match, forcing Newcastle’s Martin Dubravka to make an in-tight save.

Dubravka made another save in the 15th on Youri Tielemans, and Federico Fernandez cleared the danger.

Joelinton ran onto a long ball and poked over Kasper Schmeichel, but the ball bounded off frame to add to the Brazilian’s near season-long frustrations.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

The Foxes made another horrible defensive error to let Leicester in front. Florian Lejeune played a silly cross 18 pass that Perez picked off and put behind his former goalkeeper.

Lejeune made another huge mistake to set up Maddison with moments, though the English attacker had plenty to do in hammering the second goal past Dubravka.

Shelvey tried to help Newcastle answer with a terrific cross moments later, but Miguel Almiron’s header attempt was poor.

Kelechi Iheanacho should’ve had it 3-0, but Fabian Schar and Dubravka conspired to keep the ball out of the goal.

Youri Tielemans set up Ayoze Perez for a long break with Iheanacho, and Dubravka made superb saves on both players in succession to keep the Newcastle’s deficit at two.

Then, this. Please Hamza, don’t hurt ’em (Layers of meaning there, yeah?).

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.

Tactics Session: How Man City dominated Leicester City

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This past weekend’s game between Manchester City and Leicester City at the Etihad was a highly anticipated matchup. Both sides had plenty at stake, and both sides not only a lot to lose, but also plenty to gain.

Man City sat 11 points off the top of the table coming in, and any more slips could prove deadly not only to their already slim title hopes, but also to any thought of finishing second, which still remains important to the club after winning back-to-back titles and not wishing to fall behind anyone else. Leicester City came in also looking to stay in the title hunt with Liverpool seemingly pulling away, and also looking for another statement win that entrenches the Foxes as a legitimate long-term threat to the top of the table.

Leicester City went in front early as Jamie Vardy continued his torrid stretch, but Pep Guardiola came away with the goods via a 3-1 comeback victory on goals from Riyad Mahrez, Ilkay Gundogan, and Gabriel Jesus. Still, it was all about Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling. In the video above, Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe break down the tactical change Guardiola made that left Man City firmly on top after the 90 minutes.

The 2 Robbies brilliantly illustrate how one slight change made all the difference for Man City going forward and left Brendan Rodgers to reconsider his approach moving forward. Guardiola left defensive midfielder Rodri on the bench, an unexpected move that left some scratching their heads before kickoff, instead selecting Ilkay Gundogan in the holding role and dropping Bernardo Silva into a true central midfield position. With both taking a step back, de Bruyne operated in a central attacking midfield role with Sterling also pinching in, a wrinkle for a Man City team that has unabashedly played out wide so far this season.

With de Bruyne drifting centrally, it left Wilfried Ndidi – who has been one of the best, if not THE best, defensive midfielder in the Premier League this season – to decide whether to mark Sterling or de Bruyne. Unable to do both, and with Youri Tielemans not prepared to be needed tracking back, Man City found its mismatch. Sterling created three chances, all in a central location in and around the penalty area, and de Bruyne was absolutely stellar pulling the strings. The Belgian’s best moment came on the final goal, turning Caglar Soyuncu into minced meat before a pinpoint feed to the far post for Jesus.

Credit Guardiola for identifying a weakness in the squad – even if it took a few months – and realizing the team is better when playing through the middle. Man City still delivered 15 crosses in the game, a hefty number for most top European clubs, but it was ultimately a decoy for the truly dangerous moments.

 

Leicester held by stubborn Norwich

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Leicester City’s run of Premier League wins came to an end at eight, as second from bottom Norwich City drew 1-1 at the King Power Stadium on Saturday.

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Teemu Pukki gave the Canaries the lead but an own goal from Tim Krul (which was originally given to Jamie Vardy) snatched a point for the Foxes who never got going.

With the point Leicester move on to 39 points for the season and remain in second place, while Norwich move on to 12 points and remain second from bottom.


3 things we learned

1. Unlikely title race probably over: They probably weren’t going to win the Premier League title, and now it’s all but over. Leicester are now 10 points behind leaders Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers‘ focus will be all about one thing: finishing in the top four. Leicester didn’t get going in attack at all but they remain unbeaten at home. This is still going to be a glorious season for the Foxes but they seemed lacking in energy against Norwich.

2. Pukki continues to have a party: If you watch Norwich regularly then you’ll now that Pukki hasn’t been getting too many chances to score. He’s scored in three of his last four games to take his PL tally to nine for the season and if Norwich do go down, plenty of other PL clubs will be lining up to take Pukki in the summer.

3. Vardy sharp as ever: He thought he had extended his scoring streak but Leicester’s goal went down as a Krul own goal. Vardy was sharp on Saturday, hitting the outside of the post after rounding Krul and nearly capitalizing on an error from the Norwich goalkeeper. His goalscoring streak is over but Vardy continues to bring the heat.

Man of the Match: Emiliano Buendia – At the heart of everything good about Norwich, played the ball through to Pukki for his goal and the Argentine midfielder has so much quality on the ball.


The Foxes went close to scoring early on as Kelechi Iheanacho tested Tim Krul and then Youri Tielemans hit the woodwork.

Tielemans cut inside and his shot looked like a routine save for Krul but Norwich’s goalkeeper spilled the ball onto his own post and then collected it before Vardy flew in.

But then Norwich took the lead as Emiliano Buendia drove towards goal and played in top goalscorer Pukki, who kept his composure to slot home past Kasper Schmeichel.

VAR then checked out an incident as Todd Cantwell was annoyed with Iheanacho after a fiery exchange between the Canaries and Foxes players after poor sportsmanship from the Leicester forward who failed to put the ball out of play.

Cantwell then went close as Norwich but Leicester equalized before the break from a corner. James Maddison whipped in a corner to the near post which Vardy flicked on and Krul pushed the ball into his own net to make it 1-1.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Vardy rounded Krul in the second half but his shot from a tight angle hit the post as the Foxes huffed and puffed against a stubborn Norwich side.

Leicester’s leading goalscorer almost guided an effort into the far corner from Chilwell’s cross.

Maddison then whipped in a free kick which Wilfred Ndidi headed off target.

Late on Norwich poured forward in search of a winner as Pukkie was denied by Ricardo Pereira who timed his tackle to perfection, and from the resulting corner Christoph Zimmermann‘s header was blocked.

Substitute Harvey Barnes spurned a great chance late as the Foxes saw their run of wins end.

Guardiola: Man City won’t add to squad in January

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Manchester City appears to be woefully short of depth in central defense, but according to Pep Guardiola, he’s happy with the squad he wants and doesn’t want to add to it.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday afternoon, Guardiola said he doesn’t intend to use the upcoming January transfer window to upgrade his squad. That’s despite his side sitting 11-points behind league leaders Liverpool in the Premier League, with defensive errors leading to Newcastle’s 2-2 draw at St. James Park.

[READ: Premier League Storylines: Week 15]

“I don’t want any players in January,” Guardiola said, via the Guardian. “When they come for an incredible opportunity in January for the next four, five, six [years] maybe we could think about it. Normally the players we could think would be interesting to add something for our squad – clubs are not going to sell them in January.”

On one hand, Guardiola is correct. It’s difficult to get top-quality players in January. In a rare instance, Leicester City was able to sign Youri Tielemans on January transfer deadline day last year, while Virgil Van Dijk moved at the start of the January transfer window in 2018. However, in general, Man City isn’t going to be able to sign a world-class centerback in January unless they spend boatloads of money.

On the other hand, Man City isn’t at its best when 35-year-old Fernandinho is deputizing at centerback when the team is playing a high line. Obviously, Aymeric Laporte, one of the best centerbacks in the world, will be back from injury within the next couple of months. But until then, Man City can’t afford to drop any more points.

With John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi both struggling, maybe a signing in January, even of a veteran from La Liga or the Bundesliga, could help the team or at least provide defensive cover.