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PST Roundtable: PL at the 3/4 mark

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The Premier League season is paused at just more than the three-quarter mark — 76.05 percent, to be a bit more formal — and we’ve got a good handle on who’s good and who isn’t.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

That said, the number also gives an idea of why there’s plenty of possibilities remaining for the table and award winners once the season presumably resumes for the stretch run.

It would be natural to speculate on the front-runners and Championship-bound sides if there were matches this weekend, so why not do it now?

We’ve quizzed our PST staff on a handful of questions in roundtable form, though there was no table and my desk is decidedly rectangular.


Liverpool players have won Player of the Year for the past two seasons despite not winning the league. Are the tables flipped this year? Who is on track for PL Player of the Year?

Joe Prince-WrightKevin De Bruyne should probably win it but I expect Jordan Henderson or Sadio Mane to win it. Liverpool will win the league by a mile and both have been influential. When they’ve been out injured Liverpool have missed them and I’d probably say Mane should win it.

Andy Edwards: This is a weird one, because Liverpool have been so thoroughly outstanding in every way, on every level, that it would be difficult to pick just one of them for Player of the Year. Is Sadio Mane deserving? Sure is. What about Mohamed Salah? Also yes. Virgil Van Dijk? Yet again, yes. Trent Alexander-Arnold? You can make a strong case that he’s perhaps done the most to lift Liverpool another level higher from a “non-traditional” award-winning position. All of that is to say, simply deliver the award to Melwood Training Ground and let the players decide amongst themselves.

Daniel Karell: Remember when the U.S. women’s national team won the 1999 SI Sportsperson of the Year award? I think we’re going to have to do that for Liverpool. While Virgil Van Dijk, Mo Salah, and Sadio Mane would all be worthy of the trophy individually, it’s truly been a team effort this season and the culmination of 5 years of growth, smart transfer dealings, and hard work. Trent Alexander-Arnold has been immense at times, as has Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, and Allison Becker. Ultimately, it’s a bit of a cop-out answer but I think it’s just hard this year to pick just one who has been better. Jamie Vardy currently leads the Premier League in goals, and while he’s been terrific, he hasn’t also been playing in the Champions League like Salah, Mane, and Van Dijk have, for example. 

Kyle Bonn: It has to be Kevin de Bruyne, right? Yea, it does.

Nick Mendola: Kevin De Bruyne and it’s not particularly close. He has a fine chance of setting the league assist record, and he’s two away becoming the only player in the Top Five twice. There are words to be said for Trent Alexander-Arnold, Sadio Mane, Wilfred Ndidi, and Raul Jimenez, but no true decent arguments outside of “it should come from the champion,” which we covered in the question.


Who’s on track for your Best XI?

Joe Prince-Wright: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Maguire, Saka; J. Henderson, Ndidi, De Bruyne; Mane, Firmino, Vardy

Andy Edwards: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Soyuncu, Robertson; Ndidi, Moutinho, De Bruyne; Salah, Jimenez, Mane

Daniel Karell: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Soyuncu, Robertson; De Bruyne, Maddison, Jorginho; Vardy, Aubameyang, Salah

Kyle Bonn: D. Henderson; TAA, Van Dijk, Maguire, Robertson; Ndidi, De Bruyne, J. Henderson, Grealish; Mane, Vardy.

Nick Mendola: Leno; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Soyuncu, Robertson; Ndidi, Rodri, De Bruyne; Salah, Jimenez, Mane.


What’s the best goal you’ve seen this season?

Joe Prince-Wright: I think that has to be Heung-Min Son’s incredible solo goal. Clear winner for Goal of the Season.

Andy Edwards: Heung-min Son’s solo goal versus Burnley

Daniel Karell:  I mean…it’s got to be Heung-min Son against Burnley. Honorable mention though to Kevin de Bruyne vs. Newcastle and Moussa Djenepo vs. Sheffield United.

Kyle Bonn: Three goals so far stand out in my mind: Heung-Min Son’s dizzying run vs. Burnley, Jahanbakhsh’s bike against Chelsea, and Jordan Ayew’s little zig-zag against West Ham. The Spurs’ man’s goal wins for the sheer distance he covered.

Nick Mendola: Son. Solo. Next.


What are your Top 3 moments of the season so far?

Joe Prince-Wright: Woah. What a question. In no particular order: Christian Pulisic’s hat trick for Chelsea v Burnley. Leicester winning 9-0 at Southampton. Liverpool destroying everyone but I particularly enjoyed their 4-0 win at Leicester.

Daniel Karell: The season being postponed for the Coronavirus: Only a global pandemic could upstage the season Liverpool was having. Then Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Man City, which proved that the Reds have fully passed Man City in the pecking order. Finally, I’m biased, but for me it’s the malaise and slide that Arsenal is in. How the mighty have fallen.

Kyle Bonn: Lot to potentially go into the pot here, but the ones that stick out most in my mind are Leicester City demolishing Southampton 9-0, Newcastle ridiculous late 2-2 draw with Everton on Lejeune’s double, and Southampton exacting revenge on Leicester City for the aforementioned demolition with a 2-1 road win. I think Liverpool could potentially have three on here as well, one for the Sadio Mane header against Aston Villa, one for the late Lallana goal against Manchester United to draw, and one for the loss to Watford that ended the unbeaten league season.

Nick Mendola: Two of my three involve the soon-to-be champs, and the first took 24 seconds to reshape the season. It was the time that passed between Trent Alexander-Arnold’s would-be handball penalty for Man City and Fabinho’s rocket to beat Claudio Bravo. ‘Member? Insane. Maybe we should’ve called “Game: Blouses” on the whole season there, citing a season of fate.

The second is Watford’s beatdown of Liverpool to end the Reds’ unbeaten season is here because of its complete nature. The worn-down Reds capitulated to Ismaila Sarr in a way that lives very large.

Third could be anything: Liverpool coming back to beat West Ham. Leicester City hanging nine on Southampton. Hometown kid Matty Longstaff using all five-foot-nothing of his teenage body to piledrive Newcastle past Manchester United on his Premier League debut with his brother next to him in the midfield.

It’s been a season, team.


Grade VAR on a scale of 1-10 (1 being poor and 10 being perfect). What can be changed to make the VAR system more efficient and consistent?

Joe Prince-Wright: I’d give it a 6/10. People forget the small errors which still pop up but a lot of decisions which would have previously been wrong are now correct. I think letting referees use the pitch side monitors will improve the system and the respect for on-field officials. Too much of the control is sent to Stockley Park.

Andy Edwards: 5, dead center of the spectrum. My biggest gripe: it’s been used to micromanage and legislate the smallest of margins far too frequently. We all understand the Laws of the Game are the rules by which the game must be officiated, but what of the Spirit of the Laws of the Game? There must exist a gray area of sorts, as there is with everything in life, where intent and advantage are considered and weighed en route to the final decision. If a player is offside by 2 millimeters, is that an advantage which has a decisive impact in favor of the attacker? In most cases, it’s probably not.

Daniel Karell: 5. It’s decent, but the fact that refs refuse to use the monitors means that they’re just constantly second guessing themselves and it’s affecting how they call games in general. Make a call, and if the VAR says, hey, you might want to look at this, take a look at it to be sure. You can’t go wrong.

Kyle Bonn: VAR so far gets a 4 out of 10 for me. It gets a 3/5 on intent and ability, as the system for the most part has demonstrated the ability to serve as intended when used properly, with a few tweaks necessary such as pitchside monitors and rules like the handball rule needing amending. It gets a 1/5 on execution, with the Premier League struggling mightily to grasp the spirit of the technology. The offside line has done its job, despite the bad publicity, but the “clear & obvious error” has been grossly misinterpreted and calls have been changed or even investigated when not needed.

Nick Mendola: I’m going with five, and it’d be much higher if the PL learned from the NHL’s biggest mistake with replay: offside(s). At least in hockey there’s a blue line to help. The “moment the ball is struck” is such a poor reference point. Let the linespeople live here.


 

BONUS: Who is the best referee in the Premier League and why?

Joe Prince-Wright: Mike Dean because he is not only a pretty fair referee, overall, but he jokes with the players and seems to have their respect. Don’t @ me.

Daniel Karell: I don’t know who the best is, but Mike Dean is towards the bottom.

Kyle Bonn: Mike Dean, because he has supreme control of the pitch and makes the fewest amount of obvious errors.

Nick Mendola: I find Michael Oliver the most consistent.

Latest injury news from Chelsea, Liverpool, Man City

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Ahead of Matchweek 28 in the Premier League plenty of the big boys have released some interesting injury news with stars out for Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City.

Below we round up the latest injury news, which could be very handy for your Premier League Pick ‘Em selections this weekend.

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Okay, now to the injury news…


In another big blow for Man City and Aymeric Laporte, the Frenchman will be ruled out for another three to four weeks after injuring his hamstring in their UEFA Champions League win at Real Madrid on Wednesday.

Laporte has missed a huge chunk of the season so far and Pep Guardiola was sad to see his star center back unavailable once again this season.

“Three weeks out more or less, a month. Unfortunately this happens after four or five months out. Life is not easy and always in the world the people who survive are the ones who cope with the bad moments. It is what it is. Accept it, work hard to come back as soon as possible,” Guardiola said.

When asked about Laporte’s latest injury and the impact not having their main man in defense has had on their non-existent title battle with Liverpool, Guardiola was in a buoyant mood as he replied to Laporte’s injury being the big difference between Man City and Liverpool. “Absolutely,” said Guardiola. “A manager needs the players to rotate, to be fresh. The manager depends on the quality of our players.”

Fernandinho and Nicolas Otamendi will now be the first-choice pairing at center back for the rest of this month as City have the League Cup final against Aston Villa on Sunday, plus the second leg against Real Madrid and big Premier League games against Man United and Chelsea.

Leroy Sane will make a big step on his recovery from the knee injury he suffered in August, as he will play for City’s U23 side against Arsenal on Friday.

“I don’t want to put targets on him, we want him to play the game then speak with him, (about) how he felt,” Guardiola said.


Frank Lampard has started every news conference in recent weeks by listing off the injuries.

That list is getting longer ahead of Chelsea’s trip to Bournemouth on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

“[Christian] Pulisic is injured. [N’Golo] Kante injured and Tammy Abraham is injured. We are trying to find a solution with Tammy. It’s the same,” Lampard confirmed.

Abraham’s injury is one which has got worse over the past few weeks as he’s been in and out of the team while he struggles to overcome the ankle issue.

“I don’t know, we need to see. I speak to the doctors every day about it but we are not actually clear on that one. At the minute he’s not doing anything active for the next couple of days. So I don’t know. And I don’t know how long that will be,” Lampard added.

The one positive for Chelsea is that Ruben Loftus-Cheek will be on the bench again as he continues the final stages of his nine-month recovery from an Achilles injury.

“Ruben [Loftus-Cheek] is in the squad again tomorrow. It would mean a lot for him. It is a lonely place to be injured. With the ability that he has got he is one of the most exciting English midfield players,” Lampard said.


Moving on to Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp confirmed that Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Xherdan Shaqiri are all recovering well but the trio will not play against Watford this Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Klopp revealed that Milner could return for the FA Cup fifth round clash at Chelsea on Tuesday.

“[They are] all coming closer, much closer. Hendo is running, Millie is running and even more. It was not enough for this game now, but we will see – especially with Millie – what we can do for Tuesday,” Klopp said. “I’m not sure about Hendo, and Shaq not yet, but they are all coming closer.”

With Liverpool four wins away from winning the Premier League, Klopp will not rush any players back and risk long-term injuries.

That said, with the FA Cup last 16 clash and the second leg of their UEFA Champions League last 16 tie against Atletico Madrid coming up, Klopp can now start looking at other trophies to win given their 22-point lead atop the table.

Liverpool’s Henderson ruled out with injury

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Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has been ruled out for up to three weeks after picking up a hamstring injury.

Jurgen Klopp confirmed the injury, which Henderson suffered in the 1-0 defeat at Atletico Madrid on Tuesday, and that means the central midfielder will miss the games against West Ham, Watford and Bournemouth in the Premier League, plus the FA Cup clash at Chelsea and probably the last 16 second leg at Anfield against Atletico.

Speaking to reporters ahead of Liverpool’s clash with West Ham at Anfield on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), Klopp had an update on his captain.

“Hendo, could have been worse, it was a hamstring. He will be out for I think three weeks or so, which is not cool, but how we see it is that we were lucky,” Klopp said.

He also said that he doesn’t plan to rotate his squad as they have almost a full week of rest after their UCL last 16 clash against at Atleti and there are no other injury concerns: “Apart from Hendo, all of the other boys are fit.”

Naby Keita or James Milner would be the obvious replacements for Henderson but it is getting increasingly tough for Liverpool to replace. The England international has taken his game to a whole new level this season and after leading Liverpool to Champions League glory last season he is so close to lifting the Premier League trophy this season.

Henderson is in the conversation to be crowned the PFA Player of the Season with his quality passing, driving runs and incredible workrate keeping Liverpool on track as they aim to go the entire season unbeaten.

With a 22-point lead atop the table, Klopp doesn’t have to rush Henderson back but he’s the kind of character who will pushing hard to bee back as soon as possible.

Super sub Mane gives Liverpool win at Norwich City

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Sadio Mane’s late winner off the bench withstood VAR to keep Liverpool’s unbeaten league season in tact with a 1-0 win over Norwich City at Carrow Road on Saturday.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

The goal, Mane’s 100th in England, gives Liverpool a 25-point lead atop the Premier League table, second-place Man City holding a game-in-hand.

Liverpool will tie the English top-flight record for most consecutive wins if it claims a win on Feb. 24 versus West Ham United.

Last place Norwich City remains seven points back of safety, though their performance will keep hope alive for its supporters.


Three things we learned

1. Super sub Sadio winner withstands VAR review: Mane used a small shove — but a shove nonetheless –of a Norwich City defender to get himself a bit of space, and slotted past Krul in the 78th minute. The Video Assistant Referee did not see enough to overturn the goal, assisted by Jordan Henderson‘s able long ball.

2. Carrow Road feeds the desperate Canaries: The hosts were up for this one from Moment No. 1. Daniel Farke‘s men were very sound in the first half and opened up zero chances of real danger, and would’ve been ahead 1-0 had they converted an early opportunity. Liverpool could not take advantage of the chances earned by their pressing high up the field, and needed to go their bench for a look.

3. Norwich the latest to waste a gilt-edge chance provided by Liverpool: Maybe it was winter break rust, but the Reds back line fell asleep but lived to tell the story thanks to Lukas Rupp‘s soft pass and Alisson Becker’s quick hands.

Man of the Match: Naby Keita and Trent Alexander-Arnold were Liverpool’s best players on the day, but it can’t be taken away from Mane.


A lively Carrow Road saw Liverpool with the ball in the early stages, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain hitting a low shot to Tim Krul in the seventh minute.

Despite a wealth of possession for Liverpool, Norwich got a glorious chance. Lukas Rupp had Alisson Becker beaten when he laid off for Teemu Pukki, but the pass was weak and the Liverpool goalkeeper snared it.

That was really it for first half danger. Liverpool had all nine of the match’s shots but only Oxlade-Chamberlain’s early attempt went to Krul.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The Reds threatened in the second half, with Krul denying Mohamed Salah then getting back into position to make a fine save on Naby Keita.

Alex Tettey hit the outside of the post in the 73rd minute, though it looked like Alisson had the angle covered if the effort was accurate.

That’s when Mane got his goal.

Pukki belted a shot into the chest of Alisson in the 89th minute.

Second-half surge rockets Liverpool past Southampton

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Liverpool continued its unbeaten march toward Premier League glory with a 4-0 beating of Southampton on Saturday at Anfield.

The Reds open their table lead to 22 points thanks to banner days from Jordan Henderson and Mohamed Salah.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Salah scored twice, Henderson collected a goal and an assist, and Roberto Firmino registered two assists. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored Liverpool’s other marker as Liverpool improved to 23 wins and one draw in league play.

Saints see their upward swing halted and finish the day 11th.


Three things we learned

1. Thirteen to go: Going unbeaten is a near-impossible task, but Liverpool is doing its level best. While the Reds again tempted fate in the first half, there was no doubt about their second half. Salah and Henderson were everywhere, and they might’ve scored seven on another day. The coronation is coming, but will the crown be spotless?

2. Henderson continues career year: There’s always been something on-field missing from Jordan Henderson, but Jurgen Klopp has taken him from capable starter to star this year. Henderson had a goal and an assist to pitch in offensively while following his (probable) orders to play a little hatchet man in the midfield. It must be a miserable afternoon dealing with “Hendo.”

3. Saints waste chances to play spoiler: Southampton’s first half was deserving of at least one goal, and the halftime whistle totally recharged the hosts. If you want to take points off this Liverpool, you have to take advantage of the rare down periods from the soon-to-be champs. Southampton did no such thing.

Man of the Match: Salah.


Oxlade-Chamberlain and Salah both handled the ball unwhistled en route to the latter’s tempting of the goal in the 20th minute.

Saints had moments, Moussa Djenepo forcing Alisson Becker into a 27th minute parry.

McCarthy made terrific saves on Virgil Van Dijk and Firmino before a penalty shout was denied the Reds.

Danny Ings carried into the box only to see a shot blocked by Joe Gomez in the 40th, with Shane Long‘s rip saved by Alisson in the 41st.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Oxlade-Chamberlain put the Reds in front two minutes into the second half and moments after a penalty shout was denied Saints. An low drive through traffic cut inside the near post made it 1-0.

Henderson made it 2-0 when he was unmarked in the box for a Firmino cutback. The ex-Sunderland man left no doubt.

Salah took advantage of a Saints error to make it 3-0, dribbling to McCarthy’s doorstep to dink into the goal. He’d make it 4-0 on the edge of stoppage time.