LONDON — The scary thing about this Liverpool side is that they think they can get a lot better.
After their 1-0 win at Tottenham they are 16 points clear at the top of the Premier League table with a game in hand. Their lead can be cut to 14 points tomorrow by Man City, but they’d still have a game in hand.
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Jurgen Klopp has created a ruthless, hungry, efficient winning machine. The German is used to things working like clockwork but it shouldn’t be this easy.
The victory means Liverpool are now on their longest unbeaten league run in club history (38 games) and they’ve had the best-ever start to a Premier League season through 21 games (20 wins and a draw) and the best start of any team in Europe’s top five leagues at this point of a campaign.
But Klopp and his players were a little reluctant to celebrate their ninth one-goal win of the Premier League season.
“We want to analyze the game and be much better, but three points is massive, especially here,” Virgil van Dijk told our partners Sky Sports. “We play Spurs who are a good side. They were in the Champions League final and that must still hurt for them and they will want to bounce back. Second half they pressed and made it difficult for us. The league lead gives us all a good feeling. But you see there is still room for improvement; We are in a good situation but there is work we can do to make it easier.”
Klopp was asked by reporters after the game about their record-breaking start to the season but he doesn’t want to dwell on it: “I really tried to respond in a positive way, but when someone told me I didn’t feel anything.”
Liverpool’s manager and the players were happy at the end of the game as their juggernaut rumbles on. When asked by Pro Soccer Talk about Roberto Firmino’s superb man of the match display, Klopp said the first thing Firmino said to him after the game was that he should have scored more.
“First and foremost the result is the most important thing. One team deserved to win and that was us,” Klopp told Sky Sports. “To win at Tottenham is pretty special. That the game wasn’t decided after 50-60 minutes was our fault. It was very intense for us. You can expect them to defend deep in this stadium, but it was 4-6-0 in the first half. If it was easy to win here, a lot more teams would do it. I’m over the moon about the result, but we have to talk about the performance.
“We should have scored more goals – that’s the truth. We have to be honest with ourselves. We could have scored more and we have to – especially in this stadium against a team like Tottenham. We were on the ground towards the end and they were coming forward. The spell we’ve had, it costs you rhythm. In the second half a couple of our players were slightly exhausted, but we fought through that.”
When Spurs were piling forward late on, Klopp was furiously throwing his hands into the air and barking out orders to his team.
Liverpool are a ruthless winning machine who aren’t satisfied with scrapping through games. They did that against Tottenham on Saturday due to not taking their chances and Spurs badly missing the injured Harry Kane in the final third. But they still found a way to win.
That is why they will win the Premier League title this season and end their 30-year plus wait for the trophy.
There’s real trouble at Bournemouth, who’ve lost two of three-straight relegation six-pointers by a combined 7-0 score line.
The home score line in a relegation six-pointer alone would be enough to crush most managers, but Howe has driven the Cherries from the lower leagues to Premier League regular status.
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That’s now in question, though, as Bournemouth is two points away from the safe places after allowing the Hornets to leapfrog them.
Howe is not shirking responsibility for the problems of the Vitality Stadium set, which is beset by injuries and ice-cold stars. Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser aren’t making much happen whether industrious or not.
“I’m not going to blame anybody, we are trying to do the right thing just haven’t executed it very well. Confidence, nerves, it is such a key thing. We have been on a difficult run and this week key players have got injured. We had players playing that aren’t 100% fit. When you get a setback were not able to lift ourselves in the way we normally would.
“We are not looking free-scoring and when you concede a goal it seems a long way back. We need to focus on both disciplines. The manager always has to take responsibility when things aren’t going well. Instilling confidence back to the players is my job.”
There’s no time for low confidence; Bournemouth has Norwich City next, a match with a chance for the Cherries to keep at least one team in its rearview mirror.
Abdoulaye Doucoure had a goal and an assist as Watford leapt out of the drop zone with a 2-0 win over Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium.
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Watford has four wins inside of a five-match unbeaten run under Nigel Pearson and moves 17th with 22 points.
That’s two points better than the Cherries, who sit 19th with 20 points.
Three things we learned
1. Sarr shows what got him to Watford: Senegalese youngster Sarr has experienced in an uneven start to life in the Premier League, but there have been plenty of positives. Last season saw Sarr become a double-digit goal and assist man at Stade Rennais, earning a splashy move to the Hornets.
Sarr’s steal and terrific assist put Watford up 1-0, and he did the lion’s share of the lifting on the second. He entered the day with four goals and two assists in around 1000 minutes for Watford. At his best, Sarr is making himself a huge threat on the other side of Gerard Deulofeu (even if he looks dejected to come off in the 83rd minute).
DEENEY SCORES 😤🐝 pic.twitter.com/T06WG2QwNu
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) January 12, 2020
2. Ice cold Wilson, snake bit Fraser killing Cherries: Callum Wilson had another rough outing to stretch a brutal run into mid-January. He finished a run of five goals in four Premier League matches on Sept. 28. His only goal or assist since that run came against Luton Town in the FA Cup last week. He had 15 and 10 last season.
Ryan Fraser is also struggling, though the effort and craft remain on display sans end product. Fraser was one of the few Cherries to show up on Sunday but has a goal and just three assists this season and nothing since Nov. 23. Last season? Eight and 15.
3. Deputy Travers gets no help : A minor injury suffered by 21-year-old Aaron Ramsdale led to an even younger starting goalkeeper for Bournemouth. Irish backstop Mark Travers got the call, his first PL match of the season after starting in all three of the Cherries’ cup outings. He kept a clean sheet against Spurs in his PL debut last season but then conceded five times in the season finale. It was more of the latter than the former in his two-save Sunday, as Travers gave the ball away a few touches before Watford’s opener.
Man of the Match: Doucoure, Sarr, Deeney, and Etienne Capoue were the standouts for Watford, and Doucoure was ready to go from Moment No. 1 to get our nod.
Ismaila Sarr raced down the right wing off a Bournemouth giveaway, but his touch put him out wide and his ball toward the back post was wide and absent receiver.
In-form Gerard Deulofeu forced a fine save out of young goalkeeper Mark Travers, who saw the ensuing corner nodded wide of the frame.
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Bournemouth had plenty of the play, but Watford went ahead through a Travers giveaway quickly turned into a goal by Sarr and Doucoure.
Deulofeu led a break that ended with a Travers save of a Deeney bounded shot.
The Hornets put it to bed when Andre Gray saw his shot cleared off the line and Pereyra settled the rebound and slotted home.
Manchester City bids to move back into second place in the Premier League when it visits Aston Villa on Sunday. (Watch live at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).
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Aston Villa enters the day in the Bottom Three and will finish there without an upset of City, who passes Leicester City with a draw or win.
A debut for Danny Drinkwater! 🙌
Here is your Aston Villa team to face Manchester City…
— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) January 12, 2020
Here’s how we line up at Villa Park this afternoon…👇
XI | Ederson, Cancelo, Fernandinho, Stones, Mendy, Rodrigo, D Silva (C), De Bruyne, Mahrez, G Jesus, Aguero.
SUBS | Bravo, Walker, Sterling, Gundogan, Bernardo, Otamendi, Foden.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) January 12, 2020
It’s all a mess at Barcelona, as messy as it can be for a table-leading side.
Barca threw away a spot in the Spanish Super Cup Final with more miserable game management and defending versus Atletico Madrid at midweek, heaping pressure on Ernesto Valverde.
He may just pack up and leave given the weekend’s news that Barcelona director of football Eric Abidal flew to Qatar to meet with Xavi Hernandez about the manager’s position.
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Valverde, it’s worth noting, has won La Liga in both of his seasons in charge of the squad. Valverde’s Barca is level with Real Madrid on 40 points, five points ahead of Atleti and Sevilla.
Al Sadd executive director Turki Al-Ali issued a statement saying it is “normal and expected” that Xavi will one day leave for Barcelona, but that nothing is imminent. Reuters correspondent Richard Martin says Xavi has not decided his future, though an AS report claims he wants the job in the summer.
All this leaves the two-time reigning league winner in a rough spot, Valverde wondering what’s next. El Pais suspects Barca may need a bridge manager.
To be frank, Valverde’s roster aside from elite weapons Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Antoine Griezmann seems stuck between too old and too green. Messi is having perhaps the best season in the world, but Suarez undergoes surgery on Sunday and Griezmann still growing into his Blaugrana shoes.
But the massive chances coughed up to Atleti at midweek were too familiar, and Barca needs some fresh ideas to shore up their structure. Frenkie de Jong and Ansu Fati aren’t going to fix the back.
There’s time to get sorted for the stretch run, with a manageable run of fixtures. There’s Valencia away as the stiffest challenge of a half-dozen La Liga outings before Napoli arrives for the Champions League Round of 16, followed by the away El Clasico.
Will Valverde be the man overseeing any of it?
Abidal and Grau on their way back from Doha after speaking to Xavi Hernandez about coaching Barcelona, , a club source has told @ReutersSports. Xavi has not given them a yes or no as he is focused on Al Sadd’s Cup final on Friday. Valverde will take Monday’s training session
— Richard Martin (@Rich9908) January 12, 2020