Underwhelming United, merry Mourinho and Sunderland’s sigh of relief: 3 talking points from the weekend’s Premier League action

Manchester United’s problems aren’t just managerial:

After such a convincing victory against Norwich last weekend, there were calls from certain quarters for Ryan Giggs to be handed the Manchester United manager post on a full-time basis. Sub-keeper Anders Lindegaard reckoned the Welshman could be the next Pep Guardiola.

Saturday’s loss at home to Sunderland has brought the Red Devils right back to earth, and highlighted the shortcomings on the field that will have to be addressed no matter who the manager is next season.

United have nothing but pride to play for at this stage of the season, but the ability to dominate sides in the midfield hasn’t been evident for quite a while. None of Carrick, Cleverley, Fellaini or Fletcher strike terror in the hearts of opposing teams the way Yaya Toure does for Manchester City, or Aaron Ramsey at his best for Arsenal.

Change may take place in the dug-out this summer, but personnel changes in the centre of the park are just as vital.

 

Jose Mourinho has a sense of humour:

In the aftermath of a turgid nil-all draw with Norwich on Sunday, Jose Mourinho complained that only one team had attempted to play football. Surprisingly, that team was Chelsea.

Norwich City have been absolutely awful in front of goal this season, and at Stamford Bridge they sat deep and attempted to catch Chelsea on the counter, rather than going gung-ho at a team that could punish them.

Sitting deep and hitting teams on the counter is something that Chelsea have done with varied results in the recent past. It worked against Liverpool and categorically didn’t against Atletico Madrid. It doesn’t matter if it’s pleasing to the eye, football is a results game and Mourinho’s teams exemplify that mind-set more than most.

The Portuguese coach knows full well the reputation his team has for playing negative football, and you can imagine him turning a corner after giving his post match comments about Norwich yesterday, and laughing his head off.

 

Sunderland’s detractors need to take a look at  themselves:

A team that takes 7 of a possible 9 points against the two Manchester Clubs and Chelsea deserves to stay up. Sunderland have done just that and with Saturday’s victory at Old Trafford they look almost certain to beat the drop.

Going into the game against United, Gus Poyet’s team had a cloud hanging over them due to the threat of a points deduction. Norwich, Cardiff and Fulham had joined to petition the FA regarding Sunderland’s fielding of an ineligible player.

The Black Cats had already been fined by the FA for playing Ji Dong-Won in four games at the start of the season without international clearance from FIFA, but the three teams below them were desperate to drag Sunderland deeper into the relegation dog-fight.

Unfortunately for them, there is no rule that forces the FA to dock points in a scenario such as Sunderland found themselves in. Fulham and Cardiff were relegated at the weekend, and Norwich are favourites to join them next weekend.

Sunderland have fought their way out of the relegation zone with their results in the run-in. If the teams below them want to lay the blame for their relegation somewhere, they’d be best served to look at their own performances.

 

 

 

 

 

Chelsea v Atletico Madrid: As it happened

With both Chelsea and Atletico Madrid’s obvious penchant for sitting back and hitting opponents on the break, tonight’s game may not be for those looking for a spectacle.

Liverpool decided on Sunday to stick to their usual style of football when Chelsea visited Anfield. One Steven Gerrard slip allowed the Blues to score through Demba Ba, and the league leaders spent the rest of the game attempting desperately to break down Jose Mourinho’s defensively watertight unit. The Blues invited Liverpool forward and then hit them on the counter, eventually culminating in Willian’s injury-time insurance goal.

Atletico Madrid haven’t suffered defeat in their past 14 games, and will have watched Sunday’s game with interest. Diego Simeone is unlikely to adopt a gung-ho approach as he knows with so much at stake the team who makes the least mistakes will progress to May’s final in Lisbon. One away goal from Atletico will force Chelsea to chase the game and leave themselves more vulnerable at the back. Simeone’s side won’t throw the kitchen sink at the home side early on, instead they will play the ball around and probe for weaknesses.

It may not make for the most glorious game of football, but last night’s meeting of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich -billed beforehand as an ad for the beautiful game- was hardly high-drama either. With the outcome decided by half-time, the second half was a tawdry affair. It is difficult to see tonight’s game being less than competitive for the duration.

Team News:

Chelsea: Schwarzer, Ivanović, Cahill, Terry, Azpilcueta, Cole, David Luiz, Ramires, Torres, Hazard, Willian

Atletico Madrid: Courtois; Torres, Miranda, Godin, Luis, Cardoso, Suarez, Koke, Arda Turan, Adrian, Diego Costa 

 

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Full time thoughts – For all the talk about Chelsea’s defensive strengths. their lack of a cutting edge up front has cost them dearly tonight. They may have struck first but Atletico responded in emphatic fashion. It would have been understandable if Diego Simeone had set up his team defensively in the second half to protect the away goal lead, but Atletico came out and attacked Chelsea in admirable fashion.

Atletico are having an excellent season and even faced with an ultra defensive Chelsea line-up tonight they were well capable of creating opportunites. All the players worked hard for each other, and collectively they deserved the victory tonight. In contrast, Mourinho’s defensive know-how is only as effective as the players who implement his instructions on the field. Eden Hazard was at fault in the build up to two of Atletico’s goals tonight. Mourinho’s decision to omit the lively Schurrle in order to play Azpilicueta in midfield will be scrutinized in depth in tomorrow’s papers.

90+5 mins – The final whistle goes and Atletico’s incredible unbeaten Champions League season continues! They will face cross-city rivals Real in the final on May 24th. What a game that will be.

90+3 mins – Chance! Hazard gets through on goal and Courtois blocks his shot with his legs. Terry blasts the follow up over the bar. Courtois desperate to keep a clean sheet.

90+2 mins –  Chelsea pumping balls into the box but Atletico deal with them easily.

90 mins – Five minutes added but there’s little chance of a Chelsea comeback.

87 mins – Atletico fans in fine voice behind Courtois’ goal. They’re already wondering how to get their hands on tickets for the final.

84 mins – Chelsea reduced to scraps. Courtois watches as an Eto’o attempt to control the ball dribbles past his post.

82 mins – Nope. There was a bit of confusion there as Sosa looked injured and Simeone wanted to check he was ok before making the substitution. The change can be made now as Turan makes way.

81 mins – Diego Simeone applauds as Arda Turan makes way for Cristian Rodriguez in Atletico’s final substitution.

79 mins – Atletico still look the team most likely to score. Chelsea looking disorganized, even in defence.

76 mins – If Atletico hold on, it’ll be the first European Cup final encounter between two sides from the same city. The entire population of Madrid will be in Lisbon on May 24th. Apart from a few sullen Getafe fans.

75 mins –  Substitutions. Diego Costa limps off to be replaced by Jose Sosa. Another midfielder on the field for Atletico. Willian is replaced by Schurrle in Chelsea’s final substitution.

71 mins – GOAL! 3-1 Atletico! Arda Turan reacts quickest to slot home a ball that came off the crossbar from his own header. Eden Hazard yet again switched off to allow Juanfran get the initial cross in. Surely that’s the end of the road for Chelsea!

69 mins – Ivanovic’s shot is smartly saved by Courtois but the whistle had already gone for a Demba Ba foul on the goalkeeper.

66 mins – Demba Ba on for goalscorer Fernando Torres, who applauds both sets of fans on his way to the bench.

65 mins – Raul Garcia comes on for Adrian. Diego Simeone shoring up the midfield.

64 mins – Adrian Lopez gets a yellow card for a needless foul near the Chelsea box.

63 mins- Chance! David Luiz’s header ricochets off of the post and Courtois parries clear. Chelsea almost managed to claw one back immediately.

62 mins – Chelsea fans look apprehensive. Can their team score twice in the next 30 minutes or so?

59 mins – GOAL! 2-1 Atletico! After getting yellow carded for marking the penalty spot (or time-wasting maybe), Costa makes no mistake. His penalty finds the roof of the net and now Chelsea need two goals.

58 mins – PENALTY! Eto’o trips Costa just inside the box. Clumsy striker’s challenge from the substitute.

57 mins – Atletico look like the side chasing the game. They’ve been liveliest in the first ten minutes or so of the second half.

54 mins – Atletico calls for a penalty as Azpilicueta appears to drag down Turan are waved away by the referee.

53 mins – Substitution for Chelsea as Eto’o replaces Ashley Cole. Azpilicueta reverts to left back.

52 minsChance! Great save from Courtois as John Terry arrives like a train to head a long free kick towards goal.

50 mins – Courtois gathers a long ball with ease with Torres challenging. The Belgian goalkeeper is playing at Stamford Bridge for the first time tonight, even though he’s technically a Chelsea player the past 3 years. Eto’o getting instructions from Mourinho.

47 mins  – Schwarzer spares the blushes of Terry and Ivanovic as they fail to deal with another ball across the face of the goal. The shot from Adrian blocked away by the goalkeeper.

20:48 – Back underway at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea must score in the next 45 mins to advance to the final.

Half time thoughts – Both lauded defences have been breached and the momentum is definitely with Atletico going in at the break ahead on away goals. For the first half an hour it was difficult to see who would make the breakthrough, and when Torres put Chelsea ahead you expected the home side to park more double deckers than Evil Knievel would jump over. A lapse from Hazard allowed Juanfran to create Adrian’s equalizer and now Chelsea need another goal if they are to progress. Atletico will defend ferociously and look to catch Chelsea on the break. The manager whose team progresses tonight will have earned their night’s wage.

45 mins – The referee adds no time at the end of the half so the teams trudge off with the bare 45 gone.

43 mins – GOAL! 1-1. Juanfran escapes Hazard at the back post and when Tiago’s cross finds him he squares to Adrian who scuffs the ball into the ground and into the top corner of Chelsea’s goal. The advantage has swung firmly back in Atletico’s favour! Terry and Cole could maybe have done better defending the ball across the square from Juanfran.

41 mins – Another decent delivery from Koke reaches Adrian who can’t direct the ball past Schwarzer. The Australian gathers gratefully.

39 mins – So… That was an assist by Azpilicueta. Playing in an unfamilia midfield role. Cue fawning tributes to Mourinho’s tactical genius if Chelsea win tonight.

35 mins – GOAL! 1-0 Chelsea! Willian with excellent work down the right allows Azpilicueta to find Torres in the centre. The striker’s shot deflects off Mario Suarez past the helpless Courtois. First goal Atletico have conceded in 7 games. They’ll need to work even harder to break down Chelsea’s defence now!

34 mins – Costa is getting a little annoyed with the quality of ball played up to him. The latest effort is easily dealt with by John Terry again.

30 mins – First yellow card of the night for Gary Cahill for a challenge on Costa ten yards outside the Chelsea box. Koke’s ball was dangerous but well cleared by Terry.

27 mins – Chelsea have had a lot of the possession so far but don’t seem too keen to push forward. For Atletico, Diego Costa is moving around to find the ball, but in doing so he’s leaving his midfielders one option less through the middle.

24 mins – A corner for Chelsea nearly finds its way to John Terry at the backpost. It’s cleared by Atletico for another corner but Terry complains to the referee that his shirt was pulled.

22 mins – Even cheekier shot from David Luiz as the ball comes in from the throw. He chests the ball facing away from goal and unleashes a scissors kick which flies narrowly past the far post.

21 mins – Cheeky dummy from Eden Hazard allows Ramires in behind the Atletico defence. Miranda does well to put the ball out for a throw/

18 mins – One of Chelsea’s six defenders makes a mistake and atones immediately. Gary Cahill misplaces a pass and has to scramble to block a shot from Costa close to the Chelsea goal.

15 mins – A good run from Diego Costa ends when he opts for a shot himself from a difficult angle. He might have been better served laying the ball off to the onrushing Tiago at the edge of the box.

14 mins – Willian commandeers the set-piece and scoops it over the bar. Not enough room there to get it over the wall and back under the crossbar.

13 mins – Free-kick in a promising area for Chelsea as Koke fouls Ramires on the edge of the “d”.

12 mins – You get the feeling that the longer it remains nil-nil the more each team will be happy to get men behind the ball. A goal from somewhere however… and all hell could break loose as the team behind will have to chase the game.

8 mins – Very crowded in the centre of the field early on as both teams are quick to close down the ball.

3 mins – Chance! Nearly an early away goal for Atletico. A Koke cross loops over everyone including Schwarzer, hits the crossbar and post before ricocheting off of Cahill and over the bar.

2 mins – Fernando Torres with a lovely bit of juggling in the midfield but he’s eventually disposessed. Himself and Diego Costa could be swapping clubs this summer if reports are to believed. Costa wanted by Chelsea and Torres could be used as the bait that makes his former club to bite.

1 min – Dave (alright Azpilicueta) has lined up on the right side of midfield.

19:45 – They’re ready to go at Stamford Bridge, just as soon as a minutes silence for Tito Vilanova and Vujadin Boskov is observed. Actually, it’s a minutes applause. The done thing nowadays.

19:40 – Meanwhile on RTE, Billo is commentating on Maradona taking a selfie on a phone that looks like a minion from Despicable Me. As you do.

19:35 –  Gary Neville commentating on Sky tonight. Cover your ears if Torres scores at any stage.

19:30- Ex-Chelsea midfielder Tiago starts for Atletico tonight in place of Gabi. Prolific striker Diego Costa will hope to shake off the shackles of the Chelsea defenders. If he or partner Adrian Lopez can’t find a breakthrough, David Villa is on the bench.

19:25 – Plenty of attacking options on the bench for Chelsea tonight however. Schurrle, Oscar, Ba and Eto’o all among the substitutes.

19:15 – Interesting team selection from Jose Mourinho. Six defenders (if you count David Luiz) named in the starting XI. Will there be three centre-halves with Cole and Azpilicueta as wing backs? Sky Sports reckon Azpilicueta (the Spaniard known simply as Dave) will form part of a midfield three with Luiz and Ramires.

Merseyside mistakes, Mourinho masterclass and no-goals Norwich: 3 talking points after the weekend’s Premier League action

1. Mistakes mar excellent seasons.

No matter how good a season you’re having, one mistake can unravel much of the stellar work gone before.

Both Seamus Coleman and Steven Gerrard were named in the PFA Team of the Year last night, and deservedly so. The Irish full back has been magnificent in defence and attack for Everton throughout the campaign, and Gerrard has been a driving force behind Liverpool’s title tilt.

Yet on the same weekend that they received the PFA accolades, mistakes by the duo have helped hinder their team’s lofty ambitions. Coleman scored the second of two own-goals as Everton succumbed to Southampton on Saturday, while Gerrard’s slip on the Anfield turf allowed Demba Ba give Chelsea a lead they wouldn’t relinquish yesterday.

These errors cannot take away from the wonderful work done by both players this campaign, but they may yet prove fatal to the ambitions of both clubs on Merseyside.

 

2. Mourinho can dispense with the mind-games.

Chelsea frustrated Atletico Madrid for a full 90 minutes on Tuesday night. It wasn’t pretty, but it gave the London side the advantage ahead of this week’s second leg.

Speaking to the press in the Vicente Calderon afterwards Jose, Mourinho turned his focus to the clash with Liverpool at the weekend. Or did he? He spoke about resting players for the game in order to focus on the second leg with Atletico. Which was his real concern. But was he bluffing? Oh never mind.

The long and the short of it is that Chelsea (minus a few players due to injury) turned up at Anfield yesterday and put in another exquisite defensive performance. Liverpool had the majority of the possession, but could not break down the banks of blue shirts between them and the Chelsea goal.

Mourinho’s celebrations after Willian doubled Chelsea’s lead at the death belied his suggestion that he didn’t care about the game. It had been just another case of psychological posturing from the Portuguese coach.

The way in which he sets out his team in big games may not be pretty at times. Some might even call it hypocritical, given that Mourinho is quick to criticise clubs who park the bus against Chelsea. However the defensive displays Mourinho’s teams are able to produce when it counts show the extent of his tactical acumen.

Mourinho is one of the best tacticians around. The mind-games may be great fodder for the media, but his ability to bring the best out of his own player renders them unnecessary.

3. Norwich impotence in front of goal to cost them Premier League place.

After Saturday’s 4-0 loss at Old Trafford, Norwich fans can’t be holding out much hope for a great escape. Their final two fixtures are Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and Arsenal at home. Supporters at Carrow Road on May 11th may turn up hoping for a miracle,. but it looks more likely that they will be bidding farewell to the Premier League for next season at least.

It doesn’t matter who the manager is, the reality being that if your three main strikers can only manage 12 goals between them all season, you’re going to struggle to stay in the league. Gary Hooper has managed eight goals, Johan Elmander three, and the beacon of hope that was Ricky Van Wolfswinkel has scored a single paltry goal since his £8.6m move from Sporting Lisbon last season.

Connor Wickham cost around the same amount when he moved to Sunderland from Ipswich a few years back. It’s taken him quite a while to come anywhere near justifying that fee, but four goals in his last three games have seen the Black Cats move outside the relegation zone for the first time since February.

A few weeks back, Sunderland looked dead and buried as a Wes Brown own goal handed Everton three points at the Stadium of Light. In the meantime, a draw against Manchester City and victories over Chelsea and Cardiff City have seen Gus Poyet’s men become favourites to beat the drop.

Norwich can take heart from Sunderland’s story, but unless they somehow find goals against Arsenal and Chelsea, they’ll be a Championship side next season.

 

 

Liverpool v Chelsea: As it happened

Another day of reckoning in a season-full of them has arrived. Three points for Liverpool today and the final few games become a victory procession for the first league title to go to Anfield in 24 years. A win for Chelsea and it’s squeaky bum time for the team so desperate to get back on the perch.

Just five points separate the sides going into today’s game. If you are to believe Jose Mourinho however, Chelsea are more concerned with beating Atletico Madrid in the Champions League than challenging  Liverpool for the league. Brendan Rodgers may be a friend of the Portuguese coach, but he won’t be taken in by Mourinho’s mind games. The Chelsea team selection may be restricted somewhat due to injuries to John Terry and Petr Cech, but whoever takes to the field, they won’t roll over at Anfield.

Teams:

Liverpool: Mignolet, Johnson, Flanagan, Skrtel, Sakho, Gerrard, Allen, Lucas, Coutinho, Sterling, Suarez. Subs: Jones, Toure, Agger, Cissokho, Alberto, Aspas, Sturridge.

Chelsea: Schwarzer, Azpilicueta, Kalas, Ivanovic, Cole, Matic, Mikel, Salah, Lampard, Schurrle, Ba. Subs: Hilario, Ake, Cahill, Van Ginkel, Baker, Willian, Torres.

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Full time thoughts – Mourinho may have started without a few key players but those that took to the field in blue  executed the game plan to perfection. Liverpool went out looking for a 12th straight win and that played right into Mourinho’s hands. Chelsea were happy to sit back and soak up the pressure and hit Liverpool on the counter. Liverpool remain top, but the advantage is now with Manchester City again. If Pellegrini’s team win their three games they will win the league on goal difference. Again.

Mourinho indicated during the week that the Champions League was the main priority for Chelsea but he forgot to tell his face after Willian’s goal. The master of mind games has done it again, but it was his game plan that won out today, not the  codology.

95 mins – Full time.

93 mins – GOAL! 2-0 Chelsea! Willian! As Liverpool press for an equalizer Willian pounces on a loose ball and feeds Torres. The Spaniard races clear and presents Willian with a tap in with Mignolet helpless. Game over. Mourinho celebrates like he actually cares about the Premier League.

92 mins – A yellow card for Jose Mourinho for something he said on the sidelines. Torres follows him into the book with a trip on Sakho.

91 mins- Suarez swerves a shot at Schwarzer which he parries over. Iago Aspas wastes the resultant corner.

90 mins – 4 minutes added on.

89 mins – Chelsea just playing the clock down now. Matic runs the ball into the corner.

85 mins – Suarez with two poor passes in quick succession as Liverpool try and force the game.

83 mins – And now Ba makes way for Fernando Torres. A smattering of boos for the former Liverpool player as Jose Mourinho makes his final substitution.

82 mins – Ba may have scored but other than that he’s having an absolute shocker. He takes far too long to spot Willian who was clear on goal. His eventual pass hits off Ashley Cole.

81 mins – Sterling wins a corner after getting behind the Chelsea defence. Another corner results as Coutinho’s shot is deflected.

80 mins – Coutinho tries to find Suarez but his pass goes just beyond the Uruguayan at the back post. Iago Aspas comes on for John Flanagan as Liverpool make another substitution.

78 mins – Suarez hangs the ball on the penalty spot and Gerrard rises to head weakly into the arms of Schwarzer. The captain is desperate to atone for the error that led to the Chelsea goal.

76 mins – And another from Gerrard. Substitution for Chelsea as Schurrle makes way for Gary Cahill. Mourinho putting more bodies between Liverpool and the Chelsea goal.

74 mins – Gerrard with another shot from outside the box. 15 minutes left to find a breakthrough.

72 mins – Suarez with a sublime turn on the byline to make some space. Nothing comes of his low drive across the box however. Chelsea with almost everyone behind the ball. Impossible to break down.

71 mins – Great ball from Gerrard across the box but Azpilicueta heads away before it can reach anyone in a Liverpool shirt.

68 mins – Suarez getting a bit annoyed with the constant dawdling on the ball that Schwarzer has been guilty of today. Tries to hurry the keeper into utilising the ball quicker.

66 mins – Constant Liverpool pressure results in a Joe Allen shot from distance. Schwarzer comfortable again. Liverpool need to find a way behind the Chelsea defence. Even as I write Gerrard has another unsuccessful pop from outside the box.

62 mins – Schurrle forces a good save from Mignolet who has had little to do in the second half so far.

59 mins – Substitution for Chelsea as Willian on for Salah. The Brazilian works hard and will be an asset defensively for the blues as well as a threat up front.

58 mins – A Joe Allen volley forces Schwarzer into a fine save. In the aftermath of the corner Suarez tries a cheeky lob which is easily managed by the Australian keeper.

57 mins – Substitution for Liverpool as Lucas makes way for Daniel Sturridge. A positive move from Brendand Rodgers.

55 mins – A deflected Gerrard shot is gathered easily by Schwarzer. That’s the Liverpool captain’s second shot in the second half as he attempts to make amends for his slip at the end of the first half.

50 mins – Kalas nudges Sterling just inside the box and the Liverpool forward goes flying. Appeals from the Liverpool fans for a penalty but it was sheer strength from the young centre-half.

50 mins – Hectic first five minutes to the half. Liverpool again with a lot of possession but Chelsea resolute at the back. Sturridge warming up for the home side.

45 mins – Almost a chance for Liverpool already. Suarez knocks it beyond the Chelsea defence but Lucas seems to get in the way of the striker and the ball goes out for a goal kick.

45 mins – The game’s back under way at Anfield.

Half time thoughts: Chelsea have the lead but it’s against the run of play. Demba Ba’s touch has been terrible all day but Gerrard’s slip gifted him an opportunity and he stuck it away well. Liverpool have been well on top in the first half without really creating any major chances. Chelsea have been happy to sit back and soak up the pressure and it’s unlikely that will change in the second half now that they have the lead. Jose Mourinho’s men have executed their game plan to perfection so far.

If you want to win titles you have to prove your worth in games like this, so Brendan Rodgers and his side need to find a way to penetrate the Chelsea defence or Manchester City will sense blood.

45 +2 mins – GOAL 1-0 Chelsea! Demba Ba capitalizes on a slip from Steven Gerrard to race through and slip the ball under Mignolet.

45 + 2 mins – Kalas lost his marker from a Chelsea corner and had the chance to become an instant fan favourite.

45 mins – 3 minutes tacked on to the end of the first half.

42 mins – Another yellow card, again for a tackle on Raheem Sterling. This time for Frank Lampard.

40 mins – A relatively poor ball across the Chelsea defence somehow finds Sterling. The youngster picks out Suarez who curls a shot just over from the edge of the box.

39 mins – The referee Martin Atkinson talks to Chelsea keeper Schwarzer about time-wasting. His card is marked.

37 mins – Shouts for handball from Chelsea as a Salah shot strikes Flanagan. Definitely hits his hand but there was little the defender could to to get his hand out of the way.

35 mins – Fernando Torres looking on from the subs bench. Amazing to think that less than half the money Liverpool made off his sale went on buying Suarez.

30 mins – Chelsea have played quite conservatively so far. They’re content to let Liverpool retain possession and then attempt to create something on the counter.

24 mins – Cole barges into Suarez as he tries to challenge for an aerial ball. Clever from the Uruguayan striker to stand in Cole’s way. As Gerrard lines up the free-kick, the two managers have an amicable chat on the sidelines.

23 mins – Handbags in the corner between Sterling and Azpilicueta. Nothing much in it and the ball goes out for a Liverpool corner.

20 mins – First yellow card of the day. Sterling challenged Mohamed Salah to a race and the Egyptian trips him before he can run at the Chelsea back-line.

19 mins – Coutinho drags a show well wide from the edge of the box. All the game being played in and around the Chelsea defence at the moment.

16 mins – Chelsea can’t secure possession outside their own half so far.

13 mins – Big chance! The corner hits Mikel and Cole half clears off the line. When it eventually comes back in from Suarez, Sakho blasts over.

12 mins – Another corner for Liverpool. The home side has looked liveliest early on.

10 mins – Sublime no-look ball across the box from Suarez. Coutinho could have knocked back in to Joe Allen but opted to take on the shot and hits the side netting from a tight angle.

7 mins – Good tackle from Salas as Sterling looks to accelerate onto a ball behind the Chelsea defence. Corner Liverpool.

5 mins – Ashley Cole forces Mignolet into an early save. Touches the ball past Raheem Sterling on the edge of the box and lets fly. The keeper parries to safety.

3 mins – Schurrle feeling the force of a Glen Johnson challenge. Wincing on the sideline as club doctor Eva Carneiro sees to him. She’s the only team doctor most football fans can name. Funny that.

14:05 – And they’re off!

14:02 – Kop in full voice. Chelsea fans trying to make themselves heard through You’ll Never Walk Alone. Not happening.

14:00 – Teams are in the tunnel. Kalas looks calm, for someone making his full Premier League debut…

13:55 – Now all eyes on Anfield for a crucial clash at the other end of the table. Full house on Merseyside. 10 minutes to kick-off.

13:52- And it’s all over in the North East. Sunderland move up to 17th in the league, Cardiff slip to the bottom of the table. Long journey home for Bluebirds fans.

13:43 – In today’s first game, Sunderland will move above the relegation zone with a comfortable win over fellow strugglers Cardiff. 4-0 at the Stadium of Light with less than 5 mins remaining.

13:35 – Daniel Sturridge starts on the bench against his former club. The striker, with 20 league goals to his name this season, missed last week’s 3-2 victory over Norwich with a hamstring injury.

13:20 – So the teams are in and Mourinho, true to his word, has rested some key players. Cahill and Willian start from the bench, with Kalas and Salah deputising. Tomas Kalas is a Czech 20 year old with zero Premier League experience. Will he be and Ivanovic be the defensive partnership who can muzzle Suarez? Ivanovic sure hopes so.

suarez

nom nom nom

 

Courtois conundrum for Atletico raises issue over loan system

Tomorrow afternoon we will know the make-up of the Champions League semi-finals. After overcoming Barcelona, Atletico Madrid will be hoping to avoid Chelsea in the last four, and indeed the final should they make it.

Why? It’s not because they fear Jose Mourinho’s side, but rather because their first choice goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is on loan from the London side since 2011, and were Atletico to field him against his parent club, it would cost them in the region of €3m.

While there is no denying the short-term benefits of loan arrivals to smaller clubs, the system is weighted in favour of clubs like Chelsea. Clubs who can afford to buy high quality players then send them on loan to gain experience instead of parachuting them immediately into the first team. These high quality players in many cases end up playing in the same league as their parent club, yet clauses in the loan deal stipulate that they cannot compete against them.

A case in point is Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian striker joined Chelsea for around £17m (including add-ons) in 2011. After a relatively underwhelming debut season, the 20 year old has matured into an exceptional attacking threat. Not for Chelsea, however. He joined West Bromwich Albion on loan in the summer of 2012 and went on to score 17 goals in the league for his adopted club. That was more than any individual playing for Chelsea managed that season. He scored for the Baggies against Liverpool, and netted a hat-trick against Manchester United on the last day of the season before returning to Chelsea for the summer.

On transfer deadline day last September, despite featuring in two of Chelsea’s early league games, Lukaku moved to Everton on loan after being deemed surplus to the requirements of Jose Mourinho. This season he has again been in good scoring form, with 13 so far. He (along with other loanees Barry and Delofeu) has been a vital component of Everton’s pursuit of Champions League football, and of Chelsea’s title tilt. His two goals in the first Merseyside Derby of the season prevented Liverpool from taking all three points. He scored last weekend against Arsenal to once and for all dump them out of the race for the Premier League trophy.

It didn’t go unnoticed by other managers in the league that Mourinho may have loaned out Lukaku primarily to take points off of Chelsea’s direct rivals. The fact that he couldn’t play against his parent club may also have shaped the title-race. In a tight game at Stamford Bridge in February, Chelsea took three points with a late John Terry goal.

The Blues aren’t the only team who have used the loan system to their advantage however. When Sunderland beat Chelsea 3-0 in November 2010, on loan Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck put in a man of the match performance, scoring one in the process.

It might be naive to hope for a system where on-loan players can line-out against their parent club, particularly in the same league. But when it obstructs a young player’s opportunity to play in the biggest games, such as it could with Courtois, then the system is inherently flawed.

After three years as Atletico’s number one, the Belgian will decide on his future at the end of the current campaign. Chelsea view him as a long term successor to Petr Cech, and he may return to Stamford Bridge in the summer to challenge the Czech keeper next season. But were he to miss out on either a Champions League semi-final or final because his presence in goal would disadvantage his parent club, the only parties that would benefit would be Chelsea and Daniel Aranzubia, Atletico’s number two.

 

Premier League Preview: Crucial weekend at top and bottom

Last weekend’s round of games saw a shift in power at the top of the table. With Manchester City and Chelsea both dropping points, Liverpool took full advantage with a convincing win over Tottenham Hotspur.

In the race for a Champions League place, Everton’s victory over Fulham saw them keep the heat on Arsenal. Fulham meanwhile remain rooted to the bottom of the table, five points from safety.

West Brom and Cardiff City played out a six goal thriller at the Hawthorns last time out, with a last gasp equaliser keeping the Welsh side within touching distance of safety, albeit with a game more played than last week’s opponents.

Here are the crucial fixtures this weekend:

Manchester City vs Southampton, Saturday, 12.45pm.

City dropped points at Arsenal last time out and need a win in today’s early kick-off in order to keep the pressure on Liverpool. They’re favourites against Southampton however, having lost just one of their last 19 Premier League games. Southampton had big win against a lacklustre Newcastle last weekend, consolidating 8th place in the table.  They haven’t lost in their last two meetings with City, drawing 1-1 at St Marys earlier in the season.

Kenyan midfielder VictorWanyama could make a return for the visitors. Sergio Aguero has resumed training but remains unavailable for City selection.

Chelsea vs Stoke, Saturday, 5.30pm.

Mistakes have cost Chelsea dear in their last two games. A John Terry own goal at Crystal Palace and three defensive mistakes against PSG have halted their momentum. Mourinho is less concerned about the defensive mistakes than he is about his strikers inablilty to score goals however, and it’s likely that an overhaul of the attack will take place in the summer.

Stoke won 3-2 at the Brittania in the reverse fixture and have four victories in their last five games. Interestingly, for all the criticism leveled at the Potters’ style of play in the last few years, they have only scored two headed goals all season. That’s the lowest of any side in the league.

Eto’o is still out for the home side, but Stoke welcome back Jonathan Walters from suspension.

Norwich vs West Bromwich Albion, Saturday, 3pm

Both sides hover just above the relegation zone and defeat for either side would mean a nervous run-in. The Canaries are unbeaten in last six at home and a victory could see them move up to 12th in the table. Pepe Mel has failed to turn West Brom’s season around. The midlands outfit have won just one of their last 21 league games. However a win at Carrow Road would put them level with today’s opponents with a game in hand.

Leroy Fer, who scored in victory against the Baggies earlier this season is still unavailable for Norwich. West Brom have received a boost in defence with the influential Jonas Olsson back from suspension.

Everton vs Arsenal, Sunday, 1.30pm.

The Toffees welcome Arsenal to Goodison Park for a high-stakes encounter at Sunday lunch-time. Everton are four points behind the Gunners with a game in hand. Roberto Martinez’ men have won their last four games in the league and have only lost one at home all season. The last time these sides met in the league it ended in a draw, however Arsenal took the spoils in the FA cup earlier this year. Victory for Everton puts them in the driving seat for fourth place, but they have the tougher run-in on paper.

Ross Barkley should be passed fit after being substituted with a calf complaint against Fulham last weekend. Aaron Ramsay makes a welcome return to the Arsenal squad for the first time in 2014 following a thigh injury.

West Ham vs Liverpool, Sunday, 4pm.

liverpool suarez carroll west ham southampton man city norwich west brom chelsea stoke

“Yeah… I’m just gonna go.”

Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll came to Anfield in January 2011 as a result of Fernando Torres’ move to Chelsea. Looking back now, it’s unbelievable to think that Suarez was the cheaper of the two. The Uruguayan has been in scintillating form this season, and has the opportunity to break the Premier League scoring record before the end of the season. He’s two goals from making it his own, and with six goals in his last five league appearances it’s difficult to see him not adding to that tally today.

West Ham will prove a different proposition for Brendan Rodgers’ men to the spineless Spurs outfit they encountered last weekend. Andy Carroll, now a permanent Hammers player following his £15m move last summer, will look to outmuscle an often-times defensively frail Liverpool back four, with another former Liverpool player Stewart Downing supplying balls into the big centre-forward.

Lucas Leiva made his return as a substitute for the Liverpool last weekend, and could make the starting line-up for the first time in almost three months. West Ham should have captain Kevin Nolan fit after coming off with a back problem in Monday’s win over Sunderland.

 

Champions League Review: 3 ties balanced but Dortmund doomed

With the first leg of the Champions League quarter finals over with, it’s time to reflect on this week’s performances and look forward to next week’s encounters.

Manchester United v Bayern Munich

On Tuesday night Manchester United entered unfamiliar territory as underdogs at Old Trafford. They were up against a much lauded Bayern Munich side under the management of the much lauded Pep Guardiola.

While United can’t claim to ever really have dominated the game, they did cause problems for Bayern and Danny Welbeck had two great chances. The striker was unlucky to have a goal disallowed early on but he should have done better with a later chance when one-on-one with Manuel Neuer.

United managed to strike first, with a wonderful Nemanja Vidic header off a Rooney corner. Bayern adopt zonal marking when defending set-plays and we’ve seen over the years that this tactic is open to exploitation. The German team further incapacitated themselves by neglecting to put a man on the posts.

Bayern had looked a bit lacklustre early in the second half, but that goal jolted them into action. Eight minutes after United took the lead, substitute Mario Mandzukic nodded down into the path of Bastian Schweinsteiger and the German blasted home on the half-volley. After that it was all Bayern. Antonio Valencia was lucky to escape a second yellow for a heavy challenge on Boateng, and Guardiola was seething when Schweinsteiger was sent off for a less robust challenge in the closing stages of the game.

The goalscorer will miss the return leg, as will Javi Garcia. However Mario Gotze was rested for the first leg and is a capable replacement for Schweinsteiger. Dante returns from suspension and will slot in instead of Garcia. With an away goal in the bag and home advantage for the second leg, it is difficult to see past Bayern for a semi-final berth. However stranger things have happened and if United can put in a strong performance at the Allianz Arena they have a chance.

You can see the two goals from Old Trafford here:

Barcelona v Atletico Madrid

In Tuesday’s other game Barcelona welcomed La Liga title rivals Atletico Madrid to the Camp Nou. This was the fourth meeting of the sides this season and it ended like the previous three, in a draw. Atletico manager Diego Simeone has exceeded expectations this season after the sale of lethal Colombian striker Falcao last summer. His side work hard to press teams high up the pitch and it has had the required effect against perceived bigger teams.

Falcao may have been the main man last season, but Atletico’s other striker Diego Costa has negated the loss in this campaign, scoring goals for fun and looking a threat every time he gets on the ball. He was an injury concern before Tuesday’s game but spearheaded the attack from the start. However he only lasted 28 minutes before having to be substituted with a hamstring concern. His fitness will be crucial if Atletico are to maintain their La Liga challenge.

His replacement on Tuesday night was the Brazilian Diego, who gave Atletico the lead in the 56th minute with an absolute screamer. Behind to the away goal, Barcelona responded quickly. Busquets was denied by Courtois before a sublime Andres Iniesta pass released Neymar for a cool finish in the 71st minute.

The score remained at 1-1 until the end and so Atletico Madrid have the slight advantage going into next week’s game at the Vicente Calderon. If they play their usual brand of high-tempo pressure football they have an excellent chance of advancing to the semi-finals, even without Diego Costa. But on the other hand, Lionel Messi.

All the goals from Tuesday night here:

 

Paris Saint-Germain v Chelsea

Last night saw the clash of two major egos as Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea took on a PSG team spearheaded by Zlatan Ibrahimovich. Both men were respectful before the game, playing down their own team’s chances while praising the ability of their opponents.

Ibrahimovich has been scoring at will all season, however last night he was well marshalled and came off with a hamstring injury in the second half after being ineffective in the main. PSG had taken the lead in the third minute from a Lavezzi half-volley which was a direct result of an uncharacteristically poor headed clearance from John Terry. An Eden Hazard penalty in the 27th minute levelled matters, and it remained that way until half time.

PSG were the more composed side in the second period, and it was further defensive errors which allowed the home side to take a 3-1 lead to Stamford Bridge. With Matuidi running towards the corner flag with the ball on the hour mark, David Luiz opted to barge into the midfielder from behind. From the resulting free, Luiz bundled the ball into his own net after it cleared everyone else. In the third minute of stoppage time Javier Pastore scored a brilliant individual goal, tempered somewhat by the quality of Chelsea’s defending and Cech’s goalkeeping.

After the game Jose Mourinho again did something to his strikers that they themselves seem uncapable of. He attacked. While noting that his defenders had been solid all season and were allowed to make the occasional mistake, he bemoaned his lack of strikers. He had opted to start winger Andre Schurrle as the furthest man forward and as such there was no one to get on the end of threatening balls from creative talents like Hazard, Oscar and Willian.

A two goal deficit is far from insurmountable, particularly at Stamford Bridge. However Mourinho must figure out in the coming days who is most likely to bridge the gap for Chelsea. It’s clear he doesn’t believe his strikers are up to the task.

Here are all the goals from Parc des Princes

 

Real Madrid v Borussia Dortmund

The Santiago Bernebeu is a difficult enough place to come without having five of your first team players missing. Add to that the fact that the 4 goal hero against Madrid in last year’s semi-final Robert Lewandowski was missing througt suspension, and Borussia Dortmund were always going to have a mountain to climb.

Madrid were ruthless from the off, with Gareth Bale poking the ball into the Dortmund net from close range in just the third minute. Isco added a second from the edge of the box in the 27th minute and Ronaldo wrapped the game, and more than likely the tie, up in the 57th minute, showing quick feet to get a shot away from eight yards out.

Out of all the quarter finals, this one looks to be beyond doubt. Home advantage may not help Borussia Dortmund in the second leg. Just ask Schalke, who Madrid demolished 6-1 in Gelsenkirchen at the last 16 stage.

All the goals from Madrid’s victory here:

 

 

He is Zlatan – Greatest goals and incidents in Ibrahimovich’s career

Zlatan Ibrahimovich was surprisingly humble before tonight’s Champions League clash with Chelsea, calling Jose Mourinho’s men the favourites to progress to the semi-final.

It’s not often you see humility from the Swedish striker, but then with a goal catalogue like this why should you?

 

He has  been one of the best strikers in Europe for nigh on a decade, and has played at some of the greatest clubs on the continent. Ajax, Juventus, AC Milan, Internazionale, Barcelona and now a PSG side intent on becoming a European superpower.

His goal-scoring record is phenomenal, averaging out at around a goal every 2 games throughout his career. He has never won the Ballon d’Or, but has a wealth of other accolades to his name. In these years of Messi and Ronaldo dominance, only Ibrahimovich can claim to have been as consistently brilliant. Such is his reputation in the game that the World Cup playoffs between Portugal and Sweden was a mere side show to the main act, Ronaldo vs Ibrahimovich.

His supreme confidence is backed up by his ability on the pitch, as seen above. However sometimes that confidence goes beyond scoring goals… This video shows what happens when Ibrahimovich loses his temper on the field, when journalists question his ability, and when he has to play second fiddle to a certain Lionel Messi…

 

What a man.

 

Weekend Round-up: Spurs in turmoil, toothless Chelsea and stylish Liverpool

1 – Everton serious contenders for a Champions League spot.

While other teams have suffered following the appointment of new managers last summer, Everton have had a fantastic season under Roberto Martinez. Astute dealings in the transfer market have given the team a strength in depth unseen for years at the club.

Everton fans will hope that the bubble doesn’t burst when loan signings like Gerard Delofeu and Romelu Lukaku return to their parent clubs. A Champions League club needs players of that quality, and if Everton can beat Arsenal at Goodison Park in two week’s time, they have an excellent chance of mixing with Europe’s elite next season.

everton fulham

Everton were 3-1 winners at Fulham yesterday,

2 – Chelsea need a new striker.

Jose Mourinho has conceded defeat in the race for the Premier League title, a race that he said Chelsea weren’t really in anyway. The defeat at Crystal Palace was Chelsea’s first against a newly promoted club in Mourinho’s two spells at the club. A John Terry own goal gifted Palace a much needed victory, but it was the lack of a cutting edge on Saturday that really hurt Chelsea’s title tilt.

It’s all very well having the creativity of Oscar and Hazard, but who is there to finish off the chances they create? Fernando Torres started at the weekend and Demba Ba made an appearance towards the end but neither made an impact.

Mourinho spoke after the game about the need to add a striker during the summer. Diego Costa is rumoured to be the main target and the question is which current front-man will be surplus to requirements.

3 –  Arsenal’s glimpses of quality not enough for team with title ambitions

Paul Scholes’ assessment of Arsenal last week irked Arsene Wenger enough that he responded before his side’s game with Manchester City. Scholes said that Arsenal were a “million miles away” from being able to challenge for a title, with Wenger retorting that six points cannot be called a million miles. However the points difference doesn’t tell the whole story. In games against other big sides this year Arsenal have looked out of their depth at times. Chelsea scored six against them last weekend, following on from another hammering from Liverpool in February.

Against Manchester City on Saturday evening, it took a David Silva goal for the visitors to spark Arsenal into life. They look nervous when faced with the big challenges, and until they can prove they can put it up to other teams with title ambitions on a regular basis they will have to be content with chasing a Champions League spot.

4 –  Spurs heading for another summer of change.

Spurs fans knew that it would take time for the multitude of new players bought with the Gareth Bale money to settle in. Nevertheless having broken their transfer record three times in the space of a few weeks with Paulinho, Soldado and finally Erik Lamela the hype was such that fourth place and the Champions League was the least expected from the White Hart Lane faithful.

Whatever hope was left of a fourth placed finish vanished within a minute at Anfield yesterday when Younes Kaboul knocked the ball into his own net. Now Spurs are looking at another summer of big change where there will certainly be players leaving, and perhaps the manager too.

Tim Sherwood was handed an 18 month contract in December following the sacking of Andre Villas Boas and won supporters initially due to Spurs playing a more attacking brand of football. However results have been inconsistent and questionable tactical decisions have contributed to rumours that current Dutch coach Louis Van Gaal will take over in the summer.

Yesterday’s game at Anfield was viewed as a chance for Sherwood to prove his worth to the Spurs board, and it was a test failed by both players and the manager. If a new manager does come in, then Spurs fans hopes for a settled squad by this summer will be dashed as he moulds the squad to his liking.

liverpool chelsea spurs arsenal everton

Soldado and Spurs set for another summer of change

5 – Liverpool worthy of top spot.

Liverpool would not have gone top of the Premier League table yesterday if it weren’t for results elsewhere. However it is hard to argue with their league position given their recent form. They have won eight on the trot in the league, and have won 12 out of 13 at home.

They are playing the best football too, with Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge contributing 49 league goals between them this campaign. Suarez’ 29th goal of the season against Spurs yesterday gave him the accolade of most goals scored by a Liverpool Player in a Premier League season.

Equally important to Liverpool’s run-in are the likes of Henderson, Gerrard and Coutinho. These three (along with yesterday’s man of the match Raheem Sterling) are a big part of the reason the strikers are so prolific this season. Their work-rate in the midfield has been second to none, and the link up play has been wonderful to watch at times.

Manchester City still have the title in their grasp, and if they manage to overcome Liverpool at Anfield in a few weeks time the title race will be as good as over. However Liverpool have the greatest goals per game ratio since the 1960/61 Spurs team, and that in itself shows their title credentials.

 

Liverpool vs Spurs as it happened.

Liverpool Suarez Sturridge

This season’s most potent strike partnership

Welcome to coverage of today’s game between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur. After fellow title-chasers Chelsea and Manchester City dropped points yesterday, Brendan Rodgers’ side have the opportunity to top the Premier League table by 6pm this evening. Tottenham have been in underwhelming form all season, but a last gasp victory at home to Southampton last weekend was a timely boost to morale.

It will take more than morale for the visitors to leave Anfield with three points today. Liverpool start as firm favourites following seven consecutive league victories, the most recent being a hard fought win over Sunderland in midweek. The strike partnership of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge has produced 48 league goals so far this season, and if Spurs play to the same level they did in the reverse fixture in December, they may well reach the half-century.

That 5-0 defeat before Christmas was Andre Villas Boas’ last in charge of Spurs, and while a similiar result would be unlikely to cost successor Tim Sherwood his job on Monday, it would do serious damage to his chances of holding onto his position beyond the summer. Louis Van Gaal has been heavily linked to the club, and fellow Dutchman Ruud Gullit has said this weekend that there has been contact between Spurs chairman Daniel Levy and the veteran manager.

Updates will appear throughout the game, with the most recent on top. If nothing’s happening just hit refresh. Have your say on the game by commenting underneath or tweet me @AlanKeane23

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17:54 – Thanks for following the game. Leave your thoughts below, or tweet me @AlanKeane23

93 mins- The final whistle goes at Anfield. An easy day at the office for Liverpool as Spurs were never at the races. A goal in the first minute set the tone. Spurs head back to London with their season well and truly over, while Liverpool head to the top of the table. A terrific end to come in this Premier League season.

91 mins – Liverpool players still working hard. Everyone wants to impress the manager and consolidate a starting place for the run-in.

90 mins – 3 minutes added at the end of the game. To compound Spurs’ misery, Soldado is taken off on a stretcher after landing awkwardly.

88 mins – Suarez flagged for offside. Doesn’t look like he’ll be adding to his tally today but you never know…

86 mins – Spurs players look like they wish they were anywhere else. Dawson comes close with a header from a corner.

82 mins – Substitution Sterling makes way for Victor Moses.

78 mins – Of course Spurs were up against it today considering their main source of goals against Liverpool the past few seasons retired in the summer. Jamie Carragher is watching from the stands today.

77 mins – Chadli and Sigurdsson have chances for Spurs which come to nothing.

72 mins – GOAL! 4-0 Liverpool Henderson assumes free-kick responsibility and whips one in from the left. Luis Suarez lets it run and so too do the entire Tottenham defence. Suarez makes sure everyone knows it was the midfielder’s goal by running directly too him.

69 mins – Substitution Gerrard makes way with Liverpool fans applause ringing in his ears. Lucas on in his place. Brendan Rodgers will be pleased his captain didn’t pick up a yellow card today. It would have kept him out of the next game.

67 mins – Sturridge nearly gets gets on the score sheet with a cheeky back-heel.

65 mins- Suarez picks up a slight knock. Rodgers may consider taking him off soon with this game wrapped up.

61  mins- Coutinho hassling and harrying in midfield. The difference in desire is plain to see, Liverpool are up for this game and the chance to win the title. Spurs are on already on their summer holidays and, in the case of Tim Sherwood, they could be long ones.

59 mins – Substitution Bentaleb and Lennon make way for Dembele and Townsend as Tim Sherwood rings the changes.

57 mins- Liverpool fans singing “Wer’e going to win the league.” Manchester City and Chelsea still have to come to Anfield though… An interesting end of the season coming up.

54 mins- GOAL COUTINHO! Spoke too soon! Coutinho allowed too much room at the edge of the box and he drills a right-footer beyond the despairing dive of Lloris into the bottom left corner. Good finish but the Brazilian was allowed far too much time to pick his spot by the Spurs defence.

53 mins – Henderson fluffs his lines after a beautiful one-two between Sterling and Sturridge. Sterling squares the ball to the former Sunderland man and with the Tottenham defence in disarray he fails to find the target. Spurs lucky to still be within two goals of their hosts.

51 mins – Flanagan almost plays in Suarez but Dawson manages to intervene. Down the other end. Soldado shows pace to outrun Agger but the Dane gets back and wins the goal-kick.

48 mins – Roberto Soldado has been kept quiet all afternoon. While his goal-scoring record has been poor this season, he has shown promise in his link-up play. However Skrtel and Agger have him well marshalled. Spurs miss the physical presence of Adebayor. Any long balls played so far today have been eaten up by the Liverpool defence.

46 mins – Sigurdsson booked for a drag back on Coutinho.

17:03 – And we’re off again. No changes to either side.

17:00 – Suarez is 6 goals from the Premier League record for goals in a season. Could he do it today? If Spurs continue defending the way they have done, he could get a few more anyway.

16:47 – The half time whistle goes and the teams go down the tunnel. Their two goals have come from mistakes but Liverpool are well on top in this game. A stunning save from Lloris in the closing minutes of the half have kept Spurs somewhat in it but they’re going to have to be bolder going forward second half if they are to rescue anything from this game. And that’s going to leave room at the back for Liverpool’s pace to exploit.

45 mins – Two minutes added. Spurs want the whistle and the chance to regroup.

44 mins – Naughton slips and handles the ball at the edge of the Spurs box. Suarez curls the resulting free-kick agonizingly wide of the far top corner.

40 mins- BIG CHANCE! Oof! A mistake from Rose down the left and Sterling’s cross reaches Suarez at the back stick. He thumps a header which Lloris punches against the crossbar and somehow Spurs clear.

39 mins – A prolonged period in the Liverpool half for Spurs. Soldado gets  the ball on the left of the box and aims a shot at the far top corner. Parried by Mignolet and Liverpool clear their lines.

37 mins – A hopeful long-range shot from teenager Nabil Bentaleb is easily gathered by Mignolet in goals for Liverpool.

34 mins – Spurs just can’t string two passes together, and that’s largely due to the intense pressure Liverpool are putting them under. Brendan Rodgers’s side are playing a high-tempo game and the visitors aren’t able to keep up.

32 mins – Kaboul is booked for a late tackle on Sterling at the edge of the box. The central defender is having a nightmare and with Vertonghen gone and the technically weaker Dawson now alongside him, he might be wishing this game was over already

31 mins – Ian Rush and Kenny Dalglish are interested onlookers today. Bet they’d like to have played along-side Suarez.

25 mins – Spurs almost pull a goal back immediately. Eriksen’s shot well blocked by Skrtel.

24 mins – GOAL Suarez! No sooner has the substitution been made and Liverpool double their lead. Dawson horribly misjudges the flight of the ball, Suarez out-muscles Kaboul  and shoots hard and low across Lloris into the bottom right hand corner. A new Liverpool league scoring record for Suarez. 29 this season.

23 mins – Suarez blasts the free-kick over the bar. Vertonghen’s race is run. Dawson comes on in the Belgian’s place.

21 mins – Free-kick for Liverpool in a dangerous area following a dubious Sigurdsson hand ball. Spurs players have an emergency meeting while Vertonghen gets treatment from the physios.

20 mins – Chadli and Eriksen have both made surging runs in the past few minutes but couldn’t execute the final ball into the runners.

15 mins – Liverpool sharp on the ball. Some trickery from Sterling down the right leads to a cross. Kaboul clears but from the throw in Suarez gets on the ball and picks out Couthinho. The Brazilian volleys just wide from 12 yards.

12 mins – Spurs just can’t get on the ball in these opening stages.

9 mins – CHANCE! Suarez glides beyond Naughton on the left and whips in a cross that is just too high for Sturridge on the back post.

7 mins – Just before the goal, I was about to say Spurs hadn’t scored a goal in the first 15 mins of any league game this season. I guess they have now. Wrong end however.

5 mins. The Liverpool crowd smell blood. Spurs haven’t spent any time inside the Liverpool half yet.

1 min – GOAL! Kaboul OG. A Glen Johnson cross hits the French defender inside the 6 yard box and trickles in. Disaster for Spurs. 1-0 Liverpool.

16:00 – And we’re underway!

15:58: It will be interesting to see if Cristian Eriksen or Nacer Chadli start behind Roberto Soldado today. Chadli is a more natural winger with Eriksen a creative presence at number 10. That’s not how they lined up last week however, and Sky Sports graphics suggest Eriksen will once more find himself out on the left.

15:57 – The teams are out and Anfield is rocking.

15:55 – The teams are in the tunnel. Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen looks relaxed, considering he’s about to come up against the 48 goal strike partnership of Suarez and Sturridge.

15:50 – Ten minutes to kick-off at Anfield. @OptaJoe has a stat that shows just why Liverpool are favourites today. Liverpool have won 11 and lost none in their last 12 league games at home.

15:48 – Tim Sherwood on Sky Sports now. Says he hasn’t watched the video of the 5-0 drubbing Liverpool dished out to AVB and Spurs in December. Pays tribute to Suarez and Sturridge, calling them the best strike partnership the Premier League has seen in a long time.

15:45 – Both sides have named attacking line-ups today. No holding midfielder for Tottenham and that has to be a worry for Spurs fans as Jordan Henderson has been doing damage through the centre in recent weeks for Liverpool.

15:42 – Brendan Rodgers being interviewed on Sky Sports now. Says supporters can dare to dream of a first league title in 24 years but the players must remain calm. Also mentions Spurs’ high line, which could be a source of much joy for the home side today.

15:40 – Raheem Sterling makes his first league start since the 3-0 win at Old Trafford two weeks ago. Joe Allen drops to the bench for the home side.

15:25 – The final whistle has just gone at Craven Cottage and Everton come away with a 3-1 win. They are hot on the heels of Arsenal now for the fourth and final Champions League spot. Fulham meanwhile are in serious trouble. 5 points from safety with 6 games left, and with the worst goal difference in the league. A whopping minus 42!

15:15 – A blow for Spurs before kick-off as Emanuel Adebayor fails to even make the bench. Gylfi Sigurdsson is rewarded for his late winner last week with a start in midfield.

15:10 -Team news just in.

Liverpool: Mignolet, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Flanagan, Gerrard, Henderson, Coutinho, Sterling, Sturridge, Suarez. Subs: Jones, Sakho, Cissokho, Lucas, Moses, Allen, Aspas.

Tottenham: Lloris, Naughton, Kaboul, Vertonghen, Rose, Bentaleb, Sigurdsson, Lennon, Chadli, Eriksen, Soldado. Subs: Friedel, Dawson, Dembele, Sandro, Townsend, Winks, Kane.