PREMIER LEAGUE TALKING POINTS
MANCHESTER CITY’S cruise towards the Premier League title continued unabated with a 1-0 win at Arsenal as the race for a top-four finish and the riches of the Champions League next season intensified.
Everton and West Ham’s victories over Liverpool and Tottenham have further opened up the opportunity for two teams outside the traditional top six to break into the Champions League.
We look at three talking points from the Premier League.
CITY FLEX STRENGTH IN DEPTH
Pep Guardiola made five changes for City’s trip to Arsenal but the result was still a predictable one as the visitors came away with their 18th consecutive win in all competitions having kept a 10th clean sheet in 13 league games.
Kevin De Bruyne returned to make his first start in a month, but the fact City have not missed a beat without the Belgian represents the gulf that exists between them and the chasing pack.
Guardiola’s men have now taken more points than Liverpool, Spurs and Arsenal combined in 2021.
In a season defined by fixture congestion and an injury pile-up that has decimated Liverpool’s title defence, City’s strength in depth has become all the more important.
Despite no pre-season and the physical demands of a congested calendar, City remain on course for a historic quadruple of trophies.
They hold a 10-point lead at the top of the table, face struggling Spurs in the League Cup final, will travel to Everton in the FA Cup quarter-finals and resume their Champions League campaign against Borussia
Monchengladbach on Wednesday.
“We need everyone,” said Guardiola. “We have to play every three days. I am going to rotate the team even in Champions League. It’s impossible to sustain this rhythm with just 11 players.”
MOYES GETS BETTER OF MOURINHO
Hired to save West Ham from relegation last season, David Moyes has undergone a remarkable transformation from fire fighter to dream maker at the London Stadium.
Sunday’s 2-1 win against Tottenham that lifted the Hammers into fourth place was the Scotsman’s first in 16 meetings against Jose Mourinho.
Spurs’ moody Portuguese boss insisted afterwards that he is still one of the best coaches in the world.
But it is Moyes who is restoring his reputation this season after difficult spells at Manchester United, Sunderland and Real Sociedad.
Tipped by many to go down at the start of the season, seven wins in their last nine league games have propelled the Hammers into fourth.
LIVERPOOL’S FORTRESS IN RUINS
Everton had failed to win in their previous 20 short trips across Liverpool to Anfield in the past 22 years, but knew they would rarely get a better chance than on Saturday in front of empty stands.
Jurgen Klopp restored the mystique of
Anfield both in the minds of his own players and the opposition. For nearly four years between April 2017 and last month, Liverpool did not lose a league match at home.
With Everton winning 2-0, Liverpool have now have lost four in a row for the first time since 1923.
The worry for Klopp is that there is no sign of his side’s woes easing. Jordan Henderson limped off with a groin injury to add to a lengthy injury list, while for the fifth straight home game Liverpool failed to score from open play.
The fear factor of facing the champions is gone and with a five-point gap to make up on the top four, just qualifying for the Champions League now looks an uphill task.—
EGYPTIAN star Mohamed Salah suffered his first defeat in a Merseyside derby as troubled Liverpool fell 2-0 to arch Premier League rivals Everton at the weekend.
The two-time African Footballer of the Year failed to score for the first time in four games and was accused of diving after a theatrical tumble in a failed attempt to win a free-kick.
Burkinabe Bertrand Traore did manage to score for Aston Villa, but also finished a loser as visiting Leicester City won 2-1.
We round up the performances of African stars in the major European leagues:
ENGLAND MOHAMED SALAH (Liverpool)
Everton beat Liverpool for the first time at Anfield since 1999 as Salah endured an evening to forget. Liverpool are now five points adrift of the top four in their bid to rescue Champions League qualification.
BERTRAND TRAORE (Aston Villa)
He scored his sixth goal this season to give Villa hope of a fightback after trailing by two goals at halftime. Traore fired home from close range after Matt Targett’s low cross evaded Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.
IDRISSA DOUMBIA (Huesca)
The Ivorian midfielder helped Huesca win a fivegoal thriller with Granada that keeps the team’s LaLiga survival hopes alive. Doumbia was brought on to protect Huesca’s advantage after three goals towards the end of the first half gave them a 3-1 lead. Granada pulled one goal back before the hour but Huesca held on for a 3-2 win.
FRANCK KESSIE (AC Milan)
After Kessie’s Milan suffered in a 3-0 derby defeat to Inter, the Ivorian midfielder urged his teammates to get their push for a first title since 2011 back on track next weekend against Roma. “When you lose it hurts, but we have to raise our heads because there are still so many games to go,” said Kessie, with Milan trailing leaders Inter by four points.
VICTOR OSIMHEN (Napoli)
Nigeria forward Osimhen was hospitalised after losing consciousness following a knock to the head in a 4-2 defeat to Atalanta. The 22-year-old was stretchered off the pitch on 90 minutes after hitting his head on the ground following a challenge from
MUSA BARROW (Bologna)
Gambian Barrow had a role in Bologna’s goal in a 1-1 draw at Sassuolo, the Atalanta loanee pouncing on a defensive error to pull back for Roberto Soriano to fire in.
GERMANY EDMOND TAPSOBA (Bayer Leverkusen)
The Burkina Faso defender slotted home a lastgasp equaliser to rescue a point for Bayern Leverkusen in a 1-1 draw at Augsburg, which kept his side fifth. Tapsoba claimed only his second goal this season after being left unmarked to convert a cross by Demarai Gray.
AMADOU HAIDARA (RB Leipzig)
The Mali midfielder put in a solid hour as Leipzig swept past Hertha Berlin 3-0 to trim Bayern Munich’s lead at the top of the Bundesliga to just two points. Haidara was solid in the middle of the park before making way for Nordi Mukiele.
IHLAS BEBOU (Hoffenheim)
The Togolese forward opened the scoring in Hoffenheim’s 4-0 home romp against Werder Bremen after being put into space behind the defence. “I thought I might have been offside,” Bebou admitted to Sky. Bebou has scored in his last three league games to raise his season total to six.
SINALY DIOMANDE (Lyon)
An injury to Brazilian stalwart Marcelo meant 19-year-old Diomande started in central defence for a fourth straight game as Lyon won 3-2 at Brest to get their title bid back on track. Raised in Abidjan, Diomande recently told L’Equipe about growing up in a 15-child family. He made it into football after joining an academy in Mali and from there being picked up by Lyon in September 2019 before becoming a first-team squad regular this season.
LAMINE GUEYE (METZ)
Gueye, 22, scored what turned out to be the decisive goal as Metz won 2-1 at Nice to keep alive their unlikely bid to qualify for Europe. The winger has broken into the Metz team this season, becoming the latest in a long line of Senegalese talents to make a name for themselves with the club. Gueye’s Senegalese predecessors at Metz include Sadio Mane, Papiss Demba Cisse, Ismaila Sarr and Kalidou Koulibaly.