Man City look to Spurs to slow Liverpool Premier League charge

Manchester City’s players celebrate scoring their fifth goal during a match against Atalanta at Etihad Stadium in Manchester on Tuesday. (Reuters)
Updated 25 October 2019

Man City look to Spurs to slow Liverpool Premier League charge

  • Jurgen Klopp’s side still have a comfortable six-point lead over 2nd-placed City

LONDON: Manchester City have the chance to exert some short-term pressure on runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool this weekend as Manchester United look to end their away day blues.

Jurgen Klopp’s side saw their long winning streak ended by a hungry United in a draw at Old Trafford last week but still have a comfortable six-point lead over second-placed City.

Guardiola’s defending champions can cut that gap to just three points, at least temporarily, if they beat Aston Villa at home on Saturday, while Liverpool have a trickier-looking tie against Spurs the following day.

Manchester United will be desperate to put more distance between themselves and the relegation zone but travel to Norwich without an away win in the Premier League since February.

AFP Sport picks out some of the talking points ahead of the weekend’s matches.

Liverpool go into their home match against Tottenham after falling one game short of matching Manchester City’s record 18-match winning run in the Premier League. The European champions, on a 44-match unbeaten run at home in the league, have forgotten how to lose at Anfield but will be facing a Spurs team buoyed by a 5-0 victory at home to Red Star Belgrade in midweek.

Erik Lamela, who scored against Red Star on his 200th appearance for Spurs, said the size of the victory had given the struggling team an injection of confidence.

“Our confidence is better after winning the game 5-0,” said the Argentine. “We need to take this game, keep going, try to get better and better and now focus on Liverpool.”

Spurs are seeking revenge for defeat in last season’s Champions League final, but the odds are stacked against them.

Tottenham have won just once in 15 matches against Liverpool and have not won away in the Premier League since January.

Pep Guardiola urged his team to be more clinical after their 2-0 victory last week against Crystal Palace and his team responded by thumping Atalanta 5-1 in the Champions League.

Despite Guardiola’s exhortations, City have not been shy in front of goal this season, hitting 29 in just nine Premier League matches.

Their top-scorer in all competitions is Raheem Sterling, whose hat-trick in midweek led to gushing praise from his boss, who called him an “extraordinary player.”

Sterling has 16 goals already this season for club and country — already more than half of his tally of 31 during the previous campaign.

Despite his comments about his attackers, Guardiola’s more pressing concern will be sorting out his defense, which has looked vulnerable this season in the absence of Aymeric Laporte.

Rodri’s hamstring injury against Atalanta has restricted the manager’s defensive options even further but John Stones will be hoping to put a frustrating spell behind him and re-establish himself in the starting XI.

Manchester United came within minutes of beating Liverpool at Old Trafford last week but Sunday’s visit to Norwich will likely be a truer test of the team’s current form.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, just two points above the relegation zone, have not won away in the league since the Norwegian was appointed as the permanent boss. The match at Carrow Road will be the second of four successive away games in all competitions.

United did at least secure their first win on the road since March at Partizan Belgrade in the Europa League on Thursday.

“It’s an issue that we have to deal with and sort out as soon as possible,” said Solskjaer on his side’s away form.


Australian Open: Alexander Zverev sweeps past Stan Wawrinka to make first Grand Slam semis

Updated 29 January 2020

Australian Open: Alexander Zverev sweeps past Stan Wawrinka to make first Grand Slam semis

  • The seventh seed was thumped in the first set but recovered to grind down the 2014 champion
  • Zverev fired 13 aces against just one double fault, with a first-serve percentage of 80 percent

MELBOURNE: German young gun Alexander Zverev stormed into his first Grand Slam semifinal on Wednesday, rallying from a set down to shatter the dreams of veteran Stan Wawrinka at the Australian Open.
The seventh seed was thumped in the first set but recovered to grind down the 2014 champion 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in hot sun on Rod Laver Arena.
He will face either world number one Rafael Nadal or Austrian fifth seed Dominic Thiem in the last four, with a final beckoning against Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer.
“It feels awesome,” said Zverev who has been donating $10,000 for each win at Melbourne Park to Australian bushfire relief, and will even hand over the A$4.12 million ($2.78 million) winner’s cheque if he clinches the title.
“I’ve done well at other tournaments and in other matches but could never break that barrier in Grand Slams. You can’t imagine what this means to me.
“I hope it will be the first of many.”
Big things have been tipped for Zverev since he burst into the top 10 in 2017, but until now the 22-year-old has not fully delivered, slipping down the rankings last year to seven from four at the start of the season.
But after a poor build-up to the year’s opening Major at the ATP Cup, where he lost all three matches, he worked hard on the practice court and has been in fine touch to finally make a Grand Slam last four at his 19th attempt.
His serve, a key focus of his extended practices, was a weapon once again against 34-year-old three-time Grand Slam champion Wawrinka.
He fired 13 aces against just one double fault, with a first-serve percentage of 80 percent.
It was Wawrinka who came out of the blocks firing, putting immediate pressure on the Zverev serve, getting his returns back to break straight away when the German netted a half-volley.
Zverev won just four points in the opening three games as he struggled to get the measure of Wawrinka, and he was broken again when he shanked a forehand high into the crowd.
The German finally held to get himself on the scoreboard but the Swiss was moving and serving well, unleashing some crunching groundstrokes to take the set in just 24 minutes.
Zverev needed to hold his opening serve in the second set to halt the Wawrinka juggernaut and he rose to the occasion, with his court coverage and groundstrokes raising a level.
It went with serve until game eight when Wawrinka drilled a forehand into the net and Zverev screamed ‘C’mon’ after his first break of the match, serving out for the set.
A resurgent Zverev rammed home his advantage with an early break in the third set before the wily Swiss hit back. But a poorly executed drop shot again handed the 22-year-old another break and he raced to a two sets to one lead.
Wawrinka, who beat Rafael Nadal in the 2014 Melbourne final, was out of fight and Zverev had him dancing to his tune as he raced to victory, ending the popular Swiss star’s bid for a first Slam semi since Roland Garros in 2017.