Spurs face title test, wounded Liverpool host leaders Leicester

Liverpool’s striker Sadio Mane competes with Manchester City’s midfielder Rodri during a recent Premier League match. (AFP)
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Updated 21 November 2020

Spurs face title test, wounded Liverpool host leaders Leicester

  • Jurgen Klopp’s squad ravaged by injury as Premier League returns after the international break

LONDON: Tottenham’s title credentials face a thorough examination when they host Manchester City as the Premier League returns on Saturday after the international break.

Spurs are just a point behind early pacesetters Leicester, but only three points separate the top six, with Chelsea and Aston Villa also having the chance to claim top spot for a few hours at least when they face Newcastle and Brighton respectively.
With the final international fixtures of the year done and dusted, a grueling winter schedule of club football awaits for England’s top-flight with nine rounds of league matches before Jan. 2.
Defending champions Liverpool are already bearing the brunt of the hectic schedule as Jurgen Klopp’s squad has been ravaged by injury ahead of Leicester’s trip to Anfield.
Tottenham enjoyed a couple of hours at the top of the table for the first time in over three years prior to Leicester’s victory over Wolves before the international break.
Jose Mourinho’s men are unbeaten in seven league games, with the form of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min raising hope they could win the league for the first time in 60 years.
However, those title aspirations will be put to the test with City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Leicester to come in their next six games.
City are languishing down in 10th, six points off the top but with a game in hand. A return of just 12 points from their opening seven games of the season is by far their lowest since Pep Guardiola arrived in Manchester five years ago.
Yet, after a difficult start caused by the lack of a pre-season, injuries, COVID-19 cases and a difficult run of fixtures, the trip to Tottenham will also be an indicator as to whether City have turned the corner.
Guardiola’s men are unbeaten in nine games in all competitions, but have unusually struggled for goals, scoring just once in each of their last five league games.
The lack of a natural striker for much of the campaign due to injuries to Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero has been a significant handicap.
But Guardiola, who penned a two-year contract extension on Thursday, could have both Jesus and Aguero to choose from for the first time this season at the weekend, while Ferran Torres is full of confidence after scoring a hat-trick against Germany in Spain’s 6-0 win on Tuesday.
Already rocked by the long-term injury to Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool’s defensive resources were further depleted over the international break with Joe Gomez ruled out for the remainder of the season.
Trent Alexander-Arnold is out for a further two weeks, while Jordan Henderson is an injury doubt after picking up a muscle strain on international duty.
Top scorer Mohamed Salah will also be missing for Leicester’s visit after testing positive for coronavirus while in Egypt.
Despite the disruption, the Reds could go back top of the table with victory on Sunday should Spurs not beat City.
But there is a huge opportunity for former Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers to become the first man to lead a visiting side to a league win at Anfield since April 2017 with no such injury concerns for the high-flying Foxes.
Jamie Vardy’s retirement from England duty means the Premier League’s joint top goalscorer has had two weeks off, while Rodgers could have full-backs Ricardo Pereira and Timothy Castagne back from injury.
United’s victory at Everton ensured the two-week break was not filled with more speculation over manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s future.
But in a topsy-turvy season for United, there are no guarantees Solskjaer’s team will build on that win even when West Brom visit Old Trafford looking for their first win of the season.
United have not won at home in the Premier League for six matches and have already lost as many games at Old Trafford as they did in all of last season.
West Brom should be the perfect visitors with Slaven Bilic’s men taking just three points from their opening eight games.
But the Baggies have won three and drawn one of their last five visits to Old Trafford.

Yokohama send big guns Jeonbuk packing with 4-1 victory

Updated 51 min 24 sec ago

Yokohama send big guns Jeonbuk packing with 4-1 victory

  • It’s a fantastic achievement and we are proud of everyone involved — Marinos coach Ange Postecouglou

DOHA: Yokohama Marinos cruised into the knockout phase of the Asian Champions League for the first time in their history on Tuesday, hammering two-time champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 4-1 in their Group H clash.

Yokohama's Thai defender Theerathon Bunmathan thundered in a shot from the edge of the box in the 17th minute to set the tone, before three goals in the second half sent the 2006 and 2016 winners Jeonbuk crashing out of the tournament.

"It's a great performance and a credit to the players, because it's the first time the club has got out of the group stage," said Yokohama coach Ange Postecouglou.

"We started really well and put pressure on them, scored a goal — a good goal from Bunmathan.

"We missed some chances in the first half which always keeps the opposition in the game, but in the second half we were a bit smarter, worked our counterattacks really well and scored three good goals.

"It's a fantastic achievement and we are proud of everyone involved."

Besides being the first team from eastern Asia to win the Champions League when it was launched in its current format in 2003, Jeonbuk are also eight-time K League winners, a South Korean record, which includes four consecutive titles starting in 2017.

But at the Al Janoub Stadium on Tuesday, their only bright moment came in the 54th minute when Gustavo fired home from the penalty spot three minutes after Marcos Junior had put Yokohama 2-0 ahead.

Teruhito Nagakawa's 71st minute strike and an own goal by Song—  whose attempted headed clearance found his own net seven minutes from close — confirmed Jeonbuk's exit.

"The team gave what it was possible to do with the contingent that we have," lamented Jeonbuk coach Jose Morais.

"In the first half, strategically, we went in terms of containing the offensive game of Yokohama, which is a big game and a quality game."

"In the second half, the result as it was wasn't enough to take us forward, so we took more risks."

In Group G, Chinese giants Guangzhou Evergrande and South Korea's Suwon Samsung Bluewings played out a 1-1 draw at the Khalifa International Stadium.

Lim Sang-hyub put Suwon ahead in the 53rd minute but Wei Shihao restored parity in the 72nd for Guangzhou with the help of an assist from Ai Kesen.

The result means the second qualifying spot from the group will be decided on Friday with the Bluewings needing at least a 2-0 victory to join Vissel Kobe of Japan in the round of 16.

Guangzhou coach Fabio Cannavaro was once again at a loss to explain his team's showing.

"I am not happy because the performance of my team in the first half was not so good," said the former Italy international.

"We didn't control the game and we didn't even try to play football. Even in defence we did not play well. I don't want to find excuses."

Suwon's Park Kun-ha lamented the fact that his team didn't make the most of the chances they got.

"We got the first goal and then unfortunately conceded the equaliser. We had many chances at the end but we could not win."