Jurgen Klopp playing fast and loose with Liverpool’s Champions League chances and Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger’s likely final showdown are discussed in Monday Verdict.
KLOPP CLEARLY HAS VERY LITTLE TRUST IN LIVERPOOL ALSO-RANS
Jurgen Klopp got lucky on Saturday after fielding what many considered to be a far stronger side than was anticipated in the 0-0 draw with Stoke at Anfield.
Yes the Reds were unlucky that they didn’t get a penalty after Erik Pieters’ handball but they were fortunate that they did not suffer any more significant injuries ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final return leg in Rome.
Having seen Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain stretchered off in the first leg at Anfield and then Sadio Mane pull up in training on Wednesday it was a huge surprise that the likes of Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino, Jordan Henderson and Virgil van Dijk all started against the Potters.
It was, after all, a game against a Stoke side scrapping for their lives and was always going to be highly competitive so why take that gamble with your tops stars?!
Liverpool do have issues at centre-back with Joel Matip sidelined, although surely Dejan Lovren should have started ahead of the much more important Van Dijk – who will likely be called on to be at his most resolute as the Reds take on a Roma side that will surely come out all guns blazing as they look to overturn a 5-2 deficit.
Dominic Solanke and talented wide man Ben Woodburn where also on Liverpool’s bench and should have started ahead of the strangely off-colour Salah and Firmino, who after their monumental efforts in the 1st leg against the Italians should have been given some sort of a chance to recharge their batteries.
Klopp would also have been panicking when Henderson went down shortly before half-time, although the Reds skipper was able to continue – albeit with a limp for a while.
Yes there are still the Champions League spots to play for but Liverpool should have faith in their ability to get that job done even when making countless changes – they do still hold a handy lead over 5th-placed Chelsea after all.
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MOURINHO V WENGER IN FOCUS FOR ONE LAST TIME (PROBABLY)
Arsene Wenger’s farewell tour continued with a trip to Old Trafford, a ground that has played a huge part in his Arsenal story.
And his last visit to the away dugout as Gunners boss also brought a potentially final clash against Jose Mourinho, who along with Sir Alex Ferguson has been his most telling adversary.
Here, we focus on the two managers.
Only a few years ago it would have been unthinkable for Wenger to be applauded at Old Trafford but time has mellowed the relationship and there was genuine warmth between the Frenchman and Ferguson when the former United boss presented his old rival with a memento ahead of kick-off.
It would be stretching things to say there is anything like warmth between Wenger and Mourinho but the United boss stepped in for an embrace with his opposite number, as befitted the mood.
On the touchline
In the history of meetings between Wenger and Mourinho, this will go down as one of the least controversial. With United in a very strong position to claim second place behind Manchester City, and Arsenal focused on the Europa League, it was perhaps not surprising the match lacked a certain intensity, at least until the final stages.
Wenger and Mourinho kept their distance, with only the odd minor flashpoint to rile either man. Wenger’s disappointment at the end was clear but there was a respectful handshake between the pair before the Arsenal boss headed down the tunnel.
Wenger has not tasted a league victory at Old Trafford since 2006, and this was to be another painful memory as Marouane Fellaini provided a stoppage-time winner. Mourinho’s decision to bring on the big Belgian up top was one that ultimately Wenger could not counter.
A point would have been something of a moral victory for Wenger, particularly as it was Henrikh Mkhitaryan rather than Alexis Sanchez who scored against his former club, but it was not to be.
THE STATS BEHIND MAN CITY’S MAGNIFICENT CENTURY OF GOALS
Manchester City reached 100 Premier League goals for the season during Sunday’s 4-1 win over West Ham.
Pep Guardiola’s champions took their tally to 102 goals from 35 games with their victory at the London Stadium.
It is only the fourth time the 100-goal milestone has been achieved in the Premier League era, with City becoming the first club to do so twice – they scored 102 in 2013-14, when Liverpool also managed 101, while Chelsea’s 103 from 2009-10 is the record.
Here, we take a statistical look at City’s century.
Sergio Aguero is City’s top scorer in the league this season with 21 goals, moving him within one of a double-century for the club in all competitions.
Aguero is third in the Premier League Golden Boot standings behind Mohamed Salah and Harry Kane, while team-mate Raheem Sterling is fourth on 18 – with Aguero out for the season due to injury, Sterling could yet displace him as City’s top scorer.
Gabriel Jesus has 12 to his name, Leroy Sane 10, with David Silva (nine) and Kevin De Bruyne (eight) also in contention to finish with double-figure tallies.
Thirteen different City players have scored in the league this season, in addition to three own goals from opposing players.
Goals in a game
City have scored three goals or more in more than half of their games this season, 20 out of 35, including a remarkable six games in which they have scored five or more.
Only once all season have they failed to score – the 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace on New Year’s Eve which ended their record 18-match winning run.
Their average of 2.91 goals per game sees them firmly on course to break Chelsea’s record – Carlo Ancelotti’s title winners scored 2.71 per game that season.
Their most common score has been three, on 10 separate occasions compared with nine games in which they have scored twice.
– City could quite easily have had their century wrapped up before Sunday’s game – they had hit the woodwork on 21 occasions prior to their trip to the capital, comfortably the most in the Premier League.
– Six of their goals have come from penalties, including four for Aguero.
– City’s English players have contributed 19 goals, with Fabian Delph adding one to Sterling’s tally.
– They have scored 58 goals at the Etihad Stadium and 44 away from home.