LONDON, Feb 22, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – Liverpool travel to Manchester United on
Sunday facing the toughest assignment of their Premier League run-in on paper
as Tottenham seek to sneak back into the heart of the title race.
The trip to Old Trafford is effectively Jurgen Klopp’s team’s game in hand
as they bid to open up a three-point lead over Manchester City, who play
Chelsea in the League Cup final on the same day.
Liverpool thumped United 3-1 at Anfield in the last match of Jose
Mourinho’s reign on December but they are transformed under interim boss Ole
Gunnar Solskjaer and are back in the top four.
If Spurs beat Burnley and Liverpool slip up, Mauricio Pochettino’s men will
be just two points behind City and Liverpool, with all three clubs having
played 27 matches.
AFP Sport picks out some of the main talking points ahead of this weekend’s
Premier League fixtures.
Wary Liverpool face Old Trafford litmus test
Liverpool know that a win at Old Trafford — where they have won just twice
in the league since 2004 — would be a huge statement of intent as they hunt
their first English top-flight title since 1990.
Klopp’s men are 14 points clear of United but they will be facing a
different team from the one they demolished in December, courtesy of a goal
from Sadio Mane and two from Xherdan Shaqiri.
“Since the new manager came in there is a new flow, they played good games
and have won a lot and that is building confidence in the team,” said
Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum.
“It’s also a home game for them so they will have a lot of confidence as
they don’t have the problems they had before.”
Solskjaer’s tough side
Solskjaer has lifted his side into the Champions League places and knows
any chance he has of becoming the next permanent manager probably hinges on
But defender Luke Shaw says the interim boss, known for his sunny
demeanour, is capable of showing some steel.
“You know, Ole does it at the right time (shows another side),” Shaw told
MUTV. “He knows how good we can be and, if we’re not up to his standards or
the standards of Manchester United, he will certainly let you know.
“We’ve had a few moments like that where we might have been comfortable in
a game but got a bit sloppy. He’s the manager and he tells the players what
he wants. It’s good and what we need sometimes, a kick up the backside from
the manager, if we’re getting too comfortable.”
Spurs stealth attack
Despite showing incredible tenacity to stay on the edge of the Premier
League title race, Tottenham have gone under the radar, with Manchester City
and Liverpool the constant focus.
But four straight league victories have kept Spurs in the hunt for their
first English top-flight title since 1961 — and they are getting ready to
welcome talisman Harry Kane back into the fold.
“He is doing very well and maybe he is going to be available at Burnley (on
Saturday),” said Pochettino.
“Harry is an animal and wants to be ready as soon as possible. In the last
10 days he has been fantastic and having him back available is a fantastic
boost for everyone.”
Golden oldie Hodgson is record-breaker
Roy Hodgson will become the oldest manager in Premier League history when
Crystal Palace take on Leicester.
The former Liverpool and England boss will break Bobby Robson’s record for
the Premier League era, which has stood since Robson’s final game at
Newcastle in August 2004.
He will be 71 years and 199 days old on Saturday.
The pair are among four managers to take charge of a Premier League game in
their 70s, with former United boss Alex Ferguson and Cardiff’s Neil Warnock
also part of the exclusive club.
Fixtures (1500 GMT unless stated)
Cardiff v Watford (1945), West Ham v Fulham (1945)
Burnley v Spurs (1230), Bournemouth v Wolves, Newcastle v Huddersfield,
Leicester v Crystal Palace (1730)
Arsenal v Southampton (1405), Manchester United v Liverpool (1405)