Like us to subscribe
There's been an air of resurgence surrounding Liverpool football club in the past week. Last weekend's away win at Bolton wasn't proof that Liverpool were back to their best brand of football, but it was the start that led to Thursday's Europa League heroics where club captain Steven Gerrard scored an impressive second half hat-trick.
As Liverpool naturally progressed toward Sunday's home encounter with the Champions, the soft scent of that revitalized air surrounding the club was as fresh and potent as ever. A tumultuous start to the season Liverpool definitely endured, but Sunday's relatively emphatic victory over Chelsea is nothing short of blatant proof that one of England's finest clubs have now rid themselves of their early season fears and anxieties.
Fernando Torres looks to be back to his most fierce form, yet shouldn't football fans have seen this kind of performance coming? After all, Torres, as brilliant as he can be, seems to drift in and out of form quite like a hobo drifting from town to town without a home.
Regardless of the fact that I just compared Torres to a hobo, the Spanish striker was brilliant for Liverpool on the day producing two stunning strikes that the world of football has come to know him for. Torres equaled great, but Liverpool as a unit(e), as a team and as an ideal were equally as impressive over the course of the full 90 as Torres was in his few short moments of inspiration.
The energetic return of Dirk Kuyt, the boyish enthusiasm of young Martin Kelly at right back and the command and control from Steven Gerrard in midfield played like a soothing scouse orchestra in front of a supportive and brilliant Anfield crowd. Roy Hodgson, welcome to Liverpool.
Chelsea were the opposite of Liverpool's dominance. Having conceded only three league goals thus far this Premier League season, the reigning champs gave up two in one match. Were those two goals possible proof that Chelsea's strength in depth, or lack thereof, is not only a chink in their armor, but a variable that could prove their title defense futile?
Time will tell, while Chelsea's once efficient attack stuttered due to either a bad tank of petrol, the prolonged absence of Frank Lampard, or the beginning of the end to their widely criticized easy-ish start. For now, at least, Liverpool with heads lifted high enter back into the top half of the table with ambitious purpose.
Manchester City convincingly earned three points at The Hawthorns on Sunday, though the same sword that cut the Citizens an early two goal lead left the club in a precarious position at the match's two-thirds mark. Ultimately that sword, City striker Mario Balotelli, lived up to both his positive and negative billings. In a somewhat surprise start over James Milner, Balotelli had a brace within half an hour. He also was dismissed in the 63rd minute.
Before that, the league got a glimpse of how dangerous City will be once they find a goal scorer to augment Carlos Tévez. Balotelli's sliding score at the far post in the 21st minute converted the work of David Silva and Tévez. Shortly after, a right-footed finished from 16 yards gave City the match. The Citizens were able to settle into their conservative approach, play off the counter, and keep West Bromwich Albion at arms length.
That's not to say there were no dicey moments. Balotelli made sure there were. After putting spikes to Youssuf Mulumbu, he saw red, leaving his team down a man. West Brom proceeded to threaten for the next fifteen minutes, pressure that culminated when Peter Odemwingie headed a corner kick off the cross bar.
Thankfully, the same man who suffered at the end of Balotelli's boot bailed-out Manchester City. Youssuf Mulumbu would find a second yellow card in the 81st minute, evening the sides.
Manchester City preserved their 0-2 win, snapped their losing streak, and will have temporarily thrown-off the hunt for Roberto Mancini's head. They also rekindled all the old questions surrounding their Italian prospect: How good will he be? And when will his attitude allow him to succeed?
Raul Meireles managed to swipe the ball from a normally flawless Ashley Cole, who apparently slipped. Meireles seized the ball and sent it upfield, to where Fernando Torres was waiting unmarked near the penalty area. By the time Branislav Ivanovic noticed the Spaniard, Torres had already sent in his shot. Petr Cech could do nothing as the ball curled into the far corner of the Chelsea goal.
Perhaps this was simply retribution from Torres, who just minutes earlier had been absolutely clattered by an ugly tackle from John Terry. The Blues defender climbed over Torres, sticking his knee into his head and managing to flatten teammate Salomon Kalou in the process. Howard Webb felt no need to show a card, so Torres took matters into his own hands (or feet).
Just a minute after the Torres goal, Chelsea tried to pull one back, but although Nicolas Anelka had a clear opportunity on goal, the striker edged the ball wide of the post. With the way the Blues are playing, it's almost inevitable that Didier Drogba will come on at the half.
West Bromwich Albion's chances of coming back against Manchester City may have just ended. Whereas playing a man up gave them some hope of pulling back the Citizens' two goal lead, a reckless and ill-advised challenge from Youssuf Mulumbu has evened the numbes. In the match's 81st minute, the Baggies' destroyer saw a second yellow for a challenge that should have seen straight red.
With City's confidence being restored after 15 minutes of control by Brom, the Citizens were holding the ball near midfield along West Brom's left flank. Seemingly in frustration at Brom's inability to gain possession, Mulumbu tried an extreme measure. As Tévez gain possession near the sideline, back to the pitch, Mulumbu slid through the back of him, getting but ankles while sending City's capable to the turf.
As much as anybody, Mulumbu has been responsible for West Brom's strong start to the season, but in only seeing a second yellow card for his challenge, the Baggie defensive midfielder was lucky. The challenge should have seen straight red. He should be suspended for three matches. Instead, he'll only miss West Brom's mid-week fixture and will be back for the weekend.
The man with the brace, Mario Balotelli, has completely altered the course of the game at The Hawthorns by getting himself sent off in the 63rd minute. Balotelli was already on a yellow card, but he wasn't sent off for a second yellow. Regardless, the fact that he was already on a yellow makes his actions all the more ridiculous.
Lee Probert showed a straight red card to Balotelli for raking his studs across Youssef Mulumbu after kicking him about three times. Balotelli was already about to be withdrawn from the game and instead of letting himself get substituted off, Balotelli took his removal from the game into his own hands and decided to go out in style. As he walked off the pitch and down the tunnel, his manager Roberto Mancini appeared to be visibly disgusted.
Since the sending off, West Brom have controlled the match and are currently in the process of assaulting the City goal. Substitute Peter Odemwingie has hit the underside of the crossbar, causing the ball to bounce on the line and barely missing out on a goal. Manchester City has subbed Adam Johnson on for David Silva to get some fresh legs into the game.
Torres scores his third goal of the season with a floating ball over Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech, but much credit has to be given to Dirk Kuyt. Kuyt sent a gorgeous cross over the head of defender John Terry to find an oncoming Fernando Torres on the right side. Chelsea could do nothing to stop the Spanish striker from putting the ball into the net.
This is Kuyt's first game for Liverpool since October 12, when he picked up an injury while playing in Euro 2012 for the Netherlands. His inclusion in the midfield has already caught Chelsea off-guard, with their own weakened center unable to cope with the Dutchman. The Blues are without Michael Essien, who has a toe injury, while Frank Lampard is still absent, recovering from a groin injury. Didier Drogba is on the bench, feeling slightly under the weather.
Matters are all finished in North London where Newcastle have beaten Arsenal 0-1 thanks to an Andy Carroll first half header. While Carroll's opener proved the winner on the day, it was the starting XI's ability to form a plan, stick to it and hold their shape throughout the match that allowed the Toon to grab three points.
The plan: hold tight in defense, but occupy Arsenal's defenders with the forward two. Use height advantage to win headers, stay composed and compact in midfield and score a late first half goal to control momentum going into the half.
Maybe the late goal wasn't a bullet point in Chris Hughton's pre match plans, but Andy Carroll and Shola Ameobi have formed quite the partnership up front for Newcastle, one in which both strikers are able to express themselves and their strengths in order to create space for each other. Carroll is good in the air, usually wins headers and occupies more than one defender at all times, especially during set pieces.
Ameobi holds up play better than Carroll, uses his pace to drag defenders out of position and has a better first touch than Carroll. Together, they create a formidable partnership up front while Newcastle's midfield of Joey Barton, Kevin Nolan, Cheick Tiote and Jonas Gutierrez were the epitome of a disciplined side who held their shape during the win over Arsenal. Barton on the right and Tiote in the middle for Newcastle both turned in calm and composed, but effective and efficient performances from midfield on Sunday.
Arsenal's title challenge took the smallest of hits on Sunday as they've now slipped to third in the table after Manchester United's win on Saturday. United now hold a three point lead over the Gunners who've now lost three matches in the Premier League this season. Sunday's loss saw the return of forward Robin van Persie from long term injury while his participation in the match produced only a minimal contribution to Arsenal's attack.
If you needed clarification as to where a healthy Mario Balotelli fits into Roberto Mancini's plans, consider the manager's selection for Sunday's match at the Hawthorns. On the road against an attack-minded team that could take fourth place from them, Mancini put the young Italian into the starting lineup. The choice paid dividends 20 minutes into City's trip to West Bromwich.
That's when Balotelli opened his Premier League account, though he needed help from Carlos Tévez and David Silva. The movement started with David Silva putting Tévez behind the line, to the left of Scott Carson's goal. Tévez cut the ball back across the six for a sliding Mario Balotelli, giving the 20-year-old his first league goal.
David Silva was also crucial in City's next goal, another Balotelli tally that's put City up two. A twenty yard ball from near midfield found Balotelli running between defenders toward the edge of the box. A moment of chaos left the young striker with the ball on his right foot, allowing Balotelli to finish into the lower-left hand corner of Caron's goal, putting City up 0-2.
It's been an impressive and scary display from the Italian, whose move to Manchester City has seemed to settle him after the turmoil of his last year in Milan. Reunited with Roberto Mancini, Balotelli may be ready to assume his potential, which (if today's lineup can be seen as a hint) is bad news for James Milner.
Newcastle United has been on the back foot most of the match, particularly after an initial 15 minutes that saw Jonas Gutierrez challenge a strong Bacary Sagna down the Magpie left side. But the Toon failed to threaten goal, and with Arsenal's best chance seeing Cesc Fabregas go off the crossbar midway through the first half, Sunday's match at The Emirates looked set to reach intermission scoreless.
Then Andy Carroll happened. And unfortunately for Arsenal, so did Lukasz Fabianski, with the Newcastle striker out-leaping the Gunner `keeper to give the Toon a 0-1 halftime lead.
The goal came off a dead ball opportunity as the match reached the end of normal time. Joey Barton ran onto a ball eight yards into Arsenal's half an lofted his service to the middle of the box, three yards outside Fabianski's six. The Arsenal keeper came off his line and set-up under the ball, but with Carroll able to get a running start, with neither Gaël Clichy nor Laurent Koscielny properly picking him up, the towering Toon attacker out-jumped Fabianski and headed the ball into an undefended net.
It was Newcastle's first chance on goal in a match that's seen them out-shot 8-to-1. Still, with the exception of Fabregas's woodwork rattler, Newcastle has done a reasonable job of containing Arsenal, their high line and quick tracking on passes through their line leaving the Gunners without clear changes. Good passing from Alex Song and nice displays of skill from Samir Nasri have missed a moment of magic from their captain.
For Newcastle, there has been little to offer in attack. Early advances down the left from Jonas Gutierrez were countered by Arsenal playing a higher line and constricting the midfield. This allowed Arsenal to control the thirty minutes before half, with strong play from Cheick Tiote preventing Arsenal from their trademark passing in-and-around the Magpie defense.
The only thing which separates the two sides is a rather innocuous foul, a well executed set piece, and a striker out-working a goalkeeper. Andy Carroll has the Toon on top in London.
For SBNation.com, this is Richard Farley. Back to you.
It will be hard for the English Premier League to top the action of a Saturday that saw seven tight matches, but with the league leaders and two title aspirants in action, today's stakes should make up for any drop in drama. Third place Arsenal opens the day against Newcastle followed by fourth place Manchester City's visit to West Bromwich Albion. The final fixture is the weekend's headliner: League-leading Chelsea's annual visit to Anfield Park to face Liverpool.
Newcastle hasn't beaten Arsenal since 2005, having been outscored 16-to-1 in the teams' last five meetings. Still consider some of Arsenal's recent home efforts: A 1-0 win over West Ham that required a last minute goal from Alex Song; a 2-1 win over Birmingham City in which they gave up the first goal; a 2-3 loss to West Brom. Newcastle is arguably better than all those teams and will have a chance to prove so at 8:30 a.m. Eastern.
Manchester City carries a three match all-competitions losing streak into today's match at The Hawthorns. West Bromwich is also coming off a loss, being reduced to nine men on Monday at Blackpool. In trying to avoid a losing streak, the Baggies will be hoping Carlos Tévez's thigh continues to keep the City captain sidelined. The Argentine attacker has missing City's losses at Wolverhampton Wanderers and Lech Poznan.
And the day's finale, Chelsea looks to restore their five point lead on Manchester United (and possibly Arsenal) when they go to Anfield Park. A Liverpool team that's struggled out of the gate, currently sitting 16th in league, was given renewed hope on Thursday when figurehead Steven Gerrard closed the Reds' Europa League match with three goals in 15 minutes. A little of that, some strong play from Fernando Torres and David N'gog and a Pepe Reina blinder? Liverpool might be in business.
For more on these matches, check out our week 11 preview thread, where we have previews and predictions of all three matches. As always, we will be bringing you live updates throughout the day.
|Day||Time (EDT)||Home||Road||Editor Pick||Preview Pick|
|Sunday||8:30 a.m.||Arsenal||Newcastle||2-2||2-1, Arsenal|
|10:00 a.m.||West Bromwich Albion||Manchester City||2-1, West Brom||2-1, City|
|11:00 a.m.||Liverpool||Chelsea||2-0, Chelsea||2-2|
We'll email you a reset link.
If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.
You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.
We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.
You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.
We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.
Choose an available username to complete sign up.
In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.