SINGAPORE — How have your favourite English Premier League (EPL) teams performed over the past week? And how will they fare in their next matches? Yahoo News Singapore looks at the key talking points surrounding the league in this new weekly series:
Response after shock defeat will be key
WHAT HAPPENED: Liverpool lost. And that was a big deal, considering that it was the Reds' first loss of the EPL season, and it ended their bid to finish the season unbeaten like Arsenal did in 2003/04.
Also, it was their first defeat since January 2019, spanning 44 matches across two seasons. That's the second longest unbeaten streak in English football history, right behind Arsenal's 49-match run from 2003 to 2004. It also ended Liverpool's current 18-match winning streak, an EPL record they shared with Manchester City.
But while the defeat was statistically and historically significant, Reds fans are more concerned by the appalling manner which their team lost: A way-below-par 0-3 capitulation against second-from-bottom Watford on Saturday (29 February), when they managed just a single shot on target.
The atrocious performance had been coming, as Liverpool struggled to eke out their last two league victories against Norwich and West Ham. While some fans tried to pin the blame on regular punching bag Dejan Lovren again, the biggest reason for the Reds' recent struggles is the injury absence of captain Jordan Henderson, an underrated midfield leader who would run himself to the ground for the club.
Without Henderson, Liverpool lacked the relentless drive that characterised their best performances. And with their captain still out for a couple more games, how the Reds respond to their newest setback in this coming week could define how they would eventually be ranked among the pantheon of great EPL teams.
This is because they face Chelsea in the FA Cup on Tuesday, then Bournemouth in the league on Saturday, and finally Atletico Madrid in their Champions League round-of-16 second leg next Wednesday.
By the end of this run of matches, could they still in contention to win a treble of titles? If they can, then the Watford defeat can be deemed as a mere blip to a brilliant season. If they should be knocked out of both the FA Cup and Champions League, then it would be tough to call them the greatest-ever EPL team, even if they carry on expectedly to clinch Liverpool's first top-flight league title in 30 years.
WHAT'S NEXT: Three matches to define the historical greatness of this Liverpool team. Maybe, just maybe, the Watford defeat has given them the perfect kick up the butt they need to refocus and step up their game again. Prediction: A 1-0 win over Chelsea, then a 2-0 win over Bournemouth, then a 2-0 win over Atletico.
Ancelotti under pressure to turn Everton’s fortunes around
WHAT HAPPENED: Carlo Ancelotti has always projected calmness in his long and successful managerial career. After all, he has seen it all - as a former midfielder for the all-conquering AC Milan side in the early 1990s, and as a manager of three Champions League triumphs.
Yet there he was, losing his cool completely as he ranted and raved at the referees to earn himself a red card at the end of the 1-1 draw between his Everton side and Manchester United.
The trigger point was a disallowed last-minute winner by Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewein, which was controversially ruled out by video assisted referee (VAR) after it deemed Gylfi Sigurdsson was in an offside position, despite the Icelandic forward seemingly not interfering with play.
Yet, Ancelotti's outburst shows the pressure he is under, in taking up the daunting task of lifting Everton from a mid-table side to title challengers. As great a man-manager as the Italian is, there is never going to be a quick fix to Everton's fortunes.
Ancelotti has never undertaken a team-building project as massive as this one, and all eyes are on him to deliver glory to a success-starved side. No wonder he is on edge nowadays.
WHAT'S NEXT: Two tough EPL matches – away at Ancelotti's former club Chelsea, then at home to arch-rivals Liverpool. If Ancelotti is suspended from the touchline due to his red card, it's difficult to see how Everton can win both ties. Prediction: 0-2 losses for both matches.
Nuno shapes Wolves under former mentor Mourinho
WHAT HAPPENED: It is hardly a secret, but Wolverhampton Wanderers are a well-built, well-drilled, well-managed side that totally deserve their current sixth spot, just behind fifth-placed Manchester United on goal difference and just three points behind Chelsea in fourth.
On Sunday, Nuno Espirito Santo’s side went to Tottenham’s imposing stadium, and still managed to come from behind to score a thrilling 3-2 victory that underscored Wolves’ impressive development in recent years.
Ironically, Nuno took a page from his former manager, current Spurs boss Jose Mourinho, and built a sturdy, never-say-die Wolves side reminiscent of Mourinho’s best teams.
Many imminent defeats were rescued late in the games, and they lost just six times in the league, same as second-placed Manchester City. Only Liverpool have lost fewer.
Players such as Raul Jimenez, Joao Moutinho, Diogo Jota and Adama Traore have blossomed under Nuno’s guidance, coming up with constant crucial contributions. Hopefully, Wolves would be able to keep big clubs from poaching these bright talents and launch another successful European campaign next season.
WHAT’S NEXT: A home clash with Brighton looks eminently winnable, before they take on Olympiakos in the Europa League on 12 March. Prediction: A 3-1 win over Brighton.
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