Liverpool look to extend lead as top-four battle recommencesby AFP
Liverpool is expected to take another step towards clinching a long-awaited Premier League title at bottom-of-the-table Norwich, while behind the runaway leaders the battle for Champions League places takes centre stage this weekend.
The Reds can extend their mammoth 22-point lead over Manchester City at Carrow Road on Saturday as they aim to not only win the league for the first time in 30 years but smash the record books in the process.
Jurgen Klopp’s men have dropped just two points all season and are on a run of 16 consecutive league wins.
That march towards the title began on the opening night of the season when Norwich visited Anfield and were 4-0 down inside 42 minutes.
An injury to Alisson Becker was the one big concern of that victory for Klopp as the Brazilian was sidelined for two months.
After taking some time to get back to his best form, Alisson has saved 26 of the last 27 shots he has faced, with Liverpool racking up an aggregate score of 23-1 in that time.
“We want to win the title and for winning the title, you need to win everything,” Alisson told Premier League Productions.
“The way we play, you need to enjoy that because if you don’t enjoy that then you cannot play all the games with our intensity.”
A massive 55 points separate Norwich from the champions-elect with the Canaries seven points adrift of safety.
Daniel Farke’s men desperately need to start turning good performances into points to beat the drop.
However, they have shown an ability to upset the odds with one of their four league wins this season coming against Manchester City.
Rodgers welcomes a rest
For a long time, Leicester were Liverpool’s closest challengers at the top of the table, but the Foxes’ form before a two-week winter break had faded with just one win in four league games.
An eight-match winning streak earlier in the season means Brendan Rodgers’s men still have a 10-point cushion in the race for a Champions League place and can even move back up to second with victory at Wolves on Friday.
And Rodgers is hoping a fortnight’s rest, without any overseas training camp, will have been the perfect tonic to recharge his side for the run-in.
“There are improvements to be made, no doubt,” said the former Liverpool boss. “We will now regain a bit of stability.
“We’re all fresh ahead of this final third of the season.”
Wolves have also suffered a mid-season dip with one win from their last six league games, albeit two of those fixtures were against Liverpool.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have fallen behind Sheffield United, Tottenham, Everton and Manchester United in the battle for the top four and need to return to winning ways on Friday to remain in the hunt.
Man Utd make Ighalo wait
Chelsea remains in pole position for fourth place despite a run of four wins in their last 13 league games.
The Blues’ lead over Tottenham could be down to a single point, though, by the time they entertain Manchester United on Monday if Spurs win at Aston Villa on Sunday.
Chelsea boss Frank Lampard claimed that Tottenham and Manchester United’s January transfer spending meant his side are now “underdogs” to hold onto fourth.
However, victory over United on Monday at Stamford Bridge would give Chelsea a nine-point cushion over the Red Devils.
The visitors could give a debut to new striker Odion Ighalo, even though the Nigerian has been denied the opportunity to train with his new teammates due to fears over the coronavirus.
Ighalo is on loan from Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua and did not travel to United’s warm-weather training camp in Spain due to fears he would be denied re-entry to the United Kingdom if restrictions on travellers who had been in China within the past two weeks were tightened.
The 30-year-old has even been training away from United’s training ground in Manchester until completing a 14-day quarantine period.
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Wolves v Leicester (2000)
Southampton v Burnley (1230), Norwich v Liverpool (1730)
Aston Villa v Tottenham (1400), Arsenal v Newcastle (1630)
Chelsea v Manchester United (2000)