Mourinho meets familiar foes Man Utd as Liverpool resume title hunt

first_imgCity’s victory over Arsenal means Liverpool cannot seal a first league title in 30 years against Everton on Sunday, much to the blue side of Merseyside’s relief.Jurgen Klopp’s men are just two wins away from the historic feat and victory at Goodison Park will allow them the chance to win the league on home soil when Crystal Palace visit Anfield on Wednesday.“You can feel it,” said Klopp of the excitement building around his side’s return. “I feel the intensity everywhere.”The match will take place in Liverpool despite fears over fans congregating outside both stadiums in the city. Goodison and Anfield are separated by less than a mile.Klopp has urged his supporters to be “the best stay at home fans in the world”.The earliest Liverpool could now be crowned champions is on Monday should the Reds win and City lose at home to Burnley.At the other end of the table, Norwich, Villa and Bournemouth sit in the relegation zone, but just three points separate second-bottom Villa from Brighton in 15th.Rock-bottom Norwich can ramp up the pressure on those above them even more should they close to within three points of safety in the first match of the weekend against Southampton.Friday (all times GMT)Norwich v Southampton (1700), Tottenham v Manchester United (1915)SaturdayWatford v Leicester (1130), Brighton v Arsenal (1400), West Ham v Wolves (1630), Bournemouth v Crystal Palace (1845)SundayNewcastle v Sheffield United (1300), Aston Villa v Chelsea (1515), Everton v Liverpool (1800)MondayManchester City v Brighton (1900)Share on: WhatsApp Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho comes up against a former pupil, Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford, on FridayLondon, United Kingdom | AFP |  Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho is hoping to exact revenge on former employers Manchester United, while Liverpool aim to move within one win of the title as the Premier League’s return kicks up a gear across a four-day weekend of action.The English top flight got its first taste of empty stands and strict hygiene protocols on Wednesday as Aston Villa’s goalless draw with Sheffield United and Manchester City’s 3-0 victory over Arsenal restarted the campaign.Despite the muted atmosphere, there remains plenty to play for at both ends of the table with the clash between Tottenham and United pivotal in the battle for Champions League qualification.Both sit outside the top four with nine games remaining. However, United’s position in fifth could be good enough to secure a return to the Champions League if Manchester City’s appeal against a two-season ban from European competition is unsuccessful.Spurs could prove to be the biggest winners of the three-month lockdown.Before the break, Mourinho claimed he could not wait for the season to finish as injuries to Harry Kane, Son Heung-min, Moussa Sissoko and Steven Bergwijn appeared to have ended their campaigns.All four are now fit again and victory would lift Tottenham to within one point of the club that sacked Mourinho in December 2018.“The reality is we are now in a better position to where we were before,” said Mourinho.“We got Harry and Sonny back, the players with the best stats in terms of scoring and assists. They give us this kind of attacking power.”United were the form side in the league prior to the lockdown.Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men are unbeaten in 11 games but also benefited from the break as Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba return from long-term injuries.Rashford has made waves for his power off the field with a campaign to provide vulnerable children with food vouchers forcing a British government U-turn.But the England international is desperate to get back on more familiar ground after being sidelined by a back injury since January.“It’s been a long time, but I think I needed it,” Rashford told Sky Sports.“Within my body I definitely feel confident again and ready to play games. The timing has worked out well for me.”Solskjaer said Pogba is “raring to go” after an injury-ravaged season and could be paired with January signing Bruno Fernandes in the United midfield for the first time.– Liverpool excitement building –last_img read more

Even at 4-6, Steelers hardly out of playoff hunt

first_imgMike Tomlin talks with cornerback Ike Taylor (24) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Pittsburgh, Nov. 17. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)PITTSBURGH (AP) – The math is tantalizing.The schedule is favorable.The middle of the AFC is a mess.Suddenly, things are looking up for the Pittsburgh Steelers.Consecutive wins over Buffalo and Detroit have Pittsburgh (4-6) in position to play meaningful football into December if not January.“We feel like we have a good team, but when we mention those things, people say ‘Your record says you’re not,” wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. “We’ve just got to continue to fight this thing out and see what happens. We have to keep it going.”Cotchery allows his team’s margin for error is “nonexistent,” though the final six weeks hardly look intimidating.Starting with Sunday’s game at Cleveland (4-6), the Steelers face just one team with a winning record the rest of the way. And even that Dec. 15 showdown with AFC North-leading Cincinnati is at Heinz Field.The other five games include two against the Browns, a Thanksgiving night matchup at struggling Baltimore (4-6) and a visit by the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 8.What was billed as the return of former Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace could take a backseat to something considerably more substantial.Miami and the New York Jets are tied for the sixth and final AFC playoff spot at 5-5. Pittsburgh already owns the tiebreaker over the Jets after picking up a victory on the road last month.It’s not much hope to cling to, but it beats the alternative. The Steelers were reading the obituary on their season after a humbling 55-31 loss to New England dropped them to 2-6 at the midway point and 15th in the 16-team AFC.Two promising weeks later, they’re 10th with plenty of time left.The crossroads may have come in the fourth quarter against Detroit. The Lions had just botched a fake field goal attempt but pinned the Steelers at their own 3 early in the fourth quarter.Facing third-and-9, Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown for a 16-yard gain. The drive ended in a touchdown and Pittsburgh was on its way to its most significant victory of the season.“I don’t know if it’s a turning point, but hopefully we can look back in 3-4 months and say it was,” tight end Heath Miller said.This isn’t the first time this fall Pittsburgh appeared poised to break out of a rut. The Steelers beat the Jets and the Ravens after an 0-4 start and spark belief that better days were ahead.Pittsburgh then went out and bumbled its way to a 21-18 loss to Oakland before Tom Brady picked the Steelers apart and sent the franchise into full-blown crisis mode.Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau talked about going back to “page one” in the playbook after giving up 610 yards to the Patriots. He vowed to simplify things and his defense has responded with a pair of solid performances.The Steelers overwhelmed Buffalo quarterback E.J. Manuel in a 23-10 romp and shut down the high-powered Lions after surviving a 27-point deluge in the second quarter.Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford completed just 3 of 16 passes after halftime and wide receiver Calvin Johnson never got his hands on the ball in the second half as Pittsburgh rallied.Perhaps just as encouraging as the results were the plays the Steelers were able to produce. Lawrence Timmons recovered a fumble and returned it 30 yards to set up a score.Nose tackle Steve McLendon forced Lions holder Sam Martin to fumble during the fake field goal and safety Will Allen intercepted Stafford in the fourth quarter to put Roethlisberger in position for the game-clinching touchdown.Those were the kind of plays Pittsburgh didn’t make for several weeks early in the season, something that weighed on them in the locker room.“When you’re not getting them, you try to downplay it like it doesn’t matter,” safety Ryan Clark said. “But when you’re getting them you understand they help you win.”A pattern that will have to continue if the Steelers want to avoid missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time this millennium.“We’ve got to be mentally tough,” cornerback Ike Taylor said. “We know it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”NOTES: Coach Mike Tomlin said LB LaMarr Woodley, DE Brett Keisel and G Ramon Foster will have a chance to play against the Browns. All three starters sat out the Lions game because of injury. … The Steelers signed former Pitt running back Ray Graham to the practice squad on Tuesday. Graham rushed for 3,271 yards in four seasons with the Panthers from 2009-2012.___AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.orglast_img read more