It has been an unfamiliar week for Liverpool. Prior to last Saturday, the Reds had tasted defeat just three times all season. The first loss came against Napoli in the Champions League, although it did not prevent Jurgen Klopp’s side qualifying for the round of 16. The second came when Klopp sent the club’s team to face Aston Villa in the quarter-finals of the League Cup, with the senior squad taking part in the Club World Cup instead.
In the end, Manchester City’s quality shone through. Moments before Sergio Aguero tapped home the winning goal from Kevin De Bruyne’s low delivery, Sheffield United had a similar chance of their own. Enda Stevens fired the ball across the box from the left, but Oli McBurnie was unable to add the finishing touch. This was a reminder that football is a game of fine margins.
Napoli vs Barcelona
Barcelona have not reached the final of the Champions League since their most recent triumph in 2015, and second-leg collapses against Roma and Liverpool in the last couple of seasons mean the pressure is on the Catalan giants to deliver in 2019/20.
In the end, it was all over rather quickly. Following a day of rumours suggesting that his position was under threat, Mauricio Pochettino parted ways with Tottenham late on Tuesday night. Just eleven hours later the club had confirmed that Jose Mourinho would be the man replacing the Argentinian at the helm.
1. Finland on the cusp of reaching first major tournament
The European Championship was expanded from 16 to 24 participants in 2016, but still Finland failed to reach their first major finals, finishing eight points adrift of the top two in their qualification group.
Even in the immediate aftermath of Arsenal’s Europa League final defeat by Chelsea in May, this season felt decisive for Unai Emery. The Spaniard may be under contract at the Emirates Stadium until the summer of 2021, but a break clause inserted in his deal gives the club the right to pull the trigger at the end of the current campaign. Having failed to either win Europe’s junior tournament or finish in the top four of the Premier League last term, it is absolutely pivotal that Emery does one of the two this time around.
The scoreline may not have been quite as emphatic, but there is a strong argument that Saturday’s 3-0 loss to Brighton and Hove Albion was more damaging for Tottenham Hotspur and Mauricio Pochettino than the 7-2 demolition by Bayern Munich a few days earlier.
The season is still young but there has been a key positive development for Crystal Palace in the early weeks of 2019/20. Only relegated Huddersfield Town collected fewer points in front of their own fans than Palace last term, with the south London side once again finishing higher up the away table than the home one – something they have done every season since 2013/14, when Tony Pulis’s side secured survival largely by making Selhurst Park a fortress.
David Neres (Ajax)
Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong have departed the Amsterdam Arena for pastures new, but Ajax have otherwise kept the bulk of last season’s squad intact. A repeat of their 2018/19 achievements – a domestic double and a run to the semi-finals of the Champions League – is highly unlikely, but Erik ten Hag will fancy his side’s chances of progressing from an open group containing Chelsea, Valencia and Lille.
It is still early days but after four games of the Premier League season, Leicester City are the side who look best equipped to challenge the big six. Brendan Rodgers’ charges are third in the standings heading into this weekend’s trip to Old Trafford, with two wins (against Sheffield United and Bournemouth) and two draws (against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Chelsea) representing a solid start to the new campaign.