The Barclays Premier League made a welcome return after a week off to accommodate a couple of international fixtures all over the globe, and a goal-packed series of matches showed us exactly what we have been missing. A trio of 4-0 results, a 3-2 thriller and a pair of 2-2 draws on Saturday meant that we witnessed 27 goals in a mere eight matches. So, with all that excitement, you would be right to assume that there is a fair amount to discuss and several players were in with a fighting chance of making it into The Boot Room’s Premier League Team of the Week.
Having exited the Europa League at the hands of Liverpool’s next opponents in the Europa League; Borussia Dortmund, title-chasing Tottenham came to Merseyside with only priority. However, only four victories away to Liverpool in 104 years meant that history suggested that The Reds should be fairly strong favourites. It would be more than foolish to underestimate one of the most in-form sides in the country though. This game was the first time that Daniel Sturridge had been able to start a Premier League game at Anfield under Jurgen Klopp. This goes some way to demonstrating the adversity against which the former Dortmund boss has had to work against. Tottenham had the better of the early minutes and enjoyed a greater sense of control over proceedings. Nevertheless, it was Spurs who were closest to going behind on the 20-minute mark when some smart work by Hugo Lloris was required to prevent Heung-Min Son from finding the corner of his own net. The game was played at an exceptionally high tempo and a fair number of intense challenges were put in, with the high-pressing approach of both coaches coming to the fore. As the half wore on, a greater number of goal-scoring chances presented themselves despite the quality on the pitch, neither set of players could take advantage.
A mistake-ridden start to the second half looked to be leaning in Spurs’ favour in a similar fashion to the first 45 minutes, but the essential piece of quality was provided by some neat interplay between Coutinho and Sturridge. The magical Brazilian went against his usual approach in front of goal, calmly caressing the ball inside the far post. Spurs’ South Korean came closest to drawing the visitors level in the minutes after Coutinho’s opener, but could only volley inches wide. In the end, it required a typical piece of work by Harry Kane to level the score-line, spinning on a sixpence in the penalty area and firing past Mignolet with his second touch. The pace of the game did not drop for one minute as Spurs were clearly intent on grabbing all three points to put pressure on The Foxes but in the end, a draw was probably the deserved result. Late opportunities fell to Coutinho and Dembélé, but now both sides must look to future fixtures to further their aspirations.
Carrow Road was the destination for a stereotypical relegation six-pointer, and a topsy-turvy afternoon followed. Norwich City snuck ahead in injury-time at the end of the first half through Klose, before Mitrovic bagged his first of the day. Three minutes later, Alex Neil’s side were back in front following a thunderbolt by Mbokani but when Newcastle’s summer signing notched his second of the afternoon with only a few minutes remaining, the game appeared to be petering out towards a draw. However, a speculative Martin Olsson effort at the death put Norwich in front for the third time in the game, and this time it proved to be the strike that finally earned them all three points against fellow relegation strugglers Newcastle United. This was such a vital game for both sides, with the result putting The Canaries into a much healthier position and unless there is quite a dramatic turn-around in the final few matches, all but condemns Newcastle to a season in the Championship.
On Sunday afternoon, Claudio Ranieri’s men hosted Southampton, with The Foxes desperate to continue their winning streak and increase their lead over Spurs in second place. A tense first half got the lift-off it required when Wes Morgan overpowered Clasie to head home a cross from Christian Fuchs. The home side held on for their fourth consecutive 1-0 victory, now looking to obtain three points in the run-in from anywhere and by any means. This was not a sterling display, but it was their unrelenting desire which got them over the line. Jamie Vardy was as energetic and willing as ever, but neither he nor Riyad Mahrez really had the incisive impact which we have grown to expect from them. There was a raucous atmosphere at the KP Stadium all afternoon as the crowd recognised the value of their support. With only six matches remaining, four victories guarantee that the Premier League title will be Leicester City’s, and who would bet against them now.