Belfast Telegraph

5 things we learned from the Premier League this weekend

Crystal Palace went close to upsetting Liverpool and Maurizio Sarri criticised his Chelsea players.

Crystal Palace were close to causing another upset in the Premier League title race while Maurizio Sarri delivered a scathing assessment of his Chelsea side.

Here, Press Association Sport examines some of the lessons learned from this weekend’s action:

1. Liverpool pass Palace test – just

Palace are a team that should not be underestimated – as Manchester City discovered to their cost last month. The Eagles have been a thorn in Liverpool’s side in recent years as well, memorably putting a sizeable dent in their last title challenge five years ago while they had won in three of their previous four visits to Anfield. Roy Hodgson’s side were in no mood to roll over on Saturday either, defending stoutly and taking advantage of some shakiness in their opponents’ back line. Only at the full-time whistle were the league leaders able to breathe easy, with manager Jurgen Klopp’s multiple fist pumps at the end of a 4-3 thriller telling its own story.

2. De Bruyne set to boost City title bid

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Kevin De Bruyne, left, completed 90 minutes for the the first time this season (Martin Rickett/PA)

City sailed through much calmer waters than their title rivals this weekend, seeing off managerless Huddersfield 3-0 at the John Smith’s Stadium to move back to within four points of Liverpool. The fixture also marked the first time Kevin De Bruyne completed 90 minutes this season. The Belgian’s campaign has been plagued by injury but he remains one of the standout players in the top flight. Provided his progress is unimpeded by knocks or niggles then his presence could be just what City need to overhaul Liverpool and retain their domestic crown.

3. No more Mr Nice Sarri

The quirky Italian may not be the first Chelsea manager in recent times to wonder about his players’ desire but his public outburst immediately after a 2-0 defeat at Arsenal was still extraordinary. Speaking in his native tongue “to send a message to my players and I want my message to be very clear”, Sarri said: “This defeat was due to our mentality, more than anything else. This is something I can’t accept. This group of players are extremely difficult to motivate.” How senior figures in the dressing room respond to such a broadside may define Sarri’s tenure at Stamford Bridge. Next week’s Carabao Cup semi-final second leg against Tottenham could make for compelling viewing.

4. Tottenham win but Alli limping off is worrying

It feels like Tottenham are constantly indebted to a Harry – although this time it was Harry Winks and not talisman Harry Kane who sealed a last-gasp 2-1 win at struggling Fulham. Spurs remain well placed for another top-four finish despite the resurgence of Manchester United. However, Dele Alli walking off holding his hamstring is troubling, especially with the north Londoners shorn of the injured Kane and Son Heung-min, who is on international duty with South Korea. Kane is out until March and a lengthy absence for Alli would give Mauricio Pochettino a headache, who has done himself no favours by selling Mousa Dembele to Chinese Super League side Guangzhou R&F this week.

5. Newcastle excel against those around them

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Fabian Schar was the star as Newcastle beat Cardiff (Richard Sellers/PA)

Fabian Schar’s star turn – becoming the first Newcastle defender to bag a brace in one match since the turn of the century – plus Ayoze Perez’s late strike handed the Magpies a much-needed three points in a 3-0 win over fellow strugglers Cardiff. Rafael Benitez’s men are once again out of the relegation zone and much of their points total is owed to their form against the clubs also scrapping to preserve their top-flight status. While Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea were barely troubled by Newcastle in recent weeks, the Tynesiders are unbeaten in seven games against teams from the bottom seven.

Press Association

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