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PSG's Mbappe: Liverpool 'like a machine' right now

PSG's Mbappe: Liverpool 'like a machine' right now

ESPN

With a slate of midweek Premier League matches, here is what to look out for. 

JUMP TO: Chelsea need consistency | Blades to cut down City?| Man to watch | Game you should watch | Team that needs luck | Stats of weekend | One thing that will happen | Predictions

THE WEEK'S BIG QUESTIONS

Could Arsenal still make the Champions League places?

Under normal circumstances a team in tenth place, ten points adrift of the top four with 15 games to go, could probably stick their passports away for the following season, safe in the knowledge that they wouldn't be playing in Europe's elite competition. However, things are a little different this season, the campaign in which apparently nobody actually wants to qualify for the Champions League, with all the main contenders tossing around points like confetti.

Arsenal, therefore, are in with a chance. But only if they beat Chelsea on Tuesday, and that's in the words of their manager. "It's very, very important for us to win this game to fight for [the top four]," Mikel Arteta said this week. "The game we played at home could have made a big difference and we were very close to it. Tomorrow we need to win." Victory will take them to within seven points of their rivals: not a small gap, but one that looks very achievable.

Can Chelsea do something about their inconsistency problem?

Following Chelsea this season has been, at the very least, entertaining. It has been since the end of October anyway: since then, a run lasting 19 games in all competitions, they have only registered the same result in consecutive games once, and that was the back-to-back victories against Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup and Burnley in the league at the start of this month. Otherwise, they haven't managed to string two wins together, not even two draws or two defeats.

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The most obvious explanation for that is their talented but incomplete and inexperienced squad: with that, this sort of inconsistency is perhaps inevitable. But it's still a concern: Chelsea's grip on fourth place has loosened with this inconsistency, and if Frank Lampard wants his side to be sure of a spot in the Champions League, he has to get them winning like they were in the autumn.

Could Sheffield United get something against Manchester City?

It was slightly unusual to see Chris Wilder display even a hint of an inferiority complex, but when he was asked about his Sheffield United side's prospects against Manchester City, he puffed his cheeks out and chuckled, as if he was the manager of a plucky lower league side drawn against them in the FA Cup.

But Wilder will know that City are vulnerable: they've already dropped more points in 23 games this season than they did in the whole of last term, beaten already by brave minnows like Wolves, Norwich and Manchester United.

So there's really no reason why Wilder's Blades can't get something from the visit of City. Wilder might have been cautious in public, but you can guarantee he will be filling his players with the confidence to beat their stumbling behemoth opponents.

MAN TO WATCH

Adama Traore

The one pinprick of light for the other 19 teams in the Premier League used to be Liverpool's inability to keep a clean sheet. In their first 15 games, they only kept their opponents out on two occasions, but in the subsequent seven fixtures they haven't let in a single goal: the last time Liverpool conceded was on December 4, to Everton, some 675 minutes of football ago. They're an utterly absurd team, now at both ends of the pitch.

So it will need something pretty special to breach their backline: step forward probably the most exciting non-Liverpool player in the Premier League at the moment, Adama Traore. Wolves's resources are stretched sugar paper-thin at the moment but their lack of depth is currently being compensated for by brilliance in the players they do have available, most notably Traore who inspired their comeback win at Southampton on Saturday. If anyone is going to break Liverpool down, you fancy it will be someone like Traore.

THE GAME YOU'RE NOT PLANNING TO WATCH...BUT SHOULD

Leicester v West Ham

Even with Leicester's new lofty position in the top four, the prospect of this match doesn't really quicken the pulse. But it will be interesting just to see whether Leicester's recent results and performances represent a blip or something more serious. You can perhaps forgive dropping points against a resurgent Southampton or away to a Burnley side who will always provide a stiff test. But if they don't win at home to West Ham, for whom the new manager shine from David Moyes's return has already firmly dimmed, then there could be more significant problems afoot.

THE TEAM THAT NEEDS A BIT OF LUCK

Newcastle United

Steve Bruce doesn't really need any luck at the moment when it comes to results (although the win over Chelsea was their first victory in four), but he could do with some gods of fate looking upon him a little more kindly as far as injuries are concerned. Jetro Willems was the latest to fall lame, out for the season with a cruciate knee ligament injury, while Paul Dummett has also been ruled out for a long spell and Fabian Schar is only just coming back from his injury sustained just before Christmas. Newcastle could just do with all of their important players staying upright at the moment.

NOTABLE STATS OF MIDWEEK MATCHES

Provided by ESPN Stats & Information

- Arsenal and Chelsea will play for the 200th time across all competitions, with Arsenal leading the series with 77 wins (65 for Chelsea) and 57 draws.

- Tottenham have been held scoreless in three consecutive Premier League matches for the first time since November 2013.

- Manchester United have a 10-game unbeaten streak vs. Burnley (6-0-4), with their last loss to the Clarets coming in August 2009. 

- Liverpool's 64 points through 22 matches is the best start ever in Europe's Top 5 leagues.

ONE THING THAT WILL DEFINITELY HAPPEN

Troy Deeney will score against Aston Villa

Perhaps it's because of the Birmingham City tattoo that adorns his chest, but Troy Deeney seems to light up at the very thought of playing Aston Villa: he's faced them three times in his career so far, and has five goals to show for it. He bagged a brace against them a few weeks ago, and given Watford's uptick in form and Villa's assorted fragilities, a bet on him finding the net again looks like a pretty safe one.

PREDICTIONS
Crystal Palace 2-2 Southampton
Aston Villa 1-2 Watford
Bournemouth 0-0 Brighton
Everton 2-0 Newcastle United
Sheffield United 1-1 Manchester City
Chelsea 3-2 Arsenal
Tottenham 2-1 Norwich City
Leicester 1-0 West Ham United
Manchester United 2-0 Burnley
Wolves 1-3 Liverpool

Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe has likened runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool to "a machine" and expressed his awe at their ability to keep winning under pressure.

Speaking with BBC Sport after launching his charity Inspired by Kylian Mbappe, the 21-year-old marvelled at the Reds' run of form that has put them 16 points clear of second-placed Manchester City with a game in hand.

"What Liverpool do in this moment is amazing," Mbappe said. "They are like a machine, they have found a rhythm and are like 'we play again, we play again.'

"They have lost zero games. When you watch you think everything is easy but that is not easy. The guys are focused -- they play games every three days and they win, win, win.

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Despite opponents being able to identify ways to cause Liverpool problems, Mbappe is impressed with the way Klopp's men find the strength to keep pushing on.

"Now the problem is that everybody watches Liverpool, and everybody watches what we can do against them, so now they have to show they are strong again," the France international said. "It is a very good team with a very good manager, though."

Mbappe has been regularly linked with a move to Real Madrid but asked about a potential future switch he said it was not the time to discuss his future.

"Everyone talks about it," he said. "When I was young, I talked about it too, but now I am a player and I know it is not the moment.

"We are in January. It is the money time of the season. Imagine I answer your question and say something. Everybody will talk about it and it is not good for PSG.

"Now I am with PSG and I am 100% with the club. I want to help the club grow this season, to win a lot of titles, so for me it is not good to talk about [my future].

Mbappe is putting PSG first because of the confidence they showed in him when signing him from Monaco back in the summer of 2017 and turning him into an established star name but suggested he will make a decision on his future in the coming months.

"I think about the club because the club helped me," Mbappe said. "I came here at 18. I was a talent, but I was not a superstar. Now I am a superstar, thanks to PSG and the French national team.

"I have to stay calm and stay focused on PSG. After that, at the end of the season, we will see. But now I am focused on my game."

Looking ahead to the coming year, Mbappe revealed he is dreaming of Champions League, Euro 2020 and Olympic success for club and country.

"[My dream] would be a treble of the Champions League, the European Championship and the Olympic Games," he said. "That would not be bad.

"That seems unattainable for the time being, but I am going to make sure that I fulfill this dream. It would be a proud moment to be able to win the first European [title] for PSG and for our country to keep winning.

"Now people know how I play and how good I can be, I have to work to stay at this level. I have to be better. PSG is a young club; we do not have the history of the other clubs -- but we want to create the history."

ESPN