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The Big Upset
This past weekend in England, the Premier League took a back seat as the FA Cup entered its 3rd round and there were a few shocks as most of the favourites sailed through. One that will stand out though was the 2016 Premier League champions Leicester being knocked out against Newport County in a game which ended 2-1 to the home side.
Newport were brilliant and there can be no denying that, but one wonders what Leicester manager Claude Puel was thinking when he rested some of The Foxes more regular players? One in particular was of course Jamie Vardy who is having another consistent season in front of goal. When will managers whose teams are in mid table realise that the cup competitions are of extreme importance and should be taken seriously?
Whilst it is true that Leicester are in the top ten, what will they be fighting for this season? A top six place? Because they will not be claiming a top four position and have acquired too many points at this stage of the season to be relegated. So why not battle on all fronts in the cup competitions?
Now Leicester's season is virtually over and they will try to improve on 7th place as best they can. Sometimes you lose a game but know you have done everything you could to win it, the feeling at the weekend is that The Foxes did not give their all, something that Newport could sense.
There were big scores in the Cup for the likes of Manchester City and Tottenham. Both sides won their respective games against Rotherham and Tranmere with the same score line of 7-0, which while impressive also put a dent in the romanticism of the David v Goliath competition which is nearing 150 years old.
Has the tide turned?
Football moves quick and so it feels like an age since Manchester City beat Liverpool last Thursday in the Premier League. The match which finished 2-1 to City was hugely significant to the outcome of this years title. Had Liverpool won they would have been 10 points clear of Pep Guardiola's team. Instead the gap is just four.
But take out two heavyweight teams coming together and think about the spectacle that they put on. It was a Richard Scudamore Premier League dream to see the top two sides going at each other in what was end to end stuff. Three goals scored, a controversial non sending off when Vincent Kompany fouled an on rushing and goal bound Mohamed Salah and posts hit. The game had everything and really could have gone either way.
Alas it was great for the Premier League which just underlined that it is the most exciting and competitive league in Europe. Liverpool, after 21 games, have lost, how do Jurgen Klopp's team react to that? They say the real champions are the ones that can pick themselves up, but for Liverpool their loss was followed by exit in the FA Cup to Wolves and quite a few accusations of over-rotation of the squad by Klopp. Are they purely focused on the League or was this a mistake caused by over-confidence from Klopp? Either way, if they don't win the League now, it will be seen as a big mistake whether they were taking the FA Cup seriously or not.
For now it seems that City and Guardiola are in the ascendency, though one has to remember the Reds still have a four point lead at the top. There will be more twists and turns when the league resumes this weekend.