Chelsea, Liverpool draw again to underline sharp decline

London : Another 0-0 stalemate between Chelsea and Liverpool. Another match highlighting the sharp decline of two of England’s top teams who, at this rate, are unlikely to be playing in the Champions League next season.

Chelsea was playing its first game since the firing of Graham Potter on Sunday but little was different under his interim replacement, Bruno Saltor.

Indeed, there was something very familiar about the teams serving up a goalless draw. That has been the score in this fixture in their last four meetings — both Premier League matches this season and both domestic cup finals last season, which were ultimately won by Liverpool via penalty shootouts.

The top four, and qualification for the Champions League, is looking increasingly unlikely for both teams.

Liverpool, which ran Manchester City so close for the title last season, is in eighth place and seven points off fourth-place Tottenham. Chelsea, on the back of spending $630 million in the last two transfer windows, is four points further back in 11th place.

Scoring goals remains Chelsea’s big problem, with the expensively assembled team failing to net at home for the fifth time in 2023.

Reece James had a strike disallowed for a narrow offside against Enzo Fernandez and Kai Havertz’s celebrations for a goal in the second half were cut short after VAR spotted the ball rebounded off his arm and into the net after Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker saved the striker’s shot. “These have been emotional days,” Bruno said, “and the players have been able to keep focused. It’s a credit to them.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was satisfied with the reaction of his team after a humbling 4-1 loss at Manchester City, which led to him making six changes — including dropping Mohamed Salah, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson to the bench. “Yes, it was not the best football,” Klopp said, “but these boys are really good footballers and tonight they put in a proper shift.”

No change

Firing its manager didn’t have an instant effect on Leicester, either.

A 2-1 defeat at home to Aston Villa dropped Leicester into next-to-last place and means the team has lost six of its last seven league games, drawing the other one.

Following the departure of Brendan Rodgers on Sunday, first-team coaches Adam Sadler and Mike Stowell were put in interim control of Leicester but they weren’t able to fix a leaky defense that has now conceded 51 goals in 29 games.

Bertrand Traore came off the bench to score Villa’s winner in the 87th minute, with Leicester down to 10 men by that time after Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall collected a second booking in the 70th.

Harvey Barnes had earlier canceled out the opener by Villa striker Ollie Watkins, who scored for the sixth straight away game — the first player to do so in the Premier League since former Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero in 2017.

Villa climbed to seventh place under Unai Emery and has won five of its last six league games.

Relegation battle

It was a significant evening in the league’s tightest relegation battle in years — and Leeds turned out being the big winner. By rallying to beat fellow struggler Nottingham Forest 2-1, Leeds climbed out of the bottom three and jumped to 13th place in the 20-team league.

The fight to avoid the drop remains too close to call, though, with five points separating Crystal Palace in 12th and Leicester in 19th. Forest, which has dropped to fourth-to-last place, took the lead at Elland Road through Orel Mangala in the 12th minute only for Leeds to turn the game around thanks to goals by Jack Harrison and Luis Sinisterra before halftime.

Bournemouth dropped back into the relegation zone after losing 2-0 at home to Brighton, whose goals came from teenage strikers — a deft flicked finish by Evan Ferguson in the 27th and Julio Enciso’s individual effort in second-half stoppage time.

Brighton moved up to sixth place, four points off the top four, and could yet challenge for Champions League qualification. (AP)