Snap Judgments: Title contenders cruise on Premier League Saturday

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It was par for the course today in England, with title contenders playing out comfortable wins at City of Manchester Stadium, Stamford Bridge, and Upton Park. Elsewhere, two early season darlings needed comebacks to salvage a point, while Queens Park Rangers remains the league’s worst team.

We’re not done watching all the games yet, but now that the day’s last match is done, here are our snap judgments:

Manchester City 3-0 Sunderland: Aleksandr Kolarov made the most of a rare start by putting City up on five minutes, making the case that his skill from a dead ball might offset the open play difference between him and Gaël Clichy (not that I buy the argument). Sergio Agüero doubled City’s lead on the hour (after coming in for a sad Mario). One minute from time, Man of the Match James Milner made the most of his own rare start. Though City made seven changes from the team that started mid-week against Borussia Dortmund, it was still a strong rebound from their Champions League blah.

Wigan Athletic 2-2 Everton: They weren’t terrible, but this isn’t the Everton we’d seen most of the season. They’re either changing or we’re starting to see them for what they are. Now they’re the person you meet a little too late at the party. The next time you see them, you’re just not that into them. Everton, I think we’re better off as friends.

On Saturday, the Toffees needed a late penalty on Maynor Figueroa, the Honduras international’s foul on Kevin Mirallas setting up Leighton Baines’ game-winner.

West Bromwich Albion 3-2 Queens Park Rangers: A late Esteban Granero goal made this one closer than it played. The Baggies scored twice in the first 22 minutes and never relinquished the lead. Adel Taarabt (another member of Saturday’s Rare Start Club) pulled QPR within one in the 35th minute, but when Youssuf Mulumbu restored West Brom’s lead in the 85th minute, this match was over. West Brom sits fourth. QPR? Last. Ineptly so.

Chelsea 4-1 Norwich City: Grant Holt’s 11th minute goal went only angered Chelsea. They scored in the 14th (Torres), 22nd (Lampard) and 31st (Hazard) minutes, effectively putting the match away. The Blues outshot the Canaries 9-2 (on target) and had 69 percent of the Opta possession.

Norwich sits 19th in the table and has looked very bad in a number of matches. You want to say they’re in trouble, but given how many teams look bad coming out of Stamford Bridge, there will be better times to pile on the Canaries.

Swansea City 2-2 Reading: Yet another reminder that the great start that saw Swans begin the season with two lopsided wins was nothing more than that: a great start. They’ve faded badly since, and on Saturday they found themselves own 2-0 at halftime to Reading, a team that has yet to look the part since promotion. Second half goals from Michu and Wayne Routledge salvaged a point for Michael Laudrup’s team (who are winless in five).

West Ham United 1-3 Arsenal: A good three points for Arsenal from a tricky fixture, West Ham tougher than your normal promoted team. The Hammers carried a 1-1 score into the last 15 minutes when Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla (who had another stellar match) added winning and insurance goals. Olivier Giroud also got on the scoresheet, his first goal since moving to Arsenal this summer.

FIFA bans Colombia midfielder Cardona 5 games for gesture

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA has banned Colombia midfielder Edwin Cardona for five matches for making a discriminatory gesture with his eyes toward a South Korean opponent.

FIFA will allow Cardona to serve the ban in friendly games, so he should be available for Colombia’s World Cup opener against Japan on June 19.

[ MORE: Pep on post-derby celebrations ]

Cardona has also been fined 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,150) because of the incident last month in a friendly in Seoul.

Cardona apologized at the time, saying he “didn’t mean to disrespect anyone, a country or a race, but if anyone felt offended, or interpreted it in that way, I am sorry.”

Spurs’ Alderweireld won’t return until February

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Spurs finally got a bit of good news this weekend with a blowout of Stoke City.

That was a followed by a tough draw against Juventus in the UEFA Champions League, and bad news on an old injury.

[ MORE: Benitez on NUFC struggles ]

Center back Toby Alderweireld is going to be gone into February, extending his time on the sidelines with a hamstring injury suffered Nov. 1 against Real Madrid.

Spurs were 6-2-2 in league when Alderweireld went down, and are just 2-2-2 since the injury. The Belgian has missed losses at Arsenal and Leicester, draws against Watford and West Brom, and wins over Crystal Palace and Stoke.

Tottenham did win both of its UCL matches since the injury.

Benitez: If we can’t add in January, work gets harder

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Newcastle United has swung from the top half of the table to the fringes of the drop zone, something that hasn’t caught Rafa Benitez off guard.

The veteran manager has not lost sight of his August transfer window shortcomings. He hasn’t dwelled on it in the media, but Benitez is also very cognizant that his team has lacked depth at striker, out wide, and at left back.

[ MORE: Pep on post-derby celebrations ]

To boot, most of his additions — Mikel Merino, Christian Atsu, Javi Manquillo — haven’t been loaded with experience.

“Some games we are the youngest team in the Premier League. We have to learn quickly. This team is working very hard. Little things we have to improve and we will be stronger.”

“We know our job. Everyone has an opinion. It’s not rocket science – we need players in some positions. If we can, fine, if not, we will have to work harder.”

Newcastle isn’t far away, but it’s woefully short at left back (to the point where it’s best options have been displaced center back Chancel Mbemba and right back Manquillo), and Benitez doesn’t trust Aleksandar Mitrovic up top with Joselu not firing (though Championship star scorer Dwight Gayle may be coming around).

Additions are still needed, and perhaps Benitez is marginally better off that Newcastle didn’t continue overachieving as it did early days.

Premier League Preview: Swansea City vs. Manchester City

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  • Man City leads all-time 22W-4D-7L
  • Swans winless in 11 vs. Man City
  • Last Swans win: 2012 at home

Manchester City can set the Premier League record for consecutive wins in a single season when it visits Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium on Wednesday (Watch live at 2:45 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Each side has scored in the last eight meetings between the two in all competitions, which is about the only bit of good news for Paul Clement‘s side outside of their weekend win over West Brom. Man City has dominated the series in recent memory, and really all time.

[ MORE: Pep on post-derby celebrations ]

And some good news for Man City, too: There won’t be any problem with what they do in their own changing room.

“Like any club, Manchester City are able to play music in their dressing room,” a Swansea City spokesman said following the fracas at the Manchester Derby.

Wilfried Bony will be fired up to face his former club, and he’s coming off a big goal to sink West Brom. He’s going to have a lot in the tank. From the Manchester Evening News:

“Every game I look forward to but it is special to play against your old team. Injuries had an impact on my time at City. When you come from a club where you play every game and then you are playing maybe once a month or two games a month it is completely different.”

Vincent Kompany is out for Man City.

What they’re saying

Swansea City back Alfie Mawson on slowing Man City“I’m very fortunate to test myself against the highest calibre of footballer there is. City are flying this season. They’ve got one of the best managers in the world. We’ve got to find a way to combat them. Every team is finding it hard and I’m sure it’s going to be a very tough game because of the quality and depth they have. We’ve got to be switched on for the entire game, as they’ll punish one lapse in concentration.”

Man City’s Kevin De Bruyne on the 11-point table lead“Lots of teams lost points this weekend so it is a big one for us [the win] just to put more pressure on the rest. We have to enjoy it and then focus again for Wednesday. It is a big gap. If we slip up we are still in the lead. We can’t be complacent. We need to do what we have all year. I prefer to be 11 points ahead than 11 points behind that’s for sure.”

Prediction

The run continues, as Paul Clement prioritizes Saturday’s trip to Everton and City cruises to a 3-0 win.