Premier League Upset Watch – Match Week 1


With opening day of the Barclays Premier League under 35 hours away, let’s take a moment and look at three potential upsets that could transpire.

Arsenal v. Aston Villa (Emirates Stadium)

The Goonahs will be furious at my identifying this match as a potential upset but what can I say? When the stars align the stars align.

This one all comes down to injuries plaguing the North London side.

Just today Arsenal released word that midfielder Mikel Arteta will be out four to six weeks with a torn quadricep.

The loss of the Spaniard adds to Arsenal’s injury woes as Thomas Vermaelen and Nacho Monreal are both out with back injuries, Bacary Sagna tweaked his ankle on international duty with France and Aaron Ramsey did not play for Wales this week due to an ankle injury suffered in last week’s 3-1 win over Manchester City.

Even assuming those players are out, Arsenal are still overwhelming favorites to win this game. But opponents would do well to tread lightly against Paul Lambert’s young, hungry squad led by the impressive Christian Benteke and his slick partner in crime, Andreas Weimann.

Norwich City v. Everton (Carrow Road)

Proof positive, in addition to my choosing Everton to finish 7th in the table this season, that I stay objective as possible when it comes to the Toffees.

There are a few reasons why the Canaries can upset the odds here.

First, it’s never easy for an incoming manager to win his first match with his new club. Especially one who employs a new style of play like Roberto Martinez is doing at Everton.

Second, history. Norwich are unbeaten in their last four matches against Everton, Martinez has yet to win a Premier League match at Carrow Road and Everton have lost four of their last five opening league fixtures.

Third, the Norwich City attack has the potential to be downright vicious. Manager Chris Hughton knew exactly what he was doing when he discarded the aging Grant Holt for the hard-working, blustering style of Gary Hooper and paired him with the slick skills of the man with the best name in world football, Ricky van Wolfsfinkel (pictured). Mark it down – these two will be sneaky good this season.

Swansea City v. Manchester United (Liberty Stadium)

How dare I???

Yes, I dare.

C’mon fellas, even the staunchest United fans have to admit that they’re just a biiiit worried about this fixture. And with good reason.

The main reason?

David Moyes. Or the lack of Sir Alex Ferguson. Same difference at this point.

The bottom line is that after 26+ years, there’s a new sheriff in town and right now, he cuts a jaded figure. Sub-par pre-season results, Wayne Rooney, and the inability to sign a new center midfielder have all weighed heavily on Moyes, as is obvious from his press conference soundbites.

On the other hand, the Swans have nothing to lose. They’ve increased their talent by bringing in guys like Jordi Amat, Wilfried Bony, Jose Canas and Jonjo Shelvey and they’ve kept all the players that made them successful last year.

Factor in that Swansea are notoriously difficult to beat at home and that they can play just about anybody off the pitch with their free-flowing passing, and this game is easily the leading upset candidate heading into this weekend.

FOLLOW LIVE: 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round

Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer, center, is congratulated by teammates, including midfielder Roger Espinoza (27), following his goal during the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Houston Dynamo in Kansas City, Kan., Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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The knockout round of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs concludes on Thursday, as four teams vie for the final two places — one in the Eastern Conference, one in the Western Conference — in the conference semifinals, which begin on Sunday.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round ]

Up first, the East’s fourth-seeded D.C. United welcome the five-seed Montreal Impact to RFK Stadium for the two sides’ third meeting of the 2016 season. Each of the year’s first two clashes finished a 1-1 draw, in July and August. Didier Drogba is expected to be unavailable for the win-or-go-home tie. United finished the regular season with four wins in the last five games, while the Impact won just two of their last eight.

[ MORE: Preivewing Thursday night’s knockout-round games ]

In the nightcap, the West’s fourth-seeded Seattle Sounders will take on the five-side, Sporting Kansas City, at CenturyLink Field. Sporting were victorious in both regular-season meetings this year — 1-0 on opening day, and 3-0 in late-July, the day the Sounders essentially quit on Sigi Schmid. Since that blistering hot day in KC, the Soudners have lost just twice in 14 games (eight wins, four draws).

Thursday’s MLS Cup Playoffs schedule

D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting KC — 10 p.m. ET

Cristiano Ronaldo says Ashley Cole is the toughest player he faced

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Cristiano Ronaldo has faced the best defenders in the world during his time with Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team.

He has also caused fits for most of those defenders with goal after goal for club and country. But, there have been some players who have at least made it difficult for the all-time leading goal scorer in Real Madrid and Champions League history.

According to Ronaldo, former Chelsea and Arsenal defender Ashley Cole was the toughest player he has faced in his career.

[ MORE: VIDEO: Incredible Pelle goal in China ]

“Over the years I had some great battles with Ashley Cole, he does not give you a second to breathe,” Ronaldo told Coach Mag. “He was such a tenacious player when he was at his peak, quick, tough in the tackle. You knew it would never be an easy game.”

During his time with Manchester United, Ronaldo faced Cole on numerous occasions while Cole was with Arsenal and Chelsea. The two have also faced off in international competition between Ronaldo’s Portugal and Cole’s England.

It’s certainly high praise for Cole, who now plays in MLS for the LA Galaxy. At the age of 35, Cole has started 25 matches for the Galaxy this season, scoring one goal.

Phil Neville praises Juan Mata’s play to Manchester United

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Juan Mata has appeared in 116 matches for Manchester United since moving to Old Trafford in 2014. In that time, Mata has scored 29 goals and recorded 18 assists.

Despite his performance for the team, some thought Mata would be moved when Jose Mourinho came to town, including former United player and assistant coach Phil Neville.

Neville told Sky Sports, “I actually thought he would be the first out of the door when Jose came, but he’s actually becoming one of the most important players.”

Neville praised Mata’s contributions and versatility for United. “He is never injured, he provides a lot of assists, he plays in two or three different positions, and he scores important goals.”

Manchester United has lacked an identity under Mourinho and recently faltered in the Premier League as the team is winless in its last three matches.

[ MORE: Mourinho gets FA charge ]

Could Mata be the answer to some of United’s problems?

The Spaniard is a classic No. 10 with the ability to dictate his team’s attack and create scoring opportunities for his teammates. Mata can also put the ball in the back of the net as evidenced by his winner against Manchester City in the EFL Cup.

Mourinho has options in the center midfield with the likes of Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick in addition to Mata on the roster.

However, given the team’s Premier League struggles, it could be worth giving Mata a chance as the team’s No. 10.

David Moyes faces FA charges after being sent off during EFL Cup

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David Moyes and Sunderland have gotten off to one of the worst starts in Premier League history.

If they fail to earn a point against Arsenal this weekend, they will tie the 1995-96 Manchester City team for the worst start ever through 10 matches with two points.

It appears those frustrations carried over to the EFL Cup for Moyes. On Wednesday, the manager was forced to leave the dugout toward the end of Sunderland’s 1-0 loss to Southampton after he protested a no-call from referee Chris Kavanagh.

Moyes was charged by the FA for his protests, saying the manager “used abusive and/or insulting words towards a match official”.

It’s just another thing to add to Moyes’ plate as he looks to keep Sunderland’s hopes of safety alive in the Premier League.