Premier League Upset Watch – Match Week 1

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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.

French league terminates goal-line technology contract

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PARIS (AP) The French football league has terminated the contract with its goal-line technology provider after a series of glitches.

The LFP had already suspended the use of GoalControl, the German system that was deployed at the 2014 World Cup.

According to L’Equipe newspaper, the league will launch a tender in February to find a new provider of the technology that determines whether the ball crossed the line.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

In recent months, the French league had repeatedly expressed its discontent with GoalControl.

Goal-line technology entered soccer after a goal was wrongly disallowed at the 2010 World Cup.

FIFA is already focused on fast-tracking the next phase of technology – video assistant referees – for the World Cup in June.

Goal-line technology and VAR were provided by Hawk-Eye at the Confederations Cup last year.

Bristol City’s Johnson: “They certainly have heard of us now”

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The Premier League world may see Bristol City next season, but it seems its manager has the personality to arrive on the top flight whether or not his Robins earn promotion this season.

Johnson, 36, earned plenty of plaudits after leading his Championship club to the League Cup semifinals, famously defeated Manchester United in the quarters.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Before that, Bristol beat Premier League sides Crystal Palace, Stoke City, and Watford. The Robins beat third tier Plymouth Argyle 5-0 in the first round.

Johnson was beaming after the Robins took Man City to the edge, closing to within a goal of extra time before Kevin De Bruyne‘s stoppage time number ended the tie 5-3 on aggregate.

“Absolutely I’m proud. It’s not just tonight but over the course of the season, particularly the cup run. It was a fantastic occasion, I’m sorry we couldn’t get the win but we played against the best side that I have ever seen live. They have so many good individuals.

“We kept going and it’s taken two injury-time goals to beat us. They certainly have [heard of us] now…everybody knows what we’re about. It’s been great.”

Bristol City is in the Championship’s fifth place, bidding for its first top flight campaign since 1980. Johnson should be a hot prospect to earn a shot in the Premier League should the Robins not make the jump.

League Cup semifinal preview: Arsenal vs. Chelsea

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  • Chelsea has won 4-of-7 League Cup matches vs. Arsenal
  • Arsenal leads all-time series 74W-58D-62L
  • Clubs have drawn four times this season

Hardware hopes are on the line when Chelsea hits the Emirates Stadium for a League Cup semifinal second leg with Arsenal on Wednesday.

The sides drew 0-0 at Stamford Bridge, giving Chelsea the advantage of knowing a scoring draw would do the trick and set up a date with Manchester City at Wembley on Feb. 25, though Arsenal has home field advantage in pursuit of a win.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Henrikh Mkhitaryan may debut for Arsenal, though the club released an interesting note on Tuesday: He’ll wear No. 7 in most competitions, but will have to use a different number in the Europa League because Alexis Sanchez wore it to start the tournament.

Chelsea’s Antonio Conte won’t have Alvaro Morata (back) and Cesc Fabregas for the match, though Andreas Christensen will be available for selection.

The clubs are no strangers to each other in big non-PL spots, squaring off in this season’s Community Shield (Arsenal won in penalty kicks) and last season’s FA Cup Final (Arsenal won).

Nothing has separated the sides on the field aside from those penalty kicks at Wembley Stadium, as Arsenal and Chelsea have drawn 1-1, 0-0, 2-2, and 0-0 since August.

What they’re saying

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger on Henrikh Mkhitaryan“He can play in different positions, but personally I see him first in a wide position, but I’m thinking about him a possibility to play through the middle. You are certain in our job of nothing, that’s absolutely sure. But you believe and I believe he has the qualities to do well, is a team player and our game is based on team attitude and movement and I think he can absorb the quantity of movement in our team.”

Chelsea’s Conte on the lineup: “Every game is different, you change the quality of your opponent and you must be intelligent enough to understand if you should continue with the same players or make some changes.”

Javier Mascherano leaving Barcelona after 8 seasons

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says defender Javier Mascherano is leaving the club after eight seasons.

Barcelona says there will be a farewell ceremony on Wednesday with Mascherano, club president Josep Bartomeu and the rest of the squad.

[ MORE: Man City to buy $86m CB ]

The 33-year-old Argentina international will say goodbye to the fans before Thursday’s game against Espanyol at Camp Nou in the Copa del Rey. He is reportedly going to play in China.

Mascherano, who also played as a defensive midfielder, arrived in Barcelona in 2010 from Liverpool and helped the Catalan club win 18 titles. He has made 334 appearances with Barcelona, but recently hadn’t been playing much.

The club earlier this month signed Colombia international Yerry Mina to boost its defense.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga