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Premier League Playback: Moyes needs more, Suarez is Superman, Altidore (finally) off the mark

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MAN UNITED ON THE BRINK OF OBLIVION?

Time and time again people have lambasted David Moyes’ stuttering start to his reign on the throne at Old Trafford, let that pattern continue. Not only are Moyes’ Manchester United side regressing rapidly, his old team Everton have now overtaken his new team.

That must be a bitter pill to swallow for the 51-year-old Scot.

Frustration and disappointment was etched across his face post-game, Moyes bemoaned his sides bad luck, once again, as Everton won at Old Trafford for the first time in 21 years in the PL.

“I’m very disappointed. We needed a bit of good fortune and we didn’t get it,” Moyes said. “Everton kept at it and showed us what a good team they are. We didn’t defend the goal well enough so it was our own doing. We had some chances as well, as did Everton. They have been playing well and that’s why they are up near the top of the league.”

And Wednesday’s performance showed us all why United are languishing in ninth spot. Now I, like many, have yet to judge Moyes’ tenure at United just 14 PL games into his reign. That would be slightly misguided. However, it seems as though defeatism is starting to creep into his words and when his old Everton side, a team that under his tutelage never won at United or away at any of the other big teams, strolled into the Red Devils backyard and impressed for large swathes of the game you have to be worried. We all know Moyes was handed “the impossible job” when he took over from Sir Alex Ferguson, but the same could be said for Roberto Martinez taking over at Everton from Moyes. The Spaniard has done a terrific job at Everton and his side are playing without fear. Under Moyes Everton were defense minded and he got the very best out of their ability. Martinez is helping the Toffees’ players dig deeper and go beyond their boundaries.

FULL PREMIER LEAGUE PLAYBACK ARCHIVE

Moyes is having the opposite effect at United. His regimented style of management works to a certain extent, but so many players at United possess incredible levels of skill that they can’t be shackled and Moyes shouldn’t try to restrict them. With over a third of the PL season gone, Moyes’ men are 12 points off league leaders Arsenal and in his own words: “It’s a big catch up for us now.”

Can United do it?

Moyes should take a leaf out of Martinez’ book and help United’s players push their talent to the limit, instead of playing within it. If that somehow happens overnight, United are back in the title race. Right now, Moyes’ men have a battle on their hands to finish in the top four.

Premier League Schedule – Week 14

Result Recap & Highlights
Arsenal 2-0 Hull City Recap and watch here
Crystal Palace 1-0 West Ham Recap and watch here
Fulham 1-2 Tottenham Recap and watch here
Liverpool 5-1 Norwich City Recap and watch here
Man Utd 0-1 Everton Recap and watch here
Southampton 2-3 Aston Villa Recap and watch here
Stoke 0-0 Cardiff Recap and watch here
Sunderland 3-4 Chelsea Recap and watch here
Swansea 3-0 Newcastle Recap and watch here
West Brom 2-3 Man City Recap and watch here

SUPERMAN WEARS A LUIS SUAREZ T-SHIRT – IS HE IN THE SAME LEAGUE AS MESSI, RONALDO?

What we all witnessed on Wednesday night at Anfield was a thing of beauty from Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez. Yes, he loves scoring against Norwich City — as three hat tricks in five games against the Canaries and 11 goals in total proves — but the sheer variety and splendor of his three first half goals on Wednesday, and his sublime free kick after the break for his fourth, mean his star continues to rise. Despite all the controversy surrounding him, you just can’t get away from how talented a player he is and Suarez became the first-player in PL history to score three hat tricks against the same club. Since returning from his 10-game suspension, Suarez has scored 13 goals in nine games and leads the Premier League scoring charts.

Across Stanley Park at Everton’s Goodison Park, Toffees fans used to exclaim that “Superman wears a Tim Cahill t-shirt” after the Australian midfielder became a goalscoring legend and used to lift his shirt up to reveal the Superman’s famous ‘S’ under his jersey. No disrespect to Cahill, but Suarez is much more deserving of the comparison with Clark Kent’s alter ego. So much so, that I think the 26-year-old forward is getting to the point of being mentioned in the same breath as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as one of the best players on the planet. The only thing that’s holding him back from that final step to greatness is appearing in the UEFA Champions League. If he keep scoring four goal hauls and putting in virtuoso performances like Wednesday, Liverpool will be back in the UCL next season. Suarez is on a one-man mission to solidify Liverpool’s spot in the top four. Ahead of a World Cup year in his native South America, the incredibly gifted forward is now walking amongst the soccer greats of this world. Messi, Ronaldo and Ribery?! Forget that. After Suarez’ dazzling displays this season, he’s at least third. Come the end of the season, Liverpool will have to be at least fourth in the PL standings to keep hold of ‘Superman.’

AFTER 1,205 MINUTES… USMNT STRIKER FINALLY HAS A GOAL

Praise. The. Lord. Jozy Altidore finally has a goal in the Premier League for new club Sunderland. It’s been a rough old few months for Altidore at Sunderland but finally he had something to celebrate in the league on Wednesday against Chelsea. The U.S. international scored a typical ‘Altidore’ goal (watch below) as he rolled John Terry with his back to goal and rifled in a left-footed strike to celebrate being recalled to the starting lineup in style. His joy was to be short lived as Chelsea and the Black Cats slugged it out and the Blues came away with a 4-3 win from the Stadium of Light, but with the World Cup draw on Friday reminding us all that Brazil 2014 is right around the corner, the USA need their main man Jozy back on form. Goals like the one he scored on Wednesday show confidence is starting to flicker back into his game at struggling Sunderland. Long may that continue.

FESTIVE SEASON BEGINS WITH GOALS GALORE… IT WILL STAY THAT WAY

33 goals in 10 games in midweek meant a mammoth haul of goals in the PL. Under the floodlights on a cold December evening, it was certainly enough to warm your cockles if the Bovril and Pie wasn’t doing it for the fans in the stadium. At an average of 3.3 goals per game, match day 14 delivered almost a single goal more than the average of 2.58 which has been the norm for PL games so far this season. Then again, just like the Christmas shoppers already dashing around most cities in the UK , the PL becomes a bit crazed this time of year.

Take a look at the image above I stumbled across… now that was one crazy Boxing Day set of results back in 1963. The rest of December and Boxing Day this year could resemble something similar, as new players come into the lineup, injuries mount up due to the large number of games and the weather becomes increasingly poor. Plus the January transfer window is just around the corner, so plenty of players and managers will be on edge. Hold on to your hats, the next month of PL action will be one wild ride, here’s all 32 goals from Wednesday’s games below in a neatly wrapped early Christmas present. Enjoy the video feast.

Premier League Playback takes an alternative looks at all the PL action every week.

Juventus win 15th straight to take Serie A lead from Napoli

Juventus' Simone Zaza, second from right, celebrates with is teammates after scoring during a Serie A soccer match between Juventus and Napoli at the Juventus stadium, in Turin, Italy, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Massimo Pinca)
AP Photo/Massimo Pinca
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(AP) — Substitute Simone Zaza scored two minutes from time and Juventus beat visiting Napoli 1-0 on Saturday to take the Serie A lead from the southern club.

[ MORE: Napoli fans support racially abused Koulibaly ]

Seeking its fifth consecutive title, Juventus moved one point ahead of Napoli with 13 rounds remaining in the Italian league.

Near the end of a match in Turin that had been characterized by few chances for either side, Zaza’s goal came with a long, curving shot that deflected slightly off defender Raul Albiol.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s next manager? Juve GM tells Allegri to “think twice” ]

It was Juventus’ 15th straight win, moving the Bianconeri within two victories of the Serie A record established by Inter Milan in 2006-07.

Earlier, Daniel Ciofani scored twice as promoted Frosinone beat Empoli 2-1 for its first away win in the top division. Also, Chievo Verona and Sassuolo drew 1-1.

Bundesliga wrap: Leverkusen win without Chicharito, drop Hertha to 4th

Leverkusen's Omer Toprak, right, celebrates his side's equalizing goal during a German Bundesliga soccer match between SV Darmstadt 98 and Bayer Leverkusen in Darmstadt, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Germany’s top flight…

[ FOLLOW: PST’s Bundesliga coverage ]

Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Hannover

Bayern Munich’s lead has been cut to five points (for the time being – they play on Sunday) after Borussia Dortmund (48 points) returned to winning ways via Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s game-winning goal in the 57th minute (below video).

Darmstadt 1-2 Bayer Leverkusen

No Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, no problem for Bayer Leverkusen, who went third in the Bundesliga with a 2-1 away victory over 12th-place Darmstadt. After going down a goal in the 28th minute, the game swung on a pair of goals 15 minutes apart just after the hour mark. Aytac Sulu put the ball into his own net for Leverkusen’s equalizer on 62 minutes, and Julian Brandt scored the winner in the 77th minute. Now on 35 points with a +9 goal differential, Leverkusen have leapfrogged Hertha Berlin for the third and final automatic qualification spot into the UEFA Champions League.

Stuttgart 2-0 Hertha Berlin

Hertha are now four league games without a win (three draws) after falling 2-0 away to Stuttgart. Serey Die and Filip Kostic were the goalscorers on Saturday, as U.S. national team defender John Brooks completed his 12th straight 90-minute shift (all competitions). With 35 points and a +6 goal differential, Hertha now sit just two points ahead of Schalke and Mainz in the race for the Bundesliga’s fourth and final Champions League place.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga

Wolfsburg 2-0 Ingolstadt
Werder Bremen 1-1 Hoffenheim
Koln 3-1 Eintracht Frankfurt

Sunday’s Bundesliga schedule

Hamburg vs. Borussia Monchengladbach (9:30 a.m. ET)
Augsburg vs. Bayern Munich (11:30 a.m. ET)

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Bayern Munich 20 17 2 1 50 9 41 10-0-0 7-2-1 53
Borussia Dortmund 21 15 3 3 53 24 29 9-1-0 6-2-3 48
Bayer Leverkusen 21 10 5 6 31 22 9 5-3-2 5-2-4 35
Hertha BSC Berlin 21 10 5 6 29 23 6 6-3-1 4-2-5 35
FC Schalke 04 21 10 3 8 30 28 2 6-2-3 4-1-5 33
FSV Mainz 05 21 10 3 8 27 25 2 6-1-4 4-2-4 33
Mönchengladbach 20 10 2 8 40 35 5 7-1-3 3-1-5 32
VfL Wolfsburg 21 8 6 7 31 28 3 7-3-1 1-3-6 30
1. FC Köln 21 7 8 6 24 27 -3 4-4-3 3-4-3 29
VfB Stuttgart 21 8 3 10 33 41 -8 5-1-5 3-2-5 27
FC Ingolstadt 04 21 7 5 9 14 23 -9 4-2-4 3-3-5 26
Darmstadt 21 6 6 9 22 31 -9 1-4-6 5-2-3 24
Hamburger SV 20 6 5 9 22 28 -6 2-3-5 4-2-4 23
FC Augsburg 20 5 6 9 22 28 -6 2-3-5 3-3-4 21
Eintracht Frankfurt 21 5 6 10 27 37 -10 3-3-4 2-3-6 21
Werder Bremen 21 5 5 11 25 42 -17 1-3-6 4-2-5 20
1899 Hoffenheim 21 2 9 10 19 31 -12 1-5-4 1-4-6 15
Hannover 96 21 4 2 15 19 36 -17 2-0-8 2-2-7 14

USWNT tops Mexico, advances to Olympic qualifying semis on late Lloyd PK

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The U.S. women’s national team is one step closer to qualifying for the 2016 Olympics in after the Lady Yanks, on the back of Carli Lloyd’s 79th minute, knocked off their North American rivals, Mexico, in a narrow, physical affair at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Tex., on Saturday.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USWNT coverage ]

With only bottom-of-the-group Puerto Rico (0 points, -15 goal differential through two games) still to face, the USWNT are through to the semifinal round, at which point they’ll be one more win away from qualifying for this summer’s Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro.

The first half of Saturday’s clash was much different from what either side saw in their opening game — USWNT beat Costa Rica, 5-0, while Mexico routed Puerto Rick, 6-0 — as both sides engaged in a rough-and-tumble affair, racked up plenty of fouls and failed to create much of anything in terms of quality scoring chances.

The USWNT’s best chance early in the second half came in the 53rd minute, when Christen Press rifled a right-footed effort toward the far post from 15 yards out, but found nothing but woodwork before the ball caromed back into the field of play.

[ MORE: USWNT routs Costa Rica in Olympic qualifying opener ]

Alex Morgan very nearly opened the scoring in the 67th minute. Becky Sauerbrunn’s long throw was flicked on by Lindsey Horan’s header inside the penalty area, and eventually made its way to Morgan near the top of the six-yard box, from where her volleyed effort was sent inches over the crossbar.

With 77 minutes on the clock, Horan followed suit with a shot of her own off the post. From 20 yards out, her right-footed effort had beaten the goalkeeper, only to hit the same far post and bounce across the face of goal, where not a single American player was waiting to tap home the rebound.

All of Mexico’s dogged defensive work was undone in the 79th minute, though, as the USWNT was awarded a controversial penalty for handball. Lloyd’s initial effort from the penalty spot was saved, but the reigning World Player of the Year was first to the rebound and slotted the ball into an empty net (below video).

PL Sunday preview: Arsenal-Leicester, Man City-Spurs in top-four defining day

Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez, center, scores their third goal during their English Premier League soccer match against Leicester City at the King Power Stadium, Leicester, England, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015. (Paul Harding/PA via AP)     UNITED KINGDOM OUT       -     NO SALES      -      NO ARCHIVES
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The Premier League top-four’s defining day is upon us, as 3rd-in-the-league Arsenal hosts 1st-in-the-league Leicester City, and 4th-in-the-league Manchester City hosts 2nd-in-the-league Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

It’s also another important day in Aston Villa’s bid to avoid relegation, as they host (very, very faint) UEFA Champions League hopefuls Liverpool.

Arsenal vs. Leicester City — 7 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and Live Extra

No side in the Premier League has won more points away from home this season (28) than Leicester, which will no doubt have Arsenal fans feeling terrified for the whole of Saturday evening as Sunday morning looms.

When these sides met for the first time this season, back on Sept. 26, Arsenal walked out of the King Power Stadium with a resounding 5-2 victory, with many thanks to an Alexis Sanchez hat trick. Since that early Autumn day, Leicester have lost just once in the league (two PL losses all season), to Liverpool on Boxing Day. Jamie Vardy, who failed to score a single goal in six league games from Dec. 19 to Jan. 16, has scored three in his last three games (Leicester have beaten Stoke City, Liverpool and Man City by a combined score of 8-1 during that period).

On the injury front, the Gunners are mostly healthy, with Santi Cazorla (knee) the only first-teamer of real consequence due to miss Sunday’s game. The same goes for Leicester, who have a totally clean bill of health in terms of players who have featured this season.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Sunderland shock Man United, Chelsea roll ]

Aston Villa vs. Liverpool — 9:05 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and Live Extra

Bottom-of-the-table Villa need wins in the very worst of ways — with 13 games left in their season, Rudi Garde’s side is currently eight points from safety; the magical 40-point marks remains a whopping 24 points ahead of them. Liverpool currently sit 12 points behind Man City for the fourth and final Champions League place, thus Sunday’s trip to Villa Park is a must-win for Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds. When these teams met back in late September, Daniel Sturridge was the hero in a 3-2 victory at Anfield.

On the injury front, Villa will be without Jordan Ayew (suspension), Jack Grealish (ankle) and Adama Troare (foot), while Carlos Sanchez (hamstring) and Rudy Gestede (hamstring). Liverpool’s latest injury report, meanwhile, is an utter disaster that weakens every unit of their squad, though Sturridge is (finally) back in action.

[ MORE: Suarez — I’d only play for Liverpool in the Premier League ]

Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 11:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and Live Extra

A single point separates the PL’s second- and fourth-place teams, who are set to face off at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday. Tottenham, who are two or three years ahead of Mauricio Pochettino‘s perceived timetable turning Spurs into PL contenders, are very much in the title race. When they welcomed Man City to White Hart Lane in September, the final score was 4-1 to Pochettino’s side, and the warning had been heard loud and clear. Harry Kane has scored four goals in his last four PL games.

City, somehow, still haven’t won back-to-back league games since the middle of October, and that’ll not be changing on Sunday, given their 3-1 defeat to Leicester last weekend. City’s talisman, Sergio Aguero, has remained healthy of late and displayed the kind of form that makes him capable of winning any game on his own on a given day (7 goals in last 6 PL appearances). With Vincent Kompany expected to make his return from a calf injury that has sidelined the Sky Blues captain since Boxing Day, now is the time for City’s defense to begin to match Aguero’s attacking brilliance if they are to push on and send Manuel Pellegrini out with another PL title.

On the injury front, Man City will once again be without Kevin De Bruyne (knee), as well as Eliaquim Mangala (hamstring), Jesus Navas (hamstring) and perhaps Wilfried Bony (calf). For Spurs, only Jan Vertonghen (knee) is expected to be unavailable.