Luis Suarez absolutely carrying Liverpool … and where have we seen this before?

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A team in first place in December must be taken seriously as a Premier League title threat – yes, even if it turns out to be a top-spot holder only for the 48 hours ahead of Sunday’s and Monday’s matches, as may be the case with Liverpool.

Never mind what men in high places may say about the current Anfield brigade being a year away and such. Tonight, Liverpool rules the table.

And what do so many Premier League champions have in common? Quite often, they have a striker who supplies the scoring year of a lifetime, the guy in such fabulous form that he seems to score a goal just by falling out of bed in the morning.

So many times do we see the Premier League winner driven to glory by an unstoppable goal-scoring force.

That guy this year looks a whole lot like Luis Suarez. The Liverpool striker just hit Nos. 18 and 19 this year. It would be a sensational total even if he hadn’t missed those first six games this year due to naughtiness.

It doesn’t always work out this way – but it has often enough for examination.

Everyone looked at Manchester United last year, squinted a bit and tried to determine where the secret sauce was? The talent seemed fine, but was it really the blue ribbon talent of a team sprinting away with the trophy? In a lot of ways, the difference seemed to be Robin van Persie, who was banging in the goals at an unstoppable clip as United built that lead.

Didn’t we all say something like, “Put Robin van Persie at (fill in the blank), and don’t they win the title?”

Chelsea tiptoed past Manchester United back in 2010; Didier Drogba was the league’s high-scorer that year, supplying a career-making 29 goals. The powerful Ivorian certainly carried the Blues over big stretches.

(MORE: Suarez hits twice to lead Liverpool past Cardiff City)

Remember Cristiano Ronaldo’s unbelievable season around Old Trafford a few years back, when he broke that 20-goal barrier for the first time – and then just kept right on going? By the end of the 2007-08 Premier League campaign, Ronaldo had a whopping 31 league goals. And we could make a case that his tallies were the difference as Sir Alex Ferguson’s men had just enough to eclipse a Chelsea club that started with Jose Mourinho in charge, but finished with Avram Grant – but one that was overly dependent on midfielder Frank Lampard to come up with so many of the big goals along the way.

Thierry Henry’s best year with the Gunners? Just have a look at The Invincibles of 2003-04. Yes, that team was blessed with Dennis Bergkamp’s fabulous playmaking, and with Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg at their winging best. But it was Henry’s 30 goals that put the cherry on the Invincible Sundae, as Arsenal left all pursuers behind.

With half a season still go and Suarez already on 19 goals, is there any doubt that only a big injury (or another crazy teething incident) could stop the man from reaching 30 at worst?

MLS Snapshot: New York City FC 2-1 New England Revolution (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): For nearly 75 minutes, NYCFC couldn’t muster up any chances in the attacking third, but thankfully their captain did what he does best. David Villa scored his 19th goal of the season on Sunday night to pull out a 2-1 win against the New England Revolution, but it was rookie Jonathan Lewis that notched the winner. The visitors took the lead 20 minutes prior after Sean Johnson spilled a shot in front of his own goal, allowing Teal Bunbury to pounce on the rebound. NYCFC now moves to within four points of Eastern Conference leaders Toronto FC with nine matches remaining in the regular season.

Three four moments that mattered

16′ — Harrison breaks ankles, but Villa can’t finish — This might be the only time all see you’ll see David Villa miss a chance like this…

38′ — Johnson gets a finger tip to Rowe’s blast — Sean Johnson had no work to do in the first half, at least until Kelyn Rowe decided to rip a shot from distance just before halftime.

57′ — Johnson’s error grants Bunbury, Revs the lead — Look away, NYCFC fans.

77′ — Villa find the back of the net — When you need a goal, who you gonna call? That’s right. David Villa. The NYCFC captain is now up to 19 this season.

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Man of the match: David Villa

Goalscorers: Teal Bunbury (57′), David Villa (77′), Jonathan Lewis (90+4′)

Honoring victims of attacks, Barcelona wins league opener

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Wearing shirts honoring victims of the recent attacks in Spain, Barcelona opened its Spanish league season with a comfortable 2-0 win over Real Betis on Sunday.

[ MORE: Neymar double helps PSG cruise past Toulouse ]

Players had the word “Barcelona” instead of their names on the back of their shirts, and the Catalan hashtag “TOTSSOMBARCELONA” (We are all Barcelona) was on display around the Camp Nou stadium. The message was also shown on the stadium’s large screens, as well as on many banners carried by fans.

An emotional minute’s silence was held before the game as the music of Catalan cellist Pau Casals played in the background.

Before the minute was up, the more than 55,000 fans at the stadium broke into a round of applause and began chanting “No tinc por” (I’m not afraid), a chant which has become a symbol of people’s reactions to the attacks that killed 14 people and injured more than 120 in Barcelona and the nearby seaside resort of Cambrils.

Extra security was implemented in and around Camp Nou.

There was a minute’s silence before every Spanish league match this weekend.

Without Neymar and the injured Luis Suarez, Barcelona got off to a winning start in the league after consecutive losses to rival Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup final.

It scored two goals three minutes apart near the end of the first half – an own-goal by Betis defender Alin Tosca and a close-range shot by Sergi Roberto. Both goals came after plays started by Gerard Deulofeu, one of the players expected to try to replace Neymar after his world record transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.

“We lost depth with Neymar’s departure and we have to find a way to overcome that,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said.

Lionel Messi looked lively but wasn’t able to score his 350th goal in La Liga. He came close, though, being denied by the woodwork three different times.

AP Sports Writer Tales Azzoni contributed to this report.

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

Brighton breaks club record with signing of winger Jose Izquierdo

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Brighton hasn’t gotten off to the ideal start in its debut season in the Premier League, but a key reinforcement is on the way.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Spurs at Wembley behind Alonso’s brace ]

After starting the 2017/18 campaign with back-to-back defeats, the Seagulls announced on Sunday the signing of Colombian winger Jose Izquierdo from Club Brugge in Belgium for a record fee.

The 25-year-old spent three seasons in Belgium’s top flight and totaled 38 goals across all competitions for Brugge, prior to making the move to England.

Additionally, Izquierdo has worked his way into the Colombia squad as of late, and scored his first international goal for his country in June 2017 in a friendly against Cameroon.

MLS Follow Live — NYCFC hosts Revs, Minnesota meets Sounders

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Only two matches will feature on the MLS docket Sunday evening, but luckily two of the league’s most exciting teams will take to the pitch.

[ MORE: Toronto tops Fire as East leaders reach 50 points on season ]

First, New York City FC will attempt to continue its ascent up the Eastern Conference ladder when they host Kei Kamara and the New England Revolution.

In the night cap, the Seattle Sounders look to extend their unbeaten streak to nine matches when they welcome newcomers Minnesota United to CenturyLink Field.

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Here’s the schedule and kick-off times for Sunday’s two MLS fixtures.

New York City FC vs. New England Revolution — 6 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Minnesota United — 10 p.m. ET