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Boxing Day Roundup: Man City, Arsenal, Man Utd, keep rolling as strugglers also shine

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This ‘Christmas Cracker’ just kept on giving more delight on Thursday, as a Boxing Day Bonanza ensued in the Premier League.

Massive wins for Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United and Newcastle saw the chasing pack stay together at the top.

However, the little guys also plucked up some courage and dug deep to grab three points, as Sunderland, Fulham and Crystal Palace all prevailed away from home to boost their survival hopes.

City downed Liverpool on Boxing Day at the Etihad as Manuel Pellegrini’s men sent out a message with two-straight home wins against league leaders Arsenal and now Liverpool. Will the Citizens now reach the summit? They’re only one point behind the Gunners and always looks so dangerous in every game they play.

(MORE: Latest Premier League Standings)

This year Boxing Day marked the first time in over five years that 10 PL matches were all played on the same day (excluding the final day of every campaign) and we had bucket loads of controversy, stunning goals and talking points to chew on as our Christmas dinner was still being digested.

What a magnificent day of action it was, let’s roundup all the action with recaps, analysis, video highlights and much more from every single game that place on another famous Boxing Day slate of matches.

Let’s get to it.

Man City 2-1 Liverpool

Another stirring comeback saw Manuel Pellegrini’s side make it nine wins from nine at home. Liverpool went ahead early on as Philippe Coutinho finished off a lovely move, but City hit back through Vincent Kompany and Alvaro Negredo to lead 2-1 at the break. That was how it would remain after Raheem Sterling spurned a great chance to level from close range, in a truly encapsulating game between two sides that will be scraping it out at the end of the season.

Hull City 2-3 Man United

Hull were 2-0 up at home against United within the first 15 minutes as goals from James Chester and David Meyler put the Tigers in dreamland. However Untied came roaring back as Chris Smalling and Wayne Rooney leveled things before the break, and Chester went from hero to villain as his own goal handed United all three points. Superb comeback from the Red Devils.

West Ham 1-3 Arsenal

After a slight scare at the start of the second half when Carlton Cole put the Hammers ahead, Arsenal got their heads down and ground out a vital win away at Upton Park. Two strikes from Theo Walcott put them ahead, before German international Lukas Podolski came off the bench to seal the three points and put Arsenal top of the league.

Aston Villa 0-1 Crystal Palace

A marvelous stoppage time strike from Dwight Gayle handed Crystal Palace all three points as the Eagles climbed out of the drop zone. Villa were poor and Paul Lambert’s time is running out, but Tony Pulis’ is orchestrating Palace’s great escape expertly.

Cardiff 0-3 Southampton

Three goals in 13 first half minutes saw the Saints tear apart Cardiff in a rampant first half display. A Jay Rodriguez double and a strike from Rickie Lambert gave the Saints their first win in seven games, as Malky Mackay’s problems worsen on and off the pitch.

Chelsea 1-0 Swansea

The Blues made hard work of this, but Jose Mourinho’s men dominated for large spells and really should have won by a wider margin. Eden Hazard’s strike turned out to be the game winner, as Chelsea keep up the chase on those above them.

Everton 0-1 Sunderland

One incident changed the entire complexion of this match, as USMNT ‘keeper Tim Howard was sent off in the 23rd minute for taking down Sunderland’s Ki following a defensive mix up. The Black Cats South Korean midfielder then got up and slotted home the PK, which turned out to be the game-winner despite 10-man Everton’s constant barrage of efforts that Vito Mannone heroically stopped. Massive win for Gus Poyet’s Sunderland.

Newcastle 5-1 Stoke

The Potters lost the plot at St. James’ Park, as Oussama Assaidi’s opener gave Stoke the lead but two quick-fire red cards and manager Mark Hughes being sent to the stand by Martin Atkinson changed the entire game. Loic Remy missed a penalty, but then scored the equalizer before half time. Newcastle accelerated away against the brave 9-men of Stoke in the second half, as Remy added another, before Yohan Cabaye, Yoan Gouffran and Papiss Demba Cisse rounded things off.

Norwich 1-2 Fulham

Massive win for the Cottagers, as Scott Parker’s late stunner gave them a vital win away at Carrow Road. Norwich went ahead through Gary Hooper’s deflected effort, but Pajtim Kasami’s free kick made it 1-1 at the break. Parker’s late strike sent Fulham wild as they close the gap on everyone around them at the bottom.

Tottenham 1-1 West Brom

Spurs struggled against a plucky West Brom side at White Hart Lane as Christian Eriksen’s sublime free kick was cancelled out a minute later by Jonas Olsson in the first half. Tim Sherwood’s first game as new head coach ended in a draw, and he’ll be disappointed his side didn’t take all three but relieved they didn’t throw it away.

Chelsea’s Courtois says FA Cup or Champions League final a must

Thibaut Courtois, Chelsea FC
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Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is used to big matches, whether at Stamford Bridge, with the Belgian national team or during his loan to Atletico Madrid.

[ SPORTSWORLD: Courtois “standing tall” at Chelsea ]

If he doesn’t get one or two of those contests by the end of this season, a bad season will become an utter failure.

Courtois says it’s a long way to the Top Four, but Chelsea hasn’t given up on that hope. Regardless, he’s targeting wins over Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain in the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League, respectively.

From ChelseaFC.com:

“After that we play in the Champions League and FA Cup against two great sides and we have to try to win those games because the only way to save our season is to reach the final in one or both of them.”

Chelsea’s star has fallen this year, but this is still largely the team that won the Premier League last season. Courtois’ goals are not unreasonable.

LIVE – West Ham vs. Liverpool in FA Cup 4th round replay

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 30:  Nathaniel Clyne of Liverpool is watched by Dimitri Payet of West Ham United during the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round match between Liverpool and West Ham United at Anfield on January 30, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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Two Premier League teams clash in the FA Cup on Tuesday with a place in the last 16 on the line.

West Ham United welcome Liverpool to Upton Park (Follow live, 2:45 p.m. ET) following the 0-0 draw between the teams at Anfield 10 days ago.

[ LIVE: Follow West Ham-Liverpool here

Slaven Bilic‘s side will fancy their chances of getting past an injury-hit Liverpool squad and creating another famous FA Cup memory in their final season at the Boleyn Ground. With Dimitri Payet in contract negotiations about extending his stay at the Hammers, can the French playmaker lead them to a big win?

After missing Liverpool’s late collapse on Saturday during the 2-2 draw with Sunderland due to a bout of suspected appendicitis, manager Jurgen Klopp will return to the dugout. The German coach has already guided the Reds to one Wembley final during his debut season in charge as they face Manchester City in the League Cup final in less than three weeks time.

The winner of this clash will travel to second-tier Blackburn Rovers and they’ll be heavy favorites to reach the FA Cup quarterfinals.

Click on the link above to follow the game live, plus we will have a recap, reaction and analysis following the encounter in east London.

State of the USMNT: What is Klinsmann’s best XI for World Cup qualifiers?

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With the U.S. men’s national team ending their January camp with two narrow friendly wins over Iceland and Canada, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his staff will now be sitting back and thinking: “What did we learn? Who impressed? Who struggled?”

Or something like that.

[ MORE: American takeover at Everton update

Each year the January camp provides domestic based players — mostly from Major League Soccer but a sprinkling of other guys too — with the chance to impress Klinsmann and his staff in close quarters for multiple weeks in California. Many current U.S. regulars earned their stripes in January’s gone by and have established themselves ever since.

This January was no different as the experienced core of players — Michael Bradley, Matt Besler and Jozy Altidore among them — showed their class and several promising players worked hard to get minutes in the friendlies.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

However, despite some glimmers of hope from youngsters such as Jordan Morris and Jerome Kiesewetter, what we learned about the USMNT heading into the two CONCACAF 2018 World Cup qualifiers in March is that the established players remain the best hope for success. Sure, the likes of John Brooks is impressing in the Bundesliga, Matt Miazga sealed a move to Chelsea and Lee Nguyen took his chance in January camp, but the old guard should remain in place through this next batch of World Cup qualifiers against Guatemala home and away on Mar. 25 and 29 and the Copa America Centenario this summer.

Question marks remain regarding some veterans, which could keep the situation a little more fluid than it should be.

One of those is Tim Howard with speculation of him moving away from Everton mounting plus a straight-up battle between Howard and Brad Guzan for the starting spot, while Clint Dempsey‘s status with the national team still seems to be somewhat clouded. Overall, though, the settled core of players who played together at the World Cup — plus or minus a few who have performed consistently over the last 18 months — should be kept together by Klinsmann. During last summer’s Gold Cup disappointment there was plenty of experimenting, especially in defense, but now is the time to settle things down and realize the following guys are the players you should count on going forward.

Below is my selection — feel free to select your own in the comments section — for the best XI available to Klinsmann, plus seven subs, assuming everyone is fit and available.

USMNT’s Best XI as of Feb. 9, 2016

—– Howard —–

— F. Johnson — Cameron — Besler — Ream —

—- Bradley —- Williams —-

—- Bedoya —- Dempsey —- Zardes —-

—– Altidore —–

Subs: Guzan, Brooks, Jones, Yedlin, Nagbe, Morris, Johannsson

Ahead of huge title clash, influential Leicester scout transfers to Arsenal

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 06:  Riyad Mahrez of Leicester City celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium on February 6, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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Ben Wrigglesworth might not be a man you’ve heard a lot about, but he has been influential in helping Leicester City’s unlikely charge to the top of the Premier League.

Now, he’s been poached by Leicester’s main title rivals: Arsenal.

[ MORE: Spurs, Arsenal to battle for title?

Ahead of the monster clash between the Foxes and Gunners at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday (Watch live, 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) the man who unearthed the likes of Riyad Mahrez and N'Golo Kante has transferred to Arsenal and is now their First Team Video Scout.

Wrigglesworth, Leicester’s former Head of Technical Scouting, announced he would be leaving the Foxes via his Twitter page (see below) and he has now accepted a new role as part of Steve Rowley’s team at Arsenal.

It is believed he will not only help with the scouting of players but will also analyze Arsenal’s first team and the opposition.

[ MORE: Recapping Week 25 in the PL ]

Arsenal will unveil a new player performance center at their training HQ this summer and have recently purchased a soccer data company based in America, statDNA, to help them with scouting and player analysis.

With several Premier League teams now having huge player databases monitored by a team of talented individuals — often, like Wrigglesworth, with no pro playing experience — scouring the globe for the next bargain, the Moneyball vibe is strong.