West Bromwich Albion v Everton - Premier League

West Brom 1-1 Everton: Missed opportunity for Roberto Martinez’s Toffees (video)

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Everton missed its chance to spend a few extra days in that enviable fourth spot of the Premier League table following a 1-1 draw Monday at West Brom, where the Pepe Mel era started with a semi-positive result.

Everton, without much pep but mostly in control, took a 1-0 lead at the Hawthorns on Kevin Mirallas’ goal before the break but gradually yielded initiative to the Baggies. Diego Lugano got the first goal in the Mel era – he took over the Midlands club just last week and was debuting Monday as West Brom manager – with a near post equalizer in the 76th minute.

West Brom will need better at home to stay well north of that relegation red line, but a draw with Everton isn’t a bad way to begin. Roberto Martinez’s side stood to have a week or so enjoying life in 4th place (and all that it implies), looking for an opportunity to leapfrog Liverpool and Tottenham with a good afternoon at the Hawthorns.

That “extra time” is because of an FA Cup weekend is ahead. But instead of seeing themselves in the fourth spot though the upcoming FA Cup spell – that 4th place would mean Champions League soccer for Martinez and Co., a high value target for a smaller club like Everton – they’ll remain in 6th, having lost ground in Round 22 to most of teams ahead in the table.

Despite playing at home, West Brom had little of the ball over the first 45 minutes, only bothering Tim Howard once as Everton’s U.S. international comfortably beat away a drive from 20 yards.

A couple other balls went scooting through Howard’s penalty area – mostly from gaps exposed along the flanks as Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines attempted to scoot forward for Everton – but surely not enough to please the new boss.

Everton held the ball enough but seemed to miss the playmaking of injured midfielder Ross Barkley, who is having such a great year under Martinez.

Newly shorn teammate Romelu Lukaku still can’t snap his troubling goalless stretch (the young Belgian hasn’t put one way for Everton since November) but did figure into the visitor’s goal. He was the target as Everton changed up a bit, going long and direct rather than keeping possession along the ground. Mirallas was rampaging into the penalty area as Lukaku was the target of a ball off Everton’s back line.

Two quality touches later, Mirallas’ goal this year was the first between these teams in more than two hours of soccer this season; they played to a scoreless draw back at Goodison Park early in the campaign.

West Brom increased the pressure gradually through the second half and it was Lugano finding the target. The Uruguayan got just a little bit of working room inside Everton defender Sylvain Distin and headed home James Morrison’s driven cross past Howard at the near post.

West Brom’s Nicolas Anelka – notorious of late for controversial quenelle celebration – was bright with ball at his feet but couldn’t find many chances near goal.

LINEUPS

West Brom: Foster, Reid, Lugano, Olsson, Ridgewell, Brunt, Morrison, Yacob, Gera (Mulumbu), Vydra (Anichebe 46), Anelka (Berahino 76).

Goal: Lugano 75

Everton: Howard, Baines, Jagielka, Distin, Coleman (Stones 79), Barry, McCarthy, Osman (Naismith 89), Oviedo (Mcgeady 80), Mirallas, Lukaku.

Goal: Mirallas 41

Xavi backs Dybala, Verratti to succeed at Barcelona over Pogba

TURIN, ITALY - JANUARY 24:  Paulo Dybala (R) of Juventus FC celebrates after scoring the opening goal with team mate Paul Pogba during the Serie A match between Juventus FC and AS Roma at Juventus Arena on January 24, 2016 in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
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With Paul Pogba linked with a possible summer move to Barcelona worth more than $100 million, one legend at Camp Nou believes Pogba may not be the right signing.

[ MORE: Top 5 PL storylines ]

After making more than 700 appearances for Barcelona, Xavi knows the club as well as anyone, and he prefers Pogba’s Juventus teammate Paulo Dybala for a move to the Catalan giants.

Xavi also praised the play of Paris Saint-Germain’s Marco Verratti, saying that while Pogba is a star player, Dybala and Verratti have “Barca DNA.”

There’s two players I really like, both of whom I think have Barca’s DNA. They are Marco Verratti and Paulo Dybala.

They are amazing and, thanks to their quality and style of play, would easily integrate into the [Barca] machine. I see them as future stars at the club.

[Pogba] is a great player. He’ll be a star for France as he is for Juve, but I see him with a different game to ours.

Both Pogba and Dybala are 22-years-old, while Verratti is 23. All three players have been among the elite young talents in the world, with Pogba earning the most praise of the group and always linked with a big-money move to Europe’s top clubs.

[ RELATED: Messi named La Liga Player of the Month for first time in career ]

Dybala is enjoying a breakout season at Juventus, currently with 13 goals and eight assists in Serie A play. In Paris, Verratti is part of a PSG side that hasn’t lost in 25 matches and holds a 24-point lead at the top of the table.

Vincent Kompany set to make Manchester City return this weekend

during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal at Etihad Stadium on January 18, 2015 in Manchester, England.
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Vincent Kompany is set to make his first appearance for Manchester City since Boxing Day as the defender has returned from injury.

City’s captain and center-back missed more than six weeks with a calf injury before Christmas, and then reaggravated the injury just minutes into his return at the end of December.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

However, Kompany has been back in training and manager Manuel Pellegrini said he is fit to play this weekend when City host Tottenham in a huge top-four matchup.

We’ll see what the starting XI is tomorrow – we’re not just thinking about one player and one game, we’re involved in a lot of competitions. Maybe we have a lot of criticism when we don’t play well but I’m happy with the squad over the whole season.

Every player must play a game when they’re 100%. Vincent has worked for three weeks with no problems. He played 45 minutes in a friendly game against the under-21s and I think he’s ready to play.

Kompany’s presence in the City back-line has been pivotal this season. In the eight Premier League games Kompany has started, City have kept seven clean sheets. In the 18 matches without the big Belgian in the starting lineup, City have kept just five.

[ RELATED: Diego Costa suffers broken nose in Chelsea training ]

With City just a point behind Tottenham, Kompany returns from injury just in time for one of the biggest matches of the season. Tasked with slowing down Harry Kane and Spurs’ high-flying attack, Kompany’s play could prove crucial to the Citizens getting a result.

Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Newcastle United

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  • CFC unbeaten under Hiddink (W5, D6)
  • Newcastle have just 6 away goals all season
  • Diego Costa: 6 goals in his last 7 PL matches

Chelsea look to extend their unbeaten streak under Guus Hiddink to 12 matches on Saturday when the Blues host relegation-threatened Newcastle (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

The Blues’ last loss came under Jose Mourinho in December.

[ WATCH LIVE: Stream every PL game via Live Extra ]

Chelsea are up to 13th on the table, currently riding a run of 11 matches unbeaten in all competitions. Guus Hiddink is yet to suffer a loss after taking over for his second stint at Stamford Bridge in December, although draws have kept Chelsea from climbing further up the table. Diego Costa has had the hot-hand with six goals in his last seven appearances, but the Spanish striker will be forced to play with a mask after suffering a broken nose in training.

[ MORE: Hiddink has “no fear” of playing youngsters in Zouma’s absence ]

For Newcastle, the Magpies sit 17th on the table just one point above the drop. Their away form has hurt the club all season, as Steve McClaren‘s men have scored a league-low six goals on the road this year. The Magpies are coming off of a win over West Brom, and supporters will be hoping the club’s new January signings continue to produce. Seydou Doumbia could make his Premier League debut on Saturday, which would be a massive boost to the attack.

What they’re saying

Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink: “The status of being unbeaten sounds good but realistically we would have wished to have more victories, especially at home. And we have an opportunity to do so against Newcastle. They improved their squad with substance, some good signings, and they are more competitive now.”

Newcastle boss Steve McClaren: “In our home games we are starting to get a consistency in our performance and the way we play. We need to start transferring that to our away games and picking up points away from home – we owe it to the fans.”

Prediction

Newcastle have just two wins in their last 18 league matches away from home, and I don’t see that trend changing this weekend. Chelsea have looked a new team with Guus Hiddink in charge, and they stay unbeaten under the Dutchman. Chelsea 2-1 Newcastle United.

Pochettino enjoying best spell of career ahead of massive clash at Man City

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 23:  Mauricio Pochettino (R) Manager of Tottenham Hotspur is seen on arrival at the stadium prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Tottenham Hotspur at Selhurst Park on January 23, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Mauricio Pochettino is getting ready for one of his biggest matches in charge at Tottenham, but he’s not letting the pressure get to him.

The Spurs’ boss talked down the importance of Sunday’s match against Manchester City (Watch live, 11:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra), and went on to say he is currently having the most enjoyable time of his career.

[ WATCH: Full PL match replays ]

Pochettino has Tottenham sitting second on the table, and they travel to the Etihad this weekend for a clash against fourth-placed Manchester City, who sit one point behind Spurs.

When asked if this weekend’s match could be a decisive result in the title race, Pochettino was unwilling to admit it was anything more than three points in a long campaign. However, when asked about the season as a whole, the Argentinian manager said he was having great fun at White Hart Lane, responding “Is it my most enjoyable time of career? Yes, maybe yes if I’m honest.”

[ MORE: Who are the Premier League title favorites? ]

Pochettino’s work at Tottenham has made him one of the most well-respected managers in the Premier League, with some reports tabbing him as the potential future boss of Manchester United.

Spurs have won six on the spin in all competitions, and will be confident facing a City side they smashed 4-1 earlier this season. With leaders Leicester facing Arsenal on Sunday, Tottenham could see themselves just two points off the pace if results go their way.