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Premier League Roundup: Chelsea go top, Liverpool hammer Arsenal, big wins at the bottom

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Well, well. That was a lot of fun, wasn’t it?

A pulsating Premier League Saturday saw eight terrific matches play out across England and Wales, as goals rained in during the stormy winter weather.

It was moving day in the PL, as Chelsea went top of the standings thanks to Eden Hazard’s masterclass, Liverpool demolished Arsenal 5-1, Man City slipped up an Norwich, and there were big wins for West Ham, Swansea and Crystal Palace at the bottom.

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In case you missed any of it, (I know, you only have one pair of eyes, right?) don’t worry. This tidy little roundup delivers all the recaps, video highlights and analysis from a scintillating Saturday in the worlds most exciting league.

So, let’s get to it!

Aston Villa 0-2 West Ham United

Villa have been woeful at home all season, and that trend continued as West Ham strolled into Villa Park and bagged a vital three points. The Hammers are now unbeaten in three as two Kevin Nolan goals, two minutes apart and two minutes into the second half, saw off a timid effort from the home side. The Villans are only three points off the drop zone.

Chelsea 3-0 Newcastle United

Eden Hazard emerged as the hero at Stamford Bridge, as two superb finishes before the break were capped off by a cool penalty kick for his hat trick, as he sent his side top of the PL standings. Newcastle never really threatened and Chelsea just had too much for them to handle, in a magnificent display from the tricky Belgian winger. Jose Mourinho played it cool once again, but this Chelsea team has the stench of potential champions.

Crystal Palace 3-1 West Bromwich Albion

Palace now have five home wins from seven under Tony Pulis, and it’s wins over relegation foes like this that will keep Palace up. Two early goals from debutant Thomas Ince and Joe Ledely saw the Eagles soar into the lead, but Thievy Bifouma pulled a goal back for West Brom just after the break. However Marouane Chamakh won a penalty, then scored it, as Palace move up to 13th.

Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal

Simply stunning from Liverpool, as the Reds were 4-0 up after 19 minutes at Anfield on Saturday. Arsenal didn’t know what hit them, as two Martin Skrtel goals in the opening nine minutes were added to by strikes from Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge. After the break Sterling grabbed another to make it 5-0, and Mikel Arteta’s penalty was no more than a consolation. Are Liverpool title contenders?

Norwich City 0-0 Manchester City

The Citizens dropped yet more points, as they slipped up away from home at Carrow Road. Norwich defended superbly for the entire 90 minutes, as City failed to score for the second successive game this week. Manuel Pellegrini’s men ran out of ideas and in truth the Canaries had a few chances to snatch all three points themselves. Still in the title race, but wobbling a little.

Southampton 2-2 Stoke City

A Topsy-turvy game in the win and rain at St. Mary’s as Southampton twice took the lead in the first half, but Stoke twice hit back. Rickie Lambert smashed in a great free kick to make it 1-0 to Saints, then Peter Odemwingie slotted home to make it 1-1. Then Steven Davis saw his cross somehow trickle into the bottom corner to put Saints ahead, but right on half time Peter Crouch bundled home from close range to make it 2-2. That’s how it stayed, despite Saints dominating the second half, as the points were shared at a soggy St. Mary’s Stadium.

Sunderland 0-2 Hull City

Another torrid day for the Black Cats, who had another red card scupper a game for them. Wes Brown was shown a straight-red early on for his third dismissal of the season. Hull City’s new signings Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic both scored in each half to seal a big three points for the Tigers, as Sunderland continue to battle away at the bottom.

Swansea City 3-0 Cardiff City

After a week of turmoil in Swansea that saw manager Michael Laudrup sacked, the Swans turned in a terrific performance under rookie manager Garry Monk. The first half was goalless but after the break Wayne Routledge, Nathan Dyer and Wilfried Bony all scored to clinch bragging rights in the South Wales derby.

Barcelona, Neymar make it formal: Signed into 2021

BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 19: Neymar of Barcelona holds off pressure from Raheem Sterling of Manchester City during the UEFA Champions League group C match between FC Barcelona and Manchester City FC at Camp Nou on October 19, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
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T’s are crossed and i’s dotted on Neymar’s new contract, keeping him at the club through the 2020-21 season.

Neymar, 24, will make his 100th La Liga appearance with his next step onto the pitch.

Lionel Messi’s deal runs through 2017-18, and Luis Suarez’s goes through 2018-19.

[ MORE: Guardiola on Aguero omission ]

He’s scored 59 goals in league play, and has 91 total when you include all 150 of his matches in a Barca kit.

Neymar is on a similar scoring rate to last season, when he netted 31 times. The Brazilian also has 49 international goals in 73 caps.

Guardiola seethes at reports Aguero unwanted at Man City

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 14: Sergio Aguero of Manchester City is congratulated by Josep Guardiola manager of Manchester City during the UEFA Champions League match between Manchester City FC and VfL Borussia Moenchengladbach at Etihad Stadium on September 14, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images
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Pep Guardiola is seething with reports that claim star striker Sergio Aguero is not in his plans for Manchester City’s future.

Aguero started on the bench for Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League loss at Barcelona, inspiring talk that the Argentine star wasn’t long for the Emirates Stadium.

[ MORE: Conte on Mourinho, Pogba ]

Guardiola says that’s garbage, and that he simply needed more midfielders for his attack. Next time, just ask.

From the BBC:

“It was a tactical decision. I wanted one more midfielder, I tried to keep the ball in the Camp Nou and when you have the ball, Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez don’t.

“I spoke with Sergio and he was understanding, I thought in the last 30 minutes, with the Barcelona centre-halves tiring, he could help a lot from the bench. When Sergio decides to leave it will be his decision. Next time before you (the media) decide he is not in my plans you can call me.”

Still, not using Aguero is risky business.

The striker believes, rightly, that he’s among the most dangerous players in the world. Guardiola has said as much, too.

While few would put him in the class of Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, it’s difficult to imagine either being sat for tactical reasons against one of the best teams in the world.

Chelsea: Conte expects warm reception for Mourinho; Terry is fit

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26:  A fan wears a Chelsea scarf with the image of the club's former manager, Jose Mourinho before the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Watford at Stamford Bridge on December 26, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
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The managers are meeting the media ahead of this week’s Premier League matches, and many eyes are trained on one specific match-up.

Chelsea and Manchester United meet on Sunday, the first time Jose Mourinho will manage against his old side since his unceremonious exit last winger.

[ USWNT: Holiday has tumor removed ]

Mourinho, of course, led Chelsea to the 2014-15 title only to see a miserable start to the following campaign. He was hired at Manchester United this summer, but Conte thinks Mourinho’s Chelsea laurels have earned him some love from Stamford Bridge.

“I have great respect for Mourinho. He deserves a good reception. He was an important man for Chelsea and wrote part of the club’s story.”

Conte also touched on Paul Pogba‘s decision to head back to Old Trafford. Pogba is coming off a starring role in United’s 4-1 win over Fenerbahce, and Conte guided the French midfielder during their time at Juventus.

“It was Paul Pogba’s dream was to return to Manchester United. I wish him well, but only after this game.”

Conte said John Terry is available to return for Chelsea, and that could be invaluable against a big, strong forward like United’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic. With the Red Devils having played Thursday, Conte will like his chances a bit more than usual.

Canada vs. U.S. among top-notch CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals

VANCOUVER, CANADA - JUNE 20:  Gershon Koffie #28 of the Vancouver Whitecaps brings the ball up field against Dax McCarty #11 of the New York Red Bulls at B.C. Place on June 20, 2012 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jessica Haydahl/Getty Images)
Photo by Jessica Haydahl/Getty Images
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The bracket is set for the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, and ensures that at least one MLS vs. Liga MX semifinal will happen next Spring.

No. 1 seed New York Red Bulls will cross the continent to meet No. 8 Vancouver Whitecaps, with the winner moving on to face the victor of Mexico’s Tigres UANL vs. Pumas UNAM.

[ VIDEO: Previewing all 10 PL matches ]

The possibility of an all-Liga MX or all-MLS final still exists, with Pachuca and FC Dallas on opposite sides of the bracket. Arabe Unido gives Panama hope for its first CCL semifinalist, while Saprissa can be Costa Rica’s first semifinalist since 2011.

Of the remaining teams, only Pachuca has won a title in the CCL era (2008-present). Tigres lost in the 2016 final, the only other team to make it that far.

Full schedule
New York Red Bulls (1) vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (8)
Tigres UANL (4) vs. Pumas UNAM (5)
Arabe Unido (2) vs. FC Dallas (7)
Pachuca (3) vs. Saprissa (4)

The first legs will be played in late February, and the bright side to the intra-league quarters will be one MLS side waiting a round before facing a more in-form club playing a traditional season schedule (though that’s an overblown excuse at this point).

Some fans don’t care much for the tournament, while others — myself included — are extremely keen to see an MLS team win the CCL and represent North America in the Club World Cup, where it can get a high profile litmus test in a serious competition (Real Madrid beat Cruz Azul 4-0 in a 2014 semifinal).