Quick Six: City maintains control, Chelsea stumbles, and the rest of the headlines from the Premier League weekend

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1. City stays in the drivers’ seat

This is where that big, expensive squad pays off. David Silva and Fernandinho’s health kept them out of Manuel Pellegrini’s starting XI. Sergio Agüero was lost after scoring an early equalizer. Despite being unable to get full shifts from three of the team’s four best players, Manchester City overcame an early deficit to win at Goodison Park, earning three points that allowed the club to finish the weekend top of the table.

Liverpool has a chance to overtake City with a result tomorrow at Selhurst, but with their title destiny in hand, the Citizens can still render that result irrelevant. With wins at home against Aston Villa and West Ham (neither of whom sit higher than 12th), Manchester City can claim its second title in three years, potentially without the dramatics that accompanied the last one.

(MORE: Everton 2-3 Manchester City: Dzeko’s double sends City top (video))

2. Chelsea squanders its chance to go top

How does a team go from winning at Anfield despite missing half its starters to being drawn at home against a team that sits at the bottom of the form table? That’s a question José Mourinho and his players have to ask themselves after today’s 0-0 at Stamford Bridge, a result that leaves Chelsea one point behind Manchester City and Liverpool.

After the game, Mourinho expressed surprise at Norwich’s conservative approach. Unfortunately, that’s a tactic Chelsea’s had trouble with all year. Against teams that come after them and allow Chelsea to play on the counter (often the teams at the top of the table), the Blues look like the best team in the league. After the circuit’s bottom dwellers, Chelsea looks inexplicably vulnerable.

(MORE: Chelsea 0-0 Norwich City: No goals, no consequences (yet))

Psychologically, tactically, there are good explanations why Chelsea has trouble making the transition, though these are the types of problems great coaches should be expected to overcome. Roman Abramovich is paying Mourinho commensurate with his reputation, has supplied him with one of the world’s most talented squads, and appears to have sacrificed some of his aesthetic preferences to make peace with Mourinho’s approach. The least Mourinho can do is beat Norwich at home.

3. Fulham, Cardiff City go down

Saturday losses confirmed the season’s first teams to be relegate. Cardiff City, after winning last year’s Championship, goes back down after a loss at Newcastle, with most people ready to point the finger at Vincent Tan for the team’s inability to stay up. Fulham, on the other hand, ends a 13-year stay in the top flight after a 4-1 loss at Stoke.

It’d be too much to say Cardiff will be missed, but after a season defined by turmoil over results, it’s the sympathize with Bluebirds fans whose top flight dream turned sour. The Malky Mackay-Vincent Tan struggle the former coach allowed to play out in the press sent the club into a tailspin from which it couldn’t recover. Even if Mackay put the same energy into managing as he did engineering his narrative, it’s unclear Tan’s presence could be overcome.

(MORE: Newcastle 3-0 Cardiff City: Bluebirds are relegated | Stoke City 4-1 Fulham: Fulham are relegated)

Fulham, conversely, had become a fixture in the top flight. The club;s relegation is sure to hit Americans hard, with many using the presence of players like Brain McBride, Carlos Bocanegra, and Clint Dempsey as reason to claim the club as their own. Now, like those that latched onto Bolton when Stuart Holden joined the Trotters, they’ll assume a new life as fans of a second division club, many of them having never known relegation from the Premier League.

4. Sunderland under attack

After Saturday’s win at Old Trafford, the Black Cats have won three in a row, taking 10 of 12 points to put the team on the brink of survival. Whereas Sunderland were in last place as early as three weeks ago, now Gus Poyet’s side is one point from safety, its goal difference and game in hand meaning the Black Cats would have to lose out to go down.

(MORE: Manchester United 0-1 Sunderland: Giggs’ honeymoon over (video))

There is another possibility that emerged this week, though according to the Premier League, the Gang of Three’s desire to get Sunderland docked points won’t happen. If the Black Cats continue playing as they did this weekend, however, the claim will be irrelevant. Even if a points deduction happens, Sunderland are unlikely to be docked more than three. Between Norwich’s trip to Arsenal next weekend and the Black Cats’ remaining fixtures (vs. West Brom; vs. Swansea), the Canaries will struggle to stay that close.

(MORE: Bottom three ready to fight Sunderland’s light ineligible player penalty | Attempt to dock points likely to fail)

source: AP5. Giggs gets a taste of managerial reality

Seemingly decades ago, on an edition of NFL Countdown, then-studio analyst Bill Parcells — two-time Super Bowl-winner with the New York Giants — was asked who he thought should be favored in a game near the end of the regular season . His answer, delivered with Parcells’ trademark comedic snide: “The team that wants it more usually wins the game.”

Obviously it’s an over-simplification (at least, beyond National Football League games), but in watching Saturday’s game at Old Trafford, you were reminded that only one of those teams had anything to play for. Sunderland — less talented, at the bottom of the table — needed points to help secure survival. Manchester United had no stakes. The players don’t even know who they’ll be playing for next year.

As Parcells would have predicted, Sunderland got a result, but for Ryan Giggs, it was a dose of reality. The interim Red Devils boss made it look easy the week before against Norwich, but against a much stronger side, the same solutions fell short. He couldn’t get his team up for a meaningless game.

6. Arsenal clinches Champions League spot

With Everton’s loss on Saturday, Arsenal clinched fourth place, ensuring another crack at UEFA Champions League. While the result also queued a series of jokes about the Gunners winning Arsène Wenger’s hypothetical trophy, it also left the club with the distinction of being the only team to finish in the top four every year since Wenger took over. After Manchester United’s fall, Arsenal stands alone.

Despite that achievement, Wenger still had to answer questions about whether Sunday’s match against West Brom would be his last at the Emirates. With his contract extension still unsigned, the prying is understandable, but in such inquiries, there’s more than a faint note of skepticism about Arsenal’s recent trend. Though the Gunners survived in this year’s title race longer than most expected, they also had to hold off a late challenge for fourth. Those challenges are becoming more serious as Wenger’s tenure goes on.

Some familiar with the club’s inner-workings suggest there wouldn’t be a huge effort to dissuade Wenger should he elect to walk away. If he wins the FA Cup, now might be the best time to do so.

Unfortunately, after another year where Arsenal survived in the top four, the impasse at the Emirates continues. Wenger’s legacy at the club means he’s practically un-fireable, even though some might embrace the chance to move on.

Champions League score picks – Week 2

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The UEFA Champions League group stage kicks off Week 2 on Tuesday, so let’s have some fun and try to predict the scores.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]

Feel free to join in down in the comments section, as I’m predicting another unbeaten week for all five Premier League teams in action.

[ MORE: Group stage predictions ] 

Below you will find score predictions for all 16 UCL games across the next two days.


Tuesday

Group E
Sevilla 3-1 Maribor
Spartak Moscow 1-1 Liverpool

Group F
Man City 3-0 Shakhtar Donetsk
Napoli 3-1 Feyenoord

Group G
Besiktas 0-2 RB Leipzig
Monaco 2-1 FC Porto

Group H
Borussia Dortmund 1-3 Real Madrid
APOEL 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur

Wednesday

Group A
CSKA Moscow 1-2 Manchester United
Basel 0-2 Benfica

Group B
Paris Saint-Germain 2-2 Bayern Munich
Anderlecht 2-1 Celtic

Group C
Atletico Madrid 1-2 Chelsea
Qarabag 1-3 Roma

Group D
Sporting Lisbon 1-3 Barcelona
Juventus 2-1 Olympiacos

Court hearing opens into spectators attacking referees

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MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) Witnesses in Uruguay’s capital testified before a judge on Monday about an attack on two referees by spectators at a soccer match.

A male and a female referee were attacked on Saturday during a second division under-19 game between Basanez and Platense.

The next day, the Uruguay Football Association cancelled all organized football as referees protested the violence by refusing to officiate. Officials are expected to meet on Wednesday to decide if they will lift the stoppage.

Witnesses told Judge Julia Staricco it started after a kid threw rocks on the field with encouragement from his father. The female referee’s partner asked the kid to stop, leading to an argument with other spectators who punched and kicked the referees.

An attorney representing the country’s referees union, Fernando de Los Santos, says the officials suffered bruises to their bodies.

“There are several people responsible here: The players, especially who are all young in the under-19 category; their parents, and their families,” de Los Santos said.

“This is not new. We’ve seen this kind of violence in the lower divisions. But this is the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

The Basanez and Platense clubs have issued statements condemning the violence. Basanez also said it fired one of its players who was part of the attack.

The case is being handled by the same local judge who recently charged three people for violent acts during the Penarol-Nacional derby.

Morata has a warning for Chelsea’s Premier League rivals

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Alvaro Morata believes his fast start to life in the Premier League at Chelsea is only a taster of what is to come.

[ MORE: Who is the PL’s most complete striker? ]

After scoring a hat trick at Stoke City on Saturday in Chelsea’s 4-0 win, Morata spoke to reporters about the chances he missed and admitted he could have had five goals to his name.

The Spanish striker, 24, is clearly not content with simply replacing Diego Costa at Chelsea.

“I am happy with my start in the Premier League but I can do better,” Morata said. “I had two chances at the end of the game against Stoke [but didn’t take them]. I also need to improve my physical condition to be as good as possible.”

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Can do better. Six goals in your first six Premier League games is a pretty decent return, Alvaro.

Still, you can see what he’s saying. Morata has looked good in fits and starts so far this season but his undeniable quality is there for all to see. He scored three goals and added two assists with his head before Saturday’s breakout where he proved he can also score with his feet.

Morata struggled against Arsenal 10 days ago as he seemed isolated up top and the physicality of the Premier League seems to still surprise him at times.

It is still early days for the Spanish international who joined for $77.8 million (which could rise to $93.9 million) but the way in which he accelerated past Stoke’s defense on his first and second goals, then finished coolly reminded us all that of his schooling at Real Madrid and Juventus.

Morata is now undeniably a contender for the Golden Boot and looks like a more refined, agile replacement for Costa. His quickness of thought and elegance has replaced the brute force and desire of Costa and it seems like it will work out just fine.

Jose Mourinho on Man United’s midfield injury crisis

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Jose Mourinho has been speaking in Moscow ahead of Manchester United’s UEFA Champions League clash with CSKA Moscow on Wednesday.

[ MORE: UCL team news for PL clubs ]

The Man United boss has had a positive start to the new season with seven wins from nine games in all competitions as his side are second in the Premier League table only on goal difference.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule

That said, injuries are mounting up for the Red Devils, particularly in central midfield as Marouane Fellaini, Paul Pogba and Michael Carrick are all missing for United’s trip to CSKA.

“We don’t have Fellaini. We don’t have Pogba. We don’t have Carrick. All three midfield players that we lose for this match. The solutions are not many,” Mourinho said. “We are trying not to focus on individual battles in specific areas on the pitch. We are going to have a team with quality and balance to try to win the match. That’s our objective.”

What are Mourinho’s solutions to plug these gaps?

Ander Herrera will likely start in central midfield alongside Nemanja Matic which should be enough but given the extent of the injuries to both Pogba and Fellaini they will also have to play against Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Fellaini was injured by Southampton’s Shane Long on Saturday and Mourinho confirmed the Belgian midfielder would not play again before the international break.

“Fellaini was lucky. It could be a much worse situation but in a moment where we don’t have Pogba and Carrick he becomes even more important than he always is. I expect Fellaini not to be out for a long time,” Mourinho added.

As for Mourinho, he was asked about the decision by the English Football Association to take no further action after he was sent to the stands late on in United’s 1-0 victory at Southampton on Saturday.

“If I am not punished it is because there are no reasons for the sending off,” Mourinho said. “I am happy that it is recognized and I can do my work normally against Crystal Palace. That’s enough for me.”