Howard rushed off his line to great effect in the first half to thwart Arsenal's offense.

Top five storylines heading into Week 2 of the Premier League

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Ahead of Week 2 in the Premier League, there are some intriguing matches heading your way.

The full TV schedule for the weekend can be found here, while below we break down the top five storylines from the upcoming PL matches.

[WATCH: Premier League highlights]

After an exhilarating start to the campaign, plenty of conclusions have already been made on teams after just 90 minutes of action, whether they like it or not.

Let’s have a gander at the top talking points this weekend…

Top four challengers collide at Goodison

Arsenal and Everton were battling tooth and nail for fourth place at the end of the 2013-14 Premier League, Arsenal prevailed and Everton tailed off. Over the offseason both teams have spent big and are battling to be in the top four once again. Arsenal splashed $60 million on Alexis Sanchez, Everton $50 million on Romelu Lukaku and this game will be a feisty affair at a fired up Goodison Park on Saturday (Watch live on NBC, 12:30 p.m. ET and online via Live Extra). After traveling to Istanbul in midweek for a Champions League play-off and grinding out a 0-0 draw against Besiktas, Arsenal’s players will be feeling the pressure at Everton. Arsene Wenger’s men are expected to challenge for the title but struggled to an opening day win over Crystal Palace. This could be the perfect time for Roberto Martinez’s Toffees to put down an early marker for why they deserve to be top four contenders this season. With U.S. national team ‘keeper Tim Howard in net for Everton, just 48 hours after announcing his sabbatical from international play until Sept. 2015, American fans will be hoping he can pull off yet another inspired display.

[WATCH: PL live online via Live Extra]

Runners up vs. the Champions, Manchester City vs. Liverpool

Last season the two most entertaining teams finished first and second, I think we can all agree on that. Over the summer, Liverpool lost Luis Suarez and have replaced him with a plethora of young exciting talent (with Mario Balotelli on the way too), while City have added a few bodies here and there. Manuel Pellegrini’s men won the title by scoring 102 goals last season, Liverpool scored 101 and finished second. Surely, this match at the Etihad on Monday (Watch live 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) will have plenty of goals in it? Liverpool’s defense looks much stingier, but if City score early it will force the Reds to attack. This match promises to be a thing of beauty.

source: Getty Images
Liverpool and Man City serve up a treat on Monday.

London derby between QPR, Spurs, Redknapp returns to White Hart Lane

Spurs beat West Ham 1-0 last weekend in a tight, tense London derby to open the campaign. Expect this match to be no different as Mauricio Pochettino manages his first game in charge of Tottenham at White Hart Lane vs. QPR on Sunday (Watch live on NBCSN, 8:30 a.m. ET and online via Live Extra). Spurs will work hard, press high and try to get at QPR but Redknapp will be eager to get one over his old club. Redknapp led Spurs from the relegation zone to the Champions League during his time in charge and is still a popular figure at the Lane. QPR played well against Hull City on the opening day in a fluid 3-5-2 formation and the R’s were punished for a missed PK and one piece of sloppy defending from a set piece. Tottenham played in Cyprus on Thursday and secured a comeback 2-1 win in their Europa League play-off. Their players may be tired from the traveling, so can Spurs win their second successive London derby to kick off the season or will QPR grab a shock victory?

Just how good are Chelsea?

After a good opening 45 minutes to the season against Burnley, you could be mistaken for thinking Chelsea have already won the Premier League title according to social media. Everybody was waxing lyrical about Jose Mourinho’s new-look side as Cesc Fabregas brought his silky skills to midfield and Diego Costa looks like the real deal up top. The truth is, they beat newly-promoted Burnley 3-1. They host another newly promoted side, Leicester City, at Stamford Bridge on Saturday (Watch live on NBCSN, 10 a.m. ET and online via Live Extra) and will be expected to pound the Foxes. Yes, Chelsea’s squad looks to have been assembled superbly by the ‘Special One’ but we shouldn’t talk up their title credentials until they face Manchester City, Liverpool and the other title contenders. That said, a big win at home over Leicester will probably get people doing just that.

Manchester United’s injury woes continue

Heading into Sunday’s match against Sunderland, (Watch live on NBCSN, 11 a.m. ET and online via Live Extra) Louis van Gaal is still struggling to piece together his Red Devils outfit. United had nine players injured last week and they still have seven missing for their trip to the Stadium of Light. New signings Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera are both out, as are Rafael, Johnny Evans, Jesse Lingard, Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini. Star striker Robin van Persie is back to give his new manager a lift, but speaking ahead of the game, van Gaal admitted he’d never suffered an injury epidemic quite like this one. Sunderland snatched a point on the road at West Brom on the opening day and Gus Poyet’s side will be looking to snatch more than that when United come to town on Sunday. With LVG still settling into English soccer, he and his side won’t get a friendly welcome from the Black Cats on Sunday.

LIVE: Man City, Stoke, Everton face second-tier teams in League Cup quarters

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Three of the four Capital One Cup quarterfinals take place on Tuesday with three Premier League teams facing second-tier opposition.

“What’s that, did somebody say banana skin?”

[ MORE: Follow League Cup scores live

Manchester City host Hull City at the Etihad Stadium with Manuel Pellegrini‘s side hoping to have David Silva back in the starting lineup but Joe Hart is still out injured so Willy Caballero will continue in goal. Steve Bruce‘s side drew 1-1 at the Etihad last season when they visited City before being relegated from the Premier League. The Tigers are fighting for instant promotion back to the big-time and knocked out Leicester City on penalty kicks in the last round.

Everton face a tricky trip to the Riverside Stadium as Roberto Martinez and the Toffees play Middlesbrough. Aitor Karanka’s side lost in the play-off final to Norwich last season but are looking good for promotion this term as they sit second in the second-tier and knocked out Manchester United on penalty kicks in the last round. Can Everton sort out their defensive frailties?

A third PL club has a tricky test coming up on Tuesday as Stoke City’s reward for beating Chelsea on PKs in the last round is a home game against Sheffield Wednesday. This will be no stroll in the park for Mark Hughes‘ side as the second-tier Owls comfortably knocked off Arsenal in the last round and this game has “cupset” written all over it.

Below are the fixtures for Tuesday as you can click on the link above to follow all the games live.

League Cup quarterfinals


Manchester City vs. Hull City – 2:45 p.m. ET
Middlesbrough vs. Everton – 2:45 p.m. ET
Stoke City vs. Sheffield Wednesday – 2:45 p.m. ET

FIFA sponsors demand “independent oversight” of reforms
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LONDON (AP) Five of FIFA’s sponsors have written to the executive committee of soccer’s scandal-battered governing body demanding “independent oversight” of the reform process.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s new stadium plans ]

Sponsors were originally promised places on the FIFA reform committee. But instead of being invited into meetings discussing the overhaul of the organization, they have only been offered seats on an advisory board which is yet to be appointed.

The sponsors’ letter was sent from Adidas, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Visa and Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch to FIFA’s ruling body ahead of meetings this week.

[ MORE: Chelsea, United battle for Muller

The letter, which was obtained by The Associated Press, says it is “clear to us that such independent oversight needs to run long-term through the implementation and evolution of the reform process.”

The reform committee was established following the indictment of soccer officials by American authorities.

VIDEO: Gerrard returns to Liverpool for training in MLS offseason

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Steven Gerrard is back at Liverpool.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s new stadium plans ]

The legendary midfielder, 35, has returned to the Reds just six months after leaving his hometown club for a new adventure in Major League Soccer with the LA Galaxy.

Gerrard spent a glittering 17-years at Anfield, guiding Liverpool to the UEFA Champions League title and winning every other major title except for the elusive Premier League crown.

[ MORE: Chelsea, United battle for Muller

After suffering an early exit from the 2015 MLS Cup playoffs with the Galaxy, Gerrard is now back in England and he’s using his time at home to train with Liverpool’s first-team and help out in any way he can as Jurgen Klopp has allowed him to come back into the dressing room he called home for nearly two decades.

“It’s a good situation,” Klopp said. “Everybody had a smile on their face when they saw Stevie. It’s good to have him here and we hope we can help him, and he can help us for sure with being in the dressing room. It’s cool.”

Below are photos and videos from Gerrard’s return as Klopp once again quashed any rumors regarding a loan move for the former Liverpool skipper who will enter his first full MLS season in 2016 with the Galaxy.

French PM says Benzema has no place on national team

Karim Benzema, France
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PARIS (AP) The French prime minister joined in the criticism of Karim Benzema on Tuesday, saying the Real Madrid striker “has no place” on the France team at the European Championship in the wake of a blackmail scandal.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s new stadium plans ]

Benzema is one of France’s key players as it gets ready to host the Euro 2016 tournament, but the forward faces charges of conspiracy to blackmail relating to an extortion scam over a sex tape. He is suspected of having played an active role in pressuring France teammate Mathieu Valbuena, a case that has badly damaged his reputation.

“A great athlete should be exemplary,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls told French radio Europe 1. “If he is not, he has no place within the France team.”

The investigation, centering on wiretap evidence, started when Valbuena took legal action after being contacted by a man claiming to possess an incriminating sex tape.

In a case that could drag on for months, Benzema’s involvement has not yet been fully determined. But investigators who charged him in October believe he was approached by a childhood friend to act as an intermediary and convince Valbuena to deal directly with the blackmailers.

“If a minister was handed preliminary charges, he would no longer be part of the government,” Valls said.

Benzema denies any wrongdoing but his arguments were undermined last week when Valbuena spoke directly about his attempts to pressure him in an interview with Le Monde newspaper.

[ MORE: City now valued at $3 billion ]

The French football federation has also joined the case as plaintiff.

“There are so many kids, so many youngsters in our suburbs that relate to great athletes,” Valls said. “They wear the blue jersey, the colors of France, which are so important in these moments.”

Preliminary charges under French law mean magistrates have strong reason to believe a crime was committed, and allow time for further investigation. The charges may later be dropped. In 2010, Benzema was handed preliminary charges for soliciting an underage prostitute but was acquitted in a case that lasted more than three years and tarnished his reputation.

Benzema’s image was further dented last month when he spat on the pitch after the national anthem was played at Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium in a tribute to the 130 fatalities of the Paris attacks ahead of a match against Barcelona.

Benzema’s action ignited a wave of criticism on social media, prompting his lawyers to issue a statement in which they condemned “the scandalous interpretation” of the incident. Benzema, who has 27 international goals, had posted several messages in support of the victims in the days that followed the attacks.