Aston Villa v Newcastle United - Premier League

Aston Villa 0-0 Newcastle: Guzan saves a point as Villa moves top (video)

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Okay, okay, top of the league because no one else has played two matches… but Aston Villa lead the Premier League after surviving a scoreless home opener against Newcastle United.

The visitors showed plenty of danger, and missed several fairly simple chances to score. American goalkeeper Brad Guzan made plenty of solid saves for the Villans in what was often a sleepy affair as the hosts shut up shop until a late Newcastle red card.

[MORE: Full match replay]

Jack Colback and Remy Cabella were the stars for Newcastle, which couldn’t find the recipe for a goal from its strikers.

[ RELATED: Stoke City seeks European loan for Brek Shea ]

The Magpies tried a bit of a short corner move in the 5th minute, but Brad Guzan snared Vurnon Anita’s deflected shot.

The 16th minute found Aston Villa with a dangerous free kick following a tactical challenge from a beaten Colback, and former Newcastle player Charles N’Zogbia bent his left-footed shot just wide of diving Tim Krul… and the net.

Both Newcastle and Aston Villa fans cheered for the duration of the 18th minute in honor of John Alder and Liam Sweeney, Newcastle supporters who died on the Malaysian Airlines disaster in Ukraine.

Newcastle earned a free kick from about 25 yards out, stood over by Geordie boy Colback. He blasted the attempt wildly over the bar. Later, Cabella slid a through ball a hair too long for Emmanuel Riviere. That extra quarter stride cost Riviere some power, and Guzan went to ground to make the save.

Cabella was felled by a backhand of N’Zogbia in the 42nd minute after a giveaway, but nothing came of the foul.

The Magpies did well out of the break, as Daryl Janmaat nearly headed a past Guzan, earning the club a corner. Janmaat lashed a left-footed 18-yarder just wide of the bar in the 56th minute as well.

Newcastle continued to control the chances, with Mike Williamson laughably missing a solid chance. But corner after corner began to come for the Magpies, who still failed to finish.

Paul Lambert looked to flip the script in Aston Villa’s favor with the introduction of new signing Carlos Sanchez in the 63rd minute. And Sanchez’s first ball was a gorgeous feed that was played out for a corner kick.

Alan Pardew tried a similar trick by inserting big-money transfer Siem de Jong in the 70th minute.

De Jong nearly found a goal in the 88th minute as Newcastle continued to control play. Cabella put a neat pass through the de Jong, but Guzan made a strong reactive save.

There was an amusing span in the 90th minute as Villa fans would not return the match ball for a corner kick, and then tossed the ball in Colback’s path as he prepared to take the corner with a new ball.

Mike Williamson took a second yellow as four minutes of stoppage time began for hip-checking a rushing Fabian Delph.

Lineups

Aston Villa: Guzan, Hutton, Senderos, Vlaar, Cissokho (Baker, 85′) Westwood, Delph, Richardson (Bent, 76′), Weimann, N’Zogbia (Sanchez 63′), Agbonlahor

Newcastle United: Krul; Janmaat, Williamson, Coloccini, Dummett; Anita (de Jong 70′), Colback; Gouffran, Sissoko, Cabella; Riviere (Perez, 77′; S. Taylor, 90+2′)

Men In Blazers podcast: Leicester, Spurs continue to defy the odds

Men In Blazers - Sept. 22
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Rog and Davo break down Leicester City’s 3-1 win at Manchester City, marvel at Spurs going second in the table, and talk about the headlines surrounding the mid-table clash between Chelsea and United.

Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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VIDEO: Previews of all 10 Premier League games in Week 26

Arsenal v Burnley - Premier League
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You ready for the weekend? It’s only Thursday, but of course you are.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Week 26 of the 2015-16 Premier League season promises to be a pivotal one at both ends of the table with seven games on Saturday and three on Sunday.

[ MORE: Latest PL standings

In the 10 videos below yours truly takes a look at the key headlines, news, injuries and more on each PL game.

Enjoy.


Arsenal vs. Leicester City, Sunday (Watch live, 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra)

Aston Villa vs. Liverpool, Sunday (Watch live, 9:05 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra)

Bournemouth vs. Stoke City, Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on Premier League Extratime and online via Live Extra)

Crystal Palace vs. Watford, Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on Premier League Extratime and online via Live Extra)

Chelsea vs. Newcastle United, Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via Live Extra)

Everton vs. West Brom, Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra)

Norwich City vs. West Ham, Sunday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on USA and online via Live Extra)

Man City vs. Tottenham, Sunday (Watch live, 11:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra)

Sunderland vs. Man United, Saturday (Watch live, 7:45 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra)

Swansea City vs. Southampton, Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on Premier League Extratime and online via Live Extra)

Ahead of huge top four showdowns, who are the title favorites?

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This weekend is massive. Huge. Monumental.

[ VIDEO: Arsenal-Leicester preview ]

In terms of the Premier League title race having two games between all of the current top four means one thing: bedlam.

Following the Arsenal vs. Leicester City (Watch live, 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) and Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur (Watch live, 11:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) encounter, we should be provided with a much better idea of where the title is heading.

[ VIDEO: Man City-Tottenham preview

Then again, if Arsenal beat Leicester and Man City draw with Spurs, there will be just five points between all four teams. With 13 games to go this is tight and tense and the most open title race we’ve had in decades. It is also awesome.

[ MORE: Arsenal to play in 2016 MLS All-Star Game ] 

Let’s take a look at all four title contenders and try to see who has the best chance of winning this thing on May 15.


Leicester City
Current position: 1st (53 points)
Biggest plus: No pressure, they were meant to be relegated
Biggest negative: None of their current squad have ever been in this situation. How will they cope?
Key man: Jamie Vardy – A few off days in front of goal recently for the PL’s main man. If he regains his touch, the Foxes will win it.
3 key games: Feb. 14 at Arsenal, Apr. 30 at Man United, May 15 at Chelsea
Strength of remaining schedule (1 is weak, 10 is tough): 2/10 – The best of any of the title contenders, on paper, and no cup games.


Tottenham Hotspur
Current position: 2nd (48 points)
Biggest plus: Mauricio Pochettino. He’s met every major challenge head on.
Biggest negative: Having the FA Cup and Europa League to contend with. Relatively small squad compared to the rest.
Key man: Harry Kane – If he can hit yet another purple patch, combined with Spurs’ solid defense, then that will be huge.
3 key games: Feb. 14 at Man City, Mar. 5 vs. Arsenal, Apr. 9 vs. Chelsea
Strength of remaining schedule: 3/10 – A very soft run-in for Spurs between now and the end of the season.


Arsenal
Current position: 3rd (48 points)
Biggest plus: They have the biggest squad and with Cech in goal their defense looks very settled.
Biggest negative: How many times have we been here before? Have to get over mental barrier, plus UCL and FA Cup to focus on too.
Key man: Alexis Sanchez – Hasn’t quite hit top form since returning from his hamstring injury. Can he hit top gear during crunch time?
3 key games: Feb. 14 vs. Leicester City, Mar. 5 vs. Tottenham, May 7 at Man City
Strength of remaining schedule: 6/10 – Probably the toughest out of all the contenders. Really need Sanchez and Mesut Ozil to pull through.


Manchester City
Current position: 4th (47 points)
Biggest plus: Strongest squad and Vincent Kompany should be returning soon. That, and wanting to send Pellegrini out on a high.
Biggest negative: Guardiola arriving means plenty of uncertainty. If Aguero or Kompany go down injured, title run could be over.
Key man: Vincent Kompany – City will always score goals with Aguero, Sterling, Silva and De Bruyne but they need Vinny back. Big time.
3 key games: Mar. 2 at Liverpool, Mar. 20 vs. Man United, May 7 vs. Arsenal
Strength of remaining schedule: 5/10 – Marginally easier than Arsenal’s because they play United and the Gunners at home. Still. Very tough.


 

Arsenal named as 2016 MLS All-Star Game opponent in San Jose

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28:  Mesut Ozil (C) of Arsenal celebrates scoring his team's second goal with his team mates Hector Bellerin (L) and Aaron Ramsey (R) during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and A.F.C. Bournemouth at Emirates Stadium on December 28, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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Arsenal is coming to San Jose, California.

On Thursday it was announced that the Premier League giants will take part in the 2016 MLS All-Star Game at Avaya Stadium, home of the San Jose Earthquakes.

[ VIDEO: Ferrell – “I got Mourinho fired”

The decision to play against another PL opponent makes it the ninth time that’s happened and MLS’ best will have faced seven different PL clubs in Fulham, Chelsea, West Ham United, Everton, Manchester United, Tottenham and now Arsenal.

The venue for the 2016 ASG will be San Jose’s splendid, yet slightly compact, Avaya Stadium and the game will take place on July 28 at 9 p.m. ET.

[ VIDEO: Arsenal-Leicester preview

Gunners fans in North America hoping to get tickets for the clash will have to act fast as the ‘Quakes home only holds 18,000 people, but there will be another chance to watch Arsenal play as they will face Chivas Guadalajara at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. on July 31.

Safe to say Arsene Wenger won’t need to don his famous long padded jacket for matches in California this July…

As well as seeing Arsenal stars Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Petr Cech, Olivier Giroud and more, the chance to watch young U.S. international Gedion Zelalem in action will excite many. That said, with the game coming late in July, plenty of Arsenal’s top stars may be on extended breaks due to their exertions for their national teams at the 2016 European Championships and the 2016 Copa America Centenario also being staged in North America.