PL roundup: Man City, Spurs capitalize on dropped points-a-plenty

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What Saturday’s feature fixture left viewers desperately wanting, the rest of the Premier League’s big boys provided in spades… for better and for worse.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Manchester City scored seven all by themselves, Chelsea and Arsenal each fell away from home in London derbies, and then you have a somewhat forgotten Tottenham Hotspur side which finally got its first home win of the season and climbed into the top-three.


Manchester City 7-2 Stoke CityRECAP

It’s time for the rest of the PL to face a very sobering fact: there might not be any stopping this edition of Man City. Pep Guardiola‘s side might score 125 goals this season (currently on pace for 123). Only three sides have cracked the century mark since the turn of the millennium — Man City (103) and Liverpool (102) in 2013-14, and Chelsea (103) in 2009-10. The goals come from everywhere (six different scorers on Saturday), just as the assists do (five different assisters).

Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 BournemouthRECAP

They needed four tries to do it, but Tottenham have won their first PL game at Wembley Stadium this season. Considering Mauricio Pochettino‘s side’s struggles at their temporary home, it’s shocking to see them already four points clear of Chelsea, the defending champions (and the only side to beat Spurs through eight games), and Arsenal in the table. Spurs’ 100-percent away record won’t last forever, making points at home all the more important going forward, even if they’re won by grinding out 1-0 victories over relegation-threatened sides like Bournemouth.

Crystal Palace 2-1 ChelseaRECAP

First goal of the season: check. First point: check. First win: check. Saturday was a big day for Roy Hodgson’s Palace, who shocked the world by knocking off Chelsea at Selhurst Park, courtesy of goals scored by Cesar Azpilicueta (own goal) and Wilfried Zaha (deployed as a striker, alongside fellow winger Andros Townsend). Just like that, the Eagles are within four points of safety, though at some point they’ll need to do some serious work on that -16 goal differential.

Watford 2-1 ArsenalRECAP

Arsenal took a 1-0 lead into the final 20 minutes of Saturday’s clash at Vicarage Road, and walked away without a single point to show for their efforts. Troy Deeney equalized from the penalty spot in the 71st minute and Tom Cleverley slammed home a rebound in the 91st to push the Hornets into fourth place in the league table. You could say Marco Silva‘s first season at the club is going quite well.

Liverpool 0-0 Man UnitedRECAP

Jose Mourinho showed he’s still go it, assuming “it” means the ability to play for a 0-0 draw and fail to entertain anyone in his side’s biggest game of the season thus far. While the Red Devils looked most every bit City’s equals through seven games, this might have been the day it all became clear: City simply have another gear (or two, who knows) that not even their neighbors can call upon.

Swansea City 2-0 HuddersfieldRECAP

The start to life in the PL was brilliant for Huddersfield (two wins from their first two games), but the season-long reality has quickly set in for David Wagner‘s side, as they’ve gone winless in their last six games, including a 2-0 humbling at the Liberty Stadium. Chelsea’s on-loan striker Tammy Abraham scored both Swans goals (his third and fourth this season) to push Paul Clement‘s side all the way up to 13th.

Burnley 1-1 West Ham UnitedRECAP

With West Ham leading 1-0 after 19 minutes, Andy Carroll took it upon himself to bring Burnley right back into the game, by way of two nearly identical yellow cards in the span of two minutes (25th and 27th). The Hammers held on for quite some time, but Chris Wood, the Clarets’ late-game hero, struck again in the 85th minute. Burnley currently sit seventh, ahead of Liverpool on goal differential. West Ham are 14th.

Premier League preview: Man United vs. Newcastle United

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  • Red Devils unbeaten in 31 of last 32 home fixtures vs. Newcastle
  • Newcastle winless in its last six PL matches
  • Lukaku hasn’t scored in United’s last seven games

Manchester United hosts Newcastle United on Saturday from Old Trafford (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com) as the Red Devils could potentially welcome back several of it biggest stars for the match.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba and Marcos Rojo could return for Jose Mourinho’s side this weekend, as Man United looks to bounce back from its 1-0 defeat to Chelsea on Nov. 5.

The ex-Sweden international Ibrahimovic hasn’t appeared in a match since April 2017, after being United’s top goalscorer a season ago.

The Red Devils will have to deal with the absence of Phil Jones at the back, though, as the England international misses out on the match with a thigh injury.

Newcastle will be without Christian Atsu and Jamaal Lascelles, which certainly hurts the squad’s attack, while Mikel Merino and Paul Dummett remain sidelined with respective injuries.

What they’re saying

Jose Mourinho, on Paul Pogba’s status:  “I can say now because he’s back – I don’t like to speak while he’s injured – you can clearly see there is a Manchester United this season before Paul’s injury and after Paul’s injury. There are qualities in our football, qualities that influence our approach in matches, with Pogba and without Pogba. Simple as that.”

Rafa Benitez, on growing pains of being a young side“We are a newly-promoted club that has to settle down in the Premier League. We have a young squad, so it’s a learning process for everyone and losing some games is part of the process. Hopefully we can stop that this weekend, but we know it has to be like this. We have to think that the target is to stay in the Premier League, then after try to go as high as we can in the table.”

Prediction

Newcastle has had its share of struggles this season, and running into a Man United side that is gaining full fitness is a dangerous task. The Red Devils are a tough squad to beat at home, so Rafa Benitez and Co. have their hands full. Man United 2-0 Newcastle

Luiz back in Chelsea squad after being dropped by Conte

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David Luiz‘s pair of stints at Chelsea have been nothing short of a roller-coaster ride of emotions — joyous highs and painful lows.

[ MORE: Pogba, Zlatan back form injuries; available this weekend ]

After returning to the club for a second time in the summer of 2016, Luiz instantly slotted into Antonio Conte‘s three-man backline and was a pivotal part of the Blues’ title-winning team last season.

Much like the second half of his first four seasons at Chelsea, Luiz’s second season (the second time around) has started so hotly. After playing eight of the first 10 games during Chelsea’s ongoing title defense, Luiz was unexpectedly dropped from the squad for the victory over Manchester United.

Now, two weeks later, Conte has announced that Luiz has rejoined the squad and is available for selection when his side visits West Brom on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold) — quotes from the Guardian:

“David Luiz is in the squad, yes. [His exclusion] was a technical decision. When it’s a technical decision every player has to react well and accept my decision. It’s normal, this.

“I like to speak about the team and the next game that we have to pay attention to. This is the most important thing, not speaking about a single player. I repeat: I don’t like to speak about a single player.”

Pogba, Zlatan, Rojo return from injuries for Man Utd-Newcastle

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The only saving grace when it comes to injuries is that, eventually (usually), players recover from them and return to the team.

[ MORE: 2018 World Cup Power Rankings — who comes out on top? ]

It’s been a long seven months for the soccer world to be without Zlatan Ibrahimovic (torn ACL on April 20), just as it’s been a painfully long 10 weeks for Manchester United fans following Paul Pogba‘s hamstring injury on Sept. 12. Man United have dropped eight points during the latter’s absence and now coincidentally sit eight points behind Manchester City in the Premier League title race.

A bit of good news on this Friday: United manager Jose Mourinho announced today that the dynamic duo, along with defender Marcos Rojo (knee ligament damage on April 20) have returned to full fitness and will be available for selection during Saturday’s home clash with Newcastle United (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com) — quotes from ManUtd.com:

“The players that stayed here and [were] recovering from injuries, even the ones that are recovering from big injuries, they are ready to play — Pogba, Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo.”

“[Ibrahimovic] made a full recovery. Now you cannot expect him to be ready to play 90 minutes or to be ready to play consecutive matches like he did all his career.

“Now he needs time to be back to his level, his fitness, his confidence, his sharpness, his everything. But, from the clinical point of view, to be good and ready is fantastic.”

2018 World Cup Power Rankings — 7 months B.W.C.

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209 days — that’s how long the world is still being made to wait for the opening game of the 2018 World Cup. It’s close, in that all 32 berths have been secured, but still so far, in that the draw is still two weeks away.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s 2018 World Cup coverage | USMNT | Premier League ]

Perhaps then, and only then, will it begin to feel really real.

According to our esteemed panelists — Joe Prince-Wright, Nicholas Mendola, Kyle Bonn, Matt Reed, Dan Karell and yours truly — four clear-cut favorites for the semifinals have separated themselves from the rest of the pack, followed by another six or eight sides with one half of their squad firing on all cylinders but some serious kinks to work out elsewhere.

[ MORE: Round 1 of the WC power rankings | Round 2 ]

Finally, the latest edition of PST’s 2018 World Cup Power Rankings, now featuring all 32 teams qualified for Russia…

Team Points Best Worst
1 (1) Germany 189 1 2
2 (2) Brazil 188 1 3
3 (4) Spain 177 3 5
4 (3) France 176 3 5
5 (8) Argentina 158 4 10
6 (5) Belgium 156 4 10
7 (7) Portugal 153 6 10
8 (11) England 150 5 12
9 (6) Uruguay 141 6 14
10 (9) Colombia 140 7 12
11 (10) Mexico 129 8 14
12 (12) Poland 125 10 14
13 (20) Croatia 118 7 20
14 (17) Switzerland 115 12 16
15 (NR) Sweden 92 16 19
16 (NR) Denmark 86 13 23
17 (NR) Serbia 83 9 28
18 (NR) Peru 80 15 25
19 (15) Iceland 79 15 24
20 (16) Japan 71 16 27
21 (NR) Egypt 66 18 27
22 (NR) South Korea 64 13 32
23 (NR) Senegal 63 17 26
24 (18) Nigeria 58 15 27
25 (19) Costa Rica 57 14 29
26 (NR) Morocco 48 18 29
27 (NR) Australia 45 22 30
28 (NR) Russia 36 20 32
29 (NR) Iran 34 22 31
30 (NR) Tunisia 30 23 31
31 (NR) Panama 19 28 32
32 (NR) Saudi Arabia 9 31 32