West Brom, after four straight defeats, sits 17th in the Premier League table, most recently suffering a 4-0 dismantling at the hands of Chelsea.
Yet Blues boss Antonio Conte has offered his counterpart an olive branch, supporting his fellow Premier League manager at a time of panic.
With reports that Pulis could be fired this coming week – some say as early as Monday – the Baggies boss is under heaps of pressure, but Conte doesn’t believe he should be. “I must be honest, I think Tony Pulis is a really good manager,” Conte said, hoping those in charge don’t make decisions based on Sunday’s result.
“He has great experience and it’s always very difficult to play against his team. This game became easy because we started very strong, with great concentration and desire to win. We showed from the start our will to win this game. But I repeat: Last season we struggled a lot against them.”
West Brom has lost four in a row in league play, and they haven’t picked up a win since August, and as The Guardian points out, they have the lowest average possession in the Premier League and have the second-lowest shots on target thus far. They registered just two shots on target against Chelsea, and held 39% possession, which is actually slightly above their average for the season.
Romelu Lukaku didn’t celebrate much more than a fist pump following his match-opening goal against former teammates West Bromwich Albion.
[ MORE: Watch via NBCSports.com).
No one said anything about celebrating teammates’ goals, though.
Lukaku scored to give the Red Devils a 1-0 lead, then watched as Jesse Lingard‘s deflected lash left Ben Foster high and dry as United cruised into the break up two goals.
It’s 10th PL goal of the season for Lukaku, who has 15 in all competitions. For Lingard, it’s four and seven.
Here’s Lingard’s marker:
Celtic’s unbeaten domestic run has ended at 69 matches, and it ended with a thud.
Tynecastle Park was the scene for a 4-0 thumping at the hands of Hearts, a defeat started by a 16-year-old’s first Scottish Premiership goal.
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Harry Cochrane’s his name, and his 26th minute goal gave Hearts the lead, and it was 2-0 by halftime through Kyle Lafferty, the ex-Burnley and Norwich player.
David Milinkovic scored three minutes after halftime, as the wake-up call didn’t arrive at the break, and added a penalty kick late in the match.
Celtic has a two-point lead on second-place Aberdeen with a match-in-hand. Rangers sit five-points back.
Sixty-nine games! Remarkable in any league. Here’s what Rodgers had to say:
“But I also want to congratulate my players. To have gone through 69 games and this to be their first defeat; of course it’s a sore one when you are beaten like that but they can hold their heads up. They have been absolutely amazing over those 18 months.”
The Hawthorns is the scene as Manchester United attempts to pull back into sole possession of second place on the Premier League table with a visit to West Bromwich Albion (Watch live at 9:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).
WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE
The Baggies have several regular starters on the bench, with Chris Brunt, Gareth Barry, and Gareth McAuley (Allllll the Gareths!) getting a rest.
United will hand starts to Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata, with Anthony Martial on the bench with Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
West Bromwich Albion: Foster; Nyom, Hegazi, Evans, Gibbs, Krychowiak, Yacob, Livermore, Burke, McClean, Rondon. Subs: Myhill, Robson-Kanu, Brunt, Barry, Rodriguez, McAuley, Field.
Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Jones, Smalling, Young, Herrera, Matic, Mata, Lingard, Rashford, Lukaku. Subs: Romero, Lindelof, Rojo, Shaw, McTominay, Ibrahimovic, Martial.
A report out of England says Chelsea defender David Luiz could be out the door in January.
Luiz, 30, has a knee injury and has played in just one match for Chelsea since a Halloween loss to Roma in the Champions League, one that supposedly culminated in a blow-up between the defender and manager Antonio Conte.
He was sold once before by Chelsea, shipped to Paris Saint-Germain for $66 million in 2014 before returning to Stamford Bridge in 2016 for $45 million.
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Luiz has made just one appearance, a Nov. 22 match in Qarabag, since that Roma loss. He returned to the bench against Liverpool before being diagnosed with a knee injury.
The report says Juventus is a possible destination for Luiz, though the Champions League could be a problem for both sides. Luiz is Cup-tied to Chelsea, and Juventus remains in the UCL as well.
And Chelsea would need reinforcements at the back. It’s back three has operated with Andreas Christensen, Cesar Azpilicueta, and Gary Cahill. Other options are Antonio Rudiger and 20-year-old Jake Clarke-Salter, which would be fine were Chelsea not alive in four competitions (The League Cup quarterfinals have the Blues hosting Bournemouth on Wednesday).
The power seems a bit more in Luiz’s hands thanks to some of Conte’s sanctioned loans. Kurt Zouma has arguably been Stoke City’s most consistent performer in an under siege unit, one of 10 backs on season-long loans. The most sense is to find reconciliation, presuming the dust-up is real, and move on in the summer if necessary.