Romelu Lukaku

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Mourinho: Ibrahimovic could return in December

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Dare to Zlatan? It could be only a couple of months away.

That’s according to Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, who said the veteran striker could return from his torn ACL before the end of the calendar year.

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“Zlatan is here, he’s working here and under our control,” Mourinho told reporters. “He’s working as you would expect so, so, so hard. But he’s not to be back in the next week or next couple of weeks. Do I believe he’ll be back in 2017? Yes, I do. But it’s just a feeling.”

The big Swede scored 28 goals for Man United last year in all competitions, proving that he’s still got it at the age of 36, but it’s going to be tough for him to find his old form coming off an ACL injury at such an old age. After suffering the injury last April, it’s been a long road to recovery for Ibrahimovic.

However, with the play of Romelu Lukaku up top, Ibrahimovic would only play from time to time, which could help in his recovery both from the knee injury and just the general recovery between games.

Top 5 Premier League storylines: Week 9

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Manchester City continues to dominate its opposition at the top of the Premier League, but there are plenty of other details to watch for this weekend around England’s top flight.

The 2017/18 PL campaign has seen several of the league’s top sides struggle through eight matches, while surprises Watford and Burnley attempt to stake their claim as legitimate title contenders.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Below, PST takes a look at the top 5 storylines around Week 9 of PL action.

Blues hope to end recent woes against surprise Hornets

Chelsea vs. Watford — Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN

What’s going on with Chelsea? The Blues nearly gave away all three points against Roma in Wednesday’s Champions League clash. That was after Antonio Conte‘s suffered back-to-back league defeats against Manchester City and bottom side Crystal Palace.

Injuries have certainly played a role in some of the club’s shortcomings recently, but there is still plenty of positive squad talent for Chelsea to pick up its performances. N'Golo Kante‘s absence in the midfield is notable because of his high work rate, but the Blues will have to make due in the mean time without the Frenchman.

Eden Hazard‘s brace against Roma is a good sign though for Chelsea, who will need their most dangerous player to influence the attack in addition to Alvaro Morata’s strong early return since joining from Real Madrid.

Clarets look to spoil City’s perfect start

Manchester City vs. Burnley — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN

The Clarets proved last season that they could be one of the most dangerous home sides in the PL, but 2017 has shown that Sean Dyche‘s men could present a real threat in England’s top flight.

Burnley is unbeaten in seven of its first eight matches, with its lone defeat coming to West Brom. Although that match proved to be a bit of an anomaly given the team’s win over Chelsea on opening day and subsequent results against Tottenham and Liverpool on the road.

The Citizens will present a different threat given the club’s highly-potent attack, but Burnley’s back line has been a revelation thus far by allowing just six goals. That ranks fourth in the PL behind only Man City, Man United and Spurs.

[ MORE: PST ranks the top 20 players in the latest PL power rankings ]

Kane presents challenge for Reds’ defensive unit

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool — Sunday, 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN

Prior to Wednesday’s 7-0 thrashing of Maribor in the UCL, Liverpool had drawn three straight matches in all competitions. It doesn’t really have to be stated, but Tottenham is not Maribor… they’re a lot better.

In fact, Harry Kane is budding into one of — if not the best — strikers in the world at the moment. The Englishman has already scored 11 goals in as many matches across all competitions, which poses a massive threat to a Reds defense that has struggled mightily.

Liverpool has conceded 12 goals in eight PL matches, which is only one fewer than Watford for the most allowed out of the top 14 sides in England’s top flight. Jurgen Klopp‘s group has surely built something special up front with the likes of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah threatening opposing back lines, but that is all for not if they cannot establish a solid unit defensively.

Can the Toffees stop the bleeding at the Emirates?

Arsenal vs. Everton — Sunday, 8:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN

Two wins in their first eight is far from the expectations that anyone around Everton would have hoped for this season. The departure of Romelu Lukaku was an undoubted blow, but the Toffees have looked in shambles on both sides of the ball through the first eight weeks of play.

Everton is tied for the fourth-most goals conceded thus far in the PL (13), while only managing five finishes up front. Ronald Koeman has a lot of work to do with his side, who sit just two points above the relegation zone. That’s nowhere near the top 6/7, where the club has been accustomed to finishing in recent years.

[ MORE: The biggest surprises, disappointments in UCL so far ]

New-look Hammers head to Old Trafford

Swansea City vs. Leicester City — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET online

It’s still hard to pinpoint Leicester’s problems, but another manager has gone by the wayside and the club is running out of excuses for the team’s poor play. We saw a similar struggle from the Foxes last season, after having had won the PL in 2015/16, but the team just looks less desirable at the moment.

The Foxes currently sit in 18th place through eight matches, this despite still having Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and Kasper Schmeichel — each of whom are widely-regarded as some of the best players at their position in the PL

For the Swans, goals have been hard to come by through the first weeks of the season. The loss of Gylfi Sigurdsson prior to the new campaign beginning was a massive blow, but the club has still managed eight points thus far.

Mourinho: Tactics involved targeting young Benfica backstop

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Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho knew that promising Benfica backstop Mile Svilar would be facing some big nerves.

The 18-year-old was making his UEFA Champions League debut, and Mourinho instructed his Red Devils to challenge the backstop at every turn.

[ RECAP: Benfica 0-1 Man Utd ]

That paid off when Svilar carried Marcus Rashford‘s free kick into the goal, the lone marker of a 1-0 loss that keeps United atop Group A and Benfica three points behind second- and third place.

“I knew how good the goalkeeper was, I told the players that. We had a little bit of a strategy, especially on set-pieces to make him uncomfortable. We put men around him on corners so he cannot come out. He risks a lot, but only top keepers do that. He was unlucky for the goal,” Mourinho said.

Svilar looked dejected after the game, apologizing to fans at the Estadio da Luz and getting consolation from a fellow Belgian in Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku.

Nemanja Matic laid out United’s strategy a bit more, from the BBC:

“The manager said to us to try and shoot and get some crosses towards their goalkeeper because he is young and playing in his first game. This is football and I know he is a great goalkeeper and I wish him well for the future.

“We had control, some difficulties in the first 30 minuets but then we controlled the pitch. We used our experience. We could not find the second goal but did not make any mistakes at the back.”

Rashford limped out of the game, and Mourinho says he initially thought it was cramps. Instead, it’s a problem with his left knee. Simon Peach of the Press Association quotes Mourinho as hoping the injury is not bad.

United completed more than 500 passes, doubling Benfica’s production. Some have been critical of Mourinho’s penchant to play it safe, and he winked at them after the match in calling his tactics “a crime.”

“We were in control, David De Gea did not have one save to make. I never felt we could concede a goal and were solid defensively. Sometime I feel being good defensively is a crime, but that is a way of getting results.”

Ronald Koeman’s Everton future heading one way

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BRIGHTON — Like a bug knocking into a light bulb on the porch on a summers night time and time again, we know what the outcome will be. We are still watching.

Even though the bug will soon succumb to failure, they are the only ones who don’t realize it. That’s what it feels like watching Everton and Ronald Koeman at the moment.

And Sunday was a damning indictment on the team Everton have become under Ronald Koeman, even though Wayne Rooney scored an 88th minute penalty kick to grab a point after Anthony Knockaert‘s looked likely to give Brighton and Hove Albion a deserved victory.

“Sacked in the morning, you’re getting sacked in the morning!” sang the Brighton fans after they went 1-0 up.

Rooney’s late goal will save Koeman that embarrassment but he is the bookies favorite to be the next Premier League manager fired and if he doesn’t get positive results against Lyon in the Europa League and Arsenal in the PL next weekend, next Monday morning could mark the end.

The Toffees were totally devoid of any confidence throughout their trip to Brighton and Everton’s fans had little to cheer. They broke into full voice on no more than two occasions as their team of expensive individuals played like, well, a team of expensive individuals.

Much has been made of Koeman’s big summer of spending with $193 million spent on new talent, but the lack of planning with that spending is what will ultimately cost him his job as no replacement for Romelu Lukaku points to a toothless, sluggish attack.

Everton have now scored just seven goals in their last 13 matches in the Premier League, failing to score on seven occasions. They’ve had just 21 shots on target in eight games so far this season.

Like the bug, Koeman’s time is running out.

“My whole football life is pressure, if I don’t get pressure from outside I put pressure on myself,” Koeman told Sky Sports after the game.

Unshaven, and dare I say looking slightly disheveled, Koeman’s demeanor told the story on Sunday at Brighton.

Two hours before kick off and with the stadium empty, Koeman stood tentatively on the sidelines as a handful of his players surveyed the playing surface. His brother and assistant coach, Erwin, sat on the bench. They looked at each other with a glum expressions on their face. Koeman then turned and walked down the tunnel without looking up.

During the game he trudged back and forth to his seat on the bench from the technical area with, like his team, little vigor.

Toothless in attack once again, Rooney, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Dominic Calvert-Lewin rarely threatened with 20-year-old deadline day buy Nikola Vlasic the only bright spark in attack.

Koeman was handed the dreaded vote of confidence from chairman and majority owner Farhad Moshiri following the 1-0 defeat to Burnley at Goodison Park before the break.

Sunday’s performance did little to suggest that vote of confidence was well placed and, like the bug, Koeman’s time at Everton isn’t too far away from the ultimate failure.

Shots fired: Jurgen Klopp hits out at Man United’s style of play

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Shots fired.

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Jurgen Klopp was not scared to have a pop at Manchester United after Jose Mourinho went for a defensive approach on Saturday and his side ground out a second-consecutive 0-0 draw at Anfield in the Premier League.

[ MORE: Recap – United frustrate Liverpool ]

Speaking to reporters after the game, Klopp had this to say about the team who are top of the Premier League and had scored 21 goals in their opening seven games of the season heading into this clash.

“For sure you could not play this way at Liverpool but it’s OK for Manchester United,” Klopp said.

What did Mourinho have to say about his teams’ performance?

“We had one shot on goal – well for you and the experts it is easy to speak but it is more difficult from the sidelines. Liverpool’s midfield was really strong. They are faster than us when the game breaks. I had no chance to bring the game in another direction so it is a positive point.”

This was a proper Mourinho away performance.

United were devoid of attacking intent and were not keen on opening themselves up to a Liverpool counter-attack. It wasn’t as defensive a display as last season when United got a 0-0 draw at Anfield but it wasn’t far off it.

Romelu Lukaku was a frustrated, isolated figure for most of the game but he did squander one chance (United’s only effort on goal throughout) just before half time which could have seen them take all three points.

More was expected of this United side after their rampant start to the season, especially from an attacking standpoint, but Mourinho reverted to type and will be delighted with a point.

Liverpool huffed and puffed but failed to endanger David De Gea‘s goal apart from Joel Matip’s effort in the first half which produced a superb stop from the Spaniard.