Getty Images

Zlatan hat-trick sees Man United past St. Etienne 3-0

Leave a comment

It wasn’t exactly how Zlatan Ibrahimovic – he with a flair for the dramatic – drew it up, but he’ll take it.

Zlatan scored a hat trick as Manchester United snuck by St. Etienne 3-0 in the first leg of their Europa League matchup at Old Trafford. The French side had a number of good chances in the first half, but couldn’t capitalize to draw level, and they faded in the second half as the English club pushed them.

The star Manchester United striker delivered a close-range free-kick that clipped a defender on its way through the wall and trickled into the back of the net for the opener just 15 minutes in. The initial foul was contentious, as Zlatan looked to seek out contact to earn the set-piece.

Zlatan picked out the second as well, but he didn’t have to do any of the hard work. Marcus Rashford burst down the left past numerous green shirts, and delivered a pinpoint low ball across the face of goal to an unmarked Ibrahimovic who simply tapped home the ball.

Paul Pogba was bright throughout the match, and he nearly had United’s second on the hour mark when he undressed Jordan Veretout with a brilliant spin move and ripped a shot that beat goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier but beat the post. Pogba again came close (and probably should have scored) as Daley Blind delivered an exquisite free-kick right to the head of Pogba at the far post, but he couldn’t get the header down, instead clanging the crossbar.

St. Etienne had its best chance in the 73rd minute as substitute Nolan Roux chipped a one-on-one opportunity with United goalkeeper Sergio Romero over the crossbar with nobody else to challenge the shot. Zlatan scored his second goal shortly after.

The match pitted Paul Pogba against his brother Florentin, but it was the Manchester United star who had the better of his brother on the day as Florentin was substituted off with 12 minutes to go due to injury. Zlatan’s final came late on as he was bundled over in the box softly, and he buried the chance from the spot to put the Red Devils through without a doubt.

UEFA Europa League preview: Mourinho eyes more hardware, Spurs to Belgium

Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The battle for Pogba family bragging rights just so happens to be Jose Mourinho’s next step in a quest for lots of laurels at Manchester United.

Sure Mourinho won the Charity Shield to start the season, but the Man Utd boss is within a win of the EFL Cup, and in the final 16 of both the FA Cup and Europa League competitions.

Yeah he’s won them all before, but Mourinho would love clinching an automatic Champions League berth for next size by winning the Europa League.

[ MORE: Bayern 5-1 Arsenal | 3 things ]

The next step to that is Saint-Etienne, who visits Old Trafford on Thursday. The Ligue 1 side is more than a story line involving Florentin Pogba going up against little brother Paul Pogba of the Red Devils; You’ll remember Jordan Veretout and Henri Saivet from brief Premier League stints.

But, yes, the focus is on the Pogba family, including the matriarch according to Mourinho:

“I think it’s a nice destiny. I think only Mum Pogba is in a little bit of trouble, which is normal. It’s difficult for the lady to choose. It’s not difficult, it’s impossible for her to choose. I know from Paul that the mum wants a draw but next week one son will be happy and another one will be sad.”

Still, United will be expected to advance to the next round, as will fellow Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur.

Spurs are coming off a disappointing performance at Liverpool last weekend, and now visit Belgium for a match-up with KAA Gent. Captained by Nana Asare and coached by Hein Vanhaezebrouck, Gent will hope to keep Spurs off the scoreboard at home before a trip to London.

Other highlights on the schedule include Roma’s trip to Villarreal and Fiorentina’s visit to USMNT wideman Fabian Johnson and Borussia Monchengladbach.

Full schedule of Thursday’s first legs

11 a.m. EDT
Krasnodar vs. Fenerbahce

1 p.m. EDT
Alkmaar vs. Lyon
Astra Giurgiu vs. Genk
Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Fiorentina
Rostov vs. Sparta Prague
Ludogorets Razgrad vs. Copenhagen
Celta Vigo vs. Shakhtar Donetsk
Gent vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Olympiacos vs. Osmanlispor

3:05 p.m. EDT
Manchester United vs. Saint-Etienne
Anderlecht vs. Zenit Saint Petersburg
Villarreal vs. Roma
PAOK vs. Schalke
Hapoel Be’er Sheva vs. Besiktas
Athletic Bilbao vs. Apoel Nicosia
Legia Warsaw vs. Ajax

Swansea loses Dyer for season with Achilles injury

Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images
Leave a comment

It’s been mostly good news since Paul Clement took over at Swansea City, so this is a departure in tone for the Welsh side.

Nathan Dyer is out for the year.

Dyer tore his Achilles tendon seven minutes into Sunday’s win over Leicester City, a victory that boosted Swans into 15th place. Swansea is four points clear of the drop zone.

[ MORE: Conte v Mourinho brewing ]

Dyer joins Jefferson Montero as long-term injuries on the wing for Swansea, which has Luciano Narsingh and Jordan Ayew among its wing options.

Dyer won a PL title on loan at Leicester City last season, and missed eight matches with an ankle injury earlier this season.

From SwanseaCity.net:

A scan today revealed that the 29-year-old has ruptured the Achilles tendon in his left ankle.
It means Dyer, who won a Premier League medal on loan at Leicester last season, will have to undergo surgery in due course to cure the problem.
Dyer is 29, and returning from an achilles injury is no picnic, especially for a speed merchant. All our best to the Premier League vet.

Watch Live: Swansea City vs. Leicester City (Lineups & Live Stream)

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Leicester City and Swansea City play a vital relegation battle as the Foxes visit the Liberty Stadium at 11:00 a.m. ET live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

The defending champions are on a four-match losing streak that has seen them drop to just a point above the drop. That has seen manager Claudio Ranieri ring the changes, as Shinji Okazaki and Ahmed Musa were dropped to the bench in favor of Demarai Gray and Mark Albrighton. Islam Slimani makes the bench as he returns from a groin injury.

Gray scored in the midweek FA Cup win, and has been slotted in with Ranieri hoping to spark something in the squad that will end the miserable run. The Foxes have been shut out a whopping five straight matches, without a goal in 520 minutes. Ranieri has stuck with Christian Fuchs in defense after a poor showing in the 3-0 defeat to Manchester United last time out.

[ WATCH LIVE: Swansea City vs. Leicester City live online at NBCSports.com ]

For Swansea City, January signing Jordan Ayew still has not yet made his club debut after returning from the African Cup of Nations. Ki Sung-Yeung and Jefferson Montero are out injured, but Gylfi Sigurdsson continues in the attack, one of the most in-form forwards in the Premier League.

Leicester City has won four straight matches against Swansea City, with 11 goals for and just one conceded over that time. No defending champion has lost five straight in English top flight play since Chelsea in 1956.

LINEUPS

Swansea City: Fabianski; Naughton, Fernandez, Mawson, Olsson; Carroll, Fer, Cork; Dyer, Llorente, Sigurdsson.
Subs: Nordfeldt, Rangel, Kingsley, Amat, Routledge, Narsingh, Ayew.

Leicester City: Schmeichel; Simpson, Huth, Morgan, Fuchs; Mahrez, Drinkwater, Ndidi, Albrighton; Gray, Vardy.
Subs: Zieler, Chilwell, King, Amartey, Musa, Slimani, Okazaki.

Watch Live: Burnley vs. Chelsea (Lineups & Live Stream)

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Nine points in front with three months left to play, many believe Chelsea has the Premier League title already wrapped up. They can push the lead even further with a road win today as the Blues visit Turf Moor to take on Burnley live at 8:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

Thanks to more chaos below them as second-placed Spurs lost on Saturday, the Blues are looking to extend their advantage after naming an unchanged side.

David Luiz is in the starting lineup for the 21st straight time despite Antonio Conte noting midweek that he’s been playing with pain in his knee. The Brazilian has been a revelation in his first season back with the Blues, having returned over the summer from PSG. He starts alongside regular defenders Cesar Azpilicueta and captain Gary Cahill who makes his 150th Premier League appearance for the Blues, while Diego Costa heads the attack with the in-form Eden Hazard behind him.

[ WATCH LIVE: Burnley vs. Chelsea live online at NBCSports.com ]

Burnley, meanwhile, has traded wins and losses dating back to New Year’s Eve, with their home form perfect since that time. They sit in 13th in the table nine points above trouble, but they must continue to trudge on to avoid seeing themselves slip into the relegation battle, as bottom-half sides are often prone to doing towards the end of the season with nothing else to fight for.

With Jeff Hendrick suspended following his straight red in the early proceedings of last week’s loss to Watford, manager Sean Dyche has handed debut starts to January signings Robbie Brady and Ashley Westwood, sending Scott Arfield to the bench as well. Striker Sam Vokes remains on the sidelines with Andre Gray and Ashley Barnes preferred up front.

Should Burnley pull off the upset, it would be the club’s first league win over Chelsea since 1983, and would mark six straight home wins for the first time in 56 years, dating back to an eight-game streak in the early goings of the 1961/62 season.

LINEUPS

Burnley: Heaton; Ward, Mee, Keane, Lowton; Brady, Westwood, Barton, Boyd; Barnes, Gray.
Subs: Tarkowski, Flanagan, Arfield, Robinson, Gudmundsson, Darikwa, Vokes.

Chelsea: Courtois; Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill; Moses, Kante, Matic, Alonso; Pedro, Diego Costa, Hazard.
Subs: Begovic, Zouma, Ake, Chalobah, Fabregas, Willian, Batshuayi.