LA Galaxy take charge over Toronto; what we learned

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It’s not all over for Toronto FC, although Aron Winter’s team is squarely up against it now following a 2-2 draw at the absolutely electric Rogers Centre. For a chance to advance into the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals, the Canadian side needs a win or a draw with at least two goals when the series returns next week to Los Angeles.

That’s a tall order, especially considering this: the Galaxy is a master of the low-scoring game. Remind us that score from last year’s MLS final? Oh, yes! That’s right. It was 1-0.

Then again, TFC was up against it last year as group stage finished, going down to Dallas in need of a win to advance into the tournament’s knockout phase. That was different situation as Winter’s men faced (and found that needed “W”) against a tired bunch of Texans. Bruce Arena’s men have no such weariness about them, but the TFC memories of beating the odds last fall can give them some hope, at least.

Here are good accounts from the Galaxy side and the Toronto side.

Meanwhile, here’s what we learned from Wednesday’s quarterfinal.

  • All credit to the crowd in Ontario, which gave the match such a nice, lively feel and helped make the Rogers Centre a difficult place to play. But let’s be honest: what really made it a difficult place was that awful artificial turf.  It made the game formless and frenetic. A game like that, so hard on the eyes, certainly doesn’t help when it comes to the soccer snobs who complain about Major League Soccer’s flagging quality.
  • Everyone knew the Galaxy would surely miss injured center back Omar Gonzalez, who is out for the better part of 2012 while recovering from knee surgery. But who knew the effect would reveal itself so  fast? The Galaxy was down two goals within 18 minutes. The home team’s second strike was particularly telling, as TFC rookie Luis Silva was left inexplicably unchallenged to put away Torsten Frings’ cross. That’s just a lack of communication at work, and that’s where Galaxy center back A.J. DeLaGarza simply has to up his game this year, take command and get things sorted quickly during the fluid run of play.
  • David Beckham does not like artificial turf. Who does when it comes to professional soccer? But it sure didn’t hurt his restart delivery. Beckham’s zippy free kicks and corner kicks bothered Toronto all night. They were especially effective compared to Frings’ deliveries, lofted softies that Galaxy defenders typically had little trouble dealing with.
  • The Galaxy’s dandy DP trio (Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane) will be a handful every time out this year. No secret there. But Edson Buddle was imaginative and creative, too. And don’t underestimate Mike Magee, the versatile attacker (and sometimes goalkeeper, if you remember that one from last year!) whose instincts and cagey sense of timing near goal were already at mid-season hum. Magee had the Galaxy’s first goal.
  • Winter chose to pull Frings from the midfield, deploying his German veteran along the back line. And he did help create some stability. But only “some.” At other moments, the TFC defense didn’t look much improved over the disheveled lot from 2011. The one, that is, that allowed a league-worst 59 goals.

Leeds – Fulham: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

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Leeds – Fulham: A battle between two Premier League new boys on Saturday (Watch live at 10am ET, online via Peacock) is the first top-flight game at Elland Road for over 16 years.

LEEDS – FULHAM STREAM LIVE

Marcelo Bielsa and Scott Parker both delivered promotion from the Championship last season and both were expected to, even though Bielsa is the revered master of coaching and Parker is only in his second full season as a head coach. These new boys have very different styles of play but ultimately they are both much better going forward than they are at the back.

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Here is everything you need to know ahead of Leeds – Fulham this Saturday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Fulham – Leeds (INJURY REPORT)

Leeds could welcome back captain and center back Liam Cooper who is pushing back from injury, while Adam Forshaw will not be available.

Fulham could have a host of new players back ready, as Alphonse Areola, Kenny Tete, Mario Lemina and Antonee Robinson all made their Fulham debuts in the League Cup in midweek.


What they’re saying

Marcelo Bielsa on Leeds’ start to life back in the Premier League: “Every game is a new story. We will try to correct all the things we did badly against Liverpool and we will try to maintain all the good things. A positive performance always gives a certain amount of optimism and a defeat generates sadness. This week the two of those things combined. The season is very new and the adaptation of the new players is going to take a while, which is the same for everybody.”

Scott Parker on facing Leeds and if it will give him a better idea of where they’re at compared to playing v. Arsenal: “Yeah, definitely, [but] saying that, we want to be competitive in those games [too]. Every game we go into we want to be competitive and get something out of the game. Of course, this weekend we go to another promoted team, a team that won the division last year, very handsomely, who have spent a lot of money to improve the team even more. The challenge for us is we want to go in and try and get a result in this game, like we will do every game this year, so we’ll try and do that and plan accordingly to get a result.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Leeds (-160) are the heavy favorites but Fulham (+450) are worth a pop at these huge odds. The draw (+290) is intriguing as the bookies were obviously impressed by Leeds’ opening day display at Liverpool, but were they too impressed?

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Prediction

I’m going to go for a draw here. I know people are well on board the Leeds bandwagon, and rightly so, but I still think there’s a lot for them to improve on before they start pushing for a top 10 finish in the Premier League. Fulham were a bit unlucky with the first two goals in their opening day loss to Arsenal and if Aleksandar Mitrovic is fit to play, he will have plenty of joy up top. 2-2.


How to watch Leeds – Fulham stream and start time

Kickoff: 10 am ET Saturday
Online: Stream via Peacock

Transfer news: Jota to Liverpool; Yedlin to Besiktas

Jota to Liverpool
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The transfer news just keeps on coming a Diogo Jota to Liverpool and DeAndre Yedlin to Besiktas are just a few of the deals developing.

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Let’s start in the north west of England.

Jota to Liverpool close?

Diogo Jota to Liverpool is moving fast, with a report from Sky Sport in Italy stating that talks are ongoing between the clubs and Jota’s agent, Jorge Mendes, is ironing out the details. It is claimed that Portuguese international Jota is close to agreeing a four-year contract at Liverpool.

A separate report from The Athletic states that Liverpool will pay Wolves over $45 million for Jota, 23, who has been incredibly consistent over the last two seasons in the Premier League.

This could be the extra winger Liverpool were looking for as they’ve been linked with Ismaila Sarr and are clearly looking for extra options to try and ease the burden on Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.

Why would Wolves let Jota leave? They have just signed Portuguese whizkid Fabio Silva and Nuno Espirito Santo did rotate Jota in and out of his lineup last season, as Raul Jimenez and Adama Traore were the main men in attack and the likes of Pedro Neto and Daniel Podence picked up regular minutes as the season progressed.

Jota has scored 44 goals in 116 appearances for Wolves as he joined them initially on loan from Atletico Madrid when they were in the Championship and was a key part of them getting promoted to the Premier League and then qualifying for the Europa League and sealing back-to-back seventh place finishes.

This signing, off the back of signing Thiago Alcantara, would be another big boost for Liverpool and could mean the likes of Divock Origi, Xherdan Shaqiri or Takumi Minamino may be looking at loan moves away from Anfield this season.

USMNT right back Yedlin to leave Newcastle?

DeAndre Yedlin, 27, is said to be close to joining Turkish giants Besiktas on a free transfer.

Yedlin has one year left on his current contract at Newcastle United but became a squad player last season under Steve Bruce. It appears that will be the case once again this season and the USMNT defender is apparently heading to Turkey where he will link up with fellow U.S. international Tyler Boyd.

This would be a good move for Yedlin, who are currently in Europa League qualifying. The speedy right back has always been a threat out wide but his defending has sometimes been a little suspect, especially at the Premier League level.

A fresh start in Turkey would be interesting and with as host of MLS clubs said to be interested in the former Seattle Sounders star, maybe he will head home in a few years’ time?

Premier League odds, Prince-Wright’s picks: Week 2

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EPL betting odds for the Premier League Week 2 have been released but we know the bookies don’t always get it right and there is plenty of cash to be made up there.

Here are the latest Prince-Wright’s Premier League score predictions as the Premier League 2020-21 season is here and the EPL betting odds all over the place with new signings galore, some teams having more of a preseason than others and injuries already having an impact early in the season.

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The Premier League score predictions below encompass the 10 games during Week 2 of the new season, as Manchester City and Manchester United both begin their season after being given an extended break over the summer following their European exploits.

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun with these Premier League games.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Listen carefully, because this is very specific.

While you can download the NBC Sports Predictor app (below) and play the Premier League Pick ‘Em game yourself to predict the scores and win the prizes.

DOWNLOAD NBC SPORTS PREDICTOR

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the long shots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.

Check out our Premier League score predictions below, plus the betting odds provided by our partner, PointsBet.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links.


PREMIER LEAGUE PREDICTIONS

BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Manchester United 3-1 Crystal Palace – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, Peacock) – [STREAM

Arsenal 4-0 West Ham – (Saturday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Everton 2-0 West Brom – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, Peacock) – [STREAM


DON’T TOUCH THIS…

Newcastle 2-1 Brighton – (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, Peacock) – [STREAM

Leicester 2-1 Burnley – (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Southampton 1-1 Tottenham – (Sunday, 7 a.m. ET, Peacock) – [STREAM

Wolves 2-3 Man City – (Monday, 3 p.m. ET, Peacock) – [STREAM


“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Leeds United 2-2 Fulham – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Peacock) – [STREAM

Chelsea 3-3 Liverpool – (Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET, Peacock) – [STREAM

Aston Villa 2-1 Sheffield United – (Monday, 1 p.m. ET, Peacock) – [STREAM


ODDS – full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet

Saturday, September 19: (-195) Everton v. West Brom (+540), Tie: +320
Saturday, September 19: (-160) Leeds v. Fulham (+450), Tie: +290
Saturday, September 19: (-325) Man United v. Crystal Palace (+850), Tie: +440
Saturday, September 19: (-195) Arsenal v. West Ham (+500), Tie: +340
Sunday, September 20: (+215) Southampton v. Tottenham (+130), Tie: +235
Sunday, September 20: (+160) Newcastle v. Brighton (+185), Tie: +210
Sunday, September 20: (+220) Chelsea v. Liverpool (+110), Tie: +270
Sunday, September 20: (-165) Leicester v. Burnley (+460), Tie: +290
Monday, September 21: (+170) Aston Villa v. Sheffield United (+170), Tie: +215
Monday, September 21: (+520) Wolves v. Man City (-195), Tie: +325

Thiago to Liverpool confirmed: How big of a deal is this?

Thiago to Liverpool
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Thiago to Liverpool has finally been confirmed as the worst kept secret in the transfer world has reached its end game with a transfer deal which could rise to $36 million reached.

What does Thiago Alcantara signing for Liverpool actually mean though?

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First up, Liverpool have themselves a ‘baller with a capital B who was influential in Bayern winning the treble and sealing the UEFA Champions League trophy in the 2019-20 season.

Thiago, 29, has been instrumental at Bayern Munich and is the deep-lying playmaker Liverpool didn’t have. Speaking about his arrival at Anfield, his excitement is clear and so is one other thing: he’s a born winner.

“I think it’s an amazing feeling. I was waiting for this moment for a long time and I am very, very happy to be here,” Thiago said. “When the years are passing, you are trying to win as much as you can – and when you win, you want to win more. I think this club describes what I am as well; I want to achieve all of the goals, win as many trophies as possible. It also [has] this kind of family [feeling] that I need because we [like to] have a very close relationship with the club and I think I will feel this, I will have this feeling, with this club as well.”

Thiago is exactly the type of signing Liverpool needed to make to back up their hopes of being back-to-back Premier League champions. That sound you can hear is Pep Guardiola’s heart breaking, as the current Manchester City boss brought Thiago from Barcelona to Bayern Munich in 2013 and knows how key of a cog he can be in this well-oiled Liverpool machine.

The Spanish international is exactly the type of player the reigning Premier League champions needed to reach the next level. He gives them that Plan B they haven’t previously had. If Thiago had played for Liverpool against Atletico Madrid in the 2019-20 season, they would not have lost that game. He would have slowed things down, picked passes to rip apart Atleti’s watertight midfield and defense.

His skills are special and will complement the hard-working players Liverpool primarily have in their midfield. Jordan Henderson, Fabinho and Georginio Wijnaldum were a formidable trio but the latter may now leave for Barcelona and both Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have struggled with injuries. Thiago gives this Liverpool midfield a new dimension and his arrival likely means Fabinho and Henderson will line up alongside him in a three-man central midfield.

He will have to settle in, though, and playing in England and for Klopp’s Liverpool is very different to what he was used to at Bayern Munich. That said, he oozes class and will be given the license to dictate the tempo of Liverpool’s play and sit in alongside Fabinho and spray passes and snap into tackles. In many ways, just like at Bayern, his role will be to allow the full backs to attack. His presence will allow Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold to bomb on just as Alphonso Davies and Joshua Kimmich did at Bayern.

Simply put, he allows Liverpool to play a different way in comparison to their full-throttle, high-press style which isn’t always possible when teams sit back and defend deep. Now they have Thiago, Liverpool can do it all. If you sit back, Thiago can thread a ball through the eye of a needle to open up defenses. If you push up, one ball over the top will see Salah and Mane set free.

The son of a former World Cup winner with Brazil (Mazinho) who was born in Italy to Brazilian parents and made his name in Spain, Thiago Alcantara is a high quality player, professional and human. This signing is a big statement by Liverpool and for many, including myself, it means they are now the favorites to win the Premier League title this season ahead of Manchester City.

That is how big of a deal it is.