Lineups and discussion: Cardiff City vs. Manchester City

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They came into the weekend in first place, their 4-0 opening rout of Newcastle United vaulting them top on goal difference. Today in Wales, a second straight win to start their season should see 2011-12 champions Manchester City resume their place atop the Premier League table, with newly promoted Cardiff City standing in the way of Manuel Pellegrini’s perfect, six-point start.

As much as Edin Dzeko, Fernandinho, or Jesus Navas were on the pitch, Pellegrini was the star off it, his fingerprints all over the running start City made at the Etihad on Monday night. Goals from David Silva, Sergio Agüero, Yaya Touré, and Samir Nasri were the product of a typical Pellegrini-esque approach, the team’s 4-4-2 seeing Touré and Fernandinho control, Navas and Silva probe, while Agüero and Dzeko pushed.

On paper, it’s all a bit too much for most teams, let alone the Bluebirds, but playing their first home game in the Premier League, Cardiff City could have emotion on their side. And with two extra days’ rest, they could also have a fitness edge, though City’s deep squad and five days off should render that edge useless.

Last week at Upton Park, Cardiff began Premier League life with a 2-0 loss to West Ham United – a tepid performance in which Malky Mackay’s side only put one shot on target despite being ceded most of the game’s possession. Cardiff’s four attacking players — Fraizer Campbell, Craig Bellamy, Kim Bo-Kyong, and Peter Whittingham — combined for nine shots, but none of them tested Jussi Jääskeläinen.

That attack gets a major break today with the absence of Vincent Kompany. The City captain and central defender left Monday’s came with a groin strain that will sideline him three-to-four weeks. With the team’s other first choice center back Matija Nastasić and potential cover Micah Richards also out, Pellegrini turns to Joleon Lescott and Javi Garcia in central defense. Lescott is an accomplished English international (no problem there), but Garcia is a natural midfielder being pressed into service.

Depending on how Cardiff play, having Garcia’s distribution in central defense could be a bonus. If, however, City gets caught with both Touré and Fernandinho going forward from central midfield, an exposed weakness could be Cardiff’s route to an upset.

If Cardiff gets a surprise three points, it will be a nearly unchanged side that does so. Mackay returns 10 players from the team that started against West Ham, with only Andrew Taylor coming in for Declan John at left back.

For City, only Kompany’s absences keeps this from being an unchanged side.

If you’re not within Tottenham vs. Swansea on NBCSN, head over to NBC Sports Live Extra to check out streaming options for today’s match in Wales, one that kicks off at 11:00 a.m. Eastern.

Starting Lineups

Cardiff City: David Marshall; Matthew Connolly, Steven Caulker, Ben Turner, Andrew Taylor; Gary Medel, Aron Gunnarsson; Peter Whittingham, Kim Bo-Kyung, Craig Bellamy; Fraizer Campbell

Manchester City: Joe Hart; Pablo Zabaleta, Javi Garcia, Joleon Lescott, Gael Clichy; Jesus Navas, Yaya Toure, Fernandinho, David Silva; Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko

 

Smooth Spurs slice through Burnley

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Tottenham Hotspur was at its very best in blowing Burnley out of the water with a 5-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Harry Kane scored twice and added an assist as Spurs moved into fifth place with 23 points, while Burnley slipped into 13th via goal differential on 18 points.

It is the first clean sheet for Jose Mourinho as Spurs boss, but this was all about the goals. Kane’s goal were both classy to join a sensational Heung-Min Son marker that had the Internet abuzz. Moussa Sissoko and Lucas Moura also scored, with Dele Alli getting two assists.


Three things we learned

1. Kane at his very best, Dele keeps up form: Harry Kane entered the game on pace for an 18-goal league season, which might surprise you given how quiet he’s been. There was no problem with the volume on Saturday, as he scored not one but two simply wonderful goals straight out of his career highlight reel. If Kane can return to dominant force status, than there is no reason to believe Spurs cannot challenge for a Top Four space.

And Dele Alli, what can you say? He was far from incredible, especially given how good Son, Kane, and Lucas performed, but another two assists on the day give him three goals and three assists in four PL matches under Mourinho.

2. Maradona cloned in South Korea: We know Son is very good. We didn’t learn that, but we did learn that people in the year 2019 are still capable of full-field, Maradona/Messi level dribbles. Holy smoke, Sonny.

3. Burnley abject again as Spurs get rare clean sheet: The Clarets were up against it, yeah, but this was another performance that Sean Dyche will find it hard to stomach. The goals conceded hurt, but there was absolutely zero threat against a Spurs team which hasn’t been at its best in defense. Burnley now has seven shots on target in its last three games, which is not a good total, and the defending on Sissoko’s goal was pitiful and oh-so-easy.

Then again, the idea with Mourinho is that things would tighten up at the back, and the Portuguese manager trusted the same back line (including Serge Aurier) in getting a much-needed zero on the home scoreboard.

Man of the Match: Kane.


This was all Spurs from moment No. 1, and we wouldn’t want to be the Clarets when Burnley boss Sean Dyche shows film and takes training; The defending was terrible.

But take nothing away from Spurs, who scored incredible goals.

First Kane scored one of two trademark goals from distance (the second just inside the 18), and Dele set up Lucas Moura for fine second goal.

The third goal was Son’s incredible dribble goal, which is going to be on loop and really should be a favorite for Goal of the Season.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Kane struck again (at bottom), and Sissoko rolled in the fifth goal with a calm finish after a scything 1-2 with Kane between Burnley’s poor defenders.

Here’s is Kane’s second:

Watford, Crystal Palace play to feisty draw

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Watford and Crystal Palace played out a 0-0 draw a Vicarage Road on Saturday as the hosts squandered several chances to pick up their first home win of the season.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Wilfried Zaha was involved in plenty of hefty of challenges, for and against, as Palace huffed and puffed but didn’t really get going in attack. Gerard Deulofeu and Ismaila Sarr both went close for Watford, who had new manager Nigel Pearson watching on from the stands.

With the point Watford remain bottom of the team and have nine points for the season, while Palace are in seventh place on 22 points.

3 things we learned

1. Pearson already having an impact: This was so much better from Watford. Similar to their narrow defeat at Leicester in midweek,  they looked compact and solid defensively and Deulofeu was a menace underneath Deeney. Pearson watched on from the directors box tentatively throughout, as caretaker Hayden Mullins oversaw a solid display which should have yielded three points.

2. Rattled Zaha targeted: Wilfried Zaha and Watford mean one thing: Fouls. Zaha was clearly targeted by the Hornets and he went down on several occasions all game long, but was booked for a foul of his own and to his disbelief his calls for fouls were often overlooked. There is previous here as Zaha was the target for the home fans and players, and Roy Hodgson did his best to calm the Ivorian winger down. Eventually he did calm down, but he was rattled. After his fine displays in recent wins, Zaha was far from his best.

3. Sarr adds cutting edge: Palace had to bring in Jairo Reidewald for Jeffrey Schlupp at half time at left back to try and stop Sarr’s driving runs down the right flank. He came close to scoring to add to his goal at Southampton last weekend, and his power and pace perfectly complimented Delofeu’s trickery. If Watford can stay solid defensively, Deulofeu, Deeney and Sarr will give plenty of defenses problems.

Man of the Match:


Both teams went close early as Troy Deeney‘s scuffed effort was cleared by James Tomkins, James McArthur sent a volley wide of the far post and then Ismaila Sarr’s shot was deflected wide at the other end.

Watford took the game to Palace early on as Pearson’s arrival as their new manager on Friday, even if he wasn’t in the dugout, had an impact. Gerard Deulofeu was popping up time and time again and his deliveries from set pieces caused Palace problems.

Once again in a game between Palace and Watford it was Wilfried Zaha who was at the center of things as the players piled in after he was caught by several defenders as he was on the floor, then he was booked moments later before Craig Cathcart also received a yellow for fouling Luka Milivojevic.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Watford pinned Palace back in the second half as they peppered the goal and Deulofeu raced clear before smashing just wide.

The Spaniard then crossed for Sarr but his effort was saved by Vicente Guaita as the game opened up in the closing stages with Ayew firing just over on the counter and then Gary Cahill twice denying Sarr with brilliant blocks.

Andre Gray shanked a shot goalwards after more good work from Sarr, while Deeney went down in the box in stoppage time and wanted a penalty kick, as tempers flared late on with Zaha involved again.

In the end the two teams canceled each other out with Palace lackluster in attack and Watford disappointed not to take three points to lift themselves closer to safety.

Watch Live: The Manchester Derby

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Manchester United can send a message to the Top Four and lay down a marker for its manager when it visits Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

United enters the match on 21 points, eight back of losing Chelsea and two behind fifth place Spurs, while City looks to climb ahead of Leicester City ahead of the Foxes 9 a.m. ET Sunday visit to Aston Villa.

But really, this is about territory, and whether Manchester is blue or red for a few months.

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Fernandinho, Angelino, Rodrigo, D Silva (C), De Bruyne, Bernardo, Sterling, G Jesus. Subs: Bravo, Gundogan, Mendy, Mahrez, Cancelo, Otamendi, Foden.

Manchester United: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw, McTominay, Fred, James, Lingard, Rashford, Martial. Subs: Romero, Tuanzebe, Williams, Young, Andreas, Mata, Greenwood.

Son scores a throwback, full-field dribble goal to up Spurs lead

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Heung-Min Son saw Harry Kane‘s stunner and pushed all his chips into the pot.

The South Korean continued Spurs first-half demolition of Burnley by providing a third goal via a wonderful, near field-length dribble and finish that would make Diego Maradona nod in approval.

[ STREAM: Spurs-Burnley + every PL match ] 

He must’ve covered 80 yards or more on the dribble, winding his way into open space with a couple of touches past wayward defenders.

Don’t sleep on the speed, either, Son in possession and blazing past defenders at full sprint.

Scores, streams

Bournemouth 0-2 Liverpool – NBCSN [STREAM]
Tottenham 3-0 Burnley
– NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
Watford 0-0 Crystal Palace
– NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]