Lineups and discussion: Manchester United vs. Chelsea

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The only way this game could have been scheduled worse is if it kicked off this Saturday at 10:00 a.m Eastern. Chelsea’s annual visit to Manchester United is normally be one of the most anticipated fixtures of the season, but scheduled far too early, the stakes are low-to-non-existent. At least if it was on opening weekend we could have had the months of insane buildup, people like us driving a ‘Moyes debuts against Chelsea narrative’ six feet deep. Doesn’t that sound fun?

I guess we’re just going to have to content ourselves with 22 elite soccer players starting for two iconic clubs playing in front of a 75,000 people at one of the best venues on Earth. As for stakes — beyond these being two of the three major contenders for this year’s title — we’ll have to supplant them with the uncertainty that we’re still not very sure if United will fall off of Chelsea has truly made up the gap. If either side manages three points, it will be as huge of a result as you can muster 10 days into a season.

Chelsea comes into the match at the top of the Premier League, with first week wins over Hull City and Aston Villa putting them on a perfect six points through two matches. Today’s game, however, will be their first way from Stamford Bridge. It will also be their first against a side that’s expected to compete for Europe.

Manchester United faced both of those things in week one, going to the Liberty Stadium in Swansea to post a 4-1 win on Michael Laudrup’s Swans. Doubles by Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck got the David Moyes era off to a surprisingly strong start.

For United, there is one notable change from Monday’s game: Wayne Rooney starts. The recalcitrant star began on the bench against Swansea yet came on to record two assists. Against the club he’s rumored to be moving to before the transfer deadline, Rooney may make one of his final Manchester United starts. He comes into the team for Ryan Giggs.

Chelsea’s wrinkle is the lack of an obvious number nine. Against Hull they used Fernando Torres. Demba Ba started against Aston Villa. Today, José Mourinho’s going with an attacking four of Kevin De Bruyne, Oscar, Eden Hazard, and Andre Schurrle. Amazingly, Chelsea has named a striker-less team that doesn’t contain Juan Mata.

Kickoff is at 3:00 p.m. Eastern, on NBCSN. If you’re away from your television, head over to NBC Sports Live Extra, where you’ll be able to stream today’s match.

Starting Lineups

Manchester United: David de Gea; Phil Jones, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra; Antonio Valencia, Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley, Wayne Rooney; Robin van Persie, Danny Welbeck

Chelsea: Petr Cech; Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, John Terry, Ashley Cole; Ramires, Frank Lampard; Kevin De Bruyne, Oscar, Eden Hazard, Andre Schurrle

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

whufc.com
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West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3

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In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.