Premier League Playback: Where have all the goals gone?

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In the first 30 games of the 2013-14 Premier League season, there’s been a total of 57 goals scored.

That’s an average of just 1.9 goals per game as plenty of strikers have been left scratching their heads in bemusement as scoring droughts to start the season are the common theme.

To put this into perspective, the highest scoring season in PL history came in the 2011-2 season when there was an average of 2.81 goals per game scored. In the grand scheme of things, we’re only three games into the season and many will point to making sweeping generalizations this early as nonsensical. I agree.

But you can’t ignore the trend. Over the past weekend, nine of the 18 (50 percent for all you number bods out there) Premier League teams in action failed to hit the back of the net. Correct me if I’m wrong… but that’s the whole point of playing the game; to stick the ball in the back of the net.

Premier League Schedule – Week 3

Result Recap & Highlights
Arsenal 1-0 Tottenham Recap and watch here
Cardiff 0-0 Everton Recap and watch here
Crystal Palace 3-1 Sunderland Recap and watch here
Liverpool 1-0 Manchester United Recap and watch here
Manchester City 2-0 Hull City Recap and watch here
Newcastle 1-0 Fulham Recap and watch here
Norwich 1-0 Southampton Recap and watch here
West Brom 0-2 Swansea City Recap and watch here
West Ham 0-1 Stoke City Recap and watch here

You can point to many reasons for the lack of goals so far. Teams like Southampton, Norwich, Sunderland and Everton have been paired up against each other in the opening few weeks of the season and all of those teams drew plenty of games last season, (36.1 percent of all their 152 games between them) stalemates often play out when they’re involved.

That’s one solution. But what about the amount of teams who actually play 4-4-2 with two out and out strikers this season? Over the weekend only Newcastle, Manchester City, Hull City, West Ham and Southampton did that with variations of the newly hailed 4-3-3 system prevailing elsewhere.

4-3-3 may be great to get the players out on the ball on the flanks but those players are also being dragged away from the penalty box where they need to be. Just an observation; more men committed to central areas will cause more problems for the opposition.

The stats from the first three matchdays suggest less goals and more possession based play will rule supreme in the PL this season… will that be the case?

STANDOUT PERFORMERS

Some real gems this weekend. The likes of Curtis Davies from Hull City played superbly against Man City and Hugo Lloris in goal for Spurs was easily their man of the match.

But in terms of game changing moments a few stood out with Olivier Giroud putting in a bruising display of center forward prowess.

Then there was Nathan Redmond at Norwich, as the 19-year-old winger tore Southampton to shreds and scored the game-winner with a screamer.

Newcastle’s match-winner, Hatem Ben Arfa, seems to have the innate ability to excite and frustrate Magpies fans in the space of about five seconds. But the mercurial Frenchman bent in a marvelous goal late on to secure Newcastle’s first win of the season against Fulham.

David Marshall played extremely well as Cardiff picked up a great point at home to Everton, his save from Nikica Jelavic just before half time was the pick of the bunch. And rounding off the top performers in Week 3 is Daniel Sturridge who popped up to score his third goal in a row as Liverpool won 1-0 against bitter rivals Manchester United.

Premier League Star Performers

Player Reason
1. Olivier Giroud  1 goal, great hold up play and battling
2. Daniel Sturridge  1 goal, another tidy finish. Luis who?
3. Nathan Redmond  1 goal, tore Saints apart. Bright future
4. Hatem Ben Arfa  1 goal, creative genius around the box
5. David Marshall  3 fine saves to stop Everton

BIGGEST FLOP

West Bromwich Albion are fast becoming this seasons champions of disappointment, as they’ve failed to score in their opening three games and have just one point to show for their efforts.

Steve Clarke’s men miss Romelu Lukaku badly and despite Nicholas Anelka’s return from ‘compassionate leave’ the Baggies didn’t really look like scoring.

After losing Ben Foster with a broken foot and struggling to bring in any big names in the transfer window, could the Baggies suffer a massive fall from grace after finishing in a all-time PL high of eighth spot last season?

“1-0 TO THE LIVERPOOL…”

Not sure if that chant will catch on like it did in a certain part of North London throughout the 1990’s… but it’s certainly impressive to see this Liverpool team score early and defend for their lives. They have added new defenders Mamadou Sakho and Tiago Ilori before the deadline, who will strengthen their defensive resolve.

So, after three straight 1-0 wins to start the campaign, you know the script. Sturridge scores, Liverpool keep the ball, the Reds defend for their life, Liverpool win. Watch their win over bitter rivals United below.

BEST GOALS OF THE WEEKEND

Redmond’s screamer against the Saints really was a terrific strike. He cut in from the left flank and sidestepped James Ward-Prowse before rifling a low shot past Artur Boruc and into the bottom corner.

The England Under-21 international looks like a huge talent and the Canaries have done a great piece of business there.

Stuart O’Keefe’s late left-footed curler that went in off the underside of the bar saw Selhurst Park erupt as Palace picked up their first Premier League win of the season. The academy product even got a nice little victory jig out of Eagles manager Ian Holloway.

We’ve already talked about Ben Arfa’s curling beauty against Fulham but another goal worth mentioning is Arsenal’s winner against Tottenham. It resulted in a neat finish from Giroud on the edge of the box but the build up play to pounce on Tottenham’s lack of defensive shape was sublime. Per Mertesacker knicked the ball and played it to Aaron Ramsey who swiveled away from his marker before knocking the ball to Tomas Rosicky who played it to Theo Walcott to set up Giroud.

Four passes from the edge of their own box to the goal. Sublime.

WITH OR WITHOUT YOU

As Gareth Bale waved goodbye to Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday evening and signed for Real Madrid, I spoke with Andre Villas-Boas after their 1-0 loss to Arsenal about the lack of creativity without Bale. Spurs have just scored twice in three games… both from the penalty spot. They created no clear cut chances against Arsenal. So, AVB, are you struggling to create? “I think that is a false question. I don’t think there is a good argument. We came to Arsenal and created lots of chances…” Judge for yourselves below.

STAT ATTACK

Following their narrow 2-0 victory over Hull City at the weekend, Manchester City have now scored in 52 consecutive home league games. The Citizens streak began that run with a 1-0 home success over Bolton way back in December 2010. It is the only active scoring streak alive above 27 games in the Premier League.

Last Monday Manchester United’s record scoring streak at home ended against Chelsea, having scored in 66 straight games from 2009-13, that was the best in PL history. Can City keep their incredible run up to topple their Manchester rivals into the record books?

Join us every Monday as we recap the best moments from the past weekend in Premier League Playback.

Pogba contract talks to begin after season ends

Pogba contract
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Pogba contract update: For all the talk of Paul Pogba leaving Manchester United this summer, last summer and the summer before that one, the 27-year-old midfielder now appears ready to commit to the Red Devils for the foreseeable future.

[ MORE: Transfer news: Dembele to Man United; Promes to Arsenal ]

According to a report from Sky Sports, not only is Pogba happy at Man United these days, but he also expects negotiations over a new contract to begin after the club’s Europa League run ends. United are set to face Sevilla in the quarterfinals on Sunday, with the final looming large next Friday, Aug. 21.

“Pogba is happy at United and he’s expecting them to open contract talks once their Europa League campaign is over.

“His current deal runs out next summer but United always insert this year option so they don’t get caught out with free transfers.

“It should be said United are in a better position to negotiate with Pogba and the returning Dean Henderson, as it stands from Sheffield United, following the departure of Alexis Sanchez and all of the money his wages have now freed.

“There appears to be a willingness from all parties to get around the table as far as Pogba is concerned.”

The part of the report referring to Sanchez’s now-offloaded contract is of the utmost importance. Not only was the transfer itself — and the Chilean’s time at Old Trafford — an incredible flop, but his massive (reported) $500,000-per-week contract was a huge obstacle for the club when it came time to sign new players and/or negotiate new contracts with players already at the club.

[ MORE: Ranking new Premier League kits: 2020-21 ]

It’s not just the Pogba contract which needs resolving in the coming months, but budding superstar Mason Greenwood is almost certain to get another pay rise following his standout performances over the second half of the 2019-20 season. The 18-year-old signed a new contract back in October, but he will likely be rewarded — and locked down — with the longest possible terms as United move to fend off any interest from other clubs in the Premier League and around Europe. Without the Sanchez money off the books, taking care of such business would have been that much more difficult.

LIVE, PSG-Atalanta: How to watch, team news, key battles

Champions League quarterfinals
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The UEFA Champions League quarterfinals take center stage this week and we’re going to select one key battle which should determine the outcome of all four games.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ] 

With Manchester City the favorites against Lyon, a massive clash between Barcelona and Bayern Munich, plus intriguing ties between Atalanta and PSG, plus RB Leipzig v. Atletico Madrid, the final few games in the 2019-20 Champions League campaign will be so tight to call.

[ MORE: Man City beat Real Madrid ]

In the next few days the Champions League quarterfinals will excite as the mini tournament in Portugal begins.

Man City beat Real Madrid 4-2 on aggregate to reach the last eight and Pep Guardiola’s boys will be confident but wary after Lyon dumped out Juventus in the Round of 16. Bayern v. Barcelona should be all-out attack, while Atletico v. Leipzig will be full of grit and Atalanta and PSG could end up 6-5 to either team as two free-flowing attacks collide.

Lisbon, Portugal will host the Champions League games from the quarterfinal stage onwards, and there will be one heck of a show over the next few days.

Below is a look at the key battles, as well as how to watch and follow all of the Champions League quarterfinal fixtures in the USA.


How to watch, stream Champions League quarterfinals

Dates: August 5-23
Location: Quarterfinals onwards in Lisbon
How to watch: CBS Sports
Live updates: UCL here at NBCSports.com & Europa League here at NBCSports.com


Team news

Kylian Mbappe makes the bench after suffering an ankle injury just over two weeks ago. He was previously expected to be altogether ruled out for Wednesday’s game. It will be interesting to see whether or not he is truly available should PSG need him to come on late in the game.


Key battles

Atalanta – PSG: Marten de Roon v. Ander Herrera

Yes, that Marten de Roon from Middlesbrough. The Dutch midfielder has been a sensation at Atalanta and does most of the dirty work for Gomez, Zapata et al. to score boat loads of goals. His battle in the engine room against Ander Herrera will be crucial. Marco Verratti is out injured and that is a big blow, especially with Kylian Mbappe and Angel di Maria out too for PSG. Neymar and Icardi will be looking for the midfield to give them the ball as much as possible and if that happens, PSG could run riot. That said, if De Roon can win that battle with Herrera, Atalanta’s attackers can cause PSG’s defense big problems. Whoever wins the midfield battle will win this game. It should be tight and full of goals. Enjoy.

RB Leipzig – Atletico Madrid: Dayot Upamecano v.Diego Costa

This should be an epic head-to-head. Costa loves the one-on-one scraps and Upamecano is among the finest center backs in Europe right now. The young Frenchman doesn’t get bullied often but Costa will have a good go. Costa has hardly been prolific in his second spell at Atletico but he so often sets the tone for their scrappy displays under Diego Simeone. Leipzig like to play a back three at times and that could leave space for Costa to run at Upamecano. This will be intriguing. Watch out for Costa to put down his marker early on with elbows and everything else flying at Upamecano.

Barcelona – Bayern Munich: Lionel Messi v. David Alaba

Barcelona - Bayern
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Okay, so, we know how Jerome Boateng v. Lionel Messi went before. Somewhere, somebody is still using that gif of Boateng tangling his own legs like spaghetti as Messi bamboozled him to score at the Nou Camp. So it’s probably best if versatile Austrian star David Alaba goes up against Messi. It’s likely that Alaba will play at the back but he should basically mark Messi, and when (or if, because this is Messi) he gets the ball back he has the quality to start attacks. Bayern and Barcelona both score plenty of goals but defensively they have to improve if they’re going to win the Champions League this season.

Manchester City – Lyon: Aymeric Laporte v. Memphis Depay

Everyone is tipping Man City to beat Lyon easily, but that’s what everyone said about Lyon against Juventus. Memphis Depay is a real threat up top and Lyon usually do very well against Man City. Pep Guardiola needs Aymeric Laporte to be at his very best and it is likely he and Fernandinho will again line up together at center back. Laporte will line up on the left and Memphis will start on the right side of Lyon’s central strikers, so this will be a battle to look out for. Laporte has class but his pace is sometimes questioned and if City leave him exposed on the break, Memphis can take advantage of those situations.

Ranking new Premier League kits: 2020-21

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Premier League kit rankings are absolutely one of our favorite things to do each summer.

New kits have been dropped by plenty of Premier League clubs ahead of the new 2020-21 season, with fresh looks galore.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Some teams have kept it simple, while others have gone for something very different.

With big name kit suppliers arriving on new deals at clubs, there will be some very different looks for next season and beyond.

Check out our 2020-21 Premier League kit rankings from the shirts released, so far.


1 – Sheffield United: Absolutely stunning design. Simple and striking at the same time. Love it. The away kit is a beauty too.

2 – Southampton: Classy retro kits to celebrate their 135th anniversary, as Saints return to their original look.

Southampton

3 – Aston Villa: Clean, sharp look and you can’t go wrong with claret and blue. Love the larger badge too.

 

4 – Arsenal: Loving the retro vibes and yet another fine Arsenal kit.

 

5 – Brighton: Gone for an all blue number with white pinstripes. This is very good and a big chance from the bigger blue and white stripes. Retro, again.

6 – Tottenham Hotspur: Very sleek look and Spurs have kit it simple. Like the away kit, a lot.

7 – Manchester United: Nice little design throughout the kit which adds something extra.

8 – Liverpool: New Nike kits for the first time in history. The teal trim looks smart. Kept it simple and safe.

9 – Wolves: Another team which has gone for the retro look and it works.

 

10 – Man City: A little too much going on with the home and away kits for some, but a sleek look and adventurous from Puma.

11 – Everton: Hummel are underrated and the home kit has a nice retro look to it, and a return to the yellow away jersey is nostalgic too.

12 – West Ham: The Hammers are celebrating their 125th anniversary in style. Very nice. Classic look with a massive badge. Maybe a bit too plain?

13 – Chelsea: The new sponsor logo and the size of it has been ridiculed and it does ruin the very snazzy looking kits.

14 – Similar look for Leicester and this is a nice design. Big fan of the sleeves.

 

15 – West Brom: The barcode stripes are slightly jarring but the colors, badge and design are good.

 

16 – Newcastle United: Does what it says on the tin. Black and white stripes, and that’s it.

17 – Crystal Palace: Oh, no. These are just not what I expected. Why move away from the sash? What’s the deal with the central stripe?

Barcelona v. Bayern Munich: How to watch, team news, start time, odds

Barcelona - Bayern Munich
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Barcelona – Bayern Munich is a massive UEFA Champions League quarterfinal on Friday (start time, 3pm ET) and here is everything you need to know ahead of the clash in Lisbon, Portugal.

Many believe the 2019-20 Champions League winner will be one of these two teams, as they face the winner of Manchester City v. Lyon in the semifinal.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Barcelona and Lionel Messi have the disappointment of losing their La Liga title in recent weeks to spur them on in the Champions League, while Bayern Munich swept all before them in Germany this season with Robert Lewandowski scoring 53 goals in 44 games in all competitions.

After just a few months in charge, Barca boss Quique Setien likely needs to win the Champions League to keep his job as Messi is firing in attack but Barca are still suspect at the back. As for Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick, who has masterminded a masterful turnaround since taking charge last November, he and the Bayern hierarchy will see this as the Bavarians’ best chance to win the Champions League since they last did so in 2013.

[ MORE: Key battles in UCL quarterfinals ]

Below you will find all of the details you need on Barcelona – Bayern Munich in what is set to be the game of the Champions League season so far as both teams love to attack.


How to watch, stream Champions League: Barcelona – Bayern Munich

Dates: August 12, 3pm ET kick off
Location: Lisbon, Portugal
How to watch: CBS Sports
Live updates: UCL here at NBCSports.com & Europa League here at NBCSports.com


Team news

Barcelona will likely be without the injured Ousmane Dembele who hasn’t featured since having surgery on his hamstring in February, but could be part of the squad.

Bayern are without Benjamin Pavard who has an ankle injury, but apart from that they have a fully fit squad to choose from as Alphonso Davies sat out of training with a slight adductor problem but is expected to be fit.


What they’re saying

Antoine Griezmann on Barcelona’s mindset: “We are looking forward to it, we have worked well tactically and we are ready to play the game. We know it will be difficult, but we know what we have to do to qualify for the semifinals. It will be a very good match. We hope to take advantage of the quality we have. We are in a good moment and we can play a good game. We have to be together, up front and at the back, and try to have the ball as much as possible.”

Hansi Flick on the style of play he wants from Bayern: “Defensively to win the ball – and offensively, purposefully and consistently to score goals. The intensity of our actions is crucial. We also want to play attractive possession football. The most important thing is that we see ourselves as a team and that everyone knows what their task is. Every player has to get involved and be able to rely on his neighbor on the pitch. This is extremely important to us.”


Odds – Full matchweek odds

It is not often that Barcelona (+235) are the underdogs but they are here, and that shows you how good Bayern Munich (+115) have been in recent months. Bayern will be wary of Messi but with Lewandowski banging in goals for fun and a stable midfield and defensive unit behind him, the Bavarian giants are the favorites for a reason. The tie at +255 provides value and this should be a goal-fest.


Prediction

If this turns into a straight shootout, you would probably fancy Barcelona to advance with Luis Suarez, Messi and Antoine Griezmann in attack. But Bayern will keep it tight, look to slow play down and then launch counters which Lewandowski can finish. I think this game will be stretched and become the attacking feast all neutrals are hoping for, but the Germans are just a more ruthless and solid team right now. Barcelona 1-3 Bayern Munich.