Quick Six: Chelsea stays top, Liverpool’s onslaught, and the rest of the headlines from the PL weekend

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1. Chelsea wears down Everton, stays top of Premier League

There came a point in Saturday’s match where Everton seemed to hit a wall, where the oppression Chelsea began to inflict with the halftime insertion of Ramires at Oscar’s expense began to pay off. Though the Premier League’s leaders had been the better team for most of the day, it wasn’t until the match’s end that their control seemed worth two extra points. By the time John Terry got his foot in front of Tim Howard on Frank Lampard’s stoppage time restart, the Blues were deserved winners.

[MORE: Chelsea 1-0 Everton: Late goal seals crucial win to keep Blues top (video)]

The 1-0 result may overshadow the strong performance Everton gave through much of the match, but it also highlights the resiliency José Mourinho has forged. Whereas the Toffees looked the slightly better team through the first 45 minutes, Chelsea’s halftime adjustment produced a team capable of grinding out a game in typical Mourinho-ian style. With Hazard controlling the attack and Ramires, Lampard, and Nemanja Matic congesting the midfield, the Blues showed the improvement they’ve made since the teams’ first meeting at Goodison Park. Whereas that result went 1-0 to the Toffees, Saturday’s allowed Chelsea to remain atop the league.

Manchester City’s game in hand means the Blues’ lead is a tenuous one, but against a quality (if receding) opponent, Chelsea’s progression was evidence once again. Whereas earlier in the season the team’s attack may not have found a game-winning goal, Saturday saw Samuel Eto’o, Willian, and Fernando Torres help Hazard wear Everton down, something that produced a series of late fouls and corners. And whereas the team’s defense had been suspect during the middle of the campaign, Terry and Gary Cahill were rarely bothered on at Stamford Bridge.

Perhaps the absences of Lacina Touré (injured in warm ups) and Romelu Lukaku (injured, but also loaned from Chelsea) help explain that. Regardless, Mourinho’s side continues to show itself capable of holding off City at the top.

2. Manchester City back in wins, goals businesses

At one time, Manchester City seemed destined to break Chelsea’s four-year-old record for most goals in a season, yet ahead of Saturday’s visit from Stoke City, Manuel Pellegrini’s team had been shut out in their last two league games, a run that persisted until the 70th minute against the Potters. Able to get a cross from Aleksandr Kolarov out of his feet before Stoke’s defense could close him down, Yaya Touré beat Asmir Begovic from the middle of the Potters’ area, giving City a 1-0 reprieve.

Given how City performed against Barcelona before Martín Demichelis’s mid-week sending off, their scoreless run seems like an outlier, not the start of a new pattern. But the run does highlight how difficult it is for a Premier League team to break the century mark for goals in a season. Whereas two weeks ago City was on pace for 108 goals, their now on track to score over 100 times (100.8), a pace that will leave them three goals short of Chelsea’s record.

Given the effortless way players like David Silva, Sergio Agüero and Álvaro Negredo have been able to create goals this season, it’s difficult to image a squad having a more commanding run through the Premier League. Yet here we are, 11 rounds from the finish line, and City’s pace has regressed. For as much talent as Pellegrini’s able to pack into a starting XI, his team may still come up short of the Premier League’s all-time mark.

That mark, however interesting it may be, is nothing compared to the possibility of a second Premier League title. Thanks to Touré’s 13th goal of the year, City stayed within three points of league-leading Chelsea, with a match in hand against Sunderland giving them a slight edge heading into the season’s final three months.

3. Giroud returns, Arsenal rolls over Sunderland

A week of controversy that’s included rumors of personal problems, Twitter apologies, and being dropped from the starting XI for Arsenal’s Champions League match against Bayern Munich culminated in a small piece of redemption for Gunners’ striker Olivier Giroud. With two goals on Saturday, the French international helped Arsenal to a 4-1 win over Sunderland in his return to the starting lineup, keeping the Gunners within one point of the first place Blues.

Although summer signing Yaya Sonogo put in two decent, somewhat reassuring shifts during Giroud’s sabbatical, the Gunners’ lack of depth at striker was still evident, giving the lingering critics of Arsenal’s transfer policies a convenient Nelson Muntz moment. With Arsène Wneger forced to start the 21-year-old French attacker against Liverpool and Bayern, detractors’ ha-has have been evident through social media. They told Wenger to get a striker. Why didn’t he listen?

In reality, the striker position has been less of a problem than another of the Gunners’ transfer storylines, that of Mesut Özil. Having missed a penalty kick during a disappionting performance on Wednesday, the German international was left out on Saturday, giving him a much-needed rest. Cruising to a three-goal win (one which included some of the team’s most beautiful goals of the season), Arsenal never missed their marque summer purchase.

It would be mistake to judge Özil on one bad week, yet his team’s performance without him was a reminder: The importance of any single player is often overstated. While Giroud’s return may say otherwise, his inclusion probably would not have changed either the  against Liverpool (a win) or Bayern (loss) results. And while Özil has been lauded as the Gunners’ pièce de résistance, Arsenal proved quite capable without their record purchase.

4. Four-goal Sunday gives Liverpool room in race for fourth

Amid growing discussion Liverpool’s title prospects, the race for the Premier League’s final Champions League spot had become overlooked. After this weekend, though, a waning discussion may be more appropriate for the league’s fourth place spot. After the  Reds won another shootout, defeating Swansea City 4-3 at Anfield, Liverpool have a six-point cushion on fifth place, with Tottenham and Everton giving grown to Brendan Rodgers’ surging squad.

The Toffees can’t be faulted for their one-goal loss at Stamford Bridge, particularly given the quality they showed throughout most of the match. But the loss still leaves them 11 points behind their Merseyside rivals. Whereas at one time Roberto Martínez had his team in contention for a top-four finish, a now seventh place Everton sit one place lower than they finished the 2012-13 season. Manchester United’s victory over Crystal Place pushed the Red Devils into sixth.

The more inexplicable loss was Tottenham’s, with the team’s 1-0 defeat at Norwich City leaving them six points behind the Reds. While the 11 games remaining in the season give Tim Sherwood’s team plenty of time to make up that ground, the difference in quality between its Sunday showing and Liverpool’s hints there’s something more than six points that separates the sides. Whereas Spurs were once rising under their new boss, the team has now lost momentum.

Liverpool, however, are playing their best soccer of the season. Two goals from Daniel Sturridge complemented by a double from Jordan Henderson helped the Reds overcome another lackluster defensive effort, marking the third time in 2014 they’ve won despite giving up multiple goals.

Defense wins championships is supposed to be the cliché, but outscoring your opponents works all the same. Liverpool’s not competing for the title, but finishing fourth has a prestige of its own. If they claim the league’s last Champions League spot, it will the goals, not defending, they carried the Reds back into the top four.

5. West Ham in top half after win over Southampton

One month ago, we were debating Sam Allardyce’s worthiness for the West Ham job. His Irons, stuck in 18th, looked out of ideas, waiting for Andy Carroll’s impending return to rekindle their hopes of Premier League survival. Given the former Newcastle and Liverpool striker’s injury history, those hopes seemed thin, given how the Hammers had played without him.

Fast forward one month and Allardyce has his team in the top half, with Saturday’s 3-1 win over visiting Southampton the latest in a four-match winning streak. After giving up an early opener to Maya Yoshida, West Ham got goals Matt Jarvis, Carlton Cole, and Kevin Nolan, with the veteran midfielder’s 71st minute bicycle kick sealing one of the Hammers’ best performances of the season.

All of which makes people like me look pretty foolish. Again. Four weeks ago, there was no shortage of head scratching about how Allardyce had managing to survive in East London. Now, thanks to a February surge and a packed bottom half of the standings, West Ham’s looking down on 10 teams, highlighting how quickly January prognoses can be made to look foolish.

Give it another month, and West Ham might be back near the bottom. Look at Aston Villa’s recent plunge (having lost at Newcastle on Sunday). In the interim, the Hammers have left their January woes behind them, making the previously embattled Allardyce look awfully smart.

6. Magath debut can’t push Fulham out of cellar

After Saturday’s 4-0 loss at home to Hull City, Cardiff City look like the worst team in the Premier League, even if the standings tell a different story. After giving up a late goal to West Brom, Fulham remain at the bottom of the table, with Saturday’s 1-1 at The Hawthorns leaving the Cottagers five points from safety.

In the short-term, however, Fulham’s first performance under Magath looks like an encouraging one. While the team still exhibited some of the conservative tendencies that characterized the final games under René Meulensteen, the bottom line was better. Whereas the Cottagers had given up nine goals in their four games before their new coach’s arrival, Fulham held West Brom to one on Saturday. Sure, the Baggies’ attack may have had something to do with that, but last place teams can’t be too picky about the type of progress they make.

Given the miserable season Fulham has endured, the potential for a more solid, capable defense represents a light at the end of the tunnel. Between Cardiff City, Sunderland, West Brom … Crystal Palace, Stoke, Norwich, and Aston Villa, there aren’t enough teams volunteering to avoid relegation to write off Fulham. One good run may be enough.

Particularly given the type of chances Fulham created early in the West Midlands, Magath’s presence is reason for renewed hope. And hope is more than Fulham had a week ago.

Barcelona v. Bayern Munich: How to watch, as Bayern batter Barca

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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 epic clash in Lisbon, Portugal.

And it delivered early on.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Thomas Muller scored the opener. David Alaba scored a peach of an own goal. Ivan Perisic smashed home. Serge Gnabry and then Muller both grabbed another goal each for Bayern. Both teams had a plethora of chances. And that was just the opening 32 minutes!

Check out the goal videos here, as there was sublime quality in attack from Bayern and Barcelona just couldn’t handle the Bavarians.

PREVIEW: Barcelona – Bayern Munich

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.

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 have Ousmane Dembele on the bench. The Frenchman hasn’t featured in nine months and had surgery on his hamstring in February, but he could be a great option off the bench. The rest of the lineup is as expected with De Jong and Vidal charged with supporting Messi and Suarez up top and Antoine Griezmann on the bench.

Bayern are without Benjamin Pavard who has an ankle injury, while Alphonso Davies shook off a slight adductor problem to start and experienced duo Thiago Alcantara and Ivan Perisic start for Bayern.


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.

Alexander-Arnold wins Premier League’s Young Player of the Year

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Trent Alexander-Arnold is a sensation and the 21-year-old right back has been named the Premier League Young Player of the Year for the 2019-20 season.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Alexander-Arnold has been a revelation since bursting onto the scene at the end of the 2016-17 campaign and his marauding runs from right back, stunning long-range passes and wonderful free kicks were a key part in Liverpool winning the Premier League title.

He set a new record for Premier League assists for a defender, as he racked up 13 throughout the season and was so often a difference maker in tight wins for the Reds. The local lad has well and truly done good with a Champions League, World Club Cup and Premier League trophies in his first few seasons as a pro.

The England international beat Christian Pulisic, Mason Mount, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood, Jack Grealish and Dean Henderson to the award and there can be no arguments with this decision.

Here’s a look at just a few of TAA’s highlights from 2019-20.

The big question now around Alexander-Arnold is this: how far can he go?

He is much more than just an outlet for Liverpool at right back. He somehow dictates so many of their attacks from the right back position, which is no mean feat, and given that Jurgen Klopp plays a 4-3-3 formation he is also expected to dig in and do plenty of defensive work. Somehow he does that, as well as surging forward and providing an attacking outlet.

Alexander-Arnold could easily move into midfield or play as a forward and it would not be surprising to see Klopp bring in a new right back when one of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane eventually move on, then he could move TAA into the attack.

A defender who does his job at the back but contributes in attack, consistently and with quality, is so hard to find.

Alexander-Arnold is a modern day full back and his form this season suggested he can become one of the best right backs in the game. If he isn’t the best already.

Who else is close to him in the world game? Think about it. Keep thinking. Yep. You can’t think of anybody better than him, can you? Joshua Kimmich? Dani Carvajal? Aaron Wan-Bissaka? Kimmich and TAA are close but Kimmich doesn’t offer what TAA does in attack, even though he is also capable of playing much further forward and in midfield.

The early years of Alexander-Arnold’s career has proven he is versatile and can become a more attacking player, but he’s done such a great job at right back, is it worth the hassle in moving him from that position? Whatever happens and wherever you put him he will provide quality deliveries, assists and clever runs.

Europa League semifinals: How to watch, start time, prediction

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Man United – Sevilla and Inter Milan – Shakhtar Donetsk are a pair of highly intriguing Europa League semifinals, featuring four clubs from four different leagues, set for Sunday and Monday, respectively (start time, 3pm ET each day).

United reached the final four by narrowly escaping the upset threat of Copenhagen in extra-time; Sevilla broke Wolverhampton Wanderers’ hearts with a late winner in the quarterfinals; Inter held on to an early lead to beat Bayer Leverkusen; and Shakhtar, interestingly enough, have perhaps the most momentum following a 4-1 drubbing of Basel.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores ]

Reminder: from the quarterfinals onward, this year’s Europa League features single-leg ties, meaning the winners on the night will book their place in the final.

Ahead of this week’s semifinals, below is a look at how to watch Man United – Sevilla and Inter Milan – Shakhtar Donetsk in the USA, the betting odds, predictions and much more.


What they’re saying ahead of Europa League semifinals

Man United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: “Let’s see if we’ve developed throughout the season because we’ve had two semifinals before. We want to go to the next step. Semifinals, that’s a good effort, decent, but it’s not good enough. It’s not good enough for Man United still. … Let’s make sure that hurt that we felt in both the other cups that we’ve gone out, that can be our maybe marginal difference. The difference that we want it more than them.”

Sevilla manager Julen Lopetegui: “We are going to play against Manchester United in the next match — they’re the biggest team in the world but we’re going to be prepared for them. We’re focused on the next game, against a top, historic side, one of the best in the history of the sport who are in great form. We will give our best as we always do. To play against them will be really tough, but we’ll go into it believing we can beat them.”


Europa League semifinals odds

Man United – Sevilla – Full Europa League, Champions League odds

United are slight betting favorites at +150 and Sevilla checking in at +195. That’s about as tight as odds can get. Given how close this one is expected to be, +215 to tie is perhaps the most intriguing prospect.

Odds for Inter – Shakhtar

There’s certainly a great deal of value to be had with Shakhtar set as hefty underdogs at +350. Inter are the heavy favorites at -132, representing very little betting value unless you’re absolutely certain they’re a lock to win it.


Prediction for Man United – Sevilla

United have conceded just two goals in the Europa League dating back to the start of the calendar year (five games), which creates a thoroughly difficult challenge for Sevilla, who have scored just three goals in four games during the same period. This should be a low-scoring affair and United do just enough to come out on top, 1-0.

Prediction for Inter – Shakhtar

Upset special, anyone? Shakhtar have largely flown under the radar and received very little attention during their run to the semifinals, but they have plenty of firepower to hang with Inter in this one. One thing is a near-certainty: there will be goals. It ends 2-2 and goes to penalty kicks, where Inter only just survive.


How to watch, stream Champions League and Europa League

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

Report: McKennie’s transfer from Schalke to Hertha falls apart

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Weston McKennie transfer update: The lifecycle on the American midfielder’s proposed move from Schalke to Hertha Berlin was short and sweet, and is now no longer.

[ TRANSFER NEWS: Sancho staying at Dortmund; Chilwell to Man Utd, Chelsea ]

According to a report from Bild, the move has fallen apart and a number of stumbling blocks are to blame.

Firstly, the transfer fee Schalke wanted for the 21-year-old was reportedly too high for Hertha to stomach. They are said to be seeking roughly $48 million. McKennie would also be due a fairly significant pay increase upon completing a transfer.

Then came the issue of convincing McKennie that a move to Hertha would be beneficial for his career. He is said to have had major questions about Hertha’s viability as contenders for European qualification — they finished 10th this season, two places and two points above Schalke. The fact that Schalke are outside of Germany’s European places is undoubtedly a driving force in any and all Weston McKennie transfer rumors set to be spread this summer.

[ MORE: Arsenal sign Willian on free transfer from Chelsea ]

According to the report, McKennie prefers a move to the Premier League. While he is unlikely to meet the standard of the PL’s top-six sides and therefore would appear to go against his logic regarding the move to Hertha, McKennie’s willingness to forego a place in Europe highlights the draw that many young players feel toward playing in England.

McKennie has previously been linked with moves to Southampton, Everton and Newcastle United.