Quick Six: Top headlines from the Premier League Weekend

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1. Chelsea falls apart in Birmingham

You could almost hear conventional wisdom scoffing at José Mourinho when, in the lead up to Chelsea’s visit to Villa Park, the Blues’ manager said a draw in Birmingham would be a good result. Having never won at Aston Villa, Mourinho’s view was informed by hard-fought point after hard-fought point against Martin O’Neill’s teams. Even if the current Republic of Ireland manager has since moved on, Mourinho was not taking his trip to the Midlands for granted.

His worries turned out to be prescient. Chelsea, as is their recent pattern, went into halftime on Saturday without a goal, with their chances to produce another second half onslaught evaporating when Chris Foy harshly dismissed Willian. After Ramires earned his own sending off and Mourinho was sent to the stands, headlines cast Villa’s victory in terms of a nine-man Chelsea.

(MORE: Aston Villa 1-0 Chelsea: Villa benefit from Blues’ loss of composure (video))

Which, of course, is deceiving. Villa scored their winner well before Ramires was sent off. They were just as good as Chelsea before their opponents were reduced to ten. Pointing out the Blues were reduced to nine makes for a catchy headline, but it also paints a deceiving picture of the match.

The importance of that treatment goes beyond weird editorial minutia. It’s important to understanding Saturday’s game. Chelsea didn’t entirely fall victim to soccer randomness and officiating misfortunate. Those were contributing factors in an otherwise disappointing performance. The Blues had a bad day, one that would have ended in a draw had Foy’s judgment not compounded their problems.

This has been the issue with Chelsea’s title credentials all along. They are too easily drawn into these sorts of games, as the showed last month at West Brom, in January against West Ham, in December at Stoke. Other title contenders have their own problems (mostly, defense), but this is theirs. Their approach often leaves them playing down to their competition.

On any given weekend, against any team in the league, Chelsea can be drawn into this type of game. That may not be enough to keep it from the title, but it is something to worry about, particularly after it cost the team points on Saturday.

2. Long odds improving for Liverpool

When talk of Liverpool contending for this season’s title began in earnest last month, we noted the long odds. Liverpool would not only have to out-play Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester City but do so to a degree that made up the ground they’d conceded over the previous four months. At the time, the Reds were in fourth place and closer to Europa League than the title.

Fast forward one month, and Brendan Rodgers’ team has in fact out-played their competition. They are making up the ground. After their 3-0 win at Old Trafford, Liverpool’s within four of the top. They also have a game in hand on Chelsea.

All of which is big picture stuff. More narrowly, Liverpool were so much better than Manchester United, the match became a symbol of one team’s climb, another’s decline. Whereas Liverpool has struggled to match their rivals’ Premier League success, now the Red Devils are little more than a speed bump, one that can’t even mount a challenge at Old Trafford. And while Liverpool are much stronger than last year, there’s little explanation for why Manchester United, over the course of seven months, have fallen so far behind its rivals.

(MORE: Manchester United 0-3 Liverpool: Gerrard hits twice from the spot to send Reds second)

Nobody expected David Moyes to replicate Alex Ferguson’s accomplishments, which is why so few pundits picked them to repeat. At the same time, nobody could have reasonably foreseen they would be this bad, and had you told people in August that this team would add Juan Mata, Marouane Fellaini, and see Adnan Januzaj ascend to a starter’s role, Moyes wouldn’t have been given the leeway he received in fall.

But that leeway’s led to this. Manchester United is inexplicably bad, perhaps indefensibly so, an it’s nothing new. Liverpool’s rout provided more proof, but this is United’s 2013-14 season: A quest for rock bottom.

3. 11th man not necessary for Manchester City at Hull

Vincent Kompany’s case as one of the world’s best defenders is a strange one. Physically, and in terms of skill, talent, and capability, he may be the most complete defender in the world. He’s reputed to be one of the smartest players in the game, yet when he doesn’t have a somebody to his left that can provide decent cover, things go awry. His want to venture from his place in the defense — to take advantage of his athleticism, skill, and ability to read the game — comes back to haunt him.

On Saturday, perhaps he was hard done, but defenders know. If you are behind a guy and pull him down, you’re going to walk when nobody else between that man and goal. Argue about when defines a true goal scoring opportunity all you want, but the moment Nikica Jelavic got past him, Kompany couldn’t foul.

Thankfully for City, the dismissal didn’t matter. Playing with 10 men for 80 minutes, the Citizens still produced at 2-0 win at Hull. A quick response from David Silva and late insurance from Edin Dzeko helped bring City within six points of Chelsea, with their league-leading +44 goal difference set to help them in any tiebreaker scenario.

(MORE: Hull City 0-2 Manchester City: Silva inspires 10-man City to victory (video))

Their biggest advantage, though: Three games in hand on the Blues. On a points-per-game basis, Manchester City have the best record in the league. Whether that holds up while it makes up those games in hand will determine whether Manuel Pellegrini will finally break through and claim a European league title.

source: AP4. Rosicky, Arsenal add to Sherwood’s woes

When Tomas Rosicky finished into Hugo Lloris’s left side netting in the second minute, Sunday’s North London Derby looked set to become the third in a series of lopsided Spurs losses. With a little help from Arsenal (and its willingness to sit on that 1-0 lead), Tottenham avoided another embarrassing loss, something that won’t placate supporters hoping their team could do against their biggest rivals.

(MORE: Tottenham 0-1 Arsenal: Early Rosicky goal, solid shape give Arsenal derby double over Spurs)

The match’s telling moment may have been in the middle of the first half, when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s failed breakaway prompted Tim Sherwood to throw his coat to the ground. The fit of emotion eventually forced the new Spurs boss back to his chair, folded arms across his chest employing a five-year-old’s method of anger management. It was a show of passion, but it also was a sign of immaturity.

Before the match, Gary Lineker shared his views on Sherwood’s recent outbursts, saying encouragement tends to be the better option than criticism (at least, in public). Graeme Le Soux noted Sherwood’s use of a negative approach so early in his tenure didn’t speak well of the manager’s methods. Today’s sideline outburst only adds to the cracks in the new boss’s armor.

Had Spurs won on Sunday, they would have been within three points of fourth. Champions League would have been a realistic possibility. Failing to put a plan in place that could compete with a lackluster Arsenal, Sherwood showed he isn’t the man to take them there. Now it’s question of what Tottenham does next.

5. If Fulham, West Brom can win games, anything’s possible

As the relegation race progresses, we’ve had to start breaking out the clichés, perhaps the most used of which is “one good streak.” If any of the teams at the bottom of the Premier League can go on a good three- or four-game run, it’ll be in the first division come August. March’s results may be terrible, but turn it around mid-April? Life in the Championship becomes a hypothetical.

Fulham, for example, has been the league’s worst team this season. On Saturday, however, they got a 1-0 win over Newcastle United, bringing them to within five points of safety. Though they have Manchester City and Everton on the schedule in the coming weeks, they also have a number of opponents from whom even a slightly improved Cottagers team could take points: Aston Villa, Norwich, Hull, Stoke and Crystal Palace. As bad as this season has been at Craven Cottage, there is hope.

(MORE: Fulham 1-0 Newcastle United: Dejagah strike and late non-call give Cottagers three huge points)

West Brom, like Fulham, is experiencing an uptick in hopes after this weekend’s action. With their 2-1 win at Swansea, the Baggies registered their first victory under Pepe Mel, putting three points between them and the drop. With a goal difference edge on the rest of its relegation rivals, West Brom suddenly look like a good bet to stay up.

(MORE: Swansea City 1-2 West Brom: Pepe Mel gets first win, likely saves his job (video))

But let’s check back next week. After all, seven days ago, Cardiff City looked ready to make a charge. Then the team had to go to Everton, and the room it’d created on Fulham evaporated. It may take one good run to ensure survival, but runs extend beyond a single result.

source: Getty Images6. Nicolas Anelka may go away, but the FA wants his ban to follow

England’s Football Association should get out of the Nicolas Anelka business as soon as possible, even if that means not pursuing his ban as he leaves English shores. After the French attacker quit West Brom (before being fired), the Premier League is rid of a player whose latest incarnation brought nothing but controversy. While the early season passing of his agent unfortunately hindered his adjustment to the Baggies, his midseason quenelle ensured any lasting impact he had on the club would be a negative one.

While you can see why the FA wants Anelka’s ban to be observed by other leagues, thus strengthening the credibility of their punishments, the pursuit has given Anelka another day in the headlines. Better to just move on. Particularly at this time of the season — with league races, FA Cup, and Champions League in focus — it’s okay to forget about Nicolas Anelka.

Croatia vs Brazil, live! Score, updates, how to watch, stream, videos

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World Cup-savvy Croatia stands in the way of stylish Brazil’s pursuit of a sixth World Cup crown, and the pair promise a complex match-up on Friday in Al Rayyan.

Match 58 of the 2022 World Cup kicks off the quarterfinals as Neymar leads Tite’s star-studded CONMEBOL powers into a match against the 2018 runners-up.

STREAM LIVE CROATIA v BRAZIL

Croatia got past Japan in penalties and will now dream of the two wins that could set it back in the final where France could again be waiting for a juicy rematch.

Croatia needed penalties to get past Japan in the Round of 16, while Brazil pasted South Korea 4-1.  Croatia has never beaten Brazil in four meetings, losing at the 2006 and 2014 World Cups.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for Croatia vs Brazil.


How to watch Croatia vs Brazil live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Friday, December 9
Stadium: Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Croatia’s Dominik Livakovic was fantastic in penalties versus Japan to get here, but Luka Modric continues to do the things that get Croatia out of trouble and puts the opponents into heaps of it. Josko Gvardiola has arguably been the defender of the tournament, and the 20-year-old looks to test his mettle again against the Selecao.

Pick a Brazil player who’s failed to impress and you’ve achieved a mighty feat. Neymar’s been fantastic when healthy while Richarlison is in serious pursuit of the Golden Boot. Alisson Becker flexed his muscles once or twice versus South Korea and figures to be busier as the competition continues to heat up in Qatar. Richarlison, Vini Jr, Raphinha and Neymar all start against Croatia. Wowza.


Croatia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 12
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 6
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (1st place)
Coach: Zlatko Dalic
Key players: Luka Modric, Andrej Kramaric, Mateo Kovacic, Josko Gvardiol

Brazil quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 1
World Cup titles: 5 (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
World Cup appearances: 22
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONMEBOL (1st place)
Coach: Tite
Key players: Neymar, Thiago Silva, Casemiro, Alisson Becker

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Netherlands vs Argentina: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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The Netherlands gets a third chance to beat Lionel Messi in the World Cup when the Dutch meet Argentina in the World Cup quarterfinals at Lusail Iconic Stadium on Friday.

Match 57 of the World Cup will be the second of the quarterfinal round and Messi can build on his three goals and assist in Qatar, though the underlying story has been how difficult it’s been to break down the Argentine defense.

STREAM NETHERLANDS vs ARGENTINA LIVE

The CONMEBOL side beat Australia 2-1 In the Round of 16 and now gets a Dutch side that outclassed the USA 3-1 last time out.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for Netherlands vs Argentina.


How to watch Netherlands vs Argentina live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Friday, December 9
Stadium: Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Louis van Gaal is looking for arguably the only major trophy to escape his reach with the World Cup, and Virgil van Dijk isn’t too far behind his manager. Jurrien Timber’s joined VVD in a very good back three, Cody Gakpo had been the breakout player of the tournament in all likelihood before Goncalo Ramos captured the world’s attention with his hat trick for Portugal on Tuesday.

Enzo Fernandez has been shining along with Messi, while Nicolas Otamendi has turned back the proverbial clock at center back in a tour de force for the CONMEBOL powers.


Netherlands quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 8
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 10
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (Won Group G)
Coach: Louis van Gaal
Key players: Virgil van Dijk, Memphis Depay, Frenkie de Jong

Argentina quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 3
World Cup titles: 2 (1978, 1986)
World Cup appearances: 17
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONMEBOL (2nd place)
Coach: Lionel Scaloni
Key players: Lionel Messi, Angel de Maria, Lautaro Martinez

Follow @NicholasMendola

England vs France lineups: Projected XI, key battles, tactical focus

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England and France square off in a huge World Cup quarterfinal in Qatar as the Three Lions and Les Bleus both have realistic chances of winning it all.

But only one will advance.

[ MORE: England vs France previews, how to watch info, storylines ]

Who will Gareth Southgate line up? Will he switch to a back three to combat the obvious threat of Kylian Mbappe? Or will he stick with the 4-3-3 which has worked so well for most of this tournament?

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub

As for Didier Deschamps, his reigning World Cup champs are clicking through the gears in attack and he has some big choices to make in midfield and defense. Will the long-time France boss get the big calls correct? He usually does.

Below is a look at the England vs France lineups, with analysis on the key tactical battles and decisions for Southgate and Deschamps.

[ LIVE: Watch World Cup en Espanol en Peacock ]


England lineup projection (3-4-3)

—– Pickford —–

— Walker — Stones — Maguire —

—- Trippier —- Rice —- Bellingham —- Shaw —-

—– Saka —– Kane —- Foden —–

The big dilemma for Gareth Southgate is clear: back three or a back four? The former could give him more protection for the pace and threat of Kylian Mbappe, with Kieran Trippier at wing-back trying to pin him back and if that doesn’t work, Kyle Walker’s pace as a right-sided center back seems to be the perfection solution to nullify France’s main man. Also, Declan Rice can double up if Mbappe cuts inside. England have played most of the last few years in a 3-4-3, so why not go back to it for this very specific situation? In attack Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden will surely support Harry Kane, while Jordan Henderson is probably the main to miss out in midfield with the excellent Jude Bellingham, just 19 years old, continuing in his role as a true No. 8.


France lineup projection  (4-2-1-3)

—– Lloris —–

— Kounde — Konate — Varane — T. Hernandez —

—- Rabiot —- Tchouameni —- 

—– Griezmannn —–

—- Dembele —- Giroud —- Mbappe —-

The back four and midfield has looked okay throughout this tournament and Deschamps has some excellent options if he wants to mix things up. Two from Ibrahima Konate, Raphael Varane and Dayot Upamecano will start but it seems like Upamecano and Varane will get the nod. Kounde has looked a bit clunky at right back and if he’s up against the slippery Foden, that could be a bad match-up for France. Maybe Benjamin Pavard will start? In midfield Adrien Rabiot and Aurelien Tchouameni are their first-choice pairing and have done well without the injured Kante and Pogba. But central midfield is definitely France’s weak spot. Griezmann has rolled back the years as a No. 10, while Dembele, Giroud and Mbappe will cause England’s defense plenty of problems as that attacking quartet can hurt you just about every way imaginable.


When and where is the 2026 World Cup?

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The 2022 World Cup officially begins on Sunday, November 20, and runs through Sunday, December 18 in Qatar featuring 64 matches contested by 32 nations in 8 stadiums over the course of 29 days.

This year marks the very first time that the World Cup is taking place in the Middle East. Qatar, which is the smallest nation to ever host the event, has average high temperatures in June and July of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which is why FIFA made the decision to host the 22nd edition of the World Cup in the Fall. As always, this year’s World Cup marks four years until the next edition of the tournament, which will make history with three different nations hosting matches.  See below for location information for both the 2022 and 2026 World Cups.

RELATED: World Cup 2022 odds: Favorites, underdogs, group stage winners

2022 World Cup Venues:

The 2022 World Cup will take place in the following venues:

  • Al Bayt Stadium – 22 miles from central Doha
  • Lusail Stadium – 12 miles from central Doha
  • Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium – 12 miles from central Doha
  • Al Janoub Stadium – 14 miles from central Doha
  • Al Thumama Stadium – 8 miles from central Doha
  • Education City Stadium – 8 miles from central Doha
  • Khalifa International Stadium – 3 miles from central Doha
  • Stadium 974 – 6 miles from central Doha

Where will the 2026 World Cup take place?

The 2026 World Cup will take place in three North American countries: the United States, Mexico, and Canada. This will be the first time that the tournament is hosted by three different nations and it will be the very first time that the event will be contested in Canada. There will be a total of 16 venues used as host cities for the 2026 World Cup. The U.S. will have 11, Canada will have 2, and Mexico will have 3.

Additionally, the 2026 World Cup will debut an expanded format featuring 48 teams–as opposed to 32–split into 16 groups of 3.

RELATED: 2026 World Cup venues selected: Which cities will host in USA, Canada, Mexico?

2026 World Cup host cities

USA (11)

Atlanta – Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Boston – Gillette Stadium
Dallas – AT&T Stadium
Houston – NRG Stadium
Kansas City – Arrowhead Stadium
Los Angeles – SoFi Stadium
Miami – Hard Rock Stadium
New York/New Jersey – MetLife Stadium
Philadelphia – Lincoln Financial Field
San Francisco – Levi’s Stadium
Seattle – Lumen Field

Canada (2)

Toronto – BMO Field
Vancouver – BC Place

Mexico (3)

Guadalajara – Estadio Akron
Mexico City – Estadio Azteca
Monterrey – Estadio BBVA

When is the 2026 World Cup?

The 2026 World Cup is scheduled to take place from June 8 through July 3.


2022 World Cup U.S. Group Stage Schedule:

  • U.S. vs. Wales – Monday, November 21 at 2 PM ET
  • U.S. vs. England – Friday, November 25 at 2 PM ET
  • U.S. vs Iran – Tuesday, November 29 at 2 PM ET

2022 World Cup Mexico Group Stage Schedule:

  • Mexico vs. Poland – Tuesday, November 22 at 11 AM ET
  • Mexico vs Argentina – Saturday, November 26 at 2 PM ET
  • Mexico  vs Saudi Arabia – Wednesday, November 30 at 2 PM ET

RELATED: World Cup 2022 schedule – groups, calendar, match schedule, brackets, dates


How to watch the 2022 World Cup:

*All times are listed as ET

  • When: November 20, 2022 – December 18, 2022
  • Group stage game kick-off times: 5 am, 8 am, 11 am, and 2 pm
  • Location: Qatar
  • TV channel in English: Fox
  • TV channels en Español: Telemundo, Universo, Peacock

 Follow along with ProSoccerTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 World Cup!

RELATED: World Cup 2022 Group B: England, USA, Iran, Wales schedule, fixtures, rankings