André Villas-Boas back in a job, takes over at Zenit St Petersburg

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On Tuesday Russian club Zenit Saint Petersburg announced that André Villas-Boas has taken over as manager on a two-year deal.

Villas-Boas, 36, joins the Russian Premier League side after being fired by Tottenham Hotspur in December, as AVB replaces Italian manager Luciano Spalletti following his departure after a 4-2 defeat to Borussia Dortmund in the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League earlier this month.

The club released the following statement on their website, as AVB will officially be unveiled on Thursday to manage the team for the remained of the current season with the Northern Russian side in second place, three points off top spot with nine games remaining.

“Zenit has agreed terms on a contract with new head coach André Villas-Boas. The contract will be signed and Mr. Villas-Boas will be presented in St. Petersburg as Zenit’s new head coach on March 20. Mr. Villas-Boas’ contract begins in March, 2014, and is valid for two seasons.”

Is this job an upgrade from the Spurs job for the ambitious Portuguese manager?

Many would say so. Zenit are perennial challengers for the Russian top-flight, seem to have endless resources when it comes to transfer funds and also compete regularly in the Champions League. What this deal gives AVB is a chance to rebuild a club which is desperate to win titles and isn’t scared to splash the cash to do it. After having his coaching and personal credentials questioned while managing Spurs this season, then fired after Tottenham’s 5-0 defeat to Liverpool in December, Villas-Boas is keen to also rebuild his reputation in the soccer world.

At Tottenham it always seemed rather harsh to blame everything on AVB, as Sporting Director Franco Baldini had most of the say on transfers and Villas-Boas also had to sell his best player Gareth Bale. That said, this chance with Zenit is one that AVB must grab with both hands and do his best to prosper, as the man who guided FC Porto to success in Portugal will now be given the aim of following suit in Russia.

His English adventure, both with Tottenham and Chelsea, didn’t work out the way he had planned, but getting a gig at a Champions League club full of ambition and alongside players like Hulk, who he already knows well from their time at Porto together, isn’t the worst thing in the world for AVB.

Let’s see how it goes.

Man City hammers Watford by near-record margin

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Manchester City harvested a near-record amount of goals in destroying Watford to the tune of an 8-0 win at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Bernardo Silva had a hat trick, while David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Nicolas Otamendi, Sergio Aguero, and Riyard Mahrez also scored in a match which saw City score inside of 54 seconds and five times in the first 18 minutes.

City hit the post several times and just missed a goal in stoppage time which would’ve matched Manchester United’s single game PL record.


Three things we learned

1. De Bruyne unfair: Sensational on the day in pulling the strings, he pulled a ripcord to unveil a vicious strike on City’s 85th minute goal. The way he made it look so easy to unleash so much power was an emblematic moment for the 8-star display.

2. Too much, too fast for Watford: Watch all five first half goals here. Quique Sanchez Flores opened up with Gerard Deulofeu alone up top and nearly got a goal, but his offense-first five-man midfield was a cool idea that fizzled oh-so-quickly. The Hornets have already accepted their fate as a bottom half team by changing managers after four weeks, but they may have to also view themselves as a relegation possibility despite so many good players.

3. Bernardo Silva arrives: There were fits and starts for Pep Guardiola‘s Portuguese playmaker to start the season, and a goal against Brighton was met by an assist in the loss to Norwich City. On Saturday, he unleashed his power to the tune of a hat trick.

Man of the Match: We want to refuse to pick just one, as WhoScored rated Bernardo Silva, De Bruyne, and Mahrez as perfect 10s on the day. Okay, we’ll take KDB.


What a start.

It took 54 seconds for De Bruyne to assist David Silva with an outstanding opener, but Gerard Deulofeu nearly answered when he danced around Nicolas Otamendi to force a conceded corner out of Ederson.

Silva, marked for Inter Miami in a mid-week report, was the finisher for the 55th time in his Premier League career and 72nd for his club.

Ben Foster then gave away a useless penalty when he slapped a through ball out of bounds before felling Riyad Mahrez for an easy penalty. Aguero stepped to the spot calm as you like and dispatched the No. 2 to the scoreboard.

That was hardly the end to Watford’s woes, as Mahrez dazzled with a dribble through the heart of the field to earn a free kick atop the 18. There was only one destination, given the series of events. 3-0.

Bernardo Silva then got in on the act, when Otamendi nodded a De Bruyne corner to the back post for a prone finish and 4-0. Not to be outdone, Otamendi was back post for a finish of his own, giving City its fifth goal off an Aguero assist.

 [ MORE: Premier League stats ]

The Silvas, no relation, led a counter for City’s sixth goal, with Bernardo depositing the marker and the reigning PL champions within three goals of matching the league’s single game record.

De Bruyne collected another assist on Bernardo’s hat trick goal, as the Portuguese attacker scored despite bungling his first touch a bit.

Watch Live: Newcastle United v. Brighton and Hove Albion

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Hometown hero Andy Carroll is on the bench for Newcastle United as the Magpies host Brighton and Hove Albion in an early season six-pointer at St. James’ Park (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

That is if you’re comfortable with the term six-pointer in Week Six. We bet both these teams are well aware of the import either way.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Steve Bruce‘s Black and White Army has Carroll in the team for the first time since being sold to Liverpool nearly a decade ago.

“A bit old school, if you like to say that, but certainly in his time I don’t think there has been anybody better in the last eight or ten years, when he’s been playing, of that certain type of centre forward as Andy Carroll. It’s going to be huge and it will be great for us going forward, that’s for sure,” Bruce said before the game.”

Meanwhile for Brighton, long-time stars Shane Duffy and Glenn Murray are again on the bench to start the fight up north.

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Newcastle

Brighton and Hove Albion 

Report: Liverpool paid Man City $1.2 million in ‘spy’ settlement

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A report from The Times states that Liverpool paid Manchester City over $1.2 million back in 2013 over a complaint about City’s scouting system being hacked.

Our partners at Sky Sports say their sources confirm the payment was made, while they also have a statement from Liverpool on the matter.

“Liverpool Football Club does not provide any comment on any allegations relating to legal agreements it may or may not have entered into with any other club, organisation or individual.”

Per the original report, the settlement was agreed without Liverpool or any individuals connected to them accepting liability. Plus, the allegations and information were never put up in a court of law.

Three scouts moved from Man City to Liverpool less than a year before the settlement was reached.

Man City allege that two of those scouts, plus current Liverpool sporting director Michael Edwards, were involved in accessing a database via the Scott7 system.

City brought in experts to see if their system had been hacked.

The Times says this would be “the biggest incident of alleged misbehavior by one top-flight club to another in the Premier League’s history.”

That is spot on.

Of course, employees move from one Premier League club to another all of the time, and there is nothing that suggests this is more widespread.

But the private settlement becoming public knowledge will no doubt stir up plenty of controversy as Liverpool and Man City go head-to-head for the Premier League title once again.

Rodgers not too bothered by VAR as Leicester City back in Top Four

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Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers is keeping his cool about the Foxes’ decent start to the Premier League season.

The Foxes beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 on Saturday to move back into the Top Four, four points behind leaders Liverpool.

[ MORE: Match recap | Pochettino reacts ]

Leicester has now beaten Spurs, Bournemouth, and Sheffield United, drawn Wolves and Chelsea, and lost away to Manchester United last week (in a match it was arguably superior to the hosts).

Rodgers loved his team’s day, which was challenged by VAR taking away goals from both sides, but knows the big picture is a big challenge.

“A brilliant team performance,” he said. “Very early days, we have had a tough start. We will get into the New Year and see where we are February, March.”

As for VAR, Rodgers saw an early Leicester goal pulled back for offside, but the system also determined that Heung-Min Son was offside by the finest bit of his rotator cuff before Serge Aurier made it 2-0 to Spurs.

Back to 1-0, Leicester equalized within moments through Ricardo Pereira before James Maddison scored a wonder-strike to win it for the hosts.

“It’s what happens with VAR, you have to get your head round it. It works for you and against you. Worked both ways for us today. … We spoke with the players in pre season about VAR. You have to deal with it, sometimes for you and against you. Have to accept it and move on. It was a very important three points.”