10 things to look forward to as Premier League returns this weekend

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The last time we enjoyed a Premier League match, it was August.

Almost two weeks later, here we are. The PL is back and some intriguing storylines are developing ahead of Week 4.

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Here are 10 things to look out for this weekend across the league as you can watch every single game live online via NBC Sport Live Extra. Remember folks, set those alarm clocks for Saturday and Sunday morning!

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Can Falcao star for United?

1. Seeing Manchester United’s superstars in action, at the same time

This one is a head-scratcher. How do you fit Radamel Falcao, Angel Di Maria, Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Juan Mata all into the same team? Good luck with that, Louis van Gaal. Manchester United added plenty of world-class attackers over the summer and they are available to play together against Queens Park Rangers on Sunday at Old Trafford. Will LVG get the balance right with new boy Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind at the back? We are about to find out.

2. Danny Welbeck’s Arsenal debut

Much has been made about this signing on Deadline Day as the Gunners could have got a bit of a bargain. Welbeck scored twice for England in midweek and with Olivier Giroud’s injury, he will likely be played as the lone frontman. Excitement is building about how Welbeck could link up with fellow newbie Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil. Arsene Wenger has sent out mixed messages about Welbeck though.

3.  Can the Citizens rebound at the Emirates?

After that shock 1-0 defeat to Stoke City at home last time out, Man City’s players have had two weeks to let it fester. Will they come flying out of the traps at the Emirates Stadium? Last season they did that, but then let Arsenal off the hook in a 1-1 draw. The PST gang break down the weekend’s most intriguing matchup.

4. Mario Balotelli being the main man for Liverpool

Daniel Sturridge is out injured and could miss the next six games for Liverpool. ‘Have no fear, Super Mario is here!’ Or something like that… Anyway, Balotelli will be making his Anfield debut against Aston Villa on Saturday and will hold the goalscoring burden as the main man while Sturridge is out injured. Balotelli will come up against Ron Vlaar and Philippe Senderos, two powerhouses at the heart of Villa’s defense. That will be an intriguing battle as the Italian must keep his head.

source: Getty Images
Will Balotelli be on target for Liverpool on his Anfield debut?

5. Scrap at the Stadium of Light

Tottenham Hotspur head to the Stadium of Light after a week of headlines off the field and coming off the back of a 3-0 drubbing to Balotelli’s Liverpool. They play Sunderland and it will be a real battle on Wearside as two South American managers clash in Mauricio Pochettino and Gus Poyet. Both insist on high-pressure and Pochettino’s former side Southampton went to Sunderland three times last season in the league and cup, lost twice and blew a 2-0 lead. Poch will hope it’s a much happier hunting ground for him with his new team who must rebound, but they will have to work hard vs. the Black Cats.

6. Can the Toffees get through their sticky patch?

West Brom away. Before the season, you’d mark that down as a routine win for Everton, but after a tricky start where they have two points from three games and have let in 10 goals, Roberto Martinez’s men aren’t flowing. The Toffees look a little disjointed, especially at the back, and you get the feeling that their late collapse against Arsenal at home in Week 2 really knocked the stuffing out of them. Romelu Lukaku has yet to score and needs to put in a big display against his former team.

7. Eagles and Clarets battle for first win

Much like the match at Sunderland, this will be a real ding-dong battle, a blood and thunder affair, a …. okay, you get the picture. Both teams are still without a win this season and it is Neil Warnock’s first home game back in charge of Palace. Both teams will be earmarking this as ‘must-win’ already and it will be a game of few chances as Burnley have done well at stifling the opposition thus far in the PL. Passion, power and crunching tackles will be in abundance at Selhurst Park.

8. Top of the table clash between Chelsea and… Swansea

Okay, so it may not always be billed as a top of the table clash but on Saturday it will be. Both Chelsea and Swansea are the only two teams to win three from three so far. Garry Monk’s men have impressed, especially as they walloped West Brom 3-0 before the break. Can they upset Jose Mourinho and Chelsea? The Blues have looked imperious, smashing six past Everton and the signings of Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas continued to make the ‘Special One’ look, erm, special. A cracker for you to enjoy.

source: Getty Images
Let’s talk about Cesc…

9. Saints’ silky skills to get past under-pressure Magpies?

Ronald Koeman’s brand of “sexy football” hasn’t taken long to unearth itself on the South Coast. Saints cruised past West Ham 3-1 away from home last time out and will now look to hammer one of the final nails in the coffin of former manager Alan Pardew. His Newcastle side are without a win, and coupled with their poor form to finish last season, Pardew is on borrowed time already. Saints’ silky stars such as Dusan Tadic and Morgan Schneiderlin could spell trouble for the Magpies. Also, spare a thought for Newcastle’s fans who make the longest journey in the PL this weekend, a 750 mile round trip for the Toon Army.

10. Vanishing spray. Legendary.

Okay, let’s finish this on a lighter note. How much do we love the vanishing spray? I know, right. Also, how much do fans inside Premier League stadiums love vanishing spray? Even more, it seems. Listen in to the audio on all the games this weekend whenever a referee is using the spray. The crowd will build up tension and ring out the ‘ole’s’ when the spray is being applied. Like a wielding matador, referee’s have so far used swaggering panache to perform a pretty mundane task. You try telling PL crowds it’s mundane. They love it, as do I.

Italy women’s team awarded for ’emancipating’ female game

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ROME (AP) The Italy women’s national soccer team was awarded the Foreign Press Association’s Invictus award Monday for promoting and “emancipating” the female game in the country with its run to the World Cup quarterfinals.

[ MORE: Sheffield United beat Arsenal with stellar defensive display (video) ]

Head coach Milena Bertolini and forward Barbara Bonansea were given the award during a ceremony at the Rome-based association.

With soccer dominated by men in Italy and few opportunities for girls, Bertolini recounted how she had to dress up as a boy to play as a kid.

“Now things are changing, thanks to the Italian federation’s school programs,” Bertolini said.

Bertolini and Bonansea lamented that female players are still not considered professionals and therefore are not permitted to earn more than $33,500 per year by Italian law.

“It’s not about the money, it’s a question of rights,” said Bonansea, who also plays for Italian champion Juventus.

[ MORE: Referee officials explain VAR decision on Rashford goal ]

While Italy’s men’s team is a four-time World Cup champion, the women had not played in a World Cup for two decades and entered as a prohibitive underdog during its opening match against Australia in France in June. But the Azzurre came back from a goal down for a 2-1 win courtesy of Bonansea’s two scores , with her second coming in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

“That goal shaped our World Cup, both in terms of results and in terms of promoting women’s soccer in Italy,” Bertolini said. “The strong emotions on the field were transmitted to everyone who was watching. I still get goosebumps now just thinking about that goal.”

The Azzurre went on to win their group then beat China in the first knockout round before losing to eventual finalist the Netherlands.

In a country of 60 million people, a total of more than 20 million spectators watched Italy’s five matches on RAI state TV, setting audience records for women’s soccer game after game.

The Invictus award is dedicated to “promoting the positive effects of sports in terms of integration and emancipation by the vulnerable sections of society.”

UCL preview: Spurs desperate for a win; Man City host Atalanta

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By the end of the week, we’ll be at the halfway point of the UEFA Champions League group stage, and while some Premier League clubs (Manchester City and Liverpool) are currently in rather strong positions, a couple others (Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea) have some serious work to do to rescue their respective campaigns.

[ MORE: Sheffield United beat Arsenal with stellar defensive display (video) ]

Tottenham’s start to the group stage has gone about as poorly as it could have done, considering the positions in which they’ve found themselves early in games. Going from 2-0 up to a 2-2 draw away to Olympiacos was bad enough, but going from 1-0 up to a 7-2 home defeat to Bayern Munich was the real demoralizer.

Now, last year’s UCL runners-up find themselves third in the group with just one point. However, Mauricio Pochettino‘s side is set for a back-to-back home-and-away with (presumed) doormat Red Star Belgrade, beginning Tuesday when the Serbian side visits the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Spurs will continue to be without goalkeeper Hugo Lloris following his dislocated elbow, while midfielders Christian Eriksen and Giovani Lo Celso are back in full training and expected to be available for selection. Tanguay Ndombele was only involved as a second-half sub during Spurs’ draw with last-place Watford over the weekend, so he is likely to return to the starting lineup.

[ MORE: Referee officials explain VAR decision on Rashford goal ]

Man City, meanwhile, are coming off a 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace and feeling a renewed sense of PL title contention after Liverpool dropped their first points of the season. While a domestic three-peat is undoubtedly high on the list of priorities for Pep Guardiola‘s side, it’s probably safe to assume that breaking though in the UCL is the main objective for 2019-20. Since Guardiola took over at the Etihad Stadium, City have reached the quarterfinals twice and the round of 16 once. Under the direction of Manuel Pellegrini, City reached the semifinals the season before Guardiola’s arrival.

Outside of long-term knees injuries to Aymeric Laporte and Leroy Sane, City have a clean bill of health.

Tuesday’s full UEFA Champions League schedule

Atletico Madrid v. Bayer Leverkusen — 12:55 p.m. ET
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Dinamo Zagreb — 12:55 p.m. ET

Tottenham Hotspur v. Red Star Belgrade — 3 p.m. ET
Manchester City v. Atalanta — 3 p.m. ET
Galatasaray v. Real Madrid — 3 p.m. ET
Juventus v. Lokomotive Moscow — 3 p.m. ET
Brugge v. Paris Saint-Germain — 3 p.m. ET
Olympiacos v. Bayern Munich

The 2 Robbies podcast: Man United 1-1 Liverpool; Struggles in North London

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe review the key results from Matchweek 9 in the Premier League focusing on Manchester United and Liverpool’s 1-1 draw at Old Trafford (0:50). The chaps also discuss Manchester City’s win at Crystal Palace (16:50), Arsenal’s defeat at Sheffield United (23:25), Tottenham’s draw at home to Watford (35:25) and debate who currently is the 3rd best team in the Premier League (42:05). Finally, the guys name their under-appreciated performances of the weekend (50:50).

To listen to more lively conversations and passionate debate from Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe, subscribe to The 2 Robbies Podcast on Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

FA Cup qualifier to be replayed after team walks off for racist abuse

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LONDON (AP) The FA Cup qualifying match between Haringey Borough and Yeovil Town that was abandoned following racist abuse will be replayed next week.

[ MORE: Sheffield United beat Arsenal with stellar defensive display (video) ]

The Football Association said Monday that the match will be replayed from the start on Oct. 29 at Haringey’s home ground.

Saturday’s game saw the players walk off in the 64th minute, shortly after Yeovil had gone 1-0 up via a penalty. Haringey officials said after the game that its Cameroonian goalkeeper Valery Pajetat and defender Coby Rowe had both been targeted by racial abuse by visiting fans.

London police said they had arrested two men, age 23 and 26, on Monday on suspicion of racially aggravated common assault in connection with the incident.

[ MORE: Referee officials explain VAR decision on Rashford goal ]

The FA said: “Following the incident in the original tie and the two arrests already made, the FA’s investigation is ongoing. We are continuing to work with the relevant authorities on our investigation into the matter.”

The winner of the game will advance to the first round of the FA Cup.