Premier League Playback: Arsenal, Saints clash in busy midweek; title race on, Manchester United back?

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REAL TOP FOUR BATTLE: ARSENAL vs. SAINTS

As the video above shows, Southampton did plenty of things wrong against Manchester City in their 3-0 shellacking at St Mary’s on Sunday. But it’s okay, as long as they learn from it.

[RELATED: Watch full match replays]

Saints’ young squad have exceeded expectations under Ronald Koeman so far this season but they have a perfect chance to get that disjointed and tentative display against City out of their system. Arsenal away at the Emirates, where the Saints have already won in the League Cup, is the next challenge for Koeman’s boys but they have to be much better across the board than they were against City.

[ RELATED: Three things we learned from Saints vs. City ]

They showed City too much respect and in their first big test of the season most of the Saints received failing grades from their manager. I asked Koeman after Southampton’s defeat to City about his sides lack of creativity in the final third, here’s what he said.

Premier League Schedule – Week 14

Game Watch Live
Arsenal – Southampton Weds. 2:45pm ET
Burnley – Newcastle Tues. 2:45pm ET
Chelsea – Tottenham Weds. 2:45pm ET
Crystal Palace – Aston Villa Tues. 3pm ET
Everton – Hull Weds. 2:45pm ET
Leicester – Liverpool Tues. 2:45pm ET
Man United – Stoke Tues. 2:45pm ET
Swansea – QPR Tues. 2:45pm ET
Sunderland – Man City Weds. 2:45pm ET
West Brom – West Ham Tues. 3pm ET

“I think if I look through my team, two or three players reached the level of what they can show. In my opinion Toby Alderweireld played fantastic and in the first half we had a good organization,” Koeman said. “But in an attacking way, it is different to create those  kinds of chances that we can create [against other teams] against defenders like Man City. That was not good enough. You will get punished for that, we knew that before the game. They showed us that difference today.”

As for Arsenal, the Gunners can sneak into the top four with a win over Saints and other results going their way after they beat West Brom 1-0 at the weekend. Arsene Wenger’s men flattered to deceive but got the job done against the Baggies, as Arsenal’s fans held up the following banner (see the Tweet below) with their team limping through the current campaign.

[ RELATED: Wenger relief after win ]

Saints vs. Man City was not a battle for the top four, we all know Chelsea and City will battle it out for the title and the rest will play out a desperate scrap for third and fourth. So, Arsenal’s clash with Southampton is doubly important as both teams look to boost their top four chances. Saints will be missing Morgan Schniederlin through injury, and his forced withdrawal at half time against City was a big reason why Saints collapsed in the second half. If Arsenal’s attackers can exploit the space in front of Southampton’s backline, Wenger could get a morale boosting win. Oh, how he needs that.

RACE FOR THE TITLE BACK ON?

With Chelsea slipping up at Sunderland and Manchester City battering Southampton over the weekend, the Premier League title race is set up perfectly as the busy festive season arrives.

[ RELATED: Is the PL title race back on? ]

A full slate of midweek matches, plus another game for everyone this weekend, means that Chelsea’s six-point lead over City can be dwindled down to zero in the space of three days.

Chelsea host Tottenham Hotspur, who are coming off the back of two-straight wins, in a London derby on Wednesday under the lights at Stamford Bridge which could be a classic (more on that shortly) and then travel to Newcastle. While City have two, on paper, easier games this week with a trip to Sunderland and then a home game against Everton.

[ RELATED: Latest PL standings ]

Premier League Schedule – Week 13

Result Recap & Highlights
Burnley 1-1 Aston Villa Recap and watch here
Liverpool 1-0 Stoke Recap and watch here
Man United 3-0 Hull Recap and watch here
QPR 3-2 Leicester Recap and watch here
Saints 0-3 Man City Recap and watch here
Sunderland 0-0 Chelsea Recap and watch here
Swansea 1-1 Crystal Palace Recap and watch here
Tottenham 2-1 Everton Recap and watch here
West Brom 0-1 Arsenal Recap and watch here
West Ham 1-0 Newcastle Recap and watch here

If you ask most punters in England, they have already handed the 2014-15 PL title to Chelsea after their imperious start to the season which sees them unbeaten after 13 matches. However, Jose Mourinho and his men will not be planning the victory parade down Kings Road anytime soon. City are coming on strong, just like they did at this stage of the campaign last season and the title race is back on, according to City boss Manuel Pellegrini.

[VIDEO: Premier League highlights]

“We can complain about a lot of things with this team this year. That we are conceding too many, and not scoring the amount of goals we did last season,” Pellegrini said. “But the only thing we cannot complain about with this squad is the spirit, personality, character and ambition to keep winning. We have to play 25 games more, it is a lot of points. In football, nobody knows what happens. In one week you can change with three bad results and that will change your position. Chelsea is playing very well, let’s see what happens in the future. We must try to just think about what we do against Sunderland [in our next game].”

SPURS COULD TORMENT CHELSEA WITH TWO STRIKERS

Tottenham’s trip across the capital to play Chelsea is an intriguing battle. On Sunday Spurs beat Everton largely thanks to their two-pronged attack of Harry Kane and Roberto Soldado playing up top together, which saw the latter score his first goal since March.

During his first few months as a manger in the PL, Pochettino led Southampton to a famous 2-1 win over Chelsea as he started with two strikers in Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez. If Tottenham are to get a draw, or even a famous win at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, the form of Kane and Soldado will be crucial. Chelsea will be missing their star man, Diego Costa, after his fifth booking of the season occurred at Sunderland, meaning an automatic one-game ban.

[RELATED: Premier League schedule]

Chelsea are stumbling a little, and in their 0-0 draw at Sunderland they failed to create a plethora of clear-cut chances while Jozy Altidore’s second half performance caused Chelsea’s backline plenty of distress with his direct and powerful runs. Kane can replicate that, and if Soldado has truly rediscovered his touch in front of goal, Spurs could shock Chelsea and blow the title race wide open.

UNITED READY TO KICK ON?

After their 3-0 battering of Hull City, Manchester United looked back to their best. That is now three-straight victories for Louis van Gaal’s men who have only conceded one goal in this victories and are looking increasingly dangerous in attack. In the video above our Match of the Day crew analyze if United are clicking back into place as van Gaal’s methods are starting to show considerable signs of promise. This week they host Stoke on Tuesday and then Southampton away on Monday, as the Red Devils could easily be looking at five wins on the spin and be right behind Man City and Chelsea at the top of the standings.

[ RELATED: Van Gaal hails United’s display ]

Both Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie were on the scoresheet against Hull, as United’s two talisman are stepping up to the plate, plus Radamel Falcao returned from injury but there was a slight downer as Angel Di Maria hobbled off with a hamstring injury. Here’s a cheeky little stat which may interest you, as Rooney and RVP are fine-tuning their partnership…

TOP GOALS IN WEEK 13 TO WHET YOUR APPETITE FOR MIDWEEK MADNESS

During Week 13 there were plenty of stunning strikes, but Kevin Mirallas’ strike took the biscuit. What a hit, my son. Check out the video for the top goals from the weekend. This should warm your cockles for 20 more PL games coming your way in the next few days.

Premier League Playback comes out every Monday as PST’s Editor and Lead Writer takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here

Premier League player Power Rankings

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Our latest Premier League player Power Rankings are here and there are some familiar faces sticking around the upper echelons.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Stars from Premier League giants Liverpool, Man United, Arsenal and Tottenham dominate our power rankings after some impressive performances and there are plenty of new entries and plenty of players from the same teams as these rankings are based on the seven games played over the last seven days due to the second half of the Premier League’s winter break kicking in.

[ MORE: Club Power Rankings

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League. If they didn’t play in the last matchweek, they aren’t getting in this list!

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.


1. Heung-Min Son (Tottenham) – Up 2
2. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool) – Up 2
3. Jordan Henderson (Liverpool) – Up 2
4. Dani Ceballos (Arsenal) – New entry
5. Bukayo Saka (Arsenal) – New entry
6. Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Man United) – New entry
7. Richarlison (Everton) – Up 8
8. Harry Maguire (Man United) – New entry
9. Jack Grealish (Aston Villa) – New entry
10. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – New entry
11. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) – New entry
12. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) –  Down 11
13. Nicolas Pepe (Arsenal) – New entry
14. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – Down 3
15. Hugo Lloris (Tottenham) – Down 7
16. Bruno Fernandes (Man United) – New entry
17. Nick Pope (Burnley) – Even
18. Steven Bergwijn (Tottenham) – Down 5
19. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) – New entry
20. Pepe Reina (Aston Villa) – New entry

Barcelona sign Martin Braithwaite

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says it has signed Denmark forward Martin Braithwaite to help fill its injury-depleted attack.

Barcelona said on Thursday it agreed to pay the 18 million euros ($19.4 million) buyout clause in Braithwaite’s contract with Spanish league rival Leganes.

Barcelona was granted permission to sign a Spanish league player after it was left without Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele for long periods due to injuries to both attacking players.

Braithwaite will sign for the rest of this season plus four more, according the club.

He will not be eligible to play in the Champions League this season, just la Liga.

The 28-year-old Braithwaite has played for the last year at Leganes, where he arrived in mid-season of 2018-19 and helped the modest club avoid relegation.

He has eight goals in 27 appearances for Leganes this season.

His prior clubs included Middlesbrough, Girondins, and Toulouse. He played in the 2018 World Cup for Denmark.

Barcelona highlighted his ability to play “on both sides of the attack, his work ethic and commitment” and added he is a “headache for rivals.”

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Werner to Liverpool? Leipzig star keen on Premier League transfer

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Timo Werner ripped Tottenham apart in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday and the RB Leipzig striker was immediately asked about a possible Premier League transfer amid reported interest from Liverpool.

It’s safe to say that Werner is keen on a move to the reigning European and World champs as multiple reports have linked the German national team forward with a summer move to Liverpool.

After he scored the winner in Leipzig’s 1-0 win at Spurs, Werner told Norwegian TV channel Viasport Football that he is flattered to be linked with Liverpool.

“I know that Liverpool is the best team at the moment in the world,” Werner said. “When you’re linked with that team it makes me very proud. It’s a pleasure but I know that Liverpool have a lot of good players and I have to improve myself, to learn much more things to get on this level to play there.”

If that isn’t a good old fashioned ‘come and get me plea’ then I don’t know what is.

Werner, 23, has long been linked with a move to Bayern Munich but that deal doesn’t seem likely and the predatory forward was also said to be interesting Chelsea in January. Werner did sign a new four-year contract at Leipzig last summer but it reportedly lowered his release clause to $35 million and that will certainly interest his countryman Jurgen Klopp. Werner has Leipzig in third place in the Bundesliga and with one foot in the Champions League quarterfinals with his 26 goals in 32 games in all competitions pivotal to the success of Julian Nagelsmann’s upstarts.

Werner has scored 86 goals in 145 appearances for Leipzig in all competitions and his pace and energy combined with clinical finishing is very Jamie Vardy esque. Werner also has 11 goals in 29 appearances for Germany and it seems like he has been around for a long, long time because, well, he has. He became the youngest player in Bundesliga history to reach 200 games and his incredible consistency is clear for all to see.

Would he fit in at Liverpool? He could well slot into the Roberto Firmino role in linking everything together but he would obviously have to spend a bit of time on the bench if he was to move to Anfield this summer. A better move for him would probably be Chelsea as he would play right away and they badly need a clinical striker to finish off all of the chances their talented midfielders create. If Liverpool sign him then one of Firmino, Salah and Mane would have to make way and that doesn’t seem likely anytime soon .

Werner will be a wanted man this summer and it seems clear he wants to move to the Premier League.

Swiss prosecutors charge Al-Khelaifi in FIFA bribery case

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BERN, Switzerland (AP) Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser al-Khelaifi was charged Thursday by Swiss federal prosecutors in connection with a wider bribery investigation linked to World Cup television rights.

The office of Switzerland’s attorney general filed an indictment charging Al-Khelaifi with inciting former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke “to commit aggravated criminal mismanagement.”

Valcke was charged with accepting bribes, “several counts of aggravated criminal mismanagement and falsification of documents.”

A third person who was not identified was charged with bribery and also for inciting Valcke to commit aggravated criminal mismanagement.

Al-Khelaifi is the head of Qatari broadcaster BeIN Sports and also a member of the UEFA executive committee. He denied wrongdoing after being questioned in 2017 and 2019 in connection with criminal proceedings opened three years ago.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Socce r and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports