Premier League Playback: Fellaini leads Manchester United’s charge

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UNITED’S RESURGENCE LED BY FELLAINI

Manchester United are the kings of Manchester this season. The Red Devils won their six-straight Premier League match on Sunday in impressive fashion and secured their first victory in five Manchester derbies against Manchester City.

After an early wobble, Louis van Gaal’s side were worthy of their 4-2 victory as Marouane Fellaini played a leading role in helping United increase their lead to four points over their “noisy neighbors” and seemingly hammered another nail in Manuel Pellegrini’s coffin with his tenure as City boss becoming more delicate by the day.

[ RELATED: Three things we learned from Old Trafford ]

Fellaini rose above Gael Clichy at the back post in the 27th minute to send a towering header into the net and put United 2-1 up, after Sergio Aguero gave City an early lead, but it wasn’t just his goal that should be admired. The Belgian was everywhere and his energy and industry playing in behind Wayne Rooney and then drifting out to the left flank caused Yaya Toure and City’s lackluster midfield all kinds of problems, which was evident for Juan Mata’s third goal as Toure failed to track Fellaini and left a huge hole which United exploited expertly.

[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]

Premier League Schedule – Week 32

Result Recap & Highlights
Burnley 0-1 Arsenal Recap and watch here
Liverpool 2-0 Newcastle Recap and watch here
Man United 4-2 Man City Recap and watch here
QPR 0-1 Chelsea Recap and watch here
Saints 2-0 Hull City Recap and watch here
Sunderland 1-4 Palace Recap and watch here
Swansea 1-1 Everton Recap and watch here
Tottenham 0-1 Villa Recap and watch here
West Brom 2-3 Leicester Recap and watch here
West Ham 1-1 Stoke Recap and watch here

Last season Fellaini didn’t replicate the form which persuaded United to pay $43 million for the former Everton midfielder but now he’s flourishing and United’s boss is pleased enough to be keeping the likes of Angel di Maria and Radamel Falcao on the bench behind Fellaini.

“The fans also see that he is very important for the team, he scored goals and gave pressure when we needed it. He plays the ball to the same color, which is also very important. I am very happy for him,” Van Gaal said. “Fellaini, in my opinion, he was a lot of times injured but he is from day one he is the player who is always doing what I ask. Okay, you can say not always very good but never bad. That is also very important for a manager, that a player will always give a certain level of performance.”

[ RELATED: Latest PL standings ]

United’s level of performance was sublime as they suffocated City’s backline and midfield with relentless pressure by deploying a 4-1-4-1 formation with Michael Carrick orchestrating the midfield and allowing Fellaini, Ashley Young, Mata and Ander Herrera to push forward. Mata, Young and Fellaini all scored, as the balance is right and confidence is sky-high at Old Trafford. On Sunday, the atmosphere was electric as United’s fans tasted success in the derby for the first time in five and kicked City, who have now lost four of their last six matches, while they were down.

Asked about the key to United’s success which has seen them rise to third in the PL ahead of a trip to champions-elect Chelsea on Saturday, Van Gaal had the following to say.

“What is the key?” Van Gaal said. “That’s the process and I have told you every press conference there’s a process and I have said, if you can remember, that when the players do understand what they are doing on the pitch with confidence, then you can continue much easier than before. I have said that, it is a process. I have explained it a lot of times and now I think maybe a lot of players do understand what we are doing and what we are willing to perform.”

The penny has dropped for United and they are building momentum for a title charge next season. Plus, as Van Gaal made a point of mentioning in his post-game press conference, United’s fans now have bragging rights in their hometown until next season with a 4-3 aggregate win over the two games this season. It seems Manchester has taken to Van Gaal and vice versa.

COQUELIN CRUCIAL FOR BALANCED GUNNERS

On Saturday at Turf Moor Francis Coquelin was praised by manager Arsene Wenger following their 1-0 win against Burnley. After the game I asked the Arsenal boss about the balance the French midfielder provides.

“First of all he has shown his individual qualities in winning the ball and passing it quickly and he is very strong in the challenge. But as you said, he contributes to the balance of the team,” Wenger said. “That’s very difficult to measure. The balance of a team sometimes depends on one player with some characteristics that the others haven’t got. It looks like he has hugely contributed to that.”

High praise from Wenger, indeed. Since bursting onto the scene against Manchester City in an away-day masterclass back in January, Coquelin has displayed a wonderful knack for timing tackles to perfection and then holding back to protect the Gunners’ back four. His restraint and discipline is remarkable, and the 23-year-old midfielder is allowing Arsenal’s talented attackers to flourish. Away at Burnley on Saturday the Gunners were pushed to their physical limits by a bruising Sean Dyche side who could have nicked a point but it was Coquelin’s type of game as he chipped away at Burnley’s midfield and disrupted the Clarets’ tempo.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The Gunners have now won eight in a row and with six matches left Wenger played down their title chances, but they are building momentum and the pieces are being put in place for next season already. Before their 1-0 win at Turf Moor on Saturday, ProSoccerTalk caught up with Arsenal’s Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis who said he’s “not happy” with their campaign but is getting pretty excited for next season.

“We are not happy but we are going to keep pushing to the end and see how far we can go,” Gazidis said. “We are happy with the way the squad has developed and we are very focused how we can make a positive end to the season. After that it will be a question of how can we progress the team further so that we can have an even better season next year. We have a squad that’s clearly coming together. It’s a relatively young squad so it will continue to improve.

LEICESTER ROLLING, LEGEND OF “PARDIOLA”

The Foxes are on the charge. Leicester won for the second-straight game to breath new life into their battle against relegation. Nigel Pearson’s side now sit on 25 points and are just three points off safety with a game in hand. Yes, that game is against Chelsea but if they can nick a point against the Blues, their other games are suddenly seeming rather winnable compared to a few weeks ago. With Hull City falling fast, Burnley struggling to score and QPR continuing to huff and puff but falter, the Foxes have a real chance.

Then there is Sunderland. After beating Newcastle 1-0 last week, Dick Advocaat’s side were hammered 4-1 at home by Crystal Palace. The new Sunderland boss still has plenty of work to do to keep the Black Cats up, while his rival in the Palace dugout on Saturday is grinning like a Cheshire cat. Alan Pardew has won 25 points since he took charge in January as the Eagles sit in 11th place on 42 points after being in a relegation scrap when he arrived. Pardew has set Palace up perfectly for the players they possess as Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie rip teams apart on the break with their searing pace. Bolasie scored an 11-minute hat trick at the Stadium of Light on Saturday and his hunger to chase lost causes was greater than the urge Sunderland’s players had to defend. Bright days are ahead for Palace and “Pardiola.”

SHERWOOD HAS THE LAST LAUGH

Tim Sherwood’s Aston Villa provided the most shocking result of the weekend as they beat Tottenham 1-0 away from home. Sherwood was fired by Spurs somewhat acrimoniously at the end of last season after taking over midway through the 2013-14 campaign, and on his first return to White Hart Lane Christian Benteke gave his Villa side a crucial three points in their battle against relegation.

Speaking afterwards, Sherwood was delighted to grab just a third PL win as Villa boss on his return to Spurs.

“It is a sweet victory. You always want to do well when you come back to your old club,” Sherwood said. “Tottenham Hotspur has been excellent and a fantastic club for me. I’ve had a lot of well wishes from people inside this football club. There was a lot of people rooting for me today and rooting for Aston Villa and I appreciate that.”

Often mocked for his smugness and many calling his tactics one-dimensional, Sherwood comes in for plenty of criticism. Whether or not that’s justified remains to be seen but what you can’t accuse him of is failing to galvanize a Villa side which resembled a sitting duck and looked in serious danger of being relegated in February when Paul Lambert was fired. Now, Villa sit six points above the drop zone and Sherwood will be smiling after getting one over the people at Spurs who deemed his managerial ability not good enough to lead Tottenham.

USMNT UPDATE: YEDLIN DEBUTS

Four U.S. national team players were in action across the PL this weekend. Tim Howard made a string of fine saves to help Everton pick up a point on the road at Swansea City on Saturday, while Geoff Cameron played the full 90 minutes at right back for Stoke City in their 1-1 draw away at West Ham United. Brad Guzan helped Villa to their massive 1-0 win at Tottenham as the Illinois native recorded a superb shutout. His heroics came against a fellow USMNT man, as DeAndre Yedlin made his debut for Spurs.

The former Seattle Sounders right back came on with 11 minutes to go at White Hart Lane and the 21-year-old reflected on making his bow in the PL before he heads to San Antonio to play for the U.S. against Mexico on Wednesday.

“It’s unbelievable to make my debut here, something I’ve looked forward to for a while now but the circumstances weren’t the best and it was a disappointing loss,” DeAndre said. “The only thing going through my head now is the loss. The debut was great but the loss overshadows everything. It’s disappointing but we have to keep our heads up. We’ll look to come back and get those points back.”

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

Leicester – Burnley: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

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Leicester – Burnley: Brendan Rodgers seeks to become just the 23rd manager to win 100 games in the Premier League, and becoming the fourth-fastest Brit to reach the mark, when Leicester City host Burnley at the King Power Stadium on Sunday (Watch live at 2 pm ET, on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

LEICESTER – BURNLEY BROM STREAM LIVE

Rodgers moved one step closer to his century of PL wins last weekend when the Foxes began their 2020-21 campaign with a 3-0 thrashing of newly promoted West Bromwich Albion. Burnley, on the other hand, are set for their season debut this weekend after their opening-day clash with Manchester United was rescheduled.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Leicester – Burnley this Sunday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Leicester – Burnley (INJURY REPORT)

Leicester will be missing three players Ricardo Pereira (knee), Jonny Evans (thigh), Filip Benkovic (groin) — with absolutely certainty, plus James Maddison (hip) is unlikely to feature and Wes Morgan (thigh) is expected to face a late fitness test to determine his availability.

Meanwhile, Burnley aren’t expecting to have Johann Berg Gudmundsson (knee) or Jack Cork (ankle).


What they’re saying: Leicester – Burnley

Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers, on transfer target Cengiz Under: “He’s a very, very good player. There have been negotiations with the club [Roma] and we’re hopeful there. We need a different kind of attacking player to help out at the top end of the pitch. It’s clear we have pace and power, but I feel we need more football in there.”

Burnley manager Sean Dyche, on the club’s desperate transfer approach: “Lastminute.com — [it] started back in the day of Charlie Austin, two days before the first game of the season. There are many different ways that clubs operate. It is very difficult, it is tricky, but it’s the reality of it. I’ve been here eight years. This is not new news. I’ve been saying this for three years at least, saying we’ve got to stretch, we’ve got to pre-plan. But you can only offer these opinions. I don’t sign the checks, I can assure you.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Leicester (-165) are heavy betting favorites with Burnley (+460) widely expected to simply roll over and concede the three points up for grabs. Even the draw (+290) is though a bridge perhaps too far for the Clarets.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Prediction: Leicester – Burnley

Leicester managed to shake off the rust and disappointment that was the end of the 2019-20 season (just two wins from nine games during “Project Restart”) and win going away last weekend. On the other hand, Burnley finished with just two losses from their final nine games, and won four of them. We’ll see if either side is in the midst of a trend, or simply a blip on the radar. Leicester 2-1 Burnley.


How to watch Leicester – Burnley stream and start time

Kickoff: 2 pm ET Sunday
Online: Stream via Peacock

Newcastle – Brighton: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

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Newcastle v Brighton: A pair of sides that impressed on the opening weekend of the 2020-21 Premier League season — but only one of them with anything to show for it — will meet at St. James’ Park on Sunday (Watch live at 9 am ET, online via Peacock).

NEWCASTLE – BRIGHTON STREAM LIVE

Newcastle United were far and away the better side in their season-opening victory away to West Ham United last weekend, while Brighton looked the better part of Chelsea’s equals for 54 minutes but ultimately fell to a 3-1 defeat at the Amex Stadium.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Newcastle v Brighton this Sunday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Newcastle v Brighton (INJURY REPORT)

Newcastle will be without five players — Matty Longstaff (thigh), Martin Dubravka (ankle), Fabian Schar (shoulder), Paul Dummett (thigh), Dwight Gayle (knee) — leaving Steve Bruce with an increasingly thin squad.

Jose Iquierdo (knee), Florian Andone (knee) and Christian Walton (ankle) have all been ruled out for Sunday, with rising star Ben White (ankle) likely to face a late fitness test after picking up a minor injury last week.


What they’re saying

Newcastle manager Steve Bruce, on starting with a win: “I’m like everybody else, we all like to get off to a start and we couldn’t have had a better week in terms of results. The players have hit the ground running, which was always part of the reason why we went after who we went after. We’ve got a chance to get off to an outstanding start.”

Brighton manager Graham Potter, on Newcastle: “Newcastle will be strong. They were worthy winners at West Ham and they will be a tough test for us. Impressive, the business they have done. They have added to the squad and they will be really strong. Everyone knows what Andy Carroll brings to the team and physically he is very strong, and aerially he is strong. Him and [Callum] Wilson will be a strong partnership.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

There’s almost nothing to separate Newcastle (+160) from Brighton (+185) as the oddsmakers see Sunday’s clash a near-tossup. Even the draw (+210) isn’t far out of line with either side winning.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Prediction

At the risk of placing too much importance upon a game in week no. 2, this one has the feel of an important litmus test for Newcastle. West Ham have been chaotic for quite some time now, but Brighton, despite finishing 15th last season, have appeared far more stable and trending upward under Potter. They’re likely a mid-table side this season, and Newcastle could be, too. In the end, it ends Newcastle 1-1 Brighton.


How to watch Newcastle v Brighton stream and start time

Kickoff: 9 am ET Sunday
Online: Stream via Peacock

Europa League qualifying – playoff round draw results

Europa League draw
Photo by Mattia Ozbot/Soccrates/Getty Images
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Europa League draw results: Tottenham Hotspur will be rather pleased with their draw for the final round of UEFA Europa League qualifying — should they advance to reach it, of course — as they plod toward the group stage.

[ MORE: Is Gareth Bale’s return to Tottenham a good idea? ]

After surviving their brush with disaster and embarrassment on Thursday, Jose Mourinho’s men will next be away to Macedonian side Shkendija in the third round of qualifying next Thursday. Should they come on top there, Tottenham will then host either Russian side Rostov or Israeli outfit Maccabi Haifa the first week of October. The winner of that single-leg showdown will qualify for the group stage.

Elsewhere, Serie A giant AC Milan, who face Norwegian side Bodo/Glimt next week, were handed a slightly tougher draw: away to Turkish giant Besiktas or Portuguese side Rio Ave.

[ MORE: Transfer news: Diogo Jota to Liverpool; Yedlin to Besiktas ]

Scottish rivals Celtic and Rangers are also still alive in their quests to reach the group stage and learned their potential future opponents in the Europa League draw. Celtic, the nine-time reigning champions of Scotland, will face Sarajevo (Bosnia & Herzegovina) or Buducnost (Montenegro) if they get past Riga (Latvia) first. Rangers will see Galatasaray or Hajduk Split (Croatia) if they advance past Dutch side Willem II next weekn.

Notable Europa League playoff round matchups

Shkendija/ Tottenham Hotspur v Rostov/Maccabi Haifa
Besiktas/Rio Ave v AC Milan/Bodo/Glimt
Sarajevo/Buducnost Podgorica v Riga/Celtic
Willem II/Rangers v Galatasaray/Hajduk Split
Rosenborg/Alanyaspor v Mura/PSV Eindhoven
St. Gallen/AEK Athens v Wolfsburg/ Desna Chernihiv
Sporting CP/ Aberdeen v LASK/ Dunajska Streda

Everton – West Brom: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

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Everton – West Brom: The Toffees and Baggies are set to kick off weekend no. 2 of the 2020-21 Premier League season on Saturday (Watch live at 7:30 am ET, online via Peacock).

EVERTON – WEST BROM STREAM LIVE

Everton were one of the PL’s most impressive sides last weekend, as they began their campaign with a 1-0 victory away to Tottenham Hotspur. Most impressively, though, was the instant impact of three newcomers — James Rodriguez, Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure — who slotted into the team and played important parts in collecting three points on their debuts.

As for West Bromwich Albion, returning to life in the PL brought something of a rude awakening in the form of a 3-0 home defeat to Leicester City. After two seasons in the EFL Championship, West Brom undeniably have their work cut out for them if they’re to stay up this season.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Everton – West Brom this Saturday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Everton – West Brom (INJURY REPORT)

Everton will be without four players — Mason Holgate (ankle), Cenk Tosun (knee), Jean-Philippe Gbamin (calf), Fabian Delph (calf) — none of whom were available for selection to the 18-man squad a week ago.

West Brom will be missing Danish forward Kenneth Zohore (calf), who also missed out on the opening weekend.


What they’re saying

Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti, on his squad’s depth: “They are experienced players, all three of them in different ways, James, Allan have international experience. Doucoure has played really well in the Premier League. They have brought more confidence to their teammates. We have a more competitive squad. It is difficult to do the lineup, difficult to make the bench and the most difficult part is to tell the player to stay home and watch the game on TV. But if we want to be a more competitive team we have to have competition in the squad.”

West Brom manager Slaven Bilic, on wanting more signings: “We would love to do it. It is important we bring a different type of striker to what we have into the club. We are trying to get it done but it’s not easy, but it is instrumental for us. Then the next phase is to improve the team from last season. We got Button the goalkeeper, we got Kipre from Wigan – two good additions to our squad. We’ve got [Branislav] Ivanovic, and now [Conor] Gallagher, and we’re hoping and trying to get a couple more. It’s not a secret — we have good numbers of strikers, but we’re looking to add a bit more quality.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Everton (-190) are, predictably, heavy favorites for this one, with West Brom checking in at +525. The draw is currently sitting +320, if you’re a firm believer that West Brom stand a chance.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Prediction

It’s a mighty tough schedule to start the season for West Brom, as they go from last season’s fifth-place finishers to a side with similar aspirations this season. For as long as James and Co., stay healthy and fit, Everton look set to be a handful and a half for bottom-half sides like West Brom. They will have to wait another week for their first points — and their first goal. Everton 2-0 West Brom.


How to watch Everton – West Brom stream and start time

Kickoff: 7:30 am ET Saturday
Online: Stream via Peacock