Three things we learned from Manchester United vs. Arsenal

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MANCHESTER — Dubbed as the battle for third-place before the game, it was a stalemate at Old Trafford on Sunday as Arsenal fought back to draw 1-1 with Manchester United.

[ RELATED: Wenger on Zelalem’s US switch ]

United are now two points behind Arsenal and the Gunners have two games remaining to United’s one. Neither team wants to finish in fourth-place and enter the lottery of a UEFA Champions League play-off to get into the group stage, so grabbing a point late on was vital for Arsenal as they aim to qualify automatically for next seasons UCL.

Here’s three things we learned from Manchester.

YOUNG REBORN

Ashley Young’s resurgence in recent months has been remarkable. Many thought Young’s United career was over last summer, as the winger bought for $28 million from Aston Villa in 2011 had Angel di Maria arriving in his left-wing spot. Young has won the spot from Di Maria and rightly so. Sure, his numbers aren’t phenomenal. He’s scored twice and assisted five times this season for United but other things are turning him into a fans favorite as one of their forgotten men has played a leading role in securing a UEFA Champions League return for the Red Devils. Initially deployed by Louis van Gaal as a left-wing back during preseason, Young suffered injuries and struggled to oust Di Maria in the opening  months of the season. But since February the England winger has been sublime with his work rate pleasing fans, and the quality of his deliveries causing the opposition so many issues. His late winner away at Newcastle on Mar. 4 seemed to give him confidence and he followed that up with a majestic display against Manchester City in April  where he scored and had two assists in a big derby win. Last week against Crystal Palace he ran the Eagles ragged and he was at it again on Sunday.

Against Arsenal, Young again came up big against the big teams, as he slide in and won crunching tackles much to the delight of the home crowd. His patient wing-play and delicate cross to the back post found Herrera for United’s goal, then soon after Young nutmegged Hector Bellerin on the run as Arsenal’s right back had a torrid afternoon trying to keep the United winger quiet. A rejuvenated Young is likely to feature in Roy Hodgson’s next England squad and given his recent form, he thoroughly deserves it.

ARSENAL’s SOFT CENTER RETURNS

Arsenal, once again, proved their silky, skillful core has a soft center. Francis Coquelin tried to chip away at United’s central midfield but had no joy as Juan Mata, Ander Herrera and Young kept coming at him in the first half. Not until late on did Arsenal’s attacking midfielders cause such problems for United’s holding midfielder Daley Blind. Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey all had says to forget but Theo Walcott arrive to inject pace in Arsenal’s attack. Sanchez and Ramsey have been influential in securing another top four finish for the Gunners this season but if Arsene Wenger’s side have any aspirations to win the Premier League title next season, and they do, then another midfield general needs to arrive. The current squad is settled, see below, but it does need some sprucing up.

We’ve said it time and time again but the likes of Morgan Schneiderlin would be a great addition and either instead of or alongside Coquelin, that would give the Gunners’ core more steel and allow their flair players to flourish. Jack Wilshere’s return from injury can provide them with more bite, but the Gunners arguably need a new goalkeeper and another top central defender to make any inroads on Chelsea and Manchester City ahead of them. When it comes down to it, Arsenal seem to be two or three key players short of being genuine title contenders.

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United and Arsenal shared the spoils at Old Trafford.

FALCAO’S FAILINGS CLEAR

The same can be said for United, especially in the striker department. The early signing of Memphis Depay should boost van Gaal’s striking options next season but after giving Radamel Falcao his first start since Apr. 18 in the 1-0 defeat at Chelsea, it was clear that it’s just not happening for Falcao at United. The man on loan from Monaco until the end of the season may well have played his last game at Old Trafford. It wasn’t a lack of effort but perhaps Falcao was trying too hard. Early on he twisted and turned on the ball numerous times and tried to do too much which got the crowd on his back from the get-go. At every club there is always one player the fans turn on and use as a scapegoat. At United, that player is, and has been, Falcao.

In the 38th minute we briefly saw the hunger of Falcao as Juan Mata dinked a ball to the back post and the man they call “El Tigre” in his homeland charged at the ball with ferocious intent and flung himself forward to somehow get contact on it. It was a brief moment of controlled desire as he was substituted in the 61st minute and replaced by Robin van Persie amid rumors that the Dutch striker will leave United this summer and could be heading to Juventus. With Wayne Rooney out injured on Sunday, the state of United’s attacking options looked a little bleak. Van Gaal is likely to get upwards of $200 million to spend on new signings this summer. It’s a safe bet that a large chunk of that will be on bringing in a couple of new strikers. United need it.

UCL, Live: Chelsea v. Bayern; Napoli v. Barcelona

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The 2019-20 UEFA Champions League is back and the Round of 16 games continue this week as Chelsea host Bayern Munich and Barcelona head to Napoli in what should be two epic battles.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

This is arguably the biggest test yet for Frank Lampard‘s Chelsea youngsters as they face the German giants Bayern who are in imperious form in Europe and have Robert Lewandowski leading their charge. What Chelsea lack in experience they make up for in talent and despite some attacking injuries, Lampard will be keen to take the game to Bayern at Stamford Bridge. Given Chelsea’s defensive flaws so far this season, their best form of defense is attack.

Lampard knows Chelsea must lock down Lewandowski and his battle with Antonio Rudiger is one, among many, we are really looking forward to.

[ MORE: Which Premier League team(s) will reach last eight? ]

Elsewhere, Barcelona warmed up for their big trip to Napoli in fine style as Lionel Messi scored four times in a thumping win against Eibar in La Liga on Saturday. Messi, 32, will be Barca’s main men in the cauldron that is the Estadio San Paolo and despite their patchy form in Serie A, Gennaro Gatusso’s Napoli are a dangerous proposition in the Champions League. Especially at home in Naples.

Below is the full schedule for the two UCL last 16 first leg games on Tuesday, with bothgames kicking off at 3 p.m. ET. You can follow the action live by clicking on the link above.


Tuesday Champions League action

Chelsea v. Bayern Munich
Napoli v. Barcelona

Premier League player Power Rankings

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Our latest Premier League player Power Rankings are here and there are new faces pushing their way into the upper echelons.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Stars from Premier League giants Liverpool, Man United, Arsenal, Man City and Wolves dominate our power rankings after some impressive performances and there are plenty of new entries and plenty of players from the same teams.

[ 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. Anthony Martial (Man United) – New entry
2. Diogo Jota (Wolves) – New entry
3. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) – Up 16
4. Olivier Giroud (Chelsea) – New entry
5. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) – Up 6
6. Richarlison (Everton) – Up 1
7. Dwight McNeil (Burnley) – New entry
8. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – Up 2
9. Moussa Djenepo (Southampton) – New entry
10. Bukayo Saka (Arsenal) – Down 5
11. Raul Jimenez (Wolves) – New entry
12. Bruno Fernandes (Man United) – Up 4
13. Dani Ceballos (Arsenal) – Down 9
14. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – Even
15. Martin Dubravka (Newcastle) – New entry
16. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) – Down 4
17. Harry Maguire (Man United) – Down 9
18. Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Man United) – Down 12
19. Stuart Armstrong (Southampton) – New entry
20. Nicolas Pepe (Arsenal) – Down 7

Key battles: Chelsea v. Bayern; Real Madrid v. Man City

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Two Premier League teams play in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 this week as Chelsea host Bayern Munich and Man City head to Real Madrid in the first legs.

Which battles will determine the outcome of these games?

[ MORE: Predicting the UCL last 16 encounters ]

Below we take a look at three crucial head-to-head clashes which will be pivotal in deciding which teams will reach the quarterfinals.


Chelsea v. Bayern Munich

Antonio Rudiger v. Robert Lewandowski: The former has become a real threat from set pieces for Chelsea but his main role will be to stop the most lethal striker in Europe this season in Lewandowski’s. Bayern’s target man is ageing like a fine French win and has 40 goals to his name in all competitions for club and country. Chelsea’s defense has struggled at times this season and Lewa must be licking his chops in anticipation as he tries to win his first-ever Champions League title.

Jorginho v. Thiago Alcantara: Two pass-masters in central midfield will be a joy to watch. Jorginho has a more defensive role to play with N’Golo Kante out and the Italian will look to deliver perfectly weighted passes to get Chelsea’s attack going. As for Thiago, his vision works really well alongside some of Bayern’s more defensive midfielders and he is so assured in possession. The Spanish international has class on the ball and he and Jorginho are very similar. What a battle this should be.

Reece James v. Alphonso Davies: This is a battle we should all look forward to. Canadian star Davies has been a revelation at left back for Bayern and is encouraged to steam ahead and join in attacks whenever he can. James does exactly the same for Chelsea and has made the position his own in his debut season in the Premier League. These two players will be around at the top level and playing in the Champions League for a very long time and you can expect incisive runs up and down as they go head-to-head.

Real Madrid v. Man City

Casemiro v. Kevin De Bruyne: This will be one heck of a job for Real’s Brazilian destroyer. Of course, Casemiro can play too but his main role will be to shut down Kevin de Bruyne who has been in imperious form for Man City in recent weeks. When KDB is fit and firing on all cylinders he is almost unstoppable and he is a player who continues to be linked with a move to Real this summer amid the uncertainty over Man City’s two-season European ban.

Sergio Ramos v. Sergio Aguero: The master of the dark arts against the master of finishing will be fascinating viewing. The Sergio’s will put on a show and Aguero will fancy his chances of wriggling past Ramos and being the hero. That said, how many times have we written off Ramos in the past? The Real Madrid and Spain skipper seems to always find a way of coming out on top but he will be stretched to his limits as his Real defense try to put out fires all over the place with Aguero, KDB and Raheem Sterling or Gabriel Jesus popping up.

Karim Benzema v. Aymeric Laporte: The latter has been influential since his return from injury and his absence is the main reason Man City are so far behind Liverpool in the Premier League title race. Benzema’s physicality could cause Laporte some issues and like Ramos, he is underrated for a player who has been pivotal in winning four Champions League titles with Real Madrid. Laporte is good on the ball and Benzema’s clever turns and flicks means this battle will be more about brains than brawn.

Lyon-Juventus gets green light despite virus concerns

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LYON, France (AP) French club Lyon says its sold-out Champions League home game against Juventus will go ahead as planned on Wednesday despite the coronavirus outbreak in nearby Italy.

Lyon said in a statement on Tuesday it received the go-ahead from French authorities for the match to take place “in its initial configuration.”

Up to 3,000 Juventus fans coming from different regions of Italy are expected to attend Groupama Stadium for the last-16, first-leg match.

The fast-spreading virus from China has led to the postponement of Serie A games in northern Italy, where a cluster of the COVID-19 disease has caused seven deaths and towns to be locked down.

Health Minister Olivier Veran told RTL radio on Tuesday that France is not considering closing its border with Italy, nor banning big gatherings of people because it would not make sense.

Asked specifically about the Lyon-Juventus match, Veran said: “Should we ban gatherings? Should we stop the (Paris) Fashion Week? Should we stop matches? Should we close universities? The answer is no.”

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