Top 5 Premier League storylines heading into Week 3: Four sides aim to stay perfect

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Four Premier League sides are hoping to stay perfect, and one of them’s a bit of a surprise.

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Leicester City joins Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United as clubs to have won their first two matches, and now faces a tricky Tottenham test at King Power Stadium to keep the string going.

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It’s one of several big matches on the docket. We’re ready for all of them, but here are five things to monitor.

Arsenal vs. Liverpool

Did you need a snappy headline to tell you why this match is important to the two English powers, or will their names alone do the trick? Thought so.

The Reds hold a pair of 1-0 wins to open the season, with Philippe Coutinho and Christian Benteke providing winners. Both players will play their roles against Arsenal, but how Martin Skrtel and company deal with Arsenal’s attack is a bigger talking point for the eventual outcome.

As for the Gunners, it’s obviously quite early in the season, but a home loss to Liverpool would sink Arsenal six points behind their rivals after three weeks of play.

Will Manchester City keep rolling while breaking a deadlock?

Manuel Pellegrini’s side has a pair of 3-0 wins to start the season, one surprising (Chelsea) and the other not as much (West Bromwich Albion). Up next is a visit to Goodison Park, which traditionally has been a tough go for the Citizens.

In fact, City and Everton boast a historically even relationship. In all competitions, each side has posted 66 wins while the duo has drawn a match 44 times. Who will tip the scales on Sunday?

Can Chelsea snap out of its funk?

The Blues suffered a rare 3-0 loss on Sunday, as Manchester City asserted itself late to gain an impressive scoreline. Throw in the loss to Arsenal in the

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Community Shield match and a 10-man draw against Swansea to open the PL season, and the Blues are winless in three and hold just a solitary point from Premier League play.

It would seem a trip to the Hawthorns would be a welcome respite given Chelsea’s early competition, but the Blues have poor recent history at desperate West Brom. The Baggies’ 3-0 win over Chelsea to end last season may’ve been inconsequential, but it gave West Brom a 3W-1D record in its last four home matches versus the Blues.

Tony Pulis’ side will certainly be hoping that form helps his side, as West Brom was worked by Man City on opening day before holding off Watford in an uninspiring 0-0 draw last week.

Battle of the big spending Uniteds

Manchester United impressed midweek with a 3-1 win over Club Brugge at Old Trafford, and now it welcome Newcastle United into the Theater of Dreams for an early Saturday morning kickoff.

And while the Red Devils have brought in a lot of players, they’ve also spent less net money than Newcastle this window. Magpies owner Mike Ashley has loosened the purse strings in order to purchase Steve McClaren a load of talent. Marseille man Florian Thauvin is the latest to join the side after Giorginio Wijnaldum, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Chancel Mbemba all moved Tyneside.

Will the midweek match keep this one close? Newcastle’s record versus United boasts just one win in the past three years, though it was at Old Trafford.

Leicester gets tested, while Spurs face heat

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After creaming Sunderland and picking up an impressive win at the Boleyn Ground, Claudio Ranieri’s side gets a tougher test at home on Saturday with a visit from Harry Kane and Tottenham.

You wouldn’t know it from their record, but Spurs have been far from miserable (though admittedly nowhere near their goals of moving to the next level). A 2-2 draw against Stoke City isn’t Tottenham’s idea of a good result, but also far from depressing. And the 1-0 loss to Manchester United to start the season may’ve been a dull affair, but Spurs showed they can dance with any partner.

Enter the Tinkerman, who can legitimately dream of a 5-0 start if he can guide the Foxes to a win (Bournemouth and Aston Villa are next). Will Leicester take another step toward showing the end of last season was not a fluke?

Carlos Vela scored a celestial goal. We are blessed to have seen it

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Carlos Vela is making all other spectacular individual MLS seasons look run of the mill.

I mean, look at the gumption on this guy.

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The Cancun-born playmaker left the San Jose Earthquakes back line on the beach with a soft shoe routine to give LAFC its third goal in a 4-0 win on Thursday

Vela, 30, now has 25 goals and 11 assists in 25 league matches for LAFC this season. He added two goals and an assist in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play.

But this one, yeah, this one takes the cake.

First, there’s Vela’s non-chalant dummy before picking up the pass.

Then, there’s Florian Jungwirth’s body language during and after his being cooked with a nutmeg. That’s an entire mood.

Next, Vela dribbles around the keeper and allows a slide tackler so glide past him before finishing with aplomb, the magic touch his going near post as if to say, “Can I beat this guy a second time, or do I have to use the easier route?”

Diego Rossi also had a goal and an assist, while Mark-Anthony Kaye continued his strong season with an assist to ex-Fiorentina prospect Joshua Perez. It’s a first MLS goal for the California-born Perez, now 21.

WATCH: Rooney sees red for forearm shiver, Kamara scores golazo

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Midweek MLS provided plenty to talk about on Wednesday, with two red cards and a golazo in one match alone.

The two main talking points from the New York Red Bulls’ 2-1 win over DC United weren’t really part of what led the victors to three points.

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How? Well, one of the world’s marquee names earned a red card via VAR and a returning star scores an absolute stunner, that’s how.

Here’s Ola Kamara’s debut marker for the Black-and-Red, adding to a record which included 49 goals in 97 matches between Columbus and the LA Galaxy before moving to the Chinese Super League for a wildly disappointing time with Shenzhen FC.

All of that is forgotten.

As for the Rooney incident, the Red Bulls already led 1-0 when DC’s star striker went forearm shiver on Cristian Casseres Jr.

It’s the second red of the season for Rooney, who is set for Derby County in January.

Amro Tarek was later sent off for the Red Bulls, who moved ahead of DC in the standings. Kaku and Daniel Royer had RBNY’s goals.

Newcastle takeover could be back on if in holiday relegation battle

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How much do Newcastle United supporters dislike their owner Mike Ashley right now?

Enough that this report is likely to condemn many to hoping their favorite club in the world is in the Bottom 3 come Christmas.

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The Chronicle’s Mark Douglas speculates that Ashley will lower his asking price for the club if it is in a relegation fight come December — something that looks certain after the Steve Bruce-led Magpies got bossed around by promoted Norwich City.

Nothing But Newcastle transcribed Douglas’ chatter from his podcast, in which he says,

“It wouldn’t surprise me if we hear more in December because there are still people sniffing around that football club and if the team are in the bottom three, there’ll be people thinking they can get a bargain out of Mike Ashley again. … He will probably more open to listening to lower offers in January and December which is what happened last December. He was basically saying ‘take it off my hands, you now have to take the risk’'”

This is notable for two reasons. First: the social experiment of wondering how many fans could see themselves rooting for their team to take a major and perilous back step just to see the back of a man they perceive is at the root of their failures (and that perception is widespread in this case).

But second, we can see if this rumor comes true because it’s difficult to imagine Newcastle as comfortably mid table by Christmas.

Fan protests and anger are nothing new, but here’s an effort to show how wobbly Ashley’s reputation is on Tyneside: Fans have taken to selling a black and white striped shirt with player name and number but no sponsor just so they can have a Newcastle jersey that doesn’t put money into Ashley’s pockets. And this is after he broke the club’s transfer record twice in one year.

If we’ve learned anything from the past few seasons, though, it’s that boycotts and anger will spur Ashley into insisting that he’s willing to sell and just conveniently enough it will be before the January transfer window. He “won’t be able to buy any players” with the takeover in play, and talks will hit a wall come late January, when they’ll loan a couple young players from Top Six sides.

Yes he spent significant money on Joelinton, Allen Saint-Maximin, and others this summer, but one decent window doesn’t make a culture. Count us amongst the skeptical, for now.

Messi back in training, could be fit for Betis

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Lionel Messi was back in full training again on Wednesday and may be fit to face Real Betis in the Spanish league on Sunday.

Messi had been training separately from the squad since injuring his right calf in the preseason.

He missed the team’s 1-0 loss to Athletic Bilbao in the league opener on Friday.

Barcelona has not said how long it expects Messi to be sidelined.

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Coach Ernesto Valverde is also dealing with injuries to forwards Luiz Suarez and Ousmane Dembele.

Dembele is certain to miss Sunday’s match at the Camp Nou because of a left thigh injury that should keep him out for about five weeks.

Suarez also isn’t likely to play this weekend because of a muscle injury sustained before halftime of Friday’s game in Bilbao.

Two-time defending champion Barcelona hadn’t loss a league opener in 10 seasons.

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