Top 5 Premier League storylines ahead of Week 4: Transfer deadline day looms


With Week 4 of the 2015-16 Premier League season upon us, one side plots its bid to stay perfect, while six more hope to simply stay unbeaten.

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While a handful of the likely suspects — Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United — remain unblemished on the year thus far, Leicester City, Swansea and Watford join them as this season’s unlikely unbeatens. Week 4 throws up massive tests for the latter two.

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With Week 4 kicking off barely 36 hours from now, here’s five storylines to watch around the Premier League this weekend:

Whose defense cracks first — Man City, Liverpool or Man United?

Three games, three clean sheets — that’s undoubtedly what Manuel Pellegrini, Brendan Rodgers and Louis van Gaal are hanging their proverbial hats on these days, as Man City, Liverpool and Man United (currently 1st, 3rd and 4th in the league, respectively) carry a spotless defensive record into Week 4 of the 2015-16 season.

While City’s attack is firing on all cylinders (more on that in a bit), Liverpool and United have needed every bit of those clean sheets to each pull out a pair of 1-0 victories alongside a scoreless draw to start the season. Chelsea won last year’s league title with the stingiest defense in the league (32 goals conceded in 38 games); it’s not the most enjoyable soccer to watch, but it gets results and could see either one of these Reds sides make a legitimate title challenge if it keeps up.

Is this the week Rooney gets his first PL goal?

Wayne Rooney, Manchester United FC

Wayne Rooney is having himself an interesting time at the moment. On one hand, the Man United and England captain is yet to score a goal in the PL this season. On the other hand, he bagged a hat trick in a UEFA Champions League qualifier on Wednesday. The goals will eventually come for the 29-year-old (we think), but how long can Louis van Gaal continue to run him out there, week after week at center forward, if he’s not producing?

Of course, his next-best option at striker aren’t exactly forcing his hand at the moment. On Sunday, Rooney will try his luck against Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium.

How long can City’s perfect start go on?

For as stout and airtight as City’s defense has looked, that’s how good the likes of Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Yaya Toure have been much further up the field. Aguero has scored just once through three games (though that number could easily be three or four given the number of chances befallen upon him — 11 shots, 7 on target), while Silva and Toure have been credited with three assists a piece (they’ve each scored once, as well).

Up next for City, it’s a potential “banana skin” matchup with newly promoted Watford, who visit the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

Spurs and Saints searching for their first wins

Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton, the two sides that finished fifth and seventh in the Premier League last season, respectively, are each winless to begin the 2015-16 season. Southampton have had to contend with Europa League qualifiers as their domestic campaign began, which is perhaps understandable, so what’s Tottenham’s excuse?

Mauricio Pochettino’s side has held three leads through three games this season, and they’ve given every single one of them away (up 2-0 vs. Stoke City, up 1-0 vs. Leicester City — drew both games). Neither side really looks to challenge for a top-four place as they did a year ago, but winning a game the first month of the season would be nice. Up next for Spurs, it’s 7th-place Everton at home. Meanwhile, Saints welcome 8th-place Norwich City to St Mary’s.

Who struggles so badly they panic buy on transfer deadline day?

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Arsene Wenger, Arsenal FC

It happens every single year without fail — one side, usually from the top half of the league but not always, sleep-walks their way through the season’s opening weeks, which sends the fans, the coaching staff and executive staff alike into a collective panic. When transfer deadline day rolls around, they spend…and they spend big.

Remember when Arsenal started the 2011-12 season winless in their first three (including an 8-2 thrashing by Man United), then spent $37 million on Andre Santos, Mikel Arteta and Per Mertesacker three days later? Candidates to panic buy this season include, but are not limited to, the following: Tottenham (who are already looking to buy), Newcastle United, Sunderland, West Ham United and Arsenal (yes, again).

Bulgarian prime minister calls for Bulgaria FA chief to resign

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Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has asked for the president of their football association, Borislav Mihaylov, to resign following the racist abuse of England’s players in Sofia’s Vasil Levski stadium on Monday.

During the EURO 2020 qualifier monkey chants were heard from sections of the home crowds, while Nazi salutes were also made and the officials stopped the game twice in the first half and then followed step one of UEFA’s anti-racism protocol as a message was broadcast over the speakers that the game was in danger of being abandoned.

The Bulgarian sport minister, Krasen Kralev, released a statement on the incident and said that Mihaylov, who had previously complained to UEFA about Gareth Southgate‘s concerns over potential racist abuse in Bulgaria, should resign.

“The prime minister called me urgently a short time ago,”  said. “You know that the government has done a lot for the development of Bulgarian football in the last four years. But after the recent events, having in mind the whole state of football and last night’s incidents, the prime minister has ordered me from today to suspend any relations with the BFU, including financial ones, until the resignation of Borislav Mihaylov.”

UEFA is opening a full investigation into the disgusting scenes inside the stadium, as England’s players and staff have been applauded for the way they handled themselves in their 6-0 win.

Southgate, Tyrone Mings and other England players have reacted to the abuse and say they have made a statement on and off the pitch for UEFA having to use their anti-racism protocol.

“We know it’s an unacceptable situation, and I think we’ve managed to make two statements. By winning the game, but also we’re raised the awareness of everybody to the situation,” Southgate said. “The game was stopped twice, I know for some people that won’t be enough, but we as a group were on board with that process.”

On This Day: Bornstein becomes national hero – in Honduras

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You know what today is? It’s Jonathan Bornstein day in Honduras.

Ten years ago today at RFK Stadium in our nations capital, a young, hot-shot kid with plenty of hair named Michael Bradley and Bornstein helped the U.S. Men’s National Team come back to draw Costa Rica, 2-2, in World Cup qualifying. In fact, it’s eerie watching Bornstein’s celebration, running to the corner flag and diving headfirst as he’s mobbed moments after by his teammates. It’s a bit similar to what Lanson Donovan did about nine months later.

[READ: USMNT looks to build in match v. Canada]

To add some context, it was the final day of qualifications matches in the Hex. Three days earlier, the U.S. had already secured a place in the World Cup with a wild 3-2 win at Honduras, meaning Los Catrachos needed to win over El Salvador on the final night and hope that the U.S. would keep Costa Rica from winning in the final match.

Who else, but Carlos Pavon gave Honduras a 1-0 win over El Salvador that night. Then, it was Bornsteins goal later that night that put Los Catrachos into the World Cup for the first time since 1982, and left Costa Rica to battle for the shared spot between CONCACAF and CONMEBOL.

In honor of the big day, hundreds of Honduras fans had been mentioning Bornstein on social media, and the veteran defender – currently of the Chicago Fire – retweeted quite a few of the thankful messages to him. Below, here’s video of the call from Honduras TV, as well as from Ian Darke and the ESPN crew.

Unfortunately for Bornstein, this may be the highlight of his national team career. He did make the 2010 World Cup squad and started twice, including the matches against Algeria and Ghana, but he never truly took the next step in his career to become a star left back.

After a calamitous performance against Mexico in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup final, which also Bob Bradley his USMNT job, Bornstein was dropped and hasn’t been seen from again on the national team stage.

However, even though he’s only a club player these days, he’ll never have to buy a drink in Honduras, that’s for sure.

Euro 2020 qualifying: France settles for draw with Turkey

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Euro 2020 qualifying continued on Monday and included a top-of-the-group clash in Group H.

[READ: England rout Bulgaria in game marred by racist chants]

France 1-1 Turkey

France spoiled a chance at home to put one foot in Euro 2020 after conceding late in the match and settling for a draw with Turkey.

Despite playing without a lot of starters – Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante, and Hugo Lloris are all out injured – France still was strong in the first half and peppered Turkey with 12 shots. Goalkeeper Mert Gunok made an outstanding double-save in the first half and Leicester City’s Çağlar Söyüncü did his best to keep Antoine Griezmann in front of him.

In the 72nd minute, Olivier Giroud came on the field as a substitute and four minutes later, he put France in front to the delight of the home crowd at the Stade de France. What else, but a header off a corner. However, the lead didn’t last long. Off a free kick in the 82nd minute, Hakan Calhanoglu’s delivery was nodded home by Kaan Ayhan. The 1-1 draw leaves both France and Turkey tied with 19 points from eight qualifying matches. It also means that Turkey hasn’t lost to France over two games in this qualifying cycle.

Here’s a look at the rest of Monday’s scores:

Monday’s Euro 2020 qualifying scores

Group A

Bulgaria 0-6 England

Kosovo 2-0 Montenegro

Group B

Lithuania 1-2 Serbia

Ukraine 2-1 Portugal

Group H

Iceland 2-0 Andorra

Moldova 0-4 Albania

Ronaldo scores 700th goal for club and country

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Cristiano Ronaldo achieved yet another personal milestone in his star-studded career on Monday evening with a simple penalty kick goal.

With his 72nd minute strike, Ronaldo tallied his 700th goal for club and country in his career. It’s an incredible achievement, and one indicative of his incredible goal-scoring exploits and his long career.

Ronaldo was already leading all active players globally in terms of goals scored, so his 700th is only adding to the list. His former club nemesis, Lionel Messi, still sits a reported 28 goals behind him, according to Soccerway. After them, LA Galaxy striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the closest, and he has “only” 542 goals.

The Portuguese icon becomes the sixth male player to score 700 goals in his career. The others include Pele, Romaro, Josef Bican, Ferenc Puskás, and Gerd Muller.

Ronaldo made his debut for Sporting Lisbon in the 2002-2003 season as a 17-year-old and quickly was snapped up by Man United and Sir Alex Ferguson, where he transitioned from a tricky winger to a clinical striker who couldn’t stop scoring.

The 34-year-old has scored 40-or-more goals on three occasions in his career and he scored 25-or-more goals in all nine years he was at Real Madrid. For Portugal, he’s now scored an incredible 95 goals in all competitions. He had 15 goals in World Cup qualifying alone for the 2018 campaign.

Watch the video of Ronaldo’s breaking goal below. Unfortunately for him, Portugal fell, 2-1 to Ukraine.