Week 11: Premier League storylines – Halloween extravaganza, New Forest derby

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Week 11 is here folks, as a Halloween special is coming your way from the Premier League.

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Here’s a look at some intriguing topics heading into this weekend.

Mourinho, Klopp do battle

What a game we have in store on Saturday at Stamford Bridge as Jurgen Klopp takes his Liverpool side to face a beleaguered Chelsea and Jose Mourinho. The Blues lost for the eighth time in 16 games this season midweek, as Mourinho’s men suffered a penalty shootout defeat to Stoke City in the League Cup. They also lost Diego Costa with a rib injury in that loss at Stoke and combined with their awful league form of five defeats in 10 games, all of the turmoil surrounding Mourinho’s future, his FA charges and the under-performing stars, this could be the perfect time for Liverpool to play Chelsea. That said, Klopp’s side have hardly looked like world beaters with three draws and a narrow League Cup win against Bournemouth to their name so far and if they lose to Chelsea these two times will be level on points. The Reds are improving but with Daniel Sturridge likely out and Christian Benteke being nursed back from injury, you wonder where their goals will come from. Expect plenty of shocks on Saturday (Watch live, 8:45 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) as these giants meet for a tasty Halloween clash. Mourinho insisted he “sleeps well every night” despite Chelsea’s struggles. Will that be the case on Saturday if he endures another nightmare defeat?

“The New Forest derby” arrives in the PL

Now, here’s a rivalry you may have never heard about or thought about: Southampton vs. Bournemouth. Both clubs, at least in the past, have coexisted harmoniously down on the South Coast but over the past few years their rise up through the league’s has seen a rivalry develop and on Sunday (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) the “New Forest derby” will grace the top-flight for the first-time. Southampton have always been the big dogs and have often loaned out players and helped Bournemouth survive in the past. Now, the Cherries would love to get one over their rivals. Expect, Saints fans don’t really see the PL new boys as rivals. All they care about is beating Portsmouth in that historic rivalry, while Bournemouth is an afterthought. With Saints unbeaten in six and Bournemouth suffering successive 5-1 defeats in the PL, the home side are the clear favorites. On Sunday at St Mary’s expect a heated rivalry, but no New Forest ponies, to be present.

Can Arsenal cope with injuries?

Arsene Wenger delivered the news on Thursday that Arsenal would be without Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain through the next international break, as the duo were both injured in the opening 20 minutes of Arsenal’s shock League Cup defeat at second-tier Sheffield Wednesday. Arsenal have won three on the spin in the PL and sit just one place and two points behind leaders Manchester City. This weekend they travel to Swansea City (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET on USA and online via Live Extra) to face a team they lost home and away to last season. Wenger will have to rely on Olivier Giroud to fire up front, while he wrap Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil in cotton wool. After losing Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey, plus Walcott and the Ox now going down, Arsenal’s strong start to the season could unravel quickly if they fail to deal with these injuries.

Time for Man City to kick on?

After winning five-straight games to start the season Manuel Pellegrini‘s team stumbled for a few games. With a dour Manchester Derby draw sandwiched in-between a 5-1 thumping defeat of Bournemouth in the PL, then beating Crystal Palace by the same scoreline in the League Cup, you get the sense City are figuring things out again with Sergio Aguero and David Silva out injured. Kevin De Bruyne looks the real deal. Wilfired Bony is chipping in. Kelechi Iheanacho looks a real talent. City’s squad is looking very strong as Vincent Kompany, Martin Demichelis, Nicolas Otamendi and Eliaquim Mangala all jostle for two center back spots. With struggling Norwich City heading to the Etihad on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via Live Extra) we should expect another five goals for the Citizens as they look to extend their lead at the top of the table.

Manager watch: Will Villa have a new guy in charge?

At the other end of the table, Aston Villa sit bottom of the table and managerless. Kevin MacDonald took caretaker charge for the League Cup defeat at Southampton in midweek but by the time they play Tottenham Hotspur on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra), will Remi Garde be in charge? Reports have heavily linked the former Lyon manager with the vacant position after Tim Sherwood’s firing and it is true that with most of Villa’s summer recruits hailing from Ligue 1, Garde will know them well. However, is now the right time to gamble on an manager who has never coached in England? Villa’s American owner Randy Lerner is running out of ideas and options as the club he desperately wants to sell is in perhaps closer to being relegated this season than in any of the previous nine since he took over. During Villa’s latest defeat on Wednesday, fans held up banners reading “Lerner Out” as the turmoil at Villa Park continues.

Manchester United: Solskjaer hopeful of new Paul Pogba contract

Paul Pogba contract
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Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is singing a new tune, hopeful that star midfielder Paul Pogba will stick around Old Trafford for the long term.

Reports say that United has an option to extend Pogba’s contract by an extra year beyond its 2021 expiry, but Solskjaer is thinking bigger. He has been praising Pogba plenty since the World Cup winner returned to the lineup.

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It’s a bit surprising given Pogba and his super agent’s constant time in the rumor mill, with Real Madrid often linked with the Frenchman. And that agent, Mino Raiola, has not been so nice when it comes to judging Solskjaer.

But Solskjaer is reportedly hopeful that Pogba can join Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford, and others in building a new power.

“I can’t comment on discussions between player and the club but. of course, we want to keep the best players around the club,” Solskjaer said. “We want to build a squad for the future and Scott and Nemanja are a similar position but at different stages in their careers. One at the start, one really experienced one.”

Pogba leads United in key passes per game with 2.3, though his minutes have been severely limited by injuries this season. He had 13 goals and nine assists last season, and turned 27 in March.

The way United’s performed in recent weeks it would not be a surprise if keeping its main talents while adding another stalwart center back and wing would propel it into a more serious table discussion.

Do you buy the idea that Pogba could be with United well into the future?

Suarez goal gives Barcelona win, relegates neighbors Espanyol

Espanyol relegated
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Seventh-place one season ago, La Liga mainstays Espanyol are being relegated from Spain’s top flight.

The final decision came at the hands of their Catalan neighbors Barcelona, who got a second-half goal from Luis Suarez to relegate Espanyol.

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Espanyol are 11 points back of 17th place and can only capture nine more points this season following the 1-0 loss in a match where both teams had a player sent off.

Suarez’s goal was a nice one after Antoine Griezmann’s back heel pass to Lionel Messi saw the Argentine’s shot deflect onto the path of the Uruguayan finisher.

Espanyol had been in the top flight since 1994 and has only spent four single seasons outside La Liga since 1929. Leganes and Mallorca may join them soon.

Barcelona moves a point back of Real Madrid. Real has four matches left to Barca’s three and holds the tiebreaker.

Klopp reacts to Liverpool wins, says Henderson injury ‘not nothing’

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Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Brighton and Hove Albion was a bit more what we’re used to from the Premier League champions.

But that wasn’t the focus of the post-match despite a highlight-reel show from Mohamed Salah, as Reds boss Jurgen Klopp sounded an ominous note when asked about Jordan Henderson leaving the match with injury.

“I don’t know exactly but it was something with the knee I think. We know it’s not nothing.”

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Henderson’s not exactly a player to hit the deck unless he’s feeling pain, and Klopp removed him for James Milner with 10 minutes to play.

That’s about the only bad news from the win, as Liverpool became the first team this season to breach the 90-point mark and saw Salah’s brace move him within three goals of the Golden Boot lead.

Salah would only say, “Let’s take it game-by-game,” but it’s clearly on his mind.

Trent Alexander-Arnold says the Egyptian is hungry to get a share of a third-straight Golden Boot.

From the BBC:

“He has his targets, he’s around the Golden Boot and it’s something he wants to retain,” Alexander-Arnold said. “He’s a world class player who scores so many goals for us and we try to get him on the board as much as possible.”

As for the match, Brighton almost as missed some big chances as Liverpool before the game was out of reach. Klopp admits that it was a challenge.

“We started really well,” Klopp said. “We had to adapt a little bit as we knew what they wanted to do but it was a little bit hard to defend. We left one or two players in a position where if we won the ball we had players in the counter-attack position. We got the first two goals with super balls but we could have scored more. I said to the boys at half-time they could have been 2-2 too. It was a nice game to watch.”

The Reds finish with Burnley, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Newcastle United.

Liverpool march continues with 3-1 win at Brighton

Brighton - Liverpool recap
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Mohamed Salah had two goals and an assist in the first eight minutes of Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium on Wednesday.

Salah is now three goals behind league leader Jamie Vardy, and Liverpool’s 92 points are 23 more than Man City. Jordan Henderson also scored for the Reds.

BRIGHTON – LIVERPOOL FULL MATCH REPLAY

Leandro Trossard scored for Brighton, whose 36 points are nine clear of the bottom three with four matches to play (The 18th and 19th place sides do have a match each in hand).

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Liverpool’s 30 wins through 34 outings is a Premier League record and Jurgen Klopp’s men are chasing several PL records. The Reds finish with Burnley, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Newcastle United.


Three things we learned

1. Salah somehow under the radar: Look, the Egyptian star’s 32-goal league season was an outlier. Not a lot of guys consistently hit 25, let alone the 30 mark in the Premier League. But Salah has rather quietly put together another amazing season with 19 goals and nine assists in PL play plus another four and three in cup competitions. Salah is one assist of joining the a small group of players to get double digit league goals and assists in a top five European league this season.

While it’s become sexy to praise Sadio Mane as the Reds’ top winger, Salah has been just as good. He could’ve had another goal in the 53rd but Mat Ryan made a fine intervention at close range. If Salah is under the radar, it’s because Liverpool has spread the wealth this season and had so many heroes in close matches. But boy, oh boy, is he their best weapon.

2. Lamptey shows glimpses, then youth: The sample size is very small, but 19-year-old Chelsea outcast Tariq Lamptey has played well at right back in most of his outings for Brighton since the return from the coronavirus pause. Lamptey was at blame for Liverpool’s third goal in both the chance conceded and actual finish from Salah, but the $4 million January buy looked well worth the price tag in a terrific first half at the Amex.

3. Seagulls still missing final ball: Brighton produced four big chances in the game to Liverpool’s two, but only put one in the back of the net (SofaScore). That’s sadly been par for the course this season, as Brighton’s style has been worthy of a top half place. Brighton entered the day with seven fewer goals than its expected goals total. Only Everton, Watford, and Norwich have been less fortunate.

Man of the Match:

Salah.


Brighton – Liverpool recap

Salah had a goal and an assist within 500 seconds of kickoff.

The Egyptian took a feed from Naby Keita to score off a Davy Propper giveaway and then set up Henderson’s second to have the Seagulls’ heads spinning early.

Brighton found a chance in the 19th but Neco Williams recovered with a slide to block Leandro Trossard from slotting a point-blank goal.

The Seagulls pulled within one just before halftime when in-form youngster Tariq Lamptey swept a cross into the mix for Trossard to punch home.

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Salah could’ve had it 3-1 at one end but Brighton’s Dan Burn asked the Egyptian to hold his drink with a butchered wide-open shot at the back post in the 60th minute.

Jurgen Klopp didn’t like the close score, and brought on Fabinho, Andy Robertson, and Sadio Mane in the second half. One of the players he removed, Naby Keita, had a strong hour before departing the contest.

Henderson almost produced a third Liverpool goal after a rare Lamptey error spring a chance that took a wicked turn off Dale Stephens.

The Reds made it 3-1 off the ensuing corner, Salah’s clinical header in front of Lamptey. Henderson limped off for Liverpool late in the contest.

Ryan denied Salah a hat trick in stoppage time and the Egyptian headed over the bar at the final whistle. He could’ve had five.