Premier League storylines: City vs. Liverpool, Chelsea’s relegation six-pointer

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With the Premier League season back in full flow this weekend, Week 13 offers plenty of intriguing storylines to sink our teeth into.

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Below are five to keep an eye out for as the second third of the season begins on Saturday.

[ MORE: PW’s PL picks – Week 13 ]

Man, it’s good to have the PL back.

Can slick City kick on?

Manchester City sit join-top of the Premier League with Arsenal but you get the sense that Manuel Pellegrini‘s men are ready to kick on. With Sergio Aguero and David Silva ready to return from injury against Liverpool on Saturday, all of City’s stars will align on the pitch at the same time. Striking the correct balance between defense and attack is now the main challenge for Pellegrini. With Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling (who will play against his old club Liverpool for the first time on Saturday) and Wilfried Bony stepping up and delivering in Silva and Aguero’s absence over the past month, he will have a selection headache for this clash. It’s not just in attack either as City have two top-class players for each position on the pitch. Their squad depth suggests the tough stretch they have coming up — eight games in 30 days in three different competitions — will be handled but facing a dangerous Liverpool outfit directly after the international break will prove a tough test of their title credentials as City are clearly the favorites to win it all.

Injury-hit Liverpool delivered a reality check

Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool were delivered a reality check before the international break with a home defeat to Crystal Palace. Talk of mounting a title charge was doing the rounds at Anfield as Klopp’s exuberance was beginning to rub off on fans but those who have watched the Reds closely this season know that sneaking into fourth place would be a remarkable achievement. Klopp could have captain Jordan Henderson back this Saturday after his foot injury, while Daniel Sturridge is back in full training but this game may come too soon for him. There are positives for the German boss with the side looking much more assured defensively and he has had nearly two weeks to work with some of the non-international players on the training ground to further spread his message of gengen pressing. It will be interesting to see how Liverpool cope with Man City’s pace and ingenuity in attack on Saturday as Klopp’s men must prove they learned from that reality check before the break.

Chelsea, Norwich in relegation six-pointer…

There’s a heading I never thought I’d write. Wow. It has got that bad for Chelsea and Jose Mourinho that Norwich are above them heading into this clash at Stamford Bridge. The Blues, after seven defeats in their opening 13 games of the season, sit three points above the relegation zone in 16th place but you know they will figure this out and rise towards the top six. Norwich are one place and one point above them but you get the sense that Alex Neil‘s side are in for a long, hard season. Yes, they ground out a 1-0 win before the break but defensively they worry me. With Chelsea fired up to prove all the doubters wrong, it’s difficult to envisage anything other than a home win this weekend. It will be interesting to see the kind of team Mourinho selects as he’s had two weeks to stew on that defeat to Stoke City. I suspect some of Chelsea’s talented youngster could be thrown in for this clash between two teams battling against relegation…

London calling

Tottenham Hotspur’s progress this season has flown under the radar as Mauricio Pochettino‘s side haven’t lost since the opening day of the season (12 games unbeaten) and his young squad are reflective of his managerial style. Dele Alli and Eric Dier have been revelations in central midfield while Spurs defensive unit has improved drastically, meaning when Harry Kane or Christian Eriksen deliver magic at the other end it usually grabs them three points. Talking of magic, there’s been plenty of that from West Ham this season as Slaven Bilic‘s side sit in sixth place and level on points (21) with fifth-place Spurs. These two London clubs have a real shot at challenging for a top four position but over the course of the season you have to see Spurs will be the favorites to return to the UEFA Champions League. Only 8.2 miles separates the two clubs but historically the distance between these teams has been much greater. With West Ham moving into the Olympic Stadium from next season and having bigger crowds than Spurs, you get the sense that gap is closing. True, Spurs’ redeveloped WHL will see them move back ahead in a few years but for now these two London club are closer in terms of on and off the pitch performance than they have been in a long time.

Battle of the USMNT ‘keepers

Jurgen Klinsmann believes that he has “two number one’s” in Brad Guzan and Tim Howard as the duo split the U.S. national team’s World Cup qualifiers over the break. Howard, 36, kept a clean sheet in Trinidad and Tobago, while Guzan, 31, let one in during the 6-1 win over St. Vincent and the Grenadines. There really isn’t much between these two even if Howard’s pedigree and previous experience gives him the edge. At Goodison Park on Saturday the duo will meet for their club teams with Howard’s Everton hosting Guzan’s Aston Villa. The latter recorded an impressive 0-0 draw at home against Man City in Remi Garde’s first game in charge but heading to play the Toffees is a tough proposition for any team, and especially the team propping up the table. As for Howard, there are growing complains among Everton fans about his performances but Roberto Martinez is sticking with the veteran goalkeeper. The battle of the USMNT’s two number one’s will be an intriguing watch this weekend.

Liverpool – Arsenal: How to watch, start time, odds, predicted lineup

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Liverpool – Arsenal: Two heavyweights clash at Anfield on Monday (Watch live at 3pm ET online via Peacock) as both team have a perfect record with two wins from two so far.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Reigning champions Liverpool have perhaps been more impressive as they’ve beaten upstarts Leeds United and then Chelsea, while Arsenal eased past Fulham but struggled past West Ham.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

When it comes to Jurgen Klopp and Mikel Arteta, their playing philosophy as managers could not be more different as Arsenal beat Liverpool on penalties at Wembley to win the Community Shield last month.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of a massive early-season clash as Arsenal look to put down a marker.


Team news: Liverpool – Arsenal (INJURY REPORT)

Liverpool will be hoping center back Joe Gomez will be fit after he missed the win at Chelsea last weekend, while this game will come too soon for fellow defender Joel Matip. Judging by the early reports, Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson should also be fit to start.

Arsenal could have Kieran Tierney back fit for this game, which would be a big boost. Pablo Mari, Calum Chamberls, Gabriel Martinelli and Shkodran Mustafi all remain out injured.


Predicted lineup

Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Thiago, Henderson; Salah, Firmino, Mane

Arsenal (3-4-3): Leno; Holding, Gabriel, Tierney; Bellerin, Ceballos, Xhaka, Maitland-Niles; Willian, Lacazette, Aubameyang


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

Understandably Liverpool are the heavy favorites (-210) given their long unbeaten home record at Anfield. That said Arsenal (+520) do seem a high price after they beat Liverpool during ‘Project Restart’ and also in the Community Shield final. The draw at +360 is intriguing and the value perhaps lies there.

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


Liverpool – Arsenal prediction

Arsenal have a lot more grit under Arteta and they ware capable of bending but not breaking. This is a huge test for them, though, and Gabriel against the fluid front three of Salah, Firmino and Mane will be his biggest test yet. Arsenal have the attackers to make the most of any more slack defending from Liverpool but I expect Klopp’s side to have just too much in midfield and attack. Liverpool 2-1 Arsenal.


How to watch Liverpool – Arsenal stream and start time

Kickoff: 3pm ET Monday
TV Channel: Peacock
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Fulham – Aston Villa: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

Fulham - Aston Villa
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Fulham – Aston Villa: How early is too early to call a game “must-win” in the Premier League? Perhaps we will find out on Monday (Watch live at 12:45 pm ET, online via Peacock), when bottom-of-the-table Fulham host Aston Villa at Craven Cottage.

FULHAM – ASTON VILLA STREAM LIVE

Scott Parker’s side has had a torrid start to life back in the PL — not at all dissimilar to the way their last stint ended — and find themselves with zero points and seven goals conceded after their first two games. Losing 3-0 to Arsenal on the opening day of the season wasn’t altogether surprising, but following that defeat with four more goals conceded to Leeds United last weekend will undoubtedly have done a number on the Cottagers’ confidence.

Villa, on the other hand, have played just once and secured a 1-0 victory over Sheffield United earlier this week. A win on Monday would see Dean Smith’s side start the season with back-to-back PL victories for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Fulham – Aston Villa this Monday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Fulham – Aston Villa (INJURY REPORT)

Fulham – No injuries or suspensions

Aston Villa – OUT: Bjorn Engels (thigh), Tom Heaton (knee), Wesley (knee), Ahmed Elmohamady (thigh)


What they’re saying: Fulham – Aston Villa

Scott Parker, on a “must-win” game: “I don’t see it as drastic as a must-win. We want to win. I know it’s either high or low in a drastic world, but we need to stay level and take realism of where we are in the campaign and where we are as a team. We will try everything we can to take some points and be up to the challenge. I don’t think we’re the only team at this present moment in time who have let in some goals in the first two games. It’s not ideal, of course not. Villa at home on Monday is a game we’re going to try to get three points.”

Dean Smith, on needing another signing: “We’re always looking in the market, we’re probably one short in the squad at the moment so we’ll keep looking at that. I think there’s seven days left until the window shuts internationally, another seven days domestically. Our sporting director at the moment has got his finger on the pulse, hopefully we might get one more in and maybe a couple more out.”


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

This one is just about a coin flip with Fulham (+185) ever so slight underdogs to Villa (+150). In a game that could go either way like this one, the draw (+225) might just be the safe middle ground.

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: Fulham – Aston Villa

There’s not much to separate these two sides right now, and there likely won’t be much ground between them come the season’s final table. There should be a few goals, but that’ll be more down to poor defending than excellent attacking quality from either side. Fulham 2-2 Villa.


How to watch Fulham – Aston Villa stream and start time

Kickoff: 12:45 pm ET Monday
Online: Stream via Peacock

Serie A: Lozano scores twice for Napoli; 10-man Juve drop points to Roma

Cristiano Ronaldo - Juventus
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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Serie A, where Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice to save a point for Juventus and Hirving Lozano also scored twice in Napoli’s 6-0 victory…

[ MORE: Suarez plays just 20 minutes, scores two goals in Atleti debut (video) ]

Roma 2-2 Juventus

Juventus overturned a pair of deficits to salvage a point from their trip to Rome, but Andrea Pirlo might just feel his side should have taken more from the game if not for Adrien Rabiot’s red card in the 62nd minute.

Jordan Veretout fired Roma ahead from the penalty spot in the 31st minute, but Cristiano Ronaldo matched him with a spot kick of his own in the 44th. Veretout made it 2-1 less than a minute into the second half, with thanks to an assist from Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

Rabiot got his second yellow card of the game 15 minutes later, but it didn’t stop Ronalado from scoring his second equalizer in the 69th minute.

Regardless of the country, league or club, we’re seeing some of Europe’s greatest powerhouses struggle through uncharacteristically slow starts to the 2020-21 season. The safe assumption is that the cream will inevitably rise to the top after working out the early kinks, but it might just open the door for an unlikely title challenger or two as well.

[ MORE: Saturday in Serie A: Inter win 7-goal thriller in 89th minute ]

Napoli 6-0 Genoa

Napoli went top of the table (after two games) by way of Sunday’s beatdown of Genoa.

Mexican superstar Hirving Lozano opened the scoring in the 10th minute and added his second goal on the game in the 65th. In between his two tallies, Piota Zielinski (46th) and Dries Mertens (57th) also scored.

Eljif Elmas (69th) and Matteo Politano (72nd) each scored not much later to complete the scoring and the rout.

Crotone 0-2 AC Milan

Franck Kessie converted from the penalty spot in first-half stoppage time and Brahim Diaz added an insurance goal five minutes into the second half to give AC Milan their second 2-0 victory in a row to start the season. All appears to be going too well for the Rossoneri right now.

Other Serie A results

Spezia 1-4 Sassuolo
Hellas Verona 1-0 Udinese

Transfer news: Arsenal’s latest Aouar bid; mystery Fati bid for $175 million

Ansu Fati transfer
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Today’s Premier League transfer news includes Arsenal’s latest bid for Houssem Aouar, Barcelona rejected an astronomical bid for 17-year-old Ansu Fati, and Antonio Rudiger moving across London to West Ham for the season…

[ MORE: Transfer news: Rice in, Jorginho out at Chelsea; Skriniar to Spurs ]

Arsenal increase bid for Aouar, but is it enough?

Arsenal are reportedly prepared to increase their bid for Aouar, but only to $57 million, which remains $12 million short of Lyon’s valuation for the 22-year-old midfielder. The Gunners’ latest offer is said to include more than $11 million in add-ons, but Lyon are likely to reject that bid as well as they seek the full amount paid in full.

Barcelona reject mystery $175-million Ansu Fati transfer bid

First things first, let’s start the plainly obvious: $175 million is a lot of money for any player, let alone a 17-year-old who still has so much development left to come. Even Fati, who has been nothing short of a revelation thus far, can still fall short of expectations. With Lionel Messi seemingly headed for the exit door (for free) next summer, how exactly do Barca plan to rebuild their first-team squad? Sure, they’d enjoy themselves a great deal if a La Masia product like Fati is the focal point of their rebirth, but they still desperately need to put a competent team around him. Automatically rejecting a (reported) bid of $175 million seems a bit crazy, but so is everything else at Barcelona these days. According to some reports, Man United are said to be the club which made the mega-bid for Fati.

[ MORE: Suarez plays just 20 minutes, scores two goals in Atleti debut (video) ]

Rudiger to West Ham on loan

Antonio Rudiger might be a first-choice option at center back for Chelsea boss Frank Lampard, and he might not be as well. West Ham are taking the approach that the 27-year-old German won’t be getting the first-team action he requires, thus they wish to work out a loan deal for the 2020-21 season.

Torreira in limbo at Arsenal

Lucas Torreira’s time at Arsenal is (logically speaking) finished, but the Gunners are reportedly having a hard time finding a landing spot for the 24-year-old Uruguayan midfielder. Torino were interested for a time, but they no longer see Torreira as a viable option. Atletico Madrid are interested in a loan deal, but Arsenal don’t want to do that. Perhaps Torreria, plus cash, might tempt the La Liga side to finally part ways with Thomas Partey.