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Stats, schedule say Pogba injury would sting

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Paul Pogba may not play Sunday against Swansea City after suffering a thigh injury in Thursday’s 2-1 loss at Fenerbahce in the UEFA Europa League.

This stings in a big way, regardless of how you feel Pogba has played at Old Trafford (more on that later).

United has a brutal run of matches ahead, and badly needs to find its form — with Pogba — on Sunday at Swans.

[ MOURINHO: United played like “summer friendly” ]

The Red Devils have one win in its last four matches, the EFL Cup win over Man City. They dominated Burnley on Saturday but couldn’t find a winner, and really needed six points between that match and Swansea to position itself for a Top Four spot.

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Manchester City 10 7 2 1 24 9 15 3-2-0 4-0-1 23
 Arsenal 10 7 2 1 23 10 13 3-1-1 4-1-0 23
 Liverpool 10 7 2 1 24 13 11 3-1-0 4-1-1 23
 Chelsea 10 7 1 2 21 9 12 4-0-1 3-1-1 22
 Tottenham Hotspur 10 5 5 0 14 5 9 3-2-0 2-3-0 20
 Everton 10 5 3 2 15 8 7 3-2-0 2-1-2 18
 Watford 10 4 3 3 14 13 1 2-1-2 2-2-1 15
 Manchester United 10 4 3 3 13 12 1 2-2-1 2-1-2 15

United is 7 points off fourth and five off fifth in the Premier League, and its only other recourse to return to the UEFA Champions League would be winning the Europa League.

Of course a team with United’s talent can overcome either deficit, but look at the run the Red Devils face after Sunday’s match at the Liberty Stadium.

Nov. 19 – vs. Arsenal (PL)
Nov. 24 – vs. Feyenoord (UEL)
Nov. 27 – vs. West Ham (PL)
Nov. 30 – vs. West Ham (EFL Cup)
Dec. 4 – at Everton (PL)
Dec. 8 – at Zorya Luhansk (UEL)
Dec. 11 – vs. Spurs (PL)

It gets a lot easier after that, but will it matter if, say, Jose Mourinho can’t deliver at least 10 points in the Premier League through Swansea, Arsenal, West Ham, Everton, and Spurs (three at home)?

Which brings us to Pogba. The 23-year-old French star was expected to revolutionize United’s play, and still probably will, only to find himself the constant target of scorn every time he doesn’t deliver a match-winning play.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: Paul Pogba of Manchester United warms up prior to the Premier League match between Manchester United and Burnley at Old Trafford on October 29, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Mark Robinson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mark Robinson/Getty Images)

When a player’s transfer fee sets a world record, that’s understandable, but Pogba has in fact been quite a good contributor already. As he readapts to the Premier League, Pogba has the following numbers to his credit (PL only):

— He’s completed 525 passes, almost 100 more than his closest competitor (Ander Herrera). He’s also tops in completed passes per game and second in completed passes per 90 (Herrera again).

His 18 key passes are the most on United. That’s tied for 13th in the league with Eden Hazard and Dele Alli.

— The extremely-active Pogba has been involved in the fourth-most duels (79) in the PL.

— He’s played the fifth-most successful through balls in the PL, behind only Alexis Sanchez, David Silva, Philippe Coutinho, and Mesut Ozil.

— Despite constant attention, Pogba is second to only Zlatan Ibrahimovic in shot attempts.

— He also has the fifth-best home passer rating in the Premier League, according to advanced stats site Who Scored.

Positionially, Who Scored has some other encouraging metrics. Pogba’s stats improve the deeper he lies in the midfield, and he’s significantly better at home than on the road in PL play (where United plays three of its next five).

Of course, the eye test matters and Pogba has yet to really dominate a match, but that’s coming. And as longtime United midfielder Bryan Robson pointed out earlier this week, it takes time for any player to adjust to being a big money arrival in a new league. And Pogba has not been awful.

“I think he’s doing okay. But it’s just okay at the moment — we know there is better to come from Paul. He’s a real talented lad and I’m sure when the team start getting a consistent run of good results then his confidence will come on and he will enjoy his football.”

There’s two ways to look at Pogba’s possible absence on Sunday. For one, getting a week of rest could mean two weeks thanks to the international break. And Pogba not pulled out of Thursday’s game with injury after 30 minutes, he may’ve found himself going 90 for the fourth time in 11 days (Ease up, Jose).

But having the chance to sync up with his teammates against a struggling Swansea City could set the table for a terrific and challenging month, and leave little risk of spending two weeks as low as 10th. United has 15 points and a plus-1 goal differential, with Southampton (at Hull) and Bournemouth (vs. Sunderland) capable of joining them on 15 points.

Plus, with Chelsea facing Everton and Spurs taking on Arsenal, three points puts United right back in the mix. That’s achievable without Pogba, but don’t let this slow start to Old Trafford superstardom let you imagine the Red Devils don’t suffer when he’s not available.

UEL, LIVE — Man Utd, Wolves lineups out; Arsenal leads Eintracht

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The Europa League group stage begins play on Thursday, with Arsenal in Germany to face Eintracht Frankfurt.

A younger Arsenal is leading on a deflected shot from Man of the Match candidate Joe Willock.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores  ]

Manchester United and Wolves set to kick-off their respective matches against Astana and Braga at 3 p.m. ET.

Lineups are out for both sides. United will be very young against Kazakh side Astana ahead of a Sunday visit to West Ham United, while Wolves start Raul Jimenez and Patrick Cutrone up top in Portugal versus Braga.

Full slate

12:55 p.m. ET
CFR Cluj v. Lazio
LASK v. Rosenborg
Getafe v. Trabzonspor
PSV Eindhoven v. Sporting Lisbon
Basel v. Krasnodar
APOEL Nicosia v. Dudelange
Copenhagen v. Lugano
Standard Liege v. Vitoria SC
Qarabag v. Sevilla
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Arsenal
Rennes v. Celtic
Dynamo Kiev v. Malmo

3 p.m. ET
Wolfsburg v. Oleksandriya
Espanyol v. Ferencvaros
Rangers v. Feyenoord
Porto v. Young Boys
Slovan Bratislava v. Besiktas
Borussia Monchengladbach v. Wolfsberg
Partizan v. AZ Alkmaar
AS Roma v. Istanbul Basaksehir
Gent v. Saint-Etienne
Manchester United v. Astana
Wolves v. Braga
Ludogorets Razgrad v. CSKA Moscow

Top Premier League storylines: Week 6

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Of the seven Premier League sides to handle midweek Europeans challenges, only two face-off and that predictably is the hallmark of the weekend in England.

[ MORE: Silva to Inter Miami? ]

What else is cooking? Smell the aromas of the weekend ahead, below.


How will Frank Lampard attack Liverpool?

  • Chelsea v. Liverpool, Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN

The Blues’ 5-2 defeat at Wolves last week did not help spin a win over Valencia in the Champions League, and Frank Lampard’s next chance to make a statement comes against a team that is perfect in PL play and finds itself licking its wounds from a subpar performance at Napoli. Can a very fresh Christian Pulisic make the difference for Chelsea? Will Callum Hudson-Odoi take the positive vibes from his new contract and solid PL2 appearance into the fray?


Will Fernandinho help stabilize Man City against improving Watford?

  • Man City v. Watford, Saturday, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN

City went to Ukraine and blanked Shakhtar Donetsk with Nicolas Otamendi and Fernandinho at center back, and the Brazilian center midfielder says he’s been preparing for his possibility for some time. If Watford looks anything like it looked in a 2-2 draw with Arsenal, we could see a very decent test for City’s back line.


Weary Spurs get top-half test from Leicester City

  • Leicester City v. Tottenham Hotspur, Saturday, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN

Inconsistent Tottenham meets a Leicester City side with Top Six ambitions, licking its wounds from a 1-0 loss to Manchester United at Old Trafford which probably deserved a point. Spurs aren’t feeling great following another blown 2-0 lead in a big spot away from home. How will they react in Leicester?


Will Solskjaer’s midweek rest risk reap rewards on Sunday?

  • West Ham United v. Manchester United, Sunday, 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is set to hand heavy minutes to youngsters and second-choice players against Kazakh side Astana on Thursday at Old Trafford. Will that pay off when trying to stop Sebastien Haller, Felipe Anderson, and Manuel Pellegrini‘s Irons on Sunday morning?


Early season six-pointer at St. James’ Park

  • Newcastle United v. Brighton and Hove Albion, Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC

Look, it’s Week Six and normally we’d say anything can happen in a Premier League season, but let’s be reasonable: If you’re looking at the teams for Newcastle and Brighton, this result will matter as many as any down the stretch in determining Premier League status for 2019/20.

Hudson-Odoi signs new deal with Chelsea

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Man, is Bayern Munich gonna feel like it wasted its time.

Chelsea starlet Callum Hudson-Odoi has re-upped with the Premier League side to the tune of five more years, inking a deal through at least the 2023-24 season.

[ MORE: Silva to Inter Miami? ]

Hudson-Odoi, 18, made his breakthrough with Chelsea last season and was heavily recruited by the German giants.

He joins Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic as young wingers committed to the club for the long-term, but is still away from the Blues first team after an achilles tear late last season. He registered an assist in 61 minutes for Chelsea’s PL2 side last week.

Here’s manager Frank Lampard, via ChelseaFC.com:

“I have seen Callum come through and he’s a fantastic talent. He is going to be central for us on the pitch and that is the opportunity in front of him now. There are things as a young player that he will want to improve but he can be central to this team and for England. I want to work with him, I want to drive him forward and I want to improve him as a player.”

Hudson-Odoi has five goals and five assists in 28 appearances for the Blues and isn’t 19 until November.

American eyes can’t help but wonder how this will affect Christian Pulisic, himself a big investment for Chelsea. One thing’s for sure: Chelsea has depth on the wings.

Report: Man City’s David Silva in ‘likely’ Inter Miami move

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Arguably the greatest player in Manchester City history could become the first star player of Inter Miami.

That’s the story coming out of England, where The Independent reports that David Silva will “likely” join Inter Miami CF for its inaugural MLS run in 2020.

It’s well-known that Silva is leaving Man City this summer after one last-go at his first UEFA Champions League title.

[ MORE: Man City bests Shakhtar ]

David Beckham has been recruiting some of the top names in the game, and has been linked with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Silva, 33, checks all the boxes. The Spanish star won two EUROs and a World Cup, and is still playing at a very high level. He has five assists in six matches for City this season.

If healthy, it would be foolish to expect anything but dominance out of Silva, though beware the think pieces out there about how he “might find it tougher than he thinks.” We’re talking about a world beater who posted 10 goals and 14 assists for City last season.

Even at his age, he’d carry one of the top resumes of any player to join Major League Soccer (Beckham, Steven Gerrard, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic would like a word).

He has 71 goals and 134 assists in 402 matches for City, and would eventually line up against fellow City Football Group club NYCFC.