Top Premier League storylines ahead of Week 13 

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Ahead of Week 13 of the 2016-17 Premier League season, we’re most looking forward to keeping an eye on the following storylines…

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Payback at the Bridge

The last time Chelsea hosted Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge, there were 12 yellow cards, an eye-gouge, an on-field melee, and Tottenham’s PL title bid went up in a spectacular, bright ball of flames. With largely the same squad intact six months later, revenge will undoubtedly be on the minds of Mauricio Pochettino‘s men on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via Flipping the script, this time around it’s Antonio Conte‘s side which looks the truest of title contenders after the Blues went top of the league with their victory over Middlesbrough on Sunday. What goes around comes around?

Early separation of the top five

Three months into the season, the league table reads as follows:

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Chelsea 12 9 1 2 27 9 18 5-0-1 4-1-1 28
 Liverpool 12 8 3 1 30 14 16 4-1-0 4-2-1 27
 Manchester City 12 8 3 1 27 11 16 3-3-0 5-0-1 27
 Arsenal 12 7 4 1 25 12 13 3-2-1 4-2-0 25
 Tottenham Hotspur 12 6 6 0 18 8 10 4-2-0 2-4-0 24
 Manchester United 12 5 4 3 17 14 3 2-3-1 3-1-2 19
 Everton 12 5 4 3 16 14 2 3-3-0 2-1-3 19

Five sides have threatened to run away from the rest of the pack, and Man United, with just one win in their last six games, are in danger of being left behind. The Red Devils welcome West Ham United to Old Trafford on Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via, and desperately need three points with three of the five sides ahead of them facing foes from the bottom half of the league. Another loss would likely see them fall nine points out of fourth before the start of December.

Fully focused on the league

Leicester City are through to the knockout stage of the UEFA Champions League — as one of eight seeded side, no less — which means Claudio Ranieri‘s side can must now return its full focus to a badly floundering domestic campaign. The Foxes sit 14th in the PL with just 12 points from 12 games. From their first 12 games in their title-winning season, they had won 25 points. They won their 12th point of the 2015-16 season in their sixth game, on Sept. 19. With their attention and resources previously split between the PL and the CL, it’s been a disastrous start for Ranieri’s men, something they must rectify against 15th-place Boro at the King Power Stadium on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on CNBC and online via

End of the road for Pards?

Alan Pardew‘s tenure as Crystal Palace manager is hanging ever so delicately, by a thread, after five straight losses have plunged the Eagles to within a point of the relegation zone. A sixth consecutive defeat, courtesy of Bob Bradley‘s bottom-of-the-league Swansea City, on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on would almost certainly spell the end of the line for Pardew.

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 05: Alan Pardew manager of Crystal Palace looks on prior to the Premier League match between Burnley and Crystal Palace at Turf Moor on November 5, 2016 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

West Brom — European contenders?

Of all the surprise sides to start the season, perhaps no one has overachieved more than West Brom. After narrowly escaping relegation last season, Tony Pulis‘s side is off to a flying start, currently sitting ninth with 16 points from a dozen games. With a trip to 18th-place Hull City on the books for Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on, the Baggies could finish the weekend as high as sixth, assuming results elsewhere go their way.

Burning Question: Who is the best player in North America right now?

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It’s a question many have tried to answer recently, and now it’s ProSoccerTalk’s chance to give a verdict of their own: Who is the best player in North America right now.

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Knowing the loyalty of the devout Liga MX fan, the following statement may make a few onlookers cringe, or become enraged: Carlos Vela is currently the best player in North America. Period.

Truthfully, it shouldn’t take more than 15 seconds to generate such an answer. The question should instead be: What player comes at a touching distance from 31-year-old Vela?

Carlos Vela has been on a legendary streak since arriving in Los Angeles from San Sebastian, scoring for fun. Literally, scoring for fun – when he wants, how he wants: long or short range chips, stunning volleys, headers, from the spot, 30-yard runs leading to gentle tap-ins, free kicks, you name it. In numbers, it reads more like a humble 57 goals in 71 appearances.

That’s a healthy goal-per-game-ratio.

And to be clear, goalscorers aren’t the only type of players that qualify for the sweepstakes – supreme talent doesn’t discriminate. But in this case it just happens to be that an inverted winger, with a penchant for goal, happens to outdo not only every player in MLS, but in every other North American top-flight contest, including Liga MX.

And perhaps scoring goals isn’t his ultimate quality – Vela’s dynamism, agility and tenacity are at the core of his magic. There’s a reason why he’s considered the most talented Mexican player of his generation.

Still tough to accept? Ask yourself this: Who was the last player in North America that Josep Maria Bartomeu and Barcelona went after?

You guessed right – Vela. The Spanish giants know a thing or two about scouting elite talent, don’t they?

Transfer news: Kane to Real Madrid, Alexis Sanchez to West Ham

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The latest transfer news continues across the Premier League and here’s a look at some of the juiciest rumors.

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According to Sport, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has his sights set on signing Tottenham striker Harry Kane this summer.

With Luka Jovic failing to impress at the Santiago Bernabeu, Los Blancos are set to make some moves to consolidate the presence up top. Kane, 26, and Wolves striker Raul Jimenez are some of the few names to have been mentioned thus far.

Kane, who has a running contract with Spurs until 2024, recently mentioned that he wouldn’t rule out a move out of north London, if Tottenham were unable to capitalize on winning silverware.

“I’m an ambitious player, I want to improve, I want to get better, I want to become one of the top, top players,” Kane said earlier this month. “It all depends on what happens as a team and how we progress as a team. So it’s not a definite I’m going to stay there forever – but it’s not a no either.”

As far as transfers go, nothing gets bigger and more “ambitious” than a summer blockbuster move to Real Madrid. Kane has a promising project spearheaded by Jose Mourinho himself at his boyhood club, but the opportunity to represent Real Madrid – at such a prime age, with an astronomical amount of hype – may only come around once.

Alexis Sanchez’s time at Inter Milan is coming to a close, and his next destination may be a Premier League team not named Manchester United, according to FC Inter News.

The 31-year-old Chilean’s agent, Fernando Felicevich, has reportedly been inquired by West Ham, who are considering placing a bid to lure the winger out of Old Trafford.

Sanchez arrived at Inter last summer on loan but has failed to impress when healthy, recording a mere goal and three assist in 15 appearances this season. With the possibilities of Sanchez remaining at Manchester United past the summer getting slimmer by the day, the Hammers are hoping to land the South American at a reduced price.

Sanchez, one of United’s highest earners, is reportedly also gathering interest from other unnamed Premier League and Bundesliga sides.

Belarusian Premier League roundup: FC Energetik-BGU edge FC Minsk, moves to top of league

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The Belarusian Premier League – the only active European top-flight league at the moment – continued on Sunday despite the coronavirus pandemic.

FC Energetik-BGU 2-0 FC Minsk 

FC Energetik-BGU are the new leaders of the Belarusian Premier League, following a 2-0 victory over FC Minsk, who were atop of the table prior to Sunday’s bout.

Aleksey Nosko broke the deadlock in the 21st minute, while winger Jasurbek Yakhshiboev sealed the victory for the hosts in stoppage time.

With the victory, Energetik-BGU are the only unbeaten team in the league after three matchweeks, winning all three matches. The positive spell began with a 3-1 against Belarus giants BATE Boristov. Since, Energetik-BGU have scored three goals, while managing to concede none.

Slutsk, who also featured on Sunday, moved up to second on the table following a hard-earned 3-2 victory over Isloch, which saw them play the final minutes of the match with 10 players.

Elsewhere in Belarusian Premier League 

Smolevichi-STI 0-0 Vitebsk

Isloch 2-3 Slutsk

Spanish players criticize league’s call for furloughs

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MADRID (AP) Soccer players in Spain on Sunday criticized the Spanish league’s decision to ask clubs to put the footballers on government furloughs during the coronavirus crisis.

The league on Friday said the furloughs were needed because there was no agreement on the size of the salary cuts players must take to reduce the financial impact of the pandemic.

“It is strange that the Liga supports (the furloughs),” Spain’s players’ association said in a statement.

It said the league should have created a financial cushion for this period considering it always boasted about its “economic control measures” and the “well-balanced economy” of the Spanish clubs. The association said it also should be taken into account that the league has been temporarily suspended and not yet canceled.

The league and the players’ association have been in talks to try to find ways to mitigate losses that could reach nearly 1 billion euros ($1.08 billion) if the season cannot be restarted because of the pandemic.

The players said they agree with a salary reduction to help the clubs during the crisis, but not to the extent the league wants, which could amount to nearly half of the total losses if the competition is not resumed.

Players said they want to keep negotiating directly with the clubs instead of being forced into furloughs.

“The clubs and the players have been reaching agreements regarding the salaries,” the players’ association said. “What footballers are not going to do is relinquish labor rights.”

Barcelona and Atlético Madrid are among the Spanish clubs requesting furloughs, but both directly negotiated the amount of the salary reduction with players — 70% in both cases. Both clubs and their players are contributing to guarantee the wages of non-playing employees being furloughed.

The government furloughs help reduce the clubs’ labor costs while also guaranteeing players their jobs once the crisis is over.

Spain has more than 130,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with nearly 12,500 deaths. The nation is expected to remain in a lockdown until April 26.

There is no timetable for the return of the Spanish league.

Players maintained their position to only resume competing when health authorities deem it safe for everyone’s heath, a view also shared by the Spanish league.

The league has suggested it will recommend teams start mini-camp while the lockdown is still in place, if it’s possible to do so within the restrictions imposed by authorities.

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