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Premier League Roundup: Powers surge, including history-chasing Chelsea

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Four of the Premier League’s Top Six have already claimed their three points before Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur play their festive midweek games.

That’s headlined by rampant Chelsea, winners of a dozen-straight games, and red-hot Manchester United.

[ MORE: Why Boxing Day matters to PL ]

West Ham stayed hot, too, while Sam Allardyce had his debut as Crystal Palace boss, Burnley scored a sweet winner, and champs Leicester lost yet again.

Manchester United 3-1 SunderlandRECAP

United keeps making distance on the field while chasing the five teams ahead of it on the table. Zlatan Ibrahimovic had a goal and an assist, Paul Pogba hooked up the Swede, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored a wonderful — albeit offside — goal of the year contender before Fabio Borini gave the visitors minor pride in an unhappy return for David Moyes to Old Trafford.

Chelsea 3-0 BournemouthRECAP

Wow. Antonio Conte‘s Blues have now won 12-straight, a new club record, and can match Arsenal’s all-time PL win streak of 14 (across two seasons) if they beat Stoke on Dec. 31 and Tottenham on Jan. 4 and will also set a single-season record for most PL consecutive wins. Pedro scored twice, and Eden Hazard converted a penalty kick in the win.

Hull City 0-3 Manchester CityRECAP

The Tigers hung tough, but Man City was too much in the end. A trio of second half goals began with a Yaya Toure penalty won by Raheem Sterling. Then Kelechi Iheanacho tapped one home before Raheem Sterling forced Hull into an own goal.

Arsenal 1-0 West Bromwich AlbionRECAP

Tony Pulis‘ Baggies were at their defensive best until Olivier Giroud got the better of Gareth McAuley to loop Mesut Ozil’s cross over Ben Foster.

Burnley 1-0 MiddlesbroughRECAP

There was a lone moment of brilliance, but Andre Gray‘s finish of a Sam Vokes‘ flick was well worth the wait for the home fans at Turf Moor. Goalkeeper Tom Heaton was again strrong for the Clarets.

Swansea City 1-4 West Ham UnitedRECAP

Bob Bradley‘s inadequate defensive talent isn’t getting the job done, and it’s hard to defend anything about Swans’ PL-worst 41 goals allowed. Meanwhile, Slaven Bilic‘s Irons are finally performing up to expectations. Andre Ayew and Andy Carroll are among the goal scorers for West Ham.

Leicester City 0-2 EvertonRECAP

Kevin Mirallas capitalized on some poor Leicester defending before Romelu Lukaku nailed the coffin shut on the King Power Stadium’s hopes for a happy Boxing Day.

Watford 1-1 Crystal PalaceRECAP

A Troy Deeney PK denied Sam Allardyce a debut win as Crystal Palace boss. Yohan Cabaye gave the Eagles an early lead but then Christian Benteke had a PK saved, as Andros Townsend and Mathieu Flamini earned starts under Allardyce.

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CONCACAF postpones Nations League finals, Gold Cup qualification

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CONCACAF announced on Friday that the 2019-20 Nations League finals and the opening rounds of 2021 Gold Cup qualification have been postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

[ MORE: UEFA threatens Belgian league with European expulsion ]

The Nations League finals — featuring the U.S. men’s national team, Mexico, Costa Rica and Honduras — were previously scheduled to take place in Houston and Dallas in early June. CONCACAF says the semifinals and final will be rescheduled for a later date.

The seconds round of Gold Cup qualifying was previously scheduled to be made up in June — following their postponement in March, with four two-leg ties featuring largely Caribbean and Central American nations. Those, too, will be rescheduled for a later date.

Given the ongoing public health situation, and following consultation with FIFA regarding the international football calendar, we have made the decision to suspend the CONCACAF Nations League finals, which was scheduled for June 4-7, 2020 in the Houston and Dallas areas.

The event, which includes the Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico and USA men’s national teams, will be rescheduled to take place at a later date in venues to be determined. This will be confirmed following further discussions with FIFA regarding the remaining international windows in the football calendar, and will obviously be subject to public health authorities deeming it safe for professional sports events to resume.

FIFA extends men’s age limit for Tokyo Olympics due to virus

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GENEVA — FIFA has extended the age limit for the men’s soccer tournament at the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics due to the coronavirus pandemic.

[ MORE: UEFA threatens Belgian league with European expulsion ]

The amended Olympic rule on Friday retains the “players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997” standard for the Tokyo Games following a one-year postponement agreed last week by the International Olympic Committee and Japanese authorities.

It means players eligible for the intended under-23 tournament in 2020 can still play in Japan at age 24 next year. Men’s soccer kicks off ahead of the July 23, 2021 opening ceremony in Tokyo.

FIFA also postponed two women’s age-group World Cups due this year in Central America and India, and confirmed no international games for men and women will be played in the early June dates protected for national team call-ups.

Soccer’s world body said “health must always be the first priority and the main criteria in any decision-making process, especially in these challenging times.”

The Olympic decision was made by a FIFA panel of soccer officials worldwide, created to address the soccer shutdown during the health crisis.

The 16 men’s teams at the Tokyo Olympics next year can also select three over-age players in their rosters. A stellar lineup includes Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany and Spain.

Two women’s World Cup tournaments — the Under-20s hosted by Panama and Costa Rica in August and September, and the Under-17s in India in November — are postponed. No new dates were announced.

[ MORE: Report: Serie A could resume training May 2, games late in month ]

Until the COVID-19 outbreak, national team games scheduled in June included the 2020 European Championship, World Cup qualifying games in South America and Asia, and qualifiers for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

After Euro 2020 was postponed for one year, UEFA hoped to schedule playoff games in June to confirm the last four places in a 24-nation lineup. Those playoffs were postponed indefinitely this week.

World Cup qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar now face uncertain scheduling in a congested calendar in Europe, South America and Asia.

FIFA said on Friday it would “organize bilateral discussions” with continental governing bodies “to finalize a revised match schedule pending health and safety developments.”

FIFA plans to direct hundreds of millions of dollars from its cash reserves to support a global emergency fund, and has agreed to appoint one official from each of the six soccer continents to coordinate the work.

Arsenal want season completed ‘to maintain integrity’ of PL

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Arsenal remain in support of finishing the 2019-20 season in order to “to maintain the integrity” of the competition, despite Friday’s unanimous vote that the Premier League cannot resume at the start of May as previously hoped due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

[ MORE: UEFA threatens Belgian league with European expulsion ]

The Gunners, who currently sit ninth in the PL table with 10 games left to play (one more than the majority of clubs around them), were five points back of fifth-place Manchester United for qualification to next season’s UEFA Champions League thanks to Manchester City’s two-year European ban.

In a statement released on Friday, Arsenal reiterated their stance that the current season should be played to completion rather than called to completion at things stand or abandoned altogether.

We are in full support of the objective for all remaining domestic league and cup matches from the 2019-20 season to be played, in order to maintain the integrity of each competition.

We also fully agree with the principle that any return to action will only be with the full backing of government and when medical guidance allows.

The restart date is under constant review as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic develops and we continue to work together with all stakeholders through this very challenging time

Premier League rivalries: The Merseyside derby

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While the Merseyside derby has been dominated by one side of late, that has not detracted from the spectacle of the most historic matchup in English top flight history.

Uninterrupted in top flight play since 1962/63, the two sides are situated less than a mile apart, with the proximity feeding an already intense matchup.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Despite the incredibly close geographic proximity, the derby is sometimes known as the “Friendly Derby” as there are often families with split allegiances. Still, the matchup has the most red cards in Premier League history with 21, including 17 of those in the especially heated timeframe between 1997 and 2008.

Unfortunately for Everton, the rivalry has become one-sided over the past decade, with the Toffees failing to win since October of 2010. Liverpool has won 11 of the 21 games, with the other 10 ending in a draw. That has somewhat deescalated the vicious nature of the matchup, especially since Liverpool has gone on to become one of the most formidable sides in Europe over the past few years while Everton continues to challenge for a top-half place in the league.

Still, the 228 all-time matches between the clubs continues to fuel one of the great matchups in the English domestic landscape, and sooner or later this rivalry will regain its venom to bring the bite back to this matchup.