AP Photo/Frank Augstein

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

Leave a comment

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.

Follow @NicholasMendola

Rumored Neymar for Bale swap: Who wins?

Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Who would gain more of an advantage from the rumored, sensational Gareth Bale for Neymar swap: Paris Saint-Germain or Real Madrid?

Both players are currently problems for their clubs, though neither is known as a true rabble-rouser; Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane wants to be done with the newly-minted 30-year-old Bale, while PSG knows Neymar wants to leave and would love to satiate Kylian Mbappe’s appetite to be the man at their club.

[ REPORT: Man Utd, Leicester agree Maguire fee ]

Presumably some money would be headed PSG’s way in addition to Bale, and both clubs would be getting a motivated megawatt star.

Neymar doesn’t turn 28 until February, but the difference in age may be offset by the Brazilian’s track record of injuries.

In fact, his injury status last season combines with an off-field accusation of sexual assault and a red card for confronting a fan to overshadow his production: Neymar’s 23 goals and 13 assists in just over 2300 minutes last season, including five and two in the Champions League (and a goal and an assist against defensively-stout Liverpool).

Bale presents very few personality challenges, and PSG won’t have a problem with his massive wages (especially with Neymar off the books). His numbers have dipped in two of three seasons since his otherworldly 2015-16, but La Liga is a more difficult scoring league than Ligue 1.

Neymar has twice been a Ballon d’Or finalist and, presuming his legal troubles don’t persist, could be a title fight changer in La Liga. Imagine the Neymar, Eden Hazard, and Luka Jovic trying to outgun Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann, and Luis Suarez? Insane.

We’d say Real would be winning the straight-up swap, and that it’s pretty unlikely to go down that way. So it depends what PSG does with the relative Financial Fair Play freedom that would come with the money that also arrives from Spain. Is it Idrissa Gana Gueye? Someone else who helps take PSG’s Champions League hopes to the next level?

Manchester United in ‘concrete talks’ with Lille over Pepe

Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Manchester United are reportedly in “concrete talks” to agree a fee with Lille for much-tracked playmaker Nicolas Pepe.

The 24-year-old attacking midfielder has been linked with Liverpool and Arsenal amongst others, and Lille has admitted he’ll be leaving the club.

[ REPORT: Man Utd, Leicester agree Maguire fee ]

United’s reported salvo was around $87.5 million. He’d give them a star who could play across from Anthony Martial or as an attacking midfielder under Romelu Lukaku.

Only Kylian Mbappe and Teji Savanier garnered better season-long ratings than Pepe in the 2018-19 Ligue 1 campaign, and Pepe’s 22 goals and 11 assists stand out from the pack. Only Mbappe had more goals and only Savanier more assists.

Pepe has four goals in 11 caps for the Ivory Coast, and made three starts in Les Elephants’ five-match run at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. He’s a fit for the Premier League, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s system. And if the Red Devils can keep him from Liverpool, well, all the better we’re sure.

Report: Manchester United, Leicester agree to monster Maguire fee

Adam Davy/PA via AP
1 Comment

Manchester United and Leicester City have agreed a fee for Harry Maguire, clearing the way for the English center back to join the Old Trafford set.

That fee is a whopping $100 million, according to Bleacher Report’s Dean Jones. That’s about $4 million more than the world record for a defender, set when Liverpool purchased Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton.

[ MORE: USMNT CB to West Ham? ]

Maguire has been a statistical monster for Leicester City, and he passes the eye test, too.

Manchester United has needed to upgrade its stable of center backs for some time, and now the biggest question is who will work best alongside the 6-foot-4 26-year-old.

The former Sheffield United, Wigan Athletic, and Hull City defender is now 20-times capped by England.

The move could have a ripple effect on the Premier League, as the Foxes have been expected to bid for Burnley star James Tarkowski should Maguire leave the King Power Stadium.

Transfer rumor roundup: USMNT’s Long to London, Newcastle linked with pair

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Could USMNT center back Aaron Long be headed to the Premier League?

The 26-year-old could join West Ham United’s stable of center backs, which includes Issa Diop, Fabian Balbuena, and Angelo Ogbonna.

Sky Sports says that the Red Bulls defender has drawn the interest of Lyon and Fiorentina, but been offered to the Irons should they match his $5 million release clause.

Unable to find a place with Portland and Seattle, Long spent a few seasons in the USL before earning a place with RBNY.

Now 11-times capped by the USMNT with two goals, Long could be bringing his talents to London’s Olympic Stadium.

Elsewhere in the Premier League, Newcastle United has the chance to sign oft-injured Danny Welbeck on a free transfer.

The longtime Arsenal striker, weaned at Manchester United, scored five times in 12 matches last season in a return to injury woes following a 43-match season the prior year.

Newcastle is also being linked with a former defender. James Tavernier has gone on to captain Glasgow Rangers, and the 27-year-old would cost around $10 million.

Surely Steven Gerrard would want more for the defender, but prices haven’t met quality for Scottish Premiership players as we’ve seen with Kieran Tierney at Celtic.