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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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Red-hot Rebić scores again as AC Milan tops Torino

AC Milan
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MILAN (AP) Ante Rebić kept up his scoring form to lead AC Milan to a 1-0 win over struggling Torino in Serie A on Monday.

The Croatia international beat his marker to redirect a cross from the center of the area midway through the first half at the San Siro.

The score raised Rebić’s tally to six goals and an assist in eight matches since he earned his starting spot – a move that coincided with Zlatan Ibrahimović’s return to the Rossoneri.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Bouncing back from a derby loss, Milan moved up to eighth and just beyond the Europa League places. The seven-time European champion is hoping to return to continental competition after voluntary withdrawing from this season’s Europa League to pay for UEFA financial fair play breaches.

Torino, meanwhile, lost its fifth straight, with new coach Moreno Longo still unable to turn things around in his second match in charge.

Ibrahimović narrowly missed a curling shot shortly after the break.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Simeone: Liverpool intensity “makes me admire it as a rival”

UEFA Champions League
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The UEFA Champions League returns at long last on Tuesday, and two of the greatest managers in the game will match wits for the first time.

No we’re not talking about Lucien Favre and Thomas Tuchel, the meeting of the minds in Tuesday’s other kickoff between Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain in Germany.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp will go head-to-head with Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone in Spain, and the fiery German thinks it will be “absolutely interesting.”

From The Liverpool Echo:

“People say I emotional on the sideline,” Klopp said. “I am only on level 4, Diego is level 12. Really I am the kindergarten cop against him. He is so impressive after all these years, after so many years at the club – eight years. That is really long and having still this emotional level, still, wow. So impressive. I say, his teams are always organized world class.”

The admiration is mutual.

Simeone expects a huge challenge from a Liverpool team he regards on a historic plane.

“We are facing a magnificent team, really well-trained by a coach who is different and has different alternatives in his team,” he said, via The Independent. “We have always spoken about great teams throughout time and I have no doubt this Liverpool is going to go down in history as a great team because it is different to teams that we have admired. This team is much more intense, more adaptable, and it makes me admire it as a rival.”

The bettors say Liverpool is the heavy favorite in the first leg despite the match’s location at the Wanda Metropolitano. With football geniuses like Klopp and Simeone, however, either could have a plan to throw the other for a loop.

CONCACAF Champions League preview: Five MLS sides eye history

CONCACAF Champions League preview
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Once the Premier League and La Liga had taken their final bows of the day on Saturday, there felt was a particular absence, one soon-to-be filled by domestic soccer.

Yes, MLS is coming soon, and the CONCACAF Champions League is even closer.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Five MLS sides begin their Round of 16 ties over the next three evenings, some with easier paths than others to elusive CCL glory.

The competition may not have burned itself onto the mainstream, lagging behind continental competitions in Europe and South America, but those who’ve embraced it (hint: this guy) love the thing.

For all the progress Major League Soccer has made in its quarter-century, it’s yet to find much success in dealing with Liga MX powers in the fight to qualify for the Club World Cup.

MLS sides have not won the competition since it was rebranded the CCL. Only three MLS sides have made the CCL final this decade, with Real Salt Lake (2011), Montreal Impact (2015), and Toronto FC (2017) all coming up short at the last step.

The CCL provides everything you love and hate about World Cup qualifying, and those dicey pitches with sometimes worse lighting mean the favorites aren’t guaranteed much.

The top half of the bracket sees three MLS teams — Montreal, Seattle, and NYCFC — and just one Liga MX side, while the bottom half gives us a Liga MX v. MLS match-up straight away.

That’s Leon v. LAFC, and it begins Tuesday night in Mexico. That tie carries the added intrigue of MLS superstar Carlos Vela bringing his act back to his home country for the first time… ever.

Bracket

Saprissa (Costa Rica) v. Montreal — 8 p.m. ET Weds.
Olimpia (Honduras) v. Seattle — 10 p.m. ET Thurs.

San Carlos (Costa Rica) v. NYCFC — 8 p.m. ET Thurs.
Alianza (El Salvador) v. UANL Tigres — 8 p.m. ET Weds.

Leon v. LAFC — 10 p.m. ET Tues.
Portmore United (Jamaica) v. Cruz Azul — 8 p.m. ET Tues.

Comunicaciones (Guatemala) v. Club America — 10 p.m. ET Weds.
Montagua (Honduras) v. Atlanta United — 10 p.m. ET Tues.

The 2 Robbies podcast: VAR carnage at Stamford Bridge

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle dissect a crazy game at Stamford Bridge that saw Chelsea on the wrong side of several VAR decisions (00:45).

The gents also recap the big moments from the weekend; Liverpool beat Norwich (18:30), Son’s late winner against Aston Villa (24:45) and Arteta‘s attackers thrash Newcastle United (30:15).

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

To listen to more lively conversations and passionate debate from Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe, subscribe to The 2 Robbies Podcast on Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

And you can follow them on Twitter @The2RobbiesNBC here.

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]