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Top Premier League storylines – Week 4

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It’s back, friends, and the Premier League’s fourth week again finds a battle of giants on the docket.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Liverpool visits Man City as the league’s five UEFA Champions League sides eyeball their table positioning as well as European group stage debuts next week.

Elsewhere, Europa League entrants Arsenal and Everton have home matches while Swansea City’s big name signings should debut versus Rafa Benitez‘s embattled Newcastle United.


Fireworks exploding in the distance
Manchester City – Liverpool (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) STREAM ] 

Temporary towers soar Saturday at the Etihad Stadium when Pep Guardiola‘s City and Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds bid for second place or better in the Premier League. Both attack-minded sides have seven points, and harbor dreams of a title.

Both sides were hopeful of landing Virgil Van Dijk or another center back stud before Deadline Day, and this match faces the prospect of goals upon goals. Philippe Coutinho is back training for the Reds, and Klopp will have to find the best fit for his attack once the Brazilian is ready to enter the fold.

City is off to Feyenoord to start its UEFA Champions League campaign on Wednesday, the same day Liverpool hosts ex-City men Nolito, Jesus Navas, and Sevilla.

The much anticipated Emirates Stadium reception for Arsene Wenger
Arsenal – Bournemouth (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) STREAM ] 

The Gunners have one win in three matches to start the season, could not land any late transfer targets, and sold neither Alexis Sanchez nor Mesut Ozil. The #WengerOut brigade is at full throat, and who knows what’s cooking from the North London faithful as oft-rumored Wenger replacement Eddie Howe and Bournemouth hit the scene in search of its first points of the season.

Bournemouth broke Arsenal’s four-match Hex in a 3-3 draw at the Vitality Stadium in January. Could this be the day it finds love at the Emirates?

Nathan Ake of AFC Bournemouth and Olivier Giroud of Arsenal (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Early separation day for Spurs, Toffees
Everton – Tottenham Hotspur (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, CNBC) STREAM ] 

On form, Spurs arguably deserve to be 3-0 but have followed up their strong performance at Newcastle with poor finishing days against Chelsea and Burnley. They also can’t afford to look past the Toffees and to their Wednesday’s UCL visit from Borussia Dortmund.

The Toffees have an extra day to prepare for Europa League, where they’ll look to the road and a Thursday trip to Atalanta. Everton received very little love from the Premier League schedule makers, and now face Spurs after a draw versus Man City and a loss to Chelsea leave it level with the visitors on four points.

Chelsea’s ex-Foxes return to the King Power Stadium
Leicester City vs. Chelsea (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) STREAM ] 

Danny Drinkwater and N'Golo Kante will get an interesting reception at the building where they completed one of the biggest surprises in football history, as the Blues’ engine room duo hits Leicester City. Chelsea has two wins from three matches, and would like to keep its title defense aspirations pointed in the right direction.

Breathing room, new additions welcome in Wales
Swansea City vs. Newcastle United (Sunday, 11 a.m. ET, NBCSN) STREAM ] 

The similar vibes between these two clubs begins and ends with acquiring desperately needed wins before the international break. That’s because Swans had big success toward the end of the transfer window in landing a loan of Bayern Munich’s Renato Sanches in addition to buying Wilfried Bony and Sam Clucas. Newcastle’s big 3-0 home win versus West Ham was burnished with… zero additions on Deadline Day. Rafa Benitez has his work cut out for him.

La Liga roundup: Griezmann shines in Barcelona’s 5-2 drubbing of Betis

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Wins from Barcelona and Atletico Madrid highlight La Liga’s Sunday action.

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Barcelona 5-2 Real Betis

Antoine Griezmann’s Camp Nou debut was one for the books.

With Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez sidelined with injuries, the floor was all Griezmann’s. He didn’t disappoint.

Down 1-0, Griezmann, sneaking past his markers inside the box, acrobatically tapped a lofting ball from Sergi Roberto into the back of the net.

The best was yet to come, however.

In the second half, as Barcelona pinned Real Betis back in their defensive third, the Frenchman’s magic came to life.

Soon after, the floodgates opened – Barcelona’s skill effortlessly began to pick apart a weaker Betis side. Just 30 minutes after the 28-year-old’s second goal, Ernesto Valverde’s side posed a 5-1 lead.

Loren Moron’s superb strike gave Betis a second, but the defending champions had already done the damage behind goals from Carles Perez, Jordi Alba, Arturo Vidal and Griezmann.

With Sunday’s performance in mind, how will Barcelona function with Messi, Suarez and Griezmann spearheading the attack?

Osasuna may soon find that out firsthand as they host the Catalonians next. Elsewhere, looking for their first points of the season, Betis host Leganes.

Leganes 0-1 Atletico Madrid 

With a goal in the 70th minute, Vitolo played the unlikely hero for Atletico Madrid in their 1-0 win over Leganes.

Following a smooth lay-off from Joao Felix, the 29-year-old calmly slotted the ball past Juan Soriano, ten minutes after replacing Mario Hermoso.

The goal certainly meant a lot to Vitolo and Atletico Madrid, who along with Sevilla, are one of two teams to start the season with six points after two matchweeks.

Although not entirely dominant throughout the course of the match, the home side was inches from stripping two points from Los Colchoneros with Jonathan Silva’s free-kick hitting the crossbar.

Despite having a pair of clear-cut opportunities on Sunday, Atletico’s $142 million summer signing is yet to celebrate his first La Liga goal. Alvaro Morata, too, is waiting to catch fire.

With Atletico hosting an underperforming Eibar next, the narrative that Simeone’s side is lacking efficiency in the attack can soon fall flat. On the other hand, no points to their name, will look to exploit a confidence-battered Real Betis.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Alaves 0-0 Espanyol

RCD Mallorca 0-1 Real Sociedad

Rapids name Robin Fraser as head coach

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (AP) The Colorado Rapids have named former Major League Soccer player and longtime assistant Robin Fraser as their head coach.

Fraser steps in for Conor Casey, who’s been the interim coach since the team fired Anthony Hudson in May. Colorado is 7-14-6 and at the bottom of the Western Conference standings.

Fraser’s first match in charge will be Saturday at the New York Red Bulls.

The 52-year-old Fraser has served as an assistant coach at Toronto FC since 2015.

Fraser was the fourth overall pick in the 1996 MLS player draft by the Los Angeles Galaxy. Over his career, Fraser suited up for the Galaxy, the Rapids and the Columbus Crew. He said in a statement Sunday he considers Colorado home because he’s so familiar with the soccer community.

Rapids general manager Padraig Smith said Fraser has a “deep knowledge of what it takes to be successful in MLS.”

Pochettino upset with attacking stars, speaks on Eriksen status

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Mauricio Pochettino might’ve understood Tottenham Hotspur dropping points last week at Man City, but he didn’t plan on not taking anything from Newcastle United on Sunday at home.

“You need the capacity to step up in this type of situation but we didn’t show that quality today,” Pochettino said. “When the ball arrives in the last third you need something from the talent and quality we have there and today we didn’t have that.”

[ RECAP: Spurs 0-1 Newcastle | Bruce reacts ]

So that’s pretty straight forward, but Pochettino was less happy to answer the question of why he didn’t start Christian Eriksen. Some (read: this writer) have questioned the philosophy of putting a man you may sell for $50 million on the bench. Either put him in the Starting XI and risk him, or leave him off the 18.

“When you lose, the players who don’t play are the best. With Christian we win and we lose a lot of games. I accept that situation is like this. If we won 3-0 today no one talks about different names.

“I cannot find excuses about the transfer window being open to justify that performance or the result. We cannot find the way to be solid and to have consistency for different reasons. I am going to be happy in 10 days after we play Arsenal when the transfer window closes in Europe and to have the player involved until the transfer window again in January.”

We’re not gonna read too much into it, but it does sound a bit like Pochettino is daring teams to bid for Eriksen. Would it make sense for him to hold onto Eriksen until January before cashing in?

Newcastle’s Bruce heard criticism, happy to beat Spurs

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Steve Bruce heard a lot of the criticism from fans upon his hiring at Newcastle United, and it rang out louder after the Magpies started 0-2 including a loss at newly-promoted Norwich City.

[ RECAP: Spurs 0-1 Newcastle ]

He may well hear plenty more down the road, but the childhood Newcastle supporter was feeling relieved and maybe redeemed after a fortunate and wonderful 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday. From the BBC:

“We came to this fantastic stadium, this fantastic club and we performed. I mean, to say I ‘cannot even do a warm up’ is mad. I have managed 900-odd games and over the years you would think there would be some sort of respect but I go back to the fact that whoever took over from Rafa Benitez was going to get the abuse.”

Newcastle faces struggling Watford at St. James’ Park next week, and another result will ease a lot of nerves (though certainly not all of them.