PL Playback: Who is the most complete striker?

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STYLISH STRIKERS

Tall ones. Small ones. Fast ones. Strong ones. Everywhere you look in the Premier League there are different types of strikers ripping it up.

Romelu Lukaku has six goals in six games. So does Alvaro Morata for Chelsea and Sergio Aguero for Manchester City. Harry Kane has six goals in his last four games for Tottenham in all competitions. All four are battling it out for the golden boot, something Kane has won two seasons on the spin.

The sheer variety of world-class strikers now on show week in, week out in the Premier League is sumptuous. It’s as diverse a finishing school as you’ll ever see.

Morata took most of the headlines in Week 6 and rightly so as he scored a hat trick at Stoke City in Chelsea’s 4-0 win. The Spaniard, 24, has taken a little while to adapt to life in England but he is showing that with elegance and quickness of thought he can be just as destructive as Diego Costa who finally departed for Atletico Madrid last week.

Yet it is Harry Kane who oozes class in everything he does.

In Tottenham’s derby win at West Ham on Saturday he scored twice in the first half, linked play up and hit both posts in the second half. That performance left Kane’s manager, Mauricio Pochettino, professing his love for Kane at the London Stadium.

“For me Harry Kane is one of the best strikers in the world. It is too hard to find the word to describe him. In the last three seasons I am telling you how he is. I am in love, like the fans are in love, like the teammates are in love, not only because he scores goals,” Pochettino explained. “He is professional, humble and he is a very good example in football today that is a big business. He keeps all the values that managers like me appreciate a lot. That is why I say to you I am in love with him for many different reasons.”

Yes, the “I’m in love” part of Poch’s response will get the biggest play but the second part, for me, is the most important. Kane does everything well. He holds the ball up, he battles for every ball, he finds others with crisp passes and he leads from the front with his incessant work rate.

Morata is majestic, a finely tuned ballerina who can turn and accelerate in the blink of an eye before dinking a whirling-dervish of a finish home just like he did for his second goal on Saturday. Lukaku can power past defenders and his persistence saw him grab the winner, at the second attempt, in a gritty United display at Southampton on Saturday. And Aguero is always on hand to snap up the final ball of a flowing City move with his darting, speedy runs.

But Kane, well, Kane has all of that and more. He is the most complete striker in a Premier League which has a vast array of world-class strikers who all score goals in different ways. We haven’t even mentioned Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alexis Sanchez, Javier Hernandez or Sadio Mane in terms of their goal-getting ability.

Kane was announced as a nominee for the FIFPro World 11 (only Lukaku of the three aforementioned strikers joined him) last week and the Englishman once again proved why he is considered not only one of the best strikers in the Premier League, but also one of the best on the planet.


LIVERPOOL WILL NOT CHANGE UNDER KLOPP

Life is never dull under Jurgen Klopp. Ever.

Since he took charge of Liverpool in October 2015, no PL club has been involved in more games which have seen five or more goals scored. On 17 occasions Liverpool fans have seen five goals scored in games involving their team and, most worryingly, all too often they’ve been against them.

[ MORE: Joel Matip speaks to Pro Soccer Talk ]

Liverpool’s 3-2 win at Leicester City on Saturday summed up everything which should concern the Reds.

They led 2-0 early on and looked to be on their way to a routine win. Then, right on half time, came a mistake from goalkeeper Simon Mignolet to make it 2-1. At 3-2 he then gave away a penalty kick but saved it as the maddening world of watching Liverpool was encapsulated in a nutshell.

Last week I sat down with Liverpool’s center back Joel Matip who told me why he believes the Reds should not change the way they play.

“Both parts only work together. I cannot stand at the back and our attackers go forward and there is so much big space. We all have to fit together. It is not always easy but this is our way of play but I think that is a good way of playing,” Matip said. “Everything has its positive and negative sides but I have no doubt about our way of playing.”

Plenty of Liverpool’s fans, pundits and neutrals doubt their defensive solidity and even though it is fun to watch Liverpool rip open opposition defenses with Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho, their inability to defend simple set pieces situations will cost them any chance of challenging for major trophies.

Klopp’s style of play is only one part of this. Simply put: he has to invest in better defenders and goalkeepers if his time at Liverpool is to be considered a success.

If he doesn’t do that the German coach will soon come under pressure from some fans even though his team entertains and delivers plenty of drama. Liverpool had enough drama under Brendan Rodgers. The majority of the fanbase want silverware and Klopp’s current defensive unit will cost them that.


RELEGATION DARK HORSES

Crystal Palace is in a dark, dark place heading into Week 7 with no points and no goals to their name so far this season. Roy Hodgson knows he has a big task to turn the Eagles around but perhaps he feels like it is doable as plenty of perennial midtable teams look like they will struggle this season.

Newly-promoted teams Newcastle United, Brighton and Huddersfield have had very good starts and all three have won at least twice in their opening six games but that bubble could burst soon and its very rare that the three new boys all survive or at least push away from the drop zone in their debut campaign in the PL.

Add to that the likes of Bournemouth, Stoke City, Swansea City and West Ham United all looking a bit of a mess right now and there are plenty of early-season contenders for those three relegation spots.

Bournemouth have lost five of their opening six games and the worrying thing for Eddie Howe‘s side is that they don’t seem to be learning from their mistakes. They led against Manchester City but lost 2-1. They led against Everton but lost 2-1. With more experienced campaigners on board this season you’d expected less naivety from the Cherries. Their next four games are against Leicester City, Tottenham Stoke and Chelsea. All of a sudden the man with seemingly the safest job in the PL could be under serious pressure.

Stoke have been hit, very hard, by injuries, especially in defense as Geoff Cameron, Ryan Shawcross and Kevin Wimmer were all out for the 4-0 hammering to Chelsea at the weekend and then Bruno Martins Indi was injured late on. Mark Hughes‘ men have one win from their first six games and even though they are usually slow starters, recent displays have been worrying.

Swansea are struggling to put away chances as Paul Clement‘s men have lost all three games at home so far and Watford won late at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday after the Swans dragged themselves back into the game. Like Stoke it is perhaps a little too early to worry but Clement will be far from impressed with the start.

West Ham United are in a real mess and their creaky defense looks like shipping goals galore. Slaven Bilic‘s situation is unsettling the entire club with the Croatian only contracted until the end of the current season and his players appear to have plenty of fight and spirit to drag themselves back into games late on, yet whether or not they’re fighting for themselves or Bilic remains to be seen. With four points from their opening six games the Hammers are in trouble.

With the PL’s top six, plus Everton, spending big and seeming to be head and shoulders above the rest, the scramble to stay out of the bottom three may be the best (or most nerve-wracking, depending on who you support) in recent memory. If Crystal Palace can somehow recover from the worst start in league history they will drag a heck of a lot of teams into the relegation mire.


CHICHARITO MISUSED?

After West Ham’s spirited, yet deeply flawed, 3-2 defeat against Tottenham in a big London derby on Saturday, I asked Hammers boss Slaven Bilic if getting the best out of Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez in the right areas was a big challenge.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned from Spurs v West Ham ]

His answers was just as confusing as why Chicharito isn’t been played in his natural position.

“I spoke to him after West Brom game and today he started as a center forward and then he had to change the position because we wanted to stay in the same system as it was working well. Even then, he was in good areas so you can’t say he was out wide,” Bilic explained. “Against top teams everyone has to defend and he was in a position where he would have been if we were playing two strikers. When we were attacking he was not playing on the wing, he was a striker. It’s not very easy to play with him, Andy, Antonio and Arnautovic and play with three center backs.”

Hernandez headed home to make it 3-1 with 25 minutes to go and had another chance to make it 3-2 which was well saved by Hugo Lloris but he was unable to impact the game from wide positions as Mexico’s all-time leading goalscorer cut a frustrated figure at the final whistle.

He was involved in a large scuffle near the end of the game and he carried on his spat with Fernando Llorente after the final whistle too. Bilic has to find a way of playing Chicharito in his best position, which is through the middle, because early on it was working very well for the Hammers.

It is easy to see why Hernandez is frustrated. After three goals in six games he is still being shunted out wide by Bilic and when Michail Antonio was injured early in the loss to Spurs, Andy Carroll came off the bench to take his central role and Hernandez was told to play out on the right.

With Andre Ayew on the bench, did it not make more sense to put him out wide and leave Hernandez up top to stick to the same game plan which had actually caused Spurs plenty of problems?

That’s what Hernandez will be asking himself and it would be legitimate for Hammers fans to ask themselves exactly why they signed the former Manchester United striker if he’s going to be played out wide.


USMNT UPDATE

DeAndre Yedlin was at the center of controversy in Newcastle United’s 1-0 defeat at Brighton on Sunday.

The right back was involved in a coming together with Tomer Hemed and the big Israeli striker, who scored the winner for Brighton, appeared to stamp on Yedlin’s calf as the former Seattle Sounders star led on the ground. The FA is said to be reviewing the images and could hand Hemed a ban for his stamp. It certainly looked deliberate as Yedlin had a tough afternoon trying to lock down Solly March on Brighton’s left flank.

In other USMNT news both Geoff Cameron and Danny Williams are out injured. Cameron remains missing with a hamstring injury he suffered against Manchester United two weeks ago, while Williams has suffered an injury to his foot.

Pro Soccer Talk understand Williams has not broken a small bone in his foot, as his manager David Wagner first feared, but he is still expected to be out for two to three weeks. That is incredibly frustrating as the German-American had just worked his way into the starting lineup and played well in the Terriers’ 1-1 draw against Leicester City and many were calling for him to be recalled for the USMNT for the key 2018 World Cup qualifiers next month.

Premier League Playback comes out every week as PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here

Premier League Preview: Huddersfield Town vs. Liverpool

Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images
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  • Huddersfield last beat Liverpool in 1959
  • Reds won both 3-0 last season
  • Liverpool winless in four across all comps
  • Reds also unbeaten on PL season

There are few endeavors in which the following sentence can accurately describe time: It’s been both a bit more than 675 minutes and also 56 years since Huddersfield Town last scored a goal against Liverpool.

The Terriers will try to change that, of course, when injury-hit Liverpool visits the John Smith’s Stadium on Saturday (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET and online via NBCSports.com).

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League picks ]

The exhaustive web site LFChistory.net tells us that Huddersfield Town carried a 1-0 lead into halftime at Anfield on April 7, 1962, only to see Bill Shankly’s home side equalize and earn a draw.

Since then, the Terriers and Reds have squared off just seven times, and Liverpool has kept its sheets clean (aside from the dust of age). The scores over the ensuing half century-plus? 4-0, 0-0, 2-0, 0-1, 0-2, 3-0, and 3-0.

The good news for the Terriers is there have only been two of those matches in the 21st century, though they were both last season.

The other good news is that the international break was especially menacing to Liverpool, as Virgil Van Dijk, Naby Keita, Mohamed Salah, and Sadio Mane were all injured and only Salah and Van Dijk trained on Thursday.

The bad news is seemingly everything else. The Terriers have not looked much like the side that impressed in last season’s return to the Premier League.

David Wagner‘s men are winless through eight matches and have managed a joint-worst four goals while allowing the second-most goals in the Premier League (17).

What they’re saying

Huddersfield Town’s Erik Durm on Jurgen Klopp’s role in his development: “Jürgen had a big influence on me; he was the first one who told me to start in a defending position because I was a striker before. He came into training and told me ‘I want you to be a defender, left or right-back’, so he had a big influence on my career. I’m very happy that he made this solution and that he saw that I could play in this position.”

Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp on rarely used, $57 million Fabinho“Everyone asks you constantly, why doesn’t he play? There’s one reason, no other. Another player fits better in the slot. As long as there’s a player ahead who is fresh then it’s about the new player to close the gap. It always took time. When you do close the gap, go and make us better. That’s the plan.”

Prediction

This one is way trickier than you’d think. On a normal “Welcome back from international break,” I’d advocate expecting Huddersfield Town to keep it close and maybe even squeeze a point out of it. But Liverpool has been itching to get back on the field, and a bunch of players will see this as an opportunity to make a statement. Reds 3-0 (again).

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks

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Week 9 of the Premier League season is here and the international break is finally over. Hurrah!

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ]

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Listen carefully, because this is very specific.

[ STREAM: Premier League “Goal Rush” ]

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the long shots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Arsenal 3-1 Leicester City – (Monday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Manchester City 3-0 Burnley – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM ]

Huddersfield 1-3 Liverpool – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]

Everton 3-1 Crystal Palace – (Sunday, 11 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]


DON’T TOUCH THIS…

Chelsea 2-1 Man United – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Bournemouth 2-2 Southampton – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]

Wolves 1-1 Watford – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

West Ham 2-3 Tottenham – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM


“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

 

Cardiff City 2-1 Fulham – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]

Newcastle United 2-1 Brighton – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]

Premier League TV, streaming schedule

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The Premier League is back after the international break, and Week 9 of the 2018-19 season kicks off with a cracker at Stamford Bridge between Chelsea and Manchester United. Let’s do this.

MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ] 

The full TV schedule for the games this weekend are below, plus you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com,the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold.

Gold also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: Premier League live here ] 

You can also watch Premier League “Goal Rush” at for all the goals as they go in around the grounds. Goal Rush is available via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App.

[ MORE: Premier League “Goal Rush” ] 

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here for the games streamed on NBCSports.com and here for the games on NBC Sports Gold.

Here’s your full TV schedule for the coming days.


FULL TV SCHEDULE

Saturday
7:30 a.m. ET: Chelsea vs. Manchester United – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: West Ham United vs. Tottenham Hotspur – NBCSN [STREAM
10 a.m. ET: Bournemouth vs. Southampton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM
10 a.m. ET: Cardiff City vs. Fulham – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Manchester City vs. Burnley – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Newcastle United vs. Brighton & Hove Albion – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Watford – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM
12:30 p.m. ET: Huddersfield Town vs. Liverpool – NBC [STREAM

Sunday
11 a.m. ET: Everton vs. Crystal Palace – NBCSN [STREAM]

Monday
3 p.m. ET: Arsenal vs. Leicester City – NBCSN [STREAM]

How will Chelsea, Man United line up?

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Chelsea host Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with Maurizio Sarri and Jose Mourinho in very different situations with their respective clubs.

[ MORE: 3 key battles ]

Sarri has yet to taste defeat as Chelsea boss since arriving from Napoli in the summer, with the Italian coach steering Chelsea to joint-top of the Premier League table playing an exciting, mezmerising brand of soccer with Eden Hazard leading the charge.

As for Jose Mourinho, his future at Man United has been questioned on multiple occasions already as they’ve accrued just 13 points from their opening eight games of the season amid plenty of haphazard defensive displays.

[ MORE: Sarri – “Man United have best squad in PL” ]

Below is a look at the potential starting lineups for both teams on Saturday in west London, with a few injury concerns for each coach to contend with.


Chelsea’s projected starting XI

—– Kepa —–

—- Azpilicueta —- Rudiger —- Luiz —- Alonso —-

—- Kante —- Jorginho —- Kovacic —-

—- Pedro —- Giroud —- Hazard —-


Man United’s projected starting XI

—– De Gea —–

—- Young —- Smalling —- Bailly —- Shaw —-

—- Fred —- Matic —-

—- Martial — Pogba —- Rashford —-

—– Lukaku —– 


Evaluation

Chelsea’s main problem is whether or not Mateo Kovacic will be fit enough to start in midfield, as Ross Barkley has picked up a small knock which is a blow after his fine recent displays for club and country. Cesc Fabregas could come into Chelsea’s midfield if neither are fit, while the only real selection dilemma is whether Willian or Pedro will start out wide in support of Eden Hazard and Olivier Giroud. Sarri’s back four picks itself after a strong start to the season, while Olivier Giroud gets the best out of Hazard and he will get the nod ahead of Alvaro Morata.

For Man United, they have plenty of injury issues to contend with and that is mostly in midfield. Nemanja Matic, Marouane Fellaini and Scott McTominay are all struggling with knocks, with Ander Herrera has been rushed back to be a part of the squad for Saturday. You would think that Mourinho would be a little more defensive when it comes to his lineup given United’s defensive issues this season, so having Fred and Matic (one of whom may do a man-marking job on Hazard) in central midfield makes sense. Alexis Sanchez may not start after his late arrival back from the international break, with Anthony Martial set to start again out wide as Jesse Lingard has been out through injury.