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Top Premier League Storylines – Boxing Day

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The festive season is here, and as Leicester City proved, Boxing Day is sure to give us plenty of gifts.

[ MORE: Week 19 roundup ]

With that in mind, it’s time to cheat and get a look ahead at what will be waiting for us wrapped all nicely on Boxing Day for fans to open with excitement…

Can Manchester United hold a lead?

The Red Devils host Burnley at the friendly confines of Old Trafford, a thankful return for Jose Mourinho who been treated poorly by Fergie Time away from home. Manchester United has conceded a 90th minute winner at Bristol City and a 95th minute equalizer at Leicester City in its last two matches, and even going back a month, they coughed up an 89th minute winner at Basel in Champions League play as well. So now, facing a strong but beatable side in Burnley, can Manchester United not only gain a lead but hold it in front of the home fans?


Will one of the 3 teams fighting for fourth slip?

It appears – for now – that Manchester City, Manchester United, and Chelsea will likely all be top-four teams when the season comes to a close. It would take a calamity for Pep Guardiola to lose the Premier League title, Jose Mourinho’s side is still as strong as they come in the English top flight, and it’s hard to imagine the defending champions slipping up enough to fall out of a Champions League place. That means Arsenal, Liverpool, and Tottenham will duke it out for the final spot in Europe’s top competition, and that promises to be one of the most exciting races left in the Premier League.

On Boxing Day, Tottenham hosts 13th-placed Southampton, Liverpool welcomes basement-dwelling Swansea City to Anfield, and Arsenal travels to a somewhat revitalized Crystal Palace. Will any of the three misstep? They’re all separated by a minuscule one-point margin, so any room for error is all but gone.


Can Mark Hughes build on Stoke City’s win?

There were rumors that Mark Hughes could be sacked on the doorstep of Christmas if Stoke City did beat West Brom last time out. The Potters rose to the occasion, and they held off the Baggies at home – barely. So now, the question becomes, can he put together consecutive victories for the first time this season as they visit Huddersfield Town? The Terriers have been a completely mixed bag this season, and Hughes can catch them in the table and possibly move Stoke a game outside the top half with a win. That would surely put the rumors of his dismissal to bed for the near future.


Will Pep Guardiola help out Rafa Benitez?

This holiday season, Newcastle fans will be wishing for what could end up being one of the biggest wins in club history should they pull off the stunner against Manchester City at home during the holidays. However, that is surely one of the more unlikely scenarios looking up and down the Boxing Day fixture list. So, we take a different approach here…

Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez has begged and pleaded with his bosses to bring him reinforcements in January. With the Toon set to face off against the Manchester City juggernaut, there’s an quirky angle to this daunting matchup: the harder Newcastle falls to the best team the Premier League has seen in some time, the more ammunition Benitez has to slide under Mike Ashley’s door to bolster his case for bigger spending. Obviously, every match is critical with the team just two points above the relegation zone, but in a game they’re unlikely to collect any spoils from in the first place, could now be the time Benitez truly gets his wish?

Surging Galaxy ride Ibrahimovic magic to 3-1 win (video)

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a man on fire, and the LA Galaxy are rounding into form.

The Galaxy overcame an early deficit in Chester to clobber the Philadelphia Union 3-1 on Saturday behind a goal and an assist from their world-class striker.

[ MORE: Neymar on diving ]

Romain Alessandrini had two assists, while Michael Ciani and Ola Kamara also scored for LA. CJ Sapong scored for Philly, assisted by Borek Dockal.

Unbeaten-in-seven LA moves into fourth in the West with the win, while Philadelphia remains three points back of sixth in the East.

Ibrahimovic has now scored in six of his last seven matches, and has 12 goals an two assists in 21 matches overall.

Let’s start with the assist, which we must’ve seen two dozen times when the big Swede was with Paris Saint-Germain.

Ibrahimovic takes a difficult pass out of the air with absurd touch, then waits for the right time to send an impeccable through ball into the path of Kamara.

As for the goal, you almost feel for Mark McKenzie.

The Union’s Homegrown defender has to choose between Alessandrini darting into his box and allowing Ibrahimovic a lick of space.

He gives it, understandably, then rushes to close down Ibrahimovic.

It wasn’t fast enough. Boom.

Americans on both sides, Weah scores as PSG fall to Bayern (video)

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Two hopes of the USMNT’s future — one more immediate than the other — squared off in the International Champions Cup on Saturday.

Paris Saint-Germain teenager Timothy Weah, 18, went 90 minutes and scored his side’s only goal in the 3-1 loss in Austria.

[ MORE: Neymar on diving ]

On the other side of the field was 62nd minute substitute Chris Richards, far less known to the American supporter.

Richards is on loan from FC Dallas, where he’s a Homegrown Player. The 18-year-old center back is going to play for Bayern’s U-19 side following a successful trial in April.

Both Bayern and PSG were without key pieces, as Weah went up against a decent Bayern back line of Juan Bernat, Javi Martinez, Josip Stanisic, and Rafinha.

Arjen Robben, Sandro Wagner, and Franck Ribery were the biggest names in Bayern’s XI, while David Alaba, Kingsley Coman, and Serge Gnabry came off the bench.

For PSG, Gianluigi Buffon started as did Adrien Rabiot.

Weah’s goal is below, and here’s what he had to say about it:

“It’s an amazing feeling and getting a well-done job. Me scoring goals, I was really happy to get my first goal for PSG and first goal in this competition. We’re going to Singapore with our head on our shoulders. We’re going to be really humble and keep playing.”

Klopp talks Pulisic, Liverpool’s spending

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Jurgen Klopp admits he’d love to work with Christian Pulisic again, but isn’t going to butt his nose into Borussia Dortmund’s business.

Speaking ahead of Liverpool’s International Champions Cup match against BVB, Klopp was asked about his interest in the American teenager.

[ MORE: Josef Martinez bags 3 more ]

Klopp was quick to point out that Pulisic is under contract to Dortmund and not for sale, as much as he’s aware.

From The Liverpool Echo:

“He had not his best season last year but he was still a decisive player but it’s important in that age group that there’s no rush. He still has 14 or 15 years to play in his career and that’s good and he wants to be the best Pulisic he can be. For this, there is still space for development.

“If – at one point – he will join us, I don’t know. I like him, it’s not that that could be the problem, but we respect contracts still and there’s no market I know about at the moment. We did our business and Dortmund are doing theirs. All good.”

Also all good? Klopp’s evolution on spending after blasting other Premier League clubs for big money buys in the past.

Klopp said he would quit football if transfer fees like Paul Pogba‘s became the norm. Well, they have, and no club has spent as much money as the Reds this summer.

“That’s the problem these days, hey? Whatever b.s. you say, nobody will forget it. On the other side, it’s still kind of true. I couldn’t have imagined since then that the world would change like it has. Two years ago £100million was a crazy number. Since then the world has changed completely.”

He said he’s going to do whatever it takes to make Liverpool successful, and Klopp now has the world’s most expensive goalkeeper and most expensive defender in his squad.

Lodeiro brace gives Seattle’s faint playoff hopes a lifeline

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In Major League Soccer’s forgiving playoff structure, there’s almost always a way back into the mix.

When your team has a talent like Nicolas Lodeiro, your chances get magnified quite a bit.

[ MORE: Josef Martinez bags 3 more ]

Lodeiro scored twice, once from the spot, and Seattle debuted its new Designated Player in a 2-0 Cascadia Cup win over Vancouver on Saturday.

Seattle is now eight points back of the West’s final playoff spot with 15 to play in its season. And the Sounders join Portland on three Cascadia Cup points, with the Timbers beating Seattle in the other cup match of the season.

Raul Ruidiaz came off the bench for the Sounders, and showed early glimpses of why Seattle wanted the World Cup participant from Peru.

The ‘Caps finished the match with 10 men thanks to a red card on Efrain Juarez, who saw yellow and then made contact with the referee.

The second goal took a vicious turn on its way to making goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic look capital-A awkward.