Three things learned: Man United v. Liverpool

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MANCHESTER — Manchester United beat Liverpool 2-1 at Old Trafford on Saturday, as Jose Mourinho secured just his second win in nine outings against Jurgen Klopp.

The Red Devils strengthened their grip on second-place in the Premier League thanks to two first half goals from Marcus Rashford and despite Eric Bailly‘s own goal and an improved displays in the second half, Liverpool fell.

Here’s what we learned from a gripping game as each team dominated a half.


RASHFORD TAKES HIS CHANCE

The local lad stepped up big time to deliver two goals in the first half and grab his chance with both hands.

Rashford probably wouldn’t have started had Paul Pogba not pulled out through injury on Friday, with Mourinho forced into a reshuffled with Rashford on the left, Mata on the right and Alexis Sanchez playing centrally behind Lukaku with just Scott McTominay and Nemanaja Matic in central midfield in a 4-4-2 formation.

We all know Rashford has bags of pace and undoubted talent, but you feared for his development after the arrival of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez this season. We shouldn’t have worried.

Rashford now has eight goals in the Premier League this season and 12 in all competitions, that’s the best return of his career to date. Not bad for a youngster pushed out to the left flank for most of this season when he does most of his best work as a central striker.

It was almost two years ago today that he burst onto the scene and scored twice against Arsenal in a 3-2 home win after being given his chance by Louis Van Gaal. And the stat above shows that Rashford can always be counted on for the big occasion.

Since then, Rashford has scored 31 goals in 111 appearances for the Red Devils and he is finally showing that there could be life for him on the left ahead of Sanchez, Anthony Martial, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard and others.


LUKAKU, SANCHEZ PARTNERSHIP WAY FORWARD

Yes, Pogba’s injury may have forced Mourinho into a change of lineup and personnel, but one thing is clear from Saturday: play Sanchez and Lukaku together up to from here on out.

Before the game all of the talk was about how United could slot Sanchez into their starting lineup and Mourinho admitted they haven’t seen the best of their highest-paid player since his arrival from Arsenal in January. Don’t get me wrong, Sanchez still has a long way to go. He gave the ball away in the second half on multiple occasions when all he needed to do was relieve some pressure on his defense, with the Chilean still looking rusty in possession just as he did on Monday at Crystal Palace when he had more giveaways than any other player on the pitch.

As for Lukaku, well, he is back in midseason form. The Belgian flicked on twice to set up Rashford’s goal and a more direct approach is suiting Lukaku.

During the week Lukaku described himself as a sergeant for Mourinho on the pitch. He did his part admirably on Saturday with his powerful display in the first half. He and Sanchez scared Liverpool’s defense and allowed Mata to find space for what should have been an easy third goal had he headed home instead of gone for the spectacular bicycle kick.

This duo will cause plenty of defenses problems and there’s an inclination that playing just off Lukaku will get the best out of Sanchez.


LIVERPOOL’S FAMILIAR PROBLEMS ARISE

They almost fought back for a point, but it was a case of familiar problems arising for Liverpool. They’ve only lost two of their last 21 games in the Premier League and are still in the hunt for the top four, but this defeat means they’ve fallen five points behind rivals Man United who sit comfortably in second place.

A sluggish start was their downfall as Jurgen Klopp’s men lost the first ball to Lukaku and failed to stop Rashford twice latching on to score. They also couldn’t work out how to mark Sanchez and Mata was drifting in from the right.

On multiple occasions in the first half United breezed through Liverpool’s defense and when Dejan Lovren and Virgil Van Dijk finally figured out how to stop United, they were already 2-0 down.

Liverpool’s clash showed in the second half as they dominated the majority of the 45 minutes with Eric Bailly’s own goal setting up a tense finish for the home fans at Old Trafford.

The Reds will now regroup and they know they have the easiest schedule out of the teams in and around the top four. Still, a defeat at your rivals in this manner will sting.

West Ham manager Moyes, two players test positive for COVID-19

West Ham COVID-19
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West Ham United’s preparations for Tuesday’s League Cup match against Hull City were rocked by positive COVID-19 tests for three members of the first team.

Irons boss David Moyes, center back Issa Diop and midfielder Josh Cullen all were informed of positive coronavirus tests before the match. All were sent home and said to be asymptomatic.

[ LIVE: Follow League Cup scores ]

The match went on with assistant manager Alan Irvine taking the reigns.

Diop is by far the most significant name on that list when it comes to West Ham’s competitive fortunes (Yes, we know Moyes in the manager).

West Ham stressed that it’s been vigilant when it comes to COVID-19:

The Club’s measures and protocols around COVID-19 remain stringent. This included offering to test the Hull City team ahead of tonight’s fixture – an offer which they opted not to accept.

Diop went the distance in both of West Ham’s PL matches this season, while Cullen has not featured for Moyes. The Irons lost 2-0 to Newcastle and 2-1 to Arsenal.

Champions League qualifying: How to watch, start times, odds

UEFA Champions League qualifying
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The 12 clubs remaining in the race for the final UEFA Champions League group stage slots will be pared down to six in the next eight days.

There are American connections to two of the six ties.

Former USMNT midfielder Jesse Marsch manages Austria’s Red Bull Salzburg toward the next round, while Molde right back Henry Wingo came up with the Seattle Sounders.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Salzburg are significant favorites to advance over two legs, odds accentuated by Maccabi Tel-Aviv’s seven players absent due to positive COVID-19 tests.

Marsch had previously said he did not want to go to Israel due to COVID-19 concerns, calling it “dangerous,” but has accepted the task at hand.

From Austrian publication Kronen Zeitung:

“The moment UEFA said we were going to play in Tel Aviv, it wasn’t a problem for me. Maccabi has a great team. We are not naive. We understand that we have to fight tomorrow.”

At 3:10 in some sportsbooks, Marsch’s men are the only club favored to win the first leg away. Salzburg is led by Dominik Szoboszlai and Patson Daka, who’ve helped the team thrive despite the sales of several stars including Erling Haaland and Takumi Minamino.

Molde has a much tougher test with Hungarian side Ferencvaros, who knocked off Celtic. That tie could go either way, while Slavia Prague and Olympiakos are respectively noticeable favorites to beat Midtjylland and Omonia Nicosia.

Dynamo Kiev will be expected to outlast Gent over two legs, while it would be a minor upset if PAOK takes down Krasnodar.


How to watch the UEFA Champions League qualifying playoff round

Kickoff: 3 pm ET Tuesday and Wednesday
Stream: CBS All-Access (subscription required)


UEFA Champions League playoff round matches

All 12 legs will kickoff at 3 pm ET between Tuesday and Sept. 30.

Tuesday

Maccabi Tel-Aviv v. Red Bull Salzburg
Slavia Prague v Midtjylland
Krasnodar v PAOK

Wednesday

Gent v Dynamo Kiev
Molde v Ferencvaros
Olympiakos v Omonia

Sept. 29

Ferencvaros v Molde
Dynamo Kiev v Gent
Omonia v Olympiakos

Sept. 30

Midtjylland v Slavia Prague
PAOK v Krasnodar
Red Bull Salzburg v Maccabi Tel-Aviv

Edouard Mendy to Chelsea: What does it mean for Kepa, Blues’ defense?

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Edouard Mendy to Chelsea: What does it mean for Kepa Arrizabalaga and how much does it improve the Chelsea defense?

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]   

Frank Lampard has confirmed that goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, 28, has arrived from Rennes in a $28 million deal and the Senegalese international will provide ‘competition’ to Kepa.

“Competition is a regular thing. We have brought Mendy in for that competition. It’s in everyone’s hands to get into the squad,” Lampard said. “I think it is the hardest position, because of the individual nature of it. I have to be sympathetic to that point. Last year I changed a few times, it’s a different thought process. We are always striving for the best performance.”

Is anyone buying that?

A couple of high-profile mistakes in Chelsea’s opening two games of the Premier League season has highlighted Kepa’s poor form and Chelsea have moved fast to bring in Mendy.

What does this mean for Kepa Arrizabalaga?

As the ProSoccerTalk lads discuss in the video above, this is probably the end, or at the very least the beginning of the end, for Kepa at Chelsea. Kepa has never really settled at Chelsea and over the last two seasons he hasn’t backed up being the most expensive goalkeeper in the world.

That transfer fee was a little false, as Chelsea were backed into a corner after losing Thibaut Courtois to Real Madrid and paid Kepa’s release clause of $91.1 million to Athletic Bilbao. But they still paid it and even if the fee was half of that, eyebrows would have been raised. Kepa, 25, has failed to command his box, looked nervous with the ball at his feet and shots from outside the box have also given him plenty of problems. Not a great combo for a goalkeeper.

Chelsea may look to loan him out but there’s no doubt that after being dropped for veteran Willy Caballero at the end of last season, the writing was on the wall and Kepa is on borrowed time at Stamford Bridge.

Does Edouard Mendy to Chelsea improve their defense right away?

Not right away, but it will help. His impressive ability to come for crosses and his towering six-foot six-inch frame should provide some stability and confidence from the defenders around him but the way Chelsea play suggests their defensive issues will remain.

Frank Lampard loves to attack and it’s fun to watch. Well, unless you’re a goalkeeper or defender for the Blues. Mendy is one part of the jigsaw and so too is Thiago Silva who will add a calm head and his experience to a youthful defense, and Ben Chilwell at left back will also improve their defensive outlook.

Lampard loves to attack, though, and we must admit that without N’Golo Kante in front of a oft-changed back four, things will be tough. Mendy’s arrival should help settle things down and help Chelsea improve at the back but Lampard needs his center backs to stand tall in the coming weeks and months.

League Cup: How to watch, start times, as Premier League powers enter

League Cup
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Fifteen Premier League teams eye dates in the fourth round when the League Cup returns for another September midweek.

The congested nature of the season will see some PL sides play three matches in as many weeks, though the European qualifying teams are just entering the fray this week.

[ LIVE: Follow League Cup scores ]

That includes Europa League sides Arsenal and Leicester City, who will stage the lone all-PL scrap of the round come Wednesday at the King Power Stadium.

Tuesday was going to see Tottenham Hotspur visit a club sponsored by Spurs striker Harry Kane, but Leyton Orient is in the news after positive COVID-19 tests have threatened to forfeit Spurs into the next round.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Manchester United will hope to snap out of its season-opening funk when it begins its tourney Tuesday at Luton Town, while Chelsea hosts Barnsley on Wednesday.

Liverpool is off to Lincoln City on Thursday, kicking off its League Cup at the same time Manchester City welcomes Bournemouth.

Because of the aforementioned congested September in the tournament, the fourth round draw has already been held and those fixtures are at bottom of the page.


League Cup third round draw

All times ET

Tuesday
Leyton Orient v Tottenham Hotspur — Postponed
West Brom v Brentford — 2 pm
Newport County v Watford — 2pm
West Ham United v Hull City — 2:30 pm
Luton Town v Manchester United — 3:15 pm

Wednesday
Preston North End v Brighton — 2 pm
Millwall v Burnley — 2 pm
Fulham v Sheffield Wednesday — 2 pm
Stoke City v Gillingham — 2 pm
Chelsea v Barnsley — 2:45 pm
Leicester City v Arsenal — 2:45 pm
Fleetwood Town v Everton — 2:45 pm
Morecambe v Newcastle United — 2:45 pm

Thursday
Bristol City v Aston Villa — 2 pm
Lincoln City v Liverpool — 2:45 pm
Manchester City v Bournemouth — 2:45 pm


League Cup fourth round draw

Lincoln City/Liverpool v Leicester City/Arsenal
Millwall/Burnley v Manchester City/Bournemouth
West Brom/Brentford v Fulham/Sheffield Wednesday
Fleetwood Town/Everton v West Ham United/Hull City
Bristol City/Aston Villa v Stoke City/Gillingham
Leyton Orient/Tottenham v Chelsea/Barnsley
Newport County/Watford v Morecambe/Newcastle United
Preston North End/Brighton v Luton Town/Manchester United


How to watch League Cup third round streams and start time

Kickoff: Tuesday through Thursday
Online: Select games on ESPN+
Updates: Follow League Cup scores via NBCSports.com