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Premier League to introduce a winter break for 2019/2020 season

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Following years of discussion, the Premier League and FA have together agreed upon a series of changes that will allow for a two-week winter break in the future.

The FA and Premier League announced a two-week winter break in February, starting in the 2019-2020 season that will still see Premier League games played in that span, with five on the first weekend and five on the second, allowing teams to have their break after their matches.

[READ: USMNT vs. France: Preview]

It doesn’t match the length of winter breaks in Spain, Germany and Italy but it also doesn’t interfere with England’s traditional busy holiday program, which sees teams play on Boxing Day and around New Years in addition to regular weekend fixtures.

As part of the agreement, the FA has agreed to move the fifth round of the FA Cup to midweek while scrapping replays from the fifth round on. Replays will still be around for the earlier rounds, where some of the smaller clubs could earn a return fixture against a giant, earning a massive cash windfall from television and gate receipts.

“This is a significant moment for English football and one that we believe will greatly benefit both club and country,” Martin Glenn, FA chief executive, said in a statement. “It’s no secret that we have a very congested fixture calendar and over recent years we have been working with the whole game to find a solution.

“Today’s announcement proves that football can come together for the good of the game. We have also found a way to give the players a much-needed mid-season break, whilst keeping the much-loved Christmas schedule in place.

“As we head into summer international tournaments in the future we are sure that this mid-season break will prove to be a valuable addition for our players.”

The Premier League has been in serious discussions over the past few years on how to introduce a winter break, as both foreign managers in the Premier League and fans have complained about the league’s lack of quality come late in the season, when players are gassed from playing 50 or more games, including cups and friendly matches.

There’s hope now that this two-week break will help some players heal, get off their feet for a few days, and maybe begin to recover enough so that they still have gas left in the tank for a summer tournament.

With this starting for the 2019-2020 season, we could see if it has an effect on the 2020 European Championship. Ironically, the next World Cup after this year won’t be a summer World Cup, so European-based players should actually be fit and ready to go for a tournament beginning in November.

LIVE — MLS Cup Playoffs begin; Atlanta, Seattle at home

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Reigning champs Atlanta United kick off a four-match docket as the MLS Cup Playoffs begin Saturday around North America.

[ FOLLOW: MLS Cup Playoffs live, box scores, stats ]

Pity Martinez starts on the bench for the Five Stripes, who are without injured USMNT back Miles Robinson.

Two other recent cup champions, Toronto and Seattle, are home later in the day, while Utah is the scene for the final match of the night.

Schedule

Atlanta United v. New England Revolution — 1 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders v. FC Dallas — 3:30 p.m. ET
Toronto FC v. DC United — 6 p.m. ET
Real Salt Lake v. Portland Timbers — 10 p.m. ET

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Bournemouth and Norwich in stalemate

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Bournemouth and Norwich City played out a tense 0-0 draw at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday, as the Canaries dug deep for a point on the road as they secured their first clean sheet.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The Cherries and Canaries both had decent chances in the game but neither were clinical and both Aaron Ramsdale and Tim Krul had some decent outings in goal.

Bournemouth sit in ninth on 12 points, while Norwich are 19th on seven points.


3 things we learned

1. Teemu Pukki is struggling for support: He scored twice for Finland over the international break, but he hasn’t scored for Norwich since that big win agains Man City on Sept. 14. Pukki didn’t get much support and Norwich have scored just once in their last four PL games.

2. Norwich much happier with the point: Daniel Farke has been plagued with injuries all season long, especially defensively, so he will be delighted his side kept a clean sheet on the road against a very dangerous Bournemouth side. At times Norwich rode their luck, but they looked solid enough and Todd Cantwell kept things ticking over in midfield. Tim Krul stood tall too, as the Canaries head home happy.

3. Bournemouth improving defensively: Every could has a silver lining, and for Eddie Howe that will be another decent day defensively for the Cherries. Going forward they disappointed but at the back they’ve only conceded five times in their last five PL outings. That is very good for Bournemouth. Ake and Cook have a strong partnership and Ramsdale is finding his feet. Yes, Bournemouth will have hoped to score three or four against this Norwich defense, but at least they’ve improved at the back.

Man of the Match: Tim Krul – Tough to pick a player of the game but Krul was solid when called upon and organized this banged up Norwich defense well. Used all of his experience.


Bournemouth pressed Norwich back early on and Tim Krul then denied Dominic Solanke.

Norwich had a half chance as Teemu Pukki delayed his effort and Steve Cook cleared, with neither side taking the game by the scruff of the neck.

In a tight, tense game both cancelled one another out in an uneventful first half.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

At the start of the second half Norwich lost yet another defensive player to injury as Ben Godfrey, just back from a hernia operation, was replaced by Tom Trybull.

Pukki’s shot was deflected by Cook as it looped up close to the goal, while at the other end Bournemouth went close as Wilson and Adam Smith combined but the ball was just off target.

Both teams tried to push for the win late on but held back a little as Norwich in particular were happy with the shutout and point on the road given all of their defensive issues.

Grealish leads Villa past 10-man Brighton

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Jack Grealish‘s star turn helped Aston Villa take advantage of 10-man Brighton and Hove Albion in a 2-1 comeback win at Villa Park on Saturday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Adam Webster‘s early goal gave Brighton a lead but Aaron Mooy‘s twin first half yellow cards put them under the knife.

Aston Villa moves 11th with 11 points. Brighton’s nine points seat them 16th.


Three things we learned

1. Touchy red helps undo Brighton: Aaron Mooy’s first yellow card was silly, so he know there was a need to play careful the rest of the way. He didn’t, and a soft yellow doomed the Seagulls to more than a half without the full complement of players.

2. Villa finally catching breaks: Dean Smith‘s men have had their fair share of bad luck come from good performances, so it was nice for them to follow up a blowout defeat of Norwich City with a little nudge from the Seagulls. Matty Targett’s winner came after plenty of time playing 11v10, and Villa’s standing of 11th now reflects its performances.

3. Grealish a monster: A sliding finish to make it 1-0 and clever feed to Targett for the winner. The Peaky Blinders’ haired man turned in a performance worthy of a BAFTA, with five dribbles and plenty of good moments in keeping possession moving for the victors.

Man of the Match:


[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Brighton was knocking on the door early, but you’d be forgiven if you failed to predict the man to break it down.

Promising center back Webster’s stock continues to rise as he did to nod Pascal Gross‘ free kick into the goal.

A silly first yellow card for Mooy’s blocking of a free kick became egregious when he was shown another for knocking down Grealish, who would then score a sliding goal — they all count — to bring Villa level before halftime.

Solly March saw a shot through traffic go wide in the 51st as the Seagulls worked to overcome their disadvantage.

But Villa got the win through Targett at the death, a deserved-enough win although Brighton will feel hard done by.

Wolves grab draw against stubborn Saints

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Wolverhampton Wanderers and Southampton battled to a 1-1 draw at Molineux on Saturday, as Danny Ings‘ goal was canceled out by a Raul Jimenez penalty kick.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

After Jimenez had two goals correctly ruled out for offside in the first half, Saints took the lead as Ings made the most of a defensive mistake. However, VAR then confirmed a penalty to Wolves and Jimenez scored amid controversy to grab them a point.

Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side have 11 points, while Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s Southampton have eight and they’ll be happier with a point than Wolves.


3 things we learned

1. VAR drama gets two correct, one wrong: Jimenez’s two goals in the first half were correctly ruled out by VAR, but a big call in the second half went in Wolves’ favor. The referee awarded a penalty kick when Matt Doherty went down in the box but it looked harsh as Yoshida and Hojbjerg did their best to stay out of the way of the stumbling right wing back. It was harsh on Saints and VAR should have overturned the decision.

2. Ings in fine form for Saints: Danny Ings is perfect for this system under Hasenhuttl. He has now scored goals against Spurs, Liverpool and Wolves by pouncing on defensive errors and Saints’ high-pressing game now had someone who can deliver an end product. Yes, Saints and Ings won’t be happy with not holding on to win this game, but Ings has five goals in his last four games and six for the season. If Ings stays fit, he will keep Southampton in the Premier League.

3. One step forward, two back for Wolves: After beating Watford and Man City back-to-back ahead of the break, Wolves finally got their first wins on the board this season. But they huffed and puffed against Saints and were a little lucky to nick a point. Just like last season, they play better against the big boys and struggled to break down more defensive-minded teams at the bottom of the table. That has to change if Wolves are going to challenge for European qualification once again.

Man of the Match: Raul Jimenez – He got his goal from the penalty spot, had two others disallowed and his constant clever movement, dropping deep and holding the ball up caused Saints many issues. Mexico’s striker ended his mini-drought and played superbly well.


It was all Wolves early as Joao Moutinho fired just over and Saints couldn’t get going as an attacking force.

Raul Jimenez thought he had given Wolves the lead but he handled the ball when controlling and then scored, but VAR was then used as he was handed a yellow card.

Wolves’ Ryan Bennett had to come off injured and Jesus Vallejo replaced him, as Nuno Espirito Santo was forced to reshuffle his defense.

Saints improved as the first half wore on with Danny Ings and Nathan Redmond causing Wolves problems, as the former was played in by the latter but Conor Coady blocked.

Wolves thought they had taken the lead once again just before the break as Jimenez scored after Cutrone’s flicked effort goalwards was pushed away by Angus Gunn. Despite Wolves’ celebrations, VAR again denied the goal in what was the correct decision.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

At the start of the second half Saints had a great chance to take the lead as Vallejo gave the ball away and Ings was through on goal but his low shot was tame and Rui Patricio saved.

Ings did then put Southampton ahead, as the in-form striker finished well after Vallejo and Coady got themselves in a mess and Saints made the most of it.

But Saints’ lead didn’t last long, as Wolves were awarded a penalty kick as Doherty went down after a tangle with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. After VAR was used, the penalty was given and Jimenez scored to make it 1-1, but Southampton were far from happy with the decision.

James Ward-Prowse saw a free kick saved well and neither team pushed too hard for the win late on as a draw was probably a fair result.