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After high of beating Spain, Russia must adapt for Croatia

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MOSCOW (AP) Coach Stanislav Cherchesov seems to be the only Russian not caught up in the euphoria of the country’s biggest World Cup win in decades.

In the quarterfinals, Croatia will present a different challenge for the host nation, which must make changes.

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As his players were still partying in the dressing room and Russians were flooding into Red Square to celebrate Sunday’s win on penalties over Spain, Cherchesov rattled through a list of upcoming medical tests, tactical sessions and squad selection decisions.

“The job’s done. Now we’re thinking about the next game,” Cherchesov said, adding he’s saving his emotions “for later.”

The gruff veteran coach admits other teams have more skill, but the Spain victory – planned “down to the millimeter” – showed the right tactics mean everything.

Russia’s ultra-defensive approach worked against a risk-averse Spain team that completed more than 1,000 passes, but almost none into the penalty area. Spanish defensive errors, a possible symptom of switching coaches just two days before the World Cup, gave Russia chances to attack.

Croatia reached the quarterfinals just like Russia – on penalties after a 1-1 draw – but its win over Denmark was a very different game, and its style could hurt Russia in Sochi on Saturday. Star midfielder Luka Modric offers passing with a purpose that Spain lacked, while Ivan Rakitic, Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic have a versatility Russia didn’t face in the round of 16.

Croatia will take note of Spain’s success in extra time, when it took more risks and began running at the Russian defense. When Rodrigo charged down the right flank, he forced a good save from Igor Akinfeev, before Dani Carvajal mishit the rebound.

Only Uruguay has consistently tested Russia’s defense, beating Cherchesov’s team 3-0 in the group stage. Russia struggled to cope, though little was at stake since both teams had qualified. An early red card for Igor Smolnikov and extreme heat limited Russia’s hard-running style. The Croatia game in Sochi is forecast to be cooler.

Russia can play with five at the back, as against Spain, or a four-man defense, as in the three group-stage games. However, playing five defenders against Croatia could expose the limits of the Russian squad.

Left back Yuri Zhirkov “has, I fear, played his last game at the tournament” with a knee injury, Cherchesov said. When Zhirkov went off, that meant Fyodor Kudryashov switching to the left. Vladimir Granat came into the center of defense, but failed to complete a single pass all game. The only other option was center back Andrei Semyonov, whose last Russia game was in March 2017.

Whatever happens against Croatia, the cautious Cherchesov will have plans.

“It’s one thing to be a strong team or a strong player,” he said. “It’s another thing to be a strong team or a strong player in the right time and place. That’s what we had.”

More AP World Cup coverage:

WATCH, STREAM: Wilson, Pukki score screamers amongst 10 a.m. ET kicks

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This season is going to be a challenge for Norwich City, but one of last season’s true heroes made sure the Canaries fans got a bit of home delight.

[ STREAM: All 10 a.m. ET kicks ]

Newcastle is visiting town on Saturday, and Teemu Pukki scored a delightful opener to give the Canaries a halftime lead.

It’s appropriate, as the volley takes a page out of Newcastle hero Alan Shearer’s playbook.

Norwich City 1-0 Newcastle UnitedSTREAM

Aston Villa 0-2 BournemouthSTREAM

And how about this from Liverpool loanee Harry Wilson, who is making Villa’s home return to the Premier League less than ideal.

VIDEO: Sadio Mane scores screamer for Liverpool v. Saints

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Sadio Mane has started the season in sensational fashion.

After scoring twice for Liverpool in their Super Cup final win against Chelsea on Wednesday, Mane curled home a stunning shot right on half time.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]  

Mane was playing against his former club and after Southampton had created the best chances, it was a huge boost for Liverpool to go in ahead at the break.

Click play on the video below to see Mane open the scoring in style.

Emery impressed with versatile Ceballos as Arsenal stays perfect

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Despite the score line, Unai Emery can be fairly happy with Arsenal’s performance in a 2-1 defeat of Burnley at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

On midfielder Dani Ceballos, though, Emery will be very pleased.

[ RECAP: Arsenal 2-1 Burnley ]

The Real Madrid loanee was the easy Man of the Match, his silky skill on the ball and quality industry endearing himself to Arsenal faithful. From Football.London:

“It’s to use his quality in the best position in our team. I spoke with him before coming here, it’s to play as an eight and a No.10. He started like a 10 but changed with Willock. He can feel better on the pitch.”

Emery will be less than pleased with his defense, who allowed a goal to early season Golden Boot candidate Ashley Barnes.

“We won in our moments we did the difference for 2-1. A lot of moments we couldn’t impose our gameplan because they pushed and their gameplan was a struggle for us.”

Watch Live: Saints v. Liverpool headlines five PL games

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Five Premier League games are coming up at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday, as the second Matchweek of the new campaign comes roaring at us.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ] 

Southampton and Liverpool clash at St Mary’s in the main game at 10 a.m. ET, while two new boys have their first home games back in the PL.

Aston Villa host Bournemouth at Villa Park, while Norwich host Newcastle at Carrow Road. Elsewhere, Everton host Watford and West Ham travel to Brighton.

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You can access additional games by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold which 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: “Goal Rush” here ]

For those of you familiar with the Premier League Breakaway Show during busy days (Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Championship Sunday etc.) in the PL, this will follow that model of being similar to the NFL RedZone with action shown from all of the games in the 10 a.m. ET window. More info is available here.

The schedule for all five games at 10 a.m. ET is below and you can stream each game live by clicking on the links.

10 a.m. ET: Southampton v. Liverpool – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Aston Villa v. Bournemouth – CNBC [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Brighton v. West Ham – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Everton v. Watford – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Norwich v. Newcastle – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]