England, Belgium still have something to give World Cup fans

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These teams are not favorites, they are not marquee names, and they are not giants. Therefore, as Saturday’s much criticized third-place match comes our way, two dejected teams meet in a meaningless match still with something to earn, something to gain, something to work for.

At its core, the third-place match is utterly pointless. Two teams who saw their chance at glory derailed just days earlier are trudged back out onto the pitch to play for a shadow trophy, something with hollow meaning and provides little consolation for players who are still in the process of moving on from the heart-wrenching result days before.

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However, given pre-tournament expectations, these teams can still be happy to have reached this point, and could find motivation in leaving on a high note, especially given the alternative of capping such a promising showing in Russia with a pair of losses.

England, especially, will have plenty to prove. The Three Lions’ performance in Russia has been hailed as a smashing success despite falling just short to Cinderella story Croatia in the semifinals, and Gareth Southgate can put a feather in his cap by taking down one of the strongest rosters in the field. While they won’t publicly admit it, many of the England players will also hope to strengthen their cases for individual awards, with Harry Kane hoping to secure the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top scorer, while Kane, Jesse Lingard, Harry Maguire, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker, and Jordan Henderson all have a shot at earning a place on the World Cup Best XI. Finally, they will also be looking to avenge their group stage loss to the Red Devils in a game that had little meaning to either side.

[ MORE: Pre-Final PST World Cup roundtable ]

Gareth Southgate himself has some growing to do as well, and this match presents the perfect opportunity. He was out-managed in the semifinal against Croatia, failing to adjust while his midfield was stretched by great full-back play from the opposition. Against a star-studded Belgian squad, Southgate can prove he is no newbie, and has a fantastic chance to right the ship and earn player trust on the tactics board. Winning this match would give the players, the fans, and most importantly the front office confidence that Southgate’s success in the 2018 World Cup was more than a flash in the pan, and that he is ultimately the right man for the job not just in the immediate future but long-term through the next World Cup cycle.

For Belgium, Roberto Martinez will hope to find a silver lining in a tournament full of what-ifs. Belgium was not listed among the Brazil, Germany, France favorites contingent, but did find itself just beneath that upper echelon of giants, a roster bursting with Golden Generation talent. While a trophy won’t be hoisted, Martinez can prove to the world that this tournament was not wasted, and coming so close was a performance worthy of praise. Like the English, there are Belgian players who have something to prove on an individual basis. While the Golden Ball will likely be awarded to a player in the France Croatia final, players like Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne, and Thomas Meunier could be part of the tournament’s Best XI, while Thibaut Courtois has a serious chance at earning the Golden Glove as the best goalkeeper in the field.

[ MORE: PST’s World Cup Best XI ]

Four years is an eternity in this realm of soccer, and while that’s how long these players will have to wait at true redemption, a win on Saturday provides them with a way of coping with the disappointment, an avenue to channel that frustration and morph some of it into appreciation for the opportunity they received and the achievement they attained, even if the ultimate goal failed to fully manifest. Both these sides have germinated strong futures thanks to the results over the last four weeks, and they have taken the next step in becoming a force both on the European and World stage.

So while the third-place match will continue to be the butt of jokes all over the world – most of them warranted – there is still something left to earn, something left on the line in Moscow on Saturday. It won’t have nearly the audience that Sunday will draw, and that will be understandable.

West Brom – Chelsea: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

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West Brom – Chelsea: The Blues are in desperate need of a strong rebound when they visit The Hawthorns on Saturday (Watch live at 12:30 pm ET, on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

WEST BROM – CHELSEA STREAM LIVE

The Baggies, on the other hand, are simply hoping to collect their first point of the season after suffering a 3-0 defeat to Leicester City on the opening day of the 2020-21 season and following that up with a 5-2 beatdown at the hands of Everton last weekend.

As far as favorable matchups go, facing the 20th-place side a week after losing to defending champions Liverpool is quite timely for Chelsea, who is still a week or two away from seeing Christian Pulisic in a match.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Here is everything you need to know ahead of West Brom – Chelsea this Saturday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: West Brom – Chelsea (INJURY REPORT)

Hal Robson-Kanu’s leg is not a problem after a good midweek in the League Cup and he’ll start on the bench.

Christian Pulisic is out for Chelsea but Cesar Azpilicueta is fit to see the bench.


What they’re saying: West Brom – Chelsea

West Brom manager Slaven Bilic, on struggling to sign players: “We don’t have a huge budget, that is why we are trying to be creative and lucky. That’s not easy but we are trying. … We have to do it to maintain a good chance.”

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard, on Thiago Silva: “It is exciting for us because he has had just over a week training with us. It was a perfect 60 minutes for him tonight. He will show the qualities he has. Of course, he will get fitter and better. He also gave us something for me on the night in the dressing room and on the pitch of a leader with authority in terms of his demands on others. He can’t speak the language but at the minute that’s not even a problem because his presence and the way he commands people around him is already showing that to me in training and in our game tonight.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

West Brom (+750) represent one of the biggest underdogs — or, opportunities, depending on how you look at it — of the still-young PL season. There’s not much to be won by betting on Chelsea (-280). Even the draw (+400) is pretty far out there.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Prediction: West Brom – Chelsea

Barring some unforeseen circumstances — for example, a 12th-minute red card — it’s virtually impossible to see West Brom getting anything from this game. They’ve been incredibly poor defensively through two games, and they’re yet to face a side with anything close to the firepower which the Blues possess. West Brom 1-3 Chelsea.


How to watch West Brom – Chelsea stream and start time

Kickoff: 12:30 pm ET Saturday
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Potter, Trossard lament latest bit of Brighton misfortune

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Less than 18 hours after ProSoccerTalk posited that positive Brighton and Hove Albion’s lack of luck must be coming to an end, Graham Potter’s hosts smashed the post five times and had VAR award a penalty after the final whistle had blown.

Sorry, Seagulls supporters.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The match ended when Neal Maupay’s handball was spotted after the Seagulls had leveled the match at 2 deep in stoppage time, Bruno Fernandes scoring the decisive penalty in a 3-2 for the visitors to the Amex Stadium.

United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted his side was lucky on a day they were out-attempted 18-7, while Potter could simply muster, “That’s football” regarding the posts and extremely late VAR drama.

That said, he does wonder how the match got to the eighth-minute in the first place. Hashtag Fergie Time.

Here’s Potter via the Brighton and Hove Independent:

“I’d say we deserved something from the game,” Potter sad. “I would say that’s an understatement.”

Potter said he “didn’t know where the extra time came from,” adding: “I thought we scored with the last kick of the game. … We are bitterly disappointed to concede the way we have, at the time we have.”

Expected goals site Understat says Brighton won the xG battle 2.98-1.58.

Brighton winger Leandro Trossard was responsible for three of the five posts struck by the losing side.

“Unbelievable, the feeling I can’t describe, we were the better team today,” he said. “We deserved at least a point, it’s a shame. There were five minutes added on and we played at least seven. Sometimes it’s just not your day.”

Even for a side as snakebit as the Seagulls, Saturday’s loss is a sick one.

Man United ‘got away with one’ after dramatic late win at Brighton

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Manchester United reaction from Brighton was honest as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his players looked somewhat sheepish as they snuck out of the Amex Stadium with a dramatic 3-2 win.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

After being dominated for most of the game, Man United went behind then equalized via an own goal and took the lead after a piece of solo brilliance from Marcus Rashford.

Brighton saw a penalty kick decision overturned, hit the woodwork five times and then scored a 95th minute equalizer, only for Man United to be awarded a penalty kick after the final whistle blew as VAR was used and Bruno Fernandes won it in the 100th minute.

Speaking to BT Sport in the UK after the game, Solskjaer couldn’t help but laugh when trying to sum it all up and he admitted Man United secured an undeserved win.

“You can’t sum it up. We got away with one, to be fair. Maybe one point was what we deserved. I don’t think we deserved more,” Solskjaer admitted with his Manchester United reaction. “The character deserved more. That’s a big thing for us, compared to last season. We had too many draws last season. They [Brighton] created too much for my liking. They are a difficult team to play against and they have really good ball players at the back.

“We don’t really have the legs and sharpness still, but we will get there. We have plenty of work to do, we know that, and the players know that. The players know we got away with one. We have to take the points and know we have to improve a lot. Last week was disappointing, today at least we showed the character and showed a response and the lads showed their quality a few times. Strikers and forward making chances and David de Gea making saves.”

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]    

Bruno Fernandes had a mixed outing and his Manchester United reaction showcased that. The Portuguese superstar set up the first goal via a free kick, set up Rashford’s superb strike and scored the late penalty kick winner, but he also gave away a penalty kick and lost Solly March for Brighton’s late equalizer.

“It is a difficult game. In the first half we left so many spaces for them to play. We were not as aggressive as I want. Big teams need to believe until the end. We created the chance, and at this point we need to look forward and do much better than we did today,” Fernandes said. “The point is to score goals, not hitting the crossbar and the post. Sometimes you have to have luck and the goalkeeper playing well and David de Gea did really well.”

Manchester United have now lost to Crystal Palace and snuck by Brighton in their first two games of the Premier League season and it is clear that Solskjaer’s side are yet to hit full fitness after a brief offseason due to reaching the latter stages of the UEFA Europa League.

Brighton were unlucky. Man United were unlucky. Solskjaer admitted it, and that’s fair enough. But sooner rather than later they have to get back up to speed as the Red Devils will be left behind.

They now face Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal within their next four Premier League games and they won’t let them off the hook like Brighton did.

Instant classic: Manchester United beat unlucky Brighton amid late drama

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Brighton – Manchester United: This was an instant classic, as Brighton hit the woodwork five times and Graham Potter’s side coughed up a lead but fought back to make it 2-2 in the 94th minute, only for Man United to win it in the 100th minute via a penalty kick.

[ REACTION: Man United – ‘We got away with one’ ]

Neal Maupay’s Panenka penalty gave Brighton a deserved lead but an own goal from Lewis Dunk and a sublime solo effort from Marcus Rashford saw Man United fight back in a dramatic game which saw VAR heavily used, penalty kicks overturned and a late equalizer in the 95th minute from Solly March.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]   

But with the final act of the game Harry Maguire’s header was handled by Maupay and after the referee blew the final whistle, VAR was used to award a penalty which Bruno Fernandes fired home to win it.

Man United have now picked up three points from their first two games of the season against Crystal Palace and Brighton, but it has been far from straightforward. Here’s a look at everything from a wild Brighton – Manchester United clash.


3 things we learned: Brighton – Manchester United

1. Rashford and Fernandes ooze class: Sure, Fernandes gave away a penalty kick and could have done better on Brighton’s goal but he oozed class when they needed him most. His free kick set up the first, he set Rashford away for his brilliant goal and then he smashed home the penalty late on to win it. Rashford’s solo goal was brilliant and his direct running on the break was always a threat. United’s two superstars stood tall on a day when many others struggled. That was the difference.

2. Silky Brighton unlucky: They didn’t deserve to lose this game. They just didn’t. Leandro Trossard hit the woodwork three times on his own (post, post and crossbar hat trick) and Brighton hit it five times total. Graham Potter’s side were silky on the ball and created so many chances. They had 18 shots, had a penalty overturned and found David de Gea in good form. If only they could finish. Based on their early season showings there is no way Brighton will be in relegation trouble and they will instead by pushing for the top 10.

3. Man United struggling to shake off rust: This was by no means a deserved win for Man United, but they will take it. Solskjaer’s side are struggling to shake off the rust after their European exploits this summer and even though they had glimpses of brilliance, overall they struggled to control this game. They look like a team playing a preseason game and that’s because, well, they are, given the schedule they’ve had. Things will improve, and they have to. Fast. Big games against fellow top six teams are coming up in the next few weeks.

Man of the Match: Marcus Rashford – His brilliant solo goal was stunning and he carried United’s threat. Trossard was a very, very close second.


Brighton started well and Leandro Trossard went so close to opening the scoring as his lovely left-footed shot smashed off the post and out. Man United barely woke up and their first chance of the game fell to Greenwood but he dragged his effort wide, then Bruno Fernandes’ cross just evaded Anthony Martial and skipped wide.

Trossard then hit the other post with a low shot as Brighton’s fluid play caused Man United plenty of problems. Brighton then hit the bar as Adam Webster’s looping header flicked off the bar with De Gea again trying to claw it away.

Before half time Man United’s star attacking trio combined as Martial found Rashford who played in Greenwood to finish, but Rashford was just offside. Brighton then took the lead as Bruno Fernandes clipped Tariq Lamptey’s heels in the box and a penalty was given, which Maupay scored with a Panenka.

Right on half time Man United equalized as Fernandes’ free kick to the back post was flicked back in by Nemanja Matic and a combination of Maguire and Lewis Dunk bundled it home.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The start of the second half started in frantic fashion as Aaron Connolly won a penalty kick after contact from Paul Pogba, but the referee overturned the penalty kick decision after looking at the pitch-side monitor and realizing that Connolly initiated the contact.

Rashford then had a one goal disallowed and scored another soon after as his superb solo effort was deflected into the top corner to give Man United the lead. Brighton kept pouring forward and after a lovely flowing move, Solly March hit the inside of the post as the Seagulls were denied by the woodwork for a fourth time in the game.

There was time for Trossard to hit the crossbar to complete his unwanted hat trick as the Seagulls hit the woodwork for a fifth time, then David de Gea denied Trossard as he stood tall in stoppage time.

Brighton’s equalizer did arrive as March headed home in the 95th minute but the drama wasn’t over. With the final act of the game Harry Maguire’s header in the 97th minute but headed off the line, but after the referee blew the final whistle VAR was used and Maupay had clearly handled the ball.

A penalty kick was given and Fernandes smashed home to seal a dramatic 3-2 for Man United with the final kick of the game.