What have we learned from PL opening weekend?

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With seven Premier League games now done and dusted on the opening weekend of the 2018-19 season and three games coming our way on Sunday, there’s plenty to digest and look forward to.

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Following Manchester United’s nervy victory over Leicester City on Friday we learned plenty about the Red Devils. But what did we learn on Saturday as three new boys arrived and the likes of Chelsea and Tottenham kicked off their campaigns?

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Here’s a look at what stood out from the opening weekend, so far.


1. Pogba is a superstar and needs to stay at Man United
He wore the captains armband. He scored a penalty kick (after usurping Alexis Sanchez to take it) and he was deemed a “monster” from his manager Jose Mourinho. Pogba was just that against Leicester as he drove on from central midfield time and time again to show his true class and give United’s fans a glimmer of hope that he’s now found the right midfield partner in Fred and Mourinho has figured out how to get the best from him.

That said, Pogba’s comments after the game suggest he still isn’t happy at United.

“Of course it makes me proud, it makes me happy to wear this (armband) at a big club like Manchester United,” Pogba said. “Like I always say, I always give my best for the fans, for my team-mates, for the people that trust me.”

Following Mourinho’s constant critiques since he arrived in 2016 and now amid rumblings of Barcelona wanting to sign him, the World Cup winner didn’t exactly seem ecstatic after his Man of the Match display. Keeping Pogba is essential to United doing well this season as the penny seems to have dropped for the powerful midfielder and his success with France this summer seems to have returned the swagger to his game.


2. Tottenham grind out win; Kane’s drought continues
With Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Jan Vertonghen and Hugo Lloris only returning back to Tottenham earlier this week, it was always going to be a disjoined display from Spurs at Newcastle. Mauricio Pochettino‘s side battled to victory on the road. Vertonghen and Alli headed home in the first half but it was a shaky display overall from Spurs as Newcastle went close on several occasions and Salomon Rondon hit the crossbar on his Magpies debut. On top of this, Harry Kane continued his weird record of not scoring a PL goal in the month of August, as it’s now 14 games all-time without scoring in August. Still, the last few times he hasn’t scored in August it worked out pretty well… 


3. Roberto Pereyra had himself a day


Watford may be quite an unfashionable team to watch at times, but Roberto Pereyra wasn’t on Saturday. The Argentine attacker scored two beauties for the Hornets as they easily beat Brighton. On the hotseat after a shaky end to last season, despite keeping Watford up after arriving in January, Javi Gracia badly needs a good start to the season. Pereyra’s beauties gave him the perfect opening weekend. 


4. Chelsea unspectacular but sturdy under Sarri
Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea got off to a winning start to the season as they beat Huddersfield and first half goals from N'Golo Kante and Jorginho set them on their way. Don’t be fooled by the scoreline as Huddersfield played well and Steve Mounie hit the bar in the first half and had some decent chances in the second half. Chelsea weren’t fluid but they looked more solid than they did against Manchester City in the Community Shield and Sarri will be pleased with the character of his squad. Bringing on Eden Hazard shows the quality they have to come as he set up Pedro for a fine third goal. They will take time to gel together but there are signs Chelsea can click under Sarri. Huddersfield isn’t an easy place to go to on opening day under a new manager who has had little time to work with his new squad. 


5. Perfect away day for Palace; Wolves the real deal 

Crystal Palace put in a fantastic away display at new boys Fulham as Palace let Fulham have the ball and two rapid counters taught the Cottagers a lesson with Schlupp and Zaha finishing off incisive counters. Textbook Roy Hodgson, and Palace. Everton’s two-goal hero Richarlison scored in each half to cap a superb debut as the Toffees dug deep after going down to 10 men in the first half and nicked a point at new boys Wolves.

Phil Jagielka‘s red card changed the game and it was debatable as he got plenty on the ball but did catch Jota and saw red for being the last man. Ruben Neves’ subsequent free kick was an absolute beauty and the atmosphere at Molineux was bouncing as the newly-promoted team proved they belong in the top-flight. For Wolves, well, they were the real deal against Everton. They fell behind to an early Richarlison goal and dragged themselves back into the game with Neves sublime on the ball. Richarlison scored a lovely second for Everton against the run of play, but Mexico’s Raul Jimenez nodded home a late equalizer to grab a point for the home side. From the stadium (it was their biggest crowd in 37 years)  to their squad and manager, everything about Wolves is Premier League. Their first PL game in seven years didn’t end in victory but it proved that Wolves will have plenty of good times this season.

El Tri winger Jurgen Damm headed for MLS this summer

Jurgen Damm
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This season’s Liga MX invasion of MLS continues with Jurgen Damm announcing that he’ll leave UANL Tigres this summer after five years with the club.

TUDN has the destination as Atlanta, though previous reports have linked Damm to the LA Galaxy is the spot.

And MLSSoccer.com scribe Tom Bogert says the Houston Dynamo have his “discovery rights” (which remains the worst concept in the entire league).

Reports emerged over the past 48 hours that the El Tri man was headed for an MLS club.

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The 12-times capped winger has one goal for Mexico, but has not been capped since Oct. 2018. He has spent his entire career in Liga MX.

Damm spent the early part of his career with Tecos and Pachuca, but has been with UANL Tigres since 2015.

He won four league titles with UANL, as well as the 2018 Campeones Cup.

Ex-Arsenal man Gnabry: “London’s still red” after Bayern beats Chelsea

Serge Gnabry
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Ex-Arsenal man Serge Gnabry still has love for the club.

Gnabry tweeted that “London is still red” after he scored twice for Bayern Munich in a 3-0 beating of Chelsea on Tuesday in the first leg of a UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie.

This after scoring four times against Spurs in a previous Champions League group stage match and Tweeting that “North London is Red.”

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So what’s with the London form?

“I’ve got a lot of friends here,” Gnabry said after the game. “A lot of them were in the stands tonight, and it seems they give me a lot of good power.”

Gnabry only scored once during his time in England with Arsenal and West Brom but is a bona fide star in the Bundesliga.

With a three-goal advantage over Chelsea heading to Munich for a second leg, however, he’s not got his head in the clouds.

“Three goals ahead gives us a little bit of confidence, but we need to be prepared for the second leg. We can’t take it not seriously enough. … We’ve seen it last year with Liverpool beating Barcelona, so we have to be careful. We have to go into the second leg with all of our focus.”

Gnabry now has 51 goals and 29 assists in four seasons since returning to Germany from Arsenal. Not terrible production for a player the Gunners offloaded to Werder Bremen for under $6 million in 2016.

What color will London be when Chelsea buys him next year? We kid, we kid…

Champions League preview: Real Madrid renews rivalry with Pep; Lyon hosts Juve

UEFA Champions League preview
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The final two ties of the UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16 begin Wednesday when Manchester City and Juventus head to Spain and France.

The focus for many will be on the former, as City continues to weather UEFA drama while its manager prepares for his fiercest foe as a player and manager.

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Pep Guardiola has managed against Real Madrid 17 times and boasts a 9-4-4 record between Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

The Catalan wizard has lost his last three versus Real, two with Bayern and once in his final El Clasico as Barca boss.

Even as Guardiola stresses preparation and plan, he knows there will be bounces and that both teams will have to cope with them.

“We have to be strong, have quality and need to have luck,” he said, via The Manchester Evening News. “At this stage, it’s important but we cannot control that. We can control what we can control and we will see. This competition, last season, against Liverpool, there are decisions. You have to overcome. You need incredible concentration in our game and game plan plus try to be a little lucky.”

Real Madrid living legend Sergio Ramos has earned the ire of Guardiola on plenty of occasions, one of the few things Liverpool and City fans have in common.

Ramos wouldn’t get drawn into rivalry talk, sying the stage somewhat negates the opponent.

“I have a lot of respect for him,” Ramos said via the club’s web site. “I think he’s a fantastic coach, with loads of experience, and his numbers speak for themselves. We’re motivated by the Champions League, regardless of the players or coaches who may have been rivals in the past. We’re up for the Champions League and our next task is to beat City. From a personal point of view, I’m just focused on making the next round.”

[ MORE: Key battles for Real-Man City ]

Wednesday’s other match sees a club long linked with Guardiola, as Juventus will play the role of heavy favorites against Lyon.

Maurizio Sarri‘s side is to bidding to win what’s eluded all Juve bosses since Marcello Lippi beat Ajax in 1996. If they succeed, it will be by going down a different path than it’s traveled in recent years.

Here’s Leonardo Bonucci, via Football-Italia:

“What the coach asks of us now is basically the opposite of what the previous coach did,” Bonucci mused. “It was usually individual against individual, now it’s more about organized team movements. Obviously, you need to train consistently to get that down and playing every three days makes it difficult. But we started this journey well aware of the positives it could bring and the difficulties of getting there.”

Lyon has been maddeningly inconsistent this season, sitting seventh in the Ligue 1 table, but has the tools to surprise if Juve doesn’t bring its best. That starts in France on Wednesday.

Lampard: Chelsea first leg loss ‘quite sobering,’ ‘harsh lesson’

Frank Lampard
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Chelsea manager Frank Lampard isn’t sugarcoating his side’s 3-0 first-leg loss to Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 on Tuesday.

“Sometimes you have to be brutally honest about it,” he said in televised remarks after the loss. “It’s quite sobering.”

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Lampard admitted that Bayern was firing on all cylinders at Stamford Bridge, and proffered tepid support for the idea of an unlikely comeback in Germany next month.

“The level of team they showed that they are, hence why they challenge in the Bundesliga and the Champions League,” he said, via Football.London. “I’m disappointed we couldn’t do better against them. It’s a reality check. Don’t look at anyone else apart from yourself.”

“We should never say the door is closed because our fans would never accept that. I’m more concerned with the bigger picture here. There’s a lot to be done.”

Sure is.

Chelsea leads fifth-place Manchester United by three points in the top four race and has a four-point edge on sixth-place Spurs in the scenario that fifth is enough for Champions League football.

That’s important because the UCL path back to the tournament looks like a massive ask. And Lampard said the players need to use Tuesday’s blowout loss at home “as a positive effect” moving forward.

But he also put it pretty plainly during his post-match comments.

“It was a harsh lesson,” Lampard said. “This is Champions League football.”