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PL Sunday preview: Man City get on without KDB; Brighton-Man Utd

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Manchester City’s Premier League title defense continues on Sunday, while last season’s second-place finishers and the grumpy, forgotten neighbors, Manchester United, are also in action amid the constant rumors over the future of Jose Mourinho.

[ MORE: Chelsea top Arsenal in thriller | Three things we learned ]

Man City vs. Huddersfield Town — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

City’s title defense began in fantastic fashion last week — a 2-0 victory away to Arsenal setting the tone as Pep Guardiola‘s side follows up its historically dominant season with more of the same — but it wasn’t without consequence, as Kevin De Bruyne suffered a knee injury that’ll keep him sidelined for as long as three months. The Belgian playmaker was instrumental during City’s romp to the title last season — arguably their best and/or most important player — which will up the degree of difficulty between now and November, but only slightly. The likes of David Silva and/or Bernardo Silva will be leaned upon more heavily to create chances from central areas — the former will be available on Sunday after missing the season opener following the birth of his prematurely born son — which should be more than enough to bridge the gap for as long as De Bruyne is away.

As for Huddersfield, only the Terriers and Arsenal can empathize with one another over identically brutal starts to the season: each will have faced City and Chelsea in their opening two fixtures, and will likely have a combined zero points to show for their efforts (Arsenal lost, 3-2, away to the Blues on Saturday; Huddersfield received a 3-0 hiding at home a week ago). The gulf in class between the two sides is far from lost on Huddersfield boss David Wagner, though he stubbornly backs his players against anyone.

“Everyone can see that we went for young, talented players under the age of 24 or free transfers where we didn’t have to pay a fee for them,” he said this week. “We have tried to strengthen our offensive line with speed and you can see from their ages that we have signed a lot of potential talent. … We have players who have shown their quality, not necessarily in the Premier League, but in good divisions such as France. We want to give them the platform to show what they are capable of here with us.”

INJURIES: Man City — OUT: Kevin De Bruyne (knee), Danilo (ankle) | Huddersfield — OUT: Mathias Jorgensen (knock), Danny Williams (ankle), Jonathan Hogg (hip)

Burnley vs. Watford — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Burnley finished last season in a place which Watford aspired to reach following a blistering start to the 2015-16 campaign — their first back in the PL — before falling back to the pack and finishing 13th, 17th and 14th. 2018-19 started brightly for the Hornets, as they topped Brighton & Hove Albion — without allowing a single shot on target — on the opening day of the season. The Clarets, meanwhile, are enjoying their first taste of European competition (they advanced a round further in Europa League qualification on Thursday), but it will undoubtedly leave Sean Dyche‘s men with heavy legs by the time the second half rolls around at Turf Moor on Sunday.

INJURIES: Burnley — OUT: Matej Vydra (fitness), Nick Pope (shoulder), Robbie Brady (hamstring), Steven Defour (calf) | Watford — OUT: Gerard Deulofeu (knock), Stefano Okaka (thigh), Tom Cleverley (achilles), Younes Kaboul (foot)

Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Man United — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

There’s no club filled with more drama this season — yes, already — than Man United, with the vast majority of thanks going to the man in charge, Mourinho. After spending the final days of the summer transfer window complaining about a lack of signings, Mourinho’s men went out and beat Leicester City on the opening day of the season, but then Paul Pogba, who starred in the win just hours earlier, made some eyebrow-raising comments which seemed to be aimed at his manager. Mourinho has since denied a rift exists between the two of them, but it’s an all too familiar story involving Mourinho and his star players, nonetheless. The Red Devils will likely be shorthanded once again, as a number of players work their way back from injuries and star forward Romelu Lukaku (reportedly) starts a second straight game on the bench.

Brighton, on the other hand, are devoid of drama, but also devoid of points following the season’s opening game. Still searching for their first shot on goal, it’s the other end of the field where the Seagulls will be without their star man and captain, Bruno, who will miss a second straight game due to a hamstring injury.

“Bruno is a very important player, and when he’s not playing, that’s not good for us,” fellow defender Bernardo said this week. “We need to improve, because if we play like that in our next matches, it won’t be an easy season. I have the impression that we didn’t give our best performance, but I’m sure we have the quality and mentality to correct things and have a good season. … With time and more games together, we will get better chemistry and play better matches.”

INJURIES: Brighton — OUT: Bruno Saltor (hamstring), Jason Steele (thigh) | Man United — OUT: Diogo Dalot (knee), Marcos Rojo (undisclosed), Sergio Romero (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Jesse Lingard (fitness), Phil Jones (fitness)

Serie A roundup: Lazio hand 10-man Juventus first loss (video)

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Lazio’s triumphant victory over league favorites Juventus highlights Saturday’s Serie A action.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Lazio 3-1 Juventus

Juventus are no longer unbeaten in Serie A play under Maurizio Sarri, losing 3-1 to Simone Inzaghi’s inspired Lazio.

Luiz Felipe, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Felipe Caicedo scored for the home side, who are now three points behind second-place Juventus and five behind top-of-the-table Inter Milan.

Scoreless from open play since October, Cristiano Ronaldo found the back of the net in the 25th minute to put the Old Lady in front after tapping in Federico Bernardeschi’s well-placed pass inside the box.

It was Juventus’ game to lose, which they went on to do after a series of defensive and cognitive mishaps.

Tied after Felipe’s goal right before the break, Milinkovic-Savic scored in the 74th minute. The Serbian’s goal came after Juan Cuadrado was sent off for his reckless tackle on last-man Manuel Lazzari in the 69th. Milinkovic-Savic was set up by Luis Alberto‘s assist over the Juventus defense and scored with a low shot past goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.

Ciro Immobile had a clear-cut chance to widen his red-hot goalscoring form, but the striker was denied by Szczesny from the spot. Juventus’ goalkeeper saved Immobile’s initial blistering strike, and his following second chance.

In stoppage time, however, Felipe Caicedo’s second-chance strike was too much for the Polish ‘keeper.

Juventus will have to quickly turn the page as they face Bayer Leverkusen midweek in their final match of the Champions League group stage, while Lazio travel to France to take on Rennes in their Europa League group stage finale.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Atalanta 3-2 Hellas Verona

Udinese 1-1 Napoli

La Liga roundup: Barcelona, Real Madrid remain level on points after wins (video)

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Routine wins from league favorites Barcelona and Real Madrid, highlight La Liga’s Saturday action.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Barcelona 5-2 RCD Mallorca

It was a special night at Barcelona’s Camp Nou.

Fresh from winning the Ballon d’Or for a record sixth time, Lionel Messi was greeted by his three children on the field, who handed him a shinny, golden ball – given yearly to the best player in the world – prior to the first whistle.

From that point on, it was evident that it would be all smiles for everyone tied to the defending champions at the stadium (and for those watching remotely) on Saturday.

 

That was the case.

Antoine Griezmann – a topic of conversation due to lack of productivity at Barcelona this season – kicked off the game with a solo run and subsequent goal in the seventh minute, opening the floodgates.

As a celebration of his latest, individual accomplishment, Messi showcased the power and precision of his left foot at the tune of a hat-trick. The Argentine ace scored twice in the first half and another in consolation time, putting his season total mark at a league-best 12 goals.

The moment and goal of the night (possibly of the season) didn’t directly involve Messi, however. With a daring, emphatic and genius back-heel strike, not only did Luis Suarez put the home side up 4-1, but cemented himself in the ballot for best goal of the season.

With 34 and a better goal differential than Real Madrid, Barcelona remain atop of La Liga ahead of their clash with Inter Milan on Tuesday, while Mallorca hope Ante Budimir can score another brace; this time against a struggling Celta Vigo next weekend.

Real Madrid 2-0 Espanyol

With goals from Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane, Real Madrid comfortably cruised past a struggling Espanyol.

With the majority of Real Madrid in Espanyol’s final third following a recovered free-kick attempt, Benzema charged his way into the box before laying off a ball to Varane, who not a proven goalscorer whatsoever, placed the ball into the back of the net with ease.

It was the 37th minute, and the home side were up 1-0 against a poor Espanyol.

With a notable superior style at hand, Los Blancos continued to surge forward. Opportunities at goal were generated but the ball wouldn’t go past ex-Real Madrid ‘keeper Diego Lopez.

Then, in the 79th minute, Benzema registered his 11th goal of the season, finishing an off-balance pass from Federico Valverde inside the box.

Winners in their last La Liga bouts, Real Madrid now prepare for their Champions League Group Stage finale against Club Brugge midweek. Espanyol, despite being in the drop zone, host CSKA Moscow in their Europa League Group Stage finale. The Catalonian club lead Group H with 11 points after five matches.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Granada 3-0 Alaves

Levante 2-4 Valencia

Ancelotti’s future uncertain after Napoli draws at Udinese

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ROME (AP) Carlo Ancelotti’s future as Napoli coach is uncertain after his team failed to beat Udinese on Saturday in Serie A.

The 1-1 draw extended Napoli’s winless run to nine matches in all competitions. Piotr Zelinski saved Napoli with a late goal that salvaged a point for the visitors.

Amid reports that Ancelotti could soon be fired, Napoli, which had won its last six league matches against Udinese, went a goal down after a counterattack which was finished by Kevin Lasagna in the 32nd minute.

Napoli improved after Fernando Llorente replaced an uninspired Lorenzo Insigne in the second half. It equalized after a good combination between Dries Mertens and Zielinski, who wrongfooted the Udinese ‘keeper with a shot into the bottom corner.

Also, Atalanta twice came from behind after Samuel Di Carmine’s two goals to beat Hellas Verona 3-2 with a late winner from Berat Djimsiti, who volleyed home from close range.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Kyle Walker: City catching up to Liverpool ‘difficult’ after derby loss to United

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After a crushing 2-1 loss to archrival Manchester United at home, 14 is the new magic number for Pep Guardiola and company.

14 is the number of points that Manchester City trail league leaders Liverpool by, an uphill battle that is influencing many people on the outside looking in to think that City’s chances of lifting the league’s silverware for a third straight season are officially done and dusted.

That’s not the narrative that is occupying Kyle Walker‘s train of thought, however. Speaking on behalf of his City teammates and himself, the defender is keen on fighting until they’re mathematically out of contention for the title, regardless if the standings show that Liverpool have yet to suffer a defeat this season after 16 matches.

“Can’t fault the manager,” Walker told Sky Sports following City’s second Premier League loss in five games. “He has won numerous trophies. I can’t put my finger on it. It is going to be difficult, Liverpool are on fire. They [Liverpool] are getting wins and we are not. It is a big gap but we will fight until the end.”

A consolation goal from Nicolas Otamendi in the 85th minutes wasn’t enough for the Cityzens, who endured a fourth league loss this season, matching last season’s number of losses throughout 38 games.

After the dispiriting derby day performance from City, the defending champions stand at 32 points after 16 bouts, the lowest point haul for Guardiola in his 11-year top-flight management career.

No team in league history has overcome a 14-point deficit. Since late October, City are yet to record a clean sheet, an apparent issue that Walker believes he and the rest of the team’s defenders need to address in order to return to old ways.

“Us as defenders need to hold our hands up,” he said. “We need to keep clean sheets and strikers maybe need to put more away. They had a game plan and it worked. They have quick players in quick areas and they are going to hurt you on the counter. Credit where credit is due, they stepped up today. Fair play.”